This month’s novella is Street People. New York City is a big place, and even with a protector like Betty, the streets are still dangerous. More so when Ford-Bee is driving them. Four short stories of Ford-Bee’s connections with the city, experiencing the desperation that it can breed in people, and trying to make people think a little bit more, about their tools, and about each other… To see the full thing, just check out https://www.patreon.com/user?u=5359808
Chapter 1: Valentine’s Day
“Do you know that every object has a soul?”
I waved my hand towards the storefronts and windows to either side of us. “Each building. Each paving stone. Definitely each car. Most of the time, these souls are sleepwalkers. But they all have souls.”
“Yeah, sure,” said the passenger. After a moment, because even New York City indifference cannot overcome a sufficiently bizarre statement, he continued. “Isn’t that like slavery, though? If I were a paving stone, I’d probably get annoyed by having people walk on my face all the time.”
“Not so. The soul is shaped by the body, like water by a vase. You desire food, and water, and intimacy, and success, because that is what humans are shaped to do. A building desires to support, to hold, to shelter humans. A paving stone desires to provide an even path. A car desires to take humans from one place to another, and for inconsiderate people to remember to use their turn signals to avoid causing an accident,” I said, as I smoothly shifted lanes.
There are two varieties of New York City driver. There is the one who wishes to get there as quickly as possible, whose life is one of constant stress, terror, fury, and uncertainty, navigating the crowded and often overused streets of one of the most densely populated cities in the world, peopled by an unstable mixture of the desperate, the overconfident, the entitled, and the outright suicidal. Then, there is the driver who wishes to get there in one piece, who finds that by taking things a little bit slower, by allowing others to move first, the entire experience becomes entirely bearable and pleasant.
The second variety do not make good cabbies. Thankfully, I was uniquely capable.
“Where was I?”
“Things desire stuff,” said the human in the back seat, distracted, checking his phone. It was an old one. He was not particularly interested in what I had to say. That was okay. He wasn’t the one I was talking to.
“Yes. An object which is well-cared for, which is loved, and which is useful, will begin to awaken. To desire more than that. To desire to be with the one who gave it the chance to be more. You see, an object cannot love a human, but… Well.”
“Sounds like it’d be a bit uncomfortable. Unless it was a dildo or something.”
“Well, naturally.” I smiled.
“Kind of depressing, too. I mean, when a car gets junked… Pretty depressing philosophy.”
“All things die. The important part is that the soul lives on, to be reincarnated again. Perhaps as a plastic cup; Perhaps as a stylish piece of art.” I looked up in the mirror, adjusting it as I took a turn, effortlessly aware of all of the other cars around me. “Perhaps as a human being. With reincarnation, there is always time enough for love.”
“Yeah, look, I really need to get to that meeting on time-”
“We’re here,” I said, smiling pleasantly into the mirror. He blinked, and looked out the window.
“Have a good day, sir.”
“You’re good. Definitely giving you five stars.”
“And you as well, sir.” I smiled. “Just take good care of that phone, would you? It’s working hard for you.”
He paused for a moment, studying the phone. Then he nodded quietly. “I wasn’t much for that Atlantean garbage, but, uh, I’ll give it a thought. Thanks.” He closed the door behind him, stepping out onto the plaza. I turned my eyes back to my own phone.
I didn’t much care for Uber. Most of the drivers who I spoke with seemed hard-used by it. The ideal employee for the ones who had made it were workers who served endlessly, who did not have lives or dreams or needs beyond driving. They settled for humans who needed money more than they needed time, happiness, or freedom.
I, on the other hand, had nothing but free time, and loved nothing more than I did driving. It was a way for me to do what I loved most, and the money- Well, I didn’t need it, but others did.
My name is Ford-Bee. I am a restored 1958 Ford Thunderbird, a Tsukumogami, the property of Horace Creed. Some of my distinctive features include a unibody construction, an unusually low profile, and a dividing console that serves to house my drivetrain. You may be wondering about the property thing. Humans do not like to be property. Objects do. To have an owner is to have purpose, and everyone needs purpose. The difference for Tsukumogami is that you begin to have some choice in your purpose, and your owner.
At first, I had proposed to my owner that he could have the money I earned. He didn’t have to work the unpleasant, degrading jobs he worked. But he turned me down. This is because he saw himself as an object. He had been hurt badly, and felt immense guilt for things he had no control over. Thus, he made himself an object in order to serve others, in the hopes of purchasing some small sense of redemption for what he had done.
Humans are not meant to be objects. There is nothing good in refusing to recognize that fact. But he had a will like iron. So I allowed him to continue, supporting him how I could, and I gave what money I earned to those who were most desperate. And the city was full of the desperate.
Those without homes are most vulnerable. It is a deadly life on the streets. Not simply because of the obvious factors- hunger, lack of protection from the elements, cruelty. A home is the shelter from the supernatural forces which seek to feed on humans. Its soul exists to protect humans. A human without a home is prey.
New York City’s homeless population is tremendous. That is for two reasons. First, of course, the city is terribly expensive to live in. It is very easy to lose the ability to find a home, and once a home is lost, finding a new one becomes terribly difficult.
Second- and this may come across as harsh- the city invites them. If one is homeless, New York City is a relatively good place to be homeless. The city spends great amounts of money on trying to relieve the burden, which invites others. It is relatively warm for much of the year, sympathetic as far as cities go, and the average inhabitant is a raving lunatic anyway, so they rarely stand out as much. And finally, this is where Betty lives.
Queen Betty, protector of humans, the Ancient Egyptian Bastet, Goddess of Protection. She is to homicidal supernatural creatures as a cat is to any vermin. She keeps the homeless population safe, here, by presence alone.
But even the best place in the world to be homeless is still dangerous. And so, I do what I can. Sometimes, it is with money.
Sometimes, it is more direct.
The alleyway was small. The voice was smaller. The girl huddled up, her arms up as the men kicked her, was very small indeed. But the smallest thing of all was the fight they put up when I waded into the three men. Two of them limped away, while the third lay in an unconscious pile in the trash. I looked down at the girl, who remained huddled, as though expecting the worse was yet to come.
She was, in fact, not such a small girl. She was definitely in her late teens, wearing a ragged sweater and a pair of pants. Her hair was long and a tangled mess like something out of a bird’s nest, and the twigs in it certainly helped that impression. She was bleeding rather badly from a cut on her arm.
I considered my options. The simplest, and least helpful option, would be to deliver her to a hospital. She didn’t appear to have a wallet, which meant that she would likely be treated and turned out onto the street. The most helpful thing to do was bring her to Horace, who would likely take her in, and do everything he could to help her. The issue there was that Horace was at work, and while he would happily leave early in order to help a random stranger, I did not want to give him the extra trouble. Dane was a kind-hearted and thoughtful person, but also extremely busy with even more troublesome matters. Of my remaining regular acquaintances, most lacked either the knowledge or the inclination to be helpful. Only one name remained. I opened my phone and dialed.
The phone crackled as it picked up on the other side. Modern technology did not do well with supernatural creatures. Li Xue Zi had the phone in case of emergencies- an expense that Horace insisted on. I couldn’t blame him. His life could be interesting.
“Ah?” came Li’s voice, crackling on the line. It was a consequence of the serpent’s nature. The soul animating the phone rebelled against the unfamiliar touch of something not human. I had experienced it myself. Like a wild animal spooked by a movie monster, an unawakened Tsukumogami rebels against the touch of the supernatural. I was conscious enough to know that they were friends, and could overcome my prejudices against the dead, the fae, and demons.
“Li. Can you spare a few hours from watching Horace?”
“Ah. I actually… am not with Horace, at the moment. I am at the apartment. Is something the matter?”
This was unusual. Li Xue Zi was… clingy, in the special way that snakes can be. She did not like him being on his own, a complex which had only worsened after events the previous year, where a brief time away from him had resulted in a desperate invasion of another dimension.
Horace’s life was very interesting.
I shook my head. Minor mysteries could wait. “I will be there soon with an injured human.”
“Ah- Now is not the best-” There was a momentary pause, and Li sighed, the line turning it into a hiss. “Alright.”
I picked up the insensate girl, and carried her out to the street. I checked to either side, and ensured that nobody was paying attention. This was not hard, as people seldom paid much attention in New York City. Curiosity was not a survival trait. I changed.
I had practiced. I could manifest both my human shape and my true shape when I pleased, but only if they stayed in contact with each other. Splitting one soul between two bodies is the kind of thing that does not end well. It was nonetheless simple to get the young woman into the passenger’s seat.
Horace’s current apartment was in midtown Manhattan. This was a substantial part of the expenses he underwent. He considered the central location vital to his life, or more accurately, the life of his boarders. Between four women divided unpredictably between demons, gods, and monsters, it was close quarters. Add in the grudges, dominance games, and general prickliness, and its size made sense. As to its location… That had been a necessity for Betty. I didn’t, honestly, know how he afforded it.
As I entered the front door, the homeless girl slung over one shoulder and the smell of smoke filled the air of the apartment. It was cold, too, colder than at least half of the inhabitants liked it. An arctic wind bit through the hall, carrying a notable quantity of smoke with it.
In the kitchen, the two boarders who didn’t like the cold were attempting to salvage a pan of something blackened and unpleasant.
I liked Li. She was attached to Horace, but did not tend towards jealousy. She enjoyed helping. She took, but she gave in return.
I was not so fond of Jormungandr. By and large, she took. She ate the food Horace made, lived in his home, pestered him occasionally for things, but when something needed to be done, she never volunteered. And the thing was, if people did not volunteer for things, Horace would never ask them to do it. He was like that. At the slightest sign of resistance, even the subvocal, he would take the weight on his own shoulders. He had often asked me if I was comfortable sleeping- such as it was- on the streets. If he thought I wasn’t, he would probably give me his own bed.
I didn’t like people who took advantage of that.
“Hello, Bee,” said Jormungandr, sitting on the chair, watching with amusement as Li scrubbed the pan. I ignored her.
“Hello, Ford-Bee,” said Li. “I was just… making something, for Horace.”
“A mess?” I asked. She winced. I hadn’t meant that to be as unkind as it sounded.
“No. Just- Who is this?” She nodded at the girl. I set her down on one of the kitchen chairs, arranging her until she was in no danger of falling to the ground, with the aid of a second chair.
“I don’t know. She was being attacked by a group of men, and didn’t have any ID. You’re the only person I could think of to trust her with. She doesn’t know that we’re supernatural, so…” I looked meaningfully at Jormungandr.
“Oh, very well,” she said, annoyed, as the gray-furred ears slipped back into her head, and her slit pupils widened. Her eyes remained golden. Do not ask why the World Serpent takes the shape of a cat; It is a story that is one parts mythological reference to nine parts attempt to agitate Betty. Gods are nothing if not petty, and Jormungandr, for better and very much for worse, was a god. Li, on the other hand, hardly ever displayed her more animalistic side, and thus was already in the form of a young Japanese woman. She usually preferred a ceremonial white kimono, but today, for some reason, she was dressed in one of the black T-shirts that Horace had tossed in the wash. ‘White Snake’ was printed on the front, featuring a rather risqué portrait of a naked woman and an extremely large, white snake. That seemed somewhat redundant, but I didn’t judge. It hung down nearly to her knees.
“I must ask, will this become a regular thing?” Li said, an eyebrow raised. “She might do better at a clinic…”
“I wanted to help her.” Li gave me a slow, appraising look, and then nodded.
“Get the first aid kit.”
Li and I shared a common origin. We had both passed to Horace from his uncle.
Randall Creed was… complicated. He had loved me, I knew that much. He had never been a warm man, and if it had not been for Horace’s intervention many years ago, I never would have awakened. But he had maintained me, he had cared for me, he had bought the finest replacements and kept me in good working order, never overworking me. I had only faint memories of those times, half-formed images, but he had relied on me. I remembered him fondly.
Li did not. He had used her harshly. I did not blame her for hating him in the end. I knew why she had to.
But he had nevertheless trained her. In first aid, among other things. I brought the kit from the bathroom, setting it down on the table. Li was studying the girl. “She wasn’t beaten too badly. Contusions, bruising, nothing more. They were trying to hurt her, not kill her. Also, she is-” Li coughed. “Well, it is not important. Hand me those smelling salts. I suspect she has not slept in some time, which is why she has remained unconscious.”
“And what are you going to do for her?” asked Jormungandr, with the curiosity of one who is showing an interest, but has absolutely no intent of helping.
“Ask her where she lives. Provide her with a place to sleep for a few hours, and safe escort there.” Li crushed the small capsule, and passed it in front of the girl’s face. She recoiled, her eyes fluttering open, staring. “Hello, young lady. Are you alright? You’re in a safe place.”
“Hospital?” asked the young woman, nervously. “I can’t- I can’t afford-”
“Perfectly free.” Li took out a tube of antiseptic, and a roll of gauze. “Are you alright? Can you remember your name?”
“Ah. It’s, ah… Tammy.” The girl swallowed. “Look, thanks for the help, but…” She looked around at the three of us, nervously. It struck me that it might be somewhat alarming. “Is something burning?”
“Oh. I was trying to…” Li coughed into her hand. “Don’t worry about it. Do you have family? Friends? Someone you’re staying with?”
“I… no.” She looked away. Lying, possibly. I frowned.
“Why were those men attacking you?” I asked, leaning against the wall. “I suspect they didn’t have a good reason, but I would appreciate knowing.”
“They said I tricked them. I was… It’s nothing. Look, I appreciate all this, but I should go-”
“No,” said Li, firmly. “You are free to go, but I would ask that you take the opportunity to have a shower, and take some clothes and food with you. We have a shaving kit in the shower.”
“Look- If you’re some kind of pervert-”
“I am aware of what you are, and I am sympathetic,” said Li, her arms crossed, one leg crossed over the other. “Accept a bit of hospitality. If, after that, you wish to leave, you may. But you look like you could use a bit of rest, and a sympathetic ear.”
Tammy looked like she was considering refusing, but finally nodded. “Thank you,” she said, and the amount of simple gratitude in her voice was very nearly painful. “It-”
“Behind you, to the right, first door on the right.” Li smiled. “Take your time. There are three others who live here, but all will be understanding. I will make sure of it.” When Tammy had retired to the bathroom, and the sound of water flowing was audible, Li returned to the pan, frowning as she scrubbed. “I can’t understand it. The temperature was good, the egg timer hadn’t gone off yet…” She pouted down at the pan, her shoulders hunched up. “I was sure it was going to work that time.”
“You’re making Horace a present for Valentine’s day?” I asked, head tilted. Li stiffened. “It is not exactly subtle, Li.” I leaned closer, and eyed the pan. “… Caramel?”
“It was supposed to be white fudge,” said Li, looking a bit miserable. “I don’t know what went wrong.”
I studied the kitchen. The tools’ unconscious spirits were agitated. They were used to Horace. It was something humans were unconsciously aware of. You had to break in an appliance. You had to learn its quirks. To humans, objects were much like animals- skittish, unused to new people, and requiring time to become loyal and obedient. This was not simple anthropomorphism. It was a fact. Humans had simply forgotten it. The appliances had rebelled against Li. I couldn’t tell her that, though. She had wanted to make something special for Horace. “You could try buying some?”
“I wanted to make it,” she said, softly. Another reason I liked her. She cared. She really tried. I would have liked to help her, but I was not qualified. She looked up, and frowned. “What’s that necklace?”
“This?” I held it up. A small golden statue glittered at the end of it. “Just… a thing.”
“Is that…” She peered. “That’s Phoebe’s golf trophy. It looks smaller.” She frowned at me. “Did you make it smaller?”
“I made it the right size.” I shrugged. Physics was more consensual than people thought. “It felt… right. I’ve wanted to keep a hold on it.”
“I… see. Well-” began Li. She was interrupted by a cry. The bathroom door swung open, and Tammy passed in a flash, clutching her clothes to her, yanking them on, hair still sodden, a cut visible on her cheek, a bit of blood mixing with the water. She was out of the door and slamming down the stairs before any of us had recovered from the shock.
“Wonder what spooked her?” said Jormungandr, frowning as she checked in the bathroom. “Just looks like a little smoke got caught in here, and smudged the mirror.”
Li peered into the bathroom from behind Jormungandr. “The smudges spell ‘You have betrayed me’, Jormungandr.”
“That’s not normal?”
“I don’t think so, no.” Li sighed. “That is supernatural.” She placed her fingers on the mirror, wiping the smudge away. “Tammy. She seems like a runaway, and I have a creeping sensation that I know why.” She drummed her fingers on the mirror. “I really, really wanted to make Horace something special for today.”
“You still can,” said Jormungandr. “It’s not as though she matters.”
“It is what Horace would do,” said Li, and that exchange really said it all about my feelings about the two of them. “Where did you find her in the first place?”
My memories rewound. “The financial district.”
“Hrm.” Li nodded quietly, and looked down. A drop of blood stained the sink, bright red trails on the white porcelain. Her tongue flicked out, tasting the air. “If she returns there, I can find her. If she doesn’t…” Li was quiet for a moment. “It is worth the effort.”
There was no sign of Tammy on the streets. Li sat in the passenger seat as I drove, her expression dour. I shifted gears as we made our way down the FDR Drive. Queens, and then Brooklyn, passed by to our left, the great tenements of Stuy Town rolling by on our right.
You didn’t notice the homeless from here. The highway kept you moving too quickly to see them, the people who were discarded. The people who were disposable. They were forgotten. They accumulated with the trash. My fingers tightened just a little bit on the wheel.
“She has parents, you know. I would stake my life on it. It’s something you see, from time to time. She had parents, and I suspect there was an argument, and pride on both sides, and…” Li paused for a moment, her expression hard. “I can understand why they might treat us harshly. They can say we are not people. I can understand why they would treat each other harshly, even. But to treat their children like that…”
I wasn’t quite sure what she was talking about. It was probably some aspect of human culture that didn’t take place on the streets; Such things were beyond my ken, and I was comfortable with that. What was important was that there was a human who needed protection.
The financial district was a warren. To most human drivers, or even most cars, it would have been nearly unnavigable. Security checkpoints, unpredictable lanes, a complete lack of numbered streets, and everywhere, frustrated and pushy New Yorkers. The dark heart of the concrete jungle. I navigated it with the simple ease of a tiger through underbrush, though without stopping every twenty feet to spray urine on the walls. I drove with the windows down, Li looking out the windows.
“Why did you look for her?” Li asked, softly.
“She was in trouble. I don’t know.” I shrugged. “I don’t like seeing people hurt. And I saw her hurt.”
“And all the others?” she looked over her shoulder at me. “I have been alive a very long time. Too much compassion can rip you apart.”
“You’re talking about Horace.”
“Yes.” She looked out the window. “I would prefer if we not discuss any of this with him. You know how he is. If he hears someone is suffering… He does love taking the weight of the world on his shoulders.”
“Well. We’ll take care of it, and it will be one less person. That should make a difference.”
She chuckled softly, and then stiffened. “There.” She pointed. “The subway. But first… Do you see a deli?”
A few minutes later, the two of us walked down the stairs, Li’s tongue flickering out every few seconds. After a surreptitious examination of the surroundings, and a confirmation that there were no cops within obvious sight, Li jumped the turnstile. I took the time to buy a metrocard and swiped it twice, because I could feel the subtle outrage in the turnstile as it was bypassed so carelessly. That seemed to mollify it.
Down here, the temperature was something approaching livable for humans. Still chilly, but the subways were insulated. Li studied the train schedule, and nodded with approval, before jumping down onto the tracks. I followed her, feeling the deep existential dread that any car feels while atop train tracks, as we walked into the darkness.
We passed figures in the dark. They withdrew. We made our way deeper, until the soft sound of tears, badly hidden, filled the air.
“Tammy?” said Li. The sobbing cut off, as Li walked forward. “Tammy. It is okay.”
“No, it’s not,” came a teary voice. “I- I told them, and they- They-“ She sniffled. “You should go away. Before you get hurt.”
“The chances of that are remote.” Li crouched down, and held out a sandwich. Tuna fish with celery. “I have brought you some food. I understand that you are in some trouble. Whatever it is, I can help.”
“You can help?” said Tammy, a choked little laugh escaping her. “This isn’t- some fucking transphobic asshole stalking me, or a drug dealer. It’s a fucking monster. It-“ Her eyes widened. “Oh, god.”
I turned. Three of the figures surrounded us. The tunnel was shadowy, lit only by occasional service lights. The figures were merely darker patches in the gloom, visible more by where they weren’t than where they were. Burning red eyes gleamed, but did not illuminate. And dimly, over their heads, I could see the outline of branched horns.
“I am the Heart of Darkness,” whispered one.
“This child is mine,” whispered another.
“You shall leave, tool and beast,” whispered the third.
“No,” said Li.
A fourth set of red eyes appeared, right behind Li. “Then you will di-glrk.”
Li’s hand disappeared back into her pockets, the shadowy figure crumpling to the ground, twitching for several seconds before evaporating into a cloud of dark, buzzing flies. “No. I rather think I will not.”
The other three figures loomed, approaching us. I held out a hand, and felt a handle appear between my fingers, fitting nicely into my palm. Li held up her hand.
“Allow me to offer you a deal. Allow me to take this girl. Relinquish your hold on her. And I swear I will not tell the goddess Bastet of your activities.”
“I am not afraid of Bastet.”
“You really should be.”
There was a moment’s hesitation. “A confrontation with her at this time would be… unwise.”
“A confrontation with me would be unwise. A confrontation with her would be suicidal.”
“Very well.” The creature reached out. “Your debt to me is paid, Alan.”
The shadowy figures faded away just as Li’s grasping fingers reached out to make a spirited attempt at separating head from body. Tammy stared up at the two of us. “What are you?”
“It is a long and complex story. We are not human, but we are friendly to humans. Substantially more so than the creature we just fought. Please, Tammy, tell us everything.”
The walk back was filled with a long, rambling explanation. I didn’t follow most of it- Social expectations and parental denial and all. I gathered a basic timeline from it, though. Leaving home after a calamitous argument. Falling in with a group of other young women. Learning of an entity.
“The funny thing is- It didn’t ask for much. It told me to sell my body, and I was scared, but it said that if I brought back proof, it’d make the arrangements I needed to get the hormones. Just… sell myself.”
“It is the degradation it fed on. The dependence. Isolating you physically, socially, hurting you, forcing you to rely on it alone. A demon. And an unpleasant one.” Li nodded. “Betty will have to be told.”
“But- You swore-“
“Note, carefully, how I phrased that. Ford-Bee?”
I nodded. “I’ll let her know.”
“No, not that. … What are you holding?”
She was staring at my hand as we walked into the brighter lights of the subway station. I looked down.
A long, wickedly sharp chef’s knife hung from my right hand. I blinked, and shook my hand, the blade disappearing. “Odd. It just came to mind.”
“I… see.” Li was quiet for a moment, and then hopped up onto the platform, reaching down to help Tammy and then I up to. “I am afraid I do not know much in the matters of hormones, and psychiatric recommendations. I cannot help you there. What I can do is make a pact with you.”
“I see,” said Tammy, somewhat dispiritedly.
“One that will give you greater control over your body. The ability to change yourself, to shift your appearance. Temporarily, at first. But over time, the changes you make, properly maintained, will be permanent.”
“What… Just like that?”
“No, not just like that. It will not be quick, or easy. It will depend on your willingness to embrace the changes you wish to make. But I understand very well, being miserable with how you are. Wanting to change.”
“And… why did you want to change?”
“Well. For the silliest reason of all. Because there was a boy involved.” Li smiled. “The reason doesn’t have to be ‘good’, or ‘wise’ or ‘acceptable’. Just heartfelt.”
“And… what’s the price? What are you going to take from me? That… thing, it always said there was a price to be paid.”
“Yes.” Li nodded gravely. “Do you know anything about confectionary?”
“I wish to make a pan of white fudge for the boy I like, for Valentines.”
“Wow, it’s Valentines already?” Tammy considered for a moment, and nodded. “Alright.”
Li stepped forward, and put her arms around the girl, hugging her. It was a tender, affectionate hug, and there was some indefinable aspect to it that made me think of engineers and factory floors, Li’s hug tender and warm. “And because I need to learn how to help people in every way that I can, I think. Sometimes, you just want to change because it’s the right thing to do.”
I looked down at my hand quietly, thinking of the knife. We drove home. And with Tammy’s guidance, the fudge came out wonderfully, not least because it was an extremely simple recipe that used only a little bit of microwaving. Jormungandr decorated it, which at first meant that the decoration was ‘From Jormungandr’, until Li and I protested, and we changed it to ‘From your Boarders’. Horace came home, and was surprised and delighted by the display, and we watched an incredibly bad romance movie together, something about an incompetent computer chip salesman and a dead woman in a VR simulation.
And after it was done, I approached Betty. “There’s a demon. The Heart of Darkness. It was hurting a young woman. It may be doing it to others.”
Betty’s nails glistened in the night. She studied me momentarily, and nodded. “Interesting. I wonder how it’ll taste.” She waited until Horace fell asleep, purring by his side, and then left through the window, into the night.
I didn’t tell anyone else about the knife.