Chapter 49: Pack justice
Rose’s POV (finally!)
I had watched the dynamics of our Pack closely; without being asked, Gunny and I were staying close to Lars as we met with the others. It could go south quickly, we had two brand new panthers to deal with, and a mate was involved. If need be, we would subdue him before he could do much harm, and Ella and Al would do the same for Tom.
“What a crappy hand to be dealt,” Gunny sent me over the link. “Lars is one of the best men, the best fighters I’ve ever met. What was Luna thinking, pairing him with a woman who was happily married?”
“It wasn’t all happy,” I sent him back. ”I can’t break confidence, but their marriage was not the strongest. Both were staying in the marriage because of the kids, and because they were scared of change. Every other way they are growing apart. She told me they haven’t been together as lovers in years.”
He shot me a look of surprise, followed quickly by lust as his gaze raked down my sleek form. “Goddess, we’re about the same age and I can’t go without you for hours, it seems.”
“New mates. Now pay attention.” We kept ourselves in the area as we played among the rocks. When the call to hunt came, my cat licked her chops, antelope was a tasty treat. Cats could only hunt them in ambush form as we weren’t quick enough on open ground. The wolves, they liked to drive them over cliffs, but driving them to us for ambush was a much better idea. We worked our way to the narrow end of the slot canyon, finding spots up in the rocks we could leap down from.
It was almost unfair how it ended. The wolves chased the herd into the narrowed opening, and when Ella rose up from ahead of them and roared, they all scattered. The confusion was perfect for us, leaping down we landed on their backs and our claws dug into their soft flesh. I had my front paws on his shoulders, and as he was pushed to the ground I kept my head clear of his horns. When he moved to get up, I lunged forward and grasped his skull and upper neck in my jaws. Jaguars have incredibly strong mouths, and his skull caved beneath the pressure, killing him instantly.
Lars had a little more trouble, he had landed at the back end of his antelope and his claws and weight had broken its back legs. He carefully avoided the horns until he had an opening for his front paw, he swiped the claws across its neck and blood sprayed from the artery that opened. He got his teeth around the front of its neck and held it until it went limp. “Nice job, Lars!” There were howls and roars in celebration of the successful hunt, and we joined in.
“That was AWESOME!” Whatever issues there may have been between Tom and Lars, they weren’t showing anything now, in fact they were side by side tearing into one of the fresh kills.
“I’m shocked they aren’t fighting,” I sent to Gunny and Ella.
“I had a long talk with him about mating, and about his mate while we were running it off,” Gunny said. “Lars was one of those guys who always wanted a wife and kids, but his job made it tough. He never found the one who could put up with the deployments and the danger. He finally realized that if he doesn’t give up, he could have it all. The triplets, a grown son and grandchildren, even his own babies. Fighting with Tom won’t help his family, and it won’t help him win his mate to him.”
Ella looked at us. “Shelley was afraid and impulsive, she has calmed down now. Tom changing and not wanting her, that was a shock to her system. She’s realizing that she rejected her mate for someone who wants someone else now. It may take a while for her to work it out, but I think she will try.”
When we were done feasting, we headed back to the house and cleaned up before going to lay by the pool in the late afternoon sun. I was on a warm rock, my head on Gunny’s neck, when Craig sent for us. We grabbed some spare clothes from the locker and walked into the conference room, where Robert was waiting with Craig, William Post, his mate Melody, and some of his Betas. Renee quickly went over and sat in Robert’s lap while Gunny sat and pulled me into his, both hands protectively over my lower stomach where the babies couldn’t be felt yet. “What’s going on?”
“Luis’ lawyers have been busy,” William said as he indicated some papers in front of him. “They don’t want him tried in a Pack court, they want to take their chances in the Federal system.”
I looked a little confused. “I thought we were on firm legal ground under the treaty,” I said.
“We are,” Robert replied, “But so far that is just legal theory. They’ve found precedent in Indian affairs, and they persuaded a Federal judge to grant an emergency Habeus Corpus hearing tonight. William and I will be leaving for Albuquerque in two hours, the hearing is at nine PM.”
Melody filled in the blanks. “Look, they know our system works fast, and that we don’t trust them. If they bring him into Federal custody, they can take YEARS dragging it through courts and appeals before we get him back. It’s unacceptable. However, it is a valid subpoena. If Robert does not show, he could be arrested, and if we don’t give him up if directed, they could take their warrant, invade our territory and take him out by force. We’d have to let them, or go to war with the Government again.”
“And this time they know who we are, where we are. We’d be sitting ducks,” Craig said.
I was gripping the handles of my chair, focusing on pushing my cat back before claws ruined the leather. “So, what do we do?”
William smiled as he pulled out some papers; passing them across the table, I could see both Robert and Craig had signed them earlier this afternoon. “They made a mistake when they assumed that the Gila Pack was the one that was holding him, that was putting him on trial. Unfortunately, as much as I suspect Luis was the one who killed our two guards, I have no proof of that. The other Alphas and families that are here? They were killed at Maitea’s hands, we don’t have any evidence linking Luis to those cases. You, however… You and Gunny have a case.” I looked down, it was a prisoner transfer order, giving Luis over to the Belden Pack for trial.
My mind was working through the possibilities. “So? The hearing is tonight, if they get the order they’ll have the FBI here by midnight to get him.”
“Exactly. That is why while William and I are at the courthouse, making a very public case for why he should stay in the Pack justice system, Craig and Ella will be holding the trial here.” My head exploded. “Any sentence to be carried out IMMEDIATELY, in front of the families and the other Alphas.”
“Wait a minute,” Gunny said. “Won’t the other Alphas be pissed they don’t get justice for their losses?”
Robert shook his head. “I spoke to them just before this meeting and explained the situation. As much as we’d like to hold Luis accountable for them, he isn’t talking, and we don’t have direct evidence. Someone already killed the shooter, so we can’t use his sister against him. In the end, it was an easy choice. We have enough against him to reach a death penalty, and they want him dead more than they want the spectacle.”
“And I promised I would include them in the sentence should it be needed,” Craig said. “We have three neutral Alphas who have agreed to be the judges for the trial, since all of us in this room would have conflicts of interest. These men have not been privy to any of our evidence yet.”
“Who is going to represent Luis if his lawyers are in court with you in Albuquerque?”
“One of the lawyers from the El Paso Pack has volunteered. He’s going over the evidence we will be submitting and is speaking with his new client now. A client that, shall we say, is a little more than pissed that we’re not giving him up to the Feds.” William chuckled. “His loss. We will videotape the trial, both for the families that haven’t arrived yet and for the general public. We aren’t savages, we will give him due process.”
“Under OUR laws,” Robert finished.
My claws receded. “So what do you want me to do?”
“Present the case,” Robert said. “You’ve already done so when you made the presentation to the Assistant Attorney General, it’s basically the same information that ties Luis to the bombing of your Pack House and to Maitea. In Pack courts, the accuser is allowed to present her complaint directly.”
Gunny pulled me closer to his chest. “You can do this, love,” he whispered into my ear. “The sooner he is dead, the faster my cat will relax. You being pregnant has him very protective of him being anywhere near you.”
“All right, I’ll do it,” I said.
“Great!” Melody got up and ran around to me. “I’ve got everything set up in the investigation room, and we’ve got a surprise for you.”
I raised my eyebrow. “I don’t like surprises.”
“Really? So I shouldn’t tell you we found the kid who delivered the bomb to our Pack House, and he identified Luis as the man who hired him?” She took off running, I ran after her.
“You love me, Rose,” she said as she ducked into the room. After discussion, we decided to only go after him for the bombing, because that was the most solid case.
Two hours later, the Pack dining room had been converted into a courtroom, complete with a raised judge’s platform, witness chairs and tables for the two sides. The place was packed; it was a mandatory function for all Pack adults in both Packs. The first few rows were filled with victims of our Pack house bombing, visiting Alphas and Betas, and the families of those killed in Maitea’s reign of terror. We all stood as Alphas Craig and Ella walked in, followed by Alpha Renee and three Alphas I did not know. The three took places at the raised tale in front, with my Alphas and Renee taking a table to the opposite side of the witness stand. The Alphas sat, except for Craig. “The trial of Luis Hernandez shall come to order. There will be no outbursts from among you, and once in your seat you remain there until a recess is called. This is an Alpha order for my pack, Alphas, please reinforce this with your people.” He paused for a moment. “Now, the trial is being videotaped. With that, bring in the accused.”
The door from the outside opened, and a shackled Luis was brought in by two big warriors. He glared at me as he sat at the table next to another man I did not know. The gavel banged, and the Alpha in the center addressed the court. “I am Alpha Charles Jennings of the Vermillion Pack in Minnesota, I will be the chief judge. To my right is Alpha Patrick O’Shea of the Worchester Pack in Massachusetts, and on my left is Alpha Curtis Lund of the Sun Valley Pack. Mr. Hernandez, you have been charged with Attempted Murder of Pack Members. Do you understand the charge?”
He stood, contempt on his face. “I understand you can go fuck yourself.” The crowd shifted nervously, none present liked the disrespect to the Alphas. “You have no jurisdiction here, I’m not one of you. My lawyer isn’t here, my Constitutional rights are not being protected. This farce needs to stop and I need my lawyer.”
“Not guilty, then.”
“I’M NOT GOING TO SIT HERE AND BE TRIED FOR…” His outburst ended when one of the warriors elbowed him in the stomach, and while he was catching his breath, the other gagged him.
“There will be no outbursts in my Court, Mr. Hernandez. Now, you can behave and communicate with your lawyer using pen and paper, or I can have you removed back to your cell to watch on video. Your choice.” His shoulders fell, and he reached for the pen. “Very well. Counsel, introduce yourselves.”
“Beta Jerry Malkowski of the El Paso Pack, for the defense, Alphas.” His lawyer looked to be in his fifties, with black hair going gray on the sides.
“Beta Rose Rodrigues of the Belden Pack for the prosecution, Alphas.”
“Very well. Beta Rose, you may call your first witness.”
“The prosecution calls Justin Spencer.” Justin came forward, was commanded by Alpha Craig to tell the truth, and sat in the witness chair. “Justin, tell me about what happened just prior to the explosion at your pack house.”
He sat forward nervously. “School was over, and I was outside. An older kid came up, the gate was locked so he saw me in the yard and called me over. He handed me the package, and I brought it into the house and put it with the others.”
“Did you see a delivery truck or other vehicle?”
“No Ma’am. He was on foot. The next thing I know, Beta Rodriguez is yelling ‘BOMB’ and we’re all running out of the house.”
“Justin, do you know who the messenger was?”
“At the time, no. I worked with some others, looking at yearbook photos, and found him.”
“Thank you, Justin. Your witness.”
Beta Jerry looked at him then shook his head. “No questions.”
“The prosecution calls Marcus Jones.” A young black man stood and walked to the stand. He was human, so the judge swore him in before he sat down. “Mr. Jones, did you deliver the package to the Belden Pack House?”
“Yes, Ma’am,” he said nervously. “I was hanging out with my friends, and this old white dude pulled up. He said he had to run but offered me $20 to deliver the package. I took the money, it was only a mile away so it was easy money.”
“Do you recognize the man who hired you in this room?”
“Yes Ma’am. He’s sitting right there.” He pointed at Luis.
“Your witness.” I sat down, smirking a little. All those nights eating Chinese food and watching Law and Order were paying off.
Beta Jerry tried to rattle Marcus, to no effect. “How can you be sure he’s the one who hired you? You saw him for what, thirty seconds?”
“White guy in a nice car comes to our neighborhood, my first thought was he was a cop,” he replied. “His car had a parking pass for the Federal Building, and he has a scar under his left chin. So yeah, I’m sure it’s him.” He stopped digging while behind.
“The prosecution calls Josh Spencer.” He was sworn and seated. I nodded to one of the Gila Pack members, the lights in the room dimmed and the projection screens lowered on three sides of the room. The Pack had projectors installed for meetings and entertainment, and now my presentation was hooked to them. “Mr. Spencer, when you learned Mr. Hernandez was a suspect, you conducted your own search. What did you find?”
“I accessed the cell tower records of the area and mapped them.” He hit a key and a map showed up, showing the cell towers and the times. “As you can see, he was in the area of the Pack House prior to the bombing. The records show him departing the Federal Building, driving to this area, then returning. The locations he stopped included the area where Mr. Jones said he was approached.”
“Objection,” Beta Jerry called. “This information was gathered illegally, you cannot vouch for its authenticity,” he said.
“Actually, we can,” Josh said. “Beta Melody had the Task Force subpoena cellphone records for a number of suspects. We included Mr. Hernandez in that population. The records matched.”
I excused Josh, and had myself sworn in next. “During the investigation, we identified that Agent Luis was actively obstructing the investigation. My mate and I decided that we would enter his house and search for any evidence.”
“Objection, we should not be using evidence gained during the commission of a crime,” Jerry said.
“Overruled. We aren’t in the human courts here, there’s no fruit of the poisoned tree rule.”
“Here is the video we took during our search.” The video played, no one reacted until I opened the safe. Despite the Alpha order, you could hear the gasps in the room as people fought for control. “As you can see, his safe contained a quantity of plastic explosive, military grade C-4, along with various blasting caps and timers. None of this is legal for possession, and he was not qualified to access these materials through the FBI.” I handed the analysis of the bomb from our house to the judges. “The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms analysis of the bomb that ripped through my home,” I said. “Military grade C-4. Also attached is a letter from the lead analyst at the Bureau, stating the explosive in the bomb matched the markings visible on the blocks in his safe. The Prosecution rests, your honor.”
“We request a thirty minute recess, Alphas.”
“Granted.” The Alphas stood and walked out while the rest of us stood waiting, then the warriors took Luis out. Only then did we start moving.
Charlotte came up and gave me a hug. “You did GREAT, Mom!”
“I hope it’s enough,” I said. I moved through the crowd, accepting the encouragement and hugs of the people as I left. I only had a few minutes, so I went to the bathroom then went to our planning room. Gunny, Charlotte and Melody were in there, and they had cake. “Cake? A little early, don’t you think?”
“No, it’s always a good time for cake,” Melody replied. I took a drink of orange juice and Charlotte handed me the piece of cake that the kitchen had saved for us. All too soon, we were back in.
I felt bad for Beta Jerry, he had an impossible job and his client wasn’t helping much. When the trial was called back to order, he stood to face the Alphas. “Sirs, my client does not recognize the validity of the proceeding and does not want to participate. The defense rests.”
Alpha Jennings stared at Luis. “Is that your wish, Mr. Hernandez?” He nodded, still gagged and bound. “Very well. Trial is in recess, Alphas will notify their Packs when a decision has been reached.” We left again, only to be called back an hour later. When the trial was called to order, Luis was pulled to his feet, still defiant. “Mr. Luis Hernandez, you have been found guilty on all counts. Alpha Craig, sentencing is up to you.”
Craig stood up, a mental command going out to the Pack warriors. Some left the room, others formed up along the path to the outside door. “Many of us were affected by your actions, Agent Hernandez. You betrayed our trust, you hurt many of my Pack members, and for that you will pay. However, I feel you should have a chance.” One of the warriors escorting him unlocked the shackles as the other removed his gag. “You have one hour to be off Pack territory or you will be killed as an enemy to the Pack.” He looked around, seeing the warriors surrounding him as one opened the door to the outside. He ran out, cursing us all, and into the yard. He tried to head for the parking lot, but that was where the warriors that had been dismissed earlier came into play. They blocked him, forcing him to run a wide circle until he gave up and started to run into the desert.
“I can’t believe he gave him a chance,” someone said behind me.
“I didn’t,” Craig said as he walked outside. “In human form, the nearest Pack border is two hours away if you’re a strong runner. It’s longer in that direction. NOW,” he yelled to the Packs, “ALL THOSE WHO WERE HARMED BY LUIS OR MAITEA, GATHER AROUND ME NOW.”
As his stopwatch approached an hour, Alpha Craig was surrounded by a mixed pack of wolves from all over the country. “Remember,” he said, “Small bites. Make him suffer, make it last,” he said. He shifted into his big wolf, the other Alphas by his side, and with a howl he started the hunt.
Gunny and I went to a truck, loading the supplies in place we would need, and followed the howls into the desert. A wolfpack moves at high speed, and tracking a scared human in a suit was ridiculously easy. One of the Gila wolves had volunteered to record the event, strictly for Pack use. By the time we arrived, it was over, and the wolves were headed back for the party.
Gunny loaded us up, and jumped in. I sent a text message to Alpha Robert before we drove to the nearest dirt road, then on to Albuquerque. I still had my courthouse access badge from the building, Josh had made sure it would still work. The guards barely looked up, clearly bored as I went through security with the box on the cart. It wasn’t metal, so they didn’t care.
I took the elevator to the room where the hearing was being held, and texted Robert I was outside. A few moments later, the door opened and I wheeled the container up to his table. “Your Honor,” Robert said as he and William stood, “The Gila Pack withdraws its objection to the motion under consideration and will comply with the demand for Habeus Corpus immediately.” With that, we walked back out.
“OH MY GOD,” I heard behind me, followed by the sound of someone throwing up.
“A little bloody?” Robert teased me as we stood at the elevator.
“We had to pick the pieces up with a shovel,” Gunny said.
If we hurried, we could make the end of the party.