It was a starless night; the moon had been blocked out by a gathering of storm clouds. The hush of a pleasant evening had been drowned out initially by the gentle tapping of raindrops, which soon gave way to a downpour.
I jumped at the clanging of the doorbell, my nerves all aflutter from the unexpected sound.
“Who could it be,” I whispered.
The door creaked open, and a young woman with long auburn hair peeked inside.
“Anybody here?” she called out.
“I have a delivery for Violet DuBois,” the woman’s voice echoed off the stone walls.
A brilliant white light drowned out everything. I covered my eyes, partly to protect them, but mostly because I knew what came next.
The mansion rumbled and shook under the force of the thunder. The lights flickered off, then on, before finally fading to blackness.
“Damn, we lost power,” a man’s voice cut through the darkness.
“I’ll fetch a candle,” a soft feminine voice answered him.
“Please, can somebody take this package,” the auburn-haired woman pleaded from just inside the doorway.
Another flash of light forced its way in through the window, illuminating the silhouette of the woman holding a small box tightly in her arms. The rumble of nearby thunder quickly followed. The lightning strike had been close, judging by the volume of the roar, yet that blast was not so loud that it was able to drown out a shriek issuing from the inky blackness.
“Damnation! Will you hurry with that candle Violet,” the man called out into the night.
“Hold on, I am coming, Erasmus” Violets response was terse and belied her annoyance at both the situation and her brother.
Erasmus snatched the candle out of her hands the moment she was close enough and began to approach the door with Violet clinging to his back. She bumped into him when he stopped and stood dead still.
“Murderation,” he grumbled.
“Whatever is the matter,” Violet inquired, unable to see what had halted her brother progress.
“Somebody has killed the delivery woman,” his voice trembled whilst he glanced down at the body of the auburn-haired woman crumpled on the floor, dead.
“Jeepers!” I screamed.
The television faded to black and an advertisement for dish detergent came on.
“Stupid commercials,” I grumbled from my spot on the sofa in between Mommy and Daddy.
“I know, they ruin everything,” Rapi, my good friend, who also happens to be a cat, answered back from the comfort of Mommy’s lap.
I watched as he shifted his big orange body from side to side and kneaded Mommy’s blanket until he found that sweet spot that felt just right.
There was another advertisement, this time for some medication. I don’t know who would use it because it came with a list of side effects that were worse than the original problem.
Feeling a little envious of Rapi, I placed my head on Daddy’s lap, hoping he would get the hint. Unfortunately, my daddy is terrible at getting hints. I could be screaming at him to pet me, and he still wouldn’t get it. Humpf! Tonight, however, was my lucky night, because he reached over and took my collar off and started to scratch behind my floppy ears.
Friends, if you have never been scratched behind the ears, let me tell you something … it is the best feeling ever, even if you aren’t a dog. I closed my eyes for just a minute to enjoy the super fantastic sensation and listened to somebody begging us to call now while supplies last.
Before I knew it, everything went dark and I was out like a light.
“Wake up, wake up Cindee,” Rapi growled in a panicked sort of way. While this was going on someone had begun to urgently slap me in the face in an aggressive attempt to rouse me from my slumber.
“What?” I mumbled trying to force my eyes open.
“C’mon Cindee wake up,” came the familiar sound of my cousin Jaspers voice. The blurred images began to come into focus. Rapi’s face was just inches from mine.
“She is waking up,” he said pulling back to reveal my cousins Jasper and Callie looking over his shoulders at me, a look of fright danced along their small cat features.
A white paw slammed into my face.
“Ouch, that hurt,” I cried out.
I turned to look in the direction that the paw had come from just in time to see a small black and white tuxedo cat standing next to me, her arm cocked back, ready to fire another fist to my face.
“Yehudi,” I yelped.
Pow! It was a solid right hook right to my kisser.
“Stop punching me, I am awake already,” I barked at the little cat. The force of my outburst knocked her over onto the floor.
“S s sorry,” she stammered.
“I was just trying to wake you up,” she said apologetically.
“Well, it worked. What is so important that you needed to wake me up like this,” my frustration spilled out at the cat, who now looked like she was about to burst into tears.
“Bella has been catnapped,” Rapi screamed out hysterically.
“What are you talking about,” I asked, my head swung to look at the orange cat.
“See,” he said, thrusting a paper into my face.
I snatched the paper out of his paws and began to read,
To whom it may concern:
I have your grey and white kitty friend. If you ever want to see her alive again, bring a container of Temptations cat treats, not one of those little bags either. A full container and tell that brown dog to keep her lips off them too! Deliver them to the top of the cat tree at midnight and send the orange cat with them. Tell him to come alone, or else your friend gets it!
My mouth dropped open. I stood and turned to face Rapi and tried to speak but no words would come out.
“You should just let that Catnapper have Bella,” Jasper remarked.
We all turned to look at him.
“I mean, she is super snooty and you guys really don’t seem to like her,” he added shifting his gaze back and forth between Rapi and I.
“We have to look for her, she is our friend,” Rapi stood and spat back forcefully.
“Jaspar does have a point,” Yehudi squeaked, speaking an awkward truth.
“Snooty or not, she is family, and we have to save her,” I added.
“It’s the right thing to do,” Callie put in her two cents.
“Then it’s agreed, we save Bella!” Rapi added, stomping his foot on the ground for added emphasis.
“Okay, so what’s the plan,” Yehudi asked.
I glanced up at the clock on the wall and calculated how much time we had left.
“We only have two hours,” Rapi said.
I double checked my math. He was right, we had two hours.
“I know there is a brand-new container of treats in the cupboard, maybe we should come up with a plan on how to get it down,” Rapi said, pointing towards the kitchen.
“Your right Rapi,” Jasper said. Yehudi stood behind Jasper, nodding her head in agreement.
“We have some time, let’s look for some clues,” I said, unsure if that was the right decision, even though my heart was telling me it was.
“But, we don’t want to be late getting the treats there,” Rapi said, his voice sounded panicked and an octave higher than normal.
“Cindee is right, we have some time, lets look around,” Callie said, her body stood and went to stand next to me.
“I agree,” Yehudi squeaked a nasally squeak and took her place on the other side of me.
“I guess it’s decided,” Jasper voiced his support of my idea.
Rapi still looked a little concerned, but after a few moments he looked over at me at smiled.
“Okay, what’s the plan?”
I still couldn’t believe that Bella had been catnapped, but that was only the beginning of my problems. The other cats were panicked and not thinking straight at all.
“Cindee,” Rapi poked my arm trying to get my attention.
“Oh, sorry Rapi, the plan. I guess we should search the house, maybe look for clues,” I said, staring down at the note that I held in my paws.
The orange cat looked at me and nodded in agreement.
“Tick tock, tick tock, if we are going to do something, we need to do it fast,” Jasper said pointing to the clock on the wall, reminding us that time was slipping away fast.
“Are those paw prints,” I asked, examining a set of smudges I had found on the bottom of the ransom note.
All the cats gathered around me closely so they could take a look at what I was talking about.
“Seems like it, but what does it mean,” Yehudi asked.
“I think it means the catnapper left his or her prints behind,” Callie explained to the little black cat.
“Oh, I see,” Yehudi said, but her face gave the impression that she didn’t see at all.
“Can I take a look at that,” Jasper asked reaching for the paper.
“Sure,” I said, handing it over to him.
He held the document up to his nose and began to sniff.
“This smells like chicken and tuna cat food,” he said, his eyes locking with mine.
“Really,” I asked.
Jasper’s tongue darted out and lapped at one of the stains.
“Fancy Feast,” he replied with a knowing smile.
“How can you be sure,” Yehudi asked.
“It’s his favorite,” Callie said, frowning at her roommate Jasper.
I had been wondering the same thing myself and was about to ask before Callie had beaten me to it.
“Can I see that,” Rapi asked, snatching the sheet of paper away from Jasper and tasting the food smeared paw print.
“Yep, definitely chicken and tuna,” he said before lowering his head and slurping up the rest of the evidence.
“Please forgive him Jasper, he has been very rude since the doctor put him on a diet,” I found myself apologizing for my friend’s poor behavior.
“What? Oh yes, so sorry,” Rapi grumbled.
Jasper pointed to the clock again.
“Only one hour left!”
We stood in silence for a moment, each of us staring at the clock.
“Well,” Jasper asked.
“I say we split up and search the house. Jasper, you go upstairs with the girls. Rapi and I will look around down here,” I barked out the orders.
Yehudi and Callie wasted no time grabbing Jasper and moving up the stairs.
“Wish us luck,” Callie shouted over her shoulder as she disappeared out of sight.
Rapi and I began to scour the kitchen and the dining room. I opened all the cabinet doors and peered around inside, while Rapi climbed up onto the counters and the dining room table in case Bella had been moved above ground.
Thirty minutes quickly passed and no sign of Bella, nor any more clues either.
“What are we going to do,” Rapi said jumping off the counter and landing with a thud.
“I don’t know,” I answered honestly.
“Well, the basement is the only place left to check down here,” the orange cat said his eyes meeting mine. I know he could feel the fear coming from me. I am afraid of that monster in the basement that chases Mommy every time she does the laundry.
“I can’t,” I plopped down, tears formed in my eyes.
Rapi came and sat down next to me and lay his head on my shoulder. I picked up on a faint rumbling noise that slowly began to grow. At first, I thought he was purring, but after a moment I realized it was just his tummy growling.
“Sorry,” he said before I had a chance to complain.
“It’s alright,” I responded as nicely as I could.
“You stay here, I will check it out,” his voice was warm and compassionate.
“Thank you Rapi,” I said doing my best to smile.
I sat at the top of the stairs and watched his slow descent. The hair stood up on my neck and all my senses were on alert.
I heard something. I knew I heard something. Like a shuffling noise coming from the living room. I turned to look and let out an ear-splitting scream.
“Don’t sneak up on me like that,” I barked.
Japer, Yehudi and Callie had returned from searching the upstairs and were sitting behind me.
The thudding of little steps raced up from the basement. Rapi arrived just in time to see me scolding the other cats.
Yehudi began to jump up and down bellowing out …
“We only have ten minutes!”
The ticking of the clock was deafening. The cats ran for the kitchen and climbed up onto the counter. They seemed to be moving in slow motion, but they were already working on getting the cupboard door open.
The room had grown silent, except for the incessant growling of Rapi’s empty tummy. Then I began to pick up the faint squeaking sound of Bella’s voice.
“Help! Help me Cindee!” it beckoned to me.
I was about to ask the cats for help, then thought about it again. A little voice inside my head convinced me that I should go off on my own and leave them to the task of getting the treats, just in case we needed them.
I turned and listened carefully, letting the sound of Bella’s voice draw me forward. I put aside all fear of the catnapper and just followed. Until it took me to the top of the stairs. I spun around and started to get Rapi, but Bella’s cries for help were so urgent I stopped in my tracks.
“Help me,” I whispered to myself, hoping against hope to find some inner strength.
“Cindee, please help me! I need you!” Bella’s voice was whimpering now.
“Help me,” I whispered a prayer.
I needed some sort of help to overcome this mortal fear. Bella, my friend, was crying now. I took a deep breath and ran down the stairs as fast as I could trying not to think about the monster that surely waited for me at the bottom. Soon another problem emerged, I was going so fast that I couldn’t stop.
I slammed full force into the wall.
“Cindee, over here,” the grey and white cat whispered her face contorted in fear.
She had been tied up to a chair in the basement. How could Rapi have missed this, I thought to myself as I struggled to free the cat from the ropes, but then I recalled my own cry for help and his race up the stairs to rescue me from … from nobody really.
Bella’s eyes grew wide.
“Look out,” she pleaded with me.
I did a one hundred eighty and was shocked to find Rapi standing behind me on his back legs, he arms extended into the air with his razor sharp claws sticking out.
“Why couldn’t you just do what my note said? Why princess floppy ears, why,” he growled at me.
The world spun; this was my lifelong friend who was about to attack me.
“I don’t understand, Rapi,” confusion covered my face.
“Why? Because, I … am … hungry, that’s why!” he hissed.
He took a step towards me. I was trapped, I had nowhere to go.
“Wake up,” he said with a sneer.
“C’mon, wake up sleepy head,” he said with a scowl and a voice that didn’t belong to him.
“Girlie, wake up!”
“Wake up sweetie,” Daddy’s voice filled my head.
Slowly, my eyes opened. They burned a little, but soon things began to clear up. Daddy was scratching me on the cheeks.
“Yeah wake up sleepy head,” Rapi said with a giggle.
I jumped and let out a bark.
“What’s gotten into you, it’s not my fault you fell asleep and missed the movie,” the orange cat said defensively.
“Jeepers! It was just a dream,” I said hoarsely.
“Of course it was silly, that’s what we do when we sleep,” Rapi said with a smile and a gentle head butt.
I laid back down and he curled up to me.
“How was the movie,” I asked, now that I had regained my composure.
“It was okay, the butler did it,” he giggled again.
“The butler always does it,” I said with a laugh.
“Hey Rapi, I had the strangest nightmare, and you were there!”
“Really? I want to hear all about it,” my friend looked happily into my eyes.
“Bella was catnapped,” I whispered to him.
“Nightmare? That sounds more like a dream. Hey, I am kind of hungry, lets get a snack!” he said hopping down from the sofa.
We walked side by side like the two old friends that we are, giggling and laughing out loud about my silly whodunnit dream.