Katt Hall had a tendency to sleep on her side. This was some-thing that had begun with her second marriage, when her beloved Spud was sometimes a little too drunk, and the odor of liquor on his breath was offensive to her and forced her to turn away from him in the night.
As she turned on her side on this particular night, she could feel her heart racing, and blood pulsing through her veins. She knew that she was different from other people, that her metabolism ran at higher speed. That deep within her she had the hunger of a true lioness, and that sooner or later she must be true to her nature and hunt and feed.
She had hunted Spud and fed on him more than once, this second husband of hers, who now slept beside her. Who was completely wiped out from a drinking bender at the Prescotts that afternoon. And now she felt the urge deep within her to hunt and feed again.
Indeed, in the mountains of New Mexico, before they had come east to Baton Rouge, she had consulted the high desert Indian shaman, who had given her the power to shape-shift into a coyote at will, and this had honed her hunting skills. She had managed to lose that power only when it became appar-ent she might become carried away, that her hunger might be too deep and too great. And now, lying in her Baton Rouge four-poster in the wee hours of the morning, with her husband dead out beside her, that hunger was beginning to rise within her again. She could feel and hear her heart thumping, and guttural sounds were rising from her throat, and saliva tinged the corners of her mouth.
In a motel bar outside of town, the stranger occupied a booth with the barfly he had hired to seduce George Lesslie. And he had a momentary sense of the Big Katt, of her stirring and her hunger, and it seemed to arouse him. He looked into dark eyes, eyes that were tough and tired, and they were both pretty drunk.
“My room,” he said.
And the barfly’s eyes knew, had known all along. “Not with you.” She had sensed from early on that this guy was a psycho.
“Who are you kidding?” He rose and paid the tab. Then they went back to his room.
“What are you doing this for, anyway?” They were naked in bed. “Not this this, but the thing with the letter?”
“An old love, that’s what I’m doing it for. Would you understand that?”
“Yeah,” she said. “What you see wasn’t always what you got.”
“Meaning you once had looks and style?”
She threw him a dirty look, then they began to kiss and touch, and the stranger arched himself over her nakedness, and then kissed her shriveled mouth and ran his hands through her oily hair. He could smell decay and dead cigarette butts on her.
“I’ve got a score to settle,” the stranger said. And he felt this wench yielding beneath him, most of the fight having gone out of her years ago. Knowing as she must that tomorrow would only bring more of today, of sitting in an empty booth or on a barstool, smoking and drinking, her soul hollowed out by the depredations of time.
“Easy,” she said. And the stranger’s wants became more urgent, as he worked his tongue into her mouth and tasted burnt tobacco, and drew her body to him, albeit a body that was thin and unfulfilling.
“Easy,” Spud said. For at this very same moment, the Big Katt had rolled over and tried to get his interest.
“Honey?” she cooed.
“I can’t, I’m too drunk.”
“Honey?” she repeated.
“I think they call it shitfaced.”
“Need I be more descriptive?”
“You remember those nights in the desert?”
“As in, I’m flat out loaded, zotzed, stinking inebriated.”
“How we cuddled and the winds blew in from the bluff?”
“Uh, how much more specific can I be?”
“And we held each other, just clinging there in that strange desert night. Those were some of the dear times, honey.”
“If you’re going to kill me, get it over with. Honey, I must sleep.”
“Oh pooh!” she said, and turned away from him.
“Pooh,” the barfly grunted, the stranger having spent himself. She pushed him off of her and turned on her stomach. The stranger was breathing heavily, so heavily that he momentarily failed to notice the lights flashing through the curtains, the lights from the cop car that had just pulled into the parking lot.