And a hundred eyes blinked at Tally from around the room, small and red, and angry. Very angry.
Tally slid to a stop. Eyes wide, he turned slowly and stared at the furry bodies sitting atop the lone table in the kitchen area, laying on his straw-stuffed mattress in the far corner, crammed into shelves, hanging from the rafters, tucked up high on the rattling cooler unit. He’d never seen so many rodents in one place. He watered the floor at his feet.
“You all are scarin’ Tally, now. I take back what I said.”
“Thought you might,” the hatted weasel replied. “Now. Do like I said and close da’ door.”
Tally bristled at that but kept his mouth shut. All those rats, and mice, and hamsters, and whatnot climbed over each other to get a better look at him, like they were eyeing their next meal. “What can—uh—what can Tally do for you?”
“Are you familiar with,” and here the hatted one said some name Tally had never heard.
He spoke the name again, slowly, as though talking to a newborn foal—quick to stand but not very bright.
Tally shook his head. “Don’t know that Lee person.”
The hatted one took the pin from his mouth and rolled his eyes. The other just stood there, arms dangling loose and relaxed at his sides, ready to throw more pins or do worse, Tally could tell.
“No, Hu,” the weasel said and, at Tally’s lack of comprehension, added, “Black and white stripes? Lots of weapons?”
“Oh, that bitch! Yeah, Tally knows her. Tally needs to teach her a lesson.”
The weasel just sighed and shook his head, gazed lowered to the floor at Tally’s feet. “Technically, she’s a tigress, not a bitch, but whatever. Now, the persons I represent would like nothing better than to see you get what’s coming to you in regards to the bi—the tiger.”
“My momma didn’t raise no fool,” Tally replied, shifting his weight from one hoof to the other. His pants were beginning to stick. “Why’s your boss want to help me?”
The weasel shrugged, meandered his way to the rickety table and sat down in the only chair Tally had. “Nice chair,” he said. “Very comfy. Now, my information has you all alone for most of your life, living on the mean streets of this here town.”
Tally sort of chuckled, one of those what-can-I-say sounds that come out when backed into a corner. “Yeah. Yeah. That’s right. But my momma, before Tally was on the streets, she said, ‘Tally, don’t you be nobody’s fool.’ That’s right.”
The weasel shrugged again. He removed his hat and laid it on the table, smoothed his whiskers and ran one paw through his closely cropped hair. “Well, my party wants to pay her back for lousy treatment they received from her awhile back. Seeing as how you wish to pay her back as well, I see no reason why we couldn’t fund your pursuit of, ah, due vengeance.”
Funds? These guys were going to give Tally money to deal with his problems? “OK. So what’s Tally need to do?”
“Stop her. Follow her if need be. But stop her from whatever she’s is doing now. But you’ll have to hurry. She’s planning to leave soon.”
Tally thought about it a moment. He wanted to teach her a lesson but doing someone else’s work smacked of a real job, something he’d vowed to avoid at all costs. He shook his head. “Not sure Tally can do this for you. He can’t afford to chase her down for your boss.”
“Oh, my party is willing to pay your way,” the weasel said and named a figure.
Tally’s thought his heart was going to stop. He’d never heard someone offer him such a sum. He did a few calculations, trying to figure out the best use of the money—a ticket out of here, definitely. A bit on the side to pay off a few thugs to help him drop the tiger. The rest to settle himself someplace nice for a change.
“Tally’ll do it. He knows just the crew to help.”