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Authors: Tim Davys

Amberville

BOOK: Amberville
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Amberville
Tim Davys

Contents

Chapter 1

Early one morning at the end of April there was…

Chapter 2

Eric devoted the day to putting things in order on…

Chapter 3

Grand Divino was a paradise for anyone who thought they…

Chapter 4

Along sky-blue South Avenue and mint-green East Avenue, the district…

Chapter 5

Back then the four of them had never been inseparable…

Chapter 6

They usually met at Zum Franziskaner on North Avenue, a…

Chapter 7

Snake Marek knocked on the door to Sam’s apartment at…

Chapter 8

Sam Gazelle hated being alone.

Chapter 9

Tom-Tom Crow threw down the knitting on the passenger seat…

Chapter 10

Tom-Tom Crow dropped the screwdriver. It fell to the floor…

Chapter 11

On the morning of Tuesday the thirteenth of May, only…

Chapter 12

Snake Marek returned a few hours after Dove had taken…

Chapter 13

It sounds so frigging unbelievable,” said Tom-Tom, who was standing…

Chapter 14

Eric was fiddling with the key he had in his…

Chapter 15

The bedroom was bathed in the gentle daylight coming in…

Chapter 16

May I go home now?”

Chapter 17

Blood-red Western Avenue continues all the way to Hillevie and…

Chapter 18

That’s enough now.”

Chapter 19

Eric Bear drove in silence along the mint-green avenue.

Chapter 20

They lifted Eric out of the ravine.

Chapter 21

They say that a stuffed animal can get used to…

Chapter 22

But that’s ridiculous,” said Emma. “You must go to the…

Chapter 23

It was the last evening at Yiala’s Arch.

Chapter 24

There are occasions when the most direct route is made…

Chapter 25

Eric, what a surprise!” said Archdeacon Odenrick, but there was…

Chapter 26

Everything looks flipping alike,” swore Tom-Tom Crow.

Chapter 27

Through the window opening in Archdeacon Odenrick’s office, Eric Bear…

Epilogue

Eric Bear sat on a ruined pier at the north…

Bonus Material

The second book in Tim Davys’ exceptional Mollisan Town quartet…

E
arly one morning at the end of April there was pounding on the door to Eric Bear and Emma Rabbit’s apartment on brick-red Uxbridge Street. The morning rain had let up, the wind had died down, and the sun was shining anew over Mollisan Town.

“Shut up and stop pounding,” mumbled Eric Bear to himself, pulling the blanket over his head.

But the blanket was too thin; the pounding on the door echoed painfully inside the bear’s head.

It was impossible to fall back asleep.

Yesterday had turned into a late and wet one. It had been the kind of evening when each and every stuffed animal seemed to have decided to go out. The restaurants up in Lanceheim were packed; along bright-violet Pfaffendorfer Tor the animals were thronging all the way from the Concert Hall, and the crowding at the bars along mustard-yellow Krünkenhagen was worse than on North Avenue during rush hour. Mammals and reptiles, fish and fowl, imaginary animals and even the occasional insect: all kinds of stuffed animals crowded into Lanceheim.

“Follow me!” Eric cried out when the animals on the sidewalk threatened to divide the group.

There had been five of them. Wolle Toad, Nicholas Cat, and a project leader from the advertising agency Wolle & Wolle whose name Eric didn’t know.

But it was Philip Baboon who walked at Eric’s side. This evening Baboon was the object of everyone’s attention. He represented the shoe company Dot. They had been searching for a new advertising agency for several months, and Wolle & Wolle were on their way to winning the pitch. Now only that last little push was required.

Eric Bear was ready to push.

Eric set his sights on a restaurant which was not too far away. From a distance he saw the neon sign’s bold yellow letters which read: “Parrot’s Bar & Grill.”

“Parrot’s,” said Eric to Philip Baboon. “Never had a boring moment there.”

In fact, Eric Bear had never even heard of the place, and he would most likely never be able to find it again. But the cursive neon letters reminded him of the Art Deco of his childhood, and anyway, up here one restaurant was pretty much like any other.

“Just so there aren’t any decadent females at Parrot’s,” Baboon said, giggling nervously. “I haven’t been out in almost twenty years, I don’t want to run into any…voluptuaries…the first thing I do.”

Philip Baboon was wearing a gray suit, a white shirt, and a dark-blue tie.

Over dinner he had related that his greatest interests were balance sheets, rates of turnover, and the snails he collected on the beach in Hillevie. Baboon still had his briefcase in hand as he walked beside Eric Bear. He would carry it the entire evening, as if it were a life buoy.

It was obvious to everyone that Philip Baboon wanted nothing more than to meet decadent females.

“Voluptuaries?” laughed Eric Bear. “I’m sure there might well be that sort at Parrot’s, unfortunately.”

Philip Baboon shivered with expectation.

 

A new series of
brutal poundings was heard from the outside door.

Why don’t they ring the doorbell, like normal stuffed animals?

Eric Bear turned over in bed. Under the blanket he could smell his own breath. Gin martinis and vodka. Stale gin martinis and vodka. Had he been smoking yesterday? It felt like it on his tongue.

When they’d left Parrot’s Bar & Grill—because there hadn’t been any females who were sufficiently decadent for Baboon’s taste there—they were all thoroughly intoxicated. They ended up at a jazz club. A dark, cellar space which couldn’t possibly be in Lanceheim, but rather up in Tourquai.

“I know that we shouldn’t talk shop,” said Eric Bear.

He had a hard time talking without slurring. He and Baboon were sitting across from each other at a small, round table in a corner of the place. Eric sat on a chair, Baboon was reclining on a hard bench next to the wall. A saxophone was screeching from the stage and maybe someone was sitting on Baboon’s lap? It was so dark, it was hard to be sure.

“I know that we shouldn’t talk shop, but we’re the only ones left, aren’t we? You’ve decided on Wolle and Wolle?”

“On Tuesday,” said Baboon.

At least Eric thought that’s how he replied.

“Tuesday?”

“But we demand a ceiling,” said Baboon.

Or else he said something else. On the stage the saxophone had been joined by a trumpet, and it was impossible to hear what anyone said.

“Is that a panda sitting on your lap, Baboon?” asked Wolle Toad.

Bear didn’t know where the toad had appeared from. But Baboon had been found out, and he rose from the bench. The following moment he fell down backwards again. With the panda on top of him.

“I have never touched any panda!” he shouted.

Then Eric knew that Wolle & Wolle would have Dot as a new account.

 

“I’M COMING!”

Eric threw off the blanket and sat up in bed. The bedroom was swaying. The noise from the door was getting louder.

He had a vague recollection that Emma had left the house almost an hour earlier. She rented a studio in the south end of Amberville, down toward Swarwick Park. There she worked as long as the sun was standing in the east, and she liked to get going early in the morning. Eric was slower. More precise, he said.

More vain, she said.

The bear stood up and pulled on the underwear and shirt that were lying on the floor beside the bed. Those were the clothes he’d had on yesterday. They stank of sweat, smoke, and stale booze. With a sigh he went slowly out through the dining room.

The blinds had been drawn in the bedroom, but the sun was sparkling happily from a blue sky through the windows in the living room. The nostrils of Eric’s cloth nose expanded and unconsciously his small, round ears moved forward. He dared not even guess who might be at the door; they seldom had uninvited guests. He furrowed his cross-stitched eyebrows and reached for his aching head. At the same time there was an amused curiosity in his small, black-button eyes.

Life often treated Eric Bear to pleasant surprises.

He came out into the hall just as the pounding resumed, and this time the animal on the other side had lost patience. The hinges rattled uneasily; the force behind the pounding could not be mistaken.

Eric hesitated.

He remained standing next to a small sofa upholstered in pink velvet which Emma Rabbit had purchased at auction at a high price a little more than a year earlier.

Perhaps it was best not to open. Eric suddenly had a feeling that he didn’t want to know who was on the other side of the door. With an inaudible sigh he sat down on the pink sofa.

It became silent outside.

After that the door came flying into the hall.

The blow was loud and distinct. It was followed by an unpleasant crunching sound, and from a cloud of wood chips and wall plaster Eric discerned the outline of a small bird, who carefully stepped over the debris on the floor.

Behind the bird two broad figures loomed on either side.

Nicholas Dove and his gorillas had come for a visit.

“Eric, my friend,” said Dove in his squeaky monotone as the dust settled. “I see I’m arriving at a very inconvenient time.”

And the dove made a gesture toward Eric’s bare legs. The bird himself wore an impeccable double-breasted jacket, with a pink silk scarf around his neck.

Eric had leaped up from the sofa as though standing to attention when the door was battered into the hallway, and now he looked down at his underwear. His heart was pounding hard in his chest, and he was much too shocked to be either afraid or angry.

“I…” he began.

“No problem,” Dove assured him, going past Eric without need of an invitation and on into the living room.

The two gorillas remained standing in the hall, in the space that had recently been a doorway. There was nowhere to escape. Eric vaguely recalled one of the gorillas, the one who was bright red, from the distant past. It was a very unusual color for an ape.

In the living room, the dove had already made himself comfortable in one of the armchairs. Eric sat down warily on the sofa next to it. Despite the fact that practically all the stuffed animals in Mollisan Town were the same size, some seemed daintier and others coarser. Dove fell into the first category, the gorillas in the latter.

“It’s been a long time…” said Eric. “Really…”

“Much too long,” replied Dove, “much too long, my friend. But that’s not on my account. You’ve always known where to find me.”

That was true.

Nicholas Dove’s nest had always been at Casino Monokowski. It was said that Dove seldom or never left his comfortable office, where through tinted windows he could survey the casino from above. Eric knew, however, that the painting to the left of the desk—a horse in battle gear—was actually the door to Dove’s private apartment. From there he made his visits to the outside world, a necessity in order to maintain the balance of power. The bird was one of the most dangerous animals in Amberville, and directly or indirectly he controlled most of the organized crime in the district.

“Undeniably,” replied Eric, trying to keep a light tone of voice, “you know where to find me, too.”

“You look after your friends,” said Dove. “And I must of course congratulate you on all your successes.”

Eric nodded and smiled but felt a chill along his spine. He didn’t know what Dove was getting at. Eric Bear was in the prime of life and felt that he had much to be proud of. Presumably Dove had read something having to do with Wolle
& Wolle. Since Eric had become boss above Wolle Toad and Wolle Hare, a fair amount had been written about him in the press.

“Thanks,” said Eric.

“You’ve got a lovely place here,” continued Nicholas Dove.

Again a din was heard from out in the hallway. Not quite as ear-shattering as when the door was knocked down, but sounds of the same type. Eric turned around and saw how the apes were smashing the lovely pink sofa to bits.

Emma, he thought in a panic that crept up from his belly toward his throat. Emma. She’s going to be crushed.

“Why…?”

Eric tried to sound relaxed, and nodded out toward the hall where the gorillas continued to kick and strike what was left of the piece of furniture.

“They’re taking a break,” said the dove. “Surplus energy. It’s just as well that I get to the point before your entire lovely apartment is destroyed.”

Eric swallowed and nodded. Sweat was pouring down his back, but it might just as well have been the hangover. He didn’t want to appear materialistic, but the pink sofa hadn’t been free. And Emma would never understand. She knew nothing about Eric’s youthful years; he’d never dared tell her that he had once worked for Nicholas Dove. To others he hinted at this and that about his past because he thought that made him more exciting. But Emma wasn’t as easily impressed.

The gorillas had finished in the hallway. With decisive steps they went through the living room into the dining room, where they let themselves go on the dining room furniture: the table and chairs.

Just so they don’t see the crystal chandelier, thought Eric. It was a copy of an eighteenth-century piece signed de Clos, of which only four existed.

The very next moment hundreds of crystal prisms crashed against the parquet floor.

“Eric, you know me,” said Dove, adjusting his scarf. “I’m not one to beat around the bush, I intend to get right to the point. I’m on the Death List.”

“The Death List?” Eric repeated foolishly.

“That’s right,” nodded the dove without a hint of hesitation.

“But,” said Eric, feeling uncertain as to whether the dove was joking, “are you really sure that…there is something like…I mean, I know that it…”

Eric fell silent.

“Does that have any significance?” asked Dove without interest.

Eric had heard the rumor of a Death List since preschool. As an adult it was hard for him to believe that a list actually existed. The Chauffeurs worked according to principles known only to them, and that of course gave rise to speculations. The Chauffeurs in their red pickup picked up old stuffed animals, “the worn and the weary,” as the saying went. No one knew to where the old animals were conveyed, but they disappeared and were never seen again. It wasn’t strange that the Chauffeurs were feared, not strange that you wished there were some sort of list; anything at all that made the Chauffeurs’ nighttime runs seem less random. The Environmental Ministry was mentioned in this regard, because the Environmental Ministry was responsible for the city’s transports and for the so-called Cub List. But it was improbable that anyone at the ministry had the task of giving stuffed animals a death sentence.

“Perhaps it has a certain significance,” Eric said carefully.

He didn’t want to glance in the other direction, toward the dining room; the sounds were sufficient to understand what was going on.

“If there isn’t any Death List, then you can’t very well be on it.”

“That,” dismissed the dove, “is a hypothetical line of reasoning that doesn’t interest me. I came here for a single reason. I want you to track down the list and remove my name from it.”

The silence that ensued only lasted a moment. The gorillas in the dining room were fully occupied with the chairs, which were more solidly constructed than it might seem.

“Why me in particular?”

“You owe me a few services,” Dove reminded him. “At least a few.”

“But that was a hundred years ago!”

“Compound the interest and you’re in a bad position,” sneered Dove, but quickly became stern again; these abrupt changes were one of his specialties. “Honorably stated, Eric, you in particular are a good fit. Considering your mother…”

The fact that Rhino Edda had been appointed head of the Environmental Ministry—the most important of the three ministries in Mollisan Town—was behind several commissions of trust Eric Bear had received over the years. At this moment he would return them all for this conversation never having taken place.

“Mr. Dove,” said Eric. “I can guarantee that neither the Environmental Ministry, nor Mother, sits around drawing up any Death Lists that—”

“That’s fine, that’s fine,” Dove brushed aside the excuses while taking the opportunity to smooth out the sleeve of his jacket. “I don’t care how you go about it. The less I know, the better. I would gladly put you on the trail if I could, but it…the cat…who maintained that he knew my name was on the list…has unfortunately…disappeared. So I suppose you can begin exactly as you wish.”

BOOK: Amberville
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