Gadget in Chains
Written by: Loneheart
Chapter Nineteen: Gadget Sings the Blues
Although Gadget had been absentminded about even closing the door when she first moved into the tree house, Monty had insisted that she have a lock on the door for the sake of propriety. In fact, since she was the only one who had the skills to make a lock, he had stood over her until she made sure her door could be secured. She had made the knob on her bedroom door out of a human being's cufflink. It felt cold to the touch under Monty's paw. He was uncomfortable entering Gadget's room; all too aware that Geegaw's little girl had blossomed into a beautiful young mouse.
Who was, at this moment, sitting on the floor by her bed and staring at him with tears in her eyes.
Monty crossed the room to her side in a moment. "Well now, what's all this?" he asked gently, kneeling beside her.
Gadget burst into tears and buried her face in his chest.
Monty, a little dismayed by this answer, gingerly patted her on the back until she stopped crying long enough to catch a breath. "Tell Monty what the matter is, Gadget-luv."
"I'm not your Gadget-luv!" She wailed and hid her face his wool jumper.
Monty looked hurt. He was only trying to help. Since he didn't know what else to say, he patted Gadget on the back for some time while she sobbed inconsolably. Finally the tears wouldn't come anymore and the only sounds she made were from the dry, shuddering gulps of air when she tried to breathe.
"There, there." Monty said. "I haven't seen you like this since your dad and I went away to look for your mother and you thought we wouldn't come back."
"I dare say you've been like this plenty of times when I wasn't around." Monty said darkly, thinking of the year she had spent alone after her father died. "Here, let me get you something."
The big mouse gently but firmly disengaged Gadget's clinging arms and walked into her bathroom to return a moment later with a glass of water. He held it so that Gadget could sip half of it to help her with the hiccups and the dehydration that the tears had brought. Then he put the glass on the bedside table next to Geegaw's photograph and the bedside lamp and picked up Gadget as easily as if she was a child. He held her the way a husband would carry a bride across a threshold, so that he could put her back into her bed.
Gadget's eyes never left his face. She did not speak. She watched his every action with the wrapped attention of a child seeing a conjuring trick for the first time.
"You're a good person, Monterey Jack. I wish I could be as good as you."
She said when he had finished tucking her in like an eight year old.
"Hush now, Gadget. You're already better than I ever was." His hand brushed her cheek gently. "Now here, swallow."
Gadget had opened her mouth to protest the compliment and found two small round pills being placed on her tongue. Before she could juggle them with the need to explain herself further, Monty had put the glass to her lips and was washing the pills down with the rest of the water.
"You know that everyone's been saying terrible things-" She began as soon as her mouth was clear.
"Don't you worry about that there was a girl pretending to be you, just like in Hawaii. They caught her and put her away where she belongs."
"Uh Yeah, ha-ha, about that " As Monty watched Gadget took a deep breath to gather her self and seemed to look over his shoulder, as if taking advice from someone standing behind him. "First off, I think I'm pregnant. In fact, I'm sure of it."
Monty stared at her blankly. The ears had heard the sound of her speaking but the brain refused to process the words. After a long painful silence he asked: "Gadget you can tell me, luv, who's the father? Was it when those robbers took you and the Rangerwing?"
"I don't remember who, or when." Gadget said groggily. The pills were taking effect.
"Of course, I was forgetting the crash got your memory all shook up. Perhaps that was for the best. Those filthy air-pirates " Monty rumbled like a volcano.
"Don't be angry. Please, Mister Jack "
The words were so like those of the child he had known many years ago, but her voice could have belonged to a stranger. Seeing only the emotion on the face of the girl in front of him, he barely noticed. "You're a good girl, Gadget. I couldn't be angry with you."
Gadget was shaking her head desperately. "You don' under-sh'tand. I'm - I'm wicked. Evil I sshould be locked 'way; where t' other Gadget is you'll explain it to em all, won't you Monty?"
"Hush, now, Gadget. It's the pills making you talk like this. Those were the strong painkillers I gave you, to help you sleep. Just breathe easy. There'll be time to sort it all out in the morning."
"Promish - I mean, I promise." Monty tucked away a stray corner of Gadget's blankets. "Go to sleep, now. I'll stay and watch over you."
"'s' all right.. Geegaw's watching over me " Her eyelids were drooping.
"Aye, I expect he probably is." Monty stroked her hair and moved out of the room as though he carried the weight of the world on his shoulders.
"Get back here you over-stuffed dumbbell! Are you wearing your flying cap too tight again? She's trying to tell you something important and you act as blind and deaf as a human!" Geegaw raged at his old friend's back. He hadn't been so frustrated since he had realised that he could no longer talk to his daughter. "Lawhiney! Don't go to sleep! Tell him what you were going to say!"
"Wazzat?" Lawhiney mumbled.
Geegaw groaned miserably. There was, he reflected, a slim chance that his charge would still want to confess everything in the morning. Failing that, she had tried to do make good and that counted for something.
"Wassa matta, Gee-gee?"
"He still thinks you're Gadget!" Geegaw complained. "You were supposed to tell him who you really are!"
"You said I should start by tellin' 'im 'bout lil' Roach." Lawhiney pointed out.
Geegaw nodded reluctantly. He had thought it the best way to keep Lawhiney's head attached to her shoulders.
"Geegaw?" Lawhiney asked. "Will I dream?"
"What? Oh. No, I'm not going to put you through anything more tonight. You've had enough."
"I don't mind dreamin' if Roach's there "
Lawhiney's eyes were large and pleading and, Geegaw reflected, it might help her finish what she had started when she woke up No. He had made that mistake before when he showed her too much of what might happen if she didn't reform. It had done more harm than good that time and he would not repeat the error. Instead he would make sure she had a dreamless sleep and watch over her through the night. By dawn he would have had time to think over this latest setback.
"Sleep." He told Lawhiney and the last thing she saw as she drifted into darkness was the twinkle in his eyes shining brighter than the stars outside Gadget's window.
Gadget was woken by the sound of rushing water. She lay still for a moment with her eyes shut, halfway between sleep and full awareness. Usually this would be a comfortable, peaceful time for her before the rigours of a busy day but she wasn't in her own bed. Instead she was cold, damp and uncomfortable. The part of her that remembered being a baby safe in her mother's arms felt cheated and squalled at her from behind a curtain of sleep.
Where am I? 'S bad-thing to wake up and not know where you are. Itches something flat and hard pressing against my shoulder a wall. Feels rough and cold like stone. Not wood. If [wall=stone]=true then [location=Ranger HQ]=false. Why am I itching?
The sounds of prison life told Gadget where she was before she opened her eyes. Although she had been in prison for nearly three weeks this was the first time she had woken up in a real cell. People were walking past her bed, inches away from her head, and in a moment she was going to have to get dressed as they went by.
Gadget squeezed her eyes even more tightly shut and tried to sink deeper into her bunk with a groan. A shock ran through her bunk as Bubbles began kicking it.
"Wakey-wakey! Rise and shine, Red." Bubbles called. "You dress now or dress in front of a crowd. Actually, don't dress. Just put your bathrobe on and follow me to the flea dip and the showers or you'll have to sit around in wet clothes all day."
Gadget winced at Bubbles through a single bloodshot eye. Her head hurt. Her mouth felt furrier than her backside. Her stomach felt watery and had scrunched itself into a tight ball of muscle at the centre of her body. She was unfamiliar with the sensations but from the descriptions she had heard from Monty she recognized a hangover. Her second hangover, counting the one she had got the day after she was old enough to drink.
Shuddering slightly from nausea, Gadget reluctantly pulled herself out of bed. A moment later she was wearing a shower robe. Remembering the routine from her first morning in jail, she neatly folded her uniform and placed it on top of an economy quality towel, which she balanced on one hand as she made her way down the corridor to the showers.
"Remember last time. Don't complain, don't suggest you don't need the flea bath because you haven't got fleas - I saw you scratching by the way - and keep your eyes on your feet when we go through the shower. I think that's best for now. You're still green, no matter how well you handled Roxie." Bubbles fired off instructions like a drill sergeant or, Gadget suddenly blinked at the resemblance, like Chip trying to keep Dale out of trouble.
The flea dip was cold and still stung her eyes even though she kept them tightly closed. Aware that her head was crawling, she made sure her hair was thoroughly soaked in the sea green mix of pesticide and water. Then she dragged herself up the steps at the far end of the flea bath and staggered into the shower room.
The shower room was roughly eighteen inches square with three sprinkler heads hanging over the four large white ceramic tiles that covered the floor. On her last trip through Gadget had been nearly blind from the flea dip; this time she could see well enough to make out several pairs of eyes staring resentfully at her through the steam. At the end of the shower room were three faces she recognised from the party: Molly and the twins.
"Don't dawdle. You'll hold everyone up." Bubbles told her firmly and nudged her towards the end of the showers.
Rinsing her hair under the sprinklers as best as she could, Gadget made her way over the little group by the exit. She knew something was going on but couldn't say what.
"Thanks guys." Bubbles opened the conversation.
"'S okay. Don't get the idea we can keep on doing this though, 'cause we can't. Wouldn't be fair, even if we could." Molly said as she washed.
"We were all green once." One of the twins smiled.
"It's just for a couple of days." Bubbles said. "'till she's used to being in with the general population."
Gadget eyed the others with the strong suspicion that the "she" being referred to was herself, until she noticed the other twin eyeing her back in an alarming way. She spun away and washed herself as rapidly as possible, then fled as Molly's laughter echoed behind her.
As she dressed, Gadget noticed she wasn't the only one to make a quick exit from the showers. She was hoping to finish dressing before the twins came out but she needn't have worried. By the time she was tying her laces they still hadn't emerged.
What can they be doing in there?
Gadget caught the question half-formed in her mind and instantly knew that once, not very long ago, she would have asked it aloud. She found herself imagining "the old Gadget Hackwrench", the person she had been before someone had stolen her life away, as a separate person. Gadget looked sideways at her imaginary double, weighing up its strengths and weaknesses as she would with a cog or a piece of metal she planned to include in a new machine. Dimly, she was aware that she was beginning to re-invent herself.
The old Gadget had been naive enough to accept a doped drink from a stranger. Neither Monty, nor Chip, nor Zipper would have been that careless. That put the old Gadget in the same category as Dale. Was that where she wanted to be?
The old Gadget had floundered her way through the legal system like a poor country mouse being rushed through a bogus sightseeing tour of the big city by a fast talking scam artist. She had been so certain that the legal system couldn't fail just like all the people who had sent her here. Assuming she was a Rescue Ranger again one day, did she want to put someone else through what she had suffered?
The old Gadget had been such an innocent that the others, even Monty, hadn't felt able to come to her when the rumours had started. She had blamed them for that and been blind to her own part in that but she could see it clearly now. God only knew what else they had kept from her over the years
Isn't three weeks a little quick for a person to completely change? The old Gadget chided her gently.
I might have been Geegaw's innocent little princess when they found me but, given that for the last six years I've been dealing with crooks, crazies and hysterical disaster victims, isn't six years a little long for me to stay an innocent little princess? I've been changing on the inside for a long time. I just didn't notice because I've been so busy, so absentminded.
That kind of absentmindedness was vintage Gadget Hackwrench.
Still, Gadget was changing and now that she knew it the only question was how much of the old Gadget Hackwrench did she want to keep? The naivety, was that worth keeping? The absentmindedness? How many times had that inconvenienced her over the years?
The old Gadget Hackwrench was fading, no question about it, but she hadn't gone completely.
Since you feel that way, is it okay if I ask why BUBBLES is taking such a long time in the shower? The mental image of her old self snipped as it disappeared.
The "new and improved" Gadget's eyes popped. Surely not ?
Five minutes later Gadget felt a hand slap down on the shoulder of her prison uniform and spun to find Bubbles grinning broadly at her.
"Hanging around outside the showers is a no-no, Red. People will get the wrong idea about you. Our cell isn't that far away and from what I saw last night you know how to handle yourself, so why wait for me?"
"I waited here because I didn't know where the- do they call it a dining room or a cafeteria? You know, where we eat breakfast?"
"Dining room. You make it sound like we're staying at some rich relative's manor house. It's called a mess hall because that's what they feed us. A mess. And besides, it's six thirty. Breakfast isn't until eight. Work starts at nine."
"They don't just leave us sitting around in our cells all day. That would be too much of torture even for them. There's a laundry, a mailbag factory, a print shop and a dry cleaning service in Shrankshaw. Don't get ideas about getting rich though. You get more for washing dishes on the outside than for breaking your back in here. Trust me, I've done both."
"You washed dishes on the outside?"
"Yeah. A restaurant. Little place run by someone who was a pal, an honest pal, before I went away."
"You mean before you got caught."
Bubbles silenced Gadget with a glare and led the way back to their cell.
"So Is there a machine shop I can get work in?" Gadget asked finally breaking the silence.
"In a men's prison maybe. Strangely enough, though, they don't let us con's do co-ed. You got some idea of building a big machine to tunnel out of here the first time the guards get distracted?" Bubbles watched her cellmate's reaction out of the corner of her eye.
"Well, more that once I demonstrate what I can build, they'll realise "
"You still think you're Gadget Hackwrench, don't you?" Bubbles accused flatly.
Gadget's ears sank and she looked guilty. "Yes. I think you can assume that I'm always going to."
"Reeeed!" Bubbles groaned as she climbed up onto the top bunk.
"I'm sorry you don't like that."
"What's not to like? I'm sharing a cell with a crazy person who might decide to cut my throat one night because the little voices told her to!"
"I think that's schizophrenia you're thinking of, not delusional tendencies." Gadget frowned trying to remember the right terminology. She had never much cared for psychiatry as a science because you couldn't actually see the cogs turning.
"Not my point, Red. You know I don't like hearing about it and neither will anyone else in here. Strange as it may seem, people are not selected to become prison inmates because they demonstrate the qualities of kindness and understanding. Particularly not for people who are different." Bubbles gave Gadget a significant look.
Gadget flushed uncomfortably. "Is that what I am? Different?"
"I'll say. Half the time it's like you're in outer space or something. Day dreaming or thinking or whatever you want to call it, it's not healthy for you not to be paying attention in this place. My youngest boy's like that " Bubbles was still for a moment. "But when you are paying attention, oh boy do you make it obvious. Someone's going to bust you right in the face before too long if you stick your nose into their business."
"Speaking of which ? You asked the others to help you with something back in the showers it was something to do with me, wasn't it?"
Bubbles sighed. "There's been some curiosity about you. Gadget Hackwrench is quite the celebrity. And you're such a I don't know, such an innocent, I guess. That draws people. " Bubbles mused for a moment. "Jaded, hungry people the kind that can't help putting their paw prints all over something that's right 'cause that's the only way they can experience it. People who can't remember ever having been good, or innocent, themselves."
"I get the idea!" Gadget said hastily.
"Good, you'd better have the idea. I'm going to work in a few minutes. You've got the whole day here. You can spend it thinking about how you're going to try and fit in with everyone."
"You didn't answer my question."
"I asked the others to make sure there was horseplay in the showers while you were there. That's all."
"Horseplay? With me?"
"At all. Until we're sure that you won't take one look at what's going on and run screaming at the walls, anyway. After that, just keep your head down, don't look directly at anyone else and just glare at anyone who talks to you in there. And don't linger. That should see you right, whether I'm around or not."
"Thanks." Gadget said after a while. "For, well, for the advice and protecting me. But I'm not that fragile. Whether you think I'm crazy or not, I've got through some tough times when you weren't around to look after me, so you don't have to."
"Yeah, I kinda figured that when you stuck up Roxie with her own knife last night."
Gadget gently trapped her lower lip between her front teeth. It wasn't a bite - a bite by rodent standards would have left her without any lower lip to speak of - but it was enough to trap it and stop it moving without her brain's permission. She did this because she had a question that she was determined not to ask.
"You'll probably get real bored stuck in here all day but the library trolley will come by at ten and you can pick out something to read. They'll probably set you up with a job next Monday they do that sort of stuff weekly. Have a think about where you want to work until then." Bubbles said.
Gadget obeyed and opened her mouth to ask Bubbles what the chances were of getting a job in the library, which sounded more interesting than any of the other things Bubbles had mentioned. Instead her mouth asked, traitorously: "What were you doing in the showers all that time I was waiting for you?"
Bubbles' expression hardened as she continued to stare at the graffiti over her bunk. From below came a sound something like: "GLURK!" which she presumed was Red trying to swallow the sentence that had just escaped from her mouth. And after she had told the little airhead to keep her nose out of other peoples business so nicely
Bubbles rolled easily off the bunk and landed smoothly on her feet. She folded her arms to give Red the look she called "angry mom glare #9". It was the look she used for children who had done something they had specifically been told not to do and which common sense should have told them was a bad idea.
Bubbles continued the stare for a moment or two, to keep Red in suspense and give her imagination time to go to work. Not too long. They'd both get the giggles. She'd made that mistake with her eldest daughter once and that particular look hadn't worked since.
Red started trying to talk. "Oh, ah, I, uh, I'm so, so "
Bubbles held up a paw to forestall Red's apology. Red stopped and for a moment Bubbles continued to say and do nothing, just to see how much control Red had over her mouth.
About three seconds worth, apparently.
"Bubbles, I am so sorry! I didn't mean to say that! IT JUST SLIPPED OUT!"
Bubbles place the tip of her index finger on Red's lips. "Shhh." She leaned close. "Was I imagining it a few minutes ago when I told you to be careful about sticking your nose into other people's business? Or was I just talking to myself?" she spoke in a low voice that was steady and calm. "Perhaps you stepped out to get coffee and a Danish from Starbuck's while I was talking and I didn't notice? Is that what happened?"
Red blinked. She was clearly having difficulty dealing with this new, angry version of Bubbles. "Uh, no, Bubbles. That's not what happened."
Bubbles looked at her friend and shook her head in wonderment. "What did happen, Red? Really, tell me. I want to know."
"I " Red looked thoroughly miserable. "I was thinking about how I've changed in here, how I was so naive when I came in."
"As opposed to how you are now, three weeks later, after the many interesting, educational experiences you had bouncing off the rubber walls in the special wing?"
Red looked reproachful. "That's not fair, Bubbles. You know I don't belong in that place. And I have changed."
"Oh. I see. You've changed so just now, when you asked me that question, that's example of how you're smarter and more experienced now?"
"No I didn't mean to ask that. That was the old Gadget "
"I mean Red, that was the old Red that asked that." Gadget hung her ears and tail woefully. Nobody had ever made her feel this bad before. Not even Geegaw when she had been really clever and inventive without adequate supervision and safety precautions.
"If that's an example of how good you are at looking after yourself now, someone really is going to bust you in the face before long. I don't know, Red, maybe it would be better coming from me. What do you think?"
Red suddenly seemed to find her feet very interesting. Her ears and cheeks were certainly burning, to judge by their colour. Another minute or so, Bubbles judged, and if Red could avoid saying anything stupid they might be able to end the day as friends.
"I asked what you think, Red? Would you learn better if I smacked you in the mouth?"
"Officer Haggs already tried that." Red said quietly.
Bubbles swallowed and felt like a heel. "That's right, I'd forgotten. Has that healed up now?"
Red nodded. "Yes. Just about."
"Are you sure? It looks swollen."
"That's where she hit me to stop me running away from the electroshock session."
Bubbles blinked. "Electroshock session?"
"Uh, I assumed everyone knew about that I think Haggs faked Doctor Schadenfreude's name on an order to have me given electroshock therapy."
"Yeah, well I wouldn't put it past her but that's not what we were talking about." Bubbles sighed and put her hands on Red's shoulders. She eased Red down to sit on the lower bunk and then sat next to her. "Look Red, I'm sorry if I was hard on you there. It's just a person like you could come to some real harm in here. And I don't want to see that. When I was at the lowest point of my whole life, in tears on the prison barge, fifteen years without my kids ahead of me, there you were. And you were sympathetic, Red. That means a lot to me."
"I know you just want to look out for me Bubbles." Red said uneasily.
"I tell you something else, I thought nobody on that barge could be worse off than I was. Then I heard you talking. Fifteen years for your first offence and the way you were just so sure you were going home soon. And there you were feeling sorry for me!" Bubbles put an arm across Red's shoulders and felt them go rigid under the unexpected contact. Bubbles suddenly realised that Red's whole body was tense. Frowning, Bubbles tried massaging the muscles between Red's neck and shoulders. "Hmm. Looks like you really do want to know what I was up to in the showers this morning." Bubbles quipped.
Red flushed and hung her head miserably.
"Hmm." Bubbles considered teasing Red with an outrageous lie but decided against it. "Well, I suppose there's only one answer I can give you. Are you sure you want to hear it?"
Red looked at her warily. "You don't have to tell me, but yes. I want to hear it."
"The only honest answer is IT'S NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS!"
Red blinked at Bubbles. Then her lips twitched into a wry smile. "Heh. You're right. It's none of my business and I'm sorry for asking, for even thinking about it."
Bubbles laughed along with her. "Awww, heck. That's okay, Red. I saw your expression when we introduced the twins. First time you run into their type you can get real twitchy about it, if you let yourself. You start seeing it everywhere, including places it's not. I got that way, my first time inside."
"Sure - and the twins well, they love to tease new arrivals. Don't let it get to you. They've been together for years. So have a lot of people like them. They were together before you were here and, God willing, they'll be together when you and I finally leave, so the world really isn't any different from how it was before you met them."
"I certainly can't argue with that. It's just well, it's not what other people are doing with each other that bothers me."
"Oh, except when it's me, huh? What are you, jealous?" Bubbles nudged Red in the ribs.
"Ah ha." Red forced a laugh. "No, of course not it's just I mean I know you have kids on the outside so, it occurred to me, does everyone behind bars end up the same way as the twins sooner or later?"
Bubbles nearly fell over laughing. "Oh boy! Did you have a flash of the two of us being here for ten years and ending up like the twins or something?"
Red's face blushed a deeper red than her hair. "Uh, something like that." She buried her face in her hands and shrivelled before Bubbles's eyes.
Bubbles watched and laughed until her breath ran out. "Uh, Red, we already agreed that what I did in the shower this morning was none of your business. But if it'll put your mind at rest - all I actually did was gossip with my friends and wash the grime from the fight out of my fur."
Red peeked up at her in disbelief. "THAT'S ALL?"
"Not that it's any of your business. I mean if I or anyone else wanted to take a shower or do anything else, it's nothing to do with you, right?" Bubbles smiled at her.
"So you've never ?"
Angry mom look number #2 ought to do it, thought Bubbles. "I said: It's none of your business "
Monty stacked the pancakes one on top of the other and put the plate down next to the thimble of maple syrup that was already on the kitchen table. It was a beautiful morning - they were being treated to the last of the summer weather as the year rolled down hill into autumn.
Chip yawned widely and began grating a coffee bean. He was still half asleep and barely caught his mistake when he stopped grating when he had only enough coffee grounds for one person. He had gotten used to being the only coffee drinker in the house in the short time that he had been home and Gadget had been in the hospital.
Dale went to the icebox - despite Gadget's best efforts the closest thing to a mouse-sized refrigerator was still a small thermos flask lined with dry ice - and took out a bottle of milk. He up-ended it over a bowl containing three cornflakes (crushed to make chipmunk sized cornflakes) only to find that the milk came out as a quarter inch long yellow cylinder of something that made Monty go: "CHHHEHeheheZZZZZZ!!!"
"I keep telling you to put the top back on the bottle!" Chip complained as Monty plunged across the kitchen, scattering cutlery.
Dale gulped loudly and surrendered the bottle into Monty's eager, grabbing hands. Monty sniffed loudly at the proto-cheese sticking out of the bottle and his moustache curled. Slapping the bottom of the bottle with a meaty palm, the big mouse emptied the proto-cheese over two pieces of toast and spread it around thickly with the butter knife.
Zipper buzzed into the kitchen with a triumphant look in his eyes. He stood to attention on the ceiling and mimed blowing a trumpet to the accompaniment of a fanfare of buzzing from his wings. As if on cue, Gadget entered.
She was still in her wheelchair but the arm that had been dislocated in the crash of the Ranger Plane was no longer in a sling. Slowly, carefully, she steered the chair to the end of the kitchen table and brought it to a stop. The lower seat of the wheelchair left her breastbone level with the edge of the table.
"Thank you, Zipper." She smiled, her voice deep and rough and not at all like Gadget's.
Dale beamed at her with his chipmunk tail wagging wildly. "Wowie, Gadget! Is your arm better already?"
"Uh, it's improving. But there's something I wanted to tell you." Gadget replied with her voice still gruff and her expression deeply troubled.
"Hush, Gadget. That can wait until after breakfast." Monty told her and pushed the plate of pancakes and maple syrup under her nose.
A look of indecision clouded Gadget's face. Clearly she was wrestling with some dilemma, but there was no mistaking her hunger when she looked at the pancakes. "I have been craving maple syrup lately." She admitted.
"Gee, should I take that as a compliment?" Chip smiled and ran a hair through his hair. He didn't wear his hat at the table - it was bad manners.
Lawhiney allowed her eyes to be drawn to his chestnut coloured hair. He wore it in a short, conservative cut that blended well with his natural fur colour. She remembered kissing him in Hawaii when it had been that or allow him to uncover her ruse the first time she impersonated Gadget. She had felt quite a thrill. She liked them big, dumb and strong. Chip wasn't. At best, he could only be called large for a chipmunk and he was smart (dangerously so).
It was the smart that had sent the thrill through her back then and that sent it through her again now, as she saw him looking at her across the breakfast table. Chip was dangerous to her. If anyone was going to catch her, it was going to be him. She remembered his speech at the hospital when she had been convinced he was about to haul her off to jail. The way that he hadn't seen through her right there and then still didn't seem quiet real.
Then Lawhiney's eyes met Chip's and something that she had guessed before in a distant, theoretical way was suddenly clear to her.
This chipmunk was in love with the real Gadget Hackwrench.
In a big way.
He was in love with Gadget and a treacherous thought insinuated: for the moment she was Gadget. It was such an obvious truth that realizing it was like discovering a freight train had quietly snuck up on her and was now looming large over her shoulder. When Lawhiney hadn't been able to pull the wool over Chip's eyes his emotions, or his libido, had gotten in his way and done the job for her.
Well, thanks-be-to-Mickey. Or Whoever. It probably just meant that he would beat her all the harder when she told the truth. She'd expect the same of Monty but for the gentleness he had shown her when she confessed her pregnancy to him. Perhaps he would intervene if the chipmunks got too rough with her. Or perhaps he'd join in when he found out she wasn't Gadget. Either way, she didn't expect to get out of this without bruises. There was only one Monty and there were two chipmunks even if there was more of Monty to go around.
"He'll be a lot tougher on himself than he will on you, kid." A wry voice murmured from just behind her right ear.
Lawhiney almost turned before she realised it was Geegaw, her guide and Gadget's father, and that it would look funny to the others if she turned to look at something they couldn't see. Even so her eyes disobeyed her strict instructions not to look and peeped sideways at him while she sat stiff-necked in her wheelchair, the pancakes directly in front of her now dripping maple syrup.
No matter how reassuringly Geegaw put it, it came down to this: in one of the potential futures Lawhiney was considering there were pancakes and maple syrup. In the other, there wasn't. I could always eat the pancakes and then confess, Lawhiney mused. No, then Monty would kill me for sure. He's looking sideways at me as it is.
"I, uh, made an appointment for you with the doctor this afternoon, Gadget-luv. I mean, Gadget." The mouse rumbled from his side of the table, not quite meeting her eye. He met Chip's eye though and threw a glare back at the chipmunk for the detective's expression of dismay and interest.
Lawhiney blinked at him. For a split second she wondered if Geegaw had spilled the beans to Monty and she was being reassured that she would be get patched up by an expert after she told the chipmunks who she really was. Then she remembered falling out of bed the night before and realised that Monty was concerned for her baby.
For the first time Lawhiney had something in common with a Rescue Ranger that wasn't superficial. It felt like seeing the path home after being lost in dark woods for a long time.
She smiled at him.
"Go on, tell them." Urged Geegaw in hushed tones.
Lawhiney opened her mouth
And said nothing.
She just couldn't see the Rangers taking her to hospital after hearing a confession of landing Gadget in jail. Not unless they had to after they were done with her. Nor could she pass up on having a doctor make sure her baby was well. Afterwards, she silently promised. Afterwards, she would tell them everything.
The Rangers were staring at her, no doubt waiting for their beloved Gadget to say something heart-warming.
Lawhiney picked up her fork, skewered a mouthful of syrupy pancake and popped it into her mouth.
Lawhiney sat miserably on the examination table and buttoned her shirt. Gadget's shirt. Whatever. She suspected that her appointment was actually taking place in the Doctor's lunch hour, the only time the busy packrat had at such short notice.
Doctor Bell thanked the bat that had done the ultrasound examination as she left the room. In his right hand he held the bat's shaky and smudged drawing of Lawhiney's unborn child. As the door closed, he considered the portrait with a worried frown and wished that God had seen fit to give only species that could "see" with ultrasound hands to draw with instead of wings.
"I'm thinking of baby names." Lawhiney said.
"The one I like is kinda unusual what do you think of Roach?"
"Huh?" Doctor Bell was jolted out of his reverie. "Roche? Isn't that a French name?"
"Uh " Lawhiney flushed.
"Of course! Name of a human scientist isn't it? As in the Roche limit; something to do with planets or astronomy, if I remember my high school physics correctly." He pronounced the name like "rush" but with an "o" instead of a "u".
Lawhiney didn't need a second prompting. It sounded like just the kind of name Gadget would choose. "Yes, Roche. Like the astronomer."
"Sounds like a good name." The doctor was too distracted by the ultrasound pictures to think ahead to the trouble Roche might one day have in the schoolyard.
Lawhiney watched his expression carefully. "What's up, Doc?"
"You have no idea how often I hear that line. Okay, Gadget. I know you have first aid skills at least, because of your work as a Rescue Ranger, but how much do you actually know about pregnancy?"
"Less than I probably should. Please, tell me what you would tell any young mother."
"Okay, that makes it easy. If you look up mouse pregnancy in a human text book, it will tell you that mice give birth to a litter of usually between eight to fourteen babies after a pregnancy lasting roughly three weeks or a little under. Naturally that doesn't hold good for "higher", thinking species of rodents such as you and I. Not that I'm likely to get pregnant, of course." Doctor Bell chuckled nervously, inviting her to do the same.
To Lawhiney, a practiced fraud and manipulator, it sounded like a well-worn quip used to break the tension at a difficult moment. Any comparison between "thinking animals" and the "thoughtless beasts of the wild" made for uncomfortable listening to a civilized rodent. To make such a comparison in polite company in a way that touched on the subject of reproduction was asking for a slap in the face.
"Pregnancy takes longer in thinking species because our brains are more complex and take longer to form, or so we like to believe. In your race, that means thirty-eight to forty-two days - double what it would be for a non-thinking mouse."
The doctor continued. "For the same reason, our babies tend to take up more resources as they grow and, as a result, our kind has much smaller litters than the mice in human textbooks. That's actually a blessing because larger brains mean larger heads, which results in a more complicated labour than for non-thinking rodents. Though litters of six aren't all that rare, they tend to be rough on the mother. Not to mention how hectic it can be afterwards with all those little ankle-biters tearing up the house and all those hungry mouths to feed."
Doctor Bell chuckled again. Again, Lawhiney did not respond.
"Anyway, twins and triplets tend to be more common than single births. I'm afraid our ultrasound expert can only detect one child. Now, it might be that there was only ever one child in your litter but I'm afraid a more likely possibility is that little Roche is the only one who stuck around after the crash."
Lawhiney was shocked and in spite of her experience at maintaining a front, it showed. "I killed my kids when I crashed the Ranger Plane?"
"Hey, hey, hey! It's possible that there was only ever one baby in the litter. Don't go beating yourself up over doing what you had to. Especially not over something that we'll never know for sure, one way or the other."
Lawhiney felt cold. "What else do I need to know?"
"From the ultrasound I think your about twenty days in so far. So, maybe only another three weeks to wait." Doctor Bell smiled as though labour was something to look forward to.
"If I was a wild mouse, I'd be giving birth right now and my worries would be over." Lawhiney remarked, too distracted to consider what she was saying.
"Hey, look on the bright side: At least you're not human. Their pregnancies last nine months and the babies can weigh over nine pounds each!" Doctor Bell kidded her. "Have you had any more flashbacks, by the way? How are you sleeping?"
"I had nightmares last night." Lawhiney said, truthfully.
"That's to be expected your mind's way of coming to terms with the trauma while you sleep. It's a good thing. If they get too bad or keep you up too much, then I'll prescribe a light sedative and perhaps some counselling. Your feelings about the crash need to be expressed." Doctor Bell paused, considering. "I see you removed the sling from your arm. How's that working for you?"
"It was fine this morning, but actually it's aching now." Lawhiney told him.
"It may just be tiredness. Remember you haven't used the muscles for weeks. Let me see the range of motion you have on your arm." The doctor took Lawhiney's arm and gently manipulated it, testing for weakness or pain.
"How much longer is it going to be before I can walk?" Lawhiney asked. "It seems like I'm taking forever to heal."
"You asked me that before, I seem to recall. Well, as I was saying earlier, you're lucky you're not human. Bigger bones mean bigger breaks and the more damaged tissue there is the longer it takes to heal. You'd be looking at a recovery time of well over a year if you were human."
"Doc, if I was human the fall would have killed me in the first place, so let's not worry about it."
"True the saying in medical circles is that a given fall will cause a mouse to be stunned, a rat to be killed, a human to be broken and a horse to splash." Doctor Bell told her absently.
Lawhiney shivered. "It was a miracle."
"Yes. You fell about fifty feet, though most of it must have been with the Ranger Plane to slow your fall. It's the only way to explain how the hijackers lived through it too. As far as I can tell the head injury isn't as serious as we first feared. That was our main worry. The broken tailbone should take four weeks in total to heal so long as you don't stress it. Call it a week and you should be able take the splint off. The ribs will take longer. How's the breathing? Does it hurt?"
"Only when I laugh."
"How much laughing are you doing?"
"These days? Hardly any."
"Your broken leg should be ready to take your full weight in another two weeks. Until then you can get about on a crutch. You're lucky the broken leg isn't on the same side as the dislocated shoulder or you wouldn't be able to use a crutch for another week, at least. You're making a quick recovery as it is. You can take the crutch with you when you go today but I'd leave it until tomorrow before starting to use it."
The doctor considered things for a moment longer and then added: "It goes without saying that you won't be able to go outside. You won't be able to avoid predators."
Lawhiney nodded submissively. It was faked entirely. She had been trying to decide whether to tell the Rangers the truth in the hospital where medical staff might frown on pregnant people being beaten to a pulp, or wait until they got home to Ranger HQ where there would less chance of them having enough people to form an actual lynch mob.
But now she had a different plan
With a few days practice with the crutch she might be able to leave the Ranger HQ and slip away into the night. She only had to get as far as a rodent bus stop or a sewer with a regular ferry service. From there getting to the docks would be simple. The only problem would be the money for the ticket and she was sure she could get that, if not from Gadget's room then with some of the hidden stash from the last small town her gang had robbed.
She could find a small, quiet town somewhere and raise Roche as her own. She'd tell people she was a widow, find some big dumb guy who was easy to twist around her little finger and settle down to lead a respectable life. Heck, she'd even go to church every Sunday to make up for not turning herself in, if it made Geegaw and his boss happy.
She turned the plan over in her mind. Yes, it would work. She'd need to practice with the crutch in secret. That would give her a head start at least. Gadget would have to take care of herself a little longer
Bubbles slouched along the corridor back to her cell. It had been a long hard day in the prison laundry and her shoulders were aching. When she got back to her cell she almost took a step backwards when she saw someone already inside waiting for her. Oh yeah, that was right. It wasn't her cell anymore. It was their cell; hers and crazy Red's.
"Hey, Bubbles." Red grinned at her. "Guess what? I made a new friend today."
An ominous feeling crept over Bubbles. It occurred to her that she had actually spent only a single evening with Red, and she was forming the dreadful suspicion that her new cellmate was always this cheerful.
"Her name's Mary. Mary, say hi to Bubbles." Red carried on regardless.
Bubbles half expected Red to bring out a glove puppet and start talking out of the side of her mouth. Instead a croaky voice began to echo along the corridor from several cells away. "Hi there Bubbles. Did you just come back from the laundry?"
For a split second Bubbles didn't recognise the voice, then she pinned it down. Mary was the cellblock screamer who had nightmares most nights and who woke everyone else up if someone wasn't quick to shove a pillow over her face or gently tell her where she was before she started screaming. Bubbles hadn't recognized the voice because she wasn't used to hearing it used for conversation.
"Hello Mary." Bubbles said reluctantly. Other people would hear her talking to the screamer, which wasn't a smart social move.
"Your cellmate's been talking to me all day." Mary said.
"I'm sorry - "
"Oh, don't be. People hardly ever talk to me." Mary cut her off.
That's because every week you wake up the whole place screaming at the walls for no reason! Bubbles thought. She hated admitting it to herself but she knew in her heart that Mary's cries would be more painful now she could picture a real person making them. Thanks a lot, Red!
"Hey, Red, show Bubbles what we've been working on this afternoon." Mary called.
"Mary was a music teacher on the outside, before there was a little misunderstanding about an accidental fire. I think she has grounds for an appeal, myself. After all if something's an accident "
"Never mind, I wouldn't want to bring bad memories back for Mary. Or give her false hope." At the back of Bubbles' mind a quieter voice added: Didn't some people die in that completely accidental fire? Red opened her mouth to argue but Bubbles saw it coming and cut her off. "What was it you wanted to show me?"
Red's face lit up. "Oh. Okay. Hit it, girls."
Mary's voice beat out time and then she began banging her cup against the bars of her cell in a steady rhythm. From somewhere the sound of a mouth organ started to wail. Then Red began to sing in a low voice that Bubbles never would have believed in a million years belonged to her cellmate.
Ooohhhhh - I hear that tramp's a looker, and gone and stole my friends
and I ain't seen the sunshine since I don't know when.
I'm stuck at Shrankshaw Prison and how I long to be free,
but that tramp keeps on living the life she stole from me!
When I was just a baby, my daddy told me, "Child,
Always be a good girl; don't ever wear a badge."
But I became a Rescue Ranger, and convicted on a lie.
When I think about that floozy, I hang my head and cry.
I bet that tramp's a playin' with all my tools I fear.
She' prob'ly drinkin' coffee and blowin' in Chip's ear.
I never had this comin', but I know I can't be free,
And that floozy keeps a livin' the life she stole from me.
Well, if they freed me from this prison and I could find that lousy tramp,
I bet I'd lose my temper and pound her flatter than a stamp!
Far from Shrankshaw Prison, that's where I long to stay,
And I'd let my many inventions work my blues away."
Bubbles couldn't quite keep from chuckling.
"She likes it. Thanks girls!" Red called to her Mary and the other, un-introduced friend.
"Ah, Red. What would it take to bring you down?" Bubbles sighed.
"Well, gee. If you mean literally then I tried to make a break for it just after my trial and they got me with a 750mm reel glue/plunger dart crossbow."
Bubbles shook her head. "You're lucky they didn't tack another five years onto your sentence right there and then."
"I expect they would have, if they had thought of it. They were mad enough. It never crossed my mind. Ya' know that's one of the things that really bothers me about this situation. Gadget Hackwrench could get out of here in an hour, tops. On the outside of this place, even being hunted by the police, it wouldn't be that difficult for a Rescue Ranger to prove who they were. There are hidden caches of equipment, clothes, food and medical supplies..."
"All over the city, I know, and people take it really seriously if you find and mess with any of them, because of what the Rangers need them for." Bubbles reminded her.
"I can find someone who knew me before, when I was Gadget, they'll believe me."
"You're talking about Gadget Hackwrench in the second person there." Bubbles pointed out.
Red absentmindedly blinked at her. "Am I? Perhaps that's because everyone else has been for so long. I can't hold back the tide forever. But on the outside there are a lot of people in this city who know me, people who I can get to even if I can't get to the Rangers. People who will help me, Bubbles!"
"You worry me when you talk like this, Red. You know whatever you had going on the outside, no matter how sweet it was, it's over now. You've got to let go and start making a life for yourself here, or you're just not going to get by."
"Bubbles, it's good to know that even in here there are people who care. But I need to get back to my life while I still think of it as, well, my life."
Bubbles sighed and patted Red on the shoulder. "Okay, Red. Whatever. But in the meantime, it looks like they've got you in line for a laundry job."
"Laundry?" Red's face fell.
"What's the matter, you never do laundry before?"
"Dad used to. After I lost him I built a machine to do the laundry for me but it ended up eating all my clothes instead. It was so embarrassing, I had to wait until a door-to-door salesman came by and persuade him to go get some clothes to sell me. Then he went out and told all his door-to-door-salesman buddies even after I swore him to secrecy."
Bubbles fell over laughing. "Now that I CAN believe! I can practically SEE you doing something like that."
Red blushed lightly under her fur and watched her friend laugh. "Sure, you can see me inventing a clothes eating robot but you can't believe I'm Gadget Hackwrench." She complained.
"That's because you aren't Gadget Hackwrench. I bet everything she invents works first time. Or nearly first time." Bubbles rolled her eyes at her but with a smile. "Besides, she's a Rescue Ranger. She only invents stuff to help catch crooks and maybe to rescue people if she's in a good mood."
Red frowned and looked sideways at Bubbles. "You really see her that way?"
"Yes, and it's about time you realised that there are a lot of the people in here who don't see Gadget Hackwrench as some good, admirable person they should want to be like. In fact, I doubt most of the people in the city even think of her as a good, admirable person." Bubbles was warming to her theme now.
"Shucks, I don't think most of the people in the city have even heard of me. Especially if you count humans as people, though I suppose that's debatable since they don't count us as people - "
"Red, you're doing it again, and I doubt the real Hackwrench would be that naïve."
"Talking like you think you're Gadget Hackwrench, which is a bad idea even if you do really think you're Gadget Hackwrench - for ANY reason - as I and other patient people have explained to you many, many times now. So many times that I'm sick of repeating it." Bubbles gave her cellmate a hard stare - not her patent-pending angry mom stare but a stern one she reserved for children who hadn't yet even thought of doing wrong but who probably would later, in her absence, and reconsider on remembering her expression.
"Sorry." Gadget apologised automatically without really thinking about what she was apologising for: Being herself.
Bubbles kicked her feet back and stretched out on her prison bunk. It felt comfortable, a sure sign it had been a hard day. "S' okay. Let's try and make this the last time though. What were you saying before?"
"That I, that is Gadget, could get out of here inside an hour but only by betraying her principles and committing a crime. Escaping lawful custody at best, maybe even assaulting a guard or worse. There's no point in breaking out to unmask an impostor if you're going to get thrown back in the slammer as a thank you."
Bubbles was getting sleepy and allowed herself to be drawn into her friend's "fantasy". "No, there isn't, is there? But I've said it before and I'll say it again: A judge would let Gadget Hackwrench off with a warning if she knocked over a bank."
"You might believe it but I don't and there's no way I'm going to risk coming back here once I'm out. Especially not with everyone knowing who I am for real. Where's the logic in reclaiming my rightful place in the world, just to go on the run from most of my friends two minutes later?"
"Uh, ah, I guess there isn't any." Bubbles mumbled. "Not that you'd have to run very hard. No one would want to be the one to take you in. Everyone would just be overflowing with understanding if you were Gadget Hackwrench and broke out of here. Even if you did get sent back, you'd probably get a full pardon from the Council of Mice in the morning mail and breakfast in bed served by the warden herself."
"You really think so?"
"Yeah, sure. Now I'm going to take a nap. Wake me when it's dinnertime. Assuming you're still here." Bubbles added wryly.
"I changed my mind." Lawhiney whined. "I don't want to tell them who I am."
Geegaw's moustache twitched. Once. He took a very deep breath and held it for a very long time. Then he let it out very slowly.
Lawhiney waited and trembled. She wanted desperately to be told she had done the right thing. That she had made everything right and that she was safe from the prison hospital bed where her baby would be taken away from her, not to mention the fate that awaited her in the next world if her dreams were to be believed.
"Just what DO you want to do?" He asked in a carefully controlled voice.
Lawhiney turned the wheelchair towards a well-used workbench. Using the bench for support she lifted herself up until she was standing. "Practice." She gasped. "Practice walking until I can walk out of here and disappear."
"Disappear? Oh, Lawhiney! Take it from someone who knows, you don't want to do that. Look at me, I disappeared and it's just no fun at all." He cajoled her.
"Yeah, well. I'm not stuck with many tempting alternatives." Lawhiney took her first step in over a month. For a moment it felt like her leg had exploded. Putting any weight on her injured leg caused her pain, even with the crutch.
"Ah, careful there. It's not like I can help you back up after you fall, you know."
The change from anger to concern made Lawhiney laugh and shake her head, even with what felt like a red-hot iron inside her leg. "You mean if I fall flat on my face in here, or-"
"Either, Lawhiney. Of both." Geegaw cut across her before she could finish the question.
She snuck a look at him to see if he was telling the truth. He looked like he was. She looked away again and took another step. "It's not like I'm trying to be difficult. Or bad." She said through clenched teeth.
"You're managing pretty well." Geegaw muttered.
"I don't deserve that. I'm not doing anything really, really wrong and evil. I'm just not doing something that would be really, really right and noble."
"I mean with the crutch." Geegaw said.
Lawhiney looked at him suspiciously as she took another step.
"One time I was laid up with a bad leg I found I couldn't go five feet without falling over, even with a crutch." Geegaw forced a smile at her. "I ended up like that human in the old Hitchcock movie, what's it called?"
"I'm not a movie person." Lawhiney snapped.
"Really? Not even when some handsome guy took you out on a first date?"
Lawhiney's lips curled in derision. "If the guy was that handsome, I usually didn't bother with a first date. And unless he was some boob that offered to take me to a movie I really wanted to see, I was usually too busy in the back row to notice what was happening on screen."
Geegaw gulped. He hadn't lead a sheltered life but even so
"What? Oh, don't tell me you're going to act all surprised just because I'll have to go someplace where no one knows me if I want to wear white at my wedding! You know I'm pregnant so you can't have thought that I was -" Lawhiney stopped as a realisation stole over her. She might have let it lie any other time but the pain was making her nasty, so with a spiteful grin she plunged on, hoping to hurt him. "Oh, I get it. I look like your daughter so I ought to be all noble and pure, like her, is that it? In fact, I bet the thought of someone who looks just like your daughter enjoying herself like-"
"THAT'S ENOUGH!" Geegaw shouted. "I am here to help you! I don't have to be and, unless you forget, I don't want to be looking after you instead of Gadget!"
Lawhiney opened her mouth to spit back an ugly reply but the crutch slipped out from under her. The next thing she knew she was flat on her back and Geegaw was by her side. He had crossed the room so quickly she hadn't seen him move. Perhaps he hadn't.
"Oh Lord! I'm sorry. I didn't mean that. If I did, I'm sorry for it. I take it back. Laurel, are you alright?" he asked.
"Yeah, I'm fine." Lawhiney gasped.
"Yeah, I'm sure. I still had one hand on the bench. It broke my fall. Hey, don't call me Laurel. I haven't called myself that for years."
"I didn't like Laurel."
There was a slight pause. If he asked, she would never admit she was talking about more than the name.
Lawhiney was trying to stand up again and took her time answering. "It's a boring name. No pizzazz. Laurel is a name for some pretty little over-privileged airhead who doesn't draw breath without mommy's permission, someone who'd never go anywhere or do anything. It's a name a little girl would give to her dress up dolly, not "
"Nothing. If you can't help me up, at least tell me what that was I just knocked off the bench."
"Ah, it's a book. Looks like a textbook. Homemade, maybe."
Lawhiney used the end of her crutch to drag the book towards her. It was made of human cigarette papers sewn together with silk and bound in a familiar lavender cloth. Flipping the cover closed she read, or tried to read, the title: "Mental Telemetry from Gadget Hackwrench - Month 293."
She blinked. "Geegaw, what does telemetry mean?"
"Flight data like engine revs, altitude, pitch, yaw, fuel remaining, stuff like that. Humans record all their aircraft telemetry so they can figure out what when wrong if they have a crash but our people are always too busy covering up the evidence after a crash to worry about that."
"Like in Roswell? Were you a part of that?"
Geegaw chuckled ruefully. "Roswell, the animal kingdom's Hindenburg. That was, what, 1947? No, I was just a kid back then. Monty claims he was with Edmund Hillary when he climbed Everest in 1957, but I don't think even his stories go back that far."
"He looks fifty." Lawhiney frowned. "He'd have been seven years old, at most."
"Wouldn't surprise me. They raise them to adventure young in that family." Geegaw replied. "The only time our folk record telemetry is when someone's testing something like a new aircraft or an alteration to a existing airplane."
"Figures a super-brain like Gadget would do all her telemetry mentally. I would have thought that after two hundred and ninety-three months whatever she's working on should be pretty well tested to destruction." Lawhiney said.
Geegaw shuddered. "Don't talk like that. You have no idea how many times I thought she was about to be blown to kingdom come by one of her inventions."
Lawhiney flipped the book open at the halfway point and gave it an indifferent glance, expecting it to be incomprehensible. She was surprised when she read in neat, precise handwriting:
"Chip gave me a telling off today because one of my experiments blew up on the runway and was loud enough to make a human sitting on the park bench put aside his newspaper and come right up to the tree to stare and frown at us for nearly a whole minute or so before he scratched his head and went away - the human that is, not Chip."
Lawhiney's jaw dropped. Gadget's diary! She was holding Gadget Hackwrench's diary!
"Wow! I bet the tabloids would pay a fortune for this!" The words were out of her mouth before she finished thinking them.
"For a flightlog?" Geegaw puzzled.
Lawhiney hastily closed the book and stuffed it into one of the capacious pockets of the jumpsuit she had borrowed from Gadget's wardrobe. "Of course not. I don't know what I was thinking, ha-ha! They wouldn't even understand it."
Geegaw saw though it in a heartbeat. "Lawhiney!" He ordered sternly. "What are you hiding? Show it to me at once!"
Geegaw glowered. "How tired are you feeling after last night's nightmare? I was planning to let you sleep tonight, even though you have gone back on your word to confess everything and make good, but if you're just going to add new sins to your record perhaps I should use a firmer hand with you."
Lawhiney crumbled and hung her head and ears. She looked up at him with big eyes as she surrendered the book, holding it out to him so he could take it.
Geegaw cocked an eyebrow. "That's a, ah-ha, better girl but I can't touch anything remember?"
Lawhiney had suspected this for some time but hadn't been sure. She filed the information for future use. Even if she salvaged nothing else from this find it was still worth knowing that, if it came right down to it, Geegaw couldn't do anything to physically hurt her - or stop her.
"Now, how about you tell me what you've found here?"
"It's a diary." Lawhiney admitted.
"A - ?" Geegaw looked at it in amazement. Something flickered across his face that anyone else might have missed but that Lawhiney had seen too many times to not to read: Temptation.
"Diary." Lawhiney repeated. "I dare say she's recorded every little thing that's happened to her since she came to live here, if not since before you died. All her news and triumphs, how she's been doing, what she's hoping for the future. All laid out to see, if you want."
"I never knew she kept a diary. I thought if she did, she'd keep it in that big chest of hers." Geegaw said absentmindedly, still staring at the book in Lawhiney's paws.
Lawhiney blinked and tried to force Geegaw's last sentence to make sense.
"The one in the corner of her bedroom." Geegaw explained. "You must have noticed it. It belonged to my grandfather. Gadget's the first one in two generations to be able to open it."
Understanding lit in Lawhiney's eyes and she flipped to the back of the book. The pages were blank. "She must have still been working on this one when " Not smart to go down that road. " when she put it to one side here and went off to do something. Absentminded of her."
"Very. But then she always was absentminded." Geegaw glared at her. He could fill in the blanks well enough for himself.
"I wonder how many of the pages are blank." Lawhiney said casually and she began to flip through the book, starting at the back.
Geegaw tried to change the subject. "You were supposed to be learning how to walk again."
"Oh, look. I've found the last entry." Lawhiney said and she began to read.
"Month 293, Day 14.
Weather continues sunny with a moderate southeasterly wind. Temperatures are in the twenty to twenty-five degree ranges.
Golly, Chip and Dale were really going at it last night. I could hear them right through the walls of my workshop! Sometimes I wonder how they can still be friends when they fight so much! I know Dad and Monty fought occasionally but I don't think they ever fought as loudly or as physically as Chip and Dale. Sometimes I feel so sorry for Dale, who seems to lose out to Chip in most ways, but he holds his own in these flat out battles that see them rolling around on the floor. Why it should be that way when they're fighting flat out when Dale loses every minor quarrel they have, I can't say but there are times when I think that Chip and Dale are more likely to be killed by each other than by Fat Cat, Nimnul, Rat Capone or any of the others we come across in our work.
My prototypes of the climb-anywhere-hand-and-foot-grips (mark 2) are ready for testing after another all night session of tinkering. Thank Heaven for Java. The coffee, not the computer language, I mean, not that the computer language isn't a good thing too, it's just that I probably wouldn't have time to work on these things and be a Rescue Ranger as well if it wasn't for strong coffee and lots of it.
I have decided against reusing the parts from the mk.1 because of the damage they sustained during my first test. Thank heaven I tested how much weight my invention could carry by putting lead weights in a bucket instead by using them of myself.
I am also using springs instead of elastic bands in the Mk.2, as these were the first components to fail "
Lawhiney stopped reading. She looked at the passage in amazement. This was a diary? After the first entry she had read, Lawhiney had assumed that the whole book would be filled with personal stuff. Bewildered, she began to turn the pages to look for something personal that could trap Geegaw's interest.
"I don't think my daughter left that there with the intention of letting people read through her innermost thoughts." Geegaw said coldly.
"I just thought you might like to hear about her life, because you haven't been able to be close to her for so long. Or have you been watching over her the whole time, except when you were showing me around?"
"No, I haven't been watching over her every moment, night and day. That's because good people are supposed to respect each other's privacy." Geegaw nodded pointedly to the diary.
"You were never tempted to look in on her? Or isn't it allowed?"
Geegaw's face became shadowed in his hood. "It's allowed. Up to a point. Your loved ones have a right to get on with their lives without you always looking over your shoulder." He sounded more like he was quoting from memory than trying to enlighten his young charge.
"I think that's cruel." Lawhiney said sympathetically. "After all, it's not as if you're a peeping tom or anything."
"Oh, we get gossip." Geegaw sighed. "And there's the occasional chance to meet in dreams when the boundary between this side and the next has worn thin. Not to mention emergency visits when things are bad."
"I bet she thinks of you all the time." Lawhiney said.
"Oh, no. If she's got any sense she spends her time thinking about the people who are in her life now." Geegaw looked sheepish. He was being modest but there was a part of him that enjoyed the idea of Gadget thinking about him; Lawhiney could tell. Even if it meant that Gadget's heart had been breaking every moment of that time.
Something, not even a thought or a memory, caught at the back of her mind. For a heartbeat it was easy to picture Geegaw at her age, without the grey salting his moustache and eyebrows or the laugh-lines round his eyes. She didn't know why but there was something in the image that made her feel closer to him, as if they had something in common.
Lawhiney put the thought aside for another time and played her hand. "I could read more to you if you like."
It sounded so innocent.
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