~ Orleanian ~
It was a slow Monday morning for the Little Daisy Café. Only a few of their regulars had come in for coffee and breakfast before starting the day. Ivy sat behind the counter, smoothing her yellow dress and wishing for something interesting to happen. Sunlight gleamed in through the front large windows, giving the small café a cheerful glow. It was a warm spring day that hinted coyly to a sweltering summer to come. Ivy was looking forward to it and was in high hopes that she would get to spend her summer break in St. Louis.
The small bell above the door jingled and the young cat glanced up to a gray tabby trudge in.
"Good mornin', Miss Pepper," Rocky greeted in his Irish tinged brogue. Despite his usual Cheshire grin, Ivy could see he was exhausted.
"Rough night?" she asked as he took a seat. Without a word, the gray tabby let his face smack onto the counter. "That bad huh?"
"And how," he agreed, lifting his head just enough to rest his chin on the tabletop. "I'm wore out and Freckle's just about dead on his feet. I dropped him off and told him to meet me here later after he caught a few Z's."
Setting some coffee by Rocky's whiskers, Ivy leaned over the bar. "No word on what happened to Captain Kehoe the other night?" she whispered, not wanting the elderly couple across the café to hear.
"Actually we found out the fuzz caught him." Rocky answered sadly. "They searched his boat so it's no surprise that he's in the big house now."
"No way!" Ivy gasped. "You don't think he may…"
"Nah," Rocky shook his head, "I know the captain. He wouldn't rat us out cause he got caught. Our real problem now is trying to find a new supply."
"Well that can't be too hard, can it?" The weary look on his face was answer enough.
"We've tried everywhere but either its too expensive or we get chased off by competition. Last night we had a close run in with some rather touchy competitors." He shuttered. Ivy's ears perked curiously.
"Do I want to know?" the smoky brown cat asked hesitantly.
"Let's just say Viktor is not going to be happy to see the truck," Rocky commented briefly, tugging at the sleeve of his blue suit.
"Alright well what are we going to do?" Ivy asked, her yellow eyes pondering the window for an answer. "We're almost out of whiskey, the Lackadaisy is already on its last leg and Miss M hasn't come down in days."
Ever since Captain Kehoe's no show a few nights earlier, Miss M had gone into her apartment above the café and refused to leave for anything or anyone.
"Don't worry!" Rocky cried dramatically, his sapphire eyes glittering with emotion. "I won't give up! Don't worry Miss M, you can count on me!" His outburst drew the attention of the other customers and Ivy had to shove the gray tabby back onto his stool.
"Will you stop making a scene," she hissed under her breath. Rocky just raised his giant eyebrows in confusion.
Their whispered conversation was cut short by another ring of the door. They turned to see a girl dressed in a lady's suit of cool blue by the entrance. She was a pretty cat, about Ivy's age, with chestnut brown fur decorated with dark swirls. Short chocolate curls shown beneath her blue hat decorated with a single orange flower. At her knee sat a traveling suitcase. Instead of taking a seat, though, the stranger glanced around the café with searching hazel eyes.
"Welcome to the Daisy Café," Ivy called, drawing the marbled tabby's attention.
The girl walked over and gave a shy smile. "Thank you. I wasn't sure I was in the right place." She had a southern accent with a hint of what may have been Cajun.
"You lookin' for someone, ma'am?" Rocky asked, following the girl's example and glancing around.
"Yes. I'm meeting a Miss Mitzi May. She's supposed to be expecting me."
"You're here to see Miss M?" The marble nodded at Ivy before extending her hand.
"How rude of me, I should have introduced myself earlier. I'm Missy Burke. Just off the Sunshine Express from New Orleans."
"New Orleans? Wow!" Ivy gushed, taking Missy's paw. "I'm Ivy Pepper. And that's-"
"Roark Rickaby at your service," the striped cat interrupted, taking his hat off and giving a dramatic bow. "My friends call me Rocky though," he added with a sly wink.
"A pleasure to meet you both," Missy chuckled.
"So what brings you to St. Louis, Miss Burke?" Rocky asked, taking a seat on his stool again.
"Let's just say I may be able to help with your recent troubles."
"Troubles? What troubles?" Ivy asked as Rocky sipped his steaming coffee.
Missy leaned in and whispered, "Concerning the Lackadaisy."
Hot coffee was spewed across the counter while Ivy could only stare in shock. The other customers glanced their way but didn't seem to understand what was happening.
"You know about the Lackadaisy?" Rocky finally choked out, dabbing hot coffee off his lucky tie.
"Perhaps this business would best be discussed else where?" Missy hinted quietly, raising her eyebrows towards the café's curious occupants.
"Right you are!" Rocky cried loudly, grabbing a still stunned Ivy and Missy by the elbows and leading them towards the door.
Miss M's office was cozy with its leather chairs, large mahogany desk, and windows open to the fresh spring air. A portrait of the late Atlas May hung on the wall, observing the room below with a composed expression. Perched on the desk, Miss M was reading over an open letter and sipping whiskey from a short glass. With a sigh, she tossed the paper aside and glanced at the clock.
The silence was broken, though, by a volley of knocks threatening to break her door down.
"Yes?" she called, taking a sip of whiskey.
"Miss M?" Rocky asked, cracking the door open and peeking around the corner.
"Oh Rocky. Come on in." With a shove, he rushed into the room, trailing a pair of unhappy cats in his wake.
"Was that really necessary, Rocky?" Ivy asked, attempting to smooth her short bob.
"Well well, look what the cat dragged in," Miss M drawled in her sugary accent. Missy straightened her hat and turned to face the white cat.
"Miss Mitzi May?" she asked, hoping her search was over.
"Mitzy's fine, dear. And you must be Miss Burke." With a small smile, she poured another shot of whiskey and handed it to the younger cat.
"You can call me Missy," she answered, taking the tumbler with a nod.
"Excuse me, Miss M?" Rocky interrupted politely, wringing his hat. "Pardon me but this girl seems to know about our, um…" he cleared his throat awkwardly before continuing, "other business," he finally completed with a shrug.
"Of course she does, sweetie," Miss M confirmed. "She's our new supplier."
Rocky spluttered, unable to form real words while Ivy waved her arms frantically. "Okay time out! Now I'm confused."
With a sigh, Miss M gestured to the chairs in front of the desk. "Perhaps I should start over."