Beyond the Western
“What do you think, Professor?” Monique asked, as her large brown eyes reflected her curiosity. She watched as the Professor stared at the picture. He seemed somewhat confused.
The Professor adjusted his glasses as he looked at the picture. “I’m not really sure what it is.”
Monique leaned over and looked at the picture. “Professor,” she smiled, as she reached over and turned the picture that the Professor held in his hand. “You’re holding it upside down.”
He gave a big smile. “Now, I see it.”
“What do you think?”
“I think that has to be the fattest cat I’ve ever seen,” replied the Professor. “I don’t see how it could have wandered too far away. It’s too big to travel very far.”
“We need to find the cat, Professor,” replied Monique. “But the thing we are interested in is it’s collar. It’s a diamond studded collar worth an estimated 1.2 million dollars.”
The tea the Professor was sipping went down the wrong way and he began coughing. He finally quit coughing and still red in the face and asked, “1.2 million dollars! For a cat’s collar! Who owns that cat, anyway?”
“Maria St. Clair, world famous actress, social influencer, and blogger.”
The Professor smiled. “So, we have to catch the cat in order to get that blinged out collar?”
“Right.” Said Monique, as she studied the cat’s picture. “What’s our first step?”
The Professor took another look at the picture of the cat again. “Isn’t there a little store right across the road from the lodge?”
“Yes,” replied Monique. “About a quarter of a mile down the road.”
“Good,” smiled the Professor. “Let’s grab our coats. We’re going for a walk.”
“You do realize it’s snowing outside?”
“Just a few flakes,” said the Professor, as he scratched his graying beard. “It will be good exercise.”
Monique smiled, once the Professor set off on an idea there wasn’t much use to point out the logical aspects of a situation. Just go along with him and see what happens. When she began working with the Professor as his partner in the detective business, she at first tried to reason with him on various issues only to find it had little impact on him. After working together for almost five years she found it best to humor his oddities and to subtly guide him in a more traditional direction. At times, that was a considerable challenge. The Professor often operated more by instinct and hunches than by solid evidence. She had first met him when she was a Graduate student in several of his History classes. She was continually surprised by the opinions he had held on many important topics in history. She would often stay after class for discussions about various topics. They soon became fast friends. In the meantime, the Professor had built a considerable reputation for his ability to solve crimes. He would often tire of the crime-solving business and decided he needed a partner to help with the substantial case load. He had interviewed several candidates for the partner position. Dozens of applicants were interviewed, and all were summarily rejected by the Professor.
One day as they sat in the Professor’s office Monique looked at a 10-inch-high stack of rejected applications and sighed, “Are we ever going to find a partner for you?”
The Professor shook his head. “Not until you apply.”
Monique was surprised but readily applied and they began their partnership in the detective business. It had been an interesting job working with the Professor. You never knew what would happen from one day to the next. Who would have thought they would be looking for a cat with a million-dollar collar?
The Professor went to the coat rack near the front entry of the lodge and returned with their coats as well as with a ladies’ pink sweater. He stared at the sweater for a moment. “I’m pretty sure this isn’t mine,” he said, as he held up the sweater and gave it the once over. “And I’ve never seen you wear pink.”
They put the sweater back on the coat rack as they passed by on their way out the door. As Monique and the Professor stepped onto the front porch, they were greeted by a flurry of large snowflakes drifting and floating on a slight breeze that swept across the porch. They took in the beautiful view of the snow-capped mountains that surrounded the lodge.
“Are you sure you want to walk,” asked Monique. “We can drive if you want.”
“It’s good exercise,” smiled the Professor, heading off down the sidewalk at a brisk pace. The store’s flashing neon sign could be seen a few blocks down the street. Monique caught up with him and they moved quickly, hastened by a chilling wind which whipped the large snowflakes into swirling clouds of white.
“Dang,” declared the Professor, after minute or two of brisk walking. “We should have driven. It’s freezing. I didn’t realize the store was this far away. I’m a great judge of distance. I’m pretty sure we have already walked at least two miles.”
Monique smiled as she glanced back over her shoulder at the lodge which was only about a block behind them. “Maybe not quite two miles; but it is cold.”
The Professor reached into his coat pocket and produced a pair of gloves, he put on the right glove and offered Monique the left. She smiled and showed him her hands which were nice and cozy in her own pair of fur lined gloves. They continued their rapid pace toward the store. Before long they were within the warm confines of the building where the Professor stood smiling as he enjoyed the warmth.
“My ears feel better now,” he said, clasping his hands over his ears which had been turned bright red by the cold.
“They are kind of bright,” replied Monique. “I hope no one mistakes them for stop lights.”
“Are you saying I have big ears?”
“I’m just saying that’s a lot of red,” smiled Monique. “What do we need, and I’ll get it.”
“Two cans of the cheapest tuna they have in stock,”
“Tuna,” asked Monique, in a puzzled voice. “We walked through the wind and snow for tuna?”
The Professor nodded. “That’s the fattest cat I’ve ever seen. A can of cheap tuna will bring him running as soon as we open it.”
Monique bought two cans of tuna, chap stick, lemon scented hand sanitizer, gum, a bag of jellybeans, a fashion magazine and two cups of hot coffee. She handed a cup of coffee to the Professor who held the hot cup next to his ears. He gave a big smile. “Now my ears are thawing out.”
They made a quick trip back up the sidewalk to the lodge and were standing on the front porch within a manner of minutes. Monique finished off the last of her coffee while the Professor switched his cup back and forth between ears.
“What’s next,” asked Monique.
“We open a can of tuna, set it on the front step, and wait until the runaway cat shows up.”
“I’ll go see if I can find a can opener for the tuna,” Monique replied, heading for the front door of the lodge.
“Got it covered,” said the Professor, as he began rummaging thru his coat pocket before producing a Swiss army knife. “This has a can opener on it.”
Monique took the knife, quickly opened the can of tuna, and sat it on the porch. They dusted the snow off a couple of rocking chairs and sat down to wait and see if the cat would show up.
It only took a few minutes before a large multicolored cat made its way out of the shrubbery that surrounded the building and zeroed in on the tuna. Monique got up from the rocker and walked over to the cat where she scooped it up and headed back to the chair.
The Professor didn’t seem especially excited about the capture of the cat and the solving of the case. He frowned and shook his head, as he eyed the cat. “Something is wrong here. First of all, who puts a million-dollar collar on a cat? Secondly, if you did something like that then why would you leave the cat is a position where it could make an escape? Something is way off on this.”
Monique thought about what the Professor had said. He had gone into his hunch and intuition mode. If the Professor was right, then what was off? She looked at the collar, then did a double take. “I think we have found the problem, Professor.”
“Take a look at the collar.”
“It just looks like a gaudy collar to me,” said the Professor. “I can’t believe they would make the big boy wear something like that.”
“Do you know much about diamonds,” asked Monique.
“I know they cost a lot and I can’t afford them on my salary,” replied the Professor, cupping his hands over his ears. They were starting to turn red again.
Monique smiled. “They have a certain sparkle and shine, which this collar doesn’t have.”
“Oh. Now, it’s starting to fall into place,” said the Professor, beginning to realize what the real problem was. “The collar he’s wearing isn’t real diamonds?”
“You can get this one for about ten dollars at that little shop in the mall.”
“So, our real case is where is the million-dollar collar and who has it?”
“Exactly.” Replied Monique.
The Professor studied on the problem for a moment then stood up from the rocking chair.
“Do you have something figured out?” asked Monique, as her brown eyes sparkled. She knew the Professor had a goal in mind. Exactly what was the question.
“Nothing too intelligent,” he laughed. “My ears are frozen. Bring the fat cat and his cheap collar. We’re going inside to thaw out.”
They made their way to the coat rack where they hung their coats next to the still unclaimed pink sweater. From there they headed to an out of the way corner in the lobby near a large stone fireplace which popped and crackled as a small flickering blaze heated the surrounding area. He thought for a moment. “Alright, Monique,” said the Professor, settling into the soft comfy couch. “Analyze in very brief terms what we are dealing with.”
Monique thought as she continued to keep a tight hold on the cat to make sure he didn’t make another escape. “First of all, we have a cat, who just happens to have a million-dollar collar. The cat escapes and when found, has a collar but definitely not a million-dollar collar.”
“So, what can we determine from that?”
“If the cat had just lost his collar then that is a plausible thing. But, the cat, when found had a cheap phony collar that obviously had to be switched by someone.”
“Then, the questions we need to answer is who switched the collars?” said the Professor, as he analyzed the situation. “And where is the real collar at now.”
“When do you think the collar was switched,” asked Monique running a variety of scenarios through her mind. “Before he escaped?”
The Professor leaned forward now as things were starting to fall into place while he processed the information. “I’m betting it was before he escaped. Actually, I figure the cat didn’t escape. He’s a bit too chubby to go dashing off through a winter snowstorm on his own. They probably took him a little way from the lodge and turned him loose, hoping he would just disappear. Whoever has the collar now, switched the cheap imitation collar for the diamond studded one. They never expected the cat to be found, but in case he was recovered then he would have the cheap collar on and it would give them time to slip the real one back on so no one would be on to their tricks. If the cat wasn’t found, no one would be the wiser that they had the necklace. They would be in the clear. They would keep the collar for a while then have some jeweler take the thing apart and sell the diamonds individually. Everyone would just think the cat and his high-priced jewelry had disappeared.”
“We have three possible suspects,” said Monique thinking out loud. “Maria St. Clair, the cat’s owner. World famous actress, blogger, and social influencer. We also have her personal manager, Kristen Williams, and the chauffeur, Trent. I don’t know his last name. They were the three people who would have access to the cat.”
The Professor nodded. “I think our best bet is to call the three of them together and present them with the evidence.”
“Alright,” said Monique pulling her phone from her back pocket, “I’ll send a text and see if we can get them together in the lobby around seven this evening.”
In a few minutes, her phone dinged with a message confirming the meeting in the lobby.
“We can have an early dinner before they show up for the meeting,” said the Professor as he stood up and walked to the window to watch the snowfall which was beginning to cover the trees outside. “Let’s put that cat on a leash so you don’t have to carry it around everywhere.”
“I’ll check and see if we can find a pet store,” replied Monique, scrolling through her phone in search of a nearby pet shop.
“I’ve got it covered,” smiled the professor, as he pulled a collar and leash from his coat pocket and handed it to his surprised partner.
Monique held the collar and leash and looked at them in surprise. “You carry a collar and leash in your coat pocket?”
“I try to be prepared.”
Monique gave the collar a close inspection then gave a mischievous smile. “You always did like those studded collars.”
The Professor smiled and began looking at the picture of the cat again. He frowned and sighed. Monique walked over to where he was sitting and looked over his shoulder. “You’re holding it upside down again.”
The Professor nodded and looked over at the cat. “It looks like the old boy has lost weight since this picture was taken.”
Monique looked at the picture again and then glanced at the cat again. “Yes,” she agreed. “Maybe a little.”
The Professor continued staring at the upside-down picture of the cat. “Grab that cat and hold it upside down.”
“What? You want me to hold a cat upside down?” Monique asked in surprise. “Cats in general don’t like to cooperate. When you start holding them upside down it can get to be pretty tricky.”
“Yes, I agree,” replied the Professor fumbling around in his coat pocket before producing a pair of long heavy-duty gloves. “Wear these. They should keep you from getting scratched.”
Monique put the gloves on and held the squirming, clawing, uncooperative cat upside down. The Professor moved close just out of claw range as he stared at the upside-down picture and the upside-down cat. “Do you see what I see?”
Monique glanced at the picture and back at the cat. “Oh my gosh. The cat in the picture is a male. This cat is a female!”
“Right,” nodded the Professor, glancing over his shoulder as Maria St. Clair, her manager, Kristen, and the chauffeur Trent walked into the room.
Maria St. Clair gave a big smile as she walked over to the detectives. “Monique, Professor. We hope you have good news regarding Pasquale, Prince of Shades.”
The Professor looked lost until Monique whispered, “The cat.”
“Yes, yes,” the Professor mumbled. “We just wanted to update you on our progress to this point and to ask another question or two.”
“Certainly,” smiled Maria. “Whatever we need to do to find Pasquale. I see you have found a look-a-like here.”
“Yes, yes, almost thought we had him. Well, first of all, I think it’s just a matter of time before we have the big guy back home,” smiled the Professor. “I do have one question. Is Pasco still a manly cat? That is, has he retained all of his parts in working order?”
“Pasquale,” corrected Maria. “Yes, at some point we hope to have many little Pasquales’ around to spread joy and happiness.”
“Well, that’s good to hear,” said the Professor with a big smile. “I guess that’s really all we needed. We hope to close the case and have Pasco back with you soon.”
Maria St. Clair and her entourage took their leave as Monique and the Professor pondered their next move.
“Monique, do you still have that other can of tuna?”
“In my purse.”
“Let’s grab our coats, the tuna, and bring along this imposter cat and head to the front porch for a while,” said the Professor, as he got up from the couch and headed to the coat rack. Monique with the cat in tow followed his lead. They put on their coats and settled in on the snow-covered porch. The open can of tuna and the female cat proved to be a powerful combination. Within a matter of minutes, a large cat waddled from the shrubbery and onto the porch where the Professor pounced on the slow-moving feline. The Professor quickly produced another studded collar and lease from his coat pocket and the large cat was soon secured. As they sat smiling over their quick capture of the runaway cat, a middle-aged man and woman stepped onto the porch and stopped in surprise as they saw the cat Monique was holding. They stopped and together they exclaimed, “Fifi!”
They rushed forward, grabbed the cat, and gave it a big hug. “Thank you so much for finding Fifi! We didn’t think we would see her again. Thank you again!”
The couple owned the twenty-four-hour pancake shop located next door to the lodge. As a reward for their lost cat they gave Monique and the Professor a coupon good for free pancakes for a week. As they watched the happy couple walk away with their newly recovered cat the detectives smiled a happy smile.
“I’m calling Maria St. Clair to let her know we have recovered Pasquale,” said Monique pulling her phone from her purse. Within minutes Maria and her manager were on the front porch. Happy tears streamed down Maria’s face as she gave the big cat a tight hug. “My Pasquale has been found.”
It was arranged for the detectives to pick up their check for their detective work first thing in the morning. Maria St. Clair and Kristen headed back to their respective rooms as Maria gave the big cat a severe talking to.
“Pasquale has been a bad, bad boy,” scolded Maria, while the cat looked totally unconcerned.
The Professor gave a big chuckle. “Old Pasco might really have been a bad boy if those folks hadn’t carried off Fifi.”
Monique gave a big smile as she looked at the coupon for pancakes they had been given by Fifi’s owners. “Are you up for some free pancakes?”
“The Professor moved from the chair and gave a big smile. “Two things I’m always game for, free, and pancakes.”
“What else do you have in that coat pocket?” asked Monique, as she gave a curious tug on his jacket.
“A skateboard, a ham sandwich, a map to a buried treasure, and a 1967 issue of TV Guide,” smiled the Professor.
The two detectives laughed as they walked arm in arm toward the Pancake shop.