“Wake up, wake up Cindee!”
The voice carried a hard edge and an accent that betrayed its owner’s Latin American heritage and though my brain was aware of the urgency in the tone, I couldn’t rouse myself from my deep slumber.
I was quickly receding back into the mists of the dreamworld I had just left. Like a dying spark in the depths of a dark void, my consciousness let go of this world. Before it had a chance to exhale its last gasp, a loud crack emerged from the shadows and echoed through my mind, and then that deafening snap was followed by a searing pain in my left cheek.
“What?” I mumbled trying to force my eyes open.
“C’mon Cindee wake up,” came the familiar sound of Mylo’s voice. The blurred images began to come into focus. The face of an orange tabby cat was just inches from my snout.
“Rapi,” I rasped the cat’s name.
“She is waking up,” he said pulling back to reveal a tan puppy who was one part labrador and one part beagle looking over his shoulders at me. The visage of fright danced among the features of his face.
A white paw slammed into my nose.
The blow caught me by surprise and brought tears to my eyes.
“What the …”
My head swung 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.
“We needed you to be awake,” she said apologetically.
“Well, it worked. What is so important that you needed to wake me up like this though?”
I was already on my feet and breathing heavily. The little cat shrunk down and began to back slowly away from me. Her eyes looked like two saucers that had just come from the dishwasher, all foggy and misted over.
“Bella has been catnapped,” Rapi screamed out hysterically.
“What are you talking about,” I asked, my head swinging to look at the orange cat.
“See,” he said, thrusting a paper into my face.
I snatched the note out of his paws and began to read,
“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! “
I scowled at the comment about the brown dog.
‘Why I would never eat a cat treat …”
“Keep reading Cindee,” the chubby tabby interrupted me before I had a chance to get rolling on my tirade.
I lowered my eyes back to the page and continued reciting the words aloud.
“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! Sincerely, The Catnapper”
My mouth dropped open. I stood and turned to face Rapi and tried to speak but no words would come out.
“We should just let that Catnapper have Bella,” Mylo 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,” the tabby spat back.
“Mylo does have a point,” Yehudi squeaked, speaking an awkward truth.
“Snooty or not, she is family, and we must save her. It’s the right thing to do,” I reminded them.
“Then it’s agreed, we save Bella!” Rapi added, stomping his foot on the ground for added emphasis.
“Okay, so what’s the plan,” the tuxedo cat 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,” the orange cat said, pointing towards the kitchen.
“Your right Rapi,” Mylo said. Yehudi stood behind the puppy, 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, panic in his voice and his tone an octave higher than normal.
“Cindee is right, we have some time, let’s look around.”
“I agree with Mylo” Yehudi squeaked and took her place on the other side of me.
“I guess it’s decided,” the words confidently rolled off my tongue, and my eyes locked on Rapi’s.
His face was etched in concern, but after a few moments, he 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 and Mylo, well, he was being a Mylo.
“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,” Mylo 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.
Everyone gathered around me closely so they could see 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,” I explained to the little black cat.
“Oh, I see,” Yehudi said. The vacant stare and incessant twitching of whiskers, however, gave the impression that she didn’t see at all.
“Can I take a look at that,” Mylo 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.
Mylo’s tongue darted out and lapped at one of the stains.
“Fancy Feast,” he replied with a knowing smile.
“How can you be sure,” Rapi asked.
“He is always licking our bowls clean. It’s his favorite” Yehudi said, frowning at the puppy.
I had been wondering the same thing and was about to ask before Rapi had beaten me to it.
“Can I see that?”
Before Mylo could answer, Rapi had already snatched it away from the puppy and had begun tasting the food-smeared paw print himself.
“Yep, definitely chicken and tuna,” he said before lowering his head and slurping up the rest of the evidence.
I scrunched up my brows and looked at Yehudi then nodded towards the chubby orange cat who had proceeded to slurp up our only clue and was now chewing on the note.”
“The vet put him on a diet,” the tuxedo cat whispered back.
“Oh, makes sense,” I answered, completely understanding.
“Guys,” Mylo growled and pointed to the clock again.
“Only one hour left!”
We stood in silence for a moment, each of us staring at the clock.
“Well,” the puppy asked.
“I say we split up and search the house. Mylo and Yehudi, you go upstairs. Rapi and I will look around down here,” I barked out the orders.
Yehudi wasted no time grabbing Mylo and moving up the stairs.
“Wish us luck,” the tuxedo cat 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.”
“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 forming 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.
“You stay here, Cindee. I will check it out.”
“Thank you Rapi,” I smiled weakly.
The cat slowly descended into the darkness while I sat at the top and watched. My stomach had begun to do flip flops and now had somehow gotten all knotted up. I was all alone. Sitting in the silence, I felt each one of the hairs on my neck stand up.
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.
Mylo and Yehudi had returned from searching upstairs and were sitting behind me.
The thudding of little steps raced up from the basement. Rapi arrived just in time to see Yehudi 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 while Mylo barked out orders. 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 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 I found myself standing at 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.
“Give me strength,” I whispered a prayer.
I needed some sort of assistance 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 and tears streaming down her furry cheeks.
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 had grown wide.
“Look out,” she pleaded with me.
I did a one hundred eighty turn and was shocked to find Rapi standing behind me on his back legs, his 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?”
His words were coming in the form of a menacing growl like I had never heard before. The world had begun to spin; this was my lifelong friend who was about to attack me.
“I don’t understand, Rapi?”
My head tilted to the left and my ears drooped in defeat. I could taste the bile rising into the back of my throat.
“Why? Because, I … am … hungry, that’s why!” he hissed.
He took a step forward. 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.