"Willow's Tail" 13
Willow’s eyes glowed, she circled once and walked towards the delphiniums.
“I think she wants you to follow her,” Perfidia chuckled, “just like that dog, Lassie.”
Willow’s ears flattened back at the insult.
“Perfidia, you should apologize. Willow is one of a kind and incomparable,” Martha warned.
“What, your cat can’t take a joke?”
Willow flicked her tail in the direction of the laughter then sauntered back into the garden.
“I did warn you,” Martha said with sympathy before following Willow.
Perfidia couldn’t respond to Martha because she was using all her energy to stay upright against the brisk breeze buffeting only her. Her hair was twisting in the wild wind and an impossible amount of falling leaves rained down on her before the manic breeze subsided.
She blew a wayward leaf away from her mouth and grumbled, “That cat is incomparable all right, a one of a kind trouble maker.” Then she kicked through the leaves thinking of a few delightful ways to reciprocate.
Perfidia waked into the garden only a few yards back from Martha and she could still hear her laughing.
“It’s not funny,” Perfidia stated sourly.
“Oh it’s a little funny,” Martha retorted before disappearing around the row of blueberry bushes.
Willow jumped up on the fence that faced acres of wild open land.
That open space was why Martha had moved into the house at the end of town; she liked her solitude.
“Something out there?” she asked Willow as she stood on tiptoe to see over the property line fence.
Martha searched the secluded fields and old trees that populated it but she didn’t see anything moving between the trees. When she looked down, she did notice fresh paw prints that went into the wooded land.
Perfidia caught up to them and saw Martha looking over the fence.
"Are we spying on the neighbors now?" She asked with a mischievous grin.
“No, but Willow has shown me where our uninvited visitor ran off to,” Martha nodded to the clue.
Perfidia looked over the fence at the paw prints and shrugged.
"So you're concerned that a stray cat wandered over here?”
“It’s highly unlikly it was a stray.”
Perfidia’s bland expression changed to one of interest.
“So you're thinking it has a kindred spirit?”
“It most definitely has,” Martha confirmed gazing thoughtfully out into those woods.
Perfidia's gaze rose from the paw prints and above the tree cover and she noticed something else.
“Look, there’s a house way out there; I can just about see the roof of it.”
Martha looked up and gauged the distance. The house would be in the next town but she hadn’t thought much about it being there, it hadn’t posed a problem, but now she did wonder.
“There could be neighbors of interest living there.”
“Neighbor’s of interest or neighbor’s of mayhem?” Perfidia asked with sage insight.
“That is a debate we'll have to consider once we've met them.”
“It does have easy proximity to your property Martha,” Perfidia observed.
“It does indeed,” Martha agreed, staring at the roof top with narrowed eyes and stroking Willow's fur.
"So what's the plan?"
“I think we should do a little reconnaissance of our own tonight,” Martha suggested with an uncharacteristic gleam of havoc in her eyes.
Perfidia’s eyes lit up at the prospect of fun and she practically purred her agreement.
The dinner dishes were cleared, washed and put away but Perfidia and Martha had to linger over another cup of tea as Roger continued to talk to Gloria on the landline in the kitchen.
Martha had kept her promise and after dinner she’d contacted Gloria for Roger’s sake and convinced her that someone unknown to them had switched Roger’s roses for that awful plant she’d received instead.
“He’s been talking to her for over an hour,” Perfidia complained to Martha.
“Yes I know, but we need to have patience.”
“Patience…? You do know I have none of that virtue.”
Martha chuckled, “Then pretend you do.”
Perfidia could try that but she'd rather send an electrical current through the phones to make both parties drop the line.
“Don’t,” Martha warned in a whisper.
“What, I’m using my fake patience to daydream, no harm in that.”
Martha shook her head but she did wonder, what more could Roger and Gloria possibly have to talk about? Gloria had forgiven him half an hour ago and they’d already made dating plans for when he returned home. One would think that should have ended the call, but it hadn’t.
Ten long minutes later, they heard Roger whisper a quiet goodnight and hang up the receiver. Then he turned to them with a bright smile.
“Thank you both for everything you’ve done for me, getting me here to do my rehabilitation and now helping me get back in Gloria’s good graces. She wants me to meet her at the Summer Solstice Festival next week and I think my rehabilitation will be completed in time since Perfidia had me doing those extra hours each day.”
Perfidia accepted his gratitude sans humility.
“And you’re welcome Roger; this works out well for everyone. We’ve decided to go to the festival too.”
Roger gave her a curious look.
“You know what? I don’t think I’ve ever seen you attend the festival Perfidia.”
“Well it hasn’t been my thing but…”
“Perfidia is entering an Orchid,” Martha offered up the reason and earned a sour look from Perfidia.
She didn’t want anyone to know about her entry; her orchid wasn’t perfect yet.
“What a coincidence Perfidia,” Roger gave her a proud smile, “Gloria is entering the Orchid contest too but…now I have a conundrum; only one Orchid wins first place. It will be difficult to wish against either of you.”
“You should wish for Gloria, I’m sure Perfidia agrees with that,” Martha consoled him.
“Does she?" Perfidia mumbled low enough for only Martha to hear.
“That’s so kind of you Perfidia,” Roger’s relief shone in his eyes,” I’m grateful you understand and I promise, I'll wish for you to snatch up second place,” he said the last magnanimously, then bid them a good night and went happily up to his room.
“Finally,” Martha said picking up her tea cup and taking it to the sink.
“Second place,” Perfidia complained, “You let him wish me into second place?”
“Perfidia focus, we have a bigger problem then your place in the contest.”
Perfidia acquiesced but she still wasn’t pleased by the prospect.
“I’ve never been second in anything,” she boasted to Martha.
“Then it might be a good experience for you,” Martha prophesied.
“That’s highly doubtful,” Perfidia countered with her own prediction.
“At least you’re honest.”
“Always,” Perfidia confirmed picking up the teapot to clear it from the table but she nearly dropped it when a loud crash came from somewhere outside.
“What was that?”
“I’m not sure but it was close,” Martha said already walking out the backdoor to the garden.
Perfidia followed her.
Willow, who’d been napping in the kitchen, ran out the cat door and met them in the garden.
The three stood together and listened for any unusual sounds but the stillness of the night was deep and broken only by the sounds of crickets and night birds.
“Where do you think that noise came from?” Perfidia questioned, looking around the garden.
“I’m not sure but I’ll search the sunroom.”
“Oh, let’s hope it’s not another stink weed,” Perfidia said with a disgusted shiver and wondered if she should hold her nose, just incase it was, before entering that sunroom.
Martha and Willow walked into the shed and Perfidia was about to follow them when she heard something out in the garden; it was a rustling sound and her senses tingled; someone was out there. She touched her amulet and it grew warm against her and she absorbed the protective shield as she walked into the garden.
Martha and Willow walked through the shed and into the sunroom.
The moonlight slanted through the windows and shone on a fresh set of paw prints and once again, they weren’t Willow’s.
Willow’s eyes glowed at the sight of the prints and her ears flicked forward straining to hear the intruder then she ran out the door into the garden.
Martha didn’t follow her feline. She was more concerned to find the source of the crash they’d heard.
She’d just discovered several broken pots of lavender that had fallen from a window box when she heard Perfidia’s anguished cry; it came from the garden
Martha ran from the sunroom but didn’t see Perfidia or Willow.
“Where are you?’
Perfidia’s whimper was low but not far away.
Martha found her standing where her fragile orchid had been. It was no longer there, in its place stood a nasty stink weed, just as Perfidia had feared she would find. Her orchid was gone.
“Who would do this to a defenseless orchid?”
“Someone who wants to rattle us and seeing this new taunt; I’m in the mood to rattle them back. Aren’t you?”
Perfidia was way past just rattling them but she nodded, and she nodded because at the moment she couldn’t speak.
She hadn’t expected how attached to a tiny plant she’d become or how it hurt to lose it. Then she had to turn away but not because she was about to cry, because the stink weed’s smell was beginning to penetrate the air around them.
Their eyes watered but they saw Willow running towards them with the slender weed in her mouth, the one capable of capturing that foul essence.
“Thank you,” Martha said taking the weed from Willow and placing it in the soil next to the malodorous plant and the air cleared.
Martha stared at the bothersome weed, accepting she now had two of these troublesome plants to get rid of and it wouldn’t be easy but she’d deal with that task later, she had a bigger ‘need to do’ on her list at the moment.
“I think it’s time to pay a visit to that house on the hill,” she said in a tone that hinted at restrained fury.
Perfidia’s eyes glittered with havoc. “Oh I do hope they’re there.”
Martha agreed; it was about time for an unmasking.
Martha handed Perfidia a flashlight and binoculars.
“Are you ready?” she asked.
“As ever,” Perfidia said turning in a circle for Martha to assess her totally dark outfit, which she thought was very apropos for sleuthing, right down to her stylish black boots.
“You’ll blend with the night.” Martha gave her approval with a nod.
“Your camouflage is impressive too,” Perfidia acknowledge, nodding at Martha’s green and brown blended outfit.
Martha was dressed in muted shades of nature and Perfidia thought if she stood next to a forest, she’d completely disappear.
Willow assessed her human and the other one and, not being felines, she supposed it was the best they could do.
“Let’s go,” Martha commanded.
When the garage door rolled up revealing Martha’s car, an old Volkswagen beetle, Perfidia’s jaw dropped.
“Martha, how do you still have this relic of a car; isn't this the car you bought second hand when we were in college.”
“Yes it is, and it still runs.”
“I do like that it’s a convertible but Martha, you should truly consider an upgrade.”
Martha ignored Perfidia’s advice.
“It’s good on gas and has all the room I need,” she championed her car as Perfidia pulled open the passenger door with a slight squeak.
Perfidia’s brow rose at the sound but Martha wasn't concerned. She opened the driver’s door smoothly and silently and got in behind the wheel.
Willow soared into the back seat with one long leap as Perfidia crumpled her five foot seven form into the bucket seat and settled in uncomfortably. Perfidia disagreed it had enough room but thank goodness it was a convertible, she thought, or her head would be kissing her knees.
“You’re right Martha, there’s plenty of room here.”
The sarcasm was wasted on Martha because her five foot five frame fit perfectly.
Willow stretched out across the back seat content enough to nap on the worn leather as the car’s engine hummed along.
When they were several yards from the house Martha stopped the car and they looked through their binoculars at the dark house.
“The lights are all out, maybe they aren’t home. I can sneak around and look through the windows,” Perfidia offered as she opened the car door.
“It does appear as no one is home.”
“You think we’re being camouflaged?”
“Anything is possible with kindred spirits.”
“True,” Perfidia nodded staring at the house.
“We can search, maybe we’ll find this isn’t the manipulator’s house,” Martha whispered, but her intuition told her the opposite.
Willow jumped out of the car with no uncertainty, she was sure that cat had been here.
Martha and Perfidia walked towards the front of the house with flash lights scanning the lawn.
“There’s a letterbox Martha,” Perfidia pointed out, “and the flag is up.”
Martha smiled with understanding.
“That means there’s mail inside for the postman to pick up.”
“Exactly, if we open it, we’ll have a name.” Perfidia suggested.
“That’s mail tampering and a felony Perfidia, we cannot open the mailbox,” Martha told her but her thoughtful look conveyed another message.
Perfidia caught the meaning and looked at Willow.
“You’re right Martha, but I’ll bet those wayward winds that seem to blow up around here, especially around me, could rattle that letterbox, open it and toss the letters out, and we’d have nothing to do with it.”
“It would have to be a pretty strong disturbance to do that,” Martha agreed giving a slight nod to Willow.
Willow flicked her tail and a tempest circled the lone letter box shaking it violently until the door did indeed pop open.
The wind blew into the letterbox and lifted what was only one letter out of it. The letter twirled in the swirling, miniature tornado and the tornado moved away from the letterbox and encompassed Perfidia in its windy vortex, twisting her hair into a nest of tangles before it died down.
“Thanks a lot, I’m going to send my salon bill to your cat Martha,” Perfidia complained combing her fingers through her tangled hair as the lone letter fluttered down to the ground in front of her.
“You did suggest the wind Perfidia so you have to accept the consequences.”
“Fine,” Perfidia grumbled then looked down at the letter that had landed at her feet and turned a wide grin on Martha.
“I guess you could have opened that letterbox without any repercussion Martha.”
“Why?” Martha asked stepping closer to view the letter.
Martha didn’t find Perfidia’s reasoning funny at all and her frown deepened as she picked up the letter. It was addressed simply ‘Martha,’ so whoever was behind all of this mayhem had known they’d show up here and that meant, there’d be no other clues for them to find, none that hadn’t been placed strategically for their consumption anyway.
“This was a set up; we’re still being manipulated,” Martha told her, gripping the letter in her hand and staring into the dark windows of the unwelcoming house. Then she turned away and walked back to the car.
“Wait, you’re not going to open it?” Perfidia asked in disbelief walking after her.
“Not here, I have a feeling I’m going to need be sitting with a strong cup of tea when I do.”
The three walked back to the car unaware of a dark, manly figure and a cat’s silhouette in an upper bedroom window watching them.
The man chuckled softly and the cat purred with satisfaction.
“I guess we’ve accomplished all we needed to here Max. It’s time to go home and get ready for the festival.”