Author's note: Brenda's POV. This is a rather sad story, as it deals with Kitty's death. Grab some Kleenex before you start reading.
Elegy, Part 1
I never guessed that this would break my heart.
Sure, I've had my heart broken before, usually by men I shouldn't have dated in the first place. And I was heartbroken when my beloved Grandma Anna died. I felt my heart crack when I saw my father collapsed by the elevators at Parker Center, sure he was going to die before I had the chance to tell him how much I loved him. But no one ever told me my heart would shatter in a million shards the night Kitty died.
The funny thing is, I never wanted Kitty in the first place. After I examined Zoya Petrovna's house for clues to her identity, I called the Pound to come pick him up, thinking I was being magnanimous to care about this cat starving to death while I was in the middle of a homicide investigation. But when I bought that house and was showing it to Fritz, guess who darted across the floor? Kitty. I was so mad that the Pound never responded to my call. Looking back, I see it was fate. Not that I really believe in fate or any such nonsense like that, but seeing how much I grew to love Kitty, I am very grateful for whatever happened that resulted in Kitty not being taken away. I even reached toward the phone that day, ready to call Animal Patrol and yell at them for leaving this mangy beast in my new house, but right before I started dialing the number I looked over at Kitty, and saw him sitting on his haunches, staring at me, like he knew something I didn't. It suddenly occurred to me that he was the only witness to Zoya's brutal murder. He had to watch his beloved mistress being used by men day after day, and then witnessed her death at Nick Koslov's hands. As strange as it sounds, at that moment I wished desperately that I could interrogate Kitty. Locked behind those green eyes were secrets, secrets I would never know. And that both bothered and intrigued me. I hung up the phone slowly, still looking at Kitty, and I could have sworn I saw a smile on his face.
Kitty and I formed an uneasy alliance those first few weeks we lived together. He followed me around but never got too close, and I refused to think of him as anything more than a roommate. It wasn't until I was curled up on my bed one night, crying over the murder of a 13-year-old girl and my decision to abandon the perp in a Mexican prison, that Kitty got close to me. He jumped up on the bed and looked at me for a second, as if he were deciding something, and then walked toward me and laid down next to me. Kitty's warm, soft body pressed against me, and he licked my hand a few times. I slowly moved one arm and wrapped it around him, and he immediately scooted closer to me so he was flush against my chest, his chin resting on my shoulder. It surprised me that I felt soothed by this small beast, and having him snuggling against me made my choking tears slow and eventually stop. I tentatively reached out and petted his soft fur, and he purred. I knew that cats purred when they were happy—was I really making him happy? Were we really making each other happy? It seemed so silly to me, so clichéd, but I couldn't ignore what I was feeling. Comfort, and something that felt a little bit like love. I didn't believe then that animals were capable of love—in fact, I wasn't sure I was capable of love—but I switched off my analytical mind and just enjoyed the feeling of the two of us being close. I fell asleep cuddling Kitty, and I woke up in the middle of the night with Kitty sitting on my head, his paws rhythmically kneading my scalp. I picked him up gently, surprised he didn't run away, and sat him on the bed next to me. He immediately crawled on top of my chest and began to purr. I didn't appreciate his weight on me, since he wasn't exactly a tiny puss, but the rumblings of his purrs reverberated through my ribcage and into my lungs, and it lulled me back to sleep.
After that, it was as if we had signed a truce. I started to look forward to coming home at night, knowing he would greet me at the door. He started to sleep with me, or really on me, every night, even when Fritz was over. When I sat down on the couch, he would immediately jump into my lap. The only thing he did that annoyed the stuffing out of me was jumping on top of my case files when I was working from home, knocking them to the ground or covering up whatever I had to read. I would scold his and remove him from the table, but he would jump right back up. He had tenacity, I had to hand him that. But after like the millionth time, I lost it and yelled at him, saying "if you can't stay off my files I am locking you in the bathroom, do you hear me?" Kitty looked at me from the floor, and then gracefully jumped up on the table. But this time, he curled up on the one spot free of papers and files. I know cats can't really understand English, but it seemed like he figured out the way to stop annoying me, and yet still share the table, was to find the one spot I had yet to throw paperwork on. He looked at me smugly, and I sat back down to work. I have to admit that it made the paperwork go easier, to look up and see this little being purring and watching me. It made me feel less lonely, less like I was going to be sucked into the vortex of human misery from the murders I was investigating. Kitty anchored me to this world, reminding me that there may be incredible cruelty in the world, but there are wonderful things like sunbeams and catnip.
Fritz, of course, reminded me of this too. Well, maybe not so much about catnip. But just like Kitty, I didn't want Fritz hanging around me either. Although I didn't contact Animal Control to come and remove him, I did everything else I could to push him away. Broken date after broken date, and yet he still kept coming around, like a stray who needed to be fed. Finally, at what must have been one broken dates too many, he wanted to give up on trying to be my boyfriend and "just be friends." I've been around long enough to know that's mancode for "see you later." And just like I hung up the phone when I tried to get rid of Kitty, I bailed on my plans to make him leave. I pulled Fritz toward me and gave him a very intense, deep kiss, which he returned with equal fervor. If it wasn't for Gabriel's phone call, I don't think things would have ended in just a kiss. As it was, two nights later Fritz ended up spending the night, and I knew I had another Kitty on my hands. He too liked to curl up in my bed, but at least he didn't sleep on my head, and I was grateful for that. Kitty seemed to resent Fritz's intrusion at first, but then seemed to be swayed by his charms, like everyone is. Kitty even begrudgingly shared the bed with him, sleeping on my stomach or sandwiched between Fritz and me. Since I didn't like to leave Kitty alone in the evenings, I made Fritz come over to my house when we got together. I think I saw the inside of his condo about three times, total. Fritz didn't mind, being his good-natured self, and even though I denied I wanted us to stay at my house so that Kitty wouldn't be lonely, he just smiled and nodded his head knowingly. After all, I had to keep up my reputation as a hard a$s, and if it got out that I was all mushy with my cat, I might never live it down.
Poor Fritz. For all his kindness toward Kitty, he bore the brunt of my wrath when Kitty ran away. I wasn't really mad at him all that much for leaving the door open, but I was hurt Kitty would leave me like that. I gave him food, I petted him, I allowed him to claw my favorite chair almost to shreds. Why would he abandon me like that? What did I do wrong? I took my hurt out on Fritz, but as usual, he saw through me. We were in the middle of a joint FBI-LAPD investigation where there was immense pressure on me to solve the murder of a protected witness's wife, and normally I wouldn't leave Parker Center until the crime was solved. But I just had to go home and see if Kitty came back to me. I made some lame excuse, and Fritz called me on it. I hated it that he knew me so well, I really did. We went home and Kitty was nowhere to be found, and as Fritz created a "missing" flier on the computer, I started crying. What if Kitty never came back? Maybe he found someone who loves him more than me. I berated myself for acting like a schoolgirl in front of Fritz: me, crying over a cat, for heaven's sake! As my eyes filled with tears at these thoughts, Fritz pulled me on his lap and said softly, "loving kitty isn't wrong." And as if on cue, I look over and saw Kitty sneaking through the open door and heading toward his food bowl. I tip-toed behind him and closed the door, relief flooding through me. I had my friend back. I scolded him, hoping he would understand my worry and not pull that again, but I was too awash with relief to be angry, at him or Fritz. When Fritz answered my phone using his sexy voice, and found out we didn't need to be back at Parker Center for two hours, I knew exactly how I wanted to celebrate the return of my prodigal feline.
I was asked repeatedly how I didn't know Kitty was pregnant. Looking back, I smack my forehead at my own stupidity. I did notice he was getting fatter, and I tried to cut back on his food, but he meowed incessantly until I gave him the usual amount, and a little bit more. It wasn't until I woke up to respond to a call before dawn and found him missing from my bed that it occurred to me something was amiss. I found him in my laundry basket, laying on clothes I hadn't had the time to put away yet. At first I thought he peed on my clothes, but then realized that he was leaking some fluid. I didn't want to leave him if he was sick, but I knew I had to take him to the vet's. I reached under him and pulled out a pillow case from my favorite set, and since I hadn't bought a cat carrier yet, I put Kitty in the pillow case and took him to the crime scene. This raised a lot of eyebrows, but I was used to people thinking I was a wackadoodle. I was too worried to focus on the crime scene, and Sgt. Gabriel saw that immediately and called over the ME's assistant, Terrence, who promised to take Kitty to the vet for me. It felt horrible, handing my Kitty over to a complete stranger when he was sick, but I had a dead young man and his traumatized partner to think about. I told myself that if Kitty was dying I could deal with that; after all, I had lived 39 years without a cat, and I could certainly do it again. Still, my stomach twisted in a knot as I watched Terrence carry him away.
Later that night, when Terrence announced that Kitty had made medical history, I thought he was telling me he died. When Terrence went on to explain that Kitty had kittens, I couldn't believe it. Kittens? I always thought Kitty was a boy. I just went from owning one cat to owning seven? Oh shoot, I thought, I am now one of those crazy cat ladies. But when Fritz went to pick up Kitty from the vet's that night, along with his brood, I couldn't get over how adorable the kittens were. They were small, almost the size of mice, but they had the cutest little "mews" I had ever heard. I spent half the night making them comfortable beds in the bathroom, and put plenty of food and water down for Kitty. I really didn't know about cats, but I think that women who breastfeed have to consume more calories, and since Kitty was nursing six little ones, I figured that same was true for him.
Since I couldn't leave the kittens alone during the day, I brought Kitty and company to work with me for weeks. Again, I ignored people's strange looks. What was I supposed to do, anyways? When they were eight weeks old, Fritz prodded me to start looking for homes for them. He was going to adopt one of them himself, but we agreed that he was over at my place too much to give a kitten the attention it needed. As much as I didn't want seven cats in my house, the idea of giving them away truly pained me. I put it on Kitty, saying that Kitty will be so upset to lose his babies, but I knew that wasn't true. I read in one of the cat books my momma sent me that female cats don't really care too much when their kittens are taken away, as long as they are no longer nursing. Since I wasn't doing much to find them new homes, Fritz sent out an e-mail to his FBI colleagues and various friends. At first I interrogated each potential owner who came to my house: is your home catproof? How much time will you spend with the kitten? Will you buy good food or just the cheap stuff you can get at the grocery store? Fritz finally pulled me aside and told me that I was intimidating potential adoptees, and he knew all of them and could attest that they were stable, normal people who would care for Kitty's kittens. So one by one, the little fluffmongers went to new homes, and it was back to just Kitty and me.
Honestly, I wasn't much quicker on picking up that Kitty was sick. It was Fritz, actually, who noticed that he wasn't eating and his use of the litterbox had greatly increased over the previous weeks. If I was honest with myself I would have to admit that I saw these things too, but I didn't want to believe anything could be wrong. The vet estimated that Kitty was probably about eight years old, and since cats can live to 18, he was a long time away from dying, so he couldn't possibly be sick. It was Fritz, sweet Fritz, who took the initiative to get Kitty checked out. Even though I insisted he was fine and I could get him to eat (because he loved me better than Fritz), he took time out of his hectic schedule to come home and check on Kitty at lunchtime, and then, without me around to protest, he took him to the vet's. Fritz was the one who had to tell me Kitty was quite sick, his kidneys were failing, and when he came home we would have to give him IV fluids. I convinced myself he was getting better, and went as far as lying to Fritz so he wouldn't know Kitty was throwing up regularly. I know that was silly, but I desperately hoped for a Folie à Deux, a shared madness, so he would believe Kitty was getting better too.
Since I seemed to have developed an aversion to the vets office, Fritz again took Kitty in for a follow up appointment. I tried not to think about that as I was sparring with Captain Raydor over the shooting Gabriel was involved in. Fritz called me right after I had interviewed the suspect and told me, in his usual patient way, that the vet said Kitty wasn't getting better and that the most humane option was to put him down. Fritz didn't actually say "put down," because he knows me well enough to realize such a harsh term would make me cry harder than I already was. I reacted like I'm sure he expected: demanding a second opinion, insisting that Kitty was going to get better, on and on. I needed to drown out Fritz's gentle truth: Kitty had loved me well and brought such joy to my life that I owe him a gentle passing. I couldn't hear that, not at all, so I hung up on the phone, wiped the tears from my eyes, and dove head-first into LAPD politics. In this arena there was no need for feelings, only tactics and toughness, and I was relieved to return to my role as Deputy Chief, where I was a bitch that had no feelings.
Driving home that night, the mask of Chief slipped away, and Fritz's words returned to me, unbidden. Kitty had been such a loyal companion to me for four years. He loved me even though I wasn't his owner, and didn't treat him very well in the beginning. He loved me when I came home late, or not at all. He loved me when Fritz moved in and became a permanent fixture in my life. It dawned on me then that Kitty had primed my heart to open up to Fritz. As strange as it sounds, it felt true. Kitty taught me about acceptance and unconditional love, about the power of loyalty, and, against everything I believed in, letting someone into your life and letting them to be there for you makes you a better person. Even though Kitty was always curling himself on my lap or massaging my scalp in the middle of the night, that paled in comparison with Fritz's unflagging devotion and patience. I realized one thing: they both loved me as much as they could, with their whole beings. How did I get so lucky to have both Kitty and Fritz care for me like this? Tears pricked my eyes again and I let them roll down my cheeks, not bothering to wipe them off. And I knew that my determination to keep Kitty alive was about me not wanting to lose that affection, or to have a gaping hole in my life. I cared more about the change it would bring to my life than about Kitty's suffering. A tidal wave of shame broke over me, and I pulled the car over because I could no longer see clearly through the tears.
I knew what I had to do. I took out my cell phone and hit the vet's phone number, which Fritz had programmed in, as if he knew it would happen this way. When Dr. Fleming came to the phone, I explained what I needed, barely able to get the words out. Her kind, reassuring words were of little comfort, but she agreed to come over in an hour and do, I finally admitted, what had to be done.
Kitty was sitting on an old blanket on the couch when I came home. He hadn't run to the door to greet me for a couple of weeks, but now I could tell from looking at him that he was even too sick to walk. Fritz told me he had found someone to stay with Kitty during the day. He was willing to go along with my delusion, even if that meant paying someone to stay with Kitty. Fritz's arrangements only confirmed my insight that I was keeping Kitty alive for my own selfish reasons. Such a good man, Fritz is. He has a heart as big as the ocean, and I am lucky to have him.
I told Fritz about my decision, and he held me. Instinctively, he gave me a few moments alone with Kitty, and convinced by now he understood me perfectly, I told Kitty I loved him and thanked him for loving me back. And what was to come when Dr. Fleming arrived was a compassionate act, even though he might not understand. My tears had evolved into sobbing, and Fritz returned with a Kleenex box in his hand, which he handed me on the way to the door. Dr. was Fleming had arrived. It was time.
Dr. Fleming is a plump 50-something woman with a pleasant face and an obvious love for the animals she cares for. When she entered the apartment and saw what a wreck I was, she walked over and placed her hand on mine. "Brenda, I'm so sorry," she said softly. "I know Kitty is a very special cat. But you are doing the right thing, I promise you." I nodded, unable to speak. She turned to Fritz and said, "did you both have a chance to say goodbye?" I nodded again, and Fritz said, "I spent the day with her, so yes, I think I have."
Dr. Fleming looked at me. "So this is what is going to happen. I am going to put a small needle in Kitty's vein and inject a narcotic, something that's similar to morphine. To her, it will simply feel like she's going to sleep. Except for the needle puncture, she won't feel any pain at all, I promise."
Neither Fritz or I said anything. I looked at him and saw that he, too, had wet eyes.
"Where would you like to do this?" Dr. Fleming asked gently.
"My lap," I managed to say. I reached over and gently picked up Kitty, surprised by how much lighter he felt. When I placed him down on my lap he curled up just like he always did, and looked up at me with large green trusting eyes. I felt like my heart was being ripped out.
Dr. Fleming pulled a small syringe out of her bag and once again looked at both Fritz and me. "Would either of you like to say something before I start?" she asked. It hadn't even occurred to me that we should give Kitty last rites of sorts. Fritz cleared his throat.
"I don't remember this poem perfectly, but I think I have the gist of the verses that are cat-related." He cleared his throat again, and I saw that he had tear tracks on his face.
"For I will consider my cat Jeoffry.
For he is the servant of the Universe.
Duly and daily serving it.
For at the first glance
Of the glory in the East
He worships in his way.
For this is done by wreathing his body
Seven times round with elegant quickness.
For God has bless'd him
In the variety of his movements.
For there is nothing sweeter
Than his peace when at rest.
For I am possessed of a cat,
Surpassing in beauty,
From whom I take occasion
To bless the Universe."*
I stared at Fritz, amazed that he could recite such sweet poetry so easily. He shrugged. "I Minored in English," he said, answering my silent question.
"That was beautiful, Fritz," Dr. Fleming said. "When we are done you will have to let me know who wrote that. Some people might appreciate hearing it when in this same situation." Fritz smiled.
"Are you ready," Dr. Fleming said. I answered by pulling Kitty tighter to me, but Fritz let out a barely audible "yes." Dr. Fleming leaned over Kitty, gently moving my hand so she could take hold of Kitty's hind leg. After fighting her way through fur to the skin and rubbing it for awhile, I could see that she found a vein. She reached for the syringe on the coffee table and uncapped it. As she leaned back down to Kitty, she looked at me deeply, compassion flowing from her eyes. She looked down at Kitty and stuck the needle in the waiting vein. Kitty started at the prick, but not much, which told me he must really be sick if a needle didn't bother him. Dr Fleming slowly pushed the syringe down, and Kitty closed her eyes. Before all the medication had been injected, Kitty was completely still. He was gone.
A great, tearing sob ripped out of my lungs, and I could almost feel the cracks in my heart. Fritz scooted closer to me and put his arms around me, gently rocking me and whispering comforting words in my ear. He reached out and placed his hand on Kitty, and the three of us stayed like that, the humans crying and the cat already gone, for what seemed like a very long time.
When Kitty's body began to get cold, I knew it was time to let go. I didn't want to remember him cold and stiff; I wanted to remember how warm he felt on a chilly night, how his fur tickled my nose when I hugged him, what fun he had chasing a catnip mouse across the living room. I looked up to Dr. Fleming, who was in the living room. "What now?" I asked, my voice hoarse from my sobs.
"I can take him with me and have him cremated. Is that what you want?"
"Yes," I said quickly. We didn't have any place to bury him, and idea of just disposing of his body like trash was blasphemous.
"Honey, when we buy a house and get a yard, we can bury Kitty's ashes, maybe get a nice plaque or something to mark his grave." Despite my bleeding heart, I smiled at Fritz. It comforted me to know Kitty would get a proper burial with a headstone of sorts. That way, he would still feel real, still tethered somewhat to the earth. I couldn't stand the idea of it feeling like Kitty never existed.
Silently asking my permission, Dr. Fleming leaned down and picked up Kitty, wrapping him in a blanket she pulled from her black bag. "Our office will call you when his ashes are ready to be picked up, probably in a few days," she said.
"Thank you, Doctor, thank you so much. This was so much kinder to Kitty than bringing him into your office. She was nice and comfortable here," I said. Fritz contributed his own thank you.
Dr. Fleming smiled sadly. "I was happy to do it. Now I want you two to take care of yourselves, especially you, Brenda. You are grieving, and that grief is as real as it would be if you were mourning a friend or family member. People without pets don't understand that, so ignore any insensitive comments. You know Kitty was part of your family, so give yourself the space to really mourn her death." Instead of saying anything, I surprised myself by throwing my arms around Dr. Fleming's neck, careful not to disturb Kitty in her arms. "I will," I said, thinking that taking a couple of days off might not be a bad idea. I usually like to bury any emotional unpleasantness in my work, but it almost felt…disrespectful to continue with my routine after Kitty died. I wanted the world to be altered somehow, in acknowledgement of his death. Dr. Fleming turned and let herself out of the apartment.
I suddenly felt exhausted, as if my legs wouldn't hold me up much longer. I turned to Fritz, who already had his arms extended, and I collapsed into them. He held me tight and I buried my face in his chest as he stroked my hair. He didn't say anything; he didn't need to. His tears told me he ached as much as I did. Oh Kitty, I thought to myself, you were so amazing you even brought a tough FBI agent to tears.
"Can I make you dinner?" Fritz whispered in my ear. I shoot my head no. "I think I just want to go to bed, Fritz, I'm so tired." I pulled myself away from him.
He sighed. "I'll join you," he said, looking as tired as I felt. He took my hand and led me into our bedroom. He reached into the middle drawer of my bureau and pulled out a nightgown and handed it to me. It didn't escape my notice that he bypassed my red cat pajamas my momma bought me for Christmas in honor of Kitty. I changed into my nightgown and mechanically brushed my teeth. My brain was slowly shutting down; I was swimming through a thick, viscous sadness that didn't allow me to breathe. I pulled down the covers and fell into bed gratefully, hoping sleep will take me away from this horrible feeling.
Fritz crawled in next to me and pulled me close to him so he could spoon me. His lean warmth against my back was comforting, and I felt myself begin to lose my hold on wakefulness. Just as I was slipping away, I heard a faint noise coming from the living room, like a small high-pitched bell. I recognized the sound immediately. I had bought Kitty a toy ball that had a jingle bell in the middle, and he loved it so much I had to take it away from him periodically because the sound was driving me crazy. And now I was wide awake hearing it, like I had a thousand times before, on the night Kitty died. I lay still and continued to listen to the cat toy. Fritz will think I have gone crazy, I thought, but I had to know if it was just me. I whispered, "Fritz?"
He pulled me closer, and I could feel his rapid heartbeat against my back. Fritz said softly, "It's okay Brenda, I hear it too."
*This is a modified excerpt of a poem entitled "Rejoice in the Lamb" by Christopher Smart.
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