Don’t mess with Kung Fu Kitty. Photo by Oleg Volk.
“Evie! Get your skinny ass out here,” Chet yelled and pounded on the door, making the cheap ass wood dance like a striper twearking.
I rolled my eyes at the bedroom door and put the last of my wrapped crystals in their box. “Give me a minute. I’m packing up my girly stuff, geez.”
“What, like your vibrators?”
I snorted and closed the box, looking around to make sure there were no other magic items lying around. The carpet squelched under my feet as I crossed it, leaving footprints in my wake.
The damn flood took out the rental house’s (I use this term loosely) carpets, the smattering of cheap tables, loveseat and bed I’d brought to save me from renting the who knew who’d done what on it furniture from this small town’s Rent-A-Crap. Chet and Zach came with their truck to help me toss the stuff growing mold and pack up and haul home the TV, kitchen stuff, and random knickknacks I’d brought to keep me company in this middle of nowhere, backwater town while I was on assignment at the hospital here for the past month.
The stuff was cheap but it was mine. And now it was in the trash.
“Merow!” came from the living room and I got my ass out of the bedroom so fast you’d think I teleported. My giant Maine Coon Gremlin ran up to me and sat next to my feet.
Zach was still mid-crouch and stared at me with big eyes. “How did you do that?”
I crossed my arms. “Don’t pull my cat’s tail.”
“I wasn’t! I was petting him and he just screamed and hissed at the door.”
“Bullshit, don’t mess with my cat.”
“Dude,” Chet cut in. “Come on, don’t mess with her cat. That’s her baby, she’ll kick your ass.”
“I didn’t do anything to the cat.” Zach stood up, towering over me. But hey, who over twelve didn’t? “And she’s like four feet tall, what’s she gonna do to me?”
I looked at Chet and he held his hands up in the universal apology siblings everywhere give for their big mouthed brothers.
I glared at Zach. “I’m five two, not four feet, for one. For two, I’m trained in Aikido, carrying a knife and two guns, and I moved so fast I made you freeze.” I lowered my voice and raised my eyebrows. “I’m kung fu Jew, bitch.”
Zach burst out laughing and I couldn’t keep the serious anymore, laughing too.
“Okay,” I said when I caught my breath. “This is the last box.” I rested the box on one hip and grabbed Grem, slinging him over my shoulder with my other arm. “We good?”
We piled into the truck, Zach driving so Chet could sit between us, my box by my feet, and my Grem baby on my lap.
“I can’t believe this rain,” I said, petting Gremlin’s bush of soft black fur. “It’s Central Utah, not London. It’s a fucking desert here.”
I glanced in the rearview mirror at the little house in the rain as we pulled out from under the covered driveway that passed for a garage.
A figure stood in front of the house and I twisted around so fast Gremlin jumped into Chet’s lap. No one there. I looked back at the mirror and no one was there.
“You okay, Evie?” Chet asked, resting a hand on the cat and the other on my knee.
I ground my teeth together as adrenaline stabbed my heart. My belly jerked and I shook my head. “Fine. Just… seeing things in the rain. I’m tired. It’s been a long month.”
He stroked Gremlin but left his other hand on my knee and my attention zeroed down to it like a teenager. I’m a grown woman. I’m not getting gooey over a friend who sees me as one of the guys.
We’d met when I’d hired his band for a fundraiser last winter. When I ran into him again at the gun range, we hit it off and had been friends since. He’d had a girlfriend until a month ago, and I was his buddy who happened to have boobs.
“What were you doing out here anyway?” Zach asked.
“I’m one of the Assistant General Counsels at my hospital. We’re expanding, and put a satellite hospital out here in two hours from civilization Central Utah, and they needed someone to train the staff on HIPAA, meaning patient privacy, issues until they can get a qualified healthcare attorney placed out here. Guess who drew the short straw?”
“It’s been hell. Madisonville, Utah. Population of twenty thousand if you count the tiny towns for a twenty mile radius, which they do. Where the existence of a Walmart and a hospital make it a city in the redneck, backward populaces minds.”
“Damn girl, tell us how you really feel,” Chet said, rubbing my knee.
I looked down and the puddle of water at my feet reflected a flash of dark hair back at me. Wait, water!
I jerked my legs up, Chet pulled his hand away like I’d slapped it, and Gremlin jumped into Zach’s lap. Zach swerved with a curse and pulled the truck back into the lane. A blink later the water was gone. An empty chip bag, two water bottles and a smattering of papers decorated the truck floor and that was it.
“What the fuck?” Zach said. “Did you see a spider or something?”
Chet shot me a worried look and Gremlin climbed over him back to me.
“I’m seeing things,” I said. “Sorry guys. I think it’s that dumb horror movie we were watching while we packed. I can’t do horror movies. I’m seeing flashes of a creepy girl and puddles of water.”
“Seeing things like you’re off your meds?” Zach asked.
“Ha fucking ha. I’m not on meds.”
“At least you admit it.”
“I’m not crazy! Just tired. It’s fine.”
What if it’s not? What if something’s after me? I couldn’t call my dad and ask if this could be anything magical with the guys in the car. I’d wait till we stopped for gas. If I could wait that long.
“Hey Zach, pull off at the next gas station. I’ve got to pee.”
“Already? Are you shitting me?” Zach rolled his eyes. “Girls.”
Gremlin’s bid for freedom. Photo by Oleg Volk.