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queen bee

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Henry’s phone vibrated against his leg. He’d silenced it because he was on the hunt and he didn’t want it to ring and give him away. Henry stopped outside a diner that was open late and pulled out his cell. He accepted the call when he saw Mike’s name on the screen.

Henry leaned against a light post and ignored the looks he got from men driving by, wondering if he was for sale. “Hello, Michael,” he drawled.

“Henry,” Mike said with a hint of resignation. “Can’t you ever answer the phone like a normal person?”

“And miss out on knowing how turned on you are right now?” Henry said.

Mike sighed and Henry imagined him shaking his head. “What are you up to?”

“I’m looking into a . . .” Henry glanced at the flier he’d torn off a telephone pole after he’d seen a little girl crying as her father stapled it up. “. . . missing person’s case.”

“For Vicki?” Mike said. If he’d ever been jealous of Henry’s close relationship with Vicki Mike never showed it.

“No, this is one I picked up myself.”

At one time Mike would’ve argued that a missing person’s case was something for the police to handle. Since learning that the things that go bump in the night were real he’d come to realize that some things needed a certain knowledge and skill set.

“Need any help?”

“I’ve got it handled,” Henry said.

There was a pause, but all Mike said was, “Be careful.”

“I will.”

“Are we still on for tonight?”

“I certainly hope so,” Henry said, his voice going low and sultry.

“You do realize I have to work for a couple more hours,” Mike said.

“I hope I haven’t made the rest of your shift too . . . hard,” Henry said.

“Liar,” Mike said and disconnected.

Henry smiled and returned the cell to the front pocket of his slacks. He glanced at the flier again before tucking it into the outside pocket of his peacoat. The last street person for whom he’d bought a cup of coffee and a sandwich had been very helpful. Henry followed his directions to an abandoned church.

There were signs warning people against trespassing, but Henry could see fresh tire tracks in the driveway and a trace of illumination through the boarded-up windows in the basement level which had probably housed the fellowship hall at one point. Henry ignored the signs and easily jumped the chain that hung across the driveway. The front entrance appeared to be locked and unused so he strode around to the back.

A padlock hung from the eye bolted to the door, but the latch was open. Henry listened, but the voices he heard seemed to be coming from a distance. He eased the door open and stepped into the darkened interior. Henry found the stairs leading to the fellowship hall and descended them silently, as only one of his kind could.

Henry realized why there was no sound from the victims when he peered into the room: they’d been locked in cages and obviously sedated. Henry studied the layout – the couches, chairs and tables that had once filled the room had been replaced by cages that lined the walls. Four men occupied the only furniture in the room, a card table and four wooden folding chairs. They were playing cards.

While Henry observed, one of the men took a call and announced to his cohorts that the truck would be there in twenty minutes. Henry didn’t have much time. He stepped into the room and drew the attention of the man sitting facing the stairs.

“Who the hell are you?”

“I’m looking for a dog,” Henry said as he strode forward. “Someone told me I could find one here.”

“Well, you were told wrong,” said another man whose nose had been broken more than once.

“Was I?” Henry said, indicating the cages.

He was close enough now that he didn’t need to move very fast to grab the wrist of the nearest man when he pulled out a knife. Henry casually broke the man’s wrist and knocked him out with a punch to the jaw.

Broken Nose moved towards Henry, probably thinking Henry was too distracted with his buddy to notice him, and Henry broke his nose again. Number Three rushed Henry, so he picked up one of the chairs and brought it down on the man’s head.

Number Four, probably the ringleader, still had his cell phone in his hand. Desperate, he threw it at Henry as a distraction, then upended the card table. Henry caught the phone out of the air and dropped it. He easily blocked the flimsy table, ignoring the cards and chips that went flying, and knocked it aside.

“Stop,” Henry commanded the moment he captured the other man’s gaze. The man froze. Henry got information out of him regarding the upcoming pick-up and left him with a compulsion to be very helpful when the police showed up. It would wear off eventually, but by then he would’ve confessed to everything and given up the rest of the organization to boot.

Henry tied up the men with the leashes they had lying around. He searched the cages for a beagle named Queen “Queenie” Bee. Henry felt a sense of relief when he found a beagle. He opened the cage and checked the name tag on her collar, which the men had left on her, to verify that she was the correct dog.

Once he’d confirmed her identity Henry carefully lifted Queenie out of the cage, whispering soothing words in case she could hear him at all while he checked her heartbeat and breathing. Other than the sedative she didn’t appear to have been mistreated. Who knew, though, what her fate might’ve been if Henry hadn’t found her when he did.

Henry wrapped Queenie in his coat and hid her under a bush near the front steps while he broke the chain blocking the driveway and waited for the transport vehicle. Once Henry dispatched the two men who arrived with the truck he put his coat on and tucked Queenie inside to keep her warm. The dog was still out of it, so Henry presumed the sedative was supposed to last until the dogs had been delivered wherever they were going.

Henry used a nearby payphone to call the police and report shots fired. He wasn’t above telling the lie if it meant getting the dogs medical attention as soon as possible. Henry used his speed to return to his neighborhood. He left Queenie and the flier with the doorman, who recognized the dog immediately, with a warning that she’d been given a sedative of some kind and should probably be taken to the vet. He waited outside to make sure Queenie was delivered safely into her owner’s hands before returning to his own apartment.

Henry was relaxing on the sofa with his drawing pad in hand when Mike showed up a few hours later. Mike let himself in and leaned over the back of the sofa to give Henry a kiss before removing his trench coat and hanging it in the closet.

“You’ll never guess what happened tonight,” Mike said.

“You didn’t skip dinner?” Henry guessed.

“I had a donut.”

“That’s not dinner.”

Mike waved off the familiar discussion. “We broke a dog smuggling operation wide open. With some help from an anonymous caller,” he added.

“Sounds like a good day’s work,” Henry said.

“Someone called in a report of shots fired,” Mike said as he settled on the sofa beside Henry and glanced at the drawing pad, “but when the officers arrived on the scene they found six men tied up and cages full of stolen dogs. Some of the men regained consciousness and had interesting stories to tell.”

“Did they?” Henry said, trying to sound bored.

“A single man took them all down, his coat billowing behind him like a superhero’s cape . . .”

“Now you’re just making stuff up.”

“That’s the least of what they said,” Mike said. He gave Henry a close look. “A missing person’s case, Henry?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Mike reached out and plucked a strand of dog hair off Henry’s shirt. “If I had this hair tested, would it match . . .” Mike withdrew a flier from his pocket and unfolded it. “. . . Queen Bee?”

“I like a safe neighborhood,” Henry said.

Mike dropped the flier and strand of hair. “You’re an old softie,” he said. “Emphasis on old.”

Henry tossed the drawing pad onto the coffee table and reached for Mike. “I’ll show you old, Detective, and there won’t be anything soft about it.”

Henry cut off Mike’s chuckle with a kiss.

The End