Vulpes: Part 1 of 2 (Leonard #5)

PLOT: In this two part Leonard epic, the black lab detective is stalked by a vicious and methodical fox named Fenton and perhaps falls in love with an arctic fox….

Vulpes: Part 1 of 2 (Leonard #5)

(co-written by Andrew St. George)

 

Chapter 1

John Hulbert rolled down the window a crack to the police cruiser and bobbed his head from the techno music coming from the radio. The husky wore a dark blue, short sleeved police uniform, minus the hat. He was on duty-but there wasn’t much to do but watch for speeders, he really wanted to go back to the office and have lunch, but he knew he had a job to do. This is what he signed up for, and being a cop was not all excitement-in fact most of it was not.

He wished Leonard could be by his side so he could at least talk to someone-or perhaps better yet, his favorite human in the world-Chris. Chris wasn’t cynical and laughed along with Hulbert’s bad puns and jokes. John offered Chris to do go for an off duty ride with him, but the human was too nervous. The husky thrived on socializing, and sitting in a car alone was not helping that, the music did help keep him alert.

The weather is chilly, it would most likely snow that evening. Winter was in the air, John was stopped at a busy street corner. Traffic seemed to hold up the other side of the road from which he was sitting. The blue eyed dog sighs of boredom, until out of the corner of his eye-a red ferrari breaks the speed limit drastically-not slowing down one bit as he passes the cruiser.

His ears perk up as he turns on the police sirens and zooms after the perp-he turns off the radio swiftly, sits up straight as his hearing and sight goes to an all time high.John slams the gas pedal, catching up to the car-the brown lab inside of the sports car only goes faster. Traffic swerves left and right, as John accidentally rams into a mailbox, papers and bills fly all around the cop car-he yelled “SORRY!” out the window as he was speeding a bit to fast himself, but he was right on the bumper of the crazy driver. John called for backup. The red car had no license plate, removed by someone who knew what they were doing. The front end of the police car hits the rear end of the brown lab’s car, he began sweating. This guy was good-the red car swerved left and right, riding over sidewalks, the husky followed right behind him. Suddenly, the chocolate lab pulls out a revolver, leans out the driver’s side window and fires a bullet into John’s windshield. “Hooooly shit!” John muttered to himself.

The inside of the lab’s car spotless and smelt of a freshly bought car. He wore a plainly colored sweatshirt and khakis, the large revolver sat in the passenger side.
He smiled a bit as he saw the damage done to the front window of the cruiser. The husky turned around and sighed of relief as about six other cop cars followed the pursuit. The street was quite large, they were now on a highway. All sirens blaring, the racer only went faster, John sighed of pure annoyance and fear-fear that he would kill some poor pedestrian.

John goes on his P.A. system, his voice bellowed through the streets of the zooming car, all traffic had subsided. “Alright! This is the police…OBVIOUSLY! Pull over your vehicle or we will not be afraid to use force! Repeat, PULL OVER!” The rest of the cops driving had never heard John be so assertive-it was sort of strange, but showed his dedication and heroism when it really was needed. The cop cars speed down a straight stretch of road, on either side are orange cones. Hulbert taps his foot lightly on the break, his eyes narrow and he growls lowly. He then slams the gas pedal, giving his car momentum. Once he is right beside the lab, he turns the wheel to the left-a revolver bullet hits him in the shoulder, the stinging of the bullet is indescribable as he makes his maneuver. The red car is then slammed into the orange cones, forcing the lab to use the emergency break-as the car begins to spin, but it is too late. John slams on the break to his car and nearly spins out of control to get himself out of the way of the wreck that is bound to happen. After a deafening screech and the sound of glass and metal crashing, the red car slams into a guardrail. The entire front of the Ferrari is smashed to bits. The perp opens the driver’s side door, bleeding from one of his floppy ears and holding his revolver and aiming it at Hulbert-just then a German Shepherd hops out of his cop car and  fires the gun out of the shooter’s hand and body slams him to the cement, cuffing him swiftly. All the cop cars slow down, the road still deserted-in the middle of the street, a bleeding John Hulbert and a screaming lab who is being whisked away to prison. John gets on his radio, he is out of breath and his shoulder hurts more and more. “The speeder is now arrested-stolen vehicle is busted beyond repair.” Cones to the left are broken, the guardrail is snapped in two. Clouds begin to cover the sun as white flurries fall. Another officer helps John to the office. The husky is stitched up at a nearby hospital, no permanent damage was done-but it would hurt for a good few weeks.

The officer walks down the halls of the station and sees what Leonard is up to, his arm in a sling and looking quite tired. Meanwhile, Leonard was emailing one of Chris’ teachers-he had had a quiet morning and an even quieter afternoon. The black lab wore a grey dress shirt, loose black tie, black jeans and brown boots and his brown leather jacket slung over his leather chair.The toned lab was actually quite impressed, so much so he gave Hulbert a bit of a smile, he stands up and places his paws on his hips. Of course he had heard of the major highway kerfuffle that happened, and knew that his best friend was at the center of it all. “Well John, remind me never to piss you off on the highway.” he spoke in his usual monotone.  The husky smiled back and approached Leonard’s desk, glancing at the framed photo of Leo and Chris. “I was a bit scared, I’ll admit it. I guess that’s one more reckless driver behind bars. Found out the lab’s name-Sam. He had only done petty crimes-he barely came up on our registrar. Strange that he would do something like this.” Leonard nods, thinking deeply. “Unless someone told him to for money or some other reason….” Just then, from down the hall-the voice of Sam echoed through the department. An officer holding him firmly and walks him to a prison cell. The hallway with the prison cells is a marble floor, with barred windows aligning the walls. Every voice echos-so Sam yelling was quite ear piercing. Everything in the hall is pretty much white. “FUCK YOU John Hulbert! You ruined EVERYTHING! GO TO HELL!” The cop orders him to ‘shut up’, Sam begins flailing a bit-Leonard rushes down the hall to assist. “GET OFF OF ME BLACK LAB!” Leo wastes no time-he grabs the lab by the ear, pinching its velvet, furry skin. His voice, as cold as ice, but soft. He brings his face quite close to Sam’s, to seem imposing. “Sam…shut up or you’ll be in a cell next to my office…and you don’t want that-trust me.” The brown lab head buts Leonard, sending him into a quick dizzy state, his nose bleeds a bit. “GO AWAY DETECTIVE! GO AWAY! GO!” Leo sighs as he grabs a paper towel from his shirt pocket and presses it against his nose. “Put him in the cell next to my office, tell the guards that he can’t have any meals until tomorrow.” The cop nods-being that Leo was indeed above him, he had to listen. Leonard enters his office, the bleeding had stopped already. John looks at him, normally he’d question why a detective was so firm, but that was Leonard for you. Calm, until you mess with him. John knew Leo had a stern and sort of angry streak about him.

 

Chapter 2

 

A heavy snow falls from the grey sky, the road is slippery. A row of unhappy drivers sit as an accident up ahead stalls the day for a lot of furries and humans alike. Stuck in this bad traffic, an orange 20-something year old fox taps his paw against the steering wheel. All the other vehicles, honk in anger-but he sits and waits the event out.

The fox is about 6’2, slender, not very muscular-but not out of shape at all, in fact he’s quite athletic, more muscular in his lower body than upper. He stares out the driver’s side window, looking at the heavy snow piling up. His car, spotless, his windows are not smudged at all, everything is in a certain place-even though he wanted a sleeker car, he was proud of the cleaning up he had done with the current vehicle he occupied. You’d never see him with a beverage or food in his car, as he looked towards some other drivers-he noticed indeed some of them eating at the wheel, and shivered in disgust. Why would you ruin your own vehicle? Why send crumbs flying everywhere? What if you dropped your food and discovered it years later when it became a little science experiment? He took a deep breath and kept focused on the traffic-which at this moment was finally moving. The fox was just entering Boston, he indeed had a goal. He stared at the accident that held them up, a crashed vehicle-no casualties.

Fenton’s cell phone rang, he swiftly picked it up-his tone smooth as honey. The furry on the other end sounded a bit panicked. “Fenton, we have a small issue. That Ferrari you wanted? Sam was arrested by an officer Hulbert. S-so sorry! Car was totaled! Gosh-maybe Boston wasn’t our best bet! Not only that, Sam ended up being a complete dud!” The fox gently shushed him. “It’s fine-I’ll come back to our hide out. Calm down. I’ll be back, sit tight.” “O-okay sir…bye.”

Fenton’s large, bushy, orange and white tipped tail shook in happiness-he’d finally not have to rely on one of his men to sort things out, he could do what he had wanted to for a long time-go on a hunt on his own. His Subaru pulled into the large car lot, he buttoned his black overcoat, wrapped his black scarf around his neck and went to his back seat, in the back seat a large leather case-perhaps as big as a toolbox. He smirks and hums gently as he opens it, revealing an array of about 50 hypodermic needles. Some large, some small, before reaching for them-he goes to his coat pocket and slips on some skin tight black leather gloves. All of the needles, labeled as to what effect they had on the victim. He slowly picks one up, cradling it as he taps the side, getting air bubbles out. With methodical precision he slips it into his jacket pocket-always the left side since he had trained his brain to reach with that hand and could quickly jab someone. He then takes the case with him and hops out of the Subaru. He walks briskly to the car dealership in front of him. He had all the necessary paperwork filled out in about an hour, the only thing left was to test drive a vehicle-it was the only way his plan would work. A white, happy polar bear dressed in a golf shirt and wearing slacks (he did not wear a jacket, being a polar bear-he relished in cold weather of course) was helping Fenton pick a car.

The peppy bear led Fenton outside-he was quite talkative, the fox nodded and said a few things to him to butter him up so the two would trust each other. The lot is filled with all types of cars, sports cars, hummers, trucks, motorcycles-you name it, they had it. Fenton’s attention was brought to an orange ferrari with black tinted windows. The doors and roof, slick and extremely stylish. The bear looked quite psyched as his eyes landed upon the sports’ car. “Ah! Yeah! This car is a beauty, brand new Ferrari F12berlinetta! OR, the F12 Berlinetta as some folks call it. Can go 60 miles per hour in 2.9 seconds and-” Fenton interrupts him with a wide smile. “Let’s take her for a spin then, bud!”The fox knew all about Ferraris’, he did not need a lesson in them.

Fenton hooks his iPhone up to the radio, which is where he got his music when the time felt right. The orange sports car pulls out of the parking lot with the bear in the passenger seat, the car is a two-seater, the interior light grey, the gauges and all the driving information, looked like it was taken right from a race car. The bear begins going over every little detail you’d ever want to know about a new car. The fox smiles a bit as he accelerates down the road and a bit far away from the dealership, the fuzzy polar bear gets a bit nervous-maybe he shouldn’t have driven with this fox and starts having second thoughts, he keeps his kind tone to a maximum. He had a sixth sense for bad furries-and he maybe was in a bit of a pickle now. “Whoa bud, slow down. Why don’t we…uh…turn around and you can buy her?” Fenton glances at him and flicks his directional on and turns off to an unoccupied road, no cars, no buildings-just a snowy paved road surrounded by leafless trees and a bitter, icy cold wind. He had been to Boston before, and had a photographic memory as to where empty and abandoned roads were. “Awe, live a little Fozzie bear!” The bear rubs the back of his neck-he looks around at his surroundings. “Mr. Fenton, I’m frankly a little nervous-we need to turn around, okay bud? Lunch break is soon.” As the bear looks out the window-he felt a stinging in his shoulder. The fox then pulls the passenger seat back. “Shhhhh…..relax and enjoy the ride. I got everything under control.”

After 30 seconds of rubbing where the needle had gone in-the bear’s body begins to tighten, he convulses quickly and loses feeling in his paws and legs. He hoped he’d wake up, he hoped that this all was in his mind and that he was actually sleeping. It was not though…it was a living nightmare. He gasps in terror-which is the only thing he can do before breathing becomes impossible only a few moments after. His throat had closed like he had choked on a bone and couldn’t cough it out, he clutches the sides of the seat-he looks towards the fox in wide eyed terror and begins to sweat profusely. A sharp sting took over his throat, like razer blades were piercing the inside of his trachea. The car continues to drive as Fenton holds the bear’s wrist with one hand and casually drives with the other, feeling his pulse rise dangerously. “Calm down, it’ll be over soon, Fozzie. Just relax and listen to some music…” He flicks the radio on and gentle piano music begins to flow from the brand new speakers. The bear who Fenton called ‘Fozzie’ convulsed a few times more, turning his head left to right, he lost his surroundings-he suffered for about 40 seconds of pain…blood began to pour out of his mouth and onto the passenger side window and a terrible gargle sound followed…then life ceased within Fozzie. Right as Fenton opens the driver’s side door, he feels the cold and harsh snow sting him. He drags the bear to the back of the car and plops his body into the trunk. He slams it and runs back to the car, turns on the heat and hums the classical tune on the radio as he speeds off.

 

Chapter 3

 

The evening had been nice to Leonard and his son, Chris. They were able to go out and explore the city a bit. Going out to eat, watching a singer at a pub, watching the sunset over the Charles river-it all was pleasant. Leonard could not shake the feeling of someone watching over his shoulder-but shrugged it off. Being a detective, he perhaps was a bit neurotic or slightly over protective due to the fact that Chris was there. However, even when Chris was in bed and the two were safe inside of a locked home, Leo thought maybe he shouldn’t have ignored his instincts.

The brand new orange Ferrari pulled up to quite a large warehouse. The fox still dressed in his all black outfit, he gingerly collects his needles and gets out of the car and enters. The warehouse is #13. He has a plan, he sent three pit bulls out of the warehouse to do some work, each tall, well built and not the kind to be messed with-dressed in gangster-type clothing…their mission would be executed that week.

Fenton enters his bedroom, located inside the warehouse. His bed a king size, his room extremely neat-as neat as he kept his vehicles. He strips his clothing off and looks at the walls in his room, adorned with magazines of Leonard Keaton. Leonard interviews, pictures from online, pictures he had taken of the lab-Fenton truly loved this detective, even though he had never met him…as the orange fox lies down, he grabs a photo of Leonard from his bedside table and strokes it-he whispers lovingly. “Oh Leonard….you hunk.”

That very same night, Leonard was on one of his evening walks. He wore a brown pullover sweatshirt, baggy blue jeans and white sneakers. It had been a while since he had taken one, he did not however smoke as he did a while ago. In fact, he had quit smoking-well, was close to it. Instead of doing the nasty habit, he chewed mint bubble gum. He had quit for a few months now, and felt better that he did. A gentle snow began to fall, the evening was a bit chilly, but really not awful.

To one side of the lab, a chain link fence, to the other side, various shops, stores, bars and a movie theater. Bright streetlights illuminated the cracked sidewalk the black lab walked on. A few cars zipped by him as he crossed to the other side to do some window shopping-without his car he wouldn’t pick up anything. He walked past the movie theater and looked into some of the small stores. This was time for walking and perhaps even self reflection if he had that sort of mental energy this late at night.

His ears perked as he heard a noise come from the bar across the way and the sound of walking, she mumbled nervously to herself. Leo spun around to see who it was, she is a pretty arctic fox, about mid 30’s-a few feet away from Leonard. She wore high heel boots, black jeans, a black tank top. The fox is about 6 feet, her body quite slender, her structure average-not muscular or overweight. Her ears pointed, the defining feature that stood out was her black nose in among all the almost bright, white fur. She obviously kept good care of her looks. She wore no makeup, she kept everything on her face natural. She continued to mumble to herself, she took a deep breath as she took one last glance at the bar-had something happened? Did someone in the bar say something? Was she hurt? To Leonard, she didn’t seem hurt to be honest-just extremely irritated as he made her way to the edge of the sidewalk. Leo walked towards her, not doing so on purpose, but he was heading home.

He had been out for about an hour and the snowfall was becoming a bit heavy, as the young lady did not stop once she crossed the sidewalk, to see a speeding vehicle heading right for her. Leonard saw the entire event almost in slow motion. The lab turned to the left to see a pair of headlights dangerously close by-not just a car, an eighteen wheeler truck to be exact, had she been a moment later or earlier stepping out of the bar, it wouldn’t had happened-but as it was, everything was dangerously aligned. Her bitter attitude and lack of paying attention, the truck driver probably had a long night as well-but as Leo took his walks, his senses were at an all time high. The city could be dangerous, he was never off duty as a protector of innocents one could say.

As the toned lab cocked his head at the sight of the blinding headlights and heard her heel click against the highway-he ran with all of his might, making sure to stay on the sidewalk and pulled her to his chest. The truck swerved, missing the fox by only a couple of inches and honked loudly and angrily as it sped off into the night. The fox yelped a bit, and once she realized she had ended up clutching the lab. She pushed herself off of him in a sort of panic-her heart had leaps a mile at the sound of the blaring truck horn and the sudden tug from a stranger. It was funny, right as Leo clutched her to pull her away from what would have been sudden death-she got a good look at him-she thought he was more handsome than the average canine. Not that dogs were an ugly species of course, but he didn’t have the ‘puppy’ look that some labs had, he had a more stern and much less playful look. Big difference between a ‘cute dog’ and a ‘handsome dog.’ He looked to be about 40, his eyes brown, his fur well combed and the smell of shampoo radiated from him, he wasn’t the kind of dog you’d run up and hug. He looked more like a loyal companion, and judging from the size of his toned arms, a good protector.
Her heart pounded, no doubt this event took a bit out of her.

With his voice full of concern, but a bit of nervousness he speaks.“What were you doing?!” The fox glared at the black lab, still looking at the his handsome physique. She sounded younger than him, maybe mid 30’s. Leo would admit she’s cute. “My gosh-truly was not paying attention! Glad someone was!” As he looked at her speaking-she suddenly got an overwhelming urge to speak to the lab. She spoke in a nervous stutter, it sounded like she had the weight of the world on her shoulders and she desperately needed to tell someone about it. Why was she trusting this guy? Because he just saved her? Maybe he had his own things to do? He seemed to stand and listen, he didn’t stop to continue walking. It was like he knew she wanted to get things off of her chest. “I mean, I’m in sort of a pissed off mood-my boss fired from the bar I worked at. I barely have enough income to support myself in my crappy apartment. So many thoughts are swirling through my head…”Leonard sighed a bit and gestured her to walk with him.

Back down the cracked sidewalk, the snow still fell a bit. Her walk confident, she didn’t seem cold. She was an arctic fox after all, probably the cold did not bother her. She spoke about her one floor apartment, how lonely she felt. Her job at the bar didn’t offer much but some money-she was not fulfilled with her life at all. Leo listened to every detail, and in these details he found a lot of his old self. Of course, he was one to live alone and go to a bar-but instead of serving people, fists flew in his face as he fought for human rights at rowdy tables full of drunk uneducated furries. Before the night was over, Leo gave her his card, she with his cellphone number-her name is Ashley. Would she call? He secretly hoped so….

 

A FEW DAYS LATER

 

Leonard was tossed a bullet proof vest by his Doberman boss right as he walked to his office-which he promptly put over his white dress shirt and black tie. A bomb threat had been detected at the local high school where Chris attended. When Chris was in trouble, it was probably the only circumstance where the lab felt true terror, he rushed outside of his office, he made sure his handgun was to his side, he was still adjusting the vest as he opened the front door. Outside of the office parking lot, a giant black van with its backdoor open wide sat. A few canines and a few panthers sit in rows, quietly discussing the course of action that would be taken by the squad-now complete with Leonard. The inside of the van was filled with computer monitors, wires and tool boxes. The van sped out onto the highway. The school luckily was not far away. A sort of stressful blanket was over everyone, you could feel it as soon as you entered, was this a terrorist? Was this a hoax? Thoughts swirled in everyone’s brains-would students die today? Who would see and hug their parents again?

The school parking lot, filled with parked cars of students and teachers. All staff and students stood where they were directed, on the other side of the street, away from the red brick building known as Anthro High. Students and teachers stood quietly as the FBI van sped into the school parking lot enterance, a red fire engine run by dalmatians was close behind, then an ambulance. All vehicles parked quite far away from the building,

Cats and canines poured out of the van, each of them wearing bulletproof vests, some wearing FBI jackets, some in sunglasses, some scared (but hiding it well), others stern, but not too nervous. A snow leopard dressed in black took the lead, he had a detector in his paw. Leonard insisted on going with him, which was ill advised-but he was a great fighter and good in stressful situations. The leopard introduced himself as Thomas. Thomas is quite tall, 6 feet to be exact. He wore all black, his fur white with pretty black specs strewn throughout is look. He seemed confident and quiet as he and Leonard entered the school building. The other FBI agents stood outside, giving orders to teachers and students and how to act if scenarios were to happen.

The empty school building echoed, Leonard’s brown dress shoes tapped against the marble floor. Thomas held the bomb detector out, which sort of looked like a remote control with flashing lights and was making a high pitched beeping sound, which accelerated as they got closer to the bomb. Leo placed his paw on his handgun, who knew if some madman was here, maybe getting ready to self destruct himself in a psychotic frenzy?

Lockers of all colors aligned the walls, the large cat began to sweat a bit. His heart rate went up, and Leonard felt his stress right away-as Leonard told a lot of humans ‘dogs can detect how you feel in an instant.’ All the lights in school had been shut off-presumably by the furry or human who placed the bomb, but since it was daylight, flashlights were not on. The beeping from the remote hit a crescendo as they passed the Staff / Faculty bathroom. Leonard went a head of Thomas, his handgun raises and his senses heightening more and more as he pushed the door open. The restroom was quite big, separated by stalls-the bomb nowhere in sight. Thomas swallowed hard as he opened the first stall-the bomb was definitely in there. He put the remote down and slowly grabbed a pair of thick gloves, the leopard knew where the bomb was instinctively. Even now Leonard was beginning to feel nervous, would this be his last case? Would he go up in a big fiery explosion in front of his son? He slowly lifted the back of the toilet up, revealing a black box with flashing lights and a control panel-the box certainly looked suspicious. From the middle of the box, a silver antenna stood erect.

From his back pocket, Thomas grabbed a pair of small wire clippers-the black lab backed up as he slowly bent down to snap it in half. Every sound seemed incredibly loud-Leonard stood motionless, nerves were poking through-but Leonard did not let them take over. Leo even jumped a bit when the ‘click’ of the wire cutter sliced part of the bomb’s makings. The antenna, now gone…the box clicks, the lights stop flashing…nothing. Leo’s partner sighs in relief, but was also a bit annoyed. “Bomb was a dud. Filled with the real makings of one…but not made to detonate. Someone pulled a stupid prank.” Leonard looked down at the toilet, and behind the seat…an envelope marked DEAR LEONARD sat on the tiled floor.

The day had been one of the most stressful days of Leonard’s life, luckily no one was hurt. Chris was nervous-but surprisingly did not speak of the event much once and his father were home. Chris did not easily sleep though, he was concerned that something else might happen and certainly did not like that a weird letter was addressed to his father.  The envelope that was found, was sent to the FBI for paw print testing-which as Leo suspected, came up negative. The black lab had kept the letter (not telling anyone he did so.) He sat in the middle of the night at the kitchen table, wearing a white t-shirt and green slacks. The only light on in the house is the small chandelier. The dining room table had been cleared off, Chris sat on the couch watching Youtube videos. Leonard re-read the letter-it was his second time reading it, he had read it and analyzed it at the FBI, but the handwriting came up with no match. He sighs deeply and reads it to himself…

 

Dear Detective Keaton,

I was curious on how I’d get your attention, and once I found out how to get to your son’s school-it really changed everything. You were actually in-directly involved in an operation, that red ferrari you stopped-was going to be mine, until your bastard of a husky friend stopped him. It’s okay-I have a new one now. See you soon.

Your friend,

‘The Fox’ 🙂

Had he known a fox in the past? Sure, he had come across some-but really Ashley was the only fox he had hung out with recently. Silly thought crossed his mind-could it BE her? Was it that silly? Was this Leo’s first prejudice thought? Leonard shrugged a bit, stood up and looked out the front door to his house. The black lab had called John Hulbert over to watch the house-just to be safe. The lab saw nothing but ‘threat’ in the note. Chris spoke. “Dad? Why is John outside?” Leonard sat next to his son on the couch, he had put away his ipad. His son felt comforted as heard his father’s British accent. “To keep us safe, nothing will happen-don’t worry. It’s just a precaution.”

Suddenly, the dog’s cell phone goes off, Ashley was calling him, Leo stood up swiftly. Chris listened in-his father knew his son listened to his phone conversations. Well, only if he was in the same room-of course Chris knew better than to eavesdrop. “Thank you, we’re fine. Well-I was a bit scared and Chris is asking questions. I know you want to meet him…tonight? Ashley-that is…kind of you. Yes, I’m sure he’d love it……” Chris smiled a tad bit-Leo told his son Ashley’s story in a matter of a few moments.

The arctic fox and Chris hit off amazingly well, she seemed like such a well mannered and spunky fox. She wore a red t-shirt, faded blue jeans and sneakers. Chris told her all about his life with Leonard, Ashley told him about the job she used to work-and that she also loved helping humans. She volunteered at a human shelter for a few years-and her and Leo were in the talks of maybe letting her house sit with Chris while he went out.

The night grew on as the two laughed and spoke happily. Ashley did also get a look at Leonard’s amazing arms and listening to his gruff voice made her quite happy. She began to open up a bit.

Once Chris was sleeping on the recliner, she would give little glances at the lab. Watching him move, thinking that he’s the most unique furry she’d ever met. Not bouncy, not huggable, not overly hyper at all-he was one of a kind. She couldn’t forgo these thoughts, she wanted to pat and scratch behind his ears to see him smile. The 30 year old was fascinated by Leonard Keaton. The lab sat next to her on the couch, feeling her feelings right off the bat. Was he okay with it? He hadn’t had a girlfriend in forever…and he knew she felt all giddy. Truth be told, he had no idea what she saw in him. This gruff and boring furry-she could do so much better. He thought she really needed a typical furry, a kangaroo maybe or a rabbit or a ‘normal’ Labrador, one who talked fast and would play wrestle and be happy in every second of everyday.

Maybe that wasn’t true though. She had been around furries at the bar-and presumably they were huggable and talkative, maybe she was bored of that? The important question to him as far as Ashley went though-did he feel the same way? Did he ‘like her’ to the point of her being girlfriend status? He wouldn’t lie to himself-she WAS pretty and her personality very open. Rarely did Leonard meet someone who he felt could actually sit and listen,  John Hulbert being the exception. He had his amazing son, but maybe he was ready for more? The teen often asked for a mother, so maybe Leonard could offer him a ‘mother-like figure.’ Someone with the traits of a hugging, caring and honest mom-but not actually being married. Leonard loved how she didn’t feel the need to hug him and talk loudly.  He felt she was proper around him and just the right amount of friendly and helpful. It seemed in the moments of talking to Chris, she kept things more ‘bubbly’ and light-which is what Chris liked the most.

Leonard and Ashley didn’t really exchange their feelings by talking about them directly, it was by talking about the past and ideas of the future where the two seemed to shine the most. The unexpected happened to Leonard that night-Ashley planted a gentle, but sort of long kiss on his lips. Normally, Leonard would have stormed out and gone for an evening walk at the sign of a female showing this sort of interest…but instead of being repulsed and agitated-he felt it was meant to be.

 

 

Chapter 4

 

John Hulbert was startled by a sound outside of running shoes and scent of a fox, he had been listening to a talk radio show. The black and white husky quickly got on his phone to call Leonard. The now sleepy toned lab answered his phone. “Leonard…heard a noise! Smell a fox around here….be on guard!” The cop slowly exits his vehicle, the night sky calm. The houses in the neighborhood all have their lights off except Leonard’s. John upholsters his gun-the scent of the fox seems to be coming from the left. He slowly walks down the sidewalk, Leonard’s house only a few feet from him now.

This friendly neighborhood had quite an eerie side to it now. John then called his radio, which sat on one shoulder. “This is John Hulbert requesting back up-perhaps armed suspect is in the area.” Leonard quickly wakes up the arctic fox and Chris. “Guys, wake up, we’re in trouble.” The teenager felt his heart skip a beat, Ashley swiftly stood-foxes were extremely fast, her bushy tail sways as she walks around, collecting her leather jacket. Her tone frantic, but soft so she doesn’t freak Chris out too much, even though he already was scared. “What is it?” Leonard sighs and grabs his gun and throws on a bulletproof vest. “Will explain later-get Chris out of the house, through the back door and hide in the woods. I promise I’ll be back, go!” The teen held Ashley’s hand tightly.“D-dad? Please come with us…”a giant lump formed in his throat. Leonard spoke firmly, but calmly. “Christopher, I can’t. Stay with Ashley.” Poor Chris had not the faintest idea what was going on-but always trusted his dad.

A gunshot went off, John Hulbert was ducked behind his vehicle, praying that backup would come soon. Fenton stood on the other side of the cop car on the sidewalk, a shotgun in hand. He wore all black-including his black trenchcoat and scarf. A cigarette hung out of his mouth like some 1950’s gangster. His voice deep and cold, the cigarette slung out one side of his mouth as he spoke. He fires off another round of scattering bullets, John’s car was getting filled of holes. He walks closer to the vehicle. “John, please get out of my way. Leonard is my idol-my favorite detective. I’ve always wanted to meet him. Nothing to do with you, okay?” John stands up from behind his car and fires two bullets into the fox as he walks forward, he wears a bulletproof vest under the trench coat-so he merely stumbles a bit…but continues his slow and horror movie like walk.

The husky ducks down and cusses to himself. Suddenly, the orange fox is brutally tackled from behind, Leonard pins the fox down to the cold cement and with lightening speed picks up Fenton’s shotgun and aims it to his head. The action unfolding in the middle of the neighborhood causes stress-this little area was being shaken. Snow begins to fall, Leo shivers as he does not have his jacket on. The fox chuckles a bit as blood oozes from his nose. “Detective, you tackle hard! Nice to meet you, I’m Fenton!” Leo grabs a pair of handcuffs from his back pocket and hooks them onto his wrists-then picks the shotgun up again, pressing it against the back of Fenton’s head.

John Hulbert is filled with relief as sirens approach-Chris and Ashley are found by a doberman cop and whisked into a cop car. John Hulbert sits with the two, comforting Chris and Ashley. The fox begins silently counting down to himself…Leo leans in to hear what he’s saying. “5….4….3….2….1”

The black lab is knocked backwards-not by the shoving of a crazy fox, but by the fire from an deafening explosion, filled with large pieces of wood and glass. Leonard’s home-was up in flames. The lab shook his head-he just could not believe it. His heart sank to the bottom of his stomach. He stared into the bright, yellow and orange fire-the smell of burning wood fills the neighborhood. Sadly, two cops who were too close to the house-had died.

Christopher stares out the window of the cop car, pale and shaking. The explosion Leonard had anticipated had indeed happened, but not when and where he thought it would at the school. HOW did the fox rig an explosion? When did he sneak into the house to set it all up? Ashley hugged Chris tightly, but was in as much shock as the human was. No cop who stood there could truly wrap their brains around this, a fellow officer’s home-destroyed in the matter of seconds. Had all this not happened in the moments it did, Chris, Leonard and Ashley would surely be dead-engulfed in flames and blood. Even cops who didn’t really like humans, felt a burden as they knew the teen had seen his home explode. Leonard felt searing anger-the black lab looks down at the fox, who is laughing maniacally-but surprisingly not making a run for it.

Leonard cocks the shotgun, hearing this sound-John Hulbert rushes over to the two, the fox face down in the sidewalk, Leonard kneeling on top of him about to put a shotgun shell into his brain. The husky yanks the black lab off of the fox, the two now stand-face to face. “LEONARD NO!” It was one of the only times (if not the first time) Leonard heard John yell. The fox remains on the cement, cop cars surround the husky and black lab. Leonard slowly looks at the shotgun,  breathes in deeply and unloads it safely and hands it to the cop. “Good Leo….you did the right thing.”

The flames from the explosion illuminated the night, the cop cars now gone and Fenton now in prison-the fire department got there, but could save nothing of the house. Leonard’s home was nothing more than shards. The toned black lab, covered in dirt and looking exhausted-stood in the middle of the road, watching the fire department putting out the fire with large hoses-Leo spoke not a word at a dalmatian in a yellow firefighter’s outfit tried to get a story. Leonard was brought down to the police station….

 

AN HOUR LATER    

 

Chris, Ashley and Leonard sat in an empty waiting room in the police station-waiting for an officer to approach and ask questions. Ashley was currently not in the area, but had run to the bathroom-leaving Leonard and Chris sitting alone. The walls white, rows of seats covered the room, with books and children’s games strewn across the floor from a few hours before. Leo sat, tense, his hands folded, looking at his feet. Chris thought it best not to speak, but was boiling with questions and fear. A large desk sat in front of them where a receptionist normally would be, Leo had been here every morning. This is how he went to his office, this was the entrance to the police station. Chris looked to his father-both tense and filled with depression.Suddenly- something happened. Leonard cried ever so slightly.

The protector that Chris looked up to-Chris’ father and mentor…the dog who saved his life and seemed well-larger than life, was having a moment of perhaps sad reflection, or weakness. Leo saw it as a moment of weakness. The human slowly stood up and sat on his dad’s lap, Chris’ tone filled with concern that his father had never heard before. “D-dad…it’s okay…” He hugs his dad tightly, Leo cries a little bit harder-but with barely a sound….

END OF PART 1

 

Fenton The Fox Artwork by: Abrianna Atchison

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