A thousand and one different thoughts all rallied their way to rush through the Chief’s mind. He wanted desperately to sigh with relief at the sight of the creature that had terrified so many. But instead he felt the growing burden of even more worries. Gabriel had helped to hunt and slay the beast, and yet now while they should be praised he could see it in the eyes of those who looked on. What was he going to do about this?
He owed it to Gabriel to repay his steadfast and dedicated service. The boy had proven himself even before they knew what slumbered deep inside him. And after it became known that he had been tainted by the terror they hunted itself he had displayed an ability to resist the creatures cursed temptations. It was entirely possible that the beast inside him could resurface overtime to overpower him with disastrous consequences. However a big part of Chief Gnaeus felt that Gabriel had earned that consideration.
But how could he just openly permit a man now known by the public to be part monster? How could he maintain the peace if they all saw him as the man who allowed a potential or perceived predator to prowl freely? He might as well hand out a license for mobs to form or fill in the blank blame sheets with Gabriel’s name squarely at the top. There was no way to control what people would think or do if they believed he was left to roam loose.
The people of Gallu had already been asked to accept a lot with the current bizarre business. Crazed creatures and deranged dead were beyond belief for any sane person to accept. And here was Gabriel at the middle of the matter somewhere between man, monster and machine. Then there was the whole fact that the Magistrate Council had been involved with everything that had happened.
“I am going to need every source of strength available if I am going to safeguard these people now,” Chief Gnaeus decided in a hushed whisper. He had mostly only intended to talk to himself but he noticed a slight twitch from Gabriel that marked he had heard him as well. A vague memory returned like a friendly reminder to tug playfully at his shoulder. It was little more than a phrase really; probationary member.
That was something that was said to him back when all this began. It was those precise words that even now seemed to illuminate a course of action to satisfy so many concerns. Ceremoniously the Chief raised a hand and put on his best public announcement face. Right now he found himself wishing he was back behind his desk with a public relations officer at his disposal for this kind of duty instead of himself. He never did enjoy the public speaking part of his job.
“I am a man of word,” Chief Gnaeus began in a clear tone that carried itself to the crowd around him. “I swore when I took up this office to safeguard the people and interests of Gallu from every threat. To that regard I have assembled this newly assigned specialized Night-Watch Squad that has so clearly proven itself capable in its duty. However, I also gave my word to this man who bears the same good name as the respected Thael Vincent that he would be granted the chance to prove himself as a probationary member of the civil defense forces.
Gabriel Vincent has done just that. He has in my evaluation demonstrated nothing less than a completely trustworthy and admirable character. In that regard he has earned the right to enlist and be placed permanently as an active member of the Squad.” The Chief paused briefly enough to time his bluff carefully. He had played enough cards over the years to know when he should falsely emphasis his hand and just how to do it without saying what people would read through his actions alone.
“But, as I said I am a man of my word. While Mr. Vincent has earned his right to serve and will be allowed to do so he will not go without a leash. A wise huntsman keeps even the most loyal and skilled hound at his disposal on a strong restraint. He will be allowed his place on the Night-Watch Squad where his unique talents can be put to the best possible use. While he works to help us with his unique insights he will remain under my direct supervision and custody.”
Chief Gnaeus made a dramatic a gesture as he could of holstering his weapon as he called for his fellow officers. “Corvan, Novius; if you would be so kind as to assist me in escorting our colleague here back to headquarters. It looks like our shift is almost complete.” Both squad members obediently answered the request with their weapons at the ready to stand on either side of Gabriel.
As they began their walk back towards the primary post of the patrolmen Gabriel had to confess he was relieved to not be condemned to a similar fate as his furry foe. He had always figured the Chief for decent enough man and he was grateful for the little show his superior had made on his behalf. But Gabriel was no fool; he also understood the unspoken requirements of his precarious situation. While he would potentially be permitted to maintain in the service of the Chief so long as he was perceived as its hunting hound he would have to forgo certain liberties. Doubtless there would not be anyone coming to seek his craftsmanship anymore, nor might they be overly eager to allow him to come and go on his own publicly. Things wouldn’t be same anymore.
Lost in though Gabriel didn’t realize they had already made it back to headquarters until he smelled the familiar scent of Dr. Foxfire just before his eyes spotted the demure doctor. “Good to see you again Doc,” Gabriel greeted her with a warm grin. But it didn’t take the trained gaze of an experienced doctor or the keen observations of her heightened senses for Dr. Foxfire to detect his diminished spirits.
“I already heard,” she confessed compassionately before letting a sly smile spread along her own face. “And I think I have the perfect prescription for what ails you.” Gabriel was honestly caught off guard by the claim and found he was somewhat cautious. He apprehensively raised an eyebrow as he waited to see just what possible prescription might be appropriate presently.
“I believe a drink or two would be just what the doctor ordered,” Dr. Foxfire declared. Her advised solution met at first with silent disbelief before a series of blinking eyes marked Gabriel’s attempt to process the peculiar instruction. “But Doc,” Gabriel awkwardly objected. “I really don’t think now is the time for me to be strolling into The Rat Hole for a round or two.”
“Sebastian said you might say something like that,” Dr. Foxfire said. “So he made sure to inform me of the existence of an extremely secure and utterly secret secondary entrance to his establishment. Apparently it leads to a hidden area he uses for his own personally preferred patrons. Or so he claims, so, what about it?”
“Leave it to Sebastian to have himself a hidden hole within The Rat Hole,” Gabriel chuckled. “Well, I guess if it is Doctor’s orders then it is in my best health to obey. That is, of course, if it’s alright with you, Chief.” Still reluctant to return to the rear of his waiting desk Chief Gnaeus eagerly seized at the excuse to lengthen his absence even if only for a brief while longer.
“Sounds good to me,” the Chief applauded. “Besides, we could all use a good stiff drink or two after tonight. Just so long as I am not the one buying,” Gnaeus quipped merrily. Together they all shared a hearty laugh before slipping off into the dawning daylight to toast their triumph. They had just weathered through a long night, and they would need courage to face the growing dark to come.