The cool mountain air filtered through the zippered openings in the Liger’s leather street armor jacket. The tinted visor shielded her eyes form the setting sun as it rested on the edge of the peaks in the distance. The trip was a bit unplanned, but most everything she did these days seemed to be more spur of the moment than usual. Alex told them that the easiest way to deal with the new member of their group was to get guardianship rights from the moose’s parents. The task was easier than the long cross country Motorcycle trip Lilliana set out on, but she had a few other things she wanted to take care of in person in the town of Winter Creek.
As she rounded the final corner at what felt like ninety miles an hour on the Honda Shadow, the quaint small town presence of the mountain community came into view. The bit of research she had done before her excursion let her know that from the main approach the town seems smaller than it really was. She slowed to a more reasonable speed as she approached the first light. The entrance to the town had the quaint small town feel with the string of connected shops that ran down both sides of the street and several cars parked at the side of the road.
She came to a stop at the red light and shifted the roaring beast into neutral as she reached into a small breast pocket to retrieve the slip of paper with the Daniels’ address on it. She flipped the tinted visor up to get a better look at the paper in the fading light of the evening. Not much to her surprise there were still several residents walking the streets. She took an opportunity to cut the engine of the bike and walk it to the curb. Slipping the helmet off she tapped the nearest person on the shoulder, “Excuse me, could you tell me how to get to this address?”
Looking at the slip of paper in the liger’s paw the badger cocked an eyebrow questioningly as he said, “the Daniels place? Yes, go down two more lights, hang a right and stay on that road until you hit the cul de sac. Their place is the one smack dab in the middle.”
“Thank you,” She said with a smile a moment before it melted to an emotionless expression, “One more thing, I am looking for a young man named Mark, any Idea where I might find him?”
“Mark? No last name? Maybe a description of him, there are quite a few young men in town by that name. I’d hate to send you on a wild goose chase,” the older badger explained.
“He’s a Bernese mountain dog, recently married on a cruise,” she said still maintaining the calm collected mentality as she thought through her plans for the young man, “I understand he is a bit of a celebrity here. At least among the youth.”
“A Bernese you say? That would have to be Mark Jameson, don’t know I’d call him a celebrity, but he’s fairly well known. About as popular as they come with the local kids too. Anyway, ummm, yea the wife and I saw him and his new bride about an hour ago down at Mel’s Diner. They were talking about taking a stroll through town before they headed home. They usually go a lap or two around McKendry Park when they’re in town. It’s about five blocks down that way,” the man said pointing off to his left down a side street.
With a somewhat weak smile that bordered on an evil grin she said, “Thank you, and just how often do they come to town?”
“Two or three times a week at least, with the weather about to get cold up here they may come a bit more before the snow starts flying,” the man answered with an odd expression on his face.
“You’ve been very helpful,” Lilliana said as she slipped the helmet back on and moved back to the motorcycle. She glanced out of the corner of her eye as the badger watched her cautiously. She knew that the word about her looking for Mark wouldn’t take long to get to him. That was of little concern to her at the moment; She needed to get the main mission done first so that she could take her time with the rest of her plans. She ignored the push button starter as she kicked the beast between her legs to life and pulled into the almost nonexistent evening traffic to follow the simple directions to Daisy’s family home.
The liger took a deep breath as the cul de sac came into view and the modest home of the Daniels sat at the very end of the street. ‘Just hope the right one answers the door,’ she thought to herself as she pulled the bike into the short driveway and dismounted. She left the helmet on and visor down as she grabbed the small attaché case from under the field pack strapped to the rear of the cruiser. She walked up to the door and knocked as she thought about the fact she should have called, at least from the road, to warn Ricky that she was coming to get the signature. As she unzipped her jacket far enough to allow easy access to her side arm without letting it be visible to any bystanders as she waited for the door to be answered.
As the door swung open Raquel turned to look behind her as she said, “that’s fine Arnold, but when Daisy calls you’re going to be the one to tell her that. I told you already that I wasn’t getting in the middle of it again. If you’re sure that’s what you want me to do then fine, but it’s on you to tell her that.” As she turned to look at who ever had knocked she started, the person standing at her door not what she had expected to see as she stared into the tinted face shield. “Can I help you?” she asked hesitantly.
The liger breathed a sigh of relief as she contemplated what she heard as the door opened. Flipping up the visor she said, “That all depends on how much you want to piss off the significant other. It sounds like things are already heated and I have a little more fuel to add to the fire.”
Stepping through the door, closing it quietly behind her Raquel looked at the liger with a stunned expression on her face, “Lily? What…” she trailed off, unsure of what to even ask. Collecting herself after a brief moment her eyes went wide, “what do you mean add fuel to the fire? What’s happened?”
She slipped the helmet off as she started to explain, “Nothing happened yet. There is just a small matter helping us take care of Daisy as best we can. Here’s the deal, I am a member of the faculty at the most prestigious Private school system in the city of Marblecliff. My friend and Lawyer, Alex, suggested that we have me listed as the guardian for her so that we can register her for classes at the faculty dependent discount. I just need some signatures from you and asshat to get that done.”
“I…” the moose matriarch began, her eyes going wider as she began to chuckle softly. “If you’re not psychic Lily, you should be. Arnold has been taking for the last few days about emancipating her, or at least not fighting her if she wants to do it. That’s what we were discussing when you knocked in fact. The only problem I see really is if he finds out you’re here, it might push him to be an idiot again. How soon would you need the papers signed by?” the moose woman asked.
“I have the papers here,” Lilliana said as she held up the attaché case, “I can leave them with you and we can meet up some time in the next few days, I have something else I am looking into while I am here.” She paused for a moment and looked around before adding, “Unless you want to see him shit his pants. I have five rounds of motivation in my bone collector and I haven’t had a chance to see the look of shock on a man’s face in a few months. But then again, I have other plans I might need that for.”
“As utterly tempting as that might be, I’ve been trying very hard of late to not inflame him in any way. I’ve got him in agreeance with what I’m doing with Paul, finally, and he hasn’t been on any kind of a tear since we returned home. If you leave the papers with me I can tell him they came in the mail tomorrow and I doubt he’ll give me any problems about signing them,” Raquel answered, looking back to the door behind her. “It’s still a little slow, but he is coming around to doing things my way about all of our children, I’d really like to keep it that way, and as peaceful as I can.”
With a smile the liger said, “I can live with that. Don’t get in the way of a mother when she has things working out for her children.” She knelt down and snapped the case open and pulled a few sheets of paper off the top of what looked like cloth wrapped machine parts. “Alex said this should be all we need, at least for the state of New Hampshire. Should also be good if she returns for summer break or anything. But who knows what those two will be doing by then.” She looked up at the moose matron as she added, “You still have my number if you need anything, and I mean anything.”
“Yes I do, and if need be I won’t hesitate to use it. But as long as he stays as he has been I doubt you’ll be hearing from me because of him. Though you should hear from me sometime tomorrow once he signs these,” she said rustling the papers in her paw. “Then we can set up a meet to get them back to you. While I have you here though, how are our girls doing?”
“Had a little bit of a scare on the first day, but we are doing well. I don’t think they dyed her pink yet. They are saving that for the first day of school or something.” She tossed an arm over Raquel’s shoulder as she added, “Daisy is working hard to keep things going, but from what we’ve seen so far she might have a little trouble once school starts. There is a little bit of an anti-herm thing going on around the town. But Alex already proved that we won’t stand for belittling or berating anyone for anything. And the head master is fully against bullying for any reason. I just worry that Daisy might do something before the headmaster gets involved, But I think I can handle that.”
“That I would keep an eye on her for, she dealt with that more than she should have had to when she was little. It’s why we moved west in the first place after the school she was in all but demanded that she be taken out and home schooled because she wouldn’t bend to their will. She’s still as hard headed and stubborn as she has always been, but maybe she’ll not be so fast to fly off the handle with Cecily involved in her life,” the moose matron said shaking her head slowly.
“I can guarantee that the little mouse will have a … calming… effect on her,” Lilliana said with a smile, “And she has to deal with the Dark Riders anyway, school should be a breeze. They already have her sleeping with a paw full of jacks for some unknown reason. What they have planned is beyond me, but with the old man involved they should have Alex in check while I am not there.”
“Then it sounds like she’s in good paws, and she’s not nearly as quick to take offence at the things people might say about her as she used to be. As long as she’s not pushed too far she should be fine,” Raquel said as she folded the papers and stuffed them into her blouse. “I’m just glad to hear that those two girls seem to be getting past all the insanity that they found themselves mixed up in on that damn trip.”
“Well, I will let you be the one to deal with asshat,” Lilliana said as she lifted the helmet back to her head, “I have a puppy to hunt down and have a talk with.” She turned to Raquel and asked, “What do you know about this Mark guy that is helping Ralph and Zoe?”
“Mark Jameson? His wife Ariel and Daisy have been friends for a few years now. As far as what I know of him though he’s a good kid. A bit more involved in things than I would normally expect from someone that just turned eighteen recently. From the way Ariel and Daisy used to talk about him he’s got his paws in a lot of businesses in the metropolitan area. Seems to be the first one to help out any teen he hears about being in a bind. For the most part as far as I know he used to keep to himself mostly until about a year ago, but I’ve never heard anyone say what it was that brought him out of hiding from that cabin of his up in the mountains. He checks in with Ralph about every other day to see if there’s anything they need,” the moose mother said.
“Cabin in the mountains?” She asked, muffled slightly by the helmet, “You wouldn’t happen to know how to get to this cabin would you?”
“Everyone in town does as far as I know it and the land have been in his family for years. Straight through town on the main street, there’s a gravel road that turns off to the left about a mile past the edge of town that leads straight to it,” Raquel answered. “He’s lived there alone since he was fourteen, until Ariel moved in after the cruise that is.”
“Just to be on the safe side, I wasn’t here, for more reasons than Arnold,” Lilliana said in the same cold voice the moose heard when she had talked Arnold down back on the island. “People might ask because I got directions to your house from someone on the street.
Patting the papers under her blouse the moose woman said, “These came in the mail, and the trash was picked up after I threw the envelope away, I haven’t seen Lilliana Fargo since the cruise”
“Say hi to mommy and daddy for me next time you talk to the couple.” The liger glanced around the street before she kick started the bike and rode off, leaving the moose matriarch standing outside her house just a little concerned about the liger’s plans.
As Mark and Ariel exited Mel’s diner, their quiet meal undisturbed by anything around them, the two canines held paws as he turned to her and asked, “so sweet lady, head on home or a round or two around the park first?”
Gazing into his deep brown eyes his collie wife replied, “park I think. It’s not going to be much longer before it gets too cold for it.”
As the pair turned towards the towns well known and much used family park an older badger and his wife stopped as they were about to enter the town’s most popular eatery.
“Mark? By any chance are you expecting someone to come to town? There was a rather odd woman looking for you earlier this evening. She started asking questions that quite honestly put me off from her a bit,” the man said.
“Not that I can think of at the moment Mr. Smothers, but then again with everything going on with doc Saunders right now he may have sent someone up if he tried to reach me and didn’t get an answer. I’ll check with him after I get home. I wouldn’t worry too much about it, it’s not like anyone dangerous would be looking for me now is it?”
“No, I suppose you’re right,” the older man replied. “It just seemed rather odd.”
After the short exchange between them Mark turned to his wife and asked, “so, shall we head to the park now my love?”
“Yes, you know I love walking around that park, almost as much as I did when we were all cubs. Lead on stud puppy. Then we can head home and you can warm me back up from the chilly night air.”
Paws kicked up on the handlebars of the cruiser Lilliana leaned back, using the field pack as a makeshift pillow of sorts as she watched the people wander along the paths in the park. She sat comfortably stretched out on the bike as it sat level on the center stand. If it wasn’t for the fact that she was watching the two teenage pups walk paw-in-paw around the park she might have easily dozed off. The Bernese boy and his collie mate seemed to be not much more than your average high school heart throbs walking around with a case of puppy love as she watched them talk and giggle to each other. But she could tell by the look on his face that his mind was running in ten different directions when they passed close to where she had parked. There was something about him that she couldn’t put her finger on, something that he still dealt with deep down. It was written all over the micro expressions on his face. As they passed on their obvious exit to head away from the park she leaned forward, righting herself on the motorcycle and watched them in the small mirror on the side. Looking at them she felt a little sorry for what she was about to do to the unsuspecting couple.
Lilliana followed them down the modestly lit street as the cold night air chilled them. She smiled as she watched Mark wrap his arm around the collie’s shoulders and hold her close as she started to shiver slightly. Picking up her pace slightly she unzipped the leather jacket fully and reached in with her left paw to retrieve the smaller .45 caliber pistol as the street emptied with the chilled air and shop lights turning out. The opportune spot was only a few yards away between two shops that had closed sometime earlier in the day. She readied herself as the couple got closer to the checkpoint. When she was within a few feet of the pair she made her move.
“Mark Jameson!” she said loudly, getting the couples attention. As they turned toward one another to look behind them, the boy was separated just far enough for the liger to make her move without touching the young collie bystander in his presence. As soon as his eyes met hers she sprang forward snatching him by the throat and tossing the surprised dog into the dark alcove. She knew that the quick action was the only way she would get them apart without a fight from the strong young man. With the pistol in her paw pointed roughly at the boy’s chest she spun back pulling the second larger hunting pistol from its underarm holster and crudely pointing it over the shoulder of the girl, sure that the aim wasn’t putting her in any immediate danger.
The light reflected out of her orange eyes in the dark alley, illuminating just enough to show the cold expression on the ligers face as she said, “Run puppy, go get help.”
Ariel froze as the large liger grabbed her husband by the throat shoving him into the darkened alleyway. As she pulled another pistol, pointing it in roughly her direction, the woman spoke her warning to the young collie, telling her to run and get help. Looking quickly to Mark, the Bernese boy simply nodding slightly she turned and fled down the street as fast as her paws would carry her, knowing her only chance was to get to Arnold Kielder, who would be parked at the far end of the main street as usual.
As the girl fled Lilliana put the bone collector back in its place and turned back to her target. “Get out your cell phone and call the officer she is headed toward. I’m sure you have his number,” she instructed as she lowered the pistol to her side. “Tell him to take her back to the station to file a report, you have it under control and will be there shortly. How shortly depends on you.”
Pulling his cell phone from his front pocket Mark quickly found Arnolds number in his contacts and dialed. When the call was answered he spoke slowly and calmly, “Arnold? Yea this is Mark. Ariel is headed your way; she’ll be in a bit of a panic. We ran into a little problem while we were out walking. Just take her to the station and let her file a report. Everything is okay here, I have it under control. I’ll come down and get her and explain it when I get there okay?” He paused a moment waiting for an answer before he finished with, “I’m not sure yet, but assure her I’m not in any danger and I’ll be there in a little while, thanks.” Turning his full attention back to the woman that had grabbed him so suddenly he asked, “I’m assuming that to be true, I only hope I’m not wrong.”
“You’re not stupid, I’ll give you that one,” She said still showing little emotion to what was happening. “Stand up and start walking. Be sure to keep it in unpopulated areas, we wouldn’t want anything to go wrong, would we?” She slipped the remaining pistol back into its place in the underarm hoster opposite the large hunting pistol. “And don’t get too comfortable, the weapons are more for show than use.”
As the Bernese boy began walking he said, “End of the block and turn left. Everything down that street closed over an hour ago. The street should be empty; it’s all businesses so there shouldn’t be anyone around this time of night.”
As they moved into the deserted business area, lit only by the few street lights nearby, she looked around. “So someone takes you by gunpoint, threatens your wife with something that will put a soda can sized hole in her face, then tells you to walk to some place deserted, and you just comply?” She pointed to a picture window with a decent sized ledge and simply said “Sit.”
As Mark sat on the ledge of the window he said, “If you were going to kill me you would have already, and my wife as well to leave no witnesses. As far as threatening her, I doubt your aim is that bad, or that you would point that cannon over her shoulder by accident. Not to mention that the way you grabbed me I have no doubt that you wouldn’t need a gun to kill me if that was your intention.”
She dropped heavily onto the ledge beside Mark, her back thumping hard against the tempered glass of the window. “Nope, Not stupid in the least. That really makes me question what the fuck you are doing and why.”
“In regards to what in particular?” the young dog asked cocking an eyebrow at the liger.
She looked at him out the corner of her eye as she asked, “Just how many stupid things are you wrapped up in? I know I have a good list, this being the most fun at the moment.”
With a halfhearted chuckle he replied, “That would depend on what day it is and who you ask. I’m involved in one way or another with a lot of things and quite a few people so it’s a little hard to narrow it down without a bit more information.”
She reached into her jacket, noting the slight defensive move of the dog boy as she pulled out a small black book. “Really Mr. Jameson, you mind if I call you Mark?”
“Not in the least, I hear Mr. Jameson and I start looking for my father,” he answered, settling down just a bit as he saw the book in her paw. “At best guess, I would have to say this has something to do with one of my most recent stupid involvements, though that only narrows it down to five or six. Since you didn’t just shoot me, that actually narrows it down a bit further. So that would leave,” he said trailing off for a moment as he thought it over. “Either you're an angry parent that wants to talk some sense into me over the plans that involve Prairie Flats Prep, or this is about Ralph Daniels. So which is it?”
“So sure I was not paid to just scare you a bit?” She said with a little smile.
“While that is a possibility, anyone that would go to that much trouble would be more likely to just have me shot instead. The only people that would want to scare me would be after things of enough value that my life would mean little to them,” Mark said flatly. “As far as I know, only one person would go to the trouble to want to scare me, and he’s actually harmless at this point. I left him with no choice but to accept his son’s wishes and leave the boy alone.”
“Arnold Daniels was a toothless lion to start with, all roar and no fight,” the liger said as she flipped open the small black book. Visible on the page were several handwritten notes and names that caught the canine’s eye for a moment before she flipped to a blank page. “And with that I am guessing your non stupid brain has narrowed down my aims a little farther. I really don’t care about much of what you are involved in. The only thing that concerns me about that is the effect it can have on the things that I have my paws in. So… tell me about this Prairie Flats thing, considering that is where you care having the young couple go.”
“Prairie Flat is a private high school, and it was as much Ralph’s mothers idea as mine that they go there. Ralph has spent his middle school years in gifted and talented programs. He’s a very intelligent young man. Prairie Flats will continue to challenge him and prepare him for college.”
“Okay, Stop there, I have all that information.” she said as she pushed her paw into the tight pocket of her pants and pulled out a rather long, pointed rifle round and angled it in her fingers like a pencil. “What do you have that would be making parents pull you into an alley at gunpoint? That sounds much more interesting than a gifted boy being gifted and given a chance to show it.”
“Ahh, I see. The school has been trying for the last few years to be the cutting edge in education. The one course they, and all high schools offer that they want to excel in is sex education and early child development. One of the companies I’m involved with develops cutting edge technology. The head man there has come up with a way to simulate pregnancy. To a degree that has never been possible before. Some of the parents are against it and don’t want to see a pilot program the school plans to offer this year come to fruition. They’re against it because it goes quite far into the experience, some of the lab guys say it’s as close to a virtual reality experience as possible. So the parents of some of the girls have understandable concerns about it,” the Bernese boy explained.
“A rich boy with expensive playthings caters to a private school in a fashion that concerns teen sex education with virtual reality of some kind. Okay.. that just sounds like fun.” Lilliana sat and scribbled notes in the book using the tip of the live round to write on the white paper. “Now on to the real reason I am here, and whether you will be walking back to meet up with that cute collie of yours. It’s a simple question of motives and return on investment.” She glanced at Mark from the corner of her eye as she said, “I have a fair amount invested in the Daniels family as do you. I knew exactly what I am getting out of it, but from what I have heard from Ralph your motives are highly questionable in my book. You seem to be ‘GIVING’ the couple an awful lot with really no return on investment, if you see what I am getting at.”
“So you question the motives behind it, I can understand that. Maybe I can put our mind more at ease then. I am doing exactly what you think I am. There is a sizeable return on the investment in Ralph and Zoe. But you’re right that it’s not equivalent to the investment in them. Anyone else, I would flat out tell them to fuck off, it’s none of their business. But now I know that you’re the one connected to Daisy and her girlfriend so I’ll lay it out for you. Ralph reminds me of myself, in more ways than he understands. It comes down to something rather simple, though most people would never understand why I’m doing it. When I was Ralph’s age I fell hopelessly in love with a girl myself. In a similar fashion I got her pregnant, just as he did Zoe. But things didn’t go well for me either. Her father was adamant initially about her aborting the baby. He eventually recanted and we were allowed to be together. But unlike what I’m trying to insure for Ralph, I didn’t get the chance to know the sheer joy of being a father. The young lady, and what we found out a bit later to be our twin sons, were killed by a drunk driver, right in front of my eyes. I know all too well what losing everything that you love more than your parents, or even your own life is like. As far as I am concerned that is exactly what his father was trying to force on the boy. I couldn’t just stand by and watch it happen,” Mark said, the expression of sadness on his face growing as he spoke of the events of his past.
Looking back at the notebook as she scratched out her thoughts on the paper, she said, “I can respect your position, and to a point, the lengths you are going to for them. There is more to my concern than just the connection to his sister.” She slapped the small book closed and slipped it back into her pocket. “Here’s the deal, I know that you are using some resources that are not fully in your control, and using the boy for things beyond just your concern for his approaching family matters. There is a lot that can go horribly wrong in many ways for them, and in turn for you. You stepped in and helped them out before I had a chance to offer, but let me make it very clear.” Her voice deepened as she turned to look him in his tear filled eyes, “I will hold you personally responsible for anything that happens to them or their family. You, my little puppy, may have stepped into something bigger than you currently comprehend.” She handed him the rifle round, larger than most hunting rounds that Mark had seen with a small payload of a .338 caliber bullet in the casing. “Just remember, I might not be close but I don’t need to be.” With the simple unexplained words the liger stood and finished with, “You need to take care of your family as well as that of the young moose. I would hate to see the lovely young lady in a black dress.”
“I very well may have stepped into something larger than I imagined,” the young dog said as he flipped the large rifle round over in his paw. “And I’ll take your warning with the weight it carries. Just as I will take your sincerity and honesty of not needing to be close, not with this in my paw. Only one person that I know has ever had a round like this in their possession. I am no gun expert by any means, but I know enough to recognize a snipers round when I see one. Ralph, and his family, all of his family, are important to me. Even his fool of a father, who deserves the chance to fix what he screwed up. The same chance my own father had, and eventually made good use of. The boy deserves the chance to not end up in the dark, hateful, self-loathing place I put myself into. He and Zoe deserve to have the happiness I was denied because of the arrogant, foolish actions of an idiot. I intend for them to have that chance. Laws, society, and his father’s foolish pride be damned, they will have it.”
“Just be prepared for your law of returns for every negative thing that happens to them that gets back to me. Three fold puppy. And I have respect for your position, but no love for you to stay my paw, as it was held back against that same moose that you say needs a chance to fix his mistakes.” Lilliana started to walk into the darkness of the street ahead as she said, “now go get your mate, I am sure she is still worried about you, even if you did tell her to leave.”
Mark caught sight of Ariel nervously recounting the episode for who knows how many times as he walked into the small town style police station. Most of the squad room desks were vacant as most of the officers had gone home for the evening or were out on the standard patrols. With how little actually happened in the mountain town it still surprised Mark just how many officers they had on the force.
The young collie girl jumped up from her seat and ran to her husband as soon as she saw him round the corner. He felt the tears bounce off her fur and onto him as they collided, her arms instantly wrapping around him nearly squeezing him breathless. He quickly returned her embrace as her body quivered in his arms. He tried to imagine what she must have been through while he talked with the liger whose name he had never gotten. He looked down over her shoulder at his paw as he rolled the sniper round over in his fingers trying to figure out just how to explain what had happened, or more likely how to explain it away.
“Arnold, I’ll come in tomorrow, and we’ll discuss this then. Right now I think I need to get Ariel home, and get her settled,” the Bernese boy said as he pried himself loose from her grip. “Come on honey, we can talk on the way to the cabin,” he said, trying to get her out of the police station, and buy himself a little time to decide exactly what to tell her.
As the teens drove through town, heading back to the remote cabin that was their home Ariel stared at her husband, anxiously waiting for him to speak. After a long uncomfortable silence as the buildings of the business district slipped past he finally began to speak.
“I’m not going to tell you not to worry about what happened, but I want you to listen to me please. It wasn’t as bad as it appeared Ariel, not really, but…” he said trailing off for a few moments turning things over in his mind again. “I know it was frightening, but you weren’t in any real danger, if she had meant to hurt you her aim would have been different. What she was after was me” he said, seeing her shocked and frightened reaction from the corner of his eye. “Not so much after me like it sounds, her intent was to separate us. So she and I could have a little chat.”
“A little chat? She pulled a gun on you for crying out loud Mark. And you’re trying to tell me she just wanted to have a chat?” his wife nearly screamed at him. “What the hell was that all about then?”
“She had some concerns about some of the things I’m doing, for a few people that I’m helping right now. Honestly, I think more than anything she needed to know where I stood on some things,” he explained.
“That still doesn’t explain why she pulled a gun, two of them in fact, on us. What the fuck is going on Mark? What the hell are you hiding from me?” the collie asked, her voice nearly a screech.
“Shock and awe tactics, get my attention and make it clear that she intended to get the answers she came for. She got my attention, and did it without touching you at all. If she had meant me any harm we would both be dead now. She wouldn’t have told you to run and leave a witness that would go straight to the police. Ariel, she already knew who would be on duty, who you would run to and probably where he was at the time. The woman did her homework, only two reasons for that. We’re both still breathing, and unhurt so she obviously wasn't here to hurt either of us, you realize that don’t you?” he asked, glancing to look her in the eyes for a moment.
“Even if I give you that, why was she looking for you? Why did she go to all this just to talk to you?” she asked, still shaking from the encounter.
Sighing heavily, knowing he was losing the fight to keep her even partially in the dark he finally gave in. “She wanted to know the reasons, all of the reasons I’m doing so much for Ralph and Zoe,” he finally admitted.
“Why?” she asked simply, utterly confused.
“She has an investment in the Daniels family, very much like I do with Ralph, and I may be wrong, but I think to some degree she and I have similar reasons for doing the things we’ve done as far as they’re concerned,” he said, as they turned into the drive of the cabin. As he shut off the Jeep he turned to look her fully in the face. “She just has… a more physical way of getting the answers she wants. She wanted to talk to me, alone. The best way for her to do that was to separate us, get you out of the way quickly.” Reaching into his pocket, his paw touching the sniper round again he continued. “She made it clear that she didn’t have to get near me if she intended to hurt either of us. I won’t pretend that I know exactly why she wanted to know about my involvement with Ralph, or my methods for helping him. All I do know is that she seemed to be satisfied with what I told her.”
“How could someone like that possibly be connected to Ralph’s family in any way?” Ariel asked wide eyed.
“Where my concern is Ralph, her primary concern is with another member of his family, and what possible backlash all of this with Ralph could have for all of them, I think. At least that’s the way it seems. I know it won’t do any good to tell you not to worry about it,” he said before she cut him off.
“You damn right it won’t. But who in Ralph’s family? Daisy moved off with her new girlfriend, and Paul is in the Tennyson Center. So who the hell is she connected to?” she asked as her voice grew angry.
“Daisy, she’s her girlfriends mother I think, but either way Daisy is her main concern, and how things with Ralph might come back on all of them. She got what she came for, at least I’m fairly sure she did. But right now I need to get you inside and warm and settled honey. It’s been an odd evening,” the Bernese boy said as he exited the Jeep, walking around to offer his paw to her as she got out of the passenger’s side.
Looking into his eyes as he helped her from the vehicle she asked, “and you’re not worried about her coming back? Or to the cabin looking for you still?”
“If she wanted to find me again, I don’t think she would have any problem doing it,” he said as they walked to the cabin.
Mark stopped at the edge of the porch suddenly. “What’s wrong?” the collie asked as she saw his face go just a little pale for a moment.
“I don’t think you have to worry about her coming here, I think she may have already been here,” he said pointing to the porch.
As she followed to where he pointed Ariel saw a wrapped tray with a chocolate cake on it sitting a short distance from their door.
Lilliana looked through the high powered scope as she laid on the cold ground, the morning dew gathered all around her. She had been watching the cabin in the secluded clearing from before the couple had returned. They had taken their time after their encounter with the liger. She looked at the green glow of the night vision as she thought through what the Bernese dog boy had revealed to her. The one simple thing that made most of his actions make sense to her, the same drive that destroyed her relationship with her father. Though the circumstances were much different, the same general outcome resulted. The boy had lost much in his life, and it had forged a hard core of values that she could respect. The look in his eyes when he talked about his loss was almost heart wrenching. She was a little surprised how well she maintained her own hard line stance. She couldn’t fault him for his actions in any way, she would have done the same thing.
She felt the vibration of the cell phone rumble through her abdomen as she slipped her paw down to retrieve it. “Hello Hank, It’s all taken care of. I should be meeting Ricky about the paperwork sometime in the morning and headed back soon after that.” She paused for a moment as the otter spoke softly on the other side of the line. “Yes, I think it will all be fine for everyone involved, though I think I might have gone just a little too far for a moment.”
She stood up as she pinned the phone to her shoulder with her cheek. “I think I might have found someone we can use in the future, and I think I have his attention if we need it. Tell Susan to find out as much as she can about Bio-Gen and everything they work on.” She rested the lapua against her shoulder as she started walking through the woods toward the mountain town. “I just hope the boy has more control over what he is getting them all into than it looks like he does. Anyway, let Squeaker know I should be back in three or four days, plenty of time for the start of school.” She slipped the phone into her pocket as she pulled out a small baggy with a crumbled, dried out piece of chocolate cake and shook the contents into her mouth as she walked. She wondered just how far the cake had gone once the couple had taken it past the door.