Zero at the Bone

Free Zero at the Bone by Mary Willis Walker Page A

Book: Zero at the Bone by Mary Willis Walker Read Free Book Online
Authors: Mary Willis Walker
this is difficult, but some reporters at the press conference kept asking about it.”
    Danny sighed. “Oh.” He looked at Katherine. “Miss Driscoll, I wish I could’ve gotten here in time, but the way he was lying, his neck was clearly broke, and the blood … well, it was just everywhere. I admired Mr. Renfro so much. He did such a good job with the cats and taught me so much. I’ve only been in cats four months, but I felt I’d found a home here.” He shook his head apologetically. “I’m sorry.”
    Katherine looked away. They were in a white-tiled room with a drain running down the center of the floor. At the far end was a cage. Inside, an immense bushy-coated tiger lay on his side watching them with luminous yellow eyes.
    “Well, there he is,” said the director. “That’s Brum. Five years old. Born here at Austin Zoo. Aggressive as all get-out from day one. What’s he been like?” Sam asked the keeper.
    “Pretty quiet, sir. We fed them both when the police finally left. And he ate pretty good. I’ve just finished hosing down the cage.”
    Katherine approached the cage slowly and stared at the cat, who stared right back at her. She’d never looked really closely at a tiger before. The bramble of black stripes framing his orange-and-white face looked like an inkblot, the same on both sides. If a psychiatrist asked her what the blot resembled, she would say the roots of some enormous plant. A man-eating plant, perhaps. The abundant quill-like white whiskers sprouted aggressively beside the pink nose. It was a beautiful face. Undeniably.
    Sam approached quietly and took a firm grip on her elbow. “Do you want to see the rest?”
    Katherine pulled her eyes away from the tiger and nodded.
    Danny had unlocked the next door and was standing aside to let them enter. Sam preceded her in into a tiny closetlike room and stood with his back against the wall so she would have more room. The second she entered, she felt the horror it of. It was a gray concrete sarcophagus with a naked light bulb hanging from the ceiling. She flinched as she looked at the boarded window. It was impossible not to imagine what had happened here this morning: the sudden crash of glass breaking, the huge striped head punching through the window, the lightning-fast claws hooking into soft flesh. God.
    When Danny entered the room too, the claustrophobia became too much. She pushed her way out. Until she saw this place, Lester’s death had been a distant accident. Now it had come home. And she hated it.
    She stood outside the door breathing hard, while the two men talked in low voices. “The police swept up all the glass,” Danny was saying, “and took it away. Very thorough. They stayed for more than three hours.”
    He lowered his voice and spoke in reverent tones as if they were in some tiny roadside shrine. “But I don’t understand it. He always said that ninety-five percent of safety on the job was locks. He wouldn’t even be in here while Brum was still outside. He taught us always to secure the outside tiger into its holding cage before doing anything else. Always. A rule of his.”
    The director said, “It’s hard to see. He was the most regular of men.”
    While the men talked, Katherine watched the tiger. He was on his feet now, pacing the cage, his lean hips undulating, his huge orange testicles swaying. He filled the cage with his color and vitality. Suddenly he reared up on his hind legs and rested his forepaws on the bars, brushing his head against the top of the cage. He towered over Katherine, glaring down at her. She stumbled a few steps backward to get out of his range of power.
    She was embarrassed to note that Sam McElroy had left the anteroom and was watching her. She said, “Sam, I’ve got to go. I left my dog in the car for more than an hour. I need to rescue him and get to the lawyer’s office.”
    As they left, Danny locked the door behind them. Sam walked her out to the car, giving her careful

Similar Books

Devil's Harbor

Alex Gilly

Bound to Fear

Nina Croft

Highland Angel

Hannah Howell

Red Templar

Paul Christopher

Seasons Under Heaven

Beverly LaHaye, Terri Blackstock

Game On

Wylie Snow