Karl clicked the touch pad in front of him and eyed the information there. Jeremy had given him the data he had collected on Layn so far so he could try to find a link to the boy’s past. The first thing to do was figure out his real name. Layn was not it. Layn Emerson Rumancek did not exist before 2000. The question remained of why he changed his name and what he was hiding. How would it affect the pack? Negatively most likely Karl thought and had voiced this opinion as well.
“Find anything?” he thought he heard behind him. He turned and saw no one. Still he imagined he heard her soft footsteps. Hope. What would she sound like if she tried to sneak up on him? What would he say to her? What would she tell him that would aid his cause? He was forgetting the smells and sounds of her already and it was driving him slowly mad.
“I traced Jeremy’s trail to see where it led, nowhere. We’re canvasing our contacts to figure out if Layn was staying with any mutts in the area now. He mentioned he was in foster care but if he was how did he figure out he was a werewolf and how did he survive it?” Karl asked the empty air. Only the stars outside the living room window blinked in answer.
He closed his eyes and imagined what Hope would look like during this pretend conversation. Her lips would be pursed thinking for a moment before she would suddenly open her narrowed eyes wide. They would light up with her next greatest idea, plan or thought. What would the idea be though? Karl wondered. He had a lot of imaginary conversations with Hope since she had gone silent. He didn’t want to forget exactly what she would look or sound like.
Sighing he stood setting the touch screen down and walked from the living room to the room down the hallway. Quietly he opened he first door on his right and looked inside. Nita laid curled on her side in her princess bed hugging her blue elephant deep in sleep. Her curly black hair hung over her face reminding Karl of his wife. He tip toed forward and kissed her forehead lightly before backing out and shutting the door continuing down the hallway.
The next door he came to made him pause if only to listen to the beeping inside. He turned the knob slowly as if maybe his protracted motion would be accumulated in months or years instead of seconds and he would see Hope awake and smiling, not silent in their bed. As silent as every other time he opened the door and looked inside.
Sometimes he lacked the courage to cross the threshold but today he walked forward and sat down in his usual chair sweeping his gaze over the machines. He had to make sure they were still working. Jeremy checked them every other day but he had to be sure. Next he took Hope’s warm hand and looked at the veins there. His eyes travelled to her face and then to his missing arm. He would have paid any price to save her. It had been worth it. It always would be.
She had been in a coma for a year now and while Karl had recovered and learned to compensate a part of him had believed his wife would wake up any day and do the same. There was a chance she still might. There was also a chance she may never wake again but this was a thought he had refused to Indulge. He’d keep her here, like this until she woke up or…he clenched his one remaining fist and brushed the thought aside.
“Where do I find the answers?” he asked her now. She remained silent. The one thing he missed most was just being able to speak with her about this and everything else. Karl waited for another full minute and then two before Nita cried for him. He was up in seconds and running down the hallway to her room, another nightmare. Karl held her to him comforting her, rubbing her back and whispering comforting words. She had the same power as her mother and due to duel supernatural parentage it was affecting her earlier than it normally would have. Hope would have known what to do but he had no idea. All he could do was be there for his precious child. He vowed to always be there for her.
“Karl.” He looked up seeing Elena in the doorway. Nita was almost asleep again so he gently laid her down and kissed her forehead, brushing the tears from her cheeks before he stood and walked towards the Alpha. Elena smiled at Nita before she stepped back and let Karl shut the door.
“Do you have the contact list?” Karl asked turning and walking down the hallway again. Elena said she did and that it was emailed to his Blackberry. He nodded. He had no idea how they dealt without technology before this.
“Are you sure you would rather go alone? Nick or Clay could go too.” Karl shook his head.
“I’m fine. Just take care of them.” he said and the Alpha nodded. “I’ll take a day to visit the mutts and then be back tomorrow. I doubt I’ll find much but threats are better in person.”
“Call if you need back up.” Elena ordered and he nodded. Toronto was six hours away and he only had two mutts to visit. Known werewolves in the area that might know something about Layn or who he was staying with. He was looking forward to being the heavy again. They all assumed he was out of the game with only one arm but they were very, very wrong.
He slowly peeled off his coat watching Noah and the others take off their clothes laughing and talking as they stowed or, in the younger generation’s case, threw their clothes about. In their own backyard they could do what they wanted but in an unknown location they had to be more careful. Layn always kept his clothes neat and hidden, a very old habit but he was too nervous to care now.
He pulled off his jeans after his coat and his shoes and socks. He took his hoodie and threw it on a nearby branch and only had his t-shirt left. He shivered a bit. It hadn’t snowed yet but the air was cold. The others were mostly undressed and started finding bushes to change in. Layn had to look away when Nick turned to him naked with his humongous member swinging and told him to hurry up.
Layn obeyed but he ducked into a bush before he took off his shirt. Nick would just think that he was shy about his body and that was fine. Layn crouched down on all fours and concentrated. He’d been changing for years so he had lied to the pack about that but he wasn’t the best at it. It took him a while and he really had to focus, it was definitely something he hated doing. Being the wolf was amazing but getting there was excruciating.
A full fifteen minutes later with Nick pawing at the bush Layn slunk out and looked at him wearily. Nick immediately lopped over and Layn crouched down submitting to him when he bit lightly on his neck. He stayed still until Nick stepped back and then he stood on four feet with his head cocked and his tongue lolling out. He was a wolf and nothing else mattered.
Nick watched him for a moment before he walked up and licked his shoulder where no fur ever materialised on the scarred red skin. Layn whined and stepped back and Nick chuffed but turned and took off. Layn followed running behind him letting his paws hitting the ground and the wind through his fur be the only feelings he cared about.
They caught up with the rest of the pack in a clearing where they were all play fighting, even Morgan was joining in. Nick immediately jumped into the fray and Layn walked up and sniffed standing on the edge. He whined after a second and Noah looked up and then hurtled himself towards him. As with Nick, Layn lay down on his stomach and waited while the other’s wolves sniffed him and got used to his scent.
After he submitted to them all he waited and when he finally looked up he saw they were staring at him, at his shoulder and foreleg. With a growl he stood and leapt forward at Noah tackling him to the ground and starting another play fight. They tumbled into the earth Layn nipping at Noah’s haunches. Noah growled and whipped around biting Layn’s ear and then jumping back with a wolf like laugh. This started another wolf war only broken up when Antonio howled and brought them all to attention again.
It was time for the part that Layn liked the most, the hunt. As soon as Antonio had their attention he took off. Layn raced after them letting his instincts take over. He caught the smell of the deer a few miles from their starting point and his stomach growled. Ahead he heard a snarl and he hurried up seeing that Nick, Reese and Morgan had corned the deer and Tonio was going for his snout. They were being a bit more careful since the deer has sharp antlers and could easily stab one of them and end their lives. It had happened before and every wolf was aware of this.
Noah hung back and Layn sat beside him watching when he got there. Noah pawed the ground and whined but Nick snapped at him when he started to move forward. Layn watched this with interest but didn’t move forward. He wanted to but he saw the danger and too many wolves would only complicate things and put everyone at risk.
When they had taken the deer down and started feeding Layn lay down watching and waiting for his turn which would not come until the end. He was at the bottom of the line being the youngest and the newest as well. He wasn’t the only one who hung back and he was soon joined by Morgan and Reese who lay down near Noah. Antonio would go first follow by Nick and then it would go down the line from oldest to youngest. Layn would be last but that was alright with him. He’d never had a deer in this capacity before. He had rabbits and even a fawn once but most things were too big for a lone wolf to take down. He’d even tried rats running in the city once which was a mistake he would never make again. Too gristly and they tasted like foul city mud.
When it was finally his turn the others were all licking themselves or one another of the blood and gore. Layn walked to the remainder of the deer and sniffed before dipping his head to eat the left overs. It was plenty for him and he was soon full. Neither Noah nor he ate as much as the older wolves at any point in time but they’d catch up when they were older, between twenty and twenty two or so Nick told them, and their metabolism kick started into overdrive. That didn’t mean they ate like normal humans either, most of the time they could eat double what a human could.
Layn stepped back from the deer carcass and pawed his bloody nose with his forepaw annoyed. He sneezed and shook his head until someone chuffed nearby and bumped into Layn’s shoulder. He looked up seeing Nick who immediately used his weight to make him lay down before he started licking his muzzle. Layn growled at the treatment but didn’t move until the older wolf was done. In the pack many wolf habits were observed that seemed awkward which is why Layn preferred to be on his own.
Sleepily he got up and followed the others to a nearby clearing where they lay down in a circle formation with the youngest in the middle. He immediately fell asleep after closing his eyes content and full with no fears. As the wolf he never had to fear.
When he did wake up it was raining lightly and he could feel the soft patters on his skin. He yawned and opened his eyes wondering why it was raining in his room when he realized he wasn’t anywhere near the house. He felt a warm presence at his back and front and quickly assessed the situation. Noah was his back and Reese at his front. There was little room for movement but he could do it if he was careful. He got up slowly feeling cold with the wind and early snow flakes and wrapped his arms around himself as he picked his way among the bodies.
When he was almost clear of them Reese groaned and stretched and Layn tumbled over his leg hitting the ground with a soft ‘oomph’ and hitting his knee on a rock cursing loudly. “Layn?” he asked sitting up and yawning. Layn looked over and nodded sighing. “Where are you going?”
“Um, to the house.” He answered and looked down at his bleeding knee for a moment. He’d need to take care of that.
“Well, wait and we’ll go together.” Layn shook his head and stood taking off through the dense trees and bushes hoping he was going the right way. He sniffed often and eventually figured out where his clothes were. He grabbed his jeans and was pulling them on when someone cleared their throat.
“I don’t want to talk about it.” Layn said grabbing his shirt but someone spun him around. Layn growled but Reese wasn’t paying attention to his actions but his body. Layn stiffened and stepped back as Reese gaped and then looked at him. He covered as much as his shoulder as he could with his hand but the scars were bigger than his hand and encompassed his left shoulder, down his side and down to his inner arm just past his elbow.
“You got caught in a fire?”
“I don’t want to talk about it.”
Reese gazed at him with sympathy for a few moments when Layn realized that, like his small episodes, this could play into his plan as well. “Does it hurt?” he asked and Layn shrugged.
“Sometimes, but it’s mostly ok.” He answered shoving his hands in his pocket.
Layn stayed stone faced and didn’t answer. After a few seconds he grabbed his shirt again and pulled it on covering himself. “Ok.” Reese said and then turned to find his own clothes. Layn was surprised that he didn’t press but this was the best possible solution, more sympathy to play into his plans. He was sure he hadn’t heard the end of it. Reese would be obligated to tell them and they had all seen the scars in his wolf form. They appeared as blistered skin where his fur wouldn’t grow and it was quite a bit larger than when in human form. He’d deal with it when it came like everything else.
City noises used to bother him but that was a long time ago. When he was fifteen or sixteen and on his own for the first time, after Malcolm murdered his father, and every noise, every unidentified sound, made him nervous. Now he barely noticed, barely.
Karl glanced down at his IPhone and then back at the address written there. The house was slightly dilapidated but not so much so to call attention to it, definitely battered though. It looked exactly like the place a mutt would live in. He sighed not looking forward to getting his Armani dirty. He liked the jeans and dress shirt Hope had bought him but he was still in Elena’s bad books so he needed to do everything the Alpha said, probably for the rest of his life.
He walked up the driveway and the front steps hearing the creek of the wood and wondering if his foot might go through but it held. He knocked on the door, merely a formality, and listened to the noises inside. Nothing. No escaping mutts or muttering. He turned the knob and broke the flimsy lock. It was a warning and one he hoped they heeded. The door opened with a welcoming click and he stepped in smelling must and odd pizza boxes but nothing recent.
As he walked further in he sniffed again realizing that no one had been here in a few days. The scents were familiar though, Joseph and even Layn not too long ago. He growled. The little lying mutt, he had a lot of explaining to do when Karl got home.
The first room was filled with top of the line computers and tech equipment. The monitors were filled with scrolling information going too fast for Karl to decipher. Karl spoke the most languages in the pack but he didn’t speak Java or C++. Computer languages eluded him but Paige could read it. He took a picture of the room before he strode forward and sat down at one of the computers taking a USB drive from his pocket. It was an Iron Man head design, one of Logan’s and the only one Elena could find on short notice. It was better than then My Little Pony one Nita used though.
He stuck in the computer port and waited for the driver to be installed and then information to pop up. When it did he clicked on the main file and sat back while it to copied all the information on the computers for later analysing. It was a program Paige had developed and it worked better than any available on the market now. When this was started he got up and explored the room rooting through old magazines, books and a few files folder and pictures looking for anything of interest. He found a few dozen of Joseph, Layn and some others that would be very useful.
Three minutes later he went back to the computer and took the USB out ready to explore the rest of the house. He was especially interested in where Layn’s scent was located. So, he did know the mutts it seemed, all the main players. Layn was a good actor but not as good as he thought he was. The question was what he was doing in the pack now? Obviously he was lying but for what purpose?
Karl followed the boy’s scent through the hallway and the kitchen, the bathroom and then up the stairs. It went only one place on the upper floor, a room that was clearly his. He opened the door getting a fresh wave of Layn’s scent and confirming his suspicions. He looked around observing the unmade bed, piles of books on every available space and clothes in heaps on the floor. This was definitely a teenager’s room, he had been to the Sorrentino’s and seen both Reese’s and Noah’s rooms there. Reese was pretty tidy though he was past teenage years but Noah was about as clean as an Elephant at the zoo. Layn was the same way. It was a teenage boy thing.
Walking further in he saw a few bottles of beer and alcohol stacked in a corner and a pile of old CD’S beside a broken IPod on the floor. He went to the bed, crouched and sniffed. Layn hadn’t been here for few days or so. He wondered if Nick knew where Layn went when he left. He doubted it. He would soon though.
He sat on the bed making a face and looked at the bedside table. A single personal memento was displayed. It was very unlike the Layn who presented himself to the North American Pack. The picture showed a toddler dark haired with wide dark eyes flecked with black. On either side of him stood a man and a woman, really only teenagers, smiling. The boy shared his father’s hair and chin but his mother’s eyes. A young Layn and his parents perhaps.
Karl reached for the picture and turned it over fiddling with the clasps on the frame. He took the back off and the picture out. On the back he glimpsed curling slanted writing in Slavic specifically Polish.
Reuben, 4 yrs
Iven and Beatrice
Kielec Poland (1997)
So Layn was really Reuben? That would help in their search for his true identity. Karl pocketed the picture to show the pack members later and looked around for anything else to take. He was about to go when he spotted a leather cord hanging from Layn’s bedpost. He supposed he would keep calling him Layn for now since that is who he presented himself to them as. He grabbed the cord and yanked pulling hard on a leather pouch with sloppy stitching work. He turned it over and sniffed and a faint smell of possibly sandalwood or dragon’s blood met his nose. He opened the bag seeing some dried herbs inside. A witch’s charm possibly. How was he connected to the witches? Karl’s eyes went to his shirt pocket and the picture of his mother which he took out again. Was he a double supernatural? Yet something else he would be getting from the boy very soon.
Reese watched a few minutes of the film Noah had put on but his interest waned quickly. He’d seen Lord of the Rings countless times and it usually interested him but he was too worried about other things. As soon as Noah and Layn were distracted eating popcorn or throwing it at one another he snuck out and tapped Morgan on the shoulder to follow him.
Morgan went silently and Reese closed the door after they had stepped out making the theatre room as dark as possible. Neither Noah nor Layn had even turned their heads as the two left which was just as well. They walked down the hallway towards Nick’s study. They had decided earlier to wait until the other two were distracted before they told Nick about this. Morgan had noticed Layn’s scars as well but he wasn’t sure anyone else did.
As soon as Morgan started staying here on a full time basis Reese had started including him in most of the stuff he did. Morgan was older than him but the closest to his age besides Layn and Noah. It was nice having someone only slightly older than himself here and someone he could talk to in a more mature manner than he could with Noah sometimes or a younger manner than with Nick.
Morgan knocked on the door and Reese followed him in. Nick was on the phone and he gestured for them to hold on for a moment. Reese nodded and sat down but interrupted when he heard it was Elena speaking. “Sorry, Nick but Elena needs to hear this too.”
Nick shot him a look and Reese shut up but a second later he put them on speaker phone. “We found a way to help identify Layn.” Morgan stared and with Reese’s help explained the scars.
“I think it was a fire but you should be able to track him down a lot easier.” Reese clarified and Elena agreed already clicking keys as she spoke.
“There is also the information Karl found as well,” Elena said which was the original purpose of the phone call. “His real name is Reuben.”
“We should have a real name and an origin by suppertime.” Morgan grinned and Reese agreed.
“Not a word to Layn.”
After Nick hung up he sent the information Karl had obtained to a wireless hard drive so Reese and Morgan could access the information and go through the multiple files. Elena, Clay and Jeremy were doing the same to make the search quicker.
Hours later feeling exasperated Reese glanced up as Nick swore and beckoned them both over. They had received surveillance pictures years ago from a mutt who was trying to get on their good side. The pictures showed Joseph standing in a crowd on the street and close by there was a ten or so year old dark haired boy looking around with wide eyes. When they first saw the boy they assumed he belonged to another dark haired man or a light haired woman standing near. They did not think for a moment the boy was with Joseph. They would have known had they received all of the photos but they only saw the first one, part of the story but not a whole. On the computer files Nick had found the rest that Joseph had somehow gotten a hold of.
Joseph turned away in the next photo and the boy turned his head to watch. He started walking and the boy started to follow. The next few pictures showed them stopping and then getting into a cab. The boy was a young Layn. They hadn’t know it at the time but these pictures told them exactly who he was and who he was working with.
“Shit, Noah.” Reese growled looking worried and glancing behind him as if he could see Noah through the walls. “What if…?” he trailed of and made a motion to go and find him but Nick grabbed his arm telling him Noah was fine and Layn hadn’t done anything yet, he probably wouldn’t for a while but he would if he suspected something.
“Both of you know how upset Noah would be about this, he’ll over react and right now we don’t know anything for sure. We’re keeping a low profile and not letting him know anything. Treat him as normal guy…I know this is hard but we can’t scare him away. Elena will be pissed if we do.”
Morgan nodded but Reese looked irate and clenched his fists now trying to keep calm. It was just hitting him how much danger Noah was in. He cared about Noah like a brother and he couldn’t let anything happen to him. No matter who he had to hurt to protect Noah he would. “How can we not…?” he asked but then shook his head and looked at the computer instead of Nick.
“I know bud, I’m having a hard time not just throwing him in the cells downstairs and making sure he tells us everything to keep Noah safe too. Elena sees it another way and I think she’s right. We suspect Joseph kidnapped Layn from Europe somewhere as a kid and raised him to do his dirty work. We know Layn doesn’t understand the immenseness of the situation. If he was taken as a child he would have been lied to and coerced and he’s doing what he thinks is right. We need to make him realize otherwise if our suspicions is true. Give him a second chance and see if we can get through to him.” Nick told them. Morgan looked as if he thought about this for a moment and then nodded. Reese looked uncertain again but Nick quickly stepped in to assure him.
“He is a young wolf and could be very valuable to the pack and its future. The more people we have, we can trust the better. If he can be reformed he will be. If he can’t…then we take care of him,” Nick promised. Reese’s eyes clouded and he looked uncertain again but finally he told Nick he’d do what they wanted.
The harder part would be not letting Layn know something was up. “Take a minute.” Nick advised and Reese shook his head and took a deep breath. He could handle anything to keep his new family safe and he’d prove it. He wasn’t losing this one too.
The movie had been a nice distraction but the anxiety about everything slowly crept up on him again. He had been feeling something was off for a while and showing his identifying scars to Reese assured they would figure out who he was though, they may still be unsure about his purpose. Layn felt for his phone in his pocket and sighed to himself at the non-communication. Jay hadn’t called or messaged him for longer than he was comfortable with. Behind him Noah was talking about something and Layn nodded absently at his words not paying attention in the least.
“I’m going to fuck that witch you met a while ago.” Noah said now and Layn looked up oddly. Noah gave him a look. Noah rolled his eyes and snapped his fingers. “Come back to earth.”
“Paige would kill you, Elena would kill you and Lucas would turn you into a toad.” Layn said and Noah laughed and rolled his eyes playing with his own phone in his hands.
“Just wanted to make sure you were listening. What’s wrong with you anyway?” Noah prompted. Layn shrugged to this and glanced at his phone again but Noah lunged for it and grabbed it dancing back when Layn tried to swipe it with a grin.
“Messaging a girl?” he asked raising his eyebrows.
“No!” Layn growled and reached for it again.
“A guy then?” Noah chuckled and backed up again. Layn rolled his eyes but smiled in spite of himself. With a taunting grin Noah turned and ran across the room. Layn took two seconds to follow racing after him and both of them ending up falling onto the couch and then the floor in full fight mode. The phone was thrown to the other side of the room but neither of them noticed.
Layn landed on Noah and pinned him for two seconds before Noah used his extra weight to push him back and throw a punch. It landed lightly. Layn grabbed Noah’s arm and hurled him to the side jumping on top of him and sending his own barrage of punches. Now Noah had his serious face in place and started hitting back harder. He flipped Layn over landing on his back and twisting his arm until Layn screamed for mercy.
Noah laughed and got off holding out a hand to help him as Layn turned over. He grabbed it and twisted pulling Noah to his knees so he could tackle again. The fight went back and forth for some time before Noah finally managed to press his arm down so hard on Layn’s throat he knew he was beat and he surrendered.
“Don’t mess with a pack wolf.” He grinned triumphantly. Layn rolled his eyes and sat up as well rubbing his throat.
“Yes, because you’re deadly.” He chuckled and Noah nodded with bravado still grinning. Layn stood rubbing out the stiffness in his legs and retrieved his phone which sported a small crack in the screen corner. He touched the screen to see no new messages had come through and sighed. This wasn’t right. Something was off and he had a feeling that he had little time before either Joseph or the pack acted. He should act first.
“Noah?” Layn said turning to the other werewolf now. Noah looked up and grinned with green eyes sparkling. Layn saw good there and naivety, something that never shone in Jay’s eyes even if they were almost the same. He couldn’t do this.
He was about to open his mouth and surrender, just tell Noah or whoever else was around everything because what he was doing felt beyond wrong now. The locked room encased in his own to keep Noah inside was wrong. He had no idea how he could have thought it was right in the first place. He knew what that room felt like. Jay had locked him inside many times, especially in the beginning. There were no windows, no air ways and no escape. But maybe he could just leave and not tell anyone anything. Jay wouldn’t get him for a while and the pack will just think he left.
“Layn, Noah?” Elena suddenly called pulling him out of the dark room in his former home. She stood in the doorway with file folders in hand giving Layn in particular a knowing look. She knew. Layn could feel it. He backed up unconsciously.
“Hi.” Noah smiled without feeling anything wrong in the air. Layn stood shakily and stayed put waiting for her next words or the condemnation.
“I’ve realize you haven’t gone over the mutt files yet and since I was around I thought I would bring them over. Noah I think you’ve seen most of them but Layn you might be familiar with some of them, you may know a few quite well.” Elena said gaze boring into him.
Layn had to remind himself to breath. He stood up taller and looked her in the eyes challenging her. “No, I haven’t seen it but I doubt I know much.” He held out his hand and broke eye contact. For a moment there was only silence and finally her footsteps echoed on the floor. She tossed the file onto the coffee table and gestured for Layn to have a look. He nodded and got down on his haunches listening as Elena asked Noah to go and find Reese or Nick.
Layn opened the file and saw Jay staring at him from the front page. He moved this one and saw Cain’s file underneath and some of the others he knew to be working with. The next one was him. His real name and real information looked back at him. Slowly he closed it and stood looking at the Alpha. “Why don’t we talk…Reuben.”