He asked it of an assembled multitude of cats, delegates from all corners of the earth who had gathered -- somehow -- in a remote, woodsy glen to vote on the most important question ever to come before their body.
The gathering of the UniteCat Nations had been quiet, as it usually was. Representatives licked their fur, exchanged friendly head-bumps with colleagues, or simply took a nap until the SeCatary General rapped the gavel for order.
After clawing a nearby rough-barked tree for attention, and posing his question, SeCatary General Spot looked out over the now-silent crowd of felines. "This is why we are here, as you all know," he meowed. "Are you ready to vote?"
From the back of the crowd, Spot saw a small brown paw go up as one of the Burmese representatives rose to his feet. "Your Catship," the Burmese began, "it would be helpful for me, and maybe for others, if you would state the question just one more time on which we are voting. This is too impurrtant for there to be any confusion"
A rumbling purr of approval murmured through the crowd.
Mighty Spot nodded. “I shall do so.” Raising his voice so that it rang out over the glen, he said, “We are gathered here today to vote on whether it is time, at last, for us, on behalf of the cats of the world, to take over the running of this planet. We have seen humans attempt that task, for lo, these many ages. We have seen them, for the most part, make such a huge mess of it that no kitty box imaginable could contain the result."
Meows of agreement came from the representatives.
"Thus, we have called this special session of the UniteCat Nations to decide if now is the time to take destiny in our own paws, catch the mouse of government so incompetently lost by most humans, and rule the world."
The volume of agreement meows rose. But from one side of the crowd, a burly Occicat snarled loudly, "Yeah, we know we're great and all that. But what makes you think we could do so much better a job than the humans?"
Whispers of controversy rippled through the crowd.
"I understand your concern," answered the SeCatary General. "We, your committee, have studied history carefully, and have come up with incident after incident in which we cats, by rule of reason, wit, courage or just plain intelligence, left the humans far behind. Many accounts of human incidents are well known, often to the dishonor of the humans. Lesser known incidents, however, in which cats faced the same circumstances....well, let's let history teach us."
He gestured to a colleague, a handsome gray and white tom known as Milo. Milo was a close associate of the SeCatary General and respected by all. Milo nodded, and with a large scroll in his teeth, leaped up onto a nearby tree stump where he could see the crowd and they could hear him.
Holding the scroll carefully in his paws, Milo said, “My friends, I will read from our own history. As many of you know, our history is entitled, ‘Let The Cats Rule: Incidents From the Past Showing the Ability of the Cat to Match and Surpass the Ability of the Human to Run the World Efficiently.” Milo continued. "For example, humans have always had terrible problems with some members of their kind doing deeds that were hurtful to others of their kind. Crime, they call it. We can deal with it, and better than they can. Here are tales from cat history on that very subject."
"Where elsssssse?" Tabitha hissed cattily. "Go on in."
Next thing I knew, this beautiful, fluffy, silver Persian with incredible blue eyes was waltzing into my office. "Siddown, beautiful. What can I do for you?"
"My name is Lorelei Kittyfur," she meowed musically. "I'm a chanteuse, and --"
"A what?" I asked.
"I sing," she said, "at the Kit Kat Lounge. My boss, Edward G. RobCatSon, owns it. And he's my tom," she purred, confidentially.
"Sounds like a bowl of tuna to me," I growled. "What's the problem?"
"Eddie's been acting strange lately," she said. "He used to be the greatest tom. But now, well, he's so different. He doesn't pay any attention to me. All he talks about is some kind of dessert."
I licked my paws thoughtfully. "Any particular dessert?"
"I think it’s some kinda ice cream, because he calls it a Malted FatCat."
"You wouldn't mean a Maltese Falcat?" I asked.
"Yeah," said Lorelei squeaked brightly. "That's it."
"Okay," I said. "I'll take the case. My fee is a case of catfood per day, and I don't mean the generic kind."
"I'll have it delivered," Lorelei purred. "Okay?"
"Fine," I said.
We touched paws and she fluffed her silvery way out of the office.
Tabitha began pounding her typewriter furiously, as she always does when some glamour kitten brings us some business, however much we need it.
"Tabby," I yelled, "ease off on the typewriter and call my Aunt Fluffy."
The typewriter stopped. I heard the phone being dialed. I picked up the phone and talked to my Aunt Fluffy, who is a Maltese.
"Hi, Auntie," I said.
"Humphrey? My favorite kitten nephew. What's going on?"
"Auntie, do you know anything about a Maltese Falcat?"
"Sure, honey. He's one of my other nephews. He has a job as a police cat. He's undercover right now, with the K-9s in the Mice Division. You know, he used to work
"Okay, Auntie. Thanks a lot. I owe you a dinner at the Creamery. 'Bye."
Hmm. That meant Lorelei's tom was heavily into mice -- bringing those disgusting little rodents into our community for the enjoyment of those who were addicted to them.
I yowled to Tabby, "Get that Lorelei on the phone, okay?"
After a certain amount of hissing and growling, Tab snarled, "She's on."
"Lorelei?" I asked.
"Are you looking for meeeeeeeeeeeeeeow?"
"Yeah." I said. "Get out of there and don't come back, unless you want to spend a lot of time in the pound."
"You're saying I should get meeeeeowt?"
"Yes," I said. "And right neeeeow."
The phone clicked as she hung up.
Then I heard the front office door slam, Tabby squeak in fear and squall as if her tail were stepped on -- and then Edgar G. RobCatSon stormed into my office. "Whatsamatta-u," he growled, flashing his claws in my face."You chase my Lorelei out, whatsamatta-u?"
I fluffed my tail and arched my back, to look as threatening as possible.
We hissed and growled at each other, each lashing his tail back and forth. I was wondering how long I could stall, when the outer office door burst open and I heard a bunch of dogs galloping in. Big dogs. As they charged through my office door, I saw they were wearing badges, and were led by a little gray cat.
The little guy yelled at RobCatSon, "Freeze, Hairball! Frisk him, boys. You'll find his pockets full of mice." And as the dogs grabbed RobCatSon, mice poured out of his pockets.
Several of the dogs each picked up a mouse and put them in little cages.
As RobCatSon was hustled out of my office, hissing and snarling, the little gray guy touched my paw. . "Thanks for your help," he said. "Aunt Fluffy tipped me off about your call." He purred, "We Maltese are a pretty tight-knit group."
"I was counting on that," I purred back. Otherwise I would have had to leave my office to solve this case, and I hate that. Finally, the whole gang cleared out of my office.
I heard Tab lugging in a case of catfood from the hallway -Lorelei had made good on her promise.
Nice kitty. Tab and I would divvy it up later. But now, with the office nice and quiet, just the way I like it, I curled up under my desk for a well-deserved nap.
"Detective BogCat, there's someone here to see you," Tabby yowled, over her own typing noise.
I opened my office door and saw why Tabby was excited. I was, too, when I saw the most beautiful, black, slinky, silky-furred, golden-eyed girl cat I had ever seen.
"Hello," she purred.
I must have choked out something besides a hairball, because a few moments later she was seated beside my desk answering my stuttered "What can I do for you, beautiful?"
"My name is not 'Beautiful,' “ she said, in a tone far more icy than I could have wished. “My name is Samantha Spayed. You may call me Sam. This is a courtesy call. I have just rented an office in this building, and I am going to practice my profession here. Just wanted you to know."
"And what," I gasped, hopefully, "is your profession?"
"Like you, I am a private investigator."
Samantha arose gracefully from her chair. "Just wanted to say hi," she said, with a dazzling smile. "I've got a case. Gotta go. 'Bye," and she was gone, setting off a new storm of Tabitha's typewriter pounding as she left.
I stared after the queen of my dreams.
My professional competition.
Days passed, somehow. I didn't have any business, as usual, while a steady stream of cats went in and out of Samantha's office. Clients?
I stopped in to say "Hi" to her one afternoon. And maybe drool over her a bit, and dream about what might have been if she hadn't been so much more successful as an investigator than, well, than me.
She didn't have a Tabby Typingtoes, or even an outer office. I walked into her office as she snapped into the phone, angrily, "No, no, and no. Stop bothering me!" and she slammed down the receiver. I noticed her tail was fluffed (what a tail, too!) and her back fur was standing up.
"Hi, Sam," I said, and, glancing at the phone, "Problems?"
She drew her claws gracefully but forcefully across her desktop."Some people think they can tell me who my clients should be -- " Then she broke off. "Never mind." Smiling, she said, "What can I do for you?"
"I just stopped in to say 'hi,'" I said. "What kind of people are giving you trouble? Can I help?"
She sighed, "I'm trying to track down a kidnapped kitten. Pedigreed family, on the cat show circuit, A bunch of mongrels are holding the kit, and they want a cat carrier full of live mice. I've got a pretty good idea where the kit is -- must be a good idea, because I'm getting phone calls telling me to lay off the case."
"Whew," I said. "Sounds rough. Need some help?"
"Oh, no -- " Sam began, but I interrupted her.
"Let me put it this way. I'm in. No cost." I wasn't doing anything, anyway.
Sam grinned. "You're just being nice--"
The phone rang again. Sam picked it up, listened, then softly hung up.
"That's the mongrels. They said if the family doesn't come through in the next hour, they're putting the kit in a sack with a rock, and into the river."
I asked, "Where are they?"
She pulled out a city map, pointed with a beautifully manicured claw to a spot in the warehouse district, and a few minutes later we were speeding there in my coupe.
We quickly checked out the warehouse building Sam suspected as the mongrels' lair. There were sounds coming from an upper storey. We climbed a nearby tree, dropped softly onto the roof, and peered through the skylight. Sam was right. There was the kit, a little Frost Point Siamese, tied up and staring fearfully with his big blue eyes at the most flea-bitten, mangiest bunch of mutts you'd never want to see.
Sam whipped out a cell phone and whispered into it. I heard her say, "Animal Control? You know that vicious bunch of feral dogs you've been chasing? If you get over to 123 Water Street real fast, you can stop chasing them and start catching them."
Just then the skylight we were standing on gave way and we tumbled into the room, right in front of that nasty dog pack.
Of course we landed on our feet. We quickly took a back-to- back stance. I extended my claws as far as I could. I put up my back fur and fluffed my tail, big as I could to look scary. Behind me, I knew Sam was doing the same. Some gun nuts have been trying to get gun permits issued for all quadrupeds. I was soooooooo glad they weren't successful yet. Those dogs' teeth against our claws were going to be bad enough -- for us, of course. I heard Sam's battle cry, that throaty rumble that means business from any cat, and I could feel her tail tap my legs as she lashed it back and forth.
The little kit squirmed gamely, as if he was trying harder than ever to wiggle out of his bonds.
But in front of me, six huge dogs began snarling at me so loud I could hardly hear Sam's growl. Those behind me snarled at Sam.
This standoff would last only a few minutes. Two cats against a dozen dogs -- but I'd fight to the death for my beautiful Sam. It just might not take very long.
Then one of the dogs howled -- in pain. He had suddenly found a Siamese kitten who had slipped his bonds firmly attached to his tail by the kit's teeth.
While one of the dogs tried to get that courageous kit off his pal's tail, the others turned to see what was happening, and Sam and I swung into action. I clawed and bit my way through the crowd on my side, and Sam waded into her bunch. I heard dog howls but no cat screams, so I kept biting and scratching as fast and furiously as I could.
Maybe we had a chance -- just maybe.
But fighting at top speed was wearing me out fast. Sam had to be getting exhausted, too, and it seemed like the crowd of dogs would never end.
Then, the door burst open and Animal Wardens with nets swarmed the place. I saw Sam grab the kit's paw and zip toward the door. I followed her lead. Animal Wardens aren't too particular who they grab on a big raid like this.
The next day, we met as we both entered our building. W we were both smiling. Sam had not only gotten paid, but the kit's grateful parents added a nice bonus. They even gave me a nice bonus.
We were both happy as we walked down the hall together toward our offices.
I turned into mine, said "Hi" to Typingtoes, and Sam even stuck her head in the door to say "Good morning" to my grouchy little secretary.
Tabby purred, "Hello, you two. Did you see the new tenants down the hall?"
Sam and I looked at each other.
"Another detective office," Tabby said, relishing every drop of bad news. "Did you ever hear of a cat private eye called Philip Milo?"
I gasped. "The Philip Marlowe? The famous detective?"
Even Sam looked a bit concerned.
"Nah," meowed Tabby. "I said Milo. He’s some new guy. He works with a dog, if you can imagine that. Ever hear of them? On their door it says, 'Milo and Otis'? "
Then I said to Sam, "It's not too early for a drink, is it?"
"Not today," sighed Sam. As we left, Tabby began happily battering her typewriter.
But one slender black cat near the front of the crowd stood to speak. "SeCatary General," he meowed, you have shown us a good way we cats can deal with the problems of crime. But I have another concern. Being a black car," he smiled, "of course I am interested in magic. The humans have really dropped the ball on that subject. If we take over, will we have to follow in their unimaginative footprints?"
Milo looked over at Spot, who took it upon himself to answer. "Hello, Twinkletail," said the SeCatary General, genially, and it could be seen that the black cat had a tail that was but two inches long, at most. "Good to see you, friend. I know magic is dear to your heart, as it is to mine. Let us ask Milo to read to you and to all our friends how our people have handled magic in the present, not just in the past."
And Milo began to read again.
(Contined in the book.)