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14 November 2017 @ 05:19 am
_Stone_ part 7  

Chapter Friday


I woke before dawn, changed and got dressed before slipping out from behind the euonymus bushes and going in search of breakfast.

Donuts were the cheapest. I munched and watched the sun rise until Mr. Burton arrive to get things started. He let me clock right in and put me to work moving the eye catchers outside as they turned on the lights and unlocked the doors.

Excellent. I'll either rack up some overtime or I'll get sent home early. Either is a good idea, because my cash is getting pretty low.

I'll have to go back to the Kovacs' and eat dog food.

But that's also the best way to keep track of her, guard her.


I was getting a kitchen sink down from the top of the very tall shelves when I spotted Rachel chatting with Miss Nina, the head of the office staff. Was Rachel applying for a job here too?

It would make guarding her from those hunters a lot easier.

And it would make getting to know her, human-to-human, possible.

And that was almost scarier than my putative relatives. Because I'd never dared have a real girlfriend. Not even when I was a semi-popular member of the football team in high school. Oh, there'd been several girls I talked to regularly, but not dated. I'd outraged everyone by taking three girls to the prom. Well, they'd put their heads together and made a plan. They'd asked me to the prom. All three of them at once. We'd had a fun time and I'd kissed each one of them once . . . I was a pretty nerdy seventeen-year-old.

At twenty-four, more or less, since I didn't really know when I'd been born, things could get more serious and I really didn't dare.

I watched Rachel's blonde curls from my perch . . . and got back to moving boxes to find the one that inventory claimed was up here.

By the time I found it, Rachel was gone.


And at "lunch" which happened to occur at two in the afternoon for the times I was supposed to be working—my first paycheck.

Miss Nina smiled at my expression. "It's only for part of the week, and with the deductions for everything, well, the next one will be much bigger."

In as much as I had been wondering if I could afford lunch at all, this was very welcome. I had a good memory for numbers, so there was no trouble depositing the check in my old bank account, and getting a twenty in cash.

If I dared return to Albuquerque I'd have a checkbook, a computer, and a car.

Not to mention a futon and my own towels and dishes . . . I'd feel rich.

I suppose my wallet's out in the desert somewhere.

A chill ran up my spine. No. Either the police have it, or those . . . Hunters of Men.

Do I need to check the news? Have they found any bodies out in the desert. Surely at least one of them died.

I walked down the street from the bank. A Mexican restaurant with a cheap lunch menu. Exactly what I needed. Then back to work, and after work . . . tracking.

I circled out from the houses I'd found. Only five of the Hunters were there, and I started working outward . . . but was still close enough to feel three others arrive at the houses I'd found.

They all moved then. Three clumps. Cars. Heading west.

I was northwest of them and ran westward, checked, damn all fast cars! They were northwest and moving . . . slowing . . .

I sprinted . . . got to highway 60 and realized they must be on it, two miles ahead of me. In slow rush hour traffic.

I settled down to a steady trot, and didn't loose them until they were past Peoria, with no indication they were going to stop.

At least there were no white glows in the cars. If they're going somewhere out in the desert, it's without a victim.

I turned around and started limping back. At least my hip wasn't hurting. A little skin off my pads would heal fast enough. And another night of sleeping rough. Maybe I'd change back and buy dinner. Although I was hungry enough that even kibble sounded good.

Chapter Eleven



"Bloody stupid animals. Why do people have pets, anyway? Why should I care about a stray dog?" Rachel flipped pancakes onto plates added bacon and served her sister and Brother-in-law.

"We can check the pound. Not that he's ours, but . . . we could claim him." Nicole was at least trying to look sympathetic.

Kris just looked thoughtful, and said nothing.

Rachel stomped back to the kitchen and poured more batter on the griddle. "I'm going to go drop off some more resumes."

"And drive around looking for a big brown dog." Nicole called back. "Umm, good pancakes."

"It's all in how you stir the mix." Rachel flipped this batch. "Anyone going to want more? No? Ha! All mine!" She piled them up and carried the plate out to the table.

"No bacon?" Nicole looked at her last half strip guiltily.

"I ate mine while I was cooking. Now for dessert. Gobs of melted butter and real maple syrup. It doesn't get any better than this."

Kris grinned and shook his head. "I give you two five years max before you're both on diets and trying to resist pancakes."

"Never!" Rachel dug into her pancakes. Swallowed the first bite. "Although I do need to start running regularly again."

"Mmm." Nicole swallowed.

"Today, I'm going to job hunt locally. Monday . . . unless I get some interest around here, I'll start downtown. Ugh. I hate long commutes." She wolfed down the pancakes and dashed for the shower.

I'll cover the other end of the strip center. Then up and over a couple of blocks, see if anyone needs a receptionist. Might as well start with Handyman Central.

She parked and walked in.

Not really dressed for this particular job, but . . .

And there was a computer thing right there inside the door, to use to apply for a job.

Well, that's handy.

She filled everything out and pushed the send button. And headed back out to check out the other stores, drop off three resumes, then head for the little clump of medical places.

Dentists, orthodontists, physical therapy, 24 hour Urgent Care . . . Every single one asked about training in medical billing and coding . . .

Her phone buzzed. "Hello?"

"Hi. Is this Rachel Ball?"

"Yes, how may I help you?"

"I'm Nina Harris, assistant manager at Handyman Central. Your resume says you've had accounting classes . . . we're looking for an online and phone billing clerk . . . Could you come in this afternoon for an interview?"

"Absolutely. I can be there at three, if that works for you?"

"It does. See you at three."

Rachel clicked off before letting out a whoop. "An interview! Yay! Even if it doesn't work, it's a great." She hustled home for a quick freshen up and slight wardrobe adjustment.

More practical, less ritzy than a big business receptionist would wear. But still dressed for business.

She asked at customer service, and was directed to the back of the store.

Miss Nina Harris was brisk and businesslike with sharp eyes under a neat short gray hair.

No HR nonsense here.

And even better, they were desperate for someone who knew spreadsheets and could actually communicate with people over the phone. Take orders, calculate taxes, or remember to get tax exempt ID. She appeared to be an exemplary boss, especially when she offered Rachel a job on the spot.

Rachel accepted, filled out her own forms, then started right in on the back log of orders. She worked late and bounced home happy and ravenous.

Kris grinned and shook his head. "Give it a month. Bet it'll be driving you up the wall."

"Kris!" Nicole was half scolding and half laughing. "Here. I saved your dinner."


They exchanged glances and Rachel stomped around to the sliding glass doors. Stone smiled through the glass.

"Don't you dare use that charm on me, buster! I worried about you." She slid the door and let him in. "Do that again and I'll haul you down to the vet to get your wanderlust surgically removed!"


Nicole burst out laughing. "That was definitely a reproving and indignant woof."

Rachel sniff. "Bad dog. Just see if I share my dinner with you." And got the big eyed treatment.

Nicole rolled her eyes and brought him a bowl of mashed potatoes and gravy.


Her second day of work, she bounced from getting carts loaded to be picked up by the people who'd ordered things online, to more ordinary bookkeeping. Miss Nina made five trips to the bank, looking more cheerful each time.

"Girl, I don't know where you find the energy!"

Allison Higgins, at the next desk gave her a dark look.

Rachel ignored it and grabbed three online orders for cabinets. "Be right back."

The only purple shirt in the department was her terrified Leo. She pulled the big flat up to him. "Hi Leo. I need three sink cabinets. All sixty inches. Three different styles."

He glanced at the ticket and flashed a smile. "Right this way. Fortunately I'll only have to climb for one of them." He stopped and slid one off of the head level shelf of the huge racks. "Does the barcode match?"

She checked. "Yep. And then an Old Colonial." She followed him down rows of cabinets in every size and shape imaginable. This one was on the bottom shelf.

Then he fetched a rolling ladder, locked the wheels and climbed up to pull the third one.

He called out the number to be sure. A quick grin. "I don't want to have to haul it back up!"

The numbers matched, and he just slid it out, held it over his head and walked down the ladder like it was easy.

Men have all the muscles. No fair! Especially when they come with good balance and coordination. And this one's got it all plus good looking.

"Fantastic. I've got two more orders, if you'd like to look them over while I haul this load up front?"

"Sure." He glanced at the lists. "Right, two more big carts, coming up."

He had one cabinet loaded and was up on the ladder when she returned. She checked the number he called down, the one already on the cart . . .

Cute and competent. A nice smile.

"So . . . why'd you run off the other day?"

"I was afraid I'd be late when I'd just started here?" He looked at her hopefully.

She shook her head.

He heaved a sigh. "I spotted a relative of mine. My family is . . . there's a lot of problems. My one attempt to, oh, I don't know. Just be around them? Maybe even like them? Complete disaster. Guess I learned why I was raised far away from them, in Atlanta . . . so what's next on the list?"

"Regency Natural Oak. Five pieces."

"I'll another cart." he strode off.

Leo. Atlanta. Surely he's not Leonard Stone? She bit her lip. I'm not going to ask. I'll . . . I'll find out if he deserves a good dog like Stone!

And he ran away from a guy who looked a heck of a lot like him. So either his family is horrid, or he's a coward. Or both, of course.

(Anonymous) on November 14th, 2017 11:28 am (UTC)
So when will Kris get a glimpse of the new guy... and what will he try to do about it? Collect a DNA sample? Oh, boy, if they could only decide to take a DNA sample from the dog before they get around to the new guy... this is building nicely.
mbarkermbarker on November 14th, 2017 11:28 am (UTC)
Sorry, that was me, I just forgot to login...
Zan Lynxzlynx on November 14th, 2017 08:21 pm (UTC)
I've only heard of DNA testing dogs and other animals when the owners are planning to breed them, or sometimes if they are purebred puppies, their papers will include DNA test results with screenings for all of the breed's known issues.

I suppose that it could be done for curiosity to try to determine the type of dog. I'm not sure it would be very reliable at all though. I've heard of dogs with falsified papers getting tested and the results were not useful. A dog is a dog...

But whatever makes a good story! :-)
matapampamuphoff on November 15th, 2017 01:38 am (UTC)
I'm more familiar with horses, and the DNA tests are now required for many breeds. I don't know how many dog breeds require them, but tests for "what went into my mutt" are available. Accuracy? No idea.
mbarkermbarker on November 15th, 2017 05:44 am (UTC)
Of course, in this case, I suspect if they did a DNA test, they would probably get a response from the lab saying something went wrong, 48 chromosomes, that's not a dog, the sample was contaminated somehow... at which point Kris is going to be very, very suspicious... or perhaps have an AHA! moment?
matapampamuphoff on November 15th, 2017 01:53 pm (UTC)
The FBI lab is, in fact looking for exactly that, and identifying individual members of the "Forty Eights" gang. They're going to totally freak when the _dog_ bodies turn out to have human genes, plus two.

This will be their first indication of something uncanny going on.

In this rough draft, I've got a "Division of Weird Stuff" at the NSA. With no details so I can change it however I want.
Zan Lynxzlynx on November 15th, 2017 04:27 pm (UTC)
From my understanding from following a border collie case from a friend's Facebook link, the DNA tests can show the presence of markers that are fairly unique to a breed. But that presence isn't enough to say "Yes that is a border collie." Apparently if you can't absolutely prove the parents, you aren't allowed to claim its a pure border collie even if it looks, acts, and has all the right DNA.
ekuah on November 15th, 2017 08:42 am (UTC)
For what?
I will apologize right at the beginning for being the 'Advocatus Diaboli' again.

But for what reason would they wish to analyze Stone's (the Dog's) DNA ?
I mean they could clearly see he is no pedigree breed.
They think he has another owner and they want to give him back.
A DNA test won't bring any health benefit and isn't cheap.
Rachel is new at her job and is saving for college.
Her sister doesn't work and her brother doesn't have a high paying job (not a CEO, moviestar or something).

So again, why would they check his DNA?
Pam, if you need it as plot device, I' sure a reason could be found.
But if it's not necessary, leave it out.
matapampamuphoff on November 15th, 2017 02:00 pm (UTC)
Re: For what?
They are checking the DNA of the dead dogs found in the New Mexico desert.

The boys in New Orleans having mentioned werewolves, has Kris kicking himself over silly thoughts. The thing about the dog breeds is a rational reason to check that, "Yes, that was a stupid idea, they're just dogs,"
ekuah on November 15th, 2017 02:59 pm (UTC)
Re: For what?
I was referencing to mbarker.
I thought he he meant Stone the dog.
'Oh, boy, if they could only decide to take a DNA sample from the dog before they get around to the new guy... this is building nicely.'

But about checking dead dogs in the desert:
Doesn't make to much sense to check the DNA of a dead mutt found in the desert. Even the FBI lab has a budget. I bet there are tons of dead animals found in the desert, even near crime scenes

More reasonable would be if they are wondering WHAT have killed those mutts. When the bite marks are inconclusive, they could check for saliva DNA in the bite marks. That sample will be inevitably contaminated with the blood of the victim. So to differentiate between the DNA profiles they have to take a non contaminated DNA sample from the victim too.
Volia, you have your DNA profile of the dead mutts.

And yes, they will likely have to repeat that test ten times. And then taking samples again and test again this time with witnesses.
matapampamuphoff on November 15th, 2017 03:09 pm (UTC)
Re: For what?
No. The DNA from the bites is human/48. That's why they think the bites are not actual dog bites, but faked. When they test the dog bodies that are in the vicinity of the double death-by-dog-bite crime scene, they'll get a shock.
ekuah on November 15th, 2017 03:44 pm (UTC)
Lab procedure
I was trying to give you an explanation WHY the FBI could want to test the DNA from the bites.
And having worked in an environmental lab I know some of the inner procedures and methods.

As I said, DNA tests aren't cheap, and the labs techs aren't sitting around idle ether.
So the investigators need a reason to order a costly DNA analysis.
One of those reasons could be (as I said above) inconclusive bite marks.

Now, when you try to analyse the attacker's DNA from a wound, that sample will be inevitably contaminated by the DNA of the victim. I'm not aware of any method to separate saliva from blood.

So to tell apart the attacker's DNA from the victim's DNA you have to take an uncontaminated victim DNA sample.
Then, when you have both DNA patterns (the mixed one and the pure victim's one), you can discern the DNA parts which 'could' come from the victim, and those parts which have to come from the attacker. (because those can't be found in the pure victim's sample)

That would be the normal procedure in a lab.
No matter if they check the bite marks in a rape case, or some mauled werewolfs in the desert.

Sorry if sound like a pitbull with it's jaws buried in an argument.

Edited at 2017-11-15 03:50 pm (UTC)
(Anonymous) on November 15th, 2017 04:45 pm (UTC)
Re: Lab procedure
Having the FBI test DNA of the bites to check if it was really dog/wolf as it appears vs. human vs. mechanical (in which case there might also be human trace) seems reasonable to me.

At this point, DNA testing may not be super cheap, but costs have dropped radically from a few years ago. For DNA-based paternity tests, the cost is typically well under $400 in the US, and some labs even offer same day or next day service. Even testing of dog excrement is commercially available, used by some property management companies to track down tenants not cleaning up after their dogs.

For a case as hot as this one, having the FBI DNA test everything they can is probably feasible. The limitations on lab processing are primary fiscal, but I can't imagine a case like this wouldn't get priority.
ekuah on November 15th, 2017 05:28 pm (UTC)
Re: Lab procedure
'Having the FBI test DNA of the bites to check if it was really dog/wolf as it appears vs. human vs. mechanical'
I would count that under 'inconclusive bite marks'
Or call it 'suspicious bite marks' if you want.

But still, to identify the attacker's DNA pattern you have get rid of the victims pattern.

It's like this (crude and simplified example) :
You find this pattern in the victims wound:
It's the sum of the victim's and the culprit's pattern

The victim have this pattern:
0 - -34 -6 -89A -CDEFGHIJ -L - -OP - -STUV - - -Z
So the culprit have to have at least these parts in his pattern: (victim don't have them)
-12 - -5 - - - - -B - - - - - - - -K -MN - -QR - - - -WX - -

Now you have 3 suspects:
Suspect 1
012 -45 - -8 -A - - - - -G -IJKLM -O -Q - -T -VWXYZ
Suspect 2
012 -45 - -8 - -BC -E - -HIJK -MN -PQRST - -WX -Z
Suspect 3
- -234 - -78 - -B - - -FG -IJK -M -OPQ -STUV -X -Z

Suspect 1 is missing:
- - - - - - - - - - -B - - - - - - - - - - -N - - -R - - - - - - - -
also no 'Y' is found on the victim.

Suspect 3 is missing:
-1 - - -5 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -N - - -R - - - -W - - -
also no '7' is found on the victim.

Suspect 2 have all the extra found parts and have nothing which isn't found on the victim. So he is likely the guilty one.

Edited at 2017-11-15 05:46 pm (UTC)
matapampamuphoff on November 15th, 2017 08:48 pm (UTC)
Re: Lab procedure
I understand what you are saying.

This is how they know the bites must be faked, because, having eliminated the victim's DNA, the attacker's DNA is also human with two extra chromosomes, rather then canine, which would have IIRC, 78 chromosomes.

But they have never set eyes on their suspects. The two young men in New Orleans (who totally screwed up) is the first time they've laid eyes on anyone genetically related to the hundred and whatever gang members they've got DNA evidence of.

The young men claimed to be werewolves--and from the site evidence the whole gang is into the werewolf motif, with fake bites deliberately contaminated with the killers DNA.

The Albuquerque site is their first big break, with bodies of two of the Forty-eights. They will not ignore _any thing_ including the dogs. And DNA can sometimes ID the mixes in breeds, and in some breeds they might have DNA on file for registered dogs. They are not going to overlook _any_ possible lead back to the Forty-eights, however tenuous.

They're going to be very shocked when the dogs turn out to have forty-eight chromosomes, and might even be some of their hundred and whatever DNA suspects.
ekuah on November 15th, 2017 09:08 pm (UTC)
Re: Lab procedure
'The Albuquerque site is their first big break, with bodies of two of the Forty-eights. They will not ignore _any thing_ including the dogs.'

Would be nice if you put this in somehow.
It would make the motivations of the officers more believable.

"DNA typing the dogs? Isn't that a little bit overboard?"
"The Albuquerque site is our first big breakthrough. We have the bodies of two of the Forty-eights with their dogs. We will not ignore _any thing_ including the dogs."