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Chapter Four: Danger Ahead

It was colder in the barn with Sam and Molly gone, but if Oliver wavered at all in his resolve, he did not show it.

Jaz was equally set in her mind, but was not above complaining.

"Look what they did to us," she grumbled as she pressed herself closer to Oliver for warmth. "They're so selfish. I hope they're every bit as miserable as we are and more."

"I don't," Oliver said. "It must be terrible out there without a roof to stay under and some hay to lie on."

"Well. I'm sure they've found a nice hole in the ground to crawl into by now."

"Jaz..." Oliver wanted to say something, but he only sighed.

Jaz looked at him, narrowing her eyes. "How can you worry about them after what they did? How can you not be angry?"

Oliver stared unblinking into the rain. "I was angry," he replied. "But I don't hold a grudge. There's a difference."

Jaz shook her head. "Sometimes grudges are earned."

"But that doesn't apply to sweet old smokey farm cats, right?"

Jaz readied herself to go down this road. "What do you mean," she said. It was more of a statement than a question.

"You remember as well as I, the night we were taken from the concrete room. You were closer to death than any of us. You had only one hour left."

Jaz stiffened. "He's a good master. I've said that, haven't I?"

"You have," Oliver agreed.

"Then I am without guilt."

The barn was quiet for a time before Oliver spoke again. His voice was soft.

"If one shows you mercy although you do not deserve it, and you do not have mercy for another who doesn't deserve it, are you then without guilt?"

"I owe nothing to traitors. I have never done what Sam and Molly have done. I have never walked out on the master!"

Oliver laughed. "But I do seem to remember you putting an awful deep gash on his arm, yes? Right on the wrist. He bled for ten minutes."

Jaz swallowed. "I did not know at the time that he was good. We were still in the concrete room. He could have been the one who came to put me to death."

"But instead he gave you a chance at life. He took us out of the place of death, adopted us, and gave us a life. Isn't that ironic?" Oliver looked down at his paws, then to Jaz, who refused to return his gaze.

"We all know why he chose you and Sam," she said finally, her voice calm and steady. "Kittens are irresistible to man. But why did he choose me?"

"Who's to know?" Oliver said. "He was merciful. To all of us." He paused. "It makes me want to be merciful too."

Jaz's eyes seemed to soften.

At that moment the wind picked up outside, cracking the branch of a nearby tree, which struck the side of the barn with a loud noise. Jaz and Oliver jumped, poised to run, but having nowhere to go only exchanged looks of alarm.

"What was that?" Jaz demanded.

"I don't know..."

The wind howled. The sky had become very dark. The young trees that surrounded the barn were bending and bowing over. The barn itself moved and creaked.

"This isn't good," Oliver whispered. "Not good..." Quickly he looked around the barn, seeking a sturdier place of shelter, but found none. He walked to the open door and peered out into the rain. The big white house was the only thing not swayed by the wind.

"Jaz," he said. "I think we should go to the house."

Jaz stepped back. "What? Are you crazy? The master will never let us in."

Oliver's heart pounded audibly as he looked from side to side. The wind was becoming stronger, the sky darker, and every instinct within him screamed imminent danger.

"You'll have to trust me," he said. "Trust the master."

Just then the door to the house opened and the man stepped out onto the porch, a red sweater wrapped around his shoulders. He held the familiar pan in one hand and a bag of cat food in the other. As quickly as he could, he dumped the remaining food from the bag into the pan, making as much noise as possible, and called loudly the names of his cats.

Copyright 2010 C. L. Richardson, All Rights Reserved; "Fourtails" Unlost Soul