Sunday, 20 May 2018

A New Case. Chapter 10.

Firstly, it's Sunday Selfie time.... 

We are joining The Kitties Blue, from The Cat on My Head blog, for the weekly celebration of blogs and bloggers from across the world and across the species.

Please download the linky link from their site, and join the fun!

Here is this weeks selfie.....

For this weeks selfie, I am ashamed to say I have been caught scrutinising the palace's rug. Yup, things have got that boring around here with no mice to catch, I have been trying to catch dust bunnies instead. Here you can see me willing the little things to hurry and get bigger. Sadly though, Mrs H doesn't, and I can't fathom why, approve of me emptying out the vacuum to achieve this end......

How do your bunnies grow?

To see what all my pals are up to this Sunday, please click the links below...

I hope you will have time to enjoy this weeks chapter, and to leave a comment below.....

And now, it's Story time!

(Chapter 9 can be found HERE.)

Inside the store, the two cats were rooted to the spot, stunned by seeing Mrs Hudson's fall. It was Esme that reacted first, and on hearing the guards approach, clawed shut the door. A gentle click indicated that the catches top and bottom were now engaged and couldn't be opened from the outside. To open it again, she would have to jump up and pull down a metal bar that ran the width of the door. An easy task for an agile cat of weight, but for Esme who was of reduced weight and fine build, it had at first been chance that had shown her the way. Then with weeks of practice late at night, and much to her mamma's glee, she had managed to perfect it.

They stood and listened to the conversations between the guard and Mrs Hudson. As soon as they heard that she was being taken for a taxi, they decided it was time to get to the safety of Esme's rooms. They could, after all, wait up there until morning and Mrs Hudson's return, without fear of being found by the guard.

The service stairs in the building were quite steep, and so they only trotted a flight at a time. Looking out from the first floor landing window, they were in time to see Mrs Hudson and the guard pass out of sight. By the third floor landing, and well above the street, they looked down again. This time they saw the red tail lights of a truck below. By the time they reached the sixth floor, Erin was need of a rest and didn’t want to look down at all. She quietly chided herself for all those fun hours spent in Mrs H’s lap, as they zipped up and down on the stairlift, between floors, supposedly in search of mice.

A sharp ping from the service lift lobby, adjoining their stairwell, made both cats jump and fall silent. Through the door that separated the two, they heard the rattle of the lifts inner scissor gates being slid open, followed shortly after by the metallic clang of the smooth solid metal outer door sliding forcefully to its stop. There was a moments pause, like a held breath, and then the sound of the guards boots clattering on the floor.

A small light either side of the door flickered on, and the pair looked at each other fleetingly, panic in their eyes. Esme pointed upwards and then fled up the stairs. Erin, puffed or not, dashed after her and onto the next landing where she found Esme waiting. They glanced at each other, then at the light seeping up through the balustrades from the floor below, and waited to see what would happen. As the buckles on Erin's harness made a small clinking sound each time she ran up the stairs, with the guard so close, they couldn't risk another flight for fear of being heard.

He should have been on the 8th floor, Esme mused to herself, but she had noticed before that this guard was lazy and didn't work by the rules. He should also have been wearing soft soled shoes within the store, so as not to damage the marble floors or the carpets, but then this once she was grateful he wasn't as they might not have heard him coming.

The dividing door creaked open, and then as it shut behind him, let out a slow agonised whine. There was the sound of a match being struck, and the guard drawing on the cigarette it had lit. A rasping series of coughs were followed by wisps of smoke reaching Erin and Esme's delicate noses. It smelled fowl, stale, and the epitome of the illness it caused in so many humans and their companions. Erin placed a paw to her nose to stifle a sneeze. If she could last out just a bit longer, with luck the guard would be on his way, and so they on theirs.

The seconds seemed like minutes, and Erin's whiskers started to twitch violently as the desire to sneeze got stronger. Suddenly the guards footsteps came as though heading up the flight towards them, rather than down. Esme's eyes widened and she looked wildly from side to side to see if there was some where to hide that meant they wouldn't have to run and expose their presence on the stairs. But there was nothing but a pail of sand used to throw on fires, but that was hardly big enough for Esme let alone a cat of Erin's size, or both.

The situation seemed lost. If they stayed they would be caught. If they ran, the guard would hear and give chase, and he would follow them onto the ninth floor. And if he caught them he’d report Esme's mamma to the store, as she wasn't really supposed to be there at night. The guards cap came into sight on the first of the two flights of stairs that linked each floor. It was now or never, stay or flee the scene and take their chances. Esme was just about to indicate for Erin to head up to freedom, and she down to capture, when they heard the dulled ringing tone of a telephone on a floor below. The guard cursed, flicked his cigarette onto the floor, and ran down the stairs to the take the call.

A short while later, the two cats had reached the ninth floor landing. However, with the landing door shut, and without using the service elevator, the only way onto the ninth floor was through the same hole that the ventilation ducts passed. An easy thing for you to say, Erin thought to herself as she eyed the tiny gap, but I'll not let the side down now were so close to safety. Esme made the jump up first, to show the way, her small paws deftly finding grip on the smallest juts in the bare brick wall, propelling her on and up to the hole and then inside. Erin however, had the disadvantage of extra weight and not so slim figure. It took three rather painful attempts before she made it to the hole, but she promised afterwards that she would practice more at home. In fact, she speculated that it could be a real money spinner if she had a wall built at the palace and hire it to climbers to use during bad weather. And if she tied some ropes to the younger kittens they could get some real life skills and save no end of shredded curtains too!  

They settled into room thirteen, and sat in silence, the thought of the close shave with the guard still fresh in their minds eye. Erin shivered, and stared off into the night sky and the moonlight, through a tiny skylight that she had not noticed earlier in the day. She wondered not if, but how they could now get around the store quickly and search for clues, without Mrs H’s help?

A short while later, and none the wiser for a plan, Erin sat watching a seagull that had landed on the roof. The birds white and grey plumage had been turned a murky brown colour by the light passing through stained glass from the room in which they sat. It pecked at something on the glass, as though trying to attract her attention, and then let out a mewing sound which echoed through the small room. It took a moment for it to click in her mind, but looking around and about Erin realised that rather than passing through the glass, the sounds actually came from an open duct that was above their heads.

Jumping up, she roused Esme and asked her were the duct led to. "Well as far as I know," Esme replied with a very wide yawn, "it goes out to the roof, after first having gone through the room next door. From there they join up with all the other pipes from the other floors." A look of surprise and alarm crossed her face. "You're not thinking about going through there are you, to the store? There could be all manner of nasty things to hurt a cat in there. Mamma was most adamant that whilst we can hear folks talking, we should never go in in case we get stuck... or worse mangled in a big fan that moves the air around."

"Have you ever tried?" Erin asked, set on giving it a go herself. "I mean this could be way faster than on foot and less obvious too."

Esme stopped, midway through licking her paw, and stared up at the vent, and then to Erin. "I know I shouldn't have, and mamma would be very upset if she knew I had, but it was only the once and not that far. Please, please don't say anything to her, she doesn't need extra worries at the moment. Things are so tight money wise and she works all hours of the day and night just to keep her mind and body and soul together. If she thought I couldn't be trusted and safe here on my own she would never leave this place." Esme started to sob into her paws, curled away from Erin in shame.

"Esme, please don't fear anything, least of all from those that are here to help." Erin rubbed against Esme's cheek and then, placing a paw on hers, lay down beside her. "You know, Esme, we can get this done and nobody need ever know. If you have been down those strange tunnels then you can guide us quickly through to the first floor where the Companion Department is. That way we could check it out, and then check out the other floors on the way back. Then when Mrs H comes back tomorrow, as I know she will, we can say we did it on paw, across the floor, not via the ducts. How’s that sound?" Erin put on her best winsome smile, but seeing that Esme still had reservations, added. "And when we find your kittens, as I know we will, we can celebrate a job well done and your mamma will be over the moon. That has to be worth it, doesn't it?"

Esme turned and looked at the vent once more, and sighed. "Yes you are right. I need to be strong for mamma and my kittens. I must confess to having lost hope once I returned from visiting you, and though that nothing could ever come of my folly. And to my shame I had wanted to curl up and forget so mamma wouldn't be upset and not stress over me or them. I can see I was wrong, and now that you are hear and prepared to help I have to do something. A mother must do that else what is the point of having family if they are to be snatched away."

Her choice of words only served to strengthen Erin's resolve to search the store. She jumped up and gave Esme a prod with her paw. "Come on you, times a wasting and if were not careful we'll be having breakfast and not have this case solved. Grab what supplies we need, and attach them to my harness. Then we'll go off and have some fun..... and save some kittens too." Erin winked at Esme, who smiled back and went off to find something to put the supplies in. She returned with two small empty velvet pouches in her mouths. They had been used, she explained to Erin, to hold the sequins and semi-precious stones her mamma embroidered onto the gowns she made.

Sometime later, and after much discussion as to the supplies they should take, and then searching for them, the two intrepid cats were ready. They had in the end, due to the size of the pouches, chosen only three items. The silken rope knitted earlier that day by Mrs Hudson was the first, a pair of feline scissors came next, followed finally by some cheese cubes wrapped in offcuts of silk cloth. The latter would also act as bandages, Erin explained, if someone got hurt. She showed Esme the Cat Guides First Aid Badge she’d earned last summer, that Mrs H had proudly sewn onto her harness. Erin also explained that she had two silver half-crowns slipped into the lining of the harness, but they were for dire emergencies only, such as a taxi ride home when lost.

Once the pouches were in place behind an elasticated mesh on her harness, the two cats set off. Esme took the lead, jumping from chair to table and then onto a high cupboard that sat directly beneath the vent. Erin was close behind, and soon stood beside her, staring expectantly into the vent. With a mutual nod, and with whiskers twitching, the two friends ducked down and, one after the other, crawled into the darkness beyond.

To be continued.........

Will Erin get to practice her first aid? How exactly do feline scissors work? And more importantly, will the silk fabric be enough to stop the cheese going off, or will it not last that long once the girls get peckish? These questions and no doubt a few more, may be answered in the next thrilling instalment, coming to a computer screen near you next week!