FR EN DE ES IT PT

There was a buzzing in my ear, strong enough to rattle my whole skull. Besides the lack of sleep and the couple of drinks I'd had the night before, I was also just plain confused. For two days, I hadn't had one lead, not a single solitary clue. Zip. And now… within just a few hours, I suddenly had three suspects to deal with…

My head was spinning, so I decided to sit down in Feline's fancy make-up chair. The mirror on the vanity reflected a man at the end of his rope: tired eyes, ashen complexion, disheveled hair. I almost flinched at the sight. I'd aged ten years in two days. The ravages of love…

I rubbed my eyes and tried to get my thoughts back in order.

"Feline… Help me out here… Just give me some kind of sign…"

I had three leads I could follow. A guard built like a crackler who had apparently developed a crush on an inaccessible star. A singer driven by all-consuming jealousy. And a spurned, humiliated spouse… gripped by an uncontrollable urge for revenge.

I decided to swing by the bar. To quench my curiosity, among other things… Leaving my watchdog alone with his regrets, I headed downstairs. A subdued atmosphere. The smell of cigar smoke hung in the air. Right in the middle, a huge bar welcomed patrons with open arms, backed by a colorful wall of bottles of every kind, each one with a name on the label to make you thirstier than a fish in the Ohwymi desert. My whiskers quivered at the thought of a nice Gnole de Grobe. Perched on the emerald velour of one of the tall barstools, I peered at the marble counter in search of some final clue… until a clatter of clinking glass made me look up. There in front of me, a gangly-looking bartender was struggling to hold on to a dozen bottles at once, like a juggler at the Trool Fair.

"Oh! Sorry, Inspector! I didn't see you there… guess I was lost in thought."
"No worries. But… is the bar open?"
"Ah, no, actually. I'm just doing the inventory. Work goes on. You're here about Feline, right? It's really sad what happened…"
"That's just it – I wish I actually knew what happened… I don't suppose you saw her on the night she disappeared?"
"See her? You bet I did! She was sitting right here. In the same place as you!"

I leapt up from my stool at the thought that my rear end might be squashing a possible clue.

"What was she doing here?"

The bartender gave me a lopsided grin – mischievous and a bit mocking.

"Well, she didn't come in to bake cookies, officer. Just like anyone else, she came here 'cause she was thirsty, know what I mean?"

Fair enough. It was a pretty stupid question.

"Was she alone?"
"No, she was with some guy. Pretty old, walked with a limp, mostly bald

Rayné...

"Any idea what time it was?"
"I'd say… around 8:30."

Right before Feline was reported missing. Strange...

"Did you hear what they were talking about?"
"Sure, I heard… but I can't say as I was really listening. Y'know, us bartenders, we're right there in the front row. Between lovers' quarrels, old drunks philosophizing, and has-been stars whose time in the spotlight is up, sometimes it's better to ignore it all. So's we don't go nuts, see? People don't always say the smartest things once they've had a few…"
"You got that right… So how did they seem?"
"All I can say is, even with the age difference, there was definitely something there. But now that you mention it, I'd say it was a bit tense… At some point, the old guy said, "Forget him, he's not good enough for you," or something like that. He grabbed Feline by the arm, but she pulled away and walked off down that hall right there. She tried to say something back to him, but the poor thing had lost her voice! Talk about bad luck, right before a concert… Not that it matters now…"
"Lost her voice?"
"Yeah, I remember the old guy scolding her for going out late the night before. Even said she brought it on herself. You get the picture…"

My fears that Rayné might discover our little secret were well-founded.

But he wasn't responsible for Feline's disappearance. And neither was 85 or Fabia.

"Hey, set me up with a Greedo Rum, would ya? I think I've got something to celebrate."

He gave me a cross-eyed look for a second, then shrugged and made the drink.

"Rocks?"

I declined the offer with a gesture, then took a sip and savored the sensation as the rum warmed my throat on the way down.

"Put it on my tab."

Then I headed for the hall where the bartender had seen Feline leave. When I told you I knew all her habits by heart, even the most private… I really meant ALL of her habits. Between her sugar ritual and the moment she walked on stage, there was one other thing my starlet always did. Every single time. Something to ensure she'd be comfortable on stage, however long the show went on. And that nearly empty glass of mush mush juice that I'd found in her dressing room, plus the ones she'd drunk with Rayné, were both the reason and the evidence. I took my time to really appreciate each second. To truly savor this moment…

With a light heart and a smile on my face, I headed down the dark hall. All these years of leading me around by the nose. All these years of playing bow meow and moumouse, of constantly reminding me that I wasn't good enough, but that I'd do in a pinch when she needed a good time. Aaah, Feline… The hour of glory would be all mine this time. And that moment was right now.

WHAMMM!

I kicked in the door. The one with a supposedly "funny" silhouette of a Twelvian girl with her hands between her legs,, her knees pressed together as though to repress an overwhelming urge. Come to think of it, she looked a bit like Feline… Now that was funny.

I don't know which part was the most priceless. Finding my starlet there, sitting on the toilet with a broken door handle in one hand and a mascara-drenched handkerchief in the other, looking at me with those fried-kralove eyes as she watched the last of her dignity smashed to pieces on the dirty floor of a public restroom. The fact that I was her savior, which had to be a pretty harsh blow to her ego. Or knowing that she'd spent three days here, trying to call for help… but in vain, since her voice had been ruined by too many vocal exercises and our late night together.

Sure, the cat had got her tongue for now, but I could still see my little Feline's claws coming out. She could read my mind, and she knew that the relief of having found her wasn't the only reason for my triumphant grin… She shot me a look that I knew all too well, ready to pounce on me.

I offered her my glass of mush-mush juice.

"Want some? They say it loosens up the larynx."