There was not much in the human world that Sadie admired. For one thing, they had an annoying habit of stepping on all the people in her life she liked, yet they consistently missed any opportunity, no matter how golden, to crush Maximus under one of their heels. Sadie was not quite sure how this was possible, given that Maximus tended to wear the most lurid outfits she had ever seen -- and coming from a call girl that was saying quite a bit. Still, she supposed Maximus's continued existence was not purely the fault of humans. She had seen several cats bypass him, and if there was one thing Sadie hated more than humans, it was cats. Mostly that was because they always noticed her, and had an annoying habit of trying to make her a mouse-like plaything: something to bat about and then kill. Inevitably, this would lead to her either finding a crack to hide in or using some of her magic.
The entrance to The Downspout was, unsurprisingly, located inside a gutter pipe. The pipe itself was made of PVC and was covered in fine grime. Sadie wondered if this was Mother Nature's idea of witty commentary sometimes, but given the fact that cats tended to leave Maximus alone because he was magical enough to make them eat their own tail, she somehow doubted it. Wee-puts, which was what Sadie's vertically challenged race was called, while not that impressive physically, had some serious magic. It just didn't work on other Wee-puts or to conjure up food. A Wee-put could make weeds grow faster (something they often did at houses of humans that gardened), but try and make anything useful, like say a tomato grow faster, and it never worked. This Sadie felt, was more of the way Mother Nature tended to comment on things. It was also the reason that despite being able to do magic, she found herself outside this particular down spout. There was a crack in the back of the pipe and water had damaged some of the building’s walls. A few spells later, and what was once just a crack in the masonry was one of the more talked about clubs in the Wee-put world.
It had been the town council that made them put up the XXX sign and to have at least one of the girls out in front of the pipe. The stated reason had been to ensure families did not mistake the club for a restaurant. Sadie was sure it was so they could figure out who worked there and to make their lives hell. Still she only had to do it once a month, and it was a chance to get some fresh air.
Maximus was outside the pipe today. He was wearing what looked to be a superhero costume, complete with a cape that stopped just short of the heels on his boots; although, for the life of her, Sadie could not figure out why he would want to wear such a thing. But then there was a lot about him she did not understand. For one thing, he had to be about 650 years old, and for another, he had let himself go to seed. Yet as if to spite both of these facts, he acted like a 74 year old who was in his prime.
"Welcome to The Downspout," Sadie said with as much gusto as she could muster. "Come in. Relax, and let any of our friendly staff find a way to serve your every need."
Maximus’s tongue darted out between his lips, wetting them a little. “Excellent. My mind’s been in the gutter all day. Time for my body to join it.”
Sadie did not respond other than to stretch the plastic smile she was wearing a little wider. This, of course, was the most common joke she heard, and while she understood why people thought it was funny, she never could figure out why they all assumed she had never heard it before.
“So are you working today, because I would sure like to show you my magic wand!” Maximus continued.
On the scale of offensive things Sadie had heard since joining the staff at The Downspout, this was so far down the list, that it was almost quaint yet there was something about the way that Maximus said it that made Sadie’s skin crawl. She thought it was the breathy way that he said the word “wand” but whatever it actually was in reality didn’t matter. It was creepy.
“Sorry. But I’m required by law to stand out in front of the club today,” Sadie said.
Maximus wheezed at that. “That a fact. A hooker worried about what Johnny Law is going to do if she is not out front and center.”
Sadie forced her smile a little wider. “I’m sure anyone on our staff would be happy to help you with your particular desires.”
“Maybe,” Maximus said, as he saddled up next to her, his cape flapping in a sudden gust of wind that came barreling through the downspout, "But what if it is you that I desire?"
"Well, you will unfortunately have to wait a few hours. I'm going to be out here until dusk."
"I would imagine I'm going to eat."
A lecherous grin spread across Maximus's lips, "Well perhaps I could interest you in supping with a supple crusader for carnal delights, debauchery, and Maximus's way."
There is not enough money in all the world to put up with this ass, Sadie thought, as she simultaneously said, "That would be…wonderful.”
Maximus gave Sadie's butt a pat, and she felt his hand feel her up, which she did nothing to stop, but it made her flesh breakout in goose-pimples. Maximus wheezed, "Looking forward it. Looking forward to it, indeed.” Then he oozed away and into the club.
As soon as he left, Sadie made a vow not to be anywhere near the club that night. There were other girls that would deal with Maximus, and while Sadie did not feel that she was better than any of the other girls per se, there were one or two that were skeevy enough to take Maximus on as a client. Something she tried hard not to think about.
Wee-puts have almost no weight, so most of the time all Wee-puts used just a little of their magic to keep from being blown about by the wind or knocked off their feet if it started raining. Sadie let that bit of magic go, and almost instantly she was lifted into the sky by a genial breeze that carried her away from the drain pipe and the sordid goings on of the club that lurked just inside. As she floated, she heard the overwhelming buzz of a bee, the sound of the humans’ cars below, and in the distance she saw a raven.
Instantly Sadie began to use her magic to make sure that she was out of site of the ominous black bird. Many humans, Sadie had been amused to discover, thought that ravens were intelligent naturally. They also, apparently, seemed to think that a raven could carry the soul of one of the departed. Both of these things were not strictly speaking true. However, they did like to eat Wee-puts, and while most of the time they were scared away by magic flashes of light or sound, they were not affected the way other creatures did as they had built up an immunity to it by eating Wee-puts. It was rumored the Wee-put survived being consumed, but that they were then trapped in the body of the bird. This, Sadie was sure, was why people thought they carried souls. Humans may never notice a Wee-put, but they do notice birds that seem to leer at them: go figure.
"And here I thought you couldn't leave the front of the club,” Maximus said, his cape flapping in the same gentle breeze that was holding Sadie up. Sadie looked, and there he was, the cape the only stitch of clothing left. Out of the corner of her eye, Sadie noticed the raven's head suddenly snap around, and she knew that she had been seen. A light went off that had nothing to do with magic.
"Well I haven't really left the front of the club, " she said gesturing towards the drain pipe, "now I'm just above it as well."
"We'll that's fine." Maximus said. "It's been a long time since I've been the voice of the wind. But today, oh what a message I have," and he began to spin in the air, so that both his cape and his wand were on full display. “What do you say, is it time to scream to the heavens?” Maximus said.
“I was thinking a bit more of hell,” Sadie said, as she reinvoked her magic and let herself fall out of the sky.
The raven let out a shriek of anger as its prey dropped out of its reach, but in the process of screaming, it swallowed Maximus whole. Suddenly all the feather’s ruffled and Sadie got the clear impression that Maximus was trying to make the bird regurgitate him whole as the bird’s neck distended. Then, with what looked like a mighty effort, the raven swallowed.
About the time that Sadie landed on the ground, the raven’s eyes changed. They became less bestial and a keen intelligence that had not been there suddenly flared to life. The raven’s head cocked to the side, and Sadie knew she was in trouble. Maximus may not technically still have been alive, but his spirit was definitely concrete calling the shots in the suddenly not-so-friendly-skies. The huge black bird banked, albeit a little clumsily, and suddenly Sadie found herself back on the menu.
With a jolt, Sadie started running. Frantically, her head swung around, looking desperately for a seam in the concert that she could hide in, but the asphalt was fresh and in good repair. Glancing over her shoulder she saw that the raven was almost on top of her, so she threw herself to her left and rolled. She heard a CLICK as a talon collided with the pavement, but she didn’t even bother to look at how close death had been. Popping back onto her feet, she darted back towards the pipe and the safety of the club inside, but it was a long way. Risking a glance back over her shoulder, she was forced to dodge again, as the raven’s claws snapped close enough to tussle her hair.
The raven screamed in rage and frustration, but then with a few quick flaps of its wings, it zoomed forward on inky-black wings that looked like the robes of the grim-reaper and landed in front of the pipe. With a shriek of triumph the raven glared at Sadie as she came skidding to a stop. Then, the bird’s neck snapped forward, driving its beak at her with enough force that if Sadie had been the size of a human would have been equivalent to a massive rhino impaling a butterfly on its horn after getting up to a full gallop.
Again, Sadie dodged, and while she avoided the sharp point of the beak, she didn’t move fast enough to clear the rest of the bird’s head, which collided with her and caused a sea of stars to explode behind her eyes. Her tiny body was thrown a good foot through the air, and she landed in a pile with all the air driven from her body. Sadie raised her head, and just had time to notice that the glass door near the drainpipe was closing.
The raven let out a malicious caw, which was intermingled with a different kind of battle cry. Sadie had just a second, but in that second, she saw something she would never forget: a huge white and black cat stretched out the full length of its body in the air. The front claws, which to Sadie looked like razor-sharp scimitars, were extended and about a half-inch from the raven’s neck. In the next heartbeat, the raven tried to take off, but before it had even left the ground, the cat’s claws sank in the raven’s neck and wing, which crumpled.
The weight of the cat and its momentum carried both it and the bird away from Sadie, and just like that, the danger passed. There was a bloodcurdling scream, and then after a brief struggle the raven stopped moving. This latest scream, it transpired, had not come from the bird: “Dumbbell!” the woman’s voice said, drop it. “Drop it! DROP IT!” Then just as suddenly as the cat had taken out the raven, a woman, who was easily 550 times taller than Sadie stomped her foot on the ground, which caused Sadie to bounce.
The cat made a sound somewhere between a meow and a whine, but once the woman stomped her foot again, it dropped its kill. The woman, obviously disgusted, said, “We literally just got you clean, and now I have to take you to the vet to make sure you don’t get some kind of diseases. BAD KITTY! Bad.” Then with a sigh, the woman grabbed Dumbbell and walked off, the yowling cat dangling by its scruff in her hand.
Sadie looked at her clothing. She was in cut-off shorts and a pink tube top, both of which were now ruined with grime from strew and blood; although in the latter case, she was not sure if that was from herself or the raven. Standing up she looked around, and there, across the road, she saw another Wee-put who was dressed in a suit, and looked to be scribbling furiously on a clipboard. He looked like he might have been from the town council, but Sadie was too dinged up to care much about him.
Looking over at the bird, whose blood was creeping towards the drain pipe, she said, “some things belong in the gutter,” and then she began limping her way home. No notice. Tomorrow, she was sure would bring its own problems. However, as the last of Dumbbell’s yowls faded, Sadie did smile and thought, cats aren’t really that bad.