It is amazing the effect different props have on people.
If you are approached by someone with a clipboard, you naturally assume 'Oh, what a sad tit' and will then happily give away
everything about yourself, even down to if you are a part-time cross dresser, or if you like to sleep with the dead, in the
hope that you will receive a free chocolate bar or a packet of yak-turd flavour crisps. If on the other hand, you are approached
by a man writing in a notebook, you begin thinking treacherous thoughts like 'Hmm, here's someone quite clever' and you clam
up to prevent murderers being arrested, fraudsters being revealed to the unsuspecting public, or any other terrible things
like that happening. Dirk knew all about this, but he still liked to use a notebook because it gave him a small piece of the
unattainable gumshoe image he'd been seeking.
As he ambled around the rhinoceros enclosure, questioning
everyone, he began to see something else that was rather odd. All the other animals gave the rhino a very wide berth. They
wouldn't enter large areas of their own cages that were close to the rhino's. And, just as Eric was watching Dirk, the animals
were all watching Eric. Dirk quickly hid behind a bush where no-one could see him, and made a note of this in his notebook.
What he found from his clipboard idea, however, was
much less encouraging. Almost everyone in Los Angeles actually seemed to be a good ten years older than they appeared.
Dirk was deeply upset by this. Another perfectly good plan ruined totally by those selfish plastic surgeon bastards, plying
their false trade to make these damnable loathsome rich idiots look good when they should appear decrepit and toothless, like
any self-respecting megalomaniac. Curse them all, all the way to Hades. It just wasn't right, playing God with the ages of
mankind. If cloning was so illegal, why wasn't cutting open someone's face and changing it irreparably so that they seemed
to be timelessly young? It was all wrong. Plastic surgery should be banned in anyone over thirty. He was about to give up,
when he noticed that a few people, rich estate agents mostly, actually looked the age that they were supposed to be. He dutifully
jumped into the bush again and noted this as well. As he emerged, a zookeeper ambled over to him nonchalantly and gently tapped
him on the shoulder.
"Excuse me sir, but why do you keep going into that
Dirk cursed inwardly. Spotted, when he'd been doing
his best to remain incognito. He thought fast, even though he wasn't very good at it. "I'm urinating."
The zookeeper stared at him in bewilderment, and then
looked to his left. Dirk followed his gaze and noticed that, not five yards away, there was a large public convenience, standing
proud and noble with a large sign outside declaring, for all to see, 'GENTS'. He followed the only course of action left to
"I'm English, you see."
The zookeeper suddenly developed a look of great and
wise understanding. Of course, an Englishman. Third world countries, and all that. Europeans, probably still bitter for losing
the Second World War. He decided that it was best to remain polite and also to talk loudly and slowly in case English wasn't
the language that they spoke in England.
"Well sir, here in the USA we go in the public bathroo-oo-oo-ooms.
I hope you understand, but urinating in a bush will upset the an-i-mals." He then proceeded to give Dirk a brief tour of the
toilet, showing him how the flush worked, how to sit on it, and how to wash his hands. After about three minutes of trying
to dry his hands under the blow-dryer, he lamely finished with, "And then you dry your hands on your pants... like this!"
before walking off shaking his head sadly. The primitive nature of these foreigners. He couldn't see why America had colonized
Britain in the first place, let alone given them independence.
Dirk, now merrily bemused, rang Kate on his mobile.
He explained the entire incident, and then turned to the topic of rhinoceroses.
"Well, I looked them up for you," Kate began. "Apparently
they have one of the most powerful noses in the animal kingdom. A rhino can smell things that have moved on days before, even
weeks, but they have a great deal of difficulty seeing anything at all with their eyes. Oh, and some weird African religions
used to worship them. Claimed the nose could be used to predict the future, or be used to move to anywhere another rhino could,
um, smell." As she finished speaking, there was a faint crash in the background. Dirk heard Kate sigh patiently, heard a roar
of divine anger, and then heard Kate say, "All right, but don't go to the zoo. You're banned. I'm not bailing you out again,
you'll have to spend a night in the cells this time."
"Kate? Still there?" Dirk said, smiling to himself.
"Yes. That's all I could find about rhinos, Dirk."
"So these religions refer to the fundamental interconnectedness
of all rhinoceroses? Please, just bear with me."
"I suppose that yes, you could say that. Thor!
Look, I'll just call a glazier, all right? No, a glazier, they fix windows. No, we're in central London. A huge
block of ice with a storm giant riding atop it would be a little conspicuous, wouldn't it. Fine, go then."
"I've not called at a bad time, have I?" Dirk was grinning
enormously by now.
"No, he's gone. God knows what he'll do now. Anyway,
the fundamental interconnectedness...?"
"Of all rhinos, yes. They could be used to travel through
space and time as long as there was another rhinoceros at the other end? Like a portal, if you will."
"Did it say how you got them to work?" Dirk had, by
now, strolled over to Eric's pen and was staring at the rhino's nostrils. It looked almost as if there was something up it,
just out of sight, a little light almost...
"It did, but I didn't read all that. Look, Dirk, why
don't you do it yourself? You said you could use the net on your phone. I've got to clean up after Thor, and it's a full time
job. Not to mention my full time job as well."
"What?" murmured Dirk distractedly. "Oh, um, yes, yes
of course. I'll see you in a couple of months. Yes, bye." He then hung up. He glanced at the rhino through the corner of his
eye. Yes, there was definitely a little light up there, dim and purple, and almost invisible if you weren't looking out for
it. He looked at the clipboard, found an address, and rang Jimmy.
The two of them sat in the car outside the vast house
of the first real estate agent on Dirk's list. There were three, but Dirk was quite confident that they were all up to the
same thing. Now they just had to wait for someone to make a move. This unfortunately meant Dirk had to talk to Jimmy again.
Dirk hard actually found it quite hard to locate Jimmy.
The kangaroo had not been at the apartment and it was only when Dirk, taking a cab back, had seen the car parked outside a
large house in Beverly Hills that he found him. Jimmy had gone to a fancy dress party. He explained to Dirk that, over the
last eight weeks, he had been going to a large number of them, and was proving to be something of a hit with the ladies. Now,
as they sat in the car outside the mansion, Dirk dared to broach the subject.
"All I'm asking is why you want to go to parties, that's
"Just 'cos I'm a kangaroo doesn't mean I enjoy sitting
around eating grass. I like beer and dancing with girls as much as the next man." Jimmy was sullen, as he'd been dragged away
just as he was getting to know a charming movie director who was trying to convince him to star in her new film, There
Is A Rhinoceros Loose In L.A. He was to star as the rhinoceros. The idea of a leaping rhinoceros armed with a heavy machine
gun was so patently ridiculous that Jimmy loved it.
"But why do you want to dance with human women for Christ
sake? What about kangaroo girls?"
"Would you sleep with a female kangaroo?" Jimmy couldn't
actually pout, but he was trying to anyway.
"I'm not a bloody kangaroo, Jimmy. Of course I wouldn't.
It's not natural for a man to lie with a marsupial." Dirk sighed. They'd been arguing about this for about and hour now.
"No, the reason you don't want to sleep with a doe kangaroo
is because they're absolutely bloody hideous. Think about it. They evolved in Australia. The place is so bloody empty that
you only see one female every couple of years anyway. You're not gonna care what they look like, you're gonna be so desperate
for a shag that you'd sleep with a three-legged sheep if it wasn't for the damn fences. All that boxing that the males do?
That's not us fighting over the females."
"No! We're doing each other a favour."
"Yeah, we're getting each other so punch-drunk that
we don't recognise how foul the girls look."
"So you're saying that the sight of a female kangaroo
arouses no more passionate feelings in you than it does in me?" Dirk asked, but he was no longer paying attention. There seemed
to be activity in the house.
"None whatsoever. Anyway, why are we waiting out here?
I thought you said this guy could take us where we're going." Jimmy had obstinately refused to listen to Dirk explaining the
nostril. He claimed it didn't matter to him at all, as he was a kangaroo. Dirk couldn't fault this logic, but Jimmy seemed
awfully selective about when and where it mattered that he was an Australian marsupial.
"He will. We're going to follow him. Wait a minute..."
Jimmy had climbed laboriously out of the car and was now hopping up the mansion's path. Dirk ran after him. "Where are you
going? We're going to follow him in the car!"
Jimmy reached the door and rang the bell. After a couple
of minutes the man who had given Dirk the cake and coffee in the zoo cafe answered the door, and seemed quite surprised to
see the offensive smoker and a large male kangaroo stood on his front doorstep. Jimmy smiled murderously. "Excuse me mate.
I'm a large, angry male kangaroo from the future and this is my friend Dirk."
"Hello," answered the man with drowsy cheer. He waggled
his finger at Dirk warningly. "I hope I'm not going to catch you smoking in a public place again."
Jimmy was a little put out about how little impact the
presence of a large, talking marsupial armed with a heavy machine gun on the doorstep was having on the houseowner. "Excuse
me, mate," he snapped.
"Yes?" smiled the man dreamily.
"I'm trying to frighten you here!" insisted the kangaroo.
"Oh right," nodded the man. "Do continue."
Jimmy let out a sigh and rolled his large watery eyes.
"If you look at these big, powerful hind legs you'll realise I can disembowel a lion with one kick." He waggled his hind leg
to emphasise his point. "We'd like you to take us with you through the nasal membranes of the rhinoceros in the zoo so that
I can go home. If you refuse, I'll kill you very painfully and then steal your car."
The man nodded genially. "Certainly I will."
"You will?" asked Dirk hopefully.
"Oh yes," said the man serenely. "I'm really very scared
now you see. You're really good at this threatening-behaviour lark. In fact I think I've wet myself."
Jimmy did not look convinced. "You have?"
"Well, no," admitted the man, "but I hope I did your
confidence some good pretending like that. Do come in."
His name was Darik, and he had been expecting them.
He had laid out on a small tray some intriguing sandwiches and some very large pints of the kind of beer that was so delicately
nice and dry that it self-evidently wasn't American, and had arranged two seats by the fire for them. They sat and they ate
while Darik smiled at them, and offered them things that they politely declined. Generally Darik seemed totally incapable
of hearing the word 'no' anyway.
"Anyway, you say that you want to go through the Nostril.
"No thank you. We have to go through the Nostril, yes.
But I'm not completely sure why yet. However, I believe you can show us how."
"Yes, yes, of course I can. But why didn't you ask eight
weeks ago when my boss hired you? Custard cream?" Darik beamed politely.
"No tha-... Your boss? Hired me? Us? What?" Dirk was
so surprised that he nearly bit through his own finger instead of the excessively large and succulent cucumber sandwich Darik
had forced into his hand.
"Well, I know that you said you needed time to prepare,
but spending eight weeks fannying around on our payroll really won't do, Dirk. I'll show you through the Nostril, of course,
I'll even do it tonight if you want, but we really can't be mucking around any longer. It all has to stop, you see." Darik
lifted the edge of the sandwich he was holding very slightly. "Pork, I think. Anyone?"
"Oh, yes, yes, I'd be glad to go through tonight. But
could you just refresh my memory about a few of the facts?" said Dirk hopefully, as Jimmy gratefully took the sandwich.
"Oh, certainly, certainly. Which ones do you need? Brandy,
"Not for me thank you. If you could just tell me, oh,
say, everything, from the beginning to the end?" Dirk noticed Jimmy slipping several items of food and at least one bottle
of something pleasantly alcoholic into a bag, and decided it wasn't really his problem if a lethally psychotic kangaroo wanted
to steal food from a maddened weirdo in downtown L.A. Probably happened every day anyway.
"All of it? Oh, all right then. Do have a refill though,
Dirk, it's a terribly long story and I always find I need a good drink afterwards."