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.

Identity Crisis - Chapter 31
A day of reckoning.

  Trying to push the memory out of my mind, I washed the coffee cup and placed it in the drainer. Taking a paper towel, I had started to dry down the sink when I noticed blood. Looking down, I realized that when Zig Zag had been trying to push away, she had mauled me. The front of my chest was covered in ragged stripes of blood, trickling down my fur and dripping into the sink as I leaned over it. Backing up, I saw that there was blood on the side of the counter where I had leaned against it. Quickly wiping up the blood, I tossed the paper towel in the trash and headed back towards the hall bathroom.

  Sliding the door closed behind me, I opened the medicine cabinet over the sink. Looking inside, I found hydrogen peroxide, iodine and some antibacterial salves. Taking a washrag, I soaked it and began cleaning up the fur. She had been in a frenzy to get away from me. I was hoping I wouldn't need stitches. Putting iodine on the wounds, I growled with each stroke of the dipper wand, that crap stung. Getting about half way through the dozen or sow cuts, I heard a knock on the door.

  It was Zig Zag, "Arden? Is that you in there?" Catching my breath, I spoke back to the door, "Yah Zig Zag." I could hear her hand on the latch, "Can I come in please?"

  Aw man! I didn't want her to see me like this, "This really isn't a good time Zig Zag." Hearing her start to slide open the door, I grabbed the rag and the bottles, moving quickly to the end of the counter, I turned so that my back was to the door. As the door opened, I could hear the concern in her voice, "I'm sorry, but I just had to make sure you were all right." Nodding, I answered tersely, "I'll be fine. I just need some time to my self."

  Putting her hand on my shoulder startled me, causing me to flinch away. "Please, I need to see you're face. I need to see that you're going to be ok." Shaking my head, I turned slightly to make sure she could only see my back, "You don't want to see me like this right now Zig Zag. Please, do us both a favor, and just go to bed." Not to be deterred, she grabbed my arm and pulled. Pleading I begged her, "Please Zig Zag. Don't do this." Sensing her determination as she continued to pull, I allowed her to turn my body. Keeping my eyes closed, I heard her gasp as she saw my chest, "Oh my God! What happened? Did I do that to you?"

  Opening my eyes, I looked at the anguish on her face, the expression mirrored on mine. Moving back over to the sink, I set the medicines back down, "Don't worry about it. I heal fast." Pulling me around again, she looked at the damage, "Oh god Arden, I'm sorry, I didn't realize, I forgot about my claws." Taking the cloth, she began cleaning the wounds I hadn't gotten to, "Some of these are pretty deep. We should go to the hospital, I think you'll need stitches." Putting my hand on her arm, I stopped her as she began to leave, "No. No hospitals. Just let me finish cleaning up."

  Nodding, she had me sit down on the toilet so that she could work on my chest easier. After she had done three or four of the gouges, she asked in a quiet voice, "Outside, what you said, was that all for real?" She wasn't looking at my eyes. She was making a point of looking at the wounds. Trying to think how to answer, I just sat there, wincing as she spread on the iodine. Finally she looked up at me and asked again, "Please, I want to know the truth. It's important to me." Lifting my eyes up to meet hers, I nodded and answered reluctantly, "Yes, it's true. I was judge, jury and executioner. That I and I alone, was responsible for his death can't be argued. If I had it to do again today, I wouldn't hesitate to do it again either. People like that aren't…" I was going to say 'human', but it wouldn't work, "They aren't fit to be in society. They're nothing better than a rabid animal that needs to be put down."

  Hanging her head, she stopped working on the cuts for a second, "He didn't die you know. My father. I thought I had killed him, but it only grazed his head." I could smell the salt in her tears. "I had wanted to kill him. When I pulled the trigger, all I wanted was for him to die. But after I saw him on the floor, I couldn't believe what I had done." As I watched, she began to shake again, "I've never wanted to hurt anyone…. But that night, I wanted to kill." Taking the iodine from her hand I pulled her close. Sitting there, I held her as she cried quietly against my shoulder.


  James lay in bed, watching the patterns of shadows swaying gently on the wall as the wind blew the trees. Looking at the clock for the hundredth time that night, he saw that it was almost four in the morning. All night he had tried to figure out what had gone wrong. Trying to lighten the conversation he had quipped some light joke about not expecting her to shoot anyone and she had gone berserk. Next thing he knew, they were yelling at each other and then she had told him never to call back and hung up.

  The situation was totally unreasonable; there was no reason for her to react that way. Didn't she understand that he was just trying to protect her? Throwing back the sheets, James got up and went into his study. Sitting down, he opened the bottom drawer of his desk and took out the bottle of scotch he kept there. Pulling out the tumbler that was also in the drawer, he wiped the glass with his shirttail, and filled it.

  Knocking back the drink, he slammed the glass on the desk and refilled it. Waiting for the fire to fade from his throat some, he lifted up the glass and tossed it back again. Repeating this cycle several times, James slowly emptied the bottle. Once again slamming the glass on the table, he reached over and poured more liquor into the glass, this time topping it off. As he sat, meticulously making sure the glass held it's maximum capacity, he realized how much the alcohol was affecting him. The warm glow now totally filled his body, erasing the tension and worries of the day, but not the memory. It hadn't wiped the memory of what had happened.

  Setting the bottle down, he remembered that his last binge had been because of Zig Zag too. That time, it had been him that had driven her away. Now the tables were turned and he was once again, sitting here at the desk, getting drunk. Angry with himself for crawling back to the bottle he picked up the glass and threw it across the room at the gun case, shattering the glass door with the force of the tumbler's impact.

  Getting unsteadily to his feet, he reached over into the corner where he kept a baseball bat. Picking it up, he walked over to the gun case. It was their fault that Zig Zag hated him. They had to pay. Rearing back, he swung the bat at the display cabinet he had so lovingly crafted several years ago. Striking the oak backing, there was a satisfying crunch, as well as the clatter as weapons bounced from their mountings. Continuing to pound the display, he reduced it to a mass of splintered wood, glass and twisted metal, all the guns scattered on the floor at his feet.

  Tossing the baseball bat onto the pile of ruined wood and glass, he staggered from the room. Heading back to bed, James thought about how he needed to get some sleep. He had destroyed the thing that stood between them. In the morning, he would go to Zig Zag and tell her what he had done. Surely she'd take him back. As he collapsed on the bed, the thought continued to repeat in his head, she'd have to take him back, she just had to.


  Sitting on the toilet, I rocked Zig Zag back and forth gently as she cried into my shoulder. I once again thought of Nanuk, and sang her song of motherly protection. As I sang I realized that something wasn't right, there was no power behind it. Suddenly I had a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. 'Had Nanuk forsaken me? Why was I unable to cross over this evening? Why could I not call on her power?'

  Turning inside, I sought out the inner light that was me. I had been taught that it could be a powerful source of energy if you knew how to channel it. I always thought Lisa was blowing smoke, but now I was a believer. If I couldn't reach Nanuk, then I'd have to use my own resources. Finding the light, I summoned forth a strand of energy. While holding onto it with my mind, I came back to the real world. Again singing, I found that the song, though less effective, had a little power behind it. Nanuk had taught me well. I may not be her child anymore, but I still walked the path of the bear, and that was the path of the healer and protector.

  After a while I became aware that not only was Zig Zag no longer crying, but also she was asleep. Turning my head sideways, I placed it on top of hers. Still singing quietly, I held her sleeping form while hoping my song would banish the demons from her dreams.


  Getting to the station early, Michael headed in towards his desk. Picking up the mail and messages from his box, he proceeded back to sort them. Coming across a plain envelope with nothing more than his name on it, he opened it as he sat down. Inside he found a note pad page from Kinky's Copiers, on it had been written:

Khansman knows you're on to him.
He's hired a hit man to kill you and the bear.
Watch your back but be prepared for an unexpected ally.

  Carefully folding up the note, he put it in his pocket. He didn't know who this unexpected help was, but he was glad for the warning. He would have to be extra careful from now on. Time was running short, and he could feel the time for their showdown coming quickly.


  Waking up slowly, Sheila stretched out, luxuriating in the feel of the silk against her fur. Reaching over to where Arden slept, she felt the bed and it was cold. Glancing around she could see he wasn't in the room or adjoining bath. Climbing out, she took her housecoat and went to the bathroom. After taking care of priorities, Sheila wondered out towards the kitchen, figuring that he was probably cooking Pheasant Under Glass or something ridiculous like that for breakfast.

  Reaching the kitchen, she turned on the light. There was no sign of him, or that he had been there yet. Sniffing, she could smell that he and Zig Zag had been there recently, but there was a third smell that she couldn't quite pin down. As she turned to leave the kitchen her eye caught on several small dark spatters on the floor. Kneeling, she rubbed a finger in one and smelled it. It was blood.

  Standing up, she felt the blood pounding in her veins. How could there have been blood, his wounds were almost healed. Thinking to herself, "Oh god! Please don't let what I'm thinking have happened," Sheila raced from the kitchen. Quickly searching the house she saw that Zig Zag's room was also empty, but the light was on in the hall bathroom. Rushing to the door she looked in and froze at what she saw.

  Arden was sitting on the toilet with Zig Zag in his lap, holding her in an embrace. As she watched, he rocked her back and forth, as one would a small child, singing quietly. His head turned, it lay on top of Zig Zag's.

  Relief flooded into her at seeing they were both all right, but there was also betrayal. What the hell was going on here? Why was he holding here like that? As she stepped into the room, she saw his eyes open. Lifting up his head, he put a finger in front of his mouth, to indicate she should be quiet.

  Holding her paws up at the scene before her, she shot him a questioning look. Waving her off, she saw him mouth the word 'Later'. Stalking quietly forward, she approached the couple as they sat. Shooting him an accusatory look she saw him roll his eyes to the heavens and clinch his jaws tightly shut, as if in pain.

  Now standing before them she looked down at Zig Zag. From the look of the fur on her face, she had been crying, hard. As an understanding of what was happening filtered into her brain, Sheila realized that this probably had something to do with James not being here tonight. She had just assumed that he needed to be at home tonight.

  Relaxing a little, she leaned against the wall and looked at the sight before her. Obviously something important had happened between them. She only hoped that it wouldn't change his feelings for her. As she stewed in her emotional turmoil, she noticed for the first time that there was blood all over his lower torso and parts of his legs. Leaning around Zig Zag, she saw large gaping scars where Zig Zag had mauled him. Gasping at what she saw, she looked at Arden's face again, Once again shooting a combination of accusation and questioning look, she saw a pleading look come over his face as he mouthed the words 'Later. Please."

  Standing up straight, she turned, and headed for the door. It was time for a very long and hot shower. Afterwards she would find out what the hell was going on here. Why had Zig Zag mauled him? And if he had done something so terribly bad for her to do that, why was she now sleeping in his arms? Shaking her head in confusion, she climbed into the shower. Things would sort themselves out, they always do. She hopped anyway.


  My legs were falling asleep and to top it off, Sheila obviously didn't have a clue what had happened tonight. Flexing the muscles to try to get the blood flowing, I re-arranged Zig Zag so that I could pick her up, hopefully without waking her. Lifting her legs with my left arm, I cradled her head between my right arm and shoulder. As her body shifted on the raw wounds, a new wave of pain swept through me. Taking a couple of deep breaths, I waited for it to pass, then stood up. Walking carefully, I carried her into the master bedroom and laid her down on the bed, trying my best not to wake her. Pulling up the covers over her, I sat on the edge of the bed and watched her sleep. There was no more pain or fear on her face.

  Looking at the clock, I realized that it was almost six in the morning. There was no way I was going to wake her now. I had better call the office and let them know she'd be in late today, if she came in at all. Thinking about it, I should call James too.

  Leaving the bedroom, I pulled the door closed behind me. Walking down to the bedroom she used as a spare office, I sat down at the desk. She had a Roll-R-Dex file, but flipping through it I could see it was all business numbers. Searching on the desk revealed no other kind of phone book. Opening the drawers, I found a leather day- timer style address book. As I flipped it open to the S section, I started looking for James name and realized that Zig Zag kept more than just addresses in here.

  Laughing, I flipped the page. I never thought Zig Zag was the kind of person to rate people's performances. There's were also a rather, colorful description under each entry about the person. I flipped the book over to the V's. Reading to myself, "Sheila got four and a half stars. Her notes are that she's lively, very flexible, easily excitable, and willing to work at the drop of a hat. Down sides, she often gets over-excited and fails to take direction. Also her tongue tickles." That last one got me good. I just had to laugh cause she was right on the spot.

  Finding James's entry, I picked up the phone. Dialing his home number and listened to it ring. After about the third ring, an answering machine answered. Waiting for the tone, I left a message, "James, this is Arden. If you're there, please pick up. This is important" Waiting for a few seconds, I continued, "Ok. When you get this message, give me a call either at Zig Zag's or on my cell phone. This is important, please call." Hanging up, I tried his office. Odds are he couldn't sleep either. Once again getting the answering machine, I hung up and tried the cell phone. There was no answer there either.

  Sitting back, I thought about it. He may be in the shower or something. We'd have to see. Copying down the relevant information for him and closed the book. I had been tempted to read ZZ's write up on him, but had decided not to. Maybe later, next time I was annoyed at one of them. When sinning, it's best to plan for optimum enjoyment. At least, that's what my brother used to say. Putting the book away, I headed back to the room and lay down.

  I was exhausted. I knew I should be tired from lack of sleep, but I was totally wiped out. Closing my eyes, I started to doze off. Just as I was in the comfortable fog between waking and sleeping, a sharp pain in my chest got my attention. Howling, I sat up. Looking around, I saw Sheila sitting next to me, the medicines in her hand. "By the way, this will sting." Shoving me roughly back on the bed, she continued cleaning the remaining wounds that Zig Zag hadn't gotten to. Wincing as she wiped the wound with a cloth dipped in alcohol, I said, "Some times I don't know why I bother being nice to people. All that happens is I wind up getting shot, mauled and otherwise abused."

  Putting more alcohol on the rag, she roughly continued cleaning the cuts, "Mind explaining what happened tonight?" Taking a deep breath, started to explain, "Last night I couldn't sleep, so got up to fix myself some warm milk. I saw Zig Zag outside and joined her. During the conversation, I found out that she and James had gotten into a big fight and split up." Digging into a wound, Sheila snarled, "And that's when you decided to make a move?" WHAT!

  Enraged, I roared, and then backhanded her, hard. Flying off the bed, she hit the wall. Standing up, I stalked towards her, claws out and showing fangs. "You BITCH! After all you've done to me, after all I've done to PROVE that I love you, you STILL can't wait to accuse me of something!" I was shouting at the top of my voice. Sheila cringed against the wall, covering herself from any attack I made. "I lived for you. I was willing to DIE for you. All I do is out of love for YOU and my FRIENDS! When are you going to get it through your thick skull that I'm not out to screw you over!" I was almost muzzle to muzzle with her, enraged. Tunnel vision showed to me only prey.

  From over by the door, I heard Zig Zag screaming at me. Turning, I saw her standing in the doorway. I gave her a feral growl for interrupting. Again she yelled, "Stop it!" Looking back down at Sheila, I saw the sheer terror on her face. The fear for her life at the animal she had released from within me.

  Turning again, I stalked towards the door. Zig Zag barely got out of the way for me to pass through. Walking to the back door, I headed out onto the porch. Rage still had a hold on me. Looking around, I saw a metal table with some chairs by it. Letting my anger flow, I proceeded to turn the table into a crumpled, twisted mass of metal. Picking it up, I threw it at the fence. Watching it as it bounced off, I felt some of the tension fade from me.

  Stumbling over to the grass, I roughly dropped to the ground, and dragged my legs around so they were crossed in front of me. Looking down, I could see that my wounds were bleeding again. Ignoring them, I put my hands on my knees and began some breathing exercises to help center myself. Concentrating on the exercise, I felt the anger and tensions drain away, eventually approaching an equilibrium.

  As I meditated, I heard someone walking quietly across the grass; I spoke quietly, "You don't need to try to sneak by me. I'm not going to bite you." As they walked around in front of me, I heard them sit down. Opening my eyes for a second, I saw Zig Zag sitting cross legged about four feet away. Closing them I asked, "Is Sheila going to be ok?" "Yes, I think so, though she's lucky you didn't break her jaw." I could hear the anger in her voice, "Just what the hell was that about anyway?"

  Collapsing forward on myself, I put my hands up to my face and rubbed them back over my head. Opening my eyes, I gave Zig Zag a pained look; "She pushed me over the line Zig Zag. With all I've been through, everything I've done to prove my love for her, she still can't accept that it's her I love." Still scowling, she asked, "Is that any reason to hit her?" Defensively, I pointed to my chest, "When I explained about you're argument with James, she accused me of getting these because I tried to make a move on you with James out of the picture."

  That took Zig Zag by surprise. Rubbing my fingers in the blood, I drew them under my eyes, and down the cheeks by my muzzle, as if it was war paint, "Every time I try to help someone, I get it in the ass. I stand up for you, and someone tries to kill me. I save Sheila from getting sprayed with bullets, and someone tries to kill us in our bed. I help you tonight and this morning she accuses me of trying to make out with you. How much SHIT can a person take!" Seeing her flinch at the last part, I took a few deep breaths trying to calm down. I was shaking from the adrenaline, on the verge of tears, "It's not 'Thank you Arden for trying to make sure Sheila's safe', no it's 'What the hell are you doing with guns.' It's not 'Wow, you took a mauling to help Zig Zag work out her problem tonight?' no it's 'You couldn't wait to try to jump into bed with her.' Christ, I don't know why I try some times." I could feel the tears running down my face. I didn't care. It wasn't worth the effort.

  After sitting there for a little time, I heard Zig Zag get up. Flinching as she grabbed the fur on my cheeks, I opened my eyes in time to catch a kiss from her. This wasn't any motherly peck either. Letting go of me, she said quietly, "Thank you. For what you did tonight. I'll go talk to Sheila. I'll explain everything. Don't worry about it." As she walked away, I didn't think about what she had said as much as the fact that she kissed a lot like Sheila. Her tongue tickled. Looking down, I talked to my crotch, "Don't get any ideas, she's spoken for."


  Zig Zag found Sheila in the bathroom, examining her face. Leaning in the doorway, Zig Zag just watched her. Spotting Zig Zag in the door, Sheila probed her jaw with one finger, "I think he knocked a tooth loose." Unemotionally, she replied, "I can't say as I like the idea of him hitting you, but I must admit that if what he says is true, then you deserved it."

  Her eyes wide open, Sheila shot an angry, indignant look at Zig Zag, "I deserved it?…." Remembering what Nanuk had shown her, and how her automatic defensive reactions had nearly killed Arden, Sheila calmed down a little. Leaning heavily against the counter she thought about it, "I suppose I did." Turning, she hitched herself up on the counter, "It's just after seeing you in his arms tonight…." Giving a pleading look to Zig Zag, she shrugged, "I just… I don't know."

  Walking over to the counter, Zig Zag jumped up beside her and scooted up so they were touching. Putting an arm around Sheila, she gave her a little hug, "Kiddo, you just aren't used to having a man that actually loves you. It's a new experience. Granted, you're on a learning curve, but I have to warn you, if you don't pull up your grades, I'm afraid you're going to lose him." Nodding, Sheila hung her head, "I know. It's just so ingrained, I'm not sure I'll ever be able to get rid if it." Thinking she asked, "Why did you maul him tonight anyway?"

  Sighing, Zig Zag put her hands in front of her, and kept them in her lap. Hanging her head low, she explained to Sheila about her past, and what had happened. "The mauling was my fault. I just felt trapped. I needed to get away. I never even gave him a chance to let go. I just started fighting to get away. So you see, all he was trying to do was help, and as a result, I almost put him in the hospital." Sitting side by side, the two women thought about how they both had let their emotional reactions potentially destroy their relationships.


  After I felt that I would be reasonable company again, I stood up. Swaying slightly, I was surprised by a wave of dizziness. Kneeling until it passed, I tried standing again. Still a little unsteady, took a few breaths to steady myself. Looking at the ground I could see where the blood had stained the grass. Looking down, I saw that my fur was still tacky, but didn't appear to be wet with fresh blood. Unfortunately, I realized that I had lost the better of a pint or two of blood. I'd have to be careful, or I could easily get into trouble. Walking into the house I realized that I had left a bloody handprint on the door. Washing up in the sink, I got the blood off my paws. I then took a wet paper towel and cleaned up the door and handle. Tossing the paper towel in the trash, I headed back for the shower.

  Walking in, I saw Sheila and Zig Zag sitting on the counter, both looked pretty depressed. Chuckling, I quipped, "Bad news girls. Despite your abuse, I think I'm going to live." Both of them looked up in horror at what I said. Shaking my head I stumbled over to the commode and sat down, "You girls have got to learn to lighten up."

  With a worried look on their faces, both Zig Zag and Sheila came over to me. Waving them away, "I'm all right. I'm just tired. In fact, I think I'll just go lay down on the bed again." Pushing me back down, Zig Zag turned, to Sheila, "Sheila, call the doctor. Ask if he can come over here. Go pick him up if you need to." Nodding, Sheila headed out of the room.

  Grabbing the fur on the front of my shoulders, Zig Zag pulled. Getting my attention with the pain, she managed to haul me up. Pushing me back towards the shower, she said, "Sorry kiddo, but you're NOT going to be climbing on my bed with all that blood on you." Giving a sly smile, I chuckled, "Zig Zag, what if Sheila catches us?" Giving me a scowl, she lead me by the ear over to the shower. Holding me against the shower door, she reached in and turned it on.

  Reaching over with my arm, I turned it off, "Nothing personal Zig Zag, but you need to worry more about James, not me. I'll just sit here until the doctor comes." As I started to slide down, she once again grabbed the fur on my chest to force me to stand up, "No way, James can wait." Looking down, I focused on her face, "Are you sure? He's not answering his home, cell or work phones. I wasn't able to get him at all."

  A look of concern crossed her face as this sunk in, making a decision, she started to reach in to turn the shower on. Grabbing the fur on her back below her neck, I hauled up with all my strength, and lifted her up. Letting out a small shriek, she grabbed my arm with both hands, claws puncturing the skin. Holding her away from me, I stumbled over to the door, catching myself on the frame. Giving a little shove as I let go, Zig Zag stumbled into the room and fell onto the bed. Turning her head, she shot an angry look. I bared my teeth and growled, "Damn it! Why do you people always have to argue with me?" Finding the pull-tab for the door, I closed it half way, "I'm going to take a shower now, alone. You call James. I don't want to see you're face around me again until you've done so."

  Closing the door, I took a deep breath and straightened up. Walking back over to the shower, I turned it on. Setting the water so it was just lukewarm, I climbed in and closed the door. Setting the nozzle on mist, I let it soak into the fur, watching the patterns in the water as it rinsed the blood away. Taking the medicated shampoo off of the shelf, I began to massage it into the fur. As it began to hit the wounds, a fresh pain of agony struck me, forcing me to my knees. Unlike the iodine, this stuff burned and kept burning. Leaning back, I leaned against the wall as the water started to wash the shampoo away. The pain spreading as the medicine diluted into all the wounds was overwhelming. The last thing that passed through my mind was that next time I needed to use baby shampoo.


  Getting into the office early, Doug heard James's phone ringing. Looking in, he saw that James wasn't in yet. Walking over, he picked up the phone, "Sheppard Computer Systems, this is Doug." The voice on the other end was female, "Doug, is James in yet?" Thinking for a second, Doug recognized the voice, "Zig Zag? Is that you?" She sounded almost frantic, "Yes. Have you heard from James lately?" He could tell she sounded concerned, "No, not since yesterday afternoon. Why? What's up Zig Zag?" She gave a small curse, "I screwed up Doug. I lost it and went feral on him. I'm afraid for him. There's no answer at his house or on his cell phone."

  Concerned, Doug pulled up James's appointment calendar on the computer and verified he had no appointments this morning, "OK Zig, I don't see anything on his calendar, but to be sure, I'll go over to his place. He's probably outside fixing something, you know how he is." He heard a sigh, "Thanks Doug, I really appreciate it. Please call me and let me know if you find him?" Giving a false cheer to his voice, he promised, "No problem Zig, I'll make sure you're the first person I talk to." Hanging up the phone, he quickly headed for the exit. He only hopped that James hadn't done something stupid.


  Getting to work, Daniel Khansman sat down in a good mood. The news had plastered the rat's demise all over the airwaves. Finally, he had found an assassin that could earn his keep. Next he'd send him after the cop and finally the bear. This was going to be a very productive day. As his cell phone rang, Daniels hit the do-not-disturb on his office phone and answered it, "Yes?"

  A male voice, "You've been paying attention to the news?"

  Smiling, Daniel let out a little laugh, "Yes. Very spectacular. Good job."

  Male voice, "There's a problem. The cop was there. He got to the rat before he got toasted."

  Still in a good mood, Daniel replied, "What's the problem, he's next on your list, right?"'

  The other voice hesitated, "He's got outside help."

  The smile vanished from Daniels voice, "What do you mean, 'outside help'?"

  The other voice sounded annoyed, "I saw the cop go into the building about two hours before our target got there. I backtracked his steps and found his car. I had plenty of supplies so I wired him too. The problem is that he drove away without a scratch. On top of that, I found the package in the seat of my car. Whoever did it, put a red "lip kiss" sticker on it."

  Growling, Daniel knew it had to be the tiger. He couldn't tell this guy or he'd bail on him. "Fine. Do it direct then, nothing fancy. Just make sure he's eliminated."

  Hanging up the phone, Daniel put it back in his coat. That bitch was going to ruin his plans. Why is it that the only competent person he could find had to turn out to be a total asshole?


  I woke up on the bed with Zig Zag hovering over me. My chest felt like she had been using it as a scratching post again, "Why did you take me out? I was just getting comfortable." Giving a derisive snort she continued to do something to my chest, "The doc says that you're lucky you didn't bleed to death in there. Next time, let us take care of you, ok?" It took me a few seconds for what she had said, "The doc's been here already?" Nodding, she finished applying the surgical glue to the last wound, "That's right. He was here for almost an hour stitching you up. You've got almost fifty stitches in your chest. That's not counting the smaller ones he showed me how to close up using glue." Looking down, I saw that although there were still long wounds in my chest, they had been closed up.

  Laying my head back down, I reached up and took Zig Zag's hand, "Thanks pretty lady." Smiling down at me, she pulled the covers up over my chest, "Next time I tell you to do something, you do it. No arguments." Chuckling, I let my eyes close, "Like that will ever happen."


  Pulling up to Zig Zag's house, Michael flashed his badge to the rent-a-cop that was posted by her front door. Getting out of his car, he looked around and spotted one of the three snipers he knew should be around. BullDog was smart. They always let their prey know where one is as a calling card, the other two would be impossible to spot from the outside. Walking up to the front door, he rang the bell and waited. As the door opened, he once again saw Zig Zag, and she looked like hell wormed over, "Is everything all right here madam?"

  Zig Zag gave the cop a sour look, "What do you want? We didn't call the cops." Shaking his head at her attitude, he forged ahead, "I need to speak to Arden. I understand he's here." Glancing back into the house, she told the officer, "I'm sorry, but he's unavailable right now."

  Sighing he gave her a hard look, "It's very important that I speak to him. Please tell him I'm here." Shaking her head, she refused again, "Really. You can't talk to him right now."

  Putting his head down for a second, he took a deep breath, glaring at Zig Zag, he stated, "We can do this the easy way, and we can do this the hard way. It's your decision. I'd prefer the easy way, especially as his life may depend on the outcome of our conversation." Realizing that he wasn't going to give up, Zig Zag backed into the doorway, and closed it behind him.

  Leading the cop back to the spare bedroom, she pointed him through the door. As he walked into the bedroom, Michael spotted the bear in bed. He appeared to be sleeping. Entering the room, Michael checked the bathroom out of habit. Spotting bloody towels, he gave Zig Zag a hard look. Just leaning against the doorway, she gave him no satisfaction. Walking over to the bed, he yanked the sheets back.

  Seeing the ragged scars on his chest, he barred his fangs and stared at Zig Zag, "What the hell happened to him?" Looking a little uncomfortable, she waved to him, "I warned him not to scratch." Checking the wounds, he could see that they had been professionally tended to. Pulling the covers back up over him, he walked over to Zig Zag, "Unless you have an objection, I'll wait for him to wake up." Giving a reluctant nod, Zig Zag went into the bathroom and continued to clean up.

  Walking over to the far corner of the room, he sat down in the armchair to wait.

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