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Patchee Takes a Tumble Episode 4

Patchee Takes a Tumble

Roscoe and Bailey interview the wife of another disappeared hamster, and Patchee clumsily leaps to his boss's rescue.

· 23:50


Welcome back, dear listener. Last time we spoke, Molly Whiskers, private detective had agreed to take on Patchee as an assistant, they’d both met a hamster by the name of Mr Toggle, whose wife had gone missing, presumably kidnapped. Meanwhile police officers Roscoe and Bailey are also on the case.

This is Molly Whiskers and the Blue Tentacle, and it’s starting to get serious. You can tell, because I’m using my serious voice.

Detective Chief Inspector Mittens is having a very bad day. He had recently moved houses with his husband, and as his new home is on the route the dawn chorus takes every morning, his sleep is disturbed by the racket of a few dozen noisy birds… or at least, that’s how he sees it.

He was tired after having worked a long shift the night before, helping his team catalogue several pea-pod husks from the latest hamster disappearance, and all he wanted was a good night’s sleep.

His day was further ruined when there wasn’t enough sugar to put into his tea, since someone had bought up all the bags of sugar to make candyfloss, his taxi was late and the horse was grumpy, and to cap it all, he'd just received a call from the Chief of Police, furious that no more clues had turned up to solve the mystery of the vanishing hamsters.

And now, standing before him, were what he thought were his best two detectives, who were no further along in cracking the case.

“Look, you two”, he says, crossing his arms and leaning on his desk. Detective Chief Inspector Mittens is a very large cat, so when he leans on something, it remains leant on, and does not recover for some time. “I’ve had you pair running all around the town, and where’s that got us? Nowhere!” He bangs a clenched fist on the desk to emphasise the point.

“But—” begins Bailey.

“Now I’ve got the Chief of Police breathing down my neck”, continues DCI Mittens as if Bailey hadn’t even opened her mouth, “and all I’m getting from you is a lot of hot air!”

A moment of silence passes, which is just long enough for Roscoe to consider it’s safe to begin talking.

“Boss, we—” is as far as he gets.

“Frankly”, continues the DCI, now on something of a roll, “you’re a couple of loose cannons, but I’m the one calling the shots. You’ve got until the end of the week, and if I don’t see some results, I’ll demote you to Sergeant so fast it’ll make your tails spin. Now, get out!”

Back in their office, Bailey turns to Roscoe and complains “We never even got the chance to show him the lab results.”

“I wouldn’t worry”, says the older policeman, waving away Bailey’s concerns with the lazy flap of a front paw, lifting up his hind legs and crossing them on the table, “he’s just on a sugar crash. Since the Black and White Bandit bought up all the bags of sugar to make his candyfloss, people like the DCI have had to go without their five sugars in their tea.” Giving it a bit more thought, he adds “In fact, he’s probably just upset because he’s finally tasting tea for the first time, and not just sugar.”

“He should drink better tea”, advises Bailey.

“Yes. But now, to the matter at paw. I think—”

But Roscoe is interrupted by the shrill nagging of the telephone on his desk, whose bell clangs at an ear-splitting volume, demanding to be answered.

“Speak”, barks Roscoe into the mouthpiece. He learned how to answer the phone this way in a book called 107 Cool Ways to Answer the Phone, which someone bought him for his birthday. Some other of his favourites included “Go for Roscoe”, “You’re on with the big cat” and “I’m a legend, you’re welcome”.

“What?” he asks, then after a very brief pause — surely not long enough for him to have heard any useful information — he finishes with “We’re on our way”, before slamming down the receiver and reaching for his coat.

He’s already nearly out of the office before Bailey realises she’s probably supposed to follow, so grabs her coat and scurries after the older cat.

One taxi ride later, and the two detectives are stood outside the front door of another small house. Again, the front door is open, with criss-crossing lines of yellow paper printed with the words “Crime scene”, pinned to the door frame.

A younger cat ushers them into a pretty little sitting room, where on the sofa, a tired hamster bounces a baby on her knee. It’s clear she’s been crying, but she’s doing her best to put a brave face on the situation.

As another police officer interviews her, the cat who ushered in Roscoe and Bailey fills them in.

“Mrs Nibbs reported the disappearance this morning. Apparently she woke up to find her husband had disappeared without a trace.”

“Except for a trail of pea-pod husks that suddenly stops partway down the road?” suggests Roscoe.

The officer’s eyes open wide in surprise. “So that’s what they are! And yes, gov, you’re right.

”The trail goes cold just a few yards that way”. Pointing away from the town centre, he continues, “The whole neighbourhood is pretty worried. By now, most of them have lost at least one family member.”

“‘Pretty worried’ seems like an understatement”, says Bailey, who — if she had eyebrows — would have raised them.

There’s a sniff from the sofa, and a small but defiant voice says “You learn to be on your guard, when you’re small and fluffy.”

Roscoe and Bailey move into the living room, and Bailey drags over a chair, planting it opposite Mrs Nibbs.

“Is there anything you haven’t told the officers already? It doesn’t matter how small; any detail could help.”

The pained woman simply sits and bounces her baby on her knee, then after a moment says “I… I remember him soaking the kits last night, and I said to him, I said ‘I don’t see why you’re bothering, since there’s only you and George left’.”

“Kits?” asks Bailey, her thin whiskers twitching ever so slightly.

“Yeah, a bunch of the mums and dads play football once a week, and they take it in turns to wash the kits after each match. Saturday was supposed to be their next match, and now there’s only George left!”

Her baby, possibly sensing how upset her mother is, begins to stir in her arms, so Mrs Nibbs sniffs bravely and wipes her eyes with the back of her free paw.

“Are you saying”, asks Roscoe, moving from the corner of the room to stand beside Bailey, with a paw on the back of her chair, “that all the hamsters who’ve disappeared so far are from the same football club?”

“Well… yeah”, says Mrs Nibbs, appearing to realise this for the first time herself.

“And when’s the next game again?” asks Roscoe, his massive whiskers also beginning to twitch.

“Match”, corrects Bailey.

“What?” asks Roscoe, a little put out.

“They’re called matches, not games.”

Roscoe shrugs, indicating that there is no possible way this information could be of less importance.

“Not ’til Saturday, against the gerbils” says Mrs Nibbs, helpfully moving things along. “But they’re supposed to have a five-a-side tonight, just us from Walnut Grove.”

“Come on, let’s go”, barks Roscoe, giving the back of Bailey’s chair a brief little double-tap with a curled-up paw.

Standing up to leave, Bailey says “You’ve been a great help, Mrs Nibbs. Thank you”, before following her partner out the door.

“You’ve been a great help, Mr Bushel, thank you.”

Putting down the phone, Patchee turns to his boss, who looks distracted.

It’s been a very busy first day for Patchee. He’s very proud to have an exciting new job, and is looking forward to spending his first pay packet on some new clothes, as his work cardigan is getting a little tatty.

Like Patchee’s frayed cardigan, stories can have lots of different threads. Sometimes those threads, if we follow them, lead somewhere, and sometimes they don’t. When we read a story or embark on solving a mystery like the Fogsworth hamster disappearances, it can be difficult to know which threads to follow — because they might lead to a clue — and which threads to ignore. It’s possible a thread has already been woven into this episode. It’s also double-possible that more threads are to come. Which ones will lead our heroes to a satisfying ending, and which will have them chasing their tails until they’re a tangled mess of fur and string is anyone’s guess.

It’s best to be on the lookout at all times, and get your cardigan mended if it’s looking frayed.

As much as Patchee is excited about his new job, it definitely comes with its challenges. Right now, the biggest of those challenges is his boss, Molly. He never seems to know quite when it’s appropriate to talk to her.

Several times in the day he had gone to her with important information, and received the terse response “busy”. As an upside, Patchee was getting very good at finding different words for “snappy”, and currently “terse” was the most popular, as it felt like a seven or eight on the Molly Whiskers Irritability Scale. He had struggled to rate her below a four during the time he’d known her, which was causing him to start questioning whether the scale could use some adjusting. Perhaps Molly just lived her life in a constant state of slight irritation? Perhaps he himself was the cause, or perhaps it was their current case; he couldn’t figure it out.

“Um, Molly?” he ventures.

“Mm hmm”, she replies.

Ooh, this is good, thinks Patchee. This might be a three on the Scale.

“I’ve just been on the phone with Mr Bushel, and your theory seems to be correct.”

“That all the hamsters are being lured away from the park?” says Molly, rising from her chair and picking up her long, light-brown coat from where it was draped on one of the guests’ chairs. “Yes, I’d pretty much guessed that.”

Patchee got the sense that Molly was further along in this conversation than he was, and started wondering how he might catch up.

“So, I was thinking”, begins Patchee, as Molly rummages around in a couple of desk drawers, taking out various items and stuffing them into her large coat pockets.

After a moment, seemingly unaware that her new employee had spoken, she says “I’m going out for a while. I’ll be back later tonight. Please lock up when you leave and don’t”, she says, aiming a finger at him and then wagging it back and forth between him and the bedroom, “Don’t, under any circumstances touch my mind map.”

And with that, like a puff of grumpy smoke, she disappears, leaving a confused Patchee to walk over to his desk, find the piece of paper headed “Molly Whiskers Irritability Scale”, screw it up, and throw it in the direction of the bin.

Instead of hitting the wall nearest the bin and sliding down in a satisfying way, Patchee’s throw sends the ball a little wide of the mark, causing it to come to rest just inside Molly’s bedroom, where the door has been left wide open.

Patchee has always prided himself on keeping a tidy home and work space, so he pads over to the bedroom and picks up the piece of paper, his only plan being to throw it back into the bin where it belongs. The only trouble is, he’s not entirely sure which piece of paper is his, straight away.

Molly’s bedroom floor is littered with screwed-up pieces of paper, of a slightly different colour and — frankly — lower quality than the stuff Patchee liked to use. (Patchee likes nice paper and pens. He likes to draw up month planners and weekly reviews and daily to-do lists and goal summaries and task breakdowns, and only occasionally let this get in the way of doing the actual work he’s meant to be doing.)

After a moment of casting around, he finds his piece of paper, picks it up and as he straightens his back to leave, catches sight of the large cork board, hung over Molly’s unmade and trampled bed. The piece of paper falls silently to the floor, coming to rest in the crook between the open door and the bedroom wall.

On the cork board is what appears to be several weeks’ worth of work. A faded map of Fogsworth sits in the centre. Around the sides of the board are pinned a number of hand-drawn illustrations — and quite lifelike ones — with names written in a hurried, untidy hand. Other pins are stuck into areas of the map, and lengths of string connect everything together in a manner Patchee finds a little puzzling.

This, he deduces, is a map of all of the hamster disappearances from the last couple of weeks.

But this work looks like it’s taken a month! he thinks. As he walks towards the bed to get a closer look, he hears a very soft squishy sound under-paw, and feels the squelch of something that doesn’t belong in the webbing in-between a rabbit’s toes. Shuffling over to the bed, he sits with his hind legs dangling, lifts up his left leg to see something light green and sticky in the centre of the soft part of his paw. Looking down at the floor, he finds the offending piece of over-ripe pear, tip-toes to the bathroom, throws the pear down the toilet and washes his foot in the bath. Patchee knows that a pear is a rare treat for a rabbit, so is surprised that Molly was so absent-minded as to have dropped a half-eaten one off the side of her bed. He couldn’t help wondering how long it had been there.

After drying his paws, he pads back into the bedroom, and very nearly hops onto Molly’s bed to get a closer look at her handiwork. Thinking better of it, he decides to walk around the bed, taking a look at the cork board from different angles.

After making a couple of trips from one side of the bed to the other, and being reluctant to trample all over the admittedly already untidy bedclothes, Patchee summons all the strength in his little rabbit body to pull the bed forward a little bit, so he can get in between it and the wall with the cork board.

Patchee notices how many of the lengths of string connecting each disappearance, gather together at a single point, indicated by a coloured pin. Some of the lengths of string connect faces together, while other faces aren’t linked up at all. This suggests that Molly has found a link to some of the disappearances, but not all of them.

Patchee’s been doing a lot of looking and noticing, and while he’s been focused on the threads explaining the mystery, he’s entirely missed the loose thread of his cardigan that he snagged on the bathroom door, that is now looped around one of the legs of the bed.

Deep in thought, Patchee hasn’t noticed much of the world around him. This must be what it’s like for Molly, he thinks. Then he replays the previous events of the morning: her hurried exit, her saying something about a football club…

“Molly!” he says aloud, suddenly afraid for her safety. She must be trying to catch the kidnapper, he thinks. With a new sense of urgency, he pushes the bed back in place, makes sure everything is more-or-less how he left it, and heads back into the living room.

What happens next happens very quickly, and there isn’t much time for Patchee to make sense of it, until the dust has settled and the last of the sounds of broken glass and smashed plates has faded away.

Let’s move through the action, bit by bit, starting with Patchee running into the living room to save his boss.

The first thing he notices is that he can’t get more than a couple of feet into the room before something invisible holds him back. If he’d looked behind him, he would have seen that he’d dragged the bed with him, after looping the loose threads of his cardigan around one of the legs of the bed, and it was now jammed up against the doorframe between the bedroom and the living room.

Instead of stopping and looking behind him, in a state of panic, Patchee begins to strain against the invisible force that’s holding him. Suddenly, with one last squirm, he’s free, as the wooden bed leg is pulled violently out from underneath the bed frame to fly across the living room with such speed that it crashes into a high kitchen shelf.

Suddenly able to move and aware of the new danger, Patchee runs to the kitchen area and slides deftly under the shelf to catch the expensive-looking plate that’s hurtling, spinning, towards the hardwood floor.

With a quickly-positioned paw, he catches the plate, but doesn’t notice the two plates either side of the one he caught, which now, no longer having a neighbour to lean on, begin rolling away from each-other. When they reach the end of their shelf, the momentum of their roll causes them to topple and make their own journey, turning end over end, towards the ground.

With a move the fanciest ballet dancer would be proud to pull off, Patchee stretches out his legs to catch each plate, just in time for the leg of the bed to make its journey from the top shelf down and down until it bonks the poor rabbit directly on the top of the head. As the light behind his eyes goes dim, he leans his head back against the bottom of the kitchen cabinet with a hollow thunk.

Seeing how good a time the plates on the top shelf have had, the glasses directly underneath take this as a cue to make a run for it, and topple forwards and down to scatter and break around Patchee’s sleeping body. And not to be outdone, the cups on the shelf below also get in on the act, falling forwards and breaking against the plates, the glass, and the little rabbit. Luckily he escapes with only a couple of minor grazes on the top of his head. It could’ve been a lot worse.

He’ll be fine; he just needs to sleep it off for a bit.

And on that note, let’s let sleeping rabbits lie and come back next week for part five, in which Molly has a run-in with Fogsworth’s police.

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