"Heellooo, Lydia!" a pair of male voices shouted through the intercom.
Something in the background yipped.
"I'm ba-a-ack," on of the voices sing-songed.
I pressed a palm to my forehead, certain I was feverish in explanation of this hallucination. Hadn't I just sent Phelps home a few short hours ago? A quick glance at the kitchen clock confirmed my suspicion that it was after two.
Clearly I was not meant to sleep tonight.
"Wake up, my muse," Ferrero's thickly-accented voice cried. "No sleep for the creative."
When a sharp pinch to my thigh and counting to ten did not wake me from this nightmare, I relented. I pressed the buzzer.
No way I was fetching those two. Whatever the reason for their visit. Of course I wasn't going to turn my boss away from my doorstep in the middle of the night, either.
I managed three quick and painfully cold bites of ice cream before they knocked on my door. Peace of mind was not immediately attained. Giving the sugar a chance to work, I waited as long as I could to answer.
Even willing the sugar into action didn't work.
They started banging harder.
"We know you're in there, Lyd."
"Please, cherie, let us in. We have a problem."
Bang, bang, bang.
I glared at the ice cream carton, knowing it was willfully denying me comfort in my hour of need. Shoving it into its new home at the back of the freezer, I steeled myself for whatever was to come.
Whoever said bad things come in threes grossly underestimated the persistence of problems.
Bang, bang, bang.
"Don't make us sleep in your hall," Phelps goaded. "What would the neighbors think?"
Probably that I have a pair of stalkers.
Fortified by a deep breath, I swung open the door. "What's this big prob-" I caught sight of something furry in Phelps' arms. Pointing a shaking finger at the furball, I demanded, "What is that!"
"A puppy," he answered with a smile.
"No," I backed cautiously into the apartment, away from the tiny brown fluff, "puppies are soft and round and behind glass at the pet store. That," I accused, waving my hand in an encompassing gesture, "is a rat."
"Please, cherie," Ferrero soothed as he approached me, "give her a chance."
"H-her?" That thing was female?
Oh no, a tiny brown head popped up and a tiny pink tongue dropped into view. Big round puppy-dog brown eyes blinked against the light of my apartment. She was... she was... the most adorable thing I had ever seen.
But that didn't explain why she was here.
"No, no, no. I don't want a dog. I hate dogs, ever since Sissy Kowalchuk's bulldog trapped me up a tree when I was nine." I tried to back further away as Phelps approached, but ran into the couch. "And dogs hate me back. They bark and drool and snarl and pee on me. It's a mutual dislike. They-"
Phelps held the little furball out and she had the nerve to lean forward and lick my nose, undermining my entire argument.
"See," he waved the dog before my eyes, "she likes you already. And she's housetrained."