Moon Madness - 22, Copyrightę 2001-2006 By
Larry K. Hockman, "All RIGHTS RESERVED"
passed scores of employees leaving the building from the main entrance. The workday was over for most. Students had all vacated an hour earlier. Vera would still be there waiting on her along with security. Moon, Crip, and the kittens would be roaming the complex somewhere as well. She had waved to so many people on her way to the elevator that its deserted status was a welcome relief. She paused a minute to collect her thoughts before inserting her security card to go up to her office. The elevator seemed to move peculiarly slow that day and she got a distinct feeling that something wasn't quite right somewhere. She could not pinpoint the source and passed it off as her own anxiety to read the card from Rex. He had an especially sexy way with words which always excited her anticipation to the fullest.
Stacey tried to appear nonchalant to Vera while she obtained the place and time of the dinner even though she ached to be totally alone for a few minutes in the privacy and comfort of her office. She had grown to appreciate the safety and solitude it offered whenever she was at the complex.
Vera gave Stacey a written memo outlining the complete details of the dinner. Stacey told her she would lock up after she located the cats and sent her on home. Stacey disappeared into her office as soon as the elevator doors closed behind Vera. She ignored the long box of roses on her desk, intent on reading the card, first. Normally, she would have used the gold-plated letter opener that Anna had included in her desk supplies, but in her haste, opted for the painted fingernail of her index finger. The folded seam cut easily. She anxiously removed the card and scanned the gold-lettered message; A Lion Goddess Should Know When The Cubs Of Her Pride Are Falling Prey To The Blown Up Vengeance Of The Hyena! You Can Run And Hide Like The Others, But I'll Get Each And Every One Of You Sooner Or Later, And Your Cursed Cats As Well!
Terror gripped at Stacey's very soul when she realized who the card was from and gasped involuntarily. A sinister flood of jumbled emotions overwhelmed her momentarily. For the first time in her life, she thought she was going to faint and leaned on her desk for support. Tears followed the stark feeling of helplessness and vulnerability. The wave passed after what seemed like an eternity but actually spanned only a few seconds.
A torrent of thoughts raced through Stacey's mind amidst the rampant emotions as she fought desperately to conceive a rational plan of action. Finally, a poignant flashback of Crip and the old bull jolted her back to reality. In a fraction of a second, her fear was replaced by fierce anger tempered only by her compassion for the innocent. Pounding her fist on the desk with each word, Stacey screamed, "I will not allow this to happen, you bastard!"
With executive precision and efficiency, Stacey formulated a plan and put it into action simultaneously. Punching the complex intercom button on her phone sent her voice through every speaker, both inside the building and the grounds outside, causing a frenzy of activity as the orders spewed forth, "Attention all security personnel! This is Stacey Holden. Seal the entire complex IMMEDIATELY! Nobody is to enter or leave unless they have been cleared by me personally. Also locate Moon, Crip, and their kittens and report to me ASAP. This not a drill!"
Stacey's words were still echoing through the halls as she raced down the stairs with the note in her hand to show Shawn. She rounded the corner of the stairwell to see a security guard pointing his pistol in the direction of Shawn, running for the main entrance with his own weapon drawn in spite of the guard's orders to halt! Stacey burst through the door behind him and grabbed his arm, hollering that Shawn was with her. He had left the door of the limo wide open. Stacey whistled for Midnight and shoved the note into his hand in lieu of an immediate explanation. The huge cat covered the distance to Stacey in less than five seconds, bounding fifteen feet with each graceful leap. The guard took several steps back to give him all the room he desired! Midnight stopped obediently beside Stacey, his tail twitching nervously while he awaited her next command. She opened the door for him and instructed, "Go, Midnight! Find Moon and his family and protect! I'll tune in to you and catch up in a minute.
Stacey turned back to Shawn, anger and disbelief in her voice, "That crazy son-of-a-bitch is going after the cats! I'm going to go find them." She turned to enter the building, but Shawn caught her by the arm, "Hold on a minute. You're not going anywhere without me." She urgently tugged to get free, but he did not relinquish his grip. He yanked her back around to face him in order to get her attention, apologizing at the same time, "Sorry I had to do that, but I need to know. Did anything else come with this note, a package, a box, or anything?"
Stacey looked puzzled when she answered, "Yeah, a box of roses. They're on my desk. I thought Rex sent them." A sense of urgency in his voice, Shawn questioned her further, "Did you open them?" Stacey hesitated for a second as if she hadn't heard him. Impatiently, Shawn blurted, "Answer me, damn it! This is important!" Preoccupied with mixed feelings she knew to be from Moon, she answered softly, "No. I never got past the card." She changed the subject on the next sentence, her voice acquiring an overtone of impending dread, "Something is bad wrong. I've got to go find Moon."
Shawn did not release her arm, but pleaded, "Please, Stacey, just chill out for one minute and then we'll both go. Agreed?" He let go of her arm in a show of good faith. Rubbing her arm and gazing into the empty entrance hall trying to focus on Moon, she replied flatly, "Make it quick!"
Shawn was way ahead of her. His superior answered his priority phone even as she spoke. Shawn barked precise instructions into the cellular phone, "Get me some back-up to the animal institute. Suspect is possibly on premises. Perimeter has been sealed by local security. Send bomb squad directly to Miss Holden's private office, third floor,
executive hall. Possible bomb in box of roses on desk. Do not pull agents from Miss Holden's residence. She is now officially upgraded as a target! Put chopper up to locate any car matching previous newsreel description in fifty mile radius. Code red. Bowman out."
Shawn slapped the mouthpiece shut, turned to the guard and told him to take the bomb squad directly to Stacey's office and evacuate anyone else in the area. The guard looked to Stacey for her OK. She nodded her approval and the guard said he would take care of it.
Shawn turned to tell Stacey to lead the way to go find Moon. To his chagrin, she was softly crying to herself and seemed to have totally forgotten the desperate rush she had been in only moments before.
Shawn felt rather guilty for treating Stacey so harshly, thinking himself to be the cause of her obvious anguish. He tried to apologize again, but she put a finger to his lips to stop him and offered a simple explanation he found difficult to believe, "You had nothing to do with this. I cry for Moon and Crip. Their kittens are all dead! You can cancel the back-up. The bomber is gone. I'm going to see if I can offer some sort of comfort to my friends in the student lounge. You can come if you like, but you
will have to stay out in the hall. I'm afraid you wouldn't be well received by Moon or Midnight right now. This is strictly a family matter and personal. You would be wise to respect their loss."
Bewildered by the entire scenario, Shawn tried to get a rational explanation from Stacey, "How can you possibly know that?" She did not answer, wiping the tears from her face with her hand. Shawn offered his handkerchief. She accepted it and entered the building, sniffing every few steps.
Shawn shook his head and followed her to the phone on the receptionist's desk. Stacey blew her nose to regain her composure, then picked up the receiver to revise her orders, "Attention all security personnel. Secure your posts and evacuate the building to the executive parking area. There is a possible bomb on the premises! The FBI bomb squad will take over from here. Please show them every professional courtesy and follow their instructions implicitly. Thank you."
Shawn followed Stacey through the maze of corridors to the student lounge. Midnight was guarding the door as they approached and emitted a blood-curdling growl of defiance intended solely as a warning for Shawn to keep his distance. Stacey backed him up, telling Shawn he would be wise to stop where he was and slowly back up out of sight around the corner. Better yet, he could go coordinate the bomb squad or something 'cause the cats would know where he was anyway. Shawn had no problem with accepting the opportunity to put some distance between himself and the leopard. He backed up slowly as per Stacey's advice, telling her he would have one of the guards make an announcement to let her know when the bomb matter had been resolved. Stacey stayed outside the door with Midnight until Shawn was out of the cat's sight.
The cat took on a more relaxed posture as soon as Shawn disappeared and followed Stacey inside. She was only partly prepared for the pitiful scene confronting her. Crip was in a state of denial. She did not understand why her kittens would not respond when she gingerly slipped a paw under one's head to try and lift it, only to have it fall limply to the floor again. Stacey bit her lip to keep from crying out loud. She could feel that Crip knew her kittens were dead, but like any mother, simply refused to give up just yet.
The mere sight of the lifeless offspring sickened Stacey. The kittens had cramped up and vomited the contents of their stomachs onto the floor. Stacey knew they had been poisoned, an agonizing death for any animal. Stacey pulled off her jacket and covered the kitten from Crip's sight.
The sadness in Crip's eyes was heart-wrenching. Stacey comforted her the best she could while she focused on Moon's actions. Moon's wild side attributed a much stronger aspect to the thoughts and feelings she was able to discern. He was licking the other kittens frantically. To anyone else, it would appear that he was trying to stimulate the kittens back to life. Only Stacey or Anna would have ever known that he was desperately trying to rid his offspring of the horrible scent of whoever murdered them. Stacey did not try to intervene as she had with Crip. Moon had a much better understanding of death than his fully domestic wife. Stacey could tell he had already accepted the fate of his family. He would rid their bodies of the scent as best he could before focusing on his next action.
Stacey watched in reverent silence when Moon finished cleaning the two kittens and then padded over to drag the jacket from the other. He did not object to Stacey covering the two he had finished. She could feel his subdued anger rise with each lick of the horrid scent and he snorted his disgust several times during the painful ordeal. Stacey got the distinct feeling that he was familiar with the smell from way back, just as she had at the blown-up cabin when he snorted at the crumpled trash barrel, only this time he was no longer frightened of it. Simple rage had replaced his fear.
The thought frightened Stacey somewhat. Moon could easily become unpredictable with revenge clouding his judgment. He would then rely solely on his purely wild instincts and disregard his domestic traits altogether! Jungle law, survival of the fittest, would then prevail over anything man had to offer. Anna had explained in detail to her what she had felt from Moon when he had attacked the old boar. Stacey felt the same thing from him now and knew he had completed the transition from flight to fight. The hunter was about to become the hunted!
When Moon finished cleaning the other kitten, he carefully picked it up between his canines and carried it to its covered sisters. With one front paw, he extended his claws to pull back the jacket. Reluctantly, he eased the dead kitten down gently beside the others and pulled the jacket over all three.
For a brief instant, Moon's anger subsided while he sniffed one final time at the jacket and emitted a weak meow, as if he did not want to say good-bye to his kids
in a fit of rage.
Only then, did Moon slowly turn his attention to focus on Stacey. She had tears streaming down her face, dripping off her cheekbones to splash on Crip's back. She wanted to tell Moon how sorry she was for his loss, but the words choked in her throat. Moon stared deep into her eyes, licked several salty tears from her cheek and nuzzled his cheek against hers to let her know that he knew how she felt and that words were not necessary. She felt a little better when he purred for a half minute before jumping back to the floor. He trotted over to the door and stared again, pleading for her to let him out. He was, in effect, asking her to grant him the freedom to handle the situation his own way. She knew he would not leave the complex with her while the scent of the killer was fresh on his mind. He would roam restlessly, hoping to cross a fresh track. She could not speculate what he might do if he found what he was looking for. He trusted her to trust him. Stacey did not forsake his trust. She opened the door with only one plea, "Be careful, Moon. I'm afraid Vince and Anna would never forgive me if something happens to you." He meowed his thanks and trotted off down the hall. Stacey muttered under her breath, "Good luck, Moon. I hope you know what you're doing." When he had rounded the corner, she commanded Midnight, "Come on, boy. You two are going home with me."
Stacey started down the hall with the cats about the time Shawn's voice came over the loudspeaker to inform her that her office was safe. There had been no bomb. The roses had actually been from Rex with a card inside the box. The news was a welcome relief and she quickened the pace to her office. Shawn and all of her security personnel were waiting for her to get there.
Stacey left the cats outside her office and shut the door. Shawn politely handed her the box and the card. Stacey ignored them. Instead, she told everyone she was glad they were there. Seemingly undaunted by the previous traumatic turn of events, she issued the orders, "Effective immediately. All security passes and student ID cards are to be verified before entry into any part of the complex. Any outside vendors will be accompanied by a security officer until their business is complete and they have left the premises. There is to be no mention of the incidents which took place today to anyone, not even your families. We don't need an unnecessary panic on our hands. Lastly, anyone who encounters Moon anywhere on the premises is to allow him access anywhere he wishes to go, even if it means unlocking a door for him. Is that clear, gentlemen?"
Everyone nodded except Shawn. Instead, he questioned her, "Miss Holden, pardon me, but what is this cat supposed to be doing?" Slightly perturbed she turned to face him, "Moon is conducting his own personal investigation into the murders of members of his immediate family, Mr. Bowman."
Shawn made the mistake of pursuing the matter further, "And just what makes him think the perpetrator will return here, and if he or she does, what makes you think he'll know it before the bureau does?"
Stacey felt like Shawn was pumping her for information, something she could not afford to tolerate in the presence of her own security people. She maintained a high degree of respect at the unfortunate expense of Shawn's arrogant feelings, "Mr. Bowman, that is classified information of which, unfortunately, you and the rest of your bureau are not privy. Personally, I have much more confidence in his judgment and my staff than in all of the agents of the FBI; therefore, we seem to be wasting each other's valuable time. Furthermore, since you cannot extend the same respect and professional courtesy which my people so graciously offered you, I must ask you to relinquish the pager and the limo keys so that I can return them to their proper company counterparts. The suit you may keep." Shawn was taken aback by Stacey's show of corporate strength. Trying to maintain some dignity and hopefully salvage their previous professional arrangement, he apologized respectfully, "Miss Holden, please bear with me concerning my ignorance of the special bond you share with these cats. It is part of my job to be inquisitive if the questions might be pertinent to stopping a killer and sparing a life. I would never ask you to breach your personal security, nor your company's. I sincerely apologize if I have offended any one of your highly capable staff members."
Stacey scanned everyone in the room during the moment of silence when nobody dared to speak except her. Anna had taught her well to read a group of people as she would a wild animal herd to get the overall mood as a whole. Her ploy had worked well. Her people were pleased that she had made a stand in their behalf and would loyally respect any decision she made at the moment. She aptly seized the opportunity to reinstate Shawn's position, "Mr. Bowman, I feel sure my staff would welcome the opportunity to work alongside the FBI in this matter, but in order to preserve
the validity of your cover and to simply fit in on my turf, you have to act like a chauffeur and assert no authority, 'cause to put it bluntly, Mr. Bowman, this is MY office you're standin' in, and I call the shots around HERE! If you think you can handle that, I'm sure these fine officers could use a quick briefing of the details and what to be on the alert for. Make it quick, though. We still have a celebration dinner for the search crew to attend after which I'll need to be at our private airstrip for the arrival of the Horizon. You can use the conference room next door while I arrange an autopsy to find out what poison was used on the kittens. I'll buzz you when I'm ready to go."
The men filed out past Shawn, each introducing themselves and shaking his hand as they went through the door. Before Shawn followed them in, he turned to address Stacey, grinning, "Thanks, Miss Boss! I'm sorry I put you on the spot." She was busy thumbing through her roll-a-dex and spoke without looking up, "Accepted, but don't make it a habit!"
Stacey dialed Vera's number manually, only to get her answering machine. She tried her personal pager, next. The quick response surprised even Stacey. She gave Vera a quick rundown of the immediate situation and told her to call in the pair of scientists which were skilled in animal forensics and determined what animals had died from in the wild. She would expect to hear from them on her personal pager as soon as they had her an answer. Her final instruction was for Vera to stall for a little time at the dinner so she had enough time to go home and change. Vera told her not to worry. She would handle everything. Stacey thanked her and hung up with a sigh of relief. She fully realized now why Anna had always said that Vera's talents were indispensable.
Stacey took a moment to regain her composure and relax. She was glad to be alone in peaceful solitude, if only for a few minutes to shed her corporate responsibilities and just be her old self. She longed to see Rex and reached for the box of roses since he was not around. Stacey opened it carefully, looking for the card among the delicate flowers. It was camouflaged the same rich red color of the petals. She smiled in anticipation of its message. The smile broadened as she read aloud, "From sea to shining
sea, glistening from the setting sun, I feel it is only you, that brightens my personal horizon."
The message lifted Stacey's dampened spirits. In spite of the strict rules she had laid down for herself concerning their relationship and her schooling, she had fallen hopelessly in love with Rex during the previous months. She secretly wished he was there right now to gently kiss away the anxieties of the day, hold her in his arms, and tell her everything would work out fine. Holding that thought, she quickly put the roses in water and signaled Shawn that she was ready to go.
Though somewhat hectic with Stacey's late arrival to the dinner, the celebration proved successful. She managed to make a fine commemorative speech aptly praising her search team's efficiency and dedication to their work. Everyone was happy except herself. The turmoil of the day had agitated her old personal feelings of self doubt, and she silently wondered how Anna would have handled the situation. Her mind wrestled with the possibility that if she had handled things in a different manner, the kittens might still be alive.
Only Vera saw the anguish hidden beneath her corporate poise. She pulled Stacey aside to try and console her, "Don't be so hard on yourself, Stacey. There's no way anyone could have seen beforehand the unfortunate demise of those poor kittens. I've seen Anna beat herself up many times, just like you're doing. You two think a lot alike. You've both got what it takes to be the boss without sacrificing your compassion for others. That's a rare quality in the executive world, one you should be ultimately proud of. I know it's hard to know if you made the right decision, sometimes, but you can't afford to waste the time dwelling on past events which are impossible to alter in the present. All of these other people here depend on you for guidance. They respect you. Anna would be proud of you. I know her better than you might think. She wasn't accepted easily by these people as you were. Before you and Vince came around, she would talk to herself out loud, as if her strong personality was scolding the weaker one. More than once have I heard her say to herself, "Get over it, Anna!" It must have done her some good because she always got in a better mood shortly thereafter."
Stacey pondered Vera's words and took a deep breath before exclaiming, "Get over it, Stacey!" She looked back to Vera and burst out laughing, "Guess it works. Thanks for the pep talk."
The two women chatted casually until Stacey's pager interrupted them and she left the room to find a phone to call the institute. The voice which answered the call informed her that the kittens had ingested kitty treats soaked with common automotive antifreeze. He explained that the substance tasted sweet to many animals and most would readily lap it up. Unfortunately, it was also quite lethal for all. Stacey thanked him for the prompt report, hung up the phone, and glanced at her watch. The Horizon was due in less than one hour. She and Shawn left immediately for the private airstrip.
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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