Angelo's Death (PG-13)
Heaven's Mafia (not rated)
Is it a joke?
"Why is it always the entertainers that make you cry the hardest?"
Ruby looked up in annoyance. She had been in a very happy place—her third cup of Irish coffee, a rare indulgence—and all had been full of love until the unwelcome voice dispelled the pleasant mist of caffeine and whisky.
"Anna, what are you talking about?" she growled, looking forlornly into the half-empty mug; it just wouldn't be the same now.
The oblivious ferret settled into the next chair over. "I mean Michael. He's a singer, you know, and a magician, and—"
"I know," interrupted Ruby acerbically. "I live here, too."
"Oh, right." Anna flashed a tiny grin, full of sharp little teeth that Ruby swore to God she was going to knock out someday. "Sorry. You know how he sings at the Spiked Wheel and Maris and that place where the frogs are?"
"Well, he was singing today, by himself, up in his room."
Ruby eyed her unpleasantly. "You were evesdropping?"
"Was I?" The ferret blinked guilelessly. "Oh, dear. I didn't mean to. I was just passing by, and I heard him singing."
Ah, hell. She'd humor the bimbo.
"What was he singing?"
Anna shivered and latched onto the table. "Something awful. It was all dark and scary—like something a ghost would sing in a graveyard..."
"..." The kangaroo nudged aside her coffee. "How'd it go?"
The ferret closed her eyes, assuming an intent look that seemed misplaced on the vacuous face.
Then, softly, mechanically, she began to sing.
I see the fragile etchings of the strength of desperation,
Descending on the cornices, on every cap and camber,
Of a sudden she stopped, gasping a little. "It's like that. Horrible. I could hardly bear to listen, but I couldn't leave somehow."
Ruby quietly finished her coffee.
"You have an ear for music," she conceded unhappily.
Anna shook her head with an innocent smile. "Just a good memory. I was a secretary, remember?"
"Point." She sighed and slid the mug absently across the tabletop; the two women said nothing for a while, absorbed in their own quiet introspection, or at least Ruby was; Anna was playing with her bracelet without much expression at all, but at least she was silent.
Box waltzed in, took one look at the scene, and struck up a conversation.
"Have you ever noticed that a really good stage is at least three feet high?"
"No, Box," replied Ruby tolerantly, "I haven't. Last time I went to the theater was... oh, say... during my lifetime."
The technicality giggled. Anna at once laughed with him, if only for the sake of laughter's propagation.
"I mean that a stage has to be up above everyone, so you can see the performer."
He leaned downward to rest his hands on their shoulders and imparted confidentially to the both:
"It hurts a lot more to fall from up there."
Then he skipped away, singing "Dancin' Fool" at the top of his sizable lungs.
Anna tittered behind her hands. "Oh, that Box! He's so funny and silly! I never have any idea what he's talking about."
"Mm-hmm," murmured Ruby distantly.
Seeing at last that her audience was lost, Anna politely took the mug to the kitchen sink; the kangaroo remained at the table, eyes drifting idly around, until finally she sighed and pushed back her chair.
"I wonder how high Michael was," she mused, slowly rising, "when he fell..."