Purrfect Dragnet (Max 76) Preview

Purrfect Dragnet (Max 76) Preview

Just the facts, ma’am

It isn’t often that tragedy strikes close to home, but when Charlene Butterwick was kidnapped, that got all of our attention. Snatched in broad daylight in front of Town Hall, it wasn’t long before the entire Hampton Cove police force organized a dragnet and went all out to find the mayor. And since in a sense Charlene is our mayor also, as well as our human’s aunt by marriage, we volunteered for the search. It soon transpired that whoever was behind this spectacular abduction had also been involved in a home invasion gone wrong, with the homeowner not having survived his ordeal. So it wasn’t too much to say that the pressure was on to find Charlene before it was too late.



Chapter One

Dooley had been wandering the streets and backstreets of his neighborhood, looking for a very specific thing. So far, he hadn’t found it yet, but since he was determined to keep on looking until he had, he was reasonably optimistic that eventually he would hit upon the perfect birthday gift for his best friend and housemate Max. It hadn’t occurred to him that Max’s birthday was fast approaching until Harriet had mentioned it casually in a conversation they were having on an unrelated topic. She claimed that she had already secured the perfect gift for their voluminous blorange friend and that Max would be so happy.

It was then that it dawned on Dooley that he hadn’t got Max a gift at all. In fact, he had totally forgotten that his friend’s birthday was coming up. Even Brutus said he had already got his gift ready, and even though it wasn’t possibly as nice as Harriet’s—tough to compete with the Persian feline—it was something that Max would love.

At that point, they had both turned to Dooley, eager to learn what he had gotten for Max, and he had to admit he’d totally forgotten about the happy occasion.

“You’re not serious,” said Harriet, looking aghast. “You forgot about Max’s birthday? But Dooley!”

“Yeah, that’s a grave oversight if ever there was one,” Brutus had grunted, looking equally surprised.

And so Dooley had suddenly felt like one of those things that you find under a rock when it’s turned over: very low indeed! And so he had pledged a solemn oath right then and there that he wouldn’t rest until he had found his friend the best present ever. The problem was: what do you give a cat who has everything? Also: as a rule, cats aren’t big on the kind of paraphernalia humans like to surround themselves with, or the accoutrements of a consumerist society. So no sports cars or jacuzzis or diamond rings or fancy clothes. Not even a new cologne purportedly created by a well-known celebrity or the latest gizmo to be touted on social media.

Cats are fairly simple creatures, so for the life of him, for a long while, he simply couldn’t think of what to give his friend. But then suddenly inspiration struck, and he thought he had it. The gift to end all gifts. The one thing that Max craved above all else: a pipe! After all, Max was a great detective, and as far as Dooley could tell, all great detectives smoked a pipe, or at least they did in the olden days. The problem was: where was he going to find such a super-duper pipe? And especially the very specific pipe he had in mind for his friend: the original pipe that used to belong to that other great detective, Sherlock Holmes.

And so the long quest had begun, with Dooley hunting high and low for Mr. Holmes’s pipe. One thing was for sure: a great man like Sherlock Holmes presumably owned several pipes, so he wouldn’t mind giving one as a gift to an esteemed colleague like Max. At least that’s what Dooley hoped would happen. But first he had to locate Mr. Holmes, and then he had to induce that great man to part with one of his pipes. It hadn’t to be the pipe, of course. Any old pipe would do, as long as it belonged to the legendary detective. And then Max could put it in his mouth and really look the part. He might even add a deerstalker hat.

Gone would be the snickers by some denizens of Hampton Cove when confronted with the latest sample of Max’s brilliance. Finally, he’d get the recognition he deserved. And Dooley had been scouring the neighborhood in search of the house where Mr. Holmes lived, when he thought he had finally found it: a ramshackle old building that had nevertheless retained some of its former glorious splendor. This must be where the detective lived, he just knew it.

After a hopeful glance at the house, which stood back from the street and was fronted by a patch of front yard that looked about as derelict as the house itself, he stepped through the wrought-iron fence that hung crooked and forlorn on its hinges like a drunken sailor and with a touch of trepidation set a course for the main house. It didn’t look all that welcoming, but that was simply the facade, he knew. Once inside, the panorama that would spread out before him would be that of the comfortable and pleasant dwelling as inhabited by Mr. Holmes and his good friend Dr. Watson, and as lovingly attended to by Mrs. Hudson.

For a moment, he wondered how to proceed, but then he saw that a small window was ajar next to the front door, and so he deftly jumped up onto the windowsill and took a curious peek inside. The room was dark, but that was fine. It didn’t take long for his trained cat eyes to get an overview of the situation, and he wasn’t disappointed when he discovered that the inside of the house was indeed much more accommodating than the outside indicated. Clearly, the great detective liked to present a different face to the world than his actual dwelling evidenced. Subterfuge, a weapon employed by all the great detectives.

Even Max had perfected this particular device: at first glance, he looked like a rather oversized and overweight red cat, but underneath that facade lurked a brain as formidable if not more formidable than that of his human counterparts in the field of private detecting. Mr. Holmes, Mr. Poirot, Miss Marple, Mr. Mason, all of them could take his correspondence course and learn a thing or two or three.

What he didn’t see was either the detective himself, seated in a comfortable armchair as he had envisioned, discussing a recent case with his friend and loyal sidekick Mr. Watson, or the detective’s collection of pipes. But that didn’t deter him. Instead, he decided to slip inside and go in search of the owner and proprietor or, if Mr. Holmes was out on a case, at least Mrs. Hudson, no doubt busy in the kitchen or in the greenhouse attending to Mr. Holmes’s orchids. Though he could be thinking about a different detective.

He slipped gracefully down from the windowsill and found himself on a nice hardwood floor, and as he moved stealthily to the door, then opened it by giving it a gentle push with his head, the hallway stretched out before him, just as nicely and neatly furnished as the room he had just left. Mahogany furniture, waxed hardwood floors, paintings of bucolic country life scenes on the walls as well as polished wall sconces—clearly, Mr. Holmes’s detecting work paid dividends.

Which reminded him that maybe Max should start charging for his own services as well. Until now, he had always worked on a strictly pro bono basis, but after solving so many cases, perhaps it wasn’t a bad idea to put things on a firm business footing from now on. Rent an office, hire a secretary, advertise in the paper and online. Do things the way they should be done. After all, Max deserved it, and no one works for free, so why should he?

He glanced briefly at the staircase leading up to the next floor and wondered why the house was so eerily quiet. Unless, of course, business had taken its inhabitants to a different continent. Europe, maybe, or Asia, or even Africa. A great detective’s work is never done, and the demands on his time are many and varied, from all corners of the globe.

And he had just taken a peek into the next room when he saw something that his young eyes found very hard to interpret—at least at first.

A man sat in the semi-darkness, tied to a chair, and didn’t look all that comfortable. It was difficult to make out his features, for someone had pulled a bag over his head. In front of him stood another man who was wearing a mask and who was saying something along the lines of, “And now you’re going to tell me where you stashed that painting, old man, or I’ll be forced to become very unpleasant—and I’m not even kidding!”

For a moment, Dooley wondered if either of these two men could be Sherlock Holmes, but then he figured possibly not. Mr. Holmes would never get involved in anything as base as robbing another person, as this man clearly seemed to be in the process of doing. Then again, it could be all part of some kind of elaborate stage play. An experiment to limber up the mind and prepare one’s reflexes for any contingency. But try as he might, he simply couldn’t see it. And so he decided to take his leave and let these people get on with whatever they were doing.

The last thing he heard, before he retreated back into the safety of the hallway, was that the man with the bag over his head said, in a sort of plaintive voice: “But I don’t have any paintings! You must have me mistaken for somebody else!”

“Then I’m afraid you leave me no choice but to hurt you something bad!”

Which is when Dooley realized that perhaps it was time to go and get the assistance of that other person who played such an integral part in the world of Sherlock Holmes: Inspector Lestrade. And so he hurried out of the hallway, into the room, out through the window, and was going at a fast clip with but a single goal in mind: make sure that the police arrived before that poor old man was subjected any longer to the treatment his tormentor was dishing out.

All in all, it looked as if Max wouldn’t get Sherlock’s pipe for his birthday after all.

Chapter Two

Roger Turton took another sip from his iced tea as he looked out of the window of the high-rise where his fancy new apartment was located. He had only moved in about a week or six ago, and so it still felt very new to him, even the smell was still that of a new building that still has to settle. Roger’s wife had done the decorating without any input from her husband at all, since frankly he couldn’t be bothered, and also, according to most who knew him, he didn’t have an artistic bone in his body.

As a chef, his thing was food and cooking for large numbers of people, making sure they left his restaurant happy and satisfied was what drove him in life. So much so that he didn’t really care whether he lived in a ramshackle old house or a fancy new condo like the one they had moved into.

A cry of distress brought him out of his reverie, and he looked up to find his three-year-old daughter standing behind him, clutching the sofa and holding a toy push bear in her chubby hand, handing it to him. For some indiscernible reason, the bear was missing its head. As he took the plush animal and went in search of the head to reattach it by applying some of his magical parental powers, he found that the apartment was otherwise curiously devoid of life.

“Kirsten?” he called out, wondering where his wife could be. She had promised to look after Quinnie while he was busy creating new recipes for the restaurant, a thriving business now in its second year and still going from strength to strength.

When no response came, he went in search of her, figuring she might have stepped out of the apartment for a moment to run an errand. But when he found her phone on the kitchen island, as well as her keys, a sudden niggle of concern entered his mind. And so it was with an urgency in his step that he quickly searched the rest of the spacious condo for a sign of his wife, but in vain.

Quinnie, who had toddled after him, still eager to see her bear restored to its former glory, now held out her arms, so he picked her up and hoisted her onto his arm while he fought against his tendency to think up the worst scenarios for what could have happened to Kirsten. So when the door suddenly swung open and his wife of fifteen years walked in, looking as fresh and bright and happy as usual, he heaved a sigh of intense relief.

“Where did you go?” he asked, trying his utmost to hide his distress.

“The postman rang the door downstairs,” she said. “A package arrived. Didn’t you hear me?”

He shook his head. So lost in his own world had he been that of course he hadn’t heard a thing. Kirsten took Quinnie from him and gave him a light pat on the cheek. “Wake up, honey. The world is calling.”

“What about the package?” he asked when he saw that Kirsten’s hands were conspicuously empty of a package of any description.

“Oh, turns out it wasn’t for us but for Jackie.”

“Oh,” he said, wondering how the mailman could have a problem distinguishing between Kirsten Turton and Jackie Parker as they lived on different floors. He studied his wife for a moment, but when he saw no sign of subterfuge, he decided to let it go. He was starting to get paranoid in his old age, and so he forced his mind to return to the problem at hand: what was he going to do for Christmas and New Year this year? It had to be something to top last year’s sold-out bash. And that was exactly the problem: it wasn’t enough to be successful. Both his customers and the food critics expected him to go from strength to strength and to top last year’s knock-out success with this year’s even greater smash. If you’re not moving forward, you’re moving backward and all of that. Which sometimes made him wonder how long he’d be able to go on like this.

But then he dispelled the unsettling thought and got down at the kitchen counter and started to jot down some ideas. He had a family to support, after all, not to mention a substantial mortgage to pay. So there was no room for second-guessing or doubt. Onward and upward. And he had just written down a possible idea when a tug at his pants leg had him look down.

It was Quinnie, and as she thrust her headless bear into his hands once again, she gave him a look of annoyance. It wasn’t hard to know what she was thinking: ‘Fix it, Daddy! Fix it now!’

He might be Hampton Cove’s hottest chef, but first and foremost he was a father, and fathers have to put their little princesses first. And rightly so.

And as he renewed his search for the poor bear’s head, looking underneath the sofa, he noticed how Kirsten was texting, a slight smile playing about her lips, and once again that annoying feeling of worry started niggling at him. The feeling that there was something she wasn’t telling him. That she was harboring some kind of secret. But when she noticed him studying her, she gave him the kind of dazzling smile that had made him fall in love with her in the first place, and he parked his doubts and grabbed the head of Papa Bear from underneath the couch where it had rolled, and wondered how he was going to get it attached to its parent body once again.

Chapter Three

Sonny Hayworth looked left, then right, before grabbing the bottle of olive oil from the shelf and stuffing it into his pocket. Then he walked along as if nothing had happened. A glance had already told him that Wilbur Vickery, the owner of the General Store, wasn’t at the checkout counter as usual. Instead, he was talking to another customer in a different part of the store. So Sonny felt pretty relaxed about his initiative. So relaxed, in fact, that he decided to push his luck and go for the gold. He had olive oil, tomato sauce, sundried tomatoes, capers, pesto, herbs and spices, spaghetti, ground beef… Now all he needed was some Parmesan, and tonight he’d be able to create a feast unlike any he’d made in recent times.

And so he headed over to the dairy section, found what he was looking for, and quick as a flash, grabbed a big block of Parmesan and stuffed it into yet another one of the many pockets this special coat of his concealed. If you saw him, you wouldn’t know that he’d already purloined several items of merchandise. That was because he was good and had been trained by the very best.

His dad had been a pickpocket, his mom a con artist, and his granddad, famously so, had been the person who had actually stolen the President’s satellite phone when the man had paid a visit to Long Island back in the eighties. Unfortunately, Granddad Hayworth had been caught at the time, but the story had entered family lore and was still being told at family dinners to this day.

If Granddad had still been alive, nowadays he would be stealing mobile phones, of course, since those bulky satellite phones had gone the way of the dodo. And Sonny was walking to the exit, hoping for a clean getaway, when he was suddenly waylaid by the fat cat that Wilbur insisted on keeping. The cat had taken up a position squarely in the center of the health and beauty aisle and now let out a loud lament that caused all those in the store to pop their heads from their various vantage points in other aisles to see what was going on.

“Shut up, fatso,” Sonny hissed viciously.

But the cat wouldn’t shut up. Instead, he kept on wailing away, producing a very annoying sound of the kind that only cats can make—a sound so terrifying that Sonny could feel his innards twisting and turning in agony at the sheer sense of discomfort it provoked in him.

Before long, Wilbur came hurrying up, took one look at Sonny, and crossed his arms in front of his chest. “Take off your coat,” the shopkeeper demanded.

“What? Why?” said Sonny.

“Because I said so, that’s why. Take it off!”

And even though he protested that this was an infringement on his human rights and threatened to go to court and file a harassment suit against the man, in the end he was forced to comply. Out came the Parmesan, the tomato sauce, the spaghetti of the angel hair variety, the olive oil, the sundried tomatoes, capers, pesto, herbs and spices, ground beef, and even the six-pack of brewskis he’d tucked away, along with the diet Pepsi for his cousin Bertie.

“I’m calling the cops,” said Wilbur.

“Don’t call the cops,” he suggested.

“Oh, I’m calling them,” said the shop owner. “This isn’t the first time you’ve stolen from me, Sonny, and frankly I’m sick and tired of your nonsense.” As he took out his phone, Sonny thought frantically about how to avert disaster.

And that’s when he said something he probably shouldn’t have said. It certainly wasn’t something his dad would have said, or his granddad—hardy men as they both were, steeped in crime and immune to the slings and arrows of law enforcement or irate shop owners. “If you don’t call the cops, I’ll make it worth your while,” he blurted out.

Wilbur, who had put on his reading glasses, looked up. “And how do you propose to do that, huh? Seems to me you ain’t got two nickels to rub together.”

“I’ve got some information for you that you will find very interesting,” he said. He was already regretting his statement, but it was too late now. And besides, it wasn’t as if it was such a big deal. Not to him, at least.

“And what’s that?” asked Wilbur, a keen look having stolen over his face.

“What if I tell you that Mayor Butterwick is about to be kidnapped?”

Wilbur frowned. “Charlene? Now who in their right mind would go and do a crazy thing like that?”

“Her ex-husband,” said Sonny. “He wants her back, and he’s willing to go to any length to make it happen, even kidnap. And that’s not all.”

“It’s not?”

“He’s also going to try and get rid of her current husband.”

“Chief Lip? You gotta be joking.”

He shook his head. “I’m not. I’ve got it from a reliable source. Everything has been arranged and will go down soon. Very soon.” He swallowed. “So what do you say, Vickery? Is that information worth the price of a piece of cheese and some measly ingredients for the perfect pasta I was gonna cook for my daughter?”

Wilbur’s expression softened. “Look, I know you’ve hit on hard times, Sonny. But that doesn’t mean you should go and rob people. I also have bills to pay, you know, same as you. What if I were to hold up a gas station because I have a hard time paying for gas? Huh? It wouldn’t be a nice thing if we all thought like you.”

“I know,” he said, feeling utterly embarrassed. Not about the fact that he was a thief, since that was his profession, after all, but that he was such a lousy thief that he’d gone and allowed himself to get caught. “So we good?”

Wilbur hesitated. “When is this supposed to go down?”

“Soon,” he said. “That’s all I know.”

“Okay, fine,” said Wilbur. “Clear out.”

He started grabbing the wares he had stolen, but Wilbur quickly made it clear that he wasn’t going to let him make a nice Parmesan pasta for his daughter that night—unless he paid for it.

And since what the shopkeeper had said was certainly true, and he couldn’t necessarily afford to pay for the ingredients of the feast himself, he gave the man a nod and walked off.

He just hoped that no one would find out about his run-in with the General Store’s cat and owner—or he’d never hear the end of it. And as he walked out of the store, he removed another piece of Parmesan cheese from the second coat he wore underneath the first one, a bottle of olive oil, tomato sauce, spaghetti of the angel hair variety, sundried tomatoes, capers, pesto, herbs and spices, ground beef, a six-pack of brewskis, a diet Pepsi and a nice big piece of chocolate, of the kind that Kiki adored.

Wilbur might think he was clever, but then he was no match for the one and only Sonny Hayworth, he thought with a smirk. Pasta dinner was a go!

Chapter Four

I saw the object sail through the air and crash to the ground with a soft, dull thud. Since I’d been fast asleep, it took me a while to realize what was going on. There were screams all around, of course, and before long, people were crowding around the unfortunate victim of the fall and calling for an ambulance to arrive.

I couldn’t exactly see what was happening due to all the people surrounding him or her, and so for a while I just stared, wondering if what I was seeing was actually happening or if I was still dreaming, as often happens. But then finally, there was a break in the crowd, and I saw that the person lying in the middle of the street was a young woman of familiar aspect, and my concern deepened.

I had seen her walking around the block with her dog, so I knew she lived nearby. Since it’s never a pleasant experience to see someone you know, or vaguely know as in this instance, come to any harm, I hoped she would be all right.

The crowd thickened even more as the entire neighborhood seemed to have stepped out into the street. As I watched on, I could already hear the sound of the ambulance approaching, so help mercifully was on the way.

It was only at that moment that I became aware of the absence of my good friend Dooley. When I had closed my eyes for a nice little nap, he had been lying next to me, and now, if you catch my drift, he didn’t.

The two of us had selected the windowsill that offers a nice view of the street outside for our nap, since we had grown tired of all our other spots. After all, how many times can you sleep in the same place? It gets so tedious after a while, and so we like to mix things up by keeping it fresh and exciting for both of us.

Odelia isn’t all that happy about it, accusing us of creating a mess all over the place with our presence, which I have to say I find extremely insulting. As if by the mere act of occupying a space, it will suddenly be soiled. Okay, so perhaps a few stray hairs will take a leave of absence and attach themselves to the surface of our new resting place, but that can’t be helped. After all, humans shed, don’t they? I keep finding long blond hairs that once were firmly attached to Odelia’s cranium but are no longer. And I also find long brown hairs that once called Chase’s scalp their own before taking the long leap to freedom. So what’s the big deal?

I yawned and wondered where my friend could possibly be. I jumped down from my perch, luxuriously stretched myself and strode into the kitchen for a bite to eat, a sip of water, and a visit to my litter box. I had just completed the former but not the latter when all of a sudden, Dooley came storming into the house.

“Max! Max!” he cried in a bid to attract my attention. “A man is being robbed, and he may be Sherlock Holmes or he may not be Sherlock Holmes, I’m not entirely sure, but he’s not happy about it so we have to do something!”

“Hold your horses, buddy,” I said, wondering if I should forego my visit to the litter box or not. If what Dooley was saying was true, it might be a while before I got another opportunity. So I made an executive decision and entered my litter box, performed a 180-degree turn, and said from the safety of my box, “Now take a deep breath and give me all of that again, starting from the top.”

Even though it was clearly hard for him to comply with my instructions, he took a deep, steadying breath and said, “A man is being robbed by another man, and this other man wants something from the first man he doesn’t have—the first man, I mean, not the second. I think he might be Sherlock Holmes—the first man, not the second—but since I didn’t see any pipes it could have been Dr. Watson.” He then held a paw before his mouth. “Oops. I shouldn’t have said that. It was supposed to be a surprise.”

I frowned, both from the exertion of the business I was attending to and from Dooley’s statement. “The fact that he’s being robbed is a surprise, or the fact that he doesn’t smoke a pipe?” Neither held great meaning to me, but I was simply stalling for time—until I was ready to face the world again. Hey, multitasking is hard!

“Okay, I might as well tell you,” he said. “I totally forgot about your birthday, Max. And so when Harriet and Brutus told me that they had gotten you the greatest gift ever…” Once again, he clasped a paw to his face. “I should not have told you that either!”

“Greatest gift ever? Sounds promising,” I said. Though, to be honest, I’m not all that precious about my birthday. I don’t even enjoy being reminded that I have a birthday coming up. After all, it’s not a lot of fun to realize that you’ve aged another year, even if you have eight more lives to go. “Though I still don’t see what all this has to do with that man being robbed.”

“I wanted to give you a pipe,” he said, giving me a sheepish look. “I mean, Sherlock Holmes is the greatest human detective, and you’re without a doubt the greatest feline detective, so I figured you would love to get into piping.”

I smiled. “I don’t think that’s what it’s called, but thank you. It’s a nice thought.”

“And so I figured the best present would be one of Mr. Holmes’s actual pipes, of which I’m sure he’s got plenty. And so I entered his house, but before I could find his pipes, I saw this person being manhandled by that awful other person. And so I came running here to tell Odelia—but now I can’t find her anywhere!”

“Odelia is at work, and so is Chase,” I said. I’d concluded my business and now emerged, after covering it with a substantial amount of litter. “And so is Marge, and so is Tex, and so is Gran.”

“But we have to do something, Max!” he said. “That poor Mr. Holmes!”

I was fairly convinced that ‘poor Mr. Holmes’ wasn’t Mr. Holmes at all, since the detective was a figment of a writer’s extensive imagination, and also, as far as I could ascertain, he lived over a hundred fictitious years ago in a different country far away. But what was also obvious was that Dooley had witnessed a crime in progress, so it behooved us as crime fighters to do something about it.

“We better go and get help,” I said. And so to that end we both hurried out through the pet flap in search of someone—anyone—who could give us a helping paw and stop this heinous crime. Unfortunately, the only presence we found was that of Harriet and Brutus, who were lounging underneath the rose bushes, as they often do. But as I had already expected, of our humans, there was not a single trace. And since nobody else speaks our language, we saw no other recourse but to handle this matter ourselves.

“Poor Mr. Holmes,” said Dooley as we hurried on while he led the way.

“What happened here?” asked Harriet when she saw the scene on the street.

“Someone fell,” I told her. “A young woman who lives in this neighborhood.”

“I think I know her,” said Brutus when the ebb and flow of humanity momentarily offered us a view of the person still lying on the ground. “She lives one street over and owns a dog. I’ve talked to her a couple of times. She’s nice.”

“Who, the dog or the human?” asked Harriet.

“Well, the dog, of course,” said Brutus. “Since humans can’t talk to us, except those that belong to a certain bloodline.”

“Right,” said Harriet. For some reason, she seemed a little out of it, I thought. But since we didn’t have time to get into all of that, we followed our friend as he traversed the different streets comprising our neighborhood and before long found ourselves looking up at a house that had seen better days—or years. Or possibly even decades.

“Are you sure that someone lives here?” asked Brutus as he gave the place a dubious look.

“I hope so,” said Dooley. “I hope that evil man didn’t murder Mr. Holmes!”

“Oh, so you know him, do you?” asked Brutus.

“Of course,” said Dooley. “We all know him. Mr. Holmes is only the greatest detective that ever lived.”

Brutus gave him an odd look, then shrugged. “Okay, so how do we do this?”

Belatedly, I realized we probably should have asked two of our canine friends to assist us in this delicate matter since they possess both the bark and the bite to scare the living daylights out of any nefarious operator. And as luck would have it, just then Fifi showed up, being walked by her owner Kurt Mayfield.

“Hey, you guys,” she said. “What’s going on?”

“A man is being attacked in that house over there,” I said. “And we’re trying to decide what to do about it.”

“Oh, no!” said Fifi, who is a Yorkshire Terrier of a most compassionate and humanitarian bent. “What are you waiting for!”

And before Kurt could stop her, she had pulled the leash from his loose grasp and was heading for the front door, barking up a storm all the while.

“Fifi!” Kurt yelled as he went in pursuit of the dog, who had already traversed the unkempt front yard of the house and reached the front door. “Fifi, come back here!”

But Fifi clearly had no intention of coming back. She had discovered that one of the windows was open, and as both we and Kurt looked on, much to our astonishment, she made the jump and moments later had disappeared inside!

“Fifi!” Kurt cried, his voice betraying his sense of panic at seeing his dog going berserk. He then eyed us with a look of less than benevolence. “This is your doing, isn’t it?” And before we recovered from this statement, he was running to the house, moments later pursued by the four of us.

“I hope he can save Mr. Holmes,” said Dooley, panting a little from the exertion.

Kurt stood pounding on the front door. “Hey, my dog is in there!” he shouted. But when no response came, he finally overcame the natural aversion most humans feel about entering another person’s private property in a manner that might be frowned upon by the constabulary, and climbed up onto the window, pushed it open further, and entered the house.

“Let’s go!” Dooley said when we hesitated for a moment. And then he showed us how it was done by following in Fifi and Kurt’s path and jumping up and disappearing inside the house.

“I know I’m going to regret this,” Brutus grumbled, but finally followed suit, and so did Harriet and I.

“What do you think of my hair, Max?” Harriet asked as she made the jump. “Do you think I should get curls? Or is it better flat like this?”

I gave her an odd look, but was saved having to answer her when we came upon a curious scene: Kurt Mayfield had disappeared from the room where we found ourselves, but not so Brutus, who stood growling near the door.

“I sense evil, Max,” he told me. “And I’m not sure if we shouldn’t try and escape before it catches us!”

But since the others had all gone before, and I felt we couldn’t abort our mission before it was well underway, I decided to take note of Brutus’s premonitions and proceed regardless.

“Don’t say I didn’t warn you,” he said as I pushed ahead.

The three of us carefully moved into the hallway, which was as creepy as the facade of the house had indicated, only a lot better maintained. We saw Kurt Mayfield staring at something a little further down the corridor, alongside Fifi, who had stopped yapping and had placed herself on the floor, clearly in the throes of a powerful emotion. Next to them, Dooley stood, a sad sort of look in his eyes.

“Mr. Sherlock Holmes… is dead,” he told us as we approached.

We joined the others, and as we did, we found ourselves confronted with a scene that wasn’t all that pleasant: on the carpet, a man lay, and from the way he was staring at us with unseeing eyes, it was clear that the force of life that had once inhabited him had fled to yonder shores.

“I know who did it,” said Dooley, pulling himself together with a powerful effort.

“You do?” I asked. That was quick.

“It was Professor Moriarty.”

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