Across the country and possibly even overseas, tourists who visited the Island are back home flipping through their snapshots and looking at pictures of the Gay Head Lighthouse, the Whaling Church, windswept Vineyard beaches and Bill - Bill the cat.

Bill lives in one of the most heavily trafficked spots on the Island, right above the visitors' center on Church street in Edgartown, the closest thing to a big-city bus station on the Vineyard.

"He's probably one of the most photographed cats on the East Coast," says Tim Toomey.

Technically, Mr. Toomey and his wife, Dunia, own Bill. But Mr. Toomey is quick to point out that nobody really owns Bill. "He's not anybody's cat. He lives here, that's all," says Mr. Toomey. "He goes where he wants."

If you ask people who work downtown if they know this cat, the response you're likely to hear goes like this: "Oh, you mean Bill?"

Such a comment will surely be followed up with stories and opinions. Bill's fan base is big and appears to be growing daily.

"He's very famous. Everybody loves him," says Fani Belishka, who works at the visitors' center, making sure the masses of tourists climb aboard the right transit bus, tour bus or motor coach.

Even more so than other friends of Bill, Ms. Belishka, who comes from Bulgaria, is a close watcher of this cat whose travels often take him no farther than out the front door. Awaiting Bill is everything a cat could desire - wooden benches, hands for petting, adoring praise and food.

"It's his own place. He lies on the bench. Nobody can interrupt him or bother him. If he saw people eating food, he sits and stares," says Ms. Belishka. "And he's always making very strange poses, his legs all spread around him. He's like a human being."

Like most humans, Bill has a past, and a checkered one at that. About seven years back, he was living in Bennington, Vt., and landed in the pound after beating up most of the other cats in the neighborhood, according to Mr. Toomey.

"He used to go down to my father's house, and he would give him food," says Mr. Toomey. "We went up to visit, and we rescued him [from the pound]. He had character. It's not just that he's handsome. He's got style. We brought him down here, and he took over the neighborhood right away."

Indeed, with his blue eyes and buttercream coat, Bill has managed to beguile just about everyone on the block. They know him at the courthouse and the Second Hand Store. And with three restaurants bordering the courthouse parking lot, you can bet that Bill is a frequent diner.

Sunday afternoon around four, Bill wandered past Lattanzi's and Espresso Love and made his way to the back door of Alchemy where he hit pay dirt.

"This cat is the man," yells one of the restaurant crew as soon as he spies Bill. Within seconds, the guy in a white apron and another coworker are stooping to pet the cat.

Bill doesn't even need to place an order. His early supper is a bowl of milk and chunk of swordfish presented in a stainless steel bowl. He laps it all up sitting by the red brick of the county courthouse, raising his head every once in a while and showing off a chin covered in white.

Obviously, there's no tab. This meal, like all the others, is on the house. Over at Espresso Love, Bill is known to climb up in a chair and sit at a table as people sip coffee and munch on pastries.

"It doesn't seem like he's begging at all. He's just chillin'," says T.J. McManus, who works at the coffee shop.

"It's like he belongs here, like it's his home," says Carol McManus, owner of Espresso Love.

But living the high life carries its own set of risks. According to Mr. Toomey, Bill was hit by a car years back, damaging the nerves in his digestive tract and causing him to walk with his back slightly arched.

When the cooks at Lattanzi's heard of Bill's stomach troubles, they decided it would be better to cut him off from chuck wagon privileges. A cardboard sign inside the back door reads: "Hear ye. Hear ye. Let it be known to all partys (sic) there will be no more feeding of Bill the cat (AKA Mr. Toomey) due to the fact that his intestines are the size of a small Volkswagen. Your cooperation for his health is appreciated."

But they still love Bill. Chef Chanda Decker is convinced that the cat has special powers. "Bill can detect a person's karma," she insists. "If Bill won't go near you, there's definitely something wrong with you."

Bill, it seems, is picky. "He's frightening sometimes," says Ms. Belishka.

And he reserves special disdain for canines. "He has no fear of dogs," says Mr. Toomey. Not long ago, Bill took on a pair of Jack Russell terriers. "He was wrapped around that dog's face," says his owner.

While Bill's tastes might be a bit unpredictable, his appeal is almost universal, especially with the ladies. People are drawn to this cat. Sunday afternoon, before he dined at Alchemy, Bill just sat in the lot and let the praise wash over him.

"He's like a cross between a Siamese and a Maine coon," says one woman from St. Louis. "He's gorgeous."

"There's that cat we saw table-hopping the other day," says another woman as she walks out of Espresso Love with her friends. "What beautiful eyes. He's so regal."

She leans over to caress his face and whispers, "Will you marry me, Bill?"