Rose

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Chapter 53: Confession

The reaction didn’t take long. Gunny sprung forward, grabbing Charlie Stillwater by the throat, and slammed him into the wall. Craig moved next to him, his eyes looking up into Charlie’s as Gunny held him about a foot off the ground. “You killed Maitea. Why would you take my kill?”

Charlie was strangely calm, like he expected to be choked half to death after what he said. He didn’t struggle, his hands stayed at his side. He couldn’t talk, so he just looked at Gunny, then back to Craig. “Let him down, but get more people in here,” Craig said. Soon there was running in the halls, and Jacob, Josh, Melanie and John Spencer joined them. Jacob had come prepared, and quickly cuffed Charlie’s hands behind his back before they set him in a chair. “You act like you expected this,” he said.

“I knew you would react this way, hell, I would too, especially since you have pregnant mates. I just figured your curiosity would keep you from killing me until we had a chance to talk. I was right, at least.” He relaxed back into the chair as the rest of us watched him carefully; if he made any aggressive move, we would tear him apart.

I set my voice recorder on the table. “What’s your game, Charlie?” I might as well get him talking.

Just then, Lars broke in, he was watching the front gate. “Alphas, there is a car here, it’s Alpha Ross Nichols of the Thurmont Pack in Maryland. He has his mate with him, she says Rose and Gunny know her.”

“Really?” I didn’t know the Thurmont Luna, I didn’t have anything to do with werewolves before meeting Gunny.

She said her name is Lisa Giovanni. Oh, and he has his sister Patricia along.

LISA? Holy shit. Mated to an Alpha? “I’ll be right back,” I said. I dashed out of the room, I sensed Josh was following me as Gunny had to watch our prisoner. I burst out the front door and ran over to the gate, telling Lars to open it as soon as I recognized her. I was through as soon as it started opening, and we hugged each other as I spun her around. “By the Goddess, Lisa, you’re a wolf!” Her scent had changed, she was turned and mated, I could smell her scent mixed with his.

“I was on the run, I had to get off the road, and the Thurmont pack was the closest safe place I could think of. I figured since I’d helped you, maybe they would help me.” We moved aside so Alpha Ross could pull his car in, then we walked back in as the gate closed. “Who’d have thought the Alpha was my mate? A few days later and I’m running around the woods with him as a wolf.”

“Well, I’m so happy for you! I was so worried after the car bombing and you being made a suspect. I’m glad the surveillance video cleared you since they saw the guy plant it. Are you going back to straighten things out?”

“No way, I’m done with that. I’ve had it with the pressure, the politics, the long hours. I’ve lived more in the last week than the last year.” We had reached her car, and her mate and his sister stepped out and hugged me in welcome.

I introduced Josh and the other guys who were out there, then I pulled them all inside with me. “It’s kind of a busy time for us, but it’s good that you’re here. A guy turned himself in to us and confessed to being the one who killed Maitea in the hospital.”

“Really?” Ross was starting to growl, none of the Alphas were happy that she had been saved from our justice, even though she was just as dead.

Alphas, is it all right if I bring Alpha Ross, Lisa and Patricia in to hear what Charlie has to say?”

I could hear the amusement in Craig’s reply. “May as well, this room is starting to look like a clown car anyway.”

I led the way, and as we got closer to the room Patricia started to sniff the air, she was acting really nervous. Ross looked towards here, trying to figure out what was happening. “Are you all right, Sis?”

“He’s here.” She started to run ahead of us, following the scent. I ran towards her, reaching her just as she threw open the door to the conference room and looked around. I stood at the doorway, watching for the recognition, and of course it had to be him.

Charlie had turned towards the commotion and his eyes were locked with Patricia’s. She ran forward and embraced him, not seeing that he was wearing handcuffs. They both crashed to the floor as people scrambled to get out of their way. They kissed for a moment before Patricia looked up. “WHY THE HELL IS MY MATE HANDCUFFED,” she demanded as she looked around the room.

“MATE?” Charlie looked at her in a combination of lust and confusion. “You’re beautiful, but mountain lions don’t HAVE mates.”

She grabbed his shirt and pulled him into another kiss while wrapping her legs around his narrow waist. When she finally came up for air, she slapped him. “Werewolves have mates, YOU are MY mate, therefore don’t be an idiot. Of course, mountain lions have mates.”

Ross moved in and pulled his sister up, then Gunny helped Charlie back into the seat I righted for them. Patricia immediately sat in his lap, finally understanding what was going on as the emotions crossed her face. Her mate, her future, was one who had worked against them, who had killed the Scrabble Shooter and denied them all true justice.

The penalty for that was death, and the weight of the realization crushed her. “You can’t take him from me, not when I’ve just found him,” she said.

“We won’t do anything until we’ve heard him out,” Craig promised. “If we take the cuffs off, will you behave?”

“Of course, Alpha.”

“He won’t go anywhere,” Patricia promised. Gunny moved in and took the cuffs off, his arms immediately went around her waist and pulled her close as he smelled her neck.

“I think we should all just take a breath and do some introductions,” Craig said. We all sat down eventually, Josh had to go get extra chairs from the hall closet to have enough. “I’m Alpha Craig Anderson of the Belden Pack, and this is my mate and Alpha, Ella.” He gestured to me, since I was at Ella’s other side. “I believe you already know the Love Broker, Rose Rodriguez.”

I glared at him. “WHAT? Come on, we all know Renee has that title!”

“Not in this Pack,” Gunny chuckled. “Sorry, but you’ve only been here a few weeks and people are already touching you for mate luck.” I elbowed him, next thing he’d be calling me the Angel of Fertility or something.

“I was saying, I’m Rose, former FBI agent and mate to this big lug, Gunny.”

Ross, Lisa and Patricia all introduced themselves, then Charlie gave a quick intro because he knew he would be telling his story later. The introductions continued around the room as Josh poured whiskeys for us, with fruit juice for us pregnant females. When we were all settled, Craig looked at Charlie and indicated he should start talking. “How much do you know about mountain lions,” he said.

I knew almost nothing, most of the people in the room didn’t know much more. “Most of us aren’t from areas where they exist,” Ella said. “I have heard that wolves kill them if they find them.”

“That’s true, and it’s one reason we live where we do. Wild cougars are being pushed out of their normal territories or killed. Shifters like us, we adapt by moving closer to the human towns and hunting in areas the wolves avoid. Our home was in the foothills east of San Diego, far from any Pack.”

“Did they drive you out,” Josh asked.

“No. They would have if they had been in the area; we just can’t beat them. Cougars are solitary ambush hunters, like your panthers. We don’t have the speed or endurance of a wolf, and we can’t communicate mentally like a Pack can. There aren’t many of us, either. Before the war, I heard estimates of five hundred. I’d be surprised if there are fifty left.”

“So, if you don’t have a Pack, how do you live,” Patricia asked.

“We have family,” he said. “My father died before the war, so I was the main breadwinner. We had a house and some land, with a big mortgage. My mother, my two sisters, and her husband all lived with me. It was too dangerous when the war started for them to leave, so I had to be their provider. I needed something that was off the grid and made good cash, and before I knew it I was working for a drug smuggler.”

I started to grip the handrests, I didn’t like where this was going. “What did you do?”

“I started helping him with smuggling operations, mostly on the logistics side. Getting vehicles modified, securing warehouse spaces, getting tunnels dug, safe houses. I worked hard and moved my way up. I caught the attention of the bosses, as my routes were well planned and had a high success rate. Part of that was that I didn’t shortchange the human side. I developed contacts, willing and not, within Customs, the DEA, local law enforcement, judges, anything we needed. When the war ended, I was in charge of North American smuggling for the Socorro cartel.”

Something clicked. “Wait a minute, I read about that. That was the cartel the Gila Pack took down recently.”

He nodded. “They had help from the El Paso pack, but yes. They found the money, they figured out where the safe houses and distribution centers were, and they took it down. What they didn’t do, the Gulf and Pacific cartels were quick to pounce on. I barely escaped being killed in the war. I went home and thought I was out; I had enough money hidden to last, and the Cartels took over all the territory.”

I thought about it for a minute, he was out, he had money… “Someone found you.”

He nodded. “With the war over, we could move more freely. I was out of town with Mitch and Kelly, they are my younger sister and her husband, and their daughter May. When I was driving home, I sensed something was wrong. I drove past my house and stopped a few blocks away. I could smell humans and wolves, but the scents were old. I went inside and found some blood stains, and a note. They took my mother and my sister, and said they would be all right if I started to work for them. They admired my work, and wanted me to reestablish my routes.”

“Who?”

“I didn’t know at first, I thought it was the Pacific cartel at first. I met them, I didn’t have a choice. It was the worst possible group. It was the Zetas.”

You could feel the tension in the room. We had all heard of Los Zetas, the incredibly violent, well organized drug cartel that was becoming the dominant cartel in Mexico. Formed by former Mexican special forces soldiers, it was famous for its brutal efficiency. Its leaders were smart and disciplined, and they had all the resources they could need. Their political power rivaled that of their firepower. “The Zetas are moving in?”

“Yes. They wanted my contacts in the government and my smuggling corridors. I had no choice, I joined them because I had to. I was a dead man, along with my entire family, if I defied them.”

“How does this get to Maitea,” Craig asked.

“Well, the end of the war and the Gila Pack’s deal with the Cartels made my old routes impractical. The border state packs became organized, they got autonomy and money. They didn’t need to cooperate with the cartels, they became powerful in their own right. The end of the war also allowed the Feds to shift resources from the war to the borders. Squeeze smuggling into narrower channels and put more agents in those areas, and you do a lot better in stopping the product. The solution was to restart the war.”

“Those BASTARDS!” I was fuming.

“It was a smart play, especially how they did it. We recruited disaffected people within the government, and added them to the people we already owned. We funded Maitea’s training, then set her loose to raise havoc. We knew that if we kept poking the bear, he’d eventually fight back. Add into that a public relations campaign to fan the flames, and we could shatter the peace. The military and law enforcement would quickly wipe out the Packs; they know exactly where they are now, and what they are capable of. The border wouldn’t be the problem it was, and whatever we did, we could find a way to blame on the wolves. We even had werewolves and some werecats in the Cartel, they have been using them for years.”

I was tapping the table, letting all this settle into my mind. He was telling the truth, I was sure of that, and it frightened the hell out of me. “So we’ve been looking for a deep state source of this, and we were wrong?”

“We have plenty of assets in the government, but the shots are called in Mexico,” he said. “This is all being run like a guerilla campaign. They are using Americans, nobody is supposed to know where the real power is. That’s why they liked using me, I didn’t scream ‘cartel.’ When Maitea was captured, they knew that asset was burned. I was told to kill her and Luis to close the trail. She was easy, a stolen identification and a swipe of a claw across her neck and she was dead. Luis, he was in an FBI building. I was going to get him when he left the office, but you got him first. The bosses were pissed.”

“Wait,” Craig said. “They told you to kill Luis, but we did it first. Why are you in trouble?”

He looked at his mate in his lap, then looked at Craig. “You got him first, and he might talk. Look, the Zetas haven’t given up. They want the war to restart, and if they can’t do it by terrorizing the Packs, they will terrorize the humans. I was ordered to start turning outbreaks, using my own family members to attack innocent humans who are in large groups. I, we, we just can’t do that.”

No one said anything, we all remembered how the attack at the school spread panic and started the Were War. “What do you need,” I asked.

“I need to break my family out of the Cartel prison, and I can’t do it alone.”

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