Plus I look mighty fine in a pair of boots. That’s why I’m Puss in Boots.
Does this get me respect? No.
People just go, ‘who’s a pretty puddy tat?’ I hate that. It makes my tail twitch.
But I work through the hate, ’cause I got a nip habit. Disgusting, but that was life. Life was disgusting. And catnip made life just a little more bearable.
To be straight with you, I wasn’t the detective originally. My human was. Called him the Old Man. And one day, he died. He left his rundown house to his oldest son, what little money he had to his second, and to his idiot youngest? He left me.
Well, it looked like I had my work cut out for myself.
But at least the kid could take instructions. Most of the time.
Problem was, he’d got a head for the ladies. Me? Not my thing. Oh, I liked to go to the fences and sing my song, but I was a love ’em and leave ’em kind of feline. Couple of kittens going around with my fur, but it wasn’t like they were my problem.
But the kid. One day he came home. Fell for some society girl. A debutante. He didn’t care that she was so far out of his league they might as well be playing different sports.
And he mooned about her. Day and night.
His dad, he’d told me to look out for the kid. And it’d been a while since I managed to stretch my claws and walk the walk. So I got to thinking, maybe this could work out for me and the stupid kid.
Opportunity struck soon enough. Seemed the fancy girl’s father, one Admiral Clintstock, whose fortune mysteriously appeared with the war, had himself a nice diamond brooch. Came from some foreign place that I’d bet money didn’t wanna hand it over. Got it for his dearly departed wife. Well, he didn’t have it anymore. He said it was stolen.
I was listening to the radio while relaxing on the radiator – because downtime is a precious thing that should not be squandered – and the media was on him like flies on scandal about the theft.
I stretched out a paw casually to flip the volume higher. Kid was asleep at the desk, another day of no one coming to hire us.
And you know, Clintstock? I listened real close while the newsmen asked their questions. He didn’t sound like a man who got robbed. He sounded like a man who was in a corner. A tight one.
That’s when it came to me how I was going to help the stupid kid.
I yowled at him to put on his old man’s uniform, the fedora and trenchcoat that went to every case with the Old Man, and get moving. We were going to get the girl and save the day. Big heroes.
That’s how I phrased it to the kid, anyway. All I wanted was the mooning to stop and maybe get a nice reward of ‘nip.
So we went to the dad, offered our services. Well, the kid did. Me, I played dumb pet. For now. I like to analyze the situation before I let on I can talk. For some reason humans get all sorts of expectations when they know you can talk back. Like they think they’re on my level.
The kid stumbled his way through the offer, but I guess the Admiral really was desperate, cause he snapped up the kid right away. Gave him descriptions of the brooch, a theory on the thieves, everything.
Everything except who was blackmailing him into giving them the brooch. The Admiral still couldn’t admit how much trouble he was in. Fine by me. I had enough to work with. This case was like a mouse for me to toy with.
While the kid made googly eyes at Clintstock Jr Femme, I sat and thought. Got in a decent paw licking, because I do my best thinking when my paws are good and clean.
I could make a thousand guesses to what the blackmailers had over the Admiral’s head. It was pretty clear his hands were dirty. The trick was figuring out why the Admiral had gone to the media in the first place. Was it part of the deal? To throw smoke in everyone’s eyes?
I decided to take a look around the scene of the crime, if it had indeed taken place. Took off down a hall to the room where the jewelry box of Mrs. Clintstock, deceased, had been kept.
It was a nice house. Pretty snazzy, all told. Not much in the way of mice for a hungry cat just trying to make his way in the world.
You know what else it had? An acrid, burnt metal smell. Magic.
That, as they say, put a whole new perspective on things.
There wasn’t a whole lot of magic left in the world. It’d mostly gone out of fashion, if you want the truth of things. But some of it lingered.
And some of it malingered, if you follow me.
So there I was, in this clean, modern-with-tasteful-antiques home, and the scent of magic so strong in my nose that I sneezed. Just about sneezed myself out of my boots. I really hate the stink of magic. But there was something else. Animal, almost, mixed with the magic.
The list of magical creatures with a yen for diamonds was pretty short. Dragons, of course, but I didn’t smell lizards. And ogres. Ogres liked jewels, too. And tasty children. But ogres settle for a good gem.
Ugly bastards. Shame they’re so good at spells.
I decided it was time to hustle the kid home. I needed him out of sight of witnesses while I got down to business. I could see an easy life stretching in front of me if he could marry Miss Moneybags. All I had to do was face something that if they didn’t eat cats, they sure as hell used them for ingredients. Pardon my language. I’m a cat, we can get pretty salty.
“Kid,” I meowed. “Get your old man’s peacemaker out from his desk. I need you to do exactly as I say.”
The kid did as he was told, for once.
“Now what?” he said, holding the gun. At least it was pointed at the floor. If only it wasn’t pointed at his foot.
“Now you stay out of trouble, while I do some looking.” I’ve got this bag, matched to the boots. Dead useful for gathering clues, or holding a peacemaker. I headed back out into the night, following my nose. You might be wondering what good a gun does for a cat, but when it’s small and your paws aren’t standard issue thanks to coming from an, ahem, close-knit family of ferals, well, it gives a cat a bit of comfort.
Now that I knew what I was looking for, it didn’t take long to pick up the stink. I bet the Admiral wished he’d never gotten that brooch now. Showed what happened when you deal in dirty markets and didn’t frequent your thriving local businesses, I suppose. But what do I know, I’m just a cat. All I care about the economics of humans is when the fishmonger puts out the trash.
The smell was like a neon sign that said ‘bad news here!’ that I followed unerringly. Maybe it wasn’t wise, but if this gamble paid off, it was easy street from here on out.
A quick walk down some dark back alleys I wouldn’t recommend to the mangiest canine and there I was. The old opera house. Closest thing Mr. Ogre could find to an abandoned castle in this stinking city, I guess.
It was a nice place, for a wrecked out derelict building. Big, airy, plenty of rats and mice in the walls. But I wasn’t there to clean up his house. I was there to see if he had the brooch.
I went in through the front door, because that’s what you do when you’re a cat in boots.
“Hello!” I meowed. “Anyone home?”
The ground shook, like an earthquake in ‘Frisco. In front of me what I had figured for a bunch of discarded props turned out to be Mr. Ogre, hulking, bigger than life, and made of pure stench. Too big for my peacemaker to be any use. Great.
I would’ve done a disdainful sniff, but that would’ve involved inhaling.
“Name’s Puss,” I meowed, like the cool customer I was. “I like your place.” Like was maybe too strong a word.
The ogre shook himself, and I tried to keep from falling as the room moved with him. “Who invited you?” he demanded. Not the most polite opening number, but it was a valid question.
“I met a guy,” I meowed, vague. It seemed to satisfy him, though, and he shrugged and stomped over to a table I hadn’t noticed before on account of nearly passing out from eau d’ogre. There was enough food on the table to feed a crew of dock workers. Pity none of it looked remotely edible.
I didn’t think he’d buy the sweet little kitty routine, so I cut to the chase.
“I hear you’re dealing in gems,” I mewed smoothly.
The ogre looked vaguely interested. Sadly, this made him lean in closer, and I tried not to gag. No way this guy would accept the old “hairball!” excuse. “You are selling?”
I smiled, teeth sharp and white. “Maybe. What’s your offer?”
“What gems?” Say this for the old stink-o, he was paying attention.
“My human got around,” I meowed and inspected my paw like I couldn’t care less who I was talking to. Which was true. Not much matters to a cat. “I picked up a few useful bits and pieces while he did it.”
The ogre grunted. “That’s not an answer, cat.” He was starting to look like cat would be a step up on his usual meal fare. I thought quickly.
“I want to know if you can pay,” I purred.
“Of course I can pay!” he thundered. “Who said I couldn’t? Was it Garl again? That rat fink!” He was winding himself up into quite the rant.
Perfect. Right where I wanted him. “Prove it,” I meowed. “I want magic, so prove you still have it.”
“What proof do you want?” he asked. I had to be careful now. This could go very sweet or very sour, but it never worked well when you leapt too soon.
I cleaned my ear like I was thinking, even though it meant I got more of his fetid scent on my tongue. I was going to have to groom for DAYS after this.
The opera house was two seconds from collapsing in on itself and he sure wasn’t hiding it, so illusion was right out. That wouldn’t have been any good to the Admiral.
The Admiral. I looked over Mr. Ogre. He paid. The Admiral wasn’t blackmailed at all, the ogre had just taken his payment. I ran through what the ogre could have done for that piece of work and it hit me. Mr. Admiral Clintstock had been aiming for a political position, and elections had just gone up because of a tiger attack on the the previous duly elected representative.
We were not an area that had tigers. I was as wild a cat as it got.
I knew what this ogre’s game was now.
“I hear you can be anything,” I purred. “I don’t buy it.”
The ogre snarled. Ogres have pride, strange as it seemed.
And then he decided to give me a display. One moment there was a pile of walking stench and nastiness in front of me, the next there was a dragon whose head scraped the roof. No illusion, I could feel the heat from the fire in its belly. If the place had smelled better, I would have gone for a little nap right then and there.
I started licking my back leg, then looked up when the dragon started growling.
“Big’s easy,” I said. “You’re already big. No, I want to see how much finesse you’ve got.”
“Finesse.” The ogre looked confused. Apparently I’d exceeded his vocabulary. Probably not too hard.
“You know,” I mewed, stretching like it hardly mattered. “Attention to detail. Something small. Like that.” I gestured to a mouse, crawling under the table. “I’ll wager you couldn’t make yourself look just like that.”
It was almost too easy. The ogre’s chest puffed up with pride and indignation. “Look and learn, little doubter.” Then there was a second mouse on the floor.
Then there was a dead mouse on the floor. Like I said, it was almost too easy. I wasn’t going to eat him; as a mouse he still reeked. But his neck was snapped, and even ogres don’t recover from that.
I explored a bit. The opera house had seen better days. Better decades. Judging by the depth of the dust, better centuries. But I found what I was looking for in his trove and scooped up the brooch. There was other treasure, but what use was that to me? Pawnshops don’t cater to cats.
I went and found the kid. He did as he was told, still hiding in his dad’s old office. He was stupid but obedient. I was sure he and his wife would be very happy together.
I wasn’t wrong. The kid brought back the brooch, and the girl threw herself into his arms. Next thing I knew, they were married, and we were finally in much nicer digs. And I had all the ‘nip I could roll in.
I guess the Admiral was pretty happy about it, too. He got elected, his daughter was married off to someone harmless, and he had his ice back. He slipped me treats sometimes. They were awful treats, but it was the thought, I guess.
I guess you could say we all lived happily ever after, but who’d buy that?