Sittin' back on my haunches, I eyed the guy on the other side of my kitchen table. I then nonchalantly examined a claw before taking a quick peek to see if my tactics were workin'. I didn't want to appear overly eager to accept his...
What? WHAT THE MOUSES WAS I THINKIN'? I didn't want to appear eager at all. It wasn't like I was a cat with too much time on his paws. No sirree. I, Seville the Cat, was a cat who had way too much to do to even think about doing some stranger a favour.
"It's like this," I explained. "I'm busy."
The guy just looked at me, apparently not knowing what to say. Or maybe he didn't hear me. That was a possibility, too.
"I'M BUSY!" I yelled at the top of my lungs. "Way too busy to be romping through some old falling-down house."
The guy... I SERIOUSLY should have asked for his name before lettin' him in, 'cause he looked a little green in the gills, like he'd been into the Hallowe'en candy, and one never knows when a guy like that might upchuck on a cat's favourite nip mouse, you know. Anyway, the guy pushed a scrap of paper across the table, toward me.
I gingerly picked up the paper with one paw, turned it over, and... Oh. My. Mouses. My jaw dropped. Was this guy really offering to PAY me to check out his house? And pay me this much? THIS much? My gosh, a cat could buy a lot of nip with that kinda money. A cat could buy a lifetime supply! Nine lifetime supplies, for that matter. A cat could...
On the other paw...
On the other paw, it wasn't like I was a private investigator or anythin' like that. I didn't even have a license - you know, on account of cats not needin' to be licensed in Annapolis County - and without a license, I was pretty sure acceptin' money as if I were a professional licensed private investigator, could get me in a whole whack of trouble with the local authorities like Animal Control.
I wondered how the guy even got my name. So I asked him.
"Your reputation precedes you, Seville the Cat. EVERYONE in town knows of your adventures on Hallowe'en, not to mention your dealings with the Weasel Syndicate. If anyone can prove the house I inherited from my late employer isn't haunted, it's you."
The guy made a lot of sense. I did have a reputation.
"So let me get this straight. You want me to check out this house of yours from top to bottom, like a... Um... Like a home inspector would?
Gosh darn it, I wasn't a licensed home inspector, either. MOUSES!
"Yes. I want to sell it, you see, but with the house's reputation of being haunted, no one will consider even looking inside, never mind buying it. I can't even get a Realtor to agree to show it."
Hmmm.... "You realise we'd have to do this under the table..."
What the mouses? Why was this guy getting down on his knees to crawl under the table? I rolled my eyes, realising what he was doin'. Peeps.
"Eyes up here," I said, rapping on the tabletop. "I meant, as I'm unlicensed when it comes to investigating stuff - or anythin' else, for that matter - I can't charge you money for doin' so. I would, however, be legally able to accept a gift of a kilo or two of nip."
The guy nodded, turned, and walked toward the door. "We can begin now. I have a car waiting out front."
I scribbled a quick note for Peepers, telling her where I was going, before following Igor out the door.
Yeah, Igor. That's what I was callin' this mysterious guy. Not 'cause that was his actual name but rather, on account of my not knowin' his actual name, and truth be told, he looked like an Igor, for sure.
On the ride over to Igor's newly inherited house, he explained how he had inherited it in the first place. How his former employer had dropped dead in the midst of a dinner party, along with all of his dinner guests. Poison, the police had said, although who had done the actual poisoning, had never been discovered. Igor also, once again, listed the mysterious goings on, he needed investigated: Strange sounds in the attic, lights mysteriously turning on and off, creaking noises all through the night, and a putrid smell emanating from a wall in the dining room. It was pretty scary stuff, I tell you, but as a cat who has dealt with the likes of the all sorts of dastardly villains, I was not one to be put off by the thought of a ghost or two. Not even three. MOUSES!
I considered the possibility that the Weasel Syndicate might be behind what was happening at Igor's house and asked if he, or his former employer, had ever had any dealings with them. Dealings that might make those weaselly weasels want payback or something like that.
"Not that I am aware," was Igor's response.
Moments later, our car pulled to a stop in front of Igor's newly acquired house.
Did I say house? Mansion was more like it. Two full stories plus an attic. The thing was huge. It literally dwarfed all the other houses on the street.
And speakin' of houses, I wondered if maybe the owner of one of those houses was behind the scarification of Igor's new abode. I mean, they were all new builds. All modern styles, decorated with pretty purple and orange lights, and play ghosts and stuff, for Hallowe'en. Igor's house, on the other paw... Well let's just say, Igor's house didn't need a whole lot of decorating. The falling down decrepitness that it was naturally exuding, gave it a haunted look with which no commercial Hallowe'en decorations could hope to compete.
Could the neighbours be upset that no matter how much they decorated for October 31st, this old house was still out-spooking their own? Nah, that didn't make sense. If the neighbours were all hot under the cat collar 'bout this house bein' spooky, there's no way they would be playing tricks on Igor, making him think it was haunted. It was more likely Igor's house was bringing down the property values in the neighbourhood and... Nope, that didn't make sense, either. Nothing can make property values plummet faster than a full blown haunting residing on your very own street. MOUSES!
Not that I know this from PURRsonal experience, but a cat hears things, you know.
We approached the front door which opened all on its own. Not a good sign. I was tempted to hightail it outta there at top speed, but then thought of the catnip Igor - 'cause I was still calling him that in my head - was gonna give me, and decided to see things through. So tail held high, I waltzed through the front door, into the... Lobby? No, front hall, was my guess, although a tad bigger and a lobby it would be.
A wide circular staircase led to the second floor, and I decided to make my way upstairs. I'd start by investigating the strange noises in the attic, then work my way down, figuring out why lights were turning on and off and why there were strange noises at night. Finally, I'd tackle the putrid smell in the dining room, as that was what I was dreading the most.
I turned to Igor and said, "Be right back!" before scampering up the staircase at top speed.
Two and a half hours later, I had fully investigated the house and was ready to report back. Igor and I sat in the breakfast nook off what I assumed was one of those things peeps used to call a drawing room. Not 'cause it was breakfast time or anythin' like that - although I could have done with a snack - but rather on account of the stink in the dining room, and the fact that the breakfast nook was out of smelling range of that.
"So you see, I explained, "your house isn't haunted at all. In fact, there's a PURRfectly... PURRfectly... Get it? 'Cause I'm a cat, and cats... Never mind. Anyway, there's a perfectly logical explanation for everything that has been going on here. Nothing ghostly or ghoully at all."
Igor listened intently.
"The noises in the attic are on account of your havin' squirrels up there. A whole family of 'em, I believe. In fact, I think it's an extended family with multiple generations. I've asked 'em to move out, and they've agreed. Now it seems that Junior - that's one of the squirrels - was teething somethin' awful sometime back. Rodents teething troubles are nasty, indeed. Anyway, when Junior was teething, he took a liking to electrical wires, and... Well... Thing is, you've got a short in your wiring now. You'll need an electrician to see to that. And that short is what's causing the lights to flicker on and off. As for the nighttime creaks and things, that can be explained by the old dumbwaiter leading from the original kitchen downstairs, up to the dining room. Apparently, it's hooked up to the electrics, and when the wiring shorts out as it has been doing, it activates the dumbwaiter and the darned thing moans and groans and... Well... Creaks."
"What about the stench in the dining room?" Igor asked.
"Dumbwaiter, again. Apparently, some dummy, pardon the pun, put a full main meal on it sometime back, then forgot it was there. Maybe at that dinner party, when... You know. Anyway, you've got a whole load of rotting brussel sprouts, along with goodness knows what else, hidden behind that wall and quite frankly, it stinks."
Igor nodded. "Thank you, Seville the Cat. Your expertise has been very much appreciated. I shall hire an electrician immediately, clean out the dumb waiter, and help those squirrels pack up their belongings and find a new home. It's such a relief to have proof my house is not haunted after all."
"I bet, and uh... About that nip..."
"I shall have two kilograms of catnip delivered to your home, forthwith."
I smiled. "Well I guess it's time for me to be off, then. Glad to be of service, my new friend. You find any other signs of ghostly activity, just give me a ring, but seriously, I'm confident you won't. There isn't a single ghost calling this place home."
I went to shake Igor's paw - I mean, hand - and all of a sudden...
All of a sudden, Igor disappeared in a puff of smoke.
For IGOR, himself, was a GHOST.