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Friday, June 27, 2014

Part Five and Finale: Well That Took a Turn; or It Wasn’t Me!

Parts OneTwo, Three, or Four?  Why, right here, my good man!  Go ahead!  Catch up!  

I think I’m drunk.

I frown suspiciously at my drink. 

“How you doin’, sweetie?”  It’s Sadie.  Long legged, sleek, a dark brown beauty with dark brown eyes, she reaches up and caresses her collar, a brushed blue velvet number embedded with tiny jewels.

I look up and lean forward, grinning.  “I might be drunk,” I confide. 

“So many people are these days,” she says.

I nod toward her collar.  “That’s gorgeous,” I say.

She smiles as she backs away, sets a napkin down in front of another customer. 

I gotta use the ladies’, I think.

I stand, pick up my purse.  “I’ll be right back.  Don’t you take my drink now!”

The bartender salutes.

The bathroom at The Nip and The Saucer – oh, the bathroom!  Through the first set of doors:  couches on which to lounge, mirrors and cut glass ashtrays.  Through the second set of doors:  several stalls, a row of sinks, a large, ornate mirror, and a large orange and white cat named Millie.

Millie can hook you up, everything from cologne to stain remover to needle and thread.

Me and Millie are like this.

“Nice to see you again, Miss Pearl.”

I’ve been in here three times, and she’s said that every time.

“Good evening, Millie.”

And I find the nearest stall.

It is at this point, however, that I find myself frowning again.  From inside the tiny stall, there is the muffled sound of padded feet, of some sort of turmoil. 

And when I come out of the stall, Millie is gone.

Now who’s going to handle me a little towel after I wash my hands?

A thin, brindled cat approaches me.  She is wearing a hat, her ears poking through the holes cut in the top.  In true Minneapolis fashion, I smile at her.  “What happened to Millie?”

She brushes awkwardly past me, and my purse goes spilling to the floor.

The cat drops to the floor, scurries after the many rolling, skittering items.  “So sorry!  So sorry!” she simpers.

“No, no, nononono,” I say, reaching for the cell phone at my feet.  “’s’all good.  No worries.”

The thin cat scoops my stuff into my bag, scoops and scoops and scoops…

I blink heavily as she hands me my purse.

“You have a very heavy purse,” she smiles, her eyes on mine.

I nod, smile back with the easy grace of the inebriate.  “I do, don’t I?  I should do something about that.”

The cat winks.  “Careful what you wish for,” she says.

Back at the bar, I settle on to my stool as Sadie looks in on me.  “Freshen your –“  She stops, her paw at her throat, her eyes wide.

Her collar is gone.

She spins in a circle, looking down, scans the row of gleaming bottles, punches open the till and searches among the evening’s proceeds.  Dissatisfied and frantic, she reaches under the bar.

Liza Bean Bitey, winner of last year’s Vasaloppet and current world recorder holder in the freestyle gerbil toss is a striped, streaked blur.  In a fluid motion from one side of the establishment to the other, she leaps to the bar.  “You called?”

The brown cat whirls on her.  “My collar.  My engagement collar is gone.”

Liza Bean holds up a paw, then streaks across the room where she exits the double doors into the hallway.

“Where is she going?”

Sadie looks up, her eyes furious, but she doesn’t answer.

A moment later, George Foreman strides toward the bar.  Laying a heavy black paw on my shoulder, he jerks his chin toward the door, his meaning clear:  Get out.

“What?” I say, confused.  “Me?  Why?”

Liza Bean is at my feet and then just as quickly seated on the bar stool next to me.  “Settle up, Pearl.  It’s time you left.”

I shake my head, place a hand over my heart.  “But I don’t understand,” I say.  “What did I do?”

A crowd of cats has gathered, shaking their heads and whispering behind carefully groomed paws. 

I reach into my purse, fishing for my wallet.

And my mouth falls open.

Liza Bean places a paw on my leg.  I look over to see her mouthing the words “say nothing”.

I pull out a wallet, extract two twenties, and rise from my stool.

George Foreman walks me to the exit where a cab is waiting.  I climb into its backseat. 

Liza Bean leans in and speaks to the cab driver.  “A moment, please,” she says.  She climbs in, sits next to me. “Let me see your purse.”

I open my bag, and the cat turns it over.  Out tumble my wallet, my bus pass, my makeup bag – and an assortment of feathered cat toys, a pair of tiny reading glasses, four tiny wallets, and Sadie’s jeweled collar.

For the second time that day, I find that my jaw is slack.  I shake my head without realizing that I’m doing it.  “Liza Bean,” I say.  “I swear – “

The cat holds a paw up.  “No need, my good woman,” she says.  “You’ve been had.”

I blink.  “I been what?”

Liza Bean smiles indulgently.  “Was there a disreputable looking animal in the bathroom on your last visit?  Thin?  Brindle coat?  An awful little hat?”

I nod.

“She bumped into you?”

I nod.

Liza Bean smiles a terrible smile, black lips parted to reveal tiny, sharp teeth.  “She’s back,” she whispers.

I am still confused.  "But why me?"

The cat straightens.  “Cats don't carry purses," she says quietly.  “It was a deduction, of course, but I was correct."  She wraps her tail around herself, blinks slowly.  "She found a way to steal, a way to leave without the items she stole – and a way to get those items out of the building.”  The cat shakes her head, closes her eyes in an inscrutable fashion.  “You would have left, drunk and vulnerable, and she and her friends would’ve been lying in wait.  Whether to join you in a cab or follow you home, they would’ve been waiting for you.  Do you see?”

To be jumped by cats.  The horror of all those tiny claws… 

I nod, wide-eyed.

She leans forward.  “They are near here,” she whispers.  “They are watching.” Her eyes – and only her eyes – move as she surveys the alley.  “I must now catch you with these things, do you see?  I do not want them following you.”

And with that, the cat jumps out of the cab and onto its roof, the stolen goods held high.  The gems on Sadie’s engagement collar sparkle, the streetlights sending a thousand prisms of good taste into the air around Liza’s head. 

“You come to my bar, Opal?  You come to steal from my people?”  The cat points dramatically toward the crossroads.  “Leave here!  Before I call the police.  And let me never see your face again!”

She leaps to the ground.  I lean back in my seat, oddly shamed.  She slams the back door and backs away.  “We will catch them,” she hisses at me.  “They will pay for this!”

I shake my head.  “But who?” I say.  “Who will pay?”

Liza Bean’s eyes dart from one end of the street to the other.

I lean out the back window.  “Thank you, Liza Bean.”

The cat turns and raises a paw.  “I will expect a full can of the Chicken Pate in the morning,” she whispers.  “None of that half-can stuff you like to pull.”

I nod gratefully.   


And the taxi pulls away. 

23 comments:

Delores said...

Phew...saved by the kitteh. But...can you ever show your face in the Nip and Saucer again?

Pearl said...

Delores, I'm a little worried about that. And they DO make such a nice gin and tonic. :-)

Indigo Roth said...

Heh, lovely storytelling Pearl! :)

joeh said...

Close call. You need to be more careful.

I had most of it figured out, except for the cat mugging plan.

Pearl said...

Thank you, Mr. Roth!

joeh, no one ever sees the cat mugging coming.

vanilla said...

All's swell that ends swell. And you best find another watering-hole.

Lucy Corrander at Loose and Leafy said...

Much I don't understand - but I found it very tense all the same. My skin has gone clammy. The only reassuring thing was the presence of George Foreman.

Pearl said...

vanilla, it pains me. :-)

Lucy, I'm afraid you may have good reason there. Because I write every day, I fear that things could always be tightened up/made more clear. Sometimes, I write myself out on to a limb...

jenny_o said...

She cares! ... she really cares about you, Pearl. Who would have expected that of a cat?

"The good shrimp" better be on the next grocery list. In YOUR handwriting :)

Yamini MacLean said...

Hari OM
Yeah the kitteh cares.... or you have been double had...

What? Too cynical?

Get back on the horse Pearl - well go nip a saucer at least. We need more inside insights!!! YAM xx

Elephant's Child said...

A can of Chicken Pate? And the rest. I think you can do better than that. Liza B deserves better than that.

Gigi said...

Yikes! This one had me on the edge of my seat. Lucky for you that Liza Bean was looking out for you.

Geo. said...

As you know, I'm partial to enigmas, to mysteries, and this one is top-notch. You did really good!

Eva Gallant said...

I've been lax in my blog reading lately, so I had to go back to the beginning of the story and catch up. Brilliant story-telling, Pearl! Love your cat tales!

Daisy said...

Liza Bean saved your bacon!! :D

I believe I'd give her TWO cans of chicken pate.

Leenie B said...

Your imagination and your ways of putting it together on paper(okay blog screen)are amazing. Keep on writing!

Should Fish More said...

Going against the grain here...have you considered that she, Liza of the Bitey clan, might have been in on it?? You left in the cab, she met with the cats on the corner, split the take, etc....??
I hate to cast aspersions here, but given her history....
I still think I met her at the Dew Drop Inn in St. Paul once.

Jo-Anne Meadows said...

Had me on the edge of my seat with laughter and had others looking at me as if I was strange

Gorilla Bananas said...

The cats behaved as expected, but I'm surprised George Foreman lacked his usual social graces.

Daisy said...

Excellent!

Meg Lessard said...

That was the best damn story, Pearl.

Diane Tolley said...

Would Liza Bean be interested in assisting the Edmonton City Police when they get stuck? Just a thought . . .

River said...

A very elaborate set-up just for a FULL can of chicken pate.