A Destructive Night

Blood lay splattered around the body that now decorated the dimly lit alleyway. The first body of the night that Jax Denek must face. Now he is on a path that seemingly wont end as the death toll only climbs with each pull of the trigger.

Happy Halloween Everyone!

As hinted at, here’s a brand new short story! Some of you may have already read the first part of “A Destructive Night”, however I never released the second half due to some complications. Long story short, here is the full, complete version with added picture!

Art done by the fantastic Mister Artorias. Go check out more of his work on his Instagram!

I want to give special thanks to the patrons who’ve supported me thus far:

Hypermice, Sean Young, and Mister Artorias

Enjoy the story!

A Destructive Night

Thick clouds covered the sky, and the noise of heavy rain masked the release of a bullet followed by cries of agony. The pain was cut short by sharp fangs. Clouds passed overhead, leaving behind a light drizzle. The full moon at its peak cast its silvery ray across the bloody remains splattered across the tight alleyway between two high rises. The small, stagnant puddles left were dyed a crimson red.

With the calming of the rain came the cacophony of noise to take over once more. Cars speeding across the streets, the voices of thousands of citizens walking the streets of the nearby downtown and red-light district. Ships flew overhead with the occasional burst of air as one entered or exited the atmosphere. A shrill scream of surprise near the entrance to the alleyway joined the noise for a brief moment.

Red and blue lights bathed the alleyway as yellow tape was quickly drawn across the entrance. The blue uniforms of various animals filled the tight space and the street outside. An assortment of cars sat clustered, creating a barricade for the entire street.

Jax Denek heard a car door close behind him with an audible hiss and looked over the scene with his keen eyes. A red stain splattered along the wall at the entrance to the alleyway caught his attention. A fine introduction to what this night will hold.

“Denek.”

He turned at the interruption to his thoughts and knelt by the door with its window down to meet the eyes of the driver, his partner, Trevalk.

“I’m going up to scan the area. Call when you are ready for pick up.” Trevalk shifted in his seat trying to get comfortable with his large muscled body. The black striped tiger looked over. “Alright?”

Jax nodded and straightened himself. He watched the window slide up before the car began to lift into the air. Even with the multitudes of scratches and peeling paint, the black body of the car hid it in the night air. The only indicator the car was there at all was the occasional flicker of red lights along the sides to warn other vehicles in the air of its location.

The gust of wind from the car’s departure ruffled his red and brown fur that Jax now brushed down with his paws before he pulled his trench coat tight around his body and turned back to the waiting crime scene. Let’s see what the animals in blue have accomplished.

He walked past the variety of dark blue cop cars and came to the yellow tape blocking the entrance to the alleyway. A blue-uniformed otter looked up at Jax and began to speak before he paused at the badge presented by Jax. The otter nodded and stepped back as Jax pulled the tape up and walked on through.

Jax only took a few steps into the alleyway before he stopped. Stands had been set up on the side with bright lights. At the center was an animal in a hazmat suit moving thoughtfully around a white rabbit in a suit stained red, studying various pieces of shrapnel left on the ground. The rabbit’s left arm was ripped off and thrown deeper into the alley. The rabbit’s face was frozen in grotesque pain, most likely formed in the rabbit’s final moments at the large bite mark along its neck.

A flash of white blinded Jax temporarily. He blinked his eyes clear and watched the white-tailed doe walk carefully along the edge before taking several more photographs of the body. Her hoofed feet clopped against the hard pavement.

“Surprised to see a tanner here so fast, especially you, Denek. Isn’t it past your bedtime?” The brown hyena said. His voice was rough around the edges but quick, not affected by the late hours. He walked over to Jax and offered up a paw to the wolf, the other holding a brightly lit tablet already covered in notes.

“Tom’s orders are why I’m out this late. Though you already know that, Bonuo.” Jax took the Hyena’s paw in his own and shook it. Officer Bonuo, one of the few that can be trusted on the police force to stand his ground for the truth. How amusing that he’s a hyena of all animals.

“That old stag still bossing you tanners around? I figured he would have retired by now.”

“No, he’s still working.” Jax turned his attention back to the dead rabbit. “Tell me what you have so far.”

Bonuo sighed, his shoulders slumping, “You know, that’s exactly why I transferred departments. Having to be strict all the time…” He raised the tablet to his eyes. “The victim’s name is Halph Nelfar, age Sixteen. Quite old for a rabbit. Shot through the stomach by a compact pulse round. Based on the diameter of the hole we can assume a nine-millimeter.” The hyena slid a finger along the tablet’s screen, the notes scrolling up. While scanning the page, he moved to the side of the rabbit to give space for Jax.

Jax stepped forward to get a closer look at the dead rabbit. He noticed the stains in the rabbit’s clothes between the legs, a stench beginning to grow. He reached for a handkerchief hidden within a pocket of his trench coat and brought it up to his sensitive nose to cover it. The rain only slowed the stench of the dead rabbit, and it’s going to get worse.

“After the rabbit was shot, he fell back, and it was at that point the attacker took advantage of the situation and switched to a more physical means of attack. The attacker ripped the rabbit’s left arm off and bit into his neck.” Bonuo scrolled further along the tablet before lowering it. “Just another animal in a string of attacks in this district.”

He spotted the small pin on the rabbit’s collar, a hoof print. The Cell Organized Herd. A political party looking to make a lot of changes in this upcoming election. “Nelfar, this is the same rabbit that was running for mayor, correct?” he asked.

“Yea, that’s the one. He had the right education, the backing of many animals in the city, and a nice suit.” The hyena shrugged. “The Cell Organized Herd has been gaining a lot of traction, and with it backing Nelfar, he had a good chance.”

What a mess. I can smell already that this won’t be an easy job. Jax ran a hand through the fur along the top of his head, flattening the short tuft of red. “Thanks for the intel, Bonuo. I’ll be seeing you.”

“Good luck in the hunt, Denek.” Bonuo waved as Jax walked past the tape and out to the street.

***

The small screen in the console of the car was lit to reveal a smoky scene. In the dim light of the room was an old stag, his fur turning gray in spots and stained by the smoke of his cigar between his lips. The part of the office on display around the stag was a mess and covered in a thick layer of dust. The only thing kept in pristine condition was the stag’s horns, elegant and smooth, a sharp contrast to his heavy gut which popped above the desk as he leaned back in his leather chair.

“Tom, honestly, this is not worth the trouble. Diving into a homicide with politics at the thick of it. Leave that to the Sentinels,” Trevalk stated. The tiger glanced at the screen a few times, but most of his attention was kept to the skyline surrounding the car. He shifted the steering wheel in his grip, adjusting the car’s altitude as he brought it into a tunnel.

“Leave it to them?” Tom chuckled. “That department is a mess.”

“Mess or not, they’re in charge of all cases dealing with active politicians, and Halph falls under that jurisdiction, and you know that!” Trevalk replied.

Tom shifted the cigar between his lips. “What does my favorite tanner think?”

“This crap again, I swear…” Trevalk grumbled.

“What do I think? Well…” Jax turned to look out the window. What do I think? Not a lot to think on, this investigation is already off to a strange start, starting with the location. The lights of the tunnel flashed by every second like a ticking clock to some end game. Cars to the right were left behind as Trevalk sped the vehicle forward. The tunnel came and went to be replaced by a new skyline. The mountain range that split the expansive city had been conquered a long time ago.

“What I want to know is why Halph was in the southern region of Metrauloo when his home is in the northern region of the city,” Jax stated. He turned his attention to the control panel, the image of Tom shifting as the stag considered the thought.

“It’s a good question and only adds to my point on why you two are going to stick to this case. We can expect the Sentinels to defend the remaining two political candidates in this election, but we can’t rely on them to figure out why Cell Organized Herd’s Halph is lying dead in an alleyway deep in the south side of Metrauloo.”

Trevalk grumbled a curse under his breath before answering, “Yes, sir!”

“You got it, boss.” Jax nodded.

“Excellent!” Tom abruptly leaned forward and brought his eyes close to the camera to get a good look of Jax. “And Denek, I’m expecting great things from my favorite tanner!”

Jax ran a hand through the red streak of fur atop his head and gave a half-hearted smile to the display. “Always.”

“Great” he exclaimed and sat back in his chair. “Remember, shoot first then ask questions.”

How funny I used to think that line was a joke.

The display went black as the connection was closed. A moment later the display returned to a menu screen with basic information such as the weather outside and current traffic alerts scrolling along the bottom.

“What a damn waste of time for a case. Next thing you know we’re gonna have a bunch of Sentinel idiots barraging us with accusations and questions on why we are sticking our snouts into their business,” Trevalk spat. He extended a hand to the console and flicked several switches. The screen changed to display a location lit by a red dot. “Why are we flying out here anyways and not trying to hunt down the killer?”

Jax reached into a pocket hidden in his trench coat to reveal a silver flask. “We’re going to Halph’s home to speak with his wife before the city police reach her. As for the killer, if they’re experienced, then they are long gone. Otherwise, the police will catch them before the night’s end.” Jax unscrewed the top of the flask and took a gulp of the dark red liquid inside. A necessary poison. The contents seeped down his throat and left a warm tingling in his chest.

“What makes you think even an experienced killer escaped the area?” Trevalk asked. He shifted the wheel with one hand while adjusting a lever.

Jax watched from his viewpoint as the car ascended along the side of a tall skyscraper. At the top, a platform began to extend out the side of the building, unfolding piece by piece in preparation for the car’s landing. “That’s the exact reason why you’re the driver and I’m the tanner.” Jax took another sip from the flask before screwing the top closed and placing it back inside its pocket.

“Of course.” Trevalk shook his head. “Well, good luck. I’ll be waiting.”

“I appreciate it.” Jax replied, pushing the door open as the car settled onto the extended platform. Hopefully, I won’t be needing that luck before the night’s end.

He began to make his way along the platform toward the waiting doors to the inside of the skyscraper’s top floor. The hiss of the car door closing sounded behind him. He glanced back to see the vehicle lift off the platform and re-enter the filled skyline.

Let’s see if the wife is doing any better this evening.

***

The lobby was kept in a pristine condition. A fountain flowed at the center with flower sculptures decorating the sides. Cushioned chairs sat empty with tables scattered around the fountain. Low walls with dirt in the center to support a large host of plant life circled the lobby. Trees rose from the dirt toward the ceiling; bright yellow flowers blossomed along the branches. The ceiling was a large sheet of glass that allowed the silvery moon’s glow to shine into the room.

Jax went through the center of the lobby; his senses calmed by the gentle flow of the fountain. The air was clean, and the outside noise of the city and its constantly moving traffic was muffled entirely in the quiet peace of the lobby. He came to the fountain’s edge and watched the movement of the water. Only the spoiled rich would want a garden hundreds of feet in the air.

He turned and walked along a path that snaked through the lobby to a distant hallway heading toward the variety of residential suites. The area was empty except for two love bats kissing on a bench; both looked at him with wary eyes as he passed.

Entering the hallway, Jax moved down its bright marble floors. His eyes looked to the names and numbers on the side of doors. He stopped at the door with a bronze plate on the wall engraved “Nelfar.” He knocked twice and waited.

The door clicked and opened to reveal a brown rabbit with several white dots sprinkled across her body. A large white dot surrounded her right eye. The brown tuft of fur atop her head was in uncombed disarray. She wore a light blue sweater thrown on hastily with a simple white nightgown beneath that hung loose around her lithe form.

“Bellu Nelfar?” he asked. She is a mess only waiting to get worse.

Only coming up to his chest, she looked up slowly with tired brown eyes. “Yes?” she asked quietly.

“Do you have a few minutes to talk, Mrs. Nelfar?” Jax asked.

“It’s about my husband, isn’t it?”

“What makes you think that?” Halph’s late-night goings aren’t new to her it seems.

She lowered her eyes. “Just a good hunch. Come in, please. Tell me everything that happened.”

Jax followed her into her home. The living space was dimly lit by a few lamps scattered around the room. Pictures lined the wall with a variety of rabbits all dressed in fine clothing. Along one side of the room, thick glass panels ran the length of the space, dimmed to stop the outside lights from intruding. At the center, a hardwood coffee table sat surrounded by a wraparound black cushioned couch. For someone of their stature, the Nelfar home is quite modest. An unusual detail.

Bellu took her seat on one side of the couch and waved her hand to the other side. “Please, sit.”

Sitting down on the edge of the couch, he kept his focus on Bellu.

“Would you like anything to drink or eat?” she asked, her eyes drifting to the kitchen through a nearby doorway.

“No.”

She simply nodded and turned her attention back to him. “I assume, you are one from the Herd? I figured if my husband messed up that they’d be the ones to bring me the ill news.”

“No, I’m a tanner.”

An audible gasp sounded from her lips, which she promptly covered with her paws. “What happened to him that caused a tanner to be in our home?”

“I was hoping I could get some information from you in regard to your husband,” Jax continued.

“What happened to my Halph?” she insisted.

Jax shifted in his seat. “He’s been killed.”

Bellu stood up abruptly and walked away, her arms crossed, and head lowered. Her brown bangs hid her eyes from Jax.

He sighed and rested back against the cushions. His eyes closed, and he ran a hand through the fur along the top of his head. His ears perked at the pop of a cork being pulled from a bottle. A lady who turns to the drink in sadness, can’t blame her. I lost track how many times I’ve done the same. Taking a deep breath, he got up to follow her into the kitchen. There he found her with a bottle of wine in one hand and a glass already filled with the red liquid.

She took a swig from the glass and leaned against the granite counter. Her tired eyes met his as he entered the kitchen. “Who killed him?”

“I don’t know yet,” he replied, propping himself up against the side of the doorway. “Do you know why your husband would go all the way down to the southern region?”

“Down there?” She shook her head and took another gulp directly from the bottle. “He’s always been a good rabbit. An honest one… too honest for politics, but it’s what he wanted.”

“What made him decide to join the Cell Organized Herd?”

She took a third gulp of wine. Her ears began to droop. “It was the only party that would support his idea of decreasing the supply of animal meat. He believed… we both believed that it’s wrong for so many animals to live in constant fear of not being able to pay the taxes to stay alive. To end up in some farm to be prepared for predators. Predators like you.” She looked up in realization to what she had said. “I’m sorry.” She mumbled, quickly looking down in submission to his cold gaze.

“Quite the idea… to limit the animals selected. Even suggesting such an idea could get any animal killed and your husband wanted it to pass if he was elected?” Jax asked, ignoring her comment about him.

Bellu nodded slowly and downed the glass before pouring more from the bottle. “Yes, it was the big ticket he was running on. As a matter of fact, he was going to host a rally tomorrow.” She placed the wine bottle on the counter behind her. “I suppose the rally is off now.” She began to swirl the red liquid around, watching it move within the glass.

“Has anyone unusual been coming here or meeting with your husband?”

The red wine slowed to a standstill before Bellu took another sip. “He had many meetings with members from both the Herd and the Sentinels about all sorts of stuff. I couldn’t possibly tell you any names. There were so many, and I’m confident that not all of them were good animals.” She closed her eyes and shook her head. “Just so many. I never wanted to admit it, but I’m worried he got too deep into the Herd. That he strayed from his path of good intentions.”

Jax ran a hand along his head, fingers trailing the outline of his right ear. “Do you think he owed anyone something? Do you think they will come for you next?”

She looked up, “I… I don’t think so. Do you think the killer will come here?”

“It is possible.” He stepped forward and stopped her from gulping the rest of the wine down. “I think you’ve had enough.”

Bellu nodded and stepped away from the counter to head back into the living room.

Placing the glass on the counter, Jax followed her to the room and sat on the couch across from her.

“I have to continue where he left off.”

“I don’t think that would be smart,” Jax replied.

She brushed her bangs back behind her ears and looked up at Jax. “I have to try. I’ve been on the campaign with Halph for so long. I have to continue his legacy or else all that work, it’ll be wasted!”

“If you aren’t already a target you definitely will become one then.”

Her hands balled up into fists. “I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I let his dream of a safer life for all animals to die with him.”

“Well I—” Jax paused at the feeling of a vibration against his side. Reaching into a pocket he revealed a receiver. “I’m sorry, this is urgent.” He said, pressing a button on the receiver without waiting on a reply from Bellu. “What is it?” he asked, standing from the couch to take slow pacing steps around the room.

Trevalk’s voice echoed from the receiver’s speaker. “You have a cargo van coming toward the platform. Considering the time of day, I doubt they’re making a friendly delivery.”

“Copy. Be ready to come by if I need a quick pick up.”

“Have fun,” Trevalk replied before closing the link.

“What’s wrong?” Bellu asked, standing from her place on the couch. She clasped her hands together, squeezing them tightly.

“Nothing to be concerned about. Just stay here, and I’ll be back soon.” He headed toward the door. “Okay?”

“A…Alright.” A hint of fear crept at the edge of her voice.

“Relax!” he called back before opening the door and entering the quiet hallway beyond. Figures an interruption had to happen.

He moved down the clean hallway back the way he had originally come. The fountain came into view. With his trench coat loose, he reached to his side for the revolver and pulled it from its holster. Gripping the weapon in his right hand, he moved his thumb over the display on the rear of the weapon. The number thirty revealed itself in red on the small black display. Two smaller numbers appeared, the number eight on the left and number five on the right. He turned the barrel of the revolver, which caused the number five to become the dominant number with the thirty turning smaller.

Thirty pulse rounds, eight piercer rounds, and five slugs. Should be more than enough.

With the revolver gripped securely in his paws he entered the lobby. He spotted the two bats from before looking at him with confused looks before they spotted the weapon in his hands. He reached into a pocket to reveal his badge. “Leave,” he growled.

Both bats quickly scurried away just as the door from the platform outside opened with a hiss on the opposite side of the lobby.

Jax took position behind a low wall, the flowers helping conceal his position as he peered over the edge. Through the flowers, he spotted a bearded lizard at the lead with a gray wolf and a heavy-set lion flanking him. All three wore black body armor. Quite the intimidating trio. They’re surely not here to be friendly.

“It’s reported a tanner might have already gotten here, so be on your guard,” the lizard stated. “You’re with me.” He nodded to the wolf. “Guard the entrance,” he ordered the lion. Raising his two pistols, he set off down the center of the lobby with the wolf following close behind with a shotgun. The lion further back stood ready with a large pulse rifle.

Interesting that they already know I’m here. Jax shifted along the wall to get a better angle as the lizard and wolf approached the center of the expansive room. It is strange that a lizard is leading them. Mutated monstrosities, the scientists were fools to enhance reptilians.

Peering out from his new position, Jax watched the wolf and lizard pause by the fountain. He spotted the device wrapped around the wolf’s vambrace that he was staring down at. The wolf looked towards Jax and pointed the shotgun. Figures they have a heat detector.

He stood up in one smooth motion and pulled the trigger, the revolver’s barrel trained on the lizard.

The lizard, having followed the wolf’s angle, raised his left arm. A semi-transparent shield materialized in the air, originating from the lizard’s vambrace.

The thick slug from the revolver slammed into the shield and burst across it. The shield exploded instantly, and the force sent the lizard into the fountain, several of the flower statues shattering under his weight.

The wolf stumbled from the blast but quickly regained his footing to fire a burst of automatic shotgun rounds.

Already ducking behind cover, Jax moved along the low wall. Flowers and sections of the marble wall shattered beneath the onslaught of thick pellets. He turned the barrel of the revolver so the number thirty became dominant. He stopped at the edge of the wall that ended at the path leading into the residential hall he had come from. He stood and fired a salvo of quick rounds.

The wolf took the first round in his left shoulder causing him to spin about so that the second and third rounds hit his back. The wolf crashed to the floor face first.

The lizard appeared from behind the fountain and returned fire.

Jax knelt back behind the wall and waited. His ears alert as he heard the heavy footsteps of the lion approaching towards the center of the room. Jax raised himself above the wall and aimed for the fountain. He spotted the lion with pulse rifle already aimed. Not fast enough, damn! He jumped across the path towards the other half of the room and began to run along the low wall as heavy pulse fire rained on his trail. The energy melted through the marble walls and caused the plants to burst into flames.

Circling around to another hallway entrance a quarter of the way around the room, Jax slid behind cover and quickly turned the revolver’s barrel. The number eight took the dominant position, and he lined up the barrel toward the fountain. He pulled the trigger, and the bullet went straight through the wall creating a perfect hole. Jax peered through the hole to see a body falling back.

Jax turned the barrel again, the new number for his pulse rounds indicating a remaining twenty-seven. Standing, he saw the lion lying flat on his back with a trail of smoke rising from his chest. He looked towards the platform to get a glimpse of the tails of the wolf and lizard vanishing behind the doors. He ran down the path, his claws clicking across the floor.

His hands stretched out for the doors which he swung open and aimed his pistol for the cargo van that was already moving away. “Damn!” He shouted as he spotted the open side door with a heavy barreled weapon aimed for him. Jumping back, Jax ran for cover as the glass and walls behind became littered with holes. The crack of walls and shattering glass took over all senses.

A moment later, the engines of the cargo van moving around the building stated its intentions to Jax. He stood up and ran through the lobby. Dust and remains of plants fluttering in the air danced around him as he ran. The once prestigious lobby now covered in an assortment of remains from the decorations. I’m going to be too late. The air smelt of burnt ash.

He sprinted through the hallway, revolver in one hand, and his other hand stretching out for the door to Bellu’s home. The sound of the large window panes shattering echoed to him as he tried to turn the handle. The knob did not move under his paw. He took aim and fired, shattering the handle. Kicking the door open he saw the mess of debris ricocheting in the room as the fire of pulse rounds moved towards him. Jax turned and jumped back, landing heavily on the ground as flat as possible. The fire filled the space where he was a moment ago before it finally stopped. Through the hole-littered home, he heard the cargo van taking its leave into the night skyline.

Jax stood up slowly and turned back towards the waiting door which barely hung on its remaining hinge. Entering the home, he was assaulted with more of the burnt ash and dust filling the air. He wrinkled his nose not able to take the smell anymore as his free hand reached for the hidden handkerchief. He walked slowly into the living room where he found Bellu’s body lying across the remains of the couch. Her white gown was stained red. Another dead body on my conscience.

He turned and left, heading back to the lobby. With the revolver holstered he reached for the receiver and opened a channel to Trevalk. “Get over here; I’m going to need pick up. Preferably before security show up and slow us down.”

“I’m already on my way. I have a scanner pursuing the cargo vehicle.”

“Excellent. See you on the platform shortly; I just need to check one last thing.”

“Copy,” Trevalk replied before closing the link.

Jax stepped back into the once quiet lobby now ruined by the noise of traffic beyond. He walked toward the fountain where the lion lay. He saw the hole scarred straight through the lion’s heart. A perfect shot in a night of imperfection. Jax quickly searched along the lion’s body, checking pockets and along the armored vest for any bumps. He found a bulky receiver with a crack in the screen. He placed it on the ground and unlatched a cable from his own receiver. Plugging in the cable, he grinned when data began to transfer. Excellent.

With the transfer complete, he stood up and opened the created folder with a tap of his finger on the small screen. A logo with a red circle with a single fang in the center appeared. He pressed on the logo, and a message appeared saying “Corrupted.” Damn, there was more damage to the receiver then I thought.

His thoughts were disturbed by the approaching engine of a vehicle. Latching the cable back into his receiver, he headed toward the car, the door already opening for him.

***

The car hung low beneath an old brick archway in an abandoned warehouse district. The lights on the outside of the vehicle were kept to a dim glow. Beads of water slid along the black vehicle as a downpour of rain fell across the district. Thick clouds moved slowly across the sky, covering the moon.

Jax sat in the passenger seat with the back inclined as far as possible. His eyes were closed, but his ears were perked up, listening to the hushed tones that were emitting from the display of the vehicle. Trevalk was squeezing the leather of his steering wheel as he stared out at the rain in deep thought.

“Do you two recognize the symbol or not?” Trevalk finally asked, interrupting the whispers on the other end of the line.

Jax peeked one eye open to see a black-furred rabbit come into view. Derrah, quite the smart rabbit and designer of my favorite revolver. He thought while idly patting the revolver at his side.

“Yes, it took us a moment to look it up on the database,” Derrah said, his voice abnormally deep for a rabbit but still far higher pitched than Trevalk’s. He turned to somebody off-screen before looking back. “We found it though. It’s a small criminal gang known as ‘Fang’ that has been giving the local police force issues in the northeast district. They came into existence less than a year ago with a spray-painted fang over the body of a boar. The second atta—”

“I don’t need the details, Derrah!” Trevalk barked. “Tell me what they are doing today. Why did they show up!?”

Derrah wriggled his nose before continuing, “We don’t know exactly why they showed up, but we know from a recent report from the local police that they are getting funded by the Tri-Claw Federation.”

“Makes sense” Jax finally spoke up. “Considering that lizard at the lobby and the advanced weaponry they were using.”

“Indeed, Tanner Denek!” Derrah stated with a bright smile. “Speaking of that lizard, I was able to get a clear view of him with the scanner that Trevalk launched. Our records indicate that his name is Gretfel. A recent visitor to our world having only arrived within the past month. Has a clean track record, but I’m sure with enough digging I’ll find most of the records have been forged, which would explain how he entered the city so freely.”

“Enough about Gretfel. The Fang group doesn’t add up.” Trevalk replied, leaning back in his chair with arms crossed in frustration. “You said they have been active in the northeast district. Before my scanner was shot down, that cargo van was entering the major tunnelway towards the southern region.”

“I think I may have the answer for that,” replied an evened tone voice.

Derrah moved out of the way to give space for a white-furred fox to come into view on the display. The thick tuft of fur on her head was combed perfectly with a single bang covering her left eye. Her sky-blue eyes focused on Jax. “Denek, you lazy wolf, sit up. I’m not going to address you both while you are taking a nap on the job.”

A beautiful and smart vixen, with too much attitude. He returned the chair to its original position and met her eyes. “Happy to see you as well, Venluna.”

She stared at him a moment longer with her cold expression before speaking again. “While you two were busy this evening I’ve been doing my share of research into Cell Organized Herd. Since the reveal of their new candidate, Halph Nelfar, there have been multiple killings of prey animals in the southern region where large suburbs attract the poorest of prey. The ones most likely to end up in the farms. Any untrained eye would assume that Nelfar’s popularity came about due to his ideas, but I believe there is more to it based on the recent killings.”

“And that is?” Trevalk asked.

She turned her icy gaze to him. “I’m getting there.”

Trevalk slumped his shoulders. “Sorry, go on.”

Venluna nodded her head, “The crime group on the northeast who call themselves ‘Fang’ did more than spray paint a fang across or near the dead body. They also typically bit into the victim to end their lives. The recent killings in the southern area have had the same signs minus the paint.” She looked down at her tablet in hand, swiping across the screen. “To add to that I was able to find a line of money being funded into Cell Organized Herd by a local charity named ‘Soul Savers.’ This charity says that it deals with rehabilitating predators who have grown addicted to fresh meat. However, they are not located physically in this city and seem to be a front.” She looked up from the tablet. “I believe the Cell Organized is working with the predators in some fashion.”

“Why would a pro-predator group fund a political party interested in the rights of prey?” Trevalk asked.

She placed the tablet down and shifted on her feet. “I’m not sure, maybe to strike fear in the local prey population.” Venluna focused her gaze on Trevalk. “This is the part where you both need to go find out. I suggest you fly towards the Herd’s local area office where that cargo van was heading.” She turned towards Jax, “Once there, you get the task of going in on foot, Denek. Assuming that van is there or there is a lead to get you to it, I hope you have enough ammo for your revolver to get some answers.”

“I should have enough,” Jax replied. To the point.

“Good.” Her lips creased in the slightest of smiles. “Well, good luck and be sure to call when you learn anything. Otherwise, you’ll make Tom quite sad.” She flicked a switch, and the screen went black.

Trevalk exhaled a deep breath before he began to switch gears on the car. The gentle hum of the engine became louder as the vehicle began to move forward. “We aren’t far from the local office. I’ll drop you off near it, and you’ll have to go on foot, so we don’t alert them you’re coming. Once I do, I’ll turn the lights off and stay close.”

“Alright,” Jax replied. He took hold of the revolver and checked the ammo. From left to right it was seven, twenty-six, and four. It should be enough. Now I just need to find some friends to share them with.

***

Jax watched the car vanish into the night sky above, the lights along its side manually turned off, so its sleek body made it completely invisible. The thick clouds still covered the moon that would be setting within the next few short hours. The distant noise of air traffic had lessened with the time of night as well as the part of town Jax now stood in.

A rancid smell permeated the street. Trash littered the sides with stains splashed up against the cement walls of the different sized buildings squeezed together. Cracks and potholes were scattered across the road itself. A parked car on the right was missing its wheels, the windows already broken.

He tightened his trench coat around his body and began to walk. The light breeze that swept through the streets did little in the way of moving the smells of trash instead it only added to the chill in the air. He squeezed the handkerchief over his nose trying his best to block out the smells, his other hand in the coat’s pocket for warmth.

For a political office, they chose quite the area to set up shop.

The street led him along a way before he turned down a side road. The map of the area already memorized, he had no trouble navigating the dirty streets. The side passage brought him out to another street in a state similar to the last. In the distance, he spotted a burning fire in a barrel with a group of animals huddled around. A few ears and snouts turned in his direction briefly before returning to the warmth of the fire.

He went the other way, heading down an alleyway which brought him to a road that could be considered major for this area. A car swept past him, blowing up a brief gust of wind in its wake. He followed its trailing red tail lights towards a building it passed. Walking towards that distant building he passed other structures that made up the high class of the area. Buildings with multitudes of cracks and barred windows, protected by walls and a gated entrance. No lights were lit from any of the windows he passed, keeping him hidden in the dark night.

The building he moved towards came into better view as he went along the bend in the road. Its walls were higher then the neighboring structures and the plot of land it took up was far wider. He reached its walls and came to the gate to peer around the edge to see the structure beyond. A small driveway flanked by flowers and green grass led up to a large three-story building with brick walls. The road going down into a basement level where he could make out empty parking spaces. There was no trash littering the space, a perfectly clean office building amid the slums of the city.

If Venluna is right about the Herd using predators to strike fear into animals to support them, then this well-kept building only adds to that conclusion. Typical for the rich to grow richer off the poor. His eyes scanned the windows, a smile creasing his lips at the sight of closed blinds illuminated with lights behind them. Seems I may be in luck. Somebody is up at this late hour.

I highly doubt they want any visitors; I’ll just have to make my own way in. He crept away from the gate and moved back towards a neighboring building. With the handkerchief put away, his hands were free. The cracked and crumbling wall gave him easy foot holes to climb over. On the other side, he made his way through the weed-infested yard along the side of the home and toward the back. Once there he climbed over the wall to find himself in a thin alleyway. Rats scurried at his sudden intrusion. The space was just wide enough for a vehicle to fit through. Piles of trash sat nearby, causing his nose to wrinkle. I have to suffer just a little longer… soon I’ll be too busy nearly dying to worry about some putrid smell.

Creeping along the wall, Jax reached the back gate and peered around to see several crates and boxes by the back wall of the building. One of the three garage doors were open with a few fluorescent strips lighting up the path inside.

He moved back behind the wall and pulled out the receiver. He flicked a switch to open a line to Trevalk. “Do you spot any outlying defenses I should be aware of?” he whispered.

“The security has been turned off entirely. I detect multiple heat signatures having passed through the back gate recently.”

Jax’s ears perked at the sound of movement. He peered through the gate again to see a red fox pass by the garage entrance. Heavily armored and carrying a rifle. He moved away again. “Predators again and heavily armored. Might be the same group from before.”

“Maybe… something is definitely not right with all of the security being down.”

“Well, only one way to find out. I’ll update you on how things go.”

“Have fun.”

Jax disconnected the link and placed the receiver back in its pocket. Leaning back on his haunches, he faced the wall and leapt toward the top. His hands gripped the ledge, and he easily climbed the rest of the way. On top of the wall, he looked to the garage entrance and waited for the fox to turn away before he jumped down. He landed softly behind a stack of crates.

Unholstering his revolver, he gripped it in both hands; the red number twenty-six was dominant. Jax moved along the wall, using the crates and vans to hide his approach toward the back of the building. Once there he went along the wall of the building towards a side door entrance. Turning the handle slowly he found himself in the garage with a sleek, black car providing him cover.

Peering from his cover, he saw the fox looking over his gun idly. Jax looked away from the fox to see the garage was mostly empty besides a couple of other cars and the van from the skyscraper sitting beside a pillar. The same group. How fortunate am I! Time to paint the walls with their blood. Footsteps echoed from the stairway as a wolf came down and began to talk to the fox in hushed tones. The wolf lived from before. That armor protected him well.

He raised the revolver in his hands preparing to stand up. He saw the wolf looking down at the detector on his vambrace. He won’t be fast enough this time! Jax stood up and fired twice, both rounds aimed for the closer adversary, the fox.

The fox with its back facing Jax was finished by the swift blow of a bullet through the back of his head. The helmet was unable to stop the force. The second bullet caught the fox in the shoulder to spin the body around and scatter a spray of blood across the dull, gray cement.

Jax ducked instinctively as the wolf returned fire. The shotgun pellets riddled the black car. Glass shattered instantly under the fire, and the back bumper fell to the floor with a clatter.

Hearing footsteps up a set of stairs, Jax stood to see the wolf gone. He ran past the car and dead fox toward the stairway, the revolver leading his charge. He reached the steps and moved up them at a slower pace, his eyes locked to the landing above.

The door at the top was left slightly ajar. He began to reach for it but quickly pulled back as a shatter of pellets laced into the door. The door swung open and hit the wall causing it to ricochet back into another volley of pellets, which sent what remained of the door to clatter across the ground, pieces falling off the steps to the floor below. The echo was deafening in the tight stairway, causing Jax’s ears to tilt down out of instinct from sensory overload.

Jax turned the revolver to the number seven and pointed the barrel toward the wall in the general direction of where the shotgun fire was coming from. He pulled the trigger.

The sound of an animal darting to the side reached his ears. He moved through the doorway into the first-floor lobby of the building. The space was long and led out to the garden outside with its glass doorways. The central desk had an assortment of computers, one of which had a gaping hole through it that followed through into a column further back. Movement out of the corner of his eyes caused Jax to jump for the central desk.

He looked back to see the pillar that had been to his right now covered in holes. Jax fired a round through the desk toward the shotgun.

Following through with his attack, Jax stood up to see the wolf stumbling into the open space of the lobby with blood seeping from the side. He aimed his revolver and fired, the bullet shooting straight through the wolf’s skull.

The wolf’s stumble turned to a slide across the sleek floor, leaving a bloody trail before it finally stopped flat.

Another one down. There’s at least one more upstairs. My lizard friend, Gretfel.

He looked at the indicator on the revolver to see the lights now read four, twenty-four, and four. He turned the barrel so the twenty-four became dominant. Still enough rounds, especially the four slugs for Gretfel. That shield of his won’t stop them.

Jax moved to the back of the lobby where two sets of stairs went up to meet on a landing above. He took the right stairs, coming to the landing without incident, then followed a hallway with doors lining both sides that led into conference rooms or offices. He reached the end of the hall and came into a small space cluttered with a dozen cubicles.

Opposite of him and blocking a doorway stood a leopard. The leopard’s fur was mostly hidden by the armor, spots revealed along its face and arms. The leopard raised a rifle without waiting and opened fire.

He ran to his right, returning a volley of his own fire. Pieces of cubicle walls, paperwork, and other debris following right behind Jax’s path.

The leopard ran opposite of Jax before it was stopped abruptly by a shot from Jax’s revolver. The blast hit the leopard squarely in the chest and sent it crashing against the wall before slumping to the floor.

Jax took a rifle round in the side causing him to collapse against the hard carpet floor.

His ears perked at movement on the other side of the room. He turned the barrel and fired along the ground.

A body collapsed into a cubicle wall.

The rifle sprang back to life as bullets filled the space above Jax’s head. He returned fire with another two rounds, silencing the leopard.

Gripping his side with his left hand, he stood up with the revolver pointed toward the leopard ready. He grinned at the sight of the leopard with two holes through the chest and another in the left leg. Blood began to soak the desk the leopard was lying across.

“One more floor…” he mumbled and turned the revolver’s barrel. The indicator showed one, eighteen, and four.

He holstered the revolver and reached into a pocket for a syringe. Biting the cover off, he stabbed the needle into his side directly above the wound. He grits his teeth and took a deep breath and slowly exhaled as he pushed the contents of the syringe into his body. A numbness soaked through his side.

Another coat ruined by a bullet hole.

Tossing the syringe to the side, he unholstered his revolver and moved toward the door the leopard had been guarding. He entered a stairway and went up the tight space with slow, steady steps.

The entrance to the third floor was eerily quiet and empty. A thin hallway led him past more offices, the windows giving him a display of the larger space the employees on this floor had. He turned a corner and paused at the sight of a table overturned and a rifle aimed for him.

He pulled back behind cover as a burst of fire created a painting of bullet holes across the wall he had been standing in front of a moment before.

“Tanner!”

Jax’s ears perked at the voice. The same voice as that lizard. Looks like I found Gretfel. He took hold of the barrel of the revolver and turned it so the one became dominant. Last piercer round.

“Tanner, don’t you understand it’s too late? The damage has already been done. Turn back!”

“What makes you think it’s too late?” He called back.

“The Nelfar name in politics has ended! The Herd party has been stopped! At this point to continue the killing is unnecessary!”

Jax stepped back and aimed the revolver in the direction of the overturned table down the hall. “It’s a shame you forgot us tanners enjoy the killing!” He pulled the trigger.

His ears perked at the sound of a loud buzz. That shield again, he already had it up. What a waste of the last round. He turned the barrel to the heavy slugs.

“Oh, I did not forget!” Gretfel laughed. “I hope though that as a predator you may have some sense of stopping once you realize we are helping our kind!”

“Doubtful!” Jax spat back and twisted around the corner to fire.

The slug met the shield and broke it in an instant. The adjacent walls collapsed outward causing a large puff of smoke to fill the hall. Before the view was covered Jax got a brief view of Gretfel still standing with a brown fox at his side.

He twisted back behind cover as a return volley of bullets filled the hall. Between the burst, he peered out from the corner to fire another slug. A second shield took the blast and filled the hall with more smoke. A section of the roof collapsed, filling part of the hallway.

“You’re being a fool, tanner!” Gretfel called out.

Jax ignored him and advanced down the tight hall. Coming up behind the debris, he peered over the edge to see the space behind the table turned into splinters, now empty. He climbed over the debris and came into the small lobby. A desk to his right stood beside double doors. Cushioned chairs around a table were off to the side to serve as a waiting area.

He approached the double doors with careful, slow steps, his eyes spotting the nameplate to the side stating the room belonged to the head manager named “Erzai.” His eyes drifted to the indicator to see that he had two slug rounds left.

His ears perked, and he raised the revolver to the double doors and fired.

A gaping hole appeared between the doors before both doors swung outward. A concussive blast sent Jax sprawling across the smooth tile floors.

He looked up to see the fox had been guarding the door with a plasma shield. The revolver rose up out of instinct, and he pulled the trigger at the fox who was starting to get up. With no shield, the slug entered the chest of the fox and exploded. The entire top half of the fox blew outward, spreading guts, brown fur, and bone in every direction.

Without waiting for the debris to settle, Jax was rising up to his feet. The barrel of the revolver moved under his touch, the indicator’s eighteen becoming dominant with the flanking two zeroes. He charged through the mist of crimson blood in the air and fired at Gretfel who stood at the end of the long conference table.

The plasma shield already flickering with static from damage came under the onslaught of bullets. The first three evaporated, but the fourth shot through to enter the lizard’s left side. The fifth through the left arm, holding the shield.

The pistol in Gretfel’s free hand returned fire.

Jax felt the pain smack his right shoulder, but his momentum carried him forward. His feet slammed against the hard carpet, claws digging in as he kept running along the side of the conference. He kept pulling the trigger.

The shield broke apart entirely, blue plasma snaking through the air as it dissipated. A sixth and final shot slammed into the lizard’s chest and sent him into a nearby chair to crash over and land on the ground heavily.

Jax began to slow down before he slammed up against the wall at the end of the large room. He regained his composure and walked slowly in between the head desk and conference table towards Gretfel. The revolver raised in left hand, a claw over the trigger, poised to pull it back.

“A complete fool, Tanner.” Gretfel chuckled. His eyes stared up at the ceiling. “What we did… what we’re trying to do is make… life better for all predators!” He turned his gaze towards Jax.

“I’m not interested,” Jax replied. He pointed the barrel of the revolver to Gretfel’s head.

“If the Herd succeeded… If Nelfar was elected! You’re a predator; you have to understand!” He exclaimed. “Why would you fight us? Wh—”

The trigger pulled back; a bullet was sent through the lizard’s eye and into the brain.

Gretfel became still.

With a deep breath, Jax holstered the revolver and turned towards the desk.

Seated behind the large mahogany desk was a sheep with a bullet hole in the back of the head.

Jax walked around the desk and lifted the sheep back into her cushioned executive seat. The paperwork across the desk, now covered in bloodstains, was filled with an assortment of information. Jax picked up one piece and scanned the words before placing it back down. “It doesn’t matter.” He began to walk away, his hand reaching for the receiver. “Trevalk, any unauthorized vehicles leaving or coming towards the facility?”

“No, movement whatsoever. Though you definitely created quite the storm in there, one of the locals must have called in. You’ll have some local police there soon.” A pause before Trevalk continued, “Did you find anything out?”

“Gretfel’s dead, but he already killed the head manager of the Herd here.”

“What was the manager doing there this late at night?”

“I don’t know. Maybe Venluna was right, and Fang was hired to stir up some fear. Or maybe something else. It doesn’t really matter, get down here. I want to get home already; it’s been a long night.”

“Copy.”

Jax cut the link and lowered the receiver. He looked toward the lizard lying dead. All this mess cause some rabbit got an idea to make some big changes. Or maybe Nelfar was just a puppet for Herd to gain more control. Or it’s possible that Fang was trying to grow its power by creating a safe place to eat. He found himself a seat and leaned back with a heavy sigh. Maybe a combination of all three? He reached into a pocket for the flask and unscrewed the top. The warmth of the hard liquor inside comforted him. It doesn’t matter, they’re all dead and with them all their ideas of any sort of change. Whether the change was for the better or worse.

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