“Here, kitty, kitty.”
It was a male voice, on the other side of the closed door of the master bedroom. Leila and Cassie looked at each other.
“Let’s go,” Cassie whispered.
Leila shook her head. “He’s trying to catch a cat. I bet he’s going to eat it.”
“Another week like we’ve been having and we may be doing the same thing.”
“I thought you cared about animals.”
“That was before we were starving. Come on.”
“No. You’re the one always talking about principles, and eating pets is wrong.” Leila threw the door open and a blur of black and white streaked past her feet.
In the middle of the room, a young man stood up. He wore military fatigues and a leather vest. Long brown hair brushed his shoulders and looked surprisingly clean. “What did you do that for?” He took a step toward them, but his expression was more of frustration than hostility.
“Was that your cat?” Leila’s tone made it clear she knew precisely what he had been doing.
“Are you from PETA or something? It was going to be dinner.” He scanned her face, then Cassie’s, lapsing into an attitude of wary patience. “It’s okay, I’ve got others.” He gestured toward a bulging backpack.
While Leila backed away, her lip curling in disgust, Cassie asked why he needed so many. “They’ll rot before you can eat all of them, and it’s not right to kill what you won’t use.”
“Oh, they’ll get used.” The young man held out his right arm, displaying a blue suede gauntlet that had the uneven look of something made by hand. “I’m with the Regents. There’s about fifty of us living on the north side of Main at the Regency Hotel.”
“This is a long way to forage.”
He picked up the pack and slung it onto his back. “It’s hard to keep a big group fed.”
As he walked out the door, Leila called after him. “Eat your own goddamn strays!”
He stopped and took a few slow steps back. “Why? Are you planning to eat the ones around here yourself?”
While Leila sputtered for an answer, he turned to go. Cassie ran after him.
“Is your group going to be here long? You’re not trying to take this place over, are you? I mean….” She rested a hand on her canister of bear repellent. “We’re sorry we scared the cat. We don’t want trouble.”
He smiled, and it was a friendly smile. “We don’t bother girls who don’t bother us. Regents policy. And mine.”
“What’s your name?”
He hesitated. “Jay Gallard, but they’ve been calling me Galahad. What’s yours?”
“Cassie, like Cassandra? The one who knew the Trojans were going to die?”
He jerked his shoulders and adjusted the backpack. “Well, Cassie, good luck to you. And to your friend the kitty-lover.”