The Sins of the Father

by Amanda Rohrssen

Chapter Two

"It's our first mock mission today; think you can handle it, shrimp?" one of the cadets jeered at J. Gander as they lined up for training.

The goose gave the cadet a dark look and was about to move toward him when Jacob stepped in front of him, facing the taunter.

"He can handle it a hundred times better than any man here, and certainly better than mucus-faced baboons like YOU, McKain," he retaliated. "No offense, Drew," he added hastily to a nearby primate cadet.

"None taken," Drew replied with a shrug.

"He's lucky to have a nursemaid like you, Mallard. It's the only way he's made it this far through training," spat McKain.

Jacob opened his beak, but before he got a word out, the gymnasium door slammed open and in stomped their drill sergeant, Agent Pondrains.

"Look alive, maggots, today we're going to find out what you sacks of scum are made of!" He began pacing up and down the ranks, his jowls sagging in a formidable frown. "We are going up to the national forest. An area has been marked off to set the boundaries. Your mission is to find the hidden flag within those boundaries and return to the starting point without being shot. Anyone who gets shot will lie down immediately. There will be no physical fighting allowed. This drill is about stealth, not strength. Anyone who is seen engaging in physical fighting will be disqualified, and a reprimand for disorderly conduct and disobeying orders will go in your permanent SHUSH file. Anyone going outside of the set boundaries will be immediately disqualified and will have earned themselves a few extra hours afterward with yours truly. Is that understood?"

"Yes Drill Sergeant!" they all shouted in unison.

"Good. Now this mission will be performed in pairs. Choose your partners wisely, as he could be the deciding factor between failure and success. Once you have your partner, I will assign your team a company vehicle to transport you both to the park. Anyone caught making unauthorized stops in their vehicle will not have the opportunity to participate in today's assignment. Understood?"

"Yes Drill Sergeant!"

"Good. Now pair up!"

Murmuring ensued as the cadets dispersed and chose their partners. J. Gander looked up at his mallard friend.



The two avians walked up to Agent Pondrains and checked out a vehicle before heading outside.

"Why do you have to do that?" J. Gander asked somberly as they neared the jeep.

"Do what?" Jacob asked without looking at his friend. He slid into the driver's seat and put the key into the ignition.

"Fight my fights for me," the goose answered.

"What do you mean? McKain? Ah, don't pay attention to him, he's just-"

"Why don't you take your own advice?" he retorted.

"John, I was only trying to help."

"Well don't bother. They all think I'm weak thanks to you."

"That wasn't my intention." Jacob took his eyes off of the road to look at his small companion for a few moments before turning back, a slight frown on his bill. "Fine. Next time you're on your own."

They didn't speak to one another again until they arrived at the enclosed area Agent Pondrains had told them about.

“Mallard! Hooter! You’re late!”

“No, everyone else is just early,” Jacob muttered resentfully under his breath.

“What was that, Mallard?”

“I said, ‘Yes, sir. Sorry, sir,’” he lied through clenched teeth. Normally he could handle Pondrains, but with John mad at him, the drill instructor’s snide remarks were all the more grating.

“That’s what I thought.” Agent Pondrains then turned to address the entire unit, pulling a revolver out of his pocket as he did so. “All right, ladies, this is where we separate the men from the boys! As soon as I pull the trigger, you are to begin the drill. Use whatever means necessary to be the team that brings back that flag, but remember there is to be no physical violence. Each of your weapons contain small paint pellets so we will be able to tell who is smart and who is dead.”

Jacob and McKain passed each other a Look before McKain’s gaze traveled to J. Gander. John swallowed dryly and pretended not to notice.

The gunshot thundered through the air with a cracking boom, jolting everything into motion. Men were scrambling all around Jacob to get into the woods and be the first to the flag. He looked around blindly for John and managed to grab his friend’s army green vest to hold him back while the others charged forward.

“What are you doing?” both John and Pondrains demanded vociferously.

Instead of answering, Jacob looked from side to side, scanning the tree line and waiting for the last of the men to disappear into the woods before finally plunging into the dark shelter of the forest, dragging John behind him. He could barely see his hand in front of his face in the dense foliage as they charged onward; his eyes searched the trees for any sign of either the flag or the other teams. Suddenly he came to a stop behind the next tree and pressed up against it, holding his paint gun up at the ready.

J. Gander joined him a few seconds later, trying to keep his heavy breathing under control. “Wha-?” he began, but Jacob silenced him. John scowled and started to move out from behind the shield of the tree trunk when Jacob snatched his collar and yanked him backward just as a paint pellet whizzed by the gander’s face. John blinked in surprise, but before he could grab his own gun to retaliate, Jacob was leaping over him and aiming around the trunk. Within a split second an angry shout was heard not too far away, and it was evident that Jacob had ousted John’s would-be assassin from the drill.

“This way,” Jacob urged his friend as he hastily made his way into a ditch covered in tall, dense grass.

J. Gander grumbled under his breath as he followed, feeling cheated.

“We’ve gotta keep moving or we’ll be sitting ducks…no pun intended,” Jacob said over his shoulder with a boyish smile as he parted the grass, careful to avoid making any noise to give away their position.

Still sulking, John reluctantly tagged along after his partner. Just once he wanted to be the one who led. He hated the way Jacob patronized him, even if he knew it was unintentional. Everybody else did it, after all.

He tightened his grip on his gun.

Now out of the ditch, they reached a small clearing surrounded by large, thick oaks. Jacob slung his gun around his back and started shimmying up the nearest one. John decided not to do the same and instead stood watch at the bottom.

His gaze penetrating the branches, a triumphant grin surfaced across Jacob's long beak as his eyes lighted on something. "John!" he hissed excitedly, "I see it!"

"See what?" John whispered back irritably.

"The flag!"

Suddenly, a small blast came out of the brush and something whizzed just past John's ear that made the little gander jerk with surprise.

Loud, raunchy laughter erupted from the bushes and out strode McKain, a sneer on his pinched, arrogant face. John felt the heat rise to his face.

"What's the matter, shrimp? Afraid? Why don't you give it up and leave academy training to the REAL men?" He laughed again, a sound that closely resembled hollow metal barrels being dragged over concrete.

John gripped his gun so tightly, his knuckles ached. He didn’t even bother to fight down the anger that was welling up inside. He'd put up with bullies like McKain all his life, and it was time to forget formality, forget consequences, forget fear. It was time to fight back.

With a hideous bellow of rage, J. Gander threw down his weapon and charged at McKain, slamming him into the dirt and pummeling him over and over with his small but rock-hard fists.

Jacob leapt out of the tree and stood just behind his friend, his expression mirroring those of the other trainees as they gathered around. Their mouths hung open, echoing the disbelief in their eyes. They were all completely shocked. John Hooter had always been so quiet, so calm, so reserved, and so by-the-book. The man relentlessly felling McKain now had eyes that burned with scorn, a bill that was twisted into a contemptuous snarl, and an air of uncontrolled, absolute madness. And while Jacob had wanted to invervene immediately, he remembered his friend's biting request to let him fight his own battles and stayed back.

It wasn't until blood from McKain's broken nose smeared all over John's hands that Jacob finally stepped in.

"That's enough, John!" he said, shoving the still-swinging gander off of his victim.

John stumbled away a few feet, his lungs heaving, before leaning against the trunk of a tree. His entire body was pale and trembling, and he watched McKain bitterly through half-lidded eyes.

"Recruits!" Pondrains' voice barked in the distance. "What is going on back there?"

Quickly, Jacob bent over the now unconscious McKain, his eyes giving him a once-over, then threw his canteen at John's feet.

"Wash your hands!" he hissed urgently before wiping his own hands against McKain's bleeding nose and mouth, streaking the blood over his knuckles to match John's.

"No! Mallard, are you crazy? You can't cover for him!" Nelson whispered, looking warily over his shoulder toward where Pondrains' voice had come from. "Pondrains will have you on a silver platter!"

Jacob gave Nelson a hard glare until the bulldog gave in. All of the other trainees wore expressions of chagrin at their fellow recruit's decision. They all respected Jacob, and it was because of that respect that no one else argued with him.

John glanced down at the canteen, then up at Jacob.

"Do it!" Jacob commanded pleadingly.

As if in a daze, John's eyes traveled slowly back to the canteen. He plucked it from the ground and shakily did as he was told, the clear water cleansing his hands of all traces of McKain's blood.

At that moment, footsteps drew closer, pounding against the dirt, and out of the thicket stormed Pondrains, his face ruddy and imperious.

"What's going on here?" he demanded, putting his hands on his hips.

No one spoke. John shrank back behind two of the others. Jacob stood up slowly, a resigned expression on his face as the drill sergeant looked from him to McKain's still form.

"You..." Pondrains managed through his rising fury.

"He kept trying to pick a fight with me, sir," Jacob said in a somber, calm tone. "But it looks like I got the last word."

Pondrains' head jerked suddenly toward the nearest recruit. "Call a medic!"

The recruit nearly jumped out of his skin at the ferocity in Pondrains' voice, but he recovered quickly and saluted before taking off through the foliage.

"You," Pondrains began again, looking at Jacob like a lion about to eat a steak, "come with me."

As the two silently departed the clearing, there was not a single trainee who did not miss the opportunity to glower malevolently at J. Gander.


There was a knock at the laboratory door before it opened. This time when J. Gander entered the room, Jacob was immersed in a stack of paperwork, which was unusually large. The rest of the recruits had been able to leave the class nearly three hours prior.

Jacob did not look up as his friend made his way toward him. When J. Gander paused wordlessly beside him, he allowed his eyes to flit toward the clock on the wall rather than look at the solemn-faced gander. It was ten minutes to nine.

After what seemed like eons, John cleared his throat and spoke haltingly. “Do you need any help with that?”

“No,” Jacob responded curtly, continuing to focus all of his attention on his work.

J. Gander winced as if Jacob had reprimanded him. It was a few moments more before he ventured to speak again.

“Look, Jacob…what you did back there-"

“Just forget about it, all right?”

The commanding calm in his friend’s voice made J. Gander squirm slightly with guilt.

“It isn’t right. It should be me doing this,” he insisted weakly.

“Let it go, John,” Jacob said firmly toward the paperwork just inches away from his bill. “It’s my work, and I have to have it done in ten minutes.”

“But your record-"

“I don’t care about my goddamn record,” Jacob said quietly. “I don’t intend on this being my only demerit, even if it really isn’t mine to begin with.” He took a deep breath, and let his body finally relax. “There are too many rules here, anyway. How can they expect anyone NOT to break them? When I’m an agent, things’ll be done a little differently whether they like it or not,” he boasted with a smirk, his glittering black eyes finding John’s at last.

If you become an agent,” J. Gander corrected softly.

They fell silent again.

The clock ticked relentlessly on the wall, reminding Jacob of his deadline. He eyed it wearily and turned once more to the heaping pile of paperwork.

“Why did you do it?” John’s voice rose meekly.

“What do you mean ‘why did I do it?’” Jacob repeated, his pencil scratching over the paper hurriedly. “You’re my best friend. I wasn’t about to let McKain get you thrown out of the academy.”

“It wasn’t McKain’s fault, though. I shouldn’t have overreacted.”

“He’d been asking for it for months,” replied Jacob coolly. “Don’t worry about it.”

“But what if you’d been-"

“Thrown out? Pondrains wouldn’t do that to me no matter how much he threatens it. I’m too good to let go, and he knows it.”

“And what about me…?” John said slowly. “I’m no good out there in the field, Jacob. I know it, you know it, the others know it, the sergeant knows it…You should have let me take the blame.”

“Knock it off,” said Jacob firmly as he stood up, his chair scraping unwillingly across the tile flooring. His eyes sparked like burning coals. “Even if you weren’t meant to be out there, that doesn’t mean you wouldn’t make a damn good agent. And anyone who says otherwise will answer to me.”

“But that’s just it, Jacob. How many times will you have to step in for me? I have to fight my own battles, stand my own ground. I don’t want to watch you throw your life away because of me.”

“And you call breaking McKain’s nose standing your ground?” Jacob retorted placidly with an unreadable expression.


“Look, you’re going to graduate top of the class, and you’re going to be my partner. Just like we planned, okay? Nothing’s gonna change that, even if I have to do a hundred thousand pages of paperwork.” Jacob gathered up his work and tapped the bottom of the pile against the worktable’s black top so that all of the pages fell into place in a neat cube. As he turned to leave, he passed a boyish smirk over his shoulder. “Just keep an eye on that temper of yours. I don’t know how much longer my hand can hold out.”


Straightening his bowtie and spritzing his bill with breath spray, Jacob pushed open the mahogany double doors of the Oriental Dragon and strolled inside, the thick carpet feeling tantalizingly supple beneath his expensive black designer shoes. Scattered around the many-tiered ceiling hung exquisite oriental lanterns patterned in painstakingly detailed iron filigree, long red tassels hanging lazily from their edges like wisps of moss on a willow tree. It was now nearing ten o’clock.

“I was beginning to think that you were not coming,” a sultry voice with a Russian accent crooned to him above the low murmur of the restaurant.

Without missing a beat, Jacob bent and kissed the dark woman’s delicate hand.

“I thought you’d enjoy the suspense.”

“Indeed,” she returned. She had the look of a carefully carved iron statue, her black feathers shining dully in the pallid light. She was one of his favorites. Her expression was as unreadable and mysterious as an ancient rune-covered tablet. Maybe that was why Jacob liked her so much.

“In trouble again, are we? I heard what you did for your friend.” A slight flicker dashed across her pale green eyes. She leaned forward and rested her chin languidly on her hands. “It was very…noble.”

Her name was Lolita, and she was training in Special Operations at SHUSH, one of the few organizations at the time to offer such things to women.

Jacob’s face darkened for a split second, then he smiled and began swirling his glass of ice water with his straw. “Let’s talk about something else, shall we? How’s Special Ops? Bannoli treating you all right?”

Lolita rolled her eyes and sat back.

“As much as can be expected from such sexist vermin. Let us try the buffet.” Her mood lightened as suddenly as it had soured. She loved to eat, though her wiry frame suggested otherwise.

Minutes later, Lolita was slow-feeding Jacob egg rolls, caressing the ends of his bill with the fried tip before letting him bite into it.

“I made a film for you,” she purred softly, letting the inviting rings of her irises pour like a cool, refreshing waterfall into the fathomless depths of his black ones. A wave of contentment washed over him. He loved women.

“It involves cherries and a bearskin rug…” she continued lowly, drawing one of her fingers along the underside of his beak.

“I like it already,” he replied in a matching tone. “What’s say we blow this joint and have a look?”

The gentle glow of candlelight blanketed them both in a warm, comforting embrace as they lay underneath the bearskin rug. The projector lay quiet in the corner, and the screen stood watch over them beside the fireplace. Lolita’s supple, smooth figure felt so good against Jacob’s chest as she lay atop him. His fingers tenderly traveled through her long black hair, easily slipping through the thin strands as if they were made of silk. Another perfect evening with another perfect woman.

She had played hard to get at first, making excuses like wanting to focus on her career or that she was simply too busy. So Jacob had persisted in other, more subtle ways. He had found her lack of swooning, and apparent lack of a need for love, challenging, and he knew he couldn’t give up on her until he’d successfully penetrated her defenses and discovered the woman inside of her that she was trying so hard to hide. His determination had paid off, and here was the stony-faced Russian sighing happily in his arms. He was now certain that he was possessed of the ability to make any woman in the world lust after him. It was his silent mission to do just that once he was a full-blown SHUSH agent. He smiled in spite of himself. It was only a matter of time now…the thought was very gratifying.

“Jacob?” Lolita’s lilting voice murmured, bringing Jacob’s daydreaming to an abrupt halt.


He was a little irritated at having been interrupted.

“I think it is time for our relationship to move on to the next level, do you not agree?”

He frowned inwardly. Oh great. The “us” talk. “What do you mean?” he asked aloud, keeping his annoyance to himself.

“We should move in together.”

“What would the neighbors say?” he inquired with false fright. Such a thing was becoming more popular, but was still frowned upon by the society of 1957.

“They would only be jealous that we are so in love,” she crooned, kissing the tip of his chin lightly.

He tensed momentarily, then asked her smoothly, “Hey, what time is it?”

“I do not care,” she whispered gently with the hint of a smile on her flinty features.

“No, I’m serious,” Jacob persisted. “What time is it?”

“I do not know…a quarter to midnight?”

He sat up like a shot, his face white as a bed sheet. Lolita was nearly catapulted from underneath the rug.

“I’ve gotta go!”

“What? Now? But why?” she questioned, her face winding into a suspicious glower.

“I have to be back at SHUSH!” he cried, yanking his trousers over his briefs with a harried expression. “Stuff for Pondrains,” he added as he searched for his shirt.

“Here,” Lolita said coldly, holding out the garment to him. The orange light from the candles danced coyly over her midnight body, giving it a sinister, shape-shifting appearance.

“Thanks,” he said hastily, pecking her on the forehead before plunging his arms into the sleeves and buttoning it up haphazardly. Some of the buttons hadn’t lined up correctly and his shirt sat ridiculously askew on his lanky, muscular body. Lolita didn’t even crack a smile at this comical sight. Instead, she pulled the rug over her naked body and folded her arms with a sullen expression.

“I’ll give you a call as soon as Pondrains gets off my back, okay?” He knelt beside her and rubbed her arm suggestively.

“Sure,” she replied flatly without looking at him.

“Okay,” he said again, then gave her cheek a quick kiss and was gone.

Outside, the rain-sweetened breeze floated through the city streets and caressed his feathers, sending a flutter of rejuvenation through him. It was the feeling of freedom, and Jacob relished it immensely. Whenever any girl he was dating brought up the “us” discussion, he knew the fun had ended, and he always came up with some excuse to leave and then never contact them again. It was better that way. He could move on to his next prospect without having to endure anything beyond the simple pleasures of relationships. To ask more of him was to put a chain around his ankle, and he was nobody’s prisoner.

He was thinking of going home – there was no meeting with the sergeant, it had been the first thing that had come to mind – but then something caught the corner of his eye. It was a bar, but one unlike any he’d seen before. It had genuine saloon-style doors, a wide overhang – it was exactly like something out of a western, and Jacob loved westerns. He had always thought himself something of a lone ranger.

The place looked brand new, and there only seemed to be a few stragglers hanging around, so Jacob shrugged and wandered inside. The night was still young, after all.

And Jacob had a feeling he’d be walking through the doors of The Old Haunt many, many more times.

“What’ll it be, sir?” a young canine with short curly black hair addressed him from behind the counter.

“Scotch on the rocks…and I mean ice,” Jacob replied curtly as he paused to admire the newly refurbished building.

When the light clink of glass on wood met his ears, Jacob made his way to one of the stools and swung a leg around it before seating himself.

“Nice place you got here, Mister…?”

“Collarton. Charlie Collarton.” They shook hands briefly and the bartender smiled in a friendly way. “What brings a man like you to this neck of the woods?”

“A woman,” the duck said flatly, taking a big gulp of the liquor.

“Hoo boy, don’t get me started on women. They ain’t nothin’ but trouble.”

“Don’t I know it. Still, I can never seem to get enough.”

“You wanna talk about it?”

“Not especially.”

“Well that’s good, ‘cause I don’t especially wanna hear about it.”

“Mr. Collarton?”

“Yes, sir?”

“This could be the start of a beautiful friendship.”