Basil fidgeted with the gold coin in his pocket as he quietly walked into the open door. It was dark inside, the way he liked it, but it was too cavernous. He was exposed, laid bare by its lack of papers and boxes to keep him secret, safe.
He turned his head, widening his eyes to take in the room. Outside, a car sprung to life, and it took all the courage he had in him to not squeak.
Basil kept reminding himself, that he only had to make it through this room. That’s what Justin had told him. The Grand Rat, his fierce visage burned in Basil’s mind, had targeted the mousy desk-clerk because of his stature. He was unassuming.
Back home, his wife and kids were waiting for the cheese and bread he’d gotten earlier, but instead of going home to them, he was here, traipsing through his office building, looking for one vent sitting beside a filing cabinet. Apparently, only he could fit into. Worst yet, The Rats had his family hostage as collateral.
Finally, he was there. Opening the vent meant using a screwdriver. Basil dropped his coin in his pocket and pulled out the Leatherman he had squirreled away in his cluttered desk.
He slipped it in the grooves. The lights turned on.
This time, Basil did squeak. And just like that, he couldn’t move. He was fear-frozen, lips trembling, eyes panic-scanning the room.
His gaze fell on two pairs of brown suede shoes. They belonged to the boss.
“Basil, what are you still doing here?”
Basil stammered. He couldn’t think, couldn’t move.
The boss lifted him to his feet. His cat-like whiskers moved with his mouth.
Basil burst into tears. “The Rats. They have them. My Gus and Phoebe.”
“Stupid Rats,” the boss said with a shake of his head. “Gone too far this time. We’ll get them back for ya, Basil. You just wait here. Well, not here. But in the front office.”
Basil choked back some snotty remains and nodded, “Oh, oh, oh, -kay, Mr Patch.”
The boss led the way out of the room, closed the door, and locked it behind them. Basil settled into a tight corner with his coin in hand, and waited.