Calico

I could see her hiding behind the desk. Or maybe she was just crouched down at the moment I walked in, I wasn’t entirely certain.

She froze as I flipped on the overhead light. In the harsh wash of fluorescent tubes, I could make out that she was young. Possibly even under twenty, her face surrounded with ringlets of tight auburn curls. But her clothes looked old and patched, featuring a disheveled long coat that was not quite a trench coat and not quite a rain coat, made of a dark and oily-looking cloth. It was torn in several places, particularly down the right arm.

And her hand was slowly dripping blood onto my office’s wooden floor.

“Are you all right? Do you need a doctor?”

She rubbed her nose with the coat sleeve, leaving a tiny blood smear across her dirty cheek, as her eyes looked me up and down. “No, I’m fine. Just a scratch. Could I clean up a bit, do you have a restroom I could use?”

Perplexed and intrigued, I silently pointed toward the connecting bath.

I am not a dime-store novel private detective or a medical doctor. Injured young ladies do not routinely arrive in my office without appointment. My business is mostly filing tax returns.

She stepped out of the bathroom some time later, looking much better. Mud and blood gone from her cheeks, hands washed and bandaged. She smiled at me, “You can see me. This is a rare thing.”

I just blinked. “You do look more collected. How did you get in here?”

“Thank you, I am Katherine. Kat. Pleased to meet you…?” Extending her hand, complete with bandage.

It took and shook it, very carefully. “Linus Debere, sorry. This is my tax office.”

“Debere. Sei esti Romani?”

“What?”

She just shook her head. “Sorry, English then. It’s a nice office, Linus. Sorry about the floor, I’ll clean that up.”

“Already done. But why were you bleeding on it in the first place?”

“We don’t have much time, Linus. A couple of really nasty guys are chasing me. Does this place have a back door?”

That’s one annoying habit, I thought, answering questions with questions. But now she was beginning to look panicky, so I nodded. “Follow me,” I said, and lead the way out to the back hallway.

She leaned against the back door, while I dug out the key for the alarm breaker bar lock.

“Linus. I’m sorry I got you involved in this, but the two men who are after me—I can only describe them, one is a Bloodhound, tall and thin, with skin that doesn’t seem to fit just right. And the other is a Wolf. You don’t want to mess with him, ever.”

I nodded. “I’ll keep the door locked.”

“That won’t be enough. It didn’t keep me out, did it? They’ll be here soon, and they’ll know I’ve been here. You can come with me, or you can find a big crowd of people and lose yourself in it. You might even get away.”

I finally fiddled the stupid lock open, and the door swung onto the dark alley.

“Doors are not your friends. Neither are buildings. Get outside and disappear, it’s our only chance.” I could tell, she was about to bolt.

So I reached out to take her shoulder and stop her. I was left holding the oil-skin overcoat, empty.

And down the alley, I saw a calico cat turn. Her eyes caught the light from the open door, and she vanished behind the dumpster.

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Inspired by Finish That Thought #2-32. Discovered the site & finished the tale after the deadline, and so not entered.

This could be expanded, open-ended hook. There’s definitely more to the tale, but pushing 600 words. Future, maybe.

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