It was a little after eleven at night when Eve was jolted awake. Tess was shaking her and stuttering.
“W-w-wild an-n-n-imal. W-w-wild an-n-nimal.”
Eve sat straight upright in bed. “Wild animal? Is it a bear? Oh my God! Is there a bear trying to get in?”
“In the k-k-kitchen.”
“There’s a bear in the kitchen? Call 911. Call animal control. Call Grizzly Adams.”
“N-n-not a bear. Something e-else. Maybe a baby b-bear.”
Eve was now a lot more awake and feeling smarter by the minute. “A baby bear? What happened and what did you actually see?”
Tess sat down on the edge of the bed and took a deep breath. “Okay. I was working on my latest creation. I was trying to make an apple tree on top of a pie…”
“An apple tree? Really? That’s impressive. Very clever.”
“I know, right? Who knew? I can be clever.”
“I always had faith in you, but what about this wild animal? You were working on a pie, and…?
“And out of the corner of my eye I see something furry scurrying across the floor. Before I could get a good look, it went behind some shelves. Then there was a lot of scratching noises and other weird noises. And then there was the smell. It was no pie baking in the oven smell.”
“Did it smell like a skunk?
“No. I know roadkill skunk smell when I smell it. This was different. It was a smelly kind of smell. I think it tinkled on something.”
With that last remark Eve wanted to either go back to sleep and hope she was dreaming, or just get in the car and drive away. Neither option was realistic. There was only one thing to do. Go downstairs and find the beast. If she was also being honest with herself, never in a million years would she venture into the kitchen alone. Luckily, she had someone on the payroll who told her he was available at night.
Eve picked up her cell phone and called Elphin. “Elphin? It’s Eve. Eve Jensen. Jensen! Eve! Your boss. Get over here now. There’s a wild animal in the kitchen.” Then she hung up before he could say no.
“We’re going down,” Eve said.
Tess shook her head no.
“I said we’re going down. Grab a weapon. Elphin should be here soon.”
Eve looked around and grabbed a walking stick. Tess grabbed a can of hairspray.
“What are you going to do with that?” Eve asked.
“I don’t know. Blind it?”
“Good enough. Let’s go.”
Eve and Tess crept down the stairs into the office. They slowly opened the door and entered the lobby. A large figure appeared in front of them.
“BEEEAAAAR!” Shouted Tess releasing the full contents of the spray can.
“Close, but no. It’s just me,” Elphin said. He was hopelessly fanning the air, but he already had a full layer of shellac on him. He reached past Eve and Tess and turned the lobby lights on. “Look. I have to be honest. Trapping animals isn’t one of my talents. So, I called a friend.”
Eve could totally believe he had talents. Elphin was currently sporting the sexiest bedhead she had ever seen. He had a day’s worth of stubble and he smelled like apples. She found herself hoping she looked half as good or at least smelled half as good.
“My friend should be here soon,” Elphin said. “He lives at the bottom of the mountain, just on the other side of the four-lane.”
They stood in the lobby and waited until they heard the sound of tires on the parking lot gravel. Eve, Elphin and Tess rushed through the front door to wait under the breezeway. A thin man, in his 60s approached the guest room building. He was about 5’10”, had silver hair and wore a black suit. A coat hung about his shoulders like a cape. He paused when he saw them.
“Ah! Elphin. It’s rare to see you up at this hour. My humble apologies if it is my late homecoming that has disturbed you and your guests. I attended the stage production of The Pirates of Penzance tonight.”
“Not your fault we’re up, Vincent,” Elphin said. “This is Eve Jensen, the new owner of The Roost, and her cousin Tess.”
Vincent took Eve’s hand and bowed slightly. “Vincent Blair, resident in 1A. It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance.”
“How was the show?” Elphin asked.
Vincent straightened and rolled his eyes. “Ah! Dreadful! Susie McPheel was the only shining light of hope, with a voice like an angel, on top of what was otherwise a monotone, poorly budgeted production.”
“Well, it was a high school play.”
“That is no excuse for mediocrity!”
Elphin nodded in agreement. “I hear you. Thing is, we have bigger problems this evening. We’re just waiting for Otter…”
“Ah! Otter! Then I will postpone my plans of retirement to participate in the hilarity that is about to ensue.”
Eve turned to Elphin. “What does he mean by ‘hilarity that is about to ensue?’”
Elphin looked into her eyes. Paused for a beat, clearly thinking, and replied, “I have absolutely no idea.”
Another vehicle’s headlights flickered through the trees in the darkness and could be heard making its way up the mountain. It pulled into the gravel parking lot of The Owl’s Roost.
Otter emerged from a truck that had tires almost as tall as he was. He wore camouflage from head to toe, he was pencil thin and he had the swagger of someone who ate what he caught. He stopped in front of the motley crew, pulled at the end of his camouflage ballcap and said, “Evenin’ Ma’ms. Hear you got yourselves a kitchen critter.”
Elphin was the first to speak. “Otter, this is Eve, the new owner of the Roost, and her cousin, Tess, who is in charge of the kitchen.”
“Don’t take this personal, Elphin, but it’s late. Let’s forgo the pleasantries, sniff out this critter and go back to bed.”
“Indeed,” said Vincent. “On with the show.”