It takes a moment to quite process what I’m hearing, because the sound is out of context. Somewhat. It is not exactly uncommon for this sound to emanate from alleys like the one I happen to be passing. But generally I hear its like around seven in the morning from under the bedroom door (John doesn’t like Smoke to sleep on the bed with us at night, so we have to shut her out of the bedroom when we go to sleep) (Which she is polite enough to accept until she feels it is time for us to get up) (Smoke and I believe that she should be allowed to sleep wherever I am sleeping, but John disagrees with us and sadly for Smoke, I would rather have his company of a night than hers) (The margin is narrow; Smoke doesn’t talk in her sleep, but John comes with compensating advantages.)
This mewing is not exactly like Smoke’s mewing. It’s smaller and sweeter with a little melancholy rasp to it. Here’s me waxing poetic (high-pitched, John would call it). Step into the alley and look round, tsking softly. The mewing grows louder and a bit more plaintive, but I don’t see a cat. Approach the skip pushed against the wall near the end of the alley, still tsking. I have found the font of the mewing, I believe. Raise the lid and peer in. A scrawny, filthy ginger kitten looks up at me with wide, dark blue eyes. The kitten is lying on a pile of bulging bin liners, tangled in the handles of a plastic carrier bag. I blink at it, and it blinks back (John gave me a book on cat body language; blinking is very important).
“Hello,” I say quietly, blinking again, “The name’s Sherlock Holmes. I expect you’ve heard of me before, as you did ask for my help.” The kitten looks encouraging (I’m imagining that of course, but it doesn’t matter). “Don’t mind me,” I lower my arm slowly into the skip, “You want to get that off. It looks uncomfortable.” I let it sniff my hand, and it dots its cool, damp nose against my knuckle and licks my fingers. Invitation enough under the circumstances. I scoop up the kitten and hold it close to me, then ease my free hand into my pocket for my pocket knife. Flick open the scissors and brace the kitten against my chest.
It digs into me with sharp, anxious claws, and I hold it to me a little tighter, then cut the kitten out of the bag, “Feeling better?” Close up the knife and slip it back into my pocket, then pull off my scarf and wrap the kitten in it, so it doesn’t try to bolt. I offer the kitten a finger to sniff again. It squeaks raspily, and when I stroke its nose with my fingertip, its mewing turns to purring. “That’s a proper thank you. Better than most of them do, anyway. Though in fairness, almost none of them would get away with this sort of display. You’re lucky you have those big, blue eyes. They make a man feel indulgent.” The kitten purrs louder and presses its claws rhythmically against my chest. Wince and tighten the scarf around it, then reach for my phone and ring Molly.
“You had a vet friend, didn’t you? What was his name?”
Tedious. Sigh, “Yes, Molly. You know it’s me because my name popped up on your phone when I called. What was your vet friend’s name?”
“Errr, Gabe wasn’t it?”
“I don’t know; he’s your friend, not mine.” The kitten tightens its claws in me again, and I shift it a bit to stroke the top of its head with one finger.
“Right, yes of course. It was Gabe. Are you-”
“Text me his information, will you?”
“Are you looking for a vet?”
“Apparently so,” can’t help sighing a little (all this pointless erming and ering).
“I hope your cat isn’t ill.”
“Smoke is fine, but I found a kitten, and I need to take it for a check up before I bring it back to the flat.” The kitten squirms against my fingers, trying to climb up my chest, and I nestle it into the crook of my elbow on its back, where it squeaks indignantly.
Down the other end of the phone, Molly simpers, “Ooooh, is that the-”
“Of course it is; what else would it be? Have you ever heard me sound like that?”
“Hmm.” Molly considers, “You’re less not like that than you think.”
“I’m holding one right now, and I can really assure you that I’m nothing at all like a kitten, Molly Hooper.”
“Can I come and meet it? The kitten, I mean.”
“Fine. Text me about the vet. I’m going now, goodbye.” Disconnect and shift the kitten to text John.
I’ve found her, John!