Will our hero ever catch a break?

Patches found himself gazing into vacant and confused eyes as Dustin stood mute before him, “Have you lost your tongue, boy?”

Dustin shook his head emphatically, “Oh no, sir, I have it right here, see?” The tongue was extended for inspection as Patches merely sighed. “But, sir, I really do hope terribly that you can help me retrieve my cat. I miss him awfully much!”

Patches started massaging his temples as he ground out through gritted teeth, “Dustin, I do not WANT to be retrieved. I do not like you. I have been happily free of you for these many months, and I have no desire to change that.”

Dustin nodded agreeably, “Yes, sir, but could I have my cat back?”

He turned and started beating his head rhythmically against a wall.

“Sir? Are you all right, sir?”

The cat turned his head and squinted at the annoyance before him. There was a faint red mark on his forehead. “Am I all right? You want to know if I’m all right, Dustin?” The pretty but vacant head nodded eagerly, “I am not bloody well all right, Dustin! Why don’t you get another cat?”

The boy shook his head, “Oh no, I couldn’t do that, sir. Patches is ever so special. I’m not sure where I’d find another talking cat.”

“Or shape-shifting one,” was muttered beneath a breath before a greater one was taken, “Dustin, I am Patches. I do not want to go home. I am perfectly content where I am. Go. Away.”

A head was already shaking, “You can’t be Patches, sir, for you’re much too tall!”

Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump. Patches’ head was again beating a nice tempo against his wall. For this reason he did not immediately notice the knocking on the door. It wasn’t until he heard a plaintive, “Neighbour?” That he stopped with a groan. It just kept getting better. He pushed Dustin out of sight and held up a warning finger. He stood with his hand on the doorknob and glared at the boy until he clapped his hands over his mouth and nodded. The door cracked open the barest smidgen, “Yes?”

A bright, white, and sharp smile greeted him, “Oh dear, I do so hate to bother you, but my dinner is running late and I wondered if you might have something to tide me over? A steak? Pigeon? That delectable boy who was pounding on your door?” Curls were patted into place, “Whatever you could spare, really. I would be so grateful.”

He leaned his head against the frame, “Eugenia…you can’t eat the boy. The din hasn’t died down from the last time your dinner was running late and you got peckish.”

A girlish pout appeared, “Oh, pooh. He was barely a mouthful. I don’t see what all the fuss was about,” a long suffering sigh whooshed out, “Very well, but do you have that steak? I really am most awfully hungry.”

He gritted his teeth, “You really need to learn to keep your larder stocked.” Her eyes stared up at him in entreaty and he sighed, “I might have a steak. Wait here.” He carefully closed and locked his door, he wasn’t trusting his sanguinaire neighbour to any degree. As he came back to the door, steak in hand, he could hear a commotion arising out in the hall. If this kept on the way it had begun, his teeth would be worn to stubs! He put his hand on the doorknob and hesitated briefly. Glancing over at Dustin with narrowed eyes, he started to turn it.

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