I had meant to stay awake to at least make sure that Jude got in but complete exhaustion claimed me and I fell asleep as hard as a rock. However, when there was a thump and a hissed response I jerked out of the hard sleep. My first reaction was to grab for the Glock. Then I relaxed remembering what Jude had said. But then at another thump and another hiss I thought what if it wasn’t Jude.
I got carefully out of bed. The floor was like ice, even through the soles of the fuzzy slippers that I hastily slid on. I grabbed my heavy robe, threw it on and tied it, and with the Glock securely in hand crept towards the door. Whoever it was wasn’t in the attic but seemed to be in the kitchen. Cracking the door I could see they had some kind of weird, bluish light and due to its angle I figured it was either on the table or on the piece of counter beside it.
Carefully I slid out of my bedroom and using the hanging laundry for cover headed towards the light … and in a moment I thought that was spiritual as well as literal. I heard someone whimpering then, “God, get it out. I’m being eaten alive.”
The other person growled, “Shirrup will you.”
A moment later there was a relieved, “Oh thank you Lord Jesus.” A sigh and then they asked, “Where’d you put it?”
“What do you mean where did I put it? I thought you had it.”
“No. Oh @#$%, are you telling me we gotta track that thing down? How are we gonna find it in the dark?”
About that moment something ran up under my robe and gown and started clawing at me. My heart nearly exited my chest and went into cardiac arrest. I would have shouted to the heavens but right before I let out a shriek it stopped moving and started making noise.
One of the whisperers said, “Wait … listen … I think I hear it.”
“Well don’t move too fast, it’ll run off again. Why you had to take it out of your pocket …”
“I didn’t take it out of my pocket; the demon got out on its own.”
“You mean there’s a hole?”
“You mean the other one got out too?”
“The other … Oh God.” There was dead silence but I’d finally figured out who the two whisperers were. “Oh … oh … oh I … I can feel it. It’s in my shirt. Get it out before it tears me up … get it out!”
“Will you shirrup?”
I was nearly dying with unreleased laughter. Before the first “demon” could get away I flipped up my nightgown and detached it. Putting the Glock in my pocket I walked briskly into the kitchen, wrenched up Clewis’ shirt and rescued the other “demon” before it got squashed.
In each hand I held a very freaked out tiny kitten by its scruff. I looked first at Jude, then at Clewis, then I told them both, “We’ll just keep this between the three of us shall we?”
After a brief surprise Jude sat in a chair and put his head down on the table. From under his arms came muffled laughter. Clewis on the other hand looked thoroughly traumatized. I tried to hand him back the kittens to put into his other pocket … the one without the hole … but he scuttled back so fast he nearly fell over the wood box by the stove.
I just shook my head. “Do I want to know what you are doing fooling around with these baby furballs?”
“Furballs?” Clewis gasped. “Spawns of satan would be a better description. I was just trying to keep ‘em warm after we rescued them and they thanked me by trying to eviscerate me.”
That caused more muffled laughter from Jude. I asked, “Rescue them how?”
Both men sobered up pretty quickly and looked uncomfortable. Reality being what it was I asked, “Somebody throwing away unwanted kittens?”
“Not exactly,” Clewis said.
Jude for his part added, “Somebody abandoned their home. Don’t ask me how we know, we just do. Clewis and I were just over there to … er … take a measure of the lay of the land when we heard some noise under the porch. They’d put their indoor cat outside and she’d had kittens … these two are the only ones of the litter that survived. The mother is over there in that box but I don’t know if she’s gonna make it.”
I immediately ran over to the box and opened it. Several towels had been used to make a nest for a cat that didn’t look much more than kitten herself. Her fur looked like it weighed more than she did. I transferred the thoroughly cowed kittens to my robe pocket and buttoned it closed and then carefully stuck my hand down in the box. Unusual for a cat she licked my hand pathetically.
“She’s thirsty. Pour me a little water in that jar lid beside the pitcher.”
“You a cat person?” Clewis asked while Jude brought me the water.
“Always wanted one but Jay was allergic. I used to take care of the neighbor’s cat when they went out of town and she’d come over and look for me to play with her every once in a while until someone forgot and left her out overnight and she got hit by a car. She was a long haired cat too just like this … well, not just like this. Shadow was gray … this one looks almost like a Himalayan without the smooshed in face and not so fat. Got the right color blue eyes though.”
I gently lifted the mother cat out of the box and put her in my lap and held the lid of water for her to drink from. She was hesitant at first but once she figured out what was what she licked the water until her strength was gone. But I was gratified to hear her trying to purr. “I’ll take them into my room where it’s warm. You go on and do whatever.”
Jude bent down and touched my arm. “Dovie … Sweetheart … Don’t go getting attached.”
Hesitantly I asked, “Why? Are you just … just moving them around?”
“No, it’s not that. Just … the mother don’t look too healthy and the kittens are real young. If the mother don’t make it I doubt the kittens will either.”
“The momma will make it. She just needs someone to look after her.” I messed with her paws a bit when she started trying to knead my leg and realized after closer inspection what was missing. “She doesn’t have any front claws.”
“Yeah, noticed that too. Dumb people. Setting an animal free is one thing but you don’t abandon animals that ain’t fit to survive in the wild on their own. It’s kinder just to put them down than to make them suffer. I doubt she’s been very successful at hunting though to her credit here were a pretty fair number of what looked like mice bones under the porch.”
“She’ll make it. I’ve just gotta figure out what to feed her,” I said trying to think.
Clewis said helpfully, “The house was full of cat food … that expensive canned stuff.”
Jude turned and looked daggers at Clewis who suddenly found someplace else to be. I looked at Jude and said, “I guess he figures you tell me everything now. Just pretend I didn’t hear it and go on about your business.” I put the mother cat back in the box even though she didn’t want to go when she heard the kittens that had started to mew in my pocket. “Just hang on you three. All I’m going to do is take you some place you’ll be warm and then you can be reunited.”
“I know already. Don’t get attached.”
Jude sighed and shook his head. “I’ll bring you a can in a minute. You’re going to have to help me come up with a cover story for the kids though. I can’t have them spreading things far and wide like we’ve got canned cat food or people might wonder what else we have.”
“I’ll take care of it. All I have to do is tell ‘em that if they say anything we’ll likely have to get rid of the cats or someone will get jealous and come around and maybe hurt them.”
“That might not be as far from the truth as you meant it to be Sweetheart. People are losing animals … including pets … left and right these days and all of them can’t be to wild animals. I’ve heard …”
At his hesitation I asked, “What?”
Quietly he said, “I’ve heard stories coming out of the big cities that dog and cat and just about anything else that can be found is on the menu.”
I grimaced but it didn’t surprise me like he expected it would. “Well … I told you I saw things on the road I would rather not have. Desperate people do desperate things … and not all the pets that were taken on the road made it to where they were going with their humans.”
Then it was Jude’s turn to grimace. He helped me stand up and then gently pushed me off towards my room. I didn’t look back as I ducked under the strings of laundry, not even when I heard him and Clewis bringing stuff in. I just opened and closed my bedroom door and shut their business out. My business, for the moment, was seeing what I could do for the three wretched refugees that I had taken on.