Officer Bob Rodentstein huffed and strained carrying Basil's large suitcase as they made their way up the stairs to Basil's temporary apartment, the mouse-sized steps hidden within the walls of the much larger human-sized building. To someone of their size a two-story building might as well have been a sky scraper. It took several flights of stairs to make it all the way up.
"Please do hurry up, Bob. We haven't got all day and I want to begin my investigation immediately." Basil said, thinking the less time spent in this depressing city the better.
"Honestly, what did you put in this thing?" Rodentstein asked irritably as she trailed behind Basil.
"Oh just a few essentials, some lab equipment, a disguise, my violin
The heavily bearded officer rolled his eyes as he dragged the suitcase up the steps. Finally they reached the top, and Basil used the key they'd been given in the lobby to open the door to his room. The room had two bedrooms and a living room, one bedroom for each of them Basil supposed. There was a small glass window carved through the wall, one which luckily had gone undetected by the unobservant humans. It overlooked the busy cobblestone street below, and the elevated metal train tracks across the street which spread through the city.
Rodentstein drooped the suitcase and collapsed onto an armchair in front of the fireplace in exhaustion, panting.
Basil picked up the suitcase and opened it, carefully sorting through its contents and placing them where they needed to be; the glass vials, beakers, small microscope and chemicals being placed on a table (a far cry from the massive chemical set he had at home, sadly), the extra clothing hung in the closet, and his violin atop the second armchair in the room. It was a bit of a bother not having a maid around, he wasn't used to doing this himself. Thinking about her gave him a strong craving for a cheese crumpet, something hard to come by on this side of the Atlantic, for whatever reason. He realized he'd need to do some grocery shopping by himself too, unless he could get his new 'assistant' to do it for him. What a bother that would be when he already had so much work to do. You don't know what you have until it's gone. He resolved to give his maid Ms. Judson a raise when he got back.
Along the way from Tammany Hall he'd picked up an issue of the local newspaper from a paperboy on the sidewalk, and now he took it out of the inside of his coat pocket and unrolled it.
"The best way to begin an investigation, I've found, is to scour the newspaper for clues." Basil said, sitting down, careful to remove the violin first, before unrolling the paper and scrolling its headlines, "Perhaps 'The Daily Nibbler' might have something on my suspect."
"The Daily Nibbler is an excellent resource for news around here." Rodentstein chimed in, finally catching his breath, "At least when that egomaniac editor Reed Daley isn't trying to stir up another sensational story."
Basil cast a glance in his direction, "Famous for that, is he?"
you just can't take everything he writes for granted." Rodentstein said with a little hesitation, "Anyway, erm, about the suspect we were going to interrogate."
He was changing the subject, Basil knew. But he'd been waiting for the officer to bring up who they'd need to track down. "Yes, who is it?"
"He's a cat so we'll need to be careful. He goes by the name Cat R. Waul." Rodentstein explained, "He only stays in town a few months a year, since his owner travels between New York and out west quite a lot. But if we're looking for a cat wealthy and eccentric enough to purchase stolen museum goods from this Ratigan fellow, he'd be a good place to start. Waul is also originally from England and may still have ties there, making him a possible accomplice himself."
"Hm, and what do we know about his possible whereabouts?" Basil asked, while reading over an article on a cat attack on a local Chinese laundry that had fallen on hard times and had been unable to forfeit enough profits to Warren T. Rat, leaving three mice dead. Positively dreadful what was going on in New York.
"He likes to hang around a nightclub in the Bronx with his posse. It's a cat-exclusive nightclub so unless you've got a cat disguise in that suitcase we'll need to improvise a way in. And getting to actually talk to Waul will be another matter entirely." Rodentstein explained.
"Sounds dangerous. But I've stood against worse odds in my career." Basil said nonchalantly, "I am interested in knowing whether or not this Waul character has any connection to Ratigan."
"So, do we leave for the Bronx tonight?" Rodentstein asked.
"Yes, we shall. Though I think it would be best if we wore disguises." Basil said.
"Indeed. We wouldn't want to give our identities away if something happens, would we?" Basil said, "By the way, your beard makes you too noticeable. Shave it off before we go."
Rodentstein blinked, "Sh-shave it off?"
"Yes. Or maybe you can shave it after we get back from the nightclub. Actually that's an even better idea. Then if someone sees you at the nightclub they won't recognize you later." Basil said, getting up from his chair and putting the newspaper down.
but I can't
Basil tilted his head, "Why is that?"
it's too special to me." he said quickly.
"Too special? Why that's absurd! It'll grow in again, won't it?"
"Then what's the problem?"
I just can't. I won't." he said firmly.
Basil walked up to his chair and bent down, causing the officer to scoot back against the chair as far as he could. Basil reached his hand out and began to stroke the beard.
"It is rather regal, isn't it? Yes, it looks good on you."
He tugged on the beard and pulled it back, revealing a string. He let go and it snapped back onto the officer's face.
"AHA!" Basil said, standing up straight and pointing a finger at the imposter, "As I suspected from the beginning! You are no policeman. You are, in fact, a WOMAN!"
Trembling, she removed the beard and her police hat, revealing a fair face with raised cheeks, full lips, and only the softest peach-fuzz fur covering her complexion, her red hair done up in a bun to keep it hidden under the hat, "I should have known my disguise couldn't fool the great mouse detective."
Basil was not amused, "Who sent you?! Who do you work for?!"
"Calm down, Basil. I-I don't work for Ratigan." she insisted.
"Then who do you work for?" Basil demanded.
" she glanced over at the newspaper on Basil's chair, "I work for The Daily Nibbler."
"Oh, is that it then? An undercover reporter? Here to snoop on me and sell the story to the newspapers eh?" Basil said, drawing back a bit, "How do I know you're telling the truth?"
Her jade eyes turned from Basil to the newspaper again, "L-look for my advice column in there, you should find a picture of me."
He slowly walked backwards toward the newspaper, not taking his eyes off the imposter in case she tried to pull a gun on him or something of that nature. He picked the paper up, trying to keep one eye on her and one on the paper as he thumbed through its pages. She showed no signs of moving, she only watched. Finally he came to the advice column.
" he said as he looked it over. Someone had written to her about having recurring nightmares in the column, whereupon her advice had been that there was nothing in the dark that wasn't there with the lights turned on, and that it was best to get the facts on something you were afraid of. Sure enough, there was a black and white photograph at the top of the column, matching this woman's description, "So you're Nellie Brie. The Nellie Brie."
"Yes, I'm the Nellie Brie. Heard of me?" she asked.
"Oh don't think the news of your undercover exploits haven't reached Britain." Basil answered, "I must admit I found the methods you used in your undercover report on corruption in New York mental institutions last year quite impressive. And you must have had to fool quite a few mice with your disguise to end up being assigned to assist me."
"Don't get me wrong Basil. It wasn't about you, at first." Nellie said, "I was going to do a big article on police brutality and corruption in the NYPD. You saw how maniacal that Chief McBrusque is. So I used the disguise, went through police training at a police academy, and joined the force. I've found evidence that McBrusque has been taking under-the-table bribes from factory and sweatshop owners, on top of overstepping his bounds and roughing up innocent civilians. I was about ready to publish the article, thus blowing my disguise, when I heard rumor that you were coming here from England to work on a big case."
"And the story was too big to pass up." Basil said irritably.
"They were taking volunteers at the police station to see who was going to show you around and watch your back while you were here, and well
on a complete whim mind you
I decided to volunteer and do a story on it." Nellie confessed, "But listen, I meant you no harm. I'm on your side. I hate crime as much as you do, and I really want to make this city a better place to live. Maybe I can help you. I want to, really I do."
Basil could tell she was being sincere, although it annoyed him that she thought she'd be able to get away with tricking him with a disguise and printing a story about him right under his nose. It wasn't even a very good disguise either, in Basil's opinion. But it had proven affective up until she met him, so maybe she could keep it when she went along with him.
"Alright then, 'assistant'. I'll give you a chance." Basil said.
She gave a smile, "Thank you Basil. I will do my best. You'll need someone who knows the area."
"Very well then, put that beard back on. I think this calls for our first outing."
"But the club won't open until tonight." Nellie said questioningly.
"I know that." Basil scoffed, "We're going grocery shopping. We can hone your detective skills by having you find out if they sell my kind of tea in America. Bonus points if you can find me a cheese crumpet."
Nellie fastened her fake beard back on, "It just so happens I know just the place to go for cheese crumpets."
"Well then, I'd say this is the start of a very successful partnership." Basil said with a grin, politely opening the door for the lady.