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Chapter 16: Dragnet

I worked into the night as Gunny rested, the painkillers keeping him down. He would move once in a while, his leg moving over mine or his nose smelling me next to him. He was on his side again, and I was sitting up against pillows with his head on my lap and my computer on the table above me.

Craig and Luis had been thrown together as the people in charge of the investigation, quickly forging a friendship as they worked. He stayed at a hotel in Albuquerque overnight, since the team worked well into the evening. Luis had them working several angles, all of which were long shots.

The first was traffic cameras. We were going through images from every camera within a ten-block radius of both the shooting and where the getaway car had been found. Each plate was run, each image added to the database. Craig had them give priority to out-of-state plates, as we thought it likely the killer was not a New Mexico native. There were thousands of cars to screen, and for each car we had to search the databases for owners and drivers. We were going to take the database we had developed and run it against cell phone records, toll roads, employment records, school attendance, credit card receipts and any other information we could find until we could exclude that person from consideration.

The ones we couldn’t exclude would get more screening.

The relational database Natalie was developing was going to be key. We had received the information from the Department of Defense, Federal law enforcement and other agencies. We looked at other sources as well; competitive shooting clubs, private shooting academies, Olympic shooters, and even those outside the USA. Alerts were set up so if someone showed up in one place, it would find it in another. We were still very early in the screening process; data was still being entered and validated. It was not a scientific process; we could make the query specific, and find a few suspects, or make it general and find thousands.

The third was the clues they had left behind. We didn’t believe the Scrabble pieces were left there without reason, the shooter was trying to tell us something, teasing us with the puzzle. We had a team of National Security Agency people, computer geeks and cryptologists looking at the possible combinations that the letters could represent. We also had a psychologist from the FBI Profiling division arrive to join the team, and he was particularly interested in the letter and the Scrabble pieces. His initial thoughts were forwarded to me in an email:

The combination of methods used in the killings thus far speak to an intelligent, motivated killer. The attacks show a significant level of planning, as well as an understanding of what she is up against. These are apparently randomly selected targets, yet the act itself is planned in detail; evidence is destroyed or minimized, escape routes are easily available, and in the latest attack a vehicle switch was part of the escape. The subject is not done killing, and is taunting us to find her.

She is not afraid of being caught or killed, she is afraid of not completing her planned revenge.

The selection of random targets speaks to a broad-based hatred towards the Werewolves. The use of language like “race-traitor” indicates hostility towards humans who cooperate or join with them. The genus of such hatred is unknown, and is not recent. This revenge has been long planned.

Her suffering was personal. Either she was directly harmed, or her husband or close family was killed or injured and she blames the Packs. The harm is likely ongoing in her mind.

In addition to the criteria already set for the particular skills this person has, I would add the following to the search:

-Those killed or seriously injured in the Were War or its aftermath, extending to wives/widows and close family.

-Women with unresolved claims for losses suffered during the war.

-Women who have been divorced for reason of their husband finding a Werewolf mate.

-Women who showed opposition to the peace treaty and the end of the war with the wolves.

It is also likely that there are more than one subject involved. The investigation has already explored this due to the quick getaways after shootings, but the methods of a serial killer rarely diverge this much. In two cases, the killings were at close quarters, while the others were all at significant range. A shooter who was doing this for the thrill of the kill would not enjoy long range, while one who prefers to be isolated from their victim would not kill with a knife. If it is one person, then the method of the kill is secondary to achieving the kill itself and making the escape.”

I closed up the laptop and went to take a shower, finishing my business late into the evening. When I came back out, Wendy was checking his vitals and giving him his pain medication. “Don’t you sleep?”

She laughed quietly. “Doc will take the next one, but one of us needs to be around while we have a patient in this condition. Don’t worry, I have other stuff to do than monitor his vitals.”

I got back into bed after she finished and she tucked me in. “Tomorrow will be worse,” she said. “He will feel better and will want to get up and do more. You can’t let him.”

“He is stubborn,” I said.

“Am not,” he whispered to me. I didn’t argue with him yet, I just snuggled in and let my body keep his warm as we both fell asleep.

The next day was as predicted. Gunny started to feel better, hell, he was feeling frisky, but Doc’s orders were orders. Being naked in bed with him might have been good for his cat, but it was hell for me. His scent called for me, his hand was continually wandering across my body and setting it on fire. He was pulling out every trick in the book to get me to give in and make love to him.

Thankfully, Renee expected this and invited me to lunch. Gunny needed X-rays, a change of dressings, and a lung capacity check while I was gone. Doc was also going to have him shift to his panther form and back a few times to stimulate healing.

Lunch was nice, we had it out on the deck near the koi pond that was her favorite. We had time, so she showed me around the Pack House and surrounding grounds. Finally, it was time to go back. “Doc says they are done,” she said, “and he can start to move around. No exerting himself, anything farther than the bathroom is a no. He can sit in the chair as long as he is helped up, and he can use a wheelchair if you want to take him anywhere.”

“So, when you say no exerting himself…”

She laughed. “New mates. No sex, Rose. Not even if you do all the work.”

I got back to the room and found him dressed in shorts and a T-shirt. He was sitting in the big recliner, watching the news channel. He patted his legs with his good hand, I saw he had new and smaller bandages on his wounds and his arm was now in a normal sling. “Doc says I’m doing great,” he said. “Now come here and help me out with this painful swelling.”

I snorted. “Doc also relayed to Alpha Renee what your restrictions were, Gunny. You’re on medical hold.” I pulled my phone out and set it on the nearby table before climbing in and snuggling next to him. “Rest up, it’s only been a day,” I said.

“A day feels like forever since we made love,” he whined.

We settled in, and were almost asleep when my phone started ringing. I looked at the screen, it was Josh. “Josh? Is everything all right?” All kinds of things went through my head, it was just after one and Charlotte was still in school.

“Charlotte is fine, Mom.” God, I was SO not used to him calling me that, but in this world a mate was forever so he was going to be my son-in-law. “A question though… did you need me to protect Charlotte from others, or others from Charlotte?”

“What happened, Josh.” I was losing patience, and Gunny was starting to growl a little.

“I’m sending you the video. Call me back when you’ve watched it, we’re almost home.”

“Home? With Charlotte? Josh, what the hell happened?”

“Just watch, Mom,” Charlotte said in the background. They hung up, and I went my mail program. When the file booted up, it showed the hallway of the school. I found Charlotte in the right corner, pulling books out of her locker. A group of good-looking guys, probably athletes, were walking down the hallway behind her. They said something, she turned around, said something and then went back to her locker. I saw the lead guy say something to his friends, then he moved behind Charlotte and reached around and squeezed her boobs hard.

The next ten seconds was Youtube gold. She raised her elbow and spun to her left, sending it into his jaw and sending him staggering back a step. Her right hand grabbed his hand and pulled him forward, lifting her right knee into his crotch so hard he was lifted clean off the ground. Even Gunny groaned in sympathy pain, his hand moving down to protect his package. As he was bent over, she grabbed the back of his jacket, then lifted her knee into his face as she pulled his head down. His head flew back, blood spraying over her white skirt, and he was knocked clean out.

The guys he was with were standing around, looking between their unconscious friend and a very pissed off and trained young woman. They did the right thing, and ran. Charlotte turned around, grabbed a folder out of her locker and walked away like it was nothing. It took another thirty seconds for a teacher to arrive, and he was still out when the ambulance arrived. As they were loading him up, I saw another teacher leading Charlotte by the arm down the hallway, Josh following at a distance.

“Holy shit,” Gunny said. “Once she takes the change she’s going to be a real force. Just like her Momma.”

“I think that boy will learn not to sexually assault women, don’t you?” Pride was in my voice as I backed the video up and played it again.

“I think his friends will find his balls the next county over,” Gunny said. “But yeah, I think the word will get around not to mess with the new girl.”

We finished the video, then I called Charlotte. “Are you all right, baby?”

She snorted. “I’m fine, Mom. My knee is a little bruised and I got a cut on my elbow from his tooth, but the nurse took care of it.”

“Any blowback from the Principal?”

“No, not once they watched the tape. Patrick won’t be playing linebacker on Friday, though. They are going to suspend him once he wakes up, and the cops have been given the tape. The school resource officer knows I plan to file sexual assault charges and I gave a police statement. He’ll be a registered sex offender by Christmas.”

“What the hell did he say to you?”

“Well, I didn’t know who he was and I’d never showed any interest in him. Jane says he’s got a reputation as a player. He said, ‘Hey baby, want the ride of your life?’ I told him I only dated MEN. That’s when he decided to grab my tits.”

“He’s lucky she beat him up before I got to him,” Josh said.

“I think this worked out fine, it would raise too many questions if you fought for her, Josh. Now, get her home safe and I’ll call you later. Oh, and show the video to Jacob. I’m sure he’d love to see his training in action, that looked more Krav Maga than Taekwondo.”

“Jacob says it doesn’t have to be pretty, just effective. He’s right. I’ll show him and the others, plus it’s already up on my Twitter and has over 500 retweets in thirty minutes. And Mom? We’re coming for dinner. Since I was let off school early, Ella said she’d bring us there and we can drive back early in the morning for school.”

“Wonderful. I’ve got to go, we love you.” I hung up and put the phone on the table. “I’d say that guy made a near-fatal error in victim selection.”

Gunny pulled me tight. “Never fuck with a Conspiell. Now, fucking a Conspiell is perfectly fine,” he said as he tried to move my hand over his hardening shaft.

“STOP IT,” I said with a bit of a growl to my voice. “No nookie until the Doc okays it.”

“This sucks,” he said as his head fell back to the cushion. He closed his eyes and soon was snoring softly. I turned the television sound down and pulled out my phone; going to my email, I forwarded the video to Alpha Renee, thinking she would appreciate it. Women who had been raped, or avoided rape, loved to see the tables be turned on the attacker.

I had made it through my email when Alpha Craig called me. “Rose, it’s Craig. There’s been another shooting. I’ll get someone to drive you to the airport, we’re wheels up in forty minutes,” he said as he hung up.

I raced to the bathroom, then quickly dressed in my FBI attire and gear. I sent a quick text to Charlotte, telling her I had to go out of town on short notice, but she could come stay with Gunny if she wanted.

Doc came in with one of the Pack warriors. “Jerry will drive you, the car’s waiting outside.” I looked down at the sleeping Gunny. “I’ll tell him when he wakes,” he said.

“Where are we going?”

“Nebraska,” Jerry said. “The Superior Pack.”

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