Chapter Four - The Threat
"You shouldn't upset, Jerry," Daphne warned Stevie as she walked over to the dressing table. "He's a nice guy, but he's got a mean temper. Do you want a drink? We ain't got no soda, but I got a jug of water here. My old ma told me drinking water's good for you."
Stevie nodded and watched Daphne pour two glasses from the jug. "Do you like gum?" she asked, handing him a glass of water. "I dated a dentist once who told me it's good for your teeth." Stevie shook his head and gulped down his water. "Suit yourself."
Daphne sat on the bed beside Stevie and lit a cigarette. "Do you smoke, honey?" Stevie shook his head again. "Wise kid, it's not good for you. I started when I was your age. Used to be a dancer. Thought I'd make the big-time. Now I get winded walking up the stairs." Daphne laughed and descended into a coughing fit. She stubbed out the cigarette and sipped her water to settle the coughing. Stevie handed back the hanky, and Daphne also wiped her eyes and blew her nose.
"Now," she said, patting Stevie on the leg, "how about you tell me what happened to the cat. You see, it's gonna cause you big trouble. Jerry, he put the cat in that trunk this morning," Daphne explained, pointing to it across the room. "This afternoon the cat's gone, and you're in there. So, tell your big sister the truth, where's the cat?"
Stevie was confused. “Why did Jerry put the cat in the trunk? Is it sick? Were you taking it to a vet?”
Daphne stood up and lit another cigarette. She paced a small circle around the room and sat down again on the bed.
"Look, honey, in a few minutes Jerry's coming back into the room expecting to see the cat. If it's not here, then he's not gonna be very happy! Capeesh?"
Stevie was still confused. "Is the cat his pet?"
“Pet!” Daphne choked on her cigarette smoke again. “Oh, honey, don’t make me laugh. The only pet Jerry’s ever had was a rat in the slammer!”
“So whose cat is it?” Stevie asked.
"Don't you read the papers, kid? It's the Vandergelds' cat, their precious Tom-Tom. Those Vandergelds are crazy rich and cat crazy. The papers say they spend more dough in one month on their cats than Jerry and me make in a year of busting banks."
Stevie was beginning to understand. "Oh, so you're gangsters? You rob banks. You kidnap people?"
Daphne stubbed out her cigarette and laughed. "We're not gangsters, Stevie," she said with a smile. "We rob banks, yes, and sometimes during the getaways, we have shootouts. But we're not gangsters. And we're not kidnappers, either. Well, only this cat, which I guess makes Jerry and me cat-nappers." Daphne laughed again.
There was a knock at the door. “Let me in, it’s Jerry.”
Daphne stopped laughing. She grabbed Stevie by the shoulders and stared hard at him, "Where's the cat, honey?"
"It jumped from the trunk and ran under the—"
"I'm sorry, Stevie," Daphne said, dropping her arms giving him a sad smile. "I'll ask Jerry not to be too rough with you." She stood and walked to the door.
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Stevie jumped up and ran about the room, looking for a hiding place. There was no space under the bed, and the window ledge was too narrow and too high up.
With nowhere else to hide, Stevie hopped back into the trunk and pulled down the lid. He held his breath and listened to the door open and close. There were loud voices, and then silence, followed by heavy footsteps, approaching the trunk.