By Rachel Ann Michael Harris
Tony reached around the broken glass into the display, grasping another handful of jewelry before shoving it in a bag. Headlights lit the dark store for a moment. Hesitating, he waited until they passed. He didn’t need a third strike with Johnny Law. As the light faded, Tony grabbed the last few earrings and necklaces from the case before moving to the next.
Glass cracked behind him.
Spinning around, Tony waved his flashlight at the large, broken displays he’d already cleaned out. Nothing. Slowly, he turned back to the case.
Tony turned again. With cautious steps, he crept across the store, flashlight raised as he reached behind him for his gun. Raising it as he approached the case, he stepped around and aimed. The floor was empty.
Dropping his arms, he shook his head and sniffed. Fumes from the lab next door wafted into the jewelry store, tickling his sensitive nose. Swiping at his nostrils, Tony turned again to finish cleaning out the last case.
Sitting in front of the glass front door, back lit from the street outside, was a white cat. It flicked its tail as it stared at Tony. Then blinked slowly.
“So you’re the one making noise,” Tony said. Huffing, he sauntered towards the cat. “So much for being a stealthy creature.” The owners must’ve gotten him to charm customers. They would have been smarter to adopt a guard dog.
Shaking his head, Tony turned back to the case.
A cold, winter wind blew towards Tony, chilling his neck and sending shivers down his back.
He glanced at the door. It was still closed. And the middle of July.
Turning again, he took another step, then froze. Jerking his legs, he looked down to his lead feet. Ice spread across the floor and halfway up his calves, freezing his feet to the floor. Twisting about, Tony tried to break free and see where the ice was coming from. Tracing the flow with his eyes, he followed it back to…
The white cat.
It still sat before the door, eyes half closed, giving him a hooded expression. And the ice led right from him.
“What…?” Tony jerked his legs again.
A hole appeared in the wall to his right, a swirling mass at the edges with a view of the alley out back. A black cat jumped through and landed on the edges of a broken case. The hole disappeared. The black cat meowed to the white cat who responded in kind. They turned towards Tony.
Tearing at his legs with renewed vigor, the ice began to crack.
A burning, orange light glowed inside the doorframe leading to the back room. An orange tabby leapt onto the main counter, flames dancing along his back like raised hackles. He strutted slowly along the counter, one paw placed directly in the space of the one before as he made his way towards the black cat. As he circled the room, the ice thawed on Tony’s legs.
Tearing himself free, Tony stumbled to the left as the white, black, and orange cats sat next to each other on a case.
“Meow.” A calico cat jumped from behind and landed on the air in front of Tony. It leapt from spot to spot, circling him as it walked in the air.
“What are you?!” Tony screamed.
As he swung around, swatting at the calico who danced around him, the black cat opened a portal in the floor and dove through. It reopened in the ceiling above Tony where the black cat landed on his head.
“Aaahhhh!” Tony snatched at fur and threw the cat off of him. As he stepped backward, he slipped on the remaining ice, feet flying out from under him, and landed flat on his back, winding him.
A grey kitten waddled toward him with a ball of purple yarn bigger than he was in his teeth.
“No!” Tony screamed as the kitten came closer. The white, black, and orange cat circled his head, looking down at him as the calico floated above. “NO!”
The next morning, police escorted Tony from the jewelry story after changing out the purple yarn he’d been hogtied in for handcuffs. As they led him to a patrol car, he glanced between them wildly, chattering in hysteria.
“I’m telling you. They were monsters. Unnatural creatures. You have to protect me!”
The officers nodded as they opened the squad car door and helped Tony inside.
In the shadows of the alley across the street, the white cat sat on the rail of a fire escape, watching the police drive away with Tony inside. The calico leaped past, chasing a butterfly to the next floor of the apartment building. Below, the orange cat stretched itself across some cardboard as he basked in the sunlight. The black cat lounged on the lid of a dumpster, distracted by the grey kitten as it tangled itself in purple yarn while excitedly attacking it.
Tapping its tail, the white cat looked out once more at the jewelry store as the police and crowd dispersed and the owners began to clean up.
A smell wafted towards them. First the white, then the tabby, then the rest smelled it. Tuna. The fish mart was opening. Prancing down the alley, the cats darted onto the sidewalk and made their way towards the docks for breakfast.