Continued from yesterday’s Part 1: The Past Comes Knocking.
Max And The Argentinian Death Penguin, Part 2: Currying Favor
Maxine looked at Paulson, then at the door – behind which the pounding had reached a thunderous level – then back at Paulson. She smiled. “Agent Paulson, do me favor? Get the door?”
Paulson tensed. “Max…!”
Maxine stepped back toward the beaded curtain that led to the little kitchen and bedroom in back, took a deep breath and shouted, “Help, help! Two boring men in ugly suits are trying to abduct me! Won’t someone help me!?”
There was a deep bellow, and a tremendous slam against the door – it crackled and shook against its hinges.
Paulson reached inside his jacket for his pistol. “Damn it, Max! Don’t you run out!”
“Make yourself at home, Paulson. Raid the fridge.” Max grabbed her keys and a small amulet from a nearby table. “Oh, but don’t touch the guacamole. I don’t think the top layer of green is from avocado anymore.” Then she shouted, “Reginald! Let’s go!”
Max and Bonkers ran through the back door, the deafening fight in her front room vanishing behind them, up in to an alley and from there to her old, beat-up ’62 Ford Fairlane. Bonkers jumped in the passenger seat as she turned on the engine. “Bonkers, you ever wonder how far this car can get when it’s on empty?”
Bonkers replied, “I wonder how far this heap is going to make it when the tank is full.”
“I hear that,” she said as the car rattled to life and they tore away from the curb.
As they got some distance from the carnage, and it became clear no one was following them, they calmed. “What a frightful altercation,” Reginald said from the backseat. “All the more wretched to me, me who am powerless to act, only to bear witness to the never ending—“
“Shut it!” Bonkers snapped. “Reggie, this seriously is not about you and your ghosty problems. We need gas. And a plan. And someone needs to roll down my window so I stick my head out.” Reginald sulked and stared out the window, so Bonkers turned back to Maxine. “Is there a plan?”
Inside Ilsa’s Curry ‘N More, the all-night curry place about 20 minutes away, Maxine walked up to the counter and rang the bell.
“Help you,” said the refrigerator of a woman who appeared behind the counter.
“Oh, hi,” Max said. “I was interested in purchasing some lawn gnomes.”
The woman rolled her eyes. It appeared to wind her. “Don’t got ‘em. We’re a Curry place, and we’re closing. Go home.”
“You sure? Sometimes lawn gnomes, like shadows, are where you least expect them.”
The woman stared for a moment, then nodded and buzzed a nondescript door open. “Here we go,” Max said, walking back. Bonkers trotted behind her saying to Reginald, “Oh, that was some kind of code, wasn’t it? I’m down.”
In the back was an office. It was filled with sod and grass, and hay strewn about. Incense burned in the corner. In the center of the room sat a large cow. Maxine folded her hands together and smiled. “Namaste, Pragyawati, my old teacher. I need your wisdom. And I need some information.”
“How can I help you, my old friend?” Pragyawati asked.
“A talking cow?!” Bonkers exclaimed. “Weird.”
“Two groups of men just came looking for the Giggling Penguin. They were… insistent. I need to know how to get out of here. And also where a gas station is because, I’m not kidding, we coasted in to the parking space outside your restaurant.”
“I see.” She thought and chewed her cud for a moment. “You can not run from this, Maxine,” she finally said. “The Giggling Penguin has been waiting for you to return to it. If you do not, great destruction and violence will befall many.”
“I don’t know where it is.”
“Seriously”? Reginald said.
“I… kind of lost it in a drinking contest.”
“These people believe you have it, but you do not. The only way to be safe is to find it and then be rid of it again.”
“But I’m rid of it now!” she whined.
Max kicked the ground. “Fine. I’ll find the stupid penguin.”
“Ilsa out front will give you a gas can. You must go immediately to the Escheron Caves, outside the city. There, you will find a man who can help you.”
“You mean Phil? No way. What can he do? Besides, Phil is super pissed off at me. I figured I retrace my steps to where I lost it in the drinking game. Plus, I have to go back home and get a few things.” Max sighed. “Well, thanks, Pragyawati.” She pulled an apple from her pocket and set in front of the cow, who sniffed it.
“I do not require payment.”
“I know. It’s just a way to say thanks. A gratuity.”
As they walked back out to the street, Bonkers said, “I’ve never seen someone actually tip a cow.” His tail wagged wildly. “Get it? Get it? Because—“
“We get it,” Max and Reginald said in unison.
Reginald asked, “So what now?”