Moon Madness - 25, Copyrightę 2001-2006 By
Larry K. Hockman, "All RIGHTS RESERVED"
waited patiently for Vince at the airport gate while Andy and Earl performed their usual pre-flight check of the Horizon. Moon sat on his haunches between her and Chief Dalhart, firmly attached to each via a double chain harness. Moon knew the restraints were for his own protection and only temporary at best. His acute senses told him Vince had exited the terminal in their direction in spite of the whine of the Horizon's turbines, and he merely waited for him to get there without so much as a turn of his head.
As Stacey had accurately predicted, Moon had shown up at the old cabin site within Stacey's relative timeframe. The chief; however, never knew he was there until Moon volunteered a low-pitched growl from behind him to make his presence known. The chief jumped and felt rather stupid as he stammered out a condensed explanation of his intentions on one knee to the cat, even though Moon listened astutely until he was through. Chief Dalhart was amazed when Moon politely stepped up on his knee to nuzzle his cheek in friendship. He allowed the man to scratch his ears a moment before sniffing the camera and trotting off in the direction of Stacey's bra, waving gently in the night breeze from one of the few sassafras trees that wasn't stripped from the ground by the explosion. The chief had started filming as soon as Moon had trotted off, hoping desperately that the sensitive camera would record his actions. His efforts were not in vain.
The camera performed its intended task flawlessly as Moon stopped at the tree for a tentative sniff and continued on to the 55 gallon drum Vince had utilized as his outdoor trash and burn can. Moon attempted several futile tries to wedge himself into the flattened can. It was obvious to the chief that whatever Moon was looking for was in that can. Before he could move in closer to offer his assistance, Moon had clawed most of the paint from the widest gap and had resorted to groping inside blindly with one front paw, then smelling of the gap and groping again! Moon seemed totally frustrated when the chief made his way to the can, still filming while trying to keep from tripping in the dark. Moon had sniffed one last time in his dismay and seemed to attack the can viciously in a 10 second rage before breaking off the mock attack to stare wistfully up at the chief to plead for help.
Chief Dalhart spent several minutes trying to pry open the can only to be thwarted by the crushed steel as well. He finally told Moon to follow him to the squad car while he dragged the entire can behind him. Moon seemed to understand that the chief was only trying to help and followed obediently. The chief loaded the can into the back seat of the car and went back to get Stacey's camera and her bra. Moon had waited patiently in the front seat of his car. During the trip back to Chief Dalhart's house, he told Moon the details of Stacey's plan to help clear himself with the assurance that Vince and Anna were on their way back to see that it was carried out. Moon had already sensed that he was in no danger as long as he trusted the chief.
Chief Dalhart had called Dr. Allman as a credible witness to observe the opening of the can. Stacey's camera, minus the starlight scope, had been set up to film the sequence of events as well. With the aid of some lengths of stout pipe and a pry bar, the two men managed to open the stubborn mouth of the crushed can enough to allow them to dump out its contents.
Moon sniffed with disdain at the assortment of paper trash and soda cans to single out a slightly flattened, innocent-looking pop can. A subsequent sniff, after Moon had raked it out, caused him to flatten his ears and emit a defiant hiss followed by a low, snarling growl! Moon had then backed off to allow Chief Dalhart to slide it into a plastic bag so he could take it to the crime lab for fingerprint dusting. Several hours of intense scrutiny had netted only two positively identifiable fingerprints. Both belonged to the same person, Dr. Anna Marie Fontain!
Frustrated and bewildered, Chief Dalhart sealed the can in the same bag and locked it in the evidence vault. He and Dr. Allman surmised that nothing else could be done until Anna and Vince showed up to help unravel the mystery.
Moon went with the chief to his house, while the doctor drove himself home. The chief fed and watered Moon, who promptly curled up at the foot of his bed to clean himself and rest. It had been a long night for both of them. The chief decided he, too, deserved a nap, and locked the bedroom door before crawling into bed. They slept soundly until the phone rang late in the afternoon. The voice on the line informed him that the Horizon would be landing within the next half hour. Elated, the chief slipped back into his uniform, explaining to Moon that he would be safer at his house. On his way out he closed the curtain, told Moon he would be back shortly with Vince and Anna, and scratched his ears a minute to reassure him. Moon offered no protest when he left, locking the door securely behind him.
An hour later, the lock turned a second time. Moon, Vince, Anna, and Chief Dalhart shared a brief, but joyous, emotional reunion in the privacy of the chief's home, after which, the chief explained the previous events and their ultimate end in failure. Undaunted, Anna suggested that they return to the lab and examine the can again.
Anna had recognized the suspect can as soon as the chief removed it from the vault because it was a particular brand which neither she nor Vince cared for. She knew it to be the can she had picked up in disgust as littering the new snow when she and Moon had gone out to cut their Christmas tree. Moon had acted strangely that day in regard to both the can and the strange footprints leading away from the cabin. At that point,
she remembered the discarded cigarette package she had carefully folded up and stuffed inside. Moon seemed to read her very thoughts and acknowledged her request to cut open the can with a meow. Vince performed the operation with his trusty pocket knife. As Anna and Moon already knew, the folded package was inside.
Vince let it fall onto the table without touching it. To avoid an inadvertent mistake and destroying the fragile evidence, the chief thought it would be wise to call in a fingerprint expert from the force whom he trusted explicitly. The man's dexterity within his field netted them a perfect set of prints from the inside folds of the cellophane, along with a slightly smudged set of Anna's from the outside!
Anna was betting that the prints matched those of the young man Moon had killed in Florida! She was even more sure of her intuition when the police computer failed to show a match with anything on file. Only the FBI would be able to confirm that the prints matched the victim's since they had previously stated that even they were unable to identify the man from non-existent fingerprint records in their files. A match would mean that the victim had been near the cabin a short time before the explosion and then mysteriously appeared in Florida as well. The same would have to be true of the bomber.
Anna felt sure she had made the connection Moon had intended. Not meaning to put a damper on her elation, the chief regrettably informed her that even with a print match, any judge would classify the evidence as purely circumstantial, which in effect, proved nothing whatsoever. What they really needed was some sort of tangible proof that the man was in some way connected to the actual bombs, the death of the kittens and the note, or to Vince's blown up car. To make matters worse, the FBI also had exclusive access to any and all of those pieces of evidence, too. His final statement had some note of optimism when he declared that plenty of evidence was out there somewhere. They just needed a clue as to where to start looking.
Anna sat down to ponder the situation. She knew through Moon that the prints matched. Moon had recognized the man's scent. Anna also felt that Stacey's feeling had been right in the fact that Moon knew the scent even before Vince had found him as a kitten. Moon jumped up on her lap, disturbing her intense train of thought. She immediately noticed that he was not purring, which was not normal behavior for him in that position. Instead, he merely gazed up at her with a somewhat haunting look in his eyes that only she noticed. Her instincts suggested that he wished to relate something to her in private.
Anna followed the feeling by excusing herself to go to the bathroom. She wasn't the least bit surprised when Moon casually followed her out of the lab and down the hall.
The two men were busy catching up on old news and Vince and Anna's safari trip when Anna and Moon returned. Anna politely interrupted the conversation by asking the chief if he would be interested in an all-expense-paid vacation to Florida to collect the evidence they needed in order to clear Moon. For Moon's own protection, they would need some officer of the law with them, even if he was out of his jurisdiction. The chief agreed to help in any way he could and did not question Anna's confidence that they could find what they needed. They procured the smallest police dog harness the chief could find in the force's K-9 department and modified it slightly to fit Moon.
Inside of an hour, the group was on its way to the local airport. Andy and Earl would get there ahead of them to start preparations for the flight back, as per Anna's orders.
Anna informed everyone of the plan to take Moon to the institute so he could lead them to more evidence in his behalf. Their timely arrival shortly after midnight would shield them from the scrutiny of the FBI and their interference before they could find what they needed. Anna had the power to easily override the building security without question, so it should pose them no problem. The biggest risk would occur between their landing and the trip from the airfield to the institute.
Anna still pondered the final question in the balmy, night air. Rex and the chopper would attract far too much attention. She rightly figured the FBI was probably watching him as closely as they were Stacey. She decided their best bet would be to land the Horizon at the commercial airport 50 miles to the south of the institute, let Chief Dalhart rent a car in his name, and simply drive back north. She felt reasonably sure that their private airstrip would be under government surveillance of some form.
Satisfied with her plan, Anna's mind wandered to thoughts of how Stacey and Rex had fared at the hearing. Vince unknowingly had the answer tucked under his arm in the form of the local afternoon newspaper, his hands juggling three coffees which he offered to Anna and the chief. They only managed a sip or two of the hot liquid before Earl waved for them to board. A minute later, the Horizon streaked skyward off the southern runway, arcing gracefully to the east as it climbed effortlessly to cruising altitude and leveled off.
Chief Dalhart stayed glued to the window looking down at the soft glow of lights produced by what he considered as "his" fair city. He commented to Vince that he had never
seen it at night from 15,000 feet up. A scant minute passed before the glow dwindled to a mere speck on the black horizon.
Vince settled into the lounge seat beside Anna to read the news of his hometown. He sat up abruptly when he recognized Stacey's picture on the front page. The transcript of her entire statement at the hearing was printed below the headline caption, "Catwoman Turns The Tables On The Opposition!"
Anna asked Vince to read the article aloud so everyone could hear. He moved forward to the cockpit door so Andy and Earl could hear better before starting. He read a brief statement issued by the editor informing the general public that the paper itself was not taking sides with either party by printing Miss Holden's statement. Vince paused a moment and then read the quote, "I wish to first, firmly establish the quite obvious fact that this animal is not the cat associated with the recent alleged murder of the as yet unidentified victim. I base my assessment first on gender. This animal is a female! Moon is a male. Her size suggests that she is quite probably a pregnant female as well! Although she is badly malnourished, she is definitely a purebred Canadian lynx, most likely illegally smuggled into this country in a fraudulent attempt to collect the advertised reward money! Moon is a first-generation lynx-manx hybrid with obvious genetic differences to the trained eye. In addition, this animal suffers from a fractured left rear leg which I strongly suspect was caused by the unmerciful jaws of a steel trap! Also, as any qualified veterinarian can verify, she has obvious powder burns on her face from being shot at point-blank range in an effort to simulate the same wound that Moon received from the guard's only wounding shot. I must also point out the strange fact that this intentionally inflicted wound is unfortunately on the wrong side of the animal's head!
To sum it all up, this poor, abused animal has been trapped, smuggled into this country, half starved, and shot in a futile effort to extort money from the good-intentioned, but unfortunately misguided, individuals offering the reward which produced this blatant carnage of innocent animals.
I am personally prepared to file charges against this person and any others involved in this effort if the federal and state game authorities decline to do so! These animals have rights that we, as the self-appointed stewards of this Earth should not allow to be violated for the love of money. This senseless killing of our wildlife must stop here!
To help steer the public in a positive direction, I'm willing to match the previous reward in the amount of $10,000 to anyone who can find the evidence that will link the deceased young man to the two bombings and thereby prove that Moon acted in self defense or in defense of myself or others like any guard animal would have. Somewhere out there is a red '69 model Chevy SS Camaro that was photographed near the second bombing. I firmly believe the evidence Moon needs to clear his name will be found in it or in the area where it is located. Thank you for any help you can offer in the defense of an extraordinary animal who has already saved many human lives, . . mine included." Stacey's personal statement ended at that point. A short follow-up by a staff writer revealed that the man was indeed taken into custody by federal fish and game officials with charges pending.
At Stacey's request, the injured cat was released to the institute to nurse it back to health so it could be studied and eventually be returned to its native habitat in the wilds of Canada. It would also be harmlessly monitored by a radio transmitter to further the study of its normal habits. Because of the bad publicity generated by Stacey's timely poignant statement, the original reward offer was promptly rescinded publicly the same afternoon following the hearing.
Vince handed the paper to Anna and joked, "She cooks, too!" Anna added with a wry laugh, "Yep, some poor soul's goose this time!"
A meow from Moon prompted Vince to remove the restrictive harness. Moon curled up in Anna's lap for the remainder of the flight, ever attentive to the ongoing discussion of his plight.
The Horizon encountered no problems landing at the commercial field. Anna altered her original plan slightly by sending Andy and Earl on to the institute's normal airstrip as a decoy to possibly buy them more time. She instructed the pilots to contact Stacey and Rex in person to fill them in on the latest developments of their plan. They were back in the sky and long gone before Chief Dalhart had secured the rental car.
After what seemed an eternity, the party finally arrived at the back entrance to the institute in the dead of night. All seemed placid and quiet on the home front. Anna sensed Moon's anxiety of his return to the scene and wondered where he would lead them once inside the complex. They would know soon. There was a loud click when Anna's master
security code activated the electronic lock against its previous programming. She asked the chief to start filming as soon as Moon went through the door. When he was ready, she pushed the door open and stepped aside.
Anna sensed Moon's mixed anxiety to focus on a single direction. He padded along steadfastly in the direction of the student locker room, pausing ever so often to make sure his friends were following.
Along the way, Anna explained that the locker room was actually a long hallway connecting the student lounge with an auditorium in which lectures and seminars were held. A long row of lockers lined each side of the passage. Only resident students were allowed to use the lockers nearest the lounge. Each was securely padlocked. Temporary students had access to all others past the halfway point to the auditorium. The hundred or so in between the two sections were rarely used at all.
Moon reached the hall and gazed intently at Anna and stopped abruptly. He turned as if he wanted to be sure she felt as he did. Anna caught her breath at the flood of turbulent feelings he exuded. Her heart raced in anticipation of what Moon was about to show them. She turned to Vince and the chief with tears in her eyes, reflecting the pain and hate in Moon's feline emotions. She stammered, "The evidence is here. Whatever happened, started here. The closest security camera is at the student lounge."
Moon trotted to the mid section of lockers and stopped altogether as if he suddenly remembered something he did not want to. He tested the air nervously before cautiously moving forward to sniff along the small gaps beneath each locker.
Without warning, Moon suddenly hissed loudly, laid his ears back, and arched up in full attack mode. Growling and snarling his defiance, he attacked the bottom of the metal locker, leaving deep, shiny gouges in the soft sheet metal base! The outburst lasted only a few seconds before he backed off and repeated the scenario two lockers down. He attacked the actual door of the locker this time, causing much of the same damage.
Anna was in tears. Never had she felt such an intense flow of hate and anger coming from a cat. Vince tried to comfort her, but she pushed him away with the explanation, "No, Vince. I'm okay. I need to understand the dark side of our beloved Moon."
Moon stared first at Vince, then to the lockers and back again. He was quite calm at this time, having evidently made his point to his own satisfaction. Anna had quit crying as well.
Vince had noticed on several occasions that her emotions almost mirrored the attitude displayed by any cat she was near. The thought made him wonder if Moon had been crying on the inside while she was making the outward display. The thought was shattered by the chief telling him to open the one locker and look beneath the other while he filmed it. He cautioned Vince not to touch anything with his fingers.
Vince got down on his hands and knees to peer beneath the suspect locker. Near the back, against the wall appeared to be a bloody syringe half filled with a clear liquid! He secured a wire coat hanger to fish the instrument out. Moon hissed at the sight of it. A perfect set of what appeared to be claw marks matching the new ones on the locker base were etched across the barrel of the tool, and smeared with dried blood!
A scenario was forming in Vince's mind as he glanced at the camera before confronting Moon with the direct question, "He tried to stick you with this before you slapped it from his hand, didn't he, Ole Buddy?" Moon emitted a soft meow and rubbed against his leg. Vince carefully rolled the needle into a plastic bag, turning to the chief, "Ten dollars to a hole from a doughnut says that needle is full of some kind of poison!" He handed the bag to Anna and proceeded to the other locker, lifting the latch cautiously. Inside were two unopened cans of cheap cat food, a box of kitten treats, and a small bottle of thick, yellow-green liquid.
Moon hissed his defiance again from the safety of Anna's arms. Vince recognized the sweet smell of anti-freeze wafting from the box of kitty treats. Unpleasant emotions overwhelmed his sense of control as the cruel picture of poisoned, innocent little kittens focused vividly in his mind. Anger immediately sent his blood pressure to the boiling point. Without warning, he yelled, "Why!" and hit the next locker down with enough force to cave in the metal front, ripping out the latching mechanism and scattering pieces across the floor! Anna screamed involuntarily at the outburst. The chief only shook his head in disbelief.
Vince had tears in his eyes when he turned to Anna and the chief. He wiped them away in disgust and then spoke, "I believe we have all we need to prove Moon killed the man purely in self defense, provided his fingerprints are all over what we've found here. To connect him with the bombings would only be icing on the cake, now, but I personally would like to know the whole truth to ease my own conscience. I can't shake this feeling that this vendetta started somewhere in my past." Only after he had carefully bagged the evidence, did the chief turn off the camera. The chief gave Vince his word that he would get the evidence to the proper authorities for testing before morning. They should know something by the next afternoon.
Anna called Vera to have the chief put up in a plush, beachfront hotel until Moon's fate was determined. She then paged her limo driver to take her, Moon, and Vince home for some much needed rest.
The couple slept soundly until Stacey awoke them with a phone call at noon. The chief had phoned her that morning to fill her in on the details of what they had found during the night. Since the FBI had the only record of the deceased man's prints, a copy of the film and the hard evidence was turned over to Shawn for lab testing under the direct supervision of Chief Dalhart. He was to contact them at Anna's when he knew something.
Stacey and Rex arrived at Anna's in time for lunch. Andy and Earl had stopped to eat along the beach, and pulled up a short time later. Everyone watched the film several
times and offered their personal comments. They soon agreed unanimously that the evidence should be irrefutable in the question of Moon's fate. Still, a certain amount of tension hung in the air as they patiently awaited Chief Dalhart's important call. They were not to wait much longer. The ring shattered the silence with an ominous tone. Vince answered it, relieved to hear the chief's voice on the other end.
Anna bit her lip when a frown creased Vince's brow. He was very solemn as he told the chief he understood and carefully hung up the phone, muttering, "Dammit!" under his breath.
Vince turned to Moon, trying not to let the anticipation on everyone's faces distract him, "Moon, Ole Buddy, you've got to go turn yourself in voluntarily! I'm sorry, but the chief says it will be in your better interest if we put you back in the harness. A decision will be made by a judge before the day is out." Undaunted, Moon jumped from Anna's lap in silence and padded silently over to the harness as if saying he was ready to face the music.
This space RESERVED For LATER USE--LKH
Author's Note: Feel free to copy/paste the text contained herein to build your personal copy of "MOON Madness". As this is COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL by ME, the ORIGINAL AUTHOR, please DO NOT copy for UNAUTHORIZED DISTRIBUTION in any form or fashion. "ALL RIGHTS RETAINED & RESERVED" by Larry K. Hockman! Please don't hesitate to E-Mail me for permission to use my works in the classroom, etc. ThanX for Visitin'! I hope you enjoyed the story and pass it on to your friends. LKH
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