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.