Dark City Detectives

A wooden desk sits in the middle of the room, with a pair of highly polished shoes resting on top of a stack of papers of missing people. The Detective is leaned back in his chair, hat tilted over his eyes to shade it from the swinging light overhead. His white collared shirt is dirty from wearing it two days in a row while his pants still have a crease from the iron. More and more people have been disappearing from Dark City. Business has been good lately, but only two out of every ten cases is he able to solve. Something was happening in Dark City, beside the people disappearing, more and more newcomers were moving in.

The office door burst open, and a tall dark shadowy figure hangs in the doorway. The Detective flicks up his hat and said, “Took you long enough. Did you get it?” The figure throws a crumbled paper bag on the desk. A wide toothy smile appears on the Detective’s face as he reaches for the bag. He reaches inside, unwraps the sandwich, and proceeds to stuff his face.

“How can you eat that stuff? It reeks.” The figure says still draped in shadows.

“Just because you don’t eat meat doesn’t mean I don’t have too.” The Detective swings around in his chair placing his feet on the ground and props his elbows on the table. The figure from the doorway moves in to the light. Large clawed feet hop toward the large chair in front of the desk. His tear shaped tail sticks out the back of the chair and uses his front paws to straighten his soft fluffy fur down, then moves to clean his face. Having a six foot talking rabbit as a partner wasn’t as strange as the bright yellow polka-dotted bowtie he always wore. In a world of black and white color was an oddity.

The Detective throws him a carrot from the side drawer; he catches it and munches down the sharp tip to nothing. “I don’t suppose we will be doing any actual work today. I hate feeling caged up in this office.” The Rabbit says still munching the remainder of the carrot in his mouth.

The Detective tosses a file open on the desk in front of him. “Suzie Still went missing last night from the Hard Place Club. The foxy thing just disappeared from her dressing room right after she finished her number.”

“Fox! Where?” he exclaimed as his rabbit ears stood straight up and looked very alert.

“Foxy, not fox,” said the Detective as he wads up his wrapper in the paper bag and shoots it in the waste basket next to the door. “No one saw or heard anything from inside her dressing room and there were two guards on watch; One in front of her door and another outside her window. All of her things were still in the room. She didn’t even get a chance to change out of her skimpy little dress.”

“Did anyone look for a hole in the ground, under the tiles perhaps?” The Rabbit was now grooming his long pointed ears one at a time as he spoke. “Not all citizens of Dark City use doors or windows. It could have been Animian. The population of us has tripled in the last month.”

“Do you know why the Animian keep showing up?” asked the Detective looking over the file details again.

“You know my story. I was just a rabbit living in a burrow near an old lady’s garden. I woke up one morning squished in my burrow and had to dig a new route out.” His ears drooped to hang long and cocked his head to the side. “I miss the garden. I even miss being chased by the old lady. She was just as surprised as I was when I starting talking. She gave me her husband’s bowtie and fed me the most delicious cabbages.” Said Rabbit as he looked over the case file. “I think we should go investigate this room. Even if nothing is missing there had to be a way in and out. No one disappears without an exit.”

The Detective stood up and walked to the window. Staring out he saw more Animian than humans walking the sidewalks. He wondered if somehow the people who have gone missing are related to the amount of newcomers showing up each day. He dawned his trench coat and pulled up the collar, hauled his keys from his pocket then said, “Rabbit, let’s go to work.”

The Hard Place Club was still winding down from the night, a few drunks stumbling out into the street lights, cabs trying to make their late night fares, shoving them into their backseats. The fog across the ground was thick and knee-high making the ground impossible to see. The Rabbit smelled along the ground searching out clues, scents, or whatever he may come across under the fog. The Detective leaves the Rabbit to do his thing and heads inside the club. The bouncer was causally leaning against the bar with his arms crossed and muscles bulging, while the bartender, an Animian Squirrel, polished the bar with her tail. The chairs were all on top of the tables and the stage was dark at the far end of the room.

The Detective’s presence in the club was no surprise and didn’t create any waves in the dying atmosphere. The bouncer just tipped his chin up in recognition of his arrival. “Suzie’s dressing room still in the back next to the office?” The Detective asked. The bouncer simply nodded and resumed his standing position.

“Detective?” said a meek, high pitched voice. As he turns the Animian Squirrel seems to become smaller in size, her fur standing down. “I don’t know if this will help, but Suzie seemed a little off the last few weeks.” The bouncer gave her a stare and she looked down, as if ashamed.

“How so?” The Detective asked as he leans in closer to the bar.

She leans in close and whispers, “The mayor had been in to see her almost every night before she disappeared. She didn’t return the affection. She despised the mayor and made a scene three nights ago.” She shivered and continued, “She told me he was getting grabby, and threw a drink in his face. It would be awful if he had something to do with it.” The bouncer looked away from the squirrel.

The Detective, knowing about the corrupt dealings the mayor had been involved in over the years was not surprised by the information. So inquired to the bouncer, “Do you think that is what sent her running?”

The bouncer looked at him and with a deep hoarse voice replied, “Could be.” Apparently, this was a man of few words. But the man didn’t look the type to say anything complex or in detail. “Manager is in his office.” The squirrel quietly went back to work, this time polishing glasses and climbing the shelves to place them on the high hanging racks overhead.

The Detective strolls through the back door leading to the employees still cleaning the kitchen smells of grease and bleach emanating through the hall, an fully stocked stockroom, the talents’ dressing rooms, and finally to the managers’ office. A quick rap at the door brings the response, “What! I’m busy!”

“You wanted me to find Suzie Still, but if your too busy. . .” The Detective begins to turn away as the door burst open. A short, fat balding man with sweat on his wrinkled brow squints past his gray, bushy eyebrows with little beady gray eyes.

“Detective? What took you so long! I expected to see you sooner.” He rushes back to his desk, which looked more like a waddle and starts shifting through papers and files scattered about messily on his desktop. “I need that girl back! My customers are going to throw fits and she’s under contract.” He waves a piece of paper about in the air. “She’s costing me money every night she isn’t on stage.”

The Detective takes the paper from the manager’s hand and looks it over. A standard contract, full of legal jargon, in short says that she has to perform five nights a week in the costume designated by the club in order to obtain her salary and status amongst the performers or her pay will be garnished for the club’s lost profit. “She ever skipped out on you before?” The Detective asked looking over the other scattered documents lying about.

“Once, but it was excused. Family troubles and such, but she would have said something to somebody. Nobody even saw her leave, and believe me when I say I asked every last one of my staff. If they be lying to me, I can’t tell.” He leans back in his chair waiting for some kind of response.

The Detective sees photos of Suzie in a brilliant red dress on the stage, in her dressing room, and with customers to tables. One photo in particular catches his attention. “Who’s this?” The Detective asked pointing at an Animian Wolf that Suzie is scratching behind the ear, and the wolf looking overjoyed and content.

“He’s a regular. Loves Suzie’s voice, but he’s never been any kind of trouble, never chases my bartender or even the cat I have performing on occasion. I have even used him as a bouncer when Bruce, the lug by the bar, needs some time off.” He smiled as he looked at that photo, and then it was gone as fast as it appeared. “You don’t think he had something to do with this?”

“I’m not sure yet, but I would like to talk to him if possible. Can you unlock her dressing room so I can have a look around? My partner should be along any moment.” He manager shuffles across the room and opens his door. As he walks he’s muttering and jiggling the large ring of keys. As he finds the correct key he lets out a loud “Ah Ha” and unlocks the door. As soon as the door opens the smell of roses and lavender flood the hall and cause the detective to close his eyes and savor the scent.

“How did you get in here!” the manager eyes a rabbit standing the middle of the room holding Suzie’s red dress.

“A tunnel under the dressing table that leads to warehouse on the other side of the street, is how I got here. Looks like gopher work, or perhaps a couple of moles.” The rabbit begins cleaning his face and long ears. “It wasn’t that hard to find really, Suzie’s scent is still strong in the tunnel.”

“Tunnel!” The manager looks under the dressing table and sure enough several of the floorboards were loose and underneath there was a dark tunnel. “Why would she need a tunnel when she has everyone in this club under her thumb?”

“Maybe she is involved in something you don’t know about.” The Detective states as he looks over the dress. It was dirty but not ripped or torn as if there had been a struggle. She had gone through the tunneling willingly, and must have changed in the warehouse. “We’ve seen enough here. I’ll let you know when we have more information. I believe you have a deposit for us.”

The manager scowls and reaches into his inside coat pocket and pulls out a long envelope. “I expect you to keep this quiet. I don’t need the police snooping around my club again. They scare off the customers.”

“Of course, that’s why you called us in the first place.” The Detective puts the envelope inside his trench coat and signals the Rabbit to follow him out through the club. The Rabbit follows along in his fashion. “We need to look around in that warehouse. What did you find in there?”

“Whatever was going on in there, they left in a hurry. There were several Animian scents present and only a few human scents.” They passed through the bar and continued out into the fog. This is where the Rabbit took the lead.

The Rabbit crossed the street and rounded a corner into a small alley. Behind a dumpster there was a large piece of corrugated aluminum. The Rabbit pushed the dumpster, rolling it slightly away for the wall and moved the slant to reveal an opening into the warehouse. They crawl through the gap and enter a maze like structure. The rabbit quickly moves this way and that until they come to a clearing.

In the clearing were many makeshift places to sit and barrels that had been used to burn something recently. “There is nothing but ashes left in the barrels but I did happen to find this.” He hands the Detective a ripped portion of paper with a few words scrawled on it.

It reads,

“south farms is continuing … Animian still in danger from … lost. Gather friends to”

And that was it. The south farms still had enough pure sunlight to produce food goods for the city and are commissioned by the mayor to only sell their produce to the inhabitants of Dark City. Without the south farms produce the city would most likely starve, but it seems something else, something more important was happening in the south.

“What other scents did you pick up in this clearing? And are there any other routes out of here?” The Detective says still looking around the room.

“I picked up some cat, mice, squirrel, dog, raccoon and some ground animals like a gopher or mole. Those two always smell so much alike, I have a hard time telling them apart. Oh, and people but only a few ever stepped into this clearing.” Said the Rabbit as hopped on top of an iron beam lying across the floor. “As for alternative routes in or out, the tunnel splits in different directions,” He pointed down at a board and pushed it aside showing the dark tunnel that connected to the club, “I only followed Suzie’s scent to the club, but it wouldn’t be large enough for some of the Animian or comfortable for the humans to travel very far down there. The warehouse I’m sure has hanger doors and entry ways but not that lead back to through the maze to here.”

The Detective nods “Let’s go Rabbit. We are going to the farms.” He turns back towards the maze then looks back at the Rabbit.

“Oh, you need me to find the way out again.” He takes the lead and begins through the maze. “You would think that humans would have developed some kind of ability to get them through things like this. What would people do if they were stuck in a deep thorn thicket?”

“We wouldn’t get in to them to begin with. We would walk around it or cut through it to make a path.” As the Detective follows the Rabbit with a smirk across his face he continues, “Plus you won’t find any kind of thicket in Dark City. They plowed them all down centuries ago when industry took over this region. This whole place used to be rich green farm land, before the factories polluted the water, air and soil. That’s why there’s no color left and the sun is blocked by all the rising smoke.” They emerged from the warehouse from behind the dump and got back into their car.

“What do they make in those factories anyway?” Rabbit asked trying to get adjusted in the backseat.

“Cars, materials, oil products, TV dinners, all sorts of things are made but which makes what I couldn’t tell you. I try to stay out of the factory district since the mayor had that 20 ft. brick fence built 10 years back. The only way in there is a couple of heavily guarded iron gates and you have to get past the checkpoints before you even get that close. It’s like trying to get in to a military base.”

“I’ve been to a military base before. It wasn’t hard for me to get in. I bet there are plenty of places around that fence to dig under.” Rabbit said while scratching behind his ear with his back foot.

“Not unless you want to become a rabbit stew.” The Detective replied. The rabbit gasped at the thought of becoming a stew.

They continued to drive in silence as they made their way out of the city. It was strange to see the sky clearing, and bits of green appear along the landscape. After Dark City was about an hour north the farm plush and green appeared and the cloudy gray sky was a slight tint of blue. The sun, yellow and shinning down illuminated the scenery showing that the world wasn’t always this dark and dreary place.

A large German Sheppard dog, about 8 ft. long seemed to come out of nowhere running and baying after the car as it continued down the road. Rabbit lay huddled tight in the back seat, glad for the protection of the metal around him. The dog eventually shouted, “Stop here. Stop! Or I’ll pop your tires.” The Detective stops the car and the dog walks around to his window. “What’s your business here?” asks the dog in a low growl as his eyes search the car then eyes the rabbit in the backseat.

“We are looking for a friend of ours.” The Detective pulls out a photo of Suzy scratching the Wolf’s ear. “We heard she might have come out to the southern farms. Have you seen her lately?”

The dog looked surprised to what the picture showed and looked around the area, as if afraid of being heard. “Park the car and follow me. Tell the Rabbit I’m not a threat. I’m well trained in discipline; I used to be a police dog before the change.”

They parked the car next to a tall wheat field and the Detective got out. “Come on Rabbit. He promised he wouldn’t hurt you.”

“But their maybe foxes and other dogs that might. I’ll wait here, where it’s safe.” The Rabbit replies still huddled in a corner or the car.

“Rabbit, I need you. You’re faster than anything out here anyways, plus I bet this big ol’dog will look after you till we get where we are going.” Nothing changed. “I got a big juicy carrot right here.” Rabbit’s ears perked up, “And I bet there are fields full of cabbages and greens just ripe for eating.” That did it, Rabbit was out of the car and they were able to follow the German Sheppard.

The German Sheppard started through a field of tall wheat, all about disappearing except for the tip of his tail and ears. “Don’t lose your way, Man.”

“Is there a way that my shoes won’t get scuffed up?” The Detective asked staring into the field.

“No.” The German Sheppard replied as he continued deeper. The Rabbit was ahead and the detective took up the rear trying to step carefully so as not to scuff his shoes. “Keep up human, or I’ll carry you like a pup.”

“I’ll take you up on that offer.” The Detective says still concerned for his shoes. The dog groaned and turned about face. “Jump on and grab the lose fur by the cuff of my neck. You hurt me, I’ll bite.” The Detective smirk was gone and hefted himself up on the German Sheppard’s back. “I don’t understand how any human made it through the old wilderness. They’re so weak and picky.”

“Oh, I know this.” Rabbit spoke, “They went around or cut it all down.” The dog and rabbit both shook their heads. “They didn’t live with the forest, they cut it down.”

“Savages.” Replied the dog and he took off through the field bouncing the man this was and that on his back. “Use your knees to hold on better.” The Detective squeezed his knees against the German Sheppard’s rib cage and the bouncing lessened, giving him more control.

“Rabbit, do you really think I’m a savage?” asked the Detective as they ran through the field of golden stalks.

“Most times I do. Men have some good qualities, but they all tend to destroy whatever they touch, trying to improve what’s already perfect in the first place.” The Rabbit’s run was graceful through the tall field, moving the length of his body with each stride. “I do like carrot cake though. That’s one thing I give man credit for, carrot cake.”

The German Sheppard had a smile, “And hot dogs, don’t forget about hotdogs.” They continued swiftly through the field until they came upon a clearing with a little cottage covered in vines with a small garden filled with all kinds of sweet smelling flowers. The colors were almost too much for the Detective, having spent so much time in the city. A path of carefully laid cobblestones marked a path through the garden to the cottage.

“Wait here. I will see if they have seen them.” The Detective slid off the side of the dog and admired the scents, colors, and feel of the flowers all around.

“I have never seen flowers like these.” The Detective plucked a stem from the ground that had dark purple petals and inhaled the scent deeply and felt the soft petals against his finger tips. “This must be where Suzie gets her scent.”

“Must be, they can’t make the artificial scents this wonderful.” Just then the German Sheppard came out of the house with a couple of Animian Possums. The possums were about the same height as the rabbit.

The possums approached the rabbit. “You are a friend of Suzie’s, dear Rabbit?” She had a very sweet voice, “I’m afraid I have not heard about you.”

“Well, not exactly.” the Rabbit said as he hopped closer to female possum, “She went missing from work without a word, and we offered our assistance in locating her. We mean her no harm, only to inform her that if she does not return by tonight people will get suspicious of her whereabouts. We believe it is best for all if she returns before her show this evening.” The possum’s eyes narrowed.

“How did you know she would be in the south farms?” This time her eyes landed on the detective and did not have a friendly tone.

“It’s what we do.” The Detective answered. “We will not expose any information that is not necessary. Our only mission is to make sure no one else notices her missing. If you have information of her location we can be moving on.” The possums exchanged a long look, and the other ran off back towards the cottage. The Detective’s thoughts turned to thoughts of why the number of Animian was increasing. Here is a whole family of Animian. What caused a whole family to become this way?

“You have the most wonderful flower garden.” the rabbit stated trying to lighten the mood of the possums. “There is so much color here, and it smells glorious.”

“Thank you rabbit, we have taken care of it since the old lady who lived here past two seasons ago. She was very kind to me and my children.” Her glare softened and she ignored the human man. “Is your man trustworthy?”

“More so when money is involved, or sandwiches.” They both chuckled and the dog groaned again.

“Typical human.” The German Sheppard said in a low growl as he stretched out his legs, and then lay down beside the path flicking his ears. “I’ll wait with the man. Take the rabbit with you inside. Sit, man.” The Detective shared a serious look with Rabbit and obeyed the dog command.

“I’m not a pet.” The Detective stated with a pout and continued to finger the flowered from the garden. “I’ll wait with the dog, go on ahead Rabbit.” As the Detective waits he can’t help but be over simulated by the crisp, fresh breeze stirring the colors and scents around him. Why had all the color drained out of Dark City but remains quite strong and vivid in the countryside?

In a short while, the Rabbit comes back out of the cottage with a concerned look on his face. “We have a problem.” He says to the Detective. “Suzie isn’t the same as when she left Dark City.”

“How so?”

“She has adapted some . . . ah . . . new features.” The Rabbit started pulling on his ears, which was a sign that he was nervous. “She’s here though, but doesn’t want to return with us. She wants to stay here.”

“Isn’t she concerned that the police and mayor will start looking for her? If she returns and explains to the manager of the club, it may not be an issue anymore, and we’ll still get paid.” The Detective stands up and brushes the dirt off his coat.

“Wait a moment longer, I will talk with her some more.” Rabbit begins to turn around and go back towards the cottage.

“I’ll go with you. I need to understand why she doesn’t want to come back.” The Rabbit stopped him.

“Let me see if she’ll agree, first before you going charging in there.” The hops quickly back in and the possums stare out the windows. Some loud chattering can be heard from inside the cottage and then the door opens.

A woman emerges but with fur of orange with black circles covering her skin. Her features were becoming similar to that of a large cat, like a bobcat or ocelot. “What happened to her? I thought Animians were animals to begin with, are you suggesting that Animians were once humans?”

“Were not sure exactly what’s happening to her.” The possum said laying a hand around Suzie’s shoulders. “That’s why we believe she shouldn’t return and should stay here with us, at least until this runs its course.”

The Detective was in shock not knowing how he was going to receive payment for the retrieval of Suzie Still when she wasn’t the same as when she left. “Suzie, Can you tell me what happened that night in the warehouse?”

Suzie’s eyes shifted and shook her head as if trying to recall or repress the memory. “I would meet there often, to discuss things of a personal nature with the Animians of the city. New Animians would find their way to the city and we would help them adjust to the way of man, but things just didn’t always add up. Like how they were able to speak, and have knowledge of certain aspects of human culture. One Animian knew more about biology and science than anyone I had known, and remembered be in a lab. We assumed he was a test animal in the past but it just didn’t add up.” Suzie brushed her check against the possums hand and continued, “I know about the missing people from the city. My boyfriend had disappeared almost five months ago. Soon after that that is when the wolf from the picture showed up at the club almost every night. I liked him right away and was drawn to him. He reminded me so much of my boyfriend. Then it hit me. What if he was him?”

“Your boyfriend is a wolf?” Rabbit asked concerned.

“Yes, he is, and when the mayor wouldn’t leave me alone he sought out a way to help me.” She looked down at herself. She was uncertain how to continue.

“Well that doesn’t quite explain how you . . . um . . . changed.” The detective said, “Did this Animian scientist do something to you?”

“I can’t remember. I don’t remember how I got here either. I woke up in the woods not far from here.” She pointed north towards a patch of wooded area. “I really have a hard time holding on to all of my memories about the city, but I’m sure I would be able to find my way around, but my old life could be impossible to return to like this.”

“This goes deeper than it looks, Rabbit.” The Detective said as he turned his back to Suzie staring up at the sky and then towards the city in the north. “This may be connected to all of the missing people I have been searching for. If they have all became Animian and none of them remember being human, no wonder I haven’t been able to find them. Suzie is your boyfriend been here, does he know where you are?”

“Not that I know. How could he still love me when I turning in to a cat?” Suzie began to tear up.

“He’ll be at the club looking for you tonight. I still think you should come with us. If for no other reason as to let your boyfriend know what has happened to you and let your boss know that you won’t be returning, or at least a good excuse as to why.” The Detective looks over at Rabbit and the waits for agreement.

“Suzie,” Rabbit says softly, “The mayor should leave you alone like this and you can still be able to live almost the same as before. I bet your boyfriend will love chasing you around.” His ears were back and a kind sincere look was on his face.

Suzie smiled at the thought of her boyfriend chasing her around. “Cats don’t like to admit it, but they liked to be chased.” The German Sheppard said, “Otherwise they would stay in the trees where we can’t reach them. They are always teasing us dogs.”

“So, Dog, you could have been a regular policeman in the city, not a police dog.” The Detective deduced.

“I don’t like to think of myself that way. I felt like I have always been a dog.” The German Sheppard replied.

“Do you know how to file reports and standard procedures of investigation?” The Dog looked up and to the right and his brows lowered. He then slowly nodded his head and glared at the detective. “When I get back I’ll look into missing policemen, just in case.”

“It’s okay Suzie to go with them. They will take to back to the city and let you wrap up things. You don’t want everyone looking for you. What if your boyfriend thinks the mayor had something to do with it and goes after him? It would be a shame to think what could happen to him.” The possum hugged Suzie close to her as she spoke. “If things don’t work out you’ll have a place here with us and our garden.” Suzie was crying openly as she hugged the possum back. “The lady who lived here was very fond of you, and would have never turned you away. She loved you as much as her garden.”

With all the hugs and tears flowing the Detective thought of other things and the deeper mystery emerging about the Animian. Had all of their unsolved cases been because of this? Could they be a cause to this change? What had started this in the first place and why wasn’t everyone being affected, only some? If he could only find someone to pay him for this deeper investigation into Animian appearances, he would be happy to get to the bottom of it. Who would pay for such research?

Suzie said her goodbyes tearfully and the German Sheppard led them back through the field to their car along the roadside. “I always keep a look out along this road. If you need help getting back to the cottage I’ll be around.” And then he disappeared back into the field of tall wheat.

They all got back into the car and drove north back in the city. The Rabbit and Suzie made small talk along the way. Then the Detective, still dwelling on the thought of getting paid for investigating the Animian appearances inquired to Suzie about her scientist friend.

“He probably would be interested. He has been looking into it himself since he showed up. I will let him know you are interested in helping him.”

It was almost Sunset when they arrived at the Hard Place Club. They went in through the stockroom doors which were open because of deliveries, and walked through to the back hall towards the manager’s office. Detective knocked and waited. “What do you want? You know I’m busy!”

“We have business to conclude. Stop shouting and unlock the door.” The Detective says cool and calm while leaning on the door frame. As the door opens the man shuffles back to his chair and stares at them blankly.

“Well? Where is she?” The manager’s voice still rushed and stern, “I thought I wouldn’t see you again till you found her. If you think you’re getting more money out of me, you are more ignorant than you look.”

“Suzie has developed a new look since you last saw her.” The Detective stated as he shifted his eyes towards the girl standing behind the Rabbit. She slowly emerges and with eyes and head down approaches her boss.

“I don’t know what happened, but I know that I used to sing here, and I remember my audience. I could take the stage tonight.” The manager, confused, looks back to the detective.

“Are you nuts, Dick?” He starts waving his hands towards the woman, “I hired you to find Suzie, not find me a replacement. I have two Animian acts already, I don’t need a third, I NEED Suzie!”

The Detective slides around the desk and bends down to the manager’s sweaty head, “This is Suzie Still. I don’t know how, but it is. Put her on stage and have her sing and I bet you anything it’s a perfect match to Suzie. She even smells exactly like Suzie. And yes, I do expect to be paid in full.” Both the Detective and the Manager intensely glared each other down.

“Fine! Fine! I’ll see if this pussy can sing, but no guarantees whether she’ll perform tonight.” The manager marches out of the room and heads to the bar, “Go on now, girl. Get up there and sing us something.” There weren’t a lot of people in the club; it was too early for a crowd. The finicky feline slowly made her way to the stage. She started singing a blues tune in that sweet voice of hers. The manager did a double take at the feline and threw a scowl in the detective’s direction. “How did she get Suzie’s voice?”

“I believe our deal is at an end. Pay up and we’ll be on our way, before the crowd comes in.” The Detective says, and takes a shot of whiskey the bartender poured for the manager.

“Not so fast. There’s no crowd, how am I supposed to know she can perform in front of a crowd?” The manager shakes his head and as he walks back towards his office yells back, “After tonight’s performance, you’ll either get your money or you won’t. Tonight!” Then his office door slams shut and the lock clicks.

“Figures he would want to make things difficult, what more proof does he want anyway?” The Rabbit protests and hops over to a corner booth against the wall. “She smells the same, sounds the same, and looks only a little different than before to me. I think she looks quite pretty, for a cat.” The Rabbit stretches out leaning his back against the corner and feet dangling off causally.

“I’m not sure this is going to go as planned.” The Detective says pulling a chair to the other side of the table. “I wish we had a little more proof.”

As the crowd began to build the louder and louder the club became with laughter, arguments, and loud slurred speech. The bartender ran left and right to fill orders as customers demanded more drinks. The first act was up and a ruggedly handsome man belted out some fast-paced country songs as his band backed him up. The dance floor was full and the bouncer was holding the door, refusing any more customers from entering. An Animian wolf showed up and was allowed entrance but was put to work as a secondary bouncer. The first act was ending, and the crowd volume began to rise again. Comments floated through the crowd about Suzie Still’s appearance in tonight’s show. Then the lights went dim, and Suzie’s voice filled the room. The sweet melody was somber and slow, but she wasn’t on stage, she was still behind the curtain. The voice became stronger and louder as a spot light appeared pointing at the curtain. Then slowly the curtain drew back revealing the new Suzie Still. The crowd murmured and questions floated through the room.

The Animian’s wolfs ears flickered as he saw her, and moved slowly to the front of the stage. She continued to sing into the next number, without breaking for the audience’s reaction. The wolf stares hungrily up at Suzie, as she sends a loving sincere look back and reaches down to move her hand through his fur between his ears and down around the cuff. Her voice is still somber, and filled with overwhelming emotion.

“Looks like she doing okay.” Rabbit whispers into the Detective’s ear, “Let’s go see the manager about our money.” The Detective nods as he watches the two lovers being reunited in such an unexpected way. They see the manager at the end of the bar watching Suzie performing as she always had, but with a more somber feel than she used to portray on stage.

“She’s performing, and she seems to be affecting the room as she always has.” States the Detective. The manager groans and reaches for an envelope in his inside jacket pocket. “If you need anything, we’ll be around.” The Detective takes the envelope and swiftly looks inside.

“She’s not the same but I know it’s her. She’s making the whole crowd sad, she used to make them happy with her voice,” Says the manger, “She’s going to have to work on that if she wants to keep top billing.”

“Something tells me she will, with a little more time.” Says Rabbit as they begin to walk out of the club into the thick mists that cover Dark City at night.

The Detective becomes lost in thought on the way back to the office. Animians, missing people, and the walled off factories controlled by the mayor start circling through his head. There has to be a connection between them all. Back in the office the Detective starts falling deeper and deeper into his files and resolves that he will unlock the mystery of the Animians, after he gets some well deserved sleep. “Good night Jack.” says the detective as he leans back in his chair and props his feet on the desk.
“Good night, Kurt” the Rabbit says as he curls up in a corner of the office.

To be continued . . .

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