Snouts low, golden
eyes hard and focused on the lectern, they loped up the aisle.
There were seven of them. Fabien had gotten as far as:
ďWhen I was a
student here at the Pritzker School of MedicineóĒ
before he noticed
them. By then it was too late. Not as if there was anywhere
to run, but four hundred and fifty people tried anyway. Fabien
went down in a flurry of grey-black fur as torn robes flashed
across my field of vision. Never saw the alpha male hit me.
I shrugged him off, easy like, and then the other five hit
me. Two on my arms. Two on my legs. One at my throat. My
collar exploded open. My Dolce & Gabbana tie bit into the
back of my fat ass neck, then burst into silk ribbons of
tamarisk and obsidian. My favorite tie. Cost me seven hundred.
Iím guessing you
want to know who the fuck I am and what the fuck Iím talking
about. Not much to tell. My name is Levi Rucker, but everybody
just calls me Ruck. Bodyguard for Fabien Desjardins. Was
bodyguard for Fabien Desjardins. Should have known Stanford
Sutton and the People Against the Transformation of Humans
would do some shit like that. Fucking wolves. But then Fabien
had only been my first gig, and Big Cat Smooth doesnít give
out three hundred page dossiers with his merc assignments.
Not that any of
this is Big Cat Smoothís fault. Fabienís death is all on
me. But I donít need to be indebted to Big Cat Smooth anymore
than I already am. From what I hear, Iím lucky to be alive
in the first place. When I was in college, I bounced at the
Soul Spot over on 87th and Stony Island to put some scratch
in my pocket. That was how Big Cat Smooth found me.
The Soul Spot
is this little throwback juke joint for grown folk. I was
there to make sure young cats like me who wanted to step
with the grown folk didnít try to shoot up the place. Three
weeks after I started bouncing, Big Cat Smooth came up in
there flanked by two of his mercs, looking for me. I was
naÔve. I had thought I could just walk into a club off the
street and theyíd make me door muscle.
Back then I had
been six-foot-eight, three hundred and seventy-five pounds.
What club wouldnít want me on their door? But things donít
work like that in Chicago. No bodyguard, bouncer, security
guard or bounty hunter could get work in this city without
going through Big Cat Smooth first. Even the mayor handpicked
his security detail from Big Cat Smoothís Mercenary Guild.
Miss Laurie knew
that, but she needed door muscle in a bad way. When she hired
me, she never asked to see a guildcard, and since I was just
nineteen she would pay me under the table. From what I hear,
Big Cat Smooth went easy on me that night. Not many people
who freelanced merc were given a choice, let alone the choice
I had been given: guild or broken legs. But then it wasnít
everyday Big Cat Smooth came across a big motherfucker like
me who can do what I do and move like I move.
Those wolves never
had a fucking chance. Seven more closer to extinction. After
the one at my throat ripped off my tie, I hit the floor and
rolled. Heard a yelp and felt bones split and crush and snap
beneath me. It felt fucking orgasmic. So I rolled again.
Heard another yelp. Just a foreleg this time. Saw the wolf
whimper and hobble away on three legs down the right ambulatory.
Saw the alpha female tearing out Fabienís throat.
Every year for
the past three years, Fabien had the University Of Chicago
Pritzker School Of Medicine jack him off when he spoke at
Winter Convocation, the beloved son he was. And each year
I warned Fabien about being predictable. The commencement
ceremony was always held in the Rockefeller Memorial Chapel
on the corner of 59th and Woodlawn. It was straightforward
when it came to security, but that didnít mean one of PATHís
bullets couldnít find him. And they had every reason to put
one through his head.
Five years ago,
the Chicago Council of Guilds sold Fabien land to build an
estate and a small, private medical center. The Council didnít
give a fuck about the Lincoln Square residents who were against
the deal. The Council also didnít give a fuck about the land
itself: California Park and Horner Park, side-by-side public
green spaces used by families for recreational activities.
All that mattered to the Council were the free organ upgrades
Fabien gave them whenever their dicks fell off or their tits
reached their bellybuttons.
Which, of course,
pissed off PATH. Not that they could prove anything shady
was going on in Fabienís medical suites, but if there was
one thing that made ex-wives, ex-husbands and hentai girls
talk, it was scratch. But no amount of scratch could overcome
the power and influence of the Council. Roma Russo, an investigative
reporter with the Sun Times, found that out when her
editor dismissed her sources as bitter and disgruntled.
So, with the Council
in his back pocket and no threat of exposure for his illegal
non-guild sanctioned activities, Fabien hired me, a live-in
bodyguard with bison muscle and bone grafts, as a big fuck-you
to Stanford Sutton and PATH.
But if it were
up to Big Cat Smooth and Ignacio, I would be a much more
complex moddy. Originally, I was supposed to be agha, like
Big Cat Smooth, who Iím not ashamed at all to say, is fucking
beautiful. That night he came into the Soul Spot I couldnít
help but be transfixed by his slitted yellow eyes doing that
weird reflection thing cat eyes did in low light, his short
triangle ears twitching independently at every sound, and
his well-groomed jet-black fur glistening over sleek muscles
as he told me with slow, deliberate softness how he would
shatter my legs with a twelve-pound double-faced sledgehammer
if I didnít join his guild.
Since I decided
I liked my legs whole and unbroken, Big Cat Smooth took me
to Ignacioís chop shop downstate to do me up agha-bison after
he brought me into the guild. Ignacio was the agha-geneticist
whose team did up Big Cat Smooth, and was set up in Carbondale,
on the Southern Illinois University campus. He had been this
brilliant geneticist at Rush University Medical Center, but
got caught in the middle of a black market organ ring run
out of the hospital. Wasnít like he was the only one involved.
But that was what happened when you were an arrogant asshole
and pissed off your guildmaster.
and Big Cat Smooth had wanted to do me up agha-bison, but
I figured I could have the same bulk and strength with bison
muscle and bone grafts. I wonít lie; Iím a pussy when it
comes to agha-surgery. Grafting has been around for a few
decades, but that symbiotic, cross-species cell-injection
process bullshit is still new. Donít get me wrong, though.
Ignacio is the best agha-geneticist there is, guild or no
guild. I donít have to look any further than Big Cat Smooth
and see that.
And it doesnít
matter I would have been the first agha-bison. Usually, thatís
what you wanted; the less agha running around with the same
skill set the better. Makes your merc services more in demand.
No one would have been able to match my strength. Not even
agha-gorilla. But had I went agha-bison, my days of getting
ass would have been over. I mean, what woman would want to
fuck a shaggy, bigheaded dumb ass with horns? And that was
if I could still get a stiffy after the surgery.
Wasnít like I
couldnít effectively use the added two hundred pounds of
bison muscle and one hundred pounds of bison bone grafted
to my frame, though. Ask those fucking wolves. They would
have slunk back to Stanford Sutton if it wasnít for the alpha
female. She made them regroup for another concerted attack.
But they were tentative. Wary. They expected the roll.
alpha male gathered his balls and leapt again, teeth going
for the jugular. Broke his back with a bear hug. Vulnerable
and exposed, the alpha female hamstrung me, but it was a
superficial wound. Too much muscle back there. I lashed out
with a size 18 EEE Bacco Bucci Crocket slip-on and got her
in the hindquarters. Shattered her leg and hip.
Just in case you
didnít realize, Iím fucking unstoppable. Iím PATHís worst
nightmare. Iím the reason Stanford Sutton tours the neo-conservative
television talk show circuit bitching and moaning about modified
human beings. Iím the reason he and PATH have partnered with
the Southern Baptist Ministers Coalition to protest me as
a blasphemous abomination, saying Iím going to Hell for combining
my flesh with the flesh of one of Godís creatures.
Fuck Ďem all,
And fuck Fabien.
He should have known some shit like this was going to happen.
Each year Fabien does the Winter Convocation, I make sure
Iím prepared to put my foot up Stanford Suttonís ass in case
he shows up. I donít go over my protection schemes the night
before Convocation with the Dean of the Chapel for the fuck
of it. Skinny-ass bitch refuses to acknowledge my presence
unless I use the correct terms for the chapel: narthex, chancel
and ambulatory. Fuck her, too.
But like I said
before, Fabienís death is all my fault. I had been expecting
a close-range assassination attempt executed with a blade
or some sort of short range, low-powered projectile. Made
sense for me to stand in the ambulatory behind Fabien and
off his left shoulder as he sat in the pew waiting to speak.
Any assassin who knew his shit would have realized that was
the best approach. But then Stanford Sutton got creative
Now, I know what
youíre thinking and fuck you for thinking it. Iím a damn
good bodyguard. I trailed Fabien three paces to the lectern,
scanning the audience, right hand in my holster and on my
nine millimeter beneath my black Dolce and Gabbana suit jacket.
But who the fuck sends seven wolves into a church to kill
though. Fabien might have died, but none of those wolves
got out of the chapel alive. After I shattered the alpha
femaleís leg, she scrabbled across the chancel away from
me, paws and good hind leg propelling her across the wooden
floor. The other three wolves whimpered. Flattened their
ears against their heads. Dropped their tails between their
legs. Made to go after me a couple times. Thought better
of it each time.
The alpha female
stopped when she came up against Fabienís body, and, with
a big fuck you to me, lapped up the blood pooling around
his head. Unhurried. Slow. Like she was enjoying it.
So I did the only
thing I could have done.