Eve had never been so bored in her life, she played solitaire for hours with a deck of cards she’d found. So this is what it’s like to be a fireman when there’s no fire.
There was no television service, nor clocks. Eve could hear a constant reminder of the battle taking place several miles away, and could hear the occasional hissing sound of the feline on the other side of her door. It had been dark for several hours, she kept checking the position of the moon from her window. Thank God for the clear weather. She couldn’t be late, but early would be acceptable.
It was time for her to leave. She found plastic bags under the sink and used one per steak. She had six of them and two blocks to travel. She had no choice, it was her best bet. She found a paper bag for all her packages, but left one steak out. She hoped that if she left the steak in its bag, it would take the panther a little longer to get to it. Time was everything to Eve. She needed to get there fast and had used the hours during her wait to plan every step of the way.
She picked up the food, and the single steak bag. Her hands began to tremble. Her breathing became short. She slowly made her way to the door, careful not to make a sound. Putting her ear to the wood, she couldn’t hear it. Don’t get cocky, Eve.
Slowly, she turned the knob, then yanked the door open. The animal screamed, a high pitched sound that made the skin on her back ache. She threw the single steak bag down the hall and watched the hungry cat chase after it. This was it, she ran the other direction, she saw the pole, then the stairs. She only hesitated for an instant, then heard the cat coming for her. She screamed, “The pole, Woman!”
Unsure how she’d do it, she was out of time. No more time to make a choice. She threw her arms and legs around the shiny rod and let herself slip down to the main floor of the building. Once on her feet, she turned toward the stairway. She couldn’t see her enemy, but could hear it. She pulled another steak out of the bag and threw it at the bottom of the stairs.
Eve had planned to lock the poor creature in the Engine House, but could now see that the door was broken, leaving the cat an escape hatch. She had no choice, but to run. She still had four steaks.
Then it occurred to her. The cat can smell the steaks. So I’m actually leading it to me. Damn! She had a minute or less before it devoured the second steak. She took off running in the opposite direction than she wanted to go. After two blocks, she saw a way out. She had brought the crowbar, it was stuffed down the back of her pants. She pulled it out and swung as hard as she could against a store window, turning quickly to miss the shattering glass. Looking toward the Engine House, she saw the feline coming toward her. Saliva was dripping from its jowls. His magnificent eyes caught the light from the street lamps. The intensity was disturbing. “So you think I’m your next steak, eh little kitty? Well, I hate to disappoint you, but here’s your runner-up.” She took one steak out of the bag and heaved it through the broken jags of the glass. Then a second one, but threw it at the opposite wall. She finished throwing the other two with little time to spare.
Eve ran to the end of the block and turned up the street. She kept running in the direction of the subway stairs. “My God!” She put her head back and laughed with joy, the sign pointed to the left, the sign that said SUBWAY ENTRANCE.
She made it to the bottom of the stairs and almost ran into the ladies room to wash her hands. She stopped. The door would take her into the coffee house. They won’t know where I am.
It was getting cold. She didn’t know the time. She couldn’t leave without Ron and Christine!
Ron stood over the bed and gently nudged his wife. He put his index finger to his mouth and removed the blanket that was covering her. Christine sat up and moved her legs so they draped over the bed. Her shoes were waiting for her where she’d laid them out. Their moment had come.
He took her hand and together, they quietly walked across the room to the door. He had left it ajar so they wouldn’t make noise opening it.
Once in the hall, he motioned for her to follow him to the stairs. They had three flights to descend. Slowly, he took each step with care, praying Stephen wouldn’t wake.
Christine thought she heard something from the room. Looking back, her hand caught a vase sitting on a small table in the hall. They watched it fall and shatter. They stopped, frozen in the moment.
Then, Ron grabbed her hand and began running. Down the first flight of stairs, then another. Only one to go and they would be in the lobby, out in the street. They would be at the subway stairs in less than two minutes.
“Hey, Ron. Where are you guys going?” Stephen was running toward them.
Ron ran faster, pulling on Christine to keep up.
They were outside, running. The stairs leading to the underground were lit with dim lights.
“Stop! You guys stop right now.”
They raced across the street and descended the steps.
“You know where she is, don’t you. You son-of-a-bitch!” Stephen was outside and saw them before their bodies disappeared into the subway bowels. He pointed his gun in the air and shot. “I’m gonna get you guys! You can’t hide from me!”
Ron and Christine reached the bottom of the stairs. Ron turned a full 360 degrees looking for Eve.
“Over here, hurry.” She had heard the gun shot. She knew they must hurry. She pulled at the door to the bathroom and pushed them through. Looking back, her eyes locked with Stephen’s. She stepped inside and pushed her body against the door.
Ron’s expression was full of compassion when he said, “Eve. This is it, he has us cornered.”
She laughed and pulled on the door handle to expose her magic café.
Christine screamed, “Eve, no!”
Outside, Stephen couldn’t believe his luck. He had them. He slowly walked toward the door where they disappeared, his gun in hand.
Then it happened.
A slick black panther walked into the light and stood between him and the door. It raised its head. It opened his mouth and screamed like a woman. Particles of meat hung from its teeth, drool dripped from its mouth. It was saying something to Stephen, something terrifying. It was telling him that he would be his next meal.
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