By Jade F. Callan
(Sorry, guys, but this one’s for me – and my mother!)
“Chance, you got that transmission fixed yet?” Jake called to his partner from inside the garage.
“Huh?” Chance, lost in thought, poked his head out from under the hood of the car he was supposed to be working on out in the salvage yard.
“Guess not,” Jake walked out to where Chance was in the yard, “We might as well go down and work on the jet. Is Felina coming by tonight?”
“Why?” Chance straightened up from over the car.
“Just wondering,” Jake answered.
“Does it bother you?” Chance asked.
“No, she’s cool. It’s nice to see her a couple of times a week,” Jake replied.
“Yeah,” Chance grinned, “She’ll be here later.”
“C’mon, let’s go down to the hanger,” Jake turned and headed inside, Chance following behind him.
Malachai hunched in the shadows, peering out the window on the third floor of the abandoned building he was hiding in. The Enforcers had almost caught him the last time, so he had a better escape route planned this time. Running his paw along the barrel of his gun, Malachai felt a rush of adrenalin in anticipation of the days’ activity. The money was only part of the thrill. With a slow smile, he checked his watch. Not much longer to wait, he mused, turning back to the window, cradling his gun.
Felina brought her chopper around the back side of City Hall and headed for Enforcer Headquarters. She would have to hurry, or she would be late for the big meeting this morning. There had been several Enforcers shot recently, and her Uncle wanted answer to the question of who the sniper was. It was a very mysterious case, and this meeting was supposed to be a brainstorming session to try and get a handle on what exactly was happening. Although Felina didn’t have any suspects at the moment, she didn’t intend to miss that meeting. As the landing platform on the top of Enforcer Headquarters came into view, she recalled what the roof had looked like three months ago, after The Metallikats had finished with it. What a mess they had made! With all the damage caused by The Metallikats, Jake, Chance, and Sami, it had taken almost a month to repair everything. The thought of Chance and Jake made Felina smile. It would be good to see them tonight, she reflected, as she landed the chopper.
Jake, taking a break from his work on the jet’s engine systems, looked over at his partner, who again seemed lost in thought, a wrench lying idly in his paw.
“Hey, Chance,” Jake called, “What’s eating you today?”
“Huh?” Chance turned toward Jake, “Oh, sorry. Just thinking.”
“About Felina?” Jake asked.
“Sort of,” Chance drew his brows down, “I mean, what do you suppose she sees in a kat like me?”
“What do you see in her?” Jake countered.
“You kidding?” Chance’s eyes widened, “She’s smart, beautiful, funny, talented, warm, tough, and one hell of a good pilot. And that’s just for starters.”
“She can’t cook,” Jake observed.
“Neither can I,” Chance pointed out.
“Sounds like a match made in heaven to me,” Jake told his friend, “What are you so worried about?”
“Those are her good points, not mine,” Chance said, “And, besides, she also comes from a rich and powerful family. Can you see me fitting in with the Ferals?”
“I didn’t realize Felina had made her family’s acceptance of you a condition of your relationship,” Jake replied.
“She didn’t, but it’s bound to come up,” Chance tossed the wrench in his paw onto a nearby workbench, “Besides, like I said, I have nothing to offer her.”
“Aw, c’mon, Chance, don’t be so hard on yourself,” Jake folded his arms across his chest, “You’re one hell of a pilot yourself, you know, even if you are a bit of a hothead. I’m sure, if you ask Felina tonight, she’d tell you what she loves about you.”
“What if she can’t think of anything?” Chance asked in a low voice.
“You’ll never know until you ask,” Jake pointed out as he returned to his work. After a few moments, he heard Chance pick up the wrench and resume work on the nose of the jet. Shaking his head, Jake hoped he hadn’t misplaced his trust in Felina.
Malachai raised his gun and lined the sight up with his eye. Taking careful aim at the figure on the docks below, he squeezed the trigger, and felt a rush of adrenalin as the Enforcer in his sights fell to the ground. slowly lowering the gun, he savored the sounds of shouting for a few moments, then melted into the shadows surrounding him, before the Enforcers had a chance to even begin to realize where the shot had come from.
Felina impatiently waited for the elevator. It had taken longer than usual for her to check in her chopper, and she was afraid of missing her meeting. She would have taken the stairs, but the maintenance crew was working in the stairwell and she didn’t feel like disturbing them. Finally, the elevator doors opened, and she stepped in, pressing the button for the fifth floor.
“In a hurry, Felina?” someone asked from the back of the elevator.
“Sami!” Felina turned and smiled at her friend, “Do you make it a habit to lurk in the back of elevators?”
“Just practicing,” Sami smiled back.
“How’s flight school going?” Felina moved to stand beside Sami.
“I’m top of the class,” Sami revealed shyly.
“That’s wonderful!” Felina said.
“Jake thinks so, too,” Sami replied.
“Jake?” Felina’s eyes widened, “As in Jake Clawson?”
“Here’s your floor,” Sami pointed out, blushing fiercely.
“We’ll talk later, Sami,” Felina informed her, “This time, I’m the one who wants details!” Felina quickly exited the elevator and walked toward her uncle’s office. As she entered the room, the radio on her belt squawked to life.
“Shooting at the docks,” Snow’s voice came over the radio, “Enforcer down. I need an ambulance, quick!”
Felina drew in a sharp breath, and looked over at her uncle.
“Another one?” Commander Feral asked no one in particular and he brought his fist down on the response button of his own radio, “This is Feral. Is the perpetrator in custody?”
“Negative,” came Snow’s response, “He got away.”
“And the officer?” Feral inquired.
“She’s in pretty bad shape, sir. If that ambulance doesn’t hurry up, we’ll lose her,” Snow reported.
“Keep me posted. Feral out,” The Commander cut the connection, then looked up at Felina, “That’s the sixth Enforcer shot on the docks in the past two months, and my hunch is they were all shot by the same sniper.”
“Any leads?” Felina asked, sitting in the chair on the other side of Feral’s desk.
“A few,” he told her, “Nothing substantial. I’m canceling the meeting on this until I get Snow’s report,” Feral leaned over and activated his intercom, instructing his secretary, Janine, to cancel the meeting until further notice.
While her uncle spoke to his secretary, Felina pondered the recent shootings, turning over in her mind the possible suspects and motives, but not coming up with anything concrete.
Feral, lifting his finger off the intercom button, turned to his niece, “That’s a rookie that got shot today, and the second she-kat. This is all very strange, and very disturbing.”
Felina nodded, “And there’s no connection between the victims?”
“Only that they are all Enforcers, and all the shootings occurred at the docks,” Feral answered, “Whom ever this sniper is, he’s a crack shot.”
“And all the victims, with today as an exception, died?” Felina asked.
Feral nodded, “Let’s hope that rookie remains the exception,” his jaw was set in a rigid line, his eyes cold.
“I wonder why the sniper favors the docks?” Felina mused, getting out of her chair and walking over to the window, looking out over the city towards the water.
Feral followed her, standing behind her and placing a paw on her shoulder, “I suspect it’s easier to hide down there. Be careful, Felina.”
“You, too,” Felina covered her uncle’s paw with her own. The pair stood there for quite a while, looking out the window.
Jake watched Chance clear away the lunch dishes, contemplating his friends’ latest mood swing. Chance had finally gotten his mind off Felina and onto The Turbokat, and the two had gotten the weapons realignment done by lunchtime. Still, Jake knew when Felina arrived tonight, there were bound to be fireworks. Perhaps he should see if Sami wanted to go to the movies………
“Hey, Jake,” Chance called from over by the sink, “Turn on the TV, will you? There’s a Scardey Kat special on in a few minutes.”
“If you insist,” Jake rolled his eyes as he got up from the table and walked over to the TV. Flipping on the set, he moved toward the door leading down to the garage when a news flash on the TV made him turn back around, “Chance, look at this!” Jake snatched up the remote from the coffee table and turned the sound up. Ann Gora was standing on a dock by the waterfront, making her report. Chance swung around to face the TV.
“….another Enforcer was shot while on patrol today, making her the sixth victim of the mysterious sniper of the docks in the past two months. There appear to be no leads in this case, and Commander Feral has declined comment. The Enforcer was taken to Memorial Hospital, where she is in critical condition and doctors do not hold out much hope for her recovery. Her name is being withheld until family can be notified. This is Ann Gora, Katseye News, returning you to regularly sched….” Jake turned off the TV and turned to Chance, who was gripping the edge of the sink.
“You don’t think that could have been Felina, do you?” Jake asked.
“I don’t think so,” Chance answered slowly, “She doesn’t usually go on foot patrols anymore. Still, if someone called for back-up….”
Without another word, Jake picked up the phone and held it out towards Chance.
Felina had decided to go home for lunch. It wasn’t really permitted, but somehow the familiar surroundings of her own apartment brought her some comfort. After munching on a tuna fish sandwich and some chips, she had cleared away the dishes and was just about to head back to Enforcer Headquarters when the phone rang. She picked it up on the second ring, “Hello?”
“Felina!” Chance roared into the phone.
“Whom were you expecting, Callie Briggs?” Felina asked tartly, holding the phone away from her ear.
“I saw the story about that Enforcer shot down at the docks this morning,” she heard him say as she returned the phone to her ear, “I was afraid……well, I called Enforcer Headquarters. You weren’t there, and they wouldn’t tell me where you were, and….”
“Chance, I’m fine,” Felina interrupted him, “Calm down. Listen, I’ll tell you all about it when I get there tonight, OK? I gotta get back to work now. I love you, see you tonight.”
“Love you too. Be careful, Beautiful,” Chance said, then hung up.
As she returned the phone to its cradle, Felina shook her head and chuckled to herself. Chance got so carried away sometimes. Still, it was nice to know someone cared. Felina reached over to the table and retrieved her keys, then headed for the door.
Jake noted the relief flooding Chance’s face as his partner hung up the phone.
“It wasn’t her,” Chance announced.
“I figured,” Jake grinned, “C’mon, let’s get some work done around here. We got deadlines to meet, ya know.”
Chance smiled at Jake, and the two headed down to the garage, both more relieved than they let on that Felina was still in one piece.
Commander Feral stood next to the windows in his office again, not really seeing what was in front of him. The young rookie shot that morning had died of her injuries, and he had been the one to tell her parents. It was so hard to look into another kat’s eyes and tell them their kitten was dead. Feral clenched his teeth, cold rage filling his being. Turning, he stalked over to his desk and brought his fist down on the intercom button, “Janine!”
“Yes, sir,” his secretary answered.
“I want two orders – no, make that three – typed up for my signature immediately. One, I want full emergency priority given to catching that sniper at the docks. Two, make all patrols in the waterfront area car patrols only until further notice,” he growled.
“And the third one, sir?” Janine asked.
“Give Officer Snow the rest of the week off, with pay,” Feral finished.
“Right away, sir,” Janine said.
Feral released the intercom button and sat heavily in his chair. With every fiber of his being, Feral hoped he never had to face his brother and sister – in – law with the news that Felina had died in the line of duty.
Felina climbed the steps in front of Enforcer Headquarters, and nearly crashed into Snow as he exited the building.
“Hey, Snow,” Felina greeted him, “How’s your partner doing?”
Snow raised sad eyes to her, “Didn’t you hear? She’s dead!” Without another word, Snow pushed past her and practically ran down the steps, turning in the direction of City Hall.
Felina felt her stomach drop into her boots. Another Enforcer dead at the hands of that damn sniper. It had to stop. Felina’s jaw set in a hard line as she entered Enforcer Headquarters. Moving swiftly through the lobby, she entered an open elevator and punched the button for the fifth floor. Slowly, the elevator doors closed as Felina pondered the sniper situation.
Commander Feral looked up as his niece marched into his office.
“Uncle, that sniper has to be stopped!” Felina announced, stopping at the corner of his desk.
“I take it you heard the rookie died?” Feral asked her. He could see her clenching her jaw with rage.
“Yeah, and I managed to put my foot in my mouth finding out,” she told him, “I asked Snow how his partner was doing, and , well, he told me.”
“I gave him the rest of the week off,” Feral said, “And you’re right, that sniper has to be stopped.”
“I want to help, Uncle,” Felina declared, “Please assign me to one of the harbor patrols.”
“I did, Felina,” Feral handed her a copy of the afternoon duty roster, “You’re on helicopter patrol around the docks. We need our best Enforcers on this case. Just do me one favor.”
“What’s that?” Felina handed the roster back to him.
“Be damn careful,” Feral looked hard at his niece.
Without commenting, Felina turned and exited the office.
Malachai crouched in the sewer tunnel he had escaped to. He had been in there since that morning, and his feet were cramping. He fingered his rifle lovingly, remembering the way that Enforcer had dropped when he had nailed her that morning. This had turned into a fantastic job, immensely satisfying in many ways. The money was pretty good too. Soon, though, the main part of the job would have to be done. Malachai licked his lips in anticipation. All the pieces were in place. All he had to do now was wait, and he had the feeling he wouldn’t have to wait long.
Chance slid out from under the car he was working on and glanced over at the clock.
“Yeah, I know,” Jake’s voice drifted over before Chance could say anything, “It’s quitting time. Almost time for Felina to get here as well.”
Chance grinned, “Gotta get cleaned up, you know! Besides, it’s getting dark,” Tossing the socket wrench in his paw aside, he stood up and walked over to the open garage door. Reaching up, Chance pulled the door down and turned the lock.
Jake, meanwhile, wiped his paws off on a rag and flipped the sign in the window to the side that said closed – please ring bell for emergency service’. Tossing the rag onto the workbench, Jake headed for the stairs, Chance on his heels.
“Hope there’s no emergency calls tonight,” Chance muttered as he turned out the lights and they climbed the stairs.
“For us, or for Felina?” Jake asked.
“Neither,” Chance responded as they entered the kitchen.
Jake turned on the lights as Chance headed down the hall to the bathroom. Glancing around, Jake decided to do a little straightening up before Felina arrived. Chance wasn’t the only thing that needed cleaning up, Jake mused as he moved through the house.
Felina landed her chopper on top of Enforcer Headquarters, her pretty face marred by a vicious scowl. No one had even a glimpse of that sniper today. She had kept at her patrol so long she barely had any fuel left in her helicopter. The two extra hours hadn’t helped any. Switching off the chopper, Felina exited the craft and crossed the roof, heading for the door. She realized she was an hour late for dinner with Jake and Chance, and made a mental note to call them as soon as she got to her apartment. Still scowling, Felina entered the stairwell, lost in thought.
Malachai slowly lifted up the cover of the access hatch to the sewer. It led to the middle of Main Street. The street was pretty quiet now that rush hour was over. Slowly, he pushed the lid aside and climbed out of the hole, his rifle tucked under his coat. Replacing the lid, Malachai walked over to the near side of the street, thrust his paws in his pockets, and started down the sidewalk towards his home. As he passed the appliance store, he saw a story on the Enforcer he had shot that morning being reported by Ann Gora. Smiling to himself as the news that the Enforcer had died flashed across the screen, Malachai continued on his way, stopping to buy a sandwich and milk from a street vendor, whom he tipped handsomely.
“That’s not the kind of report I was hoping for!” Feral growled as Paul Lynx hand him the daily report. There was no news on the sniper.
“I’m sorry, sir,” Lynx responded, “We all want to get that sniper, but he seems to vanish after each shooting.”
“i know, I know,” Feral said, setting the report to the side and leaning back in his chair, “Dismissed, Lynx.”
As Officer Lynx left, Feral got up and stretched. He reached over and picked up his coat, and slid into it. Slowly buttoning the coat, Feral decided to call it a day. He was in need of dinner and sleep, not necessarily in that order. This case is going to drive me crazy, he thought sourly as he headed for the door.
“That was Felina,” Chance said as Jake came down the hall after his shower, “She’s going to be late, and said we should start without her. The pizzas are here, anyway. You want tuna or shrimp?”
“How about a little of each?” Jake asked as he sat down at the table.
“Sounds good to me,” Chance sat across from Jake, and reached over to open the pizza boxes.
“What’s wrong, buddy? You bummed because Felina’s late?” Jake asked as they each grabbed a couple of pieces from each box.
“Not exactly. Felina said that Enforcer who was shot today died,” Chance explained, “She was just a rookie, too.”
“Oh, wow,” Jake was at a loss for what to say.
“I know,” Chance responded, “Felina said she’d tell us more when she got here. She sounded pretty torn up about it.”
The two ate in silence, each thinking about the fallen rookie, and back to their own rookie days in the Enforcers.
Callie Briggs sighed as she locked her office door, pleased to be done for the day, or evening as the case might be. She was beat. Between writing three speeches for Mayor Manx, juggling his public appearances for the month, and responding to various crisis that had popped up over the course of the day, she had had it. Callie walked over to the elevator, pressed the call button, and got on when the doors opened. She pushed the button for the lobby, watching the elevator doors slide shut. Since there had been a leak in the garage that morning, she had been forced to park on the street. When the elevator doors opened onto the lobby, Callie walked across to the front doors and exited the building. On her way down the front stairs, however, she saw an Enforcer leaning against the lamp post on her right. He had a sorrowful look about him, and it seemed to her he had been there a long time.
“Everything all right, Officer?” Callie asked as she descended the stairs.
“Not really,” the officer replied.
Callie sensed he meant that remark in a personal rather than professional way, “Can I help?”
“I doubt it,” the officer replied, staring at the sidewalk.
“Wanna talk? There’s a coffee shop around the corner,” Callie couldn’t believe she was doing this, but he was an Enforcer, and he looked so sad, she couldn’t resist trying to help.
“I guess,” the officer looked up and moved over to her.
“What’s your name? Mine’s Callie,” she told him, as she began to lead the way down the street.
“Just call me Snow. My first name is Harry, but only my mother uses it anymore,” Snow answered, following behind Callie.
Felina slowed her motorcycle as she approached the front gate of the salvage yard. The motorcycle had been put together out of the remains of several different bikes, and it ran like a dream. Not much to look at, but Jake and Chance, upon presenting it to her, claimed that was the point. In her car or helicopter, Felina would draw too much attention coming to the salvage yard after hours. On the motorcycle, out of uniform, however, no one even gave her a second glance. She reached the gate, and stopped long enough to press the release on the right side of it. With a clicking sound, the gate rolled open, and Felina gunned the bike through. The gate slid close after her.
As she approached the garage, Jake opened the large main door and grinned at her. Felina drove into the garage, stopping near a car in some various state of repair. Turning off the bike, she pushed down the kickstand and pulled the motorcycle up onto it. As she dismounted, Jake closed the garage door and walked over to her.
“Late night?” Jake asked, watching her remove her helmet and gloves.
“Something like that,” Felina placed the helmet and gloves on the seat of her motorcycle, “Where’s Chance?”
“Upstairs. I left a book down here in the office, and had just come down to get it when I heard the gate open,” Jake explained, holding the book in his paw up for her to see, “We ate, but we saved you some pizza.”
“Sounds good,” Felina moved towards the stairs, then realized Jake was not following her. She turned back around, “Uh, Jake, could you come upstairs with me?”
“Sure, if you want. I thought you and Chance might want to be alone, though. I think he has something he wants to talk to you about. He’s been acting moody,” Jake made no move to follow Felina.
“Well, that might be,” Felina said, “but I need to bounce a couple of things off the two of you on this sniper case. It’s really bugging me.”
“OK, I’m right behind you,” Jake started towards her.
“How long has Chance been moody?” Felina inquired as she led the way up the stairs.
“All day,” Jake replied.
“Great,” Felina muttered, opening the door at the top of the stairs. As she entered the kitchen, she saw Chance sitting on the couch in the living room, leafing through the newspaper.
“Find your book?” Chance called to Jake, not looking up, “You must have found it, all the noise you were making down there.”
“Yep, I found it,” Jake responded, closing the door as he walked in, “That, and something else.”
“Huh?” Chance put the paper down on the coffee table and turned to look at Jake, “What do you mean?”
“Look what the kat dragged in,” Jake smiled and pointed to his left.
Chance’s gaze wandered in the direction Jake was pointing, “Felina!” he cried with delight.
“Surprise,” Felina smiled at him.
Chance rose from the couch as Felina walked towards him, “Are you ok?” Chance asked, his eyes on hers. When she reached him, Chance took her into his arms and held her close.
“I’m fine,” Felina’s muffled voice came from the depths of Chances’ embrace, “Now, let go. I gotta talk to you two about something.”
Chance loosened his embrace, and Felina gave him a quick kiss as she backed out of his arms.
“What’s the news on this sniper?” Jake asked, coming into the room to join them. All three sat down on the couch, Felina in the middle.
“We probably don’t know much beyond what you’ve heard from the media,” Felina gestured to the newspaper lying on the coffee table, “but I’ll give you the story anyway,” she leaned back against Chance as she spoke, “About two months ago, an Enforcer on a routine foot patrol down at the docks was shot and killed. Poor kat, he left a wife and three kittens behind. Anyway, at first we put it down to a stray shot, perhaps a mob fight that had gotten out of hand. Then, it happened again. Another Enforcer was shot down at the docks, and ballistics matched the bullets from the two shootings. That’s when we knew we had a case.”
“Any connection between the Enforcers who have been killed?” Chance interrupted her.
“Nope. The only connection between any of the victims is that they were all Enforcers, and all shot by the same weapon while on foot patrol at the docks,” Felina replied.
“Were they all shot around the same area at the docks?” Jake wanted to know.
“Not really,” Felina felt Chances’ arms slide around her waist protectively, “That’s one of the problems in this case. The only firm lead is that all six Enforcers were shot by the same gun, a high powered rifle.”
“Any leads on the gun?” Chance asked.
“Not yet,” Felina covered Chances’ paws with her own, and resumed her account of the case, “The other four killings happened over the last few weeks, including the one today. There is another aspect to this case that I thought was interesting, though,” Felina looked directly at Jake, “The sniper never misses, he only has to fire once to kill. A sure shot, in other words.”
Jake’s eyes widened, “Are you accusing me?” His voice carried disbelief mixed with rising anger, and his body tensed.
“Of course not!” Felina protested, “But I wondered if you might have an idea who it might be.”
“Hmmmm, I’ll have to think about it,” Jake relaxed a bit, “No one in particular comes to mind at the moment but Sami.”
“Sami?” Felina and Chance asked together.
“Yep. She’s one hell of a crack shot,” Jake informed the pair, “I doubt, however, that she’s the sniper. As for any other sharp shooters, like I said, let me think on it.”
“OK,” Felina still looked a bit surprised by Jakes’ revelation about her friend, “You and Sami must see a lot of each other for you to know her so well,” she observed.
“Well, um, sort of,” Jake squirmed a bit in his seat.
“Sort of?” Felina was amused to see the color rise in Jake’s cheeks. She was about to press the matter when Chance’s arms tightened around her.
“Felina!” Chance chastised her good-naturedly.
“Uh, I know you two have a lot to talk about, and Felina probably wants to grab some dinner, so I’ll just pop downstairs to the office and, uh, catch up on some paperwork, or, uh, something,” Jake quickly jumped up and beat a hasty retreat out the door and back down the stairs, still clutching the book in his paw.
“You sure know how to clear a room, Felina,” Chance chuckled merrily as he hugged her.
Malachai lay in bed, his apartment enveloped in darkness. All the heavy shades on the windows had been made to his exact specifications, and covered the windows completely, allowing no light to invade his inner sanctum. He found the dark comforting, almost nurturing. He lay in his self-made cocoon, awaiting his next set of orders. Malachai had the feeling the call would come soon, as his employer seemed to be getting impatient for the job to be finished. It was all the same to Malachai, either way. He switched the radio on the bedside table on low, hoping for more news on his latest victim.
Menelaus Feral was bored. He looked across the room to where his wife, Helen, was conversing with the chairkat of whatever charity this party was for. She was involved in so many, they all sort of ran together after a while. Menelaus raised his champaign glass and took a healthy gulp as his business partner, Michael Manx, sat down next to him.
“Well, Menelaus,” Michael began, reaching for an unclaimed water glass on the table in front of them, “Looks like Helen has outdone herself again. She really knows how to organize things.”
“Tell me about it,” Menelaus snarled, banging down his now empty glass, “Sometimes I think my daughter Felina had the right idea all along. At least she got out of our ultra-organized house as soon as possible.”
“Speaking of Felina, that wasn’t her that got shot today, was it?” Michael asked coolly, sipping from his glass.
“Huh? Oh, you mean that unpleasantness down on the waterfront,” Menelaus struggled to focus his champaign – clouded mind, “No, it wasn’t her. Ulysses would have called if it was. I tried to call Felina earlier, but Helen was in such a hurry to get here, I didn’t finish the call. By the way, that was a great speech your uncle gave tonight. Beats me how Mayor Manx always comes up with those great speeches, considering all the time he spends on the golf course.”
“I think Deputy Mayor Briggs has something to do with it,” Michael said, getting to his feet, “Glad to hear your daughters’ all right. See you at the office,” He moved off in the direction of the bar.
Menelaus watched Michael walk away, puzzled by his interest in Felina. Perhaps he had better check on his daughter, charity party be damned. Slowly, Menelaus pulled out his cellular phone and began to dial, then realized he didn’t know Felina’s new phone number by memory. Hanging up the phone in disgust, he then turned it back on and again started to dial, this time to his brother. If anyone would know what was going on with Felina, it would be Ulysses.
Commander Feral was in the midst of taking out his frustrations on the punching bag in his basement when the phone rang. Taking one last swing, he turned and reached for the phone on the wall to his left, “Feral here.”
“Ulysses?” Menelaus greeted him, “It’s me, your brother.”
“Menelaus?” Feral was surprised, “I thought you and Helen were at some sort of charity thing tonight. Is something wrong?”
“That’s what I’m calling to ask you,” Menelaus explained, “I wanted to check on Felina.”
“You’re calling me to check on her?” Feral was incredulous, “Why not call her directly?”
“I don’t have her number here with me,” Menelaus explained, “Look, Ulysses, I don’t need a lecture on parenting. I raised five kittens just fine, thank you. All I want to know is whether or not it was Felina that was hurt on the docks today.”
“That happened this morning and you’re just now checking that it wasn’t your daughter?” Feral felt his anger rise. Sometimes, he just couldn’t believe his brother, “No, Menelaus, it wasn’t your daughter, it was someone else’s,” With that, Commander Feral slammed down the phone, shaking his head in disgust. He thought of calling Felina, but changed his mind. No sense bothering her about this. Turning back to the punching bag, Feral took a few more swings at it before heading upstairs for a long, hot shower.
Chance sat opposite Felina at the kitchen table as she munched on the slices of pizza he and Jake had left for her. He had offered to heat them up, but she said cold pizza was fine with her.
“So,” Chance began, “did you know the rookie who was shot today?”
Felina nodded, “She was Snow’s partner. I met her a few times. She hadn’t been on the force long.”
“Snow’s partner?” Chance leaned his chin on his upturned paw, “Oh, wow, poor Harry.”
“My uncle gave Snow the rest of the week off,” Felina informed him, “I hope it helps, especially after the dumb thing I did today,” she proceeded to tell him about her encounter with Snow outside Enforcer Headquarters that afternoon.
“I’m sure he won’t hold it against you,” Chance said.
“I hope not,” Felina got up and put her dishes in the sink, washed her paws, and returned to the table.
“Um, Felina,” Chance was looking down at the table top, “There’s something I want to ask you……..something important.”
“Sure,” Felina reached out and took his paw in hers, “What is it?”
“What exactly do you see in me?” Chance blurted out, raising his eyes to hers.
Felina stared at him, a look of disbelief crossing her face.
Jake had settled in the swivel chair in the garage office, and had tried to get some reading done, but found his thoughts wandering. Felina’s questions about Sami had hit home, and Jake closed the book in his paws and laid it on the desk in front of him as thoughts of the pretty blonde Enforcer crowded his mind. He thought back to the first time he had talked to her on the phone. It had been about two and a half months ago, when she had called to clarify something on the report on that incident with the Metallikats. Chance was out, so Jake had taken the call. After getting the information on the case, Sami had seemed reluctant to hang up. Jake had always been shy around she-kats, but somehow he found Sami easy to talk to. He had asked her about her new training and, before he knew it, they had been on the phone for almost two hours. Since them, the two had spent many hours on the phone, Jake sometimes helping Sami with her studying, and other times they simply talked. They had met at the target range a couple of times, where Jake had discovered Sami’s talent for sharpshooting, but they hadn’t really had an official date’ yet. Sami had been too busy with her training to get away, and Jake had been too shy to actually ask her out. Jake sighed, and reached for the phone to call her, when he remembered she had early radio duty in the morning. He checked his watch and decided to wait until tomorrow to call.
Jake picked up his book and had just started to concentrate when he heard Chance and Felina’s voices from the room above. Felina’s boots thumped on the ceiling over Jake’s head as she stalked across the floor. Jake tried to ignore them, but his curiosity got the best of him, and he closed his book once more.
“I can’t believe you asked that,” Felina’s footsteps finally stopped.
“I need to know, Felina,” Chance told her, “Look, I’m not exactly your type, you know.”
“Since when do I have a type?” Felina inquired. Jake could hear the anger in her voice.
“You and I aren’t exactly from the same type of family,” Chance responded.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Felina demanded.
“It’s just….look, this isn’t the way I wanted this conversation to go…” Jake heard Chances’ footsteps moving in her direction, and then suddenly stop.
“Then why don’t you clarify things for me,” Felina’s voice was quite loud at this point.
Jake squirmed in his seat. Part of him wanted to ignore the whole situation, and part wanted to go up there and shake some sense into the both of them. Thus torn, he continued to listen, in spite of the fact he thought eavesdropping was a bad habit.
“All I’m trying to say is that, well, I don’t have much to offer someone like you……,” Chance trailed off, and Jake could only imagine the look on Felina’s face that caused him to do so.
“Go on,” Felina demanded through clenched teeth.
“I mean, your family has money, power, a good name, not to mention including the Commander of the Enforcers,” Chance continued, “What can I add to that? I’m sure I’m definitely nowhere near what your parents would have picked out for you.”
“It’s not their choice, it’s mine,” Felina snapped, “Besides, don’t my feelings count for anything?”
“Of course they do,” Chance protested, “It’s just, well, I don’t want to come between you and your family.”
“Are you saying you don’t love me?” Felina’s voice was lower, but Jake could still hear an edge on it.
“I love you more that anything or anyone, Felina,” Chance declared, “Which is why I don’t want you to settle for less than you deserve.”
Jake cringed at Chance’s words. Damn it, he thought, the best thing that ever happened to Chance, and he was doing his best to chase her away.
“Who said you’re less than I deserve?” Felina again began to pace the room, Jake guessing to keep herself from strangling Chance.
“C’mon, Felina, I’m not exactly the high class type!” Chance’s voice was now raised a few decibels.
“Maybe the high class type is not what I want, Chance!” Felina raised her tone to match his. Jake was thankful the garage was set back from the road, and that the neighbors weren’t too close.
“There’s no way you can tell me your parents didn’t pick out someone for you to marry,” Chance countered, “I’m sure their opinion matters somewhat to you.”
“Yes, they picked someone out,” her footsteps came to a stop, “He was dumb as a box of hammers and about half as interesting.”
In spite of himself, Jake grinned.
“I doubt a washed-up mechanic would be their second choice,” Chance snapped back.
“No,” Felina’s voice carried a note of amusement despite her anger, “Their second choice was Lieutenant Commander David Steel.”
Jake’s grin grew wider, and he fought a mad urge to laugh as the image of Felina and Steel married entered his mind.
“You’re kidding!” Chance’s voice also carried a smile.
“Nope,” Felina replied, “Look, Chance, you asked what I see in you? You’re sweet, kind, loyal, brave, and caring. You accept me for who and what I am, not whom I’m related to. I love you just as much as you love me. Isn’t that enough?”
“I just think you could do better,” Chance said stubbornly.
Jake’s smile faded. C’mon, buddy, don’t blow this, he pleaded silently, looking at the ceiling as if he could will some sense into Chance.
“If you really feel that way,” Felina told him as her footsteps traveled to the far end of the room. Jake heard her open the door at the top of the stairs, “I’ll go now. You and Jake keep the motorcycle, I’ll call a cab on the pay phone down the street,” She started down the stairs.
Jake dove under the desk as Felina’s motorcycle boots came into view. Just what he needed, to get caught eavesdropping by an angry she- kat.
“Felina, wait!” Chance called as he followed her, catching up to her in the middle of the stairs.
“Yes, Chance?” She turned to face him as he stood beside her.
“Please don’t go, Beautiful,” Chance placed his paws on her shoulders, “I love you.”
“I love you too, Chance,” Felina told him.
Jake breathed a sigh of relief under the desk. He guessed Felina had counted on the fact that Chance would come after her.
“Does that mean you’ll stay?” Chance asked anxiously.
“Only if you answer two questions,” Felina replied, “First, are you ever going to try and chase me away again?”
“No, I promise I won’t,” Chance slid his arms around her waist, “What’s the second question?”
“Why do you call me Beautiful’?” Felina returned his embrace, looking up at him questioningly.
“Why?” Chance looked puzzled. That definitely was not the question he was expecting.
Don’t blow it again, buddy, Jake thought to himself. He hoped those two got things straightened out quickly. It was a bit cramped under the desk, and his foot was going to sleep.
“Well?” Felina prompted.
“I call you Beautiful because that’s what you are,” Chance explained, smiling at her, “You are the most beautiful she-kat I know, beautiful both on the inside and the outside.”
“I….uh…….um…..,” Felina stammered.
“Even when you blush, you’re beautiful,” Chance informed her, then pulled her close for a kiss.
Bingo! Jake congratulated his partner silently.
“Let’s go back upstairs, shall we?” Chance whispered.
“Thought you’d never ask,” Felina whispered back.
Jake heard the two climb the stairs and re-enter the rooms above. He decided to give them ten minutes to themselves, then to head back upstairs himself. As he emerged from under the desk, however, he heard footsteps upstairs heading in the direction of Chance’s bedroom. Perhaps, Jake thought, they only need five minutes. Chuckling, he headed for the stairs, picking up the neglected book off the desk as he went.
Malachai dozed lightly on his bed, his right paw resting on the rifle lying beside him. The apartment was deathly quiet, and shrouded in darkness. He had long since turned off the radio, letting the silence of the night lull him to sleep. Even in sleep, however, part of his mind listened for the phone. Malachai expected it to ring soon. Shifting in his sleep, his left paw curled over his stomach in a protective gesture. Mixed in with the pleasure this job had brought him, Malachai had a strange sense of foreboding. He usually managed to dismiss it during the day, but it troubled his sleep.
Commander Feral rolled over yet again, and punched his pillow. His was finding it rather difficult to sleep. Between the death of that rookie, the baffling sniper case, and his brother’s ridiculous phone call, his mind was still turning everything over. With a heavy sigh, Feral turned his head and glanced out the window, looking up at the stars above. They looked so peaceful, he was almost jealous. Closing his eyes, he again tried to sleep, but didn’t hold out much hope.
Chance raised his paw and began to stroke Felina’s dark hair. After they had made love, he had slept for a few hours to wake to the wonderful sensation of Felina’s body pressed against his. Listening to her steady breathing, Chance glanced over at his battered alarm clock – 2am. He returned his gaze to the she-kat beside him. A gap in the window shade let a bit of moonlight into the room, and in the dim light Chance contemplated Felina. The thought of his life without her was one he did not welcome, and he was thankful he hadn’t been successful in his efforts to drive her away. She looked so beautiful in the moonlight, Chance had to lean over and kiss her. As he did so, Felina began to stretch, and returned his kiss.
“Mmmmmmm,” Felina moaned, opening her eyes and looking at him, “Now that’s a much nicer way to wake up than to an alarm clock.”
“I’ll say,” Chance agreed, “Especially since we don’t have to get out of bed,” he continued to stroke her hair.
“Is that a proposition, Furlong?” Felina smiled at him, catching hold of the paw he had tangled in her hair.
“Sounds like one to me,” Chance smiled back, disengaging his paw from hers and pulling her close.
“Before I take you up on your offer,” Felina said, “You wouldn’t happen to have anything to eat in here, would you?”
“As a matter of fact….” Chance reached over to the nightstand behind her head, and she heard the rattle of cellophane.
“What’s that?” Felina asked.
“You’ll see,” Chance pulled his paw back and held something up in the moonlight, “Will this do, my dear?”
“Mallowmars!” Felina squeaked, taking a cookie out of his paw. She bit into it with a sigh of pleasure.
“That’s a yes, I guess,” Chance grinned as he popped a cookie into his own mouth.
“You bet,” Felina told him as she finished her snack.
Chance began to laugh, “If anyone had ever told me that someday I’d be eating junk food in bed with a beautiful she-kat in this place, I never would have believed it.”
“We could always do something else in this bed,” Felina informed
him as she moved closer.
“Is that a proposition, Lieutenant?” Chance wrapped his arms around her, again enjoying the feeling of her body against his.
“You better believe it, mister,” Felina replied, giving him a passionate, if somewhat chocolaty, kiss, which he heartily returned.
The phone rang, and Malachai jerked it up before it could ring a second time. Raising the receiver to his face, he sat up on the bed in the same movement. He identified himself, then listened to the instructions coming from the kat on the other end of the line. The orders given were the ones he had been waiting for. After receiving his orders, Malachai hung up the phone, stood up, and picked up his rifle. He had a few things to do before he left for the docks.
Commander Feral finally had given up on sleep after a short nap, and sat at his kitchen table. The file on the sniper case was spread out on the table before him. He knew he was missing some link in the case, if only he could figure out what it was. Feral shifted the papers around in front of him, puzzled by the nagging thoughts in the back of his mind. He was about to put his doubts down to lack of sleep when the phone rang. He got up and walked over to answer it.
“Feral,” he growled into the receiver.
“Commander?” Snow’s voice came over the line to him, “This is Officer Snow. I think I have a lead on that sniper case.”
“Snow?” Feral was surprised. Snow was the last one he expected to hear from, “You’re supposed to be out on leave.”
“I know, sir,” Snow answered, “But I couldn’t sleep, so I thought I’d come in and have another look at this case.”
“It’s going around,” Feral mumbled.
“Never mind,” Feral snapped, “Just tell me what you’ve found.”
“Well, sir, I ran a check on the buildings in the areas where the shootings took place,” Snow explained, “One holding company owns at least one building in each area. I think you’ll be interested in what I came up with.”
“I see,” Feral said, “Do you have a print out of this information, Snow?”
“Fax it to me,” Feral commanded, “I want to have a look at this myself.”
“Yes, sir,” Snow hung up.
Feral replaced the receiver and walked through the house to his home office just off the living room. His fax machine was already receiving Snow’s information. Impatiently, Feral snatched the first page off the machine and began to study it, leaning against the desk nearby. Snow had done good work. By the time Feral had received and read all ten pages of the fax, he had a clear picture of what was going on. Leaving the office, he walked towards the bedroom, to get dressed for a trip to the docks.
Felina listened to Chance’s snoring as she stared at the ceiling. She just couldn’t seem to get back to sleep. Not even making love to Chance could get her mind off that sniper case for long. Sighing, she turned her attention to the window. There was a slight pink cast on the shade, signifying sunrise was not far off. Felina decided she wanted to have a look at the scene of the last shooting for herself. Carefully, she slipped out of bed and dressed, not waking Chance. With one last glance at her sleeping lover, Felina crept out of the room, down the hall, out the door, and down the stairs. She carefully put on her helmet and gloves, and opened a side door to the garage. The motorcycle just fit through the door, and she wheeled the bike through the salvage yard and out to the road before starting it. Hoping onto the motorcycle, she sped off in the dim light before dawn towards her apartment. Felina failed to notice Jake watching her from an upstairs window as she drove away.
Malachai casually walked along the waterfront, his rifle again hidden in the depths of his coat. He was in no hurry, and paused to survey the area. Not much had changed since yesterday, except for the addition of the yellow tape put up by the Enforcers. However, Malachai did not see any Enforcers there to stop him from entering the warehouse. Carefully, he ducked under the yellow tape and entered the building.
Commander Feral sat behind his desk at Enforcer Headquarters, Snow standing behind him to the right. Feral had decided to check in with Snow and double-check his research before he went down to the docks. There was no doubt Snow had found the connection they were looking for, and had even been able to predict the three areas most likely to be used next.
“Good work, Snow,” Feral complemented the young officer.
“Thank you, sir,” Snow replied, “May I request to be allowed to go with you to the docks.”
Feral was about to refuse the request, but, when he looked up at Snow, he could see how important it was to the officer, “all right, Snow, as long as you do just what I tell you to do,” Feral finally said.
“Yes, sir,” Snow responded emotionlessly.
“Wait for me downstairs,” Feral instructed him, “My car is out front.”
As Snow walked out of Feral’s office, the commander picked up his radio, switched it on, and spoke into it, “This is Feral.”
“Yes, sir?” Sami Higgins responded, “This is Higgins.”
“I want this channel dedicated to me until further notice,” Feral told her, “I’m going down to the docks to investigate a lead on that sniper case. Stay close to that receiver, Higgins.”
“Yes, sir,” Sami’s voice was crisp.
Feral cut off his radio connection and reached for the phone. There was one other kat that needed to be aware of this situation.
Felina swept through her apartment one more time, searching for her radio. She had changed into her uniform and bullet-proof vest, and had put on her holster and gun, but the strap that held her radio was empty. In the middle of her search, she stopped short. It struck her where her radio was – on Jake and Chance’s kitchen table. She had taken it with her last night in case there was any news on the sniper case, and had forgotten it that morning. No time to worry about it now. Felina snatched up her keys and sped out the door. As she locked it behind her, she heard the phone ring, but decided against going back in to answer it. She wanted to get to the docks before it got too late, and it was almost 6 already. Turning, she raced down the hall to the stairwell.
Feral slammed down the phone, worried about his niece. Where could she be? Standing up, Feral moved across the office and out the door. as he walked, he activated his radio and instructed Sami to try and raise Felina and tell her, on his order, she was to report to Enforcer Headquarters as soon as possible, and not to go down to the waterfront under any circumstances. Turning down the radio, Feral stepped onto the open elevator at the end of the hall and pressed the button for the lobby.
Malachai settled down in front of the same window he had used yesterday, loading his rifle and cocking it. He doubted his quarry would show here, but orders were orders. The boss seemed confident that everything could be finished up today. In a way, Malachai hoped the boss was wrong. These Enforcers made for good target practice, if nothing else. He leaned forward towards the window as a movement caught his eye. His paws tightened around his rifle in anticipation.
Felina jumped out of the cab, flipped the driver a bill, and told her to keep the change. Slowly, Felina started walking in the direction of the crime scene, glimpsing the yellow tape that had been put up yesterday. She felt something was wrong, and drew her gun. Crouching in the shadows cast by the rising sun, Felina continued to move toward the warehouse. She couldn’t shake the feeling she was being watched.
Chance groaned, and rolled over in bed. It was still too early to get up, at least in his opinion, and he reached out for Felina. His paws traveled across the bed and to the edge of the mattress without finding her. Chance opened his eyes. No Felina. He looked around the room. Not only was she gone, her clothes were gone as well. Thinking she may have gone out to the kitchen in search of breakfast, Chance rolled out of bed, put on his robe, and strolled out of his bedroom and down the hall. Instead of Felina, he found Jake sitting at the kitchen table, drinking coffee.
“Morning, buddy,” Chance said, “Is Felina out here?”
“Nope,” Jake replied, “She left early this morning. Funny, though, she forgot this,” Jake pointed to the radio sitting on one corner of the table.
“Wonder where she went so early?” Chance mused.
“You two have another fight?” Jake asked before he could stop himself. Lucky for him, Chance didn’t notice the slip.
“Just the opposite, in fact,” Chance answered, sitting down at the table and reaching for the radio.
“Want some breakfast?” Jake pushed a plate of donuts in Chance’s direction, “There’s coffee too if you want some.”
Chance switched on Felina’s radio, then got up for some coffee. A familiar voice on the radio caught Jake’s ear.
“This is Enforcer Headquarters, calling Lieutenant Felina Feral. You are ordered to report to Headquarters immediately. Please respond for further instructions,” Sami’s voice squeaked from the radio.
“Well, that might explain why she left so early,” Chance observed as he sat back down with his coffee and reached for a donut, “Wonder what’s up.”
“But why forget her radio?” Jake wanted to know, “And, if it was out here, how could she have heard it in your bedroom? And why didn’t she wake you and tell you she was leaving?”
“Are you trying to worry me?” Chance looked at his partner, “I don’t know what’s up, but chances are she had the radio in the bedroom, and brought it out here when she was leaving, put it down for a second, and just forgot it.”
“Could be,” Jake acknowledged, “Still, I think there’s something weird going on.”
“Leave the radio on, then,” Chance responded, not wanting Jake to see how worried he was becoming. The two sat in silence, listening to Sami’s repeated calls for Felina to check in.
Feral parked his car a few blocks from the waterfront, and instructed Snow to make a sweep of the area and meet him back at the latest crime scene. As Snow started off, Feral climbed out of the car and surveyed the area. There seemed to be some movement ahead of him. Drawing his gun, he moved into the shadows, towards whomever was in front of him.
Malachai raised his rifle, and rested it on the window sill. Lining his eye up to the sight, he steadied the gun and aimed. The boss had been right, that Enforcer had shown up at last. Slowly, he began to squeeze the trigger, aiming for the space between the shoulder and the bullet-proof vest, angling down slightly so the bullet would travel through the ribs and to the heart…….
Felina still couldn’t shake the feeling she was being watched. Moving carefully, she approached the crime scene. Nothing seemed out of place, but it still didn’t feel right. The hair on the back of her neck was standing up.
“Felina! Get down!” Feral called from behind her. He had seen the sun flash off the rifle muzzle sticking out of the window of the warehouse.
Felina swung around as the sound of gunfire exploded around her. Something slammed into her side, and the world went black.
Malachai lowered his rifle, and smiled to himself. One down, one to go. That Enforcer had gone down easy as pie. The next mark should be along soon. Malachai tightened his grip on the rifle with one paw, and reached down and turned on his portable police scanner with the other. He wanted to hear the report of his handiwork. She probably wasn’t alone, but that’s was what Malachai was counting on.
Feral rushed to his niece, terrified of what he might find. He had watched in horror as the bullet had slammed into Felina’s body, and she had been thrown against a building on the right. Reaching Felina, Feral knelt down and felt on the side of her neck for her pulse. Finding it, he breathed a sigh of relief. Putting his paws under her shoulders, he gently but quickly pulled her into an alley next to the building she had been thrown against. Laying her down, Feral leaned over to examine her wound, surprised to see as he did so that she had managed to hold onto her gun.
“Uncle,” Felina whispered, slowly opening her eyes, “I’m OK. He hit my vest. I think the impact may have broken a couple of ribs, but that’s all. Crud, just what I needed.”
Feral looked at his niece, his eyes the only thing betraying his concern, “C’mon, I’m getting you out of here. Snow can handle this.”
“No, wait,” Felina put a paw on his arm, “I’ve got a better idea.”
Snow peered around the corner of the building at his back. he had flattened himself against the wall as soon as he heard the rifle shot. Please, he begged silently, don’t let any more Enforcers die at the hands of that damn sniper. His radio was silent, which made him all the more anxious. What if Commander Feral was down? Snow was contemplating calling for backup, breaking radio silence against Commander Feral’s orders, when his radio crackled to life.
“This is Feral,” squawked Snow’s radio, “Enforcer down. My niece has been hit bad. Code Eighteen.”
“Code what, sir?” came Sami’s voice.
“Code Eighteen,” Feral snapped, “Hop to it, Higgins!”
“Y-y-y-yes, sir,” Sami stuttered, “How badly is Lieutenant Feral hurt, sir?”
“Very badly,” Feral replied, then cut the connection.
Snow began to circle back towards the crime scene slowly, wondering how the hell had Lieutenant Feral gotten mixed up in this. He drew his gun, listening for cars in the distance. A Code Eighteen had to been handled very carefully.
Jake ignored the shattered remains of the coffee cup he had dropped to the floor when he heard the exchange between Sami and Feral. Felina had been shot, and now he was the one who had to tell Chance. Quickly, Jake ran down the hall and pounded on the bathroom door. He could hear the shower running, and guessed Chance couldn’t hear him over the water. Jake tried the door, but it was locked. He was about to force the door open, when he thought of a better way to get Chance’s attention.
Jake raced back down the hall to the kitchen, and opened the hatch to the hanger. Climbing quickly down the access ladder, he flipped on the lights and ran over to a control board to the left of the ladder. Bringing his fist down on a bright red button in the upper right corner, he heard the alarm claxon scream to life. Jake was already donning his g-suit by the time Chance got down the ladder.
“What’s up?” Chance asked, rushing to join Jake.
“Another shooting down at the docks,” Jake explained as the two dressed, “We’d better move if we want to make it in time to do any good.”
“Right,” Chance zipped up his g-suit.
“We’d better take the cyclotron,” Jake finished tying on his mask and reached for his helmet, “It’ll be to hard to land the jet down there.”
“Sounds like a plan, let’s rock and roll!” Chance tied on his own mask.
“Um, Chance,” Jake looked at his friend, “There’s one more thing.”
“What’s that?” Chance took his helmet out of his locker.
“Felina’s the one who was shot,” Jake blurted out, watching the color drain from his partner’s face and the helmet slip from his paws.
Sami was frantically searching through the code book. What the hell did Code Eighteen’ mean? Finally, the watch commander come over to see what was wrong. When Sami explained, the commander quickly turned to the back of the code book, where all the new codes were listed. Sami read the procedure for a Code Eighteen, then turned back to her control board, cursing at the time she had wasted looking up that code. Felina and Commander Feral could die because of her. She began to issue orders rapid fire over the internal intercom in accordance with Code Eighteen.
On the back of the double cyclotron, Razor was holding on for dear life. T-Bone was driving like a kat possessed. They had to be going over two hundred miles per hour. Razor just hoped Felina would be all right. Besides his own affection for her, he knew T-Bone would be devastated if anything happened to her. There had been no more transmissions over the Enforcer band, and they were getting close to the crime scene.
“Hey, T-Bone,” Razor spoke into his radio, despairing of making himself heard over the cyclotron with just his voice, “Better ditch this thing in one of the alleys and go in on foot. No sense being a bigger target than necessary.”
“Roger that,” T-Bone responded, slowing the cyclotron. Spotting an alley ahead to the right, T-Bone pointed the bike in that direction – and the front tire exploded out from under them. The cyclotron went into a skid, and it took all of T-Bone’s strength to angle it towards the alley. As the cyclotron hit the corner of a building, both Razor and T-Bone dived into the alley.
“What happened?” T-Bone asked after he rolled to a stop inside the alley.
“Rifle shot from one of the warehouses in front of us,” Razor explained as he sat up.
“Same thing that hit me,” came a weak but familiar voice behind them. The two SWAT Kats turned to see Felina lying against the far wall of the alley.
Felina!” T-Bone scrambled to her side, Razor close behind him.
“Hi, guys,” Felina greeted them, “Forgive me for not getting up,” She smiled at T-Bone, “Guess I forgot to duck.”
“Are you badly hurt?” T-Bone laid a paw against her cheek.
“Not really. I took a hit on my left side,” she indicated a black and torn area on her blue bullet-proof vest, “The slug didn’t penetrate my vest, but I think it broke a couple of ribs.”
“Did someone call an ambulance?” Razor asked, peering over T- Bone’s shoulder.
“Not exactly. My uncle issued a Code Eighteen call. There should be Enforcer backup all over the area, but camouflaged. He also exaggerated my condition. We gotta make this guy think I’m terminal,” Felina explained.
“And give T-Bone and me heart attacks in the process,” Razor added.
“Where’s Feral now?” T-Bone demanded, wondering why the Commander had left Felina alone when she was wounded.
“I talked him into going in after the sniper,” Felina replied, “Believe me, that wasn’t easy. He didn’t want to leave me here alone, but I insisted.”
“We’d better go give Feral some help,” Razor put in.
“I’m not leaving Felina alone,” T-Bone declared, his eyes still on her prone form.
“You better not go anyway, T-Bone,” Felina cut in, “This sniper is probably after you, too, and is in all likelihood waiting for you to emerge from this alley so he can finish the job he started.”
“What do you mean?” T-Bone raised his eyebrows questioningly.
“It looks like this creep was sent by Leo Konclyn, to get revenge on us for breaking up his smuggling ring,” Felina informed them, “That’s why he’s still around, waiting to take out T-Bone. My uncle explained it all to me,” she shifted a little, grimacing in pain, “It turns out the sniper was shooting Enforcers from buildings owned by Konclyn’s holding company.
“Then you two stay here,” Razor moved off down the alley, “I’m going in. No kat takes pot shots at my friends!” he slipped into a window in the building to the right.
Felina chuckled weakly, then groaned and held her side, “He’s tough.”
T-Bone didn’t respond, but sat down on the ground next to her, taking her paw in his. She noticed the tremor in his paw, but said nothing.
“I can’t stand this,” Felina said, “C’mon, help me to the mouth of the alley. I want to see what’s going on.”
“I don’t think it’s a good ideal for you to be moving around so much,” T-Bone cautioned.
“Either you help me, or I’ll crawl by myself,” Felina threatened.
With a sigh, T-Bone stood up, then leaned over and picked Felina up in his arms. He gently cradled her, careful of her wounded side, and carried her as close to the mouth of the alley as he dared. Even though he knew she was in incredible pain, she never made a sound. T-Bone set her down as gently as he could.
“Thank you,” Felina said when the pain subsided enough for her to speak again.
Malachai kept his eyes on the street below, waiting for the SWAT Kat to reappear. Perhaps he had been lucky, and both SWAT Kats had died in the crash of their vehicle, but he had to be sure. His orders were only for the larger of the pair, but if he was forced to kill the smaller one as well, so be it. So intent was he on the street below, he failed to notice the large figure that silently slipped into the room behind him and hid behind some of the boxes off to the left.
Razor crept through the abandoned building and crawled out a window on the other side to the next alley. Peering around the corner, he could just make out the tip of a rifle barrel sticking out a third floor window of the warehouse the sniper was holed up in. This was going to be tricky. Slowly, Razor slunk along the side of the next building, staying in the shadows as much as he could. The sniper seemed to be concentrating on the alley where T-Bone and Felina were hiding, which gave Razor an advantage. With a sudden burst of speed, he raced across the street and over to the side of the sniper’s building. Hearing no shots, Razor guessed he was safe, and crawled into the building through yet another window. I’m gonna forget how to use doors, Razor thought to himself sourly.
Snow took up position in back of the sniper’s building. The Enforcers had managed to close off the area, and there were several Enforcers stationed in the basement of the building. Keeping an eye on the back door, Snow leaned against an abandoned crate in the shadows cast by the warehouse in front of him. His thoughts drifted to his dead partner, who’s funeral was tomorrow. There was no way he was going to let anyone else join her in the sniper’s death count. Setting his jaw in a firm line, Snow spared a thought for Lieutenant Feral as he concentrated on that back door.
T-Bone, sitting next to Felina, reached over to take her pulse again. It was rapid, and seemed to be getting weaker. He was worried that she was actually in worse shape than she let on, and his moving her certainly hadn’t helped matters any.
“Stop that,” Felina said, still watching the main street outside the alley where they sat.
“Stop what?” T-Bone asked.
“Blaming yourself,” Felina turned to look at him, “It’s not your fault I got hurt. Now stop worrying about me, I’m fine.”
“Telling me to stop worrying about you is like…..telling the rain not to fall,” T-Bone informed her.
“Poetic,” Felina commented, smiling at him.
“I’m a sensitive kind of kat,” T-Bone responded, returning her smile.
Felina turned her attention back to the main street, and T-Bone peered around her to watch the action as well.
Razor moved silently up the stairs to the third floor. He slowly walked down the hall to the room he knew the sniper would be in. Peeking in, Razor saw a kat squatting by an open window, holding a high-powered rifle against the sill. He also saw Commander Feral off to the left, behind some boxes. Feral seemed to be waiting for an opening. Razor took stock of the situation. They had to be careful not to spook that gunkat, who could take them out very easily and quickly with that rifle. This was not going to be easy.
T-Bone was getting nervous. There wasn’t a sound from the crime scene, and Razor hadn’t checked in. He turned to Felina, “Any movement?”
“Nope,” she replied, eyes still out to the main street.
“I don’t suppose you have a spare radio on you?” T-Bone asked her.
“No,” Felina turned to face him, quite an effort for her in her current state, “I left mine on your kitchen table.”
“I know, that’s how we heard about the situation down here,” he told her, “I brought your radio with me, but it flew off my belt in the crash,” he looked around, “I don’t see it anywhere around here, though.”
“I do,” Felina pointed out of the mouth of the alley, over to the left.
“Great,” T-Bone said, seeing the radio lying about ten feet beyond the entrance of the alley, “Hmmmm, actually, I may be able to get it.”
“You can’t go out there! That sniper will blow your head off!” Felina protested.
“I don’t intend to go out there,” T-Bone informed her as he raised his gloveatrix, “My grappling hook should be able to get that radio.”
T-Bone took aim and fired. As the grappling hook came into contact with the radio, there was a loud retort, and the radio was shattered as a high speed rifle bullet tore through it.
Razor saw the sniper lean forward and take aim. Now was his chance. Taking a deep breath, he charged into the room. The sniper managed to get off a shot before Razor reached him. As Razor tackled Malachai, the two pitched forward, smashing through the window in front of them. Quick as a flash, Razor’s paw shot out, and his gloveatrix deployed a grappling hook, embedding it into the window sill they had just fallen from. Unfortunately, Razor also lost his grip on Malachai, who fell a few more feet before managing to grab onto a flagpole sticking out from the building. Regaining his senses, the sniper tightened his grip on the flag pole and pulled himself up.
Razor looked up at the window above to see Commander Feral leaning out and looking down at him. Feral drew his gun and pointed it down at Razor and, for one moment, he thought the Commander was going to shoot him. Razor glanced down at the sniper, and the reason for Feral’s gun became clear. Although Malachai had dropped his rifle, he had had the foresight to bring an extra revolver, and now he was aiming that gun right at Razor.
“Holy kats!” T-Bone yelped, “That sniper’s going to shoot Razor!” T- Bone raised his gloveatrix, only to find it jammed by the broken grappling hook. Suddenly, the sound of gunfire made T-Bone look back up, expecting the worst. Instead, what he saw was the sniper cradling a badly burned paw, while watching his gun drop to the ground. At first, T-Bone thought Feral had fired, but he turned to find Felina stretched out on the ground, her smoking gun in her paw.
“I may be down,” Felina declared, “but I’m not out.”
A few hours later, Felina was feeling much better. Razor, her uncle, and the other Enforcers had been able to put the cuffs on the sniper, and Snow had taken her to the hospital after she had convinced T-Bone he could see her later and her uncle to go ahead and interrogate the sniper. Felina smiled, remembering the stubbornness of both T-Bone and her uncle.
“Nice to see you smile,” Commander Feral commented from the door of her hospital room.
“Hello, Uncle,” Felina greeted him, “Any news on the case?”
“First things first,” Feral walked over to the bed and sat down next to his niece, facing her, “How are you?”
Felina made a face at him, “Three cracked ribs, a nasty bruise from the bullet impact, and a bump on the head,” she told him, “It only hurts when I laugh.”
“You sound positively chipper,” Feral observed.
“Painkillers,” she responded.
“Ah,” Feral nodded, “That’ll do it. Now, as for the sniper, Snow was right.”
“Leo Konclyn sent the sniper?” Felina asked.
“Yes,” Feral took his niece’s paw in his own, “Seems Konclyn wanted revenge on you for busting up his smuggling ring, just like we thought. He paid that sniper, Malachai, to hunt down you and that SWAT Kat. The other killings were just a smoke screen to flush the two of you out into the open.”
“So, in other words,” Felina said slowly, “All the other Enforcers died because of me.”
“No, Felina,” Feral looked straight into her eyes, “They died because of Leo Konclyn. Now that Malachai is going to turn states’ evidence, we can convict Konclyn of contracting those murders and for the attempt on your life. Don’t you ever blame yourself for what he did.”
Felina was about to reply when the door to her room again opened. She looked over, and found herself completely speechless. There in the doorway, radiating disapproval, stood her parents.
“I don’t believe it,” Feral muttered, getting up from the bed.
Chance sat at the kitchen table, staring at nothing in particular. Jake, after cleaning up the remains of the coffee cup he had dropped earlier, had left his partner alone for a while, and taken care of a few things down in the office that needed immediate attention. Eventually, Jake returned to check on his friend.
“What’s up, buddy?” Jake asked as he sat down across from Chance.
Chance just shook his head, “I almost lost her, Jake. Twice in twenty-four hours, as a matter of fact.”
“You could always ask her to quit the Enforcers,” Jake observed.
“She could no more stop being an Enforcer than you or I could stop being SWAT Kats,” Chance told him, “It’s part of her.”
“True,” Jake admitted.
“I wish I could see her,” Chance said wistfully.
“I’m sure she’s fine,” Jake got up and went over to the phone, “Want to check on her?”
Chance looked up at his partner, “The hospital won’t give out that kind of information over the phone,” he pointed out.
“No,” Jake picked up the receiver and began to dial, “but I know someone who will,” He leaned against a chair as he finished dialing and waited for the phone on the other end to be picked up.
“Hello?” Sami picked up her cellular phone after a couple of rings.
“Hi, it’s Jake,” he greeted her, “What’s up? I heard some wild things on the news today.”
“Wild is right,” Sami responded, “There was a shoot out on the docks, and even the SWAT Kats showed up.”
“Wow!” Jake smiled into the phone, “Was anyone hurt?”
“My friend Felina was shot at, but the sniper only hit her vest,” Sami informed him, “She has a couple of cracked ribs and a nasty bump on the head. Other than that, no one else was hurt.”
“You talked to her?” Jake gave Chance a thumbs up as he spoke into the phone.
“Yeah, I called her a little while ago,” Sami answered, “She was supposed to spend the night in the hospital, but she talked the doctor into letting he go home tonight. She can be very persuasive.”
“You don’t say,” Jake suppressed a laugh, “Well, I better get going. Can I call you later tonight?”
“Um, Jake?” Sami’s voice became lower, “If you’re not too busy, do you think you could meet me over at the park later?”
“Sure,” Jake noted the shift in her tone, “What’s up?”
“I just……I need a friend to talk to,” Sami explained, “I almost messed things up today, and somebody could have been killed because of me, and….” she trailed off.
In spite of his shyness, Jake knew he had to go, “I’ll be there. Want to meet on your lunch hour?”
“No, Commander Feral said as soon as I finished my report, I could take the rest of the day off,” There was relief in Sami’s voice, “Could you meet me in about an hour, by the fountain in the park?”
“I’ll see you there,” Jake promised.
“OK, see you,” Sami hung up.
Jake hung up the phone and turned to Chance, who was looking at him expectantly.
“Felina’s fine,” Jake reported, “A couple of cracked ribs, and a bump on the head. She’ll be home tonight.”
“So soon?” Chance was surprised.
“So she informed the doctors,” Jake said dryly.
Chance began to laugh, “That’s Felina, all right!”
“Yeah,” Jake walked over to the table, “Listen, buddy, what would you say to taking the rest of the day off?”
“Wanna fix up the cyclotron?” Chance wondered. Jake never wanted to just take a day off. There was usually work of some kind involved.
“Not exactly,” Jake replied, “A friend of mine needs my help, and I’m supposed to meet her over at the park in about an hour.”
“I see,” Chance rested his chin on his upturned paw, “Sounds good to me. I can work on the cyclotron. That patch job we did down at the docks isn’t going to last long.”
“OK,” Jake started for the door, “Give Felina my best when you see her tonight, and thank her for the backup.”
“You got it,” Chance turned to watch his partner go, “and tell Sami I said hi,” Chance saw the color rise in Jake’s face as he exited the room.
“What are you two doing here?” demanded Commander Feral, facing his brother and sister-in-law. He stood between them and Felina, as if to protect her from them.
“Oh, really, Ulysses,” Helen protested as they moved into the room and closed the door, “We came to see our daughter. A nice young man named Harry Snow called and told us she had been hurt. Now, if you don’t mind…..” Helen pushed past Feral and approached her daughter’s bed.
“Now, dear, don’t get too worked up,” Menelaus cautioned his wife as he moved around to the far side of Felina’s bed.
“Mother, Dad,” Felina looked from one parent to the other, making a mental note to strangle Snow when she caught up with him, “What a surprise.”
“Felina, my pet,” Helen patted her daughter’s paw, “How truly awful! Are you in pain?”
“Not really,” Felina said, not sure what to make of all this concern her mother was showering on her.
“I think this is a good example of why you should leave the Enforcers, Felina,” her father piped up.
“I really don’t think this is the time or place for this discussion,” Commander Feral put in as he walked over to stand behind Helen.
“You stay out of this, Ulysses!” Helen snapped at him, then turned back to her daughter, “We all agree, Felina, this life is not for you.”
“Who is we’?” Felina demanded, anger rising in her voice.
“Why, your mother and I, as well as your brothers,” Menelaus informed her, “I’m sure Ulysses would let you resign your commission with no argument. Having him throw you off the force is out of the question. That would be too embarrassing.”
“We can’t have that,” Felina’s voice dripped sarcasm.
“Since when do you two dictate my job to me?” Commander Feral inquired coldly.
“Ulysses, don’t be ridiculous,” Helen declared, “You are not my concern. All I want is for Felina to stop playing Enforcers and robbers and act sensibly. There are a few suitable young kats I have spoken to who would be willing to marry her in spite of all this. I think…..”
“No, Mother,” Felina, ignoring the pain in her side, sat up in bed, “I know you and Dad should stop meddling in my life, and get the hell out of my room.”
“Why, Felina!” Helen squeaked, “You’ve never spoken to me that way before!”
“Perhaps it’s time I started,” she shot back, “I do not play at being an Enforcer, Mother,” Felina threw back the covers and stood to face her mother, “This is my life, not one of your charity parties, and I’m not going to let you organize it for me!”
“Now, Felina,” Menelaus hurried around the bed, “I don’t believe you’re in any condition for this right now. Perhaps we should discuss it later, when you are feeling better.”
“Indeed,” Commander Feral spoke up, “Perhaps it would be better if you two left,” the cold tone in his voice made it clear that it was not a request.
“Surely you agree with us, Ulysses?” Helen appealed to her brother- in-law, not ready to give up, as Menelaus ushered her to the door.
“Surely not,” Feral responded, “I’m proud of the job Felina’s doing, and damn glad to have her on the Enforcers.”
“I should have known,” Helen said, as Menelaus finally got her out of the room.
“Thanks, Uncle,” Felina carefully got back into bed.
“Anytime,” Feral watched her, ready to help if she needed it, “It’s a pity your mother isn’t as beautiful on the inside as she is on the outside.”
“Oh, yeah, that’s her,” Felina settled back in her bed, “The beautiful Helen Feral, who can organize anything in no time flat. Just don’t ask her to feel anything.”
“Felina, I’m sorry…..” Feral began, but Felina held up a paw to stop him.
“Don’t, Uncle,” she looked up at him, “I’m used to it. Thanks again for the support, though.”
“Support, hell,” Feral growled, “All I did was tell the truth. I am proud of you, both as an Enforcer and as my niece.”
“In that case, can I ask a favor?”
“Of course. What is it?”
“Can you take me home, Uncle?” Felina asked him.
“Let me track down a doctor and see about getting you out of here,” Feral turned to go, then stopped.
“Are you OK, Uncle?” Felina wondered.
Without answering, Feral turned back and came over to the bed. Leaning down from his great height, he kissed Felina gently on the forehead, then turned and headed out the door. Felina could only watch him go in astonishment.
Chance sat in the swivel chair in the garage office, fidgeting with a few spare parts sitting on the desk. There had been no emergency calls that day, and he had been left to his own devices. Jake had put up the closed’ sign, and Chance had spent the day working on the cyclotron and thinking about Felina. He had really been scared for her today, and could have kicked himself for the way he acted the night before. Tossing the parts aside, Chance leaned back int he chair. He knew better than to ask Felina to leave the Enforcers, but he could ask her to be more careful. He mused this over for a while, then came back to reality with a glance at the clock. He was surprised at how late it was, even though he had noticed the shadows creeping across the room. Chance leaned forward and reached for the phone, figuring now was as good a time as any to see if Felina was home yet.
Felina was glad to be home. The doctors had made her stay at the hospital for a few more tests, then had finally let her go home around three that afternoon. Felina suspected they had let her go not so much because they wanted to but because her uncle had insisted. He had driven her home, and then not only got her settled on the couch (she had had enough of beds for a while), but had gone out and gotten her prescriptions filled for her. She was grateful for his concern, but felt glad when he finally left. Felina knew her uncle would probably call every day the whole two weeks she was scheduled to be out on sick leave, and she smiled at the thought of him fussing over her.
After her uncle had left, Felina had drifted in and out of sleep for the past few hours. It was late, and the light in the living room was dim. Vaguely, Felina’s thoughts turned to the idea of dinner. When the phone rang, she groped for the receiver, finally picking it up on the third ring, “Hello?”
“Felina?” Chance’s worried voice came over the line, “You sound like hell.”
“Thanks,” she mumbled at him, “Just what I needed to hear.”
“Sorry,” Chance said, “Listen, would you be up for some company? I….there’s some things I need to say. I can wait, if you aren’t feeling up to it, but I’d really like to see you.”
“On one condition,” Felina warned.
“What’s that?” Chance asked.
“You bring dinner,” she informed him, “And no more pizza!”
“Why does it seem all I do is feed you lately? OK, I’ll be there in a bit,” Chance hung up.
With a groan, Felina hung up the phone and crawled off the couch. She groped her way to the bathroom, switched on the light, and looked in the mirror. She was a mess. Her hair was matted, there were dark circles under her eyes, and her uniform was dirty and torn. She opened the medicine cabinet and took out her brush, proceeding to work it through her hair. She washed her face and then took off her dirty uniform. Slipping into her sweats, Felina actually began to feel a little better.
Chance parked the tow truck a few blocks away from Felina’s apartment building and climbed out. Reaching back for the bag with their dinner, he locked the truck and headed up the street. As he walked, Chance idly wondered where Jake was. He still hadn’t come back when Chance had left. He hoped Jake got the note he had left on the refrigerator. That Sami must be something special, Chance thought to himself as he climbed the front steps to Felina’s building. Crossing the empty lobby, Chance headed for the stairwell and hurried up to Felina’s floor. For some reason, he was in a rush to see her.
Felina turned around on the couch when she heard Chance’s key in the front door.
“Dinner time!” Chance greeted her as he came in. He stopped short at the sight of her black eyes, bandaged head, and the stiffness of her movements, “Hey, Beautiful, we can do this later if you want.”
“Get in here!” Felina ordered, “I’m starving, both for food and for your company.”
Chance shut and locked the door behind him. He walked around the couch, set the bag in his paw on the coffee table, and sat down beside her.
“I’m fine,” she anticipated his first question, “Just banged up a bit.”
Chance reached for her, and held her gently, “If Konclyn tries this again, I’ll put my paws back around his throat, and this time I won’t let go,” he declared, resting his cheek against her hair.
“I’m glad you weren’t hurt,” Felina whispered in his ear. It felt so good to be in his arms. She pulled her head back and kissed him gently.
“Can I ask a favor?” Chance looked into her eyes.
“It better not be for me to quit The Enforcers,” she warned him.
“No, I know better than that,” he told her, “I just want you to be more careful. You could have asked me to go with you this morning, you know.”
“OK, I promise, I’ll try to be more careful,” she replied.
“One more thing,” Chance said, “I’m sorry for my behavior last night. I love you, and, if you’ll put up with me, I promise never to doubt us again,” Chance swallowed hard, wondering what her answer would be.
“I love you,” Felina responded, “And, if you can put up with my uppity family and stuffy background, I’m all yours, hotshot.”
Chance leaned over and kissed her again, then pressed his forehead against hers, “Deal.”
“Now that that’s settled,” Felina began, “Can we eat? I didn’t get any breakfast or lunch, and I’m starving!”
Chance released her and turned to the bag he had set on the coffee table. To Felina’s delight, he pulled out a large bucket of fried chicken and several cans of milk. Opening the bucket and two cans of milk, the two dug in to the food without further ceremony.
“What’s that?” Chance asked after a while, pointing to Felina’s left wrist.
Holding a chicken leg in her right paw, Felina turned her left arm around and glanced at it, “Oh, that’s just my hospital ID band. I forgot to take it off when I got home.”
“Felina F. Feral,” Chance read the band, “What’s the F stand for?”
Felina rolled her eyes, “Promise you won’t laugh.”
“Why?” Chance was really curious now.
“Just promise, or I won’t tell you,” Felina shot back as she finished her chicken leg.
“OK, I promise,” Chance replied, “Gee, what’s it stand for, Fred?”
“Felicity,” Felina felt her cheeks and ears grow warm.
“Felicity?” Chance’s eyes widened, “What’s so bad about that?”
“It’s fluffy,” Felina wrinkled her nose.
“It’s nice,” Chance countered, “Stop turning up your little black nose.”
Felina stuck out her tongue at him, then reached for another piece of chicken, depositing the leg bone in her paw in the bag that they were using as a trash bag. The same thought struck them both at that point, but neither one of them dared say it out loud.
However, Felina Felicity Feral Furlong was indeed a mouthful, and the thought of it made them both smile to themselves.
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Disclaimer: SWAT Kats: The Radical Squadron is copyright to Hanna-Barbera Cartoons Inc. All Rights Reserved. © 1995. All other characters and material within this page are the property of their respective creators.