“It’s like watching one of those... ahh... whaddya call them things?”

Sergeant Esterhaus looked up from his e-reader to glance at Detective Washington. “What are you talking about?”

Washington made a vague left-to-right motion with the index finger of his right hand. “Those things... musicians use to keep time. Whaddya call them?”

Esterhaus blinked and tried to imagine why Washington would ask him such a question and then dismissed it as a lost cause. He then closed his eyes and tried to recall sitting in the school orchestra an age and a half ago, playing the bass while watching as the conductor counted time with a...


“Yeah!” Washington snapped his fingers. “That’s it!”

“Glad to be of help.” Esterhaus went back to his e-reader, paused and then turned back to the detective. “Why did you need to know that?”

“I told you,” Washington pointed across the room, “it’s like watching a metronome.”

Esterhaus followed the gesture with his eyes and almost instantly felt his heart sink. Another one?

“Washington? What is that?”

“A Clade.” Washington’s tone made it clear he felt Esterhaus’s mental facilities were lacking at the moment. “XSWAT tends to hire them, y’know.

“And what is it doing here?” Not looking for the locker rooms, I hope.

Washington rested his chin in his hand. “Waiting in line. Which means I’ve got a perfect view.”

Of what? “So you’re telling me you’re interrupting my break to ask me stupid questions while staring at some Clade’s ass?”

“And a very nice ass it is. You can tell even with the coat. ‘sides, the best part is the tail.”

“The tail.”

“Yeah,” Washington nudged Esterhaus and gestured with his free elbow. “It’s almost hypnotic. You suppose it’s a conscious thing? Or it an automatic reflex, like breathing?”

With an exasperated sigh Esterhaus turned back Washington's current obsession. He went through them at a prodigious rate, and had a dangerous tendency to scope out female XSWAT officers with far more intensity than was good for him. This one was a toweringly tall Clade who was standing in some admin line waiting to hand over transfer forms. It had white hair, white fox-like ears, and a thick bushy white tail that was slowly waving back and forth.

How can he tell how good the ass is under that coat?


Is it even aware it’s doing that?


Esterhaus shook his head and blinked. Washington’s inane patter was getting to him. Either that, or someone was genetically engineering Clades for a new power: the incredible hypnotic tail. He looked over at Washington and started at the rapt expression on the other man’s face.

Is he even aware of how stupid he looks right now? He shook his head in disgust. Enough, I’ve got work to do. Someone really needed to get their act together. Next time a paper-pusher over at XSWAT HQ decided to transfer a whole squad, they really needed to give the ground-pounders some advance notice. Like a week at least. Well, that was XSWAT for you. Too high-and-mighty to notice the APD.


Switching off his e-reader, Esterhaus pushed back from the table and stood up. “Hey, Washington, I hate to break it to you, but it’s a Clade. Odds are you’re far from the first to see action under that tail.”

“There you go again, raining on my parade....”

“Yeah, costing you medals, I know. Washington, you need to stay away from XSWAT. They’re all crazy, half of them ain’t human, and they’re going to be the death of you if you don’t knock it off.”

Or me, if this keeps up.