There's a rumor of this little shop in every city. Where the owner seems to know you better then you may know yourself. No money goes through the store, only a simple contract.
Note, Haven takes no responsibility for those who break said contract.
"Spare some change? Change sir?" A young girl held out a small cup filled with a mixture of coins and a few spare bills. Anna never expected to be at this point in her life, seventeen, borderlining on being homeless again, and scrounging for enough money to get a meal. She pulled her jacket closer as the fat raindrops splashed around her.
"Stupid girl, get a real job," the man in the business suit mocked as he knocked her change cup out of her trembling hand. Saying nothing Anna began to pick up the fallen coins, biting her lip to avoid crying.
"Don't cry, it just makes it worse," she whispered to herself. Anna had a really bad run of luck lately. She had been booted out of her old apartment after her boyfriend decided she was more hassle than she was worth. The following day, she had lost her job at the restaurant when she dropped a series of orders throughout the day. She was too proud to call home, which led to her begging for change in the rain.
"This couldn't get much worse," she mumbled as she tried to brush a stray lock of ebony hair out of her face. Her jacket was completely waterlogged, and she was soaked through. Noticing one of the twenties had fluttered away she got to her feet to give chase to the stray bill. It was a rare kindness to see those bills enter her cup, she wouldn't let it get away without a fight.
The twenty seemed to sway lazily to and fro as she ran to catch the bill. It looped around to the back alley of the business complex she was panhandling in front of. Cursing, Anna tried to reach out for the bill, but it seemed to slip past her grasp and fluttered into an open door. Anna took a look inside; no lights, no activity, maybe it was a store room? Abandoning hesitation to need she crept into the store room.
The small grey room wasn't very inviting. Anna found the bill wedged under a plain wooden door. Slowly opening the door to obtain her wayward bill she was greeted to a mixture of cinnamon and spice. Taking in her surroundings Anna realized she had walked into a pet store. It was quaint and it had an assortment of animals in what appeared to be older cages, some of the creatures wandered about freely to and fro. Some pets seemed to be quite plain. While other pets seemed to be plainly observing their new guest.
"Hello, who's there? a gravelly voice echoed out the back. "What, you mean her?" It sounded like the man was talking to himself?
Anna tried to slowly back out of the shop, deciding the twenty was no longer wroth it. She noticed the door was no longer behind her.
"Ok, fine, you grumpy old furball. I swear just because you've seen it all doesn't mean spit," The old man halted himself mid-sentence as he came out to greet Anna. The shop keeper appeared to be dressed in fashions that died about eighty years ago. "So," the old man grinned as he surveyed Anna, "You lookin' for a pet, sweetheart?"
"Umm, I'm sorry gramps. I kinda ran in here to grab my missing twenty," She looked about to see if she could find the missing bill. Looking about for her missing bill Anna spied a variety of interesting pets. Some of them Anna had never even heard of. Must be a very expensive shop.
"Sweetheart, I think you need a pet. A girl like you would love a cat,"
Anna couldn't believe the old man. A cat? She was homeless! How could she take care of herself, much less a cat?
"Listen, I'm sorry, my-uh landlord doesn't accept pets!" The gentleman gave a small chuckle. "If you mean that corner I saw you askin' fer change earlier, I'm sure he won't mind,"
Anna spied the twenty under the paw of a very unusual cat. It was black, with golden eyes, and it's fur seemed to glimmer depending on how the light struck the feline. She tried to shoo the cat off the bill to no avail. The feline remained rigid with the bill wedged firmly under it's paw. Anna tried pulling the bill from under the feline again with no avail. The cat seemed to regard her with a sense of curiosity before releasing the bill.
The old man gave a small chuckle, "So, it's like that huh? So be it." He reached behind the counter and produced a folder. "Missy, I think he wants to come home with you."
Anna sighed, maybe he was senile? He looked old enough, maybe his mind was gone? "Listen I'm sorry, I can't afford a cat. Besides, that cat looks a little too stuffy for me. Look at that collar, I swear the owner spent more on that gaudy thing than I do on food in a week" At that, the cat gave what could almost be described as a very human snort.
The old man held up his hand to silence her. "Missy, if you take that particular feline home. I'd be willing to pay you one thousand dollars, even for a week. That particular cat's been cooped up here for ages. It would do good to give him some fresh air. Besides, ever heard of the Lucky Cat? That one just screams good luck. Maybe it will turn things around for you?"
Looking towards the cat, Anna spied a small triangle shaped tag around what appeared to be a glittering collar. She assumed the jewels were just fake, but looking at the name she wondered who would name a cat "Locke"? She noticed something else that was off about Locke. The shadows cast by the lighting didn't flicker. Yet the shadow for the cat seemed to be distorted. It seemed to stretch much further than the cat should cast. The cat would be nice to have around, maybe someone to keep her company.
"No," Anna told herself, she shouldn't take this cat. He needs a real home, someone to love him, and make sure he had good food and fresh water. She could barely do that for herself. The offer of money was tempting, take the cash than get the poor cat to a proper pet shop, and maybe a shelter? Anna convinced herself she needed to just leave. She gave the cat one last glance and his eyes seemed to meet hers. She felt something for the cat, longing, companionship. Maybe she'd just take him to a shelter. She could do that couldn't she? Maybe the old man was joking about the money? Maybe keep him with her at the hotel for a night, those eyes just screamed "Pet Me!".
Anna gave the old man a skeptical look. She had never heard of a pet shop that offered to pay the owner to take care of an animal. "Allright old man, let's see it."
He opened the folder, inside was a small wad of bills. He gently tossed the stack towards Anna.
"Would you like to count it yourself? But before you and your new friend go home. I need you to sign something, an agreement, in this petshop, there are terms to having each animal that leaves here.
Anna cautiously picked up the stack of bills and stuffed it into her sopping jacket. The old man produced the contract for Anna, she read over the agreement. This seemed bizarre? The paper only had three lines.
1) Fresh fish and Milk every day
2) Keep him well brushed, ensure he receives attention each day.
3) Trust in your companion, and you'll both grow.
Anna knew the money clip would keep her in a hotel room for at least a few nights. She could try to hunt down a new job, maybe arrange something for a better living arrangement. Taking the pen she signed the contract, passing both pen and paper back to the old man. She noticed the cat was now circling her feet. She gently scratched her new companion under an ear.
"Allright Missy, enjoy your new friend,"
She cautiously picked up the cat and left the store. Locke nuzzled her neck and settled himself against her chest.
As the young woman left, the old man placed the contract with those who came before her.
"Good luck child, and you old furball, be nice to her." The old man gave a small chuckle as the shadows of the creatures began to dance about. "Now now, let's go back to our shows,"
A young fae stepped from the shadows; she seemed to cause a small gathering of flowers with each step.
"Allright gramps, but what about the girl, is she going to be ok with Locke?" He gave the youths head a friendly pat. The Fae was one of the new arrivals, not sure of her place in the new world just yet. When he had a moment Locke would be sure to help her find a home, it appeared he had something else on his mind for now. The young street girl would be tested, as each owner was tested before. He wasn't sure exactly what Locke saw in her just yet.
"Don't worry. Locke may be a blowhard but he will keep her safe."