Tuxedo Cat  498a8c-50

Tuxedo Cat

A.-F. Cat turned the last page of his favourite weekly “Catnews” and with a precise movement of his paw tossed the newspaper onto the table, neatly missing the glass of fresh 5-percent milk.

There were no details about the organizers of tomorrow's auction, only that it would take place at the annual soirée in the palace of the famous producer and patron, Mr. G.Of course, he could have sat at the computer, googled on his smartphone, but Cat only used these modern methods in extreme cases. This was clearly not one of them.He knew that this exclusive annual reception was held to help cats and kittens in distress.

Last year, Cat was also invited as an honoured guest—a famous detective and respected lawyer. But he preferred to avoid this fuss, hoping that this year no one would think to disrupt his measured lifestyle with another invitation.

But the day before yesterday morning, amidst the silver-trayed mail delivered by Felix, there was a purple envelope that made Cat's whiskers twitch.

“Mr. Cat deigns not to accept the invitation, does he?” the butler asked with a bow.

“Presumably,” Cat flicked his tail in annoyance and continued to open the letters with his left paw's claw, quickly scanning them and stacking them up. A plain white envelope with a hastily written address caught his attention. Something was off with this letter.

The fur on Cat's nape bristled slightly, a sign that had never failed him before.

“Dear Mr. Cat,You are unlikely to remember me—we met personally only once 8 years ago. But I dare assure you, I have been and remain a devoted admirer of your legal and detective talents. So much so that I want to show them to the entire world.I know that something unusual, out of the ordinary, will be committed at G.'s auction.

I am confident that it will present you with a great opportunity to remind the world about yourself and prove that the saying 'he can't even catch mice' does not apply to you. I don't think you'll be able to prevent the inevitable, but maybe you'll be able to find the one who will commit it?I am writing to you in an old-fashioned way so that you will surely read my message. I know you do not favour electronics.

But if you happen to want some clarifications and details - call me. My phone...”

There was no signature.Cat rose from his chaise lounge, still holding the letter, and began to silently pace his living room.

“Felix!” he called after 5 minutes.The butler instantly appeared in the doorway.

“I am attending the reception.”

“What would you like to wear and take with you?”

“A tuxedo from Catieur, a red bow tie, and a sash from Kissanro.”

“Shoes?”“From Murelli.”

“Will you take a cane?”

“Yes, with a golden mouse.”

“A flask?”

“Do you think they will again not have five-percent milk?”

Felix spread his paws.

“This is why I dislike these pompous events where a decent cat can't even get a drink!” Cat thought angrily.

Of course, he was angry not about the lack of milk, but that some mysterious scoundrel dared to throw such a bold challenge at him.

 

( 2 )     

 

The legend that cats need to sleep for 20 hours a day had long been debunked by the science of the new cat-human world. But this didn't mean a decent retired cat should get any less than 12 hours of sleep! However, the famous detective slept very poorly and nervously the night before the auction.Waking up in a bad mood, he almost decided to refuse the invitation.

“After all, one shouldn't allow oneself to be manipulated by some unclear personalities,” the Cat mentally purred.

“A silly letter is not enough to make a famous, respected detective leave his home and head to a noisy and uninteresting place!”

He turned the knob of an old-fashioned radio, always tuned to his favourite “MeowRadio” station. The soft sounds of jazz were replaced by the latest news. The Cat wasn't listening intently, but when the announcer mentioned the upcoming social soirée and auction, his ears twitched and he turned away from his morning bowl of cream.

“Felix, turn it up!”

What was heard in the louder news did not contribute to the return of his appetite: the announcer unflappably talked about the upcoming event, listing auction items and the most famous guests. Among others, to Cat's horror, his own name was mentioned.He had already seen the outfit prepared by Felix out of the corner of his eye: a pristine shirtfront, a perfect tuxedo, and a red velvet bow tie. Polished shoes shone beside them.

Now, terribly irritated, Cat tried not to look in that corner of the room. Being publicly announced as a guest at the auction shuffled all his cards! Now he couldn't just refuse. He would have to fall ill or get run over by a car. The damn publicity-imposed obligations! Getting run over was not appealing. And he had already used illness as an excuse last year. A primitive repeat would be offensive… primarily to Cat himself.

“...We have learned that among the auction lots will be real treasures sought by collectors around the world: in particular, a collection of precious bowls from the Briss dynasty, several items from the renowned Kotoberege factory...”

Cat perked up his ears again.

“...In connection with this, the security level of the event will be unprecedented — the latest technologies and the best professional guards will ensure the safety of the unique auction exhibits and, of course, the esteemed evening guests...”

“Well,” Cat flicked his right whisker, “now one can guess what the villains have planned. If the letter sent the day before is not a bluff, then they are waiting for me to steal one of the most precious auction lots right under my nose. To then boast about pulling it off. That won't happen! I haven't lost my sniff, I won't let this happen!”

And Cat decisively began to dress in the prepared outfit. Half an hour later, an elegant black-furred socialite in a luxurious tuxedo looked back at him from the full-length mirror.Pleased with his appearance, A.-F. Cat left his mansion and, getting into his car, gave the driver the address of Mr. G.'s palace.

 

( 3 )   

   

The car carrying the famous Cat entered the massive golden gates, adorned with live flowers, passed security, and rustled along the gravel driveway. When a loud, melodic chime sounded, the Cat blissfully and surprisingly squinted; it took him a moment to realize that the music wasn’t playing in his honour.

In fact, the special bells signalled the opening of this year's social soirée.To the right and left in the garden, through which the Rolls-Royce slowly drove to the entrance, sculptures depicting well-known contemporaries – both humans and cats – delighted the eye. Colourful garlands sparkled on the trees. Stepping briskly up the ceremonial staircase, nearly blinded by dozens of camera flashes, the Cat hadn't even had time to look around the main hall when his path was blocked by a charming cat in an evening dress. Her light fur had a bluish sheen of true breed, and her beautiful eyes were nobly different colours.

“Oh! Mr. Cat! I never believed those bloggers and the press, claiming that you would grace us with your presence!” she extended her paw elegantly.

“Could it be that eyes blinded by your beauty do not deceive me, and Lady L. herself has honoured me with her attention?” Cat gallantly bowed to her soft paw with hidden claws.

“I'm sure it's not me but the camera flashes at the entrance that blinded you,” the cat purred,

“don't attribute to me the power of the press! May I be curious, what made you exchange your famously mega-comfortable 'den' for this noisy gathering, Mr. Cat? Surely THE PROMISED crime?”

“Lies, all lies, Lady L.! I am here exclusively to have the pleasure of seeing you!” Cat smiled strainedly.

“Everyone lies?..” echoed Lady L., squinting either from pleasure or...

Cat thought he saw something else flicker in his old acquaintance's eyes – something resembling a bold challenge.He distinctly remembered some moments of a loud case three years ago, working on which, he met Lady L. and her husband. At one point, he even seriously suspected the beautiful cat of aiding the fraudsters. But the suspicions were not confirmed. Later, Cat heard about a similar fraud, but there was no evidence found there either, and all suspicions were forgotten.

Cat stepped aside to check something. Keeping his eyes on the retreating Lady L., casually chatting with acquaintances, he took out an old mobile phone from his pocket and dialled the memorized number from the letter.

When the phone buzzed in his ear, Cat kept an eye on Lady L.'s paws: the screen of the phone clutched in them showed no signs of life.

“Not her,” thought Cat with a strange sense of relief.

Just in case, he surveyed the hall: no one interrupted their social interactions in small groups or answered the phone. However, this meant nothing: the anonymous could simply not pick up the phone or intentionally write a different number.Cat deftly picked up a glass of something pleasantly white from a passing tray and sniffed it.

“Seems like cream, and decent enough,” he thought, but before he could stain his whiskers, an excited whisper swept through the hall — the evening's host, Mr. G., stepped onto a small elevation in the centre of the hall with a microphone in hand.

 

( 4 )    

 

“People and cats are created to help each other… Our unique society… The auction lots presented affirm the long-standing unity…” – the host's welcome speech wasn’t too pompous, occasionally witty, and it elicited applause and laughter from the guests.
After several significant figures made their speeches, an auction was planned, followed by tea with a grandiose multi-tiered cake made by Mr. G.'s personal confectioner.
In the meantime, well-trained waiters moved silently around the hall, carrying drinks and exquisite snacks on silver trays. Crystal chandeliers and numerous mirrors in golden frames reflected and multiplied millions of twinkles, lighting up the hall's expensive décor. The crowd continued to gather and mingle. From different corners of the hall, there were exclamations of surprise, recognition, and joy of varying degrees of sincerity.


Leaning against a column, Cat stood observing the people and cats with interest.
“Is that really him?” – “I’m telling you, it's him for sure!” – a hissing whisper sounded close by, and two cute faces peeked from the other side of the column, curiously eyeing the famous detective but hesitating to approach for a selfie.
Cat pretended not to notice the heightened attention to his person. Recognition was flattering, of course, but he had no desire to interact with strangers.
However, there were plenty of “acquaintances”: former colleagues or clients occasionally approached him with greetings. And when Cat was wiping his whiskers from the cream with a napkin bearing Mr. G.'s monogram, the imposing figure of Mr. J. materialized before him.


“You probably didn't expect to see me here?” Mr. J. smugly stated.
“To be honest, I now expect anything from this evening!” Cat muttered, remembering how a couple of years ago he had personally exerted all efforts to ensure the thief J. ended up behind bars. Now, however, he appeared quite confident and respectable, as if there were no dark spots in his biography.
“Ah, yes! Rumours say you were almost challenged, with a crime being planned here tonight,” Mr. J. smirked through his ginger whiskers.
“And how do you know about this? Didn't you personally throw this challenge?”
“Mine?” he giggled. “Honestly? I might want to pretend to be such a daredevil. But after getting out of jail, where you sent me, I took the path of reform so zealously that, as you see, I'm welcome in the finest houses! Besides, I no longer find pleasure in criminal activities – especially those requiring strong intellectual effort,” Mr. J. laughed again and, skilfully snagging a champagne glass from a passing waiter, raised it in a farewell gesture before turning away.
“I can't exclude him from suspects, of course,” a thunderous voice sounded next to Cat. His old friend and colleague D. was also watching Mr. J.'s back.
Cat smiled as if he had Cheshire ancestry:
“Oh, I am very pleased to see you, dear D.!”
“Mutually! So, admit it, are you really here on business? Think someone dares to snatch... a bowl? Or an egg? From under the noses of these tough guys?” D. nodded towards the burly security guards scattered around the hall, who even made him seem of average height.
“Everyone comes to me with this question! But I know no more than any of the guests! I hope the rumours of the supposed robbery are just that – rumours!..”
At that moment, a waiter awkwardly bumped into Cat with a tray and continued through the hall.
“Be careful!” D. exclaimed for his friend, but the waiter, without even looking back, disappeared behind the guests.

 

( 5 )      

 

Cat squinted as he watched the brusque waiter quickly dissolve into the crowd:
“Strange…”
“Yes, finding decent catering these days is very tough!” D. misinterpreted his friend's confusion. “Remember the times when we didn't even know such a word? And all these novelties weren't there! But there was a clear world in which we found criminals and rid society of them.”
Cat smiled again:
“Well, now the world hasn't changed much. Just a bit different technologies or words, but the criminals are the same. And so are we…”
“You – undoubtedly! You even look almost the same as you did decades ago: your tuxedo is perfectly black and fits you just as flawlessly! But I've grown in size... Ah! Remember the times when we caught 'Narcissus' and finally nabbed that cheeky one chased by police all over the world?
“Not 'we', dear D.! It was you who caught him in that crazy chase!”
“Yes, I caught him on the roof of a skyscraper! But don't be modest: who but you got into the criminal's skin and figured out where he was and what he was up to!”
“Yes, we did work well then. And the case turned out to be sensational… How many years did they give him for all the crimes?”
“Ten years! But in my opinion, that's too little for such a villain!” D. frowned. “To swipe the best exhibits from the Kitburg National Museum! To clean out the castle of the Kissindukes, deprive children of half the attractions in all Meowlandia parks, and rob the main branch of MurBank!”
“And that's just what there was evidence for!” Cat flicked the tip of his tail. “He had friends and acquaintances practically everywhere! Well, friends... More like those who owed him or those he blackmailed: Narcissus skilfully collected dirt on everyone he met on his path. You know, if he didn't still have two years to sit, I would have thought that he... is the one attempting the lots at today's auction!”
“They should have slapped him with more! The judges practically devalued our efforts to catch him…”
A loud entrance by the orchestra interrupted the friends' dialogue. The audience looked around in amazement and admiration: there was only a pianist on stage, and the rest of the musicians were standing and sitting all around the hall, giving the music an extraordinary stereo effect.
Applause rang out.
The light in the hall dimmed, but a huge screen lit up, showing the first auction lot. The audience was presented with a description of the Briss dynasty and a brief history of the creation of their courtly bowls. Colourful images followed one another in a slide show, with captions in several languages. The slideshow probably aimed to attract not only regulars to the auction but also incidental guests of the soirée who had the necessary – meaning spare – funds.
D. moved to another column, meeting a familiar lady, and Cat, standing alone, watched the faces of the guests turned towards the screen and the waiters moving like shadows, almost ignoring the screen. The expressions of all the people and cats were different – curious or indifferent, detached or reacting to companions' remarks…


And only two faces among all looked... very tense. Cat didn't have time to think about the first, as the second belonged to Mr. G. - the organizer of the evening and the owner of the palace, who was just heading towards the famous detective with a glass of champagne in his hand.

 

( 6 )

 

“Mr. Cat! Delighted at your presence at our evening!” the palace owner whispered, careful not to distract people from the screen.
“A marvellous evening, Mr. G., I already regret missing last year's event! And this is just the beginning. The auction is bound to be even more impressive!”
“Oh yes! And the cake! You've never seen such a cake, I assure you!” Mr. G. patted Cat's shoulder patronizingly, causing the famous guest's tail tip to twitch.
“And believe me, I'm not talking about ordinary cakes, but about those with whipped cream, loved not just by humans but also by cats!”
“That sounds more interesting!”
“Believe me, it's not just about sound or looks! But also about tantalizing taste!”
“Oh yes, I read about your confectioner in 'Cotonews' – a genius creating wonders.”
“Believe me, 'genius' is an understatement! This year he's outdone himself! I allowed him to pick his own team so that at this soirée, both the dishes and the presentation would surpass everything! And so far, as you see,” Mr. G. made a wide gesture, “the culinary masterpieces and service are competing in excellence. Anticipating your question – all the newly hired staff were checked by my security service and personally by me! And in the security service, I've never changed staff for years!”
Cat flicked the tip of his tail, recalling the jostling waiter, but decided not to mention the incident.
“If you speak so confidently about security, then you too must have heard... all these rumours about impending troubles...” Cat motioned his whiskers towards the screen, where precious lots continued to be displayed.
Mr. G. sipped his champagne. Even if he was worried about something, he didn't intend to admit it.
“Mr. Cat, you can't even imagine the level of security here! Every step of every guest is visible to us. And when I say 'us', I mean not only these bruisers with springs behind their ears – cameras transmit every movement of every guest to computers, scanning every square centimetre of the hall and all adjacent rooms of the castle. And the lots... are watched by several security services, unaware of each other. All items are securely packed, so... Well, I won't even tell you all the security tricks. So, relax, Mr. Cat! I'm confident you won't have to work today! And I very much hope this evening will be remembered only for pleasant experiences!”
Cat murmured something unintelligible in response, not wanting to spoil the mood of the evening's host. Probably, it wasn't worth mentioning the anonymous letter – especially since the detective himself wasn't sure it wasn't just a joke. Maybe everything would be fine?
Mr. G. “drifted” further through the hall, conversing with one guest after another.
And Cat, finishing his glass of cream, continued to survey the hall. The second person with a strangely tense expression was no longer in sight. The light had already come on, and the audience animatedly discussed the lots they had seen. No tension was felt.
“Perhaps, I'm overthinking? If some jester decided to play a joke on me and everyone else, it doesn't mean something will happen. The gun doesn't always fire – especially if it's a prop and not loaded. And detectives are not always harbingers of crime... Well, right after the whipped cream cake is served, I'll call Felix and go home. Or maybe even right after the auction,” and Cat blissfully squinted, imagining himself back in his cosy chair in front of the fireplace.


( 7 )


The phone suddenly rang with a notification, interrupting Cat's dreams of a cosy evening by the fireplace. It was a voice message from an unknown number — but definitely not the one the famous detective had memorized at first glance from the anonymous letter a couple of days ago. Cat found audio messages to be the height of impoliteness, but still, he brought the phone to his ear and pressed play. It was not in vain.


“As they say, watch the hands, Mr. Cat!” a deliberately distorted voice said against a background of noise that was intensifying and then receding. “All the lots are already where they should be! And — ha-ha — I don't mean the auction room! The secret is that hardly anyone will notice anything untimely — but then they'll remember that Mr. Cat was at the soirée and noticed nothing and did nothing! Are you sure that the rumours about the supposed robbery are just rumours?.. Ha-ha-ha...”


As he listened to the message, the detective scanned the hall for his friend D. Catching his eye, he gestured expressively that they needed to talk. Stepping behind one of the columns, he let his former colleague listen to the message from another anonymous source.


“Who's this from?!” D.'s eyebrows twitched — his complex thought processes always amusingly reflected on his face.
“If I knew… The voice is unrecognizable. But I noticed something while listening to this message and simultaneously surveying the hall. And you?”
D.'s eyes lit up; he also quickly glanced around:
“What, you figured out the cheeky one? Then tell me! Of course, I'm not the same for chasing down rooftops, but on the parquet, I can still catch and grab a criminal!”
“Oh no-no, I haven't figured him out, I just understood something… But not entirely. I'm sure you noticed it too… Even two things. But that's not the point. I'm concerned about the safety of the auction lots.”
“You think it's true? Some freak says he stole not just one but all the lots, under such tight security, and we're going to believe him?! Just in case, of course, we should tell Mr. G. about it.”
“We have nothing but a silly message, and G. is confident in his security's invulnerability. But you're right, dear D., we should at least inform him of this brazen statement…”


Loud music thundered throughout the hall, and spotlights illuminated the pendulum doors, revealing an incredibly large cake. Four waiters in ancient Chinese masks accompanied it to the stage like a VIP. The audience applauded.
Continuing the conversation in such a racket was impossible, so Cat waved his paw, indicating “later,” grabbed his cane, and along with D. and the rest of the audience, moved a few steps closer to the stage, simultaneously searching for Mr. G. with his eyes.
The waiters skilfully cut pieces from the edges of the multi-tiered cake, expertly rotating it, and distributed them on plates to the audience. The evening's host stood nearby, enjoying the admiration on the guests' faces as they tried the first pieces of dessert. Cat approached closer and whispered something in Mr. G.'s ear, evidently not making a strong impression on the listener. G. tried to hide his irritation behind a condescending smile. Then he signalled for a waiter to hand him a piece with a mound of whipped cream. He personally presented the plate to Cat and continued to circulate around the hall, basking in his guests' enraptured reviews.


( 8 )


The criminal rejoiced: everything was going according to his plan, which he had meticulously developed over many months. He thirsted for revenge! Only because of this purpose had he found the strength to endure the hardships of the past few years.
He could have obtained an amount of money similar to what would appear after the robbery, even considering all expenses, in a much simpler way. But such an elegant crime was so complex and well-thought-out because the Criminal wanted not only to receive a worthy “compensation” for all the sufferings he had been subjected to but also to teach a lesson to everyone who was guilty. And first of all, of course, to Cat.


Ah, this A.-F. Cat! This impudent creature! Calling him a detective was a stretch — this worthless representative of the noble feline breed, in the Criminal's opinion, possessed no virtues other than great luck! Meanwhile, the black, furry lover of tuxedos prided himself on his supposed attention to detail and his supposed knowledge of criminal psychology. The time had come to show the world that his knowledge was not so deep and that he did not deserve the title of a real detective! In the ability to analyse and calculate steps, he was nowhere close to the Criminal — the uncrowned king of swindlers.


Let Cat use his knowledge of psychology and criminology as much as he wants after the auction! Let him suffer, trying to piece together details that don't fit into a single picture. Nothing could be changed now! The Criminal did not deceive him in his message — the auction lots were already in a secure place. More precisely, in an insecure place, but definitely not where they could be searched for. Moreover, no one would notice their absence for a very long time. Cat can say whatever he wants to anyone — no one will believe him. And certainly not that know-it-all Mr. G. The Criminal had nothing personally against him, but it was very pleasant to teach a lesson to another wealthy know-it-all along the way. To prove to him — and to all — that there are no technologies that can withstand a true Criminal Mind. The most complex security systems fail if the human factor is properly exploited. How do you like that, Mr. Cat, Mr. G., and all you gentlemen who think that if you pay for security, you can count on it?


Cat can no longer change anything — he can only bite his elbows... or rather, chase the tip of his tail, as they say in the feline world. A couple of ancient bowls and a couple of Catobershe eggs have already moved to a safe place, and no one will find them. Perhaps, after some time, someone from this audience will be interested in buying on the black market. The Criminal has already found buyers. By tonight, the lots will be sold, but not at the auction. And the Criminal, with a large sum of money and satisfied self-esteem for starters, will begin a new — wonderful — life.


...Finishing a piece of cake, Cat thoughtfully watched the dexterity of the waiters spinning a table on wheels on the stage and skilfully cutting pieces around a column hidden in the centre of the cake, made of multi-coloured — marble-like — mastic with Mr. G.'s initials. He saw guests happily eating sweets, the content but slightly tense host of the evening, the loudly laughing Mr. Z., the coquettishly smiling Lady L. from the other end of the hall, and many familiar and unknown faces. And some vague guesses began to appear in his head.


( 9 )


The taste of luxurious cream still lingered on his tongue, and Cat's whiskers trembled slightly from the marvellous aromas. His favourite five-percent milk in the flask tucked inside his tuxedo's inner pocket begged to “polish off” the devoured slice of cake. Cat discreetly sipped his beloved drink, which helped him attune to the right mindset. A plan of action began to form in his mind. Stowing away the flask, he took out his phone and started googling the Brys' dynasty, names of emperors, and court masters who crafted masterpieces a century ago. Everything found on historical sites was interesting but useless. The necessary data – on how to distinguish authentic from counterfeit artefacts of Chinese masters of the required era – he found almost accidentally. Cat's eyebrows twitched in surprise and... approval.


The next step was to make a couple of important calls. But just as he delved into his address book, the smartphone's screen treacherously went dark.
“A thousand dead mice!” Cat cursed under his breath. The internal pockets of his beloved tuxedo barely accommodated the flask and the phone – there was no charger. But making a call was absolutely necessary. Asking for a mobile phone from one of the guests directly in the hall and then speaking in front of foreign “ears” was definitely not a good idea.


Cat was about to ask Mr. G. where he could make a call, but he saw that he was surrounded by a dense crowd of interlocutors, through which it was unlikely to break through, let alone with a confidential request.
Then the detective picked up his cane and went to find a “public” phone himself. He exited into the corridor leading to the restrooms, then turned onto the staircase and began to ascend to the second floor. The noise of the social event gradually faded and eventually remained somewhere behind.
On the second floor, the staircase ended in a long corridor with rows of closed doors on both sides and golden candelabra with candle-like bulbs every few meters. Cat's instinct immediately directed him the right way: past two doors, he saw a niche with a green velvet curtain, behind which the metallic parts of a retro-style telephone shone. Next to it was a comfortable chair, and on the table lay a notepad with tear-off sheets and a gel pen shaped like a feather. Cat was happy to give his tired paws a rest, so he immediately sat in the chair and, picking up the receiver, began dialling a long-familiar number...


After the phone call, Cat sat motionless for some time.


“Just as I thought!” he muttered to himself. “Now to find out how, when, and by what means”...
Suddenly, a noise and crackling came from behind the curtain. A security guard appeared, glancing at him with a piercing look that flickered with recognition:
“Please stay put, Mr. Cat, while we pass.”
Then he added to his radio:
“Yes, it's clear, start moving.”
A minute later, the sound of opening elevator doors was heard, and several glass boxes on tall stands were wheeled through the corridor towards the staircase. Each had its own security guard, and inside, visible through the bulletproof walls of the transparent boxes, were the very lots for the upcoming auction. A curious glint appeared in Cat's green eyes. Not from beholding the treasures – with his observant gaze of a psychologist and detective, he noticed something else.


( 10 )


As the procession with precious items passed the niche, Cat was signalled that he could come out. However, the staircase was blocked for the descent of those very boxes. For safety reasons, the detective was asked to use the elevator in another wing of the building, which nearly led him astray on the first floor as he took a wrong turn and ended up at the kitchen doors.
Reluctant to circle around through the long corridor of the wing, as the path from the kitchen to the hall was shorter, the detective resolutely opened the door, pretending he was there on purpose. Plus, it was an opportunity to “kill two birds with one stone” by visiting the kitchen and looking around for familiar faces.
“I'm terribly sorry, Mr. Cat, but outsiders are not allowed in the kitchen,” a chef immediately approached him.


“Of course, of course!” Cat was pleased with the recognition. He raised his paws, showing no intention of arguing, “I just wanted to express my respect to Mr. G.'s head pastry chef. You wouldn't happen to be him, would you?”
The chef shook his head, then turned, ran a few steps, and whispered something into the ear of an elderly man with a phone in hand and a pink chef's hat comically tilted to one side. The head pastry chef's coloured cap trembled at his subordinate's words. The man slowly and seemingly hesitantly turned towards the uninvited guest. Then, slowly putting away the phone, he cautiously approached the detective. The pastry chef's gaze was wary.
“Please forgive my unintended intrusion into the sanctum,” Cat immediately spoke, extending his paw, “but I couldn't help but personally thank the creator of such a masterpiece...” - praising the cake took the detective several minutes.
The pastry chef seemed to thaw with each word heard, subtly exhaling his tension and assuming a confident and slightly self-satisfied demeanour. He personally escorted Cat to the pendulum doors to the main hall and even held them open for the guest.


Exactly at that moment, the glass boxes encountered by Cat on the second floor were being brought through the main doors. The crowd came alive. Lady L.'s eyes, almost at the kitchen exit, lit up, leaning forward, her gaze fixed on the precious future lots.


“Planning to participate in the auction? I'll be rooting for you,” the detective said.
The tuft on the left ear of the lady twitched in surprise.
“You appeared so unexpectedly...” Lady L. flashed her sharp teeth. “Oh, not at all, I'm just a spectator! I'm not participating. I already have everything I need,” she playfully added, fanning herself with an ivory fan with one paw and taking her husband under the arm with the other, pulling him closer to the stage.
“'Everyone lies'... 'I already have everything'... Are they sending me signals that I have not yet correctly interpreted?” Cat thought, watching his former client.
The remnants of the cake, thanks to the central column of marzipan, were being taken away from the stage, not looking like leftovers but more like a specific art object. In their place were ancient treasures, and Mr. G. was already introducing the auctioneer from the stage, who finally declared the auction open.


( 11 )


The light in the hall dimmed, brightly illuminating only the stage from where the auctioneer conducted the bidding, and behind him, the lots glistened with gold through protective glass. The semi-darkness didn't hinder Cat from surveying the room – his feline vision allowed him to see very well even in darkness (which is why part of the palace's security was also feline).
People and cats were actively raising their bids. The detective found Mr. J.'s curly head with his gaze. He wasn't participating in the bidding but seemed to be very lively in response to each new price offer: smiling, twirling his moustache tips, and nearly dancing in place. Amidst the general excitement, no one paid attention to this, except Cat and... Mr. G., who stood to the side of the stage in the shadows, arms crossed, eyes piercing the ex-criminal.


“Well, it seems nothing has been stolen, right?” Mr. D. whispered, approaching Cat.
“I don't know yet...”
Mr. D. followed his friend's gaze.
“You don't seriously suspect Mr. J., do you? Or...” he lowered his voice to a whisper, “even Mr. G. himself?”
“I'm just observing and... planning to unmask the criminal. Will you help me?”
“Of course, but I'm not dressed for a chase.”
“No, no! No chases. We need to strike up a conversation with one of the lot buyers.”
“Start a conversation? About what?”
“About their purchase. Pretend you're an art enthusiast wanting a closer look at the acquired item. Be sure to introduce yourself – former police officers are more trusted.”
“A bit out of my league, but if it's important...”
“I assure you, VERY! Did you know that the dynasty Brys's crockery changes to the opposite colour on the spectrum when it comes in contact with five percent milk?”
“Yes, I heard something about that. But I never had the chance to check,” shrugged Mr. D.
“Well, perhaps you will now...”


Twenty minutes later, Mr. D. was already charming the buyer of the first lot – a green, thin porcelain bowl. Cat stood nearby, sipping milk from his silver flask, pretending not to watch the conversation. But as soon as the precious purchase was presented to the new owner and she took the bowl in her hands for Mr. D. to look at, Cat swiftly approached and also leaned over, as if to examine the expensive item. And at that moment, the flask in his paw tilted slightly, and a few drops of five percent milk spilled directly onto the ancient porcelain.
The lady shrieked, Mr. D. reached for a handkerchief, and many heads turned their way. Mr. G., with a displeased face, was making his way through the crowd to see what the matter was.

Surrounding onlookers looked at Cat with disapproval. But he seemed neither concerned nor guilty. He was intently examining the bowl in the hands of the indignant buyer:
“Don't worry, madam! It was just five percent milk,” these words of the detective were heard by Mr. G., who had just squeezed through the crowd. He immediately looked down at the milk-soaked exhibit and... turned pale. However, he didn't utter a sound.
“It's not at all serious,” Cat continued to purr. “Moreover, even this won't be serious...” and with a sharp swipe of his paw, he knocked the piece out of the owner's hands.
The sound of the porcelain shattering on the parquet had the effect of a burst noise grenade.
The hall went silent for a second. But then, almost instantly, everyone started talking at once, and two huge security guards rushed towards Cat.


( 12 )


Around the fragments on the floor, a dense circle of curious onlookers formed, inside which the hysterical buyer of the broken bowl was lamenting, and nearby stood the unruffled Cat, the utterly perplexed Mr. D., and the evening's host, Mr. G., whose face was so pale it seemed to glow until the full lights came on. Behind him, two bulky guards shifted nervously and whispered into invisible microphones, held back by Mr. G. from apprehending the famous detective.


The lady, who had been chatty with Mr. D. just a minute ago, was now shrieking at him and Mr. G.:
“You saw it, saw it? He deliberately broke my bowl! Deliberately! And there he stands squinting, while the auction host forbids his arrest! You're all in cahoots! Return my money for the purchased lot! I didn't even get to leave the auction! Ah! I didn't even get to hold this beauty in my hands! And now! Just fragments!.. Arrest this animal! Why isn't he even being touched?! Police! Has anyone called the police?”
Judging by the murmuring of the surrounding crowd, most of the attendees shared the aggrieved woman's outrage.
Mr. G. sighed deeply, then straightened up and raised his hand, calling for silence. The din of voices quickly subsided.
“Police have been called at my direction...”
A murmur of approval followed.
“...but not to arrest Mr. Cat...”
“His status won't help him, he must answer for his actions!” the owner of the fragments squealed.


Mr. G. said something quietly to Cat, and together they ascended the stage. At the host's command, the guards began lifting the lids off the boxes containing the lots. Mr. G. and Cat approached each one and... dripped milk into them from the flask.
The audience behind them buzzed with confusion. Finally, Mr. G. approached the edge of the stage and took the microphone:
“The police need to come to arrest... a thief! Mr. Cat saw and showed us that the lot was stolen and replaced. The five percent milk test proved that all lots were replaced...” At the exclamations of outrage and surprise that rose from all sides, Mr. G. just raised his voice. “Therefore, all entrances and exits to the building and the grounds are already blocked and controlled by security...”
At this, Mr. G. stumbled – apparently remembering that it was right under the noses of this security that the unprecedented theft had taken place. However, it was pointless to continue, as almost no one was listening anymore.
The approaching sound of police sirens only intensified the general panic and confusion.
Newly arrived waiters brought and set up chairs along the walls, Mr. G. and security asked everyone to take a seat.
When the police appeared in the hall, half the guests were already seated. From the stage and the unremoved fragments of the fake, guards pushed everyone back, except for Cat and Mr. D.
It was to them that a small, non-uniformed man, who came with the police, headed straight for a handshake with the detective and his friend.


“Pleasant to see former colleagues, even if 'caught' at the crime scene,” he smiled with half his mouth. “At least no corpses this time. And the place isn't bad,” he quickly glanced around the opulent palace hall. “But interrogating witnesses looks like it'll take all night. And I only have four guys.”
“If you're hinting that we can be useful, then I have no objection, dear Mr. S.!” replied Cat. “But first, I'd like to fill you in on everything I know about this... erm... robbery.”


( 13 )


The criminal seethed with frustration: his nearly flawless plan had been disrupted, all thanks to that cursed Cat! Yet, he wasn't concerned about being caught; his assurance in escaping unscathed was unwavering. Watching the flustered feline detective, with confusion and even a hint of disarray on his smug face, was a sheer delight.


All he had to do now was wait out the night, enduring the interrogation and release that would inevitably come. Nobody would spill the beans - a few knew the truth, but their silence was guaranteed by their own secrets or fear for their loved ones. Thus, everything remained under wraps. The criminal had planned to flee the country immediately, eschewing the recognition of his unique talents for yet another stint in prison. Though the departure was now delayed, a single night's wait was insignificant. It allowed him to savour the Cat's futile mental gymnastics a bit longer.
Regrettably, constant observation of the detective wasn't feasible, especially now, as everyone was confined to their current locations, barring transfers to “interrogation” rooms. And there he was, the self-assured detective again—why had he returned?


The criminal subtly adjusted his fake moustache and turned away.
By four in the morning, after extensive searches and interrogations by additional police forces, the palace was thoroughly examined. There were three female hysterics, about a dozen scandals with attempts to escape under various pretences, one fainting episode, and an unseen despair attack by Mr. S.

At a small meeting, after the palace had been searched and most attendees questioned, the detectives summarized their findings and tried to devise a plan. Mr. S., nervously and wearily, described the situation:
“So, three days ago, all the future auction lots were delivered intact to the palace, their authenticity confirmed by various experts. The lots were stored in a room with the latest computer security system, plus Mr. G.'s personal security and the fund's security checked everyone leaving the building and premises.”
“The staff even took offense,” Mr. D. interjected, “it's understandable for the newbies, but even loyal servants were thoroughly searched upon exit!”
“My team has done an immense job—searched every nook, frisked every person, every car. They'll continue to work on the grounds at dawn, but it's unlikely the thief tied the lots to a tree or buried them. They've simply vanished!”
Cat and Mr. D. nodded in agreement. It had been a gruelling night, with thoughts of cosy beds at home plaguing all three. Suddenly, Cat, who seemed almost asleep in his chair, abruptly stood up.


( 14 )


“As you mentioned, everyone was searched on the way out, but not on entry? And the newcomers too, right?” asked the Cat.
“Of course, on the way out. Mr. G. personally informed me and even provided surveillance camera footage. We'll review it eventually, but I have little hope. The new hires were vetted so thoroughly that even a speck of dust on their reputation would have barred them from employment here. Our services have double-checked them first,” explained S.
“I urgently need to speak with Mr. G.!” exclaimed the Cat, and without waiting for a response, he slipped out of the room designated for interrogations and meetings that night. He found himself in the main hall, strangely empty without the guests. Observing the scene—waiters clearing dishes, removing chairs—he headed straight for the kitchen doors.
The kitchen was no longer bustling as the interrogations were almost over, but the chefs and bakers were still tidying up. The part of the kitchen that was already cleaned shone brightly. The remnants of the cake, unspoiled thanks to the intact column and untouched tiers, were being stored in the largest compartment of the refrigeration room, under the supervision of head pastry chef Mr. K. Mr. G. was present.
“Allow me to speak again with your head pastry chef Mr. K., and also with your head of security Mr. R.,” requested the Cat to the palace owner. An exhausted Mr. G. merely gestured and then summoned Mr. R. over the radio, not even inquiring about the detective's intention. The Cat offered an encouraging smile to the pastry chef and gestured towards the exit of the kitchen. In the hall, they were silently joined by Mr. R.
S. and D. could barely conceal their astonishment; both Mr. K. and Mr. R. had already been intensively questioned several times, yet the Cat had brought them back. He firmly closed the door behind them and said, “Gentlemen, I want to ask you,” addressing his colleagues, “and promise you,” nodding at Mr. K. and Mr. R., “that everything said here within this room will not leave its confines.”
S. frowned unhappily, “Cat, I'm leading this investigation. I won't make any promises—everything we hear must be recorded in the protocol.”
“Dear S., you're right! However, I'm convinced that the further outcome of the investigation now depends on Mr. K. and Mr. R. You'll utilize certain information to find both the stolen items and the thief, just not mention its sources in the official report.”
After a minute of discussion, S. relented. His reputation was on the line, and he was ready to grab at any straw, especially when it was the only one. The Cat seated a visibly nervous Mr. K. and Mr. R. before him and, casting a significant look at everyone present, asked, “Tell me, how did Narcissus blackmail you, and whom did you hire at his behest?”
The question had the effect of a paused film: everyone froze, their faces an illustration of a wide range of emotions.


( 15 )


S. and D. exchanged glances but refrained from commenting, while the head pastry chef and the security chief noticeably paled. It was now up to the Cat to apply his knowledge of psychology, and within minutes, K. and R. “broke” and told their stories.
Their accounts were similar, both being equally blackmailed. Initially, each received an anonymous letter containing secret information that, if disclosed, could have dire consequences. This was followed by phone calls with specific threats to their loved ones. The only way to buy their peace of mind was to employ one or two individuals specified by the anonymous blackmailer.
Since the people indicated passed all necessary checks, were not known for any wrongdoing, possessed the required skills, and had no criminal past, neither K. nor R. thought they were doing anything particularly bad, at least until the theft was discovered. But even then, neither was sure if the robbery and the new employees were connected...


They provided the names of the nominees of the anonymous, and S. immediately ordered their arrest. K. and R. were taken into custody.
In the ensuing silence, D. addressed his friend, “But you mentioned the name Narcissus, dear Cat. Are you mistaken? He's serving his sentence and has over two years left, I remember clearly!”
“I'm absolutely certain, as I've made inquiries...” started the Cat.
D. pulled out his phone, but the detective stopped him, “Don't bother, D., this information hasn't been released to the press yet. I made a couple of calls through old connections and found out that Narcissus was released from prison several weeks ago for good behaviour!”


“But he couldn't have been invited to this evening! We would have recognized him... Why would he invite you? So, he's not here, only his accomplices?”
At that moment, the doors burst open, and the police brought in three people: a chef, a guard, and a waiter—D. recognized him as the one who had bumped the Cat with the tray at the beginning of the evening.
Following the detainees, an invigorated S. stated, “You'll save yourselves time and reduce your prison sentences if you tell us where the stolen items are.”
The waiter and guard began speaking simultaneously, clearly not about the whereabouts of the lots. The chef, however, silently glared at the Cat, who impassively turned to his colleagues, “I don't think it's worth wasting time on these two. S., D., look closely at this chef. Remove the glasses, peel off the fake moustache and eyebrows, change the hair colour, and take out the lenses...”
“Narcissus!” exclaimed the detectives in unison.
“Exactly! And past experiences tell me that our old acquaintance is unlikely to cooperate or disclose the location of the stolen items. But we don't need that. S., please instruct someone to carefully open the marzipan column in the centre of the cake...”
From where the chef sat, a sound emerged, a mix of a groan and a roar of an enraged wounded beast. Narcissus twitched, but two policemen held him in place.

( 16 )


The slanting rays of dawn light illuminated Mr. G.'s palace and park. From the main entrance, Mr. S. and his subordinates led out several handcuffed individuals, including the recently freed famous Narcissus. Their silent departure was observed by Mr. G. and Detective A.-F. Cat, standing in the columned portico.
Mr. G. was still pale, the morning sun failing to add any colour to his cheeks, but the tension that Cat had observed almost all evening was gone.


“You know, Mr. G., at one point I didn't exclude the possibility that you might be involved, in the sense that Narcissus could have gotten to you too. You know his method - he doesn't act directly; he has a network of people gathering compromising information. Those he blackmails start doing anything just to avoid exposure. If there are no dark spots in one's biography or people just don't care, then threats to their loved ones come into play.”
“But how did you realize it was Narcissus?”
“I didn't think of him for a long time, knowing he was in prison. But then, after learning from you about the hiring of new employees, seeing an overly frightened waiter who came so close he even bumped into me, and then receiving a voice message from the criminal quoting what I told Mr. D. - only that waiter could have heard that. The voice in the message was altered, but the background noise indicated it was recorded from a room adjacent to the main hall. I started observing the waiter, who acted tense and unnatural almost all the time.”
“But he didn't look like the mastermind behind the daring robbery - too scared. Clearly, he was a pawn, skilfully 'moved', probably just wearing a microphone. Your guests, even experienced swindlers, were unlikely to bypass all security in one evening. That left your staff. And since several were hired recently, I thought they might be involved. But they were thoroughly checked and had no criminal past...”
“It's incredible: how did Narcissus get into the house as a chef?! Bypass all checks, and work for two weeks without complaints! How?! He couldn't have learned pastry skills that fast!”
“It's simple. He didn't apply to work for you!..”
At this moment, Mr. D. appeared at the door, speaking loudly on the phone, “Yes, of course, it's no trouble!” and handing the phone to Cat. “It's for you. Your number's unreachable.”


Cat excused himself from Mr. G. and answered, “Yes?.. Oh, excellent, Felix!.. I think I'll be home in half an hour… Thank you!” He hung up and returned the phone to Mr. D. “Gentlemen, I must excuse myself - Felix just informed me that the milkman has delivered fresh Murinsky cream. It would be a crime to store them in the fridge. So, I think I'll go home for breakfast and perhaps some sleep... It's good not to be on official duty!”
“But you were saying Narcissus didn't apply to work for me. I want the rest of the explanation!” Mr. G. hurriedly said.
“Yes, and I maintain that! ...How about this, gentlemen? How do you feel about gathering tomorrow at my place for a glass of cream... or something stronger? We'll sit by the fireplace and discuss the events at leisure,” and Cat firmly shook the hands extended to him.


( 17 )


At home, Cat savoured the Murinsky cream served by Felix. Unable to sleep, either in the morning or during the day, due to the stress he had experienced, he still didn't cancel the evening visit from his guests.


Thus, in the evening, in his living room, Mr. G. and Mr. D. sat in large, soft chairs pulled up close to the fireplace, each holding a heavy, thick-walled glass.
“I'm glad you could come, gentlemen!” the host greeted his guests.
“Of course!” chuckled Mr. G., sipping from his glass with pleasure. “You haven't told us how Narcissus managed to infiltrate my palace as a chef-pastry cook!”
Cat smugly twitched his whiskers: “Yes, I only mentioned that Narcissus didn't apply for the job. And that's true! You hired a real chef, and he worked for you for two weeks. However, Narcissus ensured that at least one person of similar build to him was hired - that was the chef. The rest was easy: gather compromising material on him and blackmail him to stay home and appear in the kitchen in his place. On the last day, there was a lot of hustle: no one paid attention to faces, and the main work was already done - both in culinary and in terms of swapping the lots.”
“But who and when did they swap them?”
“Alas, the same appointees of Narcissus - he didn't just push several people to work in the palace for nothing. Someone was forced to bring in the auction lot forgeries (remember, we found out no one was checked on entry - only on exit, so anything could be brought in!) Who did it in the end is unknown. Maybe even Narcissus himself (it's not excluded he replaced the chef briefly earlier). Someone was hired to disable the computer security. I think Mr. S. and his team will now find out. And the blackmailed new security guard - crystal clean until this incident - swapped all the lots during the alarm shutdown. However, the stolen items were still in the palace: it was impossible to remove them until the auction's end. But then...”
“After the auction, it would have been easy: I planned to remove the extra security as soon as the buyers left with their purchased lots,” Mr. G. mused.
“With fake lots!” exclaimed Mr. D.
Cat smiled: “But no one would have known about their falseness for a very long time, if...”
“If you hadn't thought to drop the bowl on the floor of my lounge!” Mr. G. shook his head.
“No, not quite: if I hadn't first decided to check its authenticity with five percent milk! And judging by your face, Mr. G., you also realized it was a fake at that moment but couldn't do anything. I took the liberty of attracting the public's attention as much as possible. And get a reason to call the police and block all exits - to have no chance of slipping out of the palace. The milk test confirmed my fears. And since it was a fake anyway, I 'accidentally' knocked it over...” and Cat gestured characteristically, then leisurely sipped from his bowl of favourite five percent milk.

( 18 )


In the warm glow of the hearth, Mr. G. reflected aloud, “It's remarkable how swiftly you connected the dots to Narcissus, Mr. Cat!”


Mr. Cat, reclining comfortably in his armchair, chuckled softly. “Ah, but it wasn't immediate, my dear Mr. G. As Mr. D. can attest, my initial suspicions were tangled in a web of uncertainty. Was this mysterious situation merely a charade? However, cautious as ever, I kept a keen eye on the unfolding drama in the hall.”
He paused, taking a moment to relish a sip of his drink before continuing, “But it was the peculiar voice message that provided the missing piece of this intricate puzzle. It repeated a phrase only the waiter could have overheard, shrouded in the distinct background cacophony of the hall. Such machinations were strikingly reminiscent of Narcissus's signature stratagem: a puppet master manipulating strings from the shadows. Recall, Mr. D., our last endeavour to apprehend him - a labyrinthine task, indeed!”


Mr. Cat's gaze drifted to the flickering flames as he recounted further, “Intent on verifying whether Narcissus had been released unbeknownst to me, I was thwarted by a dead phone. Resolute, I reached out to long-standing contacts. The media, it appeared, had missed his early release, but the police were well-aware. An old confidante within the force confirmed my suspicions: Narcissus was indeed a free man.”
His eyes twinkled with a mix of amusement and cunning. “Returning to the hall, I found myself inadvertently in the kitchen, amidst the culinary aftermath. There, I covertly observed the staff. The head chef, particularly, was a figure of tense disposition. He seemed to recognize me, harbouring a palpable fear. Though it was not my place to confront him directly, the distinct change in his demeanour upon shifting the topic to culinary arts spoke volumes. Furthermore, the ambient sounds from the hall, amplified each time the doors swung open, matched precisely with those in the felonious voice message.”
A reflective pause punctuated his narrative. “In hindsight, it was that very message, undoubtedly an impulsive act of vanity, that sealed Narcissus's fate. Without it, the thought to scrutinize the auction lots for authenticity wouldn't have crossed my mind. I would have merely observed, rather than act.”
Mr. D., joining the conversation with a hearty laugh, added, “And to think, we initially suspected Mr. Z!”
“Indeed,” Mr. Cat replied. “And let's not forget Lady L., who piqued my curiosity with her assertion of having 'everything' and her peculiar comment about the Chinese masks on the waiters.”
Mr. G., eyebrows arching in surprise, interjected, “Lady L., from the upper echelons of society? How could you suspect her?”
Mr. Cat’s smile was enigmatic. “While she has never been overtly compromised, certain aspects of her past do invite curiosity. But let's not wander down that path. This evening's confidences, I trust, shall remain within these walls.”
At that moment, the butler, Felix, entered with a stack of logs, reigniting the dwindling fire, which cast a warm and inviting glow around the room. The conversation ebbed into a comfortable silence as they each lost themselves in the dance of the flames.


( 19 )


“But how, pray, did you deduce that the treasures were secreted in the confection?” queried D., redirecting the discourse.
“By a stroke of luck!” admitted the Cat with a flicker of modesty in his eyes. “My line of reasoning was thus: even if the lots were exchanged, they were not extricated. For if any of those three - the cook, the waiter, and the guardian - had been seen skulking about the garden or straying into forbidden corridors of the manor, they would have instantly aroused suspicion. Hence, the trinkets were either ensconced within the security chamber – albeit too perilously – or within the culinary quarters. What in the scullery remained inviolate? Any drawer or refrigeration unit could be accessed by any kitchen hand.
“Then, an epiphany struck regarding the cake's peculiar yet aesthetically pleasing sugarpaste column. The prospect of its destruction was improbable, post dissection and distribution of the major portion of the cake. It stood to reason that Narcissus - or more accurately, the cook under his sway - secreted the pilfered items there. The sugarpaste, known for its longevity, was likely crafted well ahead of the festivity. Post-auction, the fiend intended to dismantle this overlooked construct, claim the spoils, and abscond into oblivion. It is conceivable he had even secured passage on an aircraft post-haste…
“Remarkable,” uttered G. thoughtfully. “Fortuitous indeed that you graced us with your presence, Mr. Cat! But now, I am somewhat tormented by the thought that virtually anyone, even those thoroughly vetted, can be compromised. Is it not alarming that blackmail or bribery can sway just about anyone?”
“Fret not, dear G.,” reassured the Cat, “The world is not as bleak as you paint it. I am confident that the esteemed S. will compile sufficient evidence for a protracted incarceration for Narcissus. Besides, in my experience, few in the nefarious underbelly possess his aptitude for information gathering and coercion. The approach of manipulating others to do one's bidding is riddled with intricacies and perils… Therefore, let us cling to hope that...”


At this juncture, the Cat's telephone emitted a notification. He glanced at it with a tinge of irritation, but upon reading the sender's identity, he extended his paw:
“Excuse the interruption, gentlemen! It seems I must attend to this message - it's from Lady L., whom we were just discussing.”
“Perhaps an invitation to her estate,” speculated G. with a hint of wry humour.
“Precisely,” confirmed the Cat, a smile playing on his lips. “Just as you said, G. - how perspicacious of you! How did you come by such knowledge?”
“Well, I received an identical invitation earlier today. She's orchestrating some sort of detective-themed soiree for a select few. Alas, I cannot partake.”
“Were yesterday's adventures not sufficiently detective-themed for our tastes?” mused the Cat, his eyes twinkling with amusement.
Laughter filled the room.
“I'm afraid I too must decline,” continued the Cat. “The countryside does not appeal to me during the autumn months. I much prefer the comfort of my abode, particularly during the summer or the festive season of Christmas… Oh! But not at Lady L.'s estate,” he hastily clarified, noticing the surprised expressions of his audience. “I refer to my own retreat, 'Purr-room'!”

As the evening drew to a close and his guests departed, the Cat stretched luxuriously:

“Felix!”
“Yes, Mr. Cat?”
“Make it known that I am not to be disturbed for the coming week. I intend to catch up on much-needed rest.”

 

___

*Unofficial blog of clothing with Сat prints from the clothing brand Maniita Lacitta

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