"Nicholas! You're okay!" She squealed as she ran towards me. I just sat there, trying to hide the obvious details from her sight. My legs were covered in the sweatpants I'd found, so that was sorted, and the gem was invisible save for the small lump beneath my shirt. She reached her arms out for a hug, and I stood up to reciprocate the action. I'm fairly tall, at 6'2", and Carmen was not, at 5'7". Thankfully, though, her cheek hitting a chunk of duct-taped rock did not draw her attention at all, not even for the fifteen seconds she spent hugging me before trying to say something through her tears. "I... I'm so glad you're okay!" She whispered.
Now, hopefully she did not hear it, but behind her, Marco let out a split second of a muted snicker.
"I am too." I said, rubbing a hand through her blonde hair. I, myself, was trying to hold back laughter as well. 'Okay' was hardly an apt term for my situation. 'Dire straits', 'completely screwed', 'cursed', 'scarred for life', might all be better terms than 'okay'. But, she did not have to know this. She was unknowing of the real situation, and was convinced a plane crash was the worst event in my life over the past two days.
"What happened?" She asked, pulling backwards a little to look me in the eyes.
I got hit by lightning, totalling my aircraft and tearing a chunk of forest out, turned into a Raiju a few seconds later, gained control of the change through a big blue crystal, I thought.
"Lightning strike. Apparently, I didn't build the bird quite as well as I thought," I remarked, laughing a little. I don’t know quite why, however.
"Was anyone else aboard?" Carmen asked, with a hint of panic.
"No, it was just me."
"What did the police say?" She asked, concerned.
"The police really don't need to know." Marco chimed in. "It's his plane, my land, we're both fine, no one was hurt, and he was flying when it went down, so the police really can't do much. Other than insurance, which, really, is pretty important, but we can wait."
"I guess. Still," she hugged me again, "I'm so glad you made it!"
"So am I." was all I said. But part of me wishes I hadn't.
"Well, I know you guys are having a moment here," Marco interrupted, "But we need to get the stuff off of the boat, so we should get going before the midday sun cooks us." He stepped out the door, leaving us laughing.
I dropped the embrace, and we both stepped outside. The dock was about fifty meters to the left of the front door, with the landing strip-driveway combination running from the docks, past the house, and into the woods.
"Carmen, can you bring the ATV over, I'll get the trailer?"
"Sounds good!" She called over her shoulder as she walked over to where Marco had ditched the vehicle a few hours prior.
I walked over and grabbed the trailer from under the deck. Sure, we only needed to move the stuff fifty metres, but there was a lot of stuff on the boat, and we were all somewhat lazy. Also, I was completely wiped. I had not really noticed, possibly something to do with the adrenaline rush of changing form twice, but I was tired, possibly something to do with the energy expended by changing form twice, and I really wanted to get the cargo off of the boat and get to bed, see if I could catch some sleep. But, first, there was cargo to haul.
I dropped the trailer onto the ATV's hitch, and jumped in. "Let's go." She gave me a weird look, and started driving towards the dock. Getting there took all of ten seconds, but riding in the trailer was far more fun than walking. She stopped on the gravel next to the dock, kicking up stones as the wheels stopped turning. I hopped out, stumbling on the landing with the combination of uncomfortable shoes and non-human feet. I didn't fall, though, so that was something.
"Alright back there?" Carmen asked.
"Just fine. Don't worry." I said, shaking my head a little. I walked over to the boat, where Marco was already unloading the coolers and bags. I counted five coolers, three 24 packs of beer, and a half-dozen flats of soda. We hauled them in short order onto the trailer, and Carmen drove it back as Marco and I walked. I asked him a brief question.
"Marco, I need to know something. What was your cover story?"
"What?" He asked, slowing down to look at me. "Oh. That. Yeah, I told her that I went to check the wreckage and found you fine on the ground. You crawled out of the wreckage once you woke up."
"Oookay. When?" I asked, needing to know the important parts.
"Immediately after talking with her."
"Okay. Anything else I should know?"
"Yeah. You got your legs pretty badly sliced up, and we patched you back up with some gauze from the first aid kit. That's the excuse for why you've got sweats on. I said that you said you were feeling fine, so yeah. That's really the entirety of the story."
"And the necklace? Did you tell her anything about it?" I asked, pulling it out from beneath my shirt to show him.
"No. How about...." He trailed off of the word, rubbing a non-existent goatee, before snapping his fingers and pointing at me, "I've got it! You just, no, wait, uh..." He stopped again, "Screw elegant answers, say it's some fragment of your plane that you don't wanna lose. Sentimental value, perhaps?"
"Yeah. Okay. But only if she asks." I said with a smirk.
"Hey, you guys walking or what?" Carmen yelled from up by the cottage. "It ain't gonna unload itself!"
"Coming!" Marco shouted back, resuming his walking pace.
"Only if she asks." I whispered in a sarcastic tone. He laughed, shaking his head a little, before continuing forth.
When reaching the trailer, Marco grabbed two of the boxes, hefting them towards the door. I followed suit, grabbing two of the soda flats, and starting to walk towards the deck, where Carmen was starting a loop to the pantry. Unloading the trailer was easy, although my calves were in major pain by the end of the cargo session. Normally, I was not the kind to leave when the work was getting hard, but I was willing to make an exception here. I sat down on a chair on the deck.
"Carmen, Marco, look, I'm dead tired. So I'm going to leave you with this pile of food, and try to be all bright-eyed and bushy tailed," I noticed Marco holding back a laugh at this particular turn of phrase, "in a few hours." Carmen began to say something, leading with a distinct note of concern, but I just kept going. "Don't worry, I'm fine, and I'll be fine. Just try to let me sleep." I walked inside, ignoring the confused glare I was getting from my girlfriend. I walked into one of the guest bedrooms, which thankfully only had a twin bed. I locked the door behind me, before stumbling into the washroom, which I also locked. I pulled off my shoes, and took a long look at my feet. It wasn't pretty. My legs were truly no longer up to the task of supporting my weight alone, let alone mine and that of a case of beer. My calves were throbbing with pain under the blue fur, which ran high over my feet, more accurately paws. Also, where did those second joints come from? How can I even walk with a backwards second knee? That makes no sense!
I took off my shirt and regarded my confusing form. I was still human from the knees up. An hour ago, the fur had only reached my lower calves, but at this point it was barely clear of my - what would I call them, upper knees? Actually, those bottom ones would be ankles, would they not, so just knees? Either way, my ankles had relocated themselves to roughly 10 centimetres above the floor.
I looked at the distances involved, and thought about the time involved. At this rate, if I wore it while sleeping, I'd have a very unpleasant morning surprise. That was assuming it only got worse while I was using it, though. Either I was screwed or I wasn't, but I would rather minimize risk. Carefully considering my options, I walked back into my room, locking the guest bathroom door behind me. I backed a chair up against the room's main door's handle, wedging it as hard as I dared.
I took a deep breath, before taking off the necklace and placing it on a hook on the back of the door. As soon as it was off me, I felt the wave of changes begin, and I slumped onto the bed, massaging feeling of my face extending lulling me to sleep.
"I don't know! The handle is unlocked, but the door is wedged!" Carmen shouted, voice bordering on hysteria. I opened my eyes slowly, not wanting to alert her to my presence until I was human. I rolled off of the bed, trying to not make a sound. The necklace was on the hook on the door, not even a meter from where she was jiggling the key frantically. I walked over on four paws, before attempting to grab the necklace.
"Nicholas!" She yelled, pounding on the door.
Oh crap! I shouted to myself. I did not think this through! I stood my front on the chair, and barely managed to bite into the edge of the duct tape. I held on while and pulled, yanking the hook right out of the door with a crunch. I slipped it over my head with a certain degree of effort, and held tight, ignoring the pounding and yelling. Slowly, my mouth reformed. “Please work.” I whispered to myself, before returning the noise "Eh? Carmen?" I muttered loudly. "Jesus, quit the pounding! I'm awake!"
"Nicholas! My god, are you okay? It's two in the afternoon, and you locked the door!"
The gem was having a minimal effect on me, so far only transforming most of my face and not much else. "I'm fine, don't worry about me." I shakily stood up, walking over to where I'd dumped my clothes the past night. Grabbing my pants with my forepaws, not an insignificant task, might I add, I pulled them over my legs.
"Look, you should at least come eat breakfast." She said, trying to bargain me out of my room.
"I will shortly." I replied, watching the rate of retreat slow to a stop. "Shit!"
"What?" She asked, suddenly filled with concern.
"Nothing." I replied, trying to keep the panic out of my voice. "Just dropped something." Crap. Marco, I could really use some help now.
"Carmen, leave him alone, alright? I'm sure he's just fine." Marco pitched in as he heard my thoughts.
Wait, Marco, if you can hear me, knock on the door three times and ask if I'm fine. I tried to say to Marco.
Sure enough, three knocks pounded on the door, followed by a calm "Nick, you alright in there?"
"I'm just fine. Gimme a minute." Marco, the gem isn't working. My mouth and neck are just barely in range of the necklace. I need some help. How the hell can I recharge it?
“Yeah, um, I’ve got no idea.” He whispered. “Perhaps you shock it?”
That might work. Just slice an extension cord or something?
“No, that’s AC. You can’t charge with it, not without a rect-” He stopped his electronics explanation promptly when Carmen overheard. “You should probably just sleep some more, no one expects you to be in great condition.”
“Yeah, okay.” That’s not very helpful. Can you build one of those things and pass it to me somehow?
“I’m gonna go to the washroom, out in a minute.” Carmen called from outside the door. I heard her walking away.
“Okay, she left. Open the door.”
I pushed myself against the chair, unlocking the door in the process. It crashed onto the floor, cracking in the process. I pushed my mouth up to the deadbolt and, carefully, grabbed the knob with my teeth, twisting with as much effort as I could. It clicked open, much to my chagrin.
“Coming in now.” The knob twisted, and Marco stepped in, blinking repeatedly in the darkness. The room was almost pitch black with the absence of windows, and the further lack of active lighting. I was not bothered by it, perhaps a consequence of my current form’s eye’s being less human than I would prefer, along with my ears, nose, and practically every other part of my body. “You’re not looking too good there, buddy,” He said with a laugh. Thankfully, I was far beyond caring.
“Save the jabs for later. We need to fix this problem.” I snapped.
“Well, we don’t know how. We should try shocking it, but I doubt AC would work, and I don’t have the stuff needed to build a good rectifier. Any rectifier, actually. You should probably bail outta here with the gem in hand, and try to charge it with your elemental-Raiju awesomeness before coming back and sneaking in. I don’t know how it works, but-“
As frequently happens, Marco was cut short by a sharp gasp from Carmen. Just as he and I were starting to console her, she started screaming. This was not a scream of shock, not a cry of alarm, this was an unadulterated scream of terror, bordering on hysteria. We both turned towards her, realizing all too quickly that the jig was, in fact, up.
“Hey, woah, calm down! Calm down!” Marco insisted.
I just raised my hands, well, paws, defensively, and put them back as I started to stumble. “Hey, Carmen, chill out! It’s me, Nicholas!” I shouted, trying to get her to realize the situation was a bit more complex than what it seemed to be. “It’s me!”
“Marco, get away from that! It’s a wolf!” She screamed, back pedalling.
“Carmen!” Marco yelled, “Chill the hell out! That ‘wolf’, She continued hyperventilating, but stopped trying to run. That was a marked improvement. “is someone you’ve known for five-“
“Six”, I corrected politely, becoming a little too factual in my pursuit of calm.
”-years.” He finished.
“Carmen. It’s me.” I said, looking right at her. She stared back at me, shaking her head slowly.
“That’s… that’s not possible. None of this is possible! How?” She said, starting to cry softly, still looking at me.
“The lightning strike. It would have killed me, but some magic saved me, turning me into this.” I ventured, trying to sound more upbeat than I actually was.
“Then how is your mouth… maw… muzzle… how can you talk?! Why is your mouth still human?”
“We found a gem that can turn me back to human, but its area of effect fades over time.” I replied calmly, trying to increase the number of non-hysterical individuals by one. “We don’t know how to recharge it.” I realized that my voice was getting coarser.
“But… but… what?” She stammered, mouth hanging open after the last word.
“Look, Carmen, I know it makes no sense, but it is what it is.” Marco assured her.
“At least I’m alive!” I ventured, voice turning gravely towards the end. “Oh-“ I began, ending in a growl. Shoot! Marco, my throat just got far enough out of range that I can’t speak. Can you reach over and adjust the gem?
He nodded, and reached over to move the gem closer to my throat. Meanwhile, she spoke up. “It… it does explain something. You were weirdly tall yesterday. I mean, you always were pretty tall, but you were easily a few inches, hell, a foot, taller than normal. I didn’t want to bring it up. And you were wearing a necklace.” She absorbed her own statements slowly. “Nicholas.” She whispered, crying. “I’m so sorry!” Now she was sobbing.
Meanwhile, Marco pulled off the necklace and started adjusting it. Hey! Put that back! I complained in thought-speak, as my mouth had ceased to work for speech.
“You won’t need it right now. Trust me.” He adjusted the cord carefully, and I turned back to Carmen as my face and head turned back in their entirety. She looked up just in time to see the changes finish in a wave from my back to my ears. She reached over a hand, and scratched at my neck, giggling a little. As much as her doing that in this situation irritated me, I could not deny how good it felt.
“Why is he all blue and white? I’ve never seen a wolf like that before.” She remarked as she kept scratching me.
I did not want to move from the pleasure, so I let Marco answer. “Well, uh, do you know what a Raiju is?”
“What what is?” She replied. She stopped scratching, but a brief whine of pleading from me made her resume.
“Nevermind.” he said, waving it off.
“So he basically became a colourful dog?" She asked with a small laugh through her sadness. I gave her a mental glare but did not budge from under her hand. The scratches felt too nice.
“Something like that.” He said, still fidgeting with the necklace. “Okay, Nick, the gem is good. We still need to charge it, but now it should stay near enough your mouth.” He reached towards me, but I stopped him.
Wait! I’m having a moment here. Just hang on to it for now. I asked of him. He pulled his hand back.
“Why aren’t you putting it back on him?” She asked, casting a sideways glance at Marco.
“You two are having a moment. I’d rather not interfere.” He said with a sarcastic tone.
Do my back next. I urged her in my mind. She did not seem to notice the telepathy, and moved her hand further along my back.
Marco walked out of the room, leaving the gem on the bedside table. Carmen and I stayed there for a few minutes, before she stopped scratching, and gave me a hug. “Nicholas, I love you no matter what you look like.” I had no idea what to say to that. Luckily, I didn’t have to, as she stood up and walked out the door shortly. I was left sitting there, wondering what the future would bring, and trying to pull the gem over my neck with just a muzzle and paws. This was not an insignificant task.
Crap, Carmen, can you come help me out here? I asked, it’s really hard to get the necklace on without hands.
“Sure.” She said, turning around and walking back in. She grabbed it from the table, but paused. “Is it actually worth it, though? I mean, you can still talk with us regardless, and you look pretty silly with your face half-morphed like that.”
I considered her opinion, trying to keep my thoughts away from the aesthetics side of things. I suppose so. Heck, can you just grab it and ditch it on the kitchen table? She nodded and grabbed the necklace, now bordering on collar, and walked out of the room. I followed her out the door, into the kitchen, where Marco was cooking the remaining steaks.
As was his typical style, Marco decided to add something to the silence. “So, Nick, you decide not to use the gem for now?”
In case it wasn’t sufficiently obvious, yes, I replied, watching Carmen put the gem down on the countertop. Carmen pointed out that there really wasn’t a reason to have the gem when it’s this low on power. I’ll figure out how to charge it soon enough, though.
“Alright. Hey,” He said with a wink, “how do you want your steak done?”
Raw. I replied, turning my head just enough to watch Carmen gag. She looked at me, a look of disbelief on her face.
“That’s disgusting.” She stated bluntly. “How can you just eat meat raw?”
Easily, I replied with a smirk, looking her right in the eyes. I shot an aside to solely Marco. Toss me something soon. And continued talking to Carmen, I just kinda grab it, and… As I finished, the meat that Marco had thrown got within a few millimeters of my mouth, and I jumped forward, grabbing the meat-slab in my jaw, and swallowing it whole. The look of horror was clear on her face, but she managed to squelch it.
She is going to freak when she sees what I can do with electricity, I whispered to Marco.
He snickered, watching her hilarious reaction to the meat. I was quite enjoying the combined looks of disapproval, disgust, and general culinary displeasure for my own somewhat twisted reasons.
“That’s horrifying!" She reiterated.
That was more or less the idea, I admitted, grinning what was really a voracious grin. Marco continued giggling behind me. She stood up from the chair and paced around the room a little.
“I’m going for a walk, I need some fresh air.” She stated, heading for the door.
Mind if I join you? I asked.
“Sure you can. Just... Never mind. Sure. Com’on. Marco, we’ll be back in a few minutes.”
“Okay. Lunch’ll be ready in, uh, ten, so just be back for then. Enjoy!” He twisted a knob, and the stove burner clicked a few times before igniting, casting a faint yet vile scent into the air. I forced the air from my nose trying to get the smell out. I followed Carmen out the door when she opened it, and we sauntered out onto the deck. The two of us walked out towards the water, not speaking, or thinking, in my case, a word, for a few minutes in the sun.
“Nicholas," She began.
“There are so many things I want to know right now.” She stopped walking, and turned to look over the river, before continuing. “You’re a wolf now! I mean, how can you feel comfortable about that?”
There are ways, I replied as I sat down on my, what, haunches? Was that the right term? Either way, I was sitting down next to where she was standing. She followed suit, sitting a meter or so away from me, facing towards me. It’s as though I’ve always been like this. Nothing about it feels unnatural.
“But, like, walking on four legs,” Somehow, she felt obligated to illustrate this point with a weird hand motion, “cannot be easy. You just figured it out?”
It’s a heck of a lot easier than walking on two. I replied, looking over the rolling waves.
“I suppose it could be…” She conceded. There was a pause of awkward silence, before she spoke up, “Anything you wanna talk about? We should start heading back soon.”
Was this my opportunity to tell her the real fun part?
Yeah. I’m… not really a wolf, per se, so much as a Raiju.
“A what?” She asked, confused.
A Raiju. Canine-lightning-elemental. I stated, standing back up. Watch. With that instruction issued, I flexed in that ever-so finessed manner, and felt the charge flow into me. The crackling noises started soon followed by the blue glow that emanated from me. I looked back at her, where she stood mortified. This is what I really look like. It feels so… so nice, just having all of this energy on tap.
She gave a tenuous nod of comprehension, so I continued.
The world is different to me, now. I see it as it once was, but there’s more. I can see current flowing. I can shoot lightning from my body. I can teleport, for goodness sake! It didn’t feel natural at first, but now I know that I can control it all. It’s fricking awesome!
“How?” Was all she asked, standing back up hurriedly. “This doesn’t make any sense!”
It doesn’t to me either, but it is what it is, and there’s nothing I can do about it now.
She was barely a millisecond away from a remark, when Marco’s voice reached us, “Guys! Steaks’re ready!”
“We can talk about it later.” She decided, starting to walk back. I watched her saunter away, shaking a little with every step.
Me, I decided on a more interesting arrival, and looked forth on the location, appearing there a second later in a flash that was bright to me.
Somehow, Carmen only now took to her mind what I had said.
“You…. You… you just-”
Teleported. Yeah. It’s the major upside, I clarified as I turned the sparking off, walking onto the patio.
As I walked inside, the sparks disappeared, and Marco looked at me.
"How’d that go?” He asked, holding a frying pan of steak in the other hand.
Good question. She’s hardly unfazed by all this, I’ll say that much.
“She’s come to terms with it, right?”
About as much as I’d expect her to, yeah.
He opened his mouth to say something, but stopped when he heard her walking onto the porch. He paused, and continued. “So I think I’ve figured something out.” Carmen walked in, eyes looking vacant. “The gem. It must have been in your plane when you crashed, right?”
Yeah. I mean, it’s unlikely that it wouldn’t have been sent flying were it on the ground when I touched down.
“My thinking exactly.” He concurred, continuing while he grabbed a pair of plates from a cabinet. “Obviously, you didn’t have anyone’s cargo on-“ He flipped one steak from the pan onto a plate, and did so with the other one presently. “-board the plane when you flew over here. So someone is missing a magic gemstone. And you undoubtedly have contact info for them.” He turned off the stove and grabbed both of the plates, walking around to the table.
Yeah, for all of the shipments I’ve taken I’ve had to get the manifests, alongside the shipping info. So I should have the names, number, hell, even home addresses of all the senders and receivers. Marco nodded as he set a plate down on the table.
“Where’d you store them?” He asked, giving Carmen her plate. She was still catatonic, and barely acknowledged the food before her. “Carmen?”
“What? Oh, food. Thanks Marco.” She began with a jump.
“No problem. So, Nicholas, where’d you store the manifests?” He asked as he started eating.
My laptop should have a copy. They synced over the internet to a file server at my house, so even if I can’t recover them here, I should be able to find them at home.
“I did find your laptop, actually. Remember? We brought it back from the crash.” He pointed out, gesturing with his knife to the bag on the floor. “If it can still boot, I’ll grab the files. Otherwise, I’ll pull the drive and put it in my PC over in the office.”
Your cottage has an office?
“It’s a private island, it’s not like my parents had an absence of spare cash when they constructed the place. I just filled the opportunity.” His justification was not as weak as I had expected.
I guess so. I’ll have to leave you to that; I’m hardy in good shape to handle an M3 screw.
“Just let me eat first. I’ll get to it. In the meantime, you should try and charge the gem.”
What, just zap it and see what happens?
“Yeah. Let me just cut it out of the duct tape.” He stood up and grabbed the necklace from the countertop, and pulled it apart, leaving solely the small gem. “Catch.” He tossed it to me nonchalantly.
Hey, easy! I warned as I jumped to catch it in my mouth. Please never do that again.
“Killjoy. Fine, I won’t. Now go get zapping while we eat.” He said with an unapologetic tone.
Aye aye, captain, I replied sarcastically as I walked out the door, nudging it to the side with the end of my muzzle. Once outside, I pulled the door closed with a hind-paw, and walked onto the pathway. I dropped the gem onto a flat patch of ground, and looked at the task before me. Guessing that I just needed to apply voltage until something happened, I engaged the electrical power. The trees nearby gained a blue glow in their shadows.
Let’s do this. I thought, looking at the gem on the ground before me. I focused the energy tightly, glaring at the pale blue dot. I growled a rough low tone as I continued focusing. As the charge grew, the effort needed to withhold it grew also. And suddenly, I lost the battle against the charge. The blue bolt left lines in even my vision, but it hit straight on the mark.
Once my vision cleared, I approached the gem, somewhat apprehensive of all of the ‘What ifs’ of the scenario. I reached a meter from it, and, drawing a deep breath, stepped into the range of it. Quickly, the feelings of change returned throughout my body, travelling in a wave from my head as I grew shorter with the change’s progress.
“Yes!” I shouted from my newly reverted mouth. “Yes it worked!” The wave of changes reached my knees, and I pushed off the ground, gem in hand. I started walking, heck, almost dancing, back to the cottage, only realising I was naked when I got within a half-dozen meters of the front steps.
“Oh. Crap.” It was still bright out, so just running in and hoping for the best would not work. “What to do…” I consideresd my options carefully, looking around. My stuff was in the living/dining room, in my backpack. right beside the table where the only other people within a kilometer were eating lunch, neither of who would ever let me forget “that one time you walked into Marco’s cottage ass-naked with nothing but that damn gem in your hand”. Alcohol would probably be involved in the recounting. A single change of clothes was on the floor in the guest bedroom. I considered my options. Given the circumstances, not asking either of them was probably the best option.
How I forgot the obvious option of setting down the gem and just walk back in, I would love to know. Heck, I could have teleported, had I thought to. But, for some reason, my high-on-life brain decided that breaking into an unlocked building would be the best course of action. So I started slinking my way around the back of the building. Walking silently was no challenge on my two paws, although walking quickly was a trick. The gem seemed to be reaching from the top of my head to my knees, which was just enough room for comfortable movement. I reached the back of the cottage, and looked at the window in question. It was about full wall height, screenless, and slightly ajar. Carefully, I reached my hand in and twisted it open, before planting both hands and jumping through. I came down silently, now inside, congratulating myself on such a swift jump.
After getting some pants and a shirt on, I stepped back towards the door. As I turned the knob, an irritating and piercing noise broke my concentration. Is that my cellphone? I pondered, listening carefully.
It rang again, and I stepped through the door, towards where my phone was ringing. Carmen and Marco both turned as I made a beeline across the room to my backpack.
“Hey, it worked!” Marco remarked, reaching out to give me a high five. I ignored him, rummaging through my bag. Sure enough, right at the bottom was a glowing screen. I grabbed it, glancing at the number as I pulled it up to my head.
“Hello?” I said.
“Hello there. This is Nicholas Marquez, correct?” An older man asked, sounding as though he were hiding something beneath a false calmness.
“Yeah. To whom am I speaking?” I asked, in a completely no bull tone of voice.
“Immanuel Samson, a long-time customer of yours. I call because a fairly important package my company shipped through your service has did not arrive in its entirety.”
“Oh? Did it not?” I asked, pretending not to know. I was pacing a circle in the kitchen. Marco and Carmen were watching me, trying to listen in. “You said in its entirety? Can you describe to me what was missing?”
“There was a small fishing tackle-box in my shipment. Has a few odds and ends in it, none of which were fishing tackle. A particularly important one was missing.”
“Can you describe this item?” I have had many problems with packages dissociating themselves on landing, mostly where gravel and dirt trails were involved, so having a few poorly-packaged items come loose was hardly newsworthy.
He paused, presumably trying to figure out the most careful manner of describing the contents. I decided to fill in the blank space.
“I recently found a blue glass trinket, roughly, oh, fifty millimetres wide, carved and polished nicely. Does that sound familiar?”
The noise of him gasping was clear over the phone.
“Yes! That is one of them! Where is it now?” He snapped.
“It’s on a table two metres to my right,” I lied, rolling it around in my hand. “I found it when I last disembarked, been trying to figure out who to call.”
“Okay. Listen, son, I would advise two things. First, do not touch the trinket, as you so eloquently put it. Second, do not let it in contact with any static electricity, do I make myself clear? That is of paramount importance.” By the metered sound of it, he was probably gesticulating wildly over where he was.
“Yessiree. Got it. No static. Right.” I chuckled a little bit, “Uh, why?”
“Do not question me, son. No static.” He warned in what had been his most harsh tone until that point.
“Okay. Listen, uh, if, say, the plane had been struck by lightning, what might have happened?”
“You would have been a fine mess, son.”
"Can you be more specific?"
"No. How quickly can you get it to me? I'm still at the original address."
"Uh.... not for a while." That's an understatement. "I'm on a vacation right now, as noted on my website."
"Ah, yes. I'm sorry, as an entrepreneur myself, I understand how hard the conflict between trying to keep customers satisfied and taking some time off can be,"
"I appreciate your understanding, sir, but-"
"I need that object returned. Now."
"I can't do that, sorry." I replied. There was a pause, where I heard some muted chatter over the line. I could not make out a word, though.
"Fine. Goodbye." The line went dead. I put the phone in my pant pocket. I breathed a sigh of relief.
Marco, however, was less than relieved, "What the hell was that?" Carmen was also looking concerned.
"Good news: I found the guy who lost the gem."
"And, he's letting me keep it for the time being."
“Hey, Nick, how’d you get into your bedroom?” Carmen asked, clearly not as interested in the subject at hand.