Terence opened the door.
“I’m glad you called us. The City Council passed an anti-rat ordinance last year, mandating a coordinated program co-ordinated by the municipal government. You may be instructed to hire a private firm to do the disposal, but for now, do we have your permission to do some investigating?”
“Of course. Come right in.”
“Thank you, sir.”
Terence noticed that the big black SUV parked at the curb had no markings, since folks in this neighborhood would not want WE HAVE RATS! Broadcast to all and sundry. There were five young men and women, and two of them were already moving around to the back of the house.
He tried not to let his paralyzing fear show.
That paralysis forced the young man to edge his way around him and say “Hello, young lady,” to the equally paralyzed Jeanette.
From the kitchen there was the sound of drawers being opened, and a female voice saying “Definite skat here!”
The young man turned to Terence. “In your phone request, you said someone had quote ‘dropped a box of rats.’ Do you have the box?”
“I-It’s sitting on the floor right there.” He pointed.
“Dr. Ransom--the best thing to do would be for you and the young lady to go out for a meal or a movie while we look things over. We’ll text you when we’re done. There are still some Sunday brunches open.”
“That’s an excellent idea. Come on, Jeanette. Let’s go.”
Jeanette ran into her bedroom and emerged with her backpack.
The young man smiled and said, “Just two things, Doctor. The gloves aren’t really necessary--but leaving opened bags of chips on the sofa is an invitation. No offense meant.”
“None taken,” Terence said as he bleeped the door lock so that it would lock when closed. “Thank you for your quick response.”
Jeanette was slightly incredulous at their luck. Even though no time at all had passed from the doorbell ringing while they were deep in discussion with Senhor Capoeira Capybara from another dimension, they had not been forced to explain the presence of a giant rodent with white gloves on standing in the living room. They had gone from impossible situation to clean getaway, and relief overwhelmed her.
As her father backed the SUV down the driveway, he said, “So what do you say we go to Gladys’s?”
Gladys’s was across town, and had a menu that ranged from tacos to stir-fry, but Gladys was from the Phillippines, and four-year old Jeanette had fallen in love with Halo-halo when they first went, and even today a meal at Gladys’s was a big pile of lumpia and glasses of halo-halo consumed in no particular order.
Her father was making a left hand turn when a voice from the back said, “That was close.”
Jeanette screamed a short scream. Then she turned back to furiously confront the capybara.
“It took an awful lot of native agility and stealth to get past your soldiers, but I managed.”
“I thought we had seen the last of you,” Terence said, holding it in.
“I was just about to discuss transportation arrangements with you when we were rudely interrupted. It’s not easy navigating a strange world undetected.”
Terence sighed. “I suppose not. A ride to your whatever-it-is, then?”
“A very nicely equipped trans-temporal exploration vehicle. I’m much obliged.”
“After we eat, though.”
Jeanette turned around to look at him. As his appearance became more familiar to her, she found he could read his attitudes the way she read those of humans. And he was miserable and depressed. (She also saw that his mice were with him, which lessened her sympathies a notch.)
“You’re hungry, aren’t you?”
“A bit, yes.” Which obviously meant very.
“We’ll get you something to go. OK?”
“That would be excellent, Jeanette. Thank you.”
So it was that they went to Gladys’s, and Jeanette had her usual feast. She was still mad enough at the alien monster that she only felt a pang once or twice of him waiting hungrily in the SUV while they ate.
She also realized that they were eating with their white gloves on, and no one had said anything. But she had come here in a tutu and dressed as a pirate, and nobody had said anything then, either. She liked having them on.
They ordered a big bag of butsi to go and they thanked Gladys profusely. When they got back and handed the bag to the capybara, he looked it with a disappointment he could probably have disguised this morning.
They pulled out of the parking lot, and Jeanette said, “Let me guess: you were hoping for something more substantial.”
The capybara said, “You see, I’ve been surviving on whatever my assistants could forage for me, and you have such wonderful smells attached to you…” his voice trailed off.
“Jeanette, you’re being too indulgent with this--thing.” Definitely in the anger zone.
“Dada, he did give us that solid gold bar,”
“He did, Jeanette. Sorry to reprove you.” He addressed the capybara. “So are you herbivorous?”
“At our stage of evolution it’s a preference rather than a requirement. Meat would do nicely. But something with fried potatoes would be much appreciated.”
Terence made a turn more abruptly than he needed to, and in a matter of minutes pulled into a fast-food drive-through. “Keep down and look like a rug,” Terence growled.
“I’d like some of your implausible burgers, or whatever they’re called.”
“How many?” Asked the speaker.
“Twelve,” said the capybara.
Jeanette said, “Dada, does he look like he has a small appetite?”
“A fat toon is a pleasant toon,” the capybara said.
“All right.” Terence said. “Eight burgers, please, and four sides of fries. No drinks,” he said to the speaker.
They pulled out onto the main drag, and Terence said, “so where is your ship.”
The capybara swallowed and said, “It’s hidden in Matmos Park.”
It swallowed again. “Yes.”
“That’s a ways away.”
He started to get an abstracted look in his eyes, which prompted Jeanette to say, “Come on, Dada. Let me just put on the GPS for you.” Terence stole a smiling glance at her. She reached for the touchscreen.
“NOT WITH THE GLOVES ON!” Cried the capybara.
She touched the screen, and something flashed. Or rather, everything flashed.
The capybara looked out the window.
“Oh that can’t be good,” it said.