This Glamorous Evil

By: Michele Hauf

One



Like clockwork, the sleek black cat appeared in the alleyway below me, her tail flicking as she proudly strutted the ancient cobblestones that reminded me of days gone by in Paris. Not far from here, cars buzzed by on the Champs Elysées. I preferred a time when carriages had rattled along the cobbles, and we men wore rapiers at our hips, but this modern world did have advantages, such as plumbing and iPhones.

Every night just after midnight, the cat appeared, looking for something to nibble. She didn’t like mice. She’d bat them around a bit, then move on to more challenging prey. A plump rat? No, this feline was more discerning.

I shifted carefully on the iron balcony from where I watched. Moonlight glinted on the metal rivets rubbed clean of black paint. After weeks of observing my prey’s habits and tastes, I’d baited the trap properly.

Ducking her head, she approached the tangle of crumpled newspapers that shaped a crunchy canopy over the Camembert morsels I’d laid out. Tail twitching frantically, she cautiously stepped on one paw, then the other….

I refrained from blowing a gust of air magic to push the cat faster. That would only spook her.

An angry meow punctuated the snapping cage door.

I dropped eight feet to the ground from my observation perch, and brushed aside the newspapers. “Gotcha,” I said to the growling black beast inside the cage.

Her eyes were so green that for a moment I got lost in her fierce gaze. Verdant as spring’s freshest bloom, the saturated hue defied depth. Anger spilled into sudden pleading. My heart stilled. They almost looked…human.

Shaking my head, I snapped out of mysterious wonder. She was a cat.

Hefting the cage, I whistled a cheery tune as I headed home.

I lived in the sixteenth arrondissement in an old high-rise that housed soccer moms and widows on the lower floors, while up on the high-security sixth floor—the entire floor belonged to me—I had a great view of the Eiffel Tower, and the swimsuit model’s bedroom across the street. She liked to undress with the lights on. I didn’t mind, except when her lover joined her.

Closing the door behind me, and throwing a lock ward over my shoulder with a snap of my fingers, I set the cage on the hardwood floor. Kitty growled at me. Her fur fluffed in anger and those green eyes cut through me like blades.

I bent to unlatch the door release—then paused.

“Right.” This was not going to be pretty. It could get downright bloody. I’d best take precautions.

A pair of leather gloves from a drawer in the kitchen would protect my hands. I already wore leather pants and boots. My shirt was long-sleeved and…

I touched my cheek. Earlier last century, I used to fence in the modern style, using the screened face-mask, but I couldn’t recall where I’d stored it when I’d moved from London to Paris a decade ago.

“I can manage,” I muttered. Buoyed by my success thus far, I proceeded to release the cage door.

A fury of black fur, hisses and wood-gouging claws exploded from the cage. The cat darted left, jumping onto the unmade bed and scrambling across it like a Tasmanian devil. It jumped, landing on the floor with a snarling meow. It didn’t slow, tracking the expanse of the open-floor-plan loft as it ran along the windows that opened the south wall to brilliant moonlight.

With another fearless leap, it scrambled onto the leather sofa. It paused at the top of the sofa, back arched and tiny teeth bared as it clawed wicked tears through the tough but relenting leather.

Ouch, that was going to cost a pretty penny to replace. I hoped my brother appreciated the sacrifice.

With legs made of springs, the feline fury landed on the Indonesian silk draperies, and with claws cutting through, allowed its body weight to plummet to the floor, shredding the curtains like cheap festival flags.

A blur of black zipped before me and disappeared behind the kitchen counter. The priceless Persian glass vase an ex-lover had given me wobbled.

“No, not the—”

A spectacular crash was followed by shards of glass littering the kitchen floor.

“—vase,” I said, shoulders sinking.

But I hadn’t expected this to be easy. Fisting a hand, I punched it into my palm and squatted, preparing to catch whatever roared my way.

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