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Excerpt for Poor Piper by , available in its entirety at Smashwords




Poor Piper


Trevor Elder




Smashwords Edition




Copyright 2018 by Trevor Elder



I’ve a song for you laddie and lady and pup. Give me coppers in me topper or a clink in me cup.


Bag man, fat man, more pied than piper they say. Cowards under cover of others, so I wink and I play.


Fisherman of the street, it’s cold here but for my seat. Catch my critics in the smog and no longer they speak.



A Personal Introduction



I was born Archibald. I never took to my name and have never used it. I invented my names with the days.


Before I became the piper I picked pockets and locks. Nobody taught me, I’m proud to say, I learned through watching and practicing on my own. When I was fifteen I had more golden trinkets than the king. Watches, coins, lockets, candlesticks. I just liked the way they shined.


Things were easy, and I became fat. It was a gradual process of course, and one day I couldn’t work a crowd without being noticed. I couldn’t run away neither. This is when I learned a new trick- pipin’.


I nicked a set of pipes but I didn’t play. I gave a toot now and again to let them know I was there, watching and wading through them, but I never did learn to play them proper.


I didn’t play, because you see, I didn’t need to. The rich folk, some of ‘em anyway, throw coins out of habit. If you sit and wait with an instrument in hand and a hat on the ground, they’ll toss at you without thinking. Just don’t look em’ in the eye. They don’t like it. Makes em’ uncomfortable.


I made a nice sum this way, and I had a nice view. I saw everyone in the city, and they saw me. They glanced at me, brushed past me, and I inspected them. I appraised them like a jeweler. Walking jewels with pockets of treasures. There’s nothing like the sound of metal on metal.


Now, I know, you’re wondering how a street illiterate like me is writing in such an eloquent and stylish fashion. Well my friends, it’s because I read three papers a day. I’m in the know more than most, and more than you’d think by walking past me. I read ‘em back to front, starting with the obituaries. It’s the part of the paper I miss most.


Why the obituaries? I’ll tell you why. For one thing, I get stronger every time one of my enemies dies. I feel it in my back. I feel it in my arms and legs. When someone dies, it means I’m winning.


For the second thing, it’s because the obituaries tell you where the treasure is, and when it’s going to be left all alone. If you’re as sly as I, you can practically walk up to a house and bash the door down. Then take whatever shines to your fancy and vanish into the night, or day. And if you ever do get caught, it isn’t much of a forethought to write a little letter from a lawyer or such, designating you as trustee or the like, just don’t dress too rough. You’ve got to look official if you produce official papers.


Now where was I? Right, that’s enough of an introduction I should think, from now on I’m going to tell you the greatest story of all time. The greatest because it is true you see, and because I myself am the greatest mystery in the entire city.


What kind of story you ask? You aren’t sure if you want to mentally grind all my enormous words into your noggin? Well if you’re a lady like all the ladies I’ve known, this will be the greatest love story to ever be lived or written. If you’re a man like those I’ve seen and defeated, it will be the greatest adventure you could never hope to encounter.


If you are a child you should run far away.


Chapter 1.




In the beginning I was reading the paper. It was midday and warm enough. I heard the sound of a little dog barking.


I could not ignore it. I was trying to read and it kept interrupting me. It was moving, I could tell, from the direction of the barks. Perhaps I should say chirps. It was a chirping bark, moving from my right to my left, in the opposite direction of time and words. I wanted to kick the little dog, or its owner, and I looked up in frustration.


I saw it. It was a little white dog with a leash and a collar. It was lost among the people and none were looking at it but I. So I watched, as I do, and it kept chirping and wandering.


As I watched I had a genius of a thought. What if I were to keep the little dog as a pet? Surely a little dog like that when combined with a poor piper such as myself would bring me even more income for less work.


Our barks would both be broken. A sad sight for all and deserving of sympathy and leftover corn and coin. A team would we be. A great team.


As I completed this thought of mine the little dog began to be too far away for me to see clearly, though I could still hear the barks. So I got up and dusted myself off, groaned for good measure, and hobbled off after my new dog.


I made sure to lean against my cane as I went, and exaggerated my stiffness. I thought about calling out to the dog, but since I didn’t know its name and it didn’t know me, I thought I had better just scoop it up and take it away from public eyes to get to know each other.


When I came upon the dog it did not even look up at me. It scurried a little, as if it knew somehow I would reach for it, as if it wanted to tease and mock me. I went after it, but again it did not look back and kept out of my reach. This went on for long enough, and at the peak of my annoyance I called it by species and it stopped and turned.


“Little dog!”


I had seen other people with dogs before, so I knew to give it food, and in my pockets I had always a bit of cheese, so I offered it, and when the little dog was chewing I picked him up and carried him off.


I took him a few streets away and found a nice cozy corner and we sat down. I was there reading the paper when a woman said something to me, which I didn’t understand, and when I looked up I saw a beautiful angel.


“I didn’t quite catch that,” I said.


“You have such a cute little dog. Do you mind if I sit down with him? I’m tired from walking.”


“Be my guest,” I said, and I spread out a newspaper beside me.


“What’s his name?” she asked as she sat on my paper and held him.


“Archibald,” I said, for no reason.


“You’re too small to be Archibald, I’m going to call you Archie.”


“That’s fine, call him what you like.”


“Have you been here long? I don’t see anything in your hat.”


“No, we’ve only just arrived. I haven’t been able to play my pipes, what with my throat sickness, and nobody pays me any attention otherwise.”


“Oh, I’m so sorry, I’m sure you’re a wonderful musician. You just have the sweetest little dog and if I had anything extra myself I would give it to you for him.”


“No need to worry about the dog my dear, I just fed him the finest cheese you can buy. He’s a very picky eater you see, and I’ll eat any old scrap, as you can see by my belly. I’m a glutton and he’s a regular prince.”


“Prince Archie, how lovely. I like cheese too my little baby. Cheese and beer is what I eat the most, but little prince dogs cannot have beer or they’ll get sick.”


“Quite right. Only the purest milk and water for my little dog. We take long walks in the country, just to find the purest and most sparkling streams.”


“That’s very nice. I think I would like the country, but I never can escape my duties here in the old city.”


“And what duties might those be?” I asked, curious at why the beautiful creature should have to work at all. She seemed like a princess to me, or a banker’s wife.


“Barmaid. That’s why I drink so much beer.”


“Ah, I thought so. From the looks of you I immediately thought to myself, this is the prettiest barmaid of all the bars in the world.”


“You’re too kind sir, as I know I am really only a plain girl, fit only for rough places.”


“No, no, you’re fit for anything, I’m sure. Perchance you are down on your luck?”


“No, my luck is high having found my little prince Archie I think.”


“Yes, correct, we are both in luck today at our good fortune at meeting one another. May I ask your name?”


“Angelica.”


“I knew It!” I exclaimed.


“It is the most fitting name I have ever come across,” I then said calmly.


“Thank you, though I hear it quite often and have never been able to believe it, but what is your name? Surely it must be rather interesting, seeing as you are a well traveled and cultured gentleman.”


“Yes, yes, my name? It’s very common and has never suited me. I will only tell you if you can guess it.”


“Oh how fun, I like guessing games. Let’s see, you say it’s common? How about George?”


“No.”


“Peter?”


“No.”


“John, it must be John, I know at least ten of them.”


“No.”


“Joe?”


“No.”


“Walter?”


“No.”


“Paul?”


“No.”


“Well I’ve run out of common names. I don’t know if I have the brains to guess it, so I guess you will always be a mystery to me.”


“I think not. You’ve demonstrated your intelligence very well, you only need more time. You can call me piper for now, and whenever you think of a new name you can make a guess.”


“All right, Mr. Piper, I will do just that. But how did you come to name your dog Archibald, and where do you get such a lovely little friend?”


“My dear, those are both very long stories. I’m afraid I would bore you and keep you wanting and waiting.”


“Nonsense, I must know everything about my prince Archibald. I have plenty of time to sit with you.”


“All right, we’ll start with the story of how I came to be in possession of my little dog. Give me just a moment to remember.”


“Of course.”


Here I was trying to think up a better story than the one I just told you, but I did not have enough time to fully flesh things out, so I just started and played it by ear as they say, which is fitting since I am a piper.


“Well first off my angel, I was reading my paper, just as I usually do. It was a story about the elections and the specific issue, and very important issue of voting rights. You see the author of the article wanted to extend voting rights to criminals and children and in fact all of humanity, so that the best and most accurate average would dictate policy. But now I’m getting off track, where was I?”


“You were reading your paper.”


“Yes, I was reading my paper and I heard a scuffle in the crowd. This itself was not unusual, as the dark city streets are filled with verminous rats and riffraff who would bash your head in for a stale piece of cornbread if they could get away with it, and so I kept reading, thinking that the local peace officers would do their job proper and remove the monsters themselves, but time went on and the shrieks and cries and bashes and lashes and slips and bangs went on and on and then, I heard the soft chirps of a wounded animal.”


“Oh dear, was our little prince hurt in the mayhem?”


“Yes, but I did not know that at the time. You see, I got up and threw my paper to the ground and went off toward the brawlers, and at that point I could not see the dog, but there were several drunkards roughhousing and I was not sure who was in the original wrong, so I smashed them all about with my cane and they fell and came to their senses and a crowd of onlookers mashed all round me and them and then I saw the dog. He was under a windowsill and was looking very scrawny, with his rib bones poking out from his white fur, and I worked up such a fury at the sight that I bellowed at the ruffians as to who had kicked the little dog and they apologized to me but said they knew not, so I gathered up the dog in my arms and went away as the peace officers intervened with the mess.”


“Oh, how exciting! Did you get hurt in the fray?”


“No, yes, but nothing too bad. I’ve lots of padding you know, and the punches and kicks and smacks bounced off me and only left some minor bruises that I could hardly feel.”


“Oh, poor piper! You are too good! Surely you are a shining example of the Christian way. I wish I had something to give you.”


“No my dear, I want for nothing. All I need is my little dog and something to read.”


“But what about the other story? That was quite the treat that yarn.”


“Other story? What other story?”


“About the name, how you named our little beauty Archibald.”


“Oh, righto. Right you are. Well see, he was bald, because I saw his ribs remember, do you understand? He was lean, bald, so I thought of Archibald.”


“Yes, I understand, but I thought there was a story?”


“No, sorry, just the one.”


“That’s all right, I don’t mind.”


The truth was that I didn’t have the energy to think of a good story at the moment, what with my story energy being used up with the first one. In fact I could barely think or speak thereafter, and the two of us sat in silence as she cooed over the little dog. I went back to my reading and after a few more minutes Angelica announced that she had to depart but that she wished to see us again. I told her we would be in the same spot at the same time tomorrow, and she left.


When she was out of sight, I picked up the little dog and went to the other side of the city.


As I walked I thought, and was annoyed at myself for using my own given name as the name for the dog. It was not very original at all and I thought about trading in the dog for another, so that I could have a dog with a better name.



Chapter 2.




We found another thinking corner and were quite content, until a child came up to us.


“My puppy.”


“No it’s not it’s mine and his name is Archibald.”


“Jimmy.”


“Are you Jimmy? How old are you? Where are your parents?” I asked, naturally concerned for the little fellow’s well-being.


He looked around, and while he was doing so I got up and carried the dog away. The little brat ran after me, saying things I did not care to listen to, and after a few minutes he was gone. I then changed directions, and when I was sure I was in the clear, I sat down again.


I tried to read the paper, but I could not help but think that the boy’s father or mother or somebody would attack me. They abandoned their dog in the vicious streets, and I rescued him and fed him. He was mine by moral right and I did not want my plans with Angelica interfered with. Therefore, processing these things as I sat, I picked up the dog again and went home.


My home at the time was a modest room on the ground floor of an old building. The doorway was in the alley, and was easily accessible without creaking stairs or walking by windows. Nobody, unless they were out in the street, could see me coming or going. This is why I chose the place in the first place.


I know what you’re thinking. Did I keep my golden treasures there, to be easily stolen?

For a thief would be just as unseen as I in the comings and goings. Well my friends, I did think of that, which is why my treasures are in three different places, and I will not tell you if those places are rooms or holes or caves, or anything else you might think I’ve thought of.


I gave the dog a corner and put the day’s newspapers down for a bed. I also gave him a bowl of water, seeing as how I never use them myself, despite having a set. No, not gold, but a pretty blue. I traded a half empty box of cigars for them. Was that a good deal? Yes. I smoked the first half of the box, but I realized that a poor piper like myself shouldn’t have cigars, so I went to a little store with odds and ends and traded.


I made a fire that night and went to sleep almost immediately.


In the morning I set out at once for the corner I was to meet the barmaid. Angelica. I took some sausage and cheese along to eat, and was thankfully not accosted on the way.


I arrived first, and she not long after.


“You’re early Piper.”


“As are you my dear.”


“I’m on my way to the tavern.”


“I see. You’ll be back soon?”


“Yes, in a few hours.”


She pet the little dog and I began wondering about her place of work.


“I don’t believe you told me the name of your tavern yesterday,” I said.


“Oh it’s the Lucky Lady. Just go up that way a bit and you’ll find it on the corner.”


“Do you work a regular schedule there?”


“Yes. Mostly nights, some afternoons, some mornings.”


“And would you mind if I stopped in every now and again?”


“No, of course not. But you must bring little Archie.”


“Of course, of course. He never leaves my side.”


“Good, but I must go now. Will you still be here in a few hours?”


“Most probably. I may stretch my legs a little and have an adventure, but we’ll be back.”


“Good, I hope to see you two again. Farewell.”


“You as well.”


She departed and I resisted the urge to follow her. She was such a lovely creature that I wanted to gaze at her forever, but I knew that such a thing was against proper social conduct.


I grew restless. The street was slow and empty, and for some odd reason I did not feel up to reading the paper that day. Perhaps when I had told her I was up for an adventure I tricked myself into desiring it. Strange thing, the mind.


The more I thought about it, the more I wanted a good old fashioned scuffle, or the like. In my younger days I would insult gentle types and when they retorted I would beat them and relieve them of their fancy watches. A bop on the head and a yank of the chain and another shiny time keeper went into my secret collection.


But what about the little dog? I had never had that burden in those younger, more athletic days, and now I, an old fat man, was to carry it round the alleyways? Hardly a fleeting shadow I would be then. Hardly.


I walked away with the dog and tried to plan a way for us to work together. He was too small to be a good fighter, and I didn’t know how to command a dog even if he were a big one. A lure perhaps? If I left him tied up a wanderer might bend down toward him and turn his back, making himself ripe for a smack.


It was worth a try, and I found an alley and put him beside some wooden crates. I thought about leaving him some food, but I thought better of it, since I wanted him to bark.


I found a nice dark corner and waited.


The dog looked at me and didn’t bark, and not one of the passersby looked down the alley to him. I was frustrated. Annoyed. I wanted even more violence than that which I had set out for. I wanted a good old face to face.


I untied the dog and walked him at an amble until I saw a mark. A man my size and age, but with a plump, rosy, soft face was coming our way.


“Is this your dog?” I asked.


“What? No, excuse me.”


“Your dog bit my leg.”


“That is not my dog, sir.”


“Yes it is, I saw you yesterday with him,” I said.


“You are confused, excuse me,” he said and went past me.


Quick as a whip, I bopped him on the head with my cane. He fell over and cowered, his hands covering his face. I smacked him again in the body.


“Give me the goods you aristocrat.”


The fool couldn’t even speak properly and was babbling with his hands over his face. When I was about to smack him again I heard a group of people coming, so went down an alley and away.


But it didn’t matter. I was probably already richer than that aristocrat. The important thing was to let him know he can’t just walk over and trample the common man. Of course, I am anything but common, but I look the part with my costume.


I took the dog back to where we met the angel and we each ate some cheese and sausage. With a little of that sustenance in my belly my mood improved, and I was able to read the newspaper in peace. I hardly noticed when Angelica came back and began cooing over the little dog again.


“You’re just my absolute favorite! Do you know he’s never barked once at me? It’s as if we’ve known each other for years.”


“Yes, I’ve trained him to behave around beautiful young ladies. You should have seen him as a pup, all snarls. Of course it was ridiculous, him being so small and all, so I trained him right up to be the cute little prince charming he now obviously is.”


“How interesting. How did you do it?”


“I read him all the proper books of etiquette.”


“And he understood?”


“Yes, no, dogs don’t speak our language perfectly of course, but I showed him examples and he copied me. Dogs are very good mimics.”


“That’s very interesting. How was your adventure? Didn’t you say you were going somewhere?”


“Yes, I did,” I said, in order to buy myself some time to pretty things up a bit. It’s proper etiquette to minimize the violence when telling stories to the womenfolk, so I had to take some time to translate.


“Oh, I see you’ve bruised your face! Poor Piper!”


“I did? Yes, a madman attacked me. It’s probably why I can’t think straight.”


“A madman? Was he foaming at the mouth? My father used to tell me stories of vicious mad murderers who roamed with foaming mouths. It was very frightening, but also very interesting.”


“Yes, yes, exactly. You’re father was very wise, obviously. The madman was foaming and frothing and drooling and growling.”


“Growling?”


“Yes, a wild beast of a man, and he was waving a knife.”


“No! I’m so worried, but you’re okay now, you aren’t cut?”


“No I knocked it away with my cane.”


“And then what happened? Where was my little prince?”


“He was safe, in an alleyway. I smacked the madman around a bit with my cane, and knocked some sense back into him as they say, and he stopped the frothing and growling, and by then a crowd had gathered, so I left him to them and I took the dog away.”


“How exciting! I wish I could tell you a story, but nothing very interesting happens to me.”


“Nonsense, I’m sure you see lots of things in a tavern.”


“Well, yes, but they don’t happen to me, I just watch them. Except for today when a man fell in love with me. Sometimes the drunk ones do that, but this one was different.”


I admit, I was jealous. I decided as soon as I heard it that I would kill him.


Chapter 3.



After Angelica left I went back to my room. I got out my finest clothes for my gentleman’s disguise, made sure they were in perfect condition, then shaved, put on a beard, eyeglasses, and the clothes, and I left the dog with some food and I went out in search of Angelica’s tavern.


It was not hard to find. I had thought earlier, when she told me of it, that I had been there before, and I had and I recognized it immediately.


It was dark and I watched through the window a bustling crowd. It took a few minutes, but I saw my love and took notice of her positioning, and positioned myself so that I was far enough away that she would not look at me but close enough that I could see whoever she spoke to.


It was a very nice and warm place and I drank a little and enjoyed the chatter around me and the faces. I would like to say here that I am not a drunk, and that I have impeccable self control around spirits, but the occasion and disguise called for it. I am not one of those sloppy street men.


Anyhow, I was waiting and watching and listening, and on several occasions a young man, and I mean different young men, approached my angel. It was therefore impossible for me to understand who it was that was in love with my love, so I could not challenge any of them.


To be quite honest though, I didn’t mind. The warmth of the tavern and crowd and liquor had put me in a lazy mood, and I did not feel like fighting just then. I decided I would have to ask Angelica about this man, to find distinguishing features, and then I would pounce like a tiger. I went back home and the dog was just fine and I slept soundly.


The next day I met my dear in the same spot at around the same time in the afternoon.


“Hello darling, we’ve missed you.”


“And I you.”


“Did you have a nice night at work?”


“Yes, fairly. I saw my new man and I must say he is almost as interesting as you my dear piper.”


“You flatter me. If you think me interesting it is because of my age and experience.”


“Yes, exactly. You seem like the type to have been everywhere.”


“What have you got there?” I asked.


“Just a little treat for the prince.”


“I see that. How courteous of you.”


“It’s the least I could do.”


“Yes, so tell me about your young man. What makes him interesting? Does he have nice clothes with very plush scarves?”


I asked this because one of her suitors from the night before had a very fancy scarf. To be honest I wanted to take it.


“No, it’s nothing like that. It’s his personality.”


“Interesting, but what does he look like? I’ve heard that you can tell a lot about a man by his style. It was in the paper.”


“Oh, well, he’s tall, but not too tall, and he has blue eyes, and he has a sprinkling of sawdust on his shoulders. He’s a carpenter you see, and only works a few streets over and stops by on his way home.”


“What about his name? Does he have a good carpenter’s name?”


“I couldn’t say. About a good carpenter name. His name is Duke. I like it.”


“Yes, interesting. Quite the name. Duke the carpenter. Has he attempted to touch you?”


“Are you being protective piper? I assure you he has not, but I shouldn’t mind if he tried. He’s very handsome and strong.”


“Strong? How can you tell?”


“By his hands and his shoulders. I always look at a man’s hands and shoulders.”


“Yes, very intelligent of you dear.”


We spoke for a little while longer but it wasn’t important, and when she left I went in search of this carpenter. It didn’t take me long.


“Hello, are you the man to talk to about a table?” I asked.


“Yes.”


“Very good. Might I see some wood samples?”


“Of course.”


This man fit the description perfectly. He was slightly taller than average with broad shoulders and blue eyes. We were an even match physically I could tell, so I would have to outsmart him.


“Here you are,” he said, and I looked and pretended to be an expert.


“This here, cherry?”


“No, here.”


“Ah yes, my wife wanted cherry.”


“Excellent choice sir.”


“Yes, is it though? What does my wife know? What about this one?”


“That’d be kingwood.”


“Much better than cherry. Much more masculine, don’t you think?”


“Very dark sir.”


“Yes, nice and dark. My wife will have to submit to my style. And why shouldn’t she?”


“Is it kingwood then?” he asked.


“Yes.”


“Very good, what size and shape would you like?”


“I don’t know, do you have something to look at?”


“Yes, I’ve some drawings.”


He took me to the book of drawings and I thumbed through it, making a show of serious discernment, but they all looked so similar that it wouldn’t matter which I bought, of course, if I was actually going to buy something.


“Yes, very interesting indeed, pieces of art, as they say, but, now that I’ve seen it all, I really must consult my wife.”


“Very well.”


“Yes, very well, I may be back on the morrow. Good day.”


I left, took the dog from the lamp post where I had left him, and went home. I needed to think, to plan, and the best way of doing that is to rest.

Chapter 4.




Now, my friends, if I told the average person how much my mind winds, and how fast, they would simply not believe me. But you, you understand, because you see the genius I usually hide from view.


And on that night I met the carpenter face to face my mind spun wilder than it ever has before. I concocted the most elaborate schemes, like mazes, no, mazes within mazes. He was like a laboratory rat in my imaginative machinations.


I sent his ghost through traps of all kinds, dazzling his weak brain with my magician like deftness. With a flick of a wrist I would completely dismember him, or drown him, or explode him.


In fact, I became so preoccupied with the results of my future entrapments that I neglected to analyze the efficacy and efficiency of each of these modes of travel into the hell my enemy belonged.


Did I want booms and bombs? The theatrics! But were they too complicated? Were they too loud? I would have to deceive the authorities as well, would I not? Yes, so perhaps I should be shrewd, and save the loudness for the celebrations.


I then thought of poison. Slow, painful, a weakening that would render him unattractive to my angel. Yes, yes, yes. At every moment I would win, not just at the denouement. I would have that triumph too, of course, in his last moments at the hospital. I would look into his yellowed sickly eyes and announce my victory, and his last thought would be of my greatness.


Yes, so I had to become friends with him. But not at first. I would have to be a stranger until after the poisonings became apparent. To not be suspected you see. You must always plan these things when you are at war. But how? I did not know. I decided then to sleep on it.


In the morning the answer was simple. I would wear many costumes and find out my rival’s exact schedule, and then I would find the most opportune moment to eviscerate him.


That afternoon I saw Angelica again.


“Good afternoon Piper!” she said to me happily.


“And you my Angel.”


“And you my little prince,” she said to the dog, who chirped at her like usual.


“Did you have a nice evening?” I asked.


“Oh yes, very nice. I saw my new man again.”


I did not want to talk about my rival, but it was an opportunity to gain information.


“Did he say anything interesting to you?”


“Yes, I think so, but I can’t really remember. I drank a bit because I was nervous and it all must have fell out of my mind.”


“That’s all right, I’m sure it was just talk of chairs and tables. I on the other hand had another adventure.”


“No! Did you get hurt again?”


“No, no, my dear, I rarely get hurt in my adventures. It is only lately that luck has taken its toll on me. Perhaps it is to balance out having met you.”


“You’re too kind.”


“Yes, kindness is my weakness. It’s why I must go on adventures, to keep myself sharp, and masculine, and rough, and all the other things our natures require. I would much rather be a kindly old gentleman, but I haven’t the riches or the estate.”


“I love you all the same, especially for taking in my poor prince Archie, and feeding him the fanciest cheeses and bringing him to me.”


“Naturally. Caring for small animals is a necessity for the soul.”


“Yes, I believe so too.”


For a moment I forgot where the conversation was going, but then I remembered I was going to tell her of my adventure.


“Last evening, when you were at work, I set out on a quest to save animal souls, and thus my own.”


I expected her to make an exclamation, but she was staring with beautiful rapt attention, so I continued.


“You see, I was tossing and turning the night we first met, unable to sleep, because of the purity of your soul and your love for my little dog, and I had a revelation. It was my destiny to save all the little animals in the city.”


“That’s very noble of you. And wonderful.”


“Thank you my dear, it’s nothing really, just destiny, which no man chooses but rather is chosen, by our dear lord above. To continue, I had the wild and amazing vision of an orphanage just for cats and dogs. It would be simple of course, I would not want to draw the attention to myself rather than the little ones, but I envisioned a huge house, where the dogs and cats could eat and drink and play as they like. No longer would they be mangy mutts and scruffy scrawny scrimpers, but fat, healthy, athletic, noble, clean beasts.”


“That sounds like a dream. You really do have a heart of gold my dear piper.”


“Yes, but I can’t help it. If I could I would choose a hard stone, like the man last night who attacked me.”


“No! You were attacked?”


“Yes, I’m sad to say, but not for myself, but for the soul of my attacker. After his time in prison he will surely go to hell, unless of course he repents.”


“What happened? Did he attack my little prince too?”


“No, no, the dog was eating his dinner quite happily when the man came.”


“Good, I’m thankful.”


“Yes, yes, I always keep the little dog out of the way. It’s only natural. As I was saying, I was out on an adventure when this strange man waylaid me with an inquisition and a jeering smile. He said to me, is that your dog? And I did not know what to say. My first thought was that he wanted to eat the little dog, probably because of the other man who was foaming at the mouth, but in any case, this man, who had evil blue eyes, continued, saying, I used to have a dog like that, but he died of a mysterious sickness.”


“No!” said Angelica, and she clutched the little dog tighter.


“I’m afraid so. It was becoming clear with every passing second, that the man was a mental torturer. His expressions were menacing and his words abysmal, yet he smiled. The wickedness was enough to shiver your bones. I said to him, I am sorry to hear that, I hope it won’t happen to mine, for I am very fond of him, as if he were my own brother.”


“Archie’s my baby. What happened next?”


“Well, the man looked us over, as if he was appraising us, and he said, I want to feed your dog, just like that. I want to feed your dog. And before you start my dear angel, understand that he was cold in his manner and tone, unlike you with your warmness, so there was something queer in the contrast between the words and his manner. My first thought was that he wanted to feed the little dog poison, to kill it like his dog, for perhaps the mysterious sickness was not mysterious at all, but a poison administered by its own evil owner, this man with blue eyes.”


“Yes, that’s very frightening. I only wish he didn’t have blue eyes, because, it’s silly really, but my new man has blue eyes. Can you change them to green, or black?”


“No no, I’m sorry, but we must be extremely accurate when it comes to villains and hoodlums. The police must be able to recognize them on sight, and seize them up before they inflict their terribleness on unsuspecting innocent citizens.”


“Oh, all right, I understand, but I’m going to pretend in my own head that he’s a green eyed monster. Like a snake. Do snakes have green eyes, or is it only their skin?”


“Snakes? We’re getting off the track now my angel, but snakes have skins of every color.”


“I’m sorry piper, please continue.”


“Thank you, and no need to apologize to me, you could flog me in public and I would still praise your gentle touch. But to continue again, I said to him, That is not necessary sir, for I have already fed him, and the man said to me, I can tell you have not fed him properly. I then said to him, It is my concern and not yours, this is not your dead dog. He then screwed up his face like a devilish madman, and saying nothing he lunged toward the dog, but I being quicker than he lunged at him and knocked him down before he could touch the tiny animal. This seemed to knock some sense into him, seeing that I would defeat him physically, so he went back to his mental torture and said to me, You are a very good owner.”


“Yes, you are, but how queer to behave in such ways. Perhaps it was the lord testing you.”


“Yes, perhaps, but I had the feeling it was the opposite. Satan himself could not have felt more evil, so, by logic, it was Satan. Bested, he slunk away into the shadows, and I went in the opposite direction, to a nearby church, to make sure he would not approach the little dog again.”


“That was very wise of you,” said Angelica.


“No, it was a normal reaction. Most would do as I did.”


“You tell the most exciting stories piper. I hope that as long as I come here for my afternoon break you will never run out of them.”


“I don’t anticipate that sad day dear lady, for as I have said, I go out on adventures daily, and thus have a continuous supply of new stories.”


“Good. Now I must go back to work,” she said, and she hugged the dog but did not hug me and she left.


I took the little dog back to my room and I was feeling very tired, most probably from using my mind too much, and I rested to get ready for my spy missions.



Chapter 5.




That night I dressed like a silly person. Or perhaps I should say a country person, for they are the same thing to me. These silly country people sometimes do not wear hats, perhaps because they cannot afford them, I’m not entirely sure. I’ve never asked. In fact I avoid talking to silly country people because they never have any money or fancy clinking trinkets. They’ve always seemed to me to be like blankets or quilts. I don’t know how to explain, except that they are warm and floppy and droopy and plain, except for their strange country quirks, like the patterns they put into their quilts. It was in this disguise that I went to my Angel’s place of work.


I did not take the dog of course, for she surely would have recognized us.


When I was safely inside, I bought myself a drink, and instead of sitting I walked around to find other silly country people to make friends with. Unfortunately there were none, so I sat down near the door to watch for the carpenter. It did not take long for him to appear, and he looked as plain as the day before. He saw me, and for a moment I thought he might recognize me, but his stupid face only glanced and glanced away, and went up to Angelica, who was serving at the bar.


I could not hear them, though I could see their disgusting smiles. I wanted to go up next to them, and hear them, but it would be too obvious. I was stuck, to state it plainly, and I realized that I would never get any good information out of this place.


So I changed my plans and decided to follow him home. I could listen at his window, and learn his weaknesses, or find a wife perhaps. Angelica would need to know about a wife.


I finished my drink and I left the building. It was dark, though there were street lamps, and I found a nice spot on some steps in the shadows on the other side of the road.


This carpenter didn’t make me wait long for his exit, and I followed him home with ease. It was quite a longer walk than I had expected, almost to the country, or somewhere that looked it, but he never even turned around. He was not in a hurry, and whistled now and again, and I did not, and I walked with the nimbleness of a cat.


His house was small and plain. There were no animals to be seen and I was glad, for I did not want to have to hurt or kill a guard dog in order to do my spying.


He was not greeted and his door did not appear to be locked. I know that you are wondering how I could know this in the dark, but my dear friends, it is simple. I could not see details of his movements, because it was dark, but I could see his entire figure move and open the door with one simple movement. He did not move for his pockets or to lift a pot, he simple pushed it open, and inside it was dark.


I waited for five minutes or so before approaching, and I did so from a different way than that way he and I had come. As I was passing his house, I could see that no one was watching, so I diverted my path into his yard, to the side of his house, and carefully sat down beside a window.


I could see a faint light emanating forth and out through the window, and I took the bold chance of peering in.


I saw nothing but pieces of furniture. It cluttered the room. The man himself was not to be seen.


I removed my face from the window and listened for his movements. I heard nothing and became restless, so I crept along the side of the house to another window. I listened again, and hearing nothing peeked in. This window had drapes blocking my view.


I went back to the first window, but it seemed darker, and when I looked in I saw that the light was gone.


I realized that the man had gone to bed, and wouldn’t provide me with any useful information, so I went home.

Chapter 6.




The next afternoon I met Angelica again at our special little meeting place, and like always, she doted on the little dog and requested a story of my adventures.


“Well then dear, prepare yourself for harrowing horror,” I told her.


She of course clutched at the dog like a pillow, and she was beautiful doing it, what with her big eyes and that ethereal glow women sometimes have.


“You see, I went into the depths of hell last night, I’m sure of it,” I said, although you and I both know I’m exaggerating and embellishing a little for theatrical effect.


“I saw the cold man with his evil blue eyes again, on the perimeter of the city.”


“Oh no!”


“Oh yes. I don’t know what brought me there, for I usually stay with the hustle and bustle, but I’d wandered further than I would have liked, on a whim, and there, coming out from some building, was that evil specter. He looked all around, menacingly, and it was quite lucky for me that I was resting in the shadows and no doubt invisible to him.”


“What about prince Archie? Did he keep his calm?”


“Oh yes dear, of course. He didn’t let off one peep, and the evil man went off, most likely in search of a victim. I, being a protector by nature, followed him, to give help to the victim of his inevitable violence.”


At this point I had to clear my throat, because it did not look like she was paying attention.


“Are you okay piper?”


“Yes, why wouldn’t I be?”


“Nothing, I just thought you might have a sore throat.”


“No, no, I just haven’t the speaking stamina of my youth, when I used to make my political speeches.”


“You were in politics?”


“Yes dear, I was the voice of the common man, but I must get back to the story from last night.”


“Oh yes, you were following someone very evil.”


“Yes. The evil man with blue eyes was lurking and creeping and stalking the cold and dark. I followed behind, to lend a helping hand to his future victims. However, interestingly, he did not assault anyone. He wound his way through town, and I, in his wake, and eventually he came to a large tenement building.”


“How interesting. I live in a tenement building. Where was it?”


“You do? You should have told me. I’ll look all over the city to find you something better. Where is your current residence? I’ll look in that area first.”


“I’m on the south side. South east I guess, if you want to be exact.”


“Good, good, I’ll look around for a more suitable place for you. This building, that the evil man with blue eyes went into was on the north side, but now that I think about it, I’m not sure if it was more toward the east or west, what with all the winding and snaking through the alleyways he did. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that he went in and I followed him. I had to hide the little dog of course, to keep him safe and to keep the demon from recognizing us, so I put him behind some rubbish bins and left him some cheese to eat and my newspapers to sit on.”


“That was very thoughtful of you.”


“It was? No, it was nothing, it was normal.”


“Yes it was very thoughtful. Most men I meet aren’t keen on taking care of our furry little friends.”


“Most men are not I. What was I saying?”


“You followed the man into the building.”


“Yes, I followed him in, intent on bashing him down for his crimes.”


“What crimes?”


“The crimes he was about to commit!”


I startled her. I was glad of it. She needed to know, to feel how dangerous things were for me.


“As I was saying, I followed him in, and because I had to tie up the dog, I almost lost him. When I went in I could not see him. There was a long corridor going a long ways to the left, and another going a long ways to the right. In front of me was a staircase going up. I followed my intuition and went left. I tried to walk quietly, though briskly, to be alerted to him but not to alert him, if you understand what I mean.”


“I understand.”


“Yes, and I almost lost him. I was walking down this hall, and I passed an open door. I briefly glanced in, and I saw him, shaking a woman violently. Her back was toward me, and he would have seen me if he weren’t so intensely focused on the woman. I walked past the doorway, and pressed myself up on the wall to listen.”


“Then what happened? You’re making me nervous!”


“I just have to catch my breath dear, and gather my courage, for he spake the most vulgar obscenities and blasphemies. No, I won’t repeat them exactly, I don’t want to harm your soul, but I have to brace myself for the memories of his wickedness.”


I waited for Angelica to ask more questions, but she did not, though her eyes were very big, and beautiful in their fear.


“He shouted that he would kill her, that he would rip her into little pieces and boil them for the dogs. He called her the most filthy things any man has ever invented and he growled like a wild beast. The woman sobbed and pleaded and begged for her life, but he just laughed like a madman, a cackle of indecent lunacy that irritated my ears and nerves. Then he threw her against the wall, which I knew because I felt the thud and he cursed her and ran out. He went the way he had come, which was opposite to where I was standing, and he didn’t notice me at all. It was very odd, but he ran like he was running away, as if something was chasing him, like he was prey rather than the predator and hunter he had seemed with his violent tirade against the woman. I wonder, did he somehow feel my presence and my pursuit?”


“Oh, yes, he must have, really.”


“Yes, but alas, he got away.”


“No! You couldn’t catch him?”


“No, I’m afraid I stopped to look in after the little woman, and in so doing he completely escaped me.”


“Was she all right?”


“Yes yes fine fine. She cried a little but she was alive.”


“Good. I’m happy for her. That was quite the wild tale.”


I nodded solemnly.


“I should probably be going then,” she said, and she left.

Chapter 7.




I was not looking forward to that evening.


I had already proved that spying in the tavern was a fool’s errand, and fruitless.


I needed a new plan, or a new course to take, but it was not readily available in my mind as it so often is. It was therefore obvious to me that I had overtaxed my mind again.


While my lady and my rival were no doubt socializing, I was writhing in bed, restless and unable to make an intelligent enough plan. What constantly came into my mind was that I should just kill the man, at once, and taking the woman for myself.


But could I get away with it? Was it too risky? I could not say either way, so I decided to take a little walk, in the direction of his house, and if an opportunity to enter before him presented itself, perhaps I would take it. Surely he would have a knife of some sort to complete the deed with or some other sort of carpenter’s tool. What a fool.


What kind of fool would leave his house unlocked? It was all too simple to dispose of this simpleton, and as I left the little dog to his corner, I was repulsed at the thought of the ease of this solution. I had wanted something more elegant, something I could show to Angelica, that would prove my intelligence over his, and a simple walk to his residence followed by a simple bash in the head wasn’t a good enough story. Deep down, I desperately wanted a worthy opponent.


I grumbled these things to myself as I trudged in the dark to the neighborhood of this blue eyed simpleton, and when I came to his house, which was dark, I had the overwhelming urge to turn around. It must have been something noble from my soul, or a guardian angel, if I believed in such nonsense, but in any matter I disregarded it and circled round and took up my spot beneath the window.


It was quiet and dark and after waiting a little while to make sure he wasn’t home, I went around to the door and knocked softly. I had the plan that if he answered, I would pretend to be lost, and if he didn’t answer, I would enter. He didn’t answer, and so I entered.


There was enough moonlight to avoid bumping into the furniture, and also enough that I found a candle and matches in the kitchen. However, I decided not to make an unnatural light, to avoid detection from a distance.


I walked around the house but nothing was too unusual. His bedroom was simple, with only a bed and a dresser, and the kitchen which I just mentioned, had a little round table and two chairs.


There were three knives and I considered taking one, but I decided it was probably unnecessary. I had worked myself up a little, a little too much perhaps, and dealing with this insignificant fool would hardly require violence and the risks inherent in it.


I left the house untouched and went to the tavern.


When I arrived I looked in through the window, and to my slight surprise, I did not see the man, though I did see Angelica. I decided to go in and see her.


“Piper!” She squealed happily when she saw me approach.


“Yes, dear, we’ve seem to have found each other once again.”


“But where is my little prince?” she said, and looked down to my ankles.


“I left him comfortably at home in his corner. I do not like bringing such vulnerable and fragile things into rough places like this.”


“I see, yes, that’s very smart. Would you like a drink?”


“Sure sure, whatever you think suits me.”


She took a moment to pour and I took the time to analyze the room. You must always analyze rooms when you go into rough places my young fellows, so that you know where the trouble is likely to come from.


“Here you are,” she said, and handed me something very dark.


“Good and strong,” I said after a sip.


“You like it?”


“I do,” I said.


I wondered if she was going to ask for money, but it seemed she forgot and her forgetfulness was my fortune.


“Oh, look at them, I’ll be busy all night I’m afraid,” and I saw that she was looking at a large group of young lads that had just entered the establishment.


“That’s the way these things are, I’m afraid, but I’ll go and wait in the corner if you get a break, and perhaps I’ll have a story for you.”


“I’d like that,” she said, and as she prepared herself for the oncoming crowd, I retreated to the corner to watch.


They were half my age, this new crowd. I haven’t told you as of yet, but I myself am a very young looking 47. I follow all the latest health trends that are published in the papers, and I’m often mistaken for someone in his thirties. I have a habit of asking you see, for I find the difference between truth and appearance fascinating.


I may have mentioned it in passing, but I have a wide variety of clothes, that I have organized into highly sophisticated disguises. I would like to tell you about them, but I wouldn’t like to be recognized, so I will not. Rest assured, they are extravagant.


The young men were bubbling and bobbing their heads, and laughing loudly and making passes at all the women who passed them.


More and more people came, until I could not see Angelica at all without standing up. So instead of looking in her beautiful direction, I watched the door for my rival. I was there for over an hour and he did not come, and when my drink was all drunk up I left, though I resumed my waiting outside.


For another hour I was steadfast in my watchfulness, but the man never showed himself. I therefore resigned myself to home, content with meeting Angelica again on the morrow, at our usual place.


The dog was fine and I slept well.


“Hello, piper, and hello my little friend,” said Angelica upon our meeting the next afternoon.


“Good afternoon,” I said.


“We were quite busy last night after we talked, and when the crowd thinned out I couldn’t find you.”


“Yes, yes, I left. I had to get back to your little friend there remember? I left him all alone at home.”


“Oh, that’s right. And I’m sure a cute little thing like you wasn’t any trouble at all.”


“No, no trouble. None at all. In fact, sometimes I get the feeling that the young prince is a homebody and prefers a warm fire to the dark and murky streets.”



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