Arnold woke up on Thursday Feburary 9th, very groggy, around twenty minutes to five in the Cocoa Java instead of home. He stretched his back, yawned, and fell back to a restful position. He resigned himself to the fact he might need a little coffee. Arnold never liked drinking the dark brown liquid, and not just because he hated the taste. But he would put up with monkeys, impossible tasks, singing, and coffee dependency to come out ahead in the end and complete all their insane tasks.
He showed up at Mumsy’s five minutes before five, and as usual she was already awake. Unfortunately for Arnold, she was in a better mood than usual. More ambition on her part meant more work on his.
“CAT! You’re early. Inconvenient, but acceptable.” She gave him a disturbing, sly grin.
Arnold entered the house and started his report, “Petharic was-“
“Nevermind that scoundrel,” the old woman said. “A surprising development,” she told him, holding up a pile of letters. “Last night an urchin delivered these. They have been tampered with to make one believe that they are inauthentic.” She let them drop onto the table in front of her.
Mumsy pointed intently at Arnold, “I want you to find the urchin that brought them here. Whoever sent him is behind the rumors. Of that, I am certain.”
Arnold frowned, wondering how she would know that for certain, while Mumsy gave him a detailed description of the child down to the way he smelled. When she was finished he shook his head, “They won’t reveal their employers, and even if I swore myself to secrecy they might not make an exception. If they revealed their bosses jobs will dry up around the city for all of them.”
The old woman allowed a knowing smile to creep across her face again, as she pulled a satchel from her pocket and placed it on the table, “Mr. Cat, I do believe you will find that sources will be spilled upon a great enough remuneration.”
The cat stared at the bribe uncomfortably, torn. She was asking him to pay someone to break the Urchin Code… Arnold took comfort in the unlikelihood that the child would accept any bribe at all…until he looked into the container. The kid would have to have at least half the devotion Tepic had to refuse…that made it harder to agree.
Arnold had committed himself to accomplishing every task they set before him no matter how impossible, or how much he hated it. He’d made dozens of sacrifices for that purpose. Besides his health he had also given up time…time that he could have spent learning more about himself, working with Mrs. Lionheart, or finding a way to go back to his people. All of his hard work felt like it would be wasted if he failed or disobeyed now…even a little.
Arnold thought about it rationally for a moment. He was the one who had set himself the goal in the first place, since it wasn’t explicit in their agreement. In fact the agreement had only said that she ‘may’ require him to do perform the tasks, which left him a lot of wriggle room so long as she didn’t absolutely insist. The only thing holding him to this particular standard was his own obsessive and admittedly neurotic mind.
Mumsy stared at Arnold, her eyes beginning to narrow. “What is your delay, Cat?”
Arnold frowned, but didn’t reply. He had to consider the fact that he did owe them…they had taken care of him when he was indisposed in September…then again they had been paid to do that. Would they have done it otherwise?
He tried to think of more reasons he had to be loyal to the urchins as a group, but to his disappointment he couldn’t think of any real reason. While Gil and Gadget may have accepted him into the Vole once or twice, he had never been invited into their circle. While he might lose Tepic and the others respect, he was already an outsider, an adult.
Arnold opened his mouth to say that he would handle it, and nothing came out. He repeated this action several times and then shrugged his shoulders. He couldn’t even bring himself to say that he would do it.
The cat resigned himself to the fact he had failed to meet his original goal. Even if he tracked down the rumor monger some other way, in his mind he had failed. He picked up the letters, and placed the purse back on the table, “I’ll get started right away, but I won’t-”
Arnold stopped talking as his nose detected a sharp scent and his hackles rose. He held the letters closer and sniffed several times to make sure…it was an unmistakable odor that smelled like a wet dog…there was only one person in this city that had this distinct aroma about him… “Victor Mornington sent the letters.”
If Mumsy was surprised by his sudden outburst she hid it very well. “What makes you say that, I’d like to know?”
Arnold handed her the letters. “Victor has a very distinct scent, might have something to do with the goat legs, I don’t know. What I do know is that these letters reek of the man.” Arnold paused and nodded as his conclusion made more and more sense to him. “What’s more we already know his motive. He lost the bet with Emerson. A years worth of Chivas, at even just one bottle a day, might run Victor just under 10,000 in the year. Emerson may end up drinking even more than that.”
Mumsy considered this, and though she kept her thoughts to herself her smile could be described as wicked.
He asked her if she still wanted to talk to the urchin and she answered in the affirmative. He had no problem going out and asking the child to come with him to Mumsy’s home. They both already knew it was Mornington, and he had only himself to blame for failing to cover his scent, not the urchins. The feline believed the man could have dumped an entire bottle of cologne on it and it wouldn’t have masked that odor from his or any other cats nose, but he could have at least tried.
It occurred to Arnold much later that someone might have faked Victors scent, (something he highly doubted was possible without collecting the man’s sweat), but that was after Mumsy already had the urchin in for a chat.