Short Story: Whiskers & A Keen Mind

Written November 2012.

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Stealthily, a cat ascended the crumbling stone wall, and it seemed to him that there had never been a night as chaotic and disturbed as this one. From their perch facing the newer part of town,  Kieron and his older companion, Edur, watched the unfolding events with moderate interest. Across the lane lay a brand new federal reserve, one the humans had built only about three months ago. The previous night, the security system had mysteriously shut off, and when the guards on duty reached the scene they found nothing but a broken window which no human could possibly fit through and two or three bullets littering the ground-and yet not an ingot of gold. All the details had been supplied to them by a police dog named Rocky, an amiable fellow who at that very moment stood with the puzzled humans surveying the scene.

“They’re never going to find it you know,” Edur said abruptly. “The humans. They’re too stupid to notice anything worth noticing.”

“Really?”  Kieron questioned, only half listening as he brainstormed possible solutions to this puzzling crime.

“Absolutely.” Edur said in a simple fashion. “In fact, that mystery is not as hard to crack is it may seem.”

“Right…” The young cat said, who quite frankly hadn’t the foggiest clue.

“I should know,” the grizzled old cat continued, not truly listening. “When I was a youngster, I solved such mind-bending mysteries for fun.”

“You did?” Kieron said politely.

“Why, yes! Every furry creature from here to Glendale have heard of my fearful exploits…”

The smaller cat nodded carefully, trying to devise a kind way to inform Edur that, though having migrated from Glendale to this small town, Kieron had never before heard of  Edur’s hobby.

However, Edur was thankfully too caught up in nostalgia to notice his companion’s embarrassed demeanor. “I remember a case of particular interest, one that has held a special place in this time-worn mind of mine for many years. It clearly shows how wit and skill can work hand in hand to solve and resolve the worst of  life’s puzzles:

“It was a bright, sunny day in Svenwood, a town north of here. I was a young cat then, bright, but rather naïve as I look back on it. It began as I was lithely racing a long-gone she-cat named Inza up a towering, thick oak. The oak happened to be above a neighbor’s house, who owned a dog of a generally acceptable manner named Fredric. As we frolicked in the morning breeze, he called to us from his rusty old doghouse. ‘Edward! Inza!’ he called in a stressed tone I’d never heard him used before.

“Inza and I alighted onto the ground with I experiencing minor annoyance, as my name is very obviously not Edward and it’s not a canine’s place to interrupt a busy feline. However, a cutting look from Inza killed the scalding retort before it had even left my mouth and I reluctantly said ‘Fredric, whatever is the matter?’

“Said he, ‘My apologies, good sir, for the interruption of your morning stroll, but my master has been unexpectedly entered into an unfortunate business from which I fear only a cat of your caliber may hope to free him.

“ ‘You see, master is P. H. Toron, a prominent figure in the gem-cutting industry. He recently came into possession of two large emeralds, which, according to Medieval lore, cause death to any human who dares to remove it from its resting place. Its “resting place” was an old church which sold the emerald to Toron for the funds to repair their chapel. However, during a visit by his twin cousins Wilfred and Wesley, cousin Wilfred promptly  suffered a heart attack. He is recovering in the Oak Street Hospital at this moment and is expected to recover. However, a most dreadful fear has arisen inside me that this will not be the last of the predicaments brought on by the Twin Gaeas.’

“ ‘And they believe that these jewels are the cause of Wilfred’s illness?’ said I, now firmly interested in this puzzling mystery.

“ ‘They, but not I.’ he confirmed morosely. ‘It is not a dogs place to question his master, but I believe it was his dear sister Diane, who has lived with him since three years ago. She is a jewel collector, you see, and offered to buy the emeralds from him immediately after the attack. I suspect the only reason she lives with my master is to fuel her drive for gems. She is the only other to live in the house, and both Wilfred and Wesley are proud bachelors.’

“ ‘Can you recount the exact circumstances surrounding the sudden failure of Master Wilfred’s health?’ Inza asked thoughtfully.”

“ ‘I shall aid you best I can,’ Fredric said solemnly. ‘It was about Eight-O-Clock at night. Master Toron, Wilfred, and Wesley were discussing politics in the drawing room as Mistress Diane served the gentlemen tea she had prepared herself. Each gentleman picked a cup, her taking the remaining cup. A postman arrived with the semiweekly mail, and Master Toron excused himself to use the loo. Mistress Diane also removed herself, claiming to have a headache.. As Toron returned, a loud thud was heard from the drawing room. Reentering abruptly, they found a startled Wesley standing by the fire, near Wilfred, who had crumpled to the ground.”

“I thought for a second. ‘Are there any more details that seemed out of the ordinary?’

“ ‘An opened envelope was on the table, yet they found no writing inside.’

“ I thought over the story in my head. ‘Fredric, were the teacups of the same origin?’

“ ‘Whatever do you mean by that?’ the canine said in a surprised tone.

“ ‘I mean, were they identical?’

“Fredric thought hard for a second. ‘Yes, good Edur.’

“ ‘Then it cannot be Diane, as she would not have known if she would be left with the poisoned cup.’

“ ‘I concur,’ agreed Inza. ‘No female seeking wealth by such corrupt means would risk her own hide like that.’

“I frowned thoughtfully. ‘It may be possible that Wesley sought his brother’s death, sending Wilfred a letter coated with a poisonous substance. Upon the poison’s entering into Wilfred’s system, Wesley then promptly disposed of the letter by hurling it into the hearth.’

“ ‘It does seem likely,’ Fredric admitted. ‘But the siblings were of the closest sort. Why, a few nights ago I even saw dear old Wesley describing his brother as “utterly trustworthy in every way” in a letter a few days ago.’

“ ‘Really…’ I processed what the loyal dog had just revealed, and suddenly a crazy inference appeared in my head. ‘Fredric, in which room is Wesley staying?’

“Fredric pointed his tail towards an open window on the second floor. ‘Over there, in the guest room.’

“ ‘Thank you,’ said I. ‘I shall be only a moment.’ Ignoring my friends mystified gazes I climbed up the gutter and into the suspect’s room. It was large and spacious, and I knew there would be much to search. However resting on his dresser was all I needed to see. Approaching the wooden picture frame, I gazed at the photograph sealed inside- a picture of a young lady. My suspicions were confirmed. Before I could exit the way I came, however, footsteps sounded in the hall, growing nearer, and nearer. Shocked, I stood tense and rigid and the very world stood still for one second….two…

“Then a hand slid an envelope under the door and I relaxed. It was a telegraph for Wesley, containing two words- OF COURSE. I smiled despite myself, having already determined the cryptic message’s meaning. Exiting the room, I lithely climbed down the side of the house and rejoined Inza and Fredric, who waited quietly where I had left them.

“ ‘Did you discover evidence convicting Sir Wesley?’ Fredric hastily inquired.

“ ‘He is guilty beyond the slightest doubt but not in the way you might think.’ I replied. ‘I need not explain it to you, for Wesley plans to reveal the true occurrences of that night.’ However, the canine persisted and so I explained my findings.

“ ‘As you recall, Wesley and Wilfred had just received mail. Wesley opened a letter, which unbeknownst to you was from his secret fiancee. It gifted him with the long-awaited permission to enter Wilfred into his trust.However, this came as such a shock to Wilfred, (for as you recounted to me the two were proud bachelors) that the poor chap entered cardiac arrest! Wesley threw the letter into the fire to prevent any more knowledge of his matrimony to escape prematurely. (Hence the open yet empty envelope.) However, he once again sent away for permission to reveal his secret love to others. It has been answered, for wesley has received a telegram from his fiancee this very afternoon. He shall soon disclose all to your master.’

Fredric was overjoyed at the details supplied to him. ‘I cannot tell you, good sir, how much it means to me to know my master is safe. Is there any way I may reward you? Any payment I may defray?’

“Said I, ‘What could you offer a feline as keen and talented as I?’ Inza stared at me reproachfully but I continued, undaunted and unbowed. ‘You have offered me the amusement of an irregular puzzle on an otherwise ordinary day and that is all I desire of you, Fredric.’

“At that very moment there was the creaking sound of an opening door as Fredric’s master and Wesley arrived home from the local hospital. (It is my assumption they were visiting Cousin Wilfred.) My findings were finally and irrevocably confirmed as Wesley recounted the night’s happenings (Identically to mine, mind you) to Diane. I had pieced together an impossible puzzle using only my wit and logic.” Edur completed his enigmatic tale and turned to look at his younger companion. Kieron was feeling mildly conflicted between admiration and the vague impression that he had heard of Edur’s deed before, but instead resolved to state in a simple manner that Edur had solved the mystery in a most remarkable manner and that he himself hoped to one day match Edur’s matchless intellect.

This seemed to satisfy Edur greatly, who hopped down from the crumbling old wall and said “You may achieve that hope yet, Kieron. Follow me.”

Kieron, though puzzled at his companion’s change of manner, complied and proceeded right behind Edur.  The two raced right underneath the legs of the stumped policemen, and squeezed into the  reserve. Detectives had long since ceased their pitiful attempts at comprehending the fate of the bullion, and the vault was therefore exclusive to the two felines. Edur turned and gazed at his companion crisply. “Now,” said he. “What do you see?”

Kieron squinted and took a long look around the room. “I see…a shattered window…bullets on the floor…and small pieces of golden material on the ground.”

Edur nodded to his pupil. “Very observative. I do not glimpse anything else in this room worthy of our notice.”

Kieron padded up to the strange golden pieces. They were very small, and barely noticeable by a cats eye, let alone a human. “It looks like Iron Pyrite, otherwise known as Fool’s Gold.” said he. “Why would somebody substitute bullion for tiny fragments of Pyrite?”

“Ah, but Kieron, you are thinking too small. The criminals were obviously of the intelligent sort. This crime was planned with the most wicked of cunning.Why would a lot of crooks so smart wait until the gold reached here, when just a few months ago it was in transit to this location?”

All the pieces clicked into place as Kieron gazed intently upon the Pyrite. realization dawned upon his face. “Then that means…”

“The gold was never here,” Edur confirmed, looking very pleased with himself and his pupil. “The perpetrators most likely replaced the gold to avert suspicion while it was being transported. It was replaced with hollow Fool’s Gold weighted with a device that served two purposes: Firstly, to modify the decoy’s weight so t exactly matched the original. Secondly…”

“…equipping it with a bomb primed to explode upon the emitting of a loud noise such as a gunshot.” Kieron finished. “Of course. Such intelligent criminals would obviously have access to such frivolities. They merely fired their guns through the small window, and the bullets activated the bombs.”

“Fool’s Gold breaks much more easily than gold.” Purred Edur in an accomplished manner. “You see, Kieron? All it requires is a little imagination!”

“No, Edur.” replied Kieron as he and his companion scaled the slick walls and exited through the window. The two cats began the short walk back to their current dwelling, however Kieron stopped for a second to look back at the chaotic scene. “However Edur, I don’t think the humans will ever know.” At last two lone creatures walked towards the setting sun, their minds silently sparking with the energy of a thousand candles.

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