Chapter 65: Fight or Flight
I was shaking with fear; my mind was running through the possibilities and all of them sucked.
I was having a hard time coming up with one that didn’t end in my death, the death of my family, even my Pack. The Cartel was known for its brutal methods, they wouldn’t stop at just me. They would kill everyone I loved in front of me first. Then there was the CIA, which apparently didn’t need my services again, plus the whole US Government which still had shoot on sight orders out for us.
Craig climbed onto the bed with me, pulling me into his arms as I started to cry on his chest. He was fisting his hands and fighting off a shift; his wolf was panicking, which didn’t help my cat at all. He buried his nose in my hair, sniffing deeply to calm down. When he had pushed his wolf back, he looked up at Al again. “What can we do?”
He closed his eyes, no one spoke for a couple of minutes. Finally, Al looked up again. “She needs to die, in a very public fashion.”
If I wasn’t holding him down, there was no doubt Craig would have attacked him. I nuzzled his neck to calm him down, I knew he wouldn’t say that and leave it. “What are you thinking,” I said.
“If we do nothing, the Cartel eventually finds out about her. They will come here and try to kill her, and it will be a bloodbath. Our entire Pack will die to protect you, Ella, and if we shift to do so it endangers us all. We can’t wait for them, we have to give them a chance to kill you themselves, but at a time and place of our choosing.” Craig was glaring at him, probably counting the ways he could kill him. “Then we fake your death in a way they can’t refute. Once you are dead, then the real fun begins.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, you aren’t going to like it, but here’s my idea.”
Three days later, the modifications to my fishing boat were in place and Craig was ready. I was in my bikini with a light cover, driving towards the northeast corner of the island. The coordinates were fed into the navigation system so the autopilot could handle things. It was late afternoon, and this morning a call had been placed by one of our employees to the Cartel hotline. He told them he had seen her, she was fishing in the area and gave them my current location and the name of my fishing boat. We were just waiting for them to arrive.
Michael Campbell and Josh were about thirty miles east of me, keeping an eye to the sky and the waters so I could get some warning. The Cartel didn’t mess around; I got a call, there was a helicopter on the way, and there were armed men in it. I pushed the throttles up and got the boat to maximum speed; we had picked my loiter location so I could get to the waypoint in a short time for an aircraft, a longer time for a boat. I went down below, making sure everything was set and I grabbed my M-4 rifle. Unlike the civilian semiautomatic version, down here on the black market we could buy the good stuff.
I moved to the front of the center island as the twenty-four-foot boat crashed through the swell. I could see the white and blue helicopter rapidly approaching, and the two men leaning out the doors. They were attached with harnesses inside the helicopter, while their feet rested on the skids. They were carrying shorter firearms, probably HK sub-machine guns. I rested the stock on the windshield and tried to keep my legs loose as the boat bounced. Once they got to within 200 yards, I opened up.
They did too, a strafing run that sprayed bullets near me but did not hit me. It was just as tough to fire accurately from a helicopter, and as they passed over I had a feeling neither of us did any damage. I ran to the helm to put the center console between us. Sneaking a look at the GPS, I could see we were getting close.
I swapped to a full magazine and slid the bolt home. The helicopter was racing back, and I opened up again, this time aiming a little higher. They two men opened up on me, and as we were trading rounds the boat drove over the waypoint and the charges blew.
Al had warned me this would hurt, and he was right. The low power charge on the plate under my feet went first, launching me up and back just before the main charges blew. Al had put extra gasoline in containers below, so when the shaped charges went the fireball was impressive. That was my thought as I tumbled backwards through the air. I took a deep breath just before I hit the water, leaving the pyrotechnics behind.
I shook my head as I went underwater, clearing my head. I swam down, needing to get to the bottom which was thirty feet below in this area. I had almost made it down when Craig pulled me to him, placing the scuba breather in my mouth. Together we went down to the bottom, where he helped me put on a mask and fins.
He took the triple air tank from the bottom and helped put it on me, adjusting the straps. Once I was ready, Craig released the short tether that the freshly killed wild boar was attached to, plunging his knife into it a few times. The blood floated up along with it until the tether stopped about ten feet below the water. I could see the blacktip sharks already moving in, and bigger ones were sure to come.
We powered up the diver propulsion vehicle and let it pull us away from the burning and disintegrating boat above us. I could hear the helicopter circling around, but the light was low enough they couldn’t see us down here. No one could hold their breath that long, and as I took a last look, I could see the sharks tearing the pig apart. We set a course of 020 and settled in, conserving our air and energy as we crossed the four miles of open water at a comfortable depth.
It took two hours until we reached the reef at Isla Bayoneta, a smaller, uninhabited island across the channel from our home. We shut down the propulsion vehicle and put the tanks and gear with it, Craig would come back later when things calmed down to get it back. We waited until the helicopter was out of sight before we swam to the shore and climbed onto the quiet beach.
“I hate this part of the plan,” I said as I sat there. “I don’t want to be isolated from you.”
He pulled me into his lap and scented my neck before nuzzling at his mating bite. “I don’t either, but it’s the only way to be safe. No one can see you, ever, and you can’t be anywhere near us.” He put his hands on my belly, listening to the heartbeat of our child. “Until we know who burned us and we can figure out a way to bring you out safely, you have to remain here. Safe.”
“In panther form?”
“Yes… we can’t risk building anything here, and no one can ever see you. Fishermen and explorers sometimes come her overnight. We can’t have tracks, sightings or communications.”
I leaned back into him, trying to memorize my last feel of him for Luna knows how long. “At least there is the mind link this time.” The island was in visual range, and easily within range of the Pack bond. They could still talk to me, I could still talk to my mate and my boys and my people, unlike the isolation at Fort Detrick.
“I or one of the Pack members will stop in once in a while, pretending to be exploring or having a picnic. We will leave behind water and food if you need It, although these islands are overrun with boars too.” I snickered at this, we had made a serious dent in the population of our island. “Now off with the bikini, I have to take everything.”
“You just want to see me naked,” I said as I stood up and gave him a sultry look.
“Yes,” he smirked, “and I have something before you before I go.” He stood up, dropping his swimsuit behind on the sand as he went. I licked my lips as I looked over his body, he was getting hotter with every year, while I was getting fatter and rounded with the baby. I could see from his physical reaction that he found me attractive still, as if the feelings over the bond weren’t enough.
My cat wanted to play, and I let her take charge. She quickly shifted and bolted for the trees, her tail high with her arousal evident. Craig shifted and took off after me. I darted between the trees; I was agile, but I couldn’t match his speed. It didn’t take long before he pushed me to the ground, his teeth holding my neck.
I stilled under him, raising my head in submission to him. He kept the grip as his back legs pushed forward; eager to take him, I raised my hips and moved my tail out of the way. His bright red tip poked around until he found my slit, then with a strong push he drove home. I roared in pleasure as he growled for me to stay in place.
Once he was fully seated, he backed out and started to pound into me with a vengeance. I could feel his knot forming, and before it got too big he pushed it home. It was uncomfortable at first, but once it was seated it felt amazing. We were too excited, too frantic to make it last long and our animal sides didn’t care. He went faster and faster until I broke over him, shuddering in pleasure and causing him to blast my insides with his sticky essence.
I was tied to him, so he settled down next to me. Over the course of the night, we made love again and again, until it was time for him to go. Al and Josh had arranged to pick him and the gear up just before sunrise, so they could be out of there before the Cartel or the Panamanian Navy arrived at the attack site.
I watched as he shifted into human form again, putting his trunks back on. Josh waded ashore with some jugs of water and hid them behind the trees. Together, they waded into the surf as my cat draped herself over a tree branch. They brought up the scuba gear and loaded it up, then with one final wave they turned and sped away.
I was alone.
The plan had gone off without a hitch. Our Pack had a member who was on a beach at the nearest part of the island, and he had a camera with a telephoto lens and video. He recorded the entire attack and the aftermath, all the way to when the helicopter left again. Josh leaked it to a local news station, and pretty soon it was all over the networks and world news. Black Ker, the notorious thief and assassin, the fresh-faced North Dakota ranch girl who became the world’s most wanted criminal, was dead. Killed by Cartel gunmen off the islands in Panama.
I wished I could see it, the way he described the explosion it sounded amazing. The fireball, the debris, and you could clearly see me being blown out the back of the boat. The helicopter hovered overhead for thirty minutes, and no one ever came up. Within ten, you could see the sharks in their feeding frenzy. No one doubted that I had met a grisly end.
My life became a routine; I would sleep during the day in a tall tree, the breeze helping to keep me cool. I would come down in the early evening and get water, there were some pools of rainwater in season to drink from. If I was hungry, I would hunt; I only had to do this every four or five days, since I would gorge myself on the pigs. The meat wouldn’t keep in the heat, so I would eat my fill and abandon the rest.
As the months pushed on, I had more and more trouble moving as my belly got bigger with the baby. I was surprised when the labor began; at first I dismissed it, not having any experience with labor in panther form. I figured it out and told Craig, but he would be an hour or so to get here.
He didn’t make it.
If I had a choice, I’d take cat form any time. Twenty minutes later, I was biting through the cord and expelling the placenta, which my cat decided would be a tasty post-partum snack. I licked my daughter clean as she lay in the grass; she was beautiful, and I could smell the Alpha Wolf on her.