The gathering dusk was quickly turning to dark, the man’s favorite time of day. Night. He had never liked the day time and always performed best when he could slink around in the blackness. He felt like he belonged to it especially after his life went to shit because of Clayton, because of the pack. Noah belonged to him, his life and his territory belonged to him. The pack had no right to barge in and take everything from him, to turn him into a mutt on the run. If he was caught he was dead. He wouldn’t let that happen. His plan might be going a little wayward now but he’d turn it around. Layn was a ticking time bomb, his secret weapon and not even he knew how or why.
Layn did his best to persuade Noah that nothing was wrong, but when the older werewolf finally left it was all Layn could do not to scream. Jay had sent him two words Watch it. Watch it? Apparently he had set up this whole thing as a warning to him. The fact that it had been interpreted as a ploy to grab Noah was probably Jay’s plan too. Thank goodness or he might be in a lot of pain right now, interrogation by the pack was not fun. He assumed that even given his age they wouldn’t take it easy on him if he betrayed them. Pack looked after pack first. Always.
With a frustrated sigh Layn strolled back to his bed and threw his phone down. Sitting down heavily, he put his head in his hands. He should smash it to pieces and let the chips fall where they may. Let whatever happens happen. Tell them. No. He’d be killed and he hated to admit it but he was scared. Scared of them and what they would do. Would it really be better to be killed? Luckily he didn’t have any broken bones but he was angrier than he had been in a very long time. Not since he had first met Jay.
He had never been to Canada or the States back then. Those were the places that he planned to visit someday like Australia and China, but he ended up visiting them much sooner. His real name wasn’t Layn and his birth place didn’t really matter. It was in Europe somewhere. His ancestors and his name didn’t really matter either, not to Jay anyway. What mattered to Jay was that he found a young werewolf who he could manipulate and use to his own ends. That Layn was clueless to it at first.
He was in England staying with a foster family. He wasn’t quite sure of the circumstances behind his leaving Poland, but he had been in England since he was nine and he remembered living in many different countries and learning many different languages. Maybe there were relatives he went to or maybe they just didn’t have a place to put him but he ended up learning English in the UK and getting by, even if his accent was a dead giveaway about his origins. He had managed to hide it here but only just, only after hours and hours of lessons from Jay. He did get odd looks sometimes for certain words he said which made him think he wasn’t doing as well as he thought but all in all, he did ok.
He didn’t like the foster family very much and their feelings were mutual so he was out of the house more often than not. If anyone found it odd that a ten year old spent so much time alone no one said anything. He frequented the local arcade; the book store and the small corner diner where they let him help clear up dishes for free food and drinks and do his homework in peace.
He was at the diner when a man showed up. Layn was starved for attention from anyone, approval from anyone so he wasn’t afraid of this man. The manager and the staff did pay attention to him when he was there but only when they had time which wasn’t often. The man, Cain, started asking him questions about his life and buying him food as well, making the staff raise an eyebrow but say nothing. For all they knew the man was his father. Cain bought him food the first day, clothes the second day and toys the third day. By then Layn was flying high and eager to please. Maybe this seemed odd but to Layn it just meant that someone was paying attention, finally giving him the time of day.
After the first day Layn had been surprised to see him again and again. Eventually he got used to his presence but he didn’t trust him. Layn never fully trusted anyone and Cain didn’t require it. One day after a movie Layn had wanted to see for ages and couldn’t stop raving about, he didn’t notice that Cain was not heading for his house. He went over his favorite characters and lines and sang some of the songs too. By the time they were at the airport Layn had only just realized he may be in trouble. Something was wrong.
Cain assured him they were only picking up a friend but the iron grip he had on his hand didn’t seem right. Inside Cain bought him a milkshake and he drank it, thirsty because of his fear. After that he didn’t remember much but flashes of the airport and the plane and a very long trip.
The next clear moment was being at Jay’s house and Cain leaving. Layn ran after him begging him to stay and grabbing his arm, but Cain flung him into a wall and told him to stay in no uncertain terms. Layn was crushed, terrified and angry. He was taken without his permission and forced to go somewhere with people he didn’t even know. It was different than being shipped from place to place. There he knew what was happening and they treated him like a person. Cain and Jay hadn’t. It took a long time to get over that anger and realize he couldn’t really use it or find an outlet for it but it burned inside of him ready to be used at will even now.
Jay was playing with his life and Noah’s as well, he wasn’t sure how he felt about Noah or the pack but he didn’t hate them. They fascinated him in a way. He’d never seen anything like this before. The pack was like a family but there was a fine line of order here. They were close at home but in the field there was a hierarchy they needed to follow. Sometimes there were mixed feelings or messages that would make field work harder so the difficult part was separating out when to act like a solider and when to act like a teenager. It had been intriguing to figure it all out. Like a big puzzle no one could solve but him.
When he thought about Jay and what had happened he realized he was a clear case of Stockholm syndrome. He had been held against his will for years, but he was still doing Jay’s dirty work and couldn’t make himself stop. He couldn’t make himself hate the man either. He wanted to escape and make his own life but he never fully realized it. No matter how many times he hated his situation and Cain and just about everything in his life he could not make himself hate or be disloyal to Jay. He hated that. He hated himself sometimes too. He was weak. He wasn’t pack material. How long before they realized this?
With a growl he brought his hand to his face and rubbed his eyes tiredly. He was aching and emotionally exhausted. He couldn’t think anymore. With relief and a small dose of fear about what would happen tomorrow, Layn lay on the bed and almost immediately fell into a restless sleep dreaming about monsters and men in the same form.
Layn took a gulp of delicious European coffee ignoring the ache in his body. The morning had been awkward for him. He wasn’t sure where anything was or if he should get it or let them. Like being with strangers and not being sure what to do with them and where he should step. It reminded him of the countless foster families he had stayed with but at least it was well ingrained. When he got into the kitchen he saw Nick was already started on breakfast so he stood there awkwardly waiting to be told what to do or to be able to escape and come back. Thankfully Nick handed him a cup of coffee and put him to work which eased his fears.
It was odd to see Antonio and Nick in the business suits and Reese in a tie and dress clothes. Noah walked in in a full school uniform that looked expensive with a tie and shirt embroidered with the name of his school, St. Xavier’s Academy. Suddenly he felt very out of place with holey jeans and worn t-shirt. He ignored that and concentrated on their movement, their words and the tension in the air.
“Layn, you ok with hanging out here today?” Nick asked. Layn looked up keeping the surprise off his face and nodded, “unfortunately, we all have meetings and business today and Noah needs to get back to school.”
“And his girlfriend,” Reese teased. Noah blushed but growled at him to shut up. Layn smirked and winced at the pain in his jaw.
“Remember, I want the yard and outside of the house looking amazing tonight,” Nick reminded sternly. Layn inwardly rolled his eyes but nodded. He was hoping Nick would have forgotten about this but apparently not. His good luck again it seemed. Chores because he had an attitude, what bull shit, but he wasn’t going to argue, it wasn’t worth it.
The pack finished a hurried breakfast and left Layn to himself shortly before eight. Wisely he cleaned up breakfast and did the dishes, cleaning the kitchen as well before he decided to take a larger tour of the house. When he lived with Jay he was the main cooker and cleaner so it came naturally. Plus, he was often thrown into this role as a child in foster homes. Not all families treated him like a house keeper but a majority did with a few bordering on slave hood and full time baby sitter. It seemed to make sense to people for a six year old to take care of a baby or toddlers with no supervision.
He still couldn’t believe he had been left alone here. Yeah, he knew he was more than old enough but he knew they didn’t trust him, so why would they leave him alone in their home? Countless secrets could be kept in this house but on the other hand the Alpha didn’t live here so, maybe not. The question was should he use this time to find said secrets or not? This was a great opportunity but they may be watching him. He had to prove himself. Suddenly he knew that was the right answer.
With a full day ahead of him he explored the house and treated himself to some fine wine, good food and amenities, despite the fact that he was a traitor and probably a dead mutt. Once again he felt an urge to just tell them everything. Would they go easier on him? Would they just get all the information out of him and then discard him?
With these thoughts he froze and tried to shake himself from the sudden chill he felt. Because of these thoughts he could not make himself come forward though, he was trapped in his own fears of the very people who may be able to help him. “Stop it.” He needed a distraction and the best one would be his bike but the yard came first. After a few hours of this he was eager to get back on his bike. Currently it was propped in the garage with the other vehicles, motorcycles, dirt bikes, four wheelers and way too many means of transportation.
The town the other half of the pack lived in, Catskills New York was much larger than Bear Valley and definitely had more forested space. The Catskill Mountains were big enough for a pack to get lost in for quite some time and thrive as well. Driving around Layn got a feel for the lay out of the town and found Noah’s immense and walled in private school and, a shock to him, the Sorrentino’s company bearing Antonio’s name on the sign out front. He had known they owned businesses but now it seemed much more real. Now this seemed like a much bigger task for some reason because he could now see he was going up against much more than he thought.
As he rumbled into the Sorrentino driveway he realized he forgot to lock the main gate but it seemed to have automatically locked behind him. Luckily, he knew the code, given to him by Nick before they left. He drove inside and set his bike back in the garage. It had been far too long since he had ridden his bike and it brought an instant smile to his face making his troubles melt away. Turning he walked back into the foyer and started to strip of his bike jacket when he caught an unfamiliar smell. With his head cocked to the side he walked further into the house on his guard. On a whim he grabbed a dagger that was on display on a table in the hallway leading to the kitchen. Wolves were not supposed to use weapons because it diminished them but he had no idea what he was up against. He needed to fight smart not stupid or arrogant.
Carefully he approached the kitchen to see the patio door was ajar. He knew he had locked up before he left as Nick had firmly drilled this into his head if he were to go anywhere. He looked around the space cautiously seeing only the island where someone could hide behind but the Sorrentino’s, being battle ready at all times, had installed a discreet mirror near the sink to let someone see behind it. No one was there. Good.
On the island counter top the only thing out of place was an extra piece of paper. Layn walked forward still looking around and picked up the note gingerly as if it would bite him. Come and get me the note said. Layn looked towards the patio doors and the forest. Someone was waiting for him, or a pack member.
Layn held the dagger firmly in his hand and looked around the kitchen for some other weapons. Preferably a long ranged one but he’d have to make due with throwing knives. Layn grabbed a few more knives and stepped out of the kitchen through the patio door. This was probably a very stupid thing. He should call Nick or someone for back up. He had no idea how many people were out there and what they wanted. He could be dead within minutes. Strategy wise he knew he couldn’t just walk into the open where the only cover was the patio BBQ set and some tables and chairs.
Instead he turned and headed to the front of the house and through the garage. The forest crept up the closest on this side. He slipped from the safety of the house to the forest and started towards the back of the house and the bigger side of the wooded area. As long as he stepped carefully and used all his senses he might be able to have the advantage.
It seemed like it took hours to cross the forest with caution and slow stepping. The dagger in his hand was held at a right angle to deliver a sharp bloody blow. Eventually he caught the mutt’s scent and headed in that direction but at a snap of a twig behind him had him spinning around. He half ducked as the mutt stranger lunged. Layn wasn’t able to get out of the way in time and the mutt grabbed him arm and pulled him off his feet.
Layn hit the ground hard and the dagger spun from his hand hit the ground out of his reach. With a growl he turned his attention to the mutt trying to scramble up, but the stranger was on him in seconds and sending a punch to his already punished jaw. “Jay was serious!” the mutt growled. He pounded Layn’s jaw again making him cough viciously trying to catch his breath. The mutt wasn’t much older or larger than him so Layn had an advantage. Think smart, his brain screamed as he sucked in air in between being battered.
Layn grabbed the mutt’s shirt front and pulled himself up using the mutt’s momentum to smash his skull into the other wolf’s forehead. The stranger growled but looked stunned and staggered back while Layn tried to gain focus. He scrambled up and lunged at the dazed mutt getting a few blows to his head, but the mutt lurched back and Layn’s hand hit the ground. The mutt grabbed his hair and smashed his head into the ground as well, narrowly missing the sharp rock that was there.
Now it was Layn’s turn to be stunned, but his mind screamed at him again to think, to move or do something. Use the knife, his brain ordered. He grabbed for his pocket pinned under his body and fished for the knife as the mutt caught his shoulder in a hard punch. Layn grunted as his fingers brushed the knife and he grabbed for it, in one quick motion he pulled it out and jammed it into the mutt’s throat. The mutt’s eyes went wide and Layn pulled the knife back striking again and again. Before long he was sitting on top of the dead mutt stabbing him over and over until he was too exhausted to move.
He fell sideways off the other werewolf and lay on the ground breathing hard. Finally he remembered he couldn’t just lay in the middle of the pack’s woods with a dead mutt. Not if he wanted to keep it from them. Quickly he got up and surveyed the dead man. They were both covered in blood but that was the least of his problems now. Layn picked up the knife at his feet also caked in blood and the dagger close by that hadn’t seen any actions before he high tailed it back to the house. Finding the shed in the back yard he popped the lock and grabbed the shovel, rope, gasoline and matches.
Back in the woods he strapped the shovel to his back and hauled the mutt up starting to drag him to the back of the property which was no easy task even for him. Finally he dropped the guy and started digging the hole, after he had checked his pockets for I.D., which he almost forgot about, he rolled him into the hole and covered him again. Next he stripped out of his bloody clothes and threw them into another hole along with the kitchen knife that had killed the stranger. He set them on fire and watched as it all burned before reburying it and heading back the way he had come to look for blood. Back where he had killed the mutt he dug around the area and burned that as well digging another hole to rebury it and hurrying back to the house. If no one went out here tonight he would be ok. The smell of burning could be attributed to the neighbours or somewhere else but it would disappear in a few days.
Layn had just enough time to clean the tools, shower and stop his hand from shaking before he heard cars in the driveway and voices in the garage. This happened every time he had to kill someone. He was jittery and shaky but he had to pull it together. He wasn’t a murderer. There was a difference. A killer killed out of necessity and took no pride in it. To kill made you feel guilty and you always thought of it. To murder was to kill for fun and the murderer could go on with their lives celebrating after the fact with no guilt.
Layn smelled the food before he saw anyone and after he shoved his hands in his pockets he went out to greet everyone with a smile. He was put to work right away and he listened to Nick and Tonio talk about their day and Noah about school while Reese jumped in once in a while. Layn said little except when they asked him questions. He was more of an introvert and better at listening then speaking.
“Want to play some Halo?” Noah asked and Layn nodded. Nick reminded Noah about his chores first which Layn offered to help him with. He listened to Noah talk but was distracted by the body in the woods. He felt that by even thinking about it he would be caught which put him on edge.
What made him even more nervous was the note on the island counter. He must have forgotten it. He snatched it up and looked at Noah thankful he was distracted putting dishes in the dishwasher and Reese had stopped in the doorway and was talking to Nick down the hallway. When they were done, Noah led Layn to the games room and the Xbox. The Sorrentino’s had every game console known to man from the seventies to modern day. He was more a reader than a video game player since he never had the systems but he wanted to keep Noah happy and himself distracted.
With junk food and comfy couches Layn and Noah dominated another team online and were just setting up another game when Antonio appeared in the doorway looking none too happy. He walked to the TV and turned it off along with the internet connection. Crossing his arms he looked at both of them. “Boys, with me,” he commanded and then left. Immediately Noah jumped up and followed. Layn went a bit more slowly. They followed Antonio through the kitchen and out the back door to find Nick and Reese enjoying a beer and talking. Layn had one second to notice that Reese’s beer was some foreign kind before Antonio waved to them to follow as well.
Layn’s panic started to grow as they walked towards the forest with the other confused pack members. Nick quickly walked ahead of them with his father who told him he would find out what was going on in a moment. Nick nodded to this accepting and cast a glance back at the three boys agitated.
Layn knew he was right when they ended up at the spot where he thought he had buried the mutt so well. Instead he saw that he had clearly not covered the kill enough and the ground and area was disturbed with not only bits of blood but unfamiliar scents as well. “What happened?” Antonio demanded turning to them now. Nick joined his father and stood watching them and wondering as well.
Noah and Reese looked at one another and Layn tried not to look guilty, but he knew he had failed. Instead he became defensive and crossed his arms glaring at the ground. “How do you know it wasn’t an older pack member?” he asked looking at Nick and then Antonio knowing he should have kept his mouth shut.
“Yeah, right, Noah and I are not that stupid mate,” Reese said and shot Layn an accusatory look. Nick looked at Reese but didn’t reprimand him because Layn and everyone else plus their dog, knew he was right.
“I know it wasn’t my son,” Antonio said emphasizing the word, “because I taught him myself to clean up his kills. He sure as hell would never be this sloppy and he would never leave it for me to find. There are so many mistakes here it looks like the twins did it.” Layn coloured and dropped his arms instead shoving his hand into his pockets.
“I’m sorry,” he said, looking at Nick who nodded. Slowly he dragged the note from his pocket and walked forward handed it to them. “I went for a ride today and when I got back this note was waiting for me. I should have called you but I thought I could handle it. I took him down in the woods with a knife and then clearly I tried to clean it up.” Antonio rubbed his jaw and sighed, looking at Nick who read the note and then passed it to his father who both read and sniffed it but said nothing. Nick told Layn to start over and go over every detail including the description of the mutt and anything else he had said.
“Did you know him? Is that the Jay guy you keep talking to?” Antonio asked with a slow burning anger in his voice. Layn snapped his head up and gave him a surprised look.
“No…no, I didn’t know him, Jay isn’t even…,” Layn started to say intending to lie about Jay but he stopped himself knowing they would catch him. “Jay is older than the mutt I killed who was probably Reese’s age at the oldest, maybe…” he explained now, carefully rearranging his face to look calm and collected again.
Antonio and Nick both studied him and Layn was smart enough to look away, studying the ground. “Have you ever buried someone before?” Antonio asked. Layn nodded.
“Yeah, I have. I know to take the I.D. and burn it and stuff…,” he trailed off colouring again. Jay had given him a lesson once when a mutt had come sniffing around and threatened him. Jay had his henchmen kill him and then went out when they buried him to show Layn how to do it properly, or somewhat properly. Jay’s reasoning Layn learned was not out of love or caring for the younger wolf but much the same as the pack. If Layn killed someone he had to be able to cover his tracks or they were all screwed. Plus, he suspected that Jay would just as soon kill him as use him. He could always find another werewolf to use for his master plans.
“Well, at least we can use it as a lesson,” Nick said and was about to say something else when Antonio held up his hand and looked at them all now and especially Layn. Layn caught his challenging look and held it for a moment before looking away feeling fear bubble up.
“Don’t you ever dare kill and bury someone on my property or Jeremy’s without telling us again. This is not something we can stumble upon. Any cop or regular human may have found this and then we would be screwed. It’s just one more step to finding out about us and us being in a world of trouble. There are more of them than us, Layn,” Antonio growled and Layn nodded now. He was right. Comparatively there were about three hundred to five hundred werewolves on the planet to six or seven billion humans.
“I’m sorry. I messed up but it won’t happen again. I want to learn how to do it right,” Layn balled his fist and looked at them with fire in his eyes. Antonio nodded and Nick gave him a quick look before he ordered Noah and Reese back to the shed to get what they needed.
Before he could make a move Nick walked over and took the front of his shirt pulling him forward and sniffing. Layn tensed. “I knew I smelt blood but I figured it was from training or something.” He sighed disappointed as he let Layn go.
“I took a shower,” Layn protested but Nick informed him that often showers were not enough and that he had a lot to learn. Layn accepted this and glanced at Antonio who seemed none too happy with him. He’d definitely stay away from that werewolf from now on. Antonio didn’t seem to like him at all but he couldn’t blame him. Layn was only another stranger living under his roof, eating his food, disrespecting him and pushing the boundaries. The man must be very loyal to allow so many stray kids to live with him.
Slowly they unburied and went over every mistake Layn had made teaching him how to correct his procedure for the future. When they were done the scene looked as if nothing, including them, had disturbed it at all. Thankfully he had an excellent memory and he would never make the same mistake twice. The next time he would have to bury a mutt or someone else no one would know, not even the Sorrentino’s.
Finally, dirty and sweaty again, Layn followed the rest of them back to the house. Just before they hit the tree line Nick turned back to Layn and told the rest of them to go on ahead. Again Layn’s stomach exploded with butterflies as he waited for Nick to ream him out. Layn crossed his arms defensive and ready but Nick held up a hand.
“I’m not going to yell at you so stop acting like a kicked dog. We’ve already spoken and I assume you get the point so I’m not going to reiterate it. I just wanted to make sure you know you can come to me with anything. I’d rather you tell me the truth than risk our livelihood here, ok?” he said and set a hand on Layn’s shoulder. Instantly Layn felt something he hadn’t before. Someone actually cared about what happened to him, without using him and without thinking of him as a waste of space. It was a feeling he wanted but feared at the same time.
“Yeah,” Layn acknowledge and looked at the ground, not wanting the older werewolf to see his eyes. His confliction. He should tell Nick about everything right now. As Nick turned to go Layn opened his mouth to speak but quickly shut it again. Fear plastered him to the forest floor and made him clamp his mouth shut like it had been sewn.
Instead of speaking he followed Nick feeling even worse. If their trust and instruction wasn’t enough he was also betraying their feelings towards him. They had started to actually like and accept him now and all this work would be for nothing soon. Following Nick Layn knew that he had to step it up and soon. If he stretched this out, he would only be hurting himself and everyone else more. Get Noah to trust him and somehow get him to Jay. Tell Jay about the pack’s territories and describe everything he can to give them the advantage. Tell him about all of the pack’s strengths and weaknesses. Help them take the pack down. He felt like the worst person in the world, like he should be punished over and over again for being such an awful human being. Such an awful werewolf.
The feeling didn’t leave him for the rest of the evening and even training and getting his ass kicked didn’t help the tangle of stress inside of him. He was surprised that no one noticed or if they did they could have attributed it to the stress. Between the beating in the woods, the mutt and the training tonight he was wiped and aching all over. The shower helped but the tiger balm he slathered over his body using a whole jar before bed helped more. Sure, he smelled like a Chinese herb but he felt, well pretty much nothing. Thank God Nick seemed to like him enough to throw it at him when he came from the shower earlier. What the hell was he going to do? He was so conflicted. One second he wanted to tell Nick, or someone, everything but the next second he was backing out of these thoughts and thinking he was nuts for thinking them. There was no way to back out of this situation now and anyway he turned it around in his mind he was screwed. Just screwed.