“You two! In my office!”
The announcement boomed throughout EHQ. Every kat in the building heard it, and was fearful. They didn’t understand the order. But Felina and Jason did.
“I don’t like the sound of that,” said Jason as the two strode across the pad.
“Neither do I, but we can handle it.”
The commander was pacing back and forth in his office, fingers knotted behind his back. He was not happy.
He had seen what had happened at the scene of last night’s crime, or rather, he had heard about it from Kats’ Eye News. MacAbee and Winthrop would not have allowed that weasely reporter to get inside a volatile area. And they certainly would have paid more attention to the bomb in the furnace.
That was what he told himself he was angry about, but he knew that in reality he was more concerned that Felina had been put in the line of fire. It seemed to him that somehow she wanted to get killed, and that upset him. She couldn’t stay on this case; he needed to take her off it.
She strode through the door, scanning the expression on his face. It told her what he expected her to feel – shaken, nervous. She hardened her expression to spite him, and watched as his jowls dropped lower.
“Officer Whiskers, Officer Feral…” he began, giving Jason pause through the unusual way he had addressed his niece.
“Commander, before you remove us from the case, let me just-” Felina said, but her uncle cut her off.
“You will speak only when I request it.”
‘How did he know what happened? Oh, crud, Kats’ Eye!’ thought Jason.
“The two of you allowed this investigation to collapse, and not only that, you allowed a reporter to penetrate security and thus endanger her own life.”
“She got in? Why that…” muttered Felina.
“Commander, the latter was not our concern, as we were to head investigation, not containment,” said Jason, voice quivering only slightly.
Feral raised an eyebrow.
“I concede that. However, you still must answer for the loss of the crime scene.”
“Why? We didn’t plant that bomb!” Felina snapped.
“That is not the point, Officer! You did not properly investigate that venue! And for the reason of your negligence, several kats were killed. I don’t know how the two of you escaped, but the rest of your team did not.”
“With all due respect, sir, there was no bomb. There was a gas leak. Whoever it was that killed all those senior katizens was a mathematical genius. The leak was small enough to be virtually undetectable, but allowed the gas to build up to a high enough concentration to cause an explosion. At the same time, the heater was set to go off at a temperature of 50 degrees Fahrenheit – way too low for an old kats home, the climate needs to be more controlled than that. That’s what tipped me off. The kat who did this timed it so that the two events would occur simultaneously – at 10:15 a.m.. Now, you tell me what we did wrong – I’m not a math expert, but I noticed something and called for an evac, just no kat listened. Would your other detectives do that?! Officer Feral followed protocol to the letter; you can’t fault her. Would you rather we had gone to the basement and been killed? I just don’t understand, sir, why we should be taken from the investigation.”
Feral decided to consider what his young prodigy had said. He stroked his chin thoughtfully, thinking.
“Interesting insight, but entirely …intuited. Can you prove anything you said? While it seems you could very well investigate this case, I cannot allow you to continue for reason of your lack of precautions. You must be punished.”
“PUNISHED?!” Felina yelled. She was very angry. Her uncle had not been taking her seriously at all these past two days. “I’d understand disciplinary action if it were at all warranted, but this is ridiculous.”
“That is enough, Felina!” Feral snapped. “You have no right to speak back to your superior officer! You are removed from the case. …Officer Whiskers may stay.”
Felina’s eyes went wide but she said nothing, she just whirled about on her heels and stormed off.
As soon as he was sure she was gone, the gargantuan commander returned to his desk and sat down in his chair, leaning back and propping up his narrow feet. Jason remained at attention.
“Sir…” he began.
“At ease, officer. I wouldn’t worry about anything. In a few minutes my niece will march right back in here with some trumped-up, incendiary speech which will, of course, change my mind – not that I won’t ‘put up a fight.’” Feral said, casually.
Jason was, to put it mildly, surprised.
Feral noted the reaction and continued.
“It’s a Feral family trait to fight for no discernible reason. Felina has it the most of any of us. She’s stubborn, thickheaded, ox-minded – take your pick. But she is beautiful, isn’t she?”
“Yes,” said Jason. “But I don’t under-”
“I never thought I would see her reach this point – to have selected somekat as she did you. You may be lucky, you may be not. Undoubtedly you’ve won the leverage in the hierarchy – after all, everykat has his own suspicions of nepotism, and I don’t see them as being… wrong.”
What in MegaKat was Feral talking about?
“Don’t you see? It’s all family politics, ancient grudges, a tooth-and-claw battle for bragging rights! And now, you’re in. Congratulations, my future nephew.”
Now Jason’s jaw dropped open. There was something really weird going on. Somebody must’ve put something in the water. His commander was talking crazy-talk.
“Wh- I- Uh…”
Feral grinned. In his pre-SWAT Kat years he had been a fairly nice guy, quick to warm up to his officers. Then all the supervillains started wreaking havoc on a daily basis, and those “vigilantes” would always get in his way, and he became a hard, bitter shell of a tom. He liked the silver- furred pilot, and at that point in his nine lives he didn’t mind showing it.
“It’s all right, I can see how you might be uncomfortable – look, you see, I was right. Here comes the whirling dervish now.”
Felina stomped her way into the room, arms akimbo, face forward. Her eyebrows were furrowed and her eyes merely dark slits. Her vehemence seemed to raise the air temperature by degrees.
“I can’t believe I let you for a moment intimidate me! I NEVER expected you to be so ridiculous and bull-headed. To split a team based on what – spite?! Almost as bad as assigning MacAcrud and Dumbthrop! Like it or not, uncle, Jason and I are partners, and there is nothing you can do or say to change that – if you care about the investigation, and if you care about me.”
Feral remained stoic for a moment, then cocked his head.
“All right.” He smiled softly, victoriously. “You two may go.”
“Two?!” Felina hadn’t realized Jason was still there. She turned to face him and saw the big, dopey grin on his face. And so she punched him in the eye.
They say one can’t count the stars. Well, Jason can tell you otherwise – he numbered 561.
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