Story (c) 2000 by Keith Dickinson. All rights reserved. Characters
Sabrina the Skunkette, Amy the Squirrel, Tabitha, Carli, Tammy Vixen Shiela
Vixen, Clarisse, and Carrie Squirrel (c) Eric W. Schwartz. Character Roxikat (c)
John Barrett. Character Thomas Woolfe (c) Michael Higgs. Characters Chris Foxx,
Susan Felin, Cindy Lapine, Debbye Squirrel, Clarence Skunk, Mr. Canis, Dexter
Collie, Angel Collie, Sarge and Endora Mustelidae, Wendy Vixxen, and Wanda
Vixen(c) Chris Yost. Character Florence Ambrose (c) Mark Stanley. Character
ZigZag (c) Max BlackRabbit. Character Cyberhorn (c) William Morris. Character
Terl Skunk (c) Rodney Stringwell. Character James Sheppard and Marvin Badger (c)
James Bruner. Character John Silverback (c) Himself Character Kittiara and the
restaruant "Callahan's" (c) "Kittiara" Character Katja (c) Herself Character
Mark the cheetaur (c) Mark White Eric W. Schwartz (c) Mr. and Mrs. Schwartz.
Michael Jones (c) Martin Pedersen. Arden Eastridge (c) Keith Dickson. All rights to additional characters
reserved by their respective owners.
After going through the contents of the two bags that Sheila had brought me, we decided on a white pair of swimming trunks that would be almost invisible under my fur, and a bright red U-shirt that would show off the fur on my shoulders and back. After putting them on, I stood in the bathroom doorway, modeling them for her.
Leaning around me to check out the look from all side she gave a nod of approval. "That looks good on you. Philippe sure did a good job! That guy sure can come up with some pretty exotic looks."
Chuckling in agreement I hobbled over to the bed, not bothering with the crutches. The leg hurt to walk on, but it wasn't the intense pain it was before. As I sat down, Sheila came over with a puzzled look on her face, "Doesn't it hurt to walk on?"
Bobbing my head to the side a little, "Sure it does, but it's not as bad as you think. I've got a pretty high tolerance for pain."
"But aren't you worried about re-injuring it? Walking without the crutches has got to be hard on it, right?"
Nodding, "Yah, it's not the best thing to do to it, but then again if I were smart I probably wouldn't have been out in the middle of the road Sunday night either."
Just then the door opened and Dr. Grahl came in, followed by an orderly pushing a wheelchair.
"Ah, there you are my boy. The nurses said Sheila was in here with you, so I figured it would be a good time to wheel you out. Nice outfit. You ARE wearing more than just a shirt, right?"
Laughing I decided not to let him off the hook, "Gee doc? Do you think I really need to?"
Chuckling himself he replied, "Personally I don't care. After you leave the hospital you are no longer our responsibility." Turning to Sheila, "Where did you park my dear?"
Picking up the bags so we could go, "I'm in the basement. The security guard let me park on the employee only level by the service elevator." Giggling a little she continued, "Apparently he's a BIG fan of mine."
Grabbing the phone from the desk, I hopped over to the wheelchair and sat down. Handing me a clipboard, the doc grabbed my crutches. "You will need to sign that my boy, next to the big red X on each page."
As I got ready to sign my name, I realized I didn't know what name to use... Just automatically signing my regular name could have blown my cover with Sheila and the orderly. "Ummm.. What name do I sign doc?"
Surprised for a second, he quickly recovered, "You told me the other day your name was Arden Nanuk, so that's what I put on the papers. You can either sign that or John Doe. It's up to you."
Sounded reasonable; quickly signing "Arden Nanuk" on all the pages, I traded the clipboard to the doc for my crutches. Satisfied, that everything was in order, we all headed down to Sheila's car.
While in the elevator the doctor took out a business card. "This has my office, cell, pager and home phone numbers. If you feel the need, please call me." Taking the card, I opened the cell phone. Placing the card inside I closed the cover. It would be safe in there until I could program the phone.
As we exited the elevator I got my first look at Sheila's car. I had the distinct feeling that I'd have to break both legs again to fit into it. As Sheila pointed her key chain at it, the shiny red Corvette chirped. Smiling Sheila went over to the car and popped the trunk. "Just a second guys, and I'll make some room. Placing the clothes bags back in the trunk, she left it open and walked around to the passenger side. Climbing in briefly, she soon got out and took of the hard top off the car and rolled down the window. Leaning against the hard top, she made a sweeping motion to indicate that it was ready for me.
As she put the top in the trunk, the orderly wheeled me around to the car. After helping me up I took one look at the passenger seat and realized that it was now not only four feet below my butt, but it also would be virtually impossible to get my leg in the door.
Looking at the doctor, he only smiled and watched.
Reconsidering my options, I went for it. Climbing in, I found that by bending my left leg up almost to my chest I could sit into the seat almost comfortably, Turning, I shoved myself halfway into the drivers seat. Signaling to the orderly, I got him to lift my leg up, close the door, and then propped it in the window. Sliding back over into the passenger seat I found that my butt almost fit between the console and the door while my head stuck a good thirteen inches out the roof. Handing me the crutches the orderly backed away to watch what I would do now. One leg hanging out the window at about a forty-five degree angle, I turned one of the crutches around and hooked the end of the cast with it. Pulling on the crutch, I lifted the leg slightly and swung it closer in towards the car. Even at its closest point, my foot stuck out about 2 feet, and my knee was almost even with my chin. Leaning to the left and twisting a little, I managed to find a position where I could breathe while at the same time giving Sheila enough room to steer. I'm just glad it wasn't a stick or she would have had to tie me to the roof.
Looking over at Sheila, who was standing by the driver's side door, I said over my shoulder, "Do me a favor, pretend you're driving a Cadillac will you? I don't need this thing broken again."
Climbing in, she started up the car. Grinning from ear to ear, she tossed the doc a kiss and backed out.
During the ride to the studio I tried to remember if I had ever been as scared.
Stepping out of the stairway on the third floor, the nurse walked down to room 303. Making sure that nobody was looking she stepped quickly inside. Turning to the bed she stopped dead in her tracks.
There was nobody in the room; not only that, the bed had been made and everything had been prepared for the next person who might need the room. Cursing to herself, she quickly left the room. Heading down to the records room, she waved at the attendant behind the counter. After he buzzed her through the door, she walked back to one of the available computer terminals.
Damn all the luck, he had been signed out almost an hour ago. Reading on, she saw that he had been transported to a private healthcare facility, there was no name listed. Checking to make sure there had been no admissions that day, she shut down the terminal.
Her boss wasn't going to like this. Waving again to the attendant on the way out, she headed quickly to her car, trying to think of how to break the news to her boss.
Walking down the hallway, Michael was looking for the Coroner's office. Finally finding it, he walked in, and as he approached the secretary's desk, he took out his badge. Turning from the keyboard, the secretary raised an eyebrow and asked, "May I help you with something?"
Flipping the badge open, he showed it to her, "I'm Detective Jones from the Columbus Police Department, I'm here to speak with the Coroner."
Smiling, she nodded, "One moment, I'll let him know you're here." Picking up the phone, she dialed a number and spoke, 'Sir, there's a Detective Jones here from Columbus. Yes sir, I'll let him know." Placing the phone in the cradle, she looked back at the detective, "He's currently in the morgue. Go through that door," pointing to a door behind her, "Follow the hallway to the first door on your right, He's expecting you."
Tipping an imaginary hat, Michael proceeded to the morgue. Upon opening the door, he was hit with a variety of smells, most of them not at all pleasant. Looking in, he saw a Hyena sitting at one of the tables, a partially uncovered corpse on it. Catching his eye, he proceeded over to the table. As he approached, the doctor quickly tossed a brown chunk of meet into his mouth and wiped his hands on his smock. Coming around the table he held it out to Jones. Swallowing back the rising bile, Jones took his hand and shook it. Soon as the doctor released it, he surreptitiously wiped it on his leg. 'Good lord, I knew Hyena's were carrion eaters, but there's got to be a rule about eating ones customers,' he thought to himself.
As the doctor sat back down, he again picked up some meat. Popping it into his mouth, he chewed it a couple of times and swallowed. "Would you like some liver? I've got plenty here."
Once again fighting the urge to vomit, Jones gave a neutral smile, "No thank you, I'll pass."
Shrugging, the Hyena popped another strip into his mouth, "Your choice, however I must tell you, my wife make a WONDERFUL marinated calf's liver that, in my humble opinion, can't be beat." Seeing the perplexed look on Michael's face, the doctor suddenly roared with laughter, having to grab onto the table, to prevent his falling onto the floor.
Not getting the joke, Michael just crossed his arms and waited for the doctor to recover.
Getting some measure of control, the doctor took one look at the young detective and lost it again. After a few seconds more he managed to recover, still laughing, "You didn't REALY think that I was eating something from in here did you?"
Walking closer to the cadaver laying on the table, he saw that the doctor had placed some cloth over an exposed section of the table and set his lunch on it, the paper bag folded neatly to the side.
Feeling rather sheepish Michael smiled too, realizing just how absurd that concept had been. "I'm glad you could see me now, I appreciate you interrupting your meal to see me."
Finishing up the last of the meat, the doctor crumpled up the bag it had been in, and deposited it in a trash can near the table. "Not a problem, really, I was just about finished anyway. Why don't we go into my office where I have all the records."
Leading Michael into his office, he gestured for the detective to take a seat. Pulling a file from his filing cabinet, he sat back at the desk. "All right, what do you need me to tell you about Mr. Bearridge?"
Opening his brief case, Michael took out his notepad, "We've got a bit of a problem in Columbus. At approximately the same time that Mr. Bearridge was killed here in Kansas City, we had a man struck in Columbus. When I ran his fingerprints yesterday, they came up as a match with your corpse."
Opening the folder, the doctor pulled out a copy of the official records that had been sent from Topeka. Having lived in Olathe, Kansas, all the information came from the Kansas capital. The doctor glanced to make sure all the papers were there and handed them to the young detective.
Flipping through the papers, Michael reviewed the information that he knew. Coming across the drivers licensing page he froze. The pictures didn't match!
Seeing him pause, the doctor asked, "What is it?"
Looking up at the doctor, Michael answered while still trying to digest the information, "This here says that you're corpse was Ursus arctos middendorffi, right?
Nodding, the doctor confirmed it in his copy.
"Our man is Ursus maritiums. They don't look anything alike." Seeing the disbelief on the coroners face, he passed his folder over to him. "Two different people, different genus of the same phylum with identical first names and fingerprints."
Reading the medical reports from Columbus, the hyena was amazed, "The fur was pigment-less, so it's not just a bleach job. Good lord man, do you understand what this means?"
Nodding, Michael couldn't reply. The impossible had happened. When not believing in impossible things, one must seek the absurd for a solution. One way or another, he was going to get to the bottom of this, even if it killed him.
DA Daniel Khansman was not a happy man. Shutting his eyes, he tried to resist destroying the cell phone in his hand. "How could he be gone, he was almost dead yesterday!"
The voice on the other end rapidly answered, "I don't know Daniel, according to my girl, he was gone and the room cleaned up. She checked with central records and they showed he had been transferred to a private facility earlier that morning. She even checked that day's admissions to ensure they didn't just move him and change the name."
In a low voice he barely controlled his anger, "This is unacceptable. He must be dealt with, and before that detective gets back from Kansas City to clear his name. I want to see his obit' on the news tonight, do you understand me?"
Hastily, the vice replied, "All right Daniel, like I said, I got people looking for this guy. How hard can it be to hide a walking snowball anyway? I said I'd take care of it and I will."
Disconnecting the phone, he calmly folded it up and replaced it inside his jacket. Leaning back, he again looked out the window.
After considering the possibilities he took out the phone and made another call. It was time to bring in some experts.
Pulling up to the front of ZZ Studios, Sheila turned off the key and looked over at me, "Well, we're here. What do you think of it?"
Staring at the sign, I couldn't believe that I was actually at ZZ studios. This was a trip.
After about a minute, Sheila got out and walked around the car, looking down she asked, "Well? Are you going to get out or what?"
Looking up at her I gave a weak smile, "Sure, just as soon my hands un-spasm I'll be glad to try to get out."
Growling she reached out and opened the door. Not being ready for it, I practically gave myself another concussion trying to dive under the T in the roof. Not quite clearing it, I folded over the console with my head in the drivers seat, holding onto the soft spot with my hand. I suppose that it's actually a good thing since the pain was enough that when I tried to pull right leg in, I only succeeded in dislodging it from it's precarious place on the edge of the door and having it hit the ground like a ton of bricks. Screeching in horror at what she had done, Sheila half climbed into the car on top of me. If there had been a little more room, I do think she would actually have tried to get all the way over. "Oh my god! I'm sorry, I'm so sorry! Oh god, are you all right!?"
Waiting for the stars to clear I tried to take a deep breath, however the combination of Sheila on me and the console underneath was making breathing rather hard. Remembering the last time I had been in a similar position, I put all my strength into my left arm and pushed myself up, unceremoniously dumping Sheila out of the car. Gasping for breath I finally was able to say, "Sorry babe, but I couldn't breathe with you pinning me down like that."
Scrambling to her feet, she picked up my crutches and waited for me to try to extricate myself from the car. Once again climbing half way into the driver's seat I was able to get my left leg out of the glove compartment they call a floorboard and out the door. After that it was a simple matter of standing up.
Once I was vertical, I looked down on Sheila while feeling around on my head for the bump. Grimacing I shook my head, "How many times in one week does a guy have to avoid dying before you girls stop abusing him?"
Her entire face drooped at this. Unable to stay mad at her, I leaned down and kissed her on the forehead, "Don't sweat it. I only swore never to hurt you. That doesn't mean I'm not willing to take a little abuse from you. Just try to take it easy on me, ok? I just got out of the hospital you know. "
Smiling at that, she closed the door to the car. "I know. I was there."
Walking through the front entrance to the building, I was hit by a blast of cool air. It felt wonderful after having been in a mobile fur drier for the last twenty minutes. Looking around I saw a pleasantly furnished lobby, with the receptionist sitting behind a low counter. There were a couple of plush chairs and a large couch, one even I could lay down on. Looking on the walls, I saw numerous pictures of movie posters, presumably from past projects. There were also pictures of various cast members on the wall near the receptionist.
As I stood there, Sheila confirmed that Zig Zag was in her office with the receptionist. Wanting to surprise her with my presence, Sheila talked her into not warning Zig Zag that I was coming. As we headed back into the studios, Sheila pointed out the sound stages where they did the shoots, the video editing room, props, etc. Finally coming almost full circle we came to an open room. Peeking around the corner, Sheila held up a finger in front of her face to indicate that I should be quite. Stepping into the doorway, she knocked, "Hey boss, you busy?"
I heard Zig Zag put down some papers, "Not at all Sheila, come on in. You're sure in a good mood today."
Hearing leather rubbing together, I presumed that Sheila had sat, "Yep. I met someone I want you to talk to about a job. This guy is DEFINITELY ZZ material, 100%."
Intrigued, Zig Zag replied, "Sounds good, does he have any acting experience?"
"I'm not sure about acting, and the guy is a bit squeaky, but given enough time and encouragement I think we could loosen him up. He's definitely got the right stuff for the job and a great personality."
I could hear a hum, as Zig Zag considered it, "Sounds like a possibility, bring him by some time and I'll give him a look over."
Totally innocent, Sheila asked, "He's here now, should I bring him in?"
I could here a twinge of bewilderment in Zig Zag's voice, "Now? Well I guess so. Kind of short notice, but as long as he's here, no problem."
Hearing the leather scrunch again, Sheila came over to the door, reaching out she grabbed me, "Zig Zag, here's your new star." Pulling me into the room, I managed to navigate through the doorway without tripping over my crutches.
It took a second for Zig Zag to figure out what she was seeing. When she finally realized it was me she smiled and stood up. "Arden. I'm glad to see you. I thought you were going to let us know when you were going to get out so I could have someone pick you up! I don't know how in the world you got him in that car of hers." Gesturing to the couch, she indicated that I should sit.
Managing to sit down without totally surrendering to gravity on the way, I propped the crutches on the wall next to me. "Actually I didn't know I was getting out right then. Sheila came by to bring me some clothes. When the doctor found out about it he went ahead and brought up an orderly and the paperwork to check me out. Couple of signatures, a brief ride in a wheel chair, five minutes with a crowbar and a shoehorn and I was in Sheila's car getting a ride here."
With the mention of a shoehorn, Sheila reached across the couch and hit me in the arm, hard. "Ouch woman! Stop abusing me or I'll tell Zig Zag how you almost put me back in the hospital outside."
Seeing the consternation on Zig Zag's face, I quickly continued, "It was nothing really, just a minor concussion and an attempted pulled groin muscle. Nothing major."
Shaking her head, she smiled. "Nice fashion accessory you've got there by the way. It accents your fur job nicely."
Looking down at the shirt, I gave Zig Zag a quizzical look, at which point she made a motion with her finger, as if loosening a collar. I had forgotten the darned thing. "Yah, that was Sheila's idea. Revenge for the scare that I put into her yesterday." Chuckling, it occurred to me, "Who knows, maybe it will act as a good luck charm and keep me from getting into any more trouble."
Smiling at that Zig Zag leaned back, "Do you want something to drink? Some water, or soda maybe?" Seeing me shake my head she became all business. "I know I promised you the use of our apartment while you got back on both feet. There's a bit of a problem with that. We've got a video coming up with Bjorn Otterson that was supposed to take place next month. Due to a timing conflict he's got with a large-scale studio film that's been moved up, we had to move our shooting schedule up also. I'm afraid that he'll be needing the apartment on Monday, and that doesn't really leave much time for us to find you a place."
Running through the back of my mind, I could hear a line from a comedy bit called Star Drek, "Warning, this is a plot complication. Warning, this is a plot complication."
Banging my head against the wall gently, I asked myself what else could go wrong. That's when Sheila piped up, "You know, he could stay at my Condo. I've got that spare bedroom I never use, he could stay in there." Why do I keep asking for it?
Zig Zag shook her head, "No, I'll ask around, one of the guys should probably be able to let him bunk with them for a while."
Not one to give up, "No, really! I'd like the company, besides someone needs to keep an eye on him. Plus it will give me a chance to show him around town this weekend too." Leaning forward, she gave a loud conspiratorial whisper, "I might actually get him to loosen up a little too."
Chucking, Zig Zag just shook her head. "OK. If that's what you want, that's what you got, assuming it's all right with Arden."
I had a choice in the matter? I took one look at the mischievous glint in Sheila's eyes and knew I was probably going to regret this. "With the choice of bunking with some guy I don't know, and shacking up with Sheila, I guess I'll take the latter of the two evils." Looking at Sheila, I put one stipulation on the deal, "Assuming, that is, that she promises not to inflict any more injuries on me for the rest of the weekend"
Straightening up, She crossed her heart, 'I promise, no more pain for the rest of the weekend." As I nodded, she added, "Come Monday, the kid gloves are off though."
One of these days I'm going to have to use a full-length mirror to check for a brand mark, just to reassure myself I wasn't really an overstuffed toy.
After getting a more in depth tour of the facilities, and introductions all around, Sheila was anxious to get me back to her apartment. I think she wanted to play dress-up on me some more. Fortunately Zig Zag offered to have Clarence drive me over. His Saturn was big enough that I could sit in the back and stretch my leg out, even if I would be short of headroom.
Clarence was holding the door open for Sheila and I as we exited the building. Turning to thank him I saw an old, late model 80's car making a hard turn into the parking lot from the street. As the driver turned, he accelerated while someone in the back seat leaned out the window. Watching the guy in the back window, I saw him bring out something in his right hand. Having lived in the no-man's part of Dallas, I knew what was coming. Grabbing Sheila and Clarence, I forgot about the crutches and tackled them to the sidewalk, my back to the attackers.
On the way down, I saw glass shattering in the windows behind us as we fell, racing us to the ground. Hitting hard on my left shoulder, I tried to curl up so as to cover the other two. After a few seconds, I became aware that the shooting had stopped, and heard the car cut back out into the street, accelerating away,
Releasing Clarence and Sheila, I got on my hands, or rather paws and knee and moved away from the glass, looking to make sure that they didn't have any holes in them. Satisfied by the lack of blood on their clothes, I picked up one of my crutches and leveraged myself up into a standing position. Doing so I felt sharp pain in my shoulders, probably from the falling glass; enough of it had fallen off of me when I stood up.
Reaching down a hand I helped the other two up as people started streaming out of the building. Seeing Zig Zag in the middle of the crowd, I watched as she pushed her way to the front, "What the hell happened out here?"
Looking down the street where the car had gone, I neither saw nor heard it, they were long gone. Sheila was carefully picking glass out of her fur as she answered, "Some guys in an old car sprayed down the front of the building as we came out." Gesturing to me, "Arden grabbed me and Clarence and tackled us. If it weren't for him we might have been hit."
Accepting my other crutch from one of the actors that had come out, I saw Zig Zag glower at me for a second, and then started herding folk back into the building. As I watched, I looked at the damage. They had hit both main windows and the door as well as stitched a pattern of shots in a declining line from about chest height down to knee height, obviously tracking downward as we dove for cover. Looking inside I saw the back wall of the foyer was riddled with bullets. It was a miracle that nobody on the sound stage beyond had been hurt.
Carefully trying to avoid stepping on broken glass, I used my crutches to vault me past the worst part of the breakage. Although Sheila had gotten me clothes, shoes were another matter, and I didn't have any calluses to speak of yet. Getting past the glass I walked over to where Zig Zag stood leaning on the counter. Giving me a sideways glare, I could tell that I held the blame for whatever happened.
Seeing that there was no way I'd change her mind right now, I walked over, grabbed a foot stool and squatted down on it, I figured that as long as I had to wait on the cops, I might as well get comfortable.
I heard Sheila and Clarence come back in, walking carefully on the glass. Coming over to me, Sheila put her arms around my shoulders and was about to kiss me when she saw me wince. "Hey, are you OK?"
Nodding, "Yah. Most of the glass from the windows landed on my shoulders and back. I think I got stuck with some of it."
Reaching around me, Sheila gently ran her fingers over my shoulder. Her eyes widened and as she pulled back her paw, you could see the crimson color of blood. Observing this Zig Zag walked around behind me. Seeing that blood covered a fairly large area of my back, she watched for a second. Not seeing the pattern grow, she was satisfied that I wouldn't bleed to death. Seeing the look on Sheila's face, Zig Zag decided to cut me some slack.
"OK, take him back to the spa and have him lay down on the table back there. I'll get the first aid kit."
Leading me round to the backside of the building, Sheila took me into a room we had just blown by on the first run. Inside was a large Jacuzzi set into the floor, some free weights, a workout station and a massage table. On one wall, there was a set of kitchen cabinets with a sink and a refrigerator next to it. On the other side I saw a doorway that led to what appeared to be a room with some lockers and showers. For a second I was about to ask if it was a Men's or Women's shower before I remembered where I was.
Leading me over to the table, Sheila indicated I should take off my shirt and get up on it. She then went over to get some washrags and a basin of water from the cabinet and set them down on the table next to me.
Cautiously, Sheila began picking glass out of my fur, occasionally pulling pieces out that had actually been stuck in, rather than just tangled. I was thankful for the fact that I've got thick skin and a good tolerance for pain or I'd have been really hurting. As it was, the adrenaline was starting to wear off, and I was beginning to feel some of the damage. About this time Zig Zag came in with a large first aid kit.
As they continued to pull glass out, each time they found one that stuck in, they would hit the area with iodine. Personally I would have preferred they leave the glass in. Continuing to work, Zig Zag finally spoke, "I'm sorry for being mad at you Arden, I know it wasn't your fault. Thank you for taking care of Sheila and Clarence."
Wincing at some more iodine, I reminded myself to buy stock in the stuff. The way these girls were slopping it around, I could make a tidy profit. "Don't' worry about it Zig Zag, like I told Sheila, I'd never allow any of you to come to harm." Positioning my arms under my shoulders to take some load off of my chest I took a deep breath. "Not as long as I have anything to say about it anyway."
Sounding distracted, Zig Zag replied, 'That's nice." Probing around in one area low on my back, I heard her take in a sudden breath, and then heard Sheila squeak out, "My god! That's a bullet hole!"
Gritting my teeth as she probed around the hole I heard Sheila again, "Look, there's another one over here, and down here too. My god, we need to call an ambulance."
Cursing my luck I let my head drop to the tabletop. And I thought I hated hospitals BEFORE I came to this world!