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Chapter 18: Loss of confidence

We landed at the airfield and were immediately picked up by State Police for the drive down. “I’m usually not happy to see Feds,” Trooper Clark said as we walked to the van, “but you can have this one. Serial killers aren’t something we are used to dealing with.”

“I’m not enjoying it either,” I said before I made the introductions. The senior people were already at the scene, which was becoming a media circus already. I had already gotten calls from the Deputy Director and the White House, political pressure was building now that the killer was targeting Federal Agents and a human, even if I was going to become a werewolf. The pace of killings was starting to pick up as well, and that concerned us all. It was like she thought now that the task force was formed, she had less time to get it all done.

Linda spent most of the drive on the phone, doing press interviews and coordinating with the local spokesmen. Craig and I spent the time getting updated on the investigation, which so far wasn’t showing much. They were still canvassing the area for witnesses, none so far. “This road isn’t heavily traveled, and it’s surrounded by corn fields. The nearest house was about eight hundred yards away, hidden by barns,” Lt. Kaiser told me on the phone. “We’re hoping someone on the road saw something suspicious, or maybe someone remembers a vehicle following her.”

I showed the note to Linda, she nodded her head, they were already on it. It took us thirty minutes to reach the scene, surrounded by police and crime scene tape. As soon as I stepped out, the press was on me. Linda moved next to me as the troopers made a path; Linda promised we would have a press conference in fifteen minutes. The victim had already been removed from the scene, but the car was still there.

It didn’t take long to figure out that this had been a clean kill, and there was very little to go on. The press conference didn’t go well; they wanted answers I didn’t have, and there was nothing I could do to reassure them we would catch the killer. I kept promoting the tip line and repeated the call for people to report suspicious vehicles or behavior. We didn’t have a name, a face, a vehicle… we had almost nothing. She was like a ghost.

It was starting to get dark and the car was being loaded on a flatbed to take to the crime lab. “Come on, I’ll take you into town. You look like you can use a steak,” he said. We piled back into the van, and a half-dozen patrol cars led us into town. We parked at the American Legion, where they had commandeered a room in the back so we could meet without the press. Dinner was excellent, the steak was so tender and flavorful- I know Craig enjoyed the hell out of his. They had a thirty-ounce Porterhouse that he was tearing into. Linda’s T-bone was the size of her dinner plate, and almost two inches thick. I looked at them with envy, I still couldn’t believe how much they ate while still maintaining their weight.

We exchanged all the information we had with the local law enforcement, and walked to the nearby hotel. There weren’t many rooms available, so Linda and I were sharing. I called Gunny after taking a quick shower and getting ready for bed. “Hi baby, how are you feeling?”

“Good enough to be out there helping you,” he grumbled. “You didn’t even wake me to say goodbye.”

“I know, you needed your rest and it was a sudden callout.” I gave him a quick rundown of what had happened. “Did Charlotte tell you what I needed from you?”

“Yes,” he growled. “She wouldn’t let me use the computer though, she had Josh doing that. She’s worse than you, she won’t even wheel me around.”

“You need your rest, Gunny.”

“I need YOU, Rose, and you’re not here.” I heard him sigh. “Then you go and have Ella Alpha command me…”

“Yes, I did. Now, be a good patient, have a good night in panther form with Charlotte, and I’ll talk to you in the morning.”

“Hurry back, love. I’ve got a lot of makeup sex waiting for you.”

“Daaaaaad! Ewww!” I heard Charlotte In the background as I laughed.

“Let me talk to her, Gunny. You have a good night.” I heard him hand the phone over. “Hi baby, how was the trip?”

“Boring. Josh was ‘kind’ enough to make sure I had my homework so I wouldn’t fall behind.”

“That’s good, you need to email your teachers and get what you need for the next week or so. Until we find the killer, you kids are on lockdown. You’ll stay with Gunny and the Gila Pack until he’s recovered enough to come home.”

“Good, I can sleep in! Thanks Mom.”

“Don’t thank me, you’ll be bored in a few days.”

“I don’t think so, Mom. Have you seen this place? It’s like a resort, they’ve got thousands of acres of land and all kinds of cool stuff. You should see where we are sleeping tonight.”

“Not in the hospital room?”

“Nope. Bed is too small for all three of us, but out by the koi pond there is this huge hanging bed under a pergola. The weather is going to be perfect, and I’ve got my snuggle bunny for when it gets cold.” I heard Josh snort, he wasn’t used to her pet names yet.

“Love you both, goodnight.” I hung up and opened my laptop, going to the email Gunny had sent to the Packs. A lot of the stuff wasn’t new; keep people in groups, stay home where you were protected, avoid activities near your borders. He noted that so far, the killer hadn’t crossed Pack territories to attack, but nothing was preventing that. He did recommend using electronic surveillance on the Pack borders, and monitoring the cameras for abnormal activity. If the Pack couldn’t do that, he recommended buying a bunch of trail cams and using those to catch any surveillance or suspicious activity. With our previous warnings to keep kids home from school and work, it was as much as they could do right now. Closing it up, I left it charging and set my phone with it.

I fell asleep before Linda even got out of the bathroom.

It seemed like minutes later when there was a knocking at my door. “Linda, Rose, breakfast in twenty,” Craig said before he walked away. I groaned, wanting to go back to sleep, but Linda was one of those freaky annoying morning wolves who was up and bouncy already, excited for the new day.

Another reason to be a cat, I thought as I watched her almost run into the bathroom to get ready. Cats liked to nap.

I opened my phone and started to go through the pages of text messages that I had received overnight. Melody’s message told me to call her, so I did. “Hi Melody, how is New York?”

“Frustrating, boss. We went through the evidence and photos the local police had, nothing new. It’s been shipped off to the FBI crime lab now. We also went through the surveillance footage at the hotel. The quality of their video sucks, and half their cameras didn’t work. We found the victim as he came in the back door, he was carrying a woman but her face was buried in his chest. We never got a view of her, but she has short black hair, straight, and looks to be about five foot-six and maybe a hundred and twenty pounds.”

“How did you figure that out?”

“Rob is about the size of the victim, so we put him in the same hallway and had him pick up different sized women until the pictures matched. It should be pretty close.” He paused. “From the video, it looks like she got him to take her back to his hotel room, then killed him before having sex. There was an unwrapped condom next to him on the bed; the police kept that out of the report at the request of the Alpha. He didn’t want his girlfriend to find out he was cheating on her.”

“Girlfriend? Werewolf or human?”

“Werewolf. They weren’t mates, but they had been together for years. She was on a business trip for a week.” Damn, that must have been weird, but she wasn’t his mate. I’d have been so pissed if I found Gunny and he was with someone. “Did you find anything out from the Alpha?”

“Nothing helpful. He was low ranking, worked as a bartender at one of the resorts that caters to visiting tourists. He would pick up women, sometimes use prostitutes. He wasn’t shocked when it looked like he was rolled by one.”

“Anything else?”

“It was a close-quarters kill. The victim was lying on his stomach, his pants and underwear had been pulled off and were on the floor. Based on the angle, the killer is right handed, and was sitting astride his body when he stabbed him. Single wound, piercing the heart. Toxicology showed he was drunk, which is impressive for a wolf.”

“Any DNA evidence?”

“Sure, there were lots of things collected. Pubic hairs, regular hairs, he was on top of the comforter and that thing lit up like a Christmas tree under the black light. They identified over a hundred different DNA samples of women in that room; unless we find the shooter, no chance of finding her.” We talked for a bit longer, then I let him go. They were leaving in an hour for the airport.

We moved to the diner for breakfast, I was finishing a Farmer’s Breakfast when my phone started blowing up, and everyone else’s did too. “FOX NEWS NOW,” the message said. There was a television in the corner, I yelled at the waitress to turn it up. The crawl on the screen said, “SCRABBLE KILLER RELEASES VIDEO OF KILLING” as the anchor gave an introduction.

We all got up and gathered around the television as they finally showed the clip again. It was taken from a camera inside a car, it was driving past cornfields with the windows down. The camera was pointed out the passenger side window, but you couldn’t see any part of the car in the frame. The car pulled up to a stop, coming alongside a familiar red Dodge Neon. The horn honked, and a young girl rolled her window down. It was Denise Young. She smiled and looked over in the car. “Hey, can I help you?”

The gunshot caused the camera to shake a little, but the impact on the bullet couldn’t be hidden. The news blurred her face, but you could see the blood spray. The killer then tossed a Scrabble piece through the open window. The car started moving as Denise’s foot slipped off the brake as she slumped down in her seatbelt. “These animals deserve this, but one deserves death most of all.” The voice was electronically altered, we would have to figure out if she was using a device live or recorded it.

There was a pause. “I will keep killing unless Alpha Renee Hastings kills herself. These deaths are all on her, she started it. She is the only one who can stop it.”

The car started moving, making a left turn. As the video ended you could see the Neon hitting the ditch on the far side.

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