“Banished to the shed.”
The orange cat’s voice was anything but enthusiastic. On the contrary, Rapi and I had big plans. After several days of fighting, we had finally made up. There was a whole big house that needed exploring, but our day of pretending to be Lewis and Clarke traversing the wild frontier wasn’t meant to be. Mommy had put the kibosh on that plan when she decided the little greenhouse in the backyard needed to be cleaned up.
“This is no fun,” I howled.
In a moment of rarity, Mommy rose from her kneeling position and gave me the worst stink eye that I had ever received.
“Quit your complaining you two!”
Being a dog that is well versed in the art of guilt-making, I dropped my head and gave her my big sad puppy dog eyes. Taking my cue, Rapi adopted the same posture. Mommy sighed, then smiled at us.
“I am sorry I am so testy. For some reason, I didn’t get a good night’s sleep last night.”
I could relate, apparently, my night was restless too. Rapi traipsed over to Mommy and began to rub up against her leg. She got the message and squatted down to his level and began to stroke the cat from head to tail setting off the purring machine inside of him. He would stretch and arch his back each time her fingers made a pass.
“What about me?”
I could not resist that momentary urge of jealousy that flashed through me. I mean it looked so good, and I really wanted a piece of that action.
“Quiet! It’s my turn right now Cindee,” the cat fired back.
“Don’t fight, I have two hands you know!”
The words were playful and happy, and so was the look in her eyes. She extended a hand and beckoned me forward with one finger.
Who am I to say no to an invitation like this? I lumbered forward at my usual casual pace and plopped down next to her. A warm tingly sensation filled me from head to toe. It was like some strange magic was pouring out of Mommy’s fingertips and into my skin where she was messaging my scalp with such perfect tenderness. It was so exquisite that all the tension left my face and my muscles could not keep my eyes open another second.
My lids had been closed for less than a minute when my nose was greeted with the sweet sensation of soft lips gently pressing against it. It was the most wonderful feeling in the world, and it set my heart racing in my chest.
When I opened my eyes, I found myself face to face with the most perfect face. Amber eyes looked out at me from a light olive-colored face, which was framed by loose curls falling over her shoulders like a waterfall on a warm spring day. Her lips were full, and the corners pulled up into a smile. How could I resist? I leaped forward and caught her off guard with a sloppy wet kiss right on those lips.
“Hmmmm, I love you too Cindee!”
Apparently, Rapi wasn’t the only one who knew how to purr.
“Okay, let’s get back to work you guys!”
I felt like I should complain, but how could I? Besides, it really wasn’t in me to put up a fuss anymore. A quick scan of the room revealed that there really wasn’t that much work that needed to be done anyway. The little combination office and storage room we were in now mostly just needed a little straightening up. Once I had taken stock of this room I strolled to the door and peeked out into the small greenhouse that was attached. It was empty and somewhat tidy already. It just needed a good sweeping and knowing Mommy she would want to clean each individual pane of glass because she is funny that way.
“Where should we start?”
I nearly jumped out of my skin. The orange cat was stealthy considering his size. Rapi also had a penchant for sneaking up on me. He found it funny each time I was startled by him. I, on the other hand, did not.
“Umm,” I hesitated for a moment to give the room another once over, “let’s ask Mommy.”
I turned, but she was gone. Intrigued about her ability to disappear, I trotted towards the door and nearly tumbled over onto the floor when it swung open unexpectedly.
Mommy came bustling through with a couple of boxes in her arms. She looked over at me stumbling around trying to regain my balance and shook her head at me as if to say how did I come to raise such a clumsy beast?
“Why don’t you two go through all these old papers and put them in the box, so we can put them out for recycling on Friday?”
Rapi and I looked at each other, leaving me to wonder if I was wearing the same dumbfounded look on my face that the cat was wearing.
“I think she is serious,” Rapi whispered ever so lightly.
I looked over at Mommy and immediately concluded that she was indeed not joking around. She scooped up the broom and dustpan and headed for the door but stopped short of crossing the threshold into the greenhouse.
“Here, like this,” she said, returning to our side and grabbing a large newspaper.
She didn’t throw it into the recycling bin right away, instead, she took a moment to study it. Her eyes scanned from one side of the page to the other. I glanced at Rapi, who greeted my gaze with a shrug. By the time I returned my attention to Mommy, she had already tossed the paper into the bin and had pulled her cell phone out of her pocket, and was tapping feverishly away on the face of the contraption.
“What’s going on,” I barked at her.
I looked back over at the cat who had a stunned look on his face.
“Did she just shush me?”
“She did. How does it feel to be shushed?”
The cat was grinning with too much enthusiasm for my taste. If he was trying to add fuel to the already raging fire inside of me then he was successful. I am not going to stand idly by and let somebody shush me. I turned to vent my displeasure at this turn of events but was greeted by a cell phone being shoved into my face.
“Look Cindee! Angel Angeletti! Do you think it’s just a coincidence?”
Her enthusiasm was spilling over, and to be honest, it was quite contagious. I didn’t have the foggiest clue what she was talking about, but I wagged my head in agreement anyhow.
“Hmmm, I am going to need to do some research on this.”
Her wide-eyed expression darted from the phone to me and then back to the electronic gadget in her palm.
“Wow,” she muttered under her breath. Rapi and I just shrugged.
Still exuding a sense of adventure and excitement she went back to tapping on her phone until the familiar sound of Brazilian folk music began to spill from the device. The cat and I looked on as she scooped up the broom and began to dance with it while sweeping the greenhouse floor.
I managed to regain my attention and my sensibilities after enduring a few moments of Mommy’s performance. Refocused on work and getting done as quickly as possible so that Rapi and I could get back to planning our exploration I scooped up a small stack of old newspapers dating back to the nineteen twenties. I was about to deposit them into the box when I came across the article that had caught Mommy’s attention.
“Notorious Gangster Angel Angeletti Arrested for Murder.”
My eyes scanned the tattered tabloid until I came across an old photo. It was a cute two-story bungalow that looked a lot like ours, except this one had a lot of old-timey police cars in front of it.
“Look,” Rapi shouted, pointing towards the caption under the black and white image.
My eyes trailed his paw until I found the words that he was indicating.
“6 Autumn Lane … hey that’s our house!”
The cat looked at me with dread in his eyes.
“Maybe that’s why our home feels so creepy,” he whispered quietly so that the dead couldn’t hear him.
I glanced up at the house. Friends, it was a bright sun-filled day that burned my eyes and I had to squint to see it, but I swear, there was someone inside looking down at us through the window. Was it the ghost of Angel Angeletti? Was it one of his victims?
All I know for sure is that I immediately raced into the house and it was empty. Spooky right?