Sheeple Ch. 07byJaisen©
Sheriffs, sheeple, skunks, sneaky bastard bad guys, and some vaguely familiar places in this chapter. Before you ask, no this is not the same Bed and Breakfast from MTJAFT. It's about an hour south on the map in my head. I'm working on editing MTJAFT for publishing. Yes, Wolf and others finally convinced me I should. I'll let you know when it is ready.
I hope you enjoy this latest chapter. As always, please vote and comment!
"Breakfast is ready," said Anne as she went to get plates out of the cupboard. The phone rang and Eric went to answer it. He talked quietly for a few moments and then hung up the phone. He walked back to the kitchen where Kate and the rest were having breakfast.
"I've got two weeks vacation. With pay no less." He was still trying to wrap his brain around the conversation he just had. Apparently, the ER staff had talked to his boss about his injuries. She had almost demanded he take the time off. The pay was icing on the cake that he just couldn't turn down.
"That's great Eric. It'll give us time to straighten up around here and get 'Max' home," Zach said.
"Getting 'Max' home might not be as easy as you think Zach," said Kate. Eric nodded in agreement.
"Why? I just take off with Eric under a blanket or something and come back with Max. Then later Eric can show up."
"I don't know. I'm afraid that the cops or at least James will want to talk to us and see Max all at the same time. That could be really difficult." Eric was thinking of James' face the night he came home. He knew he was going to end up explaining things to James, and was not sure where to start.
"Eric, maybe you and I aught to go out of town for a few days. That way Max can come home and we just won't be available. I've got nearly two weeks off as well. The shelter isn't going to open before the end of the month."
"That may be a good idea. I'm still not sure what to do about Max though. He's gotten rather well known," Eric said.
"There is that," said Andy who had come home that morning. "Oh, and in case you were wondering Dr. Fremont got given the head of the arroyo dog. He called and made mention of it being the oddest skull he'd seen in a long time. No rabies or distemper, by the way. The skull was heavier than normal and the brain weighed a bit more than average for a dog or wolf. Or at least by the charts he had."
Eric looked at Andy as he talked. "Did he say whether he had to report his findings?"
"Just the rabies thing. Normal stuff. He asked if you wanted the skull. It's really beaten up, and not just from the fight."
"No. I might want to see it out of morbid curiosity, but I don't want it." Eric shuddered.
Everyone helped themselves to eggs, hash browns and sausages. Tortillas were in the warmer and tea was brewing. Most of the family dispersed to the living room or the dining room. Eric and Kate were the only ones left in the kitchen.
"Eric, what are you thinking?"
"About a lot of things. I think it would be a good idea if we went out of town, and then let Max come home. I'm just not sure how to accomplish that at the moment."
"I know what you mean. My brain is in a bit of a spin too." Kate was still thinking about the fact that she had shifted.
"We'll get it figured out." Making a burrito of his eggs and a tortilla, he dug into his breakfast. This was the first food either he or Kate had had since the night before the attack. Zach said they had gone through three pans of water, but hadn't eaten a thing. Eric was chewing slowly. His jaw hurt as well as all the muscles from the fight.
Kate watched him chew. "Does your jaw still hurt that much?" she asked digging into her own food.
Eric nodded as he had a mouthful. Teeth and bones seemed to heal the slowest, and his jaw was no exception. He swallowed and then took a sip of tea. "Yes, it hurts. You try cracking bones and see how it feels. It'll probably hurt for a month to be honest."
"Ow. No thank you. I ache enough from just shifting and healing. I'd not want to be dealing with your injuries on any level. Do you need more aspirin?"
"Yes. I've never decided if it is just me, or shifters in general, but there are times I eat aspirin like it was candy. This is going to be one of those times. It also seems to work the best of all the pain relievers."
Kate thought about it as she opened the cupboard and dug out the aspirin bottle. She realized that they had gone through a lot of aspirin over the last year. Normally, she was the only one who touched it. Everyone else used Tylenol or ibuprofen. "Could it be that aspirin is such a low tech pain med?"
"What do you mean?"
"Well, you can get it from willow bark. No hassles. No major drug companies needed. Know what I mean?"
"That makes sense. Plus, we have rather 'older' biological make-ups if you think about it."
"Yes, that whole genetic thing. I wouldn't be surprised if there are a lot of things that work that way because of your cellular structure. I'm also surprised that no one has commented on your bone structures before."
"I think that they probably have. Figured we were some throwback to Neanderthal or some weird mix I bet. Or, some regional variety caused by lifestyle."
Kate nodded. She put her plate in the sink. "How about we take that regional variety off to the shower?"
"That sounds good. Nice hot water." Eric added his plate to the sink.
After their shower, Eric and Kate started packing clothing for a few days away. They had decided to head west into an area they hadn't explored much yet. Their plans were to get a hotel room, put the 'Do Not Disturb' sign on the door and sleep for a few days. They'd almost finished when the den phone rang. Eric looked at Kate and then went to answer it.
Kate could hear bits of the conversation through the doorway and across the hall. From the sounds of it, she figured it was Mike or Audrey. Probably checking in with Eric and getting an update. She finished packing and was grabbing a few books off the shelf to read if they got the chance. Eric walked back in with a rather serious look on his face.
"What's going on?"
"That was Mike on the phone. He was letting me know that there were some 'reinforcements' on their way here to make sure things got cleaned up."
"Reinforcements? Cleaned up? What do you mean?"
"People from a branch of Special Ops will come check things out. Make sure that the bodies are gone, and that the local cops are clueless. That sort of thing," Eric said softly.
"You look worried. What else?"
"They want to talk to me."
"Okay, and why does that have you all uptight?"
"I haven't spoken to anyone voluntarily for over ten years. I left in bit of a rush and didn't want to look back ever."
"How do you leave the military in a rush?"
"You fast track yourself. Walk everything through and don't let anyone push you into a chair. I processed out in less than forty-eight hours."
"That's fast. So you don't want to talk to these people. Can we just call Mike back and say no?"
"Not an option. However, I can say where and when I want to meet them."
"Okay. That works with our plans of going away. You can meet them somewhere public, like the library."
"That's a good idea. However, it's both of us they'll want to talk to, and I would rather they didn't talk to you. I don't want them near you."
"Because I don't want them sniffing you out. I don't need them discovering that latent shifters can be woken up by other shifters." Eric's voice had gone quiet.
Kate looked at Eric and thought about what he had said. "So, you want to protect me." She stopped for a moment as another realization hit. "...and Zach."
"Yes. Just because they are the 'good guys' doesn't mean that they aren't looking for people. That they wouldn't find a way to acquire people with special talents."
Kate thought some more. "How are we going to stop them talking to Zach or me? We were there. I'm your mate, partner... whatever you want to call me. And how would they know anyway?" Kate was puzzled.
"Sniff you out. They will have a shifter with them."
"Well, that guy Keith didn't figure it out. He didn't say anything."
"He may not have said anything, but he must have sent some kind of report. The best I can hope is that they figure you just smell of me."
"There is that. So, when are we going to do this? I'm nervous about leaving the house now."
"Kate, I'm going to call Mike and see what I can do. I may be blowing this out of proportion, but it still makes me twitchy."
"I can understand. Plus, we have James and Ronny to worry about too don't we?"
"Oh gods...I forgot about them. Yes. In a way. Ronny, they will just ask for the dump spot. Hopefully he will be his uncommunicative self like he usually is with strangers. James on the other hand," he paused for a moment. "I may have to have a talk with sooner than I wanted."
Kate nodded. She didn't totally understand Eric's reluctance and nerves, but she accepted it. It wasn't like there was anything she could do about it anyway. "Let's get going then. You call Mike and see what he has to add and I'll finish packing."
It was Eric's turn to nod.
Kate had just finished talking to Anne about running the house while they were gone when Eric came into the kitchen. He had that look on his face that she had come to read as stress. Anne took the list of chores and headed out to the dining room.
"What's up Eric?"
"I've got the details. Talked to Zach and explained what was going to happen. Talked to Doc Fremont too. All that's left is to get in the car and go find James."
"Oh. That isn't what you wanted, was it." Kate turned to Eric and putting her arms around his waist.
"Not exactly. I wanted to be the one that told him though and not them. So, I have about three hours to do so."
"Three hours? They'll be here that fast?"
"Yes. I just hope it's been a quiet day at the office for James." Eric picked up the phone to call James.
Kate walked down to the bedroom to see if there were any last minute details she had overlooked. She knew that Eric would want to do this alone. However much she wanted to be there, she knew she'd just have to wait. Wait until Eric or James wanted to include her in the conversation. There was nothing left to pick up or take care of so she picked up her book and curled up on the bed. She lost herself in historical romance for a bit.
Eric hung up the phone. James would meet him in fifteen minutes out at the local coffee house. It was the kind of place that where you knew everyone and yet had total privacy while you ate. Too much back ground noise and lots of people. Eric figured it might be good to be in a familiar place and he knew James ate there most days.
"Kate, I'm headed out to Henry's to meet with James. I'll be back in a bit."
Kate dropped her book on the bed and headed for the door. "Wait a minute!" she hollered after him. Eric stopped. "I get a kiss don't I?"
Eric smiled, kissed Kate and gave her a quick hug."Of course. I'll be back." He headed out the door. Kate watched him pull out of the driveway and wondered just what James would make of this whole thing.
James was already at a booth in the back of Henry's Cafe when Eric got there. Eric sat down and took the menu the waitress stuffed in his hand. He took a quick glance and then ordered tea and a pastry.
James sat his cup of coffee down, looked around and turned to Eric. "What did you want to talk about?"
"Me, and the events of the last few days."
"Okay. I've had some questions myself that I wanted answered. Off the record of course."
"I figured you might. Hoped to have this conversation a bit later, but I don't have any choice. Not if I want to be the one who explains things."
"What do you mean Eric? Who else would explain? Kate?"
"No, government agents."
"What?" James said with more curiosity than anything. "Eric, what the hell is going on?"
"I guess I'd better start about twenty years back. You can believe me or not, just like you can believe the men who will be in your office later today or tomorrow. Either way, I wanted you to hear this from me first. I consider you a friend and want to keep it that way."
"Go ahead Eric." James took a sip of his coffee. He wondered for a moment if this would explain all the odd things he had seen the day of the attack at the house. That and a few other oddities he'd come across lately.
"I use to be a part of a special forces team in the military."
"I remember you told me about that. It makes sense considering some of the things you've said and done since I've known you. Like the way you drive."
"Yes. Passing up your deputy twice that day was fun."
"He didn't think so. Still doesn't understand why I didn't haul you in or ticket you though."
"You also handle yourself... carry yourself like you're ex-military, but not regular army as I'd think of it."
"There is that. I wasn't regular anything." Eric stopped and decided to move things along. "I'm also a shape-shifter."
James nearly spilled his cup of coffee all over the table.
Forty minutes later, James added sugar to his fifth cup of coffee. Stirring it gave him a few moments to collect his thoughts. If it hadn't been for some coincidences that he couldn't explain, he'd think Eric was nuts. A bona fide tin hat conspiracy chasing, ex-military nut. He looked at Eric, noting his face and body language as he had the entire time they had been talking. James had become rather adept at reading people. It helped in his line of work. Eric was nervous, upset, but he wasn't lying. James didn't know if that was more upsetting or the content of the conversation.
"Okay. Let me make sure I have this all in my head. You are a shape-shifter. A lycanthrope, and you change into a wolf. You and Max are the same being." James paused.
"Yes. If you want, I'll show you at the house," Eric said softly, knowing that this was difficult to deal with. He remembered how hard it had been to explain to Kate, and she deals with the weirdest things on a daily basis.
"The rest of it is sounds like a movie script, Eric. These things don't happen to real people." James was trying to reassure himself even though he wasn't totally sure anymore. His world had been more than just a tad shaken since he walked into Henry's earlier this morning.
"I know it sounds far fetched, but it's the truth. There are shifters. They do have them in the military. In fact, they often choose the military because of their talents. Those people who attacked Kate and myself were part of an organization made up of people who should have been imprisoned or locked up a long time ago. They were ex-military, mercenaries so to speak. An unsanctioned government group within the military. A part that is being dealt with as we speak."
"Alright." James paused again, still trying to wrap his brain around all of the information. "Kate knew all of this? She understands this?"
"No, not at the beginning. However, she does now. When we started falling in love, I was just a guy who landed at the shelter. That's it. A computer geek with two kids. There had to be trust between us before I could say anything. Hell, I almost ran from the entire situation because I was uncertain of how to deal with her. I wasn't sure I wanted another relationship, nor was I altogether ready to explain myself. I certainly didn't want to hide it from Kate once I got to know her. I'd made that mistake with my wife and didn't want to repeat it."
"I can understand that. Had to be that way between Leanne and I. Her first husband had been abusive and I had to gain her trust slowly." James took a deep breath. "I am beginning to understand just what it took though to tell Kate all of this."
"It was difficult. Frustrating too, when I realized that my past was following me. The first time this bunch showed up at the shelter, I figured I'd finished the job. That it wouldn't happen again. Oh was I wrong.""That was the first time the shelter got trashed right?"
"And where you went up to Ft. Kit to deal with the Sargent."
"Yes. And I had hoped it would be the end of it. I hoped that it was just one isolated incident."
"I'm sorry you were wrong about that. I still don't know if I understand why they returned so viciously though. Wouldn't it have been easier to try the polite way?"
"Like I said, I didn't exactly treat them nicely the first time. They figured I was just as big a psycho as the three that broke into Kate's house."
James just shook his head. "You know, I knew that there was something odd about that whole thing, and couldn't put my finger on it. It was driving me nuts."
"Okay, what seemed odd to you?" Eric wondered just what had set James' internal warning signals off.
"The state of the doors, the tins on the floor, the chile powder. Now that really had me puzzled. Oh, and no human tracks in the arroyos or anywhere else we looked for you." James listed off the items on his fingers.
"I can see that. Most dogs wouldn't blast through doors like that. It's why Kate said that there had been a man with them. Taken with the tin cans and such, I can see why they'd make you curious."
James nodded. It did made sense now in an odd sort of way. Especially in light of the bits and pieces Eric had explained earlier. James realized that in spite of the bizarre story, it was making sense. He wasn't sure how comfortable he was with that yet. He had another thought. "Eric, if I ran you through the computers down at the office, would I find anything? Or, would I be looking under the wrong name?"
"As far as I know, you shouldn't find anything. However, there might be a note in there about me. I had my house broken into about seven years ago and scared the heck out of a cop who found himself staring down the barrel of my gun."
"I was still in the military, fresh in from field exercises and was the kind of guy who slept with a gun under his pillow. The police had the wrong address and broke my front door down. I just heard noise, and gun in hand went down the hall as they came up. We stopped with my gun almost up the cop's nose. He squeaked 'police' just in time and everything stopped. The senior officer who was at the back came forward and we talked. Discovered that they were a block off. Right number, wrong street. Apologies were made, I got a new front door and the officer said he'd note that I was a good man to have in an emergency, and bring the entire force if they had to arrest me. Never did find out if that was a joke or not."
James nodded and made a mental note to check the files. Plus, add his own note about Eric. Definitely a man to have on the right side of the law. Or at least on his right side. "Eric, What will these men be talking to me about? Do you have any idea?"
"I figure that they will just ask you cop type questions. Looking to see if you noted anything odd or if you just mark this off as an oddball occurrence in the county. That sort of thing. They will be looking to see if they need to swear you to secrecy about the shape-shifters or that type of thing." Eric was hoping he was right and that they wouldn't ask any more than that.
"So, they will want to keep this hushed up?"
"That's what I understand. Oh, and probably to check and see if they can recruit me."
"Recruit you? Because you took down the other shifters?" James was trying to puzzle things out.
"That is one possibility. They were none too happy when I left in the first place. As I mentioned, lots of shifters aren't too stable. They let the animal run too long and forget how to be human. As far as they see, I'm a lovely stable man with a family. Someone they think they can impress enough to want to do his civil duty and help them out." Eric's voice held a tinge of sarcasm.