Calico Collar Crime.

The clouds above the city are heavy and sulky, like a bar where there’s a ram one end, and a goat on the other, and they’ve both almost had enough to start something, but not quite. They’re only glaring right now.  But whether you’re talkin about the bar or the clouds, you can feel the thunder. Waiting.

Like the squad cars I’ve got lined up outside the office block. Lights off, engines dead, patrolmen lounging against the hoods.

There’re vans lining up other side of the barriers. Someone tipped off the press, looks like. Vultures just looking for someone to pick apart and squabble over the remains. Call it profiling it you want, you see a hell of a lot more scavengers in the media than anywhere else.

I don’t mind them today, though. The storm’s about to break, and it’s gonna be quite the show.

You Can't Cheat an Honest Cat.

He Can Has Investment.

So’s as yah kin sees, see, dah watah is cooled tah supahcool temperatoise fer yer imbibacatory delight!

You wouldn’t have expected him here. Better take a second to step back and figure out what sorta con he’s hawking.

So dis revolutinairry system’ll make any drink a paradise a’ cool refreshin delight, see? Cool it right on down for ya!

A paw goes up.

An I see we gawt a question frum da audience?

Hnyess… N’ how cool, exactly, oozes the one in the shaggy suit, oilily, does this drink get?

Whoi, that seems to stump him for a second, she’ll getcha down ta 20 degrees, see?

That gets an excited murmur, which only confirms my suspicions that nobody in the room but me knows what they’re doing. In that case, squeaks the tiny one in the front, I’ll take it! I’ll take twelve!

You’re supposed to be innnvesting in the company, hnyes.

“Well, yeah,” I speak up, “But if we held everyone to that none of you’d get any business done, and then where’d we be?”

Feh! Whatcha doin here coppah? I done my time!

“Probably not the smartest thing to yell in front of potential investors, Shrew.”

Indeed! snaps one of them, jamming his hat on and turning on his heel.

He heads for the door, but Shady shrieks, Nobody’s goin nowheres!

“Yet,” I add, and clap a hand on his shoulder before he gets to the door.

Unhand me sir, you have no right to-

I give him a shake and stern look, and he quiets down. “So what’s the pitch, Shady?”

He’s turned Surly Shrew now. Cools down drinks.

“To twenty degrees. Nice trick. Then you drink em?”

Whaddya think ya do, copper, sit on em?

“You’d be better off trying to, seeing as how they’d be frozen.” I pause long enough for the confused and offended hubbub and the simultaneous grumble of distant thunder to die down.

He was trying to trick us?! The short one squeaks. It’s entirely possible that Max is shorter than he is, Get out the cuffs, arrest him!

“On a charge of ‘not being well informed about basic chemistry?'” I scoff. “Nope. Sorry, I’m not here for him.”

Shady looks genuinely surprised. Yer nawt? Den, what-

“I’m here to take in this clown,” I grip tightly on the cat’s shoulder, and he groans, “on fraudulent accounting mumbo jumbo that even I don’t understand! Course, if he’d bought your stock, you’da been in on it too, and I would got to bring you in… oh well.” Let him have a grin. “Next time.”

Outside it’s started to rain. I’ve got my hat, but he doesn’t. I can turn up my collar, but his hands are cuffed. You ever seen a cat stuck in the rain? They aren’t happy. Course, I’m betting this guy has other things on his mind besides the weather. Like the flashbulbs going off, like the salivating press vultures, like the fact that his picture’s gonna be on the front page of every scrip tomorrow morning. Maybe tonight if they hurry.

I watch them load him into squad car, fur dripping. The flashbulbs are joined by a bolt of lightning, and the thunder crashes as the siren turnes on and the car vanishes into the rain.

The Final Word.

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