30-Day Flash Challenge, Day 21
“We got another two reports, like yesterday, Sheriff,” Suzy says.
“Give me a second here, Suz. I’m not even in the door yet,” I say, shaking the snow off my coat.
There go my dreams for a slow, uneventful day. This town is nothing once the college kids scatter back to their homes from the Christmas break. During these times, I give the other men time off with pay. For these breaks, we become a two-person operation: me and Suzy.
I make it to the coffee bar.
“Internet’s down also,” she says, sounding way too chipper for this early in the morning.
I hold up one finger as I finish pouring my first cup. I leave my finger up until I get back to my desk. I sit down, sip my coffee, then lower my finger.
“Okay, now tell me, please. The first thing, two more reports of what? I’m not awake yet, Suzy.”
“Two more missing cats. Thelma called last night, left a message. Whiskers ran off about 8:30 PM.”
I stare at her.
“Oh, Imogene’s siamese, Mr. Bojangles, ran off sometime in the middle of the night.”
We’re a small town, especially when the college kids have dispersed. So I have the pleasure of knowing both ladies and their cats.
“Bojangles and Whiskers are older; that doesn’t sound like older-cat behavior to me. Does it to you? Did they wander off to die somewhere, or is that only a dog thing?”
“I don’t know, I’d GOOGLE it, but,” she says, gesturing toward her computer.
“So, how many is that, total?” I say.
“Five yesterday afternoon, two last night. I’m no mathematician, Jim, but I’d say that adds up to too damn many.”
I like Suzy; she keeps me on my toes.
“Seven cats, within twenty-four hours? That is odd. You think the coyotes are back?”
“Randall says no. He said he ain’t seen a one out on Winslow.”
A few years back, we had a minor problem. Randall helped with that. If he says no coyotes, my instinct is to believe him.
We chased down the usual suspects. No stray dogs have been reported. There are very few kids in this town; it’s mostly retired folks. We love having the college here; it brings a vitality we’ve not had for years, but we all sigh with relief when they leave town.
I get a text message from Phil, one of my deputies. He says his brother-in-law was complaining to him about a few hours of cats doing that weird caterwauling, yowling, and growling thing they do.
I text him back, asking if I can come by his place.
A few seconds later, he texts me back, saying yes, tells me to bring doughnuts, a cop joke.
“Sheriff, I just remembered my aunt sent me a link yesterday about reports of cats in Selma.”
Suzy turns to her computer.
“That’s going to be tough to do with no internet, Suzy,” I say.
I step behind her desk, look over her shoulder. She has about fifteen chrome windows open, each one with several tabs.
“Remind me again, how much we’re paying you?”
She elbows me playfully in the side.
“It’s still in my browser. Here it is, look.”
The article describes how seven cats stood before a plate glass window and began a chorus of their usual sounds. None of the cats were aggressive, none of them doing that weird sideways-shuffle.
“The video won’t play, of course, but the security cam footage showed them howling and carrying on facing the window. But, and I swear I’m not making this up, I just figured it was a prank, but after a few minutes, that plate glass window breaks, Sheriff. On my momma’s grave,” Suzy says, holding up three fingers.
That is a few coincidences too many for my liking, so I tell her to close the office, she’s coming with me to Phil’s. We even stop for doughnuts on the way.
After Phil finishes debriefing Suzy and me, the three of us and Phil’s eight-year-old son, Matthew, head over to where his brother-in-law had heard the sounds.
In my twelve years as Sheriff here, I’ve not once had to pull my gun.
But the scene we came across in the snowy alley had me drawing my Glock and clicking the safety off.
Blood, lots of it, way more than a human has, I’m sure. The swirls of red on white carnage are strangely beautiful.
I gesture for Suzy and Matthew to walk single-file between Phil and me.
Our feet crunch softly through the crusty snow, we follow the trail of blood down the alley to the end.
We hop the fence into one of farmer Jordan’s fields. We come to a clearing. In the center are seven cats, each peering inward to a large circle of melted snow, scorched grass, blackened earth.
Some vehicle had taken off or landed from this place. I look back and see that now Phil has drawn his gun too. I look up, see nothing but the crisp, Vermont blue sky.
When we get closer, we hear it, a beautifully melodic purring that sounds like a hum.
All seven cats are humming and staring intently at the center of the blackened circle.
I step between Bojangles and Cleo and into the circle. The instant my foot lands on the dirt, the cat spell breaks, and they begin to move away from whatever enterprise they were engaged in here. As they disperse, we see that all cats are covered in green and red gore.
“Oh my God, Jim! What happened here?” Suzy says, clutching my arm.
I’m not sure we’ll ever know the answer to that question, but my intuition is telling me these cats just warded off some powerful enemy – all that blood.
I shiver and remind myself to wander by Hershel’s later. Each of these cats is getting a fish filet courtesy of the Sheriff’s department. I think I just became a cat-person.