Story:Conspiracy of Meerkats

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Conspiracy of Meerkats
Written by JWolfman

The MacStubb Funeral Home building didn’t have the stereotypical look of a building that would house dead bodies. The walls were painted white, with a bright and freshly-cut green lawn and well-maintained flowers dotting along carefully-set pathway stone tiles. It was designed to set mourners at ease but for Thomas Stuebaker, the building had a gaudy air about it. The dead would not care about such appearances, after all. Under the night cloudy sky, he glanced left and right with hints of paranoia before he snuck into the building through a side service door that was left unlocked, and sighed once fully inside.

“I hate this place already,” he muttered to no one in particular. The slender wolf brushed some of the raindrops off his trenchcoat and then walked down the hallway of the building, navigating his way past a room filled with cremation urns until he reached the back section of the building that contains the cremator furnace. He smirked upon seeing the spotted hyena bound tightly to a chair in the center of the room, his head covered entirely with a black hood. He glanced over at the other two figures in the room: a pair of ash color-furred ferrets.

“You two treating him well?”

“Take a look for yerself,” one of the ferrets replied and grabbed the hood to pull it off the hyena, revealing the bruises and cuts on his face. The hyena winces under the ceiling lights and glanced upwards to look at Thomas with one eye, the other eye too swollen to open. He remained silent however, watching Thomas kneel in one knee beside him.

“Jayce Blackson?”

The hyena simply grunted in response to Thomas’ enquiry. Thomas simply smiled and lightly tapped him on the side of the muzzle with his paw and stood up. “Sorry that my boys busted you up… but it was necessary.”

The former head coach of the FBA’s Las Vegas Wildcards shook his head and growled. “What do you want from me?”

“What do I want? Nothing. It’s what my boss wants from you…” He walked across the room and turned a dial to activate the furnace’s fires. Jayce tensed up and squirms, fruitlessly trying to break free from the binds pinning his wrists to the chair. Thomas turned to look back at him.

“You’re good, Mr. Blackson. Took us more than a year to find you, and we’re usually good at finding people.”

Jayce paused in his squirming for a few moments as realization sunk in his mind. He left the FBA in extremely bad terms, complete with a twitter rant in 2014 that bashed the entire Las Vegas Wildcards team and their General Manager at the time, Lina Khaldi. The frustrations of coaching over a struggling team led him off an emotional cliff, but there was a darker relationship between him and Lina Khaldi, as he knew about her family’s dark history with pre-Revolution Iran. Since he never publically exposed that history, it didn’t take long for him to connect the mental dots that led him to this precarious situation. “Khaldi is behind all this?”

Thomas laughed. “Your father was a CIA agent, wasn’t he? Nice, it seems like his detective genes passed down to you.”

Jayce squirmed to break free from his bonds, growling with more intensity. “You let me go, goddamnit!”

Thomas blinked in surprise and then mockingly sighed. “I stand corrected, then. You’re an idiot.” He looked over at the furnace to check on its temperature, and sighed with a more genuine tone. “Not hot enough…” He turned the dial again.

Although Jayce continued to strain his arm muscles as he pulled to stretch the stubborn ties on his wrists, he began to whine. These captors had no intention to let him go it seemed, but he was not willing to give up. “Please, I’ll do anything. I’ll shut up about everything, I won’t say a single word. I promise you!”

“Say a single word about what?” Thomas enquired and he turned the dial up again.

“About SAVAK!” Jayce barked, his eyes also fixating onto the furnace dial. “Nasser Khaldi and SAVAK!”

“I honestly don’t care,” Thomas replied and finally leaves the dial alone, turning to look at the hyena. “I have a job to do. I do the job and then I get paid, rinse and repeat. You’re just a paycheck, Blackson. It just took me more than a fucking year to earn it, so that’s why I had you beaten rather than just shot in the head.” The wolf pulled back the sleeve of his trenchcoat to show his watch and he frowned, looking at it. He glanced at the temperature of the furnace and then at his ferret subordinates.

“It’s getting late. Roast him.”

As he casually turned to walk out of the room, Jayce’s screaming filled the air quickly. The ferrets roughly unbound him from the chair and one of them restrained him while the other opened the cremation furnace door, letting out a gust of heat into the room. They began to tie his wrists together along with his ankles before placing him into a ‘coffin’ of cardboard, which didn’t even muffle his screaming effectively.

Thomas didn’t bother to witness the rest of the scene. He simply left the room and exited the building via the same way he came in earlier. Once outside amid the drizzling rain, he picked out his phone and pressed a contact button as he continued walking toward his vehicle.

“Politics,” he mumbled softly as he waited for his contact to answer his call.

Although Lina Khaldi appeared calm as she sat behind a table while facing a few dozen journalists and flashing cameras, her tail rapidly twitched at the tip which exposed her true feelings of anxiousness and stress. With the Baltimore Spirits logo in a pattern alongside the FBA logo in a backdrop behind her, Lina patiently listened while the much older jackalope Samuel Windance, the owner of the Baltimore team, spoke behind a microphone addressing the journalists.

“After a disappointing previous season, we are ready to look at the present and look forward. This is going to be a new season with a rebuilt team and will now be organized by someone with previous FBA experience as a General Manager. She is someone that can take bold risks and decisions to improve the team, and I’m confident that she can build a team that Head Coach Basil Trassel can lead to not only a playoff spot but all the way to a championship.”

Lina tried her best not to flinch at her new boss’ words. He was clearly overstating the goals of a championship run, as the team was in disarray last season and unless she made some miraculous moves in the upcoming season, even the prospect of a playoff spot seemed like a distant light in the end of a tunnel. She flicked her left ear however, but while she caught herself doing it, she hoped the cameras didn’t catch the subtle motion or otherwise it would be analyzed by talking heads on television that believe themselves to be more intelligent than they actually were. She simply kept her eyes forward on the journalists while she listened to Mr. Windance speak.

“So without further ado, I welcome Lina Khaldi as the newest General Manager for the Baltimore Spirits,” the jackalope finished his speech and then shook paws with Lina amid applause from the journalists watching. Lina smiled, both genuinely and for the cameras, even as she wondered how she managed to step back into the FBA after her first attempt as General Manager went awry in a disastrous way. Her time controlling the Las Vegas Wildcards was marked by problems in management, coaching, and her decision to buy out a player contract that purposely went over the salary cap ended with her termination from the job. But now with a second chance and in a new team, she gained renewed hope of redemption.

After a short obligatory speech, Lina retreated to the back halls of the arena after the press conference and paused to take a breather. As an assistant handed her a cup of coffee, Lina’s ears twitch as she heard a familiar voice.

“Lina! Lina, you made it!”

Lina’s face beamed brighter in expression as her father approached her and embraced her tightly. The taller meerkat kissed her forehead and rested his frail paws onto her arms. “You did it, Lina… you’re a General Manager again.”

“Tashakkor…” Lina replied to Nasser Khaldi in his native language, but reverted quickly back to English. “I’m nervous though.”

“Don’t be,” the elder meerkat said with a smile. “I’ve taken care of things for you. You don’t need to worry about anything but your work in moving your new team forward.”

“But… I keep remembering about the last time I had a job like this, father. With Jayce Blackson and--”

“Sshh,” Nasser interrupted with a shush sound and motion. “You don’t need to worry about him anymore.”

“Huh?” Lina replied, confused. The last time she heard anything from the former coach of the Wildcards, it was via a twitter rant just as he quit the job. Nasser simply kissed her on the forehead again and smiled.

“Don’t fret about the past. This is a new team now, your team. You know what to do from now on.”

Lina nodded. “Yes father…”

“Ms. Khaldi! You’re needed for an interview, ma’am!” One of the assistants called out in the hallway. Lina nodded in acknowledgement and then turned to look back at Nasser.

“Well if you say I don’t have to worry about that damn hyena… I won’t then. I’m going to be very busy for the next few months with the FBA Combine going on and then the Draft, so forgive me if I can’t find the time to call you…”

“I won’t mind,” Nasser said with a laugh. “Hey, if you can bring this team to the playoffs, I’ll even host a special party for you. You can bring your boyfriend with you too.”

Lina grinned and slapped him playfully on the arm, amused by her father mentioning Hector Louis, whom is the General Manager of the Texas Lone Stars. “Oh Daddy…” She embraced him again and with a farewell wave, she turned to walk down the hallway. Nasser stayed put and watched her leave, keeping the smile on his face intact until she walked out of view. He glanced around and then casually picked up his phone to dial a number.

He sighed softly, resting the phone against his ear as he walked toward an exit door. “... Mr. Westerlyn? This is Nasser… yes, it’s done. My daughter’s the General Manager for the Baltimore Spirits, just as you wanted…” his ears twitch slightly as he continued to listen. “Yes, I understand completely that I have a debt to pay to you… you’ll have everything you wanted, I promise you.... Yes, sir.” He hangs up with another sigh, this one more deeply with frustration.

Featured Characters

Lina Khaldi

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