Previously on Sherlock Herms…The Case of the Dancing Ghosts…
When we last left our hero, Herman TattleCat – the dashing hardboiled detective with grit in his blood, and his beautiful yet bored sisfur/assistant, Dori – they had just explored the second floor of Roland Blunden’s haunted house when Herman saw the ghost of the former owner, Old Man Throckley, in his bedroom on the third floor…and peeded his floofy britches. While Dori researched ghosts from a book she had taken from her mom’s library, Herman followed Gladys, the singing mother ghost, into the kitchen where he watched her prepare ghost chicken in the greasy black frying pan. He saw her remove a packet of something from a jar of pineapple and add it to the chicken before vanishing.
Herman and Dori return to the third floor where Herman saw Throckley’s ghost. Something about the third floor makes his sensitive whiskers tingle, but since he doesn’t own a pipe like Sherlock Holmes, or smoke cigarettes like Sam Spade, Herman has to rely on his superior feline instinct to figure out what is wrong. Meanwhile…Dori is bored and wants to go home. Suddenly they hear music and laughter from downstairs. The ghost party has returned. Standing at the top of the stairs they see the ghost couple, Christina and Gorgeous George, dancing up the stairs toward them…straight through them…and then they dance right through a solid wall. A moment later Herman and Dori hear a shrill, horrible scream that comes from behind that wall. And then…all is eerily silent.
And now…Part 5
Dori and I stood frozen at the top of the stairs to the third floor, the sound of the horrible scream still ringing in our ears. It sounded like a woman’s scream. Christina’s, maybe.
“I think I hear the stwoller calling me.” Dori spun on her tail and zoomed down the stairs. “I’m coming, sweetie pie!”
I follower at a slower, more dignified pace since I didn’t think Philip Marlowe or Dick Tracy ever zoomed like frightened bunny rabbits. I found Dori tucked into a ball inside my Gen7Pets stroller, her chin resting on the CritterZone Air Naturalizer she had yanked from the wall plug when we had been sucked into the kitty play tunnel-slash-trans-portal.
“You okay?” I asked. She looked feverish, and her eyes glistened with tears.
“I’m miserable,” she whispurred.
“Let’s get some fresh air.” I rolled her across Blunden’s Oriental and out the front door onto the porch. Stormy clouds stole happiness from the Throckley mansion’s front yard, but across the street I saw sunshine over Broom Lady’s house. “Dori, will you be okay here for a minute? I need to…um. I have purrrsonal business to do.”
She didn’t bother to open her eyes. “Oh-kay.”
I hurried across the street to Broom Lady’s porch. I hesitated, but my little sisfur didn’t look good. She usually ran circles around me, but I could see the combination of hunger and fright was taking its toll on her. I pawed the doorbell. A moment later Broom Lady appeared. I expected her to yell ‘Scat!’ and swing her broom, but instead she held a small baby wrapped in a pink blanket.
“You’re back,” she said.
“Yes, ma’am.” I nervously tugged on my tail. “I know you don’t want to feed kitties cuz they pee on your rose bushes, but… My little sisfur is sick. She hasn’t eaten in a long time. Could I buy food from you?” I held out my two quarters.
She kissed the baby’s head. “My daughter, Betty, asked me to babysit while she and her husband celebrate their anniversary. They live two hours away and I don’t get to see my granddaughter as much as I’d like to. I’m sorry I was crabby with you earlier. I was feeling angry because Betty said she had a cold and might cancel coming to see me.” She kissed the baby again. “Wait here. I’ll be right back.”
“Thank you, ma’am.” I warmed my two quarters in my paws while I waited. Across the street Throckley’s mansion looked dark and miserable. As I stared at the house, my whiskers tingled to the point of vibrating like a mechanical mouse. What was it about the house that bothered me?
I gazed at the porch where Dori lay inside my Ride. I knew the two windows to the left of the door belonged to the parlor with the uncomfortable chairs, and the piano. The two windows to the right of the door belonged to the large front hall with its haunted staircase, and the three windows beyond that belonged to the dining room with its mummified food.
On the second floor…The two windows on the far left belonged to Gladys’ clothes closet room. The balcony door window and the window to its right belonged to Old Man Throckley’s office, and the remaining window was the bathroom. The three windows on the far right belonged to Gladys with her stinky perfume and even stinkier cigarette smokes.
On the third floor…
Broom Lady opened the door. “Here.” She handed me a brown paper bag. “It’s cold chicken.” I offered my two quarters, but she took only one. “Hope your sister feels better.”
“I’m sure she will after she eats. Thank you.” I turned to leave, but then thought of something. “Excuse me, ma’am… Did you ever talk to Mrs. Throckley? Christina?”
Broom Lady crossed her arms and leaned against the door. “Yes. Twice, that I recall.”
“What was she like? Did you ask about why she married such an old man?”
“No. I wouldn’t dare ask her something so personal. However, I got the impression she married him because her mother told her to. Christina was barely twenty. She had no experience with housekeeping. That’s what she asked me about. How to launder clothes. How to clean the fireplace. How to cook.” Broom Lady gestured to my paper bag. “I gave her my secret recipe for frying chicken after she told me she almost killed Throckley when she served him undercooked game hen for dinner. She told me he spent the night in the bathroom after eating her cooking. She wasn’t happy that he was so tight with the dollar that he wouldn’t allow her to hire a maid to clean house, but she was upset that she poisoned him with raw chicken.”
I sniffed inside the bag. “You said when you last saw Throckley he smelled like garlic. Does your chicken have garlic in it?” One clove of garlic could be toxic to cats and dogs. If Broom Lady cooked with garlic, I couldn’t let Dori eat the chicken.
“No. I hate the smell of garlic. Never cook with it.”
Relieved, I asked, “Does your secret recipe have pineapple in it?”
Broom Lady shook her head. “Cook chicken with pineapple? That sounds horrible.”
“It does,” I agreed, but I was thinking, Then why did I see Christina’s ghost mother take a jar of pineapple from the cupboard and add it to the frying chicken?
“Hope your sister feels better.” Broom Lady moved to close the door.
“Ma’am? One more question. Why do you think Christina’s mother didn’t teach her how to cook fried chicken?”
Broom Lady laughed. “Gladys? That woman boiled everything. Christina told me Old Man Throckley hated boiled meat, and wanted his food fried.”
“Thank you. Enjoy your babysitting.” Clenching the paper bag between my teeth, I scampered across the street, through the iron fence bars, and up the walkway to where Dori was sleeping in my Ride on Throckley’s porch.
“Dori, wake up. I brung you noms.” I fed her a piece of juicy chicken. Clearly famished, she grabbed the leg from me and tore into it. As I watched her eat, my own tummy rumbled with hunger, but I was older. I could wait to eat until I solved my client’s case.
“Feel better?” I asked as she wiped her mouth with the back of her paw.
“I do. Thank you for feeding me. You’re the best brofur I ever had. You’re my he-row!”
“You’re welcome.” I sat on the step to think; to try to reconnect my train of thought about the house. Where was I? Second floor… No. Third floor…
“Hwermie?” Dori hung over the side of my stroller looking ashamed. “I sowry I said I was bored and wanted to go home. I sowry I frew up on da Owy-ental.”
“It’s okay. You weren’t feeling well.”
“No, I wasn’t. Hwermie? How are we gonna get rid of these ghosts? There are so many!”
“I know. Blunden’s house is contaminated with them.”
“Ghosts are con-tammy-ants? Like Dad’s gawdening shoes? Wet towels? Gawbage?”
I smiled. “And Frank’s pa-tootie.” Frank is our tabby brofur. Mom rescued him a couple years ago, and he’s known to stink up the litter boxes.
She giggled behind her paw. “Maybe your CritterZone would work on the ghosts, too.” She held up the small grey plug in air naturalizer unit she had pulled into my stroller when we were being sucked into the kitty play tunnel-slash-trans-portal. “You said it attacks germs and dust and coughy, sneezy, itchy stuff.”
“Yes. The CritterZone Air Naturalizer reactivates indoor air, and helps it to clean itself. Just like if we lived outdoors with sunshine and summery breezes. It breaks down every day air contaminants and magically turns them into clean-smelling oxygen. What does the book you brought from mom’s library say about getting rid of ghosts?”
“It says we are supposed to wave smoke and light a candle and tell the ghost to walk toward the light. But we can’t do that stuff cuz Mom says we can’t play wif matches.”
“You have a good idea about using the CritterZone to eliminate the ghosts. It might work as they are contaminating the house.” She looked pleased to know I thought she had a good idea. “But before we try it, I want to know what happened to Christina, Gorgeous George, the mama and Old Man Throckley. How did they become ghosts?”
Dori rolled her eyes. “They died, Hwermie.”
“But, how did they die? Who killed them?”
Dori glared across the street. “Bwoom Lady.”
I rolled Dori into the house, parking my stroller to the side of the Oriental carpet. I saw she was pawing through mom’s book about ghosts. “What are you looking for?”
“The page where it says ghosts sometimes talk from inside people.”
I swallowed hard. “What? They get inside people?” I shivered. “I wouldn’t like that.”
“Me, either.” She stopped pawing the pages. “Here it is. We need a Medium.”
My ears twitched. “As opposed to a High or a Low?”
She read from the book, “’A Medium mediates communication between spirits of the dead and living human beings.’ If we got one of those, they could tell us why the ghosts got dead. Then we could bust ’em and go home.”
I thought about the lone quarter I had left after buying Dori food. “I don’t think we can afford a Medium.”
She closed the book. “Then I guess we will just have to do it ourselves. I read that cats can see ghosts. Maybe we can talk to them, too.”
I thought about Old Man Throckley upstairs in his room, all sick and drooly. As much as I wanted to find out what happened, I wasn’t sure I wanted him inside me. I shivered, and did a little icky dance.
Suddenly, the air changed from normal to cold, and the sound of music and laughter poured from the parlor and the dining room. As the ghost party swirled around us—a few passing through me—I grabbed Dori’s paw, pulled her out of the stroller, and ran up the stairs, unintentionally running through several ghost couples coming down the stairs toward us.
We ran until we could run no more. We were back up on the third floor. With our hearts pounding, we collapsed on the floor where we lay for a time, listening to the music and the ghostly laughter. “At least it’s warmer up here,” Dori whispurred.
She spoke too soon. The tips of my ears felt numb just as my breath turned frosty. As my sensitive whiskers tingled with warning, I saw the ghost of Old Man Throckley standing in the door to his bedroom. He held a hammer in his right hand, and as he walked toward us, he looked very mad…and very scary. Dori hid her face in my fur, but I was unable to look away. As he approached, I thought he was going to hit me with his hammer. But he didn’t. He wasn’t even looking at me. He was looking over my shoulder, at the solid wall. He kept walking toward me, and then he walked through me—us, as Dori squeaked ‘Yikes!’ into my ear—and then he disappeared through the wall.
“I hate when they do that.” I patted my sister’s back, then stood up to look at the wall. It was the same wall Christina and Gorgeous George had danced through. I pawed the wall, and put my ear to it. Sounded pretty solid to me, but…
An explosion of violent hammering burst from beyond the wall, knocking me on my floofy tail. Dori bolted back down the stairs, peeing on the first three steps. I stared at the wall. Then I stared at Throckley’s bedroom. I really wanted to run, but I couldn’t. I was a paid hardboiled detective with grit in my blood, just like Sam Spade, just like Philip Marlowe. They wouldn’t run. They wouldn’t pee on the stairs. They’d solve the case, no matter how cold or how scary things got.
The violent hammering stopped as abruptly as it started. My tingling whiskers literally pulled me to the wall. I put my paw on it. It felt cold. Really really cold.
Then, it hit me!
Stay tuned for the Conclusion of
Sherlock Herms in
If you missed Part 1, click here.