Crunch. Crunch. Crunch.
Shaking off the last dregs of sleep, Butler recognized the sound as potato chips. Butler licked his lips in anticipation of their salty goodness. His stomach growled.
Listening more closely, he realized this sound was altogether different. Too loud. Too crackly. Like snow crunching under someone’s feet. Glass. Broken glass being trod on, his mind corrected. Perhaps a child had broken the kitchen window while playing ball—-it had happened before. Perhaps this time the child had decided to retrieve the ball.
He would greet this guest as he greeted all others—-with a low meow and a rub against his leg. After all, he had to live up to his name—-The Butler.
Butler moved from the warmth of his blanket, out of his basket, and toward the sounds coming from the kitchen. Something didn’t seem right. For a moment he hesitated, but curiosity took over.
Through the dining room, he wove past the antique table and six chairs. Something smelled odd—-causing his alarms to go off again—-the air smelled of stale beer and gasoline. Children didn’t smell like that. Butler turned the corner into the kitchen. When he saw the mysterious faceless person wearing women’s pantyhose over his head, Butler knew instinctively: a Thief-Man.
The faceless man dropped Kevin’s kitchen radio into a black garbage bag. The Thief-Man surveyed the room, looking startled when he saw Butler.
Butler hissed angrily at the intruder.
A toothy grin replaced the startled look on Thief-Man’s face. “I used to have a cat too,” he said, “but I had to get rid of it.”
That crazed smile, with its discolored teeth and oddly upturned lips sent shivers up Butler’s spine. He hissed again, without even realizing it.
“Scat, cat,” the man hissed back, “or I’ll get rid of you, too!”
Butler arched his back high into the air, his fur sticking straight up, ready to strike or flee.
The Thief-Man grabbed a dark-blue coffee mug from the drainer and hurled it at Butler, who dove under the table just in time. The mug shattered and some of its shards landed on Butler’s golden fur. He shook them off.
Thief-Man kicked at Butler beneath the table, but the cat managed to avoid his attacker’s polished boots. Claws extended, he gouged long scars on their surfaces.
“My boots!” the Thief-Man shouted. “You’re dead!” His kicks became more vicious.
Butler remained safely sheltered under the table and the forest of chair legs, but shook with fear.
The Thief-Man flung away two chairs to get at him.
Butler raced to the living room and ducked behind the fireplace grate. It was a favorite hiding place.
Butler could hear the Thief-Man ransacking the house: books tossed to the floor, papers strewn about, things dropped into his bag of loot. He waited. To move meant possible detection.
It wasn’t long before Thief-Man entered the living room. He removed the VCR from the television and placed them both near the door. He unplugged the cordless phone and tossed it into the loot sack along with the rest of his booty. When he bent down to steal the brass log rack from the fireplace, he spotted Butler.
“There you are!”