Pierre Davis marched the sobbing Albert Barclay towards the back end of the police headquarters. He didn't do this often, generally only once or twice a month, if that, as most people in Barken were pretty sensible folks. Of course the bars were very close together, as one the people he locked was a chihuahua as a dog and simply walked out through the bars. That would not be happening this time, or ever again.
He hated having to put Barclay behind bars, he was generally a peaceful man, never before prone to anger. Even after the incident with Greg and his daughter three years ago, he was more than happy to have Greg stay at his house, a hospitality he found that was quite unmatched. Now he was behind the thick bars, sobbing, his hands still cuffed, but now in front of him. "I hate doing this, Al. But you did try to kill those innocent people."
"How do you know?" Al shot back the pain clearly visible in his eyes, "You weren't the one who's son died at their hands, shot through the head so mercilessly and coldly! Oh God, my son is dead!" With that his weeping renewed ever more uncontrollably.
Pierre hated to see a man cry, but there was nothing he could do about it. Al would have to stay in the lockup for some time, there was no doubt about it. He would have to stay as long as there was a chance he might go berserk again. However, he would have to call his family and tell them the bad news. He felt terrible about it, not only had their son died, but now their father was being held in custody for an indeterminate length of time. True, they had a one-room courthouse, but it was rarely used, and besides, things were different here in Barken. Senseless trials simply got in the way, and lawyers only made things worse. The normal rules simply didn't apply in Barken, and they probably never would.
Returning to his office, he pulled out a directory, and looked for Mr. Barclay's home phone number. Finding he reached to pick up the phone when it suddenly began to ring. He put it on speaker-phone.
"Sheriff Davis?" Jenny's voice sounded through the speakers. "I have a call here I think you should hear."
"Put it through," Davis told her.
Davis hit line two and immediately heard to voice of a dog. It wasn't the first time somebody had called like that, but Jenny usually didn't relay those messages to him, as the understanding and timbre of a dogs bark was lost over the phone, and so the sounds became meaningless. However as he listened, he could tell that there was definitely something wrong.
The barking went thus:
"Ruffruffruff.. ruff.. ruff.. ruff.. ruffruffruff.."
It repeated itself ad infinitum. Davis moved his jaw back and forth. "SOS?" he called questioningly, and he could hear an excited series of barks.
Davis didn't like the sound of this, "Why don't you just change back, so we can talk normally?" he advised. He heard a whining on the other end of the line. "Can you change back?" Davis asked, a fear welling up in his heart. Another whine. "Just a second, hold on," Davis looked at the number he was being called from, and then scanned for it in his directory. It was a town directory, so there weren't that many numbers there, and he was able to find it within a few minutes.
"Okay, your number is 623-8182?" a series of excited barks. "Then you are Ralph Hill?", another series of excited barks. Good gosh, thought Davis, the only mechanic in town is stuck as a dog. In all his years here, he had never heard of anything like that ever happening. What could he do about it, not much, he really didn't know what caused the transformations in the first place, so he said, "I'll call Dr. Shishido, and have him come take a look at you, it could be just something you ate, for all we know. I'll come down and see you as soon as possible."
He heard a sigh from the other end of the line, and then the connection was broken. Davis scratched his head, what would cause such a thing, he'd never heard of such a thing, he couldn't think of anybody who did either. He liked being able to change into a dog, but being one permanently, unable to change back, would leave him quite vulnerable, no matter how powerful their breed was.
As he was thinking, he saw a Rottwieler trot into the room, all messed up in quite a huff, jump up in the chair in front of his desk, and put his paws on the edge of the desk, barking quite frustratedly. He recognized it as Randy after a second, and he then quickly added, a lump developing in his throat, "Randy, please change back."
Randy had other ideas, he grabbed with his mouth a pencil from the pencil case, and then scribbled out on the notepad there, "I can't.", Randy then dropped the pencil, and looked up at Davis, evidently quite distressed.
"Oh," Davis said. With a sudden realization, the situation turned from one of mild befuddlement, into a very terrible nightmare.
It wasn't until later that night, after the laboratory was cleaned up, and after most of them had returned for the evening, that the scientists got a big surprise. Two in fact. The first dealt with the results they were getting from their test samples. On the one hand they were making remarkable progress, on the other hand it seemed to be impacting the bacterial life more than they expected; one prokaryotic symbiote that had a way of passing through larger cells with relative ease was nearly completely wiped out from the treatment. The other surprise came in the form of a corpse hauled in by Nelson who had recovered his truck.
The body looked upon first inspection to be that of a dog, but as Karpan poked and prodded it, much to Jason's dismay, he had to leave the room he felt sick to his stomach, he discovered that one half of it looked nothing like a dog. It had a human hand, though still covered in fur, but it was obviously human. Same for the foot on that side as well. The face was that of a dog, and it seemed to have only recently been killed, rigour mortis had set in, but the body was still fresh, probably had died that day. The cause of death was simple enough, gunshot wound to the head. The bullet had passed through the skull, and was nowhere to be found.
"This is screwed up," Karpan was saying, his mind unable to do anything but think back to the Indian burial grounds that Obermeyer had mentioned.
"We have to get out of here," Obermeyer said. "We have to get out of here before we end up like this too."
"What are you saying?" Olympia asked.
"We're all gonna look like that in another day or two," Ted began to get frantic.
Nelson put an arm on his shoulder, "Calm down, Ted. Nothing's going to happen."
"Besides we can't leave without the others," Olympia told him.
"Not to mention the experiment isn't finished," Karpan reminded him as he began the autopsy.
"Fuck the experiment!" Ted suddenly yelled, "I have to get out of here. To Hell with you all!", Ted then dashed out the front door. Nelson grabbed for him, but missed, and he was out into the night before anybody could see where he'd gone. Nelson looked to see if Jason was out there standing nearby, but no, he'd been out walking, and hadn't seen where Obermeyer had run off to.
"Damn!" Nelson cursed, slamming the door behind him. "Now he's gone too. Where the hell are Schwarz and Mullins!?"
"Swett too!" Karpan pointed out. "I haven't seen him since yesterday. At least Mullins and Schwarz were here this morning."
Olympia looked at the half-man, half-dog, and a sudden thought occurred to hear, it was quite irrational, but she has this feeling that it was just true. That corpse was one of those three, and there might indeed be two other similar corpses lying in wait for somebody to discover them.
Ted was underneath the laboratory. It was a beautiful hiding place, cold definitely, but there was no way he was going to escape in this desert, and they'd never think to look under here. Plus, the rifle that Al had used was still here, and loaded too. Ted now had a weapon, and he could defend himself. Of course Will was going to arrive in the morning, and he had to be at the hotel in Barken to greet him. He would slip out there tonight, once everybody was asleep, and he would wait there until morning. They would never know what he had done.
Dr. Shishido was overwhelmed with patients that night, patients he couldn't help, as the problem was beyond his understanding. His office was full of people who were accompanying their dogs. There were no half-man, half-dogs, they were all either dogs or humans. And the dogs were stuck that way. All medical tests on every single one that had come in showed nothing out of the ordinary. No visible differences in their blood-sugar levels, no intoxication beyond reasonable means, no unusual organisms in their blood streams. He could find nothing wrong, and there more people coming in at every moment.
Frustrated, he stopped taking patients, but instead had them all gather outside. Standing in the light he said in his loudest voice, "Please people, calm down. Whatever is afflicting us will pass in time. But at the moment I recommend all of you that you do not try to become dogs, for you will not be able to change back."
"What about just going part way?" a man in the front holding his wife in his lap, now a pekinese.
Dr. Shishido really didn't know, so he decided an experiment was in order. "I do not know, but there is an easy way to find out. You sir, if you feel like you can handle displaying yourself for all to see here, would you mind demonstrating what will happen if you try to be a mixed-morph."
Okay the man said, putting down his wife who began to yap at him incessantly, more out of fear than anger. The man took off his clothes, not an uncommon sight in Barken, but he still felt a little embarrassed, only showing the crowd his backside. He concentrated, and they quickly saw fur begin to sprout form his body, and a tail shoot forth from his spine. It then stopped there, and his body began to visibly shake.
"Are you all right, sir?" Dr. Shishido asked him approaching him, putting a hand on his shoulder.
"I can't stop!" the man spoke haltingly, and quite frustratedly. The crown watched in horror as the man buckled from the pressure in his body, fell to all fours, and the transformation completed itself. Standing where the man once stood was a dachsund, who looked quite unhappy.
"I suggest that none of you unless you want to be dogs quite possibly for a long time, even think about shifting in any way. I know it is hard, I myself am having trouble holding myself together, but we have to do it, until someway can be found to make the changes reversible again."
The crowd groaned, sighed, cried, and otherwise began milling about the place quite unhappily. "I would suggest as well that you all stay in your homes, especially those of you who are fixed as dogs." Shishido added. "It is for the best, and that way you don't have to worry about madmen from Cherry."
The crowd dispersed, and Shishido was left confused. Never before had he seen such things, never before had this happened to the people of Barken, and he wasn't liking it one bit.
Greg and Mary were sitting once again facing across from Bill Budd, who really was beginning to feel as if he had worn out his welcome here at the Barclays. Of course he told them that Al had been arrested for trying to kill the scientists. Mary had wondered if anybody had been hurt, which fortunately wasn't the case. Greg asked when they could go see him, and Bill told him that tomorrow would be fine, it being late in the night after all. Of course Bill warned them not to shift to dog form, as they would be stuck that way. Greg told him that they had already figured that out, and then they gestured to the dainty Springer Spaniel lying down on the couch, looking quite exhausted. "That's my Mom." Greg told him.
"I see." Bill smiled weakly.
"Do you have any idea what is causing this, Bill?" Mary asked him.
"I haven't a clue." Bill admitted. "Nobody does!"
"Why not ask the scientists?" Greg suggested. "None of this started until after they got here."
Bill nodded, ideas flowing through his head, pieces of some puzzle that had been troubling him slowly fitting together. Was it possible that the scientific experiments were causing all of this? He would find out.
"Young man," Rhonda told him sternly, almost granmotherly, "You have to leave town. The first change is always involuntary, and you don't want to be stuck that way."
The man smiled, taking a bite out of a donut that he had bought at the bakery earlier in the day. "I know. It just seems so unfair. Oh well, if I must be going, then I better leave."
"Where will you be headed?" she asked, as he folded up the covers on the bed, straightening them out.
"I don't know. I'll figure it out. I will be back though, you can count on that," the man told her, his smile comforting Mrs. Brumfield.
"Well, you take care of yourself. Don't get into any trouble now." she cautioned him.
"I don't see how the situation could get any worse," the man smiled cockily, and then lifting up his satchel he left the room. He walked out the front door of the hotel, and waved goodbye to Mrs. Brumfield who stood in the doorway waving back, a smile etched across her face.
"I hope that boy can solve these problems, he's such a bright lad. He's also the most well behaved I've had in years!" exasperated, Mrs. Brumfield turned back into the house, continuing to talk to herself as she did so.
The man walked down the street, trying to avoid a few dogs who were careening down the street, the expression on their faces one of complete and abject fear. Yes, he would solve their problems. There was nothing left for him to do, but to solve their problems, problems he helped create. This did not bother him in the least.