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Chapter 12.TheGang

He waved goodbye to Jonah and his timid followers, then got into his car and headed to the park that was a few blocks away from where Myrna was located. He pulled into a parking spot and exited the car. He quickly made his way toward the heavily wooded section of the park. Xavien made it a point to pretend as if he was unaware that he had been followed. He did not know if he had actually been followed, but it seemed foolish to think that his movements would go unnoticed.

He made it to the woods and picked up a stick and whacked it against a tree to break it. Intent on the appearance that he was deep in thought and contemplation of his life, he stared at the tree where it hit and then leaned against that tree for a few moments before he continued deeper into the woods. It was roughly 4:45, but the sunset was still two hours away. The shadows in the woods were pervasive enough to allow some cover, but not complete cover. He had to literally sniff out if he had been followed.

Xavien found another tree and leaned his back on it. He sighed, took a deep breath, closed his eyes on the exhale and began to focus purely on his sense of smell. His nose could detect some small dead thing nearby, likely a rodent. Then he smelled leaves, dirt, car exhaust, smoke from food grilled at the park and deer urine. He focused as hard as he could and, slowly, more scents began to reveal to him. Slowly, he could smell more information than he expected. The deer urine was from a female. The dead animal was a rabbit. The food that was on the grill was a pseudo-meat-product that was designed to taste and smell like meat, but supposedly provided a healthful alternative. There were two menstruating females and an older male, with a younger male child. No other scents to indicate he’d been followed, but this was still not something he would take fore-granted.

He took off and ran as quietly as he could into the deepest part of the woods. Xavien’s heart raced as he had to make his getaway good, and do something he had never done before. He was to try and shift into his smaller wolf form while running, and attempt to gain speed and distance that way.

He saw two large rock formations with a narrow path between. It was almost too narrow, but if he leapt, he could make it through the wider portion nearest the top. He was lean and had a frame perfect for that of a sprinter, as he’d always focused on the most efficient and productive manner of strength training; rather than bulk and mass for the sheer purpose of looks.

His body was ready for this leap, but was his spirit ready to accompany him on this journey? He had never run at full-speed in his smaller form before, and his heart raced as if he had to run for his life. He made the leap and easily cleared the gap between the rock formations. Xavien focused everything he could during the descent and was frustrated that it didn’t happen instantly. He stumbled slightly but kept focus and then was pleased when he finally felt the nimbleness of his smaller form take shape.

Xavien was also gratified that this form allowed for greater speed and agility. He came to another rock formation ahead with just enough room for his smaller form to scuttle under, which he did. He then ran at his top speed and zipped through an opening in the trees. He found an alleyway nearby and slowed his gait.

Xavien then dove between two trash cans, caught his breath and shifted up. He listened for any sounds of pursuit and did not hear any. He allowed a smile to play about his lips. That was just plain fun!

He did not know whether he felt laughter or a tearful jag ready to burst, but it was out of the unbridled sense of exhilaration and tiniest taste of freedom that this emotion was born. No, not all of these new things would be terrible in his life.

He turned the corner down the alley, walked two houses down and then knocked on the door. Officer John Taylor, dressed in street clothes, answered in the guise of a homeowner; “May I help you?”

“I would like a few minutes of your time to discuss my close personal relationship with Jesus Christ. May I have just a few moments of your time?” Xavien grinned playfully.

“Uh… sure. I’d love to hear about your Jesus Christ… May I see some form of official identification? Can’t be too careful these days. Too many crazies out there.” The officer looked truly off guard.

“Oh, kind sir, I assure you I’m crazy. I’m just crazy for Jesus Christ!” Xavien smiled as he opened his wallet to show his badge.

“I’m very excited to hear all about it. Come on in. I’ll have my mother make us some coffee.” The officer stood to the side and Xavien entered. The plainclothes officer closed the door behind him and chuckled; “Lieutenant, I didn’t recognize you with that haircut… or that goofy smile on your face.”

“Who’s goofy? I rather wanted to talk to you about Jesus!” Xavien deadpanned as he feigned disappointment; “I’m off the clock and you were just the first stop on my crusade.”

For a split second, Officer Taylor paused uncomfortably.

Xavien chuckled, shook his head and resisted the urge to mutter the word ‘idiot’ aloud. He then heard Myrna’s voice as it cackled from upstairs. He trotted up the stairs and nodded at the two uniformed officers, who nodded back with confused expressions. He committed their names to memory; Officers Pettijohn and Mulgrew.

He then made his way to the bedroom where Myrna sat and watched the TV on mute. Heavy curtains adorned all of the upstairs windows, clearly to obstruct the view from the outside.

She walked toward him and gathered him into her arms; “Oh, dear, what have you gotten yourself into?”

“Myrna…” Xavien shook his head and chuckled; “It’s not all me, you know…”

“I must say, hon. you certainly seem to be in better spirits. Life isn’t turning out all bad, after all? It’s good to see you, I’ve been so worried. Speaking of crazies, you’ve got a great big target on your back now… I’d be careful of someone outside of this case that would want to make an example of you.” Myrna cautioned and worried much like any mother would.

“I know. I know, there’s so much going on that it is all I can do to keep my own ship from sinking. I handle adversity well, I handle change well, and I handle new experiences very well. However, it’s all happening at once… I mean you would not believe the past three days… you would just not even believe it…” Xavien smiled in disbelief as he reflected.

“Honey I made that mistake once. Now? I keep an open mind and believe that just about anything is possible. I even halfway expect to hear you say you’ve dedicated your life to the moonies… heh heh” Myrna joked; “But I definitely don’t agree with that rotten bastard Baskerville, plastering your face all over the damn news. He’s a crooked and careless fool! It’s bad enough that they doctored that video to show it was you that killed that man. It was doctored, right?”

“Yes. Oh, yes, I assure you. But there is something you should know.” Xavien paused, as a child ready to admit misbehavior to his mother; “It was my idea that he chose to run with. I set myself up for this…”

Xavien looked at the officers; “Some privacy, please?”

They nodded and walked downstairs, and he closed the bedroom door.

“I am looking to get out. I can’t do this anymore… I am too confined by politics and regimen… Who I am has drastically changed, even if the ‘what’ has always been there.” Xavien explained.

“Words I never expected to hear from your mouth, Xavien!” Myrna rebuked him and fumed as he put his hand up to ‘shush’ her.

“I have a higher calling, and that precludes the otherwise mundane work of traditional police work. It is more than I can describe here, because I’m almost positive that I’ve said too much. I’ve got to catch this guy, and maybe find the way to gracefully exit. If the exit is disgraceful, then so be it.” Xavien tried to explain.

“You sound like you have it all planned out. You practically come crawling and mewling back to me like a lost kitten… explaining how difficult this is and asking my advice… and all of a sudden you just ‘get’ it? I find that hard to believe. By all means, if you got it, go for it… but you can’t have peace through epiphany. It’s got to come from hard work and logical process, the way you’ve done it your whole life.” Myrna sternly chastised him.

“I wish I could properly explain this to you without causing more upset. These people that I’ve met? I’m naturally stronger, faster, smarter and more skilled than most of them that I’ve met. I’m surprising them with my aptitude and ability to learn. This is different than epiphany. I’ve merely learned that I’ve not been completely wrong about my focus my whole life. Maybe somewhat foolish to reject it, which is what put me behind the eight ball right now. However, the fact that I worked as hard as I did throughout my life still gives me an edge over them.” Xavien rattled off like a child explaining why something he did wrong wasn’t totally wrong, as they bargained for their parent to be a little less mad at them.

Myrna didn’t buy it; “That’s an epiphany, Xavien! That’s the definition of it. Something occurred to you! You come back to me in three weeks all bloodied up and beaten because your new friends got tired of your cocky ass and tell me what edge you have then! I can’t give you advice on how to be what you are, but I can sure as hell talk some sense into a child that lost his damn mind!”

Xavien, so sure of himself only moments prior, wavered slightly in his mind before he dug in again; “Myrna. Regardless of whether I’m ready or not, or in the middle of some epiphany… they’re coming for me. They’re all coming at me. It is sink or swim time and it won’t matter where I find my peace, you may still find me in pieces. But right now, I don’t really need or want to be torn down. I don’t need to come to you and have you tell me how foolish I am, because it isn’t productive. I would like some kind support, not this off-brand of tough love. I know you love me and I know you care…”

“Well, praise the lord, I’m so happy that you get to play with your new friends and learn cool new tricks. Be sure to visit often and keep me up to date.” Myrna said sardonically; “I’ve never raised you on the rosy side of the street, Xavien. You should know better than that. I am not about to toot my horn, but I sacrificed everything to protect you and teach you the proper way to think. Don’t screw it up by getting too excited.”

Snip, snip… away went the frustration

“I appreciate everything about you, Myrna; even if I disagree with what you say, I understand the point you’ve made. I don’t wish to hurt your feelings or downplay any of the lessons you’ve taught me. I only opened my eyes a little bit ago; I know there is a lot I have yet to learn. But I would like acknowledgement, I have made progress, and that I don’t feel things are as bleak as they seemed a few short days ago.” Xavien bargained, he truly wanted to hear something positive from the one person in his life that he loved.

Myrna’s face crinkled up in a bit of a pout, her wrinkles belying the fact that she couldn’t stay on the offensive for long; “Honey, I know I’m a hard woman to please. I’m just so scared that I will outlive you. I have something I need to tell you and it’s not going to be easy. I’ve decided that I’m just going to say it. I’ve been dealing with malignant tumors for the past few months. I didn’t want to tell you because I didn’t want you to worry or be upset. The doctor says there’s no reason I shouldn’t live for several more years if he can operate, but that I would likely be confined to a wheelchair because the treatments will weaken me so.”

Xavien nodded; “Yeah, that is quite upsetting. I am not worried, however. I am sure that you will pull through just fine; if not, you will die and that is the way it will be. I don’t want to think about it right now because I don’t know how to deal with it yet. If you need something like money or whatever to get procedures done, I’ve got plenty. I will also help get you to therapy or whatever you need. I love you and whatever you need I will do.”

“Please don’t be angry, but I don’t want to be operated on. I’m too damn old for that. Medicine like that should be saved for young people; we don’t need old people clogging up the hospital system. We’re supposed to die and that’s that. Personally, I think it’s a little undignified to get operated on for a silly thing like cancer. The doc said he would give me pain medication, and that would be sufficient to make life tolerable until my time comes.” Myrna said, as tears welled up in her eyes.

Xavien listened to her thought processes and evaluated his own in parallel. His father may have had the raw intellect and charisma, his birth mother may have had the intuition… but without Myrna’s training and ability to communicate in a way that he understood, he may not have been as efficient as he had become. His thought processes and value system truly came from her. She was not a cruel woman, but she was demanding and her criticism was still some of the harshest he’d ever come across. Still, she forced him to use both linear and abstract thought processes. She taught him how to organize his own thoughts and pin down the often-violent emotions that surged through his body. She may have, perhaps, gotten something wrong somewhere; such as the lack of peer contact beyond school hours. However, she had a monumental task ahead and truly gave everything of herself to him.

Xavien appreciated her sacrifices so much at that specific moment, that he felt motivated to do the same for someone else. He didn’t think that he would ever get another chance; he’d blown it with Clara and Scott. He did not have anyone in his life that needed this sort of help or sacrifice, and even Myrna believed that it was not wise to waste too much time with strangers until they had proven themselves trustworthy.

“I love you more than words can express, Myrna. You’ve always been my mother, and I will do everything I can to be the man you raised me to be. I’m likely going to make some mistakes, but never repeat them once I’ve been made aware of their nature.” He allowed a tear this time. It felt appropriate, and it was real.

“Oh, you foolish child, don’t cry for me; ’tisn’t masculine.” Myrna said, with her face dampened by the tears as they fell. “Oh, screw it. I love you sweetheart. I’m just so scared for you. I always have been. Promise me one thing.”

“Of course. Anything and then some.” Xavien said as he wept more than expected.

“Get back up on that horse again, someday. I feel so awful for the selfish and icy reception I gave your Clara back in the day. But promise me you’ll keep an open mind to one day have an open heart for someone who could take good care of you. It’s not a license to be foolish… I just want you to have a full life.”

“Oh, Myrna… this life is too short for second chances like that. Besides, it’s for me, not for you. That shouldn’t count.” Xavien said, half-jokingly.

“Stop it, boy. It’s my damn wish. It is for me. Find yourself a woman. If you want to make it seem like it’s more for me, then name your first female child Myrna. I just don’t think all your talents and time should be wasted on all these villains and such. It’s reciprocal, you know. You feel better if you give something good of yourself to someone like that.” Myrna said as she chuckled slightly, though the tears continued to drizzle down the well-worn creases in her cheeks.

“Okay. I promise. It may not be right away, but I will at least prevent myself from the complete rejection of the concept. And you’re damn right my first-born daughter will be named after you.” Xavien smiled as he dried his face and drew Myrna in for another hug.

“I’m so proud of you Xavien. You’ve really done everything you have ever set out to do, with relative ease. This is about to be the toughest challenge of your life, but I believe you when you say you are starting to ‘get it’… I just don’t want you to get ahead of yourself… and be careful, dammit.” She hugged him tightly and he kissed the top of her head.

“I’ve got to get going; I think I’ve met some… interesting people. They could be amusing, or actually useful; either way it is an opportunity.” Xavien pulled back slightly to kiss Myrna on the cheek.

She accepted it with a smile and returned a kiss to his right cheek; “Maybe someday soon you can give me the full story; I’m very interested. Hopefully we won’t have so much company.”

Xavien nodded ruefully; “I hope so. I really do.”

He kissed her on the cheek once more, opened the door and left the room. He trotted down the stairs, passed the three officers and exited the rear of the house without another word.

He meandered through the back alleyway until he came to the back of an abandoned warehouse. He tilted his head at the locked door and practiced the trick he’d learned from Karl. It took a couple of tries for him to get the proper focus but, sure enough, it worked like it did before. When the door popped open, he slipped inside and closed the door behind him. The electricity had been turned off in here for quite some time, so the only light was the setting sun that had only about an hour left before it set completely. He shifted down into his wolf form and trotted leisurely to the front of the warehouse, senses alert to any potential trouble.

He sensed none, so he scampered to a rusted hole and squeezed underneath. It was a tight fit, but he managed to make it with only a few tufts of hair left behind. He nipped them off of the metal so that they would blow in the wind. He then took off pell-mell from alleyway to alleyway until he made it back into the woods. He then ran to the middle of the woods and hid under a fallen tree to shift up.

He’d met a supernatural creature, when he was younger. He’d even learned a ritual. It was a very limited encounter. The person introduced himself as Feather Darkheart. He had come into Xavien’s bedroom only mere weeks after he’d shifted for the first time. The first thought was that this short, burly white-haired man was a supernatural rapist, but after some nervous conversation, the man taught him how to keep his clothes on should he find himself forced to shift up. Then, poof, just like that, the man left never to return. Xavien was pleased that he knew that ritual, because it had kept him from some potentially awkward situations. He just hadn’t felt the need to mention it to Karl.

It was difficult for him to keep this part of himself hidden from Clara; yet another thing that contributed to the distance between them. He just hadn’t wanted to lose her just because he happened to be some sort of monster. He made his way to the car and got in.

He turned the glossy photo of Jonah Tan over and chuckled as he memorized the phone number. He dialed Jonah’s phone and awaited the pick-up. There was no pick-up, and it went to the voice message greeting. Xavien never left voice messages, so he simply hung up and drove to the garage as he thought about Myrna, Clara and Scott. These were the most valuable people in his life, and he was going to lose the last one without any medical intervention. He did not like it, but it was her choice. Xavien would just have to deal with it when the time came.

He pulled up outside of the garage, located in the heart of Little Tokyo, and saw that there three highly-customized rice burners with gaudy spoilers and fancy rims parked out front. The leftmost bay door was open, so he walked in and glanced around. There were 5 colorful bikes in the shop, in addition to a black and chrome chopper and what looked to be a bike made almost out of pure silver, with the thinnest wheels and tires he’d ever seen on a motorcycle. The black and chrome chopper had a shotgun holster in the side, with the gun holstered for easy access. This was illegal, but Xavien decided it would be best if he didn’t make a stink about it until he got his bearings. This could likely be a criminal operation, and may be yet another puzzle for him to solve before he can find justice.

No one was in the work area of the garage, so he went toward the front. He heard some laughter and loud voices, accompanied by the smell of beer coming from the breakroom.

He took a deep breath, knocked and opened the door. All seven people in the room turned and looked at him. This was a small room with a drop ceiling, white walls and dirty white linoleum. There was a large table in the center and a small refrigerator in the corner. A cracked, white sink took up another corner. Xavien recognized six of the people in the room. He saw Jonah Tan and the three young Japanese men from the barber shop, Andrew and, most surprisingly, Captain Crane’s son Giles. There was an attractive Japanese female there, dressed in an all-black leather motorcycle outfit which was stamped with dark red roses attached to dark green stems. Her animated features lit up with excitement when she recognized Xavien.

“Oh wow! Jonah! This is surprise guest? Oh, what an honor!” She trotted up to Xavien like a little girl that runs to her father. She was almost two feet shorter than Xavien and had a pleasingly curvaceous physique. She flung her arms around Xavien’s waist and squeezed tightly, which startled him. “Welcome, welcome! So very glad to meet you Mister Lieutenant Xavien Brady Sir! I am Mi Lei!”

Snip, snip… away went the funny thoughts and inappropriate jokes.

Xavien stifled the urge to laugh at her name and smiled back at her, then smiled uncomfortably at the rest in the room. Andrew grinned back at him; “Welcome! I’m a bit surprised, myself.”

Giles, whom Xavien had met on several occasions (a few times in a holding cell) raised an eyebrow and greeted him with a slight smirk, an eyeroll and a head shake. Typical Giles; Xavien wondered if he truly appreciated all that Bruce had done for him.

Xavien scanned the room once more and saw that all but Andrew had a 40oz beer in front of them. Giles had three empty bottles next to him and was well on his way to a fourth.

“Oh, this is so great!” Mi Lei hugged him again, enthusiastically.

Jonah waited until she had finished, in an obvious display of deference; which was noteworthy compared to his earlier demeanor. This Mi Lei must be in charge.

Mi Lei backed away, which provided Jonah the opportunity to greet Xavien. Jonah smiled broadly and clapped; “Fantastic, my brotha! You have met Giles and Andrew. These other three are Ho, Ma, and Steve. Ho and Ma are twins, but as you see… not identical. Steve is… Very Steve-like. Our den mother is Mi Lei, and she runs this… garage.”

Xavien nodded and scanned over the enchanting Mi Lei, who seemed to be more attractive the longer he looked at her. Her chirpy and bouncy personality was even more fun than Jonah’s.

“Well, I’m here, now what?” Xavien asked with half of a confused smile.

“Now? Nothin, yo! Time to kick back, chillax, drink some fohtees brotha! Later, we work on our bikes and cars until the buzz wears off, then blow off steam on the tracks! The rest of the gang should be here by ten.” Jonah responded enthusiastically.

Xavien wasn’t entirely sure he wanted to stay there longer than a half hour, but would humor Jonah through one beer. Beer had no effect on him, other than cause the urgent need to urinate shortly after consumption.

Mi Lei walked over to the small refrigerator and pulled out a 40oz of a beer labeled ‘Dudley’s Special Brew’. Xavien sensed that she was something more than human, much like Jonah. He bowed deeply as she handed him the beer.

“Thank you.” He smiled at her warmly.

She bowed in appreciation of his recognition and then gave him a flirtatious wink and kissed the air toward his face. Xavien detected a scent that stirred a deeply primal part of his brain. Suddenly he began to imagine her nude and spread in front of him as he…

Xavien swallowed… hard. He blinked and took a deep drink of the beer, as if it would reset his thought pattern. This had not been organically derived fromf Xavien’s overactive imagination, and the look of recognition passed between them.

She was something, alright. She was not completely human, but somehow, he knew that neither she nor Jonah were werewolves.

Xavien slung back the bottle and guzzled a bit of the beer, for dramatic effect. Then his mind slowed, ever so slightly. Something was a little… off… with this beer. He pointed to the beer and looked at Jonah inquisitively.

Jonah grinned; “Isn’t it tha bomb? Ancestral brew up in this piece! Special Brew for Special Dude!”

Xavien grabbed a plastic-coated metal chair and seated himself at the table, after Mi Lei had settled.

“So, I have a couple questions…” Xavien pondered aloud; “What is the proper etiquette for asking a question that may involve… additional qualities… that someone else in the room may possess?”

Giles chuckled derisively; “Yeah… that’s a big hell no. So’s even the thought of attempting to figure it out, out in the open. If you find out, you keep it to yourself.”

Andrew sighed and nodded, as if he felt his input was necessary to drive the statement home.

He addressed Jonah. “Fair enough. I thought as much. How many more are you expecting?”

“Somewhere between five and fifteen, depends on who is available, interested and alive! It be a hazardous world out there, yo.” Jonah nodded.

“Last question, and please feel free to admonish me if I over-step. But how come Ho, Ma and Steve are so silent?” Xavien asked, and marveled that this beer had already begun to alter his motor function, however slight.

Mi Lei smiled; “While in the presence of elders, children are not to speak or take action until they have earned the right.”

Xavien nodded, and then sized up the boys; they seemed in their late teens. His mind then turned to Giles and the two men sized each other up. Giles was older than he, by about six years. He had the glint of experience in his eyes, and likely had the patience of someone much younger. His father, Bruce, often frustrated at Giles’ lack of direction in life toward anything legal, had mentioned a few times about how he’d wished Giles would just learn his lesson.

“So, Giles… staying clean?” Xavien spoke, as he alluded to Giles’ checkered legal history.

“Clean enough, not that it’s any of your business. How about you, you wipe your ass today?” Giles retorted.

Xavien thought for a moment and realized that this must be how he has sounded in the past. The dark wit and biting sarcasm was not always well received. He would try to be a little less abrasive in the future.

Mi Lei cackled loudly; “Oh, this is so much fun! Giles, you are so funny!”

Giles raised his beer with a smirk, and then drained the rest of it. He let loose a generously voluminous burp, to the amused applause of the Japanese occupants in the room.

Andrew chuckled silently and shook his head.

“Andrew? Why are you here?” Xavien asked.

“I come to race. It’s a blast!” Andrew responded enthusiastically.

“And my gosh, is he so good! Jonah still can’t find a way to defeat him!” Mi Lei gushed with a look of challenge in her eyes that was certainly directed at Jonah.

Jonah frowned slightly; “He is better, man. He even showed me how to ride his bike. I went faster, but he still beat me. Mad props to his skillz, mad props.”

Xavien nodded and sniffed in amusement; “Fascinating. I didn’t have you pegged for a motorcycle guy, Andrew.”

“You are very businesslike and impersonal, and you rarely talk about topics that don’t relate to the job, not exactly a bad thing, it’s just how you are. We also haven’t had the opportunity to work together for very long.” Andrew shrugged.

Jonah lit up; “Oh! I know, Andrew! Perhaps you can bring your honey with you sometime and we can all go out on a bangin date!”

Xavien raised his eyebrow at the indelicate reference to the conversation earlier.

“I’m unattached for now. This won’t always be the case, but I’m not ready for a commitment, so I figure why bother with a relationship?” Andrew smiled, politely.

“He is so noble and chivalrous. Someone is going to be very lucky some day.” Mi Lei smiled, almost as a mother who decided to change the topic before it went the wrong direction.

Xavien chuckled and sucked down several gulps of beer. This not only tasted good, but had him well on the way toward drunk. He glanced over at Giles’ four bottles in amazement; he must have built up a tolerance.

“Now that you are here, perhaps we can talk about what we can do to help? We know all about the public story on this Irving Masterson, and that you think he is the ‘Immaculate-Artist’.” Mi Lei spoke the name and the media-label in hushed tones, as if not to awaken any sleeping demons.

Xavien nodded; “Unfortunately, I am not permitted to discuss the case, but if you happen to locate Irving Masterson and get us a solid lead I am sure we could pass some discretionary funding your way.”

“Oooh! That’s so exciting! I like the sound of discretionary funding. Very professional sounding! Have you spoken with Karl about this yet?” Mi Lei tilted her head, genuinely curious.

Xavien sighed and hung his head at the mention of his name. He would have to figure that these creatures knew each other somehow.

“So, you know I’ve spent some time with Karl, eh?” Xavien asked.

“Not a whole lot goes on in Hyde City that Mi Lei doesn’t know, Mister Lieutenant Xavien Brady.” She grinned seductively.

“Wonderful… What do you know of Irving Masterson’s whereabouts, or perhaps any methods you would suggest I use to capture him?” Xavien asked, ever hopeful that these new ‘friends’ could be useful.

“He come and go like the wind on the sea.” Mi Lei spoke quietly; “Strange being with vast powers that we are not familiar with. It grows more powerful, but in the worst way. You surprise it at the tattoo parlor. You barely miss each other at Landau house.” She nodded, thoughtfully.

Giles’ expression changed from contempt and dismissal to one of quiet agreement; “You’re not gunna take this guy out. Not even with help. Unless you have his son right by your side, and are prepared to roll-out at a moment’s notice.”

Xavien shook his head; “I refuse to believe that this creature is invincible. I don’t care how powerful it is. There is a weakness, I will discover and then I will exploit it. And… I am confident I will bring it to justice, even if that means he ultimately meets his demise. Negativity won’t get me any closer to him.”

Jonah grinned enthusiastically; “You are, like, for real, dawg! I dig it! You are super-hero-number-one. Kickin’ it with you is totally dope!”

Andrew spoke up; “I admire your drive and dedication. It’s lacking in so many.” Andrew cast a quick glace to Giles, who flipped him the finger.

Xavien shrugged; “Just doing my job. Seems that the job description has undergone an overhaul recently, I’ll handle that, too.”

The sound of several high-performance motorcycles entered the room as they pulled into the garage. Jonah nodded; “Homies have arrived… let’s bounce!”

Jonah was first out the door, then Ho, Ma and Steve followed behind. Andrew gestured for Xavien to follow, and then Giles followed Mi Lei.

There were fifteen additional bikes and riders that now filled the garage. They were all in brightly-colored leather attire. One that stood out was an all-black motorcycle, covered in black chrome spikes, as was the rider’s leather outfit. This one did not wear helmet, and instead of a human head, the rider had fox head with black and silver fur! The black rider vaulted from the bike from a standing position, flipped in the air and landed into a deep bow, with both arms out, palms down to the ground. Xavien watched the rest of the riders remove their helmets, and bow also.

Jonah bowed in acknowledgement and then the revelry began with loud hoots, jigs and uncoordinated, excited gyrations. Giles nursed on a fresh beer and stood off to the side to watch the activity with a mix of mild amusement and disdain. Andrew, lost in the moment allowed himself to be drawn into the horseplay, as he wrestled with several riders. Ho, Ma and Steve had wasted no time to get into the sea of frolicking young men and women. Even the fox-headed rider seemed to be enjoying itself.

Xavien mused aloud; “Karl didn’t mention foxes… I didn’t know there were foxes… are you all foxes?” He said as he turned to Mi Lei, who grinned wickedly at him, walked in front of him and rubbed her butt on the top of his thigh. He startled a little as red and white tails billowed from her backside. Mi Lei glanced over her shoulder as she used them to individually caress and pet his body.
He counted aloud; “One, two, three, four, and five… I may be new at this, but aside from the flirting, which I thoroughly enjoy, this is your way of showing me who’s boss.” Xavien mused silently that this creature could easily seduce him and he would be powerless to resist. It would be very difficult for him to reject her, even without whatever tricks she may use on him.

She whipped her body around to face him as her tails. She smiled cryptically as she spoke. “You are a rare one. I’ve seen your future. You will get what you want, but it will not last long. Stay as you are, without succumbing to pressure for change. Continue to grow as you have, but avoid those that may turn your direction even slightly off course.”

Xavien nodded and chuckled, slightly; “Everybody’s got advice… not that it is bad advice… just seems that there are a lot of… helpful people out there.”

She nodded; “I, too, enjoy flirting, but I hope you do not get the wrong idea about me.” Mi Lei added with a wink and the sweetest lilt to her accent.

Xavien furrowed his brow, but chose not to retort. Truthfully, he felt a little foolish. It seemed as if he had been told that she was out of his league, but would continue to tease him anyway. He shrugged it off and chuckled; yet another nuance in his newly invigorated life.

She winked and then whistled sharply. All in attendance immediately ceased their revelry and bowed at the same time. She then gave some instructions in Japanese and they remained silent. The one fox-headed rider shifted back to human form. It was a female who then promptly put her helmet back on and got back on her bike. Slowly, the others did as well; this included Ho, Ma and Steve. The last to mount a bike and don a helmet was Mi Lei, herself. She then revved her bike and sped out, with the other riders following behind her two-by-two.

Xavien tilted his head and raised his right eyebrow; “Now what was all of that?”

“It would appear that you’ve impressed and interested Mi Lei and have an entire gang of Inari working your case.” Giles murmured, as if this was somehow obvious to Xavien. “You know that they don’t work for free, right?” He added with amusement in his voice.

“Can’t you go slack off somewhere else?” Xavien spat back; irritated by Giles. He did not like Giles because of the trouble he caused his father. He recognized him now as a werewolf that was likely more experienced than he; but had begun to wonder if all werewolves were corrupt or otherwise useless.

Andrew sensed the rise in tension and piped up; “Well, I guess there will be no race tonight. I have some research that I need to do, then I’m going to grab some food. You both are welcome to join me.”

Xavien looked at both men and saw as Giles rolled his eyes.

“No, that will be quite alright. I think I’m gunna just work on my bike and wait until Mei Li comes back.” Giles said, in a patronizing tone.

“Mei Li? Which one was that?” Xavien asked.

“Do you ever fucking quit? Oh, right, you’re new here. Mei Li is the rebellious fox with the black fur. She is Mi Lei’s kid.” Giles added; “Incidentally… you seriously believe working my way into the good graces and respect of Inari is slacking? To the point that the leader and highest ranked member on this continent has, albeit reluctantly, said I could bang her daughter… To what end, you say? Well, I’ve developed a kinship and respect for their nearly incorruptible way of living. You see, they were forced out of Hokkaido by the Chen family because they would not be bought off and refused to succumb to slavery under the harsh rule of Tenchiu, the Inari Emperor. I respect them and they accept me for who I choose not to be.”

Xavien nodded as Andrew waved ‘bye’ and left quietly.

“Okay, so they accept you… but it seems to be an awfully large contingent of shifting creatures. One could argue that peaceful and incorruptible living is incongruent with their potential and numbers.” Xavien noted.

“Yeah. Funny how that works, Lieutenant; but it happens, doesn’t it? I think you’re a pussy-ass bitch, but that doesn’t mean I think you’re corrupt. If anything, you’re too scared to be corrupt. Not too different than the fact that you are too scared to be what you were born to be in the first place.” Giles mused and then added in slightly less of a demeaning tone; “No, I don’t necessarily think you have the guts… but your code of conduct is proven by your actions.”

“How sweet of you.” Xavien remarked and then realized that he felt unusually aggressive around Giles, something that was also quite unfamiliar. “I must apologize. I have this highly negative reaction to you, but I don’t have much control over it; this is an unusual response that I am not familiar with.

Giles laughed; “Okay. You are too much. I may only be eight years older than you, but as far as you’re concerned… I’ve graduated college with an advanced degree, and you aren’t even out of primary school yet. I’ve no interest in training you, nor do I intend on explaining everything to you. We’re not only a different breed, but we have a very different ideal of how things should be done. I prefer to be as free as this life will allow, you choose to ascend through the ranks of confining organizations and ideological constructs. Now, look, I don’t dislike you. I dislike everyone. At worst, I disregard you.”

Xavien did not like Giles, but had a new respect for him. He wanted more and was about to speak when Giles stopped him.

“Hmm-mm. No. You have that look in your eyes that kids get when they are about to ask a million questions. Go get your info from that chatterbox Karl. As for me? I’m gunna tie one on and then hopefully bang one out later.” Giles chuckled at his own joke.

Xavien wasn’t too pleased that several people knew of his connection to Karl. But, there was little he could do about it. It seemed that very little stayed secret amongst the supernatural community. This would be difficult and hazardous to navigate. This was the exact type of bullshit that Xavien had predicted about the supernatural creatures that lived in the world around him.

However right he may have been…

It did not change the fact that he was forced, now, to participate.

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