The Red Cat by M.J. Valentine

It was obvious to all the moment he entered the room. The scoundrel was dressed in a red velvet cape, a galaxied tiara of crystal about his brow. Ganymede! Apollo! Oh, slick-tongued Dion, dreaming in the long grasses! He leaned his long frame over the bar and asked for milk from the nipples of Aphrodite.

'Monsieur,' said the weary bearded liquor-man, 'We are right out - perhaps the sour wringings of Hamlet? Or Bollinger?'

Having sat on the corner boards, the wastrel threw back his head and sang. A sonorous clanging came from the door, and a lean creature wrapped in black stepped forth. Gaunt and cavernous his face; chalk cheeked and grim-mouthed.

'Ho! ' He roared. Oh, a voice to split mountains! To sunder the tight privates of sainthood! 'There is the villain! Have at him, men, at once!'

And through all the windows leapt fifty cashmere gentlemen, swathed grey and soft; the fancy police. They jumped on the grand wretch and soundly slapped him, while applause rained down from delighted gloved hands. The barman smacked down his huge fingered meat spade for silence. 'What wickedness is this? What commotion and ruckus?'

Said the crow-like man: 'I must humbly apologise, but I am an important Detective Inspector, and this man is a spy, sent from Agincourt to sneak and pry and, what is more, a creature of light-fingered ingenuity. Do not be fooled by his haughty airs! He is tricksy as night, and devious as eels.'

A gasp ricocheted around the room; it knocked over a vase and groped a banker's wife.

'Do you deny it?' spoke the sallow-skinned man to the slumping cur. He hiccuped and rose, magnificent in the gaslight.

'Indeed, indeed!' cried he, 'I am a Count hurled from his castle, a nobleman dragged into horrid ruin, a Prince beset by devils!' He thrust out his hands, and upon his fingers were rings of pure silver, and glowing jewels of green, red and violet. 'I tickled them from a naive temple whore, whilst paddling for my life.' He supplied.

' are not the infamous Red Cat? Who is legend wherever there are lips to speak? The thief of a thousand verses?' Said the Inspector.

'No, fool! And I have fed you a pack of brilliant lies!' The ragged stranger pulled his cape tight about him and narrowed his eyes into slits. He slowly raised a slim, pale finger; pointing it dagger-like at the sombre fellow. 'I am, in fact, the Chief of Police. You sir, are an impostor!'

Shock whipped the air, brutally. The air wept quietly, conscious now that it had made some questionable choices.

**'He is really the chief of Police, Alexei? Muttered the old man holding two Aces.

'I have heard some incredible stories, Pierrot.' Said his companion, thumbing an impassive Queen.**

The faux inspector startled like a withering spinster touching thighs on a bus, and tore off his dull garb to reveal bright pantaloons. He laughed madly and ran for the door, but a broad Yeoman blocked his path. He spun, and without thought for propriety, dug his hand into a lady's evening bag, pulling out a small silver pistol.

'I vould not fire zat if I vere you,' drawled the lady, cocooned in scented smoke; her shoes had skyscraper heels, there were thirty families living in each.

'How did he know the gun was there?' mumbled a cashmere Constable; but he was ignored because he did not look very interesting. The woman stood, rolled back her lips and laughed. Her teeth were a deep red, and gleamed bloodily in the lamplight.

'Mon dieu!' Gasped the Chief of Police. 'Her jaws are wrought with pure, flawless rubies!'

'It is the infamous Red Cat!' Cried everyone.

'Yes!' She purred, stretching voluptuously. The Banker's monocle fell in his Four Cheese and Onion. 'And you foppish lust heretics will rue the day you dared pursue me!' And with that, she vanished. Quite completely. They appealed to the old stage magician by the water closet but he had not been close enough to see how it was done.

The thin, crazed imposter shot himself in desperation. The vagabond Police Chief drank all the Champagne, and the barman stole his diamond tiara as he snored in the curiously-patterned skirts of the deceased. He is now living in sin in Málaga. Of course, a newcomer from out of town took over the bar, but I hear it has fallen into utter ruin since.