Princess fell behind as Mittens staggered to the door of the office. He’d tried to help support the Probie, but Mittens hadn’t seemed to need it. Apparently, he hadn’t been as badly hurt as Princess had been. That was another sore point with him, not that he wanted to see Mittens hurt, but his own pride smarted.
“What happened?” Crusher was suddenly there. Princess was grateful for his sudden support.
“Weak as a kitten,” he complained.
“What happened?” Crusher demanded.
“I was attacked,” Mittens answered. Princess was glad about that, he found himself too out of breath to talk. “Princess tried to help me.”
“Are you hurt?” Crusher demanded.
“Not as badly as Princess was, Boss,” Mittens answered. Princess gritted his teeth. Just because he was out of breath was no reason to ignore him. “I think he might have overdone things.”
“Ya think?” Crusher looked past Mittens at the wide-eyed Sassy. “Get Ducks.” She bounded from the room.
“The vet says that he just needs to take it easy,” Mittens said.
“You took him to the vet?”
“We took Doodles to the vet,” Princess summoned enough breath to join the conversation and remind them both that he was still there. “Probie’s queen-friend is a calico.” Crusher looked at Mittens.
“She’ll be all right,” Mittens said.
“She’s on his list,” Princess said.
“Princess?” A long-legged, thin, fluffy, gray tom stood in front of him. “How are you feeling?”
“Better, Mister Paddy, thanks,” Princess limped over to his desk and sat down.
“Ducks already went home,” Mister Paddy said. “I was cleaning up autopsy.”
“Good of you to come,” Princess said, “but I don’t need a vet.”
“Look him over,” said Crusher. One look at his face and Princess swallowed his protest. “Mittens, I want to know what happened.”
Princess suffered a quick examination while Mittens told Crusher about the attack on Doodles and the subsequent one on him. Princess had time to watch the Boss go from sharp concern to complete rage. He was suddenly glad he was infirm. The Boss wouldn’t attack him in his condition, would he? Suddenly he wasn’t so sure.
“Two of you!” Crusher raged, livid. “And we don’t have a description. He’s not a ghost! He’s real and he’s dangerous.”
“Yes Boss,” Princess stood beside Mittens, both had their heads down. They deserved this dressing down. They both also knew that they wouldn’t be getting this tongue lashing if either had been seriously hurt.
“Is everyone here?” a quiet voice said. Princess glanced over at the sleek black tomcat standing there. When had the director arrived? Who had called him? “This has to stop.”
“Everyone but Ducks and Snowball, Director” Crusher said only marginally less angrily. Sassy slipped into the chair at her desk.
“I just finished with a reporter,” Shadow said. “The news is out and cats are starting to panic.” The reporter probably wasn’t helping with that, more like he was fanning the flames. “Now I’m aware that you are an agent down…” Princess straightened up.
“No we aren’t,” he blurted. “I’m ok.” Shadow looked him over.
“If Ducks says so,” he replied pointedly. He shifted his gaze to include all of them. “We have to get this cat.”
“Working on it,” Crusher said.
“You have forty-eight hours,” Shadow said. “Otherwise we will have rioting. Aside from the fact that we don’t need the bad press, I want this cat caught and brought to justice.”
“So do I,” Crusher said. Princess stood up.
“Where to, Boss?” he said. Crusher looked at him.
“For you, bed,” he looked at Mister Paddy. “What about Mittens, Mister Paddy?”
“I’m fine,” Mittens interjected. “He barely touched me.”
“Look him over, Mister Paddy,” said Shadow. “Princess, go home. Get some rest.” Why were they all treating him like a little kitten, just because he’d been a little out of breath? Princess got to his feet. With all the running around he’d been doing, who wouldn’t be a little out of breath?
The trouble was that he didn’t want to go home. He didn’t want to miss anything. He decided to try to appeal to Crusher.
“Boss,” he said. “I’m really ok. I don’t need to go home.” Crusher studied him.
“You stay in the office,” he said finally. “You can coordinate the evidence that we have collected so far. You and Mittens are the only two of us who have had contact with the killer. Consider yourself as part of the evidence.”
“Yes Boss.” Not quite what he wanted, but at least Crusher hadn’t insisted that he go home.
“Are you sure that you are well enough to do this?” Sassy asked Princess as he opened the evidence locker.
“I’m fine,” he replied. “Why does everyone treat me like a helpless kitten?”
“You were half killed,” Sassy replied. “No one gets over that in a few minutes. Let yourself relax. No one will doubt your tom-hood.”
“No one had better doubt my tom-hood,” Princess was incensed. “I’m still a healthy, strong tom!” Sassy smiled slightly in that irritating way she always did when she had succeeded in getting him riled.
“Healthy, yes,” she said. “Strong? Not so much. You need to give yourself time to heal.”
“Yeah,” Princess was unconvinced. “Sure. No one doubts my tom-hood. Well I don’t think anyone does. I’m stating that I am fine. I’m strong enough. I’m not concerned about my tom-hood, losing my job or anything like that. I’m only concerned with finding this killer and stopping him.” Sassy gave him a sidelong look.
“It will do no one any good if you collapse,” she said.
“It won’t do anyone any good if he kills me,” Princess said. “I have his scent now and he knows it.”
“That is so,” Sassy agreed. “We should keep you in protective custody, yes?” He glared at her and she laughed. “If you feel up to checking the evidence that we have here, once more, we should get to work on it.”
“I’m fine,” he all but snarled. She only laughed harder.