Alright ladies and gentlemen. This is it. This is the one you've all not been asking about.
The story you never demanded!
A feature-length thriller starring our two favorite anthropomorphic animal detectives.
Just give it a chance, okay?
Contrary to the popular trope, it was a clear, beautiful day. The sun was a coin of shimmering gold brilliance, birds merrily sang jaunty tunes in hopes of seducing a mate.
The fresh scent of spring assaulted the skies, like a boxer warming up to go toe-to-toe with Rocky. Blades of grass dripped with early morning dew, like blood on a samurai sword.
Tall trees yawned into the sky, lush emerald leaves fluttering on branches like a million exotic dancers in Day-Glo green.
A lonely truck rolled along a narrow road…although ‘road’ might be a tad generous. Unkempt hiking trail might have hit the nail closer on the head. Less than a hundred vehicles had previously traveled down the trail, their tire tracks cutting parallel lines through the gorgeous forest.
Roils of mud in the tracks engulfed a truck’s tires, causing it to get stuck.
“For fowl’s sake, I told you not to take those back roads!” Quacksalot growled, slamming the door of the red pickup truck shut.
Hopping around the side, Joey was unabashed.
“Hey, how was I t’know they’d all be washed out?”
Quacksalot struck a match against his bill, lighting a large cigar.
“Maybe the sign that said ‘road unsafe’ was a clue?”
“Hey, the way I see it, this is your fault.”
“My fault?” Quacksalot repeated, plume of smoke pouring from his mouth.
“Yeah,” Joey nodded, his long nose like an accusing finger. “If you hadn’t been so fussy about the radio and demanded I change it, I would’ve seen the sign in time to avoid getting stuck in the muck.”
Quacksalot rolled his eyes and shook his head disparagingly.
“Just call a towie, would you?”
Joey cocked his head at Quacksalot.
“Since when d’you speak Strine, mate?”
“Since I got stuck working with a kangaroo.”
“Touché. Sounds like a handsome lad.”
“The adjectives I’d use are annoying, smelly, and gangly.”
Joey shot wide amber eyes at his partner.
“Excuse you, I shampoo with Pantene; I smell like a strawberry milkshake. And I’d rather be gangly than short, squat, and squinty.”
“Squinty?!” Quacksalot angrily straightened his fedora, his narrowed eyes doing little to dispute Joey’s claims of squintiness. “Now you listen here, you over stuffed marsupial – ”
“Ah excuse me, folks, do you need any help?”
From a pathway off the beaten track our quarrelling half-quartet had journeyed down, a man in camouflage pants and a tan t-shirt appeared.
Joey and Quacksalot snapped their heads at the hunter, then at each other, only to shoot back to the hunter.
The hunter was unarmed, not so much as a stich of a weapon to be found, but he was a hunter. Something in his eyes.
With a whispered chorus, the trees danced and bushes rustled, a rather serene scene.
At least without the rusted red truck in the muck. That was too much rustic for the nature norms.
“Uh, you wouldn’t happen to have something we could use to get outta the mud, would you?” Quacksalot said, taking initiative. “This idjit – ” he nodded at Joey, who shot a tongue out, “ – ran us aground in this gunk.”
The hunter considered it, apparently entirely unfazed that he was talking to a kangaroo and a duck.
“Yeeah,” he answered, stretching the first syllable. “I might have something back up in my cabin, why don’t you follow me down here.”
He hitched a thumb over his shoulder, back down the trail he had come off of.
Through the trees, shafts of golden sun lanced through the path.
Joey and Quacksalot passed another glance and the former shrugged.
“Yeah, why not,” Joey said. “Doesn’t look too dodgy.”
Fondly patting the rusty red truck, Joey hopped over to the hunter.
“Well, ain’t you the cutey,” the hunter said, stroking under Joey’s chin.
Immediately, the kangaroo smacks the hunter’s hand away.
“Hey hey hey!” Joey objected. “Watch the fur, mate, the ladies love my fur nice and smooth.”
“Oh do they?” grumbled Quacksalot, waddling after his friend. “I thought they liked you better skinned around their shoulders.”
Joey rolled his eyes.
“Pfft, I’m not going to stoop to your level. Oh, by the way – the Chinese restaurant called, said you had an interview to fill an order.”
Warily, the hunter cast an arched eye between the pair.
“You two are worse than an old married couple,” he declared.
“How much further? My feet are killing me,” Quacksalot complained, straightening his fedora as an errant branch made designs to swipe it off his head.
“Not far,” the hunter assured. “Just around this bend.”
Indeed, he had no sooner spoken the words than the house loomed into view. It was a modern single story ranch style house with a neatly maintained lawn and a pristinely painted white picket fence. Off in the distance was a red barn that might have held a horse or two or a rattle of cattle.
Joey and Quacksalot exchange a quick glance.
You were expecting a ramshackle hut or a dilapidated haunted house?
“Hm, nice place,” Joey comments.
The hunter flashes a carelessly good-natured smile.
“Thanks. I do all the painting and carpentry.”
The picket fence swung open with nary a squeak to betray any sort of nefarious intents beyond its innocent boundaries.
“So do you have a phone or some kitty litter we could use?” Quacksalot inquires, not half as impressed by the pretty house as Joey. Let the young’un be seduced by such things. Quacksalot had a mission and this mud sucked truck was an impediment.
“I can go you one better: I’ve an ATV in the barn that could pull your truck out,” the hunter said. “First though, why not step inside for a quick bite? You two look awfully tired.”
Never one to turn down food, Joey eagerly nodded his head.
“Sounds alright to me!”
Quacksalot frowned, catching an odd scent on his beak. A heavy smell laced with a sickly sweetness. It was faint, originating from a location further off, but the wafting aroma hit the duck like a kangaroo kick to the gut.
Something like meat left out and sewage.
“What’s that smell?” he wondered, crinkling.
Joey flared his nostrils, catching a whiff.
“Oh that’s just my wife; she’s making dinner, don’t worry, it tastes better than it smells,” the hunter assured the two.
Quacksalot remained unconvinced.
Stepping on the porch, not a single board creaked in distress of either the kangaroo or the duck crossing its threshold.
Here, the nasty odor observed was overpowered by an intoxicating scent of fresh paint.
“Whoa….easy does it on the lacquer, mate,” Joey commented, wrinkling his nose. “I’m getting light-headed….”
“There’s nothing new, you’ve always been an airhead,” Quacksalot chuffed. Though he wrinkled his nose as well.
The hunter held a hand up.
“Uh, would you mind putting that out?” He eyed the duck’s cigar. “The Missus don’t take kindly to smoking…”
As though he’d been asked to shave his feathers, Quacksalot was aghast and practically molted at the request.
“This is a Cuban!” he grumbled, complying nonetheless, flicking it aside.
Inside, the door opened into a modest foyer/living room. Rich hardwood was sprawled beneath their feet. Directly across the entrance was a large picture window with a breathtaking view of a vast sea of trees, dotted in the distance were several mountains. Adjacent the picture window, a squashy sofa encouraged all bookophiles to curl up in its cozy contours.
Across the couch, a handsome, stone carved fireplace idly sat.
“No telly?” Joey noted, a trace of disappointment in his voice.
“No need for it out here,” the hunter proclaimed, a prideful tide rolling off his tongue. “Just lookit that view!” He cast an arm to the picture window.
“So whaddya do when it gets dark out?” Quacksalot grumbled, somewhat sardonically.
“Euchre,” the hunter immediately answered. “…among other things.”
His eyes grew dreamy and traveled to look off at the fireplace, a special twinkle glowing, as if conjuring the sight of flames in his eyes.
Most probably, mating rituals was meant to be the perceived answer.
Off to the left, an open archway led to the kitchen where a woman bustled over a range.
“Edward, would mind looking at the air conditioning? It’s making that funny sound again – oh, hello.” She turned, brushing her hands on an apron and issued a polite, if puzzled smile at Edward and his guests.
“Sweetheart, this here is…”
He paused for a Planck, aware he didn’t know their names.
Luckily, our daring duo decide to supply them.
“Joey,” said the kangaroo.
“Quacksalot,” said the duck, tipping his fedora.
“Charmed, I’m Rose,” said the woman, stroking the top of Joey’s head. “Ooh, you’re so soft! And what a cute vest!”
Joey shot Quacksalot a smug look.
“They had a bit of trouble with their truck, I was going to give them a hand,” Edward explained.
“Oh, well, won’t you stay for dinner?” Rose sweetly invited.
Her trill carried a vague thrill.
The back of Quackslot’s feather tingled unpleasantly. Like an ant crawling up an appendage.
As if the pair had rehearsed this dialogue before.
“Uh, nah, that’s okay, we wouldn’t want to impose – ” Quacksalot feebly began, taking a step back towards the door.
His tail bumped into something and he whipped his head around to see another male, clad in plaid standing in front of the door.
“We insist,” he sinisterly intoned, attaching the lock chain to the door.
“Holy heron…um…y’know, I’ve really got to get back and feed my cat…” Quacksalot weakly fibbed.
“I thought your cat died?” Joey inquired. The duck shot an exasperated look. “Oh right, we’re trying to escape. Yeah, um, I’ve got a kick boxing lesson with Chris Hemsworth, y’know, the God of Thunder.”
“That can wait,” Rose sweetly claimed, unsheathing a large chef’s knife from behind her apron.
Joey raised a dubious finger, rotating the hand clockwise, then counterclockwise to convey his doubts.
“Actually, I’d rather not, he gets angry when I make him wait and well….I wouldn’t want to make him angry.”
“I’m going to die next to a dork.”
“If it’s any consolation, I’d’ve preferred to not die next to a water goose.”
“Oh you won’t die,” Edward assured them.
“At least…not immediately,” the plaid clad lad said, crossing to the fireplace and fiddling with a stuffed owl decorated above the mantle. A mechanical cracking echoed inside the tiny house and a moment later large metal plates began descending over all the glass windows.
“Aw man, this just turned into Saw ‘Meats’ Texas Chainsaw,” Joey moaned, the metal scraping down the sides sounding like screams from past victims, begging for help.
“Don’t worry, sweetie, you won’t feel a thing,” Rose assured, smiling wide enough to reveal the tips of particularly pointy teeth.
She placed an icy hand on the kangaroo’s arm. Her grip was solid, like a vice.
“I know, that’s what scares me,” said Joey, ever the valiant snark. “Usually, I prefer – ”
“Joey! for your children’s sake, keep it G,” Quacksalot warned.
Slowly, Edward approached Quacksalot, similarly spreading his lips in a vast grin to reveal his fanged teeth.
“How rude of me; I didn’t introduce you to the rest of my family. This is Robert,” he held an arm up to the lad clad in plaid before addressing him. “Why don’t you introduce our guests to the rest of our family?”
Robert’s eyelids slanted maliciously, a fleck of red shining in them.
“With pleasure,” he hissed, fiddling another button on the owl.
This time, there was an old, chalky sound and the fireplace itself began to sink into the wall, revealing a stairwell below.
“The nest,” Quacksalot whispered, catching Joey’s eye.
“That’s why we never found it before,” Joey agreed.
Only here does Edward lose his cool composure, roughly grabbing a snatch of Quacksalot’s chest.
“What are you quacking about, duck?”
Swift as a spider sailing the sea with its silk, Quacksalot whirls ninety degrees in order to turn Edward into position to receive a classic kangaroo kick from Joey.
The force of the blow blasts the hunter against the picture window, now covered in steel.
Jabbing an elbow back, Joey bashes in Rose’s face, knocking her to the ground. Bones break with a sickening crunch.
“I’m sorry, sorry, sorry, I don’t normally like to hit women…” Joey explained, bending to check on his captor…and netting a vicious bop on the nose for his troubles
“How dare you?!” Robert snarls, darting for Quacksalot.
The dashing duck smashes Robert’s face against the base of the nest’s entrance, sending him sprawling down the stairs.
Glancing at his partner, Quacksalot rolled his eyes.
“C’mon, quit flirting with the wife; that’s what got you in trouble in St. Gallen!”
“Don’t have to tell me twice!” Joey assured, bouncing to his feet and hopping back to the front door.
Touching the security chain, Joey issued a sharp yelp, finding the metal scalding hot to the touch.
“Wassamatter? Let’s go!” Quacksalot insisted.
Ignoring him, Joey twitched his nose, not liking what his nostrils were telling him. Confirming his fears, between the crack of the door and the floor, a thin fog filtered in.
“Smoke!” Joey hissed. “The whole porch is on fire!”
“Confounded lacquer,” Quacksalot tsked, shaking his head. “I tried to warn the guy.”
Joey raised an eyebrow.
“Yeah no, I’m sure your flicking a stoagie away had nothing to do with it, mate.”
“Oh nobody likes a bogan.”
Wishing they had some marshmallows, they sighed and met eyes.
“Through the nest?”
“Through the nest.”
“But first, to the kitchen!” Joey ordered, aiming a finger and springing off his feet.
“We don’t have time for snacks!” Quacksalot objected, groaning and waddling after him anyway.
The kitchen was tiled in black and white, reminiscent of a chess board, surrounded by stainless steel appliances that waited for the players to make a move.
Frantically, player one, hopped from drawer to shelf to cupboard door, pawing through their contents.
“What’re you looking for?” Quacksalot pondered, despite himself.
“Rule number fifteen: A hero’s only as good as his weapon. I’m not going down there unarmed,” Joey answered, without missing a beat, “we need some garlic.”
Quacksalot regarded his friend as though he were mad. Which, y’know, could be.
“Do you really think a house of vampires is going to just have a clove of garlic hanging around? That’s the ONE thing that could hurt them, that’d be like Superman keeping a sack of kryptonite in his Fortress of Solitude – ”
Triumphantly, Joey ripped open the pantry door and dug out a netted bag of white cloves.
“ – oh, you found some,” the duck noted. “Very well, let’s do this.”
Divvying the clove up, the pair proceeded back into the living room.
Gulping, they set a foot down into the fireplace tunnel, each step taking them further down, the entrance growing fainter and fainter until only a faint flicker the size of a postage stamp suggested the fire had finally invaded the house.
“You sure this’ll lead out?” Joey inquired, his surefooted feet carefully finding the next step like a Californian immigrant panning for gold.
“Mostly?” Joey repeated. “Oh man, I knew I shouldda waited in the truck.”
“But then the bait wouldn’t have worked. Look, we said we’d see this through,” Quacksalot reminded.
“I know,” Joey grumbled, trudging down.
“Besides, a cave this size, there’d have to be a secondary access shaft to allow airflow,” Quacksalot reasoned.
“I’m glad your architectural degree is paying for itself,” Joey snipped. “I’m not really worried about airflow or secondary access.”
Neither was Quacksalot.
The stairs were wide and spacious in some areas, in others, they were so narrow our lithe legion of two had to go single file. Cracks stretched across the walls and floor. A single misstep would cause either to tumble mercilessly to the bottom.
The only sound beside their footpads’ gentle patter was an even more ominous dripping of something further below.
Most likely water.
That didn’t stop either from wondering if anyone would hear their screams if their blood was dripping out.
Curling around a tumultuous turn, a new den assaulted their ears: a ghoulishly low sound that sent unwelcome tingles through Joey’s fur and off Quacksalot’s bill.
It echoed off the walls.
An organ. Playing Toccata and Fugue in D minor.
Grimly, Quacksalot shot Joey a look.
They were getting closer.
Another bend and they saw a light glowing below. It flickered and danced, jumping on the wall as a shadow demon, eager to greet the newcomers.
The stone stairs opened into a vast cavern of roughly hewn stone walls.
Several candelabras spanned across the cavern. Stalactites and stalagmites pierced the top and bottom like the artery of a badly stabbed pirate.
“Oh holy Strokers,” Joey whispered.
Spread across the cavern, hundreds of coffins lay littered along the lair, like cockroaches.
“Don’t make a sound,” Quacksalot whispered, his duckish dialect clattering off the walls like a ship’s horn in a thick fog.
Joey rolled his eyes.
“Yeah, thanks, that was the general idea, feather brain,” he muttered, cautiously stepping around an open coffin.
Inside was a little girl in a blue and white checkered dress with a matching headband. Her eyes were closed and were it not for the occasional twitch, the kangaroo would’ve assumed her dead.
Must be a nice dream.
Yeah, probably just a nice fantasy about having dinner with her family, as they tear into kangaroo steaks with a side of roasted duck.
Toccata and Fugue continued to clamor off the walls, the intensity rising, rattling the very bones of our brazen boys.
Through the gloom of the soft candlelight, a modest organ rested against a wall with its organist caught in the moment, fingers flashing over the keys, their delicate dance producing petrifying patter.
Large brass pipes sprouted from the organ like faux stalagmite.
The organist didn’t seem to notice them and the peppy pair planned to leave the lair taking such care to leave the organist undisturbed.
Unfortunately, Quacksalot’s webbed foot bumped into a table, knocking over an unlit lantern.
The sound echoed off the cavern, a dim and dull thunk that would’ve been forgotten in the din of a standard school room.
The organist froze, Toccata and Fugue freezing mid-note, her finger poised over the key.
She turned, a young woman with smooth, crisp crimson hair, the same color as a sun setting upon a bay of blood.
Spying the scallywags sneaking through her dreary domain, a smile sprouts and she rises from the organ’s bench.
“Why hello. To what do I owe the pleasure?”
Joey swallowed, the gulping sound almost as loud as the table toe bashing.
“Um….we were just….”
“….passing through…” Quacksalot unhelpfully picked up.
“…to the…uh…” Joey glanced at his partner.
“…Bathroom,” they finished together.
“You don’t need to worry about us,” Quacksalot assured with a careless wave, setting the lantern back atop the table.
“Yeah, we promise, please, continue with your…uh….music?”
The thin smile seemed to spread as she sauntered towards them.
“Afraid I can’t do that without at least getting to know you boys.”
It may have been the diluted light, the organist’s eyes appeared pitch black.
“Joey, Quacksalot,” Joey introduced, jabbing a thumb at himself and his compadre. “I’m a kangaroo and he’s a duck.”
Unfazed, the woman hardly gives them a once over.
“How quaint, I am Muriel. Now…what brings you handsome devils down here?”
“Love to chat,” Quacksalot cut across, “but we’re late for tea time with a white rabbit.”
“Sir Quacksalot, actually,” he corrected. “The Queen knighted me in ’94.”
“Good year,” Joey nodded, fondly recalling their time travel adventure. “Wines were a little so-so, but mmm, those ladies – ”
Here at last, Muriel’s patience seemed to wane, the smile sliding back for an irked frown.
“Are you two for real?”
“Nah, we’re just a bad blood trip, all a hallucination,” Joey assured, waggling his fingers mystically. "Now go take a nap and we'll be gone."
The frank frown fizzed in favor of a classic sinister scowl.
“You have broken into our home – ” She made a grand sweeping gesture at her silently sleeping subjects.
“Technically we were invited in,” Quacksalot murmured.
“And offered din-din,” Joey agreed.
“Oh there will be…din-din. There will be a veritable feast,” Muriel snarled, her eyes slanted and pointed teeth protruding.
Addressing the coffins, she raised her arms, the tendons of her fingers popping as they spread.
“My children, get them!”
Her voice boomed with the reverberation of a hammer.
Immediately, a rustling filled the cavern, a mixed sonority of rustling leaves and wings and creaking wood.
To Joey and Quacksalot’s horror, heads began popping out of each coffin, eager eyes already devouring their fresh friends.
They came in all ages and genders and apparently social backgrounds. The blue dressed girl crawled with an old man missing teeth, a shimmering golden ring marking his most valuable possession, his second being a humble pair of suspender reduced to tatters.
A three fingered fellow in a fine suit lumbered next to a mangy girl with a shock of unchecked hair teased and tilted to every end.
“Oh come on! We’d barely be an appetizer for these guys!” Quacksalot whined, taking a cautious step back.
The hive of the Undead didn’t seem to mind, a tight knit circle closing in on them.
“Well, are we doing this?” Joey inquired, barely sparing his partner a glance.
A resigned sigh escaped the dashing duck.
Their backs met and with the coordination of professional ballet dancers that had trained for months in the cold nurturing grasp of Mother Russia, the two launched into attack.
Joey kicked the checkered dressed girl and she flew back onto a pitchfork wielded by a one-eyed man.
Quacksalot whipped the unlit lantern around, smashing it over a man’s head. Chunks of the shattered glass tore jagged lines in his face, though not a drop of blood was to be found.
The woman known as Muriel issued an ear-piercing screech that could have shattered glass, were there any panes of it to be found down here.
Snagging the pitchfork from the one-eyed man, Joey impaled a fellow with round wire-rim glasses, knocking him back inside his coffin.
“Whaddya think?” Quacksalot called, kicking a webbed foot in the face of a once attractive woman in a red sequin dress. The foot connected and a spray of sequins sailed through the air in a murky flash.
His eyes tracked Muriel, who stood just outside the main ring of chaos, like the referee to a boxing match from hell.
“Cut off the head and the snake flounders?” Joey proposed, catching the subject of his partner’s stare. “Worth a shot.”
“That’s what I thought,” Quacksalot agreed, knocking a trio of vampires away with a single feathered fist.
He waddled up to the woman.
Earlier, she had seemed young, even attractive under the proper setting. Now that Quacksalot had had a chance to really glare at her, he caught the tiny imperfections. Eyes and brow contorted harshly with jagged thought lines, veins that bulged and pulsed with….what? Clearly these guys didn’t run on standard erythrocytes….
Misinterpreting his study of her as a petrified awe, Muriel flashed another smirk. Even the lowest practitioner of human social skills couldn’t mistake this for the sign of a friend.
Probably something to do with the elongated tooth sections.
“You and your friend are quite tenacious,” she began in a tone lathered with poisonous pride. “You’ve shown spirit and intrepid qualities. I and my family could easily slay you…instead, I will make this one offer: Surrender and join us.”
“Look, lady, like we told the Avengers, that’s just not our style,” Quacksalot frankly informed the woman.
“Then you shall DIE!” she screeched, whipping her arms out. Simultaneously, a set of hidden wings attached to her arms flared out, casting a large shadow against the cavern wall. Her eyes twisted, the eyeballs literally rotated about forty-five degrees and the color shifted to a feral yellow.
Quacksalot restrained his terror and calmly repressed an eyeroll.
“Nice wings,” he dryly commented. “Mine’re bigger.”
Dramatically, he flared his wings, drawing back to reveal an impressive wingspan. Additionally, he issued a flat but fierce honk that rattled spittle in a manner that suggested of boiling water in a cauldron.
Hardly twitching, Muriel seemed less impressed by this display of dominance than Quacksalot had been hoping for.
“Fool, I am eons old, I will be here eons after I’ve sucked the marrow from you and rat friend’s bones!”
“Fascinating,” Quacksalot marveled. “Don’t forget your seasoning!”
From his hidden inventory system, the deft duck whipped out his ration of garlic and squeezed a bulb at Muriel, a rancid spray of garlic spitting on the head demon vampire chick.
A pregnant Planck pandered a palpable panic as Quacksalot believed the garlic had failed and cursed his kangaroo compadre for misleading him.
Damn mail order comics, that kid is gonna be the death of me.
Then a bloodcurdling shriek of intense pain blasted from Muriel, a near wave of force almost blowing Quacksalot’s fedora off his head.
The cave went quiet, everyone inside was still.
Joey found himself in the middle of boxing two vampires on his left and right while a vaguely pretty third vampire sat atop his head, her go-go boots wrapped around his neck.
As one, the quartet froze, Joey scanned for his friend, praying he was alright.
“You’ve ruined my outfit,” Muriel icily whispered.
The few fragments that had made contact with the madwoman sizzled softly, like steaks on a hot grill.
Unapologetically, Quacksalot shrugged.
“Eh, can’t let Joey have all the fun, y’kno – ”
Irked to her limits, Muriel bore down on Quacksalot, her fingers throttled around Quacksalot’s thin, feathered neck…
“Die, you miserable Anatidae!” she screeched.
Unable to articulate even a single quack, the duck tapped the side of the woman’s arm, attempting to signal time out…before his own time ran out. Already, he felt faint and weary…
Muriel tore her gaze off the dying duck in time to receive one of Joey legendary double kangaroo kicks.
“I don’t normally hit women…but in your case, I’ll make an exception.”
The impact sent her flying backwards…right onto the organ’s pipes. The brass tubing rips through Muriel, effectively crucifying her to the organ.
A silence fell as the vampires were frozen with horror at the sight of their incapacitated leader.
Flicking his eyes from the mutilated Muriel to his friend, Quacksalot was impressed.
“Low blow, bro.”
“I’d say I’m sorry…but I’m not.”
Behind them, a low hissing reminded they weren’t alone.
“So much for the whole ‘snake flounder’ thing,” Joey grumbled, edgily eyeing the approaching swarm.
“It sounded like a good idea at the time!” Quacksalot defended, racing forward with his partner.
“Uh huh,” Joey acceded. “Well, time for the old standby.”
Passing an aged table, the kangaroo snapped off one of the legs and expertly snapped the wood about two-thirds of the way, leaving a jagged, sharp tip.
He ought to watch out, he could put an eye out with that.
Heedless of any imminent eye impalement injuries, Quacksalot copied his actions.
“Just like Prague.”
The shock of their dead boss wore off fast and they formed another ring around our dashing duo, snapping teeth.
“Yeah, nice razor blades,” Joey complimented, eyeing their teeth. “But I don’t think we’re your flavor.”
From a vest pocket, he whisked out his garlic clove and gave himself and Quacksalot a spray.
Or at least, he would have if his fingers hadn’t discovered a hole in his vest pocket.
“What, no garlic?” Quacksalot asked, catching Joey’s surprise.
Through playing around, the horde swarmed on our hapless heroes.
“Uh…apparently not. Bloody hole. Man, I thought Madame Qu had fixed it…”
A male in a yellow cardigan dove for Joey. He hopped to the side and Cardigan landed flat on his face.
“Why didn’t you grab more than one clove?” the duck complained, driving his makeshift stake down through Cardigan. He writhed and hissed, like a serpent on PCP…then was still.
“Gee, I dunno, I had a real quackpot yammering I was wasting time.”
Eager for a taste of kangaroo blood, a woman in leather pants raced forward…straight into his stake.
“There you go; if you hadn’t wasted time, we would have escaped.”
A boorish blonde babe in brass boots and a beige blazer swung a great battle axe at the duck. Dodging, Quacksalot felt the sharpened blade shave off a few fibers of feathers. He followed the swing and deftly snagged it from the brass booted woman, utilizing the great axe’s momentum to bring it back around in attempt to slice her head off.
It sinks about halfway through and gets stuck at the neck.
“Oh you’ve gotta be ducking kiddin’ me…” Quacksalot grumbled, laying a webbed foot on Brass Boot’s chest for leverage.
“Here, allow me,” Joey offered. “Keep ‘em off me, hey?”
He passed his stake to Quacksalot.
“Whagho ho ho, now I’ve got two stakes,” the duck malevolently chortled, setting his gleaming mad eyes on the vampires.
Using his muscular legs and a firm tug, the axe flew out of the woman’s neck…and Joey’s fingers, the aforementioned tug containing an excess of energy.
It sails off and strikes against a cavern wall, a shower of sparks cascading from the contact point.
Then the whole cavern rumbled with the force of a massive explosion overhead.
“Oh great, now you’ve done it,” Quacksalot criticized under a clamor of vamps piling on top of him, eager for a bite of pressed duck.
“Did I do that?” Joey wondered, half impressed with himself.
As matter of fact, Quacksalot could technically be held responsible for the blast, as it was his cigar that had set the house ablaze. Currently, the enflamed house had just hit a gas line.
From the ceiling, flakes and chunks of rocks and stalactites speared the floor.
A plaid flash tore in front of Joey and tackled him to the ground.
Raising his arms in a boxer’s defense, Joey instinctively made a jab, recognizing his attacker.
The plaid clad lad….what was his name…Robin, Roger, Ralph? Something with an R. And possibly an ‘ob’ in the mix.
Plaid Lad was sad. And mad.
“You’ve ruined everything!” he snarled, spittle dribbling off his pointed teeth. His words were laced with hot breath that made Joey’s fur crawl and writhe.
“Yeah, well, welcome to the Outback, mate,” Joey sassed, curling his legs up to his chest then springing them straight, launching the plaid lad (whose name may have been Robin or Robert or Rob) off him.
With the grace of three thousand and eighty eight tigers, Joey flipped forward onto his feet, raising his fists for Round II.
“C’mon on then, mate,” the kangaroo jeered.
Plaid Lad picked himself up and whipped around, assuming a nasty pose, consisting of bending at the knees, spreading his arms and sneering….only to have a stalactite smack down on top of him.
“Eh, guess that works too.”
Far off, he heard a cheering, or something that sounded like a soft applause.
“And the audience goes wild!” Joey congratulated himself.
A firm hand dug into his shoulder.
“OI!” Joey jumped and spun around, ready to knock teeth outta the first creep he saw – then he sighed in relief at Quacksalot’s stern features.
“Oi!” The kangaroo made a light jab. “I nearly took your head off.”
“Quit naffing around!” the duck scolded. “That explosion hit a water line, this whole place is flooding!”
Following his friend’s feathered finger, Joey observed a strong stream pouring in from the stairwell that they had entered from.
So. Not applause.
Not this time anyway.
Already cold water pooled at their feet.
“Let’s go then!” Joey exclaimed, placing his hand on Quacksalot’s back and giving him a light shove. “Put some hustle in that bustle, not all of us are amphibious, y’know!”
Quacksalot sighed and opened his bill to dispute the difference between amphibians and aquatic birds when a crack overhead cut him off and gush of water poured in, instantly flooding the room.
The two amigos were swept off their feet and thrown forward down the path, along with a slew of coffins and their ex-occupants.
Something nipped at Joey’s foot and he instinctively kicked, feeling something fleshy that wasn’t him break.
Motoring through with his powerful webbed feet, Quacksalot sighed in exasperation at Joey’s ineptitude for swimming.
Snagging him by the scruff of his neck, Quacksalot set the quiver kangaroo in a floating coffin.
“You look like a drowned rat,” he sniggered.
“Something tried to EAT ME,” Joey clarified. “But no yeah, thanks for your concern. Glad to be of entertainment value for you.”
The dashing duck rolled his eyes.
“Oh don’t get your pouch inna….pooch? I dunn-OW!” Furiously, Quacksalot paddled at something just below the water’s rushing surface. “You’re right; these gnats are trying to bite!”
Waggling his wondrous webbed feet, he held the back of Joey’s coffin pushing him along, a makeshift powerboat.
The cavern grew darker as they slalomed down through its currents and unseen occupants. Similarly, the walls began to recede and Joey felt like a cork in a wine bottle, building energy to blow out.
But where did this lead?
Could they get there before the vampires killed them?
“Uh…oh! I’ve got an idea!” he exclaimed. “Hand me the stakes!”
Quacksalot tossed them over and Joey tore fabric from the coffin’s silken lining. He used it as a rope, tying the two stakes into a crude cross.
“Whaddya gonna do with that?” Quacksalot honked. “Build a campfire, roast weenies?”
“Something like that,” Joey muttered, flicking through his memory…
From a vest pocket, he withdrew a Maccas salt packet and recited.
“Oh Lord and Savior, bless thy the pure uh, salty stuff that shall expel the demons and ensure we walk a saintly path…bless it with the power of the humble farm Son of Donald.”
He sprinkled the salt over the water.
Quacksalot cocked an eyebrow.
“I’m not sure that’s how you make holy water.”
“Holy water?” Joey scoffed with a laugh. “Who said I’m making holy water, this is Joey Water!” *
Restraining an eyeroll, Quacksalot repeated his earlier assessment:
“I’m going to die with an idjit.”
Undaunted by the duck’s disbelief, Joey carried on.
“…And in the name of Michael Hutchence, Steve Irwin, and Paul Hogan, may this water be blessed with Aussie power, A-bloody-men!”
He dropped his makeshift cross in the water and the effect was instantaneous.
Screams echoed off the narrowing walls, our harrowed heroes shuddered, water boiled and roiled and below, murky forms coiled and jerked.
Steam rose off the surface of the water, condensed on the ceiling and fogged the rapidly receding cavern. It was really little more than a tunnel.
But was it Joey’s imagination or was the fog brighter going forward than back?
“I think we’re getting toward the end of this!” he called to his proficient paddling partner.
“One way or another we are,” Quacksalot grimly muttered in agreement.
With each passing Planck, the light became more defined, a bright throw of light to combat the drastically drab tunnel behind our sailing protagonists.
Although…as the coffin surfed faster, and the lights grew brighter…they were treated to a clearer view of what they were rushing towards.
“Don’t call me that,” Quacksalot snapped. “I see it too!”
At the end of the tunnel there appeared to be a stone wall that were going to rush headlong into.
Imagine that, come all this way, wade through the hands of Death, only to smack their noggins on something as clandestine as a wall. The duck darkly desired to have a cigar to chew if this was his final moments.
“I’d say it’s been fun,” Joey continued, “But it kinda hasn’t.”
“The feeling’s mutual,” Quacksalot assured. “Alright,” he hopped into the cruising coffin, “Whatever happens, just hang on, okay?”
Uncertain where this was leading and with ever-shortening time to beleaguer a satisfactory explanation, Joey had little choice but to agree.
“….uh, alright, mate.”
The stone wall took up more and more of Joey’s vision as the makeshift boat bore down the tunnel and the kangaroo tried not to think of the cold, hard, unforgiving rock liquefying his pretty face.
Then, with little warning, Quacksalot swiftly hopped on top of Joey’s shoulders and the latter instinctively grasped the former’s ankles.
Just as the coffin jetted from the lip of the tunnel, Quacksalot flared his wings and Joey jumped, his powerful legs carrying the duo off the doomed deathbox.
Air currents skimmed across them and Quacksalot’s wings scooped air under, keeping them afloat long enough to see the rectangular box smash into the stone wall, which from their heightened altitude, they could now distinguish as the back of the barn.
“Hah hah! We’re flying!!!!” Joey giddily gushed, an exalted exhilaration making him forget all about their recent dodgings of death.
“Don’t be silly, this isn’t flying,” Quacksalot contradicted. “This is falling…with style.”
“…I’m pretty sure Disney is going to sue you.”
“Hah! Let ‘em!” Quacksalot honked, banking around the barn for a smooth landing glide.
Joey ends up tripping and inadvertently yanks Quacksalot down as well. They roll in the grass and spit some leaves out.
“Nice landing,” Joey dryly compliments, noting not to try flying Air Anatidae again anytime soon.
“Thanks,” Quacksalot grunted, giving his feathers a quick preen. Miranda would sort them out properly when they were back in town. “Coming down’s the hardest thing.”
Uninterested, Joey looked between the charred and smoking horror house they had escaped to the barn they broke.
“How’d we end up behind the barn?”
“Tunnel must’ve looped on us at some point.”
Joey slumped back on the grass.
Too frazzled to lay into his friend’s ribbing, Quacksalot said, “Yeah?”
“Can we take Monday off?”
“Sure, if I can get a cigar on the way back.”
Joey sat up.
“Oh no,” he waggled a finger. “Do you see what you did to those poor people’s home back there? Besides, smoking’s bad for you.”
Quacksalot rolled his eyes and pulled Joey to his feet, walking towards the barn.
“So’s making a duck mad…”
“Eh, I’d be more worried about pissing off a Viking.”
“Speaking of, why’s there never an angry Swede when you need one?” Quacksalot pondered, pulling open the barn door.
“Please don’t let there be more, please don’t let there be more…”
If the kangaroo was expecting any occupants to jump out at him, he was sorely disappointed. All that greeted them within the barn was a rotten pile of mulch that may once have been a few bales of hay; a pitchfork and shovel held fast to their slots on the wall with fine gossamer webbing; a forgotten sled hanging from a half rafter that ran over top a pair of horse or cattle stalls.
In the center was a yellow and black ATV.
“Dibs,” Joey immediately called, making a beeline for the bumblebee ATV.
“Hang on a second, I’m older,” Quacksalot objected, waddling past. “I’ll drive.”
“…but I called dibs first. And I’m more handsome.”
“That’s a matter of opinion.”
“I can provide references,” Joey offered. “All reputable.”
“Uh-huh, sure.” Quacksalot didn’t seem reassured. Instead, he cast a foot over the ATV, leaving space for Joey to ride as passenger. “Besides, I’ve seen you’re driving; I don’t feel like losing another year off my life on top of this fiasco.”
It was in this fashion that they continued to argue as they made their way back into the city, after using the ATV to haul out their truck. Their tawdry tirade only temporarily paused long enough to silently skirt past their landlord’s door, then resumed once out of earshot.
“And another thing – that job was way heavier than advertised,” Quacksalot noted. “There were at least a dozen more vamps than we’d been warned of.”
“Uh huh,” Joey agreed, with little conviction. At this point, he was just letting the duck’s words gloss around his ears only vacating his fugue to donate the occasional yeah-no and aye of moral support.
Cracking open the door to their apartment, something was off.
“Hey, who turned out the lights?” Joey demanded, glaring out as if the darkness were a palatable foe he could box.
A few letters shoved under the door jab were kicked into the black void.
“Did you forget to pay the electric bill?” Quacksalot inquired, a scold building at the ready.
“Autopay, mate, I don’t forget.”
Certain it was somehow Joey’s fault, Quacksalot went to feel for the light switch.
Before he flips it, a soft voice emerges from the void.
“Actually, I’d prefer if you kept them off, sweetie. It aids the dramatic setting, non?”
Following the voice’s source, a glowing ember in the gloom beckons. Above the floating orange ember, a wisp of smoke trails, nearly forming a question mark.
A silhouetted figure sat behind their desk, faint light from the windows behind providing only marginal details. Female, long hair, average size. Her legs rested on the wooden desk.
There was a honeyed note in her voice that gave Quacksalot the notion of having his throat simultaneously tickled and choked.
“What do you want?” he demanded, assuming a stern stance, hands on hips.
“If you’re looking for Tim-Tams, we’re all out,” Joey frankly informed the woman.
She tilted her head as an invisible smile ran across her lips. The cigarette was tapped against one of Quacksalot’s ash trays, stray sparks illuminating her face for a flash.
Crimson lips and smooth features. Golden hair.
“Maybe next time, sweetie,” she purrs. “As it happens, I’ve a job for you two.”
“A job?” Quacksalot repeats, as if she had suggested an entirely foreign concept.
“What makes you think we’re up for hire?” Joey ponders, hopping forward under the pretense of looking tough while secretly checking if their femme fatale intruder had in fact found and looted the hidden Tim-Tam stash.
“Oh I’m sure you’ll be interested,” the woman trilled. “It concerns a pair of threadkillers. I’m told that’s your specialty.”
*Not available in stores. Do not try to replicate at home.
Yes, we’re aware ‘towie’ is not at all legitimate Australian slang. Its use as Australian shorthand for ‘tow truck’ is a liberation extended by the author. If it makes you feel better, you can call it Joey-Strine.
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- artymon I\/
- LEPretrieval Team Member
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The last step in any journey may be the first step of an even greater adventure.
WARNING: I may post stuff that is not for suited for immature eyes. READ AT YOUR OWN CAUTION
Nautron respoc lorni virch
The last step in any journey may be the first step of an even greater adventure.
WARNING: I may post stuff that is not for suited for immature eyes. READ AT YOUR OWN CAUTION
Nautron respoc lorni virch