Title: Double Blind
Author: Tiffany Pitts
Publisher: Booktrope Editions
Author: Tiffany Pitts
Publisher: Booktrope Editions
Delilah Pelham’s brother, Paul, is missing. She should probably be worried about that but honestly, he’s been in trouble since the day he learned the words “trust me." In fact, if it weren’t for his roommate, Carl, she would gladly leave him to his fate.
Carl is a good guy, even if he’s a bit of a dork. Okay, a large slice of a dork. Possibly the entire cake.
But he wants to help, as do his gamer friends, which is how Deli finds herself in the middle of Hong Kong with the King of the Dorks, running from creepy guys with slicked-back hair and shiny black guns.
Back at home, Carl’s friends aren’t faring nearly as well. All they had to do was monitor the situation and feed Deli’s cat while she was gone. How could that possibly end in bloodshed?
There is an answer, of course, but no one ever thinks to ask the cat.
Deli’s Living Room
Later That Evening
Because of his size, most people assumed that Toesy was more dog-like. To some extent, that was true. He liked to go for walks. He liked chasing cats. He even played a very specialized game of fetch, which could be very rewarding—provided, of course, you were in need of a dead bird or half a rat.
But in some important ways, Toesy was very feline indeed. For instance, the second Jake’s breathing slowed from the syncopated wheeze of someone doing too many things at once to the drawn-out rhythm of sleep, he pounced.
No, pounced is too harsh a word. He crept, as well as any thirty-two pound cat can creep, from the far side of the couch to the man’s lap. It wasn’t easy. The man had minimal lap to start with and it currently held many electronic whatsits. However, Toesy’s ability to squish all thirty-two pounds of himself into tight spaces was quite remarkable, and soon he was cozied up between the man, his gadgetry, and the back of the couch.
After a while, the man woke up enough to move the whatsits from his lap to the coffee table. He discovered Toesy tucked in by his side and took the opportunity to reclaim the other half of the couch by propping his feet up on it. Toesy allowed the man to get comfortable before stretching out again. Delighted at this turn of events, he began to purr.
“You’re not such a huge monster, are you?” The man mumbled more contented laziness at him and scratched behind his left ear. A small drop of saliva gathered on Toesy’s lips.
The man must have been very tired because he soon returned to snoring. Toesy took advantage of the situation by climbing up to sleep on his chest.
Toesy considered his mistress a near-perfect human. She was easy to live with, generous with the catnip, and willing to stay in bed until noon on Sunday mornings if it was raining outside. Yet for all her fine qualities, Delilah Pelham had one major flaw. She was too small for him to sleep on.
Usually, as soon as he achieved the prime comfort position, she complained that he was too fat or that she could not breathe. Sometimes her arms fell asleep. Toesy loved Deli endlessly, but occasionally he suspected that she might be a bit of a wimp.
This man, who knew to feed him the Seafood Flavor without any prompting, would not complain about Toesy’s extra girth, for he had extra girth himself. Toesy suspected he might be a holy man. Certainly, no regular human he ever met had been so awe-inspiring.
He kneaded the lumps of stuff in the man’s shirt pocket into an arrangement conducive to long-term napping. Perfection attained, he tucked his nose into his furry belly and purred himself into a trance.
Or at least that’s what he intended to do.
A few moments into his joyous nap, Toesy heard a faint tick-tick sound and opened his left eye halfway. Normally, he didn't allow tick-tick noises, on the principle that they always precluded some sort of funny business, like a bird or a squirrel. Then he would have to go kill something, eat it, and spend the rest of the day fighting off vermin-induced heartburn. But thanks to this great man, he wasn’t hungry just now. He refused to allow one tick-tick to ruin his repose. He closed his tawny eye.
Another tick-tick ticked. Both of Toesy’s eyes shot open.
One tick-tick was understandable, but two tick-ticks? He would not stand for it. Toesy was a sweet creature as far as sharp-fanged, mildly feral cats go, but there was a streak of murder in him that would not stand for a good nap to be ruined by ticking jackassery.
He lifted his head to look at the nearest window. If that crow was back again, he intended to kill it completely this time. But the kitchen window was empty.
More ticking ticked, this time followed by faint scritchy-scratchy noises, which confused his senses. Toesy closed his eyes and focused his ears on the unusual sound. It came not from the window, but somewhere close.
He flicked his ears twice, once in recognition and once in disbelief. The ticks were coming from the man's trouser pocket!
Toesy searched until he found the fold of the man’s pocket and cautiously stuck his nose inside. The smell of cheese overpowered him for a moment, so he lay still and waited for his brain to adjust. After a moment, he was able to pick out more subtle scents. The tangy brine of coins, oily keys, and the cold, blank smell of glass—all surrounded by a diffuse aroma that Toesy could not place. It smelled awake.
The glass jumped toward him, hitting him in the nose. Toesy backed away, affronted.
Surely this man does not want all this tick-ticking in his pocket, he thought. I must put a stop to this nonsense.
He reached in through the folds of cloth with a giant furry paw. The glass surface was round like a tube, with a little fluff stuck in one end. As Toesy rummaged, the tube slid free from the man’s pocket and started to roll away toward the floor. He flashed a claw and caught it by the fluff.
Inside the tube, small bugs hopped and popped. Normally, Toesy wouldn't bother with bugs of this size, as he preferred something juicier. However, these particular bugs had just punched him in the nose and obviously needed a short, sharp lesson in consequences.
The wad of fluff at the end of the tube squeaked along his claws as Toesy dug deeper. He got a good grip and shook hard, loosening the cotton until suddenly it jerked free. This caused the glass tube to shoot across the room, where it hit the television with a tink and dropped to the floor.
Toesy did not want the bugs to escape before he could inspect (and possibly eat) them, so he power-jumped across the room.
When using all the muscles in its hind legs, the average house cat can jump six to seven feet from a resting position. Toesy, however, was not an average house cat. He was more like two or three average house cats shoved into the body of one. The force exerted by all thirty-two pounds of Toesy, power-jumping off the man’s sleeping abdomen, was approximately equal to being sucker punched by a gorilla.
That’s why the man woke up gasping for air and clutching his gut. He tried to roar, but without any breath, it came out a thin squeak.
“What the…” Wheeze. “…hell…” Gasp. “…are you doing?” Cough, cough.
Toesy had no attention to spare. He landed within inches of the glass tube, all thoughts laser-focused on the floor.
Now that he was better able to see them, the bugs didn’t look like bugs at all. They looked like shiny, hopping beans. He sniffed them. They smelled like shiny, hopping, metal beans. He reached out with a tentative paw and batted at them. One of the beans popped up, half an inch into the air. Toesy quickly clamped his paw down on it.
“What have you got there, Toesy?” the man asked after he went back to breathing right.
Toesy flicked his tail in deference to the man but did not turn around. He was trying to figure out how to let go of the shiny bean and eat it at the same time.
“Let me see, boy.”
The man was on his knees now, shuffling around on the floor next to Toesy.
“What’s this?” he said, holding up the cracked glass tube. “That’s not… No, it can’t be. What have you got?” His voice grew alarming and insistent.
“No! No, no, no, no, no! What have you done?”
Toesy admired his volume as the man yelled and scooped two of the beans back into the cracked tube.
“What are you doing with the Elevators? You can’t have those! They don’t even work! Carl is gonna kill me!”
Another bean popped into the air. Toesy clamped a free paw down on it while his eyes dilated all the way up to crazy. He loved everything about this day.
The man sat back on his haunches and examined the two beans he captured earlier. They sat at the bottom of the tube, vibrating back and forth gently.
“That…has not happened before,” he said. Then he looked at Toesy and added, “Do you see this?”
Toesy, still splay-legged with trapped beans, rejoiced at this turn of events. The man was getting in on the game, too! They would eat the beans together! He broke into spontaneous purring. The beans under his feet began to wiggle around, and he dug his claws into the carpet wildly.
The beans in the man’s hand vibrated faster. He peered at them, then he peered at Toesy. He brought the beans closer to Toesy. They began to pop inside their tube. He drew the beans away from Toesy. They quieted down.
“Holy shit,” the man said. “Cat, do you realize what this means? I could kiss you!”
But he did not kiss him. Instead, the man leaned over, lifted Toesy’s right paw and extracted the bean from underneath. Then he tousled Toesy’s shredded ears. Toesy dug the claws of his other paw deeper into the carpet. He did not want the man to take away his last bean.
“You,” he said, pointing to Toesy and smiling huge. “Are the most awesome cat in the universe! I gotta tell Carl.”
He stood up, grabbed something from the table, and walked to the kitchen. He was making little boop-boop noises on the electronic whatsit when he stopped suddenly.
“Shit, he’s still on a damn plane.” He turned to Toesy and continued talking. “I’ll have to email him about how awesome you are, Toesy.”
At the mention of his name, Toesy purred louder. The bean struggled beneath his paw.
“Now, where does Deli keep your cat treats?”
The Great Man continued to talk at him as he combed through the kitchen, but Toesy had stopped listening after cat treats.
There was no doubt in his mind now that this was indeed a holy man. Toesy loved him, whisker and claw. Deli was gone for now, but she would return. When she did, could he convince her to let this man stay? The thought of him sleeping on the couch forever made Toesy purr even louder.
The bean beneath his paw struggled again. Cautiously, in case it escaped, Toesy lifted his foot. The bean popped up but fell back down in the same spot, seemingly resigned to its fate. Toesy sniffed it twice, then ate it.
It tasted of metal and victory.