I'd spent the last three nights at the Hansen-Wilson house sharing Barry's bunk bed. Sandy was due to give birth and she had asked me to be there. She was sleeping in a box on the floor rather than with Aaron as she usually did. We were interested in seeing the birth, but it didn't happen. Sandy gave birth silently and without any help needed, though Robby was with her since it was well before his bedtime. The first thing I knew about it was when she nipped me on the earlobe to wake me up.
Robby's light was on and I saw him sitting on the floor beside the box holding a kitten. I scrambled out of the bed and went to my knees beside Robby and Sandy. I was amazed when I saw that the kitten's eyes were already open and looking at me and Robby handed him over to me. The kitten said, *Hello, Uni. I've been waiting to be born so that we could bond.* I felt a snap in my head and I felt wonder as we were suddenly one and he began purring furiously.
Robby said to me, “Familiar kittens, as you can see, are born with their eyes already open and he's the equivalent of two weeks old. Sandy told me she's been talking to him for the last month and his mind is approximately that of a seven or eight year old human child. He'll be ready to leave his mother in another week and he'll be fully grown in four months. From his markings it looks like he'll look like a Siamese cat, but Blue says that he'll be closer to his size, probably about twenty or twenty-two pounds. What are you going to call him?”
I thought about it for a minute, then said, “I think I'll call him Bastet, after the Egyptian cat god.” I asked the kitten, *Do you like that name?*
He said, *I would be honored, Uni.*
I heard very lightly in my mind, *Thank you, little one. It's nice to be remembered and I also feel honored.*
I looked at Robby in amazement and from the smile on his face and his comment he had heard it too. He said, “Another Immortal heard from. We're going to have to wake the others. They'd never forgive us if we didn't.”
I put Tet on the floor and he made his way to his mother and stood up. Putting my hands on my bare bottom I looked at the three sleeping boys and said with amusement. “Barry and Aaron will be easy, but how do you expect to get Teddy up?”
Robby grinned, “He's ticklish even in his sleep. That'll wake him up, but we'll get the others up first.” He went over to the bunk and taking hold of Aaron's shoulder shook him lightly and I saw Aaron's eyes open a bit and then they flicked fully open as he remembered what we had been waiting for and pushed himself to a sitting position. “Is she ready to give birth?” he asked with excitement.
Robby shook his head, saying with regret, “Sorry, that's already happened, you'll have to see a birth some other time. I was there, but it happened so quickly that I wouldn't have had time to call you anyway. Uni called him Bastet and it seems like Tet is going to be his nickname.”
Aaron shrugged and said, “That's all right. I saw Tony Richardson's puppies being born.” And swinging over the side of the bunk he lowered himself to the floor while Robby got Barry up. Barry was more disappointed that he hadn't seen Tet being born, but he got over it as soon as he saw Tet. Robby stood on the lower bunk and began tickling Teddy, who thrashed around in his sleep for a few seconds giggling before he woke up. The rest of us giggled when Robby began tickling the helpless boy in earnest then and Teddy's struggles became much more vigorous. Robby was much too strong for him to get away and he was laughing hysterically when Robby finally stopped.
I'd heard about how Robby had wakened Teddy when Rose's babies had been born by pouring water over his head, but tickling wasn't considered a practical joke, it was just a fact of life. When you were around Robby and you were a kid, you were going to be tickled. It didn't matter whether it was six year old Barry or fourteen year old Randall.
Within a couple of minutes there were five boys around Tet and Sandy admiring him. Me, Aaron and Barry were naked of course and Teddy was wearing short pajama bottoms while Robby had a pair of gym shorts on. Robby explained again for the other boys that Tet had been born with his eyes open and was the equivalent of a two week old kitten physically and a seven or eight year old child. He had been in contact with Sandy for a month and that he'd be full grown in four months. That was how a familiar who had familiar parents grew. That hadn't happened on our world for four thousand years, since the few kitten familiars that were born of ordinary cats grew just like normal cats.
After a few minutes Tet yawned hugely and that set the rest of us off and us younger kids giggled. Robby called it a night, telling us to let Tet sleep and to get back to bed ourselves and with quiet goodnights we did, but I went to sleep feeling Tet in my mind.
“At least they feed you decently, unc. Even if you do have to pay part of the cost.” I said to my Uncle, Ford Mayer, as I finished the strawberry ice cream that I had chosen for dessert. I admit it might seem like an unusual dish for breakfast, but the cafeteria was open twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Those on the night shift might be having supper at this time before they put in a little overtime.
Tal had skipped dessert and he and Blue were making a quick visit to one of his friends. After that they intended to wait for me in the parking lot.
“I admit I was worried when I first instituted the partial payment for meals, but after six months the food has gotten much better and it seems to be popular. Perhaps because the cafeteria workers know that so many of their customers carry guns.” he said with amusement. “Now why did you really come to Washington? It can't just be to have a dinner in the NIA cafeteria. You're paying for a suite in the Marriott Hotel, so you can certainly afford the price for a meal.”
I said seriously, “I wanted a few days away from home, just to think. I've been trying to decide over the last few months whether I should go to high school or not. I think I've finally decided to use home schooling instead and just monitor some classes in the Benson High School. Steve and the Principal and the majority of the present school board all know what I am, so I can take off all the time I need. I'm still at the top of the class with Wil, but it'll be much harder in high school. I don't think I'd have much trouble with the curriculum, but there might be a problem with the teachers, being absent so often.”
My attention was drawn to a young black woman, who had just entered the cafeteria and was choosing a meal. She looked to be in her mid-twenties but as I found out in a few seconds, she was twenty years older than that. I could see she was were, but there were differences. I switched on my ability to see human auras and the second aura was red, not as deep as a familiars aura, but it was obvious her other form was pure cat. Not jaguar though.
My attention went back to the General. I asked, “The young woman just getting food, what's her ancestry?”
The General said, “Her name is Miriam Kioni Masele and her father was from Kenya. He came here forty years ago after he was widowed, when Miri was six. He remarried three years after that. It was very unusual for the time, an interracial marriage, though it's more common and accepted these days.”
I switched to mind-speech, *She's were. A type I've never seen before. If she's from Kenya it's were leopard, more commonly called leopardmen, because her other form is pure cat.*
The General nodded, telling me, *She came to me a month and a half ago, about two weeks after her younger sister was killed and asked me to put a little pressure on the Washington police. According to them she was seemingly killed by a wild animal, a big cat of some type. They're skeptical about their findings and they were at a dead end, so they weren't working very hard at it any more.* said the General, *Aside from giving them a little prod there was nothing I could do. It's a purely domestic matter and while we do have some latitude when we're following leads that end up in the US, most of the time that's the FBI's jurisdiction or as in her case the police.*
I opened the paper that I had gotten this morning, saying, *Perhaps you had better rethink it, Uncle. The airliner crash moved this to the fourth page, so you may not have seen it yet, though you might get a report on it later. I imagine the Washington police and the FBI are going to be much more interested in her sister's death.*
Ford looked at it and it was an article about a Kenyan diplomat found dead in a city park, apparently savaged by a big cat of some kind. He gave a low whistle. He began tapping the paper with his index finger, thinking. After a while he said, *I still don't know what we can do about it. Unless we get indications that the deaths are part of an international plot, the FBI is still in charge.*
I nodded, *Since it doesn't concern werewolves it probably isn't in my jurisdiction either.* I grinned, *However, I've never paid much attention to whether I had jurisdiction anyway. Do you mind if I try to help her?*
He shook his head, saying, *No, go ahead, I've known Miri since my first stint as head of the NIA and I met her sister a couple of times, she was a nice young woman.*
I looked down at the food on my tray and I was ready to stand up and chuck it in the garbage, when I heard a treble voice say, “You can grieve Ms. Masele, without starving yourself. You need it, your aura is starting to look a little sick.”
I looked up and stared into the large green eyes of the young red-headed boy standing by my table. I asked with annoyance, “Who the hell are you and what business is it of yours and also why the hell are you here in the first place!?”
He sat down in the chair opposite to me and leaning forward rested his elbows on the table in front of him and his chin on his hands. He said in a soft voice that I was to find was his usual way of speaking. “My name is Robby Hansen. My aunt is Louisa Mayer, the General's sister-in-law and according to the conventions of my family that makes him my uncle.”
The next part really shocked me and my back went stiff, as he said in mind-speech, *But more important, I'm an Elder, a werewolf Elder I must admit, but since the closest leopardman Elder is probably in Africa, I thought I'd offer my help. I think the first thing you need is a good meal, your grief is hampering you rather than helping you, so I'll do something about that.*
I could actually feel him reach into my mind and it was like he put a sheet of glass between me and the pain of my sister's death. It was still there, but it was no longer a major force and for the first time in two and a half months I was actually hungry and didn't have to force myself to eat.
I began to eat then. I'd known I should do it, but I hadn't been able to force myself all of the time. When I was finished I sat back with a sigh, full for the first time in over two months. Robby grinned, saying, “Everything looks better on a full stomach. When I council kids who've lost parents or other people close to them, I get them to wallow in their favorite food for the first day.” *The second day is much more serious, I go into their minds and have them live their feelings all over again. That's always the hardest part. With a lot of them, especially the younger ones, there's a lot of anger at the one who died. They have to get around that and know the anguish that they're really feeling, that the anger is covering, protecting their minds from reality, but that reality is vital for a full recovery.*
He sighed, telling me, *We're always in tears by the end of the day and they cry themselves out and usually fall into an exhausted sleep. The third day is the important day, I bring up the happy memories and make them more meaningful than the unhappy ones. I compress a year into three days so that they can get on with their lives.*
*What do you do with adults?* I asked with curiosity.
He told me, *Some adults accept the grief part and I just bring up the happy times. Others, well I treat them like the children because they're going through the same stages. Just because you're an adult doesn't mean that you can't feel anger aimed at the one who died. With you, you've accepted the fact that your sister is dead, your anger is aimed at her killer and your helplessness. Here you are in the headquarters of one of the biggest intelligence agencies in the world and you can't do a damn thing about her death. Also you're annoyed that the police have virtually abandoned the case, since they have absolutely no clues. Well this should change their minds.*
He turned the paper he had been holding and pointed at a headline. Kenyan Diplomat Savaged By Big Cat. It said that he had been found in a park and it looked like the type of attack that a leopard would make and it brought up my sister's death.
I looked at Robby, a question on my lips. He shook his head, saying, “No it's not the same case, perhaps it was motivated by your sister's death, but the killer is different. A feeling I have. It's not simply a hunch, it's much stronger than that and it's almost never wrong. But it will get the police interested in your sister's death again and it'll get the FBI and probably the NIA interested. The NIA of course because it's the death of a foreign diplomat and could possibly be motivated by something that is happening outside the US.”
He pursed his lips, then said, “Forensics would have vacuum-cleaned the scene where your sister died so to speak, even with this case and a possible connection there's no reason to go back. If it's possible I'd like to see it?”
I told him, “My sister and I owned the apartment building where she lived. I've kept the apartment locked since the police released it. I just had a feeling that I shouldn't do anything until things were resolved.”
“Can you take the rest of the day off?” he asked.
“Yes, that's no problem.” I told him.
“Okay, you go check out and I'll meet you at the front door,” he said. Robby slipped out of his seat and standing up he looked at me and his green eyes were suddenly the coldest eyes I had ever seen and his naturally soft voice was a whisper of anger. “We'll find the bastard, Miri and we'll make sure he's punished!” and I had absolutely no doubt about it.
I was surprised when we went out the door to see Tal Peters, holding a cat on a leash. He handed the leash to Robby saying with humor, “The proud papa bit has been getting on my nerves. You'd think he was the only male cat who ever had a kitten.”
Robby took the leash and held out his arms and the cat jumped into them. Tal looked at me and said, “I'm sorry about Judith's death Miri. Robby and I were busy at the time and I couldn’t make it to her funeral.”
I felt a little smile play around my lips, saying, “Thank you for the card, Tal and the cactus instead of flowers. Only a few people knew that she didn't particularly like flowers. I imagine many of the people who came to her funeral were puzzled by the half a dozen cactuses that were there.”
Tal led the way to the vehicle, which was a mini-van and despite the fact that he was retired, I knew he was working. I'd only been out in the field a few times, but working agents had an air about them that was unmistakable and Tal had it.
Robby said, “Miri this is Blue. Blue this is Miri.”
The cat looked at me and from the intelligence looking out of those green eyes I was almost unsurprised when Blue said, *Hello, Miri.*
I reached out to fondle his head and he began to purr. I said, *Hello, Blue, I gather you're another one of the wonders that our world can produce.*
Robby grinned and said, *He is and right now as Tal said, he's a proud papa. If he was human he'd be handing out cigars, as it is he's just handing out boredom, telling everyone he can talk to about his new son Tet in excruciating detail.*
We reached the mini-van and Tal flicked the open button on his key and Robby and Blue got in the back leaving the front seat to me. I was somewhat surprised that he didn't open the door for me, he seemed like that type of boy.
He sighed a little and obviously he had read what I thought. Robby said, humor evident in his voice. “Once upon a time I would have, but someone tried to kill me last summer and just missed by an eighth of an inch. Tal doesn't like me lingering just to open someone's door for them. It's not likely that someone would try to kill me in the NIA parking lot, but it's become an engrained habit, besides haven't you ever heard of women's lib?”
Tal started the van and said with his own brand of humor, “He doesn't look like much, but he's undoubtedly the most powerful were Elder in the world and combined with that he's also a werewolf Healer. All in all he's made a few enemies since he became an Elder a couple of years ago.”
I looked over my shoulder and I could see Robby sticking out his tongue at Tal and then he giggled before saying, “Thankfully I've made far more friends than enemies and I haven't left many live enemies behind me, but unfortunately one was enough. Here, you can have Blue. He'll tell you in nauseating detail about his son Bastet, more commonly referred to as Tet.” and he handed Blue to me.
Blue said as I took him on my lap and began stroking him, *Robby's ruthless when necessary and there's probably no more dangerous person on Earth. He'll find your sister's killer, though you may find his methods slightly unconventional. Now I do admit I've been telling everyone I could about Tet. He's the first familiar born on Earth where both parents were familiars in four thousand years.*
Blue spent the next thirty minutes telling me about Tet, Sandy and familiars and despite what Tal and Robby had said, it was fascinating. It opened up a whole new world that I had never heard anything about before.
Ever since I'd been on the Elven world just before the new year and made the adjustment to my mind, I'd become more sensitive to emotions. I'd always been aware of them, but my feelings were heightened. Not present emotions, those I just felt with mind-speech, as I was feeling Miri's now, but past emotions.
Strong emotions seemed to evoke magical echoes which could last for a period of time. Usually only for a few days, but at places such as a church or a synagogue or a mosque, the feeling was almost overpowering. Luckily at such places the emotion was a good one and didn't disturb me. But at other places such as Judith Masele's apartment, where a violent death had occurred, the feelings were dark and ominous and unsettling.
I said somewhat ruefully, beginning to get a headache, “I can feel anger and hatred, the most recent is yours, Miri. But there's another even stronger rage. Your sister felt a little fear, but her major emotion was anger and hatred. Anger so deep and overpowering that she felt little pain as she died.”
“Unfortunately,” I said, “that's it. There's no other strong emotion. If the murder was done in hot blooded anger I'd be able to feel that as well. No, whoever did this, did it coldly and with forethought.”
I sat on the sofa and Blue leaped up lightly to join me curling up beside me and I began absently to stroke his back. The anger cried out for vengeance or justice depending on how you interpreted it. And it was deep, so deep that Judith might have lingered in the Inner Realms.
Robby was just sitting there on the sofa petting Blue. I recognized the type of introspection that occurred when I was thinking through a problem. After about five minutes he spoke, “Judith Rebecca Massey Masele, if you have lingered in the Inner Realms I summon you to appear before us.”
Robby was just sitting as he had been, but suddenly there was a complete change in his attitude and I felt the hairs rise at the nape of my neck as I could sense the power rising. As I saw a faint figure begin to appear I heard a key in the lock of the door. Robby said, politely, “Please let Lieutenant Pappas and Special Agent Huston in, will you Tal?”
I heard the door open behind me and I heard two gasps as Judy solidified. She looked at me and there was compassion on her face. She told me, “Hello Miri. I never thought I would be able to say goodbye. I'm glad that somehow you were able to arrange it.”
She looked at Robby, saying, “The power that summoned me is coming from you. How such a young mind can contain so much power is beyond me. May I ask you who you are?”
The boy said, “My name is Robby Hansen and I am a werewolf Elder and Healer. Once, thousands of years ago, Healers were Shamen and that's the part of me that allowed me to reach into the Inner Realms to summon you. You had such rage at your killer, that I hoped you might have lingered, until justice or vengeance was meted out to him.”
She said fiercely, “Justice, Robby. I feel no need for vengeance. My rage was because of the betrayal of kin simply for the sake of greed and because he told me that Miri would be next.” She looked at me, saying, “It was Cousin Ita, Miri. Ita Matu Gitau. He told me he was going to kill me and then return to Kenya and in six or eight months he would come back to kill you.” I felt rage beginning to rise in me.
Judith said matter-of-factly, “He doesn't know that you're a leopardwoman. To him leopardmen are simply tales to scare children. He doesn't have enough of our blood to have been taught about our existence. His father was Mau-Mau and he brought a killing device that they used in the fifties to emulate leopards to kill the English into the country as an artifact. That's what he used to kill me.”
Robby looked at me and then back at Judy, saying, “I don't think your sister just wants justice, but I'll make sure it is justice and not just vengeance if that is your wish. Though personally I have no objection to revenge. The primary Werewolf Law is an eye for an eye, it's a code that we have lived by for many thousands of years and we see no need to change it.”
She nodded, saying, “Yes I feel you will do what is right.” She looked at me and then drifting closer, she put up her hand and caressed my cheek. I felt something so light that it could have been my imagination but I knew it wasn't.
“Goodbye beloved elder sister. I will be waiting for you. Hopefully it will be a long wait.” she said and then faded from sight.
The red-haired boy stood up turned and looked at us out of big green eyes filled with humor. He said, “Agent Huston, welcome to the X-Files. Are you going to do a Fox Mulder and report this and end up in a padded room or do you want to talk?” At his age and the fact that he was able to do a summoning, which only a Healer could do, meant that he had to be Robby Hansen.
Huston looked at me and I just shrugged, leaving it up to him. I could hardly say, 'Gee, Jeff, as a werewolf Elder, I trust Robby Hansen completely.' though Robby didn't seem too worried about what had happened.
*That's because Jeff Huston is an honorable man, Andrew.* Robby said to me.
Jeff said with humor, “I don't think I need bother the FBI with anything that might go into something similar to the X-Files. I imagine somewhere there are files that do exactly that. There are too many unexplained events that we come across all the time. They have to go somewhere and keeping them together seems logical.”
“Well this isn't my apartment, but have a seat gentlemen and we'll talk.” Robby said waving to the furniture.
Once we were seated and Robby was sitting in an armchair facing us, with his cat curled up in his lap, he said, “I imagine this has more to do with the Kenyan diplomat than with Judith Masele?”
We both nodded and Huston said, “The similarities were striking and while they could be coincidence, we wanted to get a feel of Ms. Masele to see if we could come up with any connection.”
Robby said in his soft voice, “I think we can say that it is just a coincidence, Agent Huston. According to Judith, as you heard, it was her cousin. He was planning to return to Kenya for a while before coming back to kill Miri. It's too soon for him to come back yet. I doubt if there's any way you can prove it, if you didn't come up with his name in the initial investigation, then he probably used a false passport to get into the country. Miri is with the NIA and she's one of their top computer experts. I imagine if you had a name, she would have found it when she looked in your files.” I felt amusement when the woman gave a start, obviously she had done just that.
“Besides if he's a relative, he's part were and since he's in Kenya, that makes it the responsibility of the leopardman Council or an Elder of their people. He'll be punished I assure you,” he said, his green eyes very cold. I felt a shiver go up my back, as I remembered some of the things I had read about this little boy. This very, very dangerous little boy.
“Getting to the Kenyan diplomat, I would like you to arrange for me to see the body? On the quiet of course.” Robby said.
“Why should we do that?” Huston asked.
“What, you don't feel you owe me a favor for helping you to get Alexander Macen? I heard he finally ditched the Witness Protection Program and the report that they found his body, gave me a nice warm tingly feeling all over.” Robby said with humor, but at the same time he was completely serious.
Huston nodded and then smiled like a shark, saying, “I must admit it gave me the same feeling, after Tim Mayer told me about the things he had done. It's nice to know that he got what was coming to him. Does Tim know what you are?'
Robby shook his head and grinned, saying, “No, despite the fact that under the criteria my family uses he would be a relative, he doesn't know anything about us.”
Huston asked, “How are you related to Tim?”
“Ah, the eternal investigator,” Robby said, “always a need to know why. Well I have no objection to telling you. You could find out the same information with five minutes on a computer. Congresswoman Louisa Mayer is my great-aunt and she's Tim Mayer's aunt as well.”
Huston winced and Robby snickered, saying, “Ah, you've met Aunt Louisa.”
Huston said wryly, “The pleasure was all hers. A group of agents were mounting a sting operation and the head agent stepped over the line and she came down on him like a ton of bricks. He was lucky he was allowed to take early retirement. However I must admit she was fair, she made sure that those agents under him didn't suffer because of what he did. Another person might have run us all through the meat-grinder.”
Robby nodded, saying, “That's my aunt, ruthless but fair. But getting back to the diplomat, I'm what is called a Healer among our people. About eighty years ago the last of them apparently disappeared. Actually what happened is the talent is latent and when you don't know how to identify it, you have no way to awaken it. However someone awakened my latent gift and I have found two other Healers since then, though they're both even younger than I am.”
“From the DNA in the wounds I can tell you whether it was a real leopard, an implement used to make it seem like a leopard or whether he's were, a leopardman.” Robby said. “Your forensics experts will be able to tell whether it's a leopard or an artificial instrument, but not whether it's were. If it's were you have no way of finding him, all he has to do is change into human and he has perfect camouflage. You'll only know he's still around when or if he strikes again.”
Pappas pulled the drawer open and drew back the sheet. I looked at the body and I was angry. I had seen his file. Chege Mokabi Muthui, in his mid-fifties tall and slender and from what I had read, he was a gentleman, in the old fashioned sense of the word, liked by everyone who knew him.
There was claw marks on his chest and I put my hand on them. The DNA practically shouted were, not an Elder, yet his power was at least as great. I read a swirling maelstrom of emotions and I was astonished that it was almost all I was able to get.
I opened my eyes and looked at Lieutenant Pappas and Jeff Huston, telling them, “He's were all right, so you're not looking for a leopard. He's not an Elder, yet at the same time he's incredibly strong and he's insane. Totally, completely insane. That means the attack on Mr. Muthui could be a completely random act and you have absolutely no idea where he might strike again.”
I covered the man and watched Lieutenant Pappas push the drawer back in. I said wryly, “I know you're not going to be able to tell your superiors about this, but at least you know. Looking for Kenyan nationals you can get some suspects, but as I said he has the perfect disguise. What we'll need to do is trap him if we can. I'll get back to you once I figure something out.”
Outside when Robby was getting into the mini-van I asked Jeff, “What do you think?”
Jeff said, “I've looked over the files of the operation that allowed us to get Alexander Macen, who was a mob lawyer and the events that happened in Onario county. Obviously he has some advantages, we probably still don't know exactly what he can do, but one thing I do know, is that he's an outstanding planner. I'm willing to let him figure out a plan. I figure that it'll be a good one.”
I had access to a lot of what Robby had done, though not everything and I had a feeling that outstanding was an understatement when it came to Robby's planning ability, but I just nodded.
I took out my cell phone and dialed a number, “Jones Detective Agency,” said Mattie.
I said intently, “Mattie, I need to talk to Smith. While I'm doing that, I want you to get Smith on the first available flight to Washington. It's urgent.”
“Switching you over to Smith, Robby.” Mattie said and I heard the receiver being picked up and Smith said, “What's up Robby?”
I explained, “We have a homicidal were in Washington. He's a leopardman, that means he's stronger and faster in were form than almost any werewolf. He killed once last night and I want to take him out before he claims any more victims. That means we get him tonight. I'm at the Marriott, in room 803.”
He didn't fool around, saying, “I'm on my way Robby.”
I dialed my Washington contact. “Del's Pizza,” from the woman who answered.
I said, feeling a little humor, “I'd like a pepperoni pizza with a million and one toppings.”
“Yes, Elder, switching you.” said the woman.
Miri giggled at the crazy password and I was glad to hear it. She was feeling a little more relaxed and that could only do her good. A man's voice answered, “Yes, Elder, how may I help you?”
I told him, “This is Robby Hansen, I'd like some tranquilizer guns. Six in total delivered to my room at the Marriott, room 803, after lunch. Also please report to the Werewolf Council, that the black man killed in the park last night was killed by a were, a leopardman. I think it was random and that he'll kill again. I'm going to try and lure him out tonight and take him alive if possible and we'll go from there.”
getting a yes on that, I hung up and then I said, “Let's go to the
park Tal. If it was random, then he probably doesn't live very far away
and I should be able to find him. The park is probably full of policemen,
so don't try to get too close. Find roads that'll allow us to circle
the park, say about a mile away. He's as powerful as an Elder, I think
that's because of his insanity. What else it's done to him I don't know.”
It took almost an hour, but I finally found him. I said quietly to Tal, “Park as soon as you can.” and I closed my eyes. I reached out for the mind I wanted, that whirlpool of madness. There was a stable part of his mind from before he had gone completely insane and it included his childhood and a few other things. I tried to grasp his mind, but there was nothing to grip, nothing steady. Then suddenly it was gone, he just pulled his mind out of my grasp and disappeared as he somehow became aware of me. I wasn't surprised. From my Healer's history I knew that a madman's mind was almost impossible to control and they were completely unpredictable in the way they used their abilities.
my eyes and with sadness said, “Let's go back to the hotel. I'll set
up a meeting for this afternoon at four o'clock. Smith should be here
I told them, “His name is Njihia, Runo Otieno Njihia and he's thirty-one years old. The death in the park was revenge for his father's death when he was ten years old. The barely stable part of his mind remembers his father as he really was, a drunken child-beating savage, who stumbled out in front of a car when he was blind drunk. The less stable part of his mind remembers his father as a God and the light of his life and that the man who hit his father did so deliberately. The driver was a well-dressed black man in his early fifties, tall and slender.”
I shook my head, saying, “Last night he saw Chege Mokabi Muthui walking in the park and the man was suddenly the driver of the car who killed his godlike father. He changed to leopard form and attacked and killed him in revenge. He's killed twice before, but not in were form and both times the men were ones who resembled the driver and in his mind became the driver. The other two were killed in New York ten years ago when he was attending Columbia University.”
I explained, “As a leopard he is far more leopardlike than weres usually are. Aside from his hatred of anyone who looks like the driver, his instincts are basically those of a leopard. Though with human intelligence behind his instincts, not the other way round as it should be. Leopards are territorial and solitary animals. We'll go to the area where I detected him this afternoon and I'll broadcast the impression of another male leopard. He'll come after a rival and I'll try to lure him into the park.”
I looked at Jeff Huston, saying, “You'll have to clear the park, there is of course a problem with that if he doesn't come, they're going to think you're a bit unstable. If he does then nobody is going to care.”
Huston grinned, telling us, “I told them I had arranged for a big cat expert to come in and take a look. It won't be much trouble to clear the park. The police searching it are pretty nervous about actually finding a leopard.”
I grinned and said, “Very good Mr. Huston.” I began to type on my laptop. Hitting enter, I said, “Smith is now a big cat expert named Roger Wade. He actually does exist and is a werewolf. He'll be told to stay out of sight for a few days and according to the airline records he came into Washington this afternoon. By the time we leave at six, we'll have papers to cover Smith.”
Huston's eyes narrowed, as he began to realize what kind of resources I had at my command. I thought I'd give him another shock. He believed what I had told him about weres, but that was theoretical information; now he was going to see the real thing.
I looked at Smith and I could see the twinkle in his eyes. I said, “Smith really is a big cat expert, he's a werewolf/jaguar cross and has a couple of forms. However the one we're interested is jaguar. If you wouldn't mind demonstrating, Smith.”
Suddenly there was a jaguar standing in the room, tail switching back and forth and the room suddenly seemed much smaller. I heard Huston grunt as if he had been hit in the solar plexus as the reality hit him. Miri gave a sigh, saying, “Beautiful!” and Pappas didn't react at all, though he hadn't expected what happened. However that wasn't unusual, he showed his surprise by not showing any surprise if that makes any sense and having worked with Huston before, though not recently, the FBI agent would be aware of that.
Smith switched back. I told them, “That's why I sent for Smith. A leopardman will be stronger and faster than the normal werewolf, probably even faster than a werewolf Elder. Were cats simply have faster reflexes than we do. Smith can match him in speed and according to Runo's file he only weighs about one hundred and ninety pounds so Smith also outweighs him by about fifty pounds, so he has the advantage of size. He's insane so we don't want to get into a fight with him. He'd be too strong. We'll have to rely on surprise.”
I took a deep breath and then went on sadness in my voice, “If you wonder why I haven't had you pick up Runo, well he's too dangerous. As a werewolf Elder and Healer, normally I can control any were's mind and I could lock him into a particular form, either leopard or human. He has Elder power, which he shouldn't have been able to develop on his own, but he did it anyway. He's insane and being insane he has an advantage in that I can't grasp any part of his mind. I could hit him with a mind-blow, but I don't know how effective that would be, so we're going to have to take him the hard way.”
I opened the box and took out one of the weapons. I told them, “These are tranquilizer guns. I don't want any regular guns being used. To get him, Smith and Miri will cause a distraction and we'll try to put him to sleep. These will be less dangerous if we miss because there will be no ricochets, they'll simply be destroyed if they hit a rock or something like that.”
I said softly, “Be aware that if we catch him I intend to kill him. He's too dangerous to let him live. because of his madness, which negates my ability to control his ability to change, there's nowhere to put him. Weres with their two forms are particularly adept at escaping from mental institutions and prisons. Someday doctors and Healers will be able to cure madness, but that day isn't even close, we know too little about the mind. If any of you have any objections please make them now.”
I looked around at the others, though I was only really concerned with Huston and Miri. As a werewolf Elder, Pappas was already aware of our policy about madness on this scale and both Tal and Smith were hard-nosed. Miri with minimal contact with weres of any kind, might feel different, but being in the NIA she would probably be pragmatic about this and she gave me a little nod showing that understood.
Huston sighed, saying, “We usually try to bring them in alive though we're not always successful, but you're the expert in these matters, so I'll follow your lead.”
I nodded and just said one word, “Good!”
It was just after dark and we were back in the area in which I had felt Runo earlier in the day. I broadcast the sound in mind-speech that said I was a leopard who was aggressively claiming this territory. I felt the sudden blast of rage as the leopard part of Runo, responded to the challenge.
It had taken over and his human instincts which were no longer working properly, didn't want to control his body. I wasn't blocked out of his mind this time, he didn't care right at the moment and I could feel him approaching. I said to Smith who was driving, “All right, he's coming in our direction, head for the park.” I said to Smith and Miri, “You two be careful. He's mad and therefore unpredictable.”
Like a fisherman trolling for a fish, we kept just out of reach and my continual broadcasting of the challenge lured him on. At the park, we all got out and checked the tranquilizer guns for the last time. I chambered a round and pushed the safety to off. I broadcast the challenge one more time and we heard the scream of an enraged leopard this time and it was only about three or four hundred yards away.
We changed into our were forms and I headed for the lighted park bench which we had chosen as our ambush point, Smith and Miri right behind me. Tal with Blue and Huston and Pappas were already waiting there. When I reached the area I broadcast one last challenge and again was met with the leopard's scream in the night.
Changing back to human form, I took out the tranquilizer gun. The wind was blowing towards us so Runo wouldn't be able to smell us even if we all hadn't used the scent removal spray that our scientist's had developed. Miri showed up in the light and gave her scream of challenge and Runo faltered for a second but then ignored the difference. He was being challenged and his leopard instincts had to respond. He showed up at the edge of the light and then with a roar he charged at Miri. Suddenly Smith's jaguar form arrowed out of the dark and bowled the lighter leopardman over.
The four of us in human form, began firing and Runo gave one final roar and then lost consciousness.
Robby was sitting beside the leopardman who was lying on his side, stroking his neck gently. He said in a voice I'd never heard before. One filled with sorrow and there were evident tears in his voice. “It's too bad such a beautiful animal contains a mind that's rotten clear through. I'll try one more time, but I doubt it will work. Blue.” and his familiar joined him.
Robby put his hand on Runo's head and closed his eyes, his other hand on Blue. After about five minutes he shook his head and opened his eyes, saying, “Useless. There's simply nothing that's stable enough to grab hold of. I can touch the points that I would use to lock him in one form or another, but then a swirl of his mind blocks me away from them.”
His eyes suddenly went blank and I knew he had gone into a trance, but I knew the others were startled. After about ten seconds they came back to life. He gave one further caress to Runo and then grasping his head, snapped his neck.
Robby gathered Blue into his arms and stood up. He looked at Huston and Pappas and said, “The DNA will show you he's the killer.” with none of the usual satisfaction that he showed when something like this ended. He continued, “If you need us, we'll be at the hotel, we have some planning to do. Your case is finished, but we still have Judith's killer to find and believe me, there'll be no remorse or pity then.”
By the time we reached the hotel room, Robby had recovered though there was still a somber feeling about him. But he looked at me and his big green eyes were clear now and showed his uncanny wisdom. He said, “I don't regret the ending, Tal. I regret that it was necessary. Someday, decades or perhaps centuries from now, we'll be able to do something about it. He wasn't evil but his life had to end, there was no other way to resolve it. I feel pity for the boy who was, not the man he became.”
When we were in the mini-van Robby asked, “I'm just curious Miri, why did you specialize in China rather than Africa?”
She explained, “It was simple priorities, Robby. The US was still fighting in Vietnam when the NIA recruited me right out of high school. It was nineteen seventy-four so it was almost over, but they were concerned with the Orient at the time because of the conflict and China has always fascinated me, as does the history of my people. I didn't want to take the chance of ever coming into conflict with them, so I decided to take Chinese studies in University. Then over the years I became more and more interested in computers, seeing where they were headed and my field of expertise has shifted to computers.”
Miri said ruefully, “The only thing I regret is that when my field of expertise was China, I occasionally got into the field in an advisory capacity and now that never happens anymore. It's ironic but despite my grief about Judy, I feel really alive again to be out in the field.”
Robby said seriously, “You're a hunter Miri and despite the fact that you're forty-six, you're just moving into full adulthood for your people. Talking about irony, you're ready to move into the field and the NIA would consider you too old, just like they did with Tal. He was made for field work and though the General when he took over, was aware that Tal was half werewolf and just entering the prime of life, he couldn't keep him in the field. That's why Tal retired, he was looking at a desk job if he stayed with the NIA or if he returned to the army.”
He grinned, saying, “In case you're thinking about retiring from the NIA, contact the headquarters of Ricard's Security Agency in Prescott, Louisiana. They're made up exclusively of weres. Werewolves, Sasquatch and a couple of jaguar weres. They do a lot of work for the Werewolf Council, though that's only a small percentage of what they do.”
I had to think about that seriously. He was right about the fact that despite my age I had only reached my full growth a few years ago. Generally like most humans, we reached our full growth in our late teens or early twenties but we could grow right up until we were forty-two and I was becoming restless in the NIA simply being a computer specialist. I had felt a longing to get into the field but as he had said, the NIA would have considered me too old. There were field agents who worked in the field well into their fifties and early sixties, but they were only called on for special cases.
I was thinking hard and I didn't realize that we were heading for my apartment building until we pulled up in front of it. Robby said, “Go and pack and make sure you've got your passport, Miri and you can freshen up as well. We'll be driving around, but we'll stay close, just contact me when you're ready. We'll be going to New York first, though we'll probably only be there a couple of hours and then we'll be going to Kenya.”
I had sent Blue home with a werewolf. It wasn't something I liked to do, but he had agreed that getting to Kenya was more important. We were in a somewhat beat up looking mini-van, though in fact, it was in much better shape than it looked from the outside, but this was a rough area in New York and we didn't want to stand out. We stopped opposite a shop called Africana.
I said, “I told a little white lie about Ita. Though it was more implied than actual. I had my people check on him and I found that he was in the country right now, though we couldn't find any indication that he was during the time of your sister's death. I simply didn't tell Agent Huston or Lieutenant Pappas, though in fact I know that Pappas checked and is aware of the fact. Ita's upstairs in the apartment over the shop where he stays when he's in New York.”
“What are you going to do Robby?” Miri asked and I could hear the anger in her voice.
I explained, “I could kill him, but your sister wanted justice, so I'll put an order in his mind which he'll carry out. He'll take the first available flight to Kenya in the morning and go to Masele Village, where he will face your Council to be judged and punished. I also want to know whether the owner of Africana knows anything about this.”
I closed my eyes and reached for the two sleeping minds. It was easy to differentiate between them. Ita's mind had the characteristics that even a part were always had, so I reached into his mind and implanted the order I had discussed with Miri.
Withdrawing from his mind I entered the woman's mind. Her name was Charlene Kamonde and she was also of partial Kenyan extraction, though her ancestors had been in the US since the beginning of the twentieth century. Her memories told me that she knew nothing about Ita's plan to kill Judith and Miri. But she did love him. I hesitated. She was human, did I have the right to interfere with her mind? She was not a criminal, not an enemy and I always had a reluctance to interfere in cases like this. After a few minutes of thought, I decided I had no right to interfere, she wasn't the suicidal type. She would mourn his death and then get over it as we all had to do. Even with werewolves, I only interfered when they weren't able to go through the normal stages of grieving.
I withdrew from her mind and said to Tal, “All right, let's head back to the airport and we'll head for Kenya. I've arranged for another werewolf pilot to come with us.
I never expected to meet a Great One. They were rare, so incredibly rare. Our Historians in all of our history only knew of three and he was not even leopardman but another type of were and young, so young. I hadn't expected it, not when the two men and my granddaughter got out of the Land Rover with a young boy. But when I looked into his enormous green eyes, I saw the ageless wisdom there and I knew he had talked to Immortals.
His eyes smiled and his small face showed humor, but there was no denial. He knew what he was, acknowledged his difference, but otherwise ignored it. But THEN if he had acted any different he wouldn't really have been a Great One and the Immortals would have ignored him.
Miri grasped my hands in greeting and looking into my eyes she knew. She said huskily, “I am glad I am able to see you before you die, Grandfather, I'm sorry that it took the death of my sister to get me here. How long?”
I smiled, saying serenely, “The doctor said six months, but he is wrong, it will be much sooner. Our Shaman says two moons and he knows our people much better, but do not be sad for me Miri. I am much older than you ever knew. I was over one hundred when you were born, so I am coming to an end of a very long life. I feel sorrow for the death of your sister, her mind was always filled with joy.” I suddenly had a brief glimpse of the future and I smiled, “When your twin children are born, name them for Judith and I and we will not be forgotten.”
The boy who had been introduced as Robby Hansen giggled, saying, “It's just as well that it will be a boy and a girl and not two boys. I don't think a son would appreciate being called Judith.” he said and I grinned in agreement.
Suddenly his eyes changed and they were the coldest eyes I had ever seen and as an Englishman I had known at the turn of the twentieth century had said, it was time 'to run for cover'. Even now so close to death, I was glad they weren't directed at me.
He said, so soft that it was almost a whisper, “Judith is the reason that we're here, as Miri said. I summoned her from the Inner Realms and she told us who killed her, Ita Matu Gitau. He should be here some time today, to face your Council. Despite the fact that he has your blood in his veins, he doesn't believe in leopardmen. He will learn, but I doubt he will live long enough to benefit from that knowledge.”
I parked my Land Rover next to the one that was already there and I looked around. I had no idea what had compelled me to come to Masele Village.
I got out of the Land Rover and headed for what was called the Council fire though I didn't know why. When I approached I saw that Miri Masele was there and she was looking at me very coldly and my heart lurched. She knew. How? I wanted to turn and run, but I no longer had control of my body. I kept walking until I was on one side of the Council fire looking across it at three men. One was Miri's grandfather and the other two were called Elders though one of them was barely in his twenties.
Sitting beside them was a young white boy and looking into his green eyes I could tell he thought me worth less than the dirt under his feet and sitting beside him were two white men.
Gikuyu said softly, “This will probably be the last judgement I make as the Chief Councilor, it is perhaps fitting that it is because of the death of my granddaughter, though I wish it were otherwise. We can't read Ita because he doesn't have enough of our blood, however Robby Hansen is a Great One and they have the ability to read all minds, even human minds and he can show us what happened.”
Suddenly I was back in Washington, DC knocking on Judith Masele's door. She answered it and seeing who it was she opened the door and turned away to let me come in. I closed the door behind me and hit her on the head to knock her out. Using towels from the bathroom I tied her up. I could have killed her then, but I wanted her to be awake to feel her death, to feel the fear.
But it didn't work out that way. When she woke up there was fear but not very much, instead there was rage and hate. Even as I was killing her I could tell she simply wasn't feeling the pain she should have, she was so enraged.
Then I was suddenly back in front of the Council fire. Gikuyu looked at me and his eyes were fierce. I could feel myself sweating all over and I was terrified, yet I was unable to move, to run as fast and as far away from here as I wanted. He asked calmly, “Does anyone here doubt that what we have seen is from Ita's mind?”
There were soft murmurs of no's from around that side of the fire. Gikuyu nodded, “Very well, he is guilty and must be punished and for such a deed the only punishment is death.” He looked at Miri, “Do you wish to be one of the hunters?”
She hesitated and then shook her head, saying, “No, Grandfather, Judith wanted justice not vengeance and if I was involved, I could not deal out justice, it would be revenge.”
One of Robby's companions said, “If you have no objections, Chief Councilor, I would be honored to be one of the hunters.”
Gikuyu looked at the two men called Elders and they nodded their heads. He said, “We have no objections. We need one more.”
Nyamu Okoth Masele stood up, saying, “Judith was my friend. I also would be honored to deal with this scum and if part of what I feel is vengeance, so be it.”
“Very well, we have the hunters.” Gikuyu looked at me. “You will have ten minutes head start, Ita.”
I had watched the fear grow worse and worse in Ita's mind and when Nyamu and Smith changed, he screamed, “No!!!!” in disbelief and began running. Perhaps he intended to head for the highway, but I didn't allowed him to go in that direction, he had to head for the bush.
A few minutes later Gikuyu said, “Ten minutes.” and Smith and Nyamu headed into the bush. I was eavesdropping and Smith told Nyamu that he would drive Ita towards him and it would be his kill.
I think Ita must have headed straight out and then doubled back trying to reach the Land Rover. He was well within hearing distance, because we heard his scream of fear then a second scream of agony as Nyamu struck and then Nyamu's roar of triumph.
I said, “It's done Miri. Justice has been served, in the manner of your people.”
She said slowly, “Yes, it's over. Does Judith know?”
“Yes, she knows.” I told her and she took my hand and squeezed gently in thanks.
Jeff Huston clicked on his computer to bring it out of suspend mode and it said, 'You have mail.'
Clicking on Outlook Express he saw there was an e-mail at the bottom. He was startled when he realized that there was no sender listed and the Subject just read Ita. He opened it and read the body of the message.
'Ita is dead. Judith has gotten justice. R'
He read it with satisfaction and then watched in amazement as the e-mail seemed to burst into flame and then was gone and when he looked in his Inbox the message was no longer visible.
At the same time, Andrew was getting a phone call and he recognized the voice as Robby Hansen. “Hello, Andrew. Ita is dead. The Kenyan police will find in his belongings a false passport which has an entry stamp dated two days before Judith was killed and an exit stamp for the same day. You shouldn't have any trouble connecting him to the murder and closing the case. My end of the conversation is scrambled just in case someone is eavesdropping so don't mention my name. Not that I think there is any listeners, but I don't take chances.”