(See Pat? No dangling cliff hanger this week!)
Tom watched as Alex Hamilton, aka the fat Aussie bastard, plowed his way down Main Street headed right for the Washington State PI. Curious that the county’s most prominent pimp knew exactly who the mule would be, he thought. He glanced over at Jenna McGowan, aka the Washington State PI, and flinched. She had seen Hamilton, all right. By the looks of it, she was all set to kill him the moment he came within range. Curiouser and curiouser. One thing was certain, he needed to forestall the pending confrontation, preferably without alerting Hamilton that Ms McGowan was in contact with the local authorities. No problem there; all he had to do was harass the pimp a bit. No way a career criminal like that would run the risk of contacting a mule right in front of a cop. Then he’d have time to force an explanation out of Ms. McGowan.
He started the engine of his patrol car, revving the huge V8 hemi enough for it to be heard over the car’s sound isolation and the regular street noise, and slowly pulled out into traffic. He smiled, genuinely amused, when Hamilton’s startle face flashed his way and then turned back fast enough to give the pimp whiplash. Hamilton turned on the next cross street—two blocks before the drug store Ms McGowan was coming out of—and walked at a brisk pace toward the pedestrian-only mall.
Yep, he’d been headed for the lovely PI, all right. And judging by his reaction, Hamilton had been so very focused on her that he hadn’t seen Tom in his patrol car. That fit with her strong reaction of hate toward the pimp since emotion that strong for someone you don’t know, or didn’t know you knew, was always reciprocated. Tom stifled the urge to follow the fat bastard—great, now she had him calling Hamilton that!—and continued down Main Street at a leisurely pace. The pedestrian mall wasn’t a problem, cops could drive on it. But it was best to let Hamilton think he’d gotten away before blowing his contact.
“Hi,” Tom said out his rolled down window an hour later. Ms. McGowan glanced behind her, toward him, then smiled. He was officially off duty now, in civies and driving his old pick-up truck.
“Hi yourself,” she said, quickly picking up on the game he had in mind. Just two strangers meeting for the fist time at the city park. He pulled up to the curb and parked.
“The cops in this town must be pretty lax if you feel confident parking on the wrong side of the street like that,” she said with a smirk. Tom shot her a dirty look before letting his face relax in to a sexy grin.
“Oh, I don’t know about lax,” he drawled. “But I’m confident they’ll let me slide this one time. I’m Tom, by the way. Don’t remember every seeing you around town before.
“Jenna,” she said with a smart-aleck grin. “I’m not from this town.”
“Just passing through or…?” he asked.
“Or,” she replied. She waited a moment to let him know she was still teasing/needling him, then smiled for real. “I’m in town following up on a few job leads. Just got here today.” She turned away from him and looked around the park. “I have to say, this park is truly exceptional. Who came up with the idea for a dog bowl for a pond?”
Tom laughed at that. This park was rather exceptional, but it was also more than a touch whimsical. That “pond” was a magical portal into a huge underground water system used by water-type shifters. No one knew who built the water bowl pond, probably the same person who opened a portal in it, but it had fired the imagination of the town’s artistic set. They now had a huge kitty litter sand box, a cork screw pet tie-down stake that doubled as a curly-que slide, and other house pet themed playground equipment. Even the non-shifters in town loved this park.
“That is putting it mildly,” he agreed as he sat down next to her on the dog bone park bench. “About every six months, someone comes along and adds another “attraction” to this park. There’s been talk of tearing down that old warehouse next to it to make room for more stuff to be added.”
She laughed and a chill ran down his spine. Tom couldn’t help leaning just a bit closer to catch her scent. She’d obviously found the stash of heat-defeating body sprays the drug store stocked because he didn’t catch the overwhelming scent of a bitch in heat, but her natural scent, augmented with natural plant-based perfume, fired his every canine sense anyway. There were other dog shifters in town, even a couple German shepherds like him. Not one of them smelled as good as this female, though. He shifted slightly to release some of the pressure on his suddenly stirring cock. Oh, damn, this assignment was going to be hell on his cold water bill.
“So,” he said, forcing his mind to over-ride his body. “Just how do you know Alex Hamilton, a.k.a the fat Aussie bastard, anyway?” He smile faltered, then became wooden. She shrugged.
“I’m a dingo, he’s a Tasmanian tiger. My kind have been trying to hunt his out of existence for thousands of years.”
Score! He thought excitedly. He’d known Hamilton was a shifter, but no one in town knew what type. And his sexy little PI was a dingo. That explained why his nose told him “canine” but not what kind. He’d never run into the Australian breed before, in shifters or in regular animals.
“I thought Tasmanian tigers were extinct,” he commented.
“Real ones are,” she agreed. “They lost the evolutionary battle over a hundred years ago. We’ve been trying to force the shape shifting type to follow their animal bretheren but so far, no luck.”
“Why?” Tom asked, curious. Shifters usually banded together, not hunted each other out of existence.
“Trust me, the world would be a better place without them.”
“I have a hard time believing there are not good Tasmanian tigers around,” Tom said with disbelief.
“Well there aren’t, and that’s not species bias talking. They kill any of their young that doesn’t pass muster. And for them, “muster” means being cold, nasty, psychotic pieces of filth.” She shrugged. “We tried the live and let live approach back when we first settle in what is now Australia. They started this war by slaughtering our young. They’ve continued to give us reason to keep trying to eradicate them.”
“I don’t understand,” Tom said.
“It wasn’t humans who killed off the real Tasmanian tigers, Tom. Fossil records clearly show that ancient tigers were much smaller than they were when they officially died off.”
“Real tigers were small and the shifter type were bigger,” Tom said, realizing the point she was trying to make. “The bigger species killed off the smaller one.”
“And decimated our people as well as many other animals, too,” she agreed. “They are cold-blooded killers. They destroy everything they touch. Once the giant lizards of Australia died out, they had no natural predators, so they began killing everything. Now we dingos keep their numbers under control.”
Tom nodded, understanding her point but not liking it. He was a cop. He’d seen criminals that were totally unrehabilitatable, no matter how many breaks a judge gave them. The thought of a whole race of mindless criminals running around unchecked was worse than the idea of shifters killing shifters. The humans could keep their ideas of turning the other cheek. That kind of thing worked for them, but it didn’t usually work for folks whose animal nature was just a turn away from showing at all times.
“That makes it kind of interesting, then, with you being sent here to make contact with him and all,” Tom said after a moment.
“Sweetie, you have no idea. I’m pretty sure this was all a set-up for me.”
“And you contacting me was…”
“The best answer I could think up to ambush the fuckers right back.”