Amberville

CHAPTER 1

Early one morning at the end of April there was pounding on the door to Eric Bear and Emma Rabbit’s apartment on brick-red Uxbridge Street. The morning rain had let up, the wind had died down, and the sun was shining anew over Mollisan Town.

“Shut up and stop pounding,” mumbled Eric Bear to himself, pulling the blanket over his head.

But the blanket was too thin; the pounding on the door echoed painfully inside the bear’s head.

It was impossible to fall back asleep.

Yesterday had turned into a late and wet one. It had been the kind of evening when each and every stuffed animal seemed to have decided to go out. The restaurants up in Lanceheim were packed; along bright-violet Pfaffendorfer Tor the animals were thronging all the way from the Concert Hall, and the crowding at the bars along mustard-yellow Krünkenhagen was worse than on North Avenue during rush hour. Mammals and reptiles, fish and fowl, imaginary animals and even the occasional insect: all kinds of stuffed animals crowded into Lanceheim.

“Follow me!” Eric cried out when the animals on the sidewalk threatened to divide the group.

There had been five of them. Wolle Toad, Nicholas Cat, and a project leader from the advertising agency Wolle & Wolle whose name Eric didn’t know.

But it was Philip Baboon who walked at Eric’s side. This evening Baboon was the object of everyone’s attention. He represented the shoe company Dot. They had been searching for a new advertising agency for several months, and Wolle & Wolle were on their way to winning the pitch. Now only that last little push was required.

Eric Bear was ready to push.

Eric set his sights on a restaurant which was not too far away. From a distance he saw the neon sign’s bold yellow letters which read: “Parrot’s Bar & Grill.”

“Parrot’s,” said Eric to Philip Baboon. “Never had a boring moment there.”

In fact, Eric Bear had never even heard of the place, and he would most likely never be able to find it again. But the cursive neon letters reminded him of the Art Deco of his childhood, and anyway, up here one restaurant was pretty much like any other.

“Just so there aren’t any decadent females at Parrot’s,” Baboon said, giggling nervously. “I haven’t been out in almost twenty years, I don’t want to run into any…voluptuaries…the first thing I do.”

Philip Baboon was wearing a gray suit, a white shirt, and a dark-blue tie.

Over dinner he had related that his greatest interests were balance sheets, rates of turnover, and the snails he collected on the beach in Hillevie. Baboon still had his briefcase in hand as he walked beside Eric Bear. He would carry it the entire evening, as if it were a life buoy.

It was obvious to everyone that Philip Baboon wanted nothing more than to meet decadent females.

“Voluptuaries?” laughed Eric Bear. “I’m sure there might well be that sort at Parrot’s, unfortunately.”

Philip Baboon shivered with expectation.

A new series of brutal poundings was heard from the outside door.

Why don’t they ring the doorbell, like normal stuffed animals?

Eric Bear turned over in bed. Under the blanket he could smell his own breath. Gin martinis and vodka. Stale gin martinis and vodka. Had he been smoking yesterday? It felt like it on his tongue.

When they’d left Parrot’s Bar & Grill—because there hadn’t been any females who were sufficiently decadent for Baboon’s taste there—they were all thoroughly intoxicated. They ended up at a jazz club. A dark, cellar space which couldn’t possibly be in Lanceheim, but rather up in Tourquai.

“I know that we shouldn’t talk shop,” said Eric Bear.

He had a hard