The Weretiger Assassin’s Chronicles: Chapter Six
© 2009 by Lootah Akecheta
Warning! This story contains physical violence, strong language, and bloodshed. It is not intended for the faint of heart. Read at your own risk.
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I couldn’t keep my eyes off Alex all morning while we shopped for clothes that met his approval, which was to say none that were appropriate, and would work for the upcoming meeting. Once we got out of the hotel room it was like Alex became a totally different person. He clung to my heels like an obedient puppy most of the time but became easily distracted by his new capabilities. He smiled at everything and laughed even when nothing was particularly funny. I worried that maybe it had all been too much on him – the changes that is. It would not be the first time a person went crazy from its affects.
His eyes solidified into their new color about an hour after he woke – much quicker than I expected, but then everything about his change was happening much faster than normal. The eyes were darker than mine, but not by much, just a tad bit greener. I took him to Pensacola’s shopping districts to find what we were looking for. He’d been in some of these shops before but not often and it surprised him that I didn’t head for the nearest Wal-Mart. Dressed in his surfer shorts, torn gray army tee shirt, and sneakers he looked like one very sexy bum. Due to the changes in his physic the old clothes looked great on him and a lot better than they had yesterday when he was way to gaunt to really look good in much of anything.
I took great pride in watching him adapt to his new senses. Everywhere he looked he found something new to marvel at and more than once I had to pull him along or we’d never have completed our task. One of the times he got distracted to wonder at a new discovery was when he spied a spider’s web spun between the branches of a small bush. It was a small web, only about four inches wide but it caught his fascination as though it were the most wonderful thing in the world. “What ya looking at there Alex?”
“Simon, you have to see this man.” He was absolutely giddy; excited as I’ve rarely seen anyone before.
“What?” I knew he was looking at a bush but I couldn’t see the spider’s web from where I was standing.
“Oh come on Simon, come here.”
I strode over to him. “What?”
“This.” He pointed at the web with three orb like egg sacks inside the structure. It was a small web as far as webs go, but I’ve never been one to like spiders much.
“The spider’s web?” He nodded his head ardently and I couldn’t help but chuckle at his enthusiasm. “What about it?”
“Oh man Simon, it’s beautiful. I’ve never paid much attention to things like this before. I’d walk around and check out all the guys and usually just check out their junk, but I’ve never been drawn to look at things like this. Look how intricate it is. See, it looks three dimensional.”
I had to laugh. “That’s because it is three dimensional Alex. It’s a Orb Weaver’s web. See, the spider is over there on the edge next to that branch.” I may not like spiders, but after a hundred years of life, one becomes familiar with a lot of thing.
“No…” He actually whined the word. “I mean when I look at it, it’s as if I am looking at it from inside. You know?” Ah, I got it.
“Yes, I guess it does. It’s been so long since I was turned that I have trouble remembering how new everything looks to you. What until you smell you favorite foods.”
His look was priceless: a mix of curiosity and pained anticipation. “What do you mean?”
“You like the way they smelled before? I can tell you boy, you ain’t smelled nothin yet.” I stared at him for a little bit. “What’s your favorite breakfast dish?”
“Belgian Waffles.” He didn’t even have to think about it.
“OK, when we get done here we’ll get some Belgian Waffles and I’ll show you what I mean.”
“Aren’t we supposed to eat with your family here in just a little bit?”
“Our family Alex, they’re your family too now. We’ll be eating with them for lunch, but believe me we’ll both be famished before we get to that.” I looked around and found a suit shop across the road from where we were. “Here we go.” Alex looked where I was facing and gave me one of those ‘You’ve got to be kidding me’ looks. I couldn’t help but laugh at his expression. “Don’t tell me you’ve never worn a suit before. His face turned positively sour. “Well, we’re not buying you a suit today, but that’s where we will find the type of clothes Mina expects you to wear this afternoon.” Now he looked downright worried.
“Oh, please tell me you’re joking” he paused and then added, “daddy.”
“Hmmm, I kind of like the sound of that.” He gave me one of the famous tweens ‘Oh shish’ looks and rolled his eyes. I strode over to the clothing store with Alex in tow more like a well trained puppy than a kitten. The connection that started building between us earlier in the hotel room was already forming a solid link and we both found it difficult to be away from the other. It’s a familial link that bonds changer and changed together. A better way of looking at it is a bond that binds, in our case, father and son together. I was never around my other blood-children long enough for the bond to solidify, but as with everything else in this case, it was happening much faster than normal. I made a mental note to ask Mina and Rōk what they thought of the faster progression of our link and Alex’s changes. I thought maybe it had something to do with the proximity of the full moon, but I’ve seen other changes this close to a waxing moon and the advances were nothing like this. I had to worry a little if such fast changes would cause growth pangs like a teenager has when his bones grow faster than his muscles can keep up.
Once inside Don Alans Men’s Outfitters Alex’s attitude changed from worried/skeptical to fascination. Apparently he’d never been inside a gentleman’s clothing store before. He scowled at the suits lining two of the three display walls, but he liked the slacks and dress shirts I pointed out to him and was much more cooperative when I told him I wasn’t going to make him wear a tie. He immediately chose a kakis pair of slacks but he had to try on five different shirts before he settled on three of them: One was a pale green close to his new eye color, another was pastille lavender, and the third was a white Alton Bay Shirt by Madeleine Finn. A leather oxblood belt and matching loafers completed the ensemble. I purchased an extra pair of charcoal gray slacks just so we would have a backup and enough pairs of socks to last a week. I walked up behind him as he looked at himself in the three way mirror. He was wearing the green shirt and it looked great on him. It really brought out his eyes. “You look positively delicious in that.” He smiled at me.
“I’m not sure a dad should to say that to his son.” His smile morphed into a grin as he propped his arm on my shoulder looking at us both in the mirror. “Strange.”
“My eyes, they used to be a pale blue like thin snow-ice. Now they’re green, almost yellow. I’m not used to it. I miss my old eyes.” He looked pensive at me.
“Yea I know. My hair was blond before Rakish mauled me and my eyes were a deep blue almost a true indigo, you know like the blue water of the oceans’ deep.”
“How long did it take get used to them?”
“A long time; I’ll not lie to you Alex. These changes are going to take a toll on you. It’s going to take some time, maybe even a long time to get used to it all. You’ll probably suffer from depression at times and anxiety at other times as a result of it. I did. But I promise you this, you will pull through it and you will learn to love the way you end up looking, and I’ll be there to help you during all of it. The hunger will be the hardest, but that too you will master.”
“The hunger?” His voice was small again. “You mean like wanting to kill people and eat them?”
“Not necessarily people Alex, you don’t have to ever hunt people if you don’t want, but you are a tiger and that means you are a predator. The hunger and the hunt are never very far under our skin. There’s less than two days before your fist full moon and you will change for the first time.”
“Does it hurt?”
It can, but usually no. You will be surrounded by some very old and experienced tigers, son. We’ll help you through it. I’ll be there with you and so will the rest of us. I recon that’s one of the reasons they decided on this trip. In the past, they’ve always made me bring my blood-children to them.”
“How many children do you have?”
“Six that are living and two that died, you’re in the living count of course.” I gave him a smile and slapped his butt. Common, we need to get to an IHOP and get some waffles.” He eyes lit up at the thought of food.
“Hmmm, that sounds good. I’m getting real hungry. What caused the two to die?”
“They were too old for the change, well not really. It’s more like they were too old for me to change them. The older a person is the harder it is on them and the older the tiger needs to be who gives them the gift if they are to have any chance to live through it.” He pondered this while we gathered up the clothes he’d settled on.
The clerk who had been waiting on us and watching us gave me a really big smile as we carried Alex’s selections to the counter. When we first came in he was suspicious, mostly of Alex, but he warmed up when he realized we were there to buy several new outfits for the young man. I had little doubt that the man was as queer as Alex and me, but who am I to judge? He kept looking between the two of us as though trying to make up his mind. “Are you brothers?”
Alex slipped his arm over my shoulders and said deadpan, “Nope, he’s my dad.”
The look on the clerk’s face would have made a stone saint fall over laughing. “There is no way you’re his father. You’re what, 25, 26? You certainly aren’t old enough to be his real dad.” I smiled at the man and pulled a Florida driver’s license out handing it too him. His eyes popped when he looked at the birth date. “Your 47, impossible!”
“That’s what it says.” I looked at Alex and he added his two cents to it.
“Yea, we get this all the time, don’t we dad?”
“Sure do son.”
The older gentleman shook his head totally bewildered. “Well, I must say you certainly age well Mr. Stockholm. I’d never have guessed you were that…’ he cleared his throat, “old.” He looked at us both again and shook his head like it was too much to take in. “That will be $678.32 please.” I handed him my credit card.
“The Stockholm’s age well.”
“I see.” There was still a hint of skepticism in his voice but he didn’t question us again.
Alex could not believe what the new clothes cost. As we walked out the door he whispered: “$680 bucks? Jesus H. Christ Simon, I cannot pay you back for these.”
“I don’t recall asking you too son.”
He grabbed my arm, “I can’t let you do this, we have to take them back.”
I looked at him and for the first time saw true panic in his eyes since this morning. “Alex, I’ve got more money than I could possibly spend even if I live another 3,000 years or more. $680 is nothing, honest. Besides, Mina will be expecting nice clothes on you. She knows how I dress and she will not like it if you are not dressed similarly. Also, I never took the time to get to know the other people I’ve turned and I want to do it right this time. Please let me do this.”
He thought about it for a bit as we walked back toward my car. “Alright, I’ll let you do this but under one condition.” He waited before continuing.
“OK, what’s your condition?”
“You have to tell me who Mr. Stockholm is and what you really do for a living.”
“Mr. James Stockholm is one of my many aliases. As for what I do, well that is a bit more complicated and I’m not sure I should tell you right now.”
“Will you tell me eventually?”
“Oh yes in fact, if Mina makes me take you with me on my trips, I’ll have no choice but to tell you.”
“What do you mean if Mina makes you?” He sounded panicky again.
“Alex my job is as I’ve said, complicated and it is not an easy life – especially for one as young in the blood as you are. It would be far better if she took you back to Colorado with her than to send you with me. But I don’t think you’ll have to worry about it because she swore that if I ever changed another person, I’d be 100 percent responsible for them and that means staying with you throughout your transition period. Besides I want to stay with you, in fact I’m not sure I can stand being away from you for even a week, much less two years.” We got to the car and I pressed the button on the key ring to open it. “Let’s get a bite to eat and we’ll discuss this later, OK?” I smiled at him and he nodded his head opening the car door.
We found the IHOP on Gulf Breeze Parkway over the bay. It was the closest one to where we were at Don Alans. Alex was beside himself when we walked inside seemingly having forgotten all about our earlier conversation. “Wow, it’s never smelled this good before. Is this what you meant?”
“Yep, but wait until you smell the waffles themselves.” I had to smile when the hostess came to seat us. She couldn’t take her eyes off Alex and stumbled all over herself trying to flirt and show us our seats at the same time. It was downright comical.
“Can I get you anything to drink while you wait for your server?” Bonny never took her eyes off Alex, it was as though I didn’t even exist, which is an unusual experience for me. He chose the chartreuse shirt for today’s outfit and it almost made his eyes explode with color. We gave the hostess our drink orders and watched as she stumbled over herself as she left the table. I had to chuckle.
“Do you really think Mina will like me?” Alex asked for about the twentieth time since he put them on.
“Oh yes, she’ll like you a lot. In fact I’ll bet she won’t be able to take her eyes off you, none of them will.”
“Are they old?” He gave me an expression that said he really was afraid for me to answer this one.
“Well, are they like, you know, in their forties or older?” I had to laugh at that one.
Bonny brought our drinks and I thanked her. She still only had eyes for the young man across the table from me but at least she answered my gratitude: “You’re welcome – Barbara will be here shortly to take your order. Is there anything I can get you while you wait?” She actually batted her eyes. I looked at Alex and almost laughed out loud. He didn’t know how to handle the hostess. It looked as though he couldn’t make up his mind if he wanted to be flattered or offended.
“No thank you, this will be fine.” I said a little louder than I needed too which made Bonny realize what she was doing and caused her to flush.
“First of all, forty is not old.” I said as the befuddled hostess walked away. He gave me a skeptical look at that one. “Alex, Johnson is at least 45; do you think he’s old?” This actually brought a blush.
“No, not really, but he’s a lot older than me.”
“Yes, he is a lot older than you, but he’s not old. OK, look at me – how old do you think I am?”
He looked at me for a while and then guessed: “I’d say you’re early twenties maybe 25 at the oldest.”
“I’m over 100 years old Alex. I was born in the late 1800’s. Do I look old?”
“No you don’t look old but you’re over a hundred?”
“Yes I am, but I don’t look it because I was only 26 when I was turned. Please Alex don’t worry yourself about them. They all look the same as you and me, but both of us are a LOT younger than any of them. After all, Mina is over 400 years old but she was only 20 when she became a weretiger.”
I started to take a swallow of my drink, “Gees, 400? And she’s not wrinkled up like a prune?” I choked, trying hard not to spray sweet tea all over my blood-son. He laughed at my sudden inability to keep the amber liquid from dribbling out my nose. After a moment of nearly choking to death I looked at him with tears in my eyes.
“No, and I’ll be sure NOT to tell her you said that. God you’ve got some nerve boy.” Alex tried very hard to keep from laughing outright. Apparently he’d received the response he wanted from me. The jerk, I’ll have to get him for that one.
Barbara our actual waitress came around to check on us and take our order just as Alex’s statement caught me off guard so the woman stood there with a bemused look on her face waiting until it was safe to approach the table. “Hello guys, may I take your orders?” Alex looked at her and his eyes had a similar affect on Barbara as they had on Bonny.
I watched Alex as he ordered Belgian Waffles, orange juice and a side of bacon. When she looked at me, I ordered the same thing. “What are they like?”
“The Belgian Waffles?” I looked confused for a moment.
“No…” he laughed, “Mina and the others?”
It was my turn to look embarrassed. “Well, Mina’s Chinese and she’s petit. She has black hair and her eyes are the same color as ours. She looks about your age, but as I said already she is over 400. She doesn’t take shit off of anyone and she will let you know if you cross a line. Other than that she is really like our mother. She will mother you, scold you if you’re bad, pamper you if you’re good and look out for you. She’s very protective of what is hers – you know, her clan. She’s also an excellent cook. Rōk is her mate and he looks around 25 but he like Mina is centuries old. Last count I think he claimed to be around 530 something. He is a compassionate person and very enthusiastic about what he enjoys doing. He’s Indian as in India and like Mina he’s a terrific cook. He’s also very protective of his clan and is a vicious fighter when riled. They are both very powerful. You don’t want to cross them, but they will go out of their way to protect and defend you. As for the other’s, I don’t know who all is coming so I won’t say until I see who they are.” This seemed to mollify Alex for the time being because our waffles came to distract him. “Before you bite into it take a really deep sniff.”
He did as I asked and his eyes lit up. “Oh my god, this smells good.” I laughed at his delight.
“I told you. Now enjoy, we’ve gotta hurry it up. Mina should be here pretty soon.” I watched with amusement as Alex dove in and rolled his eyes back into his head lost in ecstasy, but I wasn’t kidding about Mina being here soon. No sooner had I taken my first bite then my phone rang. It was Mina’s cell. “Hello Mother. How’s your trip?”
“We’re good.” It was Rōk again. “Just thought I’d give you the heads up that we’re about 30 minutes out.”
“OK, thanks dad. We’re eating breakfast right now, but we’ll be there to meet you. How long before you’ll be inside the airport?”
“Probably about 45 minutes. We’ll meet you at the luggage claims area. It’ll be easier than any other place.”
“Yea, good idea, we’ll be there. Dad, why are you on mother’s phone, don’t you have one of your own?” There was a pause on the line.
“Well, it’s a long story, but I lost mine. I’ll tell you about it when we’re together.” Rōk seemed on edge about something, it piqued my curiosity.
OK, see you in about 45.” I closed the phone and pocketed it.
“45 minutes?” Alex asked with his mouth full. As soon as it rang he started wolfing his waffles down in case he had to quite before he got his fill.
“Yes, we’ll leave here in just a bit. Slow down Alex, you don’t have to swallow it whole.” It was funny and I had a feeling nothing this young man could do would bother me right now. I hoped not at any rate. “It’ll take about 30 minutes to get there maybe less.” He didn’t slow down and I found myself eating just about as fast as he was.
We finished, paid our bill and were out the door in less than 10 minutes. We got to the airport with five minutes to spare as I drove up to the front doors of the baggage claim section of the airport. Alright already, I sped, so sue me – it’s not the first law I’ve broken. Anyway, it was all well and good too that we hurried our breakfast because Mina and her group were coming in from the opposite end of the room just as Alex and I walked through the front door. “Galin!” Mina called out and hurried over to me gripping me in a near stranglehold hug. “Oh my gods, it is good to see you.” Mina may be Chinese, but her English is flawless. She’s had right at a hundred years to perfect it.
She was dressed in a conservative business suit the color of a Japanese Tulip Tree, that is to say a light mauve with matching shoes with three inch heels and pointed toes. A string of pearls adorned her neck. Her hair was pulled up in a bun like many Chinese women wear held up with two very long, wicked looking hairpins. Her lipstick was just a shade darker than her suit. Other than that she wore no makeup that I could notice. She’d painted her fingernails the same color of her eyes, which were closer to Alex’s shade than mine. It looked really nice; even I had to say so.
“It’s good to see you too Mother.”
“I’m still mad at you, you know?” She pulled back to gaze up at me. I’m only 5’8”, but since Mina’s 5’3” she pretty much had to look up to everyone.
“Yes, I guess I deserve that after what you told me the last time I turned someone.”
“What? Oh, your new son? Oh please, that’s old news. Do you realize it’s been over five years since you’ve been home? I ought to bop your ears.” She startled me and I had to give her a double take.
“What do you mean Alex is old news? Aren’t you still mad at me for changing him?”
She gave me a stern look. “Of course I’m still upset about it, but I think you will learn your lesson this time. Is this the young man here?”
I stepped back and reached out for Alex, noticing as I did so that Isaac and Jacob were standing in the background. I’d called and asked them to meet us here. “Mina, I’d like you to meet Alex Babineaux, Alex this is Mina Moondeath.”
Alex reached his hand out to shake hers, but she surprised him by pulling in for a hug and kissed his cheek. “Welcome to the family Alex.” She had a somewhat sour expression on her face. “The first order of business I think will be to give you a proper name.” She leaned into me and said in a loud stage whisper so that all would hear, “You’re right Galin, he’s hot!” Alex blushed. She gave him a very apprising look from head to toe letting her eyes linger on his crotch for longer than needed causing his blush to deepen several shades. It was cute, really.
Rōk stepped up beside us and shook my hand before pulling me into a one shoulder hug. He wore an Italian charcoal gray pinstripe suit tailored to fit with a light gray dress shirt. It looked good on him. There was no tie and he’d unfastened his shirt two or three buttons. The look suited him well. He wore black wingtips. From the last time I’d seen Rōk he’d trimmed his hair down to almost a military buzz. This too looked good on him. “Damn, you’re a sight for sore eyes Galin. I really hate that you don’t come home more often. Rakish speaks of you every day. You know he really misses you.”
“I’m glad to hear it.” I said allowing the sarcasm to blossom. “It is good to see you though.”
“It’s been over a hundred years Galin. I think it would do both of you good if you’d give this up and settle things between you.”
“You know how I feel about it Rōk. The only reason I’m alive is because that elephant charged him and kept him away from me. After you guys found me and brought me back to the clan, he refused to have anything to do with me for over 75 years. How would you feel about it?”
“He’s truly sorry for the way he treated you Galin. Maybe if you took the time to try and talk with him you’d realize this. I wasn’t lying when I said he thinks more of you than any of his other sons.”
“I promise I’ll think about it, not because of him but because you think it’s important. You have always been more of a father to me than he ever was.” I glanced up and looked at the other men who made up Mina’s escort. Klaus is was an orphan tiger the clan took in. Hi hair is white with the faintest of silver marks streaking through it. He was dressed in a pair of tan slacks with a black form fitting T-shirt that showed off all of his muscles which were impressive. He had the lightest blue eyes I’ve ever seen on anyone; they were almost silver instead of blue. The next man was Szilárd and he is very tall, maybe 6’6” or 6’8” and had jet black hair that reached to his ass. He has eyes like the clan members except his are a little paler green than mine. He’s Hungarian by birth and one of the best fighters the clan has. Next to him stood his brother, although they are not birth or blood related. András is also Hungarian; hence the reason they call each other brother. He’s a short man, maybe 5’ 5” or so and his hair is orange and black like a Siberian Tiger since it was in Siberia where he was turned. His eyes are a pale yellow. Both András and Szilárd were dressed like Klaus. Even though these three are our muscle they are never the less members of the clan’s council. Behind them much to my dismay stood Rakish who looked at me like he really wanted to say something before looking away. He’s about my height at 5’8” and his eyes and hair are the same as mine – after all he is my blood-father. He wore a black pinstripe Armani suit tailored to fit his athletic frame. He like his brother Rōk is somewhere around 530 years old, but he was only 16 when he was turned and he still looks that age today. Anger boiled in me like the hot pools at Yellowstone. Was that shame I saw in his eyes, good! “What is he doing here?” I hissed.
“Mina and I agreed it is far past time for the two of you to clear the air between you. She insisted on him coming.” I gave him a scowl worthy of death. I really hated this.
Through clinched teeth I repeated: “Only because you think it’s important.” I went to greet the rest of them except Rakish. I ignored him as I have for the last 80 years or so. This did not escape Mina’s or Rōk’s notice both of whom gave me a most disapproving look. I stepped over to Alex and took his hand leading him towards the others. “Alex, this is Rōk,” Alex shook Rōk’s hand. The older tiger gripped his forearm in a firm shake before pulling him into a hug. It was a greeting fit for a king. Then I went to the next man in line: “and this is Klaus.” Klaus also gripped Alex’s forearm before pulling him into a hug. “This is Szilárd,” who gave Alex the same greeting except Alex had to look up to him, “this is András,” again the greeting and just the opposite here, Alex had to stoop to hug the man properly, finely we came to my blood-father, “and this… is Rakish,” my blood-father actually flinched at the contempt in my voice, “your blood-grandfather.” I was seething inside. I was so mad I could have ripped a person into a billion pieces before breaking a sweat. My anger radiated out in waves from me like heat off a desert.
Rakish took Alex into a huge bear hug lifting the young man off the floor and swirling him around. “It is so good to meet you blood of my blood.”
He gave Alex a solid kiss on each cheek before planting one firmly on his forehead. I scowled and turned away before I did or said something we all would live to regret. I heard footsteps behind me and I knew it was Mina before she spoke. “Galin, a word please.” She walked past me without as much as a glance. I followed after her like I was expected to. I knew I was in trouble, but I didn’t care. Once we were out of the room and into the main terminal of the airport she turned on me. “What was that all about?” Lightning flashed in her eyes and the hair on my arms stood up from the power rolling off my queen.
I hugged myself looking out over the crowded airport terminal and refused to look her in the eyes. “You know I hate him mother, why did you bring him?”
“Regardless of how you feel about him, or what he did to you, he is your blood-father. That gives him the right to be here and the right to be treated with respect by you. You’re lucky he has never challenged you for your rudeness.” Her anger matched my own, but I was no match for Mina. She was my dominant in every way. “Believe me when I say I understand your resentment, but he has tried to make it up to you only you refuse to give an inch. It is over Galin. There will be no more of this bullshit! Now go in there and apologize to him and show him the respect he deserves. Tonight you will both talk this out, fight it out, or handle it in whatever way you two wish, but it ends today. I will not tolerate it anymore.” She paused for me to answer and when I didn’t… “Go, go now before I do something.” She turned her back on me and I knew I’d really pushed her too far this time.
I turned and walked back into the baggage claims room. The group was standing there chatting with Alex and all of them gave me a wary look as I eased back into the room. The conversation ceased. I walked up to Rakish and held out my arm to him. He took it and pulled me into a tight hug. “Blood of my blood,” he said.
“Blood of my blood,” I responded. We kissed each other’s cheeks once, all that was required of the greeting, and separated. I refused to look him in the eyes, which was an offensive gesture, but I was not ready to forgive him, not yet. “I’m sorry for disrespecting you blood-father.”
“No, you’re not, but I understand.” He said nothing more but stood there close to me. I could feel a faint echo of the link that exists between Alex and me stretching between us. It was never strong because Rakish rejected me oh so many years ago. I turned around to find Mina standing about three yards off watching us. She was not happy but she was not fuming anymore either. That was a good sign.
She stalked over to us. “Well, that went better than I expected. Shall we go?”
“Sure, if you and Rōk would follow Alex and me, we’ll take my car.” I looked over at Isaac. “I guess I need to introduce my other friends here. “Mina, this is Isaac and Jacob. She shook their hands and told them it was good to meet them lingering on Isaac for a very long time. “Do I know you?”
“I do not think so madam.” Isaac raised Mina’s hand to his face and kissed the air just above her knuckles as is proper.”
“It is good to meet you Isaac… and Jacob,” she added before looked back at me.
“I guess the others can ride with Isaac.” I said.
“No,” she said and a warning shot through her eyes daring me to defy her. “Rakish will join us in your car. Klaus, Szilárd and András may ride with your friends. As long as we are here you will never be more than one room away from your blood-father. I will not have this behavior from either of you anymore.” I flinched at the idea of Rakish sharing space and time with me, but Mina had spoken. I didn’t have a choice.
Fortunately the ride to the hotel was quiet and short. Mina, Rōk, and Alex were chatting in the backseat while Rakish rode up front with me. He kept glancing over at me, but I still refused to acknowledge his presence. Once or twice he’d ask a question about this or that as we passed by something, such as Graffiti Bridge, and I gave him the curtest of answers I could. I knew I was pissing Mina off even more, but I really didn’t care. The very close proximity of this man nauseated me. We pulled into the Residence Inn’s parking lot with Isaac right behind us. I got out of the car and walked straight for the hotel without a backwards glance not waiting on anyone. I knew Isaac, Alex, and Jacob all knew where the room was. Leaving the suite door open for them I disappeared into the bathroom. OK, I’ll admit it, I was hiding. I wanted nothing more than to kill the son of a bitch. I’d even made a special type of bullet just for him; it was a led casing hollow point filled with silver nitrate. I had a whole clip of them in my suitcase in the closet. Granted I used them on other lycanthropes when the occasion demanded it, but it was Rakish whom I had in mind when I designed them.
I heard the others walk in and shut the door. Alex called out to me and I had to answer, I didn’t want the enmity between my blood-father and me to spoil what was developing between me and Alex, so I opened the door and walked out like I’d used the bathroom. I could tell Mina was fuming, but she didn’t say anything until she passed me for the bathroom. “Fix it.” She closed the door behind her with more force than was necessary.
I looked up at the faces looking back at me. Everyone but one was there: “Where’s Klaus?”
“He went to the front desk to check us in.” Rōk seemed to be about as pissed as Mina, but he hid his anger a lot better. Rakish was his birth brother and I was Rakish’s blood-son. Our feud seemed to be rivaling the Hatfield’s and McCoy’s.
We stood there for a few awkward moments before Alex walked up to me and asked to see me in the bedroom. I saw no reason not to go so I went with him. “Simon, what’s going on? Rakish seems to be a real nice person, why do you hate him so much?”
“It’s a long story Alex and will take more time than we have right now. I promise I’ll explain it all to you later.”
“OK, but I really wish someone would start explaining things to me. It’s about to be the full moon and from what you’ve said, I’ll have no choice but to change into a beast, but I’m scared Simon. I don’t know what to expect, I’m dealing with all sorts of shit right now including coming to terms with the fact that I’m not going to die soon after years of preparing myself for it. Now I’m meeting all sorts of new people who you tell me are my family and the one person I should be enjoying more than any of them, this Rakish, and you and he hate each other. How do you expect me to react?”
I pulled him into a good tight hug. “I’m sorry about all of this Alex. I wasn’t expecting Mina to bring him. She knows I hate him, but he is here and you have a right to get to know your grandfather. I just hope he doesn’t say or do anything stupid while he’s here or one of us is likely to die. The good thing is that I only have to bear his presence for a couple of more days and then we are out of here. Hmmm, you know what? You smell good.”
Alex laughed. “You do too.” I started kissing Alex’s neck and rubbed my hands down his back.
A knock sounded on the door and Mina called through to us. “Come on guys, we don’t have time for that. I’m famished.” She was trying hard to go for lightening the situation. Maybe she was seeing her mistake for allowing Rakish on this trip – who knows. We joined the others and this time my blood-father road with Isaac – it was his choice and Mina didn’t argue with it, I certainly wasn’t going too. We rode over to Jerry’s Cajun Café and Market for dinner. It is a nice laid back restaurant with a wraparound porch that used to be a house. The decor is dark producing a subdued atmosphere that is both nice and relaxing all at once. And their menu has something for just about every taste a person could have, so it worked out well.
Having grown up in Cajun country, I love the place. I got the Boudin Balls, a mix of Cajun sausage and rice with herbs and spices pressed into balls and deep fried, I got two orders of them and of course Alex had to try one prompting him to ordered some of his own. I enjoyed watching him eat because he relished every bite and voiced his opinions with soft moans of pleasure. He is a very expressive diner. Mina ordered the Crawfish Etouffee with garlic bread. Rōk got the same as his mate. The others ordered a variety of dishes and decided to share them which prompted more of a buffet style meal sharing off everyone else’s plates. I will admit Rakish did seem to be a different person than I used to know, but I insisted on ignoring him for the most part except when such would make things extra difficult on everyone at the table. After lunch we all sat around the table to discuss Alex and tomorrow – the next full moon. “I think we should name him Kalen,” this from Klaus. “I think it suites him very well.”
“No way, he should be named after one of his ancestors, how about Modish?” Of course Rakish would want to name him after his father.
“No,” I said. “I don’t like it.”
“Why, because I came up with it?”
“If you must know, yes.” I glared at my blood-father. “You don’t get a vote in this.” For the first time Rakish actually showed anger building behind his eyes – good. He started to say something, but Mina cut us both off.
“That is enough.” She looked first at me and then at Rakish. “Modish is a good name and it will stay in the drawing.” This seemed to mollify my blood-father as much as it pissed me off. “However, I personally like Pumar.”
“Pumar?” I asked.
“Yes, it was my grandfather’s name who was one of the greatest of weretigers of past times. I still lament his death.” She looked sad as she spoke about it. “He was killed in the great battle that wan our freedom from China when we migrated to India. This was before your time Galin.”
“Do I have a say in this?” Alex looked anxious.
Mina laughed at his naivety, “Of course you have a say in it my dear. It is your name we’re discussing here.”
“Then I would choose Pumar.” I looked at Alex in disbelief and mouthed, Pumar?
“Very well, if no one objects then Pumar it is.” Mina beamed at Alex and I realized at least one of the reasons he’d chosen the name. It gained him huge points with his new queen.
“I don’t object but I have to ask the question,” I turned to Alex, “why Pumar?”
“I don’t know, I like it and it sounds like a cat. I mean if I’m a tiger now I may as well sound like one.” He looked over at Mina, “I would like it if you’d tell me more about your grandfather someday.”
She beamed at him. “It would be my pleasure.” Looking at me her smile faded. “Galin, we decided before we even left Colorado that it will be up to you to take Pumar and teach him everything he needs to know and spend as much time with him as is required.” I started to object but she raised her hand to silence me. “I know you are on a job right now and I know you will need help with this task. That’s why, and I also know you are not going to like this but I’m sending Rakish with you.” The color drained from my face and my nails began digging furrows into the old oak wood of the dining table. “Before you say another word…”
Rakish cleared his throat. “My queen, I must protest.”
“Yea, what he said.” I stammered. I couldn’t believe I was in agreement with the old bastard.
“Can it both of you!” She glared at us. “I’ve already made my mind up and I’m not changing it. This feud between you has gone on long enough and I’m demanding it stop now. You will need help with Pumar. Galin listen to me it is not possible for one tiger to teach another everything they need to know in such a short time. Also, being fresh in the blood as he is he will need to have someone around him at all times to help control his beast in times of difficulties. Besides, Rakish is a good man Galin and he has lots of experience with this. When you decide to hang up your grudges you may see you’ll have a good friend in him.” She looked over at her brother-in-law. “And you have been pining for over a decade now that Galin will have nothing to do with you. Now I’m taking it into my own hands. This is your chance Rakish; don’t let it slip you by. Now about tomorrow…” She didn’t finish what she was saying because I stood up abruptly and left the table storming out of the restaurant onto the porch. I’d gotten as far as the railing when I heard the door open and the sound of high heels clicking across the gray painted wood flooring. “Galin, look at me.” I didn’t turn around but kept staring out across the traffic on North 9th Avenue rubbing my thumb over a 9mm round I held in my hand. “Galin, I will not accept this level of defiance. Look at me!” I turned around, leaned against the railing, and crossed my arm trying to stare a hole through my queen’s forehead. “What has come over you?”
“Did I ever tell you about Bryan?”
“Not much, he was your brother wasn’t he?’
I nodded my head. “He was my favorite brother.”
“What about him?”
“You never asked who all was on that safari with me have you.”
“I always assumed it was just a trip you signed up for and went on.”
“Yea, I signed up for it – so did Bryan, Richard, and Gene. Bryan and Richard were my brothers while Gene was my best friend. We all thought it would be a grand adventure to hunt big game in the wilds of India. We were hunting tigers among other large predators and game, but we did nothing to ask for the attack. The tigers we killed were natural ones, of course we didn’t even know of the existence of weretigers at the time. That bastard in there killed most of the people I cared about in a matter of minutes and he would have killed me too if it had not been for the bull elephant chasing him away. For over a century now I’ve been trying to keep the peace between us by being civil and trying my best to stay out of his way and now you want him to join… Pumar…” I stumbled over the new name, “and me on this trip. I’ll kill him Mina even if it cost me my own life – I swear to you I’ll kill him.” I tossed the casing to my queen and she caught it out of reflex.
“Look at it.” I said.
She looked at it and then back up at me. “So what, it’s a led bullet. This won’t hurt Rakish Galin, you know that.”
“Look closer.” She did and shrugged her shoulders glancing back up at me. “If you look at the tip you will see where there has been a led plug added to seal it. It’s a hollow tip round filled with silver nitrate. I developed them specifically for the purpose of hunting lycanthropes for the rare occasion when I’ve had to hunt one of us down, but that is not why I developed this round. The whole reason I made this bullet and the 300 others sense it was so that one day I could fill Rakish full of them.” Mina paled.
“You cannot be serious Galin. It would mean a death sentence on your head.” She swallowed hard. “Have you even thought of what this would do to Rōk? It would rip his heart out Galin. Rakish is his only surviving relative.”
“Rōk is the only reason I’ve never used it on my blood-father. If it had not been for Rōk, I’d have killed Rakish a very long time ago and willingly paid the consequences of my actions.”
Mina thought for a while before answering. “I love you Galin, you know that, but I cannot bend the rules of combat among us. The only way you can kill Rakish and not be hunted down and killed yourself is in a fair challenged match. You know this.” She handed the round back to me as though it burned her fingers. “I cannot even believe you created such a horrible weapon much less used it on other lycanthropes. But if fight to the death is the only way out of this it must be done by the rules.”
“Mina, you know I cannot win a challenge against him. He’s far too strong for me to have any chance.”
“That’s why I’m insisting the two of you make nice and make up. Son, please, you know we support you, we always have, but he is your blood-father regardless of how much you dislike it. We don’t want to lose you and we don’t want to lose him either. Both of you are loved and valued members of our clan. Will you at least try and get along with him and possibly talk with him about this before you ruin everything we’ve all been working towards ever since we left China?”
I looked down thumbing the round back into my pocket. “I promise you this Mina. I will try to talk with him, if he is willing to listen without his usual judgmental bullshit then I’ll consider doing what you ask about taking him with us. But if he is not willing to listen, never ask me to make nice around him again, deal?”
The others were beginning to file out of the restaurant when she answered. “OK, deal. I’ll never ask you to try and make amends with him again if you promise to at least talk with him and I’ll not ask you to take him on this trip if he doesn’t listen to you and your grievances.” I nodded as I headed off towards the cars. Mina called after me. “Galin,” I stopped and tilted my head ever so slightly to indicate I was listening, “I never knew that about your brothers. I’m not sure he does either. I’m sorry.” I nodded my head and continued to the cars.
Back in the hotel I slipped into the shower to freshen up a bit. It was a long day and to claim being tired would have been an understatement. I was mentally drained and figured a good hot shower would ease the tensions, which proved to be correct because it did help. As I came out only partly dried and naked Rakish and Alex were sitting on the sofa talking about what it’s like to be a weretiger and what to expect from the change. I tried not to let my grudges towards my blood-father get the best of me but the more I saw them sitting there talking the more aggravated I became and figured it would be best to get dressed. The bedroom was quiet and dark when I slipped inside. I chose a pair of old shorts and a tank top with SCUBA Divers Go Deeper written across the front. They were old clothes and ones I didn’t mind messing up if my anger took over.
When I came back out into the living area the conversation had changed to hunting with Rakish regaling Alex with some of his old hunting stories. The two were laughing and carrying on like old chums. For a moment I saw red as I dropped a few ice cubes into a tumbler and poured Scotch whisky into it. “Son there isn’t anything quite like the hunt. You’ll love it. I remember one time when the hunt came over me; this was back in India mind you and quite a long time ago too. There was this group of campers, safari hunters actually, who were hunting big game in my country. I’ve never agreed with citizens of other countries coming in and doing everything they damn well please with no regard to the people living there or the wildlife they came to slaughter. So I took it upon myself to teach them a lesson…”
I sat my glass down heard. I had no doubt he was not talking about the safari I was on because even Rakish is not that crass, but it was close enough. “Some lesson, kill em all and let god sort em out?”
The older tiger looked up at me and realized his mistake. “I’m sorry Galin, but your band of marauders had it coming to you too. I was perfectly justified in what I did.”
I glared at him. “No you were not. Who made you judge and executioner?”
“You were killing tigers Galin. You know how I feel about it.”
“Tigers Rakish, tigers, not weretigers: You killed every hunter in my party, all of them, and you would have killed me too if you could have.”
“What difference does it make if they are natural tigers or weretigers Galin? We are all tigers. And that band of cutthroats with you was merciless killers. Shooting at everything they got their sights on. They deserved to die. You all did.”
“I’m glad to see you still feel so little for me.” My voice was beginning to tremble with rage.
“Galin, tell me you wouldn’t have done exactly as I did if it were your brothers being killed?”
That was it. He’d pushed that one last button and I couldn’t let it stand. “They were my brothers Rakish, both of them and you gutted them right in front of my eyes.”
“You’re brothers,” he scoffed, “what are you talking about now. They were just a band of tourist shooting everything in sight.”
“God damn it, Bryan and Richard were my brothers you fucking idiot!” With this I slammed my palm down upon the granite countertop splintering it into hundreds of pieces. My anger road the energy wave that blasted out from me, shattering all the windows in the outside wall, and knocked my blood-father backwards on his ass. Before I could think about it I was sailing through the air over the ruined counter landing on Rakish before he could scramble out of the way. My hands had already changed into claws which I raked across his face with my left hand leaving deep gashes that instantly welled with blood before gripping his throat. My power rolled over and through him tasting his fear and his weakness. I’d always assumed he was stronger than me, but in that moment I know I was the dominant.
My right hand was raised high overhead and was on a killing blow that would have taken his head off. “Galin NO!” It was Mina and her power rolled over me cooling my anger and stopping my hand in mid-strike. “You know you cannot kill him like this. Please listen to me.”
I looked up at Mina and then back at Rakish and snarled in his face. The fear was real I could smell it all over him and it smelled good, smelled like food. “I should kill you right here and now for what you did to me.” My voice had taken on a deeper growling quality that happens when the change is upon us. “Those were my brothers you killed in front of me Rakish. How would you like it if I killed Rōk while you watched?” I waited for an answer that didn’t come. “Answer me you piece of shit!” I spat at him growling under the words.
“I… didn’t know. Honest Galin, I didn’t know they were your real brothers.”
I glared at him. “That’s because you never asked. You never cared about any of them. All they were to you was another pretty trophy, something you could play with until you tired of them you sadistic bastard.”
“Galin please let him up.” Mina was pulling on my shoulder being very careful not to anger me further. Her power stopped me the first time but I was like a ticking bomb this close to the full moon. I continued looking hard in Rakish’s eyes looking for any hint of remorse and finely as the realization of what he really did to me sunk in I saw it. Just a spark, but it was there.
“Simon please, let him up.” It was Alex this time pulling on my arm. I looked up at my blood-son and saw his fear but also his determination to pull me back from the brink. I let go of Rakish and grabbed Alex around his waist pulling him tight against me. Sobs rocked through me as I let all the anger, loss, and tension form over a century go in that one moment. I still was not quite ready to forgive my blood-father, but at least it was out, out in the open for all to see. Only then did I notice everyone standing around us but I didn’t care. I wept into the dress shirt Alex still wore. “They were my brothers god-damn-it. Fuck I miss them so much.” Sobs rolled out of me like a tide carrying with it my anger, washing me clean.
Alex helped pull me up off of Rakish and I stumbled away leaning on my son. Mina in the mean time helped pull my blood-father off the floor. He brushed himself off and came over to me. “Honestly Galin, I never knew. I always thought you hated me for turning you. I’ve always tried to tell you it’s best to think of it as a gift, but you never listened. I understand now, I’m sorry.”
I looked up at him my eyes red with crying. “You never really cared Rakish, if you had you’d have tried harder to come to the bottom of it. Instead you just strutted around confident in your righteous indignation and scoffing at me for being weak, for not taking the good fortunes Fate laid in my lap. I’m not weak Rakish, I’m strong and I did accept the gift as you all are always trying to call it. I took my new knowledge and skills and warped them into a vessel for my vengeance only to find out that you are not worth it. But I don’t want to forgive you, not right now, maybe not ever.” I looked around at the damage and sighed. “We’d better try and come up with a good story for this or there’ll be hell to pay.
We finally decided the best action to take would be to skip Dodge altogether. I’d pay for the damages, but there was no way to explain what happened. Needless to say a new place to stay all of a sudden became necessary and we weren’t sure if Jacob’s beach house would work, but we headed there first. It was dark when we pulled into the garage under the house on the beach. Most of these residences are built with an open area where cars can be parked, but Jacob had built his with a real two car garage under his. It allowed us to hide our cars in case the hotel gave the cops my tag number. The beach house was a three bedroom, two bath house and there wasn’t quite enough room for all of us, but we made do using the couch and floor. Alex and I slept on the porch overlooking the Gulf of Mexico. It was nice to hear the wave’s crash upon the sand and it soon soothed me towards sleep. We were curled up on a cushioned lounge chair holding each other when the door opened and Rōk walked out. He sat in the next chair and looked at us for a while before speaking. “Why didn’t you tell us before Galin? All of this could have been worked out years ago if we had simply known.”
“It was too hard to talk about Rōk. I watched Rakish eviscerate my brothers and best friend right in front of my eyes. I couldn’t bring myself to talk about it and found it much easier to bury it.”
“I guess I can understand that, but all you did was hurt yourself and all of us. This feud between the two of you has had this clan walking on pins and needles for a very long time.”
“Yes I know but maybe some real healing can happen now. How is Rakish doing?” I didn’t understand why it mattered to me, but it did. My blood-father had cried silently all the way over here sitting sandwiched between his brother and sister-in-law. No one spoke the whole ride over as we followed Isaac’s car.
“He’ll be alright. You scared the shit out of him you know. He had no clue you had become so powerful, none of us did.”
“For what’s it worth Rōk, I’m sorry I nearly killed your brother.”
“I’m glad you didn’t. I’m glad all of this is out in the open now. Maybe we can move on. Will you agree to him going with you?”
“Does he still want to?”
“Yes I believe so. He’s more determined than ever to make things up to you. I think it would be good for you both provided you don’t kill each other first.” Rōk had a slight smile on his face.
“I don’t know. Oh hell! My dearest brother looked out the window at you two just a bit ago and repeated his sorrows about the way he handled things with you. I think he really would like a chance to really get to know you, both of you.”
“OK Rōk you’ve made your point. I’m willing to let him come along, but he has to promise that he will do everything I tell him to do with regards to my job and in dealing with Alex. Pumar is my responsibility and his training will be done my way.”
“I doubt you will have an argument from my brother Galin, but please listen to his experience. He’s done this several times already.”
“I’ve never been one to shun good experience Rōk, but I will insist on Alex being taught the things I think are best for him to know.”
“Very well, I’ll tell them. Good night Galin and Pumar.” He stood up and stretched. “Damn, it’s been a very long day.” He gave us a smile and slipped back inside the house.
“Do you think you and Rakish will be able to get along well enough for him to come with us?”
“I think he’s going to try every bit that he can. He wants this, wants it very badly.”
“You know, that display of power scared the shit out of me.” Alex looked down before he continued. “There for a moment I thought we were all dead.”
“I’d never hurt you Alex, never. Do you know why I chose you – or at least one of the reasons?”
“No,” he answered looking at me.
“Because you remind me of Bryan, you look like him, sound like him, and even smell like him somewhat, and I had to do it. I couldn’t help it.”
“You changed me because I remind you of your brother?”
“Yes, does that bother you?”
“No not really, but it does kind of seem weird. I mean, what if I don’t measure up?”
I smiled at him. “You already have.” I kissed him gently on his lips and snuggled him down beside me. I had a feeling morning would come early.