Chapter 5: Fatal Error In Victim Selection
Gila Pack House
Alpha Robert Hastings walked back into his office flanked by his Betas, having left orders for the mess in the challenge circle. He had directed them to wrap Gabe’s body in a tarp and place it by the driveway to the house for now. Maria and Caleb were on their way to the outdoor shower to clean off the blood from their brief but satisfying fight. He had just enough time to strip, leaving shorts and a shirt tied to his leg, before shifting and letting out a war howl. “Reserve group with me, home defense warriors to your posts, all non-combatants to the safe room.” It was nearly time for the attack and the plans were in place. The safe room in the basement would contain all the children, pregnant women and elderly who were not fighting. The wolves left to guard them were on each side of the heavy steel door, their mates inside. They would die before anyone got past them.
The reaction team warriors met their Alpha as he moved with speed and purpose towards the ambush site on the east side of the territory near the Highway 40 exit. Will, senior Beta of the group from the Johnson Pack, ran just behind him. His men and their gear were already in a truck on the way there. There was no mental chatter, the group was totally focused on the fight ahead.
“Alpha, contact, we have six vehicles in a column that just blew past the sentry post. Ed was able to take cover, he verified they were shooting silver and wolfsbane ammunition. He was shot once but it isn’t bad, it went through his right arm. We’ve got an armored HUMVEE in the lead, followed by four black armored SUV’s and a military ambulance. We can’t spot occupants, but estimate the attack force at between twenty and forty. Lead vehicle was using automatic carbines and machine pistols. They are traveling down the entrance road at high speed, five minutes to the ambush point.”
“Understood, everyone keep your heads down. Wendy, you respond to help Ed, Doc you stay back near the ambush point. Places, everyone, check in with your Betas when in position. Betas, report to me when your groups are ready.” The pack members were settling in, the plan was good, they were ready for this.
His lead beta Daniel and the Beta in charge of defending this approach, Alex, were already in the command post they had set up when the group arrived. Alex moved off with the reinforcements, directing them to positions on the cliff before and after the ambush point. The chosen position for the ambush was perfect; as the road went through the canyon the river below curved about 70 degrees below them. The road was about fifty feet above the river, with rockslides and large boulders below. On the uphill side the road was cut close to the overhanging cliffs, with just a narrow ditch to catch the rocks that would travel down from up to a hundred feet above. The road was just wide enough for two vehicles to pass each other, and there was no safe place to pull off. Along the top of the cliff were numerous large boulders and cracks that were perfect hiding holes for the dozens of wolves and their weapons.
Yes, weapons. The Gila Pack hadn’t gotten into open combat during the Were War, preferring to stay hidden, but they had been ready. They had prepared for human attack for decades and they trained relentlessly in the open desert. Marksmanship training had been mandatory for all pack members, as was self defense. The defenders were more than capable of defending themselves.
The opposite side of the canyon, about 200 yards away, was similar in nature and was now populated by a dozen wolves with scoped high power rifles. The Johnson Pack snipers with the .50 cal rifles were on top of the canyon, with commanding views and overlapping fields of fire. Their job would be to defeat the armored vehicles, and to do so they had rounds with armor piercing tungsten tips.
“Alpha, two minutes out.” They could hear the column of vehicles approaching. Alex had returned to the post. He had designed the defense and he would run it. “All stations, remain hidden until after the explosion and make sure you are taking cover if you are near the blast zone.” Alex looked at his Alpha and senior Betas. “We did some timing with our test blasts, that rock with the red ‘x’ on it is the trigger point. When the lead vehicle reaches that, we unleash hell on them.” They were about 400 yards away, watching with compact binoculars, when the column came into view. “Wait... Wait... five... four... three... two... one...GO GO GO.”
A series of loud explosions was the first indication the mercenaries had that their lives would end. A series of holes had been drilled through the rock of the cliff above the road, with explosive charges lowered into each and connected with detonating cord to a blasting cap. Alex had an explosives expert on the hand trigger, when he twisted the device it started a chain reaction explosion that sheared a sixty foot section of cliff face from the rock behind it. The wall of rock crashed down the mountain, burying the armored HUMVEE and two Suburbans below the bouncing rock chunks.
The remaining vehicles escaped being crushed but had their own problems. The third SUV swerved to avoid the rocks, but went off the road. It bounced and rolled a half dozen times before coming to rest on the rocks near the river. “Team 1, cover the SUV by the river and keep them pinned down.” Riflemen from both sides of the river started to pepper the armored vehicle with fire, seeking out the openings created by popped out glass and twisted metal.
The last SUV swerved towards the cliff face, stopping just before it hit it. A half dozen mercenaries spilled out, seeking cover between the vehicle and the cliff face. The ambulance stopped but was soon disabled by the .50 caliber rifles, it wasn’t as hard a target as the other vehicles. The heavy rounds punched into the engine block as other riflemen took out the wheels and windows. Half the people inside were dead before they could get a door open. Three men armed with rifles dove to the ground and ran for the SUV ahead of them, but only one made it.
It truly was a turkey shoot. The Pack held superior firing positions, including directly above the vehicles once the defenders rushed forward to the new overhang left by the explosives. There was no place for them to hide. The volume of fire lessened over the next few minutes as there was simply nothing left moving to shoot at. The forward vehicles had been flattened, no movement had been sensed from them yet. The SUV by the river had started to return fire but the accurate rifle fire had quickly stopped that. The remaining vehicles on the road were turned into Swiss cheese.
Finally, the shooting stopped. Alpha Hastings surveyed the destruction. “Stay in position until I tell you. Anything that moves, kill it.”
For a long minute nothing moved. A white shirt appeared from below the SUV on the road, a bloodied arm waving it. The man made it halfway out from under the truck. “Sniper, take him.” A shot rang out and the man dropped to the ground and stopped moving.
Will looked at the Alpha with surprise on his face. “No prisoners? You didn’t honor a white flag?”
Robert sneered. “These fuckers were going to attack women and children in order to retrieve a drug lord’s fuck toy. Imagine how many casualties we would have taken if they made it to the Pack house, if we hadn’t found out they were coming. They have no honor. They get no mercy.”
Just then a sentry at the northeast corner of the territory called in. “Alpha, inbound helicopter, it’s running fast and low. I can see men in the open doors, they have machine guns hanging from cables.”
Robert stood up and blasted over the pack bonds. “OK everyone there is a hostile helicopter inbound. Everyone take cover immediately, shift if you need to, and hide your weapons.” Looking over at Will he said, “Do you think your men can take it down?”
“Yes, it wouldn’t be the first time for them.” He shifted focus to the Johnson Pack bond and contacted his team. “OK, I need the .50′s hidden and ready to go. You two coordinate the first shot, everyone else open up when they do.” Turning back to Robert, he smiled. “Our guys will be ready. Tell yours to stay hidden until it’s over.” Robert passed that along.
It took a few minutes until they all heard the sound of the helicopter coming in along the river. The command post had been well camouflaged, with netting and canvas covered with native plants from the area. The helicopter was only a bit higher than the surrounding canyon as it bore down on the attack vehicles.
He could see the confusion on the part of the pilot through his binoculars as the helicopter made its first pass, their hiding was successful as the gunners found no targets. The helicopter banked to turn over the river and slowed down to make a closer path. The helicopter went into a hover just above the river, and ropes were tossed out the side to the ground below.
Will was listening over his bond and passing it along to Robert. “Ready for coordinated fire, three two one...” The sound of the big 50 caliber rifles never made it to the pilot, the supersonic rounds arrived first. One sniper put his round through the canopy and blew the pilot’s head out the other side. The second sniper put his armor piercing round through the gearbox of the helicopter, just below the blades. The gearbox ate itself in an explosion of oil and parts. The helicopter started to spin, making a half turn before slamming to the ground below. All snipers on both sides of the canyon then opened up on the helicopter, which exploded leaving no survivors.
Robert turned to talk over his Pack bond. “All Betas, report in with status and casualties.” Each group leader checked in, no one had any significant injuries, just a few cuts and scrapes that would be healed before they could get back to the house. It was a complete victory. “Teams B and C, approach and clear the vehicles.” A dozen armed wolves carefully moved forward, leapfrogging each other as they used cover to approach the ambush site. It took ten minutes to verify there were no survivors.
“Great job everyone, you defended your Pack with skill and courage. Collect the weapons, ammunition and anything of intelligence valve. Stack the bodies by the side of the road and start working on clearing a path through this mess so we can use it again.”
“Yes, Alpha, we will bring in the heavy equipment and we will have this open within an hour.” Alex was still keyed up, this was the first engagement he had been in command of and he was so proud of his Pack and his defense plan.
“Alex, you did a great job today. You did me proud.” He basked in the approval of his Alpha before asking to be excused to supervise the cleanup.
Gila Pack House
Robert and his senior Betas had returned a few minutes ago to the cheers and hugs of Pack members gathered in front of the steps. Mates embraced each other, the men getting checked for injuries discreetly while they kissed. The Alpha didn’t have that, his mate was up in Montana, safely under the protection of the Johnson Pack alphas. Robert and his senior Betas made their way to his office. “Keep quiet, I need to make a phone call.” Pulling out the business card he had been given, he dialed the number for the Albequerque DEA office.
“Agent in Charge Michael Miller speaking.”
“Mr. Miller, this is Robert Hastings. I need you to come see me immediately at my Pack house, and I need you to do this without alerting the rest of your staff.”
There was a pause. “What do you need to see me about?”
“I can’t discuss it over the phone, but it is very important you see this. You can’t discuss this either, your Deputy Agent in Charge, Kim Corrigan, is a Cartel double agent. I’m not sure of who else in the office may be compromised.”
“How do you know that?”
“I can’t talk about that over the phone either, but my information is very reliable. I will see what evidence I can get you, but for now this needs to happen without anyone else knowing.”
There was dead silence for a time as he was on hold. “OK, I told my people a personal issue came up and I have to leave the office for the day.”
“That’s fine.” Robert gave him the address of the Pack house for his GPS. “I will have an escort for you when you turn off the interstate.”
“OK, I have to grab lunch on the way out of town and it will take me about 90 minutes to get there. I’ll have lots of questions for you, Alpha Hastings, and I’ll expect proof.”
“You’ll get it. See you soon.” Agent Miller hung up, gathered his briefcase and headed out the door to his office. He didn’t notice that his Deputy Agent in Charge had taken a headphone out of her ear and was texting someone on her cellphone after he walked by. No one questioned her when she went into his office and removed the device from the bottom of his phone.
Meanwhile, Robert made a second call on his satellite phone. “Renee? We’re all right. No casualties.”
Cartel Safe House
Juan was nervously pacing the basement as he waited for news. Gabe had not been heard from since he arrived at Pack territory; he had discreetly sent a man past the entrance and his vehicle was still there. That wasn’t surprising, he didn’t expect the werewolves to react positively to a demand to turn over his Maria. What made him nervous was the silence from the attack team. They had checked in just after entering but had not been heard from since. Radio and cellphone communications were silent, and they should have reported back an hour ago.
“Have you tried contacting them?”
“Of course, boss, but I get nothing. It’s like they disappeared into thin air. We have to assume they are dead.” Carlos was nervous, Juan didn’t react well to failure and it looked like all the money he put into retrieving Maria had been lost. “I think we underestimated what they would be willing to do to protect her. They are risking an all-out war here.”
“Risking?” He kicked the door in anger. “Fuck these guys, they just GOT themselves an all-out war. I want them DEAD. I want their families DEAD. I want them to be the example we need to get the other Packs in line.”
Carlos sighed, he was more of a thoughtful tactician in these things, and going to war was not going to go well. “I know you’re pissed, but we have to step back a little here. This isn’t the Mexican government we’re dealing with here. These wolves just survived five plus years fighting the American military on their own. You can’t buy them, their pack bonds are stronger as are their family bonds, and I won’t even go into what they will do for their mates. Even though the Gila Pack is isolated, they are related by mating to many of the other packs. We go in half-cocked and we could end up with every werewolf in the country after us.”
“So you just want to let them keep my Maria? Just forget about the men we just lost? They killed a senior member of my Cartel!”
“I didn’t say that, Juan, I just said we have to be more careful about how we do this. We need to find out how they found out about our attack and squash that leak HARD. Until we know, we can’t really move against them. Then we need some real intelligence on the Pack and their members. We take some time, find their weaknesses, then exploit them. Now, would you be satisfied if they give Maria back or are you intent on wiping them out?”
Juan flopped down into the chair, pinching the bridge of his nose with his fingers as he thought about it. “OK, so the mercenaries we lost are not a big deal, they weren’t our guys anyway so we’re only out the cash. Gabe was not a huge loss, but we can’t allow them to get away with it either. What we need is leverage, a way to get them to turn her over and pay me enough to make up for my losses. We need to grab something they will pay a lot of money for.”
“Well, Alpha Hastings is newly mated. His mate is pregnant with twins, and she’s rich- she got millions in restitution. If we had her, the Alpha would pay anything to get her back- even if it meant turning over a member of his Pack to us. We’ll give him no choice in the matter.”
Juan smiled. “You’re right.” He got up and walked over to the computer system that Carlos was using. “Call our contact at the NSA. See if anyone has been doing queries related to our Cartel or the Gila pack. Also, have our men dig into the phone and internet communications to and among the men on that raid. Find that mole.” Carlos nodded. “And find out where Renee Hastings is.”
Gila Pack House
Alpha Hasting’s Conference Room
The Betas gathered around the table, most with their mates, and that included Maria who nervously sat behind Caleb away from the others. She needed a lot of persuasion to go into that room, and that was one reason Robert asked the mates to come too. He smiled as they all got comfortable, some of the women were still in their mate’s laps, others holding hands. “Today was a good day for the Pack. We defended ourselves from a sneak attack, and we did so without casualties.” The gathered wolves clapped and congratulated each other, especially those involved in planning the defense. “It would be fitting to celebrate, but it isn’t the time now. What was it Admiral Yamamoto said after Pearl Harbor? ‘I fear we have woken a sleeping giant, and filled him with a terrible resolve.’ The Socorro cartel is going to focus all their resources on us, on destroying us, and they won’t give up on getting Maria back. We need to talk about how we are going to deal with that.”
“Well, how about we attack them?” Beta Alex stood and addressed the room. “They’ve attacked us first, I say we go after them right now. We get their safe houses, we call allied packs, and we just take them out before they have a chance to plan the next attack.” A number of Betas agreed, their wolves didn’t like threats to their Pack and preferred direct action.
Will stood. “Are you forgetting that they are human, living among humans?” He looked around. “The only reason this worked for us is because we were defending ourselves on Pack lands. If we go out there and start fighting, innocent humans are going to get hurt. We’ll be in violation of the treaties that ended this war, and public opinion will turn against us. We can’t give the Government another reason to go after us.” Heads started to lower as his words sunk in. “We don’t even know if we can find them. These guys are rich and paranoid, if we start attacking and don’t take them all out we’ve lost. No, you are better off staying on your own land. You have contacts with the military, with the DEA, with the FBI. Use them to take out the Cartel, and use wolves to protect wolves.”
Robert stood up and all the conversation stilled. “I agree with Will that we can’t attack now, we simply don’t know enough. I also agree that we have to focus on protecting our territory. Alex, I need you and two others to focus on that. When we are done here, I will be meeting with the head of the DEA office, and I’ll get him up to speed on the threat and see what he can do to help. Joe, I need you to set up a conference call with all the Alphas in the country late this afternoon. Whatever we decide to do will affect all of us, so I need to get them up to speed on what is happening.” Heads nodded around the room. “Meanwhile, this Pack is on lockdown. No one travels outside Pack lands without my permission, and in groups of at least three. The safe room is to be kept ready to go at all time, and I expect at least two dozen warriors to remain within sight of the Pack house at all times. If your family is not here, either get them here now or have them seek safety with an allied Pack and follow the same rules. Make no mistake, our entire Pack is a target. These bastards don’t respect anything, they will kill your children in front of you and not think twice about it. Keep that in mind as we plan our defenses.”
The men were about to stand up when Maria’s nervous voice came from the back of the room. “Alpha Robert, I think we know more about the Cartel than you think.”
“What do you mean, Maria?”
“I spent two years listening to every conversation that happened in that house. I had nothing to do but memorize and categorize. I need to work with someone get all that knowledge out of my head and put it to use.” She kept her head down, she didn’t want to see anyone looking at her with pity because of how she had received the information.
Robert walked over and knelt before her. “Our expert on the Cartels is in El Paso. Unfortunately, he has to stay there in order to keep an eye out for further attacks. I can’t risk you calling him, it might expose him.”
“Then send me to him.” She looked up so he could see the determination in her eyes. She couldn’t fight, but she WAS valuable and she could help get revenge against the bastards that did this to her. “It would only take a couple of days working together, and then we might have enough information to plan an attack.”
Caleb picked her up and sat her on his lap, worry in his eyes. “I just found you, Maria, everything in me just wants to keep you safe.” She stroked his arm to calm him down. He was amazed that she sat there without being afraid, the mating bond was strengthening.
“I know, Caleb, but I have to do this. I know Juan, and he’ll never give up. I will never be safe until he is dead. You come with me, send some others if you have to, but we need to know. This has to stop before a whole bunch of innocent people get hurt.” She picked up his arms and wrapped them around her, it actually felt good, her wolf was content and safe and her human side was getting used to the idea of having a mate.
“You are a brave young woman, Maria, and I’m proud you are Pack.” Robert patted her shoulder before returning to the front of the room. “You are right. We need you and Enrique to pool your knowledge, and we need you to do this now. Andy, I’d like you and Linda to go with them. Enrique already knows and trusts you. I will contact the El Paso Alpha and ask him for his support and permission for you to be on his territory. Oh, and you are taking Anna with you.”
“Anna? She’s not a fighter.” Linda looked at him in surprise.
“No, she’s Enrique’s mate.” There were smiles all around, everyone had fallen in love with Anna and her kitchen skills since the packs had combined. It also tied Enrique to the Pack, and that was good for both of them. “You should know that Anna and I have talked, she is under Alpha command not to turn or mate him without permission. I’m sure you can reinforce the importance of that on the trip.” Andy bowed his head in embarrassment. “I need you to leave tonight, we’ll sneak you out and you can take the back roads to El Paso. Stay out of sight, find a hotel near Enrique’s apartment to work out of. Don’t contact us unless it is an emergency, we don’t know if they are able to tap our communications. When you have all the intelligence organized, bring them all back.”
“Anna needs to be with her Pack, and I’m pretty sure Enrique will want to be with her. If not, ask the El Paso pack if they will allow her to stay under their protection. We just can’t leave her unprotected off Pack lands.”
“Yes, Alpha, it shall be done. We can leave within the hour.” Everyone started to get up again when Maria spoke up, her voice more confident this time.
“Alpha, there is more than one way to fight the Cartel than just killing them.”
“What do you mean, Maria?”
“Cartels function on money, because money is power. They need money to pay their people, to pay bribes, to keep the operation going. Business is good. They make so much cash that handling it is a huge problem. They have to move it around, launder it through fake transactions, route it through offshore banks, even smuggle it back to Mexico. The Federal Government has been putting the squeeze on them lately, so more and more money is piling up in their vault waiting to be transported to Mexico. I’m talking about hundreds of millions of dollars, and I know where it is.”
Everyone was looking at her in shock. Caleb asked first. “Where is it, love?”
“The cartel bought a defunct savings and loan building near Albuquerque a decade ago using a shell company. They lease it to a legitimate business, but the vault is hidden in a section they don’t rent and they only go in there during off hours when they need to move something. Only a few people know about it, and all are incredibly loyal to Juan.”
Robert frowned. “That doesn’t help much, none of us know how to crack a bank vault.”
Maria’s smile lit up the room. “You don’t have to crack it if you know the combination. And I know the combination. Someone shouldn’t have kept repeating it to himself in his room while he was trying to memorize it.” There were gasps around the room as she was handed a piece of paper and a pen. Thirty seconds later, they had the information they would need. “The bills are stored on wrapped pallets, so you’ll need pallet jacks to move them. Take the gold and bearer bonds first, then the cash. What you can’t take you should destroy. They don’t keep guards there, but they have it alarmed and under surveillance so you’ll have to be quick.”
Robert smiled. “Bob, Ryan, you’re with me. Pick a dozen good fighters and be ready to go by nightfall. Send three men ahead to start surveillance on the building, put an explosives guy in the group with them to set a few surprises if the bad guys show up. Rent a truck if we don’t have one we can use. We’ll also need a couple SUV’s or trucks and a cargo truck, plus everyone needs to be armed in case we need to fight our way out of there. Now get going everyone, I have some phone calls to make!”
Robert had just enough time to secure permission for his group to travel to El Paso pack lands through the other Alphas. Alpha Merino of the El Paso pack had not only agreed to host his group, but committed to protect them as well. He was outraged that they had done that to Maria, and was no friend to the cartels who smuggled drugs and people over his lands.
“Alpha, Agent Miller is here and said you are expecting him.” The call over the Pack bond interrupted his planning for the conference call, but he needed to talk to him. “Escort him to the ambush site, I’ll meet you there.”
Twenty minutes later, he had made his way over the rockpile that was being cleared by a dozen men and some heavy equipment. He walked towards Agent Miller, who was getting out of his car and surveying the scene in shock. The helicopter was still burning below them and the bodies were being stacked in front of his car. “Agent Miller, sorry to call you away but as you can see we needed to talk.”
“What the hell happened here, Alpha Hastings? This place looks like a war zone.”
“Exactly that. These men,” he lead him to the bodies, “attacked without provocation. They were hired by Juan Hernandez to kidnap Maria back from us. We’re still trying to recover bodies from the first few cars buried up ahead, but we estimate at least thirty took part, plus another four to six in the helicopter.” He picked up one of the pistols that had been captured and ejected the magazine. “They came in armed with silver bullets with wolfsbane cores; we’ve also captured grenades and rocket launchers. They could have destroyed my pack if we hadn’t gotten a warning.”
“Casualties on your side?” When he was told none, he was shocked. “Who warned you?”
Robert just smiled. “We have our friends too. Since they are on our land, my rules apply.”
“What do you need my help for? Do you want me to process the scene, take the bodies, what?”
“I just want you to know what is going on because this is going to blow up in the next few days. The Socorro Cartel attacked us, and we’re going to hit back... hard. I’m trying to minimize the blowback on you and the civilians of this area.”
Agent Miller pulled out his phone. “Can I take the bodies?” When Robert shook his head no, he started taking pictures of the faces of each of the men. “I’ll run these through our computers when I get back, at least then we will know who is involved. Robert, you know you can’t wage war on my streets. I have to advise you to stay within the law and the treaties. I understand you want them, but I need you to let me do it.”
“If you can help us take them down, I’ll help you with the information you need to do it. I won’t limit myself, though.”
“Just understand that if any of your men break the law, they will be prosecuted like any other criminal. Think about what your are doing, I’d hate to see people turning against the werewolves again.”
“Me too. Here, I have something for you.” He handed him a piece of paper. “One of our people put together a list of known smuggling routes and transit houses for the Cartel. I figured you could use some wins early on.”
Agent Miller read through the list, excitement in his eyes as he noted the detail. This he could do. “OK, Alpha, I think we understand each other. Do not hesitate to call me if you come up with anything else.” They shook hands and he returned to his vehicle, turning around and heading back tailed by the sentry vehicle.
The drive back to the office was long, but the new knowledge was bouncing around in his head. He would have been on the phone already, but the warning about the mole kept him from doing so. This would have to be done quietly, using only people he knew he could trust, if they were to keep Juan from escaping justice.
He was flipping through the pictures on his phone at a stoplight in southern Albuquerque when an old Ford van pulled next to him. He didn’t notice the van. He didn’t notice the man getting out and running away.
He didn’t notice anything before the explosion tore through the street, ripping his car apart and killing him instantly.
El Paso Pack House
Alpha Merino looked at his top Betas, they knew this news wasn’t good. “Men, we have guests coming tomorrow. They need our help and our protection and I’ve promised that to Alpha Hastings.”
“Who is coming, sir?” James, his top Beta, asked from his seat across the desk.
“Two are well known- Linda Remington and her mate Andy Miller plus a junior Beta. They are protecting two females in their pack and they have some business in town. We are to support and defend, nothing else. Put good people on it, they will be in the town and we don’t want human entanglement.”
Rico, his Beta in charge of patrol, looked up. “What are we protecting them from, Alpha?”
“The Socorro cartel is after one of the women, but all are in danger. I want you all to listen in to this conference call and we will discuss it more afterwards.” He set up his computer for the call, logging in to a meeting website that could handle the traffic of the forty some Alphas represented. When the meeting started, Alpha Hastings briefed everyone on the events of the past few days. There was anger at hearing of Maria’s treatment, followed by outrage at the attack on the Gila Pack. In the end, the Alphas agreed that they would assist in the war on the Socorro cartel as they could. Border packs agreed to track and intercept (or call the Feds to report) any smuggling on their lands. They also agreed that it would be wise to keep the Packs on lockdown for a while, reducing the danger of members away from the territory from being picked off. One of the California Alphas asked about his area, under the control of a different Cartel. For those areas, it was agreed they would monitor but not interfere, there was no point in expanding the war to other cartels right now. With that, the conference call ended.
James started speaking as soon as his Alpha clicked off the conference. “Sir, this is a big deal. The Socorro cartel is in control of this area, and if anything happens to them the Gulf cartel is ready to move in. We don’t want to get in the middle of this fight.”
Some of the younger Betas wanted to take stronger action, but their Alpha cut them off. “We will help our guests, but as for the rest- we will watch only. I want the border guard doubled, and put wolves in surveillance positions. Everyone else stays within five minutes of the Pack house. I want everyone back here until I say otherwise, no work, no off territory residences. Understood?” He gave the instruction over the Pack link, along with a notification that a Pack meeting would be held that night at 10 pm. It was time to get back on a war footing after their brief freedom.
Johnson Pack Site
Alpha Derek stood on the large rock at the edge of the clearing, his Pack gathered in the field around him. He glanced back at his mate, Amanda. She was holding hands with Renee, both of them were over the moon with happiness. Amanda’s secret didn’t last long once Renee got her in the car, the smell was noticed almost immediately and she had gone silent until she heard the extra heartbeat. Derek was hoping his hearing would come back soon after the shriek Renee let out.
“Johnson Pack! Luna has truly blessed us this night. Here to visit is our former Next Alpha, now Alpha Female of the Gila Pack, Renee Hastings!” The Pack went wild, it was the first time any had seen her since she was severely injured at Wolfstock. Renee stepped up next to her brother and embraced him before waving at her friends. “But that is not all. Not only have we been blessed with new matings...” he paused waiting for the applause to die down. It was only after he gestured for the seventeen new mated pairs to stand and be recognized that the crowd quieted again. “She has also blessed us by restoring the fertility of our wolves, allowing us to continue our lines and grow our Pack. For the first time in five years, we have pregnant women among us to honor and protect. Can the pregnant women stand and be recognized?”
There were cheers as four women in the Pack stood, followed by Renee stepping forward, her baby bump already in place from the twins. The cheers quieted for a second when Amanda stepped up and placed her hands protectively on her belly. The shock quickly faded and the roar was deafening- the Alphas were expecting! This was great news for the Pack, not only would it solidify the heir but it was good luck.
It took a few minutes for the noise to die down before Derek could get control again. “Tonight we hunt. Tomorrow we feast!” Pulling off his clothes, he quickly shifted into his wolf, followed by the rest of the pack. He let out a powerful howl, soon joined by his mate and Renee, then by the rest of the Pack. He led the men out of the clearing on one side, while Amanda led the women out the other. The older warriors, Renee, and the younger ones all stayed in the clearing.
The day passed into night. Renee sat by the bonfire that had been put together for the celebration, her foster daughter Michelle asleep by her with her head in her lap. It had been an exhausting day, from the flight to the excitement, and being a few months pregnant with twins didn’t help. She just wanted to make sure everyone made it back all right. Pack runs were great fun, but weird things could happen on a hunt. She heard the howls of celebration well before she could see them. Amanda came back first, a hundred pound wild boar in her mouth. Four other women had smaller hogs, which was good as the smaller the wild pig the better the flavor. They dragged them to the fire where the older women quickly started to butcher them and get them on a spit over the hot coals.
Twenty minutes later, there was a cheer as Derek led the men back. He was dragging a large elk in his powerful jaws, two men next to him helping to bring the animal home as it was three times his size. Another two men dragged a smaller animal in. Dropping the beast at his mate’s feet, he sat back and howled in victory, the rest of the Pack joining in. They would eat well in the morning!
The mated pairs quickly headed off to their tents, the successful hunts were a powerful aphrodisiac to their wolves. Derek wouldn’t be shocked if more pups were sired tonight. He shifted back, the blood on his face and chest matching that of Amanda, and they headed off to the stream to clean up prior to bed.
Renee carried Michelle back to the tent and tucked her into her cot before turning in herself. The pregnant women had been talking while waiting for the men, they weren’t prepared for babies in the Pack. All of the furniture, supplies and accessories were lost early in the war, and nobody even had maternity clothes. They looked at each other and nodded- ROAD TRIP! Tomorrow they would head to the city and start getting what they needed. Renee went to sleep happy, feeding off the energy of her old pack.
El Paso Pack Boundary
Linda was quietly singing along with the radio as she arrived at the rendezvous point, trying to stay alert despite it being four in the morning. She and Andy had been alternating tanks this trip, he was asleep in the passenger seat and snoring softly. In the back, Anna was curled up in one corner while Caleb was in the other, with Maria tucked into his side. It had been a long but quiet ride. She saw the flash of lights from the car parked on the side of the road and pulled up next to it.
Two men got out and came to her window, they introduced themselves as Brett and Alec and that their Alpha had assigned them as security. “Hi, I’m Linda, and this,” pointing to the man who was rubbing his eyes in the passenger seat, “is my mate Andy. In back you have Anna on the far side, Caleb and Maria.” Nobody in back had stirred and she wasn’t going to wake them up.
“So what is the plan?”
“I need to get Maria to our man in town. He doesn’t know we are coming so we will show up at his apartment and hope he is home. If he agrees we should be there all day.”
“OK, sounds like you just need stakeout and backup then. We will follow you and set up nearby.” They exchanged phone numbers so they could stay in contact. Soon they were back on the road and, after stopping for coffee and some groceries, they arrived just before sunrise at Enrique’s apartment.
“Since he only knows Andy and I, the rest of you stay here until I call you.” Anna was wide awake and nervous, she was about to meet her mate and was already fighting the urge to shift and just take him. The two got out of the car and walked to his apartment building, then took the elevator to unit 3C. They knocked loudly, but got no answer. They kept knocking until their hearing picked up the sound of a door opening, and a minute later a sleepy Enrique showed up at the door. “Hello Enrique, I’m sorry we showed up so early and without notice, but it is very important we talk to you.”
He looked at them for a moment before he recognized them and stepped aside. She handed him a tall coffee as they entered his place. It was a typical bachelor apartment, not much on the walls, the living room was centered around a huge flat panel TV and gaming system, and the kitchen looked like the only thing that got used was the microwave.
“I’m sorry, it takes me a bit to get going in the morning, I was up late last night doing some work.” He gestured for them to sit on the large L-shaped couch in the living room.
“First of all, my Alpha would like to convey his thanks for the information you brought us. Because of it, we were able to stop the attackers and we did not have any losses on our side. It would have been a lot different without you.” Enrique smiled, happy that they were OK. “We are now at war with the Socorro cartel, and that is where we need your help. I brought with me someone who has inside knowledge of the Cartel, and needs help getting it out of her memories and incorporated into what we already know. I also brought her mate and another person to help us out while we are here. What I’m asking for is for you to call in sick to work today so we can focus on getting this together before we plan our next move.”
“Of course I’ll be here. I’ll do whatever you need to get these guys.”
Andy smiled back at him. “I have to warn you before we bring her in. She was freed from the Cartel just a few days ago, she was the personal sex slave of Juan and shared with dozens of his men. She went through unspeakable hell for two years. Her mate Caleb will not leave her side, his touch is what keeps her from having a breakdown or running off when other males are around. You don’t need to pity her or treat her differently, just keep your distance and stay professional.” He nodded in understanding. “Is it all right if I bring them in?”
“Yes, but can you give me an hour to clean up and shower first? I wasn’t expecting guests.”
“Sure. Do you mind if we go get some stuff to make us all breakfast?”
“I’m not much of a cook...”
“That’s OK, we’ll take care of it if you don’t mind us using your kitchen.”
They left and went to the grocery store, Anna went in and came back with a whole cartful of supplies. “Hey, we’ve got five werewolves to feed and my mate won’t be eating Ramen noodles any more. I know enough about human males to know the way to their heart is through their stomach.”
Andy laughed at this. “Or a little lower.” He yelped as Linda backhanded him. “What?”
“They don’t need to know about that!” She crossed her arms across her chest, making her breasts stick out even more. “Even if it was true.” This got all of them to laugh. This time they all got out and went to the apartment. They were all let in and Linda did the introductions. Caleb shook his hand firmly, but Maria just looked at him quickly before tucking herself back against his side. Enrique moved along, and when he saw Anna it was like time stopped.
She looked up at him, her wolf close in her mind as his scent danced around her. He smelled... well, amazing. Her eyes looked him up and down, appreciating his compact muscles and dark hair. She started to think about how those arms would feel around her, and this had her wolf jumping up and down in her mind demanding that she mark him before someone else could lay a claim. She had to close her eyes and kick her wolf back down. When she opened them again, he had moved closer to her and was reaching for her hand. She was frozen as he lifted it up to his lips, tingles flowing through her arm as he touched her. When he placed a gentle kiss on her knuckles, her knees went weak and she fought to stay in place.
He seemed to be just as affected. He couldn’t tear his eyes off hers once he looked into them. He didn’t believe in love at first sight until now. It was just like when Michael Corleone saw the woman in Corsica and fell in love, it was the Thunderbolt. He could feel the sparks and didn’t want to let go. “Welcome to my home...” He looked at her, waiting for her to respond.
“Anna. My name is Anna Thompson. Thank you for all you have done for our Pack, Enrique.”
“There is no need, it was the right thing to do.” He forced himself to look around, but kept hold of her hand. “Please, let me show you around. Let’s just put the groceries on the counter for now.” He led them all through the apartment, showing them the bathroom and all, but it was the spare bedroom that he needed them to see. It had an electronic lock on the door, he punched the combo, opened it and turned on the lights.
It wasn’t a bedroom at all, it was an intelligence center. The walls were covered with photos and lines showing relationships. A large computer desk was in the center, with several large monitors attached. Low bookcases held file cabinets and folders. He opened the closed and pulled out some folding chairs. “This is my work room. You are the first people I’ve ever let in here.” They fanned out around the room, Maria was focused on the photos but held tight to Caleb. Every once in a while she would freeze and close her eyes for a moment before she could move on. “I have a photographic memory, so when I see stuff at work I can come home and transfer it to my system. I have the entire Cartel on a database where I can look for relationships and tendencies. Whatever you need to figure out, I can try to help.”
Maria had finished looking around the room and sat down in a chair. Her voice was weak, but her face was determined. “I know.. lots of different things. I forced myself to memorize things after I learned them, but I have trouble just getting the memories out.”
“How do you remember best?”
“If you give me a face or a name, I can try and recall what I know about them. Same thing with places. You ask, I answer, and maybe that triggers me to remember more. We should get started, this could take days and I don’t know what part of what I know will be important.”
Anna stood up and left. “You all get to work, I’ll take care of breakfast.” She touched Enrique’s arm as she left, the tingles in her fingers distracting her. She leaned in by his ear. “Is there something I can make for you?”
She felt her cheek almost explode as his hand came up to her cheek. “Why don’t you make me what you like, I’m sure I will love anything from you.” She was reluctant to pull away, but this wasn’t the time to claim him. She walked out to his bachelor pad kitchen and started putting groceries away. She smiled and sang to herself as she was doing it. This wouldn’t be so bad, she thought. He felt their connection already and she just had to take her time so she didn’t scare him away.
Babies ’R Us
The three big vans emptied in the parking lot, and a dozen excited women piled out followed by three large and bored men. Escorting women buying maternity and baby stuff wasn’t exactly the glory detail for a Pack beta, you understand, but the Alpha Females would have to be protected.
They had gotten a late start, the hunt the previous night had turned into a party and feast that lasted well into the morning. Renee hadn’t gotten to sleep until past ten, so they had agreed to make a late shopping run. They stopped for dinner at a nice Italian place, then to the mall. People better watch out, she thought, you’ve got a bunch of hormonal pregnant women with credit cars on the move! They split up once they got inside, leaving on e Beta with the cars and another two near the front. Renee went to the maternity clothing section, she could get the stuff for the nursery back home but she was running out of things that went around her growing belly.
She found a few dresses she liked and headed back to the dressing rooms. There were so many human scents around she didn’t notice anything before she felt the prick as the needle went into her neck. A hand was around her mouth, normally her strength would have been enough but she was already slipping into unconsciousness. Her last thought was to mind link for help but this wasn’t her Pack anymore and no one heard her.
Carter’s Temporary Agency
(Formerly New Mexico Secure Savings and Loan)
West suburbs of Albuquerque
It had taken another day to get the planning done and rent the vehicles, so they didn’t arrive at the site until just after midnight. Robert watched his team go into action from the SUV with the tinted windows across the street. Three men had already broken in and were at the vault, through the pack bond he got updates on their progress. A moving van with a lift gate was backing up to the door, and another two SUV’s on either side had their backs open and people streaming out. Three more pallet jacks were on their way in before he got word the vault doors were open.
“All clear, Alpha.” He had sentries three blocks away in every direction to give warning of any Cartel response, all were heavily armed. “Holy shit, boss... she wasn’t lying.”
“Cut the chatter, men. Get it loaded and out now.” Men with large duffle bags started to scoop money, bonds, gold and jewelry while others moved their pallet jacks into place for the money. It wasn’t easy to maneuver the pallets of cash out, but the men were disciplined and prepared so it went like clockwork.
“Four minutes.” They had set a limit of eight minutes to get out of there. The first pallets were on the lift gate at the five minute point, the bags being tossed into the backs of the SUV’s.
“Five minutes.” One more trip for bags and the two SUV’s started to pull away, turning in different directions. They would take different ways back to the territory.
“Six minutes.” The second set of pallets was now being placed on the lift gate. The remaining men met a panel truck as it stopped and the back opened. Each man grabbed a body, hoisting it on his shoulder and sprinting into the vault with it.
“Seven minutes.” The last men were being taken in, and two more SUV’s pulled up so men could load. The moving van door was closed and it was pulling away, followed shortly by the rest of the men. Only Robert’s vehicle remained waiting, because he wasn’t done yet.
“Eight minutes.” Each vehicle checked in, all were clear and on their way back. Each large vehicle was escorted by at least two other vehicles, and they were ready for opposition with pistols at the ready and rifles by their sides.
“Nine minutes.” Shortly after his men on the east side reported two vehicles approaching at high speed. “Gila pack members, clear out and meet back home.” He watched as the Cartel gunmen passed his car and verified that they were armed before turning to the man in the back seat. “Jose, wait until they stop.”
The vehicles pulled up next to the open doors, screeching to a halt as armed men jumped out. Jose pushed a button and the night lit up; Claymore mines exploded from the front and back. The ball bearings tore through men, vehicles and equipment without mercy. “Let’s go, people.” The SUV pulled into the street, heading back home.
The Gila pack was now the richest pack in the entire world.
“Come on guys, it’s time to get some rest.” Anna walked up behind Enrique, rubbing his shoulders as he sat at the computer. Except for bathroom and the meals she had cooked for them during the day, they had been in this room all day and half the night. Enrique started to object, but she was having none of it. “You should know that sleep is a weapon, you need to be sharp if you are to find what you need. Linda, you and Andy need to head back to the hotel, and take Caleb and Maria with you. We can meet back here at eight in the morning.”
“What about you, Anna?”
Anna just smiled. “I have things to take care of here. Enrique, you don’t mind if I stay, do you?” He smiled and kissed her hand. “Good. Say goodnight and get off to the shower, I’ll get them going.”
Enrique did what she asked, and soon was daydreaming about the beautiful young woman in the next room. She had driven him to distraction all day long, and more than once he had to adjust his package as his erection became uncomfortable. She was attractive, kind, a great cook, and he couldn’t stand being away from her. His erection was on the move again, he reached for the body wash and got his hands soapy. It would be better for him if he took care of this now.
He moved his hand over his glans, moving in a circle as he worked it to full hardness. He closed his eyes and pictured her in his mind, remembering the feeling of her nipples rubbing his back as she worked out the kinks on his shoulders. He screamed when the curtain was moved and a smaller hand covered his.
“Let me take care of this.” Anna didn’t let go of his cock as she moved into the shower in front of him. He went to say something, but she pulled him down into a kiss instead. She didn’t really know what to do, but she followed his lead as he pulled her close. He cupped her face with his hands, tilting his head slightly to allow the kiss to deepen. She moved her hand around his shaft in time with his tongue, which was exploring her mouth and twirling around her tongue.
His head was spinning as his dominance took hold. She let go of his cock, moving her hands up to his neck as she pressed her wet sex into his groin. She was rapidly losing control as she started to move her pussy lips along his hard shaft. She needed him, and needed him now. She raised her leg, hooking it around his waist as she pulled herself up.
“Please... I need you.” He looked into her eyes and felt like he was drowning in the feelings he had for her. He reached down and cupped her firm ass, lifting her up easily. She reached down and positioned him at her entrance before sinking down on him. She couldn’t help but let out a pained yip as he tore through her maidenhead. She buried her face in his chest, not wanting him to see her pain.
“Anna... am I your first?” He used his nose to move her head back so he could see her lovely eyes.
“Yes... and my only. I know it seems rushed, but I knew you were my mate before I even laid eyes on you.” His eyes were an open book to her as the emotions played through them- shock, lust, love and acceptance. He hadn’t moved, he didn’t say anything, just held her while he was buried to the hilt in her and waited for her to say something. “And I don’t regret a thing, Enrique. I need you to make me yours now.”
“It all makes sense now, Anna. I think I love you too.” He reached up and turned off the shower, then told her to hold on tight. Without withdrawing, he moved them out of the shower and the bathroom and over to his bed. Bending over, he laid her gently on top and scooted them to the middle. “Your first time shouldn’t be in the shower, Anna. Let me make love to your properly.”
He took her mouth with his lips, aggressively this time, as he started to rock his hips back. She moaned into his mouth as the sensation moved through her, then her eyes went wide and he plunged home again. She moved her legs up, her heels crossed behind his pale ass, trying to drive him even deeper with every thrust. Her arms moved up and down his sides, leaving scratches behind as he drove her lust higher and higher. The tension started in her toes, but quickly moved up her legs until her core exploded from the sensation. “ENRIQUE!!” Her head moved from side to side as she felt his hot cum shooting deep within her. He collapsed onto her before rolling to the side, still buried inside her.
She heard the door to the apartment crash open and the sound of booted feet. She rolled away and shifted into her brown and white wolf just as the door to their bedroom was kicked open.
Two men dressed in black poured in, their suppressed machine pistols spraying the room. She leaped for the first man, her teeth finding his neck and ripping it out. She turned for the second man, but his head was already bitten off by the werewolf that had just run into the room. Both shifted back, uncaring of the blood or the dead men. She recognized Brett from the El Paso pack.
“I saw these men coming in, I couldn’t get here fast enough. I’ve contacted my Alpha, he is sending men.”
They heard a gurgling sound in the room. Anna dove over the bed to find Enrique on the floor, blood coming out of his mouth as he held his hand to a bloody spot on the right side of his chest. “Anna... love... you....”
Renee fought the darkness in her mind, focusing on her other senses as she started to wake up. She was in a box, there was very little light, just enough of an opening for air to make its way in. Her arms and legs were bound with chain, she could tell it was silver by the way it heated her skin. She couldn’t feel her wolf, they must have injected her with wolfsbane to keep her down.
Whatever vehicle she was in had stopped and when the door went open she could smell the aviation fuel. She was loaded into an aircraft, and as it took off, all she could do was pray to Luna she would get out of this alive.