The characters are not mine. Don't I wish?!


In the heart of the city you will find China Town, a mysterious place where rare and valuable commodities are in abundance. Welcome to my pet shop. Tonight you will find something you desire.

Written by cousin D


School was let out and Leon slowly gathered together all his books and papers, stuffing them into his backpack. He was still working on it when everyone else had gone and only he and the teacher were left in the second grade classroom. Leon liked his teacher, Mrs. Lisa. She was a very pretty lady with curly blond hair, just like his. Leon even liked to imagine, sometimes, that his teacher was his real mom. Unfortunately, this brought up uncomfortable thoughts, so Leon didn't like to do this to often.

"Leon, dear?" Leon looked up from his bag to find Mrs. Lisa standing next to him and smiling kindly.

"Yes, ma'am?"

She knelt down so she could look him in the eye. "How's it going, Leon?"

Leon shrugged, trying to act as if he didn't know what she was talking about. Unfortunately, her husband was a police officer and had busted Leon's 'dad' a few weeks ago. Ever since then, she seemed to be worried sick about him, always taking time to talk to him after class or bringing a little snack just for him. "I'm OK, ma'am."

Mrs. Lisa raised a hand and almost touched his cheek, but pulled away when Leon pulled back. "You'll tell me if you get hurt, won't you, Leon?"

"Sure." He lied. Leon didn't like lying, it made him feel dirty, just like when people tried to touch him. He didn't like that, either.

They sat there like that for a while, just looking at each other. Leon knew she knew his secret. She knew his dad hurt him sometimes, but Leon never told anyone. "Where did you get the bruise?" She asked, looking at his yellowish/ purple cheek.

"I fell down the stairs." Leon lied automatically. It was standard and the answer he always gave her when she asked about the injuries that he always seemed to have. New ones every few days showed up.

Mrs. Lisa nodded, accepting the lie, but not believing it. "I can't do anything unless you let me help." She told him softly.

Leon stood up. "I'm OK."

"No, you're not. But I can't do anything unless you let me help. I've done all I can do without you."

It was true. It was Mrs. Lisa who'd contacted child services and gotten an investigation going about Leon's dad. It was Mrs. Lisa who let him stay at her home for a few nights while his dad was in jail, waiting for his trial. Unfortunately, Leon had stood up for his dad, saying that his dad never hurt him. Leon couldn't just let someone put his dad in jail, right? 'He's DAD, after all!' No matter how much it hurt.

"Oh! I almost forgot." Mrs. Lisa said suddenly. "I brought something for you." Leon frowned while she went to her desk and pulled a large bag out from under it. She looked up and saw that he hadn't moved from his desk. "Come on, silly, it's for you. Don't you want your present?"

Leon gulped nervously and went to see what it could be. When he finally got to her desk, she gave him the bag to open. "Now," She said, "I noticed that you don't have coat and the weather is getting colder..." Leon pulled out a coat, a brand-new wool lined coat. It was the first new thing Leon had ever had. "I don't want you to have to walk to school in the cold. It's far to cold for an eight year old to be walking about with just a sweater on."

Leon reluctantly put the coat back in the bag and gave it back. "I can't take it."

She sighed. "You dad?"

"Yeah." Leon knew his dad would just take the coat and sell it somewhere to get money for his drinking. He didn't want to waste the wonderful present on his dad's booze.

Mrs. Lisa smiled weakly. "How about we keep it at school?"


"I'll keep it in my coat closet and you can use it at recess. If you ever feel like you can take it home, it's yours."

Leon wanted to cry at Mrs. Lisa's kindness. He nodded wordlessly, wishing it were tomorrow so he could wear it. He'd have to leave it here and go home in his thin sweater, really not warm enough for a cold New England October.

Mrs. Lisa hung the coat carefully in her closet before turning back to him. "Do you want me to give you a lift home? I worry about you in the cold."

"No." Leon said a little to quickly as he really didn't want to go home, yet. "'m going to a friend's house."

"Really? Who's?"

Leon had to think quickly for an answer. Mrs. Lisa knew he had no friends, a result of his terrible temper when he had to deal with his classmates. If fact, his teacher was one of the only people Leon actually LIKED talking to. "You don't know him."

"Oh?" He could see that she was suspicious as she started to put on her own coat to go home.

"Yeah. He...uh...lives in Chinatown." It was a weak lie, but, as usual, she accepted it. Chinatown was, after all, only a few blocks from him home and Leon knew what she was going to offer next.

"I'll drive you to Chinatown, then." She smiled.

Leon loved Mrs. Lisa's car. It wasn't new, but it was bright yellow and had a heater and a radio. Her car smelled like the pine scented paper tree she kept on her rear view mirror. Together, they sang at the top of their lungs to the Beetles and she gave him a butterscotch candy that she'd found in her glove compartment. Her seats were clean and she always had comic books in her back seat. "A secret hobby." She whispered to him confidentially the first time he'd seen them and she was nice enough to let him read them.

Mrs. Lisa dropped him off at the first building they came to in Chinatown. "You're sure your friend is expecting you?" She asked, still trying to get him to admit the truth.

"Yeah. I'll see you tomorrow, ma'am." Leon hopped out of the car, but she grabbed his arm.

"Call me, if you need anything." She handed him a piece of paper with a phone number written on it and gave him a grave look. "I mean it, Leon. Absolutely anything."

"Yes, ma'am." Leon carefully folded paper and tucked it into the pocket of his jeans. He knew he'd probably throw it away as soon as he found a trash can. He'd never call her. The only reason she gave him the number, he knew, was in case he wanted to get away from his dad and he didn't want to leave his dad. He loved his dad. Did he?

After a long moment, Mrs. Lisa drove away, leaving Leon in Chinatown with nowhere to go. Leon looked around for a moment, wondering what he should do. He'd never actually been to Chinatown before, as his dad didn't like 'those damned foreigners'. But, Leon didn't want to go home, right away, either. Dad was at home and...

It was like a whole different world! Leon stared with wide eyes as he wandered around the busy streets of Chinatown. Instead of the streets being filled with cars, there were mostly people. Some of them wore weird, brightly colored clothes and others were dressed in jeans and T-shirts. The people mostly talked funny and Leon couldn't understand what they were saying. It made him kind of nervous to think that if he got lost, he wouldn't be able to ask for directions. People were selling food right on the sidewalks and Leon wished he had some money so he could buy something to eat. The stores and houses looked very different, too.

Leon stopped in front of one of the stores and he knew it was important. Leon even wanted to go in. He hesitated outside the building, wondering if he should. He didn't even know what kind of store it was. But he really, really wanted to go in.

The words on the sign outside the store were written funny, like scribbles, and Leon couldn't read them, no matter how hard he tried. The building was small, as most of the stores in Chinatown, but the doors were wide open to invite people in. Just inside the door wasn't the store, Leon saw, but a stairway, lit with a chandelier, which led down. Just next to the front door of the building was a large rectangular sign, which said, in English, Count D.

Leon pushed open the heavy doors and looked into the dark stairway cautiously. He hesitated for only a moment before starting down the steps. There was a funny smell in the air, something Leon had never smelled before. He liked it, though. It made him feel safe and comfortable, like being in Mrs. Lisa's car, being in the shop.

There was a door at the bottom of the stairway and Leon wasn't sure if he should go in. After all, you didn't go into people's homes without being invited and what if he wasn't supposed to b here at all. Still, he had nothing else to do, so Leon opened the door and was very surprised at what he found. The room was dark, but light enough that he could still see, and very large. In a corner of the room was a desk and a couple of small couches. The room was lined with ornate cages and there was the faint noise of animals hidden in the darkness.


Leon looked down at the sound to find the most beautiful cat he'd ever seen. It was a big, fluffy white cat with bright blue eyes. The elegant creature walked toward him slowly, as if it were examining him. "Hello." Leon said as he crouched down to pet the cat, wondering why he was talking to a dumb cat in the first place. Dad said it was stupid to talk to animals, they weren't real people anyway.

The cat rubbed against his leg and Leon smiled. To heck with what dad said, this cat LIKED him!

"I bid you welcome. We have everything you may desire from dogs and cats to birds and insects. We even have a quite large selection of exotic lizards. Now, how may I be of service?"

Leon looked up at the voice, frightened, and found a lady in a very bright colored dress standing in front of him. He slowly backed away from the person who seemed to come from nowhere and had an urge to put his hands behind his back. "I didn't touch anything, honest." He didn't want her to think he was a thief, after all. The lady in front of him was beautiful but her face made Leon feel more than a little afraid. Her face was white as chalk and her lips were so bright red she looked like she had blood on her mouth. She looked at him from behind a curtain of dark hair, cut sharply at her chin and Leon saw that her eyes were funny. There was something...odd about her eyes. One of her eyes was yellow!

The lady smiled slightly. "You were only looking at Bombay?"

Leon looked back at the beautiful white cat. "Bombay? Is that her name?"

The lady's smile didn't change. "She is a boy and yes, his name is Bombay. Are you looking for a pet?"

Leon shook his head. "I only wanted to look, ma'am. Dad don' like animals." Leon looked back at Bombay, still purring and rubbing himself against Leon's leg. "He's awful pretty for a boy cat."

"Yes." The lady held out her hand and Bombay turned away from Leon and easily jumped up into the lady's arms. "Male animals are often more attractive than the females. It's to draw attention away from their mates to better protect them."

Leon was feeling a bit more at ease now that the lady seemed friendly and not angry from him having come in. Besides, there was still that nice smell in the air. "Can I look around you're store, ma'am? I'll be careful."

The lady reached out to him and Leon stared at her fingernails, long and pointed like claws. She patted him on the top of his head, kindly. "My name is Count D." The lady said. "You may look around, but only in this front room." She pointed to another set of heavy wooden doors in the back of the room. "Do not go out there. I have things back there that I wouldn't want you to get into."

Leon nodded enthusiastically and immediately went to look at a large cage with brightly colored birds.

"Aren't you forgetting something?" Count D asked and Leon turned around to look at him again.


"I'd like you know your name, young man."

"Oh," Leon said, embarrassed. His teacher had taught him all about manners and she told him it was important to introduce yourself when you met someone new. "I'm Leon Barns."

Leon didn't know how long he stayed in the pet shop, but it was long enough that as he sat cross-legged on the floor to watch a tropical fish lazily swimming, Bombay stepped delicately into his lap and curled up to take a nap there.

Leon heard the door of the pet shop open and close. He turned to see a woman standing in the doorway and then Count D stepped forward. "Welcome to my pet shop." Count D said gliding up to the woman. "How can I help you?"

"I'm looking for something interesting." The woman said, looking around the pet shop eagerly. "I was told that this is the best place to find an exotic pet."

Count D gestured to the back room she'd told Leon to stay away from. "If it is something exotic you are looking for, please step this way."

"Thank you, young man."

Leon watched them go and watched the curtain fall closed behind them. For a moment, he wished he could go into the back room and see what kind of animals Count D kept there, but he had given his word and Leon always kept his promises. 'Wait a minute! That lady called Count D a young man.' Leon's face scrunched up at that thought. Count D sure looked like a lady. Still, he was a real pretty guy.

"Just like you, huh?" Leon patted Bombay's head and the cat purred happily on his lap. He'd woken up when the lady had come in. "You're both pretty boys!" Leon kissed the top of Bombay's head.

Bombay rubbed up against Leon's chest, it's purring only increasing. Leon sat like that for several minutes until the lady came back out with a box in her arms and a wide smile. "Thank you, Count. This is exactly what I was looking for!" She ran a hand over the top of the box as if she could feel the animal inside.

"You are most welcome. Please, do bear in mind the contract and keep to the sale's terms."

The lady nodded absently. "Yes, yes, of coarse." Then she turned and quickly left, still smiling at the box in her arms.

Leon watched curiously as she left, but he didn't get up as Bombay looked like he was falling asleep and he didn't want to disturb the cat. As soon as the door closed behind the lady, Leon looked at Count D.

"What did you sell her?"

Count D walked back over to him and knelt down gracefully so he could look Leon in the face. "A lizard."

Leon frowned. "A lizard? That must have been a huge lizard." He said remembering the large box the lady was carrying.

Count D shook his head slightly. "Oh, no. It was quite small, really."

"Then why the big box?"

The Count's smile widened just slightly and he reached out a hand to touch Leon's cheek gently. "That is a secret."

Leon blushed at the touch, but he didn't like it. Really. He didn't like it when people touched him because dad was the only person who ever touched him and dad...Leon jerked his face away from Count D. "Don't touch me." He said, trying to sound nasty.

"Why?" The smile never faltered, but Count D did back away, putting his hands on his knees. "Are you afraid of me?"

Afraid? Leon thought for a moment. Well, not exactly afraid...but he just didn't like being touched. "No. I'm not afraid of anything!"

Count D looked down at Bombay and patted his head. "Yes, I know." Count D wasn't talking to Leon, but to Bombay. The cat mewed in response.

"Can you talk to him?" Leon asked. That couldn't be true, people can't talk to animals for real. Could they?

The Count looked up at Leon with a genuine look of surprise on his face. "Of coarse I can. Can't you?"

"You're lying." Leon scowled at Count D. "No one can talk to animals." Leon stood up. "I have to go home." He wasn't sure if he liked this Count D guy or not, but this was all starting to feel very weird. He didn't like it when people lied to him. As he left, Leon looked over his shoulder at Count D still crouched on the floor with Bombay on his lap. "Good bye."

Count D smiled, his eyes seeming to say that he knew a lot more than he was telling. "Until next time, Little Lion."

Leon left without another word, knowing if he weren't home soon, there'd be trouble.

To be continued...

Well, anyone like it? I have a surprise in store for Leon.

Evil Little god of Writing: "Hmmm. This has possibilities. I've always enjoyed Petshop of Horrors. There's such wonderful opportunity for death and pain. Leon might be in danger this time. Hee, hee."

Lil' Demoness: "You always look on the gloomy side. Just think of how wonderful Leon's teacher is and how kind D is to the child he doesn't even know. Leon is a sweetie, too. What a darling child!"

Cousin D: "If you're lucky, I'll be able to satisfy both of you. I might need a little help from you two, though."