He really shouldn’t be surprised when they end up with the cat.
Barbara finds her at the murder victim’s house when all is said and done. By this time they’ve been on a chase through half the City of London, thrown against several walls and barely escaped a ducking in the Thames. But when Nkata calls them to tell them that there’s a strange sound coming from under the bed at the victim’s house, nothing will suit either of them but to go see for themselves.
What they find is a long-haired ginger cat with green eyes huddled under the bed, puffed up with fear and hissing for its life.
Lynley kneels down, makes a few clucking noises, and slowly reaches under the bed toward the frightened feline.
He withdraws that same hand much more rapidly, wincing and cursing, and ruins a perfectly nice blazer by using it to soak up the blood dripping from three rather nasty scratches.
The cat emits a howl of outrage that curdles his blood.
“Oh, now look, you’ve scared her!” cries Barbara, and unceremoniously shoves him aside. “Go to the bathroom and get that washed up, it looks nasty.”
And with that, she kneels down, makes a few clucking noises, and slowly reaches under the bed toward the frightened feline.
The cat immediately begins purring louder than a motor engine, slinks out from under the bed, and crawls into Barbara’s lap, rubbing its cheek against her chest and blinking at her with adoration.
“And aren’t you just the most precious thing?” she coos, stroking the fluffy fur. “Yes, I know, you must have been so scared, but it’s all right, I’ve got you now. You’re all right now.”
“What the hell was that?” he chokes from the doorway.
Barbara doesn’t even turn to look at him as she responds. “She was scared. Now she’s not. Go clean that hand.” And she returns to stroking the cat, murmuring nonsense into its ear.
Lynley knows he doesn’t have a chance.
Six hours later, the cat – who is definitely female, according to the local RSPCA veterinarian, and terrified but healthy – is back on Barbara’s lap, revelling in the moniker of Pixie. He thinks the name is appropriate. Pixies, after all, wreak havoc everywhere they go.
Pixie has even deigned to lick the same hand she scratched before, almost as if in apology.
Barbara looks unbearably smug.
He has to admit, the cat is good company. She’s not too demanding, she doesn’t require daily walks, and Barbara points out that since she’d much rather play with Barbara’s hairties anyway, toys are also a moot point. And it’s nice, sitting there in the evenings working on case files with the cat purring away in the background.
“How did you do it?” he asks her one day. “I mean, she responded to you like –“
“I understood,” Barbara says simply. “She was terrified out of her skin, not knowing who to trust or where to turn, not knowing what was going to hurt. And I knew what it was like to feel that way. She saw that in me, I guess.”
“Barbara,” he says, and his eyes are a little wet. “I-“
“I know.” She smiles, and he sees again just how far she has come in the time that he’s known her. He remembers her, all that time ago, so wary, so scared, lashing out at everything, and finds himself incredibly grateful that woman and cat managed to find each other.
Pixie looks up from Barbara’s lap, blinks sleepily, and pads across the short distance separating them to curl herself in his own lap, completely obscuring his case files.
He blinks and rests a tentative hand on her head, and she begins to purr.
“Well, would you look at that,” Barbara whispers.
Their eyes meet, and in that moment, Thomas Lynley finds himself humbled and a little overawed to know that not one, but two, frightened, wary women have given their trust to him. And whenever he sees the faint lines of scarring on the back of his hand, he remembers the lesson his fluffy ginger cat and the woman he loves more than life taught him about the power of empathy – and the power of trust.