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The Brown Recluse and the Cat’s Tales

 

Thing was, Ellen Amora, alias the Brown Recluse, had always scoffed at those cozy little mysteries where cats solved the crime along with their little old ladies.  But that was before her husband ran afoul of gangland and was brutally murdered.  This motivated Ellen to don the disguise of the Brown Recluse, since ‘Black Widow’ was already spoken for.  Somehow she’d managed to resist the temptation to dress up Raffles the cat in some kind of costume and bring him along on her adventures. She resisted because A) sometimes her adventures were dangerous and how could anyone put a kitty in danger? B) Raffles would much rather nap until Ellen returned home and C) Honestly, of what practical use was a cat on a sleuthing mission anyway?  Not much, one would think.

 

Costello had just been promoted to Detective/Second, and he wasn’t sure if he liked it.  Sure, the extra money and the gold shield were great, but now came the pressures and the questions: When will you make an arrest in this case?  Why did you bust my brother? What are you going to do about that stolen car ring?  And of course, Did you feed the cat?  Poor neglected Cinnamon!  What with working sixteen to eighteen hour days, he hardly ever got to spend quality time with his furry pal these days. And now Furry Pal was getting up there and just wasn’t as frisky as he used to be. Just like Costello!

Since Costello’s promotion there was no getting around the fact that the usual cop banter that he routinely shared with Avery was strained. The former partners had promised themselves that ‘this won’t happen to us,’ but inevitably it had, and there was a thin but undeniable solid transparency between them.

‘They let Prell out today.’

‘Better be careful.’

‘You’re not kidding! He threatened me even before I busted him, remember?’

‘Yeah, and me too!  Go get the bum.’

Strained.

 

That night, as Costello sawed wood in his bedroom, a stealthy figure clad in black tiptoed up to the rear of the house. The figure held a small hammer wrapped in cloth in a gloved hand and rapped it against the window. Presto! A small hole appeared and when the house remained quiet, the figure grimly smiled and reached in and unlatched the window and climbed inside. The bedroom must be upstairs, he thought, so he crept along the wall and let himself into the living room, carefully and quietly shutting the door behind him.  The stairs were just ahead, but as the black-garbed figure approached, an unearthly yowl filled the air, scaring the housebreaker out of his wits. Another howl made his hair stand on end underneath his mask and he quickly abandoned his sinister mission and fairly flew right back out the window.

Costello grumpily got out of bed, awakened by the noise, and bumbled down the stairs. There he encountered the source of the racket--Cinnamon had somehow gotten his tail caught in the door to the living room.  He released the poor kitty and made his way back upstairs, Cinnamon following close behind gingerly holding his tail at a comfortable angle.  The two friends curled up together on the bed and were soon sound asleep.

 

Ellen Amora was sound asleep too, but she was wide awake in her dream.  Her late husband Albert ‘Amigo’ Amora was speaking to her while clad in a cat costume, complete with a prehensile tail.  He shook a paw in her face and firmly said,  ‘Take care of Raffles, and take care of yourself. Rrrrroww!’

In the dream, Ellen replied, ‘Of course I will, but what’s the danger?’

Amigo said, For crying out loud, change the kitty box!’ and then he was gone, suddenly leaving Ellen running, running away from a German Shepherd and finally dashing up a tree as the dog frantically barked below.  Next thing Ellen knew, she awoke with a start and realized it was only a dream!  Whew!  She dimly recalled the gist of it and looked around for Raffles. There he was, curled up and sleepy in the wooden bowl into which he just barely fit and which was once used for holding a dinner salad.

Suitably relieved, Ellen went back to sleep, having nearly forgotten the dream already.  

A stealthy figure, dressed entirely in black, snuck up to the rear of the Amora house. Slipping into the garage through an unlocked side door, then slipping into the house with fussy, silent footsteps, the figure ducked into the kitchen, stayed a moment, then turned and slunk out the way he came.

 

Ellen and Raffles were up bright and early in the morning and of course the first order of business was breakfast. The bag of kitty crunchies was right next to Raffles’ dining area for convenience, but this morning something was wrong.  Instead of immediately inhaling his portion and yowing for more, Raffles sniffed the contents of his dish and looked at Ellen with the kind of fraught expression only a cat can assume.

‘What’s the matter, pal?’ asked Ellen, about to dig in to her own repast.  This was most unusual.  Now that she thought of it, her own cereal smelled kind of funny.  She got down on all fours and put her face near Raffles’ food, fervently hoping that no one she knew would see her in this undignified posture.  Yes, something was definitely off here!  Someone had put something in both the cat food and the people food!

Thus, Ellen Amora donned the trench coat, fedora, clear-glass spectacles, and fake mustache and stood revealed as...The Brown Recluse!  

 

Breck thundered, ‘Imbecile!  I send you out on a simple assignment and you bollix it up!  Idiot!’

Prell shouted, ‘I put the stuff in the food, what else can I do?  And the cop had an alarm!  What did you want me to do, get caught?’

Breck bellowed, ‘I don’t care what you do, I want that cop and that widow out of the way and if you have to get at them through those miserable creatures, do it!’

Prell hadn’t been as discreet as he had hoped, and the Brown Recluse easily followed his trail to the park.  Raffles had insisted on going, a first for him. Presumably he wanted payback for the attempted poisoning of his food.  Everyone knew the kitty dish was sacrosanct, and by the mice, he was going to get even with anyone and everyone who violated that sacred trust!  Ok, pal, you’ll get your chance, thought the Brown Recluse.  She tied his little domino mask around Raffles’ head and they were ready to confront their adversary, come what may!

Raffles bared his teeth and hissed.  The Brown Recluse bared her teeth and hissed. Prell smiled grimly and opened the back door to the van.  In a flash a huge dog that wouldn’t have been out of place in the Alps bringing brandy to stranded hikers leapt at them, causing Raffles to take off like a jet and the Brown Recluse to run pell-mell up the nearest tree. Shaken, she shook off the after-effects of the dream and peered downwards. Prell climbed into the back of the van, so the Brown Recluse took advantage of the opportunity to pull herself together and decide what to do about the dog. Prell came out of the back of the van with a flexi-spray bottle and called to the dog.  ‘Sonny!  Sit!’  And Sonny sat, still looking up at the Brown Recluse with what could only be hunger.  Prell stood at the base of the tree, looking up and smirking.  ‘This’ll take care of you and your stupid cat, Recluse!’ he shouted.  Then he aimed the flexi-spray bottle at the Brown Recluse and sprayed.  He howled in pain, hands scrabbling at his face.  ‘Argh! It burns!  It burns!’ he screamed, and ran blindly, anywhere.  Sonny the dog was still obediently sitting near the tree.  Apparently he was no threat without direct orders from Prell, so the Brown Recluse swung down from the tree and quickly got a rope from her utility belt and tied the dog up.  There!  Now what made Prell run off like that?  She gingerly picked up the flexi-spray bottle and cautiously sniffed at the visible fumes that wafted up into the air.  Whew!  Ammonia and bleach and something else that she couldn’t quite place!  That would have put her and Raffles out for a while, all right, and then who knew what might have happened?  But what was this?  There were several tiny holes in the flexi-spray bottle that caused the contents to spew all over the sprayer. THAT was how Prell got a dose of his own medicine.  Served him right!  A strident mew sounded behind her, and the Brown Recluse turned to see Raffles washing a paw and looking mighty pleased with himself.  ‘You smart kitty,’ she thought. ‘You sabotaged the bottle!  Extra treats tonight!’  

‘Recluse,’ sounded a voice behind her.  She whirled, expecting to see a new menace from Prell.  But it was her old friend Costello.

‘Detective. Congratulations on your promotion.’

‘Thanks.  Sorry I got here a little late to help.’

‘Oh, we took care of Prell, but you can help.  Can you secure the van and take it back to impound?’

‘I will, but first let me ask you---have you seen Cinnamon?’

‘Your cat?  No, why?’

‘He’s missing and I’m afraid Prell has something to do with it.’



Oh no!  Where is Cinnamon?  Come to think of it, where is Prell?  Will Breck’s sinister plan to avenge his dead mob boss succeed?  Is Sonny the Big Dog still sitting under the tree?  Will Raffles get his extra treats?  Tune in next time and see!

 

Meanwhile, everybody likes a good cat mystery, meow?  Here at Mysterious, we have several authors who specialize in the feline:

Rita Mae Brown-Mrs. Murphy and Pewter often prove invaluable in protecting their mistress and catching crooks...and mice.

Lillian Jackson Braun-The Cat Who...series often shows Yum Yum and especially Koko helping Jim Qwilleran solve the mystery.

Clea Simon-The ghost of Mr. Grey is on the case!

Kinky Friedman-The eponymous sleuth usually has a cat or two hovering around the background of his adventures.

Frances & Richard Lockridge--The Mr. and Mrs. North series sometimes features the couple’s companions Martini, Gin, and Sherry, among others.

 

Write or call 212.587.1011 to see what we have on hand at any particular moment.  

 

Questions/Comments/Catnip?  mike@mysteriousbookshop.com

Written by Ian Kern — April 20, 2017