Once again, I have had no time to write today. Good thing I have a story stockpiled!
It took about a week to get the gist of typing reports into that program which was augmented by Eric. He added scripts that adjusted birth dates by a random factor of ten percent and one that shuffled addresses from time to time. Eric and Zach had spent hours manipulating data on Eric’s computer before editing the scripts into the computer at the shelter.
Kate kept the real records on her machine and on a disk that never stayed with the computer overnight. There were no more visits by people to adjust the program or to hassle them for not working it right. Frequent updates did occur via the Internet, but Eric checked those to make sure that they didn’t interfere with his scripts. He also beefed up the firewall on all the computers at the shelter and at home. Zach and Eric spent most of a weekend making sure that things were rock solid. Eric’s hacker friends Mike and Audrey tested the security from their ends. All the breeches were patched and they figured that they were safe.
Eric and Kate had gone shopping in the big city as they called it. Once a month, they didn’t shop locally so that they had a chance to take advantage of the big department stores as well as the warehouse stores. Buying in bulk helped with all the people they needed to feed.
Kate called the house to see if they had forgotten anything and Andy answered the phone.
“Hi Andy. Did you think of anything we might need? No, okay. Suzanne called? What about? Oh, alright. I’ll call her when we get home. No. That should be a couple of hours. See you then.” She hung up the phone.
“What did Suzanne want?”
“She called because a few people showed up at the shelter and gave her the creeps. She let them in, but wanted us to check on the shelter when we got home.”
“Did she call the police or the sheriff?”
“Yes. They came by on a ‘courtesy call’ and made their presence known, and that’s about it. They’ll check by later to make sure everything is still in one piece, but she’s nervous.”
“You really aught to install cameras and get that night watchman to do his job.” Eric was exasperated. Suzanne had hired a man to work there at night, but he wasn’t the most professional of workers. He tended to go to sleep.
“I know, but Jake is just too sweet to yell at.”
“No, he needs to be yelled at. What he is is a few braincells short.” Jake had exasperated Eric in about ten minutes one day and continued to frustrate him. “There is just no ‘sparky-sparky’ between those ears!” Kate tried not to laugh, but Eric making funny hand gestures as he said ‘sparky-sparky’ just did her in. Pretty soon they were both laughing.
Eric took a deep breath. “So, we get to go do check-up on Jake when we get home?”
“Yes. Good thing it won’t be too late. Suzanne said that there were three of them. Had sort of a raw and edgy look to them.”
“Okay.” It wouldn’t be the first time that Eric had played the heavy at the shelter when all else failed. Some people just couldn’t behave. Others didn’t want to behave and those types did show up at the shelter from time to time. Plus, with the appearance of Keith not that long ago, everyone was a bit nervous.
Groceries were unloaded in record time. Kate got Andy and the little ones to finish up while she and Eric went down to the shelter. It was dark and quiet when they got there. Almost too quiet.
Eric looked at Kate as they parked the car. “You stay in the car. I’ll go look first.”
Kate nodded. She didn’t feel right about this one. In fact, she grabbed her cell phone and had it ready to dial the police.
Eric closed the Subaru door quietly and headed towards the kitchen door. It was locked tight. So far, so good. He headed around to the front door when he smelled something wrong. Working hard to control the urge to shift, he walked carefully around the entrance. The door was partially open, and he could hear moaning from the inside. Looking around quickly, he made sure no one was around and then slowly opened the door. Jake laid across the entrance, his face beat up and blood pouring from his nose and half a dozen cuts. Eric backed out and turned to Kate in the car.
“Kate! Call the police, and don’t leave the car. Lock the doors now!” he hollered at her. Then he turned back to Jake. It was the blood he had smelled when he came around the corner. Still fighting the urge not to shift, he sniffed the air around the doorway as he looked at Jake. He knew better than to move him much or disturb things. He didn’t know if anyone was still there, even after he hollered at Kate. He didn’t want to risk it. Checking Jake’s pulse, he knew he wasn’t too badly hurt. He could also smell the men who had beat Jake up. What he couldn’t tell was if they were still in the shelter. He waited.
It took a few minutes for the first of the flashing lights to come into view. Ambulance, police and the sheriff. The paramedics took care of Jake while the police entered the building to look around. Eric stood with Kate by her car. Suzanne was on her way and they were waiting for her. Kate had called the house as well, to let Andy know what was going on. She didn’t want to worry him, but knew he needed at least a heads up as to what was going on.
“This is just great. Second mess like this in less than a year. Did the police say what kind of damage was inside?” she asked after talking to Andy.
Eric shook his head. He was trying to keep an eye on the building to see if anyone fled out the kitchen door while the police went in the front. The local cops were alright, but not too bright. No one went to guard the back door.
Suzanne walked up to them. “I guess I should have listened to my gut instinct.”
“There was no way to know for sure. I just feel sorry for Jake. Busted nose, cuts and bruises and a tooth or two loosened up,” Kate said.
“It could have been worse. He could be dead.” Eric nearly growled.
Both women looked at him. They sighed and then nodded their heads. Eric was right even though it was a harsh idea.
“Do we know how bad the damage is inside yet?” Suzanne asked.
“No. Just that they really tore the place up. It will be a while before the police let us in. Somebody taught them how to do finger printing and they are going dust happy.” Eric’s hint of sarcasm wasn’t lost on the women.
Kate just rolled her eyes. She knew Eric’s opinion of their local force and wasn’t exactly in disagreement. “When will they get done?”
“Maybe soon. One of them just came out the back door. I would assume that that means there is no one left in the shelter.” Eric pointing at the rather rotund cop standing on the back steps.
They didn’t have long to wait. The sheriff and chief of police came up to them together. The sheriff did all the talking which was a good thing. James was a good man and a much better officer than his cohort.
“Suzanne, Kate, sorry about all this. We need you to help us go through the wreckage and see what’s missing. You can come along too Eric.” James motioned for them to follow him into the building.
Moving past the blood stained entrance was the easy part. Furniture was tipped over, shredded and in some places broken up beyond recognition. It looked like a war zone. The previous break-in was a far cry from this mess.
They went to Suzanne’s office first. It was in much the same condition as the front entrance. Furniture turned over or broken. Pictures smashed or at least thrown to the ground. File cabinets trashed and the desk had every drawer dumped. Suzanne’s computer was gone. There were a few power cords left and the box of back-up disks was gone as well. “Shit.” Suzanne said and just walked out. Without a computer, the shelter was shut down. The new regs demanded that all information be entered on a computer with that software they all detested. She went off in a corner to use her cell phone and call her supervisor to let him know what had happened.
Meanwhile, Kate and Eric decided to go see what was left of her office. It looked like a tornado had touched down on her desk. No file drawer or desk drawer had been left untouched. Computer disks littered the ground in tiny pieces. Her monitor had a crack down the center of the screen where it had been kicked. The keyboard was smashed, and the machine itself was gone.
“Oh….. Eric….. do you think?”
“No. I don’t think. I know. Can’t you smell it? They pissed in here.”
Kate looked around, sniffed and realized that someone or something had pissed all over her chair and in the corners of the room.
“Oh gods. I am so glad I took that disk home yesterday. I wasn’t going to but changed my mind at the last minute.”
Eric looked at her with relief playing across his face. “Thank goodness for small favors. I was just thinking of where to start looking for that disk. Especially as all of Suzanne’s were gone, but most of yours seem to be broken up on the floor.”
Kate and Eric were still trying to assess the damages when James stuck his head in the door.
“Can I talk to you two for a minute?”
“Of course James. What do you need?” Eric asked.
“Um….. well, there’s something written on the wall back here that we need to know if you two understand. Suzanne didn’t have a clue.” James started to head down the hall.
Eric and Kate looked at each other and followed James. In the hall back by the kitchen written in what first looked like blood, but was really ketchup was one sentence. ‘Come out Nic.’
“Now, do you two have any ideas?”
Kate and Eric looked at each other. Kate just shook her head, not knowing what to say. Eric stepped closer to take a better look at the scrawl.
“James, I don’t know. Nobody by the name of Nic works here. I’m sorry I can’t help you.” Eric shrugged his shoulders and started to head back down the hall. He turned half way. “If I think of something though, I’ll give you a call.” He headed back to Kate’s office. Kate followed.
Once they were back in the office, Kate finally took a deep breath.
“Stop. Not here. Not inside. We’ll come back in the morning and see what we can do. Right now, I want to get home. Fast.”
Kate nodded in agreement. As they passed Suzanne, they said their goodbyes and told her they’d see her in the morning. She waved them off as she was deep in conversation with one of the police officers.
The ride home was fast and silent. Eric still wouldn’t talk about anything. He wanted to get home and make sure everything was okay and the family safe. Flexing his hands to try and stop the shifting he so desperately wanted to do was more than occupying his mind. Kate drove as fast as she dared. When they got there they both shot out of the car and up the back steps. The barking of Luna and Gretchen was reassuring. Andy was waiting for them in the kitchen, and had just put the kettle on.
“Everything okay Mom?”
“No. Everything is not okay. Is everything quiet here?”
“Sure. Not a peep from the kids or even an odd bark from Luna.”
That was reassuring as Luna barked at anything. Birds, lightning, doorbells, cats three yards over, and even her own dog dish. Noisy was good. Eric looked around the house. “I’ll be right back,” he said as he headed downstairs to check on the kids and the back door. Kate was getting cups out for tea. Anything to not think about the shelter.
“What has you spooked Mom?”
“There was another break-in at the shelter.”
“Yeah, you told me that over the phone.”
“We think it was the same people Eric had trouble with at the beginning of the school year.”
Andy thought for a moment, and then understood why both of them looked so nervous. “Oh. Alright. So what are we going to do?”
“Nothing at the moment except try and stay calm,” said Eric who had just come up from the basement. “The kids are asleep and the back door is locked. I made sure the bells were on the door so we’d know if it opened.”
“Good. What are we going to do though. They know ‘Nic’ is somewhere around, and…” she started to say.
“Yes. And they will probably take a day or so to see if they flushed him out or if they will start hitting houses.”
“Hitting houses…… like this one?” Andy asked.
“Yes. They obviously didn’t get the information they wanted out of Jake, otherwise we’d have had visitors already,” Eric said.
Kate tried not to let the panic rise to the surface. “Eric, do we need to get the kids out of here?”
hat would probably be a good idea, but we have to make it look like a normal thing, and not them fleeing. Otherwise we will attract the wrong kind of attention.”
Andy got a thoughtful look on his face. “Mom, it’s the weekend. I could take the kids out to the farm Pat’s working at in Levette. It wouldn’t look out of place.”
“He’s right. It wouldn’t look odd.” She looked at Eric.
Eric thought for a moment. Kate swore she could see his braincells firing ninety miles an hour. “Yes. Andy, get things packed now and have everything ready to go. Don’t call Pat until you are about half way there. I don’t want any calls going out from here.”
“Okay Eric. I understand. I’ll get right on it. I’ll wake up Jon and get his help as well.” Andy started downstairs to get the kids clothes together.
“I am so glad that Zach and Anne are down at her mom’s this week,” Kate said.
“Me too. I’m glad Andy is so responsible and doesn’t fluster easily.”
“I trained him right?” She tried to joke to ease some of the tension.
Eric smiled at her and took her in his arms. “Yes. You did a wonderful job with him. With all your boys.” He hugged her more tightly to him.
Kate looked up at Eric. “And what are we going to do?”
“Get ready. If it is who I think I smelled, we are going to be busy in the next few days. I am going to get the shotguns out of the closet and make sure they are operational.”
“You think it will be that rough?”
“It might be. I’m also really glad that Zach and I taught you how to shoot. Even better that you are a good shot.”
Kate gave an involuntary shudder. “I… I never really expected to have to shoot someone.”
“Not a person. A wolf. Hopefully not me.”
“Eric, I… Don’t you think we aught to talk to James about this?” She didn’t want to think about just how serious this might become.
“No. Not right now. By the time we got him comfortable with the idea that there are shifters, that the government uses shifters in military and non-military operations and that I’m one; it would be next week. It would be too late. No, we’d be better off calling the dog catcher and telling Ronny that there’s been a stray dog hassling our dogs. Better off asking him to keep an eye out for strange dogs or coyotes than to call James.” Eric brought the shotguns and rifles out of the one closet and placed them on the bed to inspect them.
Kate thought about Ronny. He made Jake look brilliant. Great with animals, and absolutely no social skills with people. He’d spend his entire paycheck buying food for the local stray population and forget to buy food for himself. Ronny had been one of the first people to come to the shelter and their first success at integrating a homeless person back into society. “You know, you might have been jesting, but I think that is a great idea. It’s not too late to call Ronny at home. I’ll be right back.” She headed for the phone.
Eric had finished with the guns and was just coming back into the kitchen when Kate came back in with a smile on her face.
“All taken care of. I talked to Ronny and let him know we’d had some strange dogs hanging around and that Max, Luna and Gretchen were going nuts.”
“What did he say to that?”
“Said we weren’t the only ones calling up. So, he’ll keep an extra eye on the house first thing in the morning and just before he goes off duty at supper time.”
“Great. I can see it now. Animal control officer defeats terrorists.” Eric smiled halfheartedly. “Although, I’m glad you did call, I’m not sure he will be much help.”
“Well, it doesn’t hurt now does it?”
“No. Let’s lock up and get some sleep. I don’t expect them tonight, but tomorrow is wide open.” He wrapped his arm around Kate’s shoulder.