2019-07-04 - Playing Dead is Not Laying Down


Another encounter in Central Park leaves Pepper wondering if the little pale Jackal is much more than he appears to be.

Log Info:

Storyteller: None
Date: Thu Jul 4 05:23:58 2019
Location: Sidepath

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It's been at least a week, but since happening across the cheeky little jackal Rosebud and his human, Pepper finds reasons to cross through Central Park more often. Always during daylight, though, she's not naive. And, she keeps a proper leash in her bag (a different one, with its shoulder strap still intact) along with small containers of whatever food she's chosen for lunch that day. Or, of she chose salad, something separate like bits of roast turkey, buttered green beans, and the like. Things she thinks will be palatable but not potentially toxic. And, pretty much every day she's taken said little treats back with her or offered them to some other person passing through with a dog. No real hardship.

Today, she's received an important email on her backup phone, and detours away from the sidewalk she'd been following to sit on a park bench and quickly type up a reply.

God, she misses her phone. And damn is she spoiled that she misses one phone over another.

His sense of caution was hard-earned nearly a century ago in Shanghai's own Roaring Twenties. As such, for a week, Ambrose avoided Central Park. Such is the art of the con — not being immediately present to engender further suspicion and to allow time to wear away fine details of interaction.

But…it has been a week, and curiosity is a double-edged sword in the master-thief. As such, he picks his way through the green-belt nearby on silent paws in his jackal shift. The bluejays above scold as they would for any predatory species and he glances up at them with a wrinkle of his nose. This would translate to a smirk were he human. If only the birds knew. But what's this…?

He recognizes that red hair — and oh, the flurry of fingers at her phone — yes, Miss Potts, of all the people he's seen in the Park thus far. The large ears perk. He ghosts out of the treeline behind Pepper and swings around to the end of the bench. Pale front paws land on the far end, putting him out of immediate reach, and he lets out a quiet yelp of greeting, still cheery by the mannerisms of his canine form.

At the diamond-studded slip-collar, a silver tag — look at that! Oh, it has bold-font writing on it, fairly easy to read even at this distance. On the front:


On its backing:


Pepper hits send a split second before the soft yip and she looks over and immediately smiles at the endearing little rascal.

And then she sees the tag.

She laughs delightedly, though when it turns and she sees the side that says the jackal's name is not Rosebud, she chooses to joke back at the chipper little quadruped. "Hello again, Not Rosebud. I was wondering when you'd slip your leash again."

She tucks her phone into her bag and pulls out the small container. Today's offering: beef tips left over from her lunch.

Ooh, this is a particularly frabjous day, calloo callay — beef tips. Ambrose slips his pink tongue along his black-lined lips and daintily hops up on the bench. A few mincing steps brings him closer to Pepper and then he sits down, those humongous ears forwards in plain interest.

His oddly-colored eyes flick from the container and to her face. The jackal's irises can't seem to decide whether or not to be golden, green, or blue and the light doesn't help in making a decision. One can see his brown nose wiggle as he leans in to sniff a bit before straightening in his sit again. With an exaggerated poise, he puffs out his lean chest and even lifts up his chin, as if to relate, 'I am a very good dog, look at me, I deserve a treat.'

She finds me so charming. I am beyond pleased. If only everyone handed me choice tidbits when I am in my usual guise. I can't imagine — someone handing me the key to their safe and smiling while they did it. I'd be flabbergasted, he muses to himself mentally.

"Where are your daddies, Not Rosebud? Did you run off and leave them searching for you again?" She hasn't opened the container yet. "That's not very nice of you, you know. They might out there worrying. Or, more likely, cursing your furry little rear for being an escape artist. Let me guess, Kent shorts your dinner whenever you do this, and your other daddy sneaks you the rest of your full portion. It's honestly impressive that you're not a little butterball."

Despite all of her friendly scolding, though, she opens the container and takes one morsel of beef tip out to offer. Another test. Is he has soft-mouthed taking food from fingers as he was eating from a fork?

Oh, milady, if only you knew what Kent threatens to do. — and the Jackal laughs internally. He wags his darkly-tipped tail in a sinuous motion on the slatted bench seat, the motion very serpentine, but allows himself little more than a crinkle of whiskers in an approximation of a smile.

And you've not seen me shirtless, so I'll allow you the assumption that I'd gain a lick of weight, he adds as he leans forwards. Daintily, the pale jackal lips the piece of beef tip from Pepper's fingers. Not a touch of teeth to her skin occurs as he's impeccably mindful of his actions.

And it's at this point that there is very much definitive proof that Pepper is neither telepathic nor Aesir. She has NO idea what's got the little jackal wagging and flicking his whiskers other than the anticipation of a morsel of beef tip.

"Of course you've got impeccable manners." She's certain that that's due to Kent. Not-Rosebud's other daddy seemed … more lackadasical. The sort that would be less consistent with helping a quadruped learn and maintain manners. "But I'll bet you're still not microchipped, and that tag is useless without proper contact information."

Goaded on by the pleasurable canine response to a beef tip, Ambrose shuffles a little closer in his sit. He licks his lips in clear communication that the tidbit tasted wonderful and looks from the container to Pepper's face once again.

I was raised a gentleman before you were a twinkle in your mother's eye, much less she in her own mother's in turn. You've no idea the gentleman I can be. There is a wistful note that he's so far been unable to convince Pepper of this, but the master-thief reminds himself that he has all the time in the world. So much time.

The jackal does lift a hind foot and itch at the collar, however. Each kick rotates it farther around his neck until, at one point, the tag sits between his shoulderblades. Then, as if he never executed the cheeky maneuver, he sits up again and indulges Pepper in a soft murr of demand for another beef tip.

That's how he really feels about tags and microchips, apparently.

Would Ambrose honestly want Pepper to know that about him? Know that and risk her potential reaction to said knowledge? But, as established, all she knows is the cheeky little canine shuffled a bit closer to try and beg more of the beef tips from her, and he might have a flea.

"All right, Not-Rosebud, let's up the ante a little." She takes a second piece, holds it in front of Ambrose, then lowers it to almost level with the bench seat. "Down, please."

Yes, she said please.

Up the ante…? Of course, the narrow-nosed head with those radar-dish ears rotates curiously to one side. The scent of the meaty niblet overrides human concern fairly quickly. His brown nose dips to follow the descent of the beef tip without losing the straight set of front legs and of course, he pauses, holding the drop of head. Those off-green eyes rise to Pepper's face and linger. Sloooowly, he rotates back his ears.

He sits up straight again and gives her a fairly human-like squint.

Then, there's a huge sigh — huff — and Ambrose (being the recalcitrant Jackal he is) decides to go down. And then roll over and play dramatically dead, tongue hanging out of the side of his mouth.

Oh yeah, this little rascal is way too smart for his own good. And as amused as she is by his playing dead antics, she's not fooled by them. "Oh, what a shame. You've died. I guess that means you don't need any more of this food."

And she moves to put the morsel back in the container. Slowly though, to give the jackal time to realize his treat is likely going away and react.

Mostly she's curious to see what stunt he'll try next.

A quiet 'urf!' escapes him as Ambrose rolls onto his side. Surprise is writ clear on his features despite their canine build. Drat you, woman. The jackal quickly gets to his paws and sits once more, his large ears flat to the sides of his head. Another sigh, huff!

Then, it's up onto his haunches with his paws tucked against the creamy fur of his chest in something akin to 'sit pretty'. He balances without wavering and even tilts his head to one side for an additional facet of charm.

Stop laughing, KENT! …I want more of the ruddy beef tips, he shoots down the kythe to the house and its occupant, undoubtably amused at his antics.

The morsel is mere inches from going back in the container when Not-Rosebud reacts and huffs then sits up to beg. But, as clearly amused as she is by her smile, she shakes her head gently.

"Ah, that's not what I said. Even if it IS cavity-inducingly adorable." She holds up the morsel again. "Do you need me to remind you?" So, she does. She holds the bit of beef tip level with his snout, then lowers it steadily but not too quickly toward the bench seat. "Down, please."

She really is quite enamored with this idea, Ambrose muses to himself as he collapses back into a sit again. He looks from the morsel of beef tip and to her again. There's the sense of gears turning behind his sparkling eyes and then a canid grin. It flashes teeth for a second before he dips his nose. Stooping, he sniffs at the beef tip before…

…he tries to sneak it from her pinched hold with a markedly focused curl of his tongue. If she tries to pull her hand away, the jackal continues his escapade of licking at her fingers, even taking a step or two more in following the retreat.

Pepper doesn't pull her hand away as the cheeky little jackal tries to steal the morsel from her. She's done enough dog training in her college years to remember how to keep a treat from being stolen. He can lick at it all he wants, but that's all he'll get. Is to lick at it.

"Stubborn, aren't you? If I can get a Ridgeback to do this, you aren't going to win, Not-Rosebud." Well, unless he bites her, but that would mean the end of treats altogether.


Ambrose sits up again and lets out a murring huff this time, unamused by the lack of beef tip gained by his successive and varied attempts. But maybe… He rises to his paws and then bows in a spine-lengthening stretch from front toes to tail tip. Then, light of foot and graceful of balance, he leaps up atop the thin backing of the bench itself. Like a cat alongside a fenceline, he prowls until he's looming over Pepper's shoulder and sniffing loudly near her ear. Then, showcasing supernatural balance, he sits upon the narrow edge and places a paw on her shoulder.

Milady, it really is in your best interests to give me the goddamn beef tip, he thinks at her, projecting earnesty in every canine nuance of his frame.

Pepper holds onto the morsel as well as the container with the other remaining pieces firmly as the little canid tries yet another tactic. "Really. Is it really such a hardship to put your chest on this bench seat? I guess you really aren't hungry anymore."

The container's seal pops into place in her hand and she puts it back into her bag, then actually starts move the morsel in her hand toward her own mouth.

…I can't believe you're going to place that in your mouth after I've licked it, milady. I am aware of how clean my mouth is, but you are not. He still sniggers internally at the thought and it translates to a flickering of the tips of his ears alongside a squint. Still, Ambrose isn't going to linger to see if she'll actually eat the saliva-soaked beef tip. Instead, with a graceful bip-bop of motion, he drops to the seat and then to the ground.

Pacing to the patch of bare ground beside the bench, he begins pawing at the dirt — or rather, digging lines in it with a middling front claw. One-two-three and four, in crooked alignment if not straight execution.

It reads 'HI'.

The jackal looks expectantly at the woman in a level of smuggery on par with felines.

Pepper doesn't actually put the morsel into her mouth, because Not-Rosebud hops down just in time. She watches him, expecting the little canid to take off now that there's no longer any food on offer, And then gapes openly at what he's scratched into the bare ground.

"What the…" Her hand has fallen into her lap by this point, and her eyes are flicking back and forth between Ambrose and the word 'HI'.

"Wait." She holds her hand as if asking for a moment, the morsel of beef tip STILL there between her fingers. She says slowly and carefully, "You're not just someone's exotic pet, are you?" Her eyes now shrewdly laser-focused on the canine.

Oh, but how that canine grin takes on an extra dimension. It's probably the coy gleam in the Jackal's eyes and the subtle rotational tilt of his ears.

I've no idea what you're talking about, milady… I'm just a well-trained exotic pet. Rising from his sit, the pale jackal continues holding Pepper's gaze as he extends a single front paw in balance and executes a bow over it, the other paw held tucked to his chest. His tail flickers in a mockery of a wag twice, swish-swish. The creature then turns to trot away towards the greenbelt again — nay, not trot, prance in his glee at leaving her own curiosity unassuaged…

…for now.

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