Not Actually Ready, Cassidy

Avondale 
#1
@Cass

It was unusual for the independent man to communicate with emergency services. Not really political, he'd still not be able to fault people for assuming he leaned libertarian. In Avondale, you mostly handled your own problems. Just how it was. But in the day or two following his unsettling experience at the artisan market, Shane had finally reached the conclusion that he ought to reach out, see if there were folk who understood this business better than him. He'd somewhat regretted it immediately.

The call was disjointed, dispatcher at a loss as he proved unable to offer anything remotely concrete and unwilling to spread wild theories, however much he may have believed them. In the end it seemed nothing would come of it, he'd apologized and hung up. Back to chorin'.

Took him by a bit of surprise when his afternoon break was interrupted by a midsize car pulling up the laneway. He'd been sat on the front porch, old wicker chair, enjoying one of his lagers. Still in his barn clothes, which was to say his usual of turtleneck, flannel—red and white—jeans and boots, just a bit more ragged and, uh, labor scented, he didn't feel terribly presentable. But that's what folk got, showing up unannounced roundabouts middle of the day.

Squinting uncertainly at the figure stepping out onto the gravel, he called a neutral, "How're you now?"
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#2
Morgan stopped the car a length from the house and got out. The unmarked cruiser idled on the side of the laneway. Wind from across the plains nipped, and she pulled her jacket a little closer about her. Morgan squinted against the sting, moisture pricking the corner of her eyes. She caught the call and raised a hand to him. "Good, and you?" Returning the formal greeting of his people.

Graved crunched under boot as she continued towards him. Her approach steady; using the distance to feel out the farm's grounds and the man's demeanor. The time taken allowed him complete the catechism. He didn't give much away at first glance. Oryx would have had ample insight to share from the way he held himself and the squaring of his jaw. But she did her best. Morgan remained neutral for her part, except for the business-like smile.

Coat unzipped, Morgan thumbed the opening back to show the shield on her hip once close enough that it wouldn't be a glare of metal in the sun. "Detective Morgan, MPD. Looking for Shane Lether." She pronounced it like leather.
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#3
"Oh." he answered, taking an idle look about to extract a bit of the rote from his predictable and appropriate response. "Not so bad." The ritual was appreciated, putting him at ease by degrees, though he was still waiting for some indication who she was and why she was there. Figured it'd come readily enough. And there it was. Squint intensified for a moment as he looked to the revealed badge. Welp. Answered some questions. Raised a few more.

The revelatory introduction did have him setting the bottle on the small wooden porch and standing. He rose more slowly than he'd otherwise be inclined, a deliberate easy motion rather than a rigid jerking upright. "That'd be me," he confirmed with a nod, staring down at her from the raised platform. Considered stepping down the two steps to the ground, or inviting her inside, but both seemed a mite premature. Best see what this was about.

"What'd you need, Detective?"
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#4
Morgan's smile pulsed as the man confirmed his identity, but had a good feel it was him. She turned up at his property and DMV records were relatively accurate. Shane Lether put the bottle down and stood slowly. Smart man. As she pulled back her jacket to show her shield, it was just two inches further to her sidearm. Neither of them went there and Morgan didn't expect trouble. Shane's record was clean.

"Just some follow up from the incident you reported at the Red Rock Artisan Market on…" She frowned, reached into her pocket and pulled out a small spiral notepad folded back to a scribble of notes. "…<DATE>. Appreciate your help in understanding what happened." It was mid-day and she met his eye without compunction, watching for any glimmer of recognition.

"Won't take much of your time, Mr. Lether." The business-like smile widened.
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#5
The frown Detective Morgan wore as she dug for the specifics was sharply and suddenly mirrored on Shane's face. It had occurred that might be what this was about, but he'd largely set those thoughts aside. Preferred it that way, really. Looked like that was done. "Oh," he repeated, tone sinking along with his demeanor and the corners of his lips. There wasn't much concern that he was facing legal ramifications; he'd never been in trouble with the law and didn't carry much concern that he'd start anytime soon. But as he himself didn't well understand the events, he felt distinctly uncomfortable trying to explain them to someone else. This was no impromptu tire patch lesson.

Nothing for it, though. "Shane'll do," he offered. It had been weird enough being called Mr. Lether by that Henry Bertrand fella, but thought better of redirecting in that context. This was his home. Doubted she'd insist on the formality, but up to her he supposed. Nodding sideways to the door, he suggested, "Let's talk inside, out the cold." Hadn't bothered him much, but seemed impolite not to offer. And given the nature of the discussion, he doubted somewhat how sincere she'd been about not taking much time.

He bent to collect his beer and would lead the way indoors if she didn't protest, heading for the small, round, kitchen table and indicating a chair for her. He'd wait for her to sit before doing so himself. Manners.

"So... Any specific questions?" Likely she'd want a full recount, but he could hope. It had recently become one of his favorite words.
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#6
Morgan followed him inside. "Thanks, Shane." Stomping any dirt off her feet and she made good use of the doormat before wondering into the kitchen. The room wasn't too large, but she took her time to sit, more interested in their surroundings. She gave the adjoining hallways an eye and listened for any telltale sounds they weren't alone. Morgan took the offered seat after a moment and waited for Shane to join her.

With notepad turned to a fresh page, Morgan let a little silence seep into the conversation. While amiable and open to conversation so far, Shane was difficult to get a bearing. "First, thank you for calling this in and agreeing to speak with me. We hope you can help us clear a few things up about what happened at the market." She was in danger of repeating herself.

"Let's start at the beginning if you don't mind." She had specific questions, and they'd get to those, but for now Morgan wanted to hear the encounter in Shane's own words. And while the what interested her, Morgan was more curious about the who.
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#7
Arms crossed over his chest, Shane leaned back as far as the dining chair would allow. Which wasn't much. The house was quiet, dogs closed out in the barn so they wouldn't be a nuisance while he worked. "Yep," he affirmed her thanks, giving a slight nod and unfolding his arms just long enough to take a short sharp swig of his beer.

"Kay." About what he expected. So, what happened. Silence pervaded for several moments, during which he frowned down at the table between them, eyebrows low and thoughtful. Gather thoughts. Figure it out. Okay, go. He looked up, met her gaze. "Was at the artisan market down Red Rock the other day..."

Here he paused. Frowned again. "Guess you knew that part." She'd pretty well said as much upon her introduction. Moving on. "Selling veg, eggs, as you do." Didn't mention the beers. Didn't sell any anyway. "Gal comes up. Shops about. Get to chattin'. Mentions dogs, or I do. Comes up somehow. I have a pair. Rescues. They're out in the barn now." He nodded that way through the kitchen wall, to no real aid.

"Get it in my head she'd like 'em, make an excuse to head out to my truck to grab 'em. Plan on a nice surprise. But they damn near piss themselves just before I get back to her." The lines of his frown and crinkled brow deepened. There was correlation there, definitely. Causation? "Whinin' n' growlin'. Dan even snaps at me." Shake of the head. Feeling again the bewildered embarrassment he had then. "They're good boys. Exercise, discipline, affection. In that order." A famous dog trainer he took after in his rearing of his mutts said that. "They don't... Mmm." He devolved into a frustrated hum/groan, eyes falling back to the table.
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#8
Morgan allowed Shane the time he needed to tell his story. When he lulled into contemplative silence, reliving the moment or gathering his thoughts, she watched the furrowing of his brow and the set of his shoulders. She jotted on the sheet before her. Dogs?? was thrice underlined. It felt important somehow. What frightened the piss out of them?

As Shane's frustrated reverie verged on distraction, Morgan cleared her throat. "This gal. What do you remember about her?"
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#9
Natalie. He recalled the name easily enough, impression the whole encounter had left on him. Disinclined to share it with the detective, though. Hoped she wouldn't ask. Expected she would. "Uh, friendly. Young, twenties I'd guess. Nice smile. Clothes in bright colors." Grimace darkened his face. "Patterns. Kinda loud, not my style, but suited her. Seemed comfortable. Happy. Pretty." He'd shrug, unsure what more to say without... Well, without feeling like he was putting out an APB on her or something. The whole situation felt so bizarrely complicated, and he wasn't looking to cause anyone trouble.

"I'd have a dart," he announced, standing perhaps more jerkily than he should, enough to send his chair sliding back a couple inches. Fishing a cigarette from the pack in his left shirt pocket as well as a disposable plastic lighter, he nodded back toward the front door. "Mind if we talk through the screen?"
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#10
Pen scratched across paper as he gave his description; a pretty young twenty-something. Mountainside was full of them. Bright patterns—the pen stopped on the page and Morgan snapped her eyes to him as he stood. A dart? She nodded deliberately after seeing the pack of cigarettes, putting the two together. With a slow smile, she jerked her chin back to the door. "Sure."

She let him move about and finished her note, but it took a second to get back on track. "She give a name?" Morgan called from the table, then stood herself, to mosey over to the screen door.
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#11
Eagerly stepping past her, back into the short entrance hall and through the door, he took a moment to exhale before shoving the cigarette between his lips and hastily lighting it. A long drag. Another exhale, slow through his mouth, lungs burning this time instead of hit with the prewinter chill. Pulling the smoke away for a moment, he kept his back to the door. Eyes roamed briefly across his land, the laneway, the barn, what few chickens were pecking about the front. There were no easy answers to be found out there either.

Turning back at her question and to find her close by once more, he slipped the filter back in place to buy himself another fleeting moment. One hand lifted to lean against an upper corner of the doorjamb as he crossed one foot behind the other ankle, toe of his boot on the wooden porch. Again slow, smoky exhale, just through the nostrils this time. About as much delay as he could justify. Disinclined to share her name. Disinclined to lie. Impolite. Dishonorable. "It's all the same to you, I'm not comfortable sharing that right now. Can get back to relayin' what occurred if you like."
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#12
Morgan watched him through the screen door, eyes narrowed a degree and she tightened her jaw, obstruction charges danced through her head. How hard was she prepared to push for the information? No one had been hurt, not yet anyway. Morgan considered rephrasing the question as a public safety issue. She leant against the wall, pen tip tapping against the page, the silence speaking for her. And he hadn't lied, not yet anyway. Smart man, given the trouble she could make for him if she caught him in a lie.

But he wasn't comfortable sharing and Morgan had to play it cool. Lether was helping the investigation, and they had nothing on him, not yet anyway. This conversation was done whenever he wanted it to be. Oryx would have had the name from him already. The business-like smile returned, and she nodded slowly. Keep your secrets.

"I get it." She shrugged. He was protecting the other woman. Shane seemed sweet on her if only by the language he used to describe the illusive shifter. Friendly. Happy. Pretty. But if he didn't want the cops involved, why did he call? "Please continue."
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#13
The silence crept by, and Shane let it. He'd looked her in the eye when he denied her, but his gaze was back on the ground now, face lowered as he leaned against the house, shortening his life puff by puff. Wasn't sure what he really expected. Hadn't interacted much with cops at any point in his life. Generally respected authority and, broadly speaking, recognized theirs, but... Almost mmm'd again. Repressed the impulse, put that energy toward burning through his dart more rapidly than was typical.

"Kay," he agreed readily, taking one more long drag before plucking the cigarette away with the hand not supporting him. It found his hip, careful to keep the ember from contacting anything. Met her gaze again. Not defiant, least that wasn't his intent. Attentive. "Wrangled the dogs back to the truck. Were themselves by time we were there. Something in the barn..." He shrugged. Had his theory, but it was only that. "She was gone by the time I got back. Tried to find her for a bit." Frown pulsed. Needed a little more explanation, maybe. He looked away.

"She'd meant to buy eggs. Wanted to give 'em to her. Apology for the dogs, figured she was upset. Normal. Folk don't like bein' snapped at." Head shake. Short drag. Hand back to hip. Look to the detective again. "Spent maybe ten minutes searching about. In the market, round the cars. Nothing. N', well, she'd be easy to spot, bright colors n' patterns, so..." Another shrug. Now's where it got really weird.

A long final inhale had him dropping the butt on the porch before crushing it with one boot. He straightened, immediately lit another, and folded his arms once more. "Went to look by the toilets. Line of, well, portapotties." A smaller grimace. The word sounded so childish to him, but didn't know a better way to readily describe what he was dealing with. "Didn't see her, but... So, one of them thuds and moves. Like it'd been hit. Nothing around it, though. Well, 'cept..." Frown. Drag. Cough.

"'Nother guy there. Big. Bigger n' me. Long hair, beard. Tattoos. Looked like a biker, maybe. Or a hipster lumberjack, I dunno, fuck..." Ramping up to the part of the encounter that had so badly rattled him, just recounting it, was getting him flustered all over again. Shane took another long puff, eyes trailing to the notepad, the rapidly moving pen.

What was the right thing here? No real harm had been done, not that he could know. His careful and narrow view of Mountainside, simple and clean, railed against his strangely genuine hope that that big dog/wolf/thing had actually been Natalie. Because if that wasn't her, then it had probably killed her, and he hadn't done anything about it. But there wasn't any blood. There would've been a lot of blood, right? Fuck, could smell it twenty feet off when he butchered a chicken, what would a shredded human be like?

Brows, eyes, thoughts were all intensely low once more. He'd fallen silent somewhere in his internal debate.
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#14
He chain-smoked and Morgan caught the tension and frustration in his face. She was getting better at reading him. Her pen didn't stop and less thought was paid to legibility and just to capture everything he said. Maybe recording the conversation would have been a better idea, but asking now would break the spell. Quiet she listened, not even offering a verbal queue she followed or understood. The incident poured from him. Was sharing cathartic? Or did it just lead Shane to unanswered questions?

Whatever the answer, she didn't enjoy making him relive the event, no matter how needful it was. Morgan went to another page and continued her scribbled notes. The hipster lumberjack teased a smirk from her, and she eyed him through the screen. More than a few of those about town; Morgan knew one or two as well. One even helped her out—twice, apparently—if she was to believe it.

Worming the important details from Shane's stream of consciousness was difficult. So many details, so many observations, didn't amount to much. Shane struck her as someone who did the right thing, or at least wanted to. He searched for the girl after she vanished. Morgan doubted few would do that, even if they were at fault. Gone from sight, gone from mind. And he was here talking to her and that meant something too.

But they approached the crux of… whatever happened and Shane fell silent after a curse. Morgan finished her thought and flicked to a fresh page. Like a cliffhanger at the end of an episode, he left her wanting more. She let him his silence for as long as she could, then cleared her throat softly, almost to remind him he wasn't alone, that his story had a rapt audience.

"What happened next, Shane?" She urged him to continue with a nod.
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#15
"Yeah." He startled slightly, inhaling a sharp lungful of smoke. "Yep." Small cough. "Sorry." Recover. Smoother drag, long exhale. Go. "So, the other guy steps up to the toilet. One that thumped. Kinda... pulls the door open. Know they're plastic, but..." Light head shake. Fresh drag. "Strong, musta been. I go to protest, privacy n' suchlike, but..."

Shane grimaced. He didn't like trailing off so frequently. There was a reason he kept most of his sentences to few words. "There's an animal inside. Can't see it well, guy steps right in front. In the doorway. And I'm, mm, pretty close. Ten, fifteen feet tops. Can tell just by the space it takes up inside, thing's big. Too big for any dog I've seen around." A glance was tossed back to the barn. They weren't small dogs, his boys. Not the biggest, surely, but fuck...

Refocusing on the detective with a quick puff, he shook his head. "And it looks... thickly furred? Again, can't get a real good look, but definitely thinking wolf, not dog." That was alarming by itself, but the real killer was yet to come. "But guy tells me he's got it, n' the thing isn't growling or anything, doesn't seem to be about to attack." Deeper frown, eyes on ground. Shame in those blue eyes. "I start to pull back, seems handled. Not my pig, not my farm, but..."

Fuck. Stop it. One extra long, steadying drag. "See between his feet. Floor of the toilet. Torn sweater. Bright colors. Patterns."
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#16
To drag Shane out of the safety of his mind and make him relive that moment made Morgan wince behind her professional smile. But it needed to be done. He needed to tell the story, and she needed to bear witness. With quiet nods and inquisitive tilts of her heads, she coaxed the words from him. There was no judgement and little to give away her thoughts, but a wire spun around her guts, twisting tighter with each sentence. It wasn't difficult to imagine the portapotty and a press of dark fur inside.

Morgan fought against her own memories of the cat in the woods; still surreal and terrifying all at once. Long nods, nods of understanding, drew out the silence as Shane finished his story. The other man, the hipster lumberjack, knew enough to handle the wolf. Perhaps trusted, maybe family? A confident passerby? Or maybe one of them?

She clicked the ballpoint and closed her notepad, stuffed both back into her coat pocket. Morgan joined Shane on the porch and let the screen door slap closed against the frame. She leant against the railing, hands in her pockets to pull the jacket closed against the chill wind.

"Did the right thing, Shane." The grief and shame were plain. Unsure if that was what he needed to hear, she said it anyway. They likely wouldn't be speaking now if he pressed the matter. But she got where this feeling came from. "Suspect they don't mean us harm, not really." A deep sigh and somber expression accompanied the thought.

"But they are animals… at least sometimes." She shrugged and couldn't comprehend the complex relationship between human and beast. The eyes of the cat bore into he. She looked to the barn, then back to Shane. "And you know how animals be." No doubt, Shane knew better than most how animals reacted.

Don't be prey.
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#17
Taking a sideways step away from the door to open up space for her on the small porch, Shane kept his arms folded. Shoulders had hunched up gradually while he'd been speaking, and he made no move to relax them. Made him look colder than he felt, huddling down into the turtleneck and flannel. He didn't argue, didn't feel certain she was wrong at the spoken assurance. Did let out a small snort, suggesting he wasn't convinced, but otherwise just puffed on his cigarette.

No immediate response came at her further words either, but they did draw his eyes to her face, trying for the first time to get a sense of where she stood on the whole thing. The beast had indeed seemed no more aggressive, malicious, than any wolf he'd ever run across out on hikes. If it had been Natalie... what did locking herself in the toilet mean? Hiding? Trying to keep people away or herself away from people? Why did she choose to... turn? Shift? Transform? Whatever. Did she choose? He could barely comprehend this seeming reality in the broadest terms, much less come to a full understanding of the mechanics or rules or whatever.

Her conclusion drew a shrug. He did know animals decently, he felt. Better than the average citiot. And wild animals were a far bit more dangerous than properly raised domesticated critters. But whether these things on the news, the thing in the toilet, actually were animals? Fuck if he knew. Felt like he'd just learned plants existed and was being asked his opinion on how best to grow Mexican sour gherkins. Fuck. If. He. Knew.

Though to be fair, she hadn't really asked him anything regarding his opinion. Curious about hers, though. "What, uh," he began tentatively, uncomfortable with every aspect of this conversation and only more so with prying. "What's your experience with these..." Elves and faeries, Richard had compared them to, but hadn't copped to any real knowledge of them either. Animals seemed harsh. "People?" he landed on, taking another puff.
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#18
"Had a few run-ins." She scrunched her nose and sniffed. The tiger came to mind first, more surreal than anything. Maybe she pushed her luck berating the sullen thing beneath the bushes and sending it on its way. But she knew the man, and by that she knew the were… right? Mostly harmless. The big cat came next and a different sensation worked through her. Morgan shivered in her jacket, skin prickly with goosepimples. Not something she wanted to go though again.

But she had more than her fair share of run-ins with humanity also; call it a professional hazard. The shitty humans in her life far outweighed the shitty shifters. And good thing they weren't talking about vampires; there she had some experiences. But what did Shane want to hear?

"But I figure they just like you and me most the time. Normal folk." Then she watched him take another drag of his cigarette. Morgan wasn't the one being interrogated here. "Question for you; same vein. Why did you call?"
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#19
Cagey. Fair enough, since he'd gone and openly denied her some intel. He watched her face, her motions. Shane would never claim to have any great ability to read people, and in this he was at least reasonably self-aware. Reasonably certain there was a lot more there than her simple response suggested, he couldn't begin to nail down what precisely any of it might be.

Normal folk, though. Who just sometimes turned into animals. He'd add it to the pile. It felt... Well, if he'd met one, it felt right. Natalie had seemed normal.

A quick drag and he answered her question. Same answer to any wondering about his motivation, really. "Seemed like the thing to do." A shrug, a longer inhale. Head tilted one way then the other in a small sign that he was considering how to expand, knowing how helpful that response wasn't. "Worried about the girl. Other people around. Just... trying to understand." Another shrug. "Maybe a bit of panic." He didn't like to admit as much, but there it was.

Was coming close to the end of this cigarette as well. Assured himself he'd not have a third. "Not really sure what to do." Mostly he'd just... continued. Did what he'd normally do. Routine was his friend.
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#20
Seemed like the thing to do. Morgan nodded her agreement and her nod grew in confidence as he continued. "Worried about the girl and those around her." Restated his point to show she was paying attention and understood.

"One of two things then. One: this is a murder investigation." Morgan let that sink in for a moment, let him revisit the portapotty and scraps of bright fabric on the piss-stained floor.

"Or two: the girl lost her shit in public and thank god nothing happened. What happens next time? What happens if the next bystander doesn't have the good sense to get?" More silence followed and Morgan stared him down, daring him to meet her eye or look away.

"You need to tell me her name. You can't leave anything out. Cause if there's a next time and you could have prevented it…" Morgan frowned and shook her head.
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