Continuing from Part 1: A Turn of the Table…
Max and the Lost Shakespeare Thank-You Note, Part 2: Into The Belly of the Bear
“So then he the truck takes our garbage – just takes it – and drives away! I’m like, ‘That’s right, garbage truck – you better run!’ Scared the crap out of him. He didn’t come around again for, like, a week.”
Max caught this last bit of Bonkers story as she approached. Bonkers was sitting at the bar of The Grizzly Bar, telling his grossly exaggerated of heroics to the bartender, his tail wagging the whole time. She sat down beside him and said, “Still can’t get through to the mailman, though.”
“Psh. That guy. About time you got here,” Bonkers said. “You should order a drink. And one for yourself.”
Maxine pointed at Bonkers’ empty highball glass and raised two fingers.
“I have to admit,” Bonkers said. “When you said we were meeting at a bear bar in the middle of the gay district, I expected something a little more… kinky.”
Max gestured to the room full of black bears, polar bears and panda bears all nursing drinks. “I said ‘The Grizzly Bar; it’s a bear bar.’ How clear do I have to be?”
“But you’re a koala. Koalas are marsupials.”
“Me? Yeah, I just have a thing for big, butch, hairy men. Then the guys left, but I needed the job. Eucalyptus doesn’t grow on trees, you know. That’s a joke.” He set the drinks down. “Two highballs.”
“You buying?” Max asked Bonkers.
“You still aware that I’m a beagle?”
Max sighed and put cash on the bar.
“Where’s Reggie?” Bonkers asked. Max tapped the amulet around her neck – it was the cursed amulet in which Reginald’s spirit had been trapped for a hundred years until she found him; now it functioned as a handy travel-case. “And what are we doing here? I thought the contents of the envelope were pretty clear. Lets find this iambic thank-you note and cash in.”
“A little too clear. Something’s not right. With the info they have they don’t need me to find it. I want to talk to… them.” She pointed to a group of well-dressed men and bears sitting in a corner. The man who’d hired Max the night before was sitting among them.
Max sent them a round of Ullr shots. One of the men looked at the drinks with disdain and said, “I did not order any of that!” When the bartender pointed to Max she gave a small wave and a smaller smile. He gestured her and Bonkers over. “Don’t you have a poem to find?” the man asked – not unpleasantly – in an English accent.
Max threw the envelope on the table. “With this information? Anyone could find it, I’d think. Why me?”
“Because I suspect there’s more to it than meets the eye. A previously undiscovered work of Shakespeare? That’s the biggest literary find since the Dead Sea Scrolls. And incredibly valuable. And you, Miss Cho, are well-known for having found some very rare, very important, objects. You see this photo of the snake?” He pulled an 8×10 of a poorly stuffed snake from the pile of intel. “Notice anything unusual about it?”
“Actually, yes,” Max said. “One, this taxidermist has made the snake smile and wink, and two, that’s somehow managed to not be the worst thing about his stuffing job.”
“You see this weird flap at the back?” The Englishman asked. “It’s a compartment. There’s a boot in this snake.”
“Huh?” Bonkers said, tilting his head.
“A boot,” he repeated. “What you would call a trunk. A hiding space. We believe the poem—“
“The thank-you note,” Max interjected.
“—is in this stuffed snake. And the snake is in London. How well do you know London?” he asked.
Bonkers replied, “Ah, London. Home of The Beatles. Manchester United. Gwyneth Paltrow.”
“So not very.”
Max interrupted, “I’ve been there a few times. Look, I can find the thing. I just want to know why me, and what it is.”
The man from the night before leaned forward. “You – ah hah – you are familiar with the Bible, Miss Cho?”
There was a pause.
“Do you talk to everyone this way? Or is there something about me?”
“There is a theory, Miss Cho, that when King James wanted a version of the Bible written in English, he sought out – ah hah – England’s greatest writer. William Shakespeare.”
“You’ll notice,” the black bear in the corner said, “that the timeline of Shakespeare’s plays stop at the time James – a noted theater fan – commissions the ‘people’s bible,’ and resume shortly after it’s released.”
“There are those who believe Shakespeare wrote the bible, then wrote a poem of thanks to King James for giving him such an important task. And that that poem is hidden” – he tapped the photo – “in this stuffed snake.”
“Hm, I’ve heard of this theory. It’s a real theory,” Bonkers said to the readers.
The Englishman concluded, “We want that snake, and we want that poem.”
“Looks like you’re buying us a couple tickets to London, then,” Max said, finishing her drink.
“First class,” Bonkers added.
“I’ll do better than that. I’ll send you in my private jet. It’ll be faster, and keep you a little more off the radar.”
Max and Bonkers turned away and leaned in closely. Max whispered, “I don’t trust this guy. But getting in his plane might give us a chance to learn more about him.”
Bonkers nodded thoughtfully. He said, “Can we have hamburgers for dinner?”
“Hamburgers are really good.”
Just then an enormous man in a suit and dark glasses entered the bar. He was imposing enough that the bears began to look uncomfortable; several of them tried to make themselves big.
“I’d decide quickly,” the Englishman said. “Things are about to get uncomfortable. We are not the only one’s seeking the poem. And who will do anything to have it.”
And don’t forget to leave suggestions for things you’d like to see show up in Part 4!