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Authors: Nic Saint

The Whiskered Spy

BOOK: The Whiskered Spy
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The Whiskered Spy
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The Whiskered Spy

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When Tommy the cat witnesses a murder taking place right beneath his favorite elm tree, at first he’s not too worried. After all, humans will do these things, and as long as his own human keeps the kibble and the milk coming, life goes on. But when the murdered woman’s ghost comes haunting him and accuses him of gross negligence by not interfering when he had the chance, things definitely take a turn for the mysterious.

1
The Brookridge Park Horror

I
was sitting
in an elm tree looking down at the world below, minding my own business, when the stirring events I’m about to relate took place. As it happens, it was my favorite tree to sit and watch the world go by while licking any part of my anatomy that needed licking. Not that I’m a philosopher, per se. But I’m a cat and, closely following Chapter 3, Paragraph 6, Section 8 of the Cat Guild Book of Regulations, sitting in trees is a task highly recommended to fill at least one time slot a day, an average time slot equaling more or less 7 human hours. And it was as the last minutes of my tree-sitting time for the day were ticking away, that I became aware of strange happenings down on the ground below.

The perch I had chosen for my tree time was located in the middle of the Brookridge park, which has, among its many other points of interest, a very large population of birds that like to occupy its various trees—closely following the rules of
their
particular guild. And as everyone knows, chasing birds is clearly outlined in Chapter 1 of the Cat Guild rulebook as one of the mainstays of an adult cat’s life. But apart from cats, trees and birds, another life form habitually infests the Brookridge park: humans. And it were two members of this odd species who were now hobnobbing under my tree’s foliage.

Clearly laboring under the misapprehension that they were alone, they were speaking in the hushed tones of the professional hobnobber. I pricked up my ears and studied the duo intently. One was a female human, oddly enough dressed up in white, as if preparing to attend a wedding, the other a male. And for a moment I had labeled their actions as part of the mating ritual humans like to observe: first they spend the longest time talking, then some form of physical contact follows, and finally they start locking lips, something I’ve never been able to endure with fortitude.

And I was about to hop to the next tree and save myself the sickening spectacle, when words reached my ears that perked me up considerably.

“I think he’s on to us,” said the female.

“Are you sure?” said the male.

No reply followed, but from the next sentence spoken by the male, it was obvious the woman had given him some form of nonverbal confirmation.

“That’s too bad,” he said. “That means we’ll have to take him out.”

I can tell you right now that my tail shivered from stem to stern at these words. ‘Take him out’. That could only mean… Here, through some form of divine intervention, I had stumbled upon a secret meeting between two spies! I knew of course that Brookridge is a veritable nest of spies and its local park their favorite hangout, but it was the first time I’d ever encountered two real-life spies in the flesh. And under my favorite tree no less! Talk about ringside seats.

The woman gasped. “Take him out!” she said. It was obvious to me that she didn’t agree with her fellow spy’s assessment of the situation. “Are you nuts?”

“Nuts about you,” whispered the man. “And I’ll be damned if I’m going to let that little weasel get in the way of our future happiness. Either he goes, or I go.”

“No! Jack!” cried the woman. “Don’t go!”

At these words, my tail stopped shivering and my ears flopped. This was not the talk of two spies planning to take out some unfortunate competitor, but of two lovers, plotting to do away with a husband or wife or possibly both. I heaved a deep sigh to signify the premature dashing of all my hopes and dreams and languidly trotted to the edge of the branch I’d been sitting on to prepare for my departure from the lurid scene. It no longer held any interest for me.

Unfortunately, just in that moment, another cat arrived on the scene and engaged me in conversation. It was Dana, the highly strung Siamese belonging to one of the neighbors.

“Hello, Tom,” she said in her customary sultry voice. “What are you doing out so late? Don’t you have to be home with daddy around this time of night?”

“Hi there, Dana,” I said in my most casual way. “Where did you spring from all of a sudden?”

“Oh, I was just hopping around here and there, checking out the neighborhood, when I happened to run into Stevie. You know Stevie, don’t you? Father Sam’s Ragamuffin?”

Yes, I knew Stevie. The mongrel ate a mouse I’d marked for my own one night when I wasn’t watching. “Shh,” I said, for I noticed Dana’s jabbering had interrupted the easy flow of conversation coming from the couple downstairs.

“Shh, yourself,” said Dana, amused. “No one shushes me, Tom. You know that. As I was saying, I ran into Stevie and noticed he’d done something different with his whiskers. They seemed, I don’t know, longer or something. So I said, ‘Stevie. I like what you’ve done with your whiskers. What’s your secret?’ And Stevie said, ‘Extensions. It’s the new craze.’ And I said—”

“Will you please be quiet!” I hissed. For my sensitive ears had picked up something else now. The woman had begun softly sobbing and the man was now whispering something consoling into her ear and patting her gently on the back. It wasn’t this patting on the back that worried me, though, but the long and shiny butcher’s knife he was pulling out of his pocket with his free hand and carefully poising behind the woman’s back.

“Well, I never,” said Dana, shocked at being spoken to like that by a mere tabby.

But then I directed her attention to the two people down below, and when she saw the moonlight glitter on the knife, she let rip a cry so piercing, it stayed the hand of the man just on the verge of plunging the knife into the woman’s back. Both the man and the woman looked up to see what all the ruckus was about.

“He’s got a knife!” trilled Dana.

I rolled my eyes at this piece of old news. “I can see that,” I said. “And it looks like he’s not afraid to use it.”

“But then, he’s a murderer!” cried Dana.

“Yah,” I said. “Obviously.”

“We have to stop him. Oh, Tom, do something!”

Now, humans habitually call for help on these occasions. Well, you’re a human. You know the drill. You yell, ‘Police! Help!’, at the top of your lungs and more often than not someone will show up. Unfortunately, we cats can yell all we want but no police or help will show up. What we can do is cry our little hearts out, though, and if we’re lucky, one of those fellows with a hard hat and a red coat will come running and save us from the tree. Firemen, I think humans call them. Exceedingly fine fellows I’ve always thought, and I’m on a first-name basis with most of Brookridge’s finest.

“Let’s pretend we’re stuck in this tree and perhaps a fireman will show up,” I said therefore.

“But why?” said Dana, frowning confusedly. “We’re not stuck in this tree.”

“I know we’re not stuck in this tree, but that woman down there is going to get it in the neck if we don’t do something quick!”

Her eyes lit up with the dim light of intelligence. “Oh, I see. We yell for help and when one of those nice red men show up, the killer will think twice about doing whatever he—”

She didn’t finish her sentence for she had happened to glance down and I saw every thew and sinew in her slender body stiffen with apprehension. Following her gaze I started. The woman was now lying facedown on the grass, the man standing over her with the knife still in his hand. He was cleaning it methodically with a large handkerchief.

2
Murder in the Park


H
e did it
!” cried Dana. “He murdered that poor, poor woman!”

I wanted to point out that for all we knew the woman had simply decided to take a nap, the man preparing to butter a piece of toast for when she woke up, but it was obvious Dana was right for a change: a murder had taken place and we were both eyewitnesses.

“Dang,” I said, as I stared my eyes out at the murder scene. It doesn’t happen every day that you see a murder take place. Now, mind you, we hadn’t actually seen ‘it’ happen, more like the before and after. But it wasn’t hard to imagine what had happened in between. When you see a fellow raise a knife behind a woman’s back and next thing you know the woman is lying lifeless on the ground and the man is cleaning the knife, the thing speaks for itself.

Dana, who was sobbing for dear life, suddenly turned on me with a vengeance. “It’s all your fault,” she cried. “If you hadn’t started blabbing on and on about firemen, we could have saved that poor woman.”

“Huh?” I said, too stunned to construct a decent retort.

Dana wrung her paws. “I should have simply jumped down on that awful man’s back, claws extended. He wouldn’t have been so eager to go sticking knives in innocent women’s backs then. Or perhaps I should have jumped on his head and clawed at his nose. God knows I’ve done it before. Works like magic every time.”

I shivered, and this time it wasn’t from the sight of the gruesome scene down below, but from a slight apprehension at finding myself within striking distance of Dana’s claws. I’m a big boy and I pride myself on my powers of self-defense, but when I encounter dames of Dana’s obvious level of ferociousness, I respectfully bow out.

I started to do so now, but Dana stopped me with word and gesture. The gesture being a tap on my head and the word a menacing growl.

“Where do you think you’re going?” she said.

“Ouch,” I said, and rubbed the spot where she’d tapped me. “Home. Where else?”

“Home?” she cried, visibly appalled. “How can you talk about going home with this murder going on right under our noses. We have to…”

I gave her a wry smile. “We have to what? There’s nothing we can do. The police will take care of everything.”

“But, we know who did it. We can help the police.”

I scoffed. “We’re just cats. We can’t help the police. We can’t do a single thing.”

“But, but…”

“I’m going home,” I said, and turned to leave.

A searing pain in my left buttock made me change my mind. “On second thought…” I said, and watched as Dana licked her claws.

“We can’t let murderer boy get away with this,” Dana said. “Stevie would never…”

“Oh, please,” I said. “Not Stevie again. That bird-brain wouldn’t do a single thing.”

“Oh, yes, he would,” said Dana, adamant. “Stevie’s got more courage in one whisker than you have in that gruesomely large body of yours.”

“My body isn’t gruesomely large,” I said, slightly offended.

“Yes, it is,” she said. “We don’t call you Fat Tom around the neighborhood for nothing.”

“No one calls me Fat Tom,” I said, appalled at the slur.

“We do, you know,” said Dana with a smirk that didn’t become her.

“For your information, I’m not fat,” I said as haughtily as I could. “I’m just big, that’s all. Large bone structure, Zack always says.” Zack Zapp is, as the vernacular goes, my owner. Though I might as well add that no one really owns me, as I’m a free spirit. Well, that is until my stomach starts making funny noises and it comes time to have a stab at the cat bowl and find out what’s for lunch.

“Then Zack is as big a chump as you are,” Dana said decidedly. “Now, what are you going to do about that murdering fellow downstairs?”

“Nothing,” I said, after throwing a glance at the ground floor. “Because he’s legged it.”

Dana, after ascertaining my observation was correct, frowned thoughtfully. “And so did she.”

I did a double take at these words. It doesn’t often happen that dead bodies get up and take off. Looking again, I saw that she was right: both the killer and the killee, if that’s the word I want, had removed themselves from the scene.

“That’s odd,” I remarked. “Usually on these occasions the corpse stays put.”

“Unless the killer took it with him.”

“As a souvenir, you mean?”

Dana sighed. “Stevie was right about you. You really are a dumb brick.”

“I am not! Humans often take souvenirs. When Zack came back from England he brought a pipe and a tea pot.”

“A dead body is not a tea pot, Tom.”

I had to admit she had a point there. At least a tea pot serves some purpose, no matter how small, whereas a dead body is of no use to anyone.

She reflected. “The killer is obviously trying to hide the body. Would you recognize him when you saw him again?”

I said I probably could. For when the fellow had looked up I’d taken a good look at his face. Nothing to write home about, mind you. Just one of those average human faces. Fortunately for me—Dana was extending those claws of hers once more—I’d spotted one distinguishable feature about the killer’s face: a pimple.

“He had a large pimple on the tip of his nose,” I said triumphantly as I kept a close eye on Dana’s paws. “Unless it was a fly temporarily using the man’s face as a launching pad.” I gave a hearty laugh at my own joke. Dana didn’t laugh.

“A killer with a pimple,” she said. “And a dead body that has suddenly disappeared. Right.” She got up and started threading her way down the branches of the tree.

“Hey, where are you going?” I said. For, though I was feeling relieved to finally be rid of her, I was also a bit peeved at the abruptness of her departure.

“I’m going to get help,” she said, without looking back.

“Help? From whom?” Perhaps it should have been ‘who’, but whatever it was, Dana didn’t deign to reply. The night swallowed her up and before long she was gone.

I shrugged and after having given the matter some more thought—do teapots really have more use than a human corpse? After all, a human body can be used as compost, whereas a teapot merely serves as an eyesore—I trotted off myself. A midnight snack and a warm bed were awaiting me and a tall tale to tell my friends bubbled on my lips.

BOOK: The Whiskered Spy
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