Letting the Fox Out of the Bag

Tale Spin Fan Fic

by Katie Sullivan

Chapter 5

After quite literally blood, sweat and tears, the rebuilding of Cabo Orgulloso was complete. There were still scars, both mental and physical, but the island's inhabitants again had roofs over their heads, boats at their docks, and food on their tables.

The effort did not come cheaply, however. Supplies were brought in from Cuba and Jamaica, and it was impossible to acquire it all by the usual tactics of a pirate. The Iron Vulture came in very handy, of course, but there were some services which simply could not be plundered. Many a hefty bribe changed hands, and at times legitimate business deals were conducted, much to the disdain of the pirates. In the end, the shipment of gold buillion Don Karnage had delighted in just before Dolores' arrival was used up. The loss was disappointing, but reviving his home island was more important. And there was more plunder where that came from! In his absence he expected the pilots of Cape Suzette to have grown complacent. Many a promising pillaging prospect awaited him when he returned.

First, though, there was one more task to be completed on Cabo Orgulloso: the fiesta! When the island was finally liveable again, its inhabitants planned a grand celebration to reward themselves for all their hard work. Even Don Karnage conceded to letting his crew join the fun. They had, after all, done an enormous amount of labor, and refusing them permission to join the party would have been a recipie for mutiny.

Don Karnage's cousin on his father's side, Miguel, sailed in from Jamaica to help with the rebuilding, and now was the informal head of entertainment. Miguel was a scruffy, laid-back, 30-something grey wolf. He wasn't a pirate, exactly, although he certainly wasn't a reputable type. He preferred to spend his time fishing, playing music, and cheating tourists into buying tacky seashell knick-knacks. He did have a wonderful singing voice. But, like most Karnages, he was fully aware of his good points and never hesitated to showcase them. As soon as the crews had the temporary stage built in the backyard of Gonzalo and Lorita's villa, Miguel commandeered it. Before long, he was rattling away on a steel drum and belting out a calypso tune at the top of his lungs.

The celebration was just getting underway, but already a large percentage of the pirates were drunk. The Karnage family maintained a little more dignity, sitting up on the wide porch above the squalor of their crews. The entire clan was there, from all over the Caribbean, numbering about fifty. Most were wolves, but a smattering of foxes represented Lorita's side. Two faces were missing, however: Don Felipe Karnage and his lady, Scarlet.

The latter was still inside, preparing for the party. She scurried around the guest bedroom of the villa: an airy room with a tall ceiling, decorated with old Spanish charm. She wore a strapless plum-colored gown, one of her favorites, but was unable to decide on just the right accessories. Her temper was beginning to smoulder. She was missing out on all the fun! None of the other pirates had to worry about choosing the right jewelry! Of course, none of them would be dancing with the Captain...

A frown wrinkled her forehead as she stood at the mirror, trying first one necklace, then another. Suddenly, it hit her. The black velvet box in which she kept the Humberfeather Diamond was missing! It was usually tucked safely within her main jewelry box, away from the greedy fingers of the rest of the crew. But now it was gone! That was why nothing seemed right!

Simultaneous panic and fury welled in her chest, and she clenched her fists. How dare someone steal her rightfully stolen diamond? It was her most prized possession! And she was the Captain's lady! How dare they?!

Scarlet was about to go looking for the thief with her favorite dagger when the door opened and Don Karnage strolled casually into the room, his hands folded behind his back. "Hola, mi amor. ¿Estás lista para la fiesta?" There was an undefinable twinkle in his eyes. ["Hello, my love. Are you ready for the party?"]

"No! My diamond is gone!"

"Really?" He seemed enfuriatingly blasé about it. "Which one?"

"The Humberfeather Diamond, of course!" she snapped. "It was right in my jewelry box, here, and now it's gone! Someone must have stolen it!"

Karnage made a great show of pondering the mystery. "Hmm... It was in a black box with the velvet-type covering, yes-no?"

"Yes." Scarlet sifted through her jewelry box as if searching for a loved one lost in quicksand. "It has to be here. Who would have the gall to steal from me? But it's just not here. It must have been stolen. I would never lose it!" As she dug in vain through the tangle of jewelry, Karnage slowly came up behind her.

"You know, querida, I believe you are correct. Someone did steal your diamond. Me."

"You?" She tried to turn to look at him, but he held tight to her shoulders and made her face the mirror. "What...?" He swept her hair back and draped a dazzling gold and pearl necklace around her neck. Set in the center of a ring of rubies was the Humberfeather Diamond. Scarlet gasped and put a hand to her chest, struck speechless by the unexpected gift.

"I hope you are not minding, but I thought perhaps you would prefer it this way. I was remembering when we first met, how you said in my plane that you wanted the diamond made into a necklace or something. I wasn't so sure about the 'or something', so I had this done instead. You like it?" He put his arms around her and enjoyed her reaction in the mirror, his chin on her left shoulder.

"Like it?" Scarlet breathed, fingering the heavy necklace as if assuring herself it was real. "I love it!" Her shock gave way to a delighted smile.

He placed a light kiss on her neck. "Good. You deserve it, querida," he said quietly. "You have no idea how much help you have been these weeks to me. Without you at my side, I do not know how I could have gotten through. You have stayed with me through the tick and the fin--"

"Thick and thin."

"Whatever. And you have not been judgementalling. You have accepted my family, and my history, and my eskeletons in the closet, and...and you have accepted me. I did not expect that. But I am appreciating it, more than you know."

She grinned and leaned into his embrace. "My pleasure."

"You are more special to me than any woman before. And, Scarlet, I know I have not said exactly these words, but, uh--" He stepped back and fidgeted slightly, his eyes lowered. She waited patiently, clasping his hands. Karnage cleared his throat and looked up, losing himself in the depths of her slate blue eyes. "Scarlet, I... I want you to know, I... Now listen, because the Great Pirate only says things like this once in a blue noon!" He paused and began again with unusual earnestness. "Scarlet...I love you."

Like a sunrise, her expectant face brightened into a wide smile. "Oh, Felipe, I've wa--"

But before she could finish, he dipped her back as if ending a dance and kissed her. Several long seconds later, Scarlet had completely forgotten what she was saying. And it didn't really matter.

"Now," he said, running his hands from her ears, down her neck and arms, to her waist, "shall we join the party?"

"What party?" she asked dreamily.

"You know what party, estupida. Now come along and be meeting everyone. What is the saying...'Places to do, things to see and people to go'?"

"Something like that." She took a slow, deep breath and ran a hand through her dishevled hair. "And, querido?"

"Yes, my beautiful buccaneer?"

"I love you, too."

He took a moment to gaze fondly at her, then grabbed her hand and started for the door. "I know. Now hurry up your pretty self. We are late."

She gave a small, tolerant laugh and allowed herself to be led away.

The Karnage family rarely gathered in one place, so there were numerous reunions and conversations going on all over the patio. They were a distinguished bunch, for pirates: well-groomed and poised, most with a self-important air. Miguel was leading the band in a somewhat sedate number, and a few couples were dancing at the end of the patio, bathed in light from a faintly-colored string of lanterns. Below on the lawn, the inebriated crews lolled in the grass, singing off-key verses with off-color lyrics, and reveling amid the rapidly emptying rum barrels.

The din dulled considerably when the double doors opened and an elegant, golden-haired vision emerged. Scarlet hesitated for a moment, intentionally remaining framed in the doorway, as the partygoers gawked at her necklace. The Humberfeather Diamond was a sight to behold, and its new setting of gold, pearls and rubies was stunning. Combined with her flowing, plum-colored evening gown and hourglass figure, she easily became the star attraction.

After a suitable interval, Don Karnage appeared next to her, grinning proudly. She raised a hand primly to the level of her shoulder, and he took it, leading her to the empty area at the end of the patio. Amid a sea of curious eyes, they began dancing.

Karnage always loved putting on a grand display. He was an excellent dancer, anyway, but put on special airs to impress his long-estranged relatives. Scarlet went along with the performance, grinning from ear to ear. And it worked, drawing the eyes of everyone at the party.

So this was Gonzalo and Lorita's long-lost son. A foxwolf hybrid. The father of the new art of air piracy. He who had plundered Cape Suzette, if only briefly. And who was this exotic blonde at his side? There was clearly chemistry between them. Where did that gigantic diamond come from? Was it a gift? Even perhaps an engagement gift?

Speculation, rumors and gossip rippled through the crowd, and although Karnage and Scarlet could only hear snatches of what was said, they enjoyed every minute of it. If there was one thing he enjoyed more than pillaging, it was being the center of attention.

When the song ended, he dipped her to the floor and then led her to an empty table, making a point to ignore the stares. He gallantly pulled out her chair for her as she was seated. Winded from the exertion and the thrill, Scarlet tried to catch her breath through an involuntary smile. Karnage made no effort to hid his grin. "We have the eyes of everyone, yes-no?" She nodded and subconsciously put a hand to her new necklace, enjoying the touch of smooth jewels. "You know," he continued, "this is a strange position for me. Usually I use the Spanish for privacy, but now you and I can be secret with the English, yes?"

She took a moment to ponder this, smiled in agreement and gratefully accepted a crystal wine glass from a passng cockateel waiter. The bird paused to offer a drink to Karnage, who held up a hand to decline. Scarlet flashed him a significant look, and he shrugged. "Your radiant beauty is all the hallucination I need tonight, gracias." He reached across the table, took her hand and kissed it. She beamed and modestly lowered her eyes as the hum of gossip was briefly augmented.

A stocky wolf in a dark green jacket approached. "So you've finally decided to rejoin us, Felipe!" he said in Spanish. His deep voice was of the sort accustomed to shouting orders into the rigging of a ship. He clapped a hearty hand onto Karnage's back.

Don Karnage tried not to look winded by the sudden blow. "Yes, I have returned, at least for now. Joaquim, have you met my girlfriend, Scarlet?"

"I have not, no," the other said with telltale eagerness, clearly as curious about her as the rest of the family.

"Then allow me to introduce the prettiest pirate I know, Scarlet Hindenfur. Scarlet, this is my uncle, Joaquim. He is the brother of my father, and--" he gestured at the melodramatically singing wolf onstage-- "the father of Miguel."

"A pleasure," Joaquim said, nodding his head at her.

"Good evening," she said. She was a bit distanced, however, by Don Karnage's choice of words. Speaking in Spanish, he had called her his "novia." This meant "girlfriend", true, but could also be translated as fianceé or bride. A cold tingle of excitement ran down to the tip of her tail at the thought that perhaps, just maybe, he meant something deeper. His casual demeanor indicated otherwise, but she could daydream...

"Tell me, Felipe," Uncle Joaquim said, "where did you meet such a flower?"

"I am sorry to say it was nothing more exciting than a lunch counter in Cape Suzette. But things livened up after that." He looked to her with a twinkle in his eyes that recalled their adventures on Owmaitoe Island. Scarlet grinned and sipped her drink. The wine was of a fine vintage, and it danced on her tounge. As if she needed an excuse to feel giddy. Here she was, wearing a necklace that would make queens seethe in jealousy, among pirate nobility, in a tropical paradise, and in love. If life could get better, she didn't know how.

She suddenly realized that her companion was still speaking with his uncle. She tried to pick up the conversation again, but their fluid use of Spanish left her mind in a whirl. Although an exact translation was too much to handle, she was able to understand the general ideas. Karnage was bragging about his accomplishments in the Pacific, and Joaquim was spinning equally inflated tales about his exploits in the Caribbean.

It was only the first of a seemingly endless stream of reunions that night. Each and every member of the family found an excuse to stop by for a chat. Conspicuously, Gonzalo and Lorita Karnage kept their distance, albeit for different reasons. Lorita was too busy playing hostess to sit and talk for long. Gonzalo, however, had no such motive. As he had since their arrival, he was cold and distant toward his only surviving son.

Later in the evening, Miguel coaxed everyone into a group dance. By that point the crews were too drunk to stand, so only the Karnages participated. Old-fashioned dance music filled the humid air, and they began moving with stately steps, flowing in a complex pattern across the patio. A few of the youngest members of the family ran through, giggling, underfoot, until their mothers scolded them into obedience.

Don Karnage and Scarlet began the dance together, of course, but before long were separated as lines of people swirled and hopped in a maelstrom of color and noise. This was to be expected, and Scarlet enjoyed the close-hand glimpse of the other men in the family. Clearly her current beau was not the only attractive face in the Karnage dynasty.

From out of nowhere, she suddenly found herself hand-in-hand with Gonzalo Karnage. A sharp intake of breath betrayed her surprise. The silver-furred wolf kept a forceful grip on her hand and arm, yet his face remained neutral. "Meet me in the north garden at midnight. Alone," he murmured to her in Spanish, taking extra care in his pronounciation to ensure her understanding. His voice was deep and commanding, and Scarlet found herself completely unable to refuse. Her eyes wide, she merely nodded. Then, as quickly as he had appeared, the distinguished pirate melted back into the sea of whirling dancers. Scarlet was swept blindly on in the current of people, her mind twisting into knots.

Meet him in the north garden. At midnight. Alone. The infamous Don Gonzalo Karnage. Effective ruler of the island. Fierce pirate captain. Her significant other's father. What in the world could he want? He was hardly on speaking on terms with his son. Was he angry with her, as well? Would he try to convince her to stay away from Felipe? Tell her lies to drive them apart? How could she tell if they were lies? Would he interrogate her? Even, perhaps, was he lusting after her? Like father, like son? Meet me in the north garden at midnight. Alone. Whowhatwherewhywhenhow?

When the dance at last concluded, Scarlet shakily headed back to her seat and downed the rest of the wine in a single gulp. Don Karnage was at her side momentarily, a concerned hand on her back. "Are you all right, mi amor? You are looking pale."

She shook her head, wincing at the buzz from the sudden intake of liquor. "I'm fine," she said unconvincingly. Should she tell him about his father's strange request?

"Are you sure? I would not want anything to happen to my sweet Scarlet." He kissed the back of her neck, which did little to ease her lightheadedness.

"I'm fine, really. I just got a little dizzy dancing."

He pulled out her chair for her again. "Then sit and decompose your beautiful self."

"That's 'compose'," she said with a slight grimace, sinking into the chair.

"Yes, of course."

Suddenly, she blurted, "What time is it?"

Karnage shrugged and glanced unenthusiastically around the patio for a clock. "What does it matter? Tonight there are no schedules, no worrying. ¡Celebramos!" He said the last part loudly in Spanish, and a few nearby foxes cheered and made a toast. ["We celebrate!"]

Scarlet managed a smile, but felt little like celebrating. Karnage's cousin Anita bounced up and began joking with him about the apparent obesity of the Iron Vulture, playfully denying its ability to stay airborne. While he indignantly defended the airship, she took the opportunity to sneak back into the villa in search of a clock. When she located an ancient grandfather clock in the foyer, she discovered it was already a quarter to twelve. Only fifteen minutes before she was expected to meet Gonzalo. Alone. In the north gardens.

She re-joined the party in body if not in spirit and sat quietly, her nervous heart beating away the seconds. Nine hundred such seconds later, the bass boom of the grandfather clock vibrated through the air, audible above the clamor of the fiesta. Twelve long, solemn bells. Midnight.

Don Karnage was now surrounded by a cluster of his younger cousins, a little diapered fox on his knee. He was relating a tale of his adventures as an air pirate. Scarlet didn't need to hear his words to know that he was exaggerating horribly. The children around him were enraptured, staring wide-eyed at him. The toddler on his knee sucked its thumb. Through her anxiety, she managed a faint, fond smile. He wouldn't miss her anytime soon.

Scarlet set down her now empty wine glass, stood and wiped her sweaty palms on her dress. She briefly questioned her decision to leave her dagger in the guest room, but decided she was probably outmatched by the experienced pirate Captain. No, whatever it was he wanted, she would have to handle it with her wits alone.

While no one was watching, she silently slipped away, out of the pool of light created by the party lanterns. As she followed the uneven rock path through tropical ferns and bushes, the music faded to a distant hum, like a radio with the volume turned down. The path led around the side of the stately mansion, to the north side of the property. Though in a way the entire island was Karnage property. The Caribbean stretched to the starry horizon through newly-replanted palm trees. Somewhere in the foliage, a parrot squawked, and she involuntarily flinched. Frowning, she gathered her courage and continued on. When she reached a small round plaza, she stopped to get her bearings. This was the dead center of the north gardens, she deduced--regretting her choice of words. A large fountain graced the center of the plaza, its portly nude cherubs spilling trickles of water from bottomless decanters.

But where was Don Gonzalo Karnage? Scarlet stood facing the fountain, fidgeting inconspicuously with her necklace and trying to look sure of herself.

"Punctual. A good quality in a woman."

She whirled around to find the source of the sudden deep voice.

Don Gonzalo was standing just beyond a corner of the building, half-hidden in shadow. He laid a hand on the wall, making him seem like an extention of the ancient villa itself. Starlight caught the highlights in his silver fur, giving him an almost ethereal aura.

Scarlet's courage and voice failed her, and she merely stood, staring at him like a startled deer.

He stepped out into the plaza, losing the disconcerting lighting. He wasn't visibly armed. "So you are my son's lover," he said matter-of-factly in Spanish.

She nodded dumbly.

"You have known him a long time?"

Scarlet finally found her voice, and tried to sound confident. "About a year, Señor."

"So you were not with him when he pillaged Cape Suzette."

"No. I wish I had been."

"But it is true, what is said...that he pillaged the city...burned and destroyed and stole?"

"Yes, sir. I saw the newsreels myself."

Gonzalo was pacing in wide circles around her, increasing her unease. He put a thoughtful hand to his furry chin, his eyes shadowed by thick eyebrows. "You are also a member of his crew, yes?"

She nodded proudly.

"Forgetting romantic bias...would you say he is a good captain? Does he keep the men in line?"

"Well...he once made them clean the galley with toothbrushes," she said with a little grin. "And you've seen yourself how he made them work to rebuild the island." She found herself emboldened by his nods and intent listening.

"Yes..." Gonzalo stopped pacing and faced her with a stony expression. "He has told you all, correct? About his brother, Ignacio--" Speaking the name seemed to pain him. "And Lorenzo Calaveras." He spoke the second name like a curse, baring his sharp teeth.

Scarlet swallowed. "Er...yes, sir. He did."

"And I suppose he told you how I was out to sea, leaving the family alone, and how he seized the opportunity to steal my right of vengeance? How he heroically avenged his brother's death?" His tone was sarcastic, accusitory and bitter.

Scarlet's brow creased, and she shifted her weight into a more defensive stance. "No. He told me how you were at sea, so he felt it was his duty to defend the family honor. He told me Ignacio was...upset and confused," she said, remembering the Karnage dislike for the word "crazy". "He told me Ignacio ran to fight Lorenzo Calaveras, and that he couldn't stop him. He told me that after...afterwards...his first thought was revenge. Restoring the family honor. He was so consumed by that anger and vendetta that it has really only been now that he has had clarity of mind enough to grieve. And he told me that he wanted you to teach him the ways of piracy, but that you refused. I understand he trained under a group of pirates in Italy. But he never spoke of 'stealing your right of vengeance'."

The force of her words surprised them both, and there was a moment of silence.

At last, his expression still unchanged, Don Gonzalo nodded in finality. "Gracias, señorita. You have told me what I wanted to know. You are dismissed."

Scarlet hesitated briefly, but the dignified old wolf turned and disappeared around the corner from whence he came. She took a slow, deep breath and released it, wondering what to make of the odd encounter. It was impossible to glean any emotion from his grizzled face. Sweat misted her body, only noticable now that the tension was broken. She dipped her hand into the fountain and flicked some of the cool moisture onto her bare neck, face and shoulders. Thus refreshed, she began strolling back toward the party. She had hoped to satisfy the questions bulging in her mind, but instead had simply replaced them with a whole new set of things to ponder.

She put a hand to her temple and sighed. Why did life have to be so darn complicated?

On to Chapter 6

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This story and the characters Scarlet, Dolores, Lorita, Gonzalo, Ignacio, Miranda, and Lorenzo Calaveras are © Katie Sullivan and may not be used without permission. Don Karnage, the Iron Vulture, the Air Pirates, Mad Dog, Dumptruck, Cape Suzette, Tale Spin and all related indica, etc, are © The Walt Disney Company and are used without permission for non-profit entertainment purposes only.