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Old 02-26-2016, 10:26 PM   #61
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End of Chapter Three.

The fourth chapter is of one of my favorites, but I shall make you wait of this! Ha!

I must do things of home and speak of cooking!


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Old 02-27-2016, 08:38 PM   #62
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Chapter 4 – Meows

A few moments after Carrie left, the cats heard a noise at the door, and saw a tall, slender 40-ish woman with long auburn hair and green eyes peering in through the door’s window. She wore a down-filled ski jacket, slightly faded jeans, and hiking boots. For some reason, this woman seemed familiar to all of them, even Belle.

"Who is that?" whispered Bart. "I know her, I think."

Saav stared. "I don't know, but I know her too...somehow."

Then they saw it. There was a cat sitting on her shoulder, looking in at them with intelligent, curious green eyes like the woman's, blending in with the blues, grays, and black of the jacket. The cats were drawn to them. They abandoned the computer and flew to the windowsill for a better look, nosing between the curtains and jumping up.

The woman saw them and laughed. She had an incredible smile. "Well, hi there, little cats. You all are so beautiful," she said through the window.

The cats and kitten purred and purred, and the big grey tabby on the lady's shoulder leaned toward the window, smiled at them and winked. The cat wanted to come in. They wanted both of them to come in, but they couldn't unlock the door without the key, and Carrie had it.

"I'll come back in a little while. Bless you babies," she said, kissing her hand and putting her hand lightly on the window. The cats and kitten sniffed at the glass where her hand had been. There was a small warm spot. She smiled and the cat on her shoulder winked, and they went across the street.

The cats and kitten were awestruck.

"One of us," breathed Bart.

"Wow! She's so pretty! And that kitty can talk, I know it," said Belle.

“You’re learning,” Bart told the kitten. Belle purred proudly.

Pook and Saav looked at each other, ears twitching. "I hope they come back," Pook whispered.

"They will," Saav replied.

“What’s happening here?” asked Bart. “Seems we’re running into ones like us all over the place.”

Pook shook her head. “I don’t know. Maybe we can find out somehow.”

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Old 02-27-2016, 08:41 PM   #63
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“We haven’t found anything about the clowder over here,” said Belle. “All Bart and I found were just a few odd Celtic and Egyptian tales. Nothing about unusual cats here…not sentient ones, anyway.”

“Well, and a few fables about flying cats in what’s now Eastern Europe. We don’t know how we got here, though, to the USA. That seems to be the missing link,” added Bart.

“Yeah, I know,” Saav said. “We looked too. Mom even went to the library, but no luck.”

They watched while the woman and her cat disappeared into the bookstore/coffeeshop, The Daily Grind, across the street. Reluctantly, the cats and Belle hopped off the windowsill and returned to the little laptop on the counter, and began hunting for a cat screensaver. They found one, and while it was downloading, Belle asked about Africa after studying the antique globe on display in the shop the night before with Bart. They searched for information about Africa and began reading the web pages and looking at the maps and pictures.

The three older cats were so engrossed in helping little Belle learn that when Carrie's key slid into the lock, they all jumped. Bart breathed a sigh of relief.

"We saw a magic lady!" Belle exclaimed. "She's coming back with her cat."

"What?" Carrie blinked.

“Yes! With her cat!” Belle said.

“Ohhh no, not that weirdo who dresses up in the black robes and carries that stuffed panther or cougar or whatever it is? I thought she was in therapy,” sighed Carrie. “Don’t tell me she’s back!”

“Not quite, Carrie. We heard about her,” Saav told her. “This is someone completely different.”

Pook and Bart described the pretty redhead with the cat who had come by earlier, and what had happened.

"Oh my," said Carrie. "Definitely not the weirdo, then. Where did she go?"

Bart nosed across the street. "To the bookstore over there."

"Then we better look like we're open," Carrie smiled, opening the curtains and putting her sign back out. Then she went to her Jeep, and brought in a large box and a bag.

The cats watched intently. "What's that?" asked Belle.

"Hmm. I don't know. Let's see what it is," Carrie smiled. She put them on the counter and opened the bag first. "Oh. Here's some wireless cards, a couple of nice jump drives, oh, and some computer cleaning stuff."
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Old 02-27-2016, 08:45 PM   #64
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"We only need one card, for Pook’s and Saav’s laptop. You have two," said Bart.

"We need two. You always need to have a spare on hand. You ever misplace one of these at three in the morning?”

“Gee, I’d have to think about that,” smiled Bart. “Um…no.”

Carrie laughed at him. Bart winked at her.

"But why two?" asked Belle.

"Well," said Carrie, opening the box and pulling out a laptop computer. "What else would you connect this thing to for Internet?"

The cats stared. Belle started to say something but was stopped by a short hiss from Bart.

"Yes, Bart and Belle, it's yours," smiled Carrie, putting it in front of them on the counter.

Belle gasped. Bart's eyes grew huge. It was a used laptop that looked brand new; a little bigger than the girls', but the same name brand. Belle put a paw out to it, then snatched her paw away.

"Go ahead, open the top. It's yours," Carrie assured her.

"Wow!" said Bart, as Belle lifted the top and opened it up. Pook and Saav gawked.

"That's cool, Carrie!" said Pook. “That’s better than ours!”

“It sure is,” Saav smiled happily. “Neat!”

Carrie smiled. “Justin’s coming over to install the wireless router in just a few minutes. This card is for you girls, and this one is Bart’s and Belle’s. Now, see, everybody can be online.”

She plugged the power cord in. “Fire it up, Bart.”

Bart pawed the power button and it sprang to life. Carrie moved a small mahogany Shaker-style breakfast table behind the counter next to her desk, and moved both laptops from the counter to the table, where they would be out of the way. A pretty little walnut stationery box held the jump drives and cleaning items. Then she placed a very colorful, room-dividing Oriental screen around it, making a private little computer nook for them. In front of the screen, she placed a pair of rubber plants to distract from the space between the screen and the wall where the cats could slip back and forth.

“Ooooo,” said Belle. “I like the dragons on that.”

"What's that for?" asked Bart, indicating the screen.

"How am I going to explain cats using computers to my customers?" Carrie asked him.

He blinked. "Oh."

"That might be a challenge," said Saav.
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Old 02-27-2016, 08:48 PM   #65
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Ralph poked his head through the door. "Cats! Bart! Belle! Lunchtime!" he boomed.

In all the excitement of the morning, Belle forgot herself.

"Wow, great! I'm starving!" she said, jumping from the counter.

Ralph turned white. Carrie stared at Belle. The cats froze.

Crap! Bart thought, and hissed at Belle. Belle cowered.

Pook and Saav shuddered. Carrie’s heart made a sickening thunk in her chest. Ohhhh nooooooo!

Ralph’s eyes narrowed as he studied the cats at his feet, his gaze finally resting on Belle.

"Did that kitten just say that?" Ralph asked.

Carrie nodded, as her throat went dry. It was too late.

Ralph stared at Carrie, thunderstruck. Then a look of slow realization stole over his face.

"I'll be damned. My mother was right all along," Ralph said, a huge grin spreading from ear to ear.

"Y-your mother?" Carrie stammered.

"She always said, 'Of course animals talk. You just have to believe.' She believed. I guess I did too. I take it this is something you all don't tell people, right?"


"I'll never tell. People would think I was on something, anyway. Let me guess. The other ones talk too."

Carrie nodded, but she knew Ralph, and she trusted him. She knew he wouldn't even tell his wife.

“Who all knows about them?”

“You, Joyce, and me,” she replied.

“No one else?”

Carrie shook her head. “Not a soul.”

"Well, isn't that something." He looked down at the cats and little Belle, whose drooping head told them how ashamed she was. "C'mon, Belle, don't look so sad," he said, and scooped her up into his arms. "I'll make you a deal. If you get tired of talking to these folks over here, you can always come over and chat with me."

Ralph winked at Carrie. She relaxed noticeably, relieved. This must have been something meant to be, and Carrie always thought there was something especially kind-hearted about Ralph. Belle purred in Ralph's arms as he carried her to the restaurant, the cats following the jolly man to plates
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Old 02-27-2016, 08:49 PM   #66
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heaping with seafood and, of course, plenty of vegetables for one growing kitten.

Carrie sank to her desk chair behind the counter, still shaken. Ralph had taken that pretty well, she thought. She couldn't be mad at little Belle. Belle already knew she had made a bad mistake, and one not likely to be repeated. The little ones have to learn, she knew. Well, it was meant to be, or it wouldn't have happened. Whether it was meant to be that Ralph learned the secret or Belle needed to learn not to talk around other people, or both, it was meant to be and that was that. Carrie wondered about Joyce, holding on tightly to that secret for almost a year. And what had made Carrie ask her if the cats could talk those months ago? Rumors of talking cats from a fellow she hardly knew at all shouldn't have been enough to stir her curiosity that much. But Pook and Saav knew Carrie, and trusted her. Carrie wondered if Joyce had fussed any more at the little cats after she picked them up that afternoon.

Probably not. She was known for keeping her head and she obviously understood things that weren't exactly understandable, much less explainable. Carrie always felt closer to animals than people, even her husband, and she wondered about that. Why was she more comfortable around her dogs at home or her cats at work? She'd never been able to figure that out. Why were every one of her few friends pet owners? Ralph had cats at home and for many years had even had a horse. Did his cats talk? Did they use his computer? Did they join internet cat-owners’ groups?

Am I losing my mind?

If she kept this up, she'd drive herself nuts. She sighed. She needed to stop thinking about it.

Justin walked into the shop, providing a welcome interruption to her thoughts.

“Hi. You okay? You look upset,” he said,

“Oh, I’m fine, just thinking about…new ventures,” she laughed, trying to sound casual. Justin looked at her closely, and decided she must be a bit tired.

“You’ll do just fine,” he said with a smile. “Well, let’s get you wireless.”

“Great,” she replied. She watched as he hooked up the router and made sure it worked with his laptop.

“Want me to check your laptop connection?” he offered.

She suddenly realized it was behind the screen with the other laptop. That would be impossible to explain. He’d think she was crazy for hiding
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Old 02-27-2016, 08:55 PM   #67
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two laptops back there with no room for a human to work on them. “Ahh, no thanks, I think I can handle that. If I run into a problem, I’ll call you.”

“Okay. Well, you’re all set. Let me know if you need anything,” Justin said, turning off his laptop and getting up from the floor next to her tower.

“Thank you, Justin. I will,” she promised.

“Off to the next problem,” he smiled, and went out the door.

Carrie sat back down, worried. That was close. She sighed and got up, put on some coffee, and wondered if the woman with the cat was coming back today.

As if on cue, the shop door opened with a jangle of bells, and a stunning redhead with dancing green eyes poked her head in.

"Hi! May I bring my cat in with me or would you rather he stay out here?" she asked, smiling.

What a smile, thought Carrie. "No! Don't leave him out, bring him in," Carrie replied. "Pets are welcome here.”

What am I doing, she thought. Of course. The magic woman, Belle had said.

"Oh thank you! His name is Meows, and he'll stay on my shoulder,” she said, coming in. The big grey tabby seemed to smile at Carrie.

“He’s beautiful,” said Carrie. “May I pet him?”


Carrie reached up and scratched the cat’s ears. Meows purred at her loudly.

"Would he like a bite to eat? My cats here are next door feasting on seafood. Ralph always has plenty of leftovers,” Carrie offered.

"Would you like that, Meows?" the woman asked her cat. Carrie swore she saw the cat nod. “I think he’d love a little something right now. Thank you!”

"C'mon, we'll get him a plate," said Carrie, rising and going out the back, the lady and her cat following her. They went into the kitchen. "Ralph, you got an extra plate? Seems we have a visitor."

"Sure!" Ralph replied, reaching for a plate. The cats on the floor looked up.

"Oh, I saw these dear faces in your window when I came by earlier," she said, kneeling to pet them. Meows jumped off her shoulder and sat down, waiting for a plate and looking like he was trying not to drool. The cats purred at this lady's gentle petting, and Belle looked up at Meows and put out a little paw.
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Old 02-27-2016, 08:57 PM   #68
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Meows gave her a whisker-kiss, and she purred and rubbed against him. Carrie felt the big grey tabby was happy. Could he talk? One of us, Bart had said.

Ralph came over with a plate and set it in front of Meows. The cat looked at Ralph gratefully, and began his lunch, eating slowly, taking care not to be messy.

"Now he's a handsome one," Ralph smiled. He scratched Meows's ear and went back to work. The other cats and Belle returned to their plates, and Carrie led the woman out, pointing out the cat doors and assuring her the shop cats would make sure he got back after lunch.

"I love your shop here," said the woman. She introduced herself as Suzanna Pearson, and told Carrie she had just bought the huge Victorian house on the corner half a block from Carrie's shop, and was starting to turn it into a cozy bed-and-breakfast. She was planning to live behind the enormous house in what used to be the caretaker's cottage, and was remodeling that, too. The property had stood empty for over two years, and badly needed updating. For now, Suzanna was staying in a suite in one of the hotels downtown within walking distance to her new enterprise.

Carrie listened to her singsong voice, and Suzanna's laughter was infectious. Carrie introduced herself, and Suzanna told her she wanted to give the house its original pre-WW1 look, and was interested in antique lamps, furniture, and anything else Carrie could think of.

"I am so NOT an interior designer," Suzanna admitted. "But I want this place to be as close to perfect as I can get it."

"I can help," said Carrie. "When you're ready for the decorating, I'd like to see the place and we can go from there. Meanwhile, these may help."

She went behind the counter and got several catalogs out and piled them on the counter.

"Oh goodness," laughed Suzanna. "I didn't know there is so much out there."

"Well, a lot of these are copies and reproductions of the originals, but they are really, really good ones. It's ok to have a few reproductions in with the real antiques, as long as they're high-quality. Plus, it'll save you some money. Take these home and look through them, and get some ideas."

Suzanna looked alarmed. "Don't you need these?"

"No," said Carrie, shaking her head. "I have more copies of those back here."

"Oh, okay, thank you. This will really help," smiled Suzanna. "This is all so exciting."
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Old 02-27-2016, 09:00 PM   #69
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"I'm glad you bought that place. I hated seeing it just sit there, and I can't wait to see it all fixed up and vibrant."

The two women chatted a little longer, and Suzanna looked around the shop, asking about items here and there, admiring many, and talking about her plans for the property.

After their lunch, the shop cats waited for Meows to finish, then led him back to Carrie and Suzanna. They piled in through the cat door, talking away.

Carrie and Suzanna looked at each other.

"I knew this morning," Suzanna said with a wink. "None of yours spoke to us, but I knew."

"Thank you for lunch. It was delicious, and I enjoyed it very much. I also am enjoying the company of your cats," Meows said politely to Carrie.

Carrie stared at him, then smiled. Gee. Why am I not really surprised? Have I become so jaded now?

"You're - you're welcome," Carrie stammered. She looked at Suzanna. "Is he always like this? So proper?"

"He puts his 'people manners' on when we go out. When we're home, he slurps and belches and scratches just like everyone else," Suzanna laughed. Meows smiled. Bart laughed.

"We act like slobs everywhere," said the big orange tabby.

Meows shrugged. "I like making her look good." He nosed at Suzanna.

"I'll tell ya, she looks great with you on her shoulder like you were this morning," said Pook.

"Hey," said Bart. "Wanna see our new laptop?"

"It would be a pleasure," Meows replied. The cats all headed for the table behind the screen, and disappeared, whispering so they couldn't be heard by humans in case another customer came in.

"Oh, they use computers too," Suzanna smiled. "I had to get Meows a laptop, too. He wouldn't stay off my computer and I started needing it more, so the only answer to that was to get him his own."

"It's so amazing, these cats...using computers, reading, talking, educating themselves, knowing what they know...I've only had Bart for five months, and Belle was adopted just Christmas Day. Pook and Saav aren't mine, they belong to a friend who kept their secret for almost a year. Pook was the one who broke the secret to me. Her owner never said a word."

Suzanna nodded. "Meows spoke to me after I had him for about three days. He was only seven months old. Scared the crap out of me, but then I
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Old 02-27-2016, 09:02 PM   #70
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realized what a gift I had. He's three years old now, and you folks are the only ones who know about him. He told me we would know if we ran into others like us. They must have talked over lunch."

Meows poked his head around from behind the screen. "Yes, we did. We had a most enlightening conversation." He disappeared back behind it.

Suzanna snickered. "Damn cat ears."

Carrie shook her head with a smile. “Pook and Saav spoke to Bart first. Then…I don’t know. It’s very odd, the feral cats coming through last year and moving on like that. And only certain people finding the talking, sentient ones. Weird.”

Suzanna narrowed her eyes at Carrie. “Your two and the other two all come from the Ash Mountain clowder?”

“They have a name?!” Carrie felt a chill.

“You didn’t know?”

“Do I look like I know?” asked Carrie, annoyed.

Suzanna reached out and patted Carrie’s shoulder. “I’m not being coy. I am being careful. Only those who actually have these cats are supposed to know the tale, and I believe yours here are of the clowder.”

“What tale?”

“About where they came from. Who and what they are.”

“Can you start at the beginning?” Carrie asked.

“Sure,” said Suzanna, eyeing the coffeemaker. “But it’ll cost you some java. Can’t tell this kind of thing without coffee.”

“Sounds like I don’t want to hear it without having a well-stocked bar at my elbow,” muttered Carrie, getting up.

Her new friend laughed. “Well, it’s a bit early for that, I’m afraid.”

“Like hell it is,” said Carrie, going behind the counter and pulling out a tiny bottle of Courvoisier cognac. “How about it? You driving?”

Suzanna shook her head. “No, walking. You?”

“Depends upon how weird this story is. One, I’ll be fine, it’ll be out of my system by the time I close up. More than one, I call a cab.”

“What cab? There’s a taxi service here?”

Carrie laughed and got out two brandy snifters, then pointed toward the back of the store.

“Police department’s right across the alley. They’ve taken me home before when my car died on me and when I broke my arm in the alley, and the chief lives close to me and can bring me in, or Ralph can, it’s no problem,” said Carrie, pouring a fairly generous amount into both glasses.

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