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## January 2005 ##

"Telephone Inspector Stagg!"
Incidents in the life of Inspector Franklin Stagg
 as reported by Detective Sergeant Orrin Brush
& edited 

by EO Costello
Illustration by Kjartan

"Unbreakable Bonds"
by EOCostello

11 February 1935 0640

     Th' last few weeks 'round here gotta be th' worst I seen in a long time.  Nothin' but lousy weather outside.  Two storms, drivin' rain, an' cold rain at that.  Indoors it ain't much fun, neither.

     See, my boss, Det. Inspector Franklin Stagg, an' me, Det. Sergeant Orrin Brush, we're th' 'ficial detective force here in th' Spontoons. We're *s'posed* t'be th' guys doin' th' 'fficial investigatin'.  Few weeks back, me 'n Stagg, we stumbled on somethin' real nasty.  This vicious lil' bastard, onea them lil' Florida deer, moke named Thomas Key, we caught 'im red-pawed tryin' t'kill number 31 in a long line of sec'taries that vanished real mysterious-like.  We finds stuff that could make this guy th' worst ever killer in these parts.

     Day after we busts Key, our Chief gets an order.  Th' Constabl'ry is off th' case.  Turn over th' evidence an' all t'th' Interior Min'stry, an' that's it.  No backchat, neither.  Chief tells me if I don't shuts my muzzle, it's back t'uniform duty.  Well, I ain't lyin' when I says I took that order real hard.  I busted my tail t'get that collar, near literal.  Key gouged a hunk outta my shin, an' wanted t'stick me wit' a dagger in my head, too.  Stagg, well, he took it real hard.

     I don't thinks he ate fer a day or two, and I ain't sure, even now, he's got his feed back.  He looks like he's dropped a buncha pounds.  Got these real dark circles unner his eyes, which tells me he ain't sleepin', neither.  Oh, sure, he does his work an' all.  He's a pro.  There ain't no question he's down, tho.

     Only good thing is I thinks most of th' uniforms are on our side.  They can't say nuthin', out loud.  But they opens th' door for me 'n Stagg, an' every so often, a hot cuppa coffee shows up on our desks.  Chief's been gettin' th' silent treatment, too, 'cause folks figger he let us down.

     Anyhow, I figgers it's best t'fetch Stagg in th' mornin', on our way t'work.  Ain't no question he's got me worried.  The couple that rents him his room over on Printer's Lane, near HQ, they're worried too.  I mean, don't nobody pass up Frau Nerzmann's pastries for a few weeks runnin'.

     'nother lousy day.  Kinda moody, fitsy rain all night that only cleared up a few hours ago, an' it's still darkish outside.  Herr Nerzmann gave me a key t'th' joint a few weeks ago, an' I lets myself in t'collect Stagg, who's ready for me.  Same sorta defeated look, same sleepless night, I guess.  Anyhow, he collects his walkin' stick, an' we heads out, an' starts walkin' slowly up th' Lane, on account Stagg's gotta bum hoof an' all, an' it bein' wet an' all.

     I'm sorta lost in my own thinkin' when I snaps to an' realize Stagg ain't walkin' wit' me.  I turns around, an' Stagg's sorta lookin' round, puzzled.  He holds up his paw, an' tilts his head, twitchin' an ear.  I don't hear nothin'.  He waves a paw at me, tellin' me t' get closer.

    It's 'bout thirty seconds later that I hears it, too.  Faint cry, like a mewlin'.  Me 'n Stagg looks around, an' takes a few steps toward th' sound, when it comes again.  Finally, I gets a bead on it.

   "Over there, by them dustbins, I think."

    See, Printer's Lane, it's a bunch a small, two, t'ree story buildin's, old Colonial-era stuff.  There's lil' spaces in between each buildin', where folks usually put th' dustbins, keepin' them outta th' street.  In between Number 4, where there's the bookstore Stagg lives in, and Number 2, there's a lil' open-air alley, wit' th' dustbins.  Only when I gets closer, seein' how I moves faster 'n Stagg, I sees someone's got some sorta cloth draped over a few dustbins, makin' a lil' tent.  I gotta walk 'round back of th' dustbins, bend down, an' strike a match t'see what's what.

     (Newborn-Shield and Mother-Compassion myself guide!)

     "What's the matter, Sergeant?"

     "Holy God, there's a kid here!   In a basket, yet."

     Stagg looks up 'n down th' street, quickly.  Ain't no one here.  Printer's Lane's real quiet, even at high noon, let 'lone early like this.

     "Give me your matches, Sergeant.  In the meantime, take the basket as quickly and quietly as you can, and go into my room.  I want you to call Dr. Meffit, right away, and get him to come as quickly as he can, as discreetly as he can.  I'll have a look around here, and see if there's anything important."

     Made sense t'me.  I picks up th' basket, an' pad as quick as I dares back t'Number 4, put th' basket down, unlock th' door, and go in, lockin' it behind me.  I puts th' basket down on Stagg's cot in his room, an' use his phone.

     "Yea, get me CAsino 62, please...oh, hey, Doc, I'm glad it's you.  This is Orrin Brush...yea, look, we gots somethin' real funny goin' on here over at Printer's Lane, we kinda needs your help real quick and quiet-like, can ya...great, thanks.  Yeah, bring your bag..."

     I turns 'round after I hangs up, an' look at th' basket.  In th' better light in Stagg's room, I sees it's a kitten, a real small one.  White face.  Eyes tight shut.  He's tucked in real snug unner a blue blanket.  I guess it was warmer in here, 'cause he starts cryin' a little louder.  There's a quick paddin' outside th' door, an' both Frau Nerzmann an' Herr Nerzmann peer 'round th' door.

     Herr Nerzmann blinks troo his pince-nez, an' peers in th' basket.  "Himmel Herrgott!"  Frau Nerzmann takes a real sharp intake of breath, turns on me, an' begins scoldin' me real fast in German, waggin' a finger at me.  She immediately goes over t'th' basket, an' real gentle takes th' kid out, an' begins cradlin' 'im, makin' soothin' noises to comfort 'im.  Takin' him out shows that there's a bottle with a lil' rubber nipple inside th' basket.  I'm lookin' at this, when Frau Nerzmann glowers at me, grabs it from me, an' pads off back t' where she an' her husband live.

     "But Herr Sergeant, where did you find this child?"

     "Just outside near th' dustbins, Mr. Nerzmann.  Somebody left him there."

     "Left him there?  But when?  This is horrible!  The poor child...has someone called a doctor?"

     "Yeah, Doc Meffit is on his way.  Th' Inspector is back where we found th' kid, lookin' round."

11 February 1935 0700

     Say this for Doc Meffit.  I mean, he's kinda pompous an' fussy an' all mosta th' time, him an' his striped trousers an' such, but when th' chips are down, he'll do whatcha need.  He musta flagged down a water-taxi real fast, an' paid him t'step onnit, 'cause him 'n Stagg walk in, it ain't more'n ten minutes from when I calls him up.

     Stagg's got somethin' in his arms, some heavy cloth, which he puts onna chair, an' both him an' me, we troops after the Doc upstairs, t'where Frau Nerzmann took th' kid.

     They're in th' kitchen.  Frau Nerzmann has some milk warmin' up on th' stove, an' she's workin' on sterilizin' th' bottle an' the nipple, too.  She looks up at us.

     "Mach schnell, Herr Doktor.  The child, it is hungry, can you not see it?"

     Meffit looks kinda shocked, but he gets right down t'business, lookin' careful-like in th' kitten's ears and mouth, testin' his limbs, runnin' his paws over his fur, an' finally givin' him a little weigh-in in Frau Nerzmann's kitchen scale.  3 pound, 2 ounce wortha kitten.  He looks over at th' kid's tummy, an' snips at th' belly button area, which is th' only thing he really does t'th' kitten.  Frau Nerzmann's lookin' real agitated all th' time, 'cause th' kitten's cryin', so when Doc Meffit finishes up, an' nods at her, it ain't more'n few seconds 'fore th' kid is being fed an' cuddled an' cooed at.  So th' guys, we troops down t'Stagg's room, Stagg collectin' th' cloth he brung in.

     Herr Nerzmann, he looks real concerned.  "The child, Herr Doktor, it is all right, yes?"

     Meffit polishes up his pince nez.  "Well, aside from the fact that the poor little chap was obviously very hungry, there was nothing that was a problem.  And Mrs. Nerzmann seems to have that well in paw.  Little small, I think, but that could be related to the size of his parents.  Fully developed little boy, so I think he was either full-term, or as near-term as makes no matter.  Skin tone good, fur very clean.  In fact, it looked brushed."

     Stagg pipes up.  "I noticed you worked on the umbilical cord, Doctor."

    "Yes, that was something slightly unusual.  The cord, as you can see, was tied off with a small bit of strong thread.  Now, if you take a close look at this end, you can see that when the child was born, the cord was not cut straight, as it would be with a knife or a scalpel.  There's a small ridge here.  It looks like the cord was bitten off."

    "So th' kid ain't born in th' hospital?"

   "Not likely, with that procedure.  Have you checked the basket for a note, yet?"

    Stagg picks up th' basket, an' removes th' blanket.  He does a start.   "There are notes in here, Doctor, but not in the way you think..."

    He turns th' basket upside down, an' a whole buncha wrapped dollar bill bundles come tumblin' out onta th' cot.

11 February 1935 0840

    Th' magistrate on duty's a nice ol' guy, Harold Poynter.  Just 'bout th' last of th' Brit vintage left.  In his late seventies an' all, real gentle ol' dog.  Stayed behind when th' Brits left, an' settled in.  His place looks like some Victorian joint plopped down in th' tropics.  Like I says, gentle soul, so when he hears what me, Stagg, Meffit an' Mr. Nerzmann gotta say, the monocle pops outta his eye.

      "Gracious me, gentlemen!  Why, this is dreadful!  The poor child...do you have any idea who the mother is?"

     Stagg clears his throat.  "That's precisely why we wanted to speak with you in private, Sir.  The circumstances surrounding the finding of the child, plus the contents of the basket, as Herr Nerzmann told you, lead us to believe that there is some sort of suspicious activity.  We would like to track down the mother as soon as possible.  The fact that there was no written note at the scene, or any other evidence, is worrisome."

     "Oh, yes, quite, quite.  I fully agree."

     "With respect, Sir, I have spoken with both Dr. Meffit and Herr Nerzmann on this matter.  We feel that it would be best if the matter was not given any publicity, at least for the moment, until we find out more about the mother.  Dr. Meffit has made out a paw-written affidavit regarding the kitten's health, and Herr and Frau Nerzmann are willing to act as foster-parents in the interim."

     "Really?  Splendid, splendid.  Well, the child's a little young yet, to be eating raspberry tarts, eh? Ha, ha!"

    "Well, indeed, Sir.  Can you issue an order, under seal, appointing Dr. James Meffit and Herr Jacob Nerzmann as temporary guardians for the kitten?  I've taken the liberty, sir, of writing a draft order to that effect..."

     "Have you, now?  Jolly efficient, Inspector.  Makes my job a little easier...hmmm, let's see, yes, yes, yes...right-ho, I'll have my secretary type this up in a jiffy.  Um, is there anything else?"

    "Not at the moment, Sir, but I imagine things could move quickly at some point.  Do you have any objection if I call you at any hour of the day?"

   "Oh, no, heavens, no, Inspector.  I get so few telephone calls these days.  They give most of the cases to the newer magistrates, these days.  Putting the old dog out to grass, I guess.  No, no, Inspector, here's my card, and this, that's my number.  And one other thing, Inspector...and you, Sergeant..."


   Poynter looks down his muzzle, over th' top of his glasses.  "Do be careful, gentlemen.  And best of luck."

11 February 1935 1010

     Me 'n Stagg went back to have a look-see at th' stuff we found, th' cloak, an' the basket an' all.  Stagg puts on a paira white gloves, an' lays out th' cloak on his cot, an' begins gentle-like siftin' thru it.  Fancy cloak, silk linin', real good quality cloth on th' outside, gold clasp at th' throat.  Ain't no name tag in it, just th' tag "I. Magpie, Los Angeles."  Th' pockets don't got much in 'em.  One silver U.S. quarter, roll a peppermints, an' a receipt for a cab ride from Malibu to Long Beach, dated th' 10th, yestiddy.  Receipt from "Th' Broadway," some joint at 5th an' Federal in Los Angeles, also dated yestiddy, fer a lil' over thirty bucks, fer a blanket 'n basket.

     Blanket didn't tell us much.  Obvious it was new, since th' material didn't have that look when ya wash stuff, an' still had some creases in it.  Had a "Broadway Los Angeles" tag onnit.  Basket has a "Broadway Los Angeles" stamp on th' bottom.

     Stagg's lookin' at all this, while I counts up th' dough.  Four thou, nine hunnered an' sixty dollars, in twennies.  Funny lookin' bills, though.  They got yella seals on 'em.  I shows this t'Stagg.

     "Hmm.  Interesting.  Those are gold certificates, Sergeant.  See?  It says on their face that they are redeemable for twenty U.S. dollars in gold coin.  Or rather, were.  The U.S. prohibited private ownership of gold just about two years ago, and I remember reading that they withdrew these bills from circulation.  Curious choice of currency to have.  Or very deliberate..."

     "Heh.  Wunner if th' water-taxi boys recognized it."

     "A good point, Sergeant.  If this person was in Los Angeles yesterday, that implies she must have arrived here at the air terminal sometime yesterday, or perhaps very early this morning.  And if she was on Meeting Island at one point, that means she would need to have taken a water-taxi at some point.   Let's call the water-taxi firms, and see if any one of their drivers got paid with a gold certificate..."

11 February 1935 1155

     Surest thing ya know, we finds th' driver.  Kept th' twenny hisself, 'cause it looked kinda funny.  Serial number just 'bout in sequence with th' bills we got.

     "I didn't get a good look at her, gentlemen.  She was bundled up in a cloak.  She looked very tired.  She spoke very quietly.  White fur and white tail, and that's pretty much what I saw."

     "What time was this?"

     "A little after midnight.  I was in the taxi rank at the air terminal, on my dinner break, when she came up to me and hired me.  I assumed she had been shopping all day, because I saw her basket.  Thought it was strange to get a request to go to Meeting Island at that time of the morning, but given her Euro accent and dress, I put it out of mind."

      "Anything else?"

      "Well, she did ask the best way to Printer's Lane, when I let her off.  And one thing.  She kept looking out the back, as if someone were following her..."

11 February 1935 1245

     I grabs a fried crab cake from a pushcart vendor.  Stagg still seems kinda offen his feed, though.  "Well, whadda we got so far?"

     Stagg shuffles a few index cards, like he's doin' a trick.  "Well, we can place the mother at Meeting Island some time early this morning, on her way to Printer's Lane.  Before that, we know she was at Eastern Island, and we can guess she was in Los Angeles early yesterday, assuming she is responsible for the two receipts we found in her cloak.  They must not have blue laws in Los Angeles, if the stores were open.  Somehow, she has a connection with Los Angeles.  And, at some level, she must have money.  I haven't seen anything in any of today's papers."

     "Elele don't care fer none a' that stuff from L.A.  Dunno 'bout th' Mirror, tho'.  Wouldn't ya figger some dame vanishin' wit' a kid would be their meat?"

     "True.  But wouldn't there be a delay in getting the news?"

     "Yeah, but Crane, th' publisher, he's got th' A.P. franchise here.  I figger he's gotta get th' news from th' U.S., iffen only t' pick out th' juicy stuff 'bout movie starlets an' all.  Mebbe he's homesick, too.  He's from Los Angeles.  Came here a few years back, when things got a lil' hot fer him back home."   

      Stagg calls up th' Mirror's office, an' asks if we can looks at their wire stuff from yestiddy an' today, regardin' L.A. news.  Ain't no problem, happy t'oblige.  Now *that* gets my hackles up.

11 February 1935 1310

     Th' Mirror Building on Casino Island, it's brand-new.  They just finished it up 'bout t'ree months ago.  Real whiz-bang stuff, lotta glass.  Also got air-conditionin', first office buildin' here t'have it.  Don't hold out no hope HQ's gonna get it, soon.  Rooftop's gotta crisp neon "Mirror" sign, plus onea them time-and-temp electric jobs.  Scuttlebutt has it that th' owner of th' Mirror, Charles Foster Crane, ended up here in th' Spontoons 'cause he got some doll in trouble.  Got homesick for the kinda papers he had back home in L.A., so he gots his old man t'fund th' Mirror.  Keeps him outta trouble, leastways in th' U.S.  Pretty slick rag, though.  It's got th' colour funnies on Saturday, whole lotta Hollywood stuff, an' a lot more gossip an' dirt-diggin' than th' Elele.  Crane don't publish no Spontoonie edition, tho, so th' Elele still rules th' roost.  Sells mostly on Casino Island an' over at th' naval base an' air terminal.  Folks on Meetin' Island read it, mostly t'see who's in trouble now.  Folks kinda shove their copies in desk drawers, tho.

     So, anyways, we flash our buzzers at th' front desk, an' a flunkie takes us up t'th' library.  Nice joint.  Real clean lightin', big desks, neatly racked shelves wit' bound volumes an' stacks of papers.  We walks in, but there ain't nobody home, 'ceptin one guy, who turns round.  It's Crane hisself.  First time I seen 'im up close.  Pretty much whatcha figger fer a crane.  Tall, thin an' such.  Neat suit, crisp shirt, bow tie an' matchin' handkerchief an' all.

     Crane smiles at us, an' slips 'round an' closes an' locks th' door.  "The librarian on duty, gentlemen, has very graciously taken an extended coffee break.  Furthermore, it's now known on the floor that I'm in here, so I am confident we will not be disturbed." He smiles at this.  Yea, I'll just bet.  First guy who busts in here ends up on th' Krupmark beat.  "My secretary indicated to me that you were looking for, let's see, the A.P. reports from Los Angeles for both today and yesterday.  Well, you'll find them in that box right there on the table, up to date through about noon today.  However, I would ask one favour: perhaps you'd like to tell me what's going on."

      Stagg looks at me, an' raises a brow.  Now, see, Crane's a troublemaker.  He likes stirrin' up a bit a' scandal now 'n agin', but as far as I know, he ain't bent.  He sez he's gonna do somethin', that's th' way 'tis.  I'm leanin' in, whisperin' this t' Stagg, when Crane pipes up.

     "If Sergeant Brush there -- and yes, Sergeant, I *do* know who you are -- is telling you that I enjoy tormenting Meeting Island with the truth, well, that's correct.  I assure you, gentlemen, that I am willing to meet any reasonable conditions regarding the information you provide to me.  All I ask is that the Mirror be allowed to publish it first, at the appropriate time.  And I know your reputation, Inspector, and I'm willing to go by your word."

     Stagg looks down at his hooves fer a minnit, then looks at Crane, an' nods.  "Very well.  For reasons that I think will become apparent, this information is strictly embargoed until further notice.  Early this morning, Sergeant Brush and I discovered a newborn kitten, alive, in Printer's Lane.  We are currently attempting to track the mother, who we believe has some sort of connection to Los Angeles..."

     "How so?"

     "At the scene, we found an expensive cloak, with a tag indicating that it's from a store known as "I. Magpie."

     "Yes, that's a very upscale department store in Los Angeles.  Only one store.  It has a fairly restricted clientele.  They sell a lot of formal clothes and high-fashion items."

     "There were some other materials, such as a receipt for a blanket and basket from "The Broadway"..."

     "That's a more mass-market store.  They have about a dozen outlets in the Los Angeles area."

     "In addition, we found a receipt for a cab ride from Malibu to Long Beach, some time yesterday, the 10th.  One further thing: the basket in which we found the infant contained a substantial amount of money, nearly $5,000.  What is more unusual, this was in gold certificates.  The evidence, such as it is, points to someone who is wealthy."

    Crane walks over to a window, an' looks out.  "This kitten you found.  White fur, or battleship grey?"

     Stagg raises a 'brow.   "White.  Why the question?"

     Crane sighs.  "I was afraid it would come to this.  The kitten takes after his mother.  See, gentlemen, it's like this..."

     Crane sits down, an' spills it t'us.  Guy named Nick Catto, he made a whole lotta loot in railroads, real estate, an' such.  Lifelong bachelor, he didn't have no kids.  Relatives figgered on th' old boy leavin' 'em a nice chunk of change when he kicked.  What they didn't figger on was Nick fallin' in love.  See, he hires a nurse, an' she takes care of 'im.  Mebbe he's vulnerable, maybe he ain't, but surest thing ya know, they ties th' knot.  Few months later, old boy proves he ain't that far gone when his wife, Steffie, looks like she's gonna have a kitten.  Relatives see red, natch, 'cause they ain't gonna see green.  Nick goes west a few months ago, leavin' Steffie an' th' unborn kitten.  Sure enough, will gives th' whole lot t'her an' th' kitten.  But no Steffie an' no kitten, th' money goes elsewhere.

     "There's litigation, of course, about undue influence, but old Nick left a number of very clear affidavits that this was his business and his choice, and if the relatives didn't like it, they could go hang.  It's still going on, but it looks rather poor for the relatives."

     Stagg rubs an antler.  "So, with the birth of the kitten, this would pretty much put paid to the relatives' ambitions..."

     "...leading to some desperate actions.  Here, this is from the A.P. this morning..."

     Crane flips thru a buncha sheets, an' pulls out some wire copy.  Headline talks about an heiress vanishin', an' th' story has stuff 'bout worried relatives think th' stress of th' pregnancy may have messed wit' her mental-like.  Yeah, right.  Last seen at church early Sunday mornin', that's yestiddy.  Personal maid ain't talkin' t'police.  No sign a' packed bags or nothin'.  Speculation she mighta jumped inta th' Pacific at Malibu an' such.  Police pressin' enquiries an' such.

     "So, Mr. Crane, it's your belief that Mrs. Catto fled Los Angeles for some reason yesterday?"

     "If the relatives sent some goons after her to take care of her, it wouldn't surprise me, Inspector."

     "Forgive me, Mr. Crane, but this sounds like a story you would normally print in your paper."

     "Normally, yes.  But I have a bias in this matter, Inspector.  Nick Catto was a friend of my father's.  He was a director of my father's bank, and I knew him quite well.  If it was important to Catto, it's important to me.  So I spiked the story, personally.  Now that I know Stephanie could very well be on the island, and in trouble, I have even more reason to suppress the story, for now."  Crane leans in, an' looks Stagg right in th' eye.  "So let me make one thing clear, Inspector.  I will do what it takes to make sure you find her.  Alive.  So name it."

     "For now, I'll need just a few good photographs."

     "There are some from the rotogravure sections when she married Nick.  I'll have someone make copies for you, right now.  And here's my private number.  I am the only one who answers this number.  Call me if you need anything more."

11 February 1935 1630

     Crane's as good as his word.  Ain't more'n half-hour 'fore he gives us, personal-like, copies of a buncha photos.  Guy in th' photog department told t'keep his muzzle shut, or else.  I figger ain't gonna be no leaks from that angle.

     Me 'n Stagg head out on over t' th' Customs shed over at th' air terminal.  They pulls fer us th' list of incomings from yestiddy.  Ain't no Catto on th' list.  'bout twenny names on th' list, th' two incoming flights from yestiddy, plus one, two private folks.  We flashes th' photos.  Ain't nobody seen a cat like that.  Stagg gets a copy of th' list, an' we pads on out.

     "Y'know, I figger there's another way this Catto doll coulda got in, Sir.  I mean, she coulda come in, sorta like cargo."

    Stagg stands fer a bit, lookin' at his hooves.  "If that happened, Sergeant, it wouldn't be for free.  Let's suppose Mrs. Catto did flee Los Angeles yesterday morning.  Assuming that taxi receipt was hers, she left Long Beach..."

     "...where there's an air cargo port..."

     "Right.  Mrs. Catto is at that port.  She's desperate to get out, fast, without formalities."

     "So she pays off a guy.  She's got dough."

     "With gold certificates, perhaps?  Where do cargo pilots go, Sergeant, if they want to spend a good deal of money, fast?"

      "There's 'bout seven, eight dives on Casino Island I figger would be a good place t'start..."

11 February 1935 1755

     Sixth spot we hit, we find paydirt.  Few hunnerd in bills, serial numbers close t' our batch.  Stagg quizzes th' barkeep.

     "Son of a...damn, this stuff hot?  I knew I shoulda told that bum to take a hike when I seen them bills."

     "Just point 'im out.  Ya gotta storeroom here?"

     "He's over there, the one with the working girl on his knee.  And yeah, stockroom's just beyond that."

     I pads over there, Stagg a bit behind me.  Yeah, this guy's makin' a business deal wit' th' doll, who's got a top down t'here, an' a skirt up t'there.   Nothin' like th' power of advertisin'.  She don't like bein' interrupted.

    "Hit th' bricks, sister.  We gotta talk business wit' your boyfriend."

    She ain't buyin' this line.  "Eeeeh, sez who?"

    I flash my buzzer in front of her eyes.  "Someone who's can put ya outta business fer thirty.  Now beat it."

    She beats it, but fast.  Guy ain't none too happy about his fun gettin' spoiled.  Even wit' all the drinks (half watered, I'll bet) he's got, he can still sorta talk.  "Th'hell givesh ya th' right t'mess wish honest..."

    He don't get further than that.  I grabs him by his collar, an' hauls him back t' th' stockroom. Other folks in th' joint, they don't bats an eye, just keep on drinkin'.  Stagg clumps in an' shuts th' door, just as I slams the punk, hard, 'gainst a stack a' crates.

    "Awright, let's start nice an' simple.  Wheredja get th' dough you're spendin'?"

    "Why don't you go an' ____ yasself, hanh?"

    Now, see, I was raised by my ma t'believe in manners.  So I helps th' bum out wit' his manners, by puttin' a fist, hard, twice, in his gut.  Punk slumps down, an' gets sick on th' floor.  Stagg sorta stands off t' th' side.  Gives me a look, an' a shake of th' head.  No more rough stuff.  Too bad.  But th' punk don't know that.  After he finishes gettin' sick, I hauls 'im up, an' slams him up 'gainst th' crates 'gain.

    "Let's take it nice an' easy, punk.  Oncet more from th' top.  Wheredja get th' dough?"

    "Lady...lady givesh to me."


    "Lady...hired me.  Dunno her name.  Needed to get out, anywheres.  Found I wash flyin' here.  Paid me five long, cassh."

     "What she look like?"

     Guy gulps, tryin' t' catch his breath.  I'm sure gettin' some.  Smells like a distillery.  "Cat.  Lady.  White fur, I guess.  She was wearin' a cloak, sorta covered her..."

     Stagg clumps up.  "I want you to think very carefully.  Is this the woman?"  Stagg flashes one of th' photos.  Guy nods.

     "Damn cat shpent last hour of th' flight groanin, gettin' shick.  Made a messh in my plane.  Bellyachin' 'bout shome shtupid lynx.  Prolly th' daddy."

      "Whenja land?"

      "Middle afternoon."

     "What happend when ya landed?"

     "Told her t'shtop bawling, t'shuttup.  When the Cushtoms guys ain't lookin', I hushtle her out to th' gate, point to where the taxshis are, an' leave."

     I shakes th' guy a few times.  "You sonuva..."

     Stagg puts a paw on my arm, so I stops.  He looks th' guy right in th' eye fer about fifteen seconds.  Guy starts sweatin' real hard, seein' Stagg stare at him.  Stagg starts talkin', real quiet.

     "Let me put you in the picture.  This woman you brought to the Islands, illegally, I might add, was pregnant.  She gave birth some time yesterday or today.  She's now missing.  We think she's been abducted.  I don't know whether we can arrest you as an accessory to kidnapping.  I do know that if we find that cat dead, we *are* going to arrest you for depraved indifference to life.  I don't have much experience of juries here in the Islands, but I can tell you this: I would not want to be your defence counsel, having to explain to a jury why you dumped a woman in labour in a strange island late on a cold, wet afternoon, far from medical care.  As it is, I think a few days in the drunk tank won't do you any harm.  It will give Customs time to have a little look at your 'plane, too.  We can prepare the smuggling paperwork by then.  Put the pawcuffs on, Sergeant.  Not too tightly, mind."

     I don't get t' have no fun.

11 February 1935 1825

      Turned th' punk over t' a const'ble, who didn't look none too happy t'have a drunk weavin' so close t'his nice, new uniform.  Stagg grabs us a water-taxi back t'the air terminal area.

      "There's one last part of the timeline that's missing, Sergeant.  We now know where Mrs. Catto was from early yesterday morning to about late yesterday afternoon, and then from midnight to some time early in the morning.  I want to know about that gap between the time she's at the air terminal gate, and the time she hails the water-taxi driver."

     So we stands out by th' gate.  Kinda lonely, an' the wind's picked up real hard, an' it's started drizzlin', an' it's gettin' dark.

     Stagg taps his stick on th' ground.  "All right.  Mrs. Catto probably didn't go far from here.  That pilot indicated she must have started in labour pains near the end of the flight.  Assuming she's here, where we stand, where would she go?"

      I looks 'round.  Not much t'see, mostly stuff servicin' th' planes, machine shops, parts places an' such.  Givin' th' place a second look-over when it catches my eye.  'bout fifty yards from th' gate.

      "There.  I knows that joint.  It's a sorta lunch counter place, does a trade wit' th' guys workin' in th' shops, few pilots, air terminal staff, an' such.  Big, tough ol' tigress runs th' joint, Mamma Raji.  She's from Southie."

      Stagg nods, an' we heads over there.

11 February 1935 1830

      We comes in t'ru th' door.  Ain't nobody in th' joint, 'ceptin' Mamma Raji behind th' counter, anna runty lil' weasel in overalls, havin' a cuppa java.   Raji sees us come in, an' heads over t'th' weasel.  She puts her paws down on th' counter, right in front of 'im, an' 'stends her claws right out.

      "It's on the house.  Scram."

      Weasel takes off, fast.  When a t'ree hunnert an' ninety pound tigress tells ya t'scram, ain't no arguin' wit' it.  Raji pads over when th' weasel leaves, shuts th' door, locks it, pulls down th' shade, an' puts a "CLOSED" sign up.  Me 'n Stagg, we takes stools at th' counter, an' wait.  Mamma Raji pours two cups, an' puts one each in front of us.  Stands in front of Stagg, an' crosses her arms.  Stagg, real quiet, puts sugar in his java, an' don't look at her.
She breaks th' ice.

      "Where is the child, Inspector?"

      Stagg don't say nothin', just sips at his java.  I keeps my muzzle shut, too.  'bout a minnit ticks by.  Finally, Mamma Raji smiles.  Big, toothy smile, showin' she keeps her teeth in real good shape.

      "So.  The Wise One was right."

      Stagg sorta stares at his cup.  "How so, ma'am?"

      "She said the child would be safe in your keeping."

      "It would appear, ma'am, that you have a story to tell us."

     Mamma Raji nods, an' leans on th' counter.

     "Around five yesterday afternoon, I was cleaning up here.  It was Sunday, so it was a slow day, and we close early.  I was here, and there was only one other customer, a Wise One from my island.  She had seen someone off on an outbound plane earlier, and was having some tea here before we headed home, together.  I was just about to lock up, when a lady came in.  A cat.  She was soaked, gasping for breath, and in obvious pain."

     "'I'm about to give birth," she said, "for God's sake, help me!'"

     "I closed the shop, just as you saw me now, and the Wise One and I carried the cat to the storage room in back.  We laid some towels on the floor, and gave her as much support as we could.  At just after ten o'clock, she gave birth.  It was a boy."

Insp. Stagg "Unbreakable Bonds" illo by Kjartan

     "Was it you, ma'am, who tied off the cord and bit it off?  And, I assume, bathed and brushed the child?"

     Mamma Raji nods.  "You're correct on both accounts, Inspector.  The lady cat told us who she was, and why she was there.  She told us two men, a wolf and a lynx, were after her, and were planning to kill her and the child.  She tearfully apologized for getting us in trouble.  She refused to rest, even after all of her exertions, but was desperate to place the child in a safe place.   She was adamant on this point."

     Mamma Raji pours me some more java.  "She felt that depositing the child at a church or temple, or a hospital, or even police headquarters, would not be enough, that her pursuers, who she said were only a few hours behind her, were desperate men, and it was lucky that they hadn't searched this place.  Indeed, we had turned off the lights in front, and that might well have put them off the scent, so to speak."

     "The Wise One and I conferred.  We could take the child in, to be sure.  But the lady cat would not have it, she said it was too dangerous for us.  The Wise One noted that even if the child survived, the lady cat could vanish, and not be traceable.  And the Wise One would not break the unbreakable bond between mother and child beyond repair.  It was necessary, in both her mind and mine, that the child be placed in such a position that not only could it be safe, but that its mother could be traced and, it was hoped, be reunited with her child."

     "The Wise One knew where you lived, Inspector.  Only a native would know that fact.  She was confident that you would find the child, that you would protect it, and that you would seek its mother.  She spoke of an idol, one that one of her sisterhood gave you."

     Stagg looked down an' nodded.  Back just 'fore Christmas, Stagg had helped out some folks in my native village, up in th' Uplands on Main Island.  My village Wise One gave Stagg a "Mother-Compassion" idol, carved wit' a doe an' fawn.   "So this Wise One, knowing of my history with my dead children, guessed I would stop at nothing to protect this child."

     "That's correct.  We explained this to the lady cat, who insisted that she, and she alone, would deliver the child to you.  The child would be hidden so that its placement would not be too obvious, but easy to find.  We gave her some soup, cleaned her up, and gave her directions to the water-taxi rank, and to Printer's Lane.  She tried to pay us, she offered us a great deal of money.  She would not accept our refusal.  So we made a show of accepting, and placed the money in the basket, under the child."

     "What did the money look like?"

     "Like normal American currency, except that it had a yellow seal."

     Stagg nods.  "So she left just before midnight?"

     "That's correct.  So tell me, is the child safe, Inspector?"

     "I have every confidence that the child is absolutely safe, ma'am.  And what you've told me will go quite some way toward finding the mother.  You'll be here if we need you, ma'am?"

      Mamma Raji nods.

     (Newborn-Shield thou assist, creature with horns outlander.)

      Stagg nods, an' raises his hat.

11 February 1935 2100

      It's been a long day, an' both of us is worn out.  Stagg hauls us both back t' Printer's Lane, an' his room.

      We looks in on' the kid an' Frau Nerzmann.  She gives us a warnin' shush from her rockin' chair.  Kid's fast asleep against her shoulder.  No one's gonna take that kid from her, while she's alive.  I seen th' Luger unner her shawl.

      Stagg makes a buncha phone calls from his room, while I'm slumped in his chair.  First one is t'Mrs. Brush, askin' her t'send over a change of clothes fer me, an' my fur brush an' toothbrush, as I ain't gonna be home.

      Second call is t'Charles Foster Crane, who gets filled in on what's what.

      Stagg has me make th' third call, t' th' Inspector who's Chief of Patrol, my old boss.  Has me ast him t' stop by Printer's Lane at 0700 t'morra, in mufti, an' with a sidearm.

      Stagg makes a few calls t' th' big hotels.  Confirms th' Yanks they gots there, th' folks on th' customs list, ain't th' lynx an' wolf we're lookin' fer.

      Last call is fer th' water-taxi folk.  Have them poll th' night shift, askin' if anyones picks up a lynx, wolf an' cat between midnight an' six this mornin', an' t'call him back if they finds out.

11 February 1935 2245

      The missus drops off some clothes an' such fer me, an' some pea soup fer Stagg.  Stagg puts it aside, so he's still offen his feed.

12 February 1935 0210

      I musta dozed off in th' chair, when Stagg's phone rings.  Once.  He's awake, I guess, an' gets it.  He listens, an' takes a few notes in th' dark, murmurs a bit, an' hangs up.

     "Any luck, Sir?"

    "0125 this morning, Sergeant.  Or, rather, yesterday morning.  Water taxi picked up a party of three.  Meeting Island to Casino Island.  Driver thought the cat was drunk, as she was slumped over and mumbling to herself.  Didn't think that was overly unusual.  Escorted by a lynx and a wolf.  Dropped them off at Casino Island, away from the big hotels, which indicates probably that it's one of the smaller hotels.  Get some sleep, Sergeant.  There's going to be fireworks, tomorrow."

12 February 1935 0700

     There's a knock on th' bookstore's front door, an' Stagg clumps out t'let th' Patrol Chief in, while I finish puttin' on some clean clothes.  Th' two come back, an' we has a war council.  Stagg fills 'im in on what's what.  Th' Patrol Chief shakes his head.

      "Damn.  Never thought I would see the day.  Good Lord, kidnapping a mother a few hours after she gives birth.  What the hell is this world coming to?  Have you told the Chief Constable, Inspector?"

      "No.  I'd rather not involve him."

      "Sound policy.  He'd want to make a bloody Hollywood production out of it, probably botch the works, in the bargain, make us look like fools.  Well, what can I do to help push the ball across the goal line, lads?"

     "My plan is to discreetly canvass the smaller hotels this morning.  We're looking for someone who would have checked in some time on the evening of the 10th.  Someone whose names are not on the Customs list of arrivals.  My guess is that they're under false names, not that it matters.  We'll meet at the Casino Island sub-headquarters at 1000, and compare notes.  I'm going to have Magistrate Poynter meet us there for a hearing."

12 February 1935 1000

     Stagg's there in a conference room at th' sub-HQ when I pads in just 'fore 1000.  Poynter's there, 'long wit' a sec'tary.  She's busy at her pad, 'cause Stagg's fillin' her in on th' story, just like he did fer th' Patrol Chief.  Poynter's lookin' real stern, an' his tappin' his claws 'gainst th' table.  He ain't happy one bit, lemme tellya.  Ain't like hisself.

     "Utterly outrageous!  Damn the insolence!  I'll be damned if I'm going to have this nonsense on my watch, Sir!  Have you found where these blackguards are hiding?"

     "Not yet, Sir.  I didn't come up with anything, and I take it Sergeant Brush didn't, either.  That leaves just the Chief of Patrol...ah, here he is."

    Patrol Chief comes back in.  He's changed back into his uniform, an' he's got a grim look on his face.

    "Zephyr Hotel, second floor, room 23.  Checked in late Sunday night.  Lynx and wolf sharing a room for two.  Haven't been seen outside the room since early Monday morning.  There's a constable watching the desk clerk to make sure there's no warning, and I've lined up two ambulances a few blocks from here, and there's a squad of constables scattered near the building, just out of sight.  Got the spare key right here."

     Stagg lissens up, an' turns t'Poynter.  "Your Honour, I formally request a no-knock warrant to enter and search Room 23 of the Zephyr Hotel, and I further request arrest warrants in the names of John Doe and Richard Roe, real names unknown and presently believed to be residing in said Room 23 of the Zephyr Hotel, on charges of kidnapping Mrs. Stephanie Catto, of Los Angeles, California, U.S.A."

     Poynter already has stuff typed up, an' only needs t'fill in a few blanks.  "Having listened to the sworn testimony of Franklin J. Stagg, as well as additional testimony, I am prepared to rule that the requested search warrant and arrest warrants are justified, and they will be issued herewith."  An' they are.

     Me, Stagg, an' th' Patrol Chief start headin' out.  Stagg turns t' th' Patrol Chief.  "I still haven't told the Chief Constable, Inspector.  If things turn out badly..."

     Patrol Chief checks his gun.  "If things turn out badly, dear boy, they'll be needing two new Inspectors, not one.  Let's go."

12 February 1935 1035

     Th' t'ree of us enter th' Hotel by th' service entrance.  We seen a meat wagon idlin' a block away, an' a few constables crouchin' in some nearby alleyways.  We pads t'ru th' lobby, an' Stagg nods at two guys sittin' on a couch.  One guy's gotta Speed Graphic, so Stagg musta covered his bases with Crane.  We heads up th' stairs, an' pause near th' landin'.

     Stagg takes th' spare key from th' Patrol Chief.  We huddle up close.

     "I imagine they have the door locked and the chain in place.  So.  Inspector, you stand to the right of the door.  Sergeant, you stand across the hall and a bit to the left.  I'm going to crouch in front of the door, and unlock it with the key, as quietly as I can.  When I'm ready, Sergeant, you are to break down the door.  I'll lie flat.  Inspector, follow Sergeant Brush as quickly as possible, and the two of you will secure the room.  Any questions?  No?  Right, get your guns ready."

     Th' Patrol Chief an' I takes up our stations, wit' our .38s raised, as Stagg sez, an' he crawls, real quiet-like, up t' the door, leavin his walkin' stick 'cross th' hall.  He takes out th' key, an' real quiet, he slips it in th' lock, slow.  He gets it in, all right, no noise.  He turns an' nods at th' Patrol Chief, an' then turns t'me.  He makes with five fingers wit' his left paw, an' counts down, slow and silent.  When he gets t' "one," he puts both paws on th' doorknob, an' unlocks th' door.  Meantimes, I runs 'cross th' hall.  Stagg pushes th' door open.  Sure as y'know, th' chains up.  Stagg hits th' dirt.  I leaps over 'im, an' hits th' door hard wit' my foot, an' its busts th' door off th' chain.  I hears a loud thud behind th' door as it flings open, an' I jumps inta th' room.

     "POLICE!  GET 'EM UP!  NOW!"

     What I sees in th' room is a cat, tied real hard to a chair, her head slumped over.  There's a big wolf standin' over her, an' he looks up when he sees me.  His gun's on th' table next t'him.  He goes fer it.  He don't make it.  One shot catches him hard in th' side, an' he goes down.  Patrol Chief, right behind me, slips in, an' collars th' lynx, who's got a busted nose from where th' door slammed inta him.  He's gettin' fitted fer a pair of pawcuffs.  Stagg don't give no orders about tightness, this time.

     Stagg limps in, looks around, an' then heads for th' cat, feelin' for a pulse.  He takes out a flick-knife, an' saws t'ru th' ropes tyin' th' cat down.  He just manages t' catch her when th' last rope gets cut.  She's banged up all horrible on her face, and is lumped like a rag doll in Stagg's paws.

     Stagg turns t' th' Patrol Chief.  "Sergeant Brush and I will finish up, here.  Take Mrs. Catto down to an ambulance, immediately."

     Patrol Chief finishes up wit' th' lynx, and looks th' cat over.  He dashes t' th' winder, opens it, an' gives a few louds blasts from his whistle.  He then collects th' lady cat, cradlin' her, an' dashes out wit' her, down t' th' street.   It's about t'irty secs later that we hears th' clumpin' of a whole lotta uniforms, an' th' ambulance boys.

25 February 1935 2005

     I ain't said too much 'bout th' Catto thing, 'cause things hadda seddle down a bit.  [Note: these entries were made by Sergeant Brush on his Dictaphone at the end of each day, or as soon as he could dictate from his notes.  This particular entry was dictated on a separate cylinder from the other cylinder relating to the Catto case -- OFXB IV]

     Photog from th' Mirror knew his stuff.  Got a great action shot of th' Patrol Chief tearin' t'ru th' lobby, wit' Mrs. Catto unconscious in his arms.  Front page in th' afternoon Mirror, natch.  Just one word in th' headline: "SAFE!"  Pal at th' Mirror sez Crane got a pretty penny fer sellin' th' photo to papers in th' States, plus th' story.  Crane also got one over th' Elele, too, fer once, on a Spontoon story.

     Chief Constable, he holds a press conference th' next day.  Usual stuff, 'bout how Spontoons ain't a playground fer th' criminal element, an' such.  Gets t'show off.  Funny thing, he don't go after me 'n Stagg 'n th' Patrol Chief fer not cluein' him in.  Patrol Chief's th' one at th' conference gettin' th' questions.  Pretty matter of fact about it.  Notes what me 'n Stagg did, straight up.  Good t'see that.  Guy from th' Mirror sez th' Chief Constable's face was somethin' t'note when he hears that.

     The wolf pulled t'ru.  I had mixed feelins 'bout that, lemme tellya.  Lynx didn't need nothin' but no icepack on his nose.  They had guys from th' prosecutor's office an' th' Foreign Min'stry workin' late hours, tryin' to figger out how they could whack these guys good an' hard.  Seems the cat cut it fine.  The boyos grabbed her 'bout ten minutes after she left th' kid.  Just a block from HQ, too.  *That* didn't get no publicity, betcher life.

     Th' day after we busted Mrs. Catto free, I seen Stagg at Luchow's, near HQ.  He was finishin' off a double helpin' of stewed kelp, an' a large juice.  'parently slept like a log th' night 'fore, too, Frau Nerzmann tells me.

    Th' guy who flew Mrs. Catto in spent a week in th' drunk tank.  Lucky fer him, his plane was clean.  Prosecutors decided he wasn't gonna get charged wit' no crimes, which is even luckier fer th' punk.  He oughta hope he don't meet up wit' me anytimes soon.

     Interior Min'stry raised hell wit' Customs, an' there's an enquiry goin' on how Mrs. Catto an' the two nogoodniks slipped past 'em.

    Catto herself was in hard shape, but she musta been madea tough stuff.  Bruises all over her face from where she got whacked, dehydrated, an' exhausted.  But she pulled t'ru.  Wise One wasn't foolin' 'bout them unbreakable bonds.

     Magistrate Poynter held a hearin' th' other day in Catto's hospital room.  We wasn't there, but Doc Meffit was there, an' made a show of fillin' in an' filin' official-like th' kid's birth certificate, wit' Mamma Raji an' th' Wise One signin' as witnesses.  Poynter revokes his prior rulin' on th' kid's guardianship, an' orders Herr an' Frau Nerzmann t'turn th' kid over to his ma.  They does.  Not, 'course, 'fore Frau Nerzmann gives th' kid one long cuddle an' a smooch.  Lotsa good photos fer th' Mirror, again.

     Anyhow, me 'n Stagg waited until things quiet down, an' then we heads over, after visitin' hours, when it's quiet.  Stagg taps gentle on th' door, an' clumps in soft-like when he hears Mrs. Catto tell 'im t'come in.

     She's sittin' up in bed.  Lookin' a whole lot better, wit' a lotta rest.  Bruises gone down a lot on her face.  Fact that she's got her kid right up against her, sleepin' quietly, makes her look real good.

      "I apologize for disturbing you, Mrs. Catto.  My name is..."

     "There's no need for apologies.  Or introductions.  You must be Inspector Stagg.  Which makes you Sergeant Brush.  I've been waiting for you two.  Won't you come in and have a seat?"

     We settles in next t'her bed.

     "We do have a minor official duty, of course.  Sergeant Brush and I are here to return your cloak, which Mrs. Brush has had cleaned, your son's bottle, and the basket and blanket in which we found your son.  The $4,960 that was found with him is in a safe at the Finance Ministry, and you can collect it when you are ready.  I'll just need you to sign this receipt."  Which she does.

     "Mr. Crane, over at the Mirror, was telling me about your story, Mrs. Catto.  He was of the belief that your late husband knew you far better than your...well, opponents did.  I must say, I'm amazed that you were able to effect your plan, even in your condition.  That must have taken an incredible amount of willpower."

     Mrs. Catto smiles, an' cuddles her son.  "I had the most powerful motive in the world, Inspector.  No one was going to take Nick's child from me.  He had predicted this, you know, Nick.  He knew his relatives.  That's why he had that stash of money ready for me, for a quick getaway.  Have you heard about any developments in Los Angeles, Inspector?"

     "Mr. Crane told me that the A.P. is reporting that a grand jury is investigating the matter.  Supposedly, your tormenters are going to be extradited to Los Angeles.  It's an open question as to how much they will tell about the involvement of your husband's relatives.  I think it's fairly safe to say that what little chance their litigation against you had, has now vanished.  It will take some time to sort out, however.  What are you planning to do, in the meantime?"

    "I've been invited to stay on South Island, with the priestess who helped me give birth.  I'm told there will need to be some paperwork on that..."

    "Nah.  They'll fudge it, sure as ya know, ma'am.  They ain't gonna separate 'im from his ma, not now.  Th' kid's native Spontoonie, after all."

     "I know, Sergeant.  I'm going to have the priestess give him a native name, and a traditional blessing, too.  I think it's only right, after all she did, and all that tigress did.  And, really, all that you people have done.  I'm glad I ended up here, of all places."

    Mrs. Catto turns t' Stagg, an' smiles at 'im.

     "Would you like to hold my son, Inspector?"

    "I would like that very much, indeed, ma'am."

    Not much of a better sight I seen than seein' Stagg, eyes closed, cuddlin' right up t'his cheek th' little white form of Moses Catto.

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"Telephone Inspector Stagg!"