Before the Fall

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Chapter 36

Six months ago, Jackson territory, home of Audra Baron…

“What are you doing? What have you done with my son? He’s human, how did you find him? Audra rages. Silas can hear her thrashing against the men Jackson has brought with them. “He has nothing to do with this, he has a family, how did you find him?”

“Mom, it’s okay,” the human says shakily, “everyone’s fine at home, it’s just me, we’ll be alright.”

“Alright Miss Baron,” Silas says sweetly. “You see what we’ve done here? We approached you kindly last time, no guards, no threats--that was the easy way. You’ve now been introduced to the hard way.” His smile goes sinister. “And we’ve only just started.”

Clothes rustle and the floor creaks like Jackson has shifted his weight, possibly crouched down to meet Audra’s eyes. “Audra Baron,” he says quite formally, “we know you know something about the murder of Richard Holt if not about his children’s disappearance. Tell us what you know and nothing bad has to happen.”

Silas hears Audra breathing heavily and her son taking deep breaths like he’s trying to get control of himself. “I already told you, I know nothing.

“Alright,” Alpha Jackson starts cockily, “would you be more motivated if we broke a few fingers on your human son?”

“How dare--

“Ah, ah, ah,” Silas tsks. “Alpha, we don’t have to resort to cliched dramatics. Perhaps things would go faster if Mr. Jacob Baron started finding it rather hard to breathe.”

Silas is rewarded with the sound of choking and spluttering. All he has to do now is wait.

“No, no, stop, stop!” Audra whimpers. “Please.”

Silas merely shrugs. When Jacob’s struggling starts to weaken, he hears Audra start to sob.

“I’ll tell you, I’ll tell you, just stop.

“Stand down,” Silas tells the enforcers. Jacob starts drinking in air like a starving man. “Now, Audra, what can you tell us?”

She continues to cry. “All I know is that the children fled to America. I don’t know where.”

Silas hums. How curious that she starts out with the disappearance of the Holts when the last time they were here, she slipped and revealed that she knew the killer--that she was female, at least. “And?” Silas prompts.

“That’s it,” Audra claims, “that’s all I know.”

Silas gestures in the direction of Jacob and his enforcers and the cruel sounds of struggling erupt again. “Okay, okay!” Audra cries desperately. “The killer is Grace Holt.”

“And?” Silas leans toward her further.

“And...and-and the healer has gray eyes, that’s all I know, I promise.

Silas flicks a hand and Jacob starts breathing again. “Now, Miss Audra,” Silas leans more menacingly this time. “I don’t quite believe you. Either you tell us every last thing you know, or Jacob doesn’t get any more chances.” He leans back and lifts his hands pleasantly. “What shall it be?”

Audra sobs out some rather interesting things in the next hour or so. Most notably that the killer they are looking for is also the healer.

And her name is Grace Holt.

:::::

Present day, Atwood territory…

Slate’s sitting with his dad and Asher in the sitting room in the building they claim as their office. It’s unnecessary, really, but the three of them--Dad, Sara, and Slate--like to have a place away from home they can work at. He’s just left Sara and Gray with a mishmash of herbal remedies for any and all symptoms Slate has heard Sara complain about.

The revelation about Gray’s healing has turned a few of his assumptions on their head and he’s still trying to wrap his head around the whole thing. All this time with Sara, with Raven’s little scrapes and bruises--gosh with Sage. If he doesn’t stop thinking about it, he’ll make himself crazy. It’s something that needs to be addressed, but it’ll have to be later.

He hopes there will be a later.

“I assume you’ve read the last reports as well as I have?” his father asks both of them.

Normally Asher wouldn’t be involved in this kind of thing, but he’s somewhat filling in for Sara, acting as a third brain to bounce ideas off of while she rests. Nonetheless, they both nod. “Yeah, Dad,” Asher says quietly.

Dad breathes deep and steeples his fingers in front of him, resting his elbows on the table. “So we all know the recent reports are that there’s a large group of wolves gathering in our north western forest.”

“And growing,” Slate adds.

“Can’t we…” Asher begins, “I mean, isn’t there a way we can talk this out with the leader?”

It’s a very simplistic idea, but Slate can see the appeal. The only problem is, “We don’t know who the leader is, son,” Dad says.

Asher nods and sighs helplessly at the floor. Quietly, he acknowledges, “I know. But...what do we do?”

Dad and Slate exchange a look. Slate lays out a couple options. “We could keep waiting and see if we can draw out a delegate, or someone we can deal with. But if we did that, we have to operate on the assumption the group would keep growing, prepare for the worst of the scenarios. In that case, we’d continue to send out patrols specifically to monitor the activities of the group.” Slate lets option number one sink in for a moment. Then, “Or we could pool our strongest wolves together and attack the group before it grows without really knowing what or who we’re up against. We can assume they’re after Gray, but there’s no way to know.”

“So it’s pretty much lose-lose?”

Slate and Dad look at each other again. “At this point, and with this much information, it’s all we’ve got.”

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