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Commission Occulte_ Ch 8 - foxsome.rtf

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					Comission Occulte • Chapter 8 • foxy@foxsome.com

A small scratch, scratch, scratch poked at the corners of my mind, and slowly I regained
consciousness. It took me a moment to realize that I was actually awake; night had fallen, and
the little room in the country cottage was completely devoid of light. From somewhere in the
distance I could hear what sounded like a television, so I assumed my captors were in another
room keeping themselves amused. My face still throbbed from where Michel had hit me, and the
rest of my body was sore in ways I didn’t want to think about.

But I couldn’t push it out of my mind. Tears welled up in my eyes, and my sobs came in soft,
choking spasms. The sound was muffled, and I figured out that part of the facial pain was caused
by tape holding my muzzle shut. Bindings also kept my ankles together as well as my paws, so
tight that it felt like they were cutting my hands and feet off. I was miserable, alone, and unable
to move.

One of my ears perked and rotated toward the window; the scratching noise that awoke me was
louder now. Was someone trying to break in? With a little work, I was able to flip over and face
the source of the noise, but the combination of a horribly dirty pane with a moonless night meant
I really couldn’t if anyone there. Slowly and surely, though, the scratching became grating, and I
was certain the window was inching its way upward. A small puff of cool night air caressed my
face.

A familiar scent touched my nose, and my heart nearly burst from my chest. Sophie!

“Jess,” she whispered. “Are you there?”

I tried to reply, but all I could manage were a few muffled grunts. Tears rolled down my cheeks,
not of anguish this time but of sheer, unbridled joy. I couldn’t believe that she’d found me out
here and come to rescue me. I listened carefully as she played the part of a burglar, trying to
force her way through a stubborn window. Mostly what I heard was a stream of muted
blasphemies when she underestimated the size of her hips.

Eventually she made it all the way into the little bedroom and crawled quietly up to my side;
Jesus Murphey, it felt good to feel her paws on my face, though I winced a little when she
touched me. She kept her voice low, but she gushed at me in French so fast that I couldn’t follow
her. I made a dissenting noise as best I could; she was wasting time that we should be using to
get the hell out of there.

She found the tape holding my mouth shut. “Excusez, this is going to hurt,” she warned me, then
ripped the adhesive off, taking half the fur on my face with it.

I declared my extreme distaste for her profusely, but thankfully she was quick to put a paw over
my mouth so that I wouldn’t alert the thugs in the other room. After a moment she released me,
and I whispered, “I can’t tell you how good it is to see you.”
Her face looked sad, or at least what I could see of it in the darkness. “Fifille, you look dreadful.
What did they do to you?”

“You don’t want to know,” I groaned.

Anger flashed across her face for a brief moment, but she nodded her agreement. She undid the
bindings on my ankles and wrists, cutting the plastic cable ties with a pocketknife. It felt amazing
just having the pressure on my limbs released. After I took a few seconds to rub the tender flesh
irritated by the shackles, she helped me to get my clothes back on.

“Sorry it took me so long,” the corgi apologized unnecessarily. “I didn’t realize until late this
afternoon that I could track your cell phone.”

“It’s okay,” I reassured her. “Let’s just get out of here before those goons in the other room
decide to check on me.”

No argument was needed, and she helped push me through the little gap between the pane and
sill. It took some wiggling for me to get through, and I couldn’t fathom how she’d managed it. I
only had to swear a little myself when my tail got caught on a splinter.

I stood out in the cool, crisp air, loving the sweet smells of the outside. Sophie started to force
her way out as well, so I turned to help her. Unfortunately, she got stuck again trying to push her
hips through the opening.

I growled, tugging on her wrists. “Couldn’t you get the window open any farther?”

“No,” she grunted. “‘Stie! Just pull, dammit.”

I gave her arms a good tug, and we fell backwards together, slamming into the ground. The
window pane went with us, shattering as it landed on Sophie’s backside, which made a terrible
ruckus. Immediately a commotion erupted from inside the house as Michel’s goons were no
doubt alerted to our little escape plan.

I sprang to my feet, dragging Sophie with me. “Run!”

She certainly didn’t need to be told twice; the athletic corgi overtook me easily and led the way
down the road to where she’d parked her car. Behind us, we could hear my two captors yelling
and cursing at us as they climbed into their own vehicle. Sophie slammed on the gas, kicking up
a cloud of dust and rocks behind us.

I whimpered, glancing out the back window of the sedan. “Now can we call the cops?”

“One thing at a time, Jess,” she barked. “I’m trying to lose these guys.”

She whipped around a few curves at speeds that made me nauseous, but I wasn’t about to ask her
to slow down. Michel’s thugs were gaining on us in their imposing black town car, and I
couldn’t wait any longer.

“Just give me your phone,” I demanded.

“Ouai,” she growled, reaching into her back pocket. Panic suddenly crossed her face.

I felt like I was going to cry. “You lost it, didn’t you?”

She frowned. “It must’ve fallen out of my pocket when I went through the window.”

I slid down in the seat, ready to tear my own ears off. This couldn’t possibly get any worse. Bam!
The whole car lurched. “What was that?”

“Bastards rammed us,” she replied through clinched teeth.

I groaned; it was worse. I turned and looked out the back window again; their bumper was
crumpled from where we’d collided. They were speeding up for another hit, so I held on as best I
could. Bam! The car lurched again, and this time the tires went off the side of the road. Sophie
screamed as she lost control of the vehicle, and I begged God to help us make it out alive.

The following moments are still a little fuzzy for me, but I think one of the wheels hit a large tree
root, and we spun out of control. There was a horrible noise of breaking glass and twisting metal,
and an airbag smacked across my face, momentarily blinding me and filling my nostrils with an
acrid chemical smell.

Everything was still, for just a moment.

Someone dragged me out of the car by my arm, and I struggled for a moment before I realized it
was Sophie. I looked up at her as she pulled me from the twisted wreckage, and I thought I could
see blood matting the fur on her face in the dim light, but I couldn’t smell a damn thing, so I
wasn’t sure.

I coughed up the taste of airbag. “Are you alright?”

She shook her head. “Don’t worry about me, just be thankful you’re alive and keep moving.”

Sophie nodded towards the far side of the road, and I glanced that direction. Our pursuers had
also caused their own mishap, and their car was nose down in the ditch on the far side of the
road. I could only see one of them so far, stumbling around in a daze. I didn’t need any more
encouragement to get to my feet and run.

We didn’t look behind us; we just kept running straight down the road together, hoping that
maybe we’d run into a passerby or find someone’s house where we could ask for help. Luck was
running thin that night, however, and it seemed we were in the absolute middle of nowhere.
Eventually I tired and had to slow to a walk. Sophie didn’t appreciate my lack of fitness, but she
didn’t leave me behind either.
She tried to encourage me. “I think I see a light up ahead. Maybe we can find help after all.”

I panted heavily, and my lungs burned at the touch of the cold night air. I cursed myself for not
getting off my tail more often. Sophie led the way, taking my paw in hers to make sure we didn’t
get too far apart. Her touch comforted me somewhat, though all I could think about was how
much I wish I’d stayed home last week instead of getting caught up in this whole mess.

We drew closer to the distant light, attracted to it like moths to a flame, hoping it would bring
salvation and safety. As we approached, however, it became clear that it was simply a country
gas station, which of course meant that it was closed this late at night. My heart sank again as we
walked up to the rickety building and its single, lonely pump, illuminated by a single yellowed
street lamp. I put my face to the window and stared inside, but all I saw were cans of oil and
beer; the entire place was devoid of life save ourselves.

I slumped down to the ground in front of the store. “What do we do now?”

Sophie fiddled with a rusty pay phone, frustration written across her muzzle. In the light, I could
see clearly the blood crusted across the bridge of her nose. “I don’t think this phone has worked
since the 70s,” she growled. “I guess we’ll have to keep walking.”

I whined. I didn’t want to move again, but the alternative was much worse. My corgi companion
knelt down next to me and rubbed my ears.

“Shhhh, fifille,” she hushed me. “We’ll keep walking. I don’t think they’re following us
anymore, and we can try to find someone to help. We’re bound to find someone soon.”

I nodded, trying hard to stay awake. I was sore, I was tired, and I was scared. Her soothing
attentions were relaxing, though, perhaps too relaxing. My eyelids grew heavy.

A sound suddenly caught in my ears, and I perked up again; she heard it too, and we both turned
toward the road. It was the sound of a vehicle coming our way from the same direction we were
running away from; my heart caught in my throat as I wondered if the thugs had gotten their
vehicle operational again.

Sophie ran out to the road to flag them down, and I barked at her to stop in case it was Michel’s
henchmen. As the sound grew nearer, though, it became clear that it was a much older vehicle
rattling down the road, and soon we saw an old beat up pickup truck come to a stop a few yards
from the station.

A beaver in greasy mechanic’s coveralls and a worn-out baseball cap stuck his head out the
driver’s side window. “You ladies in trouble?”

We ran to the truck, wagging our tails, happy just to see someone who wasn’t trying to hurt us.
“Yes,” I yipped eagerly. “We had a bit of an accident... could we get a lift to a police station or a
hospital or something?”
I opted not to complicate the story with tales of conspiracy and kidnapping, and the buck took it
at face value. “Well, get on in, then. Bit of a drive, I’m ‘fraid, but faster ‘n walkin’.”

Sophie and I climbed into the truck, and I squeezed in the middle between her and our new
friend. It was cramped and smelled musty, but I wasn’t going to complain. As the vehicle started
to roll forward, I sighed with relief; before long we’d be safe somewhere where we could explain
the whole thing and get Michel put behind bars where he belonged!

The bucktoothed driver chewed thoughtfully on a toothpick while he drove. “That your wreck
back there, then?”

Sophie nodded. “Oui, some jerks ran us off the road. You didn’t see them did you?”

“Nah, saw some more tire tracks, but looked like whoever dun’ it was long gone. I’ll take y’all
up t’ the station in Revere Boo-dette so ya can get wherever yer goin’.”

I giggled at his mangling of Rivière-Beaudette, relieved to find someone who’s French was as
bad as mine. Sophie gave me an unamused stare in return, so I’ll snuggled up against her and
gave her the most innocent look I could muster.

As we drove on, we eventually crossed paths with another vehicle. Normally I wouldn’t have
given it a second thought, but my paranoia was still in control, and I glanced out the driver’s side
window as the black sport utility vehicle passed us. I really wish I hadn’t; in that moment, time
froze for me, as I realized I was looking into the cold, golden eyes of Michel LeBlanc. Our stares
locked for only the briefest of instants, but it was long enough for us to recognize each other, and
in that moment I knew we were screwed.

Tires screeched from behind us as he made a hard U-turn in the middle of the country road. Our
driver glanced in the rearview mirror. “What’s this guy on aboot, eh?”

I swallowed hard. “Please don’t stop,” I begged.

Sophie looked over her shoulder. “Someone you know?”

“It’s Michel,” I hissed at her, and her eyes grew wide as saucers.

The beaver gave me a confused glance, but I don’t think he was planning on stopping anyways.
He continued on just as he had been. Michel sped up and closed the distance between us, lights
flashing and horn honking.

“I t’ink he’s askin’ us t’ pull over,” the buck suggested.

“Don’t!” I yelped.

The beaver was starting to get suspicious, and my attitude didn’t help matters. Bam! The truck
suddenly lurched forward as we were hit from behind. “Alright! That’s that, I’m gunna give this
guy a what’s what,” he exclaimed as he pulled the truck to the side of the road. I begged and
pleaded for him not to stop, but it was no use.

Our driver exited the vehicle at the same time as two men emerged from the truck behind us–I
looked back and gasped. “Alex is with him,” I breathed.

Sophie slouched down in her seat, pulling me with her. “So your boss is in on this whole thing?”

My face contorted with rage, and I fought back the urge to cry. “Yeah.”

I heard the beaver’s voice from behind us. “Hey, you knob! What’s yur prob”–Bang! Bang!

Sophie and I froze, clinging to each other out of sheer terror. Our eyes locked with one another,
fear circulating through our veins; neither one of us had expected Michel to get this violent. I
could hear the frantic voice of my boss in the background; apparently he’d been surprised by the
gunshots as well, and I suddenly felt sick to my stomach. I’d never even asked for his name, and
now the poor soul that picked us up off the road was probably dead in return for his kindness.

The driver’s side door opened, and we both screamed, scared out of our wits. Michel stood there,
steely determination on his face and a pistol in his paw. “Very impressive, ladies. I don’t know
how you staged this little rescue, but I’m quite done playing games. This way, please.”

He motioned us out of the vehicle with his gun, and we obliged, having no other choice. We
stepped gingerly passed the collapsed body of the kind beaver that had helped out, laying still in
the glow of headlights. I found myself gagging on the smell of blood as it pooled in the road, and
Sophie squeezed my paw for reassurance. When we reached Michel’s vehicle, Alex was holding
the door open for us, a mixture of anger and apology on his face. I tried not to look at him.

Michel climbed into the passenger seat while my boss put the truck into gear. “I would not
suggest fleeing again,” the tiger said as he turned around and trained his gun on me. “As you can
see, I’m not going to be nice to you any longer.”

“Vas te faire foutre,” Sophie swore at him, and then she literally spat in his face.

Michel gave her a saccharine smile and slapped her across the muzzle with his gun.
“T’envalles-tu ma cochonne?”

I screamed when he hit Sophie, and a little trickle of blood flowed down her chin. I really wished
she wouldn’t taunt him, but I kept my mouth shut. The corgi burned holes in his head with her
eyes, defiant despite his abuses, and we continued on the road back towards the hell I’d just fled.
I stared out the window and watched the night fly by, dread creeping into every corner of my
heart as we approached Michel’s hideout.

We rolled to a stop in front of the forlorn little farmhouse, and my pulse quickened. Luckily
there was no sign of Michel’s thugs, though. We were ushered quietly from the car and into the
house, Alex leading the way while his partner in crime walked behind us with the gun pointed at
our backs. The front door was still wide open, and deep ruts from the earlier car chase gouged
the yard. A forgotten television set blared from somewhere within.

We were led to the back house into a dilapidated kitchen, the only place inside that was
illuminated. The television was sitting on a table in the middle of the room, fruitlessly providing
entertainment for the long-gone thugs.

Blam! The television set exploded in a shower of sparks. Sophie and I both screamed. Alex
nearly jumped out of his fur.

“Jesus Murphey, Michel,” the wolf snarled. “Will you cut it out with the damn pistol?”

“Calm yourself, Alex,” the other man purred. “Tie them to the chairs, please.”

Alex grumbled to himself as he grabbed a coil of rope off a nearby counter. He tied Sophie up
first, sitting her down and then coiling the rope around her ample chest and the back of the chair.
As he started to do the same to me, he looked directly into my eyes for a brief moment, and in
that fleeting glance I caught a profound sadness. Maybe I could turn that reluctance to my
advantage?

“Alex,” I said softly. “Why’re you doing this? You’re a good man.”

My assertion of his morals caused him to wince. “I’m sorry, Jess. Michel offered me a lot of
money. A lot of money.”

Michel grinned, self-satisfied. “You see, Miss Martin? Money can buy everything, including
your dear friend’s loyalty.”

“Fuck you, Michel,” I growled. “What makes you think you’re going to get away with all this?”

The tiger shrugged. “Oh, I don’t know. I mean, who’s going to stop me? You? Your little
snooping friend here? You are pathetic and powerless. And with the acquisition of TailWalk’s
assets, I and my associates will be in a very good position.”

I sighed. I wasn’t even thinking about the studio anymore; I just wanted to save my fur and
Sophie’s too. Sadly, he was right; I was the one tied up and at the wrong end of a gun.

The tiger intruded into my thoughts. “So, Miss Martin, I’m left with one problem. Well, two
actually. I can’t have witnesses.” His voice was low and dangerous as he slid more bullets into
his gun. My ears fell back against my head, and Sophie growled a nasty-sounding oath against
Michel’s mother.

Surprise crossed Alex’s face, and he stepped in between Michel and me. “Hold on, Michel, is
that really necessary?”
The tiger’s demeanor was grim. “Alex, if you’re going to get ahead in this world, you have to be
willing to get your paws dirty. Move, please.”

That was it, then. The next few seconds were the scariest of my life; I wasn’t going to give up
without a fight. Alex started to move to one side reluctantly, and as Michel came back into view,
I made my move. As I said earlier, I wasn’t in the best shape ever, but I was a dancer when I was
younger, and I still had a lot of flexibility. Michel’s mistake was that he was standing way too
close to me, which was almost necessary because of the tiny kitchen. I looked the bastard right in
the eyes, and my right foot flew upwards, propelled by all the anger in my heart, all my desire to
survive, and all my love for Sophie. I wasn’t going to let him win.

My foot connected with his groin, and even I was surprised that I was able to lift him up off the
floor a good inch or so. The look on his face as his eyes bulged out of his head gave me a smug
satisfaction, and the gun fell from his paw. Alex whirled around, shock written on his face, but I
wasn’t about to stop. I stood up with the chair still tied to me, and I head-butted my traitorous
boss right in the chest, and we both hit the floor. When I landed, the old chair shattered, and I
was able to slip easily out of the ropes at that point.

Sophie bounced in her chair. “You’re amazing,” she told me as I united her.

“I know,” I winked.

“Stop right there,” Michel growled, and I froze. Murder burned in his eyes, and he had recovered
his gone. I gasped as he started to squeeze the trigger.

Alex jumped up, knocking the other man’s aim wide. “No!!”

Michel growled and clubbed the wolf with the butt of the pistol. I wasn’t going to waste time
worrying about them, though; I grabbed Sophie’s paw and we ran as fast as we could out the
front door of the house. Shots rang out from behind us, but we didn’t dare look back. I lead the
way through the underbrush and the trees, dragging Sophie along by the arm. I had run out of
energy earlier, but the threat of my imminent death gave me a second wind that I wasn’t about to
squander.

We went crashing through a wall of tall reeds, and I tripped and fell into a murky creek with a
corgi following suit. Still, that didn’t slow me down at all, and I waded through the cold,
waist-deep muck to get to the other side and pulled Sophie out.

My companion risked a look over her shoulder. “Did we lose him?”

I had to admit, I couldn’t           hear   anything other than      the   sounds   of   crickets.
“Maybe”–Bang!–”Nope!”

We started running again, this time following the bank of the creek to see if it would lead us
toward a road or anywhere that might be safer than out in the middle of nowhere with an armed
madman. Hell, I’d settle for a good place to hide.

Another shot rang out from behind me, and pain exploded in my right thigh. Before that moment,
I could have never imagined what getting shot was like; it was literally not something I thought I
would have ever experienced first hand. Adrenaline rushed through my system, and the world
went into slow motion. My legs gave out, and I watched as the ground came towards me, inch by
inch, and I fell face-first into the mud. At the same time, pain reverberated through my leg and
outward through my whole body, and even my fingers and the tips of my ears tingled.

My senses coalesced into a final moment of shock as I finally struck the ground. I think Sophie
screamed and tried to catch me, but I wasn’t sure. All I knew was that we had come to a sudden
stop, and I couldn’t think straight any more. My right leg was completely numb.

My beautiful corgi cradled me in her loving arms, and for a moment all I could see was her face
as she lifted me out of the mud. “Jess! Jess, êtes-tu bien?”

I grinned stupidly and pawed at her muzzle. “Très bien.”

She managed to get me up to a sitting position again, and my head swam, but it helped bring me
back to my senses. I suddenly remembered where we were and the imminent danger we were in,
and I tried to get to my feet. Just at that moment, however, Michel came crashing through the tall
grass and the reeds, waving his pistol in our direction.

He was furious, nearly foaming at the mouth. “Get up, you bitches! Get up!”

Sophie tried again to help me to a standing position, but I was unable to put any weight on my
right leg. Dissatisfied with our progress, Michel growled and grabbed me by the fur on top of my
head, dragging me up to my feet. I yelped in pain, both from him pulling my fur and trying to
stand on my injured leg. He pushed the gun into my face, and I could hear his breath shaking
with pure rage.

For a brief moment, I was pretty certain I was going to die in that moment. No one ever really
expects that they have a guardian angel watching out for them, but mine chose that moment to
gallop valiantly onto the scene when I needed him most. At first I was confused, because I
thought some wild beast was running toward us, just barely outlined by faint moonlight. As it
grew closer, though, I realized it was Alex, running with such wild abandon that he was on all
fours like he’d gone feral. He took a flying leap across the creek, completely clearing the reeds,
and he crashed into Michel, knocking all three of us backwards.

Bang! The gun went off again, but it didn’t hit me.

Alex rolled off of Michel, clutching his stomach. He was covered in blood, and I crawled over to
him as fast as I could, completely ignoring the murderous tiger a few feet away. “Alex! Alex,
hold on!”
Michel stumbled to his feet again, covered in mud and looking completely disheveled. “That’s it!
I’ve had enough of all of you!”

As he fumed, a sound caught my attention. Instinctively all of us looked up towards the sky, and
within a few seconds, a helicopter flew over the tree line, spotlights scanning the creek. In the
distance I could also hear barking back and forth as a group of people scented our tracks through
the woods. For the first time, I saw fear in Michel’s eyes, no doubt facing his own failure as he
realized he was about to be caught red-handed.

Alex laughed and coughed up blood. “This was going too far, you bastard. I called the cops!”

The helicopter’s spotlight finally found us, and I was momentarily blinded by the overpowering
white light. A man’s voice came over a loudspeaker: “Arrêtes-tu et déposes tes armes! Stop
where you are and drop your weapons!”

Michel complied, dropping the gun into the mud and putting his hands up. Sophie wasn’t about
to let a good opportunity go, though; she picked up a fallen branch and hit the bastard right in the
face with it like she was hitting a home run, and he fell backwards with a satisfying grunt of
pain.

I ignored them and wrapped my arms around Alex, cradling him against me as he spit up more
blood. I felt helpless, trying to stem the flow of blood from his abdomen but failing. Behind me a
group of police officers crashed through the reeds and started demanding that everyone hold still,
but it was all background noise to me.

“Alex,” I cried. “You’re not allowed to die. You’re like a second father to me.”

He grinned at that, looking grim with his bloodstained teeth. “I know, kid. I’m sorry I
disappointed you, but I’m glad I could make sure you didn’t get hurt.”

I could feel his strength weakening, and I held him closer to me, sobbing uncontrollably as my
heart crumbled. “Someone get a doctor, God dammit!”

				
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