Thursday Doors, StoryADay May — Trouble in Happy Caterham: A Steffie the Spy Story

This post is part of StoryADay May ( #StoryADay #StoryADayMay @storyadaymay #freeshortstory #SteffieTheSpy #ThursdayDoors

Trouble in Happy Caterham: A Steffie the Spy Story

“That must have been a good-time place,” said Agent Trainee Lois. Her gesture indicated the string of white lights that ran from the front of the next-door property line to the back, draping, at one point, over the once-blue door set in the brick half-wall between the back yards.

“Sure this wasn’t the good-time place?” Steffie asked. “The lights could have belonged to this house.”

“That house is freshly painted,” said Agent Trainee Resa. “This side of the door is weathered and peeled, but that doesn’t mean the other side of it isn’t also freshly painted.”

“Anything else?” asked Teagan, who was helping Steffie put these trainees through their final training. When nobody said anything, she exchanged a “not prodigies, but not useless” look with Steffie and opened her mouth to answer her own question.

Before she could speak, Lois said, “The palm tree!” and Resa said, “Look at the wire!”

Teagan and Steffie nodded to each other in satisfaction.

“Exactly so,” said Teagan. “The palm tree is on the other side of the wall, and a length of the wiring for the lights is looped around it. Therefore, the lights belong to that house.”

“Also…,” said Steffie. With an almost imperceptible nod, she directed Teagan’s attention to an upper window.

The four women were seated on a patio in the back yard of the “Air B&B”, they had “taken for the month,” actually one of several surveillance houses the Agency kept in the Cape Canaveral area, this one in a village named in Happy Caterham. Any one or more of these surveillance houses could be “rented” when needed, depending on where suspicious characters or activities popped up.

Teagan used taking a slug of iced tea to check out the upper window. A cat stood at the window, between the pane and the lowered Venetian blinds. She couldn’t hear it, but she could see its mouth opening and shutting, and could imagine the distress miaows it seemed to be making, that presumption reinforced by the cat’s desperate pawing at the closed glass.

As she watched, her regard hidden behind sunglasses, a beefy arm reached behind the blinds and grasped the cat by the scruff of the neck and pulled it out of sight.

They did all hear a faint remnant of the cat’s yowl of protest.

Steffie could tell her fellow agents shared her own impulse to rise and rush to the cat’s rescue. She gave the trainees high marks for suppressing their natural response.

“I think I recognize that cat,” Resa said. “I think that’s Linus. I told you Linus is missing.”

“You did,” said Steffie, mind spinning in rapid thought.

Steffie and Teagan, having just completed a mission in Key West, had agreed to take on the final training of the new agents, which included keeping an eye on the house next door, it having been reported to the local police as “full of weirdos.” After Key West, Steffie and Teagan’s bar for weirdness was abnormally high, so they welcomed this chance to reset their calibrations.

The person or people next door (at least one person, they now knew, with at least one beefy arm) kept the blinds drawn day and night. 24/7 surveillance showed someone leaving some nights (unseen, because the person never turned the outside lights on and got into and out of the car on the side away from the “B&B”). The person returned within three hours. Oddest of all, the string of lights was never turned on.

Meanwhile, bits of sensitive information were showing up on the Dark Web – information that could only have come from insiders at NASA. All possible leaks had been studied, followed, befriended, questioned, and bugged, but no one had made any suspicious calls or mailed any papers or sent any iffy emails.

But why would the cat of a top scientist/artist (Resa knew the scientist through their mutual love of mural art) be next door?


Resa was on watch that night, and reported, in the morning, that someone had left that night and returned.

After breakfast, Resa carried her laptop into the basement observation room and said, “I just looked at Linus’ daddy’s blog. Linus is back. Doesn’t seem to be any worse for wear.”

“Oh, really?” said Steffie, her tone freely implying she found this of great interest.

She called Pete, her handler, and told him her newly formed theory.

They continued their pretend vacation, enjoying the back garden, cold drinks, light meals, and night watches, for another three days.

Then, one night, Pete called, and Steffie announced, “We’re going in.”

Steffie and Lois oiled the hinges of the old door in the half-wall and crept around the car to the back door of the bright blue house. Teagan and Resa went to the front.

Locks were picked.

Steffie and Lois crept through the dark kitchen and eased open the door to the front room. A beefy man sat with his back to them, watching an episode of I Spy on a flatscreen television.

“Don’t move,” Steffie said.

The man didn’t move.

“Now, stand up and put your hands over your head.”

“Lemme turn the TV off first.” He reached toward a remote.

Lois darted forward and kicked the end table away.

“Ouch,” she muttered. She retrieved the remote and switched off the television. “No gun,” she said.

The man put his hands behind his neck and turned to face them.

“Did I say turn around?” Steffie asked.

“No, but—”

He must have had the gun holstered between his shoulderblades.

“Now,” he said, “let’s just reassess the situation.”

“Fine with me,” said Teagan, stepping in from the hall, Colt 45 at the ready.

“Seriously?” The man’s tone was contemptuous. “You bring an antique to a high-tech standoff?”

“It shoots bullets,” Teagan pointed out. “If they hit you, they hurt.”

Resa stood at Teagan’s side, her pistol also at the ready.

The man laughed. “That’s a water pistol.”

“But,” Resa said, “the funny thing is, you don’t have to put water in it.”

While he was still laughing, she pulled the trigger and the liquid hit him squarely in the eyes.

He screamed and dropped his weapon.

Steffie, as senior agent, had the pleasure of binding him with zip ties.

Meanwhile, he cried and moaned and begged for an ambulance.

Pete and his clean-up crew arrived and took the man away and searched the house.

There were no animals in the house at the time, and no confederates of the crying man. He had been working alone, on contract, kidnapping the pets of people with access to pieces of sensitive information. He would mike the animals then return them. So many people who can’t talk to other people about their work will talk to their animals….


Pete called later to compliment Steffie and Teagan on their agent trainee’s abilities. He was especially impressed with the effectiveness of the water gun.

“It was just Mr. Clean,” said Resa. “Big baby.”

Thursday doors is under the direction of Dan Antion, photographer extraordinaire and critter daddy. Visit his site, enjoy his wonderful photographs, follow his directions, and enter a world of doors.

MY PROMPTS FOR TODAY: Lois’s door photo, Teagan‘s challenge for me to set a story in a place called Happy Caterham, and Resa‘s offer to help Steffie out with a water gun filled with Mr. Clean.



I was born in Louisville, Kentucky, but now live in the woods in southern Indiana. Though I only write fiction, I love to read non-fiction. The more I learn about this world, the more fantastic I see it is.

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One thought on “Thursday Doors, StoryADay May — Trouble in Happy Caterham: A Steffie the Spy Story

  1. lois

    May 16, 2024 at 1:17pm

    Darn, Marian…you realled nailed this. I drive by this house so many times, but now I will be squinting to see the cat. My favorite line was Teagan’s: “If they hit you, they hurt.” Yeah, they do! Good one!

    Permalink  ⋅ Reply
    • Author

      Marian Allen

      May 16, 2024 at 1:26pm

      Thanks, Lois! And thanks for the picture. On Dan’s blog, he said something like shuddering to think of the two of us teamed up, so I had to do it, right? I HAD to! I had NO CHOICE! Right? Right?

      Permalink  ⋅ Reply
  2. Resa

    May 16, 2024 at 4:37pm

    Hahahaha!!!!!! Love this!
    Mr. Clean gets rid of grease and grime and bad guys in a minute!
    Thank you for including me!

    Permalink  ⋅ Reply
  3. Dan Antion

    May 17, 2024 at 8:28am

    I’m familiar with these agents and trainees, Marian. You assembled quite the capable and delightful crew. Great teamwork and they clean up after themselves. I love it. Bugging the animals would work very well. Too bad the was mean to them.

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    • Author

      Marian Allen

      May 17, 2024 at 9:52am

      Steffie does’t hold with hurting animals. More than one bad guy had learned that lesson too late.

      Permalink  ⋅ Reply
  4. Maureen O'Hern

    May 18, 2024 at 8:03am

    It seems to me that Mr. Clean is the one with beefy arms. Very suspicious. A good story, and neatly ended.

    Permalink  ⋅ Reply
  5. acflory

    May 19, 2024 at 7:16am

    lol – I’m surprised that Chickie et al., allowed you to get away with not rescuing the cat. :p

    Permalink  ⋅ Reply
  6. Teagan Riordain Geneviene

    May 24, 2024 at 5:13pm

    Tee-hee! Somehow I missed this one, Marian. I love it! A double-feature Steffie Spy read is the perfect way to end the week. Adding agents Lois and Resa was brilliant. The water gun trick is fabulous. Big hugs.

    Permalink  ⋅ Reply
    • Author

      Marian Allen

      May 25, 2024 at 12:41pm

      Thanks to her sidekicks, Steffie seems to have gone from sinister to slapstick. lol

      Permalink  ⋅ Reply

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