No other species that walks the face of the earth but humans would be arrogantly ignorant enough to coin the phrase 'only the strong survive'. It is a fallacy best understood by the huge whales, monsters of the ocean, or the gigantic elephants whose size towers on the African plain.
Both are creatures rushing head long into extinction while the smallest of mammals, the rats and mice are seeing their population explode. No, the animal world understands the truth of survival. They know that cunning and quickness will win out over muscle and might every time.
Rocky knows this full well. He knows that in the delicate game of predator and prey, he who acts first and fastest wins. That's why, on this cool quiet evening when he was minding his own business, copulating repeatedly with his mate and hoping for a litter of handsome kits, Rocky smelled his opportunity.
With a shift in the direction of the wind, Rocky's fine tuned sense of smell detected something more than rain in the air. His nose perked upward and he filtered through the common to locate the vile. It was the smell of the bad human. The one who had marked his territory by peeing on Rocky's head.
Rocky chattered angrily and hopped off his mate's back leaving her unsatisfied and unbred. Both conditions that she highly resented and took great pains to tell him about. Rocky was contrite but consumed. He skittered off leaving her to click and squeak furiously.
Rocky took off at a dead run. He darted through the rain soaked high grass, leaping over the small branches and expertly dodging all the small obstacles he knew well in the area of his world. He only paused when he needed to sniff again and keep his direction on track. As he got closer, even that wasn't necessary.
When he was within just feet from the clearing, he stopped. He pricked up his ears and his small furry body crouched, safely hidden, in order to evaluate the situation. He sniffed. The bad human had marked a tree a short time ago. The smell was still there, but fading. Rocky dropped his tail low and his claws gripped the ground as he carefully eased closer.
His nose was now bombarded with the foul odor of human sweat as his ears listened to the odd sounds they made. Loud, deep, confusing and threatening sounds. They were nothing like the clicks, squeaks or squeals of the animals that occupied these woods. They roared and Rocky was frightened.
Slowly, and keeping his body camouflaged, Rocky peeked out to see what all the ruckus was about. He saw three of them. His eyes darted around wildly to make sure there were no others. When he was satisfied that there weren't he focused on them.
One, standing off to the side, was his human. The good one. Rocky's stomach told him to run over and beg for a hand out. Rocky's instinct for self preservation told him that would be a mistake. The other two were what interested him.
One was the bad human, the one he had come to exact revenge on for the disrespect he had suffered. The other was plastered tightly to the bad human's back. Rocky wondered if they were a breeding pair making pups. It didn't matter. The mating human was merely an obstacle. A roadblock between predator and prey. He was unimportant. He must be removed if Rocky's attack on the
bad human was to be successful.
Slowly, Rocky crept around the perimeter of the clearing till he was as close to the backs of the legs of the two mating humans as he dared get. His beady little eyes spotted his good human and he was glad he was safely out of the way.
Xander stared into the crazed face of the man who held his lover captive. The man who now had control over whether Spike lived or died. Nothing made sense but Xander was positive about one thing. All this was his fault. His theft had cost Joey his life and now could do the same to Spike.
"The earring? All this is about an earring? Fuck, I didn't even remember taking it. You want it? Then take the fucking thing and go. Just leave us in peace."
Immediately, Spike began squirming in the Columbian's iron grip. He dismissed the small cut on his neck as minor knowing if it had hit an artery, he would be soaked in blood by now. He had been hurt worse than this a dozen times at work. "No! Xander, don't give it to him. There has to be more to this than a small earring. I don't know what it is but I know if you give it to him, we are both dead."
Carlos tightened his grip on the blond man. "SHUT UP! You give me NOW! You steal from me. You a filthy boy whore and you take from me? From ME! Carlos! You come up here to fuck him? You think I care? I kill him if I want to, then I fuck you and cut your ear off and take back my property! You give back now and maybe I let you live after I fuck you."
Xander's heart was pounding so hard in his chest he was afraid it may explode. His lungs sucked in more air than they could hold and his head was starting to spin. His fingers itched to remove the earring and toss it over, but Spike had said not to and in the end, he trusted Spike more than himself.
So, he tried again. He knew no one was coming to save them. He understood how dire the situation was, but he just kept thinking, if he could only buy some time. If he could stretch this out, maybe Spike could think of something.
Keeping his voice low and calm, Xander stepped closer. He could see that the stream of blood on Spike's neck was drying and the wound already clotted. It gave him hope. "Wait. Look. We're just a couple of friends on a camping trip. We don't care what you have done or who you are. I'll give you back the earring. I'm sorry I stole it. You take it and.........."
Carlos had reached his limit. He shouted his rage and raised the knife, aiming the point at the wildly pulsing artery in Spike's neck. Throwing his head back he screamed. "YOU LIE! He is a fucking cop! You think I'm stupid. How you think I find you? I own the cops! I own Chief Giles! He lives in my back pocket and he tells me where you hide. I am done with this bullshit! Your cop dies now and you are next!"
What happened after that was a blur, a frenzy of wild activity, a confused action and reaction that was nearly impossible to describe later.
Rocky smelled blood. Human blood, and it sent him into a delirium. His need for caution and control were forgotten as he lurched from his hiding spot and leapt as high and as hard as he could, hoping for a throat. He quickly realized that his stubby short legs would only propel him a short height off the ground and he had to make do sinking both claws and fangs into the flesh of the other. The one between him and his prey.
Carlos's arm went high in the air and at the exact second the knife plunged toward Spike's chest, the weeds behind the Columbian parted and a crazed flying ball of fur flew through the air. It landed directly in the center of Carlos' butt and it sank twenty razor sharp claws and an equal number of fangs deeply into the flesh, clinging with an iron grip that assured he could not be dislodged.
Carlos' eyes bugged with the unexpected shot of agonizing pain that stabbed his ass and he screamed in shock and fear.
The knife flipped high into the air as Carlos flung both arms up, flailing frantically in an attempt to reach and pry off the ferocious animal that was causing the piercing torment that ripped and gouged at his flesh.
The second he felt the grip release, Spike dropped to the ground and scrambled to gain control of the knife. When he saw that, Carlos, blinded with pain and fury, lunged at Spike, who at the last instant, held the blade up as the Columbian drug lord
fell on it. Straight through his heart.
A wound that proved far more fatal than the one to his ass
The lack of illumination offered by the half moon and the drifting rain clouds made the chaos of the moment even more confusing. Xander's eyes couldn't sift through the darkness to see what had caused Carlos to scream in pain, he only knew that Spike had taken advantage of the situation and dropped out of the attacker's grip.
Xander then rushed toward the two men as they grappled on the ground and he saw what appeared to be a huge raccoon still clinging to the man on top. Terror rushed through Xander as he realized that Spike had grabbed the knife and now neither of them was moving.
Xander stared at the threesome pile in front of him and he screamed. "SPIKE!!"
The answer was pained and muffled, but filled Xander with relief. Spike was alive. "Bloody hell, Pet. Get this fucking great lump off me! I can't fucking breath and he's bleeding all over me! Get my gloves! Get my fucking wipes!"
Xander wanted to sob with joy as he ran to help. When he did, he recognized Rocky as the savior that still clung tightly to the dead man's ass. He knew the poor thing was terrorized and he tried cooing and softly coaxing it off. "Ah, there's my poor Rocky. Come on. Let go of the fat ass so I can help Spike breathe. Come on, Rocky."
As Xander pried the traumatized creature loose, a distant sound caught his attention. At first he thought it was thunder, either from the storm that had just passed or from a new wave rolling in. Disregarding it, Xander scooted the outraged, pissed off Rocky to the side and he tugged and pulled at the dead weight of the body till he was able to shove it off.
Carlos fell onto his back. The knife, buried to the hilt protruded from the center of his chest.
Immediately, Spike gasped, choking and heaving, he clutched his throat as his chest was finally free of the pressure and he was again able to breathe. When he realized his demands for wipes were not being fulfilled, he flopped onto his back. "Xander! Goddamn it, I need my fucking......"
"Shut up, Spike! Listen!"
Spike sat up. Xander was standing, still stark naked, at the side of the dead drug lord, with his head tipped slightly, obviously listening for something.
Spike heard nothing. "What? Xan, I don't......"
"THERE! Look, over there! A helicopter!"
Spike stared off in the direction Xander was pointing and at the same second he saw the flood light appear over the top of the ridge, he heard the sound. A low, loud thunderous roar, it burst forth like a tornado, whipping the air around them as it boomed like the voice of God.
"HANDS UP. EVERYONE ON THE GROUND PUT YOUR HANDS UP. IF YOU ARE HOLDING A WEAPON, DROP IT. KEEP YOUR HANDS WHERE WE CAN SEE THEM."
It had the appearance of a sudden, glorious, mechanical angel, complete with the blinding light of the Christmas star. Briefly, it hovered above them before dipping, tilting and disappearing off to land in a nearby field.
Within seconds, they could hear the stomping sound of dozens of feet accompanied by the sight of the beams of several flashlights as what seemed like a small army of men came crashing through the high grass to surround them, all shouting,
"KEEP YOUR HANDS WHERE WE CAN SEE THEM. IF YOU ARE HOLDING A WEAPON, YOU WILL BE SHOT!"
Immediately Spike threw his hands in the air telling Xander to do the same. "Get your hands up, Pet. Do it now! These are FBI SWAT. They will shoot first and ask questions later. Don't give them any reason to take a swing at you."
Xander did as he was told. He would have liked to hold a hand over his dick, but the voice had told him to drop his weapon, so he did. It was a technicality, but why challenge it. He was amused to see the traumatized Rocky standing by the tree line with his paws high in the air.
Spike turned toward the voice. All the men were dressed in helmets, bullet proof vests and black suits, he didn't know which one, but he knew that voice. "PENN?"
"Put your guns down, the perp is DOS and this is Officer Bradshaw. Damn, Spike, are you all right? Is that your blood? Why is the witness naked?"
Spike laughed as relief flushed through him and he threw his arms around Penn, hugging his best friend and truly surprised that he and Xander had really survived.
Within two hours, the SWAT team had flood lights set up around the perimeter of the clearing and were actively processing the crime scene. Spike, Xander and Penn had all returned to the cabin and were sitting around the table. After dressing, Xander made a pot of coffee and gave the two partners time to compare notes and talk.
Rocky headed for home. No scrap of food was worth all this. Humans were just too fucking crazy!
Spike shook his head in disbelief.
"I know Carlos said it was Giles, but I just can't believe it. Why would he do such a thing?"
Penn sipped his coffee. "Apparently he had a lot of gambling debts. Seems he had been on the Columbian's payroll for some time, tipping them to drug busts and misleading Vice on tips. The other three rolled over on him. They fingered him as the cutter of the whor... um, the other boy, and they're all working on plea deals for life in prison to avoid the death penalty as accessories. Guess we won't need your witness after all."
Finally, Xander couldn't stand it any longer and he sat down beside Spike. "What about my earring? Why was he so desperate to get it back?"
Penn's eyes lit up and he held his hand out. Xander quickly removed it and gave it to him, glad to be rid of it. He knew the accompanying guilt would not be so easily removed. His theft had cost his friend his life and that was a weight he would live with for the rest of his days.
Penn reached into his suit pocket and retrieved a small flip knife and a magnifying glass. "This is the best part. The other three told all about it. Look."
With the knife, Penn pried the diamond stud off the setting and let it roll away. He then handed the set and the glass to Spike who stared down to where the stone had set and he whistled long and low.
Xander was having a fit. "WHAT? What the hell is it? What do you see?"
Spike handed it to him with the explanation of what he was looking at. "It's a microchip. It was planted in the setting and then the diamond was placed over it. It's my guess that it has information regarding the Columbian's drug business and the money trail."
Penn nodded. "That's it exactly. According to the three in lockup, it has names, dates, customers, government officials on their payroll and account numbers for off shore accounts. You two have busted the biggest drug cartel in history. You two are heroes. You not only stopped the flow and the corruption, you get the reward offered by
Xander sat quietly listening to the partners chat and he thought about his best friend. He had always told Joey that the drugs would get him killed, he just never thought he would have a hand in it. His only consolation was that Joey hadn't died in vain. Maybe this would slow down the traffic just enough to save some other young man who was on the verge.
He hoped so, he had to believe so. Otherwise, Xander knew he could never live with what he had done.
Spike stood in the bedroom of his apartment, in front of the full length mirror that hung on the wall and he straightened his neck tie. For the third time. His appointment with the Mayor was in just thirty minutes and he did not want to be late. Not that he ever was.
It had been nearly a month since the wild adventure in the wilderness of the Adirondack. A month of reports, interviews, investigations and evidence. Thirty days of being on Administrative Restrictive Duty, which Spike understood was required practice after an officer/suspect related death.
The entire case had been a logistical nightmare. Between the FBI, the DEA, the INS and the local city and sheriff all involved and every department bigwig wanting to claim the glory, it had started to sound like little girls bitching at
cheerleading practice on the playground.
One fact no one could deny was that Spike and Xander were the heroes. They had fought for their lives and saved the day along with all the evidence that brought down high government officials on both sides of the border. The Supreme Courts in several counties were still filing claims for the money. A general estimation was that it would be resolved an approximately ten years.
Spike didn't care about any of that. The only money he cared about was the ten thousand dollar reward. As a law enforcement officer, he wasn't eligible to collect it and wouldn't have anyway. He insisted it all go to Xander. It was
Spike's insurance policy that Xander wouldn't have to go back out on the streets for a long time. Unless he wanted to.
After the night of the rescue, they had been separated in order to give their individual statements. Spike wondered if Xander had included explicit details in his narrative. Surprisingly, Spike didn't care if he had. The Detective's had been
facts only as they related to the suspect and the case. The knife, earring, chip, and bloody clothes had to be carefully catalogued and transferred to protect the chain of evidence. It was business as usual.
As for his official statement, his repetitious, bloody statement, it had to be written, questioned, clarified and filed. It took dozen of times, for each official, at each department, and often with a Spanish translator. Spike had had to talk to everyone.
At first, they had been told not to communicate in order to preserve the integrity of the investigation. Then as the days flew by, it began to feel awkward. Spike didn't have a phone number, but even if he did, what would he say? "Hi. How's tricks?"
No, it broke Spike's heart but he knew that, for now at least, there was no way to go back. The cabin in the woods was starting to feel like a dream and now, unfortunately, he was wide awake.
Up the front steps and in through the huge glass doors of the government building, Spike checked the time on his watch. Three times. Not because he was unsure of it's accuracy or due to impatience for the scheduled meeting. No,
Spike checked three times because that was what Spike did.
He waited an extra five minutes until the elevator car that would take him to the third floor was empty before getting on. They were breeding grounds for diseases and infections of all sorts. When the doors slid open and he started down the hall towards the Mayor's office, Spike was shocked to see who else apparently had an appointment.
"Hey, Spike. Long time, no see."
Spike blinked. His heart jumped to his throat and his fingers itched to touch. "Xander. Well, you look fit. You are well? Well. obviously you are well. I mean just look at you. You look wonderful."
Xander laughed easily at the flustered detective. He had missed Spike so much he thought he would die. When time passed and Spike made no attempt to contact him, Xander sat down with himself and had a long hard think. This was it. Did he go back to work or should he choose another path. He was conflicted and confused, but at least the money gave him time and options.
The decision he made, to him, seemed perfect. He only hoped Spike agreed.
Spike's brow wrinkled in confusion as he remembered where they were. "Why are you here, Pet? Are they still hounding you for statements and reports? I'll try to make it stop. When I see the Mayor, I'll......"
Spike jumped at the sound of the Mayor's voice. He knew he had to go, yet the thought of walking away from Xander again was gut wrenching. The younger man could see it and he lightly touched the arm of Spike's new suit. "You go ahead. We'll talk later. I promise."
Reluctantly, Spike nodded and he disappeared through the frosted glass door of Mayor Rayne's domain. Immediately, Ethan extended his hand as he rose from his chair to greet him. "Spike! Spike, my boy, come in, have a seat."
Spike sat but his heart and mind wandered back in to the hallway. The Mayor took no offense at Spike's refusal to shake his hand. He had known the detective too long.
"Spike, I called you here today because I have an offer, a problem and possibly a solution. Now, your thirty days of ARD is up today and you could return to your regular duty, but to be honest, we need you elsewhere. With the arrest of Rupert Giles, we are short a Police Chief and the general consensus is that you are the man for the job.
Unfortunately, several of the Commissioners had serious reservations because of your, um, shall we say quirkiness."
Spike snorted. 'Quirks' was the word Xander used. Hell of a coincidence.
"Yes, Sir. Big honor, that. So that was the offer and the problem, what was your solution?"
Mayor Rayne sat up straight in his chair with a huge grin on his face. "As a matter of fact, the solution came to us. It came in the form of a certain young man who asked for a job and appears to have very unique qualifications. He has an amazing understanding of your oddities and we think he would be invaluable as your assistant. You know, go with you on crime scenes and touch the things that you won't touch, carry a supply of those damn gloves and wipes that you always seem to need. Fact is, we need you and you need someone like him. He's been taking classes this last month on the basics of evidence collection, report writing and so on. We think he's ready to go. Well, what do you think?"
By now, Spike was on his feet and nearly hyperventilating. Was it possible? Was it too good to be true? Still, Spike didn't want the boy hurt later. He wanted all the cards on the table. "What about........."
The Mayor was way ahead of him. "His dubious past? Everyone deserves a fresh start Spike. If he can deal with the
looks and the comments some of the assholes around here will make, we are willing to give him a try. So, why don't we call him in and see how this goes."
Mayor Rayne hit a button that rang a buzzer in the hallway. Immediately, the door opened and Xander walked in, briefcase in hand. When he slapped the case on the Mayor's desk, he popped the latch and the lid flew up. It was full of sealed packs of rubber gloves, sterile wipes, small cans of disinfectant and alcohol. With a grin, he turned to the new Police Chief. "Well, Chief Bradshaw, am I hired?"
Spike didn't know whether to laugh or cry so he chose the former.
"You are absolutely hired, Mr. Harris. Now, shake the Mayor's hand for me and then I believe we have an office to go clean."