Monday, June 9, 2014

Gray (Wolf) Matter

“I’m sorry, Ewan,” Dante said, and meant it. “We didn’t get to the truck in time. They must have been transferred to another vehicle. I’ve got everyone available looking into it. We’ll find her.” His private cell phone buzzed. “You’ll have to excuse me. I need to take this.” Dante turned away. “Still? What’s so fascinating about that place that the Tiger Yakuza would stake it out?”

Dead end. Ewan wanted to bite something. Scratch that; he wanted to grab hold of something and rip it to pieces. Tiny little pieces. He turned to his only other lead, another dead end but who knew? Sometimes the weirdest little things led to something bigger. “Go through it again. Even stuff that doesn’t seem important.”

“There’s nothing to tell,” Deuce, Dante’s double agent in his sire’s pack, shrugged helplessly. “We were headed to the lab in Colorado. Taylor pulled over at the exit to gas up for the trip. Rufe said the air smelled funny. Next thing we know we’re sprawled out on park benches and some cop’s telling us to move along. And the truck’s gone.”

And Maureen, who’d been in the back of the truck, but Deuce was kind enough not to point that out. “Dante found the truck about thirty miles up the interstate. Nobody was in it. They’re combing the area now. We’ll find her, man, I swear.”

“What about the driver?”

“Taylor was with us when we woke up, barfing up his guts like the rest of us. Whoever took the truck left it like we said. Smelled like seven kinds of crap. No idea who or what was driving it. We should’ve picked up Hoover. Maybe he would have known.”

“That fits in with what we found at the lab,” Ewan muttered. “The Doctor took off without telling Hancock. Wherever he took her, he didn’t want Damien to know. That’s why you got gassed.”

And that was that. Nobody’d seen anything. Nobody knew anything. By now Maureen could be in Canada, for all anybody knew.

Dante was still on the phone, grilling his agent over the confusing behavior of the Tiger Yakuza. Ewan caught himself trying to listen in. Something kept nagging at the back of his mind, telling him this was important.

“I know some people,” Deuce was saying. “I can draw on Hancock resources. If we backtrack—”

Ewan waved him off. “Be quiet a minute. I have to think.”

Normally wolves laughed when a coyote said anything about thinking. Deuce just nodded and backed off.

For the last day and a half, ever since Maureen had been snatched from the parking lot, Ewan had been running in wolf mode: find mate, kill something. That had got him a fine pile of squat. He needed his coyote side, and whatever it was that passed for a brain among coyotes.

Wolves think in straight lines. Their brains go from point A to point B without any little side journeys. Give them a task and they stick to it till it’s done. Give them a puzzle and they’ll worry it to death, and usually come up short.

A coyote’s brain doesn’t work that way. A coyote, when he bothers to think, thinks in leaps and hops and zigzags, making connections where a wolf wouldn’t even see a pattern. Especially if there is no pattern. Coyotes don’t need patterns. Their minds are attuned to chaos, out of which they bring, if not order, then at least slightly more ordered chaos. Give them a puzzle and they’ll work it out in seconds and then wander off to see what’s in the fridge, while a wolf is still scratching his ass.

Right after Maureen got kidnapped, a bunch of Yakuza went on the move. You’d think there’d be no connection there, unless you were a coyote. “Who did you guys grab, besides Maureen?” he asked Deuce.

“Two human males. The big blond one knocked her out for us, then Taylor did him the same favor. Then this other guy went up to Taylor and said they were his friends and he couldn’t let him take them. So Taylor knocked him out and took him too. We loaded ‘em into the truck and that was it.”

“What did this other guy look like?”

Deuce shrugged. “Kind of stocky, dark skin and hair, glasses. Some kind of accent. He sort of mumbled when he talked, like he was trying to hide it.”

“What about smell?”

“I was getting to that. He smelled like a spice rack. Stuff I’m not familiar with. I’d hate to see what he gets on his pizza.”

Dark. Glasses. Tried not to talk. The blond, of course, was Atcheson. Shaggy and Agent Mulder had been taken prisoner and were awaiting Dante’s decision on their fates. According to Deuce, the last anyone had seen of Comic Book Guy, he’d been hoofing it over to the Bighorn Diner. “Probably still there,” Deuce said. “It was all you can eat day. Hope Elly stocked up on syrup.”

Silent Sam, Ewan thought. Had to be. He hadn’t said a word the whole time Ewan had been in the motel room. Hiding an accent. From where?

He stopped thinking eyes and started thinking nose. Held hostage in the van. The usual smells: pizza, unwashed monkey, fast-food flavored farts. Maureen’s homey scent, the result of her wolf genes. And just a little whiff of spice, from somebody whose diet didn’t always match up with his buddies’.

“Son of a hound,” he said. “Dante!”

Done with his call, the alpha turned. He raised a brow in inquiry. “The Yakuza. The ones who up and ran off. Where’d they go? What are they staking out?”

“If you must know, they appear to be watching the mini golf down at the exit. They’ve been there for hours.” He eyed Ewan intently. “You think it’s related?”

“Could be. Deuce, how close was that gas station you stopped at to the mini golf?”

“Right up the road, but—”

“But, my butt. Zhere Ghan wants the Doctor too. He snuck a spy into Cochrane’s outfit. A human guy, so Hoover wouldn't spot him. Guy never talked ‘cause they’d wonder about his Indian accent. He just couldn’t live on the junk food, though. Had to eat native every once in a while. It showed up in his scent. He let you boys kidnap him, so you’d take him to the lab. Then he signaled the Yakuza. They’re looking for him now. They didn’t follow the truck because he wasn’t in it. The truck was a diversion. They’re still at the exit.”

Deuce was staring at him like he’d gone scatty. Not Dante. Most wolves couldn’t stand to be around coyotes. Dante always kept a couple on the payroll. Coyotes saw into corners a wolf wouldn't even know were there. “The mini golf was shut down last week,” he said now. “For ‘maintenance.’ Hoover reported it. He wanted to take some girl there and it was closed.”

“Same time as the bugout at the Colorado lab?”

“Roughly.” Dante reached into his pocket and pulled out a set of keys. “Take my car. It’s faster than it looks.” He smiled. “Good work.”

“We don’t know for sure yet. It’s only a long shot.”

“It’s all we’ve got. Good hunting.” Ewan bounced the keys in his palm and glanced over at Deuce. “You want in?”

“Sure,” Deuce said. “I owe those monkeys. They made me yark up half my breakfast.”

“Atta boy. Let's go play a round of golf."


Savanna Kougar said...

Wow, Zhere Ghan must've promised something really extra big to Moravian... or something he couldn't refuse. Good flash-going, Pat!

Rebecca Gillan said...

Uh-oh, balls are about to roll 'cause the coyote found where the bad guys are hiding his kidnapped mate!

Savanna Kougar said...

That's good, Rebecca ... "balls are about to roll" ~sniggers~

Pat C. said...

Somebody better hope he's good at dodging golf clubs.

At some point I should post all the chapters to this monster so readers can catch up. Bet I'll know how to make links when I'm done.

The problem is, I got an idea recently for another possible serial story, and it's trying to tug me away from this one. Turns out shapeshifters have been in the area a lot longer than anybody thought.

Savanna Kougar said...

Ah-ha! A shapeshifter gathering... is this some kind of calling-card vortex?

Serena Shay said...

Ewan's a coyote so I bet he rocks the mini chaotic as it can be. :D

Oooh another serial!

Rebecca Gillan said...

Yep, I bet he'll do just fine at Coyote Rules Mini Put-Put. It's kind of like Autrailian Rules Football. Extra violent, no protection and usually ends up with someone bleeding or knocked out. ;)

Pat C. said...

In coyote golf, a "handicap" is carelessly turning your back on the other players.

Yes, this is the same mini-golf that had its plexiglass pumpkin house stolen, the one that ended up in Manscape Mike's back yard.

And wait'll you see the weapon Ewan uses against Mammoth Monster Atcheson! Coyotes should be banned from watching Lord of the Rings.

Savanna Kougar said...

I'm already giggling in anticipation...

Rebecca Gillan said...

OMG, I had completely forgotten about that screwy pumpkin!