Chapter Five: Epilogue
It had been relatively quiet until early Thursday morning when Sarah received a call from Burt. His voice was tired and strained. An incident had occurred during the night where Mr. Kat had ambushed Coop and clawed him across the face. Too scared to sleep by himself, Coop had spent the rest of the night with his father. Sarah contacted Ben and the two decided to meet with the Burtonburgers before school.
When they'd arrived, Millie and Coop were eating breakfast at the table whilst Burt organised their school lunches for the day. Coop had dark circles under his eyes and a bright red scratch across his cheek. Millie perked up when she saw Sarah.
"Mrs. Sarah! What're you doing here? And who's that!?" Millie pointed at Ben, who stood back behind Burt trying to blend into the background.
"Good morning kids. This is a friend of mine. His name is Ben. We're just here to chat with your father," answered Sarah.
Sarah walked over to Coop who seemed to be brooding as he ate his cereal.
"How are you this morning Coop?" asked Sarah.
"Alright, I guess," said Coop.
"That's a nasty scratch on your face."
Coop tenderly touched the wound.
"I've gotten worse."
"Was it Mr. Kat?"
"Yeah, he ambushed me last night when I got up to get a glass of water. Couldn't really get back to sleep after that."
"Do you mind if I take a photo?"
Coop searched her face for any ulterior motives and then reluctantly agreed. Sarah took the photograph and planned to attach it to his case file later.
"Why do you think he attacked you? Did you accidentally wake him up?" queried Sarah.
Coop frowned, "No, he just came at me outta nowhere. I think he's been mad about the video cameras. Up until that point he'd been ignoring me and I've made sure to only walk where it's recording. Maybe he thought they wouldn't capture anything in the dark?"
Sarah didn't mention the fact that Mr. Kat shouldn't know what video cameras are, let alone be actively avoiding them.
"Well, he's wrong on that account," interjected Ben, "We have night-mode set up and it should have captured the attack."
Coop raised his eyebrows, "Wow! Really? You'll finally see what I've been dealing with!"
"I'll need some time to set up the footage though. When did you have to leave for school?" said Ben.
Burt looked at his watch and blinked in surprise. "Right now! There's not enough time, kids. Grab your backpacks. The school bus will be here in less than five minutes."
"Aw, come on dad!" Coop whined.
"You can watch it after school," Burt opened the front door, "Get your jacket on Millie. Coop is your homework packed? Good."
The Burtonburgers scrambled to get ready but made it to the corner just in time to be picked up by the bus. Meanwhile, Sarah helped Ben connect his laptop to the television so the three of them could view the footage. The feeling of unease crept into her mind at the thought of Mr. Kat. She mentally noted that she hadn't once seen the cat since she'd arrived.
Burt returned inside and joined the others on the couch. Ben selected the first video.
"I've compiled the last four days' worth of footage into one video. It only shows the relevant parts," explained Ben.
He pressed play and an image of Mr. Kat appeared on the screen.
"Coop wasn't wrong about Mr. Kat avoiding the video cameras. He barely interacted with them and spent the majority of the time in Millie's room. There are a few exceptions I wanted to show you."
The first video was of Mr. Kat walking up to one of the cameras to inspect it. Then sitting down in front of it, blocking the lens. The image showed a black screen.
Ben paused the video. "This is the only time he approaches the camera but what is more interesting is what happens afterwards."
The video continued, black screen and all, but the sound was still captured. They could hear footsteps approaching Mr. Kat.
"What are you doing?" the voice of Coop asked.
Mr. Kat meowed at Coop in a threatening tone.
"You can't do anything right now. Every move you make is recorded."
A low growl was heard and a slight movement from Mr. Kat but not enough to unblock the lens.
"I'd like to see you try."
Mr. Kat hissed and leapt away from the video camera. They could see him retreat to Millie's room. Coop frowned and went into his own room.
The recording stopped. Sarah raised an eyebrow. Were they actually having a conversation?
"How strange," muttered Burt, "I've never seen Mr. Kat respond back like that before. I wonder if he does it with Millie?"
"Some cats do 'talk' back to their owners," clarified Ben, "Kittens meow to let their mother know they're cold or hungry, but once they get a bit older, cats no longer meow to other cats. But they continue to meow to people throughout their lives."
"Is there any other angle that captures this interaction?" Sarah asked.
"Unfortunately, no. None of the other video camera's face that direction," said Ben.
He pressed play again and this time the image was in black and white.
"It's in night mode," Ben explained, "I captured this odd behaviour every night since the recording started."
In the video, the hallway was empty. The next moment Mr. Kat entered the frame. He glanced briefly at the camera and then sat facing Coop's bedroom door. None of them could see the expression on Mr. Kat's face but Sarah had an inkling that he was glaring. Suddenly the footage sped up.
"It goes on like this for a while," said Ben.
According to the time stamp, Mr. Kat sat and watched for over two hours. He barely moved; posture stiff and unnatural. An involuntary shiver went down Sarah's spine. She wondered if Coop knew that the cat watched him while he slept.
Ben stopped the video once Mr. Kat stood up and returned to Millie's room.
"This happens every night," Ben told the others, "Don't get me wrong, it's strange behaviour for a cat. Obsessive, you could say. What I want to know is why a notoriously aggressive cat is suddenly quiet and reserved when he's being recorded. It's almost like he's aware of the camera," he frowned to himself, "but that can't be right."
Burt was quietly contemplating what he'd watched. Sarah was taking notes. More details for her report.
"That's all we captured of Mr. Kat. The only video left is from this morning. I haven't even had the chance to watch it myself," said Ben.
Ben fast forwarded the video until the image of Mr. Kat appeared on the screen. All eyes were glued to the television as he pressed play.
Mr. Kat was watching Coop's bedroom door again. It was late at night and the entire family was sound asleep. The faint sound of bed sheets hitting the floor were heard, before soft footsteps approached the door. Mr. Kat didn't move.
When Coop opened the door, he was met with a flying kick to the chest, knocking him to the ground. He didn't have the chance to scream before the cat leapt on top of him and clawed him across the face. Suddenly coming to his senses, Coop pushed Mr. Kat off of him and bolted to his father's room.
"Dad! Dad! Wake up! I need you!" Coop yelled as he banged on Burt's door.
Burt opened the door to the sight of his scared son, blood on his face, and panting heavily. Mr. Kat had already retreated back to Millie's room. The last image on the screen was a shot of his eery glowing eyes as he directly looked at the camera.
The three adults were speechless. They struggled to rationalise what they saw. Sarah felt a pit of dread in the bottom of her stomach. She'd gotten the evidence she so desperately wanted. The truth was out. Yet, it was difficult to process. The attack was brutal and unwarranted. The image of the cat's eyes bore into her head, too intelligent for the animal it belonged to. She suddenly remembered her first conversation she had with Coop.
"It was my sister's cat. He's not what he seems. He's actually an alien from outer space."
Of course, she had dismissed him at the time. It was ludicrous to believe an alien was disguising itself as a household pet. Yet, it's eyes told her differently.
Ignoring her jittery hands, she faced Ben. "Tell me, please, tell me there's an explanation."
"Yeah, yeah, right, um," Ben struggled to compose himself, "It has to be idiopathic aggression. There's no other explanation. Cats with this type of aggression can attack their owners violently. They're dangerous and you should carefully assess their quality of life, as well as the safety of those around them."
Burt finally found his voice, "Should I rehome him?"
"It's not safe to have him around people or other animals. I think you should take him to the nearest shelter. They'd be able to keep him isolated," said Ben.
"Okay," Burt agreed solemnly. It would absolutely devastate his daughter but he had to make the right decision for his family.
Sarah voiced her concern, "Do any of you know where the cat is right now?"
All three shared a worried glance before splitting up and frantically searching the house. After an hour, it was determined that Mr. Kat wasn't anywhere to be found. Sarah and Ben decided to call it a day.
"Ben, send me a copy of those videos to my phone. I'll need to file them away as evidence," said Sarah.
"Will do. I can send a copy to you too Mr. Burtonburger."
"Thanks," said Burt, "What'll I do about Mr. Kat in the meantime?"
"Keep an eye out for him if he returns. Try to get him in his carrier to take him to the shelter or call animal control if he gets too out of hand," replied Ben.
"And Sarah, what should I say to my kids?"
"Tell them the truth," said Sarah, "Tell them that Mr. Kat is missing. Let them know there's something wrong with him and not to approach if he comes home. Keep them safe."
"I will. Thank you, for, well, everything."
"You have my number if you need me. Goodbye for now Burt."
Sarah drove back to her hotel with a heavy heart. She forced herself to finish her report so she could end her investigation. After approval from her supervisor, she'd send out a letter to the Burtonburgers with the outcome of the case. It would be determined that any and all abuse had resulted from the family cat, whom suffered from a psychological issue that caused idiopathic aggression. Sarah knew it was one of, if not the strangest case of her career.
Weeks later, Mr. Kat was still missing. There had been no sightings of the cat in Bootsville. Millie had even gone house to house searching but he'd disappeared for good. Sarah wondered if he returned to the nature reserve behind the house or to another unsuspecting family. For now, she'd continue her social work and help provide safe homes for children. However, at the dead of night, when she was at her most vulnerable, she sometimes wake to a feeling of feline eyes watching her sleep.
She'd never be able to forget Mr. Kat.