Bambie shambled up to the bar in Rattigan's with a soul-weary air hovering over him. Louie had been in the business of running a pub long enough to know a man in need of peace and a long line of cold beers when he saw one. He didn't know the forest ranger well, not being an outdoorsy kind of guy, but he did know that Bambie didn't drink. He wasn't a tee-totaler; he never seemed to care if other people drank around him. He just didn't do it himself.
"Hayah, Bambie," Louie greeted the buck shifter, being careful to subdue his natural Jersey bubbliness. Bambie looked up, sort of raised his eyebrows by way of returning the greeting, and then sat at an empty stool with his eyes down again. Louie didn't ask the buck what he was in the mood for. He just pulled a bottle of Peak's corn Ale, popped the top, and slid it down the bar. Bambie caught it deftly and just looked at it for a long moment before taking a pull on it. He raised his eyes to Louie for the first time since walking through the door. The haunted look in his eyes gave Louie a chill.
"Want to talk about it?" he asked, suspecting the answer would be no, at least not yet. A guy didn't get a look like that lightly and it would probably take several beers for the buck to unwind enough to be able to talk about it. Even then, Bambie may not want to talk about it, but at least he would be able to.
Bambie shook his head once and Louie shrugged. The offer had been made. That was what counted at the moment. He went back to working on his food order and weekly menu after quietly telling the bar tender to start a tab for the buck and to keep the brews coming.
His thoughtfulness paid off about three hours later. Bambie hadn't gotten shit-faced, but had sat there drinking one beer after another steadily throughout the evening. After his seventh beer, he made eye contact with Louie again, signaling that he was ready to talk.
"It's not like you to drink like this, Bam," Louie said quietly.
"Been one hellofa day," Bambie sighed. That Louie could believe. The buck hadn't gotten his nickname just because of his shifter breed. He was genuinely a nice, clean cut, disgustingly honest guy. He didn't drink. He didn't swear, or smoke, or have any other vice that Louie knew of. His whole family was like that. Bambie's step-brother, Tom, was a town cop and his mom and step-dad owned the town hardware store. Nothing but a truly horrible day could have driven a straight shooter like Bambie Deerborne to drink and cuss.
"Some snowmobilers ran down a moose calf today. Broke her front legs so badly that I had to put her down," Bambie said after a long pause. "About an hour later, those assholes came running up, pissed because a cow moose had charged them and wrecked their snowmobiles. They were all, 'you should put that animal down before she kills someone!' Never mind the fact that they had just left her baby mortally wounded. Oh, no! They did nothing wrong!"
"Jesus," Louie said in awed disgust. "Shifters?"
"Naw, they were out of towners here for a little 'communing with nature,' if you can believe that." He shook his head in denial. "The thing is, what if they had hit one of our young?"
Louie knew what Bambie was talking about. What if they had run down a shifter child? Nothing but bad news. The parent would not have just trashed their machines, she would have murdered them. And then the town would be over run with biologists and Feds wanting to know what was going on in this neck of of the woods.
"They still in the area?" Louie asked, a hard edge creeping into his voice.
"Oh, yeah," Bambie said with a bobbing head nod. "They'll be in the area for another week, they said. They want me to keep them abreast of the hunt for the mother of the baby moose they murdered."
And now Louie knew why Bambie had come to Ratigan's. Shifters took care of their own. He was known to the bastards, so he couldn't act. But Louie could.
"Don't worry about it, Bam. I'll take care of this," Louie said grimly.
* * * * *
This bit of flash fiction is based off true events. This more or less did happen here in Colorado. You can find video of a moose chasing snowmobilers on YouTube and a baby moose was hit in the same area that day and had to be put down. Please be careful out there if you enjoy winter sports. We humans aren't the only ones in this world.