Previously on Sherlock Herms – The Case of Mrs. Shallowford’s Ghost
When Loud Lady’s friend Elouise (who is really not her friend because she rolls her eyes behind her back) arrives carrying a big purse, Sherlock Herms watches from the stairs as Elouise pours liquor and pills into Loud Lady. Then, while Loud Lady slips into a drunken stupor, Elouise sweeps through the house, putting stuff in her big purse, including the Persian cats, and money from the safe.
At least Herman now knows why the Persians had him pee in a potted plant. Their litter boxes were toxic from not being emptied for a very long time. As Elouise prepares to leave, the new housekeeper arrives, and Elouise gives her the order to get rid of the litter boxes. While the housekeeper goes to work, Herman returns to the room that would be his mom’s author office seventy years in the future, but is currently a man’s lounging room in the past. He wants to see if his assistant-slash-sisfur, Dori, is in the attic that would be his detective office in the future. But when he goes to the door, he is shocked at what he finds.
And now…Part 4.
I returned to the cigar-smelly room that would be my mom’s author office in the future. I had no idea where Dori was, but hoped to find her in the attic that would be my office in seventy years. As I approached the French doors, I heard a crash. It came from behind the door that led to the attic. I hurried to investigate. Then gasped. The thick attic door was gone. Instead, I saw a beautiful frosted glass door with gold foil block lettering.
I gasped again. I recognized that name from a book I’d read about almost famous hardboiled detectives called Almost Famous Hardboiled Detectives.
Maxwell Shallowford had mysteriously disappeared, never to be heard from again. I remembered reading he had a secret past that he kept…well…secret. No one knew anything about him before he became almost famous. Mew-vee star handsome, Max Shallowford took only the hard cases that other detectives could not solve. And he solved them every time. Hoomons paid him lots of money to solve their cases, making him very rich.
I put a paw over my eyes to concentrate. I’d watched Mom do that while plotting and figured it might help me remember what else had I read about Max Shallowford. It worked! He had been a ladies man with beautiful women on his arm everywhere he went. The author of the book speculated he had been involved with a showgirl who was engaged to a Vegas mob boss, and that is why he disappeared. Possibly the mob boss had him fitted for a cement overcoat and dropped into Lake Mead!
Then I remembered what Tiger said he overheard Loud Lady say: ‘The bastard better be dead, because if he thinks I am leaving this house and going back to living on pennies as a showgirl, he’s mistaken.’
Oh My Cat! Loud Lady was the mob bosses girlfriend!
Gazing at the beautiful frosted glass door, I felt weak in the knees and lacking. Kinda like what my mom says she felt when she met Janet Evanovich. Another crash from beyond the door made my heartbeat zoom. If Max Shallowford was disappeared…who was inside his office?
Literally shaking with nerves, I approached the glass door. The gold foil block lettering was purrfect. I paused to imagine the letters rearranging themselves to spell out Wonderpurr Detective Agency starring Sherlock Herms Hardboiled Purranormal Investigator.
I opened the door and was smacked in the puss with a rush of sub-zero cold. In fact, frost stuck to my whiskers, making them feel heavy on my face. It almost felt like I’d walked into a wall of ice, it was that cold.
Then I spied my lil sisfur playing with a thrilling laser toy that Jack had reconfigured into a motion detector to sense unseen forces like ghosts…and demons. As I stood literally frozen in the doorway, the FroliCat BOLT flicked dazzling light across the room, enticing Dori to scamper over the sofa and coffee table, scattering magazines and other stuff to the floor. Zooming, pouncing, darting, pawing, stalking, running, chattering… Dori literally bounced off the walls. She looked like she was having so much fun, I was tempted to join her.
But then I remembered I was kinda grouchy with her. She had hurt my feelings because I didn’t know England cookies were called biscuits, and she had laughed at me with my arch-nemesis brofur, Opie. I was also hurt that she had a business card made with Starring Detective Adorapurr on it, although deep in my heart I knew Opie was behind that slam against me. Dori was young and impressionable. She was also my bestest friend, besides my mom. I couldn’t stay mad at her. I loved her…so much!
After a moment, Dori spied me in the door. “Hwermie! Come play wif me. This is so much fun!”
We were on a case. Sherlock Holmes wouldn’t stop to play laser tag with Dr. Watson. But I was me and Dori was my lil sisfur, and we needed to bond by taking a play break.
I scampered into the room and joined her chasing the FroliCat BOLT laser toy. So much fun! And while I was zooming, I also warmed up until my whiskers melted and the icy feel to the room became a comfortable chill.
“That was fun!” I collapsed onto the sofa beside Dori. She laid her head in my lap. “I sowry I hurt your feelings,” she whispurred. I could hear tears in her voice. “I would never hurt yoo on purrrpose. I love yoo!”
I petted her. “I love you, too.”
“Chawley said I was… Um. Bam…boozied by Opie. Opie told me if yoo became a successful hardboiled detective, yoo wouldn’t have time to play wif me anymore. Opie said there would be big changes in our house. You wouldn’t have time to write stories with our meowmy anymore. He said yoo would turn into a big shit and ignore me.”
I wasn’t surprised to hear Dori’s confession. My superior feline instincts had told me Opie was behind her odd behavior. “I think Opie said ‘Big Shot.’ Not big shit.”
She thought about it. “No. He said big shit. He also said I was the star of the Wonderpurr Detective Agency because yoo are old and… Um. Easily confoozed. But Chawley said that wasn’t twue at all. He said Opie is twicking me into turning away from yoo. Chawley said I was acting power hungwy. But I’m not hungwy for power, Hwermie. I’m hungwy for Smittens cat tweats.” She pulled out a bag and offered me some before eating herself.
That was huge for Dori. No one gets between her and her Smittens.
“All is forgiven,” I told her. “I don’t blame you.”
“I’m not going to be furends wif Opie anymore.” She pulled out the yellow business card with Starring Detective Adorapurr on it and chewed it in half. “He can kiss my cutie patootie for bam… bam… boozing me.”
I hugged my little sisfur. It’s what I thought I wanted to hear, since Opie is my arch nemesis. But oddly, it made me sad.
Jack had told me Opie was jealous of me. I knew that to be true. I thought about how I would feel if I was Opie on the outside looking in at how Wonderpurr I was, with a close relationship with my mom, a career as an author and celebricat with thousands of Twitter pals who sent me Chrispmouse cards. Opie never got Chrispmouse cards. Not one. He didn’t even have a Twitter account or Facebook page. Plus everyone adored me because I’m easy on the eyes with superior intelligence, whereas Opie is an orange tabby and severely lacking.
See for yourself.
No. That wasn’t true. He was a handsome dood, and almost as intelligent as me.
Maybe this was the High Road our mom was always talking about me taking. Not actually a road to walk on, but rather making a choice to understand someone who had a difference of opinion.
Mom once told me, ‘Just because you don’t agree doesn’t mean the other cat is wrong. You both just see things differently. Having a different of opinion shouldn’t mean you hate the other cat. Hate is wrong, whether you’re a Turkish Angora, an orange tabby, or a Siamese. Fur color should have no bearing on making friends. Life is hard enough without allowing others to make you think that by disagreeing, that means you should hate the other cat.’
Right then, that very moment, sitting on a sofa in our house attic seventy years in the past, I made up my mind not to hate Opie anymore. And I would do my best to help him feel special, like me.
After the vigorous workout the FroliCat BOLT provided, my heart thrumpted in my chest. I wanted to curl into a ball and sleep, like Dori was now doing. The hardboiled detective in me didn’t think Sam Spade or Philip Marlowe ever took cat naps during a case, but the sound of Dori softly snoring lulled my eyes into closing.
Okay. Maybe closing my eyes would help me think about my case. I would think with my eyes closed. Not sleep!
I dreamed I was in a Hollywood mew-vee…and I was the star of the mew-vee. That really blew my mind! The fact that me—a long-haired, skinny Turkish Vangora—could be the star of a Hollywood mew-vee!
Wait. That sounds like an Eric Burton and The Animals song.
I dreamed I was at a casino nightclub. Everything was black and white so I figure I was in the 1940’s cuz… I guess the world didn’t have colors until the1950’s.
Anyway! I was seated in a corner booth with two ladies and a man smoking a cigarette. There was no food on the table. Just likker. Lots of likker. With a start I recognized the ladies as Loud Lady Vivian and her Not-Friend Elouise. I stared at the man. He looked familiar, but I couldn’t place his name.
What was I doing there? I felt warm and nervously tugged on my tie. Wait. What!?! I was wearing a tie? I looked at my paws, except they were man hands with hairy knuckles.
What the Friskies!
This had to be a dream. A nightmare!
The kinda-familiar man flicked his cigarette ashes onto the table. “What time is it?” he asked me. “My Rolex went swimming this morning and still hasn’t dried out.”
As if with a will of its own my man’s hand dipped into my breast pocket and pulled out a watch. With a start I recognized it as my pocket watch; the one I had found in my desk’s cubbyhole seventy years in the future. I don’t have pockets and I can’t tell time—plus the watch doesn’t work—but it adds to my mystique. Looking at my watch, I saw it was now telling time.
“Cat got your tongue?” the smoking man asked. “What time is it?”
How was I supposed to tell him the time when I can’t tell time? I nervously cleared my throat. It must have sounded like a growl because the strange man held up his hands and said, “Okay! No need to flip your wig.” He waved at a waiter with no hair. “Hey! Chrome-dome! What time is it?”
“It’s ten forty-five, Mr. Calamari,” the waiter told him.
Calamari? That name sound familiar.
“Bring the dame’s another French 75, and…” Calamari looked at me “Whattaya have?”
I didn’t trust my voice. I was afraid I’d meow and blow my cover. I had no idea what he saw when he looked at me, but I didn’t want to risk it. Instead of answering, I casually flicked my man fingers over the glass in front of me.
“Bring the famous detective another scotch,” Calamari told the waiter, “and a straight bourbon whisky for me.”
Famous detective? Me?
A sudden flash drew my attention to a little old man seated at the next table. It looked like a spotlight was focused on him, extra bright with a glow around his edges, although everyone else seemed normal in a black and white kind of way. He smiled at me, and winked. I had no idea who he was.
“Girls, go take a powder while Detective Shallowford and I discuss business,” Calamari told Loud Lady and Elousie.
What was going on? Did he think I was Maxwell Shallowford?
With that thought I nearly widdled my floofy britches, except they weren’t floofy. They were navy pinstripe. So was my jacket and I noticed I had on a snazzy pair of two tone shoes.
Oh My Cat! I was inside Maxwell Shallowford’s hoomon body!
“But Sammy! I want to dance,” Loud Lady barked.
Sammy? Then it hit me. Sammy Calamari—aka Sammy ‘The Squid’ Calamari—was the mobster the book, Almost Famous Hardboiled Detectives, said was rumored to have the girlfriend that Maxwell Shallowford was seeing on the sly before he disappeared. He looked just like his picture!
Sammy elbowed Loud Lady so hard, she nearly slipped out of the banquette onto the floor. “Go on wit cha!” he growled. “Powder your noses. The glare is blinding me.”
I figured it was the glare from the little old glowing man seated at the next table, but I didn’t say nuffin. Instead I watched Elouise kiss Sammy passionately on his mouth. Wait. What? I thought Loud Lady was his girlfriend?
When the girls had gone, The Squid shook his head. “I don’t know how your ear drums stand it, Max. Vivian’s big mouth would make me deaf.”
I shrugged. It’s all I could think of to do. But inside I was shaking in my two toned shoes. I was Detective Maxwell Shallowford and I was married to Loud Lady! What kind of fweakin’ nightmare was I having?
“I’m pleased you’ve agreed to work with me,” Sammy ‘The Squid’ said to me. He leaned forward to speak in a low tone, and gestured for me to do the same. “With your good looks and my connections, pennies from heaven will be raining down on us.” He raised his glass in a toast. I watched my man hand raise my glass and clink it against his. Good thing me and my mom watched a lot of old movies, so I knew what to do.
From the corner of my eye I noticed the old man at the next table smiling at me, glowing like a nightlight in the dark club. I felt self-conscious with him looking at me, so I ignored him.
“Beneath the table, at your feet,” Sammy now said to me, “is a briefcase. It contains the one hundred grand I agreed to pay Lenny the Loser for his share in the Desert Galaxy casino. With Freddie the Farter’s share already in the bank, Bats the Butcher will be left standing with his hands in his pockets when I take over the whole operation. When you deliver the briefcase to Lenny, please give the Loser my kindest regards…before you plug him with the .30 caliber I’ve also tucked inside the briefcase.”
I swallowed hard. It was all coming back to me. The stuff I had read about Max Shallowford and him being involved with Sammy ‘The Squid’ Calamari in some kind of casino-swindling hijinks. According to the book, Shallowford not only ran off with the mob man’s moll (that’s girlfriend in 1940’s gangster-speak), but he also ran off with an enormous amount of money. The book said that Calamari had been madder about the money than the cheating girlfriend.
To clarify this puzzle for you: Max Shallowford had run off with Elouise, taking Sammy ‘The Squid’s’ briefcase of money with him. That’s what I’d watched Elouise remove from the wall safe hidden behind the painted horse picture. A hundred grand worth of money. Plus the Persians.
Personally I thought Max couldn’t be that bad of a guy if he loved cats. Plus the book never said he ‘plugged’ Lenny the Loser, another mobster. It just said he ran off with the moll girlfriend (Elouise) and the money.
“Let me give you a warning, Max,” Sammy Calamari now said to me. “Just in case you’re entertaining any ideas about running off with the loot. I have eyes in the back of my head. I know everything about everyone. If you stab me in the back… I’ll stab you in the heart. Capisce?”
I nodded, even though I had no idea what ‘Capisce’ meant. The stabbing part needed no illustrations, despite The Squid making stabby motions with his cocktail fork.
“You’re doing fine, Herman,” the glowing man seated at the next table said to me. “You aren’t in danger.”
I stared at Calamari, not knowing if I should look at Glowing Man. The mobster was draining his glass while the waiter placed a fresh bourbon on the table.
“Who are you?” I whispurred from the corner of my mouth.
“He can’t see me,” the old man explained. “And he won’t notice you talking with me. This is a dream. I’m having you relive one of Max Shallowford’s memories to help you understand what happened. My name is Charles Feeble. Charley to my friends.”
I looked at him then. He had a nice face with kind eyes behind round glasses and a receding hairline. “You’re Charley? Dori’s Charley?”
He nodded. “I’m sorry I didn’t come out to meet you when you first arrived. While I like kitties—girl kitties—a tomcat bit me once. Tomcats scare me.”
“I’m not a tomcat,” I told him. “I’m neutered.”
“My mistake.” He smiled, making his eyes disappear into squinty folds. “I’ve been watching you, Herman. I think you will make a successful detective one day. But there is much you still have to learn, and much I can teach you. That’s why I called you.”
“I thought I was called to find Loud Lady’s missing jewelry.”
He laughed. “Good nickname for Vivian.” He shook his head. “I told Dori that Vivian was accusing everyone of stealing her jewelry; including ghosts.” He spread his hands and shrugged. “I didn’t take her trinkets. They aren’t missing. I know where they are.”
The glow around Charley was giving me a headache. My eyes hurt from the brightness. I needed sunglasses. “Where are they?” I asked. “Who took them?”
“That’s not important right now. When you awake, I will explain. But for now, let’s enjoy the show. Shall we?” He abruptly stood up to applaud, along with Sammy Calamari and the rest of the people at the nightclub.
“And now,” a voice said over a loud speaker, “please welcome to the Desert Galaxy… Miss Adora Purr singing her new hit song, Purrple Underpants!”
I swung my gaze to the bandstand where, to my complete shock, I saw my lil sisfur step on stage. What the Friskies!
Tune in next Friday for…
To read Part 1, click here.
Hi pals! Thank you so much for stopping by to read another chapter of my Sherlock Herms adventures.
So what do you think about my fweaky dream? I gotta tell ya, I was right about cats not wearing clothes. That navy pinstripe suit and two tone shoes feel really weird. Being inside Max Shallowford’s body is also fweaking me out. What if Sammy ‘The Squid’ Calamari gets suspicious and plugs me? Well, at least I now know who Charley is.
Or… do I?
And what do you think Dori is up to? Yeah, it’s a dream, but why is she singing in the dream nightclub?
I so appreciate you joining me on another Sherlock Herms adventure. It means a lot to me.
Tell me what you think by leaving a comment below. And please tell your friends to stop by too! See you next Friday.