Mooney opened his back of microwave popcorn, sprinkled some bacon flavored salt on it, and sat back to enjoy the show on his monitor. His step-brother, Han Ewing, had just shown up on site at the rodeo grounds just outside of town and was now watching an insane sheep as it chased a tow-headed kid around the mutton-busting pen at the rodeo training area. Mooney had, of course, made the call to Han about a suspicious sheep. Bo would have been the better Ewing brother to call for something like this but Bo, a forest ranger, was out on a search-and-rescue for some hikers who’d wandered into the mountains a week ago and hadn’t been seen since. That left Han and Mary available. Mary might actually have a shorter fuse than either of her brothers, so there hadn’t been a choice at all.
Han wasn’t a bad choice, exactly. He was an EMT, the size of a mac truck, and actually pretty patient with most people. He was also a big horn, which as a fellow ungulate, made him a better choice to go investigate a strange-acting farm animal. The problem was that Han and Nick had been pulling semi-vicious pranks on each other since before McMahon patriarch and the Ewing Matriarch married up a few years ago. Simply put, Han did not trust this to be an honest call for assistance and not another wolf prank.
Well, Mooney reflected, to be fair, it was both. Nick didn’t have enough subtly to pull off a prank of this magnitude. Nick made obscene sheep pin-ups and hung them in Han’s house. He, Moon-dawg, was much subtler than that. The prank in this instance was that there was no prank. There was an honest to Lupa mad sheep running around terrorizing humans at the fairgrounds. Years of successful investigative work had honed Mooney’s job-sniffer to the point that he felt very sure that there was absolutely no way Han was going to get out of this little recon job with his pride intact. And Mooney was going to have it all on camera, ready to be shown at half-time during the weekend football game!
* * * * * * * *
On the other side of town, Han was thinking pretty much the same thing. This was totally a set-up. There was no way he was going to get out of this with his pride intact. And there was no way he could decline the request, either. There was no way Hoover, Dante Hancock’s wolf-at-the-door, could be expected to check the validity and identity of a sheep. Ungulates, unlike most shifters, don’t smell like shifters when in beast form, not to carnivores, anyway.
Actually, since the call came in from Mooney, he knew this probably was a real “job.” For all his asinine pranks, Mooney was damn good at spotting things that just weren’t right. If he said that new sheep in the mutton busting herd was behaving oddly, it was. And it probably wasn’t a regular sheep, either. But that didn’t mean it wasn’t also a prank. For the love of God, his step brother had managed to turn an emergency call about a unicorn into a long series of freaking pranks just a few weeks ago. As that thought ran through his mind, he thought he heard a whisper on the wind.
Big boys don’t cry
Only babies cry because they fell down and go boom.
Get on, you little cry baby, and show them all you aren’t a pussy.
Han looked long and hard at that sheep again. It had the kid pinned up against the far wall of the mutton busting pen. He looked around but didn’t see an attendant. Probably because that kid was at least ten years old and too old to be trying to mutton bust. There weren’t any little kids lining up to practice, so there wasn’t anyone to supervise the pen.
“Kid, get out of there,” he said, his voice stern.
“I w-wasn’t d-d-d—” the kid began stuttering, hiding his hands behind him and trying to play it off like he wasn’t crying.
“Mutton busting is for the little kids, not the older kids. And messing with live stock isn’t for any kids when there isn’t an adult around. Now scram,” Han said laconically, his eyes trained on the sheep. The sheep didn’t mess with the kid as he escaped. It locked eye with him and began to insolently chew cud.
“Ok, bud. The kid’s gone and there’s no one around. This here’s your ‘Welcome to Talbot’s Peak’ speech. It’s all the warning you’re going to get. One, don’t mess with kids. Period. Two, you aren’t the biggest, meanest thing around town, and even if you were, it’s still not a good idea to go around bullying anyone. That nerd you want to punch out may be a freaking genie or a demi god and no one’s going to save your ratty ass if you get yourself into trouble.”
“Anything else?” the sheep asked sarcastically.
“Yeah, what’s your name?” Instead of an answer, the sheep let out a loud, cackling bah and ran right at him.
Now Han wasn’t exactly surprised this happened. That sheep had clearly been a shifter and was also clearly more than a little unraveled in the noggin. But Han had been a linebacker in school and had not let himself go to seed in the years since. That athleticism added to his natural big horn temper meant that very few ever got the better of him in a confrontation.
The little fucking barn yard sheep got the better of him, though. It took a good five minutes to get out of that pen and he didn’t get out with his hat or the seat of his pants intact. Goddamn Mooney! He should have known it wasn’t going to go well.
“Hey dick-wad!” the ram screamed back. “You got any little friends who want to play, bring ‘em on by! My name’s Cloyd Wilde and I am too the biggest, baddest, meanest thing in town!”