Back to Work
Chairman Jack Coffey’s POV
Oxbow Lake Challenge Circle
Could this morning go any worse?
When Alpha Michael had called me to set this Summit up, I knew I had Arrowhead by the balls. No other Pack could have been the cause of a security breach, and they used Oxbow as the host because Arrowhead was too hot right now. When my son John and I flew in last night, we had a long talk about what could expect and how best to deal with it.
I had underestimated the danger we were in because of Arrowhead’s behavior. The presentation had scared me more than I would ever admit. We couldn’t even punish them properly, not yet. Chase was right; if the Feds were days from exposing us, THAT was the priority. You get the people out of the burning building before worrying about how the fire started.
Sawyer was right too; we needed to follow our legal process with charges, time to prepare, and a trial. It would be a simple matter to establish guilt, as they had admitted to the crimes just by bringing in Frank.
Rori King could not continue in the Alpha spot. Young, reckless, and lacking respect for our institutions, she wasn’t the right choice for Arrowhead. Her Pack was weak, dependent on loanees and transfers from other Packs to defend itself. It was full of Omegas, mostly damaged wolves that other Packs did not want. The lack of judgment showed up on Google Earth. Instead of building surrounded by woods on their hundreds of acres of lands like NORMAL packs, they placed their Pack homes on the lakeshore surrounded by humans. A lake that froze over so thick you could drive a truck on it five months out of the year! From what we saw of the news, that stupidity had allowed humans to get into their homes before anyone knew they were there.
Protecting the Blessed One was too important to leave to them. If those humans had tossed one grenade into their bedroom, our hope might be dead today.
The Blessed One should be the mate of a powerful Alpha, one who can protect her. I couldn’t understand how Luna could leave Rori so unprepared for the position while mating her with the weakest Alpha blood of the Nygaard line. Her mate wasn’t even the dominant Alpha in their relationship! Chase hadn’t stayed in the room or gone to the ring as an Alpha would. He’d run off to treat a worthless human.
His SISTER had bigger balls than he did! She would be a fierce Luna up in Blue River.
Looking back, the previous Council should have forced them to be Beta-level wolves at Arrowhead instead of becoming young Alphas. Chase’s older brothers spent decades working with their father, and it showed. Rori had no experience in Pack life before taking the Alpha spot, while Chase was learning to be a Pack Doctor! Most Alphas have their heirs train under them for a century or so before passing them the Alpha positions, and their Packs were better off because of it.
I regretted the push to recognize Rori’s Alpha claim when she came forward. We should have kept Arrowhead as a sub-Pack of Oxbow until they were ready to step out on their own. Chase’s brothers and Rori’s allies would never allow that to happen, though, not with her birthright at Arrowhead and what the past Council had done to it.
Chase and Rori would no longer be Alphas by the new year. They had disobeyed my orders and Council laws on human interactions. The death penalty was on the table, but I couldn’t waste what Luna had provided.
We didn’t need Rori to be Alpha. We needed her uterus to keep pumping out babies and turn around our dwindling population.
I had a better idea for their punishment. We would imprison Chase and Rori together, as only the presence of her fate mate could keep her perpetually fertile. We would send their children to be adopted out among the other Packs. The Blessed One, of course, would remain with the Council until she was mated.
This meeting would bring things to a head, and I had hoped to use that to implement regime change. I knew one of the Alphas was going to pick a fight, and privately I had encouraged it. Getting Chase in the ring would be better than a trial that could split the Packs. It would show everyone how overmatched he was for the Alpha position. When the challenger forced him to submit, the Arrowhead Pack would also fall under the winning Alpha’s rule. Henry Millner’s paw swipe should have taken care of two of our problems, but it was Coral who stepped in, not Chase.
And then Coral tore his throat out in the ring.
We needed time to talk out the next step. Coral now had the Alpha claim to Blue River, which would give Rori and Chase another Pack that was blood tied to them. Chase was still at the Clinic, and Alphas Sawyer and Carson were carrying Coral there. We didn’t have required quorum until they returned. “Alphas, we will convene again at ten-thirty, so the Conference Room can be cleaned up, and we have everyone back,” I said. Everyone moved back inside as I stood and watched; the Alphas seemed evenly divided now.
I walked back in, one of the Omegas taking my coat. “Mr. Chairman, a word in private if I can?”
“Of course, Alpha Kirk.”
“My father has a room in the back here we can use.” Matthew was a strong Alpha; he had been in the job for over sixty years. His father had held the Pack for a hundred years before that. He opened the door, where Nathan was looking out the window at the challenge circle. You could still see the blood through the opening in the rocks.
“What are you thinking, Nathan?”
“I think we need to move the timetable for the trial up,” he said.
Matthew nodded at his father. “I have drafted an indictment for Chase Nygaard and Rori King on charges of knowingly exposing a Human to our secret, using Frank Grimes as the count. I have given it to my father as my Council Representative and will be pushing for an expedited trial. We need them removed, and soon.”
I sat down in the chair as I thought about it. “We can remove the two from the Alpha positions, but that doesn’t help. Negotiation requires contacts and trust, both of which Chase alone has. We wouldn’t even get an audience while they have one scheduled,” I said. “It also wouldn’t change the bigger problem we have. The Task Force is moving quickly. You saw the presentation Chase gave; the Federal government is close to identifying us all. Suspended or not, Frank Grimes was a senior executive in the Drug Enforcement Agency. If he dies, we need Chase to manage the blowback. We don’t have a week, we have a day, maybe less, to act.”
“And you don’t want them preparing for a trial instead of managing the danger,” Nathan said.
“Correct. The reason we fear exposure is because of the danger it presents to all of us. We are stronger, healthier, and live longer. Humans outnumber us like the trees outnumber the deer, Nathan. A trial is a distraction. File the charges, but we will defer action until this matter with the humans is settled.”
Nathan sat back, finally nodding his head. “It also allows us to understand the impact of their actions before we sentence them for it.”
I nodded. “All of which can happen later. I want to hear more about Chase’s plans to speak to the Government, and what the Council can do to help. We have to reach an accord because a war would exterminate us.” I was no fool; if they knew who we were, there was no hiding from their military.
“There is a lot of anger among the Alphas,” Matthew said. “They want blood, not deals.”
“That is why you must help me as I get them to see the big picture,” I said. “The Council must take the long view on things, always looking for what is best for our people.”
“You have my support, Mr. Chairman,” Nathan said.
“Mine as well,” Matthew agreed.
“No, not at first,” I said. “File your charges, make your disdain clear. When you agree with us later on, you will have more sway with the other Alphas who are holding out.”
Matthew just smiled. “I still have a lot to learn, Mr. Chairman.”
“We all do.” I got up and went back out; it was nearly time to start the meeting again.
Chase Nygaard’s POV
Oxbow Lake Pack Clinic
Luna Margaret was waiting for me as I walked out of the bathroom into the hallway. She looked stressed, and I pulled her into my arms. “Thank you,” I said. “If not for Doc and your medical staff, he wouldn’t have had a chance.”
“It was our fault, Chase. Guest protection is our responsibility.”
“I was there, Luna. No one could have stopped it.” I looked over at the warriors in the hallway. “I am a little nervous that someone might think to finish what Millner started. Can you post some warriors on the room?”
“Of course. Now, you go see Coral.” I heard her down the hall, yelling at Sawyer to quit torturing her.
“Oh Luna, you left her medical care in the hands of a LAWYER?” I shook my head as she laughed. “She wasn’t hurt badly before the fight was broken up, right?”
Her eyes got wide. “You don’t know?”
“No one has talked to me since I left the conference room. My walls were up in surgery.”
She just laughed and put her hand on my arm. “You better get in there and catch up on what happened, Alpha.”
I moved down the hall, pushing open the door. Coral was lying nude on her stomach, bloody gauze pads all over the floor and a patchwork of bandages across her back and legs. “Wow, Coral, Alpha Millner tore your ass up,” I said as I pushed Sawyer to the side.
She looked at me and pouted. “Do you think I would lose to that pompous asshole? I’m offended.” My eyes got wide. “The Chairman moved us out to the Circle, and he’s dead now.”
“She fought with skill, dismantling him before taking his throat,” Carson said as he moved her hair back out of her face. “All four of us are Alphas now.”
Damn. I’d seen Coral fight, and I knew her reputation, but to take down an experienced Alpha? “I’m so proud of you, Coral. We’ll miss you.”
A tear came to her face. “I haven’t talked to Keith yet, but these two say I have to take it. We need every vote we can get right now,” she said.
“If you decide the Alpha life isn’t for you, you are always welcome back with us,” I said. “Now let’s fix these for real,” I said as I pulled the bandages off. “Some of these are deep.”
“They used alcohol everywhere,” she said as she glared at them. “Meanies.”
I moved to the cabinets, taking out some lidocaine, super glue, and a stitching tray. “I’ll go easier on you.” I injected around the worst gashes, then while the drugs acted, I cleaned and glued together the shallower cuts. Her healing would take care of those in a day or so. I moved on to the deeper wounds on her backside and legs, making sure dirt and fur weren’t in them before stitching muscle and tendon together before closing the skin.
“We have to be back in ten minutes,” Sawyer said as I finished a gash on the back of her left thigh.
“Good timing,” I said as sat back. I covered the larger injuries with protective dressings, then helped pull a set of scrubs over her. “Bending and sitting will be difficult, so it would be best if we carried you back in and stood you up,” I said.
“Wonderful, my first Council meeting and I can’t sit at the table,” she complained. I found a stretcher, and we moved it under her and covered her with a blanket before her older brothers picked her up. I held the door, and we walked across the compound to the Pack House.
The doors to the conference room were open, and all conversations stopped as we brought Coral in. I held her shoulders as they tilted the stretcher, helping her land on her feet. “Good morning, Alphas. The Blue River Pack is ready to continue the meeting.”
The Beta immediately objected. “I challenge Coral Sexson for the Alpha position at Blue River Pack,” he said with a sneer.
“Challenge accepted,” Coral said. “In accordance with Werewolf Council rules, you are immediately removed from the Blue River Pack. The Council will administer a Pack vote on whether they will accept you as Alpha should the challenge occur. Since you are no longer in my Pack, and I don’t trust you with my back, I would ask Alpha Michael to have you removed from his territory.”
“Of course, Alpha Coral,” he said. “Warrior Jenkins, take him to the airport.”
He was bustled out of the room by two of the Oxbow warriors, furious at the turn of events. “Alpha Michael, I would ask for the favor of one of your Warriors to act as my Second for this meeting.”
He sent out a mental call, and Beta Peter came into the room. He was the Oxbow Lake security Beta; if there was going to be a problem, I trusted him to protect me. I smiled in thanks as he sat behind me.
Chairman Coffey called the meeting to order, then walked around to stand by Coral. “This is a formality after the Circle, but our laws require it. Coral Sexson, you have taken the Alpha title of the Blue River Pack in battle. Do you swear to lead, protect, and guide your Pack to the best of your ability?”
“Do you swear to uphold the Laws of the Council and your Pack?”
“Then I am happy to welcome Alpha Coral Sexson to the Alpha Ranks.” He shook her hand, then stood aside as the other Council members, then other Alphas, acknowledged her position. We watched closely, but the other Alphas seemed to think the challenge would make her reign a short one. I just laughed at that; she’d beaten the Alpha, the Beta wouldn’t stand a chance.
We all sat down except for Coral, who stood with her hands on the back of her chair. Alpha Matthew Kirk was the first to speak. “Mr. Chairman, I am filing formal charges,” he said as he passed a paper across the table. “Alphas Chase Nygaard and Rori King revealed the secret of our nature to a human, Frank Grimes, without Council approval and in direct violation of a Chairman’s order. I ask that Chase Nygaard be placed under arrest immediately, pending a Council trial.”
It had to come, and I wasn’t surprised it was him. He and his father were opposed to us from the beginning. Chairman Coffey took the paper, looking it over, then set it aside. “The charges are duly submitted. The Council will conduct an investigation, and schedule a trial when we are ready.”
“Surely there is no need for an investigation,” Alpha Robinson said. Denali was another Pack against us. “They brought Frank here to us! He should be in chains now,” he said.
“There are more important things facing us right now than a trial,” Alpha Smith said. “We are here to discuss how to prevent our exposure from killing us all. Let’s get back to that, shall we? And for that, we need Alpha Nygaard here.”
The Council put their heads together, and a minute later, they denied the demand for my arrest. “Alpha Nygaard,” the Chairman asked, “When is Luna Colletta meeting with Frank’s friend in Homeland Security?”
“In eighty minutes,” I said. “We have eighty minutes to determine the future of our people.”