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
2003 & 2004

Shadow And Light

Smoke rose in wisps from the rubble all around him. Burned out and shattered hulks of cars and trucks littered his path as he made his way slowly through the center of the deserted city. The ash under his boots was an inch deep, a sickly yellow color, and reeked of death and decay. The exterior shells of tall buildings lined the street ahead of him, the dull orange of the otherwise dark sky visible through vacant openings that, in better days, had been windows and doorways. The inside walls and floors of these buildings were gone, only great chunks of exterior wall remained. The warm air was still, stagnant, oppressive.

The Kalashnikov felt good in his paws, an old and trusted friend. The muzzle of the AK-47 swept slowly from side to side, seemingly of it's own accord, as he made his way down the street. As he moved forward the coyote's eyes swept the scene before him in a similar manner. The nose at the end of his black muzzle twitched constantly as he sampled the air for a scent, his ears stood straight listening intently for movement or any signs of life. His tail hung straight down and still behind him.

Underneath the heavy denim leggings he wore, a sheathed knife with an eight inch blade was strapped to the inside of his left leg, just above his boot. Inside a loose-fitting shirt made of similar material, against the rangy, dun colored fur of his own body, a Beretta 92SBE was comfortably nestled in it's holster, strapped around his ribcage. Several clips of ammunition for each weapon were jammed in the various cargo pockets of his leggings. His clothing and boots were flat black, he wore no badges, patches, or indications of rank, and carried no ID. In the shadow, out of the dull light of the burning nighttime sky, he seemed to fade into the darkness.

He moved carefully, slowly up the street, towards a large roundabout with an open plaza. This would be the LZ he had been told of, the landing zone where the chopper would pick him up. All of the shade trees were gone, reduced to heaps of ash in the plaza. The Huey would have no trouble setting down there momentarily.

As he considered the Huey he became aware of rotor blades slapping the air in the distance, the sound faint but discernable in the silence of the dead city. It was still at least a couple of miles off. Quickening his pace, he began to make his way by a more direct route towards the plaza, discarding his random, meandering stroll for the efficiency of a direct approach. Still alert, he began to anticipate his escape from this cesspool of destruction. The scan pattern of his eyes quickened.


He heard the enemy before he saw him. He heard a slight, short rush of air, yet felt no movement against his fur. A breath taken and held. His ears told him the source of the sound was ahead and to his right, near the twisted and burnt carcass of a delivery truck. He stopped and squatted by a small pile of concrete rubble, motionless, staring intently at the truck. He drew short, rapid breath through his nose, yet the dead air brought him no scent that was useful to him. His ears strained for any additional information, none was forthcoming.

He could now hear the turbine of the approaching helicopter, the blades slapping the air noisily as it approached. He saw a blue-white light in the smoky, occluded sky to the north. As he observed this he also caught a slight motion in his peripheral vision, near the truck. Something metallic moved there, given away by a glint of reflected firelight. With the noise of the approaching helicopter increasing by the moment he ceased to rely on his hearing for detection. He continued to strain for a scent while staring again at the truck.

The Huey was suddenly above a building on the opposite side of the plaza, spotlight illuminating the open area in the roundabout, moving quickly towards and then past him. The coyote did not turn to watch it recede. His ears told him that it was turning to the left, his right, to begin an orbit. He continued to stare at the truck.

As the helicopter passed back into his field of view from behind him, banked towards the plaza, he saw a blur of orange-yellow flame from the truck. He heard the rapid reports of an automatic weapon, and tore his gaze from the truck in time to see the impacts on the Huey, sparks flying and parts falling. He saw the fire erupt amidships.

The Huey skidded out of it's turn, out of control. The tail boom swung to the starboard so it was flying sideways as it descended, rolling slowly out of the turn. As he watched, the Huey drove itself sideways into the upper shell of a multi-story building, crashing through the concrete wall as it broke apart into pieces. A brilliant flash of reddish orange light signaled the breach of the helicopter's fuel tanks. As the glare died he could see the cabin section tumbling quickly through the air until it crashed to the street below.

Joe, honey!

Blood roared in his ears, the sound filling his head, and the fur on his shoulders stood up in anger. That had been his ticket out, his ride home. The enemy had taken the crew of that helicopter, killing them as surely as they had killed his own chances of recovery. They would pay. For them. For him. For all of us.

Shouldering the AK-47, the coyote removed his sidearm from beneath his shirt and carefully, quietly chambered a round. Keeping low to the ground, he moved towards the truck as quietly as his boots would take him. As he approached, he heard a grunt, followed by the sound of fabric brushing against something, and then a click. The Beretta came up before his face.

An explosion rocked the wreckage of the Huey in the street behind him, showering the plaza and the surrounding area with small parts and bits of rubble. He paid no attention to it.

He held his breath. Peering around a block of stone, the coyote flinched as the muzzle of another AK-47 stared lifelessly back at him. He did not retreat or duck, he froze in place, waiting, trying to discern who was holding the machine gun in the dark. Two hazel eyes stared back at him intently.

"Stand up," a small voice said. He stood up straight as he lowered the Beretta to his side.

The muzzle of the Kalashnikov advanced, propelled by a young doe rabbit. As she moved out of the shadow he could see that she was dressed in baggy black denims like his, with her ears folded down and back under a black ball cap. Her fur was black, in the dark he couldn't tell whether it was her natural color or dyed. Her facial expression was calm and passive. The muzzle of her weapon, however, was trained squarely on his head, unmoving. Who is she with?

"Who are you?" the small voice asked.

"My name is Joe."

The doe smiled at him as a police officer might smile at a thief caught in the act.

"Who do you work for, Joe?"

"America," he smiled back.

A single round ripped through his right shoulder before he even heard the report, spinning him around and down to the ash and dust, on his knees. The Beretta flew away from him, released by a suddenly numb and lifeless paw.

"Wrong answer, Joe." He felt his automatic rifle pushed from his shoulder, and then the warm muzzle of hers was placed against the back of his head.

His shoulder burned as though on fire. Pain screamed within his head, yet outwardly the coyote was quiet and calm. Joe's left paw moved imperceptibly towards his leg as he knelt hunched over in the ash. The stench wafting up from the ground filled his nose, yet he paid it no mind. The butt of his knife touched the end of the fingers.

Another click from behind him, the muzzle pressed harder against his skull.

"Last chance, Joe. Who do you work for?"

A pressure built in his chest as he contemplated the last moves of his life. The roar in between his ears subsided a bit in fear, his anger dissipating with it. The knife inched from it's sheath.

Her voice was threatening. "Joe..." The muzzle nudged his head rudely.

He pitched face forward as though struck and rolled left, kicking up some dust and ash in the process. A full second's burst from her AK-47 roared in his ears, the slugs spattering and chipping the concrete and earth to his right. As he rolled onto his back his left arm was swinging, the paw releasing the knife at what he hoped would be the appropriate moment.

There was a soft thud from within the dust cloud. The doe had disappeared.

Rolling into a crouch, the coyote hastily grabbed his own rifle with his left paw and leveled it towards the area the doe had last been seen in. While covering the area in front of him with his AK-47, he glanced rapidly around for and located his Beretta in the dust. Fumbling with the Beretta as he picked it up with his right paw, he examined it momentarily. Ascertaining it's utility, he traded weapons in paws and shouldered the rifle over his wounded right shoulder, holding the Beretta in his left paw. Feeling a bit safer, he began to visually search the immediate area for the enemy.

He found her feet first. In the dust and darkness it was all he could see. Using his paws, he felt first for a pulse. Finding none, his paws made their way quickly up her torso, looking for weapons and his knife. There were no weapons on her, nor anything else, for that matter. Except his knife. He found only the butt of it at her shirt collar, the blade was buried to the hilt in the soft flesh of her throat. The denim shirt covering her upper torso was soaked in warm, fresh blood.


The pressure in his chest increased as he removed his blade from the dead doe. She looked so young, even in death her face looked youthful and serene. Who is she? He quickly wiped his blade clean on a leg of her denim pants and returned it to the sheath strapped to his leg.

Again he searched her, more carefully this time. Still he found nothing, no ID, nothing except a couple of empty clips for the AK-47. The young doe had died here, alone. He looked at her face. She was pretty. She should be somefur's prom date. Why was she here in the midst of this?


He looked to the ruddy, dark sky overhead and sighed in frustration. How do you tell the ally from the enemy in this fucking war? he mentally screamed at the sky. The building pressure in his chest began to shake his body as the sky grew light.

His expression changed as he looked at the sky brightening. Why is it getting light? He looked around at the plaza. The edges of the buildings were becoming indistinct in the rapidly brightening plaza.

The pressure in his chest was tangible, a living presence he did not understand. His mind tried to divide itself between the presence growing in his heart and the sky which was now becoming painfully bright.

The horizon faded in the glare. The hulks of the buildings wavered and faded, the blinding white light overloading his senses.



Annie sat back suddenly as her husband's eyelids snapped open. The steel gray eyes stared at her, not recognizing her for the moment.

Her mind flashed to the thought that had run through her head last night as she and her daughter had watched him pray on that burning mountain. As the television audience had joined her in watching the evac helicopter lift off, she had wondered if her blue-eyed, loving husband would come home to her. Now here in her bed that gray-eyed killer was staring back at her. A barely perceptible shiver of fear ran up her spine from the base of her tail.

The Red Fox had been gently rubbing his chest with her paw, repeating his name, trying to get him to wake up. He'd been asleep since bringing their kali Mojave home that morning. It was now approaching dinnertime.

"Honey?" she asked tentatively. "Are you feeling OK? You've been asleep for a long time."

She sat motionless, watching his eyes.

Joe, for his part, was motionless also, his paws balled in fists. His mind struggled with the sudden shift in scene. Where the Hell am I?

As Joe's wife looked into those gray eyes they slowly began to aquire their normal blue color. She gingerly placed a paw on his right shoulder.

After holding her breath for perhaps fifteen or twenty seconds, Annie exhaled sharply as Joe shivered and then shook himself briefly. His right paw rose slowly from the mattress, his fingers spread, rising towards her throat.

She recoiled slightly, a flinch barely discernable. Who was this coyote reaching towards her? Could she trust him? Should she run?

A voice whispered softly from between her ears: Be Still.

The paw moved past her throat, the fingers ever so gently touching her cheek.


A whimper escaped her as she suddenly hugged the coyote laying on the bed. "Oh... Joe," she whispered in his ear as she held him.

He returned her hug with one arm. His left shoulder was sore as Hell, for reasons he had yet to fully explain to her.

"I love you, Annie."


Up on the Cleveland National Forest in the Santa Ana Mountains the fire raged in Fremont Canyon, southwest of Mount Stockton. In a little less than twenty four hours it had consumed almost four thousand acres of brush and scrub timber.

Three hundred ground crew furs from four different southern California fire suppression agencies were on the firelines, fighting the fire as only they could, with shovels and dozers, trucks and sweat. Occasionally a crew would set a backfire to destroy fuel ahead of the advancing wildfire.

Air forces of the United States Forest Service, Riverside County Fire, and the Orange County Fire Authority were engaging the fire on a ten mile front with helicopters and piston engined fire bombers.

The prospects were good. In spite of the continuing Red Flag conditions, the fire was already sixty percent contained, and no structures had been damaged or lost. Except for a couple of cases of heat exhaustion no firefighters had been injured or lost. Niether had any aircrew been hurt or lost, and only one DC-6 fire bomber had been damaged by airborne debris on a low-level run. It had returned safely to it's base in Lancaster on three engines.


The sun had already set in Arlington, Virginia. There, in the gathering night, a conversation was taking place in a large office on the top floor of an office building. Seated in leather chairs in the wood paneled room were several furs. With one exception every fur present had a snifter or tumbler of their favorite libation close to paw.

Projected on a wall opposite the large windows was a map of southern California, with various points including Mount Stockton and Hawthorne Airport indicated. A line from Palm Springs pointed straight to and then ended abruptly at the summit of Mount Stockton. Pictures scattered on a credenza near the projection screen showed the wreckage of a Piper Cheyenne aircraft from various angles. A laptop computer sat on the credenza, on it's plasma display screen the Channel Seven video of the air evac helicopter lifting off from Mount Stockton kept looping over and over.

The only non-drinking fur in the room was a small but hard-looking feline of the Chinchilla Persian breed. He sat behind the only desk in the room, a large mahogany affair. He reclined in his overstuffed leather chair, left arm on the armrest, right elbow on the other armrest, right paw holding a small steel file aloft. When he spoke his voice sounded vaguely mechanical and quite threatening. The other furs in the room were silent.

"This will not do, gentlefurs. We cannot suffer these type of operational errors, let alone allow them to be broadcast on national television."

One of the other furs in the room, a badger easily twice the bulk of the Chinchilla, spoke somewhat hesitantly. "Sir, we still don't know..."

I know, mister Endicott," the feline said harshly. "Do not presume that my resources are as limited as yours."

The badger visibly shrank in his chair. The feline leaned forward and stabbed the keyboard of a smaller laptop on his desk in front of him with his file. Replacing the map of southern California, a picture of Joe Latrans appeared on the projection screen, accompanied by a block of data crowned by the logo of the Interstate Police Force.

"Who is this half-breed?" the feline challenged those present. He looked from face to face until his gaze rested upon that of a Sonoran coyote. "Hector?"

The coyote cleared his throat. "Mister Director, he is a contract field agent employed by the Southern California Water District. I trained him personally."

The Director sneered, his feline features twisting in mild disgust. "You couldn't find anything better?"

The Sonoran twitched in his chair, suppressing and controlling his anger. "Sir, his loyalty is beyond question." Indicating the text information on the screen accompanying Joe's photograph, Hector continued, "As you may see he has had extensive training in surveillance and interdiction over and above that which we have provided. He is an excellent marksman, well versed in extended remote operations. As a young fur he distinguished himself several times in the clandestine service of his country."

The Chinchilla was unimpressed. "That and a dollar will buy me some poor quality coffee, Mister Sandovál. How is it that this..." here the Director sneered again, "agent was chosen in this particular operation?"

Hector paused again to measure his response. He personally had no use for the Director, his known and unhidden dislike for furs of mixed breeding was a large thorn in Hector's paw. He suspected that Joe would be "disenfranchised" from the IPF by the end of this meeting, and quietly in a corner of his mind Hector was praying that this action would not take the form of the "standard release" IPF was becoming well known for.

"He was the logical choice for response. He was the closest to paw on scene, he has extensive knowledge of the area, and his dependability is unsurpassed. I recommended him to you based on the situation as I knew of it and my knowledge of his history, his training, and his style."

The Director's head snapped up. "Style?" He laughed, yet there was no humor in the sound. "Style! You want to risk an operation's outcome on style?"

Hector stood his ground. "Mister Director, had you been more forthcoming with information regarding the full extent of events leading up to the situation on Mount Stockton perhaps I might have thought and recommended differently." In his peripheral vision Hector noticed the heads of the other furs in the room turn to stare at him in amazement. Not many had the audacity to openly challenge the Director in this manner.

The Director was not impressed with the rebuke, and let it go by. After a moment's pause he smiled. "Well, he did silence the participants, and that's what is most important. We can bend the details to suit our needs, I'm sure." Raising his left arm, the Director expressed the claws of his left paw. They were already razor sharp, but he began to work them with the small file as he continued to speak, honing them to ultra-sharpness. "Mister Latrans is not the core issue here, gentlefurs. What is under consideration here and now is the necessity of us to cease our reliance on outside service providers for transportation."

Another fur in the room, an otter with a strong New England accent, spoke up. "Mister Director, A6 Charter has been a reliable provider to us for almost a year, and they have been on the CIA's list of providers for many years." The otter paused momentarily. "In fact, it was on the CIA's recommendation that we began to do business with them."

"Be that as it may, Mister Eastman," the Director challenged, "they failed us this time." The file continued to work the claws of his left paw in regular rhythm. "We should not be utilizing the limited taste and quality control of The Company," here the Director smiled humorlessly, "to make our decisions for us."

The assorted furs in the room murmured in agreement, some heads nodded.

Leaning forward once again, the Director placed his file on the desk next to his laptop. As he leaned back comfortably he continued, arms at his side. "Gentlefurs, we are going to develop our own air division, our own Air Force, if you will. No longer will we trust secure operations to outside providers, no longer will we be asking outside agencies for support." He looked around at the faces gazing at him. "Effective immediately we are going to start assembling our own fleet of transport and interdiction aircraft and helicopters, and begin to develop our own bases."

A Doberman sitting on the periphery of the conversation suddenly looked up. His voice was colored with a flat, midwestern accent. "How are we going to be able to afford that?"

"Do not bother yourself with that concern, Robert." The Director's gaze at the Doberman was the closest thing to friendly his countenance was capable of, a sort of blank, neutral look. "I have ways of procuring things outside of normal channels in Washington."

The Doberman nodded silently. He knew that his boss was capable of just about anything, even appropriating things by force from other agencies of the federal governmant. Such was the growing and consolidating power of the Interstate Police Force that even the Joint Chiefs of Staff paid attention to the whims and wishes of it's Director. It was a rediculous situation brought about by America's continued knee-jerk reaction to ongoing acts of terror across the country.

The Director pointed a finger, claw expressed, to the final fur in the room. "Mister Ganz, in one week we will meet here again minus Mister Sandovál, at which time you will present to us your plans for the establishment of the Force's air division. I want full interdiction capability, anything from a Volkswagen on a country road to a supersonic airliner. All our transportation and deployment needs are to be met in-house within six months, our interdiction goals within two years. Present me with plans for at least three major bases of operations in addition to those we already have, one in southern California, one in Wyoming, and one in Florida. I expect you to have detail on numbers and types of aircraft and personnel requirements, operational requirements, and funding."

The final fur, an American Shorthair feline, grinned in response. "Certainly, Mister Director. It will be my pleasure." Mister Ganz was known for having flown in southeast Asia for the CIA, during which time he had developed a reputation for being an ugly, morally corrupt, bloodthirsty son of a bitch. His eyes glinted with the acceptance of the honor of building the nations newest, least overseen, autonomous air arm.

"Gentlefurs, this meeting is over," the Director announced, leaning forward once again to pick up his file.

As the various furs in the room began to rise and collect their things, the Director glanced up at the coyote and said almost casually "Mister Sandovál, I'd like a word with you in private before you leave."

The face of every other fur in the room suddenly took on a new look of earnestness, none of them wanted to be anywhere near what they knew was coming. Gear was gathered hastily, and with murmured "good evenings" everyone else beat a hasty retreat.

Hector stood his ground, unmoving. His gaze was steady upon the figure of the seated Chinchilla as he waited for the others to leave. As the door at last shut behind him and the room was empty save for he and the Director, he smiled.

The Director smiled back to the coyote, filing the claws of his right paw. A silence stretched between them for several seconds before he spoke.

"Hector, I've always enjoyed our working relationship. I'd like to think we are friends."

No such thing was possible in Hector's mind, but he said nothing. Let this morally bankrupt slob think what he wants.

Getting no response from his "friend", the director changed tactics and got to the point. Standing, he walked around his desk to face the coyote who stood six inches taller than he and outweighed him by at least fifty pounds. Leaning in close and looking up for eye contact with a slight smile, the Director spoke quietly. "My friend, I value your service to the Interstate Police Force and to my office. But if you ever cross me like that in front of my subordinates again," here the Director smiled evilly, "I will take great pleasure in personally disassociating you and your family from the likes of the IPF."

Hector's paws balled in fists as his eyes grew wide, but still he said nothing. The Director was threatening to kill him and his family, of this he was certain. Staring into the gray eyes of the Director he held his breath, motionless, and waited.

Seeing that Hector wished to make no response, the Director turned his back to him, saying "You may go." Paws clasped behind his back above a slowly waving tail, he strode over to the windows of his office, overlooking the twinkling lights of the city of Arlington. He listened to the coyote gather his things behind him and leave, opening and then shutting the door behind him.

The Director smiled and relaxed a bit. Things were well in hand and progressing according to his plan.


Sometimes the simplest of activities are just what the fur needs to get his mind off of things that trouble him. So it was that Joe found himself in his own backyard just before dusk, a glass of most excellent central coast Chardonnay in his left paw, a pair of tongs in his right, watching as his family's meal prepared itself on his grill. The steaks had just gone on, the potatos had been turning for about twenty minutes. Several ears of foil-wrapped corn were piled on a plate on the grill's sideboard.

He had set himself to this task immediately upon showering and dressing. He had taken measures to keep his wounded shoulder and it's dressing dry while showering, which had complicated matters, but had still been able to be dressed and downstairs within thirty minutes of getting in the shower. Standing now on his patio, Joe soaked up the end of the day. The temperature was in the low seventies, the warm northeast breeze had been tapering off all afternoon and was now just enough to make the wind chimes play their melody for him. The humidity was still low, but had climbed out of the teens and was now up around 25%. The patio stereo speakers played some old Yes tunes from CDs spinning in the family room system.

Joe admired the sky. Between the wind shift of early that morning and the steady progress the various agency crews were making in fighting the Greenlee Fire, the smoke plume off the Santa Anas had dissipated considerably, leaving most of urban and suburban Orange County with relatively clear skies. The smell of smoke was still faint in the air, but the sky was pretty in the red and orange hues of the approaching sunset.

The cry of his heart opened the sliding glass door and stepped onto the patio. Annie grinned at him as she held a phone out to him. Barefoot and dressed in one of his old work shirts and a pair of Lee Rider cutoffs, she looked every inch the sensual, attention grabbing Fox he had fallen in love with all those years ago. To his questioning look she said simply "Mike".

Joe's spirits lifted further. He'd been in a funk since waking up, the recollection of his dream all to vivid. He shuddered briefly while glancing at the cordless telephone pawset Annie held out towards him. Even now he could clearly see the doe's face in his mind's eye. Yet talking to his eldest son always perked him up, so he placed his tongs down on the grill's sideboard and eagerly reached for the pawset.

Annie noticed his slight shiver and mouthed "Are you all right?" silently as he took the pawset from her outstretched paw.

Joe winked at her as he nodded, bringing the pawset to his ear.

"Hi son!"

Mike sounded tired. "Hi dad, am I disturbing you?"

Joe watched Annie return indoors. "Of course not. What's up?"

"Well..." Mike started. He was sitting alone in his front room. His roommate Roy was asleep in a bedroom, his other two roommates were still out at the Colorado River.

Mike was still troubled. "It's about Jaclyn, dad." He paused momentarily, then plunged ahead. "You remember that conversation we had last night?"

Joe set his glass of wine on the patio table next to the grill. "Yeah..."

"I saw her again at church last night and talked with her."

"How'd that go?"

Mike sighed. "Not well."

Joe's ears stood straight. His son was normally very upbeat and energetinc, yet at this moment he sounded quite dejected and beaten. "Want to talk about it?" he asked.

"I told her I loved her, dad."

Joe paused to let that sink in. This was new ground. Mike had always been surrounded by female furs, had never had a shortage of fetching young femmes to adorn his arm for whatever occasion. But as far as Joe and Annie knew Mike had never, ever, said those three magic words to any lady. It wasn't like Mike was a user, he had always treated his lady friends with the utmost of respect and made it very clear to each and every one of them that they were close friends and no more. So to hear this from his number one son caused Joe to stop and consider his words carefully.

"How'd that fly, Mike?"

Another sigh. "I'm not sure."

"Talk to me, son."

"Well, long story short, we wound up at Denneys over there in Fullerton about midnight." Mike drew a breath. "This was after I told her how I felt." Mike's voice became incredulous. "She asked me if I wanted coffee!"



"Did you talk?"

"About all kinds of stuff. The kid's programs at church, my full time position there..." Mike's voice was flat, almost emotionless. "Oh yeah, dad. AFCC has hired me as part of their permanent full time staff."

"Mike!" Joe exulted. "That's great! You've been pulling for that for a long time!"

Mike was strangely quiet for some seconds. "I guess," he finally replied.

Joe's glee at his son's achievement of a life's goal was cut short by Mike's response. Thinking about what he'd just heard, and not heard, he asked his next question carefully.

"She wasn't receptive, I take it?"

Mike growled softly to his pawset. "That's just it, dad. I don't know what she's thinking. She didn't say 'I love you', she didn't tell me to go jump, she didn't tell me she needed time to think about it, or anything! She just wanted coffee." Mike sighed yet again. "I don't know what to think, or what to do."

Joe suddenly felt a tugging at his heart."Son, I've got some steaks and hamburgers on the grill right now. Why don't you come over and have dinner with us, and we'll talk."

Mike considered this for a moment. He had been feeling like he needed to work on his song some more, but events of last night and this morning had totally scuttled that idea. Then, thinking of last night, Mike suddenly remembered his dad's callout. Pieces fell together in his head.

"That sounds great dad. I can be there in about twenty minutes."

"I'll turn the fire down and hold the food for you, son. Get here when you can."

"Thanks dad." Mike paused.

"I love you, son. Be careful coming over here."

Mike could not remember the last time he had heard his father tell him that. He didn't question that love, but he and his father both, for whatever reasons over the years, avoided actually telling each other that. Mike grinned in spite of himself, his spirits lifting for the first time that day.

"I love you too, dad. I'll see you in about twenty minutes."

"OK Mike, see you then." Joe terminated the connection at his pawset.

Wandering through the family room and dining room into their kitchen, Joe sought out his lovely Fox. Finding her tending a vegetable casserole in the oven, he leaned against the kitchen counter.

"Mike's coming over for dinner," he said quietly.

Annie looked up at her coyote husband and smiled. "I'll set five places at the table. Russ will be joining us at any minute."


Annie grinned at his lack of comprehension.

"Yes, silly. Debbie's Russ."

Joe smiled in spite of himself. The IPF could never match the excitement he always managed to find right under his own roof. Moving up beside the Red Fox he bent slightly and kissed the side of her head, just below an ear.

"You are the best thing that's ever happened to me."

To Chapter Thirty Five: To Love and To Cherish.

Back to Stories Page

Back to Main Page