Kelsey laughed. “Scrapper? Seriously? What on earth did you do to deserve that?”
“He’s a brawler,” Alex answered, his eyes squinted together. “Whatever he’s doing here, it has nothing to do with following the law.
“Now that’s where y’all’re wrong, see.” Scrapper flipped open the wallet he’d pulled out of his pocket. A badge took up the right side. He snapped it shut before they could investigate it.
Kelsey eyed Alex and he shook his head. She let her eyes roll and flipped her hair over her shoulder. “Regardless, I don’t see how our bear is any business of yours.” Her legs spread shoulder length apart and her hands gripped her hips. “How the hell do you know whether we called it in or not?”
Scrapper pointed to their hips. “Y’all ain’t got no radios.”
Kelsey pointed inside the cab of the truck. There, just beneath the dashboard, a CB had been installed. “Try again,” she simply said.
“Y’all didn’t stop to call it in ‘fore y’all loaded it up,” he responded. “I was watchin’.”
Kelsey’s hands flew to her sides, her fingers balled up against her palms. Alex knew what was coming. He stepped in front of Kelsey. “Like the lady said, the bear isn’t your business. Move along.”
Scrapper stepped forward, allowing his height to loom over Alex and Kelsey. He pulled his shield out again. “I’m the law ‘round these parts. That bear is my business. How do I know y’all ain’t the poachers that killed him?”
Alex pulled a business card out of his wallet and handed it to Scrapper. Scrapper looked at it silently for a moment before speaking.
“Alexander Portman, Animal Mortician. Certified by Belle Rive County.” He read aloud. “Well, ain’t that fancy. Don’t mean y’all didn’t kill that bear.”
Kelsey stepped around Alex and sized Scrapper up. “Doesn’t mean you didn’t either, hotshot,” she said, her lip curling up in distaste. She spit on the ground near Scrapper’s feet. She placed a hand on either hip and spread her feet shoulder length apart. “Let’s have a look at your so-called credentials. Just because you flipped it, doesn’t mean it’s real.”
Scrapper pulled a cellphone out of his pocket and placed it against his ear. “Hello?” he said into the mouthpiece. Kelsey’s own mouth dropped open in shock. The phone had not rang. He mumbled into the phone too low for either Kelsey or Alex to understand what he was saying. Alex noticed Kelsey’s right eye began that rapid squint-wink thing it did when she got angry. The roses on her cheeks backed his theory up. He stepped in front of Kelsey again and felt small next to Scrapper’s girth. Scrapper snapped his phone shut and stuffed it back in his pocket. When he pulled his hand back out, it was empty.
“Ya’ll are lucky this time. That was muh boss and I got ‘nother incidence to attend to. I don’t suggest y’all still be here when I return,” Scrapper huffed. He took two long strides away from their truck and disappeared into some underbrush.
Kelsey stomped her foot indignantly. “I don’t suggest you come back around here, mister. You’ll be answering to somebody about this bear!”
Sinister laughter answered from deep within the brush. Alex grabbed Kelsey by the arm. He shivered slightly.
“C’mon, Kels. Right now, he’s not worth it. Let’s get these animals loaded up and back to the lab,” he said. “There’s something bad around here right now, and I’d rather not find out what it is.”
Kelsey turned her nose up and sniffed the air. “You’re right, Alex. Scrapper’s stink must have hidden it.” She helped him put the rest of the animals in the back of the truck and shut the door. “Let’s go.”
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