Back at his office, Marcus made quick work of tracing the shapeshifter’s license plate. Apparently, the vehicle was registered to Travis Shaw. Not knowing what to expect, Marcus tucked a few tools into his pockets. His secretary Davina was just about to bring him a stack of papers to sign, when he strode out of his office and past her desk in the small reception area.
“Where do you think you’re going? You’ve got a crap ton of paperwork to sign!”
“Can’t it wait?”
“Not if you want to keep the lights and heat on in here. I know you’re busy saving the world, but we’ve still got bills to pay,” quipped Davina.
Marcus sighed theatrically and paused to sign the stack of papers she shoved at him. She rattled off a few client phone messages and he told her what to say, when she called them back.
“Is that all ma’am? Can I be excused now” asked Marcus sarcastically.
“I don’t know if you can ever be excused, but you may go.”
“Thanks mom, don’t wait up.”
“I never do,” Davina said grinning.
Marcus chuckled and shook his head fondly. He didn’t know what he’d do without that woman. In the parking garage, he climbed into his Range Rover and looked at the address he had jotted on a slip of paper. The shapeshifter lived in a bad part of town. It was the kind of area you avoided after dark. Even in daylight, there were dim alleys and deserted side streets where bad things often happened to unsuspecting victims.
Of course, it was possible that the shapeshifter Travis had knowingly written a false address on the application for his license plate. Or perhaps he owned some rundown properties on the opposite side of town from his actual residence. Marcus had hunted more than one rich man, who owned places in bad areas where they went to act out their twisted desires or conduct their dirty business. He briefly wondered how many bodies were concealed under the concrete basement floors of old rundown buildings in bad neighborhoods.
Thirty minutes later, Marcus arrived on the southside of town. The address on the slip of paper turned out to be in a gentrified area on the edge of a neighborhood which had seen better days. He parked and stepped onto the sidewalk in front of a block of old brick row houses, scanning the address plaques. Finding the one he sought, Marcus approached the porch. The front door opened and a pit bull stepped onto the porch.
There eyes met. The dog cocked its furry head to the side, managing to look both curious and friendly at the same time. Marcus loved animals. He smiled and greeted the dog, pleased to see its tail wag enthusiastically. Marcus supposed he had a few moments for a few head scratches. He advanced towards it slowly with an open hand extended for the dog to sniff.
The dog never broke eye contact. That was strange. Marcus stopped short of leaning down in front of it, eyeing the dog speculatively. Was it possible for a dog to look devious? The dog suddenly lowered its head menacingly and growled. Marcus slipped his right hand into the jacket pocket concealing a stun gun.
“Alright Travis, enough with the game play. I know its you.”
The dog crouched, preparing to pounce. Marcus stood his ground.
“If you leap at me, I’m gonna shoot you. No one around here will bat an eye over a man putting down an aggressive pit bull, so cut the crap and face me like a man!”
The dog abruptly quit its aggressive stance and stood for a few moments eyeing Marcus speculatively, before backing up slowly through the darkened doorway behind it. Marcus followed, stepping into the foyer and closing the door behind him. In the blink of an eye, the fur receded and the dog shifted into the kneeling figure of a man. Marcus suddenly found himself gazing at his own unclothed likeness.
“Very funny Travis. What are we twins now?”
“Well, you strike me as the kind of guy who likes to hear himself talk. So, I thought I’d oblige you,” Travis said with a smirk.
“You got almost everything right,” Marcus said glancing pointedly down at the stunted manhood between Travis’ legs.
“I don’t think so. I have an instinct about these things,” Travis said.
“Yeah? Well, you’re way off base this time. Don’t push your luck. After that stunt you pulled calling the cops at Cat’s apartment, you’re lucky I don’t break you neck!”
“I’d like to see you try,” Travis spat.
“Don’t tempt me! Look, I didn’t come here for a pissing contest. I’m looking for Cat. She’s missing and her brother is worried about her. The fact that you were in her place means either you’re looking for her too or you had something to do with her disappearance. Which is it?”
“I haven’t done anything to her, if that’s what you’re wondering.”
“Well, then what were you doing in her place?”
“None of your damn business!”
“Fair enough, just don’t get in my way again. Thanks to you, I’ve already wasted a lot of time. So, I’m telling you nicely to back off. She’s under my protection now.”
“Hah! Cat sure as hell doesn’t need protecting. If her brother can’t find her, it’s because she doesn’t want to be found. The bitch is holed up somewhere. Can’t say I blame her. She’s pissed off a lot of people. We’re not the only ones looking for her.”
“Who else is looking for her?”
“You’re the big bad bounty hunter Marcus. You tell me. That’s right I did a little checking up on you too. You’re not the only one with connections. So, I’m telling you nicely to fuck off!”
Travis dropped back down on all fours, shifting back into a growling pitbull. Marcus took a step back.
“Look man, I just told you what’s gonna happen if you come at me.”
“You can’t kill me, if I kill you first,” snarled Travis in a inhuman guttural voice.
Without warning, he lunged. Travis was airborne, when he saw Marcus pull the taser gun from his pocket. A moment later, fifty thousand volts of electricity incapacitated him. Travis collapsed on the floor twitching spasmodically. The loss of control over his body was terrifying. The only thing he could control was his eyes, which he opened wide and looked up at Marcus standing over him. The sole of Marcus’ shoe dropping down toward his face blocked Travis’ vision, abruptly smashing into his face.
Some hours later, Travis opened his eyes and realized with a shock that he wasn’t dead. Sitting up proved difficult with the nauseating headache pounding away in concert with his heartbeat. Travis finally succeeded in lifting his head and realized that he was still a pitbull. In his mind’s eye, he conjured up the image of his true form and willed his body to take that reshape.
Nothing happened. There was no reflexive shift. Marcus must have kicked him in the head pretty hard. Travis paused for a few moments, taking deep breaths to center himself and focus his thoughts. He conjured up a more detailed image and exercised the full force of his will to no avail. Travis began to panic. What the hell was happening? It was so loud in there with all those other dogs barking and he was in such a small cramped space, that it was hard focus. Where was he anyway? A dog pound? Travis moved to sit up and a dog chain collar bit into his neck. He hadn’t noticed that before. What the hell was the thing made of? Travis could feel it leeching off of him, quickly draining his energy.