Although Tulip’s career as an entertainer may have fallen on tough times her bank account – judging from the opulence of her Mont-Royal nest – had not. She lived in a three story brick scamper-up that had it all, including stalking grounds, an aviary, and rat warren.
I was pleased to see that Tulip’s nest did not look like a crime scene at all. There was no bright yellow tape, no crowds of reporters. Since the forensics team left, there was barely a police presence at all – just one fierce looking Rottweiler, whose primary job was to keep news hounds and curious cats away.
The murder had occurred in the indoor stalking grounds, where Tulip – and her many guests – would hunt small animals for snacks and sport. A chalk mark outlined the position of Tulip’s body. She had died in a fetal position. In the midst of her oversize furniture the chalk outline looked small, like that of a kitten. This made me think of my own litter of pups back home in Willowdale.1
We both began to sniff.
I was investigating an area of floor unexpectedly rich in smells when I had the good fortune to discover a cleverly disguised trapdoor, which opened to reveal a cement box nest – the kind you found in every fashionable cat’s house during the 1970s. The floor of the nest was covered by a velvet pillow, on which there was an imprint of the ear of a dog.
In the middle of the pillow was a card with an inscription written in gold. It read, “Tulip, here is a symbol of how my entire pack will protect you.”
I sniffed. “Look here” I said, pointing my muzzle toward a tiny hair on the card. “A piece of a mouse’s tail.”
Mittens was beside me in an instant. He ignored the mouse tail, but sniffed the card thoroughly, and then said, “Barks, I smell a rat.”
Which was a point I fastidiously put in the Cat Detectives column. A bit of mouse at a crime scene was the antithesis of evidence. Mice always get to a crime scene first, and are almost never perps. Ratus ratus was another matter, entirely.
“Do you recognize this rat?” I asked.
Mittens never answered my question. At that moment a gust of wind triggered our next discovery – a card floated out of an open book onto the floor. Mittens carefully picked up the card by the edges. On it several sentences had been written by a bold cat’s paw. It was a copy of a letter Tulip had sent to her litter-mate and twin, Euphemia.
Mittens’ read in a slightly high-pitched, theatrical voice,
Dearest sister Euphemia,
Today I couldn’t stand one more second of Trouble’s damned feral inscrutability. I asked him what he was really thinking. He told me, in a flat voice – no affect at all, not even a purr – that he hates La Belle Dam but he can’t help himself. “Do you mean me?” I implored him. “You know what I mean” he said as he leaped out of the fire escape. I haven’t seen him since. I don’t know what I’d do without him. But I’m loosing him. I can tell from his scent, and unfocussed ears. I’m loosing him.
What can I do?
xx oo Tulip
Mittens’ concluded his oratory with a little bow.
“Are there other notes?” I asked.
“There are lots of notes down at the station. Tulip was quite a writer. But do you mean, was there anything incriminating? Non. Only this. Mais cela, c’est très intéressante, n’est-ce pas?”2
“It is interesting indeed”, I replied. “Let us inspect the book the note fell out of.” I hopped over to the small leather bound volume. It opened to a poem called La Belle Chat Sans Merci.3
I scanned the first few stanzas, and stopped at the fourth. In the left margin the words “Tulip” and “La Belle Chat” were written with a kittenish paw.
I flipped to the first page of the book where I found the following dedication, “To my cat-bitch twin sister on my birthday.
We have stereotypes about the love litter-mates and twins have for each other. Like many generalizations, the stereotype is both true and false simultaneously. I could see in the note Tulip had written Euphemia that the two sisters had a deep, abiding bond. They must have shared all of their experiences with each other. But it took scant effort to imagine that love erupting into a most vicious cat-fight.
I showed Mittens the book. He read the dedication and said, “We have another suspect.”
“Indeed”, I replied.