Monday, May 4, 2015
Seek and Destroy
“Shots fired in the woods out by the Schitt Creek bridge,” Han confirmed. “They 911’d the Game Commission instead of the police, so I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess shifters are involved.”
“With possible threats to personal safety,” Bo added. He shut the back door of the ambulance. “You sure you want to ride along? You’re not on duty right now.”
“Gotta look after my little brother.”
Bo snorted. “I’m two inches taller and thirty pounds heavier than you. Don’t you think it’s time you dropped the ‘little brother’ stuff?”
“Considering our ‘baby sister’ can knock us both on our asses, yeah, that probably would be a good idea.” Han made sure his sidearm’s safety was on and his game warden badge was prominently displayed on his shirt. He climbed into the ambulance’s passenger seat. EMT Bo got behind the wheel, hit the siren, and roared out of the parking lot.
# # #
The ambulance hadn’t even reached the bridge when a woman staggered out of the woods that lined Route 15. She stood in the middle of the road and frantically waved her arms. Bo hit the brakes. The woman was clearly hysterical, and covered in splashes of red. And blue. And yellow. And a little bit of green. “Is that … ?” Hannibal said.
Bo killed the siren. “I’m betting it’s paint. I think I know what’s going on.”
The two bighorn shifters climbed out of the ambulance. The second the night air hit their nostrils, both recoiled and clapped their hands over their faces. “Sonofagoat!” Bo exploded. “What is that?”
“I think it’s her,” Han muttered. “Ma’am? Game warden. Are you injured? Can you tell us what happened?”
“Joey!” she shrieked. “They took Joey and Mick. They’re hunting them! Like prey!”
“Who, ma’am?” Han asked. Though by now he too could hazard a guess.
Meanwhile, Bo had mastered his gag reflex and approached the woman. “You’re not hurt,” he quickly determined. “Just covered in … ”He pinched his nose shut with his fingers. “Yep. Paint.”
“No, I’m not hurt,” the woman snapped. “They let me go. You have to help Joey and Mick!”
“And we will,” Han said. “What’s your species? It’s wolf, isn’t it? Mick and Joey too?”
“Yes, yes!” She grabbed Han by the front of his shirt. Han wrinkled his nose and held his breath. “We just had the paintball guns, but they’ve got real guns. They shot at us! They’re gonna kill them!”
“Nobody’s killing anybody,” Han assured her. “If you’ll wait in the ambulance—”
“Next to,” Bo said quickly. “Next to the ambulance. Please do not sit in the ambulance. We need to keep it sterile. Here.” He ducked around to the back of the vehicle and returned with a blanket and a towel. “We’ll be right back. If you need oxygen—well, just try to breathe through your mouth.”
# # #
“Wolves, huh?” Bo followed Han’s steady strides through the forest. “With paintball guns. And in this part of the woods? I think I know what we’re up against.”
“Me too. We’ve been getting reports on those loonie lobos for weeks now. They lure herbies into range, then blast them with paintballs. Poor Bambi got nailed a couple weeks back. We’ve been working with the cops, trying to catch them before they pick the wrong victim.”
“Like now.” Bo glanced around nervously. “Who’d be stupid enough to hunt turkeys in this neck of the woods?”
“Wolves with paintball guns,” Han said. “We’d better pick up the pace, before Darwinism takes over.”
Bo was more than happy to let his brother take the lead. Han knew the area, and he was known to the Turkles. They might shoot a game warden, but not an herbivorous game warden.
That theory was put to the test when a girl jumped out from behind a tree and pointed a gun at them. “Hold it right there, you stinking—oh. Howdy, Mr. Ewing.”
“Howdy, Sharon. Heard you were having a bit of trouble.”
“Nothing we can’t handle.” The girl lowered the gun’s barrel, grinning. “Howdy, Bo.”
Bo waved weakly. “Hi.”
“We got a call about wolves with paint guns invading your turf,” Han said, with a pointed look at the paintball gun in Sharon’s hands. “You know anything about that?”
“Hell yeah. I took this off some bitch and sent her packing. Pa and Jimmy got two more cornered up there. I reckon you’re here to bust up the party, huh?”
“I’m afraid so. We’ve been after this pack for a while. We’ve got dibs.” He held out his hand for the paint gun. “Take me to your pa.”
The girl pouted. “Dang it. I wanted some wolf-fur mittens.” She handed over the paintball gun and led the way through the woods.
The wolves had made a desperate stand behind a deadfall. All around the trees were splotched with phosphorescent paint. The hideous stench that had clung to the she-wolf was even heavier out here. Abram and Jimmy Turkle had the wolves pinned down and were moving in when Sharon and the Ewings arrived. “Fun’s over, Pa,” Sharon called. “Law’s here.”
Abram Turkle sent one final bullet into the downed tree. From behind it, somebody yelped. “Clipped ‘im,” Turkle pronounced. “That’s ten points. Evening, Han. Bo.”
“Evening. I see everything’s under control. Care to make a statement?”
“Not much to say. Them bozos showed up on our property making turkey calls. We came out to look into it and they shot at us. So we shot back. Stand Your Ground law. We got rights, y’know.”
“With live ammo, I take it.”
Turkle stared at him, offended. “There’s another kind?”
Bo sneezed explosively. “What the scat is that stink?”
“Yak piss,” Turkle said proudly. “Got a shipment from a buddy in Tibet. Makes the target easier to track.”
A disheveled, paint-smeared head inched cautiously above the fallen tree. “You the cops?” the young wolf shifter quavered. “You gotta arrest them! They tried to kill us!”
“You was trespassin’,” Jimmy Turkle said. He hefted his rifle. The wolf ducked down again.
“Okay, okay,” Han said. “No charges for you folks. It was clearly self-defense. The wolves, though, we’ve got warrants for them. We’ll take it from here.”
“What?” A second head popped up from behind the tree. “You’re arresting us? Are you friggin’ crazy? They’re the ones who—” Abram and Jimmy snapped up their rifles, and Sharon pulled a hidden pistol out from under her blouse. The wolf’s hands shot into the air. “We surrender,” he yelled. “Joey! Tell ‘em you surrender!”
The elder Turkle shook his head. “This is what passes for wolves these days? Not even worth a good bullet. Get ‘em out’a here.”
# # #
The Ewings marched their subdued catch through the woods, with Jimmy and Sharon Turkle providing a surreptitious escort. “Going vegan. Going vegan,” Joey kept muttering. “You seen Lizzie?” Mick asked the bighorns. “Is she okay?”
“She’s fine.” Bo sneezed. “More or less. My poor ambulance.”
“That poor holding cell,” Han said. “We’ll have to lock up you boys, and your girl, while we sort through all the charges. Three urine-soaked wolves in a small enclosed space. I wouldn’t want to have a predator’s nose in a case like that. I’d better call in Bambi. He’ll want in on this.”
“I thought he was on a fishing trip or something.”
“He is. I’ll have to track him down. Could take days.”
Both wolves wailed pathetically. Han passed a wink to his brother over their heads. Bo grinned back. Any time a grassie could stick it to a meatie, especially misbehaving meaties, counted as a good day.