The Katt’s blood was up. She felt it racing wildly. Her blood was up, and now she must do what her instincts taught her to do. Her Daddy was still a bit shaken.
“I am going upstairs, Daddy, to change my clothes. You might want to go for a stroll.”
“You don’t want me to see you?”
“Dungarees, Daddy, that’s all I meant.”
“But you meant more, honey, Daddy knows, much more.”
“I am in a feeding state of mind, and it won’t do to destroy this outfit, because when I feed, I feed hard.”
“This is still puzzling to your Daddy -- you, who were a woman of such refinement at boarding school, and so elegant at the socials and cotillions.”
“I was elegant, yes.”
“And polite, you were the picture of politeness.”
“I was those things, too, Daddy. And ah still am, I declare. Once I’ve done what has to be done, your little sweetheart will return to her elegant, dignified self. But right now, elegance and dignity get tossed out the window. It’s hunting time, Daddy.”
And the Big Katt disappeared upstairs, and her Daddy could hear her rummaging around. He still didn’t quite know what to make of this, much the way Spud didn’t know what to make of these bayou woods. There were snakes and unseemly creatures in these woods, he knew enough to know that, and he certainly didn’t want to encounter one, not in his current state of terror. In the mojo hut, the stranger was fuming. But he must calculate now, and do it quickly and with precision. What would be the best way to recapture Spud? A search through the woods might prove fruitless, but there was always the main road. If Spud didn’t get hopelessly lost in those thick woods, he would have to emerge somewhere on the main road. And when he emerged, he would need a ride.
The stranger checked and made sure he had his handgun with him, then he headed for the pickup truck. The road, yes, the road. Spud’s instincts would lead him to the road, and it was there that a kind stranger might just happen along to act as a good Samaritan.
In Katt Hall’s bedroom, she was changing into her dungarees and a pair of tennis sneakers. She would need to be agile and quick, she knew that. Agile and quick, so she could move quickly along the roads and through the woods, and spring quickly from those haunches. Her blood was racing, and she was panting now. She had to pause and get hold of herself. She looked in the mirror, and her eyes were turning red, and yes, she was panting, like some sort of jungle cat, like the lioness she truly was, having been born under the sign of Leo. She was panting and saliva was coming from her lips, and she could imagine herself in the jungle, sensing the kill, ears pricked, moving on strong, powerful haunches, and ready to zero in on her prey.
Downstairs, she said her goodbyes to Daddy. “Uh, honey?”
“I know you’re worried, Daddy. No need to be.”
“Shouldn’t we let the police take care of this?”
“It’s dark out there, but I don’t need the light for hunting purposes. My eyes make the adjustment.”
“Maybe I should go along with you. I’ll drive you, honey, and we can summon the authorities.”
“I’m going on foot, Daddy.”
“How will you know where to find him?”
“I know Spud, Daddy, I have his scent. And I have the scent of that murdering ex-husband of mine. It’s part of a Katt’s instincts. Once I pick up a scent, I begin to feel the hunger down in my belly, and there will be no stopping me. I will follow that scent until I bring down my prey.”
“Uh, wouldn’t it be safer to stay here and have a sandwich with Daddy?”
“Safer, perhaps, but less satisfying, Daddy. Part of the joy is the hunt itself, and the moving in for the kill. This ex-husband of mine has caused enough suffering, and now he’ll learn what it’s like to be on the other end of the pain. I can assure you, Daddy, I will tear him limb from limb. Yes, the Big Katt has a more than one hamburger appetite, and she is about to feed.”
But she was out the door and down the walk. She halted and looked up and down the main road. She put her nose to the air, and the wind brought the scent she was after -- it was Spud’s scent. She snarled and threw back her head, like some grand lioness, lord and master of her kingdom.
She opened wide her huge jaws and let out a roar. Then she was off on padded feet, off with great swiftness moving along the road, and she turned off into the woods.
These same woods were dark now. The sun had aban-doned the bayous and set behind the hills. And Spud was flat out scared. It was the little sounds, the summer night sounds -- crickets, perhaps, and then larger creatures that shifted in the leaves, that brought a sense of profound fear. The road, his instincts told him, I must reach the road. And he realized he’d have to backtrack, but his sense of direction was good, and he knew which direction would lead to the road, even if that meant bringing him closer to the mojo shack.
He started moving now, his feet feeling heavy and slow beneath him, but at least he was moving. And he detected something that looked like light through the trees, something that inspired hope. He wasn’t close enough to make out the origins of that light, but it inspired in him a sense of hope and daring. He would reach the light, and the help it promised. He would get home to his Katt, and they would send the police to the shack, and this terrible, bizarre saga would finally be over.
Elsewhere, several miles away, the Katt was stalking. In all the confusion of what had transpired since she had returned home, the Katt had forgotten how wonderful it felt to stalk. She remembered now the smells of the desert, the aridness, the wide-open spaces. She remembered the little campfires, the caves in the hills, and the wizened old Indians who knew far more than they would ever tell.
The scent was getting stronger now, and it filled her nostrils and entered her lungs, and she was growing excited. She was panting, down on all fours, and moving as quickly as she could through the thick woods, and she was excited.
Excited, too, was Spud, who had finally broken through the woods onto the main road, and now he could see what the light was all about. Sure enough, it was the headlights of a truck, which meant deliverance. He would have the driver take him back to the Great House, and into the arms of safety.
The truck was parked by the side of the road, but the lights were on, and Spud waved. The truck honked back. And he could hear the motor starting and the truck moved slowly in his direction.
The Katt’s internal radar was going crazy now. She was picking up not one scent, but two, and they seemed to be in close proximity. She was running now, the way a cat would run, bolting quickly through the woods. Yes, she was running quickly now, but she was still a good couple of miles away.
“Hey, can you give me a lift?”
The man driving the truck smiled and climbed down, pointing a gun at Spud. “Sure,” he said. And he motioned: “In back.”
Spud’s heart sank.
“Old friend,” the murderer chuckled. And he prodded Spud, and then he laughed again.