It’s the 4th of July and the Petectives are feeling the heat! In the midst of a sweltering heat wave, feline detectives Yoshi and Gatsby get word that an old enemy is back and running a protection racket in their neighborhood. When an attack lands Gatsby’s girlfriend in the veterinary hospital, he gets hot under the collar but it may take Yoshi’s cool logic to shut down a gang of animal criminals and clear a dog from a horrible accusation. The Petectives are back and there’s going to be fireworks!
Targeted Age Group:: All Ages
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I got tired of all of the books featuring cats helping human detectives. Its high time that cats get their paws dirty and do their own detective work!
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
The two lead characters are based on my wife's real life cats, Yoshi and Gatsby. Their fictional relationship references mystery teams such as Holmes and Watson, Wolfe and Goodwin or Poirot and Hastings.
It was a late morning in early July and it was hot. Horribly, ridiculously hot. As I walked through my neighborhood on my way to a ten o’ clock appointment, I was mentally cursing the humans for the whole global warming thing. I usually loved to be outside but on that day I couldn’t wait to get back to my air conditioned home. The humans that I lived with usually turned the AC down before they left for work and daycare but the temperature in the house was still cooler than what I was dealing with outside. The sidewalks were so hot that I had to walk across the lawns so as to not burn my paws and when I got to a driveway or had to cross a street, I raced across as fast as possible. Fortunately my appointment was only a few blocks away from my house.
The neighborhood showed all of the signs of a protracted heat wave. It was easy to tell which houses were obeying the water restrictions by how brown their grass had become. Even though school was out, there weren’t many kids outside. In fact there weren’t many people outside at all as apparently most of them had enough sense to stay inside when the temperature hit three digits.
Not being blessed with that much sense, I trotted on to my destination. My partner Yoshi had reacted with shock and horror when I’d told him that I had to go out to meet a potential client. He was of the opinion that any cat that would willingly go outside in this weather was out of his mind. To look at him you might assume that the reason for this attitude was the fact that he was a black cat and everyone knows that the color black absorbs heat. That might be a good theory but it wouldn’t explain why he refused to step foot outside of our house at any other time of the year.
If the color of your fur determined your level of comfort in extreme heat then a lightly striped orange cat like me should be fine but I was feeling the heat as much as anyone else. The sooner this meeting was over with the better.
When I got close to the street corner that served as the location of my appointment I got the first of several nasty surprises that I was going to receive over the next couple of days. There were three dogs sitting at the corner, a big German Shepherd, a medium sized Bulldog and a small but formidable looking Pit Bull. The German Shepherd’s name was Duke and he was the leader of a four dog organization that provided a form of law enforcement to the neighborhood animals. The Pit Bull was young and friendly looking (for a Pit Bull). His name was Rocco (a.k.a Rocky) and he was a member of the Dog Patrol. He didn’t take things quite as seriously as Duke, but then I’ve met junkyard dogs with toothaches that were less serious than Duke.
The Bulldog’s name was Percy and he was something of a neighborhood bully. He was typically kept chained in his backyard where he would threaten and intimidate any animals in the vicinity. The few times that he had gotten loose, he had chased some animals around but he had never hurt anyone. He was the prototypical dog whose bark was worse than his bite. One of the pleasures of my life was sitting just beyond the reach of Percy’s chain and mocking him. There’s nothing better than getting a dog all worked up into a frenzy but unable to do anything about it.
This situation was very odd. Normally the way my life worked was very simple. Most of the time I ate, drank and slept the days away. Then occasionally someone who needed the kind of help that Yoshi and I could provide would contact me, usually through a messenger like Murray the mouse. Last night Murray had told me that someone wanted to consult me but that it was extremely confidential and that he wouldn’t tell me who it was. I had no problem with those conditions but usually under these circumstances I would meet a female cat who would want me to follow her significant other and see if he was tomcatting around. It looked like today I was here to meet two dog cops and a bully.
I had slowed my pace a little to consider what might be happening. Duke noticed and in a growl that I could hear from a block away said, “Hey Gatsby, don’t slow down. We won’t hurt you.”
I gave a loud exaggerated sigh and quickened my pace. As I approached the dogs I said, “Yesterday Yoshi said something like only mad dogs and Englishmen would go out in heat like this. Where’s the British guys?”
Duke grunted. “You’re hilarious as always.”
“Sorry. You guys surprised me. I was expecting a damsel in distress.”
Duke nodded his head towards Percy. “He’s your damsel in distress.”
I laughed. Percy opened his mouth to protest but a sharp glare from Duke shut him up.
If we were going to have this meeting it had better be out of the sun. “Look, whatever it is you boys want me for, can we discuss it in the shade?”
There was a gigantic pine tree in the front yard of the house nearest to us. I headed for the shade that it provided and the three dogs followed me. I sat with my back to the tree trunk and the dogs all sat facing me.
Percy spoke first. “Look, I ain’t a damsel –“
“Shut Up!” Duke barked. “I’ll let you know when you can talk.”
Percy shut up. It was a pleasure to see him have to take being ordered around. He could be pretty nasty to the cats and smaller dogs in the area but he wasn’t about to challenge Duke.
Duke turned back to me. “Look kid, we need your help. Percy’s got a problem.”
“Percy’s got several problems,” I said before Duke could get another word out. “His looks, his personality and we can’t forget his smell.”
That got no reaction out of Percy. Three of them just stared at me. “Are you done?” Duke asked.
“Sure. Go ahead.”
“Percy’s been accused of attacking another dog.”
That raised my eye whiskers. “Really? You finally went after somebody?”
“No!” Percy said, “It wasn’t me.”
Since Percy was always yelling about the unspeakable acts of violence that he was going to commit if he ever got loose from his chain, I already believed that he had attacked whoever had accused him. However since he was sitting here with Duke and Rocco and not cooling his paws at the Animal Control facility probably meant that things weren’t that simple. “So what happened?”
Duke reported in his matter of fact tone. “Two days ago at approximately 3:35 pm Sophie, the Pomeranian who lives next door to Percy was attacked in her front yard by a dog. Sophie is positive that Percy was her assailant but no humans witnessed the incident.”
“She survived?” I asked.
“Yes,” Duke replied. “She was cut up and bruised pretty badly but her attacker ran off and her owners discovered her on their front lawn and rushed her to the vet. She got stitched up and is currently in the vet’s office over on Brice road. I was able to have a quick chat with her last night.”
“OK. What’s Percy’s story?”
Percy spoke up. “I was chained up in my backyard like I am everyday. I heard the commotion but it was up front so I couldn’t see what was going on. I didn’t even know what happened until Sophie’s people came to my house and yelled at my owner about it.”
“Why would they yell at your owner?” I asked. “Duke just said that there were no witnesses. I’m pretty sure that Sophie couldn’t tell the humans that you jumped her.”
Duke got back into the conversation. “Percy’s attitude and reputation make him the obvious suspect when an incident like this occurs.”
“Yeah, I’ll bet” I said with a grin.
Percy wasn’t grinning. “I heard the lady next door say something about taking me away and putting me down.”
That seemed unlikely if no human had actually seen anything but I wasn’t about to offer any kind of comfort to Percy.
Rocco picked that moment to speak. “Duke, you haven’t told the cat what we need him for.”
Duke replied in a very patient tone of voice. “I shouldn’t have to. He’s gotten enough information to figure it out. He likes to make deductions and stuff like that.” He looked at me. “Isn’t that right kid?”
“You’ve got me and Yoshi mixed up. He’s the one that deduces. I wouldn’t make deductions if animals had to pay income tax. I can however make wild guesses based on practically nothing and sometimes be correct. Let me try. Since you and Rocco are here with Percy, I’m going to assume that you don’t think that he did it. Since Duke emphasized that there were no human witnesses to this incident I’m going to assume that there was an animal witness or witnesses. And since Duke has come to me and he doesn’t usually want Yoshi or me within a thousand miles of any case he’s working on, I can assume that the witness isn’t being cooperative with the Dog Patrol but might talk to me. So I’m guessing that this witness is a cat and that you want me to talk to him or her. How did I do?”
Rocco looked pretty annoyed with my guesswork. “You did great. Too great. Who’s your source? Is somebody telling you Dog Patrol business?”
Duke sighed. “Settle down Rocky.” Then he turned to me. “Rocky doesn’t know you as well as I do. You were correct in your guesses or deductions or whatever you want to call it.”
“Induction.” I said.
“I think that the technical term for what I just did is induction.” I replied.
“Whatever!” Duke barked, “I don’t have time for your nonsense. I would’ve gone straight to Yoshi but he’s a bigger pain than you are.”
I smiled. “Heat getting to you?”
“Yeah and as usual your attitude isn’t helping. A cat that lives in that area has been telling everybody that she saw Percy attack Sophie. When I tried to talk to her she clammed up. There’s another cat that lives directly across the street from Sophie and who is known to constantly sit in his front window. If he was in his window yesterday, he wouldn’t have been able to help seeing exactly what happened but he claims that he didn’t happen to be in his window at that particular time.”
“And you think he’s lying?”
“He didn’t seem exactly forthcoming when I talked to him.”
This was great. Usually a frequent hazard of my chosen profession was a very long boring speech from Duke about how Yoshi and I shouldn’t be interfering in Dog Patrol business. Now here he was practically begging for our help. Yoshi was going to love hearing about this. “So would you like me to have a chat with these cats?”
Duke grunted. “Sure, but I want Yoshi to talk to them too.”
“Fine,” I said. “But I usually have a better way with the ladies.”
Percy burst in with, “Just let Yoshi do this!” Percy had always held Yoshi in high regard.
“You guys do what you think is best.” Duke said.
“Fine.” I said. “So what is it you’re trying to achieve here? You can’t actually think that Percy might be innocent?”
Duke gave Percy a sideways glance. “I know that the humans probably won’t get enough evidence to do anything but if I find out that Percy here mauled a pet I will personally kick him out of this neighborhood!”
This was too much for Percy. “I told you I didn’t do it!” he whined.
“Shut up!” Duke responded. Then he turned to Rocco. “Keep an eye on Percy. I need to talk to the cat alone.”
Duke looked me straight in the eye and walked over to the hedges. I followed him wondering what else he wanted.
“Look kid, I had a talk with your girlfriend yesterday.”
“What did she need from you?”
“Well she didn’t want me to tell you but I thought that I’d better.”
“Okay,” I said. My powers of induction had left me. I had no idea what he was talking about.
“She told me that she’s gotten a visit from our old friend, Nails.”
I could suddenly feel my heart beating in my chest. “That nasty pit bull we put away last Halloween? She escaped from Animal Control?”
“Apparently. She has two dogs accompanying her. Molasses said that Nails demanded food under the threat of violence. After Molasses fed them, Nails told her that they would be back.”
“This was yesterday?”
“Yep. She didn’t want me to tell you because she was afraid that you’d do something stupid. Don’t prove her right.”
I gave him a nod and then trotted off.
Robert J. Smith is the agent for Gatsby the cat. Smith's duties include:
-Translating and transcribing Gatsby's adventures
-Managing Gatsby's business affairs and public relations
-Litter box maintenance
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