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"Go ahead on and play kids," orders Wildcat, who went with Talia along with Eli and Greywolf. He tells the children, "Mommy and Dyie missed each other very much and need a little time together."
The children gladly do as they're told. They're happy to be outside in the fresh air and sunshine. They had fun playing in the Air Tribe caves with the other Air tribe children and made many new friends. Yet they're glad to be home. They missed all their friends and family that they're used to seeing everyday. The older children and teenagers understand that Talia and Cougar missed each other terribly. Besides, it's their job to look after the young children and little ones. Lunch time is soon and they need to see to that.
Wildcat unrolls a blanket on the gra.s.s in time for Talia and Cougar to fall on it. Cougar takes Talia's top and bra off and her dark chocolate nipple in his mouth. Somehow he manages to say around her nipple that he loves her and he missed her. Talia undoes his pants, pushes him onto his back and straddles him happy that she's wearing a skirt and not pants. The crotch of her underwear get pushed aside as she pushes herself onto Cougar's erect c.o.c.k.
Talia hisses in pleasure at the feel of Cougar's c.o.c.k inside her as she tells him, "I missed you so much."
Cougar hisses in pleasure too at the tight hot silken feel of Talia around his c.o.c.k. "I missed you too… Oh, baby, how tight and sweet you are always amazes me."
They make love right there on the blanket, on the gra.s.s. Then Cougar holds her as she naps. Windwalker sits next to them.
"I know how badly you missed her," Windwalker tells Cougar as he caresses a finger along her cheek, "because when I'm not with her, I miss her so badly that I can barely think."
"If you think you and I miss her badly," Cougar shares with Windwalker, "Richy stopped speaking a few days ago and started staring off in the direction you all left in. I think three weeks is a little too long for him. The only time he's gone longer without her is when Fjord had her. When he gets home from work tonight, don't be surprised if he doesn't speak until after he's been with her."
Talia is busy helping clean up after supper. Richy missed supper and she's concerned that he hasn't called to say how late he's running.
Talia asks Cougar, "Has Richy been coming home late often?"
"Not usually," answers Cougar, "but with Margie on maternity leave, he has been picking up extra days while you've been gone. It's been too quiet in the house with you and the kids gone, both of us reaching for you in the middle of the night and only finding each other. We're really quite pathetic without you."
"No you're not," responds Tali taking Cougar's face in her hands and kissing him. "None of my men are pathetic."
Talia hears the sheriff vehicle pulling in. "Richy," she says excitedly with her face lighting up. She kisses Cougar again. Then she sprints around the big house to see Richy.
"Richy," she calls waving as he's stepping around the front of his vehicle. She races to him and he catches her in his arms.
"I've missed you so much," Talia tells him as he hugs her tightly inhaling her scent deeply.
Richy's mouth finds hers. He's missed her badly. His body is aching for hers. He quickly lifts her onto the hood of the car. His hands search and grope her body frantically. He grabs the front of her blouse and rips it open. His hand slides her breast out of the cup of her bra and his mouth latches onto her nipple. Then his hands find their way under her skirt. But he doesn't try to take her underwear off. He just rips them off. He doesn't remember freeing himself from his pants. He needs her so badly he can't even think. He just star pushing and shoving his way inside her. For a moment he thinks, "I'm too big. I need to take it slow," then the thought is gone.
He hears Talia calling his name, "Yes, Richy, yes," as he makes his triple X sized c.o.c.k fit inside her faster than he should. Then he's ramming her fast and hard. But Talia's not complaining. She just keeps saying, "Yes, yes," as she spasms and writhes beneath him.
Richy c.u.ms and collapses on top of her. Her legs are boneless and quivering on either side of him. She slides her fingers into his long silky nearly jet black hair.
"Mmm, I love you," Talia murmurs lovingly to Richy.
He lifts his face to look at her. She smiles at him. He looks so serious her smile starts to falter. He pulls gently at her lips with his own, slowly sliding his tongue deeply into her mouth alongside hers.
Talia takes Richy's face in her pet.i.te hands. She asks him concerned, "Is something wrong?"
Richy clears his throat, "I was too rough with you."
Talia's brow furrows. "Nonsense," she tells Richy, "I loved it. You should be like that more often." She twitches involuntarily as he slowly pulls out of her from little aftershock o.r.g.a.s.ms zinging through her. She says breathing heavily, "Oh… more often like that, definitely."
Richy tucks himself away and zips his pants as Talia fixes her bra. Her shirt is ruined. It'll make a couple of good cleaning rags. And her underwear, where ever they are will go straight into the trash. Then he picks her up and cradles her to his chest.
Richy nearly steps on one of the dogs, "Watch out dogs." Then he carries her inside, all the way up to their master bedroom and into their master bath.
He starts a bath in the tub that is nearly big enough to be a Jacuzzi and will hold up to four people. He pulls her underwear from his pocket, inhales her scent off of them and drops them in the trash. "You've been with a few people since you got home today."
"Is that's what's bothering you," she asks Richy. "I missed Cougar just like I missed you. And a few people missed me like Ba.s.s and Savage… Should I have waited for you," she asks as she slips her clothes off. "Is that what's bothering you?"
"No," he answers flatly. He kisses her forehead and her lips. "Let's soak in the tub. You're going to be sore after the way I took you."
Talia gives him a nefarious look as she says, "Deliciously sore."
Richy's face cracks into a small grin. "Get in the tub," he orders her as he removes the last of his own clothes. He climbs into the tub with her and pulls her into his arms. "Just let me hold you a little while."
"I would stay in your arms for eternity if I could," Talia tells him as she rest her head on his chest.
After their bath, Richy leads Talia by the hand down stairs to the media room.
"Uncle Bob, Otter," Richy greeting them with a nod of acknowledgement. "Would you go with Talia to the study? I'm going to gather together the other men and we're gonna have a family meeting in the study."
"Sure Richy, no problem," responds Uncle Bob setting aside the story he was reading to some of the children.
"Aw, Dad," says Lake protesting the interruption of his father's story reading.
"No fussing," Otter tells Lake, "or there will be no bedtime story tonight.
"Yes, mother," Lake concedes.
"You can watch some educational TV with the other children for now," Bob tells his son as he pats his head. "Then get your bath. I'm sure your mother and I will be on time to tuck you in and read a bedtime story."
Bob watches Lake pick up Sky, his three year old son with Otter and take Hope's hand, his daughter fathered by Roar with Otter. He is Otter's mate. All her children, fathered by him or not are his. As her mate, he is their number one father and their biological fathers are second to him. And thankfully, he gets along well with all of the other fathers.
As for the other children Uncle Bob has fathered with other free women, he is second father. Roar's mate Zenith, has a two year old girl, Daisy, fathered by Bob. And Amazonia has a four year old girl, Leopard, by Bob that he wishes he could see more often. But the Amazon Tribe's territory is more than a day's hike away so he usually only gets to see her when they are visiting the estate.
"What's going on," Otter ask Talia.
Talia shrugs, "I was hoping you could tell me. I just got home today."
Otter is clueless, "He's been quiet the past few days. I just thought he was missing you."
"Seems there's more to it than that," says Bob holding Otter's hand as they walk to the study with Talia.
The study is a comfortable room off of one end of the library. It's not unusual for them to meet in the library around the conference table. At the other end of the library is Richy's private office. Often police business isn't public business. And each room at either end of the library has a lavatory off it. Yet obviously Richy wanted more intimacy and comfort for this meeting. And the study with its large over stuffed couches and chairs will provide that. It's called the study because it's a quiet comfortable place to read, but it's not unusual for adults to nap in the study.
Otter sits on Bob's lap antic.i.p.ating leaving room for the others to sit down. Talia sits on an adjacent couch. The other's start to file in along with a couple of extras Richy invited to his meeting. Cougar pulls Talia off the couch, sits and pulls her onto his lap. Wildcat sits on one side of them and Windwalker sits on the other side. Eli sits at their feet as usual. Greywolf plops down in a chair nearby and winks at Talia.
Roar, Zenith and Amazonia enter the room. Roar sits next to Bob and Otter and Zenith sits on his lap. Amazonia sits on the other side of Bob and Otter placing an arm around Bob. Amazonia is currently about six months pregnant by one of her consorts.
"What's our little Leopard up to," Bob asks Amazonia as Walter, Snow and Seal enter and make themselves comfortable on another sofa.
"Watching TV with her brothers and sisters and looking forward to a bubble bath," answers Amazonia.
Richy sits in a comfortable overstuffed chair where he can see and speak to everyone. They're quiet and focused on him. It's obvious as he sits there with his hands clasped, elbows on his knees with his head hanging a bit that something is weighing heavily on his mind. He's quiet a minute as he rubs his hands together slowly.
Richy finally says, "Roar, Zenith, Amazonia, Snow, Windwalker… I'm glad you're all here. I know you all know that Cougar's ex-wife, Sheila, paid us or rather Talia a visit about a month ago. She didn't come to start trouble. She just wanted to check on William because Fjord had contacted her. It scared her and she wanted to make sure he was safe… Talia… you knew he would contact her again and he did, about a week after you left for your visit in Air Territory… She contacted her parole officer right away and he contacted me. Sheila told us everything they said to each other. He tried to enlist her help again with promises of getting her boy back for her, told her he could get them new ident.i.ties, help her set up a new life and start over someplace else. She told him to go to h.e.l.l, told him she knew his last kidnapping partner ended up dead, cussed him out and threatened to come straight to me if he called her again. Her parole be d.a.m.ned. She would go back to jail before she helped him get near her son and the only mother he knows."
"She's got b.a.l.l.s talking to Fjord like that," states Roar.
"Yeah," says Richy sadly, "she always had b.a.l.l.s. You've got to have b.a.l.l.s to walk around a man's house uninvited in nothing but a pair of stiletto heels."
"Really," says Uncle Bob wide eyed.
"Yeah," Cougar tells Uncle Bob, "most men would be delighted to come home to a naked woman who was ready and willing. But she only p.i.s.sed Richy off. He just wasn't interested in her and she just didn't get it."
"Richy," questions Talia concerned.
"She's dead," Richy says solemnly. "She's dead."
The room is silent.
"She's dead," repeats Richy. "I've been trying to wrap my head around it… She missed an appointment with her psychologist. The psychologist called her parole officer. Her parole officer tried calling her, but there was no answer. They finally went to her condo. Her car was in the driveway, the lights were off and the security system was on. They got a security guy to come out, turn the security system off and let them in… As soon as the door opened, the smell hit them. He had to keep her mother out and call it in. The crime scene detectives came out and found her in her bedroom… I can't share any details because it's an open homicide investigation. The coroner still has her body. They want to make sure they get everything they need before they release her body to her family… I've already been interviewed by Megalopolis detectives. They want to interview you and Cougar as soon as possible… I told them I would bring you and Cougar into Megalopolis as soon as you got back from Air Territory."
Richy looks up to see that Talia has gone pale and her eyes are welling over with tears. He sees a tear make a run for it down Cougar's cheek as well.
Talia rises from Cougar's lap slowly as she says, "I need to pee." She looks haunted as she makes her way around the couch.
"I can't share details," Richy reiterates so no one will asks him questions he can't answer even if he knows the answers. He especially doesn't want to have to answer any of Cougar's questions.
Except Talia is sure of the answer to at least one question and she answers it even though it hasn't been asked as she pauses by the bathroom door, "She suffered… He punished her for disrespecting him, for refusing his generous offer, for threatening to go to Richy, for being weak and useless."
Talia looks away from them. She steps to enter the bathroom but puts her hand on the doorjamb to steady herself. She's suddenly finding it hard to breath. She leans heavily against the doorjamb as she tries to breath. It feels like a giant hand is squeezing her in a tight fist. She finds herself sliding down to the floor. Then they're all crowding around her, saying her name and asking if she's alright.
"Give her some room," orders Cougar pushing everyone away from Talia.
Cougar crouches down in front of Talia. Tears are streaming from her eyes as she tries to catch her breath. He takes her face in her hands and tells her, "Hush now, hush… We don't know it was Fjord."
Talia looks him in his electric blue eyes and manages to ask, "Who else could it possibly be?" She doesn't want it to be Fjord. She doesn't want Sheila to be dead, not the woman who created her precious William. Then she manages to sob, "Our William…"
"Our William is fine," Cougar a.s.sures her.
Talia shakes her head and manages a deep breath, "We'll have to tell him…" She gasps in another deep breath, "We'll have to take him to her funeral…"
"Yeah," Cougar agrees sadly. Talia had already thought farther ahead than he had. And her main concern was for William. "You're right… We'll have to tell him. But it doesn't have to be tonight. We'll wait till you're feeling better." He's not in a hurry to tell his son his birth mother is dead.
"No," Talia pulling herself to her feet. She's shaking, "No procrastinating." She blows out a shaking breath, but she pulls herself together. She steps into the bathroom, blows her nose and dries her eyes as she pees. The fist around her chest releases her allowing her to breath.
There are pictures of family, friends and tribe all over their home. But not all pictures in their home are on display. The wedding alb.u.ms for Talia and Richy's wedding as well as Talia and Cougar's wedding are kept on a coffee table in the living room.
Talia takes a deep cleansing breath, "Let's all go help finish getting the children ready for bed… Cougar, I want you to dig out yours and Sheila's wedding alb.u.m."
Cougar nods as he answers, "Okay," softly.
The youngest ones are in bed sleeping by eight-thirty. On one side of the master bedroom is the girls' room and on the other side is the boys' room. Talia reads an extra bedtime story for their six and seven year olds.
"Okay," Talia informs her oldest children, "Dyie and I need to talk with Will. Mommy will come around for tucks and kisses after that." Her other mates and consorts automatically start herding the other four children out of the master bedroom and go with them so Talia and Cougar can talk with Will undisturbed.
Talia pulls Will onto her lap and hugs him tightly. Cougar sits next to them placing the wedding alb.u.m from his wedding to Sheila on his lap.
Will places his small hand to Talia's cheek, "What's the matter, Mommy? I can smell you were crying."
Talia smiles sadly, "My little man, you're growing up so fast and I love you so much. I am so blessed to be your mother." As children, most free people don't pay attention to subtle smells, but like Will now, they don't miss the strong emotions, the scents sometimes you wished they wouldn't notice.
Talia continues, "But the sad part about being a mother is that sometimes you have to share bad news."
Will tilts his curly blond head as he looks up at her face and asks very concerned, "What kind of bad news Mommy?"
Talia asks him, "Do you remember about a month ago, a woman named Sheila came and visited with Mommy?"
"The skinny, weird smelling domestic lady the day Dusk ate a bug," recalls Will, "I remember."
Talia's not surprised he remembers. Will seldom forgets anything. "Yes," she confirms, "Sheila. I didn't say so at the time, but she's a very special and important person for us."
"Important how," asks Will.
Talia looks over at Cougar and he opens his and Sheila's wedding alb.u.m. He reminds Will, "You know that Dyie had a wife before Mommy. This is her," Cougar showing Will one of his and Sheila's wedding photos. "This is Sheila. She was Dyie's first wife. She's your birthmother."
Will looks at the picture as he recalls the woman that visited, "That skinny funny smelling lady is my birthmother?"
"That funny smell is caused by her medicine," Talia informs Will.
"Oh," says Will, "that's right. You told me she's sick. She has to take medicine. That's why I live with you and Dyie." Will pauses as a terrifying thought occurs to him. Frightened he asks, "I don't have to go live with her, do I?"
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"No, my heart," Talia a.s.sures hugging him and kissing him. "No, my precious little man, you belong to Mommy and Dyie and that will never change."
"I'm so glad Mommy," says Will relieved. "I don't want any other mommy. And I don't want to go live anywhere else. I love it here with you and Dyie and I want to stay here with you forever and ever." He hugs Talia's neck tightly.
Talia tells him, "When people love each other as much as we do, we live in each other's hearts which means we're always together no matter how far apart we are."
"So why are you crying Mommy," asks Will concerned.
"Because this very special important lady Sheila has died," shares Talia. "She's dead… Domestic people have a ceremony for the dead called a funeral. So when the time comes, we will go to her funeral and show our respect."
Will nods his understanding, "Okay. Can O.P. and Maia come too?"
"I think that would be fine," answers Talia.
"Will I have to wear a funny suite like you in this picture Dyie," asks Will.
"We can do funeral robes instead," Cougar tells Will. "Robes are more comfortable than funny suites."
Will questions, "Dyie, did you love her?"
"Yes I did," answers Cougar, "And Mommy and I both love her for giving birth to you."
"Why did you get a divorce," asks Will. "Why didn't she just share you with Mommy like you share Mommy with Daddy and Paw and my other fathers?"
"Many domestic people have trouble sharing," Cougar informs Will. "Plus, Sheila and I married each other for the wrong reasons. When you're older, if you want to know more about it, I'll tell you about it. Okay?"
"Okay," agrees Will.
"Alright, little man," Talia tells Will, "let's get you to bed. I still have tucks and kisses to do."
Will slides off Talia's lap and takes her hand and his father's hand. He asks, "Dyie, can I look at the pictures of you and Sheila some more. I promise I'll be careful with them."
"Sure," answers Cougar as Will climbs into his bed. "I'll set the alb.u.m here on your nightstand for now."
Talia and Cougar both tuck him in and kiss him. Then Talia proceeds with her nightly routine of tucking in and kissing each of her children. It doesn't matter if they're already asleep, she checks on each one of them one at a time. William and O.P. each have their own beds as do their two younger brothers Jaden, 6, and Sun, 5. Yet Talia knows that sometime during the night, the two younger boys will get up in the middle of the night and climb in bed with one of their older brothers. Free people, especially free children don't like to sleep alone.
In the girls' room, all her girls are sleeping. They always sleep two or three to a bed. Sometimes they pull a couple of their mattresses down onto the floor and push them together so they can all sleep together. Tonight, Talia finds Maia and Dusk cuddled up with Honey. And as usual, her three year olds, Kitten, Panther and Blossom are all cuddled up together on one toddler bed.
There's something about the sight of one's children sleeping that warms one's heart and heals one's soul. So as Talia returns to the master suite, she feels more centered and focused.
"How are you feeling Dearest," asks Wildcat.
Talia slips into his arms and rest her head against his chest as she answers, "Much better thank you." She inhales his scent deeply, "But I'm so tired… and sad. I feel so sad for Sheila."
Wildcat turns her toward the bed and gives her bottom a pat, "Let's get you to bed. After breakfast, Richy needs to take you and Cougar into Megalopolis to meet with the detectives investigating her murder. Windwalker and I are going to come along too."
Talia pulls her clothes off and slips on a night shirt. She crawls into her customary spot between Richy and Cougar.
"Talia…" Richy starts.
Talia looks at him.
"I'm sorry," Richy apologizes to her. "I…"
"You weren't there when he snapped Grimm's neck," Talia reminds Richy. "You recovered Grimm's body. You know what he did. You know that he did it. But you didn't see it happen with your own eyes. It affords you a type of protection, a luxury I don't have because I saw him do it with my own eyes… When Sheila wouldn't help him and I didn't send a message to him through her, she became useless to him. Plus, she p.i.s.sed him off… So how do we proceed from here??? You were so busy trying to keep him away from me, some sort of macho male pride thing I don't understand, that you forgot just how truly dangerous he is. I just want to keep our girls safe. And if that means I let him have his way with me and carry his child, it's a small price to pay for the safety of our daughters. So he doesn't get desperate and take one of them… I no longer have Sheila to give him a message. Now I get to figure out how I make it so he can contact me."
"We'll…" Richy starts to say.
"No, Richard," states Talia firmly. She seldom calls him Richard and it means she's finished. She's finished stepping back to save his male ego or whatever it is that drives him sometimes, "We won't. I will see to this. And you will leave me to it."
She turns away from Richy and snuggles up to Cougar who hugs her tightly. Richy looks at the other men around them that he shares Talia with, there's nothing in their faces that says they think any less of him.
"Let's get some sleep Mist," Wildcat tells him. "We have a long day tomorrow," he reminds him.
Cougar opens his arm for Richy to cuddle up behind Talia and he does. Talia takes the hand Richy places on her waist and pulls it to her heart. This small action allows Richy to relax and sleep.
Breakfast in the morning is loud and chaotic, a typical start to their day. Talia makes sure the older children and teens understand their responsibilities for the day while she's gone. Mainly, look after and take care of their little ones. She knows Eli and Greywolf will stay on top of things while she's gone. And she can't help admiring how good Windwalker and Wildcat look in their suites. And even though Talia is an attorney, Uncle Bob accompanies them.
Richy shakes the hands of two detectives after they arrive at Megalopolis' Peace Headquarters, "Detective McDonald… Detective Webster… This is our wife, Talia Devonshire."
Talia shakes their hands and says, "h.e.l.lo."
Richy continues introductions, "This is my best friend, Talia's other husband, Wendel Devonshire."
Cougar shakes their hands and tells them, "Everyone just calls me Cougar."
Richy continues, "And this is Cougar's father, Wildcat."
Wildcat shakes their hands giving a nod of acknowledgement.
"And this is Talia's mate, Windwalker," Richy introduces, "He's chief of Air Tribe."
Windwalker shakes their hands but be doesn't like the way they smell and he says so, "You both smell of deception."
Richy smells it too, but it may have nothing to do with them personally. So he just introduces Uncle Bob, "And finally, this is Talia's uncle, Robert Devonshire."
There's some snickering from some of the other peace officers in the room. The two detectives remain straight faced. But Richy knows cop-face when he sees it. After all, he has his own: his good old boy smile and his serious you better talk face. They look serious, but they smell deceptive and amused.
"Is there something you need to inform me of detectives," asks Richy concerned. "Because we came here willingly to be of a.s.sistance to you if it's possible for us to help, not to entertain you, to be judged by you or be lied to by you. We didn't take time out of our busy lives to entertain you."
The scents of the two detectives changes. Both are slightly embarra.s.sed. Detective McDonald apologizes, "We're sorry. Right this way please."
They follow the detectives past desks with other detectives and peace officers working, down a long hallway. Detective McDonald opens a door to an interrogation room and says, "Mr. Devonshire… Cougar, we'll interview you in here."
Cougar hesitates. He has no desire to enter the small uninviting room.
"Uncle Bob," Talia request, "please stay with Cougar for me."
Uncle Bob nods yes, "I will." He steps into the room ahead of Cougar. He puts his hand out for Cougar and a.s.sures, "It's okay, Cougar. I'll be with you."
Cougar takes Uncle Bob's hand and steps into the room. He looks back at the others as he clings to Uncle Bob's hand.
"Is that little room necessary," asks Wildcat worried.
"Sir," says another officer stepping over in response to a subtle look from one of the detectives, "we have some chairs over here where you may sit and wait."
Talia stares into the small room with its metal table with two chairs on each side. "You're treating us like suspects," she states as she looks at a detective. "But then we are suspects, aren't we?"
"I prefer persons of interest," answers Detective Webster.
"You could of mentioned this to me," states Richy irritated.
"Mr. Devonshire," responds Detective Webster indifferent. "You and Mr. Windwalker can have a seat there."
"I'm not going to let you interrogate our wife," Richy tells the detective. "There isn't any reason for Talia or Cougar to be suspects in Sheila's murder."
"Richy," Talia's voice soft and soothing as she gently lays a hand to his cheek. "It's alright. Cougar is Sheila's ex-husband and I am the woman he married less than a year after their divorce was final. They have to take a look at us. It shouldn't take them long to figure out they're wasting their time." Then she steps into the small interrogation room Detective Webster is holding the door open to for her. He steps in behind her and shuts the door.
"Please, take a seat right there Ms. Devonshire," request Detective Webster.
"Yes of course," says Talia as she sits in the chair he indicated. "We must make sure the camera on the other side of the one way mirror sees me clearly. Tell me, Detective, which do you think is my best side," Talia trying to ease her own anxiety with humor.
Except Detective Webster is not amused and doesn't crack a smile.
Talia sighs, "Please, Detective, let's get this over with. I have seventeen children to get home to. Three of which are all three year olds."
The detective furrows his brow as he looks over information on Talia on a digital reader. He tells her, "It says you have nine children: three seven year olds, one of which is Sheila Wilson's child, two six year olds, 2 five year olds and two three year olds."
Talia really doesn't feel like explaining anything to the domesticated detective, "Eight of my children are what you would call step-children. And just because they don't have birth certificates and PINC cards and aren't listed in your digital file somewhere doesn't mean they don't exist."
"No, sir," Cougar answers as he holds onto Uncle Bob's hand with Uncle Bob patting his hand to comfort him. "I love Sheila. I would never hurt her."
"Then what went wrong with your marriage Mr. Devonshire," asks the detective.
"It was doomed from the start because we both married each other for the wrong reasons," Cougar answers honestly.
"Is that why you're an alcoholic," asks the detective.
"I drank heavily in the past," admits Cougar. "But I wasn't a true alcoholic. I stopped drinking years ago before our son Will was born. I didn't go through any type of withdrawal and I don't want a drink ever again. I just used it to help me ignore my unhappiness."
"So when Sheila's mother, Mrs. O'Connor, had you picked up for drunk and disorderly conduct several years ago…" starts the Detective.
"That was the last time I was drunk," Cougar informs the detective. "I haven't touched a drop since."
"So why is Mrs. O'Connor convinced you and Talia killed her daughter or paid someone to kill her," asks the detective.
"Mrs. O'Connor is mentally unstable," Talia tells the detective. "It's a hereditary disorder that pa.s.ses from mother to daughter in their family. Sheila was forced to get help for her condition while she was in prison. Mrs. O'Connor refuses to acknowledge her condition and seek treatment while Sheila's sister Connie insist she's only suffering from mild depression, but at least Connie is seeing a psychologist."
"It's been our experience Ms. Devonshire," the detective responds, "that the instincts of close relatives are very accurate."
"So instead of relying on evidence and detective work," Talia says looking the detective in his eyes, "you're relying on the instincts of a mentally unstable woman whose morning her daughter and blaming the people that seem logical to her in her un-logical mind… What's the matter detective? ... Didn't the murderer leave you're crime scene investigators any evidence to collect? ... Or did they screw up collecting it?"
Detective Webster opens a laptop, turns it so Talia can see the screen and plays a short clip from a surveillance recording from one of the elevators in Devonshire Tower. It's eight years old, but Talia recalls the incident clearly. It happened after she got shot, the day she came back to work after that. Richy had playfully called her a liar in front of her staff. Plus, he informed them that she had been shot when she didn't want them to know. Her reaction on the elevator where she grabbed Richy by the throat and slammed him into the back wall is being played for her.
"Where did you get that," asks Talia narrowing her eyes at the detective.
"That's not really important Ms. Devonshire," responds Detective Webster.
"Oh, I disagree," Talia informs him. "That means we have a security leek because you did not obtain that legally. Our security staff hasn't changed in ten years, very few people would have access to that. And as soon as I know who it is, they're fired. And since all of our security personnel also live in Devonshire Tower, that person will also be evicted from their apartment… But you and possibly a few other people are going to lose their jobs too because I never received a search warrant nor did I give permission for anyone to give you any recordings from Devonshire Tower… Now, what's the point in showing me that besides making sure someone has lost their job and home along with yourself?... Because you certainly didn't obtain that recording with a warrant because you would have needed to present the warrant to me."
"You're pretty powerful," says Detective Webster. "You yanked him right off his feet."
Talia shrugs, "Detective, I'm sure you're aware that all free people are physically much stronger than domesticated people. And I am seventy-five percent free. So that shouldn't surprise you."
"Are you abusing your tame spouse," asks the detective.
Talia smiles amused, "That's cute. You think my Richy is domesticated. Except he's not. Nor am I abusing him or he me. It's just that as free people, we deal with our mates differently than tamed people when they p.i.s.s us off. He was not harmed and he could easily over power me just like he could easily overpower you."
"So you could snap another human being's neck," asks the detective.
Talia shrugs again, "Perhaps, I've never tried. I just know a male could because I've seen it done. But then so can any properly trained domesticated soldier."
"No I didn't kill Sheila and neither did Talia," answers Cougar frustrated and scared. "Talia's been up in the mountains with Windwalker and our children for the last three weeks along with my dad and her other males. My dad and Windwalker are both right out there and can confirm that. Richy and I didn't go up into the mountains with them because we had work. So when I wasn't at work, I was at the estate and vice versa."
"I can confirm when he was at the estate," adds Uncle Bob. "And I know confirming when he was at work won't be a problem either."
"Ms. Devonshire is a very rich and powerful woman," the detective states to Cougar and Uncle Bob. "She could easily arrange for someone to take care of Sheila for her."
Talia laughs amused, but not happy, "Detective, with seventeen children and seven males all vying for my attention, I don't have time to even entertain such an idea. I rarely even get to pee by myself. When would I possibly have time to arrange Sheila's murder? Not that I would ever do such a thing."
"So when Sheila Wilson showed up at your home unannounced and uninvited, you weren't the least bit angry or irritated," asks Webster.
"No," answers Talia honestly, "I was surprised and shocked because it was a direct violation of her parole, but I understood."
"Understood what," asks Webster.
"That she needed to see him," answers Talia. "She just wanted to see him, know that he's loved, what his favorite color and food is. And I am a mother who is extremely well pleased with all her children. I showed them all off to Sheila. I let her see that he is well loved, cherished and happy. I told her his favorite color and food. I talked with her about violating her parole and she told me what prompted her visit."
Detective Webster looks through the digital file, "Her probation officer said she believed she'd been contacted by your kidnapper, Thaddeus Brody. Did you believe her?"
"Yes," answers Talia, "I believed her."
"Why did you believe her," asks Webster.
Talia taps the side of her nose with a finger. "Come on, Detective, I know you are aware of how sensitive the sense of smell is for free people. I know there's usually at least one person on a peace force that has enough free blood to sniff out when someone is lying and someone is telling the truth."
The detective picks up a manila folder that was sitting on the corner of the table next to him. He pulls several pictures out and spreads them on the table in front of Talia.
"Oh, Mother Earth," exclaims Cougar with tears streaming from his eyes.
"She was beaten, raped and tortured," the detective informs Cougar, "and you're sure you and that wild wife of yours had nothing to do with it."
"Mother Earth," Cougar says in tears, "Uncle Bob she suffered. Mother Earth, she suffered."
"This is over," declares Uncle Bob standing up from his chair. "Come on Cougar. Let's get Talia and get out of here… Why don't you actually try doing your job Detective instead of trying to build a case against a couple of innocent people or coheres confessions from innocent people?"
Talia's stomach rolls in protest at the sight of Sheila's corps. She stumbles away from the table, but there's no trash can in the little room. She throws up on the floor in a corner.
The door opens to the interrogation room and Uncle Bob steps in and announces, "This is over."
Cougar pauses by the table and exclaims as Detective Webster stands, "Mother Earth, how could you show her those? ..." He rushes to Talia as Richy, Windwalker and Wildcat pause by the table.
"Mother Earth," exclaims Wildcat, "You're a sick man showing a pregnant woman those."
"I may be a small town sheriff," Richy informs the two detectives, "but don't you think for a minute your chief of the peace won't listen to what I have to say." Then Richy, Wildcat and Windwalker guide Cougar and Talia out of the small interrogation room.
"Detective Webster and McDonald," Uncle Bob cool and calm, "enjoy your jobs while you still have them."
"Water please," request Talia allowing Cougar to take her weight, "I need water."
"I see a machine," Cougar informs Talia. "Have a seat here," placing Talia on a bench.
"I'll get a water," says Richy patting Cougar's shoulder. He returns less than a minute later with a bottle of water for everyone because they've been here for hours.
"Just sip it," Cougar directs Talia. His concern for her wellbeing has over ridden his own personal upset.
Talia sips her water slowly like Cougar instructed as two other detectives approach them. Except for Uncle Bob, they can all smell these two detectives have wild blood.
"What's going on," asks one of the wild detectives.
The other wild detective introduces herself, "I'm Detective Monroe and this is Detective Ross. We were told you wouldn't be arriving until three p.m."
"I called Detective McDonald last night and informed him we would be here sometime between 9 and 10 this morning," Richy informs the two detectives. "We arrived about 9:30."
Detective Webster and McDonald come around the corner from the hall of interrogation rooms and come to a stop at the sight of Detectives Monroe and Ross. Monroe and Ross turn toward the other two detectives.
"Detectives," calls Detective Ross. His tone clearly indicates he's not happy. "Why didn't one of you call us and let us know the Devonshires arrived early?"
"Why would you interview them, or anyone for that matter, without one of us present," asks Detective Monroe angry. Then the four detectives are arguing. Other detectives and peace officers try to calm the four arguing detectives.
An older man steps out of an office and walks calmly up to the arguing detectives. The other detectives and peace officers back away quietly. Detective Monroe and Ross go silent immediately. But Detectives McDonald and Webster don't shut up. Webster yells, "You two can't be trusted! You d.a.m.n wilds stick together."
"What's going on here," the mature gentleman asks calmly.
"Captain Jackson," Detective Monroe answers, "Detective McDonald called myself and Detective Ross and told us both that the Devonshires wouldn't be arriving until three or four pm. That we wouldn't be needed until then to sit in on their interviews. But we just arrived to find McDonald and Webster have been conducting the interviews without us. The Devonshires arrived at approximately 9:30 am. Yet both detectives failed to contact either myself or Ross, sir."
Captain Jackson is silent as he acknowledges what Detective Monroe has told him with a slow nod. Then he steps up to Detective McDonald and Webster. He looks at both detectives who are trying to hide their unease behind serious cop faces. Captain Jackson finally asks, "So… Webster… McDonald… what do you have to say for yourselves?"
Both detectives are quiet for a long moment. But Webster finally answers, "Sir, we didn't feel it was a good idea for Monroe and Ross to sit in on the interviews because of the ancestry they have in common with Ms. Devonshire may affect their judgment."
"Are you saying you thought Monroe and Ross would lie for the Devonshires because they have wild blood like Ms. Devonshire," asks Captain Jackson.
"Not exactly, sir," answers McDonald, "but we were concerned that the common ancestry may influence Monroe and Ross."
"So you were afraid Monroe and Ross wouldn't perform their jobs properly with Ms. Devonshire," states Captain Jackson.
"That's correct, sir," confirm Detective McDonald and Webster together.
"So instead of coming to me with your concerns," says Captain Jackson, "you took matters into your own hands and failed to do your own jobs properly… Let's just skip the investigation that leads to you two being found guilty of discrimination in the work place. Just leave your badges and firearms on my desk and resign."
"Captain Jackson, you don't understand," starts Detective McDonald.
Captain Jackson stops McDonald with a hand in the air, "I understand. I understand that Sheila Wilson's murderer didn't leave you much to go off of. I understand that her mother is convinced that her ex-husband and Ms. Devonshire had something to do with her daughter's murder. I also understand that if you could squeeze a confession out of Ms. Devonshire and Ms. Wilson's ex-husband, it would be the story of the century… I don't think Monroe's nor Ross's judgment has been affected, but yours definitely has. Like I said, let's not waist time with an investigation. Resign. Put your badges and firearms on my desks… And anyone else that was involved in this also needs to resign and put their badges and firearms on my desk. There is no room for dishonest, prejudice, glory seekers here. We are here to protect and serve and we will do it properly… After you leave your badges and firearms on my desk, clear out your desks and lockers."
Uncle Bob, Talia and her males all watch as Webster, McDonald and three others step into Captain Jackson's office and place their badges and firearms on his desk. Then Captain Jackson steps into his office, places the badges and firearms into a desk drawer and locks it. He steps back out of his office and back over to Uncle Bob, Talia and her males.
"I am truly sorry about this," Captain Jackson apologizes. "Please, step into my office… Monroe… Ross… Let's do this properly."
Detectives Monroe and Ross step into the Captain's Office ahead of him and he shuts the door. Uncle Bob sits in one chair, Cougar sits in the other pulling Talia onto his lap. They both need the comfort of the other. Talia's other males crowd around them protectively.
"As I'm sure you and your mates can smell Ms. Devonshire, I don't need Monroe or Ross to smell if you're lying to me," Captain Jackson tells her. "But they," indicating outside his office with a subtle motion of his finger, "don't know that. When I was a rookie, the only other person here with wild blood was the janitor. Many full blood domesticated officers are still uncomfortable about working with officers who have wild blood. So I let them think that I'm like them… Again, I'm very sorry for that and thank you for your time and cooperation… Now I'll just asks you and Ms. Wilson's ex-husband a few questions and get you out of here. The questions will be direct and to the point. So try not to be offended."
Talia nods her understanding from Cougar's lap. Cougar tells him, "We understand, sir. Let's just get this finished. We need to get Talia fed. She hasn't eaten since early this morning and she's overdue for a nap."
"Are you alright, Ms. Devonshire," asks Captain Jackson concerned.
Talia nods still teary eyes, "I'm sorry. I'm pregnant and I'm a little more emotional than usual. And when he showed me the pictures of how they found Sheila, there was no waste bucket… I got sick on the floor in that little interrogation room… I'm so sorry."
"Don't worry about that," Captain Jackson tells her. "I'm sure it's been cleaned up already."
Talia nods. "Did he really need to show me those pictures. Sheila and I may not have been friends, but she gave birth to our William. And for that, I love her very much."
"No it wasn't necessary," Captain Jackson informs her. "And if either Monroe or Ross had been present, you would have never been shown those and you would have only have been here an hour tops… Now, Ms. Devonshire I'll start by asking you, did you kill Sheila Wilson?"
"No sir, I did not," answers Talia honestly.
Captain Jackson asks, "Ms. Devonshire, did you in any way arrange the death of Sheila Wilson?"
"No sir, I did not," Talia answers honestly.
"Do you know who might have wanted to hurt Sheila Wilson? Or do you know anything you feel might help us with our investigation," asks Captain Jackson.
"Yes," Talia answers sure of herself, "I believe the man that kidnapped me several years ago killed her. His domesticated name is Thaddeus Brody. But I doubt he's using his given name."
"Yes," says Captain Jackson, "her parole officer informed us she believed he was contacting her. That she used it as an excuse to violate her parole and go to your home. He said the male caller offered to get her boy back for her if she would help him get you."
"Fjord would have considered his offer to Sheila very generous," Talia informs Captain Jackson.
"Fjord," questions Captain Jackson.
"That's his free name," explains Talia. "His mother was domesticated. She named him Thaddeus Brody. But his father was a member of the Water Tribe. And Fjord was Water's chief for a decade. That's how I knew him, as Fjord, chief of Water."
"So he can survive in most wilderness conditions," Captain Jackson understanding that they're not dealing with the typical domesticated criminal.
"Yes," confirms Talia. "And when Sheila not only refused his generous offer, but also cursed him out in an attempt to get him to leave her alone, she really p.i.s.sed him off."
Captain Jackson nods his head in understanding again and takes a deep breath, "Mr. Wendell Devonshire…"
"Cougar, sir. Please, just call me Cougar."
Captain Jackson smiles as he says, "Cougar… you're Sheila Wilson's ex-husband?"
"Yes sir," confirms Cougar. "We were married about five years and she was pregnant with our son William at the time of the divorce. Because of Sheila's violent and unpredictable behavior, the courts granted me an emergency divorce and full custody of William. And because Sheila had threatened to kill him too, the courts terminated all of Sheila's parental rights. She didn't get any visitation or anything."
"So Sandra O'Connor, your ex-mother-in-law's belief that Sheila had a chance to get custody of her son William back is completely unfounded?"
Cougar tells Captain Jackson, "Sheila didn't have a snow ball's chance in h.e.l.l of that ever happening. Sandra's crazier than a loon and refuses to seek treatment. That woman's husband was either totally in love with her or completely terrified of her."
"So did you feel threatened by Sheila Wilson in any way," asks Captain Jackson.
Cougar shakes his head, "Naw… not even when she was swinging an ax at me. I'm faster and stronger. I could have done more to defend myself than just dodge the ax."
Captain Jackson is sure Cougar could have done a lot more to defend himself. He knows from experience no fleeing tame person could ever outrun him. And he's only a quarter wild, while this man Cougar smells like he's at least half. But he needs to ask the questions. "Did you kill your ex-wife, Sheila Wilson?"
"No sir, I didn't," answers Cougar honestly.
"Did you in any way, shape or form arrange for Sheila Wilson's death," asks Captain Jackson.
"No sir, I didn't," Cougar answers honestly again.
"Do you know of anyone who might have wanted to harm your ex-wife or have any information that might help us with our investigation of her murder," ask Captain Jackson.
"Yeah," Cougar nods sadly. "I think Talia's right. I think it was Tad Brody. Richy and I went to school with him from kindergarten through fifth grade. He's smart. He was a straight A student who got one hundred percents on everything. But he didn't have any friends. He was a bully, a mean bully. He doesn't value anyone's life but his own now that his parents and Aunt Milly are gone, except for maybe Talia's too."
"He's dangerous, Captain Jackson," adds Richy. "You don't want to back this man into a corner if you ever get near him. If you do, he'll rip your officers to shreds. They better be ready to shoot to kill or have very powerful tranquilizer darts. And if he manages to slip into a body of water, do not let any of your people go in after him. They won't come out alive."
"He's a guardian, isn't he," asks Captain Jackson warily.
"Yes," confirms Talia, "a very unique and dangerous one. He doesn't care about obeying any of the laws or rules the rest of us live by. He only cares about himself and satisfying his own wants and needs."
"And he's fixated on you, isn't he Ms. Devonshire," asks Captain Jackson.
Talia nods sadly, "Yes."
Captain Jackson sighs, "This isn't good… I wouldn't normally give you any details about an ongoing murder investigation, but I know you won't go to the press. Plus, I know you're telling the truth. There was no evidence of forced entry into Ms. Wilson's condo. And who ever attacked Ms. Wilson, didn't seem leave us any DNA evidence. We're still sifting through the evidence, but it all seems to be Ms. Wilson's own DNA so far."
"I saw the pictures," says Cougar teary eyed. "She suffered."
Captain Jackson nods sadly, "It looked as if she tried to fight back, but her attacker over powered her quickly, probably caught her off guard. Then it appears her attacker took his time beating, raping and torturing her before he finally killed her by strangling her… I'm sorry for your loss. I know tame people wouldn't understand how much you really did care for her."
"Do ya have everything ya need of Talia and my boy," asks Wildcat. He had enough of this place a couple of hours ago.
"Yes, yes," answers Captain Jackson standing up and coming out from behind his desk. "I'll walk you all out."
They pa.s.s by the rows of desks with various detectives and peace officers coming and going as Captain Jackson and the two detectives, Monroe and Ross, escort them through. They spot the two detectives and a couple of others packing up the last of their things at their desks. When they reach the lobby, Talia and her mates freeze in their tracks as a familiar scent invades their sensitive noses.
Talia's eyes grow large with worry as she says, "He was here."
"That b.a.s.t.a.r.d," Richy grits through clenched teeth.
"A half wild male was here," says Detective Monroe inhaling the unfamiliar scent. "He didn't come with the Devonshires. He came alone."
"Who," asks Uncle Bob whose nose can't tell him one person's scent from another.
"Fjord," answers Windwalker putting a protective arm around Talia and Cougar.
"You mean Thaddeus Brody," says Captain Jackson committing Fjord's scent to memory, "Ms. Devonshire's kidnapper."
"Yeah," confirms Cougar, "Tad."
Captain Jackson steps behind the counter with the peace officer who's attending there. "Officer Mitch.e.l.l, I need to see who's been coming and going since Ms. Devonshire arrived around nine-thirty this morning… Ms. Devonshire, please, step back here and see if you see Brody in the recordings."
Talia complies with a shaky nod of her head. She stands next to Captain Jackson behind the peace officer. Captain Jackson puts a comforting hand on her shoulder as she looks over the shoulder of the peace officer at the high definition screen. The images are fast forwarding on the screen, but Talia's sharp eyes aren't having any trouble keeping up. After about fifteen minutes Talia says, "There, that man," as she points at the screen.
"Mitch.e.l.l, pull up his face shot from digital camera one," orders Captain Jackson.
The peace officer complies quickly.
"Is that him," Captain Jackson ask Talia. But Talia is staring at the screen so intently his question doesn't quite register in her busy mind taking in the ways in which Fjord has changed his look. Captain Jackson tries again, giving her shoulder a gentle squeeze, "Ms. Devonshire, is this him? Is this Thaddeus Brody?"
A tear slides down Talia's cheek as she answers, "Yes, that's him." He looks good in his designer suit. He's clean shaven. He has his beautiful black hair pulled into a neat ponytail at the base of his neck. And his hair is considerably longer than the last time she saw him.
"Print some of those," Captain Jackson orders the peace officer to print some pictures of Fjord.
"Yes sir," the peace officer complying.
"May I have one," asks Talia.
The request surprises Captain Jackson, but he answers, "Sure." He hands her the first one to come out of the printer.
As Talia comes out from behind the counter, Detectives Monroe and Ross look over her shoulder at Fjord's picture.
"Wow," exclaims Detective Monroe, "He's smokin!" Then she quickly composes herself, "I'm sorry. That was in appropriate of me."
"It's okay," Talia smiling sadly as she slips back under Cougar's arm. "His looks were never the problem. The problem is what lies beneath all his beauty… Remember, Lucifer was the most beautiful of all angels. People expect evil people to be ugly, but it's often quite the opposite. h.e.l.l catches more souls with pretty promises than it does terrifying acts. It's the pretty promises we must be wary of."
"He spoke with you," states Captain Jackson to the peace officer. "What did he say?"
"Not much," answers the peace officer with no clue how dangerous the man he spoke to is, "He's just a reporter looking for a story."
"Tell me exactly what he said," orders Captain Jackson.
"He came in, looked around for a minute, I asked if he needed some help. He said, 'Maybe you can help me.' He asked if Ms. Devonshire was here. I asked who was asking and he said 'a very old friend.' He said she was supposed to meet him for lunch, but didn't show. He said he knew she had to come here this morning and was concerned that she didn't show for lunch. He said it wasn't like her not to call if she was going to be late or something. I asked him his name and he smiled and repeated that he was an old friend. I asked if he was a reporter and he smiled broader and said, 'You caught me. Can you tell me what's going on?' I said, 'Not really,' that she came in to help with an investigation. He said she'd been here all morning and it was past lunch time and wanted to know what was taking so long. I shrugged and told him, 'I don't know. When interrogations take longer than an hour, someone usually gets arrested.' He repeated 'interrogation' surprised and asked, 'Why would they interrogate her?' He said it was impossible for anyone to get 'any cleaner' than Ms. Devonshire. I just shrugged and told him he'ld have to wait for a press conference to be called. Then I told him he was wasting his time because Ms. Devonshire wouldn't talk to him anyway and at least one of the men with her looked like a serious body guard. Plus, one of her two husbands is a sheriff. He said thanks and left."
"I want a copy of your conversation with him on my desk in fifteen minutes so I can watch it for myself," orders Captain Jackson. "Then we're going to talk about you accidentally letting information like Ms. Devonshire being interrogated slip past your lips."
Captain Jackson steps back over to Talia, her mates and uncle, "I'm sorry about that. If he had been a reporter, it would be all over the news already that you were interrogated."
"But he wasn't a reporter," responds Uncle Bob, "so no harm done there."
"Talia's shaking," Cougar informs the captain. "May we be on our way?"
"Yes, yes, of course," says Captain Jackson. "Thank you for coming." Then he watches how her men surround her protectively, Cougar one side of her with his father on the other side of her. Her mate, the sheriff, leads the way in front of her while her other mate, the one the peace officer thought was a body guard, is behind her with her uncle.
When they get outside, Talia takes a deep cleansing breath glad to be outside. She looks up feeling someone looking at her and makes eye contact with a man leaning on the building across the street. He straightens up smiling hopefully at her as he takes a few steps forward. Talia freezes like a deer caught in headlights.
"Dearest," questions Wildcat concerned, "What's wrong?"
"Fjord," she whispers.
All the men go on alert.
"Where," asks Richy searching the faces of the sea of people walking past.
"Across the street," she whispers. Then a transit bus goes by. Talia finds herself searching faces, but he's gone.
"Where across the street," demands Richy.
"He's gone," answers Talia with her brow furrowed with worry and frustration.
Richy wants to run across the street and take a look around, but Uncle Bob is an ordinary human while Cougar and Wildcat aren't guardians. Windwalker is a powerful guardian, but he nor Talia as well as himself would dare bring their guardians up while surrounded by a horde of domesticated people. But even if Fjord felt concerned for Talia's safety, Richy's sure Fjord would bring up his guardian to save himself and all other free people be d.a.m.ned.
So Richy just turns to the others and says, "Let's get to the van and get the h.e.l.l out of here."
"Richy, we need to stop and eat," Cougar reminds him as they're walking back to the van. "Talia hasn't eaten since before we left this morning."
"We can stop in at Devonshire Tower and run into one of our restaurants," suggest Uncle Bob as they arrive at the van.
"That's fine," agrees Richy holding Talia as Cougar slides into the second row of seats. Then he helps Talia slide in. Windwalker slides in next to Talia so she is tucked in between him and Cougar. Wildcat hops onto the back row of seats. Uncle Bob drives and Richy rides shotgun.
"Dearest, are you alright," asks Wildcat concerned for his stressed out young mate.
"Yes," Talia turns her head back and kisses him rea.s.suringly, but it's more to rea.s.sure herself than him. "I'm just tired."
"Maybe we should go up to the penthouse after we eat so Talia can get a get nap before we head home," suggest Uncle Bob.
"No," says Talia, "I can sleep during the ride home. Let's just head straight home after we eat. Besides, he won't be expecting us to stick around the city after being seen."
"That's fine, Talia," Cougar agrees with her and so that's what they do.