"G'day, Chief Inspector. Got anything on that burned-out mech over in Littleton? And who's the bloke built like a brick outhouse?"
"Kawauso Ofuroyama, humble self. And you are?" Ofuroyama said, bowing to the smaller otter.
"This is Phil Aussie, works for the Sydney Herald branch office here in Holt City," I said, completing the introductions.
"Popper," said the smaller otter. "Streuth me name's Phil, but I goes by Popper. So, Dutch, anything?"
"No, Popper, just some drunk driver is all."
"Wouldn't lie to Popper now, would you? Words out someone's lookin' to nick the St. Otter Icon."
"And who would be saying that, Popper?"
"Oh, it's all over the street, mate."
"Who do they say is lookin' to nick' as so colourfully stated?" Ofuroyama asked him. The two otters looked at each other, then Popper's whiskers twitched.
"Why, they say Ramaji is in town, mate. Ever hear of him?" Ofuroyama's whiskers twitched back.
"They may be misinformed."
"Well, let me know if you hear anything, eh? Be some dinkum piccies, if it really is Ramaji."
"Got to go, Popper. I'll let you know if I learn anything." We climbed the stairs to my office next to Zompus'. I smiled at our Admin officer as we came through the door of the squad room.
"Morning, Cronopio. The Captain in yet?"
"No, Dutch," she replied. "He's still over at Our Lady of PSI. He's making some site checks. Seems there's going to be a festival tonight, it's St. Otter's Eve." Ofuroyama's ears perked.
"Ah, so desu neh! Then tonight will be the main attempt." I looked at him.
"What makes you sure?" I asked. He motioned towards my office door, we turned to go in.
"Well, look what the Dutchman dragged in." I turned to face Detective Brad Weisman at his desk across from my door. "Think he could be wearing an otter hat than that?"
"Great pun, Weisman. Keep that up and you might live up to your name."
"Is this the visiting dignitary the Captain mentioned, Dutch?" he asked.
"Yeah. Detective Weisman, meet Kawauso Ofuroyama." Weisman looked over the big otter, showing a smarmy grin.
"Nihonese, eh? You some kind of martial arts hotshot?" Ofuroyama bowed.
"Yes. Once Southern Honshu Sumo Grand Champion," the otter replied, his whiskers twitching.
"So what's the best technique to use if you're trapped in a dark alley at night, Sumo Champ?"
"Juni kakkouhou," Ofuroyama replied, his tail briefly thumping the floor in time with his whisker twitches. He turned to me. "Excuse, please, Dutch-san. Is lavatory nearby?"
"Yeah, I've got one I share with Captain Zompus. Go on in, I'll be right there." I turned back to Weisman.
"So what's with the tail thumping, Dutchman?" he asked.
"He's laughing, Weisman. Guess he finds you amusing. Now, if you got nothing better to do, find out who's imported a walking mech recently, in particular off a Hotaru type freighter, will you?" I turned and closed the door to my office behind me and sailed my round brown onto the hatrack in the corner, hanging my duster on the hook underneath it. Ofuroyama was sitting in the chair next to my desk. I sat on the davenport against the wall to the next office over. "Time to give out some information, Ofuroyama-san. You weren't at all surprised when Popper mentioned Ramaji."
He shook his head, mimicking the human gesture. "You know of Ramaji, neh?"
"I know what comes across the bulletins. Most of that indicates we don't know a lot, and much of the activity is in Europe or Asia. You, I think, may know more."
"Hai, Dutch-san," he said, nodding and once again mimicking humans. "Ramaji and I are something of old acquaintance. She conducts extensive business in Nihon. In fact, she owns shipyard which makes Hotaru class freighters."
"She'. What little is on those bulletins says Ramaji is a He'."
"Just so. Ramaji is unsurpassed at disguise, and most verifiable sightings are of a male. However, on several occasions, was able to examine scenes of recent sighting within minutes. Always, scent is female. Ramaji is female. Recall, please, you report a sleeping drunk by church last night. Is common in that neighborhood?"
"Not common, no, but not unheard of, though most of whoever on the night Watch rousts them. You said the scent you caught was female. You think it was Ramaji?"
"Then why not follow up on the attempt? Unless you think it may have been a reconnaissance?"
"Very possible." He looked over at my round brown on the hook, pointed to it with his nose. "Your hat, Dutch-san. You were soldier?"
"Marine, actually, but yes."
"And hat band, you were officer." This time, it wasn't a question. I nodded. "You understand value of reconnaissance. Ramaji now possesses more information about capability of Watch, and specifically of yourself. You disabled her mech, killed the crew."
I snorted. "Yeah, well, then they shouldn't of tried to bash down the doors of a church. Kind of hard to ask the crew of a mech to surrender." He looked at me, soft eyes, forepaws clasped together like a priest praying over a parishioner.
"And yet, Dutch-san, you wish they had surrendered." Again, it wasn't a question.
"I've seen enough death, Ofuroyama-san. Enough and more." He tilted his head slightly, looking into my eyes.
"Then why become Watchman, Dutch-san?" I leaned back into the davenport, rubbing the corners of my eyes. I could feel the need for sleep climbing up my spine like a monkey.
"Holt City is not usually so violent, Ofuroyama-san. And I did something... unwise long ago. A very generous magistrate allowed as how if I were to leave his jurisdiction by enlisting, she just might not spend much time looking for me. The Corps opened doors for me, gave me something, gave me a reason for using my youthful exuberance in a somewhat positive manner. When it came time to wrap up my career, I got to thinking, I owed that magistrate something." He closed his eyes, nodding slightly, then opened them and twitched his whiskers slightly.