Authors: KC Frantzen
Tags: #Mystery: Cozy - Dogs - Paris
here’s death, old human death in the breeze. I struggle to open my eyes.
Cat! A huge face with glittering gold eyes approaches, then I feel it. Water. He lets it dribble from his mouth to mine.
Lap lap lap, gulp, lap lap
. Then he’s gone.
The pack is too. I must be dead.
I struggle to lift my head, like a helpless baby bird. He returns again and again, so quiet. Should learn to travel like him. Maybe I can, now that I’m… dead.
The cat’s tufted ear flicks. I heard it too.
He hisses, “We must go. You can travel?”
“I-I think so… Yes.” But when I try, I moan.
“You are injured? Come, I’ll carry you.” His face… Harsh? Determined? I’m not sure.
He bumps my nose with his, then takes the back of my neck in his huge white teeth. So gently. Still, I cry out from pain in my shoulder and leg. Off he carries me, towards the wall, like I weigh nothing. Maybe this is the entrance to Heaven. As I dangle from his jaws, I’m mesmerized by the muscles under mottled taupe and black fur, moving with daunting rhythm.
Interesting angel. Strong, tough, lethal.
Should I feel safe or not? He’s much larger than me and carries himself like a warrior.
Shouldn’t worry though. I’m already dead.
We cross the
in between a few vehicles, then through a slit in the stone wall to Heaven. Human death scent is everywhere, aged and strong. I notice sculptures, forever in mourning, resting on slabs of stone. In small buildings with open doors, I glimpse colored patterns made by sun streaming through little glass windows, highlighting names and dates. I guess it makes sense for Heaven to have burial grounds.
We stop and he sets me carefully on soft moss. I’m aware of pressure on my shoulder.
My eyes water and I hold my breath. It’s sooo going to hurt when I inhale.
But it doesn’t.
I flex then take a deep breath. It
sore, but I can step without agony.
What I thought about Heaven isn’t proving true. No more tears? My eyes are still watering. No more death? I scent it all around.
Idea! I’d better ask just in case, and use my best manners. “Excuse me, angel sir. I’m May, which you probably know. Would you be so kind to share your name?”
“I’m no angel.”
He looks expectantly. “
This is a creature of few words, I’d best not chatter. “Mr… I mean
Lay-AHNSS. Is that correct?”
“I was wondering. Am I dead? This isn’t what I thought Heaven would be like, but it’s nice.”
His laughter sounds like thunder. “
, you live.”
“I do? Where are we? Even the birds are quiet.”
His ears flick, but he says nothing.
Where are my manners? “Sir, thank you uh,
, for assisting me. I don’t know what I would have done…”
you help me?”
He looks into the distance, towards a tall tower, just lit. “It is my purpose.”
I wait, but he says no more.
He turns his huge eyes in my direction. “You require food?”
“Please. I’ve not eaten in awhile.”
He licks his lips. “Nor have I.”
gain the cat carries me as if I’m a feather.
“Wh-where are we going?”
Léonce says nothing, but I guess it’d be difficult with his mouth full of me.
We pass all manner of monuments, stony and old and overcrowded. I notice some living things, thriving in patterned pots. Odd. No grass. We cross some broken cobblestones, a mole bump in the dirt, a sad memorial with a carved granite dog near one end, grieving. The cat sets me down near lacy-looking ferns.
When he sees me eyeing them he says, “
“We have these at home! Mom told Dad ‘Dusty Miller’ is easy to grow which is good because she has a brown thumb. I wonder if she is color-blind. Both her thumbs are pink.”
After giving me a look, he chews a few leaves off the stems and forms a small bunch near my paws. “Bring them.”
I gather all I can in my mouth, then he carries me once more, over some new mole bumps, winding in and out of slabs and trees. Why?
As we approach the side of a larger building, he seems cautious, like April on the porch looking for “enemies foreign and domestic.”
He locates a specific stone near the ground and pushes it. A little passageway opens and he motions me within.
A trap? Must be wary. I stoop then limp through the narrow opening into a large room. He follows, then shoves the stone into place.
Well that’s it. I’m trapped. I set the leaves aside. “Wh-where is this?” My voice echoes off the high concrete walls.
“Home,” he says, tail twitching.
“It seems so… creepy and cold.” Drat. That wasn’t polite. I try to think of conversation until I can figure out a plan. I notice colorful light streaming from windows high overhead. “It’s quite spacious.”
After studying me, he gathers the leaves and pads into another area. I hobble along behind. He leaps with ease onto a small marble table and using a claw, flips a small switch. A few bulbs brighten the space.
There are human scents… Some are from that gang!
And cats, including my host. No dogs. The air is damp and still and it’s oh-so-quiet. Flanking this room are two white columns, with a statue of the head and shoulders of humans on each. Wonder who they are? There’s something else, out of place in all this stone and concrete. A comfy-looking chair is positioned next to a table with pretty red fabric hanging to the floor.
He disappears underneath.
Though my paws are chilled, I’d better not hop onto the chair, a no-no at home. Do cats have similar rules?
From under the tablecloth Léonce purrs in a friendly tone, “Enter.”
I’ll be alert but use good manners. Those leaves might be for flavored broth, with me as the meat! But like Dad says, “No matter the situation, you’re wrong if you’re rude.”
I woof, “How kind. Uhm… Thank you.”
When I nose under, Léonce is sitting contentedly on a cozy rug. His motor is softer, a lot different than mine. I run mine when I play.
I spy bits and pieces of stray items: an empty tuna can, a chipped plastic dish with
some cat food, shredded newspaper and bunched up cloths.
I sense no treachery. Still, think I’ll station myself near an exit. After a bit I say, “Sir,
again for helping my shoulder. It’s painful but better.”
“You will be safe with me until you’ve healed.”
I look at him intently. Maybe I should get past the fear and ask. “So… You’re not going to have me for supper?”
He shakes his head, then his expression changes to concern. “You come to this part of ze city because…?”
A little sob catches in my throat before I can stop it.
“I don’t want to be any trouble, but I am sort of… on my own. I need to… get back as soon as possible.”
“Of course.” He seems to examine me. “You’ve not lived on ze street, yet you have training,
I nod. Should I say more?
. Great. My stomach just did.
“We need nourishment.” He leaps straight at me, bounding past and out from under the table. I spot him sliding the stone through, then he’s out of sight. As it slips into place his voice echoes, “Consume all ze leaves before I return.”
Now I’m alone. I think.
Since the leaves
for May-flavored broth, I’ll do as he asks. Mom uses them to brew tea when Dad has an upset stomach. He feels lots better after, maybe I will too. Besides, they’ll help fill me up.
. Kinda bitter but not bad.
Guess I’ll nose around while Léonce is gone.
Snuffle, sniff sniff
It’s an unusual mix, like humans long forgotten lived here… Or something. But there are recent scents also. Several paintings and a huge mirror decorate the walls, along with some candles lit not long ago, in fancy holders with sparkly crystals.
I notice a plaque and limp to take a look.
Marie Bashkirtseff 1884
Born in Ukraine, died at 25.
Perhaps that is who lived here, or maybe is buried…? But why France? Not that it matters, I don’t know what I’m doing here either.
Should I tell Léonce how Dad and Mom rescued me from Rukan? Guess I’ll wait and see.
I sniff containers with freshly-printed paper inside. Here are some boxes that make music and talk – radio, that’s the word. Cell phones, with a variety of human scents. Odd. Why would these not be with their owners?
Idea! Maybe I could use one to contact the K9 Service. I use my underbite to lift the lid and –
– A door opens. Why is Léonce entering that way? Unless…
I take two swift steps. PAIN! Careful May, no sound. I stagger to the shadow near the chair.
An irritated-sounding woman whispers, “Alexis, you left the lights on?”
“Noooo. You were clear. I did not.”
Sounds like Dreary Boy. Odd.
The woman says, “You’re certain?”
The young man answers, “Yes mo– I’m sorry… Director.”
“Bring the radios. Hurry. I will take the leaflets, then signal for rendezvous at the secondary location tonight. We will confirm it is safe before meeting here again.”
Boot sounds bounce through the cold building, then stop nearby. I hold my breath and dare not even sniff. Some shuffling, then the boots move away. After a brief clank, only night noises. Except – what’s this?
A slight scraping sound catches my ear. I risk peering from behind the chair. The stone hatch pushes towards me. Then the face of my rescuer appears, masked by…