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When Badger Howls

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Daisy Fields watched the nattily attired Max Swell escort the mincing young man at his side up the stairs to the bedrooms on the upper floors and gusted a heavy sigh.

"Max!" she warned his retreating cashmere clad back, "No singing! I'll be listening. And if I so much as hear one single chorus of 'Strangers In The Night' or 'Stormy Weather' your ass is grass, do I make myself clear? Max?"

From the doorway, Ham Thorndyke winced. Careful so that she did not see him, the diminutive Welsh weather wizard rolled his eyes.

"Really, Miss Fields," he hurumphed, "there's no need for profanity." The tall redheaded psychotherapist glared down at him.

"I don't want to hear from you Ham," she gritted her teeth. "That wasn't your husband who just prowled up the stairs with another lover planning to bang his brains out. And it's Mrs. Sykes, you bastard." Ham shook his gleaming, bald head.

"Daisy, my dear, you knew all about Norbert when you married him, if you'll recall. He was your patient long before he was your husband." He patted her hand in sympathy before she could snatch it away. "Although, I do confess to a certain amount of prurient ... curiosity ... " He glanced furtively up the winding stairs. "How do you cope with such infidelity? Among other things you must cope with?"

"I'm married to Norbert, not Max," she explained simply and sniffed. "Besides, in case you hadn't noticed, Max is gay. Not much chance for a woman there."

"Why, yes, I did notice," muttered Ham in distaste. "By the way, how is work progressing on your grand psychological treatise, 'When Badger Howls'? Stalled, as usual, I assume?" Angrily, Daisy Fields-Sykes, put her hands on her slim hips and snarled at the time lost wizard. He night be her employer, but this time he was definitely in snarlable territory.

"Poke fun if you want, Ham," she ground out. Between her rather odd husband and her wealthy but definitely eccentric boss, she was in dire need of a good dentist. Constant grinding was hard on normal dentition, she had found.

"When my book is finished it's going to revolutionize the study and treatment of multiple personality syndrome, you'll see," she predicted. "Norbert is unique. Do you realize how rare a true multiple personality is? The chance to study one up close and personal is invaluable."

"Well, yes," Ham agreed with a smile. "Rare, indeed. But," he pointed out acerbically, "don't you think marrying one is a bit too 'up close and personal', my dear? Not to mention unethical. Devotion to your profession is one thing, but I hardly think ... "

"Norbert needs me," Daisy asserted.

"Yes, doubtless, all seven of him require your expert ... services ... " returned the small man with a leer.

"Ham," Daisy said with feeling, "I'd like to try and enjoy myself today. It's been a very bad week. That little 'task' you set for Norbert last Tuesday was less than fun. And I still haven't figured out what happened to that oxen, the ewe, and the three goats you took up the outside stairs to the castle battlements. I believe John Wonktendonk told you: you can get them up those stairs ... but they 'ain't coming down'. I was hoping we could have a picnic, maybe. It's a beautiful day outside."

"Why thank you, dear lady," the Druid said and bowed in her direction with a flourish. "I do try. You wouldn't believe how difficult it is to conjure up a sunny day in this gods-benighted place. Even for a Druid of my years and considerable skill. Feh! I'm sure the oxen, the ewe and the goats would agree with you that their sacrifice was worth the cost. Oxen, in particular, are quite expensive."

Daisy sighed. To her mind, Hammaglystwyn, otherwise known as Hamitlton J. Thorndyke, was almost as fascinating a subject for study as her unfortunate spouse. Apparently the man truly believed he was an ancient Druidic priest, whose specialty was controlling the weather. Ridiculous, of course. She considered the sunny day outside; quite unusual for Wisconsin in the late fall and only just managed to keep from biting her lip in unease. Of course, ridiculous ... Wasn't it? There was no doubt, though, that some decidedly ... odd ... things happened in the little man's presence.

Still it couldn't possibly be that he'd actually ... Well, that rather strange Russian fellow had offered Ham ten million dollars to cripple the American wheat harvest. Unless she was mistaken, the drought in Kansas and Nebraska was still unbroken. More than ninety days without rain. And the Cayman Islands account had been augmented by, curiously enough, exactly ten million dollars ... Firmly she thrust such disturbing thoughts from her mind.

"I ask myself, 'Why Wisconsin?'," Ham was musing to no one in particular. "Why Barneveld?"

"Because you have this twisted obsession with The Badger," Daisy returned absently. "You think you need him to work your 'weather magic'. According to you, he's your 'familiar'. And Norbert won't live anywhere but Wisconsin." The gleam in the little man's eyes set off alarm bells for the beleaugered psychotherapist. They were still cleaning up the rather messy detritus of the last time she'd spied that look. Her boss had assured her that demon bodies were rather easy to dispose of, but the Barneveld Police Department were still somewhat suspicious of the residents of what they had begun to refer to as "that weird goddamned castle on the hill".

"How much trouble do you suppose it would be for you to disabuse him of that rather quaint attachment?" he speculated.

"Don't even think about it," snapped Daisy. "It's the beer. The damned Point beer. Norbert is very attached to his Point beer. And the only place he can get it is here in Wisconsin. Remember what happened in Tahiti when we ran out? Not pretty. The warrants are still outstanding. Forget it."

Sighing wistfully, Ham pulled his thoughts away from the sunny climes and semi-nude beauties of southern California. Perhaps in his next incarnation.

With a last plaintive gaze up the stairs, Daisy Fields-Sykes retired to her writing desk in the far corner of the large tapestried sitting room. Perhaps a spot of work to take her mind off her troubles? She had been lamentably negligent to late with updates to "When Badger Howls". Not that she was bound by anything as esoteric as a deadline or publishing schedule. A work of such genius, she felt, should never be so hampered. With a frown, she booted up her PC, inserted the disc labeled "Honey Badger" and waited impatiently for the file to download.

Now where had she left off ... ? She glanced at the waiting computer screen. Oh, yes.

" ... research into rare, legitimate cases of Multiple Personality Syndrome link MPS inextricably with one, and only one, primary causal response trigger: severe emotional, physical, and sexual abuse at a very early age. In the case of the subject Norbert Sykes he was beaten and raped repeatedly by his step-father Rollin Sykes, his mother's second husband from about the age of five until three days after his sixteenth birthday. At that time, after being beaten and sodomized once too often, Norbert assaulted Sykes while his tormentor slept and very nearly beat him to death with a Louisville Slugger baseball bat. When brought to trial, Norbert Sykes was found guilty of assault with with intent to kill and various other similar offenses. But the patriotic Judge who sat on the case, and who was, after all, sympathetic to the abused young man, gave him a choice. Norbert was allowed to join the U. S. Marine Corps in lieu of juvenile detention and thereafter, prison.

There Norbert's natural talents for mayhem and the martial arts soon came to blinding light. He was extensively trained by the Marine Corps in all manner of deadly fighting arts. An apt pupil, Norbert learned quickly and amazingly well, developing a lifelong affinity for the martial arts in all their many and varied forms, which he pursues to this day. When his training was done, Norbert was shipped off to the jungles of Vietnam where he soon fell, through treachery, into the hands of the Viet Cong.

Norbert endured sixteen months of imprisonment at the unkind hands of his enemies, most of it residing in a tiger cage. Once more psychologically and physically tortured, Norbert Sykes retreated into the warmth and comfort of his childhood huddling place: The Badger.

Between them, Rollin Sykes and the Viet Cong seem to have birthed a most singular entity ... "

Daisy rubbed her eyes in tired resignation. Perhaps this wasn't a good idea, after all. Reading her own cold, clinical words brought a desert dryness to her throat and she swallowed a lump of rising bile. She was, was she not, talking about the man she loved? Try as she might, she could not remember exactly when that happened. Or how, for that matter. Still, there was no denying it. Turning once again to her treatise, she blinked back tears.

Damn you, woman! she thought, wiping at her eyes with a sleeve. You're not accomplishing anything but ruining a perfectly good keyboard. What is all this for anyway? You can't publish this thing, you know that. Not and be taken seriously, now. You gave that up when you married Norbert. You're too involved with your subject and this sort of thing requires objectivity you don't have anymore. If you ever had it in the first place. So, why are you doing this? Why? Do you really enjoy seeing someone you care for suffer on these pages? And for what?

As ever, she had only one answer to that.

As long as their was even faint hope, however vanishingly small, that she or someone else could help Norbert, Daisy Field-Sykes would continue to write, recording the torment.

" ... does not remember being nine years old, for example. To the best of my ability to decipher, that period of Norbert's life belongs to the persona that calls herself 'Emily'. Norbert doesn't seem to have much luck with birthdays. Shortly after his nineth birthday he was hospitalized for almost two months as a result of a severe beating. According to Norbert's mother and Rollin Sykes, Norbert 'fell down the stairs'. Since Norbert couldn't remember what happened (by simple virtue of the fact that he wasn't Norbert at the time, but, 'Emily') he was unable to dispute them ... 'Emily' manifests herself in times of extreme fear and helplessness. Since the advent of The Badger with Norbert's martial arts training and increasing skill and aptitude in defending himself , 'Emily' has appeared but once. During a fight with some motorcycle thugs while defending his mother and other residents of the Dentonville Rest Home Norbert, was caught off guard and ... "

"... gap appears in Norbert's memory at the age of about fourteen. He woke up one morning, discovered that he was fourteen with no memory of the preceding six months, a baffling reputation as a 'queer tramp', and an almost complete collection of Frank Sinatra records. It was quite some time before his contemporaries ceased to refer to him as 'Max' ... The exact causal trigger for the emergence of 'Max Swell' remains unknown but may involve a Catholic priest, one Father Doohan ... "

"By far the most functional of all Norbert's personas is The Badger. Which is quite sad when you think about it. The Badger is the primary persona, in fact the one almost exclusively preferred. He is the link between the other six and the only one who knows of the existence of all the others. The Badger is the repository of all Norbert's martial arts skills and his somewhat direct sense of justice and fair play. The Badger is a superhero born primarily, like Athena from the brow of Zues, as a result of all the comic books Norbert read as a child. The tight red and black spandex of his 'costume', while rather flattering to Norbert's finely honed physique, does present a problem at times. To say nothing of the mask ... "

With the guilty press of a button, Daisy closed the file without adding to it; once more fleeing into the safety of writers block. No. No more of this today. She was simply not up to it.

Checking the mail brought her the dubious comfort of Hammond's business correspondence and a magazine or two for perusal. Grimly, she settled back to enjoy herself. Fortunately, she was not burdened with peace and quiet for very long.

Daisy looked up as the noise coming from upstairs reached her ears. She was just in time to see the half clad, white faced young man come racing down the stairs in terror of his life as if pursued by the devil himself.

"Help me!" he cried in a high voice, "he tried to kill me! He's crazy!"

"Well, yes," said Daisy and set aside her copy of Psychology Today, smiling at the stricken youth. She pointed toward the waiting castle door.

"Run," she advised, cheerily. "Fast."

Storming down the stairs, mother naked as God made him, Norbert Sykes, now firmly in his Badger persona,. shook his fist at the rapidly disappearing young man.

"And don't come back, ya pervert!" he bellowed. Turning furiously to the gaping Ham and his wife Daisy, his hands opened and closed swiftly as if grasping one of the dozens of martial arts weapons with which he was expert.

"Yow! When I get my hands on that damned faggot Swell ... !" he snarled, "I'm gonna rip him a new body orifice!"

"Unlikely," snickered Ham.

The look Daisy shot the ancient Druid would have withered a lesser man in his tracks. Ham Ham, however, was not a lesser man, thank the Sacred Oak. He bore up under it quite well. Daisy Fields-Sykes slipped a comforting arm around her irate husband's shoulders.

"There, there, Norbert," she placated, guiding him firmly back up the stairs, "everything's all right. Max doesn't mean to leave you holding the bag like that."

"That's not what I was holding!" Norbert spat. "Honey, he's driving me crazy! I'm telling ya, you've got to get rid of that devo ... "

"I am trying," she pointed out, running her fingers through Norbert's thick straw blond hair. Why did he have to be so attractive? And so crazy?

"Pierre doesn't bother you, but Max does?" she inquired as they ascended the winding stairs. "Pierre" was the most violent of all Norbert's personas, even more violent than The Badger.

"Pierre doesn't sing Frank Sinatra or Perry Como," Norbert said darkly, as if that settled the matter.

At the bottom of the stairs, the watching Ham Thorndyke smiled. That was the last he'd see of them for quite some time, he was certain.

"And so begins another beautiful day in scenic Barneveld, Wisconsin," he intoned happily, spreading his hands in an a potent Druidic fertility blessing. "As the friendly natives line the lake shores chanting, 'Psychopath, psychopath, psychopath ... '"


"Norbert, this is a really bad idea," Daisy maintained, easing herself into the front passenger seat of Norbert's jeep.

"Hey!" cried The Badger, "it's clear as a bell to me, babe! Those goons are trying to run Melbert outta business. I'm not gonna let'm do that. His dojo is going down the toilet. He wants my help to save it. So I'm gonna help him. Period." Daisy gusted a heavy sigh.

"Far be it from me to point out the obvious," Daisy said, pointing out the obvious in a voice dripping with sarcasm, "but 'Melbert Funmaker's Dojo of Amerind Martial Arts' is 'going down the toilet', as you say, because Melbert is a crappy martial artist."

"He's my friend," the Badger said.

"It's like a bad Bruce Lee movie," she complained.

"There's no such thing as a bad Bruce Lee movie," said Norbert with ominous reverence. From the back seat, Ham Thorndyke stirred, clutching at the forward seat as The Badger popped the jeep into gear and tore off down the road.

"Actually, dear lady," he said loudly, yelling into the wind as the jeep sped along its determined way into Barneveld, Wisconsin, "our pugnacious psychopath does have a point other than the one gracing the top of his head. The Lewinsky Brothers Stomping Dragon Dojo is, with the exception of Mr. Funmaker's now failing establishment, the sole source of martial arts learning available in Barneveld. All the others have closed their doors under rather mysterious circumstances. And poor Melbert was very badly beaten the other evening. Methinks the plot thickens!"

"Like bad gumbo!" Daisy shouted back.

In the open jeep, Daisy's dark auburn tinted hair streamed behind her like a short, truncated banner, whipping about frantically. Desperately, she pulled it from her eyes and watched Norbert pound the steering wheel in time with the blaring radio. He really was an excellent, if rather dismaying, driver, Daisy was forced to admit. Over half a lifetime of martial arts study and practice had honed already lightning reflexes to even sharper feats of derring-do. Daisy gasped and clutched the dashboard in impotent fear as Norbert skidded the small, maneuverable jeep expertly around a large, heavy Cadillac purring placidly along.

Honking furiously, The Badger cried, "Mahe wakan-tonka!" and Daisy's brow knitted itself in puzzlement before Ham came to her unexpected rescue.

"Wakan-tonka," he explained, shouting into the wind once more, "Cheyenne for 'horse' ... " Daisy bit her lip and threw up a restraining hand when the small man opened his mouth to further elucidate.

"No, no," she insisted, "let me guess ... Our Cheyenne friend Melbert Funmaker's way of saying ' ... and the horse you rode in on, too!' ... right?"

Ham's only answer was a blissful smile and the psychotherapist rubbed the bridge of her nose painfully, wishing for an aspirin.

Lots of aspirin.

So, it was not completely without relief that she drew more than one deep, calming breath as the Badger brought the jeep to a screeching halt before the Lewinsky Brothers Stomping Dragon Dojo, leaving the warm afternoon air redolent with the delicate odor of charred, burning rubber in his hyperactive wake.

Norbert hopped out of the jeep and headed for the dojo's tacky psuedo-Japanese door. On his way he scowled at the stylized dragon artistically rendered in tones of bright crimson and tasteful puce gracing the storefront window. With an air of definite alarm, Daisy watched him stick his thumbs in his ears and wiggle his outstretched fingers at the rampaging myth.

"Pbbbbbt!" Norbert blew a loud raspberry.

Shaking his bald head in consternation and glancing about for snickering onlookers to be smitten, Ham Thorndyke lowered his diminutive frame carefully to the ground with as much dignity as possible under the circumstances. With a small moue of distaste, he also noted the garish dragon.

Breezing through the front door with Daisy following closely in his shadow, the Badger looked around. Dutifully the psychotherapist closed the open door behind her since it seemed unlikely that her husband was inclined to do so. A somewhat miffed Thorndyke stepped in, frowned at Daisy beneath lifted eyebrows and pointedly left the door open once more before taking his place at the Badger's side.

Student's kicked and stomped their way across the mats, growling menacingly and throwing one another about haphazardly.

"C'mon wussy-boy!" snarled an instructor, "my granny can hit harder than that!"

It was evident even to the usually clueless (in matters of the martial arts, at least) Daisy Field-Sykes that the Lewinsky brothers had received all their fight training in the military ... sans any of the attached philosophy that lifted those hard won skills above the mere mangling of bodies. She tsked under her breath. Fairly indicitive, if Norbert were to be believed, of the wretched state of American martial arts training.

A large muscular fellow trotted over on the double time, shaking his head firmly. "Sorry buddy," he said, towering over the smaller Badger, "we ain't set up for Halloween yet. Ballet class is down the street. And this class is full. Scat!" Daisy winced as the man's eyes roamed, taking in the colorful red and black spandex of Norbert's costume.

Crap! she thought vehemently. I have got to find some way to get him out of that damned spandex! She sighed, glancing at Norbert's legs. Although it was a pity ... Another sigh escaped her. At least he's wasn't wearing the mask.

The good residents of Barneveld were growing accustomed to the Badger and his eccentricities, but it had been touch and go for a bit, she was the first to admit. She had managed to persuade Norbert that wearing the mask while raiding the local convenience store at midnight in search of beer and munchies was not the best idea he ever had. It was remarkable how difficult it proved to explain to a court of law that wearing a mask did not violate any civil or state ordinance. She sniffed in a fit of temper. As for the convenience store people ... They were definitely on their own as far as she was concerned with all the paperwork involved in "illegal discharge of a firearm within city limits". Ham had good lawyers, you had to give him that.

"You've got the wrong dragon in your window, buddy," said the Badger in an almost pleasant voice.

The man, whose embossed gi identified him as Thomas Lewinsky frowned in puzzled incomprehension. Smiling, Hammond stepped forward and the sneer that overtook Lewinsky's face was a nasty one as he stared down at the small Welchman.

"I'm afraid the young man is quite correct, my woefully uninformed friend," Ham said cheerfully.

"Hey, Dom!" Thomas called. "We got us a couple of real wisenheimers over here."

Almost unnoticed the dojo's frantic activity ground to a halt as an equally large man who bore a close resemblance to Thomas Lewinsky came running over. Proudly his gi proclaimed him "Domenic Lewinsky - Owner/Sensei".

"'Zat, right?" he said.

Ham's smile deepened, spreading itself even more widely over his plump, cherubic features. "Indeed," he returned. "I fear I must point out that, since the dragon in your window has but three toes, as opposed to the more common five toes present in most dragons of Chinese origin, it is therefore an Imperial Lung Dragon. Lung Dragons are always golden in color and it is expressly forbidden for anyone not a member of the Imperial family to display them in any fashion."

"Yeah!" said a belligerent Badger. "What he said!"

Domenic Lewinsky turned to his brother. "Tommy," he ordered, "why don't you show these impolite smartasses the door?" Tommy grinned, but Ham Thorndyke matched him. Ham gestured at the Badger.

"Actually, gentleman, Mister Sykes here and I came to ... discuss ... another matter entirely. Fond as I am of 'Draco Draconis' ... they are, after all, vastly intelligent if somewhat impulsive and foul tempered ... " He regarded the two brothers with a devilish sparkle in his eye. "I assume that neither of you are in any great danger of becoming Dragonfodder, lacking as you do, I'm sure, the requisite condition of - shall we say - purity? Puts me in mind of the time St. George consulted me on the subject - "

"What you did to my bud Melbert Funmaker wasn't very nice," interrupted the Badger in a firm voice, much to Daisy's relief. Now, she suspected, was not the time for one of Ham's lengthy reminiscences.

Tommy looked at Domenic once again clueless, which appeared to be a more or less permanent condition with him. "Funmaker?"

Domenic nodded.

"No talent red-skin that used to own this place," he reminded his brother. Tommy grinned back. "Oh, yeah. Him."

"Yo, Larry!" cried the furious voice of the Badger.

"Who the hell is Larry?" inquired Tommy Lewinsky, looking to his elder brother Domenic for support. Domenic Lewinsky shrugged, then smiled.

"He's all yours, Tommy."

"Larry Tiel," supplied Daisy. "Norbert's natural father, who abandoned him to the less than tender mercies of his wife's second husband, Rollin Sykes, Norbert's abusive step-father, when he deserted his family. It's a long story. You don't have enough time to hear it."

"Oh willow trees," cursed Ham Thorndyke and reached into the jacket pocket of his Savile Row Armani suit for his check book. Brusquely, he signed the check with his solid gold fountain pen and handed it to a mystified Domenic Lewinsky. The brothers high fived one another gleefully and Tommy moved off in the direction of the waiting Badger.

"Yo, Spandex-Boy! I got ya Challenge right here!"

"Uf-da!" cried the Badger in joy and the battle was joined.

"This should cover the damages," Hammond explained to a puzzled Domenic Lewinsky. "As for the hospitalization, you're on your own there, my good man. I have my standards."

"You really shouldn't encourage him like that," demanded Daisy, watching the Badger and his foe circle one another warily. Ham shrugged.

"I could stop him?"

Daisy Fields-Sykes poked the little Druid in the chest with one harsh finger. "Yes," she said, "you could. If you wished. You just don't want to." Ham smiled, the gold outlining his broad white teeth shining in the bright lights of the dojo.

"You're right," he grinned, "I don't. These fools deserve everything the Badger is about to do to them."

"Maybe," said Daisy sadly, "but does Norbert?"

Ham had nothing to say to that.

"When-a my bluuuue moon turns to gold again!" howled The Badger and, spinning, caught his hapless opponent just under the right kneecap with a crippling blow. Daisy covered her ears. Max might have a beautiful voice, but the Badger was sadly lacking in harmony. "When-a rainbow turns the clouds a-way! "Elvis has left the planet!" the Badger enthused. "Uf'-da!"

Thwack - thwack - thwack! went the nunchucks in the self-styled superhero's skilled hands.

Snap crackle pop! went the bones in his opponents arms and wrists.

"Son of a bitch!" Tommy shrieked. "Get him off me! Get him off me!" After a moment several watching students moved, about to come to his aid.

"I'd advise against it," cautioned a matter of fact Ham Thorndyke. Deftly, he avoided soiling his white Armani suit when several splatters of flying blood came his way by stepping smoothly out of range of the spreading hemoglobin. Chuckling, he pointed to the maniacally smiling Badger and his painfully screaming prey.

"Observe yon fray and it's ... unfortunate ... result. The decision, of course, is yours. But ... Are you really that fond of your master?" A powerful blow sent Tommy Lewinsky whimpering to the floor. Pale and shaken, the students all stepped back on the instant. Domenic Lewinsky was the only one foolish enough to rush to his brothers side, offering a flying tackle that the Badger deftly evaded by a good margin. Spinning nunchucks struck the luckless Domenic again and again as he hit the matted floor hard, gasping for breath.

"Dooooooom ... " wailed Tommy, sailing across the room. Politely, Ham once more stepped fastidiously to the side to avoid his hurtling, bleeding body.

"And another one bites the dust," sang the Badger, his off key voice not missing a note, however, as he kicked both Lewinsky brothers sharply in the gonads, one after the other. "And another one's gone... and another one's gone! Another one bites the dust!" Daisy frowned and looked accusingly at Hammond.

"Queen?" she hissed. "You let him listen to Queen?" Ham shrugged.

"Anything is preferable to Frank Sinatra, dear lady, or - " he shuddered delicately, " ... Elvis Presley. Don't you agree?" Daisy considered her options for a moment.

"Point," she conceded, reluctantly. "But ... why Queen? Just as a matter of curiosity?" Ham reached out his Gucci shod foot and prodded one of the now unmoving Lewinsky brothers. Just which one was rather hard to tell at the moment.

"Max's idea, actually," Ham said. "I believe he rather liked Freddy Mercury. Said something about him being a 'proper role model'."

"Max would," replied a grim Daisy, making a face.

Ignoring his assistant and smiling in feral glee, Ham Thorndyke turned to the nervous, milling students who had accompanied the Lewinsky brothers on their ill fated venture of harassment. With an air of calm indifference, he flicked imaginary dust from the lapels of his white Armani suit, then pointed to the Badger, still whacking away at the prone sibling duo of Tommy and Domenic, who were trying vainly now to crawl away.

"Observe yon bad ass martial artist," instructed Ham, "who has forgotten more ways to kick butt than you will ever know." All eyes followed him as he pointed to the not quite still feebly struggling Lewinsky brothers. "Observe yon humiliated ex-martial artists." Dry throats worked, swallowing hard. "The question you need all ask yourselves," opined Hammond, "must be this: Is it worth the pain?"

"Kreegah!" shouted the Badger, tossing the two brothers through the storefront in an explosion of shattering plate glass. "Bundolo!"

Daisy Fields-Sykes scrambled prudently out of the way, lest she be crushed in the ensuing rush of student martial artists pushing and shoving their panicked way out the door.

Nor, she noted, did they pause to retrieve their Masters in their hurried flight to scatter to the four winds. Frowning, the put upon woman glared at Ham.

"Yes, I let him read Edgar Rice Burroughs," the Welch Druid hastened to defend himself from the incipient, expected attack. "There's nothing wrong with Edgar Rice Burroughs," he affirmed stoutly. "By the Sacred Oak, they're children's books!" Daisy's eyes narrowed pugnaciously.

"Just as long as it isn't Willaim Burroughs," she was firm. "Or Hunter S. Thompson. I draw the line there, Ham! That kind of grief, we don't need."

"Indeed," agreed the ancient chaos maker, nodding his glistening bald head. "'Fear and Loathing in Barneveld'?" he pondered. "'The Naked Martial Artist'? I think not."

"Hey!" called The Badger, "it's lunch time!" Hammond paled and Daisy grinned a remarkably toothy and predatory grin. "Where's the beef?" demanded the Badger and the little weather wizard groaned, epicure that he was.

"Mickey D's here we come!" returned Daisy with some enthusiasm, linking her arm with the Badger's. More enthusiasm perhaps, than that den of dubious palliative delights deserved.

"Hold the pickles, hold the lettuce, special orders don't upset us .. " sang the two lovers as Norbert Sykes thoughtfully carried his wife over the threshold of jagged and broken glass that had once been the storefront window of a prospering dojo.

Ham Thorndyke contemplated two all beef patties, pickles, onions, with special sauce on a sesame seed bun, blanched visibly, buried his head in his hands, and almost wept.



"All right you honkers!" yelled the Badger through cupped hands at the small flock of Canadian geese circling purposefully overhead. "On my mark wheel to the left in attack formation. No, no, no! You there on the right wing! Close in, tighten up that formation! You're a disgrace to your feathers! A disgrace to the 415th Squadron of the Fighting Canadian Honkers!" Squawking loudly, the offending goose barely avoided a midair collision with his flockmate flying to the right. On the ground, The Badger began pacing in a tight circle with military precision, hands behind his back, riding crop clutched firmly in one hand.

"All right you sons of rotten eggs," he growled, "listen up! We're goin' after them! We're gonna harass the enemy! We're gonna harass them on the ground, we're gonna harass them in the air, we're gonna harass them wherever we find them, understand? We're gonna make'm bleed! We're gonna go through them like crap through a goose ... " Briefly, Norbert paused and reflected. "Oh. That's right. You are geese ... "

"I see that we've been basking in the glories of the film makers art once more," observed a sardonic Ham Thorndyke with one upswept eyebrow to mark his cynicism. "'Patton', isn't it?"

"I told you not to buy the damned movie," Daisy reminded him. Ham's long suffering sigh was a work of art after it's kind.

"So you did, madam, so you did ..."

"Now this is what we're gonna do," The Badger began, still addressing his pinioned troops.

Watching him pace and gesticulate forcefully Daisy frowned, turning to Ham.

"You don't really think he can talk - ?"

"I think," chortled the weather wizard, "that those Yuppie Dragon Twins, the Lewinsky Brothers, whilst on their way out of town, had better keep a sharp eye out for low flying geese." From the corner of his eye, he caught sight of the Badger, squatting and straining in demonstration of his next orders as the geese circled watchfully overhead. Ham's grin was positively demonic this time. "But not before they cover their heads against certain - shall we say - odoriferous gifts falling from the sky?" he concluded.

"That's it!" cried the Badger "Now to the left!"

Overhead, the flock of geese tightened themselves into a perfect V formation and wheeled gracefully to the left. Wide eyed, Daisy Fields-Sykes shook her head ruefully.

"How does he do that?"

"Try not to dwell on it overmuch, my dear," counciled Ham.

The End