“See if I care,” I told him, feeling an emptiness inside which I told myself was missing dinner. I turned toward the kitchen.
“But I care,” a voice said from behind me. Before I could move a hand was clamped over my mouth. Another grabbed my arm and twisted it behind me.
“So you figured it out, did you?,” the voice continued. “I thought you’d blame that fancy boyfriend of yours but when you called, I knew you hadn’t. Too bad, baby. We could’ve been good together.”
“Mac? I mumbled through his fingers squeezing my lips. “Your own aunt?”
“My own very rich aunt. Owns a string of buildings like this but she just kept living on and on with those damn canaries and she treated me like an errand boy. That Jerry you’re so fond of just happened by at the right time. Once I get the guy across the hall to I.D. him, I’m home free.”
I tried to break free. Mac’s fingers dug into my lips. I tasted blood. His other hand twisted my arm till I thought I could hear the bones crack.
I bit down as hard as I could on the hand around my mouth. He jerked away and I screamed.
“Now you’ll get it like all the others, bitch!” Mac shouted.
Still holding my arm, he reared back to belt me. At that moment something large, furry and furious with all the commotion and noise, leaped onto his head like one of those alien creatures that eat your brain.
It was Mac’s turn to scream and he did while lethal paws scratched at his eyeballs, dug into his scalp and took great strips of skin off his back.
I rushed to the door and yanked it open, gasping. Mr. Jaspers was standing in the hall. “Wild party, huh? You got a cat in there?”
“What I’ve got is Mrs. Patrickson’s killer. Call the police.”
Leaving his door open, Mr. Jaspers went back towards the phone. I stood in the hall, listening to the screaming. Poor Fitzhugh, I thought. I hoped he didn’t get any nasty disease from biting Mac.
Mac was staggering around, cursing and tripping over furniture, blood running down his face, when the police arrived with their sirens blaring. All the tenants on my floor crowded into the hall to watch Mac led out in handcuffs. Fitzhugh washed his face and looked smug. It was the first time I felt favorably towards a cat.
Next day I went to the hospital. Jerry was sitting up in bed, one leg in a cast. “Donna,” he said huskily, taking my hand in both of his. “I was afraid I’d lost you.”
“Whatever gave you that idea?” He looked pale but great, the dark hair mussed, five o’clock shadow on the strong, firm jaw. I told him about Mac. “The police think he’s the one who’s been attacking all those women, using his role as a property manager.” I waited for him to ask about his cat.
“Oh my love. Did he hurt you? Are you all right?” He was stroking my hair and suddenly I was sobbing in his arms.
“I’m an idiot,” he was saying. “I hope you aren’t going to let a little thing like a cat come between us.” He kissed my neck, my cheek, my lips. “I could give him to my mother.”
“Oh, no. We’ve reached an understanding. I think I could learn to like him,” I murmured, “given the right teacher.” I would never tell him how close we had come to losing each other, due to my overactive imagination.
Cupid may have been a day late this year, but the way I see it, Jerry and I still have forever.