The brother cats’ adventure continues in

ANTON AND CECIL: CATS ALOFT.

Here’s a sneak peek!

 

While heading back east from their Wild West adventure, Anton and Cecil stop to consult the mouse network at a large train station and are interrupted by a canine…

The dog strode directly toward them, her mouth open, drooling a little as dogs do to the everlasting disgust of all cats.  But most notable was this dog’s nose, which was large and quivering. 

“Excuse me, gentlemen,” she said.  “I wonder if you would be so kind, that is, if I might have a word with you.” 

“We’re new here,” Cecil said coolly.  “We can’t give you directions.”

“Oh, dear me, I know you’re new here,” said the dog.  “You see, I would, wouldn’t I, because I am rather old here.  I’m here a great deal.  Anyway, I couldn’t help but notice that you were talking with a trio of our local mice.” 

Cecil nodded.  “We’ve actually talked to plenty of mice lately.  And now we’re talking to a dog.  What kind of cats are we?  I ask myself that every day.”

“You’re the brave, canny, detective kind of cats,” the biggest mouse piped up.  He turned to the dog.  “These two are the famous brothers Anton and Cecil.  If you’ve lost a friend, they can find him.”

“Is that so?” said the dog.  “Well, I’m pleased to meet you.  My name is Ruby, but my partner calls me LeNez.  And as for detection, I’m something of a professional.  I’m in this station on a case, but I’ve determined that the culprit isn’t here.”

“What did the culprit do?” asked Cecil.

“It was a bank heist.  Stolen goods.  A lot of that inked paper involved.  It’s not hard to track the paper – acrid stuff, literally burns the nostrils. He smokes a pipe, I’ve got that pipe down, and he smears a particular flowery scent on his skin. ”  

The mice snuffled, pretending their noses could find anything but cheese, but Cecil stepped closer to Ruby.  “So what are you doing here today?”

“Well, my partner has decided that our best course of action is to stake out the station.  The culprit will likely leave town this way.  My partner is counting on my picking up the scent.”

“And who is your partner?” Anton asked.

Ruby lifted her chin toward a short man in a tall hat.  “They call him Morgan. We’ve been together since I was a pup.  Poor fellow, he can’t smell a thing. But he’s smart.  He always knows when I’m on the trail and gives me a free hand.”  

Suddenly there was a bustle of humans near the tall glass doors that opened to the street.  Several travelers entered the big hall.  Ruby took in a sharp sniff, swerved around on her haunches, and let out a soft bark.  Her partner spotted Ruby, and headed toward her. 

“Our man is here,” Ruby informed the cats.  “Gentlemen, you’re about to witness an apprehension.”  She got to her feet and strode off toward the doors.

 “We’ll catch up with you later,” the lead mouse called as Anton and Cecil, shoulder to shoulder, stepped out to follow the man and the dog through the unknowing crowd in the station.

Ruby closed in on a tall  man with shiny black shoes on his narrow feet.  Between his teeth he held a curved black stick that looked to be aflame, and he gripped a large leather satchel in one hand as he moved through the station. 

“Is that him, you think?” Cecil murmured to Anton.  “I notice he has no hair on his head.”

“And one of his shoes squeaks,” said Anton, his ears swiveling.  “Hey, we’re pretty good at this.” 

Ruby’s head snapped up as the tall man passed her, and she spun to follow him.  Mr. Morgan, her partner, stepped into the path of the bald man.  “Excuse me, sir, might I have a word?”

The bald man removed the black stick from his mouth, pausing a moment while he took in the short man in front of him and the large dog sniffing the cuff of his trousers.

 “So that’s the culprit?” Anton asked, craning his neck to watch the standoff.  “He looks guilty.”

“You can’t tell by how they look,” Cecil responded.  “You have to see how they act.”

At that moment the bald man blew a gust of smoke into Morgan’s face, whirled, and bolted away through the crowd.  Ruby leaped after him.  Anton and Cecil jumped up to follow. 

Now he looks guilty,” said Cecil.  The bald man burst through the double glass doors and out to the sidewalk, knocking other travelers out of his way.  The cats caught up to Ruby just as she was buffeted back by the agitated crowd.  She backed up and shoved through the doors with the two cats in her wake.  Outside, the bald man was nowhere in sight.

“Oh no, he’s gone,” said Anton, disappointed. 

“Not at all!”  Ruby sniffed the ground and swung to the right.  “This way!” she called, and the three creatures dashed down the street.  

“Hey, the thing he had in his mouth—it’s this way!” Cecil called.

“The pipe, yes,” Ruby agreed, veering quickly.  The pipe lay on the sidewalk, ashes scattered.  “He tossed it away to throw me off,” Ruby huffed.  “Nice try, but it’ll take more than that to lose Ruby LeNez.”  She lowered her head again and took in two great nosefuls of air, then set off. 

As they passed through a quiet park, Anton thought he heard a familiar sound, faint and distant, but then he lost it again.  They came upon the bald man’s hat tossed to the side of the road, and then his scarf.

“He’s going to have no clothes left by the time we find him,” said Cecil, chuckling.

Ruby and the two cats arrived at a busy intersection and began weaving between horses and cart wheels in their path.  Halfway across, Ruby stopped next to a lamp post and lifted her head, swinging her abundant jowls from side to side. “The trail is unclear,” she said, “and now I’m counting on the two of you.  Do either of you notice anything?” 

Cecil stood and paced, peering down each street.  “I’ve got nothing.”

Anton shut his eyes and pricked up his ears, and he heard the sound again—a slight, repetitive squeaking. 

“The man’s shoe!” he shouted.  “I hear it.  Beyond that building.”  He jabbed one paw at a large structure in front of them.

“Excellent!  Quick now, down the street!” called Ruby. 

Dodging a team of horses and a mob of ladies in crinkly dresses, Anton and Cecil raced around the corner to a narrow alley entrance, with Ruby close behind.  The cats barreled into the alley, running directly under the feet of the bald man.  He stumbled and fell to one knee, dropping his leather satchel.  The satchel burst open, emitting a cascade of small pieces of green paper that fluttered and settled across the pavement. 

“Stop, thief!” Ruby barked at the man.  She placed her substantial bulk between the bald man and the satchel, growling a warning to him.  The man slumped heavily against the alley wall, his arms raised in defense.

“Bravo, gentlemen!” Ruby said to the cats.  “That was very well done.” 

Morgan arrived with the men in blue uniforms.  After ensuring that the thief was well in hand, he came over to Ruby, who sat in the lane outside the alley with Anton and Cecil.  He spoke to her with a certain pride in his voice. 

“Good girl, LeNez. You’ve done it again.  What a marvel you are.”  He straightened and regarded the two cats curiously, smiled, and strode back into the alley. 

“I don’t know what he said, but your partner seems nice, for a human,” Cecil observed.

“He has always been kind to me,” agreed Ruby. She turned to Anton with a twinkle in her droopy eyes.  “That was a superior observation you made back there about those squeaky shoes.”

Anton remembered how precise Ruby’s sense of smell was. “You didn’t really lose the man’s scent, did you?” 

“Perhaps not,” she said, smiling.  “But I was interested in what you might sense if you put your mind to it, and you heard that tiny squeak!  My hearing’s not what it was, that’s true.  And it’s become a hindrance to me in a number of cases where I really need to be at my best.”  She looked from cat to cat.  “I don’t suppose we could consider keeping this team together a little while longer, could we?  Mr. Morgan and I have been trying to solve a case over at the Fair that is absolutely confounding the both of us.”  She paused, watching them.

“What’s a Fair?” asked Anton.

Ruby smiled knowingly.  “The Fair is a wonder of the world where humans of all types gather to listen to strange and beautiful music, to eat all kinds of delicious food, and to see sights nobody has ever seen before.”

“Really?”  Cecil’s eyes were wide.

“Oh, goodness, yes.”

Anton nodded.  “What’s the case?” he asked the dog.

Ruby’s face fell into its usual glum expression. “Animals are being stolen from their families, whisked away without a trace, and no one seems to know where they go.”

Anton and Cecil exchanged glances.  “Well, we happen to know a bit about that kind of thing,” said Anton carefully.

“Do you, now?”  Ruby cocked her head.  “That would be most helpful indeed, I’m sure it would.  Tell you what.”  She stood and half-turned.  “I’ll go check on my partner for a moment, and you two discuss the matter.”

“Did you hear the part about the food?” Cecil asked.

“And the music,” added Anton.

“And the balloons,” said Cecil.

“And even the poor, stolen animals.  The whole thing sounds like our destiny.”  Anton hesitated.  “But what about going home?”

“We’ll go,” Cecil promised.  “Soon as the mouse network figures out how to get us there.”  He paused, smiling.  “Remember those pigeons?”

“Yes, what about them?” Anton asked.

“Well, we’ve tried the sea and the land,” Cecil mused.  “Maybe this time we’ll have to fly.”