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.
It was Michael's one-year anniversary on the force. After today, he would no longer be referred to as rookie. Sitting at the outdoor table in front of the Italian café, Michael sat holding hands across the table with Natasha, a young Russian Blue cat. Her sensuous eyes locked onto his keeping him mesmerized. She had been the one to help him build his new life after the accident. His loss of memory left him aimless, but she had taken him in, nurtured him, encouraged him when he decided to join the police and supported him during his troubled times in the academy and as a rookie. Now that he had made the grade, they were celebrating in style. If the investigation he was pursuing on the side turned out to follow through, then he would get the credit for one of the biggest busts in the last decade.
To make the day perfect, he was about to propose to the woman he loved. Standing he walked around to her. Taking her hand, he slipped the ring on her finger. As he began to quickly kneel down, he was struck from behind and thrown forward, knocking Natasha over and winding up on the ground. In shock, he found he was unable to move his left shoulder. Looking down, he saw the crimson stain as the blood pumped from the gaping wound in his chest. His eyes drifted over to Natasha where they were riveted with horror at the sight. The high caliber bullet which had struck his shoulder and been deflected into her. As he watched, the pool of blood flowing from her body crept towards his own expanding pool, eventually allowing their life's forces to mingle.
Pulling his eyes from the blood back to her body, he watched as her chest heaved, trying to breathe in the air, only to spasm one last time, and then collapsed as her spirit fled the mortal cocoon which had been Natasha.
Jerking upright in bed, Michael gasped for breath. Reaching to his left shoulder with his hand, he felt the ragged scar that had been left as a result of the assassin's bullet. With adrenaline flowing through his system, he was unable to control the shaking in his hands. Knowing that he would not be able to get to sleep again, Michael got out of bed and headed for the bathroom. The one question on his mind was 'Why, after all this time should the dream return?'
Just about the time my bladder was going to declare its independence, I felt Sheila stirring. With a small moan, she opened her eyes and looked around, finally locking on to my silly grinning mug, "Did I sleep here all night?" She bounced a little as I laughed, "You sure didn't crawl up here in your sleep." Nodding, she smiled back, "Not bad. You're a little lumpy and kind of hard in spots, but you make for a good mattress." Giving a nonchalant shrug, I retorted, "And here I thought a hard man was good to find." Giving me that mischievous grin again, she dug her claws into my sides, causing me to practically levitate off the bed, "OK! I give! You win."
Finally catching my breath, I gave her a little nudge, "If you don't mind, I need to get up." Flopping flat on my chest again, she let out a low moan, "I don't wanna move." Lucky for me, she didn't have a chance at pinning me down. Slipping my legs off the bed, I held onto her and sat up, letting her slide down onto my lap. Swiveling I then laid her on the bed and got up and headed for the bathroom.
As I stood relieving myself, Sheila walked up behind me and began to lightly run her claws through my fur, combing it. "Too bad I'm not a cat, you'd make a wonderful scratching post!" Shaking it off, I replied, "Just what I need, more stitches." Turning around, I gave her a quick kiss and then headed back out to the bed. As I walked out, I heard her say, "By the way, your back looks like it's healing up pretty nice. I noticed there wasn't any blood in the bed this morning."
Taking off the splint, I grabbed the crutch. Walking back into the bathroom and over to the shower, "That's just because you haven't been abusing me properly. You've been slacking." As I turned on the shower, I felt her claws on my back again, only harder this time, "That can be corrected." Trying not to flinch at the occasional sharp pang, I waited until the water was the right temperature and then stepped in. Picking up medicated shampoo, I held it out for Sheila, "As long as you're raking my back, how about being productive too?"
Giving a mock glower, she stepped in and closed the door. As she lathered up my back, I got to thinking. "Sheila, how long has Sabrina been pregnant?" Laughing, she asked, "What? What are you talking about?" Confused, I turned to her, "Isn't she pregnant?" Turning me back around, Sheila laughed again, "No! She's just bloating a little. It's her time of the month." Relief flooded through me for a second until I realized that she might just have not told anyone at work yet. "Who's her boyfriend?" Giving me a not too soft punch in the ribs, Sheila shot back, "Hey, no double timing on me. Not unless it's in front of the camera!" Nodding, I agreed, "I know, but remember my background, I just want to know who's she's going with so I have my facts straight." Finished with my back, she got out the regular shampoo and began on my legs, "I think some guy named Chris, but I'm not sure."
Satisfied that I had things in order, I turned around after Sheila finished up my legs. Taking some shampoo in my hand, we spent the rest of the shower just enjoying ourselves.
Answering his cell phone, Daniel hit the 'Do Not Disturb' button on his desk phone, "This is Khansman".
Young voice: "This is Mike. Got what you wanted."
Daniel smiled, "Excellent, what did you find out?"
Young Voice: "It took some work, but we found out the idiot talked."
Daniel was no longer smiling, "How bad is it?"
Young Voice: "That you ordered it and why."
Cursing he almost threw the phone against the wall, but he stopped himself, "What have you done with him?"
Young Voice: "Nothing yet, I wanted to check with you first."
At last, someone with intelligence that knew how to do things right, "Make an example of him. Make it very public. I want it as a warning to any who betray me."
Young Voice: "You got it. He'll be plastered all over the five clock news."
Giving a nod, "Excellent."
Young Voice: (chuckling) "For the next week that is."
He had imagination too, this was good, "I can hardly wait."
Hanging up the phone, he leaned back in his chair. 'I wonder what the little rat's going to come up with this time.' Amused, he spent a little while thinking about it, then turned and went back to work.
= = = = =
Sitting on the edge of the bed, I brushed Sheila's fur as she sat on my leg. I was trying to figure out how to approach the subject of the pistols that James had given us. I decided the indirect approach might not be a bad idea. "Just out of curiosity, have you ever taken any kind of self defense class." I could feel her stiffen at the question, "Not really. I've never had to. I've always been able to rely on my natural abilities to get me out of a scrape with most people."
Putting the brush aside, I wrapped my arms around her, and put my muzzle down by her ear, speaking quietly I continued, "With everything that's happened lately, I don't want to risk anything happening to you. Will you think about letting me teach you how to defend yourself?"
Putting her head down, I could almost feel the conflict inside of her, I was asking her to give up some of the innocence that she was fighting to maintain. Finally she nodded, not speaking. Giving her a tight hug for a second, I kissed the top of her head, then picked up the brush and started working again.
"Last night, I talked to James and he loaned me some pistols." Hearing this, she turned her head and looked at me. Turning it back around, I continued brushing, "One of them is a small ladies .25 caliber pistol, small enough to fit in your hand bag. Today, we're going to go to a private gun range that he's a member of and I'm going to teach you how to use it." Shivering, she hugged herself, "I don't like guns." Stopping again, I put my hand on her shoulder, "You don't like what guns can do to people, I can understand that. I don't like it either. But I've come to enjoy the skill and challenge of learning to use a gun accurately. I hope I never have to use a gun against someone again, but if I do, I want to be the one walking away from the fight." Stroking her fur again, "If you ever get in a situation where you need to defend yourself or me, I want to be sure that, if nothing else, you are able to walk away from it. I can't do that unless you're willing to set your fears aside and truly learn how to defend yourself."
Working the fur on her tail, I waited for her to think about what I had said. I almost missed it when she spoke in a small voice, "Have you ever shot anyone?" Concentrating on the brush, I tried to answer in a steady voice, "Yes, once. He was using a baseball bat on his girlfriend in front of their apartment." Shivering again, she curled up a little, "How can people do those kinds of things?" Putting the brush down again, I pulled her to me and held her, "I don't know. Although I'll have to live with the memory of what I did, I'll never be sorry for doing it. He'll never beat on anyone again, especially not his girlfriend or kid."
Rocking her back and forth, I held on to her, wishing that I could have protected her from all of this, but knowing that could never happen. There was a big bad world out there, and sooner or later, we all had to face life and all it's consequences.
After getting dressed, I headed out towards the kitchen. Upon getting there, I saw James pouring some coffee, "Morning James, how'd you sleep last night?" Give me a sly smile, he grinned, "About as well as you two did I suppose." It took me a second to remember the smell. Having a musk would definitely take getting used to.
Looking in the fridge, I took out a carton of eggs, some mushrooms, a bag of grated cheese, sandwich ham, bacon and butter. As I piled it on the center counter, James informed me, "You know, Zig Zag and I usually just grab a sandwich on the way in." Nodding, I turned on the stove, and set a pan on with a small square of butter on it. Turning to the breadbox, I got out a loaf of sourdough bread and loaded the toaster while setting it to dark but not carbonized. Wrapping the bacon in paper towels, I popped the bacon into the microwave.
Once the butter melted, I started making a large, six egg omelet. As the toast popped, I set it aside and set in another four slices. Getting ready to close the omelet, I took out the bacon and crumbled it into the omelet along with the cheese. After dicing the ham and mushrooms quickly with a knife, I added them to the omelet and folded it over. Getting down four plates, I placed two slices of toast on each. Cutting up the omelet into four parts, I put one on each of the plates. Remembering the last part, I rooted around in the fridge again and found some Miracle Whip. Slathering on a liberal dose to each sandwich, I closed and cut them in half just as Zig Zag walked in.
Looking at the small mess I had made, she finally saw the sandwiches, "You made breakfast?" Giving her a 'DUH' look, I replied, "I may be a male, but I do know how to cook." Taking the offered sandwich, she continued, "Who's going to clean this up?" I nodded, "I'll do it. It's just one pan, a knife, spatula and a couple of plates. No big deal." Shaking her head, she took a bite of the sandwich, and after chewing on it, smiled, "Mmm... Not bad. Ok. You've got kitchen privileges, but next time ask first." Watching her take another bite, James decided that it must be safe, and picked one up, taking a bite, he too nodded approval.
As the three of us munched our breakfasts, Sheila finally joined us. Pointing to the sandwich, I told her, "If you don't hurry up, someone's likely to steal it." As Zig Zag slowly reached for it, Sheila snapped her muzzle in an imitation bite and quickly grabbed the sandwich.
Sitting down at his desk, Michael unlocked the screen saver on his computer and checked the results of last nights search. He had run a check on the records computer to find what cases the DA had personally approved plea bargains for. Looking at the list, he realized that this wasn't going to be easy. Sending it to the printer, he grabbed his hat and stood up. This was going to take time and research to figure out and the sooner he started the sooner he'd be done.
She went by the name of Tigger. It had been so long since she had told anyone her real name that she had all but forgotten it. Now she existed only as alternate identities and rumors. There were a select few who knew how to contact her, and you could count them on her left paw. Today someone new had contacted her and to make it even more interesting, they used a mob contact method, but weren't directly associated.
Taking out a gym bag, she loaded it with stuff she'd need for the meet and to insure that if it's a trap, she'll be able to get away.
As Sheila pulled into the parking lot, I could see she was holding onto the steering wheel with white-knuckle intensity. After setting there for a few seconds, I reached over and turned off the engine, taking the keys with me. Opening the glove compartment, I removed the case with the ladies gun and the revolver. Climbing out, I went around to the driver's side and opened the door.
Waiting for Sheila to get out, I could hear the thumping of gunfire coming from within the range. Realizing that I wasn't going to give up, Sheila finally let go of the steering wheel and got out. As I closed the door she turned to me with a pleading look, "Do we have to do this?" Taking her hand, I gave it a squeeze, "No we don't. We can go back to the shop if you want, but it would make me feel a lot better if you would at least learn the basics." Flinching as a particularly loud weapon was fired, she pleaded, "But I'm so afraid of guns."
Putting my free arm around her, I pulled her in close, "Have you ever jumped out of an airplane?" Giving me a confused look as I changed the subject, she shook her head. "Jumping out of one is scary as hell, but once you make that first jump, the rest are a blast. Firing a gun is the same way, it can be scary at first, but once you realize that you're not going to shoot yourself in the foot, it can be fun."
We stood there for a short while before I decided, "It's ok. Let's head back." Letting go to open the door again, Sheila stopped me, "No! I'll do it." Lifting her chin up so I could look into her eyes, "Are you sure? I don't want to force you." Giving a little nod against my hand, she turned and walked towards the front door. Quickly catching up, I put my arm around her again, and escorted her in.
After showing the guy at the front desk the card that James had given me, he issued us two visitors' badges and buzzed us through the door. Walking back into the main area, we saw a large room filled wall to wall with display cabinets and accessories. Proceeding to the main desk, I checked out some ammunition, targets and ear protection for us. Looking at the ear protection I noticed that it resembled a very old style, leather football helmet that would be strapped on.
Picking everything up, I escorted Sheila into the viewing area. This was a small set of stadium seating that gave a good view of the range and targets. As we walked through the first set of sound proofed barriers, the sound of the weapons fire increased. Each time a weapon was fired, Sheila would visibly flinch. Spotting a guy who looked to be a good example, we moved down the chairs until we got a good clear view of him. As we watched, I explained everything he was doing. After doing this for a while, Sheila relaxed a little and began asking questions.
Once she had stopped flinching each time the guy fired, I suggested that we go out onto the range. Being much more relaxed than she had been when we first came in, Sheila agreed with just a little hesitation.
After strapping on our ear protection, we proceeded past the second soundproof door. Moving down the range away from most of the other people, I found an alley that was unused. Setting down the weapons and ammo, I put one of the targets up on the run line and sent it out to about twenty feet. Unzipping the case, I took out the ladies gun and clips, placing them on the bench. Everything else I sat on a chair behind us.
Showing Sheila how to check a gun to make sure it wasn't loaded, how the safety worked and how to clear a jam, I went over the basic safety rules for firing a gun. Looking a little more nervous now that she was on the range, all I got as a response was usually a quick, nervous nod.
Placing the pistol back on the bench, I told her to load it. As she picked up the pistol, she held it like it would turn into a snake and bite her. After a couple of false starts, she got the clip in the right way and chambered a round. At this point I just instructed her to point it down range and squeeze the trigger. Giving me a curious look, she asked, "Shouldn't I aim at something?" Smiling, I shook my head and answered back, "Just point it in the general direction. I want you to feel it fire. Let's not worry about hitting something."
Holding the weapon with both hands, she turned her face away while squinting. Quickly jerking the trigger, I saw the barrel pop up as the pistol fired. Still waiting for something to happen, Sheila finally realized that it wasn't going to do anything else. Looking back over at me she asked, "Is that all?" Laughing, I nodded, "This gun has very little recoil. You can barely hear it when it shoots under these muffs."
Looking down range, she asked, "Why do they make so much noise?" Removing a shell from the box, I held it up, "This is your ammunition." Holding up my pinky, I continued, "This is the size of the stuff they're firing." Her eyes got round for a second as that sunk in, then smiling she nodded.
Continuing the lesson, we proceeded to use up the entire box of ammunition. By the time we were done, she could reasonably hit the body of a target nine out of ten shots. Convinced that she would be more of a danger to her target than any bystanders, I declared the lesson over. Packing everything up, we went back out. As she paid the bill she asked me, "Do you think we can come down here again some time?" Nodding, I thought about it, "This is a private club, we'd have to see about a membership, or get James to bring us. I have no objections though."
As we drove back to the shop, Sheila smiled at me, "Thank you for being patient with me." Relaxing back in the seat, I tried to get comfortable, "Don't worry about it." Shaking her head for emphasis, "No, really. You went way out of your way to make sure that I was comfortable with what was happening. It means a lot to me." Patting her hand, I smiled, "The fact that you were willing to go in, even while terrified made it all worth it."
Daniel was in the back of his limousine going to the meeting with the independent specialist he had contracted. She had set the meeting well outside of town and he was anxious to get there. Preplanning the meeting in his head, he was disturbed by the ringing of his cell phone. Flipping it open, he answered, "This is Khansman"
A female voice came across the phone from the other end. It was his contact. "Meeting's been moved. Take the next exit."
Moved? What the hell! He had his men watching the building incase she tried anything, "That's unacceptable."
The voice never changed pitch, "I don't care. You want my services then take the next exit and turn right. You've got two miles to make up your mind."
Hearing the phone disconnect, Khansman closed his with a snap. The bitch was changing the meeting. There was absolutely no way that he could get any backup there in time. Lowering the privacy glass he directed the driver to exit then turn right.
Watching from her vantage point on top of the building, Tigger continued to call Daniel and give him directions to the building, all going via a circuitous route. As the car finally pulled into the building, she checked the approaches for any other vehicles. The building had been abandoned for years; nobody ever came out there. Flipping a switch, she armed the claymores that guarded the approach roads. Looking at the monitor, she could see his limousine, the driver opening the door for him. As Daniel got out, the driver re-entered the car and closed the door.
As she watched, she saw the DA looking around inside the abandoned loading area, trying to spot someone. Flipping on her headset, she picked up the video receiver and headed for the stairs. Clicking on the microphone she talked, "Welcome Mr. District Attorney." Beginning her decent, she watched as he looked around for the voice, "Don't bother looking for me, I'm not in the room for the moment." Seeing the scowl on his face, she could tell he wasn't used to this kind of treatment. That was good; it would keep him off balance.
"If you will look to the far end of the building, you will see an office door, please proceed in there and we will conduct our business in private." Watching as he spotted the door, she waited until he moved out of sight before switching to the second camera. Now down to the third floor, she continued to proceed down the stairway while observing her potential employer, or prey.
As he reached the doorway, Khansman delayed going in. The room had very little light. Smiling at his discomfort, she let him stand there for a few seconds before toggling on a light in the room. Once again she spoke into the microphone, "Have a seat Mr. District Attorney." Watching him stand there, she switched to the third camera. It was sitting behind the desk, looking at the door. She could see him thinking about it. Looking at the camera, he asked, "Where are you? I don't talk to cameras." Chuckling, she quietly opened the door to the first floor and exited the stairwell. Closing the door quietly, she stalked along the corridor. Again, she instructed him, "Sit down, or get in your car and drive away. You have thirty seconds to decide. After that, I assume that you're not serious and we end it."
Reaching the door behind the office, she watched him snarl. He was really pissed, excellent. She didn't like surprises. He was now paying the price. Making his decision, she saw him move over to the chair and sit down, setting the briefcase on the floor next to him. Flipping the last green switch on her pad, she watched as the floodlight next to the back door kicked on, blinding Khansman. Opening the door, she quickly stepped through, leaving it ajar for a quick escape if needed.
Stepping in front of the light, she allowed it to silhouette her, preventing him from seeing her face or fur pattern. Even if he could see her clearly, the black body stocking she wore would hide her identity most efficiently.
Growling, Danielson demanded, "Just who the hell do you think you are." Giving a small laugh she answered him with joy, "I'm the person standing across the desk, holding the detonator to the claymore mine strapped under your chair, Mr. District Attorney." Hearing this, Daniels eyes flew open. Before he could move she warned him, "Any attempt to get out of the chair before I say you can, will result in your being turned into dog chow."
He was really pissed now; she could smell it in the air. His anger combined with fear was intoxicating. Getting a handle on her emotions, she got down to business, "You're still alive for one reason. Someone I trust referred you. You should thank whatever god you believe in that you are still alive." Watching as this sunk in, she continued, "What is it you want me to do."
Taking his briefcase, he began to swing it up to the desktop, and then reconsidered it. Placing it on his lap, he opened it up. Removing a large manila envelope, he opened it and removed the contents. Placing the two pictures on the table, he tossed the envelope up besides them, "These are your targets. I want the tiger eliminated first, then the bear as soon as possible."
Examining the pictures, Tigger recognized the bear. His face had been plastered all over the news recently. The other was a mystery. "Who's the tiger." Trying to regain control of the situation, Khansman leaned back and attempted to look nonchalant, "He's a detective with the police department. He's getting too close to something on an investigation." Nodding, she pointed to the other picture, "What's the deal with the bear? Does he know something?" Staring at her for a second, he finally answered, "He's just an obstacle that I want eliminated."
Nodding, she picked up the pictures and placed them back in the envelope. "One hundred and fifty thousand, fifty in advance and a hundred on completion." Outraged, he leaned forward until he saw her hold the detonator out to the side, remembering the mine. Sitting back he growled again, "What do you think I am, made of gold? I can't afford that!"
Backing towards the door, she tossed a business card on the table, "The price is non negotiable. That's the number for the account. It's non negotiable. If I don't see the money in there by noon tomorrow, I will assume that you don't want the work done." As she stood in the doorway, Khansman held up a hand to his eyes to try to shield himself from the light. "Don't move from that seat, or try to make a phone call until you hear me say you can move. Any attempt to do so will result in your termination."
Stepping out the door, she closed it behind her. Putting the large magic marker, which Daniel had mistaken for a detonator, back in her belly pouch, she strode quickly for the back door. Checking her display to see if any of her alarms had tripped, she quickly darted out the back door and into a ditch. Moving allong the ditch to a drainage tunnel, she came to the manual control box for the building. For the last time, she spoke into the microphone, "You may leave now. You have two minutes to get clear of the building. I suggest you beat feet Mr. District Attorney." Turning off the spotlight, she also deactivated the claymores along the road.
Watching on the monitor, she saw him running from the office towards the car. Getting in, she saw the driver spinning the rear wheels trying to get out of the building. When they were clear of the building, she detonated the explosives she had placed in the building, destroying any evidence of their visit. Listening to the rumble of the collapsing building, she heard the satisfying 'whoosh' as the pyrotechnic jelly she had placed ensured that there would be no physical trace of her spoor. Unplugging the box from the cable, she placed it inside a backpack sitting on the ground. Donning the pack, she quickly headed down along the drainage ditch and down the side of a hill to the waiting motorcycle she had hidden there.
Quickly stripping off the body smock, she put everything in the trunk of the motorcycle. Putting on a full-face helmet, she started the bike and rode away in the opposite direction of the exits from the abandoned building. The guy was just the kind of prick she had expected him to be.
Considering the fact that he might not pay, she decided that rather risking him causing trouble for her, she would make sure that he'd never bother anyone again. Laughing at the thought, she couldn't believe the idiot had been stupid enough to handle the pictures. That and the videotape of the interview would make for useful blackmail if he ever decided to get uppity.
Returning to his desk after lunch, Michael sat down to find a folder sitting on it. Looking at it, he saw it was on the Raccoon that he had talked to the other day. Opening it, he found a incident report. They had found his left hand hanging from a telephone pole. Cursing himself, Michael understood immediately what had happened.
Closing the folder, Michael could feel the blood begin to pump. The hunt was on and one-way or another, one of them was going to go down hard.