Quite a punch to the gut.
Does he mean it?
They’ve had their ups and downs, as in any relationship. The cat is used to these outbursts. He replies politely, but firmly. “You’re done for, my friend. I foresee the following: Heinzie’s sedative had been the one useful component to your mischief. He’ll sell his chemical acumen. He’ll be hired here and there, affording limited relief, until the populace demands an all-out initiative. At that point he can name his terms. That’s his game. Out with it, eh? Cards on the table, J.D. Whatcha got up your sleeve? Please don’t tell me it’s . . . you know. Don’t, pul-eeeze.”
“Heinz-Helmut is a piss-pot,” proclaims Dee.
“You’re the one pissed on,” observes the animal almost, but not quite, under his breath.
“I see him for what he is. Don’t think for a moment that I don’t. I’m using him.”
Sly shrugs. “So you say.”
“I put no faith in Herr Wackenroder.”
“A wise decision.”
“I put all faith in Uriel.”
“Uriel has the final word. He foretold me a triumph. Far be it from me to dictate what that triumph might consist of. He lays me a path, I take it.”
“Hold it. I promised you a triumph. Me! No red-robed specter.1 A bare-naked flesh-and-blood cat!”
“You are unaware, an instrument.”
“I . . . I . . . What? What?”
“A cat taught himself to talk? Absurd! Far more plausible that you are guided, not realizing it, on my behalf.”
“You are no receptive. How do you apprehend me?”
“I was enabled,” says Dee, “in special circumstances.”
The explanation Sly had given Dru on the coach ride makes sense to him. He’d been tapped for a delicate assignment. As a long-time neighbor of one known as the Spymaster, he had that all-important ear. Very few would have paid heed to the insane claim that the Queen’s closest friend was plotting her demise.
The great love of her life, having traded on her affection since boyhood, is much despised, but she will hear no ill of him. A powerful and dangerous man has been obstructed, but will not be brought to justice. The jaw-dropping incident has been hushed up.
There can be no official acknowledgment of Dee’s service to Queen and country, but he will not go without a lovely recognition. The reward, or some equivalent funding, will be Uriel’s pat on the back for a job well done. It had been predicted. Hmmm. What about spirits don’t forecast the future? It’s a rule of thumb, not an absolute. Dee is held in the highest regard. Another exception has been made for him.
Sly is furious. He’s not been taken seriously. He’s given no credit for his magnificent feat of self-education. The relationship he’s treasured is a farce. The cat is about to hit the roof. Then he thinks, hold on there, boyo. This be one o’ them golden opportunities. “We rescued Her Majesty,” he snaps, “and hip hurrah for that. This current mess, the silly show is your hot bet. We need Ha-Ha for our Piper, no one else is remotely suitable. Via the crystal – no more face to face, the bum can’t handle it – I make the pitch. You back me up.
“Listen, I oughtn’t to tip you off but I will. Special circumstances, you’re on the money there. My puppet-master, his name is Kadaitch by the way, his final task is to see you fixed up financially, then he’ll withdraw from our uncomfortable association. I’m a nervy sort. I rub him the wrong way, same’s I do you. When he flees, sadly, I’ll go mute. It’s been grand being able to speak my mind in all its complexity, instead of confined to hissing and yowling. Well, no sense crying over it. Play the hand you’ve been dealt, my philosophy of life always. Sir! Let me thank you while I can for the remarkable experience of having known you. I will treasure the memory for as long as memory persists in me.” Not for a moment does he think the man done with him. Best to appear to revert to a plain-spoken cat.
He’s curious (so am I). “Answer me this – if you’ve believed me a mystical, funneling angelic wisdom your way, why have you been endlessly at me to coax forth Uriel? Who, by the way, expects me to handle this bit of business on my own. He’s called away.”
Dee snorts. “Keep at him! I want to hear from the top dog. The oddballs he’s unleashed on me! The imp Madimi. Grah the Abstruse. You, for God’s sake! Well, your advice may be unreliable but at least it’s clear, you don’t hedge your bets. But how a loose cannon snagged a crucial assignment, I’ll never figure that one out.”
“I stumbled on it,” mutters the cat. “Actually, I fell into it.2 Look, you’re stuck with me. Uriel’s moved on.”
“He can’t be on two problems at once? I do it all the time.”
Sly’s annoyed. He’s going to have a bit of fun. “I’m unreliable? Your opinion. Uri is very impressed with the way I beat back Dudley. That’s how come he left it to me to wrap up here. He trusts me. My Ratfest is really gonna score points with him. My creative solution, he’s gonna love it. I want it to be a surprise. Don’t keep asking me to call him up, I ain’t gonna do it. Play ball with me or I’m gone.”
“You wouldn’t dare. Uriel wants me taken care of.”
“Yeah? Try me.”
John Dee balls his fist and bangs it against the dresser holding the Crystal Globe, setting cut-glass teardrops a-tinkle. “From here I am posted to Krakow on another matter of national importance. You and I have proven our worth as a team. Hear me, Kaddo,” he screams. “Hear me good. You’re going nowhere. Uriel won’t stand for it.”
have we never heard of this interlude in Hameln history?
No children vanished into the side of a mountain, that must be it.3 They danced in the streets three afternoons a week, not the same drama. Also, the best laid plans, etcetera. Heinz’s addiction, will it be his, and the show’s, undoing?
We know (rather, I do, from my reading) that John Dee returned home from Eastern Europe and lived out his days in poverty. Something went awry, I’m afraid. I ask you to take it on faith that amazing acts are trained, that Heinz looks gorgeous in his multi-colored tights, that the Rag-Tags of Rat-Town fall into line as extras, cavorting through the streets with a cavalcade of rats in hats and collars in the merriest Conga line4 that ever could be, that all Europe hears of and makes plans to attend the RatFest, that Dru’s Mama takes the financial reins and works wonders in that area, and that Heinz, prancing and mugging like Mick Jagger, is a draw in and of himself.
Ah. Forgot about poor Reisig. Reisig fills out into a handsome animal. He will pull a flower-bedecked float carrying a gorgeously gowned rat queen and her court, pre-dating the Rose Parade by four-hundred years.
Folks, I’m worn out from this elaborate adventure, I want it done and up on Amazon. I may eventually circle back (I’m a big one for circling back) and fill in here and there. Look for the next offering in my series of fractured fairytales: Sly hooks up with a mentally unstable frog who believes himself to be an enchanted prince. We follow them on a search for a princess willing to kiss a royal pain-in-the-ass, as close as he comes to regality, bickering as they go.
I’ll start the next portion of the story (The Frog Who Would Be King) with Sly’s farewell RatFest performance. He’s decided it’s time to move on. Unable to talk him out of it (and she’ll be harder to get away from than Good Queen Bess and Dee combined), Dru has shaved her eyebrows. Reisig, explained the reason for the hair removal, asks for strips to be shaved above his eyes, his own statement of sorrow. They are heartbroken to lose their dearest friend.
I leave you with a mental image:
Will Wackeineratte Proudly Presents
His Rat City Revels.
Rambunctious Rodent Rascals.
Acrobatic Antics. Comical Calisthenics.
A Variety of Vanities and Vignettes starring Rehabilitated Vandal Vermin.
Frolics to charm the kiddies. Tableaux Vivants
paired with dramatic readings for a more sophisticated taste.
Join us at Yuletide, when we will present the Nativity Story, all rats.
Our promise: It will be an experience you will never forget!
- Several of the spirits Kelley conjured were dressed in red. (So he said. No one else was able to see them.)
- Sly had been kidnapped from a French circus, knocked cold and stuffed into a sack by a bear-handler covetous of an extraordinary trained cat. Hours later, groggy, still in his wrapping, he’d hurled himself out the window of an inn, landing amidst baggage belonging to Catholic assassins bound for England. Read about it in The Rogue Cavorts.
- A more likely story is that the children were sold to a recruiter from the underpopulated Baltics. In her essay “Pied Piper Revisited”, Sheila Harty states that surnames from the region are similar to those from Hameln and that selling off illegitimate children, orphans or others the town could not support was a common practice.
- The Conga, a dance of West Indian origin, reached the United States in the nineteen-thirties. Rolf invents something similar, leading the syncopated stepping, beating on a drum dangling at his hip, doing a bang-up job at it. His special talent, we’ve found it!