Tap, tap, tap. They both tensed and looked at the terrace doors.
“You expecting company from the back door?” she whispered.
He scowled at her and drew his weapon, dropping to a whisper as well. “I’m on the sixth floor. Unless super man is making house calls, whoever it is, is not welcome.”
She drew her service revolver also and stood. Without making a verbal plan, he took high and she took low, both weapon arms out straight with the other hand supporting at the elbow.
Tap, tap, tap.
“Sure is a noisy burglar,” she couldn’t help but bring out.
He shot her a look of pure venom and promised restitution, then, his hand on the handle of the door, he mouthed. “One. Two. Three.”
They both dropped their arms and gaped at the bird.
She turned to him. “You keep your bird outside?”
He shook his head and scowled. “It’s not my bird.”
As if on cue, the bird that didn’t belong to Mike ruffled his feathers, then with a graceful swoop of its wings took flight, to land right on Mike’s broad shoulder.
Her brows rose and she shut the door. “Not your bird, huh?” she teased. “You should probably tell him that.”
The bird ruffled its feathers, then rubbed his head against Mike’s cheek.
Startled, the bird took to flight, landing on one of the surveillance monitors.
Mike shook his head. “Bird, if you poop on that monitor, you’re going to be dinner tonight.”
If possible, the bird managed to look affronted by the threat and said, “Beef for dinner, not fowl.”
Both Mike’s and her own jaws dropped, then they burst out laughing. They laughed so hard, by the time they stopped, they were both swiping tears from their eyes and holding their stomachs.
“The bird has to belong to someone,” Mike mused.
Winter shrugged. “I just had a stray cat attach itself to me. It seems the rules of who chooses who in the pet department have changed.”
Mike glanced at her. “A cat?”
She nodded. “A scraggly little calico. Looks just like the one that followed me around all the time while I was growing up.”
Mike’s brows drew in. “I remember seeing that stray following you.”
She ran a hand through her hair. “Really?”
She shrugged. “I’m not really an animal person.”
He laughed. “Don’t let your Grandma Allison hear you say that. She’s in her eighties and still goes to the clinic when they are busy and call her up.” He considered. “Do you think it is the same calico?”
She shook her head. “It looks just like her, but how could it be? I left home five years ago, and I swear that cat from home has followed me since the first day I walked to kindergarten by myself. There’s no way the cat who attached itself to me now can be the same one.”
He crooked a brow. “Who you trying to convince, me or yourself?”
She walked over to the bird, which oddly seemed to be listening with some focus to their conversation. “What’s your name, sweetie?”
“Napoleon.” The bird squawked ” Protector. Don’t eat me.”
She grinned at the bird. “Okay, Napoleon, who is your owner? Who do you belong to?”
There was no reply. Napoleon began to groom one wing with his beak.
Winter tried again. “Pretty bird, Napoleon. Who are you protecting?” She reached out one finger, tentatively, and stroked his head. He swiveled to look right at her.
Then he gave a squawk and fluffed his feather. “Protect Mike,” he squawked out. “Mike’s bird. Protect Mike.”
Winter and Mike’s jaws hit their chests, again, at Napoleon’s ramblings.
“See?” Winter could not help but say. “I told you he’s chosen you as his owner.”
Mike sneezed and his eyes puffed up and turned red. “There’s only one problem,” he said. “I’m allergic to birds.”