All Things Mysterious Volume Sixty-Five
The Brown Recluse and the Cat Trap
Ellen Amora, alias the noted crimefighter the Brown Recluse, was convinced that the case of the cat stealers was not over yet. Over and above the
fact that the rogue who snatched cats and turned them in for ill-gotten rewards had not yet been caught, she had a sneaking suspicion that this case went deeper than it appeared. She did some of her best and deepest thinking at the laundromat where she was watching her Brown Recluse costume go through the rinse cycle. The fake mustache she’d just have to hand wash. Ellen had to admit to herself that she wasn’t the world’s most domesticated woman and hadn’t her own washer/dryer. So here she was at Bubbles ‘n’ Booze, the combination laundromat/saloon that was one of the hotspots of River City. Although not tonight. Tonight it was pretty dead. At last the spin cycle completed. But what was this? Arrrgh! Someone had left a red sock in the washer, and now her fedora and trench coat were pink! How could she be the Brown Recluse in a pink costume? Thunderclouds blew across her brow as she stalked home. What made it worse is that it was her own fault for not checking before she loaded the machine. Of course, the person who left the sock in the first place was partly to blame too, but that person had only one red sock lonely in the sock drawer by itself, and perhaps that was punishment enough. She unlocked the door to her house, tossed down her bundle, and called for the cat. ‘Raffles!’ ‘Oh, Raffles!’ Nothing. Now that was unusual. What a train wreck this day was! What else could go wrong? Ellen Amora, alias the Brown Recluse, was about to find out.
It had been a pretty average day for Costello, some paperwork, some routine, some doughnuts. And coffee. Always coffee. In fact, a cup would go pretty well right now! Visualizing a hot, steaming mug of delicious joe in his mind’s palate, he had to serve to avoid a squirrel, laughing as he thought to himself that he should have just run over the durned thing! The detective was still laughing as he walked into his apartment. Since the incident involving his family, he had kind of gotten used to the peace and quiet of being alone. Still, Detective Costello needed companionship like anyone else, and so one day a few months before he’d gone to the local animal shelter and picked out the cutest cat they had. Since then, Cinnamon had been his best pal, along with, he supposed, his partner Avery.
Solitude was foreign territory to the detective; he and Alanna had married young and had their three children immediately so he’d never really been lonely but at the same time he often felt crowded. That was why he came to prefer cats, they were such independent contractors. Cinnamon would sit with Costello when it suited him. Other times the cat would crave solitude, just like Costello himself, a need of which he hadn’t even been aware until lately. But, routine day or no, tonight wasn’t one of those nights. For Costello, anyway. Cinnamon might have other ideas, and when the detective came through the front door expecting the usual cheery feline greeting, he was disappointed. Oh well, she’d come out in her own good time. But after fixing and inhaling his supper (during which time he invariably had two saucer-like eyes fixed directly to his plate, but not tonight), he began to wonder. So he looked around the house. Nothing. No sign of kitty, even in her favorite nap places. He began to worry. Where was Cinnamon?
The two warily eyed each other, then both recognized the absurdity of the situation. They were standing in front of the bulletin board at the local grocery, putting up notices asking if anyone had seen their lost cats.
‘Wait, your cat is missing too?’ they said simultaneously.
‘Yes!’ they said simultaneously. Then, mercifully, there was a pause.
‘This is not a coincidence,’ said Costello. ‘Did you see the article in the paper? Avery and me almost had him, but there’s something else going on, I think.’
‘I think so too. Let’s pound this guy into the dust!’
‘I’ve got an idea….’ said the detective, and the two put their heads together.
Many years ago, Costello and Avery had been mentored on the force by an old hand named Burke, and it was his help that they enlisted, to use a neutral apartment for the sting operation. Burke himself was enthusiastic about taking part and was sitting in a chair in the front room. He was wearing shabby clothes and hadn’t shaved or showered in order to look like an older, forlorn man. Presently the doorbell rang.
‘Come in!’ called Burke. In walked a pleasant-looking man, tall, with a dark mustache and hair, cradling a light brown cat in his arms.
‘Cinnamon!’ cried Burke. ‘Oh, where did you find her?’
‘She was under my porch,’ replied the man. ‘I heard her crying and coaxed her out, and then I saw the notice at the grocery store. Here you go.’
And he handed over the cat to the older man. Burke attempted to seat the cat on his lap, but Cinnamon had other ideas, dashing into the kitchen, where by no coincidence Avery and Costello were surveilling, just waiting for money to change hands so they could bust the man.
‘Thank you! Thank you so much!’ breathed Burke.
‘Don’t mention it.’
‘Would you like a cup of tea? It won’t take a moment.’
‘No, thank you, I’ve got to run, but there was something about a reward?’
‘Oh, yes, of course! Here we are.’ Burke reached for his wallet and took out a few marked bills. Just as the cat-snatcher suspect pocketed them, Cinnamon burst out of the kitchen’s swinging door, revealing the detectives despite their efforts to remain unobtrusive.
‘Cops!’ shouted the miscreant. He dashed right out the door before Avery and Costello could stop him.
But from out of nowhere, the Brown Recluse appeared! She was dressed in her newly pink trench coat and fedora. Fortunately her fake mustache remained black. Recalling how the cat-snatcher got away last time, this time she took no chances and tackled the man in a move worthy of a footballer.
While she was astride him, Costello, Avery, and Burke came out of the house a bit sheepishly, as the suspect squirmed in a futile attempt to escape.
The Brown Recluse barked, ‘Just settle down, there, Sunny Jim. You aren’t going anywhere!’
Face down in the driveway, Cinnamon’s would-be snatcher mumbled something about pink elephants.
Costello growled, ‘Who do you think you are, stealing my cat?’ then he froze. He hadn’t meant to reveal it was his own pet!
Raising up slightly, the mustached man grinned in spite of himself. ‘So it’s yours, eh, flatfoot? Ain’t that touching!’
Costello growled again, ‘Shut up, you,’ as he took Cinnamon from Burke.
‘Ok, copper, I’ll shut up. I won’t tell you that your goose is cooked!’
The Brown Recluse slowly let the crook up and shouted in his ear. ‘What did you mean by that, loser?’
The loser looked her up and down and smirked, ‘Why don’t you go peddle your papers, Pinky?’
The Brown or Pink Recluse grumped, ‘I’ll give you ‘Pinky!’ and made as if to go upside his head. At that moment the man broke away and dashed for the street! Costello was so surprised he almost hurled Cinnamon claws-first at his escaping back, but happily thought better of it. At that very moment, a hot rod screeched around the corner, scooped up the suspect, and just like that, they were gone.
The four were silent, standing chagrined on the sidewalk. Finally Burke spoke.
‘Well, what do we do now?’
‘You know, the same darn thing happened the other day! How can these people coordinate these hot rods when I can barely catch a bus?’
‘And he’s got the money. Better get on the horn and put out a BOLO for the marked bills.’
‘Be On The Lookout for the cash, right. What were they, twenties?’
‘Tens and twenties.’
‘All right. Say, where did the Recluse go? And why was she all in pink today?’
Ellen Amora had peeled off her pink costume, remembering for once to lose the fake mustache, nearly in a panic. If these bad people had targeted Costello’s Cinnamon, could her own Raffles be next? After all, she couldn’t find her kitty that morning--what if he’d been stolen? If he hadn’t been, he’d be waiting at the door for her, yowing for supper. Trembling as she opened the outer door, she darted up the stairs and looked. Nothing. No Raffles, no yowing, no nothing. Alternately raging and frightened, Ellen Amora looked up to the sky and plaintively cried, ‘Oh, Raffles, where are you?’
That’s a good question! Where is Raffles? Find out next time here on All Things Mysterious! In the meantime, have a look at some of these new arrivals:
One of the most talked about and controversial criminal cases of the last two centuries is the Jack the Ripper case. Here, the best stories about Springheel Jack are collected in one handy volume!
Speaking of bloody crimes, what do we really know about Bram Stoker, who created Dracula? Little did he know that his iconic brainstorm would have hundreds if not thousands of iterations over the years! Now a new biography delves into the mind of the father of vampire fiction!
Max Allan Collins has collected and finished eight stories of Mike Hammer, available in one volume for the first time. Limited to only 100 copies and signed by Collins and Spillane's widow Jane.