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Nonlethal Curiosity

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The apartment was cleaner than it had been, now that he wasn't just passing time until his death and cleaning no longer seemed like one more pointless task while he waited for the end. Beyond that, Zach had another motivator for getting his apartment into presentable shape.

His guest was currently sitting across from him eating her plate of scrambled eggs. Zach’s eggs were long gone, leaving the former FBI agent to slowly sip his coffee.

Patti paused in her meal, clearly planning to say something, when her gaze shifted to a point behind Zach’s head. She blinked rapidly, then declared in a quiet but energetic voice “There’s a cat!”

Zach turned to look. Sure enough standing just on the other side of the kitchen window was a white cat with a comically large red bow tied around its neck.

"So there is."

"Poor thing must be lost," Patti stated, standing up and moving quickly towards the window. She glanced briefly at her host, but when Zach simply shrugged she opened the window and began trying to coax the cat inside. The cat looked at her curiously, but stayed carefully out of Patti’s reach.

Just as the young woman let out a frustrated huff, Zach casually stood up and pulled some leftover fish out of the fridge. He laid it out on a plate that he placed on the counter below the window and stepped back.

The cat cautiously looked at the plate and the two humans. Then it leapt through the open window and began devouring the fish.

Quick as a flash, Patti slammed the window closed behind it.

The cat let out a yowl of surprise at the sudden noise and at having its escape route closed off, but when the two humans stayed out of slashing distance, the cat primly turned back to the offered food.

"What now?" Patti asked. "Do we put up signs saying "Found Cat"?"

Zach shook his head. "That won't be necessary," he stated. "Look."

He pointed his finger at a particular spot on the cat's ribbon where a fabric tag with the name 'Amanda' was attached. Underneath the name were some smaller words that couldn't be read from where the two stood.

"I suspect we'll find all the clues we need around this lovely lady’s neck."

After the cat finished her meal she looked around imperiously, daring the two to approach her. And Patti did. She reached out her hand and began to take a step forward, aiming to capture the cat, but she was stopped by another hand coming down onto hers. She looked up at Zach and saw a confident smile on his face, signaling that he had some sort of idea.

“Come, Patti,” Zach said, leading her to the living room side of the apartment and dropping her hand so he could flip through his collection of records.

Patti stood by for a bit, glancing at the cat out of the corner of her eye, but it wasn’t long before the suspense was too much for her.

“Zach,” she hissed, “what are you doing?

Zach smirked at her, deliberately turning his back on the kitchen. “Isn’t it obvious? Our distinguished visitor is a contrarian. If we demand her attention, she’ll only recoil, but if we ignore her…”

“She’ll come to us!” Patti exclaimed quietly, pleased with having followed Zach’s thinking.

“Precisely, Patti.” Zach held up a finger. “The fastest way to attract a woman like her is by showing her you’re not interested.”

“Did you just use your profiling abilities on a cat ?” Patti asked, a bit exasperated, but not at all surprised.

Zach didn’t even look a little chagrined. Instead he turned back to flipping through his record collection, even while there was a quiet thump from the other side of the room as Amanda leapt off the counter. He kept up the air of indifference, with Patti standing restlessly by his side, until the cat began winding her way between his feet.

“I see the queen has decided to grace us with her presence,” Zach stated casually, still keeping his apparent attention focused on the records, until he swooped down and scooped the cat up into his arms.

Amanda yowled out her displeasure at being captured while also squirming around in an attempt to escape.

“Now, now, settle down, Amanda,” Zach soothed as Amanda accepted that she was trapped for the moment. “We just want to return you to your own proper kingdom. Patti, if you would.” Zach nodded at her collar.

Patti peered down and read aloud “Underneath ‘Amanda’ it says ‘Peggy and David Young’ and a phone number.” Patti looked up at Zach. “Should I call them?” she asked, her hand already reaching for the cell phone in her pocket.

“No need,” Zach replied, adjusting his grip on Amanda to be more secure. “I know precisely where we can find David Young. Peggy Young is, sadly, no longer with us, but her husband is right over our heads.”

Patti followed Zach’s gaze up to the ceiling.

“...You could just say he’s your upstairs neighbor like a normal person,” she chided, though there was clearly no intent behind her words. She knew Zach too well for that.

Zach let out an amused hum while Amanda settled into his arms and let out a pleased-sounding meow.

“Could you get the door?” Zach asked. “I think we should take this lovely lady home.”

Amanda mewed in agreement.

Patti shook her head, but did as she was asked, holding the door open for Zach and Amanda and closing it behind them. She followed the former FBI agent up a flight of stairs and to a door directly above Zach’s.

Zach looked back at her, raised an eyebrow, then looked down at the cat in his arms.

“Don’t worry, I’ve got it,” Patti said, knocking loudly three times against the door, before taking a step back to stand slightly behind Zach.

After a moment, the two could hear muffled footsteps as the occupant of the apartment hurried to the door.

“What’s the matter, Teddy? You forget your—” His sentence fell away as he registered that it wasn’t his former partner standing at his door, but instead two strangers. “...Can I help you?”

"You must be David Young," Zach greeted. "Patti here spotted Amanda skulking on the ledge outside my apartment and we thought we’d help the lady make her way home.”

A curious look crossed David’s face as his gaze lingered on Zach and Amanda. After a bit he seemed to snap back into the moment and said “Oh, uh, thanks. Thanks a lot, mister…?”

“Francis Zach Morgan, but call him Zach, that’s what everyone calls him,” Patti jumped in, a teasing lilt to her voice as she knowingly stole Zach’s standard introduction from him. “And I’m Patricia Clarkson.”

David looked thoughtful as she introduced them, like he was attempting to commit everything about them to his memory.

Then Amanda began to squirm once again, this time managing to escape from Zach’s arms. She landed gracefully on the floor and entered David’s apartment with a regal air. The three humans watched Amanda and then glanced at each other.

“Well, I suppose our mission is complete,” Zach said eventually, breaking the silence.

“I suppose so,” Patti agreed. She peered into the apartment behind David and called out “Goodbye Amanda.” She received a meow in return.

“It was nice meeting you, David,” Zach stated. “It’s good to finally put a face to the name.”

“Likewise,” David replied with a polite smile that didn't quite reach his eyes.

Zach and Patti turned to leave, however the pair had only taken one step when Zach paused and looked back over his shoulder.

“Oh and David,” Zach called back. “Good luck with your investigation. I’m sure the FBI would be very interested in hearing anything you find out about Real Blood.” With that, he walked away, Patti following behind, leaving David, stunned, staring at the pair as they retreated.