Ernest Herring was the latest in a long line of cat detectives to supply his services to the Winsford Detective Agency. His predecessor, an irritable Manx named Corduroy, had disappeared under suspicious circumstances while investigating the disappearance of a considerable amount of saffron from one of the three restaurants in town. The agency's proprietor, one Shella Winsford, not being the kind of cat to resort to work for money, immediately sought a replacement.

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Herring had been between gigs, going about his usual alley business around a cold midnight, when out of the steam pranced a lean figure in a tan suede overcoat. Looks like money, he thought. Her eyes glanced up and down the lane, and turned to him as she said "I got a job for you."

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Words failed him. He'd been out of work and out of hope for quite some time. After she introduced herself, he managed to do the same. "So, about this job?" he then asked. "Yeah, it's kind of unfortunate," she said, and they fell to talking.

3 days later he was sitting in a booth at the Gullet Stuffer, a utilitarian canteen known for unlimited refills and health code violations. The food, while not actually vile, certainly dissuaded the casual visitor from a repeat visit, leaving only the sad and dedicated.

Pawing listlessly at his plate of leathery meatloaf, he looked at his surroundings once more. His mark couldn't be here yet. A young family sat directly behind him, two kittens of nine or so fighting and bumping the back of his set. A frail old cat in tartan slacks doddered about near the broccoli display.

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