* * *
The ride back home slid by rather swiftly in spite of the
bluster of the moody weather. Holly listened attentively to Vex as she
explained her idea for a solution to the sphinx problem, and even Augustus
seemed to pay attention. Now that Vex had a chance to look him over in person,
she caught onto the subtle cues that set Egyptian felis megamorphs apart from
regular old felis domesticus. Not the least of which was the very non-subtle
intelligence apparent behind his blue eyes.
“You will have to give Augustus his medicine on schedule,”
Vex said. Holly gently stroked the cat in her lap, who shivered under her
touch. “Since you’re already aware of his unique...condition, I think that you
can be trusted with the responsibility to do that.”
The girl held up the bottle that Vex had prepared outside
of the Walgreens earlier that day. She had converted a bottle of baby Tylenol
into a rudimentary phial, primarily for the use of the dropper. Holly pursed
her lips and looked at the contents, a murky liquid that appeared otherwise
mundane. The phial’s contents would last about three months before it needed a
“Okay,” Holly said. Taking a breath, she repeated the
instructions: “Three drops in his food every full moon and new moon. Not before
the sun sets.” She glanced at Augustus; the cat purred warmly back. “And this
will keep him from being an angry kitty.”
The brakes whined as Vex stopped the cab in front of the Taylors’
house. A police car still sat in the driveway.
“Before we go in.” Vex leaned across the center, opened
the glove box, grabbed her log book and tore off a page. She flipped it over
and wrote as legibly as she could on the back. “This is a friend of mine. He’s
a vet. Here’s his telephone number. Give it to your mother and have her call
him about Augustus. She’ll set up an appointment.” She looked out the window
and shrugged. “Tell her that he’s sick from being out in the rain and needs a
checkup. The vet’s name is Kirk. Tell your mom he’ll be the best for Augustus.”
Holly took the paper and nodded solemnly.
“Alright. Let’s go.”
* * *
Vex excused herself from the family reunion as quickly as she
could. Somewhere between Mrs. Taylor’s overjoyed weeping and the prying
questions from the cops. As heartwarming as it was, she couldn’t help but feel
as if she was out of place. She had a date to attend anyway, and she used that
excuse with a vengeance as she fled from the house, back to the cab, and tried
her best not to speed to the club she’d agreed to meet James at.
During the trip, she got Kirk on the radio to wrap some
He took her warning that he was going to receive a phone
call from a rather confused mother in stride and listened without interrupting,
for once, to her full description of how she’d resolved the “sphinx problem.”
“You used weight loss pills?”
“Well, sure,” she said. “You’ve seen the same commercials
I have. ‘Control your appetite!’ You mentioned that it was probably the crappy
food the sphinx was eating that kept him out of trouble for so long. I just put
two-and-two together and viola.”
“No kidding.” Glasses tinkled together in the
background and the gentle murmur of conversation spilled over onto the line. “You’re
really lucky you know, little miss. And I guess, so is that cat. Things could
have gone very badly.”
“They still could…” Vex sighed. She tried hard not to
think that far. A great deal of if’s waited there in Holly’s future. What if
the pills’ hunger suppressing power waned? What if Augustus killed again? What
if he killed Holly? She dreaded the thought that she might have to return to
that house one day because she’d made the wrong call today.
Still, that day might never come.
Vex popped cab the door open when she saw James walk over.
The low, throbbing bass from music inside the club rattled the air with polysymphonic
melodies. James had slicked back his hair and wore a fishnet shirt that showed
off his every individual flexing muscle. Feeling suddenly shown up in overall
style—especially because her lolita outfit now had waters stains on it—Vex
couldn’t help biting her lip and smiling sheepishly at him.
“Where are you anyway? I hear the most delightful music
in the background,” Kirk said.
“Wouldn’t you like to know,” she said to the radio.
“My lady,” James said, offering his hand.
Vex switched off the radio and took his hand.