AN: I hope everyone is ready for a ride!

CHAPTER TWO

Griffin leered down at his partner lying on the ground beneath the creature. It seemed that Eli had not only managed to capture the thing, but also knocked himself out in the process. Jones, their thick bearded boss, grunted down at the pair as he tried to catch his breath.

The man was bulky, but only the fool assumed that bulk came from fat. Griffin had seen Jones lift things no man should be able to lift. Moreover, to make matters surrounding the man more mysterious, no one knew just how old he was or where he learned some of his…darker talents.

Griffin's heart was pounding in his chest from the chase. He had no idea how Jones had seen the creature in the dark, but when they were close enough to see the sheen of green reflecting in the streetlights, he had been astonished.

If they got their hands on a creature like this, T. H. Jones' Traveling Wonders, their caravan of performers, would become the most well renowned show in the world! Everyone would pay to see the freak.

A stiff smile tugged at the corners of his mouth, his muscles too tired to let him enjoy the feeling of triumph for too long. Eventually, they had caught the damn thing. He had never run so hard in his life, the sharp pain in his side agreed with him.

Jones rolled his shoulders and glared down. "Eli. Get up boy, before someone wonders what's goin' on." He nudged the unconscious man with the toe of his boot. "Eli! Get up!"

The man on the ground groaned, grabbing his head. His eyes fluttered open and he groaned again. "What happened?" he growled out, closing his eyes once more.

Griffin snorted. "You got knocked out."

Eli frowned as he tried to sit up. When he felt the resistance of the unconscious being still lying half on him, his eyes shot open. "Bloody hell!" he yelled, shoving the creature off, scrambling to his feet. "Is that…?"

Griffin enjoyed the rare sight of the man who always seemed to have the upper hand, now sputtering like a fool.

Jones clapped a large hand on Eli's back. "I'm proud of you son. Without you, we couldn'ah caught it."

Griffin's good mood evaporated as quickly as it had come. He had been running just as much as Eli had and Jones had no praise for him. He shoved the thoughts aside, bottling his anger as he got his first good look at the creature.

He frowned down at the dark skinned beast. It was wearing strange clothing. It almost looked to be a…female. It had a similar form to that of a human, but the strange dark skin pigment along with its elongated ears, let him know this was unlike anything he'd ever seen before.

Ignoring the weariness of his muscles, he crouched to study it while the other two argued about how to best transport it back to camp without being seen. She…if that was an appropriate term for it, was wearing some form of dress, but the slits in it were too high to be anything made in this city. Perhaps it was some sort of tribal outfit?

The cloth was a deep purple, bringing out the darkness of her skin. Her dark hair was braided and tied back into an impossible knot. Two eyes, just like a human, tiny nose and full lips, a few shades lighter than her skin.

From what he could see, she had two arms that ended in four-fingered hands, two legs and…a tail! His eyes widened as he took in the strange addition to this human-like body. The slender tail ended in a little tuft of hair, the same color as was on her head. There was another slit in her dress to allow the tail to come through.

Wherever it had come from, it seemed as though there was some sort of civility, she was dressed after all. Her outfit differed from the stories from Africa that had drifted through towns about women who wore nothing to hide themselves.

Yes, she would make them all rich beyond their wildest dreams.

Bracing his hand against his leg, he stood back up from his perusal and faced the men arguing. A light in an apartment not too far away turned on and paranoia swept over him. He couldn't help but feel the vulnerability of their exposed location in the mouth of the alley with an unconscious creature at their feet.

"We should go before someone see's us," he whispered, dusting off his pants; they were not fancy by any means. In fact, all of his clothing was hand-me-downs. But not for long.

Normally, he wouldn't intervene, but he had an uneasy feeling about the whole thing. "What if she wasn't alone?"

Jones turned his cold brown eyes to Griffin, ready to rip a stripe into him for interrupting when Eli pointed to the apartment light that was on. "Griff's right. We should go."

Interruption forgotten, Jones peered down at the beast, his brows lifting. "Ya say it's a female? Interestin'... Alright, let's move her."

The three men stooped around, trying to figure out how to carry her.

"Griffin, ya carry her."

Griffin bristled. He was always left to do the grunt work. He worked the hardest out of all three men, and what did he have to show for it? Did he own a fantastic traveling show? No. Did he live in a horse drawn trailer, like Jones? No, he had to pitch a tent and share it with six other men. "She...could carry disease."

Jones' lip curled, his anger charging the air. Before he could open his mouth to yell at Griffin, Eli growled with annoyance and scooped her up, swaying for a moment under the weight and from his head injury.

"Give me your jacket," he ordered Griffin.

Surprise was written on Griffin's face. Sure, he was an idiot to start an argument with the boss, but he had already known he would end up carrying her. Eventually, he always ended up doing whatever was demanded of him. Griffin may have looked the part of a ruffian with the puckered white scar over his blind left eye, but here he was, taking orders.

Before Eli could change his mind, Griffin pulled off his Jacket, shuddering in the chill of night. Fall wasn't too far off.

"Now cover her," Eli ordered. Griffin did as he said, tucking the long jacket around the creature. In the dark, it almost seemed that Eli was carrying a sleeping woman.

The three stood in silence for a moment, eyes on the creature.

Eli cleared his throat, breaking the trance. "Let's move before it wakes up."

Immediately, they started walking back through the alley, moving as if they belonged.

Griffin couldn't help glancing at the creature every minute or so. What would happen when she woke up? Would she attack them? Considering that she had run from them instead of stand and fight led him to believe that perhaps she wasn't strong.

These and many more thoughts were bouncing through his mind as they made their way to the park. Their camp wasn't too far away.

The only reason Jones had seen the creature in the first place was because he'd broken away from the group to relieve himself in the forest. He'd seen something moving in the shadows and his curiosity spurred him forward. He'd barely done up his pants as he'd run back to camp to grab help.

The three men had tracked her through the trees. They had almost grabbed her when she'd been startled and ran for the buildings.

Now that they had her, it was almost fantastical that something such as her truly existed.

Eli shifted her in his arms, getting a better grip, causing the jacket to slip. He cursed as her arm fell limply, peeking from the coat. Griffin, now shaken from his thoughts, rushed forward to cover her back up.

They were walking through the park. Eli froze, his eyes peering over Griffin's shoulder.

Griffin quickly tucked her back in, using the jacket so he wouldn't touch her with his hands, then turned.

An elderly couple was watching them from a bench not too far away from them. He must have been so lost in his thought that he hadn't seen them.

The elderly man had a hand on his wife's arm, as if ready to protect her, even though he was obviously no match for the three men.

At closer inspection, Griffin realized that it was the same couple they had run past while chasing the creature. He cursed silently, trying quickly to think of something to say. Thankfully, Jones opened his mouth. "Evenin' folks," he said, touching his forehead as if touching the brim of a hat. "Nice weather."

The elderly couple said nothing, their eyes locked on the girl under the Jacket.

Jones chuckled, though only someone who knew him well could tell that there was no mirth in his laughter. "Poor girl fell and hit her head. Her mama's worried sick," he offered as explanation.

Griffin couldn't help but notice all the flaws in Jones' explanation. He hoped the couple wouldn't think anything of it. If the police were called to investigate their camp, they might find a few things…not on the up and up.

The elderly man narrowed his eyes, probably realizing his story didn't match up. Then the woman at his side spoke. "Be sure she gets rest when you get her home."

As if that were his cue to leave, Jones nodded, again touching his imaginary hat before walking away.

Eli was quick to take his father's lead. Griffin darted after them, wiping his clammy palms on his pant legs. He hadn't realized how nervous the situation had made him until that moment. Even though they had passed that obstacle, he didn't breathe easy until they made it to the trees and were hidden behind the cover of trees.

They couldn't afford to be caught, especially not with this. It was as if the two men walking in front of him also realized the importance of secrecy. Of course they did! He chided his thoughts. They have more to lose than the rest of us. They started this troupe.

They walked for a while in silence. Eli kept a hard gaze on the girl, glaring at her even. He did not envy the creature the treatment it would receive when it woke up. Was there a beating to come? Who could be sure?

After walking for a few more minutes, the campfire could be seen flickering through the darkness. It amazed Griffin to think that he'd been with the caravan for almost seven years now. The group was made up of mostly of misfits and outcasts.

Jones had started the group with only four men and his son. They were considered a freak show of sorts. Everyone did his or her part: entertaining, setting up, and tearing down.

As the years went on, the acts became more spectacular. The group had no choice but to grow and better themselves. It was only too easy for a show such as theirs to die out.

Griffin himself was the fire-breathing, death defying sword-swallowing act. He laughed most days how a simple trick and well placed sword could make the crowd certain that he was a man with organs of steel.

Jones did an amazing job at introducing his act, claiming Griffin had fallen victim to a horrible animal attack. Found bleeding and dying in the woods, a scientist found him and put him back together, using machine parts and steel rather than organs from humans.

The nasty scar over Griffins left eye over the milky blindness of his eye and down over his cheek made none question his story.

The truth of the story was, when he was young, he was playing in the rafters of his families barn. One misplaced step sent him sailing head over feet into the blow, breaking his arm, three ribs and losing sight in his left eye.

Griffin frowned to himself, banishing the memory. He had no life back at the family farm. This was his home, he thought as he peered with his good eye at the campgrounds as they cleared the trees.

Small tents were pitched in random fashion around the campfire. The horse drawn trailer that was Jones' was stationed off to the side, as were the other long wagon trailers they used to transport their show from town to town.

If one were to keep walking straight through the camp and into the other side of the trees, for a few minute, one would walk into the very show site. A large tent, varying in color, dominated the center of the field, while smaller booths and tents surrounded it. The site wasn't large, but what the show lacked in grandiosity, it made up for in talent.

Soon they would be able to purchase new things, he thought as he glanced at the unconscious creature.

"Take her around back to the third trailer," Jones ordered as he signaled for both men to do his bidding as he walked into camp, distracting the other troupe members, most likely he would keep them away until he was ready to tell them.

Griffin followed Eli, who was still carrying the creature. They walked back into the trees and circled the camp, coming upon the trailers. The first housed tools and food, later to be filled with the collapsed tents. The second trailer housed the few animals in their show. The third was used as more storage, which was almost entirely empty at this moment.

They reached it and paused. Eli turned his gaze to Griffin, raising a brow expectantly.

He lifted the latch, having a slight struggle with the jammed hook. The last rains must have made the wood swell. His muscles bulged as he lifted then the latch sprang up; the momentum and pressure of his hand caused the wood to slice open his palm. He yelled a string of profanities as he clutched his hand to his chest.

Eli growled beside him. "Shut your trap! Do you want to alert the whole camp that we're here?" he asked. "Now open the door before it wakes up!"

Griffin clutched his hand, biting the inside of his cheek to keep from grunting out in pain. With a deep breath, he slid the latch the rest of the way open with his good arm, pulling open the heavy door.

Eli shoved past him, kicking a bucket out of the way and trying to see his way into the darkness. "Open the door more, I can't see a thing."

Griffin tugged the door, wincing as he bumped his hand, which was now bleeding onto the soft ground outside of the trailer. He needed to bind the wound quickly or risk infection.

He watched Eli's form disappear into the dark. A crash, a curse, a shifting and then he came back into view, his arms empty.

Without a word, he closed the door and slid the lock, which moved easily now, back into place. "I'll take the first watch," he said, picking up the bucket he'd kicked out of the way and flipping it over to create a seat. He glanced at Griffins hand and grunted. "Get that cleaned up."

Griffin nodded, sucking in a breath, trying to calm his sudden anger. He'd like to think of Eli as a friend, but lately he'd been a real ass. Their friendship had always been a tense one, more out of necessity than companionship. The only reason Griffin hung around was because he was waiting for his big break, and the easiest way to get that was through the boss and his son. They were the ones with connections and influence and through them he had made a few connections of his own.

Eli may have suspected him using them, but he had never made his thoughts known. He let Griffin come around because he was an extra set of hands…the set of hands that usually did the dirty work. That, and sometimes he would claim a brilliant idea that had only just come out of Griffin's mouth days before as his own idea.

A frown marred Griffins already marred face. He was just buying his time here. Someday, he would get what he deserved, all that he deserved. His days of shoveling animal droppings were at an end. He would see to it, one way or another.

AN: Let me know what you think.