We agreed that our next destination should be the Kitten Klub. Mittens raced ahead, while I dawdled, curious to see if our story had made the papers. It had: La Derrière’s banner headline read, “Dog suspected in sex kitten slay”. The Gazebo asked the question that was on the mind of every dog in Westmount, “Is a riot looming?”.
The Kitten Klub was designed in a cat friendly style similar to Trouble’s apartment, but was grander – and less dog friendly. Mittens navigated the club with ease while I proceeded slowly and carefully over, under and through faux roots, branches and blankets.
It was difficult to assess how crowded the club was, because so much of feline interior design is about hiding. From the density of cat smells in the air, I guessed that it was very crowded. I certainly kept finding my way blocked by felines. After a half dozen awkward encounters I gave up on my vision entirely and navigated by sound and smell alone. Inching forward, with my nose close to the ground, I must have looked like the hound-dog copper my mother feared I would become.
Tonight’s headline act was Euphemia. Her first set was in one hour. Mittens’ nodded toward her dressing room. We would pay her a visit before she performed.
Euphemia greeted us while remaining seated in front of a theatrical mirror, applying spots to her pearl white fur. “I didn’t expect to see you twice in one day, Detective Mittens.” I fear my gaze lingered indecently, for she suddenly became embarrassed. “This isn’t me.” Euphemia spoke with conviction, but her words were unbelievable: she looked like she had been born to play this role.
Mittens rephrased my unanswered question. He asked drily, “Forgive my prying, Mademoiselle, but would you mind telling us how you came to be working here? Is this the realization of a life long dream, perhaps?”
Euphemia laughed in a coarse, but genuine fashion. “This my dream, hah. This couldn’t be further from my dream. If I could be anything, I’d be a farmer poet, like Hesiod, maybe. I’m doing this as a favour to Bull while he sorts things out. Its no effort for me. I know all of Tulip’s routines – she use to rehearse with me.”
Euphemia’s scent changed. Mittens’ scent began to change, too. Was Euphemia’s pheronomic charm getting to him?
Euphemia purred as she leaped beside Mittens,“There is something I want to tell you, Detective. I think it may be a clue. On the day of her death, I saw Tulip with a box.”
Mittens ears centred themselves on Euphemia’s voice. “What did this box look like?”
“It was 15 centimetres on two sides and half a metre long. Big enough to hold – uh – the left hind leg of a Pyrenees.”
“Were there any distinguishing marks on this box?” I asked.
“Yes. It had a white ribbon. And a card with gold leaf writing. I never got close enough to read the words. Tulip hid the box from me when she saw me looking at her.”
“Do you know where she hid it?”
“I don’t know for certain. There is a false bottom in her armoire. She sometimes hides things there.”
Why was Euphemia telling us now, and not earlier? Did she know we had found out about the murder weapon? I had an inspiration. I barked, “Who is La Belle Dam sans Merci?”
Euphemia began to purr and move languorously. When she spoke, she didn’t answer my question; instead she quoted,
“Dark tabbies, death-dark were they all;
They cried – La Belle Dam sans Merci
Hath thee in thrall!”
“I believe Mademoiselle is indicating that she is this merciless cat” Mittens noted laconically.
Euphemia nodded negatively, “Non, Monsieur Cat Detective. La Belle Dam was my nick name for Tulip. I used to call her that when we fought. She used to get jealous because I always got my way.”
“Do you still get your way?” I asked.
Euphemia replied without hesitation, “Yes.”
It had not occurred to me that sharing an office with an aged tabby whose mange you couldn’t distinguish from his tweeds constituted “getting your way”. But I guess it does. Teaching at a famous University is quite an honour. In what other ways had Euphemia gotten her way? Was she getting her way now? Did getting her way involve Trouble?
After a polite pause I asked, “What about Trouble? Did he know about this pet-name? Did he use it?”
“What?” Euphemia was so distracted that my question startled her. She composed herself with a preen, and then said, “Trouble, why yes he picked up the phrase La Belle Dam from Tulip. Tulip was proud of the epithet and used it to describe herself when she was feeling particularly wild. Of course Trouble used the phrase differently. Her manner suddenly became much more sombre. “He, he …”. She stopped speaking, and began to groom herself.
Mittens gracefully leaped over the table onto the cushions beside Euphemia. He placed his paws around her ears and fervently licked the part of her forehead immediately above her eyes. Euphemia began to purr, but she was far from relaxed: her tail wagged agitatedly. Mittens’ retook his seat and said, “Madam, we were talking about how Trouble uses the phrase ‘La Belle Dam’.” He urged her on with a voice that was part whisper and part purr.
Euphemia was once again composed. She said, “Trouble uses the phrase, but differently than I do. For him La Belle Dam Sans Merci is a symbol of the allure of the wild.”
“Did Trouble ever called Tulip La Belle Dam?”
“Just once. Fur flew: Tulip thought he was being sarcastic about how domesticated she was.”
“Was he being sarcastic?” Mittens asked.
“I don’t know” Euphemia replied pensively. “Ferals aren’t really like that, are they? Y’know, sarcastic, condescending. They’re more direct. Maybe Tulip became angry because in her heart she knew she could never be truly wild, and Trouble’s words reminded her of that.” She shrugged.
I uttered a short, sharp yap to indicate agreement with Euphemia’s ambivalence. While I did so, Mittens inserted another question into the conversation,
“Mademoiselle, did Trouble ever ask you to go feral with him?”
The Cat Detective’s brazenness made my jaw go slack. With one simple question Mittens had offended the honour of both Euphemia and Trouble, while tainting the memory of dead Tulip. I braced myself, certain that Euphemia was about to attack Mittens. Instead she lightly hopped onto the ground, and then circumnavigated our couch, marking it with her muzzle as she went.
Of all of our suspects, Euphemia was the one with the best motive, jealousy. She obviously loved Trouble; but it took nothing to imagine her killing Tulip in a jealous rage. There was one glaring error with the theory: anyone could see that Trouble was a tom no molly could tame. Surely, Euphemia knew this. She was a clever cat.
When Euphemia had settled down again, Mittens’ changed the topic of our conversation. He asked Euphemia, “Did you ever want to be a performer?”
Euphemia replied, “No. Yes. For I while I did. When I was little. But as I got older I didn’t want to any more.” Her eyes narrowed to slits.
I wasn’t convinced by her story. To me she was saying that she wanted to be famous until her sister beat her to it. I smelt resentment.
Euphemia deftly changed the topic, “I like being a star now!” As she effused, she completed her costume by putting on rounded, lioness ears. She struck a pose. It wasn’t a pose you might see a primate model striking, with mammaries pushed forward and hair flying back. Euphemia looked like a hunter: her tail was rigid, her eyes were unblinking, and her body was low to the ground. She began that high octane purr felids make when they’re getting ready to pounce. Her narrow, glowing eyes mesmerized me; I became her prey.
Euphemia broke the spell with a “raareowr”, followed by an agitated wag of her tail.
While I resumed breathing Euphemia said, “Its time for you to go. I perform in five minutes.”
We did not leave the club: I lingered at the bar, curious to see Euphemia perform, while Mittens scored catnip in a restroom. The Cat Detective left with that look in his eyes. Neither the money nor the health aspect of ‘nip addiction scares me half as much as the craven aspect addicts have when anticipating their next line. No animal should want anything so much.
As I settled down at the dog bar the lights dimmed and the show began. I’m not certain what I expected, but whatever expectations I had were exceeded. Euphemia began her set with a cover of Born to be Wild, which caused a table of Maine coons to spray. Her middle songs, energetic covers of rock classics, perfectly set up her finale – a powerful rendition of It Smells Like Kitten Spirit. I prefer grunge vocals to have more caterwaul and less purr, but there was no denying that the molly could sing.
Euphemia finished her encore song, The Ghost of Tom Cat. While she was acknowledging the audience’s enthusiastic applause, there was a commotion in the back of the club caused by the entrance of Bull and his three-legged body guard.
I leaned over to a Spaniel who was sitting beside me, and asked, “Do you know who that is, not Bull, but the Pyrenees?”
“Sure.” he replied. “That’s Fitch. You know about his back leg? There’s quite a story.”
“Bull cut it off?” I asked in feigned horror.
“Naw. Fitch lost it on the shop floor. But Bull wanted to make some point to this molly named Tulip. You probably know her. The one with the panther ears who just turned up dead in Mont-Royal. That singer is her sister.” He nodded to Euphemia. “Anyhow, Bull starts telling this crazy story about how Fitch severed it to prove his loyalty. Of course Fitch goes along, he’s a beta.” The Spaniel paused to lap up some gravy from a bowl in front of him, and then continued. “You know what amazes me most? Bull did it all to impress a cat. Its too much.”
“What happened to Fitch’s severed hind leg?”
“That’s the funny thing. Bull gave it to Tulip and she refused to take it. She was freaked out. I don’t want to be speciest, but cats, they torture their prey. So why did Tulip get upset that her boyfriend has a creepy way of expressing his love? It doesn’t make sense. If you ask me, there’s some other story in there.”
“What happened to the leg?”
“Another weird thing. I heard from this mouse that Bull kept it in his office, even insisted that Fitch stick to that bullshit story about loyalty. It took months for Bull to let it go. Its sick when people lie like that.”
“The mouse’s story … ?” I prompted.
“Oh yeah, so I hear from this mouse that Tulip and Bull had a fight, and Tulip takes the paw she had previously refused. That happened last Tuesday, just hours before Tulip was found dead. Isn’t that fucked up?” I agreed that it was very fucked up, indeed.
I paid for my serendipitous informant’s gravy, and then withdrew into the shadow of a pillar near both the stage and the fire exit. I saw that Mittens was stalking the other side of the stage. Even from a distance I could see the glow of his catnip charged eyeballs.
As Euphemia was taking yet another bow Bull gallantly leaped in front of her and presented her with flowers that were bound to a long wooden box approximately the length of a Pyrenees’ hind leg.
To my amazement, Mittens sprang onto the stage, grabbed the flowers and wooden box, scooted right past me, and out the fire exit. He got clean away. Security didn’t even pretend to chase him. I looked back to the stage: Euphemia and Bull had also disappeared.
I lowered the brow of my fedora onto my nose, lowered my nose to the ground and slunk out the main entrance unobserved. Security was congregating around the door Mittens had just fled through, and had left all other entrances unattended. Amateurs.