Cat’s Paw (Chapter One)
Ms. Kotka pulled her kelly green hood over her dark hair as she walked back to the small basement office she shared with her new partner. She passed the open garden square near the pound where they had met. The remaining tree leaves hung on with a steel grip in the bitter November wind as their fallen compatriots seemed to dance up the sidewalk towards the center of town. Ms. Kotka pulled the hood more tightly about her face as she walked toward the door. The graying shingle hung above clattered against the small stoop light as she opened the door and walked in.
We buy it all,
We sell it all.
Leopold Muridae, Proprietor
Her modest heels faintly clicked on the dusty tile floor.
Mr. Muridae, Ms. Kotka called out, I hope you have the stove lit, it’s bitter cold outside.
It’s smoking away merrily puss, a thin reedy voice replied, come revive yourself with a warm beverage.
Ms. Kotka wound her way through the overstuffed and under-dusted shelves, tables, and cases holding the bulk of the shop’s curios and back into the small living space behind the store. She hung her coat on the rack beside the door as she stepped over the threshold.
The room was warm and cozy, a bright fire peeking out at her from behind the iron stove front. Mr. Muridae sat at his paper strewn desk, working on the computer, while a half-nibbled grilled cheese sandwich sat ignored by his side. Mr. Muridae was thin, reedy, and as grey as the day she had just firmly shut outside. He was dressed in a smart tweed vest and trousers, wore golden eyeglasses on his face, and had the dusty appearance of a true scholar.
Kitty, he piped, it’s awfully cold outside. Are you sure you are up for tonight?
Ms. Kotka settled into a cushion before the fire and reached for the tea kettle on the cast iron stove. She poured herself a generous helping of milk, added a few drops of tea, and set her mug on the stove to heat.
I am loathe to leave such a cozy abode to wander about in this weather, however, if you say I need to go out again, then I need to go out again.
The firelight caught on her greenish golden eyes and glimmered off the buttons on her lovely green dress.
I believe I have finally mastered the art of this silly thing, here try it on. Mr. Muridae climbed down off the chair and carried a bedraggled shawl over to Ms. Kotka. Attached to it was a tiny rusted broach hiding a small remote camera.
Ms. Kotka grumbled as she took the scarf . It was unpleasant in the extreme to leave her lovely clothes behind and don this nasty thing.
All this cloak and dagger nonsense Mr. Muridae, there must be a neater, tidier, and perhaps less stinky way to accomplish our goal? Ms. Kotka held one end of the filthy shawl up in the air and wrinkled her nose in distaste.
Kitty, I’ve told you. If we are going to get the footage we need, then we must move about the city unnoticed. If you wandered through the back alleys as you currently look it would attract attention! Now go change into your costume and let’s get to work.
Do you mind if I finish my tea before I go back out into the chill? Ms. Kotka replied archly.
Of course not, and I apologize. Warm yourself and rest from your day. Once you are ready we will begin. In the meantime, I have some final adjustments to make. He returned to his desk, scattered in papers, and within seconds was absorbed in whatever was on the computer screen.
Ms. Kotka sipped her tea before the fire and let the heat sink in. Eventually she stretched languorously before she hopped up and began walking around the tiny room. When she reached a screen in the far corner she ducked behind it. A few minutes later she emerged covered in filthy rags.
All right Mr. Muridae, I’m ready.
Mr. Muridae looked up from the screen and studied her. He then walked over to her and began rubbing her down with a dirt covered towel. When he was finished she looked for all the world like a homeless waif. He handed her the shawl and she draped it over her head and pinned it at her throat with the rusty old broach.
Walk around a bit please, I want to see if it works. As Ms. Kotka moved about the room he peered closely at the computer as she did, tapping his fingers in excitement.
It works! I can see what you see! He flipped about in excitement. Oh I think this plan will work! Finally we will have our revenge!
Ms. Kotka’s eyes narrowed and she began to move with deliberate slowness. It’s about time they got their comeuppance! She growled.
Mr. Muridae froze in place instantly. After a moment or two of silence he shook himself.
My dear Kitty, would you mind calming down a bit? You still make me very nervous when you begin to puff up like that.
Sorry Leopold, when I think about all the tortuous humiliation my father had to endure it infuriates me. Ms. Kotka closed her eyes and began to mutter quietly. Summer breeze… soft grass… sunlight… ahhhhhhh. Ms. Kotka sighed, all signs of her prior agitation had vanished.
All right, said Mr. Muridae abruptly. It’s time to begin. Last time we relied too much on chance. You are no longer going to sit in the park capturing whoever walks by. This time we are going to be more targeted. Your mission is simple. After dusk you walk about, find windows and look in to them. The camera will record what you see and stream the images back to me. Once we have enough footage, then we assemble it and see what our next steps are.
Ms. Kotka looked down at a pile of dirty rags she wore in distaste, crinkling up her nose she grabbed some torn up old mittens.
Don’t you think people will shoo me off? I can’t believe I can wander around peering into people’s homes without attracting attention, even as filthy as I am. Mr. Muridae stood before her with a small comb, matting her silken mane.
Set aside your sensitivities Kitty. Revenge is a dirty business. As for unwanted attention, you would be surprised how many people will politely ignore you, so long as you don’t linger too long or appear threatening. Mr. Muridae set down the comb and stood back to admire his creation. Perfect. No one would suspect you of being anything other than another lost soul wandering in the night.
To be continued…
* Note from the author: I was raised by a writer. She would tuck little serials into my lunch box to help me get through the day. I spent my lunch regaling my table with the adventures of Detective Purr Pawprint. It is in homage to Purr that these characters were penned.