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Authors: Darla Phelps

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Pets: Bach's Story

BOOK: Pets: Bach's Story
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Pets:

Bach’s Story

By Darla Phelps

 

Pets: Bach’s Story

By Darla Phelps

©2003 Darla Phelps & Blushing Publications

 

Originally Published 2003 by Blushing Publications

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

 

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Chapter One

Bach Bauer wanted a pet. He’d never been very keen on pets, nor had he considered himself much of a pet owner. But the idea had been gaining in merit these last two years. When a man lost both his wife and children in a vehicle collision and suddenly found himself confronted with facing life very much alone, Bach supposed a man might consider all sorts of things he previously would have thought uncharacteristic. It wasn’t that he was trying to replace his family.

That was impossible. They were utterly irreplaceable. He’d never spent a single night apart from Laan, his wife of nineteen years, until the night of her death. And had his twin daughters, Gema and Kali, survived the wreck, they’d be turning six next week.

No, he wasn’t trying to replace them. In fact, it was his intention never to remarry ever.

But after two years of rattling around in the tomblike silence of his home, Bach decided what he needed wasn’t so much a replacement as something to fill the oppressive void their absence had created.

Standing at the admissions’ counter of Exotics Incorporated, Bach scratched his eyebrow with his thumb, twiddled his pen in his hand, and wondered how to squeeze that kind of explanation into the two line space they’d given him beyond that mind-boggling question: Why do you want a pet? He finally settled on the banal and totally inadequate excuse: Loneliness.

The next question was even more banal: Can you provide the proper level of care for your pet? Yes. For two years now he’d read every book and article he could find on the subject, everything from feeding to bathing to breeding. It was a lifetime commitment after all. Most pets had a life expectancy of 60+ years in captivity these days, what with the general increase in interest leading to intensified research in animal biology and the improved veterinary care. If his pet didn’t outlive him, it’d be a pretty close race!

He also checked the box marked ‘Female’ on the next question. Males were more common, not to mention significantly less expensive, but the females were reputedly more intelligent, less aggressive, and could even learn tricks if one practiced patience in the training of them.

Do you plan to breed your pet? No.

Will your pet be for work, show, or recreational purposes? Bach shook his head and checked the last box. He hated filling these things out. He was about to hand over a lot of money; he wished they’d just give him his pet so he could go home.

“Sir Bauer?”

Bach glanced up from his application form to see one of the company’s agents standing in the open doorway to the walled-off consultation offices beyond the waiting room. He wore the standard grey suit of a service worker, immaculately neat but slightly ill-fitting, too long in the sleeve and broad upon his narrow shoulders.

“Greetings,” he said with a thin and nervous smile. He placed his long hands together, fingertips templed, and bowed respectfully. “I am Nil Ralhan. You needn’t worry about your application. Formality, Sir. Mere formality. We try to make sure people understand what they’re getting into when they bring a pet into their lives. Most haven’t an inkling, you know.” He cleared his throat, tapping his fingers together twice, his eyes widening with distress behind his wide-rimmed glasses as he realized the unintended insult that lay hidden behind his words. “Oh, n-not that I meant you, of course. No, no, not at all. You come highly recommended, Sir Bauer.

Yes, yes. Highly recommended. I have spoken with Councilman Remeik twice today alone.

Spare no expense, he said. The absolute best quality specimen we can find in the shortest possible time. And we’ve done that. I think you’ll be well satisfied.”

Bach glanced back down at the half-completed page beneath his pen. When he looked up at Ralhan, the man’s smile was almost pleading. “This is a mandatory process, is it not?”

“Yes, yes.” Ralhan bobbed his head repeatedly, then pushed his glasses, which had slid down his sharp and narrow nose, back into place. He re-steepled his fingers. “Absolutely mandatory. We screen all our applicants with great care. Pet abuse simply cannot be tolerated.

No, no.” Tap-tap went his fingers. “Neglect and ill-treatment are, I believe, the number one reasons for why pets go bad. But, here at Exotics, Inc., we take great pride in the knowledge that not one of our pets has ever been put down for attacking its owners. Good screening. That’s the ticket.” Tap-tap. “That and good quality pets to begin with, of course.”

“Then I will submit to mandatory procedures the same as everyone else,” Bach said and turned back to the form. He hurriedly checked the appropriate boxes to the last few questions, then flipped the page over. Oh lord, there were thirty-seven more on the reverse side. “I’d hate for anyone to get into trouble because one person didn’t follow the rules.”

Ralhan fidgeted with increasing distress. “But…but you’ve already been approved. C-Councilman Remeik spoke for you. Said you had a level six clearance when you worked for Central.”

“I’m retired,” Bach said, as he went down the page. No, he owned no other pets from this corporation or any other. Yes, he had a proper shelter prepared. Yes, he had made himself familiar with all the dietary and veterinary requirements. He hated these things, but he did like to do things by the book. By the book, that’s what he was known for.

“We’ve arranged a selection of our best animals for you to choose from. They’re caged in the back.”

“Fine.” Bach scrawled his signature down on the bottom of the page and handed the agent the completed application. “But now it’s legitimate.”

“Well, well. Uh…” Ralhan tapped his fingers twice more, then took the form. “If you’ll follow me then. I’ll show you what we have available.”

He stepped aside to allow Bach into the separate consulting area. As they walked down the hall, he tried to both lead Bach, bow apologetically, and walk a respectful distance behind him all at once. It wasn’t working very well.

“Forgive my presumption, Sir Bauer,” Ralhan said, the corner of his mouth ticcing with worry as he gestured ahead of them. “Through that door, if you please, Sir.”

Growing aggravated, Bach finally stopped. “Since I don’t know where I’m going, why don’t you go first?”

Nil Ralhan blinked rapidly, many times. “Ah…yes. Yes, of course. I—” He sidled into the lead. “Right this way.” He cleared his throat, and as they walked, did his best to engage Bach in a little idle chitchat. “Did you have any difficulties finding us?”

“No,” Bach told him, side-stepping the water cooler that Ralhan ran into because he was now trying to bow apologetically, lead Bach and walk backwards all at the same time.

“Ah…Good. Good.” Ralhan bumped into the corner of a desk, nearly knocking over a lamp. He caught it, righted it, and sidled further out into the hall. He pushed his glasses up on his nose again. “Right this way,” he said, and continued on down the hall.

It was several steps before he tried conversation again. “For your appointment to be held today was quite fortunate. You see, we’ve received the latest shipment just last night, and it had the most darling little female in it. If I had the money, I’d buy her myself. Unfortunately, I’ve already got two. If I bring another one home, my wife will kill me.” Ralhan chuckled, a high, thin and awkward sound.

Bach smiled, because polite social conduct deemed it appropriate, and tried to ignore the stab of pain he felt at the mention of the word ‘wife’, especially when it conjured memories of Laan in his mind.

“It’s standard procedure not to show her until we’ve completed a full behavioral evaluation,” Ralhan said as he led Bach past a row of secretarial desks, bumping into each one in turn and knocking over a cup of writing pens on the last. “But she really is a lovely specimen.

Everyone’s taken by her. And for a man of Councilman Remeik’s prestige—a-a-and your’s too, of course, Sir Bauer,” he quickly templed his hands together and ducked a hasty bow. “Well, even the hard and fast rules become negotiable.”

Bach stopped between a desk and a row of filing cabinets. Up ahead he could see the company coffee pot just waiting to be spilled unless he put an end to this. He sighed, clasped his hands behind his back and waited for Ralhan to notice that he was suddenly walking alone and hurry himself back to Bach’s side. Quite conversationally, Bach asked, “Are you a traitor to the Central Cause?”

Ralhan gulped and his eyes grew very wide. He shook his head.

“Have you ever engaged in acts of treason?”

“I sell pets,” the agent squeaked.

“And I am here to buy one. You have nothing to fear from me. Now please,” Bach gestured with one hand for Ralhan to precede him. “Continue.”

Adjusting his glasses upon his nose and giving Bach several anxious backwards looks, Ralhan pointed down the hall. “This way, if you please, Sir Bauer.”

At least they made it past the coffee pot without incident. As they walked, although he did it nervously, Ralhan finally took the lead. He escorted Bach through a veritable maze of half-wall cubicles and the individual personal offices of upper management. He took him to the far back of the building and out through a stark warehouse door. As he walked, some of his nervousness seemed to dissipate and the routine comfort of doing one’s job overtook him.

“We don’t bring most people back here,” he said as they passed through a supplies room and through a second warehouse door into a large and brightly lit hallway. “Normally, we’d bring the selection of pets to you in a socializing room up front. But as I said, we just got a new batch in and the pick of the litter, so to speak, isn’t up and about quite yet. So we thought taking you to her would be best.”

“I don’t mind the walk,” Bach said diplomatically.

The hallway connected to a large, square warehouse, filled with rows of tiny rooms, each twelve feet deep but no wider than the space required for a door, through the windows of which he could view the caged occupants. Many of the rooms were empty, with less than half housing a pet.

“These are all males here,” Ralhan said when Bach stopped at one door to peer inside.

“That one isn’t pet quality. He’ll require a good deal of hands-on work, you see. And—”

“That’s all right,” Bach said, eyeing the naked male that squatted in the back corner of the room, hairy elbows braced on hairy knees, scowling back at him with dark and furious eyes. “I find my heart set on possessing a female anyway.”

The consultant nodded. “I’ve always felt a partialness for the sweeter sex myself. They are more devoted to their owners, you know. More sociable and quicker to seek out affection.”

In the few seconds that Bach stood looking in that window, the male erupted from the floor, leaping forward to strike the glass before Bach’s face with his fist. The veins stood out on his neck as he roared his fury, battering the door with both hands and feet.

BOOK: Pets: Bach's Story
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