The familiar suspected Summer would be busy and the ripped dress lying on Erica’s floor was a testimony to that truth. The pirates fighting on the rooftops a week before brought their battle to the hospital. Mr. Hyde and Wright were both targets of increasingly violent outbursts from a female pirate named Domino. Beryl decided that was a problem they would have to resolve themselves, but the heightened security prevented the feline from their intended cat-burglary. She stayed at the Essex Hotel awaiting her missive from Nicholas.
Unfortunately their gown made Beryl a bigger target than expected. The pirate knew both men lived at the hotel and the story they spread about being ‘old regulars’ of hers. The worst part was realizing that fighting back would risk exposing her deceit. That ordeal had been relatively short as Hyde eventually caught up and confronted her, but it was long enough to have ruined the dress.
Beryl grit their teeth and tried not to protest as Erica tugged on the laces, tightening the new corset with her foot strategically placed on the felines back. As it constricted around her the cat let out a raspy, “How am I supposed to breathe in this thing?!”
“What’s the problem?” Erica teased as she pulled one more time a bit harder. “I thought all cats were liquids. ”
“This liquid still needs to breathe!!” They shouted as it felt like their organs shifted.
Erica smiled and eased up on the laces before tying them off, “Well, you’re lucky I found a new dress already. And you can thank Tepic for the corset.”
“Tepic?” Beryl breathed slightly easier as the corset was loosened, but it was still difficult to move. Why did humans wear these things? Did they like suffering to look pretty? The cat wondered if the boy had stolen it from Maggie Lynwood, who was around four feet tall. “I’ll be sure to ‘thank’ him later. Can we take this off for now?”
“Yes, but it looks good on you,” Erica assured her quickly. “All we need is to get you the right size.” She undid the knots and left Beryl with their separate lower bindings.
The new dress Erica had ordered was a purple gown which looked much more agreeable. They both carefully dressed Beryl into each piece and the cat felt it fit her perfectly. There was just enough space to move freely, though not as fluidly as they would have liked in their usual clothes.
A glance of her reflection and she knew this was her dress. She barely recognized herself except for the eyes. She turned to see how she looked from the side and then from the other. Beryl turned to her jubilantly smiling friend. “I think this is the one.”
“Well it can’t be the only one,” Erica corrected them, but in an encouraging manner continued, “There will be many more, Beryl. Just have to give me a little time. I’ll get you into a corset that fits yet!”
Beryl did not argue as they hugged their friend and promised to return soon. They took the Trolley to the final stop in the Canals and then travelled to the Essex on foot. They passed the asylum without a glance and entered the Essex to check for any mail that had arrived.
There they found the letter resting at the reception desk addressed to her which was heavily perfumed. Beryl had gotten used to the use of their own, but they had selected the weakest Tepic had to offer. She opened it with her claw slowly and then read the letter with growing concern. Nicholas had arranged for Trixie to meet her early at the Gangplank, around 5 pm, in two days.
Beryl sighed as they saw the ruse crumbling to an end before it had begun. The Gangplank of all places, where everybody knew their name. This could ruin everything if they couldn’t tell everyone in time. Confused stares from Petra and Njal, snide remarks from the Squire, or Emerson…talking?
Unfortunately, the more aware of the plot the more likely Nicholas would learn of it. The men and women from City Hall would leave the Gangplank at 5, and the drinking crowd would still be avoiding Underby and the others. If they did this quickly enough perhaps they could meet and avoid a confrontation?
Beryl sighed wondering how she was going to pull this one off in just two days.