Order of Protection

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Patrick’s POV

I instinctively ducked away from the fireball and the flying debris, raising my right arm as I twisted my torso down and left. I felt the car rock and heard the impacts of objects on it, like hailstones. I gathered myself and sat back up, opening the door and running towards the explosion.

I heard the car start behind me and tires screech as Sergey accelerated into the empty road. He parked a safe distance from the burning car, I heard the door slam as I finally reached the sidewalk and my heart stopped.

Jessie was crumpled against a wall, blood down her face, and a chunk of steel imbedded below her chest.

The Father was in even worse shape, his right leg had been blown off above the knee, and he was bleeding everywhere. Somehow, he was still conscious, and trying to pull himself towards Jessie’s body. I ripped my belt off, tightening it around his bloody leg and pulling tight. “Fuck me,” Sergey said as he came up next to me.

“Check Jessie,” I said as I tied off the tourniquet. I pulled off my shirt, using it to hold pressure on another gash on his chest.

“Bring me… to her… please,” he said as he continued to try and pull himself with one arm and leg towards her.

“You’re badly injured, stay here so I can stop your bleeding,” I said to him.

“No… already dead… must save her.” He kept going, so I grabbed his belt and pulled him next to Jessie. Sergey had laid her down and was tearing his shirt into strips to make bandages. The Father moved until his hands were over Jessie’s chest, and started to chant. I felt a chill as the wind started to circle around us, and his hands took on a faint blue glow. I could see in his face, whatever he was doing was draining the life from him quickly.

“What the fuck?” Sergey was watching a deep cut on Jessie’s arm, it healed up as he watched.

“Witchcraft,” I said with awe in my voice. He kept going for another ten seconds, then he collapsed and the glow was gone. I put my fingers to his neck, his heart was stopped. Father Kempechny’s secrets were not gone with him.

“We’ve got to get her out of here,” Sergey said as I pulled the Father off her body. “Bring her to the car.” He got up and ran for the car, opening the back door.

I picked her up carefully, I could hear her breath rasping as I moved back into the street. I laid her across the seat, kneeling on the floor as I pulled the door closed. “GO,” I said, and he screeched the tires as he pulled back out. I checked her quickly, placing her on her side to prevent her from choking on blood. Starting at her head, I could see the gash on the back of her head was healed, but the blood still coated her hair. I could feel broken bones and ribs, probably the cause of her wheezing. “She might have a punctured lung,” I said as he took a corner at speed. I had to put my hand down to keep from rolling around. “How far to the hospital?”

“We’re not going to the hospital,” he said as he pulled his phone out. I ignored the rapid-fire conversation in Russian as I continued to check Jessie for injury. The worst injury was the puncture wound from a shard of metal on the left side of her abdomen, the healing had slowed the bleeding but it couldn’t heal with the shard still in place. Her right leg was broken above the ankle, she had bruises everywhere, and I probably didn’t know half of it. The first aid training I had taken in my Pack hadn’t prepared me for this kind of damage. Finally, Sergey was off the phone. “She’s badly hurt, we need to get her to the hospital now,” I said.

“Take her to a hospital and she’s dead,” he said. “Someone found out who she is, that was a Mob hit. No hospital within a day’s drive of Moscow will be safe, they have eyes everywhere and you can bet they’ll pay for the information. Somebody would have been watching, they know she wasn’t killed. They won’t stop until the job is done,” he said gravely.

“Then what do we do?”

“We drive east,” he said. “I’ve called my Alpha, he’s sending a truck with our Pack doctor and a nurse west to meet us. If this is Yuri, he’s got no influence in our Pack hospital. Our Pack will protect her,” he promised.

“Is she going to make it?”

He just laughed. “Do I look like a fucking doctor? I have no idea. I can just tell you, that was a hit. The car that blew up was left there by the werewolf that was spotted earlier. He would have been around somewhere to detonate it as they walked by. Trust me, Yuri already knows she survived the blast and he’s already sending crews down here to finish the job.”

He was right; as the Alpha heir to the Moscow Pack and a threat to Yuri inheriting his wealth, Jessie was the most wanted woman in Russia right now. “How the hell did he find out who she was, and that she was here?”

“I don’t know, but we need to clear the trail. Check her purse.” He had grabbed it when he took off for the car, and handed it to me. Phone, money, credit cards- and a room key to the Old Monastery Hotel. Sergey made a quick call, then we pulled over to the side of the road. He left the room key at the base of a road sign, then got back in and pulled out onto the road again. He called a number, giving instructions in Russian. “One of my men will retrieve everything she left in the hotel room and sanitize it, removing all fingerprints,” he said.

Jessie still hadn’t woken, but she was breathing a little easier now. There were no areas that were bleeding heavily, thanks to whatever the Father did to her. “What happened with Father Kempechny back there? Was he a witch?”

“He must have been, that had to have been a healing spell. We can ask the Pack Elders when we get back.”

“If he could heal, why didn’t he save himself?” I was thinking back to how determined he was to reach her, even though he was dying. “Maybe he knew he couldn’t save himself?”

“I don’t know, but I’m glad he did. If he hadn’t healed all those wounds, she’d have bled to death on the sidewalk.” I didn’t want to think of that, but watching her gashed open body heal itself in seconds was amazing. I grabbed a bottle of water and a spare shirt that was stored under the back seat and started to clean the blood from her. I took my time, removing the torn and charred clothing she was wearing.

I wasn’t creeping on her nudity, I was a werewolf, we grew up with social nudity as it was part of having to shift. She didn’t show any signs of waking, but her breathing was starting to even out. It had been an hour, and the raspiness was gone. Finally having her cleaned and now on her back, I covered her with a blanket and sat down on the floor. “How long until we meet your doctor?”

He’d just closed up his phone. “Another hour, maybe longer. The rest of my team is behind us; everything is out of her hotel room, and they verified the room was under Father Kempechny’s name, not hers. As far as we can tell, she only used the name Natalya, no last name, and not her real name.”

“The police?”

“They got there a minute after we left. No suspects, and I wouldn’t expect the investigation to go far. Too much corruption, and the Mob is too powerful.”

“The Father was a good man. It’s too bad.” I thought about the man who told Jessie about her mother, who practically begged her not to find out all she could, but we had both found out how stubborn and willful she could be. “I’ve never met a witch before. Can you tell who they are by smell?”

“It’s my first time too. I was taught that if they use dark magic, they smell of death and decay. White magic, they smell of ozone and rain. If they haven’t used their magic, they smell fully human.” He laughed. “Because they are. Human, I mean. Witches are a talent, a power within, it isn’t biological like with a werewolf. We can’t hide our nature, our scent gives us up.” I took a deep smell of Jessie’s shirt, I could pick up the smell of rain in it. “Since it was white magic, there was balance. He gave up his own energy to give to her. He literally died saving her life.”

I held Jessie’s hand, looking at the faint scars that were all that was left behind by his healing power. I wondered what else he had done, and whether it would have any long-term effects. Mostly, I wondered why he healed all he did, yet she was still comatose. Did the magic use her energy too? Was there enough?

I didn’t have any more answers before we met the truck from the Kstovo Pack and transferred Jessie to the care of their Pack Doctor. They took off, while we had to stop to get gas and food and go to the bathroom.

My hands were shaking, and I couldn’t stop them.

Unknown POV

I watched from an alley up the street as they walked down the sidewalk. I checked my phone again, it was them, the Father and a hot young woman with black hair. When I was called by the Boss this morning, I was told to take care of the problem and to make it public. I loaded the bomb in the trunk of a stolen car and parked it near his apartment.

The St. Petersburg recruiters were combing through the remains of the Moscow Pack, taking in talent where they could find it. I was an early pick, having made my bones at fourteen; now twenty, I had “taken care” of dozens of people when I was told to do so. I preferred knives, but orders were orders. Nothing was more public than a bomb.

I saw them walking, it was perfect. I waited until they were alongside the car and pressed the button. The explosion sent them flying into the wall of the nearby house, and I could see the Father had a leg blown off. I turned and ran down the alley away from the scene. By the time the cops arrived, I’d be long gone.

As I arrived at the train station, I was smiling. The hit had gone perfectly, the Boss would be pleased. I settled in to my seat for the ride back to the Moscow station. A book had been left on the seat next to me, it was called “Blue Butterflies” by PenumbraMine and after three chapters I was hooked.

I walked out of the station and a black car was waiting for me. I got in the back, the door closed, and we drove off into traffic. “Success?”

“Yes sir, went perfectly.”

“Then how come the girl survived?” I didn’t have a chance to answer before I felt the garotte around my throat. I kicked and fought but couldn't get away. The thin wire cut through my neck, and as I lost consciousness, all I could think about was how there was no way she wasn’t dead. Not after that.

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