Aulde Acquaintance

Mind awash with the previous hours’ malaise, Patches could feel himself slipping. It was certainly the first time he had ever gone this long without sleep,  and right now, nothing else mattered more. It was easier to focus on his own needs in this moment, even as he gingerly crossed and dismantled the several invisible security lines; nay, especially because of this detail in particular. Even in such a sleepless state, he could easily have done this with his eyes closed. He was in his element; this was how his clients found themselves wrapped about his sharp, voracious claws.

Leaping effortlessly to the Egypt room, he gazed with a brief admiration at the five items he was to procure. They seemed particularly fragile and pristine somehow; the golden light shone radiantly upon each individual glass cube encasing in an otherwise frozen, silent darkness. The entire scene felt decidedly dream-like in nature as he tried in vain to recall how he let himself get caught up in this predicament. Never had he left himself so vulnerable to manipulation, and yet…

“Now remember, honey-lips,” he heard the transmitter whispering into his ear, shocking him swiftly back into reality with a baited breath, “you grab what you came for within two minutes, no more, and no less, and perhaps I shall make it worth your while.”

It was more than any gentleman feline could endure. He would need to move fast.

The glass cubicles were no more than Patches had previously handled; he was used to moving past hard-to-reach locales. What was really on his mind wasn’t the stone sculptures but how he would get out of this predicament. There were goons surrounding every door to ensure his steadfast obedience, all equipped with magical abilities he dared not predict. They stared purposefully forward into the cold winter air, their controlled gaze a giveaway of the type of reward they would faithfully receive. Their Mistress shan’t ever be disappointed.

The one stroke of good luck was the removal of the collar earlier that day; it would have been much too risky dealing with the invisible yet present reality of moving about a high-security building such as this one. “And trust me,” Patches wisely assured her as dusk fell, his ego fleetingly stroked as he watched the cool, unfettered expression, “You need me because of the way I work. And the sooner you understand this, the better: I work under no restraints.”

Smiling to himself now, he knew what he had to do. Get the artifacts, naturally, because he wouldn’t dare leave this mess without at least a token ransom. The rest was simple, really: all he would need to do is find a different exit, but where? And how would he simultaneously manage to retrieve the money?

The statues were removed with ease, and a clean-cut circle of thick glass was all that remained. Placing them gently into his bag, he promptly surveyed his options. He was disguised in all black as a proper cat-burglar might, and thus remained beneath the radar no matter what the dozens of cameras may reveal. But he would still need to cover his tracks so that he would not be followed. It was a tricky operation, but…

And that’s when it happened. A warm breath beside his neck caused him to spin in sudden alarm to reveal a worn and blood-caked face, staring desperately into his eyes with cold sweat. “Help me,” came the muted words, trembling hands grappling his paws with painful ferocity.

It was Mr. Johnson, back from the dead.

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