“Have we determined that the black cat that was following you around last month is a potential… What did you call it? An animal companion?”
“That’s the consensus. Flint thinks I might have caught its attention the same way I caught—”
As if our conversation had summoned it, the hulking black cat in question sat on the other side of the room. The beast was bigger than any mundane cat, even the great cats. On all fours, its head came to my shoulder, and it easily weighed over seven hundred pounds. Though it resembled an enormous panther, the ears were wrong for the breed, too pointed. And there was a shadowy quality to its form, as if it weren’t really there. As though it were a lingering nightmare come to life.
“Maybe I should install a cat door,” Andy murmured. His hand lingered near his gun.
“Don’t shoot it,” I warned.
“I’m not going to shoot it.” He paused, considered that. “Would it do me any good to shoot it?”
“Bullets have iron, and I’m pretty sure it’s fey. If you could hit it, you could hurt it.” A shiver ran down my spine. “But somehow…I don’t think you would.”
Instinct told me the beast would be fast, impossibly fast. Andy was an incredible shot, but he was human, with human limitations. The black cat crept forward, silent as a dark fog. My heart skipped a beat as it approached the sleeping kitten, sniffing the air above Majesty. The kitten cracked open one eye.
“Oh please, don’t scare him,” I begged, trying not to sound as panicked as I felt. “Please, I can’t face another rhinoceros.”
The cat blinked as if it had understood me, then studied the kitten with renewed interest, tilting its massive head to one side.
“Yes,” I said. “Yes, a rhinoceros. It’s one of the fun, terrifying things that can happen if you startle that…kitten.”
“You weren’t going to say kitten,” Peasblossom accused. “You were going to say a bad word, weren’t you? Which one?”
My phone rang, and I jumped a foot in the air. Majesty shot to his feet, claws piercing the couch. The black cat’s ears rose.
“Please don’t summon another rhinoceros.” I fumbled for my phone. “Hello?”
“Shade! Shade Renard?”
It was a woman’s voice, thick with an Italian accent. She sounded hoarse, and her last word ended in a way that suggested she was clenching her teeth. Nearby her a door opened, then slammed shut.
I straightened my spine, magic kitten forgotten. “Yes, this is Shade. Who is this? Are you all right?”
“They’re dead, both dead. Murdered. You have to help…” She groaned.
I gripped the phone tighter, staring at Andy. He didn’t take his attention off the cats, or his hand from his gun.
“Who was murdered? What happened? Where are you?”
Andy met my gaze. Tension seized his shoulders, and he put the gun away.
“I’m at St. Michael’s on Lexington Avenue. I need your help, you must come now. Please hurry, I don’t know how much longer I can hold it.”
The line went dead.