FBI Commander Irene Lindstrom’s POV
Duluth Police Headquarters
After developing the plan, it became apparent that we didn’t have the people to take down everyone in a safe manner. The Sheriff and I spent time on the phones calling for help. I pulled in FBI and SWAT teams from the Twin Cities, and he got support from police and Sheriff Departments in a two-hundred-mile range. We knew the vehicles would have between two and five men each, all armed, and we weren’t going after a vehicle with fewer than three cars and six men. When the officers and deputies arrived, they would be paired up with a local officer. The SWAT teams would assist Hostage Rescue, ensuring the main force would be bottled up.
“Ma’am, the Director is on the line for you. Line four.” The Police secretary was holding the phone out for me in the middle of the crowded office area.
I looked around, spotting an open office with a door. “I’ll take it in there.” I moved into the room as the phone rang with the transfer. I picked it up as soon as I was seated at the desk. “Commander Linstrom,” I said.
“Irene, it’s Hugh. We’ve had a breakthrough on the investigation, and I have some new directions for you.”
“Of course, sir.” I pulled out my notebook and a pen. “What is the breakthrough?”
“We’ve reached an immunity deal with Chase Nygaard and those assisting him, Irene. They were the ones behind the attack on the warehouse, and Chase was the one who Frank Grimes texted about the raid time.”
I heard a snap and looked down to where my pen had snapped in half. I tossed it in the garbage as I answered him. “Sir?”
“You heard me. Chase and his family are now untouchable. Your task force is to immediately cease all investigations of Chase and Rori and delete all the investigation files.”
I couldn’t believe it. The Nygaards were dirty. They HAD to be hiding something; there were too many inconsistencies in their backgrounds. “I don’t understand, sir. What could they give us that is so valuable they get a pass for robbery and murder? And what about the officers killed in the raids?”
He briefly explained that Chase had been the source of the information on the Sons and the drug ring, along with the other information that resulted in the raids. “Irene, we’ve been given everything they have now. I have a copy of the Sons payroll account for all the law enforcement and other officials they had compromised. It includes payments amounts and what they were for, as well as blackmail information and how they were compromised. The FBI’s top priority is arresting those under the control of the Sons and the Cartel. It’s quite a list.”
The previous list had been shocking. I could only imagine what the full list would include. “Any FBI on this list, sir?”
“Yes. The US Marshals are taking care of those. We are obtaining warrants now, and local FBI offices will coordinate the arrests for ten PM eastern time. Chase also gave us more information, including locations of hideouts where the remaining fugitives might be. Your Task Force will continue focusing on the Sons. The information is being sent to your people now, and we need search warrants and plans to follow as quickly as possible. I need you to return to Los Angeles and supervise the investigation immediately.”
My jaw dropped. “Sir, almost FIFTY Sons are gathered at a Duluth motel right now. We have well over a hundred sworn officers gathering for the takedown, and we already have surveillance showing they plan an attack on the Nygaard’s home tonight.”
“Those men aren’t going anywhere without us knowing about it, so you don’t have to be there. Let Hostage Rescue and the locals take the lead. I need you with the Task Force, Irene. Take the plane home, and that’s an order.”
“Yes, sir.” I hung up the phone and gathered myself. Walking to the door, I got the attention of Tim Needles, my Hostage Rescue Commander. “Tim, you’re in charge of FBI assets for this operation now,” I said.
“The Director has ordered me back to Los Angeles; there’s been a breakthrough in the case. You should also be aware that Chase Nygaard signed an immunity agreement today, and is a cooperating witness in this case. It’s another reason we have to make sure nothing happens to him and his family tonight.”
“Damn.” I could see him looking through the possibilities. “He was the source of the intel on the drug pipeline?”
“Yes, and a lot more. Tonight, you guys need to be perfect. Stay back so you don’t spook them, guide them into the trap, and take them down quickly.”
“You got it, Ma’am. Nobody is getting through us tonight.”
Chase Nygaard’s POV
Oxbow Lake Conference Room
I was practically banging my head against the table as the clock approached the time we had to tell my Mom whether to go red or blue pill. The Council members were evenly divided; the traditionalists refused to believe we couldn’t keep our secret safe, while the realists wanted to control how the inevitable exposure happened. I looked at my watch; it was fifteen minutes until her meeting. I stood up, holding out my hands until the room quieted. “The time for debate is over; I have to inform Luna Colletta of the Council decision. Mr. Chairman, we need a vote. Blue we do our best to hide our secret, Red we come out to the Government in today’s meeting.”
Chairman Coffey nodded. “So be it. Since voluntary exposure would require changing Pack laws, a two-thirds majority of the Packs will be required for the Red option to carry. Adirondack?”
“Red,” Alpha Martin said.
“Red,” I replied.
“Red,” John Coffey said. I looked up in shock, I never expected that from him.
“Blue,” Alpha Long said.
“Red,” Coral said. Thank Luna she was now Alpha there, because Millner never would have voted with us.
“Red,” Carson replied.
“Blue,” Alpha March said. I was disappointed, his mate had been in our Pack, but he was holding to tradition.
“Blue,” Alpha Robertson said. With twelve Packs, we could survive one more vote against us, but not two.
“Red,” Sawyer said.
“Blue,” Alpha Blackledge said.
“Blue.” Alpha Matthew Kirk smiled, knowing his vote was the deciding vote.
“Red,” Alpha Michael said.
“Vote is seven to five, not the two-thirds required to change laws. Alpha Chase, inform your mother of the Council’s decision. She is specifically instructed not to reveal our existence in her meeting. If that means that you cannot avoid arrest for human crimes, that remains a Pack issue, for you only. I would remind you all that Pack law has not changed; revealing our werewolf nature to humans remains illegal. We will recess for one hour for lunch.”
I got up and walked out to a private office to make the call when Sawyer sent to me. “Chase, you can’t box Mom in like that. She has to be able to respond to what happens in the meeting; if our exposure is going to happen anyway, she needs to do it. If you pass along Coffey’s words verbatim, she’s locked in.”
“But if I don’t pass it along, then I’m on the hook, not her.”
“Yes. She’s in enough trouble with Frank.”
I blocked him out and made the call. My words to Mom were measured carefully, and true enough for her to believe them. The Council could not accept the new reality, they were too stuck in the past. Mom was facing an unknown situation and had to do what she thought was right. We’d back her on it, even if it meant overthrowing the Council.
That could be done with a simple majority.
I went back out, stopping by the kitchen where Luna Margaret was supervising the lunch for the visiting Alphas and Council. “I need to check on Frank,” I said. “Can you have a plate sent to the Clinic?”
“It’s already there, Chase. Don’t worry; they’ll understand you need to be with your patient.”
I wasn’t so sure; there were a few people in that room who were disappointed Frank wasn’t in a body bag right now. A grave deep in the woods was the standard response of an Alpha to a human who knew too much. “It’s a mess. Mom is going to be pissed when she finds out.”
She looked at me in horror. “She doesn’t know about Frank? You just talked to her!”
I rubbed the back of my neck with my hand. “Colletta’s about to go into a meeting that could shape the future of our kind, and she needs to focus on that. There’s nothing she can do anyway.”
“Your funeral,” she said as she turned back towards the dining room.
I turned to head towards the Clinic. Frank was in the werewolf equivalent of an intensive-care room, and Doc was reading on the computer in the corner while eating a sandwich. I sat next to him, another plated covered in cling wrap waiting for me. All I heard was the ventilator operating in the background; the trachea needed to heal along with the rest of his throat. An IV was hanging on a slow drip, and a bag collected the urine flow from the catheter. “How is he,” I asked as Doc looked up; he looked resigned. “I’m not sure since it’s been so long since I had a human patient. I don’t know what to expect from healing rates.”
I checked his vitals; they were still weak, and his temperature was high. “Have you given him more blood?”
“Two units, type-matched this time. The sutures are holding; blood loss is no longer the major concern.”
“Infection?” A low-grade fever would be normal after an injury. Frank’s injury was different because it was a claw slicing his throat, and my unsterilized hand had been inside it pinching the artery.
“Antibiotics should take care of it, but human immune systems aren’t as robust as a werewolf. We can monitor and treat if it comes up. No, it’s the cerebral ischemia I’m worried about.” Brain ischemia was caused by oxygen deprivation to the brain, and it could occur in cardiac arrest or stroke victims. “His carotid artery was severed, and flow was interrupted for almost five minutes. The vertebral arteries remained intact, which is good. His heart did stop, leaving him with a total loss of blood to the brain for almost two minutes. Combined? He could have permanent brain damage.”
I looked around the room; for a Pack Clinic, he was well-equipped, but he didn’t have access to the technology or pharmacies that a human hospital would have. Werewolves healed fast enough that if you could stop them from dying in the first hour, they would recover. Frank could be in danger for weeks. “Can you tell how much damage there is?”
He shook his head no. “We’ll have to wait until he wakes up, and I’ve put him into a coma. I did some research on carotid arterial blockages; permanent damage could include blindness in one eye, weakness in a limb or even an entire side of the body. Worst case, he never wakes up.”
“Do we need to move him to a human hospital?” I had to ask; Mom would be crushed if he died. It might push her and her wolf over the edge, given how she had claimed him.
“I don’t think we can do that. There would be too much to explain and no good answers.”
On this, I agreed. The cut was not from a knife, and a scan would show that. Bear attacks wouldn’t fly in the middle of the winter, and that was the only animal known to humans capable of an injury like this. Doc and I had performed surgery, for which we did not possess the relevant human qualifications. Finally, he was still an Executive in the Drug Enforcement Agency. Shrapnel wounds in an attack on my house I could explain, a ripped-out throat I could not. “It would be best to return him to Arrowhead; we can hide him from the Feds for a while, but not forever. Mom will want him home too.”
“I’d like to keep him in a coma for a few days to let his brain recover, and it will be two weeks before we can remove the intubation. I’m just guessing based on what I’m seeing on the literature. If he was a wolf, he’d be fully recovered in a week.”
“That could be a problem. His family will expect him shortly; hell, his luggage is in Minot! The DEA will be looking for him too.”
“It can’t be helped. Maybe we can call it a snowmobile accident? He ran into a barb wire fence?”
“That works except the whole thing with no 911 call and no hospital. Maybe he should just disappear; we send a text message to his son and his boss, then he and Colletta ‘run off to a secluded cabin’ for a month.” None of the options were good, and the big scar would be tough to miss. There was another issue I needed to know about. “What will six units of werewolf blood do to him?”
He looked over at Frank. “I have no idea. Humans don’t end up in Werewolf care. I sent a request out to the other Pack Doctors and no one has transfused our blood into humans. From a type-matching and DNA perspective, we’re identical. It should be fine.”
“I guess we’ll find out,” I said.
I finished my lunch and looked up, there was only a few minutes until the meeting. I got there just as it was called to order. “We are all here, what is the next business?”
Sawyer spoke first. “We are foolish if we believe we can maintain our secret in the long term. Whether it is today, next week or next year, we need to be ready.”
“Contingency plans are a smart thing,” Alpha Michael continued. “They need to be pack-specific and workable. What I need here, embedded among all the lakes and cabins, will be different from what Alpha Coral will need in the Canadian wilderness. How will we handle security? Public relations? Do we invite humans to see us, or do we isolate ourselves and raise suspicions?”
“Isolation is what has worked,” Alpha Kirk said.
“It can’t work,” I said. “Werewolves are too imbedded in the culture, with all the good and bad that entails. You’ll have dozens of teenage girls showing up to see if they are mates of the hot young Alpha, followed by dozens of hunters looking to wipe out the monsters. Add in law enforcement looking for missing persons, crackpots and conspiracy theorists, and it’s a security nightmare. We need to be ready with a media blitz to show the world the truth.”
“What truth is that,” the Chairman asked.
“That we exist and have lived alongside humans for centuries. That we have morals and laws that govern us. That we want to live in peace,” I said.
“We also need to make it clear humans can’t change into werewolves, no matter how much they beg us for it.” Sawyer just shook his head. “Once they find out about our health and lifespan, they will all want it.”
“All those teen girls writing on Wattpad have no idea what werewolf life is really like. It won’t be easy changing their minds,” I said. “They will be pissed to find out Alpha sons don’t take the Pack in normal times without a hundred years of experience.”
Coral laughed. “They will be more pissed when we tell them werewolves don’t have human mates. All those naughty fantasies crushed to nothing.”
A few started talking over each other until Chairman Coffey stopped it. “They are right, we need to make plans. Split into four teams; Security, Public Relations, Finances and Government. Spend the first thirty minutes thinking up all the problems, the following ninety how to deal with them. We will meet back here at four, and each team will present its findings.”
Finally, the Council was looking forward.