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 33
There can be no rest for the wicked, or the good guys for that matter.

  Zig Zag was pacing back and forth in the living room, "You expect me to believe this load of tripe?" I could only shrug, "Believe what you will. I can't keep this charade up anymore. If what that cop told me this morning is true, I can't be pussy footing around my past with you."

  Hearing me talk about Detective Jones, Zig Zag stopped and looked at me, "What did he tell you?" Gesturing for her to sit down, I waited until she did, "That he had determined who's out to kill me." I could see this had her attention, "He's gotten the same name from two different people, both now dead. One of them was the raccoon they've been finding pieces of all over town." She gave a small shiver at the memory of the graphic news report we had seen last night, "Who is it? Are they going to arrest him?"

  Shaking my head, I leaned forward, "They can't. Both people are now dead. Also the information wasn't gotten under the most legal of circumstances." Her lips thinned into a straight line. After a few moments, she asked again, "Who is it?" Looking around for a second, I decided the best way was to just say it, "The new DA. Khansman."

  I could see the disbelief on her face, "Are you serious? That's crazier than you're first story." Shaking my head, I disagreed, "It's not my story, it's Detective Jones's story. According to him, the DA has a contract out not only on me, but also him because of his investigation. From the way he was talking, I believe him. He was absolutely convinced that the DA is the man."

  She started to giggle. Running a shaky hand through her hair, she looked at me, "This is insane. First you claim to be someone from an alternate reality, brought here by a magic amulet. Next I've got some paranoid cop who's convinced that the DA's out to get the two of you. What else can happen?" I've learned not to ask questions like that. Some day she might also.

  The phone in the living room rang. Since it was on the table next to me, I answered it, "Hello?" There was a pause on the other end, and then a male voice asked, "Is this Zig Zag's?" It was an unfamiliar voice, "Yes it is, who's calling please?" Relieved, the voice answered, "This is Doug, may I speak to her please?" Agreeing, I handed the phone to Zig Zag, whispering the name 'Doug.'

  Snatching up the phone, she talked, "Doug?... He's all right?.... But he's is all right?.... That's such a relief....He what?....Yes. That's no problem. I'll be right over.... All right, and Doug?... Thank you." Hanging up the phone, I saw the concern on her face, "Is everything all right Zig Zag?" Looking at me she realized that I hadn't tracked the conversation, "That was Doug, James's business partner. He found James at home."

  Standing up, reaching out to put my hand on her arm, I changed my mind and let it drop to my side, "Is he OK? Nothing happened to him did it?" Nodding she headed back towards the bedroom, "Yes, he's OK. Apparently he got drunk last night, smashed up his gun cabinet and then passed out in bed." A wave of relief washed over me. Turning into her room, she continued, "Doug wants me to come over and talk to him. Apparently James is convinced I never want to see him again." Turning away as she slipped out of her housecoat, I heard her call, "Hey. Where you going?" As I hesitated, she chuckled, "It's your turn to watch, or did you forget?"

  Smiling, I looked back at her as she pulled on some panties, "How can you joke at a time like this?" Turning, she walked towards me while pulling on a t-shirt, "James is going to be OK. Right now that's the most important thing. I feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders." Pulling on a pair of cut-offs, "You made me realize this morning that I was the one in the wrong." Sitting down to put on some sandels she continued, "I don't know about this insane story of yours, or the paranoid delusions of that Detective. But I owe you for this morning. For that reason alone I'm going to think about what you've said. In the meantime, I'm going to go over to James's."

  Turning back to my bedroom, I walked in and grabbed a button down shirt. Putting it on strained the stitches some, but not as much as trying to do a pullover would have. Slipping my feet in the thongs, I spent a second pulling the covers up on the bed.

  Walking to the door, I almost ran over Zig Zag as she stepped in, "Where do you think you're going mister?" I gave her a semi-neutral 'Duh' look. Shaking her head, she pointed to the bed, "Oh no you don't. You're getting back in bed." Cocking my head to one side, I asked, "Didn't we just have this conversation?" Crossing her arms, she took up a defiant stance in the doorway, "That was then, this is now. I'm not moving from this spot until you go back to bed." Thinking over my options, I decided on the least violent method, "The longer you stand there, the longer it will take to see James again."

  Scowling, she made a decision, "If need be, there's no way you're going to get me out of this doorway short of violence unless you agree to go back to bed." Normally the look on her face would have struck a chord of fear, but this time I was determined to get my pound of flesh out of James. As we stood in a face-off for a few minutes, an answer suddenly occurred to me.

  Turning the look on my face from neutral to a glare, I quickly took a step forward. Watching her eyes get wide, I grabbed her by the shoulders. Putting my right leg forward, I pivoted left while twisting her. Catching her with my left arm, I now had her almost parallel. As she grabbed my arms to keep from falling, I bent over and gave her a kiss similar to that of the one she hit me with this morning. Straightening up, I twisted her around and set her back in the doorway.

  A shocked look on her face, she backed up against the opposite side of the hall. Stepping out, I smiled, "Where I come from, that's not considered violence." Watching her face go from shock to one of scorn, I heard her mutter, "Men." as I walked towards the garage.


  Tigger woke with a start. The buzzer was going off on the console. Looking over, she saw that her competitions car had left the two-mile limit. Looking at the time, she gave a little curse. 'Didn't this jerk ever sleep?' It was only nine o'clock. Setting the security system on standby, she rolled out of the hammock. Watching the display, she saw that he wasn't headed for any of the three target locations she expected. Zig Zag's house, Sheila's apartment and the studio were his most likely target spots. If he wasn't headed there than where was he?

  Grumbling to herself about idiots, she put on a quick change of clothes. Taking her general-purpose gym bag, she headed for the car. If this guy was just going out for a drink, she was going to cap his ass on general principles.


  I was beginning to gain a new respect for Mercedes Benz. Leaning the seat all the way back, I extended the headrest to the max. Relaxing, it wasn't too bad. Definitely no match for a good bed, but it was a decent substitute. Closing my eyes, I tried to relax while a tiny part my mind screamed out, 'Are you nuts! This woman was driving the car that hit you!' Fortunately I've had a lot of practice ignoring that particular voice.

  Just about the time we were leaving the city proper, her cell phone rang. It was Wanda, "Hi Zigs, I just wanted to check up and see if you were going to be in today or not?" Opening my eyes, I gave a quiet "Oops." Grimacing, Zig Zag spoke to the microphone, "Unless there's something pressing, I don't think I'll be in this morning. Maybe not even all day." I could hear the hesitation in Wanda's voice, "Well... It's just that Bjorn is supposed to arrive in today." I could see Zig Zag grinding her teeth, trying to make up her mind about what to do.

  Tapping her on the shoulder, I waved my finger no as she glanced to me. Rocking her head back and forth with indecision for a second she decided, "Wanda, call Sheila and see if she will pick up Bjorn for me. Have her drive him to the corporate apartment and make sure he's all setup there. She can reach me at James's afterwards." Closing the call out, she hung up the phone.

  Letting out a sigh, she slumped against the wheel slightly, "This will be the first time I've ever sent someone else to pick up Bjorn. Do you have ANY idea how important this guy is to my productions?" Thinking for a second, I quipped, "Well, he did get me evicted from the apartment." Seeing her lips thin into a line, I aimed for a corrective action, "Not that being banished to Sheila's bed is that bad mind you." That got her; she actually smirked for a second, but returned to the scowl. Crossing my arms, I closed my eyes; "You're not going to let me off the hook are you?"

  I could hear that she wasn't too serious, "You should be in bed. I didn't appreciate that stunt you pulled in the doorway." Time to change tactics, "Yah? Well just for your information, I wanted to verify something." I could hear her consternation, "Confirm what?"

  Hoping that she didn't maul me again, I chuckled, "That your tongue tickled. I wasn't sure if it was my imagination or not."


  Standing at the gate, Sheila waited for the plane to unload its passengers. She had gotten a call from the office on the way home and changed destinations to meet him. It had been almost a year since she last worked with him and she couldn't wait to see the little otter again.

  Watching the people disembark, she saw Bjorn as he exited, near the front of the line. Carrying a small bag, he looked exhausted. Once he exited the arch leading into the commons area, he looked around tiredly. Knowing that he was searching for Zig Zag and not her, Sheila maneuvered herself to come around behind him. Tapping on his shoulder she asked, "Hey sailor, looking for a little action?"

  Turning to look at whoever spoke to him, he was transformed with delight at the sight of Sheila. In his thick, Scandinavian accent he declared, "Sheila! It is wonderful to be seeing you again. This is quite a surprise." Bending down to give him a hug, and a kiss, Sheila welcomed him appropriately, "It's good to see you again Bjorn. I've been looking forward to working with you." Striking a pose, he retorted, "What woman would not?"

  Together they laughed at the old joke. Again looking around, Bjorn asked, "And where is the cuddly Zig Zag? She could not make it?" Her face turning serious, Sheila began to lead him over to the baggage claim, "She had to deal with a personal emergency. It's a very close friend. I'm sure you can understand that." Nodding, he gave Sheila a tired smile, "Ja, that I can. There is nothing else I know of that would keep her away."

  Waiting for the luggage, she caught up on old times with Bjorn. Now that he had become a European movie star, they hardly ever had time to talk. After loading his luggage into her car, they began the drive back to the company apartment.

  Relaxing back into the seat, Bjorn asked, "All we talk about is me. What is new with you? Certainly you have not been hiding in a hole for the last year." Smiling, she quietly broke the news, "I've been seeing someone Bjorn, someone special." Giving her a sly smile, he asked, "I must say, he is one lucky dog, this man of yours." Chuckling, she corrected him, "He's a bear. Polar bear to be precise." Feigning surprise, Bjorn laughed, "Ya, and you were the one who always said that size doesn't matter?"

  Having a good laugh at that, Sheila filled Bjorn in on some of the happenings on their drive to the apartment. It was going to be a blast working with the guy. Who knows, maybe she'd talk Arden into a threesome. Thinking about it, she decided he probably wouldn't go for it. Then again, as Zig Zag always said, there's never any harm in asking.


  As we pulled into the driveway of James's house, I used the handle over the door to pull myself upright and reset the seatback. After Zig Zag parked the car, we climbed out and headed inside. Not bothering to ring the doorbell, Zig Zag opened the door and we went in, "Doug? James? Anyone home?"

  I saw a female lion peek her head around the corner and smile, "Hello Zig Zag." Meeting us in the foyer, she walked over to me, "Hello, I'm Kelly, you must be Arden." Smiling, I took her paw, and bent low in a bow, "It's a pleasure to meet you Kelly." Kissing the back of her paw, I released it and straightened up. She almost cooed, "A real live gentleman. Better be careful, my husband might get jealous."

  Getting a more serious look on her face, she turned to Zig Zag, "James is back in the master bedroom." Following Zig Zag and Kelly, I glanced into the various rooms as we passed by. James had a very nice setup. As we passed the study, I saw a mass of destruction. Stepping inside, I carefully walked around the glass on the floor. Flip-flops aren't the best thing to wear around broken glass.

  From what little bit was left on the wall, as well as the guns scattered around on the floor with the debris, I presumed that it must have been James's gun collection. Shaking my head, I tried to figure out what he had been thinking. Squatting down, I carefully began to sift the wreckage. As I picked up each weapon, I opened the action and verified that they were unloaded. Placing each weapon, still open, on the desk as I went.

  "Excuse me, but what are you doing?" Turning towards the voice, I saw it belonged to a large Brown Bear or maybe a Kodiak that was standing in the door. Turning back, I picked up the next gun; "I'm making sure that he didn't have any of them loaded. Last thing we need is a loaded weapon laying around waiting for an excuse to go off." I heard him harrumph, then walk over and join me, "I presume you're Arden?" Placing the weapon I had just checked on the desk, I turned to him. Sticking out my hand, "Yah, I'm Arden. You must be Doug." Exchanging a firm handshake on both sides, we returned to the pile.

  Lifting up some more wood, I tossed it to the side to get at more stuff under the rubble, "Man, this is one serious mess. What was he thinking?" Handing me an open weapon to put on the desk, Doug answered, "Apparently he got the idea that if he destroyed his gun collection, Zig Zag would take him back."

  It started with a chuckle. Putting the revolver up on the desk, it became a laugh. After a few seconds, I found I had to sit down. Stumbling back against the far wall, I slumped down and sat on the floor, laughing so hard tears were running down my face. Every time I managed a breath, I got a look at Doug. He had absolutely no idea what was so funny.

  Standing up, he walked over to me. Looking down with his arms on his hips, he scowled, "Would you mind telling me what's so damn funny?" Holding up a paw, I tried to get control. Unbuttoning my shirt I opened it. The look on his face changed from a glower to amazement. Squatting down in front of me, "What the heck happened to you?" Still chuckling, I explained, "I was having a talk with Zig Zag this morning about her argument with James. During the conversation... well... you can see what happened to me."

  Giving a silent whistle, James pulled the shirttails away so that he could see the extent of the damage, "There's got to be at least thirty or forty stitches there." I was finally finished with my fit of hysterics, "More like fifty actually. I took a mauling to get James back in good graces with Zig Zag. He destroyed his display case for nothing." Sitting back on his heels, Doug glanced at the remaining destruction and smiled, "Yep. This isn't one of James's finer moments. I suppose I can see how that could be funny to you, though I don't think I'd be laughing."

  Returning to the disaster, Doug continued to clean things up while I recovered. Still smiling, I checked for blood. I had been laughing so hard, that I swear I had to have pulled a stitch.


  Getting to the apartment, Sheila helped carry Bjorn's bags up to the apartment, and began to unpack them. Flopping on the bead, Bjorn let out a loud sigh, "This bed is far better than any airline seat." Jumping up, Sheila landed on her back besides Bjorn, causing him to bounce in the air momentarily. Giving a little giggle, she stretched out and closed her eyes, "You have no idea how much I could use a nap right about now."

  Rolling over, Bjorn put his arm around Sheila, "Mama always say, if you want to sleep good, then have a roll in the hay to send you on the way." Squirming as he tickled her, Sheila let out a squeak, "Bjorn! She never said that!" Wrestling on the bed for a few minutes, Bjorn managed to pin her. Giving her a soft kiss, he looked down at her, "I have missed you."

  Getting a sad look, Sheila rubbed her paws down his back, "I've missed you too Bjorn. You've been away too long." As he nipped the fur under her ears and down along her neck, Sheila tried to push him away, "Bjorn, please... I can't." Continuing his nipping, he whispered in her ear, "You said we would be working together, ja?" Torn by her desires, "Yes, but..." Moving his head to work on the other side of her neck, he whispered again, "Then he will understand the need to rehearse." Arching her back and began working his way along her collarbone, Sheila started to speak again, then gave up. Loosing herself in the moment, she wrapped her legs around him in an embrace.

  After all, actors did have to rehearse, didn't they?


  Having followed her target out into the extremes of suburbia, Tigger tracked the roads he drove to his destination. Odds are that unless he was meeting someone, he would have driven by his target to verify their location. Casually cruising down the rural farm road, she spotted Zig Zag's Mercedes parked in a driveway. Her "ZZ" license plate was clearly visible. Checking the display on her laptop, she saw that he had circled around the farm to park on the road behind it. Zooming in, she saw a similar road beyond the trees opposite the front of the house. He would probably take his shot from the trees at the edge of the farm. She would have to get some height if she wanted a clear shot.

  Accelerating away, she found a secluded place to pull off that was near the house. Parking the car behind some bushes, she made sure it wouldn't be spotted from the road. Taking a small backpack, she opened her rifle case and transferred the contents to the pack. Strapping on a climbing belt and spikes, Tigger hurried off to find a good thick tree to climb.

  Franticly searching for a good location to snipe from, Tigger mentally castigated herself for not having found out about this place. It was sloppy work and sloppy work got one killed.


  After cleaning up the mess in the study, Doug and I joined everyone else in James's room. Zig Zag and Kelly were both trying to convince him to go to the hospital and get his foot looked at. Waving his hands, James gave an emphatic, "No. I'm not going to any doctor and that's it." Disgusted by this Zig Zag turned to look at Doug and I, "Just once I'd like to meet a man who's not too macho to go to a doctor when he's hurt!"

  Sympathizing with James, I came over and knelt down to look at his foot. Trying to pull away, James protested, "Hey don't you start now." Straightening up, I gave him a good hard glare. As I did so, I saw his eyes open wide, "What happened to your chest?"

  Looking down, I realized that I hadn't buttoned the shirt back up after talking to Doug. Glancing at Zig Zag, I saw a nervous look on her face. Smiling I turned back to James, "I have a bad habit of scratching when I sleep." Clearly not believing me, he once again tried to pull away as I examined the cut. Applying a little pressure to the tendon behind his ankle, I convinced him that discretion was the better part of valor. The cut wasn't really that deep, but it was over an inch long. Odds are it would tear while walking if left alone. Remembering a trick I learned from a friend, I asked the girls, "Do you know of there is any SuperGlue in the house?"

  Looking between them, I saw they didn't have a clue. James piped up, "There's a tube of the stuff in the utensil drawer, in the kitchen by the sink." Hearing this, Kelly ran off to grab it. Taking the cloth and water they had used to clean up his foot, I verified there was no glass or other contaminates in the wound.

  Returning with the tube, Kelly asked, "You aren't actually going to use this on his paw are you?" Taking the tube, I verified that it was a Cyano Acrylic Ester compound. Removing the tube, I pressed the wound together so that the skin lined up, "Yep. They're using a slight variant of this stuff as surgical glue now rather than stitches or staples. Only difference is that their compound is easier for the body to absorb. This stuff will have to chip off over time." Drawing a thin line on the inside edge of the bottom of the wound, I once again pressed the skin together, forming a think straight scar. After counting to five, I let go. The wound held together perfectly. Capping the glue, I stood up, "I'd still keep it covered, and avoid walking on it, but for the most part, that should fix you up."

  Checking the feel of the skin on his paw with his fingers, James nodded, "That's a neat trick. I'll have to remember that next time I cut myself in the woodshop." Handing the glue back to Kelly, "I wouldn't get too wild with this stuff. The other difference between this and surgical glue is that this is a Cyano Acrylic based compound. Use too much and it can have nasty side effects." That got his attention. Nodding, he re-evaluated his medical plan in the woodshop.

  Surrendering to James's demand for privacy so he could get dressed, we walked down the hall towards the kitchen. Peering around my shirt, Kelly asked, "How did you really get those scars? I hadn't heard on the news." I was about to answer when Zig Zag spoke up, "I did that this morning." I saw Kelly shoot Doug a concerned look. Seeing that Zig Zag wasn't going to explain, I decided too, "She kept warning me not to pull her tail, but it's such an irresistible asset." Reaching out, I gave her tail a tug. "Hey!" she yipped, swatting at my hand. Smiling at Kelly, I saw that she didn't believe me for a moment.

  As we entered the kitchen, Kelly volunteered, "Why don't you two go have a seat at the table while Doug and I fix some coffee?" I heard Doug start to say something, but the thump of Kelly kicking him prevented it. She probably wanted to talk to Doug about Zig Zag. Putting my right arm out, I snaked it through Zig Zag's left. Looking up at me, she gave a weak smile. Waving my hand towards the breakfast table, "Shall we?"

  Walking around the counter, we had just stepped in front of the large sliding glass door when I heard "GET BACK" being shouted in my head. Swinging my right arm out I pushed Zig Zag back as I reversed direction. No sooner than I had stopped our forward momentum, the sliding glass door exploded inwards. The door to the china cabinet against the wall buckled as a large caliber bullet passed through it. Turning my face away, I raised my arm to ward off the flying glass.

  As we fell backwards against the counter, I pulled Zig Zag down and over towards the outside wall so whoever was outside wouldn't have a chance to spot her. Looking over I saw Doug and Kelly standing, shock written on their faces. Yelling at them, "Get down! Now!" My words penetrated Doug's brain, and he grabbed Kelly dragging her down to the ground. My heart pumping, I could feel my combat senses coming alive. I had heard the dragons warning, it had saved my life if not Zig Zag's.

  Closing my eyes, I turned inwards and called on his strength, "For duty, for honor, as bear I ask for your strength, grant me power to defend." Hearing my call, I felt strength flow into me. Roaring, my body burned with the flow of energy as it was channeled into me. Feeling Zig Zag's touch on my arm, I turned to look at her. I could see her aura without trying and every strand of fur on her face was in perfect resolution. Giving a gasp, she crawled away from me. I could only imagine what she saw.

  Closing my eyes once again, I stepped forth from my body. Laughing at all the times I had tried to do this before I changed, I reveled in the feeling of freedom and power. Things around me no longer had a true color, but were in shades of gray, though living things had an aura. Looking out at the tree line behind the farm, I spotted an aura that didn't belong. Focusing on him, my vision tunneled until it was as if he were before me. I saw he had a bolt-action rifle with a clip. Scanning the back of the house, he was looking for a target. Blinking, my vision returned to normal. I judged him to be a hundred or so meters down range.

  Returning to my body, I reached down and removed the splint from my leg and stood. Taking a few deep breaths to help oxygenate my blood, I heard Doug asking what I thought I was doing. Ignoring all else, I prepared to let the rage take me.

  Darting out the back of the house, I sprinted directly for my target. Concentrating on his position, I could see him swing the rifle around towards me. As he lined up his shot, I dodged to the side causing his shot to go wild. Now running in an erratic pattern, I dodged two more shots before he dropped the rifle and stood up. Now only thirty or so meters away, I saw him bring out a revolver. Aiming it at me, he began firing off rounds. Trying to evade his fire, I was knocked off balance as one of the shots struck me in the shoulder. Rolling through the fall, I came back up on my feet and charged again trying to regain my momentum.

  This time, holding his fire, he waited until there was no chance of missing me. As I prepared for the pain of his shot I saw his head explode. Stumbling to a stop, I heard the report of a cannon from my left. Looking down at the corpse, I realized that James must have gotten to one of his rifles.

  Turning back to the house, I looked at the windows, and realized that they all were still closed. If James hadn't shot him, who did? Stepping behind the tree he had been laying beside, I scanned the tree line in the other direction. On my third pass, I spotted something high up in a tree.


  Tigger had finally found a tree that would suit her purposes. Digging in her claws and the climbing spikes, she shimmied up the tree. She heard the first shot when she was about half way up. Cursing, she continued her climb to the crook in the tree limbs she had planned on using for a platform.

  Leaning back against her climbing belt, she slipped the pack off and placed it in the crook of the limbs. With practiced speed and precision, she assembled the rifle and attached the scope. Slamming the clip home, she chambered a round and settled the rifle on the limb. Using the scope, she scanned the house, looking for signs of life. As she was about to move on to the outer tree line, she spotted the bear charging from the house, 'What the hell does he think he's doing? That idiot's charging a trained assassin empty handed across an open field. The fool deserves to die.'

  Seeing the general direction he was running, Tigger panned over to the edge of the field and scanned. Spotting her competition, she watched as he franticly fired at his prey. Taking her eyes from the scope, she saw that the bear was dodging in an erratic fashion, dodging the shots. Returning to the scope, she saw him stand and draw a large caliber automatic weapon. Widening the field of view on her scope, she saw him fire off half a dozen rounds at the bear, finally clipping him in the shoulder. As she watched, the bear dove in the direction he was falling and managed to come out of it on his feet. Again charging his attacker, she saw her competition calm down and take careful aim.

  Swinging the cross hairs back over to the gunman, she zoomed in his head. Placing them squarely below his temple, she squeezed the trigger. Her target exploded with the force of the round as it penetrated.

  Zooming out, she watched the bear as he stumbled to a stop a few feet from the body. Turning back to the house, she saw him looking to see who had fired the shot. Confusion wiped the look of relief off his face just before he quickly stepped behind a tree. Cautiously, he poked his head out and scanned the tree line. Zooming in to maximum magnification, his face filled her scope.

  As she watched, she suddenly became aware of his eyes. The picture she had been shown had normal, round gray irises. The eyes before her now were black slits, set within a yellow ring on a red background.

  Blinking her eyes, she became aware of the fact he was staring at her. He had spotted her behind the tree. At this distance, it should be impossible. Stepping out into the open, he glared at her defiantly. As she watched, he mouthed the words 'Go ahead, shoot.' Swallowing, Tigger worked the action on the bolt. Placing the crosshairs squarely in the middle of the bridge of his snout, her finger started to tighten on the trigger. Watching, she saw his eyes narrow as her finger began to compress the trigger. 'How the hell can he see what I'm doing?'

  A sudden realization came to her. She was afraid. Something was very wrong here. He had seen her take out a man with one shot, yet stood there challenging her to shoot at him. Taking her finger off the trigger, she saw him smile. She wondered if the DA had any idea what he was up against. Removing the scope from the rifle, she laid the rifle between the tree limbs. Using the scope to watch him, she gave him a casual salute. Smiling, he put his hand over his chest, and gave a small nod.

  Her eyes drawn to the motion of his hand, she saw not only the bullet hole from his attacker, but also that his chest was crisscrossed with stitches. Even with all that, done to him, he still had the strength to charge.

  Smiling, she began to pack her equipment away. This was going to be more entertaining than she though. If that guy was half as tough as he acted, he just might be the one mauling the DA for her.


  Watching her disassemble the rifle, I waited until she began down the tree before taking my eyes off of her. She had decided not to try to kill me. That left the question, was she an ally or enemy? Once she was safely out of sight, I squatted down by the assassin. A quick check of his equipment showed nothing special. He did have a nice looking combat knife. Taking it out, I examined my eyes in its reflection. They had most certainly been changed. Rather than the familiar round pupils, these were slit shaped with yellow irises on a field of crimson. No wonder Zig Zag freaked out.

  Sticking the knife in the dirt next to the body, I continued searching it. Only other thing he had was a nice pair of Rayban Sunglasses. Reaching within, I began to release the energy. "Not yet. You have not yet healed." It was the voice of the dragon, "But Dragon does not have healing powers." I heard it chuckle, "But Dragon is eternal and can regenerate."

  Opening my eyes, I reached up to where the slug had hit my shoulder. It was a grazing wound. Peeling back the shirt, I could almost see the healing process. In a matter of hours I would be healed. Looking at the stitches on my chest, I saw no such effect with the damage there. There was obviously some statue of limitations for wounds.

  Taking the sunglasses, I put them on. That would keep the others from wigging out. It may not help with Zig Zag, but that's life. Heading back towards the house, I saw Doug and James on the back porch, each with a pistol in hand. Waving them off as I approached, "He's dead." Relaxing a little, James asked, "I heard different rifle fire when he went down. Any idea what that was?" Nodding, I sat down on the edge of the porch, "It appears I have a guardian angle. There was someone up in the trees on the far side of the road. They took out the guy when I got close."

  James came around in front of me, "Are you crazy? How do you know that wasn't just another assassin?" Shrugging, "I didn't, but I gave them plenty of opportunity to shoot me. Before climbing down, they waved. I don't know about you, but that sounds more like an ally than an enemy." Shaking his head, James pronounced, "You are crazy. Certifiably insane, you know that? Do you have ANY idea how dangerous that stunt was? You're lucky that guy didn't shoot you." Pointing to the blood on the shoulder, "No, I'm lucky he didn't shoot any better. He did scratch me though."

  Turning to Zig Zag, James threw his arms up in the air, "I surrender. I give up. This is too much for me. He's you're friend, you deal with him." I felt the rage building, but knew to fight it. I had no intention of killing him now that I had just gotten him and Zigs back together.

  Leaning back against the post that supports the awning, I closed my eyes and tried to rest. There would be the cops to deal with, and the media. Doug's refuge was about to become a circus.

  A couple of minutes after I had gotten comfortable, I heard someone come down the steps and walk over to me. Sitting on the edge of the porch next to me, I could smell Zig Zag. Opening my eyes, I turned my head towards her, "So, am I too much of a maniac for James? Is it a 'him or me' decision now?" Shaking her head no, she just stared at me. Reaching up, she pulled the sunglasses off of my face, "What are you?" Giving a sigh of exasperation, I gave her a pained look, "I've told you what I am. You just don't want to believe it."

  Looking down, she began twisting the bottom of her t-shirt in between her fingers. It's no wonder she's always wearing ragged looking shirts. "I don't know. Everything's been so crazy since you showed up. It's almost been one thing after another. As soon as I think we're over the hump something else happens to make me feel like I'm loosing it." Laughing, I watcher her shoot me an angry glance, "Lady, you don't have a clue. I think I've got the market cornered right now for weirdness."

  Reaching down, I picked up the sunglasses and put them on, "How would you like to wakeup one day with no fur, no tail, and an extra digit on each hand and foot. You ears down around the side of your head and your snout pushed back flat with your face?" Hugging herself, she shuddered, "That sounds absolutely horrible." Smiling, "It's how I spent the first 40 years of my life." I could hear the confusion, "Huh? But the hospital said you were in your early twenties." Nodding, "That's the only redeeming feature I can think of. It makes you young again." She chuckled, "That certainly does sound appealing."

  Shaking my head, I tried to explain, "But at what cost? You'll never see you're friends or loved ones again. You can never return to where you started. All that you were and all that you knew is now gone." Taking a deep breath to control my emotions, I continued, "My counterpart in this world had lost all his family. Where I came from, my brothers were still alive. So was my mother. Only my father had died, and that was just a few months ago. I'll never be able to walk up to my old friends and say 'Hey, wazup?' or pick up a phone and call someone just to hear their voice." Wiping a tear, "No. It may sound appealing, but the price is way too high for me. I finally understand why philosophers call immortality a curse."

  Trying to push the memories of my old life out of my head, I fought with my emotions, knowing that once again I would have to give all up.

  Honor and duty, they always came with a price. Why did it have to be me that paid?

  God I miss my family.

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