By the time the Daimler had screeched to a halt at the end of the pier, all that was left of the last boat off the island was a brooding smokestack on a dark horizon. We didn't know it at the time, bu(more)t it would be the last boat we saw for almost seven years.
I drove back slow, rain beading on the slick metal hood, street light pulsing over me like an EKG, slow, dim, and weak.
The lighthouse pulsed in the distance. It looked as if I could reach out and touch it. Tip it over casually with a thumb and forefinger, like a captured king on a chess board. Everything felt too close. My clothes, the car, the air, the city. Without her there to flesh it all out and give it life, the place was suffocating.
I parked a few blocks away from the apartment in case the door was still under surveillance. Climbed the fire escape, jimmied the window. The place was ransacked. Papers strewn, bedding torn, but no blood. That, at least, was a good sign.
I heard a soft lapping sound in the next room. On a hunch, I nosed open the bathroom closet with the tip of my gun and found Plato on a pile of clean linen, licking a black and grey paw without a care in the world. I wrapped him in my overcoat and climbed back out through the peeling windowpane, out into a cold, hard rain.
Timing is everything. A few minutes earlier and I might have convinced her to stay. A few minutes later, and the apartment building would be up in flames, with Plato still in it.
As it turned out, it was the cat's story I was chasing. Not hers.(less)