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 – he had just opened the Wonderpurr Detective Agency and had been hired to take his first case. However, he had concerns about the location of the case, as he didn’t have purrmission to leave the yard. That’s when his brofurs, Opie and Jack, arrived with Herman’s Gen7Pets stroller…with slight modifications…along with a nylon cat play tunnel that was said to be a trans-portal.
Accompanied by his sisfur –the beautiful though uncoordinated Adorapurr aka Dori – Herman climbed into his tricked out stroller, and pressed the H on his collar to the H on the control panel with a scary array of glowing buttons, including a pretty pink one that had Dori mesmerized. After Dori meowed the address and pawed the appropriate button, Herman’s Ride began to shake like a wet dog. Before them the nylon tunnel glowed in the attic’s shadowy darkness. Herman thought it looked like it was growing bigger…or maybe he and Dori were shrinking. Either way, his Ride was rolling toward it, as though being sucked inside.
While Dori freaked out – “Haalllp! We are being eaten!” – Herman zipped the stroller’s hood into place just as Opie and Jack returned, waving their paws. Despite the bouncing and the blurring Herman can see the fur on their backs standing straight up.
“Stop!” Jack yowled. “I forgot to tell you—” Then he was gone. And Opie was gone.
Everything was gone!
And now…Part 2
My ears hurt from the wind-whooshing sound that surrounded me, but I couldn’t stop staring at the control panel. The dazzling button lights captivated me unlike catnip or any feathery toy I’d ever played with.
I was aware of Dori beside me in my Ride—a mint chip colored Gen7Pets Regal stroller; I could hear her stomach growling with hunger—but numb to all else. All I wanted to do was stare at the control panel.
“We should have been there by now.” Dori repeatedly pawed the pink button. “Something is wrong.” She pawed the button again and again. Meanwhile, I stared at the control panel.
“Stop it!” The mechanical voice came out of nowhere, making us both snap out of our hypnotic states. “Stop staring. Stop pawing the pink button.”
Dori looked at me with huge eyes. “Did you say that?”
“I said that.” In the upper left corner of the control panel a scary face had appeared.
It glared at Dori. “You’re mucking up the coordinates. With every push of the pink button you delay arrival by ten days. You should have arrived back in June. Now you won’t arrive until May—nearly a year later!” The scary face now looked at me. “And stop staring at me. I hate being stared at!”
Dori and I covered our eyes with our paws. “Mom probably thinks we ran away from home,” I whispered. Dori began to cry. I slid my arm around her. “Don’t be afraid. I’ll protect mew.”
She shook her head. “I’m not afwaid. I forgot my Smittens.” She began to sob. “I’m hungwy, and Opie is eating my tweats.”
My Ride rocked and rolled from side to side. Then it flipped upside down, then right-side up. Thankfully I had zipped the mesh hood into place. I felt something hard and pointy jabbing my backside: the CritterZone Air Naturalizer Dori had held onto, and then pulled inside my Ride when the kitty play tunnel started sucking us into its mouth. Around us the tunnel glowed with bright colors. Dori clung to me. I felt her claws sink into my fur and winced. “Remind me to say no the next time you ask me to hide Mom’s nail clippers.”
The sound around us abruptly changed from whooshing to sucking, kinda like we were being squeezed from a tube of Laxatone. We pulled the mint chip cushion over our heads.
My Ride stopped shaking. Instead it floated as though carried on soft summer breezes. We peeked from under the cushion to see we were rolling on smooth pavement. Bright sunlight peeked through the glossy leaves of ancient oaks lining both sides of the street. The air smelled sweet and foreign.
“Where are we again?” I asked Dori, who had pawed our destination coordinates into the control panel.
A glance at the control panel told me we were twenty-five hundred miles from home. I felt a lump of panic in my throat and swallowed hard. When Mom found out I’d left the yard, she wouldn’t think twice about replacing me as her writer mews with my chunky-butt arch-nemesis, Opie. As I pawed away a tear, I saw Dori looking at me and pretended I had a whisker in my eye.
“Don’t cwy.” She bumped her cold nose against mine. “Mom has Attenshun Deffy-sit Dis-odor. If she finds out we left the yard today, she won’t remempurr by tomorrow. Plus, we will have two huge quawters. We can bwibe her to like us again.”
My Ride slowed to a stop before a big house with a lot of windows, surrounded by an iron fence. Peering through the mesh hood, I thought it looked sad. Dark. And scary.
Dori unzipped the mesh hood and climbed out. “I hope we aren’t late for lunch.”
I scanned the windows, all of them curtained. “It doesn’t look like anyone is home.”
“It’s okay, Hwermie. You can wait here if you are afwaid.”
My fur bristled under my collar. “I’m a hardboiled detective. I’m not afraid of—”
Dori scampered through the iron fence bars, leaving me to follow. It’s not that I was afraid. I just didn’t like the looks of the house. The word ‘foreboding’ came to mind, though I didn’t actually know what it meant. Probably picked it up from my mom when she was writing a novel, or discussing weight loss.
I heard whimpering as we walked toward the front doors. They were huge, at least twenty feet tall. Or maybe less. Cats don’t know much about measurements. With each step we took, the whimpering grew louder. It came from behind us so I turned, expecting to see a puppy. Instead I saw my Gen7Pets stroller pressing against the closed gate. My Ride was whimpering!
“We can’t leave it in the street,” I told Dori. “Someone might steal it.”
Dori scampered back down the walkway and slipped through the fence. She then climbed my stroller and, balanced on the handle, pawed the gate lock. After a moment it opened, and she pushed my stroller to the front door. “You stay here,” she told it, then rang the doorbell.
The door opened and a man with a round face and watery blue eyes peeked out at us. I recognized his hairstyle from the style worn in the Maltese Falcon: high and tight on the side and back, longer on the top and front. He wore a long-sleeved gray shirt with blue plaid slacks and a blue pullover sweater vest. He said, “Go to the house across the street, kitties. She feeds strays.”
Dori turned to leave. I grabbed her tail. “We aren’t strays,” I told him. “You called the Wonderpurr Detective Agency. I’m Sherlock Herms, and this is my sis— I mean, Detective Adorapurr.”
The man’s brows rose with surprise. “I thought Wonder-purr was a typo on your advertisement.”
I looked at Dori. “We have an advertisement?”
Dori looked at the man with narrowed eyes. I fully expected him to collapse with a migraine. She claims she can think one right into your head, and I believe her. “You said you were despurrrate. But, if you don’t need us anymore…” She turned to leave.
“Wait.” He opened the door wider. “I am desperate. Come in. Wipe your feet. The Oriental is expensive. Don’t walk on it!”
“Despurrate is good,” Dori whispurred as we wiped our feet, then entered the house. The Oriental turned out to be an old green rug covering the large foyer, not a Siamese cat.
“It’s an antique Nichols,” our client said about the rug, like that would mean anything to us. He deliberately side-stepped the rug as he led us to a room on the left, an old-fashioned parlor with print wallpaper that clashed with the print carpet. The heavy window curtains had fringe and tassels that made my paws itch with desire to climb them.
In the center of the room was a marble pedestal table with a floral arrangement under a glass dome. I flashed a quick warning at Dori not to jump onto the table and knock the dome over. A piano took up one wall. A cast iron fireplace took up another.
Dirty dishes with unrecognizable food scattered across every surface, along with empty liquor bottles. Dori sniffed one of the plates. “Oh no! Are we late for lunch?”
“Lunch? I’m not obligated to feed you. Besides, there is no food in this house. No edible food, that is. Have a seat.” He indicated uncomfortable-looking chairs bracing a narrow desk with a high glass bookcase.
Looking miserable at the idea of not having lunch, Dori climbed onto the left chair while I took the right. Meanwhile our client paced between the table and the fireplace.
“I am Roland Blunden of the Chelmsford Blunden’s.”
That meant nothing to us, so we continued to sit uncomfortably.
“I recently purchased this home after it went up for auction for unpaid taxes. For the past twenty years the taxes have been paid by John Throckley’s attorney from a financial account that has now run dry. I purchased this property whilst still in England with the intention of putting it immediately back on the market priced at triple my investment. However, when I arrived, I was not prepared for what I found. Not only has no one crossed the threshold of this house since Throckley drew the shades and locked the doors in 1923—clearly after throwing one dilly of a party—but I cannot resell it until I put an end to the stupid rumors that this house is haunted.”
He paused in his pacing to check our reaction. While Dori squinted without surprise, I twitched my whiskers since cats can’t raise their eyebrows—cuz they don’t actually have eyebrows—but if I had eyebrows, believe you me, they would be arched higher than the ones used by McDonald’s. What had Dori gotten us into? I’m a hardboiled detective with grit in my blood. Not a ghost hunter.
“What happened to Mister Thwockley?” Dori asked.
“No one knows. There is no record of him leaving the country or of his death. His construction business closed when he never again returned to work. My realtor said the lady in the house across the street has lived there her entire life, as did her parents. But she has a reputation for gossip, so I doubt all she could tell you is hearsay. Frankly, I don’t care what happened to Throckley. I’m hiring you to prove to the buying public that this house is not haunted so I can sell it and triple my profit.”
“But, what if this house really is haunted?” Dori asked.
“Then get rid of the ghosts!”
“If this house is not haunted, we will pwove it,” Dori told him. “And if it has ghosts, we will bust da dickens outta ’em.”
“Excellent! Then I shall leave you to your work.” Blunden hurried toward the front door, deliberately side-stepping the old rug.
“Wait!” Dori squinted at our client. “We want to be paid up fwont.” She elbowed me to hold out my paws.
As our client handed me two huge quarters, I felt a lump in my throat. My dream had come true. I was now a professional detective. A paid detective! I didn’t know what to do. Did hardboiled detectives say ‘thank you’ after being paid? Or did they stuff their quarters into their pockets and look brooding? I wasn’t given the chance to figure it out.
“You have until this time tomorrow when I return,” Blunden said. “And whatever you do, don’t step on the Oriental, or I will demand my money back.” He shut the door behind him, leaving us alone.
I looked at my little sisfur, who avoided my gaze. “Dori? Why does Mr. Blunden think we know anything about ghosts?”
She shrugged. “Wonderpurr Detective Agency needed a specialty. The usual stuff detectives do sounded boring. Background checks. Civil Investigations. Insurance Fwaud. The only thing we would be good at is Surveillance because we’re cats—we watch stuff.” She toed a design in the ugly rug. “I thought detecting ghosts sounded funner than detecting cheating spouses or missing purrrsons.”
Suddenly, music filled the entrance hall—scratchy squealy music that hurt our ears.
“Look!” Dori pointed up the stairs. There at the top I saw a handsome, transparent young man dancing with a pretty, transparent young woman. He wore a black suit and had a mustache. She wore a tight dress with her hair swirled on top of her head.
One moment they were there. The next…
They were gone!
Stay Tuned for Sherlock Herms in
If you missed Part 1, click here.