There was something relaxing about sitting in an outhouse with the door closed and Tepic was enjoying the experience when there was a tap on the door. It was Beryl, whose first reaction on the door opening was to step back gasping.
“How can you stand the smell?” they asked.
“What smell?” the young fox lad replied, life in the sewers and among fox kind tended to inure one against some of the less pleasant aspects of City life.
The cat gave a disbelieving stare, then checked that the preparations were ready. Tepic assured him the Lilith dressed waxwork was in place, hidden behind the counter of the Sneaky Vole. Charlie was up on the tramway, from where he could see all the streets and would give a whistle when the cougar made his move, and there was a gang of lads from the Docks hidden in one of the empty slums, ready with rope and quick fingers used to tying secure knots.
He gestured to a row of sealed jars, the secret weapon, distilled extract of the already powerful catnip that Dr Dinosaur had baited his Beryl traps with the previous year. Beryl backed away, it might be the only way to catch the cougar, but the effect it could have on a cat was undoubtedly devastating. Tepic also showed him a flare gun, only single shot, but if the plan went wrong, it would give him the chance to dive into the canal to make his escape.
Before they could talk more, a low whistle floated on the air, warning that the cougar had been sighted. Beryl faded away, not wanting to be anywhere near the coming action….
Tepic waited in the semi-darkness, his keen hearing focused on the sound of clawed feet on the cobbles. A loud and piercing whistle announced the mark was in front of the Vole, and Tepic slammed open the door, a jar in each hand. With the practiced arm of any urchin and a cry of “Catch this, pussy!”, he tossed the first jar over the roof of the bar and heard the satisfying sound of breaking glass as it hit the cobbles. He skirted wide round the side of the building, reaching inside his shirt to draw out the flare gun – just in case……
The cougar was still on his feet, though staggering and snarling, so Tepic lobbed the second jar to the ground where he stood. Clouds of vapour engulfed the target, almost hiding him from view and the boy skittered back towards the canal, gun pointed in the general direct of the cougar. The vapour spread outwards and the form of the prone creature could be seen, still moving weakly, when Miss Zaros dashed into the courtyard, exotic rifle in hand. Before the boy could stop her, she stepped into the cloud of fumes.
“What’s going on here, I heard a commotion!” she began, then took a deep breath. As strange look came over her face, her eyes widened, crossed, and she sat down abruptly and began to giggle.
“Oh….. dear…..” Tepic stuttered, before coming to his own senses and called for the sailor lads to truss up the cougar, directing Charlie and Billy to look after Miss Zaros. They had just got the still struggling and snarling cat onto the Sneaky Vole cart when Miss Zaros knocked her rifle under the fence and into the canal. With a cry she leapt over and dived after it. The lads who were tasked looked over at Tepic and shrugged. He raised his eyebrows in exasperation, you just couldn’t get the help these days! He directed them to get a boat from the dock, make sure she didn’t drown and help her on to dry land when she had stopped giggling, then turned back to their prize.
The cougar wasn’t purring away happily to himself as they had expected, but snarling and growling, pawing at his head, shaking all over. It seemed as if he might even be able to shake off the effects of the catnip, so Tepic poured the last full jar around him in the cart. Shaking more, the cougar seemed to shrink in on himself, and the lads had to quickly tighten up their ropes or he might have broken loose. To their amazement, his features changed, his fur vanished, and they were left with a young man tied up in the bottom of the cart.
“Oh well, we got ‘im, now you lot run him down to the Militia, an they can take care of him!” the fox boy ordered, “and the rest of us, we best get this stuff cleaned up before we have any more….. errrr….. accidents like Miss Zaros!”
They set to work, with Tepic oblivious to the fact he had just sent a cart covered with powerful catnip through the open streets of the City, and not realising that the cart would be taken directly to the Asylum, and into the presence of Lisa……