Shifting Gears
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Excerpt from "Better with Mustard" Copyright ©2013 Shelby Morgen

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"Here, kitty, kitty, kitty."

"Babe, if that's a booty call, it's so not working."

I turned to look at Carley, my partner, trying not to let my irritation show. "Kiss my ass, Babe. A huge cat just ran under the car -- and disappeared. Didn't come out the other side. I don't want to grind it up in the radiator fan when I start the motor."

"A cat. Right." My demented partner stood with her feet spread just a little, one hand on her service revolver, the other holding her Coney Island Hotdog. "You're going to call a cat, and you think it's going to come to you. And you say I'm delusional."

"You have a better idea?"

"Usually."

Patience, Joe... "Care to share?"

"You want a cat to do something, make it worth its while."

"What do you mean?"

"Bribery." She nodded her head toward my chili cheese fries, which had temporarily taken up residence on the hood. That 350 small block made for a great warming pad.

"Oh, no. Not my damn fries. Just once I want to eat my lunch while it's hot. Besides, cats eat meat." I eyed her Coney Island Dog.

"Oh, hell no," she mimicked. "Don't even think about it."

I turned my back to the patrol car -- and my fries -- long enough to order another dog. "Plain, no bun," I requested, reaching for my wallet.

"She don't care what's on 'em," the vendor informed me.

"Likes mustard best, I reckon."

I glanced at my grinning partner. "She? You know this cat?"

"Know she likes dogs." He handed me the dog, on a bun, with mustard. And two dollars in change from my five.

I had a strong feeling I was being blackmailed. By a cat. I certainly couldn't blame the vendor. Even I knew no cat would ever actively follow instructions, no matter what the game. I crouched down, rather than bending over, because I knew my partner too well, and I wanted to avoid the wisecracks about the shape my ass was in. "Okay, cat. Here's your payoff. Now get the hell out from under my unit so I can eat my fries 'fore they get cold."

The cat -- a large, black bit of magic with greasy fur -- flashed by, and it and the dog, mustard, bun and all, disappeared down the alley.

"Damn, that was a big pussy."

Carley was razzing me, but I didn't care. I had my fries. Or I did until the radio blared. Fuck. "You owe me, cat!" The fries hit the trash, my partner hit the far door -- laughing, mind you, her dog long gone -- and we hit the street.

"I hate cats." Even I knew I was lying, but right then I didn't much care about that, either. The memory of those fries made me want to cry.

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