Sally was not a cat person. She certainly wasn't going to become one looking at that moggy in the hedge. It was one of those smoosh-faced mongrel cats that never look good even when they're healthy, and this one was clearly not healthy. From what little she could see of it, its fur was matted where it wasn't completely scratched off. Probably has fleas, she thought. And worms or whatever it is stray cats get.
It had been lurking there next to the crime scene all evening. She'd noticed it upon her arrival. Every time she happened to glance that way--Never on purpose, mind you.--there it remained.
The hours dragged on. The Freak and his sidekick were called in, and naturally the Freak demanded everyone clear out of the house. They'd be there all night at this rate, and with nothing to do but stand around waiting. Sally chose to do her waiting over by the hedge, fuming, arms crossed, frowning fiercely.
Around two a.m. John emerged from the house and glanced her way. When his gaze stayed on her, she snapped at him. "What?"
"Nothing. Your expression matches that cat's, that's all." He shrugged and wisely left her alone. She glared after him, but soon her curiosity won out and she turned to look again at the cat. God, I think he's right. She relaxed her face, putting irritation and impatience aside--or at least doing her best to remove all signs of them from her features.
There was something about that ugly, smooshed, mangy face in the hedge. Sally crouched down. "Hey, puss. You got a collar or something? Is anyone missing you? You shouldn't be out on your own like this."
To her astonishment, the cat trotted out from its hidey-hole and rubbed up against her trouser leg, leaving a muddy stripe behind. "Oy, thanks," she muttered wryly. The damned feline only did it again, this time purring with all the charm and musicality of a small leaf blower. "You really are an ugly mog, aren't you?" It shoved its unfortunate face at her hand and she scratched behind its filthy ear. "You need a bath, among other things."
The cat was dead skinny under what remained of its long fur. Must have been on the streets a while now. No collar. She felt around the base of its neck but could find no tell-tale bump of a microchip. "A proper stray, huh? Maybe even a fugitive." To her astonishment, she found herself smiling. "Can't leave a fugitive on the loose. That won't do."
She picked up the cat, now heedless of the dirt it left on her uniform. It needs laundering anyway, she rationalised. She spotted a junior officer doing nothing and called out to him. "You. Get me a box."
"You heard. With a lid. And air holes."
"Do I look like I care? Just find one. Now!"
"Yes, ma'am!" The young man swiftly set off in search of a box.
Sally smiled in satisfaction and looked down at the pathetic feline in her arms. "I think I'll call you Peregrine."