Tufty crept out of the laundry and toward the kitchen. He noticed the kitchen doorway had been decorated with red tinsel and shiny baubles and a piece of unfamiliar furniture – a small table with a landline phone on top – leaned against the nearby wall. Tufty crawled under it, concealing himself behind some old books and shoes. He couldn’t see much but from his new position the voices were louder.
“Ouch! The BITCH! Hold her still,” a man demanded.
“I’m trying! It’s not that easy,” whined a woman. Tufty was discomfited to hear it was not Francine.
A radio was also playing. “Coming up next,” the DJ intoned, “we’ll celebrate the year gone by. Stay tuned after these messages for the Top 20 songs of 1986.” Then came an ad for an end-of-year sale.
1986! Tufty’s heart skipped a beat. What was he doing in 1986?
From the kitchen, shards of fluorescent light spilled into the hallway. Tufty remained hidden, listening intently, trying to glean more but, apart from the opening bars of ‘Manic Monday’ and a few choice swear words from the man, nothing doing. If he wanted more information he would have to go in.
As quietly as he could, he wound himself along the wall and through the kitchen door. It took a moment for his eyes to adjust to the light and then, to his surprise, he discovered it wasn’t the kitchen he remembered at all. Everything was white, except for some metal shelving and five or six cages. At the bottom of each cage lay a short blue square plastic tray. A large machine with blinking lights and buttons sat on a nearby bench along with a collection of scary looking metal tools. The air reeked of antiseptic.
It appeared to be some sort of home-made lab.
A man and a woman in plastic overalls leaned across each other at an adjacent bench. Her fried blonde fringe was held back from her face by a pastel pink scrunchie, the rest of her hair so big it cast its own shadow. He flashed thunderstruck eyes that were too close together beneath his greasy flat-top mullet. Muttering and cursing, they were both attempting to subdue a small angry cat.
The cat was a slender, attractive Siamese with crystal blue eyes and white whiskers. But whatever they were trying to do to her, she wasn’t having it. She wriggled and scratched, hissed and spat, and it took all their concentration to hold her. Tufty noticed another cat – a black one – locked in one of the cages. It was coiled into a tense ball, facing the wall.
“DAMN IT!” the man yelled, banging a fist. He and the woman wrestled harder. Tufty thought better of proceeding any further and silently retreated to his shoe-lined refuge. He needed to think about this.
Suddenly there was great clatter and commotion and the Siamese shot through the door and down the hallway. A bauble fell from the door frame and came to rest near Tufty’s face.
“Let her go,” the man growled. “I’ll catch her in a minute. I need to sort my arm out.”
“I’ll get the first aid kit,” said the woman. Tufty froze as her feet approached and she bent down to retrieve the decoration. Luckily, she didn’t see him. Her fingers grasped the bauble and she straightened, striding onwards to another room.
Tufty felt extremely uncomfortable, not to mention trapped. These people did not seem friendly AT ALL. And what was with the laboratory set up? Those instruments looked designed for torture!
He licked his dry lips. How he rued the day he ever set eyes on that litter tray. Where the hell had Francine found it anyway? And what on earth was he going to do now? He couldn’t hide here forever. He would have to do something…
Go to next chapter…