Thief in the Night
The moon lit the waters of Port Mews, turning the waves silver. Sailing ships, their lamps long put out, were now dark shapes that bobbed up and down where they lay at anchor. Past them, the town too was dark. The only light was a dull glow from the watchtower near the castle that loomed over the city. There guard-cats stood on watch, protecting the king of Catland and his nobles where they lay sleeping in their beds. Otherwise, all the city was quiet.
Down at the docks stirred two dark shapes wrapped in cloaks. They hunched down by the pier, the taller of the two pointing out across the dock at the largest, most impressive ship.
“There she be. The Killer Whale. One of the finest vessels to sail the seven seas.”
“I’ve heard she has a new name now,” the other figure said. “The Calico Avenger. And what’s more, a new captain and crew.”
“That won’t matter,” said the first. “The map will still be there.”
“You mean you hope it’s still there. But don’t worry; if it is, I’ll find it.”
And with that the second cloaked figure moved out across the dock, a low shadow stooped against the ground. It zigzagged from post to post until it reached the end of the dock. The Calico Avenger had her gangplank drawn up, but the thief took out a grappling hook on a long cord. No one aboard the ship heard it clink as it hit the railing, or saw the thief climb aboard, paw over paw.
Out at sea the night watch would be awake on the decks, keeping the ship’s course true, but here in the safety of the docks everyone was sound asleep in their bunks. The thief swung over the railing, landing on soft padded feet on the deck. Then the thief crept forward to the captain’s cabin and pressed an ear to the door.
Soft snores came from within. The thief eased open the door. At the far end of the cabin were two bunks, one on top of the other. Captain Calico Patrick slept in the bottom one; his first mate Nathanial, usually known as Natty, was in the top. The thief tip-pawed into the room. The floor creaked and Natty stirred, one paw hanging over the edge of his bunk. The thief froze, waiting until Natty’s breathing returned to normal.
The thief moved over to the cupboards on the far side and opened the third one on the right, then started to remove the items silently. A candlestick, however, was jostled free, and fell to the floor with a clatter.
Natty sat up at the noise, rubbing his eyes. He was used to the motion of the ship at sea knocking things over, but the ship was still. He blinked, his eyes blurry, and stared at the dark shape across the room. “Patrick?”
Something glinted in the moonlight and hissed through the air. Natty was thrown backwards as something sharp and painful dug into his shoulder. He cried out, reaching up with his other paw to touch it. A knife was lodged there. The realization made his head spin, and he mewed pitifully.
Patrick woke up at Natty’s cry, just in time to see something, someone dash across the cabin. He jumped out of bed and lunged at the intruder, catching the thief by the hind paw. He tried to hold on, but the thief stomped down hard, hurting his paw and forcing it open. The thief pulled free and burst out onto the deck.
“Stop! Intruder! Intruder on the ship!” yelled Patrick, scrambling to his feet. He rushed out of the cabin.
All he could see was the dark, hooded form bounding away from him. He dashed after it. Some of the ship’s crew came running, but none of them were fast enough. The thief dived over the side of the ship. They heard a splash, but by the time they reached the railing the thief had vanished.
“Natty!” Patrick remembered his brother and rushed back to the cabin.
Natty lay on the bed, his breathing rough and painful. “Got a knife in my sh-shoulder,” mewed the kitten.
Patrick wasn’t sure what to do. The sight of the knife and the blood scared him. Still, he didn’t want his brother to know, so he carefully lifted him down from the bunk. “Quick! Someone help! Natty’s been wounded.”
Armando the raccoon came in with a lantern. “I’ve called Tat, he knows about injuries.”
The older cat was there quickly. He pulled back Natty’s nightshirt to look at the wound.
“It hurts,” mewed Natty.
“Don’t worry, young one,” said Tat. “It’s not too deep. It’ll mend in no time. Just clench your teeth and be brave while I get this out.”
Patrick stayed close, holding his brother’s paw on his unwounded side. “You can do it.”
Natty bravely nodded.
Tat got a bandage ready, then slowly counted to three and yanked out the knife.
Natty screamed and squeezed Patrick’s paw so hard he pricked him with his claws, but Patrick just stayed close, purring to encourage his brother.
“You’ll be okay,” Patrick promised.
Natty took a deep breath. It hurt less now that it was over with and Tat was bandaging his shoulder. He hoped it would heal quickly. When Tat was done, Natty let Patrick help him to sit up and carefully touched the bandage with a paw.
“You’ll need lots of rest. Try not to use your arm if you can help it,” said Tat.
Armando was picking up the things the thief had dropped and putting them back in the cupboard. “Well, the intruder certainly made a mess. The question is, what was he after?”
“And did he get it or not?” mused Tat.
“Well, I’m going to find out,” said Patrick. “No one breaks into my ship and hurts my brother and gets away with it! I’m going to the city watch first thing in the morning.”