Chapter 49: Catching Up
I froze, and I felt myself get pushed in to the car farther towards the one person I never expected to see. I moved Charlie onto my lap as Al got in, pushing me into the middle of the bench seat.
“Marvin.” I looked over at him, hatred in my eyes. “I didn’t expect you to crawl out from under the rock you have been hiding under, Alpha.”
“Well, I didn’t have a choice.” He went to move his hand, I could see it was handcuffed to the seat. “I find that when you have two million, you are outvoted by the one who has three. My so-called ‘protector’ gave me up.”
“Sucks to be you. I suppose I’m not getting my money back either?”
The privacy window to the front seat lowered, and I was face to face with Black Ker. “No, Ella, you won’t see your money back. In fact, Craig paid the three million to get him turned over to me.”
“Why?” I looked between her and Marvin. “He didn’t even know I was alive.”
“True, but he felt he owed it to you to finish what you started.” The car began to move. “He loves you so much, Ella. When I told him I had found Marvin, he didn’t hesitate.”
“So what now? Are we going to my Pack? To his Pack?”
“His Pack no longer exists, Ella. It was discovered about six months after you were captured, and wiped out.”
“You won, Ella,” Marvin said. “I should have just killed you in the hospital when I had the chance.”
I set Charlie down in the seat next to me and whispered to him to look at Al. When I turned back, my hands shot out and grabbed the back of his head and his chin, and using all my strength I twisted my shoulders. His reaction time was slow, and with one hand cuffed in silver he had no chance. There was a sickening crack as his neck broke. I twisted farther, ensuring the spinal column was severed, then let him go. He sagged to the floor, his eyes wide open in shock. I watched them cloud over before I looked away.
“You got a place to get rid of the trash?” I looked over at Al, he hadn’t even responded when I did what I did.
“Steve, go to the Cleaners.” He nodded and worked his way to the freeway. I tuned so my back was to the dead Alpha; maybe I shouldn’t have done what I did when I did, as he lost control of his bowels as he died. It was bad for me, so I knew it would be tough to take for Charlie and Ker with their enhanced noses. Even though it was loud, Steve rolled the windows down partway and opened the sunroof. Al produced a blanket from under the seat and I covered him up so Charlie wouldn’t have to see this. I was all too familiar with death and pain before my twenty first birthday, there was no reason Charlie had to see more. I hugged Charlie to my shoulder, making him look the other way out the window at the passing city instead.
Twenty minutes later, we pulled into a garage in an industrial area. “Look at me,” Al said. “The rest doesn’t concern you.” I studied his suit, trying to figure out where he had gone to school and what his background was based on his fashion. I heard the door open behind me, and the SUV shifted as the dead weight was removed. Ker handed a case back to Al, and he looked down at Charlie. “I need to put these in your eyes, they will block the UV light used to identify werewolves. It will help you travel without detection.”
He looked back at me for permission, I nodded. “Thank you for that suggestion, Ker. We bought a bunch of them, but we never had to use them.”
“Not while you were free,” Ker said, “but I know they have since then. Our friends in Homeland Security are convinced the Midwest region has been cleansed, but in actuality, it is because the werewolves have gotten better at hiding. I suspect your mate got word to your allied Packs and helped them blend in.” I certainly hoped so. I had a lot of time to think in captivity, and I was never allowed to watch or read the news. I really had no idea how the war was going, or what had happened to my people.
Al bent the boy’s head back and lifted his eyelid, then carefully placed the UV filtering contacts in place. He blinked a lot. “You’ll get used to them,” I said. “Let me know if they are still bothering you in an hour.”
“What if I shift,” he asked.
“They will stay on your eyes during a shift,” Ker said.
I heard a machine turn on, it was a carpet cleaner. A few minutes later the smell of urine was gone and in its place was the smell of soap and bleach. The door closed, and Steve backed out of the building again. “You can look around again,” Al said.
Steve kept the windows where they were as we got back on the freeway, trying to flush the smell out and dry the carpeting. “Where are we headed?”
“Baltimore-Washington International Airport,” Al said. “We need to talk to you and your mate. We need things from you, and there are things we can do to protect your Pack.”
He smiled. “Not until we can talk to you both.”
“What about Charlie?”
“He’s coming with, obviously. He’s your Pack, your responsibility. I wouldn’t dream of taking him away.”
I looked out the window at the world I’d been taken from two years ago. “Who are you, Al? Central Intelligence Agency?”
He nodded. “We’ve always taken a more nuanced view towards shifters. Black Ker, for example. She and her panther had been known to me for years. I was smart enough to recognize her unique talents and find a way to use them. She’s been a valuable asset for me.”
“But I’m not CIA,” she said. “I am part of a team, we work for Al, he is our boss at the Company. With what we do, they need plausible deniability. Al is the only one at the CIA who knows my true nature, and knows I work for them. If I need help, like that cleaning service back there, he provides it without involving me or my name. Jobs like I took for you help keep our operations off-budget and out of sight.”
“Lucrative?” I looked down at Charlie, he had fallen asleep.
“Some parts are. You would be surprised at how much we have to spend, though. Overhead is a killer.”
I laughed, here was Black Ker, the most feared assassin in the world, talking that way about how much it costs to run her team. I looked out the window, we were passing the car rental lots. We passed the exit for the main terminal and kept going. “Where are we headed?”
“Private aviation section. Don’t worry, the charter flight is being expensed to your account.” I smiled, I really didn’t care. I had more money from my parent’s estate than I could find a use for.
We pulled into a hanger section and drove straight to where a Learjet III was parked. The door opened and Al helped me out, I was carrying Charlie. It was the first time I saw Black Ker below the shoulders; I almost stumbled when I saw the baby bump. “You’re pregnant,” I said. “Congratulations.”
She smiled and put her hand on her stomach. “Five months along. I can’t wait.” I impulsively walked up to her and gave her a hug with my free hand. She was stunned at first, then hugged me back. I got the feeling she didn’t get a lot of hugs in her line of work.
We all followed Black Ker up the stairs and into the plane.
It was quite an elegant décor; rich cherry woodwork, supple black leather seats, and white carpeting. I put Charlie into a seat near the door that reclined back into a bed and buckled him in. One of the pilots came back, not even glancing at us, and pulled up the stairs and closed the door. “Twenty minutes to wheels up,” he said as he returned to the cockpit.
The three of us sat around the table in facing chairs; a wonderful-smelling array of food was laid out for us. I picked up a Maryland blue crab sandwich, the crab cooked to perfection with Old Bay and mayonnaise on top. Soon my plate was full of foods I’d dreamed of, or not known existed. There wasn’t a lot of conversation as I pigged out on food that most definitely wasn’t Army issue. Finally, my belly distended like I was four months pregnant, I leaned back in my chair as we took off.
“Where are we headed?”
“Minot, North Dakota.” Al smiled at my reaction. “Hey, this is a much more comfortable return than your trip from there.”
I smiled back, that armored car ride had sucked. “I finally get to go home?” Their faces fell. “Wait. What aren’t you telling me?”
Al opened his phone, flipping through the photos until he got to the one he wanted. It was a satellite photo of my home and the street; the house that I grew up in was in ruins. “I’m sorry, shortly after your arrest Homeland Security started to dig into your background and activities. They concluded you were either a werewolf or harboring werewolves. An assault team was sent; they used flash bangs to enter, they didn’t find anyone but it set the house on fire. They wouldn’t let fire crews in, so it burned to the ground.”
I looked at the phone, tears rolling down my face as I thought of everything I had lost. “What about the others in the neighborhood?”
“Only Tom and Shelley still live there. The other houses have been empty since you were taken.” I nodded, it was probably for the best. Without the cover of the main house, none of the other houses could support and protect the entire Pack.
“So where are my people?”
“We think they took refuge in the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation,” Ker said. “We didn’t push too much, but the beach on Lake Sakakawea is where we photographed Craig. My surveillance guy didn’t want to spook him.”
“So why would they be in danger if they are hidden away?” I was so thankful we had been friends with Alpha Rose Stormwater, enough so that she helped my little Pack.
“Well, the FBI has been trying to track down a group of cyber-saboteurs who have been hampering the war effort. They’ve been successful in narrowing the search area down to an area that includes the reservation. It’s only a matter of time.”
I smiled, thinking that Josh was still getting it done two years later. Who would have thought that the most successful actions on our side would be done by teenage hackers? “So are they meeting us?”
Al shook his head. “They have no idea we are coming, no idea we got you. Ker left a message for them to contact us since we brought in Alpha Marvin, but we haven’t had a response yet. It was only two days ago we found out you were still alive and where you were being held. I made some phone calls and got permission to have you transferred to my custody; the Department of Defense didn’t fight it too much because they haven’t gotten anything from you. That brings us up to now.”
“So you don’t know where he is, and he doesn’t know I’m coming.”
“Yep.” Ker smiled at me. “He’s in for a hell of a shock.”