Wolf reread the news article with a smirk on his face. He could just imagine Fox screaming for his assistant Rat and demanding that he right the wronged image. Ah, the day already had all the appearance of being a good one.
Soft padded foot-falls stopped behind him, and Wolf turned to find Grange. "Have you read the news in The Daily Shores, young one?"
"Yes, Elder. The animals at the water-hole this morning were having heated discussions about it." A pause. "We should capitalize on this."
Wolf nodded. "That is true. But I have yet to decide on the best course of action. What would you do, Grange? Would you destroy Fox and Rat yourself, or would you persuade one to help you destroy the other?"
"What do you mean, Elder?"
"Fox was useless without Rat, and Rat was useless without Fox."
Grange sat down. "So if we turn them against each other, the battle is all but won? But how do we do it?"
"Fox has a bad temper, and has become full of himself ever since he had been elected president. So, I believe that Rat must be in quite a situation now."
"Maybe we can turn them on each other by building up bad rumors."
"Not quite. It will work on Fox, but not Rat because he has a very extensive informant network. And he has always been able to calm Fox down." Wolf thoughtfully added, "However, with all the public pressure on the presidency, Fox may be less appreciative of him right now."
Wolf thought and thought, and Grange did not even disturb him when the rest of the pack returned with a stag. Finally the Elder stood up and quietly disappeared into the foliage of the jungle.
Rat dashed under leaf piles and twigs and clambered over roots then ran to the base of a Kapor tree where he hoped to find a hole to crawl into. But there was no hole. He pressed himself against a buttress root, looked up and snarled.
In front of him, Wolf made a show of lying down on his belly and began to lick one of his forepaws. Once Rat's snarling stopped, Wolf said, "I am sorry I scared you. I was only looking for an opportunity to talk."
"You could have made an appointment with my assistant."
"Oh, but that will make the meeting official, and Fox will find out about it and ask to be told about our discussion."
Rat began to visibly relax and took a step forward, but his eyes stayed on Wolf. "That is only to be expected. He is my president."
Wolf cocked his head to one side. "So you would not consider someone else to be president?"
Rat's muscles tightened again, and he moved back against the tree. "This is a democratic society. Animals pick their own president, and whoever they choose is good enough for me."
"Hmmm. Fox is not exactly the most popular animal in the jungle now, is he? Especially with that article from The Daily Shores. After this report on Owl's death, it makes you wonder if they have found other people who will now come forward and give more incriminating evidence. Members of your investigation committee perhaps."
"It does not matter," Rat said with as much bravado as he could muster though his voice shook as he spoke.
"You should. Everyone knows that you are the clever one. It will be all too easy for Fox to pin the blame on you."
Rat snarled. "He better make sure that he doesn't do that. I know a lot about him too."
"Interesting. So in other words, he has to make you disappear first before he pins the blame on you." Wolf paused and squinted. "You have grown fat and juicy, Rat. If I were him, I would know exactly how to make you disappear." Then he stood up and turned to go away.
"Wait," Rat called out. "Owl had an assistant. Bob Squirrel. Maybe you can find out more from him. Although I warn you, since Owl was taken away, he had not been seen anywhere."
Wolf sat on his haunches as he turned back to face Rat. "Thank you. That information is very helpful."
Rat crawled forward and prostrated himself before Wolf as he gazed up to him. "Promise that you will not harm me, and that you will protect me from all harm."
"Of course I promise, Rat. When I start my government, I will have need of clever animals like yourself. I would also like you to do a favor for me."
"What is that?"
"Make a list of animals who you think will make good cabinet members. I will need it in the near future."
"Of course," Rat said before standing up and dashing away from Wolf, not with fear but with purpose. He must destroy Fox and put Wolf up as president. What a pity most of the jungle voters view him as a food source, else he would have made a good president too.
Wolf smirked to himself. Asking Rat to draw up the list was ingenious, because the exercise would also make him think of ways and means to sabotage Fox's administration. As he wound his way back to his wolf-pack, he began to imagine all the things he could do to enrich himself with Rat on his side.
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