Order of Protection

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I climbed up the ladder, feeling bad about leaving her alone. I could hear Sven talking, so I followed the sound to the dining room where he was sitting at the table. “Alpha Stan,” I said as I spotted him at the table. “Betas Peter and Abigail, I did not expect to see you up here.”

“This is where the action is, John. I understand your mate helped out a bit.”

“She did, Abigail. She’s passed out downstairs, I was hoping I could get someone to sit with her in the safe room, just in case she wakes up.”

Abigail stood and smiled. “I’d be happy to stay with her, John. My mate can keep me linked in so I don’t miss anything.” She came over and gave me a hug, then kissed my cheek. “Congratulations on your mating. We’ll have a proper party when the time is right.”

“I’d like that.”

“We’ll host, of course, as we consider Jessie to be a member of our Pack. Now get in there and figure out how to get Linnea back.”

She walked down the hallway and I took her place at the table. A large map dominated the table, with lines marking the search area. “How bad is it?”

“Even with the help, and allowing for some margin in direction, there’s hundreds of square miles to search. All that is assuming they are between here and Duluth, but it’s also possible they went farther south into Wisconsin. It’s a lot of land to try and cover by scent,” Sven said.

“It’s getting dark,” I said. “Looking for a green deck and white cabins isn’t going to happen at night.” I looked up with an idea. “Aircraft. Rent a plane or a helicopter, fly them along this path with a few Pack members in there. We know we’re looking for a pattern of three on the west side of a lake.”

“I’ll set it up,” Stan said. “There has to be a place out of Duluth, if not I’ll get someone out of the cities.”

“I don’t care if you have to buy the fucking plane, I’ve got the cash to do it,” I said. “Jessie and I kept some of the money from Yuri’s reward in an account here, not all of it went to Patrick.”

Sven laughed a little. “Hell, I’ll buy a helicopter, it could come in handy. No matter, just get some people in the air.” He looked out the window. “Anything we can do in the meantime?”

“Google Earth,” Peter said. “We’ll get every person not on patrol or sleeping to start searching the satellite images along the way, looking for a pattern of three identical cabins on the west side of a lake. Any hits, we pass along to the guys out looking. Instead of driving around with the windows down, let’s find them some targets they can go check out.”

It was a solid plan. “I’m sure they’d rather do that,” I said. “Who do we have available?”

“I’ve got most of my Pack up in Alpha Pine’s pack, sitting around wishing they could help. I’ll get them on this right away.” He pulled out his phone and went to make a call.

Peter looked at the map and drew a line. “Tell them we’ll look everywhere south of County 52 with our Pack.” He got on his phone and called Luna Larissa to set it up.

We spent another hour poring over maps before I gave up. “Gents, I’m going to go rest with my mate. Wake me if we get any good leads.” I went back down to the safe room, where Abigail smiled at me.

“She hasn’t moved, but she seems to be resting comfortably,” she said.

“Thank you. And thank you for the Google Earth idea.” She looked up, surprised. “I know it was you, Peter can barely operate his phone, much less understand what is available on the computers. You need to smack him for taking credit for your idea. I could tell when I first met you two that you were the brains behind the operation.”

She laughed. “Well, he brings the brawn and a couple other things to the table, so I’ll keep him. Keep close to her, you know mates can help each other recover.” She climbed out of the safe room, and I removed my clothes and tucked into the bed. I rolled her so she was tucked into my side, then fell asleep.

I woke to Jessie moving her hand over my chest, I rumbled low in my chest in pleasure as I pulled her close. “You’re back,” I whispered.

“How long have I been out?” She rolled off me and sat up.

I looked at my clock. “It’s six twenty, so about twelve hours. You must be hungry.”

“Yeah, and I need to use the bathroom.” She turned on the lights and looked at the composting toilet int the tiny bathroom. “Not THIS bathroom.”

I laughed as we both pulled our clothes on, then she went up the ladder ahead of me. “Are you feeling all right?”

“I’m tired, John, but I’ll be fine with a big breakfast.” I watched her climb out, then joined her in the closet. I took her hand and led her into the kitchen. “Any progress?”

Sven looked up and smiled. “She’s back,” he said as he got out of his chair and pulled her into a hug. “Thank you for… for what you did.”

“Do we have a location?”

“Not yet, but we have a list of possibles. Our men are checking them out one by one. It’s a lot more than we knew before.”

I moved over to the kitchen, Sven had clearly been up all night. Allison was busy making a huge pan of bacon. “Anything I can help with?”

“Pancakes,” she said. “Mix is there, griddle is heated up.” I started pouring it out and grabbed a spatula. “Stan is sleeping, and Peter drove down to run one of the teams that is checking out the possible hideouts. Since we know they have at least five wolves there, we didn’t want search teams of less than twelve, even if it takes longer.”

I nodded. “Makes sense, we’ve already lost three men to these guys. Have you been up all night?”

“I got a couple hours in earlier. We’ll sleep after six tonight,” she said. The two of us worked through the breakfast quickly while Jessie set the table and poured drinks. Stan showed up as we were serving, looking like he’d been up half the night. “Eat up, boys, lunch may not be happening.”

We had made a bunch of food and we ate it just as fast. We had three dozen possible locations identified by satellite, and we had a helicopter and a small aircraft coming out of Duluth this morning to continue the search. We only had three search teams of twelve men each, and they had to approach each target carefully. We were hoping the airborne view would help us sort them out.

As the morning went on to noon and still no luck, tensions were rising. If we didn’t find her soon, it would be too late. “What happens when you don’t produce me or the money,” Jessie finally asked.

“I hope they don’t figure it out until I’ve killed their leader,” Sven said. “I just wish I could take out that fucking alpha.”

“Cops are doing a good job getting him to hide,” I said. We’d been watching the news in the background, the Russian authorities were still trying to figure out how he escaped, and a nationwide manhunt was underway. There were lots of photos of masked police officers standing in front of drugs, guns, stolen merchandise and what really pissed me off, young women freed from sex slavery. “I don’t know if I’d rather have him captured by the police or the European Council.”

“I think Yuri would prefer either one to the Sicilians,” Stan said. “With no money from us and his illegal operations under pressure, he’s not going to make the interest payments. They’ll cut their hundred million out of his ass a nickel at a time. The cops would just lock him up, and the Council would give him a quick death.”

“So what happens to your Pack?” Jessie wasn’t going to let it go.

“My Beta is taking over defense plans. We’ve had reinforcements arriving quietly all morning from allied Packs. This is bigger than just us now,” Sven said. “We got information from a rogue who works with us sometimes that the Russians are offering good money for a day of mercenary work, plus a cut of the spoils. He’s building an army out there, and so are we. I’ll have a hundred warriors from allied Packs here by three. Snipers, explosives experts, whatever my friends can spare.”

“You have me as well,” Jessie said.

“No, you’re going to be down in the safe room. We can’t risk you in battle,” I said, instinctively standing in front of him.

“I’m not going to hide underground while my family and friends are getting killed, either. I’m an Alpha, but more than that, I’m a witch. I bring talents to the table no one else has, and I can fight in a way people don’t get hurt.”

“You could pass out, Jessie. It’s happened before, it just happened last night!”

She stared me down. “Then you will be by my side to take me to the safe room when I can’t fight any more, but by God I will not hide while my friends are dying! You got that?” The dominance her wolf was putting out was high, and I knew she was right. My wolf and I just didn’t like it.

“I got it. You fight by my side, though, we stay together.” I pulled her into my side, my wolf and I united in wanting to keep her safe.

Peter’s POV

Beta, I’ve got confirmed werewolves in the compound. The cabins are just like she described, all the same with green painted decks facing the water. I can scent at least five, plus Luna Linnea.”

“Stay back and downwind, I’m calling this in and then we will get set for the rescue.” Finally. We were parked a mile away from the lake cabins we had identified, and my patrol up the south side of the lake had borne fruit. The wind was out of the north today, the wind cold and the sky a robin’s egg blue. I pulled out my cellphone and dialed my Alpha.

He answered on the fourth ring, a little groggy. “Peter?”

“Yes, Alpha Stan. We found them.” The phone dropped, then he picked it up. “You there?”

“Yeah. I was napping, give me a second and I’ll put you on speaker.” I heard the phone being set down. “Go ahead, Peter.”

“We’re at the cabins identified on Caribou Lake, east of Twig. Our scouts have positive scent on five plus wolves plus Luna Linnea.” I could hear paper shuffling and keystrokes. “We have a good surveillance position downwind of the cabins.”

“How many men do you have,” Sven asked.

“Twelve of us total.”

“Peter, I’m going to send you the other team we sent up. They are up by Shaw, so they should be there in an hour or less. Stay back, but don’t let anyone leave. If you have to go, go.”

“Beta, I have full confidence in you and your team. You’re our best chance to get her back alive, so if you have to move, do it without hesitation,” Sven said. “May Luna guide your steps.”

“Thank you, Alpha, we’ll do our best.” I ended the call and gathered my men around my computer, where I had a map pulled up. The guys had unwittingly set themselves in a poor defensive location, probably not expecting a fight. They were on the west side of the lake, but it was only a few hundred yards before the shoreline turned almost due west for a couple of miles. The lake ice was thin, not able to support an adult werewolf, and still had a lot of open water. I marked positions I wanted my men, covering the access roads to the cabins and homes along this side of the lake. My plan was simple; set men to prevent an escape, get a bunch of men as close as we could without detection, then attack quickly and without mercy.

My men were in position and waiting, most in human form and still in vehicles, but four hidden in the woods in wolf form. We were using spotting scopes to keep an eye on the cabins. It looked like only the center one was being used, and there was one man walking around outside. He was staying close to the cabin and seemed more interested in smoking and staying out of the wind than security.

An hour later, the other squad arrived along with a surprise. “Alpha Sven… what are you doing here?”

“I brought the helicopter, and I needed to be here for my mate,” he said. “Any changes?”

“No sir, it’s quiet.”

Beta, we’ve got a car and a panel van approaching from the west, two minutes out. They have guns visible and I have eyes on four, there could be more.”

“No time to wait. Snipers, take them out as soon as you have a shot. Attack teams, GO GO GO.” I told two of my men to escort the Alpha to the cabin while I drove my Expedition to intercept. The driver of the next car was right behind me; we pulled in front of the road leading to the cabin, just around the corner they would have to make to follow the lakeshore as it turned south. I had men take cover in the trees on both sides, while the rest of us took cover behind the big SUV’s. I could hear howls, gunshots and screams from the cabin behind me and the road to my left.

The lead truck took the turn at speed, the driver fighting a skid as the front right tire had been shot out. We opened up on him, my rifle slamming into my shoulder as the .308 round was sent into the windshield. I saw the blood explode from the back of the driver’s head, and the car went off the road to the right and hit a tree. My men followed it in, a few shots later it was over. “Where’s the panel van?”

“We took it out, all secure.”

“Car’s secure, falling back to the cabin. Status?”

“We’re in a standoff, Beta.” I jumped into the Expedition, turning around and stopping by the driveway. I ran up to the cabin with my pistol out, joining the others, just as a man came out with a knife to Linnea’s throat.

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