It’s cold as a dog, and the wind northeast. The windows of the office are rattling. Just another winter’s day in Ditsville. Even the mice are sleeping in.
Which is what I’m doing when the Dame yells, “I lost my eye!”
I crack an eyelid to squint past the catnip bong lying in front of my nose. The Dame is standing in the doorway. Beyond her the waterfall is dripping and the porcelain fishbowl is gurgling. She’s got both eyes. Also one new smear of oatmeal on the robe I slept on last night; two new gray hairs stuck to the frame of her glasses–one mine, one hers; a strong smell of peppermint and a slight white dab at the corner of her mouth and another small fleck of this on the leather slippers in which I like to hide mouse cadavers; and no evidence at all of a bowl of crunchies to pay me to get out of this chair. I yawn, stretch, and curl up again.
“Don’t go in there. I’ve got to get the flashlight,” the Dame says as she rushes past.
My lip curls slightly. I’m lying on it. She’s forgotten that she used it last night to find something in the bookcase behind me, sat down in the office chair–my office chair–to read, and tucked the flashlight down beside the seat cushion. I give the catnip a couple of licks and am drifting off to sleep again despite the rattling of drawers and occasional curses from the kitchen when someone steps on my head.
“Oh, I say! So sorry. There, there, good kitty.”
I glare. There’s a whiff of ether and river fog about him. Cautiously he eases the rest of the way out of the bookcase. He points at a tall figure–wearing the most ridiculous hat I’ve ever seen–striding into the waterfall room. “It was the Great Detective who stepped upon you. Pray excuse him. He’s a high-functioning sociopath.”
He’s a conceited, obnoxious drug addict. With big feet.
His mustache stretches as he smiles. “Yes, I should howl, too, if someone stepped on my head, but do let’s try not to alert your mistress. He prefers to examine a crime scene in the absence of other people.” The doctor steps carefully over me and follows Flap Hat into the other room.
There’s another crash from the kitchen. The Dame is getting more agitated the longer she looks and finds nothing. And the more agitated she gets, the less chance she’ll obligingly chase the bouncey-ball for me later after we’ve both had our midday nap. I sigh.
“Oh, dear. That sounds forlorn.” The elderly voice is soft, but the eyes peering over her spectacles at me from the bookcase are sharp and miss very little. The knitting needles click comfortably while she regards me. “Your mistress has lost her lens again, is that it?”
She’s not my mistress, Tea Cup. She’s my housekeeper.
She purses her lips, thinking. “I believe I’d call them all together in the parlor, dining room, conservatory, or what-have-you, and lay out your evidence of the theft, minute detail by minute detail. Then accuse each suspect in turn, making each sweat before you explain why it was impossible for them to have done it, until you reach the final suspect.” She leans from the bookcase and lowers her voice confidentially. “Generally, the guilty party cannot abide another five pages of synopsis, and blurts out a confession, to the relief of all.”
I’ll keep it in mind.
Tea Cup stows her knitting in her enormous bag. “The vicar’s wife is expecting me. Their girl makes the loveliest cream scones, though I fear her mind is much taken up with her new young swain.”
The one with the mysterious past, the dark tan of someone who has spent time under a desert sun, and the huge scimitar-shaped scar on his forearm?
Tea Cup is nodding to herself. She says thoughtfully, “I was somewhat distressed to hear a gunshot from the woods behind the vicarage not long ago, though it will be just someone rabbit hunting, I expect.”
Right. Because a gunshot behind a vicarage is such a common thing to hear, I think at her as she withdraws into the bookcase.
A fellow with dollar signs reflected in his eyes pops his head out. He looks around, frowns. Looks down at the map in his hand, deciphering the Latin code again. What’s the matter, bub? I ask politely. Lose your deus ex machina?
On cue, there is a clank and a whir, and down from the ceiling drops a small crystal pyramid, glowing with some ancient arcane light that illuminates the secret runes imprinted beneath the secret palimpsest of a secret organization that Dante Alligheri dreamed up when he was burning with plague. “OH!” Mapman exclaims excitedly, but in a scholar’s passionate voice. “Angel! I thought it said Angle!”
Hey, at least you got an extra 800 pages out of trying to track down an early English artifact that had absolutely nothing to do with anything, I observe as he roars off on a motorcycle equipped with a silencer.
A moment later I clap a paw over my nose as a strong smell of garlic and death gusts out of the bookcase. We don’t need the medical examiner, thanks, I hastily tell the blonde who isn’t as young as she once was, but still hasn’t learned to SEARCH THE DAMNED HOUSE FIRST before she starts cooking herself some Italian comfort food when she comes home after a hard day of pursuing a homicidal maniac with a personal grudge against her.
Miffed, she withdraws to brood and cook some more.
Now, I’m a pretty laid back type normally–the catnip sees to that–but all these gumshoes showing up has got me riled. These are my mean floorboards, and I’ll walk them. I stalk into the room with the waterfall.
Flap Hat is on his hands and knees, magnifying glass in hand. “They are the footprints of a gigantic hound!”
That doesn’t make a hell of a lot of sense in this context, does it?
The doctor, who is holding the candle for him, snorts. Flap Hat eyes me over the glass. “Just go with it, cat. It’s the Christmas special.”
Out. I’ve already got the case solved. Go on. Beat it. My Dame is coming back.
They vanish just as she comes through the door. “Dammit, Gracie, you could have told me you were lying on the flashlight,” she grumbles. “Come on now, get off the vanity.” She snaps her fingers and waves to the floor. The light flashes off her glasses.
Very carefully I stretch out a paw to brush the two gray hairs that are stuck to her glasses. As I expect, the contact lens falls to the counter top with them.
“Jaysus, cat, watch the eyes!” the Dame roars. And then the flashlight reflects from the lens and she picks it up. “I swear I looked all over for this,” she says, frowning.
It had fallen first to your robe, where it picked up some of our hair, and then, as you myopically pawed around trying to find it, it stuck to your finger. Finally you put on your glasses, managing to transfer the lens to the side piece of the frame, where it has been stuck all this time. Elementary.
“Well, that is the damnedest thing,” she says.
I hop down to the floor and rub against her slipper. Now, how about those crunchies?
A note from the housekeeper: This was written with fond best wishes for Miss Gracie’s seventh birthday today. The Dame did, in fact, lose her contact lens this week, and it was recovered essentially in the fashion portrayed. All other details may be attributed to a catnip dream. Or not, as the reader chooses.