I entered the kitchen feeling grumpy. I wasn't a morning person. But I was feeling guilty. I knew that Robby and Jenna ran a couple of miles every morning, which I had done until I got here. I knew I had to get back in the routine. Robby had his foot on a stool and was doing some stretches, right now he had his forehead touching his right knee.
I almost jumped when he said, “There's enough coffee in the pot, for a couple of cups, one before you leave, the other after you get back.” Robby straightened and looked at me cheerfully with those big green eyes of his, saying, “Don't worry, Mom made it last night and set the timer for this morning, so I didn't have anything to do with it. I figured today was the day that guilt would get to you.” I just grunted. It was amazing the way he could read people and I knew that he hadn't read my mind. He didn't use the ability as much as most people would think, because he respected their privacy.
Robby lowered his right leg and put his left on the stool and he bent down and touched his knee again with his forehead. He came up and went down again. Altogether he did it ten times, as I got a cup of coffee and began to drink it. I was curious, “Just how flexible are you anyway?”
He moved a little away from the stool so he'd have a little room and then lifted his foot until it was waist high. Then grasping his thigh he brought his foot up until it was over his head and he was doing a standing split. “I wouldn't want to try that until I was warmed up.” Robby said with a grin, “That's the advantage of being a pre-teen. My body can still do stupid things. By the way I have a surprise for you after breakfast.”
“Is that really the only thing that allows you to do that?” I asked amazed. I certainly hadn't been able to do that when I was a kid.
“Well I must admit genetics helps, Mom could still do it before she got pregnant.” Robby said cheerfully. “Are you ready?”
“Yeah, I guess so.” And I was, more out of amazement than anything else. Robby continued to surprise me.
When we got out on the road, I figured he'd have a hard time keeping up. Even after my lay off I was a foot and a half taller than he was. But he moved so fluidly and effortlessly, that he stayed with me easily, breathing comfortably. We were joined by Jenna half a mile down the road and by the time we had gone another half mile it was me who was starting to breath a little heavily and we dropped back a little.
Jenna looked up at me and grinned, “You won't keep up with Robby, when you're out of shape, Len. I have a hard enough time, when I'm in my best shape and glaring won't help. It'll take a few days. You slacked off too long.” I had to laugh.
I admitted, “I guess I did.”
“He figured you'd join us this morning, so he's planned a reward for your effort. He wouldn't say what it was.” Jenna said.
“Effort?” I asked.
She nodded, saying, “Yes, effort. Robby knew you wouldn't be in shape today.” Jenna looked thoughtful. “I know he can read minds, but he doesn't do it as much as people might think,” I had to laugh to myself, the very thought I'd had earlier. “and I know he's only twelve, but he's very wise. People much older have no hesitation about coming to him for advice or help. I remember him telling me about his Mom and Paul's wedding. He told me that a lot of people went to him when there were problems. He was mystified that people would come to an eleven year old, when there were plenty of adults around. I'm not mystified and I know that anyone with any brains who know him, wouldn't be mystified.”
She said, “Oh, he knows he's an Elder, but that's just something he is and the fact that he's a Healer and all the other things that he is, he just accepts. He's special and he's even more special because he doesn't realize it.”
She had Robby pegged pretty good I thought. I told her, “I think you're special too, Jenna.”
She nodded, saying, “Yes, I am. I know I am and I'm not immodest in admitting it, it's just like Cary. She knows that someday she's going to be a great violinist. But that's just it, Robby doesn't consider himself special and nothing you could say to him would ever convince him that he is. Despite that, Steve says that Robby has more confidence in himself than anyone he's ever met and being in the NFL for almost twelve years, he met a lot of high-powered, important people.”
didn't make it easy on me and I respected him for that. He said he and
Jenna ran for two miles every morning. He considered that the two miles
started where Jenna met us, so actually by the time we got back home
Robby and I had gone three miles and just before we stopped he was moving
just as freely and breathing just as easily as when we had started.
The long shower I took before breakfast, helped to get rid of most the aches and pains. After breakfast we took the mini-van and headed toward Prescott, but after we had gone about twenty miles, Robby directed me to turn off onto a dirt road. I did as he said and then half a mile in, a paved road began. I was completely baffled, when we stopped at a chain link fence and this guy got out of a parked pickup truck and came over to Robby's window and he rolled it down.
He took off his baseball cap scratching his head, saying, “I'm not sure about this, Robby.” and frowning. For one of the first times, I used the ability to see auras with someone I didn't know and I could see he was a werewolf.
“Don't worry, Abner, I just wanted to know, if the track was free this morning. I certainly wouldn't risk your job.” Robby said, taking an envelope out of his pocket and handed it to the man, who opened it and after reading it his face turned into a broad grin.
He said, “I guess that he can give permission. That's for sure, since he owns the place. Is this what you're testing?” He looked a little doubtful.
“Join us, Abner, you've got to stay to lock up again anyway.” Robby said, holding up the box that he had been carrying. “I know you've used these for your employer. Would you unlock the side door, Len.” I did so and after Abner opened the gate and I'd driven it through, he locked it after us and then climbed into the back seat.
Robby said, “Drive ahead a half mile, Len.” I looked at him still curious. About thirty yards from the fence the trees started and then after half a mile, I pulled into the open and I stopped my mouth open wide and stared at a race track. I looked at Robby, whose green eyes were twinkling with good humor. He explained, “It's not designed for Indy cars, the owner designs cars and races sports cars. It's three miles long and has two short half mile straights and some nice curves but right in front of us is a full mile straight. You should be able to get a good idea of what your little toy will do.”
Abner got out and went into the small hut that was just in front of the middle of the straight. “Don't you think you should get out as well?” I asked Robby.
He asked, “You don't intend to crash it do you?” I shook my head. “I told you that the body had been replaced by high tech fiber composites, it also includes an integrated titanium roll bar and frame. Also I'm a werewolf and we need a little danger now and then to live fully, even at my age.” Robby said, very seriously. “We've always recognized that fact Len, that's why Elders won't hesitate to use werewolf children if we need them.”
“Even a boy as young as Barry?” I asked, not sure if I was shocked or not.
He nodded, saying, “Yes, Len. Even a child of Barry's age or younger if necessary. Oh, we wouldn't put them in lethal danger if we could help it, but on occasion what seemed to be routine has become lethal and we're always aware that it can happen.” Looking into his big green eyes, I realized that this was why Robby was an Elder and I would never be, even if I had the capability. There was a serenity in those eyes, talking about putting even the youngest of us in danger if needed, that only the most self-confident of people could ever have.
Robby got back to the subject at hand and that brought me back to earth with a jolt. He told me, “The tires are very special, they're not full racing tires, we don't want to have to replace them every hundred miles, but depending on the wear, they have to be replaced every five to ten thousand miles. I've been told by an expert that they can be a very nice tire to do a four-wheel drift with.”
I told Robby, “I won't be going all out from the beginning, I'll work up to that. I want to get to know the track before we try any full speed laps. And even if we can get over one hundred and forty on a track, we'll certainly never do one hundred and forty on a road.”
Robby said, with humor in his voice, “Oh, I think you may be surprised, Len. This thing was tested in Europe, on their highways. I've been told by my expert, that if it doesn't peak at around one sixty on this track, he'll eat it piece by piece. One last thing, Len.” Robby reached into the back seat and pulled out a racing helmet, for me and then a second one for himself. I wasn't even surprised when it fit perfectly.
I was still somewhat doubtful, but I turned onto the track. Robby informed me, “My expert said not to put the tachometer in the red and keep it out of the yellow as much as possible, those are for emergencies.”
The five-speed transmission hadn't seemed to be very special at the speeds I'd been able to use, sixty-five or seventy being the maximum I wanted to use on the highways. Speed didn't necessarily kill, but put speed and then add in other drivers, most of them untrained for the speed they were doing and it was definitely lethal.
I'd intended to start off easy, but by the middle of the first lap I was doing ninety and the transmission was different. It worked as smooth as silk. I realized that it had been designed for this type of speed. No wonder it had seemed somewhat sluggish. When I hit the long straight, I was in fourth gear and I left it there curious to see what it would do in that gear.
I was just in the yellow and speedometer was at one twenty. Of course, most speedometers at this speed were notoriously inaccurate so I didn't really know how fast I was going. I got on the brakes and began shifting down. According to the speedometer when I went into the curve I was doing eighty. I began finding my braking points in the second lap, not really concerned with my speed, that would come later.
I was doing about ninety when I tried my first four wheel drift and she handled it like a baby carriage, so smoothly did she take it. I was impressed, I'd handled sports cars that had more trouble with a four-wheel drift.
I narrowed my concentration, as I'd been taught in the driver's courses I'd taken in Naval Intelligence and learned in racing. I was thirty-four, but werewolves didn't reach the end of their growth period until they were around forty. I still had the equivalent of a late adolescent's reflexes with the maturity of my age.
I put it all together at the end for probably the four fastest laps I'd ever taken. Maybe not in terms of sheer speed, but in terms of the type of vehicle and the speed. When I stopped beside the hut Abner, came out and walked around the mini-van shaking his head, as we got out and pulled off our helmets.
He said with astonishment, “I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it. You hit one fifteen on the straight on your first lap and you averaged one fifty one for the last four laps and the radar gun clocked you on the straight, on all four laps at over one sixty. One of them hit one hundred and sixty-seven.”
Robby said, “When he was testing it for us, your boss hit one-eighty a couple of times, but he was so far into the red that she was right on the verge of blowing. So we have a little extra for emergencies. How do you like your little toy now, Len?” Robby asked with a twinkle in his green eyes. I patted her gently on the side. I'd driven faster vehicles, but this one was my baby and I loved her.
Sam stood looking down at me disconsolately. He said, “The bargaining fell through. Alameda is still not certain, that we're doing the right thing by mixing two types of weres. I know you said to have her contact you if she had any doubts. You're still a little boy to her, despite the fact that you're an Elder, she wasn't involved in any of what went on to free her except the final part."
I was sitting crosslegged on the couch, on the screened in back porch of my house and I was thinking, out loud. “Okay, she's intelligent but she spent five years locked into her jaguar form, so she's not one hundred per cent sure of herself. She thought the doctor was one thing and he turned out to be something completely different, so she's also not sure of her judgement.”
I said, “In her eyes I'm simply too young to know what I'm talking about.” A fake sniff, “That hurts, it really does. Okay, she won't believe me, but what if she sees the real thing.”
“The real thing?” Sam asked.
I told him, “My crossbreed acquaintance. I called him and he seems to have disappeared. I can go to LA and find him and ask him if he'd be willing to come here and show her. But you know it's going to cost you money, Sam. The Werewolf Council won't pay for it. If you were dirt poor, they might, but not when your family is worth so much. I know it's not something you worry about,” I said, smiling up at him, “but you have to know in advance. If I call on any werewolf resources, they'll want you to pay for that as well.”
“When can you leave?” he asked, brushing aside the money issue.
I asked, “I assume you came by helicopter?” Sam nodded. I grinned and said, “Seamus should start charging landing fees. Len's already in Prescott, I'll give him a call to tell him we're going to LA and we'll take a bag for him and one for me. The Lear I assume is fueled and ready to go?” Again, Sam nodded. “How do you want to take care of the money issue?”
Sam told me, “Jeannie already does a lot of business for me, as well as being my pilot. I'll give her a one million dollar limit to start with and if you need more just give me a call.”
I'd been spending a lot of time working with Edward Franco over the last few days. I was amazed at the amount of responsibility that he had. My cell phone rang, I took it out of my pocket and flipped it open, saying absently, “Len Peters.”
“Hello, Len, get ready to go to LA. Do you need anything additional packed, besides your standby stuff?” said Robby.
“No, everything that I need for a climate like LA, is in the blue bag. Can you tell me why we're going?” Len asked.
He explained, “Sam Reynolds' marriage negotiation fell through. Alameda still isn't sure about different weres marrying so we're going out to see if we can't find my crossbreed acquaintance. When Sam called me a couple of days ago and said there were problems, I tried to get a hold of him and Smith wasn't in his office. I left a message but he never called back. I queried the Council and they don't know where he is either, he isn't working on anything for them at the moment. I told Sam he'd probably have to foot the bill for this, but if my friend is indeed lost the Council wants him located, so they'll foot part of the bill.”
“I assume, since this is Sam Reynolds we're talking about we'll be taking his Lear Jet?” I asked.
told me with obvious amusement in his voice, “Yup, you can renew your
acquaintance with Jeannie. She's also the money holder in this case.
Sam is giving her a starting amount of one million dollars, so that
shows you how much he feels about this. I'll be coming in on Sam's helicopter
so I'll meet you at the airport. See you then.” Robby said and then
I reached the airport just about the same time as Robby did. Since it was rush hour the usual half hour ride to the airport, took almost an hour. I was wary when I shook hands with Jeannie Reynolds. I could see Robby looking at us with his large green eyes and he just smiled. He wasn't above playing matchmaker, but so far he had left the two of us alone. But then maybe he didn't have to do anything, I felt my knees go weak whenever I saw her and I tended to become somewhat brusk, defending my independence, so to speak. She reacted in just about the same way.
I was pleased to see Len and Jeannie get together again. They rubbed each other the wrong way, for the right reason, though I don't know if they were aware of it yet. However from the way they acted, I think they knew. They just hadn't figured out a way to come to grips with it yet.
I'd been rushing all afternoon and with the night desk clerk coming in late, I'd probably be rushing all evening. I was pleasantly surprised, when a cat was suddenly placed on the counter.
A cat that I'd recognize anywhere, mainly because of who it belonged to. I looked up and smiled at Robby Hansen and he grinned back, saying, “Congratulations, Maria Escalante, Assistant Manager, that's a nice promotion.”
I rubbed the cat's head and heard him purr and laughed, saying, “Well, Robby Hansen, it's not as grandiose as it sounds, a hotel this size has half a dozen assistant managers. But it's still a nice promotion and I'm also back in my home town.”
He told me, “You've got a two bedroom suite for us. It'll be under the name of Jeannie Reynolds.” And he jerked his thumb over his right shoulder, at two people who were crossing the lobby toward the desk. Each of them were carrying a bag and you could almost feel them bristling at each other.
I looked into Robby's big green eyes and there was gentle humor there. He said, “Ain't independence grand. That is until you meet someone who's just as independent as you are, Suddenly both of you are no longer sure you want to stay that way, but you're fighting it all the way.”
I said with a grin, “Here it is, young Master Hansen, one two bedroom suite, with a bed and a cot, in the larger bedroom. One pet package, which includes a cat box, kitty litter and a couple of bowls, plus half a dozen cans of cat food.” I pushed a button to summon the bellboy, no vulgar bells for the flagship of the chain. I handed Josh, the key card for suite 1420 and I just knew looking at the three of them that he'd only be dealing with one bag and that only because Robby's hands would be full with his cat.
They turned and started for the elevators and I remembered something at the last moment. I said, “Robby,” and he turned and raised his eyebrows. “You have another acquaintance from San Francisco, Darian Lord came down at the same time as I did and he's one of the night desk clerks. He'll be coming in late, tonight, he had a couple of college exams to get through today.”
Robby face lit up and he grinned. He bowed slightly and said, “Thank you, Maria, would you have him give us a call when he comes in, please. See you later.”
I said to my bristling comrades, “Darian Lord is a Gypsy. I don't know how well connected he is in the Los Angeles Gypsy community, but the fact that he's a college student could prove useful.”
I was getting a little tired of it. I hoped they would calm down a little. When we reached the suite, as Maria had said there was a pet package, with a cat box, kitty litter, bowls and food. I opened a can for Blue and as usual, it almost didn't make it as far as the bowl, so fast did it disappear. “You're going to get indigestion one of these days.” I told him, as I poured some beer from a can in the bar fridge into the other dish and put the rest back in the fridge. He just ignored me.
Blue was a connoisseur when it came to beer and he lapped it gently, savoring it. I smiled at Jeannie who was looking at Blue with amazement. I told her, “It's just as well he prefers the local brews, some of the imports have a lot more alcohol content. He's, let's see, just over twenty-six years old. A familiar who never bonds lives around forty or forty-five years, but one who bonds lives as long as the one he bonds to. In twenty-six years, which is a long time for a cat, you can pick up some pretty strange habits.”
towards the floor, saying, “Let's go down to the fancy restaurant,
where I can scandalize the chef by asking for a couple of hamburgers.”
We left our bags where they were and all had a quick wash to get rid
of the travel dirt and then headed down to eat.
I was looking around the room, while Len arranged for a table with the maitre d' and I stared with disbelief. “Jeez,” I said “all of San Francisco seems to be in Los Angeles this weekend.” When we were being escorted to our table, I said to Len, “Order me a couple of hamburgers, with the woiks and a chocolate milkshake, I see an old friend, I should say hello to.”
I saw my wife and my kids looking over my shoulder and then I heard, “Hail, hail, the gang's all here.” and I recognized that soft young voice instantly. Robby Hansen was unforgettable.
He moved around so that I could see him, a smile on his face. I was a little curious, “Why exactly did you use that old saying?”
Robby told us, “One of the assistant managers who checked us in, was a desk clerk at the hotel I stayed at in San Francisco and the bell boy from there is a desk clerk here and now you. I just thought it was appropriate.”
I said, “Claire, this is Robby Hansen, I told you about him.” Her face cleared, I could tell she had been wondering what was going on.
He offered his small hand and she took it in hers and shook it firmly. I said to him, “And these are the twins, Richard who we call Spike, for obvious reasons.” Robby cocked his head to his side and looked at the reason for Spike's nickname. A cowlick at the back that wouldn't go down.
Claire answered the unspoken question, “Not even with industrial strength hair spray. We even tried cutting it off once, he just developed a cowlick right beside the old one.
Robby giggled and then turned to the other twin. David unlike Spike normally was a little shy, but I could see that he was impressed by Robby. There was no shyness as he greeted the older boy.
“What type of trouble are you stirring up right now, Robby?” I asked, knowing he wouldn't be offended.
“I'm looking for Smith Jones. He's been missing for the last couple of days and I need his help.” Robby said, simply but firmly and I knew that if anyone could find him it would be Robby. “The Council says that he wasn't doing anything for them and as a private investigator he quite often disappears for two or three days, but I'm worried about him.”
I told him, “I've been out of the loop for the last week, the twins school had a fire and they closed for the week. We came down to visit my two oldest in university and visit Disneyland. We'll be headed back tomorrow.”
Robby nodded and said, “I'd better rejoin my companions, I don't want them to eat my hamburgers.” I looked at him with a little exasperation.
“You're in a four star restaurant and you order hamburgers.” I asked.
“Yeah,” Robby said with a grin, “I wanted to see if I could scandalize the chef?”
Claire giggled and I had to restrain my laughter, the boys were only nine so they were somewhat baffled about what we were talking about. After Robby left, Claire, watching him leave said, “He's impressive, Pierre and I never thought I'd say that about a child.”
“I know the chef probably thinks that hamburgers are beneath him, but tell him they were the best I've ever tasted.” I said earnestly to the waiter.
The waiter turned to head back to the kitchen. I cocked my head to one side and then giggled, as I heard in mind-speech, *Some chefs would indeed consider hamburgers beneath them, however I think no food is beneath me, Elder. As long as it's done as well as it can be and it satisfies the taste buds, then it is a success.*
*Then I thank you, Elder, but I'll never be completely satisfied with a big Mac again.* I told him.
He said to me, *Then you must learn to cook your own, little one.*
I shuddered at that suggestion, saying, *Please don't even mention food and my cooking in the same conversation, it makes me ill just to think about it.*
*What, among your many talents, you can't cook as well?* he twitted me.
*I can burn water very well.* I told him.
He laughed, saying, *Feel free to order whatever you like, little Elder. As I said I consider no food beneath a true chef, I make truly delicious french fries.*
I giggled and Len and Jeannie looked at me with curiosity. I told them, “It appears that our chef is a werewolf Elder. He doesn't think a true chef should regard any food as something that he shouldn't cook.”
They both had picked lobster dishes with all the trimmings and Jeannie said, “I agree, not only in cooking. I know some airline pilots who would never dream of flying a Cessna. I know from experience that they're missing something. What do you think, Len?”
Len nodded, saying, “I agree completely. I know when I was in the Navy, there was this commander. His family was wealthy and they had a big yacht, that took at least half a dozen to handle and he looked down on the little Laser sailboats. Though I enjoyed sailing in the larger sailing craft, I always thought the little one or two person boats were the most fun to sail. People who aren't willing to try the whole gamut of a sport, like the commander, limit themselves and it shows up in other aspects of their life.”
I felt something demanding my attention and looking up I saw Darian Lord standing in the doorway. I'd left Len and Jeannie alone when it came to match making 'til now, but I thought I'd interject a little information into the conversation before I went to greet Darian. I told them, “You two were in two branches of the service that come under the same banner. Len was a Navy Seal and then in Naval Intelligence and Jeannie, believe or not was a Marine grunt. She left the service with the rank of major. She didn't learn to fly until after she got out in 1997.”
I nodded to the door, telling them, “I see Darian Lord and I think he wants to say hello.” I looked at my watch and realized that I hadn't reset it and it was after twelve o'clock. No wonder I felt tired, it was way past my bedtime. Though I argued occasionally with Mom about it, actually I found that ten o'clock was a good bedtime, since I usually was up by six for my morning run. “Once I say hello to Darian, I think I'll go up to the suite and go to bed.”
I got up and headed for the door and I heard behind me, “You know he's doing a little match making, don't you?” said Jeannie.
Len said, “Yeah, but only a little, I don't think he feels he needs to do more than a little, do you Jeannie.”
I was out of earshot then, so I don't know what she said, but obviously, Len at least was willing to recognize what was happening.
I held out my hand and Darian took it gently in his. He was about six inches taller than he had been a few months ago, about six three and very slender, but I thought he would grow into his new body. I made sure there was nobody near, at the tables it didn't matter much because they were well spread out and if you didn't yell you weren't going to be overheard.
Looking at him critically, I said, “So that's how the chef found out about me.”
He looked a little surprise, I grinned and said, “You still have a little bit of pastry d the corner of your mouth, Darian, obviously you took the opportunity to eat before you went on duty.”
He took out his handkerchief and wiped his mouth. I said, “Gone.”
“I mentioned that you were here but he already knew the name, he said he had heard good things about you.” Darian told me. “I haven't been here long enough to have many contacts among the Gypsy population, here in LA.”
I nodded and then had to stifle a huge yawn. I told him, “I'd better go to bed. It's not late here but it's way past my usual bedtime. I don't know what we'll need. Quite possibly like last time we won't need anything.”
Darian took a card out of his pocket. “Here's my home number and my cell phone number. Any adventure appreciated,” he said, grinning.
It was about eleven LA time when we finally got back to the suite. Jeannie was trying to be quiet, but I didn't bother knowing Robby a little better. I turned on the light in our bedroom and Robby was lying on his side on the cot. He looked like a sweet innocent little kid. Well appearances can be deceptive.
I spoke in a normal tone of voice, “You don't have to be quiet, in fact you're more likely to wake him up that way. Watch.” I moved my hands well apart and then gave a loud clap and Robby didn't even move.
“Now watch this,” and moving as softly as I could I moved a couple of steps toward the boy. Robby was awake instantly and he lifted his head and looked up at us. Seeing who it was he laid his head back down and was asleep again in seconds.
I explained, “He knows us and he knows what we sound like. Trying to sneak up on him is almost impossible. Trying to move softly like that spelled danger so he woke up long enough to check. Someone he didn't know would have wakened him as soon as the door started to open. And if that's not enough Blue is even better. If for some reason Robby didn't wake up, Blue would give a mind-yell. I don't know if that's part of being an Elder, but somehow I don't think so, I think that's part of being Robby and every day I spend with him I realize more and more how truly unique he is.” I said, feeling a little embarrassed, but Jeannie just nodded her head in complete understanding.
“Do you run, at all?” I asked her.
“I try to every morning, why?” she asked.
I informed her, “Because Robby packed his running shorts and shoes, so he intends to do his usual early morning run. He'll expect me to join him and he'll look at you with those big green eyes all morning, until you feel incredibly guilty, if you don't join us.”
She laughed quietly, saying, “I can just picture it, Len. What time?”
I went over to Robby and lifted up his left arm with his watch on it. “He's reset it to LA time so that means six AM.” I told her.
She said, “See you both in the morning then, Len. Night.”
“Night, Jeannie.” I turned and I saw Robby's eyes were open and twinkling at me.
“I think you two are starting to realize that you can't get away from the inevitable, hey Len?” he said, then closed his eyes and I just grunted, knowing that he was right.
Robby had gotten the information that the block that the hotel was on was almost exactly a quarter of a mile around, so we'd be going around it twelve times. Len and I let Robby take the lead. Len because he admitted he had slacked off for a few weeks so wasn't in the best of condition, me well damned if I didn't enjoy being with Len.
I was in good enough shape that I could talk while I was jogging and Len could as well, just barely. I admired the easy way that Robby moved. I told him, “He could be an outstanding distance runner, Len, his school track team would love to have him.”
Len said, wryly, “That's one of the ways Robby's not your typical twelve-year old boy. Sports are only for fun, winning isn't important to him, just enjoying what he's doing is. So he doesn't compete in any organized sports, though he used to. Even when he's watching sports on television, he doesn't root for one team or the other, the score isn't important, but the skill involved. He truly believes in that old saying, 'It doesn't matter if you win or lose, but how you play the game.' The only time he plays to win is when he's acting as an Elder. Don't get in his way then, because he'll go right over you if he has to.”
Smith Jones office building wouldn't win any prizes for best office building in LA, though it might in the worst category. Then again, Edward Franco the primary southeastern werewolf contact ran his operation out of a building behind a pawn shop. The elevator had an out-of-order sign on it and from the dust on it, it had been there for several years. We had to walk, hardly a burden for werewolves to walk up five flights of stairs.
When we entered Smith's office, there was a blonde sitting behind the receptionist's desk, chewing gum buffing her fingernails and acting dumb. And I mean acting, taking a quick peek I saw one of the shrewdest minds I'd ever examined. I let Len embarrass himself for a few minutes trying to get something out of her before I intervened. I said with amusement, “All right, Matilda Jones, you can stop acting dumb now. I'm Robby Hansen and I want to find your cousin, Smith.” *And since you might want proof, I'll give it to you. Is that enough.*
She spat her gum into the wastebasket and said, “I thought it was you. Smith told me that you had reddish blond hair and the biggest green eyes he'd ever seen. I just wanted to make sure. It's too soon for the Council to have sent you so you must be here for your own reasons.”
I said dryly to Len, who looked a little embarrassed, “Don't take it hard, Len, she's got an IQ of 180. She's also ten years older than she looks and she's Smith's main field agent. She's got at least as much experience at fooling people as you have.”
Mattie batted her eyelashes at me, saying, “Flattery will get you everywhere, now if you were only fifteen years older.”
I grinned and said, “Time will take care of that. This is Len Peters and he's a distant cousin, my contact and working into being Edward Franco's assistant. This is Jeannie Reynolds, she's Sam Reynold's cousin and the money person in this thing. Sam wants to marry an Alameda Montoya. She's jaguar were and she's worried about what would happen if two different type of weres were to marry.” I sighed, “Unfortunately for some reason she thinks I'm a little young and she doesn't want to believe what I say. Now I figure that if anyone could convince her, then Smith is the one.”
“Now since Smith seems to be missing, I want to find him and from the worry in your mind, you do as well.” I told her.
She nodded, saying, “I do! Smith might seem to the Council to disappear for two or three days at a time, but he always tells me where he's going. Wherever he is, he didn't go voluntarily. Come on into the back.” She passed through a ratty old office and through a second door into an ultra-modern office.
She said, “Comp up.” The monitor on the wall lit up. “Present case, private business.”
Two pictures appeared on the monitor. Katrina and Sergei Mogilny. Mattie told us that, “Katrina is the client. She said she thought her husband was cheating on her, so she wanted Sergei followed for a few days. According to what Smith found out she was cheating on Sergei and wanted to make sure he wasn't cheating on her. In other words, it was all right for her, but her husband better not dare to have an affair. However, she was the client and she was paying two hundred dollars a day. This is how we develop the contacts we use in our real job as primary contact for werewolves in the southwestern United States. Despite his name Sergei has never been near Russia, his people made it out during the Russian Revolution and ended up here in nineteen-nineteen.”
Mattie continued, “Comp bring up picture of Alexander Macen. That's spelled M a c e n, by the way Robby. He's a lawyer and in the five days Smith followed him he was the only person, man or woman who Sergei saw more than once. Except for those people, where he worked, he saw him every day a least once. On two occasions, he saw him twice in one day. If he was having an affair, he was real good at covering it up.” The picture of Alexander Macen, came up on the screen.
I looked at it for a minute, something seemed familiar, then I slapped my forehead. I said absently, “Mattie, can you put Sergei's picture up beside Macen's.” She did and I don't know if the others saw it, but I did, even though superficially they didn't look a lot alike. “Can you superimpose one on top of the other.” She did that as well.
I said intently, “Interesting isn't it, how two people with two different names, supposedly unconnected, can have an almost identical bone structure. To be that close they have to be twins, one or both of them had plastic surgery, but only facial, they didn't touch the underlying bone structure.”
Mattie smiled at me, snapping the gum that she had put into her mouth, telling us, “Sorry to spoil any incipient theories Robby. Sergei went through a windshield when he was eighteen and had to have facial surgery. I think you're right about the relationship though, they sure look like they're twins. Unfortunately Macen just seems to have suddenly appeared in college, we weren't able to find anything earlier. The only photograph we could find of him from that era is a yearbook picture and it's so bad it could be anyone.”
Unperturbed, I said, “Then we're going to have to find out a little more about Mr. Macen.”
We had called Macen's home and been told he was at work. Mattie had checked the parking garage and his Mercedes was there. We were pretty sure that Macen was as well though of course there were no guarantees. Macen worked in a bloody great office building and even on a Saturday it was half full. Damned baby boomers working all hours of the day and night, knowing I was being hypocritical, since I did the same, However, there was no way Robby could pick out just one human mind in all of those people and it was a high security building.
If it had been a weekday, we could have gotten in even so, just by renting an office. Pay enough and we would have had instant access, but the rental agency was closed. Oh, well, we had nice benches to sit on and Len had gone and bought us cushions to sit on. The sunglasses took care of the brightness and the heat we'd just have to deal with. I envied Len and Blue, driving around in the air-conditioned mini-van, or even Robby, He was wearing only a brief pair of shorts and sandals and absolutely nothing else, not even underpants. Well on second thought, I guess a watch is considered an article of clothing by some people and he was wearing a watch.
Aside from the Parking Garage exit, there were four ways out of the building. Matilda could see both the Parking Garage entrance and one of those ways out. Robby could see the exits at the front of the building and from where I was sitting, I could see the other two.
*The Mercedes is just leaving.* said Matilda, through Robby who was relaying it to all of us.
Len told us, *I'm just coming around the corner, Robby. By the time he gets out I'll be at your location.*
Robby was the important one, he had to get close enough to be able to read Macen's mind so he was the only one that Len would pick up. Matilda would head in my direction and we could at least talk until Len and Robby had a chance to come back for us.
I was standing at the curb, when Len pulled up and I jerked open the door climbed in and closed it behind me, fastening my seatbelt as we started off. Macen was going a little faster than we were and he just passed us as we were picking up speed. But it didn't matter if we lost him now. I had him and I knew where he was going.
I told Len, “We can go back and get Matilda and Jeannie, he's going to a restaurant about two miles away called the Colliseum.”
He nodded, telling me, “I know it. It's a family restaurant. Nice and noisy, just the place to have a private conversation. You'll fit right in. Most of the boys your age and younger will be shirtless.”
Len swung around a corner heading back for our stakeout location. I said in mind-speech, *Matilda, Jeannie we're on our way back to pick you up. We know where he's going and he intends to have a long talk over a long lunch.*
noisy. But that wasn't why Macen had picked it. He liked the food there
and he liked kids. Not that he was a nice guy, he wouldn't balk at killing
a kid if he had to. As I found when I got into his mind, he did use
it when he wanted to hold secret talks but this conversation was with
a client. There was absolutely nothing secret about it and had nothing
to do with Smith, but I was able to pick up everything I needed.
I informed them when we entered the building, “Well, it looks like we won't have to worry about Smith. He's upstairs. Go say hello, Mattie, we'll give you time for a family reunion. Then you can tell him if he hasn't got a good explanation, I'll have Len and Jeannie take him apart piece by piece.”
giggled and like a teenager, she rushed upstairs and I sighed with relief.
Neither Len nor Jeannie had ever met Smith, but they echoed my relief.
Smith told us, “By now, since Mattie said you've done a little investigating of Macen, you at least Robby, know what he is. Well I wasn't kidnapped. I was arrested and held incommunicado, for the last couple of days. They put me through a lie detector test and they were satisfied that I was exactly what I said I was. A detective hired by Katrina to watch her husband. There were some ambiguities in the test dealing with my real job, but not enough to hold me any longer. Actually when they told me about Macen I wished I could help.”
Smith gave a sigh of regret before continuing, “He changed his name to Alexander Macen, legally when he entered college. He obviously figured that a more Americanized name would help him. National Intelligence Agency recruited him right out of law school, he was in the top half dozen in his class. According to the two who had me arrested, they believe he was recruited even earlier by the Mob. While he was never a field agent, they speculated that by the mid eighties he was in a high enough position that he could begin passing on secret information to his Mob connections, who sold it to the highest bidder.”
He explained, “They began to get suspicious of Macen and while they could never prove anything, they made it hot enough that Macen had to resign. Some of that information resulted in two NIA agents getting killed. Friends of the two who had me arrested. He began to work openly for the Mob from that point on and he's one of their top mouthpieces. They wouldn't go into any more detail than that.”
I took up the tale from there, telling what I had learned, “Right now, Macen's their Bank Manager and normally he holds between four and six million dollars. In the last week, he's gotten an additional, ten million dollars in negotiable bearer bonds. Six million of that is free and clear, no way to prove where they came from, but four million are clearly on the FBI's stolen list. They intend to sell them back to the original owners for seven hundred and fifty thousand to one million dollars.”
I said seriously, “Sergei was in the know about the NIA part, or at least what Macen chose to tell him. Which was that he, Macen was management and his business as a lawyer was a cover. Sergei isn't aware of what he does now. As you would expect with someone who handles such large sums, they have plenty of guards. Guards on the outside, the gate guard, four men stationed at certain points, they're rotated every night, right now they'll be about twenty yards from the corners of the house. Two others with guard dogs on roving patrol.”
I continued, intently, “There are no innocents. Once a week they have a cleaning firm in very closely watched by the guards. There are five inside aside from the butler and a cook, who are also part of the guard detail. Two inside the study which contains the safe and two roving guards and one watching the twelve video monitors. Also there will be Macen, so there will be a total of seven outside and eight inside.”
I finished with, “Each of the monitors is fed by a video camera and they use scrambled radio transmission to the monitors, Macen sets up the codes weekly and they rotate from day to day. Since they're not wired the cameras can be moved at any time, usually they do it weekly.”
Len looked at me warily. “Why exactly are you going into all these details, Robby.”
I asked, “It's our patriotic duty to help the NIA, don't you think?”
“Okay, what did you read in his mind that got your back up?” asked Len.
“You'll find out.” I said.
A light went on spotlighting the three men, who were sitting in chairs handcuffs on their right arms. A voice began speaking, “Hello, gentlemen, we are sorry we had to kidnap you, just to meet you, but you may be quite happy by the end result.”
I was just outside the lights effective range and if I didn't know it was Robby, there would have been no way to tell, who it was. It was a computer generated voice and it was sexless and ageless. It continued, saying, “The man with what's left of the red hair, is Jeff Huston, he's an FBI Special Agent. He was involved in a case where Macen got a Mob goon off with a declared mistrial. The prosecution's case was based mainly on the testimony of a woman in her late fifties, one Millie Pierce. Unfortunately the government had to put their case on permanent hold, when Millie was killed, supposedly the victim of a mugging that went wrong.”
That's what had Robby's back up. Macen must have been the one who decided to terminate the witness, or Robby wouldn't want Macen so badly. Robby continued, “Mr. Huston, your companions are Ralph Emerson, with the blond hair and Tim Mayer, well he's got red hair almost the same color as yours only he has more of it. They're NIA and Macen worked for the National Intelligence Agency for close to twenty years, before he was let go. He was suspected of passing on information, which could never be proved. There was enough suspicion that they did sort of force him to resign his job. Some of the strayed information resulted in two of their fellow agents and friends being killed. They've been trying to pin something on Macen ever since.”
Robby explained, “You all probably know that Macen, serves as the Mob's west coast Banker. What you may not know, is that Macen is holding about sixteen million dollars at the moment.” I could see all three agents stiffen with shock. “Six million dollars in cash and ten million in bearer bonds, four million of which are on the FBI's list of stolen bonds.”
Robby continued his explanation, “I have a tip for you. Something is going to happen at the Macen estate tonight. It will require calling out the fire department and the bomb squad. If you show up and ask if you can look around, he'll probably say go ahead, since the only thing illegal is in the safe. If you ask him if you can look in the safe what do you think he'll say.”
Mayer said bitterly, “With his usual arrogance probably, go ahead and he'll stand there laughing at us.”
That was my cue. I moved forward into the light. I was slouched down to hide my height and I was wearing a ski mask and gloves. I handed Huston, a small slip of paper. He glanced down at and then like he had earlier, he stiffened in shock.
In a choked voice he asked, “Is this what I think it is?”
Robby answered the question, saying, “One combination lock number, I think if you try it on Macen's safe it'll work. Good afternoon, gentlemen.” Smith who was in back of them shot each of them once in the back with the tranquilizer gun. The darts had inhibitors in them so it would only put them to sleep for about an hour and a half.
Blue was pissed at me, not because of what I wanted him to do, but because he was just too lazy to find the idea enjoyable. I said reasonably, “We really don't have much of a choice Blue. We'd have to mount a full scale assault. Possible but dangerous. You're the only one who can get through the fence without any trouble.”
*All right already, give me the damn explosives and let's get on with this. I intend to sleep all the way home.* he told me.
“Close your eyes.” and when Blue did I sprayed him with the scent remover that we had used against the vampire. The dogs weren't going to be able to smell him and if they saw him, I'd distract them.
I handed him the first explosive and he took the handle in his mouth. Very easy to carry and it wouldn't hamper his speed in any way. I opened the side door, the overhead light having been disconnected and he jumped out of the mini-van and headed for the fence. He could easily fit though the bars and the sensitivity on the alarms would ignore an animal his size anyway.
*Okay, I'm there.* Blue said.
*Just lift your head and touch the flat end against the helicopter body, it'll stick automatically.* I told him.
*Done.* said Blue.
*Okay, come back for the other two.* I told him.
The others were somewhat different. They were incendiary devices. Not something I would normally risk, in a city notorious for its brush fires, but they'd had heavy rains for the three days prior to our arrival. People were more worried about mudslides than fires.
Blue placed those two on the guest house and when he returned despite his earlier complaints there was a air of satisfaction in his manner. Despite his threat to go to sleep he sat up on the seat beside me with evident interest in his manner.
I hit the speed dial on my cell phone and Darian answered, He told me, “They're on their way. I called the first thirty-five minutes ago, so they should be approaching your location just about now.”
I hung up and Len said, “The first of the pizza deliveries is just arriving. How many did you have Darian call anyway?”
I told him, “Twelve. I wrote the names down. We'll need to compensate them for their trouble. Only ten were pizza joints, one was a chicken wings order and the other was Kentucky Fried Chicken.” I watched as two more pizza delivery vehicles passed by us. “Okay, Len, let's get moving. I want to be about a mile away before I trigger the devices.”
About two or three minutes later, I picked up the radio detonator, turned it on, I moved the transparent shield, which was covering the switches. Since we wanted to make sure nobody would be hurt, the devices had motion detectors on them, which would detect a man sized object at up to one hundred feet. I turned it on and green lights lit up on all three devices. I said with satisfaction, “Green across the board. Firing one.” I flipped the switch on one, “Firing two and three.” I flipped those switches as well.
Los Angeles Times
Sunday Mar 15,2003
PROMINENT LAWYER ARRESTED
Alexander Macen, a prominent lawyer, who has been representing Mob figures for the last thirteen years, was discovered to have much closer ties to the Mob than anyone realized.
Firefighters and members of the Police Bomb Squad swarmed the estate when several explosions were observed by witnesses.
Jeff Huston, Special Agent of the FBI said that he had gotten a tip from a unknown source, that something might happen at the Macen estate during the night. He was on his way to the Macen estate to discuss the warning. He said he had no idea that someone intended to set off explosives.
When he got to the estate, after the explosions had occurred, Huston asked Macen if he could look around and Macen's reply was “Go ahead.” When he located the safe in the study, more suited for a bank or a jewelry store, Mr. Huston asked Macen if he could look inside.
Macen said and this was confirmed by a dozen witnesses, “Go ahead,..if you know the combination.” Macen was observed to go pasty white, when Special Agent Huston pulled a piece of paper out of his pocket and proceeded to open the safe and discovered a total of sixteen million dollars in cash and bearer bonds. At least four million dollars in bearer bonds were on the FBI stolen list.
Macen was promptly arrested and arraignment is scheduled for Monday morning. Sources indicate that Macen intends to try to cut a deal with the government to turn state's evidence.
Huston, Emerson and Mayer were having dinner that night. Their victory was bittersweet. Huston said, “It's pretty certain that the district attorney will offer to put Macen in the Witness Protection Plan in return for his testimony.”
His cell phone rang and looking a glance of apology to the other two, he answered it.
That computer voice was unmistakable, as it said, “Mr. Huston, I know that you and your comrades are probably somewhat disappointed about the way things went. However while we couldn't find Macen's files in the NIA database originally, they've been reactivated and we now have access to them. If you're interested, Macen's psychological profile indicates that he won't be able to take the Witness Protection Program for long. A year, two at the most, before he starts to run.” A click, as the phone was hung up.
Huston told his companions about the call and Mayer called his assistant who was able to confirm what Huston had been told on the phone. Somewhat happier now, the three agents gave a toast to the speedy demise of Alexander Macen.
I had all those concerned in this event, gathered in Gerardo Cepeda's apartment above his restaurant. There was Alameda Montoya, Sam Reynolds and of course the jaguar Elder Gerardo Cepeda. Juanita Cepeda, Gerardo's daughter was there to give Alameda some female support.
I explained, “I have gathered you all here together to try to resolve the reason for the dispute between Alameda and Sam. Alameda doesn't know me well enough to take my word that things will end up well.”
Alameda said in her soft almost accentless English, “I am sorry muchacho, I know the rest of the community trusts you absolutely. I have been reassured on that point many times. My mind accepts what I have been told, but my heart can not.”
I gave a bow in her direction. I told her, “You can't help your feelings, Senora, but they must be resolved or both you and Sam will be unhappy, whether you marry or stay single. That's why I have brought you here today and have brought a friend who hopefully will resolve the situation. His name is Smith Jones and if you think it an unusual name it is, his father had a sense of humor, which he unfortunately inflicted on his son. He is waiting in the kitchen in wolf form.”
*Come on in, Smith.* I broadcast to everyone in the room and he came in. Smith weighed just over two hundred and forty pounds and that made one overpowering wolf. In wolf form his fur was a dark brown and as he turned human, he stood up to his full six feet five inches, brown hair and green eyes, in a pleasant face.
“This is my friend, Smith Jones and he is special and that is why he is here. All right Smith show them.” I told him.
And he changed again, only this time, he changed into his jaguar form. Only Sam knew that he was a wolf-jaguar were cross, the others all gave a gasp of surprise as a magnificent jaguar stood in front of them, tail twitching back and forth.
I told them, “As you can see, Smith is a wolf-jaguar crossbreed and it isn't a disadvantage. He has the ability to change to either form and a medium change that is part wolf and part jaguar, combining the best of both. Why don't you show them your last change, Smith?”
He switched briefly to human then back to half wolf, half jaguar. He had the long coat of a wolf and the head was also wolf like, but his fur had the markings of a jaguar. His legs were somewhat thicker than a wolf so they were sturdier and his paws were larger and his claws were retractable.
“Thank you, my friend.” Turning to look at him as I said it and he winked at me before he changed back to human. I turned to Alameda and looked directly into her brown eyes, telling her, “He is the only wolf-jaguar cross that I know of. He is magnificent in all of his forms including his human form. There are no guarantees that a child or children will turn out as well, but then there are never guarantees when you have children. If you love each other, then you must take a chance.”
Gerardo stood up, saying, “We must give them some time alone. Come little one, we will go downstairs to the private dining room and have something to eat.” Before I had a chance to go green. “Don't worry, Robby, the rest of us will eat Mexican food, but the chef had no objection in cooking up some spaghetti, with only Italian ingredients, for your somewhat delicate stomach.” and he laughed gently, as he put his large arm around my shoulders.
It wasn't a very elaborate wedding, not considering the money that Sam was worth, but it was the type of wedding that suited Sam and Alameda. His brothers flew in from Texas and since they couldn't agree who would be best man, they shared the duties. The church was crowded with both jaguar weres and werewolves, but there were a lot of others as well.
Sam chose me as his ring bearer and bought me a tux for the occasion. I know that usually ring bearers are younger, but I was proud of my responsibility. The weres were all aware of my part in making sure that the wedding had gone ahead. I don't like bragging, but I was proud of that.
The reception certainly made up for the lack of pomp and ceremony. That was very elaborate, but it was for the guests, Sam and Alameda disappeared early. Jeannie was probably the only one who knew were they went, since she flew them THERE, wherever THERE was, but she never would tell.
I only had to take one look at my mother, Tuesday morning and I stopped getting ready for school. I knocked on the bathroom room and Paul said, “Come in.”
When he saw who it was he stopped shaving, “May I help you, mein stepsohn.”
I said calmly, though my heart was thumping with excitement. “I'd forget about the bank this morning. It's time.”
Paul looked at me and his eyes weren't as calm, “You're sure?”
confidently, “Oh, yes. Labor will start in about half an hour and
it should be a quick birth, three or fours hours at the maximum. Len
will drive, if you'd prefer.” He just nodded.
Mom hadn't objected either and a few minutes after we got to the hospital in Cormier she went into labor. I had made sure that I had plenty of coloring books for Teddy and Barry and several romance novels for Rose. As I had been able to tell from her aura it was a quick birth, at twenty minutes to twelve, Grace Hope Hansen-Wilson was born.
Unlike a major hospital Cormier General Hospital didn't have special facilities to keep babies unless they were sick, so she was sharing my Mom's room. I finally got to see them alone at about four, all the other times there had always been someone else around. Len had driven the rest of the family including Paul home. Paul was planning to come back in his mini-van but for the moment, it was only Mom, Grace and I.
She was somewhat surprised to see me still there. She asked, “What are you still doing here, Robby, I thought you went home with the others.”
I told her, “I had something to take care of first.” I stood looking down at Grace. “You know, it's a wonder how babies can look so ugly and so beautiful at the same time. Does she remind you of anyone, Mom?”
“Yes, she's fussing as badly as Teddy did.” Mom said, ruefully.
I nodded and said with a grin, “That's why I stayed.” I reached out with my finger and touched Grace gently on the forehead. With such a small child, I didn't have to search for the strongest flow of energy. Our auras connected and the two of us went into a trance state. It only lasted about two or three minutes, but then the adjustment that had to be made was minor.
I blinked my eyes as I came out of the trance and lifted my finger and a contented baby seemed to be staring back at me. I don't know if she really was, or if a baby that young could in fact see me.
Mom asked me gently, “What did you do, Robby?”
I told her, “About fifty percent of all werewolves have a small sort of blip in their auras. It's harmless in the main, but it's like an itch that can't be scratched. When they're babies, they feel it much more and they express their feelings in crying and fussing. Teddy has it, that's way he was so restless as a baby and why his sleep is so active now, always tossing and turning. Neither Barry or I have it which is why we seldom move in our sleep.”
I reassured her, “It isn't something that is needed so I removed it from Grace. Normally I would only remove it within the first three months of life. By the time they are any older than that, it's so much a part of them that to remove it, would be to remove part of what has formed them up to that point. Sometimes with hyperactive children I see, the blip is so big that it is affecting them adversely and I will remove it, but only under those circumstances.”
I grinned at her, telling her, “Don't worry, Mom, she's still a baby and while she'll generally be good tempered now, at times she'll be just as cantankerous as any other baby.”