"Midnight at the Lost and Found" by Johnny Vulpine
Stine's Chronic Accelerated Bio-morphic Syndrome, hell of a
name for something that can so completely screw up your life. SCABS
was the ace of spades Fate decided to play on mankind when it looked
like we were getting ahead of the game. We had Cancer and AIDS both
licked, and we were closing in on the Common Cold. Then, WHAM the
Martian Flu started dropping people left and right, you'd have thought
the whole world had been thrown into a Steven King novel. Not long
after that, the shit really hit the fan.
People started turning into animals, literally. And that wasn't
all, some were gender switched. Some became older, some younger.
And some people even became inanimate objects! In less than a year
the entire world was going to hell in a hand basket.
June 18th 2004 found me graduating, top of the class, from
NYPD academy. I was assigned to Precinct #12 in the Bronx, and quickly
began climbing the proverbial ladder. Three years later, I got something
that really put me ahead of the game, .45 slug in the shoulder that damn
took off my arm.
I was walking my beat when I heard shots ring out on the next
street over. I quickly got there and took cover. It was a gang war,
the local Hispanic group, the Scorpions, were squaring off with
the Bloods. I had just radioed in the situation when a group of
kids came running out of an alley across from me, apparently attracted
by the sound of the gunfight. Three of them took cover as a few
stray shots blew out car windows around them. One, the youngest
of the group, stood his ground. That's when I noticed he was wearing
a red bandanna, realization hit me like a mack truck, this kid was a Blood!
A quick glance down the street confirmed the worst, one of
the Scorpions had seen the kid and was drawing a bead on him down
the barrel of a .45 automatic. The next three seconds seemed to
drag by in movie like slow motion as I leapt from my cover and sprinted
towards the kid. Out the corner of my eye I saw flames belch from
the .45's muzzle, while ahead of me the kid's eye's went wide as
he realized he'd just been shot at.
For the first time, he turned his gaze in my direction. The
kid cringed at the sight of a 6' 6" cop barreling down on him. That's
when I slammed into him, bowling the kid over behind a car and on
top of his friends. At that instant, my shoulder exploded. The left side
of my body was shoved backwards, spinning me around and sending
me crashing onto the hood of a parked car. I slid off the hood and
slumped to the street, everything going black. I saw the kid looking
at me with a mixture of horror and disbelief. I smiled weakly, and
just before I passed out I heard several squad cars arrive.
I woke up hours later, my captain frowning down at me.
"That was a damn fool thing you did tonight Richardson." Captain
Jake Engle growled. But then his expression softened, "Your old man'd been
"Thank you sir." I said.
"You get yourself patched up, I've got something for ya when
you get outta here." he tells me, giving my hand a firm shake. I
feel him pressing something into my palm, he releases my hand and
closes my fingers around it. Then, he leaves the room.
I peer down at my open hand to find a pair of shining new rank
pins, I'd been promoted! The next morning brought me Mr. and Mrs.
Bender, the kid's parents, with their son Nathan in tow.
"Well, if it isn't the little bullet dodger." I said, grinning.
The kid looks away, shame-faced. His mother, a thirtyish woman of
African decent, smiles ever so slightly. Meanwhile, her husband,
a very stern looking, heavy-set, black man of about the same age, frowns at
"We can't thank you enough Officer Richardson." said Mrs. Bender.
Mr. Bender then speaks up, with a suprisingly soft voice, "We've
already lost one to the streets, we can't afford to loose Nathan."
despite the softness of his voice, the emotions behind the words came
clear as a bell.
"Please, my name's Jack." I tell them, holding up my good hand.
The parents seem to relax a bit at this, Nathan however, continues to avoid
"Could we be alone?" I ask. That gets the kid's attention,
his eyes go wide as he looks at me in shock. Mr. Bender glances
at his wife, she nods and nudges her son in my direction. Mr. Bender
opens the door for his wife and they both leave the room, shutting the door
The room is silent as Nathan diligently studies the patterns
in the floor tiles. "So tell me, are ya' always this quiet or only
when you're with someone who took a bullet for ya' ?" I bantered,
earning me a dark look. "I'd have thought you would've gotten rid
of that thing after last night." I said soberly, indicating the red
"Dad made me take it off." Nathan said quietly. I took a look
at the bandanna, it was old and ragged, a thought suddenly occurred
to me, "It was your brother's wasn't it?" I asked. Nathan nodded,
clutching the bandanna tightly. "You want the guy who took him out,
don'tcha?" I said, more a statement than a question.
His answer was given in a silent stare, with a hardness in
his eyes no kid his age should have. I shook my head, "Look kid,
your brother's gone, whackin' the guy that did him in ain't gonna
bring him back." Nathan's face darkened angrily.
"Easy for you to say, you're a cop, and your white!" he snapped.
I snorted in disgust, "Nathan, take a good look at who's on their
feet and who's on their back, then I want you to think real hard
about the crap that just came outta your mouth." That caused him to look
"It's got nothing to do with being a cop OR being white. Your
brother turned his back on life and now you wanna go too?! Look
at your parents kid, look at what this is doing to them!" I cried.
He slowly looks back to me, and now I can see the tears trying
to cut through the hardness. "Sit down kid." I sighed, indicating
a corner of the bed. He sat, hurriedly wiping his eyes.
"You two were pretty close, huh?" I asked. Nathan nodded. "Look
Nathan, You've got to go on for your parent's sake and, more importantly,
for your own. Now, I can't replace your brother, but I can be there
for you when you need a friend." I told him, and was rewarded by
the beginnings of a smile showing up on his face. That's when I
lowered the boom on him, "One condition, GET OFF THE STREETS." I
said, absolutely serious. He began to frown so I gave him a bit of personal
"Look kid, life's a comet, it's here and gone. So, grab it
by the tail and take it for a spin." Nathan seemed to consider
this a moment. Then his frown melted and he nodded, "Ok, you've
got a deal." Later that week, I was released, got dressed up in
my dress uniform and attended an awards ceremony where I received
my official promotion and award for injuries sustained in the line of duty.
Afterward, Capt. Engle called me into his office. "You wanted
to speak with me Sir?" I asked, closing the door behind me.
"Sit down Jack." He said, smiling. I did as I was told, eyeing
him expectantly as he sits down behind his desk.
"First I want to congratulate you again on your award and promotion."
"Thank you Sir, the doctor says I should be ready for full
duty in a couple months." I explained.
"You take all the time you need Jack. I wish I had more cops
like you but, since I've only got one, I want you fully healed before
you even consider going back to full duty. Furthermore, I've heard
about what you've got going on with that Bender kid, your old man
would've done the same. Keep up the good work." Capt. Engle ordered
"Yes Sir, Nathan's a bright kid, I didn't want to see him suffer
the same fate as his brother." I said.
"I'm sure his parents agree totally, which brings me to my
second reason for calling you in." here he paused, reaching into
a drawer. Capt. Engle pulled a wooden box out of the drawer and places it
on the desk top.
"Your father gave this to me when I made sergeant. Now, I want
you to have it." with that he popped the latches on the box and
lifted the lid. My eyes nearly popped out of my head as I looked at the
"This is a Colt .45 Peacemaker, made way back in the 1800's.
Note the US Marshall's insignia on the handle." he said. I nodded,
seeing the familiar five pointed star inside of a circle with the letters
in the center.
"Dad used to love those old movies with the guys who could
make these guns practically dance in their hands." I said reminiscently.
"You mean like this?" the captain asked as he picked up the
gun and demonstrated a bit of manual dexterity I hadn't thought him capable
"They call it gun slinging." he told me, as the gun spun on
his finger from left to right and back again. "There's a how-to
book in the box, I saw it in a bookshop and couldn't resist." he
added, then with a deft movement the gun was flipped around with
the handle towards me. I gingerly took the proffered weapon, it
was a bit heavier than my issued sidearm.
"Don't be afraid to work it, it's in perfect working order.
I made sure of that." Capt. Engle said, seeing as I was handling
it like a piece of glass. Thus prompted, I took a firmer grip on
the heavy gun and opened the chamber, giving it a good look-over
before snapping it closed and giving the cylinder a good spin.
"I'm honored, thank you very much Sir." I said, smiling. Capt.
Engle returned my smile, "Congratulations, Sergeant."
I was on top of the world that day and for the next couple
of months. Whenever I wasn't in physical therapy or working on my
gun slinging skills, I was hanging out with Nathan Bender. The kid
was really cleaning up his act! By the time I was back to full duty
his GPA had gone up by two points. Things were really beginning
to look good, but of course, that's when disaster always strikes.
It was about a week after Nathan's fifteenth birthday. I'd
been so busy that I hadn't seen the Bender's since the party. I
was working the night watch when the call came in, a car had been
bombed on Mason St. license number: FTD 409, the Bender's family car! I
"The vehicle is is completely destroyed, we've got one body."
the unit at the scene reported. I asked for a description, my heart
beginning to pound.
"The body's burned up real bad but, from what's left, I'd say
it was a young black male..." there was more but I didn't bother
to listen to the rest, I was heading for my car.
Days later, I attended the funeral of Nathan Trelain Bender.
It was a small affair, just the immediate family and a few friends.
As the casket was being lowered I caught movement at the corner
of my eye. When I looked in that direction, I saw a dark figure
hiding among the trees. I considered checking it out, but before
I could move the figure vanished. I blinked, shaking my head, "I
need a drink." I muttered. That was a dark day, I later resumed
my climb up the proverbial ladder, immersing myself in police work
to keep the sorrow down. Time went on and five years flew by like leaves in
One day, late 2012, Capt. Engle called me into his office.
It seemed my hard work had, once again, paid off.
"Well Jack I've called you in here because I've a proposition
for you. The FBI's been working with the local precincts for the
past two years tracking down anti SCAB terrorist groups. They've
located a particularly nasty group in our jurisdiction and they're
preparing a sting operation later this week. The brass has been
looking at your record and they like what they see. They want you
on the task force for this." the Captain explained. I was ready
to fall out of my chair, "Sir I... I don't know what to say." I
stammered, wide-eyed and grinning.
"This is your chance at the big time Jack, say you'll accept!" Capt.
"Y-Yessir! I'd be honored!" I cried, snapping out of my shock.
Late that saturday night everything was about to come together.
We'd been staking out a warehouse on the lower east side. The terrorists
were making an arms deal for their next attack, something big they
had planned for New Year's Eve.
Despite my excitement at being involved in the operation, I
felt like absolute shit. A head and chest cold had hit me from outta
nowhere. My head felt like it was filled with mud and, I was constantly
coughing and spitting up phlegm. However, I doggedly avoided attention
for fear that I'd be sent home.
For seemingly the thousandth time, the Federal agent sitting
next to me in the car asked if I was all right.
"I'm fine Jameson." I said sharply. At that time a throbbing
headache had begun pounding away inside my skull. Jameson was about
to say more when he was cut off by a radio transmit.
"All units, show time." said the CO's voice.
"You heard the man, let's go, let's go!" my enthusiastic partner,
Jason Sapp, cried as he climbed out of the car, causing me to wince
painfully. We had the building surrounded, so it was only a matter
of seconds before every way into or out of the warehouse had cops
and feds pouring through. I heard a couple shouts of "Freeze, Police!"
ring out before my group came across our targets; five men in suits,
eleven men and one woman in fatigues. Judging by the insignia on
the woman's collar, (absent on the men's) I figured she was the
leader and took aim on her. The other units arrived soon after and
Agent Forbes, the operation's second in command, began reading the rights.
We were just beginning to cuff the terrorists and their suppliers
when I was suddenly seized with an ungodly fit of coughing. I fell
to all fours from the intensity of the coughing. Then, there was
a hand on my shoulder and I herd Sapp's voice asking me if I was
all right. At the same moment a maddening itch enveloped me from head
to toe. Sapp suddenly jerked his hand away, "Oh SHIT!" I herd him shout.
That's when all hell broke loose. My cough had eased slightly,
enough to allow me to open my eyes, what I saw wasn't pretty. To
my left, one of the terrorists who hadn't been cuffed yet picked
up a 2x4 from a crate behind him. I tried to shout but, between
the cough and a painful pressure in the lower half of my face, I couldn't.
The man in fatigues swung the 2x4 around and smashed it into
the face of the N.Y. officer standing next to him. As the cop hit
the floor his assailant charged straight at me screaming, "DIE YOU
FILTHY, FUCKING ANIMAL!!!!" I threw up my arm in defense, dimly
aware that my hand was covered in black fur and that my fingers were now
The 2x4 hit me between the shoulder blades knocking me flat.
The sound of gunshots filled the air as I tried to rise. Then the
2x4 slammed into the back of my head... Fade to black.
I felt like I was floating in a sea of blackness. I couldn't
see anything, but I could hear voices as if from far off. Some I
recognized, some I didn't, It was all a complete jumble.
"...Will survive." said a female voice.
"...Gonna tell him?" that was Capt. Engle. Then there was someone
who was seriously pissed, "... Responsible for the deaths of
two New York police officers and five federal agents!!!"
I woke up three days later, "God, what a fucking nightmare."
I groaned. My mouth felt strange as I spoke, the words came out slurred.
"Officer Richardson?" asked a familiar voice. I looked up to
the source of that voice, blinking rapidly to clear my sleep blurred vision
"Officer Richardson, I'm doctor Fairall." said a woman at my
bedside. "You must remain calm, you've been through quite an ordeal,
there's been some... changes." the doctor explained. My vision had
begun to clear and I was having a hard time understanding what I
was seeing. There seemed to be something protruding from my face
where my nose should have been. I looked up to doctor Fairall, panic
in my eyes, and the protrusion stayed in my line of sight!
"WHAFUCK!?" I cried, crossing my eyes to get a better look.
"Officer Richardson, please." Dr. Fairall said. I gave her
a sharp glance, "mirror!!" I demanded, almost barking the word.
Her lips tightened grimly as she reached into the drawer next to
my bed. Then, she handed me the large hand mirror face down. Slowly,
I raised the mirror to eye level, what I saw turned my blood to
ice. Staring back at me from the glass circle was the face of a
fox, it's green, silted eyes went wide as my hands began to shake
"NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!" I screamed, the word stretching
out into a mournful howl as I threw the mirror against the far wall.
Two orderlies burst into the room and proceeded to pin my shoulders
to the bed as Dr. Fairall produced a hypodermic and jabbed it into
my arm. Within seconds, I was out cold as the sedative hit my bloodstream.
When I woke up again night had fallen, not that it mattered
much since my new eyes could see quite well in the dark, a glance
at the wall clock told me it was just past midnight. Slowly I sat
up, still groggy from the sedative, and cradled my head in my hands.
I sat that way for a while, collecting my wits and gathering enough
nerve to carry out what I had in mind.
Finally, I cast the sheets aside. My resolve faltered for a
moment when I saw my legs and the black furred paws they now ended
in. However, I quickly closed my eyes and and swung those legs over
the side of the bed, then I opened my eyes, took a deep breath,
and stood. I nearly fell flat on my face before I settled into a
Carefully I began to step away from the bed, letting myself
grow accustomed to the new way I had to walk while trying to ignore
the swishing sensation behind me. Finally, I reached the left wall.
I stood there a moment before turning my attention to the full length
mirror on the back of the bathroom door. Steeling my nerve, I began
to make my way to the opposite corner of the room. In moments I
was a step away from the mirror. I paused to take a long, shuddering,
breath. Then I stepped forward to look once again at my new reflection,
into those lambent, silted green eyes.
I absently brushed a tear from my furry face as I began to
unbutton the hospital gown. I only managed half the buttons however,
before my resolve broke, what I could see told me all I wanted to know.
I was completely covered in fox fur. From the patch of white
covering the front of my torso, to the black gloves, socks and points
of my hands my hands, feet and ears. I placed a trembling hand on
the glass, turned my head away and closed my eyes, trying in vain to shut
Suddenly, I felt my ears twitch as they picked up the sound
of soft footsteps drawing closer. A moment later, Dr. Fairall stepped
into the room, "I thought you'd be awake by now." Still facing the
mirror, I looked up and focused on her reflected image.
"You wanna talk?" she asked.
"What's to talk about? I'm a fuckin' freak." I said.
"If that's all you see in yourself then I've plenty of other,
less fortunate, SCABS to tend to instead of wasting my time on you."
she shot back. I turned away from the mirror, giving her a hard
look, the woman's expression was cold as ice.
"Siddown." I muttered, waving at the bed.
"Mind if I turn the light on? Not everyone has your night vision." she
"Whatever." I said, stepping over to a chair and sitting backwards so
as not to
pinch my tail.
The lights came on, causing me to squint as the red-rim bespectacled
down on my bed.
"You're really one of the lucky ones, most Animorphs can't
talk without a Voder. All you should need is some speech therapy"
Dr. Fairall said, matter-of-factly. I laughed humorlessly, "Have
you taken a good fucking look at me lady!?" I shouted. I must have
snarled, judging by the way she flinched. "I mean, EVERYTHING about
me has changed!" I continued, standing up. "I used to be 6' 6" now
I'm a little over 5', my legs are a total fucking mess, and THIS
THING..." I paused to grab my tail and bring it around beside me,
"is driving me INSANE!!" I growled.
"Are you quite finished?" asked Dr. Fairall, favoring me with
a sullen stare. I felt my muzzle wrinkle in a slight snarl as I
sat back down dejectedly. "THIS is reality, you are an Animorph.
The tests we've run on you show that you are morph-locked. Also,
there's evidence of Chronomorphic retardation in your bloodstream.
However, you are subjectable..."
"Whoa, whoa, doc! English please!" I cried, cutting her off.
"In layman's terms, you are stuck in your present form, unless
a SCAB with the ability to morph others uses their power on you.
Also, your life span has increased, though I don't know how much." she
"Jesus." I muttered, burying my face in my hands.
"As I said, it's not as bad as it seems. Look at it this way,
you could be living for a lot longer now and, with your heightened
senses, you'd be a valuable asset to the police force." Dr. Fairall
said. I considered her words, I hadn't thought of my situation in
that way. I nodded slowly, "You're right." I said looking at her
with a bit of hope in my eyes. For the first time since we'd met,
we smiled, it was then that I noticed the fangs.
She must have caught the suprise in my eyes. Then, my smile
vanished as a forked tongue flickered momentarily from her mouth,
"What's the matter, you didn't really think I was a norm did you?" she
"'S not that." I said quickly, suppressing a shudder. "No offense
doc, but I kinda got a thing about snakes." I explained.
"OH! I'm sorry." she blurted, she was obviously taken aback
as she hid the fangs again. We talked for another hour that night
and by the time she left, I was starting to feel better about my future.
The rest of that week flew by filled with physical therapy
and speech classes, both run by a female Wolf-morph since her SCABS
was nearly identical to mine. By the end of the week, I was completely
familiar with my new form and could walk or run without a falter.
My speech was still a little slurred, but Cindy said that I'd learned
all she could teach me and that the slur would disappear in time.
It was sunday morning, I was checking out of the hospital when
I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned to find David Miles, another
officer from the 12th who was on the sting operation, with some rookie I
"Hey Miles kinda late for visits, I'm checking outta here."
I said, smiling. "By the way, where's Mason?" I asked. Miles' face
clouded angrily, "My partner is dead, so is yours. They were killed
DEFENDING YOUR ASS!!" Miles snapped.
"Jesus, I'm sorry Dave, I know you and Mason were like brothers
and he was married to Sapp's sister." I said softly, reaching out
to put a hand on his shoulder. Miles suddenly batted my hand away,
"Were not here on a social call."
"Dave what..." I began.
"Jack J. Richardson you are hereby ordered to turn over your
badge and sidearm by the commissioner of police of the city and state
of New York." Dave said, cutting me off. My mouth fell open in pure
shock, "Dave... I... But..." I stammered.
"Just hand them over Richardson, don't make this any harder
than it has to be." Miles ordered.
I felt my tail and ears droop pitifully as I opened my bag
and numbly surrendered the items demanded of me. Officer Miles took
my shield and piece then he and his new partner left without a word.
I stood there, feeling cold and numb, as the two police officers exited the
"Officer Richardson, if I can just get your signature right
here you can be on your way." said the nurse at the admissions desk,
snapping me out of my reverie. I sauntered to the desk and signed
the form. "Thank you Officer..." she began. I held up a hand, forestalling
her words, "It's just Jack now."
The bus ride home was a long one as I sat there trying to
ignore the stares and the whispered comments (which I could hear
clearly, even from the back of the bus). When I got back to the
house I found my car in the driveway. I went inside, and saw there
was a message on the answering machine, so I hit play.
"Jack I'm sorry, they wanted to put you away for what happened.
I couldn't let that happen, so I made a deal with them, this was
the best I could do. I had your car brought back to your house,
come on down to the station, you at least deserve a formal discharge." said
I never went back to the station, and Capt. Engle never called
again. For the next seven years I struggled to keep my life together.
I landed a few odd jobs here and there, but I just couldn't seem
to hold anything down. My life was quickly spiraling into hell.
Finally, early fall 2019, I had to move out and sell the place
I'd known as home all my life. I walked away from the house I'd
grew up in with nothing but an age-old gun stuffed in a tattered
duffel bag, a check for $10k, and the clothes on my back. I cashed
the check and found myself a low rent apartment.
That was a year ago, it's now 2020 and I'm friendless, penniless,
and in a week I'll be homeless. That's why I sitting here staring
out my bedroom window with a nearly empty fifth of scotch in my
left hand and a loaded Colt .45 Peacemaker in my right. The landlord
told me last night to "cough up this month's rent or he'd toss my
furry ass in the gutter himself". So, this morning I took my last
thirty bucks and spent it on a box of hollow point bullets and two
fifths of Johnnie Walker. I've been sitting here all day, sucking
scotch and watching the world go by.
It's almost ten O'clock now, needless to say, I'm rip roaring
drunk. I chuckle a little, amazed that I 'm still conscious after all the
"Weeellll, you'll sssshhure fixat woncha?" I drunkenly inquire
the gun in my hand. I turn my wavery gaze to my bottle, taking note of how
"Sssbout that time." I whisper before taking the last swallows
of scotch. I thumb back the Peacemaker's hammer as a tear rolls
down my face. Through the fog of inebriation, the final line to
a song from my youth flits through my mind. So inspired, I recite
the line, changing it slightly into a sort of dying man's final
prayer, "Father, my hands are shakin', I know my life is breakin'.
Show me the way to set my soul free..." That said, I place the gun's
muzzle into mine, and begin putting pressure on the trigger.
All at once, the sound of my apartment door slamming shut hurls
my mind into sobriety, and memories of police training seventeen
years past come flooding back to me. I whip the gun out of my mouth,
going into a low crouch as I point it towards the bedroom door.
I quickly creep to one side of the door and then whirl into the
doorway, sweeping my aim left and right down the hall.
With the Peacemaker pointed to the fore, I make my way down
the short hallway into the main body of the apartment. The place
is empty as a tomb, I can neither hear or smell anyone in here.
I do however, notice something on the floor in front of the apartment
door. I step over to it, take a quick glance out the peephole, and then
There at my paws, is a large brown envelope with my name on
it. Inside I find a plane ticket, $200 cash, and a typed letter. The letter
I know who you are, I've been watching you for a long time.
I can help you, please allow me the chance. I've provided you with
the means, use them to come to the address below. I will contact you there.
Below that is the address to some bar called "The Blind Pig
Gin Mill". I breathe a tired sigh, as my adrenaline rush faded. It
was then that ol' Johnnie Walker decided to kick me right between the eyes.
I wake up the next day with Mr. Walker still sitting on
my shoulders and swinging a 50lb sledge hammer around inside my
skull. I struggle to a sitting position, " Ah Jesus, Mary and Joseph,
shoulda went ahead and shot myself!" I groan, cradling my head.
I then proceeded to spend the next four hours praying to the Porcelain
God and nursing my hangover in various other ways.
About half past three I throw on the only set of clothes I
own: A pair of tattered blue jeans, (modified to suit my legs and
allow for my tail), a black trench coat and a black fedora hat that
had been my father's favorite. I placed the Peacemaker and the brown
envelope into my small duffel bag and left the apartment. I dropped
the keys into the Landlord's mail slot as I left the building and
caught myself a cab to the airport.
I didn't have to wait long at the terminal, my departure time
was at five O'clock. I had turned in the bag with the gun inside
as checked baggage and now only had the envelope with me. I read
over the letter again, contemplating who could have sent it. I'd certainly
never herd of the bar and I had no friends to speak of.
As I read, I ignored the fact that I was being stared at. I mean,
I wasn't exactly fashionably dressed not to mention being a SCAB,
the end result of the mixture being me looking like the product
of a one night stand between a 1920's mobster movie and a B-rated
horror flick. I boarded the plane, while other passengers gave me
a wide berth, and soon fell into a dreamless sleep.
I was awakened hours later by a tap on my shoulder and a female
voice, "Ummm, sir? We're landing now, could you please put on your
seat belt?" I rub my eyes and turn a bleary, questioning gaze to
her, as I hadn't really caught her words.
"Your b-e-l-t Sir. We... Are... l-a-n-d-i-n-g." she says, as
if talking to a retarded child. I glare at her as my ears flatten in
"Just because I'm a SCAB doesn't mean I can't understand english,
Miss." I growl. The stewardess blanches and then hurries away as
I click the belt together. Fifteen minutes later I get off the plane
and head for the baggage claim to pick up my tattered bag.
It is raining as I step out of the terminal, luckily there
are three vacant cabs waiting at the taxi stop. I dash through the
cold Autumn rain towards the cabs. But, as I approach, all three cabs pull
"Son of a bitch." I mutter, watching them angrily as they drive
off. I stand there a moment, seething. And then, realizing that
a good portion of my tail is getting soaked and going numb, I start
I had only gone a few feet when a cab comes barreling out
of nowhere and screeches to a halt alongside me. I stare at the
decrepit relic of a cab for a moment, wondering just how in the
world it is still street legal. The windows are deeply tinted making
it impossible for me to see the driver. The horn suddenly honks
twice, prompting me to get in.
As I climb into the back seat and shut the door behind me I
notice that there is another tinted window between the front and
rear seats. This however, is not what rings the bell in my mind.
"Where to brotha?" asks a tinny voice with a Brooklyn accent,
I barely pay any attention though as my nose suddenly kicks into
overdrive. There's a familiar scent all over this cab, but I can't
quite put my finger on it. All at once the window between the seats
slides open and I get my answer, staring back at me is another Fox-morph!
"Samatta ya deef ahsumtin?" he asks through his voder.
"S...sorry I just didn't expect a SCAB. Not to mention another
fox-morph, I don't get out much." I explain.
"Welldat much is obvious. I saw doze oddeh guys bug out when
ya walked up, tought ihwas pretty shitty." The cabbie replies. "Youze newin
ain'cha?" he asks.
"Yeah, I'm from the Bronx." I answer.
"Really? I got a sista still lives in Brooklyn. Well, sometimes
she's my sista, ya know how it is witdem Genda-morphs." he says
rolling his eyes. I laugh a bit at that, my mood beginning to brighten, and
"Name's Vinnie." he introduces himself, putting a paw through
the window. I shake the proffered paw.
"Should youzever need a ride, I'm da hack t'call." Vinnie says,
placing a business card into my hand.
"I hope you don't mind my asking..." I began. "How do I drive?" He
says, asking the question
for me, "Well, I ain't no fullmorph, an'dis ain't no
"That's cool." I say, impressed.
"So, like I said, where to brotha?" asks Vinnie, getting back to
"Do you know this place?" I ask, showing him the address in
the letter. He looks closely at the address and chuckles, "Youze
gonnabe ahright pal, every SCAB who's any SCAB rounhere knows da Pig."
"Thanks for picking me up Vinnie." I say.
"Donmentionit, like I said, I dongo f'dat shit dem oddehguys
pulled." Vinnie says gravely. "Ho-kay, to da Pig!!" says Vinnie,
gunning the cab's motor and heading out into traffic.
So, now I find myself sitting at a table in the back corner
of a bar full of SCABS, sucking on my third glass of Scotch and
waiting for God only knows who to show up. I've been sitting here
for an hour now and no one but the waitress has given me a second
glance. I put my head down on my crossed arms, facing the wall.
A ragged, tired sigh escapes my lungs as I ask for the umpteenth
time, "God, what am I doing here?"
Just then, the sound of wood clattering on the table's surface
breaks into my thoughts, and a familiar scent reaches my nose. Lifting
my head, I gaze down at the table, and focus on the source of the
scent. It is small, only about three inches, looking like a little
wooden scroll. It is a piece of stick cinnamon, my only vice (that is,
until a few
Casually, I pick up the stick, and place one end into my mouth.
Then I look up at the silent, black-furred, individual who brought
me this gift. When my eyes complete their trip up this person's
seven foot tall height, they find a pair of silted, yellow eyes staring
"A Friend, I presume?" I ask the Panther morph. He nods once,
then speaks in a voice straight out of the graveyard of my memories,
"Jesus Jack, when you hit bottom you sure don't go gently."
"I... I..." was all I could manage in return.
"You thought I was dead." he says.
"For THIRTEEN YEARS Nathan!!" I finally croak.
"I think I'd better sit down." Nathan says, releasing a sigh.
"I didn't die thirteen years ago, " he explains, pulling out a chair
and sitting, "though, I might as well have. When I turned SCAB my
family turned their backs on me, they even faked my funeral. I was
thrown straight back into the lifestyle you had worked to get me out of."
Nathan pauses to raise one paw-like hand and unsheathe his
claws like a set of switchblades. Then favors me with an intimidating,
fang filled grin, "At least this time around I had an advantage.
I hooked up with the Panthers, for obvious reasons. By the time
I was eighteen I was leader of the most powerful gang on the streets.
That lifestyle's like a house of cards though, the Scorpions decided to
I wince at the mention of that gang, "My shoulder still aches."
I growl. Nathan nods knowingly, "Their uprising didn't last long,
we painted the streets red. However, it was long enough to remind
me of you, I started loosing interest in gang business. I started
gathering info on you, where you were and when, your position in
the precinct, everything... I know what the NYPD did to you. For
a while I tried pulling some strings in your favor, meanwhile the
Panthers were loosing power on the streets. Needless to say, my status
"But why!?" I asked, "I may not approve of that kind of life
but, you were set Nathan! Why the hell would you throw it all away for a
"Guess it wasn't my kind of scene. Besides, I owed too much
to you to spend the rest of my life like that."
"You don't owe me anything kid, I was just doing my job." I
said, knowing I was full of shit. Nathan gives me a hard look, obviously,
didn't believe me either.
"I began setting myself up to leave the Panthers about six months
"When I started loosing it." I muttered, nodding.
"It was pure luck I got to you when I did! I was all the way
on the other side of Long Island when word of what you were up to came."
Nathan tells me.
"Well I'm sorry, it's been nice seeing you again, but it looks
like you've wasted your time." I said sourly, picking up my glass
of Scotch. In a blur of movement, a black-as-midnight hand darts
forward and snatches the glass from my fingers. My ears flatten
and I glare at him as he pours the liquor from the glass, all the while,
staring me straight in
"I do not waste time Mr. Richardson." Nathan says while setting
the glass, top down, on the table. "You can't go on like this Jack,
this isn't you." He says softly.
"Who the hell are YOU to tell me who I am, you don't know me!"
I snapped. Nathan's eye's narrow as a low growl escapes his throat,
"No, I don't know YOU," he says, emphasizing the word. "but I once
had a friend who stared down a .45 caliber bullet to keep a street punk's
brains from getting splattered across the sidewalk." he continues,
making me look away, unable to meet his gaze.
"That guy died when he grew a tail." I say with a depressed
sigh. A derisive snort brings my eyes back to Nathan. His gaze is
disdainful as he shakes his head and stands. I turn my attention
back to the wall as he pushes the chair back under the table. "Guess
it's true what they say about Foxmorph, nothing but cowards."
he says, spitting the last word.
That sure lit a fire under my ass, in an instant my chair was
on it's back and I was in Nathan's face, "Just what the fuck's that
supposed to mean Bender!?!?" I snarl, my ears flicking back as my
hackles stood up. Nathan, towering above me, glares down, looking me
straight in the eyes.
"My name is Banhgra. Nathan Bender is dead, so is Jack Richardson.
You've been given a second chance at life, TAKE ADVANTAGE OF IT!!"
the Panther morph roars in my face.
For what seemed an eternity, the only things that existed were
the pair of yellow, silted eyes boring into my own silted, green
ones and the boiling lava of my anger. All at once, what I could
only describe as a mountain of muscle, steps up to us and places
a hand on each of our shoulders, "Gentlemen, is there a problem?"
the mountain rumbles. For a moment, we continue staring each other
into the floor. Finally, I can no longer keep up the staredown,
and turn away from the Panther-morph's unflinching gaze.
"None at all Mr. DeMule." I hear Nathan reply as I sit back
down at the table, holding my head in my hands. "My friend here
is just a little excited." Nathan explains.
"Riiiight, If that's excited I'd hate to see him depressed."
DeMule laughs as he walks off. I hear the other chair being put
back on it's feet, and then Nathan is sitting across from me again.
"God, I'm getting too old for this." I groan.
"I doubt that, being as you're age locked, you can't be any
older than me." Nathan says matter-of -factly. I chuckle at that,
causing him to give me a puzzled look.
"I see you haven't done ALL your homework. I not exactly age
locked, I'm more like age retarded. I age only about a month for every
"Ok, so what's the problem?" he asks.
"The problem is that you have no idea what you're asking of
me! You want me to start my whole life over from NOTHING. I really
don't think I can handle that." I said, letting the full extent
of my frustration show. Nathan frowns for a moment, "Life's a comet,
it's here and gone..." he says, slowly. I feel a smile touch my
lips, remembering the philosophy I had taught to a street punk years
ago, and had slowly fallen out of since.
"So grab it by the tail, and take it for a spin." I said, finishing
the familiar phrase as if greeting a long lost friend. I look back
to Nathan and find that he's smiling back at me, "Ok, so Jack Richardson's
dead." I state. Nathan nods, gravely. I look up to the ceiling,
letting go a long, ragged, breath.
"Well then, who the hell am I?" I ask uncertainly, leveling
my friend with a sober gaze. Nathan looks at me, one eye squinting as he
"John is a form of Jack." he suggests. My muzzle wrinkles in
a grimace, "Never cared for John." I say. Nathan shrugs apologetically.
For a few minutes, we sit in silence, contemplating. Suddenly, my
ears prick as an idea flits through my mind, "There was this old
movie I used to watch, really old flick, still in black and white,
God it was my favorite! Anyway, the main character was what was
called a Mobster. His name was Johnny Valentine." I explain, smiling
My nostalgia is broken by the sound Feline laughter, this time
I'm the one with the puzzled look,
"Valentine? As in Valentine's day, the sappiest holiday on
the calendar? As in everyone sending everyone little pink and red
hearts or heart shaped candy boxes? AS IN..."
"OK, OK, I get the point! You got anything better?" I cried,
aiming a friendly swat at his shoulder. The panther's expression
becomes thoughtful again, his eyes getting a faraway look. After
a moment he looks back to me, grinning, "How about Vulpine? he asks.
I consider the name for a moment, feeling a grin of my own
forming. "Vulpine." I say slowly, tasting the name like a new flavor.
I look to Nathan, he nods approvingly. I put out my hand for a shake,
"Johnny Vulpine." I introduce myself. The Panther morph smiles warmly,
"Banghra." he replies, giving my hand a firm clasp and shake.
I nod, "Banghra." I say in acknowledgment.
Banghra signals the waitress, "Yo Edwina, gimmie a milk!" "And
another Scotch Neat!" I add. Moments later, we have our drinks.
Banghra raises his glass in a toast, "Well Mr. Vulpine, welcome
to the neighborhood." I raise my scotch in return, "Here's to things
we've lost, may they make way for things to come."
"Amen." answers Banghra, clinking his glass to mine.