For rix_scaedu‘s commissioned prompt.
Zenobia didn’t give the cat a name, but she did leave a bowl of cream out for him every morning, and a bit of her dinner meat every evening.
Her Aunt Beulah had left her the cat, along with the property and the title, when she vanished into the mist one late-November evening. He was, at that point, already an elderly cat, if family memory held, but, in this case, family memory, generally a very reliable thing, seemed to falter.
That was to say, that while family memory seemed to agree that the cat had been around for quite a while, it seemed to falter horribly, no matter which particular family member one was talking to, if pressed on the details. When had Beulah gotten the cat? Well, she’d gotten it from her Aunt Mary.
That cats did not live that long did not seem to faze anyone.
What was more, in looking at Beulah’s writings, she had, indeed, inherited a cat – several, as a matter of fact, none of them a Siamese tom. And while she had bemoaned the cats all over the place for the first several months, she had then started talking about Aristarchus, as she called her cat, as if she had had him all along.
Digging into Mary’s writings was trickier, the handwriting crabbed, the language a bit archaic and speckled with German and French for no apparent reason, but she, too, seemed to have had cats, too many cats, so many that Beulah’s notes on taking over the house and the title involved weeks of cleaning up after cats. Mary didn’t mention any specific cat by name, but there were occasionally mentions of That Damn Cat, which could, given the cat’s personality, be considered a name.
What Zenobia could determine from family journals, family gossip, and confused mutters was that Mary had been one of the batty aunts, one of the ones that was considered dangerous. Since Zenobia herself was considered dangerous, she took that with a grain of salt.
When she found That Damn Cat urinating on Mary’s journal, however, she took it as a suggestion perhaps she should stop researching his past. She gave him his cream and his dinner, and he kept the mice down and, from time to time, he gave her advice on her more complicated goings-on.
And, she soon discovered, he liked to spy, not only on her, which was irritating, but on the entire family, which was very illuminating. It seemed he had a way to get into just about anywhere, and, as a cat, he could observe on just about anything without cause for comment. Soon he was bringing Zenobia reports on the rest of her family.
Much of it was benign things, gossip and backstabbing and affairs, petty stuff that any family had. Some of it was strange but not deadly, tricks being performed on the sly, a card reading, an enchantment, stuff that was supposed to be the purview of the Aunt of the year.
And one of the tales the cat brought her saved her life.
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