Pride Lands Online

     True to my word, this time I drove better. But it's still never enough it seems, when it comes to women...
     "Stop it! Stop it you idiot!"
     "What? I used the brakes when the light turned red! What more do you want!"
     "Okay! Okay! I'll follow the speed limit, too! Just stop hitting me with your purse, all right?! OW!"
     Needless to say... one of the many things I have discovered that I don't have, is the ability to impress women. Normally it's the funny smell after a belching contest that will do it, but it seems driving like the Indy 500 isn't up for par either. It seemed no matter how much I toned down the octane, I kept getting critiqued for something. Veronica wasn't the only one happy to get out of the car when we pulled up to the chaperone.
     The Comatose Lounge. In the 60's, it used to be THE place to be. But now it sits in the wrong side of town, and doesn't have the beauty of the good ol' days. Quite frankly, the only good thing about the place was the half-burnt-out neon sign out side. Well... that and the bourbon.
     "I don't think we should go in..." whispered Veronica, "I don't like the looks of this place at all!"
     "Aw, don't worry yourself! So what if it looks like the doorway to hell!? I'm friends with Bobby, the bartender, an' owner of the place. There's bouncers everywhere, and a street- sweeper under the bar."
     "It looks like a tommy gun, only it's a ten guage shot gun."
     "What's a tommy gun?"
     "The submachine gun all the gangsters use in the movies. Now, come on! I swear you'll be all right!"
     "The car! I'll stay in the car!"
     "Too late!" I smirked, "The chaperones already drove it off to the parking lot."
     "Why the hell would there be chaperones for such a dump as this?"
     "This may not be the Ritz," I commented, as I dragged her in, "But Bobby likes to have the same service since this place started. Besides... They park it in a barbed-wire compound so no one breaks into your car."

     Naturally, the whole place went totally silent when we walked in. Women always have to pitch a fit when it comes to dragging them into a bar of dangerous thugs where they'd kill you for the heck of it. But then the minute some ears hear their cause, they instantly stop. I guess I'll never understand them.
     "What are you looking at? It's not my fault it was her turn to wear the bunny suit!"
     I quickly caught a fresh bottle of Old Milwaukee.
     "Ha ha! Not fast enough!"
     However, I didn't see the can of Budweiser heading for the back of my head.
     "ALL RIGHT, WHO DUNNIT?!" Came a raspy voice from the main bar.
     "Me!! It was me!" I heard coming from somewhere behind me, as I got up from the floor.
     "Okay, son, come get what's comin' to ya!"
     "I hope it's LEAD!" I mumbled, as I rubbed the back of my head.
     "...For being the first one to hit Rindimo in the back of the head after one of his jokes, you win the case of Bicardi Rum tonight! Here here!"
     The crowd cheered. I glared at the guy as he walked off to one of the tables with his prize. I motioned for Veronica to follow my wobbling self to the bar.
     "Still trying to force yourself to get a new liver, Rindimo?" Came the voice of a buzzsaw.
     "Still trying to get that voice box, Bobby?" I rebounded.
     We both laughed as we hugged eachother. It had been a while since I shown my face in this place... about a week. And besides... Bobby was always the sentimental type.
     Bobby was nothing more than a 100% mean ol' bobcat. One that smoked a couple packs an hour. This whole place begun with Bobby, and I'm certain will end the same time it ends for the ol' witch. Still... My hide's been saved a couple times by the ol' bar cat and I've done my share to keep my tab low, too.
     "Bobby, this is Veronica. Veronica, Bobby."
     "Pleased ta meet chya!" Wheezed the bobcat, as Veronica let her hand be shaked.
     "You're... You're a woman!"
     "Darn straight!" she hacked, "And proud of it! What tipped ya off, anyway? Was it my charm?" SHe gave a ghastly laugh.
     I looked at Veronica, feigning like I didn't like her acidic humor either.
     "It's not my fault! She came with the bar."
     "Oh now stop it! Sometimes, I think of raising it to TWO knocks on ya head!"
     "Why do you even let those men do that to him, anyway?" Veronica protested.
     "It's for his own good! If he were smart enough to keep his trap shut, then I wouldn't have to invent these things to keep this jackass intact! He would've been dead in a second."
     "Aw, come on! I can take care of myself! Besides... without me, where'd all your business go if there was no one to konk?"
     "Well, it wouldn't have to keep being the jail cell if ya'd stop starting all the darn bar fights! My bouncers tell me they no longer need to even excercise off the job no more!"
     "See? I make the place exciting."
     "No... you make it expensive. Ever since you've sat your furry butt down on that stool the first day you walked in to this joint, it's all been downhill from there!"
     "Why do you even put up with him, then?" inquired Veronica.
     "Because sweety, I was the jackass that invited him! We owe eachother too many favors, anyway."
     "Yep. It was here I solved my first case."
     "You were also the first to puke in the toilet."
     "Enough! Gimme the usual!"
     "He was also the second, and the third," commented a smiling Bobby, as she proceeded to mix the drinks.
     "Anything for you, honey?"
     "No thanks." Veronica politely smiled.
     The old Bobcat frowned.
     "So then why ya here?! I mean come on, it's a bar for cryin' out loud!"
     "Pina Colada!"
     "There ya go, sweety! See? it ain't that hard. Here, it's on the house."
     She handed the drinks our way.
     "So Rindy, whatta ya doin' draggin' such a classy dame into this dump, anyway? Can't you two lovebirds find... ah... a nicer place to be tonight?" She winked.
     "There's nothing between us!"
     "Apparently that's the problem."
     "Oh, for crying out loud! I'm trying to help the woman out!"
     "Puh! Not the way you live! A girl needs some dependable dough ta keep her happy now and then."
     "No really, Miss Bobby, he's helping me find my stolen Lion King collection."
     "Aw, man! I was havin' my hopes up! Too bad. You two woulda made a cute couple. Of course then you'd have to work two jobs to pay your husband's tab, but hey, he's a keeper."
     "Thanks for the support."
     "No trouble at all. So whatta ya need me for?"
     "Anyone tryin' to offer you some stolen goods lately? Like some rare Lion King merchandise autographed by Simba himself?"
     "No honey, no such luck. God, if that was the case, I'd keep it for myself! That Simba's one hot studmuffin!"
     "Er, right. I'll let you be the judge of that."
     "But hey, you can hang around as long as you like. The toilet's still where ya left it."
     "I'll keep that in mind..."
     As Bobby went away to attend to some other customers, I looked at Veronica, and watched her wipe a tear from her eye. It was saddening, the way such a pretty face could look so sad. Man, I hate it when they cry!
     "Just 'cause we didn't have any luck tonight doesn't mean we lost the race! Come on, sweetheart, don't make me feel so bad looking at such a sad face. I swear that I will do more than my share to put that cute smile back on your little cherub face. Besides, there are other places, and it could be that the theif will lay low for a couple of days before he shows himself." I cautiously put my arm around her to console her, and handed her a napkin from a dispenser on the bar.
     "It's not that..." she sniffed, "it's all this darn cigarette smoke. But thanks anyway."
     "So what do we do now?"
     "Eh, it's almost morning... let's have a little fun, huh?"
     "Like what?"
     "Hey Bobby!"
     "You still got that juke box workin'?"
     "Yeah-- I mean, no! NO!"
     Too late. I slammed a dime into the old machine, and before long, music was chugging out of the box. I never was a good choice with dancing music, however, so I had to improvise a little when "Another One Bites the Dust" came out. It sort of fit the aura of the place, however, and before long, most of the crowd started tapping their toes and rattling their chains. A few even joined in the dancing. Heck, when you're drunk, you don't need much of a song.
     It was nice to see her smile, and forget the things of just several hours ago that changed her life a bit. I mean, she was smiling before, but it was just interesting she kept it up. She really is quite a peach.
     We went back to the bar after the song was over, and left the juke box to be fought over by guys who will probably never get any money into the machine so long as they keep fighting over what song to play next. Veronica took a stool, and sipped her Pina Colada, while i just leaned against the counter with my drink.
     "See? This place isn't all so bad as you thought."
     "I guess so. Hmmm... it was silly the way you tried to play off your choice of music."
     "Well, I never was good with impressing girls anyway."
     "That can't be entirely true! Wasn't there anyone special in your life?"
     "Well, there was this one girl..."
     "Who was she?"
     "A beer vendor."
     "Well, what can I say? I'm married to my job."
     "No! Private investigator. I've never had time to be serious with anyone."
     "Why did you become a private investigator, anyway?"
     "I don't know... I guess it was because I just have this thing for mind bogglers, and adventure-- a sort of off beat job that not to many people have the knack for. Of course, maybe it dealt with reading comic books too much, and getting kicked off the police force that pushed me in that direction..."
     "What'd you get kicked off the force for?"
     "Reading too many comic books when I should've been filing cases for all the big shots."
     "I was a secretary. Hey! Stop laughing! I had a gun and a badge and everything!"
     "What'd you need those for?"
     "In the event someone was sick, and couldn't go on duty. But I'll let you know, I've been shot at, punched more, and sped more often, than any of the guys back at ol' head quarters now."
     "That's because you don't know how to behave!"
     "I have my reasons!"
     It was then that some jerk in black attire rudely bumped into us. I yelled my normal insult, but it didn't phase the guy one bit. He quickly walked off into the crowd.
     "Rindimo! Stop that man!!"
     "He threw this note into my hand when he bumped me! He's the theif! Quick, stop him!!"
     I had been real good this night. Really, I have. But the only way to clog the place so no one can get out-- especially the theif-- was to initiate chaos with these four magic words:
     "NOOO!" screamed Bobby, "Not again!"
     "Quick, Veronica, jump over to the other side of the counter! I'll go after pretty boy over there."
     As I quickly began to dodge beer bottles being thrown everywhich way, I could see that it was indeed a red-maned lion in the dark clothes trying to desperately get out some how, but was thwarted at every exit as bouncers and customers alike just began to punch each other's lights out. Some were trying to run away in fear. But as for the most of us, we were having a good ol' brass knucklin' time.
     The lion was pretty good at this sort of stuff too. Almost every opponent that charged him head-on ended up being slammed to the floor. Rookies. I still couldn't get a good look at his face, though. He was wearing a hat with a pretty broad brim. Of course, the lighting in the place didn't help much either. Finally, it was getting around to being my turn.

     "Oh God! Bobby! What do we do!!??" Screamed Veronica under the bar.
     "Move over, sugar, and let me get to that cabinet you're in front of."
     "Don't let the cops know," she winked, "I lost the permit."
     The bobcat took a good puff from her cigarette, before she stood up, and pointed a fat foot-and-a-half tube to a reinforced part of the ceiling...

     I finally gotten to tangle with the king of the jungle... though I still couldn't get a good look at him. between dodging his powerful punches, I had no choice but to keep moving, and ask questions later. Still, for being a weaker opponent, my experience helped make up the difference. with one large swing on the theif's part, i was able to duck, and come back up with a sock to the solar plexus, and a good push to the chest while I tripped his feet. Let's see how HE likes it down there. Still, I should've known there was going to be a beer bottle heading to the back of my head sooner or later. It was enough for myself to get tripped.
     Luck was with me, however. Others tried to take on the lion. When he turned to face his attackers, his hind quarters were right in kicking range. And naturally, being a cheetah, all my muscle was in my legs anyway. I tensed up for the action...

     BOOM! The whole place shuddered with the blast from Bobby's heavy artillery. Whatever plaster was left on the ceiling began to fall on everybody. The blast couldn't have come at a stranger time. It was timed perfectly with my kick, which added a boost to my adrenaline. The lion flew right out a window. I followed suit as I heard Bobby bringing order back to the bar. Well, actually, I was thrown out another nearby window.
     The minute his paws touched the ground, he took off like there was no tomorrow. Little did he know, he was taking on the track leader of Predator Highschool. Still, he was a good understudy. But I was quickly closing the gap. Through all the twists and turns, I kept the chase. Finally, the thug took a wrong turn, and ended up trapped in an alley. Or so I thought.
     I hate the sewers. I really do. But there was an empty alleyway, and one uncovered manhole. I had no choice but to jump down the hole, if I wanted to solve this case.
     I could hear the culprit running down one of the little concrete walkways of the tunnel.
     "I'm on to you, thug! Ya might as well give up!"
     I carefully began following him, making sure there wasn't any quick turns where I'd fall into the great unknown. It seemed he was having the same problem. The only light in the place was what filtered through the street drains. I was able to catch a glimpse of him turn a corner. I smiled as I myself quickly turned to follow.
     I don't quite exactly remembered what happened after that. All I remember was a punch to my face.

     Something splashed my face. It felt cooling. Then I remembered the sewer, and quickly opened my eyes. Unfortunately, I was splashed in the face again. Tequila really burns the eyes. After I was done screaming, and able to open my eyes again, I saw I was sitting on the counter of the bar. It wasn't as dark as it was when I left it, either. I looked to the broken windows and saw it was morning.
     "The bar's closed, Rindimo. Why don't you get off it, and go home."
     "How'd I end up here? I was chasing the theif in the sewers!"
     "I had one of my guys follow you to retrieve your pulverised hide."
     "Thanks for caring."
     "Naw, me care? You're the one that started the fight, you get to pay it!"
     Bobby laughed. I cringed. My tab just got bigger.
     "Thanks anyway. So where's Veronica?"
     "Over there, sleeping like a baby." Bobby handed me a small bag of ice for my head. Funny... I didn't have a hangover and I still end up with a headache.
     There she was, sleeping peacefully in a booth. I paused for a little while, and just looked at her. She looked so cute, I really didn't want to wake her.
     "She's sucha pretty thing, Rindimo. Why don't you ask her out?"
     "Nah, not when I'm on a case."
     "Don't you believe in fate or anything?"
     "Yeah, I do. It's just these things always happen at the wrong times, I guess."
     "Yeah, I guess your right. The only thing you were ever able to do is solve mysteries."
     As Bobby went back to cleaning up the mess, I carefully pulled the piece of paper from Veronica's hands. It was your basic criminal note. Letters cut out of newpapers and all. It was cheesy the way these people always word their letters. No originality at all. Anyway, the letter read like this:

To Frieda,

     If you ever want to see your Lion King
Stuff again, go to the old abandoned Warehouse
at Propwash Pier tomorrow night at 11:00 P.M.
Bring $5,000 with you in a brown breifcase.
Don't tell the police. You have been warned.
(Ha ha!!)
     "Come on, sweetheart, wake up." I gently rocked her a little to wake her up. I paid my thanks to Bobby again, as I led her out to the car.
     The way to her house I made extra sure to drive as good as I could so she wouldn't wake up. I must've done a good job. I didn't get a whack with a purse.
     I guess the rythmic thumping of ol' Buttercup's engine helped lull her to sleep even better. I decided it would be nicer if I just carried her to her room. For a pretty, exoctic dancer, she was one heavy girl. Still, I had the strength to pick her up, and start walking into the lobby.
     "He's back!"
     "Whoah! He wore her out!"
     "So first it was her place, and then it was his. Oh, now I see."
     "Don't you people ever sleep?!" I growled as I walked past the trio.

     I found her keys in her purse, and unlocked the door. I didn't want any evidence disturbed, so I just cleaned off the couch, and laid her there. Everything was still like we left it, so I figured I'd just take a look around again in the daylight. There still wasn't much. No finger prints. Nothing, except for the strands of red hair, and the scattered things about the floor. I still wondered about the hair brush, though.
     I was too tired to really do anything more except gaze, and return to the living room. Her place was a small one, and there wasn't anywere else to sit except the couch. I figured she wouldn't mind too much if I moved her feet to sit down. I let all the evidence roll around in my mind, as my eyelids slowly closed in slumber.

Part IV

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Author: Rindimo
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