Chapter 36 Cat Got Your Tongue?
June 6, 2008
This has been a tense week and yet in some ways things are better now. Confusing, huh? To me too!
Mick has mostly adapted to Travis and his trail of fur. He has got lint brushes tucked away all over the loft and I have to try hard not to laugh as I see him running it over the various surfaces that Travis has visited. Travis and I aren’t permanent residents of the loft, but I think we both enjoy it there a lot. Josef of all people brought a cat nip stuffed mouse for Travis and he now follows Josef like the pied piper. I’m still amazed over that one. You haven’t lived until you’ve heard Josef croon, “Who’s my puddy cat?” to Travis when he thinks no one is paying attention. Of course, the fact that Travis and I are at Mick’s so much hasn’t gone unnoticed, either by Josef or Lani. Both are adapting…
Mom and Clark are planning a barbeque the week that Robbi will be here, one week from now actually. It should be fun but I’m not sure how to explain the fact that Mick won’t be eating. Food allergy maybe? Blood work coming up? I guess we’ll figure that out when the time comes. I am happy that Mom has accepted that Mick and I are together; I know it’s hard for her and I understand why, but it’s a fact she is going to have to be okay with. I love them both but Mick is my future; I want her and Clark to welcome him into our family and I hope they can do that. I asked Mom to include Logan at the cook out and I hope he’ll come.
I still haven’t asked Mick about Logan; in my heart I know that I am right about it all, but I don’t know for sure what happened when he was turned. I know that it had to be something traumatic and that Logan had to have chosen it because Mick would never have done it otherwise. I have watched the two of them together a couple of times now and every instinct I have tells me I’m right.
Lani and I had our first fencing lesson and it was actually fun. The first lesson dealt with the history of the sport and we learned a few basic maneuvers and positions. I think I’ll like it a lot. Mick actually laughed when I told him about what we were going to do; not a making fun of us kind of laugh, but just because he is so intrigued by Lani’s pro-active approach to vampire vigilance. He also thinks that if it makes her more confident than we should go for it. I think she is beginning to warm up to him; she even had dinner with us (me, actually) last night after class and didn’t seem nervous at all, until Josef arrived that is.
What is it with those two? They seem to have developed this elaborate dance between them; first she is uncomfortable and then he is. Simone was with him and she was watching the two of them, a look of disbelief on her face as their banter seemed to be particularly sharp. He was impressed with the fencing lessons though and commented that it could be a helpful skill, which of course only caused her to stare at him with a look of contempt on her face. He laughed of course, enjoying the game.
Oh, and I had lunch with Audrey, now that was quite a meeting!
Beth sat at Mick’s table picking at some roasted chicken he had bought from the deli on his shopping trip. He now had enough food here to feed the entire USC football team she noticed as she checked out the fridge and the cabinets. Just how much food did he think she would eat anyway she wondered with a mental shake of her head. She popped a cherry tomato in her mouth from the salad she was eating with the chicken and grinned at him, watching as he sipped his glass of blood.
He seemed embarrassed by the fact that he was drinking it in front of her she realized when he wouldn’t quite meet her gaze. It didn’t gross her out or anything, it was just part of who he was. If he could accept the fact that occasionally she was going to eat Ben and Jerry’s for dinner she could accept the fact that he drank blood.
She heard a slight tinkle and looked down to find Travis sitting by her feet, one paw raised as if to say ‘feed me some of that chicken please’. She laughed and gave him a small bite and said, “That’s it. Go on now Travis!” He tilted his head to the side as if saying, ‘more please’ but she wasn’t buying it and ignored him.
“Audrey Pell called me the other day; she wants to have lunch tomorrow,” she told him and watched his face as he digested the news. One eyebrow quirked up in surprise and then a slight frown creased his forehead and turned the corners of his mouth down.
“So you’re meeting her then?” he inquired, taking another sip of blood and then wiping his mouth with the back of his hand, a gesture that was oddly endearing to her.
“Yes. She didn’t say what she wanted, only that she has moved to the city and has started a new job and wanted to catch up.”
“I didn’t realize that she didn’t already live here,” he said, trying to remember what he did know about her.
“She lived with her grandparents up in a small town called Delhi, a farming community apparently. That was after her parents were killed of course.”
Mick nodded and asked, “What does she do? I mean her job that is.”
It was Beth’s turn to frown and she said, “You know, I’m not sure actually. It was something to do with web development I think.”
“So what if she has questions Beth?”
“About that night?” At his nod she shrugged her shoulders and added, “I guess I’ll have to play it by ear.”
The next morning Beth woke up to the smell of coffee and Travis’ warm body pressed up against hers in the bed. The coffee explained were Mick was and she tugged one of his Henley’s over her head and padded down the stairs with Travis following close behind.
Mick grinned when he saw her and let out a long, slow whistle. “Wow, you look good in that shirt Beth; a lot better than I do!”
“If you really believe that you would be wrong,” she teased, stopping to kiss him softly on her way to grab a coffee cup only to find that he had one waiting for her already.
Travis meowed softly, a reminder that he wanted breakfast. Mick chuckled as he filled the cat’s dish and watched him attack it with gusto. “You know, I think he’s gained weight since he came to live with you. Just how much junk food were you feeding him?”
“None really. Well, a little ice cream occasionally,” she answered unwilling to let him know just how often that might have been.
“You know, it’s not good for cats, all that sugar.” He bent down and stroked Travis’ back and said, “No more ice cream for you my friend.”
Travis let out a mournful sound as if he understood Mick’s words then went back to his kitty chow. It was all good as far as he was concerned.
As soon as Beth left for work Mick called Josef. He thought the phone was going to voice mail when Josef picked up.
“This had better be good. I don’t crawl out of sub-zero oblivion for just anyone you know,” he said impatiently.
“Good morning Josef!” Mick laughed, tickled that he had caught Josef at an inconvenient time but he quickly sobered when he remembered the reason why. “Look, I think I may have a problem.”
“Does that mean that ‘we’ may have a problem?”
Mick hesitated for moment and then confirmed Josef’s fear. “Could be. Not sure yet.”
“I’ll be over in a few,” Josef said as he snapped the phone closed and headed to his closet. Rest would have to wait until he figured out what the latest crisis was but he’d bet the farm that it involved a certain blond reporter.
He made it to Mick’s in record time, squinting against the harsh sunlight through his Ray Ban’s. They might not be the most expensive sunglasses out there but they sure looked good he thought as he tilted his head this way and that in the rear view mirror.
He let the Ferrari loose on the freeway for the short trip and wished that it was night time or at least cloudy so he could have had the top down.
A few minutes later he pulled into the garage at Mick’s and was soon gliding past the floors as the elevator made the trip to the loft. As soon as he stepped out of it he caught the scent of blondie, but something else as well. He popped the door lock and looked around the room; somewhere in here was a wild animal. Did Mick need help with that?
Then he caught the other scent, its pervasive fragrance floating through the loft like the smell of cotton candy at the fair; not that he had ever been to one. It smelled sweet and musky, sexual and heady.
So they finally sealed the deal!
He couldn’t help the grin that tugged the corners of his mouth upwards. “Hey Mick! Where are you Romeo?”
Mick came downstairs quickly; he had been making the bed up and picking up their discarded clothes from last night. On his heels followed Travis, who stopped dead in his tracks at the sight and smell of Josef.
“Knew I smelled a wild animal. So, who’s this?” he asked, looking at Travis. “Handsome cat; isn’t he one of those fancy Bengal cats? They have spots, not stripes.”
Mick was surprised at Josef’s knowledge about cats; he never would have guessed that one. “I don’t know. This is Travis, Beth’s cat.” He looked at Travis who was still standing on the stairs and said, “Its okay Travis, he won’t eat you.”
Travis mewed inquisitively and then came down the stairs and right up to Josef, sniffing at his pants leg. Josef bent over and lightly scratched the top of his head and was amazed that Travis didn’t run. “How’d you accomplish this?” he asked Mick.
“It’s amazing what a little allure will do.” He moved into the kitchen to pour two glasses of liquid refreshment for them, knowing that Josef would grimace at the bagged blood, but it was all he had.
“So you charmed the pussy cat huh? And its owner I notice,” he smirked, raising his head as if to sniff the air.
“Not a word about that Josef. We’ve got other things to concern us.”
“Hey, I’m just glad you and blondie did the deed; maybe now you’ll stop being all mopey all the time. You are NO fun like that boyo.”
Mick sat down and noticed that Travis was perched next to Josef who was stroking his head. Mick shook his head in disbelief and told Josef about Luca and Carl and the lineup.
“So she got a look at the vamp; take her out now Mick.”
“It’s not that simple Josef; you can bet the police are watching her like a hawk because she’s a witness in a possible murder investigation.”
“Why didn’t you take her out that night Mick? You always leave these loose ends lying around and then we have to scramble to clean them up!” At his sharp tone of voice Travis jumped down and ran to Mick, landing in his lap and hiding his head. It seemed to be something he did a lot and Mick couldn’t help but wonder why.
“I wasn’t paying attention to her that night; I admit, I screwed up but I wouldn’t have killed her anyway. A little allure maybe, but all I was thinking about was that bastard Tejada.”
“Well, you’re going to have to think of her now, that’s for sure. Do you think she’ll pick you out of the line up?”
“Carl seemed to think not, that she was looking for a devil; someone with jet black eyes, a snout like a dog and huge teeth.”
“Well, she got the teeth right anyway. Never trust a human to get the details right. So what are you going to do and why was the good lieutenant telling you all this?”
“Wait and see I guess. And Carl, I don’t know Josef, but he told us that Josh had told him that he read Beth’s diary. I can only guess what he might have read in it.” He didn’t mention that he suspected that Carl believed what Josh had probably told him.
Josef’s body stiffened at the news. “What the hell was she writing in it anyway and why didn’t you ask her right away?”
“I don’t know and we sort of got busy with other things.” His look said, don’t ask what. Josef knew though and Mick could only imagine what he was thinking.
“You’d better notify Logan; you may have to make a quick exit Mick. You know that, right? Will blondie be going with you?”
“Stop calling her that, she hates it. And I don’t know; I hope so, but she might not want to.”
“Just kidnap her cat; she’ll follow,” Josef said, standing up and frowning at the traces of cat hair that clung to his Armani slacks. He stopped at the door and turned around, giving Mick a piercing look. “Call Logan – today!” and then he was gone. Mick knew he was right.
Audrey met Beth in front of the courthouse and they walked around the corner to a small bistro for lunch. Beth had ate here a time or two and thought it would be an ideal place to chat. Soft background music played and the back of the booths were high above their heads, assuring them of some small amount of privacy.
“It’s so good to see you Beth!” Audrey exclaimed, taking a sip of her raspberry iced tea. She smiled and said, “That’s good!”
“I know! I love it. I’m ordering the chicken salad, it’s delicious,” she answered.
When the server came back they both ordered the same thing and finally Beth said, “So, how come you moved down here?”
“My company transferred me actually. Well, they gave me the opportunity and I took it.”
“What exactly do you do? I remember something about web development.”
“It’s web design actually. We create websites for high profile companies. There is a fair amount of engineering and design in it in order to create a maintainable platform. I really love it; it’s challenging and creative and fun.”
Beth nodded and filled her in on the changes in her own life. Audrey laughed with delight when she heard that Beth and Mick were now together. “I knew it, I did. You are so perfect for one another,” she exclaimed.
Beth nodded and a small flush brightened her face showing how pleased she was. “We are. It was hard when Josh died, don’t get me wrong, but I already knew that I loved Mick. I loved Josh Audrey, but I just wasn’t in love with him any longer.”
Audrey nodded and started to say something when the server arrived with their meals. They both waited patiently until the server asked if they needed anything else.
“No,” they answered in unison and both of them laughed. Audrey took a bite of the chicken salad that had grapes and walnuts in it and smiled in appreciation. “This IS good!”
Beth nodded, taking a bite of her own salad and waited. Audrey had something on her mind and Beth had a good idea what it was. Finally, halfway through her salad she spoke up. “Beth, a – about that night. What I saw confused me. At first anyway. Mick and Sheppard, they’re different, aren’t they? I mean Mick is different since Sheppard is dead now. He IS dead now, isn’t he?”
Beth put her fork down and reached for Audrey’s hand across the table and gave it a gentle squeeze. “Yes Audrey, he is absolutely dead this time, I promise. Mick made sure of it.” She waited several heartbeats for Audrey to speak again.
“At first, I wasn’t really sure what I saw. And what I did know that I saw confused me even more. The way they fought, it – it wasn’t human was it Beth?”
“What do you think it was Audrey?” Beth’s heart was sinking; Audrey was a nice girl but no way would she let her put Mick in danger. Keeping the secret was the number one priority. Always…
“I didn’t know at first. I mean, what I thought I saw couldn’t be right, it just couldn’t possibly be right. But I think it is.” Audrey was quiet and looked around her, trying to see if anyone was paying attention to them. “I think Mick is a vampire and so was Sheppard. That’s why he didn’t die at first isn’t it?”
She spoke in a very quiet voice but Beth heard every word as if she had shouted it out loud. Beth blinked several times, glancing around the room herself but no one was paying any attention to them. She took out her wallet and dropped a $20 on the table and said, “Come on Audrey, let’s get out of here.”
Audrey grabbed her purse and hurried to catch up with Beth who was striding out of the restaurant at a near run. She headed across the street to the plaza across from the courthouse, making her way to a bench that was under a tree in the shade. No one was anywhere near it and she sank down gratefully onto it and waited for Audrey to catch up and take the seat beside her.
“Beth, I’m sorry I made you mad. I didn’t mean to, but I know I’m right. I’ve been doing a lot of reading Beth and after what I saw, it couldn’t be anything else.”
Beth took a deep breath and let it out slowly and then licked her lips. “Audrey, you had a really rough night; I know it can be easy to think you saw something like that, but there’s no such thing as vampires.”
“Are you one too Beth? Is that why you can’t tell me?”
“NO! What on earth gave you that idea? Audrey, you’re going in a totally wrong direction here.”
“No Beth, I’m not. It explains everything; how Sheppard didn’t die when he was executed, how he got into Mick’s apartment, why Mick had to cut his head off to kill him. He could have staked him I guess, but cutting his head off worked.”
“Staking vampires doesn’t kill them, it only paralyzes them!” Beth exclaimed before she realized what she had said.
“Wow, the books sure got that one wrong,” Audrey answered, a serious look on her face. “I wonder what else they got wrong. Is silver poison to them?”
“Audrey, you’re wrong about all this, okay? Just forget it all.” Beth tried frantically to think of something else to talk about but her mind was blank.
“No Beth, I’m not. I’m right, whether or not you admit it to me. And I understand if you don’t. I swear to you, I’ll never say anything to anyone about it – ever. I’m so grateful to Mick and you for keeping me safe, for saving me that night. I owe you both my life.” As she looked at Beth her eyes blinked back huge tears and Beth saw the truth in them – that she meant every word she had said.
Beth took out her phone and called Ben. “Hey Ben, I’m going to go and check out a lead on the Myerson case. It might take me all afternoon though so I’ll see you in the morning.” She ended the call, only feeling slightly guilty for lying to her boss. “C’mon Audrey, we have to go and see Mick.”
Audrey followed her silently; across the street to the parking garage and waited while Beth unlocked the Prius. As she slipped in and fastened her seat belt she had a fleeting thought that maybe she should be afraid but shrugged it off.
Oddly enough, she had never felt safer.
To be continued…