Did you miss Part 1? Here it is!
Part 2: Avoiding Mister VictorOf course, whenever you declare your intention to go Christmas shopping, it's always hard to stay on schedule. Many minutes were lost while Snuckles and Blackie raced around in excitement, helping Bully find his warm red duffel jacket and boots and scarf, poking his change purse to make certain he still had his money, and pointing out exactly what color iPod nano they wanted. "I would like da black one, Bully," said Blackie.
"Pink for me!" declared Snuckles.
"Chee!" scoffed Blackie. "Pink is fer dames!"
"It is not!" Snuckles shivered in indignation. "Pink is for pigs!" He lowered his voice. "A pink cashmere sweater would be nice, too."
They bustled around Bully in tight circles, jumping up and down and giving him advice and instructions. "Don' fergit t' buy a sweater fer Marshall!" "Or anyone else who likes sweaters." "If some goon looks at ya funny, just poke 'im in da snoot!" "Be careful on the subway!" "Don't take no guff offa nobody!" "Look out for the tunnel p..."
Bully slammed the big apartment door behind him as his friends jabbered on inside, and took a deep breath. Shopping was harder than he thought, and he hadn't even left the building yet.
There was the quiet sharp sound of a metal shutter sliding open, and Bully looked up in surprise at the apartment next door. The ancient crystal spyglass eye mounted in the center of the door lit up dimly with a cold yellow glow, and Bully flattened himself against the wall to try and stay out of vision's way. He shivered a little. He didn't much care to run into Mister Victor from Apartment Five today.
"Bull!" came a cold voice from behind the door, and Bully started to carefully tiptoe towards the stairs-not easy to do quietly with hoofs on tile. "Bull!" the voice called, and the apartment door creaked open exactly two inches on its chain, and the cold gaze of Mister Victor fixed on him out of the shadow between the door and its jamb. "I know you're out there, bull! I can hear you skulking."
Bully froze. He had been trying to avoid catching Mister Victor's attention, but the man in Apartment Five was especially canny at hearing Bully's comings-and-goings. John had warned Bully not to bother Mister Victor, but Bully often inwardly sighed that he wished Mister Victor would stop bothering him. He never set foot outside his apartmentall Bully had ever seen of him was his eye, gleaming in the darkness. He kept to the shadows and Bully even though his face might be bandaged, but it was hard to tell. He spoke sharply and harshly and with a middle-European accent. Marshall had one announced out of the blue that the next door neighbor was a man of great importance and a refugee from someplace in Europe, but when Bully questioned her where she'd heard that Marshall pretended not to hear and kept on watching Winx Club. Certainly Mister Victor got the most interesting mail in the building: bulky, bulging parcels addressed in large letters of grease pencil to V. VICTOR, with a patchwork quilt of interesting and exotic foreign stamps in some unrecognizable language on them, but all of them featured a picture of some kind of iron robot guy. He also had a subscription to many, many magazines: Sky & Telescope, Military History, The Economist, Popular Mechanics, Everyday with Rachael Ray.
Bully knew this because Mister Victor never ventured outside his apartment while anyone was looking, so it was Bully's (unpaid) job to fetch the mail and place it on the rough doormat for the man in apartment five. Mister Victor often confronted Bully going in and out of his own apartment, and demanded various errands be run, so despite his better judgment, Bully often found himself running down to D'agastino's on Seventh Avenue to buy a pint of vinegar and some cotton gauze, or a half pound of rolled tempered aluminum from Home Depot, or a packet of transistors from Radio Shack. Mister Victor never, never let him keep the change from these ventures, and frequently even argued about how much he had given Bully.
"What are you doing, bull?" Mister Victor growled.
"Sissmus cropping, Mister Victor," Bully admitted reluctantly. Mister Victor always made him nervous.
"What?" Victor shot back. "Don't be impertinent, bull."
"I mean Christmas shopping!"
Victor's eye narrowed at him through the dark gap. "So you're going outside then, bull?"
Bully's face fell. He knew having to run a chore for his mysterious next-door neighbor was imminent, and he fixed Mister Victor with one of his especially strong-willed stares. "Very quickly, Mister Victor," he said, shifting from hoof to hoof nervously. "Barely a few minutes. In fact I'm coming back now."
"Then you can run me an errand, then!" Mister Victor's eye disappeared as he ducked back into the apartment, and Bully hesitated, wondering if he should high-tail it down the stairs and out onto the street before his neighbor came back. But Mister Victor was back in a flash, pushing a crumpled bill out of the shadows with gloved fingers. "Pick me up a packet of 470 ohm resistors, bull. The industrial kind, not from the grocery store. I'm giving you ten dollars and I will count every penny of the change, so don't get any ideas about candy!!"
"It's Christmas Eve, Mister Victor," Bully said plaintively. "I'm not certain the industrial electronics will be open when I get back."
"Then you'd best hurry! Don't just stand there, get a move on. Doo...I demand it!"
"Yes, Mister Victor," Bully stifled a sigh and took the ratty ten dollar bill, tucking it away in his change purse. "Do you want any eggnog or fruitcake or do you need any Christmas lights, p'raps? 'Tis the season, fa la la la la?"
"Bah!" the eye narrowed and glowered at Bully. "No Christmas trappings are needed."
"Okay, Mister Victor." Bully decided that if he and Snuckles and Blackie went caroling later, they would definitely skip apartment five. "I'll look for your transistors."
"Resistors." Bully sucked on his hoof nervously. "They should have them at P. C. Richard's, right?"
"Richards?" Mister Victor's voice rose in timber and volume. "Richards? Richards?!?"
Bully spun on the tile and scampered down the steps, his tail and scarf fluttering behind him, as down the stairwell Mister Victor's voice bellowed in frustration and rage: "Richards!!!!" And Bully didn't stop running until he was halfway down Eighth Avenue to the subway station.
Tomorrow, Part 3: "You can never be too careful."