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The Cat Burglar

By Mike Blanche. E-Mail mrblanche@sbcglobal.net

Hi! My name is Scottie. Scottie Sooner. Cute name, huh? I chose it myself. The new person I have chosen to live with let me put my paw on the slips of paper on the floor with different names on them. I didn't let on I can read; that might have scared the poor woman, and she has been very kind to me.

I'm a burglar. A cat burglar, to be exact. Oh, don't get me wrong; I don't steal CATS, I steal other things, but I work with stealth and quiet, like a cat.

"OK, but you ARE a cat," I hear you say.

Now I am. I wasn't always. Just a little old-fashioned karma coming down, I guess.

It wasn't all that long ago I was human. I got involved in a little caper that ended up with my working for the government. They told me I had two choices: Jail, or cooperation. I cooperated. They gave me tougher and tougher assignments. My last one involved breaking into a file cabinet in an embassy belonging to a very hostile country. The FBI saw me go in the building, but they never saw me leave. That had to do with the fact that I got caught in the act. A nine-millimeter hand cannon with a silencer is a terrible thing to meet up with in the middle of the night, and I distinctly remember the cruel, mocking face behind the sights, just before he pulled the trigger. How could my FBI tail know I, or what was left of me, was in the dumpster the garbage truck picked up that morning? What amazed me even more was that *I* knew my "corpus delecti" was in the garbage truck chugging out of the embassy compound.

Let me back up a little. I grew up in a small midwestern town. My childhood was neither distinguished nor exceptional. My one oddity was my love for crime and spy stories. I read every book on those subjects in our little library. Those books always pointed to other books on all sorts of topics, so I was extremely widely-read. You would think that would help my academic performance, but school just didn't interest me much. I was quite the loner, my nose in a book and ignoring the world around me.

After I graduated from high school, I joined the U.S. Navy. Uncle Sam's Yacht Club. Did you know that the vast majority of navy recruits are from the landlocked states and have never seen blue water before their first cruise?

I did very well on my aptitude tests and had a choice of assignments. I asked for security, figuring I'd be some sort of policeman. What I became was a locksmith. Let me assure you, there are hundreds of thousands of locks of all types on an aircraft carrier, and someone has to make sure they work. That is "security," I guess! For other really cool security devices, check out this website.

While I became expert at the mechanical side of my job, I studied the psychological aspect of the people around me regarding locks. What type of locks did they use? Did they always lock them? Why or why not? What type of lock did they use for specific purposes? Did they choose a big lock for more important stuff? And so on.

Both my parents were killed in an accident while I was on my last Navy cruise. They left me exactly zilch, nada, nothing. It wasn't that they cut me off; they just didn't own anything much in the world.

After 4 years in the Navy, I was ready for a change. I drove to the largest city near my home and started some research. I went to the largest cemetery in town and found the graves of women who died in childbirth, and their male children who died within a few hours or days. I chose a woman who had died three years after my own birth. I went to the county courthouse and got a certified birth certificate for the baby. With it, I got a social security card, and then a driver's license. I searched the newspapers until I found a story about a high school that had burned down, and claimed that I had graduated from there but the records were lost.

With all this, I joined the U.S. Army, and this time I DID become an MP. I spent four years learning all about police work, and traveling around the world some more. After my hitch was up, I was honorably discharged and promptly pulled the new birth certificate routine again. I had a new name, a new birthday another 2 years younger, a new driver's license, and a new ambition. I wanted to be rich.

I moved to Los Angeles and got a job in a police supply store. As a locksmith and an ex-MP, I had a pretty good acquaintance with all sorts of police and security equipment, not to mention handguns. I worked quietly, listened to the police chatter, and studied my surroundings.

One day, one of the officers mentioned having to check regularly on a certain mansion in a wealthy part of town. Seems the actress who owned it was on a shoot on location in Europe. I checked some records, found the address, and went and looked it over. And studied. And two nights later, I easily opened the supposedly locked back door, disarmed the alarm, and spent an hour inside "shopping." When I left, the alarm was armed, the door was locked, and the safe was closed... but empty.

It took me six months to get rid of all the jewels from that job, but when it was gone, I had almost a million dollars in my Grand Cayman bank account. The actress had had very generous lovers over the years who had showered her with very expensive baubles. I quit my job, visited another actress' mansion I had heard the police mention, drove my car over a cliff on the Pacific Coast Highway, and moved to Hawaii. Of course, I had visited a cemetery and the county courthouse and public library before I left. I was a new man again.

My new home in Hawaii was wonderful. I had hated winter more with each passing year, and life in continual summer was paradise. I bought a nice little beachfront cottage near Waikiki (a mere $275,000) and spent my days on the beach, or in the hammock on the porch, or traveling around the islands seeing the places I had read about in high school. Often, in the evenings, I would eat dinner at a favorite restaurant, go for a moonlit stroll on the beach, and have a drink or two at one of the touristy watering holes. I carefully avoided making friends, and I worked very hard at being inconspicuous. If anyone asked, I had inherited a small fortune from my parents, and modest investments were paying off enough to make it unnecessary for me to work.

Whenever my Grand Cayman bank account fell below a million dollars (this was a psychological quirk on my part), I would spend a few nights in one of the posh hotels in the islands. Waikiki was a good bet, but I had some other favorites: the Sheraton in Princeville, on Kauai, for example. After a few evenings of careful observation, I would visit one wealthy guest's suite and relieve him of some financial burdens. I rarely did more than two per year, and I thoroughly enjoyed listening to the baffled detectives on TV describing the crime. They never had a clue that one person was responsible for most of their high-dollar burglaries. In fact, the lack of evidence led several times to my victim being investigated for insurance fraud. One or two were even guilty of it, having claimed more was stolen than I really got.

Then, one day, a heavy footstep on my wooden porch awoke me from my afternoon reveries. I opened one eye to see an officious sort of man in a gray suit and very highly polished shoes standing next to my hammock. I assumed he was a police detective; who else would wear a suit in Hawaii?

"Mr. Robert White?" he asked, using my current alias.

"Yes, that's what they call me, when they can't think of any four-letter words," I replied.

"Would you please step inside, Mr. White? I'd like to have a few words with you." He made a gesture to the white sedan parked in the street, and three more men in gray suits unfolded themselves from the cramped quarters, stood, and made their way up to my door. One of the men carried a large briefcase.

When we were all seated around the kitchen table, the one with the briefcase opened it up and started making a series of little piles of papers on the table. I watched in some consternation. This surely wasn't the Hawaii police, was it? It looked more like the IRS, to me.

It wasn't.

"Now then, Mr. White," began the first gray suit. "Or should I say Mr. Zulwicki? Or Mr. Petari? Or is it Mr. Hammond? Could it be Mr. Frederick? How about Mr. Marchand?"

His tone was puzzling. He had just gone through all my names, from the time I was in high school. I should be in a lot of trouble, but he clearly wasn't threatening me, and his eyes had a twinkle under a slightly raised eyebrow.

"Have I missed any?" he asked.

I remained silent.

The man in the gray suit waited a moment for my reply, then continued. He tapped one of the stacks of papers on my kitchen table.

"Mr. White, here you see the evidence we have gathered against you. We know your whole career. Here we see you in the Navy, serving your country well."

He tapped another stack of papers.

"Here we see you serving in the Army. Again, you did an excellent job. Unfortunately, you joined under fraudulent circumstances, which is a federal offense."

He picked up the next stack of papers.

"Here we see you working in Los Angeles. Your employer was very happy with your work and was sorry to see you go. Of course, he didn't know that you had used information you apparently picked up in his place of business to commit two very large burglaries."

I showed a little interest in the papers, in spite of myself. They ran from my job application, to the newspaper clippings about the burglaries, to a photo of my burned car being pulled out of the Pacific ocean. These guys were thorough!

"Here we see your life here in Hawaii. Again, you're a model citizen, except that every now and then you relieve some socialite of his or her jewels."

This file showed every aspect of my current life. It also included the two aliases I used to check into the hotels I burglarized. He let me shuffle through the file, and I was amazed to see they had every burglary I had committed. This was a terrible blow to my self-confidence. I thought I had been so clever!!!

"Just who are you?" I finally asked.

"Ah, now, there's the rub. Who do you think I am?" he asked, his eyes still twinkling.

"Well, I assumed you were the police, but I kind of wonder...," I trailed off.

He broke into a hearty laughter, and the three other men smiled.

"No, no, I'm not the police!" he laughed. "You can call me 'Breaker,' which is my current code name. I am a special field agent of the FBI, as is one of my colleagues here." At this, he pulled out a badge.

"The other two gentlemen are agents of the CIA. They are collaborating with us in a number of projects, since our activities deal with foreign nationals, but often our operations are in the United States."

I still held my tongue. This appeared to be way out of my depth.

"Let me assure you," continued Breaker, "we have not talked to the local constabulary about you. They are totally in the dark about your activities. If we hadn't had your fingerprints from your stints in the military, we might be, too, but once we had those, we had no difficulty tracking down your history. These locals are good people, but too prone to taking themselves seriously."

This was some relief to me, but not much.

"We actually admire your work. You seem to be basically an honest person who has an odd skill. In return for keeping the law enforcement types ignorant of your history, we ask a small favor in return."

"Uh, you mean you're going to let me go, just like that?" I asked incredulously.

"Ah, no, Mr. White. But I think you will agree our requests are quite reasonable, and may even be enjoyable to you. So long as you perform to our satisfaction, we will make sure you don't fall into the hands of those who would like to deprive you of your freedom." His eyes still twinkled, but there was a hard look to his features, too.

"Here's your first assignment, Mr. White." Breaker handed me a sheaf of papers, photographs, and maps. "We will meet you back here in a week. Please do your best, and you will be serving your country well, again!"

With that Breaker stood, and the gentlemen with the briefcase collected all the documents about my past. They filed out silently, went down the walk to their car, and drove away.

But the documents they left me were very interesting...

After Breaker and his cohorts had gone, I perused the papers he left me. I was still more than a little puzzled. Why would they want me to do work for them, when I was clearly just a cat burglar?

After a few minutes of study, I had a clearer understanding.

The first sheet was a news clipping about a spy ring that had been broken up a few days ago in Washington, D.C. I remembered the story; my reading back in high school had left me with a lingering interest in spycraft.

Unfortunately, not all the documents that were missing had been recovered. There were no specifics in the news reports on just what was still gone, but it was clear they were important papers.

The second sheet was a photo of one John Doe. Imagine my shock to finally see a photo of this much discussed but elusive character! Actually, it was an American middle man of dubious identity (I could sympathize with that!) to whom the operatives in Washington had passed the purloined papers. His home had been raided, but he had apparently carried the most valuable documents with him. He had fled, but had been tracked to Hawaii. He was believed to be staying at one of the Waikiki hotels, waiting for another contact to pass the papers to.

The authorities wanted the papers more than they wanted John Doe. They didn't want to spook him, and they wanted to be sure they had the documents in their possession before they accosted him again.

The third sheet made me give a low whistle. It was a brief description of the papers I was looking for. They involved a new design for a submarine of radical design. That was all I needed to know. The old Navy loyalty tugged at my conscience.

I lay in my hammock the rest of the afternoon, trying to figure out how to find John Doe and his illegal booty. It would take some leg work.

At dinner time, I headed down to the beach hotels. If I were trying to blend in and be inconspicuous, where would I go? I wouldn't go to the Hilton Hawaiian Village; too many foreign tourists there. In fact, that was a problem all up and down Waikiki. I thought the "Pink Palace," one of the oldest hotels on the beach, would be a good bet.

I went and picked up a small bouquet of roses, then headed down to the Pink Palace and sat in the lobby, near the entrance to the restaurant. I put on my best "I'm just waiting for my blind date, who is late, and may have stood me up" look. I searched the faces of everyone entering and leaving the restaurant, as if I were looking for someone I didn't quite know, but who had been described to me. Which was kind of the truth.

I sat by the entry to the restaurant for almost 3 hours, with no luck. Finally I had to abandon my post to answer the demands of my bladder. I almost had an embarrassing incident at the urinal when I looked up at the gentlemen who had just come up to the urinal next to me. John Doe!

In the quick glance to my right, I had recognized John Doe. I tried to maintain decorum and restroom etiquette by not staring at him, or even glancing back in his direction. However, when he walked away, I quickly but surreptitiously followed as he headed for the door.

Figures, he'd be the type not to wash his hands!

He stepped out into the hall, and after a moment, I followed. I saw him disappearing around a corner and hurried a little to keep up. I soon caught a glance of his retreating back as he returned to the restaurant. He made his way to a table at which sat a stunningly beautiful woman. He retrieved his credit card from the waiter's tray, signed his credit slip with a showy flourish, and helped his companion rise from the table.

I followed the couple as they headed for the elevators. They were the only ones that boarded it, so I didn't try to get on, but watched where it stopped. It made only one stop, on the third floor, and then headed back down. When I saw that it was empty, I dashed for the stairs and ran up them three at a time most of the way.

As I exited the stairwell, I heard a door close down the hall to my right. Unfortunately, I couldn't be sure that was where John Doe had gone. I tiptoed down the hall, listening a little at each door, to see if I could determine his location. No luck.

I rode the elevator back down to the lobby, walked outside, and re-entered the lobby. I strode purposefully to the desk and asked for a room. Fortunately, this was a weeknight, and plenty were available. I made the desk clerk show me a floor plan of the third floor and chose a room near where I figured John Doe was staying. I told the clerk I wanted to get as close as possible to the room I had had on my honeymoon, as this visit was a second honeymoon trip.

Back on the third floor, I opened the door to my room and went in. I crossed to the window, opened it, and leaned out. No balconies, and no foliage to hide me as I climbed up outside. That route was out.

I carefully examined the locks on the door, and practiced picking them a few times. Fortunately, this was an old hotel and was not yet cursed with electronic door locks.

Finally, I opened the door a crack and sat down on the carpeted floor just inside, hoping I had read all the signs correctly.

Sure enough, about a half hour later, I heard a door open just down the hall. I put my eye to the crack, and saw John Doe exiting the room two doors away. He held the door as the rental beauty (for such she was, I was sure) followed him into the hall. He pulled the door closed, checked that it was locked, and the two of them headed for the elevator.

As soon as the elevator door closed behind them, I was at the door. I took only 5 seconds to pick the lock. I eased the door open and cautiously stepped into the room. No one there, as I suspected. I closed and re-locked the door. Now to ply my trade.

I slipped my hands into tight latex gloves, got out my tiny flashlight, and began a search of the room. I found nothing on the desk or table or dresser. The bathroom yielded nothing, either. His luggage was in the closet. I quickly picked the locks and searched the contents. I found what I thought was a secret pocket, but it was empty.

My study of human psychology went to work. I stood in the middle of the room and made a slow rotation. It was too easy!

I lifted the top mattress of the rumpled bed. There was a manila envelope, lying on the bottom mattress.

At that moment, I heard a key in the door lock!

The moment the key went in the lock, my careful preparation and long practice went into play. I dived for the window side of the bed, where the bedcovers were trailing on the floor. I scooted under them, next to the bed. There was no room to get under the bed, but I was hidden from any casual view.

I listened as John Doe opened the door and entered the room. He was alone, so he must have just gone downstairs and put his pal of the plenteous pulchritude in a taxi.

I watched Doe's feet as he entered the room. He wore expensive Italian loafers and black silk socks. He walked over to the closet and opened the door. After a few moments, he walked to the side of the bed away from the window. He lifted the mattress for a moment. Obviously he was suspicious enough to be worried.

This is where a normal burglar might have been tripped up. I had carefully re-locked every suitcase and replaced every item in the drawers. I found long ago people panic when they find their house or room in chaos, so I try to leave the place exactly as I found it. In fact, some people had been very slow to report my burglaries, because nothing else was disturbed. They often were convinced for quite a while that they must have just misplaced the items I had stolen. This helped me make my departure in much less pandemonium.

John Doe was very quiet for a while. His feet disappeared from my view. I heard a set of keys hit the top of the dresser. Then a thump, followed a few seconds later by another. His shoes! I was beginning to wonder how I would get out of the room if he lay down and went to sleep. However, I heard the bathroom door close and the water start running in the shower. I waited a few more seconds, then carefully peeked out. He was in the shower, apparently.

When John Doe began to sing in the shower, I crept out of my precarious hiding place, lifted the mattress, took the manila envelope, put it inside my shirt, and headed for the door. After a quick check of the room, I unlocked the locks, eased the door open, glanced out to be sure no one was in the hall, and stepped out. I re-closed the door, relocked the locks from the outside with my lock pick, and scurried down to my own room.

Once inside, with the door locked, I checked the envelope's contents. It was exactly what Breaker had said I was looking for. I re-hid the envelope in my shirt, removed the latex gloves and flushed them down the toilet, and washed my sweaty hands. I flipped the covers back on the bed, bounced vigorously on it for a few moments, and nonchalantly left my room, leaving the key on the dresser.

I walked through the lobby, out the front entrance, and went back to my cottage. I put the envelope in my safe, made myself a strong Mai Tai, and listened to the quiet tropical night.

The next morning, I checked the newspaper. I found, buried on the fourth page, a brief report of a guest at the Pink Palace being arrested for drunk and disorderly conduct. He had been running up and down the hall, nude and dripping wet, screaming that he'd been robbed. Police discounted the story, however, when he couldn't describe what might have been stolen, and when they discovered a $10,000 gold Rolex watch and a wallet full of $100 bills lying undisturbed on his dresser!

When Breaker made his second visit, a week after his first, I was pleased to be able to hand him the envelope. He was so pleased, he handed me $100,000 in cash, and another sheaf of documents.

This was only the start of a long and successful relationship.

Breaker also started me off on a new hobby. He told me to go and purchase a home computer. I did as he instructed, purchasing the best home setup I could. Breaker sent an FBI computer expert over a few days later and he helped me set up the whole system. He also gave me a CompuServe ID number in my "Robert White" alias, as well as a new codename: CATPAW. I liked that. It really fit.

The computer expert explained that I should use the computer to become familiar with CompuServe. He would contact me in a few weeks to find out what forums I enjoyed, and Breaker would send me messages occasionally. So much flows back and forth on the forums, no one would suspect a connection between us, and we could eliminate the risk of meeting in person. The signal to start watching for a message would be the mention of CATPAW in another, unrelated message, possibly even in another forum.

I quickly found that I enjoyed talking to people everywhere on the CompuServe forums. I had never been successful at making friends, but when I didn't have to deal with them face to face, I did quite well!

Every few months, Breaker would send me a message on one of my favorite forums. First there would be some mention of CATPAW in one of the forums I followed. A few days later the important message would come through. Of course, it wasn't always the same forums. I would receive a message recommending a pet store, or a travel agent, or a restaurant, or a scuba shop, or some such thing. "See Bill at Pets R Them. Tell him you want to see one of his new Woolly Bear kittens," a message might read. When I visited the shop and made my request, Bill would bring out an envelope for me, instead of a kitten. It would contain a portfolio of documents describing my next assignment.

This went on for several years. Sometimes the assignment would be as simple as retrieving an FBI agent's stolen badge. Sometimes it would be as complex as breaking into a military compound to steal a file. One time I burgled one of our own top generals to relieve him of the burden of some very embarrassing photos of another general. I would return the objects desired to the same place I had gotten my instructions, and a generous fee would appear in my off-shore bank account. This made it unnecessary for me to practice my skills on a private basis; whether I did or not, I think it would be injudicious to say right here.

One day I received a message from Breaker: "Visit All Islands Travel in Honolulu and ask Jenny about an escorted tour to Molokai." I did so, and was handed a thick packet. I picked up a few other brochures and headed home.

My assignment was to retrieve a file on chemical production from the embassy of the nasty little country of New Sidonia.

Old Sidonia had been a backward, impoverished little nation in West Asia, trading in woven yak hair and little else, ruled by an aging despot. New Sidonia is a backward, impoverished little nation, ruled by the now deceased despot's despotic son. However, it came to the attention of western nations that one of New Sidonia's ecological problems was crude oil seeping up through the ground, ruining pastures and making oil slicks on bodies of water. If wealth from the ensuing oil boom had not reached the populace, it had certainly made its way to the young despot's personal bank account.

The young leader had ambitions of greatness for himself, if not for New Sidonia. He had embarked on a program of military buildup. He hired military advisors from any available source. He bought weapons indiscriminately. A major portion of his male populace were willing volunteers for the army. It had to be better than yak farming, right?

The FBI and the CIA had recently discovered that New Sidonia was attempting to buy the technology to produce chemical weapons. An American company had been approached to provide technology ostensibly for the production of industrial chemicals. Only after meeting with the New Sidonian ambassador, handing over some plans, and then mentioning the exchange to another salesman who had visited the ambassador, had the chemical company's representative put two and two together and gotten nerve gas. They quickly called the FBI and told them of their suspicions.

Breaker's information was that that the ambassador had yet to meet with a few more representatives before leaving for New Sidonia with all the deadly information he had gathered. My envelope included tickets to Washington, DC, where the New Sidonian embassy was located. The flight would be leaving in just three hours, so I had to get my act together and hurry to the airport.

The 747 touched down with the usual screech of tires at Dulles International Airport. I was extremely tired after almost 10 hours of flight time from Honolulu, so it was a real relief to finally be at my destination.

After the plane taxied to the terminal, I retrieved my carry-on bag (I never check anything through) from the overhead bin and headed for the rental car stands. I picked up the keys for a Ford Escort, found it in the lot, and proceeded to the airport Hilton Hotel for a refreshing nap.

When I woke up again, I enjoyed a long hot shower and a good meal. I went to the parking garage, found the Escort again, and drove out to check on my job. As I entered the traffic, I noticed a nondescript white car falling in behind me. This was a routine to which I had grown accustomed. Breaker always put a tail on me. It wasn't that he didn't trust me, but they liked to have an observer in place.

I drove to the Capitol Hill area. After a quick drive-by tour of the monuments, I got out the map from the rental car company and found the New Sidonian embassy. It was in the embassy area of Washington, D.C. I found it easily. The military guards outside, in their colorful traditional uniforms, carried M-16's at port arms. Colorful or not, they looked serious.

I drove around the block a few times, and down the alley twice, taking in all I could. When I figured I had a plan in mind, I went back to the hotel. I watched a little TV, ate another great meal, and napped again. A cat nap!

At about midnight, I got up, dressed in my usual working black, put my lock pick case in my pocket, and drove the Escort downtown again. I parked a block away from the embassy and quietly locked it up. I walked around to the alley and slowly made my way to the embassy.

The envelope Breaker had sent me had contained some valuable information. An FBI electrician had been installed the alarm system. This was actually a well-established practice. He had done an excellent job, except that he had installed a dummy sensor on one small, upstairs window. This was fortuitously close to a downspout. The FBI considered this "insurance" in case THEY had to do my type of job, but they rarely used the advantage.

However, a second-story window was fairly easy for me. I scaled the fence and quickly and silently climbed the drain pipe. With careful patience, I eased open the window and slid inside. No sign of life!

All the chemical company representatives the FBI had interviewed had described the office where their presentations took place. It was the ambassador's own office. They mentioned a locked, fireproof file cabinet from which he extracted files he wanted to discuss and into which he deposited the files they gave him. Breaker asked me to get all the chemical files if possible, but particularly one that detailed the construction of a catalytic facility necessary to the production of the lethal chemicals the New Sidonians seemed to be interested in manufacturing. Without that one file, they were out of luck, and the chemical company that had supplied that file had vowed they would not replace it.

After disarming the alarm system at the top of the stairs, I crept down to the ambassador's first floor office. Coming in through the residence was risky, but it was not the expected route, usually, and so was less guarded.

I found the office door locked. It was a good lock, but I had it unlocked in a few minutes. I opened it silently and slipped into the office. The beam from my little flashlight fell on the file cabinet. I crossed to it and examined the lock. Not too bad.

After about 30 seconds of work, the lock popped open. I carefully slid the top drawer open. I didn't notice the tiny wire that broke as the drawer opened...

I began to search for the files I wanted. I found that almost the entire drawer had chemical files. There was no way I'd get the whole thing!!! After almost 15 minutes of searching, I found the one file Breaker had asked me to steal. Just as I began to pull it out, I heard a cough behind me.

I wheeled around in panic! My flashlight beam fell on a figure at the door! Immediately I was blinded by a brilliant flashlight in my eyes. The figure crossed the room, pushed the file drawer closed, and then I was struck on the side of the head with a hard, heavy object, driving me to my knees.

"So, you want something in my files, do you?" came a harsh voice from the figure. "I'm glad I installed my own alarm on the file cabinet. Apparently the perimeter alarm is not as dependable as I had hoped."

This must be the ambassador speaking.

I was no fighter. I had lived by stealth and preplanning. I don't carry a gun, and I was always too lazy to study martial arts. This was the first time I had ever been confronted by one of my victims!

I tried one last ploy. I shined my puny flashlight at my attacker.

Bad mistake. I saw a savagely handsome man, with a cruel, mocking face. He held a huge 9mm pistol with a silencer, pointed right between my eyes.

"Goodnight, Mr. Burglar," he laughed.

And he pulled the trigger. I heard a soft spitting sound, saw a blinding flash, and my ears filled with the sound of the biggest wave I had ever surfed building to a crescendo.

The roar of the waves slowly faded in my ears, and my eyes adjusted to the low light again. The air was full of the smell of burned gunpowder, and I thought I detected the tang of fresh blood.

I realized I was no longer in the office, but instead out in the hallway, looking in the open door of the office. I saw the ambassador standing over what I assumed was a body. Had he killed somebody ELSE tonight? And how had I escaped? And why was he paying me no mind?

The ambassador turned over the body, and I recognized the face; it was the same face I had shaved just this afternoon! Unfortunately, the eyes were blank and staring. An ugly black hole in the middle of the forehead oozed blood. This was one very dead body!

But how could I be watching this? And why was my nose assaulted with so many smells? I lifted my hand to look at it; no fingers, just four small pads and one large one in a furry glove. I flexed my fingers, and four dagger-like claws appeared. Very strange!

The ambassador stood and walked to the door. He called in a low voice, and the two guards appeared. He started a whispered conversation with them.

Then, at one point, he looked down at me.

"Scat, cat!" he hissed.

I moved back into the shadows.

Good Lord! Talk about karma! I, Robert White, the FBI's Cat Burglar, code name CATPAW, was a CAT!!!!!

I retreated back into the shadows to watch the goings on while I tried to understand my situation. Clearly, my long-held beliefs about an after-life were seriously mistaken. I had been, if anything, a skeptic on the subject. My current corporeal existence clearly showed that my skepticism was misplaced, at best.

Did my consciousness just get displaced into the nearest "empty" receptacle, no matter what it might be? Or just how did it work? It didn't seem fair, but I reasoned the alternatives were not really much better.

One thing was certain; I had no difficulty watching the activity in the office. I had always wanted a night vision scope; now I had one built in!

The ambassador and the guards rolled my old body into an old rug. They used duct tape to hold the roll in the proper form. Then they pulled a large garbage bag over each end of the roll. The bags met in the middle, where they were duct-taped in place. This was bad! Even if someone came across the roll, or tore it partly open, it would just look like an old roll of carpet being discarded.

The three conspirators then carried the bundle out into the hall and dumped it down a chute that probably led to the trash receptacle. After a little cleaning up, the ambassador closed and relocked his office, and they all went back to their quarters and to bed.

I prowled the embassy for a while. This was a new experience to me (obviously), and I would have to take some time to adjust.

I wandered into each room that wasn't locked. I found the dining room, and took no little pleasure in sitting my naked bottom on the spot I assumed was the ambassador's table position, judging by the ornate chair. I walked across the kitchen counters. Maybe I could spread some dread disease to this sorry excuse for humanity. I also found a food bowl and water bowl in the kitchen. I tasted the stuff there, and detected some strange mixture of chicken and beef. Not bad. Not sevruga caviar (which I thought I smelled when I sniffed at the refrigerator door), but still better than I would have guessed!

Eventually I found a bathroom. In it was a litter box. It appeared to be clean and well maintained. I put it to its intended use, and got great pleasure out of pushing the litter around for a while. Then I jumped up on the sink and stared for into the mirror.

The face that greeted me was handsome, if not a little humorous. Two beautiful golden eyes peered out from a face that was mostly white. I had a cute pink nose and mouth, and my inner ears were pink. However, the top of my head was black, and it appeared, in human terms, as if I had parted long black hair in the middle of my forehead, with the hair coming down each side of my ace. My legs were all white, my footpads were all pink, my tail was black, and I wore a black "saddle." Fairly typical black/white markings, I guess.

I sniffed at the closed doors on the first floor. One room smelled of paper and machinery; probably the secretary's office. Another room smelled of male sweat and I heard what sounded like a chainsaw operating. Obviously, this was the guards' sleeping room.

Upstairs, I sniffed at each door. One room smelled like perfume and gunpowder and gun oil. That must be the ambassador's bedchamber, and he probably had his wife there. At another room, the door was slightly ajar. I smelled perfume there, too, but of a more adventurous type. I pushed the door open a little more and stuck my head in. There was a frilly canopy bed, an impressive stereo, and rock posters on the wall.

I moved on down the hall to the service room with the small window where I had entered. As usual, I had closed it behind me, so even if I wanted to, I couldn't escape by that route. However, I easily leaped up to the high window sill (there were going to be some enjoyable aspects to this situation). I gazed down at the alley. Way down the block, I could see the Escort where I had parked it. Just a hundred feet or so down the alley, I saw the white car that had been tailing me earlier. The ambassador had cleverly not turned on any of the lights in the building, so the tail had not seen anything amiss.

I lay brooding on the window sill for several hours, until the dawn started to break. I was half-dozing when a huge, ancient truck trundled down the alley. It stopped at each building, nuzzled up against a trash dumpster, and with a smokey roar, lifted the dumpster up in the air and dumped the contents into its rusty body. It stopped behind the New Sidonian embassy and repeated the routine. As it set the empty dumpster down, I saw a long bundle wrapped in garbage bags and duct tape on the top of the trash in the truck. The engine roar changed, and a large hydraulic ram pushed the front of the trash box backward, packing and compressing the contents.

I sadly watched an era of my life disappearing down the alley. Unless I found some way to tell them, the FBI would never know how or why I had failed, the New Sidonians would be able to build their chemical weapons, and my murderer would go free.

"Two-tone, what are you doing in there? Why didn't you come to wake me up this morning?" The sudden, musical feminine voice shocked me out of my reveries. I turned to see an angelic face, attached to what I guessed would be about a 14-year-old cherub dressed in a long flannel nightgown!

I stood on my tiptoes and stretched into an upside down "U," yawning widely. I was amazed at how good that felt, after sitting almost motionless for several hours!

The young angel came to the window and picked me up. She did it carefully, making me feel secure and safe. She was, indeed, the wearer of some adventurous perfume, one with overtones of flowers and strawberries. She cuddled me, rubbing her soft cheek against the top of my head, as she carried me to her room. Once inside, she kicked the door shut and gently placed me on the bed.

"You had me worried, Two Tone!" she said in her musical, slightly accented voice. "You always wake me up just before the alarm goes off! I thought I might have locked you out of my room, but the door was open. What were you watching outside?"

"Just birds and stuff," I tried to say, but all that came out was, "Mrow meow brrrrrt." Probably just as well. As much as I wanted to tell someone what had happened, I could never have upset this child by relating the awful facts of the night before.

She headed for the bathroom connected to her room.

"I need to shower and get ready for school, Two Tone. You want to come in and play in the water?"

She couldn't be serious! Even if I hadn't felt an inexplicable aversion to the idea of so much water in one place, I never would have followed her in there. I felt like my ears, nose, and paw pads were all blushing at once!

She closed the door, and I took a better look around the bedroom. The walls were covered with posters of rock groups, most of whom appeared to be manned, if that is the correct term, by adolescent boys with unfortunate relationships with their barbers.

As the water ran in the shower, I hopped down off the bed and investigated the room more thoroughly. I crept into the walk-in closet. It was full of clothes, including a good collection of formal-type dresses with shoes to match. I suppose an ambassador's daughter would have to dress well.

Back out in the bedroom, I looked over my surroundings. Against one wall was a study desk. It appeared to be well-used, and well-equipped for study. In addition to reference books, there was a personal computer. It appeared to be a recent model. I sneaked under the desk and checked the wall. All the computer apparatus was plugged into a power strip, including a phone line.

A plan began to form in my mind...

I spent a few more minutes examining the room, but nothing else struck me as unusual.

The bathroom door opened, and and my teen-aged angel came out. Her long black hair hung down the back of her T-shirt, and and her blue jeans were probably appropriately stylish (although I never had followed fashion much). She crossed the room and started to gather up her books and supplies.

Just then, her bedroom door opened and the ambassador stuck his head in the door.

"The chauffeur is ready to take you to school!" he said, not pleasantly. I cringed under the bed until the door reclosed.

"Two-Tone, where are you, kitty?" she called.

I slunk out from under the bed. She reached down, picked me up, and "scritched" me under the chin.

"Be a good kitty today," she said, then put me down on the bed. I watched as she disappeared into the hall, leaving the door open a foot or so. Probably to let me go in and out of her room. I heard a door close downstairs, as she went out to the car. I was alone! My protectress was gone!

I convinced myself I was being paranoid. There was no way the ambassador could know that I was the cat burglar he had killed. But he had to realize that it was no accident a burglar had been going through his files, instead of stealing the sterling silverware.

I crept down the stairs to the kitchen. There was no activity going on there, so I ate some breakfast myself... beef and chicken again. I visited the litter box, then set out to check over the building some more. As I walked past the ambassador's office, I heard him talking to someone. I peeked in, and discovered he was using the telephone.

"Yes, your Excellency. The burglar was going through the chemical files."

"No, your Excellency, he did not get anything. He left here a very broken man."

"Yes, I agree that some government sent him, so somebody must have a hint of what we are interested in."

"Yes, we must accelerate our acquisition of the remaining information. I will call the company representative today and have him visit me tomorrow. Then we must move the files to New Sidonia immediately. This burglar's failure might precipitate other attempts."

"Yes, your Excellency, I will make immediate arrangements for our return to New Sidonia the day after tomorrow."

"Goodbye, your Excellency."

He hung up the elaborate phone. It appeared to be a scrambler phone, so his conversation could not be tapped.

I quickly returned to his daughter's room, jumped up on the bed, curled up, and closed my eyes to think. I needed to warn Breaker, but exactly how?

An hour later, a plan had formed in my mind. Now to see if it could work. I jumped down off the bed and squirmed under the desk. I found the power strip, into which the computer and all its peripherals were plugged.

Good! The master switch was turned off. I used all the force I could put on one small paw, and felt a satisfying click. My sensitive ears heard the cooling fan on the computer start, and then the double beep of a successful self-test.

I jumped up on the chair, but it was too close to the desk. I had to get back down on the floor to try to move it. I put my shoulder to each chair leg, and slowly I moved the chair back a few inches from the desk.

Leaping back up on the chair, I found I now had room to get at the keyboard. I also found a trackball. This was lucky, since a mouse would be very hard for me to maneuver.

I studied the screen. This was not going to be as easy as I hoped. I could see dim colors in the center of my vision, but mostly all I could see was black and white. This made the screen very difficult to use.

With one delicate paw, I rotated the track ball to place the arrow cursor over an icon that said "CompuServe." I clicked the left button, and the icon expanded into a square containing several other icons. I pointed to WinCIM, clicked, and the screen changed to the main CompuServe screen.

Now to contact Breaker!

I clicked Messages, then on Create. I put Breaker's name and ID in the required blanks, made the message a private one, and began to type.

"Mission unsuccessful," I typed.

If you think hunt and peck is difficult with fingers, you ought to try it with paws!

"Ambassador having final meetings tomorrow. Leaving country next day. Taking files with him."

"Signed, CATPAW."

I clicked on Send, and listened as the computer dialed CompuServe. I watched the message go on its way. Then I exited from the program, turned the computer off, and carefully put everything back where I found it.

All this work had made me hungry, so I went downstairs for a snack.

Chicken and beef again.

I was startled awake by the door suddenly opening. I shot off the bed and landed under the desk.

The ambassador's daughter entered the room, angry and crying.

"Why do I have to leave school here? I like it here! You never ask me what I want!" she angrily yelled out into the hall. I heard the rumble of the ambassador's reply. Then she slammed the door.

She turned and saw me cowering under the desk.

"Oh, poor Two-Tone, did I scare you?"

"Burrrrrrt!" I replied. You bet she did!

"Poor baby, I didn't mean to frighten you! But Daddy says I have to pack up and be ready to go back to New Sidonia the day after tomorrow. But don't worry, I'll get out your carrier and be sure you're safely packed up and ready to go with us!"

This was obviously meant to comfort me. It didn't. New Sidonia! Who knew what kind of animal care they might have there! Cats are not considered "pets" everywhere in this big, cruel world!

I DON'T WANT TO GO!

I spent the rest of the evening listening to the ambassador's daughter complain about having to leave. She called all her friends, and told them the next day would be her last at school. Then she started packing. She really didn't have that much to pack: a fairly good wardrobe, but not a fantastic one, her books and school supplies, and that was about it. Every now and then, she would break down and cry for a while, and I would cuddle up next to her and try to comfort her until her sobs would subside.

Finally, she went to bed and fell asleep, exhausted.

I prowled the house. Even at this late hour, there was a great deal of activity. Everyone was packing, and the ambassador and his staff were busily shredding documents and sending them down the trash chute.

After another meal (chicken and beef, again), I climbed the steps and jumped up on the bed, settling down to an uneasy sleep.

In the morning, after my mistress went to school, I sneaked downstairs to watch the activity. About 9 a.m., I saw a man in an expensive suit, carrying a briefcase enter the ambassador's office. About an hour later, he left the office. At the door, the ambassador shook his hand, saying, "Call me in two weeks for another meeting here. I'll show your information to the President, and I'm sure we'll be ready to make a decision then."

Smiling, the chemical salesman left through the front door.

As soon as he was gone, the staff went into action, stripping the residence. They packed everything, except the curtains, which they left closed to hide their dirty work.

The ambassador ran up the stairs to his daughter's bedroom, with me following. He went into her closet and chose a large brown leather suitcase. I had watched her pack some of her more formal clothes in that bag last night!

Carrying the suitcase, the ambassador went back downstairs to his office. He opened the suitcase and carefully removed the clothing. He left one layer on the bottom. Then he went to the file cabinet that had been my undoing, and opened the drawer containing the chemical warfare files. He pulled all the files out and packed them in the suitcase. Then he repacked enough of his daughter's clothes over the files to hide them and closed it. He carried it back up to her bedroom, and replaced it where it had been a few minutes before!

When she came home from school, I tried to explain what had happened, but no amount of meowing, purring, running back and forth to the closet, putting my paws on the suitcase, or otherwise carrying on could get her to understand what I was trying to tell her. How did Lassie get her messages through, so easily?

After another uneasy night of sleep, the household was up and headed for the airport before dawn. This sounds like the work of a few moments, but let me assure you, I did not go easily into that carrying case! I hissed, I spat, I cried, I would have scratched, but I'm sure it would have only hurt my case. I rode sulkily to the airport. At least I was inside the limo, and not in the trunk!

At the airport check-in, a new horror dawned upon me. I was not going to ride in the passenger cabin, but in the baggage hold! Me, luggage! The insult of it all! After all, I have a million dollars plus in a Grand Cayman bank! I always fly first class! Call my congressman!

I sadly watched the ambassador and his family as I rode the conveyer belt behind the counters. Now what?

My horrors had just begun. I rode the conveyer out of the building, where my carrier was loaded onto a baggage cart. After a long ride, during which I was almost overwhelmed with the smell of jet fuel, the baggage train stopped beside a large plane. Through the bars of my prison, I recognized it as a Lufthansa 747.

I was loaded onto the plane with the rest of the baggage. When the hold was fairly full, the baggage door was closed and it became dark.

While my eyes adjusted to the dark, I listened to the many thumps and bangs around me. They were apparently loading the baggage compartment next to mine, now. I heard a frightened puppy in a nearby cage, whining. My nose told me he had had more physical reactions to his fear, too. Which gave me an idea...

Being no ordinary cat, but a burglar by trade, I wondered if it might be possible to escape from the carrier. I carefully studied the locking mechanism in the dim light. While it might be sufficient to keep a normal cat imprisoned, I found the mechanism extremely simple to operate. I inserted my small paw through the door, lifted the lever and turned it. The door popped open. I was free!

First I found the puppy and told him not to worry. He didn't pay much attention to what I told him, but he did find it very interesting that I was a cat, and I was not in a cage!

Then I started wending my way through the baggage hold. I stopped and sniffed often, until I caught a faint hint of strawberries. I homed in on that until I found the leather suitcase that I knew contained the files the ambassador was smuggling out of the U.S. I perched on it precariously and contentedly relieved myself on it.

Then I found the best hiding place I could that was not among baggage, and I settled down for a long snooze during the flight. Things might be VERY hectic on the other end!

I awoke later with the smell of food tickling my delicate nose. Then I heard voices. I stood up, stretched, and found a small passage (a "catwalk," one might say) toward the back of the plane. I followed it carefully in the dim light, and found myself peeking into the plane's galley!

I watched as the flight attendants prepared a meal to serve the passengers. There were many small trays, which they were heating in an oven. One of the women was eating her own dinner from an identical tray. It was a wonderful aroma!

Hiding behind the tray trolleys, I sneaked into the galley. Slooooowly I moved closer, and when no one was watching, I stretched up and grabbed the meat off the tray, turned, and dashed back into my tiny passage.

When I got back to my hiding place, I examined my prize. It tasted a lot like my cat food back at the Embassy. Chicken, but no beef. I ate about half of it, saving the rest for later. Then I returned to the serious business of napping.

A few hours later, a change in the pitch of the engines woke me up. I stretched again, and as I finished my piece of purloined chicken, I heard the sound of the landing gear being lowered. I lay back down, not having access to a seatbelt.

After the landing, I stayed hidden while I waited for the plane to stop taxiing. Almost immediately after it stopped, I heard the latches open on the cargo compartment. I edged back farther into my hiding place.

The door swung open, and I heard voices with fairly thick English accents. Apparently we had landed in London!

I watched from the safety of my hiding place as the handlers unloaded the baggage and lined it up on the pavement. A policeman with a dog on a leash slowly walked down the line of baggage. The drug sniffing dog stopped by the ambassador's daughter's leather suitcase, showing a great deal of interest in it, barking loudly. Of course, his interest was not in drugs, but in my piddling on it! The handler didn't know that, though, and made an "X" on it with chalk.

I happened to glance over toward the terminal. There, in the shadows, I made out a familiar face... Breaker!

I watched out the open baggage compartment door as the luggage was loaded onto carts. I had a brief scare when one of the handlers looked in my cage and found it empty. He and the others made a quick search of the baggage compartment, but I just hid again, and they didn't find me. Finally, the baggage cart train headed off toward the terminal building, and I saw Breaker follow it away.

I went back to my little "catwalk" and moved to the second baggage compartment. It was not being unloaded, and the tags indicated the baggage was bound for Munich, Germany. I figured that must be the next stop on this flight, so I found a comfy hiding place and went to sleep.

Again I was soon awakened by the noise of the landing gear being lowered and locked in place. The big plane landed and taxied to a stop. I hid carefully amongst the baggage and waited for the door to open, which it soon did.

I watched around the corner of a bag to see what was going on. Baggage was being unloaded and stacked in a heap on a platform just outside the door. This was part of a truck that had been pulled up to the plane and raised to the level of the door.

I carefully waited for the baggage handlers to turn their backs, then quickly scooted out the door and dived in among the bags. I burrowed down into a small space and hoped my tail was sticking out!

The truck carried the load of bags to an unloading platform under the terminal building. As soon as the truck bumped the dock, I peeked out to see the situation. I heard voices far down the dock, but I couldn't see anyone close by, so I left my hiding place, raced across the dock, and into an open door. There were baggage conveyor belts there, leading up to another floor, but I slowly made my way through the building, dashing a few feet and hiding. Finally I found an open door that seemed to lead out of the building and into a parking area. I saw buses and taxis rushing by, so there must be a passenger pick-up area near.

I watched a small shuttle bus stop by the curb. It had "Bayerischer Hof," probably the name of some hotel on its side. The door opened and the driver stepped down on the curb. He checked his watch, glanced at a piece of paper he took from his pocket, and took out a cigarette, which he lit. I figured he must be waiting to pick up a specific passenger who had not arrived yet. He slowly sauntered down the sidewalk.

While the driver's back was turned, I dashed across the sidewalk and into the bus. I found a seat to hide under, and curled up as small and unnoticeable as possible. Soon the driver returned, started the engine, and drove slowly toward the pickup area for whatever passenger he was waiting on.

The bus stopped in front of a set of doors, which opened for several passengers to exit. The driver opened his door, and the passengers climbed aboard, putting their luggage in a rack just behind the driver.

"Ah-choo!" One woman passenger sneezed.

"Ah-choo! Ah-choo! Ah-choo!" She sneezed repeatedly.

"What's wrong, dear?" asked the man with her.

"Something's stirring up my allergies! What could I be allergic to on a bus?" she asked.

I listened to the conversations of the passengers all the way into the center of town. The allergic lady continued to sneeze on a regular basis, but otherwise I gathered that this group of Americans was here to visit a university or some such thing.

When the bus stopped in front of a large hotel, the passengers grabbed their bags, climbed down, and made their way toward the hotel entrance. The driver followed them to open the door. This looked like my chance, so I dashed down the stairs of the bus and out the door. Unfortunately, the sneezy lady happened to look back at the bus just then!

"A cat! There was a cat on the bus!" she screamed. "No wonder I was sneezing!"

The situation didn't look good, so I ran down the sidewalk as fast as I could. Cats are not designed as long-distance runners, and concrete does not feel good on their feet, I quickly discovered. I ran about half a block, turned the corner, and dived behind a potted plant I found there. No pursuit followed, fortunately.

Well, now I was in a fix. I was on the street, in a city where I didn't understand the language, and had no idea what I should do next.

I watched people walking back and forth in front of my hiding place. I tried to formulate a plan, but nothing came to mind. Just as I was getting really discouraged, I saw one pair of legs go by wearing black pants. My sensitive nose caught the scent of a cat...no, two cats. I could even see cat hair on the black pants. I summoned up my courage, walked out from behind the plant, and stepped in front of the legs.

"Oh, poor kitty!" said the young woman attached to the legs. Or, at least, that's what I assumed the German words she said meant. I looked up at her pitifully, mewed, and rubbed against the black pants, adding some of my fur to the collection there.

She spoke some more, and then bent down and picked me up. She ruffled the fur on my neck, probably checking for a non-existent collar. She checked my paw pads, which were definitely sore. She looked at my coat, ruffled and dusty from the ride in the baggage compartment. She glanced around, probably to be sure no one was looking, and then turned me and lifted my tail. Then she glanced around again, and tucked me inside her coat.

It was soft and warm in there, and I was a very tired kitten, so...I promptly went to sleep!

I was so tired, I never woke until we arrived at an apartment. The young lady opened the door, and I was greeted by the unmistakable scent of two cats. The tale my nose told was quickly confirmed by my ears, when two feline voices excitedly greeted my rescuer.

I squirmed around and peeked out of the lady's coat collar. At my appearance, the two resident cats immediately fell silent. They stared at me intently, undoubtedly testing the air for my scent.

After a brief pause, my rescuer took me through the living room and out onto a closed-in porch, a sort of "sun room." She carefully placed me on the floor, then returned to the living room, closing the door behind her. I guessed she wanted to keep us felines separate until we had adjusted to each other. She soon returned with a food bowl, water bowl, and a litter pan. I quickly ate some of the food and used the litter and felt much better.

I spent a lot of time next to the door which separated the porch and living room. I sniffed cautiously every time the two resident cats came near the door. They didn't smell or sound threatening, and I looked forward to meeting them.

Every little while, the young lady would come out on the porch and speak soothingly to me. I wished I spoke German, but I didn't so I could deduce her meaning only through the tone of voice she used. I tried my best to make it very clear to her that I was glad she had brought me to this safe place, where no one had any idea I might be.

I spent the night on the porch, curled up on a soft pillow. It wasn't cold, and I had everything I needed, so I was quite comfortable. Occasionally I heard the other cats moving around inside the apartment, and I felt lonely. That was very odd, since I had always prided myself on my independence.

In the morning, the young lady came out to visit me as soon as she got up. She gave me some fresh food and water, and cleaned the litter box. Then she went back in the apartment and apparently got ready for work, because the next time I saw her she was dressed and had her coat on.

I saw her coming toward the door, probably to check on me one last time before going to work, and I decided to take matters into my own hands...er, excuse me, my own paws. I waited near the door, and when she opened it, I dashed through and ran and hid far back under a couch. She ran after me, calling me in an annoyed way, but I was too far back for her to reach. When she moved the couch, I zoomed into the bedroom and hid under the bed there. After a few minutes of trying to coax me out, my unfortunate benefactor gave up and went out the front door, going to work, I suppose.

When I was certain she was gone, I slunk out from under the bed and back into the living room. I found the other two cats there, watching me expectantly.

Fortunately, all cats speak cat. There is no German or English, just cat. I carried on a long conversation with these first two cats I had ever met since becoming a cat myself.

One was a large, long-haired gray tiger. This was Mikesch. He was somewhat aloof but not unfriendly. He claimed to have been a Munich grandmother in his previous life, and was rather nonplused to be thrust into this odd new shape and gender. He/she rather quickly took a motherly attitude toward me, which I found very comforting. I think Mikesch needed someone to grandmother as much as I needed grandmothering!

The second was a sleek, black, short-haired cat. Piers was energetic, inquisitive, and full of mischief. He had been a tight-rope walker with a large circus, but had been killed in a fall. He was extremely pleased with his feline abilitiexplaining that if he could have done as a human what he could do as a cat, he would have been the most famous acrobat in the world!

We spent a great deal of time conversing. Piers and Mikesch explained that their owner was called Tina, and that she worked at a bank downtown. She had been coming home from work when she rescued me. I told them about my adventures. They were impressed, but then, they also explained that all cats are "ex-people" by the time they are six months old. That explains why cats are so unpredictable and strange, I guess.

I examined the apartment carefully, and in the bedroom, I found a computer! I immediately turned it on (much to the consternation of Piers and Mikesch) and found that Tina was a member of CompuServe, too! I navigated to the forum on which I had left a message for Breaker, and found this private message for me:

-------------------------------------------------

Dear Catpaw,

Thank you for the tip on the ambassador's departure. With the advance warning, we were able to prepare for his arrest. We let him leave the U.S. and intercepted him in London. We had a back-up plan to check his diplomatic pouch, but we lucked out when customs marked one of his bags for a drug search. They didn't find any drugs, but we did find the chemical files. When the ambassador saw this, he made the foolish mistake of pulling a silenced automatic pistol out of the diplomatic pouch. Of course, the gun was bad enough, but the silencer is absolutely illegal, so the British authorities arrested him immediately. We confiscated the files and brought them back to the U.S.

Upon the ambassador's arrest, his wife and daughter requested asylum in the U.S., and they have returned there. They didn't seem too sorry to see the ambassador led away in handcuffs; apparently, he wasn't a very nice person to live with.

The only unfortunate part of the story is that the ambassador's daughter lost her pet cat somewhere between Washington and London, and is devastated. The airline is looking for it, so maybe even that will work out.

Although you failed in your assignment this time, you were instrumental in the resolution of the case, so we have mailed your pay to your usual Hawaii address. Wherever you are hiding, feel free to reappear, as we hold no hard feelings.

Signed,

BREAKER

------------------------------------

Well, all this took place about 4 months ago. Obviously, I haven't gone back to Hawaii. I guess CATPAW is forever gone. I'm very happy here. Piers, Mikesch, and I are the best of friends. We're having a great time driving Tina crazy with tricks like working together to get more food. Piers jumps up on the high, narrow shelf where the boxes of kitty treats are kept. He knocks the box down on the floor. Big Mikesch chews a hole in the box, and I, with my small paws, pull the kitty treats out of the box. Then, we have a feast!

Now, if I could just figure out how to access my Grand Cayman bank account and transfer some of it to Tina's account, so she could find a big nice place for all of us to live, and wouldn't have to go to work at the bank, and could stay at home all day and have fun with us, everything would be great!

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NOTE TO ALL PET FORUM MEMBERS:

Should anyone not believe this story, consider the following. CATPAW's alias was Robert White. "Blanche" is the French word for "white." Mike Blanche's middle name is Robert. You have seen many messages on this forum signed "CATPAW" that were attributed to Mike Blanche. But have you ever met anyone named Mike Blanche? Are you sure those ridiculous messages signed "CATPAW" weren't secret messages to or from the CIA?

Are you REALLY sure?

Written by Mike Blanche.

mrblanche@sbcglobal.net

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