Thursday, June 16, 2016
Mayor Gil sat at his desk in his darkened office at City Hall, with a glass of scotch and tired thoughts playing through his head. It was past time to head home, but he didn’t want to subject Chloe and the kids to his sour mood. Better to sit here and work through his issues before he packed it in for the night.
Pack it in, yeah. Am I doing any good here? Has me being Mayor made a difference? Maybe I should just retire before the next election. Let some other poor bastard put up with the crazy. He sipped his scotch. I could use a sign.
A bat flew in the open window.
Gil leaped up and grabbed a broom, but stopped himself before he started swinging. For all he knew, this could be one of his constituents. Sure enough, the bat reformed itself into Brandon Fledermaus. Gil set the broom aside. “Jesus. Call first, willya?”
“Sorry. I wanted to keep this meeting quiet.” He eyed the broom. “You keep a broom in the Mayor’s office?”
“In case of messy accidents. You’d be amazed how often those happen.” Or maybe he wouldn’t. This was, after all, Talbot’s Peak. Gil returned the broom to the closet and pulled out a robe, which he offered to Brand. “I get a lot of unexpected visitors, too. It pays to be prepared. Drink?”
“Thanks.” Brand pulled on the robe while Gil poured a second glass of scotch. They both took chairs before the desk.
Gil thought, Now here’s a guy who’s got it all. Handsome, powerful, rich. A rodent shifter, yeah, but one who commanded respect. People were afraid of bats. Nobody was afraid of a squirrel. “So what can I do for you?”
“I’m mostly here for information. Giving and receiving. I was attacked last night, by people who claimed they were sent by Damien Hancock.”
Gil didn’t miss the phraseology. “Claimed?”
“They weren’t pure wolf shifters. I’ve never heard of Damien using anyone who wasn’t pure wolf. He doesn’t believe in mixing species. The incident as a whole didn’t have his stamp on it, so I’m poking around.”
“This happened last night?” Gil paused thoughtfully. “You may not have been the only one. Something got Hancock all stirred up last night. And apparently there was some kind of power outage at the Ghan compound. Hamsters,” he explained. “They run the electric company.”
“All three of us?” Brand studied his drink. “That’s not coincidence. Sounds like somebody wants to stir up trouble between the Peak’s movers and shakers.”
“Shit,” Gil said. “Not again. I do not need this.” He polished off his scotch. “How’d you like to be Mayor?”
Brand frowned. “You’re not resigning, are you?”
“Been thinking about it. I mean, it’s not the best job in the world, especially in a town like this. The pay sucks—I still work at Rattigan’s to make ends meet. The people elected me to lead them and then bitch about how I do it. I get chased by wolf cubs and cats on a regular basis. And nobody, I mean nobody, respects a squirrel. You want the job, it’s yours. You’re a local. People know you. They’ll listen to you. You’ve got the looks, the money and the brains to make it in politics, and the guts to lead this zoo. Nobody’s gonna chase you to the top of the Christmas tree, that's for damn sure.”
“Sounds exciting,” Brand said dryly. “Did I mention the attempt on my life?”
“Only one? Welcome to my world.” Gil sighed. “I’ll talk to the bunnies. They’re everywhere, they hear everything. I can drop by the diner when Louie’s not looking. Anything the bunnies didn’t hear, I’ll bet Elly did. Anything you find out, you keep me informed. This whole town is a freakin’ circus, but I guess it’s still my circus. Besides, us rodents gotta stick together.”
“Thanks.” Brand finished his drink and got up. “You’ve got more support than you realize. You wouldn’t have won two elections if this town didn’t want you as their Mayor. You’ll either hear from me directly or through my man Jerboa.” He smiled. “Next time I’ll use the phone.”
Brand shrugged out of the robe and prepared to shift. Then he paused. Gil glanced around. Brand was studying the photo on his desk, the one of him with Chloe and the munchkins. Gil only sort of liked the photo. He’d been up half the night dealing with feedings. Photo-Gil looked ready to nod off.
“Your family?” Brand asked. Gil nodded. Brand sighed. “You have no idea how lucky you are.” He shifted and flapped out the window.
Gil sat with his empty glass a little longer. He looked at the photo for a while. Then he got up, shut the window, locked up the office and went home.
# # #
“I was just about to call you,” Chloe said as he walked in the front door. “You weren’t home and nobody’d seen you. I was getting worried—” She broke off on an oomph when Gil caught her up and hugged her tight. “Well!” she gasped when he let her get her breath back. “What was that about?”
“You know that old saying, about the grass being greener on the other side of the fence?” Gil said. “Well, I just realized I’ve got the greenest damn lawn in Talbot’s Peak.So what's for dinner? Whatever it is, I guarantee it'll be my favorite."