Chapter 4: 10 Days before Christmas
The next day, Polo came over to our house.
“Guess who I met at the park early this morning?” yapped Polo.
Before we could respond, he answered the question himself.
Polo is, by nature, an excitable doggie with a tendency to go into a high-pitched yap whenever he became agitated.
Nevertheless, he had a heart of gold. In my opinion, Polo was an OK pal.
Though now comfortably off, Polo had gone through some rough patches in life.
“You all remember Boss, don’t you?” continued Polo.
What a question!!!
I felt a shudder run through my furry family. Of course, we did!
In fact, we had been advised by both Monk and Polo to steer clear away from Boss.
To be honest, he frightened the daylights out of us.
Boss was a tough Rottweiler dog who lived down the street next to Polo’s house.
Boss was big and strong and reputed to have a vicious streak.He went with his master to the park every morning with his head held high.
He had a hoity-toity expression on his face with snooty airs towards any animal that was not at least as tall as him.
The only cat that he had any respect for was Monk. Monk could be menacing when it pleased him.
We had seen Boss walk by from the safety of our home. None of us dared to meet him face- to-face.
“I met him at the park this morning,” said Polo.
“He actually came up to me and asked me how I was. He then whispered that he wished very much to meet the gang who solved the mystery of my Señora’s lost diamond necklace.”
The story of the diamond necklace had spread around like wild fire amongst the animal kingdom of Kensington.
We had become the talk of the town.
Terrance, in any case, had a glorious reputation due to having a great detective as his master and assisting him in solving many crimes. He was a hero and well respected by all the dogs, cats and other animals in the neighborhood and beyond.
I was pleased to note that my name as a good snoop was getting around too.
“I invited him over,” said Polo.
“What?” I gasped. The hair on the back of my neck raised in horror despite myself.
We were going to have Boss amongst us?!
I saw Cara visibly shrink. Cara is timid by nature and tries to avoid unpleasant situations.
To be honest, I was not too thrilled about meeting Bully-Boy-Boss either. He gave me the shivers.
Just at that moment, Monk strolled in.
“What’s going on? Why is everyone looking as if they have been hit with a bat?” he meowed.
Polo repeated his conversation with Boss to Monk.“I cannot refuse any doggie in need, YOU understand don’t you Monk?” barked Polo excitedly justifying his invitation to Boss.
There was a sudden scratching sound at our door.
“That must be Boss,” said Polo.
Monk strolled to the door and opened it. Monk is clever that way. He is able to jump up and turn any door handle with ease.
It was Boss at the door.
He looked even more scary when one saw him close-up.
I went and stood next to Monk because this is my territory and more importantly because my nosiness got the better of me.
I needed to be at the forefront of every situation. I am the first to admit that I am a pretty NOSEY snoopy cat!
Boss stood there with a surprisingly meek look on his face.
“What can we do for you, Boss?” said Monk. I was surprised at Boss’s humble manner.
The Boss who stood before us was very different from the haughty bully we normally saw strutting down the street with his master Ned.
Boss looked worried and down in the dumps.
“May I please come in GRrrrrr?” He asked in a soft growl far removed from his usually loud sharp bark.
We looked at each other and I gave a nod to Monk.
“Come on in,” said Monk. “What is the matter? are you sick?”
“No, it’s more serious than that… GRrrrrr,” Boss rasped.
More serious than being sick? Something grim must have happened.
“It looks as if I will be parted from Ned who is going to lose his home, GRrrrrr” Boss howled in a sad voice.
He went on to explain that Ned had lived in the house owned by old Mr. Finchley since he was a toddler. Mr. Finchley had been a crusty old bachelor and the owner of a well-known chocolate factory.
Ned’s parents had been working as missionaries in Africa. Mr. Finchley being a close friend of his father, had invited Ned to live with him. Ned’s parents had fallen ill in Africa and had moved to the other world in the blue skies.
Ned had continued to live with Mr. Finchley whom he called uncle.
Mr. Finchley has passed away a few weeks ago.
Ned had never been legally adopted by Mr. Finchley. Boss was not sure of the details as he had come to Ned as a puppy, when Ned was grown up. All he knew was that Ned had lived with Mr. Finchley since he was four years old.
Mr. Finchley had willed the house to Ned and told him about it when he fell ill. He had
even shown him a legal paper, his last will, that said so.
Mr. Finchley had a nephew named Cyril who was of the same age as Ned. Cyril had been working with his uncle for some time and had eventually taken over his uncle’s reputable chocolate factory when the old man became sick.
While Mr. Finchley had willed the valuable house to Ned, his nephew Cyril would take over the family business along with the other properties of even greater value than the house.
Ned, who had loved Mr. Finchley deeply, had been more worried about his sickness rather than owning his property and had not paid much attention to him when he spoke about his will.
Cyril had come to live with them ever since his uncle became sick and Ned had been fully occupied caring for old Mr. Finchley when he could no longer get up from his bed.
It now turned out that the will was missing and Cyril claimed that the house too belonged to him. He had asked Ned to move out of the house.
Cyril had given Ned a three-month’s grace period to find a new place to live.
Ned, not being the smartest peg on the block, couldn’t trace the will which was given to him by his uncle. He was in a miserable state at the thought of leaving the only home he had ever known.
Worst of all, Ned loved Boss and couldn’t bear to be parted from him.
Hard to believe anyone loving Boss, but some humans had weird tastes, I thought to myself.
Cyril had told Ned that he would need Boss as a watchdog for the house and he would have to leave Boss behind when he moved out.
Boss was an EXCELLENT watchdog!
We all knew this since he didn’t allow a cat, let alone a thief, to pass by without making a roaring din about it.
Boss looked woe-be-gone at the very thought of losing Ned.
We had heard from Polo that Ned was Boss’s buddy and had looked after him since he came to the Finchley household. Ned groomed Boss daily and fed him nutritious stuff.
Ned’s favorite pastime was keeping Boss in peak condition. They went for jogs to the park every morning.
“Cyril hates any type of exercise and prefers resting on his armchair eating away rather than jogging in the park with me, GRrrrrr,” growled Boss.
Boss counted on his toes reasons he detested Cyril:
“Cyril was a greedy fatso… GRrrr
“Cyril repeatedly belched loudly…. GRrrrr
“Cyril let off stink bombs all evening after eating like a pig… GRrrrrr
“Cyril was rude and nasty to Ned…. GRrrrrrr
“Most importantly: Cyril didn’t love me as Ned did.…. GRrrrrrrr”
“What a stinker! …. GRrrr
“Imagine being stuck with that nasty pig Cyril…… GRrrrr
“No more daily walks and running in the park…… GRrrrrr.”
Boss hung his head really low and gave a long mournful groan.
“GGRrrrrrRRrrrrrrrrrrrr GGRrrrrrRRRRRRRRRR Rrrrrrr!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
It was strange seeing this pitiful side of Boss.
We had heard such scary stories about him that in our minds, Boss was someone that we kitties should avoid at all costs, for fear of our lives.
I decided to christen Cyril “The Stinky Porkster,” there and then.
Nothing like a code name to add some pep to our adventure.
The others were thrilled by this new name.
Fromage went tumbling around the room shouting:
“Take this you Stinky Porkster! - Thump… whack!
“Thump…thump…whack…whack! - Take that you Stinky Porkster!”
Fromage, in his mind, was fighting a real live enemy and winning.
WINNING BIG-TIME, I may add.
We all knew that Fromage imagined himself to be a real live HERO.
But the end result was that he looked more comical than ever. He tended to look like a melting popsicle when he plopped down on the floor after one of his brave hero acts.
Marvelously, Fromage had managed to cheer- up Boss.
Who could not help but smile when Fromage acted as a hero?
He did look comical.
Despite my fear of Boss, I hated to see anyone down in the dumps.
I felt it was a shame for a proud doggie like Boss to look so sad, even though he had been a dreadful terror up to now.
I looked at Monk to see his reaction. Polo looked at Monk with pleading eyes. Polo the softy’s heart had already melted.
He had forgiven Boss for his haughty behavior of the past.
Monk glanced at Polo and looked calculatingly at Boss.
He suddenly made up his mind and winked at me unknown to the others.
“Yep, we will help you, but on one condition Boss”, rasped Monk.
“You must give me your word of honor that from this day onwards you will treat us cats,
not only me, but ALL CATS with the utmost respect.”
“GRrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!” went Boss in shock. “What do you mean, Monk GRrrrrr?” he barked.
“Just the cats in this compound, right GRrrrrr.” he woofed loudly eying Cara, Fromage and me.
“You don’t expect me to be friends with all those cats trying to sneak in to my property? Surely not? GRrrrrr?”
As you may have noticed by now, Boss had a habit of ending all his conversations with a “GRrrrrr.”
Quite alarming, if you didn’t know him. Monk stood firm.
“No, Boss! I mean every single cat in the world and of course Charlotte,” he said pointing at Charlotte peering out from the safety of her little cage.
Boss gave a glance at Charlotte and his arrogance surfaced once again.
“When have I been interested in such little creatures? GRrrrrr?” he snarled.
“Who or what is that anyway? GRrrrrr?” Boss added baring his long sharp teeth.
I saw looks of annoyance from both Polo and Fromage.
What cheek asking for our help and insulting our friend! How dare he speak of Charlotte in such a manner?As for Charlotte, she had stopped in her tracks when she heard Boss speak about her.
She turned her back on him in scorn, her nose quivering in rage.
I noted her thought process: “Ugly monster!
“I will creep into his ear and dance in his brain.”
Boss is not unintelligent. He immediately realized he had made the biggest blunder of his life and quickly retracted.
“I am sorry. GRrrrrr,” he said, his front paws covering his nose
“Of course! I include Charlotte in the group that I will protect from this day onwards. GRrrrrr.
“Not only will I treat ALL cats with respect, but also Charlotte, who I have heard, is the cleverest hamster in Kensington. GRrrrrr.”
Flattery will get you everywhere!
Everyone’s ruffled fur settled down, including that of Charlotte’s.
Charlotte beamed at him in approval. Quick turnaround, I noted.
We agreed that we would all go over to Boss’s house later that evening to do some real detective work.
We also decided that Polo would not accompany us.
Monk, Fromage and I would have to enter Boss’s compound by leaping from trees and roofs, and Polo would not be able to manage that being a doggie.
Polo looked disappointed, but even he could see the wisdom of this plan and reluctantly agreed on the condition that we would tell him all on our return.
Cara preferred to cuddle up to Mom instead of roaming the night climbing trees. So, it was agreed that she would not join us either.
Just for a test run, Monk asked Fromage and me to come with him while it was daylight to take a look at Boss’s house from the safety of the wall between Boss’s and Polo’s house.
While I was determined to help out Boss, I could not help being uneasy about this case.
Could we really help Boss and Ned keep their house?
I had no idea where to start. I would have to piggyback on Monk for this case.
My earlier intention to resolve the next mystery by myself was slowly fading away.
We all went over to Polo’s house through the hole in the hedge between our houses.
While Polo, Charlotte and Cara stayed in Polo’s garden, Monk, Fromage and I climbed on to the wall after climbing up a tree.
It was not an easy climb. We struggled through, sat on the wall and observed Boss’s house and garden.
The house was large with a two-car garage and an even larger garden.
In the garage, a tiny old car was sitting next to a shiny large car.
Boss appeared below the wall and looked up at us.
“I will meet you right here tonight. GRrrrrr” he rasped.
“The bedrooms are on the other side of the house. This is the back garden. The small car belongs to Ned and the fancy car belongs to the Stinky Porkster. GRrrrrr.”
Not too difficult a jump down, I thought, even though the wall was quite high. I hoped it wasn’t too high for Fromage. He had struggled a bit and fallen down twice when we had climbed the tree. Fortunately, he had landed on a soft bush.
Despite the falls, I wouldn’t dream of asking Fromage to stay behind. He loves any type of adventure and would create a huge hullabaloo if he couldn’t be in it.
In any case, he would certainly refuse.
It was 11 p.m.
Fromage and I slipped out of our cottage.
Monk was waiting for us on the back porch of his house.
We followed Monk to Boss’s house leaping over fences and crawling under shrubs.
When it came to climbing up a large tree to land on Boss’s high wall, I nudged Fromage ahead of me. I was aware that our Fromage is a bit clumsy.
“Slow and steady, sink your claws into the branch at each step. Don’t look down; just keep your eyes on Monk,” I whispered in Fromage’s ears.
Fromage cautiously clambered up the tree.
We finally arrived on Boss’s high wall, without further mishap. The top of the wall was wide and gave us sufficient space to comfortably settle down.
I was glad that Fromage had managed the climb with no problems.
Fromage gave me his cheeky grin!
“Remember the times we used to visit Charlotte over the rooftops of Paris, Sis?”
How could I forget?
“Yes Fromage. Remember watching the iron lady—
Eiffel dancing in her sparkling gown?” I said.
Boss was indeed a great watchdog. His senses were very sharp. No sooner than we settled on his wall, he came charging through the dog flap of his back door.
Only this time, he did not make a sound—no barking at all. He came at us like a bullet and settled down close below us.
“Can you jump down easily? GRrrrrr?” he asked.
I looked down. It was a really high wall. I could manage it and so could Monk, but I was thinking about Fromage.
Boss’s sharp eyes seemed to have caught my uncertainty in the pale light of the moon.
“Not to worry. GRrrrrr” he rasped. “Just follow me. GRrrrrr.”
Turning around quickly, he ran swiftly along the wall to a point where there was a clump of shrubs, growing from the ground all the way up to the top of the wall. Clutching onto the shrub, we slipped down easily.
It was a breeze even for clumsy Fromage.
“Thank you all for coming. GRrrrrr” said Boss gratefully.
“No worries, Boss,” I replied. “Let’s go. GRrrrrr,” said Boss.
He stopped at a window and we stood on tiptoe to look in. We saw a large comfortable room where a podgy man was seated puffing on a pipe with a HUGE plate of sweets clutched in his ham like heavy fist.
Boss looked at him with an anxious expression.
“That’s the Stinky Porkster…. GRrrrrr” he said.
“Ned used to sit on that same chair every evening. But since he couldn’t tolerate the smoke of the cigar, he has retreated to the kitchen. GRrrrrr.”
Boss moved to the next large window where we saw Ned sitting at the kitchen table. He was looking into his cup of cocoa miserably.
“I see that Ned does not have his usual happy- go-lucky face,” said Monk.
“That’s right. GRrrrrr” replied Boss.
“I have a great deal of trouble getting him to go on our usual run in the mornings. GRrrrrr.
“I believe, it is only because of me that he makes the effort. GRrrrrr.
“He understands the importance of keeping a dog like me in tip-top physical condition. GRrrrrr.”
I secretly studied Boss’s physique.
I would give him that—Boss was in superb condition. His lean muscles rippled when he moved and his black coat was shiny with clearly defined tan markings.
Boss’s kitchen was very spacious. We could see a large furnace well-lit with crackling wood and a huge basket which we thought was for Boss to lie close to the fire.
“Tell us something about Ned and your life,” said Monk.
“Not much to say. GRrrrrr.” Boss began.
“Ned spends a lot of the time caring for me. Daily brushings, jogs in the park and preparing my food from scratch. He loves cooking and used to take care of his uncle, very carefully preparing delicious soups. GRrrrrr.
“Unfortunately, the old man could not eat towards the latter part of his life. Ned was very attached to old Mr. Finchley. GRrrrrr.
“We have a man named Rolf who lives in and takes care of the house and garden, but it is his day off. He should be back soon. GRrrrrr.
“Rolf is one tough, ugly guy, but I generally ignore him as he doesn’t like dogs and considers me just a watch dog. GRrrrrr.
“Another reason why I detest Rolf is because he is very close to the Stinky Porkster. GRrrrrr.”
“What about the will that you spoke about?” said Monk.
“Were you there when the old man gave it to Ned?”
“I believe so. GRrrrrr” said Boss, screwing up his nose and brow, trying to think back.
“Unfortunately, I have a very short memory span. GRrrrrr.
“But I always followed Ned around the house and when he used to take Old Mr. Finchley his
meals, I accompanied him carrying his serviette. GRrrrrr.
“I must have been there for sure. GRrrrrr.” “Try to give it some thought, Boss,” said Monk.
“If you can remember that day, it would give us a clue in tracing the will.”
Boss shook his head and then shook it again hard.
I looked at him in alarm.
I thought his head would fly off.
“I just don’t seem to remember. Sorry Monk. GRrrrrr,” said Boss, looking rather flustered.
I remembered most things by allowing my mind to wander and ponder over things. I thought that perhaps Boss would succeed if he tried to do this as well.
“Don’t worry about it now,” I told him. “Give it some thought later on.”
Just then the lights in the living room were switched off and we saw the Stinky Porkster climb the stairs to go to his room.
In a little while, we saw Ned get up from the chair at the kitchen dining-table and with his cocoa still in his hand, take the back stairs up to his bedroom.
Monk suddenly had an idea.
“Boss, can you take us to the room that old Mr. Finchley occupied? Perhaps by relating what happened that day, you may remember more details,” said Monk.
We went to the back door and entered Boss’s house through the large dog flap.
The house somewhat resembled the house that was occupied by the Señora and Polo. A large house with spacious rooms and plenty of space.
Old Mr. Finchley’s room was downstairs. He had moved into the library when he had fallen ill and it was too difficult for him to climb the stairs.
There were shelves of books still lining the entire room. A large bed had also been placed in the middle of the room.
The room was empty with the bed neatly made. All of old Mr. Finchley’s things had been boxed and given away to charity.
We sat on the carpet and Monk asked Boss to think back to that day and describe what he remembered.
Boss closed his eyes and started speaking slowly.
“I remember old Mr. Finchley sitting on the bed propped up by a great number of pillows. It was summer time and Ned had left the window open so that Mr. Finchley could hear the birds singing in the trees outside. It was one of Mr. Finchley’s better days and though weak, he was smiling. GRrrrrr.
“I remember now. GRrrrrr,” continued Boss.
“The Stinky Porkster had come to see Mr. Finchley that day. They were talking about the chocolate factory when Ned came in with Mr. Finchley’s supper. I trailed behind him carrying his serviette. GRrrrrr.
“Mr. Finchley liked me bringing his serviette to him. He took it, patted me on the head, called me a ‘good doggie’ and asked me to look after the house. GRrrrrr.
“After Ned set down the tray, Mr. Finchley handed over the will to him and said that the house was left to Ned and the factory to Cyril.
“Mr. Finchley added that he was doing this now since he did not know as to how many more days he had to live. GRrrrrr.
“At that moment, I recall Ned breaking down and kneeling by Mr. Finchley’s bed and burying his head on his lap. Ned was very upset. After some time, Ned left the room and I left with him. That is all I can remember GRrrrrr.
“Is that good enough, Monk GRrrrrr?” he asked eagerly.
“Not bad at all old chap,” said Monk. “You did well enough.”
Monk asked Boss to stay with Fromage downstairs while he and I did a quick inspection of the rooms upstairs.
The upstairs had two sections. One part seemed to be for Ned. The other, formerly occupied by old Mr. Finchley, had been taken over by The Stinky Porkster.
None of the doors were firmly shut and Monk and I were able to push them open and check the rooms. Both the Stinky Porkster and Ned seemed to be fast asleep. Both were snoring in different tones.
Went the Stinky Porkster loudly.
Went Ned in a softer tone.
Both rooms had large windows overlooking the garden. There were lots of trees outside which would give easy access to anyone trying to enter the house through them.
The Porkster and Ned seemed to like fresh air because all the windows had been left open with the curtains flapping lightly in the wind. Both rooms had their own small fireplaces which were crackling with burning wood.
However, I doubted any thief would be able to sneak into the house, since Boss was circling around it at all times. I guess that is why the windows were open. The household was secure with Boss guarding it.
We went downstairs, collected Fromage and said goodnight to Boss. We asked him to keep thinking back and if he remembered anything else, to let Polo know when he met him in the park the next morning.
Promising to come back soon, Monk returned to his house. Fromage and I returned to ours.