A/N: !! indicates a shift from present to past (or vice versa). If you haven't read the first Consequences of the Mysterious Piece of Garbage, I would recommend reading that first. Enjoy!
"Oh come on, Tom!" Snickles said. "Tell us the story!"
"No." Tom shook his head feverishly. "You don't want to hear it."
"Why not, Uncle Tom?" asked one of Snickles' kittens, Kiki.
"I love stories," said another kitten, Mildred.
"Stories are the best," added a kitten named Soufflé.
"Yes, Tom. What could be so bad about a story?" Audrey inquired as she curled her orange tail around her kittens.
"Well, it's about Sagira," Tom said slowly. "Her disappearance and all."
"I've always wondered about her," Snickles said. "You know what happened to my mother?"
"Yes, and it's not pretty." Pacing, Tom gave Snickles a guilty glance. "It's a scary story really. Kiki, Soufflé and Mildred should not hear it."
Audrey looked at Snickles and then back at her kittens. "I guess it's time for bed. Come on, let's get back home." Audrey nudged her kittens out of the alleyway.
"Mom, I want to hear the story!" protested Soufflé. "Please?"
"You heard Uncle Tom. It's no story for little kittens."
"I'm never scared! No dumb story is going to make me scared!"
"What about the spider that other day?" Mildred pointed out. "You were so scared."
"It was chasing me! It wanted to bite me!"
The kittens argued all the way back home. Audrey entered through the cat flap of the kitchen door, and three kittens pushed their way through after her.
Mildred yawned as she basked in the warm glow of the kitchen. Lulu, Audrey's human, was sitting at the kitchen table sipping tea. She looked down at the kitten and smiled. After scooping up the sleepy kitten, Lulu placed Mildred in her lap. Mildred mewled.
Soufflé was attempting to climb onto Lulu's lap but kept sliding down. Lulu scooped up Soufflé and Kiki. "Precious little fuzzy-wuzzies." Lulu cooed.
Audrey laughed. Her owner loved the kittens. Audrey followed Lulu as she carried the kittens into a bedroom and placed them on their velvety cat beds. Audrey purred to see George lying on the human bed, shaking his head at his sentimental wife. "I can't believe you bought them their own beds."
"George, they're wonderful," Lulu said.
"Fuzzy little nuisances," muttered George.
"Oh, George." Lulu knew George didn't mean what he said. He loved the kittens as much as Audrey and Lulu but didn't want to show it.
"Just last week, that one," George said, pointing to Soufflé, "ripped up my socks."
Soufflé shrugged. "They smelled horrible." He bounced over to George and hopped up and down trying to get on the bed.
"See George, he likes you," Lulu laughed.
"Fuzzy," George grumbled darkly, but then a smile lit up his scowling features.
Audrey went downstairs, knowing that the kittens would be occupied by Lulu and George. She darted through the cat flap and quickly ran through the alleyways. They were much more daunting at night especially when one was alone. Audrey stopped.
She did not recognize this alleyway. That was strange. She sniffed the air and stumbled back. She didn't recognize this alleyway because it was another alley cat territory. Audrey paused when she heard scuffling. The scuffling stopped, but Audrey felt as if she was being watched. The feeling grew as Audrey turned her back and dashed out of the alley.
She found the Market place and finally found her way. In an alley close by, Snickles and Tom were waiting. "What took you so long?" Tom asked gruffly.
"I got a bit lost," replied Audrey.
"You didn't stray into another alley cat territory, did you?" Snickles asked anxiously.
"Yes, but only for a moment." Audrey looked at the brown tabby curiously. "How did you know?"
"I could smell their scent on you," Snickles explained. "The cats that live there are dangerous. Right, Tom?"
"Yes, they're utterly barbaric." Tom shivered. "They play a part in the story I'm going to tell you."
"Hmm, maybe I don't want to hear this story." Laughing, Audrey snuggled into Snickles' russet shoulder fur.
"Just listen!" Tom said irritably.
"Go ahead, Tom. We won't interrupt," Snickles said quietly.
"Where do I begin?"
"Perhaps at the beginning, Tom," answered Audrey. "That would be nice."
"Well, you both know that Sagira was Snickles' mother. It's been nearly five years since she left and two years since the glowing garbage incident." Tom smiled wanly at Snickles. "Anyway, weird things are always happening to cats in this city. Particularly to your family, Snickles. In fact I'd say Sagira and her kittens were hunted."
"Haunted, you mean?" put in Audrey.
"No, hunted…by a group of cats."
"Hunted? Will my kittens be…"
"No, I think they'll be okay. It's you I'd worry about."
"Why?" Audrey asked anxiously.
"Well, Snickles is the only son that Sagira and Amistad have left."
"What happened to the rest of his family?" Audrey didn't think she wanted to know what happened to them.
"Well, on April twenty-fourth, Sagira had her litter. That was five years ago. Amistad was quite proud of them. After all they were four healthy, little tykes." Tom hesitated. "So weeks passed peacefully until those terrible days. They were such beautiful, sunny days, but still tragic things happened…"
Sagira looked down at her kittens. There was a brown tabby, a golden kitten like herself, a gray tabby and a black one. They were all tumbling and wrestling together.
"It's nearly time for their first alley cat council meeting," Amistad reminded her. "We better get to the park."
"It's Sunday already?"
"I'm afraid so." Amistad stood up and shook out his black fur. "I can't believe I have to deal with Frittle again so soon," he added in an undertone. Sagira laughed, suddenly shaken from her stupor.
"Frittle is a spiteful one. I wouldn't expect him to accept our kittens with open paws."
"Still…" Amistad looked irritated.
"Come on, let's go!" Sagira leapt to her feet. The golden kitten who had just rolled away from her siblings knocked into Sagira's hind leg.
"Where we going?" meowed Ginger, the golden kitten.
"We're going to see other alley cats," replied Sagira, nudging the kitten back up onto her feet. The black kitten, Lufkin, rushed over.
"You mean there are more cats out there?" he asked.
"A whole lot more," Amistad answered. "We're going to be late if we don't hurry to the park. Snickles, Silver?" The two other kittens bounded over to their father.
"Follow me!" Sagira left their cozy alleyway with four kittens stumbling behind her and Amistad bringing up the rear.
"Oooh, what are those?" Ginger rushed toward the busy road, her eyes focused on some colorful cars rushing past.
"Don't you move a muscle!" Amistad shouted angrily, frightened for the first time in his life. He rushed over to the side of the road, Sagira right behind him. Ginger had stopped and cringed before setting a paw on the road. She had never heard her father sound so angry or seen her mother so frightened.
"Ginger, never do that again!" Sagira gasped, curling her tail around her daughter. Amistad looked back at the other three kittens, huddled together quietly.
"Thank goodness." Amistad sighed.
"What did I do?" asked Ginger.
"You put yourself in danger, that's what you did!" Amistad growled.
"I think Silver's putting herself in more danger than I am," Ginger commented as she noticed her sister walking in the middle of the road. Thankfully, the traffic had gone. Sagira dashed to Silver, picked her up by her scruff and ran back to the sidewalk where Amistad was having a heart attack.
"Maybe we should go back home," said Amistad faintly.
"But, Daddy, I want to see the other cats!" Snickles, the little brown tabby, said.
"Let's take the other way then." Nodding to an alley to his left, Amistad waited for his mate's approval.
"Good idea," Sagira agreed as she remembered the way with fewer roads. "It'll take longer though."
Amistad flicked his tail in resigned concurrence, and they proceeded through a dark, long alley. They quickly crossed a small, quiet street without incident and continued through another alleyway. The path zigzagged through alleys, avoiding busy roads until finally it reached a remote corner of Lincoln park.
"Daddy, I'm tired," complained Lufkin. "Are we there yet?"
"Nearly," Amistad reassured the kitten. Amistad stopped at the edge of the bunch of benches where ten other cats and their kittens were gathered. Amistad sighed as he spotted Frittle. Frittle was barely two years old, yet he strutted about as if he owned the city. Amistad and Sagira snuck in quietly with their kittens.
Lawrence, the oldest cat present, was giving a sermon about Alley Cat Rule 42. The other cats were listening intently with the exception of two male cats who were hissing threats quietly at each other. Not surprisingly, one of them was Frittle. The other was a sensible black and white cat named Tom.
As Lawrence finished up his speech, he suddenly noticed the new arrivals. "Sagira! Amistad! Welcome!" Lawrence made his way into the back of the group where Sagira and Amistad sat wearily. "It's nice to see you. And your kittens too!" Lawrence gazed at the kittens appreciatively. "Wonderful new recruits."
"They're too scrawny to be of much worth," commented Frittle. "I do suppose they have names?"
"I'm Ginger," Ginger said as the shock of seeing so many cats had worn off.
"I'm Lufkin," Lufkin piped up.
" I'm Snickles," added Snickles.
"I'm Silver," said Silver proudly.
"Ginger, Lufkin, Snickles and Silver," Frittle repeated. Then he laughed.
"I don't see what's so funny," said Tom coldly. He turned to Sagira. "They have very nice names, don't they?" Tom turned back to Frittle with a glare. Frittle snorted and opened his mouth to retort.
"Enough bickering!" Lawrence intervened. "You," Lawrence said to Frittle, "Go home before you cause a fight."
"Fine!" Frittle stalked off with his tail and nose high in the air.
"Tom, this story isn't scary," grumbled Audrey.
"It's a long story," Tom said sternly. "Be patient."
"I don't remember anything about that AAC meeting," put in Snickles.
"You were too young. However, I remember Frittle's snootiness to this day." Tom gazed blankly into space, remembering. "He drove me nuts. I nearly killed him once."
"Really?" Audrey looked alarmed.
"I bet no one would have missed him," replied Snickles mischievously.
"Exactly. Anyway, can I get on with the story?" Tom flicked his tail back and forth with irritation.
"Skip the rest of the ACC meeting," insisted Audrey.
"Shall I start at the scary part?" Tom asked dryly.
"Go ahead, Tom." Snickles looked apprehensive. He wasn't sure that he wanted to know what happened.
"Well, the Sunday night after that meeting…"
Sagira woke up suddenly and felt dizzy as if she had lost track of what day it was. It was still Sunday, she finally remembered. She looked around to see Amistad curled beside her and the kittens curled not far away. She looked again. Something was wrong. There were only two kittens in the alleyway. Silver and Lufkin were missing.
"Amistad!" Sagira whispered urgently. "Wake up!" She prodded Amistad with her paw. He groaned and opened one brown eye. "What is it?"
"Silver and Lufkin are gone," Sagira said frantically.
"I'll go find them. They can't have wandered too far," Amistad muttered. "You stay here with the others."
Sagira waited, gazing through the darkness for Amistad. She paced back and forth for two hours. Finally, she was too tired to stay awake any longer. She lay down around the other two kittens and hoped that Amistad would be back with Silver and Lufkin in the morning.
"He never came back did he?" Audrey asked in a whisper. Snickles was silent.
"No, his body was found in a another alley cat territory," murmured Tom. "Along with Silver's and Lufkin's."
"The same group's territory that I wandered into," Audrey concluded. " But I don't see how Sagira was cursed. It was just terrible luck, wasn't it?"
"Shall I continue?" Tom asked, concerned about Snickles who looked teary-eyed.
"It's fine, Tom. I want to know," Snickles replied. Tom nodded, pained by the look of anguish of Snickles' usually cheery face.
Sagira watched her kittens frolic on a peaceful Wednesday afternoon. She had explained to them about Amistad, Silver and Lufkin. They seemed okay if a little puzzled about what had happened, but they were still very happy. However, for Sagira, the grief continually bit at her.
Unexpectedly Lawrence paid her a visit. The old tom watched the kittens as he sat beside Sagira; they sat in silence for many minutes.
"I'm terribly sorry, Sagira." Lawrence raised his yellow eyes up to the sky. "A mother's grief is unimaginable, I think…but you have the rest of your kittens, and they need you."
"You shouldn't let yourself be consumed by your grief," Lawrence warned.
"Of course, I won't."
"You should know that if you ever need any of us, we will always be around to help." Lawrence sniffed. "Oh, listen to me! I'm a sentimental old coot!"
Sagira managed a chuckle. "You're a wonderful old coot."
"Maybe you should head home. It's getting dark."
"Yes, yes. It is dark, isn't it?" Lawrence peered nervously out of the alleyway. "Oh, well. What's going to attack an old coot like me, ey?"
Sagira watched him go, still smiling and still worrying. She looked back to Ginger and Snickles. They were both watching her closely.
"It's time for bed," Sagira said softly. They grinned and ran to the warm clump of clothes that was their nest. Sagira followed them and lay down to sleep beside them.
The next day, Sagira woke early. Counting the remnants of her family, she found that all her kittens were accounted for.
"Good morning!" Parley, a large, brown female cat, bounded into the alleyway. "We're here for the kittens."
"We?" a startled Sagira asked suspiciously.
"That includes me," said Tom, leaping into the alley. "We're going exploring and then we'll have a picnic. I think it's time you had a little bit of fun."
"Did Lawrence put you up to this?"
"Perhaps," Tom answered sheepishly.
"Anywhere," Parley said enthusiastically.
"I'm not going anywhere, and my kittens will not be going either!"
"Why?" asked Parley.
"Something terrible will happen," Sagira murmured. "Like last time."
"Don't worry. We have patrols everywhere," Tom said soothingly. "They haven't seen any vicious cats. It's safe."
"Are you sure?" Sagira could feel her back fur stand up forbiddingly.
"Very," Parley nodded her head up and down.
"You have bodyguards too," Tom added. "Us."
"Did my mother agree to let me and my sister go?" whispered Snickles.
"Yes, and it was a… my terrible mistake." Tom closed his eyes. "We were attacked by cats from another territory. They were nasty pieces of work. When they attacked, Parley and, you, Snickles, were separated from Sagira, Ginger and me."
Tom opened his eyes and gazed at Snickles. "I was helping Sagira find a way through the alleys to safety, but those wretched cats kept coming. When I heard Parley yowl, I came to find you. Parley was killed… but I sneaked you away from those evil cats." Tom pointed his paw at a scar from the back of his ear down to his neck. "I got this scar when one of those other cats tried to take you from me. The cat that tried to get you said the strangest thing. He said, 'Sagira's must die!' I wondered how he could have possibly known Sagira, but I was too busy trying to stop him from murdering me to ask."
"Tom, why haven't you ever told me this before?" Snickles asked, astounded.
"I didn't think you remembered anything about it, so why should I have told you anything?" Tom shot back guiltily.
"That's why you're always so protective of me," concluded Snickles.
"You were the only kitten left," Tom said.
"You mean Ginger…?" Audrey choked back a sob, and Tom didn't answer.
"Sagira left you to me. She said you would be safe," Tom said. "Strangely enough, she was right. Those cats that had attacked disappeared as soon as she had gone. Their scent remained on their territory, and a few of them still live there, but most, I think, went after Sagira. That's what makes me think some cat held a grudge against her."
"But who?" Snickles wondered.
"I bet there's another horrible story explaining that." Audrey shivered.
"Yes, and I'm glad I don't know it," Tom said.
"Good." Audrey stood up and stretched. "I better head home."
"Maybe we should come with you," Snickles suggested.
"Honestly, Snickles. I'm starting to think that story spooked you."
"It's a true story," replied her mate.
"I think Audrey will be fine. After all, I doubt a boring housecat would ever be hunted by a vengeful group of cats." Tom grinned.
"Boring housecat, indeed," Audrey murmured as she left. Snickles watched her and realized he wouldn't be able to deal with the pain of losing Audrey or his kittens. Perhaps that was why his mother had gone from the city: to protect her son and to forget her pain.
"Snickles, are you going to be okay?"
"I think so," Snickles said. " Although I think I'm going to be a little paranoid from now on."