Beans, my cat, solves mysteries.

When I tell people that my cat is a detective, I get responses like – “My cat plays the piano”, and “My Fluffy howls whenever I sing.” But, my Beans really does solve mysteries, which is why I am sitting in this room with no windows, waiting for a murderer to return.

It all started when my bicycle was stolen. I complained to Beans about my bike – I talk with Beans about everything. I don’t have a roommate and Beans is a good listener.

After I told him how upset I was that someone would take my bike, Beans ran out of the house. He doesn’t usually go outside by himself, so I ran after him. I saw him turn the corner around the yellow house at the end of the block and when I finally caught up with him and rounded the corner, Beans was sitting on the ground in front of my bike, which was partially covered by a tarp.

I didn’t think much about it until a week later when Beans and I were watching the news and a story about a break-in at a local jewelry store came on. Beans suddenly perked up and he started meowing. He stood up and put his paws on my shoulders and stared at me, and then meowed and jumped off the couch, rushing to the front door.

“So, Beans, you know who did it?”

Beans moaned and dashed out the door as soon as I opened it. I ran after him down the street to the park, where he was sitting on a bench starting at an old faded-blue Toyota. Inside the car, two people were using a jeweler’s loupe and a flashlight to look at jewelry.

I called 911 and sat next to Beans on the bench and waited until the police came and surrounded the car, hauling the couple off in handcuffs.

I turned to Beans. “How did you know?”

Beans meowed and jumped off the bench and headed home.

We started watching the news every night. Most nights, nothing would happen, but every now and then, Beans would perk up at a story, and then the next day I would find something on the table that related to the story.

The first time is was my car keys. I am sure that I left them on the kitchen counter, but they were on the dining room table and my car key was singled out as if it was ready to start a car. That night, there was a follow-up story on a group who pulled an ATM out of a bank and drove off with it. The thief drove the same make and model truck as me, with the same car key.

“Really, Beans, how?” No matter how many times I asked him, he just meowed and walked away as if it was nothing.

Sometimes it was a newspaper article that related to a news story, or a book that was knocked out of place, whose title explained some case we had seen.

After a while. My inner detective kicked in and I started trying to figure out what his clues meant and found myself solving some simple cases – lost pets, petty thefts and breaks-ins. I started calling anonymous tips into the police and waiting to see if the crimes were solved. Then I began to give credit to Beans, using his name when I submitted a tip.

I suppose it was only a matter of time until I got in over my head. And I had.

A local banker had been murdered, and Beans perked up when the story came on. He jumped off the couch and ran over to the door, where he stood and whined until I finally let him out. There was no way I was going to follow him – murder was out of my league.

The next morning, a small paperback book was lying on the floor next to my nightstand, The Girl Next Door. I’m not even sure where it came from, it didn’t look like something I would read. Besides, there was no girl next door, only cranky Mrs. Evans, and she didn’t murder anyone – she never left her house except to go to bingo on Thursday nights. Beans must be losing it.

I put the book on my nightstand and forgot about it.

That night, there was an update on the murder and Beans, who had been lying on the back of the couch by my head, whined and batted me on the head with his paw. Then he jumped down and climbed onto my lap and stood up with his paws on my chest and stared at me, as if to say, “What are you going to do about this?”

“I’m not getting involved in a murder.” I was adamant.

Beans jumped off and walked into the bedroom. When he came back, he had the paperback in his mouth and carried it over and dropped it on my feet.

As I picked the book up, I remembered that Mrs. Evans was driven to bingo on Thursday nights by her granddaughter, Elisa. Elisa and I had gone to school together, but I didn’t really know her because she hung out with a different crowd – the rich kids and their hangers-on. Elisa was a hanger-on who was always hanging on Jefferson Hightower.

Whose father was – or had been – the bank president.

“Oh my God, Beans, do you know what this means?” He appeared to.

It was Thursday, which meant that Elisa was supposed to come over and pick up Mrs. Evans.

When Elisa drove up, Beans yelled and dashed out the door and into Mrs. Evans’ yard. I watched out the window as Mrs. Evans scooted on her walker toward Elisa’s car, complaining the whole time and yelling at Beans, “Get out of my yard, you damn cat!”

Beans meowed innocently and continued to watch. As I did.

Curiosity got the best of me and I decided to follow the two. I got in my car and yelled to Beans, “Come on, let’s go play bingo.” As far as I knew Beans hated bingo, he hated almost anything that didn’t involve him, but he ran over and jumped in the car.

When we got to the high school, Elisa’s car kept going. I slowed down to think about what to do and a car bumped me from behind. I stopped and jumped out of the car to see if there was any damage. There wasn’t.

The driver of the other car stepped out and pulled something far enough out of his pocket that I could tell it was a gun. The driver looked familiar. “Please, get in my car – don’t make me hurt you.” It was Jeff Hightower, looking pretty scruffy for a banker’s son.

He lifted his pocket and motioned with his head toward his car. “Get in!”

“Why?” I generally was afraid of guns, but not of Jeff. He was the kind who used money, not force, to get what he wanted.

“Because I don’t want to shoot you right here … but I will” There was an edge to his voice, and I thought it would be better not to test him on this point. People change, and Jeff looked a little desperate.

I got in his car and we drove off after Elisa’s car. We were about ten minutes out of town when Jeff pulled into the abandoned hanger factory, and parked next to Elisa’s car.

“Follow me.” He reminded me that he had a gun, by pointing his pocket at me, and stepped out of the car.

I got out after him and we walked inside the building and into a large, windowless room with only a table and a few chairs.

Jeff pointed to one of the chairs. “Sit.” He never talked much in high school either. He turned and left the room and I could hear the door being locked. So now here I was, waiting for the murderer to come.

I didn’t think it was Jeff. If it was, he probably would have shot me already. And Elisa never did anything herself. She only drove her grandmother to bingo because Mrs. Evans paid her. So, who was the murderer?

And why did I listen to my damn cat?

After what seemed like hours – time slows down when you are waiting to die – I heard the key turning in the lock. The door creaked open and Elisa and Jeff walked in, and walking behind them, without any need for assistance, was Mrs. Evans. She was now holding the gun and was much less feeble looking than usual.

“You just had to meddle, didn’t you?” Mrs. Evans still sounded cranky.

“I don’t know what you mean. I was just going to bingo.” It was worth a try.

“Don’t think I don’t know you and that damn cat have been helping the police solve crimes.”

“That sounds pretty ridiculous, don’t you think – a cat solving crimes?”

She pointed the gun at me. “I listen to the police scanner and 911 calls. And I’ve been watching you and that cat.”

“Beans!” I saw him jump on her from behind and claw at her head.

She dropped the gun, which fell on the concrete floor and went off, filling the room with noise and causing Elisa and Jeff to dive under the table.

I scrambled over and picked up the gun while Mrs. Evans was trying to fight Beans off.

“Okay, Beans, you can stop.” I had the gun pointed at Mrs. Evans.

“She made me do it.” Jeff was still hiding under the table. “She said I would inherit the bank and we would all be rich.”

“And you didn’t think anyone might consider that you might have done it?” He wasn’t the smartest kid in class – he had gotten by on his dad’s money.

“The bastard cut me off. He deserved it.” Jeff reached out for Elisa, who pulled away from him. And sat there despondently. Mrs. Evans muttered obscene insults about my cat, who was busy ignoring her and rubbing himself against my legs.

I picked up my phone, which Jeff had confiscated and then dropped when he dove under the table, and dialed 911.

“I’d like to report a murderer.”