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
"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,
"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
"God, Mojave, take it easy," laughed Debbie as her pooch pulled her off
"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
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
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
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
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
"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.
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
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
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
Annie faced the windshield and laughed gently. "Let's go find our next
To Chapter Twenty Six: Who I Am.
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