Natallia sat curled up in her cozy hollow rock, enjoying the silence of the pet shop. The young albino Rattlesnake loved days like these. All of the quiet had eased her nerves of this morning. The woman who ran the pet shop had tried to pair her with another Western Rattlesnake from a breeder in Las Vegas. Natallia wouldn't have any of it though. The second the light tan male had been placed in her cage, she had made it clear to both him and the pet shop owner that she wanted nothing to do with it. After being placed back in her display cage near the front desk, she had received multiple approvals for rejecting the male from the other reptiles for sale beside her. She preferred a life without males bothering and harassing her. The only males she put up with were the male snakes and lizards in the store. This was more than enough men for Natallia, she didn't need or want another one.
Her lovely silence was suddenly and rudely interrupted by a loud crash and a series of angry shouts from the storage room behind the front desk. There was no one in the store and the door to the room was closed thankfully, but all of the animals heard the noise and they all crowded to the front of their glass or mesh cages to see what was going on. Natallia slithered out from her rock, her bleach white and cream hide flashing in the light of her heat lamp. She rose her upper body into the classic 'S' shape and gave a tired sigh, crystal blue eyes fixed on the storage room door. There were a few loud scuffles and the door opened. The woman who owned the store ran out, across the room and out the front door, followed by a tall man who every animal knew as her husband. Everyone watched intently, and their eyes followed them outside.
He had something big and black in his hand as he chased the woman across the empty street. He stopped, raised the object in his hand and someone on the Reptile section of the store shouted "GUN!" Seconds after that, there was a loud 'BANG!' and the woman dropped to the ground, dead. The Parakeets and Canary's on the opposite side of the store screeched briefly in alarm, and everyone in the room gasped at the sight. Natallia could smell the fear from the others as well as her own. As the husband walked back into the store he picked up the phone and dialed a number. He talked to someone on the other end, but they couldn't under stand him. An African Gray Parrot across the room had to translate as much as he could,
"Man say, 'Remember deal...I have them...No...Not high enough...That's good...Las Vegas...Dump them...Bye." There was a rise of questioning murmurs around the room as the man hung up.
"What deal?" "Have what?" "What about Las Vegas?" "Dump who?"
The questions continued and grew louder. A tattered, rough looking black snake in the corner of the reptile section who had never reacted to the fight, moved from his spot in the cage or spoken once since he came to the store 2 years ago, turned his head slightly and glared at the lot of them. It soon got to the point that he violently spun around to face them, "Will you all shut the hell up!" he demanded fangs exposed and his hood flared out fully. Everyone was so shocked he had spoken, that they did what he had asked. Natallia stared at him with shocked, wide eyes. He was a Cobra? He had done nothing but eat and sleep since he had come to the pet store, that she and the others had never noticed.
The room was so quiet, they all heard an angry hiss rise from the Cobra, "So a woman got shot? it ain't any different from the rest o'the world! People die every day, you all are just gonna have to deal with it! Now quit yer yappin' and go on with your day." His voice was deep, angry and had a western accent. The black Cobra relaxed, retracted his hood and curled up in his corner. An old Boa constrictor glared at the snake's words,
"How can you be so black hearted? That woman has taken care of you for the past two years and you just go and say that?!"
There was a dark, low mocking chuckle from the Cobra, "Were I'm from, it's kill or be killed, clearly the bitch did somethin' to piss him off. And you ain't even seen black hearted." Before anything else could be said, Natallia spoke up, "Were your from?" she questioned. The black snake turned to face them, raising his upper body, "I'm from the Mojave Desert, ma'am," he answered with a respecting nod, "I was a loner, and I briefly ran with one of the best Outlaws I had ever had the pleasure of meeting." Unsure murmurs were momentarily exchanged around the room at the mention of the word "Outlaw". Natallia was still curious, "Who was the Outlaw?" she asked politely. The Cobra smiled a bit, as if he had been hoping she would ask, "His name is Rattlesnake Jake. He's the most feared Gunslinger in the Desert, and has even been said to have come from the pits of Hell itself."
Natallia thought for a moment. She was taken from the Mojave Desert as a child and had known a young Rattlesnake by that name. In fact they had been best friends, but the Jake she had known didn't even come close to fitting the Cobra's description of the Outlaw.
The old Boa interrupted her thoughts, "You said "is", dose that mean he's still alive?" The Cobra nodded, "Most likely, considerin' Jake's no rookie at the game he plays. The boy's got a "talent" for his sort of thing."
"Boy?" questioned Natallia, "You make him sound so young."
The Cobra chuckled, "You gotta understand somethin' about me, lil' missy. I'm old and far past my prime, but Jake? Hell, he's fully grown now, but still young. No more than three or four years older than you."
Natallia was a bit shocked. She didn't think he was that young, surely he was older than that? After all, she was only six human years old (which would be 24 in her years).
A Leopard Gecko in a mesh cage beside the old Boa spoke up,
"Not that story time isn't fun and all, but what was the owner's husband talking about?" he asked, addressing the entire room. The black Cobra thought for a moment, then sighed, "Considerin' that most o'you are from top-of-the-line animal breeders, he'll probably sell some of you legally, but chances bein' what they are, the others will either git dumped in the wilderness through out the state, or sold on the Black Market." he answered plainly.
Seconds after his answer, a different man walked through the front door dressed in black leather. He shared a few words and a hand shake with the owners husband then disappeared into the storage room with him. Moments later they came back with several white cotton bags of different sizes and some clear plastic boxes with small rectangular holes in the lids.
The husband walked over to a young Boa's cage, opened it and removed him gently. The other man opened one of the white bags and the husband placed the snake in it. This continued for hours until all but two of the reptiles were bagged and boxed. Natallia called over to the Cobra, "Why are we last?"
The Cobra spread his hood and rose up as the man in the black opened the lid to his cage, "It's a safety thing, kid. We're poisonous, so they fear us." He replied.
The man foolishly stuck an unprotected hand into the cage. The Cobra struck, but didn't open his mouth to deliver a bite, as a warning hit. The man jerked his hand out. After noticing it wasn't bit, he stuck it back in again. The Cobra struck again, this time nailing a hard bite to the side of the man's hand. The hand was yanked out of the cage and the man in black yowled in pain.
"HAH! Serves ya right, ya son of a bitch!" shouted the Cobra triumphantly, earning cheers from all who had seen the act. The husband rushed over to the man lying on the floor, clutching his hand. Natallia gawked at the Cobra, "You bit him!"
"Like hell I bit him! An' he deserved every last drop of venom he got with that!" He stated, hood still spread and hissing aggressively at the men. The one who had been bit tried to get up, but toppled back towards the Cobra's cage. With one hard nudge, the cage lurched off of the desk, landing on its side and spilling the Cobra and the contents onto the floor in front of them. The snake regained his posture, rising up and spreading his hood once more. The husband jerked backwards away from the other man and the deadly snake. The Cobra flicked his black and red tongue and instantly smelled their fear, an evil grin spreading across his face.
Suddenly the husband drew his gun and Natallia saw a flash of fear in the old snake's eyes, and the gun fired.