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By Aly Cantrell All Rights Reserved ©

Adventure / Action


We all have secrets that we try to bury, keep trying to move on with our life and forget they happened. Then they come back, and we have to deal with them anew. Animals are no different, no matter the human skin they put on.

The Day It All Ended

Her high pitched giggling blended well with our surroundings. The sun shone down brightly on her feet, kicking up little wood chips that her brand new sneakers scattered around, chasing the other kids about; ducking in and around the warm metal of the various play bars. Other parents were smiling indulgently on at their charge as well, and more were arriving. It was a beautiful day outside, who could blame them.

When another car door slammed behind us, I took no more notice of it than the others. Maybe if I had, my daughter wouldn’t have died that day.

Bang, bang, bang, like rapid gunfire I sat bolt upright and felt myself already sprouting more than human parts at the threat, my hand still reaching out for her as the voice sunk through.

“Hey Al, up and at’um!” It was Chase’s obnoxious voice coming through that startled me back to now much more clearly than his beating of the door. Slamming back into the conscious world, I rubbed furiously at my eyes as I zeroed in on the wood, contemplating wrenching it open and duct taping my buddies mouth shut on principle for the rude awakening, even if my mind’s lingering thoughts weren’t something I dwelled on intentionally. My wife saved me the trouble by walking calmly past the bed and opening the door to our still smirking friend.

Chase's lean frame was leaning against the doorframe all ready to go indeed, his tousled, light brown hair as usual falling into his eyes and a set smirk ready to flash at the twitch of the lips.

“Hey Shara,” he responded without missing a beat, “glad to see someone’s ready.”

“Leave him be,” she scolded, ruining the effect by leaving the door open behind her as she came over to my side. She was indeed already dressed, the fact that I hadn’t woken up when she’d crawled out of bed spoke volumes of how deeply I’d really been asleep. The moment she began smoothing down my bed head, my body began relaxing under her light blue eyes, my breathing finally slipping back to normal levels.

Chase’s frown as he eyeballed me showed that he’d finally realized I hadn’t put my usual face on yet. It didn’t really kick the usual amount of sarcasm out of his voice, but it was a touch kinder. “Well get a move on, everyone else is all ready,” then he left with his usual amount of subtly.

I closed my eyes for a moment before I swung my feet onto the plush carpet below, but the black of my eyelids didn’t stay that way long as my lingering dream tried to come back. Forcing my eyes to snap back open, I saw Shara still watching me with gentle understanding. “I know,” she promised, “I still have that dream to. Best to keep our mind on our work mi’ amore.” The light tracing of her Russian accent would have been lost on most, but I never failed to miss it as I nodded in agreement and got my day started.

“Know where we’re headed this time?” I called out from the bathroom.

“No,” she answered while the sound of her bag zipping closed nearly covered her reply, “but you know Ben does, hopefully he’s waiting down in the garage.”

“Better there than the last place we found him,” I muttered to myself as I shook the last of the water from me and threw my own bag over my shoulder, following her out into the hallway.

The grandeur of this place always seemed to settle on me most as we were making another leave from it. Maybe it was because the place never truly came to feel like home as frequently as we came and went from it, most likely it was the reminder of what had led us into this lap of luxury, but somehow I always felt more relieved than regretful as our room stayed behind us. The bright, cheerful pictures covering the wooden walls and plush carpets in every corridor had always felt more pandering than anything. Though honestly I could never pass the one featuring the orange kitten with a toilet lid for a collar without a chuckle.

Maybe it was the whole fact that we were even living in a mansion that always had be so eager for the next job lately. Who went from a happy suburban life to this kind of whacked out life without feeling a little wrong footed. We didn’t meet anyone on our way through, though I hadn’t checked what time it even was so for all I know the other occupants around here were actually doing the normal thing, like sleeping.

Shara seemed to notice my lingering silence and didn’t engage me in our usual chatter as we reached our meeting spot.

 The garage didn't quite cover the beast it really was, pretty much the normal length of a typical house except solid concrete with cars lined all in rows for whoever around here owned one. We found Ben leaning casually against his van in his usual attire, messy black hair hanging into dark blue eyes, dressed like he was headed on a road trip with worn jeans and hiking boots; having a typical chat with Dennis, the local doctor, though he hardly looked it. A good foot shorter with bleach blond hair that was tipped with blue, greatly opposing shrewd brown eyes and a wild smile. 

The moment the two caught sight of us though, Dennis rolled his eyes and stated, "so how long you guys going to be this time?"

"Don't be like that," Ben groaned, "I keep telling you, if you want to come-"

"And let this place fall to ruins," Dennis raised an opposing brow back. "They'd be lost without me. I just can't understand why they keep sending you along."

"The same reason you're staying here," Ben countered with an impish grin, "they'd be lost without me."

Dennis snorted and shook his head, giving us a friendly wave goodbye as he made his usual grumbling departure.

Ben watched him go with a bemused smile before turning back to properly look at us, some surprise lighting him as he asked me, “you okay?”

“Yeah,” I grumbled, walking past him and throwing my bag in the van, our home away from home. Which, honestly felt more like a home then this place anyways. “Didn’t sleep good. Where’s the other three, Chase was the one pounding on my door demanding we leave already.”

“Don’t know,” Ben shrugged back, still watching me just long enough to prove he knew I was holding back before fully answering, “haven’t seen him all morning. I found Evan first and he passed along that we got a job.”

“Would it kill you guys to use your phones once in awhile,” Shara sighed as she dragged out hers, but before she could do anything she put it back and it had to be because she sensed them approaching like I was.

Fiona came in first with a put out look on her styled face, twirling one of her curls around a finger which would tell anyone what was coming in behind her even if we couldn’t hear the argument before hand.

“I’m just saying, would it kill her to let us use a truck just once, why do we always have to use the same thing!” Chase was demanding of someone who he’d never complain to too face.

“Why is your heart so set on a truck anyways,” Evan asked indulgently as they rounded the corner.

“I’ve always wanted to ride in the trunk of a truck,” Chase shrugged like that was obvious.

“It’s called a bed,” the younger one corrected with chipper as he walked to the van.

“Huh?” Was Chase’s brilliant reply, now watching him with an annoyed frown.

“The back of a truck is called a bed,” the younger smirked without turning back around to look at him.


“I don’t know why, I didn’t name it.”

“Do people sleep back there or something, I mean-”

“Moving on,” the other girl finally groaned, watching the two boys with a long suffering look before turning her attention to us and smiling easily. “You guys ready to get?”

“I am seriously starting to reconsider this already,” I sighed, rubbing at my forehead, strong flashbacks of being the middle child with two brothers coming back to me.

Ben was still watching the arguing pair with keen interest, but upon realizing that was clearly going circular, he interrupted, “we're all ready when you guys are."

“Been waiting on you,” Shara reminded before climbing into the back. We all went in behind her, except Ben and Evan who took their normal places up front. The garage opened automatically for us as we eased up to it, and then Ben hit the gas for the first half of our offroad journey. The Founders white styled, multi floored mansion with its many windows not fading behind us until finally a bend in the road blocked it out.

We trundled through a clearly seldom used path in the back of the property, the roads bumpy and overgrown pathway not really doing much damage to our ride. I was regretting not having taken the opportunity to find these three and talk to them when I’d had the chance outside this car. With Shara at my side and being across from the other two, the whole car clearly felt awkward as the silence dragged on.

It didn’t last too long, as Chase was the first to clear his throat and ask “so, who are we going after first.”

Evan snorted up front and laughed “going after? Jeez, we’re not out looking to murder these people Chase.”

Chase didn’t deem that with a response and waited impatiently, I could hear his fingers tapping out a rhythm on his pants leg and feel his eyes boring into Ben.

“Records say his name’s Thomas Fisinin. Located somewhere outside Nampa, Idaho.” Ben replied with ease, before pointing to his glove compartment and saying, “got a file in there, but all it says is pretty much what I just said.”

“That’s it? Just a city?” Chase scoffed. “Can’t we at least get something resembling an address? I feel like we’ll be damned lucky if this guy’s in a phone book. Do those even exist anymore?”

“Why do you think we’re doing this?” Ben replied calmly, not seeming nearly as offended by the tone as I would be. “Our records keep getting trashed, so we’re trying a new tactic. We got a name, and a relative place of suggested location, now we just try to convince them that they’re next if they don’t clear out of it. I’ll bet the Hunters have this guy being GPS’d at all times, so we need better info. If we scope the place out and don’t find anything, we’ll report back and mark it as not useful information. If we do find him, we’ll let him know what we’re planning, get his proper address and animal credentials, and be on our way. What is so difficult about that?”

“At least there aren’t too many of our kind in the big city,” Evan offered hopefully. “Once we get a trace of his scent, he should be easy enough to follow.”

Chase muttered something about a wild goose chase, but not loud enough that anyone would have heard if they hadn’t been listening for it. I remembered the day we’d all been at the meeting, and almost couldn’t help but agree. I thought we were being sent out to go after the Hunter’s, couldn’t we have gotten some better intel on where they might be hiding rather than one random person who was minding his own life?

Probably to avoid another string of awkward silence, Ben decided to flip on the radio instead, breaking out another argument about what music was to be listened to. Ben eventually won that, and I was starting to agree with Shara. This was going to be a long trip. We’d be lucky if we survived it with our sanity intact.

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