Xena, Gabrielle, Eve and Darion walk through a town square, past a beautiful marble fountain with statues of horses.
Do you really think I got this power so I can solve some animal thefts?
Xena, think about it. In a town like this where they love animals so much, for them to lose their pets and not know what happened to them--it's really horrible.
So now I should play pet detective.
Xena, Pet Detective. That sounds kinda cool. (grins)
XENA (gives him a mock glare):
I don't think so. (sighs) Well, I guess I've got to start somewhere...
Xena knocks on the door of a house. We see her talking to a woman, and then being escorted to a stable where she is left alone with a hazel-brown mare.
XENA (a little uncertainly):
So you're the human who understands us. (off Xena's surprised look) Word travels fast around this town--we know all about you. (tosses her head) It's nice to have a human who actually talks back when you talk. I'm Amber, by the way.
Nice to meet you, Amber. So...they tell me that another one of your owner's horses--
MARE (tosses her head proudly):
Not "owner." Human companion, please.
XENA (rolls her eyes, slightly exasperated):
All right--they told me one of your human companion's other horses was stolen a week ago.
MARE (hangs her head sadly):
Silver Blaze. He was my mate.
Sorry to hear that. (She reaches out to pat Amber's muzzle)
MARE (tosses up her head and whinnies):
It's all right. I prefer to bear my grief with dignity.
Can you tell me what happened? What did you see?
It happened at night. I was awakened by a noise of some sort... It was dark--all I saw was a dark shape, leading Silver Blaze out of the stable... I never saw him again. (sniffs) Excuse me, I need a moment to compose myself. (she lowers her head as Xena looks on sympathetically)
XENA (after a pause):
That dark shape, what did it look like?
MARE (lifts her head and sighs):
I didn't see much...I think it was a man, a short man...
Do you remember anything else?
There was a noise outside...like that of a wagon. (thinks a moment) And there was a smell of apples in the stable.
Apples, huh? (after a moment she smiles reassuringly at the mare) Thank you, Amber. I'll do my best to find your mate.
MARE (with dignity):
A montage of Xena knocking on other doors and talking to other animals--a dog, a cat, another horse.
Xena squats down before a porch on which a large silver-gray cat lies.
Hello. Can I talk to you a minute?
The cat gives her a coldly dignified look and remains silent.
XENA (slightly puzzled look):
Can you hear me?
Of course I can hear you. And of course you can talk to me. The proper question is, "May I talk to you."
XENA (amused but slightly miffed):
All right... may I talk to you, then? I'm Xena.
CAT (looks at her coolly):
XENA (taken aback):
My humans named me Xena--after the famous Warrior Princess. (looks at Xena) I take it that would be you?
Yes. (doesn't quite know whether to be flattered or insulted) Listen, um--Xena, I'm trying to investigate the animal thefts that have been going on in this town. They told me your sister was kidnapped?
Catnapped, if you please.
All right...catnapped. (gets a sudden idea) Don't tell me your sister's name is--
Xena rolls her eyes.
Can you tell me what happened?
CAT (a little more emotional):
It was terrible, just terrible. That man took us both...he ambushed us outside the window when we went out for a walk at night. It was just four nights ago.
"Xena" and another cat, "Gabrielle," jump down from the windowsill. Out of nowhere, a man's boots come into view. Two hands in leather gloves come down and snatch both cats, who shriek and try to scratch the man but to no avail.
We fought bravely--but he was able to capture us and carry us away in a sack. (We see the two cats being thrown in a sack; a short, dark figure carrying the sack starts to walk away.) Then he handed us over to another man who had a cage ready for us. Just as we were being released from the sack and put in a cage, I made a desperate effort and I managed to escape. (We see "Xena" the cat wriggling out of the hands of a man who is trying to push her inside a metal cage; she escapes and sprints away. The other cat, "Gabrielle," is stuffed inside the cage as she meows pitifully) I hid in the bushes and they couldn't find me. I watched as the cage with my sister was loaded into a wagon--I think there were other animals there too. (We see the cage being put in the wagon, where another cat and two dogs, looking scared and sad, sit in cages.) I tried to follow the wagon so I would know where these horrible people were taking them--but I couldn't keep up with it. (We see "Xena" the cat standing on a deserted road, looking after the wagon as it disappears into the distance, meowing sadly.)
[END OF FLASHBACK]
Which way did the wagon go?
It was the small dirt road that goes west from the walls of the town...past the abandoned windmill.
XENA (nods thoughtfully):
All right. Now, the man who snatched you--did you see what he looked like? You cats can see in the dark, right?
CAT (almost offended):
Of course. But I couldn't get too good a look at him. (pauses to think) He was rather short and a little plump. The top of his head was completely bald--I remember how it was shining in the moonlight. And he had these dark tufts of fur--I mean, hair--on each side of his head.
That narrows it down for sure.
Excuse me. I thought you wanted my help.
I'm sorry, uh--Xena. I know you're trying to help. Anything else?
He reeked of horses. (wrinkles her nose fastidiously) Nasty, smelly beasts. That's about it.
Thank you. (She gets up) I'll find your sister, okay?
CAT (suddenly sits up):
I just remembered one more thing that could be helpful.
The coward was wearing leather gloves to protect himself from our claws and teeth. But I was able to strike out and scratch his left arm...just above the glove. He should still have the marks on him.
That could be very helpful. Thank you.
She turns around and starts to walk away.
CAT (behind her):
Good luck, Xena. We're all counting on you.
XENA (mutters to herself):
Isn't that how it always is.
Sunset. Xena is walking briskly back to the inn.
The room at the inn, with the light of a couple of oil lamps adding to the fading daylight that comes in through the small window. Eve is sitting on the bed reading; Gabrielle and Darion are at the table. Darion has a quill in his hand and is writing on a parchment while Gabrielle watches, smiling, over his shoulder.
Very good, Darion.
The door opens and Xena comes in. Everyone looks up.
Hi, Xena! Any luck?
XENA (gives her a slightly alarmed look):
Gabrielle looks at Xena, puzzled.
GABRIELLE (this time, we hear her speech as it is heard by Xena):
Xena's eyes widen a little. She cocks her head, staring at Gabrielle.
GABRIELLE (speaks slowly and distinctly):
Yeah. All I have to do is round up all the short, plump, bald men in this town and check their left arms for cat scratches.
This time, it's Gabrielle who looks at Xena uncomprehendingly--as do Eve and Darion.
GABRIELLE (speaks slowly):
What did you say?
XENA (stares at her in alarm; then we hear her speech as heard by Gabrielle):
I gat a deskipsho ovve fief. Shord, pump, ball, we cat scatcher onizahm.
Gabrielle and Eve exchange worried looks. Darion looks confused.
Xena...oh, wait. (to Eve) I think she said she got a description of the thief--short, plump, bald with cat scratches on his arm.
Xena shakes her head in dismay.
She doesn't understand us, either.
GABRIELLE (comprehension dawns on her):
So she's talking to animals--but she's losing her ability to communicate with humans. (looks at Xena, horrified)
GABRIELLE (comes up to Xena and takes her hands, speaks very loudly, almost shouting):
Look, Xena--maybe you should just rest, okay?
Xena looks at her uncomprehendingly; Eve winces and puts her hands over her ears.
She's not deaf, Gabrielle. It's more like...she's listening to a language she doesn't know very well.
GABRIELLE (tries again, this time speaking loudly and distinctly):
This whole thing could go away in the morning. It started when you woke up, right? (Xena nods) Maybe it was just a one-day spell. (Xena nods again, gratefully.) I'll bring up some food from the tavern.
XENA (speaks with an effort):
I'll go to the stables.
GABRIELLE (nods, tearing up a little):
Xena squeezes her hands, and then turns around and walks away rather stiffly.
Poor Mother. Right now, Argo's the only one of us she can talk to.
Gabrielle and Eve exchange a pained look.
The stables. Dusk. Xena stands next to Argo, her cheek pressed to Argo's neck, stroking Argo's side.
I guess it's really just you and me now, girl...
All the others ran off?
No...I'm just finding it hard to talk to them anymore. You know how hard it is when you're trying to tell people something and they don't hear a thing you're saying?
Welcome to the club.
Xena chuckles rather bitterly, patting Argo's side again.
Gabrielle comes in and stops for a moment. She looks sympathetic and sad. Then she comes over to Xena and puts a hand on her arm.
Xena... Come on. You need to eat something.
Xena strains to understand. Gabrielle takes her hand and pulls her gently toward the door; Xena nods and follows her.
Night, outside the stables. The moon is partly covered by clouds.
The stable door opens and a short shadowy figure emerges, holding out an apple. Argo comes out too. We see a close-up of Argo's muzzle as she reaches for the apple.
MAN (whispers, off-camera):
Good...good...come here. You are such a beautiful animal. Such a beautiful coat. Such strong, sturdy legs. I bet you can outrace the wind.
Argo takes the apple and munches on it. The man's hand extends toward her with another apple, luring Argo away from the stables.
Oh, you are going to make your new owner very happy. And me, very rich.
Quick pan to a covered wagon waiting outside, barely visible in the shadows under a tree. A merchant in fine garments steps out from around the wagon.
This is the animal? Excellent, excellent. Let's get her inside the wagon.
First, my fee.
The merchant takes out a pouch of coins and hands it over to the thief, who extends his hand (the rest of him remaining unseen) to pick up the pouch.
Suddenly sensing trouble, Argo pricks up her ears and starts to neigh, but the man quickly throws a rope around her muzzle and tightens it. Argo tries to rear up in alarm, but a rope is thrown around her neck and she is pulled toward the wagon as we:
END OF ACT THREE