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Sheep's Clothing


From his hiding place behind the bogus potted palm, Rayce watched Eleanor Durbin approach her apartment door and thought, what a dog. Unfortunately, Miss Durbin had inherited her father's looks—receding, hairline, concave chest, and all. But as well, fortunately, she'd inherited his money.


I can stand it for a few days, Rayce told himself. A week tops.


And as the lady reached a jeweled and fur-laden arm toward the door lock, Rayce leaped in front of her. "Meow," he said.


She didn't kick him, which was always a good sign. So he went into his helpless-homeless-hungry act.


"What a sweet kitten. However did you get all the way up here to the 20th floor? Where is your family? Are you hungry? Are you housebroken?"


Rayce massaged her ankles into the apartment, purring with satisfaction at having found another perfect mark. Preliminary surveillance had assured him there were no pets already in residence. Miss Durbin's only companion was her maid, Marian, whose head inside and out, resembled a feather duster.


Rayce spent the first 24 hours ingratiating himself with his new mistress, buffing her legs, warming her lap, and sleeping on his back with all his vulnerable parts trustingly exposed. When he heard her on the phone, extolling him as softer than mink, with the cutest Charlie Chaplin mustache, Rayce knew he could relax and get down to work.


He located the safe right off, and the first time Miss Durbin used it, he groomed himself beside her, memorizing the combination. He inventoried the silver and estimated how many plastic trash bags it would take. He studied the artwork and decided not to let personal opinion prejudice him against stealing it. He prowled through Miss Durbin's closets, cupboards, cabinets, drawers and chests, and all the while she cooed witticisms, such as curiosity isn't polite, Cat-cums. He loathed that embarrassing name she'd settled on him.


Now it was the fourth day of his residence, a Wednesday. According to Miss Durbin's appointment book, Wednesdays were Maid Marian's night off, and Miss Durban's night to howl. That's what she actually wrote down--night to howl. Rayce had shadowed her three previous Wednesdays, and her howling had consisted of church choir practice.


When she shut him into the laundry room so he wouldn't disgrace himself in her absence, Rayce had to bite his tail to muffle his laughter. He heard the front door slam, and then he thought the incantation that changed his skin from four pounds of appealing kitten to 170 pounds of also appealing human male, from cat to (ta-da!) cat burglar.


Working with the efficiency of experience, Rayce stripped Miss Durbin of her riches, room by room. He was in the bedroom stuffing a satin pillowcase with stocks, bonds, and manufactures' coupons when he heard a gasp, and turned to find Miss Durbin in the doorway, staring at where his tail had been, approximately.


"Ahhh, Lady Durbin. Don't be alarmed by my failure to dress for the occasion—any occasion."


Miss Durbin's attention shifted with unflattering rapidity to his hands. "Mine! Stop!  Thief!  I'll . . .darn . . . .


"Now, now. I'm sure your insurance man will help you pick out lots of new treasures and won't that be fun? Here, sit in this chair while I find us a pretty sash for a tie-down."


"You look familiar," she whined.


"You wouldn't believe me if I told you. Sit, I said. That's a good girl. Now put your wrists together."


"I'll kill you for this," she snarled.


Drapery tie in hands, Rayce leaned over her. "Miss Durbin," he sighed.  "Don't be a bitch."


But she was. For as long as it took, which wasn't long.