Enter the Cat Ch. 05


The flash of movement from the sensor alarms catches my attention and I look at Dwayne.

"Looks like she's taking off," Dwayne says quietly. "She must have only returned for her clothes."

"Keep an eye on the alarms," Wade says curtly. "I don't want her sneaking back again."

We wait for Rosy to return like Wade is so sure she will. Minutes turn into hours, and hours turn into days. The days stretch into a week and life around our compound returns to normal.

I find myself hoping that once Rosy has calmed down from the shock of what happened she will once again give in to the pull of the bond she shares with Sam and Mitchell.

I am with Steven and we are just about to head into town on a food run when Wade approaches my vehicle.

"Micah, a word with you before you leave," Wade says firmly.

I turn to face my father fully and regard him silently.

"I've decided to keep you on as Chief warrior. Things run smoothly under your command and the other warriors seem to respect you. Only Edwin has problems with your leadership. I have spoken to Edwin concerning his behaviour towards Rosy and handed out what punishment I felt necessary," Wade informs me.

"What punishment was that," I ask not expecting to be answered.

"He is to pay a thousand dollar fine to one of the charities in town, and if Rosy returns, he is not to be alone with her until I am satisfied he knows how to treat a she-kitt. Sam, Dwayne and Timny will give me weekly reports on his behaviour if Rosy returns," Wade says levelly.

I am surprised by Wade's choice of punishment but I have to admit that it is a good choice. Edwin has a reputation of being tight fisted where his money is concerned and having his behaviour questioned and found wanting by Wade is a real slap in the face.

"And what of Rosy when she returns," I ask, "does she learn clan rules?"

"Yes but you have to keep in mind she has been through enough trauma already," Wade says firmly. "Be gentle teaching her. If at all possible leave it to Sam or Mitchell."

"I intend to treat Rosy as gently as I treated Jazzy when I taught her clan rules," I say evenly. It is hard not to snap at Wade angrily and tell him I know what I am doing. As an older brother, I helped teach Justin, Jazzy and Donovan clan rules at different times.

"Just see you do," Wade snaps and heads for the main house finishing the conversation abruptly.

I watch him as he walks away. As I am turning back to the car I catch sight of Edwin watching from the stone shed. It is hard to read his expression from this distance but the way he holds himself tells me he is in a bad mood.

I push the thought aside as I slip behind the wheel of my car. I glance at Steven in the passenger seat to make sure he has his seatbelt on before starting the engine.

"Let's get this show on the road," Steven says happily.

A few days later I send Edwin and his team on a job helping a known stray relocate for a job. The aggression Edwin harbours towards me seems to be constantly simmering below the surface and several times he has stopped just short of an outright challenge of my authority.

Then comes the day Doc visits to give Sam and Mitchell the news that the DNA testing proved Rosy to be their full sister. I can only listen as they talk between themselves, wondering at why their mother had disappeared. Had she known she was pregnant when she left?

A couple of weeks later and Pete calls to say Rosy had phoned him. I hide the relief I feel as he goes on to talk to Sam and Mitchell for a while before ending the call. I am glad to see his call has given them some peace of mind but I don't dwell on it as I have to make the final decision on which team I want Wade to hire on as extra warriors.

* * * * *

Steven and I are pruning a dead branch out of the navel orange tree by the quarters when the sound of a vehicle catches our attention. I have to hide my smile as Steven curses at the interruption and climbs down the ladder. I watch as the four-wheel drive towing a trailer with two big powerful dirt bikes heads towards the quarters. The windows are tinted for protection from the sun and it makes it nearly impossible to see those inside.

"Fancy new wheels," Steven comments.

"Yeah, that would be the new team of warriors Wade and I hired," I say as I turn to watch the vehicle as it is parked beside Sam's car.

I glance at Steven as both front doors open and two well-grown toms get out. His eyes go wide as he recognises his youngest brother and he grins widely as he glances my way before striding over to greet him.

"Mikkarl, you joining the ranks here," Steven asks happily as he engulfs his brother in a back slapping hug.

"Sure am Stevie-boy," Mikkarl laughs as he steps back.

"Robby," I say as I step forward to shake Robby Inness' hand.

"Micah," Robby acknowledges with a nod as he shakes my hand briefly before letting go and stepping back. Something about the tom is slightly off but I can't place it so I shake it off as I turn towards his partner.

Mikkarl has a huge grin on his face as he shakes my hand. "It's a real honour to work for the Williamson clan. A lot of other warriors reckon you have some of the best teams on the payroll."

"They're not a bad lot," I acknowledge with a grin. Mikkarl is a lot like Steven and I can see we will get along fine.

"I heard you hope to train as a chef," I say to him.

"I love being a warrior but I don't want to be doing it forever," Mikkarl says with a grin. "Robby can create some beautiful stained glass windows and doors. Neither of us want to be chasing after trouble makers when we're in our sixties."

"Well you can practise your other talents when you're not working and I'm sure Wade will be agreeable to you pursuing cooking classes," I tell him seriously.

Mikkarl loses his wide grin as he nods seriously, "That would really be appreciated."

"You get to practise on us as long as you don't make any of us sick," Steven laughs.

Mikkarl glances at his brother, "So does Jasmine come over to the bunk house often?"

"Jazzy is quite often about the quarters. Where ever you can find Mitchell McIntosh you'll find Jazzy," I tell him levelly. All warriors like to see their she-kitts around regularly and I might as well make it clear she already has a suitor.

"Hopefully we will end up with a second she-kitt around," Steven says and I look his way to find him grinning widely.

"Yeah," Robby asks with interest.

"It came to light very recently that Sam and Mitchell McIntosh have a sister," Steven says, "but she has lived as a virtual stray for several years."

"Would that be the stray that Malcolm and Chris mentioned a few months back," Robby asks.

"Malcolm has given her the nickname Stray," Steven admits.

"She as pretty as her cousin Jada," Mikkarl asks curiously.

I can't help the low growl that rises in my throat and Steven glances towards me with a laugh.

"Much prettier," he tells them.

"You might want to take your gear inside and settle in before lunch," I say. "Everyone should be back for the meal today."

"Need a hand with anything," Steven asks as his brother opens the back of the vehicle up.

We all carry bags inside as Steven leads the way to the large bedroom that had been vacant. There are two double beds in it along with two wardrobes; the two toms look around the room once their bags are put just inside the doorway.

"Arrange the room to suit yourselves," I say before leaving the room.

Steven and I return to trimming the orange tree. With the last of the dead wood removed and several small unproductive branches trimmed we begin cleaning up. It isn't long before Mikkarl comes out and gives a hand dragging cut branches away to a rubbish pile.

"There a roster of some kind for cooking meals," Mikkarl asks.

"We generally take it in turns, whoever isn't busy or is working close by at meal times," Steven tells him.

"I can handle that," Mikkarl says with an amicable grin. "I'm used to working on a roster basis but I'm flexible. Robby makes some pretty good desserts, just ordinary, basic mains but good desserts."

With the cut branches cleared away we head inside for lunch. Robby has sandwich makings out on the table and is slicing up a large cold roast. Donovan and Jazzy are in the kitchen with him and I grin to myself as I watch Jazzy flirting with both newcomers.

Robby prepares dainty sandwiches for Jazzy and I smother a grin. If one of her brothers handed her a plate of sandwiches like that she would tell them off, not blush and smile prettily.

Before lunch is finished Dwayne, Justin, Sam and Mitchell come to the quarters to eat. It is amusing to see the way Mitchell makes a point of standing by Jazzy's chair, one hand always on the chair or her shoulder. The subtle display isn't lost on either of the two new warriors.

I know it will take a week or two, maybe even up to a month before the two new toms have worked out their place in the hierarchy of the warriors. Other than possibly Edwin, I don't see there being any friction from those already working here. It is a difficult job selecting a team to become part of our large warrior force, but I am sure I have picked right.

As the days go by, the integration of the two new toms proves as easy as I had hoped. Both get on well with all of the warriors already employed and I am pleased to see that neither of them treats Donovan like a child.

I take Mikkarl and Robby along on a job Steven and I handle - checking on a stray that is new to our clan lands. I am impressed by the way they work. Mikkarl is clearly the more dominant of the two, often taking the lead. When the four of us return to the compound I am happy to report to Wade that I believe Mikkarl and Robby will fit in nicely.

A few weeks later I send Sam and his team off to patrol a section of the clan territory that borders a larger town where strays quite often visit. I decide Steven and I can do a patrol over the state borderline into Queensland. Edwin and his team are to stay at the quarters as security for Wade, with Mikkarl and Robby on hand if any jobs come up.

* * * * *

Steven and I are helping Toby, a stray, find a house on the outskirts of a small town when I receive the call from Wade. I frown as I look at the display screen of my phone and I look at Steven apologetically.

"I have to take this," I say. "You and Toby work on a list of basic furniture he will need."

I walk away from the two of them as I answer the call.

"Hallo Wade," I say as I hold the phone to my ear.

"Micah, how far are you from heading home," Wade asks.

"We really need to give Toby a hand. He's having difficulties getting a place of his own. Been living day to day, sleeping under a bridge of a night," I explain. "How soon do you need us?"

"I have just been to the quarters, and Rosy is there," Wade says and gives a faint sigh. "I'm not one hundred percent sure how ... Timny came to the house to let me know she had turned up. Mikkarl and Robby found her or caught her? She looked a bit ragged and travel worn when I went to check. Timny says she started asking for Mitchell and Sam, and when told they are away she asked for food."

"Tell me Edwin hasn't locked her up," I say worriedly.

"No he hasn't. I told Timny to pass on that she is to be encouraged to stay but not forced to," Wade says. "I believe when I go to the quarters in the morning to check on her, I will find she has left during the night."

"I'm supplying the money so Toby can move into a house. He signs the lease first thing in the morning when the real estate office opens. We can hit the furniture warehouse and buy him the basic furniture he'll need before the lease signing," I say aloud as I work it out in my head, "and still be on the way home before ten-thirty in the morning."

"I'll let you know if Rosy runs off before you head back," Wade says.

When the conversation is finished and Wade has hung up I close my phone and head back to Steven and Toby. We are spending the night in a couple of hotel rooms; Toby is friendly in a reserved way but clearly appreciates the solid meal and bed for the night.

"There trouble," Steven asks when Toby makes use of the shower.

"Wade called to let me know Rosy is at the quarters. We head back tomorrow. We catch the furniture place as soon as it opens at 8am, pay for what Toby needs and arrange delivery. He signs the lease at 9 when the real estate office opens, then head home when we know he's all right," I tell Steven evenly.

"Might be an idea to set up a credit account at the local supermarket in case Toby is short of money," Steven says as he sits on the end of one of the beds in the room. "What's the story with Rosy?"

"Wade wasn't real clear other than she's asking for her brothers and food," I say and grimace as I hear the frustration in my voice.

"The way to Rosy's heart - first the food, and then her brothers," Steven says with laughter in his voice. "By the way, I'll drive tomorrow. We'll get there faster if we aren't being stopped for speeding tickets."

* * * * *

I am busy paying for what furniture Toby picked out when my phone rings. I frown but I am unable to answer. I feel Steven take my phone from my pocket and hear him walk away.

"Yeah hallo Wade, it's Steven. Micah is busy at the moment," Steven says.

I feel a wave of irritation go through me but force a smile for the woman behind the cash register. It is a church shop that sells second hand furniture; Toby insisted we could find all he needed here. The staff made sure he had warm clothes and a blanket when he had been homeless and now he wanted to give back by buying from their shop.

"Those can be delivered at 11am," she says with a smile.

"That suit you Toby," I ask with a glance his way.

"Yeah, that'll be great," Toby says quietly.

"Micah, Wade wants to speak to you," Steven calls from the doorway.

"Excuse me Ma'am," I say before walking away.

"It's good news," Steven says quietly as he hands me the phone.

"Hallo," I say as I take the phone and lift it to my ear as I walk outside.

"I want you back here as soon as you can get here," Wade says evenly. "Rosy is still here and seems intent on staying until her brothers get back. Jazzy overheard Timny telling me Rosy was still at the quarters this morning and she wants to go and see her. I called Doc to come see Rosy, but she won't let him near her voluntarily."

"I told Edwin, Malcolm and Chris to see if they can get Rosy to go to town with them and I left them money to get her whatever she wants. She looks like she could do with some new shoes at least." Wade says as if remembering the fact.

"We just have to stop by the real estate office, sign the lease and pick up the keys. Everything else is organised. Steven and I can grab a feed when we fill up with petrol before heading home," I say as I head for my vehicle. I can hear Steven and Toby following me.

"Stop by the house for a moment on your way to the quarters," Wade says.

"Will do. See you when we get there," I say and close the phone ending the call.

"If we fill up with petrol now we can grab sandwiches and drinks, drop Toby off at his place and head off from there," Steven says as he opens the drivers' door.

I hesitate a moment before walking around to the passenger side and getting in. "Sounds like a plan. You want anything to eat while we're at it Toby?"

"I'll be fine," Toby denies the offer.

At the service station I head inside while Steven fills the vehicle with petrol. I pick up a small esky and begin putting basic food in it: bread, butter, milk, coffee, a packet of sliced meat, cheese and several other items that will keep cool in the esky.

On my way to the counter I grab pies, sandwiches and cans of drink. The cashier rings it all up and I give him the pump number. With everything paid for I head back out to the vehicle and get it.

I grimace as Steven guns the engine dashing into a small opening in the traffic. I ignore him as he laughs softly and I turn my attention to the side window instead.

"You can drop me at the mail box and I can walk in from there," Toby says as the mailbox comes into view along the side of the road.

Steven gives a slight grunt but doesn't stop as he turns into the driveway and drives the short distance to the house. Toby opens the back door as the vehicle comes to a stop.

"Thanks for everything. I'll pay back every cent," Toby says earnestly.

"Get yourself set up properly then you can start paying the money back. Don't cut yourself short to do so. Someone will stop in if we have people up this way. We won't be checking up - it'll be to make sure your doing okay. Take that little esky; it's got a few things to get you through the next day or so while you settle in," I tell him calmly.

"You guys have been great. I can't thank you enough," Toby tells us.

"Call if you need any help or if you need to talk," Steven tells him.

When we drive off I watch Toby in the side mirror until we reach the end of the drive way and Steven turns onto the main road.

"Home James, and don't spare the horses," Steven says and I catch him looking my way. "That's right isn't it Micah? Get you back home where Rosy is?"

"Shut your face Willoughby," I say evenly.

"I plan to give you a run for your money with that sweet little she," Steven says lightly and I glance his way. He catches my glance and raises his eyebrows.

"What, think I'm not going to try to get friendly with her just because you're the biggest, badest, meanest tomcat around," Steven asks dryly. "I'm not the only guy who will notice her. At least with me you know I won't go behind your back to be with her."

"I didn't say a word," I deny tightly as I turn my attention to the road ahead. I can feel my inner cat stirring as well as the anger that pulses through him.

"We have been best friends for a long time Micah, and partners for as long as both of us have been warriors. I think I know you better than anyone else," Steven says and takes a deep breath. "Your cat ran the show every time you got close to Rosy the last time she was around. You need to pull yourself together and get your self-control back or lose yourself the best thing that is ever likely to come your way."

"Either shut up and drive or pull over so I can cram my fist down your throat," I say tightly. It stings that someone else has seen how I have to fight for self control around Rosy.

I never had problems with controlling my changes, physical urges or temper, not even during the hormone driven teenage years when all young toms went through control issues. No, I had to wait until I was full-grown and fully mature before my inner cat rebelled.

I remember how Edwin teased and taunted me as we were growing up, calling me a freak. My 'unnatural' size and my 'unnatural' control had set me apart, Edwin had claimed, telling me that my 'deformity' was there for all to see.

I grit my teeth as I force the memories from my mind. I had never breathed a word about Edwin's taunts to anyone. I know some twist of nature had made me grow unnaturally large but I didn't want anyone's pity over it.

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