Every morning before breakfast Snaps walked to the cliff behind the house, lay on his stomach like a sphinx, and watched cormorants in the sky and fishing boats on the sea. The birds were looking for food and the fisherman were looking for food, too. Until a stroke of good luck landed him at Conor’s house, Snaps had always been on the prowl for his daily bread. He was never not dreaming scheming about where his next meal was coming from. Now he didn’t have to forage and fight for it. It was in a bowl in the kitchen. Whenever he wanted to eat, he went and ate. If his food or water bowl was empty, all he had to do was find Conor and pester him. It worked like a charm except when Conor was gone God knows where, in which case Snaps had to bide his time.
Biding his time was no problem. He was so good at it he could spend all day doing it. He had heard a farmer say good things come to those who wait when he was a kitten and had adopted the old man’s point-of-view as his own. That was the way he looked at it from them on, even after the farmer did his best to drown him. He never knew what happened to his brothers and sisters, but he clawed his way out of the burlap bag weighted with rocks and swam to shore.
His fur was water repellent enough that he didn’t get waterlogged. He didn’t know how he knew how to paddle, but that is what he did. After he made it to shore, he was on his own. The first year was hard. He almost starved to death. He found an abandoned fox den and lived in it through the winter. There were some scraps of mummified vole left behind. He lived on the occasional mixed-up mouse and old root vegetables. The vegetables gave him diarrhea, but it was better than dying.
When he heard the Conor’s Buick GNX coming up the parkway he stretched and beat feet to the kitchen. He was a hungry hound. After he ate, he would show Conor what he had seen. The householder emptied the clothes washing machine while Snaps ate and hung clothes on a line outside. He had a dryer but didn’t use it when the weather was fair. The breeze and summer sun did the trick better than electricity, anyway.
It took a few minutes of meowing and suggesting, but Snaps finally convinced Conor to follow him. He headed straight for the barn, looking over his shoulder to make sure Conor was getting the message. When he got to where the nighttime man had dug up and buried something, he pointed to the spot with his forepaw, pretended to dig, and backed away. Conor didn’t seem to understand what he was saying, so he repeated the pantomime.
“There’s something there?” Conor asked. Snaps motioned with his nose leather one more time.
“All right,” Conor said, humoring the cat.
When he took a closer look, he realized the dirt was loose. It looked like it was recently loose. He went into the barn and came back with a shovel. Snaps sat on his haunches and watched. It didn’t take long before Conor unearthed a black plastic trash bag. He pulled it out of the ground, puzzled.
“Jesus Christ,” he said under his breath when he looked inside the trash bag. It was full of money, lots of money, more money than he had ever seen in his life. He got on Sandy’s telephone, called the RCMP, asked that JT Markunas call him, and left his name and number. He sat on the porch within earshot of the telephone and waited. It took an hour before JT called him back.
“I’ve got something to show you,” he said.
“What is it?”
“I’ll show you when you get here.”
“I’m over in New London,” he said. “I should be there in a half-hour or so.”
An hour later when JT walked up to his porch Conor pointed to the trash bag.
“Something in there?”
“Something in there, yes.”
“I’m going to assume this isn’t yours,” JT said after looking inside the bag and whistling.
“You would be right about that,” Conor said.
“Where did you find it?”
“Buried beside the barn.”
“In the ground?”
“What made you look there?”
“The cat,” Conor said pointing to Snaps, who was snoozing nearby. “He pointed the spot out to me and more or less said dig there.”
“The less we say about that the better,” Conor said. “I don’t like it any better than you do.”
“So, you dug it up?”
“Can you show me where?”
The two men stood beside the barn and looked down into the foot-and-a-half deep hole.
“Are you thinking the same thing I’m thinking?” Conor asked.
“Yes,” JT said.
He went back to his car and radioed headquarters.
It took another hour before an unmarked police car pulled into the yard and parked behind the barn. Two men in summer clothes got out and waved. They walked up to the porch, and everybody went into the kitchen. Snaps stayed where he was. He had done his part and wasn’t interested in anything that might happen next. He had better things to do.
A half hour later the four men walked out of the kitchen. One of the plainclothes men went to his car, got a backpack, came back, and put the black trash bag inside it. “We are going to come back tonight and bury it where you found it. In the meantime, we will have a man here watching, at least until we get back. If you don’t see him, he’ll be doing his job. We’re hoping the moneyman hasn’t seen any of this and won’t see us when we come back.”
The two policemen looked down at Snaps who half opened his eyes and squinted back at them. They looked harmless so far. He closed his eyes again. He was starting to regret his good deed.
“If you weren’t former RCMP I’m not sure how we would take this,” one of the men said. “As it is, we’re going to take your word for it. Whoever he is if he comes back don’t interfere with him. We will want him to take the trash bag. When he does, we’ll be able to find him.” Conor didn’t ask how. He knew electronics had come a long way. He knew they had their own way of doing things. It was partly why he wasn’t with them anymore. He nodded at the two men.
“By the way, we saw the patch of weed you’ve got growing back there. Is it for your personal use?”
“All right, that’s fine, we don’t mind about that.”
“Thanks,” Conor said. “I had juvenile arthritis. It’s in remission now, but the damage has been done. The weed helps.”
“Like I said, we don’t mind so long as you keep it to yourself.”
“Is that right about the arthritis?” JT asked when the two policemen were gone.
“Yeah, I’ve got some permanent joint pain, especially in my knees. It didn’t bother me much when I was a kid but when I got into my late 20s, they started to ache. So long as I smoke some pot every day, I feel all right.”
“Nothing else helps?”
“I’ve tried everything else.”
“Is that why you’re not with the force anymore?”
“I couldn’t go around arresting teenagers for pot when I was a pothead myself. Besides, they would have been found out sooner or later and I would have been given my walking papers.”
“You’re right about that,” JT said. “The force wasn’t and isn’t with you on the weed thing.”