The Aardvark Always Rings Twice
Leiningen was beginning to worry. There was something out there in the jungle; something he couldn’t identify. Whatever it was, it had his horses uneasy, also. He had set up some trip wires on the paths that went near to his bungalow and rigged them to small bells. The wires were mostly set low, but there were a few at about knee height.
He sat in the darkness of his veranda, listening. His gin and tonic made it somewhat more bearable, but the hours began to drag. The moon was full and the mosquitoes were voracious. He slapped at them as quietly as possible. His Weatherby Express was in his lap, loaded with heavy rounds. He intended to dispatch the intruder, no matter how large it was; elephant, jungle cat, whatever.
The moon was lower in the African night now, casting long shadows across the clearing. A leopard screamed in the night, far away. Some smaller animal was in the bushes at the edge of the clearing, its yellow eyes gleaming in the light of the brilliant moon. The only activity so far had been a wandering aardvark that got tangled in the wires, causing the bells to jangle. The horses whinnied nervously, either at the unaccustomed sound or just maybe it was something else. The bells went off again; probably that damned clumsy aardvark was still stumbling around. Tomorrow he’d have to simplify the trip wires, maybe allow smaller things to pass below.
He shifted position again, trying to find a comfortable spot in the rattan chair. Just then, he heard a new sound, and whatever made it was close. In all his years here in the jungle he’d never heard anything quite like it. His heart raced, he was hardly breathing as he leaned forward, trying to see. A cloud drifted across the moon, cloaking everything in inky blackness. He hardly dared blink.
Suddenly several bells began ringing at once. Something was running toward the back of the house, crashing through the undergrowth in its mad rush. It was big, whatever it was, he could tell by the heavy footfalls and the noises of the brush as it was thrust aside. He jumped to his feet, rifle at the ready, but the sounds had stopped as suddenly as they had begun. Sweat was running down into his eyes, and there was a small river of it going down his back. He wiped his eyes, trying to clear his vision.
He stepped off the veranda and headed slowly toward the back of the house, listening, watching. He stopped frequently to let his eyes adjust to the dim light, hoping to catch a glimpse of the intruder.
Just then he stopped, sensing that something was stalking him, moving up silently behind him. His heart hammered, his palms were slimy with sweat as he slowly brought up the rifle and began his turn. He could tell that whatever it was had stopped, perhaps waiting for him to complete his turn before pouncing.
He spun around, dropping to one side as he brought the heavy rifle up to his cheek. He was starting to squeeze the trigger when realization set in, and he stopped.
“Fluffy, you silly kitty.” He said, with irritation, “Where have you been? I’ve been worried sick. Was that you doing that screeching out there? Come inside, I’ll get you a dish of milk.”