The Whole Damsel Thing
Part 3 of 10

   

Land’s End

Ferret's Folly
10:45 pm

Cody took a long swallow of her piña colada and watched as Jons served a couple of bears down the bar. When his back was turned, she reached across the counter, short legs flailing, and snagged the half-empty bottle of rum. He never put enough in his piña coladas, so she usually added more to give it a little kick. Grinning, she poured just enough of the rum into her drink so that she could tell the difference, but Jons wouldn’t notice a sudden depletion of the bottle. Unfortunately, the bartender looked her way before she could put the bottle back. He frowned and made his way down the bar.  

“Something wrong with that drink?” he asked.

“Same thing that’s always wrong with it.  I ain’t a kid, Jons. I can hold my liquor.”

“Really?” The bartender put the bottle away. “Is that what you were doing last week when you had a few too many of these? You know, we never were able to get that one knife out of the wall. Finally had to…”

“Break it off,” Cody finished. “I know. You’ve told me a million times. Why don’t you just drop it? I said I was sorry.  I even paid to fix it.”

“Yeah, that had to hurt,” he retorted. Cody was the stingiest person with a dollar he’d ever met.

Jons studied her for a moment. They’d known each other for many years now, and he still had a hard time thinking of her as dangerous. Though twinkling with good humor now, her turquoise eyes were usually cold and wary. Her strawberry blonde hair, several shades lighter than her fur, was cut shoulder-length and hung limply in her face when she didn’t have it pulled back into a ponytail. The lower half of her muzzle, the front of her neck and chest, and the tip of her fluffy tail were cream-colored and provided a stark contrast to her vivid fur and hair.    

Just one glance and no one would ever think she could do anything worse than hurl insults. The vixen was more cute than pretty, though the cuteness was due more to her size than her features. She was very petite, both in figure and height, her body wiry, rather than shapely. However, one look at her face dispelled that illusion completely. Or it would if the person weren't inebriated. 

He changed the subject. “So, how’d the job go?” 

“Great! Picked up my pay on the way over here.” She smiled and took a swig of her drink.

“’Scuse me.” Cody turned on her barstool to see a short, fat, dirty yellow leopard leering at her. He was obviously very drunk, weaving on his feet.

“What do you want?” she snapped.

“Howzabout we get busy on the dance floor?” He leaned towards her until their noses touched, grinning at who he thought to be the least dangerous woman in the room. 

Scowling, she put down her drink. “Drop dead.”

“House rules say I got to dance before I go. So howzabout it, toots?”

Toots?! The vixen jumped to her feet.  I’ll rip out his tongue --- and then I’ll feed it to him!  

Suddenly his expression became fearful as he looked over her head; she turned to see what it was.  A large, rough-looking brown bear stood behind Cody, casting a huge shadow over them both. “You botherin’ this little girl, buddy?”

“Beat it.  I’ve got it under control,” Cody muttered.

He ignored her.  “Know what, pal?  I think you should hit the bricks.”

The masher took one look at the big bear and quickly surmised that leaving would be in his best interests.  

“Um… no.  You can have her.  I was just kidding, honest!” He raced out the door.

“I’ll tell you what you can have!” Cody shouted after him.  “Your ugly face after I peel it off and hand it to ya!”

“Settle down, kid.”  

Kid!

To her chagrin, the big bear gave a sudden bark of laughter.

“Feisty, isn’t she?” he asked Jons, as if she wasn’t even there.

“Believe me, mister, Cody here is as feisty as they come.”  The bartender’s shoulders were shaking with silent mirth as he watched her face redden with rage. 

Glowering at him, Cody considered and discarded several methods of punishment before the big brute tapped her arm to get her attention.

“Say, aren’t you a little young to be hanging around a bar?” He frowned, realization slowing dawning across his features. “How old are you, anyway?”

“Old enough to tear you a new one.”

“Whoa, where’d you learn to talk like that?” He blinked in surprise, then, placing his paws on her shoulders, said kindly, “Kid, you shouldn’t be in a place like this.”

You shouldn’t be out in public.”

This guy’s got mitts like a coupla trash can lids!

She slapped his hands away. “Watch it, bub.”

“Listen, kid, there’s some really bad guys out there who wouldn’t care how old you are.”

She thought of Fletcher, and tasted something foul. “Really? Do tell, Big Man.

“Actually, it’s Big Al.”

“Look,” she said, exasperated, finally realizing that the big doofus meant her no harm.  “Thanks for chasing away that jerk, okay?  Now please go save somebody who needs it.” 

“Where do you live?  I’ll take you home, make sure nobody bothers you.” 

Jons snickered. “Make sure nobody bothers you? Nice choice of words.”

Cody glared murderously at the grinning ferret.

The big bear set his tankard on the counter.  At least, that’s where he meant to set it. He was so busy digging in his back pocket for his wallet that he missed his target by a good foot.  Jons caught the tankard before it hit the floor, relieved that it was almost empty.

Big Al asked Jons, “So, how much do I owe you?”

“Oh, this one’s on the house,” Jons replied, “For saving this sweet little girl from a fate worse than death.”

“Decent of you.  Thanks.”  The bear turned to Cody. “So kid, you coming?”

“Oh, go flog yourself!”

The big bear blinked. “You’ve got some mouth, sweetheart.”

“Keep it up and you’ll find out just how bad my bite is.” She grinned, a slow, evil smile that would have made the bear shiver --- were he smart enough not to underestimate anyone smaller than himself. “And don’t call me sweetheart.”

Shaking his head, he gently took her by the elbow said, “Let’s go call a cab.”

“I told you to leave me alone, you big bozo!”  She tried to jerk away from him as he firmly dragged her to the public phone across the room, oblivious to her protests.

“Now, we’ll get you home where you belong.”  Unthinkingly, he swatted her behind and was rewarded by a sharp slap across his muzzle. 

He recoiled. “Ow!”  

“I warned you.”  

He raised his hands in mock surrender. “Fine, I give up.”  

Cody snapped, "Good!  Nobody asked for your help, anyway!"  

He scowled at her. “Brat,” but turned and made his way to the door.

She watched him go.  When she noticed Jons looking in her direction, she mouthed, “You owe me big.

The bartender just chuckled.

On his way out, Big Al paused in the narrow doorway for a moment to cast her another disgusted look.  He didn’t notice a female bear trying to edge past him into the bar.

“Hey, suck it in, you big ox!”

Grumbling something about ‘another brat’, he shuffled to one side and let her pass, still rubbing his muzzle.

“Jerk,” Joanna muttered as she stepped inside and scanned the crowded room. The band was playing a swinging jazz number and the dance floor was full of energetic, laughing couples.

She made her way to the bar, sank onto a bar stool, and shoved a half-empty coconut of piña colada out of her way.

“What’ll you have?” the bartender asked, his voice a slow drawl.

Eyes twinkling mischievously, she mimicked his accent. “Why, Ah’d jest love a nice tall glass of iced tea. With li’l ol’ twist of lime?”

The ferret gave her a cursory glance. “You’re not from around here, are you?”

“Why, no, suh,” she replied, enjoying her role. “Ah’m just a-passin’ through.”

“First time out here?”

“Yes, suh. I’m just a li’l ol’ country gal out to see the big city.”

He snorted. “Boy, did you come to the wrong place.”

He finished mixing her drink and slid it to her. Then he went to attend to some other patrons.

As Joanna sipped her iced tea, she noticed a petite vixen detach herself from the crowd and make her way towards the bar. At first, she thought it was a kid who’d gotten into the bar by mistake, but as the vixen came closer, she saw that her face was more mature than her body.  Joanna thought that she was probably in her early to middle twenties—and badly in need of a few fashion tips.

Or a bulldozer.

“Hey, that’s my seat,” the vixen said.  She regarded her with disdain, noting the blouse did too good a job in displaying the woman’s curves, and her hair was way too long.

She probably spends hours fiddling with that mop. Useless bimbo.

The bear made a pretense of looking at the stool. “Oh, I’m so sorry. You want to be able to see over the bar.”

“Listen, sister, I just had some big yahoo try to play hero so I am a little cranky right now.  Don’t push it.”

Joanna looked her over from head to toe, slowly taking in the wrinkled green shirt hanging loose over baggy black pants tucked into scuffed boots, and said, deadpan: “Now why would he do that?”

The vixen’s cold turquoise eyes narrowed as the bartender moved towards them.

“Problem, ladies?”

“No,” Cody said, her eyes never leaving the intruder’s.  

Joanna gave what she thought was a fetching pout.  “She says Ah done took her seat."

The ferret turned to Cody in disbelief. “You’re griping about a seat? What is this, grade school?”

Joanna’s gaze shifted to the door and her expression changed from amusement to panic as she spotted a female hyena who looked familiar.  Frantically, she looked around for a place to hide. 

Oh crap --- Penny!  How the hell did that psychopath find me? Then she squinted and exhaled a sigh of relief.  Whew. No… just some barfly.

“Listen, it’s been a barrel, but I’ve got to run.”

Jons gave her a cool, measuring look.  “What happened to your li’l ol’ accent?”

She smiled uneasily.  Uh-oh.  “Oh, y’all know us gals.  Always losin’ stuff…” She started to leave the bar, eyes fixed on the entrance.  Every time a new face appeared, her heart jumped. 

Maybe if I ducked out the back?  No, they might be waiting outside.  Maybe hide in the bathroom all night… no, that’s the first place they’d look...

“Don’t forget your drink,” Cody reminded her dryly. 

Distracted, Joanna made no move to take it with her. 

The bartender misinterpreted this as an intention to leave the building and was in front of her before she could go two steps.  “Nobody leaves without a dance.” 

She stared at him incredulously. “Are you insane? Get out of my way.”

He pointed. “See the sign?”

“Oh, brother.”  She tried to edge her way around him.

Jons refused to let her pass, but she didn’t want to make a scene.  Joanna tried to intimidate him with her coldest stare. Unimpressed, he stared right back.  She glanced over her shoulder nervously.

I have to get out of here!

“Fine.  One dance.”  She held out her arms.  “And you’d better not step on my feet.”

“Not me.  I’m working.  My girl here will find you a partner.”

What?” Joanna spun around to face the slyly grinning vixen.

Certainly. Always happy to help a customer.”

She disappeared while Joanna waited impatiently. When Cody returned, Joanna took one look at her partner and nearly bolted. The vixen had chosen a muscular lion with a matted and filthy mane, oily fur, and enough body odor to stop an elephant at fifty paces. His torn, sweat-stained shirt looked about to burst at the seams, and barely contained his brutishly thick torso. When he saw her, his eyes lit upon her figure greedily, and a little drool trickled down his chin.  She wished she had worn something looser and less flattering.

Like a sackcloth.

“Tonight’s your lucky night, doll.”

I’m being punished, Joanna thought, trying not to inhale.

She glared murderously at Cody, who smiled innocently and waved. “Ya’ll have fun, now, y’hear?” 

She started to raise her middle finger at the vixen, but found her hand suddenly caught in an incredibly moist paw. The sour smell of sweat, booze, fish, and something else she couldn’t readily identify was so overpowering that it made her eyes water. 

Ugh…somebody needs to be fumigated.

Reluctantly, the bear let herself be pulled onto the dance floor, where the lion eagerly put his arms around her as the band struck up a slow song. Joanna recognized with anguish that it was a particularly looonnngg song.

Lady, you are so dead.  I’m gonna make a flippin’ boa out of that fluffy tail of yours! 

“So…ya like limburger?” He belched in her face. “I do.”

Joanna turned her face to the side, hoping she wouldn’t throw up. “Ah noticed.”

He farted, causing a few nearby dancing couples to draw back in disgust.  Joanna fervently hoped they didn’t blame her for the toxic stench. “Whadda ya say we get out of here?  I’ve got a room…”

Just kill me now.

She tried to peer around his shoulder to see where her pursuers might be lurking.  He firmly cupped the back of her head and pressed it against him, so that her face was in dangerous proximity to his hot, moist armpit.

Great.  Now I’ll have to take another bath. 

Another couple bumped into her from behind, causing her to do a nosedive into his armpit.  Eyes smarting, she came up for air and managed to gasp, “Well, mah goodness, that’s a temptin’ offah, but Ah don’t even know your little ‘ol name.” 

“Call me Eddie. Eddie Schwartz.” He gave her what he apparently thought to be his most engaging smile, revealing some green mossy gunk lodged in his front teeth. “You one of them foreign babes? What do they call you, little lady?”

“Um… Lydia .”

“Great!  Now we’re introduced.”  He stopped dancing and began pulling her off the dance floor.  “Come on, Lydia , let’s go.”

Uh-oh.  

“Wait!” She peeked under his armpit to see if they were there, using the space as a window.

“What?” he asked impatiently.

“Hey, I just got here.  And-and the song’s not over yet.”  A few seconds after the words were out of her mouth, the song ended.  Damn.

“Let’s go.”

“Not yet!” The band started up again.  “I-I love this song.”

“Come on.”  

“Wait…I… need to powder my nose first.”  She gave him a weak coquettish smile as she tried to detach herself.  Bathroom window.  I can climb out and…

He grinned at her again. “A gorgeous dish like you don’t need no makeup.”

Mentally she rolled her eyes, but said brightly, “Why, thank you!  But to be perfectly honest, Ah don’t wake up lookin’ like this.”  As soon as she said it, she wanted to sink through the floor.

“Well, I’ll find out for myself later, right?”  He cackled at his own wit.

Ew.

He slung an arm possessively around her shoulders and proceeded to drag her towards the back. 

“Can’t we dance some more?” She squirmed in his grasp. “I just love dancing.” 

“Me too,” Eddie said. “That’s why we’re going back to my room.”

“Are you kidding?  I’m not that kind of…”

“Aw, c’mon, Lydia.”  He leaned closer, his fetid breath making her hair momentarily go limp.  He wiggled his V-shaped eyebrows suggestively. “Know my favorite dance in the whole wide world?”

“Um... no.”

“The horizontal mambo!”  He cackled again. 

Your jokes are as bad as your breath.  Actually, no --- they aren’t.

She managed to duck out from under his arm, but before she could make a run for it, he suddenly grabbed her arm and yanked her along after him.

She tried to dig in her heels, but the dance floor had poor traction, causing her to slide instead.  “Hey!  Take your lousy hands off me!”

“Shut up.” His eyes narrowed.  “Hey, what happened to your accent?”

Thinking fast, Joanna let herself go limp, forcing him to drag her full weight across the floor.  She yelled, “Hey!  Somebody help me!  Help!”

Unfortunately for Joanna, a well-dressed female rabbit had decided to take offense at something her date had said or done while they danced.

“You’re runnin’ around on me, ya bum!  I saw you winkin’ at that waitress!”

“For corn’s sake, Ruby, I wasn’t winking at her!  I had something in my eye!”                        

“Oh yeah?” The woman jerked away from him. “Then how come she had something in her eye too!”

“Aw, don’t be that way, doll…” the man protested.

“Oh?  And what way would you have me be?”

He blinked, stumped.  “That a trick question?  Like ‘am I getting fat?’”

“Why you dirty---!” She slapped him hard.

“Hey!”

“Well, if you didn’t run around with every two-bit hussy who came along--!”

“Me?  I didn’t see you saying no to that sailor last night!  I ain’t blind, you three-buck broad!”

“Three-buck---!  You lousy creep!”

The rest of the dancers gathered around them, cheering them on, so no one heard Joanna’s scream over the noise.

“Get up.” He yanked her to her feet again, nearly wrenching her shoulder.  Fire shot through her right arm, bringing involuntary tears to her eyes.

By then, the din was so loud that she couldn’t even hear herself scream.

End of Part 3


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