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.
A knock on the door caused Daniel to look up from the case folder he was examining. As he watched, James stuck in his head and, seeing that his boss wasn't busy entered, closing the door behind him. From the look on his face, the news would be very interesting.
Leaning back, he waited for James to speak.
"I got a call from a friend at County General Hospital, it seems that there was a drive-by shooting out at ZZ Studios and Arden Nanuk was hit. Apparently he was hit no less than five times in the back."
Smiling, Khansman replied, "Very interesting news."
Fighting to maintain eye contact, James hesitantly continued, "However, the injuries aren't severe. Due to his physique, it looks like the bullets didn't penetrate the muscle. There's a good possibility that he may even be released tonight."
Closing his eyes, his lips became a tight line, the only outward sign he allowed James to see of his displeasure. Getting control he finally dismissed James.
How could the fools have been so stupid? Returning to the folder he put the problem in the back of his mind until he heard from his associate.
I was back at County General again. This time, laying face down in the ER while they checked out my back. The ER Doctor and I had come to and agreement after I had threatened to refuse medical attention. They may have gotten me here, but legally they couldn't force me to accept their care. The agreement was that he'd go ahead and do a portable X-ray of my back, and check the glass cuts to ensure none needed stitches until such time as Dr. Grahl could take over.
Checking the X-Ray when it came back, he admitted that I wouldn't need surgery. The bullets had not penetrated the muscle layer and thus wouldn't need the surgery he was going to have me shaved for. Agreeing again that he wouldn't be cutting any fur, I granted him permission to go ahead and retrieve them using forceps. Despite the local anesthesia, it felt like the guy was probing around inside the wounds with a crowbar. Listening, I could hear the distinct metal sound as the ER Doctor dropped them into the metal pan.
After the fifth was pulled out, I tried to relax as he stapled each of the holes shut with a surgical staple. "All done" came the overly cheery voice. I was tempted to take the stapler and clip him a few times; fortunately he was saved by a familiar voice.
"Ah my boy, there you are. You should have let me know you were planning a visit and I would have been here." I heard the rumple of X-ray's as the doc put them up on the display. "Well well well, I heard about the shooting on the radio." Changing X-Ray's, "It looks like you lucked out my boy. None of them were near the spinal cord or penetrated very deep." Probing around on my back, I had the sensation of pressure without the being able to tell directly where. 'It look like he did a good job on you, the scars shouldn't be noticeable, but why in the world didn't he shave around the wounds?" he finished with a quiet, distracted voice.
Rumbling in a low voice I replied, "Because I told him I'd shave him from head to foot if he screwed up Philippe's work."
Coming around to squat in front of me, he sat down on a stool, "And people say I have a bad bed side manner. I'm sure the medical profession is rejoicing the fact that you're not a member."
Feeling a pinch in my arm as the nurse gave me a tetanus booster I replied, making sure she heard, "Who says I'm not? Hard to remember doc."
Standing up he patted me on the shoulder, "Don't worry my boy, the wound's aren't severe enough to require an overnight stay. As soon as someone can pick you up, I have no objection to signing you out."
As he got up to leave, I stopped him, "Hey Doc. Tell that other guy thanks for me, no hard feelings."
As he walked away I heard him chuckling.
Having not heard back from his associates yet, Daniel decided it was time to call. Hitting the do-not-disturb button on his phone, he opened his cell phone and hit autod-dial.
"Tony. How kind of you to take my call."
"Um, Daniel, I've been meaning to call you."
Dropping his voice an octave, Daniel growled, "I'm sure you have. Tell me Tony, do you specifically go out of your way to find idiots for my jobs, or are you going to say it's just bad luck?"
Tony tried to recover, "I don't understand Daniel, they hit the guy, radio said five shots in the back. I don't get how he can still be walking around."
Turning his chair back around towards the window, Daniel gave a sigh of exasperation. "Tony, this isn't some weasel or other small creature we're talking about. This is a bear. They are BIG Tony. They have more than twice the muscle mass of any other species and a very thick skin, how ELSE do you think he could go head to head with a speeding Mercedes?"
"OK, I'll have my girl head back into the hospital, maybe she can hit him with a shot of something to take him out."
"My aid says that he's going to be released tonight, so don't count on that. You're best bet is to have her watch and see who picks him up, then have them followed to see where he goes. You can see about dealing with him later."
Turning off the phone, he pocketed it. It was so hard to find good help. If they didn't take care of it by time the professionals got in tomorrow, then Tony was going to be out of luck.
Michael met with the Lenexa PD detective, to whom, had been passed the case from the KCPD. As the detective opened the door to the dead man's apartment for him, they entered. The living room was packed with stuff. Big screen TV, Audio system, multiple video recorders/players of all types and several computers. Boxes lined one wall showing all kinds of computer name brands as well as miscellaneous stuff like Girl Scout Cookies.
The large Ferret sat down on the couch and asked, "So what's a Columbus cop doing down here on an auto-accident call?"
Sitting down at the desk, Michael moved the mouse, deactivating the screen-saver. "At the time your Arden Bearridge died in a car wreck down here, a large ursine gentleman was struck by a car on the edge of Columbus." Clicking on the minimized browser he perused the page.
Putting his feet up on the coffee table, the local cop asked, "So, I still don't see the big deal."
"Our bear has amnesia, but remembered his first name as Arden." Slowly backing through the previous web pages, he saw that they were all about an on-line underground comic strip.
"I still don't see the big deal. Nice coincidence but so what?"
Getting back to the home page for the strip, Michael began perusing the page. "Our man has fingerprints that match those of your dead man." Interesting strip, kind of humorous too. That skunk looked like a looker too.
Dropping his feet to the floor, the other detective sat up, "Matching fingerprints? Then who was in the car?"
Seeing the strips related to Zig Zag studio, Michael replied in a distracted voice, "You're boy was a Kodiak, ours is a Polar." Interesting, Zig Zag was at this other guy's hospital room, very curious.
Not believing what he was hearing, "Wait a second, you're guy was a Polar? You sure it wasn't a bleach job?"
Nodding, Michael then minimized the browser and looked at the backdrop. It was Sheila Vixen, yet another coincidence that couldn't be ignored. Remembering the other detective's question, Michael set his briefcase on the desk and opened it up. Handing the folder to the detective, he again began checking files on the computer. Not finding anything of interest, he looked around on the desk. Spotting a PDA he picked it up and began perusing it.
Letting out a low whistle, the detective read the file Michael had given him.
Examining the numbers in the PDA, Michael asked, "Did he have any relatives or a will?"
Shaking his head, the ferret looked up from the file, "Nope. Parents both dead, as are both brothers. Oldest was killed trying to rob a liquor store; the other was killed in action over in Iran. We checked his bank and he didn't have a safety deposit box. Also checked the people on his phone-list too. Nobody knows if he had a will."
Holding up the PDA Michael asked, "Is it possible for me to take this? I want to see if it gets any kind of a reaction out of him."
Making a note in his PDA, the detective nodded, "No problem. If nobody tries to claim the stuff in the next 30 days, then it gets hauled off to auction."
Placing the PDA in his briefcase Michael looked around, also taking some family photos and other personal items, he thanked the ferret for his assistance and headed back to Columbus. This time, when he tried for a reaction, he'd make sure that the guy wasn't laying on his stomach."
Once again I was on the service elevator headed down to the basement, Dr. Grahl in tow. Upon exiting the elevator, I was relieved to see David standing next to a rather large limousine along with Zig Zag and someone else. It was a tall dog, dark snout with black tipped ears. He almost looked like a fox if it wasn't for the fact that the rest of his fur was gray with the exception of his paws and feet, which were white. Thinking for a second, it dawned that this must be the "James" that I had read about. The guy sure didn't look like a coyote!
Giving me a hand out of the wheel chair, the doctor commented, "Well my boy, it looks like you won't have to fold, spindle and mutilate your self getting into this vehicle." Not having my crutches, I accepted David and James's help over to the car while Zig Zag thanked the doctor. Climbing in the back, David extended a hand to help me in and directed me to the seat facing backwards, behind the driver. Sitting down, I started to ease back before I realized that he was handing me a large, fluffy pillow. Placing it behind my back, I slowly leaned back in the corner of the seat, propping my leg up on the rest of it. I thanked him for the help.
Shaking his head, David corrected me, "It's us who should be thanking you. If you hadn't tackled Sheila and Clarence, there is a good chance that one or more of the bullets you took would have hit them. I'm sure you've guessed by now that we aren't build quite as sturdy as you are." Reaching into the cold-bar, he listed off the items until I settled on a Guinness. Popping the top, he passed the bear a beer.
As I took a drink, I let it foam in my mouth for a second before swallowing, trying to formulate my response. "Don't be too sure you want to thank me. I have a feeling that the only reason we were shot at is that I was there."
By this time, Zig Zag and James had climbed in, and the door closed. I saw a glance pass between them when I said that. Continuing, I explained, "Just looking at the area I could see it's not a gang territory. The buildings have no graffiti, no bullet holes from previous shootings, and the glass on the front wasn't bulletproof. Besides, I seriously doubt Zig Zag would keep her studios in that kind of neighborhood anyway." Nodding to Zig Zag, "From talking to you and what I've heard about you, I didn't think you would be the kind of person to run a sweat shop." Taking another sip, "At least not with what I saw inside." Chuckling it occurred to me. "Hmmm... Maybe you could call it a sweat shop, I'm certain you're people do work up a bit of one under those lights."
I got the feeling that their smiles were polite. Trying to figure out why, I realized ANIMALS DON'T SWEAT! I knew this and forgot. Damned ideological screw-ups on my part were unacceptable.
Trying to recover, "Anyway, you all should think about distancing yourselves from me for a while. If someone IS after me, I don't want any of you caught in the middle."
Zig Zag glanced at David and James, to see how they looked. David was neutral; Zig Zag's the boss. James on the other hand gave a tiny nod, worried more about Zig Zag and her people than he was some guy he'd never met. Thinking for a second she decided, "No. We're not going to abandon you." Turning to David, she began dictating issues, "Until things settle down, I want security at the studio. Also have the windows replaced with bulletproof glass. This may have been caused because of Arden's arrival, but it's something we should have thought about before with all the threats we've gotten over the years. Also make sure that everyone has security systems at their places, if not we need to encourage them too. Also get a hold Bull Dog security. I want their 'rabid' coverage for the studio, Sheila's and my place." Looking at James, "I hope you won't mind if I insist on you're staying at my place for a while?" Feigning indecision, James was startled by a shot to the ribs from Zig Zag. "That about covers it James. If I think of anything else, I'll call to mention it." Nodding, David finished writing up his notes and put the PDA away.
As he was putting the PDA away, his cell phone rang, "This is David." Listening to the phone he grunted a few times then finally, "Thank you, that's very useful. Keep on it."
Hanging up the phone, he smiled. "Very interesting news. It's about the man who died in Kansas City." Now sure he had everyone's attention, "As we all know, our boy here is an Ursus Meritimus, the man who died was an Ursus Arctos Middendorffi." Getting the blank stares he expected, "Arden here is Polar, the other guy was a Kodiak. There is no way that our Arden and the other are the same man."
Leaning my head back on the padding next to the window, I closed my eyes and smiled.
Pulling into her garage, Sheila hopped out. Reaching into the passenger side, she took out Arden's crutches and the prescriptions that the doctor had called in for Arden. David had called her while she was driving home and asked her to pick them up. Double-checking the bag, she saw that the antibiotics, pain blockers and special shampoo were all still in the bag. Heading inside, she put the crutches by the door, and tossed the meds on the table in the entryway.
Heading into her bedroom, she quickly made the bed and picked straightened things up a little. Going out into the living room, she rapidly straightened up the cushions on the couch and ditched a couple of magazines that were old. As she proceeded to the kitchen, she heard a honk outside. Seeing that she didn't have time to do the dishes, Sheila headed to the door. Taking Arden's crutches, she headed outside towards the waiting limo.
Climbing out of the car, I saw Sheila's smiling face holding my crutches. Reaching out for my crutches, I found myself holding onto Sheila as she ducked into my harms. Carefully she gave me a hug, her head laying against my chest, "I'm glad you're going to be all right. I was so worried when they took you away in an ambulance again."
Returning the hug, I kissed the top of her head, "Hey, it's OK. If you couldn't take me out with that kiddy car of yours, I promise that no punk with a pop gun is going to do it."
Standing back a little, she gave me a light shot to the ribs and handed me the crutches. Turning back to the others who were now standing outside of the car, "Thanks again. You have no idea how much this means to me. I don't know how I can' ever pay you back." Seeing Zig Zag raising a finger to answer I quickly amended, "Without going on film that is."
After a quick round of goodbyes, they climbed back into the limousine, and pulled away. Following Sheila into her condo, I managed to get up the steps despite my needing to use crutches.
Once inside I got a look around. The interior was pleasantly decorated; glancing into the living room, I saw a large, oversized couch and some comfortable chairs. The kitchen was off to the right just a past the entryway, with a counter that showed out into the combination living room and eating area. Moving further into the living room, I saw a set of stairs leading up, and another door leading to a room.
I heard the sound of dishes being done, followed by Sheila, "Hey, look around and make yourself at home. Since you're going to be here for a while, you might as well get comfortable."
Heading over to the doorway, I saw it led into a large master bedroom. Other doors were obviously for the closet and probably the bathroom. Looking up the stairs, I could see two doors on the right. Not interested in tackling the climb right now, I headed over to the couch. Sitting down at one end, I propped my right leg up and relaxed back. "Nice place you've got her Sheila, I take it that's the master bedroom over there?"
Looking out over the counter from the kitchen, she smiled, "Yep, and the bed's just as comfy as it looks too." These girls just don't give up. Leaning back, I felt a twinge from my back, but it quickly passed. As I lay there, I quietly sang Nanuk's healing song, until I finally drifted off to sleep.
The first thing that Sabrina noticed as she pulled into the parking lot, were the two cops standing in front of the door. No, they weren't cops, they were security guards, the guns had thrown her off for a second. The next thing she noticed was the missing glass from the front of the building. As she pulled into a parking spot, one of them walked over to her car. When she opened the door, he spoke, "Pardon me miss, but do you have business here?"
Surprised, Sabrina got her purse and stood up, "Yes I do, I work here. What happened?"
Nodding, he replied, "Really? Can't say as I've seen you're face before, are you new talent?"
Glaring at the Rent-a-cop, "I happen to be their graphics designer."
Realizing his mistake, he backpedaled quickly, "No offense miss, just making an observation."
Still steamed, Sabrina pushed by the guy and headed into the building, thinking to herself, "The nerve of some people."
That mischievous glint in her eye again, she gave me a quick peck, "Dinner's ready if you're hungry." As if to confirm her suspicion, my stomach let out a rather loud growl. Looking down I glared at my stomached, "Hey! I can answer for my self if you don't mind."
Laughing, she helped me up. Ambling over to the table, I sat at the chair indicated. Inhaling I smelled garlic. Something Italian that hadn't been in a steamer for 2 hours before serving. I was having a hard time not drooling.
Sheila came out with two large plates. Setting one down in front of me, I saw what looked like Veal Parmesan and some angle hair pasta in Parmesan sauce with shrimp. A guy could get used to this kind of living. Pouring some wine in the glasses, she sat down across from me.
Suddenly realizing that this felt more like a date than it did a casual feeding, I was at a loss for words. Finally trying to break the ice, "I can't believe this. You better be careful, a guy could get used to this kind of thing."
Smiling she pointed to the plate, "Don't thank me 'till you taste it." Accepting the challenge, I cut a piece of the veal. Taking a bite, I closed my eyes and savored the taste and texture. It was very good veal. Opening my eyes back up I shot her a smile. After swallowing the bite, I smiled, "Excellent. I can't remember when I last had such good veal!"
Cutting a bite herself, she raised it up, "That's not saying a lot, coming from a guy with amnesia." Snapping at the fork, she snatched the veal from it and began chewing.
Holding my hands up in mock surrender, "OK. It's just great then, wonderful, and absolutely fabulous. You are a wonderful cook."
Smiling, she bowed her head to accept the compliment, "Thank you. I do order out a great veal if I say so myself." As she saw that sink in she laughed, "You were so dead over on the couch, you never heard the delivery guy."
Laughing we continued the meal, enjoying our time together. Good food, good wine and a good friend, what more could a guy ask?
After diner we sat on the couch in the living room where Sheila showed me her photo album. It covered all of her career from when she worked as a dancer in a bar, up her current time with Zig Zag. Trying to get a rise from me, I didn't give her the satisfaction. After maintaining the servers for a large pornography site on the Internet, I was able to ignore the fact that the vixen in the picture was the Vixen leaning her head on my shoulder telling me all about the picture. I must admit though, the descriptions could be rather distracting at times.
After closing the book, I noticed that it was almost 9PM. I realized that I still needed to take a shower with that medicated shampoo. Nudging Sheila a little bit, said, "Hey, you know where a guy can take a shower around here? Doc said I should use that shampoo tonight before I went to bed and lord knows how long it will take for this fur to dry."
Getting up, Sheila waved over to the master bedroom, "The shower's in there. I'll go get your shampoo."
Getting up, I headed towards the room, then thought about my cast, "Hey Sheila, do you have any plastic wrap? I need to keep this cast dry." Hearing her acknowledgement, I headed into the bathroom. Inside I saw not only the usual plumbing, but also a large shower, and also something about the same size as a personal shower. It took a few moments to figure out what the other one was, until I remembered a Sabrina story that involved a full body fur drier. Chuckling I started to take off my shirt when I felt hands from behind giving me a hand. Taking the shirt I held it up. The holes in the back from the glass and bullets made it look like a waffle. Turning around to toss it into the trash I saw Sheila getting undressed. "Um, beg pardon, what are you doing?"
Looking up after having pulled her skirt off, "Why getting undressed, what does it look like?"
Ok, so I phrased it poorly, "Let me try again, WHY are you getting undressed?"
Pulling off her top this time, "Why? To help you in the shower of course."
If she went in the shower, lord knows what kind of stunt she'd pull, "I'm a big bear now you know, I think I can handle a shower."
Holding up the shampoo bottle with two fingers, it swung between them like a pendulum. "Yes, but who's going to get the blood out of your shoulder blades while you are trying not to slip and fall? Or didn't that occur to you, gimpy?"
Gimpy was it now? I may be dense but I do know when to surrender to logic. "OK, but on 1 condition."
Crossing her arms, she quipped, "I won't close my eyes, if that's what your thinking. It's not like I haven't seen you naked."
Chuckling, I nodded, "I know that. No tricks. Especially not that tail trick that Zig Zag used in the hospital. Much as I'd enjoy playing, around with you, I don't want to rip a stitch or something."
Looking a little dejected, she nodded acceptance. "Agreed, nothing that's going to risk ripping a stitch."
Shaking my head, I disagreed, "That's not what I meant and you know it. You and Zig Zag have the idea that I'm you're personal project to loosen up. You're going in there JUST to help me wash up. Anything else, and I go bunk with one of the guys. Preferably one I know is straight."
Now her ears wilted, "You are such a party pooper. Ok, nothing that can rip a tear and no attempting to get you to loosen up."
Accepting that, I took the cell phone out of my shorts and put it on the counter. Taking off the shorts I glanced in the mirror. Philippe was right; a man did like to occasionally be naked with out being naked. As I 'gimped' over to the shower, Sheila turned it on and set the temperature.
I only hoped that Sheila was good to her word. I really didn't want to have to camp with a guy.
After standing in the total body fur dryer I only had one thought. Why hadn't anyone built one of these in the other world! They were GREAT! I'd definitely have to get one as soon as I could afford it. After the timer turned off, I stepped out to Sheila who was standing there with a brush. I had soaked in the shower after she had gotten out to dry off. There wasn't enough room in that dryer for both of us.
Standing just outside of the dryer, she proceeded to brush out the fur on my back, being careful not to pull it too hard. Once again I had the feeling that she was enjoying this a lot more than I was.
Finished, I went to the counter and got a glass of water. Opening the antibiotics and pain meds, I took a capsule from each and downed them with the water. Picking up the cell phone, I held it up to Sheila, "Where did you put the charger for this thing?"
Taking it she walked into the bedroom and put it on a stand next to the bed. Watching this from the doorway, I asked, "Shouldn't that be up in the spare bedroom where I'm going to sleep?" Uh oh, she had that look again.
Sitting on the bed, she patted it, indicating I should come over. "You don't want to sleep up there. It's all full of boxes and stuff. I don't even have a bed in there. You'll be much more comfortable here.
Scowling at her, "Somehow I knew that offer was a bit too convenient. I couldn't understand why you even would have an extra bedroom anyway."
Walking over to me, she guided me to the bed, "A girls got to have a place for her stuff. Besides, I promised to be good. If you won't play nice, then at least let me snuggle up next to you while we sleep."
At this point I sat down on the bed and thought about what I was doing. What's my problem? I know I'm squeaky, but good lord, I've had the hots for her ever since I saw her. Now that I'm here, I've been resisting her every move. Looking at Sheila, I could see that she was watching me closely, trying to see what I was thinking. Running my right hand, paw, through my fur on the top of my hair, I was reminded just how different I had become as my ear brushed my arm. Looking over at her dressing table, I saw myself again, as if for the first time. I had really changed. This had been going on too long, and hurt too much to be a dream. I needed to spend some time deciding just how I was going handle this. I was going to have to decide if I'd become a recluse again, or loosen up.
Looking at Sheila, I saw her waiting for me to make up my mind. Deciding that I liked my new life, I mentally to cut the cord with my old one and vowed to loosen up. Leaning over I pulled her close and kissed her.
Arden Bearridge had finally arrived.