THE CAT'S MEOW

by Londa Pfeffer

(Niteowl721@aol.com)

    A cat's plaintive meow dragged Ranger Jimmy Trivette awake.  He groaned, rolling over to check his alarm clock.  The headache beating at his temples made it difficult to concentrate, and he blinked several times before the numbers sunk in:  7:13 a.m. Damn!  He must have forgotten to set the alarm before going to sleep.  And today of all days.  He was supposed to meet his partner, Cordell Walker, for a stakeout on a jewel smuggler they'd been trying to nail for weeks.

    "Damn, damn!"  He struggled to his feet, cursing again as the blankets tangled around him.  Stumbling into the bathroom, he frantically searched for something, anything, to ease the headache.  After downing three Excedrin he turned on the shower, adjusting the dials before stripping out of his pajamas and stepping in.  

    "Ahh."  The hot water, combined with the analgesic, took the edge off the headache.  He soaped himself liberally before turning back to face the stream of water.  But before he could rinse off, the hot water cut out.  "Eeyyaahh!"

    Trivette jumped out, uncaring that he'd have to suffer the soapy residue all day.  He was in no mood for a cold shower this morning of all mornings.

    Of all mornings...

    The date.  

    Oh, shit... Today was Friday the 13th.  

    He hung his head in defeat.  He should've taken the day off.  Stayed in bed.  Though with his luck he'd have suffocated in the pillows.  Or his bedroom ceiling would have collapsed.  Or something even more dire.  

    Quickly dressing in jeans and a faded blue polo shirt, he reached for his boots before remembering they were being re-heeled.  He'd have to settle for his sneakers.  And of course they weren't where they should have been.  Finally locating them under his sofa, he pulled on the left one, blinking in disbelief when the lace snapped in his hand.

    "I don't believe this!  Nobody better tell me that bad luck on Friday the 13th is just my imagination,"  he growled, throwing the sneakers aside and pulling out his new cowboy boots.  They hadn't been properly broken in yet, and he'd refrained from wearing them on the job for that reason.  No choice now.

    "Walker's gonna kill me,"  he moaned, checking his watch.  It now read 7:45 and he still had to drive across town.

    Storming out of his apartment door, he didn't see the morning paper in front until he tripped over it, landing on a small black cat.  It yowled at him as he sat massaging his now-sore ankle.

    "I'm sorry, okay?  I didn't see you."  He eyed the paper suspiciously.  A cat and a newspaper...  Wasn't that a television show or something?  He didn't subscribe to any paper.  "I'm not even gonna touch it.  No way, not today."

    Climbing to his feet, he stuck his hand in his jeans' pocket, searching for his car keys.  Only they weren't there.

    "This isn't possible,"  Jimmy muttered, hanging his head.  The only saving grace was the spare key he kept above his door.  Making sure nobody could see, he grabbed it and let himself in, leaving the door open as he searched for his key ring.  He didn't see the small black streak make a mad dash for his bedroom.

    "Got 'em!"  He ran back out the door, pulling it shut behind him then carefully checking the hallway for any strays set on tripping him again.

    He made it to his car without incident, breathing a sigh of relief as it started easily.  He'd half expected a dead battery on top of everything.

    A car horn blasted at him as he pulled into traffic, inadvertently cutting the driver off, and he waved the irate woman to go around.  She yelled something in passing, and Jimmy pointedly ignored her.  The last thing he needed was to get into a fight on the road.

    As he braked for a traffic light, he dialed his partner's cell phone number.  The other man answered on the first ring.

    "Hey, Walker, it's me.  I'm on my way.  I should be there in about 25 minutes."

    "Nice of you to join me,"  came Walker's dry response.

    "Well, you wouldn't believe the kind of morning I've had.  If we weren't pulling stakeout duty, I think I'd call in sick."

    The older man snorted.  "Trivette, you're being awfully superstitious for a skeptic."

    "Hey, even skeptics have to believe in something, Walker."

    "Yeah, right.    Just get here in one piece, okay?"

    "I'll try."  Trivette hung up, braking for the next light.  "I shoulda taken the highway."

    Five minutes and two traffic lights later, he grinned upon finding it green.  But before he could proceed into the intersection, a calico cat dashed in front of him.  He slammed on the brakes, earning an irate honk from the car behind him.  Taking a moment to catch his breath, Trivette inched forward, only to slam on the brakes again when a car sped into the intersection from his left.  He checked the light in disbelief, finding it still green in his direction.  A heartbeat later, a patrol car came through, its lights declaring pursuit.

    If it hadn't been for that cat...

    Dragging air into starving lungs, Jimmy again checked cautiously before pulling out.  This time no cats or speeding cars interrupted his progress, for which he was profoundly grateful.  He didn't think he could stand much more.

    The rest of his journey proved uneventful.  He parked around the corner from their stakeout apartment and made his way to the second floor apartment.  Knocking three times, then twice on the door, he called,  "It's me, partner."

    Walker let him in, frowning as he got a good look at the younger man.  Closing the door and locking it behind them, he resumed his post at the window, glancing back at Trivette.

    The younger man headed for the kitchen.  "Want some coffee?"

    "Thanks."  After a moment, Walker observed,  "You look like something the cat dragged in."

    "Hah, funny you should say that."  Trivette filled his partner in on the bizarre events of his morning so far.  Handing his partner a cup of coffee, he finished with,  "And after all that, I'm not settin' foot out of this building until our shift is over.  Something bad's gonna happen otherwise."

    The half-Cherokee Ranger laughed.  "Have you listened to what you've been saying, Trivette?"

    "What do you mean?"

    "So far the cats aren't the villains, buddy.  They've been helping you.  I wouldn't get too upset over that if I were you.  It could be worse, y'know."

    "Yeah, one of 'em could follow me home,"  the younger man groused.

    "Be careful what you say,"  Walker advised, still smiling.  "After all, it's Friday the 13th."

    Shuddering, Jimmy said,  "Don't remind me, man!"

    They spent an uneventful morning watching their target, passing time in quiet conversation over past and present cases.  Or in companionable silence.

    Late in the morning, Walker checked his watch.  Nearly noon.  Good time for a break.

    "Trivette, why don't you take over watching for awhile?  I'm going to stretch my legs, get us something to eat for lunch."

    "Sounds good to me, man."  Trivette rubbed his stomach.  He hadn't taken time for breakfast, and his body was protesting.  Digging into a pocket, he pulled out a ten-dollar bill, handing it to his partner.  "Where're you going?"

    After considering a moment, Walker answered,  "There's a deli about a block east.  That sound okay?"

    "Yeah.  I'll take an egg salad sandwich on whole wheat and a garden salad with oil and vinegar on the side."  Totally engrossed in his study of the apartment across the street, Jimmy missed his partner's amused head shake.

    "Think I'll have pastrami on rye with extra mayo, macaroni salad and maybe a couple pastries,"  he mused, waiting for the inevitable reaction.  It didn't take long.

    "Walker, how many times do I have to tell you, man?  That stuff's gonna clog your arteries!  One of these days--"  Trivette cut off when he heard his partner's laughter.

    "Sure, sure,"  the older man agreed.  "That's if I survive being partnered with you!"

    "Mean."  Jimmy shook his head.  "You're mean, Walker."

    "Yup."  With that, Walker headed for the door.  "Keep your eyes open.  I'll be back shortly."

    Walker had gotten about four buildings down when he noticed the gray cat keeping stride across the street.  Despite his levity to Trivette, he felt a chill run through him.  Stepping up his pace, he made it to the deli in just a few minutes and had his order placed and paid for in another ten minutes.  When he exited the small shop, he noticed the cat pacing back and forth, tail swishing.

    "Keeping tabs on me, eh?  Well, come on, fella.  Let's get back to your other charge."  Walker couldn't be sure if the cat heard from across the street, but its meow carried clearly.  Taking several steps, it then looked back to see if he followed.  When the Ranger didn't move, the cat meowed again.  Blinking, Walker headed back in the direction of their stakeout building.  

    There didn't appear to be anything out of the ordinary as the Ranger let himself into the building and climbed the stairs to the apartment.  Trivette opened the door after the coded knock they'd worked out, taking the deli bag from his partner with anticipation.

    "Man, I'm starved!"  He set the food out on the small card table.

    "Any movement over there?"  Walker grabbed two glasses from a cabinet and a bottle of soda pop from the refrigerator before returning to the living room.

    "Not even a cockroach.  I'm beginning to think Sal gave us the wrong information,"  Trivette groused.  

    "No, he knows what happens if he doesn't come through,"  the older man disagreed.  

    "I hope you're right."  Jimmy bit into his sandwich with gusto.

    Both men spent the next twenty minutes appeasing their appetites, keeping half an eye on their target.  Walker cleared the remains of the meal away, then stretched out on the sofa.

    "Why don't you get some shuteye?"  Trivette suggested, knowing his partner had been up early.  "I'll wake you up in a couple hours, or if something happens."

    Walker nodded.  He didn't feel especially tired, but knew the value of grabbing sleep where he could.  Making himself comfortable, he settled his hat over his eyes to keep out the light and within minutes soft snores could be heard.

    His partner soon found that a full stomach and too little sleep the night before were combining to make him drowsy.  Climbing to his feet, he stood resting against the window frame, out of sight.  How long Trivette kept that position he didn't know, but a cat's sharp yowl caught his attention.  Another cat?  Or one of his earlier visitors?  He searched the street below, seeing no feline.  But...  His heart pounded in anticipation.

    "Walker,"  he called quietly, moving to the monitoring equipment.  "Corry's heading in."

    The older Ranger snapped alert immediately, pushing to his feet and taking up the window post.  His partner slipped on headphones, turning on the listening device.

    Five minutes later, they had the phony exchange on tape with enough evidence to build a case against the counterfeiters.

    "Let's nail 'em,"  Trivette suggested, drawing his gun and checking the clip.

    "Okay.  Just remember, Corry's desperate to avoid jail,"  Walker cautioned.  "He's going to run the minute he sees either one of us."

    "Great,"  Jimmy muttered, remembering his new boots.

    "I'll go in the front, you take the back."  Walker pulled out his revolved, checking the load.

    "Give me sixty seconds before you go in,"  Trivette requested.

    His partner nodded and together they headed for the street.

    Normally a minute would have been plenty of time for Trivette to get into place.  He hadn't counted on the blisters from his new boots, though.

    "Damn!  If we lose Corry because of my boots, Walker's never gonna let me live it down!"  Trivette muttered as he limped down the alley.  He was two houses away when Neil Corry crashed through the gate, gun in hand.  Catching sight of the Ranger, he fired a shot at Trivette before running in the other direction.

    "Damnit, Corry!  Don't make me run after you.  You know I'm gonna catch you!"  Trying to ignore the pain in his feet, Trivette took off after the suspect.  He knew Walker would be circling the other way, but didn't want his partner to catch Corry first.  Walker had an eerie habit of being in the right place at the right time.  Usually just after Jimmy had expended tremendous amounts of energy running a suspect down.

    He turned the alley corner with a sinking feeling.  No sign of Corry.  Turning to search the opposite direction showed equally empty streets.  A muffled curse and a cat's spitting hiss from an open garage just around the corner made Trivette grin.  The grin widened when a sneeze issued from the same place.  He remembered reading in Corry's file that the thief had an allergy to cats.  Poetic justice, perhaps?

    Limping to the doorway, he pulled his gun.  Counting to three, he yelled,  "I know you're in there, Corry, I can hear you sneeze.  Throw out the gun and come out with your hands on your head!"  When he got no response, he snapped,  "Now!"

    Hearing sounds of movement, Trivette prepared himself.  When his quarry didn't appear, he cautiously peered around the doorway in time to see Corry slipping out a back door.  Shaking his head in disgust, he bit his lip and took off after him.  It turned into a short pursuit when a white cat with grey markings dropped down on Corry from the roof of a nearby shed.

    The smuggler howled as the claws sunk into his scalp and neck.  He dropped to his knees, rolling in an effort to dislodge the creature.  It worked, but in the next instant he felt the cold steel of a gun against his neck.

    "You even twitch the wrong way and I'll pull this trigger,"  Jimmy threatened.  He looked up to find the cat sitting a few feet away, calmly licking its right front paw.  Feeling slightly foolish, he nevertheless winked at it, then said,  "Thanks."

    It left off cleaning the paw to stare at him, tail slashing back and forth.  If Trivette didn't know better, he'd swear it understood him.

    He cuffed Corry, then dragged him to his feet.  "Let's go, Corry.  You've got some explaining to do."

    At that moment, Walker stepped through the garage, puffing slightly.  Bending over to rest hands on knees, he looked up at his partner and their suspect before noting the cat, now returned to licking its paws.

    "Good... work,"  the older Ranger finally managed.

    "Yeah.  I had a little help, though.  Took you long enough to get here,"  Trivette said mildly, grinning from ear to ear.  Walker's daunting look didn't stop him.  "You're puffin' pretty hard, there, partner.  Maybe you should lay off those pastries for awhile."

    "Hah, hah."  Walker straightened, asking,  "And what's this about a little help?"

    "I'd have got away clean if it hadn't been for that stinkin' cat,"  Corry muttered, shooting a black glare at the feline, who bristled and hissed in return, batting the air in challenge.

    "Y'know, today has changed my whole outlook on cats,"  Trivette mused as they walked out of the alley.  "Maybe I should think about getting one.  What d'you think?"

    "They do seem to bring you luck,"  Walker returned.  "You made it through Friday the 13th with their help, that's for sure."

    "Yeah.  I think I'll check out the rescue shelter tomorrow."

    "You're a real Samaritan, Ranger,"  Corry sneered.

    Trivette considered their prisoner.  "Maybe you should try a pet sometime, Corry.  Adds a whole new dimension to your existence."  Then, he tacked on,  "Of course, where you're going, pets will be a little hard to come by.  Maybe a snake.  Or a lizard.  Something you can keep in the exercise yard."

    Both Rangers grinned at Corry's predictable response.

    Corry had been booked, the reports turned in to their captain, and the partners had decided to stop by C.D.'s for a drink in celebration of a case closed.

    "Why don't you leave your car here?"  Walker suggested.  "I'll pick you up in the morning."

    "Sounds good,"  Trivette agreed.  His feet hurt with a vengeance now, and driving would only make it worse.  "But let's stop by my place so I can switch to sneakers, okay?"

    "Thought you said the lace broke?"

    "It did, but who says I gotta tie them?"

    Shrugging, the older man replied,  "It's your neck."

    Trivette found himself checking for the black cat as he limped down his hallway.  Fortunately, Walker didn't seem to have noticed.  He let them into the apartment, saying,  "Make yourself comfortable.  I'll be out in a minute."  Stepping into the bedroom, he howled,  "I can't believe this!  This isn't happening to me!"

    Walker joined his partner in the doorway, trying to figure out the source of Trivette's distress.  Then he saw it.  And started laughing.  Somehow a black cat had managed to get in.  A very pregnant black cat.  And she'd delivered her litter of five kittens already.  "Guess this is your lucky day.  Dad!"

    "But... but that's my bed!  And look!  She's layin' on my brand new pajamas!"  Trivette pointed at the spectacle on his bed, growing even more agitated.

    "Calm down, Trivette.  I'm sure you'll be able to move her soon."  Walker couldn't keep from grinning.  "Say in a month or so."

    "A month!  Where the hell am I supposed to sleep until then?"  

    "The floor?"  his partner suggested.

    "You're enjoying this,"  Jimmy accused.

    "I'm not."

    "Are too."

    "Am not."  The older man broke off, aware they could keep this up indefinitely.  "Besides, I warned you to be careful what you said.  You didn't listen.  As usual."

    "Why d'you always have to be right?"  Trivette groaned, hanging his head in defeat.

    "'Cause I'm part Cherokee?"  Walker guessed.

    "One of these days..."  The younger man let the threat hang.  "And the next time there's a Friday the 13th, I'm not gettin' out of bed!"

    “Think you’ll have one by then?”  his partner asked.

    “Walker, don’t even joke about it. This isn’t funny!”

    “Look on the bright side,”  the other man suggested.

    “What bright side?”

    “She could’ve picked your bathtub!”

    “Oh, my God.  You don’t think--”  Trivette’s eyes widened, and before Walker could say anything further, the younger man dashed into his bathroom.

    His partner followed at a slower pace, shaking his head.  Sometimes Trivette’s own suspicious nature made him his own worst enemy.  If Walker planned it right, he might just be able to ensure that the next Friday the 13th proved as memorable.

Walker Texas Ranger and its characters belong to CBS Inc., Top Kick Productions and maybe other copyright holders. This story and the author is in no way connected to those copyright holders and intends no infringement on their copyrights. The story is only meant as an entertaining tribute to a great show and its actors.

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