Monday, August 8, 2011
(Pay close attention to the following ficlet. There will be a quiz at the end.)
“Let us bow our heads in prayer.”
Reverend Timothy Tannhauser stole a peek at his flock as he spoke the familiar words of the litany. Some of those lowered heads, he suspected, were more intent on dozing than salvation. He wondered idly, not for the first time, just how many gods, demigods, djinns and forest spirits his congregation prayed to. Not that it mattered. They all wound up with the same two choices eventually. It was his job to round up the strays and gently herd them toward the Up escalator.
The Talbot’s Peak Nondenominational Congregational Church was enjoying quite a turnout this morning. Mostly wolves, as usual. As with everything else, they worshipped in packs, and put their faith in the word of whatever alpha addressed them. Last week’s sermon on free will had earned him a ton of blank stares. The cats, on the other hand, eyed him with healthy skepticism. Getting a cat to believe in anything they couldn’t eat, hump or scratch was a constant uphill battle.
He spotted, with mild surprise, a couple coyotes in the back. That was unusual. Coyotes didn’t believe in organized religion. They didn’t believe in organized anything. They were probably here to rob the collection plate. Rev. Tim stared straight at them and laid it on thick regarding the wages of sin. They just smiled back and nodded semi-piously.
Toward the end of his sermon the door opened and a latecomer stepped inside. Rev. Tim glanced up. His words stumbled briefly. Officer Jim Gordon didn’t take a seat. He waved briefly at the pastor and leaned against the wall, near the pew with the coyotes in it. They squirmed on the hard wooden seat and made a point not to look at the cop.
The rest of the congregation indulged in their curiosity and gave Officer Gordon a good, healthy once-over. Then the stares locked and lengthened. First at Officer Gordon, then to Rev. Tim. He could feel the familiar WTF quotient rising, and growled low down in his throat.
Thank the Great Shepherd the service was nearly over. Rev. Tim wrapped it up quickly and bid his flock good-day. The coyotes dumped a couple crumpled bills in the plate, slithered past Officer Gordon, and made a hasty exit.
When the last of his flock had departed, Rev. Tim shut the door and turned on Officer Gordon. “I thought we agreed not to meet in public. We’re supposed to be under cover.”
Jim shrugged. “I’ve been getting funny looks since you got here. It’s obvious to anyone with eyes that we’re from the same litter, even though you’re using Mom’s name.”
He had that right. Tim’s brown hair was longer and lighter, a leftover from his years in Arizona. Jim sported a trim moustache. Look beyond the cosmetic differences, however, and it was clear to anybody they were identical twins. “All the more reason not to call attention to it. What brings you to church?”
“I wondered if there’d been any progress on the case. I know Khan’s sons come here, though I didn’t see any this morning.”
“Sanjay visits occasionally. He’s fascinated by Western religions. Sometimes he brings Guri. They’re not high in Shere Khan’s confidence.”
“Any den in a storm. Be helpful if they came to confession.”
“I’m not a priest, Jim. Either way, I can’t divulge that to you.”
“But you hear things. People open up to you.”
“It’s the collar. You’re the one who always wanted to chase the bad guys. I swear you’ve got pit bull in you.”
Jim grinned. “Then so do you.”
Tim sighed. “It would be useful. Sometimes I just want to grab them by the scruff of the neck and drag them to the Lord. I suppose I’ll have to be content with nipping at their heels.” He dragged his hand through his hair. “So it’s starting, is it? How bad?”
“Bad enough that Brandon Wayne asked for both of us. I wish you hadn’t left the force, Tim. You were one helluva detective, and we were one helluva team.”
“Good cop, bad cop. Right. I couldn’t ignore the call. It’s as much a part of our family heritage as police work, after all.” He grinned suddenly. “And yes, I do hear things. If it isn’t spoken directly to me in confidence and I choose to draw my own conclusions, I’m not in violation of anything. Sanjay stops by once or twice a week for tea, and we discuss scripture. He complains a lot about his father. It’s what he doesn’t say that’s interesting.”
Jim flashed a grin identical to his brother’s. “It never fades, does it?”
“No, it doesn’t, Lord help me. Well, that’s what we’re here for. Keep the innocent lambs away from evil, one way or another. You don’t still chase cars, do you?”
“Around here, it’s more motorcycles. Been to the Pleasure Club yet?”
“Not in uniform.” Tim’s eyes twinkled. “Like I said, I’m not a priest.”
“Good boy.” The cop followed the reverend through the church, back to Tim’s office and a cup of coffee and some serious catching up.
# # #
THE QUESTION: What kind of shapeshifters are Jim and Tim Gordon?
HINTS: Since they’re identical twins, they turn into the same animal. It’s a common animal, not exotic, so no wildebeests or wombats. Their professions are a major clue.
The first person to answer correctly will be written into next Monday's blog either as or with the shapeshifter of your choice. (Please keep it to two partners; I can't handle the pronouns.) Winner and the answer will be revealed here on Thursday. For those who know me, keep in mind I have a twisted sense of humor. Good luck!