Things did Not go as planned today. akkkk. Enjoy a chapter of werewolves verses….?
Eric came out of the shower and started to shake off before Kate could hand him his towel.
“Eric!” Kate was startled as the water drops cascaded over her. She had just gotten dried off and the water was cold on her skin.
“What? I just shook off. What’s wrong with that?”
“You are just so….. doggy some days!” She smiled as she dumped his towel over his head.
“Yeah, and your problem?”
“Well, I plead the Fifth!”
Eric slipped up beside her and started scratching Kate just under the ribs on her side. Her whole body started to twitch, especially her foot.
“Oh, and who’s being doggy now?” He giggling and still scratching under her ribs.
“Oh! Stttooop th..th…that!” Kate finally twisted away from Eric’s grasp. She stood there trying to catch her breath. Eric was still giggling. “You are such a brat!”
“Yes. And you have such a ‘sweet spot’ to scritch.” A wicked smile playing across his face.
“Oh, I give up! Now get dressed and come tell me what you think of our computer geek.” She grabbed her towel and headed for the bedroom.
Eric followed behind her and draped himself across the foot of the bed, towel loosely wrapped around his hips. “Well, if Keith Waterman was just a computer geek, I’m a good old boy from Arkansas.”
“Ah, you got that feeling did you? He sent my radar off the charts. Didn’t smell right either.”
“No, he didn’t smell right. He smelled of a great many things, including gun solvent, cat spray, fatigues and nasty government offices.”
“He smelled like an agent. The kind I use to work with.”
“I figured that out. It was the cat spray that got my attention. What’s with that?” .
“Sweetie, he’s a shifter. Turns into a big cat. And as he is an uncut tom, he smells like one. It didn’t get covered up by his deodorant or his aftershave.”
Kate looked at him, and thought about how Keith had smelled to her. Her nose was better than it had been. She thought a few moments more. “You know, you’re right. That would be the acrid smell wouldn’t it?”
“Yes. Give yourself a biscuit!”
“No thank you. Those don’t taste good to me.” She pointed to a basket on the lower shelf of the bedroom bookcase. “So, we have a bad guy on the premises. Did you know him? Would he have known you?” Kate suddenly began to see all sorts of bad angles to this whole thing.
“No, there is no past history between Keith and I. Otherwise, things would have gone much differently this afternoon. The agency I worked for didn’t have many uses for the big cats. At least not at that point. Most of us were wolves.”
“Why was that?”
“Simple. Wolves are pack animals and cats are loners. The military is a ‘pack’ oriented service. Even individuals are still part of the pack mentality. So, cats didn’t work.”
Kate nodded, taking this into account and how it might fit. “So, whoever is hunting people, is using someone that can hunt alone and work alone.”
“Exactly. And now we know who they are hunting.” Eric’s voice was tinted with frustration.
“They didn’t do this just to find you. Are they hunting all shifters? Or just all shifters that use to work for the various agencies that quit?”
“I’m not sure. I’d have to see if a friend of mine might have a clue. At this point, I’d suspect all ex-service shifters are the targets. So many of us left and disappeared. The bigger question is why are they hunting us?”
“Eric, this makes me nervous. Why won’t they let you and the other shifters alone? What do they have planned that would need people of your talents?”
“Well, considering what I was trained for, military operations. The things that you read about in books or see in movies or violent video games. All the deep cover, scary spy guy stuff. Or, what Zach would call ‘ninja stuff”,” Eric said quietly.
Kate moved to Eric and wrapped her arms around him. She wasn’t sure which one of them had more goosebumps. Either way, neither one was happy. “Eric, what are we going to do? You can’t keep running. Nor do I know enough to raise Jamie by myself. Most of all, I don’t want to lose you.”
Eric hugged her closely. “You won’t lose me. I want to be 95 and still teasing you about your sweet spot and making jokes about fuzzy grandchildren. Oh, and I want to be around to have you break my nose when you slam the bathroom door in my face.”
This brought a smile to Kate’s face. “Hey! I didn’t do it on purpose! I’d had a headache and wasn’t in my right mind!” She got a little defensive.
Eric laughed and held her tight. “I know you were out of it with that headache. I just didn’t expect you to get up like you did, let alone slam the door in my face. Good thing my nose heals fast.” He touched the bridge of his nose.
“I’m still sorry about your nose and slamming the door. I didn’t know you were right behind me. I just needed to go to the bathroom and it seemed like no one wanted to let me up out of the bed. So, I got crabby.” Kate still felt a bit defensive about the whole thing.
“It’s okay Sweetie. I just need to learn that when you have a headache like that that you wander.”
“Oh, and what was with that business of zapping me like you did Peaches? One minute I’m awake, and next I’m dreaming of a huge feather bed with me in it. Not to mention waking up six hours later.”
“You felt better didn’t you?”
“Yeah, but that’s not the point. The point is that you sleepy vibed me and I still don’t understand the mechanics of it.”
“You’ll figure it out soon enough without me telling you. Until then it’s my only defense.” He started tickling her again.
“Defense? Defense! Oh boy… you’ve had it now!” Kate started tickling back. Eric twisted and so did Kate. A second later, they fell off the bed in a heap of naked limbs. Both were laughing.
A bit later, dressed and sipping cups of tea, Kate got that serious look on her face again. “Eric, what are you thinking?”
“About what I need to do. About what you and Suzanne are going to have to do.”
“And what is that?”
“You and Suzanne are going to have to report things. I may have some scripts that will help hide data. I’m not sure yet. I’m still thinking about that, after what you told me of the changes Keith made to the data bases. At the very least, you two will have to keep double books. One set of data for the shelter and one for that damned program. The hardest part will be deciphering the bits that will sift out the people that they are after. As for the other, I won’t go back if that is what you are wondering. However, I may have to do some things that aren’t nice.”
“I may have to disappear for a while. Or, I may have to kill someone if that is what it takes to get them to leave me alone.”
“Eric.” Kate felt the panic begin to creep into her voice.
“Kate, you asked. I told you. I will defend my pack. My family. That includes you, the boys, my children and the other odd members of this family. If you can’t cope with it, we need to talk seriously about our relationship,” he said rather coldly.
Kate set her tea down and walked up to Eric. Looking up into his eyes, she brought her hand up and touched his beard. “I love you. I’m worried about you. I understand that you will defend our pack as you put it. It’s just hard to think about some of this. I know that you will do whatever is necessary. And… ” she stopped for a moment. Raising up on her toes, she brought her arms around him and hugged him tight. “I will do whatever is necessary to help you.”
Eric hugged Kate tightly to him. “This is so difficult in so many ways Kate. You have no idea.”
“No, not exactly, but you’re my mate and I’ll do what I can.”
“And I appreciate and love you so much.” He hugged her even tighter.
“I love you.”
Hours north, Keith sat at his computer writing a report. He’d ‘fixed’ eight systems in the last week. Two places gave him that feel he was looking for. They also matched the hot spots that the department he worked for had targeted months before. He had fifteen more shelters to visit before he could go home. He finished up his report and attached it to an email. Once that was done, his job was over. Others would take up the work from there.
He closed off the connection and shut down his laptop. Standing up, he shed his clothes and stretched. Looking out the window, he decided to go for a run. The open prairies looked loaded with possibilities. All there was out here were a few mobile home parks, a cemetery and some farms. Even the highway was unobtrusive. He opened the window, and as he shifted, his last thoughts were about a certain dog getting what he deserved for pissing all over his car tires.
Kate woke up in the middle of the night with a cry in her throat. She sat up so suddenly that Eric startled awake.
“Kate, what’s wrong?”
“Something’s happened to Nick. I can smell him in the room. Can’t you?”
Eric looked puzzled, not remembering the name, but sniffed the air. There was as scent of spice and oil that was unfamiliar in the air. There was also the feel of weight across the end of the bed. Eric turned on the light, and there was nothing there.
“Who is Nick? I can’t remember.”
“Nick is my friend, the shifter. Big cat, kept me company when David died.” She had a look on her face like she was still trying to piece things together.
“Oh…. yes. Now I remember. What do you think happened?”
“I’m not sure. Just that he was suddenly very much in my mind.”
“Okay, so do you want to get up and call him? Email him?”
“I’m… I’m not sure. Maybe I aught to just wait till the morning. It isn’t like I can do anything right now. Except worry that is,” Kate said as she laid back down.
“That’s true. Call him in the morning.” He snuggled close to Kate. “Just go back to sleep for now.”
“No sleepy vibes!”
“No. You need to make yourself sleep. Just relax.” In a few minutes, they were both asleep.
That morning over tea, Kate fretted, waiting until it was a decent hour to call Nick. Andy walked in and gave her the paper from the doorstep.
“Hey Mom, is Nick okay?” he asked, not knowing of Kate’s fears in the middle of the night.
“Why do you ask?”
“Well, there’s an article in the paper about a big cat, killed up in a field near where Nick lives. So, I sorta wondered,” he said, handing the paper to Kate.
Kate started whipping through the paper until she came to the article about the cat. She was reading it when Eric nudged her.
“Read it out loud Kate.”
Kate nodded. “Police were called this morning to the scene of a grisly murder. The victim was a mature male mountain lion. It had obviously been in a battle as there were multiple lacerations and bites. The death blow had been a bite across the back of the neck which had severed the spinal column. A local vet was called in and pronounced it as the product of a mating fight. He advised the local sheriff and police to be on the look out for another injured mountain lion in the area. He stated that a fight such as this often kills both males. Investigators were baffled as to why any mountain lion, let alone two would be so far out on the plains and away from the mountains. The vet cited people moving into territory and lack of prey as the probable cause. The county animal unit would haul the body off for quick burial.”
Kate put the paper down. She was pale and Eric guided her to a kitchen stool.
“Kate, breathe. It might just be a wild animal. Catch your breath and then call Nick,” he said in a calm voice. He certainly didn’t feel calm at that moment, but knew it was what he needed to do.
“Andy, get me the portable.”
Andy brought her the phone and she quickly punched in the numbers. She tapped her foot as she listened to the phone ring. On the fifth ring, someone answered.
“Hello, this is Kate. Is Nick there? Oh…. okay.” she was silent for a moment. “I’m so glad that he’s alright. We felt him last night and then the paper this morning…. Yes. Okay. I’ll do that. Give him my love and kisses. Oh, and a big piece of steak when he can chew. Love you!” She hung up the phone. She sat down on the stool with a look of relief on her face.
“Well? Tell us what happened!” Eric said rather impatiently.
“Nick was hunting last night when out of the drainage ditch came this lion. He called to it and told it that the field was his territory. Apparently the other lion didn’t want to listen. In fact, he said the lion was way too aggressive. He wasn’t comfortable, so he growled some more and the other one wouldn’t leave. So, he started to leave. The lion gave him a bad feeling. He’d loped off about fifty feet when the other lion attacked him. They fought and Nick killed him with a lucky bite. Nick has some scratches that will take a bit of time to heal, but the biggest problem is a sore jaw.”
Eric sat there for a second and then got a look on his face. “Kate, let me see that paper for a minute.”
Kate handed him the paper. Eric started rifling through the pages as quickly as he could. As this was the premier paper in the state, it was a thick edition to plow through. Deep in the back of the paper in one of the regional sections there was a story that caught Eric’s attention.
“What is it Eric?”
Eric started to read out loud. “Chamber maid discovers empty room at the Motel Six. A call to a small hotel off of the highway east of the airport lead to the discovery of an empty room and a mystery. Betsy Ortiz, the chamber maid went out to room fifteen to see why Keith Waterman of Virginia had not answered his phone. The phone caller demanded that she investigate, and when she opened the door with her passkey, she found the window open, clothes scattered across the floor and an empty unslept in bed. Keith Waterman was nowhere to be found. Police were called, but were slow in responding as they were busy with an animal death two exits up the highway. (see story on page two. Death of a Big Cat) The police had no clues, and are actively seeking information. If the public has any information, please call 341-489-4490,” Eric finished reading with a look of amazement on his face.
“Umm…… do you think we aught to call and tell them that the guy they’re looking for is up in the public dump?” Kate said with a barely suppressed giggle.
Eric broke into a wide smile. “Nope, and I couldn’t think of it happening to a nicer guy. Let him just be a mystery and hope that he didn’t have time to report anything he’d found down south.”
“Really! Can we tell Nick who it was he killed?”
“Yeah. Email him the story link from the online version and see how fast it takes him to put two and two together.” Eric had a smile on his face.
“Sounds good to me.” Kate headed towards the computer in the dining room. She sat down and was typing quickly when Eric brought her tea to her.
“You don’t think this is the end of our problems do you,” she said as he caressed her neck.
“No, just a delay. A very appreciated delay. Just be careful at work, and trust your nose. Our next visitor might not be so easy to deal with.” He’d spoken quietly, almost as if he didn’t want anyone to hear except Kate. “Probably not.” She hit the send key on the email. “Shall we go get some breakfast now?”
“Yes. You need to eat.”
“So do you dear, so do you.”
Eric kissed her and pulled her into the kitchen.