Lieutenant Jeff Harris put down his donut and licked the raspberry jelly off his finger. He flipped on his light bar and hit the siren to clear some of the early morning traffic out of his way, then did a U-turn on the four-lane highway.
"10-4, dispatch, I'm headed that way now," Jeff mumbled into the two-way radio.
"Be advised, Lieutenant, we have reports of some kind of wild animal in the area," a monotone voice crackled over the radio.
Jeff frowned. "Did you say wild animal?"
"10-4, Officer Harris, some kind of large lizard. Flying."
* * *
The squad car pulled to a stop on the side of the freeway. A tall, heavy-set officer got out and made his way to the accident. He paced around the mess of wrenched steel.
A large 18-wheeler was overturned across three lanes of traffic, cars backed up out of sight.
"Dispatch," Jeff spoke into his radio, "we're gunna need an ambulance and towing rig that is capable of moving a semi. Get me some more men down here too, we've got rush hour traffic to redirect in a few minutes."
Jeff started talking to the motorists near the collision. People said that the semi lost control after hitting a piece of metal in the road, then crashed into the concrete highway divider.
While Jeff was interviewing witnesses, a teenage boy on a moped wheeled up and tapped him on the shoulder. "Yes, young man?" Jeff said, irritated because of the interruption.
"I think the driver is waking up."
Jeff pushed though the crowd and made his way to the front of the semi. He crouched down and peered in through the shattered windshield. Inside the driver's eyes flickered as he regained consciousness.
"Easy buddy," Jeff said, "help is on the way."
The driver tried to speak, but his words were inaudible.
"Don't try to talk --" Jeff started but was cut off, a medic pushing him aside.
"How long has he been here?" The medic asked, looking at the driver but talking to Jeff.
"Ten minutes, maybe fifteen," Jeff answered, stepping back as two more medics arrived with a stretcher.
The medics carefully moved the driver onto a backboard on the stretcher. The driver winced in pain as they repositioned him on the hard surface. They picked him up and started to carry him to ambulance. When they were passing Jeff, the driver grabbed hold of his shirt. Jeff looked down in alarm.
"Don't open the trailer." the man hissed, his voice barely a whisper. "If you let it out, you'll be sorry." The medics loosened his grip on Jeff and quickly loaded him into the ambulance. Seconds later it sped off.
"Officer Harris," a young, dark-haired rookie cop said, "There's something here you should see."
Jeff turned to face him. "Yes?"
They walked around behind the trailer of the semi. The large doors at the rear of the trailer were open; it was completely empty.
"I wonder why he said not to open the trailer," Jeff said, examining the bare interior. Then he noticed deep scratches in the solid steel.
"What could scratch steel that deeply?" the rookie cop asked, feeling one of the scratches.
"I'm not sure this is steel," Jeff said, looking closely. " It seems to be some other alloy, probably stronger. See how thick the walls are," he continued, holding up his hands about a foot apart, "This is no run-of-the-mill trailer."
The rookie looked confused. "What would he be transporting that would need walls that thick, nuclear waste?"
"I doubt it," Jeff answered, shining his flashlight inside, "That looks like a pile of dung in the back."
"What kind of animal could leave a scratch in this metal, break open the back door of the trailer and match the description of a flying giant lizard?" The rookie asked, "Sounds to me like a drago --"
"I'll be a monkey's uncle," Jeff said, cutting him off, "you are thick, boy! Now climb back in there and collect some of that 'evidence' in the back and have it sent to the lab."
The rookie curled his nose and recoiled in disgust. "It's a pile of poop, what more can it tell us?" He asked, revolted.
"A whole lot." Jeff answered, turning and walking back toward his squad car.
That's for later, he thought, right now I've got a jelly donut to answer to.
* * *
"Is this some kind of prank, Jeff?" The lab technician spoke into the phone. "Because if it is, I'm not laughing."
"No joke, Judy," Jeff said, his legs propped up on his desk, late that same morning, "What'd ya find?"
"A little of everything, actually..." Judy paused, trying to be sure it wasn't a joke, then she continued. "It is impossible for one animal to eat this many different things."
"What things?" Jeff asked, twirling a pen in his fingers.
"Well, it's hard to be sure, but, it looks like two cows, four cats, a few odd loaves of bread, and at least one person." Judy said, letting that last item sink in.
Jeff sat up in his chair, sliding his feet off his desk. "Pardon?" he said, starting to feel a little sick.
"It's tough to tell, Jeff, it's all chewed and processed. Could be just one person, could be a couple," Judy answered, hearing the concern in his voice. "What laid those droppings, Jeff?"
"I'll have to get back to you, Judy." Jeff mumbled into the phone, and hung up. He sat at his desk, gazing out his office door where the rookie cop had been eavesdropping.
"What'd she say?" The rookie asked, clearly curious.
Jeff just shook his head.
"It's a dragon, isn't it?" The rookie asked, now excited.
"Might be," Jeff said, sipping from his coffee, "it just might be."
Jeff's phone rang.
"Madceno County Sheriff's Office, Lieutenant Jeff Harris speaking." Jeff said.
Jeff waited, listening to the caller.
"Really?" Jeff said, skeptically.
He listened for a few more minutes, pausing to give a reply occasionally.
"Fine," He said, after a few minutes, "We'll do what we can."
Jeff got up and left his office, the rookie cop fell in step beside him.
"So," the rookie said, "where are we going?"
"We?" Jeff asked. "Isn't your shift over?"
"Well yeah, sorta, but I'd like to see how this all pans out though," the rookie said.
Jeff smiled, "I remember when the job was everything to me, too. We're going to the library, Dean.
"That was the department of defense, by the way," Jeff said, darkly. "They were the ones transporting a dragon across the states. Apparently they found it in Canada and were taking it for study at a secret lab in Utah. That explains why the driver had no ID or papers with him. We are to do our best to stabilize the situation, until they arrive."
"When do they arrive?" Dean asked.
"48 hours, at the soonest." Jeff said.
* * *
The two police officers left the police station, waded through the pedestrian traffic and crossed the street where the library was located. They came to a quick stop at the top of the steps.
"Did you hear that?" Dean asked.
"What?" Jeff questioned.
"Unless I'm mistaken," Dean paused, "That was a screa --"
Dean was cut off by a chorus of screams, as the street behind them was engulfed in panic. A large distinct shadow crossed the street. Neither of the men had to look up, they could tell quite well what it was from the shadow.
"It's the dragon!" Dean exclaimed, over the sounds of chaos.
"Let's get indoors!" Jeff said, stepping up to the door.
The large door to the San Lupe Public Library creaked as it swung wide, The two officers bolted inside, and stepped right up to the counter where a wrinkled old woman was stamping books feverishly, oblivious to the situation outside.
"Excuse me, Miss," Jeff said, as the librarian ignored him.
A full five seconds elapsed before the reply came. "How can I help you, dears," she said, with a hard Scottish accent, never looking up from her books, and still stamping at an incredible rate for an old woman.
"We're looking for a book on dragons," Dean said, feeling rather foolish, as there was a real live dragon just feet away.
"Dragons," she said, stopping mid stamp, putting down the books and her stamp, still wet with ink. "What's the sudden interest in dragons?" She looked up, thin wire glasses perched on her crooked nose. "I've had a dozen people come in today, asking about dragons." She continued, looking them up and down, "And now the police are here, wanting to know about dragons."
"What can you tell us about them?" Jeff asked, feeling a little unsettled by the woman's hard gaze.
"Dragons are very open to interpretation," she said. "The Chinese see them as a symbol of good fortune, magical creatures who are older than time. The Bible uses the dragon as a symbol to represent all evil." The old woman smiled. "I think they are real, live animals. Forced to extinction by man, hunted and killed for the destruction that they caused. They are victims of their own bad reputation."
"How do you kill a dragon?" Dean asked, bemused by the woman's fascination with dragons.
"Some believe dragons were intelligent," she said. "They said dragons could speak and understand language. But the popular view is that they were merely myth." The old woman looked down, and picking up her stamp, continued her stamping of the books.
"You didn't answer the question." Jeff said, "How do you kill a dragon?"
The woman stopped and put down the stamp, she stared down at the floor.
"Only a dragonslayer can kill a dragon." She looked up at Jeff, "Are you a dragon-slayer?"
Jeff thought a moment. "You tell me," Jeff asked. "Am I?"
The old woman smiled, her wrinkled skin lifting. "A dragonslayer is virtuous, kind, gentle, courageous -- and most importantly -- fearless in the face of all danger. A dragon will eat a man, but will fly a thousand miles to escape a dragonslayer."
"Well," Dean asked, "where do we find one?"
The old woman just smiled and looked at Jeff.
"Thanks for your time," Jeff said, giving a little nod and walking to the door. He paused at the doorway. "Miss," Jeff asked, pointing to a display above the doorway, "Do you mind if I borrow this display?"
"This is a library," the woman said, never looking up from her books, "borrow anything you like, as long as you return it promptly."
Jeff quickly slid over a chair. Stepping on it, he gently eased down the antique exhibit, and removed the long sword and small bronze shield from the glass case.
"Officer Harris?" Dean said, clearly confused. "What are you going to do?"
Jeff slid the sword out of its protective sheath and eyed it carefully for straightness, he then slid it back in. "I think that's rather obvious, don't you?" Jeff said, now strapping the bronze shield to his arm. "I'm going to slay a dragon."
"We have guns, Jeff!" Dean sputtered. "Besides, are you crazy, it's a freakin' dragon!"
"You can't kill a dragon with a gun," Jeff said, as if the fact was obvious, "And, no, I'm not crazy, I'm a dragonslayer."
"A dragonslayer?" Dean said, "You're an overweight cop, a nobody, you investigate traffic accidents."
Jeff ignored him and, walked outside the library, sword in his right hand, shield strapped to his left.
The dragon sat at the bottom of the library steps, its red scales reflecting the noon light. The beast was the size of a greyhound bus, easily -- all four legs had huge feet and massive talons that alone where the size of a man's lower leg. Its long head resembled a cross between a snake and a dog, with giant fangs creeping down its massive jaws.
Jeff felt a gentle breeze as the animal inhaled and exhaled in his direction. A moment later a low rumble began, a growl so deep that any sane man would wet his pants.
Jeff stood tall and resolute as he faced down his foe.
"Foul beast!" Jeff cried loudly, "return to where thou comest from, or I shall impale your hideous carcass in the city streets."
The look on Dean's face was one of awe and respect. He peered through the library door from behind a stack of books.
The dragon's eyes narrowed as Jeff spoke, as though he understood his words. The dragon's throat bulged and Jeff quickly squatted down and held up his shield. Not a second later he was engulfed in flame. The blazing stream of fire lasted fifteen seconds, wherein Jeff's arm was burnt from the hot shield and his eyebrows were singed off. The sound of the fire was deafening, as it attacked the ancient bronze shield. When the fire finally quit, it took Jeff a second to stand.
"You have been warned," Jeff shouted, throwing the sheath off his long sword. "Now you will die!"
With that, Jeff charged the beast. Leaping down the steps he took a valiant swing, slashing through the dragon's thick skin. The beast gave a roar of pain, lifting his giant claw and directing an angry blow at Jeff.
Jeff ducked, rolling behind a minivan. He glanced down to his blade, now streaked with dark red blood. Jeff reeled around quickly as the dragon tossed aside the minivan as if it were a matchbox car. Then it lunged forward, jaws wide. It was trying to eat him whole!
Jeff quickly slashed upward with the sword, leaving a deep gash in its snout. He quickly backed away from the angry animal. It screamed in rage.
As Jeff backed away, his heel caught the curb and he tumbled to the ground, landing square on his back and dropping the sword, seeing it slide down into a storm drain. He scrambled franticly, trying to catch it before it fell, but to no avail. His sword was gone, and he was doomed.
The dragon paused over Jeff, realizing how easy his prey now was. An evil smile seemed to form on its face.
"Smile not, evil villain!" a voice boomed from the library steps, where Dean now stood, gun drawn, "Victory is not yet yours."
He carefully aimed at the dragon. "I was told that dragons cannot be killed with a gun," he said. "A theory I intend to test. Thoroughly."
The dragon sneered, and jumped over Jeff, his interest drawn to Dean.
Dean broke into a run, down the library steps toward the dragon, firing shots all the while. Small red dots appeared on the dragon where the bullets entered.
Jeff reached down into the storm drain and reacquired his sword.
By the time Dean reached the bottom of the steps, his gun was empty, and the dragon was still very much alive. It tilted its head sideways, preparing to eat Dean for his bravado. Then it paused. The dragon let out a pained scream and twisted about, finally rolling to the ground where it continued to writhe about.
Kneeling where the dragon had stood just moments ago was Jeff. The sword, his arms, and most of his body were covered in dragon's blood.
"You stabbed it from underneath!" Dean exclaimed. "Awesome."
"A dragon's only weakness," a weak voice murmured from behind Dean.
The old librarian leaned in the doorway. "Good work boys," she said, smiling wide.
"Why didn't you tell us about the dragon's weak underbelly?" Dean asked, "We could have been killed."
The old woman kept on smiling, "Because," she said, "who am I to tell a dragonslayer how to slay a dragon?"
Originally appeared 2004-01-17.