Chapter 2

Dress Up

It was nearly midnight when Rocky pulled up to the quaint little house that was home to the Lackadaisy's finest flapper around. He smiled as he killed the engine of his car. At least he wouldn't be sleeping in this oven of a car tonight, at least.

He was still grinning when he knocked on the door. He heard some shuffling, and in a moment, the door was opened, and he was greeted by a gray cat holding a candlestick handler, dressed in a pair of striped pajamas and wearing a sleepy expression on her face.

"Whozzat?" she said, groggily, but her expression brightened when she saw him. "Oh, hey, Rocky," she said, wrapping him in a hug, careful not to hit him with the candleholder. "What brings you to my house? I thought you usually slept in your car."

"Not this time," Rocky said, some of his bravado fading. "Hey, Iv? Can I ask you a favor?"

"Maybe tomorrow," Ivy said. "I'm dead tired. I would like some rest about now. Bathroom's to the right. You can find a spare toothbrush in the drawer. I'll bring you some spare pajamas."

"I figured," Rocky said, turning on the light just as she blew out the candle. "What a waste of a candle," he muttered to himself as he brushed his teeth. He finished just as Ivy arrived, carrying a fresh pair of pajamas.

"Alright, I have a little time," she said, turning her back to him, letting him change. "What favor do want from me?"

"Something involving a fancy dress without costing you too much. I need it for tomorrow night," Rocky said, peeling off his sweaty clothes and putting on the pajamas. It felt a lot more comfortable than sleeping in his car already. He deposited them in a laundry basket at the foot of the door. "Done. You can look," he said, putting a hand on her shoulder. She grinned at him and turned off the light. She then led him to her bed.

"Here," she said, patting the side that he would be sleeping. "Careful not to crumple the sheets. I just made them today. And to answer your question, I know a place. You just be thankful of that. I'm sure your girlfriend will." She grinned maliciously as she enunciated the last word.

"Thanks, Ivy. You're a lifesaver. And no, she's not my girlfriend. She is a friend, but she's not my girlfriend," Rocky said, diving underneath the soft blanket and feeling the comfy mattress underneath. "Also, you are one to talk since you are dating my cousin."

"Hehe, I bet," Ivy said, turning off the light and slipping under the blankets as well. "I think he'd be glad to see you grow up, as I cleary am."

Rocky smiled, knowing their apparent brother-sister relationship often came into play at times.

"Night, Ivy," he said, as his eyes fluttered shut. "See you when the sun rises again."

Morning came as it always did, with the fiery sun poking its head above the calm waves of the Mississippi. Rocky moaned, stretching out his tail and arms as he turned around in the bed. It was soooo much more comfortable than sleeping in that hot oven of a car. And besides, he would have a better time sleeping if a hole was shot into his head. He turned around, and felt empty space. Ivy was up, it seemed. She was never an early riser, preferably getting up at around 9, which wasn't early when Rocky thought about it. He was usually up at the dash of dawn, finding some place to have breakfast before hightailing it to the Lackadaisy for his daily assignments, though he was happy to drive Freckle to whatever baseball game was taking place.

He threw the sheets aside and sat up, rubbing his eyes. He hadn't slept like this since a good heist where he made a clean breakaway.

"Oh, hey! You're up!" a cheerful voice called to him. He glanced to the side and saw Ivy arrive with his clean clothes neatly folded in a bundle.

"Yeah, I am apparently," he said, rubbing the last of the sleep out of his eyes. "Thanks for the wash." Ivy smiled and turned to leave.

"Oh, and before I forget," she said. She turned to him and tossed him his Lackadaisy pin. Rocky caught the little ornament before it fell. He gave her a thumbs up, and she left, closing the door behind her. Rocky sighed to himself as he put on his clothes. They smelled great, considering the detergent she used.

Fumbling his way to the kitchen, he found a plate of bacon and eggs ready for him and Ivy.

"That all?" he asked, as she slid him a fork and a knife, as Ivy finished pouring a glass of milk for herself, though she gave him another full glass.

"Yeah," she said, flustering. "I'm all out of stuff. I was planning to go to town and buy some food anyway, until I needed to add a tailored suit to the mix." She glanced at Rocky and put on a devilish grin as Rocky dug into his egg.

"Oh, come on," he said, his ears drooping. "We've been over this last night."

"You know I'm not going to give up until I find the perfect suit to fit you," Ivy said, grinning again. "And besides, Freckle's coming tonight as well. So you better set the perfect example for him."

"Great," Rocky said, "I was hoping he would go to a baseball game in the area."

"Well, just not today," Ivy said. "He wants to join in the festivities for once, so just entertain him, please."

"Fine," Rocky said, his ears drooping further. He finished his eggs and bacon and polished off the milk in a few gulps. "Just this once, okay?"

"Fine," Ivy said, her happiness fading. She fluffed out the daily paper and read in silence as Rocky deposited his dishes in the sink, still in deep thought. Ivy wasn't wrong. He was growing closer and closer to Amanda every time they hung out at The Faulty Spigot, but was he really ready to let his feelings loose for her? He sighed. Maybe later.

After Ivy finished eating, he drove them to town to find the suit he would be needing for tonight. After a while of searching, they came across a retailer that knew exactly what to supply for this very occasion. He managed to give them a hefty discount, which ended up reliving them both. For Rocky, this was just more than the money. He had managed to sang something decent.

The blistering hot afternoon found them scouring the waterfront for a restaurant, and after settling inside a seafood restaurant that was just as hot, they managed to take their orders without passing out, thankfully.

"Whew! Talk about a heatwave," Rocky muttered, fanning himself with the menu. Two glasses of water were in front of them, but despite being filled with ice, they melted pretty quick. "Now I know what it was like to traverse the Oregon Trail."

"Speak for yourself," Ivy said, taking a sip. "I'm faring better than you are."

"Yeah?" Rocky said, fanning harder. "Well, you are not the one who wears a goddamn suit and tie in the middle of the blazing summer!"

Ivy giggled as Rocky took off his coat, making sure to keep the Lackadaisy pin secured and tucked away from view.

"Muuuuuch better," Rocky said, leaning back in his chair, still fanning himself, but less hard. Ivy could see the rivets of sweat cascading down his fur in the glowing sun. "I swear, if the business isn't going to kill me, the heat will."

Their selections arrived shortly after, prompting them to dig in. The two glasses of water were replaced by two thin cocktail glasses filled to the brim with ice and lemonade, with a pair of multicolored straws and a small wedge of orange mounted on the rim of the glass. The chattering of the patrons added to the immersion of the grills as they sizzled in the background.

Taking a pause from his curried shrimp, Rocky glanced at a clock mounted near the front door. The time registered as 2:00 in the afternoon. Still a few hours away from tonight's party.

"We still have a lot of time to kill before the sun disappears," he said to Ivy, who had just finished her share of curried shrimp and marinated tilapia. "Why don't we head down to the Lackadaisy and see what Miss May has for us-"

"No," Ivy said sharply. Rocky looked surprised.

"Why the sudden downpour?" he asked, sipping his lemonade.

"Miss May wants everybody on deck for this party, and she's not gonna be too happy if even one of her staff go missing in a botched raid or anything," Ivy said. "Besides, there isn't any other rum-runner as good or as lucky as you are, Rocky." She grabbed his hand and gave it a comforting squeeze.

"Fine," Rocky said, sighing and taking a long sip from his glass, and Ivy smiled. "Why don't we finish with your groceries and high-tail it back to your house? I think Freckle isn't gonna take long in the shops, considering the last thing he wanted to buy was a new baseball bat, so he can practice in his spare time." He mimed swinging a bat at a ball. "Home run," he said, finishing his drink and nibbled away at the orange.

Ivy chuckled. "Your sense of humor never gets old," she said, sipping her drink delicately.

"Humph," Rocky said, discarding the orange peel in the empty glass. "You gotta have a strong wit if you need to survive the endless cycle of crime around." He flashed her another toothy grin.

Ivy just smiled.

The rest of the day passed in a blur, and not the slow crawl that Rocky had been expecting. Soon, he found himself at Ivy's house again, adjusting his bow tie and looking at himself in the mirror.

"Rocky!" Ivy called from the door. "Would you hurry up already?"

"Yeah, coming!" he called. He checked himself one last time: A handsome cat stared back at him wearing a full tuxedo suit with a small fake hibiscus tucked away in his left breast pocket. His fur was combed for once, and he made sure the Lackadaisy pin was tucked away securely before joining Ivy and Freckle by his car.

"What took so long to adjust a fake flower?" Ivy cried as they sat in the car. "We could be there earlier!"

"There's a difference between showing up early and looking your best," Rocky said, starting up the engine. "And besides, it almost took way too long for the dust to come off your shirt, Freckie." He glanced back at his two passengers. Ivy was wearing her usual flapper outfit, but it looked like she had coated it in fine gold leaf. As for Freckle, he wore his usual clothing, since he had spent nearly all day at the baseball field, so a quick wash was in order.

"You take it waaaay too seriously," Freckle said, watching traffic surge by the window as they pulled into an intersection that wasn't crowded.

"Yeah," Ivy agreed, as Rocky took a left and cut across a traffic light as it turned red. "Besides, scraping dust off of fabric is harder than adjusting-"

"OKAY, OKAY," Rocky shouted. "You've made your point! We're ready for tonight's dance, and we might as well take it while we look good!" He shot a quick glare at Freckle as he neared another busy intersection.

He exhaled sharply and focused on the traffic as Freckle and Ivy whispered to each other in the back.

He briefly considered what Amanda might think of him when she arrived at the Lackadaisy, but for now, he steeled his nerves as he took the last turn needed to reach the largest speakeasy in the United States.

It was time to tango with destiny.