Dmitrio cursed as a ball of fur whizzed past him. He just missed getting a net over it. His gardener, Pietro, held a second net at the ready. Dmitrio instructed, “Quickly, go around the other way.”
“It’s no good, sir. The little monster changed direction under the table,” said Pietro. “Shall I call for more help?”
“Surely two grown men can outsmart one raccoon,” said Dmitrio.
Pietro snorted. “You are ever the optimist, sir.”
“We’ve caught three. I’m sure we can…”Dmitrio made a dive at the intruder and missed again, this time skidding into a cabinet. Jars and vials rattled ominously. “Blast!”
“I’ve got it cornered behind the furnace!”
Dmitrio raced over and took up position on the other side. “Very good! We’ll get him this time.” He got his net up just as the furry cannonball flew out. It knocked him back onto the ground when it collided with the net. The raccoon writhed and hissed as it twisted around in an attempt to escape. Claws and teeth tore at the net. Dmitrio held tight and attempted to roll to the side to get the ball of fury off of him.
A man was kneeling beside him. He wore Traveler garb; loose orange trousers, a yellow shirt with a purple vest, and a patchwork coat with stripes and spirals in every color of the rainbow. The stranger held the net firmly with two hands.
Dmitrio stammered, “Thank you.”
“Well done, sir,” said Pietro. “I’ll just put him with the others then.” He took the net from the stranger.
“I’m Teri.” The man stood and offered a gloved hand to him and pulled him to his feet.
“Thank you. I’m Dmitrio. It’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance. I apologize for the chaos. But to what do I owe the honor of this unexpected visit?”
“An acquaintance thought I should meet you,” said Teri.
“Who?” Applause from the doorway caught Dmitrio by surprise. “Maldriano! I wasn’t expecting you today.”
“I brought him to meet you.” Mal sauntered in, adjusting her cap as she tucked a stray strand of hair back under it. Her scuffed boots clicked on the oak floor. “Done playing with your new friends?”
“I would hardly call those miscreants friends,” Dmitrio said dryly as he dusted off the knees of his gray pinstripe trousers. He eyed Teri. “I see you’ve made a new friend yourself.”
“Just today, in fact. He came into my shop looking for a repair,” said Mal. Her own dark trousers were perpetually stained and spotted by various alchemical components. She shoved her hands into the pockets of her brown wool jacket. “He was asking about Marta. I thought you might be able to assist.”
“Marta? I see.” Dmitrio shook his head ruefully. “I suppose it has been awhile since she stirred up trouble for me. Shall we retire to the sitting room? I’ll arrange for tea.”
copyright 2015, all rights reserved, Kimberley Long-Ewing