Author’s Note: Included as a bonus with The Consultant and the Cat is the short story When Randolph Met Katya. It goes into more detail about events that Randolph summarizes in the larger story.
When I wanted to write something short, I said maybe I’d do an alternate point of view of a scene from one of my other stories, and someone did suggest that, but things in my real life intervened, so I didn’t get to it, and the ones I was thinking of doing first (something with Luna, actually,) I rejected.
I finished a larger project today, and while I would do another “prompt me” celebration, this is overdue, so here it is, finally. An alternate view of the moment when Randolph meets Persephone in The Consultant and the Cat.
Though it galled her to admit she was in over her head, Persephone Reynolds knew that she was. She couldn’t deny it, no matter how many times she’d tried to do it over the past few days. She was weak. She knew she was. No one else would have agreed to call in some freelance consultant, not when they were going to have to pay for his help out of their own pocket.
She didn’t know how she’d afford that, but she was desperate.
“Dr. Randolph?” She asked as he made it past the security at the door. She knew it was him. She didn’t need a photo or a file to be sure. They didn’t get a lot of visitors around here, but even if they did and she’d missed the id he’d flashed at the door, his suit screamed fed. He was too clean cut for this department, and the accent made him even more out of place.
“Has anyone ever told you you look almost exactly like the white witch of Narnia?”
He wasn’t exactly inventive, was he? She’d heard that a few dozen times before, and it wasn’t that impressive the first time around. “Most men wait until they know me before they insult me. And once they know me, no one insults me.”
“You are merely confirming my observation, Detective,” he said. She gave him a frosty smile. “I’ve spoken to Mayor Thompson. If your superior asks, he asked for my help, not you. Assuming that you still want my help?”
“Angie says you’re the best,” Persephone said with a shrug. Her friend had better be right, though. If she wasn’t, Persephone had a feeling they wouldn’t be friends anymore. “I suppose we’ll have to see about that.”
“I’ve actually never met Angelina. Er, wait. She was at Marcie’s wedding. I guess I met her, but I don’t know her. She doesn’t know me,” Randolph corrected. “I’ll take a look at the files if you don’t mind. And I need to see the crime scenes.”
Angie hadn’t even met him. Persephone didn’t believe this. She needed a moment, or she was going to lose her temper. She started to walk away from him. “The crime scenes we’ll do after lunch. You can look over the files while you’re here.”
“That actually isn’t a good idea. I was hoping to borrow them for a while.”
He didn’t get to make demands. She was angry enough without him making things worse. She was not accommodating him in any way. She never would have agreed to this if Angie had told her the truth. “Not going to happen.”
Randolph looked back at the door. What was he, skittish? Was he some kind of fake? She did not need this. She was going to kill Angie. She didn’t care if her cousin was in love with her.
“You don’t understand. I have a leopard.”
“A leopard. Pathera pardus. She’s melanistic, actually, so… black, but still a leopard. I worked with the FBI for several years. I was on a simple, seemingly straight-forward murder that turned out to be a part of a series of murders committed by a carnival worker—her trainer, to be specific. The bust went down at the circus; I had to stop him from whipping her to death. I saved her, that apparently bonded us, and now she won’t leave me alone. She’s become a sort of bodyguard. I tried to set her free. She couldn’t adapt. I gave her to a wildlife preserve for animals that had been domesticated. She was home before I was,” Randolph’s explanation ended with a sigh. He recovered a bit and shrugged. “She is my leopard, for better or worse.”
“So… I have a profiler with a leopard?” Persephone asked, trying to accept what she’d heard and seen. She half expected the jerks she worked with to pop out with a camera and start laughing at any moment. This had to be a dream—a nightmare. “Does the mayor know about this?”
“Yes. I have a special dispensation for her. And I accepted responsibility for her actions. Oh, and my words to the press are supposed to be ‘no comment.’”
“I’m sure. Well—” Persephone broke off as a leopard walked up to them, pushing her head against Randolph’s hand. She had thought it was a prank until now, and she’d been waiting for him to end it, but this was going too far. Damn. It just might be real. “How did she get in here?”
“She’s a very intelligent cat. Circus trained. She can roll down my car windows, and the outer door has a handicap access button.” Randolph looked down at the leopard and shook his head. “I told you I’d be fine, Katya. See?”
Persephone wanted to shoot him. Or herself. At this point, she almost didn’t care. Someone had to put her out of her misery. “Are you certain that you are a psychologist and not in need of one?”