The Mission Part 4

January 27th, 2012 by Wordsman

He’s taking too long.

Peter was not looking at his watch, so he did not know that it had taken him less than five minutes to decide that the hastily laid scheme of squirrel and man had gone awry.

He was standing across the street from the station, trying to look nonchalant, and therefore assuming that he looked like he was plotting a crime no less serious than high treason.  Four minutes and thirty-seven seconds earlier, he had arrived outside the building and thought at the squirrel: Go inside, get the key, and come back here.  He even imagined a key as he thought it, just to be sure, though it was only after sending in Rocky that he realized he had no idea what a handcuff key looks like, or whether it would bear any resemblance to the common house key he had visualized.

Now he was plagued by regret, that uniquely horrifying blend of remorse and anticipation known only to a secret admirer who has dropped a letter with his name on it into the mailbox and immediately afterward starts trying to jam his arm into its depths, desperate to take it back.  He tried willing Rocky to return, but the squirrel would not appear at the open window where he had originally darted in.  Maybe he was out of range.  Or maybe . . . something worse.

“They can’t arrest a squirrel” was sounding dumber by the second.  He wondered what he might do if he stumbled on a small animal stealing his keys.  And what if they weren’t just keys to a house or an apartment, but something far more important?  What if the squirrel evaded capture and was out of reach?  What if I had a gun . . .?

Peter wasn’t about to run off and join PETA, but he still would have felt bad if the squirrel came to harm and it was his fault.  He felt a strange bond of kinship with the rodent; they were both being manipulated by the same evil song.  And then, there was always the risk that the cops would see Rocky and think the same thing Peter did: that no normal animal would come in to steal keys if it was acting on its own free will.  And then they would look out the window and see the guy across the street, with his hands in his pockets, whistling, as if whistling could make a person look innocent anywhere outside of a 1930’s cartoon . . .

His mind was made up.  He was going in after him.  Leave no ma—no squirrel behind.

The man at the front desk inside was thoroughly distracted by the telephone and might not have noticed Peter even if he shouted.  Peter considered this a stroke of luck.  He did not want to talk to anyone, because he could not imagine that conversation going well (“Excuse me, have you seen my squirrel?”)  He crouched down, both to avoid being seen and so that he could get a better view of the station as Rocky would see it.  Where could he have gone?

He crept past the desk and into a hallway, already preparing the defense that there were no signs explicitly telling him that he couldn’t go that way (at least, none that he could see from his squirrel’s-eye-view).  He may have been talking to himself.  When you’re sneaking around the police station looking for your lost squirrel, there really isn’t any point in pretending you’re not insane anymore.

A human can imitate a squirrel’s view of life by bending the knees and leaning forward, but he can only go so far.  The vast differences in stature remain.  Because it is small, a squirrel can be low to the ground and still look up.  Peter was all but forced to look down in that position, which was probably why he crashed into a pair of legs only a minute or two into the search.

After noting the unmistakable dark blue of the uniform pants, Peter looked up, past a respectable gut, into a wide, light brown face with receding black hair and a rather unruly mustache.  The face looked neither enraged nor pleased; it was simply weary.

Well, Peter thought, the 5% of his brain that wanted to remain optimistic somehow drowning out the 95% that wanted to run, at least that solves one problem.

“Does this belong to you?” the officer asked.  He was holding a frantic Rocky by the tail.

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