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Chapter 9: Patterns

I had Gunny do the driving so I could look through the information that had just been sent to me. I flicked through it, disappointed at the level of detail. It appeared the Alphas involved only did a cursory investigation, blaming it on the war.

Telluride Pack, Colorado. One month before Wolfstock. A female patrol wolf was found shot just inside the border. The shooter was seven hundred and twenty-two yards away. The shot had entered the front of her chest, just under the neck, and had killed her instantly. A Scrabble piece was left in the place the shot came from, another ‘T’. The bullet had been recovered from a tree, it was deformed in the front half but the base was intact. The notes in the photo said it was a .338 caliber, hollow point boat tail match round. The Pack was sending the bullet to the FBI crime lab for analysis. The shooter had hidden in a drain culvert under the road, and must have had a vehicle nearby. No scents had been found; the whole area around where the shooter had hidden was doused in ammonia.

Cascade Pack, Washington. Two weeks later. A mated couple were watching their children play at a lake on the Pack borders. A single shot rang out from across the lake, striking the male in the chest and his mate in the head. The shooter had fired from 887 yards; by the time the Pack could travel around the lake, he was long gone. Once again, ammonia had been used to kill the scent, and this time there were two Scrabble pieces. An ‘H’, four points, and an ‘R’, one point.

Adirondack Pack, upstate New York. A male wolf was found in a hotel room, a silver knife plunged into his chest and a scrabble ‘M’ chip tucked between his butt cheeks. The wolf was naked from the waist down on the bed, with no signs of a struggle. Bleach had been sprayed over the bed and the room, and given that it was a hotel, there were no leads as to who it was. I was shocked at this one, if it hadn’t been for the scrabble piece I never would have tied this with the others. Like the killing at the Gila pack, this one was up close and personal.

“Why would you kill some at long range and this one with a knife,” I asked him.

“Those were some difficult shots, Rose. That one in the Cascades, that was ten times as difficult a shot as the one that killed Lance.”

“What do you mean?”

“Part of it is just the limitations of the equipment. A really accurate rifle shoots under a minute of angle under the best conditions, like from a bench with no wind. Roughly, at a hundred yards the shots would fall within a inch, at four hundred yards four inches, at eight hundred yards eight inches.”

“All right, that’s still enough to hit a werewolf-size target.”

“Except that it isn’t so easy. Once you fire the shot, the bullet’s path depends on a number of things. The characteristics of the bullets, air pressure, temperature, relative humidity, muzzle velocity, even the rotation of the earth. In order to make shots like this, snipers have to practice a lot. You have to be as consistent as possible in how you hold the rifle, how you squeeze the trigger, how you breathe, even timing the shot to between your heart beats. You move the barrel a millimeter as you shoot, and the shot will miss by yards.”

“So this person has skill.”

“Yes, and there’s more than just shooting. Wind, distance, elevation change, all of it is important and most of it has to be estimated. It takes a lot of time to learn how to read the wind, on a shot of this length it can change at different ranges, even die out completely. You have to figure all this out and adjust your scope accordingly, then wait for just the right conditions to shoot. You only get one shot, if this person fired again it would be easy to locate them.”

I mulled this over for a moment. “So the shooter has training.”

“Training, equipment and skill. A very accurate rifle and scope, quality ammunition, portable ballistics computer.”

“Is he military?”

He paused. “I hate to say it, but military or prior military is my guess. The person knows about werewolves, he’s taken a lot of care to keep them from learning anything about him. He’s smart, he moves around knowing the Packs don’t cooperate. He picks areas just outside the Pack borders where patrols won’t catch him, and he can get away easily. He shoots from vehicles, or has one nearby, and he destroys scents before he goes. And, he probably has kills to his credit.”

I looked over at him, his jaw was clenched as he thought about it. “Why do you say that?”

“Because killing people isn’t easy if you can see their faces.” He looked at me, I could see the repressed emotions inside him. He’d killed many in his career, I knew that. “Snipers are a different breed. We stalk and observe, we may sit there for days learning the habits of our target- where he goes, what he does, who he talks to. Then we pick the best time to kill them and get away. You aren’t killing some nameless, faceless person. You are killing someone whose face you know well, who you see clearly through your scope as you pull the trigger. I’ve trained many a sniper who could hide, stalk and shoot, but couldn’t handle a kill like that.”

“And this person can.”

“Yes, he may even get off on it. That shot across the lake, it wasn’t just the shot. He watched that family, watched them play with their kids. They were in human form, so you can’t just convince yourself they are just animals. No, he watched the parents until the angle was right, then fired a single shot that killed them both in front of their children. Do you know how much of a monster you have to be to do that? I couldn’t.” I could see him gather his emotions. “I had to kill men with families, but I would never kill their wives or do it in front of their children. This person… they don’t just want to kill werewolves. They want to make werewolves suffer.”

I took in everything he was telling me, but the last murder didn’t make sense to me. “All right, so let’s assume we have an experienced sniper who has decided to wage his own war on werewolves. Two of the kills don’t match up with that. First, the two guards killed at the Gila pack. They were manning a checkpoint, killed at close range.”

“Snipers qualify on small arms, too. Most likely a M1911 pistol in .45 caliber, since they said it was a big bore weapon. That means it may be an older sniper, since the ones in the last twenty years or so are issued 9mm Berettas.”

“Then explain the half-naked wolf in the hotel room with the silver knife in his back.”

He was quiet for a minute. “I can’t explain it. Gay lover? Maybe he staged it to make it look like something else? What did you think when you saw the photo?”

I had seen pictures like this before. “I thought he was lured back to the hotel room by a woman who then killed him.”

I could see his jaw working. Suddenly, the car jerked and he pulled over to the side of the road. As soon as it was in park, he turned to me. “Something else has been bugging me, Rose. The getaways, they were very quick. You can’t just get out of a shooting position, run around to the driver’s seat, start the car and drive away in the time there was between the shot and the first people arriving at Lance’s body. We would have seen the car drive away, and we didn’t.”

I caught on to what he was saying. “So there was a driver.”

“It would make sense. The D.C. sniper, that was the same thing. One fired from the back of the car while the other drove away.”

“And the driver is a woman.” Shit. It was starting to make sense. “Wife or girlfriend. Someone who would risk spending the rest of her life in prison because she wants them dead too.”

“And someone who has killed, or at least set a guy up to be killed.” He pulled back onto the road and we drove for a while in silence. I banged my head back against the headrest, this was a nightmare of a case and I’d been tossed into it. I’m sure headquarters loved it when the Alphas demanded me; being political animals, you’re always looking for the fall guy. Nothing is better than when the fall guy has already submitted her papers.

We entered the outskirts of Albuquerque, still lost in our thoughts. I had a million things to do when we arrived, and all too soon he was parking underground and we were on our way up to the floor in the Federal building the FBI used. SAIC Hernandez met us at the elevator, and he wasn’t happy. “What kind of crap did you pull to get a task force set up in MY office outside of my jurisdiction?”

“Sorry sir, it wasn’t my idea. Headquarters set this up, I report directly to the Deputy Director of the FBI on this one. Can you show us where we are working?”

I could see him pushing his anger back; it wasn’t really at me, but I was the one here. “Follow me.” He led me to a back area, it was an unused office space that could hold maybe a dozen people and had a single conference room. “Do you know how big this task force is going to be?”

“Not yet. I’ve got a few people picked already, they should be arriving soon. I do want a favor from you, though.” He raised his eyes. “Let me take Agent Smith. He’s already part of the investigation and I need someone local.”

He nodded. “I’ll have him report to you.” I could see he was a little calmer as he turned around, I knew that having one of his men in my group would mean he could keep tabs on me. I didn’t care, I needed people; hell, I needed TWO of everyone.

We moved into the conference room and set our stuff down; like most offices, it was set up with teleconference capability, a projection screen, laptops and an abundance of white boards around the walls. I went to one and grabbed a pair of dry erase markers, in black and blue. “We need to figure out what we need and what the pairings are,” I said as I wrote my name in black and Gunny’s in blue at the top.

“You put me with you? I don’t have experience in law enforcement, Rose.”

“I know, but you are an expert sniper and a Beta. I want you by my side, always.” He pulled me into a hug, I could feel his relief at the pairing. Below us, I wrote Rob Smith- Lead Investigator and below his name I wrote Melody Post. “Melody used to work in this office, so they probably know each other.” I wrote “US Attorney-TBD” and under that I wrote William Post’s name.

“Since he is a lawyer and a Beta with the Gila Pack, that should work,” Gunny said.

I wrote some more positions down; Two more investigators, Research, Crime Scene, Public Relations, Database, Office. I was just finishing up when a tired-looking Rob Smith walked in with a tray of pastries and a pot of coffee. “Morning Rose, Gunny. Thanks for requesting me.”

“Welcome aboard, Rob.” He looked at the board and twitched when he saw the name under his. “Melody is coming back?”

“Yes, the Alphas want transparency in this investigation and I need full access to their Packs and their information. I decided the best way to accomplish that would be to pair up humans and werewolves in each place. I already talked to the Deputy Director, they will be temporarily deputized as FBI with needed clearances and access.”

He whistled. “That’s never happened before.”

“This is a unique case, the Alphas don’t trust the FBI and this is how we are addressing it. We need to start setting up, grab a desk out there, Melody will take the one across from you when she gets here.”

“I’m here,” a female voice said as she came into the room. Melody was an energetic woman, with glossy black hair going down to her shoulders that set off her light complexion. William was behind her, he was a tall black man with broad shoulders and the build of an athlete. “ROB!” she said as she ran over and hugged him.

“You look great, Melody! Welcome back.” I did introductions before I asked SAIC Luis to stop in again. I showed him the organization chart I was working on and asked him if he had any people that could help. He agreed to send me Nora Walters, she was an administrative wizard and had experience with relational databases so she would be in the office.

All too soon I got another call from the Deputy Director. I sent him the photo of my organization and he said he would find people by the end of the day. It was late afternoon already, the additional people wouldn’t be here until the morning and we had work to do. “All right, guys, I think we need to go to the Gila Pack first. I want to see the scene of the murders there.”

William made a phone call, and when he hung up he was smiling. “The Alphas want us to join them for dinner, and after that there will be a video conference with the other Alphas. They will want an update on the investigation.”

“And I want volunteers,” I said. We packed up and headed for the parking lot.

Task Force Alpha was in business.

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