Rose

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Chapter 5: Investigation

The FBI vehicles arrived an hour later, a big black Suburban and a crime scene van. “I’m going to meet them,” I told Gunny as I walked towards the ATV.

“The Pack Doctor will be arriving in ten minutes, bring your people up here first so they can move his body,” he responded. I got into the bigger ATV, it was a four-seater with a cargo rack front and back. Gunny had pointed out the trail leading down to the road earlier, so it only took me a few minutes to reach the road and from there just moments to meet the van.

The techs were dressing out in their Tyvek suits and gloves as I approached; parking the ATV I went to meet the man in charge. “You must be Senior Agent Conspiell,” a man in a dark suit and aviator shades said as he came around the SUV. “I’m Special Agent Rob Smith.”

“Rose,” I said as I shook his hand. “You were briefed on the way down?”

He nodded, his eyes moving to the hilltop where Gunny and Deputy Dalton were in view. “Shooter was here, victim way up there?” He whistled. “That’s a long shot to take.”

“Four hundred twenty-eight yards,” one of the other agents said after lowering his binoculars, they had a built-in rangefinder. “And only one shot?”

“Yes, then they disappeared. We found no scents on the road or the ditch, no footprints, nothing. He must have fired from a car and then immediately drove off.” I walked them all to the scene just as the crime scene people started taking photos and measurements. In the distance I could hear a helicopter.

“The Pack doctor is arriving,” Al told me, the information being passed over the Pack link. “Olivia is going down to meet her.”

The photographer was done, now they were doing a grid search of the area for evidence. I started to talk with Agent Smith and the lead CSI about the other scene when I heard someone say, “What the hell is this doing here?”

We all gathered at the tape as a numbered marker was set down in the ditch and a photograph was taken. The technician used tweezers to pick up the square wooden object, dropping it into a plastic bag. He sealed the evidence bag, marked it with a Sharpie then brought it over to us. He handed it to Agent Smith while I watched. “Looks like a Scrabble piece,” he said as he turned it over. “Letter T. One point.”

“It’s clean and not weathered, doesn’t look like it’s been out here long,” I said. The sun alone would bleach the wood in a few days, and both sides looked brand new.

“Keep looking,” Agent Smith told the others. “Come on, let’s go see the victim.” Agent Smith waved to the photographer and another CSI tech. They grabbed their bags and we all got into my ATV for the drive to the top.

I did the introductions; since the war, the FBI offices had received some training on Pack structure and law so they understood what Gunny and Olivia were when I introduced them as Pack Betas. I let Olivia introduce Doctor Julia Jones, the El Paso Pack doctor who had just arrived.

We let the techs do their work inside the tape as we talked about things. Agent Smith asked good questions, and Gunny filled them in on his expert opinions as a Marine sniper. After thirty minutes, they were ready to move the body.

The techs couldn’t allow contamination, so Olivia and I dressed out and went into the scene with a small tarp as the men carefully moved the body onto it. We walked out and placed Lance on the cargo rack of my ATV, wrapping him carefully before strapping him down. Doctor Julia got in the back seat, and I looked at Gunny to ask him what was next.

“Olivia, can you go with Rose for the autopsy? There’s not much left here now.”

I thought about it, the local FBI was here and I was technically still on a leave of absence. I gave Agent Smith my contact information in case there were other questions, he told me to email my statement to him. I sat in back while Olivia drove us back to the house.

If Lance had been in human form when he was killed, there would have been an ambulance to meet us and take him to the hospital for the autopsy. Since he was killed in wolf form, I didn’t know how it worked. “I’ve already made some calls,” Julia said. “The local veterinary hospital is allowing us to use their facilities, and the medical examiner is meeting us there.”

“Has this happened before?”

“Well, before the war we would have handled everything in the Pack clinic. I’d do that here too except we already have the FBI involved.” She shifted the bag on her lap as we bounced down the trail. “Most times we don’t even think of an autopsy. I’ve only done a couple, and they were on werewolves that died suddenly.”

I decided to change subjects. “How did you get involved with this Pack? You’re in El Paso, right?”

She nodded. “We are allies with the Santa Fe Pack, with Alpha Robert and Luna Renee Hastings. Renee is Ella’s cousin, and this territory was actually hers from when she took over the local Pack and became Alpha.”

“But I was told this was an open territory.”

“It was after she took what remained of the Pack and joined with Robert when they mated. Our Pack worked closely with them after the war in the fight against the Socorro cartel.” Things started to click in place for me, I wasn’t involved but there was a big shakeup as the whole cartel had been wiped out. “Our Pack did quite well after the war, that’s why we have the only Werewolf air ambulance in the southwest. When the call came for help, I volunteered because we could get here faster than the Santa Fe pack doctor.”

“Do the Packs cooperate together?”

She laughed. “No, most are still learning. The ones that do, they are tied by blood or friendship, like our Alpha pair is to Robert and Renee. You are tied by blood to them, and friendship to us. It’s so much better here than in other areas, where they still fight over people and territory. Renee is making progress, though. Wolfstock was just the beginning.”

I laughed a little, remembering the coverage of the first Werewolf national meet-up earlier. I’d never met Renee, but no one who watched what she did there could do anything but respect her.

We had arrived at the house, and Olivia parked in the driveway. They already had a van with the doors open and seats removed, Tom and Shelley were standing by the doors. The Albertsons approached, dressed in black and carrying a stretcher. The two oldest, Lars and Logan, held the stretcher up as we shifted the body from the ATV to them. They walked slowly towards the van, his parents and grandmother along with his two sisters trailing behind.

While we had been doing our thing, two lines had formed between us and the van. Every Werewolf and Werepanther at the house had shifted, their sitting forms facing each other as the body passed between them. As they slowly moved past, each gave out a mournful howl or a roar. Olivia shifted and ran to the van, taking a spot at the end just in time for her to pay her respects as he was loaded up.

“Come on,” Doctor Julia said as the assembled mourners started to disperse. “Let’s get this over with, they need him back tonight.”

She drove, and I got the GPS going. Ten minutes later, we pulled into the animal hospital service entrance and were met by the county medical examiner. The autopsy showed no surprises; he was a healthy sixteen-year-old werewolf whose chest was blown apart by a high-powered rifle round. Based on the entrance wound, it was likely a .30 caliber round, the most common size used in hunting deer. The exit wound was a little more interesting, as Julia explained. “See the size here?” She pointed to the X-rays they had taken of his chest and pointed to the broken ribs. “A hunting round leaves a much wider cavity than this, as it is designed to expand on impact, even shatter. This round basically stayed intact the whole way through, as you can see from how this rib shattered.”

“What does that mean?”

“I’ve seen this in combat wounds, specifically sniper attacks in Iraq. These are full-metal-jacket rounds. No hunter would use these for anything but practice. This thing could have traveled another half mile after it went through him.”

In an open area like this attack, it would be futile to look for the bullet. I called Gunny, they were just finishing up the work at the sites and I told him what I had found out. He wasn’t shocked. “Rose, if this was a professional, I bet it was a .308 Winchester, 168 grain Federal boat tail match round. That’s the most common ammunition used by military snipers and many civilian ones as well. To make shots at that distance, you need repeatability above all. It’s either that or he loads his own rounds.”

“Can we find it?”

He thought about it for a moment. “It’s got his blood on it, so we have a chance. I’ll organize the Pack, we’ll go out first thing in the morning and see if we can find it.”

I hung up from him and called Agent Smith. He said they would stop at the coroner’s office and pick up the report after dinner, and released the body into my custody. “Thanks for the assist, Rose, but the boss wants me to remind you that you aren’t an active Agent right now. I need copies of your notes, and if anything comes up, you need to let me handle it.”

“I understand,” I said as I walked back into the room. “Thank you.” I hung up, Julia had already transferred Lance into a bodybag. We rolled it out to the van on the gurney and got back on the road. I gave Gunny a heads up we were coming.

The Elders took the body to prepare it while I cleaned up and went downstairs for dinner. I was surprised to see a very pregnant Renee Hastings had just arrived. She was sitting next to Ella, her mate Robert on the other side. Normally, a visit like this would be a joyous one, but the mood was somber. I filled the visiting Alphas in on what we had found out so far in the investigation, which wasn’t much.

It was when I told them we had found a Scrabble piece, with a T on it, that she dropped the glass she was drinking water out of. It bounced off the table and broke on the floor, but she didn’t look down. She was staring at me, her jaw open in shock. “A scrabble piece?” I nodded.

She pulled out her phone and flicked through the photos until she found one and showed it to me. My blood turned to ice as I realized what it was.

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