Enter the CatbyMygypsy©
My life seemed to turn into a series of phone calls ...
"I just got a call from Edwin; his team came across the fresh scent of a stray in the pub in town. They found a car he's used in the pub car park and are trying to track him down right now. They think they've come across him before but haven't caught him to give him a warning." I turn at the sound my father's voice. Wade Williamson is the Alpha of our clan, the undisputed leader of our family and its loyal allies.
Let me introduce myself before I go any further. My name is Micah Williamson and I am an Australian Werecat. I am a member of the Williamson Clan, the third son in a family of six sons and one daughter. I am also the undisputed leader of the clan's group of warriors – tomcats who police the clan and protect it from strays and outlaw werecats. Our clan lands are in the states of New South Wales and Queensland; our home is near the Border Ranges with the rugged unsettled land our backyard.
Here Wade owns huge amounts of land where he grows exotic hardwood trees and pine trees to be cut for the timber industry as well as leases some of the best farming land in the area to local farmers for grazing beef cattle. Some of the land we use to grow lucerne hay to sell for winter-feed to farmers and in winter we grow oats to cut and sell as silage for feeding to cattle.
One adventurous farmer tried raising deer to sell to local butchers and supermarkets as venison but he found the wild dingoes in the area quickly developed a taste for freshly killed venison. Now the remnants of the herd run feral breeding in the rough bushland where no one on two legs ventures.
Funny thing about those dingoes in the area is they never venture onto Williamson land. And some crazy old bushy who lives in the adjacent Mount Lindsay National Park swears there are black panthers roaming the park having been bred down from two panthers left behind by the American soldiers that had trained in and around the rugged National Park during the second world war.
"In town you say?" I ask worriedly. Town is under an hour's drive from home - the stray is too close to my young vulnerable sister for comfort.
"I want everyone on this, I want that stray caught." Wade tells me tightly.
"We'll be right onto it!" I growl, the sound starting deep in my chest. The natural instinct of a clan werecat tom is to protect any and all Queens and she-kitts. Since Jazzy is my sister this instinct is doubly strong because it is also linked with our being siblings - her existence ensures that my family's genealogy will be passed on.
"Catch him and bring him back here. We'll talk to him, find out why he's in the area and set him straight on a few things if necessary. If he's nosing around and looking to settle in the clan lands without permission then I'll see he gets a lesson he never forgets," Wade orders.
"Sam! Get your team together! Steven! I want to talk to you!" I yell as I head towards the Warrior Quarters or as we tended to call them the quarters. I can't help thinking of my young sister Jasmine, or Jazzy. She has been sickly most of her life and many had doubted she would make it to ten years old. When she had turned ten many had doubted she would become a teenager. Now Jazzy is no longer a child and fast becoming a grown woman she is finally starting to out grow her childhood illness and thrive. The urge to protect her from any and all threats is very strong; Jazzy is the future of our pride – she will marry and provide the next generation of werecats in our family.
Now there is a new potential threat to her safety, a stray so close to home. Strays are different to us clan cats - they tend to be nomads wondering and unable to settle down in one place comfortable with who and what they have become. We are born to werecat parents while they are the product of a werecat crossbreeding with a human or the descendant of one of these offspring with the werecat genealogy. They are born as humans and some event or illness 'turns' them into were cats. Many don't survive their first shape-shift, don't manage to revert to human form and starve through lack of hunting skills or go crazy shortly after returning to human form.
"Something wrong?" Sam, my second in command asks as I enter the large lounge room of the quarters.
Sam MacIntosh is almost an adopted brother to me, having been raised by my parents when the clan he was born into disintegrated. His mother had disappeared and his father as an Alpha had known that with no Queen or she-kitt his own life and that of his two young sons would be in danger when some ambitious Alpha decided he needed more land to add to his wife's clan lands. So the two young toms had been left with our clan to be raised as members of the clan while their father submerged himself into the human world earning money as an antiques dealer to support his two sons. Sam is one hell of a good warrior and he has proven his worth to the clan time after time. I would rather have him with me than against me. He will be a loss hard to replace when he marries Lotty Inness, a she-kitt from a neighbouring clan. But that is in the future and I don't have to worry about it at this minute.
"Edwin and the others have come across the fresh scent of a stray in town. Wade wants it caught and brought out here for questioning and possible warnings and/or discipline," I say tightly, my anger strong within me.
As the second most dominant tom in the clan I take the intrusion of this stray personally. The urge to catch the intruder and make sure he knows not to trespass on clan territory uninvited drives me as I go to my room and hurriedly change into tough hiking gear. I try to calm down, I know my fear for my sister often comes across as anger or aggression.
"You wanted to speak to me?" Steven asks as he walks into the bedroom we share, makes his way to his side of the room and quickly puts on his army surplus boots.
"I plan on giving this stray a personal memento of why not to come onto Williamson clan lands if he's looking for trouble," I tell him tightly.
"You plan to kick some butt?" Steven grins.
Let me tell you about this tom. We've been best friends since meeting at a werecat engagement party when we were both still too young for school. He's my best mate, my partner when we go off on clan business to deal with strays and outlaws. I know he will have my back no matter how dangerous the situation or whether or not he agrees with what I am doing at the time - we support each other regardlessly.
"If he's some stray looking to check out our Queen and she-kitt then when I am finished with this bastard he won't be coming around anymore. He'll be lucky if he can walk properly!" I snarl.
It's not uncommon for strays that have adjusted to werecat life to become interested in clan females. Most of the time it is harmless but some of the toms are driven by the strong urge to breed and are after a female for only one thing.
"We can't be letting any strays get this close to Jazzy," Mitchell, Sam's younger brother, says from the doorway. I glance at the younger warrior. I'm well aware he is sweet on my little sister and that she returns the feelings.
"You telling me my job?" I ask tightly as I turn to face him. Both he and his brother are exceptional members of the warrior force. Mitchell's only faults are his youth and too compassionate nature.
"No, I'm saying I know my job," Mitchell says.
"Good! See you do it!" I snap.
"This is the car with the strays scent in it," Edwin says motioning towards an older model small car parked in the shadows at the edge of the pub's car park; it's a typical cheap rental car.
Edwin is my oldest brother and although he leads his own team of warriors it is I who am the Head Warrior, the Beta of the clan. I hold the position through my fighting ability and being able to plan and execute any action needed.
I frown as I walk around the car sniffing to catch a clear whiff of the stray's scent. Thwarted I reach out to try the drivers side door only to find it locked. Angrily I take hold of it and with a strong jerk I rip the door open wrecking one of the hinges. Hot air escapes from the car bringing with it the pungent odour of cat.
The scent is surprisingly clean and crisp as if the intruder is young and in good health, well kept and clean. Either he doesn't know he is a werecat or he is comfortable and well adapted to his new identity as a cat. It doesn't matter which it is both are dangerous.
"Wreck the car! Make it undriveable!" I command as I take in the scattering of possessions and fast food containers on the rear seat. "If he returns for it at some stage I want him to know he ain't welcome here!" I hesitate a moment and look around. There is no one out and about in the fast approaching dusk. Taking advantage of the fact I reach into the vehicle and grab hold of the driver's seat; metal groans and then there is the screech of tearing metal as I rip the seat free of the car frame.
"Fuck, he's taking this personal ..." I hear Chris, one of Edwin's team members say to his brother and I turn my head to glare at him.
"Why aren't you out there trying to track this trespassing bastard down?" I demand angrily, "Or does it take all of you to watch the frigging car?"
"I told them to meet back here. I figger the stray spotted us going into the pub and lit out to avoid us; no sane stray would hang around with four clan cats in the vicinity." Edwin says dryly.
"No sane stray comes this deep into clan lands! No sane stray stops on clan lands in broad daylight! That means he isn't thinking right and has no respect for werecat society rules! He is either deranged or after a female or both! And how close is he to Jazzy? It just goes to show you didn't think the situation through! You just did what was easiest for you!" I say angrily. "Considering how well we keep the lands marked even a newly turned stray would know he's on clan ground! And mark that frigging car as well while you wreck it! Make the message strong and clear! "
I turn and walk back to my vehicle where Steven leans against the door with his arms folded across his chest while Sam and his three other team members stand between their vehicle and mine.
"What do you want us to do? See if we can find any trace of the stray around town?" Sam asks.
"Yes and if you have no luck, check the surrounding properties. No luck there ... we'll scout the local districts," I tell him before glancing back where Edwin is supervising getting the stray's car loaded onto a car-trailer to take out of sight before making it undriveable. Once the car has been given its special treatment it will be returned to the car park and left so the stray can find it and receive the message loud and clear if he returns.
"We'll keep in touch," my brother Dwayne tells me. He's the brother born between Edwin and me. Dwayne is as trust worthy and conscientious as Edwin is self centred and lazy - interested only in what is easiest and benefits him the most.
"So are we going hunting too?" Steven asks with a raised eyebrow.
"Yeah I need some bastard I can bash the shit out of," I say as I climb behind the wheel of the vehicle. "Wade wouldn't like it if I gave Edwin the hiding he deserves. Edwin is smart enough to do all his underhanded sabotaging out of Wade's sight and hearing."
So there it is, I am waiting for a phone call from either team as Steven and I hunt for the stray. The phone call, when it comes over two hours later, is from Edwin. He and Malcolm came across the stray in the Ampol service station on the highway. When Malcolm tried to corner him so they could catch him without alerting the cashier, the stray had made it clear he knew whose clan lands he was on before fleeing outside. Malcolm changed form and was chasing the stray in cat form while Edwin made the call to let us know where the stray was so we could converge and help capture it.
"What the hell's going on?" I demand as I climb out of my vehicle and walk around to where Malcolm and Edwin stand in the shadows by their vehicle. Edwin is fully dressed and Malcolm is wearing only a pair of jeans; as I get closer I see Malcolm is holding a bloody t-shirt to his side.
"Why aren't you chasing the blasted stray?" I demand of Edwin as Malcolm moves the shirt aside to reveal long bleeding scratches across his ribs just deep enough to require stitches.
"I caught up with her and she flew at me like a scalded house cat!" Malcolm says with a glance at Edwin.
"What?" I ask in disbelief.
"Malcolm is sprouting some crap the stray is female," Edwin says scornfully. Malcolm frowns at Edwin and looks down at his side then at his shoulder and upper arm and I notice for the first time that he has several bites as well as the scratches.
"Making excuses for not doing your job properly?" I sneer before turning away angrily. Now Malcolm is slacking off in his work as well as Edwin, leaving more work to be done by those who do their jobs properly.
"Where did you last see him?" I demand refusing to believe Malcolm's claim the stray is female; a female werecat would not fight back leaving wounds like his. Female strays are very rare and don't survive for long. Stray toms hunt them down and use them as sex toys and end up either killing them with their demands or driving them so insane they kill themselves. We clan cats do all we can to find female strays to protect them and look after them, but when we do manage to find one alive, it is generally too late to help them. Even stray females are much cherished, respected and seen as valuable members of our species capable of producing the next generation of were cats.
I listen as Malcolm describes where the stray attacked him before racing away. The fact the stray attacked him supports my belief Malcolm is trying to cover up the fact he made a stupid mistake. Female werecats are non violent; they don't know how to fight. A long night of hunting for the stray while in cat form follows. Morning reveals it seems to have left the area but we continue to patrol closer to home to be sure it doesn't sneak close.
The next phone call comes several days later from Steven's brother Pete. He lives several hours drive to the northwest of us near the Burringbar range. Pete tells my father of what he believes to be the presence of several strays that are killing livestock. He got the information from his next-door neighbour who helps the local vet and Pete wants us to meet the neighbour and see what we think of them for ourself as he has an uneasy feeling about them.
It's a warm sunny evening as Steven and I arrive at his brother's place. I had decided to take the job myself and leave Sam in charge back at the home compound as I hoped to get some physical activity dealing with these strays. My frustration levels had slowly risen to where I was looking forward to a good old-fashioned brawl.
"So what do you know Pete?" Steven asks as he greets his brother with a handshake.
"We got what could only be stray trouble here. Plus I am sure I have smelt werecat on my neighbour a few times in the last couple of months," Pete informs us as I walk around to shake his hand.
"What's this new neighbour like?" I ask.
"It's not a new neighbour - it's Tawny Caruthers which is what I don't get," Pete says evenly.
"The one that doesn't like men?" Steven asks.
"There's a bit more to it than Tawny not liking men. She's the one who was raped as a child ...at least that's the story that went around when her father was killed in a crash. He was supposed to be rushing her to hospital and she disappeared for nearly a year," Pete says seriously. "Then this morning Tawny warned me she had let the local cop think her and I are an item - go figure."
"Keeping him away maybe?" Steven offers.
Pete shrugs and gives a rueful laugh. "Probably, but why she didn't just ... I'm sure the student that used to live at Tawny's was ... shall I say I think there was a bit of girl on girl action going on?" Pete tells us with a grin.
"Well you know what we say ... once a girl has had cat she don't go back to men," Steven says and laughs.
"So when do we meet her?" I ask curiously.
"I've invited her over to eat with us tonight. We occasionally get together for a meal but Tawny mostly avoids strangers, especially men," Pete explains.
"And yet she's coming over for supper?" I ask dubiously.
"I haven't told her I'll have visitors," Pete admits. "Besides maybe I'm hoping she'll sit real close to me for protection tonight." He grins.
"Sounds like you'd like to make sure she gets home safely afterwards as well," Steven says with a twinkle in his eye and I catch the predatory gleam in Pete's eyes.
"Tell us what you know about what the strays have been up to," I tell Pete as I head for his house. I listen to his brief account of what has happened as I walk to his front door carrying an overnight bag. He leads the way through to his study and turns on his computer.
"Tawny used my computer to send the report to the police officer. I've seen her type in her password for her email account so it wasn't any hassle to send a copy of it to myself after she left. I removed all traces of having done so of course," Pete says sounding pleased with himself. He quickly finds the relevant message and opens it before stepping aside so I can sit in the chair and read the report.
I am surprised to find how detailed the report is; the description of the method used to kill each beast examined as well as details of what parts have been eaten. I frown in concern as I read the details of how one of the kills was marked with both faeces and urine, not a good sign. I study the pictures attached before returning to the report to read where she states the kills are believed to have been made by an escaped exotic large cat or possibly two large cats.
"Your neighbour wrote this report right? How much study has she done on large cats and their kills? The descriptions here read almost like eyewitness accounts of werecat kills," I say as I glance between Pete and Steven.
"Shit!" Steven exclaims and leans in to read the report.
"Shit! Tawny is going to college but I'm not sure what she's studying. But I do know most of it is done long distance," Pete says with a worried look. As we continue to talk I begin to look forward to meeting this human who seems to know so much about werecats ...
But as I said my life had seemed to have turned into a series of phone calls and another phone call comes in ...
"Pete! I got a call out from Doc. I can't stop - it sounds like an all nighter!" The feminine voice answers Pete's invitation to come into his house and he frowns as he heads for the front door. Curious about the one who owns the voice I follow him out onto the front veranda and look at the pretty woman standing well back from the veranda eyeing me uneasily. I nearly miss Pete introducing her as Tawny Caruthers and take a moment before greeting her in a soft tone so as not to startle her. Still she glances between us nervously as she steps back as if sensing my inner cat. There is a flicker of something in her eyes that disappears almost before it appears. Recognition? I feel it pull deep within me as well as I study her face unobtrusively.
"I got to go Pete. There's been more maulings and Doc needs my help." Her phrasing catches my attention and I try to catch her scent discreetly but she says something I don't catch and leaves with a quick smile towards Pete. Her movements scream prey, and something clicks inside me warning me that her motions are too studied, too precise. I watch as she speeds off before glancing at Pete and towards the front door where I can hear Steven breathing just out of sight.
"You sure she's not a cat?" I ask Pete.
"She doesn't smell like one, doesn't act like ... something doesn't sit right about her anymore. It seems like more than what she went through ... the more I get to know her ... I don't know," Pete says uneasily. I glance at Steven as he steps into the doorway and he gives a slight nod.