Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Terror of Queen City

A silvery sliver of a moon hung low in the western sky early on a Sunday Morning.  Duane Jefferson trembled in the chill air as he stood outside the delivery entrance to Drake's Pawn Shop in the upper scale Ash Grove neighborhood of Queen City.  A small black leather toolbag lay open on the ground beside him, filled with wire cutters, pliers and screwdrivers, as well as the schematics for the store's security system.

"That old man Drake sure rakes it in on these early weekends," muttered Duane. "When people can afford to buy back their stuff.  And with this holiday on Monday, I know its just sittin' in the safe until the bank opens...."  Duane finished his work on the two security boxes, having disabled both the load and silent alarms, and shutting down the video feed.  He turned his attention to the task of opening the locks.

A dark shadow loomed over the door.  "Aw Hell, no!" said Duane, throwing his tools into the satchel.  He turned to run but a slender arm swathed in a long white glove apprehended  him.

"Going somewhere?"  I asked in a cheerful voice.  For once, someone had the good sense not to struggle.  I handcuffed him to the dumpster then pulled my cell phone to call in the collar.  While I was speaking to the dispatcher, I felt a sharp jab in the back of my shoulder, almost like a mosquito bite.  It was too late in the year for that, so I managed to pull out a minidart.  I pulled a small vial of a general antitoxin. 

I waited nervously for five minutes until the squadcar pulled in, then handed over my collar.  I told them I'd be in later to fill Captain Winslow in.  I knew the paperwork was going to be rough, but I had the photos, and handed the cops the memory stick.

I flew home, still jittery, and headed downstairs to Crimson's lab.  She wasn't home—Goldenfist was loose in Megapolis, and Tiffany had gone to assist Claire in stopping him.  They'd taken him down easily enough, but she'd phoned earlier about spending another day before coming home.

I took the needle from the evidence bag, and set up the centerfuge.  Any liquid on that dart was quickly spun out.  I placed the residue into a chemical analyzer then slipped upstairs to bed.  Whatever it was that had hit me, apparently wasn't affecting my mind, my reflexes or anything else.  I figured I could at least get some sleep.

I slipped into bed and felt the THUMP of my rather large cat settling onto the bed for some Daisy time.  I stoked her idly, and the trill of her purr soon relaxed me to the point of slumber.  My mind calmed and my sleep was dreamless. 

I heard the alarm going off, then got out of bed and dressed for church.  After pouring my coffee into my travel mug, I slipped downstairs and checked the analyzer.  The printout was sitting on the machine, but I didn't have time to stop.

I hopped into the Jeep and headed to St George's arriving in time to top off my coffee and grab a pastry before entering the sanctuary.  I sat in the back, struggling to stay awake through Father Tim's homily, and remaining mostly successful.  After the services, I stayed in the narthex to mingle and fellowship, but I was politely ignored for the most part. 
As I drove home, confused, my watch beeped and I realized I was going to be late for a meeting I had with Josh.  I pulled into the parking around back and White Owl launched from my balcony a few minutes later.  I landed outside the Paparosa's Pizza a few minutes later, noticing my publicist had yet to arrive.  I smiled as his Camry rounded the corner and eased into a spot.  He spotted me and waved.

We walked to the restaurant, and Josh held the door open, but gave me an odd look doing so.  We sat in a corner booth in the back, ordered and Josh pulled out the spreadsheets.

"What's the bad news, Mr Bailey?" I said, smiling at him through my mask.

"Frankly White Owl, you're a bit of a mystery to the public," he said.  "Some of them are scared of you frankly; about 35 % of the public views you as a menace or something really scary."

"What about the rest?" I asked.  "Well another 35% or so thinks of you in a positive way; you're a needed figure and good for Queen City.  Your fan base is getting smaller though; you aren't seen as 'dark' by the Hero Collectors, but you aren't 'light' enough to be marketed as a  kid's role model.  Mainly because of your predilection for getting into trouble."

"But I manage to overcome those things," I said.

"I know," said Josh.  "But your friend Captain Valiant manages to win without all the captures and defeats.  Even the Crimson Dynamo has a higher rating than you."  Josh shuddered.

"Is something wrong?" I asked.

"Are you wearing a new perfume or something?" asked Josh.  "I'm suddenly not feeling well."

"No," I said.  At that moment my cell phone rang.  "White Owl," I said.

"I need you at Police Plaza ASAP," said the gravelly voice of Captain Winslow.  Years of tobacco abuse had damaged his vocal cords, but he hadn't lost any of his sense of justice.

I apologized to Josh, and asked if it was my turn to pay.

"No no," he said, his face blanching.  "I'll expense this, the foundation will cover it.  You better go."
This last was said with a strong sense of dismissal, and I headed for the door.

I covered the distance to police headquarters quickly, and landed on the rooftop where Captain Winslow waited with my cup of  coffee.  "Glad you could make it White Owl," he said.  "Its not like you to hang out during the daytime."

"Occasionally, I like to see the world in a bright light, " I smiled.  "What can I do for you?"  He held a thick manila folder out to me.  I took it and saw the tortured face of Effigy staring back at me. 

"Effigy?" I said.  "I stopped him two years ago at Culver's farm, remember?  He was on death row for four murders and..."

"And because of his triple joints, he broke out of the state reformatory two weeks ago," said Winslow.  "And worse. He used the time in there to become an expert on fear.  He devoured every book in the library, took online courses from Zenith University and proved an apt student in chemistry, biology and psychology.  Do you remember what he said at the trial here?"

"Something about having revenge.  They all say that."

"No.  Specifically, he said that the world would see you as the terror you are.  I had the SCU take a look around that pawn shop this morning White Owl."

"You didn't have to do that Captain," I started, but he stopped me.

"On the rooftop of Antonelli Transport, we found these."  Winslow held up three pieces of  barley straw.

"Oh come on now, you can't believe...I mean I would have seen him or..."

"They were tied together on the rooftop overlooking Drake's back door.  And he's triple jointed, remember?  How did you know about the break in?"

"I saw a flash of metal in the streetlight," I said.

"That's great," said Winslow.  "But Jefferson had matte painted tools.  No reflections.  You were lured White Owl.  Did anything happen?"

I hesitated.  Finally I nodded.  "I was hit with a dart.  I don't think there was anything on it, since I'm fine.  But there's a tox report waiting for me when I get home."

"Fax me a copy—I need to know what we're dealing with."  He started to back away. 

"What's wrong Captain?"

"I...I don't know.  But right now I've got a big case of the willies.  I'm ashamed to say it...but you scare me Owl.  Could you go please?"  I could tell it took every bit of his courage to stand up to me.  I nodded and said, "I'll be in touch," then flew home.

Daisy heard me landing on the rooftop terrace and was sitting by the door waiting for me.  I opened the door and smiled, then reached down to pet her.  Suddenly the hackles on her back raised and she hissed, followed by a keening growl. 

"Daisy?"  I asked.  She hissed again and raced to the kitchen, hiding under the table.  She hunkered down and raised a menacing paw at me anytime I tried to reach out to her.  I decided that I would feed her, but I could feel her eyes glaring at me, sensing I was a threat.  I put her canned cat food into her dish, set it down, and added water to her other dish.

"All right, your highness," I said.  "I'm going out, so get over whatever, and come eat."  I shut the front door and glided down to Crimson's lab.  The paperwork was strewn across three tables and I spotted a Taco Mission bag, a large soda and a bright shock of reddish hair just behind the analyzer.

"Tiffany?" I asked. 

"Oh my GOSH Athena!  Don't startle me like that!"  Tiffany whirled  and gave me a hug.  But almost as quickly she backed off, her eyes full of questions and fear.

"Ow..Owl?  What's going on with you?" she asked.

I took a step toward her, without thinking.  "I don't know—I was hoping you could tell..."

"KEEP BACK!"   The panic in her voice was noticeable but controlled.  "'re terrifying!"
A visible shudder passed through her trim form.

"So much for improving my fan quotient," I joked grimly.  As quickly and with as little embellishment as possible, I filled her in on the dart and what it might have meant to me.  To my gratitude, she didn't flinch and she stayed focused on the details.

"So do you have any idea what happened?" I asked.

"Well, you weren't poisoned," she said.  "Your metabolism would have shaken that right out.  So I'm guessing this is something that's USING your healing to make you so scary.  The analysis indicated a compound that would increase your pheromones.  I'm just not sure WHICH pheromones."  Tiffany made a face, then swallowed hard.  "Though its just a guess that it's the ones that make people afraid of you."

"Trust Effigy to make it that," I said.  "Look even you're too scared to be within fifteen feet of me.  I can't work like this.  And I definitely can't handle a group of sixth graders at the museum tomorrow!"

"Th...then we need to get this handled."  Tiffany managed a brave face. 

"I'll get this report faxed to the lab at Police Central.  Then what?" she asked.

"Depends.  How fast can you get to Decatur County?"

"Why there?" she asked.

"It has the nearest barely fields to Queen City.  I'm guessing Effigy is holed up there.  At least Sheriff  Custis doesn't have it in for me like Sheriff Lynch does."  Tiffany nodded. 

"I'll be in touch—cheer up White Owl!  We'll have this licked in no time."

I turned to go back upstairs and heard an audible thud as Tiffany sank to the floor in relief.

Tiffany allowed herself to sink to the floor, shuddering. Five minutes later, she had pulled herself together enough to stand, and made her way on watery legs to her closet. "I thought I was tough," she thought, "but Theena scared the living daylights out of me. Tiffany swallowed hard, then pulled out the almost delicate bodysuit she wore as the Crimson Dynamo.

She stripped out of her white blouse and miniskirt, carefully putting them into the hamper, then stood in the cool room, allowing the air to caress her like a lover. The nanites that gave the Dynamo her abilities also enhanced her sensuality, so that at one point, even the slightest touch could send Tiffany into the throes of passion. Time and experience had tempered that though, so as the sexy young scientist stripped away her bra and panties, she could feel her heart racing; eager for the comfortable touch of her bodysuit.

Tiffany slid the suit up her legs, reveling in the seductive touch of the silky material. The fabric melded with her body, holding her like a lover's embrace. She zipped the bodysuit into place, then stepped into her crimson skirt and boots.

Before she put her mask into place, though, Tiffany called Terri Allen at the Crime Lab.

"Terri? This is the Crimson Dynamo. Yes I'm back and I've got the full report. My own machines did a lot of the analysis, but I need someone to interpret the data. Would you be willing?" Tiffany's fingers flew across the keyboard as she attached the results to the secure e-mail. Her finger hovered over the send key until she heard Terri agree.

Pressing send, Tiffany added, "Thanks Terri, This means so much."

"Well we can't have White Owl out of commission, now can we?" asked Terri.

Crimson shot a look up at her ceiling and replied. "No...not for very long."

"I'll have that report for you in a flash," said Terri.

"OK," said Tiffany. "Send copies to Winslow and to White Owl too. I may be incommunicado for a while." She set the cell phone back into her belt pouch, and set the mask on her face. She felt the magnetic adhesion as the nanites in the mask linked with her internal ones.

The Crimson Dynamo then stood, and went to her basement lab. She pressed a lever behind the huge oil furnace and watched as the door into the furnace swung open. The furnace was non functioning; Athena had converted to a more efficient system when renovating the building. But the old furnace hid a secret passage leading to a statue of President Taft in Victory Park. Tiffany emerged in a copse close to the statue and saw no one around. She kicked her jet boots into action and flew north, toward the town of Nuxhall in Decatur County.

At one point Nuxhall had been a thriving town, a railroad hub and grain mill had seen in prosperous until the 1940's. but the wars, the promises of better jobs in nearby Zenith and Queen City, and the loss of the QCWR Railroads had ensured the doom of the small town. Nuxhall was now almost abandoned, with several boarded up buildings and an aging population of farmers, who refused to let their legacy die.

"Just the sort of place to hole up if you don't want to be found," thought Crimson, as she settled gently into a parking lot at the old grain elevator. She stepped around warily, uncertain where to begin.

"Now there's a sight you don't see every day, Chauncy."
"What's that Edgar?"
"A pretty young woman come a'droppin' outta the sky."

The Crimson Dynamo whirled, alarmed. On a wooden porch sat two old men with an ancient radio on a cooler between them. Each had a brown bottle in hand and at least three more empties lay nearby.

"Hello there gentlemen," said Tiffany, a warm smile on her face. "I'm the Crimson Dynamo, from Queen City."

"Well paint me yeller an' call me a lemon," said Edgar. "I'm Edgar; an' this here's Chauncy. What brings a big time heroine like you to a nowhere like Nuxhall?"

"I'm working on a case right now," said Crimson. "Have you boys been here long?"

"Nigh onto eighty years," said Chauncy. "'N' Edgar here has been here 'bout seventy."

"So you'd notice a stranger?"

"We noticed you didn't we?" The two old men shared a laugh but cut it short when they saw the serious expression on the Crimson Dynamo's face.

Edgar continued. "Yeah, matter of fact, there's some strange doin's at the old Crockett farm. Place has been abandoned for twenty years. But I seen lights up there off an' on for the last month or so. Think that might be what you're lookin' for?"

Crimson crossed her arms and thought. "What did they grow?"

"Oh Crockett was a pig man. But the last few years people been plantin' corn and barley up there."

At 'barley' Crimson's eyes lit up. "Sounds like where I need to be looking. Where is this place?"

"Oh you can't miss it," said Chauncy. "Follow this road 'bout two mile. Crockett's house sits on the left."

"Thanks," said Crimson. "Have a nice night." She kicked on the jet boots and followed the road to the west.

"OK she's gone," said Chauncy. Edgar sprung into action and pulled a microphone from the back of the old radio.

"Boss, you're gonna have costumed company." he said, into the mike.

A minute later, Crimson pulled to a stop outside the Crockett house. The name on the mailbox was faded but legible under her finger light. The house was dark and behind it a large field stretched out for several acres. A large barn was to the side of the house, and Crimson could make out several gleams of light from the cracks in the walls.

"They aren't doing a very good job of hiding themselves," she thought. She slipped to the dark side of the house, away from the barn, intending to scout out the perimeter. But as she entered the side yard Crimson saw something stretched on a post. White Owl?

Cautiously, she approached the figure on the gibbet, with each step her knees wavered more. At twenty feet out, her IR lenses slipped into place and Crimson saw the figure was cold.

"Someone has a sick sense of humor," she thought. "Making a scarecrow of White Owl." Crimson felt her heart racing, though as her flight or fight reflex rose. She whirled in time to stop the first goon, throwing him into the hideous scarecrow. He landed with a thud.

Alert to the attack, Crimson crouched into a fighter's stance. A deft and accurate high kick brought another goon down and he lay writhing on the soft earth.

Someone grabbed her from behind, but Crimson planted her feet and flipped forward. The goon flew forward and knocked the fourth assailant to the ground. Crimson stood, smiling, her scarf flapping in the breeze. "Is that all you have?" she mocked.

But suddenly, a chill crept up her spine. For no reason, her body trembled, her hands began shaking uncontrollably. Crimson felt her heart racing in terror and turned to look at the scarecrow once more.

It no longer hung on the gibbet. Instead another scarecrow was walking toward the young heroine. His steps were deliberate. He was approximately 5 and a half feet tall, and had dark eyes. Tiffany finally saw it wasn't a scarecrow, but a man with a horrific skin condition. His skin looked like flaps of burlap. His face was painted to resemble a scarecrow's. He was wearing ragged jeans, a tan leather vest and a top hat. As he drew near to the Crimson Dynamo, she felt her body seize up and the fear drew her into a small ball.

The scarecrow loomed over the now helpless woman. With a heavy cane, he bashed Crimson in the skull , toppling the mighty heroine.

As she struggled to maintain consciousness, a second clout caught her in the head. The Crimson Dynamo slumped to the ground unconscious.

"Get her to the barn," said Effigy to his recovering henchmen. "Take her belt, search her well and chain her to a pillar. I have plans for her..."

Crimson shook her head slowly from side to side, trying to clear the cobwebs. Her knees still shuddered in a declining fear and with a half open eye, she carefully reconnoitered her surroundings. She was handcuffed around a thick wooden beam, one which held up the center support beam of a large barn.

"It's no use pretending, Crimson Dynamo," came a rasping voice. "I c'n see you're awake."

Crimson shrugged and raised her head. She saw her belt, scarf and skirt laying across the barn, draped over a cow stall. Crimson shuddered when she saw her remaining costume had been unzipped all the way down, and her ample bosom placed on display for Effigy and his henchmen.

"I assume knocking women out is the only way you get some action," sniffed Crimson, trying to regain some confidence and dignity. Effigy stepped out of the shadows and just laughed.

"Oh you're so right, smart ass. Ain't a woman alive that' ud come to me willin'ly." He stepped closer to Crimson, grabbed the lapel of her costume with one hand, and took a full grasp of her breast in the other. "I heard you got a short trigger when it comes to stimulus," he said.

Crimson gasped as the villain teased the nipple on the tip of her engorged breast. Her back arched and despite herself, Crimson let out a throaty moan.

"That's real nice," said Effigy. "I think I c'n conjure me up another pheromone that'll leave you perpetually wantin' me."

" bastard," gasped Crimson. "I'll never want you. And I'll put a stop to you."

"I don't think so, l'il lady," said Effigy. "I used your high power handcuffs to lock you to that post. White Owl cain't break 'em, I'm bettin' you cain't neither." He rubbed his hand across Crimson's exposed belly, then teased the button of her exposed breast once more. Crimson gasped again, but managed to control herself.

Effigy moved back, then picked up a small vial from the table he'd been standing by. "You know what this is?" he asked Crimson. Without waiting for an answer, he said, "This is the stuff that will bring White Owl down. Its a catalyst. I know she has this crazy metabolism that helps her heal fast. All I did was inject her with a l'il somethin' that'll help her put the fear o' God inta everyone. An' in the end, EVERYONE will be afraid of her--she'll go insane!"

He paused for a minute, then picked up another bottle. "I know it works, because I tried it out. An' I have an antidote, cuz I was the test subject. But your l'il friend won't get this.

Crimson watched closely as Effigy slipped the bottle into his vest pocket. Then he picked up a big needle and a bottle of alcohol, bringing it close to the sexy, bound crimefighter.

"This here ain't the phereomone stuff. That's too slow. What this is," he said as he swabbed Crimson's swollen breast with a cotton ball. "What THIS is, is concentrated fear. Adrenaline. I'm gonna pump you with so much, your heart'll just plumb stop from exertion. An' there's nothin' you can do about it.

Crimson gasped as Effigy grabbed her breast then shoved the needle deep inside. He depressed the plunger and Crimson felt a warmth running into her system. She also felt her heart beginning to pump faster and her limbs get cold and watery. A scream died in her throat, as Crimson swallowed and tried to stir her confidence and spirit. She felt the cold sweat breaking on her body and felt herself trembling.

"Boo!" laughed Effigy, and Crimson flinched, ashamed.

"Who wants to taunt her some more?" Effigy asked his men. One large fellow stood up.

"C'mon an' get her then," said Effigy.

"It isn't that, boss. We got company--most likely from Queen City."

"What? How?" Effigy crossed the room and Crimson felt herself almost relax. But the jitters started right back up.

Effigy's dark eyes scanned an electric board. "You fools! They were here before you could tell me! Where is she?"

"Last we knew was Chauncy and Edgar said somethin' fast an' white tore through main steet. We lost tracking about the farmhouse."

"White Owl's no idiot--even if she is losing her mind. Get out there and find her. Work in pairs, she can't sneak up on you then. And you've all got the counter drug in your system--she won't be able to scare you."

The four men broke from the barn and with shotguns in hand approached the family garden where Crimson had been captured. Two of them headed for the highway first, to come up on White Owl from behind. The other two approached stealthily from the barn.

"Where do you think she is, Len?" asked Jasper.

"I don't know. But she's bound to be around here." A heavy thud sounded in the shadow of the farmhouse.

"I'm gonna check it out," said Len. He pumped a shell and Jasper stood back to cover him. A minute passed, then Jasper saw a shadowy figure waving from the door. Smiling, Jasper headed for the door and was hit with a heavy thud on the jaw. He caught a steel sphere in his hand, looking dumbly at it before dropping unconscious to the ground. The shadowy figure dragged him into the farmhouse.

Fargo and Jon trotted up the far side of the farmhouse, warily. Though they hadn't seen anything, they both had the feeling of being watched. A silver orb landed between them and the two men jumped. They looked at the globe for just a second, then the phosphorus ignited, filling the dark night with the blaze of brightest sunshine. Fargo dropped his shotgun and took off running, slamming headfirst into an old oak tree. He dropped, stunned. Jon stood his ground and blinked furiously, trying to clear his vision. A moment or three later, he could see well enough to pick a path around the house.

He entered the large field where the corn stalks still rustled in the soft wind. The White Owl scarecrow still hung on her gibbet. Jon sighed in relief, then tripped over something at his feet. "Damn you Fargo," he said, picking himself from the ground. As he did, he noticed that he had tripped on the scarecrow's prone form.

"But if the scarecrow is here, then.." A Steel Fist in a silken glove clipped Jon on the jaw, with enough force to stun the man into unconsciousness.
I dragged the four men back into the farm house; securing them in different rooms and using the duct tape I'd found to insure the silence. My total time in taking them down had been less than five minutes--a total of fifteen after restraining them. "Effigy should be getting justifiably nervous," I thought. I looked down at the glowing red tracer Tiffany had installed in both our costumes. I knew she was alive--at least I prayed it; but in either case Effigy was going down.

One advantage to being White Owl is silent flight. I soared high above the farmhouse, then spotted the lights in the barn. I wasn't sure if Effigy had kept a reserve of men or not, so I carefully picked my way around. I saw the Hay door open on the far side and I glided in, landing in the upper barn without a sound. Effigy's back was to me, he was looking for his men.

"Where are those idiots?" he muttered. I could see Crimson in the middle of the barn, the High Strength cuffs on her wrists and ankles. Her costume was in a huge disarray, but aside from a nervous shudder, she seemed all right.

Effigy turned back toward Crimson and stopped. "I'll give them three more minutes," he said. He reached into his hat's band and pulled out a pack of Laramies. As he flicked his lighter, I threw a paint ball. Normally I'll use them for windshields, but it was about all I had left. The ball hit Effigy's hand, shattering on his wrist and spewing yellow green paint on his arm and vest. The lighter whirled out of his hand and hit the floor. As Effigy followed the trajectory back toward the upper level, I flew in, landing a haymaker (what else) to his skeleton like jaw.

Effigy hit the floor and looked back. A crooked smile crossed his face. "Been expectin' you," he rasped. "Feelin' a little LONELY? Look what you're doin' to your partner there." He pointed over my shoulder and I spared a glance at Crimson. Her eyes were wide with terror and the sweat on her body told me she was heading for shock if I didn't help her soon. Still I couldn't allow Effigy to get away. He was nearly back on his feet when I leg tackled him.

"Damn you Owl! Leave me BE!" he spat. "Why aren't you scared? I put a ton o' that pheremone on me!" I could feel him trembling under my arms though. "You shouldn't be able to think, much less walk an' fight."

"Don't worry," I said. "You won't have to think about it much longer." I slammed a fist into his jaw and felt his body go limp in my arms. I turned back to Crimson, and slowly approached. Crimson's eyes grew wider with fear at each step.

"!" she said. "K..Keep away!"

"Steady Crimson," I said. "Its me, White Owl. I'm your friend, your best friend, remember?" My voice was steady, calm and soft, just like I'd learned in my riding classes. Crimson bucked, but I could see her fighting to keep her sanity and to master her fear. I took that tack.

"You're the Crimson Dynamo," I said. "You've worked with me several times. I'm not scary--you've defeated Dr Kotetsu, and Hypnota, remember? You're a heroine! You've saved lives, because you were brave! Be brave now."

I reached out, and touched the keypad for the HD Cuffs. There was a beep, then they fell free from Crimson's hands and feet. Crimson hugged me, trembling.

"Shhhhh! It's ok," I said.

"No its not," she answered. "Effigy has your antidote--and he's slipping out." I turned to see Effigy waving from the front of the barn. A five gallon can sat beside him.

"So long ladies! I'll see you in hell!" He touched the lighter to the ground and ran. A fire blazed up and the acrid smell of burning Kerosene filled the room. I grabbed Crimson and flew us straight out of the barn. Then I gave her my phone. "Call Sheriff Custis, I'll get Effigy" She nodded and took off to complete the call.

Effigy ran, but badly. The disease that marred his skin so much had also affected his gait, and I caught up with him in 200 yards. He fussed when I brought him down, but was smug as the sheriff and his deputies arrived. Crimson stayed with the collar while I saw to putting out the barn, for obvious reasons. When Crimson came up to me though, there was a scowl on her face.

"I'm afraid Effigy broke the bottle with the cure," she said.

"You mean I'm doomed to go crazy? To never again have my cat or friends speak to me?"

She nodded grimly. Behind her, a corpulent man in County Brown and Gray strode up. "White Owl?" he asked.

I nodded.

"Sheriff Wil Custis," he said, stepping close and holding out a large beefy hand. "Thanks for the tips that brought us here. You're quite an inspiration to a lot of my deputies. And to me, but don't let my wife hear that." I took his hand and shook it as we both enjoyed a hearty laugh.

The next day, Tiffany was comparing the charts of my blood test with previous one. She shook her pretty auburn hair and frowned. "I don't get it." We were sitting in the sunny living room of my upper floor apartment.

"What?" I asked.

"There's no trace of the hyper pheremones," she said. "Its almost like you shorted them out."

"Maybe my healing factor?" I asked. "Or perhaps a counter pheremone?"

She nodded. "Still I won't feel good until Alyssa can check this out. She's coming tomorrow."

It was my turn to be surprised. "What? How did you..."

"I invited her. She needed some time off with the both of us. By seeing YOU she can expense it."

"You win," I said. "I'll see her tomorrow then." I heard a gentle "mreow" and with that word of warning, 2 pounds of furry white cat landed in my lap. "But I really doubt she'll find anything either."

The end

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