A lost pets tribute
By Kyt Dotson
Small Seal-Point Siamese
White Coloration, blue collar.
Named: Augustus Caesar
IF FOUND PLEASE CALL
Monster hunting had taken a turn for the strange.
Thunk. Thunk. Thunk.
Vex Harrow’s taxicab idled by the curb and the wind
whipped raindrops through her fingers as she nailed the sign onto the telephone
poll. Sign number twenty. Holly Taylor—her newest fare, a girl of eleven, owner
of Augustus Caesar—held the sign steady. In spite of the rain, and Vex’s
command to stay in the cab, the little girl insisted on having part in every
bit of the sign posting process. Even now that she was shivering, her blonde
hair turned dark with damp.
Twenty more signs waited in the back seat, laminated and
neatly stacked. But this one was the last for today.
“We should get you back home,” Vex said. “I don’t think
your mother meant for me to have you out in the rain.”
For once in the past two days, Holly didn’t argue about
* * *
Terrified. Alone. Cold—wet—hungry. Hiding. Danger. Stay
hidden. The hunger grows.
* * *
Holly beat Vex to the front door and flung it open;
welcoming light flooded out. Vex stepped into it and closed the door behind
her. The dry interior embraced her like an old friend as she peeled her wet
coat off from her clammy arms. The room couldn’t have been more warmly
appointed even if it had included a fireplace—something few sane houses in Phoenix
included. The past three times she’d placed boot inside, Vex had imagined
Holly, with her mother and father—and kitty cat, Augustus Caesar—lounging about
the living room reading or watching TV.
If the family had known what secrets their housecat held,
they would have “lost” him long ago.
“Would you like something warm to drink?” Mrs. Taylor
asked from the kitchen. “I have lots of kinds of tea—organic and fair trade.”
Mrs. Taylor. A casual fare who had found her way into
Vex’s cab more than two dozen times over the past few years. Doctors
appointments mostly. Vex liked driving Mrs. Taylor; she was a good fare, a good
tipper, and more than that, Vex liked to listen to her brag and worry about
Holly. Vex liked her enough that she’d asked Dispatch to pair them together
whenever she was on duty. So three days ago, when she’d driven through the Taylors’
general neighborhood to check out the scene of an unusual and bizarre killing,
she’d seen a lost cat poster on every telephone pole, and after awhile realized
the picture displayed on the poster wasn’t exactly a cat. When she stopped to
take a closer look, she recognized the owners’ address.
Mr. and Mrs. Taylor had no idea what kind of strange
creature their daughter had adopted as a pet—very likely, neither did Holly.
“Come on Mom, you know Miss Vex only drinks hot cocoa,”
Holly said. She winked, adding, “With marshmallows!”
“Do you have any cocoa, Mrs. Taylor?” asked Vex.
“Of course. I thought you’d say that so I have some
ready,” Mrs. Taylor said, handing Vex and Holly steaming mugs from the counter.
“But the tea’s always available if you ever want to try something different.”
The Taylors had posted the first lost cat sign three days
ago, and ever since Vex had volunteered for the duty of official ride and
sign-poster. From the get go Holly “gonna-get-kitty-home” Taylor had taken
charge. She came to the job armed with a stack of “LOST CAT” posters a mile
high, eyes full of barely withheld tears, and a tough-streak.
“So,” Mrs. Taylor said. “How many signs did you get up
before the sky opened up on you?”
Vex shrugged over her cup, doing a mental calculation. “About
“That’s quite a few! Augustus will be home in no time at
“After this we’re going right back out,” Holly
said. She plonked her now half-empty cup of cocoa on the table. The strong tone
of her voice and the sternness of her expression were ruined totally by the
chocolate froth moustache on her upper lip.
“I don’t want you going back out in that storm,” her
mother said. “Miss Harrow has been very kind, but you’ve done enough for today—both
of you. Don’t forget—the police still haven’t found that killer.”