Precious Cargo

All characters appearing in this story are mine of my own design.
This story is a work of fiction based upon nothing in particular.

Precious Cargo is copyright © The Silver Coyote

The Way Home

"Boy, this sure turned out to be some vacation, huh?" Annie smiled sweetly at Joe as she ran a brush through her blond hair. They were in their motel room getting ready to start their day. Annie was sitting at the vanity wearing not much more than a bath towel and that smile.

Joe was dressed, sitting on the edge of the bed, trying with moderate success to ignore his wife's scantily clad appearance. He found talking difficult. "Take your fun where you can find it, I always say," he replied carefully.

In order to prevent himself from becoming totally lost in Annie's appearance, he stood up and walked to the window. Cracking the drapes slightly, he looked out into the parking lot of the Four Seasons Motel on the main drag of Saint George, Utah. The city had been awake for a time now, it was about nine in the morning. Most of last night's residents of the motel had already moved on in their travels, their truck and Mike's Jeep made up one half of the lot's complement of vehicles.

As Joe watched, Mojave came around a corner of the building from the sidewalk on the street. At the other end of her leash was Debbie, walking arm in arm with her brother. They looked happy, all bright smiles and upbeat expressions. Mojave was pulling them towards the window Joe was peeking through.

"The kids are coming," Joe called quietly to Annie.

He turned towards her as she replied "It's all right." Somehow, while he had been looking out the window, she had quietly donned a pair of Lee Rider jeans and a cotton button-down blouse. While not too many buttons were undone and nothing was revealed to an unusual extent, her figure did things to this simple attire that were beyond his description. Suffice to say his breath caught in his throat momentarily. The towel she had been wearing was over the back of the chair she was now standing behind. She was still running the brush through her blond hair, looking at him out of the corner of her eyes, grinning.

"You can breathe now..."

Joe started slightly, and inhaled. He smiled at having been caught yet again. "Should I ask them in?"

Annie returned her attention to the mirror of the vanity. "Please."

Joe stepped to the door and opened it. The kids were only about twenty feet away, and Mojave was already wagging her tail at him. She pulled harder at her leash.

"God, Mojave, take it easy," laughed Debbie as her pooch pulled her off balance.

"Mornin' dad," Mike smiled at him.

"Hi son. How'd you sleep last night?"

"Like a dead fox," Mike said as he stepped up on the walkway in front of Joe and Annie's doorway. "I don't even remember getting here or getting in to the room. I didn't know where I was this morning until I came outside." Mike smiled sheepishly. "I guess I sort of messed up a lot of plans."

"It's not your fault, son. You were an innocent victim of a professional's ambitions. No harm done." Joe hugged his son for emphasis.

"Hey, what about me?" Debbie asked.

Joe grinned and winked at his son as he stepped back. "Go ahead, Mike, give her a hug!"

Mike laughed gently as his sister stepped between the two furs, facing her father. "You're being silly," she addressed her father as she hugged him in turn. As she stepped back Mojave barked once.

Joe reached down to scratch the kali behind her pointed ears. As he was doing this, Debbie asked "Is mom presentable?"

"More or less. Go on in." Joe stepped aside from the doorway and motioned for them to enter their room. Mike made no move to follow his sister as she and the kali entered the room.

After the two furs heard Debbie and Annie talking from within the room, Mike addressed his father with a lowered voice. "Dad, can I ask you a couple of questions about yesterday?"

"Sure son, what do you want to know?"

"How is it that you got me out so fast?"

Joe paused, frowning slightly, looking his son in the eyes. "What do you mean? I came up here and confirmed your story with the authorities. They had nothing to book you on except the unintentional 'aiding a felon in flight' beef. Their case was pretty weak. In fact the FBI had no interest in you whatsoever."

Mike looked past his father's shoulder into the room, making sure they would be alone for a few more moments. "Dad, you obviously had some pull with someone. The guards told me that I was up for an interrogation after they finished with Jessica. They made it sound like a one-way trip. The officer that processed me out told me that he had explicit instructions to release me to your custody. I did the math..." he grinned humorlessly at his father, a trace of fear in his eyes as he recalled last night's activities.

Joe's expression was neutral. "Do you want to have this discussion with your mom and sister, or keep it between us?"

"There's one thing I want to ask you between us. Something that matters to me." Mike's grin had disappeared as the fear built in his eyes. His look became serious.

Joe paused. He knew what was coming. He marshalled his thoughts in preparation. He bought an extra few seconds by looking over his shoulder. Annie and Debbie were both standing at the vanity. Annie was giggling at something Debbie was saying while putting on some earrings, Debbie was brushing her own blond hair as she spoke. Mojave was curled up at Debbies feet, looking up at the two females. Joe turned back to his son. "What do you want to know, Mike? Nothing is hidden from you. You know that."

Mike made no preamble. "You're IPF, aren't you?"

Joe paused yet again, carefully controlling his facial expression. He smiled cautiously. "Assume I am. How do you feel about that?"

"I don't know. The IPF aren't the favorite people around our campus or at church. Their tactics and liberties rub a lot of people the wrong way." Mike looked dubious. "I guess I wouldn't have a serious problem with it, I just wanted to know..."

Joe smiled and placed a paw on his son's shoulder. "Rest easy, son, I'm not. I've been trained by them, and have done some support work for them in the past where their activities and those of my employer overlapped." And Joe repeated in a more detailed form the same story he had told Debbie that night in Flagstaff. He described for his son how a field technician for a huge water utility had found himself immersed in military training in weapons and tactics, and how he had graduated into a form of undercover agent for that utility. He was still a field technician, but now he was an armed technician, trained and skilled in surveillance, interdiction, and suppression. He told Mike about how his employer relied on him, and others like him, to police and protect the thousands of miles of their infrastructure from terrorists and industrial warriors of both national and international intrigue.

"So you're not part of the IPF?" Mike asked, hope filling his voice.

"No, son. I am not on the IPF payroll in any way, shape, or form. I am still employed by SCWD, and no one else." Joe's smile broadened, seeing that his son was reassured.

"Thanks, dad." Mike sighed slightly in relief.

"Any time, son. My door is always open, you know."


Over breakfast in a quiet corner of a local pancake house, Joe laid out the short, abbreviated story of Natalie Shapir for his wife and children. He described her subversive, counter-culture activities and terrorism, the bombings, the poisonings, the gassings. He reminded them of the bombing at the Easton Town Center in Columbus, Ohio, that had been in the news recently, and without elaborating on the information sources or channels confirmed for them that Natalie and her crew were the culprits. Twenty four people had died in that bombing, scores of others were injured. While nowhere near the scale of some of the more famous attacks such as Oklahoma City, the WTC, or LAX, the City of Columbus was still reeling from and coming to grips with the devastating attack.

Joe passed on what he had learned from the police, FBI, and IPF regarding Mike's unwitting participation in Natalie's flight to avoid capture and prosecution. Finally, he briefly described his conversations with Captain Jenkins of the Utah State Police, and with agent Hector Sandovál of the Interstate Police Force, highlighting their cooperation.

His audience was quiet, listening carefully, asking few questions. By the time the meal was finished, so was Joe. His audience remained silent, each of them looking slightly bewildered. He picked up a freshly refilled cup of coffee, sat back with the cup in his paw, and held it out in a toast to his family. "I love you all," he smiled at them, his blue eyes steadily holding the gaze of Annie's own blue eyes. "You mean the world to me. No distance is too far, no risk too great, no action beyond consideration where your health and safety are concerned. There is nothing I would not do to keep you happy and safe."

Annie's expression softened, her eyes had a touch of glassiness to them. After the events of the past few days, she knew that this was not bravado, Joe really meant what he said.

Debbie smiled brightly. She seemed very confident in what she had just heard. Joe had a momentary mental flash of the standoff with the Navajo in Cameron.

Only Mike's face looked as if he had caught Joe's full meaning. He nodded slowly, his face almost a blank. Then, as his nodding stopped, a smile slowly turned up the corners of his mouth. The realization was evident in his eyes as he stared at his father, the smile warming and growing. "Seek God's guidance, dad."

"I discuss things with Him regularly, son. I know who I toil and fight for." Joe's voice was warm and strong, but to his son's eyes his face held an unusual expression. Determination?

This seemed to satisfy Mike, but Annie was reaching for a napkin. She had heard enough about this. Having come so soon on the heels of the crazy indian in Cameron and what had happened to her daughter there, Annie was feeling like her world had become destabilized somewhat by Natalie, the Navajo, and this whole series of events. She was confident in her husband's ability to protect her, but who would watch out for her children? They were all in different places now, doing different things with different furs. How could she and Joe protect them?

And then something Mike said came back to her. "Seek His guidance." She had never been as strong in her attendance as her husband and children, but her faith in the Lord was just as real and just as strong. She would trust in Him again, as she had trusted in Him when Joe had first become involved in all this security business in the first place. So far, He had provided. Her faith was strong and sustained.

Joe put down his cup. Sensing that a mood change was required, he asked lightly "OK, who gets to have Mojave ride with them?"

Debbie's head snapped up from the diet soda she had been sipping. Her eyes said "With me, of course!" But as the words formed she checked herself, and instead she smiled and said "let's let her decide."

Joe nodded, smiling himself.


Fifteen minutes later they had walked back from the restaurant to the motel parking lot. The diesel engine of the AC300AT was already warming up, and Mike was loading the last of his and Debbie's stuff into his Jeep. Joe leaned against the front passenger steps of his truck, Annie standing at his side holding Mojave's leash. Together they watched Mike and Debbie get ready.

Mojave sat calmly, tail wagging every so often, also watching Mike and Debbie. From behind, Mojave's head formed a gunsight for Joe, he could look between her ears and down the bridge of her nose right at Debbie. He already knew how this figurative coin toss was going to work out, he thought to himself as he smiled.

Finally Debbie walked over to the three of them as Mike started the motor in his Jeep. "How are we going to do this?" she asked them.

"Simple, Blondie. You guys get in your rig, your mom and I get in ours, and if she hasn't decided on her own who to go with, we all holler 'let's go!' and see which truck she runs for."

"You know who she'll run for," Annie said to Joe, a hint of mischief in her voice and in her smile.

"Ya think?"

Without a word Annie put Mojave's leash down on the asphalt at her feet and, after Joe stepped aside and opened the door for her, she climbed into the cab of the idling truck and sat down. Joe left her door opened, and opened the second door behind it. He motioned for his daughter to get in Mike's Jeep.

Intentionally ignoring her pooch, Debbie moved wordlessly towards the Jeep, and Joe turned away from the kali and began to walk around his own truck. They both heard Mojave bark once. Debbie and Joe both stopped and turned to look at her. She had taken a couple of tentative steps toward Debbie and was facing her, but she was looking back over her shoulder at Joe. The request for permission was plain enough to see on her face, Joe thought.

He stepped up to Mojave, her head turning up to look at him as he approached. Joe reached down and scratched her behind her brown ears, and then patted her shoulders, quietly saying "Good girl, Mojave. Go on, now..." and with that he patted her rump once very lightly.

Mojave squealed as she jumped towards Debbie and the red Jeep. Debbie matched her beloved pooch's squeal with one of her own, and the two of them raced for the open doors Mike provided. As doors slammed Joe began stepping backwards towards his own truck.

Joe pointed at his son, saying "Keep your GSM phone on, son. Be careful, OK? Catch you down the road."

"Bye, dad." Mike waved at him. "And thanks!" he called, as they began to pull away.

Joe settled into his seat beside his beautiful fox. He winked at her as he took her paw in his, their fingers interlacing as their paws rested on the center console. "Well kid, it's just you and me again."

"Imagine that," she smiled in reply. "And all this road ahead of us. What will we do with all the time?" Her voice had just the slightest touch of lasciviousness, and her eyes left no doubt.

He laughed. "I'm sure we'll think of something." He squeezed her paw.

"You're incorrigible," she giggled.

"Me?" He let go of her paw and reached up to the dash to retrieve his gloves. Pulling them on, he released the brakes and selected low on the gearpad.


Annie faced the windshield and laughed gently. "Let's go find our next adventure!"

To Chapter Twenty Six: Who I Am.

Back to Stories Page

Back to Main Page