“When you moved to Bombay—“
“—didn’t you have a partner?”
Ravi bit his lip and carefully avoided a mammoth-sized pothole. “Yeah, I did. Benny.”
“Where is he now?”
“Oh,” she mumbled. “I’m really sorry. What happened to him?”
Tears glistened in Ravi’s cerulean eyes and he swallowed hard. “I’d rather not talk about it right now.”
They passed the next few minutes in silence, Ravi with his gaze fixed upon the road, Cat watching the bleak landscape through the window. Eventually, Ravi sighed heavily and glanced over at her.
“I’m going to ask you a question, and it may sound strange, but it’s very serious. Has anything bitten you recently…within the past month or so?”
“A spider bit me yesterday.”
“Anything mammal? Including human,” he clarified.
“Then no. Nothing.”
“All righty then.” This seemed to take a considerable weight off of his shoulders. “One more question: Have you seen anyone acting strangely?”
“No. Aside from you, that is. What’s with the pistol?”
Ravi laughed once, sharp and doglike, and brushed his hand over the gun in the holster on his right hip. “Sometimes self-preservation overrides principles.”
“What do you mean?”
“It’s become an ugly world out there since the Crisis. You’ve been cut off from it out here. You can’t understand understand it until you’ve seen it. It’s gone to the dogs—more literally than you might think.”
They came into the dull little town. There were few people out in this weather, and those who were barely spared a glance at the car, unusual a phenomenon though it was nowadays.
“Ravi,” pleaded Cat. “Will you please stop being cryptic and tell me what’s going on?”
“Your hospitality. I’m seriously sick of sleeping in the backseat of this car.”
“Fine. I have a spare bed.”
He parked in front of her house and they left the car, hurrying through the rain to the front door. Once inside, Cat lit a fire in the hearth and started water boiling over it for tea. Ravi took a detour to the bathroom before joining her in the living room, at which point he collapsed in an armchair, grinning.
“An indoor toilet and a fireplace,” he declared. “This is the life!”
“I’m glad you’re so grateful. Now, don’t you have some explaining to do, young man?”
He leaned back in his chair. “I suppose I do. But, be warned, it is a long story and I don’t really know where to start.”
“Start at the last time I saw you.”
He closed his eyes for a moment, pausing. “I guess that’s a good enough starting point as any. Here goes, then. The last time I saw you, it was May, I don’t know how many years ago…”