Morning showed up, all dressed and ready for the party. I was not amused – not at all.
I’m usually an early riser but I still wasn’t fully caught up on my sleep and it was beginning to tell on me. I got up, forced myself into the routine of the day and seriously started debating calling in sick.
Breakfast was not happening – opening the refrigerator was a mistake – the thought of food did very unpleasant things to my stomach. I decided ten more minutes in bed was a good idea. I vaguely noticed that Thompkins was gone as I drug myself back to the bedroom.
My head had a small orchestra tuning up. I was almost to the bed when the phone started buzzing and the 1812 Overture began in my skull. I so did NOT want to pick up that phone – but I did.
“GET OUT OF THERE!” Crystal screamed into my ear. “NOW, MOVE IT!”
My brain went on autopilot. I snatched up Arnie and hit the fire escape.
Fresh air, both a blessing and a curse. My head was clearing but it felt like it was doing it by squirting my brains into a trash compactor. Now by rights, I should have been puking out my guts but the slayer part of my brain was on the job. I knew something was below me – since I’m on the first floor and the window is only twelve feet off the ground that wasn’t far. I was over the side, leaping for the ground instantly.
I wasn’t sure what it was – it wasn’t a creature I’d seen before. It looked human enough to anyone else but I knew it wasn’t. It was dressed like a repairman – possibly the most suspicious disguise you could pick for coming near our building – Poppa only hired journeymen when the work was too involved for us boys and he – which hadn’t happened in the last ten years.
It mewed. Literally, it made a cat like sound, sort of half startled and half scared. I didn’t want to kill it – not only did I not feel the need, I didn’t even sense a threat from this thing. That, and I wanted information it couldn’t give me dead.
It slumped to the ground, still mewing, probably assuming I was about to finish it. That was when I saw the tubing running from the basement window, broken now, to my window. I knew instantly what it was and why it was there. Things had taken another weird turn – now Vinnie was trying to kill me.
That actually made sense – I’d commanded those werewolves, sent them after what I hope was his pet vampire Mycroft – I was now an actual problem. If he still needed this distraction then he needed to be rid of me.
I pulled the creature to its feet. “Listen to me.” I wasn’t any too kindly about it, “Go fix what you did – then report to my apartment. Move NOW.”
In a flash it transformed into a cat and leapt into the basement. I could hear the sounds of tools being put to use faster than usual. Through the window, I could see it, in human form again, disassembling the rig that had been funneling carbon monoxide into my apartment.
Crystal joined me, her sword strapped to her back, “Are you okay?”
I nodded, “How?”
“Finley woke me – Arnie saw something come in the window. He thought it was a cat – but you acted funny when you got up and Arnie didn’t like that.”
I nodded again, and regretted it. The adrenaline was wearing off and the trumpet section was gearing up again. “Figures – I’m amazed Arnie warned you at all.”
Crystal sighed, “Arnie has a lot of death on him – he knows the smell. He knew you were dying – that was what got him to finally warn Finley and me.”
I didn’t nod but made a noise to acknowledge her comment. The tubing was disappearing into the basement. I was pretty sure I’d left the window open – that was when another, more frightening thought hit me.
“You!” I barked.
The creature appeared in the window. “Near done.” It mewed.
“Did you send gas anywhere else in the building?” I demanded.
“No, no, just one room. Have to, not want to.”
“Finish up and come out here.” I ordered.
“Yes. Do.” It disappeared again, evidently stowing away its tools and supplies. After a couple minutes, a black and white cat climbed back out of the window. It looked at me, but I shook my head slightly. Picking it up, I motioned for Crystal to go in through the fire escape. I went around and went in through the front door.
Crystal had all the windows open by the time I got there. I’d made a quick check of my parents apartment but the monoxide detector was on and working. The detector in my apartment was open and the battery removed. Well, that explained why it had come in.
I still wasn’t sure what it was. I turned to Crystal as yet another thought hit me, “Can you sense this thing at all?”
She shook her head, “No, it’s concealed.” She started catching on, “That’s weird – neither of us sensed it and neither did anyone else. A werecat shouldn’t be that powerful – not by a long shot.”
Well, now I knew what it was – I’d look up the details later. “Where’s Thompkins?”
“He went out a few hours ago – an…”
“Amber alert.” I finished the thought. “Tresmayne go with him?”
Crystal nodded, “He followed, yes. How did… Oh, oh no!”
“Don’t get ahead of ourselves – they may simply have waited for one to get Thompkins attention. That wouldn’t take long and would be simpler and safer than creating one.” I explained.
Plopping into my recliner, I regarded the werecat. What the heck was I supposed to do with this thing?
Dropping it to the floor, I had it transform. It wasn’t much to look at in human form – seemed way too small for a man – and its face was wrong somehow.
“Why are you dressed as a man?” Crystal asked it.
“Master say not look suspicious. Girl fixing furnace in summer very suspicious. Man fixing furnace in summer, not suspicious.” It answered.
I gawked. That was the dumbest thing I’d ever heard. A repairman breaking into the place to fix a furnace in the middle of the night – THAT was its cover story? “Who came up with that?”
“Master say look like man, come when he say, fix furnace but in bad way.” It answered.
Okay, it had been given an idiotic plan and just assumed the rest.
“Why are you still concealed?” Crystal wanted to know.
“No take off – no clothes.”
“You mean your coveralls are providing the concealment?” Getting a baffled look in response, I tried a different version, “Your clothes conceal you?”
It nodded, “Yes, clothes special – make special conceal. But Ayami no have other clothes.”
Crystal took off her sword and laid it on the kitchen table. “I should have something she can…”
I shook my head, “No, I don’t think so.” I fished my phone out of my pocket and dialed. “Thompkins? … No, that’s okay. … Is Tresmayne nearby?… Good. Ask him if anything followed you two or is nearby now. … No? Great! Here’s what I want you to do…”
Crystal looked on in confusion as I outlined my plan but she quickly caught on. Once I was off the phone, I turned to the werecat. “Is Ayami your name?”
She nodded, “Yes.”
“Okay, Ayami, you don’t have to be afraid. This wasn’t your fault – but we do have to get something straight first…”