Ledding’s voice echoed off the whitewashed walls of the station and clean linoleum floors. He ascended the stairs and looked around the main room.
There were no windows in the tiny building, making the sheriff’s station ironically like a jail cell. Florescent panel lighting flooded it with unnatural yellow-white light. The main room had four doors. Two were along the wall to Ledding’s left, within a few feet of each other. The near one went to the office of Tom Abrams, sheriff of Gibbetville and Ledding’s boss; the far one led to the small office kitchen. The third was the door Ledding was standing in, which was almost always open onto the staircase to the basement. The fourth door led to the backroom, a storage space along the same wall as the basement door. The main room itself had a series of filing cabinets along the wall to Ledding’s right. A tiny hall led to the main entrance of the station, the front desk – Ledding’s – was on the right as one entered the main room. Being the most inexperienced deputy at the station, Ledding had the honor of also being receptionist for his co-workers. All three of whom were gathered around the two desks pushed together in the center of the room.
“ . . . so then I shoved it down his throat. Literally,” the dingo sitting with her back to Ledding said casually. Eileen Ellis’ average frame, though remarkably muscled, hid her true, frightening physical prowess. The tan canine was a living wrecking ball, able to punch holes in walls with her bare hands and bend rebar poles like pipe cleaners. Ledding even suspected the filing cabinets were hiding a few holes the dingo was responsible for. She liked to keep her fellow officers nervous by threatening to “crush their balls.”
“How much bigger was this guy than you again?”
“Oh, about a foot or so. It was just him and his buddy, nothing major.”
“Hehe . . . yeah . . . “ the gruff cougar standing beside the desks nervously chuckled. Tom Abrams was a large cat, in height and width. He boasted he was once capable of Ellis-ian feats, but age – and appetite – had caught up with him. Ledding used to wonder how he managed to maintain his post, until he realized Gibbetville was devoid of crime to speak of.
Ledding stomped into the room, his footsteps weighed down with anger, heading straight for the third member of the party. The mouse was small and slight, his white fur immaculate. It ended at his wrists, ankles, ears and the base of his tail, revealing bright pink skin almost as impressive as his fur. He kept his claws blunted and whiskers short, but could do nothing about his large mouse’s front teeth. As he approached his target, his ruby-red eyes filled with hate.
“Who wrote ‘Ledding is a dummy’ in the stall of the men’s bathroom?” Ledding asked the group, but had his eyes trained on the grey wolf seated across from Ellis. He was dumpy, larger around than Ledding but nowhere near Abrams’ girth. Being a wolf, he lacked the dopey, gaping, tongue-lolling grin many other canines possessed, though Ledding believed it would’ve suited his disposition perfectly. Dimwitted and easily distracted, Ledding found Robbie Nordberg exceptionally annoying.
“What?” Abrams asked.
Eyes still on Nordberg, Ledding answered, “Someone wrote ‘Ledding is a dummy’ on one of the bathroom stalls in the men’s room downstairs. I’d like to know who.” The tip of his tail twitched once.
Nordberg shrugged, but couldn’t hold back a grin. “I don’t –“
“Four people work in this station, Nordberg! Four! Abrams has his own bathroom in his office, and Ellis uses the women’s restroom –“
“Though I have no idea why . . . “ Abrams mumbled. Ellis lowered her ears and slowly gave him a burning sideways glance.
“Which means only you and I use that bathroom, Nordberg!” Ledding continued. He pointed to his chest, “Me,” Ledding turned his digit to the wolf, “and you.” Ledding’s finger was shaking.
Nordberg couldn’t stop grinning stupidly. “Well it wasn’t me –“
“Oh, and I suppose someone just sauntered in and wrote it there, hm? Or maybe an inmate did it?!”
“Well, most of them are just drunk, no need to actually lock them up. ‘Snot like they’d do any harm . . . “ Abrams said quietly. “They don’t even drive, just walk really loudly . . . . “
Ledding gave Abrams a dark scowl.
“Must’ve been, man, ‘cuz it wasn’t me.”
“Go wash it off Nordberg!”
“Relax, Dave, jeez,” Ellis told the mouse. “It’s just a little graffiti, on a bathroom stall, what’s the big deal?”
“I was an Honor’s triple major in particle physics, molecular biology and art history; I’m not a dummy!”
Abrams gave Ledding a quizzical look. “Art history?”
“Well, dude,” Nordberg said, his smile just beginning to fade, “I think you should lighten up.”
“I will not lighten up until you wash that slander off!”
“Strictly speaking it’s libel, not slander,” Abrams said wispily.
“Whatever. It. Is,” Ledding glared at Abrams, “wash it off, Nordberg!”
Ledding squeezed his fists tighter. He raised his arm at Nordberg, attempting to snatch his throat, but he was caught by Ellis. She stood in a whirl, twisted Ledding’s arm behind his back, and gripped one of his ears tightly between the thumb and forefinger of her other hand before Ledding could lift a finger to stop her. The small mouse yelped as she tugged on the appendage.
“Gah! Those are sensitive!”
“More sensitive than these?” The dingo moved her hand between Ledding’s legs and gave a more-than-healthy squeeze. Ledding’s eyes bulged and his fur stood. His loud, falsetto squeak made Abrams and Nordberg wince. “Now sit down and relax or I’ll crush ‘em like walnuts.” Ellis released Ledding with a gentle shove and sat down. After regaining his balance, Ledding staggered to his desk. The station had gone silent.
Despite his near-castration experience, Ledding glowered at Nordberg. The invigorating smugness behind his smile had dissipated, and Nordberg drearily returned to the paperwork Abrams was forcing him to do. Abrams went into the kitchen, emerged with a cup of coffee, and went to his office without closing the door. Ellis pulled her pistol out of her desk and started to disassemble it for its daily cleaning.
Ledding twiddled his pen over the work he was supposed to be doing, his eyes affixed to Nordberg. Glancing between him and Ellis, Ledding ripped open one of his desk drawers, grabbed a magic marker and stormed down the basement stairs. Nordberg followed him with his eyes, his face bewildered as he noticed the marker in Ledding’s hands. He craned his neck as Ledding disappeared, settling back in his chair when he heard a door downstairs slam. Nordberg looked at Ellis nervously; she was surprised by Ledding’s outburst but shrugged and continued working on her weapon. Nordberg rubbed his muzzle anxiously.
Ledding bounced back up the steps a full minute later, a gentle grin gracing his muzzle. Nordberg stared at him with wide eyes. Ledding sat down, dropping the marker on his desk with a tap that reverberated through Nordberg’s ears into his empty skull. His dull eyes met Ledding’s ruby-reds, making the mouse’s grin broaden. The canine’s ears and jaw dropped in shock. He looked between the basement entrance and Ledding, his mouth agape, forcing Ledding to chuckle. Nordberg shambled out of his chair and clumsily scrambled down the stairs.
Ellis looked from the wolf to Ledding. “What did you do?” she asked with an accusatory tone.
“I didn’t do anything,” Ledding replied with a chuckle.
An angry cry rose from the basement. Ellis narrowed her eyes at the rodent and her tail stiffened; Ledding’s smile grew.
“Someone – I don’t know who – wrote ‘Nordberg is a moron’ on the bathroom stall downstairs.” Ellis slumped her shoulders. “But I don’t know who. It’s a mystery,” Ledding added. Ellis shook her head, mumbling “boys” as she returned her focus to her gun. She had to pause as she realized how appropriate the term was for her two fellow deputies.
Nordberg’s shoes made the linoleum stairs clap as he stomped back up them. His face shone red beneath his fur, his ears crimson pyramids on his head. He glared at Ledding walking to his desk, then ripped open a drawer and pulled out his own magic marker. Ledding’s grin faded faster than Nordberg’s as the wolf descended the stairs again.
Ellis chuckled lightly at Ledding’s face hardening back into a bitter scowl. Abrams glanced his eyes upwards at the sound of someone descending the stairs again, quickly returning them to the work on his computer.
Nordberg came back up the stairs more peacefully than before, but stalked to his desk and slammed his magic marker back down. He fiercely stared at Ledding before sitting down. Ledding returned his glare. Dissatisfied, Ledding stood up and began moving to the basement stairs. He had only gotten several steps away before he turned around, snatched up his magic marker, and continued to the basement.
“Seriously?” Ellis scoffed.
“I’m not letting him slander me!” the mouse yelled from the stairs.
“Libel!” Ellis shouted after him.
“Whatever!” Ellis rolled her eyes.
“Ellis,” Abrams called from his office. A gesture with his gruff head called Ellis into his office.
“What’s going on?” the cougar asked the dingo.
“Ledding and Nordberg have gotten into a flame war on the bathroom stall.”
Ledding’s footsteps back up were loud on the staircase. Abrams stared at Ellis, emotionless. “Seriously?”
“Apparently,” she said, her mouth twisting to one side. Nordberg cacophonously bounded down the stairs.
“I thought Ledding was smart, why is he letting Nordberg get to him? Doesn’t that make Ledding the dumb one?”
Ellis pushed her palms outward. “I think it’s about honor for Dave;” she said. Nordberg’s clapping footsteps came up the staircase, immediately followed by Ledding’s lighter steps; the sound filled the building.
“What honor is there in bathroom stall graffiti?”
“You mean it isn’t a guy thing?”
Ledding came back up the steps, only for Nordberg to go right back down.
“Huh, I just thought it was something immature guys did to each other.”
Nordberg came up the steps. Ledding went down.
“No, if we wanted to do that we’d just whip ‘em out,” Abrams said, slapping his desk. Ledding came back up, Nordberg went down.
“That’s disgusting,” Ellis sneered.
“You wanted immature,” Abrams replied, swiping his ears back and bending his head. Ellis bent her head in agreement. Nordberg came up and Ledding went down, footsteps filling the entire sheriff’s office. “And besides, how did Nordberg manage to do this? For Pete’s sake, it’s Nordberg.”
Ledding up, Nordberg down.
Ellis shrugged. Nordberg up, Ledding down. “He probably misspelled Ledding’s name, though,” Ellis said, more to herself than Abrams. Ledding up, Nordberg down.
“He misspells his own name.”
Nordberg emerged just as Ledding started to go down. He turned, resolute, but stopped confused. Ledding turned to him. Both started counting on their fingers before Ledding pointed to himself, looking to Nordberg for confirmation. Nordberg pointed to him and nodded. With a nod, Ledding continued down the stairs, and Nordberg returned to his desk for his turn.
“Oh, I know,” Ellis said, “though in all fairness, that hasn’t happened in a while.” Ledding up, Nordberg down.
“True, but . . . still.”
“Oh, yeah.” Nordberg’s footsteps came back into the main room.
“I mean, he needed my help to find Mrs. Thompson’s cat.”
“Popsicle? He only ever goes up the one tree. In the front yard.”
“Tell me about it. Then I had to go get him because Robbie is afraid of heights.”
“Hand to God! And Ledding just creeps everybody out.”
“Oh yeah, apparently he was outside someone’s house for almost an hour, mesmerized by some spider.”
“What was he doing?”
“Dunno, but the caller felt really creeped out anyways.”
“Might just be his eyes. They’re kinda creepy.”
“Yeah, poor guy.”
“It’s . . . “ Ellis stopped in mid-sentence, her ears perked. “Did it get quiet?”
Abrams narrowed his face, pricking up his ears. He and Ellis went to his office door and simultaneously peeked out. At their desks, Nordberg and Ledding were sitting staring at one another. Their eyes were no more than slits, but the intensity and spite in them burned bright enough to light the room. Their hands were tight and ready on their desks, magic markers just a few inches away from their fingertips. The two of them sat, motionless, unblinking, barely even breathing, deep frowns slashed across their muzzles and deeper furrows dug into their brows. Both of their ears were flat on their skulls, all concentration going to watching the other. The tension between them filled the room, palpable and heavy as lead to even Abrams and Ellis.
“SH!” Ellis commanded. Her boss fell silent.
Abrams and Ellis were transfixed on the two deputies. They stared wide-eyed, their jaws very nearly falling open. Ledding’s fingers twitched, causing Abrams to jump forward into the door, then backwards into the doorjamb. He hissed as he clutched his head, and Ellis scowled at him.
“Sorry,” he mumbled, and both turned back to Ledding and Nordberg.
For a few moments, everything was still tense and waiting. Then, the tension broke. Abrams and Ellis could have sworn there was either a loud snap, or a small sonic boom. At impossible speeds, Ledding’s and Nordberg’s eyes became the size of saucers, they snapped up their markers, claws scratching the surfaces of their desks and half-leapt, half-sprinted to the basement door.
“Holy jizz!” Abrams shouted as the two went halfway across the room in an instant. Ledding made it to the door first, but Nordberg grabbed him by the waist as he got there. Ledding braced the doorframe, grunting and attempting to keep Nordberg from getting to the basement with his slight body. Grunting as well, Nordberg pulled the small mouse from the doorway and tossed him aside. Ledding let out an “eep” as Nordberg threw him, but caught himself on the wall and tore down the staircase after Nordberg.
Ellis and Abrams were frozen in the doorway to Abrams’ office, wide-eyed at the spectacle. Downstairs the bathroom door slammed.
“We should stop them, shouldn’t we?” Abrams asked, still dazed and staring at the basement door.
“Probably . . . “ Ellis replied, equally dazed. After a few motionless moments, she added, “Of course we could always watch . . . . “
“Also true . . . prolly be a lot more fun, too . . . . “
“Yup . . . . “
They waited a few moments more in silence.
“Let’s watch,” Ellis said, moving to the basement with her tail wagging in delight. Abrams followed her, smiling and clapping his hands.
The basement, like the main room, had four doors. The two across from the staircase were right next to each other and led to the men’s and women’s bathrooms. Along the same wall as the stairs was a wire-grated door, with a small wire-grated window next to it that went to the woefully underused evidence locker. On the door was a sign that read, in hand-written bold red letters:
Ellis’ Weapon Locker
Station Weapon Locker
If you value your balls,
On the wall to the left of the staircase was a door that led to the tiny booking station and the equally tiny jail cell, which was very rarely used even when the deputies arrested someone drunk in public.
Ledding’s and Nordberg’s shouts echoed out of the bathroom even with Ellis and Abrams’ footsteps bouncing off the linoleum stairs. The two superior officers pushed through the men’s room door after the fierce yells.
“Outta my way Nordberg!”
“Write somewhere else!”
Ledding and Nordberg were wrestling with each other in the near stall, magic markers squeaking furiously against the particle board partitions. There were two stalls, side by side at the far end of the bathroom. Nearer the door were two urinals. Three sinks were along the left wall, with one long mirror running above them. The bathroom had baby blue, one inch-by-one inch tiles for a floor, which went up the walls to chest height.
“So that’s what urinals look like,” Ellis said casually.
“You’ve never seen one before?” Abrams asked, cocking an eyebrow.
Ellis turned to Abrams curtly. “Not in person, no, why should I?” Her voice dissolved to a growl over the last syllables.
“No reason,” Abrams casually replied, turning back to his fighting deputies. Ellis narrowed her eyes at the feline, reluctantly returning her attention to the brawl in the stall.
“Gah, Nordberg, find your own section of stall to deface!”
“Whatever that means, you!”
Ledding and Nordberg’s bodies were pushing and grinding against one another in competition over a rapidly darkening area of stall. Their words were little more than tangled lines, the knocking around making their insults illegible.
“I’m calling you a loathsome mongrel!”
“Well you’re an ugly butthead!”
“You have the intelligence of a peanut!”
“Your eyes scare children!”
“Your mother was a hamster, and your father smelt of elderberries!” Abrams called out, getting laughter from Ellis.
“Y’know, if they were naked, you would not be able to distinguish this from a porno,” Ellis told Abrams, pointing to the wolf and rodent.
Abrams closed his eyes in discomfort. “That’s a . . . disturbing image, Ellis.”
“Yeah, Nordberg probably wouldn’t look too good naked. Replace him with David Beckham, though,” Ellis added with renewed energy, “and now we’ve got something to look at!”
Ledding and Nordberg stopped their scribbling, slowly and simultaneously turning their heads to look at Ellis with appalled faces. Abrams gave her a similar gaze, one eyebrow very nearly lifted off his head. Ellis’ muzzle broke into a colossal grin as her ears lowered on her head, her stature slumping. “Yum.”
Realizing Nordberg was incapacitated, Ledding shoved him to the ground and put his marker to the particle board.
“Alright, alright, why don’t you . . . two take turns er something . . . . “
“Deal!” Ledding shouted, his arms flailing while Nordberg still pinned him with one arm, continuing to write with the other.
“Nordberg . . . “ Ellis said with menacing quietness.
With a noticeable tremble Nordberg quickly rose to his feet, releasing Ledding. He obediently stepped out of the stall, avoiding Ellis’ gaze with his tail tip poking in between his knees.
Ledding sat up, feet stuck out in front of him, the stark white fur on his head disheveled and his uniform twisted awkwardly. “Ass!” Nordberg stuck his tongue out at the mouse.
Ledding shook his head before putting his marker to the stall barrier. He quickly wrote something on top of the jumble of ink marks clustered on the particle board, then stood. On his way in, Nordberg shoved his shoulder into Ledding’s.
“What do you want?” Abrams replied, exasperated.
“And I wanna Lamborghini, but it’s not gonna happen.” Abrams crossed his arms. “For several reasons . . . “ he muttered to himself.
“Ellis!” Ledding cried.
“Grow a pair,” she answered quietly.
“I have a pair,” the mouse answered, clutching his crotch, “you were grabbin’ on ‘em ten minutes ago!”
“A metaphorical pair.”
“Why would I need a –“ Ledding stopped, lifting his head and ears thoughtfully. “What am I doing?” Ledding turned and went back in the stall while Nordberg was still writing.
“Hey, hey, moving violation! That’s a yellow card!”
“Ledding, this is what you wanted!” Abrams said quizzically.
“Only because I was immobilized by Pudgy McFat here,” the mouse tried to shove Nordberg with one arm, without much success. Frowning, the wolf retaliated with a shove of his own, staggering the skinny mouse. With a grunt, Ledding pushed Nordberg with both hands. The lupine lost his balance, collapsing onto his bottom and his right hand landing in the toilet. Moving quickly to stop Ledding, he inadvertently swiped his hand through the air, splashing Ledding’s face.
“GAAAH! It burns!” Ledding clutched his eyes in surprise and agony. Ellis and Abrams burst into bellows of laughter.
Taking advantage of a rare moment of thought, Nordberg pushed Ledding with his shoulder out of the stall. Ledding fell to the floor, screaming incoherently and rubbing his eyes. Abrams clutched his gut as Ellis fell over, unable to hold back their mirth.
“I think I’m gonna pop!”
The noise brought Abrams and Ellis to chuckles and an end to Ledding’s screaming. Pulling his hands from his eyes, Ledding looked at the door in time to hear the “click” of the lock. Abrams’ and Ellis’ laughter returned even greater than before.
Ledding scrambled up and banged on the door with a wiry arm. “Open the door Nordberg!”
More banging. “Now!!”
The two superior officers were giggling now. In between chuckles, Abrams looked to the door. “C’mon, Nordberg, open –“
“Wait, wait! I think we should let him stay in there,” Ellis said, still on the floor.
“Because,” Ellis said, pushing herself up and brushing herself, “Ledding is the smart one, but Nordberg figured this out.”
“Mmm,” Abrams nodded deeply.
“Sorry, Dave, but she’s right.”
“Dave is upset for being called a dummy, especially since it was Robbie who wrote it. This being a conflict based on supposed intelligence, Nordberg didn’t really break any rules,” Ellis continued, “Robbie outsmarted Dave. It’s an amazing play.”
“Are you F*%&ING KIDDING ME?!?!”
“Sorry, Ledding, no foul,” Abrams said.
“Bollocks! You’ve been on Nordberg’s side the whole time!”
“I like an underdog.”
“Calm down, Ledding, play the game,” Ellis said.
“THIS ISN’T A GAME I’M BEING SLANDERED!!!”
“Libel!” Nordberg chimed in from his stall.
“WHATEVAAAAAAAAAHHH!!!” Ledding started to slam on the stall door with both fist and foot, even pounding it with his head. The particle board trembled on its hinges, but didn’t budge. The two onlookers bellowed with laughter as the white mouse’s face and ears turned as red as his eyes beneath his fur.
Ledding ceased his assault, shoulders arched, head slumped, eyes wide, fists clenched, and his small chest heaving in and out with each opened-mouth breath. The tip of his tail curled and switched from his tension. Abrams doubled over, pointing at Ledding’s crimson face.
“L-l-l-look at his fa-a-a-ace!!” he barely managed to say. Ellis had fallen back over, and started to kick her legs with each laugh.
With a huff, Ledding collapsed to the ground and started to slide on his back beneath the stall door. “You’re a dead dog, Nordberg! DEAD!!”
“L-L-Ledding,” Ellis tried to turn to the mouse, but couldn’t keep her eyes open with her laughter, “if y-y-you lay a finger on him I-I-I’ll cr-cr-crush your ahahahaha!!” Ellis clutched her belly, and rolled from side to side.
Ledding managed to get his shoulders under the partition, but before he could go further Nordberg brought his marker down on the rodent’s pristine white face. Ledding cried out again as the wolf sullied his fur with the pitch-black marker. The two onlookers were invigorated with a fresh bout of bellowing laughs.
Ledding brought his pink hands to his face and kicked his legs, trying to push Nordberg’s marker away. The canine took advantage of Ledding’s surprise and kicked him in the shoulder, pushing him back out of the stall. Ledding’s chin caught the edge of the stall door, making him grunt and whack his head soundly on the tile floor. Without thinking, Ledding pulled his head back up, only to catch the stall door again with his forehead. Ledding groaned in pain, rolling onto one side. Realizing Ledding’s ears were still in his territory, Nordberg gently pushed him out with his foot. Ellis rolled on the ground, tail wagging into right angles with her spine and her knees high in the air. Abrams’ face was flushed and his eyes watering as he gripped the sink behind him, unable to stand on his own.
“I’m gonna wet myself!” Ellis cried.
Ledding pushed himself up, blinking his eyes out of his daze. A broad red mark stretched just above the rodent’s brow. The tangle of marker ink blackened the bridge of his muzzle and down his left eye socket, the edges of the black blob a deep blue on his sheet white fur. With each successive blink, Abrams and Ellis were able to see, even through their tears, Nordberg had gotten Ledding’s eyelid.
“I’m glad you two find this so amusing!” Ledding clutched his temples. Sound hurt. Abrams finally toppled with a thud.
Ledding dizzily stood, clutching the top of the stall for support. One side of his tan uniform shirt had come untucked, and the top button had come loose. “This isn’t over Nordberg!” He blinked some more. No more talking until his pulse stopped ringing in his head.
“Ledding . . . I . . . th-th-think Robbie . . . beat you hahaha!” Abrams managed to breathe, tears spilling down his cheeks. Ellis rolled herself over at this, sticking her bottom in the air as she slammed the tile floor with a fist. One tile popped out of place.
Ledding glared at his superiors. The thudding in his head could wait. Looking at the door to Nordberg’s stall, Ledding turning on his heel and went into the next stall. He slammed the door and locked it. “I’ve got a nice clean slate to tell how friggin’ stupid you are over here, Nordberg!”
“No one goes in that stall anyway!”
“We’ll see about that!”
Ellis and Abrams’ laughter filled the bathroom.
“ . . . dummy!!”
“Running out of insults?”
Abrams started whooping as Ellis knocked another few tiles out of the floor.
Abrams and Ellis loudly panted, their laughter finally coming under control. They quickly built back up again listening to the barrage of insults.
“Douche-knuckling ass-licking troglodyte!”
Abrams and Ellis settled again, the dingo rolling onto her right side, facing the stalls. “I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so hard,” she said between pants. Abrams shook his head in agreement.
“Uncivilized taint-worshipping beast!”
“I still can’t believe Ledding got his face . . . “ Abrams tried to say, before chuckles cut him off. Ellis joined in, but both clutched their guts in pain.
“Y’know what would really make this great?” Ellis asked, looking up to Abrams.
Abrams looked back at her over his gut. “What?”
“Lunch,” Ellis said with a smile. Abrams returned it.
“Whoa, Ledding!” Abrams said, “NO need for that kinda language!”
“F*%& you, asshole!”
“Ledding be civil,” Ellis said.
“F*%& being civil! I’ve got f*%&ing marker on my f*%&ing face from a f*%&ing moron who is –“
“Anyway, lunch sounds great,” Abrams said, turning back to Ellis. “Where should we go?”
“I think they opened up a Red Robin down the highway.”
“—because I’m f*%&ing not the f*%&ing dummy, he’s the f*%&ing dummy with f*%&ing ugly –“
Ellis and Abrams stood, dusting themselves off.
“Robbie, Dave; Ellis and I are going out to lunch,” Abrams said. He had to raise his voice above Ledding’s expletives.
“Mmkay,” Nordberg said.
“—with a c*%&#@~king s*%&#@~e of a d*%&#@~$+=ing f*%&#@~d Mc*%&#@~$+=rg –“
“We’ll be back in an hour or so,” Abrams added. Ellis nudged a few of the tiles she knocked out with her toe.
“Alright,” Nordberg said.
“—who f*%&ing can’t f*%&ing even f*%&ing f*%&ing spell his f*%&ing own f*%&ing NAME!!”
“I’ve gotten better at that!”
Ellis held the door open for Abrams. “Thank you,” he said. As they climbed up the stairs to the main room, he added with a chuckle: “Repairing those tiles is coming out of your salary.”
Ellis chuckled too, before the weight of his words hit her. “Seriously?” She followed Abrams into the main room, past the desks and out the front door, letting it slam behind her.
Upon hearing the front door slam, Ledding in turn threw open his stall door. He stepped out, a huge scowl adorning his face. Catching a glimpse of himself in the mirror, he deepened his scowl and stepped to Nordberg’s stall door.
“Nordberg,” he said, “this isn’t working.”
“For you!” the wolf said.
“For either of us!” Ledding snapped back. “Neither of us is willing to concede, so we’ll remain here defacing these stalls into perpetuity.”
“ . . . um –“
“We aren’t giving up and we’ll be here forever!” the mouse yelled, squeezing his fists with renewed anger. “It needs to stop!”
“You just won’t admit you lost.”
Ledding felt his blood boil. “I did not lose, we’ve stalemated!”
“Do you wanna be in this stall forever, ‘cuz that’s how it could be?!”
“Well, I am in a bathroom, so . . . one less thing to worry about.”
“Dammit Nordberg, I’m serious!” Ledding yelled, pounding the door. “Besides, I have an idea.”
Ledding and Nordberg were at their desks when they heard the front door open. Ellis and Abrams’ voices entered the station, breaking the near silence of their scratching pens.
“—because it’s actually quite stretchy,” Ellis said ebulliently.
“Aw, the fight’s over?” Abrams said. “Ledding give up?”
Ledding gave a quick, dark glance over his work. “We stalemated.”
“Which is just fancy talk for lost,” Ellis said with a wag of her tail and a huge grin.
“It means we both lost,” Ledding said, looking up at Ellis darkly.
“Ledding,” she said, ignoring his tone, “what’s on your face?”
“Marker. From when Nord—“
“On top of that.” Ledding’s cheeks flushed and he looked down at his work. Ellis’ smile broadened with realization. “Is that . . . white-out?!” Ledding’s fists shook and his tail twitched as his superiors laughed.
“We brought you some fries,” Abrams said, holding up a decorative paper bag, “hoping to watch you strangle each other over them. But, given the circumstances . . . . “ Abrams plopped the bag on Nordberg’s desk. Ellis chuckled. “Congratulations, Robbie!”
Without acknowledging him, Nordberg opened the bag and started eating a few fries.
“Maybe if you’re lucky, he’ll share some with you Dave,” Ellis said, walking to her desk and dropping her keys on it.
“If he thinks you’re not too dumb,” Abrams added, making the two of them laugh. Ledding just shook his head.
Neither Ellis nor Abrams stopped laughing as they walked on, Abrams into his office and Ellis down the stairs to the basement. The station was again plunged into near silence, the only sounds scratching pens and the occasional chewing of a fry. It was broken abruptly by a flush and a slam from Abrams’ office. The large cougar stomped out and glared at his two officers.
“Who wrote ‘Abrams is a scaredy-kitten fatass’ on the wall in my bathroom?” he asked angrily.
He had barely asked the question when Ellis noisily bounded up the basement steps, a deep frown dug into her muzzle. “Which one of you wrote ‘Ellis has the biggest balls of all’ in the ladies’ room?”
Ledding and Nordberg both, synchronously, straightened up, put down their pens, and looked at their superiors. “Wasn’t me,” Nordberg said.
“Me either,” said Ledding.
“Oh really?” Ellis said, folding her arms and glaring at Nordberg. He shuffled uncomfortably in his seat, his tail worming its way between his legs again.
“I was with Ledding the whole time, it wasn’t us.”
“Malarkey!” Abrams said.
“Stop and think about it,” Ledding said, “who would want to write those things? Whoever did it must’ve had some kind of a grudge or the need to vent certain . . . theories; someone who needed to . . . express frustration at the expense of another.”
Ellis and Abrams both gave Ledding a cold stare. “Do you really expect us to believe that?” Abrams asked, one eyebrow cocked.
“Believe it or not, that’s up to you. The real question, though,” Ledding stood as he spoke, standing beside Nordberg, “can you afford not to believe it?” His eyes locked on them as he dipped his muzzle.
“That’s ridiculous Ledding!” Abrams yelled. Ellis glanced at him with only her eyes.
“Trying to sow dissent between Ellis and I, that’s despicable!” Ellis’ hand slowly inched toward her desk drawer.
“And damn foolish, too. How could you think it would work? Seriously, you’re . . . supposed . . . “ Abrams trailed off as he saw Ellis dig through her drawer. She looked up and caught him looking at her. His jaw dropped to the floor.
Exposed, Ellis snatched up a marker and bolted for Abrams’ office. Abrams moved as soon as she did, also toward his office to get a marker. As Ellis reached the door of the office Abrams collided with her. With heavy “oomphs,” they fell forward onto each other. Both the dingo and the feline were up again in an instant, tearing off toward each other’s bathrooms.
Grinning, Ledding grabbed a few of Nordberg’s fries. Nordberg tried to stifle a laugh with his hand.
“Tubby ‘fraidy-baby!” Ellis called from the office.
“Ladyboy!” Abrams yelled from the stairs.
Leaning back in his chair, Nordberg held the bag of fries to give Ledding better access. Giving each other a fist bump, they began to laugh as insults and expletives filled the station.
It has been said dumpster graffiti is the voice of the people. Bathroom graffiti, however, is the voice of morons.
I have been working on this one for WAAAAAAAY too long. I'm glad to see it finally posted! We return to the Gibbetville sheriff's station, previously seen in Moroneae Domesticus. I like these guys, I hope I can keep coming back to them without it taking SIX BLOODY YEARS TO POST.