| Story © 2000-2004 by Keith Dickinson.
All rights reserved. Characters Sabrina the Skunkette, Amy the Squirrel,
Tabitha, Carli, Tammy Vixen Shiela Vixen, Clarisse, and Carrie Squirrel
© Eric W. Schwartz. Character Thomas Woolfe © 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© Chris Yost. Character ZigZag © Max BlackRabbit.
Character James Sheppard, Doug and Kelly Granitz © James Bruner. Character
Mark the cheetaur © Mark White Eric W. Schwartz © Mr. and Mrs. Schwartz.
Michael Jones © Martin Pedersen. Arden Eastridge © Keith Dickson.
All rights to additional characters reserved by their respective owners.
Logan sat in the comfortable blue armchair as he reviewed his notes. Tonight’s interview would be on a very simple, if not stark, set. There were two chairs with a common table between them that held a pitcher of water and two glasses with a nondescript, neutral-colored curtain as the background. Logan glanced up as Zig Zag walked around the curtain, and he froze, stunned by what he saw. The world seemed to slow down as the tiger-striped skunk sashayed towards him wearing a tight, red sequined dress that hugged her body and ended at mid thigh. The look in her eyes as she approached was that of a hungry carnivore, which caused his heart to momentarily skip a beat. He began to feel light headed as she stopped in front of him and struck a pose, her hands on her hips. It was only then that he realized he was holding his breath.
“Oh man,” Logan said with a grin as he looked back towards the crew manning the cameras. He let his tongue loll out the side of his mouth as he patted his chest with a hand. It was no surprise to him that he wasn’t the only male in the room reacting the same way to the female’s appearance. He turned back towards Zig Zag and stood up. “My dear, you look stunning,” he declared with a broad grin.
“Why, thank you, Logan,” Zig Zag replied, taking his hand as she stepped up onto the stage. She turned towards the camera crew and struck another pose, with her head thrown back and her tail curled around her so it stood out between her and the wall. “So boys, what do you think?” she asked in a low, sultry voice.
An assortment of whistles, hoots, howls, and applause filled the soundstage as the males working in the room cut loose.
Zig Zag smiled as she noticed a doe with short-cropped head fur wearing a T-shirt with the “Stainless Steel Bitch” logo, furiously applauding. She gave one quick bump of her hips along with a wink in her direction before turning and taking her seat. She sat there for a minute and watched Logan as he ran his eyes up and down her body repeatedly. “So, are we going to get this show on the road, or do you want to take pictures?” she chided.
“Zig Zag,” Logan said somewhat breathlessly, “there are some moments in life that just shouldn’t be rushed, and this is definitely one of them.”
Laughing at the comment, Zig Zag rolled her eyes and repositioned herself in the chair so that she could comfortably cross her legs. Confident with the image she was projecting, she was content to let the men have their moment. Tonight the world would see a different Zig Zag, one who wasn’t going to hide from the media or anyone else. This would be much like the old Zig Zag, and not the one that she’d let the DA force her to create.
It was time to let the world know that there was once again a predator on the prowl.
Logan licked his teeth as he took his seat across from Zig Zag. He closed his eyes and forced himself not to smile while trying to ignore his body’s response to the raw sexual attraction that Zig Zag seemed to exude. It was time to become a reporter, and he couldn’t do that if he was lusting over his guest. A moment later he opened his eyes and smiled pleasantly at Zig Zag. “All right. Shall we get the ball rolling?” He turned towards the camera. “Do we need a sound check, Art?”
“If you would, please,” a booming voice replied from speakers in the back of the room.
Logan nodded and looked towards Zig Zag. “All right, testing---one---two---three---Mary had a little lamb, his fleece was white as snow. And when those two were all alone, that sheep Mary sure would blow,” he said in a conversational tone. “How was that?” he asked the disembodied voice.
“Sounds good,” the voice replied.
“OK,” Zig said pleasantly, as she looked at Logan, ignoring the boom microphone hovering over her head. “There’s no time like the present and no present like your time. One---two---three---four---five.” She looked to the back of the room. “How’s that?”
“That’s great, Zig.”
“Excellent,” Logan said as he picked his cue cards from the table. “Ok, Zig. You know the rules. I ask you a question, and you answer them as openly and honestly as you can, right?”
Zig Zag lifted the glass to take another sip, but paused it at her lips. “I’ll do my best,” she replied with a nod before taking another drink.
Logan turned to the middle of three cameras, one that would normally cover them both, but at that moment was zoomed in on his face. “Tonight, we have a special guest with us. She is Columbus’ most famous and most reclusive celebrity. Over the last nine months, her only comment to the media, outside of official press conferences, has been ‘No comment.’ Tonight all that changes. Tonight, we get to spend an evening---with Zig Zag.” He turned to face Zig Zag as the camera panned back. “I must say, that’s not exactly the outfit I expected to see you wearing tonight,” he commented without looking at his cards.
“What did you expect?” she asked as she uncrossed her knees and sat up in the chair. “You didn’t actually think I’d wear that godawful suit that I had on during the trial, did you?”
“Actually, I did,” he replied as he crossed his legs. “You’ve been putting on such a conservative face since the district attorney first officially announced you as the prime suspect in the disappearance and assumed death of Sheila Vixen. It’s quite a surprise to see you here in such a---provocative outfit.”
Zig Zag smiled and nodded. “That was---I don’t know how to say it, Logan. It was like I was someone else. That was a living nightmare for me. Now that it’s over, I think it’s time I got back to living my life without fear that the DA is going to convict me for something I didn’t do.”
The reporter nodded. “So this outfit is your way of saying, ‘I’m back.’ Is that it?”
“Pretty much,” she agreed, taking another sip of water and then clearing her throat. “This is the old Zig Zag. Or at least how she would have dressed for something like this. I think it’s time the old Zig Zag made a comeback.”
Logan cocked an ear in her direction. “Does that mean that you’re going to start acting again?”
Zig Zag laughed. “Oh, good lord no,” she replied, shaking her head and smiling. “I’m going to stay retired from acting. However, that doesn’t prevent me from doing my best to look drop-dead gorgeous.”
“And you have most certainly accomplished that tonight,” he replied, looking down at his first card and becoming serious. “You weren’t always known as Zig Zag. What did your birth certificate read?”
A frown momentarily appeared on Zig Zag’s muzzle before vanishing as quickly as it came. “Zelda---Tonya---Zumbrowski,” she replied with some distaste, drawing the name out.
“You clearly don’t like that name,” Logan said as he flipped to the next card. “Why don’t you tell us a little something about ‘Zelda Zumbrowski’.”
Zig Zag let out a long sigh and pursed her lips for a moment. “Zelda Zumbrowski was a dirt poor girl, who grew up in a family where she was treated with disdain. Her parents considered her unusual fur pattern to be a mark of shame and one they didn’t want to have to live with.”
“I note you speak about her in the third person,” he observed as he leaned forwards slightly to rest his elbow on his knee. “Why is that?”
“Well,” she replied with a minimal shrug, “I guess it would be because I don’t consider myself that person any more. Everything that she was, and everything that she represented in my life no longer really applies.”
Logan nodded as he flipped to the next card. “How did you get the name, Zig Zag?”
Zig Zag sucked in a quick breath between her teeth as she smiled. “Ooh, that’s a good one,” she declared with a laugh. “I was in Junior High at the time and we had this new kid who had come over from England. I remember his name was Arthur.” Her eyes got a mischievous twinkle in them as she spoke. “I was sitting at lunch one day, eating a sandwich when this handsome mouse with absolutely perfect headfur sat down across from me. He looked at my lunch bag which just had ZZ written on it and asked if it stood for Zig Zag.” She looked away and smiled. “I remember feeling myself blush. All I could do was nod. Ever since then, I’ve told everyone to call me that.”
Logan couldn’t help but smile in response to her reaction. “It sounds like he made a real impact on you.”
“Oh, he did,” she said with a nod. “I think he was the first person to really treat me like I wasn’t some kind of freak.” Her smile faded a little. “Don’t get me wrong. I had friends who treated me all right, but that’s pretty much because we were all half-breeds.”
“What happened to him? Is he still here in the states?” he asked, tilting his head to the side slightly as he gave her a quizzical look.
The smile vanished from Zig Zag’s face. “No. His father was just over here temporarily. They went back to the UK a little while later.”
“And ever since, you’ve called yourself, Zig Zag,” he commented as he flipped cards. “A most interesting anecdote.” He looked up at her with a very serious face. “Tell me about your parents.”
Zig Zag’s ears flicked backwards for a moment as her eyes narrowed, but then they stood back up as she struggled not to snarl. “My father---“ she started, then paused to take a deep breath and get control. “My father was a construction worker,” she declared flatly. “He was also a drunk. A very mean drunk. When he wasn’t working, he was usually getting shit-faced and beating up on either my mother or myself.” Zig Zag paused and tried to control the emotions before she continued. “My mother, on the other hand, was a drunk who was terrified of my father. When he was home, all she could do was cower in fear and try to avoid his wrath. When he wasn’t there, all she did was drink and react hysterically to any little thing that she thought my father might not like.”
Logan flipped to the next card and frowned. “You said your father hit you,” he said as he looked up at Zig Zag. “He did more than just hit you, didn’t he?”
Zig Zag crossed her arms and looked away as she nodded but didn’t answer.
“He not only beat you, he also molested you,” the ferret prompted.
Not wanting to face the question, Zig Zag simply nodded again.
Logan frowned as he considered whether to push the question or not. It was obviously something that bothered the female, but it was also something very central to who she was. “How old where you when he first molested you?”
The question forced Zig Zag to look up into Logan’s eyes. She could tell by his reaction that her attempt to hide her feelings had been futile. “I was nine,” she said in a low, horse whisper. “I was nine,” she repeated louder as the actress side of her remembered there was a microphone listening. “It was on my ninth birthday,” she said as she hastily took a sip of water. “I remember my father coming into my room. He was, of course, drunk off his ass, reeking of alcohol and sweat. He unzipped his fly and told me that it was time for my extra-special birthday present.”
Logan gritted his teeth as he watched the emotions playing out before him. Part of him hated doing something like this to her, but the other half, the reporter half, knew that a story like this had to be told. People had to understand that animals like this existed in the world. “That wasn’t the only time he did that to you, was it?”
Zig Zag shook her head and sniffed. “No,” she said as her face suddenly became stern and void of emotions. There was a look of steel in her eyes as she faced the reporter. “No, it wasn’t,” she declared angrily. “At first it was once every couple of weeks, but that changed. My mom started letting her figure go so that my father wouldn’t be interested in her any more. That pissed my daddy dearest off even more and he wound up taking it out on me, both physically and sexually.”
“Why didn’t you ever report your father,” he asked quietly as he flipped to the next card.
The steel in her resolve cracked and she looked away. “I thought it was my fault,” she said as she looked at a spot on the ground. “My father kept saying that I was a slut and all I was good for was a fucking. My mom---she was just happy it wasn’t her.” She hung her head for a second then looked back up at Logan. “She said that if I turned him in, we wouldn’t have any money for food or rent. We’d wind up out on the street.” Zig Zag shook her head and shrugged. “What was I to do? I didn’t really care about myself, but I had my brother and sister to think about. I mean, who would take care of them? They were too young to fend for themselves. They needed someone to protect them from him.”
“And protect them you did,” he stated without looking down at the cards. “In fact, you eventually sued for custody of your siblings and won. But that was after you’d moved out of the house. What prompted that move?”
“My moving out?” Zig Zag frowned and didn’t bother to hide it. “I’d gotten into a fight with my father. He’d hit me hard enough to knock me down. In the process, I hit my head on a coffee table and split it open. That’s when I decided I had to get out of there.”
“Something else happened that night,” Logan prompted. “Something very traumatic for you.”
Zig Zag nodded and got a far away look in her eyes for a moment as she spoke. “My mother thought that my father had killed me. She saw all the blood on the floor and me out cold and freaked. She got my father’s pistol from the bedroom and threatened him with it.” She paused to take a sip of water before continuing. “I remember waking up to see her pointing the gun at him and screaming for him to get out. There was a lot of yelling on both sides. He slapped the gun away and then started to beat her.” Her muzzle twisted into a snarl as her ears were laid back against her head. “He was hitting her and hitting her and he wouldn’t stop. Even after he’d knocked her out he kept hitting and kicking her.” She closed her eyes and sighed. “I remember picking up the gun,” she said as she looked up at Logan with haunted eyes, “pointing it at him and pulling the trigger.” She glanced away at the camera and then down to the floor. “I thought I’d killed him,” she said as she looked up at Logan.
“But you didn’t,” he prompted.
Zig Zag straightened up and regained most of her composure. “No, I didn’t. I’d just grazed his head and knocked him out.”
“What happened then?”
Zig Zag’s brows rose as she rocked her head to the side momentarily. “The cops came, obviously. They arrested my father for battery. The Department of Family and Child Services took me and my brother and sister into custody temporarily until they could sort things out. Mom was in the hospital for three weeks with broken ribs, jaw, nose, concussion, lacerated liver and a bruised spleen.”
Logan frowned. “It sounds like he almost killed her. Why didn’t he go to jail?”
“He did. For a little bit,” she replied with a sigh, nodding. “Domestic violence charge, but it was only for six weeks. My mother wouldn’t file charges against him or testify. I didn’t want to testify because I was worried that DCFS would take my brother and sister away and split them up.”
“And that’s when you moved out, right?” he asked, flipping to the next card.
Zig Zag gave her headfur a flip as all traces of negative emotions vanished from her face. “Yes. I took what few belongings I had and most of my clothes and took off.”
“What did you do for a living? You hadn’t had any real jobs before that, right?”
“Not really,” She replied with a shake of her head. “I wanted to go into acting. I’d done some theater in school, and liked it. I got myself an agent and started working on a career.”
Logan smiled. “That didn’t go too well for you, did it?”
Zig Zag laughed and shook her head. “No. It was a disaster. I got a few bit parts in the background on some locally produced commercials and stuff like that, but nobody wanted me. My unique fur pattern marked me as being undesirable. Everyone wanted purebreds for that kind of stuff.”
“Since acting wasn’t cutting it, how did you make ends meet?” he asked, flipping cards again.
Again Zig smiled. “I worked for an escort service,” she said as she crossed her legs and got comfortable. “It wasn’t bad work. Most of the clients who accepted me were more interested in having something exotic hanging off their arms than anything else. It was good pay, but unfortunately it wasn’t enough. Most clients didn’t like my ‘exotic’ looks and usually went with the more contemporary patterned escorts, so it was kind of tough.”
“And that’s when you got something you never expected,” Logan said with a smile as he flipped to the next card. “You got an offer for the leading roll in a movie.”
“Oh yeah!” Zig Zag declared with a laugh. “Though it wasn’t anything like I expected.” She cleared her throat, took another sip of water and smiled as she remembered the events. “Ron Cohen was a director I’d worked with on several projects. He was a real nice guy. Always treated me with respect and tried to get me good parts. One day he comes to me and says he has an opening for the lead roll in a film that he’s producing and wants to know if I’m interested.” She laughed and brushed her headfur back with one hand as she scooted around in the chair to get comfortable. “Of course, I jumped at the offer, then I took three steps backwards when I found out it was in a ‘blue film.’ That wasn’t something that I’d ever considered doing and I wasn’t very sure I wanted to get into that kind of work.”
Logan smiled again and cocked his head to the side. “How did he convince you to work for him?”
“With a great deal of smooth talking and a hefty dose of logic. First thing he did was point out that I was---let’s see, how did he phrase it---oh yah, that I was the most exotic and erotic looking female he’d ever encountered,” she recalled fondly. “He convinced me to meet the rest of the crew I’d be working with. They were a pretty interesting group. They were nothing like what I was expecting: A bunch of sloppy looking people who were doing this because it was their only way to make money. They were all good looking, well-groomed actors.”
“How much did you make off of that first picture,” he asked as he flipped his card.
Zig Zag’s smile grew. “I made two thousand dollars for four days worth of work.”
Logan chuckled. “Not bad pay considering this was back in nineteen ninety.”
“No. Not bad at all,” Zig Zag agreed with a light, carefree laugh.
Logan picked up his glass and took a sip before consulting the next card. “How long did you work for Ron?”
“It was about a year and a half,” Zig Zag replied as she thought back to that time period. “Yeah. Right at a year and a half, I think.”
“During that time, something special happened with your family,” Logan said with a sly smile.
Zig Zag nodded. “That’s right. I sued for custody of my brother and sister and won.”
Logan nodded in return and flipped to the next card. “What were the repercussions of the suit you filed against your parents?”
For a moment Zig Zag’s brows furrowed as she tried to figure out what he meant, then they rose with understanding. “My father was arrested for child molestation and abuse,” she replied without any hint of emotion.
“Your father in jail, and your siblings in your custody, everything appeared to be going your way,” Logan stated as he consulted his card. He looked up and stared directly into Zig Zag’s eyes, causing her to flinch. “What happened on June third, nineteen ninety one?”
Zig Zag’s expression became a fixed and unmoving mask that showed no emotion. “That’s the night I killed my father,” she stated flatly.
Logan nodded solemnly. “That was one of the key points that the District Attorney’s office tried to use against you in court recently. If you would, please, describe the series of events which happened that night.”
Zig Zag took a deep breath and let it out slowly, but didn’t answer. Her eyes darted back and forth as she considered how to respond.
“Zig Zag?” Logan prompted.
“I’m sorry,” she replied with a weak smile. “That’s just not one of my favorite things to recall.” She gave a nervous laugh as she took a sip of water. “I should have expected you to ask it, but I don’t know why I didn’t.”
“Would you like to take a break?” Logan offered.
Zig Zag shook her head. “No,” she replied with a forced smile. “I’m fine.” She took another deep breath and let it out as she looked up at the lights. “The night I killed my father,” she sighed as she looked back down at Logan. “God, that sounds horrible. It almost makes me sound like some mass murderer.”
“I’m sorry,” he responded with honest regret. “How about if I rephrase it?”
“No!” she replied with an emphatic shake of her head. “I don’t want to candy-coat what happened,” she declared. She looked down for a moment then back up at Logan. “My father was out on bond. He’d been drinking, as usual, and was in his usual bad mood. He’d lost his job and was looking at a long stretch in jail if he was convicted. He got it through his head that what had happened was, of course, all my fault.” She took another deep breath and let it out as she glanced at the cameras and back to Logan. “My sister had given my mother our address in case of any emergencies. My father had beaten my mother until she’d finally given it to him. We didn’t have any warning that he was on his way. She didn’t even have the decency to call and warn us.”
Zig Zag momentarily lifted herself from the chair with her arms as she shifted her tail and sat down to get more comfortable. It wasn’t that she had been physically uncomfortable. In fact, the opposite was true. She was simply trying to delay the inevitable. She steeled herself and faced the camera. “I remember someone pounding on the door and ringing the bell at around ten pm. We’d all gone to bed by then, so I was a bit disoriented when I woke up. I wrapped a housecoat around myself as I made my way out to the front door. I turned on the outside light before unlocking the door. As I started to open it, my father kicked the door, causing it to hit me in the snout and knock me down.” Despite her conscious efforts to the contrary, her ears slowly drifted back until they were laying flat against her skull and her hackles had risen slightly. “He came through the door shouting something about me being nothing more than a high paid whore. He grabbed me and started to beat me with a miniature baseball bat while at the same time ripping my housecoat and night gown off.”
Zig Zag paused to take a drink, noticing that Logan was sitting back with his arms crossed over his stomach. “I guess my father’s shouting had woke my brother and sister up. Next thing I knew, Max was standing there, shouting at my dad and pointing this gun at him while Brandy was huddled in a corner, screaming at the top of her lungs for everyone to stop it. I don’t know where the hell he got the gun. I’d never seen it before.”
“What happened then,” Logan asked.
“All hell broke loose,” Zig Zag said with a sigh. “My brother was terrified by our father. He couldn’t hold the gun steady even though he was using both hands. Dad charged him and lashed out with the bat, catching my brother in the arm. I remember the gun going off, and then seeing my father beating him with the bat.” She paused again for a moment as she closed her eyes. “I can still see it,” she said, looking up at Logan with tears in her eyes. “There was blood on the bat, Brandy was screaming and Max was just laying there, covered in blood.” She looked down at her hands and shook her head. “The next thing I knew, I had the pistol in my hand and was aiming it at my father while yelling at him to stop.”
Logan flinched at the expression on Zig Zag’s face. There was a look in her eye that scared him. He knew she was looking at her father and not him, but nonetheless it was unnerving.
“He turned,” she growled in a low voice. “He dropped my brother and turned towards me. He said that I was nothing more than a two bit whore and that he was going to make sure that I never ruined anyone else’s life.” She swallowed as her eyes narrowed. “I knew, right then, right at that moment, that he was going to kill me.”
“What did you do then,” Logan quietly prompted.
“I pulled the trigger,” she replied, her voice filled with hate and loathing. “I pulled the trigger, and I kept pulling the trigger. Even after the gun was empty, I kept pulling the trigger,” she said, her voice trembling with emotion. “For every time he’d beaten me. Every time the bastard had raped me. For every time that sick son of a bitch called me a worthless slut and a whore, I pulled the trigger.” Her eyes, cold as steel, focused on Logan, causing him to unconsciously lean back from the tiger-striped skunk. “I killed that fucking son of a bitch,” she said with a low, angry growl.
The hard, almost murderous expression on her face cracked and disappeared to be quickly replaced by one of a very young and scared woman. “I killed him,” she said with a nervous laugh, a sniff of her nose and her voice trembling as a tear came to her eye. “And that’s how I killed my father.”
She stood suddenly and turned away from Logan. “Excuse me,” she squeaked as she walked purposefully off the stage.
Logan turned to the camera crew and let out a low whistle as he, too, stood up. “Ok. I think this is a good time to take a break,” he said as he rubbed his hand through his headfur. He slipped his cue cards into a jacket pocket while slowly walking around the end of the set in the direction that Zig Zag had gone. Reaching behind his back, he flipped the switch that would turn off the wireless microphone. After a few minutes of searching, he found her sitting on a crate in the back of the soundstage. He casually approached, scuffing his feet as he walked to make sure he didn’t sneak up on her. He took a seat on the same crate next to where she was sitting. “You OK?”
Zig Zag nodded. “Yeah,” she replied as she sniffed and dabbed at her eyes with a Kleenex.
“I’m sorry about that,” he quietly said. “I shouldn’t have pushed you that hard.”
“Naw. That’s OK,” she replied giving him a small smile. “Everyone’s probably been wondering about it since it came out at the trial. I guess it’s better to get it out here than in another stupid tabloid that’s going to get the facts wrong.”
“I can’t argue with that logic,” he said with a light laugh. Logan reached up and put his hand on her shoulder and gave it a gentle squeeze. “Listen, you take whatever time you need and when you’re ready, come back out front and we’ll pick up where we left off, OK?”
Zig Zag nodded again. “Thanks.”
Logan gave her shoulder one more squeeze before he stood up and returned to the stage. He frowned as he spotted a security guard walking towards him. “Yes?”
“Sir. We have a gentlefur at the front desk,” the guard stated. “He says that you told him to come down here for tonight’s interview?”
Logan’s ears perked up. “What’s his name?”
The guard lifted his radio to his mouth and hit the transmit button. “Bill. What’s the name of the guy looking for Logan?”
There was a momentary burst of static. “Sheppard. James Sheppard.”
“Tell him I’ll be right there,” Logan said as he ran off at a jog. He barely heard the guard talking on the radio as he hit the door leading to the main part of the station at a run. Sprinting down the empty halls, it took the ferret all of thirty seconds to reach the front lobby where he saw a male mixed-breed canine in a smart looking business suit. “James Sheppard, I presume?” Logan asked as he came to a halt in front of the male, his hand held out in a greeting.
James looked down at the proffered hand for a second before he reached out to shake it. “Just answer one question for me,” James said in a stern voice. “Was the name of the cop who sold you the tape, Lambert?”
“Huh?” Logan grunted. The ferret frowned and cocked his head sideways for a second before he shook it. “No. No it wasn’t,” he said withdrawing his hand.
“All right then,” James said, his posture relaxing a bit. “So what’s the deal? Do you still want me here for the interview?”
“Absolutely, Mr. Sheppard,” the reporter replied as he guided his charge past the security desk and towards the studio. “What I’m going to do is have you take a seat behind the cameras where you can watch the interview process. Then, after I’m done with the questions I have lined up for Zig Zag, I’ll have a chair added to the stage and we’ll bring you up.”
“Sounds good to me,” James replied as he followed the reporter around. Soon they came to a door that declared they were entering Studio 4. There was a sign overtop that read “IN PRODUCTION” which was unlit. As he entered, he noticed a small stage with two chairs and a table. He saw someone filling a pitcher of water on the table and wondered where Zig Zag was. He felt a tug on his sleeve and turned to follow Logan into the director’s booth where they stopped next to an attractive young female fox who was busy chewing on a pencil.
“Jane,” Logan said, getting the fox’s attention. “Would you please get a standard release form for Mr. Sheppard here and help him fill it out? Once that’s done, set him up with a chair behind the cameras where he can watch the stage. OK?”
“Sure thing, Logan,” she replied with a pleasant smile. She got up and walked over to the filing cabinet to get the paperwork while talking. “Help yourself to a chair, Mr. Sheppard. This won’t take long at all, and then you can go watch the show.”
Logan, satisfied that James was being taken care of, left the booth and walked up to the stage a few moments before Zig Zag returned. Again he smiled and gave her a hand up on to the platform before stepping up himself. He settled into his chair and gave Zig Zag a reassuring smile. “Ready to go?”
“Yep,” she replied with her own smile. “Let’s get this thing over with so I can go home and get some sleep.”
“Sounds good to me,” he replied with a chuckle.
“Umm, Logan?” the booming disembodied voice interrupted. “Can you check your mike? I’m not getting a signal.”
Logan winced as he reached behind his back and turned the transmitter back on. “How’s this? Testing, one---two---three.”
“Good signal. Thanks,” the voice replied.
“Ok,” Logan said as he clapped his hands together. “Where were we?”
“And that, your honor,” Zig Zag said with a smile, “is when I shot him.” She paused and frowned at his empty hands. “No cue cards?”
Logan reached into his coat pocket and pulled out the stack of cards. He glanced at the top one and then flipped it to the rear. “After the death of your father, what happened to your mother?”
“My mom didn’t take it so well,” she replied. “Without dad around to provide income, the bills started to pile up. She tried to get a job, but she hadn’t worked in ages and nobody wanted to hire a dumpy looking skunk with no experience, especially not one who didn’t want to take a minimum wage job or actually do work for a living. And then there was the stigma of the fact that my father had been sexually abusing me and she’d just stood by without doing anything. That didn’t help her out much. I guess in the end, she had a little bit of a glimpse as to the kind of life I had lived.” She frowned and looked a bit melancholy. “A couple of months later, the neighbors found her hanging from a rope in the stairwell of the house. She’d killed herself.”
“How did you feel when you heard the news that she’d taken her own life,” Logan asked, flipping to the next card.
Zig Zag’s brow rose momentarily as she considered the question. She crossed her legs and straightened her dress as she thought on the question. “I guess I was a bit saddened. I mean, I was never really close to my mom.” She shook her head and frowned again. “Actually, to tell the truth, I hated my mother. I hated her for how she treated me, for what she let my father do, and because she wouldn’t do anything to stop it. But still, she was my mother. You know what I mean?”
“I do,” Logan replied with a solemn nod. “In nineteen ninety-four, something wonderful happened to you,” he said with a smile.
“Yep!” Zig Zag smiled and nodded. “That’s the year I founded Double Z Studios,” she replied before taking another sip of water before clearing her throat again.
Logan cocked his head at her. “Are you OK? You’ve been drinking a lot of water.”
“Yeah. I’ll be fine,” she replied with a reassuring smile. “I’m just getting over a cold and still have a bit of a sore throat.”
“Ah,” he grunted with understanding. “You were making very good money working for Ron. What made you decide to start your own studio?”
Zig Zag laughed. “One look at his bottom line! Here he was paying us two, maybe three thousand per video, and he was raking in twenty times that in profit.”
Logan nodded and flipped to the next card. “Indeed. So you took your savings, rented a warehouse and set up your own adult film studio. How difficult was it to accomplish that?”
“Actually, it was pretty hard,” Zig Zag admitted as she uncrossed her legs and crossed them in the opposite direction while smoothing out the hem of her dress. “I had enough money to rent the warehouse, but not really enough to pay anyone or buy much in the way of materials or supplies. I lucked out when Tommy Jensen, who’d done most of the camera work for Ron’s productions, decided to jump ship with me. He had enough of his own equipment to let us get started without a major investment. The talent came from people I knew in the industry as well as the escort service. I borrowed some money from a few high interest loan specialists and we went to work on our first production.” Zig Zag held up her hands to frame the title as she spoke it, “Predator on the Prowl.”
“A low budget production,” he said, reading from the cue card, “costing you just over fifteen thousand dollars in materials. None of the employees were paid up front and were only promised royalties.” He paused and smiled. “How much did that video bring in?”
Zig Zag gave Logan a broad grin. “That video sold over thirty thousand units. We made close to a hundred thousand on that.”
“One hundred thousand dollars profit,” Logan said, allowing the figure to roll off of his tongue. “And how much of that went to pay off the talent?”
“Eighty percent of the profits went to the staff,” Zig Zag replied smugly.
Logan flipped to the next card and nodded. “Eighty percent is still how you work out the profit sharing in the studio, isn’t it? How do you determine how much each person gets?”
Zig Zag laughed again. “That’s something I brainstormed over for a while,” she replied as she cupped both hands over the top of her crossed knee. “Then one night I had the TV on and there was this pirate movie playing. They were talking about splitting the booty into shares. Each pirate got a share according to his standing on the ship. I thought to myself, why shouldn’t we do something similar?”
Logan smiled at the camera and quipped, “Pirates of the blue film industry.” He shared a small chuckle with Zig Zag before continuing. “How do you determine who gets what share?” he asked, flipping cards again.
“It’s pretty straight forward. The company gets twenty percent off the top. The remaining eighty percent is broken up, with forty percent going to the talent based on how much time they spend in front of the camera. The other forty percent is divided amongst all the other people involved in the production. Sound, lighting, editing, props, wardrobe, etc.”
Logan nodded. “You also pay your staff a salary. How does that work?”
“Each person gets a salary based on the work they do,” she explained as she reached for the glass of water. “After the production is done, that salary is deducted from their percentage of the take. It’s kind of like an advance on the box office,” she stated before taking a sip of water and replacing the glass.
“What if someone works on a project, but it flops? How do you handle their salary then?”
Zig Zag scowled. “Double Z Productions has never had a flop,” she declared proudly.
“Hypothetically speaking,” Logan said with a smile as he flipped to the next card. “Let’s say that you did have one that flopped. How would you handle that?”
Zig Zag laughed and uncrossed her legs while bringing her hands up to her lap. “If such a disaster did happen, and assuming that it wasn’t due to the end of life on the earth as we know it, then the studio would eat the costs. After all, you can’t deduct from the profits if there aren’t any.”
“Since all employee pay is based on profits, how can they be sure you’re not padding the expenses?” He asked as he flipped the card. “Big budget Hollywood films are famous for having movies gross eighty million, and then the studios claiming they didn’t make money off of them.”
“We have an open book policy at the studio,” Zig Zag replied calmly. “Any employee is allowed---no, encouraged to take a look at the books at any time to find areas where we might cut expenses. If one area of the studio’s costs starts going up for no good reason, you can trust that they leave no stone unturned to determine why and correct it.”
Logan smiled. “It sounds like you have some very empowered employees.”
“They’re not just employees, Logan; they’re a family,” she declared. “A rather unique and somewhat---dysfunctional family,” she explained with a laugh, “but we’re still one big family.”
“Have you ever fired an employee, and if so, why?”
“Actually, I’ve had to let a few go,” Zig Zag responded somberly. “I have my people checked on a weekly basis to ensure that nobody’s picked up any bugs, and if someone has, they’re quarantined until it’s gone. I run a very clean ship and I don’t tolerate anyone who’s not careful about who they sleep with. Unfortunately, we’ve had a few people who were testing positive for VD more often than was reasonable. So often in one case that it was disrupting our production schedule.”
Logan cocked his head to the side. “Have you ever fired someone for personality conflicts?”
“Never!” Zig Zag emphatically stated before taking another sip of water. “If someone has a problem with someone else, we simply don’t schedule them to work on the same project. If they can’t deal with that, then they can leave. So far, though, I’ve never had to fire anyone for it.”
“OK. Let’s look back at nineteen ninety-four again,” Logan said as he checked one of his cue cards. “Something unexpected happened to you that year. What was it?”
Zig Zag furrowed her brows as she studied the reporter. “I’m not sure what you’re talking about. We moved into our permanent studio in ninety seven, if that’s what you mean.”
“No,” Logan replied with a shake of his head. “I’m referring to your becoming pregnant.”
Zig Zag’s sucked a quick breath through her teeth and flattened her ears. “Who told you that?” she demanded.
“I have some very good sources,” Logan replied with a coy smile. “And I have collected a great deal of information about you over the years.” He paused then repeated the question,” In nineteen ninety four, you became pregnant, right?”
“Don’t go there, Logan,” Zig Zag said in a low, dangerous voice. “That topic’s off limits.”
Logan sat back and frowned. “I thought we had a deal, Zig Zag. You’d answer every question put to you, honestly and truthfully. Are you going back on that deal?” He nodded his head in the direction of the cameras before pointing a finger in her direction. “If so, I can promise that it’ll make it into the interview. You’ll loose the right to edit for content if you refuse to answer any question.”
Zig Zag glared at him for a minute before lowering her head in defeat. She concentrated on finding her center to calm her emotions. After a minute of deep breathing exercises, she looked back up at Logan with her eyes pleading. “Please don’t ask me about that. Anything except that.”
Logan leaned forward and rested his elbows on his knees. “Zig Zag. There are women out there who are either going through what you went through now, or they will be.” He paused and nodded. “Let them learn from what happened to you.”
Zig Zag hung her head, resting it against her hand as she used her arm to help hold it up. She took a long, deep breath and let it out before straightening up and adjusting her dress. “All right,” she said with a nod. “Ask the question.”
“Something else happened to you in nineteen ninety-four,” Logan said, pausing for effect. “What was that?”
“I became pregnant,” Zig Zag replied.
“I was going to ask how, but I think we all know the answer to that little mystery of life,” he said with a smile. “I guess the more apropos question would be, why?”
“At the time, I was using the pill for birth control,” she explained. “I was having some problems with side effects, specifically where my breasts were becoming overly tender.” She paused and gave a forced smile. “If you know anything about blue films, then you know that guys can be a little rough when it comes to the breasts.” Zig Zag took a sip of the water and then stared at the ice for a few moments before she set the glass back down. “I went to my doctor to see what we could do to resolve the issue. He changed my prescription and told me to let him know if that worked, which it did. Unfortunately, due to my hybrid lineage, the altered dosage wasn’t enough to prevent a pregnancy.”
“What happened after you found out that you were pregnant?”
“You mean after I had a panic attack?” she joked. She sighed and frowned. “At first I wanted to keep it. The idea of me being someone’s mother hadn’t really occurred to me. As an actress, I had no intention of getting pregnant.” She gave a nervous little laugh and shrugged. “Goes to show what I knew, eh?” She glanced around at the cameras and then back towards Logan. “The reality was, though, that I wasn’t ready for that. I was still taking care of Max and Brandy. I had a studio to run, which was a full time job in and of itself, and I was the star attraction for the videos. There’s no way I felt I could keep working once I started to show.”
Logan flipped over a card, and glanced at it, but didn’t speak.
Zig Zag closed her eyes for a moment and fought back the tears. “So I had an abortion,” she finally said, looking him in the eye.
“Obviously that was an event which has affected you deeply,” Logan stated with apparent feeling. “Do you regret having done it?”
Zig Zag nodded without answering. She waited for him to ask another question but saw that he wasn’t going to. “Yeah. I regret having done it,” she said quietly. “Even now I think about what it would be like to have that kit in my life.” She gave him a weak smile as she continued to fight the tears. “She’d be about six now. Just discovering the world. Right at that perfect age where they’re all innocence and joy.”
Logan nodded. “If you had it all to do over again, do you think you would have done things differently?”
Zig Zag nodded without hesitation. “Yes, I would. I wouldn't have had the abortion.”
“Even though that might have affected sales of your videos?” he challenged.
“Yeah. Even if it would have affected sales of my videos,” she responded.
Logan looked down as he flipped a card. “Do you still want to have children?”
Zig Zag got a far away look in her eyes for a moment and nodded. “Yeah--- Yeah, I think I do.”
Logan smiled. “Since it takes two people to accomplish such a feat,” he said lightly, “is there anyone in your life right now who you could see yourself settling down with to have kits?”
Zig Zag looked up in surprise at the question, then smiled and glanced away, suddenly embarrassed. “I suppose you could say that,” she admitted, giving the reporter a coy smile.
“Which brings us to just over a year ago,” Logan said. “You contracted with a computer company known as Sheppard Computing to do some work for you. During the project, you met one of the technicians. Describe what happened.”
“Ooooooh,” Zig Zag cooed with a dreamy smile. “He was my knight in shining armor.” She paused to take a sip of water and set the glass back down. “We were having problems with our server. We’d had a computer tech out to fix it numerous times, and he’d never managed to do it right. It was late on a Friday afternoon.” She paused to scratch her muzzle before she resumed talking. “If I remember right, it was around three thirty. We were pretty much convinced that we’d never get anyone out to fix the computer that day. Fortunately though, a friend recommended Sheppard Computer Systems to us. I called and got a guy who simply identified himself as James, who promised if I would fax over the system's specs he’d call back within half an hour to discuss the problem.” She chuckled as she remembered the day. “Neither Marvin nor I were confident he’d call back on time, but sure enough, he did. We talked about the issue and he said somebody would be onsite to fix our problem within half an hour.”
Logan smiled and nodded. “And at that time, you had no clue that the James you were talking to was the CEO of the company?”
“Nope,” Zig Zag replied with a shake of her head as she crossed her legs and scooted a bit in the chair to get more comfortable. “He never said anything about it till later. He showed up on our doorstep in just under half an hour.” She chuckled. “Better service than we get out of the pizza guy sometimes.” She took another sip of water as she let the chuckles pass. “He came in, was very professional about his work, and got us fixed up with a minimum of time and effort.” She let out a small giggle before continuing. “He even kept calling me ma’am. Can you believe that?”
Logan laughed. “He sounds like a real gentleman,” he said, resisting the urge to look over to the cameras where James would be sitting.
“No kidding,” she said, taking another sip of water. “Anyway, we talked for a bit and just as he was about to leave I asked him a very personal question.”
“Oh?” the ferret said, both of his ears directed towards her as he gave her a shocked look.
“Nothing like that,” she declared with a laugh. “No, it was about his fur pattern. You see, James is like me, a mixed breed. At first, I thought he might be part fox, but it turns out he’s a coyote and German Sheppard mix. The other thing I asked is why he hadn’t reacted to my fur pattern.”
“And his answer?” Logan prompted as he took a drink of water.
“He told me that while he was in the military he’d seen all of my videos,” she replied with a sly grin. “It was… let’s see, how did he phrase it? ‘Critical to maintaining company morale’.”
Logan gave a carefully-polite chuckle.
“Of course, that was all before he founded Sheppard Computer Systems,” she continued before taking another sip. “That was a bit of a bomb for me. I couldn’t understand why on earth the founder of the company would be out doing a service call.”
“How did he explain that?” Logan asked as he leaned forward, resting his elbow on the arm of the chair.
“When he’d gotten my fax with the information, apparently some locker room humor started floating around the tech area. James explained to me that he wouldn’t allow such an attitude to exist in the office or in the field.” She uncrossed her knees and leaned on the arm closer to Logan and smiled. “That, and the fact that he would be setting an example for the troops. No job too small, and all that kind of thing.”
“Very interesting,” Logan said with a smile as he again resisted the urge to glance over at James. This was a story he’d not heard before. “So how did the two of you become an item?”
Zig Zag shook her head and smiled. “We only have a couple of hours and that’s a very long story.”
“All right, then.” Logan sat up and straightened his jacket before referring to his cue cards again. “Let’s fast forward here a few months to June of that year. You and Sheila Vixen were returning from the blue film industries premier convention, Sexpo 2000.”
The smile faded from Zig Zag’s face as she remembered that day.
“There was a thunderstorm with a blinding downpour.” Logan paused for effect again. “Suddenly, there was a blinding flash of lightning. And then what?”
Zig Zag nodded. “The lightening momentarily blinded me. The next thing I knew there was this big, white blob in the middle of the road. I wasn’t sure if it was the after image of the lightening or not, so I hit my brakes and turned the wheel to try to avoid it.”
“But you couldn’t, could you?”
“No,” she said, shaking her head. “The car started to spin on the slick roadway. I clipped him as we went by. The car wound up in the ditch on the right side of the road, while he wound up in the ditch on the left.”
“I think we all know what happened after that,” Logan stated. “Arden spent some time in the hospital and the DA went on the war path, using what happened as an excuse to try and ruin your reputation by accusing you of reckless driving. But that didn’t work, did it?”
A small smile graced Zig Zag’s face. “No. Arden defended me against the accusations made by the news reporters, and in doing so pretty much kept the DA off of my back.”
Logan looked at the camera and frowned. “And then, as we all know, an attempt was made on his life outside the ZZ Studio’s front door.” He looked back over at Zig Zag. “Is it true he save Sheila Vixen’s life?”
“Yes. Sheila and Clarence both,” she replied, nodding. “They were just exiting the building when we had a drive-by shooting.”
“As I understand it,” Logan said, referring to a cue card as he flipped the prior one to the back of the deck, “Arden was injured in that attack.”
Zig Zag let out a loud, belly laugh. “If you consider taking several bullets in the back as well as having pieces of glass from a shattered plate-glass window falling and imbedding themselves in you injured, then yes.”
Logan nodded. “I must admit I was surprised at the extent of his injuries, and the fact that he wasn’t hospitalized for them.”
“Bears are pretty tough,” Zig Zag commented. “Polar bears are the largest of the species. Fortunately, none of the bullets made it through the muscle. His thick hide slowed them down enough that they were literally flesh wounds.”
“After a brief stay in the emergency room Sheila took him to her apartment, where he wound up staying with her.” Logan looked up from his cards and smiled. “That’s a rather quick move even for Sheila, isn’t it?”
Zig Zag frowned at the reporter. “You wana rephrase that?”
“Think about it,” he said, flipping to the next card. “She’d barely had any time to get to know him. He had no ID, nobody really knew who he was - including him- and she immediately took him home to live with her.” He cocked both his ears in her direction and shook his head. “That’s not what most normal people would do.”
Still frowning, Zig Zag shrugged. “I suppose you’re right,” she reluctantly admitted, forcing her face to relax. “Originally, I was going to put Arden up in the apartment we keep for out of town talent and VIPs. Unfortunately, there had been a change of plans as Bjorn Ottersman was coming to town a week early to shoot his movie, Bjorn to be Wild.” Zig Zag picked up the glass of water again, but didn’t immediately take a sip. Instead, she shook the glass to stir the ice for a moment before drinking. The action had nothing to do with the consistency of the ice or the water, but with her desire to maintain a tight rein on her emotions. She set the glass back down and looked up at Logan. “I was going to put him up in a hotel, but Sheila volunteered to let him stay with her. She had a spare bedroom that wasn’t being used, so there wouldn’t be any problems with him staying with her.”
Logan let out a small chuckle. “A spare bedroom full of boxes, as I understand it.”
Zig Zag nodded. “Something like that.” She got a far away look and smiled. “I don’t know what it was about him, but when they were together she was like a little kit with her first love.” She focused her eyes back on Logan. “You could just look at them and see that there was something there.”
“Not long after they were together, another attempt was made on Arden’s life.” Logan flipped the card and looked up at Zig Zag. “Two professional assassins broke into Sheila’s townhouse. Arden killed one of the intruders and a security guard killed the other. What did you do when you heard about it?”
“I checked to make sure my heart was still beating,” Zig Zag replied with a nervous laugh. “I was terrified for them. Sheila lived in a middle-income neighborhood with no real security. Even with the guards I hired to watch over them someone still got in and almost killed them.” She shook her head as she remembered the events of that night. “When I got to her place the cops were all over it. There was no way they were going to be able to stay there that night, and I wasn’t about to let them go to a motel, so I brought them home and put them in my spare bedroom.”
“By that time, James and you were seeing each other pretty steadily. In fact, you and he were sleeping together on a pretty regular basis.” Logan flipped the card over and glanced towards the camera for an instant before looking back towards Zig Zag. “What was his reaction to Arden moving in?”
Zig Zag frowned at his matter of fact statement describing their personal life, but decided that now wasn’t the time to take offense. “Oh, he didn’t like it,” she said, shaking her head. “He didn’t like it at all.”
Logan chuckled. “Did he think that Arden might be encroaching on his territory?”
“No!” Zig Zag declared before she stuck her tongue out at the reporter and gave him a raspberry. “He just didn’t like having him there.” She took a deep breath and let it out before continuing. “He felt Arden was trouble. The two attacks, plus why he was in the middle of the road when I hit him, was more than enough for James to consider him hazardous to my health.”
“How did he act around Arden?” Logan asked without referring to his cards. “Was he friendly, hostile, what?”
“He was---neutral. Polite for the most part, but not friendly.” She nibbled on her lip for a moment before continuing. “I think he tried his best to be a friend, but he was always pretty guarded.”
Logan nodded and referred to his deck of cards. “And one of those ways he tried to be friendly was to loan Arden two pistols from his gun collection.” He flipped the card to the back and faced Zig Zag. “How did you feel when you found out about it?”
Despite having expected the question, Zig Zag visibly winced. “I’m afraid I didn’t handle it too well.” She picked up the glass of water and took a sip while waiting for Logan to ask his next question. When he simply nodded, she sighed internally and set the water back down. “I don’t like guns. Anyone who’s been paying attention to this interview will know why by now.” This time, she sighed for real as her ears wilted visibly. “I’m afraid that I got mad at James and blew up at him.”
“James isn’t the only one you blew up at, is it?” he asked as he flipped to the next card. “In fact, you wound up mauling Arden because of that.”
“No!” Zig Zag said, shaking her head. “It wasn’t like that.”
Logan folded his hands in his lap. “Then tell us how it was.”
Zig Zag gave a sigh of despair. “Have you ever been doing something and someone walked in on it. You knew immediately that no matter what you said or how you said it, they were going to take it the wrong way?” Zig Zag looked completely lost as she shook her head. “This is a situation like that. I was angry at James for bringing guns into my house. I was angry at Arden for defending him. I was angry at myself for being angry at the both of them. I was upset and felt trapped and so I lashed out,” she confessed as she lowered her face into her hands for a moment before looking back up. “Arden just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. He was trying to calm me down and in return I mauled him.”
“Obviously, Arden didn’t hold that against you since he never filed a police report about it,” Logan said as he flipped to the next card. “In fact, he told a detective that you had mauled him because he had tugged on your tail.”
Zig Zag gave a surprised yip of laughter. “Oh my god. I’d forgotten about that.”
Logan flipped to a new card. “Not long after that, you tried to contact James but failed, so you did the next best thing. You called his friend and business partner, Doug Granitz, and asked him to check on James. What happened after that?”
“Oh boy. That was a long time ago,” she replied as she took another sip of water. “Let’s see. I think it was Doug who called and told me that James was fine. Arden and I went over there to make sure everything was OK, which it was. We made up and life was good,” she finished with a smile.
“Oh, but there is so much you’re not telling,” Logan said in a conspiratorial voice. “Let’s not forget the sniper that tried to kill Arden at the house.”
“Why not?” she asked flippantly, annoyed with the question. “I’ve been trying to forget about it for some time now.”
“Zig Zag,” Logan complained, frowning. “Come on. What happened?”
Zig Zag sighed. “Some nutcase took a pot shot at Arden through the rear sliding door.”
“Zig,” the ferret said, tapping his fingers on the arm of the chair. “Come on. The complete story?”
“Oh, all right,” Zig Zag said as she sighed again. “Some guy with a rifle took a pot-shot at Arden through the rear sliding door. Arden caught a glimpse of something out of the corner of his eye that warned him someone was out there. He used a spatula as a mirror to spot where the guy was. Then the idiot took off through the shattered door and charged the guy. The guy managed to wing Arden before he was killed.”
“And how was he killed?” the reporter prompted.
“By another sniper, who shot him from up in a tree across the street from James’ house,” she reluctantly admitted.
“The would-be assassin was later identified as Raphael Maraketti, a member of the Gambini crime family,” Logan commented as he referred to a cue card. “The police were unable to identify the second sniper as the unknown furson used chemicals to remove any trace of DNA from the tree and surrounding area.”
“Let’s fast forward a bit to a Friday at your studio.” Logan chuckled as he glanced at his cue card. “It is a tradition at the Double Z Studios to review the week’s production in your private theater. During such events, you give out awards for performances, bloopers and the, uh, climax of the week. You also show off the work of whatever new talent you have in the studio while giving them a nickname.” He paused as Zig Zag nodded. “You had just hired Arden to work in the studio spa, giving massages, and when not doing that, helping out as a gofer. Tell me about his introduction to the crew.”
A broad smile appeared on Zig Zag’s face as she let out a hearty laugh. “Oh god, you really want to hear about that?”
Still chuckling, Zig Zag nodded before taking another sip of her water. “Well, like you said, normally we show off the climax shot of the week for any new talent. Since Arden wasn’t working in front of the camera in the studio, I used a brief home video I’d taken of him and Sheila roughhousing as his introduction video.”
Logan smiled. “Do you think I can get a copy of that video?”
“Huh?” Zig Zag grunted. “Oh yeah. Sure. I’m sure we’ve got it in the archives. I’ll have Ricky dig it up.” She chuckled remembering the moment. “After showing the clip, I invited him up on the stage. I pointed out that since it wasn’t a true climax shot, we needed to baptize him properly. At that point, a couple of the boys got up with super soakers and coated him with goop.”
“Goop?” the ferret tilted his head to the side. “What’s in this…‘goop’?”
Zig Zag leaned back and crossed her legs. “Let’s see. There’s water, cornstarch, corn syrup, flower and some other miscellaneous stuff. Essentially it’s a thick, white, viscous liquid that resembles something much more---organic.”
Again Logan chuckled. “I think we all get the picture.” He shook his head, turned and faced the camera as he let out a lecherous chuckle. “I’m so glad this is scheduled for late night.” He looked back over at Zig Zag and nodded. “What happened next?”
“Well,” she replied hesitantly, not wanting to describe what followed, “he took a bow then encouraged me to take one for having pulled one over on him.” She sighed and looked a little embarrassed. “As I was taking a bow, the bastard grabbed me, slipped, fell and dragged me down into the goop with him.” She laughed for a moment before being able to continue. “It was ludicrous. We were like two furs mud-wrestling, trying to pin each other. Everyone in the studio was going wild, shouting at us and rooting us on.”
The ferret chuckled. “Who won?”
Zig Zag shook her head again while still smiling like an idiot. “He did. He pinned me face down in the goop.”
Logan glanced down at his cue cards and smiled before flipping the card to the back. “What happened after that?”
The smile vanished from Zig Zag’s face. “It was afterwards when we figured out that Sheila and Bjorn hadn’t come back from lunch.”
Logan shook his head. “No. A little before that. After you’d both been well coated in goop.” He cocked his head to the side at her confused expression. “You two took a shower---together.”
The confusion disappeared from her face, immediately replaced with anger. “I don’t know who told you about that, but get your mind out of the gutter,” she growled in a low, angry voice. “Nothing happened. We just helped each other get that crap out of our fur.”
Logan gave her a look of disbelief. “So you’re telling me that he managed to take a shower with one of the most desirable females around, who also just happened to work at a porn studio, and never made a move on you?”
“You listen to me, buster!” Zig Zag snarled, her claws digging into the upholstery of the chair. “Arden is devote---“ She visibly flinched and swallowed before continuing, “Arden was totally devoted to Sheila Vixen. He was the most trustworthy person you would ever find in that respect, and I won’t have you dishonor his memory with your crude accusations.”
“Ah,” Logan said as he scooted back slightly in his chair. “Well, I guess that goes to show how inaccurate my information can be sometimes.” He swallowed and glanced towards the director’s booth. “I think now might be a good time for us to take another break,” he said, turning towards Zig Zag. “Wouldn’t you agree?”
Zig Zag took a deep breath and let go of the anger while forcing her ears back up. “No. Let’s continue on.”
“OK.” Logan took a nervous drink before returning to his cue cards, skipping a couple. He pursed his thin lips for a second before looking back up at Zig Zag. “After Arden’s ‘christening’ on Friday, the two of you noticed something amiss. What was that?”
Zig Zag nodded. “That would be the fact that neither Sheila or Bjorn had come back from lunch. They’d both signed out at the same time on the board, but nobody had seen them return, and they’d never signed back in.”
Logan nodded. “What was your first thought when that happened?”
“We weren’t all that concerned, really,” she replied as she folded her hands in her lap. “Arden had a sneaking suspicion that she and Bjorn may have gone back to the studio apartment.” She frowned for a moment and looked away and then back at Logan. “Sheila and Bjorn were---close. Close enough that they had started seeing each other on the side outside of work.”
“How did Arden react to that?” he asked, his head tilted a little to the side.
“Initially he was upset.” She paused to remember their conversations on the subject. “When he told me about her and Bjorn having an affair outside of the studio again, I was worried. But he didn’t sound angry. When I asked him how he felt about it, he just shrugged and said that her happiness was what was important to him, and if that meant being with Bjorn, then so be it.”
“He sounds almost too good to be true,” Logan commented as he shifted slightly in his seat to lean a little close to Zig Zag. “He’s totally devoted to this female, and yet he doesn’t get jealous when she goes off and has an affair with another guy?”
Zig Zag chuckled. “For people like you and everyone else in the audience, that might sound strange, but in our business there’s no room for jealousy,” she responded with a smile. “Arden knew what she did for a living and he accepted it. He considered it a small price to pay. I remember one conversation where I asked him if what she did bothered him and he said that yes, it did, but that’s his problem. He had two choices. Either deal with it, or walk away. He chose to deal with it.”
Logan nodded again, flipping to the next cue card. “What happened when you got to the apartment?”
“We were going to go upstairs, but this female lynx came running up to us with a pad of paper and a pen, squealing like a sixteen year old girl meeting her favorite movie star.” She smiled at the memory and chuckled. “She had me completely fooled. She was bouncing around, acting like a total fan-girl and asked for our autograph. When I took the paper, she said that our lives were in danger and that we shouldn’t go into the building. Then she warned us not to go home and that she’d call us on my cell phone.”
The reporter’s brow furrowed. “And you trusted her?”
“Hell no!” she replied, scowling at him. “I thought she was some kind of fruit cake.” Her expression relaxed as she again recalled what had happened. “Arden on the other hand, wasn’t as skeptical. He wrote on the note pad a question that got her attention. He asked if she was the one who’d shot the guy at James’ house.”
“And her answer was yes,” Logan declared as he flipped to the next card.
Logan cocked his head to the side for a second, and then nodded. “After you pulled out of the parking lot, you received a call from her. Can you tell us about it?”
“Oh yes,” Zig Zag replied with a nod. “It was the same female. She identified herself as the same person we’d just talked to. She told us that there was a mercenary group called Echo Team who’d been hired to kill us, and warned Arden to watch out for any potential tails. She wanted us to drive around for a couple of hours and make sure there wasn’t anyone following us.”
“How did Arden react to this?” Logan asked with a sly smile.
For a moment, Zig Zag frowned, wondering how much Logan knew about this and why. “Arden had no trouble with it. He told her that he’d played some kind of speed game and was going to play something called ‘four corners’, which surprised her.”
The ferret’s smile grew slightly. “How is it that Arden knew how to check for tails or to lose them?”
Zig Zag sighed and looked away for a moment again before looking back. “I asked him that same question. He told me that his loss of memory wasn’t completely real. He’d spent time in Japan working for the SFD as a sniper. His job had been to assassinate enemies of the state.”
“SFD?” Logan asked with a confused expression. “Don’t you mean the SDF? Self Defense Force?”
“SDF?” Zig Zag let out a nervous laugh. “Yeah. I guess so.” She rolled her eyes and laughed again. “Great! I’m probably going to start an international incident because of that.” She shook her head and let the smile fade away. “Anyway. He told me that he’d worked for the SDF as an assassin, and that’s why he knew what to do.”
Logan nodded. “How did you feel, finding out that he’d been lying to you the entire time?”
“Shocked?” she asked rhetorically. “Betrayed? Angry, to some extent. I thought that maybe all these attacks were because of who he’d been. He told me that he honestly didn’t know how he’d gotten on the road that night. He had a gap in his memory that covered the last ten years. All the stuff with the SDF came before that.”
“And you believed him?”
“What choice did I have?” she asked looking a little lost. “Someone was trying to kill us!” She let out a nervous breath and shook her head again. “Arden had me rent a car and we left mine at a restaurant where I bribed the valet to say we were inside if anyone came looking. Then we waited at Blacklick Woods Park like she’d told us to. A little while later, she showed up in a van. We got in and drove off.”
“Don’t you think that was pretty trusting?” Logan asked, his face a mask of concern. “After all, you don’t know if this furson was really on your side or not.”
“I didn’t have much of a choice,” she replied, looking a bit dejected. “Once he found out we were being hunted, Arden changed. He became like a completely different person. He took complete charge and didn’t give me any opportunity to object.”
“In fact, isn’t it true that at one point he struck you and knocked you out when you tried to run away,” he asked, flipping his cards again.
Zig Zag nodded. “Yes. Next thing I knew, I was in this grungy loft apartment with a bag of ice on my head.”
“And that’s when you got your first good look at the mysterious female,” Logan commented, referring to his cards again before looking directly at the camera. “A female who identified herself as the legendary Tigger. An assassin for hire, she specialized in high profile targets, from heads of governments to heads of mafia crime families.” He turned and looked at Zig Zag. “What did you think when you first saw her?”
Zig Zag shrugged and hugged herself. “I don’t know. She seemed kind of normal, you know? If it weren’t for the fact that she had this makeup on to disguise her species, I’d say she could have been my next door neighbor.”
Logan nodded and flipped to the next card. “What happened after that?”
“Not much, really,” she replied. “They kept me locked up in that bedroom. There weren’t any windows to get out of and Arden had my cell phone. There wasn’t much I could do. Later on, Arden came in and talked to me. I felt like a little child being lectured about having stuck her snout into grown-up business. He said that Tigger had managed to locate the money source for these guys who’d grabbed Sheila and Bjorn. They had planned to grab him and force a trade. I begged Arden to go to the police and let them handle it, but he said that if they went to the police, Sheila and Bjorn were as good as dead.”
“Unfortunately, he was half right,” Logan commented as he referred to his cards again. “Sheila Vixen gave a statement to the police afterwards detailing the events of that night. The mercenaries had been forced to trade Sheila and Bjorn for their boss and his girlfriend; only they didn’t intend to play fair. Unbeknownst to Arden and Tigger, they had a Huey attack helicopter, complete with rocket pods and fifty caliber machine guns. As soon as the trade had been made, they swooped in with the helicopter and attempted to kill everyone involved. Alas, Bjorn was the victim of that attack. While he and Sheila fled for their lives, he was shot in the back and killed as the helicopter gunship strafed them.” He flipped the card and proceeded to read from the next one. “At that time, Sheila claimed that she couldn’t identify the people who had tried to rescue them. Thanks to Zig Zag’s later testimony, the police have determined that it was, in fact, Arden, Tigger and a third, unidentified furson who had attempted the rescue. During the course of the brief battle, Tigger, using a high powered Beretta sniper rifle of the same make used by the US military, managed to damage the gears that drove the main rotors of the helicopter, forcing it to crash land. According to the police reports, Arden then drew a Japanese sword that you see him wearing in this picture, taken later at the Double Z Studios, and proceeded to kill most of the mercenaries. Only the pilot of the helicopter was left alive. He was found, bound and gagged next to the body of Bjorn Ottersman when police arrived. Three days later, the pilot committed suicide in his cell, taking the secret of who was ultimately behind the assassination attempt on Arden with him to his grave.”
Logan flipped to the next cue card and looked back up at Zig Zag. “A few days later, after the memorial service for Bjorn, Sheila asked you to meet them at the studio even though it was closed. Can you tell me what happened?”
“Sheila said that she needed a favor. At that time it was my intent to talk to her about trying to get Arden to leave. He was dangerous. I’d finally realized just how right James had been not to trust him. Sheila told me that she and Arden were going to leave. Disappear for a while. She said that they were going to ‘go walkabout’, as Arden called it. But first she wanted to have some pictures taken of them together, so that there’d be something to remember them by.” She looked down and closed her eyes to fight the memories. “For a while I thought that would be the last time I ever saw them. I guess it really was the last time I would ever see Arden.”
Logan paused for a moment to let Zig Zag get her composure back before turning to the next cue card and continuing. “Less than a week later the District Attorney got a search warrant for your home, James’ home and the Double Z Studios, to search for evidence related to the kidnapping of Bjorn and Sheila. At that time they found in your safe at the studio a fifty caliber Desert Eagle pistol, which ballistics later linked to a bullet found in the body of one of the kidnappers. They also found Sheila’s purse, her ID, credit cards and keys. Her car was found in a parking garage that had been rented in your name, and with your fingerprints on the steering wheel.” He looked up at Zig Zag and nodded. “All this was used as evidence in your trial for their disappearance. Although this has been gone over in court, would you please tell our audience why you had those items?”
Zig Zag nodded. “Arden had told Sheila to leave everything behind that could be used to track or identify them. You know, credit cards, driver’s license and the like. He figured that they’d disappear for a year or so until everything died down. All they took with them was the petty cash I had on hand at the studio, the clothes they’d packed for the trip and the swords that Arden had. I was supposed to take care of Sheila’s royalties and use them to keep her townhouse bills paid up. Then, when they thought it might be safe, she would come back and sell off what she didn’t want to try and take with her to wherever they’d vanished to.”
“And the pistol?” Logan prompted.
“The pistol was for James,” she replied. “Arden said that he owed James for two pistols, and that one would more than cover their value. I don’t think he had considered that the police could link it to what had happened.”
Logan consulted his next card and looked back up at the camera. “The police investigation revealed that Arden’s fingerprints where the only ones on the pistol. The weapon was in a shoulder holster with the strap wrapped around it when the police discovered it. They used the pistol to connect Arden to the kidnapping, and thus Zig Zag to Arden. Shortly thereafter, the DA filed murder charges against Zig Zag in the disappearance of Sheila and Arden, as well as filing accessory charges in the death of Bjorn and the mercenaries.” He looked over at Zig Zag as he flipped to the next card. “What impact did all of this have on the studio?”
Zig Zag took a deep breath and blew it out. “Initially, it was like dropping an atomic bomb.” She paused to take a sip of water before continuing. “The police raid reminded me of something out of a bad movie. The swat team came in with their rifles pointed at everyone, forcing them to get on the ground. They handcuffed everyone and dragged them outside, dressed or not. Then they proceeded to pretty much destroy our office space by taking all our files, all our videos, all the work-in-progress materials, anything and everything they might possibly be able to grab on the grounds of it being ‘evidence’. We’d already had to abandon Bjorn to be Wild, so there was no issue there, but the other two movies we’d been working on were hopelessly lost. They took all the tape associated with it, all the servers with our books, scripts, production notes and such. The studio was devastated.”
“In fact,” Logan commented, again using his cards for the information, “the impact of the raid cost your company an estimated income from those completed but as of yet unpublished works somewhere in the neighborhood of half a million dollars in estimated income. Income that would have gone to cover the salaries of your employees as well as the basic costs of running the studio. Double Z Studios was in financial trouble.” He looked up at Zig Zag and cocked an ear in her direction. “And yet, you survived. How?”
“It wasn’t easy. The studio was pretty devastated by what had happened. When word got out that I was considered a suspect in Bjorn’s death, and of having Arden and Sheila murdered,” she paused and let out a long, sad sigh, “it torpedoed our morale. We had several people quit the studio. Some of our distributors didn’t want to deal with us any more. Things just deteriorated.”
“Once again you pulled a minor miracle out of your hat,” he observed, reading from his cards. “ZZ Studios employees closed ranks. Everyone took drastic cuts in pay. Many, including yourself, loaned the company their personal savings to keep the studio alive.” He looked up at Zig Zag with sad eyes and frowned. “One of those people who left was Tammy Vixen, sister to Sheila Vixen. Can you explain why?”
Zig Zag nodded gravely. “Tammy couldn’t deal with what had happened. The fact that Sheila had almost been killed, and Bjorn had been killed, had been upsetting enough, but to think that I might have been responsible was more than she could deal with. She cashed out her share of the company, sold off her belongings and left.”
“She didn’t tell anyone where she was going?” he asked.
Zig Zag shook her head. “No. She sent everyone at the studio Christmas cards from some place in Mexico, but that was the last time we’d heard from her.”
Logan looked down at his deck as he flipped to a new card. “It is a well known secret that after Tammy left, the DA initiated an investigation to try to prove that you had her killed as well, only to have that investigation derailed when the entire studio, as well as numerous people who knew Tammy, swore that she’d left town on her own.” He looked up at Zig Zag and asked, “Have you heard anything in regards to Tammy since Sheila was found?”
Again, Zig Zag shook her head. “No. We still don’t know where she is or if she’s OK.”
“If Tammy were to see this broadcast, is there anything you’d want to say to her?”
“Yes,” she replied before looking directly at the camera. “Tammy, if you’re out there, please let us know. If not for our sake, then for Sheila’s sake, so she won’t worry about you.” She paused, looking like she wanted to say something more, but instead turned to face Logan again.
“I understand that Sheila is returning to Columbus tomorrow,” he stated, cribbing from his notes. “I also understand that the government is filing to have her declared legally incompetent due to mental stresses related to her recent incarceration.” He looked up and smiled. “Our legal correspondent tells me that you’ve filed for legal custody as her guardian until such time as she’s once again found competent. Tell us why?”
“I think that’s pretty obvious, Logan,” she said as she set her water glass down. “It’s like I said before. Everyone at the studio is family. Sheila is not only a highly valued employee, but also a very close friend. To this day I’ve never taken her off our roster of active employees, despite the cost of paying for her insurance, just in case she ever needed it. As I understand it, she’s pregnant and close to giving birth. I’m not about to have her stuck in some state institution while her kids are given away to foster homes. Not after what she’s been through!”
“I think that pretty much covers things chronologically,” he commented, flipping to a new card. “Now I’d like to ask a few questions not related to your history. These questions come from various bulletin boards on the internet where people have talked about you. We compiled a small list.” He paused and smiled. “First one is about your videos.” He paused to clear his throat and grinned at the first question. “I have to wonder about how bright those guys at the Double Z are. Here they are, pushing safe sex with condoms during the preview section of their tapes, but then you hardly ever see them using one in a film. What the heck is up with that?”
“What the heck?” Zig Zag said with a laugh. “I think you’ve edited that a little. Condoms. Yeah, I can see where they might see a conflict there; however, Double Z isn’t like most other studios. Our talent doesn’t jump around between multiple sets working on different videos at the same time. Each group is together for one video, and then they’re quarantined from the rest of the staff until their next checkup to insure nothing’s crept into the workplace from outside. Everyone is tested on a Tuesday and we get the results back on Wednesday. Our production schedule is oriented towards a project ending on a Friday, so there’s not much down time. Since there’s not much interaction between the different groups of talent, we minimize the risks involved. That, and the fact that the Trojan Horse Condom company supplies us with copious amounts of their product, which I encourage the staff to use outside of the studio. All in all, we’ve been pretty lucky at keeping the work place bug-free.”
Logan nodded and flipped to the next card. “Have you ever had any portion of your anatomy surgically altered?” He smiled and let his eyes drift over her tightly-fitting skirt. “A question to which I must confess to being---personally curious about.”
Zig Zag laughed as she stood and struck a pose, showing off her luscious curves. “I will personally guarantee that no surgeon had a hand in the creation of this,” she declared as she ran her hands down her body. “This is all natural, boys.” She laughed at the fact that she saw a large number of shadowy forms suddenly appear behind the cameras. One of them looked somewhat familiar, but it was hard to see because of the lights. The discipline she had from many years of being in front of the camera came to the fore and she pushed that thought out of the way as she took her seat again, crossing her legs and striking yet another pose for the cameras.
“F or she is desire itself and she wishes to elude all attempts to limit her glory,” Logan quoted reverently before consulting his next card. “Is your retirement from the blue film industry permanent, or is there a chance of a comeback?”
Zig Zag dropped the pose and pulled the hem of her dress down a bit to get rid of any wrinkles before answering. “I seriously doubt it, Logan. I’ve had my day in front of the camera, and although it might be fun to do a comeback,” she paused as she shook her head slightly, “I don’t think so.”
Logan nodded and went to his next card. “You’ve said tonight that you would want to have a kit some day. If you ever did have one, how would that affect your working in the blue film industry, and how would you explain your roll in it to your kit?”
“Whoa,” she said with a smile before letting out a low whistle. “That’s a good one.” She paused to take a sip and think about the question before replacing the glass. “I definitely wouldn’t hide anything from my kit. I’m not going to be one of those Puritan-minded ultra-conservatives who don’t believe in admitting sex exists, until your kit is old enough to already be having it without your knowledge,” she declared with a rather sinister chuckle. “As for how it’ll affect my work, I don’t think it will. I’m not acting any more, so I can’t see it having an impact.”
“I expect you to be getting some nasty hate mail after this airs,” Logan joked as he consulted his cards again. “How do you deal with the fame? There have to be times when some fan comes onto you thinking that you’re going to be his fantasy---umm---date for the evening. How do you deal with that kind of thing?”
Zig Zag let out a bark of laughter. “Forgot to edit that one, eh” she quipped with a chuckle. “You learn different ways to deal with it. In my younger days I was pretty free with letting them have a quick grab, copping a feel or even flashing them a quick peek, depending on the situation. If they tried to take it too far or wouldn’t take no for an answer,” she let out another low, rather sinister sounding chuckle as she got a very predatory smile on her face, “let’s just say that more than one male’s wound up with his ego being bruised by my knee.”
Logan winced at that. “Ouch.” He flipped to a new card and glanced at it before looking up. “What will you say to Sheila when you see her again?”
All amusement vanished from Zig Zag’s face as she suddenly became very serious. “I don’t know,” she admitted after a minute of thought. “I really don’t know what I’ll say.”
“Fair enough,” Logan replied as he tucked the cue cards in his pocket. “Last one for the moment: We know that you’ve had a rough childhood. You’ve been through a lot of traumatic events in your life. Do you ever have nightmares about them?”
Zig Zag sucked in a deep breath, held it for a moment, and then let it out while nodding. “Actually, yes. More often than I’d like,” she freely admitted. “I don’t think there’s anyone who’s been through some of the things I have who doesn’t have them.”
“OK. That’s it for the moment,” Logan announced as he stood up. “Let’s take a little break while we get setup for the last part of the interview.”
“Sounds good to me,” Zig Zag agreed, standing and arching her back with her hands on her hips.
Logan bit his lip as he watched Zig Zag wink at him and straighten up. He turned and walked back towards the camera, talking into his microphone in a low voice. “I need to have Zig Zag’s chair replaced with a loveseat, please, and get a wireless mike for James.”
“No problem, Logan,” the booming voice replied from the speakers.
James stood as the ferret approached him. “That it?” he asked.
“That’s the end of the solo interview,” Logan acknowledged. “The prop guys will replace Zig’s chair with a loveseat, and we’ll get you hooked up with a wireless mike like I use. Once that’s done, I’ll introduce you to the cameras and we’ll start the questions, just like you saw with Zig Zag.”
James nodded. “Sounds good. Can I go talk to her now?”
“Sure. Go right ahead. I need to go get some stuff from the booth, so we’ve got a bit of time,” Logan replied as he gave the coyote a friendly pat on the shoulder then walked towards the director's booth.
James saw Zig Zag refilling her glass from a pitcher on the table as he stepped passed the camera. He watched as she turned and gave two workers a confused look as they brought a sofa-loveseat up onto the stage and swapped her chair out for it.
“What’s that for?” she asked the workers before taking a sip of water.
“That would be for me,” James commented as he took a step up onto the stage.
Time seemed to stop for Zig Zag as her head turned towards the sound of James’ voice. Her glass, forgotten in the shock of the moment, dropped from her slack fingers as she saw James clearly for the first time. The world seemed to reel around her as she suddenly felt light headed. “James! What are you doing here?” she asked, her mouth on autopilot.
“Whoa!” James said as he danced back to dodge the splashing water. “Are you OK, Zig?” he asked, his voice tinged with concern at the look on her face.
“Oh my god,” she thought to herself. “How long has he been here?” The look of shock on her face rapidly changed to that of horror as she realized that there were things said that she’d never dared tell him. “How---how long have you been here?” she stammered.
“Long enough,” James calmly replied. There was a sudden clarity as to why she was acting like this. He realized that she hadn’t been expecting him to be there tonight.
“Oh my god!” she mewed as she covered her mouth. Feeling panicked, she fought the urge to run. “I’m so sorry,” she said, pleading with him for forgiveness as she reached out to him with her hand. “Oh, James, I am so, so sorry!”
“No,” James replied in a low, hoarse whisper. He’d had plenty of time to think about what he’d heard during the interview, and he knew that there was only one thing he could say to her. “Don’t apologize,” he softly said as he reached out to caress her muzzle with his hand. He gently drew her forward as he stepped towards her, enfolding her in his arms and giving her a kiss.
Logan grabbed the director’s shoulder with a death grip. “Tell me you’ve got the tape rolling on this, Art!”
“Like money in the bank,” the orangutan replied with a smile while checking the video feed from the three cameras, all of which were centered on the pair, one of them with a framed close-up.
Zig Zag’s mind was in turmoil as they broke from the kiss. He must have been here long enough to have heard about her taking a shower with Arden, or to have heard the story about her abortion. It just didn’t make sense to her. How could he react that way? “I---I don’t understand,” she said, her eyes searching his. “You’re not disappointed in me?”
James shook his head. “No. You had reasons why you did what you did,” he said softly as he let her go. “I’ve done things in my past that I’m not proud of either. But that’s all in the past, not the future. What I care about now is the future, and I want it to be a future with you.”
“Oh, James,” she sobbed with tears falling unabashed from her eyes as she wrapped her arms around him and held him tight, reveling in the feeling of his fur against her cheeks while he held her tight.
Art chuckled as he watched the scene being played out on camera. “Too bad this isn’t a soap opera, Logan, or we’d have an Emmy on our hands.”
“Tell me about it,” the ferret chuckled as he changed out the stack of cards in his pocket for a different set that sat on top of a filing cabinet by the door. “Do a quick edit of that and get ready to put it up on a monitor.” He watched as Art nodded before he made his way back to the stage just in time to see one of the stagehands hooking James up to a wireless mike. “Are we all set?”
“You should be,” the stagehand replied, as he adjusted the position of the mike on James’ lapel. “All we need now is a voice check and you’ll be ready to go.”
“Great,” Logan said as he rubbed his hands together. “OK, James. What did you think of the interview so far?”
James pursed his lips for a second before responding. “It was very---informative.”
Logan chuckled at that. “Found out a few things you hadn’t already known?”
“Something like that,” the coyote replied with a nod.
Logan turned towards the director’s booth and nodded. “That enough, Art?”
“Give me a little more,” the voice boomed.
“Ok.” Logan turned back to James and Zig Zag. “Give us some longer sentences? We need to get a good sound level on your mike.”
“Ah,” James grunted. “I’m not quite sure what to say. Don’t they usually do a count of some sort? Testing, one, two, three, four, five. That kind of thing?”
“That’s good,” the voice boomed.
“Great!” Logan enthusiastically declared. “OK. You two have a seat on the couch. Zig Zag, you’re on the inside towards me and you, James, you sit on the outside.” He took his seat and adjusted it so as to better face the couple. “All right. Tell me, James, have you ever been interviewed like this before?”
“No. I haven’t,” he nervously replied.
“Not a problem,” Logan said with a confident, friendly smile. “It’s going to be easy as pie. Here’s the trick. There are only two people in this entire studio that you need to concern yourself with, Zig Zag and me. Don’t look anywhere except at us while talking. Not the cameras, not the director’s booth, or the lights. Just at one of us, OK?” He waited for the coyote to nod before turning to face the camera. “We ready?” he asked and waited for the light to wink on over the camera he faced. “When we started this interview tonight, it was with the expectation that Zig Zag and I would be the only participants. However, fortunately for us, such plans occasionally go awry. Tonight we have the honor of being joined by James Sheppard, former CEO of Sheppard Computer Systems and significant other to Zig Zag. This is the first time ever that James and Zig Zag have agreed to be interviewed together.” He waited for the light on his camera to wink out before turning and smiling at the couple. “Welcome, James.”
“Thank you, Logan,” James replied with a nervous smile as he fought the urge to look at the cameras.
Logan again turned to face the active camera. “I’m not the only person tonight who was surprised to see James as you’ll see in this clip.” He paused and turned towards the booth. “Art. Would you throw that clip up on monitor two, please?” He watched as the director gave him a thumbs-up. Logan pointed to a TV that showed a test pattern. “If you’ll watch that monitor.”
James and Zig Zag watched as James walked up behind Zig Zag who was facing a pair of stagehands.
“What’s that for?” Zig Zag’s voice echoed from the speakers.
“That would be for me,” James’ voice replied
They watched as the scene replayed itself. Zig Zag’s sudden panic attack. The obvious shame she felt as she faced the male she loved. James’ simple act of kissing her and their dialog ending finally with the close-up of the tearful embrace.
Logan turned back to his guests as the test pattern returned to the monitor. “If you have no objection, I’m going to include that in the interview.”
Zig Zag glanced at James before responding. She noted that he had a wide-eyed look to him that made it readily apparent that he hadn’t known they were being videotaped. “We’ll see,” she replied.
“Fair enough,” Logan replied with a smile. “Zig Zag, if ever there was a purer declaration of love than what I just witnessed, I don’t know about it. It’s obvious that the relationship you two have goes far beyond that of a casual sleeping arrangement. Tell me, are there any plans that you two have towards making your relationship more permanent?”
James and Zig Zag exchanged glances for some time before James smiled and looked back towards Logan. “I think it’s safe to say that there’s been thoughts towards that idea.”
“Marriage?” Logan prompted.
James nodded. “Yes. Marriage. Possibly,” he confirmed as he looked back over at Zig Zag and smiled. “I could see myself settling down with her,” he admitted as he took hold of her hand.
“Zig Zag?” Logan said, giving her a verbal nudge.
Zig Zag turned and gave Logan a coy smile. “Yeah. I could see that happening some day,” she replied, giving James’ hand a little squeeze.
Logan took the new stack of cards from his pocket and flipped through a couple before settling on the one he wanted. “It seems these other questions are kind of moot, so I’ll move on.” He paused before looking back up at James. “James. We’ve heard Zig Zag say that some day she’d like to have a kit. Is that something you see in your future?”
James glanced at Zig Zag and smiled at the expectant look on her face. “We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it,” he replied cautiously before looking into her eyes. “Although I’m not sure I’d want to settle for only one.”
Zig Zag’s heart felt like it wanted to burst from her chest. Not only was James talking about the possibility of marriage, but also of them having kits. It was something that she had never even wanted to consider because she was worried he wouldn’t want them. She wanted to melt into his arms, but instead turned towards Logan feeling supremely confident in herself and her relationship with James.
Logan flipped to another card and nodded. “James. Not long after you started dating Zig Zag you stepped down as the head of Sheppard Computing. The official story is that you’d led the company as far as you could and were handing control over to Doug Granitz because he was better suited to take control of the company.” He looked up at the coyote and cocked his head to the side. “Was your stepping down as head of the company in any way related to the fact you were going out with Zig Zag?”
“Oh god, no!” Zig Zag thought as she fought to keep her appearance calm. “I didn’t want this can of worms opened!”
James nodded. “Something like that,” he replied pleasantly. “Running the company was a full time job and then some,” he explained with a casual smile. “By stepping down, I freed up a considerable amount of time.” He looked at Zig Zag and his smile grew slightly. “Time that I thought was better spent elsewhere.”
Logan nodded and glanced at his cue card. “So there wasn’t a move by Marcus Fairchild to have you removed as the CEO of Sheppard Computers because you were dating Zig Zag?”
The smile vanished from James’ face momentarily before he let out a chuckle and smiled again. “Where in the world did you hear that?”
“In fact,” the reporter challenged as he checked his cards again, “Marcus Fairchild wanted to merge Sheppard Computers with Columbus Computers, a move which you opposed, citing various issues with their performance and market value.”
James did his best to keep the smile on his face while resisting the urge to strangle the ferret. “Those are two separate issues, Logan,” he replied in an offhanded manner. “At the time I felt that merging SCS with Columbus Computers would be a bad move. Their poor performance in the market since then, as well as the investigations the State’s Attorney General has initiated into their questionable accounting practices, are all proof that my decision was the right one.”
“Be that as it may,” Logan challenged, glancing at his cards, “did Marcus Fairchild, in fact, attempt to have you removed as CEO from the company on grounds that you violated the morality clause of your employee contract, which prohibits any employee from entering into a personal relationship with anyone employed by a customer of SCS?”
Zig Zag closed her eyes as she was forced to sit by and let James fend for himself. He had chosen this path and there was nothing she could do for him now.
“Yes,” James growled, allowing the smile to disappear. “Yes, he did.”
“So you’re admitting that Marcus Fairchild used your relationship as a tool to try to remove you from the company, allowing him to take over. Only his plan didn’t work, did it?” he asked rhetorically, continuing to speak. “By a very narrow margin you managed to salvage a bad situation as best you could by stepping down, while your long time friend and partner, Doug Granitz, stepped up to the plate and took over.”
“Yes. That’s essentially it,” James replied, scowling at the reporter.
Logan flipped to his next card before turning to look at the camera that faced him until the light came on. “It should be interesting to note that since these turn of events, Columbus Computers has undergone a series of investigations into questionable accounting practices as well as a matter of certain missing funds. There is also a question as to the business relationship between Marcus Fairchild and the head of Columbus Computers. Other sources have revealed that there are extensive investigations into other corporate holdings which Marcus Fairchild has an interest in, for similar wrongdoings.” He paused, turned back to James and waited for the light to wink out in his peripheral vision. “I think it’s obvious to anyone watching this program that your downfall as the CEO of Sheppard Computers, a company you had built from the ground up, was simply another example of Marcus Fairchild’s greed in action. Would you care to comment on that?”
“No,” James said in a tight, controlled voice. “I’d prefer not to comment.”
Logan cocked an ear in Zig Zag’s direction as he looked at her. “Zig Zag? Do you have any comment?”
She smiled pleasantly and shook her head. “Logan, there’s almost nothing I’ll not comment on, but James’ business is one of the few exceptions. Sorry.”
Logan shook his head and chuckled. “Damn. I was hoping to get something,” he said with a theatrical grimace. He looked over at James and cocked his head to the side. “Are you sure you won’t comment? Doesn’t have to be nasty, just tell the truth. I’m convinced that the guy’s a slime ball, and anything you say could help piss off someone else enough to step forward, too.”
James considered it for a moment then shook his head. “As much as I’d like to, Logan, I’m afraid not. I don’t want to get into a public pissing contest about something that should be a private matter within the company. If people see that there’s a problem with the upper management, they could loose confidence in the company, and that would hurt us. My first priority is what’s good for the company and its clientele.” Again he shook his head. “I’m sorry. I’m just not willing to risk it.”
Logan’s grin expanded to a wide smile. “Actually, I think that statement would be a far better tool than anything negative you could have said. Do you mind if I use that?”
“Do I let him use it?” James asked himself. He looked at Zig Zag and pursed his lips for a moment. “You have editing control, right?” he asked, watching as she nodded. He looked away for a moment at the TV with the test pattern before facing Logan again. “Since Zig’s got the final say on editing, I’ll let her decide.”
“WHAT?” Zig Zag shouted with her eyes. This wasn’t the kind of responsibility she wanted from him. His business was his, just like he didn’t stick his snout into hers. It didn’t help her one bit when he simply nodded to her and gave her hand a quick squeeze.
“OK,” Logan said, chuckling to himself as he flipped to a new card. “Let’s try something completely different. James. What did you say to Zig Zag when you found out she’d filed papers to get custody of Sheila Vixen?”
“What was there to say?” he asked with a shrug. “It’s her decision. I’m not going to stand in her way, and if there’s anything I can do to help, she knows I’m here for her.”
Consulting his cards again, Logan turned to a fresh one. “We know that Sheila is pregnant and is going to give birth soon,” he said before looking up at James. “Since Zig Zag has indicated that she doesn’t want to put Sheila’s kit into a foster home, someone will have to help baby sit. Is this a task you’re looking forward to?”
James blinked in surprise at the question. “Um… To be honest, I hadn’t considered it,” he replied slackmuzzled, with a shake of his head. He glanced at Zig Zag before looking back over to Logan and chuckled. “Yeah. I suppose so.”
Logan smiled and looked at Zig Zag as he flipped over a new card. “Zig Zag, it looks like you’re going to get a sneak preview into James’ ability to deal with a newborn kit.”
Zig Zag smiled and looked at James with apprizing eyes and nodded in approval. “He’ll do OK,” she replied confidently.
“I’m afraid,” Logan said as he pocketed the cards, “that after our brief phone conversation today, James, that I didn’t spend much time preparing questions for you, so instead I’m going to take a moment and ask you this final question: Is there anything you want to say to our viewers tonight? Anything in particular that’s on your mind?”
“Hmmm,” James mused. He looked down at Zig Zag and felt her give his hand a squeeze. With a serious expression, he looked back over at Logan and nodded. “Yes, I think so.” He turned his attention to the camera with the light on, took a deep breath and let it out to lose some of the sudden tension. “This is to any of the other reporters out there who may be watching. I can understand that you have jobs to do, and those jobs involve asking questions, but please, don’t invade our privacy. Recently a camera crew forced itself into Zig Zag’s home against her will. I’ve had camera crews try to follow me into work. Please. Give us a break. The show is over. The circus has left town. There’s nothing left to see, folks, so how about letting us have a little peace and quiet.”
“Oh yeah,” Logan said with a bark of laughter. “Like that’ll happen.” He shook his head at James and smiled. “James, you have no clue what you’ve let yourself in for. Before, you were just a sideshow; now you’re on the stage with Zig Zag, and for the next few weeks it’s going to be open season on coyote-sheppard half-breeds. I sincerely wish you the best of luck.”
Logan pulled a folded sheet of paper from the inner pocket of his jacket and frowned. “Before I let you go, I’d like to get your reaction to this. It won’t be used in this special, but I’d like to use it tomorrow when I break this story.”
Zig Zag’s brows furrowed as she tried to guess what the ferret was talking about. She glanced at James and saw that he was as confused as she was. “All right,” she cautiously replied. “I suppose so.”
Logan unfolded the paper and looked at it for a minute, frowning. He glanced up at Zig Zag and then back down at the paper a couple of times before clearing his throat. Rather than start speaking, he reached over, picked up the glass of water on the table and drained it, causing the couple on the couch to glance nervously at each other.
Steeling himself with a deep breath, Logan began to talk. “I have recently obtained a copy of the transcript which was given to the DA’s office by the FBI, detailing the events leading up to the capture of Sheila Vixen and those immediately thereafter.” He paused to clear his throat again as he used a finger to try and stretch the collar of his shirt. “According to Miss Vixen, Arden planned on traveling through Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota and eventually through Canada to get to Alaska where he had a friend who could help them disappear. Arden had stolen a car and driven them to Aurora, Illinois, where he ditched the car at a truck stop before getting a room at a nearby low-rent hotel. In the morning, as they were making their way over to a restaurant to get something to eat, four assailants grabbed Sheila. Using her as a hostage, they bound Arden with arm and leg manacles before stuffing them both into the back of a truck without windows. She stated that they were driven for some time until the truck eventually came to a warehouse where the back was opened, and they were removed by several more fursons who took them to an office in the back and dumped them there as two armed fursons watched over them.
“Several hours later they were taken out into the main part of the warehouse where Sheila and Arden were brought before Tony Zetti. Mr. Zetti reportedly informed them that there was a high price on their heads, and that he was being well paid to ensure that they disappeared without a trace. Mr. Zetti then reportedly had Arden suspended by his manacles from a low hanging pipe while one of his goons held a gun to his head. Sheila was forced to sit on a pile of palettes, also with a gun held to her head. At this time, Mr. Zetti reportedly informed Arden that should he resist in any way, not only would he die, but Sheila Vixen would also be killed.”
Zig Zag sucked in a deep breath of air, dreading what she suspected would have to follow. She desperately clutched James’ hand for support.
Logan paused and reached for his glass, but realized it was empty. He swallowed and continued reading. “Mr. Zetti then reportedly complained to Arden about the difficulties the bear had caused him, and in the process admitted that he and his brother, Jimmy ‘The Jackhammer’ Zetti, were responsible for sending the contract assassins to kill Arden, and that he was upset at the loss of three highly skilled people, not to mention the damage to his reputation with the client. At this point Mr. Zetti explained that he was going to send his customer a gift that would make up for all the troubles. He then ordered one of his men to castrate Arden Nanuk.”
“Oh my god!” Zig Zag gasped as she covered her mouth with both hands. For someone like her, an act like this was unconscionable. The mere thought of it revolted her and filled her with a horror that she’d never felt before.
Next to her, James visibly winced and hunched forwards slightly in an unconscious attempt to protect himself. He wasn’t the only male in the room to react to what Logan had said. One of the stagehands let out an audible groan in sympathy.
Pursing his mouth for a minute as he watched the couple’s reaction, the reporter once again returned his attention to the paper. “According to the transcript, the severed scrotum was then placed in a jar of formaldehyde to be delivered at a later date to his unnamed client.” He paused and glanced at Zig Zag before continuing. “Mr. Zetti and his group, consisting of some half dozen or so fursons, then reportedly proceeded to rape Miss Vixen repeatedly while Arden was forced to watch.”
“Oh dear god, NO!” Zig Zag cried out as long forgotten monsters from her abused childhood reached forward through the veil of time to remind her that there were still beasts like that lurking in the world.
Logan paused to swallow again. Without glancing up, he forced himself to read on. “After the group had taken their liberties with Miss Vixen, Mr. Zetti reportedly took a shotgun and held it to her abdomen. He then told Arden that he had changed his mind, and that he would shoot her while Arden would be forced to watch as she bled to death before he, himself, would finally be killed.”
James, seeing Zig Zag visibly upset by this, put his arms around her and pulled her to him in a vain attempt to protect her from the scene that was being described.
Logan folded the paper up as he looked towards the horrified couple. “At this point, Arden went berserk with rage. His life was taken moments later by a pistol shot to the back of the head.” He tucked the paper away in his pocket and looked at the camera. In a calm and controlled voice he continued, “As we all know, Miss Vixen was not killed. This was nothing more than a sadistic ploy to make the final moments of a male, who did nothing more than try to defend himself and his friends---a living hell.”
“You son of a bitch,” James growled angrily as he held the quietly sobbing Zig Zag against his shoulder. “Just what the hell were you trying to accomplish?”
Logan turned to James and gave him a look that was hard as steel, yet at the same time strangely haunted. “Khansman wants to make Zig Zag out to be a cold blooded murderer. This will show that she’s anything but that.” He frowned and looked away for a second before again forcing himself to face the coyote. “The people responsible for this have to be found and punished, James. The best way to do that is to stir up the pot of public opinion. This is going to do that. When this goes on the air, it’s going to create an outrage like Columbus hasn’t seen since prohibition.” He paused and got a sly smile. “And if it happens to help Zig Zag’s public opinion and the stations ratings by making the public more sympathetic to her plight, then I guess that’s just a bonus.”
For several seconds, Logan and James locked eyes in a battle of the wills before the ferret finally broke down and looked away. “If it makes any difference,” he said, looking back up at James with those oddly haunted eyes again, “I first read the unedited report on Monday. I have yet to manage a night’s sleep without nightmares from it. The unedited version is far more graphic and detailed in its description as to what exactly occurred.” He paused to look down at his hands and shook his head. “I pray to god I never have to read anything like it again.”
James continued to glare at the ferret for several seconds. He could understand the guy’s desire to manipulate this for all it was worth, but that didn’t make what he did any easier to swallow.
Logan turned to the director’s booth and nodded wearily. “OK, Art. That’s it. I’ll review the tape tomorrow with Zig’s crew and we’ll do any supplemental clean-up shots then.”
“Sounds good, Logan,” the booming voice responded a moment before the bright studio lights went out and the house lights came up, illuminating the studio more dimly in comparison to what their eyes had grown used to.
Logan stood up at the same time as Zig Zag and James. He held his hand out to James who paused before eventually giving him a firm handshake. “Thanks for coming, James. I don’t know if Zig Zag will leave any of it in the final edit, but I certainly hope she does.”
James nodded and put his hand around Zig Zag’s waist. “I’m sure she’ll do her best to put together a good interview for you,” he replied confidently.
“We’ll see,” the tiger-stripped actress replied as she dabbed at her face with a Kleenex she’d removed from her purse. “Somehow I have a feeling that if Logan’s not happy with the end result, he’ll make sure the viewers know that I had final editing control, and make me out to be the villain,” she grumbled.
Logan’s jaw dropped in shock as he placed both hands over his heart and stumbled backwards a step. “Oh! The pain! You wound me!” he dramatically proclaimed. He nodded as he dropped the act and acknowledged her statement. “You’re damned right I would. I expect you to play fair and let the really good stuff get through, and not turn this into a pure fluff job.”
“Fluff job?” Zig Zag shot back incredulously. She shook her head and groaned. “Not after what I’ve been through tonight.” She sighed again and wearily shook her head. “We’ll worry about that tomorrow. I’m supposed to meet Sheila’s plane at the airport at noon. I’ll get over here as soon as I can afterwards.” She stepped away from James and stood muzzle-to-muzzle with Logan and grinned, showing off her sharp fangs. “And if I see any of your cameras there trying to grab some kind of story, I’m going to show you just what I can do with an editing deck.”
“Really?” Logan asked with an incredulous smile. “I knew about Sheila’s arrival time yesterday, lady, so don’t even think that you’re going to keep my camera crews from covering it. I’m not about to let this station be the only one without a crew there.”
“You mean everyone knows?” Zig Zag asked, apprehensively.
“Come on, Zig Zag! Everybody in town knows that little non-secret!” Logan replied with a derisive snort.
“I didn’t know,” James commented quietly as a stagehand removed his wireless microphone.
“God! I hate fucking media circuses!” Zig Zag growled with her hands clenched into fists.
Logan held up his hand. “Look, Zig Zag, this is the FBI we’re talking about. They’re going to keep everyone well away from the plane when it lands. At best all we’re going to get is a good telephoto shot. It’s not like you’re going to have to wade through reporters!”
“That’s bad enough!” she declared angrily. “Goddamn it! Hasn’t Sheila been through enough without you newshounds nipping at her tail?”
“Fine,” Logan said, throwing his hands up. “Look, I’m sorry you’re pissed about it, but there’s nothing I can do, OK? Our camera will be there like everyone else’s. I suggest you just get over it and accept the situation before you give yourself an ulcer.”
“Zig,” James said in a quiet, calming voice as he put his arm around her shoulder. “Come on. It’s not worth it. Let’s go home.”
Zig Zag looked up at James for a moment and then sighed in resignation. Nodding, she allowed herself to be led towards the front of the station. As they got to the main entrance she paused and turned to Logan. “Look. I’m sorry I blew up back there.”
Logan smiled and chuckled. “Just don’t take it out on me in the editing booth, and I’ll be more than happy to let you blow up at me all you want.”
“I’ll see you tomorrow,” she said with a forced smile before following James out the front door.
A short hamster with wild, sandy blond hair, glasses and wearing a brightly colored Hawaiian shirt came running up to Logan. “Hey! Was that Zig Zag?” he asked in an excited yet gruff voice.
Logan nodded. “Yep. Just got done interviewing.”
The hamster grabbed the ferret by the neck and began to shake him. “You had Zig Zag in the studio and you didn’t tell me! ARRRrrrggghhh!”
“Al! Calm down!” Logan shouted as he tried to break the hamsters grip. “She’ll be back tomorrow for the editing!”
“Oh,” the hamster replied, suddenly calm. “All right then. But next time she’s here, though, I want to know about it. After all, I am the general manager. I should know these kinds of things.”
“Sure thing, Al,” Logan replied with a smile. “Sure thing,”