“WBUT13 News! Your voice from Bootstrap and the Three Rivers Area!”
The corny echo effect faded, the overly-colorful logo slid off screen and revealed a living room setting with a pair of love seats, a coffee table and a wingback chair.
The camera zoomed in to frame the young blonde in a pale green skirt and white button-down blouse. She was holding a small clipboard and when the camera had framed her, she spoke.
“Hello everyone. I’m Vicky Adams. Most of you know me as the voice of the morning news. Tonight, I have something different to share.” She paused and glanced off-stage. “Most of us were very surprised to find out that shifters, that is, humans that can take other shapes, are very real and have been with us for many years. Shortly after this revelation, I went looking for some correlation between the urban fantasy stories I’ve been reading and the real deal. And so, for this special Halloween edition of Bootstrap Bonus News, I’d like to welcome some very special guests!”
The camera zooms back out to include the two love seats. As her guests arrive, Vicky stands to shake hands with the men and trade air-kisses with the two young ladies.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, it’s my pleasure to present Miss Marcie Lebeaux…”
The young woman had a stunning figure, blue-black hair past her shoulders and a pixie-like face. She makes the tight jeans, fur boots and a cowboy shirt look good.
“Mr. Samuel Delant…”
The young man was whipcord lean and lightly tanned. He too, shook her hand and nodded at the camera before taking a seat. His too, wore jeans and a cowboy shirt.
“Mr. Marco Martinez…”
He had a dark complexion, short black hair and a body-builder frame. Marco towered over the slender girl by his side. He was in black dress slacks with a white shirt and dark sneakers.
“Miss Sapphire Samuels…”
The other two women on the set were pretty by any standards, but Sapphire stood out. Her figure looked like something from an adult video and she was wearing a spandex minidress that barely supported her breasts and barely covered her assets.
Vicki sat down and leaned forward. “First, I want to thank you for joining us, today. I’ve a ton of questions.”
The four smiled and muttered various glad-to-be-here’s and Vicki continued.
“Let’s start with you, Marcie. Tell me a bit about yourself and how you came to be on our show.”
“Well, the story is really more about Sam. When Anthony asked us to share our story, it really started with Sam. I mean, I’m just another member of the traveler clans. I help my folks collect mineral samples and sell them at gem and mineral shows. When Anthony stopped us on the street, after a show and told us he knew we were shifters, I was amazed. I had never heard of a human that could really see us for what were. Come to find out from my folks, that it is actually pretty common, but that most folks just ignore it.”
Vicki nodded. “What about you, Sam? How did you and Marcie get together?”
He shrugged and looked embarrassed. “Well, she helped me through a rough spot with my stepfather and since then… Well, let’s just say I couldn’t live without her.”
“I believe your story has been published?”
“Yes. It’s the first tale in a two-part book called Shifter Born, released this spring from Red Rose Publications. Would you like to hear an excerpt?”
Vicki clapped her hands in glee. “Oh my! Yes! Of course we’d love to hear a bit of your tale.”
Marcie picked some notes on a clipboard and started reading.
Frank was grinning like a fool. It was illegal to hunt deer at night and here was a whole pack of folks getting ready to do it. Not only that, but it looked like this priest was running an illegal hunting camp. He did wonder what they were going to use for the hunt, since there were no rifles that he could make out. Several of his shots would be good quality with all the bright light they had around that stage. It looked like a couple of campfires had been setup, along with some charcoal grilles, but none of these had been lit, yet.
The photographer let his attention slip during the prayer but it snapped back a moment later when he saw first the preacher and then about a dozen others getting undressed.
“What th’ kinky hell is goin’ on?” Frank murmured to himself. This didn’t stop him from taking shot after shot as some of the gypsies walked back to the campers and others were getting naked. There were several very pretty women, but one absolutely stunning young woman had black hair that flowed past her shoulders. She and her boyfriend were also stripping. Well aware of the fact that sex sells, he made sure to get plenty of her images. He stopped, yanked the memory card from his camera, replaced it with an empty one and kept shooting.
Father Phil was standing, naked and with his arms folded, watching the others. Frank made sure he got several shots of that pose. It would not go over well with his church leaders, but it would surely make Frank a ton of cash.
Once more he focused on the raven-haired beauty and her boyfriend. “Damn! She has great tits.” He muttered. At that instant, she gave her boyfriend a quick kiss and the pair of them squatted down. They seemed to glow a bright blue for just a second and before his camera could adjust there was a large gray wolf and a sleek black leopard in their place. Frank’s jaw dropped wide open. He tried to refocus and then realized that there were a whole series of blue flashes and in every case, the humans were gone and had been replaced with some wild beast. A few of the ones that kept their clothing sat sipping drinks, smiling, pointing and commenting on the changes their friends and family were experiencing.
His heart in his throat, Frank kept shooting, more from habit and reflexes than anything else. There were huge dogs that he recognized as Deerhounds, more leopards and wolves and even a black bear.
As the last of them ran, bounded and loped out of the light and into the woods, he began to understand.
That was when it dawned on him. His escape path led through the woods and back up a quarter mile of uphill country road to his car. All the beasts had run deeper into the woods, but he remembered the preacher saying they could hunt the pastures as well. Those pastures were between him and the safety of his car.
Vicki sat back. “My goodness, that sounds exciting.”
“Thank you. We have enjoyed it, after the fact, that is.”
The announcer switched her attention to the other couple. “What about you, Sapphire? What’s your story?”
“You know the young boy who was kidnapped awhile back? It was in all the papers and his father was caught and the boy was rescued down by the riverside park?”
“Yes, of course. Were you involved in that?”
“Actually, that was just part of the story. Now that we’re not hiding anymore, I can admit the confidential informant the police wouldn’t discuss was me.”
“Here in the newsroom, we heard rumors of a costumed superheroine that actually caught the guy and turned him over to the cops.”
“Once again, you’re part right. Excuse me, if you will.” Sapphire got up and hurried off-stage.
Vicki turned to Sapphire’s date. “And you, Marco. While we’re waiting for Miss Samuels to return, tell us about yourself. I understand you’re quite the artist.”
He smiled and nodded. “Yes ma’am. My family and I own a custom car shop in Bootstrap. I handle almost all of our custom airbrush work.”
“How exciting and do you have an excerpt to share?”
“Oh yes indeed, ma’am. Cambio wanted me to be sure to read it.” He picked up his notes, cleared his throat and began to read.
The movie was just okay, pizza with the other couple was fun and finally, they ended up alone in his car. They made out for a few minutes and then, he pulled back. His face, in the moonlight, was troubled.
“What’s the matter, Roger?”
“You know, I really like you and I’m really happy you’re with me. Right?”
“Yeah… and what are you getting at?”
“Saph, I get the feeling you’re not really here. That you’re really tense and worried and… I dunno… Maybe I’m doing something wrong.”
She sat back in her seat and looked away for a moment. “I’m sorry. I know I should relax and try to be sexier, but I just don’t feel it.”
“Is it me? My looks… Or am I doing something you don’t like?”
“I don’t know. I enjoy your company but I just don’t feel comfortable for some reason. I’m sorry. Maybe you should find another date for the prom.” As soon as she said it, she knew he was both hurt and pissed.
“Yeah. You’re right. Maybe I should.” He started the engine and drove to a nearby convenience store.
“Why are we stopping here? You want a drink?”
“No. I’m fine. Just fucking fine. My girlfriend just dumped me two weeks before the prom and I’m just fucking fine. Get out.” He hadn’t raised his voice, but the tone scared her.
“Hey! We’re five miles from my place. Just take me home and we can talk about it tomorrow.”
“No need for any more talking. You’ve been teasing me for the last month and I’ve had enough. Just get the fuck out of the car. You got a phone. Call your mom. I’m heading back to town.”
She was close to tears. “Come on, Roger. I know you’re mad, but this is the middle of nowhere. It’s not the best place for a girl to be alone at eleven at night.”
He got out, came around to her side, and opened the door. “Get the fuck out, now!”
She stood up beside the door and placed a hand on his shoulder. “Please don’t do this.”
He grabbed her hand and yanked her out of the way, and slammed the door.
“Ouch! What the hell was that for?” Suddenly, she wasn’t as hurt as she was angry.
He swung around and slapped her face, his arm returning for a backhand when she stepped aside, grabbed his wrist and yanked. Roger stumbled forward, banged his chin on the roof of the car and her elbow caught him hard in the rib cage. With a yelp, he stumbled away from her.
“You fucking bitch!”
Stepping away from the car, she balanced herself just as he reached out again. She slapped his hand aside and his face took on a mask of pure fury. He rushed in, punching at her face and she spun his attack aside, snapping a kick to the side of his knee as he passed. He yelled and tumbled over the rough gravel. When he got back up, his face was bloody, the shoulder of his shirt was torn and he was limping. Muttering obscenities, and without waiting for another round, he stumbled around the car, got in, hit the door locks and almost ran over her toes backing away.
She watched him peel out, scattering gravel. Then she heard someone clapping softly behind her.
The TV station theme music pics up just as he finishes. Shifter Born is still available from Red Rose Publishing!
The camera zooms back once more to show the whole stage and a shadow figure steps into the light. It’s a woman covered entirely in a flat black spandex body stocking. Only her hands and feet are bare and they might properly be called ‘paws’.
Vicki’s mouth drops open in just a moment’s shock, then she recovers. “Sapphire? Is that you?”
The figure strikes a pose with one hand on her hip. “Actually, this is Cambio, my cosplay alter-ego. Like a certain bat-creature, I think it helps to strike fear into the hearts of evildoers.”
The TV station theme music pics up again, louder this time.
“I’m afraid that’s all the time we have today, folks. But be sure to tune in, tomorrow, for some more interviews, chilling tales and a little contest. Be sure to check out Karen Michelle Nutt for another great Halloween treat.“
She waves at the camera. “In the meantime, this is Vicki Adams wishing you and yours a happy and safe Halloween weekend.”