Don Redmond (firstname.lastname@example.org)
This is am alternate world story. The characters are the similar, but trying new roles. I’ll rate this PG-13. The SWAT Kats belong to Hanna- Barbera et al. and I am only borrowing them for the moment.
It was a day like any other day: I was sitting at my desk with nothing to do. I sometimes wondered if anyone down on the street saw the sign on the window behind me:
FELINA FERAL INVESTIGATIONS
Just then I heard the outer door crash open and was again reminded of the wisdom of being careful what you wish for. When I heard Abi almost shouting at someone, who was yelling at her, I got up from my desk to defend my secretary. Before I could get very far from my desk my door was thrown open and the police department’s odd couple stormed into my office.
There stood Detective Jake Clawson, a cop with a really nasty disposition. Obviously having a wife and two kittens had done nothing for his temper, at least his temper when he was around me. It seemed like whenever there was a crime committed in MegaKat City I was his first suspect. Now he stood scowling at me: maybe it was the difference in our heights.
The other policekat was Detective Chance Furlong. He was the good cop, all the time. I don’t think I have ever seen him angry or heard him raise his voice. Around me he was always polite, but that is because he had some feelings for me even though we both knew where that was going to go.
“What is it this time Clawson? Someone kidnap the mayor?”
His eyes lit up and I knew that I had opened my mouth too wide. “What do you know about a kidnapping?” He stepped forward and reached for his gun. Chance put a hand on Clawson’s shoulder and stopped him.
“Felina, David Steel was shot last night. Jake thinks we should ask you some questions.”
“Steel? Have you talked to my uncle? Steel works for, worked for, him.”
Clawson ignored the idea that he should disturb one of the rich folk. “Where were you yesterday?”
“Depends on the time. From nine until about twelve I was at the firing range practicing. From then until two I was here: you can ask Abi, if she’ll still speak with you. From two until five I was out working on a case. How’s that?”
“Where were you around six?”
“In Barney’s down the street.”
“He can verify this?”
“Of course, I always sit at the bar.”
“Give me your gun!”
I went back around behind my desk and opened up the drawer I keep my piece in when I’m not wearing it. I gave it to Chance, who looked it over before handing it to Clawson who practically field stripped it.
He smelled the barrel and his face lit up again. “This has been fired recently!”
“Of course it has. I told you I was at the firing range yesterday morning.”
“Are you sure that’s the only time you fired it yesterday?” replied Mr. Sarcasm.
“I’m not that rich. Unlike some people …,” two could play this game, “I have to buy my own bullets. I don’t fire it unless I have to.”
Clawson handed me back my gun in several pieces. He grinned at me and I almost threw the pieces back at him, but Chance shook his head in my direction. He was probably right. Clawson would throw me into the darkest dungeon at a moment’s notice.
“Alright. Don’t leave town. I’ve a few questions for her.” He pointed vaguely to the outer office and I wondered how fast I could put my gun back together and shoot this kat. It would be justifiable katricide.
Chance hung back. “Felina, you don’t need to antagonize him. He can get your license revoked and I’m sure he’s always looking for an excuse.”
“Antagonize him? Chance, I ….” I decided not to say anything more.
“Furlong, let’s go!”
Chance looked at me with that ache in his eyes and I had to look away. I hoped some she-kat would come along and marry him really soon. I was getting tired of being the recipient of those looks.
After they left, I went to Abi and put a hand on her shoulder. I could feel that she was tense and still shaking a little. “Are you okay?”
“I’ll be all right. That kat …”
Abi refrained from saying the words, but she didn’t have to: we’d been together long enough so that I knew what she wanted to say. Besides, part of my job was to say those words. Of course, Clawson only yelled at her and had yet to threaten, unjustly, of course, to arrest her and see that she never saw the light of day again.
Later in the afternoon things returned to the doldrums in the office. Because of this Abi asked if she could leave early because she needed to do some shopping for a nephew who was having a birthday soon. After she was gone I was beginning to think that I was not in the detective business, but the mortuary business, it was so quiet.
While I was trying to decide when I should give up the post and just go home I heard a knock on the outer door. Actually it sounded more like a nervous tap, and so I knew it wasn’t going to be Clawson coming back for another round. It was probably one of those door to door saleskats.
“Just a minute.” I packed up to go and, after seeing that everything was in order, I prepared myself for saying no to the saleskat and walking on by as I closed the door. You’d think they would know better than to go door to door in office buildings.
When I opened the door I saw someone I never expected to see in this part of town. “Well, Liam, what brings you to the depths of MegaKat City?”
“Come with me.” Manx stood in the doorway and tried to act as if he expected me to hop to it and do what he wanted.
I felt like laughing, but restrained myself. “So what does my uncle want? Surely he doesn’t have some fatherly advice? I think we finished that trip fifteen years ago.”
“He wants to talk to you.” Still tough, but the real Manx was beginning to come out.
“He didn’t say.”
I knew that was a lie. “Look, my uncle tells you everything. You do what he tells you and he usually tells you why.” I paused to see if Manx was beginning to sweat. “What does he want?”
“I think it best if he tells you.”
“You think? You expect me to believe that?” He actually took a step back out into the hallway. I decided I’d abused poor Liam enough. “Okay. Let’s go.”
Down on the street, there was one of the Feral limousines double parked. Of course, no cop was going to ticket a car with FERAL on its plates. Manx held the door for me and I slid in. He slid in next to me and we drove in silence.
After a thirty minute drive to the suburbs, we pulled into a long driveway that I knew so well. This was my uncle’s house and after my parents had died in a mugging when I was six I had lived here until I was eighteen. I moved out then and had only been back sporadically. It seemed that almost every time my uncle and I met face to face we were very soon yelling at each other. I hoped that this time didn’t turn out to be the same. There was still a little Clawson induced bile waiting to get out I was sure.
Manx opened the car door for me and then the door to the house. Inside was the house I had lived in for so long. From the front door was a hallway that ran to the very large living room in which my uncle liked to host parties for his friends and business buddies. Depending on the party there was either lots of furniture in the room or very little. Off to the left from the door was the curving stairway that led up to the bedrooms, the library and the other private areas of the house.
Through the living room we went and into the hallway on the other side. Off to the right was the room that was my uncle’s office when he was working at home. I knew this room well since this is where I usually found my uncle when I was looking for him during the time I lived here. When Manx opened the door, I saw that the office hadn’t changed in all these years. There was a picture of my parents, his brother and sister-in-law, on the wall behind him and another picture of grandmother on the desk behind which he sat. There were a few file cabinets, a few chairs and not much else. It clashed with the sumptuousness of the rest of the house.
“Felina, how nice to see you.” At least this time we were starting out on a pleasant note. One of the last times I had been in this room was when I had been summoned by my uncle when he wanted to talk about my lifestyle. He had not been pleased.
“What is it you want, Uncle Ulysses?” I could be polite too.
I saw him begin to enter lecture mode and stiffened myself for the expected onslaught. Tonight I wasn’t going to walk out on him. Suddenly, he softened again and waved me to a seat in front of the desk. He nodded at Manx, who had followed me into the room, and he settled in somewhere behind me.
“I need your help, Felina.” That would be the day. “Something was stolen from me and I want it back.”
“Shouldn’t you be talking to the police? Or is this some more industrial espionage? Doesn’t that just mean you’ll have to work faster?” Surely my uncle knew that espionage was impossible to fix after the fact, especially in this town.
“No, some plans were stolen.”
“Can’t you just redo them?”
“No. One of the key workers no longer works for me.”
“David Steel?” He looked surprised. No more than I, however. I didn’t realize Steel was in on actual research. I thought he was just security. “So what were these plans for?”
“I can’t say.”
“You expect me to find something and you won’t tell me what? What are you afraid of, uncle? With all the industrial espionage in this town how do you think it will get found? Will I just walk up to kats and say, ‘Hey, did you steal something unknown from Ulysses Feral?’”
He actually looked hurt. “I just want to find out who has it. If I know that, perhaps I can ransom it.”
“If they haven’t got in touch with you by now, forget it.” I suppose I could milk my uncle for a few bucks before he realized what an impossible task he had set. “Okay, I’ll look around for a few days, but I wouldn’t expect miracles.”
“Thank you, Felina. I will have some money deposited into your account.”
I got up to leave and Manx appeared. I indicated I could find my own way out. Once outside, I saw that the limo was still waiting for me, but I told the driver that I was taking a cab. While I waited for the cab out on the street I tried to decide how to handle this case. I figured I would go at it for three days tops and then thank my uncle for the money and quit. Of course, it’s possible he might fire me first.
When I got back to my apartment I cursed myself for getting involved in my uncle’s affairs. I think the money got to me and when I thought I could get some for free I dove in. After a shower, where I spent most of my time just letting the water flow over me, and dinner I felt better.
I decided that I might even try to earn some of the money. I called the one of the few sources of information that I felt I could trust. “Hello, Chance? Are you going to be free for awhile? … Can I come over and ask some questions regarding a case I’m on? … Thanks.”
I knew I was trading on his feelings for me, but this seemed to be the only place to turn for hard news. Tomorrow I could begin on the speculators.
Chance’s apartment looked a lot like mine except that his was neater. There was a living room with a couch, a TV, and in his case, a large book case full of books. There was a kitchen and a bedroom as well.
“So what can I do for you?” We sat on his couch being polite and sipping beers.
“My uncle hired me to find something for him. It may be something Steel was connected with. Tell me about Steel.”
“His body was found in an alley over by 53rd. It was a professional job: one bullet in the heart. We think it might be job related, but the DA is hesitant to disturb your uncle. Now that you tell me that something is stolen it makes some sense. Perhaps he was nosing around looking for the thieves.”
“I seemed to get the impression, though we didn’t talk about Steel, that Steel’s involvement was somewhat deeper.”
“Here’s something else. Another of your uncle’s employees has died recently.”
“Dr. John Conway. The DA has determined that it was natural causes.”
“Conway? He was into high tech. That helps. Could we keep this conversation private for awhile? If I find out anything, I’ll get in touch.”
“You give me anything and I’ll talk to the DA again.”
Chance noticed that my bottle was empty. “Can I get you another?”
“No thanks. I’ve got to get home and get my beauty sleep.”
“You don’t need any.”
How can he say these things with a straight face? I felt like slapping him, but instead when he had walked me the few feet to the door I gave him, for reasons beyond my ken, a peck on the cheek.
The next day I came into my office long enough to tell Abi that I’d probably be out most of the day, but I call in from time to time. She nodded and I was gone. I don’t what I’d do without her.
I hit the pavement and asked kats that I knew who were known to rub up against the lowlifes in this town what they knew. I also did a partial tour of the pawn shops in town trying to find out if anybody had come in with lots of money or they’d heard about anyone who’d come into a lot of money recently. The pawn shops were a bust this time and the others said they’d get back to me.
Day two was more of the same. Nobody knew anything.
This case would be made a whole lot easier if my uncle would be more specific about what the plans were that were stolen. Asking about industrial espionage in MegaKat City was going to get one too many answers. Everybody spied on everybody else. I had already reported on two of them to my uncle, but he told me that they had already taken care of them. What was he expecting me to do?
When I checked in with Abi in the afternoon she told me that Billie Strayhorn wanted to see me and that Billie would be at the usual place. With Billie the usual place was Jeremy’s Bar and Grill, although it was more bar than grill. I wouldn’t recommend the place for it’s food, but the pool tables were fair.
The neighborhood that Jeremy’s was in was in the northwest side of MegaKat City and the area had seen better days. It was not as run down as some, but kats weren’t flocking to live or work here.
The first thing you saw upon entering Jeremy’s were the pool tables. They were four rows deep just inside the front door. At one time, so it is said, this use to be a dance floor when Jeremy’s was a country and western bar, but I wouldn’t know since I don’t dance.
After the rows of pool tables, which weren’t in much use this early in the afternoon, was a long bar and somewhere behind that was the grill, which no kat would admit to ever having seen. The food was tolerable, but the beer was better.
At the bar was Billie wearing her tight red miniskirt that always seemed to be so short that when she sat on a bar stool you should be able to see the base of her tail, but she always found enough material somewhere to tuck it underneath herself to sit on. She still showed an ample amount of thigh, which was not bad for her business.
“Hello Billie. Abi said you wanted to talk to me.”
The bartender came over and I ordered a beer for myself and bought Billie a scotch. Face to face Billie was stunning. She didn’t need a deep neckline or the short tight skirt to be beautiful. Her fur was a very light brown and for some reason she kept her hair white. It was those sparkling pale green eyes that did it for me, though the rest of the package wasn’t bad.
“I hear you’re on a case.”
“I might have something for you.”
“If it pans out, I’ll buy you a dinner.”
She put a hand on one of mine and smiled at me. “We’ll see. I’m hearin’ stories about some weapons plans havin’ been stolen.”
“Weapons? It might be as I don’t know what I’m really after.” I took a long drink of my beer. “Anything else?”
“Apparently some kat was killed over it: some kind of double cross.”
“I don’t remember the name: it didn’t sound that familiar.”
On impulse I asked, “David Steel?”
“That sounds kind of familiar: it might be the one.”
I frowned at the response. It looked like it was going to be time to see my uncle again. Billie patted my hand. “My first client isn’t for another hour: we could work out some of your stress.”
“Thanks for the offer, but I’ve got a few other leads to check.” She looked disappointed, so I smiled at her. “Don’t forget about the dinner, if I get this thing solved.”
I called several times to try to get an appointment to see my uncle, but he seemed to be neither at home nor at work. Sometimes the only way I could get to see my uncle was to barge in. Maybe I should hire Billie and we could crash one of his parties. I’m sure he’d talk to me then.
After three days this case wasn’t going anywhere. Abi had already had as much of the friendliness of the office as she could take and left at a decent hour: 6:00 PM. I was still here pretending like I had some great vision of the solution. However, with Abi gone I had no one to yell at. I have no idea what I expected her to tell me, but it was her fault that she didn’t.
I had two choices. I could go home, eat and think about the case in some comfort. If I was lucky, I’d get to sleep at a decent hour and wouldn’t show up at the office feeling as cranky as I did now.
The other choice was to go my uncle’s and we could yell at each other for awhile. He would bring up my present lifestyle and occupation and contrast it with the wonderful upbringing he gave me after my parents were killed in the mugging. I would tell him about how I hated the way he brought me up and that I thought I was doing fine with the way things were. These lies would go on for several hours until I finally stomped out of his house.
I opted to just go home since the clock on my desk said 7:30. I was just opening the door between offices when there was a knock on the outer door. I hoped it wasn’t Manx telling me that my uncle wanted to yell at me for awhile. Fortunately, when I opened the door, I found that it was someone else and someone even more unlikely.
“Chance, what brings you here alone? Is your buddy still trying to find a place to park?”
“Felina.” I could see that I had hurt his feelings. I guess I was still in a mood to abuse other kats. Chance is a very sweet kat and I shouldn’t behave this way toward him. “No, I’m off duty. I come as a civilian wanting to know if you’d like to go to dinner with me.”
“Are you asking me for a date, Mr. Furlong?”
“Do you have other plans?”
“Not tonight. Where do want to go?”
Chance smiled one of those big smiles of his. “Let me use your phone and I’ll find out.” He laughed as he walked over to Abi’s desk.
While he sat at the desk calling restaurants trying to get some reservations for sometime soon I sat in one of the other office chairs behind him. He was a big, burly, handsome kat and I knew that he’d make some she-kat proud. Unfortunately, for him, that she-kat wasn’t me. I liked Chance a lot and considered him a very good friend, but our relationship didn’t go much further.
Chance spun around in his chair with the phone in his hand. “Ah ha! How does Mel’s sound?”
“Great. Ask them if shish-kabob is still in season.”
Chance laughed again before turning back to the phone. He had a great laugh. Hell, he was a great kat.
After he hung up the phone he turned back to me. “They’ll hold a place for us for thirty minutes. Shall we go?” I nodded. “Since you’re parked down the street why don’t we take my car.”
I nodded again and then thought about how well I was dressed to eat at Mel’s. It was a classy spot and both Chance and I were dressed casually, in my case very casually. I was wearing jeans and a white shirt. At least the shirt was dressy, sort of. Chance was wearing slacks and a “dress” tee shirt. Between the two of us we might be well- dressed.
When we got outside I saw his spit polished Buick parked across the street. I could never understand how he could always find a place to park right in front and I always had to park one or two blocks away. One more mystery of life.
The dinner at Mel’s was excellent, as one would expect. Chance had a very large, very rare T-bone steak and I had shrimp and salmon shish-kabob. They don’t skimp on food at Mel’s and both of us were quite full after eating. It would not be too much of an exaggeration to say that we waddled out to his car when we left.
It was a beautiful night, and so we drove around a little and then headed for the park for a stroll to work off dinner. Somewhere along the walk we began holding hands. Soon thereafter the moon rose through the trees and the shadows on the ground looked like they were playing tag with our feet.
About the time our circle route took us back near Chance’s car I decided it was time I got back home to get that good night’s rest. Both of us had jobs to do tomorrow, though I expected Chance would have a more fruitful day than I.
When we drove back to my car Chance parked next to my Mustang and it looked much worse for the comparison. I almost asked him to take me to a used car dealer so I could get a new car. Instead I leaned over to give him a goodnight kiss. He reached out and pulled me closer to him. What started out as a goodnight kiss became something much longer and deeper. He was a kat who knew how to kiss.
Eventually we came up for air and Chance asked the question. “Felina, would you spend the night with me?”
I always dreaded this question. “Chance, you know I’m not that kind of a kat. I like you very much, but not like that.”
“I know.” The resignation in his voice was palatable.
This was a great way to end what had been a wonderful evening. I took one of his hands in both of mine. “If things were different, you’d be at the top of my list.” That was brilliant.
We sat there in the front seat of his car looking at each other in silence for a few minutes. Then he took my hands in his and brought them to his lips. When he let them go he said, with a wan smile, “Good night.”
I got out and watched him drive off. “Damn it!”
I was sitting in my living room watching the news a couple of nights later when there was a knock at my door. I was hoping it would be one kat in particular, but when I opened the door I saw it was another. In fact, it was two others: the Bobbsie Twins of the police department: Jake Clawson and Chance Furlong.
Clawson bulled his way into my apartment without either asking permission or waving a warrant under my nose. Chance followed looking a little sheepish and a little sadder than usual. This time his smile seemed to lack its customary warmth.
As soon as Chance was in the apartment and had closed the door behind himself Clawson turned back to me. “We got a tip about you.” He thrust a photo at me. “One of your disgruntled bedmates?”
It was a photo of Billie. She was lying in an alley with her dressed ripped and a bloody patch on her chest. “What is this?”
“What do you think? You had nothing to do with this?”
I shook my head. At the moment I couldn’t speak and didn’t trust myself to speak.
“Take a good look sister, while I look around.” He handed me more photos of the crime scene and wandered off to tour my apartment in the guise of good police work. The photos weren’t very enlightening, but they did build up my anger. Billie didn’t deserve this. Chance came over to stand next to me and put his arm around my shoulders to comfort me. I let him and leaned against him very lightly.
“Who did this? It looks like it is supposed to be a rape and a killing, but it is just murder. No rapist takes the time to shoot someone in the heart.”
“The bullet that killed her was from the same gun that killed Steel.”
“Does Conway fit in here anywhere?”
“I don’t know.”
“What was this tip?”
“Jake got a call telling him about the she-kat and that you were connected with the killing. He knows you didn’t do it, but …”
We stood for a moment listening to things of mine bounce off the floor. When it sounded like Clawson was returning to the living room Chance took his arm off my shoulder and took the photos back from me.
“Has anyone claimed the body?”
“She has no family that we know of.”
“Tell the morgue to release the body to the downtown temple. I’ll foot the bill for the cremation.”
Clawson returned, grinning. He pointed to the photos in Chance’s hand and asked, “Is that a leftover from a case you’re working on? What is it?”
“Talk to my uncle, he hired me.”
That didn’t really please Clawson, but it did silence him for the moment. We exchanged a few more pleasantries and then he stormed out of my apartment. Chance hung back for a moment. “If they is anything I can do, …”
I shook my head.
As soon as I was sure the cops were gone I left my apartment and drove to my uncle’s house. I didn’t care what he was doing, but we were going to talk. One of the nice things about living in the house for so long was that I knew how to get in without permission. It took a little longer, but get in I did.
I found my uncle in the living room sitting on one of the couches with an attractive she-kat somewhat younger than he was. As soon as I momentarily stopped in the doorway I saw that my uncle’s companion spotted me, but my uncle did not. However, he soon realized that she was looking elsewhere and as he turned to look in the direction she was looking Manx appeared behind me.
“Felina, you can’t go in there, your uncle …”
That’s as far as he got because as soon as my uncle spotted me he jumped up. “Felina, what do you think you’re doing?”
“But uncle, I thought you said I was always welcome in your house?”
Manx was still behind me somewhere and my uncle was trying to stare me down. His companion was looking confused. She didn’t know whether to stay or leave. Now that I had thoroughly messed up my uncle’s pleasant evening I decided it was time to explain myself.
“We have to talk uncle.”
“Make an appointment with Manx …”
I interrupted. “We will talk now. People are being murdered in connection with this case you gave me. I want the truth.”
Maybe I convinced my uncle or maybe he just thought he’d get rid of me faster if he talked to me. He walked toward me not bothering, I noticed, to introduce his companion. We went into his office, this time without Manx who was probably soothing ruffled fur in the living room. My uncle closed the door after us, but didn’t bother to take a seat behind his desk. I decided I could stand up as well.
“Okay, what do you want to know?”
“I want to know the truth! I see it like this uncle. Steel was doubling crossing you. He either stole the plans or made it possible for someone else to steal them. They are plans for some sort of weapon, aren’t they?” My uncle just stared. “It must be complicated because they killed Conway so his work wouldn’t be duplicated anytime soon.
“Why are you building weapons, uncle? Don’t we have enough ways to kill each other already?”
He looked at me for a moment and then spoke with resignation. “It was a good offer and it’s just another gun.”
“So who’d want it? Perhaps I should ask who would be able to produce any of them for testing etc..”
“There are only three places in town besides my own. They are Sandusky Laboratory, Jones and Bartlett Enterprises and Mange Industries. I can’t see any of them taking it though. If they get caught, they’re finished.”
“Why, it’s just espionage?”
“The contract is with the feds.”
“Then why aren’t you getting them to look for it?”
“We don’t get any money that way.”
He said this so matter-of-factly that I was stunned. However, he’d finally given me the first substantial lead in this case. The fact that he could have given it to me before Billie was killed did not go unnoticed.
“Enjoy your evening, uncle.” I walked past him and out of the office. I only wished I had some way to make him pay for this.
Considering I never did any business in them I spent a lot of my time in pawn shops. Even if I wasn’t working on a case I frequented these places to get tips and keep my hand in. I even got a few cases by turning pawn shop information into something I could sell.
Even with my uncle finally coughing up his information I wasn’t getting too far. It seemed like Sandusky was in the clear, but between the other two it was still a toss up. I hoped that someone at some pawn shop had heard something, but no one knew anything.
Still there was one pawn shop I didn’t mind visiting. The sign on the window said “The Penultimate Pawn Shop” and I wondered how many of its visitors knew what that meant. The proprietress had a very strange sense of humor, but what did you expect from someone who has a college degree and settles for owning a pawn shop?
When I walked in I noticed that no one was in the cage so I rapt on the window until a familiar she-kat popped her head out from the back room. “What can I do … oh, Felina!”
“Hi Callie. Know anything about stolen weapons plans?”
“No.” The blond she-kat shook her head on the other side of the plexiglass window. “Are you on another case?”
“Yes, for my uncle.”
I sighed and she smiled. It was a smile that made it hard to be sad around. I have no idea where she got this disposition. I’ve met her father and mother and they’re nice kats, but sweet is not a word I would associate with them, only their daughter.
She certainly didn’t deal with the best brand of kat all the time. Once she was robbed and beaten, but instead of changing jobs, as I wanted, she just came back to work at the pawn shop. At least, she put in the plexiglass window like I asked.
“Do you want to come over tonight, Felina? I was planning on having sweet and sour salmon.”
She knew the way to my heart, did this kat. Of course, it had been two weeks since I’d seen her and she could have been having tuna in a can and I would have come over. I nodded yes and then reached my hand through the slot under the plexiglass. She took it in hers and we stood there holding hands and looking into each other’s eyes like teenagers. “What time should I come by?”
We let go and I reluctantly turned away from Callie and went on to the next pawn shop on my list. It’s probably a good thing I left when I did or else we might have really gotten silly and who knows, we might even have gone into her back room.
Things were getting really bad for me. I hadn’t found out anything in my tour of the pawn shops so I did what I always did when I was stumped: I went to Barney’s down the block from my office for a drink. When all else fails, ask the bartender. Besides I still had a little while before I had to get over to Callie’s for dinner.
Barney’s was its usual dark self. The tables were mostly empty since it was only late in the afternoon. If you show up in the evening, it’s standing room only. The bar was empty too except for Barney who was behind it and some she-kat down at the other end. I think she was waiting for customers. I pulled up a bar stool in the middle and asked for a beer, the darker the better.
“Anybody in here recently talking about making a big killing?”
“Nope.” With that the ever eloquent Barney went down to see what his other patron might want.
I sat and sipped my beer while mulling over this case. Even a beer was not making it go down well. I was just going to leave when a good looking tom-kat strolled in and sat down next to me. Barney came back and poured the new kat a beer. He liked light beer.
Apparently he liked me since he started running pick up lines by me. I had to admit to being both flattered and annoyed. Annoyance won out as I thought about what this kat thought he could get away with. Did he really think he could just walk in here and take me home?
“Excuse me.” I interrupted him. “I have to leave for a dinner engagement, but I think the kat at the other end of the bar might just be your type.” With that I got up and left.
When I pulled up to Callie’s apartment building I had to admire its architectural style. The art deco winged seraphs over the door were just beautiful, but the chrome inside in the lobby was phenomenal. Callie lived in one of the artist’s sections of the city and at least they had chosen a beautiful building. I think Callie told me that the first kats had moved in to save the building from demolition. It was going strong now.
In this building lived painters, writers, musicians and even more pretenders. There also lived here a pawn shop owner who knew these kats for other reasons. As I walked up the stairs I began to hear Bruno wailing away on his saxophone. Now I like Bird, Ornette and Trane, but Bruno was so far out there in a world of his own that I’m not sure anyone else could get in. If I lived on his floor, as Callie did, I think I’d be telling him to practice elsewhere.
When I knocked on her door I heard the familiar voice telling me to come in. I shuddered when, as usual, I found her door unlocked and as soon as I was inside I locked it. She was too trusting for my taste: how did she know who I was?
I found Callie in the kitchen cooking and wearing her house uniform of shorts and tank top. I came up behind her and put my arms around her waist. At first she started and then, as I ran my hands through her fur, she relaxed against me and began to purr. My cares disappeared.
She pulled herself free just as my hands were working their way up under her top saying she had to finish dinner. I tried to pout and look put upon, but Callie just smiled at me and turned back to the food she was preparing.
“It’s been two weeks, Callie.” I put all the longing I could in my voice, but only got her shimmering laughter in reply. I resigned myself to the delay. “So, how are your parents?”
“Mom’s fine. She asked about you. Dad’s recovering nicely from his heart attack. The doctor says he’ll recover completely. I think he was glad I was coming back to MegaKat City as he didn’t want another she-kat fussing over him.” Now it was her turn to sound resigned. “Maybe it was just as well that you didn’t come along.”
Dinner was great as usual. The only kat I know that cooks better than Callie is her mother. None of the cooks my uncle had over the years that I lived with him cooked this good. I kept telling Callie that she should get out of the pawn shop business and open a restaurant, but she was reluctant to change.
The dinner conversation was somewhat dampened when I mentioned Billie and her fate. This lead to the fact that the case was getting nowhere despite what my uncle had finally told me. I tried to lighten the tone by telling Callie about my date with Chance, but I stopped when she told me that there was nothing wrong with being in love with two kats at the same time. However, when we went to bed later there was no question about who was in love with whom.
I was late getting to the office the next morning, but I didn’t regret a minute of the delay. I didn’t even care that I ended up parking three blocks away. It was a nice morning: the sun was shining, the birds were singing and when I opened the office door, which I had to unlock, Abi was nowhere to be seen.
I went over to her desk to call her home to see if she was sick when I saw the note propped up against the phone.
“Stay out of our affairs. In two weeks the she-kat will be returned to you unharmed unless you get in touch with the police.” This note was beautifully typed up on Abi’s typewriter, by Abi no doubt, and it said all that needed to be said. I went into my office and sat.
I sat at my desk wondering if this case was worth it. I was involved in something that seemingly did nothing but hurt people. David Steel was dead long ago. John Conway had probably been murdered even earlier. Then Billie was killed just because she talked to me. I’m sure the “tip” to Clawson was just to let me know that whoever did it was on to me.
I read the note again and realized that they had not referred to Abi as my secretary. I wondered if they thought Abi was my lover as well as my secretary. Just to be on the safe side I felt that I should I get in touch with Callie and tell her to stay away from me for awhile. However, I didn’t trust the phones in my office any more.
While I was trying to decide how to proceed with this case or whether to proceed with this case at all the phone rang. I thought it might be the kidnappers, but, instead, it was a priest at the temple telling me that Billie’s body had been released to them and asking me when I wanted the cremation done. I told them that the afternoon would be fine with me if it was okay for them. The priest said it would be fine and we agreed on a time. At least now I had a way to get in touch with Callie that would probably be safe.
It had been several days since Abi had been taken and now no one would talk to me. Obviously everyone had heard what had happened to Billie. I was trying to be as quiet as possible so as to not put Abi’s life in anymore danger than it already was, but it wasn’t easy to be reduced to doing almost nothing. Much to my disgust it looked like the only way to save Abi was to get my uncle’s weapons back for him.
I went home late.
I had just gotten out of the shower when the doorbell rang. When I looked through the peephole I saw Chance Furlong. I was only wearing a robe and a towel over my hair, but if I couldn’t trust Chance, who could I trust? When I let him in I saw that he was still in uniform: trenchcoat and fedora. I pulled the robe a little tighter and opened the door.
“To what do I owe this visit? I hope what’s his name isn’t going to jump out of the woodwork. If he is, let me know and I’ll get dressed.”
“No, I’m on my way home and I thought I should tell you something.”
“I was just about to fix some salmon casserole. Would you like to stay for dinner?”
Chance just looked at me for a moment and then simply nodded. For some reason this made me happy. We went into my little kitchen and while I fixed dinner he sat at the dinner table. I kept expecting Chance to speak, but all I got from behind my back was silence.
“OK, what is it you wanted to tell me?”
“You’re a lovely kat.”
I almost threw a can of salmon at him, but changed my mind when he smiled. “You tell me that all the time. If that is all you have to say, then you might as well leave.”
“Touchy, aren’t we? Here it is. Jake has noticed that Abi is missing or, at least, is never there when he calls. He’s called her place and her parent’s place. Where is she?”
I said nothing.
“Well, Jake thinks you’ve killed her because she found out something you didn’t want her to know. We’re coming by your office to see you tomorrow.”
I started laughing. This was too funny despite its seriousness. Jake wanted me bad. I turned to look at Chance and saw that he was serious and expecting an answer. “I’ll remember to stay away from the office. I hope he finds her because I don’t know where she is.”
“Why haven’t you reported her missing?”
“Because she’s been kidnapped. Chance, I want to show you something, but you have to promise that it doesn’t go outside of this apartment.”
He nodded and I went into the bedroom. I grabbed the note and brought it out to give to him. He read it over and then looked at it as if he could glean some clues from it. Then he read the note over again.
“How old is this?”
“A few days.”
“Why didn’t you tell me earlier?”
“You read it: no police. If I don’t get Abi back, some scum die.”
“Whose affairs are you in?”
“I don’t know. Somebody thinks I’m too close to something.”
“What cases are you working on?”
“Just the one.” I looked at Chance. At this point I’d take anyone’s help. “My uncle finally told me more. Apparently, it’s between Sandusky, B and J and Mange. Apparently, whoever stole the plans thinks I know who it is.”
“Plans for what?”
“He told me it’s some sort of weapon. If you hear of anything, let me know, please.”
Dinner was ready by that time and we ate dinner punctuated by Chance asking me anything else I could tell him. I spent most of the dinner admiring Chance. I felt myself becoming really attracted to him. Several times he had to repeat his questions because I wasn’t really paying that much attention to what he was saying, just to him. I had no idea what had come over me as I looked at this kat.
After dinner and dessert Chance helped with the dishes and I don’t think I was doing it consciously, but I kept finding myself bumping into him or when I’d hand him a dish to dry I would briefly clasp his hand. I was beginning to behave very oddly and I began to realize where I was going with this.
When said he should be going I walked him out to the door. As soon as he put his hand on the doorknob I put my hand on his shoulder and then pushed my body lightly against his back. “Do you have to go back right away?”
Chance was silent for a moment. “No, no hurry.” When he turned to face me he made sure that his body rubbed against mine. “I thought you weren’t that kind of kat?”
“I wasn’t falling in love then.”
“What about …?” Chance had the good grace not to complete the question.
Of course, I still loved Callie. With all my heart and soul I loved Callie, but Chance …. Damn it! Callie was my true kat!
I looked at Chance and he began to make that smile of his. I wanted to take this kat to my bed, but …. “Chance, I’m sorry, but this isn’t going to work. You’d better go.”
Did he really?
I kissed him on the cheek and as soon as he was out the door I shut and locked it. I don’t know whether I was more afraid of someone breaking in or me breaking out. I wondered what was happening to me. I loved Callie. She was my true kat. How could I possibly be thinking about going to bed with Chance. I almost screamed, but I was able to control this impulse, at least. My bed was really going to be lonely this night.
What little work I had been able to do seemed to point to Mange Industries since they could certainly use an infusion of capital. Also the Manges themselves had a rather shady past. Still it could be any of them. All they had to do was show up with a prototype after they had shown my uncle up and the contract would be theirs. Since it was with the feds it would pay well.
Most of this work was making me nervous. If whoever was behind this decided kidnapping Abi wasn’t going to shut me up, then their next choice was no doubt going to be to kill me. I figured that the only reason they hadn’t done so yet was because I was Ulysses Feral’s niece and any investigation of my death, no matter how loathe Clawson would be to undertake it, would lead to this case and the whole can of worms. Still they must be worried.
I was at home sitting on my couch in the living room trying to make the pieces fit when there was a knock at my door. My paranoia got the better and I told them to wait a moment. I went to get my gun and after unlocking the door I held the gun at head level.
The door opened and I found myself staring down the barrel of my gun at Callie. I was so shocked that I held the gun on her for a moment longer before it slipped out of my fingers and fell to the floor. I tried to speak before Callie left. “Callie … I …”
I didn’t get a chance to finish because Callie came in and threw her arms around me. I reciprocated and I was not sure which of us was shaking more. We stood in the doorway holding each other tightly.
Eventually, we stopped shaking long enough to head over to the living room couch. I closed and locked my front door, but the gun stayed on the floor where I had dropped it. On the couch we sat with arms around each other.
“I’m so sorry. I guess I just worked myself up into a panic over this case. I …”
Callie put her hand on my lips. “It’s okay. You weren’t expecting me.”
“Why did you come?”
“A kat came into my store today high as a kite. He kept babbling about making a killing and then giggling like he knew some big joke. I got him talking and I think he was talking about building some sort of weapon.”
“Did he say who was doing this building?”
“It was hard to tell since he rambled a lot.” I felt back where all of this started. “I think it was Jones and somebody.”
“Jones and Bartlett?”
That was a surprise. I got up and went into the bedroom where I got more ammo for my gun. When I came out I went over to where my gun lay on the floor. I put it in its holster and turned to Callie.
“Call Chance and tell him what you told me. I’m going to get Abi.”
“Felina, wait for the police.”
I didn’t look at Callie’s face, and so her plea fell on deaf ears.
In my library research about the possible culprits I had come across the plans for their various plants. I headed for the most likely place they would “store” Abi and tried to map out a route to the office where they were most likely to be storing the plans.
It was late at night and most of the Jones and Bartlett plant was dark, but there were a few places that had the lights on. I got inside and made my way to where I thought Abi was. She wasn’t there, but I heard some noise not far away and made my way there.
There I saw two big kats carrying automatic weapons. I was lucky enough to overhear one of them say that he was going to check on their guest and hoped this was the right place. One of the kats opened a large door and peered inside. I didn’t hear what he said, but I did hear a reply that sounded like a very weak version of Abi’s voice.
Before I could get into the room the kat closed the door and set the latch. Suddenly, there was gunfire in another part of the plant, which caused the phone to ring in this room, and it was answered by the other kat. It was a short call and he did not look happy when he turned to his companion.
“The cops have arrived. They want us to bring up the hostage.”
The door opened again, but before either kat could disappear inside to bring Abi out I fired on them. Since they had no idea I was there I was able to shoot out some kneecaps before they were able to react.
I came forward and saw that the kat inside the room was indeed Abi. She looked a little worse for the wear, but before dealing with her I got the two goons to crawl into the locker. Then, I untied Abi and got her out of the way. I wanted those plans, but didn’t think I had a chance now. I figured that the best thing to do right now was get Abi away from this place.
By this time the gunfire had stopped and when Abi and I got out of the building and into the night we were met by a couple of policekats. I told them about the goons and one of them went off to check while the other one hustled Abi and I toward the main buildings.
We got there just as my uncle did. He wanted to know where his plans were and Clawson was ready to give them to him, except that they were still in the safe and nobody claimed to know the combination. We were soon joined by “Ace Journalist” Johnny Birman of KatsEye News. He was carrying his minicam and pointing it everywhere. He tried to get someone to tell him what was going on and when they said that much he wanted more. He was able to duck when my uncle tired to knock the camera out of his hands.
Chance asked how Abi and I were and I told him that we were okay, but that I was going to take her to the emergency room at MegaKat Memorial just in case. Clawson was in a rage and Johnny was in his element. Clawson wasn’t about to let us go until Birman pointed his camera at Clawson.
“Why are you holding them?”
“What did they do?”
“Get out of my face.” Clawson could be so articulate at times.
“Listen Clawson, you have a bigger decision. Those plans you want, that my uncle wants back, are evidence. Are you just going to give them up? You might be interested to know that these plans are for a new weapon. Think about that the next time you look at your wife and kittens. Do they need another weapon in their world?”
Birman was slow on the uptake and I got halfway through my speech before he swung the camera in my direction. When he was sure I was done he swung back to Clawson and then to my uncle’s very unpleasant look. Neither of them wanted to say anything more. I chose that moment to say that Abi and I would be available at my office tomorrow for questions if they had any.
Abi was given a clean bill of health, except for a few minor bruises and cuts, and I took her to her parents’ home telling her to take as much time as she needed before coming back to work. She asked about the police and I told her I would tell them where she was and not to worry. After seeing that she was in good hands I left to go back to my apartment.
I fully expected Clawson to be there waiting for me. No doubt he would be sitting on my couch, drinking my beer and watching Litterbin. He’d, of course, also have a squad of police to arrest me, but there were no cops waiting and fortunately no Clawson. He was probably still arguing with my uncle or trying to see if they could get to the plans.
As I unlocked the door I heard voices and drew my gun, but soon realized that the voices were coming from my TV. I didn’t remember it being on when I left. On the couch I saw the answer and put my gun away. It was not Clawson, thank the Goddess, but it was Callie curled up asleep. Apparently, she had stayed and turned on the TV. I saw Birman’s grinning countenance and turned the TV off. I could see why she had fallen asleep.
She looked so peaceful lying there asleep, but I assumed she’d sleep better if she was in a bed. I knew that I’d sleep better if she was sleeping in my bed. I gently shook her until she stirred. She opened her eyes and when she saw me she sat up.
“Are you alright? How is Abi?”
“We’re both fine. Sorry to wake you, but I thought you might be more comfortable in bed. I’d be happier if you were.”
She smiled and stood up. We walked into the bedroom and were soon asleep in each other’s arms. Epilogue
It had been two weeks since Jones and Bartlett had been closed down and the day’s mail was a real surprise. My uncle had come through with payment for the work I had done for him. It was a very handsome amount considering all that I had done to embarrass him and ruin his contract. Perhaps there’s hope for him yet. With this amount of money I wouldn’t have to take any cases for awhile if I didn’t want to.
I was sitting at my desk trying to decide what to do with the money when I heard the outer door open. I heard Abi say “Hi,” but it also sounded like she stopped speaking in midsentence. I was still paranoid enough to get up from my desk to see if there was any trouble when my door opened.
It was Callie wearing her standard attire of jeans and T-shirt and looking her usual beautiful self, even if she appeared a little saddened. She walked in and I didn’t know what to do. I had been avoiding her, and so she had come to me.
“Felina, what is wrong? You are not still worried about the other night?”
“No, not that night.” My voice was flat.
“What then? I love you, Felina. I’ve missed you and don’t want to lose you.”
She was in pain and I didn’t want to add to it, but I had to be honest, at least once in my life. “Callie, I don’t know how to say this but to just say it. A few nights before that night Chance came over to my apartment and we ….” I couldn’t say it. I loved Callie, I thought, and I had betrayed her.
“You and Chance?” Suddenly the old smile almost returned. “You went to bed with Chance?”
“No.” I paused. “But I wanted to. Suddenly I thought I had fallen in love with him and … Callie, I’m sorry. You’re the kat I love and …” I had definitely lost my ability to speak coherently.
Callie came over to where I was still standing next to my desk and put her arms around me. “I told you before that there’s nothing wrong with being in love with more than one kat at a time. Chance is very nice and you do deal with him a lot. I know you don’t love me any less because I know you. If you wanted to break it off, you’d tell me.” She stepped back from me, but kept her hands on my arms. “Are you trying to tell me that?”
“No! You are my true kat. It’s just that with Chance … I don’t know.” I was starting to whine.
“Does Chance think you’ve given me up for him?”
“No. At least I didn’t think so. I did tell him it wouldn’t work out.”
“Just be honest with us and most especially with yourself. You may have to choose some time. Perhaps not.”
I decided to change the subject before one of us got too maudlin. “Look at what I got from my uncle.” I showed her the check and her eyes widened. “Before you got here I was wondering how to spend it. I think I know how to spend some of it.”
I kissed Callie and then went out to see Abi. “Could you call MegaKat Hilton and reserve a sybarite suite for two for the next, ah,” I looked at Callie, “three days? Then you might as well go shopping for better office equipment. Upgrade as you see fit. When you’re ready to order in a few days let me know and we’ll see how much of this,” I waved my uncle’s check in the air, “will cover it.”
Abi started dialing while Callie and I watched. Abi wrote a figure on a notepad and showed it to me. I shuddered, but nodded anyway. She went back to the phone and wrote down a few more numbers. When she hung up she had a reservation for us. I thanked her and Callie and I left. First thing I was going to do was deposit the check.
Normally I use the stairs, but this time we took the elevator. I’m just glad there was no one on the first floor waiting for the elevator when we got there. Callie and I were almost too busy to notice.
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