“Esmeralda seems to really like you.”
“She’s a cat.”
“Right, and a cat has no motivation to lie about how she feels about others. She’s very useful when trying to decipher the intentions of those who are in question.”
“Does that mean I can leave now?”
“No, no, you won’t get off that easy. Even if you’re not directly involved, you might know about others who are of interest to me.”
“And if I refuse to tell?”
She shot off quickly, with fear-inducing ferocity, “If you refuse to tell, than I will have no choice but to go back to the drawing board. Considering the time and space, and resources of this endeavor, your refusal to cooperate could ultimately result in his death.”
“I chose to accept that risk. After all, it’s every man for himself out there.”
“Man or woman, I hardly think that any of us would make it past adolescence if we all treated each other in such fashion.”
“Whatever, I made it this far. What do I care who’s responsible for that?”
Detective Malone could see she wasn’t going to get through to Dr. Sparring. Not tonight.
“If you’re not going to talk, I have no choice but to let you go, as there are no charges against you.”
“Fantastic. Thanks for wasting my time,” replied Dr. Sparring.
“My pleasure. Thanks for allowing an innocent man to die tonight.” With that, Dr. Sparring left, slamming the door of Detective Malone’s cubicle on his way out.
“I know Dr. Sparring knows more about the kidnapping than he leads on,” Malone exclaimed to her empty office. “Maybe I should trace his footsteps…”
“Kathleen! Dinner’s ready,” Daddy called from the kitchen.
“I’ll be right there!” cried Katie as she turned off the TV. She ran to the kitchen table with her Siamese Cat Beanie Baby stuffed in the back pocket of her jeans.
“Leave Esther in the living room, Katie. Toys don’t belong at the dinner table.”
“I know, Daddy,” she nodded as she skipped back into the living room and sat Esther on the couch.
As she returned to the kitchen, Daddy dished them both out servings of boiled carrots and potatoes, and flakey roast beef. The two ate dinner, sharing amicable stories about their day. Daddy climbed up tall cranes, repairing their cables so that they didn’t break and hurt people. Katie read about the Boston Tea Party and learned a new vocab word: nonconformist. The word defined Kathleen perfectly (Mrs. Swirley even said so). She was a delightfully abnormal girl whose strong will allowed her to march to the beat of her own drum.
“Kathleen,” she assured, “you are a nonconformist for sure!”
Daddy laughed as Kathleen impersonated her teacher. The two finished dinner and ate seconds of potatoes. As Daddy cleared the table, Katie let Maggie outside to go poop.
In the backyard, Maggie spotted a baby bunny. Katie cheered as she chased it all the way to the shed. Daddy peeked through the screen door and asked, “Kathleen, have you seen the remote control?”
“To the TV?” Katie asked, as children seldom pass up a chance to state the obvious.
“Yes, sweetheart. Have you seen it?”
Daddy’s question sparked Katie’s vivid imagination. She jumped on the picnic table, right next to the apple tree, and shouted, “No, but I will find it! I am the world’s greatest detective!”
“Detective Malone?” Daddy asked, keen to his daughter’s favorite TV heroine.
“Kathleen Malone, Genius Detective,” she replied, with a dignified air.
Daddy encouraged Katie’s imaginative games, and played along. “Thank God you’re here!” he exclaimed, “I’ve lost the remote! Without it, I won’t be able to watch Behind the Music.”
Katie grinned her vivacious and giddily infectious smile. “I’ll save you, Daddy!” With that, Detective Kathleen Malone charged back into the house. Maggie and Daddy followed. Maggie, still excited from her bunny chase, jumped onto the couch and paced back and forth. In her enthusiasm, Maggie stepped on Esther.
“Maggie, no!” Kathleen called out to the unknowing creature, “you stepped on Esther. That means you’re bad news!”
“Bad news? Why is that?” Daddy asked, completely clueless.
“Cats can tell when you’re bad, because they can’t tell a lie,” Katie explained.
That made no sense to Daddy, but he smiled and nodded.
Kathleen then decided to trace Maggie’s footsteps. She walked to the dog bowl, but it was empty except for a soggy bit of kibble and some waterlogged hair. She then checked the laundry room, where Maggie liked to sleep, but she found nothing. Exasperated, Kathleen returned to the living room where she found Maggie digging into the couch cushions.
“Maggie, what are you doing?” she called out. Maggie didn’t flinch; she just kept on digging. Whatever was under there must have been good. Katie pulled the cushion out from under Maggie and found just the item she’d been looking for: the TV remote control!
“Daddy! I found it,” Kathleen called out.
Daddy, who’d been washing dishes during the whole investigation, stepped into the living room. “Great news, Detective! How did you find it?”
Kathleen masked her smile with an aura of coolness.
“I’m a detective. It’s just what I do.”