Chapter 44: Felony Stop
I started crying as we drove away, and I couldn’t stop.
I didn’t stop when little Nathanial and Laurie were brought to me, crying and hungry.
I didn’t stop as they emptied my breasts of the milk that should have been for my boys.
I didn’t stop as they fell asleep in my arms.
I felt a hand on my shoulder; Estelle had come over to sit on the end of the couch. “It’s all right, Ella, you just let it all out.”
I turned to her, taking in her white hair and wrinkled appearance. “I’m an Alpha, Estelle. I’m supposed to be stronger than this, and I feel like my whole life is collapsing around me again.”
She chuckled a little as she looked around; while I was busy with the babies, Shelley had organized a clean and dress of the children, and they were all cuddled up together on a blanket in front of the couch. They were so cute and innocent, I thought, as they grasped each other in their sleep. “You think you’re not strong? That you should be doing more?”
I nodded. “Last year all I wanted to do was finish school and go to college. Now I’m wolfless, mated, I have two babies at home, a small Pack to run and now this. I’ve lost my parents, my Aunt Remi and Uncle Doug, my cousins, my friends, the Greens… It’s like someone reached into my heart and ripped a chunk out of it. Watching Renee leave was the last straw; I should be protecting her, and I let her go.”
“She didn’t give you a choice, Ella, her path was set by Luna just as yours is. She has a responsibility to her own Pack, and despite her losses, her pain and her age, she is pushing through. And do you know what she told me about why she is doing it?” I shook my head. “You.”
“Me? What did I do?”
“You showed her what true strength was, Ella. You had everything taken from you, yet you still helped and protected others. You became Alpha without a wolf, you rebuilt a Pack, gave them a home, and avenged the loss of your parents. You’re her hero, Ella, and she is hoping she can be half as strong as you now.”
I leaned back as she wiped my face with a tissue, cleaning the tear tracks that had soaked my face and neck and into the collar of my shirt. “What do I do, Estelle?”
“You take it one moment at a time, Ella. Hard times are always like that. Focus on the next few minutes, the next hour, soon the day is over and you are on to the next one. You don’t die unless you give up.”
“I won’t ever give up.” I looked around the RV with a new determination; my Pack had just doubled in size. This was a good thing.
“We know that, it is why Alpha Derek reached out to you. Think about what they are trusting you with for a moment. Maggie is about to deliver her first baby, and her mate Samuel is leading a group through the mountains right now. You know how protective men are of their pregnant females, yet he trusts you to take care of her so he can do his job for the Pack. The triplets there? Their mother was killed in the bombing, their father died trying to hold the Army back so the rest of the Pack could escape. They have no other relatives, they are the last of the Thompson line. Derek trust that you will find them a home, raise them to be good wolves just like their parents were.”
I sobbed louder. “They are orphaned? Oh Luna… the poor girls…”
“They aren’t the only ones. Nathanial there in your arms? He had a fever and was in the clinic overnight, his parents both died in the bombing. He just had his first meal in two days thanks to you. We didn’t have any lactating moms survive, and he wouldn’t have survived the trip to the caves.”
I looked in my other arm. “But Laurie…”
“She is an orphan as well, Ella. Her parents were Omegas, they were working in the Pack Kitchen when the attack occurred. We couldn’t even reach their bodies.”
“What about Theo? Reggie and Ryan?”
“Their parents are alive, but you know that at that age they could never keep up with the Pack in that terrain. Their parents are trusting you to keep them out of the war, to keep them safe.” Her wrinkled hand was stroking Laurie’s blonde hair. “No one else could be trusted with them, and no one else could make it through the human checkpoints to get to us. I know everything you have been through, young lady, and it all prepared you for this moment right now.”
I shifted a little and held Laurie out to her. “Well, this next moment I need to pee.” She laughed as she took Nathanial in her other arm. “I’ll be right back.” After taking care of business and getting a snack and a bottle of juice, I laid back in the recliner again and took the babies in my arms. They were mine until I found them a family, I thought, as their heads pillowed onto my shoulders. Estelle put a few pillows around me to tuck everyone in, and I fell asleep.
I woke up about five AM; Mark was pulling us into a Wal-Mart parking lot near Miles City. We decided that Tom and Shelley would go in and shop, as we had used up my emergency diaper supply and the kids needed actual clothes. List in hand, they stepped out into the cool morning air as the rest of us scrambled to get the kids through the tiny bathroom.
When they came back forty minutes later, every kid was in an adult’s lap getting comfort. Last night they had been so exhausted, the loss they felt wasn’t so apparent, and now we were far enough away they couldn’t use the family bond with their parents, if they were still alive. Tom drove us off as we unloaded the breakfast they had bought; fresh fruit, bagels and cream cheese, yoghurt and donuts. All of us ate well, something that the people we rescued hadn’t done in a few days.
Shelley set up some coloring books at the table for the older children, while Maggie and I took care of the babies. They ate greedily from me again this morning, and I was glad.
It was just before we reached the North Dakota border when Tom yelled back that we had company, we were being pulled over. Instantly, there was a flurry of activity. Shelley tore back the carpet and opened the hatch to the tank; as soon as it was open, Michael eased his way down into the hole. We started passing the children down to him, oldest to youngest. I ordered them they had to be quiet and still; if I was there Alpha is would have ensured their compliance, I just had to hope they saw me as an Alpha and obeyed. Meanwhile, Jimmy had the bed hatch open and was helping Maggie to lie down.
I busied myself cleaning up the games, blankets and extra clothing, putting them in the cabinets or in bags and storing them behind doors. By the time Tom had us at the side of the road and stopped, I was able to take one last look around to see if anything was out of place.
Tom looked back at us from the driver’s seat. “We’ve got two patrol cars and a Humvee behind us, and another Humvee in front. They’ve got weapons drawn on us. Be cool and cooperative, they look nervous.”
Just then a voice came from the cruiser behind us over their speaker. “ATTENTION IN THE VEHICLE! COME OUT WITH YOUR HANDS UP!”
We moved to the doorway, Tom in the lead followed by Shelley, Mark and I. We kept our hands over our heads and walked out onto the shoulder of the road. Men moved up and around us, the soldier’s rifles trained on us as the patrolmen moved in. We were ordered to our knees with our fingers interlocked behind our heads. The officers handcuffed us behind our backs, then lowered us to the ground. I had a knee in the middle of my back as the man roughly searched me. “GUN!” He grabbed the Glock out of its holster and tossed it aside, as a soldier came up and pressed the muzzle of his M-4 against my head. “What are you doing with a pistol, young lady?”
“I got raped last year, I don’t leave my fucking bedroom anymore unless I’m packing. My permit is in my purse inside.” He kept going, finding the baby Glock in my ankle holster and tossing it with the first. “New York reload,” I said before he could say anything.
Tom and Mark’s pistols were also taken, and we were roughly pulled up and our backs slammed against the RV once the searches were done. One of the patrolmen walked up from his cruiser and looked at me and Shelley. “Which one of you is Ella Grey?”
He looked surprised. “Aren’t you a little young to be the registered owner of a big RV like this?”
Tom interjected. “Don’t answer that question, Ella, or anything else.”
The man shifted his attention to him. “Who the hell are you?”
“I’m her lawyer.” The man’s face fell. “You should be aware that internal and external cameras on this vehicle are recording this encounter, and have been since your flashers went on. We still have rights, Officer.”
“We’ll see about that. This RV was spotted near the Exclusion Zone last night, and a tip called in your plates as suspected werewolf. Under the President’s Executive Order we have permission to search it and you.”
Tom nodded. “We’ll see how that holds up when you use it to harass innocent humans.”
The man pulled out a flashlight with a UV bulb. “You’re right, sir, so let’s first figure out if you are human.” Using the light, he shined it into each of our eyes, looking and failing to find the telltale glow that would indicate werewolf. He almost looked disappointed as he turned to his supervisor. “They’re human.”
One of the patrolmen exited the RV, carrying two AR-15’s. “Boss, we found these in the bedroom.”
Tom interrupted again. “Perfectly legal to transport, and ideal for defense of the RV, which under precedent is considered a domicile.”
We were kept there for another ten minutes until the searchers came out. “It’s clean, boss,” the last man said.
“Release them.” The men moved to remove our cuffs. “Make sure you update the computer that they have been verified human. I don’t have time to chase any more false reports.”
They all went back to their vehicles as we climbed back in to the RV. Tom waited for them to leave before getting back on the freeway. There was a collective sigh of relief as we watched them disappear onto the horizon. “Come on, lets get them all out.” Mark went back to the bedroom while Shelley and I helped everyone out of the hatch.
“Good job everyone,” I said. “Let’s go home.”