Log in

No account? Create an account
16 November 2017 @ 07:25 am
_Stone_ part 9  

Chapter Thirteen



Saturday was supposed to be the busiest day of the week for the store, so Rachel dressed, packed a lunch . . . gave into the impulse to make a second sandwich . . . just in case . . . some random cute guy was hungry.

But it turned into a day of completely different kind of busy than the weekdays. Millions of shoppers, but no contractors. Millions of small sales. Lots of medium sales. Only two tickets for the warehouse. She spotted Leo three times, helping customers with items on high shelves.

And being scolded by "Miss Nina" as everyone call her boss.

Miss Nina looked over at Rachel. "And you haven't taken your lunch either, have you? Go! both of you. You have to last all day, you know!"

Rachel fetched her cooler, which was still cool inside, and looked at Leo who was contemplating the selections in a vending machine. "Rot your teeth eating like that."

He snickered. "What! I can't live on fast food?"

She looked at the packet of cupcakes in his hand. "That doesn't even rise to the status of fast food. Not that I don't love those things . . . " She looked back at her cooler.

Well? Have I got the nerve?

"Trade you one of my sandwiches for a cupcake."

He grinned.

Ohmygawd he's fantastic when he grins. I swear his eyes twinkled.

She pulled out both sandwiches and grinned back. "I made two, in case I stayed late."

"And with that madhouse out there . . . "

"We'll be staying late. But I forgot how late my official lunch is." She pushed a sandwich across the old scarred table.

He opened his packet, and pulled out a cupcake. He handed the packet with the other cupcake across the table. Took a bite out of his own, and started opening the sandwich bag.

Rachel snickered.

"Don't worry, no chance I won't eat it all."

Rachel grinned. "I can hear my mother's voice in my head."

Leo grinned back and managed a falsetto. "Not until after dinner, young lady."

Oh dear . . . all crinkle eyes and dimples . . . happy.

"Exactly. And what would you're mother have said? 'Don't spoil your dinner, dear?' No?"

"More like 'I swear you're going to eat me out of house and home, you bottomless teenage black hole!' and then she'd laugh." He looked wistful, shrugged. Popped the last of the cupcake into his mouth.

"Do you talk to them often?"

He shook his head. "They're both dead, now. Just . . . old age. They were my foster parents, the only parents I remember. The state thought they were too old to adopt me . . . but they raised me from the time I was about five through a year of college."

"But you know your extended family?"

"After Mom died—about a month after Dad—I decided to track them down. What a mistake. I was better off with dreams." Took a bite of ham sandwich. "Umm, this is good."

Rachel nodded. "My parents sold the house, bought a condo on a golf course and didn't quite kick me out, but they made it clear that it was time for me to fly the nest. They phone every week. Generally to complain that we never visit."

Leo raised his eyebrows.

"Which we do! But we're busy. My sister's husband transferred down here—he's from Tucson and he missed the desert—and they're trying to have a baby so she hasn't been working. When the company I was working for folded, I decided to come check out the job prospects here." She paused for a bite.

"I noticed your car had Tennessee plates."

She nodded, swallowed. "Nashville. Phoenix is going to take awhile to feel like home."

He nodded. "I guess I've been in the desert for . . . three weeks? It's really different. Even though I think pristine green lawns are unnatural, I'm so used to them that all these cactus and rock yards look scraggly and uncared for."

Rachel nodded. "And the crab grass is the worst. I mean, I know it'll come back when it gets rain, but right now? It's just brown!"

She stayed late, not going home until the doors were locked, the last receipts in and counted. Leo'd stayed for restocking and a final sweep, and left a bit before she finally staggered out to her car and drove the short distance home.

Sunday the store opened late, so she slept in, got in a probably-not-actually-two-miles run, with Stone who'd actually been there, for a change. Ate breakfast, fed the dog—who promptly disappeared—and headed back to work. It wasn't nearly as busy as Saturday, but still impressive. Contractor order for cabinets were coming in, so she got the admire Leo's strength and balance again.

Chapter fourteen


Monday night

I got to work early, and instead of a lunch hour, I took two and found the local library. They didn't have anything I hadn't already read on werewolves, but there were some on 'Skinwalkers' . . . that I put away hastily.

Almost scarier than my family!

And books on magic . . . stage, nope, Tarot cards? Umm, don't think so. Oooo, demonology for beginners . . . maybe I could find out where the hunters got their delusions from. Natural Magic? I really didn't think I could do anything "magic" but I suppose, I mean . . . I certainly ordinary . . . supernatural seemed a bit of a stretch, though.

A bit to my surprise, an out-of-state driver's license and a local address—I gave them the store's—was good enough for the library card. I trotted back to the store, put the books in my otherwise empty locker and got back to work.

And after, I headed straight home, books, and then clothes, in a bag.

I got scolded for having escaped, and locked in the laundry room while they went out for dinner.

Yay! As soon as they were out of the house I streaked for my clothes stash and dragged them all inside. It took two trips in dog-form, but I needed to wash everything.

Only a small spill trying to pour the laundry detergent. I'm more dexterous than a real dog, but that's more because of being able to think how to do things with paws, than my paws being not-quite standard dog or cat paws.

Anyhow, I got the wash started. And stretched out on the living room rug to read about demonology. Brrr. If the author wasn't a believer, he was sure good at pretending.

The sound of the garage door opening caught me by surprise.

I shoved the books under the couch and ran for the laundry room. Jumped up and stopped the washing machine, closed the inner door . . .

"Oh! Look who's a good dog! You stayed in the . . . " Rachel voice trailed off.

I sat there looking innocent as she stepped past me and shoved the outside door closed.

Oops, left it ajar.


And unlocked.

"Honestly Stone! I didn't know dogs could do things like that! I don't know what to try next. C'mon out."

Oh well, at least she hadn't noticed the washing machine stopped in mid-rinse cycle.

Nicole had kicked off her shoes, and rubbed her feet. "Why do I wear things like these monstrosities?" She leaned to scoop them up and headed for the master bedroom, downstairs, opposite the garage and laundry room . . .

The TV clicked on to an advertisement. Kris put the remote down and followed her.

Rachel headed upstairs.


I hustled into the laundry room and clicked the resume button. Closed the door behind me. With the sound of the news on the TV, maybe I could get everything washed. The dryer . . . umm, this was going to take both luck and cunning.

I trotted back to the living room and flopped down where I'd be in the way of anyone heading for the laundry room.

And watched the news. About the discovery of two bodies in the desert, on the New Mexico side of the state line. Apparently killed by an animal, but the coroner would have more to say after the autopsy. The police suspected a falling out between drug runners.

Two bodies.

I'd killed both of them. I wasn't going to feel bad about fighting for my life. I wasn't.

But . . . Oh, dammit all, why hadn't I doubled back and taken my wallet away with me?

I heard the faint whirr of the spin cycle spinning down and eased back down the hallway. With a noisy advertisement for cover I got into the laundry room and closed the door behind me.

And had my first set back. I couldn't reach down into the washing machine and grab stuff.

I cursed mentally and reached mentally for the human-form that lurked in the depths of my bones and my mind.

Ouch, ouch, ouch!

My arms elongated, front toes extended . . . I grabbed clothes and stuffed them into the dryer as quickly as I could, while the change was still under way.

Quick check, got them all!

"Stone? Are you back here letting yourself out?"

Oh, oh, oh! Bad timing!

I reached for the dog-form as I quietly closed the dryer door.

The doorknob turned.

I leaped and leaned on the interior door, as pain wracked bones that suddenly didn't know which way to morph.

"Woof!" I reached out and turned off the light. Maybe she wouldn't notice . . . problems . . . in the dark . . .

"Silly dog! I can't let you out if you don't get out of the way."

She shoved.

I braced myself, hands against the door, and held the door closed.

Reached for the dog-inside. Be a dog. C'mon body, go back to being a dog.

Okay. My hands were looking pretty dog-like. I rubbed one on my nose. Nope, still a human nose. Paw back on the door as Rachel put some muscle into it.


Another quick feel. Ears, the ears were good.

"Woof!" I tried to sound happy, not frantic and in pain. What I really wanted to do was howl in pain and frustration.

Deep breathing, relax. C'mon, you learned how to control your form that interesting summer before high school.

I rubbed my . . . muzzle, wagged my tail . . . a couple of more deep breaths and I backed off as the door opened.

Rachel peeked around the door. "Good Grief! Get down, you silly mutt."

I backed up and dropped down to all fours.


"Good. Grief. You are the weirdest dog! C'mon."

I followed her to the living room and flopped on the rug. Tried to relax, tried to will away the aches and pain. Whew! Next time I'd have to find a laundromat. This was just too harrowing.

And I still needed to turn on the dryer.

ekuah on November 16th, 2017 04:25 pm (UTC)
Comment not meant for the story.
If were in Rachel's shoes, I would have set up a CCTV after the second day. Just to find out how this canine-Houdini gets out every time.
(Anonymous) on November 16th, 2017 05:49 pm (UTC)
RE: Comment not meant for the story.
I raised a Guide Dog puppy when I was sixteen. It was all about socialization and familiarization. When Arco got bored he did stuff like open doors, gates, and take off leashes. No one taught him. Just bright, bored, yellow lab puppy. He did it right in front of people, like see what I can do, but he was also never left alone.

matapampamuphoff on November 16th, 2017 09:38 pm (UTC)
Re: Comment not meant for the story.
When I was teenager, I had a mutt that could open anything. He was pretty old when I took my new husband home to meet my parents. The look on his face when the dog trotted up to the sliding glass door, reached up and click the latch open, slid the door and trotted out was priceless.
mbarkermbarker on November 17th, 2017 01:52 pm (UTC)
RE: Re: Comment not meant for the story.
Y’a know, if you wanted to complicate things, you could have a youngster who sees Stone going out, and follows along? I mean, kids are pretty accepting of things, and I could see one saying, “Okay, if you want to go for a run, let’s do it together. Here, chase the stick, want to play ball?” And Stone deciding to play along... and now he’s got a young friend who is watching what’s going on...

Or not. You already have a pretty full cast of characters. Maybe for the sequel, a YA, where little John meets the Werewolf?
matapampamuphoff on November 17th, 2017 03:10 pm (UTC)
Re: Comment not meant for the story.
Well, I need complications, but probably not that one.
ekuah on November 17th, 2017 11:35 pm (UTC)
Re: Comment not meant for the story.
So, probably no Eldon travelling through, with a the rest of the helios and a bunch of pissed off cyborgs in tow.
matapampamuphoff on November 18th, 2017 01:26 am (UTC)
Re: Comment not meant for the story.
Nope, nope. Independent book, not associated with anything else.
ekuah on November 18th, 2017 09:59 am (UTC)
Re: Comment not meant for the story.
Just pulling your leg.