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The Equine Cabal
by Jack deMule
Jack deMule -- all rights reserved
 

The night was hardly underway when Randy limped into the bar. Although the past week had been marked by strange events, the patrons were unprepared for the shock they were about to receive. Randy was smiling.

Conversation stopped, all eyes were fixed on the bruised and battered norm. Wondering if he had hid Peggy's body in the basement, Edwina was the first to break the silence. "So Randy, how's the little woman?"

Randy frowned. "I suppose you think that's funny, but Peggy has her reason's for being a trifle difficult at times. This afternoon I took her to the neighborhood clinic. She was sick all morning and couldn't hold a thing down." Grinning like the Cheshire cat, Randy shouted. "I'm going to be a daddy! Donnie, a round of drinks for everyone!"

After some lukewarm congratulations, an exchange of money between some of the lupine boys, and a pat on the back from Donnie, the usual clamor resumed.

"Ahh! I can already hear the pitter-patter of little hooves," Jack muttered to himself.

"What's wrong with that?" Said a fashionably dressed norm, who was leaning against the piano, nursing a Coke.

Jack just rolled his eyes. "Oh, you're still here? I'm not ready for your equine nursing home yet. I may be getting a little gray around the muzzle, but I'm still as fit as a mule."

The stranger choked on his drink. " Nursing home? It's not a nursing home! I own a chain of the finest equine resorts in the country. I've just constructed a new resort on the outskirts of town, and I'm offering all the resident equine morphs a free three-week holiday. It's a promotional event for the grand opening.

"An equine resort? Ya don't say!" Jack's ears perked up. "Three weeks for free, huh?"

"Absolutely free. Food, use of the extensive recreational facilities, and of course social events. Hmm...I could use a piano player. Maybe we can strike some sort of deal. Oh! I do have to tell you up front. The resort is dry. That's right, there's no alcohol allowed."

"No booze. What kind of resort is it? One of those trendy health clubs?" Jack grumbled under his breath. "Damn yuppies."

"No, it's not a health club. I learned a long time ago that equines and alcohol don't mix. Have you ever had to deal with a drunk centaur? It's pointless to even try!"

"Yeah, I guess so." Jack chuckled. "Those centaurs really know how to party. I remember this one time when I went native with a couple of four legs. Anyway, we found this norm's camp site and...uh," with a sheepish grin Jack changed the subject, "what'd you say your name was?"

"Tony! Tony Cheval, the equine professional! Give me a call some evening and we'll talk compensation. Here's my card. At least pay us a visit! Check it out before making up your mind."

Jack took the card, and staring at it he wondered. Luxury like he had dreamed about, and all he had to do was play the piano? But no booze! Could he stand it? He shuddered at the thought.

While Tony and Jack were chatting, Randy hobbled over to talk with Tony. "Mr. Cheval?"

Tony laughed. "Call me Tony, and you're Randy, right? What can I do for you?"

"Uh, well, you know Peggy and I, well, we never had a real honeymoon. I was thinking that if it was OK, maybe we would take you up on your offer. Things have been really hard on her since we got married, and I'd like to get her out of the house."

Tony took another sip of his Coke, while sizing up the norm. "Well from what I can see, it looks like you haven't been having a picnic either. I'd be pleased if you and the misses would stay as my guests. Who knows? It may be just what both of you need."

"Thanks! Thanks Tony! I can't wait to get home and tell Peggy. She'll be so excited!" Randy was still smiling as he limped off toward the door.

Tony consulted the pocket rolodex he had pulled from his sport coat. Hmm...Two down, and unless I've missed someone, two to go, he thought. The big quiet Shire should be easy, but Howard is another story. He's devoted to Edwina, although she won't give him the time of day. I may have to take them both. Praise be to Epona, things are progressing much smoother than when the last center was started. Getting the FBI to misplace their field agent's reports is an expense that I don't want to repeat.

As he slipped out the back exit, Tony couldn't help smiling. Billing the center as a resort was a stroke of pure genius. He gleefully anticipated the time when he could unveil the true purpose for his centers.

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