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Chapter 41: Deep state

“Mom,” Charlotte said with wide eyes, “What was that about?”

“Trouble. Josh, see if you can trace the call.”

“I will, I doubt if it will work. They aren’t that stupid,” he said. “As soon as we’re in the car I’ll start looking.” Charlotte leaned into his side, she was afraid. He was her world now, she didn’t reach for her Momma first anymore.

I opened the Pack bond to the adults. “Ella, Craig, we’ll be on the ground in a couple minutes. We need to talk, our leadership and the Gila senior leadership.”

“Surely it can wait until you’ve seen Gunny,” Ella sent back. “He should wake up in an hour or so.”

“It can’t wait, Alpha, and don’t call me Shirley.” I know, my sense of humor was warped. They didn’t react, kids these days had no appreciation for classic cinema like Airplane. Of course, the fact that it came out almost twenty-five years before they were born might have something to do with it. “I got a threatening phone call, the conspiracy is bigger than just Luis and Maitea and Clayton. They threatened me, they threatened all of us if we keep investigating this. I think it’s the deep state, very powerful men who can back up their threats.”

The link was silent for a few moments. “We’ll set up a meeting in the Alpha’s conference room as soon as you are back, Rose,” Craig said. “Stay alert on the drive home, I’m sending more men to help escort you home.”

“I’m not waiting for them, we’re sitting ducks in the airport,” I said. “Who is meeting us?”

“Jacob and Al. The car is armored, and they are armed, and there are more guns in the secret storage compartments. Guys, this is now a hot extract. Get them back and don’t stop for anyone or anything,” Craig directed.

On it, Alphas. We won’t let them be harmed.” Al looked like a kindly grandpa, but he was a ruthless bastard when threatened. Just the stories of his time in the CIA, or his escape from the jungles of Mexico, had me looking at him differently. Jacob was young, but even more deadly. I was happy they were our welcoming committee.

Landing now, we’ll see you in a bit,” I said. I watched the lights of the city as we touched down and we taxied to the hangar. As soon as the stairs were being lowered, a black SUV pulled next to the plane. Jacob jumped out, leaving the back door and passenger doors open, holding his assault rifle. He took up position at the bottom of the stairs. “Clear.”

“Coming now.” I sent Josh down first, Charlotte right behind him and I went last. We crossed the open space so fast we almost dove into the SUV. Jacob jumped in to ride shotgun, his door not even closed before Al was moving us out of there.

“Welcome back, guys,” Al said. “Things are never quiet around you, are they?”

I snorted. “Al, I was ON VACATION when all this started, pending my resignation from the FBI,” I said defensively. “I’ve been conscripted, blown up, changed, chased and made the Most Wanted list while trying to just be with my family.”

“We had a word for people like you in the Company, we used to call you…”

“DON’T you DARE call me a shit magnet, Al. I’ll talk to Marge and you’ll spend the next week sleeping in the single men’s barracks.”

He laughed. “I don’t have to call you anything, you already know.” I rolled my eyes at him, the stupid smug Beta that he was. “Our guest is settling in nicely in the prison,” he said.

“Oh? How is he taking our little surprise about Pack lands?”

“Poorly. He’s screaming about Constitutional rights, about wanting a lawyer, bail, the unfairness of it all.”

Jacob laughed a little. “He’s having a tough time resting, we have people howling outside the building, or walking through the prison in wolf form and growling. One guard just sits there and stares at him, growling the whole time. Oh, and we put up a betting board where you can put twenty bucks on how long until he dies in the circle, in thirty second increments.”

“You guys are bad,” I said.

“Psychological operations. We don’t have much leverage over him; he’s smart enough to know that he won’t escape the death sentence no matter what he confesses to. The victim’s families won’t accept it, and our Alphas won’t allow it. Same with his sister, she’s going to die and painfully. There is nothing we can offer him except a quick, painless death.” Al looked at some of the oncoming traffic, he was linking someone, so our escort must be getting close. “The more we build up the horror of his execution, the better a chance to get him to talk.”

“Mom, the cell call to us was bounced between four numbers so far, and I’m at an end. Like I said, they weren’t that stupid.” Josh looked up from his laptop, clearly frustrated. “These people can’t operate without a trace. I’ll work out from Luis and see what I find.”

“After the meeting, I want you to rest,” I told him. “You’ve been working yourself into a frazzle, Josh. We all appreciate what you are doing, but you need to take care of yourself too. Get some rest, maybe take Charlotte for a run when you wake up. Just stay away from the borders and bring an escort,” I said.

“Or maybe we should hang out at the pool with our friends,” Charlotte said. “I have a new suit you haven’t seen.”

“Can’t compare with no suit,” he whispered as he stared down her body. It was loud enough for me and I smacked him across the chest. “Mom!”

“I’m right here, Josh, don’t get aroused in front of me. She’s still underage.” I saw two vehicles pull a U-turn, one took a spot ahead of us while the other trailed behind. I looked over the seat, we were doing ninety-five on the back road towards the Pack lands on the straightaway. I looked over at Jacob. “Friends?”

“Gila Pack warriors, plus John Spencer.” It didn’t shock me that John came out to escort his son home. “We haven’t seen anything out of the normal yet, but we’re not taking any chances.”

Nothing happened, and we were inside Pack lands in ten minutes and outside the Pack Clinic in another fifteen. “Go see him,” Al said. “We’re still gathering people for the meeting, you have ten minutes.” We poured out of the vehicle and ran into the now-familiar hospital corridors. Ella must have been linked we were coming, because she was dressed and sitting in the chair when we arrived.

Gunny was still out of it, his big panther taking up much of the bed. “He’s doing well,” Doc Terry said. “A day or two light duty until his body has replaced all the blood and his wounds knit together. I swear, this cat must be down to a half-dozen lives by now.”

I hugged Ella, thanking her for staying with him, then hugged Doc. “Thank you for saving him, Doc. I couldn’t live without him.”

“My pleasure, Rose. Thank me by not coming back here unless it’s a prenatal visit, all right? Just because you met your deductible doesn’t mean you have to treat my hospital like a hotel.” I laughed and buried my face in his chest. They left us alone in the room.

Charlotte had already climbed onto the bed, her arms reaching around his chest below his bandages while she snuggled up to his warm back. Josh got some pillows, moving them so she would be comfortable. Charlotte was his daughter now that we had mated, and we would keep a family member with him until he was healed. His cat would be calmer and his healing faster that way.

I leaned over and kissed his head, then ran my fingers along his head and ears. I whispered in his ear. “I’ll be back soon, love. You heal up, your children need you.” I gave him one last hug. “I’ll be back in an hour or two,” I told Charlotte. “Get some sleep?” She nodded and snuggled in more. “Come on Josh, we have a meeting to attend.”

He grabbed his laptop and we walked out of the clinic, across to the Pack House. The Alpha’s offices were at the end of the corridor, the big conference room just before then across from the Beta offices. Josh sat at the computer table, hooking his laptop up to the big screen, while Ella patted the seat next to her. I got a few hugs then sat down, and immediately the door opened as Renee and Robert entered the room. Everyone except Craig and Ella stood, then we all sat after they did. “Welcome back, Rose. We have a lot to talk about,” Craig said.

“Thank you, Alphas. You have been been great friends to me and my family, as has your brother. It was wonderful seeing Derek and Amanda, I would like to visit again in better circumstances.”

“My brother talked to me already, Rose, and we will make that happen.” Renee had a hand protectively over her belly, smiling as one of the twins kicked at her hand. “Why don’t we start by getting everyone up to speed on where we are. First off, Agent Luis.”

Beta James sat forward. “He’s in the prison cell, and per instructions we are keeping him awake and afraid. No one will talk to him until you give permission, but I can smell his fear.”

“Good,” Robert said. “We will let him have a sleepless night, then talk to him in the morning. Do we still have that video from when the Cartel guy came to get Maria?” James nodded, the bastard thought he could just demand her back, not knowing she was mated to a member. The two had ripped him apart in front of the Pack in revenge for his rapes of her. “Put the video on loop somewhere he can see it, and keep the volume up. We need him to be more afraid of how he dies than of dying. Now, I have been on the phone most of the evening to the affected Pack Alphas. They all know we have the shooter and her accomplice, and are making arrangements to travel here for the trials and executions.”

“Do we know how many guests,” one of the female Betas asked.

“Not yet, we should know tomorrow. Make sure all the guest rooms are readied, and make contingency plans to free up some of the bachelor quarters if needed.” She nodded, already linking her staff. “I will not deny anyone their chance to participate in the justice, they’ll all get a chance to rip him apart,” Robert vowed.

“No justice, no pieces,” Craig said. “Just in my Pack we have quite a line. We shall limit ourselves to Luis for the Pack House attack. Gunny and Rose will get their chance with the others at Maitea, though.”

“We will update again tomorrow on preparations for the visitors and the trial,” Renee said. She looked at Melody Post. “Is William still up in Albuquerque?”

“Yes, he’s fighting with the FBI and Justice about Maitea’s jurisdiction. They are being stubborn, wanting to hold her in Federal court. He thinks we’ll have to go to a hearing tomorrow, we will likely have to file for extradition since she is in a human hospital.”

I felt my stomach fall. “Will they?”

“It might take time, but yes. The treaty is clear, she was captured on Pack lands. The Justice Department wants to prosecute her for your attempted assassination since that took place on Federal property.”

“So do we have two trials if her extradition is delayed, or wait for her to do both,” I asked.

“Two trials,” Robert said. “That man will not share the air I breathe any longer than absolutely necessary. Anything else?” She shook her head no. “All right, Rose, tell everyone about the call.”

“I’ll just play it,” Josh said. “I linked my phone to my laptop.” He clicked his mouse and the speakers came to life with the call. I’d already heard it, so I focused on the reactions around the table. Most were furious, but Al was thoughtful. When it was over, Robert was pulling Renee close and Craig was livid. It took a minute for the emotions to settle out.

“Who are we dealing with here,” Renee asked.

“Central Intelligence, Defense Intelligence, Homeland Security… take your pick,” Al said. “Most likely all of the above. It’s the deep state- the ones in real power, not the political appointees that rotated out with the new President. They are invested in the war, in power, and the fact that their laws and their President want peace means little to them.”

“Can they do what he was saying? Can they hurt us?”

“Absolutely. They have resources, technology, and we’re in the open now. I bet that’s all Luis and Maitea were, plausible deniability. Groomed and recruited to go after us and stir up the pot.”

I looked at the four Alphas. “Right now we have no idea of who they are, but we do need to be careful. Let them think we are heeding their warning, that we accept those two as the end. We don’t, of course, but our investigation needs to go dark.”

“We finish the trials, thank everyone for their help and call for reconciliation and moving past this,” Ella picked up. “And we get away from them.”

“The cleanup of the chemical weapons on our island is nearly complete,” Craig said. “As soon as we can move back, I want the children there for safety.”

“What about the investigation,” I said.

Craig looked at me and smiled. “We’ve already talked about this with Robert and Renee,” he said. “We all want the Santa Fe area settled with a Pack that is a strong ally to Gila and El Paso. We want you to stay in the renovated pack house, and start your own Pack there.”

“Our own? But I’m not an Alpha,” I muttered. My cat smacked me mentally for that.

“Actually, we’ve all noticed you and Gunny have that potential, especially since your mating,” Renee said with a smile. “It’s the perfect solution. You and Gunny keep an investigation going, we have strong friends in my old territory, and we split the Belden Pack in an orderly fashion.”

I thought about it for a moment before looking at Ella, tears in my eyes. “But I’ll miss you guys,” I said.

“It’s the best solution,” she said. “Pack members don’t function well away from their Alpha long term, and having part of the Pack in Panama and part in Santa Fe won’t work. You two will be great Alphas given the chance, Rose. I love you too much to keep you from your true potential.” I turned and hugged her as Craig embraced both of us in his long arms.

There was a tone, and someone said “Oh fuck.” I looked up, Melody was staring at her phone. “Uh… it’s William. Maitea Jennings is dead. Someone got into her room and slit her throat.”

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