Josi woke to the smell of cinnamon and oatmeal. The smell reminded her of home, and as she pushed the black hair out of her face and sat up, she felt tears forming.
She was safe, but she had no idea if her family was.
She got out of the bed and moved to the line for the bathroom. “All these people and only one toilet?”
The girls in line ahead of her giggled. “Well, we could wolf out and head to the treeline, but Alpha says no one out until sundown. I’m Morgan; this is Kim. We were going to introduce ourselves last night, but you guys were a bit busy. Are the girls getting better?” She looked back to where Britney and Bethany were still sleeping.
“Britney woke up last night, but we lost her to her ‘mate’ soon after. Bethany hasn’t woken yet.” She looked around. “Are you two mated?”
They giggled before Kim replied. “No, we’re too young. The scent of your mate doesn’t come to you until you are 16 or so. I do have my eye on a few prospects, though.”
Morgan elbowed her, then looked over at Travis. “That hot one is mine, though. Keep your mitts off him, another year, and he’ll pay attention to me.”
“So Morgan, don’t you find it weird that there’s just one guy out there for you? Don’t you want to date, have fun, maybe get a little experience?”
She shook her head before Kim got her turn in the bathroom. “No, not really. Did someone explain how it is for male werewolves?” Josi nodded. “Well, it’s the same for us. The scent of the mate is hard-wired to our subconscious, our wolves and our arousal. I am around a lot of hot guys, but none of them excite me if you know what I mean. I hope I find him quick, though. I don’t want to be one of the unlucky ones.” When she saw Josi’s face, she continued. “Finding a mate is celebrated because it doesn’t always happen. One of the reasons the werewolf population is so low is because it is so hard to find that one person. If you never come across each other, or if one dies, you die alone. Most of the pack is that way. That’s why everyone is so happy for the Becker twins. Finding your mates that young, even if they are human, it’s a blessing.”
Josi looked at her feet. “I think you guys are lucky. You at least know when you’ve found the ONE. I spend my time trying to figure out if a guy cares about me or is just trying to get in my pants. Not that I’d let him.” They passed the rest of the time with small talk, sharing breakfast with her new friends.
She was about done eating when Alpha Calvin came to the front and got everyone’s attention. “Listen up, North Fork. It’s going to be busy for the next few nights. In addition to caring for those who are our guests, we have to make plans for an extended time underground.” There were murmurs, but he held up his hand. “Doc says that the intense ultraviolet and solar radiation could go on for months. We have no way to measure it, so we’re going to avoid it by sleeping down here during the day. So, our priorities are water, food, and security.”
“Security, Alpha?” One of the fathers pulled his children to him.
“Yes, we don’t know what is going on out there or how it will affect us. So, we’re going to keep patrols out each night. Those good people we find and can help, we will; bad people we will keep away. Any questions?” He smiled. “All right then, the Betas will be giving out your assignments for tonight; sundown is in another 30 minutes, so we have some time.”
As Alpha Calvin was walking away, Marcus pulled him aside. “Alpha, I have to get back home.”
He shook his head. “Doc, I’ve got two girls who are mates to my Pack members who are still recovering, plus all the humans from this town I’ve changed. I’ve got a lot going on here; I need you around.”
“I’m sorry, Alpha, but I have my own family and Pack to consider. Your Pack can handle this; I need to go.”
“I’m sorry, I don’t have any extra security to send with you since the twins are no longer available. Give me a few days, and I’ll see what I can do.”
Marcus went to say something, but Josi came up and put her hand on his chest first. “I’ll go with him.” They both looked at her like she was crazy. “Look, I need to get going too. My family is, well, I don’t know how they are, but I have to get back to them. Salmon is on the way. He can go wolf, and I’ll ride shotgun for him, just like the way here. Just give me some guns so I can defend myself.”
“Josi, are you sure? What about Willow and Cheyenne?”
“Marcus, they’ll be fine here for a few days. I talked to them already, and they don’t want to leave until they are sure the Killer B’s are all right. All our families are in the same neighborhood, so we agreed I should try to get a message to them, so they don’t worry.” She looked at the Alpha. “I can take care of myself, and I can ride shot-dog for him.” A few snickered. “You know, like riding shotgun.”
Calvin thought about it, then moved to a locked cabinet by the entryway. Opening it up, he stepped aside so she could see the racks of rifles and shotguns and the shelves full of pistols. “You can shoot, right?”
She snorted. “I’m from Idaho. Of course, I can.” Looking in the cabinet, she removed an AR-15 with a collapsible stock and single point sling. “Trijicon night sights, sweet.” Looking in, she could see the illuminated reticle still worked as it didn’t need a battery. “One minute of angle dot, four power scope, this is sweet. Zero at 100 yards?”
Calvin shook his head no. “Zero at 200 yards so that it will be on at 50 yards, two inches high at a hundred and a foot low at 300. We set all our rifles that way, so it doesn’t matter which one you are issued.” He reached in and removed a vest, in the many pockets were six thirty-round magazines of 5.56mm NATO ammunition. “You can’t have enough money, horsepower or ammunition, I always say.”
Josi pulled it on and adjusted it to fit, then looked in the shelves and selected a Glock 19 with night sights and two extra magazines. She stashed those in the jeans she had borrowed from one of the girls, then threaded the holster onto her belt, so it sat just behind her right hip. “Ready.”
Marcus held her shoulder and looked in her eyes. “You sure you are up for this? It could get rough out there.”
“I’ve got you, Doc. I’ll keep you safe; you keep an eye on the road.” Her eyes widened when she realized what she said. “Oh shit, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean that.” She started to laugh as he snorted, so he tossed her his backpack.
“Come on; we need to move upstairs so I can shift and get my wolf leg on.”
Ten minutes later, they were in the street, and Josi was climbing on. She waved at her friends, old and new, as they set out at a gentle pace down the road. Within an hour, it was so dark she was having a tough time seeing anything since the moon wasn’t out yet. “Can you see, Doc?”
He didn’t break stride as he nodded his head up and down. She leaned forward, resting her hands above his shoulders and letting her legs hang down below his chest as they moved along an empty Highway 93. As they traveled along, she started to notice things that weren’t there — things like animal noises, birds, and movement. When the moon rose up a few hours later, she could tell why. Dead birds lay under the power lines. The ditches held lots of dead animals, including rabbit, raccoon, and deer. “I guess all that affected more than just humans, huh?” He nodded. “Do you think they went blind too?” Nod again. “Isn’t it annoying to have to communicate like this?” Another nod.
The silence started to get to her, so she began talking to him as he moved them along down the road. She told him about her family, her school, and her friends. She told him stories about the trouble they got in for playing jokes on people, and how she always seemed to find a way to get them back out of trouble. She told him of her dreams for college and then stopped. “I guess that doesn’t matter now, does it.” He nodded again.
The realization that things would never be the same hit her hard. She laid down on his back, resting her head by his neck as her tears started to flow. He chuffed gently but kept moving. He had a destination and they had to get there before daylight.
It was well after midnight when he suddenly stopped, his head high and ears pointed forward. She sat up, trying to see what was wrong, but her senses didn’t catch anything. He raised his nose high, deeply sniffing the air until he shook his head. He turned off the road, making his way through the ditch and up the mountain on the west side of the road. She stayed alert as he climbed silently up and around, she had figured out it must have been ahead, and he was bypassing whatever it was. Ten minutes later, they reached the top of a cliff face that was overlooking the road and river below.
Marcus stopped and lowered himself down to the ground. Josi got the idea and quietly moved herself off. He then looked at her and put his paw up in front of his mouth, then pointed it towards the edge. “Quiet, got it,” she whispered. They both crawled silently to the cliff edge and looked down, and what they saw had Marcus growling deep in his chest.
There was an old Cadillac convertible on the road below, a real classic car in its day. Since it was before the days of fuel injection and engine computers, the electromagnetic pulse hadn’t knocked it out of commission, and it was still running. The driver’s side door was open, and a man’s body was face down on the pavement by it. Marcus could smell the blood as it pooled under his head. In the back seat, a young boy was holding on to his baby sister, begging for Daddy to get up. And on the hood, a woman was face down, her hands tied behind her back as a man raped her while two others waited their turn, their weapons at their sides.
They watched for about thirty seconds. Josi used her rifle scope to check the area around the car for others. When Marcus crawled back and went to the treeline, she followed him. He shook his artificial leg at her, so she undid the Velcro as quietly as she could, and then he shifted back to human form.
She ignored his naked state as she leaned in to whisper in his ear. “I got three bad guys, two pistols and one hunting rifle. What did you see?”
“The same. I can’t sense any others.” He paused and looked in her eyes. “We don’t have to do this; we can just keep going. We take on these guys, and you could get hurt or killed. Can you risk that?”
Josi looked back at the cliff edge. “I have to.” She looked in his eye. “I couldn’t forgive myself if I left those people at the mercy of rapists and killers. Plus, what happens if we bypass them and they head back to North Fork, or down to Salmon? We have to take them out.”
Marcus put his hand on her shoulder. “I’ve done this stuff before, shooting a person is a whole different thing than a target or a deer. It’s something you can never take back, and it will change you. Can you handle that?”
She gave him a quick hug. “We’re wasting time. Shift back and get down there. I’ll take up a position up here.”
“Nothing fancy. I’ll take out the guy with her when I make my move you take out the others. No matter what happens, you shoot until they are down. If it doesn’t work, you head back into the woods and find a place to hide, got me?”
“Yep. Good luck, Doc.” He shifted back, and she refastened his leg, then he moved back towards the road. Josi crawled back to the edge of the cliff; looking down, she estimated the range at fifty yards with a fifty-foot drop. Doing a quick calculation, she figured she would be shooting an inch high, so she set her aim point at just below the center of the chest. She moved the scope from one target to the other; a new guy was now raping the woman, while another sat on the edge of the road and a third was using a lighter to look at what they were carrying in the expansive trunk. Them using lights was a good thing; it would ruin their night vision and make it easier for her to pick them up.
She worked her scope up the road until she saw movement; she watched and smiled as she saw Marcus picking his way silently through the ditch on the far side of the road. It seemed like it had taken forever, even though it was only a few minutes. When he was about ten yards in front of the car, he looked directly at her and nodded his head. It was on.
Shifting her aim point to the guy by the side of the road, she took up the travel in the rifle’s trigger and took a deep breath, then let half of it out. She kept the red dot at the center of mass on his back, paused, then fired.
The .223 caliber bullet left the barrel of her AR-15 at 2900 feet per second, and it took only a fraction of a second for it to travel to its target. It hit just to the right of his spine, breaking a rib as the bullet broke and tumbled through his chest cavity. She ignored the muzzle blast, quickly reacquiring the target and sending a second shot into the back of his head.
She ignored the screams and the growls, trusting Marcus to do his part, and she moved the rifle to her right. The man behind the trunk had stood up but didn’t move fast enough to save his life. She squeezed the trigger as soon as the dot on her sight covered his stomach, then sent two followup shots. He fell to the ground and tried to crawl under the car. Taking a moment to aim, she sent the next round into his head and exploded it like a watermelon.
Her heart was racing as she lowered the rifle and looked down. Marcus had knocked the rapist off the woman and had ripped out his throat. He lay on the road twitching, his hands at his neck as he struggled for breath that would not come. The pool of blood under him spread even after his movement stopped, and Josi felt no pity for him as she watched.
She started to breathe normally again when she realized it was over.
The adrenaline rush hit her, and she started to shake; she looked back at the men on the ground. The reality of what she had done hit her hard then. She had killed people.
She closed her eyes, and her mind kept repeating his head exploding in a red mist as the final round stopped him. She started to cry silently; she was now a killer.
Marcus was right; she could never take this back.
She blinked back tears and saw Marcus waving her down. Their people needed her, so she slung her rifle and stood up to go to them. She picked her way along the trail in the dim moonlight.
Marcus had shifted back to human form after making sure the man was dead. He rose up onto his good leg and hopped naked over to the car to check the woman out. She was in full breakdown mode, sobbing as she sank to the ground. She hid her face in her knees from the carnage around her, and when he tried to touch her, she screamed.
A naked guy covered in blood isn’t comforting to a rape victim.
He turned away, then hopped over to the side of the road where the rapist had tossed his shirt. He pulled it over his head, luckily the guy was big, and it covered him a little. He hopped to the passenger side door and opened it, moving himself into the back seat where the two children were.
The boy was protectively shielding his baby sister even though he was still crying and calling for daddy. Marcus opened the door and put his hand on his back. “It’s all right; it’s over now.” The boy stiffened but didn’t turn around. “Are you all right? Did anyone hurt you?”
The boy finally sat back after a long cry. He looked to be about eight years old. “They hurt Daddy!”
“I know.” He gave the boy a quick look, no blood on him, then quickly checked the baby girl and saw the same. “I need you to help your sister while I help your parents, all right?” He unbuckled her from the car seat and put her in his arms.
“But Daddy, he’s hurt, there’s blood!” He started to look over the seat, and Marcus gently pushed him back, shaking his head.
“Don’t look out there; just watch your sister and keep her calm. I’m going to check your Dad.” The boy nodded his head and turned back to his sister.
Marcus got back out and hopped to the trunk, finding an old blanket. He threw it over his shoulder as he hopped around to the man lying face down on the pavement, half out of the car. He put his fingers to his neck to check for a pulse, but he knew he wouldn’t find one. He could see gray matter mixed with the blood on the door and the car. The bastards had shot him in the back of the head as he was getting out. He laid the blanket over him and pulled him clear of the car, wrapping him so the family wouldn’t see him like this.
Josi jogged up as he was tucking the blanket around his feet. She put the backpack down and retrieved his leg, bringing it to him along with his shorts. He looked up at her. “Are you all right Josi?”
“I’ll deal with it. I’m going to check the woman.” She moved to the front of the car. Kneeling, she put her arms around the crying woman and started to whisper in her ear. The woman wailed her loss to the sky before burying her face in Josi’s shoulder.
Marcus could now move around. He retrieved his artificial wolf leg and stored it in his backpack. Going back to the trunk, he found and opened a suitcase, finding some of her clothes. He grabbed underwear, shorts and a t-shirt, then a pair of ankle socks and running shoes.
Holding the clothes, he came back to the front and set them by Josi. “The children are fine, just scared. Is she injured?”
“Ma’am, what is your name?”
“Sylvia. Silvia Perkins.”
“Silvia, have you been hurt?” She sobbed louder.
Josi lifted her head so she could look at her. “Marcus is a doctor; he can help you. We saw those men raped you; we need to know if they did anything else to you.”
The woman looked at Josi and nodded. “Hit me mostly, but I’m only worried about my baby.”
Josi smiled. “Your son and your baby are fine, Marcus already checked them.”
“No... I’m three months pregnant. One hit me in the stomach, and I can feel blood down there.” Josi could see the red streaks on her thighs. “That man... I saw him. He was a vicious wolf; he killed that man. He’s a werewolf. You probably are... Shit! Get away from me! LEAVE ME ALONE!”
The woman scrambled to get away from Josi, slapping her hands away. Her knees scraped on the pavement as she crawled off to the passenger side, desperate to get to her children. Josi stood up and hugged her until she stopped struggling. “I’m human, just like you. Marcus is a werewolf. He is also a good man. He saved my friends and me yesterday, and he saved you tonight.”
“He’s an animal! He’s dangerous!”
Josi moved her until she was sitting in the passenger seat, her feet still outside. “He’s a big old teddy bear too. Married, daughter at home. Friends, neighbors, just like you. Dangerous only to guys like that. He was a Green Beret years ago.” She lifted her chin and looked in her eyes. “Think of what he did and what those men did and tell me which is an animal.”
She didn’t say anything. Marcus moved to the back seat and lifted the boy and the baby together into the front seat. He immediately started crying into her shoulder as Josi moved the baby to her other shoulder.
“I’m going to get my medical kit. Silvia, I’m just going to clean you up and check your baby, but only if you let me. We won’t force you.” He turned away while Josi went back for the clothes.
Marcus found some baby wipes in the diaper bag behind the seat and set them on the hood for Josi. “Can you clean her up and get her shirt on?”
Josi nodded. She moved back to her side. “I’m going to clean this up while you hold your children, all right?” She nodded, so Josi took the wipes and started with her face and the scratches on it. She cleaned up her elbows and palms, then her knees. “Are you all right with this next part? I need to clean the blood and your, um, lady parts.” She blushed, there was a young boy there.
Silvia nodded. “Zach, I want you to keep your head where it is. Don’t move, even if I flinch or cry out, all right? I need you to be brave, so your sister doesn’t get scared.”
Josi suppressed a gasp when Silvia opened her thighs. She worked as gently as she could, but the cuts and tears from being raped were painful. Silvia gritted her teeth as she worked. By the time Marcus arrived with the bag, she was ready.
“Silvia, may I examine you?” Marcus set his bag on the hood and was donning gloves.
“Yes.” She looked at Josi. “Hold my baby for me?” She handed the girl over, and Josi smiled down at her. “Her name is Michelle; she is ten months old.”
“She’s beautiful.” Josi sat in the back seat so her big brother could keep an eye on her.
Marcus knelt between her legs and inspected the damage. “You have some lacerations that will require stitches, but the damage won’t be permanent.” He used the stethoscope on her lower abdomen. “Strong heartbeat and I didn’t find any other bleeding. Your baby will be fine.”
He went back to his bag and drew a lidocaine injection along with some alcohol pads and antibiotic cream. Silvia hissed in pain as he cleaned the wound with the pads. “Sorry, but we can’t have you get infected. You will feel some pain from the shot, but in a few minutes you will be glad I used it.” He gave her the injections then started getting the stitching kit ready.
“How can you even see?”
Marcus looked up at the moon. “Wolf vision is much more sensitive than human night vision. When I bring that forward, I can see fine but mainly black and white.”
“And you can do this with one eye?”
“I’ve done everything with one eye since that suicide bomber hit.” He started to work on the cuts, and they made small talk as he fixed her up. He found out that they were traveling to a classic car meet in Sun Valley when it happened. They were stopped at a diner when it hit; luckily, the owner got them all in the basement when people started getting burned. They stayed one more day to rest up and let their vision clear up before they hit the back roads.
Their attackers had dropped a tree across the road, and when her husband David had stopped, they shot him as he was getting out. They then dragged her from the car and raped her in front of her children. “And then you showed up.”
Marcus finished up the sutures and spread the cream over the wounds. “All done. Josi will help you get dressed.” He walked away, now that he was done being a doctor, the anger flowed through him. He clenched his fists, then decided to clear the road. He pulled the tree aside and dragged the dead men to the shoulder.
When he returned, Silvia was in the back seat buckling her baby in the car seat and Josi was sitting in front. Marcus cleared space in the trunk then lifted David’s wrapped body and placed it inside.
“What now?” Silvia’s voice was stronger now; she focused on her children, and that was good.
“We drive to Salmon where my family is. Since you came from there the road should be good. You can stay with us until you heal up enough for your next move.”
He looked over at Josi. “Stay alert and keep the rifle handy; things could have changed.”
Josi sat up straight and patted the magazine of her rifle. “I’ve got you covered, Doc.”
They turned around and headed south for home.