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Werewolf 33-Aaron

By Geraldle

Copyright © 2002

PROLOGUE-December 7, 2003

Hary Hansen

Our police officers, those not on duty, had been getting some additional martial arts instruction, from Norm's older brother Talbot Peters, who had just retired from the army with the rank of Brigadier-General. He'd been a spook mainly. He'd served in Army Intelligence and had been seconded to the NIA for more than twenty years.

He's the best I'd ever seen, and I'd seen a few, and I hold a second dan Black Belt myself in Karate, but he'd thrown all of us around with ease, though occasionally we'd gotten a good shot in. He accepted his winning and occasional losing with high spirits. Robby had joined us for the afternoon, and I'd seen that he'd been annoyed at how people he liked had apparently been treated so casually. Though I knew and I knew that he knew, that we'd learned a lot today, he was still annoyed.

We were about to wrap it up, only Norm and I and the two other werewolves on the force were still present. Tal, which he'd told us most people called him, could see the annoyance on Robby's face. "How would you like to have a go, young Master Hansen."

I wasn't surprised, but my heart sank a little. I hoped Robby wouldn't hurt him. Robby slipped off his sneakers and his socks and then got on the mat with Tal. Tal said, "Take your time, whenever you're ready." However by that time, Robby couldn't hear him, he was in a crouch and I could see his eyes had gone blank, and I knew he was in a trance.

Tal was probably perplexed when Robby didn't move, and he was probably taken by surprise when he did. Though, it wouldn't have mattered anyway. I was watching for it and I didn't even see Robby start to move, I just saw Tal go down, and then Robby was sitting beside him, his elbow just touching Tal's adam's apple.

He was looking at Robby with respect as he asked, "Could you do that again?"

Robby said, cheerfully, "Not unless you gave me the time to gather the speed and power that I would need to generate. You're simply too big and well versed in the martial arts. However, if you allow me to go into a trance and give me the time, then yes I could."

Tal got to his feet, and gave Robby a hand up. "What exactly did you do, I know you kicked me in the chest, but before and after you were simply moving too fast for me to even see what you did."

"I used the trance to gather the extra power and speed an Elder and a Healer has, it's a variation on the Death Chant, but only lasts a few seconds. When I attacked, I leaped and drove my foot into your chest. Done hard enough it could have ruptured the heart. When you went backwards, I was falling toward the floor, I gathered my legs under me and somersaulted forward to end up sitting beside you with my elbow touching your throat. If it had been serious combat, and I hadn't taken you out with the kick, I would have crushed your throat." Robby said, matter of factly.

"And that is the reason, lady," and Tal bowed to me, "and gentlemen that you never underestimate an opponent. A lesson I needed to learn again. Are you teaching him the martial arts, Hary?"

I shook my head, "Not in any detail. Just opening moves, that will end a fight quickly. The speed only takes a second to generate, so no kid is going to have a chance against him even if they take martial arts, so normal wrestling moves will suffice. He needs the trance however to generate the power needed to take on an adult. If he ever gets into a situation that he needs to use those moves, they'll have to be lethal, for him to have any chance of success. He's never needed them, but an Elder doesn't take a chance, if he sees a possibility that he will need something he will get it, or in this case, learn it, if it is at all possible."

ONE-December 12,2003

Gord Daily looked down at the tracks in the snow, "It's small, only about sixty-five or seventy pounds, and it's smart. The way the tracks are distributed all around the cage, but never approaching it, you'd almost say it could think like a human."

"The restaurant threw out a leg of lamb that they had some difficulty cooking, they burned the outside of it. The cook was disgusted and just handed it to the bus-boy to put it in the garbage. The bus-boy was new to this area, he last worked in Denver and was unaware of the by-law which required the meat to be put in a locked garbage bin, and since he didn't have the key he just set the garbage bag beside the bin, intending to put it into the bin later. It was dragged away by something. One of the waitresses who wanted to protect her boss and the bus-boy called in her husband who works in the Animal Control Department.

"This morning they used dogs and they tracked it to the edge of town, but the dogs wouldn't go any further. That suggests were, because dogs don't like to track us, though they're usually okay when we just meet them in were form. The men followed the tracks they discovered in the snow; it led them here. The wolf or were ate from the lamb last night and again this morning, and left the bone with a little bit of burnt meat still on it. They set up this cage thinking that if it got hungry it might come back here and it did, but it wouldn't enter the cage to take the meat they left in the cage. If it is were it was wary of the cage and didn't try to block the door from shutting on him. It probably figured the meat was drugged, which it was."

"The Animal Control people came out about noon and they can see this area from a ridge about a quarter of a mile away, and they saw the tracks. When they realized that they weren't going to catch it, and when it seemed to be smarter than it should be, even though they don't know why we're interested, they called me in, since you were still at that conference in Denver. Thinking it was might be were, and it sure acts like one, I had the Elders out doing a sweep. With six of them at their extreme range in constant contact with each other, they should have been able to contact any were, in the half dozen sweeps they made."

He looked thoughtful, "Why don't you get in touch with Robby Hansen. If it is were, he can tell you yea or nay from the DNA, and unless it's a midget, he's only about nine or ten years old."

Ron nodded, "I think I'll do that. I'll call right away, and see if he can get here tonight. If it is…" he paused, "If he is were, then he's in danger until he's found. It's a little hard to stop people from protecting their stock, and though this one seems to be trying to scavenge, it would be hard to stop some overzealous cattleman or sheep farmer from shooting him."

TWO

Ron Jansen

This would be the first time, since he'd been shot, that I'd talked to Robby. Carrie said it seemed to have affected his personality very little. That and something else that had happened since then, had simply made him more aware of everything going on around him.

He answered the phone, and his soft voice certainly hadn't changed, "Hello, Ron. How can I help you?"

I explained about the small canine that had been around town and the general area for the last few days. He asked me, "Has there been any odd families around lately. Someone, who was just passing through, but might have stayed for a couple of days. People might have noticed them, because one of their children would have been mute."

"Hold on. I have my officers keep an eye on things that seem odd and report it. They're looking for things that might lead to trouble, but they may have mentioned something like that." I took down the clipboard and flipped through it, the notes were compiled and written up and put on the computer at the end of each month, but in between that it was sometimes difficult to read their writing. I sometimes think they've been taking lessons from the doctors in town.

"There's one incident that might indicate a mute child being in town. One of my officers was grocery shopping about three days ago, and he noticed a man accidentally step on the toe of a little boy of about nine or ten. The boy was obviously in pain, and he hopped around for about thirty seconds with his foot in the air before he put it back down on the floor, and limped away. Now if it was one of my children they would have screamed bloody murder, but this kid didn't make a sound."

Robby said thoughtfully, "I've had two cases of werewolf children who were mute, they also were mind-blind, they couldn't speak to anyone after they changed into wolf form. The areas that control speech and mind-speech seem to be the same, because with both children, both boys by the way, I was able to help them learn how to mind-speak and to speak normally."

His voice got softer then, and I knew he was getting angrier, "If such a family wanted to get rid of what they considered a useless child, what better place to pick. A somewhat isolated town, with a lot of wilderness around it. It's something only I can help with, an ordinary Elder wouldn't be able to do anything. They've had time to travel almost clear across the country by now. If your canine is were, the only way to find the parents may be, by finding him."

"He might be better off without them, if they just abandoned him." I said, wondering what he would say.

"True, but they may have other children. If they abandoned one, whether they seem to love the others or not, they aren't fit parents to be raising them, at least not without a lot of supervision. Our laws say that if werewolves feel they can't continue to raise a child, they turn that child over to an Elder. By abandoning him, they committed a crime for which they will be punished." His voice was still soft, but at the same time it had a hardness in it, that didn't bode well for the parents, and it told me that the bullet hadn't changed him. He was still the hardass little Elder, I had come to know and love.

"Jeannie and I'll be there later tonight, with Blue of course." he said.

TWO

Robby Hansen

When we went out after it got light in the morning, it just took a quick look to tell that it was a werewolf child. Nine years old, perhaps ten. But, then with Blue's help I went deeper checking the DNA, and I was astonished. He was in fact a relative, just about to the same degree as Len Peters and Rose Peters were, not only that but he was a Healer as well, but there were differences, and I wasn't sure exactly what that would mean. But that made him perhaps the most important were that we had ever found. Fondling Blue in my arm, I thought it over.

I could talk to Rose, but I decided to call Len first, and though I knew he would be coming home at the end of the week, it still would be nice to hear his voice. I took out my cell phone and dialed his room at the Clinic Nursing Home, with one hand. It was a hospital but it also ran a nursing home, halfway between Prescott and Benson so he had gone there for the beginning of his rehabilitation "Len Peters speaking." he said.

"Len, Jeannie and I are in Eliot, Colorado. There are traces of a werewolf child here. According to his DNA, he's related to both of us, but closer to you and Rose than to me. Your father had a younger twin brother, didn't he? He was even more of a stinker than your father and he left when he was in his late teens. Do you know if your father ever had any contact with him?"

Len said slowly, "His name was Everest, and I think so. If I remember correctly, my father received several postcards from him, through the fifties and sixties. He was a biker and from the sounds of the names, of the groups, he was in some very unsavory gangs. It seems to me that the last postcard, written in about nineteen sixty-eight announced the birth of a son. Albert or Alfred or Alan, I think it was. I probably saw them in about nineteen eighty or so and I can't be any more definite than that, and when my mother died in nineteen eighty-eight he threw out everything that reminded him of the past, and the postcards undoubtedly went with them."

"Well, once you get off the phone with Jeannie, give Rose a call and have her find out for sure. This is important so have her take Norm with her. About the only thing your father respects is authority figures, and if they're still in the house I want them. This is important!"

"Jeannie," I gave her a yell, to where she was looking at some of the tracks with Gord Daily. I held up the cell phone, and said, "Len's on the line."

I saw her face light up even from where I was and she hurried back. "Your cell phone first, and I'll give you mine." and with impatience she dragged out her cell phone and handed it to me while I took hers, with a little awkwardness since I was still holding Blue. She moved off to where she could talk quietly. She was very animated. I watched her thoughtfully for a moment thinking, and I heard Ron Jansen come up behind me.

I turned around and said, "Ron, could you get on the radio, and start to trace an Al Peters. If we can turn up a trace of someone starting with that name, we might know who we're looking for. I'm assuming he's a biker, because his father was, in the fifties and sixties at least, perhaps longer, and we have to start somewhere, but don't limit your search to bikers. We're interested in anyone with that name, or in fact with anyone who has the name Peters who is around thirty-five or thirty-six, if Len's recollection of the date on the postcard is correct."

Ron headed for his jeep, and I went over to where Gord Daily was looking around. "How long ago do you think the tracks were made?"

He hesitated for a moment, thinking, "I'd say sometime yesterday morning, twenty-two to twenty-four hours."

I looked at the sky, "We've got about sixty hours, then we'll be getting a major snowstorm. He's too small to hunt and he's afraid of people, or he'd have come into the Sheriff's Office. He's probably staying fairly close to town, but this is basically a wilderness town, so most of you are careful about putting food out so he probably hasn't been able to scavenge a lot, so he's pretty hungry and he'll start getting weaker."

"I know you can call out Search and rescue, but I need a helicopter with werewolf pilots. Anything like that locally, Gord?" I asked. "I can call in one from Denver, but that'll take several hours to get here, and I want to start right away."

"Sanders Logging Company, has a helicopter that it uses to take the loggers out to the logging sites. The pilots are local, a husband and wife werewolf team. But the manager's a SOB, and it'll probably take a court order to get the use of it. As you say search and rescue is available, and it would be hard to justify getting a civilian helicopter for a special case like this, when we can't tell anyone the reason it's special."

"We'll see. The millionaire's club is pretty big but those who have the type of fortune that Sander's has are much rarer. Sam Reynolds belongs to that club, and they're just about the same age. We'll see if they know each other." I pulled out Jeannie's cell phone, and dialed Sam Reynolds, to be answered by that familiar gruff voice.

Sam Reynolds

"Reynolds." I said, with my usual brevity.

"Sam. This is Robby. Do you know the Sanders who owns the Sanders Logging Company?" he asked in his soft voice.

I hesitated, "I do. Dan Sanders is a good friend." I said with some embarrassment, which was unusual for me.

I heard humor coloring his voice. "And he knows about us doesn't he, Sam? Naughty, naughty."

"We were on a camping trip in Alaska, about ten years ago. We got careless and got too far away from our rifles. We ran into a grizzly, and I had no choice but to change. Luckily the bear wasn't aggressive and my appearance as a wolf was enough to chase him away, but that sort of let the secret out of the bag." I said, still with a little embarrassment, which faded as I completed the explanation.

"Well, not to worry, Sam. The non-werewolves of Benson have known what we were since the very beginning and have kept our secret, so one more human more or less won't matter too much. But to get serious, I'm in Eliot, Colorado, and we're looking for a werewolf child, we need a helicopter, and Sanders has one available with werewolf pilots that I want to use. Gord Daily said that the manager is an SOB and it would probably take a court order to get a hold of it. Since you know Sanders, we'll go over the manager's head. Will you call Sanders for me?"

I knew about Benson. Jeannie had told me about it, sounding somewhat shaken. I hadn't been, I was somewhat older than she was, and if they'd kept our secret for that long, there was no sense in worrying about it now. "Sure, I'll get on to him right away." I said, more cheerfully.

"Sam, one more thing. We're really going to need to do something about Jeannie and Len. I think they want to get married, but they don't want to leave me in the lurch, so they're hesitating. Well I think I found someone who can serve as a bodyguard, if he's interested."

"The Council decided that I should be paid, and they decided that my value was at least as much as a Council member, and most of them get half a million dollars a year. Since four of the five own companies of their own, they just take a dollar a year. They decided that since I have no revenues of my own that I couldn't refuse the salary, and they added a bonus of an additional half a million a year, and they paid me for three full years. After taxes, I suddenly have a million and a half in my bank account."

"Now the Conlin's, who live two hundred yards from us, are expecting, only when they found out they were expecting triplets, they were kind of shocked. They've already got six kids and only have a four-bedroom house. They decided to buy the Wellington place which is right across the road from them, and has eight bedrooms. Now you buy the Conlin place and I'll pay half, and we'll give it to them as a wedding present. Len can work into being Edward's assistant, and Jeannie can get back to working for you. With computers they can work right out of their new house."

I just said, "I'll get right on it. I'll get in touch with Edward and see if he can do the buying for us." We both knew that it would be pocket change to me, but obviously, he wanted to do something for Jeannie and Len, and it would be mean-spirited of me not to let him.

"Okay, bye Sam." he said and disconnected.

Robby Hansen

We headed for the airport, where Sanders Logging had their office, and their helicopter, stopping at Ron's to drop off Blue. I would be using my ability to read human minds, which is what I had needed to do with the two mute boys I had treated in the past, and he couldn't increase my range with humans. Though, the boy should be easy to find, if I got close enough to him, because his mind would be that of a werewolf, and that would be evident instantly.

The three of them were at the helicopter, two of them in flight suits, and as the police car approached the tallest turned and headed away. To take refuge in the office I imagine. When we got out the man said, "What made Mr. Stingy so generous all of a sudden?"

"I went over his head." I said cheerfully, "I have a friend who knows Dan Sanders and knowing the type of man the manager is, he's probably shaking in his boots worried about his job." They turned to look at me. They looked familiar, and my mind snapped back to the first time I'd been in Eliot. They had been sitting at a table in the darkest corner, and he had something in his hand. An engagement ring perhaps.

"Kelly's was a rough place to purpose, that night." I commented. Their eyes widened.

"I wouldn't have thought you would even have noticed us, Elder. You were concentrating on the brawlers." the woman said.

"I look at everything that's happening when I enter a place. Since you were holding something in your hand, my mind registered it, and checked to make sure it wasn't a weapon of some kind. Something like that becomes a permanent part of my conscious memory. Aside from the Elders and the two big mouths and the bartender, I wouldn't even recognize the others. Since the incident wasn't that important, my mind buries things like that after a couple of months. It's still in my memory, but I would have to dig deep for it." I told them.

The man smiled saying, "I'm Dave Kelly, and my brother owns Kelly's Bar, and this is my wife of six months Fiona. The helicopter's preflighted, so we're ready to go."

"Okay, Dave. We’re looking for a werewolf child of about nine or ten. He'll probably be in wolf form, and somewhere within a few miles of town. But there's a problem, he's both mute and mind blind. I'm the only were as far as we know, who can read human minds, and I've treated two similar cases of boys with the same problem and I had to use that ability to read their minds. With an ordinary were my range is between three and six miles. With a human, my range is only half a mile. So the lower you can fly the better my chances of finding him. The one advantage is that he is a werewolf, and his mind will reflect that fact, and I'll know instantly when I contact him."

"Ron was telling us on the way over here that the helicopter is used for both passengers and cargo. When we find the boy, if it's a forested area you have a winch on which you can lower us. If it's a clear area you can hover close to the ground while we drop. If it takes more than today, I phoned Denver and they're sending a helicopter with some extra pilots. I'd rather them be on their way and have to turn them around, then need it and not have it." I told him. "Jeannie, Gord and I will be going. We won't take Ron, we don't want to overload the copter, we'd never get off the ground."

That earned me a swat on the bottom, and he didn't hold back, and I could see everyone trying to hide their grins, as we got into the copter, with me rubbing my backside.

THREE

Aaron Peters

This had been a really dumb move on my part. Running away, but I thought it would make it easier on my mother, and brother and sister. Now I didn't get along with my si-sib-siblings, that's the word I think. I admire them, but I don't like them. We just don't go together, but they've been trying to protect Mom and me for years, but it's gotten lots worse lately, and standing in between Dad and us had just gotten them hurt a couple of times. That wouldn't stop them though.

I'd thought if it was just Mom, they'd have a lot easier time of it. I knew that Dad wouldn't let them report me missing, and I'd intended to go to the Sheriff's Office after they had time to get far enough away. But standing across the street, things just got weird. I recognized werewolf auras. They tended to be reddish in color, mixed with the blue with a very light tinge of red, that most humans seemed to have. I'd been seeing cops going in and out with dark green and blue auras, and that scared me and it didn't help that the bogeyman tales my father had been telling us about cops for years kept coming back.

I figured they were weres, but I didn't know what kind. If I'd seen a werewolf Elder I would have gone to him. They were easy to tell from ordinary werewolves, their auras had three or four colors depending on how powerful they were, the red and blue and a green, but a light green and sometimes they might have a fourth color. I slunk away before they noticed me and changed into wolf form. I was awfully hungry, and I began looking for something to eat. I got lucky that first night. One of the restaurants threw out some meat. It was burnt in places but it still filled my stomach, and there was enough left over that I was able to have a good breakfast. There was the bone with a little bit of crisp meat on it, which I had left but I'd come back, and that's when I discovered the cage. Figuring the meat was doped I hadn't changed to human to get it out.

That was the last thing I'd had to eat. I found out that they considered this a wilderness town, and most people were very careful not to put food out that might tempt wild animals into town. The restaurant had disobeyed a by-law in fact. If I'd had any money, I might have chanced a restaurant, after school was out, but I was penniless. Dad was stingy, the only way you were going to get money around him was if you found it.

I decided to try and find an Elder, which turned out to be useless. As I found out later they were all out looking for me, and I totally missed them. After a couple of days, I had just about decided to go to the Sheriff's Office anyway, when a helicopter went over my head. It came back about ten minutes later and passed above me, and then again it came back and hovered right above me, and somehow I knew that they were looking for me. I was silly again. I panicked and I ran, right into two adult wolves.

I gave a yelp which of course was only in my mind, and turned on my tail, and headed back in the other direction. As long as I stayed straight they just stayed behind me, but when I tried to veer off in either direction one of them would move outside me and head me back onto a straight path. That should have scared me, but it didn't, it told me they were werewolves, and I was among my own kind. We don't have auras when we're in wolf form, I don't know where it disappears to, but it just does.

I ended up being directed to a much smaller wolf. By his size, he couldn't have been much older than me and he was lying on a rock which was free of the few inches of snow that we had. He changed into a boy and I just stopped in awe. I'd once seen an Elder who had five colors in his aura, but it was impossible to count the colors in this boy's aura, and it must have been three times thicker than any I had ever seen before. It was both startling and confusing, so I turned off my ability to read auras, and approached him cautiously. He had reddish color hair, which was a much lighter red than mine, but his eyes were the same color green.

He bowed to me, and for the first time in my life, I heard someone speak in my mind. *Hello, Aaron Peters, it's always nice to meet a relative. I'm Robby Hansen and I am an Elder, and like you I have the gift of Healing, though you have much to teach me, and I have much to teach you, since our abilities while basically the same, have developed very differently.*

I changed into a boy, and I jumped when an arm was put around my shoulders and I looked up into the gray eyes of a woman, and they were warm with welcome. He said in a soft voice, "That's Jeannie Reynolds, and if I have anything to say about it, she's going to be marrying your second cousin soon, so she'll be a relative as well."

I saw her face go red, but she just gave me a squeeze. "And the guy in the cop suit, is Gord Daily. He's one of the Sheriff's deputies, and whatever your father has done, you can trust the police." I looked over my other shoulder and I saw the one Robby was referring to and his eyes were as warm as the woman's.

I thought of a question, and this was the first time I'd been able to ask it without writing it down. I knew sign language but it just infuriated my father when I used it. *Why do our auras disappear when we change into wolves?*

Robby grinned and said, "Uh oh, now that you've got somebody to ask, you're going to ask a lot of those why questions, aren't you?" and I nodded vigorously.

"Well, we'll head for some open ground where the helicopter can pick us up, and I'll answer your question on the way. Okay?" he asked, and I nodded.

The one he called Gord Daily led the way. Robby just told me that he and Jeannie weren't local, and then he began answering my question. "Thousands of years ago, exactly how many we don't know, but probably about fifteen or twenty thousand years, the Elves were the top of the hominid line. The line that led to Elves, man and the weres. At that time they only lived about five hundred years and they considered werewolves something that shouldn't have existed. Most of them just had the thought and didn't do anything about it, but there were some who actually hunted werewolves. They didn't have Elders or a Council to control them at that time. They could read auras of humans, as you do, and could tell who were werewolves. To try to hide, werewolves changed into wolf form. The ones that survived were the ones who were able to hide their auras in that form."

"Over time, the ability became something in-born, and was no longer a controllable ability. Today, only the occasional werewolf has an aura in wolf form. Big Foot doesn't have an aura either, we don't know why. Their history simply doesn't tell us. Other weres such as jaguars and Selkies, and merfolk all have auras in both human and were form."

We came to a large enough open area, and the police officer used his radio to call in the helicopter, lighting off a flare which poured out dense smoke for about twenty seconds. The helicopter couldn't have been very far, since it showed up before the flare had used up all its smoke.

Robby told me. "With this snow on the ground, even though it's not very thick, they don't want to land, so they'll hover about a foot off the ground while we get in."

I nodded that I understood, and my heart was beating hard with excitement at the very thought of a helicopter ride. When the helicopter was hovering, Robby got in first, followed by Jeannie, and then Gord Daily lifted me in and climbed in himself, and then closed the door firmly. Jeannie, who was sitting beside me, bent over and fastened my seatbelt. I was almost jumping out of my skin with the thrill, and I pressed my nose against the window, as we rose into the air. I'd always wanted to see the land from the sky, and it looked as pretty as I figured it would.

FOUR

It was only a few minutes before we reached the airport and landed, but it was a dreamy time for me. I just loved every second. There was a jeep police car waiting when we landed. Robby told me, "Ron is Big Foot, though I usually call them Sasquatch. I've never seen Ron in were form but this is what my teacher Steve Ross looks like."

He showed me a form that was covered with a dense thicket of curly black fur, which covered the Big Foot's whole body, including his face, so you had to look closely to see it was more apelike. His brown eyes were enormous, easily double the size of a normal human, more like a deer. His teeth were a little larger than a human's with a couple of oversize ones. he looked a good six inches taller than he really was because he sported a bright crest of reddish fur, which stood straight up, almost like a Mohawk haircut.

I turned on my ability to read human auras, and his was green and blue. That's what had been so strange and had scared me, when I first stood outside the Sheriff's Office, and then I turned it back off again. If I was going to be around Robby much, and I had the feeling I was, I would have to get used to his aura but right now, it was too confusing for me.

Robby shook hands with the two pilots, and I was surprised that one of them was a woman. It must have shown on my face, because Jeannie whacked me lightly on the bottom and said, "Male chauvinist piglet." and I giggled silently.

Robby said, "Now we can pay you for your time, or I can give you a belated wedding present and buy you that pool table you want for your rec room. I know you make good money, but after buying a house, anything free is a help."

They looked at each other and then said together, "A pool table."

Robby grinned. "The competitive spirit wins again. So be it. Goodbye, and have fun."

We all piled into the jeep and Robby said to Jeannie, "You play pool. Order them a good one. Don't worry about the price, if we get a bill for the use of the helicopter I'll be very surprised." He turned to me, "Now do you know where your father and the rest of the family was going?"

I got frightened at that, and Robby must have seen the fear on my face, because I began to see things in my mind. Things that Robby had done over the last couple of years. It didn't take me long for my fear to fade, a comfortable feeling replacing it. I remembered a phrase I'd heard on television. My father going up against Robby would be like a pussycat going against a tiger. *They were headed for Denver, but I don't know if that was the final destination or not.* I admitted.

"Ron, see if the police in Denver can locate an Alvin Peters. He hates the name with a passion, before he married his wife Amanda, he came very close to going into prison for beating up a fellow biker, for using Alvin, so he'll probably be using Al." Ron nodded and got on the radio.

I asked, *We're not going to the Sheriff's Office?*

"We'll stop there to drop off Gord, but we're going to Ron's house. As I said I'm a Healer, though I took a different path than you. This is the way I see your aura, which is completely different from what you would see." I saw myself in my mind and I was surrounded by a yellow light, but the yellow was shot through with red, especially around my head.

"The red color tells me that there is a problem with the werewolf side of you. In this case, I know exactly what it is because I had two mute boys as patients in the last year. The red around your head is telling me that you need a connection between the area where speech and mind-speech exist and the area that allows you to use it. What I was able to do with them, and should be able to do with you is help your body force that connection to be made, and you should be able to do both."

That shocked me, and I could feel the burning longing that I had always known, to be able to talk and to speak mind to mind. He took my hand and gave it a light squeeze. It didn't take very long to get to the Sheriff's Office first to drop off Gord Daily and then Sheriff Jansen's house, nothing in Eliot was very far from anything else.

A pretty woman holding a large black and gray tabby cat met us at the door as we were going into the house and she kissed Sheriff Jansen. The four kids who were sitting at the table giggled at that. She shook Jeannie's hand and after handing the cat to Robby, she kissed him on the forehead. I was somewhat wary, I wasn't used to strange women, but she just shook my hand and said, "Welcome to our house, Aaron. The kids at the table. The tall one is Eric and he's ten, Lucy's the girl and she's eight, and Jamling is seven and Brad is six." Each of them nodded as their name was mentioned. I turned on my ability to see human auras briefly, and they all had the same green and blue auras as Ron, except that Jamling's green portion, had a deeper tinge of red to it than the blue portion. He was Oriental in look and I guessed that he was adopted.

Robby told me, *Jamling is Yeti, I would assume the red that you see in werewolf's aura and the tinge of red in Jamling indicates that we're predators. It's much closer to the surface with us than with humans, that's probably why they only have a faint tinge of red in the blue of their auras.* He showed me what Jamling would look like, overall much like the Big Foot he's showed me earlier, but smaller and with white and light gray fur and they didn't have a crest and their eyes were smaller, and they had enormous feet.

I told him, *Most animals don't have auras, but chimpanzees and apes and orangutans do, and elephants do, among land animals.* I'd once seen them at the San Diego Zoo, where my mother was from, and at Sea World I had seen that, *Dolphins and Orca whales also have auras, and they're very close to what I see in humans. I've never seen any other whales so I don't know if they have auras or not. They had them, but Dad was meeting someone at Sea World and I was just cover and I never saw any of the other whales.*

He held up the cat in his arms, and I looked into green eyes so much like Robby's and mine, and they looked at me with intelligence. "This is Blue. He's not really a cat. He's a familiar, and if you've ever read any witch stories you know what a familiar is." I nodded, "He helps me when I'm Healing, which I'll be doing with you in about half an hour. I think we'll feed you first, you're stomach has been growling all the way here."

If I hadn't been so hungry I probably would've gone red, but I was starved. They had been having pancakes, and it didn't take long for Mrs. Jansen to whip up another batch, for me and Robby and the two adults, and the others kids watched in awe as I gobbled them down. I said to Robby, *Tell them I'm not usually this much of a oinker, but I haven't eaten in a couple of days.* He didn't say anything but I saw them nodding their heads so he must have told them in mind-speech. When I got finished I burped loudly, and I did go red, but Mrs. Jansen just ruffled my hair.

FIVE

Jeannie Reynolds

I'd seen Robby do some Healing, but I hadn't seen either of the mute boys, one was before Len's time and the other one was in June, but Robby said that even with Blue's help it would take close to fourteen or fifteen hours. It didn't take as much energy as other parts of the body, but the brain was the hardest thing to work on and it took the longest.

I got the bed in the spare room, and Ron put a cot in there for Aaron, and a chair beside the cot. I knew there was nothing to be afraid of, but there was a bit of fear on Aaron's face. Whether he was afraid of what was going to happen, or that it wouldn't work, I didn't know.

Normally Robby looked for the strongest energy flow, but since he knew where he had to make the changes he put his hand over Aaron's head and with Blue on his lap, they went into a trance, and took Aaron with them. I left the light on and laid down on the bed to read for a while, since it was only a little after six. I put my book away at eleven and went to sleep, setting my alarm for seven, since it would be eight or nine o'clock in the morning before Robby was finished.

Even after six years out of the marines, I still slept lightly and I knew Ron did as well, so I wasn't worried about any emergencies coming up. Any noise in this room would wake me up instantly. Any noise around the house would wake up both of us.

*****

There were no noises that disturbed my sleep, and the light buzz of my alarm clock woke me at seven. I stretched and got to my feet. It was a Sunday, and I'd been told that the routine was to get up at eight-thirty or nine, so I had the bathroom, to myself, as I washed up and changed clothes. Brad, Ron's youngest, was just heading for the bathroom as I came out, but from the way he was yawning I don't think he was completely awake.

I heard the toilet flush behind me and Brad came out and headed back towards the room he shared with Jamling, just as I was going back into the spare room. When there were no guest's it was Eric's room and he had the usual small boy's passion for sports, and the walls were hung with posters. Right now, he was in with Jamling and Brad.

I checked to make sure my three statues were still alive, and Robby and Blue's pulses were very slow as usual when they were in a trance, while Aaron's was at a normal rate.

Aaron Peters

I woke up and Robby was looking at me, with his large green eyes. He didn't give me a chance to think about why I was there he just asked, "How do you feel?"

And I said, "I feel fi..." and I stopped dead, my heart in my throat as joy flooded through me as I realized that I had said it out loud. His eyes filled with compassion and a joy to equal mine. He reached out with his hand and gently stroked my cheek, down which silent tears of happiness were flowing. "Welcome to the land of the speaking, Aaron. Sometimes you'll find that new voice will get you in trouble, but it's worth it."

I took a deep breath and then suddenly Robby's hand was over my mouth. "What time is it Jeannie."

"Ten o'clock, Robby, me love." she said lightly.

Robby took his hand away from my mouth, "Carry on. I just didn't want to wake up our hosts if they were still asleep. But according to what they were saying they'll be up."

I screamed two, "Yippees!!!" at top the of my lungs." I was about to start on a third when Blue batted me on the nose, though his claws weren't out. *Two is enough for now. We'll take you outside, where you can scream to your hearts content.* and his green eyes were on mine. I stopped with astonishment staring into those eyes. "You can talk!!" I said with amazement.

He laid down on my chest and told me, *Robby said I wasn't a cat, if you remember. I'm a familiar. I'm as intelligent as you are and just about three times your age. I can talk to any were naturally when they're in were form, and through Robby I can talk to any were in human form as well. Though that's not the case with you, you have the same ability to talk to weres in human form that Robby does, it just has to be developed.*

The Jansens crowded into the doorway, and the man, Ron said, "I gather the operation was a success?"

"Yeah," said Robby, "but I had to make sure that you were awake before I let him yell, otherwise the patient might have died."

Ron and Ariel laughed, "It wouldn't be the first time that this household has been awakened by a screaming boy, or a screaming girl for that matter." Ariel said. Lucy had a look of innocence on her face, and I could just imagine her saying, 'Who, me? Not a chance.' and I giggled at that. That brought on another bout of joy, as for the first time I actually heard myself laugh out loud.

Robby was holding his right shoulder and he was grimacing. Suddenly anxious, I asked, "What's wrong?"

He said, matter of factly, "I got shot in the shoulder and the head three months ago, and this is the longest period of Healing I've done since then, and my shoulder is stiff and sore, that's all."

I moved slowly so I wouldn't suddenly throw Blue on the floor, and he took the hint and jumped down. I turned on my ability to see auras, because that usually told me where the problem was. I turned it off just as fast. Maybe in the future I'd get used to Robby's aura and be able to tell when something was wrong but not now. I'd have to use the second method.

I put my hands on his shoulder and moved them until I could feel the pain through my hands. I don't know how it works. I'm aware of the pain, but it doesn't affect me. Ruefully I wished I were more powerful, as I centered on the pain. My hands seemed to get warm and after three or four minutes, the edge of the pain was somewhat less. I let go reluctantly. That was all I could do.

He looked at me thoughtfully. "That feels somewhat better. It's too bad we can't find you a familiar like Blue. That would triple or quadruple the power that you could use."

Blue

I thought from where I was lying down on the floor, *Ahem. I've been thinking.*

Robby looked at me green eyes dancing, "Oh, since when did you start doing that?"

I said scathingly, *Elders. Hit him for me will you, Aaron. I'm too comfortable to get up.*

"Uh uh, he's bigger'n me." Aaron said, his green eyes also dancing.

*Oh, well. I'll get him at some future date, when I don't have to get up to do it. But seriously Robby. Remember that Sheriff in Tenison. The odd shaped werewolf one. He didn't seem very surprised that I could talk. In fact, he showed no surprise at all. Every other were I've ever talked to has always shown some surprise. It was almost as if he were accustomed to talking to a cat.*

"You're right, he showed absolutely no surprise at all, and the only cats who can talk are familiars." Robby said. "Well we've got to go to Denver first and then I think we'll go to Florida."

SIX

Robby Hansen

A Tom Hardaway and Rafer Johns, a pair off duty werewolf police detectives, met us at the Denver airport, when we arrived at seven-thirty PM. They were there to provide guidance and official backup if needed, and if Alvin Peters was in Denver I'd find him, so they would probably be needed. It only took about an hour in all. Aaron had told me that his father liked to hang out in pool halls when he was in the city. He always seemed to have lots of money, even though he didn't work, not that he was inclined to share it with the rest of the family, just doling out enough so that they had enough to eat and could get the occasional new clothes.

Tom Hardaway said after we had been driving for a few moments, "We're being followed!"

"Yes. But not to worry, they're our backup, Janet Wilson, and Constancia Storm, you probably know them. They're Sasquatch weres, and they have an advantage if we have to move something. Like Alvin Peters mini-van for instance."

Rafer grinned at me, "They have hands and in were form they won't leave human DNA."

"Very good," I said, "and that puts the lie to what I heard about Denver policemen."

Rafer said, warily, "What exactly have you heard about us."

"Oh, that with the thin air around here you have trouble pumping ideas into your heads." I said with humor.

Rafer said, "I think we've just been insulted, Tom."

"I know we've been insulted." Tom said with humor, "but unfortunately we can't do much about it. He's small enough to spank, but I've heard she's an ex-marine, and she might object, and she's good enough to make sure that her objection is clearly understood."

"Damn, right." said Jeannie, "but on the other hand he's been getting uppity lately, and a good spanking might put him in his place."

Aaron giggled at the easy camaraderie between the four of us, and I was glad. I didn't know if he would realize that we were just kidding around.

We found him in a place called Brower's Pool Hall. According to Tom it was a werewolf hangout. "He's here, but he's waiting, and we'll do the same. He has two kilos of heroin stashed in his mini-van, and apparently, that's what he's been doing for the last ten years, running drugs and money. He's expecting a buyer. As for your dad, Aaron, he's killed one werewolf and two humans during that period. He's going to be in our type of prison for a very long time. Twenty-five years for each murder and another twenty years for the drug running and spousal and child abuse. That makes ninety-five years. What do you think about him being imprisoned, Aaron?"

Aaron hesitated, "I think he deserves it, but won't human courts be much more lenient than that? Even with all that stuff, he'll probably be out in in fifteen years."

Tom said, "That's our system, unfortunately, Aaron. We put them away for a few years, and they get out and we have to do it all over again. That's the reality of the human world."

I said softly and my voice was hard, "In this case I wasn't making a comment, I was pronouncing a sentence. Ninety-five years, no concurrent terms, and no time off for good behavior. I will force Alvin Peters to turn into a wolf and lock him into that form. There's a plane waiting at the airport, and it's final destination is Siberia. They were only expecting one wolf, but the paperwork for two won't be that difficult to arrange. That's where your father will be going and that's where he will be serving his sentence."

"I would hate to lock my father up for a long time if he was going into prison, but that way he's sorta free and at the same time he's being punished." Aaron said hesitantly. "But my Mom still loves him I think. She might want to visit him."

"Oh, that can be arranged," I said. "Even Siberia isn't the end of the world. Where he's going, most of the people who live there do so voluntarily, some of their ancestors may have been sent there but the present generation stays because they love it. Tom, Rafer, what do, you know about a Ronald Saberhagen?"

"He's a big drug dealer. That much we're sure of, unfortunately what we've been able to prove has been absolutely nothing." said Rafer. "We think he had an undercover policeman who infiltrated his organization killed. But again, we think, we don't know. We also think he's responsible for five or six other deaths, but again we don't know."

"It's too bad for him that he got involved in something I was looking into. Alvin Peters has dealt with him before, and he knows Saberhagen is a werewolf. Preliminary judgement as a drug dealer. Thirty years in Siberia." I saw Tom and Rafer look at each other with a pleased look on their face, though it was barely visible in the low light in the car, coming from signs, and streetlights. "If he indeed ordered the policeman's death and is responsible for the other deaths, then he'll be there for the rest of his life."

I turned to Aaron, and told him, "Here, take Blue's leash. I want you to go back and wait with Constancia and Janet. They're parked about twenty yards behind us. Blue will lead you right to them and no arguing." As he opened his mouth to do just that. "The four of us will be going inside and I don't want you alone in the car."

So reluctantly but obediently he and Blue slipped out of the car and scurried back to the other vehicle. I got a message from Constancia, *Now that we've got him, what are we supposed to do with him? I don't know anything about little kids, neither does Janet.* she said, a little bit of panic in her mind voice.

I chuckled, *Tell him about Sasquatch. He's bright and inquisitive, and before too long he'll probably ask you a kid question and you can go from there.*

*What's a kid question?* she asked.

*Why? Even you should know that. You can even transmit images through Blue.* I gave her an image of Blue.

*Now that shook Janet and I almost as much as suddenly becoming responsible for a kid. A cat introducing himself. Well, Barney said working with you would be an experience.* she said, wryly.

*Enjoy yourselves.* I said with high good humor. *I always like to introduce people to new things.*

*Hockey pucks.* from Constanica. Obviously, she knew how old I was and was restraining herself. I could have told her that there was very little that she could say to me that I hadn't already heard.

SEVEN

It was about a nine when a big limo drove into the parking lot of Brower's Pool Hall and parked. I chuckled, "Mr. Saberhagen, really knows how to come to a drug buy, I must say."

Tom said sourly, "All he's doing is delivering the money and arranging for the drop-off place. There's nothing illegal about giving somebody money, and he won't be within ten miles of the actual drop-off place."

Rafer punched him lightly on the shoulder. "You're forgetting my old friend, we're not dealing with him as policemen but as assistants to an Elder, and he's been judged and sentence has been partially pronounced."

"Fully pronounced. He was responsible for all the deaths you mentioned so he'll spend the rest of his life in Siberia, I won't bother with the drugs, the murders will do the job. That'll be four that I've put there, I wonder how many will end up there?" I mused.

Jeannie said, "They can't become dangerous, can they?"

"It's very doubtful. It's much more likely that they would get themselves killed. The settlement that Alexie Yachenco works out of has more than fifty adult werewolves, and I'll put a prohibition against attacking other werewolves or humans, which would be almost impossible to break. Well, time to get our disguises on and go in to see Alvin and Ronald."

Mine and Jeannie's had been in place for a couple of months and I'd been working on Tom and Rafer's since we stopped. I triggered them and I saw Tom and Rafer seem to grow an extra layer of skin over their faces, and I could see both. I said, "Have a look in the mirror and say hello to your new selves."

They looked in their mirrors. Rafer said it best, "Well, he's still black, but I've never seen the person in the mirror in my life. How did you do it?"

"My range is limited to about a half a mile with humans, and in a city like this it's much less. But what I've done is develop an image in my mind of the four of us and I'm broadcasting it at a low level at anyone within my range. I'm not trying to put anything in their mind. I'm allowing them to supply the details so everyone will see something slightly different. They see a generic person, in most cases. Identifying features such as faces, ears, and hands look different. With me, it's somewhat different. If they're werewolves and they knew my age that would allow them to locate me because there are no other Elders my age, so they will seem to see a small man about five-four or five-five in his late teenage years, or early twenties."

"The image of me is somewhat harder to broadcast." I admitted, "but I allowed one powerful person to see what I really looked like, and he sent a killer after me. I've been practicing over the last couple of months and it's getting easier and more instinctive with time. It won't do any good against cameras of course, but it provides some protection. The fact that we're wearing latex gloves will be hidden as well and that will remove the possibility of leaving fingerprints." as we pulled on the latex gloves .

*****

We entered separately, Tom and Rafer first and then Jeannie and I. the bartender looked at Jeannie and I, probably just like he had looked at Tom and Rafer, who were standing at the far end of the bar, watching the back door just in case. He didn't see anything out of place and he just ignored us. Saberhagen and Peters were sitting in a booth, and Saberhagen's four bodyguards were sitting at the table adjacent to it. They were all werewolves, but they ignored us as we walked by them and sat down in the booth. Saberhagen started to say something to his guards, and I locked the two of them down.

I said, genially, "Uh uh, Mr. Saberhagen. You're not allowed to call for help. This is a bust, only it's not the usual kind of bust, as you might have noticed from the fact that you can't move. I'm an Elder and you've both committed crimes against human and werewolf laws. Of course, most of what the two of you have done is against human law, but werewolf law where it doesn't cover a situation follows human law, and applies werewolf punishment. We've never done much in the way of developing laws to deal with drug dealers. Human law covers that quite satisfactorily, they simply don't apply it as it was intended."

"For both of you however, your involvement in the drug trade is a minor consideration. Mr. Saberhagen I am aware of those you had killed. Six murders in total, including a police officer. I have judged you and decided that twenty-five years for each murder is adequate, the term to be served consecutively, which adds up to one hundred and fifty years, and that time will be spent in Siberia. Since you are already fifty-five, and the oldest werewolf we know of lived to be one hundred and fifty-one the sentence is in effect a life sentence, so I won't bother adding an extra term for dealing in drugs."

"You have a notebook in your pocket, and you have a younger brother. In the main, you've kept him out of the mainstream of your business. You may tell him what is going to happen to you and tell him he has six months to change his ways. If he does not, we will go after him, draining his bank accounts and divesting him of all other revenues. An indication of his willingness to change is for him to set up a foundation dealing with drug addiction, with a minimum funding of ten million dollars. If he complies with this order, at some future date we will arrange for him to see you."

"You may take out your notebook and write Mr. Saberhagen." I looked into his eyes, and they had a resigned look in them and I nodded with satisfaction, as he took out the notebook.

I looked at Peters. There was a defiant look in his eyes, but he was a bully. I don't know what color the eyes that he saw staring at him were, but he couldn't face their glare, and he looked down at the table. I spoke softly, "You enjoy killing, when you get worked up to it, Alvin Peters. But at least those you killed, you did so up close and personal, and from the looks of them in your mind, none of them will be missed by anyone, but you still murdered them. You took them out into the country and pointed a gun at them and pulled the trigger. For which you got paid. I dislike professional killers, Alvin, and if one of your sons wasn't perhaps the single greatest find among werewolves in this generation I would probably kill you. However the Council may wish you to remain alive, so you'll be joining Mr. Saberhagen in Siberia."

He looked at me when I made that statement with astonishment on his face. "Twenty-five years for each murder, fifteen for your drug activities and five for the physical abuse you've handed out to your wife and children. The punishment would have been more harsh for the abuse, but it's somewhat anticlimactic after the other sentences."

I looked back at Saberhagen, and wordlessly he handed me a piece of note paper.

Dear Sam

You always warned me that my profession would catch up to me. You were wise to stay on the fringes. I have been caught by an Elder, and he intends to punish me for things that I have done, things you never knew about.

He has decided that I will change and be locked into that form, and he has a place where he can imprison me, and the imprisonment is for life.

He says that you have six months to get out of the profession completely and as a sign of your good faith, you are to establish a foundation for the benefit of drug addicts. A minimum funding of ten million dollars is required.

Do both and he says that sometime in the future you will be allowed to see me. Elder's are generally honorable people so I have no doubt that he will keep his word.

Ron

"Very good Mr. Saberhagen. You can give it to your chief guard and tell him that you'll be going with the drug courier, and they can go home. Normally of course, they wouldn't dream of leaving you, but the note will explain how and why, since they're all werewolves. As an Elder I simply took over their minds so they wouldn't realize what was happening." I told him.

He called for his chief guard, "Folkes, I'm going with this man and I want you to deliver a note to my brother."

He took the note and stuffed it in his pocket, "Sure, Boss." From there it went exactly as I had explained. The guards did exactly as they were told, not even questioning the strange orders.

We waited for a few minutes after they left before leaving to make sure they would be gone, and then we got up and walked out, Peters and Saberhagen carrying his briefcase, seemed to walk with complete normality even though they in fact were being controlled by me. They got into the mini-van with Alvin Peters in the drivers seat, while we got into our car. They didn't go far, just a little way down the street where I had noticed there was a light out. The two men changed into wolves and moved into the rear seat.

"Constancia, time to do your thing." She showed up a few seconds later from their car which had parked behind ours. She was in Sasquatch form, and I couldn't make out much but her fur seemed somewhat lighter than either Steve or Carrie Ross. She held the door open and in wolf form I jumped in and she got in quickly and closed the door.

She knew where we were going, and she started up the mini-van and headed for our destination, which was near the airport. She pulled up to the door and stopped, opening the door to let me and my two prisoners out. I didn't have time to see much, except that her fur was brown, only a little darker than Jenna's was, which was unusual for an adult Sasquatch. Brown was usually the color of a juvenile and I knew she was in her thirties.

*Where do you want me to put the mini-van, Robby?* she asked me.

*I want you to get it as close to a police station as possible without getting caught. That briefcase that you can see on the back seat contains two million dollars. Whether that's the full payment or not I don't know or care, but I don't want it to disappear. Put that on the floor. Aside from that there's a stash of two kilos of heroin, somewhere in the van.* I told her.

She looked around and then leaned over the back and put the briefcase on the floor then opened the glovebox, and got out a screwdriver and straightening she unscrewed the overhead light taking off the plastic and pulled out the bulb. *There's a place right across from our precinct which has had the street light out for the last two weeks. We keep telling the city about it and they keep ignoring it. With no light I can park the van and go through an alleyway to the next street where Janet can pick me up. I'll only be in sight for three to five seconds, and its really dark right there.*

*They've probably fixed it since you where there last.* I teased, knowing that was unlikely since they had just come off shift a couple of hours before Jeannie, Aaron and I flew into the Denver airport.

*Bite your tongue! I don't even want to think something like that might have happened.* she scolded.

I grinned, or at least I did in my mind. *Aaron, you and Blue join Tom, Rafer, and Jeannie in the car. Janet, Constancia is going to dump the van in front of your precinct house and then duck down the alleyway to the next street, so follow her. I thank the two of you for your help, and I'll mention it to Barney.*

They both said, *A pleasure working with you.* and Constancia added facetiously. *You get introduced to so many new things, around you.*

I moved out of the way and she backed out onto the road, and headed back into the city, Janet following her. I said to the two inside, *All right, open up in there. The password is impatience, as in I'm getting impatient.*

The door opened and Tom drove the car inside with me and Saberhagen and Peters following them. There was a second car and a a commercial van parked on the warehouse floor and Tom parked the car beside the van.

After changing back to human form, I had Saberhagen and Peters get in the cages and they were locked and the four men loaded the cages on the truck. Then there was another goodbye. "It was nice working with you. I don't get to Denver very often but if I do I'll look forward to working with you again."

Tom looking at Saberhagen in the cage in the truck grinned and said, "The pleasure was all mine, I assure you. We don't often have the chance to get rid of scum like Saberhagen, and when we do, we know it's only going to be a few years. This time we know he won't be back."

He shook my hand and then winking at Rafer, he turned me around and gave me a couple of swats on the bottom and I can tell you that they weren't love taps. I knew they were for my comment on Denver cops.

Rafer smiled at me as I offered one hand rubbing my backside with the other. He said, "I won't add to the swats, but as Tom said it's not often we get the satisfaction of knowing someone like Saberhagen is going away for a long, long time and won't be coming back. I thank you for that."

Tom and Rafer got back in their car and making a U turn in the almost empty warehouse they headed for the door, which was raised by Alexie, to let them out. Cyrus grabbed me in a bear hug and swung me around half a dozen times, before passing me to Alexie who did the same. I trusted both Tom and Rafer but I'd learned a hard lesson about letting too many people know too much, so I was more cautious now. Information such as the fact that Alexie and Cyrus were friends would be passed out on a need to know basis, just like in the intelligence community.

When he set me down, he asked, "What was that all about?" and I knew he was talking about the smacks on the rear end that I had gotten.

I said, airily, "I made a comment about Denver policemen that I felt was entirely justified but obviously they didn't think so." then I spoiled it by giggling. "Sorry about saddling you with the extra werewolf but if anyone deserves a lifetime in Siberia as a wolf it's Saberhagen."

Cyrus said, "Not to worry, you notice we had an extra cage. We also left the number on the permit blank. It now says two wolves for consignment to Siberia."

"Jeannie this is Alexie Yachenco and Cyrus Amree. I don't believe the three of you have ever met. Alexie, Cyrus this is Jeannie Reynolds, she's Sam Reynolds cousin, and the one that's even smaller than I am is Aaron Peters. He's a distant cousin." I nodded at the truck and asked Aaron, "What are you thinking now?"

Aaron sighed, "I hate seeing my father in a cage, yet I know that he should be locked up, so a cage is where he belongs until you can get him to Siberia.

EIGHT

Aaron Peters

Robby had found out from my father's mind, where my mother and brother and sister were staying. It was at the Forbes Motel, rooms six and seven, which were connecting rooms, and was located in the same district as the warehouse. It was no surprise to me, that it was the usual dump we always stayed at. Now that I knew what my father did, I was glad we had always stayed at this type of place rather than somewhere that he could actually afford. Mom wouldn't have liked to live that way, and then find out that it had been supported by drugs and neither would I. I'm pretty sure though that it wouldn't have bothered Jarod or Dale at all.

I knocked on the door of room six, which Robby said was the room my Mom was in right at the moment. Mom opened the door cautiously, Dad had always forbidden her to have guests in the room. However when she saw who it was, she pulled me into the room and scooped me into her arms and began kissing and scolding me.

"Mom, stop!" I said in desperation. She did in astonishment, and she let me down to the floor, holding me out at arms length and stared at me.

"You can talk. How..." I nodded to Robby who had closed the door behind me.

"Robby is a Healer and..." I started to say.

"Well, if it isn't the little twerp, and he can talk now. I always thought he sounded better, the way he was." drawled Jarod nastily, a condescending look on his face, and Dale giggled. I felt my Mom's hands grab my arms tighter, but I was content to leave it to Robby.

"...and an Elder." I said, sweetly. Suddenly the condescending look disappeared from Jarod's face and I heard Robby say in his soft voice, "You're a couple of obnoxious little brat's aren't you. I can see in your minds that you really don't care that your brother can suddenly talk. I think that deserves a little punishment."

Suddenly Jarod yelped, and began rubbing his bottom, and Dale was only a few seconds behind him. Robby continued, "A practical joke that my Mom pulled on me last summer, like the hand buzzers you can get only this one gave me a hot seat. Quite painful for a little while but completely harmless, however for the hot seats I just gave you, I added a little something extra, since this was a punishment not a joke." Still rubbing their bottoms, my eleven year old twin brother and sister glared at Robby, but they kept their mouths shut.

Robby turned to look at my mother. He said, "Your husband really should have reported Aaron missing. When he ran away in Eliot, the sheriff, who's an old friend of mine called me in, when they thought Aaron might be a werewolf. From Aaron that led to your husband and right now he's in wolf form, in a warehouse not far from here, in a cage, and he's going to be headed for Siberia in a couple of days, where he will stay locked in that form for a very, very long time.

We heard ringing, and Robby pulled a cell phone out of his pocket. "Robby Hansen." he said and then listened for a couple of minutes, and a smile grew on his face. "Very good. That goes above and beyond the call of duty. I'll make sure that Barney knows about your diligence. Goodbye and I hope to work with you again sometime."

He flipped the cell phone shut and slipped it back into his pocket. "That was one of my assistants. She parked your mini-van in front of a police station and jammed the horn down so it would stay on. That attracted the police after a few minutes, and they unlocked the van to turn the horn off and found two million dollars in a briefcase. They've hauled the van into their garage and they'll be searching it thoroughly. They'll find the two kilos of heroin that your husband was transporting from Los Angeles to Denver."

My Mom sat down heavily on the bed, and I sat down beside her and put my arm around her. She looked at Robby, "I always figured what he was doing was illegal, but I love him and despite that and the abuse I stayed with him. Can I see him?"

Robby said, "Not tonight. It's," and looking at his watch, "10:30. What time does he usually get back to the motel?"

Mom answered, "Usually between eleven and midnight. He doesn't trust us on our own for any longer than that."

Robby nodded, thoughtfully. "I want you to call the police around one o'clock and report him missing. They'll tell you that they can't do anything for a certain length of time, but insist on filing a report. I'll make sure that they connect the missing person's report with the finding of the mini-van tonight, so they'll probably show up sometime tomorrow to question you. Tell them everything you know and answer all of their questions. If they ask you if you were aware of what your husband was up to, tell the truth."

"Aaron will have to stay with us, and we'll be booked into the Marriot Hotel." he smiled wryly, "If they ask about the disparity in the type of accommodation, tell them the truth, that your husband insisted on staying in places like this. That the relative that Aaron is with can afford to stay at the Marriot. It's quite true, I am a distant cousin and I can afford to stay at the Marriot. You should be able to see your husband the day after tomorrow before he's shipped to Siberia, and we will arrange for you to visit him there, but not until the furor around his disappearance is over. Figure on at least two years."

"From your mind I can see that you will want to return to your family in San Diego." He looked at my brother and sister, who were still glaring at him and then at me. "I don't think you want these three living in the same house together. With no common enemy remaining, they'll be at each other throats constantly. Also Aaron is a Healer, and he and I have much to learn from each other, so he'll come to live with me and my family in Benson."

"Your father-in-law, who died in nineteen eighty-seven, had ten brothers and sisters in Benson, all of who are married with children and grandchildren of their own. Just in his brothers and sisters families alone you have close to a hundred relatives, and in the other branches of the Peters family, and the Hansen, Galbraithe and Waters families there's well over another one hundred, though most of them no longer live in Benson."

Mom put her arm around me and squeezed. She looked at my brother and sister and then down at me and sighed. "I'm afraid you're right, these three will never get along. It would be cruel and inhumane punishment to try and make them live together."

Robby grinned, "For you or for them."

Mom smiled and said, "No comment."

After Mom gave me a hug and a kiss and light swat on the bottom we were on our way.

Smith Jones

"Can I help you, Mr. Jones?" Russell Wilson asked, smiling blandly.

"Actually Mr. Wilson, I'm simply here to deliver a warning from the Council. You have one month to get out of the drug business or you will join Mr. Saberhagen and Mr. Peters. They were discovered by an Elder in Colorado and are now enjoying a lifetime vacation locked into wolf form. This is also to inform you that Mr. Peters did not betray you, the Elder read his mind, and found out about you that way." I do menace very well, even if I do say so myself, so I put it into my voice. "Since that's the case, I'm sure that you realize that if anything happens to the family, that one way trip will be to a grave and not simply locked in wolf form. Goodbye, Mr. Wilson, I would heed the warning."

His smile was no longer bland. In fact, he was no longer smiling. Instead, there was shock on his face. That gave me a warm feeling in my heart. I always like to do fellow werewolves a good turn when I can.

NINE

Robby Hansen

Susan Peters saw her husband before he flew out of the Denver airport. I had Alexie pick her up. None of the children wanted to see him. Personally, I thought the children were wiser than the mother in this instance, but perhaps I'm wrong. At thirteen I'm simply not old enough to know what love between a married couple is like, but I'm old enough to know that abuse shouldn't be part of it.

After the police had questioned her I had gotten rooms for her and the twins at the Marriot Hotel, however I made sure it wasn't on the same floor. With the loathing between the twins and Aaron I thought it would be safer that way. Even with the minimal contact between them the loathing seemed to be deepening hourly.

*****

I got a call from my mother just before Jeannie, Aaron and I were getting ready to check out and head for the airport to fly to Tampa Bay. "Hello Mom. How are things going?" I asked blandly.

"Robby!!!" I winced, as she yelled at me. Then there was quiet though I could hear her breathing, as she counted to ten. At least a half-dozen times, and the second time she said my name she was almost calm, "Robby! Am I to gather by the fact that the furniture people just delivered a three bunk bed to take the place of the two bunk bed, that we are expecting again. How old is the child that we're expecting, going to be!"

"He's nine, and his name is Aaron Peters and he's Rose's great-nephew, and he's a Healer. He has a mother, a brother and sister, but his father is on his way to Siberia for very heavy crimes. His mother wants to go back to live with her family in San Diego, and we both agreed that half the country away, was as close as he and his brother and sister should be on a regular basis. We're on our way to Tampa Bay, so don't be surprised if we turn up with another cat as well."

"Robby! Oh, what's the use. It's a good thing you're in Denver right now. If I had you here I might strangle you!" she said, with a bite in her voice.

"You can't really mean that, Mom. I'm so cute and lovable." I said winningly.

"I agree. You are cute and lovable, but right at this moment if you were here, you'd be cute, lovable, and dead." But the bite was gone from her voice.

"I love you too, Mom. We should be back home later this afternoon." I told her.

*****

Sandy

At forty-four, I was very old, even for a familiar. I didn't have too many months left, but the one thing that wasn't failing was my hearing, and I heard Larry entering the barn. He was odd shaped for a werewolf when he was in human form. He looked like he had a large beer belly, though in fact it was all muscle, but that made him walk heavily, though he was as light-footed as any other werewolf in wolf form. He was accompanied by someone. Normally I would have stayed in my basket. At my age, I thought it was appropriate that they come to me.

There were three werewolves with him. One was just an ordinary werewolf but there was something about the other two. It took me a minute but my excitement began to rise as I realized from racial memory, that two of them were Healers. One whose power was evident even now was already bonded but the other, much weaker was not.

I struggled out of my basket, and with my arthritis causing me to limp badly I headed slowly toward them. My eyes were failing but I could still see that two of them were children. Two boys and the younger boy was the unbonded Healer. The older boy had his hand on the younger boy's shoulder restraining him, and I appreciated the fact that he allowed me my dignity, by letting me come to them. The younger boy went to his knees, and when we touched, I felt the click in my mind telling me that we had bonded.

I began to draw strength from him as my body began to repair itself. I would have to be careful and not take too much from him too quickly. There was no rush now, we had many years ahead of us. But then I felt an enormous rush of power in his small body, and I knew it wasn't his, I looked up and saw the older boy had his hand on his shoulder. From this power, I could take all I needed, I admit I drank it in greedily, as my body regained its youthful vigor.

Larry Simpkins

I admit I had felt somewhat skeptical that aging could be reversed but now I could see it happening, though according to Robby Hansen that's not exactly what was happening. Sandy's body was repairing itself and only appeared to get younger. He said as long Aaron lived, Sandy would live, and when he died, she would return to the point of aging where her body had been before it was restored to health, that is if Sandy chose to remain alive. Many times familiars would commit suicide when the one they were bonded to died.

Jeannie Reynolds

I admit I probably had as much amazement as Larry Simpkins had, I'd seen Robby Healing, but this was much different, as I saw an ancient decrepit cat turn into a young cat in the prime of her life. Robby had said that she wouldn't take much energy from Aaron's body, at first, spreading it out over time in order not to damage his body. He said he would try to add his power to Aaron's if he could, but he didn't know if it would work or not. Obviously, it had.

Aaron Peters

It was an awesome experience as first we bonded, and then I could feel her begin to draw power from me to Heal herself. There were no words but I knew she was carefully limiting herself so as not to hurt me, and then Robby added his power to mine, and she let go and simply drank in the power, knowing that most of it was coming from him and not me.

When she stopped she was a young cat again, and I stood up with her in my arms. She was much smaller than Blue though at about fifteen pounds still larger than many cats, and she was purring furiously. I began tentatively in mind-speech, which I was so new to, *Hello, my name is Aaron Peters.*

*Hello, Aaron Peters, I'm called Sandy. My life was coming to a close and my one regret was that I would never bond. Now that I have done so, it has fulfilled my expectations completely.* she told me, and I could feel the warmth behind her words.

Robby entered our minds, *Hello Sandy, I don't wish to disturb your bonding process, but I want to open a channel that perhaps would take months to open normally.* It felt like my mind was being stretched, and then it snapped back. *I have opened the type of channel which Blue uses to communicate with weres when they are in human form. He uses my mind to do it. Aaron has not yet learned to use mind-speech in this way but he has the ability, and I am taking advantage of that ability to allow Sandy to talk to Larry and other weres while they are in human form. Once he does learn to use that ability of course, he'll be able to use it much more efficiently than you can, but for the moment Sandy will be the conduit between Aaron and human weres.*

I looked up and Larry Simpkins was smiling, but there was a little sadness as well in his eyes. He was happy that Sandy was young again, but a little sad because she would be going away. "She was born on the same day as I was, forty-four and a half years ago." He grinned, "Sandy was my older sister Deborah’s cat first. She was a huge fan of the Little Orphan Annie comic strip, and when the cat became her pet, she saw nothing odd in naming her Sandy despite the fact that she's Siamese."

"I ended up inheriting her from Deb, when she became interested in boys and no longer interested in pets. Sandy had never talked to her so she didn't know that Sandy was special. They got along all right but they had never been that close, and when she gave Sandy to me when I was five, there were no regrets on either side."

"My relationship with Sandy was much more agreeable, and she'd been talking to me for years. Of course nobody believed me at the beginning and though Sandy said she could prove it to my family, I was mad at them and wouldn't let her, and I've kept the secret ever since. She talks to others, but it's usually werewolf kids and only a few adults."

I could feel her talking to the Sheriff, though I couldn't catch anything they said. I didn't know how to eavesdrop and I wouldn't have done so if I could have. Obviously, it was goodbye stuff, because at the end he reached out and caressed her head, rubbing her under the chin, and she purred extra loud for a few seconds.

Reluctantly we had to leave, though Robby told me he had invited the Sheriff to come and visit anytime he wanted. Now, before I met Sandy, I would have thought it would be silly to go that distance just to see a cat, but I now knew differently.

When we were back in the plane, heading for Prescott, he told me that I should try my ability to read his aura, with Sandy's help. With Sandy sitting in my lap, when I switched the ability to on, her assistance made a lot of difference. I could tell now that his aura only had five colors, blue, green yellow, red and purple. What was different from every other person or were I had seen was that the colors were divided into about a dozen shades each and the green was divided into eighteen different shades, going from very light to the very darkest in each color.

I said, "Most Elders I have seen have a light green as the third color in their auras. With Big foot the second color was green, but it was a dark green. The green in your aura has the widest range of shades."

Robby said, "The reason that the green is so wide and has so many shades, must have something to do with my abilities as an Elder and a Healer."

"Is your shoulder still sore? I can see a darkness around your shoulder and the aura is a little thinner at that point." He rotated his shoulder.

"Yes it's still a little sore from holding it in position over your head, while I was Healing you." he admitted.

"Now that I've got Sandy to help, maybe we can do more this time." I told him.

"Go ahead and try it, we want to know how your power has increased with the addition of a familiar." Robby said.

I reached for his shoulder with both hands. Now that I could see the problem, it was much easier to locate it. I could put my hands right on it and I felt the pain under my fingers. I began to draw on the energy that Robby had given to Sandy. He had hoped to be able to join with me so that we could use our powers together, but the energy that he had provided had gone right through me into Sandy. She had taken all she could to Heal herself and then stored some extra. Robby told me that he didn't think he'd be able to do it again, it was simply the fact that in the process of bonding she could take the energy and use it and store it, but he didn't think it would work that way again.

But she did have the power, and I could feel my hands getting warm, though never uncomfortably. "I can feel warmth in my hands, can you feel it as well?" I asked Robby.

"Yes I can, and it seems to be attacking the pain. I can actually feel it receding. Can you see anything in my aura?"

I nodded, "There was a darkness, and much of that is gone, and your aura at that point was a little thinner. Most of the darkness is gone and your aura is close to normal now." as I finally let go of his shoulder and I suddenly felt very tired, and I was sweating fiercely. "It wasn't easy to Heal, but it wasn't that hard either. I think that's mainly because it was almost healed already. I just gave it a boost, though all of a sudden I feel really tired." as I yawned widely, and I found it hard to keep my eyes open. He tilted my seat back, and I closed my eyes and fell asleep almost instantly.

Robby Hansen

I rotated my shoulder and the pain was definitely gone. Not only was the pain gone but my shoulder felt well for the first time in three months. Oh, I had been using it normally for the last couple of months but it hadn't felt like this, with a feeling of well being, since before the shooting.

I had been watching while he invoked his ability to see human auras, and I used the little twist in his mind that he used to turn it on, and suddenly I could see his aura. Blue, red and a very light green. It was a fairly wide band of green. I didn't know if it indicated actual power or potential but I assumed it was the latter, since from his mind he had only had the ability to Heal for about six months, though Sandy would help immensely. I was disappointed that we couldn't share our power, though as his ability to speak to weres in human form and his power in general increased, that might come.

I looked at Blue and Sandy, and I wasn't surprised that they had auras. Auras seemed to be connected to intelligence, and the familiars were a pure red, which was logical. Despite the fact that they were pets they could go feral very easily, and they were almost pure predators. Aaron had mentioned those animals he had seen, who had auras, and they had been in the ape family, closest to humans in intelligence and the elephant, which was considered, aside from the apes, as the most intelligent of the animals. He had also said that dolphins and Orca whales, which were known to be intelligent though exactly how intelligent wasn't known, also had auras.

TEN-December 17,2003

Hary Hansen

Maybe I should have been mad at Robby, but it was love at first sight. Aaron seemed tailored to fit into our family. It almost seemed as if there was a spot that had been held open just for him. He was a little small and a little young for his age, and he and Teddy hit it off right away. Barry was a little more reserved, but Aaron had a way with younger children that was reminiscent of Robby's, perhaps that was part of being a Healer, and within a couple of hours he had won over Barry's affection and loyalty, and he was enchanted with Grace and it seemed to be mutual.

Mostly Barry and Teddy bathed together and supervised each other, but about once a week I would give each of them a bath separately and they seemed to enjoy having me to themselves for such a personal expression of love. I decided to give Aaron a bath just to see how he would take it. He seemed to have about as little physical modesty as the other boys. That is, none at all. He showed no embarrassment about getting undressed in front of me and he seemed to love being bathed as much as Barry and Teddy did.

I had a feeling of contentment as I looked in on the three boys at about nine-thirty, and they were fast asleep. I saw a gleam of Sandy's eyes as she raised her head and looked at me from Aaron's bunk. *I think you got a good one there, Sandy.*

*I agree, Hary.* She had started calling me Hary right from the beginning, while Blue had hesitated at first about what to call me. But then Sandy was almost twenty years older than Blue had been, and she was older than I was. She continued and her contentment seemed as great as mine. *I think we both lucked out in the family we ended up with as well. Good-night, Hary.* and she laid her head back down.

*Night, Sandy.* I said as I closed the door a little.

Robby Hansen

Tal looked out the window at Jeannie sitting in the mini-van and asked, " Why just let her sit out there, why didn't you invite her in?"

I said with humor, "I hate to interview someone for a person's job while they're sitting there in front of me. It's not really in good taste. Besides Blue is with her and they'll be discussing the last hockey game or the football game that they saw. Or they might be rehashing the World Series."

He turned to look at me. "You intend to replace Jeannie and Len? Why? From what I've heard of you, you have more loyalty than that."

"I'm holding them back. With Len getting hurt so badly, they realize that the love they feel for each other is the kind that needs a marriage to make it perfect. As long as they work for me, they'll never make the move on their own, because they both have a sense of honor. They would feel like they were letting me down." I told him. "Since you arrived in town, I've been thinking of this. I talked to Rutherford Mayer, and he said that he tried to keep you in the field, but the board that makes the decisions about field agents wouldn't change their minds. He could hardly tell them you were half-werewolf and were just entering the prime of life, now could he?"

"You decided to retire because you knew you weren't suited to a desk job, and you're a spy, and while you've had a lot of combat training it's been personal combat training. You simply haven't had enough combat training involving large forces of men, since you left Vietnam to return to the army in an active position. You'd end up in a desk job there as well. I ran a little test on you when you were instructing the police department in martial arts, just to see how you would react when you realized exactly how deadly I could be." I giggled at the look of surprise on his face.

"Sorry about that, I needed to form my own opinion of you, and I was working. My face tells people what I want them to see when I'm on the job, at other times it doesn't matter, so I allowed you see what appeared to be annoyance, to see what you'd do. To defuse what you thought was anger you gently challenged me, so I could see how hard it really was, to do what you were doing. Mom should have realized what I was doing. She and Paul throw each other around with abandon in the basement, which they've fixed up with mats so they can train, and I've never become angry about that, so why should I do so when she and the other police officers were learning things that might keep them alive. Also, when they get mad at each other it's how they work out their problems, and it seems to work for them."

His face went thoughtful. "You really think you'll need a bodyguard again here in Benson?"

"I don't know. Almost every were around here, is being watchful at the moment, but the longer a period of time the less alert they will become. If it was necessary, I can think of several ways to get people into this town. By dropping them by parachute, or sending either an armed helicopter or one with men in it which they can drop. An armored car, a parcel delivery truck, a moving van, a truck load, of National Guards going through for training somewhere. I think it unlikely, but it happened once and it can happen again, and I'm not always in Benson. I was in Nepal twice this year, Australia twice, Scotland, Mexico and all over the country." I told him. "Besides the job was never principally that of a bodyguard, you'll be a general assistant and guarding my fragile body will only be part of that."

"One the of things that has been useful in the last couple of months is the fact that I could hop on the Lear that Sam Reynolds gave me and just go, I don't have to charter jets and have the pilots wonder who I am. You have a pilot's license and can fly the Lear, also you have a helicopter license, so if you agree, the Council intends to build a hangar on Seamus Riley's property and put a helicopter there, to make it more convenient to get into Prescott. Seamus has already agreed."

I said thoughtfully, "I certainly don't intend to abandon Jeannie and Len. Len will become what he was originally intended to become, Edward Franco's main assistant and my contact. The Council wanted him here as my bodyguard, but I never considered it a major part of his job. Despite what happened, I still don't. I need a sounding board at times, somebody I can bounce ideas off, to see whether they're valid, or simply pipe dreams."

"Unlike you, Len has the ability to settle down to a desk job, in essence that's what he was doing in Los Angeles for four years, while he was acting as a counselor. Jeannie will go back to representing Sam Reynolds in his business. With computerization, the old Conlin house that we are giving them, can put them in touch with anyone they need to without leaving Benson, and they'll always be there for backup in case we need additional personnel. Also, they'll hardly be moving very far away. I think two hundred yards counts as a very short distance. You have an instructor's license for helicopters and Jeannie loves to fly, and I think she would enjoy learning how to fly a helicopter."

"We'll provide you with a mini-van that's identical to Len's. I know you managed to persuade the designer to use his track, and try it out and Jeannie said you were impressed. If you still want the Ferrari, you'll have to buy it yourself, I'm afraid. You can certainly afford it, and the Council won't spring for both the Ferrari and the helicopter, and I think the helicopter might be more useful. It can carry six in comfort." I told him.

He said to me looking me directly in the eye, "I think I'd prefer the mini-van anyway. I always get a thrill when I'm driving something that can do things that no one knows about. They expect speed from a sports-car, they don't expect it from a mini-van. It appeals to the little boy in me, and I think that's why I enjoyed being a intelligence agent so much. Besides that there's the appeal of the helicopter and the Lear."

I said softly, "I gather that's a yes?"

He nodded, "Besides I was getting to the point where I had to find a place to live. One with peace and quiet, and absolutely no distractions." and he grinned, and I laughed, knowing he certainly wouldn't get it at my place.

"Sam was able to finalize the deal on the weekend, and the Conlin's are moving tomorrow and Friday. They bought the Wellington place fully furnished, and while there's some furniture they want to move, a lot of it will stay. Most of the furniture in both houses is much like we have at home, and Jeannie and Len are comfortable with it, and if they want to change it, they can start from scratch. Council representatives are going to start putting in computers both for Jeannie Reynolds and Len on Saturday. Sam and Alameda Reynolds will be here on Christmas Eve early in the afternoon so we can give Jeannie and Len the Conlin place as a wedding present and then heading for Texas for Christmas with the rest of the family."

ELEVEN-December 24,2003

Len Peters

Getting back to what had come to be my home last Friday had been good, yet at the same time, something was missing. It was still the kid-orientated frantic pace. There was a new kid in town, namely Aaron Peters and a new familiar, Sandy a beautiful Siamese cat. But there was something going on out of the ordinary, and it revolved around Robby. Not that I considered that unusual, the family centered around Robby, as did any group which he was in, and in the almost four months I had been gone it had become even more noticeable.

But it wasn't that, either. He had a secret and he was ecstatic, just glowing with good humor. He seemed to be the only one who knew what was going on, and I could see everyone was looking at him suspiciously.

When the limo pulled into the driveway just after lunch on Christmas Eve, Robby was almost bursting, and when Sam and Alameda Reynolds and Rose and Norm Peters and Norm's brother Talbot came in, the mystery deepened. It was obvious who was in on the secret. Robby of course, Sam and Alameda and Talbot Peters, and who wasn't. That was everyone else.

No one knows why Benson Hansen had built such a big house, since he was unmarried and had no children, but it was assumed that he was bragging. It wasn't quite a mansion, but it was getting close, and it was one of the most impressive houses in town. In most houses with everybody gathered in the living room it would have been very crowded, but this was a big house, and we just filled it. Somehow Jeannie and I ended up in as the main attraction sitting beside each other. I looked at her and she just shrugged, obviously just as much in the dark as I was.

Robby was standing in the center of the living room, and he was very composed and more solemn than he had been for the last few days, yet at the same time that feeling of joy was just shining in his green eyes. He said in his soft voice, "Sam and I have some gifts to give to Jeannie and Len. He appointed me master of ceremonies. He figured I would be less embarrassed than he would."

That got a big laugh, anybody who knew Robby well, knew that it was literally almost impossible to embarrass him. He took a box from Sam and Alameda, and handed it to Jeannie. She opened it and looking at it she laughed, but at the same time there was a little sadness as well. I looked at the label. The only part I understood was that it was a slip, and it was pink. In other words Robby was giving Jeannie a pink slip. I smothered a laugh as she said with humor and a little bit of the sadness that had been in her laugh. "I gather from this that I'm being fired?"

Robby said, "Yes. I had to do that, or you and Len wouldn't be willing to move on to what you need. I peeked a little more in this case than I would normally just to make sure that your relationship was what it seemed to be. You'll have to get your own marriage licence, but this afternoon is to allow you the opportunity to get it, and I know from your minds that it's what the two of you want."

He nodded at Talbot Peters. "Tal has agreed to take over as assistant, and bodyguard. I know Len worked with him once, and when I told him that Talbot had come back to town, one time when I was visiting the Nursing Home, he showed that he was very impressed with Tal's abilities."

"I'm shoving you out of the nest, but I certainly don't intend for you to go far. You're family and I love you and I want you close." He handed me an envelope. It said, 'To Len and Jeannie from Sam and Robby.'

I reached into the open envelope and pulled out a deed. It was to the Conlin place which was just two doors down from this house, and it was made out to Jeannie and I. Jeannie grasped my hand and gave it a squeeze. Robby said, "It's almost fully furnished, when the Conlin's moved to the Wellington place they just took a few things." He said reflectively, "It's ironic isn't it, the Conlin's are moving into the Wellington place, yet it was a Conlin who originally built it, and the house that Sam and I are giving you was built by your great-great grandfather. It shows how little things change in Benson, houses change hands but so often like this case, they are moving back to a house their ancestor built, or other members of the family have lived in."

"Council technician's have been building a computer room in the basement, and from there Jeannie can represent Sam and Len can get down to the business of learning Edward's job as his chief assistant, though there certainly isn't any rush. Edward is only forty-five but eventually we all expect Len to replace him."

"On a more cheerful note, Len, you get to keep your mini-van, and a duplicate is being built, and Tal say he wants red. Tal also has a pilots licence and he can fly the Lear." He took a small envelope and handed it to Jeannie.

She opened it and then tilted it so I could read it. 'From Talbot Peters, to Jeannie Reynolds. Helicopter lessons.' and it was signed Tal Peters.

Robby grinned, "Tal has his instructor's licence for helicopters and knowing how much Jeannie loves to fly I thought it was appropriate, though I just have one more thing." He took out a small box and several of us recognized it as the box he had kept his versions of the Navy Cross which he had given to us after he had been shot. "I told Len that I had gotten this when I got the others and I'd give it to you when your time as my assistant and bodyguard was over."

He fastened it around her neck and then he gave her a hug, which she returned fiercely. She pushed him out to arms length. "You're a little scamp Robby Hansen, but I love you and I think I can say the same for Len. If ever you need help in your travels, however far they take you and wherever they take you we're always available if you need us."

END

6.3.02

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