The Ann Arbor Cat Napper #10

as you may recall (It’s been a year and a half since the last exciting episode) from The Ann Arbor Cat Napper #9 Detective Jim and Reinfeld had a slight altercation over the cats. The cats escaped from Reinfeld and both he and Jim are in pursuit…. for totally different reasons.

“HAVE YOU SEEN MY CAT?”

Many have traversed these sidewalks. Ideas from the fantastic to the mundane have been discussed, argued and fought over. Townies and college students roam the streets throughout the night. They hunt for a quiet place to study, sleep, buy their drug of choice and hide.

Jim leaned hard against the lamppost. Those walking by kept a safe distance. Those in cars stared. Some gave him the side view to make sure there were no sudden movements. Jim headed back to the side street where the cats ran. Keeping his head down he felt he blended in. Glancing between houses, businesses and cars Reinfeld and those cats have to be close.

Meow, meow, meow, meow, … That stupid commercial from so long ago played over and over in his head.

Upon exiting the alley Reinfeld dragged the moped behind a couple of dumpsters. He needed to get those damn cats back and nothing was going to stop him. Reinfeld ran up the side street looking for any sign of small animal movement. He spotted one of the cats trying to hide in a driveway. When the cat saw him it howled and sprinted underneath rose bush.

Reinfeld knelt down to negotiate the pickers. Boots didn’t wait. She scratched, hissed then ran into a corner and was trapped. Reinfeld still stinging cautiously approached the cat. He barely heard Jim running up and grabbing the cat. The cat screamed but was too slow to dodge Jim’s grasp. Jim screamed grabbed Boots and kept running. Reinfeld steadied himself and tried to make sense of what he just saw. He started after Jim. Jim grabbed the back of Boot’s neck before Boots could grab him. She flayed her paws in front of her. Reinfeld saw another cat.

Jim could only think to run back to his apartment. With the cat held out in front of him he did his best to look like he knew what he was doing. He has six blocks to go.

Reinfeld chased the cat under a porch of a student house. The houses were built in the early 20th century, the second floor is usually divided up to fit as many bedrooms as possible. Reinfeld felt contempt for its occupants. He often experienced some sort of confrontation whenever he had dealings with them. He slowly approached the porch. “Kitty, kitty.” The cat paced along the further back corner. The porches of these homes are usually about four feet off the ground the lower area is often covered with a wood latticework. He continues, crouching slightly to show the cat his friendly face. Mittens didn’t buy it and hissed. Reinfeld pulled on the latticework a little and pried it open.

“Wot are you doin man?” An occupant said from behind the screen door. Reinfeld looked up and stepped back. Mittens took the opportunity to sprint through the opening. She ran with all her might, passed Reinfeld fast. Reinfeld moved quickly and stomped his foot down on the tail of the cat. Mittens screamed. The occupant screamed. Suddenly Reinfeld realized he still had his helmet on. Mittens turned to attack his foot. Reinfeld grabbed her quickly and slipped into a run. The occupant couldn’t really process what he witnessed, visibly upset he went back inside.

Mittens almost successfully performed a sideways, back flip. But Reinfeld held on. She wasn’t getting away.

Jim continued to run. Boots tried everything to escape.

About three blocks away Cuddles made her way higher onto a tree.

Jim glanced over his shoulder just in time to see a puff of blue smoke rise from somewhere behind a building. He cut across a couple of yards and kept his pace. He went through a couple of alleys right, left, right then he was in his neighborhood. Jim ran up the stairs to his apartment, slammed the door and checked to make sure the windows were closed before putting down the cat. He didn’t know what to do so he put a pan of water down and left the apartment. Jim carefully walked back to the area where the cats appeared and disappeared. He was pretty sure Reinfeld got one. Maybe a cat or cats were still around? Jim had an unusual feeling of success. Then Gunce MacNally another local with a somewhat warped sense of humor appeared in Jim’s path. Gunce was a botherer, an interference player. His specialty was to aggravate or block progress, at least to divert your attention. He wore an unplugged pair of ear buds, one bud hanging, and acted like he was talking on the phone. He looked at Jim and gave him a “one minute” sign. Gunce continued his phone conversation while acting like he wanted to talk to Jim. The look of urgency on Gunce’s face and the dangling head phone plug started to undermine Jim’s grip on reality. Gunce was good at his job and Jim’s attempts to go around him failed.

“I told you it was somewhere else.”

Finally he ended his imaginary phone call and said to Jim.

“Wasn’t there a laundry mat on this street?”

Jim felt the spinning sensation return. “There’s one on every street in this town.” He said.

“U-hu. Yeah. It’s Lane’s Laundry.” Gunce demonstrated his cockeyed stare and continued.

It took a couple of beats “Lane’s”. “No it’s about three blocks that way.”

“Gotta smoke?” Gunce developed the technique of looking at your mouth not your eyes. He was delighted that the look worked on Jim. Jim should become increasingly frustrated.

Jim recovered and started to leave. Gunce thought this was a pretty good stall and decided to end the encounter. Still staring at Jim’s mouth Gunce said, “What’d I say?” Gunce was back on the phone. Jim made a quick turn and with his back to Gunce he quickly walked away.

“Tanks” Gunce said. Jim half turned and waived as he crossed the street.

Reinfeld’s machine popped and complained its way down the street. The moped was held together by a variety of wires coat hangers and duct tape. He would keep it going no matter what. He owned it and didn’t want to spend the money. Besides it was so noisy and ugly that most people did not notice its presence. A very worried cat was securely strapped in the milk crate on the back of his moped.

Reinfeld realized a thought was trying to break into his distraction of piloting the moped. A question was forming. “Why did that idiot grab my cats?” That isn’t supposed to happen. No one ever paid attention to anything he did. Most people went out of their way to ignore him. He knew he was never to be seen. Why now? Can he go back to get the others? Shit! Shit! Stall. The moped decided it was time for a break and stopped running. He was still about three miles away from the barn. He got off the bike and would have let it fall to the ground except for the cat. He held the bike up and unstrapped the crate. He rolled the bike into the ditch and with the crate started to walk. He knew what the problem was. He should’ve gotten gas earlier.

The walk will give him time to think about being seen and now known. Reinfeld was proud of the fact that he could walk in just about anywhere and act like he belonged. He was able to enter places if they were closed or if there was a special event. He would walk through a store or mall and if noticed he’d look like your average customer. His persistent average-ness was so successful that he often found himself being left alone in some very interesting places. Everything might now change. He had a natural ability to know when something was not needed. He easily picked up things and stored them away. Usually he didn’t get asked to find stuff but these damn cats. His good luck of finding three turned into a nightmare that might change his small crime career path. Reinfeld wasn’t happy anymore.

“Why did that clown want the cats?” Reinfeld had no idea who owns the cats. He’d found them outside in various places. They had tags but Reinfeld didn’t care. Chip asked for black and white cats. Reinfeld never questioned what was asked of him. Usually he was never asked to get anything at all. He’d just bring stuff in that he picked up. He knew he was part of a group of petty thieves. He felt a camaraderie with the group though he only knew Chip. When he met with Chip it was always at the barn. They never discussed the thievery at PlastiCycle where they both worked the afternoon shift. Chip always paid cash for the merchandize. It wasn’t much but it provided a steady income. Reinfeld was happy with the work. He set his hours. He could just hang around waiting for an opportunity. With two Universities, three colleges, plenty of malls and outdoor activities Reinfeld was always able to pick something up. He blended in so well that sometimes he’d help with the search for the missing item.

The request for cats was very different. This time a specific thing and as many as he can get at ten dollars per.

He tried to think of excuses for the loss of two cats. When Reinfeld told Chip about the three cats he realized at that moment that he talked too much. He always said too much when things were going well. Chip had high expectations and never really let anyone live down shortcomings. Reinfeld was finally starting to feel better. He was considering texting Chip a quick note.

A siren blared behind him. startling Reinfeld he almost dropped Mittens. A voice from the loud speaker started announcing something so distorted Reinfeld knew immediately that it was his cousin Cory. Cory, the Washtenaw County Deputy Sheriff and a relentless jerk, made it a point to bully Reinfeld. Reinfeld turned and gave his most disapproving stare. Reinfeld could see Cory in the car wearing his big idiot smile. Cory continued to shout into the microphone. “PXOLSS BZAGGGS TXE SDDDDVEEDUIIOPCHHHHZZZ” Quickly Reinfeld’s blood pressure climbed up the scale. “Now I have to deal with everybody’s favorite Cory.” Reinfeld started to turn away Cory pushed the door open and struggled out of the car.

“Drop the box and put your hands in the air.” Like he didn’t recognize Reinfeld. Typical. Cory continued toward Reinfeld. Reinfeld was at a loss and stood staring at Cory. Cory commanded,

“Drop the fucking box and get your hands in the air.”

Reinfeld replied, “Fuck you, Cory.”

Cory didn’t take his eyes of Reinfeld using his “I might have to hurt you” swagger Cory got in close to Reinfeld but seeing the cat in the crate threw him off a bit. When they were kids Reinfeld lit Cory’s GI Joes on fire pretending they were in the Dresden fire raid of WWII. With some charcoal lighter and matches Reinfeld was able to strategically burn the GI Joes. Cory lost control at this he screamed, cried, kicked at the burning plastic and tried to hit Reinfeld all at the same time. Reinfeld laughed. It turned out to be the unforgivable turning point in their relationship. Cory told everyone what Reinfeld had done and everyone was mad at Reinfeld. Even the schoolteachers gave him sideways glances. He certainly was never a favorite and now he dropped a couple more notches. Over the years Reinfeld’s resentment grew. Cory bathed in the glory of being a victim of such a horrendous crime.

“What’s with the cat?” Cory pushed.

The setting sun was in Cory’s eyes, his face was somehow twisted into a gaping, unfocused question mark or that’s the way Reinfeld always sees him.

“Um did you leave your moped in the ditch?” He asked. Looking from the cat to Reinfeld and back a couple of times, said “New cat?”

Reinfeld set the crate and kitty down. Mittens growled his discontent. Reinfeld felt like growling also. He knew he had to tell Cory something or the idiot would stay here and talk all night.

Cory and Reinfeld awkwardly, stared at each other. Neither liked the other and being related they felt obliged to put up with each other.

“I don’t think you should leave your bike in the ditch. You might get a ticket for littering.” He wouldn’t mind writing the ticket.

Reinfeld realized that Cory was going to make a night of it.

Meanwhile, Jim reached the other side of the street and took a moment to work out a plan to get the other cats back. He decided to look around. It was getting dark and if either cat were still around Jim wanted to find them. He searched a couple of alleys and a few yards. He checked the streets just to make sure. He called “Puss Puss here kitty kitty.”

Gunce had continued to maneuver when he was just out of sight of Jim he waited a little before he would try another way to slow Jim down.

To be continued…

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