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FICTION: In the Shadows of Mudcat Alley

Amos 02 Aug 13 - 03:08 PM
Janie 02 Aug 13 - 05:55 PM
Ebbie 02 Aug 13 - 07:07 PM
michaelr 02 Aug 13 - 07:33 PM
Crowhugger 02 Aug 13 - 08:45 PM
Ebbie 02 Aug 13 - 09:51 PM
Janie 02 Aug 13 - 10:52 PM
Lonesome EJ 03 Aug 13 - 01:26 AM
Amos 03 Aug 13 - 04:02 AM
gnu 03 Aug 13 - 12:46 PM
Ebbie 03 Aug 13 - 02:17 PM
Crowhugger 03 Aug 13 - 03:30 PM
Janie 03 Aug 13 - 08:33 PM
Janie 03 Aug 13 - 08:37 PM
Amos 03 Aug 13 - 08:59 PM
Rapparee 03 Aug 13 - 09:25 PM
Janie 03 Aug 13 - 09:33 PM
Janie 03 Aug 13 - 09:47 PM
Crowhugger 03 Aug 13 - 10:14 PM
Lonesome EJ 03 Aug 13 - 11:39 PM
Janie 04 Aug 13 - 12:17 AM
Amos 04 Aug 13 - 12:30 AM
Rapparee 04 Aug 13 - 10:14 AM
Bill D 04 Aug 13 - 11:40 AM
Ebbie 04 Aug 13 - 12:44 PM
Crowhugger 04 Aug 13 - 12:48 PM
Lonesome EJ 04 Aug 13 - 01:46 PM
gnu 04 Aug 13 - 05:31 PM
Amos 04 Aug 13 - 06:41 PM
Rapparee 04 Aug 13 - 07:02 PM
Janie 04 Aug 13 - 08:06 PM
Janie 04 Aug 13 - 08:08 PM
Janie 04 Aug 13 - 08:41 PM
Crowhugger 04 Aug 13 - 09:21 PM
Amos 04 Aug 13 - 10:33 PM
Rapparee 05 Aug 13 - 09:51 AM
gnu 05 Aug 13 - 05:04 PM
Janie 05 Aug 13 - 11:49 PM
Janie 05 Aug 13 - 11:58 PM
Rapparee 06 Aug 13 - 02:12 PM
Amos 06 Aug 13 - 03:21 PM
Rapparee 06 Aug 13 - 10:06 PM
Rapparee 07 Aug 13 - 02:57 PM
Amos 07 Aug 13 - 03:35 PM
Crowhugger 07 Aug 13 - 04:15 PM
Janie 07 Aug 13 - 07:42 PM
Rapparee 07 Aug 13 - 09:48 PM
Crowhugger 07 Aug 13 - 09:50 PM
Rapparee 08 Aug 13 - 11:29 AM
Crowhugger 08 Aug 13 - 05:00 PM
Janie 08 Aug 13 - 09:23 PM
Amos 08 Aug 13 - 09:24 PM
Janie 08 Aug 13 - 09:34 PM
Janie 08 Aug 13 - 09:36 PM
Rapparee 08 Aug 13 - 11:41 PM
frogprince 09 Aug 13 - 10:53 AM
Janie 09 Aug 13 - 06:47 PM
Amos 09 Aug 13 - 09:46 PM
gnu 10 Aug 13 - 06:17 AM
Rapparee 10 Aug 13 - 09:52 AM
gnu 10 Aug 13 - 06:41 PM
Rapparee 10 Aug 13 - 10:32 PM
gnu 11 Aug 13 - 05:20 AM
GUEST 11 Aug 13 - 12:35 PM
frogprince 11 Aug 13 - 12:39 PM
Rapparee 12 Aug 13 - 09:37 AM
Crowhugger 12 Aug 13 - 05:35 PM
Rapparee 12 Aug 13 - 09:01 PM
Crowhugger 18 Aug 13 - 09:00 PM
gnu 19 Aug 13 - 01:58 PM
Rapparee 19 Aug 13 - 09:40 PM
Crowhugger 20 Aug 13 - 05:29 PM
gnu 21 Aug 13 - 05:43 AM
Crowhugger 21 Aug 13 - 11:01 AM
gnu 21 Aug 13 - 03:06 PM
Crowhugger 23 Aug 13 - 06:50 PM
Crowhugger 02 Sep 13 - 06:49 PM
gnu 02 Sep 13 - 07:05 PM
Amos 10 Oct 13 - 04:32 PM
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Subject: FICTION: In the Shadows of Mudcat Alley
From: Amos
Date: 02 Aug 13 - 03:08 PM

The slow drip of fog condensing on soot-stained walls echoed the sound of trickling sewage working its way along the darkened gutters. Battered trash cans guarded the bent and shabby doorways that lined the dingy passage in back of the famous Cafe, winding past the back of Joe's place (any Offer made good!) and the Lonesome Ernie Saloon. Boarded windows and chained doors creaked in the shadows, marking the extinction of once-hopping dives like Fielding's Hurrah, the Cameron Bookstore and the KatLaughing Tea and Literary Salon. Black shadows of frayed, starved alley cats, and their occasional prey, rattled the old newspapers and tin cans that lined the desolate edges of the world's least understood place--the dank, murky reaches of Mudcat Alley.

It's not a pretty place--the residue of broken hopes, the remnants of midnight grief, and the rattle of feared things in dark shadows. But there is more to the dark shadows of Mudcat Alley than meets the eye, and it happens on occasion that people from the boulevard--the bright world of singers, pickers, strummers, drummers, and quiet hummers--find that they have a good reason to find their way to these back corners, to penetrate the murk and the rank moldy darkness. Even normal people sometimes come to Mudcat Alley.


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Subject: RE: FICTION: In the Shadows of Mudcat Alley
From: Janie
Date: 02 Aug 13 - 05:55 PM

A skinny guy sits in a low wooden camp chair about midway down the alley. He is wearing oddly patterned overalls and holding an autoharp.


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Subject: RE: FICTION: In the Shadows of Mudcat Alley
From: Ebbie
Date: 02 Aug 13 - 07:07 PM

At the entrance to Mudcat Alley another guy - also skinny - stalks back and forth, his narrow shadow sliding smoothly beside him blocking and opening the entrance in turn. In his two upraised and grubby hands he carries a boldly printed sign: TELL ME MORE


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Subject: RE: FICTION: In the Shadows of Mudcat Alley
From: michaelr
Date: 02 Aug 13 - 07:33 PM

Peering through the drizzle into the alley from the street, my first thought was, "These are not folkies. Folkies have potbellies, as I do. These must be blues men!"


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Subject: RE: FICTION: In the Shadows of Mudcat Alley
From: Crowhugger
Date: 02 Aug 13 - 08:45 PM

Harmi leans out from between the dripping darkness and the soft-edged triangle of yellow light until her half silhouette becomes a full smiling face. She waves to catch the Skinny Walker's attention, but he is absorbed in thought and doesn't notice. Harmi calls back over her shoulder to sister-in-song,
"Pop on the kettle, wouldja, we're gonna need tea."
With the clatter of cooking and mugs behind her, Harmi turns her attention back to Skinny and his sign, wondering what more he wants to know. This time he sees her and inadvertently answers her waving with a startled frown that's quickly followed by a cautious smile. Harm is grinning from ear to ear and beckoning with unmistakeable gestures.
"Come warm yourself with some tea!" she calls to him through the gloom. She disappears from the yellow beam back into the dry kitchen where she works, lives really, leaving the door open for the visitor.


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Subject: RE: FICTION: In the Shadows of Mudcat Alley
From: Ebbie
Date: 02 Aug 13 - 09:51 PM

Skinny Walker sidles to the edge of the door. He has left his miraculous shadow behind. Over his shoulder Harmi sees the remnants of the shadow still sliding back and forth but it is getting dimmer each second. It is difficult for a shadow to make a brave showing in the misty darkness.


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Subject: RE: FICTION: In the Shadows of Mudcat Alley
From: Janie
Date: 02 Aug 13 - 10:52 PM

Rumors spread.


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Subject: RE: FICTION: In the Shadows of Mudcat Alley
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 03 Aug 13 - 01:26 AM

Graffitti always has a story to tell, and this old slat fence along the alley is covered with stories.

Here's a heart that says "Judy plus Pretzel", but no one still lives who remembers the short heated romance between the soft-spoken librarian and her contortionist beau.

Brooklyn Billy left his mark in the late 20s, just his name and a skull and crossbones. Some guess he was a dockside cutthroat but in reality he was an English Lit student from Columbia, and a member of that scholarly secret society whose symbol lay by his name. Two years later he contracted pneumonia on a hike through the Adirondacks and died, his last words "I had a damned good novel in me. Or maybe a symphony. Pass the mustard please."

"Free Snowden!" reads a recent addition, and beneath it someone has tagged on "...with purchase of one Snowden of equal or lesser value".

"Lefty Was GAY", the word gay being added in slapdash modern spray-paint fashion to a more formal and ancient "Lefty Was" which seems to have been recorded as a complete statement in itself. Few suspect that the man who left this was a drifting musician caught up in a Mexican border fracas who sold out his hero because he loved said hero's wife and could not abide the thought of her with him. He had lived the life of a bluesman, fast and loose, but haunted by his betrayal and by the ghost of his betrayed friend. This Mexican Bandit apparition had begun appearing at Lefty's appearances in various taverns about town, taking at first a seat in the darkest corner of the room, but gradually moving up in the seating arrangement until, most nights, he sat just at Lefty's right hand on the stage. No one else ever seemed to remark on this exotic specter, and so Lefty rightfully assumed that the ghost was visible only to him, was Pancho, and Pancho was no longer sprawled in Mexican dust, but right there with him, even picking up his harmonica once when he had dropped it.
Lefty's fortunes, never bright, took an even more bleak turn, and eventually landed him dead broke and sick in this alley. In the first twirling flakes scattered by a December midnight snow storm, Lefty had glimpsed his oncoming demise as certainly as a sign on a slippery road saying "Bridge Out Ahead!" And he had taken up a found feather, and dipping its tapered end in a cracked ink well, had sought to substantiate the fact that he had been worthy of a song, had attained a sort of immortality in that fact, but had also indeed occupied a small portion of God's real estate for nearly 68 years. "Lefty Was" indeed.


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Subject: RE: FICTION: In the Shadows of Mudcat Alley
From: Amos
Date: 03 Aug 13 - 04:02 AM

A litter of dark forms scud over the thin slice of night that looks down on Mudcat Alley, casting shadows in the night that die in the dwindling mists of chilled night fog. A rust fire escape creaks in a fitful breeze. A dark shadowform steps out of the darkedges and reveals itself as a bedraggled black cat with one ear missing. She slithers across the worn cobblestones and back into darkness, keening with spite and sorrow. Behind one of the disused trash cans a larger shadows stirs as quietly.

The man they call only by The Stranger unfolds his heavy woolen cape from over his head and untangles his long legs from the dank alley floor. Something in the fetid night air has summonsed his unconscious sleeping mind back to the present. He listens; he sniffs the fog-damp breeze. He looks without seeing for many minutes, stiller than the worn bricks at his back. Satisfied, he rises slowly to his feet, adjusts his slouch hat and his pack, and begins tracing his backtrail down into the black depths of Mudcat Alley.


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Subject: RE: FICTION: In the Shadows of Mudcat Alley
From: gnu
Date: 03 Aug 13 - 12:46 PM

A faint siren draws louder and flasing lights grow brighter. The siren ceases but the lights bounce off the alley entrance. Voices. Demands. Threats. A figure races down the alley and fades quickly away. Mores sirens from all directions in the distance.


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Subject: RE: FICTION: In the Shadows of Mudcat Alley
From: Ebbie
Date: 03 Aug 13 - 02:17 PM

(Oh yikes. This is not a happy story.)


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Subject: RE: FICTION: In the Shadows of Mudcat Alley
From: Crowhugger
Date: 03 Aug 13 - 03:30 PM

Harmi watches the Skinny Walker finish his 2nd mug of tea. She adds a bag to the pot and refills it from the bubbling kettle. She still waits for Skinny to use the stool she offered a while ago. But Skinny isn't sitting and he isn't talking beyond the weather. Harmi yawns a little and starts to wonder if Skinny can read the "tell me more" sign about which she has grown so curious. She swirls the pot before serving yet more tea into both their mugs. The milk is empty so she reaches for the honey and plays with the dipper as she considers whether to offer her couch to the Walker. Finally she chooses silence and sweetens her hot drink. She is starting to like the quiet company.


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Subject: RE: FICTION: In the Shadows of Mudcat Alley
From: Janie
Date: 03 Aug 13 - 08:33 PM

A blonde woman going gray turns down the alley, now lit up by the spotlights and flashing blue lights of the police cruisers clustered around the mouth. She takes a few steps in then turns around.
"Turn off those damned lights, you fools, and put away your guns. Nothin' needs shot in here but some rats, and not all of them. Sure, the place has gone downhill, but haven't we all?   Now, one of you fellows hand me a flashlight."

Taking the offered lamp, she snaps a filter over the lens, then begins to play the light around the area. She pauses at the grafitti on the fence, and reaches out a hand to feel the texture of the paints and the rough wood as she reads. Something stirs behind the fence and the officers, reluctant to disperse, grab at their guns.


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Subject: RE: FICTION: In the Shadows of Mudcat Alley
From: Janie
Date: 03 Aug 13 - 08:37 PM

"Calm down!" she barks at the cops as a large fellow in a medieval cape and hat climbs over the fence and joins her. They link arms and head on deeper into the alley.


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Subject: RE: FICTION: In the Shadows of Mudcat Alley
From: Amos
Date: 03 Aug 13 - 08:59 PM

(Hooboy!! We done started up a firestorm of long-dry genius! Yeehaw!)


The flashlight with its UV filter reveals inscriptions the normal eye would never see, written into the grime and stain of the rotten bricks. The Stranger stops and beckons the light over to a particular row of bricks just over his head. Glowing in the beam in iridiscent pale blue letters in the trademark runes of the Fellowship are the words "Bury me beneath the willow--beneath the weeping willow tree. ..." The Stranger studies the hands, memorizing the runes that make up the lyric, shakes his head, and moves on stealthily, the blonde by his side. They find similar fragments on the opposite wall, further down. "Johhny boy, you better comew ith me...", says one. And "The best of friends must part some day so why not...", says another. The Stranger remembers every curve, notices the different penmanships in the fragments. They go deeper, where the blackness of Mudcat Alley is thickest and the sway-sided buildings hang in toward each other blocking out even starlight.

"Soon...", he whispers. They skirt the broken fragments of an abandoned bureau, smashed beyond use, and the shattered fragments of an aged, warped pier glass, suffering the depredations of over a century of wear. "Soon."

The blackness presses in, retreating only directly around the flashlight's beam; the beam wavers and wanders--high, low, the gutters, the second story, back to the cobbles. Suddenly the two freeze in their places.

The edge of the beam spills across the edge of a battered corrugated box which claimed by its label to have once held original genuine Ford radiators, and the light spills into the shade behind it. A single stocking, and a badly scarred high-heeled shoe are lying there, next to each other.The shoe is half crushed, a stained blue leather, coated with grime and darkened stains. The stocking lies over the shoe's heel, snaking into the darkness. It is torn and stained with dark, dark patches of brown, something like the color of dried blood.


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Subject: RE: FICTION: In the Shadows of Mudcat Alley
From: Rapparee
Date: 03 Aug 13 - 09:25 PM

From the rust-locked fire escape above dangles a piece of broken rope, forlorn, a lost cord.


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Subject: RE: FICTION: In the Shadows of Mudcat Alley
From: Janie
Date: 03 Aug 13 - 09:33 PM

They both jump, startled by a sound behind them. One of the cops has followed them in. "I know this place pretty well myself," says the cop. "Cut through here everyday on my way to work. Interesting, but there are some doorways best avoided these days. I'll keep my gun holstered, but if you don't mind, I think it best if I come along with you."

The blonde and the stranger study the guy for a few seconds, then nod. He can come with them. As she turns, the blonde's feet tangle in the draped stocking on the ground before her and she falls. The last thing she notices before she hits the ground is the light coming from a partially opened door, further down the alley.


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Subject: RE: FICTION: In the Shadows of Mudcat Alley
From: Janie
Date: 03 Aug 13 - 09:47 PM

A guy in a Tilley hat with a Martin guitar strapped over his back steps up, braking her fall, and grabbing the flashlight so it doesn't smash. He shines it down the alley. The filtered light reveals many forms gathered outside that doorway. Some of them are clearly frequent denizens, about to boldly walk in. Some wanting to share a cuppa, others intent on smashing up the place with glee. Others appear to be shades. Tentative or reluctant, summoned back to the alley from which they had fled or had been run out over time.

Lying on her back on the ground, catching her breath after that fall, the blonde notices the creaking fire escape and the broken rope, a lost cord found. On the lowest rung, sits a man holding a rapier in one hand and a trumpet in the other.


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Subject: RE: FICTION: In the Shadows of Mudcat Alley
From: Crowhugger
Date: 03 Aug 13 - 10:14 PM

[I'll see that "yee-haw" and raise you a "thanks, Amos!"]


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Subject: RE: FICTION: In the Shadows of Mudcat Alley
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 03 Aug 13 - 11:39 PM

Sitting on the dark fire escape ladder, Blake Madison intently surveys the two items he had found. Somehow, these two items held the secret to the homicide. The rapier, French, slightly rusted, and with a dent in the hilt, seemed to have a thin veneer of something like blood coating the blade's bottom. He glanced at his right hand which held a trumpet. The victim was certainly no musician, and certainly in no position to be in possession of such a fine trumpet as this Getzen in mint condition.
Madison placed them side by side on the fire escape landing, just by the knot of the cord which dangled down into the alley. "Trumpet, rapier," he said, knocking a Pall Mall from the pack. "Rapier, trumpet," and the flare of his Zippo illuminated his face for a moment, Blake drawing in the hot smoke. Then, holding the Zippo out at an angle, he saw something on the rope about three feet below the knot...a handprint. He pulled up the rope and saw the mark of three fingers, in something like soot on the rope's surface. He held the lighter to the trumpet, no print, and same with the rapier.
Madison pulled a thin flask from the breast pocket of his rumpled blazer and took along pull.
Below him, the blond and the Australian (at least he looked Aussie) who had been bumbling about in the alley walked to a spot just below the rope and gazed up at him. He waited, but they said nothing, and he looked again to the end of the alley where the cops seemed to also be waiting for something to happen, or for somebody to show up. They hadn't found the body, and probably wouldn't until daylight, because the body was that of his client, Mitch Muller, and it was in the room behind him. Right now it wasn't clear if the pair in the alley below had seen him or not. If they had, would they recognize him?
He took off his coat, stepped back into the apartment, wrapped the two items in his coat, then exited, locking the door behind him.
For all the action in the alley, there was no one on Tiple Street and Madison walked to the corner and flagged a cab.


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Subject: RE: FICTION: In the Shadows of Mudcat Alley
From: Janie
Date: 04 Aug 13 - 12:17 AM

"I'm fine" she reassured her companions. "I'll head on down to the light coming from the Cafe. Harmi will take good care of me, and these friends will see to it I arrive ok," nodding toward the calico cat and the white rat that appeared and were rubbing around her ankles. But she pulled on each of companions sleeves and whispered, as they leaned close, "I think that may have been Blake I saw on the fire escape."

She stood up with help, shook herself off, smiled and welcomed other shadowy figures as they moved out from the grimy walls to walk together toward the light from the cracked door down the alley.

Overhead, shades and shadows stirred.


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Subject: RE: FICTION: In the Shadows of Mudcat Alley
From: Amos
Date: 04 Aug 13 - 12:30 AM

The Stranger shrugged his cape closer around him, warding off the chill he had felt when he recognized the shadowy form slippig away on the rust-locked fire escape platform. That Goddamned MADISON. Never there when you want him, always sliding in and out when you least expect him.. He laughed, softly, and touched the brick wall over his head where the last cof the mysterious inscriptions had been seen: ANd you're still jsy across the border line....

He wondered if Madison knew about Cooder.


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Subject: RE: FICTION: In the Shadows of Mudcat Alley
From: Rapparee
Date: 04 Aug 13 - 10:14 AM

Another figure appeared from hiding, walking from behind the dumpster where he had sheltered from the others.

The Alley was busy tonight, he thought, so it's a good thing I did bring my nine millimeter short. Not the best choice, but he hadn't known what might happen when he'd left his room for a bottle of bourbon.

These alleys near the docks were always a mess. Sailors sleeping off a jag, prossies plying their trade, sometimes a corpse, and always a damned cop or that damned Blake. Blake -- who'd borrowed his rapier and his trumpet days ago and hadn't yet returned them. Well, he'd deal with that tomorrow.

He looked around a corner before proceeding and noted that the riverboat was in. Good. A dock rat, the animal kind, scurried away.


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Subject: RE: FICTION: In the Shadows of Mudcat Alley
From: Bill D
Date: 04 Aug 13 - 11:40 AM

Guy in weirdly patterned overalls melts into shadowy niche, cradles autoharp tightly and holds camp chair all folded up, waiting for a chance to sneak away into saner surroundings... muttering to himself..."I wish I could write."


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Subject: RE: FICTION: In the Shadows of Mudcat Alley
From: Ebbie
Date: 04 Aug 13 - 12:44 PM

lol "Bill said No... Damn, I love to write."


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Subject: RE: FICTION: In the Shadows of Mudcat Alley
From: Crowhugger
Date: 04 Aug 13 - 12:48 PM

The blond stops wincing as soon as Harmi finishes cleaning grit and filthy rainwater from the scrapes on her hands and one knee. Her mud-drenched jacket and loose pants finish dripping their sooty, festering mud onto the rug just inside the alley door.
    "Wait here. I'll bring you something dry to wear." Harmi tucks a mug of nearly-hot tea into the blond's hands and slips up the back stairs. The blond squeezes her cold fingers and palms against the warmth trying to get her bones to feel the heat, then suddenly she withdraws the scraped hand as searing pain fills first the hand then her whole arm. Skinny feels this as if it were his own body and looks away, not realizing he is rubbing his own hand as if to ease her pain.
    The blond casts a moving silhouette in the open doorway as she eagerly drinks some of the tea. Soon she turns and extends the half-empty mug into the foggy night where it disappears into a large, damp-gloved hand that momentarily breached the hazy boundary of the yellow light. Only the rats and a few goatsuckers flapping in the night sky bugs can see the mug as it is tipped into the foetid shadows and emptied in a single silent gulp.


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Subject: RE: FICTION: In the Shadows of Mudcat Alley
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 04 Aug 13 - 01:46 PM

Entering his foetid apartment, Madison flicked off his television, which he always left on when he was out on a case, in hope the cops would think somebody was home and request a warrant to enter. He checked his phone, three voice mails. Two were from the ARC requesting he put some old furniture and clothing out on his porch for pickup Tuesday. Blake scribbled down the date with the notation: "obtain clothing and possible coffee table Tuesday morning- ARC pickup day". The third voicemail was from Lazlo, asking about the return of the trumpet and rapier Blake had taken with him at the end of the party on Saturday, and event which evaded his memory in all of the other details. Removing the items from his rolled-up blazer, he muttered "well that explains that", and made an addendum to his ARC pickup reminder. "Return items to Lazlo."
The hangovers were getting worse. Or else an element of Alzheimer's had entered the picture.


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Subject: RE: FICTION: In the Shadows of Mudcat Alley
From: gnu
Date: 04 Aug 13 - 05:31 PM

Dawn draws near. The events of the night become dreams for some, nightmares for others, questions for many. What? What happened? I must have a boo out and aboutst and ask my friends. "Mornin... damp 'n cold innit?"


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Subject: RE: FICTION: In the Shadows of Mudcat Alley
From: Amos
Date: 04 Aug 13 - 06:41 PM

The Stranger looked at the gray streaks beginning to discolor the thin patch of black sky visible from the Alley. He retraced his steps along the dingy bricks, back to the garbage cans under the rust-locked fire escape.   He hunkered down, staring intently. He held out a finger, and felt the dark liquid pooling under one corner of the rusty platform. He looked up in time to see the next slow drop of blood tumble down. He was sorry the cops were gone. But that goddamn Madison was around somewhere, and he'd be interested to know about a puddle of still-warm blood.

He reached behind the nearest trash dumpster and drew out a large gigbag with the word "Martin" stenciled on it. He slung it over his shoulder, tightened his hat, swung his cape back and set off with quiet cat-like strides toward the gray foggy dawnlight at the mouth of Mudcat Alley.


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Subject: RE: FICTION: In the Shadows of Mudcat Alley
From: Rapparee
Date: 04 Aug 13 - 07:02 PM

As he did, a chupacabra leaped silently from fire escape to the dumpster to the alley and followed the stranger's scent trail. Hunting had been good tonight, and was about to get better.


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Subject: RE: FICTION: In the Shadows of Mudcat Alley
From: Janie
Date: 04 Aug 13 - 08:06 PM

"Harmi, I'll be right back." The blond limped out the door, noticing the shadows beginning to fade as daylight broke, and gently grabbed the arm of the autoharp player before he could tuck himself away. "This way." She pulled him through the door and and reached for the coffee pot.

"You don't have to write a word. Just keep on there in the center of the alley, demonstrating how to calmly stay centered when you are surrounded by people shouting 'STOP MAKING SENSE!'" And don't forget, you are scheduled to teach a yoga class at 10:00.


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Subject: RE: FICTION: In the Shadows of Mudcat Alley
From: Janie
Date: 04 Aug 13 - 08:08 PM

(old timers disease, I seem to have suddenly forgot how to do proper punctuation. Forgive please - it may or may not come back to me.)


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Subject: RE: FICTION: In the Shadows of Mudcat Alley
From: Janie
Date: 04 Aug 13 - 08:41 PM

Feeling more chipper with the daybreak and from Harmi's ministrations, the blond moved behind the counter to help Harmi get ready for the breakfast crowd. They stood, working shoulder to shoulder at the prep table, their backs to the door.

"Interesting doings in the alley last night," the Blond said, without turning her head. "Shadows stirring that haven't moved for years, and some around we haven't seen for years. I don't know if that thin, quiet guy over there is your new beau or just passing through, but you should know," now she did turn and look Harmi full in the face. "Blake is back in town."


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Subject: RE: FICTION: In the Shadows of Mudcat Alley
From: Crowhugger
Date: 04 Aug 13 - 09:21 PM

[another goatsucker though I rather like the chupacabra reference too!]


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Subject: RE: FICTION: In the Shadows of Mudcat Alley
From: Amos
Date: 04 Aug 13 - 10:33 PM

Harmi's smile dropped out of sight into her generous shirtfront, and her Latin tan succumbed to a tide of pallor. "Blake? Blake MADISON? Here?" The blonde just nodded.

Harmi pushed a tray loaded with freshly made breakfasts into the Blonde's hands. "Here. Table eleven, red moustache. I'll be back in a minute." And she vanished in the direction of the door with the pink "Senoras" painted on it.

Blonde shook her head. She thought she'd seen it all. No reason for all the emo. It had been four years since either of them had seen the back end of Madison leaving town. But that's the way it was with women who crossed trails with Madison.

She sighed and hefted the breakfast tray. She zeroed in on the tall customer with the red moustache at table eleven, and headed toward him, pasting on her best "I deserve a whalloping tip" smile.


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Subject: RE: FICTION: In the Shadows of Mudcat Alley
From: Rapparee
Date: 05 Aug 13 - 09:51 AM

He checked the small automatic. He shouldn't have brought a 9mm Short, or if he did he should have remembered to bring the bullets. Quietly he dropped it down a sewer grate to join the others he'd dropped there over the years for the same reason.

This was getting expensive.

He sat down on a broken shipping crate and gently tickled the chupacabra's ears. Down to his last ninety-seven cents and a set of well-polished brass knuckles.

Maybe he could bum coffee and a doughnut off Harmi again. He clipped the leash on the chupacabra's collar, stood up, said "Come along, Fido" and shuffled down the alley.


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Subject: RE: FICTION: In the Shadows of Mudcat Alley
From: gnu
Date: 05 Aug 13 - 05:04 PM

The Stranger stopped dead in his tracks. Blood? But, if it was a chupacabra, there would be no blood. Madison? Did Madison know? Was Madison now The Key to the mystery? He started forward again but faltered. What did it mean to him, he asked himself. He froze in his tracks. DAMN!


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Subject: RE: FICTION: In the Shadows of Mudcat Alley
From: Janie
Date: 05 Aug 13 - 11:49 PM

Blondie shashayed up to the table with just enough swing to her hips to perhaps garnish that big tip, if it was coming from the big man with the red mustache, but not so much sass as to cost her if the small woman sitting with him was paying the tab. "Groundhog omelet with vadalia onions and habaneros and buttermilk biscuits?" The petite woman raised a hand slightly from the table. Blondie set the big platter down in front of the dark-haired woman, the granola with greek yogurt down in front of Red, and lastly, two steaming mugs of strong coffee laced with Irish whiskey at each of their sides.

"Can I get you anything else just now?" Blondie ignored the cobwebs hanging from their ears and the grimy soot on the back of the woman, obviously accumulated from lurking in the shadows of the Alley. Without waiting for them to answer she turned away, calling over her shoulder, I'll check back in a little while, as she beelined toward the door, eager to both welcome and chastise the regular coming in the door, the fellow with the chupacabra on the leash.


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Subject: RE: FICTION: In the Shadows of Mudcat Alley
From: Janie
Date: 05 Aug 13 - 11:58 PM

"Lazlo," she said in a fierce whisper, "What the hell is going on?"


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Subject: RE: FICTION: In the Shadows of Mudcat Alley
From: Rapparee
Date: 06 Aug 13 - 02:12 PM

"NO PETS!!" yelled Harmi.

"This is not a pet," replied the man. "This is a service chupacabra, and the law states flatly that service animals are permitted in dumps like this."

And he pulled the snarling, snapping animal to a table and sat down.

"A cup of coffee and a piece of your delicious poison...er, boysenberry pie, please. And a live goat for my friend here," and he scratched the chupacabra's ears.

It purred like a contented kitten.


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Subject: RE: FICTION: In the Shadows of Mudcat Alley
From: Amos
Date: 06 Aug 13 - 03:21 PM

From the aprtment above the coffee shop a thumping and scuffling broke the routine sounds of dishes and the murmur of diners. Conversatios ground to a halt as the sounds grew more violent--a crash that sounded like a chest of drawers being thrown over, the slam of some dull object against the floor upstairs, and the crunch of something glass breaking.

Then, the muffled crump of a shot. The diners froze in place, caught in mid-move like a midnightt oil painting.


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Subject: RE: FICTION: In the Shadows of Mudcat Alley
From: Rapparee
Date: 06 Aug 13 - 10:06 PM

The chupacabra sat up at the noise, licked its lips, and can only be said to smile eagerly.


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Subject: RE: FICTION: In the Shadows of Mudcat Alley
From: Rapparee
Date: 07 Aug 13 - 02:57 PM

At the other end of the alley, at the DIMOC, a peg-legged man closed and locked the door, heedless of the screams from inside.


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Subject: RE: FICTION: In the Shadows of Mudcat Alley
From: Amos
Date: 07 Aug 13 - 03:35 PM

The cafe sat in stunned silence in the aftermath of the shot. Diners looked at each other worriedly. The lady in the brown leisure suit with the rhinestone glasses started sniffling into a napkin. THere was a stark silence upstairs.

With a loud crash, the front door of the cafe opened hard. A bedraggled looking figure in a dirty trenchcoat stepped over the threshold and looked slowly at every face, at every tab;e, at every misplaced napkin and dropped fork, his gaze finally coming to rest on the pale features of the Blonde.

Blake Madison was back in town.


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Subject: RE: FICTION: In the Shadows of Mudcat Alley
From: Crowhugger
Date: 07 Aug 13 - 04:15 PM

"My baby!" Harmi slapped a bin of dirty dishes onto the nearest table and squeezed her way towards her son as quickly as she could between the chairs, and gave him a long hug. Blake's arms remained limp at his sides while his spine stiffened just a little.


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Subject: RE: FICTION: In the Shadows of Mudcat Alley
From: Janie
Date: 07 Aug 13 - 07:42 PM

The Blonde's mind was racing with anxiety and indecision, "What to do? What to do?" She resisted the urge to go smack rhinestone glasses up the side of the head just to get her to shut up her hysterical wailing. Instead, she walked over to the old phone on the wall, lifted the earpiece, cranked the phone and standing on tiptoes, spoke loudly into the speaker/microphone, "Operator? Rosanna? This is Mudcat Cafe, we have an emergency - What? Yes, we are still here and open. Yes, Harmi is still running the grill. No, we don't do take-out! Look, just do as I ask and call the Mudcops and tell them to get here stat! No time to explain, just tell them to hurry!" She was 99% sure who was on duty at Mudcop headquarters, but if she was wrong, there might be hell to pay. She could feel the sweat dripping between her shoulder blades. If he had called out with a hangover and some one else was there...well, it didn't bear thinking about.

Addressing the entire room, she loudly announced the police were on the way and everybody CALM DOWN!!!! Blake and Harmi looked over at her as she walked back over to Lazlo. She simply raised an eyebrow and smiled at the 'endearing' family tableau they presented before she turned to Lazlo, lifted an arm to wrap affectionately around his neck as she leaned in seductively, her lips nuzzling his ear. Her stroking hand found the pressure point on his shoulder, and as she gripped it firmly, she murmured, "Wipe that malicious grin off your face, take your vicious beast with you - you might need him - and get your ass up those steps and find out what the hell just happened! We need to know if we really need the Mudcops or if we need to hide a body from the Mudcops. Be back down here in 5 minutes, in case some one decides to really call the cops." She made to pull away, then leaned in again, "Wait, Harmi mentioned she has been keeping Schrodinger's cat for him while Erwin is vacationing in Greece. If the autoharp player is out there near the steps, maybe you had better take him with you. Either him or the Stranger - but not both. We have enough chaos as it is."


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Subject: RE: FICTION: In the Shadows of Mudcat Alley
From: Rapparee
Date: 07 Aug 13 - 09:48 PM

"Oh, all right," he said, apparently pulling a .45ACP Kriss Vector submachine gun out of midair.

He turned to the chupacabra and commanded, "Fido! Sit! Alert! Stay!" and headed for the stairs. Back flat against the right hand wall he moved like a shadow up, every sense alert and firearm poised for instant use.

At the top of the stairs he crouched and then disappeared in the hallway to the right.

****

There was the sound of a door being violently flung open and a series of garbled commands was heard downstairs. A few moments of silence, and then he appeared at the top of the stairs holding a lanky man by the collar.

He casually threw him down the stairs and started down himself. Halfway down, he announced, "Cancel the mudcops. Just another troll shooting a "VR" into the wall above the mantel. Then he tripped and fell, knocking himself out on the fender. Apologize to all of these nice people, Sherlock, and buy a round for the house." The Vector moved menacingly, the green dot of the laser aiming system bright against the houndstooth deerstalker.

The chupacabra slumped, disappointed.


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Subject: RE: FICTION: In the Shadows of Mudcat Alley
From: Crowhugger
Date: 07 Aug 13 - 09:50 PM

In the cosy alleyside room in back of the main kitchen Harmi's granddaughter drags from a corner the fat log with a big L-shaped notch cut into it. The noise stops with it's perfect positioning in front of tea sink. She crosses to the stove and reaches for the tall hinged handle that sits perfectly centred somehow above the lid. There's no clatter at all as she lifts the empty kettle and skips a few steps with it then mounts the log step stool. When the kettle is filled to the top of calcium deposits she closes the tap and makes her way back silently down the stool, struggling with the load until it is back on the stove. Silence in the café always means tea.


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Subject: RE: FICTION: In the Shadows of Mudcat Alley
From: Rapparee
Date: 08 Aug 13 - 11:29 AM

With a siren pitched in a key that only dogs and bluesmen can hear and loud enough to damage the hearing of anyone within a hectare, the mudcops' paddy wagon rolls up to the door. The front door crashes open and a long series of mudcops in riot gear, each armed with a five-string banjo or high-powered accordion surround the customers.


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Subject: RE: FICTION: In the Shadows of Mudcat Alley
From: Crowhugger
Date: 08 Aug 13 - 05:00 PM

Everyone who hadn't already dropped their forks and knives does so now. In one enormous shared motion the café patrons sit just a little taller as they begin to sing The Fox Went Out on a Chilly night at the tops of their lungs and in full, spontaneous harmony. It isn't enough to drown out the mudcops, rather it knits together the wail and twang into a poignant whole. Harmi's eyes fill as she sings,
    "...Old mother flipper flopper jumped out of bed..." A tear drops to the her apron at, "...there were the little ones, eight, nine, ten..." She is recalling the pack of coyo-dogs that came through last week and halved the local flock of pigeons.


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Subject: RE: FICTION: In the Shadows of Mudcat Alley
From: Janie
Date: 08 Aug 13 - 09:23 PM

The calico cat and white rat had bee-lined for the cosy alleyside room and Harmi's granddaughter the second the Blonde had stepped into the cafe, relishing the warmth and the bowl of tuna salad left uncovered on the counter. Lazlo had carelessly left the door to apartment opened at the top of the stairs. Schrodinger's cat, quietly slipped out the cracked door, unobserved and unmeasured in amidst the the noise and distraction. From the very top step, he made a quantum leap and landed next to Harmi's granddaughter.

Harmi's granddaughter, unfazed, looked at him and remarked, "'Is you is, or is you ain't?' It don't matter. Have some tuna."

The rat looked apprehensive. The calico ignored him.

Out in the main dining area, Blake awkwardly patted the top of his mother's head, (he couldn't stand to see a woman cry,) but didn't hesitate to take the opportunity to edge away from her. Encounters with Mom always were awkward and unwelcomed - or not. A paradox.

Blake didn't like paradoxes.

he also didn't like accordions.


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Subject: RE: FICTION: In the Shadows of Mudcat Alley
From: Amos
Date: 08 Aug 13 - 09:24 PM

(Dear Lonesome---see what happens when you take a few days off?)


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Subject: RE: FICTION: In the Shadows of Mudcat Alley
From: Janie
Date: 08 Aug 13 - 09:34 PM

(sorry for typos and left out words. We be used to it, eh? and can read between and among the errors?)

The Stranger was no where to be seen. Blake slipped up the stairs.


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Subject: RE: FICTION: In the Shadows of Mudcat Alley
From: Janie
Date: 08 Aug 13 - 09:36 PM

(grin)


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Subject: RE: FICTION: In the Shadows of Mudcat Alley
From: Rapparee
Date: 08 Aug 13 - 11:41 PM

Under the table the chupacabra was nuzzling a white rabbit, obviously concerned about the effect the rabbit's rather large watch would have on its digestive track.

The submachine gun had disappeared to where ever such things disappear to.

He turned to the Chief Mudcop and said soothingly, "You can take him away. Be careful, he's a tricky one, and watch out for his life companion, 'Doctor' Watson. I believe that he is related to 'Doctor' Jekyll. You may leave now."

The mudcops threw the lanky fellow into the mudwagon and left.

Meanwhile the chupacabra hacked up a hairball of white rabbit fur.


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Subject: RE: FICTION: In the Shadows of Mudcat Alley
From: frogprince
Date: 09 Aug 13 - 10:53 AM

The scene returns to the murder scene in the upstairs apartment. Blake Madison has finally decided that his safest alternative is to call the police and direct them to Muller's body. Two detectives have proceeded Madison into the apartment. They have found only mangled clothing scattered on the bloody carpet, with singularly strange bloody footprints leading out through the window and down the fire escape. The prints appear to be of a four-footed creature. The back paws have seven toes each, the front paws three toes each. As if that is not enough, the front paw prints appear to have claws with barbed tips. Detective first class Joe Kawalzki leans in a door way, his palm clasped to his forehead. "Keerist, Madison", he moans; "Do you ever get involved in anything that doesn't turn into a friggin' nightmare??"


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Subject: RE: FICTION: In the Shadows of Mudcat Alley
From: Janie
Date: 09 Aug 13 - 06:47 PM

(Hello Froggie!!!!)


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Subject: RE: FICTION: In the Shadows of Mudcat Alley
From: Amos
Date: 09 Aug 13 - 09:46 PM

Madison didn't answer. He leaned against the doorway of the bloodied flat, staring keenly at every square inch, his blue-gray eyes blazing. He cracked a deck of Luckies and lit one with a single flip of his thumb on a folded matchbook which advertised piano lessons. Slow plumes of steel-gray smoke drifted out of his nose.

"You guys know as well as I do there's no such thing as a chucacabra," he smirked. "As usual, you're missing things. Those prints weren't made by toes."

The detective was unimpressed. "All right, wisenheimer, what were they made by??"

Madison laughed. "They were made by a capo."   He turned to the flat's front hall closet and flung it open, reaching inside with his free hand. The other held his smoking Lucky. "In particular, a banjo capo." He whirled and brought his lanky arm out of the dim recesses of the closet. "This banjo capo." In his left hand, the other-worldly shape of a long-neck five-string bano hung before their eyes. It had a capo on the fourth fret. The capo was dripping blood in slow, rhythmic drops.


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Subject: RE: FICTION: In the Shadows of Mudcat Alley
From: gnu
Date: 10 Aug 13 - 06:17 AM

Dripping. Dripping? Dripping! "He's close.", he said quietly, his eyes still scanning everything.


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Subject: RE: FICTION: In the Shadows of Mudcat Alley
From: Rapparee
Date: 10 Aug 13 - 09:52 AM

Outside in the alley, the chupacabra smiled and pulled on the leash. Away from the sounds coming from the room up above. Let's go down to the docks and see the riverboat, it seemed to be telling the man holding the leash.

"...no such thing as a chupacabra." It regally led the way. It hadn't come here to be insulted and even now it was planning its revenge. Revenge, cold and sweet and gruesome.


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Subject: RE: FICTION: In the Shadows of Mudcat Alley
From: gnu
Date: 10 Aug 13 - 06:41 PM

At the docks, the waves were gently lapping hulls of the moored. Then...


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Subject: RE: FICTION: In the Shadows of Mudcat Alley
From: Rapparee
Date: 10 Aug 13 - 10:32 PM

...the waves passed the finish line and no more laps were required. Both the harbor and the harbour took on the smooth, glassy surface that can only precede a gale.


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Subject: RE: FICTION: In the Shadows of Mudcat Alley
From: gnu
Date: 11 Aug 13 - 05:20 AM

"Flat, oily ca'm" is how Gale, the gal from Newfoundland, would describe it. But, where did Gale fit into this mess? What was Gale's tale?


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Subject: RE: FICTION: In the Shadows of Mudcat Alley
From: GUEST
Date: 11 Aug 13 - 12:35 PM

Gale LeFevere, originally from Newfoundland but now very much a big city gal, oozed into Blake Madison's office. You could say that her dress was kinda tight; actually you could say that, if one of the ink colors in the tattoo on her thigh was in thicker ink than the others, you would have been able to see that part of the design standing out in relief. She eased down unto Madison's lap, settled herself with a bit of a wiggle, and said "So, big guy, how was your day?". Madison smiled slightly and said, "I'm not sure you really want to know".


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Subject: RE: FICTION: In the Shadows of Mudcat Alley
From: frogprince
Date: 11 Aug 13 - 12:39 PM

Oops; I guess I lost my cookies while composing that last post.


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Subject: RE: FICTION: In the Shadows of Mudcat Alley
From: Rapparee
Date: 12 Aug 13 - 09:37 AM

Meanwhile, he turned to his pet, Fido, and asked rhetorically, "Have you ever tried to use a left-handed mouse?"


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Subject: RE: FICTION: In the Shadows of Mudcat Alley
From: Crowhugger
Date: 12 Aug 13 - 05:35 PM

Fido pawed the riverbank with his left front hoof, then rhetorically urinated in the slight depression it made.


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Subject: RE: FICTION: In the Shadows of Mudcat Alley
From: Rapparee
Date: 12 Aug 13 - 09:01 PM

Down on the docks a line of rats ran across a hawser tying the riverboat to the dock.

Rats abandoning a ship, he thought? Could this be a portent? Or could it just be a fumigation or something?

There was no way to know, he thought, except that that boat has a bad list to port and there's six inches of water on the bow deck. He briefly pitied the banjo player plucking away on the Texas deck, oblivious, like all banjo pickers.


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Subject: RE: FICTION: In the Shadows of Mudcat Alley
From: Crowhugger
Date: 18 Aug 13 - 09:00 PM

From the tea kitchen at the back of the café Harmi's granddaughter could hear sounds of splashing as sailors and rats alike abandoned both riverboat and the banjo player. The sailors in the main had jumped directly into the water while the rats mostly fell to the murky current having failed to gain a foothold on the hawser or on the other rats already clinging. Above the splashes rose a broad chorus in time and tempo with the swimmers until finally the splashing ceased and the dripping ensemble stood on the gravel beach. As one they sang and dripped as they gathered scraps of stray materials, anything long and solid.
    Young 'Llulah Madison laboriously filled the kettle just as Blake had once done in that same kitchen. The girl knew that waterlogged sailors meant that Nanna would drink tea while they warmed themselves and told their stories, mostly not drinking tea themselves. She dragged a large jug from the special pantry over to a small table in the tea kitchen.
    The sound of the sailors using their found tools again and again to conk the rats as they, too, arrived at shore, did not carry to that part of Mudcat Alley.


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Subject: RE: FICTION: In the Shadows of Mudcat Alley
From: gnu
Date: 19 Aug 13 - 01:58 PM

His head was low, as if peering at the ground. He shuffled slowly along the alley and into the cafe. He sat. Asked, he replied, "Tea, skim milk. At least a pot." Asked, he looked up from under the peak of his cap with bloodshot eyes and said, "Me? Just call me Pekoe. I need that tea."


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Subject: RE: FICTION: In the Shadows of Mudcat Alley
From: Rapparee
Date: 19 Aug 13 - 09:40 PM

In the muddy depths of the harbo(u)r the slimy tentacles of the kraken stirred to life.


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Subject: RE: FICTION: In the Shadows of Mudcat Alley
From: Crowhugger
Date: 20 Aug 13 - 05:29 PM

(gonna have to go look up "kraken"--but later, after rehearsal!)


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Subject: RE: FICTION: In the Shadows of Mudcat Alley
From: gnu
Date: 21 Aug 13 - 05:43 AM

(I always thought it was black rum made with monsters and demons just like the churchlady told me.)


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Subject: RE: FICTION: In the Shadows of Mudcat Alley
From: Crowhugger
Date: 21 Aug 13 - 11:01 AM

'Llulah skipped to the main kitchen, jiggling with energy as she tugged Harmi's sleeve and pointed back through the doorway.
    "He says at least a pot!"
    Harmi nodded, her eyes a little absent today. She finished tossing the day's batch of quinoa salad before making her way the rearmost room. Settling herself somewhat, 'Llulah brought over large teapot half full of freshly brewing tea and ceremoniously placed it in front of Pekoe. She removed the lid and Harmi topped it with brandy. Pekoe shivered ever so slightly, and nodded his thanks. He pulled a small suede lump from a soft leather night bag. Deft fingers untied a single thong so that the suede fell away showing a clean porcelain sake cup ready to fill. As he drank--always with two hands on the cup--he shook his head several times. Harmi waited.
    Pekoe sighed. "Your brandy delivery is at the bottom of the river."
    "Bloody hell." Resignation came through stronger than frustration. Those bootleg cases might as well have been smashed on a sidewalk. The last time a boat went down with her goods it was away from the town making a clandestine recovery possible. This was different.
    "Shit," she pined under her breath as she made her way back to the remaining day's work.


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Subject: RE: FICTION: In the Shadows of Mudcat Alley
From: gnu
Date: 21 Aug 13 - 03:06 PM

The brandy tea kicked in. Pekoe asked for Amaretto dell'Amorosa on ice. His favourite. Looser and more lucid with alcohol, asked his real name, he replied, "Pekoe is fine. Tea can be calming but too much caffiene can set you off without warning when someone pisses you off. It's like having a name which is two names... two personalities. I hear something strange happened. Any idea what or who it was all about?" It was the way he asked that instilled an unease. Who really was the man with two names?


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Subject: RE: FICTION: In the Shadows of Mudcat Alley
From: Crowhugger
Date: 23 Aug 13 - 06:50 PM

The chupacabra wandered in from Mudcat Alley and laid its chin on Pekoe's lap. Pekoe dipped his finger in the small cup of Amaretto and offered it to his old friend. It licked every trace from Pekoe's finger. Harmi heard its footsteps and came back to the tea kitchen to do the same. 'Llulah followed closely and copied her example. Greetings completed, the chupacabra harrumphed into a heap on its favourite warm spot on the worn hickory floor.


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Subject: RE: FICTION: In the Shadows of Mudcat Alley
From: Crowhugger
Date: 02 Sep 13 - 06:49 PM

(ever hopeful)


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Subject: RE: FICTION: In the Shadows of Mudcat Alley
From: gnu
Date: 02 Sep 13 - 07:05 PM

(It will come)


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Subject: RE: FICTION: In the Shadows of Mudcat Alley
From: Amos
Date: 10 Oct 13 - 04:32 PM

(Plot-shattering violates the core etiquette of the game, here! The thread must move on!)

The dicks on the floor were non-plussed; they didn't know banjos even HAD capos, and they were pretty sure the idea of a banjo capo leaving bloody prints was at least as improbable as a chupacabra doing it. But, after all, they were dealing with a Legend in His Own Right--Blake Madison, the toughest dick ever to slip a thread into the Mudcat Forum unobserved--so they decided to give him the benefit of their ignorance.

The forensic report came back within two hours, by which time the dicks had finished printing the pad, and had bought Madison his second, third, and fourth Guinnesses in the back room of the cafe downstairs.


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