Chapter 40: Cat scratch fever
“I think this concludes our business. I have meetings in the early morning, so I’m afraid we have to return home,” Charlie Watson said.
“That’s fine, we need to return to the Pack and monitor the situation,” Derek responded. “Mr. Attorney General, Counsel Giovanni, it was a pleasure to meet you and I’m glad we could work together on this.”
Lisa smiled as she embraced me then shook Derek’s hand. “It’s never boring with you, Rose, I’ll give you that.”
“Thank you, Lisa. And thank you, Charlie, for keeping an open mind on this.”
“It isn’t going to be fun, I’m going to spend half the flight on the phone doing damage control. A senior FBI agent conspiring with a serial killer, the press is going to be up my ass on this one.” He turned and went to the cockpit, knocking on the door to let the pilots know they needed to leave as soon as possible. Lisa escorted us to the stairs, and just like that the meeting was over.
“Come on, let’s get home,” Derek said as his men surrounded us again. I walked behind him as we headed for his vehicle. One of his warriors opened the door for us and I climbed in before him, he sat behind the driver as a warrior took the other side. We hadn’t even reached the gate of the airport before his phone was blowing up. He looked at the messages coming in, hiding it from me as his face fell.
“Turn around,” he told the driver as he punched a contact on his phone. “Davis, get the plane ready to go, we’re leaving for Albuquerque as soon as it’s ready.”
“What’s going on, Derek?” My gut was dropping.
“Wait.” He made another call, we were too far away from his Pack House to reach with mind link. “Amanda, put Josh and Charlotte in a car RIGHT NOW and send them to the airport.” He listed for a second. “Two warrior escort, go right to the plane. They arrived two hours ago from North Dakota.”
As soon as he hung up, I was on him like a duck on a june bug. “Derek, WHAT IS GOING ON?”
He took my hands and let out a breath. “It’s Gunny. He went after the feral cat and was attacked, he’s in bad shape.”
“How bad? Where is he? What’s going on?”
“I don’t know yet, Rose, I don’t know. We’re sending you to him.” I looked at him, I could tell it was serious and he wasn’t letting on all he knew. I closed my eyes as the images started to flow, all the things that could be happening right now. Tears broke free, and I started sobbing into his shoulder as I tried to hold on.
Derek pulled me close, holding me as I broke down. He let things go for a few minutes before he lifted my chin up so I was looking at him. “There’s no point in wondering, Rose. We need to get you home. I’m going to put you on the plane, and wait with you until it’s time to go. I won’t leave you alone.”
“Thank you,” I whispered into his shoulder. I jerked my head up when his phone dinged again with a message, a little pissed he was holding it so I couldn’t see. “Don’t hold information from me, Alpha. I have to know.”
“That’s from Nurse Wendy, they just passed over him and are looking for a place to land. He’s alive, she says, but has lost a lot of blood.”
“You have her pass on a message from me,” I said. “Gunny doesn’t have permission to die on me. If he goes to the gates of hell, I’ll storm them and drag him back here.”
Derek laughed as he typed. “Gunny doesn’t give up, Rose. Death won’t take Gunny because he’s good for business.”
“Damn right. He knows his place is here by my side.” My hands were on my stomach, my cat was purring in the background. She wasn’t worried like I was, she knew he was a strong male, no newly turned feral would beat him. I tried to reach out through the link, knowing it was futile at this distance.
He got another message, this time from Josh. “Josh and Charlotte just left, she wants to talk to you.”
“I can’t, you need your phone for updates,” I said. Derek clicked his fingers and the warrior riding shotgun passed his back, it was already opened. I quickly dialed the number and he answered almost immediately. “Josh, it’s Mom.”
“Oh Goddess, Mom, is he all right?” I could hear Charlotte talking in his ear, asking for updates.
“Put me on speaker, please.” He did. “Baby, he’s hurt bad. We don’t have much information yet, but Doc Terry is there with the Gila helicopter so he’s in good hands, all right?”
“What happened?” She was crying, they had become close over the past few weeks.
“They got the Scrabble killer, they didn’t know there was another sniper backing her up,” Derek said. He had been getting a raft of text messages from the site. “Gunny knocked the sniper out then went to save his buddy who had been shot. The sniper did a forced turn and took off, Gunny went after him.”
“I’m going to smack the shit out of him for going off without backup,” I fumed. “What the hell did he think he was doing?”
“You can berate him when he’s better, Mom.” There was a pause as they talked. “We will be there in about twenty minutes, they say.”
“OK, we’re pulling up to the plane now. Be safe and I’ll see you soon.” I hung up the phone and handed it back. We had pulled into a different hanger, the executive jet that had been loaned to the FBI task force was now waiting for me. I didn’t have anything other than my laptop to carry. Derek escorted me up the stairs as one warrior waited by the hangar door, while the other drove off. “Where’s he going?”
“Food run. They should be able to make it back in time; one of the Pack members owns a restaurant near here, as soon as I knew we were coming this way I asked him to get some meals ready for you and the crew.”
“Thank you.” We collapsed into the chairs as the pilots continued their pre-flight checks. I looked over Derek’s arm at the cellphone, which was getting near continuous updates on the situation. The Scrabble Killer was on her way to the human hospital by ambulance, missing a foot and a hand. “Gunny went for limbs?”
“No, Alex said Lars Thorssen took the shot.”
“Lars? Who is he?”
“He was Gunny’s spotter in the Marines a while back, he volunteered to help him out on the ambush. Alex said he couldn’t take the shot, his fifty cal would have destroyed her and they wanted her alive.”
“I don’t,” I said.
“Well, the families of the victims want her that way. It’s our way; the ones who lost their mates and children will be the ones to take their revenge if they choose. She was on Pack lands, she will face Pack justice.”
“Good,” Josh said. “I know the Albertson’s will want their turn on her.” Charlotte looked at her funny. “When something like this happens, the sentence in a Pack trial is usually death. The sentence is carried out by the families of those who the person hurt, so all of the victim’s families would have the chance to be present and participate in her execution.”
“But… that could be dozens of people!”
“Yes,” Derek said, “But it can be done. When we captured a pilot who had bombed our Pack, he was sentenced to death and the whole Pack got a cut. Doc would heal him to ensure he wouldn’t die too early, and as Alpha I was to get the final cut.”
“That’s medieval,” Charlotte said. “But I like it.”
“You’ll get your chance on Luis if we get him,” I said. “After all, he did try to kill you. The Nutcracker can take her revenge, just like everyone in the Pack House at the time will get a cut if they want.” She snorted at her nickname, the video was still top three on Youtube.
The food was delivered just before the copilot came back to close up the door. We said our goodbyes and thanked Derek for everything. “I love your house and land,” I told him. “I’d love to visit again if you’d have us.”
“I’d like that,” he said. “Now take care of Gunny.” He walked down the stairs, and everything was closed up. A few minutes later we were taxiing to the runway.
Josh’s phone started to ring. “It’s Robert,” he said. He answered it, putting it on speaker and telling him he was with us in the plane.
“Guys, Gunny is going to be all right,” Robert said. “I’ve been linking with Doc, he said Lars did a great job of stopping the blood loss and the artery is repaired. They still need to stitch him up and replenish his blood supply, but he will recover fully.”
It was like a flood of relief through the plane. “Thank God,” I said. “Can I talk to him? Are they home yet?”
“No, they are twenty minutes out. He’s still unconscious, he was like that when they got there. She said his pulse is good and he is healing already. They are leaving mind link range, when they get close enough they will link Renee and she will pass the message along. Ella is waiting there for them, she will watch over him and help him heal until you get there.”
“Thank you, Robert. You guys have done so much for us, I could never repay you.”
He laughed a little. “I could say the same thing about you and Gunny, Rose. You’re family, and we’ll do anything for family. I’m almost to the site, I have to go.” He hung up just as we started our takeoff run.
We continued to get updates on Gunny as we flew, first from Alpha Renee and then from Ella as the helicopter arrived at the clinic. Gunny had been rushed into surgery, but it went well. He was sewn up and put into a hospital room an hour later. He was still in panther form, and Ella shifted into her panther and lay next to him to help him heal. Renee sent me a photo of the two of them, the big, muscled male with bandages on his neck and shoulder, and the sleek female alpha. I was much relieved, and was looking forward to taking her place. Charlotte was going to find a way to squeeze in there herself, or at least stay in the room.
We had also been updated on what was happening at the site, and Robert was kind enough to send me a photo of a handcuffed and VERY afraid Luis Hernandez in the back of his SUV, heading for the pack prison. He turned the phone over to Lars Thorssen, who quickly won me over with his loyalty to Gunny and his quick wit. He filled me in on all the events of the day.
I was still going to thump Gunny for running off like an idiot. I did thank him for his quick action that saved Gunny’s life, and promised to help him adjust to the panther life. “We can be training buddies,” I said with a laugh. We talked for almost an hour before I hung up.
“Five minutes to landing,” the pilot announced as we descended towards the airport.
Josh’s phone rang, this time from an unknown number. He answered it, and I used my hearing to listen in. “You found your shooter, and her trainer and protector. They are expendable, but others are not. Don’t go kicking over rocks, you might not survive what is under them.”
“What are you saying,” Josh replied.
“This can all end now if you leave things alone. If you keep digging, you’ll only dig your own graves. This is your only warning, Rose. You have no idea of the forces you will unleash if you keep the investigation going. Declare victory and go home while you still have one.”