//okay, I'm gonna give it *one* more try//
"Look, I'm working "real" hard here to make this work. In fact, I'm doing all the work. I put up with your moods....your superior attitude....I put up with this....this...controlling streak of yours.....I put up with your man-handling of me. And what? You can't give me one little thing? Like the wolf?"
//I'm getting nothing here. Just those lazy, superior yellow/blue? Eyes blinking back at me. And that damn tail...swishing//
"Okay, lets start over. I'm a dog. Wolfie is a dog. You on the other hand....are a cat. C-A-T. The total opposite of D-O-G. Dog and cat together? NO. Dog and dog together? YES.
See? Me and Wolfie together. And you and.....you and....Tony the Tiger?"
//okay....regroup....lick wounds...GET TOUGH//
Rainier University....same day
Blair turned in his chair to face the voice. The woman who stood in his doorway, hesitant and shy, was small, maybe 5'3, golden blonde hair, cut short and very curly and eyes that were brown....a warm, liquid brown.
"I'm Blair Sandburg, how can I help you, Miss?"
"Cane, Lucia Cane." Ms. Cane stepped into the office and offered one slender, graceful hand.
Blair took it and repeated his question.
"How can I help you, Ms.Cane?"
"Lucia, please. I work with the Seattle Museum of Natural History and I understand that you have two masks from the Wanabuman Tribe?"
"That's correct. I acquired them while on an expedition up the Amazon in 1990."
As Blair spoke he was moving about the confined space trying to clear a spot for the young woman to sit down.
"I'm wondering, may I see them?"
Pushing a now cleared chair toward the woman he answered.
"The masks aren't here, I'm afraid. I keep them at home."
She was carrying a briefcase, black, sleek and obviously expensive.
Opening it, she extracted two pictures, 81/2x11 glossies and handed them to Blair.
"These were taken by Dr. Harvey Buxton in 1975. Are they by any chance, your masks?"
Blair scanned the photos and noted with interest that the village he'd visited in 1990 was the village represented in the pictures.
In one picture, the cameraman had taken a close-up of two masks as they hung before two huts. One hut belonged to the spiritual leader of the tribe and the other to the Guardian of the tribe.
Blair could remember how excited he'd been to hear that the tribe they'd be spending two weeks studying had a guardian. A guardian he'd hope to turn out to be a full sentinel. But that hadn't been the case. The Wanabumans believed that their bodies and souls could be stolen by "rogue" spirits and thus the need for a "soul" guardian. Bringing himself back to the present he finally looked up from th photos.
"Yes, these are the masks. Ontobu, the Spiritual Leader of the tribe gave them to me."
Lucia Canes sigh of relief was evident, as was her no longer concealed excitement
"Mr. Sandburg, these masks are very valuable to the Museum. To know that they exist, that they are here in Washington....but I am a little puzzled...The Wanabumans believed the masks to hold great power...how is it they would give them to you?"
Blair couldn't fault her question, he'd ask it himself at the time.
"Ms.Cane, I can only tell you what Ontobu told me....I spent a great deal of time with him while we were encamped with the tribe....we became good friends. When our research ended and it was time to leave, he simply presented them to me...in friendship."
Actually Ontobu had said that the masks "belonged" to Blair, but for some reason he would later examine, he chose now, not to share.
Cane had been leaning forward as Blair spoke and now shifted back, considering the man before her. There was no doubt he was beautiful, not in the classic sense, no, his beauty was more exotic. There was also no doubt that she had been drawn to him the minute he'd turned to face her and this was "very" unusual for her. But the sense of need, of ownership, had been building as their time together lengthened. She really shouldn't have been surprised, after all, the masks were *special* and for Ontobu to have given them to this young man....he must be special as well and it was only natural for her to respond.
"Mr. Sandburg, may I call you Blair?" She deliberately lowered her voice.
"I understand Ontobu giving you his mask, that would certainly be his perogative, but the other one?"
Blair could only shrug his answer....of course he knew now why he had been given the second mask, but there was no way he could share that information either.
"Blair, would it be possible for me to view them at your home?"
"May *I* ask what interest they could possibly hold for the Museum?"
At this, she delved back into her briefcase and pulled forth a small, thin, gold case, from which she slid a business card. It was a very expensive linen card which read:
Seattle Museum of Natural History
"It's my job to travel where needed and to procure artifacts for the museum. We recently came into possession of certain documents belonging to Dr. Henrietta Wang, the anthropologist who led your 1990 expedition. The masks, as you know, play a very significant part in those documents and the museum would love to display them with Dr. Wangs papers."
"I'm sorry, Ms. Cane, but I find it hard to believe that Dr. Wang would part with those papers. They were.....".
"An obsession? Yes, I know. But Dr. Wangs husband gave them to us not long after Dr. Wangs death."
Blair shot out of his seat.
"Her death! That's impossible! I just talked with her a few weeks ago...." his voice trailed off as the shock of the news hit. He sat back down, hard.
"I'm sorry Blair. I had no idea you didn't know. I would never have....I'm so sorry."
"How....did it happen?"
"I wasn't privy to the details, just that it was sudden. The museum was in negotiations with her when we were informed of her death."
"Look, Ms. Cane, do you mind if we continue this discussion later? This has been a shock and.....I'd really like to...".
"Please," Lucia held up one well-manicured hand, "Say no more, I understand. May I call you later?"
"Of course. And thank you for your understanding."
"Not at all."
She gracefully rose and after shaking his hand and once again offering her sympathy and apologies, took her leave.
Blair sat down, weariness settling over him. He couldn't believe it. Dr.Wang, dead. Without conscious thought his hand reached for the phone.
//Blair, where are you?//
"Still at the University."
//I need you, Chief. We're supposed to interview Mrs. Cantrell again and you *know* how she took to you.//
Blair pinched his nose and absently rubbed his eyes.
"Okay, man, I'm on my way, be there in twenty."
//Is everything alright? You sound a little down//
"No, it's okay. We'll talk later."
He recognized that tone. It was as new as their relationship as lovers and meant, "talk to me, I'm here and I love you".
"Do me a favor? A police favor?"
"Check on the death of a Dr. Henrietta Wang, Marin County, California?"
//You got it. See you in a few.//
Blair should have been surprised at the ease with which Jim accepted the request....but again, since becoming lovers their connection, their bond, had changed them both.
The loft - same time
//Okay, I'm in my sexiest position, on my stomach, front legs elegantly crossed in front of me, back legs splayed out behind me, me cute little head cocked just so...batting my long golden lashes....if this doesn't get that wolfs blood boiling....I look good enough to eat...scratch the eat part, heck, scratch the scratch part...Shit, where is that cat anyway?//
Lucy was up and turned around in an flash.
//There you are you overgrown alleycat//
//Don'y you hiss at me....you...you...bully//
The sleek black panther moved gracefully in front of its mate who was sleeping, curled up around a pair of shoes. The cat sat on its haunches, tail switching, ear back.
//You are, like *so* obtuse. You just don't get it, do you? Stupid kitty, very stupid kitty//
The wolf opened one beautiful blue eye, surveyed the scene, yawned, unmolded himself and gave a languorous stretch, that left one small poodle convulsing with desire and one large "panting" panther. The wolf moved slowly up to its mate and rubbed its forehead against the cats sleek neck. The panther turned and gently butted foreheads.
//Oh, puh..leeze....someone gag me//
Lucy started to walk away, to trot back downstairs, when a bloodcurdling howl split the air, causing the small dog to jump at least ten feet into the air. She had spent the better part of the morning pointing out that she was *not* a cat, not a cat who could land on all fours...Lucy landed on her head.
The howl came again. This time followed by a terrible roar from the panther, who turned in every direction, trying to locate the source of danger to its mate. Lucy finally unsmooshed herself and angrily confronted the cat.
//Hey, you neanderthal, whajado to him?//
The big cat ignored her and turned instead to his partner. The cat leaned in and was about to lick the wolf, who with eyes closed, was now swaying. Just as the pink tongue was about to take its first swipe, the eyes opened, revealing their sparkling sapphire depths. The cats tongue withdrew. For a moment, both animals stared and swayed.
Lucy was not a patient dog...and the two animals swaying, the howling....both had her completely unnerved.
//Hey! Big guy? What's going on? What happened to Wolfie?//
The regal black head turned, the yellow/blue? eyes blinked and the head turned back to the wolf. The whole movement just smacked of disdain.
//Well! I never! Listen you, you, hairball! I love him too, you know, maybe I can help//
*You are just a dog. A mortal dog. *You* can do nothing.*
Lucy took two steps back and promptly fell on her cute little french ass.
//My God, it speaks!//
*Yes, rugrat, I speak. And if you don't stop salivating over my mate, I will swallow. You. Whole.*
//Mortal! What do you mean by mortal? And you'll have to catch me first, you fleabag!//
*Ha! I'm a spirit guide...we-do-not-have-fleas*
Okay, now Lucy was confused. Spirit guide? What in dog heaven was a spirit guide?
*A spirit guide is just that. A spirit that guides the living. Neither myself nor BS are real, but our human counterparts are...*
//You read my mind? YOU READ MY MIND! Hey, that's an invasion of privacy, you can't do that curdled milk breath! And your human counterparts?//
*The one you call "Treetop" is my human and trust me on this, he prefers to be called Jim. The one you call "favorite one" is BS' human. And his name is Blair....B-L-A-I-R*
//Don't you smirk at me, anchovy breath//
Lucy took four steps closer to the cat.
//Look, why did...what did you call Wolfie?//
The panther seemed to wince at another reference to "wolfie".
*BS. That's his given name.*
//Okay, why did BS howl like that?*
**I howled because my human is in danger.**
Lucys ass took another beating.
//Merde! You can talk too?//
*Obviously he can talk. He *is* a wolf. The finest canine created.*
The cat lowered his head menacingly.
*And wolves mate for life, bitch. Got that?*
//Am I supposed to be insulted by that remark? Because I'm *so* not. I-am-a-bitch, you gueue!//
The cat snarled and Lucy could just *see* her own body sliding down that huge throat.
//Hey, look, pax? If Wolfie....I mean, BS says Blair is in danger than I want to help//
*I said you.....*
A strong (and IMHO) but slender paw jabbed at the panther.
**She knows humans, she might be able to help and she does love him**
*You're serious, love?*
*You're not interested in the little tart, are you?*
The wolf dropped its beautiful head and gently nuzzled the panthers chest, its tongue darting out to sweep up the massive neck.
**I'm *so* not interested**
//Well! You could've pretended, just a little//
Lucy sat, her own luxurious tail polishing the floor and silently watched the affection between the two animals.
//I never had a chance, did I?//
The sleek, muscled cat lifted his head from the task of licking its mates ear, *No, but I give you points for trying*
The wolf grunted and gently butted its massive head on the panthers shoulder, demanding a return to its sensitive ear.
*So demanding, BS* And the licking resumed.