‘Celia! Creme! Where are my damn painkillers?’ he called out into the vast marble atrium at the center of his enormous mansion. From an upstairs room came the blare of a gramophone. It assaulted his ears and set his head pounding.
“I got me a suit and I got me a tie But the only time I’ll wear ’em is the day I’m gonna die!”
He scowled. ‘Houndskiffle? In my house!’ he thought.
‘CELIA! Turn that infernal Hound racket off and help me find my painkillers!’
The bedroom door opened and the music poured out, causing Ruddegan to press his hands to his ears. A young Cat stepped languidly out onto the landing. She was lean and tall with long, sinuous limbs. Her peroxide white hair was cropped in a mannish style and she wore tartan pyjamas, unbuttoned and knotted at her waist. Smoke wafted from her cigarillo.
‘I haven’t the faintest idea where your pills are,’ she said, her smoky voice edged with a wry smile. ‘I’m not your housekeeper!’
Ruddegan looked at her and some of his anger drained away.
‘Well at least turn that dreadful Hound howling down or you’ll have that old puss, Nan, phoning to complain we’ve woken her damn Kitterlings!’
He decided to turn on his Feline charm.
‘Please, my darling Celia, be a dear and help your poor old grandfather find something for his splitting headache.’
Though she could be infuriating, Celia was his only granddaughter, and, since the death of his fifth wife, the only real family he had. His son, Celia’s father, was a ne’er-do-well playboy who had squandered his substantial inheritance on loose Felines and even looser investments. Ruddegan had all but disowned him, but he had ensured his beloved Celia received the very best education: a Felinean finishing school, then further study at the Royal Pussonian Institute. His efforts had been to little avail, however, as Celia had simply tossed it all away and come sauntering back to Port Alveridge with not so much as a ‘thank-you Puss Pop’.
Puss Pop was what she had called him when long ago he would bounce her on his knee while scrutinizing spreadsheets. But thinking of the Kitterling she had been, he barely recognized her now. She had abandoned Feline lace and silk and now wore denim jeans and flannel work shirts. In fact, to his mounting alarm, she had started to absorb a disagreeable amount of Hound culture, however oxymoronic he thought the term. She played those infuriating Houndskiffle records day and night – Something Two-Fingers and His Hound-Something Band. He knew she snuck out at night to go to Houndside, to listen to the filthy slop the Hounds called blues.
Still, he loved her dearly, loved her as he did all his expensive possessions.