Meet the Rat King

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Hello my people,

Here’s the latest excerpt from my story.  This was definitely one of my favorite scenes to write and I hope you’ll enjoy reading it.  Comments and questions are always welcome.

Read the previous posts here:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

. . .

It was after dark when they left the library.

“What now?” Max inquired, after sitting and reading for hours on end, he didn’t mind a bit of action now.

“Home. Eat. Sleep.”  Andie was exhausted and she still wasn’t sure what she had discovered.

Arriving home, the doorman ushered them in, the weird security guard gave Andie a nod and a stern look at Max.

In the apartment, Andie sat down in her armchair feeling defeated.  She had hoped the library would provide some answers but her research seem to leave her more confused than ever.  She sat brooding with her hands clasped in front of her face.  Max sat on the couch next to her, thumbing through the book he had taken out from the library.

Suddenly, Layl came speeding into the living room, causing Max to start.  She skid toward the front door, stopping only when she hit it.  Layl began hissing and spitting, arching her back to seem larger.  However, Layl didn’t stop at just arching her back, she kept growing, larger and larger until she had filled up half the room.  Her head had grown twice the size, and her paws were the size of dinner plates.  Her hisses had turned into low growls and she put her giant paws up against the door. She had transformed into a giant panther.

“Whoa! Whoa! What IS that?!”  Max had pushed himself up onto the couch.

“Down, Layl.”  Andie said lazily without looking up.  Layl moved back from the door but didn’t return to her normal size. “Layl.” Andie called again, with a warning in her voice.  Layl glanced over her massive shoulder at Andie and snorted through her nose in frustration. She slowly shrank to her normal size and retreated under the coffee table.

“Why did that just happen?’ Max asked as there were two quick knocks on the door.

“Oh, she’s a werecat and she doesn’t like who’s at the door,” Andie replied getting up to open the door.  “Well, hello, Egan.  I was expecting you.”  A short man with slicked back black hair dressed in an impeccable white suit stood in the doorway.

“Ah, Andaleeb.  I would have been here sooner but I was informed that you were out for most of the day with a new friend.”  Egan flashed a toothy grin at Andie.  Egan spoke with a slight accent, it sounded almost German to Max.

“Of course you were.  Come in.  Can I get you something?” The tone is Andie’s voice, and the fact that Egan called her by her full name with ease, suggested these kinds of visits were not uncommon.

“Sherry, if you have it.  If not, then nothing.”  He said briskly, moving past Andie and taking the seat opposite Max.

“I’ll leave you two to introduce yourselves, although Egan probably knows your entire life story by now, Max.”  Andie disappeared into the adjoining dining room.

“Egan Altenmaus,” Egan began, proffering a hand to Max

“Max Kelly,” shaking Egan’s hand, Max noticed that the back was covered in tufts of gray hair that looked almost like fur.

“Oh yes, now how is the force treating you?  Four years on the job, promising career, attacked by Moledaemon last night,” Egan rattled off, smiling at Max while showing off all of his sparkling white teeth.  Up close, Egan’s smile reminded Max of animals who bared their teeth under duress.  Maybe it was the hours he had spent dealing with criminals, but there was something distinctly off-putting about this man’s presence; he gave off the air of a snake oil salesman.

Not wanting to show that he was surprised by Egan’s knowledge, Max gave a small smile and though he already had an inkling, he asked, “And what do you do, Mr. Egan?” as Andie returned with a glass of sherry.

“Well, Mr. Kelly, I run a large private detective agency, employing the greatest investigators in the world. They are always in disguise and virtually undetectable.   Guardians, like your host here, use these services. ”

“Yeah, I think I met a few of your employees this morning in my apartment.”

Egan gave a tinkling laugh.  Max shot Andie a look, who seemed amused by the conversation.

“Yes, I believe they were responsible for alerting Andaleeb of the presence of a Moledaemon in your residence.  Really shocking, I must say.”  Egan’s faux concern irritated Max.  He straightened his back and looked Egan full in the face.

Andie seemed to sense Max’s tension and interrupted, “So, Egan.  Not to cut this short, but we do have to be somewhere tonight.  What do I owe you?”

“The business of money, how gauche,” Egan sighed before snapping into a brisk business voice, “Well, you used the services of three rats to spy and report any suspicious activity and they were almost flattened by a Moledaemon.  For a total of 8 hours and a risk fee for exposure to a Moledaemon of three assets, it’ll be $600.”

“Very funny.  Three times your normal rate?” Andie did not look amused anymore.

“Ah, Andaleeb, the times are changing,” Egan sighed dramatically.

“I didn’t know the rat kingdom was also suffering from a recession.” Andie shot back at Egan.

Egan gave another tinkling laugh, “Always with the quick wit.  No, you must have not heard then.  Your High Council has decided that service orders shall only be placed through their office.  Instituting crippling bureaucracy will ensure the proper channels will be utilized, there will be less wrongdoing, and of course, less reliance on the services of some ‘unsavory characters.’ And so far, it’s working.  I haven’t received a request in almost a month, not even a back alley one to spy on someone’s spouse.”  Egan paused, anger had crept into his voice, and Max noticed that his ears seemed to burn red and grow a little pointier.  “So, the rates must go up,” he concluded matter-of-factly.

Andie seemed angrier than Egan by this news, “You know this is just another way for them to monitor to The Guardians.  It’s such bullshit.  The High Council has been slowly turning into Big Brother,” she seethed, and then said to herself, “I bet it was that damn Councilman Fissel.”

“Either way, a rat’s got to eat, Andaleeb.  And I’ve heard that your lotion business has been booming so this can’t be that much of a dent in your wallet.”  Egan had returned to his unctuous voice.

“Shut up, Egan.  And tell you rats to get away from my building or I’ll sick Layl on them,” on cue, Layl growled from under the table making Egan’s nose twitch.  Andie reached for her bag and took out a checkbook.

After taking his pay, Egan drained his glass of sherry and bowed to both of them before showing himself out.

“So, does that mean there are rats in here?”  Max looked around the living room.

“No, Egan knows better.  Plus, Layl would have caught and killed any if there were. ” Andie said before settling back into her armchair and clasping her hands in front of her again.  She seemed to have slipped back into her thoughts.

Max picked up his book back up but before he could open it, Andie snapped back up and snatched the book out of his hands.

“No, we’re going out.”

“Where now?”  Max had just settled into his book.

“Training center.”  Andie called, she was already down in her bedroom.

Max fell back onto the couch, groaning.

. . .

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24 thoughts on “Meet the Rat King

  1. Nice overview of the situation regarding the Guardians. Seems like they’re having similar issues to any large organization. A general lack of communication. And judging by Andie’s rxn at the change in policy, its been going on for awhile. Might lead to some issues down the line in terms of trust.

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