So many readers asked for the sequel to the first Animal Control story that I couldn't disappoint them. See what feedback gives you? :-P

Disclaimer: I make no money from this. Jim and Blair aren't mine.

Animal Control II
Lila Kulp

Blair smiled reassuringly and held the doors as Mrs. Engled entered the elevator. She moved to the farthest point away from the grad student and kept a wary eye on him at all times. The cat in her arms opened one eye, judged the other human as nothing to worry about, and closed it again. Normally the personable young man would have tried to strike up a conversation, even for the brief trip between floors, but Mrs. Engled had always kept her distance from her neighbors and Blair usually gave her space.

The elevator doors closed and the car began to ascend as expected. Neither of the occupants thought twice about their current situation, until an ominous clunk preceded the car's jerky halt and an end to all upward motion.

Blair gave the buttons a few fruitless stabs and sighed in defeat. It was not unusual for the old elevator to get stuck between floors. The various residents had gotten used to either waiting to be rescued or simply avoided the temperamental lift entirely. "Well it looks like we're stuck for a while," Blair said as he sat on the floor and prepared to wait.

Mrs. Engled looked at Blair, then the door, and back at Blair again. "Can't you get the doors open?" she asked meekly.

Jim and Blair, along with Greg Holt had become an unofficial search and rescue team whenever someone got trapped inside. The doors could normally be forced open, but the problem was that it took two people and Blair didn't think Mrs. Engled would be much help in wrestling the stubborn doors. He shook his head, "Not by myself, sorry."

Seeing that his fellow passenger was beginning to look worried, Blair continued, "Jim should be home soon and when he doesn't find me in the loft he'll figure out what happened." Actually he'll hear my slightly accelerated heart rate between floors, Blair thought to himself as he remembered Galileo.

The tension in Mrs. Engled's face didn't ease any. If anything she became more agitated and tightened her hold on the cat in her arms.

"Mrs. Engled, are you alright?" Blair asked. He stood up and moved towards her, ready to offer assistance if needed.

The elderly woman tried to step away from the younger man and found she was already against the wall. Fear began to fill her eyes. "You just keep that beast away from me," she demanded.

Blair froze in confusion, "Beast? What beast?"

"That wolf, that's what beast," she replied and pointed to a spot just to Blair's left.

He looked down and, sure enough, his spirit guide was patiently sitting beside him. The gray wolf looked up and gave the canine version of a shrug. Blair passed his hands through his hair, took a deep breath, and tried to think of a way to explain spirit guides to his elderly neighbor.

He moved back to his side of the elevator hoping that Mrs. Engled would relax. Leaning against his side of the elevator with his hand resting on the wolf's head, Blair began to expound on the existence and meaning of spirit guides.

"You know that I'm an anthropologist, right?" Blair began.

Mrs. Engled nodded cautiously.

"Well, anthropologists study other cultures, their ways, customs, and beliefs. Many cultures believe that the spirit world interacts with ours on a regular basis. They believe that if we can learn to interact with the spirit world that we can learn wisdom and achieve a greater balance with our own world."

Blair began absently scratching the wolf behind the ears as he warmed up to his subject. "One of the ways that we interact with the spirit world is with spirit animals. Each person has his or her own unique spirit animal or guide. Each person's animal guide is based on who that person is and what their personality is like. For example, the wolf is my spirit animal," Blair indicated the gray wolf currently licking his hand, "and Jim's is the panther."

Totally engrossed in his subject, Blair missed the disbelieving look on the face of his audience. "Not everyone can tap into their own spirit guides. They either can't see them or don't know how to take advantage of what they have to offer. The fact that you can see Jim's and my spirit guides is amazing. It's not always easy to see your own, but to see other people's is normally something that only shamans or priestesses would be able to do."

"My son put you up to this didn't he? He thinks I'm crazy. He keeps telling me that they aren't real, that they're imaginary." Mrs. Engled began shaking a finger in Blair's direction. "Well, let me tell you this, Mr. Anthropologist, I know what I see and that wolf of yours and your roommate's panther are real." She gave a self-satisfied hmph to emphasize her point. "Next thing you'll be telling me that Hobbes here isn't real either."

Hobbes opened the one eye again and gave Blair a closer inspection before closing it again and resuming his purring.

"It's understandable that your son wouldn't see spirit animals, but why would he say that Hobbs is..." Blair's eyes grew wide as comprehension was achieved. "Hobbes is your spirit guide! Wow, this is so great. You can see our spirit guides and we can see yours."

Seeing that Blair wasn't going to accuse her of being insane, or possibly recognizing a fellow candidate for the funny farm, Mrs. Engled relaxed and allowed Blair to regal her with his knowledge of spirit guides and the spirit world. She was overjoyed that someone was actually explaining to her why she kept seeing strange animals, and readily asked questions.

He explained how spirit guides fulfilled a variety of roles depending on the person's personality and needs. Sometimes they are signs that the person must interpret. Other times they are simply companions. He explained about the characteristics of the various animals; the strength of Jim's panther, the wisdom of Blair's wolf, and the independence of Mrs. Engled's cat.

The elevator's occupants were so engrossed in their discussion that they were startled by a sudden knock on the door accompanied by shouting, "Sandburg, are you in there?"

Blair took a couple of deep breaths to calm his now pounding heart and then shouted back, "No, Jim, I'm sitting in the loft wondering where the heck my roommate is and when he'll get home because dinner is getting cold. Now get us out of here."

The resulting laughter could easily be heard through the elevator doors. Then there were some muffled sounds as Jim and someone else sorted out the rescue operation then the doors began to part slowly. Blair joined the effort as soon as the gap was large enough for his fingers to fit.

Blair braced himself and held the door as Mrs. Engled exited the elevator. Once she was safely on the nearest floor and he was sure that the doors would not slip closed, he grabbed his backpack and hopped out of the elevator.

"You all right, Chief?" Jim asked, able to scan his guide, now that he wasn't holding the doors open.

Blair ignored the sensory scan, he knew that he couldn't prevent it even if he tried. "Yeah, I'm fine. Actually Mrs. Engled and I had a chance to have 'that talk'. You know, the one about the irit-spay uide-gays?"

It took a moment for Jim to decypher what Blair was saying. His eyes grew wide as he suddenly understood. "Ooohh, you mean about the spirit guides?" Jim whispered back, trying not to attract the attention of the other people near by.

Blair just nodded as he watched Mrs. Engled and the man who was obviously her son.

"Mom are you okay? When you didn't answer your phone, I came right over. You had me so worried." Her son was giving Jim a run for his money in the Blessed Protector department.

But Mrs. Engled wasn't about to just stand there and idly allow her son to fuss over her. "I'm perfectly fine. There is no need to worry. I keep telling you not to worry about me. I can take care of myself."

The son took a deep breath and got almost all the way to ten, "Mom, lets not..." but he didn't get a chance to say what he was thinking.

"Don't you use that tone of voice with me." Mrs. Engled was shaking her finger again, "I raised you better than that. Now just because I spent an hour in an elevator is no reason to ship me off to the hospital. In fact, I'm better for having spent such quality time with Mr. Sandburg. You could do with a hour or two yourself. Maybe then you'd be able to see Hobbes and quit trying to ship me off to the funny farm."

The younger Engled stared in shock as his mother turned and stormed up the stairs. Without realizing, he moved to stand next to Jim and Blair. "Did I just miss something?"

A wicked smile sprang to Jim's face. He placed an arm around his new friend's shoulders and turned to address his roommate, "Chief, why don't you head upstairs and start dinner while I initiate someone into the Sandburg Zone?"

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