Authors: Lilian Jackson Braun
Tags: #Women Sleuths, #Biography & Autobiography, #Moose County (Imaginary place), #Country Life, #Mysteries & Detective Stories, #Mystery & Detective - Cat Sleuths, #Mystery & Detective, #Jim (Fictitious character), #Qwilleran, #Yum Yum (Fictitious character : Braun), #Koko (Fictitious character), #Vandalism, #Cat owners, #Suspense, #Journalists - United States, #Juvenile Fiction, #Detective and mystery stories, #Mystery & Detective - General, #Mystery & Detective - Series, #Detective, #Yum Yum (Fictitious character: Braun), #Fiction, #Pets, #Journalists, #Publishers, #Editors, #Mystery, #Fiction - Mystery, #Siamese cat, #General, #Millionaires, #cats, #Animals
Lilian Jackson Braun - The Cat Who Sniffed Glue
THE TELEPHONE RANG at an early hour, and Qwilleran reached blindly toward his bedside table. Half awake, he croaked a hoarse hello and heard an authoritative voice saying, "I want to talk to you!"
The voice was familiar, but the tone was alarming. It was Andrew Brodie, the chief of police in Pickax, and he sounded stem and accusing.
Qwilleran was always groggy before his first cup of coffee, and his mind groped for an explanation. Had he put a Canadian nickel in a parking meter? Tossed an apple core from his car window? Honked the horn within 500 feet of the hospital?
"Did you hear me? I want to talk to you!" The tone was not so gruff as before.
Qwilleran was getting his bearings, and he recognized the bantering style that passed for sociability among adult males in Moose County. "Okay, Brodie," he said. "Do I go to the station and give myself up? Or do you want to send the wagon and handcuffs?"
"Stay where you are. I'll be right there," said the chief. "It's about your cat." He hung up abruptly.
Again the possibilities churned in Qwilleran's mind. Had the Siamese been disturbing the peace? They were strictly indoor pets, but the male had a high-decibel yowl and the female had a shriek that could be duplicated only by a synthesizer. Either of them could be heard for blocks on a calm day if the windows were open. It was late May, and the windows were open to admit the sweet refreshing breezes for which Moose County was famous - sweet and refreshing except when they came from the direction of the Kilcally dairy farm.
Hurriedly Qwilleran pulled on some clothes, ran a wet comb through his hair, collected the newspapers cluttering the living room floor, slammed the bedroom door on his unmade bed, and looked out the window in time to see Brodie's police car pulling into the driveway.
Qwilleran lived in an apartment over a four-car garage, formerly the carriage house for the Klingenschoen estate. The carriage house was situated far back on the property; the mansion itself fronted on Main Street facing the park - a huge, square stone building now being remodeled as a theater for stage productions. Its broad lawns had been brutally torn up to accommodate trucks, piles of lumber, and a temporary construction shed. As the police car maneuvered around these obstacles, carpenters and electricians swarming over the site waved friendly salutes in the chief's direction. Brodie was a popular lawman, an amiable Scot with a towering figure, a beefy chest, and sturdy legs that looked appropriate with the kilt, tam-o'-shanter, and bagpipe that he brough out for parades and weddings.
As Brodie climbed the stairs to the apartment, Qwilleran greeted him from the top of the flight.
The chief was grumbling. He was always complaining about something. "They made the stairs too steep and too small when this place was built. There isn't room for a healthy man's foot."
"Walk up sideways," Qwilleran suggested. "What's that thing?" Brodie pointed to a circle of ornamental wrought iron, a yard in diameter, leaning against the wall at the head of the stairs. Centered in the design were three cats rampant - scrappy animals - rearing on hind legs, ready to attack.
"That's from the gate of a three hundred-year-old Scottish castle." Qwilleran spoke with pride. "It's adapted from the Mackintosh coat of arms. My mother was a Mackintosh."
"Where'd you get it?" Brodie's envious manner indicated he would give anything for a similar memento of his own clan - or anything within reason; he was a thrifty man.
"From an antique shop Down Below. I left it in the city when I moved up to Pickax. Had it shipped up here last week."
"Looks heavy. Must've cost plenty for freight."
"It weighs about a hundred pounds. I'd like to incorporate it in my living room, but I don't know how."
"Ask my daughter. She has a lot of far-out ideas."
"Is that a commercial?" Qwilleran asked. Francesca Brodie was an interior designer.
With a bagpiper's swagger Brodie walked into the living room, giving it a policeman's quick once-over before flopping into a man-sized lounge chair. "You've got a comfortable roost here."
"Francesca's been helping me fix it up. When I lived in the mansion up front, this was an escape from too much opulence, but when I started living here full-time it suddenly looked bleak. How do you like what she put on the walls? Hand-woven Scottish tweed."
The chief turned to appraise the oatmeal-colored, oatmeal-textured wallcovering. "You shelled out plenty for that stuff, I bet. But I guess you can afford It." He then stared at the end wall. "You've got a lot of shelves."
"Francesca designed the shelf setup and had her carpenter build it. I'm starting to collect old books."
"With your bankroll you ought to be buying new books."
"I like old books. I bought a whole set of Dickens for ten bucks. You're a thrifty Scot; you should appreciate that."
"What's that picture?" Brodie pointed to a framed print over the sofa.
"An 1805 gunboat that used to sail the Great Lakes... "How about a free cup of coffee?" Qwilleran stirred heaping spoonfuls of instant coffee into boiling water and handed a mug to Brodie. "Okay, what's the bad news, chief? What's so urgent that you have to get me out of bed?"
"Just got back from a law-enforcement conference Down Below," Brodie said. "Glad to be back where life is civilized. I tell you, those cities down there are jungles. They stole the mayor's car the first day of the conference."
He took a swallow of coffee and choked. "Och! This is rugged stuff!"
"What was the conference about?"
"Drug-related violence. One of the speakers was a friend of yours. Lieutenant Hames. I talked to him at lunch."
"Hames is a brilliant detective, although he likes play to dumb."
"He told me some things about you, too. He said you gave him some good tips when you were writing for the Daily Fluxion."
Qwilleran smoothed his moustache modestly. "Well, you know how it is. Things happen on a newspaper beat. I kept my eyes peeled and my ears flapping, that's all."
"Hames told me something else, too, and I thought he was putting me on, but he swears it's true. He says you have a very unusual cat. Very smart animal."
"He's right about that. Siamese are remarkably intelligent."
Brodie eyed his host keenly. "He says your cat is, like they say... psychic!
"Wait a minute now. I wouldn't go that far, Brodie."
"He said your cat led the police to evidence that solved a couple of cases."
Qwilleran cleared his throat as he did before making a formal declamation. "You're a dog man, Brodie, so maybe you don't know this, but cats are the detectives of the animal world. They're naturally inquisitive. They're always sniffing around, scratching here and there, finding small places to sneak into, digging things out of holes. If my cat unearthed any clues, it was purely accidental."
"What's its name? I'd like to have a look at this cat."
"Koko is a seal-point Siamese, a neutered male, highly pedigreed. And don't call him 'it' or he'll put the whammy on you."
An imperious demand sounded from somewhere down the hall.
"That's Koko," Qwilleran said. "He heard his name mentioned, and he hasn't had his breakfast yet. I'll let him out. The cats have their own apartment."
"They do? I'll be damned!"
"With private bath and television."
"Television! You've gotta be kidding."
"Just a small black-and-white set. Cats don't see colors."
Enjoying Brodie's shock, Qwilleran excused himself and walked down the hall. The fonner servants' quarters over the garage provided him with a living room, writing studio, and bedroom. The fourth room - the one with the sunniest exposure - was reserved for the Siamese. It was furnished with soft carpet, cushions, baskets, scratching posts, and wide window sills facing south and west. In the bathroom were two commodes - his and hers. Originally they shared the same litter pan, but the female had developed a temperamental behavior pattern in recent weeks; she wanted her own facilities.
Qwilleran returned to the living room, followed by his two housemates, their body language demanding food. Two lean, fawn-colored bodies stretched to their longest; two brown masks with brown ears followed two brown noses uplifted in anticipation; two brown tails extended horizontally with a slight upcurve at the tip. They had the same kind of long, slender brown legs, but Koko walked with a resolute step while Yum Yum minced along daintily, a few paces behind him. At the living room entrance both animals stopped as if on cue and surveyed the stranger.
"They have blue eyes!" Brodie said. "I didn't know you had two. Are they from the same litter?"
"No, I adopted them from different sources," Qwilleran said. "Each one was left homeless under circumstances that Lieutenant Hames would probably remember."
The larger of the two sauntered into the room with a matter-of-fact gait and examined the visitor from a civil distance.
Qwilleran made the introductions. "Chief, this is Koko, the inspector general. He insists on screening everyone for security reasons. Koko, this is Chief Brodie of the Pickax police department."
The police chief and the cat stared at each other, the lawman with a puzzled frown. Then Koko leaped lightly to a bookshelf six feet off the floor. Squeezing between Benjamin Franklin's Autobiography and Boswell's Life of Johnson, he settled down to monitor the newcomer from an aerial vantage point.
Brodie said, "He looks like an ordinary cat! I mean, you can tell he's purebred and all that, but..."
"Did you expect him to have green fur and electronic eyes and rotating antennae? I told you, Brodie, he's just a pet who happens to be normally inquisitive and unusually intelligent."
Brodie relaxed and turned his attention to the smaller Siamese, who was slowly approaching with graceful, pigeon-toed steps, all the while concentrating on his shoes.
"Meet Yum Yum the Paw," Qwilleran said. "She looks fragile, but she has a lightning-fast paw like a steel hook. She opens doors, unties shoelaces, and steals anything small and shiny. Watch out for your badge."
"We used to have cats on the farm," Brodie said, "but they never came indoors."
"These never go outdoors."
"Then how do they find anything to eat? You don't buy that expensive stuff in little cans, do you?"
"To tell the truth, Brodie, Koko refuses to eat anything labeled 'catfood.' He wants his meals freshly cooked."
The chief shook his head in disbelief or disapproval. "Hames told me you spoiled your cat rotten, and I guess he wasn't just beating his gums."
"Did you learn anything about drug-related violence at the conference?"
"Like I told Hames, drugs and violence aren't our problem up here. He didn't believe me."
"Neither do I, although I've heard you say it before." "Sure, we've pulled up some funny plants in a couple of backyards, and a few years back the kids were sniffing this here airplane glue, but we don't have drug rings or drug pushers. Not yet, anyway."
"How do you account for it?"
"We're isolated-400 miles north of everywhere, like ! it says on the sign at city limits. Crackpot ideas are slow in reaching us. Hell, the fast-food chains haven't even discovered Moose County yet." Brodie took another swallow of coffee with a grim expression. "Another thing: we have good family life up here. We have a lot of church activities and organized sports and healthy outdoor hobbies like camping and hunting and fishing. It's a good place to bring up kids."
"If drugs and violence aren't the problem, what do you do to keep so busy? Write parking tickets?"
The chief scowled at him. "Drunk drivers! Underage drinking! Vandalism! That's what runs us ragged. When my girls were in high school, them and my wife and I were always going to funerals - you know, the funerals of their classmates - kids getting themselves killed in car accidents. They'd be driving fast, horsing around in a moving vehicle, drinking beer illegally, hitting a patch of loose gravel, losing control. But now we've got another headache: vandalism in on the increase."
"I noticed that someone made power turns on the courthouse lawn last week."
"That's what I mean. There's a certain element - a few crazies - that don't have anything to do. They shot out two streetlights on Goodwinter Boulevard last night. When I was a kid we smashed pumpkins and strung trees with toilet paper on Halloween, but this new generation does it all year round. They pull up the flowers in front of city hall. They bash rural mailboxes with baseball bats. I don't understand it!"
"I haven't seen any graffiti."
"Not yet, but they poured a can of paint on the fountain in the park. We know the punks that are doing it, but we never catch 'em in the act." Brodie paused. He was looking hopefully at Qwilleran.
"Do you have a plan?"
"Well... after talking to Hames... I wondered if your cat... could tip us off to where they're going to strike next, so we could stake it out."
Qwilleran eyed him askance. "What were you guys smoking at that conference?"
"All I know is what Hames told me. He said your cat has ESP or something."
"Listen, Brodie. Suppose that little animal who is sitting on the bookshelf licking his tail - suppose he knew that vandals were going to heave a brick through the school window on June second at 2:45 A.M. Just how would he communicate this information? You're nuts, Brodie. I admit that Koko occasionally senses danger, but what you're suggesting is preposterous!"
"Out in California they're using cats to predict earthquakes."
"That's a whole different ballgame... How about more coffee? Your cup's empty."
"If I drank another cup of this battery acid, I'd be paralyzed from the neck down."
"After the suggestion you just made, I think you're paralyzed from the neck up. Who's the leader of this gang of hoodlums? Isn't there usually a leader? How old is he?"
"Nineteen and just out of high school. He comes from a good family, but he runs with a pack from Chipmunk. That's the slummiest town in the county, I guess you know. They get a few cans of beer and go cruising in their broken-down crates."
"What's his name?" Brodie seemed reluctant to reveal it. "Well, I'm sorry to say... it's Chad Lanspeak."
"Not the department-store heir! Not the son of Carol and Larry!"
The chief nodded regretfully. "He's been in trouble ever since junior high."
"That's really bad news! His parents are just about the finest people in town! Community leaders! Their older son is studying for the ministry, and their daughter is pre-med!"
"You're not telling me anything I don't know. Lanspeak is a good name. It's hard to figure out how Chad got off the track. People say the third child is always an oddball, and it may be true. Take my three girls, for instance. The two older ones got married right after school and started families. I've got four grandkids, and I'm not fifty yet. But Francesca! She was the third, She was determined to go away to college and have a career."