Princess gave his white chest another once over before entering the FCIS office. If he were lucky, the Boss would not notice that he was late again. He was in luck, only Mittens was in the office, working diligently at his computer. Princess relaxed slightly. He was in the clear. He headed for his own workstation.
“Morning, Probie,” he said cheerily. “You would not believe the traffic on Main Street, this morning. I nearly got run over three times just crossing the north bound lanes. Where’s Boss?”
“Behind you,” Mittens replied. Princess froze for a fraction of a second before turning. Crusher stood there, his sleek fur shining in the morning light.
“Morning, Boss,” he said. Crusher ignored him. What did that mean? Was there still a spot of mouse blood on his nose? He was sure that he’d gotten all of it off. He resisted the urge to clean his face again. It was clean. He distinctly remembered cleaning it.
It was his name he knew it. It wasn’t his fault that human little girl had given him a girl’s name. She’d always wanted a kitten that she could call Princess. Humans didn’t care about their ‘pets’. It didn’t matter to them that he had a girl name. he was the one who had the resulting problems.
“Gear up,” Crusher said, grimly. “We have another one.”
“That’s number three,” Sassy suddenly appeared. Princess wondered idly where the svelte Siamese had been when he’d entered. He hurried to catch up with Crusher who was already disappearing out the door.
“She was beautiful,” Princess studied the beautiful albeit bloody body of the calico cat lying in the mud.
“Her name was Callie,” said Sassy. “This is Momcat,” Sassy introduced the golden-eyed brown tiger cat. She looked distressed to Princess and no wonder. A crime scene was no place for kittens and Momcat seemed to have four. Princess looked closer at them. They were all girls. They looked alike, tabbies like their mother. They even smelled the same. How did she tell them apart? Princess gave himself a mental shake and brought his attention back to Momcat’s story.
“There’s a bakery right on the corner,” she was saying. “The birds gather around back, because humans always produce more than they can use in a day and toss out the older stuff. The birds love it, so this is a perfect place to practice stalking birds.” And getting them, Princess thought. His stomach rumbled at the thought, his breakfast mouse was a faded memory. His stomach rumbled again and he prayed to the great Bastet that Crusher hadn’t heard it. Mittens had, Princess could see it in his yellow eyes, dancing with laughter. Just wait until they were back in the office. Princess would figure a way to get revenge on the black and white agent. Nobody had ever out-pranked Princess. He was the king of pranksters and he would get Mittens for laughing at him. He forced his attention back to the witness.
“…I think Bunnie has the knack,” she was saying. “Honey and Lovey are coming along, but poor Dove, well, she’s shown an aptitude for mice.” Who cared about the kits’ hunting prowess? Get to the body. “Anyway, Bunnie was stalking a particularly annoying starling when she saw poor Callie. She was just lying there in all that mud and blood. It was horrible.”
“You knew the victim?” Princess was always amazed at the usually impatient Crusher’s patience with witnesses.
“Yes,” Momcat said. “She would sometimes babysit for my darlings. I always thought she was going to make a wonderful mother.” Her voice quivered. “Oh dear,” she said. Crusher moved slightly.
“We have your den site if we have more questions,” he said. “Please don’t move dens until we get this cleared up.”
“I won’t,” she said. “This is just awful. Poor Callie. She didn’t deserve this.” None of them had, Princess reflected as he went back to the task of looking around the crime scene. She’d been beautiful. There was just something about calicos, he didn’t know what it was, but he liked it.
“According to Momcat, she lived behind the Seafood Restaurant,” Sassy said.
“She was apparently well liked in the neighborhood,” Mittens added. Crusher turned to the large brown tabby.
“Cause of death, Ducks?” He said.
“Same as the others,” the tabby said. “Classic prey kill. The rest of the wounds are post mortem.”
“Princess!” Princess snapped to attention.
“Yes Boss,” he said.
“I have to go to a meeting with Director Shadow,” Crusher said. “Make sure you get all the evidence that you can find.”
“Yes, Boss,” Princess watched as the Boss stalked off across the busy street and disappear through an alleyway on his way back to the office.
“Where did Boss go?” Mittens approached Princess. “I found this tuft of fur.”
“He had a meeting with Director Shadow,” Princess said. “Where did you find the fur?” Mittens gestured towards the trash containers near the door of the deli by the alley entrance.
“And you thought that was important why?” Princess asked.
“Well, I thought that the killer might have hidden there,” Mittens said. Princess snorted.
“Anyone could have sheltered there,” he said. “It’s likely that that tuft of fur is from some innocent person from earlier in the day. It was raining very hard for most of the morning.” Mittens looked unconvinced.
“I don’t know Princess,” he said. “The killer could have sheltered there.”
“That tuft is a waste of time, Probie,” said Princess.
“I think I’ll keep it any way,” Mittens said. Princess shrugged.
“Suit yourself,” he said. “Boss’ll be annoyed.” He turned to walk along watching the ground, sniffing along for any whiff of scent or piece of evidence. From the corner of his eyes, he saw Mittens stow the tuft of fur away with the rest of the evidence. He shook his head, deciding not to push it. Mittens would learn, eventually.
Princess was frowning over his notes when Crusher emerged from Director Shadow’s office. They had nothing. he glanced up as Crusher stopped by his desk.
“Take Sassy and get over to the victim’s nest and learn what you can.”
“Yes, Boss,” he said.
Princess followed Sassy as they headed over to Callie’s nesting place, admiring the soft cream-colored fur of his coworker. He would never admit to his interest in her. For one thing, she’d probably rip him to pieces just for looking. She was a trained killer, after all. Suddenly he was aware that she’d stopped and was watching him. Her blue eyes staring back at him. What was she thinking?
“Wonder what Boss expects us to find,” he said to cover his intense interest.
“Evidence,” she said.
“The other two victim’s nests didn’t have any useful clues,” he pointed out. “How likely is it that we are going to find anything useful at Callie’s place?”
“Coming here is probably a waste of time,” Sassy agreed. “Still, it is procedure, to look over every aspect of a victim’s life to find out why she is dead. It is a shame. All three victims had been beautiful felines. All the victims been well liked and apparently all three had been friendly.”
“Not everyone had loved them,” he said. “Their killer wanted them dead.”
Callie’s nest was one of several in the basement of an apartment complex across the alley from a seafood restaurant. Princess followed Sassy as she approached the entrance to the basement. It was a basement window loosely covered by a board. It was an easy entrance, Princess considered it as he followed Sassy into the warmth of the basement. They flowed down a series of boxes that formed a stairway to the floor.
“Who are you?” a large black tomcat barred their way. “You don’t live here.”
“FCIS,” said Sassy. “We are investigating the death of Callie. She lived here.” The Tom looked horrified.
“Callie’s dead?” he said. “What happened? I’m Blackie, by the way. I look after the place for all the tenants.” Tenants? Princess was amused. He was acting as though the felines were actual tenants in an apartment building, just like the humans who lived there. There were felines who lived with humans in apartments in the building. They obviously knew about the tenants in the basement, but of course, they wouldn’t betray them. Princess looked around. The place was a good one. Too far from the office for a decent commute, Princess’s own nest was closer to the office.
“Which nest was hers?” Princess asked. Blackie looked around.
“Over here,” he led the way to a nest beside the furnace. Sassy and Princess followed him.
“Thank you,” Sassy said. “We’ll let ourselves out.” Princess already began looking around the nest. The few things that Callie had brought back to her nest said a lot about the calico, but not much about her killer. It was just like the other two victims’ nests, nothing helpful, but they still had to drag the evidence back to the office. They silently set about examining the nest.
“What are you doing?” a young kittenish tom asked. “That’s Callie’s place. Why are you in Callie’s place?” Princess turned to face the young brown cat. He was a little bigger than a kitten, probably only been away from his mother a couple of months.
“Who are you?” he asked. The youngster bristled.
“My name is Brownie,” he said. “I’m Callie’s…”
“I’m sorry,” Sassy said. “We are FCIS. We are investigating Callie’s murder.” The brown cat looked stunned.
“No,” he said. He sounded as though he was about to cry. “We were going to mate.” In his dreams, Princess thought. This scrawny kitten never had a chance with the beautiful calico.
When they got back to the office, Crusher was in with Director Shadow again. Princess allowed Sassy to lead the way to the forensics lab with their haul from Callie’s nest. There they found Mittens with Snowball, the forensics feline. It was the snow white Persian’s job to sniff over every piece of evidence the team brought her. She turned her golden eyes on Princess and immediately came over to like his shoulder, the feline equivalent of a human hug.
“Princess!” she smiled happily. Her greeting should have felt strange, but he knew that was just the way Snowball was. She greeted everyone as though she hadn’t seen them in years, no matter how short of time it had been since she had last seen them.
“Learn anything?” Mittens asked.
“Same as we got at the other two nests, Probie,” Princess replied.
“Which means that we still have nothing,” Sassy said.
“No,” Crusher’s voice came from behind Princess. “We have three dead multicolored felines. What else do they have in common?”
“I’m going to look into their tom-friends,” Princess said.
“I’ll look for connections with their daily routines,” Mittens said.
“I will check their social networks, again,” said Sassy.
Princess headed for the door. He didn’t have to look to know that Sassy and Mittens were right behind him
I do have the killer’s scent,” he heard Snowball tell Crusher as he left.