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The Life and Times of Chris Shalock: Just Another Day On The Job?
by David Ihnen
David Ihnen -- all rights reserved

Shalock put one paw in front of the other, walking down H street, just like he had every other work day for the last four months. He and his partner, both scabs, had a special assignment - doing a beat in the bad area of town. Bad because it was cheap, and as a result, attracted a large number of unfortunates - these days most of them scabs. That's what they called those afflicted by the disease from mars, after the acronym for it. SCABS. Some of those who acquired it became transformed, generally into crosses between animals and humans, other times into things far stranger. Officer Shalock appeared as a humanoid white german shepherd dog, and his partner a similarly morphed yellow labrador. They both wore the blue uniforms of the city police service.

Walking the beat had become entirely routine. They would walk up one street and down another, watching over the neighborhood. Shalock's eyes picked up a star-shaped crack in the concrete. The impression looked a little older each day since the suicide jump. The blood was long gone, but the anxiety of the day still seemed to run through the area, as testified by the vitriolic nature of the graffiti surrounding them. Today a small weed was trying to grow from one of the cracks. He scuffed it away with his boot, and glanced up at the top of the brownstone apartment building. The fake parapets stood out against the gray sky.

"Heyoh, coppers!" a voice called from across the street. Shalock's ears located the source before his eyes. He recognized Jethro, one of the bagboys at the local grocery and an occasional source of information. He was a bovine scab, though it wasn't blatantly obvious right now, the only telltale feature was a pair of incongruously large ears on the sides of his head. He seemed to go through cycles with varying degree of bull showing through, this was about the most normal Shalock had ever seen him.

Shalock's partner, Anderson, responded to him as the pair paused.

"Hey, Jethro! Keepin it real?" His yellow lab tail wagged.

Jethro skateboarded across the street, continuing in a more normal tone of voice, nervously rocking the skateboard back and forth under his foot as he stood before them.

"You guys know there's another drug dealer in town?" he asked, glancing up and down the street nervously.

"Not sure who you mean." Shalock said quietly, studying the scab standing before them. He wore loose jeans and a black leather jacket over a dark red t-shirt, despite the warm weather. He was a currently only a little taller than Shalock at 5'11", his hair short and curly. He could see some lumps poking out of his hair, probably small horns.

"What does he call himself?" asked Anderson, Shalock's yellow lab morph partner.

"Aww, he didn't give a name or nothing. He's just new, you know. Drives a big black Cadillac, sells high quality white. The car smells like wood or something. Its weird."

"Thanks, we'll check it out," said Shalock, pulling out his notebook and scribbling a quick note. Jethro put his hands in his pockets. "Don't worry huh? We'll take care of you." he reassured.

"Hey, uh, you got the time?" asked Jethro, peering around as if in search of a clock. Shalock checked the watch hanging from his belt next to his badge. A bus driver friend had given it to him to congratulate him on making it through the police academy. It hung upside down for easy viewing by the wearer. It had large, easy to read numbers.

"Twenty past nine." he said, looking up at the intersection ahead. A subcompact car failed to stop for the stop sign, coasting through with only a small tap on the brakes.

"Sheeit, I'm late fer work. Gotta jet!" cried Jethro.

Jethro set off at a furious pace, hopping his skateboard over the larger cracks in the sidewalk.

Anderson shrugged after Jethro. "I'm dying for a cup of coffee."

Shalock smirked. "You always say that when we come to this corner Pooch."

Anderson shrugged again, pulling open the door to the coffee shop with a grin. "After you, Fido." His tail wagged mirthfully.

Anderson stirred the ice cubes in his coffee, waiting for it to become cool enough to lap. "Did you see the game last night?" he asked.

Shalock shook his head, eyes watching the traffic outside the window. A yellow sedan changed lanes without signaling. "No, I had stuff to do."

Anderson chuckled. "Cleaning your apartment again, right?"

Shalock shook his head noncommittally, not answering. Not even Anderson seemed to see the value in keeping things in order. He looked at his notebook, then out the window. His coffee remained untouched on the table before him.

The bell on the coffee shop door tinkled. "Shalock! Anderson! I should have known I'd find you here!"

Shalock knew who it was without looking. Mark Bustle was a local businessman, a large man with a large voice. He moved his bulk over to the table and leaned on the edge, causing it to creak alarmingly.

"You guys should drill down on the traffic in this neighborhood! I was almost hit by some truck this morning! Careening around the corners without any regard for anybody. They should be taken out and shot!"

Mark had a penchant for exaggeration.

"What exactly happened?" asked Shalock, his brown eyes meeting the bloodshot ones on Bustle. He didn't smell like he had been smoking anything, probably just lack of sleep. Anderson was busily lapping his coffee, a blissful look on his canid muzzle, apparently ignoring the loud man.

"What happened!?" exclaimed Mark, "Well, I was just coming down G Street, and there's this stop sign at the corner? Well, this big black truck just screams right through it, without even slowing down! Practically ran me over, was a good thing I wasn't crossing the Street yet!" He gestulated wildly during the explanation.

Shalock nodded. "A black truck?"

"It sure wasn't green or yellow or red! Jet black. I didn't get the plate, it was moving too fast!" Mike said, wheezing a bit from the excitement of telling the tale.

Shalock made another note in his book. "We'll look into it." he said, gesturing to Anderson. "Come on officer, we have a beat." He picked up his still untouched coffee.

Anderson upended the last of his coffee into his muzzle, grinning. "How could I forget?" he grinned, his tail thumping against the businessman as he edged past. "We'll look into that, don't worry." he said.

Mike huffed, and sat down at the counter. "Don't know what the world's coming to..." he mumbled.

Shalock spoke to Anderson as they resumed their beat, his eyes and ears scanning ahead of them alertly. A couple of latinos came around a corner, but turned around abruptly when they saw the cops.

"Another boring day! Nothing ever happens on our watch. Least nothing we can do anything about." grumbled Shalock.

"If we had a car, we could get to the scenes." Anderson pointed out. "There was a fire call fifteen blocks from here yesterday, but we couldn't get to it. I feel like we're being pushed out of the way."

"Maybe we should talk to the mayor?" suggested Shalock.

Anderson shook his head, his tail still wagging slowly. "Its the mayor's program that put us here in the first place, remember?"

Shalock frowned and nodded. "I just wish we could help people more. I didn't become a cop to wander around the streets and feel useless.

They passed a bus stop where one of the local homeless sat, a large bulging sack by his feet.

"Hey Mr. Daggit, keeping it together?" asked Anderson, patting the man on the shoulder. Shalock noticed the yellow tail wagging more vigorously.

Mr. Daggit was a fairly unfortunate scab, his face a strange uneven combination between donkey and human. He had been a fairly successful marketing man until scabs had taken his looks. He didn't smell like alcohol today, far more sober than usual. He looked around at them, the droopier of his donkey ears flipping mildly. "Hi officers." he said, smiling lopsidedly.

"Seen anything strange today?" asked Shalock.

"I saw a poodle girl who had dyed her fur half the colors of the rainbow." he said, pointing across the street. "Or maybe it was a he. Hard to tell with poodles. Anyway, she went into that apartment building hours ago. I saw her in the third window from the left on the third floor a little later. That was pretty strange, don't you think?" Daggit winked, "Say, maybe you should die your whiskers, give you more of a punk look."

Shalock ignored the suggestion. "Have you see any Cadillacs?" he continued.

Anderson shook his head, looking up the street at a noisy group of teenagers.

"Like that one?" Daggit asked.

Both officers looked in the indicated direction. A large cadillac cruised

by, bass thumping from large speakers in the back. It pulled over to the

teenagers up the street for a moment, before continuing on.

"Thanks for your help, Mr. Daggit." Anderson said.

"You could thank me properly." Daggit said, winking.

Shalock handed Daggit his cup of untouched coffee. It was probably cool enough to drink now, but he didn't feel like it anyway. Coffee made him jumpy.

"Don't have anything more. I haven't had any of it." he said, turning to walk away.

"Thanks." said Daggit somewhat insincerely, slurping at it as the two officers turned away.

"I think its working." said Shalock, thoughtfully, verifying that his holster snap was still in place.

"What's working?" asked Anderson.

"The assignment, the mayor's project. People talk to us. They didn't use to. Do you think we're helping anybody?"

"Its just a political project." grumbled Anderson, "A reason to keep us out of the squad cars. I tell you, I used to have the slickest car. Had all the lights, and sirens, even had a computer in it, for looking up people's identifications and stuff."

They approached the group of teenagers. They were lounging outside of an apartment complex, half of them sitting on the large concrete planter. A couple of pansies bravely tried to grow amidst the trampled soil.

Anderson exchanged a mysterious paw-shake with one of the youths.

"Hey guys, whuz happening?" he asked, greeting each of them in turn.

"nawmuch" was the general reply.

"What was with the caddy?" asked Shalock, thumbing over his shoulder in the direction that the car had dissappeared.

The youths shrugged, "Some yutz, was looking for the Blind Pig. We told him where to go." volunteered a short skinny one. He cackled, evidently not having given the correct directions.

There was a boom box playing a rhythmic song. Anderson danced to it much to the amusement of the youths. A couple of the girls joined him. Shalock watched, laughing with the rest.

As the song ended, Shalock nudged Anderson. "Come on, mutt. We gotta get moving." they waved to the youths and continued on.

They left the bustle of the residential blocks behind as they entered a more industrial section. Shalock had paused to pull a stray storm drain grate back over the hole when he noticed Anderson slowly rotating, tilting his head as if he was trying to hear something.

"What?" he asked.

Anderson continued to turn in place, his floppy ears twitching. "Something's wrong..."

Shalock tilted his head, looking around. A delivery man climbed into a brown panel van and drove away with a diesel roar. A riced-out car drove

by the other way with illegally dark windows and the stereo turned up loud

enough to get a ticket for disturbing the peace. And the windows were up. As the sound of the vehicles faded, things were very quiet.

"I don't hear anything." Shalock said.

Anderson nodded, starting to walk again. "I can't put my finger on it, but it shouldn't be that quiet here."

Shalock glanced up at the buildings around them. The windows of the building they stood next to were open. They were the tilt-out style typical of industrial installations. Shalock recognized the back of the welding plant.

"Maybe the plant?" Shalock suggested. There was often the wail and clang of powerful equipment from the structure. The sounds went far into the hypersonic, often sending shivers down the officer's spine. Thankfully, today it was totally absent.

Anderson paused and glanced up at the windows too. "Yes... That's it." he started walking again. "Come on, we'll check it out."

Shalock followed, trying to move the loop for his billy club further back so it wouldn't flop against his thigh so much. They rounded the corner to the plant yard, a chain link enclosed hard gravel expanse lined with loading docks on two sides and racks of steel rods on another. The gates stood wide open, rolled back in their usual daytime position. Two of the company logoed 18-wheelers were docked at the far end, their engines rocking quietly at idle. A black panel van was parked by the office door. The bay nearest to it was occupied by an unmarked black 18-wheeler hitched to an equally unmarked black box trailer. It wasn't idling.

Anderson walked up to the office door, and tried the handle. It was locked. He frowned and knocked, waiting for an answer.

"Strange." Shalock said, sniffing the panel van parked near the door. It had the smell of salt, as if it had been driven along the sea recently. "Maybe they're closed?" suggested Shalock, noticing Anderson waiting.

"No, something's wrong." said Anderson, walking over to the railing that lined the depression used to bring the trailers to the level of the warehouse floor. "They wouldn't have the gates open if they were closed."

They could hear the rumble of a heavy vehicle rolling inside the truck, the trailer shifting slightly on its suspension. There was a firm thump, and the sound moved back out of the trailer with a clank.

The door handle to the office rattled, and both officers turned to see a man's head stick out. "Shit! Its the cops!" he cried as he ducked behind the door. Shalock could hear a gun cocking. His heart leapt in his chest, his body momentarily frozen. Anderson went for his sidearm instantly.

The door swung out and a man fired, the shot deafening in Shalock's unprotected ears. Anderson slammed back into Shalock, knocking them both backwards. Anderson's gun went off, the shot going wide. Shalock staggered under the impact of his partner, both officers tumbling over the railing into the loading dock depression. Shalock scrambled to his knees, drawing his gun and cocking it, safety released. He put his back to retaining wall and waited. After a moment he turned and peered through the railing, but the assailant had already disappeared into the building.

"Brian? You okay?" he asked, looking concernedly to his partner.

Anderson shook his head, a pained look on his muzzle, holding his paw to the red stain growing on his side. "Fuck no!" he growled, teeth grit tightly. "I've just been shot! Call for backup!"

Shalock picked up the mike clipped to his epaulet. "Dispatch 10-33 this is Shalock with Anderson. My partner has been shot. We are at the Broderbund welding plant. I repeat, officer down, shots fired, Broderbund welding plant!"

Dispatch came back immediately. "Acknowledged Shalock, All units, All units, top priority Broderbund Welding Plant, Officer down shots fired!"

Shalock's ears picked up the distant wail of sirens echoing over the buildings. "They're on the way." he told him urgently, double-checking the safety on his gun. It was off. He crouched over his shallowly panting partner, his heart thumping loud in his ears. The door to the office opened again and he swiveled on his heel, rising into view of the doorway. He lined the sights on a figure in a black leather jacket, tentatively stepping out into the yard his gun at the ready. He saw Shalock and fired quickly. The first two shots missed, one wide and one pinging off the railing that bordered the depression. Paint chips flew off the side of the truck behind the officer. Shalock fired twice, the first shot hitting the man in the shoulder and spinning him around, the second squarely in the center of his back.

He spun into a crouch as he heard a sound behind him. Somebody was running across the gravel on the opposite side of the truck, his boots crunching on the gravel. He could see the blurry shadow of somebody on the gravel as he edged around the front of the truck.

"You're gonna be okay." Shalock said, patting Brian's leg. His partner's breathing was more labored, he smelled scared. Or maybe that was his own scent.

Shalock leveled his pistol at the front of the van, exhaling slowly as the man started moving, one step, two steps toward the corner, swinging a large gun around as he came into view. Shalock fired as soon as the profile appeared, his first shot drowned out by a burst from the attacker's machine gun. It didn't discernibly hit him. His second shot caught the shooter to the right of center, throwing him backwards onto the ground, the rest of the shots spraying harmlessly up the side of the building.

He ran over and scooped up the gun. It was an AR-15, obviously modified for fully automatic operation. He moved back to his partner, setting the gun beside him. His breath came quickly, his body alert on adrenaline. He crouched at Brian's side. He could hear the police sirens louder now, closer but still a ways off.

"What do I do?" he asked his senior, who panted laboriously, his eyes screwed shut.

"Take'm out, Fido." grunted Anderson, "That's an order!"

Shalock moved almost without thought, sprinting the short distance to the office door. It was held open by the foot of the first man he had shot. The room was apparently empty. He crept in, peering out a window that overlooked the factory floor. The workers were huddled in a corner, watched over by a man with another AR-15, who was gestulating wildly at the operator of a forklift.

"The cops are coming, get a move on!" he shouted.

The forklift was struggling with a large pallete of silvery metal. It had it picked up, but a rope or strap had caught around it.

"Cut the fucking strap!" yelled the forklift driver, trying to keep the palette on the forks.

The man started firing his machine gun at the strap. It snapped, but the shots ricocheted into a mess of hoses attached to some heavy equipment. Hydraulic fluid started spraying everywhere.

Shalock sighted the shooter and fired three times. The glass in front of him dissolved with the first shot, hitting the shooter in the hip. The next two hit his side and his head, the body slumping against the wall, brown hydraulic fluid spraying over him.

He rotated slightly to the forklift driver, who was now cocking a large silver pistol. He pulled the trigger, knocking the man out the far side of the forklift. One of the hostages leapt behind the forklift.

Machine gun fire rang in his ears, too loud to tell the source. Bullets stitched across the room, ceiling tiles exploding as the shots came in from above. Shalock scrambled through the broken window, sliding on the broken glass as he turned, kneeling. Glass cut into his knee, the pain barely noticed. The shooter was in the area above the office, firing into the floor. Shalock fired twice, the first missing narrowly, the second hitting the man's leg. It twisted under him and the shooter fell over the edge with a cry, falling to the factory floor with a sickening crack, his gun clattering to the floor a few feet away. Shalock turned as a truck engine roared from the yard, the daylight spilling into the space as the truck pulled away from the dock. The loading ramp fell off with a loud clang. Chris was half turned when machine gun fire filled his ears again.

Anderson was propped against the wall, firing into the back of the truck. Two men fell out onto the gravel as the truck swung around towards the entrance, large-clipped machine guns falling to the gravel with them.

Shalock winced as another shot rang out, whistling by his ear and blowing a large chunk out of the wall beside the loading bay. He scrambled behind a rack of metal rods as several more shots echoed through the structure, pinging loudly off a stack of I-Beams behind him.

"Alright Cop! Throw out your gun or I start executing them!" shouted a voice from over by the workers.

Shalock peered through a gap in the pile. A large man held large black pistol to the head of a cat morph scab, who had a large stain spreading in his pants, ears layed back tight, a personification of feline terror.

"Shit." Shalock hissed, the fear on the cat's face hitting him in the gut. He couldn't risk it. He had to make the shooter think he had the power.

"All right!" he barked out, "You win!"

The man shouted back, "Throw out your gun, and come out with your hands up!"

Shalock did as requested, his glock skidding across the floor, then following tentatively, his paws raised high.

"Another stinking scab!?" growled the man, turning the pistol from his hostage to the officer. Shalock's ears rang with another shot. It seemed in slow motion as the man's head exploded to the left, his body crumpling to the floor. The cat sat down hard in his own puddle, trembling.

The wail of sirens peaked, tires screaming in protest as the officers arrived at the scene, wheels spraying gravel. Within a few seconds the S.W.A.T. team swarmed through the loading dock opening behind him.

"We've got it, Shalock!" one of them shouted, covering the hostage who saved Shalock's life, a large malamute.

"Drop the gun!" he yelled.

"No, he's a hostage!" Shalock shouted back, the scab sensibly dropping the gun with due haste anyway.

The moment taken care of, he safetied and holstered his gun, sprinting out the loading dock. He hopped down to find another officer holding a gauze bandage to Anderson's side. An ambulance rushed into the yard, pulling to a stop a few yards away.

"Brian! Are you alright?" he asked, kneeling beside him.

Anderson panted shallowly, turning his head to look at Shalock.

"You get'm Fido?" he grunted.

"Yeah, I got'm." He panted, suddenly feeling very hot.

"Good boy." said Anderson, the medics lifting him onto the gurney. Shalock helped carry one corner. "Don't worry about me." Anderson grinned lopsidedly, "I'm too young to die."

They put him in the ambulance, and the medics climbed in, Shalock closed the door and thumped it, the lights flashing brightly in his eyes as it turne back towards the gate. He watched it go, feeling a little unsteady on his feet.

He had almost been shot. Anderson had been shot. He killed five people. His mind seemed to vibrate, shifting wildly between the concepts, not latching on any of them. He closed his eyes, and took a deep breath, ordering his thoughts. It was okay. Anderson would be okay. He would be okay. A hand rested on his shoulder.

"Shalock. You okay?"

It was the sargent. Shalock just shook his head, trying to deal with it all.

"Take the day off, okay? See to Anderson. I'll have one of the men drive you to the hospital."

Shalock nodded curtly, "thank you sir." he said automatically.

"Just hang tight, okay?" he said, turning and gesturing at one of the cops.

"Hey." said a gentle voice.

Shalock slowly looked up, old work boots, badly torn jeans revealing furred thighs and a jock-strapped crotch, massive paws hugging a tail to his front. He was tall, at least half a head taller than the officer. It was the malamute, the one that shot the suspect. Shalock stuttered for a moment.

"Hi, uh, th...thanks." he said, his breath almost taken away. He owed his life to this man.

"No problem" the malamute said, smiling self-consciously, looking down at his tail that he held to his front compulsively. Shalock could see an officer walking towards him purposefully, taking some keys out of his pocket. Shalock took a breath, ordering his thoughts. He had to thank the man properly.

"I have to see to my partner." Shalock told the malamute, "Can I buy you a drink later?"

"Sure. I hang out down at the Blind Pig." the malamute told him, indicating a bar only a few blocks away.

"Okay. Maybe, eight?" suggested Shalock, nodding to the approaching officer who climbed into a squad car, starting the engine.

"My name's Maverick." volunteered the 'mute, "See you then."

"Yeah, uh, Shalock. Chris." the officer smiled at the canine and turned, climbing into the car. "See you then."

He looked out the window at the malamute, standing there in his torn jeans, letting go of his tail with one paw to wave mildly as they drove away.

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