Sally sniffled and reached for the steaming cup sitting on the bar. Two hours into her shift and a snowstorm from hell was blowing outside. Her head felt like someone was practicing bongo lessons in and on it. Two days of sneezing and light malaise had lingered longer than she anticipated. Trying to get the ten blocks to the walk-in clinic was out of the question. Every time the bar door opened, all she could make out was white swirling outside the door and the howling of the wind before the door closed.
“Ahhchooo,” some smart ass called out as she opened her mouth while trying to pull another tissue from the box beneath the bar. Quickly cover her mouth; Sally sneezed as noisily as the loudmouth patron had yelled. Dabbing her eyes, she glanced around the semi-empty bar. Two males sat huddled near the back corner playing checkers. Each nursed a beer and remnants of sandwiches they’d ordered earlier. Their backpacks sat on the floor near them.
As she turned, Sally caught the wise cracker sitting at the end of the bar. A burly man hunched over a large bowl of soup and a plate of buffalo chicken wings. His request for ice water and plenty of it puzzled her until he began eating wings dipped in Anthony’s ultra-hot habanero salsa. He never broke a sweat. Three glasses of water later, he’d taken off his hat and scarf.
Dark hat tousled hair stood out all over his head. His fogged glasses slid part way down his nose revealing medium brown eyes that appeared to glow when the pot lights overhead hit them. His scraggly beard gave him an air of mystery. As he shrugged out of his heavy parka, a patch on his shoulder came into sight. It read City of Anchorage DOT.
Sally smiled and shook her head. Mike Turner was back. The first shape shifter she’d ever met and learned that good folks didn’t just come in human form.
“Hey Mike,” she croaked, moving toward him. “When did you get back?”
Mike looked up, pushing his glasses back up his nose, smiling. “Three days ago as the first blast of cold air roared over the peaks. Couldn’t resist the wise crack. Have you been to the doc in the box yet?”
“Nope, was waiting for break in storm. No such luck.” Sally pulled her sweater tighter about her. Chaffing her arms, she nodded toward the front window. “I’d get lost in that white out. Pity there isn’t a closer clinic.”
Mike nodded. “Actually there’s a new doc in the office building next door. You might not be aware of this.”
Sally picked up her still warm cup and sipped. “Only doc I know of is the new vet. That is what DVM stands for behind his name.”
Mike’s smile grew. He slurped a spoon full of soup before continuing. “That is his front office doings. He’s a shifter from the lower fifty. Bear cousin of my Black Bear clan. Told em to try up here where he’d have good constant source of business human and shifter along with animal. His wives are human docs and vet techs. So best possibilities all around.” He crumpled two hands full of crackers into his half-full bowl of soup. “More water please.”
Sally filled his glass and sat another by it. “Too bad they are snowed in with no place to stay or eat unless they make their way over here.”
“Doc keeps a two way radio going whenever a storm hits. His way of doing business from when he lived in the Ozarks for many years and a few others spent in the Bayous. I can have em here in two wind blasts.” Mike laughed and ate several spoons of soup before downing half of the glass of water closest to him.
Sally opened her mouth to speak. A loud squeak caught her and Mike’s attention. Anthony, Tory, and Josh entered from the kitchen. Anthony’s dour look offset Tory’s weak smile, and Josh’s frown had Sally wondering what the three were tussling over now. They’d been having one of their earnest heated discussions when she’d clocked in.
“Sally, Tory tells me you are set on going home regardless of the state of the storm outside.” Anthony leaned on the bar. His tone of voice and hardened demeanor said more than if he had out rightly challenged her.
“I wish I had stayed home. I feel like road kill roasted twice over and run over again.” Sally tried smiling knowing her weak attempt was futile. Shivers and a rough cough threatened to overtake her. What a time for her throat to go dry.
Mike belched and stood up. “There’s a doc next door with all kinds of meds that can fix Sally up. I can have em here toot sweet. Besides, the doors to the subbasements around here connect through the tunnels to the old root cellars the warehouse had before it was broken up into separate office buildings.”
Anthony stood up looking Mike in the eye. “How do you know this?”
Josh and Tory moved closer. Sally could feel the tension growing in the silence surrounding them. She caught movement out of the corner of her eye. Even the two sitting over in the corner were watching them. Oh shit, how did she keep four shifters from causing a maelstrom of shit worse than the storm outside?
December is upon us. Chills and snow are mentioned in the weather reports. Last time we had 60 degrees in December we had two major blizzards hit the Mid-Atlantic. Thanks but no thanks! Cold can come as long as it isn't enough to freeze pipes or ice roads. A bit of snow here and there isn't too bad either. Keep safe and warm with your spice and loves.