Thursday Teaser

From the in-progress Alexi story (expect it in November):

“MrrrrOOWWW!”

Belle Allie’s battle scream cut through the storm noise, jolting Catherine Mary Zolnerovich from her half-nap on the couch. She’d been drowsing, imagining her husband Alexi’s pending return, and it took precious seconds for her to get untangled from the blanket, launch from the couch and run down the hallway.

She took one look at the open window and empty crib. “Dear mother of God, no!”

“Mreew hisss.” A ball of white fluff called from the corner. Catherine rushed across the room and saw that something had torn the screen away, then forced the window up. She leaned her head and shoulders out into the rain, looking down. There, in the mud of the newly seeded yard, she saw the marks of a heavy, rounded object pressed into the mud. Behind the dents, halfway to the street, she could just see the traces of a brushy something, as if an old broom had been used to erase the marks.

Catherine pulled back into the baby’s room, turned around, and sat on the floor with a thump. “Saint Ann help her, St. George defend her, Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison.” Belle Allie moaned and leaned against the distraught woman as Catherine hugged herself and fought back tears.

After the first surge of fear and loss passed, anger rose, the anger of a mother with children in danger. “I’m going to get her back.”

“Mroo.”

Catherine did not promise or vow, in case something might be lurking and listening. She knew better. Instead she got up from the floor and began packing a diaper bag. She kept a second bag with clothes for her missing older son packed, just in case, and she pulled it out of the tiny closet in the “nursery.” Belle, or Byehla Ailuros as she was properly called, slunk out the door and around the corner into the hall. “You’d better not call anyone,” Catherine warned the cat. “Or text.” Because otherwise Ivan would text Alexi and he did not need to be disturbed right now, no matter how much Catherine needed him. Why couldn’t Alexi’s family have normal pets? As she counted out diapers and one-piece baby outfits, Catherine reminded herself that it could be worse. She’d worked with that ranger in Missouri whose wife raised Newfoundlands and Old English Sheepdogs. A dogcart and a small apartment didn’t go well together. But none of the dogs had smart phones, either. Catherine’s phone buzzed and she checked the message. “Gatta, I’m going to . . .” Or maybe not.

She needed an excuse to go haring off. Catherine typed a quick reply to Alexi’s father’s question. Could she drive up to Golden and check on Alexi’s grandmother? The next text explained the problem. “Got garbled text from Mother.” And of course she was the closest relative, and Babushka had already chased Timofeev and Cyril, Alexi’s brothers, off with a barrage of rotten produce. Well, they’d been asking for it as far as Catherine was concerned, and she and Alexi now had legal authority if something happened to Babushka. Not that Catherine had any question as to where the text had come from. Ivan and a keyboard and spell check . . .

“Mreef.”

“You told, didn’t you?” Catherine looked down at the blue-eyed, white fluffball peering around the door frame.

Silence.

“Typical cat.”

Byehla Ailuros, white cat, had arrived a few days after Catherine and Alexi returned from their honeymoon camping trip, accompanied by a carrier, a bug-out bag, and a check to cover the additional pet deposit. Catherine called her Gatta, Greek for cat, and had accused Alexi of asking his grandmother for a pet.

“Oh no, dear, not me. You’ve met Ivan the Purrable. The last thing I want is his sister running my life.”

“Mreef!” the white puff had complained, sniffing the air and acting like an offended diva.

“Not sister, sorry,” Alexi had apologized as Catherine shook her head and wondered if the Zolnerovich family was why “for sane and for crazy” had been omitted from the wedding vows. Gatta flopped onto her back and struck a cute pose, and had stayed.

(C) 2015 Alma T. C. Boykin All Rights Reserved.

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