To say that Amelia Cabot was the most sought after woman in the little town of Enwick, New York was like saying the Atlantic was a little wet. As the heiress to a manufacturing empire, she had plenty of money that had more than one man panting after her, and those that weren’t after her money were after her looks. More than once, she had been compared to a “Golden Age of Hollywood” star, the classic beauty that will never fade, and she had started to grow tired and jaded of all the attention. Her personal assistant who handled Amelia’s various correspondences once reported a record breaking two hundred proposals arriving in one day, both by mail and accompanied by large, ridiculously expensive bouquets of flowers that she immediately donated to the local hospital and senior home just so she didn’t have to deal with them.
The proposals were burned in the fire pit in the backyard.
The next day, Amelia held a press conference in front of the gate leading to her house, and most of the town was there as well. Any excuse to see the beautiful Miss Cabot was acceptable to many of those gathered, and the bulbs of cameras were flashing the second her door opened. She was dressed in a classy pantsuit that looked as if it came straight from Lauren Bacall’s closet, and her chestnut hair was in neat waves that gleamed like silk in the sun. Her makeup, what little she wore, was perfect and accented her green gold eyes and flawless skin.
“Thank you all for coming,” announced Amelia, looking straight ahead and apparently ignoring everyone as she talked. It was typical for her to either stare at her notes or a fixed point in the back of whatever room she was speaking in. Most thought it was because of nerves that came from talking in front of crowds. “As many of you are aware, I have been receiving numerous, unwanted proposals since the day I turned eighteen. That was ten years ago. I am very tired of it, so I offer a challenge to everyone interested.”
The crowd was completely silent as they hung on her every word, even as she held up a key. It was a simple, ordinary house key that a person could find in any hardware store, nothing special about it at all.
“This is the key to my front door,” she announced. “Tomorrow, it will be hanging around my cat’s neck. I will only marry the person who manages to get this key from my cat. Don’t bother trying to cheat. I will know. The two rules are as follows: Nothing lethal or potentially maiming in getting the key, and no one is allowed on my property without the key as it also unlocks my front gate.”
Questions were being shouted at her from both reporters and the people who had gathered,but Amelia ignored all of them as she turned and walked back into her home, leaving a stunned crowd behind. Many left, the reporters to file the story with their respective news agencies while the citizens went to start planning on how to catch a cat. (It was the most popular Google search that night, leading to some confused people at the search engine’s office.)
The next morning, there was a crowd of men around Amelia’s property, armed with everything from snares to ropes to even a couple of fishing nets on poles. All were waiting, hoping to be the one to catch the cat and finally win the lovely and rich Amelia for themselves. The sun was sparkling off the dew decorating the freshly cut lawn, and the sky was clear without even a single white cloud to mar the expanse of blue.
There was a click of a lock, and everyone held their breath, tensing as the front door swung open. A sleek cinnamon colored cat stepped out onto the front step, the sunlight glinting off of the key around the animal’s neck, and every eye focused on the cat even as Amelia’s assistant stepped into the doorway to address the feline.
“I hope you return by dinner, young lady. Miss Cabot has planned for your favorite treat tonight,” she stated, and nodded when the cat meowed apparently in response. The door closed, leaving the coveted cat sitting on the step where a paw was thoroughly washed as if she knew she was perfectly safe where she was.
Someone started whistling, the sort of sound meant to coax a curious critter closer. As if that was some predetermined signal, noises of all sorts sprang up around the property, a cacophony of desperate men trying to coax a cat to come to them.
Instead, the cat sneezed, stood up, stretched, and vanished.
Startled cries and yelps mixed with the sounds of people falling over each other as they all tried to catch the cat, and the wall of men around the property surged in the direction of the noise, each hoping to get the cat even as they only ended up tangling themselves up in each other. It took them several precious minutes to get untangled enough to be able to stand up again, but by that time, no one knew where the cat had gone.
Desperate, they scattered, all going to search for the cat, never noticing the shadow perched on a tree branch, tail twitching so slightly as the men ran off.
I looked at the latest advertisement that had gone up on the public board at the Hallowed Grounds Coffee Shop and snickered as I pulled it down. Apparently, someone was desperate enough to advertise the Cabot cat as their own and offered a reward to anyone who had information on her location and/or possible capture. It had been almost two months since the cat had been let loose, and it had been hilarious to see various men chasing it all over town, attempting to capture it with crude traps, and a couple had even hired pest control companies to set up live traps for the dear.
Walking back behind the counter, I tossed the “lost cat” flyer into the trash before glancing at the clock. It was about time for my visitor, and today I had a treat for her. I grabbed a shallow bowl off a shelf before digging a can of tuna out of my lunch bag. The tuna went into a dish after it had been drained of water, and the bowl was filled with water. Carefully balancing the two, I walked out the back door and into the alley where I put the two dishes down before retreating several feet.
Just as I crouched down to sit on my heels, a slender figure slipped from a fire escape to the closed dumpster before finally landing silently on the ground. With a friendly “meow”, Miss Cabot as I had taken to calling the cat in question, trotted over and sat down, sticking her nose in the water.
“Someone put up a flier, claiming you were theirs and offering a reward for your safe return, Miss Cabot,” I remarked, humor in my voice, and she twitched an ear in what could be irritation. “It didn’t stay up long before it was file 13.” I hummed and rested my arms on my knees as I watched the sunlight play across her lovely fur. It reminded me of this blanket my mom once had that we use to wrap up in on cold, rainy days and read. I still had that blanket because my mom gave it to me when I moved out, but my chances of curling up with a good book on a rainy day were greatly diminished due to my recent promotion to daytime manager at the shop. However, I did have a day off coming up and there was the possibility of rain that day...
I shook my head and pushed those thoughts aside for now. There would be time to plan a rainy day reading later. “I brought tuna for you today because I was out of chicken, and Frankie stole the last of my hamburger to make chili which I don’t think you would want to indulge in. He spices it like he’s trying to remove wallpaper with the fumes coming off of that.”
Frankie was a great guy, but he cooked like everything was from India or China that came through Louisiana. I made the mistake of trying a bite of his latest creation once, and I swear I didn’t have taste buds for a week after.
“The weather is talking about the possibility of rain on Thursday, so I’ll keep a window open for you if you insist on being out in that sort of weather,” I remarked, standing up and dusting my hands off on my jeans as I looked around. I had the sensation of someone watching me, and I didn’t like it at all. “Might want to avoid this place for the next few days. Someone might get the idea that they can catch you here while you’re resting.”
I grinned at the unimpressed look I received as she finished up her snack before she turned and vanished down the alley just as heavy footsteps pounced up behind me. I barely had a chance to get out of the way before some idiot with a gun in his hands barreled past her, swearing up a storm.
“Gun’s aren’t exactly non-lethal,” I shouted after him, gathering up the dishes and heading back inside. If he responded, I didn’t hear it as the door shut behind me and washed the dishes in the sink before putting them up for the next time Miss Cabot came to visit. I did take a few moments to call the Cabot Cat Hotline to warn Miss Cabot’s assistant about the idiot with the gun, leaving a message when it went to voicemail. That had been something the more level headed of us asked for so we could help out just a bit.