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Rude Awakening

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When the ringing phone yanked Walt out of the best sleep he'd had in a couple of days, he knew something was wrong. "This's Walt."

He didn't understand her at first; she was babbling, which wasn't like Ruby at all.

"Wait. Slow down, Ruby."

He heard her take a deep breath.

"The cat. He was here when I went to bed. Now he's not. I locked up tight, Walt. He didn't get out by himself."

By the time she'd said all that, Walt was opening the front door. He stopped dead in his tracks.

The cat was sitting in the chair on the porch, rocking in Virgil White Buffalo's arms. "He said he was safer out here," Virgil said without looking up.

"I'll come by in a few minutes to check the house, Ruby. The cat's fine." He ended the call with Ruby's voice still coming through the earpiece, and let the screen door shut.

The cat stood and stretched, deigning to allow Walt's fingers to scritch the top of his head. "The cat say anything else?"

"His name is Mister."

Walt watched as the cat jumped down to the porch, sniffed Walt's boots, and stuck a claw through the screen, pulling it open. He sauntered in, leapt onto the back of the couch, and curled into a ball on the afghan Martha had made. When Walt turned his head, Virgil was gone. He sighed. "Mister, I'm going to check on Ruby. I'll be back." The cat's tail whipped one way, then the other, and Walt took that to mean 'okay.' He grabbed his rifle and pulled the door shut.