©2011 by Ted R. Blasingame


Chapter 1 - A Crime of Passion


The first of two gunshots failed to attract the attention of a nearby crowd, largely due to the noise of revelry and celebration of the New Year. Couples danced, drinkers toasted the night with exuberant enthusiasm, and cheering crowds lifted their voices for the occasion as youngsters set off confetti poppers to coincide with the fireworks bursting overhead.

The second shot rang out in a random lull in the festivities, and had a dancer in the throng not jerked upright and then fallen to his face in the midst of the crowd, it might have also gone unnoticed. The lithe, dark-haired angel the man had been dancing with felt her partner’s sudden shift of weight a second before his knees buckled, but it was another female reveler who screamed first when a froth of blood sprayed her white party dress.

Had the shooter been prudent, he would have departed the vicinity as soon as he was sure his target was down, but instead he rushed into the crowd of shouting men and screaming women to grasp the wrist of the victim’s partner.

For those first moments, the dark-haired woman stood frozen in her tracks at the sight of her dancing partner at her feet in a growing red pool, a silent shriek caught deep in her throat. However, when a large hand roughly seized her wrist and jerked her away from the carnage, she looked up into a man’s wild tanned face in immediate surprise; recognition loosed the scream from her lips.

Accompanied with shrieks of terror, the woman flailed at her abductor with her free fist, kicked hard at his shins with pointed-toe dancing shoes and even butted at his square jaw with the top of her head. Combined with the pressing throng of the crowd and the resistance of his captive, the shooter was unable to withdraw as quickly or quietly as intended. Several men from the multitude realized that an abduction was taking place right under their noses and moved quickly to subdue the woman’s attacker.

In order to grab the woman, the shooter had pocketed the revolver within his coat and had nothing in hand to warn off the men who interfered with his plans. He struck out blindly, but the woman was wrenched from his grasp and four saviors wrestled him to the ground. He received three blows to the jaw before he was unceremoniously turned over and pinned to the ground with a weighty knee in the small of his back.

Despite the success of his capture, others in the crowd were oblivious to the struggle as the throng simultaneously moved in closer to the victim and pulled back away at the sight of so much blood. Someone knelt down next to the man to check on his condition, but another yanked him away before he could touch him.

From somewhere nearby, two police officers pushed their way through the throng, ordering gawkers to let them through to the victim. One crouched by the man’s side, attempting to avoid kneeling in the pool of blood while his partner pushed the crowd back to give them room and air. The first officer reached out toward the fallen man’s neck to feel for a pulse, but when he saw what was before him, he hesitated with an almost unconscious curl to his lip.

Steeling himself, the cop buried his fingers in the thick hide of the victim’s neck, and although it was difficult to find, he located a weak pulse in the carotid artery. “He’s still alive!” the officer shouted above the noise to his partner, pulling his radio from a belt holster to call for an ambulance.

“Quiet down!” ordered the second cop to the gathered crowd. It took several commands before the immediate throng silenced enough that conversations were reduced to mumbles. At the announcement that the victim still lived, the dark-haired woman pushed her way past the standing cop and dropped to her knees in the blood to sob while clutching at her lover.

“Ma’am, please get back,” said the cop, putting his hands on her shoulders to pull her away. “An ambulance is on the way.” When she only looked at him with tear-streaked eyes and did not move, the officer sighed.  “What happened?” he asked.

Suddenly invigorated with anger, the woman spat out, “It was my Ex!  He shot him!”

At those words, someone from the crowd said, “They’ve got him over here!”

The second cop moved quickly toward the voice and the crowd parted to let him see a wide-shouldered man with short rusty-red hair pinned face down to the ground by several other men. The officer gave the four a nod of acknowledgment and then knelt beside the prisoner. Without preamble, he reached into the man’s back pocket and pulled out his wallet.

He read the man’s name aloud from the identification and said, “You are under arrest on suspicion of attempted murder.”  The shooter ceased struggling against his captors while the officer read him his rights.

Despite the continued revelry of the occasion some distance away, the crowd in the immediate vicinity had fallen silent at the arrival of a medical team that had been stationed in a nearby tent set up in preparation for the downtown New Year’s crowd.

Just as a medic reached out gently to the victim’s shoulder, the injured man coughed once into the concrete street beneath him and then let out a final breath. The dark-haired woman clung to the cop beside her with agonizing sobs as the medic turned the dead man’s body over onto his back.

A collective gasp escaped several in the gathered crowd, apparently unaware of the victim’s identity. Dressed in strange sandals, loose-fitting blue jeans, plaid flannel shirt and a light jacket was something that only some of them had heard about. The figure looked human in apparent shape, but the feline face, clawed hands and a long, thick rope of a tail that had been previously hidden by the coat were all covered in tawny brown fur. Although genetically engineered anthro humans were becoming more of a common sight in society, they were still rare enough that most people who saw them for the first time were either drawn to them or repulsed in disgust or fear.

Although humanoid, the victim’s face belonged to that of a mountain lion, a painful expression frozen in death. Despite the blood and the apparent revulsion of some in the crowd, the dark-haired woman flung herself upon her furman lover and wept bitterly.




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