An orange kitty goes missing in an old, cruel city and leaves no trace. It's up to her close friends to find her, regardless of who stands in the way.
It's Penny's world, alright
It's just one mess after another. Stolen files, stolen keys. Break-ins all over town. A couple squatters to throw off your nose. And not a gotdamn trace of her, either, like she hopped one of the 5am trains off into the countryside.
It's Penelope's world, alright. We just live here.
I got the call Tuesday evening, a bit before nightfall, on a chilly and rainy day after too many of them. It was an old war buddy of mine, went by the name Kyle. Last I heard of him, he was running a print shop out on Cherry Avenue, but he wasn't looking to chat about the ink prices this time.
"Sebastian, I have a job for your—specific set of skills. You see, it's about Penny. You remember her, right?"
How could I forget? Penny was Kyle's niece. He put her in charge of one of his low-rent hosting ventures when the economy went south. I could still see that face: creamsicle orange fur streaked white. Fitting, for how sugar-shook she got, like a rookie thief nervously rocking the fire escape on the way down. What a piece of work that cat was.
"Penny stopped showing up to work on Friday. I can't find her."
"Well, she doesn't go far, does she?" I sat up, ears perked. "That's not like her."
"No, it isn't. See to it she gets found."
I pulled on my hat and coat, and in a minute, I was out on the street. Wasn't too sure how to locate a broad with no assets and no other connections to speak of, but I've found tougher. By now, it stopped raining, and the brick pathways all shimmered under moonlight, and a thick fog hung around the streetlamps like yesterday's news. The clouds kept the moon under shadow. Everything was still.
I took a stroll across town to the dingy warehouse where she worked. Kyle came out of the war with this dream, to give people in this city a voice and bring out their creativity or some mess like that. He bought up a bunch of places for it when the market blew. This was one of them. A sad, drafty little building that couldn't keep the glass in its windows if you put bars over top.
Front doors were locked, so I slipped in through the side entrance Penny always kept unlocked for her convenience. Dust to dust, alright—I was up to my eyeballs in the stuff. I'd have guessed the cleaners took the 5am with her if I didn't know better. Kyle aggressively targeted whoever was desperate enough to pay, and got plenty of takers. Seemed like everyone who rented out a space in here was an art school reject or even crazier than Penny. There's a few reasons he stays away, I guess.
Everything was untouched. Filing cabinets still filled. Exhibits still on display. Hell, the lights were still on. At least, the ones that still worked. I checked the gaudy blue vases by the front desk; sometimes, Penny left herself notes in them. They were both empty this time. Guess this cat really didn't want to help me out, so I left.
You know, I've seen a lot of things in these back alleys. Bums, vicious beatdowns, spent casings, trash cans filled with the filth of families around here, Kevin wandering around—
Wait, shit. I hope he didn't see me.
Kevin was a beast of an aardwolf, a behemoth draped in an old jacket thrown over a T-shirt. But ultimately, despite his size, Kevin was as harmless as he was dumb—between the delicate muzzle, big ears, and constant smell of salted termites, I wondered why he never found greener pastures. This old city's no place for him.
Kevin bounced closer, as excited as a lost puppy to see me. It was no wonder he got on so well with Penny.
"Hi Seb! Are you playing detective again?"
"No, I am not "playing detective"! I am out on important business."
"Important? Like what?"
Sigh. "If you must know, Penelope's gone missing. Kyle's tasked me with finding her."
"Penny! Is she okay? Can I come?"
I turned and left. Every path lead to nowhere already. Last thing I needed was him getting in the way of my search. Dusk was fading, and I had to move quick. But, as I left the alley and fixed my lapel, something got the better of me. A misguided sense of compassion, perhaps—I can't leave him out here alone, could I? Plus, the worry in his eyes—maybe I worried a little for her too.
I turned the corner again. Kevin sat lonely on a stoop.
"Come with me."
Through foggy streets, we walked for what seemed like days by our lonesome. I was at a loss for where to look next. Strangled by time, by chance, and I didn't have much air left. I poured over the options. Did someone scare her off? Couldn't be. We would've known. A kidnapping? It'd be quick and easy, given her size, but what would someone want with a girl like her?
"Um, Seb? Are you gonna, like, talk to yourself the whole time?"
"I'm not talking to myself."
"Yeah, you are. You were saying something about kidnappings."
"...Right." Wait, hold on, maybe Kevin knew something I didn't. "Kevin, when did you last see Penny?"
"We went to the park the other day!"
"Was she acting strange at all?"
"Oh, um...I don't think so, no."
"No anxiety? Nothing on her mind?"
"...Did she say anything weird?"
Kevin just shook his head.
Damn. Another one bites the dust.
The breeze was starting to kick up as we got to King Street, which overlooked the pier. The sea always brought in bitter winds this time of year, the kind I could never stand as a child. One gust brought a mound of trash our way—week-old newspapers, flyers for yard sales, and rare candy wrappers, especially.
"Rare candy" was the name folks around here gave to a sickly-sweet little pill that took over the city like a hurricane. Textbook upper people cut with sugar to mask the chemicals. Potent like all get out, all homemade, and horribly addictive. I've seen more good men fall to the stuff than to a .50 cal.
"Oh! Penny had one of those!"
"She had some candy stuff like that. She asked me if I wanted one, but I said no."
Oh, no no no no no. Penny.
I collapsed onto a nearby bench, snout in hand. It couldn't be, but it had to be. Of course.
I didn't even know how to tell him.
"Seb, what's wrong?"
"Kevin...Penny's an addict."