My Summer Newsletter is going out to all members of...
...this page this evening. Included in my newsletters are unpublished vignettes from the Boundary Waters Search and Rescue world. This newsletter has a sweet story about how Jack met this girl...
Ms. Binx. (Model is Sierra, our sweet house panther)
For this prequel only, I am going to put the story on my blog (if you want the newsletter with more goodies, then please sign up.) These newsletters will come out monthly, and I (once again) swear on my eyeballs not to sell or otherwise abuse your email information.
And now: The Beginning of a Beautiful Friendship. (As always, this materials is protected under my intellectual copyright, so please do not share it without my permission.)
An unpublished chapter in Jack Lockwood’s life sharing the story of how he met his cat Binx. This takes place seven years before Boundary Waters Search and Rescue: Beyond Belief opens. Jack is a trauma surgeon/emergency physician working with one of the Denver police precincts in a combined service program that he and Dan Harrison pioneered.
Chapter One: An Unexpected Discovery
Jack pulled his keys from the pocket of his jeans and dragged his tired body out into the sunbaked parking lot of the Red Rocks Medical/Surgical Center. This was the first time he’d seen the sky in almost twenty-four hours. He squinted against the glare and tried to think cool, calming thoughts. When he’d moved to Golden, Colorado, ninety-five-degree late April days hadn’t been on his radar, but then again, neither had the unprecedented drought they’d been having and, with it, the early start to wildfire season. One of the crew battling the Conifer blaze was the reason why his twelve-hour shift had turned into twenty-four hours. He raised his eyes as the Medi-Vac chopper took off into the glittering blue sky. Thanks to six hours of brutally difficult surgery and his strong will to live, Craig Gamble stood a chance of surviving today, especially once they got him to the burn center in Denver. One of the fire-rescue teams had brought him in just as Jack was leaving after treating a shooting victim they’d brought into the hospital. Knowing that the firefighter would die without immediate intervention, Jack had stayed to operate. Together he and his team had gotten Gamble through the night.
Rolling his tense shoulders, Jack unlocked his SUV and started to slide behind the wheel. He stopped when he heard a high-pitched whine. Tilting his head, he waited for it to come again. When it did, Jack opened the hood. All was quiet. Was he so tired that he was hearing things? Just as he was about to give up and go home, the noise came again, this time accompanied by a scuffling sound. Moving closer to the passenger compartment, he thrust his arm into the narrow opening between the engine and the firewall. His fingertips brushed fur. Something was alive and stuck down there. Ten minutes and two bitten fingers later, he held a tiny, sickly kitten in the palm of his hand. A pair of crusty blue eyes stared at him with a combination of hostility and fear. The little kit struggled to breathe, the hot metal in the engine had seared her skin, and she appeared to be only a couple of weeks old. Yet she thrashed around in his hand, trying to sink her tiny, razor-sharp teeth into his skin for the third time. Jack admired that kind of gumption. After wrapping a shop towel around his hand to protect it from further harm, he climbed into his SUV carrying the baby. Before driving off, he cranked up the air conditioning, poured some of the bottled water he’d bought before leaving the hospital into his coffee cup, and put it in front of the kitten, but she was now too weak to even hold up her head, much less expend the energy to drink. She’d even stopped fighting him.
“What am I doing here?” Jack wondered as he tried to keep his eyes open. “I could have just dropped the cat off at the Humane Society and let them deal with her.” The problem was, Jack knew that, sadly, most Humane Societies didn’t have the staff, time, or budget to deal with a critically-ill kitten, instead, they would euthanize her. Wanting to give the spirited baby he’d found her best chance at life, he’d brought her to one of the vets in town, and now sat waiting for news. A final cup of coffee and his bed could wait a bit longer.
“Jack Lockwood?” A middle-aged woman with close-cropped white hair called his name.
“Yes, that’s me.” Jack stood and walked over to face her. She looked official, carrying a clipboard and wearing a stethoscope around her neck.
Shaking his hand, she said, “Hello. I’m Dr. Jane Davis and I’ve been looking after the kitten you brought in earlier. She’s a fighter, I’ll say that. You can come back now.” She turned and walked away.
Jack frowned as he followed her. She was treating him like the owner of the tiny feline. However, that was not his intent. He wanted to be sure that the vet treated the cat, and was even willing to pay for whatever the kitten needed, but there was no way he was going to keep her. His life was busy enough without adding an injured animal to the mix.
Chapter 2: A New Normal
“Just don’t expect too much, okay?” Jack pressed his nose up against the mesh of the soft-sided kennel he’d just put down on the dining room table. “I’m a doctor, not a veterinarian.” Unzipping the flap, he lifted the kitten from her nest of towels and sat down in his recliner. Immediately, his new housemate nestled into a ball on his chest and started purring. Jack closed his eyes and stroked her downy dark red fur. Dr. Davis had called it a fever coat—a temporary color that likely resulted from stress on the mother cat while she was pregnant. The way he’d found the kitten suggested the doctor was correct. No mother or siblings had been in sight. He would just have to wait and see what color she turned out to be, if she survived.
It was the vet adding this caveat that proved the tipping point for Jack. He’d been holding the wee feline when she’d said it, and knowing that he could make a difference in the kitten’s life, he’d told Dr. Davis to go ahead with treating her and that he would be taking her home with him. Before he’d left the vet’s office, he had an antibiotic for the kitten’s upper respiratory infection, kitten milk replacement, soft kitten food, a bottle feeding set up, and butterfly needles, saline, and tubing to do more fluid therapy. He was off for several days and he was determined that his new roommate was not only going to survive but thrive.
Sitting up, Jack lifted the kitten by the scruff of the neck, so she dangled in front of him. “You need a name,” he said, starting the first of thousands of conversations the two of them would have in the coming years.
“Mew,” came the single syllable response.
Looking at her appraisingly, he responded. “Dr. Davis said she thought you would have a black coat after the red fur falls out. What do you think of ‘Blackie’?”
Silence. The kitten just hung in his grip looking peeved.
“You’re right, too cute for one so fierce as you. Besides, what happens if your doctor is wrong and you turn out to be orange?” He considered for another few minutes. “Okay, what about Jinx? That would work whatever color you turn out to be, but it would be a great name for a black cat.”
If anything, the kitten looked more unhappy.
Jack adjusted his grip on her and she started to purr. “Nah, Jinx doesn’t fit either. We don’t want to feed into all the superstitious nonsense about cats, no matter what color you turn out to be. What name suggests black, but is okay no matter what color you are? It needs to be endearing, fit your personality, and not be superstitious like Jinx, Jinx, black, Jlack? Come on, Lockwood, that’s terrible. Black…black…Jinx, I’ve got it. How about Binx?”
The kitten almost smiled. Okay, she yawned, but to Jack it looked like a smile.
“Binx it is.” Jack said with some satisfaction. Getting to his feet, he stroked the kitten behind her ears. “Well, Binx, I need to get some sleep, but first you need to be fed.”
The next afternoon Jack was, once again, feeding Binx. He’d quickly learned to put her on a towel and put another rolled up towel under her chin. That way she didn’t choke, didn’t get the formula mixed with soft kitten food all over the kitchen, and he could sit through the somewhat lengthy process. He didn’t mind the time it took. She was going after the bottle with enthusiasm, her milk goatee was adorable, and he loved the way her ears wiggled while she ate. Since he was in his forties with no prospects, this was probably as close as he’d get to fatherhood and he was determined to enjoy it.