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Chapter 5: "Harriet Meets the Truth"

June 10, 2008|By EVA NIESSNER / Pulse Correspondent

"Let's go," the strange man in the jeans jacket said.

"Wh-what's going on?" Harriet asked Thomas Vainevner, her voice low and rushed with concern.

For the first time since she had been fired as a pop singer, Harriet had managed to score a date. She had been sitting with her handsome but secretive coworker, Thomas. But as they were eating, someone had approached him, a man in his 40s with a leonine walk, hair so black it almost shone, and fingernails so dirty it was a wonder small plants weren't growing out of them.

"Don't worry," Thomas told her, but he might as well have told her not to breathe. He stood up, the wooden chair sliding loudly across the floor, and began to walk off. "I'll be right back."

Harriet blinked in his wake, wondering why her heart felt like a crushed tin can. Nothing in her life as a teen singer had prepared her for this.

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She played with her napkin for five minutes before she followed Thomas outside, calling to the waitress, "I'll be back in a second. I'm getting my wallet-"

The streetlights of the parking lot looked like glaring eyes as she stepped out. No problem. Harriet had been under some much less friendly lights, with sold-out crowds to witness any slip-up she might make. She could totally handle being nearly alone.

The thought of Sugar Flower fighting some bad guy was enough to make her chuckle into the warm summer night.

"Thomas?" she called. There were voices in the distance, and she tightened her grip on the steak knife she had sneaked into her purse. "Thomas?"

Those weren't voices, she realized. No, they were sounds - animal sounds, from the scraggly, unlit woods next to the pub. They sounded like the roar of the MGM lion before a movie started.

But this is Maryland. There are no lions or tigers or anything remotely wild in Maryland. Not even, like, bobcats. Or were there?

This thought had barely formed before an enormous black panther burst out of the woods, another one literally on its heels. The first one turned around to swipe its knitting-needle claws in the face of the second as Harriet backed into the dumpster, frantically realizing panthers weren't going to be as easy to cut as steak, dropping the knife back into her purse -

Where did Thomas go? And why were there panthers here? What was going on? What, what, what?

Thomas gone, panther here ... Harriet could only stare.

"It's not possible," she whispered.

Thomas had said there were skeletons in the family's closet. He had said curiosity killed the cat. He had said she would never believe him.

"Not possible," she whispered as the two black panthers battled under the gaudy glow of the streetlights.

Harriet closed her eyes, not knowing she was hyperventilating or that she had slid into a sitting position. When she opened them again a few minutes later, she could only see one panther through her white-blonde hair, sitting stock-still.

She looked away, and continued to do so until she felt a hand on her face, heard Thomas say, "I'm so sorry."




This is Chapter 5 of "Someone Else's Dream." You can read earlier chapters online at HMpulse.com.

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