Fred said "hello".  It wasn't a meow like most cats; it was a clearly enunciated "hello".  We'd usually answer "Hello, Fred", a couple of times, and, if he continued, we'd go see what he wanted.  Food, sometimes; often, just attention.  He liked his back scratched.

Groucho is Fred's son; he looks like Fred, a classic tuxedo, except that he has a black spot under his nose that looks like a mustache.  As he matured he also ventured a tentative 'hello', but he seldom used it.  He respected Fred, and that was Fred's word.

Our cat family grew large.  Fred and Wanda, a pretty calico, were fruitful and multiplied.  There was Scooter,  Sweety, Pepper, Spot, Littleguy, Magoo, Panther, Goldie, Goldspot, Fluffyspot, Taylor, Bob, and Stimpy, and two tuxedo kittens we hadn't named yet.

They were sometimes a troublesome bunch, but each was an individual and lovable in their own way.
But a few days ago, in this month of January 2003, tragedy struck in the form of a psychopathic cat killer in our neighborhood.  In a period of 3 days he killed ten of our cats.  We haven't found the bodies, but they are gone, and we heard screams in the night.

We don't know who did it.  We don't know who in our otherwise fairly civilized neighborhood enjoys brutally murdering innocent creatures.  We just know that ten members of our family are gone.

Scooter, Sweety, Littleguy, Panther, Goldie, Goldspot, Fluffyspot, the two tuxedo kittens...and Fred, who always said 'hello'.

We keep the survivors inside, now, to keep them safe.  Most don't seem to mind too much.  Maybe they sense that it is dangerous out there now.  They miss the others, as we do.

Grouch has suddenly began saying 'hello' a lot.  He can say it almost as well as Fred did, and often I think for a second that Fred is still here.

But the hellos have a mournful sound.  He sits looking out the window and says it over and over.
He misses Fred a lot, I think.

So do I.

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