An Unpleasant Segue

Patches’ face was anything but resigned, but there was a certain stoic cast to the knitted brow, the irritated frown. “A change of plans? Quelle surprise.

‘You really mustn’t take that tone of voice with me, Twinkle-Mouth. I’m sure you’ll regret it.” The invisible collar tightened constricted until Patches’ eyes briefly bulged; her point made, Angeline let it relax. “Do we understand now, Cuddlekins? Good. Now, my … associate has given me some … unpleasant news. Well, perhaps interesting is a better term, dropsy: you’ve just been seen, very publicly, to have murdered Mr. J. Since you’ve no longer got an employer, there’s no need for you to complete your contract. Of course, this means that the law and the criminal underground will be out for you. Such a shame, isn’t it, poodle?”

This saccharine speech took a few minutes to recover from – but Patches’ new mistress didn’t have time for that. She bundled him into the cab and drove on. When he finally gathered his wits, he managed to string a few sentences together. “If you’re taking me to safety, why not just hide me in your own home? If you’re handing me over, why keep me bound to your service? Above all, how can I have been seen to commit murder when I’ve been here with you?”

“Excellent questions all, my pet, but I’m afraid that I can’t answer them for you. You know what they say about curiosity and cats, don’t you?” The syrupy façade that masked her sinister manner was getting a bit grating. They endured for a while in silence, and Patches resolved to keep all questions to himself – at least until he escaped from Miss Angeline’s shackles.

Therefore, when they arrived at the British Museum, he remained silent. When she unlocked the front door with her very own key, he kept his own counsel. When she led him to the wing devoted to Egyptology, he gave not a single murmur. Finally, Angeline pouted prettily. “This isn’t nearly as much fun without banter, now is it?”

“Answer my questions, and perhaps I’ll oblige you.”

“Ordinarily, I’d punish you for that, Poopsie, but you’re tiresome when you’re silent. How about answering a few questions of mine? Have you noticed, for example, that London seems to be in several distinct time periods at once, darling? And that it didn’t used to be? Doesn’t that seem a bit strange, unnatural?”

“When you’re a shape shifting cat, one gets used to a bit of peculiarity.”

“Well, liebling, I’ve been dabbling a bit in the occult, as you’ve plainly seen, and perhaps some of the experiments haven’t gone as planned, perhaps some of them have altered reality. You really mustn’t blame me, sweetheart.”

“And how does that explain our presence here?”

“You’re going to help me gather a few supplies, for my next and greatest spell.”

Shadow on the Stoop

“Now, snoochy- bear, this is how it’s going to play out,” Angeline purred, after abruptly ending her string of highly inventive profanity with a shake of her pretty curled head. He could feel the hearts bubbling above his own, filling him with a blinding affection for her. Didn’t he just make a mistake? A fog of purple love-mist clouded any thought beyond whisking her away somewhere with warm beaches and drinks with tiny umbrellas.

“Yes, my popple?” he asked. He thought he might slit his own throat if she requested it of him.

“We are going to go ahead and stage this heist, and pull one over on ol’ Mr. Johnson-Frogface-Gall-and-Worms.” With a snap of her fingers, she demonstrated the ease with which she expected this to happen. “First, we must dispatch with this love spell, or you’ll blow the whole thing with your sugar-talk.”

This time when proceeding with the spell-breaking ritual, she included some crystals placed around the perimeter and a tiny fire, over which she balanced a miniature cauldron filled with some kind of aromatic herbs. They smelled like mothballs and cardamom. In the back of his mind, Patches wondered about the differences in the spell-breaking process this time, but dammit! Angeline’s eyes sparkled and her skin glowed as if lit from within—all he could do was gaze upon it and resist the impulse to brush it with his fingertips. The last time he tried it she bit his fingers, and they still smarted.

After throwing some powder in the cauldron, which made a loud popping and fizzing, Patches felt the hearts above his head burst like bubbles, and immediately he felt lost and sort of nauseous. Where was he? What had happened?

It came flooding back, and he realized what she’d done.

Control spell.

He felt the invisible collar around his neck, which she gave a mischievous tug.

“There now,” she said with an impish smile. “I think we’re ready to give Mr. J a taste of his own medicine.”

“Angeline…please…” he begged. Patches greatly disliked begging, but his inner feline liked this collar even less.

“Quiet now, schmoopsy-poo. Mama’s got to to plan a heist.”

She tugged him back to the cab, all the while pulling either a raging feline or a full-grown male. When kerfuffled, Patches couldn’t help the shape-shifting. He hissed at her.

“Come now, what about our honeymoon after?” she pouted as she sped in the general direction of her home.

“Balls to your honeymoon!” he spat out, trying to calm himself so he could think of a way out of this.

Angeline whipped through traffic like it was the Isle of Man TT. As she pulled in front of her palatial townhouse, skidding to a stop, she whispered, “Holy fuck.”

For there, on the steps, a cloaked shadow sat. “Wait here,” she commanded, and Patches felt himself chained to the seat, unable to so much as wiggle.

She glided over to the shadow, who stood as they both spoke in hushed tones. Angeline waved her graceful hands now and again, as if in restrained agitation. Then, she walked toward Patches and leaned in the window.

“Darling-heart, there’s been a change of plans.”

The turning of the worm

Patches had been in tight spots before, but he didn’t know if he’d ever been held captive by a broad quite like this before. He stayed silent and plotted whilst waiting to hear what she had to say.

“You’ll get your dough, sexas toast, when-”

There was a flash of light, the sounds of birds singing in the trees, and a strain of barely heard music that sounded both familiar and new. Angeline dove to the cab floor and Patches prepared to take this opportunity to escape. As he lunged for his bag, he suddenly heard the sound of children laughing and playing. A scattering of pink stars swept across his vision.

“Godfuckingdamint, honeysop, don’t ya know how to read the signs?”

Patches turned and saw a beautiful, a beloved, face. He thought he could see hearts bobbing about her face and he sighed. It was so cute how she batted them away from her face. “Do you like Aruba, flitter-mouse?” He’d take her to Aruba after he stole the item from her, it would be like a honeymoon. Could it be a honeymoon? He took in the adorable look of frustration, the endearing way she pulled herself into the driver’s seat and started pounding her head against the steering wheel made him smile. The honks of the horn matched the beating of his heart. “Or Bora-Bora, either way, my dear, it’s your honeymoon.”

She stopped abruptly and sat up straight, “Honeymoon?”

He reached out and clasped her hand, “Yes, darling. After I finish this heist I have no commitments and we can run off into the sunset together. Preferably a sunset on the beach.”

She started to say something but stopped, an arrested expression on her face. The calculating look on her face was almost as captivating as the grin that started to spread across her face. “So, honey-bunny, can you tell me about this heist that’s interfering with our,” she seemed to choke a little, he thought the way the emotion overwhelmed her was positively endearing, “honeymoon?”

He hesitated, somewhere in his consciousness he could swear there was a voice screaming at him to shut up. He heard the tinkle of an ice cream truck and he sprang to attention in the seat, scrambling for change in his pocket. A soft hand was placed on his arm and he turned to see the glowing face of his beloved. “Dearest? Could you answer the question?” Ice cream forgotten he leaned forward and attempted to press his lips against hers. She gently stopped him, “Answer sweetie.”

He smiled into her eyes, “Oh, I have to finish a simple job tonight at your place. Then it’s off to Hawaii.” He leaned forward again only to be fended off.

She patted his chest, “Now, my love, do you know who hired you?”

He nodded eagerly, scooting closer, “Mr. Johnson. He has squinty brown eyes and he smells funny.”

Profanity started falling from her lips like rain, monsoon rain. He rested an elbow on the dash and his cheek in his hand. She was so delightfully creative, even if much of what she said was physiologically impossible.

A Coincidence?

It couldn’t possibly be true – it was the mark. Miss Angeline Dearborn, chorus-girl turned socialite, and one of the twelve richest people in London, had briefly been in love with him. He was due to rob her tomorrow night – that is to say, later on today. This was either a golden opportunity, or a disaster in the making. Given his luck this long, long, night, he was prepared to bet on the latter. Patches could see this entire gig ruining his reputation; he’d better figure out a plan, and quickly.

Angeline noticed his startled expression and botched recovery. “Something wrong, sugar-dumpling?” Both eyes and tone were dour.

“Why are you still – ” She cut him off, mid-flustered-sentence.

“It’s easier to just keep in practice, honeylump. Thanks for your time; I wish I could say it’s been fun.” Hips swaying like a cartoon metronome, she sauntered back to her taxi, about, no doubt, to go into hiding. Patches could see his chances slipping away.

“What – you snatch me off the street to do you a favor, and you’re going to just leave me here?”

“Looks like it. If it helps, you can just think of me as a heartless bitch. Bye-bye, Bubeleh.” He could barely hear her last words over the squeals of rubber and road. He quickly realized that his satchels were still in her cab – no help for it now. He transformed into his fleeter four-footed form, flying as fast as his feline frame could flit. Reaching the road, he jumped through the open window of her moving car – luckily, traffic had slowed her getaway long enough for him to catch up.  After transforming back, he was still winded. Angeline slammed on the brakes at his abrupt appearance; Patches’ head slammed into the dash.

“What the hell are you doing in my cab, peaches?”

He glanced sidelong, feeling very much like he was addressing a modern Mae West. In his best Humphrey Bogart voice, he drawled “I forgot something in your car, you crazy dame.” She slapped him, right where the welt from the dashboard was starting to show. “Watch it, Acushla. The wacky old-time film thing is my bag.” As an afterthought, she spit “Pudding-bear” in his direction.

As calmly as he could, he returned “I’m just here for my things. I thought it might be a courteous move to make sure you have some place to go after that crazy story you fed me, but since you clearly never want to see me again, I’ll just take my things and go.” He reached for his bags in the backseat – the one containing his payment was sitting open, the cash in plain view. Without surprise he felt it; turning back around in his seat, his eyes confirmed that there was a pearl-handled derringer firmly pressed against his side. Also visible, thanks to a convenient slit in her skirt, was the garter holster where it had been stowed, as well as a mile of shapely alabaster thigh.

She winked, and in the sweetest voice he’d heard her use yet, she purred “Now, dream-pumpkin, this is how the fuck things are going to go.”

 

A Summoning of the Spirits

“You know, I really have somewhere to be,” Patches said while his new…love, he guessed…grabbed a fistful of rose petals from her handbag.

“Could we perhaps make this ritual quick?” His eyelids felt heavy as he considered the past few hours, and the need for rest overwhelmed him. He must be refreshed before attempting the job in front of him.

“Darling heart, I have no earthly idea how long this will take. You can’t rush magic, sweetbottom.” With winsome frolicking she began sprinkling the luscious petals in a loose circle around the perimeter. The hearts bobbed above her as if tied by an invisible string; in this light, they looked almost cartoonish.

When she had scattered the last rose petal, she went back to her handbag and pulled out a large metal pair of shears. She also included a deck of cards and a handkerchief, which upon closer inspection Patches saw to be his. “Where did you…” he began, then realized the he had been filched. She must have been very skilled, indeed, to have done it without drawing his notice.

“Okay, sit in the center, rufflecake,” she demanded, gesturing with the shears. They looked dull with age, save for the blades, which gleamed with a recent sharpening.

“You aren’t going to do anything…unseemly, are you?” he asked, cocking his head back and raising an eyebrow.

“Not it you aren’t offended by a little summoning of the spirits, dimple cheeks,” she said waving the cards in front of him. He saw from the box that they were tarot cards, and he cautiously sat where she pointed, reserving the right to change forms if the situation progressed in an unsatisfactory manner.

“Ah,” she breathed in deeply, seating herself across from him. As she began pulling the cards from the deck and shuffling them about, he saw they weren’t like any tarot cards he had ever seen. They glowed with electric paint, a rarity he had only seen in the most unusual of circumstances, ordinarily in the hands of supernatural creatures…

After shuffling them thoroughly, she began fanning them out in a half-circle, muttering under her breath as she arranged and rearranged them. The muttering grew louder, into atonal singing of what sounded like nonsense words. Patches, however, understood Rubiconion, a dialect of a certain coven who wished to mislead those who would accuse them of illegal sorcery. She repeated, in varying non-melodies, a loose translation of “We are one, we are done, we are lovers no more.” Translating Rubiconion doesn’t always work, Patches knew, so he couldn’t be exactly certain.

She lifted the shears and pointed them at Patches. He inhaled a tad deeper than necessary as he looked down the blade. Just as he was about to abandon the entire enterprise, she deftly halved the handkerchief. He expelled a sigh of relief.

Lifting the linen halves up in the air, she released them, and they, along with the hearts above her head, dissolved. Just as Patches regained inner composure and began believing that a quick nap might indeed become a reality, he looked into his now-ex-lover’s eyes, and felt panic wash over him.