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Chapter 26: Aftermath

I couldn’t even look at Ella, I kept my eyes closed as she walked next to my bed. She picked up my hand, avoiding the wires and tubes, and leaned down. “Gunny is all right,” she whispered, “but you will hear differently. He and Josh were both injured in the blast and we reported them killed, so when you hear that pretend it is true.”

I wailed out my sobs. “Gunny…. Oh God, Gunny…”

She put her head near my ear again. “Good, keep that up. Just remember he is all right and he sends his love, Josh does too. We got two more pieces out of her when they were reported dead, and now they are completely off-grid. We started a shadow investigation. Now that’s all I can say, we don’t know if the room is bugged or if the staff here can be trusted, so don’t let on that you know. Keep up the acting job until we can get you to Pack land.”

“Charlotte? My baby?”

She talked normally as she kept her hand in mine. “Charlotte was injured in the blast. The bomb had almost a kilogram of plastic explosive, with nuts, bolts and nails surrounding it. She got out of the house, but a piece of shrapnel went through her thigh. She lost a lot of blood, but she’s going to be fine.”

“Is she here? When can I see her?”

“She went home four days ago, Rose. Our Pack House is a crime scene, we are all staying at the Gila Pack. She’s resting up there, along with the others.”

Four days. FOUR DAYS? “Wait, how long have I been out?”

“A week.” I would have shaken my head but that would hurt too much. “You were blown backwards, the side of your head hit the side of the outdoor kitchen. You fractured your skull and had a cranial bleed, they had to operate to relieve the pressure and stop it. You were put in a medically induced coma to reduce the amount of intracranial swelling. If you weren’t so damn hard-headed, you’d be dead right now.”

No wonder my head hurt. “The Pack?”

“A lot of injuries, but most are healed already. You were the most seriously injured. If Gunny hadn’t recognized the smell of the plastique, most of us would be dead right now.”

The nurse entered the room and tapped Ella on the shoulder. “Time to go, visiting hours again in the morning. The patient needs to rest.”

She looked back to me and squeezed my hand. “There will always be a few people from our Pack or the Gila Pack at all times, one will be paired with the FBI security at your door. Renee will keep Charlotte safe, Rose. You just heal up.”

“Ella, what happened with Gunny’s body?”

“He was burned along with Josh per their wishes. A video was taken, you can watch when you are ready. It was a beautiful service.” She turned and walked towards the door.

“Ella, what were the Scrabble pieces?”

She paused, trying to decide if she was going to tell me or not. “Y, four points and A, one point. She also had a note, it said, ‘My husband lived by a code, and I will carry it on.’”

T T T H H R M S L V Y A. God, we had to be getting close.

I slept on and off that night; they would let me have juice, jello and soup, but no solid food yet. My stomach was still adjusting and my head would start throbbing if I moved around too much, so in between checks I was watching television.

The shooter was still at large, but no killings had occurred since the bombing. ASAC Luis was now head of the investigation, Craig having stepped back to deal with our Pack. The press coverage was no longer wall to wall, but there was a lot of speculation on who was next, and why the killer hadn’t been found.

I could only stay awake for an hour or so before the injuries and the medications had me lulling back to sleep. When I woke in the morning, it wasn’t a nurse in my room, it was the Deputy Director of the FBI. “Hello, Agent Conspiell. I’m glad to see you awake again, you gave us all quite a scare.”

“Sorry about that,” I said as I raised the head of the bed up so I could talk comfortably. He was the only one in the room. I winced a little as a pain shot through my head. “It could have been a lot worse if Gunny hadn’t smelled the bomb.” Tears started going down my face, both from the pain and the recognition of how close I came to losing it all.

“My condolences on that as well,” he said. “The Director sends his condolences as well, to lose your fiancé and your daughter’s boyfriend has to be hard on you all.” I nodded. “I am leaving town this morning, so I wanted to deliver this personally and thank you for your service. You are being medically retired from service, effective immediately.”

“Sir?” I looked at the papers in confusion.

“You were going to resign anyway, this way your health care is covered along with retirement benefits. After the brain injury you suffered, our doctors would never clear you for duty again. Since the bombing was related to the investigation, the retirement is duty related with full benefits.” I looked at it again after he handed me a pen. “Sign the papers, Rose. Your country thanks you for your service.”

I signed.

He shook my hand and walked out, they had already taken my badge and gun, and I never got a chance to say goodbye to my team. The morning nurse came in and took my vitals. I asked when I might be able to eat REAL food again. “The doctor will be by on rounds soon, he will have to approve it. How is your stomach feeling?”

“Like I could eat a horse,” I said. “Can I have visitors?”

“I’ll send one in when I’m done.”

She finished up a few minutes later, and Jacob Weinberg came in. “Morning Rose. I’m sorry about your loss,” he said while winking.

He was just reminding me to keep up the act, so I did. “Thank you, they were good men. How is Charlotte handling it?”

“She’s devastated, of course. Jane and Ella are helping her deal with it. She’s lucky she hadn’t fully mated yet, as a human she won’t feel the loss so hard.”

“Like me? Like this is easy?” I let out a few sobs for any listening ears.

“Of course not, Rose. It’s never easy losing a loved one.” He came over to the bed and hugged me, whispering in my ear. “We identified the mole, but we aren’t taking action yet. We’re identifying the things he’s doing to hinder the investigation, hoping that will point towards the shooter.”

“How is the Pack,” I asked at normal volume as he sat by the bed.

“Recovering,” he said. “The Gila pack has been very helpful, we’ve been welcomed there. Almost everyone has fully recovered from their injuries. We had insurance on the house and we’re making plans to repair the damage, but it will take a few months.”

“Are you staying at Gila or looking for another house?”

“Gila.” He looked out the window at the sun coming over the mountains. “With the security situation, we need the buffer of a large territory. The Alphas are looking at other options, if we can’t find a way to make the house more defensible then we might look elsewhere.”

“What about me? I mean, I’m not a wolf or a panther, my mate is gone, my daughter’s mate is gone. Hell, I just got retired from my job! I don’t have anything to go back to in DC, no family…”

“You have us,” Jacob said. “Wolf or not, you have been and will be our family as long as you will put up with us.”

“And that dog hair. My God, all that hair,” I said with a chuckle.

“That’s what Roomba’s are for,” he said. “And it’s not THAT bad as long as people shift outside.”

“What does Charlotte think?”

“She wants to talk to you, but she likes it here, she has friends.”

“I can’t take her back east, she didn’t like school there. I’m going to be useless for a while, she may as well finish her high school here and then we can decide what to do.”

He smiled as the nurse came in, my ten minutes of social time were over. I napped briefly, then woke up when the Doctor came in. Behind him was someone I recognized from before. “Doctor Julia,” I said.

“Hello Rose. I’m sorry about your losses.”

“Thank you.”

She watched as the neurosurgeon went through his tests, when he was done he smiled. “You’re doing well, Rose, there doesn’t seem to be any permanent damage. You still need to rest for a few weeks, and the metal plate in your head will be permanent, but I don’t see a need to keep you in intensive care now.”

“Can she be transported by helicopter to our hospital, Dr. Cartwright? The security situation here isn’t good.”

“I don’t see why not if you’re willing to sign for her care. Rose, is that what you want?”

I nodded immediately. “I need to be with my family,” I said.

“I’ll get the transfer paperwork started then,” he said as he walked out.

“Are we going to El Paso?”

She nodded. “No, Gila. You’ll be under my care for a few days until I turn over to Terry.” She pulled out her phone and sent a text, immediately there was a reply. “The helicopter will be here in two hours. Get some rest, Rose.”

I napped for an hour, then I was woken to be prepared for transport. I had to sign a bunch of forms, and I was relieved when the gurney was rolled in with Doc Julia and her flight nurse. “You ready to go?”

“Can’t wait. Thank you, Doctor Cartwright, and everyone here.”

He smiled as the last papers were handed over. “You are welcome, Rose.” I was moved onto the gurney and strapped down; they couldn’t put a helmet or radio over me, so foam earplugs were put in. We took the elevator to the roof and rolled out to the helicopter, already blades spinning and ready. As soon as the door closed, we were airborne.

A hand moved to my arm, lifting the blanket that covered me. I looked over, it was a big man, he was wearing a flight helmet and suit with the sun visor down to his lips, but I would recognize those lips anywhere. Tingles erupted as he took my hand in his.

“Hi baby,” I said as I started crying. “I love you.”

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