He woke with a jerk when the door opened what felt like hours later on squeaky hinges. He blinked sleep from his eyes and felt something warm behind him. His grandfather was holding him. The burn was barely noticeable in a familiar person's arms.
When he was able to focus he saw his mum's eyes were red and raw looking. "Shh, he's sleeping," Gavin whispered but his mum shook his head. Ira stirred and stretched as his grandfather grumbled that had been sleeping. His mum didn't seem to care. She walked over, limped Ira observed, and reached down picking him up. He wrapped his arms around her and she murmured how big he was getting and sat in an opposite corner hugging him tightly to her chest. Ira buried his face in her shoulder smelling her scent and relaxing.
"What happened?" Gavin asked. Ira felt his mum shake her head. She wasn't willing to speak either at all or in front of him. He looked up at her and covered his ear and she smiled pulling his hands down and shaking her head.
"We don't need to talk about it right now." Ira gave her a scrutinizing look but she only smiled and pushed his head down again telling him he was safe, she had insured that, and to go to sleep. Tomorrow everything would be ok. He didn't really believe that but he stayed quiet and stayed in his mum's arm even when his legs fell asleep and he was uncomfortable. She needed him so he stayed put and finally fell asleep again.
He dreamed of whispered conversations and voices snaking through his mind and filling his head with half remembered plans. When he woke up he was more confused than ever. He carefully extracted himself from his mum's limp arms and glanced at the opposite corner of the box where his grandfather had his head titled back against the wall sleeping and snoring slightly.
He stood and stretched, his stomach growling. Ira scratched his belly absently and walked to the door putting his ear to it to see if he could hear anything. He tried the doorknob again and let it slip out of his hands and then turned to the room to examine every nook and cranny. Nothing. When he glanced at the ceiling he noticed a small camera but he couldn't reach it unless he climbed onto Gavin's shoulders. As he was gazing at it someone kicked him up behind and did exactly what he was thinking.
"Take it down," Gavin ordered. Ira immediately stood and got his balance, his grandfather still holding tightly, and reached out a hand for the camera barely grazing it. Gavin boosted him an inch higher causing their balance to ripple a bit but Ira was able to grab the camera and pull it from the wall hard. It came out of the mount with a pop. "Destroy it." Ira grinned and set it on the ground stomping on it as hard as possible and then jumping on it until it was crushed. He then got on his knees and sifted through the pieces examining them when he was done.
"What have I told you about using him for criminal activity?" his mum asked yawning from her corner and standing. Ira smiled at her as she limped over clearly sore and wincing and crouched beside him. "What are you doing baby bear?" she asked brushing some hair out of his eyes. Ira warmed at the name and showed her one of the bigger pieces.
"Sherlock is back," Gavin said looking at the piece as well. Ira took the large piece and tried to fit it in with the smaller pieces he had crushed. They had a variety of names for him that meant different things. The name baby bear was for when his mum was worried and Sherlock was when he was getting into things again and his grandfather was irritated. He knew them all well and he paid attention closely.
He dropped the piece and looked at the man who was pacing now thinking. "I think this piece goes here," Daniella said and distracted him picking up the piece. She glared at Gavin and shook her head. For as long as he could remember they had been snipping at one another and there had been tension. He got the sense that Gavin felt like his mum had made a lot of bad choices and he did not agree with any of them. His mum blamed Gavin for a lot of things too. There was a lot of blame to go around.
"Play…I mean explore with this," she instructed and stood. Ira watched as she took Gavin's arm and walked him to the corner whispering furiously. Ira held the piece in his hand but didn't take his eyes off them. His mum learned a long time ago he took offense to the word play so she used explore or discover or other words that were more acceptable.
They whispered furiously making hand gestures and both looked angry. They knew exactly how low to speak so Ira would not hear. They had lots of practice. Ira fingered the piece in his hand feeling the textures of raised numbers on the plastic to keep the panic and fear down. Finally he stood grinding the piece into his palm. It cut and the pain distracted him for a moment. He looked down at blood and dropped the plastic just as the sound of the door clicking open quietly penetrated the space.
They were too busy arguing to notice him or the door. He balled his hand watching the blood drip and made himself move forward. His grandfather was just snarling something angrily; he had his mum's arm in a death grip, when Ira tugged on his sleeve. Gavin turned angry eyes on Ira and quickly snapped out of it taking a breath.
Ira pointed to the doorway and both of them stopped and gaped at it. His curiosity got the better of him and he was starting forward in seconds. Gavin and his mother both shouted for him to stop. Gavin grabbed his shoulder and picked him up handing him to his mum and ordering them both to the corner of the room. Ira clung to her neck as she moved back and they both watched Gavin go to the door, sniff and then open it wider. He stopped listening and then went out. Absolute silence. Ira squirmed to get down but his mum stopped him and told him to shush. Ira scowled but listened.
They both jumped when a growl rang out followed by a laugh. His mum gasped and set Ira down telling him to stay. He protested grabbing her shirt sleeve as she left. Daniella pulled the fabric away and strode forward anyway. She looked out the half closed door as well telling Ira to stay and then she left. Ira sucked in a breath terrified and stayed put listening but nothing came. Why would his mom leave when she couldn't defend herself? It didn't make any sense.
Finally Ira walked forward too and grasped the door by the side looking out. He blinked seeing nothing and thinking this was the part in the horror movie where he would get killed and so would everyone else. Therefore he stayed where he was. His mum hadn't made a sound but his grandfather's growl was real. He didn't want to walk into the unknown. He took a step back but then stopped. His dad was brave and he wanted to be like him. He was brave too. What would his dad do?
He took a moment to contemplate before he decided to be brave and moved forward. He took one step and he was past the threshold and then another and he was on the concrete floor surrounding the big box they were trapped in. Another few steps took him to the wall that cornered the next hallway. He looked back at the box wanting to go back to relative safety but he made himself move forward instead.
"Hello there." Ira jumped at the voice and backed up but Keith caught his arm and grinned. "It's time to send your dad a message boy," he announced. Suddenly he knew why the door was opened. Keith wanted to separate them to get to him. Angrily he glared at the man. Keith laughed and started dragging Ira down the hallway as he protested and struggled. He was a mouse in a lion's mouth, his squeaks went unheard.
The airport was the most likely place for them to go. There were the two main airports, LaGuardia which handled domestic flight, JFK which took care of international and the smaller Newark airport. It made the most sense for them to go to JFK and get out of the country. If they were there they should be able to find a trace of them at the very least.
They scoured the area focusing on the places where flights were destined for Australia or New Zealand but it was not until they focused on international flights to Europe that they hit pay dirt. They scoured the waiting areas which took much longer than Reese wanted to spend and finally found a clue. "The unknown man's scent is here," Noah announced sniffing the seat and crouching. "Ira was here and so was Daniella…?" he asked confused.
Reese crouched and sniffed nodding to this. He hadn't called the rehab where Daniella had been but he would bet if he did that she would not be there. "It's her." Noah nodded to this and reached under the seat standing with a travel brochure in his hands and a look somewhere between sadness and anger. He opened it and glanced at Reese before handing it over.
Reese sniffed it and then looked inside as well. Ira had drawn a small picture with a pencil right over the map of Germany, a Golden Eagle, and the country's national bird. Reese gripped the paper. His heart skipped a beat. They had taken his son to Germany. How would he find his little boy in Germany? His heart wanted to break. He would never stop searching for his child of course, not until the day he died.
"He's not in Germany or anywhere else," Karl suddenly announced showing them Keith's trail. Reese bent and sniffed where he pointed and then followed the trail outside. It disappeared in the parking lot. He could tell that they separated Ira and his mother and the other man. They kept him away from them to keep control of all of them. Keep Ira from the adults and the adults would behave and Ira would behave if he thought his mother was in danger.
"It has to be Gavin. It would make sense that he came for his daughter and grandson," Elena announced. Reese nodded distracted. His hands were tight on the wheel and his gaze was distant on the woods. "Reese, we are going to find him." Reese nodded again tightening his hand at ten and two almost breaking the wheel.
"The problem is not that it was Gavin, he figured that out already I think," Noah interrupted, "the problem is what Gavin wants with him." As usual Noah was right on the money about Reese's inner fears.
"If his grandfather hates him then why does he want him? Will he sell my son? Will he hurt him?" Reese growled feeling powerless. With a snarl he slammed his fist into the wheel breaking it in half.
"Reese," Elena sighed. Reese shook his head and opened the door slamming it behind him and walking into the woods. He needed space to think. Ira was in danger and he had no idea where he was. Kim was in danger and he could not be there for her or the babies. He was useless.
"Reese!" Noah called. Reese growled and turned towards the tree line. Noah was just visible but he was not coming into the woods. Smart man. They had been pack brothers for ten years. Noah knew him inside and out. "It's a message from Keith. You need to see this!" The werewolf froze surprised before rushing forward. Noah was holding up his phone which had a video ready to play.
Slowly Reese reached out and pressed the screen. Keith had Ira on his lap holding him tightly and Ira was struggling harder than any of them had ever seen him fight before. He wasn't saying a word but it was in his expression. His eyes were filled with fear and hate and at one point he managed to bite Keith. Reese almost threw the screen breaking it when Keith pulled his forearm tight against the boy's throat choking him so hard he stopped panting with watery eyes.
"That's better," Keith said letting him go so he could breath. The boy choked before getting a few breaths in. His face was red and he looked much angrier than before but he stopped fighting letting the emotion out from his eyes instead. "There is a timer at the bottom of this video which will continue to play. You have two hours to find your son before I start taking him apart piece by piece. Child parts sell extremely well on the black market since they are rare." Ira eyes flew open wider at this and the fear overrode his anger. "Or, maybe I'll sell him the same person your friend Hall was going to sell him to. I hear he willing to pay big bucks for a little werewolf. I'll make it even juicier by selling him as a pack wolf."
"No," Reese snarled.
"After I am done with the child I will start with his mother and grandfather and, as I understand, you have a mate and two babies on the way. I will be a very rich man if you do not get here in time. I hear babies sell even better than children," he finished. Reese never took his eyes off of Ira's and for the first time since he had met the boy he saw tears rolling down his cheeks. He was truly terrified and this scared Reese even more. Ira was a master at keeping his emotions in check and this was the first time he had seen the boy truly fell apart beyond his mum leaving and Josef kidnapping him.
"We'll find him," Elena assured. Her voice was liquid ice like the kind running through his veins. The next few moments were crucial to the survival of his family. He did know one thing. When he did get a hold of Keith he was going to do to him exactly what he had threatened to do. Bit by bit Keith would come apart and he'd be feeling it all. Clay was already an expert.
"Elena," Reese started.
"Yes, Reese he is yours to do what you want with, for however long you want and in whatever way you want." He nodded. "Now let's find your son." She set a hand on his shoulder and squeezed. He looked back at the screen again. The countdown was at one hour and fifty eight minutes.
"I've got the IP address," Karl announced. "I can't imagine they are stupid enough not to mask it but I bounced the signal off five different towers and it seems legitimate." He explained.
"Then let's go," Reese said darkly before Elena could reply. She gave him a look but let it go. He was highly stressed and she understood that but she would not let him get away with giving orders in her presence again. Normally he wouldn't be even as the Alpha elect.
Keith reached forward and clicked off the camera holding so tightly to Ira that he would have bruises. When he stood Ira's legs dangled and swung and he considered struggling again but it would do no good. His throat was already sore and swollen as was the rest of him.
Keith dropped him onto his feet and took his upper arm dragging him towards another room. "Your dad doesn't have much time. Do you think he'll even bother looking for you?" Keith asked. Ira did not dare look up but he figured Keith was smiling. He had just announced his own fear. What if his dad didn't care? He had two other babies on the way didn't he? What was Ira really?
He suddenly wondered where his mum and grandfather were. It seemed like a maze of a place and Keith was a big planner. He had probably planned exactly where all of them would be so they would not run into one another and he would have planned it to cause the most frustration, his little game. Ira wiped his eyes and cheeks for once not ashamed of his fear or his tears.
"I suppose you would like to see your mother?" Keith asked Ira did look up this time surprised. As if on cue he heard a yell, a decidedly female one. His toes curled in shoes as he recognized his mum's voice. He had heard that yell before. It would drive him under his bed with a blanket pulled over his head or into the back of his closet hiding behind his hung up clothes. He was never allowed to come to her rescue but he could not stand the noise. He would cover his ears and pretend it was not happening.
Keith took a moment to relish Ira's look and then grinned like a hyena pulling him forward. The door they stood in front of for a fraction of a second was a large sliding door often found in warehouses. Ira bit his lip when he heard the noise again prepared to turn, run and hide pretending this never happened but Keith kept him in place.
Finally he reached for the door and pulled it open. Ira closed his eyes tightly only hearing it until Keith jammed a finger into his temple. Ira's eyes popped open, they always did when Keith did this and Ira saw it all, three werewolves, mutts, and his mum. When she saw him, saw what she was seeing her eyes widened and filled with ashamed tears.
"She's having fun," Keith chuckled and finally closed the door and turned away. If he had been speaking he would have been stunned into silence. Instead he wasn't sure what to say or do. He couldn't help her at all, only his dad could and he never would. Ira knew that in his heart of hearts. Keith steered him away and he did not resist until they entered a room a few hallways away.
When he looked up he saw the open lid of a trunk in the middle. Keith's hard hand clutching his shoulder the fingers digging in and Ira shook his head but Keith growled for him to get in and be quiet. Ira shook his head again struggling. Keith easily picked him up and set him inside. Ira tried to scramble out but Keith pushed him down again shutting and locking the truck. "Now to find your mum and have some fun," Keith announced. Ira was already kicking at the top of the trunk and screaming without using words. He wasn't sure how long he screamed, until his voice got horse and his limbs ached from fighting. He laid sobbing and hitting the side with his hand not hopeful. He should not have left the room. He should have stayed.
Exhaustion took over and he laid breathing heavily with stress in and out of blackness or he thought he was anyway. It was too dark in here to tell. After he lay for what felt like hours he heard voices shouting and what sounded like hitting and things breaking. He swallowed and tried to shout again but nothing came out. He whimpered hoping someone would hear and starting hitting the side of the truck as hard as possible, it was not admittedly very hard. They wouldn't find him and he would be trapped here forever, he would die and become a skeleton. He started scratching now and kicking but there was no room. He was so small but there wasn't even enough room for him.
They surrounded the warehouse, Reese was on the left side with Noah waiting as he broke the lock. Their scents were all around the area. Either Keith was not good with technology or this was a trick. With a snap the lock came undone and Noah opened the door. Reese sniffed and then went inside ready for anything but only stale air assaulted him. Noah followed hearing nothing but small animals scurrying and seeing nothing but dust moats.
At the end of a long hallway they came to two metal doors with push handles. Reese looked back at his brother and nodded, behind them their trail of footsteps led to their destination. Carefully Noah pushed open the doors. A rush of air met them with the scents of various mutts and a human.
At the other end of the large room Reese saw Elena, Clay and Karl had all entered from opposite ends. The room was empty except for a large wall in the middle covered in two large blue tarps. The smell of blood hit him instantly. Reese moved forward fast. What if it was his son? What if Ira was bleeding there?
Reese ran forward and yanked on the tarps hard causing them both to tumble down and reveal their secrets. Gavin was sprawled halfway up a white wall nailed to it by his wrists and sagging. Blood moved down the wall under his wrists to the floor pooling there. He stared for a moment before realizing Ira was not there. He was at once grateful for this and frustrated.
"Where is Ira?" Reese asked feeling frantic. He'd gotten a call about Kim, just before they got here, she was still having a hard time in labour. He was caught half way between worry for her and the babies and for Ira. When he was thinking about Ira he was distracted by Kim and when he was worrying about the babies and his wife he was side-tracked by Ira.
No one answered him. No one knew. If he wasn't here though he held out hope that Ira was alive somewhere and since he was Keith's best bargaining chip Reese figured the boy was safe, hurt or terrified maybe but hopefully safe. They would deal with everything else afterwards.
The other circles the wall looking for clue and Clay studied the job nodding in satisfaction like he was getting new ideas from the mutts. Elena shook her head but he only grinned and shrugged.
They took Gavin down from the wall pulling him gently to the floor and bound the bleeding wounds in his wrists which were supporting him but would not have for much longer. He was drained of energy and not capable of speech. His body would have dragged him down bit by bit making it impossible for him to breath and suffocating the man. As they set him on the floor bright red words scrawled behind Gavin's back caught Reese's eyes. He stopped reading the message.
Catch me if you can,Says the wind to the leaves;You know who I am,Autumn in the bereaves.
But mostly I am sure,You will look on to find;Only what I will allure,In what I've left behind.
"Peter S. Quinn, he's mangled the lines though." Reese read the poem a few more times reciting the whole poem in his mind and putting the lines together. Keith had taken the first and third or fourth paragraph and put it together written in blood.
"Catch me if you can has an obvious meaning and wind in the leaves could mean he thinks he is invisible or can keep getting away from us," Clay said scanning the poem again ever the scholar.
"Like hell," Noah snorted walking over an unconscious Gavin, "Of course we know who is he, asshole."
"Bereaves had two meaning, leaves and orphans. He could be referring to Ira being an orphan soon or to me being one," Reese growled balling his fists. His son would not lose his parents like he lost his. It would not happen.
"The rest can only mean he wants us to look at what he did and be afraid or find clues in the blood and in the execution of the act." Clay paced as he thought in full professor mode along with Reese they were an unstoppable think tank.
"Blood and old style executions methods, if he is trying to scare us he is doing a poor job," Elena mused. Reese nodded and stood pacing to the far end of the small circular room they had Gavin displayed in and back again.
"No, he is trying to allude to Ira's future Reese. The blood means he plans to kill us all making Ira an orphan but what would be worse than killing him?" Elena asked. Reese stiffened and caught Noah's eye finding his own fear reflected back at him.
"To make him suffer, to keep him alive as long as possible," Karl answered walking back into the room at that moment after a quick scouting. "He would not cause him physical pain, not as much as Gavin anyway, but he would hurt him, he would remind him about his parents, the dead pack who loved him and the mother who never forgot him and the babies. He would grow up knowing it was all taken away from him and believing it was all because of him."
"Keith's gift to us will not be a sad little boy but an abused child who would turn into an angry man, a possible man eating mutt or just a killer who can't be stopped because he is fueled by the tragedy of his childhood. He'll become worse than Malcolm and the only one who can stop him will be Keith until Ira turns on him and kills him. The implications are endless," Elena said in hushed voice.
"No!" Reese snarled loudly turning and hitting the wall so hard he felt the bones in his hand crack. Noah sighed and pulled Reese back throwing him to the ground and pinning him in seconds. He would not let his sweet, smart, innocent little boy become something so horrible.
"We won't let it happen, Reese. Keith will be the one who will end up dead and not from Ira's hand but from ours," Elena promised. She reached down and held out a hand to Reese who was blinking hard. She waved Noah to get off and he did as she crouched taking his hand and promising again that this would never happen.
Reese wanted to believe her but it was so hard. The journey had been rocky and every turn his son seemed to take led him close to danger, he would never be safe as long as he was Reese's son. The babies would never be safe. It might be easier to go back in time and eradicate his mistakes or stop them from happening but his children were not mistakes. His children were the best thing that had ever happened to him. He would fight until he couldn't any more, until he was dead.
Noah and Karl dismantled the wall and poured gasoline over everything to start a fire eradicating the blood and evidence and minutes later they strode from the building. Antonio was long gone with Nick to take Gavin to the Sorrentino cells. The two had stayed outside scouting and keeping watch while the rest went inside.
Reese's cell phone rang as they walked. He flicked his thumb across the touch screen and a message appeared with a video attached.
Trapped in this box,
in this shell.
The very version
Of my own hell.
I grow weary.
The air closed off,
"That's Ira's poem isn't it?" Noah asked looking at the message over his shoulder. Reese nodded. The boy liked to write. He did not often let them see his musing but once in a while he would tear a page out and slam it down in front of them or ball it up and throw it. This had been one from just after his mum left, a very dark piece that Reese kept in his wallet and worried over.
He read the poem out loud at the Alpha's request and then clicked on the video link. Immediately a small trunk with a large lock appeared on the screen with same countdown timer as before. Reese had been checking it obsessively and the time was slipping away like sand through his fingers.
"Catch me if you can," Keith laughed and sat on the trunk patting it with a large smile. Reese expected the boy to shout or to bang on the trunk but it was silent. His son was silent, mute like he had been since Josef but this silence was worse, endless.