Chapter 8: Callup
“RIING. RIIING. RIIING.” I groaned out my displeasure as I reached over for my phone on the bedside table. My body protested, still sore from our late-night fun. It took a few tries to get hold of the phone, then I dropped it on the floor. “RIIING. RIING. RIING.”
“Just let voice mail pick up, Rose.” Gunny was rolling away from the noise, his broad shoulders backlit in the dim light of the early morning coming through the blinds. I moved to the edge of the bed, hissing as the pain from my insides felt like I was being stabbed in the stomach. Reaching down, I found the offending phone, which had started to ring again as the person refused to just leave a damn message. I looked at the screen, it was a number I didn’t recognize.
I flicked it open, a little annoyed that it was probably a telemarketer or something. Few people had my phone number. “Hello?”
“Sorry to wake you Rose, it’s Renee Hastings.” Renee? She had left right after the funeral. “On the way home last night, I started to wonder if we were the only other Pack who had lost someone. Robert and I spent the night calling, and the news isn’t good. Three other packs, four other victims.” I bolted upright, ignoring the pain. “In each case, a Scrabble piece was left behind with the victim or at the place the shooter was.”
“Why didn’t the FBI know about these?”
She sighed. “We don’t trust the FBI, or any of the government fully, Rose. Just in my Pack, since evading the Feds and military for the whole war, we’ve been targeted by a crooked DEA agent. Ella was marked for death by the CIA. The Packs, they tried to handle this on their own.” I could feel she wasn’t saying something.
“There’s something more, isn’t there.”
“Yes. Alphas… they don’t like to appear weak. We are just starting to foster some real cooperation now, but old habits die hard. An Alpha who can’t protect his Pack members, it doesn’t look good, it might make them seem vulnerable. So, when something like this happens, our first instinct is to keep it quiet.”
“That’s going to make things difficult to investigate, Alpha. Multiple packs, no chain of custody for evidence, cold trails.”
“I know that, you know that, believe me the Justice Department and the White House know it too. I’ve got a crisis on my hands here, we’ve got someone randomly killing werewolves and the Alphas are furious. If we don’t stop this soon, the fragile peace we have with the government may not hold. Some Packs are already planning to close their borders and kill humans on sight.”
“Shit.” My mind was reeling. “So what can I do? I’m not Pack yet, I’m not really FBI any more, I’m on a leave of absence pending resignation.”
“I’m sorry to do this to you, Rose, but I have no choice. The Alphas had a conference call this morning where we presented what we knew. The only way I had left to convince them to let the process work, to let the FBI do their job, was to have our people involved in the investigation. I informed the White House just before calling you. We are demanding that you be the Agent-In-Charge of the newly created task force, staffed by Federal agents and representatives from multiple Packs.”
I nearly dropped the phone. “Me?”
“We trust you, Rose. I trust you. You should be getting a call soon from them, you may as well get dressed because things are going to move very quickly. I’m sorry, I have to go now. Robert is demanding that I get some sleep, something about being pregnant again.”
“I promised Lance that I would find his killer, Alpha. I won’t let him down, I won’t let you or the other Alphas down either.”
“I know you won’t, Rose.” With that she hung up. I set the phone down, Gunny was already rolling out of bed and getting up. With our backgrounds, we were used to being woken up and having to function quickly, so five minutes later we were dressed and downstairs getting coffee. Craig and Ella were waiting for us.
“I take it you accepted the job,” Craig asked.
“Yes, although I don’t know much about it yet.” Marge had already fixed breakfast for the early risers, so I tucked into a sausage omelet and pancakes as Gunny got us both some orange juice. “I’m expecting a call soon.”
“You were on the conference, right Alphas?” Gunny looked at them and they nodded. “Any details on the threat?”
“No, no Pack had more insight to the killer than we did,” Ella said. “All of the details are being forwarded to your email and to the FBI office in Albuquerque. I was able to convince the others to allow members of your task force access to all Pack lands, escorted of course. The only requirement is that there be one Werewolf or Panther for each human agent.”
“Why is that,” I asked.
“Because we don’t trust humans yet.”
I finished the breakfast just as my phone rang. I flicked my eyes to Gunny, asking him to follow me as I went outside by the pool to take it. “Rose Conspiell,” I answered.
“Senior Agent Conspiell, this is Deputy Director George Andrews at Headquarters,” he said. “Your leave of absence has been rescinded. You are to report immediately to the SAIC at the Albuquerque office, he has been instructed to be at your disposal for whatever you need. This task force reports directly to me, and I’ve been directed to make sure you get whatever you need to find this shooter before this all blows up on us,” he said.
“I understand, sir.” I looked at Gunny, he understood. “Sir, I’ve talked to the Santa Fe alphas. They told me that there needed to be one Werewolf for each human in this investigation.”
“That’s true, we’re trying to find people willing to step up. Werewolves were purged from our ranks at the start of the war, it’s going to be difficult to find the right people.”
“Leave that to me, sir. What I need is the power to deputize those I bring in from the Packs. I need them to have badges, security clearances, the works. I will limit them to what the investigation needs, but they need to be full members of the team. Anything else and we will break the trust we are trying to establish with the Alphas.”
He paused. “I understand. I have to make some phone calls, involve Justice and Personnel in this. I will call you again when you are in Albuquerque.”
“Sir, I have three names for you right now.”
I heard him clicking a pen. “Rico Rodriguez, Gunnery Sgt (Retired) USMC. He’s a panther, part of the Belden Pack and a sniper. I need him as an expert, and he’s my mate.” I heard the pen drop. “I’m still human right now, sir, but I won’t be able to function unless we can be a team here.”
“I understand. Who else?”
“William and Melody Post. Both are members of the Gila Pack and were involved in investigating one of the deaths. William is former Army JAG, Melody is former FBI. I’ll talk with the Alphas and find more people who can help me soon.”
“Got it, Agent. Get driving, they’re expecting you. I’ll have credentials made up for those three by the time you get there.” With that, he hung up.
I looked at Gunny, he was shaking his head. “Can’t function without me, huh?”
I moved into his arms, melting against his muscled body as our lips met. “Now that I have you, I never want to be apart again,” I said. “Oh shit.”
“I just took a job that requires me to be human. I can’t let you change me until this is over,” I said as I buried my face in his chest.
“This is important, and I get to work with you so my cat can protect you,” he whispered. “My Pack comes before what I want, Rose, and so do you. I’ll wait.”
We went back inside, and I saw Charlotte coming up from the downstairs gym dressed in her taekwondo gi. She was glistening and breathing hard, so it must have been a good workout. “Did you find someone to spar with,” I asked.
“Several. Josh is pretty good, but Jacob is their instructor in self-defense, he is a beast even in human form. It’s fun fighting someone with a different style, and I haven’t fought against Krav Maga before. He said he would teach me since most of the teens are already in the class.”
“Krav Maga? I’ve seen it but never tried it. Do you think I could do it?”
She nodded. “It’s cool, it’s all about real world situations and doing the maximum damage fast. He’s the Pack trainer, we’re Pack now, right?”
“Not quite yet, but we will be soon. I talked to the Alphas last night, we become part of the Pack when I mate with Gunny since you’re my daughter.”
I saw Josh coming up behind her and pulling her into a hug, he looked like he had taken a few shots. “She’s good, Miss Rose. After she makes the turn she will be even better.”
“That’s good. Come here, honey.” I sat her down at the table with me. “I got recalled to the FBI this morning. Task force looking at these killings.”
She looked a little panicked. “Am I getting sent back?”
“I couldn’t do that to you, honey, not with your mate here. I know how it feels to be apart.” I kissed her forehead, my little girl was becoming a strong young woman and part of me wasn’t ready for that yet. “On Monday, I need the Alphas to enroll you in school. You’ll also need to go shopping, it may be a few weeks until we can get our stuff packed and shipped out here.” I slid a Visa card to her
She jumped into my arms. “Thanks Mom! I really didn’t want to go back there.”
“I figured as much. You seem to be settling in here, and I like it too. Now go take a shower, you’ve got man sweat all over you.” She smiled and ran upstairs to her room. Josh went to clean up, but I stopped him and gestured for him to sit down. “She’s going to need protection while I’m gone, Josh.”
He nodded. “Here at the house is easy, but school is more difficult. She’s a senior, right?” I nodded, she was always one of the youngest in her class. “Jane and Larissa are both seniors, they can keep an eye on her. When we register I’ll make sure that one of them is in each of her classes, and I can drive them to and from school.”
“No,” I leveled my gaze at him, “I asked what YOU are going to do to protect your mate, Josh.”
He gulped, then looked at me. “I will get a job at the school, something that allows me to be in the building with her at least. I’ll work out a way to communicate with her if she needs help.”
“That’s better,” I said. “I’m trusting you with my daughter, Josh, not just to keep her safe from threats but to keep her safe from you. She’s in love with you, she may want to take things farther than Pack law allows. I need you to be the adult here. She can’t mate you until she is eighteen.”
“I understand,” he said. “I’ll protect her, she’s my life,” he said.
“We understand each other then,” I said. “I need something else from you.”
I smiled. “I need your talents, Josh. This investigation is going to be inside the system, but if there is one thing I’ve learned in government is that everyone has an agenda. Some people, some agencies may not be forthcoming about what they know or have done. When I get those suspicions, I need you to find out for me.”
He smiled broadly. “Oh, that I can do,” he said. “Anything you need from me, just ask. Off books money, information, if I can’t get it myself I probably know someone who can.” I let him go clean up while I got my stuff. Gunny had already gone around to get a car, and was waiting at the door with the Alphas.
“You’re not in this alone, Rose. Anything you need from us or any other Pack, you let Gunny know and we’ll find a way to get it to you,” Craig said.
Ella gave me a hug. “You two stay safe,” she said. I hugged her back and we walked out, into what I didn’t know.