Princess left the office a half hour later, still smarting from Sassy’s laughter. He felt fine. He was fine. Why could no one believe that? He felt strong enough. He walked slowly towards his home, having waited until the human traffic on the road had subsided so that he would not have to run so fast to avoid the possibility of a car squashing him as he crossed the street. He hesitated by the side of the road and then turned to walk swiftly down the road. He arrived at the spot where he had chased the killer away from Mittens. The Probie owed Princess his life.
He stood surveying the scene, trying to see anything that could help them identify the killer. He began slowly to go over the scene. He found nothing there that he could see, but maybe there was a lingering scent. Some trail that he could follow. There was nothing. Disappointed, he made his slow way home. It was going to be a long night.
He stood there, watching the vile creature that fouled the air for the rest of them. He watched the creature as she walked along the alleyway. He lunged forward and grabbed the foul thing. He had her by the throat.
A shrill scream split the silence. He whirled to see a tabby running towards them. He could have sworn he was alone with his prey. He dropped the creature and sprang at the tabby, knocking her down. He raced off down the alley. He risked a quick look over his shoulder and saw that the tabby was down beside the tricolored horror. How was that possible? How could the tabbies not realize how dangerous the tricolored ones were?
“I should have been with her,” Mittens said. Princess looked up from where he was sniffing a spot on the ground.
“Get over it, Probie,” he said. “You weren’t. It isn’t your fault.”
“No,” said Crusher, “it’s mine. We knew she was on his list, we should have had more people on her.”
“Poor Legs,” Sassy said. “He probably didn’t know what had hit him. It’s terrible.”
“Yeah,” said Princess. “Going to the Vet is bad enough, no offense, Ducks.”
“None taken, my boy,” said the coroner, as he and Mr. Paddy examined the dead rat found at the scene.
“But to have to endure the indignity of being found and ‘rescued’ by a human, well…” Princess went on.
“Ducks?” said Crusher.
“I think poor Doodles was bringing supper home,” the tabby said. “This rat was likely her kill and nothing to do with the killer.”
“Wonder why he didn’t take a tasty morsel like that,” Princess willed his stomach to not growl.
“I think he washes after his kills,” Mr. Paddy said. His fluffy fur blew about in the wind that played with the bits of paper and other lightweight human detritus. “I mean he doesn’t leave the scene until after he bathes.” Crusher looked at him. “Sorry. Shall I take the rat back to the lab?”
“What makes you say that he bathes at the scene?” Crusher asked. Princess moved closer. He was curious as well.
“Well, that fur that Agent Mittens is collecting. It’s just like the fur I take out when I bathe.” Mr. Paddy looked uncomfortable. Princess wondered why. Everyone bathed; there was nothing to be embarrassed about in bathing. He’d done it himself often enough in the office. No one had complained or looked embarrassed. He’d have been more embarrassed if he’d had his lunch all over his white shirtfront. Bathing was no big deal. In fact, it was bad form not to bathe.
“He was likely covered in blood,” Sassy said. “He couldn’t risk being seen all bloody.”
“I suppose,” Mr. Paddy said. “It’s just odd that he would take the time to remove the fur.” That was odd. Why do something like that so close to the crime scene?
“Maybe he sees his victims as dirty in some way,” Princess offered, before he thought much about it. Crusher looked at him.
“That’s a thought,” he said. Princess felt a glow from the approval in the Boss’ face.
“They were all reported as very clean, beautiful cats,” Sassy said.
“Not to our killer,” Crusher said. “That’s a good deduction Paddy, Princess.” Princess permitted himself a small, smug smile. Crusher stood up and stretched reflexively. “We are almost done here. Sassy, take Mittens and get over to the vet’s and talk to Doodles, if she is awake, and get a detailed statement from the witness, what’s her name? Tabitha.”
“On it, Boss,” the two agents left the scene. Princess went back to sniffing over the scene. It was the same killer all right. He just wished he had a face to put with the smell. Ducks and Paddy left with the rat.
“Yes Boss,” Princess left off what he was doing to attend to Crusher’s instructions.
“Can you finish up here on your own?”
“Of course,” Princess was nearly offended. “I’ll be fine.”
“I’ll be back as soon as I brief the Director on this attack.”
“Ok, Boss,” Princess replied. “I’ll get as much evidence as I can and meet you back at the office.”
“No,” Crusher said, “don’t kill yourself. Stay here and I will be back.” Princess sighed.
“Is it worth it to say that I am fine?” Princess said. “I have officially recovered from the attack.”
“Yeah,” Crusher’s tone said that he didn’t believe a word of it. “Watch yourself, Princess. I’ll be back in half an hour.”
“Yes, Boss.” Privately, Princess was determined to discover as much evidence as he could before the Boss came back. In accordance with his silent avowal, he began to go over the ground around where the attack on Doodles had taken place slowly and methodically. There was a lot of blood and fur, most of it belonged to the victim. Despite all of the scents, Princess knew the killer’s scent. It was getting older as he went over the ground. Suddenly, the killer’s scent got stronger. Princess looked around. The scent was almost fresh.
Suddenly, he was on the ground with a heavy weight on top of him. Not again! This couldn’t be happening again. He fought with all his strength. The killer clawed and bit him. Princess did his best to defend himself. How long had the Boss been gone? He wondered if he had the strength to hold the killer long enough for the Boss to come back. He could get back enough to suit Princess.
“Hey!” Crusher’s voice had never sounded so good. Princess hurt all over, but the killer was still on top of him. Suddenly the killer’s weight was gone. Princess got up and had a confused glimpse of Crusher running down the alley after a shadowy figure. He struggled to his feet and ran after the Boss.