The Last Straw
by Tim Rumph
Chapter 6: Jo Makes A Decision


When Lindsey got back to his sisterís house, he found John, Leanne, and Andre still up, sitting in the living room. He sat down next to John on the couch, who gave him a hug and a kiss. John asked, "You said when you called that the police had found Jo and she was in the hospital. How is she?"

Lindsey leaned up against John, with Johnís arm around his shoulders, glad of the comfort that provided. He had been back in Ďmarine modeí all night and needed to unwind. He said, "I stayed with Will until they brought Jo back from the O.R. She was in bad shape when they brought her in, with her arm and leg broken, a fractured skull, and some internal bleeding along with multiple contusions. Theyíve repaired her arm and skull, and installed a shunt to drain excess fluid caused by the concussion. She will have to have surgery later to repair the broken femur, thatís beyond what they can handle in the E.R."

Andre frowned and asked, "Have her abdominal injuries threatened her kit?"

Lindsey shook his head and said, "The doctor said the fetus is still healthy, and they managed to treat her quickly enough so that she didnít miscarry. Her obstetrician will be in later for a more thorough examination. How are the kids? I know that Breeze put them to sleep before shi went back to the hospital."

Andre replied, "I just checked them and they are still sound asleep. Both of the kids were operating on pure adrenaline last night, so Breeze didnít have to Ďpushí them to much to get them to sleep." Shi stood up. "If you all will excuse me, Iím going to go join them. I want to wake up before the kids do, Iíll tell Teri about hir mom when shi wakes up."

Shi went off to Leanneís room and Leanne turned to Lindsey and John. "Iíve pushed the beds in the room where Eleanor usually sleeps together for you two. Iíve got an air bed I can set up in here."

She got up and Lindsey came over and gave her a hug. "Thanks for letting us take over your house on such short notice."

"Itís no problem. I was just wondering why you came here instead of going home."

Lindsey frowned and glanced over at John. "All of the victims that I saw at the concert were beaten and then left where they fell. Jo was the only one who was moved away from where she was first beaten and taken somewhere else. John and I are going to go over and check out the Cochransí house in the morning while Andre takes the kids to the hospital."

Leanne frowned, "You surely donít think that someone would stage this riot just to attack Jo. Who would do that?"

Lindsey shook his head. "I think that the attack was already planned and someone was just using it as cover to get Jo, Teri and Will. As far as whoís behind it, I have some ideas, but Iíd rather not say until I know some more."

"Well, it sounds far-fetched to me, but you know more about these things than I do. Now you two go on to bed, youíre both about ready to fall over."

When Leanne got up the next morning, she deflated the bed and put it away, then went into the guest bathroom to freshen up some. She had taken a change of clothes from her room the night before. She heard the shower in her room start up, so she went into the kitchen to start getting breakfast together. Knowing how long it took for Teriís fur to dry, she waited about fifteen minutes after the shower stopped and then went into her room. She saw Eleanor and Teri standing in front of one of the sinks in the vanity, not dressed yet, brushing their teeth. She walked up to them as she said, "Hi kids, breakfast will be ready soon." She heard some water running in the other sink and turned towards Andre. Ö not water in the sink Ö Andre was standing in front of the toilet Ö with the seat up Ö Leanne looked up and met Andreís gaze, and then turned around and practically fled from the bathroom. Andre looked down at Eleanor, who returned her look and shrugged, her mouth still full of toothbrush and toothpaste.

After Andre got dressed shi came out to the kitchen and found Leanne sitting at the table, looking off into space. Andre said, "Leanne, are you alright? You looked like a deer in the headlights in there."

Leanne looked down at her hands and mumbled, "Itís OK Ö well, Iím Ö I donít know!" She turned to face Andre and said, "Iíve known since I met you, years now, that you were a herm. At least Iíve known in my head, but I donít think Iíve known what that meant in my gut until I saw you standing there this morning."

Andre sat down with a puzzled look on hir face. "But youíve seen me naked over at Joís when weíve been in the pool. After the first time over there, you were naked too, just like the rest of us."

Leanne glanced away. "I know. I think that I just wasnít looking at Ö that part of you."

Andre gave her a toothy grin, "Well, I will admit to being a little vain. I work hard to keep in shape, and Iím proud of how I look. The next time weíre over at Joís, I want you to look at all of me!"

Leanne glanced back up at Andre, a shy smile creeping onto her lips. "Well, I was thinking, maybe, um, that I wouldnít, um, have to wait until we were at Joís house to, um, see, um, all of you again?"

Andreís smile softened. "Perhaps not."

After Jo finished her lunch, Will and Andre left so that Teri and Eleanor could stay with Jo. As they were heading toward the visitorsí lounge, they met Lindsey and John coming in. Will gave them both a hug. "Thanks again for all your help last night."

Lindsey said, "We went by your house this morning. I think youíd better come out and take a look at it."

Will looked over to John, who nodded. Will said, "Let me go tell Teri and Jo where Iím going, Iíll be right back."

After talking to them, he went out with Lindsey and John and they got in Johnís PTV. Lindsey turned to Will and said, "I took us to my sisterís house last night because I thought that you and your family were being specifically targeted. Jo is the only one I saw that was moved after being beaten, the others were just left where they fell."

Will shook his head. "The only one I can think of doing that is Bishop Johnson. I thought he would be satisfied when we took Teri out of school, but I have since learned that he is probably trying to undermine my engineering business. This seems rather extreme even for him. You said that you checked out the house before you came over to the hospital, what did you find?"

"When we got there the AI wouldnít let us in and it looked like someone had been beating on the front door. I figured that you hadnít changed the access list in the last twenty four hours, so we came back to get you. Iíve also asked Bill Smith to join us."

They pulled up to Willís house and saw Smithís PTV parked outside. He got out when they pulled up behind him. After saying hello, they all went up to the house. Will tried to open the door, and then noticed that the light on the access panel was blinking red. He said, "The AI has gone into lockdown mode. It wonít open until Jo, Teri, or I come in person," he glanced at Smith, "or someone brings a verified warrant to enter the house."

Will placed his hand on the panel next to the door, and the light went from flashing red to flashing yellow. A keypad appeared on the screen, and Will typed a code. The light turned to steady yellow and the door opened. Smith asked him, "Bioscan and an access code?"

Will nodded as they went inside. "If Iíd entered the wrong code, it would have let us in, but would have called you guys without alerting anyone here about it, and asked for a silent approach to the house."

"Isnít that a little paranoid?"

"My wife and daughter are furs, and I live in the HCKNA. What do you think?"

Smith nodded as Will turned to the panel inside the front door.

The AI said, "Welcome home Will. Return to normal security status?"

"No, require bioscan for entry. Allow entry by Lindsey and Eleanor Westmorland, John McDonald, and Andre Fleetfoot in addition to immediate family members. Restore default forced entry response."

"System configuration complete."

Will nodded. "What has happened here since we left on the night of 1 January?"

"There was an attempt to compromise the integrity of the house AI at 22:37 1 January 2331. This was unsuccessful. There was an attempt to enter the front door at 00:28 2 January 2331 by physical force. A call was placed to local police for assistance. The rear fence was scaled at 00:41 2 January 2331. There was an attempt to enter the kitchen door at 00:53 2 January 2331. The trespassers scaled the rear fence again at 01:08 2 January 2331, leaving the property. Mr. McDonald and Mr. Westmorland attempted entry at 09:18 2 January 2331, and access was denied. They left the property."

"Did the police respond to your call?"

"No sir."

Will glanced at Smith. Smith shook his head and asked, "Does it have recordings of this?"

Will nodded. "Show the video of the entry attempts."

The video started up showing three humans with pipes coming up to the house. Lindsey said, "Thatís how the H1 goons were armed last night."

The video continued. One of them tried to open the door. "That bitch said she would disable the AI so we could get in, whatís going on here?"

"Just break the fucker down so we can get the rest of them."

They started beating on the door, but didnít seem to be getting anywhere. Finally one of the said, "Weíre making too much damn noise out here, the neighbors are going to call the cops. Letís move the PTV and go around back." As they got into the PTV and drove off, the camera followed it and zoomed in on the plate, so it could be clearly read.

The video picked up again as the last of them came over the fence. They then came up and started beating on the kitchen door. Smith said, "These guys are amateurs, that door is plassteel?" Will nodded. Smith continued, "That door is probably stronger than the walls."

Finally one of the goons said. "If they havenít gotten up to see whoís making all this racket, thereís nobody home. We need to get out of here."

"If we donít finish off the rest of them, heís gonna kill us."

"Well what do want to do, dumb fuck, start ringing the neighborsí doors and asking them if the Cochrans are there? Besides, after what that little beast did to him, the Rev. might not be alive any more. Iím getting out of here."

They had some trouble getting back over the fence, but finally managed it and left.

Smith asked, "Can I have a copy of that?"

Will nodded and said, "Please let it scan your ID and make a bioscan." He turned back to the console. "Identify Detective Captain Bill Smith. Provide him with copies of all audio and video recordings made during these incidents. If he calls, provide him immediate access by com to either me or Jo, and notify us if he comes here."

Smith provided the requested ID, and downloaded the recordings. He said, "Please keep these files in case they are required later as evidence." He turned toward Will. "Recordings from most house hold AIís are not admissible as evidence, but I have a funny feeling that yours might be. This is an impressive system youíve got. Your wifeís doctor said I could see her this afternoon, and Chakat Springbreeze that shi could meet me there."

Will nodded. "You can come back with me."

Lindsey said, "John and I need to take care of some things at our house, can you take Will back to the hospital?"

Smith nodded, and Will said, "Let me grab a quick shower and get changed. Itíll only take a minute."

"Go ahead, Iíll wait here for you."

Will finished and picked up some things for Jo, then he and Smith went back to the hospital.

When they got back to the hospital, Breeze met them as they got off of the elevator on the floor where Joís room was. Breeze said, "Jo told me that you were going to check on the house Ė what did you find?"

Will shook his head. "Three people tried to break in last night, but they werenít very good at it, and just damaged the front door. They were expecting to find Teri and me there."

Smith said, "Please donít mention this to Mrs. Cochran until Iím finished. Has she seen your daughterís video from last night yet?"

Will shook his head, "I havenít even looked at it yet."

They came into Joís room and found Teri up on the bed with her mom and Eleanor sitting next to the bed. Andre was sitting in a chair across the room. Teri looked up and then turned to her mom, smiling. "Mom, this is Detective Smith." She turned back to Smith. "Thank you for finding my mom last night sir."

Smith smiled, "Youíre welcome, Teri, but I had a little help. Now, I need to ask your mom some questions.

Teri nodded and turned to Eleanor. "That means we have to leave." Shi turned around and gave hir mom a hug, and didnít complain when Jo licked hir cheek. Then shi got off the bed and hugged hir dad. Taking Eleanor by one hand and hir grandmother by the other, shi smiled at hir mom again and left.

Will gave Jo a hug and a kiss. "Iíll be right outside. I love you."

Jo smiled, "I love you too, dear. See you in a bit."

Will left and Smith turned to Jo. "Most kids that age would have to be dragged away from their mothers in a situation like this."

Jo shook hir head. "My daughterís done a lot of growing up in the last twenty four hours. Shiís not the innocent little kit shi was."

Smith frowned. "I wish it werenít so, but thereís no going back after something like this. Shir Springbreeze, can we get started?"

"Of course." Shi went over next to the bed. "Jo, just take my hand. Iím not going to put you all the way out like I did Teri, just help you relax a little and serve as Detective Smithís Ďlie detectorí, not that we really need that."

Jo smiled hir, "I understand, Breeze. Detective Smith, shall we get started?"

Smith nodded and activated the recorder on his PADD. "This is Detective Captain William Smith. Mrs. Cochran, please state your full name."

"I am Josephine Cochran."

"Shir Springbreeze?"

"I am Chakat Springbreeze, child of Firestripe and Fastwalker."

"Mrs. Cochran, tell me what happened last night."

"Will and Teri and I went down to First Night last night with John McDonald and Lindsey Westmorland and their daughter Eleanor in Johnís PTV. We were going to the concert by ĎSong of the Forestí, but we arrived several hours early so we could wander around some and get dinner before the concert."

"Did you see anything unusual before the concert?"

"No, just people running around, having a good time."

"What happened at the concert?"

"The first half of the concert went fine. During the intermission, Teri asked me to take hir to use the toilet, so we went up there. Eleanor and John were headed down to the stage to get the bandís new recording, and Will and Lindsey stayed where we were sitting, and started talking about the music. Teri went into the toilet and I was waiting for hir when I heard a commotion. I tried to see what was going on when someone screamed. I was going to tell Teri to come out when I heard someone behind me. I turned around and there was a human raising a club and running toward me."

"Can you describe him?"

"No, he had on a black sweat suit with H1 stenciled on the front, and a cowl of some sort over his head and was wearing gloves."

"How could you tell he was a human?"

"I could smell him. He was a human male." She stopped and closed her eyes, tears starting to run down her face. "He used the Ö same deodorant Ö as Will."

Breeze gave Joís hand a squeeze and extended hir empathic senses to help Jo calm down. Jo turned to Breeze and gave hir a little smile, and then turned back to Smith. "He swung the club, it looked like a piece of metal pipe, at my head and I blocked it with my left arm. I think thatís when I broke it." Jo looked away briefly, then back at Smith, "Then something strange happened."

"What was that?"

"I hear someone call out ĎThatís one of themí. Two other men, human males, ran over, and chased the first one away." Jo frowned, and continued. "They grabbed me and started pulling me around behind the toilets when another man walked up. It was strange Ė everybody was running around in a panic, and he walked up just like he was walking down the street on a normal day, not in any hurry to be anywhere. He was dressed in black too, with the same cowl and gloves as the other, but he had on a suit and trousers. He was also carrying a piece of pipe. He walked up, calm as you please, and then he hit me."

"With the pipe?"

"No, with his hand, but it may as well have been with the pipe, he hit me so hard. Then he asked me where Will and Teri were."

"Do you remember his exact words?"

"Yes, he said, ĎWhere is that backsliding fornicator who thinks heís your mate, and your herm beast?í The last time I heard someone call Teri a Ďherm beastí was when Bishop Johnson threw Teri out of the school."

"Do you think this was Bishop Johnson?"

Jo shook her head. "I know it wasnít. He was much stockier than Johnson and didnít smell the same. He was much older and didnít look anything like Johnson."

"You said he had a cowl on?"

"Oh, yes. I told him to buzz off, well, I actually said Ďfuck off, bastardí and then I saw Teri coming out of the toilet. I tried not to look at hir, afraid that they would get hir too. He hit me again and said, ĎTell me where they are.í I got my good arm loose from the man who was holding it and hit him in the face, tearing the cowl off his head. He was an old man with white hair, and he was wearing a clerical collar. He looked too old to hit me as hard as he did. Thatís when he hit me with the pipe. He broke my femur, which is hard to believe, even for someone much younger. The femur and the muscles around it are the strongest bone and muscles in your body. Anyway, the other man dropped me, and I landed on my left arm and just about passed out from the pain, but I heard the old man cry out and looked up. Teri was perched on his back, ripping his throat open. There was blood pouring down his front, and he fell over, clutching his throat. Teri jumped off of him and looked at me, and then looked around and ran off, thank goodness. I could smell the blood, but it was all either mine or human blood. I didnít smell Teriís blood, so I didnít think shi was hurt. I heard them starting to chase hir, but then I think I passed out. When I came to again, they were dragging me into an alley. It sounded like they were arguing but I couldnít make sense of what they were saying. Then one of them told the others to shut up and said, ĎOur timeís up. Finish her off and letís get out of here.í I think that one of them hit me in the head, because it felt like my brain exploded and I passed out again. When I woke up, I was here."

"When you woke up in the alley, could you smell the old man?"

Jo shook her head. "No, he wasnít there."

"Could you identify the other?"

Jo thought a moment, "I could identify the first one who hit me and the two who were holding me. The others in the alley, I canít help you with. There were too many of them and I was hurt too badly to remember clearly."

Smith turned off the recorder and picked up his PADD. "Thank you Mrs. Cochran. This has been a big help. Iíll tell your husband to come in."

"Please ask for Will to come in without the kids. I need to talk to him before I see Teri again."

Smith nodded and left. Breeze started to get up as well, but Jo clutched hir hand, "Please stay for a minute, Breeze." Will came in the door, but Jo turned to Breeze, "Tell me, how do I Ďfeelí to you right now?"

Breeze considered hir friendís emotional state, and said, "This seems strange, but despite what youíve just gone through, you feel somehow calmer than you have been lately. I canít understand it."

"Iíve just made a decision." Jo turned to Will, who was standing beside the bed, a puzzled look on his face. Jo said, "Will, call Quont and tell hym that youíre taking that job hy offered you. Weíre going to Chakona."

"But, Ö"

"Will, Shut Up!" Jo shook her head, running her hands through her hair. "Iím sorry, come here and give me a hug."

Will came up and hugged Jo, kissing her as she licked his face and then kissed him. Sensing hir friendís feelings, Breeze moved out of the way, but stayed in the room. Jo said, "Will, sit down on the bed next to me." She smiled and added, "KoQuatomanta has gone off duty, so he wonít know weíre breaking his rules, and I want you close by."

Will got as settled as he could, not fitting as well as Teri did. He said, "So what happened?"

She licked his cheek and smiled at him. "Will, this situation has been turning me inside out. This morning I attacked you because you use the same deodorant as one of the men who attacked me."

"Well, Iíll change Ö"

"No, you wonít change the deodorant that you use. Itís part of my Ö English doesnít have any words for this. Your deodorant is part of my Ďolfactory imageí of the man I love. To me, changing it would be the same as if you went out and dyed your hair blue or started wearing nose rings and studs in your tongue. You arenít changing that just because some H1 idiot has good taste in toiletries." Jo took Willís face in her hands and gave him a brief tongue bath, and then kissed him. "Will, this morning I hit the man I love more than my own life. I truly believe in Marcusí ideals, but this is too high a price to pay. On Chakona, we can legally declare ourselves lifemates."

Will smiled at her and caressed her face. "As far as Iím concerned, weíve been lifemates since I married you."

Jo licked his hand and then put his palm against her muzzle, taking a strong breath of him. "I know you do. Iím constantly amazed at my good fortune, finding you on that dance floor." She smiled, remembering. "I always thought that ĎThe Gay Gordonsí was one of the most insipid dances there was, but I also wanted to help the spectators at the dance get a feel for Scottish Country Dancing. I couldnít get any of the spectators to dance with me, and when you offered, I could hardly refuse. Iíd seen you dancing earlier in the evening and I knew you werenít a beginner, so you couldnít have actually wanted to do that dance."

Will wrapped his arm around her and moved over so he was snugly up against her. "You looked so lonely standing there, all by yourself." He kissed her before he continued. "I couldnít tell you this then, but I donít think you will take it in the wrong spirit now. The way you looked made me think of a little, lost puppy on a cold winter night who just wanted to go home, but everybody was too busy and not paying any attention. At the time, I was embarrassed even to be thinking that."

She smiled at him, "At that time, I felt like a little lost puppy. And then I find out that we are both living in the same city. I thought that surely Teri would scare you off, being a herm as well as a fur, but you two hit it off right from the start. I didnít know at the time that you had had that nutty skunktaur as a companion. You swept me off my feet, and Iíve decided that I wonít have to worry about landing any time soon." She kissed him, being careful this time to keep her tongue out of the way so that he could breathe once in a while.

Finally, Breeze cleared hir throat. Will and Jo separated and gave hir a sheepish look. Shi didnít try to hide the physical reaction between hir hind legs that their feelings had caused. Shi smiled at them and said, "I hate to break this up, because you two feel so good, but they will be bringing Joís dinner soon. If I didnít stop you, weíd have to explain to Morgenstern about you two being naked in bed together, and me sitting here in a puddle with no one even touching me."

Will hugged Jo, and then invited Breeze in for a three way hug. He said, "Iíll call that nutty skunktaur tomorrow. I guess Iíd better also call the Chakonan consulate here, to get the paperwork started."


To be continued in Chapter 7.

Copyright © 2008 Tim Rumph – tarumph AT

Chakats and the Chakat Universe are the creation of Bernard Doove and are used with his permission.

The Holy Christian Kingdom of North America is the creation of John Plunkett.

Skunktaurs were created by Bob Reijns.


Link: Return to the Forest Tales main page.


Link: Return to the Chakat's DenTM main page.