“Princess!” Princess turned at the sound of his name. Crusher and Sassy were coming towards him across the expanse of concrete humans insisted on covering the ground with, sidewalks, they called it. Princess could never figure out what humans thought they were walking next to in the park, the grass? He turned his attention back to the Boss.
“Yes, Boss?” he said.
“Find anything else?” Crusher said with the air of someone repeating himself. How long had Crusher been talking to him? Princess was appalled at his lapse. The Boss would never forgive him for this.
“Nothing useful, Boss,” he said.
“I just found another tuft of that fur,” Mittens came over. “I found it at the scene of the third murder.” Princess groaned inwardly. Crusher sniffed at the fur.
“Tag it,” he said. “Good work Mittens.” Princess ground his teeth. How had that happened? Well, he had to admit, Mittens had been right to tag that last tuft of fur. That was annoying. He couldn’t even fault Mittens for bringing it to the Boss’ attention, after all, that was the whole point of this exercise. No use worrying about it, he’d just have to find something to match Mittens’ discovery.
“What did you find out?” he asked. “When you interviewed those witnesses.”
“They haven’t changed their stories,” Sassy said. “Buster and Killer were…”
“Killer,” Princess interrupted. “Boss, there’s an older cat here who says that Killer and Patches were an item once. They broke up and he didn’t take it well. it’s a connection between Patches and Annabelle.”
“Killer is a enough common name,” Sassy said. Why did she have to rain on his parade?
“Go on, Princess,” the Boss’ voice was neutral. What did he think of Princess’ revelation?
“We could easily establish the link,” Princess felt defensive, even though Sassy had a valid point. “St. Peter knew Patches’ tom friend.”
“St. Peter?” Crusher’s mild voice said.
“Yes, Boss,” Princess returned to his report. “St. Peter is the name of my witness.” At least he had a witness to interview again.
“Good job, Princess.” Princess felt the glow of the Boss’ approval. “Sassy and Mittens can bring Killer into the office. Princess, you and I will bring St. Peter.” Princess started towards the house St. Peter had indicated earlier. “After we finish our search of the crime scene.” Crusher’s voice stopped him.
“Right Boss,” Princess started to sniff around the bare concrete for the fourth time. There really wasn’t much there. Sometimes it was hard to determine what was a clue to the crime and what was merely trash. He didn’t want to overload Snowball, aside from his liking her; she had told him before that she knew any number of ways to kill him, leaving no trace.
A quarter of an hour later, he was convinced that their killer was also skilled at leaving no trace. He shot a quick glance at Crusher. There was no way to tell what he was thinking. Princess put his nose to a spot on the ground. His stomach rumbled.
“Find something, Princess?” he jumped. Crusher could sure move quietly, even for a soft-footed cat. Crusher moved like smoke.
“Just some bird blood, Boss,” he said. “Patches had a last meal”
“Or the killer ate while waiting for her to come along,” Crusher said. Princess cursed silently, he should have thought of that.
“Or the killer ate the bird,” he agreed. “Although I suppose it is possible that someone else ate the bird before the murder.” He looked at the spot. “It doesn’t smell that old either.” Crusher walked over and sniffed at the spot.
“You’re right,” he said. “This isn’t that old.” He looked around. “Where are the feathers?” Princess looked at the spot with a single blue feather stuck to the spot. “There should be more feathers.”
“And the bones,” Princess said. “There should be bones.”
“Someone ate a bird,” Crusher said. “Who would eat a bird next to a corpse?”
“I’m not sure that anyone did,” Princess said. “Couldn’t Patches have eaten the bird?”
“Ducks said she hadn’t eaten anything,” Crusher replied. “It had to be the killer.” Princess frowned.
“I see,” he said, slowly. “The killer was hungry after he killed Patches, so he caught a bird and ate it?”
“That’s what it looks like,” Crusher said.
“That’s cold,” said Princess. Crusher only grunted in reply.
“Let’s find your St. Peter,” he said. “Maybe he saw the killer catching or eating that bird.”
He watched the FCIS agents leave the park from the shelter of a thicket of densely planted bushes. He crouched beneath the branches, low to the ground, so that they wouldn’t notice him. He’d watched the first two until the other two agents joined them. He watched as they rearrange themselves and split up.
He smiled when the black and white one had found the remains of his breakfast. That had been a good bird and he thanked the Goddess for giving it to him. She was all-powerful and all good. He basked a bit in her protection. She loved him, as she did all cats, except the evil vermin. He was her exterminator. She would not let anything happen to him.
He looked out again. They had gone. He strolled out of the park, still smiling. He had more work to do.
“What do you mean, you couldn’t find him?” Crusher’s tail lashed back and forth. The Boss was annoyed. Princess was glad that annoyance wasn’t directed at him.
“He wasn’t there, Boss,” Mittens said. “No one knows where he is.”
“What about his queen-friend?” Princess asked. “Did she know where Killer is?” Sassy looked crestfallen.
“We didn’t see her,” she admitted. Crusher looked at Princess.
“Princess, go see the queen-friend,” he said. “You two,” he fixed Mittens and Sassy with a steely glower, “see what you can do to help Snowball. I have to brief the Director.” He strode off in the direction of the Director’s office. “Find me that killer.”
“Yes, Boss,” Mittens bounded for the door to the lab. Sassy close on his heels.
“On it Boss,” Princess headed for the street.
It only took Princess a short time to learn the name of Killer’s queen-friend and even less time to find her.
“Do you have any idea where he is,” he was asking her when something big and heavy slammed into him. He rolled quickly, struggling to get his paws around into position to defend himself.
“You leave her alone,” the dirty white tom sitting on him snarled. “She’s mine.” His lone green eye glared at Princess. He’d found Killer.
“You’re Killer,” Princess held the tom’s face away from his throat. “I’m Special Agent Princess with FCIS. We have a few more questions for you. That’s all I am here for.” Killer drew back.
“Oh,” he said. “Sorry.” Princess got up, pausing to clean his white chest.
“That’s all right,” he said. “Just don’t be so quick to attack any cat just talking to your queen.”
“I told the other guys everything I know,” Killer said. Princess smiled grimly.
“You didn’t tell them about Patches,” he said.
“Right, Patches,” Killer sat down. “How is she relevant to the investigation into Annabelle’s death?”
“She’s dead,” Princess said. Killer looked shocked. Killer’s shock certainly looked real.
“I’m sorry to hear that,” he said. Then his eyes closed for a moment and reopened. “The same cat? That hell born sewer cat that killed Annabelle killed Patches too?”
“It looks that way,” Princess said. “Where were you last night?”
“Warehouse on sixth street,” Killer said promptly. “I went there because I heard the mice there were good and fat.” Princess had heard that too.
“How were they?” he asked.
“Just as advertised.” Killer cleaned between the toes of his left front paw. “I brought some back for Delilah.”
“They were delicious,” Delilah said in her soft faraway voice. Princess glanced at her and then focused on Killer. He had a job to do and the queen was distracting. No wonder Killer was so ready to fight.
“No birds on the menu?” he asked. Killer shook his head.
“I suck at bird hunting,” he said. “I gave up on birds long ago. I missed every time I leaped for one. Mice and rats are my specialty.”
“Rats?” Princess was almost impressed. Rats could get nearly as big as a cat. To kill one was to get a badge of honor.
“That warehouse only has mice,” Killer said. “But I know where I can find a big juicy rat when I want one.”
“I’m sure you do,” Princess said. He still wasn’t sure that Killer was telling the truth about that. “So what can you tell me about Patches?”
“I made a fool of myself with her,” Killer said. “We met down south, where the big river flows into the ocean. We got wind that a massive storm was coming. Patches could tell, I’m not sure how, but we knew it was going to be bad. She was the one who suggested that we come north. Once we got here, we were happy for a while and then I messed up. I fooled around with another queen. Patches got mad and left me.” That gelled with what St. Peter had said. “I tried to make amends, she wouldn’t have it. I got mad, made a fool of myself. Made some comments I regret and then I met Delilah here. At least I got to apologize to Patches before…” he broke off. “I can’t believe she’s gone. She didn’t deserve that, Agent Princess.”
“No one deserves that,” Princess said.
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