Everything fell eerily quiet. The customers hid behind their menus when they saw the crazed look on their mayor’s face. The doorman, who had just received a door in the face, pointed a trembling finger at the table by the window. Skunk’s gaze followed the finger and fell upon the man sitting next to his wife. With one vicious movement, Skunk grabbed his look-a-like by the hair. Mink screamed and immediately hid under the table.
“Who the devil are you and what do you think you’re doing with my wife?!” he hissed, spittle flying into the opposition’s face. The man was a good deal younger than him. His forehead was smooth and his eyes were bright. Still, the disguise wasn’t half bad. Cast in the low light of the restaurant, Skunk could see why his wife had mistaken this man for him. The man put his hands up in surrender.
“I know what this looks like,” he said―his voice was irritatingly mellow for a guy who was about to get punched in the face, “but I swear, all I was doing was asking your wife a few questions.” The innocence portrayed in the man’s features was forced. Skunk knew, below that sorry smile was pure smugness.
“Go to hell!” he said before throwing the man violently to the ground.
“Believe me, I am,” the man groaned in response. Skunk pinned the man to the ground.
“You’re not going anywhere!” he stated. He then looked at the sea of occupied chairs and tables, half expecting someone to pull out their phone and call the police. Faces gaping and filled with half digested steak, the customers of the Steakout Diner just sat there, staring at Skunk in complete bewilderment.
“Well..” Skunk said, his eyes darting from one stunned expression to another, “somebody call the police!” While everyone fumbled for their phones, Skunk reached into his coat and whipped out a skunk shaped cologne bottle. Skunk would use his homemade scent to incapacitate this man―whoever he was―just in time for Officer Fanny Duster to take him in for questioning. Skunk triggered the nozzle. The mysterious man dressed as his twin became enveloped in a putrid smelling gas.
Mink peeked out from under a table. Skunk took her into his arms and planted a kiss on her lips―which rather tasted of barbeque sauce.
“Hubba! Hubba!” she exclaimed, licking the kiss from her lips. “I didn’t know you still had that perfume.” Skunk winked at her and tucked the vial into the interior of his jacket.
“I’ve been saving it for a special occasion,” he said. Mink took a deep breath of the revolting smell and let out a sigh of satisfaction.
“Positively divine,” she smiled. For a split second, Skunk felt nothing but pure joy. Then, mayhem started.
Unlike Skunk and Mink, the citizens of Belleville were not accustomed to such a powerful smell. As the odor diffused throughout the restaurant, people toppled one by one to the floor, unconscious. Others experienced extreme nose bleeds and yelped as their eyes burned and began to tear up from the substance. People bustled about the place in a hysterical hubbub of commotion, tripping over benumbed bodies. Everyone, that is, except for the stranger. Much to the exasperated mayor’s frustration, the imposter seemed unaffected by the cologne and was using it as a distraction for a get-away. Skunk swore and gave his wife one last kiss before shooing her out the door.
“Go get em’, Tiger!” she yelled before dashing off into the darkness.
Skunk started after his clone, pushing past a discombobulated waiter. A flaming margarita fell from the waiter’s tray and immediately the carpet was alight with fire.
“Oh, God…” Skunk prayed. Flames shot from the alcoholic beverage like a volcanic geyser, practically blowing the roof off the establishment.
“ Evacuate the area!” he yelled and was instantaneously bulldozed by a herd of traumatized town’s folk. His plan had backfired, literally.
As he threw his beaten body out the door, Skunk couldn’t help but curse his own carelessness. After all the time and research he’d put into creating this cologne, he hadn’t even bothered to test it for explosibility. He wriggled past scorched legs. The stranger disguised as Skunk was making a mad dash for the town’s border. The white stripe in his hair―likely done with hair paint―served as a beacon in the dark.
“Stop!”Skunk shouted. He maneuvered his way past the flummoxed people of Belleville in pursuit of the criminal. A pair of taxi headlights blinded Skunk as he rounded a street corner. Skunk waved the vehicle down and climbed in.
“Follow the man with the funny white stripe in his hair,” Skunk instructed the cabbie. A clueless look spread across the cabbie’s face.
“Pardon? Man with the―”
“Right there!” Skunk jabbed his finger impatiently at the white speck escaping into the black of the night.
“On the double, Sir!” responded the cabbie. The taxi jolted forward, strangling Skunk beneath his seat belt. After a moment of uncomfortable silence, he turned to Skunk.
“So,” he said, clearing his throat, “is this guy like your brother who owes you money or something?”
Skunk snickered, “I wish!”
“Who is he then?”
“A criminal, I think. The one who’s been gutting stores and defacing properties.”
The cabbie took his eyes off the road, “You mean that vandal who killed Spine Less?!” he cried. Skunk didn’t respond. He was too busy squinting out his window, desperately trying to force his eyes to sort through the shadows and pick out the stranger.
“We’ve lost him,” Skunk huffed. The cabbie pulled over to the side of the road, next to an apartment building. Skunk could hear the crunching of leaves beneath the tires. He slumped back in his seat, quietly basking in his own failure, when a tonne of weight came crashing onto the hood of the taxi. Skunk tore off his seat belt and plastered himself to the windshield to get a look at whatever had hit them. Staring back was a sly version of his own features.
“It’s him!” Skunk hissed, shaking his head in disbelief.
“Where the heck did he come from?!” The cabbie held onto his beret and strained his neck, looking past the moon for a place where the stranger could have dropped from. Both Skunk and the chauffeur watched in awe as the man performed a back flip from the windshield. He landed lightly on his toes, and, illuminated by the headlights, bowed.
“Drive,” Skunk commanded. His mouth a cavern, the cabbie clutched his hat as though it was about to fly off his head.
“Did you just see―”
“I said drive!” Skunk yelled, but as he looked out into the black sky and shuffling trees, he found the stranger to be no where in sight.
“Looks to me like he left for St. Louis du HA! HA!” remarked the cabbie. “The town lies just beyond that hill there.”
“We were so close!” Skunk growled in frustration and clawed his fingers through his hair. “My address is 44 Wickard Way,” he uttered. The cabbie did a U-turn and headed back into town.
“I can’t say I’ve seen anything quite like that,” he whistled, “if that man is really a criminal like you think, he’s gonna’ be hard to catch.” The taxi driver’s words caused a horrible sinking feeling to form in the pit of Skunk’s stomach.
“I’m still processing it myself,” he replied.
“You know, you could try talking to that fellow who lives on the hill where we just came from,” the cabbie suggested. “Last we saw, that crazy acrobat vandal guy was headed for his place. Now what was that fellow’s name…” At this point Skunk was barely listening to the cabbie. He was too busy swimming in guilt. Had he really abandoned a burning building surrounded with families, all of who were choking on his cologne? Skunk massaged his sagging eyelids. If he was going to take this mysterious vandal down, he would need to intensify the smell of his cologne…
“Terence!” the cabbie blurted out.
“The name of the fellow who lives on the hill. It’s Terence.” The cabbie nodded, now sure of himself. “Yes, he’s a mortician if I’m not mistaken.” Skunk perked up upon hearing the word, ‘mortician.’ The secretary at the Belleville hospital had told him to contact the morticians from St. Louis du HA! HA! Skunk told the cabbie about the death certificate he found in the forest.
“Well, if anyone would know about that, it’d be Terence,” the cabbie said. “His funeral home is the only one in the area.” As the taxi veered into Skunk’s gravel lot, he was relieved to see his car parked safely by the house. His wife must have seen it and used her key to drive home after leaving the restaurant.
“That’s my girl!” Skunk thought. He fished a few bills out of his wallet and thanked the cabbie before climbing out.
“Oh, Mr. Mayor,”the cabbie rolled down his window and called after Skunk.
“I would be careful if you do decide to talk to Terence. I’ve heard he’s a bit―how shall I put this―different. Some say he’s even a descendent of The Three.”
“What do you mean The Three?”
“The Three. You know. The Tale of the Three Morticians.”
Skunk shook his head, “I’ve never heard that tale.”
“Ooh,” the taxi driver shuddered, “you’ll have to get your wife to tell you that one!”
Skunk bid the driver good night and then returned to his room, where he found Mink asleep still wrapped in her furs. Not even bothering to change out of his clothes, he snuggled up beside her.
“Tale of the Three Morticians,eh,” he thought before falling asleep, “sounds like a load of tripe.”