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Chapter Nineteen

 

The Search for Madelyn Fontaine

 

 

 

Elijah joined the other two men just as they were about to climb into Blaze’s car.  Mortimer was grateful that the preacher had decided to join them, but he saw that Elijah was coming along with the greatest misgivings and acknowledged this with a severe nod of his head and, the vaguest of smiles.  As they were backing out of the parking stall, they could hear Alice calling out to them.  Blaze stopped the car and Alice climbed in the back seat with Elijah.  The only thing she could think of saying at this point was “Do you expect me to call a cab?”

            She had a look of great anxiety on her pale face.  Elijah felt great empathy toward her, since he had the same feelings himself.  Repelled by his threadbare suit and bristly face, she nevertheless held his rough, freckly hand as she would any brother in Christ.  Elijah, who could not help comparing this frail creature to his long dead wife, was embarrassed by the gesture but was also deeply moved.

            “God will show us the way,” he said in a constricted voice.

            With less enthusiasm than before, the priest asked the sorcerer where they were going.   Everyone assumed that Blaze O’Dare knew where to find the witch.   With a cavalier look on his bearded face, he pulled a scrap of paper out of his coat and handed it to the priest.  On an eight by five note card was written in bold ink: Madelyn Fontaine, City of Angels Hospital, Acute Psychiatric Ward, 7500 Hellman Ave, Rosemead, California.

            “I was going to tell Elijah about this woman, but I was afraid he’d go ballistic on me,” he said, glancing self-consciously into his rearview mirror.

            He could not read the expression on Elijah or Alice’s face, but the priest appeared to be dumfounded by what he had just read. 

            “I recall visiting an old friend here,” Mortimer muttered aloud, “… he had a mental breakdown after giving his life to the church…. They transferred him from the county hospital to this facility…. Yes, I’m certain this was the place.  They had to use a straight jacket on him and ply him with drugs…. Is that where you’re taking us Blaze?”

            “Yes,” Blaze answered calmly, “we will find a way of getting her out of the hospital.  She’s probably in one of those minimum security wards and can leave whenever she wants.”

            “Acute Psychiatric Ward?  A mental hospital?” Alice’s mouth dropped in disbelief.

            “He knew this all along!” Elijah pointed accusingly at the rearview mirror.

            “Yes, yes, I think he did,” Mortimer mumbled light-headedly to himself, “where else are you going to find a card-carrying witch?  Already our task seems more impossible than ever.  They might not even let us in!”

            “They will,” Blaze said confidently. “We’ll get her out!

 

******

For nearly a half hour, as the sorcerer searched for the hospital, a stunned silence enveloped the car.  Though it seemed unconscionable for Blaze not to mention this detail, Mortimer wasn’t surprised.  It was only natural that doctors would consider Madelyn Fontaine insane.  Blaze O’Dare was, himself, slightly mad.  As far as the preacher and Alice Wagnall were concerned, the thought of working with a mentally disturbed witch made it all the worse.  Yet the priest, who felt spiritual failure acutely now, half hoped it was true.  He didn’t want to be bested by a witch.  His break with the mother church would appear to be complete if a godless witch could do God’s miracles instead of himself.

            “Why was she committed?” Elijah asked finally after Alice whispered the question into his ear.

            “According to the Witches Registry, Madelyn Fontaine, who was once a nun, became a recluse,” Blaze explained, as he turned his station wagon slowly into the hospital parking lot.  “Her neighbors and her remaining family probably got wind of her exploits and thought she was nuts.”

            “She was a nun?” Alice murmured in disbelief.

            “Why am I not surprised?” Elijah heaved a sigh.

            “The question is: ‘will they let us in to see her?’” Mortimer asked looking nervously out the window at the imposing white edifices of psychiatric buildings.

            “Don’t worry,… I’ll get us in,” the sorcerer promised, parking in the visitor’s section and climbing quickly out of the car.

            Us?… ” the preacher murmured, shaking his head, “I don’t think so!” 

            Alice uttered a hysterical laugh.

            Much more slowly this time, the priest began moving out of the car, a most troubling expression breaking upon his stony face.  For a few moments he settled back in his seat.  Looking back at the pair, he seemed to share their apprehension.

            “My dear fellow,” he peered out at Blaze, “we can’t very well storm the hospital as we did before.  This is a mental hospital; many of these patients are in locked rooms.  I’ll accompany you if you insist, but Madelyn Fontaine is, after all, one of your own.”

            Blaze had mixed emotions after hearing his lackluster response.  Reluctant to go it alone, he nevertheless realized he was now in control.  It was up to him to move this timid crowd.

            “Come on Father Hildebrand,” he spoke deferentially to him now, “a priest can always open certain doors.”

            “Oh, I don’t know,” the priest glanced back at Alice, “this might need a woman’s touch!”

            Alice blue eyes narrowed to slits but she said nothing.  Elijah, who felt almost useless now, merely snarled.  As Mortimer climbed finally out of the car, Blaze tried reassuring the remaining occupants how much they needed them now.  Was it not the preacher, Elijah Gray, who made this entire venture possible by discovering the bewitched cat?  Was it not in Alice Wagnall’s tender care that they found four more miraculous cats? 

            “Yes, yes, let’s get this over with.  Enough of your fine words!” the priest said, making scooting motions with his hands. 

            Looking back at the automobile, Mortimer motioned politely one more time for Elijah and Alice to join them as the couple sat silently in their seats. 

            “Come-come, the sorcerer is right this time,” he called blithely to them, “we’re a team!

            “Yes,” Blaze signaled impatiently, “let’s get this show on the road!”

            When neither the preacher nor the woman budged, however, the priest frowned at this apparent mutiny and motioned for the sorcerer to go on.  For a brief moment, as Mortimer looked back at the pair, he envied them both for what they didn’t know.  They were offended by the woman’s profession.  They couldn’t possibly know how dangerous such a woman could be… even at a distance.

            “Ta-ta, we won’t be long!” the sorcerer promised in a singsong voice.

            “Lord,” Mortimer whispered under his breath, “I’m being led by a fool!”

 

                                                                       ******

            Blaze O’Dare was in his element now.  Mortimer could scarcely believe where he was being led: into an insane asylum, in search of a witch.  It seemed to be a low point in his spiritual life, and yet, after seeing all those bewitched cats, it might also be considered a high point in his career.  Elijah and Alice had been quite happy this time to be left sitting by themselves in the car.  How fortunate were they both to know what they believed.  Both of them, Mortimer understood, had been spiritually shaken, especially by the decision to find a witch to undo India’s spell.  He envied them for their moral outrage but resented them greatly for their lack of support.  He felt only jealousy and defeat now, two emotions that were unworthy for a man of God.

Alice turned to the preacher now with a worried furrow developing on her brow.

            “What kind of creature,” she asked, releasing his hand, “do you suppose they’re going to bring back to the car?”

            “I have no idea,” Elijah sighed, watching the two men walk through the parking lot toward the entrance to the hospital. “I doubt they’ll be able to get her released.  If she’s mad, she’ll be of no use to the sorcerer anyhow.  This all looks very hopeless to me.”

            “It’s just as well,” Alice said with resignation. “I don’t want my Sam in a witch’s debt!”

 

                                                                       ******

            After the sorcerer asked the receptionist if it was possible to visit with Madelyn Fontaine, there was a long delay.  The receptionist searched her computer screen and then mumbled something into her phone.  A young man, obviously a member of the staff, now appeared at the reception counter with the news that it was against hospital policy and state law to allow people to visit such a deeply disturbed patient unless they were members of the family.  At this point, thought the sorcerer, the prim looking Alice would have added credibility to the team.  When Blaze claimed that he and the priest were her long lost brothers, the doctor gave them an incredulous look and asked if they could supply proof.  Mortimer gave him the added reason to visit Madelyn that he was a priest who could give her spiritual comfort.  (He had almost said the Last Rites.)  But the receptionist, who had continued looking through her registry of patients in the computer as the doctor talked, came back with the disturbing news that Madelyn Fontaine had been released last year. 

            Whether or not they would be allowed into visit her was suddenly academic now.  It seemed as if the hospital staff had no grounds in holding her in spite of her preposterous claims and the agitated state she was in when she was brought in.  Madelyn was eccentric and unpredictable, but, in a clinical sense, she was not really insane.  She seemed more obsessed, the doctor explained, than possessed as her relatives claimed.  The policy in this state was, after all, to let marginally insane individuals out if they posed no threat to the public.  After a few weeks of testing and observation, in fact, Madelyn was turned back out into the streets whence she had come.

            “Oh, Lord of mercy!” the sorcerer groaned. “Is there any kind of forwarding address?”

            “No,” the young doctor shook his head, “but Miss Fontaine has a sister.  I won’t give you her address, only her telephone number.  I’m concerned about her myself and I begged her not to go.”

            “We’re running out of time,” Blaze shook his head in dismay.

            “Okay doctor, please let us have her sister’s phone number,” the priest sighed, holding out his hand.

 

                                                                       ******

Elijah and Alice had mixed emotions about what the sorcerer and priest discovered.  On the one hand, they were relieved that they would not be dealing with a witch.  On the other hand, this meant that the cats might remain felines for the rest of their lives.  The sorcerer, more than the priest, was visibly shaken by the news.  For him it meant that his hopes of working with a super witch had been dashed.  After he gave Elijah and Alice a brief explanation of what they discovered, the group was plunged into silence.  Blaze drove the station wagon back to Sam’s apartment, so they could check on the cats.  The group needed food and rest before forging ahead.  Blaze was anxious to call Madelyn’s sister, Lillian Fontaine.

            All five cats were sleeping together in a fluffy bundle of fur on Alice’s bed, but when they heard the door rattle, they spooked and darted under the bed.  The natural vigilance of cats was beginning to manifest itself in their feline brains. 

            Alice began to panic when she couldn’t immediately find the cats, calling frantically “Sam!... Sam!…Where are you, you silly cats?” 

She kept hoping that she would awaken one morning and this would all be a bad dream.

Soon, however, as the humans searched for the cats, Irma, Sam, Wanda, Neva, and Drew cautiously exited their hideout.  Alice was the first to hear their meows from down the hall.  When Sam spotted his fiancÚ, he scampered over to her but found her detouring suddenly into the bathroom before he could leap into her arms.

Alice now gasped as she opened the door.

“Uh oh,” Sam thought to Irma, “she found our mess!”

“Wanda and Neva shouldn’t have tried using the toilet,” observed Irma with a shrug.       

Alice, who had to use the toilet, herself, glanced with horror at the kitty litter on the floor.  The box filled with garden soil had been inadequate for the cats’ needs.  The aroma of feces attacked her olfactory nerves immediately as she stepped into the room.  To avoid the mess, the Persian cats attempted unsuccessfully to use the commode, smearing excreta on the seat and floor.  Fortunately for the other humans, there was a second bathroom in the master bedroom.  After sanitizing the scene, Alice sat down reluctantly on the seat, wondering, as she held her nose, where she would find another box.

 

                                                                       ******

Almost immediately, upon entering the house, the sorcerer had called Lillian Fontaine, Madelyn’s sister, and when she didn’t answer her phone, left a message on her answering machine: “This is Blaze O’Dare, a friend of your sister Madelyn.  Please call me locally at 310-217-7638.”

While the sorcerer checked the kitchen ostensibly to find more cats, he made himself a Dagwood sandwich.  Elijah had walked into Sam’s study and sat down idly in front of the laptop, searching the witches website that was still on her screen.  The sorcerer explained to the downcast priest, through mouthfuls of sandwich, just what he thought their super-witch might do.  She would, he believed, need a powerful spell, and she might even have to call on a ghost or two to help her in her work.            

As he listened to Blaze O’Dare, the priest realized how much of an amateur the sorcerer had become.  Madelyn’s sister might not even be home and even if she returned their call, might not know where Madelyn could be found.  Knowing now that Blaze was once a successful businessman, he couldn’t imagine how someone could become so eccentric and misinformed.  It didn’t occur to Mortimer that the sorcerer might think the very same thing of him or, for that matter, Elijah and Alice considered him an even greater heretic than Blaze.

Mortimer Hildebrand was ashamed of himself for what he was beginning to feel: defeat, mingled with jealousy for the alleged super witch; contempt for a self-styled sorcerer, who deserved his Christian compassion; and his own growing doubts about his relevancy as a priest.  Very soon, he thought petulantly now, he would reassert himself and put this amateur in his place.  He must, as a Christian, however, swallow his professional pride and work as an equal with Madelyn Fontaine if she could be found.  He would not let her make a mockery of his faith.  If they couldn’t find her or she proved to be a fake, he must also have the strength to take control and do everything possible to save the bewitched cats.

 

                                                                       ******

Having cleaned up the cats’ mess, Alice relieved herself, splashed water on her face, and, after removing lids from boxes in Sam’s closet, presented them as kitty litters for each one of the cats.  To allow the cats privacy, Elijah had suggested that they place them in various corners of the house.  Each of the cats now had their own private potty.  After carting several plastic bags of soil from the complex’s garden back to the apartment, they poured equal amounts of soil into each lid.  Afterwards, though she could barely mask her dislike of cats, Alice reached down to her fiancÚ and picked him awkwardly into her arms.  Without a second thought, Elijah reached down to scratch Irma’s head and, watched with fondness, as she trotted down the hall.  Sensing, with his feline instincts, the reticence in his fiancÚ’s touch, Sam realized how difficult this was for her.  Showing such affection seemed natural for Elijah Gray.  Sam had always felt disappointment for his fiancÚ’s dislike for furry creatures, especially for her loathing for cats.  Now it wounded him to think that she still harbored this emotion.  It was as if she couldn’t love him for himself.

            “You have to get over your hatred of cats,” he wanted very much to say. “I’ve always loved cats.  I even once wrote a poem about cats, which you think is blasphemous now.  For Christ’s sake, Alice, get over it.  Im a cat!  Unable to vocalize this to her, the feline motor that caused him to purr turned off and he became still and rigid in her arms.

            “She can’t read your mind, Sam, but I can,” Irma looked up to him now. “You’re a cat now, Sam.  That’s what Alice sees.”  “Come on,” she beckoned, wiggling her little snout, “let’s go find out what’s going on.”

            “Do you think they’re gonna be able to save us?” Sam asked looking down from Alice’s arms.

           “One of the humans said they were going to use a witch to break the spell,” Irma explained patiently, wishing Sam would hop down.

            Sam grew tense in Alice’s reluctant arms.  Even as a cat under a witches spell, the very idea sounded outrageous to him.  Alice grew concerned about his reaction.

            “You can’t fight evil with evil!”  Sam’s protest filled Irma’s head. “God won’t work with a witch!  I thought the preacher and priest were going to help us.  Why would they turn to a witch?”

            “That’s what I heard,” replied Irma pertly, scampering ahead, “let’s go listen to what they have to say.”

            “Wait for me!” Sam called excitedly, wiggling out of Alice’s arms.

            Sam leaped down and scurried after Irma down the hall.  Already, the other three cats had checked the remainder of the house to see what was going on.  Instinctively again, Drew had marked a spot and looked back sheepishly at what he had done.  No one had seen him, but he was reminded of how much of cat he had become.  Neva, who had obviously been in her period as a human, was in heat now.  She was aware of her behavior and, remembering Sam’s warning, fought against her animal instincts too.

            Sam, Irma, Neva, and Drew had found some excitement in being cats.  Irma, in addition to what the transformation had done to her senses, had found a newfound popularity.  From an eccentric camp follower of a would-be witch she had become a miracle cat in the preacher and sorcerer’s eyes and was now accepted as an equal by Sam, Wanda, Neva, and Drew. 

            Sam, like Irma, had begun to enjoy being a cat.  He felt almost guilty for this emotion when he considered his feelings for Irma now.  As Drew had been drawn to the spunky Neva, he had been drawn to the little black cat but for her personality, not her sparse feline frame.  He had never liked her as a mortal, but there was a warmth and genuineness about her he found difficult to resist.

            While Neva, a passionate adult, was now an overheated cat, Drew had been, even in the company of his neighbors Buck, Jim, Tom, and Ed, a subdued and cerebral fellow whose bashfulness often prevented him from even going on a date.  Now, in Neva’s feline eyes, he was a ‘stud.’  Like the other cats, he had senses he never dreamed he could have, including telepathy, and he enjoyed an inexplicable sense of camaraderie with the other cats far beyond the shallow friendship he had with Buck’s gang.

            Whereas the other four cats might survive in each other’s company as cats, Wanda, although enjoying being a cat, herself, at times, was now lost in her new body.  She had been a popular cheerleader in high school and a fun-loving scandal as a college dropout.  It hadn’t mattered to her that Sam had been engaged to Alice; Alice was, after all, a human.  She didn’t even like cats.  But Sam’s sudden friendship with Irma caused jealousy in the big white fluffy cat.  She felt lost.  She was uncertain how she fit in.  Wanda now tagged along after Sam and Irma with a dejected look on her face.  It appeared as if the main discussion on witchcraft wasn’t in the living room or his study but was in the kitchen now.  The cats had eaten all of the lunchmeat and needed the humans to find them some more food.  When the priest caught sight of Drew, the first cat to enter the kitchen, he lifted him playfully up into his arms and scratched his head.  Drew, who was looking for something to eat, hissed and bared his fangs and was immediately dropped to the floor.  Sam, Irma, Wanda, and Neva also hissed at the old man for being so dense. 

            “We want food,” Drew thought, nudging the refrigerator door, “give us something to eat!”

            “I’m just thirsty.  I want some milk,” Neva rubbed the priest’s leg.

            When Mortimer lifted her up to reciprocate her apparent affection, Neva hissed too.  Wanda jumped up on the sink and motioned with her snout, her tale erect, as would a pointer at the faucet.

            The sorcerer clasped his hands with delight. “Oh how cute, Mortimer, they’re thirsty and hungry.  My dog used to do that.  Let’s fix them a platter of food.”

            “I’ll draw them a bowel of water,” the priest sprang into action.

            “I’ll fix you men something to eat,” Alice announced as she entered the room.

            A brave little smile registered on Alice’s face.  She fixed herself and Elijah a sandwich and, because the priest and the sorcerer had already eaten sandwiches, themselves, cut them both large triangles of pie.  The five cats were treated to tuna, fresh out of the can, and small inedible sprigs of parsley Alice found in the crisper.  Pleasing Neva and Wanda very much were the little saucers of milk poured for all the cats.

            While everyone ate, Alice checked all the kitty litters, using a large salad fork from Sam’s kitchen to remove deposits found in two of the lids.  While the four cats continued to feast on the tuna and lapped up the milk in their saucers, the three men discussed the unanswered phone.  The cats kept their ears prickled for what the humans were saying, in case it might affect them.  Sam and Irma, who finished eating quickly, listened the most carefully to their discussion but found it trifling at this stage.  The sorcerer was explaining his own pet theory that poltergeists, whom the priest didn’t believe in, were merely malevolent ghosts and were many times mistaken for demons in the corporeal world.  The priest nodded politely his eyebrows knitted in thought.

At one point, however, as if he hadn’t even been listening to the sorcerer, he couldn’t help muttering aloud, “what if Lillian Fontaine is dead or on vacation?  What if she never comes home at all?”  Alice told him, in a sanctimonious tone, that he must have faith, while Elijah, who had been shocked at what he had found on the web, sat reading one of Sam’s bibles to himself.  The cats were upset with what Mortimer had just said.  In typical feline fashion they swished their tales to show displeasure and exchanged worried looks as they followed the humans out of the room.       

           The priest decided to call Lillian, himself, partially to demonstrate he was in control.  When she called back, it was his voice he wanted her to hear, not that scatter-brained sorcerer’s.  He might just scare her away.  After dialing her number and finding her not home, he left a second message that, unlike Blaze’s simple communication, carried a note of urgency in the message: “This is Father Mortimer Hildebrand.  It is important that you call me at once at 310-217-7638 regarding your sister Madelyn!”

 

                                                                      

******

            There was nothing more they could do for several hours but rest and partake of Alice’s hospitality.  Elijah found the little black cat, sat her on the kitchen table, and, after eating another piece of pie offered to him by Alice, lay down on the sofa with Irma and took a nap.  Upon hearing a snore rumble in his throat, Irma immediately hoped off his stomach and began looking for Sam.  Blaze and the priest, who had each picked up a cat to cuddle, themselves, dozed in the living room’s easy chairs, while watching the television, Wanda and Neva, respectively, slipping tactfully away when they had finally fallen asleep.   Alice, who had held her fiancÚ patiently in her arms a moment as she looked at the sleeping men, sat him down finally to join Irma on the carpet and then went about cleaning up recent deposits the cats had recently made, including a puddle of urine one of them inexplicably left on the kitchen floor.  Ultimately, she too, after a sleepless night, hard days work, and mental fatigue, lay down on Sam’s bed and fell fast asleep.

            When the humans were napping, the five cats gathered together at the foot of Sam’s bed, Sam nestling between Irma and Wanda, and Drew cuddling up with Neva—all five cats nestled into a tight, furry, multicolored heap.  Irma had talked her new friends into being patient with Alice, since her own parents had disliked little Muffin too.  It was obvious to all of them that Alice, whose own fiancÚ was a cat, had been shaken greatly by this ordeal.

            Each of them shared a telepathic nightmare of forever roaming the world as cats, portions of Sam’s poem continually replaying for them in his head.

 

   …Wary until daylight wanes,

               in darkened habitats.

               At night the feral felines reign

                                in the Kingdom of the Cats.

 

******

            Time continued to run out for the cats as their human benefactors waited for the phone to ring.  When it finally rang, Alice grabbed it up quickly from the nightstand and held it breathlessly up to her ear.  The five cats spooked momentarily but then, remembering what this sound meant, settled back down together in the same groupings as before. 

            Because they had lost so much sleep, the sorcerer continued to snore in his easy chair and the preacher rolled over on the sofa with a pillow pressed onto his ear.  The priest, who reacted sluggishly to the ring, sensed immediately that Alice had picked up the phone and stumbled, in a crotchety manner, toward Sam’s room.

            “Please Miss Wagnall.” he called, hobbling to the bed.

            “Hello,” Alice’s voice quivered.

            “Is Father Hildebrand there?” a woman asked in a scratchy, irritable tone.

            “I’ll take it from here,” Mortimer insisted, holding out his hand.

            By now the general commotion had awakened Elijah and Blaze.  Both men jumped up shakily and staggered across the floor, Blaze protesting that it was he, not the priest, who made initiated the call.

            “Plea-ease help us find Madelyn Fontaine,” Alice blurted tearfully into the phone. “My fiancÚ and his friends were turned into cats.  They’re losing their humanity now.  They’re beginning to even act like cats!”

            “Is this a crank call?” barked Lillian Fontaine into the phone. “Woman, are you deranged?”

            “Hello, this is Mortimer Hildebrand,” the priest announced to Lillian after disengaging the phone form Alice’s hand. “Please allow me to explain our dilemma before you hang up the phone.”

            “My sister has caused our family much grief,” Lillian said with a groan. “I don’t know where she’s at now.  I think she’s living on the street.  I really don’t know for sure.”

            “Please, tell me where you saw her last.  Do you know in what part of town she may be?” The priest’s gravelly voice sounded calm.

             “I woke up one morning and she was gone,” Lillian gave a verbal shrug,

            “Come now Miss Fontaine,” he prodded politely, “surely you know where she hangs out and her favorite haunts.”

            “Haunts?  Now that’s a pretty word,” Lillian cackled bitterly. “You must know that my sister is a witch, eh?  You want her to cast or undo a spell?  She can do both you know.  Unfortunately, she can’t make money out of her talents.  Whenever she tries to market her skills, she fails miserably.  It seems as if the powers that be will not allow her to use her gifts for profit.  My parents disowned her when she quit the convent, but I tried for years to turn her talents into cash.”

            “Well, Miss Fontaine,” Mortimer replied with disgust, “it sounds to me as if you’ve driven her away.  Just where do you think your sister might be?”

            “Try the square downtown,” she offered bleakly. “If she’s not there, she could be anywhere: uptown, downtown, skid row.  I no longer care!

            “We care.  Goodbye Miss Fontaine,” the priest said, gently hanging up the phone.

            Turning to the others, who were now gathered in the room, he explained the vast terrain that they would have to explore in order to find the witch Madelyn Fontaine.  It struck the priest, sorcerer, and Alice Wagnall as impossible, but Elijah, who was familiar with this sector of town, was more optimistic about their prospects now.

            “If you insist on this enterprise,” he said with resignation, “I know the streets in skid row pretty well.  The only difficulty we will have is spotting one isolated person among those lost souls.”

            “Well, let’s get started,” the priest said, heaving a sigh.

            “No,” Elijah said emphatically, shaking his head, “it’s too late to start today!  It’ll be dark soon; you won’t be able to find anyone down there at night.”

            “It’s also dangerous,” Blaze reminded them. “We’ll start first thing tomorrow morning.”

            “But it’s not dark yet,” protested Alice. “The cats are running out of time!”

            “I’m sorry,” Elijah patted her arm gently, “but I’ve been in that neck of the woods.  It would be both futile and dangerous to attempt to find a homeless person at night.  They all find shelter during the evening.  By the time we park and began our search, we’d be swallowed up in shadows.”

            Elijah was mentally reliving his own experience on the street.  The utter futility of the entire enterprise depressed him, and he felt great pity for Alice now that it appeared her fiancÚ would remain a cat.  Blaze remembered that night when he had stopped at the boundary of skid row and discovered Elijah and the wondrous cat.  Though he was excited about this enterprise, he was quite satisfied to wait until dawn.  For the priest, who was torn by his own theological pride and his guilt that he wanted this mission to fail, the fact that they were waiting until tomorrow morning only delayed their dreadful meeting with the witch.

 

                                                                       ******

            The five cats remained together on the bed, sleepy yet aware of the momentous undertaking ahead.  Sam conveyed his concern to the others about being cured by a witch, but at this point even he was ready to try anything that might work.  None of the cats moved from the bed as the humans stirred in the next room.  The ambience and warmth of their nest seemed overwhelming.  The sound of their purring was louder and their collective thoughts stronger than ever before. 

            Alice entered Sam’s bedroom and reached down to give Sam a token scratch behind his ears.  He hissed at her for not picking him up this time, and felt Irma licking his head soothingly when she left the room.  While the four humans sat in the living room discussing their search tomorrow, the five cats seemed only concerned about today.  Sam turned to Irma, in a most feline way, and found himself grooming her too.  Drew began licking Neva and Neva, realizing that Wanda was feeling left out, began licking her in turn.  The familiar, proverbial purr accompanying such typical feline behavior remained loud and unanimous among the cats.

 

 

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