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Chapter 05

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      Trembor knocked at the door, wrinkling his nose at the smell coming from it.

      "What'd you want?" said the emaciated black and white cat.

      The lion showed him his badge and kept himself from showing his dislike at the catnip addict. "Trembor Goldenmane, Registered Investigator, I'm looking for Sorin Whitetag."

      The cat's glazed eyes tried to focus of the lion. "That's me," he said after giving up.

      "Can I come in," the lion asked, not sure he wanted to enter the room, but he knew better then to have it in the hallway. "I'd like to ask you some questions about Aiden Spottenfur."

      The cat shrugged, "sure, get in."

      Trembor wished Marlot had been the one to get this one as he looked around the room the cat inhabited. Aiden had had twelve lovers over the last ten years, not counting her contract. Marlot had been right; all of them had been young, just before their first rut. Of them only six were still living. Since Marlot was satisfied with the talk he had with Telima, that left five to question so they had split up. Trembor took three since two of them lived in the same building. Now he was regretting it.

      "When was the last time you saw Aiden?"

      "The day that bitch ruined my life," the cat spat, and then he let himself fall on what was left of a sofa.

      "So you two didn't part on good terms."

      The cat threw him and angry look. "What'd you think? Look around, you really think this was my goal? I had an athletic career in front of me; I would have put the academy on the map. Then she showed up, made me all sort of promises; introduced me to 'nip." He started chuckling and it was a good minute before he was able to stop, "she sure showed me a good time, but once she got tired of me she dumped me like last week's trash. When I tried to get some answers out of her she had her new guy beat me up."

      "He didn't try to eat you?"

      "Nahh, couldn't, was still a student. Course that didn't last long; got thrown out cause of the 'nip. It'd never been a problem when she'd been getting it for me."

      "Did you hear that she was dead?"

      "Yeah, I heard. Good riddance is all I got to say. I wish I'd been able to afford doing it to her. I'd have loved to have seen the look on her eyes when I ripped her throat out." He closed a hand in the air and pulled as if he was actually doing it.

      Trembor turned his Pad off, feeling a catnip induced headache coming on. "Thank you for your time. I don't think I'm going to need anything else."

      "You and 'vry one else," the cat said in a mournfull tone, "wish someone's put me out of my m'sry."

      Keep dreaming, Trembor thought as he closed the door and then rushed to the closest window for some fresh air. He didn't understand people who smoked catnip; it smelled bad, the smoke stuck to everything and from what he'd read on it numbed the senses. About the only redeeming value a smoker might consider it had was that it made the smoker's meat taste horrible. He'd hunted down a smoker in his youth, and had gotten sick from only a few bites, he'd stalked that male long enough to know he was only a light smoker, so he could only imagine what someone like Sorin could taste like. It was no wonder there was so many addicts lining the alleys, no one wanted to touch them even with their low PRT and survival skills.

      When his head no longer hurt he climbed the stairs to the top floor of the apartment building. Cristan Hardtalon was the other person Trembor had to talk with here, an Iguana, he was Aiden's oldest surviving lover; and he didn't seem to be home Trembor realized after knocking a few times.

      He heard the sound of wood sliding on wood behind him and looked over his shoulder. Through the viewer on the opposite door a pair of large eyes looked back at him. He lifted his ID, "I'm Registered Investigator Trembor Goldenmane."

      "I don't care," came back an older female's voice, "I'm not opening the door to a predator."

      Trembor sniffed the air as he moved closer to the door, the occupant was bovine. "It's quite alright mam, you don't have to, I was just wondering if you knew where I might able to find Cristan?"

      "He's probably at the gym, that's where he spends all of his time."

      "Do you know where it is?"

      "It's on Harrow road, in the financial district, it's called Tension."

      "Thanks you," he said and the viewer was abruptly closed. The financial district was on the other side of town, it would take him a few hours before he could make it there. He pulled out his Pad to check the addresses of the males Marlot was interrogating. Like he thought the second male lived not too far from there.

      He dialed Marlot's number. "Hey, it's me. One of the guy I need to talk to spends his days in a gym near where you'll be interviewing you're last guy, how about we meet up there? Cool." He gave the wolf the information on the gym and hung up

      * * * * *

      "Yeah," Marlot said, "that won't be a problem." He entered the information on the gym in his Pad and turned back to the bull he'd been talking with. "I'm sorry about that, but I think I have everything."

      Marlot didn't understand this male, he idolized Aiden, no in spite f what she had done to him, but because of it. He had turned every mistreatment he had received  from her into some sort of test of personality to make sure he was worthy of her. Up to the point when he'd learned of her death he had continued to try to match her ideals in the hopes she would come back to him. Now he was in mourning.

      On the way to the next male he stopped at the processing store near his place to drop off what was left of breakfast. A family of hyena ran it and they did very good work. He let them keep the hide and bone as part of the payment for processing the meat. Without getting the meat processed it wouldn't last two days, this way he didn't have to worry about eating it quickly, he'd simply put it in the fridge and eat it over the next two weeks.

      The other male Aiden had used was a wolf, he had a house about a mile from the financial district. When he knocked a light brown furred wolf answered. Marlot showed his ID, "Are you Merkin Sunrunner?"

      "Yes, I am," Merkin answered in a guarded tone.

      "I'd like to ask you some questions about Aiden Spottedfur."

      Merkin stiffened at the name. Before he could say anything a woman called him from another room. "Honey, are you going to be quick, Raida needs to be changed."

      "I'll just be a moment," he replied, joining Marlot on the patio and closing the door behind him. "I'm going to make this real easy for you. Did I ever want to see Aiden dead? Yes, right after she dumped me. Back then if I'd had the chance I would have wrung her neck and not cared ending up working it off. But that was eight years ago, I built myself a life in spite of what she did to me. I have a family and frankly I couldn't case less what happened to her."

      "You seem pretty certain of why I'm here." Marlot commented after observing him for a moment.

      Merkin rolled his eyes, "I'm not stupid, Registered Investigator only get involved if it's a wrongful death, why else would you be here asking about Aiden? You're trying to find out if I had anything to do with her death. Well, I don't. I have better things to occupy my mind than an exploitive female. Is there going to be anything else?"

      "No, that'll be all for now, thanks for taking the time to talk to me." Marlot watched the wolf get back in his house before heading to his car. He drove it to a parking lot he'd seen on the way and walked to the Gym, he didn't want to try to find an affordable spot to park his car any closer to the financial district.

      He felt eyes follow him during his walk, but no one dared attack him; his build alone would deter most, the way he walked gave an indication he could probably take care of those not impressed and the way he dressed made it clear he had money, so was productive, which meant he was expensive.

      He bought a bag of dried meat from a corner store, and paid extra to get the real stuff. He didn't care how palatable the synthetic meat was, he wasn't going to lower himself to eating it. He leaned against the building across the street from the gym and nibbled on it while he waited for Trembor. He saw the lion drive by twice as he looked for a parking spot, and half an hour later he finally walked out of an alley infuriated.

      "We should get special parking permit for when we work," he growled as he joined Marlot.

      The wolf chuckled, "I think the city already has enough problems with cops using those to park everywhere they want. I don't expect they'll be willing to release any to us."

      Trembor took a deep breath and released it slowly. "Probably not," he said once he was calm, "Let's go talk to Cristan."

      "Check this out," Marlot said as he pointed to the 'no predation sign' hanging next to the door.

      "With all the body builders in there they probably don't have any problems enforcing it," The lion commented. Other than the academy, hospitals and the government center, none of the 'no predation' areas were officials. It was up to who ever set one up to make sure it was respected, because of that there weren't many of them.

      They asked the receptionist, a solidly build rabbit, for Cristan and she pointed them to the large Iguana helping a small squirrel work with the free weights.

      Marlot couldn't stop himself from whistling softly in admiration and slight lust.

      "Cristan Hardtalon?" Trembor asked.

      The Iguana looked at them for a moment and then back to the squirrel, "remember what I said, don't swing them up, lift them; do twelve reps, then rest for a minute and do another set, if I'm not back move to the leg extension." He turned to the investigators, "what can I do for you?"

      Trembor showed his ID, "we need to ask you about Aiden Spottedfur."

      "Sure, but I don't know what I can tell you," he indicated they should go to the bar, "it's been more than ten years since I've seen her."

      "What was your relationship to her?" Marlot asked.

      Cristan chuckled "I was her boy toy, but I didn't think that at the time, I was sure I was the love of her life." He took a bottle of juice out of the fridge, "can I offer you anything, I'm afraid I don't have any blood, I have a strict policy against carrying anything that could indicate predation."

      Trembor declined the offer.

      "What ever you have will be find by me," Marlot said, "how did you react when she dumped you for someone else?"

      "It stung for a while, but then I realized that what she'd done was for the best, she's the reason I got into body building, I was nowhere this built when I met her for the first time, but she made it clear he liked muscles so I worked hard to match what she wanted. Having to deal with the breakup toughened me up, made me more shrewd so I was able to see the business opportunities which lead to here." He motioned around to the gym.

      "Were you affected by the news of her death?"

      "Sure I was affected, but I'm not the boy who'd fallen for her. She showed me what life was about, and because of that I'm sorry she's dead, but look around, I have plenty of females hanging around me. I don't miss Aiden at all."

      They thanked him for his time and left the gym.

      "What do you think?" Trembor asked.

      "I think we spent the day learning a whole lot about a bunch of strangers, but nothing that's putting us closer to the murderer," Marlot answered, "I hope tomorrow's more productive.

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