Gary checked his paper and watch. Fifty minutes to get to Chinatown.
He approached the desk. "I, uh, need to pick up my cat."
The woman's eyes narrowed. "Yellow tabby, right? You've got to keep that cat inside."
"Well, you don't know that cat."
Twenty-five minutes and sixty dollars later he carried Cat out, forcing a smile as the disapproving worker called, "Get a collar!"
He flagged a cab. Cat jumped down and scampered off.
"Hey!" he yelled. "This is the last time I spring you. Next time I'm letting them fix you before I pick you up!"
Chapter 2: Valerian Sunrise
The Cat could see the tips of the woman's teeth whenever he arrived, even now that she knew his role in the scheme of things.
In her absence the man would scritch the Cat's ears. Those were good mornings.
When she was there, the man was slower to get up and the Cat had to jump onto the bed, yowling a work reminder. It was good she was not always there.
A few months in, the food acquired an occasional sweet, grassy flavor. Those mornings the Cat lay on his side and watched the woman's pleased smirk through glazed eyes.
Chapter 3: Passing the Torch
The first day Gary scrambled.
The Sun-Times building didn't explode. The river didn't flood downtown basements. Chicago went about its business.
A week walking the streets looking for trouble, wondering if he really did need the limelight, was followed by a week sitting in the apartment just in case.
His mother tried to sympathize, but was clearly relieved.
By the sixth month he understood it was over.
Twenty months later he saw a young woman hurry away, checking a paper with the wrong picture. She had yanked a child from the L platform edge and Gary was able to smile.