By Pat Cunningham
First, the bad news: Mom died late Sunday night. I got the call at 12:30 AM. She’d taken a bad turn over the last couple of days, so we were pretty much expecting this. She was lucid when the family turned out at the hospital, so she got to see all of us one last time. Even if she’d recovered, it would have meant spending the rest of her life as a partially-paralyzed nursing home resident. Mom was always active and independent; such an existence would have been hell for her. We suspect she recognized this on some level, and may have helped along her own demise. So she’s moved on and we’re left to deal with the paperwork. She got the last laugh on us after all.
I wouldn’t have blogged today, except this was already written and ready to go, so why not have something to enjoy? I’m not going to dedicate it to Mom, because she didn’t get my romance writing any more than she did my SF and fantasy. I’ll dedicate it to Savanna instead, because it was inspired by her tales of her tigress shapeshifter. If she can steal my ideas, I can swipe hers. Fair’s fair.
OCELOT SHAPESHIFTER: DRUG BUST
Somebody’s knocked out the floods outside the Shop’N’Save again, but that’s no problem for me. My eyes see just fine in the dark. Far better than those of the scum we’re hunting tonight, that’s for sure.
They walk right by me, completely unaware. My spotted fur allows me to blend into the dappled shadows and renders me nearly invisible. I doubt if they’d notice me anyway. They’ve got the scent of profit in their noses, and it’s clouded all their other senses. All the better. I bare my fangs and flex my claws.
Off to the right I catch a glimpse of Henri, trying to hide behind a dumpster. His fur gleams like ice in the scant light. It’s meant to conceal stealthy approaches in blizzards and on snowfields. Shadows despise him. Why are you here, foolish lynx, in this urban world of blacks and grays so ill suited to you?
Mike has a better time of it, with his lead-gray coat. His yellow lupine eyes briefly catch the headlights of a passing car before he ducks back into the dark.
The men – three of them and all human, so my nose tells me – approach Calvin, who waits for them beside his car at the edge of the parking lot, under one of the nonworking lights. Cal has the easiest job tonight, the role of buyer. A coyote and therefore a natural actor, he pulls it off with panache. He darts his eyes, fidgets, talks in a nervous whine. The whole time he’s memorizing scents, features, voice cadences, body language. He can ID a perp from a quarter mile off, and he’s never wrong. When Cal testifies in a courtroom, criminals tremble.
Cal’s trembling now, shamming need. The humans elbow each other and snicker. The hairs stiffen down the length of my spine, and my claws come out and stay out.
A skinny man with greasy hair dangles a bag of something that looks like brown flour in front of Cal’s nose. “You want this, doggie? This what you’re after?”
Cal’s tremulous tenor sounds nothing like his normal speaking voice. “I’m here, ain’t I? That pure? No cuts?”
The humans exchange amused glances. “Sure it is,” Greasy Hair says. “Here. Fetch.”
He tosses the bag. Cal, still in character, dives after it, and the humans laugh. By now his nose will have told him if it’s real and how pure it is. His butt does a wriggle that must look like the shakes to a human, but speaks volumes to were eyes. We’re on.
“Where’s the rest of it?” Cal demands. “Six pounds. We had a deal.”
“Settle down, Fido. It’s all here.” Greasy Hair pats the suitcase in the hands of his better-groomed crony.
“I wanna see.”
“What, your sinuses clogged? You can’t smell it with that super shifter nose of yours?” The human with the suitcase makes a face.
“I wanna see,” Cal insists in a whine.
“Give the puppy his biscuit,” Greasy Hair orders. The other shrugs and opens the case. I can’t see inside from my position, but I know first hand the misery it holds. I barely manage to swallow down my growl. I want my claws in these monsters’ flesh and my teeth in their throats for the horror they’ve brought to my people.
“You better have the money,” Greasy Hair says.
“And a bonus.” Cal straightens, all whines and tremors gone. He grins and flashes his badge and his service revolver. “You’re busted, gents.”
Mike and Henri leap out from their hiding places. I note the shift in the humans’ scents from smug to panic with vicious satisfaction. Our laws are not as benevolent as human law enforcement’s, in particular towards the likes of these. They know how little mercy they can expect from us.
The man with the case drops it and immediately raises his hands. The third man, the lookout, looks hard at the wolf and the lynx and falls to his knees on the asphalt, hands laced behind his head. He tilts that head to show throat to Mike. Not as stupid as he looks. Other than being stupid enough to peddle drugs, that is.
Greasy Hair makes a run for it.
I’m on him in a flash. Humans think we smaller cats are less dangerous. They’re wrong. I’m stronger than I look, in both my forms
I slam into the back of his legs and knock him to the ground. He gets a glimpse of me and sneers. Thinks I’ll make an easy target. Guess again, puto. A slash of my claws across the back of his hand takes care of the gun he tries to draw. He aims a punch at my face that I easily avoid. Give up, fool. You have no chance.
To cut the fight short, I switch forms. Now he’s got his hands full of a naked woman, and not in a good way. I demonstrate my superior shifter strength by yanking his arms behind his back. My hands serve adequately as temporary cuffs. He swears when he can’t break my grip. “You can’t hold me, shifter bitch. I know my rights.”
“Hardly bitch,” I tell him drily, “and your rights are severely limited here.”
He responds with a kick at my legs. I hop to one side, and suddenly we’re struggling again. Some of these primates never learn.
Nor do shifters, clearly. I’ve almost got Greasy Hair subdued when Henri rushes up and clouts his huge fist against my captive’s chin. The human goes limp in my arms.
“No need to thank me, petit,” Henri says with a smirk. “Shall I help you carry him?”
“Go to hell,” I snarl back. He laughs and answers with something in French that sounds highly suggestive. But then, everything in French sounds suggestive, especially coming from him. Knowing Henri, he’s commenting on my breasts. Again.
“Hey!” Cal yells from across the lot. “You kitties want to stop making eyes at each other and haul that ape over here? I gotta read these assholes their rights.”