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Chapter 4: 'Cats. A Chase.'

June 10, 2008|By LYDIA HADFIELD

Pulse serial fiction - PART 4 OF 6




As much as I would have loved to continue playing spoons with the circus knife-throwers, Wanda and Earl, and with Bill the contortionist, time was running out. I had a case to solve.

One hasty excuse later, I dashed over to the trailer where Davie and his trained cats abided. I felt the summer evening waning. I needed to retrieve P. Jaybody's money before the day's last show. Zelda the elephant's handlers were due to arrive in the morning to take her to a wildlife preserve. Jaybody needed the money to pay them.

As soon as I knocked on Davie's door, I realized I didn't have an excuse for visiting.

I heard a strange scratching noise, then a thump. The door swung open several inches to reveal a large tawny feline, sitting erect, tail swishing. It regarded my attire suspiciously. I'd never felt so self-conscious about my pith helmet, blue and yellow striped vest, and cutoff slacks before.

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"Impressed?" A pale, thin man scooped the cat into his arms, "Evangelina is my best pupil. I trained her to open doors."

A smug smile curved into his pallid face.

I remembered what Wanda said: Davie thinks he's the whole circus.

"You must be Davie!" I gasped. "Trainer of amazing cats!"

"Yes, yes. That I am."

"I'm auditioning tonight," I lied, "And after seeing your act, I knew you were the only one worth asking for advice."

Davie was pleased. "Well. I'm glad there was one cultured individual in the audience."

Davie sat in the doorway and made a series of clicking noises. A multicolored menagerie appeared. Cats wove through his arms and hopped onto his shoulders.

"That's the problem with circuses," Davie confided. "There's little recognition for real talent. A 5-year-old can train a dog. Cat training is an art. If you really want to go somewhere, don't bother with Jaybody's little flea circus here."

"Why haven't you left?" I asked.

"Oh, just waiting for the right opportunity," Davie said as he fiddled with the little plastic necklace around Evangelina's neck. I realized all of the cats were wearing matching fake pearls.

"Your cats are so beautiful." I reached to pet one. It snarled and swiped.

"Thank you. Presentation is everything," Davie said. "I groomed them yesterday afternoon. They adore being shampooed."

"Ah..."

Davie eyed my arms, smeared with illegible inked notes, then noticed one of his cats crawling away from the trailer in pursuit of a grasshopper.

"Dmitry!" Davie sighed angrily. "That one's a struggle. One bad cat will ruin the whole show."

Dmitry half-heartedly slunk back to Davie's side.

"Excuse me," Davie stood abruptly. "It's time to prepare."

"Thank you for the advice."

"You are welcome."

I exited the trailer. Davie, or perhaps Evangelina, shut the door.

I exhaled and congratulated myself on my performance. I settled beneath the shade of a tree on the edge of the fairgrounds to review my observations. The ink on my arm was unreadable, but I'd memorized the notes. I ticked them off on my fingers.

1) Jaybody wants to send Zelda to an African preserve.

2) Money for Zelda's move was stolen from J's locked trailer between 9 and 10 last night - J left the window open a few inches - Window locked so could not be opened or closed further.

3) Bow tie and perfumey scent found at the scene of the crime.

4) Elephants smell bad.

5) Lou the elephant trainer puts Zelda to bed at 8.

6) Bill the contortionist tripped over Davie's cats yesterday and spent the evening complaining to the knife-throwing duo about his stiff back.

7) Davie groomed his-

A door slammed. I left my thoughts behind. Someone darted out of a circus trailer. A man began running towards a truck. I leapt to my feet.

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