In which all you need is love

Patches took a round about route to his lover’s home. It wouldn’t do to be caught before he could reach his haven. However subtle and circuitous his route, he still made haste and kept a wary eye on his surroundings. As he darted across the street a taxi came screeching to a halt beside him.

“Darling!” he heard a voice carol out.

He was in a stance that left him ready to run or fight when the driver popped her head out of the drivers side window. He’d never seen her before in his life, but hearts seemed to float from her eyes and about her head. He blinked. No, there were hearts floating about her head in a decidedly unfigurative fashion. He also seemed to hear drums. They were keeping the beat of a racing heart, such as a lovelorn soul might have in the vicinity of their beloved. He sighed.

“Darling!” the woman caroled again, “Get in the car so I can get the fuck out of here!” Her smile and tone disagreed considerably with the substance of her message and he could only blink again.

“Pardon?”

“My love, get in the fucking car now so we can make haste away from here! Now, cupcake!” Her smile and sweet tone seemed as though they should be coupled with sweet words of love, not demands. He started to open his mouth to beg clarification, when her dulcet tones interrupted him, “Some asshole cast a love spell on me, my darlingest studmuffin, and I would like to get my ass out of here before he shows up, pookie bear.”

He looked at the little hearts floating above them and abruptly hopped in the passenger side. “Oh, thank you, honeybun. Buckle up, dearheart!” With that merest of warnings she hit the gas and Patches clutched frantically at the seatbelt.

Once he finally had it secure and had caught his breath, he turned to his new-found…love. She was very fluffy. Her hair was not precisely curly, but it was very soft looking and was like a periwinkle cloud about her head. She had an elfin chin and big hazel eyes, with a cupid’s bow mouth adding to the entrancing whole.

She glanced at him from the side of her eyes and a sweet smile flitted across her face, “What the fuck are you looking at, lambikins?”

He faced forward quickly, she seemed unstable beneath the love charm, “You are very…aware of your current state. How can you recognize what’s happening to you?”

The batting of her eyes was almost audible, “Oh, my cute little buttercup, when this happens on a regular basis, you learn to recognize the signs.”

“How often has this happened to you?”

“At least once a week, my sweet angel face, and it’s getting real old.”

He cleared his throat, it seemed a dangerous question to ask but it was, nonetheless, important, “And, ahem, how did you know I was not the caster of this charm?”

The sweetness in her tone was rather brittle this time, “Because, my squishy little boo boo, the same five assholes keep casting at me.”

“Five?!?”

“Yes, monkey buns, they were my idiot neighbours. So I moved and they followed me, snookums. And they find it impossible to stop trying, dumpling. You can imagine how much I enjoy these instances, tootsie wootsy!” The sarcasm came clearly through the tattered veil of the love charm. The hearts continued to float around the roof of the car, like so many unwanted balloons.

He suppressed a scowl, “Are all of those inane pet names entirely necessary?”

“Yes, pumpkin, they are. I don’t know why, sweet pea, but they help dissipate the effects.”

He took mental note of that fact, then glanced around at his surroundings, “Where, precisely, are we headed?” He glanced over at his driver to take note of her facial expression. He was glad he did as a grim humour seeped through.

“You’re in luck, bunny, I figured out how to lift the spell without killing the object of my affections not too long ago. We just need to get to a spot I found, papa bear, and we’ll get it taken care of in a jiffy.”

Patches sat in his seat silently, even more wary than before. He didn’t know how serious she was about the murder bit, but he rather hoped she was sincere in the statement that he would not be a victim.

They screeched into a stone circle. He couldn’t remember seeing it before. He glanced around, he was familiar with this park and he was certain that no such circle existed there.

“Okay, hot stuff, hop on out. We need to get this done before my paramours figure it out, my dewdrop.”

He got out of the car and threw his wary eyes around the circle, remaining aware of the cab driver beside him.

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Familiar Faces

A withered and scarred claw clutched at Patches’ jacket. A burn victim, several months healed, stood behind him, toothily smiling.

“Oh, for heaven’s sake, Eugenia, I haven’t the time for this right now! This night has already proved itself far too long, and far too much of an ordeal! I’ve already dispatched you once; must I do it again?”

Eugenia huffed. “We have business to discuss, dear neighbor. You dashed off without a word!”

The doctor stepped up, then. “I believe that we have a matter or two to go over as well, sir. Good work, by the way, Decca. He nearly snuck off like a thief in the night!”

Patches quickly dropped the treacherous turtle, who scuttled off with a muttered “Oi!” His various foes were watching him expectantly. This was a tricky situation, and had to be handled carefully, and quickly – the surgeon’s goons were circling like sharks.

“My dear Eugenia, I really must thank you for the good turn  you did me earlier, rescuing me from a life of De Carabas-inspired nonsense. I ought to return the favor; if you’re peckish at all, I’m certain that none of these gentlemen would be missed.”

“Well, it would help restore my complexion…”

“Oh, go on – be a devil.”

She took him at his word; Patches ran pell-mell from the resulting blood-bath. Damn it! He was running out of boltholes, and he really needed some rest. Where to?

Mrs. Miggins’ café would just have to do. An old lover of his, she was used to his unconventional ways, his odd hours and habits. She knew him as Chance Cunningham, because everyone knows that it is a very foolish thing to use your true name when you are both a cat and a burgler, even with your current amour.

Leticia Miggins was a lonely widow of nearly sixty years; her high pile of garishly dyed red hair peeked in wisps from her mob cap. Her heavy make up was customarily far too pale, leading one to notice the cartoonish circles of rouge all the more. She was described as “much married” in her youth; her husbands were sailors, and enjoyed their connubial bliss in shifts, so to speak. These days, she played the doting aunt at her cafe, pinching the cheeks of the students at university – the sort that Hugo and Weber liked to imagine.

Their affair had been brief but tumultuous. Patches had been hanging around her place, communing with more common cats – she was mad about them. Twenty or more thronged about her door at all times, and she knew them all on sight. She instantly picked up on the fact that he was a newcomer, and attempted to rub his tummy. He let her.

When he had returned later, she had said that he seemed familiar – she took it as proof that they were soul mates, and he didn’t disabuse her of the notion. She still carried a torch for him, he was certain of it – she was fond of sailors and cats; long absences were nothing to her. Everything rode on her being at home, and opening the door; he had no other place he could turn.

A Narrow Escape?

Before even a minute had passed, Patches knew it had been a mistake to invite the turtle along. For one thing, he worked alone. Always. For another, escape from the doctor’s back room would have been much easier if he could slip into his feline form. Unfortunately, the turtle was neither agile nor fast enough to make it through the window, and much too cumbersome for a cat to deal with.  He now sat in the crook of Patches’ arm, while Patches considered his options.

The door was no good. He’d have to walk by the doctor again. Could he scale the wall outside with the turtle in tow? Or maybe he simply needed to dispatch with the doctor. A careful swipe of a claw could do it…

Decca interrupted his thoughts. “Y’ might have luck with the fire escape, mate.”

Luck, as Decca pointed out, was on his side. Glancing out the window,  he saw that the rusted fire escape remained intact.

“Thanks, mate” Patches whispered. Perhaps the turtle would come in handy after all. Patches needed more rest, and a second set of eyes to keep watch might be just the thing. He tucked the turtle into his coat pocket, hoping he’d remember to take care and not squish him.

Unfortunately, as Patches swung his legs out the window, the door creaked open slowly.

“Better run for it!” Decca shouted squeakily.

“Hey there!” Dougal yelped. “Doctor, come quick!”

Patches flew down the stairs of the fire escape with catlike grace. He didn’t hear anything behind him, but did not give in to the temptation to look back. He was much too experienced for such an amateur mistake.

He jumped the last flight and landed squarely on both feet, crouched and ready to spring. Seeing a fence on one side and an alley on the other, Patches broke into a  sprint. He rounded a corner and skidded to a halt at the sight of a tall shadow in a coat and hat. The garb obscured his face, but Patches wasn’t taking a chance – he pivoted on one foot and ran the other way…

…smack into the doctor.

“Leaving so soon, my guest?” the doctor said, wiping his scalpel on his already quite bloody coat. His tone belied his face, which played with a toy of a smile in one corner. “What a shame. I had arranged for some company to amuse you.” He gestured to the figure behind Patches.

Instead of turning to look, Patches lithely bolted sideways down the alley, back the way he came. There was no way anyone could catch him, he felt. He had never moved so fast. His legs hardly felt like they exerted any energy at all. He flew to the fence, intending to hop the chain link.

In mid-leap, however, he felt something powerful yank him backwards.

 

 

 

In which there are more fantasticallities

As Patches slept the sleep of the contentedly unjust, a shadow began to emerge from the combat boot on the edges of his territory. It was large, rugged, and well-used. That is to say, the boot was, it is so much harder to say how well-used a mysterious shadow is. The shadow was not large, and it was hard to discern much from what little could be seen of it. It inched away from the boot and the cat and ended up directly above the distinguished doctor’s domain.

It had been only an hour or so since Patches had arrived, and the dear doctor’s dismal disciple, Dougal, was disposing of some distressing offal. “Dougal, my dear and loyal employee, do you think one of your innumerable cousins might be brought to consider coming by here in a few hours or so?”

Dougal scratched his head and shrugged, “Don’t see why not. Our Rob might manage it, if you’re willing to send a little ‘is way.” He rubbed his fingers together to communicate what ought to be sent.

“Oh, that shan’t be a problem at all, my boy, not at all. Some…associates will most likely be here and the extra brawn could prove most helpful if our guest abovestairs becomes…recalcitrant.”

Dougal grinned, “ Our Rob is good with that type, sir. Call him after we’re done with this mess, shall I?”

The good doctor rubbed his bloody hands together in gleeful anticipation, “Oh, that would be most helpful, most helpful indeed!”

The silent shadow shuffled back to the deeply drowsing feline and nudged him. “Oi!” it hissed, “Oi mate, it’s time you were waking up if you know what’s good for you!”

Patches leapt awake with a hiss, batting out at the shadow. He made a solid hit but it only wobbled a bit, “What or who are you? What do you want?”

A grumbling tone entered the voice, “Try to help a bloke out and all you for your trouble is to have him job you right on the noggin!”

The cat’s eyes were narrowed suspiciously as his astute night vision picked out the image of a…turtle? He blinked, “A talking turtle?”

The reptile humphed in protest, “A talking cat. Now that we’ve that established y’might want to get moving.”

Patches pulled out a small electric lantern and carefully turned it on. He shook his head and looked again at the vision before him. It was a small mud turtle, that he had already ascertained. However, in the brighter light certain things came into view. Such as the tiny spiked prussian motorcycle that grace its head. And the battered image of the Union Jack painted across its back. As he scrutinized it a miniature box cutter, clutched in small claws, came into view, “Looked long enough,mate?”

The cat slapped a paw over his nose, “What is that stench?”

The box cutter waved, “Yeah, don’t mess with me mate, if I don’t cut ya, I’ll stink ya out! Now do ya want me help or not?” The cat nodded rapidly and the stench seemed to subside the slightest bit. “I wouldn’t normally mess about with the doctor’s business, but it seems that we’re two of a special kind. So I says to myself ‘Decca,’ that’s me name by the by, ‘Decca, you can’t leave a fellow fantastical beast to the tender mercies of the doc and his associates.’ So I came to warn ya.”

Patches unfolded into his human form and grabbed his belongings, “My thanks, Decca.” He hesitated, glancing down at the tiny turtle. It was rare that he ran into many talking animals. He met many fantasticals, but the animal type were either more rare or more mortal. While he pondered the creature before him, the box cutter disappeared back into the shell and the bizarrely ornamented turtle started making its way back towards its boot, apparently dismissing the creature behind it. “Decca?”

The spike wavered as the turtle looked back, “Yeah mate?”

“Would you care to accompany me?”

The outlandish turtle seemed to be considering the request carefully, a thoughtful look on its scaled face, “Aye, that might be a treat. Grab me boot.” With that the turtle turned back to the man and waited expectantly as the boot was dutifully stashed in luggage.

The Doctor

No, Patches was decidedly not there. Neither was the valise of crisp bills, nor the emergency overnight bag he kept by the door, stocked with his more interesting weapons, the priciest valuables, and fresh socks and handkerchiefs. Patches wasn’t there, and wouldn’t be for some time. The locked door and freshly-flaming foyer should sort the vampire, and wipe out his tracks – and his increasingly popular address.

No matter; obviously any enterprising tabby has a hidey-hole or two, and Patches was no exception. He was limited in speed by his luggage  and current form; this wasn’t the part of town where one could trust a cab. He muttered to himself, trying to decide which safe house he could arrive at with most haste and least effort – the old butcher of a surgeon ought still to be up. Unsavory, yes, but fate had conspired against poor Patches this night, and he couldn’t be too choosy with the rented inferno lighting the whole damned district.

Darting into, yes, an alley, and pounding on a – that’s right! – rickety door, Patches stole a nervous glance at his fetid surroundings. There was no telling where that stench was wafting from; crates and drifts of debris fleshed out the scene. It might even be coming from Doctor Hogmany’s surgery. The interior smelled of an apprentice gamekeeper with astonishing regularity. The door creaked open, and the ancient half-blind “professional” stepped out, blinked blearily a few times. “Ah. Mr. Penny. I presume this is no social call?”

“Indeed not, Doctor Hogmany. Do you happen to still have that vacant area under your eaves?”

‘”Your storage space? Why yes, of course! You’ve paid in full, I trust?”

“Naturally.” A banknote changed hands, and the surgeon stood aside. “Right this way, Mr. Penny.”

They ascended the stairs at the back of the reeking room, Patches generously turning a blind eye to the patient bound to the chair and the gutter of blood leading to a drain, the clutter and chaos of a backstreet surgery in progress. Noting the patient, and desiring a modicum of privacy, “Mr. Penny” suggested that the doctor return to his business, heaving a grateful sigh when he did so. Stairs, a drop-down ladder, a board spaced between rafters serving as a catwalk – eventually Patches reached the four feet of space he’d earlier secured. Setting his luggage to the side, he happily shrank back into something more comfortable, and slipped into his long-delayed sleep. After all, he had a big job coming up; he needed his rest.

Below, the surgeon smirked a sinister smirk. After he was finished here – a few hours, give or take, given that he was wrist-deep in organs at the moment – he had some colleagues who would be very interested in his midnight visitor.

Patches gingerly opened the door. Eugenia flew in and, in tripping over the stoop, shot headlong into Dustin. Not seeing this accidental attack coming, Dustin toppled to the ground, along with the table and candles by the door. All tangled limbs, Dustin howled in surprise, scrambling to free himself. In such an intimate heap, though, the vampire couldn’t resist the scent and warmth of the boy’s flesh.   She sunk in her teeth as if into a ripe peach.

“Eugenia! No!” shouted Patches, jumping in to pull her off the boy.

The damage had been done though. Despite Patches’ efforts, blood spurted from the punctures in his neck, and he screamed maniacally, grasping at the ragged wound. “She bit me! She bit me!” he shrieked over and over, sounding rather like a gramophone. Patches rolled his eyes. So much for keeping the neighbors out of his affairs.

Eugenia, meanwhile, skulked in the corner, wiping her mouth and looking wistfully at the writhing body on the floor.

“You’ll be fine, kid,” Patches offered. “Now quiet down. We can’t have the neighbors inquiring!”

The caterwauling didn’t stop, though, and unable to think of a better plan, Patches knocked him over the head with the fallen candlestick. Silence descended once again over the tiny apartment.

Eugenia stared. “You realize if we leave him, he’ll begin wasting?”

Patches turned, snarling. “You utter fool! I warned you about this sort of thing! Now, I’m going to have to dispose of a body. Great, just great. As if I haven’t enough to get done!”

“Body?” the vampire’s eyes widened.

“Yes, body. I can’t let him waste, so what choice did you give me?”

Eugenia shrugged, looking away coyly. “You could let me finish him off…”

“Absolutely not!” Patches replied. “Just what I need, another thirsty vampire on my porch.”

“We’re not all that bad.”

“No.” Something in the ferocity of Patches’ face told Eugenia not to further press the matter.

“So…you’re…” she started…

…but Patches bent over and snapped the young neck. Just like that, one problem solved, another created – not to mention the blood pooling on the filthy floor.

“You owe me, Eugenia,” he said. The way he enunciated each syllable informed her he wasn’t joking.

The vampire nodded furiously, her eyes wide.

“So you’ll help me dispose of this, correct?”

She continued nodding, her hair whipping in punctuation.

“Excellent. I’ll get the tarps , you get the mop. In the pantry cupboard.

Eugenia ran into the other room. Something in his eyes told her not to waste a moment.

Even still, by the time she had located the cleaning supplies and returned, the body – and Patches – was gone.