(You can find part one of the story here; part two, here. Or you can just scroll down, but if you're half as lazy as I am, you won't.)
I screamed, jumping into Hot Stuff before I realized just what the dark shape was. It was a cat--sort of. Someone had taken the initiative to shave it, leaving only a mane, a poofy tail, and furry feet. The rest revealed a rather overweight feline that was, no doubt, as horrified by its owner's odd sense of humor as I was.
It pulled to an abrupt halt in front of us, sniffed the air with as suspicious a look as a cat can manage, and then curled up in a ball and went to sleep.
I jumped again as a young man popped up from behind the counter. His narrowed eyes went from us to the cat, and he nodded as though satisfied of something. "Welcome to Dolly's Books. Can I help you?"
I laughed nervously. This city was weird. "Umm, what's up with the cat?"
"Early warning system."
I frowned at Hot Stuff, but he just shrugged, apparently not getting the joke either. We perused the book store, ultimately deciding on a couple of finger puppets to bring home to the kids. The young man rang us up; his eyes constantly darted to the door and he seemed even more twitchy than I felt.
"Thanks," Hot Stuff said, taking the bag.
The young man nodded grimly, and bid us farewell with a muttered, "Good luck."
Back out on the street, I took Hot Stuff's hand. "Is it just me, or is this place strange?"
He nodded. Then, being Hot Stuff, he started laughing. "It feels like a zombie apocalypse movie or something. Like at any moment zombies will come boiling out of the empty stores, or crest the top of that hill."
I laughed with him, trying to ignore the nervous pit in my stomach. He was exactly right. When he jokingly started talking strategies for when the zombies came, I grasped his hand tighter and paid attention--just in case.
A small restaurant was open, and we ducked in. "Excuse me," I said to the hostess, who had quickly stashed something behind her back when we walked in. "We wanted to find the silver mines, but they aren't listed on any maps."
Her eyes went wide. "The silver mines?" she whispered.
"You don't want to go there."
To be continued...