As the nearby Astronomical Clock rang out, the shopkeeper walked outside, reaching for her keys. With no time to think, I ran. My gambit worked; she did not spot the fawn blur sliding between her ankles as she closed up shop for the night. The door locked behind me, trapping me inside the marionette store. Though I had made it this far, my mission was far from over: Hundreds, maybe thousands, of marionettes surrounded me. I began my search, surveying the peasants, witches, jesters, minstrels and more that made up the inventory of the finest marionette shop in all of Prague. Most were top-quality, costing thousands of Crowns apiece. How would I find the one the sorcerer had dubbed "the most perfect puppet"? It seemed an impossible task. I moved into a back room, even bigger than the first. And then, I saw her.
Her head tilted. "Your Holiness," she said, "is that you? It is, isn't it?"
"I am Mugsy, supreme ayatollah of Pug Life Ministries," I barked. "I come seeking information on the infidel Blue Bull."
"Then you are in the right place," she said.
This most enchanting of all sheep then told me the story of how she had come to know of Blue Bull and his insidious plot. "You notice all the marionettes in this city?" she asked. "That is why Blue Bull chose Prague -- he wants to set up a puppet regime through which to spread his Godless communist ideology. If we do not stop him now, history will repeat itself in Eastern Europe."
"Tell me where to find this Bullshevik coward, and I will put a stop to his reign of terror once and for all," I said.
"He has an apartment in the Powder Tower," she said. "God be with you, my ayatollah."
After realizing that I couldn't reach the lock to let myself out, I curled up under the shopkeeper's desk. Justice would have to wait till sunrise.
[INTERMISSION: Please feel free to use the restroom, make popcorn or get up and stretch your legs. Click here for a brief musical interlude.]
The creaking door and its accompanying rays of sunlight awakened me. As the shopkeeper walked in, I sprang for the medieval courtyard of the Ungelt. "Ack!" she screamed, jumping as I sprinted past her. "My apologies for your carpet," I barked over my shoulder. "It was a long night, and I drank a lot of water at dinnertime."
I was soon at the Powder Tower. I had passed the 13th-century landmark two days earlier, unaware of the evil that lurked inside. But this time, Blue Bull would not escape my righteous wrath. I made my way up the cramped spiral staircase, whose ceilings seemed low even for a pug.
Panting heavily, I searched the first floor. Though I found no sign of the Azure Devil, I did encounter a woman behind a counter who demanded that I pay 100 crowns to continue. After doing so, I moved onward and upward, searching the next floor, and then the next.
Finally, the staircase turned into a ladder, poking through a wooden floor at the apex of the gothic edifice. "Either I find Blue Bull now," I thought, "or this trip has all been for naught."
Slowly, I crept up the ladder, poking my head into the light. An instinctive, guttural growl echoed through the chamber as I spied my nemesis. I vaulted toward him, my hackles seemingly a foot high. "Blue Bull!" I barked, "this is your last chance to make peace with your maker! Allahu akbar!"
Caught unaware, he squeaked in terror. Blue Bull ran toward a cache of kitchen implements in the corner. But before he could find a weapon, I scooped him up in my powerful jaws. I chomped down with all my fury, causing his stitches to pop one by one. Cotton spilled from his gaping midsection as I shrugged off his ineffectual punches. A great whooshing sound came from his newly punctured squeaker. After violently shaking him, I tossed him against a wall.
Struggling for breath, Blue Bull reached out toward me. "Mugsy," he squeaked, "before you smite me ... there is something you should know ..."
To be continued ...