Well, actually, it was around four in the morning and sunrise here in Western Maine on the twenty-sixth of June was around four-thirty, but it was raining.
Fade In: Our Intrepid Sleuth (henceforth OIS), half asleep, comes stumbling downstairs, heading from the second floor bedroom to the first floor bathroom. As she approaches the bottom of the stairwell, something flies past at the speed of light and a good two feet off the floor. It is Feral, the oldest of three cats in the household. He’s at least fourteen and probably older (the other two, litter mates Nefret and Bala, are thirteen) and no, he doesn’t usually move this fast. He also doesn’t meow or howl. Occasionally, he makes a hiss/spit sound, but that’s it.
By the time OIS catches up, he is leaping toward the window in her office. He caroms off the wall, knocking the stuffed toy Garfield off the top of a bookcase, lands behind the love seat, and tears back out through the living room, heading for the kitchen. He comes to a dead stop just as another cat abandons the food dishes and bolts for the cat door giving access to the cellar.
But wait! OIS gets a good look at the back end of said cat as it goes through the flap and it is not Bala or Nefret!
Stunned and, remember, not 100% with it since it is the wee hours of the morning, OIS still manages to spring into action. Somehow, a feline intruder got into the cellar. Squirrels have managed it in the past. OIS grabs the piece of wood that fits into the cat door to seal it off, used when the cellar door is open so the house cats don’t get outside, and fastens it in place.
OIS pauses for a moment in shock. How the heck . . . ?
OIS takes a look around. The other two cats appear. Apparently, they missed the whole thing. There are no puffed up tails in sight. Since they’re Maine Coon cats, their tails really puff up when they are confronted by a strange cat or a dog, a wild turkey, or a deer, moose, or bear, even if it is on the far side of the sliding glass door to the back deck. With squirrels, chipmunks, and birds, not so much.
Next step: check for damage. It turns out that the intruder did steal something. The three legitimate feline residents of the house never leave their dishes this clean. When OIS went to bed, all three contained portions of a particularly stinky flavor of cat food.
OIS then proceeds to check out the escape route. There is no strange cat in the cellar, but two windows have been left open since the weather warmed up. Turns out, there’s a cat-sized hole in one of the screens. In fact, it looks like the cat made the hole. Could the smell of the cat food have been that strong? That mystery has no solution.
Clearly, the burglar has escaped and is not likely to be caught and brought in for questioning. However, OIS is able to make an ID. The back end disappearing through the cat door had dark legs, a dark tail, and white paws. One of the two neighborhood cats who occasionally appear on the other side of that sliding glass door to the deck fits that description.
When interviewed, potential witnesses made the following statements.
Nefret: Intruder? What intruder? What did I miss?
Bala: I’m sleeping here. Go away.
Feral: Let me at him. Let me at him. I’ll murderize him, I will! Oh. Forgot. I’ve been declawed. Never mind.
Exhausted by all this excitement in the middle of the night, OIS goes back to bed. All three cats, deciding they’d been traumatized, pile in on top of her.
OIS, unable to get back to sleep, arises at six and works on her current writing project.
By afternoon, the screen is repaired with sturdier mesh but Feral, ever-vigilant, continues to keep watch in case there’s another incursion.
If it happens again, he’s ready to sound the alarm.