Chapter 8: Westbound and Down
Wednesday arrived, and with it a visit from one of my favorite humans- Mark Harris, our lawyer’s 19-year-old son. He was a sharp kid, he had graduated last year and was working with his Dad’s office part time while he went through school. I squealed like a schoolgirl when he opened the door. He wasn’t an intimidating guy, only six feet tall and maybe a buck seventy. He had dirty blonde hair he wore in a mullet, a holdover from his days playing high school hockey. “Business in front, party in the back” as he often said. He had a great sense of humor, and we’d been friends since I started kindergarten.
He held out a bag like an offering to a goddess. “Chick-fil-A, my lady?”
“Oh my God yes!” I waved him over. “You got the waffle fries, right? Those are the BOMB.” I dug into the bag, spreading the fried goodness over my tray table. “You’re a lifesaver, Mark!”
“Now I am,” he said as he brought his other hand forward. Two large vanilla shakes! I was seriously owing him big time right now. I grabbed my favorite, a spicy chicken sandwich, and started to chow down without even waiting for him to sit. “You can’t believe how horrid the food is here, Mark,” I said between bites. “I think I’ve lost five pounds just because of nausea.”
“It’s not a problem. You know I’ll take care of you, Ella.” He grabbed a bag of chicken fingers and some dipping sauce and started to eat. When he reached for a bag of waffle fries, I just stared at him until he unhanded them.
“You didn’t get near enough fries, buddy.” He glared at me, then I laughed and pushed it over to him. “You took that seriously? You never do that!”
“Yeah, well, I’m not used to seeing you like this Ella and I’m a bit on edge. Dad explained what happened, and I’m wishing I was a werewolf just so I could tear their throats out myself.” He wasn’t kidding, he first defended me on the playground when I was in first grade. He’s kind of like an older brother, always watching out for me.
“Don’t worry, they’ll get theirs.” I had been getting a bunch of text messages and emails lately, not just from my former Pack members but from friends in other Packs. There was sympathy and outrage, and it was spreading from pack to pack like a virus. Those packs had messed up; soon there wouldn’t be a Pack in the country that would let their women visit any of them. I knew of one Pack that had already ended its alliance with them, and two more were considering it.
We polished off the food, and I felt so much better already. He pulled the chair up next to the bed and pulled out his phone. “OK, so I gave your specs to some of the Ford dealers here, and I got some offers. The one common thing they said was that almost everyone who buys the 350 dually gets the crew cab. It’s not a bad idea, on a ranch you need a little storage behind the seat and sometimes you have to drive more than three people.”
I flipped through the images. “I know, but the damn thing is twenty feet long by the time you add a bed that can handle a fifth wheel hitch.”
“True, but it’s not like you’re going to be parallel parking a beast like this. You can take your Wrangler if you’re going to town. By the way, why the new truck? Why didn’t I just drive your car here?”
“Because I’m not going home right away, Mark. It’s still too dangerous. The deal I’m signing with the St. Cloud pack helps, but the other three aren’t above sending people after me or mine. I plan to move around a bit, and I might pick up a fifth wheel camper if I need to.” As soon as my pack members that were taken hostage were released, I wanted them away from my property and my house until things settled down. I didn’t care if I had to send them on vacation, they needed to be gone. “How long are you staying?”
“Dad said to take care of you.” I looked at him funny, he had school. “Don’t worry about school, freshman year is easy. They don’t even care if you show up. I talked to my professors and got what I needed, I can be gone for another week or two and not miss anything.”
I finished flipping through the images and details of the trucks, settling on the King Ranch version I liked the best. “This one. I want a brushguard and a fifth wheel hitch installed, though.”
“No test drive? The salesman will pick us up and you can try it, then we go to his office for the paperwork.”
“Nope, I’ve been in enough to know what I’m getting. Buy it, have it delivered Friday when I’m released. I’m taking that bad boy out of here. South along 35 then west on 90, staying well away from those other Packs.”
He nodded, handing me a form his Dad prepared giving him limited power of attorney. He called a number while I reviewed the paperwork, the hospital had a notary on staff so it wasn’t long before it was properly endorsed. “Here’s the other paperwork Dad wanted you to have. Financial statements, estate paperwork, insurance paperwork. I’ve put sticky notes on the places you need to sign.”
“Wonderful.” The stack was a good two inches thick.
“All right, while you are looking at that I’ll go get the rest of your stuff.” He walked out as I started reviewing the stack. I finished my shake by the time he was back, rolling a suitcase with him and carrying a backpack. He set the backpack down on a chair on the other side of my bed with a thunk. “Your school books and homework.” I flashed him an annoyed face. “You’re welcome. Keep this by your bed and within reach.”
“Why? I don’t care about it that much.”
He shook his head. “It’s dangerous, but they aren’t above coming to the hospital to kill you. If Alpha Goodwin can waltz in here and lock the door, any of them could too. So, Dad made sure you had a few things available.” He opened the middle zipper on my backpack, and pulled out a Glock 19 pistol. It was the same kind we would use for plinking in the back fields, a weapon I was very good at using. “You have this loaded and two extra magazines, the holster is sewn right into the bag. The bullets are silver tipped.” He then brought over the suitcase. Opening it, he pulled down the nylon lining to expose four knives. “These two include scabbards that can be secured around your arm or calf, I want you to have at least one on you at all times once we leave here. The other two are boot knives, and yes, I brought your favorite plaid shirts, jeans and cowboy boots.”
I looked over the weapons, pulling one of the knives free. As a werewolf the silver blade would have burned me, but now it was just a shiny object. Silver knives worked well because they slowed healing and caused agonizing pain. The blades were well made and balanced, I would be able to use them for throwing if needed. My Alpha training had included hand to hand combat in human form, including knife fighting, so I was ready.
In my heart, I knew I was still at a disadvantage because a human couldn’t easily overcome the speed and strength advantage of a werewolf. I would have to rely on guile and surprise. “How about you? I don’t want you getting caught up in this.”
“Ella, I’m already caught up in this.” He pulled his sweatshirt up and out of the way, he was carrying another Glock in an appendix carry holster, and a large silver blade was hanging from a lanyard around his neck. “Don’t worry, I’ll handle my end.” He leaned over and gave me a hug. “They fucked with the wrong girl, Ella. Look at me.” I looked into his stormy grey eyes. “Anything you need. Money, equipment, logistics, people. When you are ready, you let me know and you let me help.”
I shook my head, I didn’t want to involve him in what was going to be a long and bloody revenge. “No, you have school, a job, a life. I can’t ask this of you.”
“You’re not asking. I’m telling you. I will be there, and I’m not the only one. You say the word, and I’ll have a hundred at your side, human and not.”
I hugged him back, then let him go and raised my bad hand. “I have a lot of healing to do, and I’m taking the long view on this. I want them to pay, but I don’t want it to be soon. I want them to suffer first, to watch everything they have built fall apart. I want their lives destroyed before I look into their eyes and end them.”
He smiled. “That’s my girl.” He sat down and started to do his homework as I continued through the pile of legal paperwork.
A Sheriff’s Deputy stopped by, a German Shepherd had been killed when it went after the young daughter of a man who lived near the creek where I had been found. Of course, I immediately identified it as the one who bit my thumb off. They had already put it down and sent samples in to check for rabies. He pressed me for more details about the men who had taken me to the party, but between the ditzy blonde act and the fake roofie, I didn’t give them anything to work on. The case would never be solved without DNA or a confession; the latter couldn’t happen, and one of Goodwin’s wolves had already contaminated the rape kit beyond use.
Thursday evening came soon enough, and without incident. I stopped ordering hospital food completely, as he introduced me to the cuisine of Minneapolis. Sawatdee Thai food, Cheesecake Factory, Ted Cook’s cherry wood smoked barbecue; I’m sure it helped my healing to be eating well again. We had long since handled all the legal stuff for the estate, and sent the forms back to his Dad. Tonight, we would settle things with Alpha Goodwin before I was released.
I was looking over the paperwork that transferred 10% of the current value our mineral rights claims to him for the princely sum of $62,482.12. Since this was a Pack company, Tom had been forced to contact all the shareholders for permission, and every one had agreed to the payoff so I could get out of Minnesota. Tom structured it as an option from the 1976 that could be exercised forty years later IF Alpha Goodwin left the company. We had to amend some paperwork, but he was good at hiding it.
Goodwin had done as we expected, cherry picking the ones in the eastern edge of the Bakken field, where recent wells showed promise of large reserves of oil. Those claims had skyrocketed in value, so he wasn’t getting a large number of claims. I smiled as I looked at the map, I knew more than a few things about the oil business from dinner conversations.
Mark was smiling like a kid at Christmas when I was reviewing it. “Dad could tell the guy didn’t bring an accountant in to discuss the tax implications, or he wouldn’t have been so greedy. He’s going to owe the Feds about twelve million dollars in capital gains when this goes through, so he’ll lose half the rights just to pay taxes.
“Mom and I discussed offloading many of these claims anyway, as she planned to diversify. She was actually working on that in the car on the way here. Bakken oil needs oil prices above about $50 a barrel to be profitable, and Mom thought world oil prices were about to collapse below that.” Luna willing, it would and the claims would become worthless. It would be epic if they did soon, as then he’d owe taxes based on worth when he received them, regardless of what he later sold them for.
I then looked at the treaty he had forwarded. Since it was between Alphas, the terms referred to “Pack and pack members” and not me specifically. He was underestimating what I could do as a human, I saw again, not seeing a ‘weak human female’ as a threat. I smiled; his time would come as well.
Mark stayed in the room as the Alpha and I conducted our business. I kept my emotions in check, until the end where I strategically let a few tears flow to keep up the image. “I’m sorry, this has been a very emotional week for me.” Mark handed me a Kleenex, and I wiped my eyes.
“I understand.” He took his copies of the paperwork and placed them in his suit jacket. “When you are released, you are to leave my territory immediately.”
“I understand, we have a vehicle and will travel south out of town, then west on I-90.”
“Some of my wolves will be making sure that happens.” He shook my hand, turned and left.
Mark moved to the door and verified he was gone, then he closed it and sat down on the bed next to me. “I’m glad that’s over. I’m heading back to my hotel, I’ll see you at nine o’clock with your new truck.”
“I’ll be ready.” I pulled him down into a hug. “Thank you for everything, Mark.” He smiled and left.
The next morning, Mark got everything down to the truck while I was finishing with the doctor and the discharge paperwork. I would need rehab for at least a year, and he wanted me to return to him or another specialist in a month. I made sure I got hard copies of the records, because I knew I wasn’t coming back to THIS hospital. When I was done, and dressed in jeans, flannel shirt and boots, the nurse came by with the wheelchair and took us down to the parking garage. Stupid rule, but that’s what they did.
I walked down the sidewalk so I could get away from the smokers near the door. My new purse was over my shoulder, complete with hidden compartment that now contained my Glock. I watched Mark go to the back of the lot, and looked around to see if I could find the wolves who were supposed to make sure we left. My spidey sense was tingling, something wasn’t right. My arms crossed over my chest, and my hands felt for the handles of the daggers hidden under the flannel.
I didn’t sense him approach, thanks to my dulled senses. I felt my waist get grabbed as I was spun around and pulled into a hard chest. I looked up at him as he squeezed me tight enough to start breaking ribs. “Ella, how good to see you again.”
“The pleasure is all yours, Frank.” Frank Tanner was the late David’s older brother.
“I’m going to enjoy this,” he said as his right hand cupped my jaw.
I unsheathed a blade from my left arm while pretending to struggle, and plunged it into the side of his chest. He screamed, and I twisted the blade before snapping it off. He staggered back, falling onto a bus stop bench, his jacket soaking with blood as he tried to pull the blade out. I just stepped away from him, Mark was just pulling up. I opened the door and climbed into the heated leather seat, looking down at the dying werewolf with utter contempt. “Say hi to your brother in hell,” I said before we drove off.
“The hell?” Mark was focusing on not breaking traffic laws as he guided us out of town.
“Apparently, the Tanners are still pissed that I killed their boy. That was their second son.” I pulled out my cellphone and called Alpha Goodwin. Naturally, he didn’t know a thing and was furious the Tanners had come onto his territory. I told them to pick up the trash before the cops found him.
It was time for me to make a visit to the closest blood relative I had left.
My aunt, now the Luna of the Johnson Pack in western Wyoming.