where the writers are
Pets
Pets by Gary Starta

PETS

Bleary eyed and groggy, police officer Reggie Warfield fumbled to secure the strap of his weapons holster in the darkness of his bedroom. A phone call from Capt. Mark Blaisdale came 10 minutes earlier, demanding he report to the station in uniform. Warfield wondered what urgent matter required his attention at 2 in the morning. He expressly quit the night shift to appease his wife Melinda five months back. Melinda detested late night interruptions. If this matter didn’t rival a nuclear holocaust, Melinda was going to be pretty pissed at him – again.

Blaisdale only told Warfield that some wild creature was loose in Cranburytown, a normally quiet New Jersey suburb. Questions filled his mind as he hopped into his patrol car. Warfield substituted his usual morning caffeine buzz for anger on the drive to the stationhouse. He would demand to know why Blaisdale had specifically requested him for the job, pulling him from his warm bed, nine hours before his regular shift would begin.

Warfield had grown accustomed to working the dayshift, training rookie, Kristy Phillips. Kristy just happened to be drop dead gorgeous. She helped ease Warfield’s worries about his troubled marriage by providing a great distraction. It was highly unlikely Melinda would understand her husband’s late night rendezvous with the model like brunette or his need for a distraction.

Thoughts of Melinda and Kristy haunted Warfield until he stepped into the captain’s office. He wondered why Phillips had not arrived yet. No other patrol cars sat in the driveway, making the situation seem even more surreal. Blaisdale stood before his desk, stone silent. He waved a grainy 8 x 10 inch photo in front of Warfield’s face. The 30-year-old veteran began to grasp the urgency of the call. The picture’s subject immediately drained all color from the officer’s face. His mouth went dry. Warfield had chased evil before, but it always appeared in human form. A verbal response eluded him. The captain ignored Warfield’s shock, nonchalantly informing him that two night shift officers had already been wounded trying to apprehend the “animal.” Warfield now understood the gravity of the situation and why animal control officers had not been called. The picture didn’t really seem to portray any kind of animal that walked God’s green earth. Warfield’s mind could only categorize the creature as some sort of hybrid.

It was as if Blaisdale had read his mind.

“I think this is some sort of abomination, Warfield. Possibly the offspring of human and dog.”

“How on Earth can that be?” Warfield’s response sounded childlike. The captain flipped through a folder, avoiding eye contact with his puzzled officer.

“I have a few more pictures to show you. We obtained these from a surveillance cam provided by resident Ira Sugarman. Ira mounted cameras on two of her backyard trees after we doubted her last alien sighting.” Blaisdale handed the next photo to Warfield, praying his officer would keep an open mind. “Focus your eyes beyond the blur of white light and I think you’ll see some sort of craft. It doesn’t look like any kind of military copter to me. And even if it was, what the hell would it be doing in the Sugarman’s backyard?” Blaisdale did not pause to allow commentary. “Now this third picture’s the clincher, Warfield. You can clearly see this beast running from the ship like a runaway dog.”

“So you want me to track an extraterrestrial being? How the hell am I going to explain this to my wife, Captain?”

“I’m not really concerned with your personal affairs. However, you will not be tracking it. I want you to put it down, with a bullet - no tranquilizers of any kind are to be used. We can’t risk its escape from our jurisdiction.”

“Putting my personal life aside sir, just what do you want me to tell Officer Phillips?” The captain sighed, finally acknowledging Warfield’s anger.

“The truth is I don’t want Phillips briefed because she’s academy, through and through. Phillips is too green to understand a handbook can’t answer every question yet. So I want you to go pick her up and tell her a nice cover story.”

“You want me to make something up, or should I quote a script?”

“I’ll tolerate your anger, but not your sarcasm, Warfield. You will tell her that Judge Richard’s Labrador contracted rabies. And as a personal favor to the judge, I am requesting my two best officers take care of his animal. Nothing more needs to be said until you encounter the beast. I want you to put a bullet into it and contact me immediately. I’ll have a team transport the body to a secure location.”

“Why keep this a secret, sir? Maybe we’d fare better with outside help? Did you think about contacting the bureau’s field office?”

“I’m in charge officer. There will be no manhunt. No press. Do you understand?”

Warfield silently wondered if Blaisdale had gone mad. Why was he so concerned about concealing the story from the public? Odds were, crazy Ida Sugarman was already developing photos for the press.

Reggie was not too happy with Blaisdale’s order to shoot on sight either. If the beast really does come from another world, maybe it was sentient. He stormed out of the building in silence.

However, Blaisdale wasn’t as mad as Warfield suspected. He was just greedy. The captain phoned Bell Laboratories within minutes of the officer’s departure. The beast would undergo an autopsy for the sake of science. The find would put Bell Labs at the forefront of genetic mapping for the third straight year. Blaisdale would be rewarded handsomely, all for making a few telephone calls.

* * *

Warfield and Phillips rode in silence for nearly half an hour. Warfield felt uneasy. Phillips usually broke the ice first by either telling a joke or suggesting a coffee run. She sat in stone silence tonight. Either Phillips was mad at Blaisdale for waking her up, or possibly some sexual tension between the two officers was coming to a fine boil. There was a third option. Warfield may just be suffering from an overactive imagination. He wished the captain’s story were merely a dream. However, the facts remained. Two officers had been injured. There were pictures of the beast and a craft. And there was also the strange look of vacancy in Blaisdale’s eyes, telling Warfield the creature was real.

Warfield scoured the township. They searched Bluebird Park thoroughly, using their flashlights to inspect the jungle gym area for footprints. To Warfield’s relief, the creature had not come here yet. He hoped to God the creature wouldn’t acquire a taste for the township’s children come morning. The thought saddened him. Melinda kept putting off discussions about having babies. He entertained the idea of starting over, maybe with Phillips. The children would be beautiful. Phillip’s image hung like a portrait in his subconscious. Sometimes he would dare to dream about her long dark curly hair that framed her milky white complexion. Or fantasize about diving into her hazel eyes. Warfield knew these impulses were wrong, if not silly. Starting over with Phillips was perhaps a crazier notion than his desire to become a New York City cop. And if he ever did make the NYPD, he could surely kiss his strained marriage goodbye.

Abandoning the park, the officers headed for the malls. A half moon hung in the sky. The orb would not provide enough light to scour any parking lots or alleyways. Phillips suggested Warfield deploy the car’s search lamps even at the risk of scaring the creature away. Warfield squirmed in his seat. He really didn’t want to comply with her suggestion. They would not be just spooking a rabid animal into hiding, they might be condemning the populace to the horror of an otherworldly creation.

Warfield cut down Smith Street, a back way to the mall. He winced at the sight of Blake’s Ice Cream Stand. The venue used to be the Warfield’s local summer haunt. Reggie would take Melinda there every Friday evening to indulge in their famous mint chocolate chip ice cream. Melinda loved the treat. Reggie loved the happy look in her eyes. He desperately needed to get that happy look back. However, he realized happiness was often a lot more complicated than mint chocolate chip ice cream. He cursed the patrol and his lust for Phillips. In all probability he would return home to sleep on a glacier. He had allowed his work to quietly infect his personal life. He made a pact with himself to repair his marriage starting today, while there was still time. Above all, Warfield wanted to rekindle the kind of passion he now guiltily felt for Phillips.

Phillips shocked Warfield from his solitude as they entered the mall parking lot.

“Just what the hell did you get us into Warfield? Did you really think I was going to buy your story about the judge’s pet? How could he forget to vaccinate his dog? He’s the one that sends out the reminder notices for Christ sakes.”

Warfield was never good at backpedaling. He always failed miserably with Melinda. Yet he gave it a try.

“It’s true Phillips. I don’t like it anymore than you do. But the judge called in a favor to the captain. You know some people love their pets dearly. They often fill a void in their lives, like romance for example.”

“I like animals, but if it comes down to them or me, I’m choosing me, Warfield.”

Phillips paused to digest her revelation.

“Oh my god, Warfield, you were referring to yourself – your relationship with your wife. I didn’t know things were that bad between you and Melinda.”

Warfield squinted hoping to deflect Phillip’s commentary like oncoming headlights.

“No, Phillips. Things aren’t that bad. Melinda didn’t buy a terrier in an attempt to replace me if that’s what you’re driving at. Furthermore, my membership at Petclub doesn’t signal divorce.” Warfield tapped his fingers nervously on the steering wheel. “Does it, Phillips?”

Warfield dared to make eye contact with Phillips. All he could find in her eyes was pity. What a fool he was, daring to believe she might be interested in him. However, Warfield had mistaken the look of pity for something else – dread. Warfield braked the car hard as Phillips commanded him to stop.

“There it is! It’s hiding behind that dumpster.”

“Wait Phillips!” Warfield’s warning fell on deaf ears. The rookie bounded from the vehicle, gun drawn. “Shine the headlamp to the left, Warfield.”

Warfield complied. Now pity welled up inside him. He felt sorry for himself. What was he becoming? Taking orders from a rookie no less?

A growl broke his train of thought. He leaped from the car, ordering Phillips to return to the car.

“What are you talking about? I have it dead to rights.”

As the beast became illuminated in the light, Phillips suddenly realized why Warfield had ordered her back to the patrol car.

Phillips cringed. The sight was hideous. Although the creature stood on four legs like a dog, its head was quite humanlike. The cranium was bald as if it were shaved. Fangs protruded from its mouth, hanging several inches beyond its chin. And when the beast pawed the ground like a mad bull, a third eye protracted from the top of its head. The irises were purplish. Phillips stood mesmerized, caught in half fright and half amazement. Warfield knew he would have to draw the beast’s attention away from the rookie in the next few seconds. If he didn’t, the beast would lunge at her. It was staring Phillips down, daring her to attack, much like a cornered dog.

Crouching to his knees, Warfield reached into the car. He fumbled under the driver’s seat for a stale doughnut, not daring to remove his eyes from the creature. A half eaten crueler would have to do. He tossed the pastry towards the dumpster like a grenade, but the beast would not break eye contact. The click of a trigger set the beast in motion. It flew through the air knocking Phillips on her backside. Her shot careened harmlessly off a brick building. The rookie’s legs now dangled precariously in front of the salivating animal. Its mouth sprang open like a python’s. Razor-sharp fangs sheared Phillips right leg off at the kneecap. Blood splayed. A scream made Warfield’s skin crawl. He returned his gaze from his fallen colleague to the creature. It held Phillips leg in its mouth like a trophy. Warfield cursed his humanitarian thinking. Does this damn thing look sentient to you, Warfield! He did not hesitate. Two bullets ripped through the beast’s chest, knocking it backwards. It fell dead, on its backside, legs raised in the air. Warfield kept a wary eye trained on it. He wondered if this alien creature was only playing dead. He radioed dispatch, requesting an ambulance for an officer down. Then three beings appeared from thin air. They looked human, but walked stiffly.

Telepathically, Warfield knew these beings were aliens in disguise. A wave of grief and anger enveloped him. The beings had lost their pet. They too had searched the township for their companion in vain. Now their pet lay dead, belly up on blacktop. Warfield realized he would not escape their wrath. These beings did not experience his feelings of hesitation and compassion. All they saw was a man holding a smoking gun.

The aliens seemed to be in no hurry to exact their punishment. They explained how their pet was created. A human had been abducted for the express purpose of breeding. The human male had been forced to breed with a beast native to the alien’s home world. The aliens explained via brain waves they wanted to create the ultimate pet.

The aliens didn’t have to explain much more. Warfield knew the rest. These aliens could not abandon their creation. They came back for it like any human would. And like humans, the aliens held their pets in the highest regard as well. Pets were a port in a storm, providing support and unconditional love, no matter what crap the universe threw at you. Pets could ease the pain of a relationship or dissolve a bad day into nothingness. Warfield understood the need for pets. The creature must be replaced immediately. Warfield must return to the aliens what he had taken.

The beings surrounded Warfield in a circle. He began to rise in the air. It reminded him of a movie. A girl telepathically made a cup move in the film. Warfield protested, he loved pets too, but wasn’t he still a few rungs up on the food chain? Warfield wasn’t an object. He wasn’t a coffee mug. He was an officer of the law, and more importantly, a husband to a wife, damn it! Warfield felt small and helpless. He knew the aliens would not heed his pleas; at least not until after the breeding. He rose further and further into the sky, until a door of a ship opened, taking him inside.

Ironically, officer Warfield would no longer bear the burden of choosing between Melinda and Kristy. He would soon join his new mate. She would have three purple eyes and sport ten-inch fangs. This creature would give Warfield the offspring he always wanted. Something far more valuable to the universe than any corporeal human being or alien combined. Officer Warfield’s offspring would be of the most glorious design. They would be pets after all.

THE END

PETS

Bleary eyed and groggy, police officer Reggie Warfield fumbled to secure the strap of his weapons holster in the darkness of his bedroom. A phone call from Capt. Mark Blaisdale came 10 minutes earlier, demanding he report to the station in uniform. Warfield wondered what urgent matter required his attention at 2 in the morning. He expressly quit the night shift to appease his wife Melinda five months back. Melinda detested late night interruptions. If this matter didn’t rival a nuclear holocaust, Melinda was going to be pretty pissed at him – again.

Blaisdale only told Warfield that some wild creature was loose in Cranburytown, a normally quiet New Jersey suburb. Questions filled his mind as he hopped into his patrol car. Warfield substituted his usual morning caffeine buzz for anger on the drive to the stationhouse. He would demand to know why Blaisdale had specifically requested him for the job, pulling him from his warm bed, nine hours before his regular shift would begin.

Warfield had grown accustomed to working the dayshift, training rookie, Kristy Phillips. Kristy just happened to be drop dead gorgeous. She helped ease Warfield’s worries about his troubled marriage by providing a great distraction. It was highly unlikely Melinda would understand her husband’s late night rendezvous with the model like brunette or his need for a distraction.

Thoughts of Melinda and Kristy haunted Warfield until he stepped into the captain’s office. He wondered why Phillips had not arrived yet. No other patrol cars sat in the driveway, making the situation seem even more surreal. Blaisdale stood before his desk, stone silent. He waved a grainy 8 x 10 inch photo in front of Warfield’s face. The 30-year-old veteran began to grasp the urgency of the call. The picture’s subject immediately drained all color from the officer’s face. His mouth went dry. Warfield had chased evil before, but it always appeared in human form. A verbal response eluded him. The captain ignored Warfield’s shock, nonchalantly informing him that two night shift officers had already been wounded trying to apprehend the “animal.” Warfield now understood the gravity of the situation and why animal control officers had not been called. The picture didn’t really seem to portray any kind of animal that walked God’s green earth. Warfield’s mind could only categorize the creature as some sort of hybrid.

It was as if Blaisdale had read his mind.

“I think this is some sort of abomination, Warfield. Possibly the offspring of human and dog.”

“How on Earth can that be?” Warfield’s response sounded childlike. The captain flipped through a folder, avoiding eye contact with his puzzled officer.

“I have a few more pictures to show you. We obtained these from a surveillance cam provided by resident Ira Sugarman. Ira mounted cameras on two of her backyard trees after we doubted her last alien sighting.” Blaisdale handed the next photo to Warfield, praying his officer would keep an open mind. “Focus your eyes beyond the blur of white light and I think you’ll see some sort of craft. It doesn’t look like any kind of military copter to me. And even if it was, what the hell would it be doing in the Sugarman’s backyard?” Blaisdale did not pause to allow commentary. “Now this third picture’s the clincher, Warfield. You can clearly see this beast running from the ship like a runaway dog.”

“So you want me to track an extraterrestrial being? How the hell am I going to explain this to my wife, Captain?”

“I’m not really concerned with your personal affairs. However, you will not be tracking it. I want you to put it down, with a bullet - no tranquilizers of any kind are to be used. We can’t risk its escape from our jurisdiction.”

“Putting my personal life aside sir, just what do you want me to tell Officer Phillips?” The captain sighed, finally acknowledging Warfield’s anger.

“The truth is I don’t want Phillips briefed because she’s academy, through and through. Phillips is too green to understand a handbook can’t answer every question yet. So I want you to go pick her up and tell her a nice cover story.”

“You want me to make something up, or should I quote a script?”

“I’ll tolerate your anger, but not your sarcasm, Warfield. You will tell her that Judge Richard’s Labrador contracted rabies. And as a personal favor to the judge, I am requesting my two best officers take care of his animal. Nothing more needs to be said until you encounter the beast. I want you to put a bullet into it and contact me immediately. I’ll have a team transport the body to a secure location.”

“Why keep this a secret, sir? Maybe we’d fare better with outside help? Did you think about contacting the bureau’s field office?”

“I’m in charge officer. There will be no manhunt. No press. Do you understand?”

Warfield silently wondered if Blaisdale had gone mad. Why was he so concerned about concealing the story from the public? Odds were, crazy Ida Sugarman was already developing photos for the press.

Reggie was not too happy with Blaisdale’s order to shoot on sight either. If the beast really does come from another world, maybe it was sentient. He stormed out of the building in silence.

However, Blaisdale wasn’t as mad as Warfield suspected. He was just greedy. The captain phoned Bell Laboratories within minutes of the officer’s departure. The beast would undergo an autopsy for the sake of science. The find would put Bell Labs at the forefront of genetic mapping for the third straight year. Blaisdale would be rewarded handsomely, all for making a few telephone calls.

* * *

Warfield and Phillips rode in silence for nearly half an hour. Warfield felt uneasy. Phillips usually broke the ice first by either telling a joke or suggesting a coffee run. She sat in stone silence tonight. Either Phillips was mad at Blaisdale for waking her up, or possibly some sexual tension between the two officers was coming to a fine boil. There was a third option. Warfield may just be suffering from an overactive imagination. He wished the captain’s story were merely a dream. However, the facts remained. Two officers had been injured. There were pictures of the beast and a craft. And there was also the strange look of vacancy in Blaisdale’s eyes, telling Warfield the creature was real.

Warfield scoured the township. They searched Bluebird Park thoroughly, using their flashlights to inspect the jungle gym area for footprints. To Warfield’s relief, the creature had not come here yet. He hoped to God the creature wouldn’t acquire a taste for the township’s children come morning. The thought saddened him. Melinda kept putting off discussions about having babies. He entertained the idea of starting over, maybe with Phillips. The children would be beautiful. Phillip’s image hung like a portrait in his subconscious. Sometimes he would dare to dream about her long dark curly hair that framed her milky white complexion. Or fantasize about diving into her hazel eyes. Warfield knew these impulses were wrong, if not silly. Starting over with Phillips was perhaps a crazier notion than his desire to become a New York City cop. And if he ever did make the NYPD, he could surely kiss his strained marriage goodbye.

Abandoning the park, the officers headed for the malls. A half moon hung in the sky. The orb would not provide enough light to scour any parking lots or alleyways. Phillips suggested Warfield deploy the car’s search lamps even at the risk of scaring the creature away. Warfield squirmed in his seat. He really didn’t want to comply with her suggestion. They would not be just spooking a rabid animal into hiding, they might be condemning the populace to the horror of an otherworldly creation.

Warfield cut down Smith Street, a back way to the mall. He winced at the sight of Blake’s Ice Cream Stand. The venue used to be the Warfield’s local summer haunt. Reggie would take Melinda there every Friday evening to indulge in their famous mint chocolate chip ice cream. Melinda loved the treat. Reggie loved the happy look in her eyes. He desperately needed to get that happy look back. However, he realized happiness was often a lot more complicated than mint chocolate chip ice cream. He cursed the patrol and his lust for Phillips. In all probability he would return home to sleep on a glacier. He had allowed his work to quietly infect his personal life. He made a pact with himself to repair his marriage starting today, while there was still time. Above all, Warfield wanted to rekindle the kind of passion he now guiltily felt for Phillips.

Phillips shocked Warfield from his solitude as they entered the mall parking lot.

“Just what the hell did you get us into Warfield? Did you really think I was going to buy your story about the judge’s pet? How could he forget to vaccinate his dog? He’s the one that sends out the reminder notices for Christ sakes.”

Warfield was never good at backpedaling. He always failed miserably with Melinda. Yet he gave it a try.

“It’s true Phillips. I don’t like it anymore than you do. But the judge called in a favor to the captain. You know some people love their pets dearly. They often fill a void in their lives, like romance for example.”

“I like animals, but if it comes down to them or me, I’m choosing me, Warfield.”

Phillips paused to digest her revelation.

“Oh my god, Warfield, you were referring to yourself – your relationship with your wife. I didn’t know things were that bad between you and Melinda.”

Warfield squinted hoping to deflect Phillip’s commentary like oncoming headlights.

“No, Phillips. Things aren’t that bad. Melinda didn’t buy a terrier in an attempt to replace me if that’s what you’re driving at. Furthermore, my membership at Petclub doesn’t signal divorce.” Warfield tapped his fingers nervously on the steering wheel. “Does it, Phillips?”

Warfield dared to make eye contact with Phillips. All he could find in her eyes was pity. What a fool he was, daring to believe she might be interested in him. However, Warfield had mistaken the look of pity for something else – dread. Warfield braked the car hard as Phillips commanded him to stop.

“There it is! It’s hiding behind that dumpster.”

“Wait Phillips!” Warfield’s warning fell on deaf ears. The rookie bounded from the vehicle, gun drawn. “Shine the headlamp to the left, Warfield.”

Warfield complied. Now pity welled up inside him. He felt sorry for himself. What was he becoming? Taking orders from a rookie no less?

A growl broke his train of thought. He leaped from the car, ordering Phillips to return to the car.

“What are you talking about? I have it dead to rights.”

As the beast became illuminated in the light, Phillips suddenly realized why Warfield had ordered her back to the patrol car.

Phillips cringed. The sight was hideous. Although the creature stood on four legs like a dog, its head was quite humanlike. The cranium was bald as if it were shaved. Fangs protruded from its mouth, hanging several inches beyond its chin. And when the beast pawed the ground like a mad bull, a third eye protracted from the top of its head. The irises were purplish. Phillips stood mesmerized, caught in half fright and half amazement. Warfield knew he would have to draw the beast’s attention away from the rookie in the next few seconds. If he didn’t, the beast would lunge at her. It was staring Phillips down, daring her to attack, much like a cornered dog.

Crouching to his knees, Warfield reached into the car. He fumbled under the driver’s seat for a stale doughnut, not daring to remove his eyes from the creature. A half eaten crueler would have to do. He tossed the pastry towards the dumpster like a grenade, but the beast would not break eye contact. The click of a trigger set the beast in motion. It flew through the air knocking Phillips on her backside. Her shot careened harmlessly off a brick building. The rookie’s legs now dangled precariously in front of the salivating animal. Its mouth sprang open like a python’s. Razor-sharp fangs sheared Phillips right leg off at the kneecap. Blood splayed. A scream made Warfield’s skin crawl. He returned his gaze from his fallen colleague to the creature. It held Phillips leg in its mouth like a trophy. Warfield cursed his humanitarian thinking. Does this damn thing look sentient to you, Warfield! He did not hesitate. Two bullets ripped through the beast’s chest, knocking it backwards. It fell dead, on its backside, legs raised in the air. Warfield kept a wary eye trained on it. He wondered if this alien creature was only playing dead. He radioed dispatch, requesting an ambulance for an officer down. Then three beings appeared from thin air. They looked human, but walked stiffly.

Telepathically, Warfield knew these beings were aliens in disguise. A wave of grief and anger enveloped him. The beings had lost their pet. They too had searched the township for their companion in vain. Now their pet lay dead, belly up on blacktop. Warfield realized he would not escape their wrath. These beings did not experience his feelings of hesitation and compassion. All they saw was a man holding a smoking gun.

The aliens seemed to be in no hurry to exact their punishment. They explained how their pet was created. A human had been abducted for the express purpose of breeding. The human male had been forced to breed with a beast native to the alien’s home world. The aliens explained via brain waves they wanted to create the ultimate pet.

The aliens didn’t have to explain much more. Warfield knew the rest. These aliens could not abandon their creation. They came back for it like any human would. And like humans, the aliens held their pets in the highest regard as well. Pets were a port in a storm, providing support and unconditional love, no matter what crap the universe threw at you. Pets could ease the pain of a relationship or dissolve a bad day into nothingness. Warfield understood the need for pets. The creature must be replaced immediately. Warfield must return to the aliens what he had taken.

The beings surrounded Warfield in a circle. He began to rise in the air. It reminded him of a movie. A girl telepathically made a cup move in the film. Warfield protested, he loved pets too, but wasn’t he still a few rungs up on the food chain? Warfield wasn’t an object. He wasn’t a coffee mug. He was an officer of the law, and more importantly, a husband to a wife, damn it! Warfield felt small and helpless. He knew the aliens would not heed his pleas; at least not until after the breeding. He rose further and further into the sky, until a door of a ship opened, taking him inside.

Ironically, officer Warfield would no longer bear the burden of choosing between Melinda and Kristy. He would soon join his new mate. She would have three purple eyes and sport ten-inch fangs. This creature would give Warfield the offspring he always wanted. Something far more valuable to the universe than any corporeal human being or alien combined. Officer Warfield’s offspring would be of the most glorious design. They would be pets after all.

THE END

PETS

Bleary eyed and groggy, police officer Reggie Warfield fumbled to secure the strap of his weapons holster in the darkness of his bedroom. A phone call from Capt. Mark Blaisdale came 10 minutes earlier, demanding he report to the station in uniform. Warfield wondered what urgent matter required his attention at 2 in the morning. He expressly quit the night shift to appease his wife Melinda five months back. Melinda detested late night interruptions. If this matter didn’t rival a nuclear holocaust, Melinda was going to be pretty pissed at him – again.

Blaisdale only told Warfield that some wild creature was loose in Cranburytown, a normally quiet New Jersey suburb. Questions filled his mind as he hopped into his patrol car. Warfield substituted his usual morning caffeine buzz for anger on the drive to the stationhouse. He would demand to know why Blaisdale had specifically requested him for the job, pulling him from his warm bed, nine hours before his regular shift would begin.

Warfield had grown accustomed to working the dayshift, training rookie, Kristy Phillips. Kristy just happened to be drop dead gorgeous. She helped ease Warfield’s worries about his troubled marriage by providing a great distraction. It was highly unlikely Melinda would understand her husband’s late night rendezvous with the model like brunette or his need for a distraction.

Thoughts of Melinda and Kristy haunted Warfield until he stepped into the captain’s office. He wondered why Phillips had not arrived yet. No other patrol cars sat in the driveway, making the situation seem even more surreal. Blaisdale stood before his desk, stone silent. He waved a grainy 8 x 10 inch photo in front of Warfield’s face. The 30-year-old veteran began to grasp the urgency of the call. The picture’s subject immediately drained all color from the officer’s face. His mouth went dry. Warfield had chased evil before, but it always appeared in human form. A verbal response eluded him. The captain ignored Warfield’s shock, nonchalantly informing him that two night shift officers had already been wounded trying to apprehend the “animal.” Warfield now understood the gravity of the situation and why animal control officers had not been called. The picture didn’t really seem to portray any kind of animal that walked God’s green earth. Warfield’s mind could only categorize the creature as some sort of hybrid.

It was as if Blaisdale had read his mind.

“I think this is some sort of abomination, Warfield. Possibly the offspring of human and dog.”

“How on Earth can that be?” Warfield’s response sounded childlike. The captain flipped through a folder, avoiding eye contact with his puzzled officer.

“I have a few more pictures to show you. We obtained these from a surveillance cam provided by resident Ira Sugarman. Ira mounted cameras on two of her backyard trees after we doubted her last alien sighting.” Blaisdale handed the next photo to Warfield, praying his officer would keep an open mind. “Focus your eyes beyond the blur of white light and I think you’ll see some sort of craft. It doesn’t look like any kind of military copter to me. And even if it was, what the hell would it be doing in the Sugarman’s backyard?” Blaisdale did not pause to allow commentary. “Now this third picture’s the clincher, Warfield. You can clearly see this beast running from the ship like a runaway dog.”

“So you want me to track an extraterrestrial being? How the hell am I going to explain this to my wife, Captain?”

“I’m not really concerned with your personal affairs. However, you will not be tracking it. I want you to put it down, with a bullet - no tranquilizers of any kind are to be used. We can’t risk its escape from our jurisdiction.”

“Putting my personal life aside sir, just what do you want me to tell Officer Phillips?” The captain sighed, finally acknowledging Warfield’s anger.

“The truth is I don’t want Phillips briefed because she’s academy, through and through. Phillips is too green to understand a handbook can’t answer every question yet. So I want you to go pick her up and tell her a nice cover story.”

“You want me to make something up, or should I quote a script?”

“I’ll tolerate your anger, but not your sarcasm, Warfield. You will tell her that Judge Richard’s Labrador contracted rabies. And as a personal favor to the judge, I am requesting my two best officers take care of his animal. Nothing more needs to be said until you encounter the beast. I want you to put a bullet into it and contact me immediately. I’ll have a team transport the body to a secure location.”

“Why keep this a secret, sir? Maybe we’d fare better with outside help? Did you think about contacting the bureau’s field office?”

“I’m in charge officer. There will be no manhunt. No press. Do you understand?”

Warfield silently wondered if Blaisdale had gone mad. Why was he so concerned about concealing the story from the public? Odds were, crazy Ida Sugarman was already developing photos for the press.

Reggie was not too happy with Blaisdale’s order to shoot on sight either. If the beast really does come from another world, maybe it was sentient. He stormed out of the building in silence.

However, Blaisdale wasn’t as mad as Warfield suspected. He was just greedy. The captain phoned Bell Laboratories within minutes of the officer’s departure. The beast would undergo an autopsy for the sake of science. The find would put Bell Labs at the forefront of genetic mapping for the third straight year. Blaisdale would be rewarded handsomely, all for making a few telephone calls.

* * *

Warfield and Phillips rode in silence for nearly half an hour. Warfield felt uneasy. Phillips usually broke the ice first by either telling a joke or suggesting a coffee run. She sat in stone silence tonight. Either Phillips was mad at Blaisdale for waking her up, or possibly some sexual tension between the two officers was coming to a fine boil. There was a third option. Warfield may just be suffering from an overactive imagination. He wished the captain’s story were merely a dream. However, the facts remained. Two officers had been injured. There were pictures of the beast and a craft. And there was also the strange look of vacancy in Blaisdale’s eyes, telling Warfield the creature was real.

Warfield scoured the township. They searched Bluebird Park thoroughly, using their flashlights to inspect the jungle gym area for footprints. To Warfield’s relief, the creature had not come here yet. He hoped to God the creature wouldn’t acquire a taste for the township’s children come morning. The thought saddened him. Melinda kept putting off discussions about having babies. He entertained the idea of starting over, maybe with Phillips. The children would be beautiful. Phillip’s image hung like a portrait in his subconscious. Sometimes he would dare to dream about her long dark curly hair that framed her milky white complexion. Or fantasize about diving into her hazel eyes. Warfield knew these impulses were wrong, if not silly. Starting over with Phillips was perhaps a crazier notion than his desire to become a New York City cop. And if he ever did make the NYPD, he could surely kiss his strained marriage goodbye.

Abandoning the park, the officers headed for the malls. A half moon hung in the sky. The orb would not provide enough light to scour any parking lots or alleyways. Phillips suggested Warfield deploy the car’s search lamps even at the risk of scaring the creature away. Warfield squirmed in his seat. He really didn’t want to comply with her suggestion. They would not be just spooking a rabid animal into hiding, they might be condemning the populace to the horror of an otherworldly creation.

Warfield cut down Smith Street, a back way to the mall. He winced at the sight of Blake’s Ice Cream Stand. The venue used to be the Warfield’s local summer haunt. Reggie would take Melinda there every Friday evening to indulge in their famous mint chocolate chip ice cream. Melinda loved the treat. Reggie loved the happy look in her eyes. He desperately needed to get that happy look back. However, he realized happiness was often a lot more complicated than mint chocolate chip ice cream. He cursed the patrol and his lust for Phillips. In all probability he would return home to sleep on a glacier. He had allowed his work to quietly infect his personal life. He made a pact with himself to repair his marriage starting today, while there was still time. Above all, Warfield wanted to rekindle the kind of passion he now guiltily felt for Phillips.

Phillips shocked Warfield from his solitude as they entered the mall parking lot.

“Just what the hell did you get us into Warfield? Did you really think I was going to buy your story about the judge’s pet? How could he forget to vaccinate his dog? He’s the one that sends out the reminder notices for Christ sakes.”

Warfield was never good at backpedaling. He always failed miserably with Melinda. Yet he gave it a try.

“It’s true Phillips. I don’t like it anymore than you do. But the judge called in a favor to the captain. You know some people love their pets dearly. They often fill a void in their lives, like romance for example.”

“I like animals, but if it comes down to them or me, I’m choosing me, Warfield.”

Phillips paused to digest her revelation.

“Oh my god, Warfield, you were referring to yourself – your relationship with your wife. I didn’t know things were that bad between you and Melinda.”

Warfield squinted hoping to deflect Phillip’s commentary like oncoming headlights.

“No, Phillips. Things aren’t that bad. Melinda didn’t buy a terrier in an attempt to replace me if that’s what you’re driving at. Furthermore, my membership at Petclub doesn’t signal divorce.” Warfield tapped his fingers nervously on the steering wheel. “Does it, Phillips?”

Warfield dared to make eye contact with Phillips. All he could find in her eyes was pity. What a fool he was, daring to believe she might be interested in him. However, Warfield had mistaken the look of pity for something else – dread. Warfield braked the car hard as Phillips commanded him to stop.

“There it is! It’s hiding behind that dumpster.”

“Wait Phillips!” Warfield’s warning fell on deaf ears. The rookie bounded from the vehicle, gun drawn. “Shine the headlamp to the left, Warfield.”

Warfield complied. Now pity welled up inside him. He felt sorry for himself. What was he becoming? Taking orders from a rookie no less?

A growl broke his train of thought. He leaped from the car, ordering Phillips to return to the car.

“What are you talking about? I have it dead to rights.”

As the beast became illuminated in the light, Phillips suddenly realized why Warfield had ordered her back to the patrol car.

Phillips cringed. The sight was hideous. Although the creature stood on four legs like a dog, its head was quite humanlike. The cranium was bald as if it were shaved. Fangs protruded from its mouth, hanging several inches beyond its chin. And when the beast pawed the ground like a mad bull, a third eye protracted from the top of its head. The irises were purplish. Phillips stood mesmerized, caught in half fright and half amazement. Warfield knew he would have to draw the beast’s attention away from the rookie in the next few seconds. If he didn’t, the beast would lunge at her. It was staring Phillips down, daring her to attack, much like a cornered dog.

Crouching to his knees, Warfield reached into the car. He fumbled under the driver’s seat for a stale doughnut, not daring to remove his eyes from the creature. A half eaten crueler would have to do. He tossed the pastry towards the dumpster like a grenade, but the beast would not break eye contact. The click of a trigger set the beast in motion. It flew through the air knocking Phillips on her backside. Her shot careened harmlessly off a brick building. The rookie’s legs now dangled precariously in front of the salivating animal. Its mouth sprang open like a python’s. Razor-sharp fangs sheared Phillips right leg off at the kneecap. Blood splayed. A scream made Warfield’s skin crawl. He returned his gaze from his fallen colleague to the creature. It held Phillips leg in its mouth like a trophy. Warfield cursed his humanitarian thinking. Does this damn thing look sentient to you, Warfield! He did not hesitate. Two bullets ripped through the beast’s chest, knocking it backwards. It fell dead, on its backside, legs raised in the air. Warfield kept a wary eye trained on it. He wondered if this alien creature was only playing dead. He radioed dispatch, requesting an ambulance for an officer down. Then three beings appeared from thin air. They looked human, but walked stiffly.

Telepathically, Warfield knew these beings were aliens in disguise. A wave of grief and anger enveloped him. The beings had lost their pet. They too had searched the township for their companion in vain. Now their pet lay dead, belly up on blacktop. Warfield realized he would not escape their wrath. These beings did not experience his feelings of hesitation and compassion. All they saw was a man holding a smoking gun.

The aliens seemed to be in no hurry to exact their punishment. They explained how their pet was created. A human had been abducted for the express purpose of breeding. The human male had been forced to breed with a beast native to the alien’s home world. The aliens explained via brain waves they wanted to create the ultimate pet.

The aliens didn’t have to explain much more. Warfield knew the rest. These aliens could not abandon their creation. They came back for it like any human would. And like humans, the aliens held their pets in the highest regard as well. Pets were a port in a storm, providing support and unconditional love, no matter what crap the universe threw at you. Pets could ease the pain of a relationship or dissolve a bad day into nothingness. Warfield understood the need for pets. The creature must be replaced immediately. Warfield must return to the aliens what he had taken.

The beings surrounded Warfield in a circle. He began to rise in the air. It reminded him of a movie. A girl telepathically made a cup move in the film. Warfield protested, he loved pets too, but wasn’t he still a few rungs up on the food chain? Warfield wasn’t an object. He wasn’t a coffee mug. He was an officer of the law, and more importantly, a husband to a wife, damn it! Warfield felt small and helpless. He knew the aliens would not heed his pleas; at least not until after the breeding. He rose further and further into the sky, until a door of a ship opened, taking him inside.

Ironically, officer Warfield would no longer bear the burden of choosing between Melinda and Kristy. He would soon join his new mate. She would have three purple eyes and sport ten-inch fangs. This creature would give Warfield the offspring he always wanted. Something far more valuable to the universe than any corporeal human being or alien combined. Officer Warfield’s offspring would be of the most glorious design. They would be pets after all.

THE END

PETS

Bleary eyed and groggy, police officer Reggie Warfield fumbled to secure the strap of his weapons holster in the darkness of his bedroom. A phone call from Capt. Mark Blaisdale came 10 minutes earlier, demanding he report to the station in uniform. Warfield wondered what urgent matter required his attention at 2 in the morning. He expressly quit the night shift to appease his wife Melinda five months back. Melinda detested late night interruptions. If this matter didn’t rival a nuclear holocaust, Melinda was going to be pretty pissed at him – again.

Blaisdale only told Warfield that some wild creature was loose in Cranburytown, a normally quiet New Jersey suburb. Questions filled his mind as he hopped into his patrol car. Warfield substituted his usual morning caffeine buzz for anger on the drive to the stationhouse. He would demand to know why Blaisdale had specifically requested him for the job, pulling him from his warm bed, nine hours before his regular shift would begin.

Warfield had grown accustomed to working the dayshift, training rookie, Kristy Phillips. Kristy just happened to be drop dead gorgeous. She helped ease Warfield’s worries about his troubled marriage by providing a great distraction. It was highly unlikely Melinda would understand her husband’s late night rendezvous with the model like brunette or his need for a distraction.

Thoughts of Melinda and Kristy haunted Warfield until he stepped into the captain’s office. He wondered why Phillips had not arrived yet. No other patrol cars sat in the driveway, making the situation seem even more surreal. Blaisdale stood before his desk, stone silent. He waved a grainy 8 x 10 inch photo in front of Warfield’s face. The 30-year-old veteran began to grasp the urgency of the call. The picture’s subject immediately drained all color from the officer’s face. His mouth went dry. Warfield had chased evil before, but it always appeared in human form. A verbal response eluded him. The captain ignored Warfield’s shock, nonchalantly informing him that two night shift officers had already been wounded trying to apprehend the “animal.” Warfield now understood the gravity of the situation and why animal control officers had not been called. The picture didn’t really seem to portray any kind of animal that walked God’s green earth. Warfield’s mind could only categorize the creature as some sort of hybrid.

It was as if Blaisdale had read his mind.

“I think this is some sort of abomination, Warfield. Possibly the offspring of human and dog.”

“How on Earth can that be?” Warfield’s response sounded childlike. The captain flipped through a folder, avoiding eye contact with his puzzled officer.

“I have a few more pictures to show you. We obtained these from a surveillance cam provided by resident Ira Sugarman. Ira mounted cameras on two of her backyard trees after we doubted her last alien sighting.” Blaisdale handed the next photo to Warfield, praying his officer would keep an open mind. “Focus your eyes beyond the blur of white light and I think you’ll see some sort of craft. It doesn’t look like any kind of military copter to me. And even if it was, what the hell would it be doing in the Sugarman’s backyard?” Blaisdale did not pause to allow commentary. “Now this third picture’s the clincher, Warfield. You can clearly see this beast running from the ship like a runaway dog.”

“So you want me to track an extraterrestrial being? How the hell am I going to explain this to my wife, Captain?”

“I’m not really concerned with your personal affairs. However, you will not be tracking it. I want you to put it down, with a bullet - no tranquilizers of any kind are to be used. We can’t risk its escape from our jurisdiction.”

“Putting my personal life aside sir, just what do you want me to tell Officer Phillips?” The captain sighed, finally acknowledging Warfield’s anger.

“The truth is I don’t want Phillips briefed because she’s academy, through and through. Phillips is too green to understand a handbook can’t answer every question yet. So I want you to go pick her up and tell her a nice cover story.”

“You want me to make something up, or should I quote a script?”

“I’ll tolerate your anger, but not your sarcasm, Warfield. You will tell her that Judge Richard’s Labrador contracted rabies. And as a personal favor to the judge, I am requesting my two best officers take care of his animal. Nothing more needs to be said until you encounter the beast. I want you to put a bullet into it and contact me immediately. I’ll have a team transport the body to a secure location.”

“Why keep this a secret, sir? Maybe we’d fare better with outside help? Did you think about contacting the bureau’s field office?”

“I’m in charge officer. There will be no manhunt. No press. Do you understand?”

Warfield silently wondered if Blaisdale had gone mad. Why was he so concerned about concealing the story from the public? Odds were, crazy Ida Sugarman was already developing photos for the press.

Reggie was not too happy with Blaisdale’s order to shoot on sight either. If the beast really does come from another world, maybe it was sentient. He stormed out of the building in silence.

However, Blaisdale wasn’t as mad as Warfield suspected. He was just greedy. The captain phoned Bell Laboratories within minutes of the officer’s departure. The beast would undergo an autopsy for the sake of science. The find would put Bell Labs at the forefront of genetic mapping for the third straight year. Blaisdale would be rewarded handsomely, all for making a few telephone calls.

* * *

Warfield and Phillips rode in silence for nearly half an hour. Warfield felt uneasy. Phillips usually broke the ice first by either telling a joke or suggesting a coffee run. She sat in stone silence tonight. Either Phillips was mad at Blaisdale for waking her up, or possibly some sexual tension between the two officers was coming to a fine boil. There was a third option. Warfield may just be suffering from an overactive imagination. He wished the captain’s story were merely a dream. However, the facts remained. Two officers had been injured. There were pictures of the beast and a craft. And there was also the strange look of vacancy in Blaisdale’s eyes, telling Warfield the creature was real.

Warfield scoured the township. They searched Bluebird Park thoroughly, using their flashlights to inspect the jungle gym area for footprints. To Warfield’s relief, the creature had not come here yet. He hoped to God the creature wouldn’t acquire a taste for the township’s children come morning. The thought saddened him. Melinda kept putting off discussions about having babies. He entertained the idea of starting over, maybe with Phillips. The children would be beautiful. Phillip’s image hung like a portrait in his subconscious. Sometimes he would dare to dream about her long dark curly hair that framed her milky white complexion. Or fantasize about diving into her hazel eyes. Warfield knew these impulses were wrong, if not silly. Starting over with Phillips was perhaps a crazier notion than his desire to become a New York City cop. And if he ever did make the NYPD, he could surely kiss his strained marriage goodbye.

Abandoning the park, the officers headed for the malls. A half moon hung in the sky. The orb would not provide enough light to scour any parking lots or alleyways. Phillips suggested Warfield deploy the car’s search lamps even at the risk of scaring the creature away. Warfield squirmed in his seat. He really didn’t want to comply with her suggestion. They would not be just spooking a rabid animal into hiding, they might be condemning the populace to the horror of an otherworldly creation.

Warfield cut down Smith Street, a back way to the mall. He winced at the sight of Blake’s Ice Cream Stand. The venue used to be the Warfield’s local summer haunt. Reggie would take Melinda there every Friday evening to indulge in their famous mint chocolate chip ice cream. Melinda loved the treat. Reggie loved the happy look in her eyes. He desperately needed to get that happy look back. However, he realized happiness was often a lot more complicated than mint chocolate chip ice cream. He cursed the patrol and his lust for Phillips. In all probability he would return home to sleep on a glacier. He had allowed his work to quietly infect his personal life. He made a pact with himself to repair his marriage starting today, while there was still time. Above all, Warfield wanted to rekindle the kind of passion he now guiltily felt for Phillips.

Phillips shocked Warfield from his solitude as they entered the mall parking lot.

“Just what the hell did you get us into Warfield? Did you really think I was going to buy your story about the judge’s pet? How could he forget to vaccinate his dog? He’s the one that sends out the reminder notices for Christ sakes.”

Warfield was never good at backpedaling. He always failed miserably with Melinda. Yet he gave it a try.

“It’s true Phillips. I don’t like it anymore than you do. But the judge called in a favor to the captain. You know some people love their pets dearly. They often fill a void in their lives, like romance for example.”

“I like animals, but if it comes down to them or me, I’m choosing me, Warfield.”

Phillips paused to digest her revelation.

“Oh my god, Warfield, you were referring to yourself – your relationship with your wife. I didn’t know things were that bad between you and Melinda.”

Warfield squinted hoping to deflect Phillip’s commentary like oncoming headlights.

“No, Phillips. Things aren’t that bad. Melinda didn’t buy a terrier in an attempt to replace me if that’s what you’re driving at. Furthermore, my membership at Petclub doesn’t signal divorce.” Warfield tapped his fingers nervously on the steering wheel. “Does it, Phillips?”

Warfield dared to make eye contact with Phillips. All he could find in her eyes was pity. What a fool he was, daring to believe she might be interested in him. However, Warfield had mistaken the look of pity for something else – dread. Warfield braked the car hard as Phillips commanded him to stop.

“There it is! It’s hiding behind that dumpster.”

“Wait Phillips!” Warfield’s warning fell on deaf ears. The rookie bounded from the vehicle, gun drawn. “Shine the headlamp to the left, Warfield.”

Warfield complied. Now pity welled up inside him. He felt sorry for himself. What was he becoming? Taking orders from a rookie no less?

A growl broke his train of thought. He leaped from the car, ordering Phillips to return to the car.

“What are you talking about? I have it dead to rights.”

As the beast became illuminated in the light, Phillips suddenly realized why Warfield had ordered her back to the patrol car.

Phillips cringed. The sight was hideous. Although the creature stood on four legs like a dog, its head was quite humanlike. The cranium was bald as if it were shaved. Fangs protruded from its mouth, hanging several inches beyond its chin. And when the beast pawed the ground like a mad bull, a third eye protracted from the top of its head. The irises were purplish. Phillips stood mesmerized, caught in half fright and half amazement. Warfield knew he would have to draw the beast’s attention away from the rookie in the next few seconds. If he didn’t, the beast would lunge at her. It was staring Phillips down, daring her to attack, much like a cornered dog.

Crouching to his knees, Warfield reached into the car. He fumbled under the driver’s seat for a stale doughnut, not daring to remove his eyes from the creature. A half eaten crueler would have to do. He tossed the pastry towards the dumpster like a grenade, but the beast would not break eye contact. The click of a trigger set the beast in motion. It flew through the air knocking Phillips on her backside. Her shot careened harmlessly off a brick building. The rookie’s legs now dangled precariously in front of the salivating animal. Its mouth sprang open like a python’s. Razor-sharp fangs sheared Phillips right leg off at the kneecap. Blood splayed. A scream made Warfield’s skin crawl. He returned his gaze from his fallen colleague to the creature. It held Phillips leg in its mouth like a trophy. Warfield cursed his humanitarian thinking. Does this damn thing look sentient to you, Warfield! He did not hesitate. Two bullets ripped through the beast’s chest, knocking it backwards. It fell dead, on its backside, legs raised in the air. Warfield kept a wary eye trained on it. He wondered if this alien creature was only playing dead. He radioed dispatch, requesting an ambulance for an officer down. Then three beings appeared from thin air. They looked human, but walked stiffly.

Telepathically, Warfield knew these beings were aliens in disguise. A wave of grief and anger enveloped him. The beings had lost their pet. They too had searched the township for their companion in vain. Now their pet lay dead, belly up on blacktop. Warfield realized he would not escape their wrath. These beings did not experience his feelings of hesitation and compassion. All they saw was a man holding a smoking gun.

The aliens seemed to be in no hurry to exact their punishment. They explained how their pet was created. A human had been abducted for the express purpose of breeding. The human male had been forced to breed with a beast native to the alien’s home world. The aliens explained via brain waves they wanted to create the ultimate pet.

The aliens didn’t have to explain much more. Warfield knew the rest. These aliens could not abandon their creation. They came back for it like any human would. And like humans, the aliens held their pets in the highest regard as well. Pets were a port in a storm, providing support and unconditional love, no matter what crap the universe threw at you. Pets could ease the pain of a relationship or dissolve a bad day into nothingness. Warfield understood the need for pets. The creature must be replaced immediately. Warfield must return to the aliens what he had taken.

The beings surrounded Warfield in a circle. He began to rise in the air. It reminded him of a movie. A girl telepathically made a cup move in the film. Warfield protested, he loved pets too, but wasn’t he still a few rungs up on the food chain? Warfield wasn’t an object. He wasn’t a coffee mug. He was an officer of the law, and more importantly, a husband to a wife, damn it! Warfield felt small and helpless. He knew the aliens would not heed his pleas; at least not until after the breeding. He rose further and further into the sky, until a door of a ship opened, taking him inside.

Ironically, officer Warfield would no longer bear the burden of choosing between Melinda and Kristy. He would soon join his new mate. She would have three purple eyes and sport ten-inch fangs. This creature would give Warfield the offspring he always wanted. Something far more valuable to the universe than any corporeal human being or alien combined. Officer Warfield’s offspring would be of the most glorious design. They would be pets after all.

THE END

PETS

 

Bleary eyed and groggy, police officer Reggie Warfield fumbled to secure the strap of his weapons holster in the darkness of his bedroom. A phone call from Capt. Mark Blaisdale came 10 minutes earlier, demanding he report to the station in uniform. Warfield wondered what urgent matter required his attention at 2 in the morning. He expressly quit the night shift to appease his wife Melinda five months back. Melinda detested late night interruptions. If this matter didn't rival a nuclear holocaust, Melinda was going to be pretty pissed at him - again.

Blaisdale only told Warfield that some wild creature was loose in Cranburytown, a normally quiet New Jersey suburb. Questions filled his mind as he hopped into his patrol car. Warfield substituted his usual morning caffeine buzz for anger on the drive to the stationhouse. He would demand to know why Blaisdale had specifically requested him for the job, pulling him from his warm bed, nine hours before his regular shift would begin.

Warfield had grown accustomed to working the dayshift, training rookie, Kristy Phillips. Kristy just happened to be drop dead gorgeous. She helped ease Warfield's worries about his troubled marriage by providing a great distraction. It was highly unlikely Melinda would understand her husband's late night rendezvous with the model like brunette or his need for a distraction.

Thoughts of Melinda and Kristy haunted Warfield until he stepped into the captain's office. He wondered why Phillips had not arrived yet. No other patrol cars sat in the driveway, making the situation seem even more surreal. Blaisdale stood before his desk, stone silent. He waved a grainy 8 x 10 inch photo in front of Warfield's face. The 30-year-old veteran began to grasp the urgency of the call. The picture's subject immediately drained all color from the officer's face. His mouth went dry. Warfield had chased evil before, but it always appeared in human form. A verbal response eluded him. The captain ignored Warfield's shock, nonchalantly informing him that two night shift officers had already been wounded trying to apprehend the "animal." Warfield now understood the gravity of the situation and why animal control officers had not been called. The picture didn't really seem to portray any kind of animal that walked God's green earth. Warfield's mind could only categorize the creature as some sort of hybrid.

It was as if Blaisdale had read his mind.

"I think this is some sort of abomination, Warfield. Possibly the offspring of human and dog."

"How on Earth can that be?" Warfield's response sounded childlike. The captain flipped through a folder, avoiding eye contact with his puzzled officer.

"I have a few more pictures to show you. We obtained these from a surveillance cam provided by resident Ira Sugarman. Ira mounted cameras on two of her backyard trees after we doubted her last alien sighting." Blaisdale handed the next photo to Warfield, praying his officer would keep an open mind. "Focus your eyes beyond the blur of white light and I think you'll see some sort of craft. It doesn't look like any kind of military copter to me. And even if it was, what the hell would it be doing in the Sugarman's backyard?" Blaisdale did not pause to allow commentary. "Now this third picture's the clincher, Warfield. You can clearly see this beast running from the ship like a runaway dog."

"So you want me to track an extraterrestrial being? How the hell am I going to explain this to my wife, Captain?"

"I'm not really concerned with your personal affairs. However, you will not be tracking it. I want you to put it down, with a bullet - no tranquilizers of any kind are to be used. We can't risk its escape from our jurisdiction."

"Putting my personal life aside sir, just what do you want me to tell Officer Phillips?" The captain sighed, finally acknowledging Warfield's anger.

"The truth is I don't want Phillips briefed because she's academy, through and through. Phillips is too green to understand a handbook can't answer every question yet. So I want you to go pick her up and tell her a nice cover story."

"You want me to make something up, or should I quote a script?"

"I'll tolerate your anger, but not your sarcasm, Warfield. You will tell her that Judge Richard's Labrador contracted rabies. And as a personal favor to the judge, I am requesting my two best officers take care of his animal. Nothing more needs to be said until you encounter the beast. I want you to put a bullet into it and contact me immediately. I'll have a team transport the body to a secure location."

"Why keep this a secret, sir? Maybe we'd fare better with outside help? Did you think about contacting the bureau's field office?"

"I'm in charge officer. There will be no manhunt. No press. Do you understand?"

Warfield silently wondered if Blaisdale had gone mad. Why was he so concerned about concealing the story from the public? Odds were, crazy Ida Sugarman was already developing photos for the press.

Reggie was not too happy with Blaisdale's order to shoot on sight either. If the beast really does come from another world, maybe it was sentient. He stormed out of the building in silence.

However, Blaisdale wasn't as mad as Warfield suspected. He was just greedy. The captain phoned Bell Laboratories within minutes of the officer's departure. The beast would undergo an autopsy for the sake of science. The find would put Bell Labs at the forefront of genetic mapping for the third straight year. Blaisdale would be rewarded handsomely, all for making a few telephone calls.

* * *

Warfield and Phillips rode in silence for nearly half an hour. Warfield felt uneasy. Phillips usually broke the ice first by either telling a joke or suggesting a coffee run. She sat in stone silence tonight. Either Phillips was mad at Blaisdale for waking her up, or possibly some sexual tension between the two officers was coming to a fine boil. There was a third option. Warfield may just be suffering from an overactive imagination. He wished the captain's story were merely a dream. However, the facts remained. Two officers had been injured. There were pictures of the beast and a craft. And there was also the strange look of vacancy in Blaisdale's eyes, telling Warfield the creature was real.

Warfield scoured the township. They searched Bluebird Park thoroughly, using their flashlights to inspect the jungle gym area for footprints. To Warfield's relief, the creature had not come here yet. He hoped to God the creature wouldn't acquire a taste for the township's children come morning. The thought saddened him. Melinda kept putting off discussions about having babies. He entertained the idea of starting over, maybe with Phillips. The children would be beautiful. Phillip's image hung like a portrait in his subconscious. Sometimes he would dare to dream about her long dark curly hair that framed her milky white complexion. Or fantasize about diving into her hazel eyes. Warfield knew these impulses were wrong, if not silly. Starting over with Phillips was perhaps a crazier notion than his desire to become a New York City cop. And if he ever did make the NYPD, he could surely kiss his strained marriage goodbye.

Abandoning the park, the officers headed for the malls. A half moon hung in the sky. The orb would not provide enough light to scour any parking lots or alleyways. Phillips suggested Warfield deploy the car's search lamps even at the risk of scaring the creature away. Warfield squirmed in his seat. He really didn't want to comply with her suggestion. They would not be just spooking a rabid animal into hiding, they might be condemning the populace to the horror of an otherworldly creation.

Warfield cut down Smith Street, a back way to the mall. He winced at the sight of Blake's Ice Cream Stand. The venue used to be the Warfield's local summer haunt. Reggie would take Melinda there every Friday evening to indulge in their famous mint chocolate chip ice cream. Melinda loved the treat. Reggie loved the happy look in her eyes. He desperately needed to get that happy look back. However, he realized happiness was often a lot more complicated than mint chocolate chip ice cream. He cursed the patrol and his lust for Phillips. In all probability he would return home to sleep on a glacier. He had allowed his work to quietly infect his personal life. He made a pact with himself to repair his marriage starting today, while there was still time. Above all, Warfield wanted to rekindle the kind of passion he now guiltily felt for Phillips.

Phillips shocked Warfield from his solitude as they entered the mall parking lot.

"Just what the hell did you get us into Warfield? Did you really think I was going to buy your story about the judge's pet? How could he forget to vaccinate his dog? He's the one that sends out the reminder notices for Christ sakes."

Warfield was never good at backpedaling. He always failed miserably with Melinda. Yet he gave it a try.

"It's true Phillips. I don't like it anymore than you do. But the judge called in a favor to the captain. You know some people love their pets dearly. They often fill a void in their lives, like romance for example."

"I like animals, but if it comes down to them or me, I'm choosing me, Warfield."

Phillips paused to digest her revelation.

"Oh my god, Warfield, you were referring to yourself - your relationship with your wife. I didn't know things were that bad between you and Melinda."

Warfield squinted hoping to deflect Phillip's commentary like oncoming headlights.

"No, Phillips. Things aren't that bad. Melinda didn't buy a terrier in an attempt to replace me if that's what you're driving at. Furthermore, my membership at Petclub doesn't signal divorce." Warfield tapped his fingers nervously on the steering wheel. "Does it, Phillips?"

Warfield dared to make eye contact with Phillips. All he could find in her eyes was pity. What a fool he was, daring to believe she might be interested in him. However, Warfield had mistaken the look of pity for something else - dread. Warfield braked the car hard as Phillips commanded him to stop.

"There it is! It's hiding behind that dumpster."

"Wait Phillips!" Warfield's warning fell on deaf ears. The rookie bounded from the vehicle, gun drawn. "Shine the headlamp to the left, Warfield."

Warfield complied. Now pity welled up inside him. He felt sorry for himself. What was he becoming? Taking orders from a rookie no less?

A growl broke his train of thought. He leaped from the car, ordering Phillips to return to the car.

"What are you talking about? I have it dead to rights."

As the beast became illuminated in the light, Phillips suddenly realized why Warfield had ordered her back to the patrol car.

Phillips cringed. The sight was hideous. Although the creature stood on four legs like a dog, its head was quite humanlike. The cranium was bald as if it were shaved. Fangs protruded from its mouth, hanging several inches beyond its chin. And when the beast pawed the ground like a mad bull, a third eye protracted from the top of its head. The irises were purplish. Phillips stood mesmerized, caught in half fright and half amazement. Warfield knew he would have to draw the beast's attention away from the rookie in the next few seconds. If he didn't, the beast would lunge at her. It was staring Phillips down, daring her to attack, much like a cornered dog.

Crouching to his knees, Warfield reached into the car. He fumbled under the driver's seat for a stale doughnut, not daring to remove his eyes from the creature. A half eaten crueler would have to do. He tossed the pastry towards the dumpster like a grenade, but the beast would not break eye contact. The click of a trigger set the beast in motion. It flew through the air knocking Phillips on her backside. Her shot careened harmlessly off a brick building. The rookie's legs now dangled precariously in front of the salivating animal. Its mouth sprang open like a python's. Razor-sharp fangs sheared Phillips right leg off at the kneecap. Blood splayed. A scream made Warfield's skin crawl. He returned his gaze from his fallen colleague to the creature. It held Phillips leg in its mouth like a trophy. Warfield cursed his humanitarian thinking. Does this damn thing look sentient to you, Warfield! He did not hesitate. Two bullets ripped through the beast's chest, knocking it backwards. It fell dead, on its backside, legs raised in the air. Warfield kept a wary eye trained on it. He wondered if this alien creature was only playing dead. He radioed dispatch, requesting an ambulance for an officer down. Then three beings appeared from thin air. They looked human, but walked stiffly.

Telepathically, Warfield knew these beings were aliens in disguise. A wave of grief and anger enveloped him. The beings had lost their pet. They too had searched the township for their companion in vain. Now their pet lay dead, belly up on blacktop. Warfield realized he would not escape their wrath. These beings did not experience his feelings of hesitation and compassion. All they saw was a man holding a smoking gun.

The aliens seemed to be in no hurry to exact their punishment. They explained how their pet was created. A human had been abducted for the express purpose of breeding. The human male had been forced to breed with a beast native to the alien's home world. The aliens explained via brain waves they wanted to create the ultimate pet.

The aliens didn't have to explain much more. Warfield knew the rest. These aliens could not abandon their creation. They came back for it like any human would. And like humans, the aliens held their pets in the highest regard as well. Pets were a port in a storm, providing support and unconditional love, no matter what crap the universe threw at you. Pets could ease the pain of a relationship or dissolve a bad day into nothingness. Warfield understood the need for pets. The creature must be replaced immediately. Warfield must return to the aliens what he had taken.

The beings surrounded Warfield in a circle. He began to rise in the air. It reminded him of a movie. A girl telepathically made a cup move in the film. Warfield protested, he loved pets too, but wasn't he still a few rungs up on the food chain? Warfield wasn't an object. He wasn't a coffee mug. He was an officer of the law, and more importantly, a husband to a wife, damn it! Warfield felt small and helpless. He knew the aliens would not heed his pleas; at least not until after the breeding. He rose further and further into the sky, until a door of a ship opened, taking him inside.

Ironically, officer Warfield would no longer bear the burden of choosing between Melinda and Kristy. He would soon join his new mate. She would have three purple eyes and sport ten-inch fangs. This creature would give Warfield the offspring he always wanted. Something far more valuable to the universe than any corporeal human being or alien combined. Officer Warfield's offspring would be of the most glorious design. They would be pets after all.

THE END