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 44
Live and let die.

  Hello folks, and welcome to your noon Independent News report. I'm your host, Logan Furbody. Well we have lots of interesting things to report on today, but first, a tragedy.

  He became very solemn.

  As we reported yesterday, unknown assailants kidnapped the lovely Sheila Vixen and Bjorn Otterson. This morning we were informed by the police that apparently some kind of firefight had broken out between the kidnappers and some other unknown agency, resulting in the death of Bjorn Otterson.

  Shifting the camera angle, they placed a picture of Bjorn in the corner.

  Bjorn was currently working on a project at ZZ Studios at the time of his abduction. Recent news showed that he was also scheduled to begin work on a big budget movie in Europe to be released late next year.

  Although police have several leads, they are unable to comment on any particular parties that may have been responsible. However we did overhear an offhanded remark indicating that incriminating documentation had been found providing them the first solid evidence they had in the case so far.

  This is one reporter who would like to take a moment and extend his most sincere condolences to Sheila Vixen and all the gang at ZZ Studios.

  Pausing for a few seconds, he set the paper aside. As the picture of Bjorn fade, the camera panned back to Logan. Taking a deep breath, he started in on the next story and stopped.

  We'll be right back after this message.

  The camera continued to cover Logan for a few seconds as he tried to maintain control. Cutting to a commercial, it talked about a special that would be on tonight, chronicling Bjorn's life and excerpts of his interviews with Logan.


  Sheila woke up, alone, in her bed. Looking at her clock, she saw that it was well after noon. Climbing from her bed, she went to the bathroom. After relieving herself, she looked in the mirror. She looked as horrible as she felt. Picking up a brush, she began to groom the fur on the top of her head and then stopped. Staring at the mirror again for a moment, she tossed the brush carelessly onto the counter and left the room.

  Standing in the doorway to the bedroom, she realized that it didn't look right. Zig Zag and James had arranged to replace and repair the damage to her bedroom. The carpet was new and fresh, the walls were painted in a close match to her old color, and the bed had also been replaced, new sheets and a cover on it. This wasn't her bedroom anymore. It was a cheap copy.

  Walking out into the living room, she saw Arden sprawled out on the couch. The large pistol he had brought home on the table, next to the Japanese swords he had gotten. Surveying the room, she saw his cell phone on the charger, plugged into the wall by the end of the couch. Next to it was her phone, hand set off the hook to make sure nobody called. On the ottoman she saw the overnight bag she had packed so long ago. Inside it his clothes and the weapons harness he had been wearing. On the floor by it, was the body armor he had worn.

  Disgusted that he'd just toss his stuff on the floor, Sheila walked over and picked up the vest. It was surprisingly heavy. Looking at the back, she saw large pockets; each had a big rectangle of Kevlar plastic in it. Turning it around, she gasped. She remembered seeing the holes in the vest when he squatted down to check on her and Bjorn, but without light, she couldn't see that the holes went all the way through. As if to prove what she was seeing were real, Sheila poked a claw all the way through a hole and wiggled it.

  Looking over at Arden, she could see the corresponding patches of missing fur where each hole in the vest would line up with his chest. Thinking back, she remembered after the car exploded. The helicopter had tried to strafe Zig Zag and herself, but the gunner had a hard time seeing them. As he had circled around, she had fallen. Zig Zag tried to help her up, but she was too scared to move. Watching the helicopter swing around, she was startled as something exploded in the air in front of it, causing it to veer off. Looking up the hill, she saw Bjorn's body laying on the ground, then Arden running up the hill. Reaching the top, he stood next to the burning car, illuminated by its fire.

  She couldn't believe it when he pulled out a pistol and began firing at the approaching helicopter. All around him, tracers from the machinegun fire rained down like lightning on the vehicle, yet some how missing him. Now, looking at the scars, she realized that they didn't miss him. But how did he heal so fast? Machinegun bullets should have done a lot more damage.

  The growl of her stomach interrupted her thoughts. She hadn't eaten since the Café yesterday. Dropping the armor on top of his bag, she walked over and hung up the phone. Proceeding into the kitchen, she opened the refrigerator and looked for something good to eat. Not feeling like making anything, she took out a square of cheddar cheese and a soda, a knife, some crackers and a plate. Piling everything on the plate, she walked around to the small table and sat down. Slicing some cheese, she began to eat, thinking about how Bjorn liked bleu cheese with crackers.

  The ringing of the phone interrupted her thoughts. Jerking awake, Arden reached for the pistol, sitting up quickly. Before he could do anything with it, the phone rang again. Shaking his head, he put the pistol back on the table, and then answered the phone.

  "Hello." He said, groggily. "What?... Yah, this is her place... No, she can't come to the phone. Who is this?... What?.... What the hell kind of a question is that?... Are you stupid or something? Her fiancé was just killed, how the hell do you think she feels!" he yelled into the phone and slammed it back onto its cradle. Rubbing his hands over his face, he reached over and took the phone off the hook again. Unhooking the handset, he tossed it over onto his bag. It was at this point that he spotted Sheila at the table.


  Rubbing my hands over my face, I looked back at the phone. How the hell had it gotten back on the hook? Picking up the handset again, I unplugged it and tossed it over onto my overnight bag. Looking up as it landed, I saw Sheila sitting at the table.

  Groggily I gave her a weak smile, "Good morning." Rubbing my eyes again, I saw the clock on the wall said it was almost one o'clock. Looking back, I smiled, "Correction. Good afternoon." I said with false cheeriness.

  Looking at me for a second, she shifted her gaze to the cracker she had in her hand. Popping it into her mouth, she began chewing, ignoring my presence.

  Getting up, I walked towards the bedroom. Looking back, I saw her watching me. "If you don't mind, I'm just going to use the facilities." I said sheepishly, pointing towards the bathroom. She neither nodded nor shook her head. Assuming that she wasn't going to maul me for taking a leak, I went into the bathroom. Finishing up, I washed and headed back out into the living room.

  Walking over to the refrigerator, I took out a soda. Returning to the table, I sat down across from her. The last time I had been here was the night we had shared an Italian dinner. Popping the top, I took a sip as she continued eating cheese and crackers. The entire time, she just stared at me. Something in the back of my mind said it was time to shake things up a litte.

  Finishing the soda, I stood up and walked over to the coffee table and picked up the Desert Eagle that Tigger had given me. Returning to the dinette table, I ensured that there was a round in the chamber. As I sat down, I saw Sheila sitting up straight, eyes wide.

  Placing the pistol on the table, I shoved it butt first over to her side. Staring at the pistol like it would jump up and bite her, she finally looked up at me, confusion etched on her face. "What's that for?" she asked. Nodding to it, I instructed her, "Pick it up." Glancing between the pistol and myself, she shook her head, "No, I won't." "Pick it up!" I barked, ordering her. Glaring at her, I watched as she picked up the weapon, surprised at its weight. "Now point it at me," I again ordered harshly. Shaking, she used both hands and pointed it at me, the barrel wavering.

  Leaning forward so there would be no chance of her missing. "Now pull the trigger," I said quietly. Shaking, she began to breathe hard, her face flushing as the adrenaline hit her system. "Pull the damned trigger," I said, glaring. Her hands began to shake harder and then she dropped the pistol. Burying her hands in her face, she cried, "Why are you doing this to me?"

  Taking the gun, I verified the safety was still on. "I'm sorry Bjorn's dead. There's nothing I can do about that. But for Gods' sake either talk to me, or kill me and get it over with. Just... stop giving me the cold shoulder," I said angrily.

  Standing, I left the pistol on the table and walked over to the couch. Sitting, I tried to calm down. That was stupid. What the hell had I been thinking?

  Looking at the swords, I picked up the Katana. Unsheathing it, I examined the blade. Giving a curse, I saw that it had dried blood still on it. Returning it to its scabbard, I fetched a bowl of water and a dishcloth from the kitchen. Setting them on the table, I again withdrew the sword. Wetting the cloth, I began cleaning the blade.

  I felt Sheila sit down next to me. Looking at the sword, she asked, "What are you doing?" Continuing to work the dried blood out of the surface, I answered her. "I used this to kill your attackers last night," I explained quietly. "You really care about that sword, don' t you?" she asked. Smiling, I nodded. She was at least trying to talk to me. "These swords are the symbol of the Samurai. Nowadays, they're just a collector's item. Most of the ones you'll see are machine made. Stamped from steel, they're just cheap junk," I complained.

  Finished cleaning, I put the rag in the bowl. Holding the sword in front of her so she could look at the blade, I continued, "This is the pinnacle of the warrior spirit. Graceful and beautiful, it represents life and death, honor and fealty to one's master, atonement and redemption in seppuku. This sword is easily over two hundred years old. It was a family heirloom. By killing the bear that abducted you and Bjorn, I avenged the honor of its previous owner." I finished. Placing the blade back in its scabbard. I set it down next to the other two.

  Picking up the Tanto, she asked, "What's this one?" "That's the Tanto," I stated. Smiling, she looked up at me, "As in the Lone Ranger's side kick?" Nodding, I agreed. "Yes, kind of. It's the equivalent of a dagger. The next one up is the Wakazashi and the big one is a Katana." I explained pointing to each one.

  Replacing the Tanto in its sheath, she put it back down on the table. Sitting there, I watched her, as she stared at nothing in particular. After a few minutes, she looked up at me, tears in her eyes. "I'm sorry. I realize it wasn't your fault." She said quietly. Shaking my head, I disagreed. "No. Ultimately it's my fault. If I had left when I first found out that there was a contract on me, or gotten an apartment away from everyone, or one of a dozen other decisions I made... maybe Bjorn would still be alive. I keep thinking there must have been something I could have done different." I said quietly.

  Scooting close to me, she leaned against me, cradling her head against my shoulder. Reaching around, I put my arm around her and gave her a gentle squeeze. "What do you think will happen to Khansman now?" she asked. Shaking my head, I thought about it. "Tigger said she had some incriminating documents. If that doesn't work though..." I let my answer trail off. "If that doesn't work, then what?" she asked. Kissing her on the top of her head, I said quietly, "Then I'll hunt him down and kill him."


  Later that evening, I was sitting on the couch watching TV as Sheila slept. She was still worn out by her ordeal. Surfing the channels I came across an image of Bjorn. Turning up the volume I listened in.

  For the next fifty minutes, I saw a special put on by the local independent UHF channel about his life. The first twenty minutes covered his hometown, how he got into blue movies, and his eventual rise to fame. The rest of the program consisted of outtakes from his various interviews between Bjorn and Logan Furbody interspersed with history of what happened between each interview.

  After the end of the program, they ran the credits. In the background they showed clips of bloopers he had made during various films and interviews, always laughing about it. As the end of the credits rolled by, the frame froze on his smiling face, arm around Logan, they laughed at the camera. At the bottom was a graphic stating "Bjorn Otterson: 1965-2000"

  Turning off the TV, I got up and went into the kitchen. Taking a paper towel, I blew my nose. Leaning against the counter, I thought about what I had seen. Obviously Logan had put a lot of time and effort into the program. Unlike anything else I had seen by him, this was pure, clean journalism. No, it was his monument to Bjorn.

  I had once considered letting the guy have an interview. He appeared to be a decent bloke on TV, although irreverent. The interview clips he had showed were both serious and humorous, but never any of the loaded questions that you could expect from certain types of media hounds.

  I decided that until I was given evidence to the contrary, I liked the guy.


  In the morning, I awoke to the sound of my cell phone ringing. Reaching up, I answered, "Hello?" "Arden?" It was Zig Zag. "You were expecting someone else to answer?" I quipped back. I heard her chuckle, "Around you? You never know." Getting more serious, she continued, "We're closing ZZ studios through Wednesday. I just wanted to let you know that we're planning a private memorial service for tomorrow afternoon."

  Nodding to myself, it made sense. Obviously he wasn't going to be buried here. "Do you have all the details yet?" I asked. "No, not yet. James is trying to arrange for the location. I know you've got nothing but casual clothes. If Sheila feels up to it, I want you two to see about picking up something a little more formal," She explained. "Sure Zig Zag. No problem. I'll check with Sheila when she gets up," I informed her. Chuckling I heard her say, "No problem. Oh and Arden? Don't call me Zig Zag."

  Hanging up the phone, I put it over by the charger. Rubbing the sleep out of my eyes, I saw Sheila standing in the door. "Who was that?" she asked. Yawning, I replied, "It was Zig Zag. She called to let us know that she's closed the studio until Wednesday." Nodding, she started to turn. "Also," I continued, "she wanted me to let you know that they're planning a private memorial service for Bjorn tomorrow." Nodding, she thought for a second. "I guess that means we need to get you some better clothes," She said. I agreed, "Yah, if you're feeling up to it that is. Otherwise Zigs will give me a hand." Laughing, she leaned on the door, "No way. I'm not letting her dress you up. We'll find you something tasteful without looking like a walking billboard for over priced clothing," She said. Turning somber, she continued, "Besides. It will give me something to do with myself. I'm tired of just sitting around here."

  As she walked back to the bedroom, I heard her say, "I'm going to take a shower." And go into the bathroom. Waiting patiently, my bladder complained at having to wait. After a few minutes, I heard the shower start. Leaning back I thought about all the soda I had drank last night. Deciding to risk it, I headed for the bathroom. Sheila was in the shower lathering up. Trying not to pay attention to the silhouette, I relieved myself. Flushing, I was rewarded with a shriek from within the shower.

  Opening the shower door, Sheila barked at me, "Hey! What do you think you're doing?" Holding my hands up for defense, I backed up a step, "Sorry. I had to go." Rolling her eyes to the heavens, she directed me, "Next time, give a girl a little warning, will you?" she asked. Still holding my hands up, I waved them in surrender. "OK. No problem. It won't happen again." Slinging water at me, Sheila drove me off.

Chapter 45