When his partner buys tickets to a circus performance because of a supposed wolf sighting, Jordan reluctantly accompanies him because he hates the circus. When the lions come out, he decides to leave and wait in the car.
Until he scents a shifter, and it wasn’t wolf scent that drifted into his nostrils…
Agent Jordan Neri shifted uncomfortably on the wooden bleacher. He had no idea why his partner had bought him a ticket to the circus and insisted on Jordan accompanying him. Alan had given him a vague answer—a lead, told to Alan by one of his snitches. It was bullshit as far as Jordan was concerned. He’d never heard of wolves at a circus. Alan likely just felt like going and a wolf sighting was a good excuse. Jordan was tired of the hunt for the man who had turned into a white wolf that had supposedly attacked five thugs and killed two of them. The guys were more than probably high as a kite at the time and hallucinating.
“Hey, look at that. They’re bringing the cats out,” his partner said, poking him in the ribs.
Jordan’s neck hairs bristled. The last thing he wanted to see were caged lions or tigers induced into submission with a bullwhip. “So, where are the wolves?”
“Fuck, man, I don’t know. I told you, one of my snitches told me to check out the circus.”
“You ever heard of wolves in a circus? We’re wasting time here,” Jordan growled.
“I don’t fucking care. I’m having fun on the FBI’s dime,” Alan said, smirking.
“I’ll see you at the car.” Jordan was about to leave when he suddenly scented a shifter. He glanced around, tried to pinpoint the scent, but couldn’t for now. Deciding to stay, he concentrated on what drifted into his nostrils.
The cage opened and a large lion stepped into the arena. Growling, the beast approached the lion tamer. He circled the tamer a few times, with the man yelling and cracking his whip. Several times the lion lashed out at the little man. Four lionesses followed the king of beasts into the ring that was surrounded by a metal cage. The strong scent of a shifter reached Jordan’s nostrils. Holy fucking shit! He’s a shifter.
Already intensely sickened at the thought of the cats being caged and forced to perform, he was even more horrified but Jordan continued to watch the show. How had the lion shifter ended up in a circus? He concentrated on the lionesses but only scented one shifter—the magnificent beast that was now perched on a ball. The lion tamer cracked his whip. The lion roared, showing off his magnificent fangs, his huge paw lashing into the direction of the tamer. But he wasn’t showing off. The roar was one of anger, of angst and despair at being caged, captured, and intimidated by the scrawny man in the monkey suit wielding the whip.
Jordan didn’t sense true fear. All he sensed was angry frustration at the inability to escape. Was the lion really intimidated? Jordan didn’t think so. He was merely doing what the tamer desired and was putting on a good show. He thought about himself in such a situation. What would he do? To shift was to reveal oneself. To escape as a lion, the beast would more than probably be shot. How did he get captured in the first place?
He tried to concentrate at an attempt to get into the lion’s mind, but there were too many spectators making so much noise that concentration was futile. He wondered how long the lion had been in captivity here. He’d never come across another shifter, though his parents had told him long ago that they weren’t the only shifters in the world but that the numbers were small compared to world population. What did he really know? He’d never paid too much attention to his abilities or the origin of them. Once he’d learned to control the urge to call out his cat, he’d very rarely shifted. He found it unnecessary and dangerous. It was a curse he’d rather be without. The ability to read minds, especially human minds, had come in handy at times when dealing with terrorists, but that was about it. He’d rather live as a human and preferred to forget about his cat, until now. Because now he knew after being sent on this assignment that shifters had become a hunted species.
“I’m going back to the car,” he told his partner, unable to watch any longer. “I’ll see you later.”
“The show isn’t over. Tigers are next and then Trapeze,” Alan told him.
“Doesn’t matter. I’ve seen enough. I’m dying for a smoke.” Jordan stood and made his way to the exit.
Once outside the big tent, ignoring the no smoking signs, he lit a cigarette and wandered around until he found where they kept the animals.
“Hey, you’re not allowed here. And can’t you read?” a clown shouted and pointed at a no smoking sign.
Jordan flashed his badge. It shut the clown up. He watched as the clown talked to some nearby workmen. He felt their gazes on him as he walked among the cages. They were probably wondering what the hell the feds were looking for. He ignored the men and hurried, knowing that the lions would soon be back from their performance. He hadn’t extinguished his cigarette. Bad habit, he knew, but one he found hard to break, especially with his stressful job. His cigarettes were his crutch. At least he wasn’t an alcoholic. Many agents resorted to the bottle after a stressful assignment, or even during one. He heard the cussing of the lion tamer and watched the lions walk through the barred run back into their cage. After the tamer had locked the cage and thrown the lions some meat, he moved the metal run, with the help of a workman, to the next cage. This time five tigers filed through the run toward the tent. Jordan watched from a distance and concentrated but the tigers were just that, tigers. After the tamer and the tigers were gone, Jordan approached the lion cage.