Tepic was just making minor adjustments to one of the firework machine guns when his mute Wisp wandered up.
“Watch this!” the fox boy exclaimed, hitting the barrel a few times with a large hammer before seating himself behind the gun and letting forth a stream of fireworks. Unlike it’s previous operation, it now dropped the payloads in a confined area beside the Sneaky Vole urchin bar. Wisp looked on and nodded a few times in encouragement, though he was a little confused at what his friend was up to.
“We got the cougar the other day,” Tepic continued, “an if that bear comes by, we’s gonna cover ‘im in oil, then fire this at him!”
He hit the barrel again with the hammer, squinted down the barrel and squeezed off a few more fireworks.
“Now if we can get ‘im in that area, he’s in fer a BIG surprise! errrrr……. if things don’t go too well….. hop over the fence here, drop to the dock and into one of the row boats!”
His friend nodded.
” ummmm…… if things go REALLY badly, just hop over any of the fences an swim for it!”
Wisp glanced over to the canal, his nod this time showing slight trepidation at the idea.
“Lets go have a drink!”
The two boys sat in the Sneaky Vole, mugs of small beer in their hands and chatted companionably with an understanding that only youngsters can manage, given that one party was mute and the other voluble. Suddenly Wisp noticed a figure watching them, his eyes growing wide. Realising something had startled his friend, Tepic looked up to see a young fox moreau watching them and called out a cheery greeting, “Hey! Foxy!”
“So you’re the one who beat up big brother?” the newcomer almost spat.
“Big brother? yer’s a fox ain’t yer?” Tepic said, confused, knowing he had not had a fight with a fox for some time, then light dawned, it was the fox who was part of the Bear Gang, and he continued “how’s a cat yer big brother?”
Instead of giving an answer, the fox bared their teeth and Wisp jumped up from his seat only to be punched to the ground.
“Oy!” yelled Tepic, leaping to his feet, fists ready to defend his friend.
“Hmph, you’re not that tough,” the fox stated, “What did you do, cheat?”
This confused Tepic even more, but rallying he replied “Cheat? i’m a fox, same as you, course i cheated!”
“You’re nothing like me, kid. You can’t even talk like an adult.” The young fox’s tone was disparaging, though they looked not much older than the boys.
Tepic thought that since he was a youngster, that sort of went without saying, but decided on a question instead, “so what’s a smart fox doin around then losers anyhow?”
“Those losers are my brothers!” the fox stated, stepping forward as if ready to attack.
“blimey mate, yer sure not in yer right mind, is yer?”
Wisp had meanwhile risen to his feet and brought out a long chain from under his coat. He hadn’t seen the fox before, but recognised the belt buckle they were wearing as the same as the other gang members, and he had decided to act promptly. Swinging the chain round his head he hit the fox with the end, expecting them to drop to the ground. Instead, they turned to him as if nothing had happened and lashed a fist at him, catching him a glancing blow and with a cry of “Fine, you want a fight!” jumped on Wisp, pushing him to the ground and began to pummel him.
Now was the time to spring the trap he had arranged for the fox member of the gang, and Tepic called out to his two hidden companions, “Billy! Charlie! the sack!”
The two urchin lads who had been hidden in one of the slum buildings dashed out the door, large hessian sack in their hands, intending to throw it over the fox before knocking it out and securing it with the ropes they had ready. Instead of going to plan, the fox sat up from Wisp and with astonishing speed ran at the two boys, bowling them over, then banged their heads on the cobbles, stunning them both.
It was time to stop playing, so Tepic drew the Very pistol he had been going to use against the bear and pointed it at the fox, yelling “OK, catch!” before pulling the trigger. There was a fraction of a second delay before the flare fired, and in that time the fox picked up one of the stunned boys and used him as a shield against the missile. Thankfully it was Snotty Charlie, a lad so naturally soggy even dipping him in oil would not make him flammable, but the smug way the fox said “I think he caught it.” got Tepic’s goat.
As Charlie was casually thrown to one side, Tepic stepped forward and swung the heavy brass barrel at the fox’s head at the same time as Wisp, having managed to struggle to his feet, flung himself forward. The fox went down, and keeping up the momentum, Tepic slammed the barrel against the back of it’s head, intending to knock it out cold. It seemed to work, and he yelled at Wisp “Quick! use yer chain ter hold it’s hands!”
As the boy leant over to secure the fox, it rolled over and kneed Wisp between the legs. His eyes crossed and he crumpled to the ground, hands cupping his wounded pride. Despite himself, Tepic was impressed.
“Cor! yer fight like a…. a….. a FOX!” he yelled.
The fox frowned at him then pounced close, grabbing the gun barrel in one hand and his collar in the other. He grinned to himself, and yelled “Look at yer tail!” a sure fire way of distracting any fox, then proceeded to dish out the same punishment the fox had given Wisp, only to no effect.
“No.” the fox grinned, “I’m a girl.”
“Bugger! A gurl!”
She let go of the pistol and hit him in the face, then winced as he punched her in the breast, but she kept hold of his collar and head butted him hard.
“That’s for taking my brother!” she cried, then hit him in the gut, “This is for thinking I’m a boy!”
There was only one thing Tepic could think of to do, something no fox should have to do to another, but this was a life or death situation. He used her hold on him to pivot round her body and kicked under the base of her tail. She let go of him and fell to the ground. Taking no chances Tepic slamed her head several more times with the pistol, but to his astonishment she scrambled on her fours and bit down on his ankle.
“Ai!” screamed the boy, “yer give me rabies i’s gonna kill yer!”
She let go and spat out the taste of fox urchin muttering to herself “Rabies, hmph!”
It was time to beat a tactical withdrawal, if they could. Tepic shouted “Billy… take Charlie an scarper!”
The vixen didn’t even look back at them as they ran for it, Charlie being helped along by Billy.
” Yes, you go lick your wounds and run boys.” she said, ” I’m not here to kill any of you.”
“So what yer wastin yer breath fer?” Tepic asked, curious despite himself.
“This is to show you what happens when you mess with our family.”
She took out a bottle from her pocket and drew out a match, striking it and lighting the oily rag hanging from the bottle. Ensuring it was well lit, she threw it to smash on the wooden shack that was the Sneaky Vole. Flames licked over the spreading oil and the fabric wind shade caught alight.
Wisp tried to struggle to his feet, desperate to save his drawing book from the flames, but stumbled again to curl up in pain on the ground.
“jeezzzzz…..” Tepic gasped, gazing at the inferno that was engulfing his bar. The vixen took the moment of his distraction to hit him again, making him almost lose his footing.
He shook his head and drawled out the only appropriate insult, “Just as well yer hits like a gurl!”
“Just for that…” she said before hitting him with enough force to knock down a grown man and sending him spinning to the floor.
“I hope you lived through that one….. even if you are a brat!” she said, turning to walk away, throwing a final “Bye” over her shoulder.
The boys were left groaning on the pavement as the Sneaky Vole succumbed to the flames, along with Wisp’s precious book containing all his drawings.