Chapter five: Cat Crime
“Now I’m going to introduce you to a very special friend of mine and business partner,” said Kiwi, as they turned a corner.
“You work here?” asked Amy, gazing up… and up.
They were standing in front of the biggest building in Cat City. The top was lost in the clouds. It was a gigantic, grey building, which stood out from the rest of the houses and buildings in the city just because it had no colour. It looked very intimidating. The front door was also grey, but the knocker was bright red – and small – so small that you could miss it if you didn’t know it was there. It was shaped like a cat’s eye. Maybe the building was grey because it was trying to look scary, thought James. Perhaps it didn’t want any visitors at all.
A big sign turned around slowly on the patch of grass in front of the building. It read Cat Crime. And it was grey, as was the grass.
“Cool,” said James. “Is this the police station?”
“Police station and investigative agency. The only one in Cat City. Everyone comes here with their problems and we sort them out. We’re here to meet a friend of mine who is in a spot of trouble.”
“Ah,” perked up Amy, her whiskers flicking. “Are we going to help?”
“That’s the idea.”
They opened the door, which didn’t creak at all. Inside, a big hallway opened up, and a spiral staircase wound its way upwards, disappearing in the distance; it went up that far. There were no doors in the hallway, only an elevator. A big sign read Cat Lift. Everything was the same grey as the outside of the building.
“It’s the rule here. Everything grey, except the people,” grinned Kiwi.
They climbed the spiral staircase. James, being quite small, jumped up each one in a kind of bunny hop. Amy tried not to laugh and concentrated on keeping her tail from wrapping around the central pole. Kiwi walked up smoothly. Professionally.
They came to Level One of the building and stepped off the staircase. James’ vertigo kicked in – he was glad it was no higher. They pushed open a heavy door, watched by a big cat’s eye that blinked in a ball floating up and down the hallway.
“Don’t worry, it’s a camera.”
Inside the room were lots of pictures, a big fluffy rug, and rows of bookcases filled with books. A bright blue light hung from the ceiling. What looked like a water machine sat in the corner, but James could see it dripped a white liquid. He decided it must be milk. Everything was still grey, but in different shades. The blue light seemed to make objects change shade, so although everything was grey, they seemed to go through a rainbow of colour.
“Well hello,” said a voice.
Behind a big desk sat a thin, black cat with what resembled a very thin moustache, twisted at the ends. He had a big, cheerful smile. Amy gazed at the moustache. On his jacket was a little cat-shaped badge with the name Toby. “Can I help you?”
“Yes,” replied Kiwi, striding over. “I’m Kiwi. We’re here to see Inspector Furrball. He’s expecting us. Well, he was expecting us an hour ago, but we just got here. Are you new here? I haven’t seen you before.”
“Yes, I started working here a month ago. I transferred to Cat City from a small town. Police work there was a bit slow. You know what I mean? Okay, well, I cannot see you on his list of expected visitors. If you wait, I’ll just buzz him and tell him you are here… Right. Okay. Yes he can see you. Take the lift and go to Level Three and turn right.”
“Thanks,” said Kiwi. She knew the way, having been here hundreds of times. She wondered what had happened to Kip. He had worked here for years, and was a good catizen and friend.
The lift was, well, you can guess – very grey, but the orange light inside made it gleam different colours. The lift sped up to Level Three and stopped with a big shake and a massive bang. The walls trembled. Amy and James collapsed on the floor. Kiwi pinned herself up against the wall.
“Embarrassingly, we haven’t quite mastered lift technology yet. But, you’ll get used to it,” said Kiwi, as the kittens staggered to their feet. As they exited the lift – rather quickly, in case it decided to rush off – they noticed that the corridor was a faint red – under a layer of grey, it seemed – as were the floor, ceiling and doors.
“You may notice the red tint to everything here,” said Kiwi. “This is the very heart of the building. Remember how we got here. There is only one way. If anything bad happens, or someone finds out the route who shouldn’t, we change how you can get to this room.”
The kittens listened silently, their tails bobbing in weird directions. Amy wanted to scratch, but stopped herself.
They turned right and then left, and then left again, and finally right, walking until they came to a red door with a sign perched on it: Inspector Furrball. Kiwi knocked three times and entered.
Inside, the sound of music flooded their ears and a short, chubby, ginger tomcat bellowed a hello from the corner of the room. From behind a pair of round glasses balanced on the end of a big pink nose, two bright, golden, clear eyes beamed out. He wore a bright red waistcoat with a golden watch hung on the end of a golden chain. It glinted and ticked silently.
“So, who have we here?” asked Inspector Furrball, stroking his whiskers. Amy noticed a small mouse keyring on his desk and shivered. Surely, it must be a fake!
“These are two friends of mine – Ames and Jimster,” said Kiwi, pushing the bewildered kittens forward. “It’s their first visit to Cat City.”
“He-hello,” they stammered in unison.
“Funny accents,” said the inspector, peering forward at them. “Have they got passes?”
“Not yet. I was hoping you could help with that,” replied Kiwi.
“Shouldn’t be a problem,” said Furrball. “If you can vouch for them.”
The inspector peered closer at the two kittens. Something weird, he thought, and then waved the idea out of his head.
“Well,” said Kiwi with a cough, trying to distract the inspector, whom she knew was too intelligent to be fooled for long, “I heard that you need my help. I got the message by robin today.”
“Yes. But first things first,” said Furrball. “Are you thirsty?”
Kiwi looked nervous.
“No, I’m okay,” said Amy, wondering what Kiwi meant by message by robin. Did a robin send a message? Did he carry it in his beak, or could birds speak to cats here? And didn’t cats eat birds? This was confusing.
“Yessssss,” cried James with his tongue out, forgetting to purr.
Furrball looked surprised. He tapped the buzzer on his desk with his paw and asked someone for refreshments. Kiwi sat down on a red cushion and wrapped her tail around her. James and Amy copied, finding two unbelievably comfortable cushions on the red carpet. The door pushed open and a tall, grey cat in a green dress walked in, pushing a small trolley with running cat feet. “Milk, cream, rice pudding, mousie mousse, yogurt or biscuits?” she asked, handing round little red saucers. Amy stifled a giggle and took a saucer.
“Thank you Miss Kitty,” said Furrball, looking a little bit red in the face. She smiled and closed the door.
The inspector set a saucer on his desk, filled it with milk and quickly lapped it up, purring intermittently. The kittens stared. He didn’t make any mess at all. Kiwi did the same and lapped it all up with a big purr. Oh no, there was no other way to drink it. Amy and James looked at each other, bemused, before deciding to just go for it. They stuck their heads in and started licking the milk – and decorated the carpet, themselves and Kiwi’s tail with splatters of thick double cream.
Furrball stared at them with an odd glint in his eye.
Kiwi froze. “Ah kittens… what can you do?”
Silence cut the air.
“Well, what can I say,” replied Furrball, suddenly exploding into laughter. “I guess we’ve all done it. And I guess they’ve had a tiring day and a long journey…”
Kiwi stuttered. The two kittens looked up sheepishly, with white blobs of cream on their whiskers and noses. Amy wondered how she was going to wipe it off discreetly. This could mean having to spit on her paw and wash like Kiwi did – eeek! Never! She reached for the nearest napkin and dabbed her mouth, but it was hard to grip with a paw, and it kept dropping.
Furrball raised an eyebrow and looked directly at Kiwi. “Is there something you want to tell me?”
Kiwi paused. “So what has been happening in Cat City?” she enquired, changing the subject.
“You’ve been away a bit long this time,” said the inspector, sitting down and playing with his pen. This involved batting it around his desk with his paw loudly, but the kittens pretended not to notice. They still had cream-covered whiskers to deal with!
“The problem we have is that catizens are going missing – about five so far. This is worrying for us and the mayor.”
“Missing?” asked Kiwi surprised.
“Gone, vanished, we don’t know where. All five cases have happened in the past five weeks. That’s one a week. No trace. No clues. No ransom notes. So money is not the motive. It’s a mystery and really bothersome. As you know, we never have disappearances here.”
“That is strange,” said Kiwi, mystified. “Have you interviewed anyone?”
“We made a start, but we haven’t got anywhere so far. No one has seen or heard anything. We’re at a dead end. All of the disappearances happened when the catizens were on their way home from work. The last one was a Mr Katz.”
“Mmmm. I’ll see if I can help,” said Kiwi, concerned.
Furrball smiled. “I was hoping you’d say that. But there is one other thing…”
The kittens froze. This was it. He knew. They were about to be kicked out of Cat City for being fakers.
Furrball stopped smiling. “One of the five catizens who disappeared is Kip. In fact, he was the first. Five weeks ago. Then, one missing every week.”
“No!” said Kiwi. “I was wondering where he was. I hope he’s okay. We have to find him! I mean… them.”
Furrball looked serious. “I can let you have one of my Cat Squad to help you. If you need more, let me know. But keep things quiet. We don’t want to scare whoever is doing this.”
“And we want to get them back alive,” said Kiwi sadly. “I don’t need any help…”
The kittens shivered.
“It’s not a problem,” said Furrball, waving his paw. “Cat Squad is at your disposal. We have also been testing some impressive new guns. Errrm. Probably not a good subject to talk about right now in front of the young ones. Have you checked in at the Cat Motel?”
“Haven’t had time,” said the troubled Kiwi.
“I’ll ring them and book your usual room plus two extra cushion baskets in it. Do you want a scratching post?”
“Great,” said Kiwi.
Suddenly there was a knock at the door.
“Ah,” said Furrball. “The special agent. He’s all yours. I think you’ve worked with him before…”
Just then a furry, brown face poked itself around the corner of the door.
“Paws?!” exclaimed Kiwi. “Oh no,” she added, under her breath, “not him.”
“Now, I must get on. Have a kitty nice day. Paws will be your right-hand man,” smiled Furrball.
Kiwi groaned. “That’s what I was afraid of.” But she didn’t say it out loud, because that would be rude.