She leaned forward to kiss me... and honestly, at that point I had pretty much forgotten that I was in a hurry to go anywhere. She tilted her head, the better to align those sexy Greek lips to mine...
And suddenly, I caught sight of a white smudge of facepaint just behind her right ear.
"Gaah! I knew it!" I snapped, shoving her away from me. "A goddamned panda spy!" The girl snapped straight up on the side of the bed, eyes wide, but she did not seem inclined to leave. Her hand drifted up to her ear, and felt of the smudge behind it, and she knew she'd been found out. "Who sent you? That maniac in the green dome?"
"He forced me!" she replied desperately. "He told me... if I found out why you resigned... I could go home!"
"And you believed him, huh?" I pushed off of the other side of the bed... thankfully, my head was aching much less now. Or maybe it was just the anger.
"Please!" she pleaded. "I've got to go home! I'm sure no one's been feeding my pet armadillo... he must be dead by now!"
"Nice try," I said. "Get out!"
The girl hovered a moment longer. Then, barking out an exasperated growl, she bounced off the bed and flounced out the door (which conveniently opened just a bit more quickly, to afford her a clean exit).
Once the door closed, I cursed aloud (though part of me knew I was just as exasperated about the fact that I hadn't gotten lucky). But before I could do or say another thing, that bee-beeping phone rang.
"You didn't have to be so rough on the girl," came the voice of Panda-man. "She was just doing her job."
"Next time, clean her up a bit better," I snarled. "You get an 'A' for effort, though."
"No... I'd give myself a 'B'," Panda-man stated. "Now, if you had told her what she wanted to know..."
"Just why do you want to know why I resigned?"
"Oh, it's not me. It's... call them my handlers."
"Ah, you have handlers, too? Who are they?"
"Sorry, it doesn't work that way," Panda-man stated. "You tell me why you resigned, and maybe I can accommodate you."
"Sorry. I don't deal with lackeys," I snapped. "Gotta go... I have a trip planned."
"See here," Panda-man said, "you're only making it difficult for yourself."
"Well, that's my choice."
"Not when it affects the harmony of the Zoo."
"This place will be plenty harmonious when I'm gone."
"You're missing the point, my boy. We need you to make it harmonious."
"Then, my boy, you're in a heap o' trouble."
I hung up before he could say another word. Then I headed for the door. I needed to get a better lay of the land, and plan my escape. I almost hit my head on the door... certainly at the behest of the green dome, it had chosen this occasion to open ver-ry slowly, forcing me to wait interminable seconds for the gap to widen enough to let me out. I knew that was not a good sign.
I stepped outside, and immediately froze, when I saw a phalanx of pandas standing in a neat row before me, and staring at me as if daring me to cross them. They were aligned in such a way as to leave me only one direction away from the house. I took it.