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Chapter 1

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Chapter One
-- by Deborah Moran --


In this joint sequel to Bringing up Baby and To Catch a Thief, David Huxley and John Robie are identical twins separated shortly after birth. Both are now grown adults living on opposite sides of the United States, David on the East Coast and John in California. Neither knows that the other exists, yet both men have deep connections to cats; David as a scholar of the feline species and John as an admirer of their stealthy ways.  It is this connection that eventually leads them to each other. 

As the story opens, David, a widower, is curator of a museum dedicated to cats, father to a mischievous pet leopard, and landlord to an over-anxious seductress licking her wounds after a bad marriage while stalking David as her next mate. 

John, married to a beautiful heiress, and once a reformed cat burglar, is on the prowl again. In these pages you will find (hopefully) the purrfect blend of humor, mystery, romance and adventure as these two very different men discover that blood is thicker than milk. 

Chapter One - A Tale of Two Kitties

David - 9:00 am. Sunday. 

The noxious buzz of the alarm woke him reluctantly, and with the fervor of a slug on sedatives, he reached across the blankets to rouse her from slumber. With eyes still closed, David Huxley could not see that where once had lain Susan's mane of luxurious red curls, now lay only a decimated field mouse, splayed limp and lifeless on the pillow. As soon as his fingers grazed fur, he remembered. He sat upright, considered the carnage and shook his head. 

"Baby!" he bellowed (relatively speaking, for the inclination of his heart was that of a gentle man.) "Come here at once!" 

With glee and ease, Baby, Huxley's 500-pound pet leopard, cat-apulted onto the bed, excitedly awaiting her ritual morning hug from her master (or so she let David think, for in reality, she was the undisputed boss.) 

"Baby, I have told you before. Please do not bring me mice for breakfast. I much prefer eggs with bacon," David scolded in mock anger. 

While he never relished the little morsels Baby deposited on the pillow each day, nor the memorial service he grudgingly (but tastefully) performed thereafter, he couldn't really be angry. Susan had always pampered him with breakfast in bed, and David suspected that Baby now saw it as her job to ensure he had a proper morning meal. 

Baby had been the cat-alyst for their union 10 years ago when Susan orchestrated a labyrinth of misadventures and tales (or more appropriately tails) surrounding Baby's whereabouts. As a result, David really had no choice but to join Susan in scouring the Connecticut countryside for the wayward leopard at the precise moment when he should have been uttering "I do" to Alice Swallow at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City. 

It had worked. Alice, in direct contraction to her surname, unceremoniously chewed him up and spit him out, so to speak. David and Susan were married a few months later, and lived happily ever after. 

Ever after, that is, until April of last year. Poor Susan. While in Africa searching for a little brother or sister for Baby, she was tragically mistaken for a rare and tasty Benko Benko tree (she was tall and lanky and rather wooden on occasion) by a nearsighted herbivoracious fiber-felling pygmy. The spear pierced her heart, killing her instantly.

David was heart broken, and would have been lost without her but for the fact that she endured within him. Literally. Susan had given him the ultimate gift - her eyes. Now his vision was perfect, albeit a little quirky since he now saw the world through her point-of-view. A point-of-view David always lovingly regarded (or was it exasperatingly?) as upside down. 

David had worn thick glasses since kindergarten when Dexter Allbright (who was none too) threw a knuckleball in the top of the third inning. Oblivious to the game, David had been carefully tracking the ground maneuvers of a green conehead cat-erpillar, and WHOMP, the ball smashed right at the bridge of his nose. Not surprisingly, his vision had been impaired. 

Luckily, glasses suited David just fine. Even as a little boy, he was the studious type, more interested in dissecting the respiratory system of the mollusk or noting the inner workings of some other of God's creatures than in playing cowboys or Little League as his father had wished. Spectacles gave him both an aura of intelligence as well as an excuse to quit the Tapeworms, the local pee-wee team. (Although all professed to be sad, the Coach was none too upset at David's departure mid-season, and this despite the team's low standings.)  

Even with glasses, David had grown up to be as handsome as they come. Tall, dark, tender eyes shyly peering out behind a sensitive soul, and a cleft in his chin that may have hampered shaving, but not its effect on the opposite sex. His magnificent face was marred only by the presence of a small scar near the corner of his upper lip. The scar was truly a badge of manhood for David - not one won in a barroom brawl, mind you, but one received when he overshot Susan's lips on their first kiss (truth be told, his first kiss with any woman - sorry Alice) viciously landing open mouthed on the razor sharp diamond nuggets decorating her right ear lobe.  His skin sliced easily, the lip healed as easily, but his ego was not as easily soothed. 

David never truly overcame his befuddlement when it came to the female animal. Much to his dismay, David's eyesight had been rapidly deteriorating over the years, no doubt in part from the countless hours spent squinting into a microscope, examining the ancient remains of a saber-toothed tiger, or the fearsome Burmese bobcat, or some other demised member of the feline family. David was now curator of the Metropolitan Felidae Meowseum, the world's most extensive collection dedicated to the evolution and habits of cats of all kinds, and had spent the last six years cat-aloguing the 126 species of catfish by whisker length and tautness. 

It was amazing that David should be drawn to felines. Not too long ago, David panicked, breaking out in a waterfall of sweat and hives, at the prospect of his path crossing with that of a cat, black or otherwise. He was frightened by them all, large and small, domesticated and wild. Baby had nearly sent him apoplectic upon their first meeting. But with Susan's guidance and limitless cans of tuna, David had eventually learned to adore pussies. 

As widowers are wont to do, after Susan's death David threw himself into his work, spending endless hours at the Meowseum. Not that there weren't ample invitations for pleasurable diversion. Being as handsome and bright as he was, David was considered one of the more eligible catches in the whole of New England. Women were always clawing for his attention. Yet he seemed oblivious to the fact that he had considerable attributes, much less the effect of those attributes on others. 

At least that's how it seemed to everyone.  Everyone but Domestique Katz, David's eager beaver, so to speak, boarder. Domi, as she was known, thought David's babe(y Einstein)-in-the-woods persona was merely a ruse. What he really craved, Domi surmised, was 1) a beautiful, sophisticated temptress who knew that frisky could mean something altogether more enticing than a brand of cat food, and 2) a woman who could serve up a sumptuous bowl of homemade matzo ball soup. 

Domi proudly possessed both those qualities, and since moving to the loft over David's garage six months ago, she had set her sights squarely on proving such to him. Katz and her young daughter, Allouette (Allie for short) had recently arrived from Paris. Stray, Katz's two-bit, flea ridden husband, had been caught with his hand in the cathouse, so to speak, one too many times. He had most recently been employed as a body guard for Madame Minx Lynx, France's beloved sword swallower and wife of the Rhodesian attaché, Sir Oswald Ossie Lott. Becoming all too often an occurrence, Domi, had discovered that Stray had been spending far more time guarding (gazing at, worshipping, caressing, whatever) Lynx's body than his paycheck reflected. Unable to endure the cat-ty tabloid frenzy surrounding this latest scandal, Domi scooped up Allie and retreated to the anonymity of the States, settling, as her luck would have it, in David's back yard. 

In the short time since their arrival, Allie and Baby had become fast friends, and most afternoons found the two frolicking under the blossoming apple tree, playing cats cradle or some other idyllic childhood pastime. David liked Allie well enough.  He generally liked children, except of late when they visited the Meowseum on school field trips and were forever leaving behind crumpled lunchbags, discarded bandaids, sticky clumps of unidentifiable goo, and some incorrigible little cuss gone AWOL. 

So far, however, he seemed impervious to Domi's allure. Alas, since Susan's death, David had narrowed his world to the Meowseum and Baby. 

After lecturing Baby on the naughtiness of murder, however instinctual, David quickly dressed in his now well-worn grave digger's best . He collected the tiny, rigid corpse, and once outside, set about to bury it. As he dug, he contemplated moving house as there remained only a 3 foot by 6 foot plot of undisturbed yard left to lay to rest any more unfortunate creatures. Baby was giving no indication that her rodent rage was nearing its finale. David made quick dispatch as mortician, pausing to say only the barest of eulogy.  It would have seemed disrespectful to drone on and on about the dearly departed since he didn't really know this particular victim personally. 

The solemnity of the moment was interrupted when David felt a hand on his shoulder, the scent of chicken fat wafting from the grasp. Turning around, there before him stood Domi Katz, clad only in a dish towel. 

"Cherie," she purred at him. "I have a, how do you say in America, bone to pick with you about Baby."

David sighed, and braced himself for the cat-astrophe that awaited his attention. 


John - At the precise moment Baby had been starring in her own macabre production of Of Mice and Menace, 5,000 miles away another cat was afoot (although one could question how a cat can be a foot).

John Robie was sitting on the veranda of his Tuscan-style villa, surveying the verdant arbors of his San Fernando vineyard through sleepless eyes. The somberness of his head-to-toe black garb contrasted sharply with the golden dawn arising over the California Valley. Robie at one time in his life had been Europe's most infamous cat burglar. But, in the last two decades, he had been discovered, tried, imprisoned, paroled and gone straight. Using his ill-gotten gains (safely deposited in a South African diamond mine before he was carted off to jail), Robie bought a sprawling, stone chateau on the Riviera, and became a vintner of the highest order. 

Three years ago, when a Turkish fruit fly veered off course, all that changed. Within 6 months, Robie's prize vintage had been single handedly (or rather leggedly) destroyed. The Bank had no choice but to foreclose. Too proud to ask for financial help from his wife, Francie, a rich American beauty (true to the variety, she was full-bloomed but thorny), Robie secretly returned to the dangerous, but lucrative life of crime. His felony du jour was stealing diamonds, which he then exported to dealers in Tunisia, secreted in jars of rare catfish caviar.

About two years ago, while still residing in France, the underground sent word to Robie that the gendarme were on his trail. To avoid capture, Robie and Francie (who was blissfully unaware of his capers) fled the Riviera, choosing to return to Francie's native home. 

They settled in California where the wine, to his mind, was mediocre, but then again, so thankfully, was the local police department. The authorities were unfamiliar with his past (and present) and Robie intended to keep it that way. To further distance himself from identification, Robie, a natural linguist, shed his French accent with ease. 

It was more than his accent that most (women anyway) wished him to shed. For John Robie was an exquisite example of human perfection. Devastatingly dashing, he was Webster's answer to sex appeal. Urbane, gorgeous, bedroom eyes, and a dimple in his chin so deep a girl could get the bends after kissing it. 

It wasn't just his face that drew women in, however. Robie moved with feline agility and grace. Not those fluffy domestic kitties favored by solitary old ladies, but the sleek, feral ones of the forest as they silently stalked their prey. Robie possessed something intangible, yet enviable, an animality about him that was intoxicating. And with his penchant for all things black, he quite resembled a panther. 

During the height of his criminal career, in fact, he was known by the police simply as The Cat. This appellation agreed with him as Robie had always admired the cunning and power of the big cats. Something hereditary, probably. His father, Xaviar Crement, a big game hunter, made his fortune inventing kitty litter. (author's note: Litter-ary license taken as the true inventor of kitty litter was a man named Edward Lowe.) X and his wife were savagely killed on safari when their camp was attacked by a pride of charging lion. Their offspring, identical twin boys, John and David, were barely yet teething when they were sadly orphaned. 

With no other family, the boys and their inheritance had been separated: David going to live with the Huxley's in upstate New York, and John being adopted by the Robie's, nomadic acrobats with the famed Parisian Cirque d' Monde. 

Unaware that he was adopted or that he had an identical twin, Robie grew up an only child, a remarkably well-adjusted only child considering his life was literally a three-ring circus. Longing for a more dignified existence, Robie declined to join the family business and, ironically, ran away from the circus. Eighteen, handsome and fiercely independent, he set out to sample Europe's finer offerings. Some of Europe's finest sampled his charms as well, and soon he was the most sought after escort in Paris. 

Robie quickly assimilated into the world of mannered charm, cultivating discerning taste in classical music, art, food, and women. He soon, however, found it difficult to maintain the bon vivant lifestyle of the well bred, so to line his Saville Row pockets, he turned to stealing. Before long, he was a master at it. 

Pilfering from the wealthy (and only from the wealthy as he was a man of some principles) for 20 years had made Robie a very wealthy man himself. Five years ago, Francie Stevens had been husband-shopping along the Riviera when her path fatefully crossed with that of Robie, reformed by this time. The nuptials of John and Francie made all the society columns, and along with her trousseau of Valentinos, Chanels, and Diors, came a priceless collection of jewels, furs and one spunky mother-in-law. 

Jessie Stevens was uncouth, but lovable and Robie adored her (that is if adoration is synonymous with toleration). A hillbilly from Dakota, her meager country life was forever altered when oil, and plenty of it, gushed from behind the outdoor privy. Jeremiah, still alive at the time, went from having only one pair of white socks to owning them (the White Sox, that is), and Francie, their only child, suddenly acquired a trust fund and all the respectability that such an asset can buy. 

After boarding school out East, it was to Europe's noble class that Jessie and Francie turned to find a suitable husbands. Enter John Robie. Not regal by birthright, but a royally handsome man, nonetheless, with a princely sum in the bank to call his own. Robie was enchanted the moment he saw Francie. The feeling was mutual. 

Marriage agreed with Robie and the three of them lived a fairy tale life of glass slippers and balls, at least until the bubonic fruit fly devoured their good fortune. 

"C'est la vie," as John was known to say. With the chateau lost and the authorities closing in, Robie (and clan) fled to America where he hoped to create a private label vintage. 

After a year, it became evident that he could not sustain the lifestyle they had become accustomed to in France. 

"C'est la vie."  Ever resourceful, Robie began supplementing the vineyard earnings with a side dish of jewel heisting. Francie, still madly in love with her husband, had no reason to disbelieve him when he left her some evenings at nightfall, saying he needed to ice the barrels of fermenting grape. What she didn't know, and what he wasn't saying, was that the ice he needed was of the three-carat marquis or solitaire variety. 

After having just returned from a night of prowling, Robie watched the sun rise with a sense of excitement and melancholy. His mood was suddenly interrupted by a shrill cry from upstairs. Rushing to her dressing room, Robie found his wife pawing through her jewelry armoire, necklaces, brooches, bracelets, and rings hurling about. 

"My pendant is missing. I had a nightmare it was taken, and now it's vanished!" she screamed in frenzied panic. 

"Calm down, my darling," he tried to reassure her, as he ducked to avoid the flight path of a ruby bracelet. "It was just a bad dream. Look again, dear. I'm certain you are mistaken."

After searching and re-searching, there was no doubt it was indeed gone. It was an 18th century diamond encrusted tiger pendant Francie had received from her closest friend, Ebony Puma, the Congonese Ambassador's wife, on the occasion of her marriage. 

Assuming Francie knew nothing of his return to stealing, Robie was surprised and unnerved when, regarding him through slit eyes, she hissed in a voice cold enough to freeze the sun on a summer's day: "Did you take my necklace?" 

Before he could answer, she prodded,  "What's the matter, John? Cat got your tongue?"

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