Saturday Fiction: Sixth Ranger

Sorry folks, I was in Canada last Saturday, so I forgot to post this. Well here it is now, a sort of culmination to the previous werewolf stories. It includes everyone’s favorite extra NPC, Lt. Spatz.

Sixth Ranger

Woofskulls

There was a rustle in the bushes. It was more than just the wind, larger than some rabbit. People were moving, and people meant danger. They always do.

A little girl popped into the clearing, chasing a grasshopper, wearing a small backpack and colorful boots with a cartoon character on the side. She looked around, and her eyes filled with wonder at the animal she saw lying there in the little den.

“Mom,” She said, “Mommy look at the doggy.”

A woman came into the clearing, wearing hiking gear and a larger pack than the child. She was dismissive at first, reaching for her daughter’s hand to pull her aside. Then she saw the wolf, and her whole body went rigid. She pulled the girl close, and tried to be still.

“Ow,” The little girl complained.

The wolf stood, and looked at them. It didn’t move, just stood in the clearing.

“That is a bad dog,” The mother said, “See, he is dirty, and shaggy. Come on, let’s go.”

The mother pulled the daughter along, the little girl dragging her feet at every step.

“But mom,” She said, “I want to pet him.”

He laid back down. Who did that lady think she was, calling him shaggy? He looked at the sun, rising high in the air, and decided he needed to go. He rose once more, trotted through the underbrush, and continued down the hillsides until he could smell the indistinguishable scent of port-a-potties, hot dogs, and motor oil.

His perspective rose, and he could feel his body twisting beneath his skin. Spatz pushed through a bush, and sat down on a bench at the edge of the park. He let out a sigh. There was relief there, he had to tell himself that. Somehow, life was a little better than before, if only a little.

Then his phone started to vibrate out of control. It buzzed, and buzzed, and buzzed until he could pull the iPhone out of his pocket and check it. Five voicemails, at least fifteen texts, the phone stopped counting.

He was going to look through the list of missed calls, but then Meredith began calling. He picked it up, leaned his head back, “Yes?”

“Can you explain to me why you have been avoiding my calls?” Meredith said.

He could tell she was stressed. Considering everything that was going on, he wasn’t surprised. She was trying to construct a new pack, pay respects to the old, and lead a war. He didn’t envy her.

Still, sometimes she was a little snippy, “My phone didn’t exist until a few seconds ago?”

Telling the truth was a bad idea. Which is why it was a bad idea to answer the phone while he was still tired.

“So you’re being funny today,” Meredith said, “you sound like you belong with those kids.”

He deserved that.

“What have I missed?” He asked.

She was talking to someone else in the background. Spike? The two new entries were still adjusting to how Meredith did business. To tell the truth, he trusted Cam and Mike more, and that’s saying a lot since he was sure Cam wanted to fight him.

“More intelligence overnight,” She said, “I believe another shifter is involved.”

That tied Spatz’ stomach in a knot. If she was talking about Levi, she would say so, wouldn’t she? Maybe, he knew Meredith kept secrets, who didn’t have secrets? Still, he prided himself on having some idea what she was planning.

“Give me your report,” Meredith said.

Spatz scratched along his neck, caught a bug that lingered there from the hills, “Well…”

The previous morning, he woke up to a phone call. The sun was barely up, and his phone was already vibrating itself off his night stand.

He grabbed it, checked it, and saw it was a txt from Levi. He still didn’t know where Levi had moved to, which was starting to make him nervous.

It said, “Have werewolves ever thought of just, not wearing leather?”

Spatz tried to read it again, but it didn’t make any additional sense. Was he drinking? Hopefully not.

He replied, “It looks so intimidating, and you feel like a TV star.”

He rolled out of bed, and remembered he worked today. It already felt long.

First job in the morning, he got a tip from Joey at the precinct. There was a scene in Chicago that he needed to see, counting as ‘anything strange or creepy’ just like Spatz asked.

He walked in on the scene, and saw Chicago PD swarming everywhere. They were taking forensics, orders were being shouted back and forth. He sniffed, and the scents in the room made him want to pinch his nose.

“What are you doing here, Lieutenant Spatz right?” asked a Lieutenant from Chicago he saw now and again. The guy was tall, and a hard-ass, real territorial. Unfortunately, he had other loyalties that meant he wasn’t all that useful as a contact.

“Not trying to intrude on your crime scene,” Spatz said as he walked into the social lodge, “I was worried this might be one of the kids I’ve worked with before.”

The guy lifted an eyebrow, “Really? Come over here.”

He was waved into the hall, and Spatz could feel the air get thicker as they walked. They reached a staircase, and the Lieutenant pointed for him to walk down. They got to the bottom, and reached a room covered in tribal gear and chiminage. The walls and ground were painted in blood that stank of something strange. There were two more scents, ones Spatz couldn’t mistake for anything else.

“Oh English, what are you doing,” Spatz whispered.

“If this is one of your kids,” The Chicago lieutenant said, “Maybe you need to think about putting him down. He ain’t much of a kid anymore.”

Spatz flared his nostrils. This wasn’t good.

Later that morning he was at Naperville central. He was out back of the school, and Mike was attempting to do his best impersonation of a shadow on the wall.

“They aren’t saying anything because they don’t know anything,” Spatz said, an arm against the wall, “But they can’t smell you on the knife Mike, I can.”

Mike shrugged, “So I’m not in trouble.”

Spatz flared his nostrils, “No, you’re not in trouble. But I know the knife is yours, and they are freaking out in there. You can’t have knives at school, I’m pretty sure that is in the rulebook somewhere.”

Mike shrugged again.

That was the ‘I didn’t read the notebook’ shrug. Spatz let out a groan, and ran his hand down his face. His phone buzzed, and he pulled it out to check it.

Mike started to walk away, and Spatz called out to him.

The boy turned around. He hadn’t exactly done anything to anyone, and considering what all attacked them at the school in the past, it wasn’t the stupidest idea to have a knife. It was just dangerous, and illegal.

“Good job keeping your prints off of it,” Spatz said, giving Mike a thumbs up.

Mike shook his head, and then went back inside. Spatz was pretty sure he saw a smirk there.

A little later he was outside an ice cream parlor.

Sylvia held two cones out, “You want vanilla, or chocolate swirl?”

“Vanilla please,” He said while reaching out for it.

She gasped, “You don’t seem like a vanilla guy.”

Spatz took a lick, “Are you going to tell me now?”

She sat at the bench-table, and seemed oblivious to what he was asking. Then her face lit up, “Oh, yeah. So we weren’t able to catch him. Still, we looked up the crystals, and they were a bunch of hippy stuff, a lot of articles about clearing the mind and helping stress. The kind of stuff mom would probably use. Then Jennifer and Dick were talking about hunting down other shifters to see what they knew, and I tried to tell them that they wouldn’t know anything, but they just kept talking about finding them and hurting them. She is such a bitch.”

Spatz nodded, and ignored his phone going off in his pocket. He was losing track of what she was talking about, but it seemed like she was interacting with the local Pure girl. If they recruited her, what would they do with her? Most Pure would rather rip a Forsaken to shreds than use them for some scheme.

“Then I started thinking about Leonard, and they might hurt him, and I started crying. So I tried to call him, and he wasn’t answering. With all this weird stuff going on, what if he is already hurt? I would just die.”

He had no idea who Leonard was. Did he forget, or was Leonard just not important?

“Oh my god, what if he is just ignoring me?” Sylvia said, her eyes going wide, “Oh my god, that dick. I’ll punch him. Well, maybe not, he got beat up pretty bad the other month. Still, I told him I liked him, and he said he liked me too. I can’t believe him!”

She pounded her fist on the table, and her ice cream fell off its cone and plopped on the table.

“Oh no!” She cried, “No, no, damnit.”

Spatz rolled his eyes, and held his cone out for her.

Sylvia sniffled, “Really? Thank you. I won’t forget this, ever, you’re the best.”

Her phone rang, and she pulled it out and looked at it.

“Oh, hey, a text from Leonard,” She said with a smile, “He says he is okay. Yes!”

Sylvia jumped up from the table and walked away, dialing Leonard’s number.

Later that day he was in a counseling office with a young man named Jacob. Mundane as far as he could tell, the boy just decided to try to make a weapon at school during shop class and use it against another student.

“No one is going to press charges today,” Spatz said, “Still, you need to ask yourself where you were going with this. I know it seems like this world is everything today, but trust me there is a whole big world out there, and attacking someone like that can-”

His phone started to ring.

Spatz took a deep breath, held a finger up, and then plucked his phone out. It was Levi. He silenced it, and put it back.

“Where was I? You never know how long-”

It started to ring again. He flipped it, Levi. Silenced it.

“Do you have somewhere to be?” The kid said, his voice hoarse from an earlier screaming match with the faculty.

“No,” He said, “I’m here.”

“Maybe you can pick that up, and talk to someone that matters.”

His phone started to ring again. Spatz let out a sigh.

After the meeting was done, his phone rang again, and he picked it up.

“Oh there you are,” Levi said, “Do you think I should order out tonight? Or do Taco Bell again.”

Spatz let out a low grumble.

Later in the evening he pulled over on the side of the road, rolled down the window, and yelled out.

“Cam, need a ride?”

Cam had his bag in hand, full of what Spatz had to guess was boxing gear. There were other kids with him, none of which Spatz recognized. Cam looked at them, and the others laughed before Cam jogged over to the window.

“I’mma just catch the bus,” Cam said into the window, “Thanks officer.”

Spatz had almost forgot he was still in a cruiser.

“Look,” Spatz said, “Streets aren’t exactly safe these days, I was on my way into the city.”

As far as Spatz could tell, getting Cam to trust you was the hard part. How Levi had ever managed it was a mystery that Spatz had never figured out. Spatz didn’t want to call it trust issues, with the bit of the guy’s history that he knew, he was right to keep himself distant. Still, he had some friends right there, that’s better than before.

“I don’t know if you’ve been watching the news,” Cam said, “But a Black guy jumping into a police car, not the safest scenario.”

Spatz started to laugh, but let it fall off. He wasn’t exactly sure how to respond to that one.

Cam looked over his shoulder, and waved goodbye to the rest of his group.

“Look, I wanted to talk to you anyway,” Cam said, “So lets just do this.”

He circled around the car and jumped in. Spatz pulled away, and they were off toward Chicago.

“So you got some new friends huh?” Spatz asked.

“Oh, you noticed detective?”

Spatz shook his head, “Fine, what did you want to talk about?”

“That hunt thing,” Cam said, his voice getting, “That was… that something you guys do all the time?”

Spatz smirked, “Wild right? Not all the time, no. It helps control the chaos. We can’t just jump at every fight that pops up, sometimes you need rules. The hunt is the game. It makes it like a soccer game, sets up the boundaries, and defines the players.”

“Except instead of a bunch of guys kicking a ball around,” Cam said, “You’re killing people.”

There was a little regret there. Spatz could hear it. That wasn’t Cam’s fight, maybe it wasn’t the best time to bring him in. He didn’t know what the shifters were doing, he didn’t feel the pressure to get revenge against the Pure.

“Usually spirits,” Spatz said, “Like that spider-creature we fought. Or someone like Bohle.”

Cam nodded, “I’m not against it, just trying to figure out what I’m signing up for. I can’t be up every night chasing whatever pissed you guys off that morning, you know?”

“Yeah, I hear you.”

“What the f-”

Cam didn’t get to finish his sentence, a mess of fur and screams hit the sidewalk next to them. It looked like it fell out of an abandoned apartment building. It rolled over, scrambled to its feet, stood up like a man.

“Beshilu!” Spatz said as the car yanked forward and screeched to a stop.

“What?” Cam said.

The creature ran off into the night, and then a woman with animalistic features on her face landed where it once did, and buckled from prominent injuries along her arm and chest.

“A rat,” Spatz said, “Come on, we need to catch it.”

Spatz jumped out of the car, and Cam leaned out the police car window, “Why not just chase it in here?”

“Not in the police car,” Spatz said, and then ran to the woman’s side.

That didn’t resolve itself until well into the night.

“It was unrelated,” Spatz said as he collapsed on the bed in Levi’s motel room.

“Unrelated like, what?” Levi said, “Because a scary rat spirit sounds like it could be related.”

Spatz shrugged, “Beshilu are always around. Another werewolf thing. Father wolf couldn’t destroy them, so they spread around the world, getting their revenge on us for always hunting them.”

Levi frowned, “Do you ever, you know, listen to yourself when you’re telling those stories?”

Spatz sat up, “I brought ice, I don’t know why you didn’t just get some from down the hallway.”

“I don’t trust those,” Levi said, “Thanks though. Now we can have drinks.”

He tried not to roll his eyes. He was drinking at a younger age, though beers instead of colorful cocktails.

“You’re kind of extra grumpy today,” Levi said as he went into the motel room freezer and pulled out a small assortment of alcohol.

“Long day,” Spatz replied.

Levi took it all to a table, “You’re not going to talk about it are you?”

Spatz just let out a noncommittal groan, and closed his eyes. He was fine just listening to Levi work, and not worrying for a one minute.

“Another user got attacked,” Levi said over the clink of ice, “This one was a bird, they said something about werewolves. I’m starting to think Meredith is trying to start something.”

She wasn’t, it already started. Spatz didn’t bother explaining that, he knew what Levi’s response would be. Still, shifters and werewolves didn’t always get along, and that is just how it was. He was risking a lot even being there. What if Levi was also working with the Pure? What if that was why Sylvia was so close to Jennifer? What if he was just being played, or lead into a trap. What would be his excuse to Meredith when she found out he put central Illinois at risk, over what?

He realized he was growling, and he sat up with a start.

Levi was staring at him.

Spatz pulled himself off the bed, and reached out for his coat.

“You’re going?” Levi said, a note of actual concern in his voice, for once.

“Yeah,” Spatz replied, “I have to be somewhere tonight.”

Levi was standing in front of two half-made drinks, “Fine, I guess I’ll get drunk alone.”

He didn’t have time to be guilt-tripped. He put on his coat, and went to the door.

“Call me tomorrow,” Spatz said as he opened the door.

“Sure that won’t interrupt you and your boyfriend?” Levi snapped.

Spatz shook his head and closed the door behind him. He went down the stairs, checked his phone one last time, and then stopped and looked up to the sky.

There, peeking from behind the clouds, the full moon. He could feel it, like the heat of the sun at high noon, burning against his skin. Another werewolf might give in to it, another werewolf might have looked for bloodshed, or at least some act of violence or passion.

Spatz walked around to the back of the motel, and his body began to shift. He fell to all fours, and let out a howl that made the night tremble. This was his night, and he had a long run ahead of him.

“So that’s all?” Meredith asked, “A few incidents at the school?”

Spatz cracked his neck, “That and the situation at that lodge in Chicago, but you heard about that one.”

Meredith was silent on the other side of the line.

“Fine,” She said, “Can you pick up the boy? I want him to join us tonight, and he seems reluctant.”

“Yes ma’am,” Spatz said. Then she hung up, and Spatz let out all the air in his lungs. Another day, and more work ahead.

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