Crystal was a young Persian cat who lived with her odd artist owner. They lived in a small cul-de-sac not far from the beach and rail-way crossing, the perfect place for a cat to live. There were always plenty of mice and birds to chase and the roads were never busy. But the best thing about living in the cul-de-sac for Crystal was the brilliant and slightly mad Caleb – the tabby cat detective - because she was his assistant, his confused but grateful assistant.
Caleb was a genius. He could solve any problem and it wasn’t because his owner was a police woman. It was because he could look at the smallest thing and make the biggest conclusion. He was always right; and today was no different.
The small cul-de-sac was rising with the summer sunshine and Crystal rose with it. Even though her owner had been awake most of the night, flinging odd smelling paints everywhere, she had managed to get some sleep and was happier for it. Crystal had the feeling that she would need the energy.
Her stomach rumbled. Stretching her claws, she padded into the kitchen. It was time for breakfast, Crystal thought to herself, then a bath and… Her owner hadn’t put any food out again, more involved with his paints than with his pet. She wasn’t worried; there were always some Temptations on the side. But when Crystal went to nab some treats she let out a loud meow of protest.
They were all gone!
There was only one feline who could solve this problem. Crystal didn’t even spare her owner one last thought before rushing through her cat-flap and over the brick wall of the front garden. There was a thief in the neighbourhood!
When Crystal arrived at number ten, Caleb’s home, she let herself in through the cat-flap and headed straight for the living room, where Caleb did all his business. He never mixed business with pleasure; his toys and treats were hidden in the kitchen.
By the living room door, she heard two distinct voices. One, strong and smart, was Caleb. The other, Crystal wasn’t so sure. It was a cat, by the sound of his voice; and a spoilt one too. The whining sound was familiar.
Her stomach rumbled quietly.
‘Come in, Crystal,’ Caleb called. ‘There’s no point in pricking your ears by the door. I may have need of you.’ Yes, Crystal thought, as she walked into the room. Because Caleb would always require her help…
It was Prince, the ruined and overweight Maine Coon from number five. Crystal knew Prince well and thought the name suited him. Not because he was royal, elegant, nice or good, but because of his attitude. Prince was given everything he wanted and he thought all the cats should do as he ordered. Not that they ever did.
‘Oh. Hello,’ said Prince. He looked down his nose at Crystal before turning back to Caleb. His tail swished everywhere when he spoke, ‘All I wanted was something to eat, but my owners think I should be on a diet! Me! They think I eat too much! How is that possible?’
Crystal couldn’t help but giggle. Prince was more barrel than cat. She was surprised he could even fit through the cat-flap!
She received a stern look from Caleb as Prince continued, ‘Then, to top it off, when my owners were busy gossiping with the new humans across the street I go to the cupboard to find that all my yummy treats have been stolen! I had left the kitchen only seconds! What shall I do? How can I possibly survive?’
That Prince wouldn’t survive the loss of a few treats was astonishing, but Crystal kept quiet. She looked at Caleb. Did he find the situation amusing too? Crystal couldn’t tell.
Prince turned to her, ‘How can I?’
‘Don’t worry,’ said Crystal. ‘It’s happened to other cats.’
‘Yes, well.’ Prince looked Crystal up and down before looking at Caleb, ‘You will fix this? You will catch the thief?’
Before Prince left, Caleb assured him that the treat thief would be found then leapt up onto the windowsill. He started pacing straight away; his striped tail formed a question mark, his ears pricked forwards seeming to move of their own accord.
Caleb was muttering to himself, ‘How is the thief getting in and out so quietly? Who is it? Why?’
Crystal tried to figure out what he was thinking; she failed.
‘Out we go, Crystal.’ Caleb jumped off the windowsill and trotted to the front door. He was outside before Crystal had even turned. What was going on?
Crystal joined Caleb on his garden wall.
‘I found black cat hair by the flap.’
‘Oh,’ Crystal said. ‘Is that important?’
There was no reaction. They were just two cats on a wall.
‘Something’s happening in the cul-de-sac,’ started Caleb suddenly. ‘It’s making everyone restless, nervous about their safety. The safety of their treats. Even you, Crystal, have had items stolen.’
‘How did you know that?’ replied Crystal.
‘You are an early riser but never come here without ridding your white fur of the multi-coloured paint your owner insists on throwing about. There are still specks of blue, pink and yellow behind your ears. I can only surmise that you were either too shocked or too mad to tidy yourself this morning.’
‘That doesn’t mean my treats were stolen.’
‘No, but your dirtied fur, the noises of your belly; they tell me you haven’t eaten. It’s quite simple. There’s no other reason for it.’
Crystal was amazed by how easy Caleb made it all sound, even though it wasn’t.
‘Never mind that now. Let us hunt for clues.’ Caleb pounced onto the concrete path, his tail set firmly. He was working; there would be no disturbing him.
He found clues. Not that Crystal had any idea of how useful they would be. To her they were bits of rubbish or smells you came across every day of the week. But to Caleb, for some reason, they seemed really important.
Caleb found cat scents in the bushes of every front garden, the exact same one. A black Bombay he had said; Caleb was an expert in cat scents. There was no cat like that in the cul-de-sac. While Crystal wasn’t bothered (she was getting hungrier by the second) Caleb got excited.
‘Caleb, no cat lives here.’ They were in number four’s front garden. ‘The new neighbours have only just moved in; we would know if they had a cat surely,’ Crystal grumbled. ‘It’s not like anyone can keep a secret in this place.’
Caleb wasn’t listening. His head was stuck in a bush and one of his paws was clawing at the ground. For a moment Crystal thought about helping, but she couldn’t be bothered. When he finally came out, Caleb had an empty Goody Bag between his teeth.
‘Why is an empty cat treat bag important?’
‘Why would there be cat treats with no cat?’ Caleb said.
Crystal was about to protest when a new car reversed into the cul-de-sac. ‘Of course!’ stated Caleb from behind her. ‘So obvious and so clever.’
‘Tell that to the cats who aren’t you,’ snapped Crystal.
‘Let us retire to my kitchen; we are in need of refreshments I think.’
As they went back to number ten, Crystal was thinking hard. What had Caleb figured out? She thought over the clues he had found: the Goody Bag, the cat scents… Crystal really couldn’t see the answer. It was there, just out of reach. Was it that car?
‘Don’t think on it too hard, Crystal,’ interrupted Caleb. ‘You will give yourself a headache.’ He put a paw through the cat-flap and paused.
‘What is it now, Caleb?’ Crystal wanted to go inside for something to eat. She also wanted to rest; Caleb never seemed to get tired.
‘I can smell something,’ he whispered.
Crystal’s tail twitched. Why couldn’t he tell her what was going on? Why be so mysterious? ‘I can’t smell anything.’
‘No wonder, with all that paint. You should have cleaned yourself while I was looking around.’ Without another word, Caleb disappeared through the flap and into the house.
Crystal sighed and followed Caleb, not bothering to look where she was going and crashed into him. He pulled a face as she straightened. It was obviously a time for stealth.
Crystal inhaled and her whiskers tingled. There was another cat in the house. It was the same scent from the bushes. Was this the thief? Was the thief daring to attack Caleb?
Caleb went first, ever the gallant male. Crystal followed as he crept towards the kitchen. The door was open; all they had to do was peek their heads around… They had a new neighbour!
Crystal couldn’t believe it. It was a black cat, a female. And she was eating all the cat treats!
‘Hey!’ Crystal shouted.
‘I’m sorry,’ the cat said. ‘I never get treats like this at home. My owners never buy me them.’
‘Mine forgets to feed me,’ huffed Crystal. ‘But I never take things from others without asking!’
The cat put down her head in shame.
Caleb walked forwards, ‘You managed to sneak and trick every single cat in the cul-de-sac, including me, out of cat treats.’
There was silence before he spoke again. ‘What’s your name?’
‘Star,’ she replied, lifting her head in surprise.
Crystal looked on as Caleb pushed more treats towards Star. ‘Welcome to the neighbourhood.’
Copyright © 2012 TL Spencer
Copyright © 2012 TL Spencer