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“Are you serious?” the man asked the voice, disappointment washing over his countenance.

“Quite. This cat belongs to Adrian Belle, one of the most important women in the city, and its safety is therefore a high priority assignment. SSC usually gives this job to those who have already passed probation. However, there are a few for whom the Company sees fit to make an exception. You are one of them. May I ask what experience you have had that makes you so qualified?”

After a brief pause, he replied “I was a soldier.”

“Oh, well, thank you for your service. Go ahead and escort Miss Fluffles around town.”

“Where do I take it?”

“Just follow behind her. She is a smart beast. She knows her way around the city better then most beings.”

“I see,” and turning to go, he said, “Well, um, come on cat, let’s get going.”

At that, he heard a loud rumbling sound. He saw Miss Fluffles turn to look at him. The feline’s eyes were filled with fire, glaring at him.

“Treat her with a deal of respect, Mr. Pierce, or you will not have a good evening.”

Pierce nodded cautiously and stepped aside to make way for the black cat. The door opened up, and they got to the elevator. They stood side by side in silence as they descended. There was something about this cat he didn’t like, beyond the fact that it was some wealthy politician’s spoiled child. He could feel the glare of the cat as it looked up at him, daring him to make eye contact. His discomfort grew, moment by moment. The door finally opened, and the cat walked out, now looking ahead. He let out a sigh of relief.

Miss Fluffles led the way past the snickering guards, out the hotel door, and into the street. She ambled along under streetlight after streetlight, down the road lined with high-end high-rise apartments and onto a street with large Gothic mansions that looked like relics of the ancient past when compared to the apartments. He looked at them as he followed the cat. “Well, this is a weird situation, isn’t it cat?” he asked, hands in his pockets. The cat glared at him again, and the odd way it did so sent a shiver down his spine. He averted his gaze. The wind whistled eerily over the chimneys of the evil-looking houses. The gnarled branches on the barren trees on the front lawns looked like bony fingers stretching in preparation for grabbing any passersby and pulling them into the ground to drown in the soil. The black cat led on.

He was happy when he finally started to see other people as they made their way along the edges of the same sin-ridden part of town he walked through to get to Miss Fluffles' place. It was less crowded on the outskirts, which was good. He could follow the cat and scan the people with some level of ease. He saw some men hanging around outside of a bar, slurring their curses leveled at their tyrannical bosses. He saw women, young and old dressed in skimpy but gaudy clothes, making come-ons at the passersby. He saw a beggar with a sign asking for handouts, playing on some notion that the good deed of giving to him would offset whatever dirty deeds the regulars of the district were about to commit. Every one of these people gave a wide berth to the black cat and him.

Maybe it was fear of bad luck. He hoped that this job was not some kind of bad luck. He needed the money. Desperately. He would do whatever it takes. But he wondered why he needed to guard this cat? Who in their right mind would try to do anything to the beast? It had such a bad energy about it that it actively repelled anyone near it. And if someone tried to do something to it, he had a feeling it could take care of itself.

As they continued on, they crossed over into Chinatown. He did not like it there. It reminded him of when he was a soldier. Those were not good times. He continued to follow the black cat, but the more he looked around at the busy foreign faces, the more he looked at their hieroglyphs flashing in neon, the more he heard their gibberish language as they bought and sold their devilish wares, the more unsettled he became. He had an odd feeling that he was being watched. His heart beat an irregular rhythm as he looked from person to person, sweat dripping down his head.

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