Kitty's Big Trouble Page 29

The stranger reached to help me; I shrugged away.

“Seriously, what happened to you?” he said.

“I fell.”

“In a butcher shop or something?”

“Yeah,” I said.

In the light, I got a better look at him. He was Chinese, built like Bruce Lee—lean, powerful, nothing but muscle. He probably had the training and reflexes to go with them. His expression was wry.

“You want to wash up? Here.” He found a washcloth in the cupboard and ran it under the faucet in the basin. “Sorry I don’t have a regular bathroom. I usually use the one in the dim sum place next door, but it’s closed right now. I don’t spend too much time here. Just a couple of nights a week, you know? I think I might have an extra T-shirt for you.”

He found it after some more digging in the cupboard. It was black, just like the one he was wearing, and only a size or so too big. He politely turned his back on me while I took off my gore-soaked shirt and tried to scrub off some of the blood. Taking off the grubby, scratchy shirt and putting on the clean one felt pretty good. It made me feel just a little more human. But wearing it made me smell wrong.

In the meantime, the guy had begun cooking, gathering implements—pot, cutting board, knife. A minifridge sat next to the cupboard, and he retrieved a stack of ingredients from it. In a few moments, a broth was boiling on a hot plate, giving off a fresh, warm scent. Green onions, ginger, and noodles.

I found a trash can to throw the bloody washcloth and shirt into and went to the table, which had a couple of chairs next to it. I leaned on one of them and sighed; I wasn’t ready to sit.

In a surprisingly short amount of time, he had produced two large bowls of a wonderful-smelling soup. The hot, domestic scent of it helped my muscles finally unclench. He set the two bowls, along with two wide ceramic spoons on the table.

“Go ahead, sit down,” he insisted.

Finally, I sat. If I leaned back and kept my right leg out straight, it didn’t even hurt too much.

This was all so strange. It could all be some kind of trick. “Is this safe?” I asked.

“Of course it is,” he said. He was already eating, spooning up mouthfuls of the soup. “Why wouldn’t it be?”

I tried to explain as simply as I could, searching for words for concepts I wasn’t entirely clear on. “There are stories about … I don’t know. Other places. Like Persephone in Hades. Like the fairies under the hill. That if you eat anything while you’re there, you’ll be trapped for seven years. Or trapped forever.”

He chuckled. Had he ever stopped smiling? “It’s just a building. It’s just soup. You saw me make it.” And the phone worked. I wasn’t trapped anymore, I had to keep reminding myself. The guy scarfed down his own meal.

“Sorry,” I said. “I’ve had a very strange day.”

“I believe it. Oh—I’m Sun, by the way. Does that help?”

He had a name, now. So technically, we weren’t strangers anymore, right?

“I’m Kitty,” I said.

His smile widened. “A werewolf named Kitty? Really?”

“That was an accident,” I said, and he chuckled.

Carefully I leaned forward, shifting my weight to keep it off my right hip. I took up a spoonful of the soup and smelled it. It was spicy but subtle, warm ginger and tangy green onions. Steam curled up from the surface. My stomach growled with hunger, which was the last thing I expected after the previous couple of hours. A half an hour ago I’d been in so much pain I’d wanted to vomit.

I sipped a tiny bit of the soup. Which tasted exactly like soup—a standard vegetable broth, a little salty, with a blend of spices. It was warm and comforting, just like soup ought to be.

After a few bites, I looked at my cell phone again, as if I could have missed it ringing and needed to check for messages. No one had called.

“You expecting a call?” he said.

“I don’t know. I keep hoping my friends will get in touch.”

“Because you’re lost.”


“Maybe I can help—point you in the right direction if you tell me where you need to get to.”

I didn’t even know where I needed to get to. I needed to get to wherever Ben and Cormac were. And where was that? If all else failed, maybe it was time to start over.

I asked, “Do you know someone named Grace Chen? She works at the Great Wall Video Store on—” I didn’t know what street the shop was on.

Wonder of wonders, the guy nodded. “Yeah, I know her.”

The relief was a warm wash of sunshine in my blood.

“The video store,” I said. “I need to get there.”

Chapter 11

“ARE YOU SURE you don’t need any help?” Sun asked for the third time.

I was hobbling, but I was sure I was hobbling faster than I had been when I first pulled myself out of the hole in the floor. The monster trap. Who the hell puts a pit in a room specifically to trap monsters? This guy, obviously—so who was he again?

Before we left his—apartment? shop?—I limped to the edge and looked down, hoping for some clue about where I’d come from and how I’d gotten turned around. The stairs I’d pulled myself up looked like a normal, rickety set of cellar stairs, and they descended through what seemed to be a trapdoor cut in the floor, leading to a musty basement room. The whole thing, from the doorway to the stairs to the room itself, looked a lot smaller than it had before.

I wasn’t sure I could trust any of my perceptions from the moment I stumbled over the edge and fell.

Sun led me out the door of his kitchen onto a narrow alley. The building we’d left was brick, eighty or so years old, decorated with fire escapes and signage with Chinese characters. The alley had a canyonlike quality. A set of trash cans had been put out, and a nondescript car was parked a block away. It was full night, dark and chilly—midnight, according to the phone. The sky above seemed hazy. The air still smelled like San Francisco’s air.

We walked down the street, turned a corner, then another. I looked for street signs and tried to keep track of where I was. We were still in Chinatown—a lamppost across the street had a dragon sculpture climbing up it. Everything was locked up, steel doors and grilles pulled over the fronts. We were the only ones out.

I walked as fast as I could, even when Sun tried to slow down for my benefit. “I can keep up,” I said.

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