“New Years Eve” she muttered to herself darkly, “bah humbug, who cares!”
She slogged through the drizzle morosely. It has been drizzling all day. She hated drizzle. It was such a wimpy, indecisive thing. If you’re going to rain, then go ahead and rain! If not, just stop with the nasty drizzling pellets already. She felt them stinging her as she walked. It was cold. You never knew in Texas what you were going to get for New Years Eve, weather-wise.
She remembered the year she and her sister had played outside on New Years Eve wearing tank tops and shorts. There were pictures of them frolicking in the sunny Texas heat. There were also pictures of them the very next day bundled up in coats, gloves and scarves, shivering against the cold while posing for the picture.
The thought of her sister only darkened her mood more. Amelie was the reason she was out here in this nastiness. She could be at a New Years Eve party, in the warm, dry penthouse apartment of her boss Peter Sullivan, toasting the New Year with friends and coworkers in New York City, drinking champagne and eating from a smorgasbord that cost more than her car. Instead, she was trudging through the streets after dark in the freezing drizzle of a Texas backwater town in the middle of nowhere.
The call had come in early that morning, just her sister insisting she needed her help, that it was an emergency, that she couldn’t say more over the phone and no, it couldn’t wait until after the holiday. So Shannon had boarded the first flight out she could catch, flown into DFW then rented a car to take her where she needed to go.
Arriving at the address her sister had given her, she found an empty house. Amelie was not answering her cell phone and the house looked like a struggle had ensued. Great.
Shannon pulled a gun from the holster clipped under her jacket and cautiously made her way through the house. In an upstairs bedroom she found her sisters phone. That explained why she wasn’t answering it. It also made it clear that she hadn’t left of her own volition. No way Amelie would have left her phone behind.
A sound from the master bath got her attention and she slowly made her way to the door. Pushing the door opening cautiously with her foot while keeping both hands on the Ruger 9mm in her hands, she peered into the dimly lit room. A black cat regarded her suspiciously from the counter. Tucking the gun away she moved into the room and spoke to it.
“It’s ok kitty, I’m just looking for my sister.” She said soothingly, “Don’t suppose you know where she went, do you?” she asked as the searched the room for clues.
The cat was solid black with bright yellow eyes and its tail swished back and forth as it continued to track her every move.
“I might.” A voice said.
Shannon spun around and yanked the ruger from its holster. She swung it around the room searching for the source of the voice but there was no one there. No one but the cat. She turned incredulously toward it.
“You didn’t just…….” She trailed off as she shook herself. Of course the cat didn’t just speak! It was a cat!
“I did” the voice said and this time it was unmistakably coming from the cat.
“Wha—“ she began, “I need to sit down” she said as she backed into the bedroom and sank onto the chair in the corner.
Shannon Murphy was a trained investigator. She worked for one of New York City’s premier private investigative firms. Peter Sullivan had gotten filthy rich off the firm he owned that provided both PI work and private security. Shannon was one of his protégés, on a rocket train to the top. She had the highest clearance rate in the agency while also being one of the youngest. She was a rock star and she’d seen a lot. But never a talking cat.
But Shannon was practical if she was anything. If she heard a cat speak with her own two ears, then that cat spoke! Her observation skills were one of her best assets after all. She couldn’t afford to start doubting herself now. If the cat had information about her sisters whereabouts, then she would find her sister first and deal with the shock and impossibility of a talking cat later.
“Where?” She asked, instead of the other thousands questions that were running through her head. Like how the hell can you talk or am I losing my fucking mind?
“I said I MIGHT know” the cat replied as it jumped off the bathroom counter and sauntered into the bedroom like it was a normal cat or something.
“There was a man here with a gun who was very insistent that she go with him because he needed a witch.”
“A witch?” she asked in disbelief. But why not? She was talking to a cat after all.
“Yes, surely you knew your own sister was a witch, right?” the cat asked incredulously.
“Hey!” she said defensively. Talking was one thing, but she was not going to be judged by a cat! It was a cat, what gave it the right to judge her? “Amelie and I haven’t been that close for awhile.” She said in way of a defense. A weak one, she knew.
Her parents had died, she and Amelie had had a falling out and she had left town and never looked back. She felt a flush of guilt. She had thought Amelie was flighty, not responsible, partied too much, hung out with the wrong kind of people, was in short, throwing her life away. The life that their parents had worked so hard to give them. The college education that their parents had worked so hard to provide just thrown out the window when Amelie decided to drop out after one semester. Her crazy new age ideas….
Maybe not so crazy after all?
“An actual witch?” She asked skeptically, “Like a spell casting, magic using witch?”
The cat gazed at her coolly, “Do you know any other kind?” he asked.
“Well, I don’t know any actual, real life witches. People who say they practice witchcraft, read crystals, palms, tarot cards, whatever, those are just crackpot new age shysters, right?”
“If you say so.” The cat replied as it licked it’s paw.
“Ok, whatever,” She exploded, “this isn’t the time to reexamine my beliefs! Where is my sister?”
“I overhead the man with gun on the phone mention the local hardware store. So I’m guessing he took her there.”
The cat had insisted on accompanying her. Never in her wildest dreams would she have thought she’d be tracking her sister, who was a witch, with a cat for backup. A cat!
She had parked the rental car and was now walking through the mud and cold around the back of the local hardware store. How in the hell could her sister be a witch and not have told her? You weren’t the most supportive sister a voice whispered in the back of her mind. Dismissing the stab of guilt as yet another thing to examine later, she made her way to a window and peered in.
Getting the lay of the land and seeing no signs of anyone moving inside the store, she hurried around to the back of the building to look for a way in. As she stepped toward the door she heard a voice say, “Freeze!”
She instinctively reached for her gun, but found herself frozen in place. She literally could not move. She lifted her eyes to the woman standing in front of her. Tall but not taller than herself, blonde, curvy, the woman stood with her hands outstretched pointed toward her, holding the spell in place.
“I warned you!” the blond woman yelled.
“I—who—what?” Shannon tried vainly to move.
Looking closer at the woman in front of her, Shannon gasped in surprise, “Karen??”
“Shannon?” Karen sounded equally as shocked at seeing her, she dropped her hands and Shannon found that she could move again.
“That’s a pretty neat trick!” she said as she tried not to notice the rain had made the tight fitting clothes the other woman was wearing cling to her body even more closely. Clung in a way that made Shannons heart rate increase a notch or two.
She noticed. Flushing, she ducked her head and nodded, “Sorry about that! Come on then, let’s find your sister!”
As Shannon fumbled for her lock pick kit, Karen simply reached out toward the knob, made a turning motion in the air and the door swung open. Shannon motioned for Karen to go around the left side of the store while she veered to the right, gun back in her hand. She couldn’t let Karen’s blue eyes, or their shared past, distract her now. She couldn’t spare the time right now to reflect on how Karen had been her first girlfriend, the one who convinced her to come out to her family. Nor did she have time to reflect on the painful breakup that had been the real impetus for her flight to New York. She had to find her sister.
It was the cat that found the trap door in the back of the store room. Opening it, the trio descended the stairs into a small room where Amelie sat tied to a chair. Oh, how cliché!
Before she could go more than a few feet into the room, a man appeared from behind a shelf. She swung the gun toward him as Karen disarmed him with the wave of her hand. If Karen could do all that, how the hell had Amelie gotten taken hostage in the first place Shannon wondered. It didn’t matter. In a flash, she was in front of the man, toppling him to the ground with a well placed sweep of her foot. Kneeling with her knee in his chest and the gun pointed at his face she ordered Karen to untie her sister.
It seems Karen had the same thought Shannon had, “How did this happen?” She was asking as she released Amelie from her bonds.
“I’m not sure” the small, dark haired woman answered, “I think he had someone working with him, a witch!” she exclaimed.
“A witch?” Karen squeaked in alarm, “What witch?”
As if in answer, a fireball zoomed toward them, Amelie now free, threw her hands up and blocked the blast as the two women rolled out of the way. The cat darted under a table.
“What the hell?” Shannon screamed as she rolled for cover herself.
Now free, the man jumped up from the floor and ran toward Amelie. Shannon didn’t think or hesitate, her sister was in danger, she aimed the gun and pulled the trigger. The man fell. She glanced around the room, but did not see the person who had thrown the fireball.
“I think she ran away” Amelie confirmed, “She knew she was outnumbered.”
An hour later the three women and the cat were back in Amelies kitchen, dry, sipping hot tea. Shannon was looking expectantly at her wayward sister, “A witch?” she asked again.
It put everything into a different light. Her sister wasn’t flighty or ridiculously new age-y. She was a bonafide, real life, spell casting witch! And apparently so was her ex girlfriend. Maybe she had been wrong about………everything.
“Well yeah, it’s a long story” Amelie smiled weakly at her sister.
Glancing at Karen as the clock struck midnight, Shannon was suddenly happy to be in the backwoods of Texas instead of a posh New York penthouse. Leaning back in her chair, cradling her cup of tea she replied, “I have time.”