“Someone stole my cookie.”
The disappointment flowed freely from my grumbling tummy up my esophagus and then poured out of my mouth. The frustration was so strong I could taste it, and the flavor was not yummy at all. You would think that staring down at that empty plate would help me put the whole thing behind me so I could move on with my life, but it didn’t work out like that.
A blur shifted and then moved through the corner of my eye. I snapped my head in that direction hoping to catch the culprit. I did and I was disappointed to discover that it was only Rapi. The chunky feline padded across the dining room floor and into the kitchen where he stopped to get a drink of water. He raised his eyes to meet mine, then turned to walk away.
Things had seemed to improve in the last twenty-four hours between us. It had been a mutual concern for mommy that had thawed things out a bit, not a reconciliation that we had chosen. Now that we had uncovered the tombstone in our backyard, things were beginning to slide back into a state of coldness again. I did not like that at all.
A taste of normalcy is what I needed. I knew there was only one way to get it back, and I didn’t like what I was going to have to do to get it.
“Someone stole my cookie.”
I repeated the words for the hundredth time this morning, only this time I directed them toward Rapi.
“That’s no good,” he said, stopping to look at me.
His answer was terse but when I listened closely, I picked up on notes of true sympathy hidden in the casual uncaring tone he was shooting for.
“What do you want me to do about it?”
The remark was cold and flippant and cut me deeply. I could feel the salt from the tears begin to sting the back of my eyes. I tried my best to remain strong, but I was falling apart inside. I wanted desperately to say something. Instead, I let the silence hang in the air between us. A moment passed, then another. He exhaled deeply then turned to continue his journey.
“I want you to help me!”
I heard the words as I blurted them out, but it took me a minute to realize they had come from me. He stopped and looked at me with a scowl.
“Rapi, I miss hanging out with you. I want us to be like we used to be.”
The orange feline scrunched up his forehead and frowned. I could tell by the expression he wore that he was mulling my confession around. There were so many things I wanted to say, but a voice called to me from someplace inside my brain telling me to be quiet and give him a minute.
“Why? I thought New York was more important to you than I am,” he grumbled.
The sound of his voice was harsh, but I could hear the pain hidden inside the words and the tone. I understood too. I was well aware of the fact that I had hurt him. He moved toward me, but it wasn’t necessarily a friendly step.
He came to a stop and stared up at me. A huge wave of nausea rolled over me, nearly taking me down in the process. Inside, I was shaking terribly. The way my muscles trembled and twitched I knew I had better sit down before I fell over.
“I was wrong Rapi. You are my best friend and I want you with me. Always.”
“Just not here,” the cat shot back.
“Even here. I am sorry for what I said. I was just …”
My mind went blank. I knew the answer, but it was like someone had built a wall around it and hidden it from me.
“I just …”
“You are afraid of change. You fear that nobody will like you. You are scared …”
“Okay, you made your point. I am afraid of everything, and I have low self-esteem.”
The cat fell silent and nodded his approval. I hung my head and blew out a long slow breath in hopes that this hyperventilating feeling would go away.
“Well, let’s do this!”
His scowl transformed into a big wide smile in front of my eyes. The mere sight of it made me feel light, just like a feather. He approached me and ran his body along the length of my left side, a deep rumbling fired up inside of him. I could not control the adrenaline that was building inside of me.
“We have a cookie to find!”
“Do you have a plan, Cindee?”
“I think this is the work of a cookienapper.”
I say this to Rapi, while my eyes examine the room in search of clues, aside from an empty plate that is. Nothing seemed to be out of place though.
“I don’t like this,” he muttered under his breath. “Let’s check around the table for a ransom note or something.”
“Great Idea!” I agreed. “You look on top of the table and I will look under it okay?”
“You got it!”
With our friendship restored, we began to look for clues that would hopefully lead to the discovery of my missing cookie. Using my super sniffer, I began to search for any unusual odor beneath the table. While I was doing this I could hear Rapi moving around on the table overhead. I stopped to listen to the noise coming from above. It didn’t take long before I was confounded by the sound of items shifting around above me.
“Is it a note from the cookienapper?” I called up to him.
There was no response, only the crinkling of paper being rifled through. The tension was getting to me. My head had begun to pound with the whoosh of blood rushing through veins and arteries, then the hair on the nape of my neck began to rise. With my eyes closed I sucked in a deep breath, hoping to calm my nerves.
The infusion of air in my system seemed to help. Feeling a little less annoyed, I opened my mouth to ask again, but with more vigor this time. Before I had the chance to say anything I was cut short.
“Nothing up here but mail. Sorry, Cindee.”
“Humpf,” I thought to myself.
The backdoor opened and slammed shut. Rapi’s head, which was now hanging over the edge of the table, hung upside down in front of me.
“Who is it?”
“I can’t see from here,” the cat answered.
Not being an expert at multitasking, I forgot about the search for a moment to see what had caused the commotion only to discover that it had been Mommy. She had strolled through the family room and into her office like a woman with purpose and soon returned with the laptop tucked under her arm.
Now Rapi had stopped his search as well and watched as she opened the refrigerator, removed the pitcher, and poured herself a glass of iced tea then headed for the door and the screened-in sunroom.
The cat and I looked at each other, a mutual curiosity stretched out and connected us. The tapping of keyboard keys danced through the air until it reached us. Instinctively, I let my ears guide me toward the sound. The search for the missing cookie was now officially on hold.
“Hey, wait for me!”
A glance back at the table revealed the tabby was still sitting there his face clothed in confusion. Not one to be left out, he bounded from the table and hit the floor with a resounding thud.
I winced at the noise. My heart pounded and my tummy felt sick every time he did that. For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out how he managed to stick those landings without busting an arm or leg. I hadn’t even realized I was holding my breath until I saw that he was fine. I blew out the stale air and together we proceeded toward our destination.
The door squeaked in agony when I pushed it open.
“We really need to oil that thing,” I grumbled to myself.
I was about to let the metal frame swing shut when I remembered Rapi at the last second. Lucky for me, and even more fortuitous for the cat, I managed to catch the door before it smacked him in the face. He smiled at me broadly as I held it for him to pass through. Once we were both safely on the other side, I let it close with a bang and then scampered over to Mommy.
Nothing. The woman stone-cold ignored me. I looked at Rapi, but the only response I got from him was a shrug.
This time things were different, but not in the way I hoped. Instead of getting an answer a got shushed. Can you believe that? Shushed.
“I got this Cindee,” the cat called confidently.
Moving quickly, he sprang towards the windowsill. To his great misfortune, his judgment was a little off and he came up short.
The tabby was able to reach the sill with a pair of outstretched arms though. Extending his claws, he held on for dear life. Somehow, he managed to get his hind legs underneath his body and began to scrabble up the wall. There was nothing I could do but hold my breath and observe with amusement. It wasn’t until he managed to swing one leg up and onto the sill that I believed he was going to be able to pull it off, but our exuberance was a bit premature. In the next breath, he tumbled down with a crash.
“Oh no! Rapi are you okay?”
He eyeballed me with a pained look on his face, then smiled weakly.
“Just a little pain in the back,” he said feebly while climbing to his feet again.
It wasn’t a complete loss though. The commotion caused by a twenty-pound cat colliding with a solid wood deck had managed to rip Mommy’s attention away from the computer long enough for her to scoop him up, kiss him on the top of the head, and gently place him on the sill. The tabby looked over at me, smiled, then winked. It was a painful roundabout way of doing things, but it was mission accomplished.
From his new vantage point, the cat was in a perfect position to peek over Mommy’s shoulder. He gave the paws up sign and then wasted no time getting to work deciphering the words and images on the computer screen. I shot him a hopeful glance which he returned with a wistful grin.
“She is reading information about Francie Thomas,” the feline whispered.
“Yeah, Francie Thomas, that was the name on the tombstone remember?”
I gave him a knowing nod, appreciative of the fact that the cat had an awesome memory.
“What does it say?”
“Just a second!”
Despite all of my fears, I could feel my body trembling with excitement. We had found a real live dead body in our back yard and Mommy was curious enough to try and find out the person’s story. I took advantage of the silence and started to do the math. According to the stone, this woman was born in 1901 and died in 1927, which would make her …
“Hey Rapi, how old was she?”
He looked up towards the sky with a scrunched-up face. I could almost see his brain at work.
“Um, twenty-six. Now, let me finish before she closes the page,” he shouted back.
Patience was not a gift I was possessed with. I tried to focus on the song that the birds were singing. Normally, their tunes cheer me up. Today, though, it was as soothing as nails clawing a chalkboard. Everything seemed like it was moving in slow motion. I just wanted the information and did not want to wait another second. What made the situation even worse was having to look at the cat’s facial expressions change from smiling to scowling to puzzlement.
The noise had gotten his attention.
“Okay, I got the gist of it. It says that she was an aspiring singer who was born in one of the small country villages to the north of the city. She had been discovered two years prior and had released a record and was on a national tour. Her last stop was at the Union Theater downtown on October 13, 1927.”
The tabby fell silent. Until now, I had been sitting motionless, riveted to the cat’s story, hanging on his every word.
“Then what,” I barked, desperate for more information.
“She performed that night to rave reviews and then was never seen again.”
He stared at me wide-eyed, his tongue dangling from his mouth in a sense of shock.
“Until now,” I mumbled under my breath with a gulp.
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