She tried to get to sleep, but she was too wound up. Even after a lengthy, hot shower, she couldn’t relax enough to rest. To make matters worse, her stomach was demanding to be filled again. The memory of that roasted chicken was too tempting to ignore.
Slipping on one of the clean t-shirts and a pair of jeans, she stuck her head out into the hallway and listened. The place was dark, with the exception of a couple of plug-in night lights. There was no sign of any of the tourists, nor could she hear them, except for the distant, muted sound of a TV coming from upstairs on the other side of the building.
Feeling emboldened, Rikki tiptoed her way into the dining room and over to the swinging doors which led into the kitchen. Giving them a gentle push, she was surprised to find they wouldn’t budge. They were locked from the inside. Making a face, she tried to figure out another way to get inside, when she noticed the gap between the bottom of the doors and the floor. It was too narrow for her to crawl under…as a human. But I might be able to manage it in my other form.
She glanced over her shoulder. She could shuck her clothes here and change, but that would up her chances of being discovered if someone found her things lying here. It was a risk she couldn’t take. Not after all Art and the others had done for her. She’d have to find another way.
Inspiration struck, and she returned to her room. Dropping into her leopard self, she eased her key card underneath the door, then let herself out before returning to the kitchen.
Squeezing through the narrow opening wasn’t difficult. Once inside, she became human and went to check out what was left in the fridge.
As soon as she opened one of the large, stainless steel doors, the scent of leftover baked chicken hit her. It took her a moment or two to find the right plastic container. Grabbing a leg quarter, she shoved it into her mouth, closed the refrigerator door, and morphed into her feline form.
Slinking back underneath the swinging doors, she started to congratulate herself on another successful stealthy acquisition, when a form moved across the room, over where the back entrance was located. She froze in place, muscles growing taut as she tried to assess her next move. Should she bolt for her room? Or try to make it out the front door? The smell of chicken filling her nostrils prevented her from catching the person’s scent. It wasn’t until the form spoke that she could let herself relax.
“What would our guests think if they saw a leopard roaming around inside the lodge?”
Art moved a little closer, enough to where she could finally make him out more clearly. By the smile on his face that reflected in his eyes, he was amused at having caught her red-handed. Yet she could also tell he wasn’t pleased. “Come on. Let’s get out of here before anyone catches us.” He indicated returning to her room, which she swiftly did.
When she reached her door, she pulled out the key card, humanized herself, and popped it into the lock to let herself inside. She paused once she got inside, when an irrational thought came to her. Pulling the chicken from her mouth, she hurriedly opened the door again and stuck her head back out into the hallway. Art was turned to go into the room next to her.
“Psst. I have a thigh and a leg. You like dark meat?”
Her reappearance had startled him. “Uhh, yeah.”
“I’ll share with you if you promise not to snitch on me.”