The murderer always returns to
the scene of the crime.
Photograph copyright Teece Aronin
I'm Sam Spayed, dog defective - I mean detective.
I'm a mutt with a nose for crime and no case of mine has ever gone unsolved. But right then I didn't even have a case. And I needed a case. I needed a case like an unscrupulous dame needs an unsuspecting dupe. Yeah, I needed a case that bad.
Just when I thought I couldn't stand it anymore, the phone rang, its jagged brrrriiiinnng-brrrriiiinnng beating out a hellish tattoo in the dim and dingy office.
I snatched up that phone on the third brrrriiiinnng.
The call was from a dame, and a hysterical one at that. It seemed that the cunning jewel thief known simply as the Cat Burglar had struck again - this time in the vicinity of Dogwood and 34th. But unlike the Cat Burglar's other conquests, this was a murder too. I dove into my trench coat, grabbed my faithful fedora and disappeared into the night.
I reappeared ten minutes later at the posh and pricey penthouse doghouse of one Kitty Marmaduke. I was met at the door by the dame who'd called me, the cute little chickie who'd been doing all that yelling. Her name was Furniece Marmaduke and she was Kitty Marmaduke's daughter.
I'd never met Furniece, but I recognized her from the society pages. She knew me by reputation. I expressed my condolences and we got down to business. She led me across the foyer to the darkened study where her mother was stretched out on the floor, one ankle daintily crossing the other. Dawn was beginning to break and there was enough light in the room to see that on the floor near Kitty's head was a collar, a collar with a diamond-shaped tag engraved with the initials, C.B.
Hmm . . . Cat Burglar?
One look at Kitty proved she wasn't posing for a spread in Dog Fancy Magazine; in fact, she was a little long in the tooth to be posing naked, and besides, she wasn't naked. But she did look to be one dead dog, and none of her diamond-studded collars and her lifetime membership to the American Kennel Club could help her now.
"Miss Marmaduke, have you touched anything in here?" I asked.
"No," Mr. Spayed. "I remembered I wasn't supposed to. The lamp was off, too. I haven't touched that either. Oh Mr. Spayed," Furniece cried, all breathy and fragile-sounding, "Why did he have to murder Mumsy? She would have handed over her jewels without a fight."
"He murdered Mumsy - I mean your mother - because he knew she could identify him," I said, my eyes skirting the room for evidence. Loose pearls littered the floor and the chaise. Maybe the Cat Burglar had yanked the pearls right off Kitty Marmaduke's neck. Or maybe Furniece was wrong and her mother had put up a fight.
Suddenly someone growled and Furniece's wide brown eyes locked with mine.
"Hey, don't look at me," I told her.
"Well it certainly wasn't me," Furniece snipped.
That growl was followed by another and Furniece and I turned to see Kitty Marmaduke's ankles uncross. Furniece's eyes were bigger than milk saucers, and she gasped as her mother moved again.
"Mumsy!" she yelled, high-tailing it to where her mother lay. It seemed that reports of Kitty Marmaduke's death had been greatly exaggerated.
"Oh, my head," Mrs. Marmaduke muttered, slowly sitting up. "Someone hit me on the back of my head."
"That was the Cat Burglar," Furniece explained. Then sobbing into her mother's neck: "Oh, Mumsy, thank goodness you're alright!"
"Oh, Furniece, for heaven's sake, get your paws off me!" barked Kitty Marmaduke. Furniece looked wounded and came back to huddle against me.
It seemed that Kitty Marmaduke also knew me by reputation because she snarled: "Get away from my daughter, Mr. Spayed." Then she shot me another order: "And come over here and help me up!"
"Yes, ma'am," I said, strolling to her in my own sweet time. No broad like Kitty Marmaduke was going to order me around. I started wondering how a doll like Furniece could have a mother who was such a b . . . well, you know.
I helped Mrs. Marmaduke into a chair. Furniece was at her side again in a flash.
"So, ladies," I said, "You've both had quite a night. Whatta ya make of this?"
Furniece Marmaduke looked at me while dabbing her eyes with a hankie. She appeared innocent and vulnerable. Kitty Marmaduke looked at me while rubbing the back of her head. She appeared disgusted and insulted.
"I would think, Mr. Spayed, that you're the one who should be making something of all this," she snapped. I had the feeling that staying clear of Kitty Marmaduke's teeth was a very good idea.
"Sorry, ma'am, and you're right," I said. "And I think I have an idea. But it means staying put, the three of us, right here. Nobody goes anywhere. Nothing personal, Miss Marmaduke," I said to Furniece, "but you're a little upset, and I can't risk you saying or doing anything that might spook the Cat Burglar. He'll likely be watching for you."
Something I'd said had all the color draining from Furniece's spots. Would I have been that nervous in Furniece's place, thrown into a plot to trap a jewel thief? I wondered. Her mother, on the other paw, didn't bat an eye.
"Miss Marmaduke, have you talked to the police?"
"No, Mr. Spayed. I was frightened, had heard about you and just phoned. I'm not sure why I didn't call the police."
"That's alright," I reassured her. The police and I don't often agree on methods and since there was no real murder here, I think we can work around them for now. You know what I'm thinking?"
"Of course we don't know what you're thinking," snapped Kitty Marmaduke. "Suppose you tell us?"
Her barb stung a little but I let it go.
"I'm thinking that the Cat Burglar will be missing that collar, the one with C.B. engraved on the tag. I also think he'll be desperate to get it back in his possession. So we're just going to hunker down for the night and wait him out.
Hearing these words, Furniece was one scared puppy - even more than before - but Mrs. Marmaduke was one ticked off old dog. And the tick who'd had the misfortune of annoying her at that moment hit the Aubusson rug after a quick but merciless death.
"What? On the butler's night off? I should think not, Mr. Spayed! The very idea is preposterous! Kitty and I would have to fend for ourselves under very stressful circumstances! Why I never!"
"You did at least once, ma'am," I smirked, my eyes cutting toward Furniece. I enjoyed having Mrs. Marmaduke by the short hairs. "And besides, if you want me to catch the Cat Burglar, it's best you play along."
I hustled Furniece, who was simpering about the butler, into an adjacent room. Of course, the pup doesn't fall far from the pooch, so I had to bring her a bottle of Purrier on ice before I could shut her in. If marrying rich meant busting my tail for a dame as spoiled as she was, I'd rather stay single and poor.
After I got Furniece settled, I rejoined Mrs. Marmaduke in the study and turned the lights back off. There was nothing for either of us to do but wait. Before I knew it, there came the distinctive clicking sounds of someone picking a lock. I then had the pleasure of shoving Mrs. Marmaduke to the floor where I quickly re-positioned her the way the Cat Burglar had left her. Then I slipped behind a curtain and froze.
It was darker in that room than the inside of a doberman's heart. I held my breath and imagined the Cat Burglar pussy-footing across the floor. Then I sprang from behind the curtain counting on the element of surprise.
It worked. The Cat Burglar let out a hiss and then a yowl as I grabbed him and took him down. We struggled for a minute, but cats aren't as strong as dogs, so it was only a matter of time before I had him cuffed. Then I tied his hind legs together to keep him from running.
When I turned on the light, there he was, a panting, raging little pussycat with his hair standing on end. Then I opened the door to the room where I'd stashed Furniece and hauled her out of there. To be on the safe side, I took my heat out and pointed the gun's muzzle straight at her.
The Cat Burglar took one look at Furniece and hissed, "It's her fault! She's the one who's behind all this!"
"Just as I suspected," I said.
"What are you talking about?" demanded Furniece.
"Well, sugar," I said, "the first nail in your coffin came when you said you 'remembered' that you weren't supposed to touch anything. 'course that's not proof of anything, but it did get me wondering if someone might have coached you on a few things. Then you nearly fainted when I said we'd all be playing it cozy for the night and waiting for a visit from Puss-In-Boots over there. It wasn't much of a deduction to figure out the rest."
"But why, Furniece?" asked Kitty Marmaduke, and I have to admit, I felt sorry for her - but only for a second.
"Oh, please!" shouted Furniece. "You and I both know that I'm not even your daughter; I'm your niece! My father ran with that horrible pack and one day he just never came home. Then my mother found out she was expecting me, and you undermined her confidence until I was born and she begged you to adopt me. You even named me Furniece as a constant reminder that you would never see me as your own daughter. I hate you!
"Then, when we argued one night and you threatened to cut me off without a cent, I put feelers out through the criminal grapevine that I wanted to talk to the Cat Burglar. When he got in touch, we made our plan and part of that plan was that I'd give him one third of my inheritance plus whatever jewelry he could nab if he killed you during the break-in. I hate you!"
Furniece threw that second I hate you in there just in case her mother or her aunt or whoever Kitty was, had missed the first one.
Still, there was something I hadn't figured out yet. "But doll-face, why did you call me in?" I asked.
"It was a calculated risk," Furniece explained. "Calling you in made me look more innocent. And it did, didn't it, Mr. Spayed? You have to admit that it did. What doomed me came later when I gave myself away."
"And you, pussnick," I said, gesturing toward the cat. "I'm guessing you came back for your tag. Does C.B. stand for Cat Burglar?"
"No - my name - Cecil Butterbottom," the cat muttered, too embarrassed to look me in the eye.
He had reason to be. I burst out laughing then picked up the phone. I tucked the receiver between my shoulder and ear so that I could call the police with one hand and hold the gun on Furniece with the other. I had to admit, it was pretty sweet knowing I'd bagged two criminals with one trap.
I guess you could say I'd collared them.