Her name was Possum. Nothing more or less than that.
She exited the plane cautiously upon landing in New York, her enormous blue eyes covered by sunglasses, a threadbare coat over an equally threadbare shirt and pants, ragged black hair and translucent white skin rendered almost see-through by the explosive amount of sunlight in the air. Her contact waved a sign in the air with her name on it, as was still the custom for receiving guests at the airport in this futuristic America. Spotting it, she went over to meet him. They feigned the excitement of long lost relatives reuniting for a moment in front of the crowd to create what they felt would be a convenient alibi before retreating to a silent corner to discuss the mission that the man- a “true” human- had recruited Possum for.
Possum was not a “true” human being at all, but actually an animated cartoon character. A very perilous situation, considering her race was now at war with the “true” human beings of America, the country she had been created in. But Possum, and others like her, managed to get by, even if it meant some duplicitous dealings with both halves of the equation.
“Was it bad on the flight in from L.A.?” the man asked.
“Of course,” Possum answered. “You know what L.A.’s like all the time.”
“Have you ever been to New York?”
“No! I told you. My kind of ‘toons don’t get around much. Thank you for Fed-ex’ing me the plane fare, though. It really helped.”
Dentinger, the man, cautioned her to lower her voice as unsuspecting passengers walked past them. Then they resumed their talk.
“It used to be better than this,” Dentinger said absent-mindedly.
“What?” Possum asked.
“The whole country. Before….you know, your kind….”
“You don’t have to pussyfoot around this,” Possum answered. “I know what my “kind” are doing- and the fact that they won’t involve me in any of their rotten transgressions, so I gotta do my own! Lousy bunch of….”
Possum was beginning to assume the anger that was the Achilles heel of so many ‘toons- and the cause of much of their destructive behavior. Dentinger was able to calm her down, however.
“Come on,” he said. “We need to get you settled in.”
They walked away from the airport and headed into an apartment house in town. After ascending, Dentinger opened the door of the farthest room from the elevator and they entered. They were not alone.
There was another “true” human at the kitchen table, named Mintz. This was the man whom Possum had been contacted about doing a “hit”- and the man whom she had traveled across the country to meet with in order to negotiate the deal.
“Aha!” said Mintz when they entered, ignoring Dentinger’s presence entirely (he was used to this). “You must be Possum! How wonderful it is for me to…”
“Yeah, yeah!” Possum held up a hand to silence him. “Cut the crap, Mintz! I didn’t come all the way out here to listen to your cheap beatitudes!”
“You mean platitudes,” suggested Dentinger, unhelpfully.
“What-ever!” Possum growled. Then, to Mintz, she added: “Why didn’t you come and meet me at the airport yourself instead of sending him?”
“I was otherwise engaged,” Mintz protested.
“Sure you were.” Possum was used to lying and being lied to, and so she viewed Mintz’s statement with a grain of salt. “Does he have to be here while we….?”
“No, he doesn’t.” Mintz silently pointed to the door and Dentinger exited the apartment.
“All I know about this thing,” Possum said, “is that you want me to kill one of your kind for a change instead of one of mine. Is that it?”
“Uh huh,” said Mintz. “He’s a businessman and ‘toon sympathizer named Evan Hunter. We want him to be dead within two days.”
“I can do it in less than that.”
“Good. We know you’ve taken out hits on your fellow cartoons before, but not nearly as many on human beings. Are you up for the challenge?”
“Look, it’s no difference to me whether or not it’s a ‘toon or a human, provided the guy’s a bad egg. Those are the only ones I take out, understand? I have nothing but contempt for little goody-two-shoes wuzzys no matter what form they take. So I’m assuming you wouldn’t have called me in for this job if the guy didn’t need to be whacked. Am I right?”
“You’re right. Now, let me tell you something about Hunter that will surely convince you. Since the war between our species began, he has been buying up stockpiles of surviving animation art from the major film studios, with which he intends to intimidate the ‘toon leaders to account by burning it and thus separating them from a major part of your heritage. This, he believes, will lead to them committing themselves to negotiating peace with the human beings. But, at the same time, he has also been secretly funding outside parties that intend to subvert the American war effort and allow the ‘toons to conquer the true humans. Therefore, Hunter is considered a threat by both sides, since he is capable of acting at once to threaten one or both of their war efforts.”
“And you want me to kill him so he’ll get off both of their backs and let this thing go on,” Possum assumed.
“Then let me ask you this. What’s in it for me?”
“Your usual fee, plus double your normal expenses.” He counted a large sum of money in a small number of bills into Possum’s hand, which made her eyes bulge in the traditional “wacky” style of her ancestors.
“That’s all I needed to hear,” Possum replied, when she had popped her eyes back in her head and the money into her pocket.
“There’s one other thing, though,” Mintz cautioned her.
“And what is that?” demanded Possum.
“The death must, in all ways, forms and fashions, look as much like an accident as possible. No one must know that you murdered him.”
“I’ll…do what I can,” Possum uttered evasively as she left.
Possum returned confidently to her hotel room. Now that she had been paid such a large sum of money- in advance, yet- it was even more important to her that she look her best while disposing of Evan Hunter. She had these thoughts in mind when she was confronted by a fellow ‘toon at the very door of her room.
He, like she herself, was clearly from among the ranks of the minor-league Hollywood ‘toon bit players like herself. He took the form of an oversized, big-eyed teddy bear, but in all other respects he was about as “human” as Possum herself was. Possum was taken aback at first upon seeing him, but soon calmed down enough to address him in her firmest tone.
“I’ve been waiting for you,” he said, in a voice resembling a rusty hinge very much in need of an entire bottle of WD-40. “I came out here from Los Angeles to find you.”
“Why?” Possum demanded suspiciously.
“I’m a reporter,” he said, pointing to his hat, a fedora with a crudely made badge with “PRESS” stenciled on it at the top. “I want an interview.”
“You’re not getting one,” insisted Possum. “I don’t do interviews. Especially not with the kind of rag you write for! How DARE you accuse me of being a plotter against my own kind? Just ‘cause I went and did a couple of hits I was PAID to DO….”
“It’s not that,” the bear answered. “There were rumors about you being paid to kill a human….”
Possum forcefully put her key in the door and opened it. “Get in there,” she ordered, and the bear meekly followed her inside.
“How did you find out about me?” Possum demanded, once she had shut the door behind them. “And how did you know about me….?”
“Not much to hide, really,” the bear admitted. “The ‘toon press in L.A.’s been all over you ever since you did that hit at Disney….”
“Okay, okay!” Possum cut him off. “That’s all well and good. But how did you know I was coming here? To New York? And especially about me doing it to a human?”
“Sources,” was all the bear would answer. “And you can’t make me say anything about who they are or stuff. The law and that, you know.”
“I know,” retorted Possum sourly. “So you want a story, huh?”
“More than that.”
“What the hell are you getting at?”
“I want you to apologize.”
“For all of our people that you killed! I mean, my girlfriend was one of those, man! You didn’t even give me a chance to say goodbye to….”
“Back off, okay?” Possum ordered him. “Just BACK OFF! I don’t know what antiquated code of chivalry you and the other ‘toons in the establishment are working with, but I DON’T PLAY LIKE THAT, understand? I am a professional assassin. I use my skills and my abilities to kill people, wherever or whoever they are. Up ‘til now, all of my hits have been of the ‘toon variety because I was asked to do that. Now, I’m being asked to kill a human being. Do I get paid to do this? Yes! Am I carrying the money I got for the hit on me now? Yes! Is this person a bad egg who deserves to be killed? Yes! Does it matter what race, creed or color the bastards are that I off? NO! The only reason you thick headed bunch of sucks got so mad about me doing those kills was because of your flattering but wrong-headed belief that we supposedly are one group of “people”. HELL NO, WE AREN’T! We’re not one group- we’re not even “people”! I look like a human being, but I’m not, any more than you’re really a bear! We’re all a bunch of cheap FREAKS some true humans drew so they could feel BETTER about themselves! And, honestly, I want to kill as many of you people as I can before I die, so I can get rid of them talking about CURSED and MISERABLE they are! So why don’t you just get the hell out of here before I make you into a victim yourself!”
That extended, long-winded monologue served its purpose of getting her would-be tormentor off her back, and he exited the room with all possible speed.
The following morning, and for much of the following day, Possum tailed her eventual victim, Evan Hunter, as he went through his very busy day. She followed him to his high-rise office building, then followed him to the restaurant where he had lunch, sitting only mere meters from him so that she could follow every word that he said, then followed him back to the office until the end of the work day, when she finally concluded her tailing. It had not been easy. Even though she could pass for an albino human girl fairly easily, Possum had difficulty convincing certain security officials and restaurant managers that she actually belonged or could possibly be a patron at the establishments she targeted, and she was therefore ejected bodily more than once before she could finally gain access through subterfuge. Eventually, though, the day ended, and she could breathe something of a sigh of relief. She calculated that it would take Hunter’s chauffer-driven limousine at least an hour or so to arrive at Hunter’s sumptuous mansion in suburban New Rochelle, so she went back to her hotel, waited exactly that long to the precise second, and made a call to him.
“Hello?” Hunter asked when he got to the phone.
“Mr. Hunter?” Possum asked.
“Mr. Hunter, you don’t know me, but my name is Possum, and I am a member of the ‘toon community who’s concerned about….”
“Look, “ Hunter said sternly, “you can say all you want about those model sheets being your people’s equivalent of unborn fetuses, but I’m not….”
“It’s not about that, Mr. Hunter. This is more urgent. And more directly involving you.”
“How directly are we talking about, Postum?”
“That’s all right. You’d be surprised how many things about me people get wrong, none the less being my name. No, sir, this doesn’t have anything to do with the model sheets. This is an important matter that I have no one else to confide in about.”
“What are you?” Hunter asked suspiciously. “A double agent?”
“That’s for me to know and you to find out,” countered Possum. “The thing is, I know about you, Hunter, and that you’re playing both sides of the war. And I can make things real hot for you if you don’t do what I say.”
There was silence on the other end for a moment. Then Hunter said:
“Would it be okay if we met for breakfast tomorrow and deal with this? I really can’t afford to have this stuff leaked out in the open, but I can’t really give you any other time….”
“Oh, that’s fine with me,” Possum said sweetly, firmly disguising the fate that she had in store for Hunter.
Possum waited for an hour at the restaurant Hunter had chosen for the meeting before he arrived. He was in the company of a few business associates when he entered and seemed to have forgotten all about the meeting until she gave him the evil eye as he passed her. At that point, Hunter gave his excuses to his associates and sat down beside Possum, apologizing profusely as he did.
“No matter,” Possum said, with her feminine sweetness once again masking her true intentions. Hunter’s head was balding, and the harsh lights of the restaurant reflected back upon it, giving him the appearance of a skull. Possum felt this appearance was apt, given how much he was interested in killing both ‘toons and humans, if only from afar in both cases.
“So,” Possum said, fishing around her mind for small talk. “Nice place.”
“I like it,” answered Hunter tersely. “By the way, you don’t need to hide anything about yourself.”
“Anything like what?” Possum asked, feigning innocence.
“I know what you’ve been doing. Those “hits”, as they put it so crudely in your trade. You kill people for money.”
“Don’t I know it,” Possum said, acting and speaking confidently now that her cover was blown. “That’s what I came to talk to you about.”
“Well, what is it?”
“Like I said, I know what you did, what you’ve been doing, and what you intend to do. You want to wreck both the ‘toon cause and the human resistance. And, being the businessman you are, you want to profit on burning both of the houses. But you can’t do anything about me going to the press with what I know. I tailed you all yesterday. So I know what you’ve been planning to do. Every detail. And I’ll expose you unless you do exactly what I want you to do.”
“And there’s nothing I can do to persuade you?”
“There are some things.”
“Name them!” Hunter demanded.
“I want money, first of all, to get out of America,” Possum said. “I need asylum. And, of course, I’m going to need some more to set myself up in style in some exotic tropical paradise. You know, like you were planning.”
“How did you know….?”
“I told you, I tailed you yesterday! And I heard everything!”
“Well, then, everything you heard dies with you!”
Hunter removed a pistol from his pocket, aiming it at Possum, intending to kill her with it. He fired at her three times- but the bullets merely passed through her body!
“Amateur,” Possum scoffed. “This is how you do it!”
With the superhuman strength that all members of her race possessed, Possum lifted him up in the air and uttered a cry very reminiscent of one of her real-world animal namesakes in full anger. Her human hand and nails abruptly turned into a paw with razor-sharp claws, claws with which she used to rake open Hunter’s belly and then to severe his head from his neck. Then, to the horror of the few patrons who were in the restaurant that early in the morning, she dropped the body in the aisle next to the table and made a hasty exit out the back.
“Man!” an African-American patron observed. “That was one wack whack!”
With a crazed gleam in her eye, Possum sped as best as she could out of the city in the direction of the nearest airport. She’d insisted upon being paid in advance, because she knew she had many enemies in the ‘toon community, even in far away New York, who could advance and conquer her at a moment’s notice.
As she waited impatiently at a crossroads for the light to change, it happened. The shadows, representing a small army of fellow ‘toons, was coming right towards her from an alleyway. And, even with all her success killing individual ‘toons, there was no way of knowing whether she’d escape this mob.
Still, she had to take a chance…..
David Perlmutter is a freelance writer living in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, where he has lived his whole life. His passions are American television animation (the subject of his MA thesis and a projected historical monograph), literature (especially science fiction and fantasy) and music (rhythm& blues, soul, funk and jazz.) This explains why much of his writing is as nonconventional and defiant as it is. He is challenged with Asperger’s Syndrome, but considers it an asset more than a disability.