There’s something refreshing about being proven wrong when it comes to creature nature, and I thought I was being proven wrong, and happily so. No-one could ever call me a specist, but there’s one breed of creature I do not trust, and they’ve given me ample reason for that.
Baboons: Every time I’ve had any dealings with them, I’ve had cause to regret it, and I could see no reason to change my mind, but here it was, right in front of me. A really scruffy-looking baboon was in my alcove in Crashamanka, and he was surprising me big time.
My name is Magnon: Cro Magnon, Pea Eye, and my eyes were stretched as far as my beetling brows would allow. He was sitting with cupped hands filled with clams and shiny things, like crystals and suchlike; a small fortune.
‘Why?’ I asked suspiciously.
‘I find it, it don’t belong me, I bring it here.’ That simple.
‘Why here and not the cops?’ I asked, still suspicious.
‘No trust cops. Cops bad.’
‘You can trust the cops now,’ I said, still not quite convinced. ‘They’ll try and find the original owner and you’ll get a reward.’
‘Don’t want reward. Don’t belong me. Give it back to right person. Me happy.’
‘What’s your name?’ I asked.
‘Are you related to Ugly Otter?’
‘No, we just friends.’
I studied him closely. ‘Did you get these things from Ugly Otter?’
‘No! Me tell you already. Me find them, no want them, no want reward.’ He was the picture of outraged innocence and my conscience pricked me suddenly. I was labelling him as I did all baboons, and he was probably innocent.
Then he said something which sealed it for me. This was a trap of some sorts.
‘This hands is clean.’
I sighed. ‘Take the valuables to the cops; I want nothing to do with them, or with you.’ I shook my head. ‘Did you really think I would trust a baboon? Especially one who’s friends with Ugly Otter? Get outa here, before I get mad!’
He glared at me, then threw his baubles on the floor and stormed out. Ugly Otter had a bad reputation for doing bad things to folk, trying to get clams and other valuables from them. I hated myself for it, but I was becoming a specist. How could I ever trust any baboon, regardless of what they claimed?
I sighed and sat back in my alcove, then called one of the monkey waiters to bring me a drink. The trouble was, if a baboon came to me, and really was in trouble, I’d have a hard time believing him. Or her.
Skram was keeping the place alive with jollity, playing Path Fighting Man by the Stones. The place was rocking! There’s no keeping down that ol’ Pea Eye wit. But the set-up with See Leebi bothered me. I had no idea what they were up to, but I was determined to find out!
I put on my velociraptor stalker and headed out to do some snooping. Everything I’d heard about Ugly Otter put him in a league with Anallanall, and that was all bad news. Kameleonise and Anallanall were history, consigned to the tar pits long ago, and there was no better place for them, in all honesty.
Since Olchap had taken over the running of the cops, things had been pretty smooth around here, but this development bothered me, and I didn’t like things bothering me. I found an old back trail and made my way to where I’d heard Ugly Otter was hanging out and, I don’t know why, I called a carrier pterodactyl and chiselled a quick note and put it on his leg, telling Pee Jin where I was headed.
I didn’t want a false alarm, but I also didn’t want to be exposed to these villains all alone.
I eventually came upon this clearing in the jungle and there was Ugly Otter, remonstrating with See Leebi, who was wearing a blue skin with a blue-dyed coconut on his head. I crept as close as I could, in order to hear what was being said, when two sets of immensely strong arms grabbed me from behind.
Ugly Otter and See Leebi looked up, See Leebi in shock, Ugly Otter in satisfaction. ‘Welcome, Mr Magnon!’ said Ugly Otter. ‘I wondered when you’d be joining us.’ He spoke to the Neanderthals holding me. ‘Is he alone? Was he followed?’
‘No boss, he no followed: him alone.’
Ugly Otter smiled, a smooth, oily smile that made my skin crawl. ‘I’ve been wanting to meet you for a while now, Mr Magnon: your fame precedes you.’
‘How you know he gonna be here?’ asked See Leebi, obviously puzzled.
‘I knew he’d suspect you when you went to see him. He’s not the trusting kind.’ He smiled at me then, a friendly, engaging smile. ‘Are you, Mr Magnon?’
‘Not when I hear your name!’ I grated out, and was rewarded by a hefty slap from one of the Neanderthals. I felt my knees buckle with the force of it: these guys were strong!
He held up a hand, all covered in shiny things. ‘We’re all friends here, aren’t we Mr Mgnon?’
‘I’d rather be friends with a velociraptor!’ I spat out. ‘At least I know he intends to eat me.’
It’s a funny thing, but no matter how many times you’ve been hit, you never get used to it, and this Neanderthal had bunched his fist and slammed it down on my head, stunning me momentarily, with those shiny things seeming to float right in front of my eyes. If they hadn’t been holding me, I would have fallen.
‘Tsk, tsk, boys, that’s not necessary!’ said Ugly Otter. ‘Mr Magnon intends to be friendly, don’t you, Mr Magnon?’ And the baboons around him parted to allow two of them through. Two filthy baboons, holding my Blooey!
I suddenly felt completely defeated. ‘What do you want?’ I asked wearily.
‘Simple! I want you to get rid of Olchap and put See Leebi in charge of the cops, so that things can go back to the way they were in the good old days.’
I shook my head. ‘Too late for that. Didn’t you hear? He locked me up in those little caves for breaking the law, even though I put him in charge. He’s got a whole system running now, with Orangutans, called judges and honest cops. You’ll never get it to work.’
‘Mr Magnon, I have every faith in you and your abilities! After all,’ he gestured to Blooey. ‘You wouldn’t want your lady friend to get hurt, now would you?’ He gestured to his two Neanderthals, ‘You can let him go now; he’s not going to do anything stupid: are you Mr Magnon?’
I shook my head wearily. Aside from the pain in my head, I was worried about Blooey. I desperately hoped the pterodactyl had found Pee Jin. He was my only hope at the moment. I bent down and picked up my velociraptor stalker, which had become crumpled from the bang on the head, but they’d been clever. There were no visible marks to arouse suspicion.
I slowly and tiredly made my way up to Olchap’s caves, despising what I was about to do, and just hoping I could fix it later. Olchap was a person I counted as a friend, and he was going to be terribly hurt by what was going to happen.
As I approached the cop caves, Olchap came out. ‘Cro! What brings you to this neck of the woods?’ He was full of these strange expressions.
‘Bad news, I’m afraid, Olchap. The folks around here aren’t happy with the way you’ve been running things.’ This wasn’t a complete lie; a lot of the ordinary folk were unhappy, and wanted to dispense justice the old way.
I could see the hurt in his eyes, and it was like a flint twisting in my gut. ‘I thought I was doing a good job,’ he said.
‘You must try and understand how they feel,’ I replied. ‘These folks don’t see it as justice when you put bad guys in a little cave. They want to beat them up, or throw them in the volcano, or over a cliff. To them your ideas are strange, and they want you to leave.’
This really hurt, but Blooey’s life was on the line. ‘Olchap, you locked me up for dispensing justice: how do you think I feel?’
His shoulders sagged and I felt like a traitor. ‘Well, if that’s what the folks want, I’ll resign.’ He took his blue stone off his bearskin and gave it to me. ‘Here you are.’ He sighed heavily. ‘I hope you’re happy when things turn out the way they were before.’
He turned and went into the caves and called all the cops out, telling them the news. They looked at me in surprise - after all, I was the one who’d organised the whole thing. Olchap slouched off and I knew I was going to fix this thing; I just didn’t know how.
I made my way up to Crashamanka and went into my alcove, collapsing onto my rock. I put my head in my hands feeling, I must admit, more than a little sorry for myself. The zebra skin opened and Pee Jin was there. ‘Nasty business,’ he said.
I shook my head. ‘You can say that again!’’
‘No, Pee Jin, you don’t really have to say it again, it’s just an expression I made up: Pea Eyes do it all the time.’ He nodded in understanding. ‘You saw what happened?’ He nodded. ‘Do you think we can fix this?’
‘All the time I been with you, we fix everything - why not this?’
I smiled grimly at him. ‘They’ve never had someone I care for before this, that’s the problem.’
‘How we gonna fix it?’
‘First of all, See Leebi must take over the cops.’
He raised his eyebrows. ‘That bad news!’
‘Then, once they’ve relaxed and settled, we move in and destroy them. And I mean the tar pits, not the little caves. And hopefully we can get Olchap to take over the cops again.’ He nodded as I spoke, taking in what I was saying without contributing much. He was a great listener.
Later on I heard a ruckus out in the front area of Crashamanka. It was Ugly Otter. ‘Hello Cro,’ he said. ‘I’ve decided I like this place and I want shares. I’m putting a new manager in charge, so you don’t have to worry about running this place. We’ll share the profits equally.’
‘Oh, don’t worry, she’s safe!’ He smiled at me, that oily smile that reminded me of a compy. ‘I think you and I will make good partners.’ He nodded. ‘Real good partners.’ I would have strangled him right there, but Blooey would be killed and I wasn’t about to let that happen.
‘You’ll be happy to know that See Leebi has taken over the cops and things will be running smoothly from now on.’
‘I need proof that Blooey’s alright,’ I said.
‘What? You don’t trust me? I’m shocked!’ He clicked his fingers and a Neanderthal stepped forward. ‘This is your new manager, Blade. He knows everything about drinking. Blade, give him the slate.’ He passed me a slate with a painting of Blooey, tied up, but otherwise fine.
‘Now you go back to your office, and Blade will see to everything out here.’ Skram had stopped playing and everyone was looking at us. He turned to Skram, ‘Start playing!’ And Skram started playing Bad Company, which was quite fitting, even if Ugly Otter didn’t get it.
We closed up that night and I made my weary way back to my cave. I got onto my bedrock and tossed and turned continually until dawn started greying the sky. I got up and went to the stream to freshen up by dunking my head in it. I wearily trudged back up to my cave and Pee Jin was there. With Blooey!
She ran over to me and held me tight, kissing me all over and crying at the same time. Dames!
‘How did you do this?’
‘Those baboons are so stupid they weren’t even guarding her! They were playing this game where they throw rocks and give each other clams. So I went in, cut her loose and took her with me. Now that she’s free, what are we going to do?’
‘Get Fossey and the gang,’ I said. ‘It’s payback time.’
I went up to Crashamanka and straight up to Blade. ‘How are things going?’
‘You no worry me job. Go sit in alcove!’ I could see he’d been drinking already, which suited me fine. The bar was slowly filling up, but it was filling up with my gorillas. I went into my alcove and waited a while, then came out and nodded at Fossey, who picked up a rock and brought it crashing down on Blade’s head.
After securing him with lianas, they all went back to pretending to drink, and I went back into my alcove to wait. I didn’t have to wait very long. The zebra skin was flung back and Ugly Otter was standing there. ‘Where’s Blade?’
‘How should I know? You told me he’s the manager and I should stay in my alcove!’
He stared hard at me. ‘If this is one of your little games, your lady friend dies!’
I got up and walked over to him. ‘Really?’ I punched him in the stomach and had the satisfaction of hearing the air hiss out of his lungs as he doubled over. I put my hands together and brought them down on the back of his neck and he went down like a rabbit. That was a good name: rabbit punch!
I tied him up securely, then took my gang down to the cop caves. See Leebi came out and saw us, but it was too late to run. Pee Jin hit him with a dating club and he went down, screaming. A dating club!
We tied him up, then went to get the rest of the gang. We surround the clearing, then charged, clubs swinging, and I had the double-barrelled club, so we made short work of them, including the other Neanderthal.
‘Guys!’ I said loudly, so as to be heard over the commotion. ‘What are we going to do with these scum?’
‘Tar pits!’ They yelled, in unison.
‘Do we want Olchap back in charge of the cops?’ It suddenly went quiet. ‘If we sent these scum to the tar pits, Olchap will be very upset, and won’t take the job. I want to take them to the tar pits, because I believe it’s where they belong, but things were much better with Olchap in charge. If we put him back in charge, they’ll go to the little caves forever, which is maybe worse than the tar pits. What do you say? We all have to be together on this.’
There was much muttering and discussion amongst each other, then Fossey stepped forward. ‘Olchap must come back, but this one…’ pointing at See Leebi ‘…he mine. He gonna find a way to get out. You take these ones to caves, me take this one to tar pits.’
There was general agreement, and I was not about to argue with my trusted gang members, so we dragged the entire gang off to the caves, while Fossey carried See Leebi to the tar pits. I didn’t look back, but went off to find Olchap.
He got up when he saw me approaching. ‘Now what?’ he said tiredly.
I told him the whole story, leaving out only Fossy and See Leebi. ‘So if you still want the job, we have a whole bunch of prisoners for you.’
‘You’ve just made me the happiest Sapien on Pangaea!’ he said, taking the stone from me and pinning it back on. ‘Let’s go and dispense justice!’
The upshot was that all the gang was caved, except Ugly Otter. His head was crushed with a rock.
Later that evening we were celebrating in Crashamanka, drinks on the cave, of course, and Skram was playing All Right Now, because it really was all right.And pretty good to be a Pea Eye.