To See Another Morning

Story by Digitaltf on SoFurry

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More from Jim, Julie, Jack, and others... Office politics, Homelessness, Legal issues of all sorts, life and death in the shelter,

and canine zooporn!

"Sir... you can't. SIR! I said you CAN'T go down... SIR!" a feminine voice called down the hall in louder and louder tones. A knock came on my door as I heard the tap-tapping of shoes along the corridor. "SIR! I told you that you CAN'T just walk around here without letting me know who you are and what you're after. You HAVE to check in with me FIRST!"

I took the step and a half to my office door and opened it to the view of a young lady speaking tersely to Zack. "Hi... Can I help you?" I inquired.

"Hi Mr. Peters. What's going on?" Zack asked, confused.

"You get back to the office until you tell me what you're doing here!" the young lady pointed.

"Uh... ma'am?" I inquired.

"Yes? Oh.. I'm sorry this disturbed you. I know you must be busy." the lady smiled meekly. "Just something needing to be cleared up."

"I should say there is... miss....? I'm afraid we've not been properly introduced yet," I smiled politely as Zack stood where he was.

"Oh! I'm sorry. I'm Emily Schubert... I'm the temporary secretary to Director Benin," she smiled meekly and proffered her hand.

I shook it with a smile. "And I'm Jim Peters, the head keeper here. This is Zack Seffrood, my volunteer assistant."

"Oh... oh. Oh my." Emily shuddered a bit. "I'm... sorry. I had no idea. I just... I was told that all visitors to the offices are to check in with me before they're allowed to be anywhere." She was clearly a little startled and I smiled disarmingly at her.

"I'm sure you were, Miss Schubert. No real worry about any of it. This.... facility isn't like a typical office due to the nature of the goings-on here, being that part is wide open to the general public, some is restricted like the office spaces here, and some areas are severely restricted - limited to only my staff unless supervised by a member of that staff... or... other duly responsible individual." I chuckled softly.

"You were just doing your job, ma'am. I'm not upset with you." Zack offered in support.

I shut my office door. "How about I give you a leg up on things and explain how the volunteer system works around here, so you have less trouble with it in the future?" I gestured to the main office and Emily smiled. "After you, Miss Schubert."

"Emily, please... and thank you Mr. Peters. I...." she blushed a bit, "... want to make a good impression on Director Benin, especially my first day."

"You could have Goliath sit on him..." I commented in jest, ".. that'd make a pretty big impression."

Zack chuckled and Emily turned to face me a moment, confusion evident on her face.

"Goliath is one of our elephants. It's sort of an inside joke, as Director Benin isn't exactly the easiest person to get along with, neither as a superior nor as an equal..." I commented, which brought a slight smile to Emily's face.

Zack followed and I started explaining the volunteer board, how ones for certain areas - mostly those helping with the animals themselves - had to be scheduled volunteers which were marked in blue. If the scheduled person didn't show up, for whatever reason, and assistance was needed, we'd call in a volunteer from the list, and their name was marked in red. Green is unscheduled general volunteers that just showed up to help, and black were the general staff members. Purple were the "floaters", like Zack, who just tended to show up but were permitted greater access due to their experience or that they were learning other areas of the park besides what they typically volunteered at.

"Also, volunteers usually do check in here, but sometimes they just go directly to the place they're needed, like if someone was volunteering with the wolf exhibit, they'd report to Sam Lochlear rather than here. Or they could report to me for an assignment if what they had been scheduled to do was no longer necessary or had to be postponed for whatever reason." I succinctly wrapped up the fly-by orientation.

"That makes a lot of sense, and... yeah, it sounds rather complicated," Emily nodded reply.

I merely chuckled. "Sounds complicated when you go through it all en masse, but it's really rather simple and boring in actual practice. If you're here long enough you'll get the hang of it, I'm sure."

"Miss Schubert... I wonder if you'd be so kind as to...." Jack spoke as he opened his door and started walking into the main office looking over some paperwork in his hands, then noticed Zack and I, and his demeanor changed.

"Mr. Peters," he grunted. "And his adolescent acolyte, I see. Corrupting yet another secretary?" Jack frowned, though was uncustomarily pleasant.

"Just giving her a bit of orientation on how the volunteer system works, Mr. Benin. She seemed a little confused earlier so I figured I'd help out a bit." I smiled as politely as I could manage. "Quite a lot for someone to learn all on their first day, wouldn't you say?" I inquired.

"Would you please go back to attending to your duties so Miss Schubert can attend to hers?" Jack sniped back, some of his customary sneer returning to his face.

I chuckled and nodded to Jack. "As you wish." I smiled to Emily, nodded to Zack who turned and preceded me out of the door. While we were still within earshot I could hear Jack explain "Whatever that man has told you is unreliable... he's done nothing but countermand my authority since I've been here and it would do well for you to..."

Back in my office, Zack petted Reggie as I sat back down at my computer. "Well... that was interesting, wasn't it?" I inquired.

"Yeah... guess things are changing around here since Miss Purcell was fired. I dunno if I really like it yet," Zack replied.

I shrugged. "You can't really hold it against Emily... she's only doing what she was told, and I'm sure she wasn't told ahead of time what she was getting into by accepting this assignment from the temp agency. Quite likely she was expecting just a regular secretarial role rather than secretary, accountant, timekeeper, gatekeeper, mail clerk, copy clerk and receptionist all rolled into one."

Zack laughed. "I suppose... though that was a good joke about Mr. Benin and Goliath."

I chuckled. "Anyway... what would you like to do today, Zack? Anything in particular? I've got some paperwork to get done before Jack gets more wound up, and then I have to meet Julie in town for some business-stuff."

"I... Maybe I can go visit Ms. Lochlear and the wolves again? I..." Zack looked at Reggie as he spoke. "I guess I may not have really given her a chance to get to like me or something. After we talked I felt a bit bad about how I reacted to some things."

I chuckled, "Sam was having an off day as well. It wasn't really you individually, it was both of you not meshing how you probably would have if she hadn't been worried about other things. I think she'd like it if you went on down to see her again."

"Really?" Zack asked.

I smiled and nodded. "I'll just give her a call to see if she's in the office or not..." I grabbed the phone and dialed the extension.

* * * * *

"Mr. Jim Peters and Miss Julie Percell to see Attorney Lyle Ericsson and Attorney John Cassock?" I said to the uniformed security officer at the front desk of the large office building downtown.

"Are they expecting you?" came the inquiry from the middle-aged man.

"That I'm not sure of. They were recommended to me by Attorney Trevino on a matter, so I'm unsure whether or not they're directly expecting me, but Attorney Trevino suggested I come down anyway," I replied curtly.

"Sign in, please. Both of you. But... you'll have to leave the dog outside," the officer said mechanically.

"Um... that's... not quite feasible, Officer....." I smiled politely, and looked at his name badge. "Officer Mathis. You see, it's.... well... complicated."

"Very well. Do you know the way?" the officer inquired. I shook my head. "Third elevator on the left or right is the express. 22nd floor, turn right and that would be their offices." Officer Mathis smiled a bit. "Sorry about... well... building rules and all, but I understand with that particular law office there's special exceptions to be made now and again."

I chuckled softly. "No worries, Officer... I work at the zoo, so... I know how rules are, and how there's usually exceptions to many of them for various reasons."

"You three have a good day, and hope whatever's wrong gets worked out well." Officer Mathis said and tipped his hat in a gentlemanly manner as both Julie and I nodded, heading for the express elevators.

"I'm sorry, sir. But... you don't have an appointment and Attorney Ericsson is booked full today..." the brown-haired middle-aged receptionist said, looking over her reading half-glasses. "I'm sorry you came all the way down here to see him but..."

I gently cut her off with a raised finger. "Is Attorney Trevino available for a moment? He's the one that recommended Ericsson and Cassock to us."

"Attorney Tre...." she started scrolling through the computer screen, "...vino is... having a staff meeting with the other senior partners at the moment."

"Would you please let him know Jim Peters and Julie Purcell will be waiting here to see him, please. Just have a note taken in to him. I'm sure he'll excuse himself at the earliest possibility." I smiled kindly to her.

"I suppose that I can do, but I can't guarantee he'll see you either, not without an appointment," came the response, at which she wrote down the names on a pad and waddled off down a corridor.

"Maybe we should just go home, Jim..." Julie said, sorrowfully. "I don't really want to cause much trouble over this. I mean... I can get a job somewhere else quite easily..."

I patted her hand and smiled. "Trust me... it's not just about your job but it's about political leverage. Jack's overstepped his authority and this is one instance where someone can really swat his hand before he blows his cork and really does something that could threaten the existence of the whole zoo. At least how it currently stands."

"I do trust you, Jim... I just... I dunno...." Julie whined a little bit and Reggie leaned up against her. She reached down and pet him as the receptionist came toddling back.

I looked curious to her with raised eyebrows. "He wrote he'll be down momentarily with Attorneys Ericsson and Cassock," she replied.

"Thanks ma'am. I do appreciate that," I said, and with that we took a seat on one of the leather sofas in the atrium area.

"Jim...?" came the familiar voice. "Julie? This is Lyle Ericsson and John Cassock... Lyle is John's supervisor as he's new at the firm, but John would be handling your case, should you choose to employ us." Andy smiled and introduced his colleagues. Lyle was a tall and gaunt man, somewhat reminding me of Lurch from the Addams Family, only with much kinder facial features.

John Cassock, on the other hand, was a rather rotund gent, round of face and body, but with a rather amiable demeanor and pleasant smile. He proffered his hand. "John Cassock... pleased to meet you. Attorney Trevino told us some of what your case would be about, but perhaps it's best to hear it from you both." We both shook his hand and I noticed it was a little sweaty... but figured it might be nerves with having his boss and one of the senior partners in such close proximity.

"I'll let you four get on with your business and I... unfortunately... must return to my meeting. I'll see you around, Jim, Julie. Hopefully sooner than later!" Andy said as he rapidly strode back down the hall.

"Shall we?" I inquired and gestured in the same direction. Attorney Ericsson smiled and nodded, leading the way around the twists and turns to one of the smaller offices.

"Before we begin..." He started, shutting the office door behind us. "There is a question of fee... whether or not we win the case. I'm sure you understand that sometimes these things run into years of litigation and so we must cover ourselves as to the potential expenses involved in..."

I stopped him with raising a finger, then reached into my shirt pocket for the card Andy had handed me a few days ago. I then proffered it to Mr. Ericsson and he read it.

"Ah... well... ok, so that matter has already been settled. Very well. I'll just sit in here as you and Attorney Cassock speak about your case. I..." he coughed a little "... apologize for being so brusque. I.... wasn't quite aware of just who you two were."

I chuckled and smiled. "One never knows when they may find a diamond among the coal pile, Mr. Ericsson. If your surname is any indication, you likely had a distant ancestor that happened to BE one of them." I turned and smiled at the suited gentleman, whose smile broadened and he nodded. "I see you know history as well, Mr. Peters. I... again apologize for my assumptions," Attorney Ericsson took a more relaxed pose as Attorney Cassock began to speak with us... nervously glancing over at his superior from time to time.

* * * * *

"That went rather well, I think..." I smiled as we strode out onto the street.

"I still don't know, Jim... I... " she sighed and clung to my arm. "I just wish things weren't so troublesome, you know?" she said and looked up to me. I smiled and kissed her.

"Got some change, Mister?" a disheveled man toddled up to me, extending a dirty, calloused hand. Reggie growled a little but quieted as I put my hand on his head. I studied the unshaven face for awhile.

"I know you, don't I?" I asked the beggar.

"I dunno. What difference would it make?" he asked, somewhat snidely.

I chuckled. "Doug? Doug Stone?"

"What's it to ya?" he asked, half-confused and half-irritated.

"Doug... it's Jim Peters! Remember? From high school?" I laughed, and smiled broader as recognition flickered in the eyes of the other man.

"Well... If'n I'd known it was you, I wouldn't have bothered ya..." he smiled some. "But how've ya been?"

"Better than you, I'm sure... unless you're an undercover detective." I joked.

"Fuck that... I wish! Life took a dump when the auto-parts plant closed. The one down on Douglas near the water plant?" he frowned a bit and I clapped him on the back.

"It'll be alright. Here..." I fished out a $20 bill from my pocket. "No booze, ok? And.... you lookin' for a job? I remember you used to be one of the more tough fellows back in school."

"Sure I'd like a job... pretty much anything would do. Problem is, most folks won't hire you unless'n you've got an address, and... the St. Mary's shelter ain't exactly an address they're wanting someone to have," Doug grumbled a bit. "And for you... yeah, no booze. This'll get me a few days' worth of burgers and sodas at McDonald's."

I thought for a moment. "Julie... take Reggie to the car and I'll meet you there in a moment."

"Ok, Jim. Nice to meet you Doug," she waved and smiled as she headed off with Reggie in the direction of the municipal parking lot.

"Nice lady... my wife left me a couple weeks after the plant closed. Took my kid, too..." Doug frowned.

"I'm sorry to hear that, Doug... Now... this is important. No drugs? And please don't lie if you have been... I might know somewhere you can work, but you HAVE to tell me the truth, ok?" I inquired.

"No drugs, Jim. Just beer... and Wild Rose when I can afford it. Swear." Doug said, looking up a bit. "You... some bigwig now that can get me in somewhere?" he asked.

I chuckled. "Not quite... but I can call someone right now..." I said as I started scrolling through my cellphone's contact list. "And... will be able to get you a shower, shave, and some fresh clothes in exchange for a little work, and perhaps even a job if you don't make an ass of yourself."

"That'd be great, Jim. I... kinda feel bad for pickin' on ya back in school now. I know I wasn't exactly one of your friends back then." Doug said, sheepishly.

I chuckled. "We all have our paths, Doug... it's not really for me to judge what's what at any given point."

The phone was ringing and then someone on the other end picked up. "Sirius Biohazard Management. How may I help you?" came the feminine voice.

"Hi, this is Jim Peters. Is Eric in?" I asked.

* * * * *

"That was real nice of you, Jim." Julie gave my arm a squeeze as we drove back to the zoo. "I didn't know you knew so many people."

I chuckled. "I... just remember folks and folks remember me. Some of it is from me doing so many things in so many different hobby circles, some of it is from political stuff I'd done in the past regarding legislation and regulations... some of it is through the zoo, and my past businesses... some are just folks I'd grown up with." I shrugged some. "That and... it's also how I grew up. "Lend a hand when you can and you will be a better man." That kind of stuff."

Julie just sighed and squeezed my arm again as I pulled into the zoo parking lot. I then furrowed my brow. "Hm..."

"Whatcha thinkin, dear?" she asked.

"Oh... whether or not you should really come in. There's a temp trying to do your job, so there's two schools of thought... the first being that you could help by volunteering with her so she learns the ropes, though that would hurt your legal case. The second would be to avoid everything here as much as possible so it doesn't muddy the waters," I said, plainly.

Julie thought for a moment. "I suppose I can drive home and just see you there, but how would you and Reggie get home? I'd have to come back to pick you up."

I thought for a bit and shrugged. "We can catch a ride home with someone else. Maybe Zack. Or..." I thought for a moment. "Just take Reggie home with you and I'll catch a ride myself with someone. It'll be alright." I patted her thigh and unbuckled my seatbelt.

"You sure? I mean... I know how you like him with you." She smiled then it turned into a smirk. "And I know how you said he bothers Jack, too."

I chuckled. "Yeah, it'll be alright. Have a good time at home and I'll see you later this evening." I shut the door as she swung over the divider and into the drivers' seat of the Blazer.

Up the stairs I went and no sooner than I had my hand on my office doorknob than a voice called out, yet again, "Mr. Peters! It's about time you graced us with your presence again. I see you've been playing hookey this afternoon."

I turned and smiled to Jack. "Personal time for personal business... you understand. I'd tell you all about it, but... it's... personal." I smiled politely. My tone dripping with sincere insincerity.

"Come... we've got things to discuss." He gestured to the main office door and I went in, followed by him. "Hold all my calls, Miss Schubert. At least until I'm done with Mr. Peters here..."

"I'll do that, Director Benin," she replied politely, but watched as we walked into his office and he shut the door.

Jack walked around his desk, tapping the top some as he went. "You're... not exactly a model employee here, Mr. Peters. Far from it. You flaunt your presumed authority, you circumvent corporate policy, and you even create your own polcies where none exited, all in defiance of my authority."

"I presume somewhere in there is a comment worthy of my time?" I inquired smugly, having settled myself in one of the chairs.

"My point is this, Mr. Peters. You're a liability to the corporate structure of the zoo. And even moreso now." He smacked a folded paper down on his desk.

"I win the lottery, or have I been elected board chairman?" I inquired.

"Neither, Mr. Peters. We've just been served with a wrongful termination lawsuit on behalf of your Miss Purcell! Do you know what this means for the zoo? It's not just the money she's seeking, nor the fact that she wants her job back. It's a public relations nightmare!" Jack's voice was rising in tone as well as volume.

I chuckled. "I warned you, Mr. Director. Repeatedly. Even that day I cautioned you, if I recall correctly... said something like "you may have just cut your own balls off"... or words to that effect. Did I not?"

"You did... which leads me to believe that you're behind this suit agianst the zoo and against me personally." Jack smacked the paper down yet again and plopped into his chair. "Are you going to deny it?" he sneered.

I smiled broadly. "To deny such would be to give it creedence in the first place. Naturally, I'm supportive of Julie in any way she requires, including moral support for legal action. To say that I instigated such things would be folly as... it was you yourself that fired her, Herr Direktor. And... in addition to that, I.... would strongly advise that you seek legal counsel before you speak about this much more to anyone, lest things be said, and remembered, that could go against you should this all go to court." I smiled politely.

"Very well. Be that as it may, since the issue involves a significant sum of money, and the yearly budgets having run out and some running over budget, I believe cost-cutting measures are in order. As such... and I know you'll have a problem with this decision since it involves some of your favorite fun... the Thanksgiving Day Parade and Free Admission Day is cancelled forthwith in an effort to conserve funds necessary for other matters." Jack rested his hands on his desk and leered at me. "Got you now, Mr. Peters. Let's see you circumvent THAT."

I thought for a moment, then nodded. "We'll see," I merely said. "Is there anything else you'd like to yowl at me about, before you start strutting about like a pigeon with a full colon?"

"Nothing more at the moment, Mr. Peters. But I'll be sure to let you know if there is," Jack grinned from ear to ear as I walked out the communicating door, shutting it behind me.

I stood at the door for a moment, thinking. "Mind if I try to find something in the files, Emily?" I asked.

"Be my guest, Mr. Peters," she replied. "You have a much better chance at finding whatever you're after than I am right now." She smiled politely as I started fishing through one of the file drawers.

"Miss Schubert, would you mind..." Jack stopped his sentence short. "What are you doing going through the files?" Jack sniped at me.

"Looking for something in particular. No, I haven't hidden a pistol in here, but I can get my dart rifle if you need some sleepy-time," I commented without looking up, continuing to flip through the folders until I found what I needed and marked my place. I then went over to the copy machine and started making double-sided copies of the document I wanted.

"You know making personal copies on company time and equipment is a violation of the employee code, Mr. Peters?" Jack asked.

"It's the corporate bylaws, Herr Direktor. I think that falls under company business, don't you?" I inquired, smiling broadly as the machine finished duplicating the document and I returned the original to its folder in its proper place in the files. I grabbed the copy I'd made. "See you around Jack... Emily..." I nodded to her as I headed out the office door and then towards and down the steps to the main gate area.

I sat out front reading through the papers when a uniformed figure walked up to me. "Mr. James Peters?" the voice called out.

"That's me." I answered without looking up, just barely noticing the heavy black boots and the navy-blue pants.

"You're under arrest," came the response.

"Sit down, Pete..." I chuckled, still reading a bit. "... take a load off your feet."

"How'd you know it was me?" he asked, parking himself next to me on the bench, leaning back some and stretching out.

I smiled and turned to him. "Other than a K-9 officer, no one else on patrol would have that much dog hair on their trousers, or shit on their shoes." I winked.

Pete laughed heartily. "I guess that's true... that and you'd be the first to know if you'd done anything worth getting arrested over."

I smiled meekly. "These days, it could even be giving a homeless man a sandwich... or a job. Which I just did."

Pete looked curious. "You're kidding me, right? About it being illegal."

I shook my head. "Some cities have passed ordinances against feeding the homeless, to discourage them hanging about."

Pete just shook his head. "And I thought WE had it bad."

I smiled and shrugged. "We all have our problems. And if you're here with me making idle chit-chat, I'm guessing you've got one that you think I can solve."

Pete wavered some. "Halfway... got some time?" he inquired.

I pulled out my watch and checked. "Sure." I stood.

Pete nodded towards the gate. "Take a ride?" he asked.

I smiled and nodded towards the open area of the courtyard. "Public?" I asked. He nodded. "Gotta make a call, but it'll only be a moment." I nodded towards the gift shop.

"I'll be here." Pete said.

I strode in and the warmth of the shop contrasted strongly with the cool air outside as I walked up to the cashier counter. "Hi there. Gotta use the phone for a moment." I pointed to the phone next to the register.

"Sure thing." the clerk scooted it so I could use it better.

I dialed 0. "[name omitted] Zoo main office, this is Emily. How may I direct your call?" came over the line.

"Emily, this is Jim Peters. Something's come up and I need to take the rest of the day off. Just mark me as "out" on the board if you will. And thanks," I said succinctly.

"I'll do that, and thanks for your help earlier. I really do appreciate it. Have a good afternoon," she said cheerily and hung up the phone. I did the same, thanked the clerk and headed back out to the entrance.

Pete was still waiting there. "That didn't take long at all," he said.

"Just had to call up to have the temp secretary sign me out for the day," I smiled. "She seems a nice girl, but we'll see how long she lasts around Jack," I commented as we both went out through the rotary exit gate. "So what's up, Pete? I didn't expect to see you back around here for awhile."

Pete signed and fidgeted a bit as we headed to the truck. "I've got.... a problem, Jim. And I don't know if you can really even help me with it or not. Not this time and probably not this close to... you know... your last assistance."

I climbed into the passenger's side and Pete the drivers. My side was a little cramped with the computer and radio equipment that was installed. I looked at it hesitantly and he shook his head, indicating that my concerns about being recorded were unfounded. "You saw the Akitas in Q-1 and Q-3 when you were in last?" he asked. I still hedged and replied "I recall Dr. Bridger mentioning something about them when he was up to the shelter last... I think he did an exam on them, right?"

Pete frowned a bit. "I...." he shuddered a little. I smiled some. "Had lunch yet, Pete?" I asked, good naturedly.

"No... skipped it. Had a call that turned out to be nothing much. That's why I was down to this end of the county," he admitted.

"C'mon. My treat. The best cheap crap McDonald's can provide," I winked and Pete smiled.

"That works for me," he said and we motored off.

* * * * *

"Sorry about kinda muddling before, Pete." I said as we sat munching on dollar-menu burgers. "I... just.... couldn't risk it being a set-up. Even from you. Could have even been one without you knowing it, you know."

Pete sighed. "I suppose. I guess I'm not used to being as cautious as you about electronics and all. Then again, you've got a lot to be cautious about. But... that's kinda why I wanted to talk to you. I got news about the sheps you got, and it's good news for your end of things, though..." Pete sighed again.

"Come on, Pete... I can see something's really eating at you so spit it out. What's wrong with the Akitas?" I asked.

"Judge Clemens again. It's like he's on some kind of "kill the mean dogs" kick lately. That Saint wasn't the first. Sure... a few of them WERE mean dogs. I didn't like doing it, but that's sorta what I have to do, you know? But him... those Akitas." he frowned. "The owner surrendered them right away rather than face the lawsuit from them "attacking" a neighbor's chihuahua. I'd seen the little yip-dog a few times for biting other people, so I knew it was territorial. It got into the Akitas yard, bit heavy into the ear of the female, and promptly got shredded for its trouble. Serves the little shit right, but now Clemens wants visual proof of the bodies, since I think someone might have caught on to the disappearance of the Saint. He wants it done tonight and me to text him a photo of the corpses."

I pondered some as he spoke, taking bites of my fries. "You usually have help doing the PTS routines, or do you do it solo?" I asked.

"For cats, I let others do it. They're easy enough most of the time and it doesn't take much to manhandle them if they put up a fuss. The dogs, especially Quarantine, I usually do myself. The problem is, this last time I wasn't the first one in the office in the morning, so I don't know if someone thought I worked late, or what. Or it might just be a fluke that the Judge took particular interest in this one case for whatever reason," Pete explained.

I did some mental math and frowned. "Your incinerator can easily take two, can't it?" I asked, just to be sure.

Pete nodded. "They upgraded it a couple years back when they built the new offices, remember?" Pete replied. "Not that it really matters so very much, since the old one would be able to do two or three at a time anyway."

I thought some more. "He just wants a photo, right?" I asked. Pete nodded. "Well... I think we're off to see Dr. Bridger for some medication." I grinned broadly.

Pete looked confused. "I got T-61 there... even in the truck. We both know that...."

I chuckled. "You know what to use. I know what to use. _Jim_ knows what to use... for that. But Judge Clemens only wants a picture, not a head on a silver platter...." I winked and smiled broadly again, and Pete started smiling for the first time since he dropped by. "Let's go pay Jim a visit, shall we?"

Pete and I dumped our trays and headed back out to the truck.

* * * * *

"Hi there. What can I do for you?" Michelle asked as we walked into the clinic.

"I'm Jim Peters... Dr. Bridgers in at the moment?" I asked, having quickly surveyed the waiting room and seeing only a couple clients.

"He's with someone right now..." she started, then Pete came in through the door, having parked the truck out back so as not to take up the easier parking stalls. "Hi Officer Jackson. Something I can help you with?" Michelle asked brightly.

"I'm here with Jim, Michelle... Gotta pick the Doc's brain about something," he smiled, and turned. "Hi Mrs. McClusky. How's Belle doing today?" he asked, making amiable conversation.

"Ohhh, she's doing alright. She just needs to have her s-h-o-t-s... you know how it goes." the elderly lady smiled, a pomeranian shaking in her lap.

Pete and I both chuckled and nodded agreement.

"Ok... got this one done Michelle who's..." Jim Bridgers rounded the corner into the reception office. "Oh! Come to arrest me?" Jim chuckled upon seeing us.

"Yep... criminally low prices. We finally caught you!" Pete joked. "Actually we're both here for some advice. Mind if we park ourselves in your office while you tend to these folks?" Pete asked.

"Sure. C'mon back." Jim let us through the divider door and we headed behind the reception office into his personal office/study. "Ok... who's the next contestant?" he merrily said as the door shut behind us.

I sat down on the sofa and Pete paced a bit. "Reminds me of being in the principal's office..." he commented.

I laughed. "I never had a principal like Jim so it doesn't really make that sort of connection with me."

"The one I had in High School... he'd call you into his office, make you sit down, and he'd do other stuff for about 5 minutes or so letting you stew all the time you were waiting. I really hated that. I know he did it on purpose, but still... this sort of reminds me of that." Pete said.

I shrugged a bit. "Mine... through middle and high school, I didn't have much problems with because I was often fixing the office equipment for them during my study- hall time. The miscreants had a habit of unplugging stuff and feeding staples to the disc drives. And in high school the assistant principal could never figure out how to install tractor-feed paper into his printer correctly." I chuckled at the memory. "Since I kept the equipment running for them, they cut me a LOT of slack about minor stuff. Kinda like how I do at the zoo when someone does something minor but it has to be addressed."

Pete chuckled. "You'd make a good boss at whatever you choose to do, you know? I wouldn't mind working for you."

"You already do, remember?" I pointed to his uniform and we both laughed.

"I guess I do at that." Pete smiled and Jim came bounding through the door. "Hi guys. So... what's up?"

Pete started to open his mouth and I held up a finger. "Hypotheticals, Jim, ok? Succinocholine, Curarae, and Quinine... which would be the best to immobilize an Akita and shut down respiration but not cardiac function?"

Jim looked stunned and shifted about a bit. "Hypothetically? I'd use Sux... easier to work with, and better safety range than the others. Quinine is completely out for dogs as... the LD50 is too near the functional range." He stuck his tongue in his cheek. "I presume this is something you can't directly speak about?"

Pete looked at me. "Ask me no questions, I'll tell you no lies, Jim." I sighed, and furrowed my brow. "Got any here?" I asked.

"Yeah... use it all the time for surgeries. Prevents the muscles from reacting," he responded.

"Ok... another hypothetical. How long can a canine go without breathing before developing neurological issues?" I asked. Pete just paced some, which seemed to make the vet a little uncomfortable.

"Oh.... um...." Jim waffled a bit, rocking his head from one side to the other and back again as he thought. "I'd say nothing over 2 minutes without having other neurochemical support or hypothermia, which are both situational things that I'd imagine wouldn't be practical in whatever application you're planning."

"Ok... dealing with the 2-minute number... is that long enough for the mucosa to become blue-gray from hypoxia?" I asked.

"Easily. Now can you two tell me what you're planning? From asking about dogs I'm sure it's not torturing Director Benin..." Jim smiled.

I took a deep breath and looked to Pete, as it really was his decision. He frowned and spoke one word. "Clemens."

Jim frowned at that and pondered. "I see." He walked out of the office, shutting the door behind him, then came back in a moment later chatting cheerily with Michelle and asking her to put the next client in a room as he turned and from behind his back dropped a small box on the sofa, which I quickly covered with my hand. He turned back around "I'll see you two around then. Hope the advice helps."

I stood up and dropped the small container in my pocket as I clapped Pete on the back. "I figured it might... anyway, thanks again. Come on, Pete... on to the next stop." I guided the ACO out of the office, he still hadn't seen that something had been passed between Jim and I.

Pete still had his worried look as we went out through the main door and towards his truck. "But... I don't understand. How did the advice help?" he asked, concerned and curious. I tapped his shoulder and wordlessly held up the tiny box containing the tiny vial of Succinocholine and winked. Pete's expression softened considerably. As he leaned on the hood of his truck. "I'm glad I came to you. Now..."

I held up a finger and checked my watch. "What time do you typically close up there?" I asked.

Pete shrugged. "Oh... 7pm we start winding things up. Why?" he asked.

"Got your spare tire for this rig?" I asked.

Pete nodded. "Yeah... why?" confusion was apparent on his face once again.

"The other person with the security code... they work mornings letting you sleep in, apart from kill days and the one day a week you're closed, right?" I asked.

Pete nodded. "You got something else going, don't you?"

I smiled. "Perhaps..." Pete started to smile too.

"Now for the piece d' resistance... call up to see where the last car-deer accident was. I'm betting in the northern end of the county there were three or four last night, and knowing the road crews, they've not cleaned anything up in that short of a timeframe," I chuckled. Pete just was confused but started calling the sheriff's department on his cell as I climbed into the truck, Pete following shortly.

* * * * *

"Hi honey..." I said as I breezed through the front door, the dogs barking as I headed for the hall closet.

Julie got up from where she was sitting on the sofa and came to the hall, looking down to where I was. "What's wrong, Jim?" she asked.

"Long story... " I commented, grabbing my dart pistol and the pharmaceuticals case. "I'd love to explain but for right now I can only say I'm going to be out late with Pete Jackson, and.... I'll bring home something good for dinner. I'll need you to feed the cats. I'm going to take the truck and..." I looked around and pondered. "Right. Ambu bags and ET tubes." I half-hugged her with the pharmaceuticals case in my hand, and kissed her. "Love you honey. I'll be back as soon as I can." With that I dashed out through the kitchen and into the garage, leaving her standing in the kitchen doorway with a completely befuddled look on her face.

* * * * *

Soon we were heading north in my old Ford, a roadkill doe in the back on a tarp, and two tires on rims in the back as well. I smiled at Pete and he just chuckled.

"You seem to think of everything, Jim... I guess that's why... well... you're so good at things." Pete stopped himself from saying what he intended.

I laughed. "Kind of, I guess. I've just always been good at planning and having contingency plans." I checked my watch. "I guess the first stop is the county garage before they close, huh?" I swung the truck onto the interstate and headed north, accellerating up to five over the speed limit to shave off some time. "They should have these fixed in under 20 minutes so... that'd leave some time to kill, so to speak."

"So long as that's all we're doing tonight, I'll be happy," Pete sighed. "Oh... you said you wanted to ask me something before."

"Well, two somethings, actually," I started. "First off... Run 22, that Malamute... tell me about it."

Pete fidgeted a bit. "Surrender. AKC registered. I have the paperwork on him. Pretty good dog but really strong, though that's to be expected from the breed. He had a habit of hopping fences, so they decided he needed a new home. But with that habit... doesn't look promising..." Pete said sorrowfully.

I pondered a bit. "You also said you have news on those white sheps I saved?" I inquired.

"OH! Yeah!" Pete brightened immensely. "Got a call from the lawyer handling the estate of the accident victims. He confirmed that the descriptions and information matches, right down to the chip numbers and the addresses in their database. He quibbled a bit about them being valuable dogs until I asked him what the estate would be willing to pay to reclaim them, as there were exam and holding fees accruing on this end, and likely would be transport fees to move them to wherever as well. At that point he said he'd just fax me the signed AKC paperwork, death certificate of original owner, assignation certificate for him to handle the estate, etc., for me to handle their disposition myself. The paperwork's in my truck, but... they're yours, registration and all, if you still want them."

I chuckled and smiled. "Wouldn't have kept them if I didn't want them, Pete. You know that." I said as I pulled to the right onto the off-ramp leading to the county seat. "North side's where the shop still is, right? I know the shelter's in the old industrial park by the yards."

Pete nodded. "I'll call them to let them know I'm coming in with two bad tires... that way someone will be there even if we're a little late," he said as he touched the mic on his radio. "Mobile 18 to County Shop, over?"

"County Shop to Mobile 18, go ahead." crackled through the air.

"Mobile 18 - got two bad donuts down by [town name removed]... got a friend driving me up to have them repaired or replaced tonight. Will be there shortly so make sure someone stays after if we're a little late. Over," Pete rattled into the mike.

"We'll have somene here for ya. Whatcha rolling in?" came the static-laden response.

"Green '77 Ford. About 10 minutes out if we're lucky." Pete replied.

"Traffic accident downtown on Hill Street by the old bank. Take alternate routing if possible." came from the other end.

"Will do. 18 Out." Pete finished.

"I guess we're taking the scenic route then..." I smiled and Pete chuckled, knowing it would only be a couple blocks out of the way to bypass the accident scene's traffic jam from the direction we were currently traveling.

Soon enough we were at the shop and I honked the horn at the overhead door, which juttered to life, rising slowly enough until the pickup could roll under. Pete rolled down his window. "Cliff! Didn't figure you'd be the one to stay after. Coulda gotten one of your younger shits to do this job!" Pete called out as I rolled up to the tire-changer and cut the engine.

"Well... I figured no sense in them getting chewed out for giving you bad rubber when I was the one who did your inspection last month. So the spare was bad too?" the aging Cliff asked as I dropped the gate and "bounced" first the spare and then the regular wheel to the ground with a bland thud.

"Seems both found an irritating tire deflation device. Roofing nail for the main, what looks like part of a screw for the spare." I said. "I marked the spots with chalk for you."

"Thanks Mister.. I don't think I've ever met you, but your face seems awful familiar." Cliff said as he spun the tire about in his work-worn hands.

"He's the head keeper down at [name omitted] Zoo, Cliff, so I'd wager you HAVE seen him a time or two, whether in person or on TV," Pete commented.

Cliff looked up and studied my face. "Oh yeah! The fellow answering questions around the lions and tiger. I remember you now. You're pretty smart about things... even trucks it seems." Cliff chuckled and rolled the roofing-nail wheel over towards the changer and started extracting the offending object with a pliers.

"I just... putter with stuff. Pete can tell you more about that sometime, I'm sure." I smiled.

Pete chuckled a bit and then sighed. "Yeah, on a kinda tight schedule tonight... gotta.... do a couple on Judge Clemens orders." Pete frowned heavily.

Cliff looked up and then frowned himself. "I don't envy you that job, that's for sure. Don't really know how you stand up to doing that sorta stuff every week." Cliff was already working the folded plug into place with the patch tool.

"Well, at least it's not every week. At least not with the dogs. Housecats breed like rabbits so yeah... but there's nothing much I can do about that, and one cat is about the same as another all in all." Pete looked up at me and then smirked. "Well, housecats anyway."

I winked and smiled big. Cliff was already cutting the excess plug off with a razor knife blade. "What other kinds of cats are there?" he asked, absenmindedly.

"The kind I play with." I chuckled.

Cliff looked up slightly confused, and Pete offered explanation. "Jim here has big cats of his own at home, not just what the zoo has. So... yeah. He's got lions and all at his house."

"That must be a pretty big grocery bill, then." Cliff looked up, grumbling a little as he couldn't extract the broken screw from the outside, so manhandled the wheel up onto the plate of the tire changer and started cinching down the hold-down screw.

"Not really..." I called out over the loud whirr of the machine. "Actually less than it'd cost to feed that many children. And you know how some of the families are around here with a dozen kids!"

Cliff laughed heartily as the changer came to a stop and he reached inside the tire with the pliers. "Don't know about a dozen, but I've got 5 and yeah... they cost a helluva lot to feed. Especially since three of them are teenagers!"

Pete and I both laughed. "I'm glad I've only got the critters so far... though I'd like to have a few rugrats running around someday and causing trouble at school by correcting the teachers," I pondered out loud.

"I don't know... I think I'm just gonna keep it stag for awhile myself. Not like I can really deal with someone else most of the time anyway, not with this job," Pete's countenance drooped again. I knew what he was thinking about but didn't say anything.

Soon enough Cliff had the second tire back to cylindrical shape and ready to roll down the highway once again. "There ya go, Pete. I'll mark those for change-out the next inspection date so you don't have to worry about blowing those plugs. It'll be fine for you for a long time but since you're a badge your rig gets a higher priority. Never know when you have to zip off someplace on a call."

"Thanks Cliff," Pete said and shook Cliff's hand, "and thanks for staying after. Bad enough I had to lasso Jim here into coming all the way up here with his old gas hog."

I shrugged a bit. "At least I got some roadkill for the cats while I was at it, but you're right that this thing costs a fortune to run anymore."

"You all take care, now... and watch out for nails, Pete!" Cliff waved as I swung around in the shop and headed out the door, which he had raised for us to pass through yet again.

"Now what's on the list, Jim?" Pete asked.

I checked my watch. "Um..." I thought a bit as I swung the truck onto the access road leading from the county shop to the main highway and idled slowly along the pavement. "I guess I'm gonna put in some unlogged volunteer hours at the shelter, taking #22 for some time in one of the play yards." Pete chuckled but didn't say anything. I asked, "Oh... do you know if he's good about car rides?"

"As far as I know, sure. Came in as a surrender, like I said, so that'd be about the only way he could come in," Pete hypothesized. "Wh... NEVERMIND." Pete grinned and I winked.

"Ask me no questions I'll tell you no lies..." we both repeated simultaneously and laughed some as I worked my way through town to the animal shelter.

* * * * *

"Just get the hell out, ok?" Pete grumbled loudly at the concerned 30-something woman.

"But...Officer Jackson. It's not quite time for closing yet... and..." she stammered.

"There's no one here, right? No one but us... and, well, Jim here but he doesn't count." Pete grumped.

"I'm just gonna.... find some dogs to walk for awhile, Pete..." I smiled meekly to the receptionist and headed towards the kennels.

"But Officer Jackson...." she continued.

"Dammit Becky!" Pete started to grumble louder. "Two flat tires, having to get Jim to drag them and ME back up here to get them fixed before the shop closed, ON TOP OF having to kill two perfectly good dogs because of JUDGE CLEMENS orders, and him wanting FUCKING PICTURES on top of it!" Pete was almost to a roar that I could hear from the other side of the heavy safety door between the reception and office area and the work rooms of the facility. "Now for all that HOLY, just GO HOME! I'm having one FUCKING HELL of a day, and I really just want it to be over with, OK?!?"

I felt kinda bad for Becky... since that was her name. She seemed sweet enough, but... we did need her gone if everything were to work. Seeing the shadows shifting about, I hurried down the kennel line and grabbed a leash, quickly clipping it to the collar of the malamute and then headed out the side door to the play yards, which was between the building and the employee parking area.

I was outside with Run 22 as Becky came along side the fence. "Sorry Pete was yelling at you, ma'am... he's just really been having a bad day today." Becky, upon seeing me and hearing what I said, came over to the fence and took a shuddering breath. "I know... it can't be easy on him at times like this. I... don't know what I'd do if I had to... to...." she was shaking some herself right now and #22 nuzzled her hand through the wire and whined. "If I had to "do" someone like this guy here. He's been here awhile so... his time's almost up too, I'd imagine." She smiled meekly up at me with tear-filled eyes. "I try not to get attached, really I do. But sometimes there's some that... just... you can't help it."

I sighed deeply too. "Well... at least... I don't know..." I frowned a bit. "Don't know if it's peaceful, don't know if it's pleasant... I don't know anything anymore, really. Pete would say I'm one of the smartest guys he knows, and for me to say I don't know is like a politician giving away free money that he actually earned."

Becky smirked at that and rubbed #22's nose through the fence. "I'm glad you're able to give them a bit of love in this worrisome place. Even if it would be the last they'd ever receive." She stood up and sighed. "Thanks for chatting with me, Mister..." she furrowed her brow. "Whatever your name was."

"Mr. Peters... Jim Peters from the zoo." I opened my jacket to reveal my uniform.

"Ah... that would explain why you're so good with animals. Maverick here has bitten three other people but I see he's so terribly calm with you that it's like night and day." Becky smiled. "Anyway... thanks for talking with me. It helped a lot. And thanks for taking care of Maverick here. Even if he's not here in the morning, I'm sure he... appreciates it." the tears welled up again and she excused herself, heading off to a beat-up compact sedan further down the lot.

I pondered... then swallowed hard. Her heart would be broken in the morning, I'm sure. I walked Maverick around some more as I thought, waiting for Pete to set things up how I recommended, which would be tough enough all by himself, but... I had to be seen outside here for a bit longer. I gave a bit of thought to things and then heard a tapping on the safety-wire window in the door, looked over and saw what I expected to see, then headed Maverick back towards his kennel for the time being.

"Got email addresses for all your employees and volunteers, Pete?" I asked, putting the leash back on its hook.

"Yeah, why?" he asked, confused at the change of events.

"I need you to get me Becky's email address, if she has one. It might be stirring the pot some, but... I'm usually a good read of people." I thought aloud.

"Uh ok... what are you....? Nope! Nope! Don't tell me. Don't say a word!" Pete waffled and I laughed.

I entered "the room", fishing the box with the vial out of my pocket. I saw that Pete had the ambu bags, sterile endotracheal tubes and guide all laid out ready for what was to come. I then realized we were in the wrong place. "Fuck!"

Pete flashed me a concerned look, then I turned to him. "Find me a wheelbarrow. Or a gurney-like roll cart. Something we can put both of them on or in once they're out!" I started gathering up the stuff.

"What for?" Pete asked.

"We need to do this out by the incinerator. That way there'd be fewer questions. We wouldn't have enough time between the injection and having to tube them to move them from here, out, and back again." I stuffed a couple syringe packets in my pocket.

"How about a standard rolling cart for the breathing stuff?" he asked, scooting an old overhead projector stand out from a corner.

"That'll work. Now..." I got to thinking. "Incinerator fired?" I asked. Pete nodded. I looked to the locked medical cabinet. "We can do that after..." I looked to him "Carcass on the tarp in by the incinerator?"

"Check" Pete replied. "And fuck if it wasn't heavy all by myself."

I chuckled. "Now for the stars of the show..." I rolled the stuff out the one rear door opposite the loading dock and onto the gravel of the incinerator pad.

Pete brought both dogs out together, which was good as it'd take more time to go back for one after the first. I passed Pete a syringe loaded with the clear fluid, to the dose recommended on the vial, given their weight on their file cards.

"Easy boy... I know this doesn't seem right but... eaaasy." I laid him over on his side and Pete did similarly with the female... needle into the vein of the foreleg... blood washed into the clear fluid as I drew back the plunger to verify. I was shaking and I left my free hand on his ribcage as I pushed the plunger. "It'll be alright...." I droned as I watched. His eyes lost focus, his breathing got shallower, and soon it stopped entirely.

I pulled the syringe out and tossed it aside. "Get your cellphone ready, Pete!" I hollered out, grunting as I lifted the limp body onto the incinerator's loading chute, then went over for the female, who herself wasn't breathing either. I arranged them piled on one another partially, as though thrown on there, tongues hanging out, already turning blue-gray from the lack of circulating oxygen. "Ok, Pete... from up here, and then from the rear." I called out.

Pete, for his part, positioned himself as I'd recommended. Showing first the open maws of the canines, then from behind as it looked as though they were being shoved into the incinerator, all for the judge's benefit.

"I'll let you." Pete panted, then swung around to grab both bags, taking over my duty as I used the adrenaline I had rushing to the greatest degree and flumped the 80 -some pounds of dead meat deer onto the incinerator slide and shoved it into the flames, shutting the door behind. I gathered the syringes and put them on the cart just as the reflection of headlights shone through the gaps in the barrier fence.

"Shit..." I said.

Pete looked at me and I thought fast. "Intro room... quick." I shoved the cart to a corner of the area, jamming the capped used syringes and vial into my pocket as I hoisted the male over my head to drape around my neck and quickly went through the door and navigated the way to one of the introduction rooms where people can interact with their new pets. Pete was right behind me. "You borrowed my truck because of the tires." I whisper-grunted to him as I took over ambu duty as I heard the door buzzer sound throughout the complex. Pete shut the door behind me, leaving the lights off.

* * * * *

"Judge Clemens... I.... didn't expect to see you down here tonight." I could hear echo through the concrete maze.

"I was in the area looking at the potential site for a new city park and figured I'd drop by..." he must have noticed Pete was panting a bit. "Are you alright, Officer Jackson? You're a bit out of breath..."

Pete frowned. "I just killed the dogs, Judge. Tonight, like you asked, and took your pictures. Moving hundreds of pounds of dead dog takes a bit of effort sometimes." Through the blinds I could see Pete canted his jaw and looked the judge in the eye. "It's a goddamned bastard of a job. And you know it."

The Judge and his entourage just laughed a little. "Yes. Yes it does. Now... I saw your photos as I asked, now I'm here to see the corpses."

Pete looked a little shocked, then grunted. "You're a little late for that. That's part of why I'm out of breath."

The judge must have looked confused. "Why is that, Officer Jackson?"

"They're up the damned chimney, if you must know." Pete griped, fists clenched at his sides, then he softened a little and sighed. "If you wanna see for yourself, c'mon..." he gestured for them to follow and started leading them towards the incinerator pad.

A short while later they were walking back. "I guess it's not entirely a waste of taxpayer funds to fuel that for right now...." the judge started commenting.

Pete spun around. "Look. YOU are the one that wanted this tonight. I'M not about to keep rotting carcasses around here as that'd be a health code violation among a myriad of others, given how toxic those bodies would be. Now you've had your giggles or whatever you were after. Vengeance... vendetta... or that you just don't really give a flying fuck about anything anymore. I don't rightly know and right now I don't really care. Now, I've had a really really really FUCKING BAD day. So are you done so I can drive back down to Jim Peters' place, give him back his truck, get my own back rolling so I can FINALLY go home, have some supper, and fall into bed?!?"

Judge Clemens just smiled. "I know it must be frustrating at times... but upholding the law is what's important, not your feelings or my own," the judge said coldly and strode out the door, his acolytes following without comment.

By the time Pete was back, both dogs were breathing shallowly, though I was still assisting them with the ambu bags. Pete opened the door and collapsed onto one of the sofas.

"Good performance," I smiled at him. He looked at me through the darkness and just sighed and shook his head. "It HAS been a fucking bad day... and I've got one HELL of a headache."

I chuckled then couldn't help myself. "Need something for it?" I quipped and Pete just laughed and gave me a one-fingered salute.

* * * * *

The Akitas were in the rear on the drive back, a little groggy but consious enough to wobble on their own. Maverick was sitting in the middle of the seat, the info packets on the dash, and Pete sighing on the passenger side. "Penny for your thoughts, Pete?" I asked.

"It'd be a tremendous overpayment, Jim... really it would." He rolled his head to the side to look over at me, and I glanced over at him. "I.... " he started. I just let him work up whatever he was going to say in his own time. "Thanks, Jim. I would never have thought to put things together like you did tonight. The deer in the incinerator, knowing about medications and to ask how long we'd have with any one of them... Even to knowing that they'd have to have gray mouths for them to look dead. The ambu bags and ET tubes... the dart gun in case we needed a different alibi." He rolled his head back straight, sighed and smiled a bit. "Another three live to see another morning."

I chuckled as I pulled off the interstate and started working my way along the back roads towards the house. "Wanna spend the night, Pete? You're three french fries short of being dead yourself. There's the sofa in the office... warm and probably rodent-free from the Cats being nearby. Or bring one in to snuggle up with overnight. Hercules is good..." I chuckled. "Or Maverick here."

Pete rolled his head my direction again and chuckled. "He was a good boy. Sure hated to do that to him..." He reached a tired hand over and fuzzled the panting Malamute. The cab was a little warm since I had the heater on full blast keeping the chinese food for our late supper at an edible temperature. "Why'd you want Becky's email anyway? Or don't I want to know."

I chuckled "She seems a sweet soul, and we need plenty of those around without getting jaded or broken from what you're compelled to do. She'll mourn a bit for Maverick tomorrow... and the next day, most likely. And then, in about a week, she'll get a picture with a current newspaper next to him, and the message. "I'm still around. Hope is still alive. Keep believing."

Pete chuckled and groaned. "I think I will crash at your place. Leave me some of the food and I'll just eat in your office. I'm sure you have Dew in the shop fridge, knowing you..." I chuckled at that "... and I will take him as a couch-warmer. And..." he rolled his head to look at me once again. "You're a sadistic, cruel, manipulative motherfucking bastard." He winked. "Don't ever change, Jim. Don't ever change...." he drawled and closed his eyes as we bumped along, hanging a right at the old church, then cresting the big hill showing my corner of the valley to the world.

When I pulled in the drive, the lights were on in the house, the wolves were standing on the porch howling their greeting, so I pulled up next to pumphouse and shut off the engine. "Wakey wakey, hands off snakey..." I gently rocked Pete.

"Glarpharmagronmin..." the slumbering officer mumbled.

"Private Jackson! Ten-HUT!" I called out firmly, which brought the ACO to snap attention even though he was seated.

"Fucker..." Pete grumped, but smiled. He grabbed for the door handle and piled out of the truck, Maverick following, just as Julie came down the porch.

"Jim... what... Oh! Hi, Officer Jackson. I didn't know..." just then Maverick bumbled up to Julie, sat down, and offered a forepaw. She giggled. "22?" she asked.

"Maverick," I corrected and handed her the paperwork. "Pete's gonna sleep here tonight as he's too fucked over to drive."

"The hell I am... I'm just too damned tired to give a fuck right now." Pete stumbled towards the woodshed door. "Don't worry, I know the way."

"Take the paperwork in to my desk while I put the masked marvel to bed. There's two more dogs in the truck so please put the kiddy gate up in the kitchen doorway. They've... had an especially odd night. The food's on the hump in the cab... still warm cuz I had it by the heater," I quickly told her as I went after the wobbling officer. "Hang on Pete... the door's locked."

Moments later the Sweet and Sour Chicken was on plates, the Akitas were in the kitchen snoozing by the stove, I'd lit the oil heater so they could be a bit warmer after their actual-death experience, which I told Julie all about, complete with the photos nabbed off the SD card on Pete's phone. I texted them to Jim Bridger with "after" photos of them in my kitchen. He texted back that he'd never believe they were the same two dogs unless he knew me.

"And #22? I mean Maverick?" Julie asked.

I chuckled, amid bites of "flied lice" with the chicken and sauce atop. "He'll be here for awhile, but I _think_ I know a couple who'd enjoy him alot. Or maybe they'd prefer the Akitas... would have to see what all either can do."

"Jim... I.... have a confession to make." Julie wiped her mouth and looked down a bit. "I know you've been worrying about me and dogs and.... how you and I had trouble enjoying each other when we were out on the road getting the cats....." she rambled on, still staring at her lap. "I...."

I looked curious as she looked up, fear and hopefulness in her eyes and on her face. "While you were gone I.... made you a present? Maybe?" she offered. I continued to look curious and she smiled and blushed. "You'll see... after we're done with dinner..." came her more solid response. I just chuckled and continued eating.

"Will I like this surprise?" I inquired.

"You should... I hope... Oh, Jim, I've never done anything like that before...." Julie was a myriad of mixed emotions, that was for sure, so I really had no idea what to expect....

* * * * *

We got ready for bed, which for me was less challenging than for Julie, and then she came back downstairs and sat me down in my recliner. She put a DVD into the machine and turned on the TV - the film showing her. Naked. With the male white shepherd, who, come to find out, is named Ghost. Go figure. She just sat down on the sofa and leaned over to be next to me.

"I don't usually... well... I don't do this at all, honey. You know that. But I also know you've been really busy lately with... all sorts of stuff. Both for me, and for yourself, and for other people who you try to help. So... I figured I'd give you a bit of a gift since it's our three-month anniversary. I.... know you haven't done anything with the Shepherds because you think it'd be wrong since they're not ours, and... that sort of stuff. But something told me awhile ago that they ARE ours.. and so the past couple days I've been... well... practicing with a couple of the toys from your toybox upstairs. The blow-up doggy toys. And... well... I remember what it felt like with Max in me that night and... well... I hope you enjoy the show." Julie rambled, speaking to the camera, which then lowered and showed the living room and side towards my old desk. A blanket had been laid out on the carpeting and Julie sat down on it.

Both shepherds came over to her as she set out a few toys and a bottle of liquid lubricant. The Wendy, the female shepherd, sniffed at Julie and the male buried his nose in her crotch, eliciting a giggle from the human. She then rose up a little to spread her legs and Ghost really went to town licking, his rear to the camera.

Julie took this opportunity to raise his tail high, showing his pink furless area and she dropped some lube onto one finger and teased around his ring with it, making the skin look shiny and wet, then with some more lube she pressed one fingertip into him. Ghost stiffened a bit at the contact but relaxed soon enough, and before too long he was muff-munching Julie as she was finger-fucking his rear.

One finger became two, two became a small tapered buttplug toy, and then she showed an Elypseart Vixen toy to the camera and started sliding it up into herself, taking great pleasure in the combination of licking and penetration. She moaned aloud and the Julie sitting next to me blushed deeply. Adding a bit of artificial lubricant to aid her natural slickness, she pressed the toy to Ghost's prepared pucker, and slowly sank the unexpanded shaft into him, then started drawing it back before pressing it forward again, mating his backside.

I had gotten an erection in the meantime and Ghost, who clearly was feeling better, came over and started licking me. On the screen, Julie moved into an all-fours position, the inflation bulb still dangling from Ghost's butt. He mounted her fairly swiftly as Wendy moved to curl up at the edge of the blanket. Rapid thrusting was apparent, though it wasn't clear just not which opening he'd selected to be his first with Julie. Soon enough, though, it was clear that he was stuffing her pussy, and equally soon his thrusts took on an urgency unknown before as his knot started swelling. Amid moaning, Julie reached back and started pumping the squeezebulb of the toy, causing Ghost to become "tied" to is as well. With his raised tail, it was an interesting sight seeing his pink pucker bulging as the artificial cock inflated inside him.

I looked to Julie, who was blushing furiously but was caressing herself and was being aided in that endeavor by Reggie's broad tongue. Soon enough, Ghost had tied and turned, but in doing so both he and Julie shifted so a 3/4 view was shown, and with his tail high, each twitch of his rumpring was clearly documented as the base of the Vixen twitched along.

Before too long I was actively masturbating and Ghost turned around, raised his tail, and whined. I looked askance to Julie. "He just started doing that. I don't know if he learned it before, learned it from Reggie, or what," she replied.

"Got some lube?" I asked, at which she reached under the end table and handed me the bottle of Wet, and she fished out the Vixen, which she had apparently cleaned after its use in the video. She sat her rump on the edge of the sofa, lubricated the toy, and slid it slowly into her own backside as I watched the tie on the screen, Ghost's rump pink and inviting like the one I knew so many years ago. After slicking myself up significantly I moved Ghost's hips and pressed forward. I could feel his body strain some as I pressed against him, my shaft much bigger than the toy, and certainly not tapered. The Julie on the screen reached between her own thighs and brought herself to a gargantuan orgasm as she wriggled on Ghost's knot. The Julie next to me worked her bottom significantly, then withdrew the toy and relubricated it. Reggie grunted as she raised his tail and sank the toy home without any effort, then patted her chest and laid back.

Throwing one leg to either side of the Saint, he "mounted" her with his forepaws on the sofa, hind on the ground, and her guiding his member into her anus. Given her education, she worked his sheath at the right spot and he started humping into her as Ghost whined then yelped as my member breached his inner gate. "Eaaaasy Ghost..." I said softly, amidst the panting and moaning from the television.

"Is that his name?" Julie asked and I nodded as my glans slipped past his internal sphincter and his rear tried to expel the large intruder. It soon settled down and I pressed forward, pushing all of myself deep into the shepherd as Reggie continued to pummel Julie, his knot swelling rapidly in her hand as she tried to squeeze it firmly. She then caught hold of the squeezebulb and he was then "tied" to the toy as she felt his shaft thicken inside and he pressed firmly into her, ejaculating copiously.

I gave Ghost a reach-around as the him on the screen finally separated from Julie, his ample member dangling beneath him as he turned to lick her. His member was filling quickly in my hand and I could already feel the beginnings of the twitching in his tunnel, nonspecific and uncoordinated at the moment... but soon enough after I'd passed his sheath over his knot and gave the swelling bulge a gentle squeezes - he started firing off in earnest. I pressed as deeply as I could into the clenching passage as his peristaltic waves soon brought me to climax as well, just as Julie was experiencing her second or third. I cuddled Ghost close, and scootched back on the chair, enough so that his ass was in my lap, still impaled by my member, and raised the footrest so he could lay out, his own maleness dangling gently from the edge of the seat as it bobbed with the occasionally stronger ejaculatory spurt.

I reached over and held hands with Julie as Reggie turned, and stepped over, though he wasn't really tied with his human bitch at the moment, instead just standing there with his ass full of fake dog cock and his cock surrounded by real human pussy. I smiled happily at being inside my surrogate Max, and the pup choosing to receive me rather than being upset.... I don't know about Julie, but I know I fell asleep that way, and someone over the night must have put one of the throw blankets over my legs and Ghost as one was there, his head resting on my ankle, my limp member still inside him a little as I woke sometime overnight. I saw the darkness, the TV off, and heard the muffled ticking of my old regulator clock and the muffled rumble of the oil heater's burner. My hands rested on furry hips, and I could barely make out Ghost's head on my ankle, Wendy curled against my chair in front, and Reggie and Julie piled in an awkward position on the sofa, perhaps engaged yet again.

I sighed happily, knowing we all... and the two Akitas left in the kichen were safe, warm, and would get to see another morning.

A Good Day

Morning dawned with Reggie's rump shoved in my crotch, tail up, his head laying on Julie's stomach, and the two Sheps curled up by the dresser/entertainment center across the bedroom. Cleo was with her cubs in their bed, as usual, even though the cubs...

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Mission of Mercy

"Well, now that you explained those things to me, it doesn't really seem all that bad at all, really..." Julie smiled at me over her plate of Parmesian angel-hair pasta. I shrugged a bit. "We'll just have to see what this John Cassock has to say,...

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An Unexpected Turn of Events

I woke up a bit earlier than usual... whether it was due to concern over the new dogs or the wolves wanting out, I didn't know, but... the rain had stopped and they indeed wanted back outside, so out they went. The new dogs heard the call of nature...

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