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Meet Professor Fritz Episode 10

Meet Professor Fritz

Molly hears from the witness and suspects Patchee might be in trouble, so puts Roscoe and Bailey in the picture. Meanwhile Patchee comes to in the workshop and we meet Professor Fritz and Sam the slow loris.

· 24:26


Hello. Are you sitting comfortably on your seat? Well, I reckon you’ll be on the edge of it by the end of this episode.

Did you manage to look up any photos of a slow loris? If you didn’t, no worries; I’m not the boss of you. We’ll get to that in a bit, but before we do, let’s head back to the old workshop in Handsome Gardens, where the sleeping body of Patchee the rabbit is being lowered to the floor.

“I found this wondering around the old headquarters”, says the labrador,. “I don’t know what it’s for, but I suspect it’s harmless.”

“Perhaps we’d better wake him up, then”, says the terrier. “Go and ask our pair of geniuses for a bucket of water, and make sure”, this he says with a raised voice as the labrador begins to jog towards the far end of the workshop, “that it comes from the cold tap.” Turning back to his boss, he adds in a lowered voice, “we’re not here to make rabbit stew.”

“That’s going a bit far”, mumbles the pug.

“Yes boss”, sniffs the terrier, “sorry boss”. Then, seeming to remember something, the small dog turns his attention to the hamster cage. “What are you lot staring at?”

Three sets of eyes — those of Mr Nibbs, Ms Pickles and Mrs Toggle — quickly slink back into the darkness of the cage.

“What’s a rabbit doing here?” asks a trembling Mrs Toggle.

“Well, he looks like a young lad”, says Mr Nibbs, thinking. “So either he’s been wandering around Handsome Gardens looking for a job, or he’s with… no, that’s silly.”

“With who?” ask Ms Pickles and Mrs Toggle at once.

“Molly Whiskers, I presume?”

Molly stares, narrow-eyed at the pigeon at her front door. She’d flung it open expecting to see Roscoe and Bailey, so was somewhat taken aback. “Yes?” she replies, in a questioning tone indicating more her surprise than her ability to be sure of her own name.

“Good, well I have a delivery here from a Ms Tink in Handsome Gardens.” This he says, while shrugging off a small, blue backpack. “There’s this note, too”, he adds, breaking the seal on a piece of paper he removes from his right ankle.

“Thank you”, says the rabbit, taking the note and parcel, and thrusting a coin hurriedly under the bird’s beak. “Um, here’s something for your trouble.”

“A whole grackle”, adds the pigeon in mock appreciation, taking the coin. “I’ll be sure not to spend it all at once.”

Shutting the door on the bird’s sarcasm — and, as it happens, nearly on his beak — Molly opens the backpack and starts putting the little jars of jams and jellies into the kitchen cupboard.

She then unfolds the note that came with the package, and reads the message.

“Repeat order enclosed, thank you for your business. PS: met your assistant. Nice boy. Sweet tooth. Also, saw suspicious dog enter and exit army stables with something over his shoulder, taking carriage on east road. Good day, Tanya Tink.”

There’s just enough time to read the note before the doorbell rings again.

“I don’t have any more grackles, and anyway I don’t believe in tipping —”, but as she flings the door open once more, she appears to be shouting at two police cats, one large with a black coat and white muzzle, the other smaller, with short brown and grey hair.

“You’d better come in”, says Molly. “I think we may have a problem.”

Patchee is at the beach, with his mum and dad. He’s only a kitten, and this is his first time at the seaside. He runs in and out of the sea, feeling the cold smack of water against his ankles and the corse sand getting into the webbing of his paws.

“Don’t go in too far!” cautions his mum, shouting to be heard over the crashing of the waves on the distant rocks to the right.

“I won’t!” he calls back, losing his footing in the sand and falling on his bottom, saltwater burbling around him and getting into his mouth and nostrils. He laughs as he feels the water burble around him.

He spits out the water, tries to stand, but is knocked back by another wave.

“Wake up, rabbit”, calls his dad, his voice distant.

Again Patchee tries to stand, but this time the tide is much too strong, and he’s knocked onto his back by a huge wave. The cold water hits him in the face and he can’t breathe.

“Wake up, come on”.

Another splash of water, and Patchee is awake, shaking cold water droplets off his coat and blinking away the dream.

“Where —“ he begins, before more water smacks him in the face.

“I think you can stop now”, says a labrador, towering above the little rabbit, struggling to sit upright.

“Just one more, Sarge?” pleads someone, somewhere.

“You’ve had your turn; it’s my go next!” complains another voice, three feet or a thousand mile away.

“Gentlemen, please”, interrupts a roll of fat and hair directly in front of Patchee. “We have much more important things to discuss. You two”, he says, pointing to the pair bickering to his left, “finish putting the harnesses together. Our customer will be arriving any second.”

“Yessir”, bark the pair, as they turn and head back out into the gloom.

“Now then, little rabbit”, continues the roll of fat, which begins to crumple inwards until a face appears from above, lowering itself gradually into Patchee’s eye-line. It’s the face of a very large, very old pug, his black muzzle glistening. “What brings you to my place of work?”

“I’ve…” says the rabbit, beginning to regain his strength, “I’ve been investigating.”

“Investigating what?” asks Roscoe. He, Bailey and Molly are in Molly’s flat, she’s explained her worry that she might have put her new assistant in grave danger.

“I don’t know”, says a frowning Molly. “If I’d have known this General character had anything to do with what was going on, I’d never have sent Patchee into Handsome Gardens.”

“Tell us about this General, Molly”, says Bailey, in a voice somewhere between comforting and practical.

“From what I’ve read about him, he’s dangerous, but not deadly. At least, I hope not. He retired from the army a few years back and I think he may have been selling his services to whoever will pay.”

“So that means”, cuts in Roscoe, “that if he has kidnapped the hamsters, he might want them alive for something.”

“Or someone”, says Molly, her eyes widening a little.

After a few seconds of total quiet in which each detective is doing their own mental calculations, Molly asks, “Has either of you seen the front page story in today’s Fogsworth Daily?”

Both cats shake their heads slightly. Then after a second, Roscoe raises a paw: “oh hang on, I remember reading something about… a debate tonight?”

“That’s right”, says Molly, “between the mayor and some new inventor.”

“Oh, is it that Fritz fellow?” asks Bailey, curiosity showing in her whiskers. “He’s quite a clever chap; I’ve read a bit about his latest inventions, and apparently he’s working on something big.”

“Yes”, says Molly, slowly, “that’s what I’m worried about.”

“Are you suggesting”, asks Roscoe, “that there’s a link between this General of yours and Professor Frisk?”

“Fritz”, says Molly, “and that’s exactly what I’m suggesting.”

“You can’t be serious”, scoffs the big cat. “He’s a politician. Plus he’s going to be on-stage in a few hours, debating the mayor.”

“Plenty of time to take delivery of a cage-load of hamsters”, adds Bailey, with a side-long glance at her partner. “We do know they were on the move this morning.”

“But come on”, says Roscoe, in a voice pleading for reason, “can you really see a successful businessman and politician transporting poor defenceless people in cages?”

Sam is a slow loris. That’s not an unkind description of Sam — who is in fact a very bright personal assistant — but is a species of animal with large eyes and very strong little hands.

Sam is a busy, hardworking assistant to a very important person, and Sam’s job is therefor also very important. A personal assistant is responsible for all sorts of things, like making sure the boss gets to their meeting on time and has everything they need to know, or taking care of the boss’s laundry.

Today, Sam’s boss has a very busy day, and everyone is moving quickly to make sure things run smoothly. Sam is part of a small team called an entourage, which is a fancy way of describing a group of people who all want to make it very clear how much they love and support their boss and will do anything — anything — to prove it. This has been an area of personal assistance that has always made Sam a little uncomfortable.

“I’ve moved your three o’clock meeting to f-four o’clock, your four o’clock m-meeting to five o’clock, and ca…cancelled your five o’clock meeting, sir”, says Sam, running a little to keep up with the fox, striding briskly down the corridor.

“Excellent, then that means I have the rest of the day off!” exclaims Mr Fritz, rubbing his hands together. He is, of course, joking.

“I am, of course, joking, Sam” confirms the fox. Sam likes the way Mr Fritz jokes; he has an easy charm and a warm smile, and a way of talking to you like you were the only person in the room. Also, Fritz never makes fun of Sam’s slight stammer, unlike some of the team, who will go largely unnamed and unmentioned because they’re mean and unimportant.

Sam and Mr Fritz — who, Sam has overheard some people nickname the Professor, due to his many clever inventions — have been walking down this corridor for what feels like a long time, but is probably just enough time for them to finish their discussion and get to the next part of the scene, which will happen shortly.

“Everything’s prepared for tonight’s deb…bate”, continues Sam, who’s getting a little out-of-breath now. “Do you need me to go over the t-talking points with you?”

Sam ignore the muffled snigger coming somewhere behind them.

“No, I think I’ll be fine, Sam, thank you” says the fox, stopping at the end of a corridor where a door stands, stubbornly refusing to be welcoming or even open, as if it knows that whatever is behind it is not its responsibility. ”Now, I have a rather delicate matter to attend to, so I would appreciate your discretion.” This, Fritz delivers with a soft hand on his assistant’s shoulder.

This makes Sam feel pretty good, knowing that when someone asks for your discretion, they usually have something private or secret to show or tell you, and they want to be sure you won’t tell anyone else.

“Of course, boss”, says Sam, locking eyes with Fritz, who claps the loris firmly on the shoulder.

“And for plops’ sake, call me Fritz; everybody does!” And with that, he turns the large handle and ushers his assistant inside, leaving the rest of the entourage in the dimly-lit, but altogether safer, corridor.

“I still think you’re wrong about this”, complains Roscoe. Molly finishes locking her door before turning to him and saying “Your objection has been duly noted, now shift.”

Roscoe gives Bailey a look that says “Are you going to let her speak to me like that?” Bailey’s answering look seems to say “Today? Yes. Yes I am.”

“Come on you two!” hisses the rabbit, as she darts down the stairs, her little white tail bobbing up and down with each footfall.

She whistles for a carriage, and very quickly, one appears. “Handsome Gardens; the abandoned workshop”, she commands the horse. As the cats climb in, the horse replies “Handsome Studios is it? Righto.”

“As quick as you can, please”, asks Bailey.

“Of course, miss”.

“This is bogswill of the highest order”, snaps the little terrier, bearing its teeth at Patchee.

“I’m telling you, it’s true”, counters Patchee. “Molly Whiskers —”

“Who”, the General cuts in, “despite being a ‘famous detective’” — and here, everybody hears the quotation marks — “sent you, her junior assistant —”

“Who’s only been in the job less than two days”, chips in the terrier.

“Precisely”, says the pug, a little distractedly, “sent you to investigate our… what did you call it? ‘Crime ring’? Is that right?”

“That’s it exactly”, says the rabbit, bottom lip sticking out in defiance.

“Oh but my dear boy”, says the pug, chuckling and speaking in a way that an old relative might tell a young child that the sun is not small, it is in fact very far away, “we are merely conducting a business transaction.”

“A what?” splutters Patchee.

“A simple deal, between two parties. I have something that my customer needs, and he is prepared to pay for it.”

“What is it? What are you selling?”

The pug gestures to the large cage in a dark corner of the room. “Take a look, my dear boy.”

So Patchee levers himself to his feet, and walks over to the cage. He gets the sense that the dogs aren’t too worried about what he might find, as businesslike conversation continues behind him. He hears snatches about harnesses and formations and getting ready for a demonstration, but is very quickly distracted by the number of tiny glowing eyes he can see.

Getting as close to the cage as he feels comfortable doing, Patchee whispers “Excuse me, is there a Mrs Toggle here?”

A slightly larger pair of eyes appears from the gloom and comes forward, revealing a chubby little face around them. “I’m Mrs Toggle”, she says, timidly.

“Then it’s very good to meet you”, says Patchee, his spirits lifting a little. “Your husband asked my boss to try and find you after you’d gone missing.”

“So it’s true?” asks another female hamster.

“You’re not…?” begins a young male.

“I work”, says Patchee, puffing out his chest and feeling the swell of pride inside, “for Molly Whiskers.”

“Ah, bumfluff”, says an older voide somewhere in the darkest corner of the cage.

“Quiet, Binky!” says the young male. “It’s a pleasure to meet you. My name’s Mr Nibbs, and this is Ms Pickles. Mrs Toggle you already know.”

“Wonderful to meet you all”, says Patchee. “I’m Patchee”, he adds.

“I’m not surprised, since you’ve had half a bucket tipped over you”, says Old Binky. This is followed by a chorus of things like “Give it a rest” and “pack it in” from assorted hamsters.

“So, do you have any idea what the dogs want with you?” asks Patchee, ignoring the old man.

“Just that they’re going to use us for some sort of machine”, says Mr Nibbs. “Old Bink-features over there says this place used to be where an inventor made all his stuff. Apparently he employed loads of hamsters back then —”.

But the hamster is interrupted by a sudden burst of noise, as the amplified voice of a tiny terrier echoes through the building.

“Places, everyone”, yaps the terrier, through a megaphone held in a small, grey paw. ”Norman, Twitch, get the hamsters in their harnesses. The demonstration begins in fifteen minutes.”

From the far end of the room, Patchee sees a rottweiler and a bloodhound — presumably Norman and Twitch, although he didn’t care to be on first-name terms with either of them — make their way towards the cage, keeping pace with the labrador Patchee remembers from the army base.

Barging the young rabbit out of the way, the labrador unlocks the cage and motions for the hamsters to follow the two guard dogs. Mr Nibbs, the last to leave, turns to Patchee and mouths the words “help us”, before he’s prodded in the back and made to walk in-line with the rest.

“Where are you taking them?” demands the rabbit.

“To show them their new forever-home”, grins the labrador, popping the key back in his jacket pocket, and taking up the position at the rear of the hamster line. “You too, little rabbit” he adds, glancing at Patchee. “I wouldn’t want you to miss the demonstration.”

The cage door swings silently on its hinge, as if to say “Come back any time.”

There’s nothing Patchee can do, no way he can help, and it seems, no-one who even knows he’s here.

What will become of the little rabbit, where are the hamsters being led to, and how do Professor Fritz and Sam the slow loris fit in? All… or at least some of it… will be revealed in the next episode.

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