Cat Jones resided at 44 Blenheim Road, a modest, but comfortable address. He wore a black coat interrupted by a white stripe running the expanse of his broad chest, which lent him the look of being perpetually dressed in formal wear. The only name he answered to was ‘Cat,’ and he shared his space with another of the city’s society burglars, a leggy blonde named Jane.
Cat and Jane nicked goods from predictable prey: dowagers with collections of pearls in their unmentionables drawers, geriatric bachelors whose desks overflowed with platinum cufflinks. All that mattered was that the marks were moneyed and that they were true aficionados of the Felis catus, in case Cat needed extra help on the breaking and entering front.
On average, the pair worked one case per month, Cat handling the casing, the footwork, and the lift. The blonde drove the getaway car.
This symbiotic relationship continued until Jane began turning down jobs, stating she was content with the status quo.
Contentment with the status quo had not suited Cat for many years. In setting up his marks, Cat had developed a taste for their lifestyle, one that a lousy strand of Mikimotos every four weeks wouldn’t satisfy (a tomcat had little use for a string of pearls–freshwater, cultured, or otherwise). And so, on his next job, instead of returning to Jane with shiny loot from a widow’s jewelry box, Cat padded up to the car with a tin of Beluga in his mouth.
Jane frowned as she drove back to Blenheim Road. Once home, she stashed the caviar in a kitchen cupboard and poured Cat his nightly ration of Friskies, setting it down on the lino next to a bowl of tepid tap water.
“Bad Cat,” she scolded.
This was no damned good.
Cat did the majority of the work, took all the risks, carted around the heavy objects. Jane’s responsibilities began and ended at putting her right foot down on a flat pedal and sealing the take in a plastic baggie. To be fair, she also buried said baggie in a box filled with no-name brand clumping litter and handled the fencing part of the business, but that was the end of it.
It happened on a gray Monday morning. As Cat watched from his perch in the front bay, fortune moved in two doors down in the form of an old, blue-rinsed lady who appeared only slightly north of committable insanity. From its kitchen window came contented meows along with scents of prime rib, sushi-grade tuna, and other gastronomic delicacies. The premises held promise, as Jane would say, and Cat made plans to case the joint. He felt no need to inform his partner.
On the eve of Cat’s next masquerade as a hungry, forgotten stray left on the doorstep of another pearl-owning widow, he sniffed at his Friskies, nibbled enough to stave his hunger, and curled up in the big bed next to Jane. When she began to snore, Cat padded into the laundry room where the litter box sat with its cargo of stolen goods waiting to be fenced. And he went to work as he had been taught.
In five minutes, he clawed and chewed his way through the plastic baggie. He looped an emerald-encrusted diadem around his neck, slipped two pearl bracelets onto his tail, and wriggled a large sapphire dinner ring halfway up one forepaw. The pair of diamond tennis bracelets he snagged with his teeth, spitting out the fetid litter that stuck to the stones. Thus laden, he slunk out of the laundry, past Jane’s bedroom, and down the stairs. Getting out the cat-door without making any noise was easy.
Cat had practice.
By noon the next day, he had scarfed one tin of caviar, downed a half-pint of clotted cream, and shared a plate of Serrano ham with the other nine of the old lady’s pets before settling down to a nap next to a tattered copy of Larousse Gastronomique. At night, Cat slipped back into Jane’s place for more loot, presenting it to his new owner on her doorstep the following morning. The blue-haired woman invited him in, patted his rump, and returned to brewing tea and writing out another grocery order for the waiting Dean & Deluca delivery boy.
They say cats are untrainable, antisocial, independently-willed creatures who live with crazy old women.
Some of that is true, Cat thought, as he delivered a set of ruby studs and a matching tie clip to the kitchen of 40 Blenheim Road.
Christina Dalcher writes sober and submits drunk. Or the other way around. Her short work does not appear in Tin House, The Paris Review, or The New Yorker.