Chapter 37: Insider
My experience with Packs was limited to the fairly small Belden Pack, and my visits to the Gila Pack. Looking at the activity around the Johnson Pack House, I was taken aback at the sheer size and beauty of the house and the people.
The house itself was huge, a sprawling log mansion three stories tall with a big central areas and multiple wings. I kept sneaking glances at it as we ran down the hill, plus I had a bunch of curious wolves to deal with. A werepanther was not something they had seen based on their curiosity; since the Alpha was with me, I was immediately accepted. Wolves would approach, take a sniff or two as I ran with them, then back off so others could get in. When we finally got to the valley and broke into the open field, we were surrounded by excited Pack members.
Josh and I followed Derek as he led the way to the house. At the top of the stairs, a beautiful brunette was standing next to Charlotte with one hand protectively over her rounded stomach. Derek shifted as he reached the top, taking her in his arms for a deep kiss. The Pack hooted and hollered at their Alphas before Derek broke away and put on the clothes she held in her other hand. Meanwhile, Charlotte handed clothes to Josh and I which we quickly pulled on. Derek turned to me as he kept his hand in her left hand. “Rose Rodriguez, this is my mate Amanda. Amanda, this is Gunny’s newly turned mate Rose.”
“Pleased to meet you, Alpha, and congratulations,” I said before she pulled me into a hug.
“I’m so glad to meet you, and your lovely daughter,” she said. “Charlotte told me a lot about you while we were waiting. I’m so happy for Gunny, and for Josh as well, finding his mate so early.”
“I’m happy for her, I’m just a little freaked out that my daughter is growing up so fast! In less than a year she’ll be turned and mated and talking about having children.”
“We can be pregnancy buddies,” Charlotte giggled as I glared at her.
“Come on inside, you must be hungry, and the kitchen staff planned for your arrival,” she said as she turned to go inside. The staff had cleaned up from dinner, and most of the chairs were stacked on the table. There was a long table set up near the kitchen, and that is where we went. Derek and Amanda stood by chairs at the center, as their Pack leadership joined us. We were introduced to their head Beta, Will, and the other Betas who ran their Pack. We all waited for the Alphas to sit, then we were next as guests followed by their staff.
We were in the middle of an excellent meal of fresh-caught venison and steamed vegetables when I heard my phone beep. Charlotte gave it to me, and I smiled as I saw the message. “The White House Counsel is bringing Charlie Watson, Assistant Attorney General, with her. They are taking off and will be here in three hours,” I told them.
“Good, that gives you a little time to rest after dinner before we have to go back to the airport,” Derek said. He looked at his men. “Same plan, same people, but Josh and Charlotte stay here,” he said.
I texted Lisa Giovanni back, saying we would meet here. She thanked me and said the papers had been signed by the President and had been emailed to Alphas Robert and Renee.
We finished with some after-dinner drinks as Josh and Charlotte excused themselves to go join a crowd more “their age.” I snorted, I was by far the oldest at the table; Derek and Amanda were only a little older than Josh. “Do you know if you’re having a boy or a girl,” I asked Amanda.
“We didn’t want to know,” she said. “I’m happy either way. It’s such a relief having the war over, our wolves are back to normal; when we are in danger, we don’t fall pregnant. Now it’s like a baby boom.”
“Tell me about it,” Doc said, “Once these start dropping, I’m going to be swamped.”
“I guess our Pack is a little unique, we have a lot of young children around, with the war orphans Ella picked up early on.” I had listened in amazement when Ella had told the story of their run, and how the children came to be with them.
“And we are forever in her debt for what she did for us,” Derek said. “Don’t tell her, but if our first is a girl we are naming her after Ella. She saved bloodlines, children, mates from certain death.”
I was very proud of my Alphas. “She is a strong Alpha, and a better person,” I said. “I wondered what it would be like, having to submit to an Alpha pair so much younger than I am, but I’m not finding it an issue nor did Gunny. She’s wise beyond her years.”
“She has been through a lot, and never lost that goodness inside her. I have to ask, though- are you aware of the power your cat exudes?”
“What do you mean?”
“Your dominance level is very high, that is one reason why so many wolves wanted to come see and touch you,” Derek said. “Well, that and they hadn’t seen a Werepanther before.”
“You are easily Beta rank, possibly Alpha. I kind of expected you to have a strong animal since you are Gunny’s mate and he is a high Beta, but it’s more,” Amanda said. “You two could easily have your own Pack.”
My jaw dropped a little at this. “I’m still trying to figure out how to be a cat,” I snorted. “I’m not interested in being in charge.” My cat just rolled her eyes at me.
“There’s no use pushing it, what you are meant to be will come to pass,” Amanda said. “Now, tell me what Gunny is up to.”
“He’s working on setting a trap for Maitea, using himself as bait,” I said. I quickly recapped what had happened in the investigation; discovering the identity of the shooter and her relationship to Agent Luis, the aborted break-in to his house, and our evasion of the arrest warrants. “That’s why I’m leaning on my relationship with the White House Counsel, I’m hoping we can once again bypass the bureaucracy and talk directly to the ones who can help us.”
Derek looked at the clock. “And it’s about time to go. Come on, I’ll show you to your room and we can meet at the front door in twenty minutes after you’ve freshened up.” He stood up along with his Betas, kissing Amanda who was staying behind with more pie. The room was in the Alpha wing, just down from theirs, and was lovely. I wished I had time and Gunny to fully enjoy it and the huge whirlpool tub. I had to remind myself I was a wanted fugitive.
We loaded back into the SUV’s and drove back to the airport. The area was even more beautiful in the fading daylight, and I kept an eye on it as Derek and I talked about what would be happening. We were waiting by the runway when the charter plane arrived and taxied to the hangar. We stepped out, the Pack warriors moving around us, as the door opened to the plane. As soon as the pilot moved aside, Lisa Giovanni was coming down the stairs with a gentleman in an expensive suit behind her. “Hello Rose,” she said as she approached.
“Welcome to Montana,” I said. “Alpha Derek Johnson, this is White House Counsel Lisa Giovanni and Assistant Attorney General Charlie Watson. Charlie, I’m Rose Rodriguez, formerly Conspiell and FBI.”
“I know who you are, Rose. I don’t have time, let’s move this along please.”
Lisa looked back at the plane, a fuel truck was pulling up. “Let’s go back on board and discuss this.” I looked at Derek, he nodded, and his men started moving to surround the plane. We went back up and sat in the plush chairs of the executive jet. “I’m glad to see you up and about, Rose, I was worried about you after the explosion. I was shocked to see you were medically retired before you made the change, I knew it wouldn’t be long anyway.”
“Well, boss, that is part of the problem. We’ve set up this task force, one of the biggest in FBI history, but it is being systematically undermined from within. There are powerful people who do not want it, or me, to succeed.”
“That’s a frightening charge,” Charlie said. “I told Lisa that I would come and listen, but I also brought this.” He pulled a sheaf of papers out of his briefcase. “This is a warrant for your arrest on burglary and explosives charges under the Patriot Act. This one,” he moved some aside, “Is a warrant for Alpha Johnson for aiding and abetting a known fugitive. If you don’t provide me with proof, the US Marshals are here and ready to take you into custody.” I looked out the window of the jet, sure enough there were Sheriff’s Department and other vehicles parked nearby. “On the other hand, these papers are Presidential pardons, already signed and at my sole discretion as to which name or names get added.”
“Not my first rodeo,” I said. “Let’s get down to business.” I pulled open my laptop and connected it to the TV on the wall so we all could see easily. “Now, the Scrabble shooter team I put together focused in several areas. The shooter was well trained and left little to no usable evidence behind, so we focused on her skills and profile as well as the clues she was intentionally leaving. When Gunny was shot, Alpha Craig got a scent of a woman, of childbearing age. We used the tip line and multiple databases to come up with a suspect list who met the age, gender and skills criteria.”
“That should have worked,” Lisa said, “so why didn’t it?”
“Because someone on the inside was erasing the data that would point to our shooter,” I said. I pulled up the slide on Maitea Jenning’s profile, showing how her background would have instantly pushed her to the top of the suspect list. Then I showed the screen shots Josh had gotten showing the changes to the database. “The computer used belonged to the Agent in Charge.”
“That doesn’t prove Luis did it,” Charlie said.
“Counsel, Luis Gonzales is the brother of the suspected shooter.” I went to another slide. “We discovered Luis had a burner phone he was using to communicate to her. Once we found the number, the history gave us these texts to another burner phone.” I pointed out the communications around the time Gunny was shot. “Luis gave her the target, me, and a route away from the site. The traffic cameras along this route were examined, but the person doing the screening didn’t enter data for a critical ten- minute period. It was only when we had pack members independently view the video and compare it that we found the coverup.”
“So you think it’s more than just Luis,” Lisa said.
“I’m sure of it, but we lost access to the team before we could identify the others he was working with. Then there was the package bomb at our house, the one that nearly killed me and my family. We were being pushed away from the team, with me gone and Craig busy with the Pack it gave Luis full control of the task force. When my change was over, we were getting nowhere, and she was bound to kill again. That’s why we went to his house, to look for more evidence of his involvement.”
“I saw that, the still photos are damning,” Charlie said.
“You have the raw video and have compared time stamps for gaps, right?”
“No, just stills he gave us.”
“The system is motion-activated video,” I said. “In any case, you didn’t see this.” I pulled up the video I had taken in his home, pausing a few times to point out specific things in the safe. “The C-4 bars he has here, we took the labels and sent them to a friend in BATF. He confirmed that the explosives are the same as those used in the package bomb at my house. The pistols are consistent with the murder weapon from the attack on the Gila pack that killed two people at close range. The certificates and trophies prove he is skilled enough to have killed both quickly, and as a FBI agent he would have been able to approach without suspicion.”
“Not proof,” Charlie said, “but you’re building a strong case.”
“There’s more,” I said as I advanced the slide. “Josh used cell tower records to track Luis’ movements that day. His phone was off during the time of the shooting, but he made calls before and after, and those towers were on the way to and from the site.” I finished up a few slides, then removed the memory stick and handed it to Charlie. “This contains the electronic evidence and scans or videos of sworn testimony from myself, Gunny, Josh and others from the team.”
Charlie sat back, closing his eyes and pinching his nose. “You people give me headaches,” he said.
“Me too,” Lisa told me. “I’m convinced. Charlie, do you have enough to prosecute?”
“Maybe. There are chain of custody issues, some of this was obtained illegally so we will have to do our own checks. Motive and opportunity are clearly there.”
“Do you have enough to put our names on that pardon?” I looked at them nervously, I wanted Charlotte and the Pack out of danger even if I took the fall.
“If we can prove that Maitea is the shooter and was being actively aided by Luis, then you have done us a great service. I would have no problem issuing the pardons then.” He looked at Lisa. “I will give Charlotte and Derek a pardon immediately, she was a minor player and is under eighteen, and Derek was aiding your investigation. It’s also a show of good faith. Rose, I expect you to stay out of trouble and check in with Lisa daily. If you continue to cooperate, the charges will be reduced or pardoned. Where’s Gunny?”
“He’s in the field,” I said. “We set a trap for them.” I described how we had sent the fake text, and now Gunny and two other snipers were watching for her.
“Wait, so that’s what you needed the designation for,” Lisa said.
“Yep.” I smiled as I sat back. “The Gila Pack purchased that land because it was remote, and the trap wouldn’t endanger humans. That designation of the property as Pack lands? That changes everything if we catch her.”
My phone buzzed, I looked down and it was Alpha Robert Hastings. “Alpha, I’m in a meeting with the White House Counsel and Assistant Attorney General along with Alpha Derek.”
“Put me on speaker,” he said. I did and set it on the phone. “I’m on the way to the property now. Maitea Jennings showed up and was stopped as she headed to the house with intent to kill Gunny. An ambulance is on the way for her. Gunny is all right, but the whole thing went south, big time.” There was a pause. “There was a second shooter, a former Marine Sniper. He shot Lars, Gunny’s old spotter. Gunny is turning him to save his life, but Clayton Matthews escaped. And worse, he was scratched.”
“Oh shit,” I said.
“We have a highly trained sniper who is now a feral panther. I’m bringing most of my warriors up there to track him down. The task force knows about Maitea, but I told them to stay away. Bringing down a cat, even a three-legged one, I don’t want humans anywhere around for it. Gotta go.”
I reached down and ended the call, letting out a breath. “Gunny’s all right,” I told myself.
“Do you have enough now,” Derek asked Charlie.
“Yes.” I handed him the list of people I wanted pardoned; it included my family, Pack members who helped and a few hackers Josh had used.
He looked at the list. “Only the main players get blanket pardons, the rest will be for those acts specifically related to this investigation. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get an arrest warrant drafted for Agent Luis Gonzalez and get Internal Affairs going on the investigation.”
“Put out a warrant if you want, Matthew, but understand one thing,” Derek said. “This attack took place on Gila Pack lands. Under the treaty, justice is with the Packs, not you. And if Luis shows up on our land, his ass is ours as well.”