Some way up the street, Hans could see Roger Radcliffe and a few of his dalmatians coming along in a finely trained line. Hans leaned out of the window a bit, grinning broadly.
"Looks like the training stuck…!" he laughed, shooting a wave to Roger as the man approached the front door of the linguistics office.
"Geez, it’s been a long time! How have you been?" Hans asked. "Roger, Pongo, Patch… Awwww Rolly!"
Losing some of his regal posturing, Hans leaned heavily over the window and reached down a bit — though of course he couldn’t reach the pot-bellied little Dalmatian from the window, unless someone were to lift him.
"How’s my good boy, huh…!? That’s a sharp suit you’ve got there buddy! I feel under-dressed!" Hans gestured a bit at his work clothes — not under-dressed at all, really, in a pearl-white dress shirt with brassy cuff buttons, a charcoal gray vest, matching slacks, and a ruffled green cravat.
"What brings you my way, Roger? Haven’t seen you guys since London! Did you get the couple letters I sent over the last three months?" he asked.
The musician smiled, “They’re hard to get along without,” he agreed. Though the papers had been a shock, at first, he thought there must be a mistake somehow. Surely Hans must have been framed. He’d be quite dubious of the whole situation, but Bert’s influence had helped him from reacting too awfully. Hans WAS a very strange person, and perhaps no hero. But Roger did believe in second chances, at least for repentant would-be criminals that were good to animals! Certainly Hans had seemed very happy with being a simple dog walker. Roger assumed the draw of power had dimmed since the attempted overthrow. One never knew… Rollie seemed quite unconcerned about the man’s character, and Roger tended to trust his dog’s judgement as well as his own.
"Ah, perhaps I ought to have hired you on as an accountant rather than a dog trainer, though I don’t think I could have done much better. Languages AND maps, sounds very fine indeed, just don’t let Bert help you with the illustrations!" Roger winked, then looked uncomfortable as the subject turned. "I wish circumstances had been better. I can’t know what the details were- politics are always a dreadful mess. Just- well, be careful…" he nodded, quite sure Hans needed no cautioning. The mail was always well disguised and it seemed to be a safe enough location, away from prying eyes.
“Well, if I’m ever able to come back home, to London, I would be quite elated to help you with your taxes,” Hans said with a warm smile, though it was also unmistakably sad.
“I know it’s quite a feat, but you’ll have to give everyone at least a quick scratch behind the ear for me – Pongo and Patch of course,” he said with a wink down at the two dogs standing with Roger below, “but Perdita, too, if you could, and Lucky, and Cadpig, and Two-Tone… Duke, Tripod, Whizzer, and Penny, and Freckles, Pepper, Fidget, Dipstick, little miss Jewel, and Misses… Prince, too, and Smokey, and Dipper, and Salter, Scooter, and Flapper … Well. I suppose if I listed everyone, I’d keep you too long.”
Hans gave a sigh, scratching Rolly gently as he glanced uneasily up the street.
“Being careful is… good advice. Nothing has ever happened to me that I didn’t deserve, but I’ve been very anxious about today, considering the circumstances. There are people who know today is my birthday, and I suppose they’d like me to do something about it so they can take advantage of it. I’m afraid I’ll be staying put for a while, just to be safe. Ah, but that’s not the sort of thing you came to visit me to hear.”
Changing gears, trying not to be so shaken in front of Roger – it was better, if his friends thought he was okay – Hans gave the portly little dog in his arms a quick smooch on the ear before leaning carefully over the sill, reluctantly holding him back out to Roger.
“Take care of everyone, okay? And don’t forget to check in on Bert, at Morningside Orphanage – you’ll check in on him, won’t you? And hopefully this little guy won’t get into too much trouble without me.”
Roger nodded, as he made the daily rounds with each dog as it was (while he wasn’t away), it wasn’t too difficult a request. ”Of course Hans! Relax, stay home- there’s nothing wrong with low key celebrations.” The musician shrugged, then took back the pudgy pup and clipped his leash back on. ”After a certain age there’s even a ring of respectability to the idea, you know,” he raised an eyebrow as the dogs once again fell in line.
"Oh! I almost forgot!" He rummaged around in his battered travel briefcase and pulled out a sturdy tube with a large rolled up sheet of paper. "It was Nanny’s idea, but we all helped clean up afterwards. Bit of mess it was!" The heavy artist’s page was covered in, mostly, colorful nose prints, 101 of course… There were scattered blobs and swipes that looked like they could have been partial pawprints or tails smearing the almost dry paints. Under each a name was carefully written in in one of the human caretaker’s script. "I was going to send it, but that was before I knew I was going to make it out this week," the dogs wagged and wuffed agreement. "I won’t keep you any longer, but please, don’t hesitate to write if you need anything. The dogs do love getting letters and we’ll be sure to stop by the Orphanage, I’ve been wanting to explore the city anyhow." Roger chuckled, tugging the many leashes gently. He was always clumsy with goodbyes, but it helped to know Bert and Mary were near and watching over Hans in their strange, magic ways. "Take care Hans. Happy birthday!" He waved as they walked on, the dogs pausing reluctantly, but too well mannered to linger too long.