TALESPIN: BED AND BREAKFAST  

        Fan-fiction short story by jb

 Disclaimer: The following story is based on the television series, characters and situations created by Jymn Magon and Mark Zaslove, TaleSpin ©1990, 1991 Walt Disney Company/Buena Vista Television. Fan-fiction story is a creation of the author and may not be used without permission. This is a work of fan-fiction using characters and property of the Walt Disney Company without consent and for non-profit use.

 

        PROLOGUE

 

Khan Tower , Cape Suzette

Late 1938

 

“…and the armament shipments to the Greater Hounsland Reich should arrive next week ahead of schedule, Mister Khan,” reported a fatigued leopard executive to his chief executive officer and president of Khan Enterprises.

            “Excellent, Whitling,” replied the tiger tycoon nonchalantly, sitting at his desk in his large jungle-like penthouse office. “What about the other armament shipment bound for Nippon ?”
            “It’ll be ready to leave our dock next Wednesday, sir.”

            “Hmm…move the date to next Monday.”

            “That’s…going to be a bit tricky, considering the paperwork, sir.”

            “And why, may I ask?” Khan snapped. He disliked being told of the impossible without an extremely good reason.

            “Well…you see, sir…” Whitling gulped, “there’s this global arms and fuel embargo against Nippon since their invasion of Nanking , a-a-and…”

            “Embargoes do not concern me, Whitling. I am a businessman, not a politician. Find a loophole to work around this…most troublesome embargo nonsense over the weekend in time for Monday’s shipping.”

             “Y-y-yes, Mister Khan.” Well, so much for that overdue dinner date with the missus this Saturday night. Claudette is going to skin me alive, again…

            “Mondale, Imports Report.”

            Mondale looked at his wristwatch, reading twenty-five minutes past two in the morning and wished he had taken that truck-driving job ten years ago right then when he felt his high-powered employer’s eyes boring right at him; he realized he’d been summoned. Clearing his throat, the brown panther read out his expected report.

            “Sir, the tropical fruit produce have arrived in the mainland stores, as well as your newly-purchased jasmine green tea product in all of your markets.”

            “Good. Now, what about our sales with the nutmeg since the price increase –”

            The elevator doors of Khan’s office suddenly opened and out through it came a short, bespectacled whitish-grey rabbit wearing a lab coat, running up to the tiger’s desk panting: “Mister Khan! Mister Khan, sir!”

            The tiger raised a displeased eyebrow mixed in with a deep frown and stood up for the first time in three hours. “Doctor Debolt – what is the meaning of this interruption?”

            “Sorry, sir,” said the nervous scientist, remembering what happened the last time he did such a thing with painful memory as he noticed the predatory look in Khan’s eyes. “I beg to report, that the portable amplifier dish that we’ve been working on has been stolen from your secret lab in the Pokahiya Mountains !”

            Stolen? By whom?

            “The Air Pirates, sir. It was en route to here about two hours ago to be further tested by us and –!”

            Debolt’s words were cut off with a loud skkkirrkkkch that filled the room, making the executives and scientist recoil in terror and furs stand up on end. It was the sound of Khan’s claws making deep, long scratches on the surface of his mahogany desk and had curled shavings gathered underneath them. It was clear he was beyond agitated.

            “Oh, that accursed Don Karnage and his detestable pirates,” Khan snarled. “This is definitely unacceptable news. Everyone, except for Doctor Debolt, are dismissed for the evening. We’ll continue this meeting tomorrow morning at nine sharp.”

            “But, sir,” began one executive, “what about …”

             “I said…dismissed.”

            “Ah…y-yes, sir.”

            Feeling rather small than usual and very alone as the executives left the office, more relieved to be leaving after a fourteen-hour workday; the rabbit scientist slightly shook in the spot where he was standing in, dreading of being interrogated – for the lack of a better term – by his employer. When the doors closed, Khan gazed dourly at one of his top company scientists for a moment that seemed to last for an eternity for Debolt before he spoke.

             “That amplifier device had a sensitive and powerful scanning range and was most crucial to our surveillance and communications divisions, Doctor. Did they take the plans or the prototype?”
            “Just the prototype, sir.”
            The feline contemplated this tidbit for a minute, scratched his chin and then said: “Hmm, yes, I see…a pity, yet somewhat of a sustainable loss for us. Nonetheless, put out a discreet word out for the recovery and reward for its return, plus we’ll have to tighten the security corridor in that region from now on. And find those pirates.”

            “Yes, Mister Khan.”

            “Good evening,” Khan dismissed him, swivelling his chair around and faced outside the window overlooking the Asia-Pacifica metropolis’ night skyline. Wiping his perspiring brow and not wanting to be asked any more questions, Doctor Debolt scampered out of the office and was halfway near the elevator when he heard his employer speak without having to face him.

            “And one other thing, Doctor.”
             Debolt stopped dead in his tracks and turned around. “Y-y-yes, sir?”
            “Have someone send up another desk up here as soon as possible, please.”

            “Yes, Mister Khan. Right away.”

             The tiger gave an aggrieved sigh.  I lose more desks that way…

   

 

 

The Ministry of Culture Office

Britannian Protectorate of Aridia, North Afurca , 1939

Five months later  

 

Floating through the air of a partly-cluttered antiquities office with the melodic wail of a songstress’ voice coming from a semi-scratchy gramophonic record player’s Victrola speaker, a staccato rhythm of typewriter keys mingled with the local exotic tune in the background.

And sitting at an organized desk was a diminutive brunette vixen wearing frameless glasses, matching khaki shirt and shorts. She was busily typing up some papers and quietly humming along to the Aridian music with pride while enjoying the cooling breeze artificially provided by the electric fan lightly blowing through her sunny office space. The telephone on her desk then rang that interrupted the solace of her environment, yet it disturbed her not at all. Pausing from her typing, she turned and picked up the receiver to answer.

As-salamu ‘alayki – Ministry of Culture, Doctor Foxworthy speaking.”

As-salamu ‘alayki, Myra ,” said the voice over the phone. “Great to hear your voice again, you old desert fox, you.”

            The archaeologist’s face brightened. “Katie! Katie Dodd, long time no hear! How are you?”

            “Still a million dollars short of being a millionaire,” replied her colleague, followed by what sounded like a stretching grunt. “How goes it over there in Aridia?”

            “Booming. Tourism and archaeological permits have been skyrocketing since King Utmost’s pyramid went open to the public; been finishing up on a new paper on the subject that I’ll be giving a talk on at a regional symposium next week and it looks like I’ll be a new aunt before the summer’s over. So, how about you, Doctor? How was your sabbatical over in Xanadu?”
            Broadening, let’s just say. Since I’ve been back, I’m three months behind with my work; tackled a mountain pile of students’ papers to grade and getting five hours of sleep at night. If it wasn’t for adjusting to various time zones with all this travelling I’ve been doing lately, I wouldn’t have any fun at all.”

            Myra tried hard not to laugh. That’s Katie, alright. All work and no play.

             “So where are you calling from, Katie?”
             “In a hotel room in Montréal, believe it or not,” said the auburn-haired archaeologist, sitting on the edge of her bed, wearing a dark blue jacket over a white silk blouse and lacy jabot, plus a mid-length dark blue skirt. Kicking off her black high heels and wiggling her toes enmeshed in sheer black silk hosiery, she continued: “I’m giving a two-day lecture over here plus trying to drum up backing for that little project we talked about before I went off to Xanadu, remember?”

             “You’re…” the Aridian blinked in surprise, “going after the Cache of Molta again?”
             “Yeah,” Katie sighed. “I want to be able to mount a full-scale recovery expedition of the September Weed between now and next summer. Things are not looking too pleasant in Zoorope these days, Doctor.”

             “Yes, I know. Any luck?”

            “Not too much, I’m afraid. Most of these foundations I’ve been going to aren’t too keen in backing an archaeological job with high-risk factors involved, much less let a…‘mere woman’ lead it.”

             “How many places have you tried?”

             “Oh, between Rio and Rome …about five so far, including the one I tried today,” said Katie, lying back on top of her bed sheets and crossing her legs. “I got two more places to try out before I pull out my last resort. I just wanted to know, and the reason for my call is this…if I land the backing, would you be able to be my assistant for this expedition at a moment’s notice?”

            “And get a load of some of those Aridian artefacts you found with the Cache for our museum? For a chance to work with you again, Doctor Dodd, anytime, anywhere.”

            Katie smiled. “I knew I could count on you. What would I do without you, Myra ?”
             “You could always ask that nice Professor O’Bowens to help.”

            “Are you kidding me?” the redhead snorted. “That guy’s all thumbs! He must have gotten his doctorate out of an ancient box of Cracker Jerks!”

            Myra now laughed. “Too bad. I thought he was kind of cute.”

            Katie just rolled her eyes. And people say I need to get out more often…

            “Well, I’m going to wrap up this call, Doctor. I’ve got some lecture notes to review over and take a nice, long, hot bubble bath before I hit the sack.”

             “Sleep well, Katie. Keep in touch with any progress with the funding.”

            “You bet. ‘Bye now.”

 

 

                                                    End of Prologue

 

 

 

 

 Somewhere en route to Cape Suzette, Asia-Pacifica Rim

One month later

 

Rain pelted the Sea Duck’s hull heavily as it flew though the air, helmed by its lone occupant and pilot, Baloo. The seasoned flyer looked at the stormy skies that matched the colour of his own fur. He frowned, troubled.

            Sure, he had flown in rougher weather conditions than this, but after three days of hauling ten thousand coffee grinders from Columbean to Crackyertoa during its worse grinder shortage since the Milagro Coffee Beanfield War which a major coffee-growing cartel who hired Higher for Hire for the big job, gratefully thanked the now-exhausted pilot on behalf of coffee drinkers the world over for their prompt and efficient delivery of the product in question.

             Yeah, he had quipped to the president of the coffee-growers cartel, Juan Valdez, but doncha tell my boss that ‘bout me. She’ll have me committed to the nearest loony bin in a hurry!

            The president just gave him a blank look and just said, Buenos dios, señor.

             Homeward bound, Baloo guided his seaplane with great caution through the storm and he then could see the welcoming faint glow of spotlights in the distance that pinpointed the way back to the entrepôt of Cape Suzette . Ordinarily his young navigator, Kit Cloudkicker, would have accompanied him on this route, but since the timing of the delivery fell in between his final exams in junior high school before summer break commenced, it was basically left for the grey bear to fly solo for this job.

            The pilot checked his wristwatch, reading fifteen minutes to one. He stifled a yawn and continued onwards. He was so anxious to get to his own bed that he didn’t bother to detour to his favourite watering hole nearby, Louie’s Place, to hunker down until the storm had passed, let alone pay heed to his stomach to be fed – which was a rarity, even for him – proving how eager he was to get back to the comforts of home waiting for him.

            Yep, in jus’ a li’l while I’ll be doin’ some fast snoozin’ in my own bed, Baloo thought dreamily. Back in my soft, warm bed…soft, warm pillow…soft, warm sheets…soft, warm jammies…Becky’s soft, warm eyes…Becky’s soft, warm –

            He suddenly snapped out of this runaway train of thought. Why was he thinking about her like that for?

            Slapping himself awake from his semi-dozy state, Baloo went back on focusing his piloting the Sea Duck. It was much easier that way. Man, oh man…I’m a lot more tired than I thought!

 

 

 

            Soft blues music filtered through the radio speaker at the Cape Suzette waterfront cargo office of Higher for Hire at a reasonably audible level as the listener and business proprietor, Rebecca Cunningham, worked. With her purple jacket removed and draped over the back of her chair, her feet were leisurely propped up on her desk and crossed as she pored over a huge book of the company’s ledgers. She rhythmically tapped the pencil eraser stub against her lips and was deep in concentrated thought, yet idly thumbing through the pages.

            The she-bear had developed a taste for the music from her pilot and had to admit, it did sound pretty good to her ears, unlike the first time she had to endure the tortuously repeated playing of “I’ve Got Them Flat-Broke, Sticky-Shoed, No-Banana Boogie-Woogie Blues,” moreover listening to some real blues by the likes of “Ma” Rainy Day and Messie Smith, true and earthy women singers to which she could really enjoy – and often at times relate.

            Rebecca gazed upward at the grandfather clock in the corner that lightly chimed one o’clock in the morning. Yawning slightly, she had already finished going through Higher for Hire’s finances three hours ago and was just going over them again, plainly out of boredom. The businesswoman was actually waiting up for Baloo to return from his three-day run, half in anticipation to get the invoices from their recent client and the other out of worry due to the raging storm outside that had been battering the Cape and the surrounding area for the last two days. She had even brought her eight-year old daughter Molly from their apartment down here, just to be on the safe side.

            This is a fun way to spend a Saturday night, the she-bear thought ruefully.

            Kit, in his shared room with Baloo and Molly in the spare bedroom upstairs; were both sound asleep. Getting up with a stretch and walking over to the nearest window overlooking the inner harbour, she could see through the rainwater-shrouded pane the red-beaconed buoys bobbing in the choppy waters and a light from Wildcat’s floating shack, indicating that he was up was well, probably working on one of his crazy contraptions or something.

            She gave a weary sigh and contemplated in brewing up another cup of coffee, but didn’t want to be too jittery to be able to go to sleep when Baloo got home. So she thought about doing some t’ai chi to help her relax that she sometimes did before going to bed on those stressful days at work, such as botched-up orders that could throw the whole day’s schedule off or a late, important delivery her staff pilot managed to bungle.

            But those late deliveries were becoming a thing of the past with him, she had recently discovered. It probably took her strong will and absolute no-nonsense attitude from day one that made him knuckle down to do the job right, plus him taking on a few responsibilities that made Higher for Hire a little more smoother operation to run nowadays.

            Yet, Rebecca kind of wondered if there was something more to it than that…

            Still staring out at the stormy outdoors, the she-bear admitted that she missed him a great deal whenever he went out on a long haul job, when at one time she practically relished them just so she wouldn’t have to put up with his crassness and unsophisticated manners, looking forward to the silence not to mention the tidiness of the office. Now, it just felt eerily empty – and a quite lonely – without his presence.

It didn’t seem like Higher for Hire without its highly reputable ace pilot that really gave the fledgling air cargo service the leverage above all the other independents like her in town, especially run by a woman. So much had changed in the last two years since she took over the air freight service in those heady early days, from clearing out all of the company’s debts, mainly from those silly get-rich-quick schemes she used to concoct to get Higher for Hire out of the red faster and make a better life for her and Molly.

            Oh, stop driving yourself crazy, Rebecca, she thought, shaking her head and turning away from the window. Baloo will make it through. And stop waiting up for him like you’re his wife, for goodness sake. Go to bed or do something useful!

            Deciding to do some ta’i chi after all, the businesswoman walked over to switch off the radio, went upstairs and tiptoed quietly into the bedroom where Molly lay sleeping in their bed so she could change into her outfit.

            Turning on a small table lamp on the dresser drawer that lightly illuminated the room and pulling out her ta’i chi top and bottoms from a drawer, Rebecca proceeded to undress. Managing to get down to her lace-trimmed camisole and matching tap pants, she then heard her daughter cry out. Startled, she hurried over to the bed where Molly was fidgeting violently in her sleep to which her mother gently tried to shake her awake.

            “Molly? Molly honey? Molly!

            The yellow-furred she-bear cub awoke with a start and then suddenly recognized her surroundings. Breathing a heavy sigh of relief, she lowered her head to her drawn-up knees, but she didn’t cry.

            “Had a nightmare, Pumpkin?”

            “Yeah…it…it felt so…real.”

            Lovingly stroking her daughter’s hair and sitting on the edge of the bed next to her, Rebecca asked: “Like to tell me about it?”

            “I…I was flying on the Duck and we were being attacked by Air Pirates…then, two of them managed to board it in mid-flight. There was this other passenger…some girl I’ve never met before…and we were fighting them off.”

            Wow! That does sound scary.”

            “Actually, Mom,” Molly kind of grinned, “that was the exciting part.”

            “I…see…” said Rebecca, raising a puzzled eyebrow at her. “So…when did things suddenly get scary then?”

            “Well, one of the pirates fired this great big gun, see, and the bullet was bouncing off the plane’s walls everywhere – pting! pting! pting! – then, it hit the back ramp lever and the doors flew right open and then I got sucked right out of the Sea Duck and I was falling through the air and…” Molly paused for a moment with her mother waiting with baited breath in being caught up in the story, then followed with: “…and that’s when I woke up.”

            “Oh…well, it was only just a nightmare, sweetie,” Rebecca assured her, yet feeling a bit disappointed privately in the cliff-hanger the little girl left off with. She liked adventure stories, even the tall tales Baloo told to the point she wanted to believe them. “It couldn’t happen like that for real.”

            “There was one really weird thing about that dream, Mom.”

            “What was that?”

            “There was this brown-haired lady in it too, including in the fighting. She wore these glasses and for some reason, I remembered that she could read upside-down. Isn’t that weird?”

            The she-bear shrugged. “Weirder things have happened, honey.”

            It was just then Molly noticed her mother was in a half-dressed state. “Are you coming to bed now, Mom? What time is it? Has Baloo come home yet?”

            “Oh, no…I…I was just going to change into my ta’i chi clothes and do some exercises before I go to bed. And no, Baloo isn’t home yet, baby. It’s quite late, so go back to sleep, okay?” Rebecca answered, dropping a kiss on her child’s forehead.

            “Okay,” she said, snuggling back down under the sheets and holding her favourite doll Lucy in her arms. “What were you still doing up for, anyway?”

            “I was going over the company’s books, Molly,” Rebecca replied, now walking back to the dresser drawer. “That’s all.”

            “Were you waiting up for Baloo, too?”

            “No,” she said, somewhat uncomfortably. “Don’t be silly. What makes you say that?”

            “You really like him, don’t you?” Molly asked coyly. “C’mon, Mom, admit it.”

            Rebecca glanced at her a little sharply. “Molly…honestly. Please just go to sleep, will you?”

            Just then, the familiar sound of high-powered Superflight 100 engines came roaring within earshot. The businesswoman turned and her face unexpectedly lit up, exclaiming: “The Sea Duck!”

            Running out of the room, the she-bear was halfway down the stairs when she heard Molly call out from behind her: “Oh, Mother…are you going to meet Baloo looking like that?”

            “Looking like what?” she asked in puzzlement, stopping and turning back to her daughter who had a strange grin and cast her hand over her body in contrast to her mother’s current ensemble. Looking down, Rebecca realized that she was still in her lingerie.

            “Oh, my!!” Rebecca blushed, slapping both her hands on her cheeks in mortification. Heading back upstairs quickly but quietly with the lacy hems of her underpants loosely flapping with her movements, the she-bear whispered in embarrassment: “Uh, Molly…could you, uh, hand me my, uh…”

            Without missing so much as a beat, Molly casually whipped out her mother’s fancy satin floral print bathrobe from behind her back and handled it over to her with an amused smirk on her face and suppressed a chuckle, which an annoyed Rebecca didn’t think was all that funny.

            Really, Molly…”

            “Hey, I didn’t tell you to go romping around in your undies, Mom.”

            “What’s going on out here?” murmured a sleepy-eyed Kit in his nightshirt, who had opened his bedroom door just then. “Did I hear the Sea Duck?”

            “Um, nothing, Kit! Nothing!” Rebecca answered, frantically putting her robe on just in time and tying the belt. “I’ll take care of Baloo. You kids go back to bed, alright?”

            As she headed back down the stairs, the fourteen-year old navigator looked towards the younger bear cub and knowingly grinned. “Absentmindedly raced down in excitement to greet Papa Bear in her unmentionables again, kid?”

            Molly tittered. “Yup.”

 

 

 

            Rebecca grabbed an umbrella from the nearby stand at the bottom of the stairs and made her way to the door leading to the dock with a clipboard underneath her arm. Opening the door, she instantly felt the wind and rain rush on her face. Bracing against the malevolent forces of nature, the she-bear opened up the umbrella and thrust herself forward to the Sea Duck where Wildcat, wearing a raincoat; had already set himself to moor the plane frantically.

            “You need a hand, Wildcat?!” she shouted at the mechanic through the gale.

            “S’okay, Rebecca! I got ‘er!”

            Hurrying along the deck, the businesswoman reached the side hatch door just in time for the grey pilot to open it wide for her. As she entered quickly inside, Baloo exclaimed to employer: “Hooo-whee!! Man oh man, it’s a-rainin’ Calicos an’ Chihuahuas out there, Beckers!”

            “Sorry we couldn’t make the weather more palpable for a better welcome home, Fly Boy,” she said, shaking the rainwater off her retracted umbrella. “Did the run go okay?”

            “Smoother than parachute silk, Boss Lady,” Baloo answered proudly, producing four sets of invoices which he promptly handed over to her. “How’s everythin’ here at the ranch?”

            “Other than our year-round sunny weather we’re having, it’s been business as usual,” Rebecca replied, briefly rifling through the invoices with some satisfaction as they were all in place and accounted for.

            “More like business as unusual, Becky. From what ya told me before I left, we ain’t got no other haulin’ work in three weeks time an’ then there’s a pause before we even get busy again.”

            “It’s only temporary, Baloo. Business will pick up again real soon,” the businesswoman replied nonchalantly. But he detected a trace of worry in her voice, which indicated that she too was concerned about the work slowdown approaching Higher for Hire, but wasn’t about to let on that she was.

            She was always like that.

            “Besides,” she snidely added, still looking at the invoices, “since when have you cared what happens to Higher for Hire’s work load, anyway?”

            Shutting down the Sea Duck’s onboard power, the pilot answered with some feeling in his voice: “Since I started workin’ for you.”

            Caught off guard by this unexpected response, Rebecca’s head jerked up. For a guy that was once so eager to leave Higher for Hire under her stifling, bureaucratic management and head off for open skies where he wouldn’t have to work for anyone but himself, the businesswoman wondered what those words meant. Did he now had a vested interest in the company…or was there more to what he was saying?

            It was then that Baloo noticed that she was in her bathrobe. Not that he didn’t mind, but it did pique his curiosity. So he asked: “Say, Becky, whacha got yer robe on for? Were ya gettin’ ready for bed or somethin’?”

            The businesswoman snapped out of her thoughts and her cheeks glowed to light pink, the same colour as the one of the flowers on her print robe. She turned away from him and pretended to continue reading the cargo invoices.

            “N-n-never mind, Baloo. It’s nothing.”

            If you only knew, Fly Boy…

            “Nuthin’?” the pilot echoed with a crafty smile. “Are ya sure ‘bout that, hon?”

            “Not unless you value your spleen, buster,” growled Rebecca, clenching her teeth and shooting a poisonous glance at him.

            Her answer made Baloo’s skin crawl and in giving him an involuntary shudder, he decided not to push it any further – if not for his spleen, wherever or whatever that was – so remained silent afterwards.

            What are you getting all so steamed about? The voice in Rebecca’s head spoke to her. It’s not like he’s never seen you in your frilly underthings before.

            Don’t remind me, please, she answered her conscience, and besides that was different!

            Remembering that time over the Spruce Moose hijacking incident when they were temporarily marooned on that desert isle outside Cape Suzette and the she-bear had to reluctantly strip down to her best full slip – along with Baloo and hundreds of the Cape’s business and social elite that night in their own underwear – in order to create a makeshift hot-air balloon to get off the island. But he had been a real gentleman as he’d always been, even called up Kit ahead of time when they got back to Higher for Hire to get her spare bathrobe ready upon arrival and presented it to her while she waited in the taxicab to maintain her dignity when she returned to her apartment building that dawn, which she had found it very gallant of him. And touching.

            Getting back to business, she then softened her tone and changed the subject. “Don’t worry…we’ve been through rougher skies than this, Baloo. We’ll manage. Well…everything is in proper order, customers seemed satisfied. Ready to brave the storm again?”

            “Ready when you are, Becky.”

            I’d never thought I’d say it, but…she thought, opening up her umbrella again with a secret smile, I really missed you calling me ‘Becky.’

            The two bears stepped out of the Sea Duck, shut the hatch door tightly and ran back towards the office. Wildcat had firmly secured the seaplane’s moorings to the deck and joined the racing couple underneath the umbrella, when a stiff gust of wind managed to wrestle it from Rebecca’s grip and sent it flying off into the stormy gale, drenching both her and Baloo.

            “Shoot!” she yelled angrily.

            “C’mon,” shouted Baloo. “Let’s pull chocks, double-time!”

            An opened door waited for the trio with Kit in his bathrobe at the entrance way inside. Quickly closing the door after them, the two wet bears shivered from the cold rain.

            “Boy, you two look like a couple of drowned rats,” said Molly, who handed both adults each a separate clean and dry blanket to cover themselves with, which both of them took very gratefully.

            “Thanks a lot, sweetheart,” Baloo said.

            “Want us to get you some towels and pajamas?” offered the navigator.

            “That would be lovely, honey,” said Rebecca. “Thank you.”

            As the two bear cubs went upstairs to do their task, Wildcat spoke up then. “Uh, if you all don’t need me for anything, I’ll be headin’ on back to my shack.”

            “Go ‘head, Wildcat,” said the pilot. “Thanks a lot fer moorin’ the Sea Duck, pal.”

            “Anytime,” he said as he headed for the door. “I’m gonna work on that electric bathtub. Sure ya don’ wanna test it?”

            “Some…other time, maybe,” Baloo answered warily.

            “Tried to get you to test for him, too?” Rebecca snorted after the mechanic closed the door. “He’s going to get himself or somebody killed with that thing someday, I swear.”

            “Yer tellin’ me,” her pilot agreed and then yawned. “The only thing I’m lookin’ forward to is a hot shower an’ some serious shut-eye.”

            “You’re in luck, Papa Bear,” said Kit, coming down the stairs with Molly behind him, both carrying the towels and nightclothes in their arms. “We’ve got plenty of hot water and your bed’s already been laid with clean sheets.”

            “Thanks, Li’l Britches.”

            “Good,” smirked Rebecca, “hope there will be enough hot water in the morning by the time you finish, Fly Boy.”

            “Compared to how long you take in the bathroom, Boss Lady?” he retorted. “An’ it ain’t pleasant havin’ a wet brazierre smack ya awake in the mornin’, lemme tell ya.”

            Rebecca didn’t know if she was turning red from embarrassment or anger from this past memory, but just gave a somewhat narrowed glance at him. “You’re never going to let that one go, are you? I told you then I had to rinse out a couple of things for an emergency and forgot one was still in the stall! And I already said I was sorry for leaving it hanging there, for crying out loud!”

            The two kids looked at each other and rolled their eyes with a sigh. Oh, great…a sniping contest in the middle of the night…

            “How can I, Becky?! I still can feel the welt on my nose!”

            “Aww, poor sweet Baloo,” she cooed. “Want me to kiss it and make it better?”

            Baloo leaned forward right in his employer’s face and growled darkly, “Be my guest.”

            They glared at each other for a moment as Kit and Molly uneasily looked on, feeling the tension build between them into what was going to happen next. Then, Rebecca’s hardened features dissipated, raised herself en pointe ballet-style with her toes, closed her eyes and delicately kissed the tip of the huge pilot’s nose. This took Baloo completely by surprise, if not their young witnesses.

            Lowering back down on her soles, the she-bear gave her employee a simpering look, fluttered her eyelids and gently purred, “Better?”

            Baloo just had a gobsmacked expression that left him speechless and a strange, warm and giddy feeling inside, only numbly mumbled: “Uh…yeah…uh-huh…”

            Now that’s one way to defuse a powder keg, Kit thought amusedly. Or ignite one.

            “Come along, Molly… it’s way past our bedtime,” Rebecca said with a sultry smile and raised eyebrow, doing a very slinky starlet-like walk up the staircase as she carried her nightgown and towel with her daughter at her heels who just quietly grinned. “‘Nighty-night, boys.”

            Reaching the top of the stairs and as they entered the spare room, Molly giggled then asked, “Why’d you tease him like that for, Mom? He’ll be awake all night long.”

            Her mother only chortled. “Well, honey, it’s all part of being a girl. Take notes.”

            “Good night, Rebecca,” Kit said, then turned to the pilot who was still left in a daze which the youngster hadn’t seen him in when she also playfully kissed him on the onset of that bogus “mission to Mars” they took in the guise of squeezing a two-week vacation out of their employer that led to a whole lot of trouble.

            “Baloo? Baloo?” he said, gently shaking the grey bear. “Say ‘good night.’”

            Confusedly, Baloo said: “Ahh…good night, Mrs. Calabash, wherever you are…”

            The navigator rolled his eyes again and shook his head. Taking his guardian by the arm, he pulled him towards the ground floor shower stall. “C’mon, Hotshot. Time to hit the showers.”

            “Why, Coach?” the pilot asked dumbly. “Did we win the big game?”
            “Yeah,” Kit answered sarcastically. “You scored the winning touchdown, champ.”

            The pilot idiotically beamed. “Outta sight!

            “I think we’d better run you a cold shower, Papa Bear,” the youngster chuckled.

            Baloo, still lost in his delighted delirium, just nodded.

 

 

            Having removed her wet clothes and thoroughly drying herself off, Rebecca slipped on and buttoned up her white flowing Victorian nightgown with a pink bow and outer ruffled trim with a satisfactory smug look on her face. Ordinarily she wasn’t such a flirt, but on occasion she just couldn’t help herself and even enjoyed doing it to the big lug of a pilot.

            Smoothing down the nightdress, the she-bear walked over to the dresser drawer mirror, grabbed her hairbrush and began brushing long strokes. In the mirror’s reflection, she could see Molly was again fast asleep.

            She thought about it again after a few strokes and stopped smiling, thinking: Why did she do it?

            Oh, it’s been a long night, she tried to convince herself. I’m just plain tired. It didn’t mean anything and probably not to that dumb galoot.

             Is that so? The voice in her head retorted. Did you see the look on his face? You practically left him smouldering on the spot where he was standing. That doesn’t mean it didn’t cross his mind – what about yours?

            That answer surprised her so that it made her drop her brush and it landed painfully on her foot, making her clamp her mouth shut to muffle her yelp while quietly hopping on the other foot.

            Letting out a laboured sigh, Rebecca picked up her brush and placed it back on the dresser. Lightly hobbling over to the bed, she lifted up a corner of the bedcovers and climbed in next to her daughter. Turning off the nightstand lamp, Rebecca laid awake for a little while in thought.

            Sometimes…it gets lonely at night. It would be so nice to share my life again with someone special. To have strong, rugged arms around me…looking into those dreamy brown eyes…

            Knock it OFF! The voice brought her back to reality. Go to sleep!

            Sleep…how can I sleep?

            Count sheep. Count ledgers. Count anchovy pizzas. Count anything. Just not that oversized pilot of yours...

            Oh, shut up.

 

 

 

            “Ahh…beddy-byes for Baloo,” the grey pilot contentedly sighed, slipping his nightshirt over his head after taking that long, well-deserved hot shower that relaxed his whole body. With a mighty, inelegant stretch, he made his way to bed.

            “Are we going to do any flying lessons tomorrow, Baloo?” Kit asked, in his bed across from him.

            “I dunno, Li’l Britches. It’s gonna depend on how the weather’s actin’ an’ on what ol’ Beckers gotta say ‘bout it, ‘kay?”
            “Okay,” the navigator yawned. Turning over in his bed, he could hear the familiar mattress creaks of the larger bear getting into his. Blackness enveloped the room as the light went out. “‘Night, Papa Bear.”

            Baloo yawned. “G’night, Becky.”

            Becky? Kit thought in surprise. But considering he’d been on a long-haul run and probably lingering over that kiss, the youngster just shrugged it off with a knowing grin.

            Poor guy… he thought before drifting off to sleep. I hope no girl will ever put a spell on me like that.

 

 

 

            Rubbing the residue from her eyes and making a small yawn, Molly quietly climbed out of bed and went downstairs toting Lucy in one hand the following morning. She had been awoken by the wafting aroma of breakfast being made from the kitchen and, feeling hungry, decided to investigate. Passing by one of the windows on the stairwell, the she-bear cub saw that the rain had stopped and the skies were spread with silver grey and white clouds against the light blue sky.

            As Baloo would say, she thought, ‘It’s a good day fer flyin’.’

            Walking into the kitchen, Molly saw Baloo at the stove working on something on a skillet. Hearing the door open, the pilot turned to see the girl there looking sweet in her violet and white ruffled-edged nightgown, he beamed at her.

            “‘Mornin’ there, Angel. Howja sleep?”

            “Pretty good, aside from Mom’s snoring,” she answered, helping herself onto a nearby chair at the small dining table. “Watcha making?”

            “Scrambled eggs an’ bacon. An’ I got a stack of pancakes an’ a mess of hash browns at the ready. Ya want any?”

            Molly just laughed. She remembered Baloo’s infamous and insatiable appetite, which was why she liked staying over at Higher for Hire more than she did at home. He was a lot more fun at breakfast time, while her mother usually rushed her out the door on school days.

            “Sure,” she said, pouring a glass of orange juice from a pitcher set on the table. “I’ll have some pancakes and eggs, please.”

            “Comin’ right up, buttercup!”

            Taking a sip of juice, she looked around the kitchen and realized something was missing. “Say, where’s Kit?”
            “Out runnin’ some errands. He’ll be back soon enough,” Baloo said, dishing out some eggs on the side of the plate laden with two pancakes. Presenting the plate to her, he added with some debonair airs about him and a faux French accent: “Here ya go, madame-mozzarella.”

            “Silly!” Molly chortled. “It’s pronounced ma-dam-mow-selle, not ma-dame-mozzarella. And mozzarella’s from Italia, not France.”

            “Eh, close enough, Cupcake,” the huge pilot dismissed with a wave of his paw as he placed the plate in front of her. Hunkering down on his heels so that they were at eye-level, he then asked: “How’s ‘bout an l’il ol’ tip fer the chef an’ waiter?”

            “Here you go,” the she-bear cub said, planting an affectionate peck on his cheek. “Thank you, Baloo.”

            “Aww,” he said, slightly blushing and touching the side of his face Molly just kissed. “Thanks a bunch, honeybunch.”

            “You’re welcome,” she said blithely as she cut into her first pancake piece drizzled with maple syrup and shoved it into her mouth. At that moment, Kit entered the kitchen carrying a newspaper under one arm and holding a small brown paper bag in another hand.

            “‘Morning there, Molly.”

            “‘Morning, Kit.”

            “Didja get the mornin’ paper an’ stuff there, Ace?” asked Baloo.

            “Sure did, Papa Bear. Got the Sunday paper and a bag of sweet rolls like you asked.”

            Oooh, sweet rolls!!” Molly exclaimed gleefully, about to reach for the bag. “Gimme one!”

             “Finish what’s on yer plate first, baby doll,” said the grey pilot, which the girl just sighed but continued on with her breakfast. “By the way, where’s yer mom?”

            “Upstairs still asleep, last time I checked. Why?”
            “Hmmm,” murmured Baloo with a thoughtful grin as he dished out Kit’s breakfast the boy was holding a plate up to near the stove. “Team, I got me an idea…”

 

 

 

            Rebecca, her eyes closed and all curled up in bed with the blankets all swaddled with her body, was all snug and comfortable with a wide smile on her face. She rolled over in her sleep and gave a long contented sigh, just as the spare bedroom door was given a polite tapping.

            “Becky? You up?” Baloo asked though the door. Holding a loaded breakfast tray with Kit and Molly behind him, the pilot pressed his ear against the door, but heard nothing except from what he swore was something that sounded like a muffled giggle.

            “Anything, Papa Bear?” Kit asked.

            “Dunno, L’il Britches. Can’t make out fer nuthin’, ‘cept some…laughin’?”

            “Well, just go in then.”

            “Okay, then,” he said tentatively, turning the doorknob with one hand and holding the tray with the other. “I jus’ hope she ain’t in her skivvies or somethin’.”

            “You almost came close last night,” the navigator muttered which made Molly snicker.

            “What was that?”
            “Oh… nothing,” Kit replied innocently as all three of them walked into the room.

            Quietly walking over to her bedside, they saw Rebecca still asleep with the big grin.

            Hmm, Baloo thought with relief. The Boss Lady’s still asleep…an’ from the looks of it, is in a good mood.

            She then chortled sumptuously, followed by a pleasurable purring sound.

            “Looks like we’re in the middle of a good dream here, Papa Bear,” whispered Kit.

            The she-bear rolled over again in bed with a girlish, delighted squeal and giggled: “Tee-hee-hee…Baloooodon’t…”

            A surprised look struck on all of their faces, but none more so than the pilot himself that it almost made him drop the tray. Molly had to cover her mouth to hold back a gasp and so did Kit in order to repress a snort.

            “Heh-heh-heh,” Baloo chuckled very nervously as he looked at the youngsters. “M-m-mebbe she’s havin’ some kinda nightmare.”

            “Oh, yeah,” Kit commented, trying hard not to laugh out loud. “She’s terrified, Baloo.”

            “Aw, man,” the huge bear sighed embarrassingly, setting down the tray on the floor as Rebecca continued giggling in her sleep. “I’d better wake ‘er up before it gets outta hand.”

            “Aww, c’mon, Papa Bear,” the navigator teasingly pleaded. “It’s getting interesting.”

            “Yeah,” Molly chortled quietly. “I wanna know what you’re doing to my mom in there.”

            “Well, you guys are too young to know ‘bout those kinda things an’ I don’t want it to git any more interestin’,” said Baloo warily. He reached out and gently, but firmly shook his employer by the shoulder. “Becky? Becky, wake up!”

            “Hmmm?” Giggling just a little bit more, her eyes opened slowly. Suddenly, she awoke with a start. “Huh? What? Where… what?

            Rebecca looked up to see who had woken her from her slumber, deeply gasped in shock and turned a shade of red unlike ever seen while drawing up the bedsheet over her chest as if she was indecently exposed. “Baloo!! Kit! Molly! H-h-h-how long have you been in here?!”

            “We, uh…we just walked right in here,” the pilot said quickly and then turned to the children. “Right, kids?”

            “Yeah, right, Rebecca,” Kit answered, keeping a straight face as did her daughter. “We just wanted to say ‘good morning’ to you.”

            “Uh-huh,” said Molly, who had clambered on top of the bed to her mother’s side and giving her a peck on the cheek. “And serve you breakfast in bed!”

            “Breakfast in bed?” Rebecca asked delightedly, now relaxing her grip on the sheets as Baloo presented the tray down on her lap with a spread fit for royalty. Laid out before her were scrambled eggs and bacon, a side of hash browns, a cup of freshly-brewed coffee, a fruit danish with icing zigzagged across the surface on a separate pastry plate and, for a touch of elegance, a pink rose – which Baloo had taken one from the desk vase bouquet his employer had downstairs – placed in tiny vase next to the smaller plate and cloth napkin-wrapped eating utensils.

            “Oh, my,” she beamed very warmly. “To what do I own this pleasure? It’s not my birthday or Mother’s Day,” then she folded her arms across her chest, tilted her head with a cocked eyebrow, sarcastically adding: “…or is this ‘Hit-The-Boss-Up-For-A-Raise’ Day?”

            “Nope, nuthin’ of the sort, Rebecca,” said the grey bear with an honest smile. “Just…thought it’d be somethin’ nice to do on a Sunday morn, that’s all. An’ to top it all off, the Sunday paper jus’ fer you.”

            Rebecca lightly blushed, feeling her heart rate quicken by this gesture as Baloo handed the newspaper over to her. “Well, thank you so much, Baloo. It’s been a long time since I’ve been served breakfast in bed for no special occasion, not since my ex-husb…I-I mean, it-it’s very sweet. Thank you all.”

            Taking the coffee cup to her lips, her pilot told her: “I made it jus’ how ya take it, Beckers…cream with double sugar.”

            Mmmm,” Rebecca pleasantly murmured after taking her first sip. “You can actually taste the coffee!”

            “Courtesy of our most recent clients, Boss Lady. The president of the coffee-growers gave us ten pounds of the best grounds around outta gratitude.”

            “Definitely must send them a thank-you card to him, that’s for sure,” his employer said, lying back on her pillows, taking another sip and savouring the full-bodied and aromatic taste. “Mm-mmmm…nectar from the gods.”

            “Well, we’ll letcha enjoy yer breakfast there, hon, and we’ll git back to our own,” Baloo said a bit hurriedly, now hustling Kit, Molly and himself out of the room. “We’ll collect the dishes later, ‘kay? ‘Bye!”

            Closing the door behind them, Rebecca thought his hasty behaviour was a bit bizarre, even for him. Shrugging it off, she delved into her first bite of eggs and a strip of bacon which were quite good. Mmm, not bad at all. Not only does this guy dance and fly great, he’s a pretty darn good chef, too, then saucily thinking, considering his size, it’s no wonder.

            She really did believe it was rather sweet of her pilot to serve her breakfast in bed, reminding her of how lucky she was to have him around. However, she couldn’t help in recalling with great embarrassment over what she was highly enjoying prior to her unexpected wake-up call.

            That dream I just had, she thought as she cleaned up the remainder of the plate, washing it all down with another slosh of coffee. Goodness gracious, I really hope he and the kids didn’t hear anything I said…what if I talked in my sleep?

            Putting that thought – and the dream – out of her mind, she opened the Sunday edition of the Cape Suzette Gazette’s business section that would alert her for any upcoming trends she could wisely corner into. Yet she couldn’t concentrate too much on that section after a little while and switched to the society pages instead. Now starting on the danish, Rebecca came up with a serious and interesting notion: I wonder… should I make Baloo a partner in the business?

            Then she saw something in the paper that really caught her eye. Oooh! Twenty-five percent off pleated skirts in assorted colours at Richelieu ’s Department Store this week – goody! I hope they’ll have some in pink, which the she-bear added with a smile, and in green.

 

 

                                                            EPILOGUE  

Downtown Cape Suzette

Four weeks later

             Mirroring the tall buildings off its windows rolling by, a taxicab drove through the post-morning rush hour traffic before coming to a complete stop right in front of Khan Plaza . Clicking off the fare meter, the swarthy bulldog cabdriver read the register tally, turned to his passenger and said in a gravelly voice: “That’ll be eight bucks…but for you, Babycakes,” he then smarmed, “it’s on the house.”

            “The name’s not ‘Babycakes.’ It’s Doctor Dodd to you,” said the unsmiling, voluptuous vixen archaeologist who didn’t like being ogled at so early in the morning, let alone any given part of the twenty-four hour day. Running a small wad of bills in her gloved hand, she produced the exact fare and handled it over to the driver. “And I will pay your fare.”

            “As you wish, Doc,” he said, snatching the money from her hands. “Allow me to open the door for ya.”

            “Save the chivalry for some other dame,” Katie said acidly, gathering her portfolio case and purse before she opened the door. “I can handle myself fine.”

            “I’ll bet you can…Red,” replied the driver, conspicuously eyeing every aspect of her shapely posterior, including the tail, with a slight drool as she stepped out of his vehicle.

“Red”?! She fumed. Nobody calls me “Red”– period!!

“G’bye, Babycakes.”

            Slamming the car door hard, the cab then sped off into the traffic flow and Katie looked on after the vehicle, thinking with indomitable relief: And good riddance!! Where’d he get his license from, a gumball machine?!

             The redheaded vixen then turned to her surroundings, finding herself in front of the imposing Khan Tower before her that she found a bit intimidating at first, then distasteful over the size that basically demonstrated the owner’s ego and Freudian tendencies. For the last three months, the renowned archaeologist had been pounding the pavements in most of the world’s financial capitals looking to back her recovery expedition of the September Weed in the Sub-Mediterranean Sea without much luck. And here she was now, about to beg one of the wealthiest and powerful men in the world to help her raise the derelict ship and get the prized Cache of Molta, a vow she had made years ago and was determined to keep.

 Shere Khan was the last ace in her deck.

            Applying a new coat of lipstick and taking a quick inspection to see if her hosiery seams were straight, Katie then gathered up all of her courage and took a deep breath, making long, confident strides towards the office building’s revolving doors, one thought running through her mind.      

Well, Kathleen old girl, here goes nothing…or something…

 

                                                              END