-- by Jenny Allan --
As Baby bounded into the room with the joy of a creature whose fondest wish had suddenly come true, David freed himself, reluctantly, from the woman who unbeknownst to him was
"Oh Baby! You’re here! I forgot to pick you and Aunt Elizabeth up at the—"
"Where’s my baby? My baby’s gotten away!" cried Aunt Elizabeth who was straggling behind Mrs. Gogarty and Allie who were hot on Baby’s trail.
David ran after Baby who was about to help herself to a pair of cockatoos perched precariously atop a pyramid of crystal glassware. With a mighty crash and a delighted slurp
the leopard devoured the rare tropical birds and the $15,0000 a plate reception quickly dissolved into a rather noisy display of the food chain. Before Baby could target another prey, David snuck up behind
her with practiced efficiency and slipped a collar around her neck. The collar just happened to be Francie’s priceless diamond necklace which he’d taken back from her just at the moment Baby appeared,
muttering to himself about the effect that a strand of old rocks could have on a beautiful women. Just then Aunt Elizabeth arrived and handed over the leash to David, who quickly finished collaring his
At precisely that moment, a pair of hefty security guards rushed in and collared David and Baby. Another pair grabbed Aunt Elizabeth and Mrs. Gogarty and started dragging them
all off to an armored paddy wagon which had just pulled up outside. Leaving poor Allie standing bewildered in the midst of all the chaos.
"My necklace! That man is a thief and an imposter! He stole my necklace…TWICE!" Francie Stevens shouted as she followed the security guards and their calamitous
mob of prisoners.
"That man is your husband!" replied Jessie Stevens tagging after her.
"Mother, I know John and that man, though he looks remarkably like him, is most decidedly not John!"
"I’ve never heard such nonsense. Of course that was John."
"I thought so at first, too, then upon further…ahem, inspection, I realized my mistake. There was something not quite right with his eyes. They were a slightly different
shade of brown with flecks of green, I think it was."
"Francie, you’re tired. You’re imagining things."
"Well, explain to me how a man who wears Armani to go down to pick up his GOOD clothes at the cleaners, was wearing an off the rack suit to a gala benefit!"
Mrs. Stevens gasped audibly and with no small amount of irony at the words "off the rack." They had arrived at the Paddy wagon where another bunch of security guards,
who’d been called in for back-up, assisted in loading the group into the wagon
"We’d better get out of here before we end up in the paddy wagon."
"We can follow the wagon in the car," Francie said and turned looking for the valet who’d take her keys just a few minutes before.
Meanwhile back upstairs, John and Stray decided that perhaps Eddy Cheng had given them some bad information. They headed back to the elevator to make their getaway as planned.
The elevator door opened on the lobby floor onto, Robie thought momentarily, a three ring circus. They headed swiftly for the front door, hoping to escape easily in the confusion. Robie stopped dead in
his tracks because there in the front drive of the Museum, arguing with the valet were his wife and his mother-in-law.
He grabbed Stray and headed away from the door.
"What’s the matter?"
"Change of plans. We can’t go out the front. We’ll have to try another way out."
"Well, what about the way you came in?"
"Excellent idea, Stray. Off the roof, over the side and we’ll just use my car which I’d originally planned to leave here."
"OK. Sounds good. There’s just one thing that bothers me?"
"Why were you going to leave your car here in the first place."
"So I could go out the front, inconspicuously and get in a cab."
"And wouldn’t it look a bit conspicuous if the police found your car in the lot a few days later."
"I planned to go pick it up in the morning."
"I see. Huh."
"Well, it seems to me it would have been easier to just leave by your car in the first place. Then we would have had one less person in on the deal and you wouldn’t
have to return to the scene of the crime."
"So it wasn’t the cleverest caper in history. What’s your point?"
"You don’t have to get sore at me. I was only askin. Sheesh."
The elevator that carried the pair of would-be criminals arrived at the top floor.
"This is far as we go. We have to walk from here," Stray said, as they down the hallway and up a set of stairs. They opened the door onto the roof and stepped out
into the brisk spring air.
"That’s funny. How’d that get up here?" Robie asked pointing to the laboratory cart which was parked next to the ventilation shaft.
"Huh. That’s one of them carts they use for whatya callits, specimens at the museum" Stray said.
"Yes, and it’s about the right size to hold a fossilized saber tooth tiger." Robie said, bending down to examine the window-washing rig which was lying up-side
down on the edge of the roof. "And this wasn’t here either. There’s something fishy going on here."
"Don’t say fish," Stray sniffed. "I ain’t had my dinner yet."
Robie turned to examine the mesh cover for the ventilation shaft. It was bent a bit on one end. He knew he hadn’t done that. He wasn’t so careless. Following a hunch he
knelt down, produced a small flashlight and shone it into the shaft.
"Stray, I don’t know how or why, but I think I’ve spotted our tiger."
"Down there, he said, pointing and Stray caught a glimpse of the tiger’s long shiny white tooth in the dim light.
"Hey you’re right. How the heck did it wind up in there?"
"Truth is stranger than fanfiction, Stray." was Robbie’s cryptic response.
Robie walked over to the window washing rig and untied about a hundred feet of rope and the block and tackle. He tied the rope around his waist and secured the other end to
the side of the building. With Stray’s help, he quietly removed the mesh cover and lowered himself into the shaft. He stopped, running out of rope, just a few feet above the T-junction. He took out his
flashlight and saw something glistening at the base of the t-junction. It was the unmistakable glint of a large and perfect diamond. He pulled out a sharp knife that he kept folded in his pocket, cut
the rope and dropped down. Using a handkerchief, he gingerly picked up the priceless treasure and placed it in his breast pocket. The diamond was wet, with some warm substance. He lowered his light and saw
that it had been lying in a pool of blood. He turned the light around and saw under the tiger, the hideous visage of Sy Meeze, twisted into a pretzel from his fall and tangled beneath his beloved saber
tooth fossil. He gasped instinctively.
"What is it?" Stray called down.
"Just get me out of here fast," he called back, jumping up and catching the rope, he pulled his whole weight up with ease a few feet. He wedged his body against the
sides of the shaft while he worked to tie the rope back around his waist.
"Ok, Stray, now!" he yelled and Stray yanked hard on the other end of the rope which was looped through the block and tackle. Robie slowly ascended inch by inch.
Sweat poured from his brow as he breathed as quickly as if he’d been the one pulling the rope. He didn’t much care for enclosed spaces, but this one, with it’s hideously grotesque corpse not to
mention the promise of a long time in prison, was particularly odious. As he reached the fresh air of the roof, Stray bent down to drag him up.
"Have ya got it?"
"I’ve got it," Robbie answered breathing hard.
"Then hand it over, NOW!" Stray yelled and pressed a gun hard against Robie’s temple.
"Alright, alright, now just calm down there, Stray," Robie said handing him the handkerchief and diamond.
"I’ll see you and your stupid caper later." Stray said and headed for the door, which at that very second flung open, and hit him hard, sending the diamond flying
through the air and Stray Catz flying backward. Robie leapt forward and caught the diamond and tucked it quickly back in his breast pocket. Catz moaned as he lay half-unconscious in a heap beside the
doorway, which contained the backlit silhouette of the shapeliest member of Robie's gang, Puh Si Willoh.
"Sleepin' on the job, Stray? Typical man! I'm on my feet all night with renta cops and richies up to my eyeballs and I pop out for a 10 minute smoke and he's takin' a nap! And
you! Didn't you just get shoved into a paddy wagon 10 minutes ago? What kinda fancy lawyer ya got ta spring ya that quick?"
Robie looked puzzled, but said nothing.
She moved forward, placing an arm around Robie's neck. "Awww, what's a matter, boss? Cat got your tongue?"
"What is it with me and women who need weird excitement! " Robie exclaimed as Catz began to stir at his feet. He grabbed Ms. Willoh's fingers from their explorations of his ear and began
escorting her as forcefully as a gentleman could down the stairs.
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