Chapter 4. Escape Claws
Adrian awoke from the best sex he’d had in ages.
In fact, it was the only sex he’d had in ages. Slowly it dawned on him that he’d fallen asleep in his living room chair, and his dreamy lover was only a dream. Military type, eh? He hadn’t had the generic soldier fantasy in a while.
After the day he’d had, his subconscious probably felt it needed to surrender control to an authority figure. Or maybe it had been inspired by all those uniformed cops who’d poked around last night. He’d thought Officer Eddy kind of cute, if only the guy hadn’t taken the role of bad cop quite so seriously. Regardless of the inspiration, his dream lover’s buzz cut and hard body had been sexy as hell.
He sighed and stretched, his neck cracking painfully. The room was inky dark. A glance at the window said morning was still a long way off. He really should go lie down, but somehow he just couldn’t. How could he lie in the comfort of his warm, soft bed when Violet lay on a cold metal table somewhere? His only knowledge of morgues came from TV, but they’d pretty consistently been cold rooms filled with lockers of dead people. He shivered as if he were the one lying on the cold metal table. His eyes burned, but he still couldn’t cry.
Shifting a bit, Adrian realized he needed to change his pants and went to clean up without turning on the light.
He returned to his chair sporting fresh shorts. He curled up again, hooking the hassock closer and tucking the blanket around him again. Deliberately not thinking about the evening’s tragic events, he dozed…
Only to startle awake, fog-headed and panicky. What was that? A scratching noise? What the hell? One more shock, and he’d shoot right out of his chair and end up hanging from the ceiling, nails dug into the plaster like some cartoon kitty.
The scratching noise became a clicking. He could hear it coming across the floor toward him. Unable to parse the darkness, he huddled deeper beneath the blanket. Still groggy with sleep, he childishly hoped the thin fabric would shield him from whatever evil moved inexorably his way.
Closer, closer it came, halting in the shadows right before his chair. Suddenly, something landed in his lap. Something hard and sharp! He leapt from the chair with a squawk, tripping on his failed security blanket.
His third pass at the lamp illuminated the room, throwing a pool of light on the blanket that bubbled and hissed on the floor.
His eyes adjusted and he watched in groggy confusion as the discarded blanket writhed about like some boneless ghost seizing on his apartment floor. Adrian’s stomach flip-flopped, and it wasn’t exactly his heart that came up into his mouth.
Eventually, the truth sank into his foggy brain. It wasn’t the blanket itself that was possessed; it was wrapped around something—something that struggled and hissed. Too big for a mouse, it must be a rat. How could he contain it? He couldn’t just grab the blanket since whatever-it-was could probably bite right through it. It might be rabid.
As he watched, the thing under the blanket managed to work its way to one side, finally nosing its whiskery little face out from under. It surveyed the room once before streaking toward the kitchen and disappearing under the little table.
A cat. Adrian shuddered. How had a freakin’ cat gotten into the apartment? It had to go. Now.
He headed toward the apartment door, trying to figure how he’d coax the damn thing back out. It was probably someone’s beloved pet, and they’d be worried sick. It must have sneaked inside last night during all the…
And then he remembered. It was Violet’s cat, Pixel. And Violet wasn’t going to be able to care for him ever again. This, more than anything else, finally brought home the grim reality of Violet’s death. He fell back in the chair, wrapping the not-possessed blanket around himself again. He couldn’t really be blamed if, when the cat jumped in his lap a second time, he let it stay, maybe even scratched it behind the ears a little.
Nor did Pixel seem to mind if it got a little tear-stained.