Presumption of Death
Beta Female Abigail Clarke POV
Three Days Later
“Beta Abigail, there is a young woman here to see you, an omega I have never met,” the guard posted at the entrance to the St. Croix Pack lands notified her as she sat in the kitchen, preparing lunch for her mate.
“Who is it?”
“She refuses to say, Ma’am, just that she has a message for your eyes only.”
“I’ll be there in a few minutes.” I grabbed my windbreaker and walked out the door; the cold front had resulted in the first hard frost of the season this morning, and it was not even fifty degrees yet. It was my favorite time of year; the leaves changing, the mosquitoes killed off by the frost, the fog of my breath in the air as I walked out of the house. I walked up to where the guard was watching over her as she sat by the small gate house; she was a tiny thing, barely eighteen, and looked as harmless as a mouse. Her body was thin, not shapely at all, and her eyes were wide and bright blue as I approached. “You wished to see me, young lady?”
“Yes Beta. I am sorry to arrive unannounced, but I was directed to speak to no one else and not give my name or Pack,” she said as she kept her eyes down on my neck. She didn’t have a dominant bone in her body, so she was no threat.
“Walk with me, then. It’s a beautiful morning, isn’t it,” I said as I turned. She jumped up and fell into pace alongside me as we walked the trail around the edge of the fenced-in portion of the Pack grounds.
“Yes Ma’am, I love this time of year.” We walked in silence until we were out of sight of the other wolves. “My name is Ingrid, Beta Clarke. I was instructed to give this to you.” She handed me a letter, it had my name on it, nothing else. “Please do not open it now, Ma’am, I do not want to know the contents. My Alpha said I am too curious about things that don’t involve me, and I need to be more discreet.”
“He does, does he? Well, discretion can be a good thing at times.” We walked along. “Are you happy in your Pack?”
She smiled. “I am, although my parents are quite ready to mate me off. They want grandchildren before they get too old. My Mom wants to rock on the porch, looking out over the lake while they all play on the lawn. She didn’t find her mate until she was almost forty, so she is hoping I find mine quickly.”
“Things happen so fast,” I said. I thought of my Patrick, he would be mated in a few months and I was already picking out furniture for the nursery. “Why you?”
“Nobody would miss me, I don’t have a vital job or anything. I help out in the Pack child care, but I’m the junior wolf there. School is off for conferences, so I thought I would enjoy the drive and visit another Pack. I rarely get a chance to go elsewhere.”
“Well, I can understand that. Can you stay for lunch?”
“If it wouldn’t be an imposition, Beta Clarke. I can delay my return for a few hours.”
I fingered the envelope in my pocket, wondering why an Alpha would send someone like this to deliver it. “Peter, change in plans, we’re eating lunch with the Pack today.” I shifted to the Pack link. “All unmated males, we have a visitor, I suggest you eat lunch in the Pack Dining Hall.” I looked back to our visitor. “It’s no trouble at all, I can’t imagine you eat too much and there’s always plenty of food.”
We had made our way back towards the buildings and it was getting close to lunch time, so I led her to the dining hall. The place quieted as we entered, and the single men were trying to get her scent without being too obvious about it. She was doing the same, her nose taking deep pulls as she sought her mate. Her face fell when nothing happened. “Come on, I need to introduce you to the Alphas and my mate.”
I walked her to the main table, where the Pack leadership was already eating. “Alpha Stan, Luna Larissa, Beta Peter, this is Ingrid. She delivered a message for me and I invited her to lunch to see if her mate was here.”
“Welcome, Ingrid. I’m sorry you did not find him, but you are young, you have plenty of time.” Alpha Stan smiled at her, seeing her disappointment as she walked over.
“Thank you, Alphas, for having me for lunch.”
I guided her to the table and sat her next to me. She was clearly nervous, but as a guest she belonged at the main table. The door from the kitchen opened, and I heard a plate of food hitting the ground. Everyone got quiet as Jerry Connery rushed the table, snatching Ingrid off her chair and pulling her into his arms. Their noses were buried in each other’s necks as the clapping began. I leaned back into Peter’s arms as we watched; there were few things in life as beautiful as watching mates find each other.
Jerry was an omega who was working in the kitchen, learning how to be a Pack Cook. He was a good kid, and his parents ran in a few minutes later to see their new daughter. They finally stopped kissing long enough to thank us, then he carried her out of the dining room to the cheers of the Pack.
Peter had to work with the Alpha after lunch, so I walked home and sat on the front porch. Pulling out the envelope she had given me, I opened it and pulled out the form.
It was from Jessie. Enclosed was a power of attorney, granting Patrick the ability to act for Jessie in her lawsuit, and a letter. Both were dated five days ago. “Dear Patrick and Abigail- John and I are going into hiding, the threat from Yuri is too great. We won’t tell anyone where we are, so the attached is to allow Patrick to continue my court case in my absence. I will be watching the news and will know when I need to return. You’ve been great friends to me, and I trust you both with my life. May Luna bless and keep you, Jessie.” I looked at the legal form, it had been notarized and looked official.
I put it back in my pocket and walked over to the Alpha’s office. “I have news,” I said.
“I hope it’s good news,” Alpha Stan replied as he pulled his mate into his lap. Jessie’s execution video had been released onto Youtube yesterday, and the press were all over it. The Russian media was going wild, and speculation was rampant that Yuri had killed her over his brother’s estate. The American media had picked it up as well; Jessie was an American citizen, and photos of her at college and in her Hooters uniform were all over television. Nothing got more coverage in the press than a beautiful young woman in a murder mystery. The news had hurt all of us deeply who had gotten to know they young woman in her time here.
“I don’t know. Ingrid delivered this to me.” I handed it to the Alphas as I was pulled into Peter’s lap. “It was dated five days ago, before this video came out. I don’t know what to do with it.” I read the letter that came with it. “But, if she’s dead, does it matter?”
“I don’t know,” Stan said. “No one knows where the video was taken, and no body has been found. There hasn’t even been a missing persons report filed, since she had no family. When the FBI visited this morning, I told them she left for Russia to find out about her birth parents and I hadn’t seen her since.” Technically, this was true as she was in hiding by the time we got to Russia. “They are still searching her house. I’m glad we had the paperwork to show we were renting it to her.”
“We should get Charles in here,” I said. “I can’t navigate the legal implications of all this.” It took a half hour for Charles Thompson, the lawyer who had defended Beta John for us, to show up in the office and review the paperwork. “What do you think?”
“Well, the form is legitimate. If we get it to Patrick, he can legally act in the place of Jessie for all of the court proceedings in Russia.”
“Wait, won’t those stop because Jessie is dead?”
He shook his head. “There’s presumed dead, and legally dead. Right now she’s missing, and the video indicates she has been killed. However, there is no body, no death certificate, and no court has declared her dead, so the courts have to assume otherwise.”
“What is the process for declaring her dead,” Peter asked.
“I need time to look it up,” he said as he stood before us. “I have some familiarity with Minnesota law, but she has no real estate, no family,” he said. “The real worry is the court case in Russia. You can expect Yuri’s side to file the video as evidence of her death and seek to have her dismissed from the estate case.”
“Can they do that?”
“Of course they can, I don’t know Russian civil law but I can give you an idea in an hour or so.”
“Let’s assume he files to have her declared dead in the Russian courts,” Stan said. “Does this power of attorney help?”
“Absolutely. Patrick is obligated to act in her best interest under the power of attorney, and that best interest is clearly to keep her alive in the eyes of the Court as long as possible. As soon as the court declares her dead, the estate will pass to Yuri. Even if she were to reappear later, she couldn’t challenge the decision at that point. She’d get nothing.”
“What do we do with the power of attorney, then?”
He handed it back to me. “I recommend you visit your son in Moscow. Give him the paper directly, don’t let anyone else know it exists. When he gets it, he should take it directly to her lawyer and talk privately and quietly about the case. Yuri may have pulled his people back from around our Pack, but he’s still watching. If you make your visit look like you are visiting your son and talking to her parents about the wedding, it won’t be suspicious.”
“Book a flight,” the Alpha told me. “As soon as possible. Stay for a week or so. I’ll let Alpha Viktor and Alpha Javier know you are planning to visit and get permission to enter their territories.”
“It will be good for you to check in on our boy,” Peter said. “He must be devastated, he looked at Jessie like a kid sister.” He pulled me back into his broad chest. “Charles, go do your research. Peter, help Abigail find a flight to Moscow and get her on it.” We got up and got ready to walk out. “Oh, and Abigail? Please have Jerry and Ingrid come see me. Don’t interrupt them if they are actively mating,” he added with a smile.
“Jerry? Is this a good time?”
“Yes, Beta Abigail. We are visiting with my parents.”
“Good. The Alphas would like to see the two of you in their office.” I took Peter’s hand and walked back home, eager to start packing while he looked for a ticket.
Alpha Stan’s POV
A few minutes after the Betas left, I could smell Jerry and Ingrid coming. They had completed the bond, and smelled of blood, arousal and sex as they knocked on the door. “I won’t keep you long,” I said. “I just need to know the name of your Alpha so I can let him know you’ll be joining our Pack with your mate.” Her face fell, and she looked at her hand in his. “You are planning to move to this Pack, aren’t you?” Since both were Omega ranked, the female almost always moved to the male’s Pack. If they were of different ranks, the lower ranked would move to the higher ranked wolf’s Pack.
“I can’t tell you my Pack or Alpha, sir. I am under Alpha command.” She was shivering in fear, refusing an Alpha’s order was difficult for a wolf with low dominance. Just being in my presence made her nervous enough.
I sat back and thought about it; he had sent a wolf down to deliver the message, one who wouldn’t be considered a threat to any Pack on the way. “I see. Are you planning to return to your Pack today?”
“Those were my orders, sir. I cannot bring my mate with me, I’m not supposed to let anyone know anything about us.” She was clinging to Jerry, and he was shaking too. His eyes were turning black, he didn’t like the idea of his mate leaving him.
“I understand. I would never force you to break Alpha command. Would it be within the bounds of your orders to carry a letter back to your Alpha from me?”
“Yes, Alpha, I can do that.”
“Fine. You two go back and Ingrid, you stop by and pick up the letter before you leave. The same rules apply, keep it hidden and it is to be given directly to your Alpha.”
“Yes sir. Thank you, Alpha.”
“I’m happy for you both, it’s a wonderful thing to find your mate while you are so young. Ingrid, I consider you a part of my Pack already, when you return and if you desire, we can make it official. If the two of you decide to go to your Pack, I will let your Alpha know I will release Jerry to him. All you have to do is call and I’m sure he’ll be in a car and on his way five minutes later.” Jerry smiled, probably thinking it would be faster than that. “Now go spend some time together,” I said as I waved my hand.
“Thank you, Alpha,” Jerry said as they bowed their heads, then left my office. I started to pen a letter, basically saying I was all right with whichever Pack they wanted to settle in, and how happy I was for them. Jerry was a good wolf, a hard worker, and would fit in well if he moved. I also warned the Alpha about the potential for a court battle to have Jessie Donato declared dead. The fastest way to end the court case would be to produce the body; if he had done it, Yuri would be coming after him, needing to produce the body to get his money. As much as I’d love to tear to shreds whoever killed Jessie, I didn’t want Yuri to win either.
I sealed the envelope and put it in my pocket. At four, Ingrid took it and walked out of the gate, getting into her Ford Focus and driving away, leaving Jerry on his knees as he watched her car disappear.