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Old 03-06-2016, 11:48 PM   #201
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their little projects and classes, and it seemed to be a lot more versatile for them all. Zeus seemed rather relieved that they had ‘emerged from the cave’ as he put it, teasing the girls. They teased him back and called him a geek.

Saav sighed. “I have to catch up on my journal. I haven’t written anything in there for a week.”

“I got another project due…yesterday,” said Pook.

“You go first, Pooks, I’ll help you. The journal can wait a little longer,” Saav told her, scooting over so Pook could sit in front of the laptop.

A few minutes later as Joyce returned from the kitchen with a fresh cup of tea, Pook cut loose with a string of invectives leveled at the computer.

"What's wrong?" Joyce asked, coming over to the laptop.

"Dang thing froze up AGAIN!" snarled Pook, reaching for the power button.

"Wait, don't do that!" exclaimed Joyce. "Let me take a look."

She scooted Pook and Saav over, and looked at the screen.

"Oh dear," Joyce sighed. The cats looked at each other.

"What is it?" asked Pook.

“Is it bad?” asked Saav.

“Is it broken this time?” Pook worried.

"Well, let's see. You have a Pentium 2 processor, a 64 memory, and you're trying to run your photo-editing thing here, your dictionary/thesaurus, four Messenger windows, your classes and eight web pages. You're overloading it," said Joyce. "Same thing I did to it."

"But we're helping Belle, and talking to Bart, Meows, and Zeus. Pook was captioning some pictures to put in her project and I was trying to find something to rhyme with 'dangerous,'" Saav explained. "We need those windows up and running, Mom, plus, see, we need our classes there too. But it freezes and crashes all the time lately."

"Well, it will. All that's eating up the memory and overloading the processor," Joyce told them. “Let’s reboot it.”

"Can you fix it, Mom?” asked Pook.

Joyce shook her head, turning it off. "No. I was afraid this would happen. I’m going to have to get you girls two newer ones. Even the fastest and best laptop would be slowed down considerably with that kind of load on it. That would bury mine.”

"We'll each have our own? Pook will have one, I will have one?" asked Saav, pawing it back on.

"Yes, Sweetness. With you girls so busy on this now, it's the only thing to do and keep it portable and paw-friendly." Joyce smiled and petted them.

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Old 03-06-2016, 11:53 PM   #202
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“Hmmm. Will they be like yours?” asked Saav.

"Err, not quite," she laughed. "But don't worry, they'll be close."

"I love yours," said Saav.

"I know. I do too," Joyce smiled. "I’ll find you girls a couple of good ones, a little used like Zeus's or Meows's, but they'll work a lot better and faster."

"Oooo, I like theirs, too. What are you going to do with this one?" Saav wanted to know.

"Oh, keep it as a back-up for a while, or maybe we'll run into someone who needs it sometime. We'll hang onto it for now, though. You're going to need to copy all your files and pictures and everything you have loaded onto it to discs for a backup, so you girls may want to start doing that now," Joyce suggested, reaching for the spindle of blank discs on the bookcase and putting it on the coffeetable for them.

Pook and Saav got busy doing that, and Joyce picked up the phone and called Paul back.

“At your service, Madame,” he teased, knowing it was Joyce from his caller ID.

“I hope so. We’ve had a crash,” said Joyce.

“A what?!”

“Not a car crash, a computer crash. Any idea if Computer Shack’s open today?”

“It sure is. I can see it from here. They’re open…looks like a couple four-wheel-drives are out in front. I think Justin’s there. Need a ride?” he offered. “Ohhh, wait, hold on.”

“Okay,” said Joyce. She heard him talking to Carrie, then he came back.

“Well, Carrie needs to go there, too. We’ll pick you up in a few minutes – how’s that?”

“I appreciate it, Paul. I’ll be ready,” said Joyce with a smile.

“Great. We were going to swing by the Chinese place for take-out and by Ralph’s to pick up leftovers from yesterday, and Suzanna’s decided to do some extra baking today. We’ll go by the grocery store, too. That okay with you?”

“Oh, good. Chinese sounds great,” she replied. “I haven’t had that in a while.”

"Don't forget us," said Saav, pawing Joyce’s arm.

“That’s a little impossible to do, Saav. Okay, thanks, Paul, I’ll be ready,” said Joyce, and she hung up. “Okay, girls, make sure you save everything. When I get your computers, you’ll have it on discs and then you

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Old 03-06-2016, 11:58 PM   #203
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can jump-drive it all over to them, and we’ll keep the discs for your backup.”

"Wow," said Pook. "Hey, can we call Belle and them and let them know why we're not online?"

"Ooooh, yeah, we did kind of poof on everyone," Saav agreed.

"Sure." Joyce got up and got the speakerphone out of the computer room, and Pook called the apartment over the shop. The cats had worked out a code to recognize when one was calling another. One ring, hang up. Wait ten seconds. Call back, two rings, hang up, wait ten seconds, then call back. It was complicated, but it let the cats know when and when not to answer the phone for their own safety. On the third call, Bart answered.

"Hi Bart! We crashed our computer!” Pook shouted gleefully.

“Whaaaaat?” asked Bart.

“You did?” said Belle.

“Ohh noooooo,” groaned Meows.

“How the hell did you do that?” Zeus wondered.

Joyce laughed as they talked away. The speakerphone was Paul’s brainstorm…paw-friendly and all the cats could talk at once. She got up, put her cup in the sink, fetched her purse and coat, and waited for Paul.

Joyce and Carrie stood in front of the shelf of laptops while Justin O’Brien, their close friend and one of the two men who owned Computer Shack, explained the features of the different ones. Carrie found one almost exactly like the first laptop for Bart and Belle, and Joyce found two identical laptops he had just refurbished.

“Not a bad price,” said Joyce. “I think I’ll go with these two.”

“Good. You’ll be happy with them,” said Justin, looking at her. “But I just sold you a new one a few months ago. What are you going to do with these two?”

“Oh, they’re just for a couple friends,” Joyce lied.

Carrie nodded quickly. “Yes, my cousin liked mine so much he wanted one like it.”

“I see. Anything else?” he asked them.

“Jump drive…wireless cards…yikes! I hope I’m not forgetting something,” said Joyce.

Justin shook his head. “I don’t think so.”

Paul came over from checking out the monitors. “Where have you been lately, Justin? We haven’t seen much of you at all in a while,” he said.

Justin shrugged. “Well, between this place and work, it’s been kind of busy for me lately.”
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Old 03-07-2016, 12:00 AM   #204
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“Oh, that’s right, you just got promoted, didn’t you?” asked Carrie.

Justin, in addition to owning half of Computer Shack, was the new security manager for the largest, most exclusive gated community in the county.

“Yep. Lots of things going on there, and personnel changes, too,” he replied.

“Yuck,” Joyce muttered. “That’s always fun.”

“Not,” Justin laughed.

“Why don’t you take a break this evening and come over for dinner?” Joyce asked him. They had been friends for about four years, and now and then got together for a meal or went to a movie. They hadn’t seen each other for several months, and Joyce missed his occasional company.

“Sure, that would be nice,” he said. “I’d like to.”

“How does beef stew sound?”

“Great…as long as I get some leftovers to take home,” he said with a grin. He liked Joyce’s cooking.

“Of course,” she replied. “See you about six or so?”

“Six sounds good. I close up here at five.”

“Okay. Got any new movies?” she asked.

“Yes, I do. I’ll grab those on the way and you can pick one you think you’d like,” said Justin.

“Sounds like a plan,” said Joyce. “Now…what’s the damage here?”

Carrie and Joyce picked up what they needed and paid for their purchases, hauling the boxes and bags out to Paul’s SUV and loading them into the back.

“Next stop, grocery store,” Paul announced.

“Yeah, guess I need to go now,” said Joyce. “I gotta cook tonight.”

“Yeah, but that will be nice for you two,” said Carrie.

“It will,” Joyce agreed.

They got their errands done, ordered Chinese take-out for lunch, stopped by Lowery’s Porch for leftovers for the cats, and Paul helped Joyce in with all her bags and boxes when he dropped her off at home.

Pook and Saav were waiting anxiously, and watched wide-eyed as Joyce unpacked the boxes. They squealed in delight as she set everything up for them, and they quickly got to setting their new computers up.

“Don’t you girls want your Chinese?” Joyce asked from the kitchen. “I brought you steamed shrimp and crab legs, and you have your leftovers from Ralph too.”

“In a minute, Mom,” said Pook.

“No hurry on that,” Saav replied.
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Old 03-07-2016, 12:03 AM   #205
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Joyce brought her egg rolls and soup out to the living room. “We’re having company tonight for a little while. You girls will need to act like regular cats while he’s here.”

“Rats. And we just got these,” Pook complained. “Who’s coming over?”

“Justin O’Brien. You know him.”

“Oh yeah, the computer guy,” said Saav. “I like him.”

“Yeah, he loves cats. He has three, doesn’t he?” asked Pook.

Joyce nodded. “One’s a pretty little tabby with no tail, and one is black like you, Saav. The other is black and white.”

“They don’t talk, do they?” asked Saav.

“I don’t think so. I’ve been over there a couple times, and never saw any evidence of sentience in them, but I really don’t know.”

“He doesn’t stay very long, so we can do that,” Pook said.

“Yeah, we’ll be good, Mom,” Saav agreed.

“Thanks, girls. I appreciate that.”

By five-thirty, dinner was keeping warm on the stove and the cats reluctantly left their computers. Faced with a few hours of silence and not even any books, they were already bored. Pook dragged her afghan under the piano bench and prepared to take a nap, and Saav hauled hers over toward the hearth. Joyce put their bowls of Chinese and some extra leftovers on the counter for them, and they waited for Justin.

Right at six o’clock, his bright blue Ford hybrid sport utility pulled into the driveway, and Pook sighed.

“Dummy up, Saav, here he comes,” she said, curling up.

Joyce met him at the door, and he came in and petted the cats, who purred loudly at him. He had brought several movies, and Joyce picked a comedy she hadn’t seen. They sat down in the livingroom with their bowls of stew and got caught up on each other’s news while they ate. After dinner, Joyce started the movie, and made hot chocolate for him and tea for herself.

About two-thirds of the way through the movie, Saav got up and headed to the kitchen for a few bites of shrimp. A few seconds later, they heard a loud thud in the kitchen, and Saav yowled.

“Mommmmmm!!” she cried.

Joyce flew to the kitchen, and found Saav sitting on the floor crying, running a paw over her head. Justin and Pook raced in right behind her.

“I hit my head,” sobbed the little cat.
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Old 03-07-2016, 12:10 AM   #206
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“Let me see,” said Joyce, gently picking her up. Justin didn’t say anything. Joyce inspected Saav’s head, and put her down on the table. “No blood. I think you got a good bump though. What happened, Saav?”

“I missed the counter again,” she replied. Sometimes Saav had a little trouble jumping that far.

“Oh dear,” sighed Joyce. Then she remembered Justin was there.

Crap! She’d forgotten about him. Slowly she turned to face him, her heart in her throat.

“So you have one too, huh?” Justin smiled.

Joyce just stared at him, her eyes wide.

“Two,” Pook finally spoke up. “How many do you have?”

“Two talkers, one normal cat. This explains the laptops, I bet,” he said gently.

“Yep,” said Joyce.

“I’m sorry, Mom, I got hurt and I forgot,” Saav said sadly.

“It’s okay, Saav,” Joyce assured her, still frightened.

“I won’t say a word. No one knows about mine except you all,” said Justin. “I didn’t know there were others like mine.”

“We’re certainly not alone,” Joyce told him.

“Not any more,” smiled Justin.

“There are more of us,” said Pook.

Justin looked at her. “Besides you and Saav and my two? Mine want to meet others like them; they think I’m a little boring because I work all the time.”

“Which two of yours talk?” asked Joyce.

“Loki and TigTig. The black one and the Manx. Isis, the big black and white one, is a regular cat.”

“Maybe you could bring them over so we could meet them,” Pook suggested.

“I could do that, if it’s okay with your Mom,” he replied.

“Sure,” she agreed, still a bit stunned.

“Paul’s cat is a Manx too,” said Saav.

The two humans and two cats returned to the livingroom, where they had a lot to discuss.

“Mom, can you get our computers out so we can finish setting them up please?” Saav asked.

“Okay,” said Joyce, taking them out of the living room closet and putting them on the coffeetable.

Justin watched as the two cats dragged their afghans up to their respective laptops and settled down in front of them.
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Old 03-07-2016, 12:16 AM   #207
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“Kinda looks like my coffeetable, too,” he smiled.

In the little cottage behind the B&B, Suzanna and Meows sat down to a favorite winter dinner – hearty, homemade clam chowder. Meows shifted from paw to paw as he waited for his bowl to cool. Glancing at the window, he saw the falling snow and a flash.

A flash? he thought. What the hell?

He jerked his head up and looked again. There it was again, a very faint flash, like a reflection against something. Meows jumped over to the counter, peering into the darkness.

“What’s out there?” asked Suzanna.

“Sssshhh!” hissed Meows. “No talking.”

There it was again, and as his feline vision adjusted quickly, he saw it was coming from a room in The Pines Motel across the street behind them.

Binoculars, he realized, chilling. What the hell? Someone spying on us?

He jumped down. “Follow me,” he said from the floor, “ and don’t look like you’re talking or even near a cat til we get to the hall.”

Without a word, Suzanna followed her cat. They reached the hall, and Meows stopped.

“Someone has got a pair of binoculars trained on this house from Room 5 at The Pines. I saw the reflection of the lenses, but can’t see who’s behind them. You stay here and sit tight, and trust me. Go get your cell phone and call Carrie. Tell her to tell Bart – not Belle -- to meet me in their alley at his cat door in five minutes. Don’t do anything else except just have your dinner and look dumb, Suzanna,” said Meows.

“But –“ started Suzanna, frightened a little.

“Please,” said Meows, putting a paw up to her. “Trust me.”

She took her cell phone from her purse, and called in the hallway where no one could see her from anywhere outside the house. Meows darted out the cat door, leaving nothing but little warm pawprints that cooled instantly in the fresh snow.

End of Chapter twelve.

More to come! Enjoy!

With love,
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Old 03-07-2016, 12:22 AM   #208
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Chapter 13 – Justin and Ruffie

Meows was waiting as Bart bolted out his cat door, and quickly brought him up to speed.

“Somebody’s watching Suzanna,” he said. “I intend to find out who and why.”

“Gaaaahhhh! Where?”

“The Pines, room five. Can’t tell what he or she looks like though.”

Bart rolled his eyes. “Ohh…what a dive. The last two burglars who came through here stayed there. Classy place.”

“Every town has one. C’mon, let’s go see who this bozo is,” said Meows, and the two toms took off at a fast trot toward the motel. There, they perched on top of the privacy fence peering at the room’s window.

“There,” said Meows, as the curtains parted slightly. There were no lights on in the room, but the streetlight close by illuminated the window and the light bounced off the lenses of the binoculars.

Bart looked back toward Suzanna’s cottage. Even from this angle, he could clearly see Suzanna sitting at her table in her kitchen. It appeared she was eating dinner. He realized Meows was right. From there, with human eyes, there was almost no chance of Suzanna seeing the light bouncing off the lenses unless she herself had binoculars and knew exactly what to look for and where. A cat would definitely notice.

“He’s looking right at her,” Bart said.

“Yes, he is. I think it’s a he, anyway,” Meows said, squinting.

“Tall,” Bart observed.

“We need to report this to someone,” Meows said.

“To who? And how? We don’t know any cops.”

“Call the PD and report a peeping Tom?”

Bart shook his head. “Can’t. Caller ID will track it to Carrie or Suzanna, and neither one of them are physically able to see this.”

“Damn,” sighed Meows. “So…who do we know that’s close by and would notice a detail like this?”

“No one we can talk to.”

“Somebody needs to walk their dog by here right now. We could set up a huge catfight and get the dog’s and the human’s attention, maybe?”

Bart thought. “Did you say ‘dog’?”

“Yes. But where are we going to –“

“Justin,” said Bart. “That computer guy. He’s visiting Joyce tonight for dinner. He’s also a security guard, he’d notice something like this, and he’s only three blocks away. Joyce has Ruffie.”

Meows stared at Bart, then sighed. “It’s believable. Even the dog fits – a husky loves snow. But we’d have to give our secret away to him.”

Bart shrugged. “It’s the only thing I can think of. And we know he’s a cat lover. He has two or three, I think. Joyce will help explain it to him. Look, we’ve got to help Suzanna, and you know that. We’re just going to have to do what we have to do to keep Suzanna safe.”

“Okay,” said Meows. “I’ve heard about him from Joyce and Carrie, and he’s all right.”
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Old 03-07-2016, 12:28 AM   #209
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“Let’s go,” said Bart. “We’ll call from Carrie’s. The creep’s watching Suzanna, we can’t go there.”

The cats flew off the fence and blazed across the snow, barrelling through Bart’s cat door and streaking up the stairs. Explaining quickly, Bart got Carrie to call Joyce while Meows watched his home anxiously, but nothing moved near it.

“Wonder who the creep is?” said Joyce after Justin hung up.

“I don’t know, but good thing for Meows and Bart. I always thought there was something different about Meows, anyway. I only saw Bart and Belle once. Geez, eight talking cats. Fifteen minutes ago I thought I had the only ones. These cats are so smart. I wouldn’t have figured that out,” Justin replied, cramming his arms into his coat and shoving his hat on his head. “Ruffie! Wanna go for a walk?”

The dog came running from Joyce’s bedroom, and Justin snapped the leash on the grey and white bundle of energy. He stuffed his cell phone into his pocket.

“Bye.” Joyce pushed them out the door, then turned to Pook and Saav, still sitting on the coffeetable wide-eyed.

“We’ll know soon enough, girls,” she said to them. It didn’t help.

Bart and Meows pelted out the cat door into the frozen alley again, heading for the motel. Scrabbling back up the privacy fence, they took up their former positions as the binoculars continued their vigil between the curtains.

“Sicko,” muttered Bart disgustedly.

“I want to know why he’s doing this,” Meows told him. “As long as I’ve known Suzanna, I’ve never known her to ever do anything to even make anyone mad at her.”

“She’s not one to make enemies, for sure,” said Bart, shaking his head. “But somebody is awfully interested in something about Suzanna.”

“I can’t figure out why,” Meows said. “She’s not getting rich off the B&B but she is successful. No tax troubles, no employee troubles, no union squabbles or labor disputes. She’s not breaking any laws, not paying anyone under the table, hasn’t hired any illegal immigrants, or taken part in anything shady.”

“Well, if this works and the PD arrests him, maybe we’ll find out what he was after,” Bart said hopefully.

“I hope,” sighed Meows. “Where is Justin? He needs to hurry.”

“He will, quit worrying. He’ll be along in a minute or two.”
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Old 03-07-2016, 12:31 AM   #210
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“He needs to see this.”

“He knows. But most of all, the cops need to see it. They just can’t jump in there and arrest someone without probable cause, and in this case, they have to see this guy doing this,” said Bart.

Suddenly the binoculars disappeared behind the curtains.

“******!” growled Bart.

“Ohh noooo,” Meows groaned, then his ears perked. “Hey – look!”

The twin lenses were replaced by a single lens with a tiny green light visible to the left of the lens.

“Video camera?” Bart asked.

“I think so,” nodded Meows. “The pervert is filming her!”

“Ssshhh! Listen!”

The cats froze and listened. A couple of blocks away, a familiar sound reached the cats’ sensitive ears.

“Rooooroooooooo!!” It was Ruffie’s usual wolfy greeting to the moon.

Bart smiled. “There’s Ruffie. They’re coming.”

“Come on,” breathed Meows, his claws digging into the fence. They waited, almost holding their breath, and soon they saw Justin and Ruffie turn the corner and walk straight into the camera’s view. Justin looked over casually without turning his head but didn’t slow down, and continued until he got to the other end of the row of rooms. He slipped behind the wall and pulled out his cell phone. The cats on the fence could hear him report what he had seen, and when he finished the call he put his cell phone back in his pocket.

“Done, guys, that wasn’t a pair of binoculars. It was a video camera. Cop’s on the way, I have to wait for him. Don’t talk, sit still. I see you, and you see me,” he said in a whisper only they heard.

The cats lashed their tails at him to let him know they heard him, and they continued to watch the window.

“Idiot let Justin walk right by and he’s still filming,” said Meows.

“Maybe he liked the dog,” smiled Bart.

“What could he be filming? What’s he think Suzanna’s going to do?”

“Who knows,” said Bart. A car door slammed, followed by another slam close to Carrie’s back alley.

“Cops?” Meows looked at Bart.

“It’s the right direction. Think he’s filming, anticipating something happening?” asked Bart.

“As in…not in snow. But for later, maybe, like checking her out and looking for weak spots or something,” said Meows. “Or I’m paranoid.”

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