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Chapter 3

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Chapter Three
-- by Debbie Dunlap --

"Careful, fellas!  Take is slow ... Take it slow ... Take it slow!  That's a rare Smilodon californicus  from the Pleistocene Epoch."  Like a marionette whose strings were being pulled by a tipsy puppeteer, David ran from side to side, arms waving frantically up and down, eyebrows arching higher and higher in agitated concern.  

A total of twenty armed guards, dressed inconspicuously, were discreetly positioned at each of the museum's five exits.  The entrance to the rear driveway, where the armored truck was now being unloaded, was blocked by two unmarked cruisers.  At each corner of the armored truck, uniformed Pinkerton agents stood scrutinizing each quadrant for any sign of trouble with this rare and exceptional shipment.  Unseen on the roof, several sharpshooters stood prepared. 

David continued his frantic pacing and gesticulating.  The heavy guard was no more than an artifact of this magnitude deserved.  What he couldn't understand was the two oafs who were unloading his precious cargo. Surely, if the museum had gone to the expense and effort of hiring such extensive security, they could have afforded the services of men who had more sense than to treat a rare antiquity as if it were luggage being thrown into the belly of an airplane.  

David heaved a sigh of relief when at last the enormous wooden box rolled slowly onto the museum's loading dock.  Crouching near the box, David caressed the rough crate with his hands as if by touch he could see beneath the wooden barrier.  His hands seemed to literally vibrate with expectation.  At that moment, nothing, no one existed but this old cat and him.  Forgetting all around him, David grabbed the handle of the cart, ready to wheel it and its prehistoric feline cargo down to a specially prepared laboratory.

"David! Don't forget your manners!" In his mind he heard Susan's rebuke as if she were standing next to him.  

"Yes, dear.  Sorry, dear,"  David mumbled, reluctantly removing his hands from the cart and turning to offer his hand in thanks to the nearest Pinkerton agent.  

However, the agent nearest him was busy placing a small, dark metal box into the hands of Bruce Leeson, the head curator of the California Academy of Sciences' Natural History Museum.  Immediately, the small contingent of Pinkerton agents surrounding the armored truck secured the exit, surrounded Mr. Leeson, and were quickly and, almost militarily, escorting him down a long, well-lit museum passageway.  

David stood looking at his hand, then looking at the procession far down the hall. With a puzzled shrug of his shoulders, he gave a quick wave, feeling as if he'd at least made an attempt to fulfill Susan's wishes. "I tried, Susan dear.  You should have lectured that boring museum fellow who looks like Ralph Bellamy. Bad manners." 

Bad manners couldn't shake David's excitement, so with a jaunty turn  David again grabbed the cart, this time giving it a hefty shove to begin the long journey through the labyrinth of museum hallways. Unprepared for the actual weight of his cargo, he looked around for anyone who might give him a hand.  Two minutes ago, the place was swarming with people. Now, there wasn't a soul in sight. 

"Harrumph," David complained as he slowly pushed the heavy cart.  "So much for my armed escort.  Umph.  Could have at least helped me get it down to the lab."

"Woogita, woogita, woogita, bump" the cart's four small wheels sang and danced along the linoleum hallway. 

David stopped and removed his suit coat, tossing it carelessly atop the crate.  With another grunt, he had the cart moving again. 

"Woogita, woogita, woogita, bump. Woogita, woogita, woogita, bump."  As perspiration continued to accumulate, resentment began to replace expectation.

"I came all the way across the country, umph" he mumbled, "and they can't even go as far as the research lab. Umph." 

"Woogita, woogita, woogita, bump."

"Smilodon californicus, umph, SMILODON CALIFORNICUS!" David growled as he looked over his shoulder, as if actually speaking to the  Pinkertons and the curator. "Sounds like 'Smiling Californian.'  Harrumph!   'Bad-mannered, can't-help-a-guy-out Californians!' is more like it!  Umph." 

"Woogita, woogita, woogita, bump."

"Why'd I even bother?" he moaned as he ineptly but successfully maneuvered his precious burden around a ninety degree left turn. 

"Woogita, woogita, woogita, bump."

David stopped to mop his forehead.  The joy of the upcoming research gone from his mind as he struggled with half a ton of crated cat.   

Why had  he come all the way to San Francisco?  For a moment, this handsome, though absent-minded, professor pondered.  His eyes rolled  heavenward as the reason came to him.  Domi.

One day last week, when he'll rolled over to awaken Baby, instead of fur, he'd encountered satin.  Domi's latest seduction scenario found her stretched out and purring in David's bed.  However, David wasn't prepared to scratch this kitten's itch.  

When David's superior at the Meowseum called David into the office late that same afternoon, David was given a purrfect solution to his current domestic cat-astrophe.  The California Academy of Sciences' Natural History Museum was receiving a newly discovered, saber-toothed tiger carcass in just a few days.  They would be honored if the nation's leading authority on the feline species would agree to head this top-priority research project. 

"Top priority, my ... eye!" David again grumbled as he at last reached his destination.  Swiping his museum employee i.d. card, a double-wide  door marked, 'Archival Research - Employee's Only,' swung open automatically.  

The bright lights, shining chrome and steel, and the smell of formaldehyde worked wonders on David's rumpled spirits.  Coupled with the welcoming smiles of his staff, a grin of anticipation began turning up the edges of David's frown; all complaints about the long, laborious journey down the deserted corridors quickly forgotten.  Renewed enthusiasm for the discoveries ahead overshadowed every thought.  


After an especially "vigorous" night with Francie, a feral gleam lit John's eyes when he saw the morning paper's headline:

Hope Diamond Comes to California
Temporary Exhibit at the
California Academy of Sciences' 
Natural History Museum

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