Foxx and Wolfe, Supernatural Detectives
Part Two: From Destruction, Inspiration (This story is set in late July of 2017)
"That's the last one," gasped Wolfe, stomping the thing into ichory pulp. "Ugh! These are the worst yet!"
None of those present were arguing, and not just because the speaker was a two-meter-tall furry monster. This particular eruption of creatures had taken the form of ticks the size of blue crabs. Even Wolfe had lost blood to the things, and Jill had been forced to heal some badly-injured officers, an ability she hadn't wanted to reveal. They all paused, now, even Wolfe breathing hard. When no more of the creatures appeared they slowly relaxed.
The shabby house looked like it had been through a war. The inhabitants were home when the "ticks" appeared, but managed to close them off in one room while calling the police, suffering only a couple of minor injuries in the process. The ticks weren't as physically powerful as some of the creatures in previous swarms; by the time they clawed through a door the family had evacuated. The house's rightful inhabitants were waiting on the front lawn when the police arrived, minutes later. Foxx and Wolfe had shown soon after.
"Can you imagine if this had happened a few hours later, when the family was asleep?" asked Detective Louise Thompson, in charge on this one.
She shuddered, and wasn't alone in her reaction. Foxx had already traced the source of the infestation to a child's toy, a thick hoop of plastic meant to be rolled with a stick. As was the pattern, the kitsune and the detective in charge had tracked that down while the others fought the swarm. This time, though, the portal had still been open; it was an odd, shimmery thing, which caused vertigo in those who looked at it. The kitsune had quickly thrown a charm through the hole, to mark the location in Arcadia, then closed it. The crisis - this crisis - ended quickly after that.
Detective Thompson made the rounds, checking on her people and noting the condition of the battleground. She wondered if the owners' insurance would cover this sort of thing.
Wolfe, meanwhile, managed to get her partner alone for a consultation.
"Did you remember to cleanse the place?" she asked the white-furred kitsune, in a low voice.
"Yeah," sighed Foxx, looking and sound tired. "No DNA samples or other identifying traces remain from either of us. I do remember the procedure!"
"Easy girl," said Wolfe, gently putting a huge paw-hand on the smaller shapeshifter's shoulder. "You were so busy, I just didn't know if you'd gotten to it."
"Yeah, sorry," Foxx sighed.
"Detective," said Wolfe, in a louder voice, turning. "If you're through with us I need to get Foxx out of here. She's just about beat. And I need a long, hot shower."
"Thanks a lot," Foxx muttered, quietly.
"Go on," said Thompson, smiling, as she turned towards the growly voice. "You've earned it."
Louise finished her head count, and was relieved they hadn't needed the paramedic van waiting outside. In large part that was because of those two. The Detective watched them go with an odd feeling of regret. When told she'd be working with a pair of shapeshifters she hadn't known what to expect. Actually, she had thought she knew, and hadn't liked it. Had actually been afraid. These two, though... She knew by now that they were kids, teenagers, by their manner rather than their appearance. And that they were good kids, good citizens, doing what they could to help both humans and their own kind.
"Come on, folks," said Thompson, deciding the break had lasted long enough. "We can't expect them to do all the work."
* * *
One of Jill's more mundane pursuits was role-playing games. This week's session was at the apartment of the current referee, a guy named Brian. He had run for the group before, and generally did a pretty good job. Jill was looking forward to the session, if only as a stress-reliever. As she headed for the building entrance she saw Brad - another member of their group - already entering, and hurried to catch up. She reached the apartment just as he rang the bell.
Brian promptly opened the door and ushered them in, the usual exchange of casual greetings taking place. The TV in the den was blaring a news item about the swarm the night before, as if to defy Jill's hope. She gave a sigh of relief as Brian turned it off.
"You two are the first ones here," their host announced, a bit redundantly.
"Man, I hate those things," snapped Brad, gesturing at the TV.
"I've never liked ticks," Brian agreed.
"I meant the werewolves. There's something just not right about them."
"What?!" exclaimed Jill. "Who was it lectured me on prejudice a few weeks back, 'cause he'd been bullied in high school?"
"This is different," said Brad, with all the solemn assurance of the true fanatic.
"Isn't that what people always say?" countered Jill, dropping down onto one end of the couch, putting her bag of gaming supplies on floor beside her feet.
"Yeah, Brad. We nerds - especially gamers, who play all sorts of non-human charas - should be more open minded."
"Come on; this is real life!" snapped Brad. "You know from our games what happens when some group gets a big advantage over another. Just what are we mere mortals supposed to do?"
"What we've always done, I guess," said Jill, a little puzzled.
"If these things let us! They're so superior to us physically, and magically, we can't stop them from doing anything they want. They'll just take over!"
"Do Olympic athletes just 'take over'?" was Jill's scornful reply. "They're pretty superior, physically."
"That's different," said Brad. "Anybody can be an Olympic athlete."
"How dare you!" snapped Jill, jumping to her feet. She put her hands on her hips and glared at the startled boy. "Have you any idea how hard my Mother trained - and still trains - to be as good an athlete as she is?"
"That's what I mean! Anybody can become an Olympic athlete if they just train!"
"Then why don't they?" Jill countered icily.
Brad sputtered in confusion. Jill abruptly turned away from him. She grabbed her books, spun around and stomped off.
"Congratulations," said Brian, as Jill slammed the door behind her. "You just drove away one of our best players."
"It's not my fault!" Brad exclaimed.
"You're the one doing all the talking," was Brian's reply.
* * *
"Oooh, he makes me so mad!"
"Oh, stop whining about it," teased Jackie. "Growl, instead. Make you feel better."
"That's not funny! I thought I knew Brad, thought I liked him, and he has to start mouthing off like that!"
"So what are you going to do about it?"
Jackie had intended the question to be rhetorical, and was alarmed when she saw the light of an idea dawn behind her friend's eyes.
"You know how the cops who have worked with us on a few bug hunts tend to be more at ease around us?"
"Yeah," said Jackie, cautiously. "You're not going to arrange for us to have one in Brad's home, or something, are you?"
"No, no," said Jill, waving that idea away. Just as Jackie started to relax, the kitsune smiled. "But we could use a spokesman to represent us with the public. Get Brad and people like him used to us."
Jackie started. Then shook her head. She walked to the phone and picked up a slip of paper.
"This isn't the first time I've thought you could see the future," the werewolf muttered, handing over the note. "Called Toole this morning to check in, and he relayed this."
"A local talk show wants to interview a member of the supernatural community?" said Jill. "I don't know... this sort of thing tends to turn into a circus."
"Mother says she knows the hostess and producer involved, and they're more interested in news and community relations than sensationalism," said Jackie.
"Oh, right; she used to work for that station!"
"Problem is, who do we get to do this?"
"What's wrong with us?" countered Jill.
"A) I won't do it, and B) you shouldn't do it. Your personality is just too... distinct. I don't think you would be able to stay in character as Foxx the whole time, and if you dropped into Jill mode someone would recognize you."
"Well, thank you for being diplomatic about it," said Jill, smiling. "Who, then?"
"My Dad might be interested," said Jackie.
"Oh, no," chuckled Jill, shaking her head emphatically, long, white hair flying. "Not your dad."
"What's wrong with using my Dad?" asked Jackie, scowling.
"What's wrong with using your dad? For one thing he can scrap a tank in thirty-eight seconds flat!"
"Well, it was a small tank..."
"My point is that we want to favorably impress these people, not scare them away."
"What about Lisa?"
"Same problem. She's fine with people she knows or thinks need help, but otherwise she either has the manners of a drill sergeant, or acts like a standoffish cat. And if she turns those cool, feline eyes on someone, the way she does... We need someone who's bright and impressive, but personable. Someone who can get along with just about anybody, talk to them in their own language, who can..."
Jill's voice trailed away as a smile spread slowly over her face. Jackie seemed to be having the same inspiration.
"Mihos?" the werewolf asked.
"Mihos!" said Jill, with firm eagerness.
* * *
Susan Hopper shifted uneasily in her seat as the seconds counted down. No matter that this would be recorded, rather than broadcast live. No matter that she had already met and interviewed the speaker sent to her by that Detective and found him to be quite approachable and mild-mannered. She was about to commit a first, and that was always a nervous matter. She actually started a bit as the director told her they were ready to record.
"Good day," she announced, quickly putting her professional face on. "For this edition of What's Happening in Louisville? we have a very special guest. I could spend several minutes building him up and keeping you in suspense, but I think the impact of his appearance will be startling enough already, and I want to make use of as much of our time as possible to actually talk with him. I think you will agree when you see him that this is the best course of action. Ladies and Gentlemen, I am very pleased to present Felix."
The camera pulled back and panned to stage right, waited until there was a sign of movement, then dramatically did a slow zoom in, stopping to frame the entire form of the guest and panning to track him moving across the stage. He was obviously a shapeshifter, but not a wolf or a fox. Feline in form, moving on two legs in an easy digitigrade stride, he ambled across the stage with a grace beyond human, stopping in front of the host. Susan hesitated a moment, then extended her hand. The cat-man took it, surprised her by bowing and kissing it, Continental style, then sat, leaving the woman a bit flustered. Recovering quickly, she remained standing to turn to the camera, gesturing at the feline, slumped bonelessly in his seat, smiling at the camera.
"Ladies and Gentlemen, this is not a special effect. This is not a costume. I am actually here, in the studio, with a werecougar."
Again she turned to "Felix," letting the camera play lovingly over his exotic form. He wore only a pair of athletic shorts, leaving little to the imagination. His form was familiar - being both cat and human - and at the same time alien, being a combination. Yet his demeanor was friendly, even affable. He smiled more broadly, showing a hint of teeth. Slowly, the camera pulled back, to include both him and Susan, as she took her own seat.
"I must admit, I'm a little taken aback by your... casual attire," said Susan, in a rehearsed icebreaker.
"What, put clothes on over all this fur? You want me to get heat stroke, under these lights?" he countered, grinning impishly.
Susan smiled, and there was some polite laughter from the stage crew and the few visitors who had been allowed in.
"Now, Felix is not your real name, of course," the hostess said. She turned to the camera. "Given how many people there are who fear shapeshifters or have an overdeveloped fascination with them, I want to state, very firmly, that no-one here at the studio knows who he really is. He was referred to us through the police department, and was recommended to them by Louisville's own supernatural troubleshooters, Foxx and Wolfe, after we requested an interview with a member of the supernatural community."
"That's right," said Felix. He winked at the camera. "I value my privacy, so I don't want anyone to know that I'm really a middle-aged housewife from Clarksville."
Susan couldn't help but chuckle at the ad lib, and some of the others in the studio joined in. The idea of something - someone - so masculine being a woman was pretty absurd.
"Well, I think you might have trouble convincing people you're really female," she stated. She flushed, realizing she was getting a bit intoxicated with his presence. She cleared her throat. "I would like you to tell our viewers what you told me in our preliminary interview. About who and what you are, and how you feel about your own life and that of ordinary humans."
"I am of Native American descent," said Felix. "That's hardly surprising, considering my animal side is native only to the Americas. Shapeshifter blood is strong in my family, and has been for many generations. It is part of a long, cultural heritage with us. If you examine the legends of various tribes, cougars feature strongly in many of them. Almost always, as neutral or even beneficial creatures. My own family has stories of our kind acting as protectors and healers. So any filmmaker who intends to make a movie about a monstrous, murderous cat-like monster from Indian legend can expect a visit from the Werecougar Anti-Defamation League."
That last was said with a serious tone, but followed with a grin and a humorous twinkle, which brought a polite laugh from Susan.
"Seriously, as a Native American you would probably stand a better chance of fair treatment than a white shapeshifter would," she remarked.
"Yes, and I think that's sad. I am a citizen of this nation, and I feel every citizen should be treated equally under the law. Favoritism based on background is still a form of discrimination."
"There are many others, of all colors and creeds, who feel the same," Susan acknowledged, nodding. "The main purpose of having you here, though, is not to discuss the legal standing of shapeshifters, but to make an effort towards understanding and acceptance."
"There's an old saying that familiarity breeds contempt," said Felix. "That's probably true on a personal level, at least in some cases. However, I do know that unfamiliarity breeds uncertainty, and uncertainty leads to fear and rejection. Cougars are natural loners, and I certainly have no desire to be a celebrity. However, I do have friends, and many of them are also shapeshifters. So I agreed to make this appearance, in the hope that by introducing myself I can take my kind at least partially out of the shadows we normally operate under."
"That's very noble of you. And, if you don't mind my saying, also very pragmatic."
"Well, cats are generally pragmatists," chuckled Felix. He quickly turned serious, looking directly into the camera. "Everyone deserves to choose what part of their lives they keep private. For those of us who have committed no crime - and being able to change one's shape is not a crime - the full protection of the law and the courtesy of society should be available. If your neighbor chooses to go on weekend romps in the woods on four legs and doesn't want to tell you, is it any of your business? We all have interests which are only interesting to others who share them. And any hobby or avocation can be a subject of ridicule and even scorn. Fishing, hunting, building model planes, all have felt the impact of such unwanted attention. While shapeshifting is something you're born with, whether you pursue it is a matter of choice. Those of us who choose to taste the wild and do so without harming others should be allowed to continue doing so without impediment. As for the few shapeshifters who do harm others, there are already laws for punishing those who commit such crimes.
"Yet for some that's not enough. I know a talented amateur photographer who likes to take pictures of architecture, but who has several times been harassed by police or security guards. For taking pictures of public buildings, from a public location. How much more aggressive would they have been if they thought this person was a shapeshifter? That sort of bigotry is seen by almost everyone to be wrong, when applied because of skin color or religious belief. How can it be right just because someone can become a wolf or an eagle?
"We've been a part of almost every human culture for as long as there have been humans. Some cultures have embraced their shifter kin, and have been made richer for doing so. The United States is well known for accepting outsiders. Well, we're already on the inside. Isn't it about time you accepted us? Time you embraced the diversity we can provide, the different perspectives we have on the world and what goes on in it?"
"What about those who feel you - meaning shapeshifters - have too many advantages over humans?" Susan asked.
"An eagle has much better distance vision than a human, but have you ever seen one thread a needle?" Felix countered, raising an eyebrow in a slightly exaggerated manner. "We are all different, with different strengths and weaknesses. What people do with their abilities is more important than the abilities themselves. I think a review of humans who are considered successful in spite of some physical debility would show that will is often more important than innate ability."
"Well said," Susan announced, meaning it. "I'm afraid that's about all we have time for. Thank you very much for being here. I hope we can have you as a guest again, some day."
"Thank you for allowing me to speak my piece," said Felix, bowing his head slightly in her direction and smiling. "I would certainly enjoy returning."
End Part 2
This document is Copyright 2002 Rodford Edmiston Smith. Anyone wishing to reproduce it must obtain permission from the author, who can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org