Sheeple part 32

Sorry this is a bit long. I just didn’t want to cut it.

 “Breakfast is ready,” said Anne as she went to get plates out of the cupboard. The phone rang and Eric went to answer it. He talked quietly for a few moments and then hung up the phone. He walked back to the kitchen where Kate and the rest were having breakfast.

“I’ve got two weeks vacation. With pay no less.” He was still trying to wrap his brain around the conversation he just had. Apparently, the ER staff had talked to his boss about his injuries. She had almost demanded he take the time off. The pay was icing on the cake that he just couldn’t turn down.

“That’s great Eric. It’ll give us time to straighten up around here and get ‘Max’ home,” Zach said.

“Getting ‘Max’ home might not be as easy as you think Zach,” said Kate. Eric nodded in agreement.

“Why? I just take off with Eric under a blanket or something and come back with Max. Then later Eric can show up.”

“I don’t know. I’m afraid that the cops or at least James will want to talk to us and see Max all at the same time. That could be really difficult.” Eric was thinking of James’ face the night he came home. He knew he was going to end up explaining things to James, and was not sure where to start.

“Eric, maybe you and I aught to go out of town for a few days. That way Max can come home and we just won’t be available. I’ve got nearly two weeks off as well. The shelter isn’t going to open before the end of the month.”

“That may be a good idea. I’m still not sure what to do about Max though. He’s gotten rather well known,” Eric said.

“There is that,” said Andy who had come home that morning. “Oh, and in case you were wondering Dr. Fremont got given the head of the arroyo dog. He called and made mention of it being the oddest skull he’d seen in a long time. No rabies or distemper, by the way. The skull was heavier than normal and the brain weighed a bit more than average for a dog or wolf. Or at least by the charts he had.”

Eric looked at Andy as he talked. “Did he say whether he had to report his findings?”

“Just the rabies thing. Normal stuff. He asked if you wanted the skull. It’s really beaten up, and not just from the fight.”

“No. I might want to see it out of morbid curiosity, but I don’t want it.” Eric shuddered.

Everyone helped themselves to eggs, hash browns and sausages. Tortillas were in the warmer and tea was brewing. Most of the family dispersed to the living room or the dining room. Eric and Kate were the only ones left in the kitchen.

“Eric, what are you thinking?”

“About a lot of things. I think it would be a good idea if we went out of town, and then let Max come home. I’m just not sure how to accomplish that at the moment.”

“I know what you mean. My brain is in a bit of a spin too.” Kate was still thinking about the fact that she had shifted.

“We’ll get it figured out.” Making a burrito of his eggs and a tortilla, he dug into his breakfast. This was the first food either he or Kate had had since the night before the attack. Zach said they had gone through three pans of water, but hadn’t eaten a thing. Eric was chewing slowly. His jaw hurt as well as all the muscles from the fight.

Kate watched him chew. “Does your jaw still hurt that much?” she asked digging into her own food.

Eric nodded as he had a mouthful. Teeth and bones seemed to heal the slowest, and his jaw was no exception. He swallowed and then took a sip of tea. “Yes, it hurts. You try cracking bones and see how it feels. It’ll probably hurt for a month to be honest.”

“Ow. No thank you. I ache enough from just shifting and healing. I’d not want to be dealing with your injuries on any level. Do you need more aspirin?”

“Yes. I’ve never decided if it is just me, or shifters in general, but there are times I eat aspirin like it was candy. This is going to be one of those times. It also seems to work the best of all the pain relievers.”

Kate thought about it as she opened the cupboard and dug out the aspirin bottle. She realized that they had gone through a lot of aspirin over the last year. Normally, she was the only one who touched it. Everyone else used Tylenol or ibuprofen. “Could it be that aspirin is such a low tech pain med?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, you can get it from willow bark. No hassles. No major drug companies needed. Know what I mean?”

“That makes sense. Plus, we have rather ‘older’ biological make-ups if you think about it.”

“Yes, that whole genetic thing. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are a lot of things that work that way because of your cellular structure. I’m also surprised that no one has commented on your bone structures before.”

“I think that they probably have. Figured we were some throwback to Neanderthal or some weird mix I bet. Or, some regional variety caused by lifestyle.”

Kate nodded. She put her plate in the sink. “How about we take that regional variety off to the shower?”

“That sounds good. Nice hot water.” Eric added his plate to the sink.

After their shower, Eric and Kate started packing clothing for a few days away. They had decided to head west into an area they hadn’t explored much yet. Their plans were to get a hotel room, put the ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign on the door and sleep for a few days. They’d almost finished when the den phone rang. Eric looked at Kate and then went to answer it.

Kate could hear bits of the conversation through the doorway and across the hall. From the sounds of it, she figured it was Mike or Audrey. Probably checking in with Eric and getting an update. She finished packing and was grabbing a few books off the shelf to read if they got the chance. Eric walked back in with a rather serious look on his face.

“What’s going on?”

“That was Mike on the phone. He was letting me know that there were some ‘reinforcements’ on their way here to make sure things got cleaned up.”

“Reinforcements? Cleaned up? What do you mean?”

“People from a branch of Special Ops will come check things out. Make sure that the bodies are gone, and that the local cops are clueless. That sort of thing,” Eric said softly.

“You look worried. What else?”

“They want to talk to me.”

“Okay, and why does that have you all uptight?”

“I haven’t spoken to anyone voluntarily for over ten years. I left in bit of a rush and didn’t want to look back ever.”

“How do you leave the military in a rush?”

“You fast track yourself. Walk everything through and don’t let anyone push you into a chair. I processed out in less than forty-eight hours.”

“That’s fast. So you don’t want to talk to these people. Can we just call Mike back and say no?”

“Not an option. However, I can say where and when I want to meet them.”

“Okay. That works with our plans of going away. You can meet them somewhere public, like the library.”

“That’s a good idea. However, it’s both of us they’ll want to talk to, and I would rather they didn’t talk to you. I don’t want them near you.”

“Why?”

“Because I don’t want them sniffing you out. I don’t need them discovering that latent shifters can be woken up by other shifters.” Eric’s voice had gone quiet.

Kate looked at Eric and thought about what he had said. “So, you want to protect me.” She stopped for a moment as another realization hit. “…and Zach.”

“Yes. Just because they are the ‘good guys’ doesn’t mean that they aren’t looking for people. That they wouldn’t find a way to acquire people with special talents.”

Kate thought some more. “How are we going to stop them talking to Zach or me? We were there. I’m your mate, partner… whatever you want to call me. And how would they know anyway?” Kate was puzzled.

“Sniff you out. They will have a shifter with them.”

“Well, that guy Keith didn’t figure it out. He didn’t say anything.”

“He may not have said anything, but he must have sent some kind of report. The best I can hope is that they figure you just smell of me.”

“There is that. So, when are we going to do this? I’m nervous about leaving the house now.”

“Kate, I’m going to call Mike and see what I can do. I may be blowing this out of proportion, but it still makes me twitchy.”

“I can understand. Plus, we have James and Ronny to worry about too don’t we?”

“Oh gods…I forgot about them. Yes. In a way. Ronny, they will just ask for the dump spot. Hopefully he will be his uncommunicative self like he usually is with strangers. James on the other hand,” he paused for a moment. “I may have to have a talk with sooner than I wanted.”

Kate nodded. She didn’t totally understand Eric’s reluctance and nerves, but she accepted it. It wasn’t like there was anything she could do about it anyway. “Let’s get going then. You call Mike and see what he has to add and I’ll finish packing.”

It was Eric’s turn to nod.

Kate had just finished talking to Anne about running the house while they were gone when Eric came into the kitchen. He had that look on his face that she had come to read as stress. Anne took the list of chores and headed out to the dining room.

“What’s up Eric?”

“I’ve got the details. Talked to Zach and explained what was going to happen. Talked to Doc Fremont too. All that’s left is to get in the car and go find James.”

“Oh. That isn’t what you wanted, was it.” Kate turned to Eric and putting her arms around his waist.

“Not exactly. I wanted to be the one that told him though and not them. So, I have about three hours to do so.”

“Three hours? They’ll be here that fast?”

“Yes. I just hope it’s been a quiet day at the office for James.” Eric picked up the phone to call James.

Kate walked down to the bedroom to see if there were any last minute details she had overlooked. She knew that Eric would want to do this alone. However much she wanted to be there, she knew she’d just have to wait. Wait until Eric or James wanted to include her in the conversation. There was nothing left to pick up or take care of so she picked up her book and curled up on the bed. She lost herself in historical romance for a bit.

Eric hung up the phone. James would meet him in fifteen minutes out at the local coffee house. It was the kind of place that where you knew everyone and yet had total privacy while you ate. Too much back ground noise and lots of people. Eric figured it might be good to be in a familiar place and he knew James ate there most days.

“Kate, I’m headed out to Henry’s to meet with James. I’ll be back in a bit.”

Kate dropped her book on the bed and headed for the door. “Wait a minute!” she hollered after him. Eric stopped. “I get a kiss don’t I?”

Eric smiled, kissed Kate and gave her a quick hug.”Of course. I’ll be back.” He headed out the door. Kate watched him pull out of the driveway and wondered just what James would make of this whole thing.

James was already at a booth in the back of Henry’s Cafe when Eric got there. Eric sat down and took the menu the waitress stuffed in his hand. He took a quick glance and then ordered tea and a pastry.

James sat his cup of coffee down, looked around and turned to Eric. “What did you want to talk about?”

“Me, and the events of the last few days.”

“Okay. I’ve had some questions myself that I wanted answered. Off the record of course.”

“I figured you might. Hoped to have this conversation a bit later, but I don’t have any choice. Not if I want to be the one who explains things.”

“What do you mean Eric? Who else would explain? Kate?”

“No, government agents.”

“What?” James said with more curiosity than anything. “Eric, what the hell is going on?”

“I guess I’d better start about twenty years back. You can believe me or not, just like you can believe the men who will be in your office later today or tomorrow. Either way, I wanted you to hear this from me first. I consider you a friend and want to keep it that way.”

“Go ahead Eric.” James took a sip of his coffee. He wondered for a moment if this would explain all the odd things he had seen the day of the attack at the house. That and a few other oddities he’d come across lately.

“I use to be a part of a special forces team in the military.”

“I remember you told me about that. It makes sense considering some of the things you’ve said and done since I’ve known you. Like the way you drive.”

“Yes. Passing up your deputy twice that day was fun.”

“He didn’t think so. Still doesn’t understand why I didn’t haul you in or ticket you though.”

“Oh well.”

“You also handle yourself… carry yourself like you’re ex-military, but not regular army as I’d think of it.”

“There is that. I wasn’t regular anything.” Eric stopped and decided to move things along. “I’m also a shape-shifter.”

James nearly spilled his cup of coffee all over the table.

Forty minutes later, James added sugar to his fifth cup of coffee. Stirring it gave him a few moments to collect his thoughts. If it hadn’t been for some coincidences that he couldn’t explain, he’d think Eric was nuts. A bona fide tin hat conspiracy chasing, ex-military nut. He looked at Eric, noting his face and body language as he had the entire time they had been talking. James had become rather adept at reading people. It helped in his line of work. Eric was nervous, upset, but he wasn’t lying. James didn’t know if that was more upsetting or the content of the conversation.

“Okay. Let me make sure I have this all in my head. You are a shape-shifter. A lycanthrope, and you change into a wolf. You and Max are the same being.” James paused.

“Yes. If you want, I’ll show you at the house,” Eric said softly, knowing that this was difficult to deal with. He remembered how hard it had been to explain to Kate, and she deals with the weirdest things on a daily basis.

“The rest of it is sounds like a movie script, Eric. These things don’t happen to real people.” James was trying to reassure himself even though he wasn’t totally sure anymore. His world had been more than just a tad shaken since he walked into Henry’s earlier this morning.

“I know it sounds far fetched, but it’s the truth. There are shifters. They do have them in the military. In fact, they often choose the military because of their talents. Those people who attacked Kate and myself were part of an organization made up of people who should have been imprisoned or locked up a long time ago. They were ex-military, mercenaries so to speak. An unsanctioned government group within the military. A part that is being dealt with as we speak.”

“Alright.” James paused again, still trying to wrap his brain around all of the information. “Kate knew all of this? She understands this?”

“No, not at the beginning. However, she does now. When we started falling in love, I was just a guy who landed at the shelter. That’s it. A computer geek with two kids. There had to be trust between us before I could say anything. Hell, I almost ran from the entire situation because I was uncertain of how to deal with her. I wasn’t sure I wanted another relationship, nor was I altogether ready to explain myself. I certainly didn’t want to hide it from Kate once I got to know her. I’d made that mistake with my wife and didn’t want to repeat it.”

“I can understand that. Had to be that way between Leanne and I. Her first husband had been abusive and I had to gain her trust slowly.” James took a deep breath. “I am beginning to understand just what it took though to tell Kate all of this.”

“It was difficult. Frustrating too, when I realized that my past was following me. The first time this bunch showed up at the shelter, I figured I’d finished the job. That it wouldn’t happen again. Oh was I wrong.” “That was the first time the shelter got trashed right?”

“Yes.”

“And where you went up to Ft. Kit to deal with the Sargent.”

“Yes. And I had hoped it would be the end of it. I hoped that it was just one isolated incident.”

“I’m sorry you were wrong about that. I still don’t know if I understand why they returned so viciously though. Wouldn’t it have been easier to try the polite way?”

“Like I said, I didn’t exactly treat them nicely the first time. They figured I was just as big a psycho as the three that broke into Kate’s house.”

James just shook his head. “You know, I knew that there was something odd about that whole thing, and couldn’t put my finger on it. It was driving me nuts.”

“Okay, what seemed odd to you?” Eric wondered just what had set James’ internal warning signals off.

“The state of the doors, the tins on the floor, the chile powder. Now that really had me puzzled. Oh, and no human tracks in the arroyos or anywhere else we looked for you.” James listed off the items on his fingers.

“I can see that. Most dogs wouldn’t blast through doors like that. It’s why Kate said that there had been a man with them. Taken with the tin cans and such, I can see why they’d make you curious.”

James nodded. It did made sense now in an odd sort of way. Especially in light of the bits and pieces Eric had explained earlier. James realized that in spite of the bizarre story, it was making sense. He wasn’t sure how comfortable he was with that yet. He had another thought. “Eric, if I ran you through the computers down at the office, would I find anything? Or, would I be looking under the wrong name?”

“As far as I know, you shouldn’t find anything. However, there might be a note in there about me. I had my house broken into about seven years ago and scared the heck out of a cop who found himself staring down the barrel of my gun.”

“What?”

“I was still in the military, fresh in from field exercises and was the kind of guy who slept with a gun under his pillow. The police had the wrong address and broke my front door down. I just heard noise, and gun in hand went down the hall as they came up. We stopped with my gun almost up the cop’s nose. He squeaked ‘police’ just in time and everything stopped. The senior officer who was at the back came forward and we talked. Discovered that they were a block off. Right number, wrong street. Apologies were made, I got a new front door and the officer said he’d note that I was a good man to have in an emergency, and bring the entire force if they had to arrest me. Never did find out if that was a joke or not.”

James nodded and made a mental note to check the files. Plus, add his own note about Eric. Definitely a man to have on the right side of the law. Or at least on his right side. “Eric, What will these men be talking to me about? Do you have any idea?”

“I figure that they will just ask you cop type questions. Looking to see if you noted anything odd or if you just mark this off as an oddball occurrence in the county. That sort of thing. They will be looking to see if they need to swear you to secrecy about the shape-shifters or that type of thing.” Eric was hoping he was right and that they wouldn’t ask any more than that.

“So, they will want to keep this hushed up?”

“That’s what I understand. Oh, and probably to check and see if they can recruit me.”

“Recruit you? Because you took down the other shifters?” James was trying to puzzle things out.

“That is one possibility. They were none too happy when I left in the first place. As I mentioned, lots of shifters aren’t too stable. They let the animal run too long and forget how to be human. As far as they see, I’m a lovely stable man with a family. Someone they think they can impress enough to want to do his civil duty and help them out.” Eric’s voice held a tinge of sarcasm.

“So, do I play dumb? Or let them know I talked to you?”

“That’s up to you. They have their own ways of knowing things and second guessing them is a pain.”

“Are you going to let them talk to Kate?”

“I wish I didn’t have to, but they will want to talk to her and probably most of the family. We made the papers, so it isn’t like we can just disappear.” Eric had been rather upset when he had seen the papers. Nothing too graphic, but there was a small two column article in the local papers about a break-in and Eric’s appearance at the gas station.

“Yeah. No pictures at least. Those wolves in your dining room would be enough to give the ranchers all they need to start lobbying the capital for new hunting laws.”

Eric smiled. James was trying to be humorous, which was a good sign. He hadn’t gotten too twitchy about all of this. “James, do you have any ideas on how we can get ‘Max’ home?”

“Quiet would be best. Ronny doesn’t know does he? About you?” James was suddenly aware that this could get out of hand if the wrong people started running their mouths.

“No, I don’t think so. Ronny is a bit odd, but I think if he had figured it out, he’d have said something. Kate is as close as he has to family and anything that dealt with her would be talked about.”

“You’re probably right.” James set down his empty cup. He was about to say something when his pager went off. Looking at the number, he excused himself and went out to his blazer.

Eric watched him go and wondered if their time was up. He realized that they had been talking for nearly three hours. He collected their bills and went to pay at the front desk. James was still talking when Eric walked up next to the vehicle. James acknowledged him and made a wait motion. Eric stood by the fender.

“Sure. Be there in a few minutes. Okay. Yes. Marcy, I said I’d be there in a few minutes. Bye.” James closed his cell phone. “Darn dispatcher doesn’t trust that I’ll head into the office. Drives me nuts.”

“Marcy? About 4ft nothing and lots of beehive hairdo?”

“Yes. Seems that some men are tap dancing on her desk and wondering where I am. Sounds like company is here already.”

Eric nodded. “Guess I ought to head home then. They may want me soon too.”

“Alright. Hope that this is short and fast. I’m going to just let them talk and not volunteer anything. Oh, and thanks for paying the tab. I’ll treat you to lunch next time.” James climbed into his blazer. “And before I forget. Want a job? I need a deputy.”

“What?” Eric stood there with his mouth open not sure he heard James correctly.

“Do you want a job? Hell, I’d even employ Max if I could figure out the budget line.” He smiled as the blazer backed out of the parking spot.

“Umm… Could I think about this? Are you serious?”

“Yes. Been thinking about it for about the last forty minutes. I don’t have enough officers. I don’t have enough search and rescue men either. It also might be a way to keep your buddies out of your life. Give it a thought and let me know.” James finished and then pulled out of the parking lot.

Eric watched him go and ran his hand through his hair absentmindedly. Deputy eh? James might just be right. Being part of the local sheriff’s department might be just enough to keep the Ops guys out of his life. Another thing to talk to Kate about after he got home. Home! Eric suddenly remembered that Kate might have visitors by now, and the last thing he wanted was for her to talk to them alone.

Eric made it home in record time. He pulled up in the drive to find no extra vehicles. That made him feel a bit better, but he was still on edge. Mike hadn’t said who exactly was coming, but made it clear that Eric had better be available. Mike normally didn’t talk like that. Eric locked the Subaru and bounded up the stairs. Gretchen and Luna were barking when he reached the door. “Kate! I’m home! Any company yet?” he called as he waked into the kitchen.

Kate came into the kitchen from the hall. She had been in the back of the house. “No, but Marcy called here looking for James. Did she find him?”

“Yes. How does that woman do it? I called James privately.” Eric was wondering just how the dispatcher had tracked James to the house or the family.

“I don’t know. She’s always been like that. Never could win if she played hide and seek.” Kate wondered if Marcy had some talent or was just so much of a gossip that she just knew too much of anyone’s business.

“Well, James was heading to the jail to talk to some people.”

“How did he take it?”

Eric smiled. “He did pretty well. Almost wore his coffee a few times, but on the whole, did okay. It isn’t every day that you get told such a fantastic story.”

“No, have to agree with you on that. Do you think you’ll have to shift for him to believe all of it?”

“Maybe. Then again, he saw ‘Max’ after the fight and my arms have bite marks in the same spots.” He held out his arms that were poking out of rolled up sleeves. Scratches, bites and bruises covered his arms in no set pattern. “Then again, maybe not. He offered me a job.”

“What?”

“You heard me. He asked if I wanted to be a deputy. Or, failing that, search and rescue. Even said he’d hire Max.” Eric had a smile on his face.

“You’re teasing me!”

“No. Really… He said if he could figure out how to put Max on the payroll, he would.” Eric was smiling at Kate.

Kate just shook her head. She walked over to Eric and wrapped her arms around him. Putting her head on his chest, she just stood there holding him.

Forty minutes later, the front door bell rang. Gretchen and Luna started barking like it was the mail man. Kate and Eric both headed for the door. Kate to intercept the dogs and Eric to answer it. Kate had shut the dogs in Andy’s room and turned around to see Eric letting four men in suits into the living room. She walked in and stood by Eric, waiting to be introduced.

“Sorry about the dogs. They’ve been a bit on edge what with everything going on,” Eric said as he walked further into the room and motioned for the men to sit down.
“I understand,” said one of the men

“You know why we are here Eric. Are you two the only ones home right now?” said another man.

Eric nodded. “This is Kate.”

“Hello,” Kate said, waiting to learn their names or at least some way of identifying the men.

“Hello Ms. Ratkovich. I’m Mr. Greene, and this is Mr. Davis, Mr. Ortiz and Mr. Farr.” Greene pointed to each man in turn.

Kate nodded and looked to each man as they were introduced. She wondered if these were their real names or if they were aliases. She’d didn’t really care. She sat down next to Eric who sat facing the men on the couch.

“Eric, we’ve talked to the Sheriff and some of the deputies and such that were here that morning. As far as they understand, there was nothing more going on here than some mercenary group trying to settle an old score with you,” said Greene. “They’ve agreed to write it up as a break-in and leave it at that.”

“Alright, so what do you want from us?” Eric asked.

“We’re here to extend an apology from the government and their thanks. You did us a service that can’t be acknowledged nor spoken of to anyone. We need you to understand that this officially never happened. Those men didn’t exist and that you are just an average citizen who had your house burglarized.” Greene sat back a bit as he finished.

Ortiz moved forward calmly taking some paperwork out of a briefcase at his feet. “We’d like you to sign some disclaimers and forms insuring that you won’t discuss this with the press or write about it forty years from now.”

“I don’t think those are necessary. If the local police are going to write it off, I don’t see any reason for there to be a paperwork trail leading back to me over an incident that never occurred.”

“Now Nic,” Mr. Farr started.

“I go by Eric here. Nic is dead.” Eric had a bit of an edge in his voice.

Farr blinked, and took a deep breath. “Sorry. Eric, I don’t see why you’d object to complying to this arrangement. It’s standard practice.”

“That is exactly why I object. I have never been in the military. Nic was. I am just a citizen who had a run-in with some thugs. No, no paperwork. No disclosure papers, nothing. I agreed to talk to you men. I agreed to let you talk to Kate. That’s it. If you don’t like it, I’m sorry.” Eric put his arm around Kate as he noticed Davis moving to the balls of his feet even though he was still seated. “I’d appreciate it if you would stand down Mr. Davis.”

Davis looked taken aback. “I… I wasn’t doing anything.”

Eric looked at him like he would one of the boys when they were lying. “I am just a bit on edge to be honest, and your body posturing is sending every nerve on alert. As a fellow shifter, you aught to know just how intense this situation was. The scent markers are still rather pungent in here. Please have some respect.” Eric’s voice was taking on a sub vocal growl.

“Please gentlemen, we’ve had a very rough time. We said we’d talk with you. We’ve delayed our time set aside to heal and get past this to do so. Can we please get on with this interview?” Kate asked, trying to diffuse the tension filling the room. She was very glad of Eric’s arm around her.

Greene cleared his throat, and glanced around at the other men. “Ma’am, You are right. We did come here to talk and apologize. I am sorry we lost our perspective. Now, would each of you give us your version of the events?”

Eric took a breath, and started with the Sargent and worked through to his arrival home. Then it was Kate’s turn. She gave a much shorter version of events. Both of them edited out details they had agreed on in advance. They were doing their best to cover up any evidence that either Zach or Kate had any shifter talent. An hour passed.

“I think that about answers all of our questions,” said Greene. He had taken over leading the interview and was now wrapping it up. “You still won’t entertain the offer to come to work for us?”

“No. I’ve had more than my sufficiency of the military and the type of work done by your branch.” Eric’s voice was still gruff.

“You know, if you’d stuck around, there might not have been an incident like this to clean up in the first place,” Davis said rather defensively.

Eric felt the muscles in his shoulders twitch. Davis had pushed his buttons once too often. He felt Kate’s hand rest rather heavy on his shoulder.

“Mr. Davis, Eric doesn’t need you antagonizing him. Nothing short of a firing squad would have stopped the men who attacked us in our home. Better yet, a training program that deprogrammed soldiers would certainly have been a better idea than just letting them loose.” It was Kate’s turn to let just a bit of heat creep into her voice. Her hand still gripped Eric’s shoulder.

“Besides, I have a perfectly good job here working at the local hospital. On top of that, I have been offered a job with the sheriff’s department.” Eric was trying to calm down.

“You? At the sheriff’s department? What as? A search and rescue dog?” Farr said with a sneer in his voice.

Eric came to his feet dragging Kate with him as she tried to stop him. Farr stood too, and Davis was balancing on the edge of the seat.

“Enough!” Greene said in a voice loud enough to make the dogs start to bark down the hall. He moved between Farr and Eric.

“Enough is exactly right. Mr. Greene, you and your men have worn out your welcome. I hope you got what you needed as I can’t see either Eric or myself talking to you in the future.” Kate picked up the pile of papers on the coffee table and shoved them into Ortiz’s hands. She then moved towards the door and opened it with the express desire that they leave as quickly as possible.

Farr and Davis were out the door before Eric could reach Kate’s side. Ortiz was mumbling apologies for everyone as he cleared the steps. Greene stood at the door for a moment.

“Kate, Eric, I apologize for that. Farr was out of line. So was Davis. In future, I will not have them on my team.” He dug in his jacket pocket and pulled out an envelope. “I meant to keep this as a last ditch attempt to get you to join our efforts to work with the military and shifters. However, I realize I was wrong. You have a life here and deserve to enjoy it without our interference. If you ever do need us again, please contact me.” He handed Eric the envelope and headed down the steps.

Kate closed the door and turned to Eric who was looking in the envelope.

“What’s in there?”

“You wouldn’t believe me. Look for yourself,” Eric said as he handed her the envelope.

Kate took it and looked. Her eyes went wide, and she pulled a check out of the envelope. Pinned to it was a note explaining that it was for damages done to the property as well as compensation for their time and personal injuries.

“Eric, this can’t be for real.”

“No, it’s real. I cashed way too many of those in my time to be mistaken.”

“But… ” Kate looked at it again to make sure she wasn’t misreading it. “This is a check for $25,000. How…”

“Don’t ask, just accept it and hope they never show back up.” Eric went to get his coat and the car keys. “Shall we go deposit this?”

Kate nodded as they headed out the door.

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