“Ladies and gentlemen, as we begin our descent, please make sure your seat backs and tray tables are in their full upright position.”
Elliot jerked awake as the buzzing intercom disrupted her sleep. Groggily, she peered at the mini screen still playing a random series she had slept through.
“Make sure your seat belt is securely fastened and all carry-on luggage is stowed underneath the seat in front of you or in the overhead bins. Thank you.”
She sighed and rubbed her eyes then cracked her knuckles and proceeded to stretch awkwardly, unable to fully lengthen her five feet five body in the compact space. Beside her, the stranger who had somehow managed to sleep throughout the thirteen hour flight snorted and lolled his head to the opposite side.
He was large, uncomfortably so, as layers of his body edged onto her seat. Elliot shifted again and peered out of the oval window at the grounds below.
The plane had descended beneath the clouds which gave them a clear view of buildings and farm land. It had been thirteen years since she last saw this place. Her hometown. Despite the lengthy time apart, Elliot felt little to no emotion nor nostalgia at the unfamiliar sight. Licking her teeth thoughtfully, she straightened as the air hostess made rounds, collecting trash and half empty plastic plates of food.
Elliot lifted her plate of untouched food, somewhat guilty. The flight had wracked her nerves and her stomach rolled, smothering any urge whatsoever to eat. She felt nauseous though not from the journey.
Once descended, Elliot patiently sat and gazed out of the window whilst passengers hurried to gather their luggage and leave. She was in no rush, if anything her whole body felt quite heavy, like lead, pinning her to the seat.
Inhaling a measured breath, she finally rose and adjusted the leather jacket worn above a white vest and black jeans. Next time, she made a mental note to wear comfortable clothes during long, strenuous hauls.
Outside the weather was cool despite the clear sky and glaring sun. A cold breeze brushed her cheeks, stirring her hair which she pulled up into a ponytail. The local airport was small and vaguely busy, handfuls of passengers brushing past without so much of a glance in her direction.
But she did feel their hesitant stares. The vague lift of their noses, catching the scent of a human and not a wolf. Judging her mortal smell, they figured she was far from a threat and Elliot feigned nonchalance and mild naívety whilst smiling and nodding as she passed by.
Good, she thought. The last thing she needed was for them to grow suspicious and scent something other than human on her.
EastSide Creek, her hometown, was filled with wolves and possibly a few scattered oblivious humans. A pack that was once her father’s, now lay beneath the feet of another old individual with whom she had little to no interest in. Jacob was his name, the new alpha chosen by the crowd after the death of both her parents.
That had been ten years ago.
Picking her luggage from the belt, Elliot wheeled it out of the exit and halted, searching the scattered crowd.
“Miss Winter?” Elliot craned at the sound of her name, eyes lifting to a man who held up a fault looking placard with her name.
Recognition lit her wary cerulean eyes as she regarded him now with a softer look, “Jack hi.”
Releasing one bag, Elliot captured his large warm hand and shook it. Jack was exactly how he looked through the webcam. Standing tall at six feet, nut brown skin, bright hazel eyes that smiled down at her. He wore a simple white shirt tucked into jeans and sneakers.
“Finally,” he spoke her thoughts, “six months of video calls and here we are.”
Elliot smiled and shrugged, “Finally.” Handing him her luggage, she followed close by his heels, scouring the land all around.
“How was your flight?”
“Terribly long.” She turned her neck to the side, cracking it. Then sighed in relief as they approached a silver sedan, “The weather is surprisingly cool.”
Kade hummed in agreement, popping open the trunk and carefully layering her luggage. “You missed the summer weather, probably the worst heat wave to hit us in so long.”
Elliot slid into the passenger seat, automatically reaching for the seatbelt as he keyed the engine. “I see.”
“How long has it been since you last visited?” Kade inquired, filling the silence which she unknowingly fell into. Elliot blinked and drew her eyes from the window, staring up ahead as they drove through the town.
“Probably fifteen years or less.”
Kade whistled under his breath, “How does it feel like to be back?”
Her shoulders rose in a half hearted shrug, “Not much in all honesty,” that was a lie, Elliot had never felt more nervous than she did then. It was sickening and had she eaten in the plane she was sure to vomit in his car.
“Just eager to get some rest,” she continued as Kade hummed, drumming his tattooed fingers on the steering wheel. She cast him a sidelong glance, “though not right now.”
Kade’s mouth twitched knowingly, “Even jet lag can’t keep you from working.”
“We’ve got lots to do.” Elliot reasoned and he lapsed into agreeable silence. Turning to the window, she leaned against it, staring at casual buildings that drifted by; a bakery, library, sawmills, mayor’s building.
Eventually those faded as the suburbs took precedence. Quiet homes with manicured lawns, Elliot spotted few children running about on the grass, mother’s lingering by the patios with hawk like gazes.
Despite the serene atmosphere, Elliot sensed something sharp. Tension. It was brittle and hardly recognizable and she wondered where it came from— until she noticed the fenced forests.
“The fencing began ten years ago,” Kade interrupted her thoughts, “after the attacks, the town decided to put up boundaries and secure those within.”
It wasn’t to secure those in much as it was to keep the beasts out.
Despite the modern town, there was and still is lingering heat and fear that settles on the citizens shoulders.
“Curfew is at eight.”
Elliot’s attention slanted towards him, “Eight?” She arched an eyebrow, “really?”
“Well, not for us considering we work in the police department. But all other residents, including grocery stores are closed until six the next morning.”
“What’s the security like?”
“So far, it’s been working. Guards and watchdogs patrol the streets at night, during the day and noontime.”
“Tough,” she muttered and he made a noise of agreement. Over the past ten years, packs along North America had been subdued by the Lycans— a breed far more powerful and dangerous compared to the wolves.
They expanded rather strategically, slaughtering those who dared start an uprising and claimed the land. In the human world, wolves were but a mere fantasy. No one knew of their existence. But they lived and walked among them.
Lycans were slowly encroaching onto human territory, using their wealth to endorse politicians and campaigns. They held the most powerful members of government in their pockets, and perhaps the White House too.
Elliot was sure of their power and just how vast it spread— the UN Secretary General had sworn allegiance to the Lycan Pack, they held military positions in Israel, rumors are even donating sizable amounts to the development of nuclear weapons off the Gulf coast.
But those were rumors.
And yet, Elliot believed them to be true.
The Lycans were a breed of gods, ruled by a council and one unknown individual.
A modern day mafia, except they were untouchable.
For now, she thought wearily.
“Alright, we’re here.” Kade announced as he gently steered the car onto a small driveway.
Elliot peeked from the window at the building flat before her. Two storeys high with four apartments. Such rentals were made specifically for humans as they were forbidden by law to purchase land or place investments.
Placing them in rentals made their stay temporary.
“Not bad,” Elliot stepped out and aided him in Wheeling her four suitcases up two small steps. “How much?”
Kade’s mouth curved into a smirk as he fished for the keys, “Six hundred a month,” she nodded impressed as they walked up a flight of stairs eventually halting by her door.
“I present to you,” the man announced dramatically inserting the key and twisting, it clicked satisfied. “Your humble abode.” The door nudged open and he made a show of bowing, sweeping a dramatic hand across the room.
Elliot stared at the short hallway that opened up to a small living room. Beside it lay an island counter that separated the kitchen. Another short hallway led to her bedroom and bathroom.
“Not bad,” she murmured stepping inside and gazing about.
The furniture was sparse but everything she needed; a couch, small television, coffee table, gas stove, fridge, microwave, kettle, coffee Brewer, round dining table with two chairs, bed, closet, study table and sit placed before a window that overlooked the forest behind.
She returned from her bedroom, hands slipping into her back pockets whilst Kade placed the last of her suitcase on the living room floor. “I’m impressed.”
Kade straightened and stretched his arms overhead with a grunt, “I would expect nothing less,” he smirked again, “considering it was by me.”
“Okay egomaniac,” she snorted with an eye roll and they shared a brief smile.
Straightening, Elliot rubbed her palms, “Well, I guess that’s it.”
Kade blinked, picking up on her subtle hint to exit. “Right,” he placed her keys on the table, “I’ll be back tomorrow morning to pick you up for work.”
“Sure, what time?”
“I’ll be ready,” Elliot nodded firmly and he grinned, backtracking towards the doors.
“Remember to get some rest, we have a long week ahead.”
Elliot followed suit, nodding. “I will.” Halting by the doorway, she watches him descend the stairs; “Thank you, Kade.”
“Coffee’s on you tomorrow.” He pointed out and she chuckled but said nothing.
Once out of sight, Elliot straightened and shut the door before locking it. The friendly facade lapsed to that of neutral as she approached the first large suitcase.
Shrugging off her jacket, Elliot flexed her sore hands and unzipped the bag.
Numerous files stacked above each other, three laptops, two phones, seven passports all with her photo but from different countries and names, a cheque book, prepaid Visa cards, photo album, pens and white board.
Carefully, she began removing them and depositing them on the floor. Once done, she opened another suitcase and did the same thing. Out of the four large cases, only one contained her clothes for she hardly wore anything beyond the simple minimal ones and three pairs of shoes.
Standing, Elliot picked a handful of photos and moved towards a blank wall. She tore off small pieces of tape and began sticking the photos one at a time, then a map with red scribbles. Once done, she added more photos and documents with phone numbers and recorded conversations.
Midnight arrived by the time she was done pasting the walls with all her important information. Information that took years of collecting, three broken bones, a near death experience and almost losing her job.
But it was all worth it.
Stepping away from the wall, Elliot reached for the wine bottle she had carried in her luggage and tipped it back, chugging the bitter sweet contents.
She stared at the photos before her, then glanced at her wrist watch.
Sighing, Elliot set the wine bottle down and sat on the couch, removing a small duffel bag folded between her clothes. It had been wrapped with aluminium and placed in an air lock container to prevent detection within the airport scanners.
She folded her sleeve up to the elbow, and removed a small bottle filled with venom yellow liquid. Wolfsbane.
Picking a clean syringe, Elliot plunged the needle in and drew five milligrams then squirted excess out before lowering it to her forearm.
All along her inner arm lay scatters of pale blue bruises from injecting herself for over five years. Successfully suppressing her wolf had come at a cost, and that happened to be her arms resembling that of a heroin junkie.
In some sick way, she considered herself to be one. Except, it wasn’t out of addiction. It was from spite.
The needle pierced her skin, a sharp familiar sensation pinching as she pressed the plunge, slowly emptying the poison into her body.
Once done, she discarded the needle in a trash bag and leaned back on the couch, allowing the effects to take place.
All while staring at the image of a man taped at the center of her wall.
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