The sight of the mangled body was clearly visible through the small hole in the bushes. I tasted bile and immediately moved away to breathe. My heart was no longer in my throat. It had leaped out of my body and run back into the car, probably reversing out of Mast Town this very second. Xena was unreactive. She sat there on her bottom, her eyes shut as she took several deep breaths to prevent her scream. I wanted to take her and run. I so wanted to be in the arms of a certain someone right now.
What were we doing walking alone into the woods? This was what stupid girls in horror movies did. I heard some more whimpering and my eyes widened.
The body showed signs of life. Without thinking, I stood up straight. Xena’s eyes widened as she looked up at me, her head shaking in furious denial. I bent down and took her hand in mine, tugging to pull her up. She didn’t put up much of a fight.
We moved over the hedge into the small clearing within the forest.
She lay there. Her yellow dress was shredded in places. She was lying on the ground in an awkward bent angle, her breathing shallow. Small cries of pain escaped her every few seconds. She couldn’t even scream openly, how horrible must that be? Her arm was broken in two parts - at the wrist and just above the elbow. I could see the white of the bone even in the dark of the evening. The rest of her body was battered as well. Ugly bruises were beginning to form on her better hand and legs. There were several smaller cuts that were present. Her face had taken a huge blow just below her left eye.
Next to me, Xena ran to the side and hurled her stomach contents. I tried not to feel queasy and bent down next to the woman. She had a huge gash running down the length of her body. It began at the base of her throat, through the valley of her breasts and up till her belly button. Someone had ripped her apart.
Her red hair was shrouded in mud, along with smudges of blood. She was lean, with clear features, someone you could tell was pretty. Her short dress was hitched just below her waist, and the top part was torn in half - on account of the gruesome gash - and entirely stained red. She wore no shoes. I couldn’t see her eyes as she clutched them tightly in pain. I was glad. If I saw the pain and fear in them, I’d have broken right there and then.
Her labored breathing stuttered before it picked up rhythm again.
What were we doing?!
Quickly, I looked around for something to stop the bleeding. “Xena get over here, she is still breathing!” I yelled. I loved my best friend but she needed to get it together right now! Finding nothing around and fearing using her own clothes as they were completely covered in mud, I made the split decision of removing my jacket and my top.
Xena took a deep breath and ran back next to me. She had a determined look in her eye. Without saying anything else she sat down on the opposite end of me and focused on placing a cast on her hand. Xena surveyed the surroundings around her, then she got up and walked to the closest short tree. Using her body strength she broke off a large piece of a branch. Then she moved to another, and another.
I balled up my jacket and my top together and placed it right on her chest and along the length of her gash, gently pushing the material into it, to reduce the bleeding. The woman below me gave no reaction. Panic fled through me and I placed a finger below her nose, relieved to find her still breathing.
I hope Reece gets here soon. Whoever did this to her might come to confirm her death. Hell, they might be looking for her! Xena and I could also be done for.
I raised my head again as Xena came closer. She had gathered several pieces now and bent near her broken arm. Tears were running down her cheeks as she carefully tied the twigs around her broken elbow with her rubber band to keep it in place. Yet, not once did her movements falter. A swell of pride rushed through me at my best friend’s bravery. She would hold her ground now, I didn’t have to worry.
Under the pressure, the bleeding started to ebb. The cold temperature was biting at the exposed skin of my back, chest and stomach but I held on. The blood around her body was making me dizzy. It was so much of it. I couldn’t understand how she was even breathing. Her thin frame had taken the worst and survived, it was truly a miracle.
It was inhuman.
And then it struck me like a flash - she could be a werewolf!
I gasped, my hands flinching away from her core before I quickly placed them back again. Xena looked up at me once, but looked back to her arm when she saw me get back to it. She probably thought I’d just freaked out.
Well, she’d be right.
The last thing we needed was werewolves coming to look for her. We were anyway not great fighters, but to fight against a genetically advanced species would definitely tilt the scales in their direction.
We had to get out of here, and we had to get her out as well!
But how could we move her? She looked like she’d break into a million pieces if we even considered hiding her.
“When did Reece say he’ll get here?” Xena asked, her voice broken and I shrugged my shoulders.
“We can’t rely on that. Whoever did this to her might come back.” My voice was filled with anguish.
The woman stirred, her consciousness returning. Both Xena and I moved in closer.
Bright blue eyes looked at the both of us in alarm. She was unable to do much, but her fright and caution were evident in them.
She didn’t trust us.
Then, she took a big whiff, her face contorting with pain at the small movement before she relaxed again.
I decided to speak to her to calm her down.
“Just calm down! Don’t move! You’re losing blood.” I informed her, failing to sound calm myself.
Xena began to work on the poor woman’s wrist, cringing at the condition.
The woman tried to speak but no words came out. Instead, the bleeding increased at the base of her neck.
My panicked hands flew towards it, trying as gently as possible, to press down on the wound.
Her eyes were tearing up, and I felt my own face become wet with tears at the sight of her.
Xena didn’t glance up even once and I knew that it was because she didn’t want to break.
“Your throat..” I whispered and she eyed me through her tears. “It’s damaged. Try not to speak.” I instructed with a shaken voice. Her eyes widened in realization and she tried to shake her head about. I caught her face between my hands and gave her an alarmed look. “Are you stupid?! Don’t move, you’ll bleed even more!” Xena stopped her work and moved closer to me.
“Miss, please. Your throat is badly cut.” She tried speaking for the first time in a while. There was pure anguish in her tone. She still kept looking at us like she was trying to do something.
“Stop moving your head!” I yelled finally, terrified at what would happen if she did. Then she tried to catch my sight and kept looking downwards. She kept looking at me and then back down and then repeated it several times, her eyes wide and in a hurry.
Xena looked at me from above her head, “I think she’s trying to say something.”
I then took my hands off her face and placed it back on the bloodied top. “Is it your stomach?” I asked her and she moved her pupils from left to right, indicating a strong no. “Is it..higher?” Xena continued and her pupils moved up and down.
“Your throat?” I asked her and her eyes did the nodding once more. I swallowed, not sure what to do of this information. “Yes, your throat is badly injured. It looks like there is a slit-” Her eyes darted upwards again, and then back down. Okay this was not working.
“I-I don’t understand-” I tried desperately, my will breaking with how helpless we were.
“I think she wants you to look at her throat.” Xena supplied, focusing only on the woman’s face and not a millimeter below. I swallowed.
“Do you want me to look at your throat?” The eyes went up and down in confirmation.
“Do you want me to do it?” Xena asked and I was touched by her offer. The girl couldn’t stand to even look, but she would try so that I didn’t have to. I shook my head with renewed will, “I can do it. Focus on her hand.” I told her gently. The relief was evident in her face as she got back to her makeshift cast.
Slowly as ever, I lifted the drenched ball of clothes from the base of her neck. Not much was visible in the dark and the surplus amount of blood did nothing to help with the clarity. My shaking hand reached into my pocket for my phone, and I switched on the flashlight, aiming it to the woman on the ground.
The sudden burst of white light made Xena shriek. The crimson red glistened like a blaring danger sign from the ground and I stifled a scream.
How in the world was this woman breathing?!
“Focus!” Xena reminded me and I nodded, trying my hardest not to run. Where in the world was Reece?!
I peered at her throat, all the while her eyes were right on me, making me even more tense.
“Am I... looking for something?” I asked her and her eyes indicated yes. It seemed painful for her to even do that. I tried to keep my questions to a minimum.
The gash was ugly and imprecise. It was obviously not caused by something sharp - like a knife. But something more larger and wider. Like...like claws. My hands shook at that thought but I steeled myself and went back to her throat.
Amidst the red of the blood, there was another kind of shine that was significant under the torchlight. “There seems to be something lodged in her throat.” I told Xena, who was now tying the makeshift cast around the twigs using a torn strip of the woman’s dress.
Xena paled but looked up at me. “What is it?”
I brought my hand close to her throat, above the top of the shiny object that was jutting out. Gently, I swiped away some of the blood on it. It was warm to touch, but smooth and shiny. A metal piece. Her body temperature might have made it warm. “It seems like a piece of metal.” I concluded, looking back at the woman who was trying to hold in her pain.
“Should I remove it? Blink once for no.” I told her while Xena stopped her work. “That’s a very bad idea. It could be preventing her from bleeding out.” I gulped, nodding, but then we both looked at the woman before us and she hadn’t stopped blinking.
“You want us to remove it?” Her tone was laced with horror. The woman kept blinking, never breaking eye contact with me and I shuddered. This was such a bad idea!
There was so much tension in the air. Both of us were clueless and horrified. This woman before us was worse. She looked like she might give out any minute and the thought of watching someone die before me, in such a gruesome fashion was more than I could tolerate. The air was silent and stressed. None of us knew what to do, and we couldn’t stop shaking. Every single hair on my body was standing up straight, and it wasn’t because of the cold.
A battered hand touched my own and I let out a scream. Her better arm was clenched around my wrist tightly and I looked at her again. Her eyes were pure steel. She gave me a once over, as if to say ’just do it!” and my indecision resolved into a choice.
“I’m going to remove it.” I told Xena and she looked up at me with wide eyes. “I think she knows something we don’t.” I defended weakly, just wanting her support. Xena seemed to realize this and she nodded. “Okay.” She told me, her voice strained but strong for my sake. Taking a large gulp of air, I moved closer to her throat, and clamped two fingers around the jutting metal article.
“Don’t you dare die on me.” I whispered to the woman and then I slowly, painstakingly, pulled it out of her throat.
She began to lose a lot of blood. “Xena get over here!” I shouted as I took the cloth and placed it against her throat to stop the bleeding. Xena moved next to me with another piece of the woman’s dress and we both pressed down on her throat gently. Her eyes snapped shut.
“Don’t you fucking die!” I snarled, angry at her and at myself. I should have never listened to her!
“Come on come on come on!” Xena chanted, pushing all her will through her hands into the cloth and into her throat.
The bleeding ebbed. With a small gasp, we both looked at each other in relief. Xena took her hands off the cloth to place it just below her nose.
“She’s alive!” She rejoiced, and then after a minute she said, “I’m going to go back to her wrist now.” I nodded. I could hold the fort here. I kept gazing at the woman’s face. The ugly bruise just below her eye was turning darker. It probably cracked the bone below. Whoever did this to her was a monster.
I left the bloodied clothes on her as the bleeding came to a complete halt and began to look around to see how else I could help her.
She couldn’t speak, she couldn’t move. There was no way for her to communicate with us at the moment. How could we know if we were safe?
My hand clamped around the small piece of metal that had been lodged in her throat. It was rectangular in shape, but the edges were curved. There was no way that it could have pierced her throat. Someone had made a slit and then pushed it in. Monsters.
There was nothing else around her. she looked like she had run from somewhere, due to the trail of blood that emerged from the side of the small clearing, but I had no intention of following it to its source. Xena was nearly done with her arm. I had stopped the bleeding along her torso. What more could we do?
My phone displayed the time, “7:45.” Had it only been fifteen minutes since all this had happened? It felt like a fucking lifetime. Never again, did I want to relive this moment, and I knew all three of us were in agreement.
Taking a deep breath, I dialed the number that was blaring red in my phone’s call log.
“I’M ALMOST THERE.” Reece told me and despite the impending anger, I felt like someone had shined the Sun on us.
“You found our car?” My tone sounded dead.
“Yes. I’m in the woods.” He was definitely livid. He would take a minute more at his werewolf speed and senses so I just said, “okay.”
I couldn’t bring myself to feel anything.
I leaned forward to the sleeping woman and said, “You will be alright, my friends are coming.”
“She’s still not spoken a word?” Grey asked Reece, both of them were staring at me. I nervously took my eyes away from them and focused on Xena, who had passed out after a series of hysterics. I was glad that we both held it together for the most crucial period.
I could feel Reece’s eyes burning holes on the side of my head. “No.”
Grey sighed in annoyance. “For them to have seen that..it will surely take time.” He tried to explain and I was happy for the space. A growl from Reece showed that he was not. A blanket was wrapped around me. They’d broken through the forest and stumbled upon us within a minute of the phone call. Reece was the first one I saw. The second he saw me, I could tell that he had been breathing fire. Grey and a few more men followed right behind them and everyone instantly got to work. I was immediately grabbed and a t-shirt was put on - his. Which is why he stood bare-chested, in all his eight pack glory.
Grey had walked closer to Xena but she had moved away on instinct, her eyes wide and her face tear stained. She only calmed down when I moved closer to her and engulfed her in a comforting hug. And then she very promptly passed out. They moved us out of the woods immediately, with Reece carrying me in his arms while one of the men got Xena. I didn’t say anything, letting him cocoon me with his earthy smell and feeling all safe despite knowing how angry he was with me. He was safe. He was comforting. I’d finally stopped shaking.
“Do we know who she is?” Reece asked, his Alpha mode on and Grey shook his head. “She’s alive but unconscious yet. I’ve already contacted the local Alpha, and he said that he will handle things with the police, seeing as she is a werewolf.” Grey’s tone was all business like.
“She’s not one of his?”
“No, I sent over a picture but he said he didn’t recognize her. He’s coming here as we speak for a better look, although she was found close to the pack border so she might be a lone wolf.”
“Alright, when does Alpha Deta get here?” Reece asked and Grey looked at his watch. “Another 5 minutes.”
Deta? Why was that name so familiar? I turned back to Xena who was soundly asleep as I thought of our day. Suddenly it came back to me. Luca Deta the environmentalist. Xena’s interview with him was tomorrow! I doubt she would even be in the head space to conduct one.
“Deta? As in Luca Deta of Deta Industries?” My broken silence made both heads sway in my direction. Reece immediately walked up to me. “Yes, how do you know him?” He asked me softly, afraid of scaring me. I snorted.
“Xena has an interview with him tomorrow. He’s an environmentalist.” I inform them, glancing at Xena once again. Grey nodded while Reece eyed me carefully.
“Are you ready to talk about it?” He asked me gently, placing one of his hands on my shoulder. Grey moved away back into the forest. They were trying to get that woman out of there by making a stretcher, till the ambulance showed up.
I took a deep breath, willing myself not to cry. “Is she going to be okay?” I asked and Reece nodded, his expression relaxing now that I was finally responding to him. “She’s a fighter. Although, she should have healed much faster. I don’t understand how she lost so much blood so easily.”
“What does that mean?”
“Werewolves heal much faster. It’s almost like she couldn’t.” Reece’s hands were now on my waist, pulling me closer to him. “Oh.” I managed to say.
“She didn’t say anything to us. She couldn’t because of her throat-”
“Yeah, I saw the slash. I’m sorry you had to see that.” He told me gently and my expression turned grim, willing the tears to not start again.
“Everyone’s asking me if the Queen is okay. Is she okay?” He asked me softly and I knew that the answer was important to him.
“She’s okay.” I told him and a small smile lit his face. He pressed me further against the car. “I was so worried.” He confessed, painfully. “Do you know what you put me through?”
“I’m sorry.” I mumbled, avoiding his gaze even though we were inches apart. The car window pressed against my back and prevented my escape. The blanket fell off my shoulders but none of us spared it a second glance.
“How do I know that something like this will never happen again?” He whispered, but something told me that he already had a plan of action in mind. Something that I would definitely not like.
I raised my hands and tried to put some space between us, so that I could form a decent argument for whatever idea he had come up with. But of course, my palms touched the front of his bare chest and the sparks exploded, taking over my reasoning.
“Flo? What are you holding?” His gaze went to my hand on his chest and his right hand engulfed mine, turning it over. I opened my palm, surprised to find the rectangular piece of metal from before, still tightly in my grip.
“I guess I didn’t drop it.” I said to myself and then it was snatched out of my hands.
“This is silver!” Reece exclaimed, his face one of pure alarm, “where did you get this?!” I was taken aback, but answered quickly.
“It was lodged in her throat, almost as if someone put it there.”
“In her throat?!” He asked me, looking up at me and then back down at the shiny object in his palm.
“Yes, she kept motioning towards her throat and then asked me to remove it. So we did.” I informed him, trying to understand the significance.
“Do you know where it is from?” I asked, hoping that he did and we could catch the bastards. Unfortunately, Reece shook his head.
“Silver,” He held the piece in front of me (it still had some of her blood on it), “when in contact with werewolf blood prevents their special abilities. They can’t heal, have super strength, advanced hearing, nothing.”
“Doesn’t it burn?” I remembered the wolf that had attacked me. It’s entire back was on fire because of the handcuff. I shivered with the gruesome memory, almost smelling the burnt flesh from the recollection.
“It does, in your wolf form.” he informed me and I cringed, finally understanding why she wanted me to take it out.
“No wonder she bled so much without healing.” Reece spoke, moving to the same page as me.
Then he gave me another frantic look, before his body was caging me against the car. “Don’t think that our discussion is over.” He breathed in anger, warning me of the argument to come.
“If I’d listened to you, she might have died!” I yelled, even though he was only an inch away. Reece shut his eyes in an obvious attempt to calm down.
“It doesn’t matter.”
My heart sank. Was he a monster too?
“It doesn’t matter?!” I shrieked, nearly close to my sanity. “It’s someone’s life!” What in the world was wrong with him?
“Listen to me Flora! You are in way over your head here! Do you realize that you are, in fact, a Queen? Your life is the most important one here! Each and every werewolf will lay down their life for you because you rule them all!” He moved away again, yelling in frustration.
“We aren’t bonded yet but once we do every single werewolf will feel your emotions - your anguish and pain! Putting yourself in danger is putting us all in danger!” He continued ranting, while I just stood there transfixed.
“Huh? HUH?!" My head swam.
Immediately, his arms wrapped around me and steadied me easily. The sparks helped me feel better, but I was still vastly confused. Bonded? They feel my emotions? What is he talking about?
Reece drew out a frustrated sigh, “There is so much you need to know yet.” He informed me but I shook my head. It didn’t matter. “I will not have someone’s death on my conscience.” I spelled out clearly for him. He better get that straight.
“Then you will leave me no choice.” His words were a promise and something in the air changed. Suddenly, I wasn’t a carefree young woman anymore. A new weight on my shoulder was making its presence known. Reece wasn’t my crush, my boyfriend, my on and off relationship like so many others often had with their exes. This was.. international. This was permanent. This was a hell of a lot more than I had bargained for. Him too, it would be so easy if he just got paired with someone of the same species. Not because I was weak, but because we were just too different, our worlds were different.
The incoming ambulance broke our tense silence. It parked right behind our car and three people got out. Two of them looked at Reece and he pointed to a particular direction in the woods while a third man, who was wearing the uniform of a police officer walked up to us. He was a tiny man, with barely any hair on his head. His red face betrayed his haste - it was probably around eight. He had beady eyes and a small frown marred his otherwise sober features. His dark eyes moved to acknowledge Reece, almost bending forward but catching himself at the last minute. Reece raised an eyebrow before smiling softly and once again I was jealous at how people could raise one eyebrow. It was truly envying.
They settled for a formal handshake.
“I’m officer Radley, the chief of this small town.” He told us, and I nodded politely, suddenly feeling cold. Reece was standing a respectable distance away from me and the blanket was on the ground. I bent down to retrieve it.
“I have been updated by Mr. Grey - ” He struggled to say his name, “and I came here as soon as possible. I half wanted to yell that I knew who he was to put him out of his misery. Werewolves were big on titles.
He then turned to address me, his tone soft, “I believe you reached this scene first, ma’am?”
I nodded, “My friend Xena, and I.” I pointed to the sleeping girl in the car. Officer Radley looked around towards the car, but he didn’t have to peer inside. ’Tourists?” He asked me and I nodded.
“State your full names for the record, please.”
“Xena Ma-” I started to say, but I was cut-off.
“I’m sure that is not necessary.” Reece’s tone indicated no suggestion. The old man quivered under his gaze.
“Of course, Alph- Mr. Wolf.” he quickly stuttered out. I felt bad for the poor man.
“It’s okay.” Reece grumbled impolitely and I found myself stepping forward, ahead of him.
“Don’t mind him, officer. Ask me whatever you need.” I told him, giving Reece a strict look over my shoulder. Mr. Radley threw a timid look but then cleared his throat. He probably thought that as a human I would wonder why he wasn’t doing his job properly.
“When did you find her?”
“7:30. I called Reece at that time.” I gestured to the tense male behind us. Mr. Radley widened his eyes at my casual name for the Alpha King.
“H-how did you get here? This part of town is abandoned.”
“We got lost.” I admitted, my face heating up a little. He nodded, getting into the steady flow of questioning.
“Did you see anything? Anyone?”
“No, we heard a scream coming from the forest and-”
“And you went in?” His surprise was evident. Either he thought we were stupid, or brave, or both. I nodded in confirmation.
“Well, we walked a little distance inside and found her.” My voice stopped short at this point. From behind, Reece put his arm on my shoulder, immediately comforting me. Chief Radley eyed his hand on my shoulder with surprise before a growl from Reece had him looking away again.
“Can you describe the crime scene?” He continued, not looking at me this time and I nodded.
“She- uh, she was lying on the floor. Her one arm was broken in two places. A huge cut ran from her throat to her stomach. She was whimpering.” I managed. Reece squeezed my shoulder lightly, easing the tension.
“Easy,” he told me, probably feeling how fast my heart was beating.
I took another deep breath and continued, “We stopped the bleeding, and made a temporary cast on her hand. There was a-”
“And then we reached. Found the two of them bent over her and the rest you know.” Reece interrupted and I nodded. Something told me he didn’t want the officer to know about the silver.
“Do you know who she is?” It was Reece’s turn to ask questions. The officer shook his head.
Another car turned up on our street. The abandoned town was seeing a lot of activity tonight. It was a shiny silver car, the license plates were local. The car stopped a little distance away from us and a man stepped out. He was handsome, his grey eyes a mystery and his fair skin covered largely by his crisp white shirt. He looked like he had just stepped out of a business meeting. His fit frame was intimidating, but not as much as Reece’s. He had high cheekbones and a cool headed smile.
He rushed forward immediately, reaching for Reece’s hands with both his.
“Mr. Wolf! It is a pleasure to meet you, I’m sorry for it being under such terrible circumstances!” I knew right there that he was a huge fan. “I understand that you found the body, miss?” He looked at me with a grave expression and I nodded, “Yes.” I was a simple human girl who stumbled upon this.
“Where is the girl?” He looked at Mr. Radley for an answer and the dutiful man pointed into the general direction.
“They should be getting her out anytime now.” He added, and as if on cue, the trees parted, revealing Grey as the leading man. Behind him came another and then a large stretcher. They’d done a much better job with her than we had. Her arm was tied in a sterile white cast, and her entire midsection was tightly wrapped in bandages. She was still asleep. They tried to be slow and not jostle her much.
The local Alpha stopped them as he had a look at her. His face showed no signs of recognition but he looked equally shocked. “Looks like someone tried to rip her in half...” Chief Radley said, his own face contorting in horror.
“My doctor will make sure that she is healed and we will get to the bottom of this.” The CEO promised, his voice held determination and strength. Such injustice was unacceptable to him. I was glad for such leaders.
“That’s fine actually, I’d like to get to the bottom of this personally.” Reece told him, “My doctor will handle everything related to her.”
The Alpha looked taken aback but was quick to hide his expression. “But sir, this is pack, I mean, our town’s business, surely you have other-”
“That’s okay, I don’t mind. I have some free time on my hands and I intend to stay here for a while.” His hand squeezed mine gently, out of their view. Mr. Deta said no more.
We watched quietly as another ambulance came and they loaded the strange girl into it. I saw Noori at the back of it and gave her a wave.
“Let’s drop you both back to the hotel.” Reece said, tugging at my arm to drag me back to our car. “I shall see you soon, Mr. Deta!” Reece said over his shoulder and the handsome man turned away from instructing his people and nodded vigorously, “Yes sir!”
Grey went with Noori, while one of his other men got into the car with us. The others dispersed as well. I checked my watch, it was nearly 9 p.m.
“Don’t think that this discussion is over.” He told me, as the driver started the car and put it into reverse.