‘They’re never really tame, of course,’ said Brace, fixing me with an intense stare. ‘Always remember that.’
I glanced down at the construction of brass riveted to the end of his wrist. The rods and wheels made oiled clicking sounds each time he extended his arm, each time the shining claws – in place of fingers – gripped his cane.
He caught my eye and smiled. ‘Yes,’ he waved the metal arm before my face. ‘See this as a cautionary tale.’
A growl came from inside the cage. The creature was tucked in the shadows at the back, though I could smell it. There’s no mistaking their smell – it’s warm and rich, fusty unwashed fur and meat. Always meat.
Brace tapped his cane on the iron bars. ‘Come, show your colours,’ he whispered. ‘The gentleman wants to see you.’
I heard the edge in his voice when he said gentleman but ignored it. The creature slunk forward, paws spreading over filthy straw, dim lamplight glowing on stripes of gold and bronze, on copper talons that etched lines into the stone floor. I stepped forward, drawn by the shimmer of every hair, by intelligent amber eyes that fixed on mine.
Being so close to one for the first time, I couldn’t help but gasp. ‘She’s more beautiful than I ever dreamed.’
Behind me, I heard Brace chuckle. ‘Don’t fall for her charms, Doc. She’s a killer.’
I turned to face him, thrust the wedge of notes into his outstretched claw. ‘I’m sure she is,’ I smiled.
He could be her first meal in liberty.