“Bully!” Lisa cried, pounding on the door. She turned back to her friend, and saw him picking himself up off the ground and gathering his spilled tools.
He turned to her, a big grin on his face and a twinkle in his eye, despite one beginning to swell shut. “Least he knows i can do it now!” he said, suppressing his giggling. “Let’s go back to the Vole fer a drink an’ a rest.”
The girl handed back his bloodied handkerchief, “I think you need this now, too.”
He accepted the ragged cloth, dabbing it under his eye, shrugged, grinned again and together they headed towards the hideout. “We kept Mr. Arnold in the clear, that was worth a little bruising.”
Lisa didn’t respond at first; she was trembling with anger. Finally she shouted, “He’s just like Ambrose!”
She began to shed more hot tears, smearing the remaining blood on her face, as Tepic nodded. “He’s a strange one, that’s fer sure…..”
Lisa sniffled, wiping her face on her sleeve, which really only made things worse. “If only we could get one of the cats in there…”
“Reckon Mr Arnold will be back soon, an’ that other Doc seemed almost alright….” Tepic said, trying to console her, “Shame about the Swimming Vole… though maybe I can get one of the coal men to retrieve it.”
Lisa nodded quietly as they crossed the bridge.
Tepic and Lisa shared their adventure with Mr. Arnold when he returned later in the week. He didn’t seem pleased that his friends’ faces were bruised or swollen, but they had been taking care of themselves.
“He said he was going to do something to Tenderpaws,” Lisa explained, “to take away our reason for coming to him. Then he put… some sort of strange stone into the room, and closed the door.” Arnold hissed at that. “A little later, when Dr. Solsen had let us outside, Cortman came out and said to go see Tenderpaws. He said he was… comatose.”
“Yep…. an’ after that Tenderpaws were just staring at the ceiling like….”
“…like I did two Septembers ago.” Arnold finished.
“Oh yes…” Tepic said as he recalled Arnold had been housed in the first Sneaky Vole at the time and the fox had kept giving him voles…and then his face fell again, “… oh……”
Lisa looked from Arnold to Tepic, looking confused. Tepic just shook his head grimly. “An’ we don’t know where ‘e’s gone……..”
“I survived. Rasend…..err…Tenderpaws…” Arnold found the name odd to connect with the wolf he’d been taking care of, and restraining, “There’s a chance he’ll come out of it.”
Lisa nodded agreement, despite her confusion. “I hope so.”
“I’m glad they didn’t arrest you.”
Lisa said sourly, “Canergak wanted to. Instead, he settled for breaking Tepic’s submarine.” A combination of sympathy for Tepic’s loss and relief for herself crossed her face.
Tepic grinned at the same memory. “Got us in no problem, was fun, weren’t it, Lisa?”
“If you say so.” Lisa said, shuddering a little. Arnold gave her a commiserative glance.
“Oh…. an’ Lisa has yer keys, Mr Arnold, yer in the clear fer them, cuz i showed that bully how easy it were ter get in the doors without…..” He wished he’d had a chance to pick the gate lock as well. The thorn key had proposed an odd challenge, but now that he was expecting it he was sure he could have done it!
Lisa growled softly to herself, “Which is when he punched Tepic.”
Arnold rumbled unhappily as well, “He might not have even locked the door. Sounds like something he’d do.”
“Naw, yer can feel it when they ain’t loc… errrrr…….” Tepic paused and Lisa looked at her friend quizzically as he changed his tone. “Yer got them big heavy locks down the Asylum, the nobs think as they are much better than small ones…..but it’s just sort of easier fer ‘em to accidentally fall open like…”
“You mean the bolts?” the large cat asked, confused what other kind of lock could accidentally fall open.
Tepic continued, “Aah, now, bolts, they’s different. Yer got a good strong bolt, yer not gonna open them easy…”
“You’ll have to teach me, Tepic.” Lisa smiled a little.
“Well, I’m glad it worked…” Arnold said and then looked at Lisa’s bruised face again. “…sort of. Did you put anything on that?”
Lisa nodded. “Tepic told me what to do.”
“Course,” Tepic began slyly, “If yer really want ter get in, there’s other ways……”
“I’ll keep those in mind if we have to consider getting in or out again.”
“Arnold, do you think they might like a mousing cat in there? If one were to present itself?”
“I think Cortman kicks cats,” Arnold said, previous conversations where the man had hinted at it prevalent in his mind. “But everyone else would be for it.” Lisa grimaced sourly, but nodded. “Well, we can keep it in mind,” she said.
“Oh, and the other Doc were saying he wanted yer back, Mr Arnold!”
Arnold smiled, as much as he could. “That’s the best news I’ve heard yet.” It had been a difficult weekend for all of them. Things had taken unexpected turns in Mondrago as well…