Chapter Five – Eleven Days Of Missing

  DECEMBER 21st, 2010

  Rowland’s senses were stunned from impacting the glass window; he pressed his paw against the door to steady himself. In this unsteady stupor, he felt his head throbbing as blood trickled down the fur of his brow, splashing onto the floor. With trembling legs, he pulled himself up from the floor of Derrick’s apartment. This distortion was short-lived; his head began to clear while he stepped back away from the glass. Both his shoulders rolled forward, dropping his body down to hunch on all fours, jaws salivating with rage. A moment was all he could afford; the girl had seen too much and could not be allowed to escape.
  With his first impact, Rowland had fractured the glass, leaving it too weak to withstand another blow. Each claw clenched, embedding themselves into the carpet as he prepared to strike. He used this grip as leverage to throw his body forward, charging the door.
  Glass crystals rained and scattered as he burst his way through. Rowland, protected by his thick pelt barely noticed the frigid air enveloping him. With no sign of Devon, he leapt for the balcony edge, swinging his bulk gracefully over the railing with one powerful claw.
  All of his senses absorbed more than any human could. Even before he landed, Rowland knew she was there. His lips curled back, as he bared his fangs, the sharp taste of blood still lingered on his tongue. This was not his first choice but knew what had to be done; it was his duty as the leader to clean up this mess. There could be no witnesses left here tonight.
  Several of his claws clicked against the concrete, as he crawled towards her. In the corner like a dense shadow, he found her shivering form. His hand raised, ready to strike as Devon’s scent whirled around him. Paw hanging in mid-air, Rowland’s snout waved back and forth, sniffing in disbelief. Both of his eyes glowed with a fierce luminescence as he took in a sight he could not have imagined. Bemused by what his senses were telling him, Rowland began to assess quickly what his next move would be. As long as the moon was still high above, there would be no help to call upon. Each of his thoughts trying to get one step ahead of the other.
  Drinking in her scent once more, his predatory need to clean up his mess was now transformed to one of protection. Rowland crouched down to shelter her, fearful she might somehow be seen by the human world. Despite the impossibility of it, his bite had preceded him. The gift intended for Derrick somehow transformed Devon instead; the girl who’d been the focus of his now dwindling rage. The newly birthed body was lifeless, lying in a pool of torn flesh. Devon’s beautiful pale skin had been replaced by a pelt of black fur, shining in the moonlight with a layer of dark blood and mucus.
  Far in the distance, a single police siren howled across the night; an electric banshee of this modern age. As the wailing grew closer, Rowland’s instincts urged him to move, to escape. They are coming. He gathered the young wolf gently in his arms as the last few patches of torn flesh slid off, sloshing onto the patio floor. A quick glance over the railing confirmed that the police were not yet in sight. Fighting against the slickness of the blood covered fur, he gripped the young wolf tightly to his chest. Rowland vaulted himself over the seventh-floor balcony, toward the street below. Cold wind bit deep into his fur as he landed in an area of large bushes surrounding a small patch of garden. Inside their cover he held Devon, waiting for a passing car to drive out of sight. Using his keen hearing and vision, Rowland was satisfied that no one else was in view. He moved from the bushes and sprinted across the intersection, vanishing into the park.
  Beacon Hill Park is a large patch of nature in the heart of downtown Victoria, named for the two beacons of light that would guide and protect sailors on the dark sea. Its western beacon had a triangle of blue light, and the other a square of green. When ships could see the square through the triangle, they had sailed into the Brotchie Ledge. A warning which meant trouble for all; especially on stormy nights such as this.
  For three-quarters of the year, during the daylight hours, there would be too many people to conceal Rowland’s escape. Twilight in winter, on the other hand, meant that the city parks and dark alleyways were quite vacant of human life. No rowdy kids drinking booze and having fun, no couples holding hands sneaking a kiss on the bridge; just the nocturnal creatures who called this place home. These days, people’s avoidance to the park was not just the cold, it also included the Goldstream killer; the name given by a city recently plagued by a string of missing women and unsolved murders. History had shown Rowland that people became vigilant and restless in such peril, desperate to find anything to bear the brunt of their fears.
  Regret and uncertainty were eating at him, not just about the mess he left behind, but for the consequences, it could bring forth. Making his way along the stone bridge, Rowland blended in as if he was just another shadow cast from the lights in the pond. He knew that this night would only reinforce the city’s rising sense of unease, and the need for caution would be greater than ever. Worst for the family would be getting caught with this newborn trembling in his grip, anything strange and unexpected usually meant bad tidings for beasts and men. He kept his heightened senses alert, sniffing and listening for any sign of people close by.
  Within reach of the tree line, Rowland dashed across a baseball field and into the bushes. For a while he squatted, waiting in the dense brush with his burden. In his wolf form, his sensitive ears could pick up the scurrying of rodents and the hoot of an owl from across the park. Rowland cringed as several ambulances roared past, tearing the air with a barrage of light and noise. The Police must have arrived at the condo and found the bodies. As they rounded the corner it gave him just what he needed: a split second to bolt across the road and clear the railings that bordered the cliffs of Mile Zero.
  At the edge of the bluff, Rowland pushed off with his powerful hind legs. He bounded from the rocks, plunging himself and Devon into the churning ocean far below. If they had been regular humans, these dark waters were cold enough that hypothermia would have set in within minutes. Like wolves, they remained unscathed, as the freezing surf washed away all the remaining traces of blood and filth.
  His own transformation back into his human form was taking place. Pieces of his animal hide were swept away by the rough waters as he shifted, dissolving within the waves. Devon’s change would hold longer; still unconscious, he kept her close in his arms as he battled his way back to shore. Rowland felt strength from the eclipse; the raging winds pushed him back as he swam against the pull of the tide. Upon the shoreline, he placed Devon’s body gently along the pebbled beach. For a long while, he remained standing in the moonlight, collecting himself after the evening’s disastrous events. It had been several lifetimes since his path had seemed so uncertain.
  “Damn you!” He cursed at Devon, his words carrying across the growing storm.
  Even in his human form, the pungent odour of wet fur emanating from her was unmistakable. Normally a comforting scent, at this moment it only served as proof that the Gods were playing some cruel joke at his expense. With a firm grasp, he rolled Devon onto her side, and for the first time since the scene of chaos Rowland was able to examine the new wolf. A break in the clouds made the fur gleam wetly in the silver moonlight, its sheen was as black as the ocean behind and the night sky above. His expression was one of bewilderment as he regarded his accidental creation. Devon’s body lay there sleeping, oblivious to its own implications.
  Time was short, and Rowland knew it. Soon the police would begin searching the surrounding area for suspects and witnesses. Hoisting Devon over his shoulder, he draped the wolf across the back of his neck, steadying it with his hand as he made his way along the beach. The cliff-side walkway above would be too risky. It was imperative that he make his way to the safe house unnoticed. How would he explain himself? Walking naked in the street while carrying an unconscious wolf. Rowland wanted to avoid any more unnecessary deaths; the night watchman he dispatched back at the condo was already one too many. It wasn’t supposed to happen this way, he thought, why have I been forsaken?
  Over several rock faces, he came to another set of stairs that would lead him back to street level. Rowland’s breath was frosting as he sniffed at the air, making certain there was no sign of people nearby.
  All was quiet on the street. There were no cars, and the only sound he could hear was the constant crashing of the waves below. Keeping to the trees as far as he could, he constantly stayed alert to his surroundings.
  Finally reaching the right block, he dashed across the road, wet feet slapping against the pavement as he approached a plain old house with darkened windows. Rowland had finally reached his sanctuary.
  With one last look around the street to make sure no one was watching, he crept onto the lot along the side of the building, pushing open a hidden gate in the high fence. Everything about the exterior and yard was overgrown and seemingly long-abandoned. Shifting the weight of Devon still slung over his shoulder, he crouched down to pull on a pair of wooden cellar doors. They were half covered by English ivy growing rampant over the crumbling stucco. Flakes of dry paint fluttered to the ground as the vines broke; pulling it open. Inside these doors were a set of steep cement stairs leading down into the basement, past the reach of the full moon.
  Taking care, he descended into the bowels of the house, closing the cellar doors above him. Despite the near complete darkness, his preternatural eyesight allowed him to make out enough that he wasn’t worried about tripping or missing a step. A second door greeted him as he reached the end of the staircase. Unlike the previous, this one was made of thick metal, sporting a modern push button lock. Soft electronic beeps echoed in the stillness, followed by a loud click, as the door unlatched and eased slightly open. Carefully lowering Devon from his shoulder, he slid the wolf back into his arms as he crossed.
  Down a brief hallway, Rowland stood in front of another door; slightly open. Reminiscent of a vault safe, it was a solid pristine wall of steel. His foot pulled at the edge of it, and with one swift movement, he swung the door open, exposing the massive frame and full thickness of the steel. Though the outer face was smooth and clean, the inner side was rough, scored deeply with gouges and scratch marks. Unlike a vault safe, which was intended to keep people out, this was clearly used to keep someone or something inside.
  From floor to ceiling this pattern of damage continued. Jagged crevices traveled across thick metal panels that made up the windowless walls. There were no fixtures, nor furniture. The glare of fluorescent lights protected behind metal cages cast a sickly glow over the space. Ceramic white tile on the floor was interrupted only by a metal grate on the far side, welded down. Above the drain was a large shower head embedded into the ceiling, and in the upper right corner, a security camera buzzed away behind a mirrored dome. The faint smell of bleach only added to the effect, this room could have been something straight out of a horror film.
  Just below the ceiling across from the doorway, there was an indent in the form of a handle. When Rowland gave it a push, he heard a loud click before the wall began to open. From inside, a bed slowly folded out, easing its way down to the floor. The grey mattress inside was as sterile as its surroundings; sealed over in a layer of thick clear plastic. Gently, he put Devon’s body down across the bed. Deep in slumber, there wasn’t even a flicker of consciousness as Rowland turned to leave. Before making his way upstairs, he pushed the steel door with a heavy clang. Not one for taking chances, Rowland spun the lock’s wheel, satisfied only when he heard its teeth bite deep into the wall.
  Beside the sealed door was a flight of stairs, leading up into the house. Within the closet of the main office, he picked through an assortment of black track pants, T-shirts, and hooded sweaters. Items they kept well stocked; this house was mostly used in case someone was not able to make it back to the main house during a full moon. The need to transform was equal to the need for public safety; achieving both would keeping the family hidden. Rowland pulled the plain clothes on before removing the dust sheet that covered over the desk in the middle of the room. There was no way to put off making the call he was dreading since he got here.
  Like the rest of the house, the office was fairly small, sparsely furnished with only a few modest bookshelves along one wall. In the center of the room was an antique desk, hosting a large computer screen. Compared to the simple surroundings the desk stood out; the strong, polished oak surface, had brass ornate detailing that seemed almost lavish in comparison. With an exhausted sigh of frustration, he sat down, covering his face with both hands.
  “How am I supposed to fix this?” Rowland spoke to the air around him, as he pressed at the keyboard, waking the computer from its sleep. Instantly he was presented with a view from the downstairs security camera. Devon was in the same position Rowland had left her, with no sign of even the slightest shift. Lost and confused, he shook his head at the screen. What am I supposed to do with you now?

  To the right of the monitor, Rowland quickly reached for the phone, calling the main house. Just as he was expecting, the answering machine picked up; followed by one solitary beep. His voice echoed loudly, breaking the silence of the room. “It’s Rowland. I’m at the safe house…there has been a situation. Not everyone is required to come, just Keryn, Smith, and the Twins. It goes without saying, bring the Druid as well, his council will be needed. Whoever gets this message, tell the twins to bring a large amount of sedatives with them.”
  With a loud thud, the phone was back in its cradle. Palms bracing, he rolled his fingers several times over the desk before standing up. After muttering to himself and pacing the room, he finally came to rest before the large window; just off the front of the house. Looking out at the moon as it bathed the ocean in its ghostly glow, he silently implored it to shed some of its light on his path. It would be a few more hours before anyone at the house answered his message, he turned and looked closely at the monitor. I hope you stay sleeping until then, whatever you may be.

  Across the ocean towards Port Angeles, the snowcapped mountains lined the horizon like a scenic postcard. While warm rays of sunshine pressed down against the house, making the day seem clear and full of promise. The SUV was parked out front of the safe house; walking the short distance between it and the front porch, Keryn found it was hard to imagine anything disturbing this peaceful setting. It had been years since she had been here, and awhile since anyone had actually used the safe house. If it had been dark out, they would have simply slipped around back and entered that way, yet in the light of day, there was too much risk that someone was watching. They had to maintain the cover that this was just a normal, if somewhat derelict home. Keryn glanced at the large bag one of the Twins was holding and found herself wondering about why the sedatives were necessary. Rowland and Derrick had gone over so many different possibilities as they prepared for this. What could have gone wrong to give such tension to his voice in the message?
  Rowland had clearly been waiting for them, as he opened the door wide at their approached. The grave expression on his face matched the waves of energy coming off of him, and yet for the pretense of anyone who may be walking by, he opened his arms and forced a smile as though welcoming guests into his home. His behavior was not that of her Alpha, which only added to her anxiety. In all of her life, panic and fear were two things Keryn had never witnessed in Rowland.
  Glancing over to the Druid, who was standing just behind to her right, she tried to gauge his reaction. If anyone knew Rowland well enough to interpret the feelings he was projecting to his pack, it was him. Amongst the group, the Druid was the only one whose appearance gave any hint of age. His greying hair grew past his waist, elaborately braided into his beard. Anyone would find it hard not to be mystified by his profound stare. Frustrated, Keryn received no sign from him: he was as unreadable now as always.
  Both of the twins, Eddie, and David, seemed unable to decide from whom to take their cue. Their dark hair and lightly freckled faces remained curious and open, as they looked from Rowland to the Druid and back again, almost in unison.
  Behind them all, the Smith towered over the group with his arms crossed, his shadow blotting out most of the morning sun. Everyone was also on edge from dealing with his frustration: leaving the house to travel into the city was not something he preferred. Finally, he released his misgivings from behind them all in a large wave. “Are you going to ask us in?” he asked, his voice like the scraping of iron on a whetstone. “Or will you just have us stand out here like a clan of fools?”
  No one else amongst the family would chance to speak this way to Rowland. Only direct and truthful words came from the Druid, which might sound as harsh were he as prone to sarcasm as Smith. Either way, his remark failed to raise even an eyebrow as their leader simply turned, making his way down the hall and leaving the door ajar for them to follow. Keryn led, taking the arm of the Druid, while the rest of the group filed through the door behind.
  Passing the threshold, Eddie nudged his brother, curious to know what was happening. In the silent communion of twins, David didn’t even need to look him in the eye, only giving a lost and nervous head shake. Smith keeping pace at the rear of the column, his shoulders nearly filling the tiny hall as they all pressed forward to the office.
  Most of the room was the same as when Rowland entered last night, except a few sections of the wall had been removed and stacked beside the door. Where the panels had been now exposed an expansive wall of security monitors. Several of them displayed the surroundings of the house, while the largest showed the safe room downstairs. The office had been specially constructed that if any humans happened to break in when no one was around, it would simply appear to be a basic office. Camouflage provided low-tech security, while the cameras, keypads, and alarm systems served the same goal.
  Eddie finally broke ahead of the group as the hallway widened. Clumsily he pushed his brother out of the way and knocked him into Keryn as he passed ahead through the doors. David caught her eye with a half of a smile, embarrassed on his brother’s behalf. How could they expect him to be anyone but Eddie, even at a time like this?
  The Druid, unburdened by the collision, calmly took a chair in the corner closer to the desk. Smith stood beside him protectively, arms re-crossed, waiting for an explanation.
  “I…” Rowland looked around the room, stricken by a loss of words.
  Eddie had been studying the main monitor closely since they entered, his back to the room. With a confused look, he turned, “So, what’s the problem, chief?” He addressed Rowland, before returning his focus back to the screen. “Everything looks fine with Derrick from here. Sleep? Check. Wolf? Check. It’s normal for him to be still in the change, so no worries there. Why’d you want us to bring all these sedatives?”
  Rowland sat on the front edge of the desk with his arms crossed, staring hard at the monitor. “Yes, it would be very normal,” he answered softly. “Sometimes it can even take a week to come out of the change.”
  “And??” Eddie impatiently coaxing the Alpha.
  Rowland pinched his brow as if pained to speak the words. “The problem…. is that this is not Derrick.”
  Shocked silence filled the room. The realization dawned across everyone’s face, each one looking to the monitor in confusion as though hoping to find some way of identifying this new, unfamiliar wolf on the screen.
  “Is it safe??” Smith’s hand reached swiftly to the handle of the knife at his belt, uneasy with the thought of an unknown threat in the house.
  “It’s uncertain at this time, but I believe it will be.” Rowland’s response was as diplomatic as he could muster.
  “Well then, who is it?” Keryn finally asked, her soft voice filled with concern. “What happened to Derrick?”
  Rowland ran his hands through his thick black hair, a weariness of unfathomable years settling into his face. “Derrick is no longer with us. He died during last night’s moon. What you see in front of you on the monitor is his… girlfriend.”
  “No!” Keryn exclaimed, clapping her hand over her mouth in shock, as her face grew pale. She moved closer to join Eddie and his brother in front of the screen.
  Something else Keryn now witnessed, as she looked back to her leader. For a first-time, tears welled inside Rowland’s eyes.
  “She interrupted the two of us just after Derrick had received the bite.”
  David, adjusted his glasses with amazement, blurting out, “But, she has a…..”
  “Yes,” Rowland abruptly cut him off. “I know.” His voice pressed the state of their loss.
  David went on, undeterred. “But….no, she has a….”
  Rowland sat up straighter, leaning forward from the desk with all his enormity. “David, I am well aware of the changes, but I’m afraid it is much more serious than that.”
  Seeming to remember his place, David quickly closed his mouth. In his curiosity, he wanted to say more but was unwilling to argue with his pack leader. Keryn simply stared in disbelief, wiping away tears she shed for Derrick.
  “Personally, I’d find that a serious matter. At least for myself,” Eddie said, never one to care about the proper time and place for anything.
  “This is amazing…” Keryn murmured, still too stunned to show her disapproval of Eddie’s remark.
  Rowland waved at their words in irritation, as though brushing cobwebs from the air. “How is this amazing?” he demanded.
  Keryn stammered, caught in her words. “Sorry… I… I didn’t even think this was possible. I just meant this changes so much.”
  He frowned at her, as Keryn realized how inappropriate her statement had been in light of the news that Derrick was gone.
  “I wish things were different in regards to Derrick. Without his body, we will have to mourn later.” The group solemnly nodded in unison following the voice of their leader. “Right now, I need to know more about this girl. Keryn, you did research on her. As I recall, you mentioned in your report that she is quite the alpha personality type?”
  Across the room, Smith made his opinion clear with a loud snort, his hand still firmly gripping the blade. “You know perfectly well what change shall become this girl.”
  Rowland aimed a piercing glance in his direction. “As I was about to say, she could become extremely violent.”
  Keryn pressed her fingers against the screen. “Well, she looks pretty peaceful to me.”
  “And I plan to keep her that way,” Rowland said. “Eddie, David, I want you to go into the cellar and put those sedatives to use. We need to keep her under as long as we possibly can. It should, in theory, prevent her from changing; at least until we can figure out what is to become of her.”
  The twins nodded together, promptly leaving the room to carry out his request. As the front door closed behind them, Smith’s bellowing voice filled the house. “This is not protocol, Rowland. Why did you not kill her the moment she transformed? For that matter, when she first entered?!”
  “Wait a minute!!” Keryn interjected. “It’s protocol now to kill people? This wasn’t her fault… was it?” She looked to Rowland.
  Rowland closed his eyes, once again pinching the bridge of his nose between finger and thumb. “No it wasn’t her fault, and yes humans who witness such an event shall be killed to protect our secrets.”
  Smith had a fair point, and Rowland knew it. He had broken their own laws; laws he had enforced in the past when others in the pack had broken them. Lifting his hand away, he looked straight at Smith, urging him to put himself in the same place. “The entire scene was chaos,” he said, “and I could not ignore how valuable she was to Derrick. I wounded her first, then focused on dispatching the security guard she had brought with her. It was a split second decision, he was phoning 911, and posed the biggest threat. She should not have been a problem for me.”
  “Then how did this happen?” Smith’s aggression came through in his tone.
  “Somehow she must have transferred blood and saliva from Derrick’s bite into her wound. By the time I got to her, Derrick had died, and she was already changed into what you see before you. I’ve never seen someone change so fast. You know that I would do nothing to put this family at risk, but what could I do? Leave her there for the police to find? They were already on their way, and this was the best solution I could come up with.”
  Smith simply huffed, his face red, glowering with disapproval.
  Rowland turned towards the window, a lost expression in his eyes. “Besides… something in me told me not to kill her. She is the only successor I have now.”
  “An abomination is what she is.” Smith’s voice shook the house. Behind him, on the screens, the others could see the twin entering the room. It was a comforting sign that they were the only things moving down there.
  Keryn glared at Smith from across the room, speaking out before he could carry on. “Well, I studied her for months, and in my opinion, she’s amazing. Rowland, she might be a strong personality type, but she is also an amazing human being. From everything I witnessed, she’s very fair and kind, even to random strangers. Sure, I wouldn’t want to get on her bad side.” She shrugged. “The girl definitely knows how to take care of herself, but what can you expect from someone who grew up in the foster system? No one even knows who her birth parents are.”
  “Why? Are the records sealed?” Rowland asked skeptically.
  “No, her birth parents just dropped her off on the doorstep of a children’s home. Of all places, it was a small town in the Yukon, called Whitehorse. Apparently, all they found with her was a necklace bearing the name Devon, which she kept.”
  “So her past is troubled? That could make her change erratic.” Rowland expressed his concerns.
  “Maybe.” Keryn nodded. “After several foster homes up there, she ran away from one of many abusive family placements. By the time she was twelve she had ended up in Vancouver, finding a home within a group of sex workers for the next two years. She avoided the system until she left Vancouver for reasons unknown to Derrick. She was fourteen by then. After that, she was found living on the beaches of Victoria by her now adoptive father.”
  “And the father? Anything there, any violence or domestic issues?”
  “Nothing like that. Her father is a firefighter who currently lives in Vancouver. From what I could find, he’s a pretty stand-up guy.” Exposing Devon’s past didn’t seem to be helping her case. Keryn looked to Rowland with utmost sincerity, her eyes wide with pleading; but there was none.
  “What about since then?”
  Unsure of why she was so eager to prove Devon’s value, Keryn continued. “Let’s see, she worked at the bank with Derrick, and the two of them were intimately involved.”
  “Yes, yes, I know all of this,” Rowland said impatiently. “Give me her current situation.”
  “I’m not sure what else to say. Derrick must have told you all of this,” Keryn said, “She’s got a clean record, which is pretty amazing, considering her past. She even volunteers on the weekends with the city’s outreach programs.”
  “This is ridiculous; the girl needs to be destroyed!” Smith bellowed, unwilling to be moved by Keryn’s appeal.
  She spun around to face him, infuriated by his stubbornness.
  Glancing at her clenched fist, Smith’s brow had softened. He shook his head with a flicker of compassion. “Little girl, I could swat you like a fly.”
  “Someday, you may just get the chance to find out,” she growled back.
  The giant broke into a lopsided grin, while finally lifting his hand from the blade. Smith’s tone changed, now full of affection for his young adversary. “You’ve been saying that to me since you could speak,” he said, placing a massive hand on her shoulder. His voice became gentler. “You weren’t there when this happened before, you don’t understand the danger she poses.”
  She dropped her shoulder, shrugging his hand away. “This is different, father. He was different, and she won’t be like that.”
  Observing the screen again, Keryn watched the rise and fall of Devon’s slumbering breath. All that life, that potential. “Oh god, Orin! The family across the water are going to want an update on your successor,” she reminded Rowland. “As well as an invitation to the welcoming ceremony. What are we going to do?”
  The room kept quiet. Keryn had voiced what Rowland had been thinking since the night before. Her face went grim as she whispered to herself. “She’s an alpha…”
  “Well, yeah… she was made by Rowland,” Eddie replied, as he and his brother slipped back into the room behind her like a pair of shadows.
  Keryn folded her arms, in no mood for Eddie’s cockiness. “No…stupid. I mean she’s an alpha personality to begin with, as well as an Alpha pack leader.” Looking to her father’s face, she finally realized why he was so adamant in his rejection of this new wolf. “It’s forbidden,” her voice barely a choked whisper.
  Eddie nudged her. “Ok smarty pants, how do you know it’s forbidden? You’re just a young pup.”
  “Well, Eddie,” She looked at him blankly, “I do this funny thing called reading. You might want to try it someday.”
  “Enough! All of you!” Rowland had no patience for banter when there were real issues at hand. Knowledge of when to take things seriously was amongst the highest obligation as pack leader.
  Eddie looked towards him coolly, completely unperturbed by the scolding. “So, why is this not allowed to happen, anyway?” he asked.
  “It is forbidden. Those are the laws that we created in order to keep the peace between the two families.” Answers such as these did little in the way of satisfying the younger members of his pack, and it was time for that to change. They were young, but they weren’t children anymore.
  “We cannot allow the Alpha bite and alpha personality to mix. That much natural dominance can produce malevolent results,” he told them. “A monstrosity was created once before, and it nearly destroyed everything for our kind. Since the dawn of our creation, we have always had the balance of an Alpha bite against an appropriately malleable beta personality.”
  “So who was it? I mean who was created?” Again Eddie asked in his ignorance.
  Keryn shook her head. “It first happened in the Middle Ages, when the family across the water began. Their first leader is the earliest known case.” Her voice began to imitate her father’s deep baritone. “It took countless years and bloodshed beyond measure to restore the balance of the clans. There was an uprising from his family that created an alliance between our two packs to change things, to keep the peace.”
  “Peace?” Smith interjected, ignoring his daughter’s retort. “Is that what we choose to call it? They should have been annihilated back in the Dark Ages.” He laid his hand on the desk, leaning in towards Rowland’s face with an air of challenge.
  “I remind you that I was not the Alpha during that time,” Rowland replied
  “And let me remind you. I was there during that time, and I learned all I need to know to see how this plays out. That thing,” Smith pointed to the monitor, “must be destroyed, or she will become a plague worse than he was. Or better yet, that she-demon that created him.” He stood up straight, crossing his arms over his broad chest. “You claim not to be there. Look back into your memories and tell me that I am wrong.”
  Torn between reason and instinct, Rowland shook his head. “I have seen the memories, and I agree the outcome could be just that. This time, something feels different, something is different. I’m making the decision to see what happens to her… the change, this has never happened before.”
  “I second that motion.” Standing beside her father, Keryn’s smile went unseen, but her voice was heard by them all.
  Smith spread his arms, addressing the whole room with his gesture as he turned to face her. “So, it’s to be a vote then, is it? If that is the case, then every person in this family shall be heard.”
  Cutting across the air with his hand, Rowland stood abruptly. “Smith, I will always respect your guidance in times of war, and I know that you have been there during our darkest days, but this is not war.”
  “Not yet.” Smith shook his head.
  “The whole family will have its say,” Rowland insisted, “and I will hear from each and every one of them.”
  There was nothing left to be said regarding Devon’s current fate. Rowland turned to the younger members of the group, addressing them as a whole. “Please, all of you go down to the panic room and shut the door. I need to hold council with the Druid.”
  None of them seemed to require persuading. Regardless of individual opinion, Keryn was especially keen to get a closer look at the new wolf. While the Druid and Smith remained in the room, Keryn, Eddie, and David left without any further remarks.
  From through the floor boards, Rowland waited in silence for the echo of the safe room’s door to close. He returned back into his chair, no longer caring to hide how drained he felt. Any attempt to conceal this from his present company was entirely futile, and he knew it.
  Finally, Rowland had the privacy to honestly address the old man posed so regally near the window. Both of his hands, with their gnarled fingers, had been twined together on his lap through his plaited hair. Up until this point, he had remained silent, as though he had grown roots down through the chair and had become part of the room itself. Though not the case, his calm and quiet nature gave an air of passive innocence to anyone who didn’t know him. Rowland always had the frustrating and familiar sense of being the dependent one out of this relationship. The shame he felt with this brought bitterness to his voice he hadn’t intended.
  “Why was there no vision? How could you have not seen this?” Rowland met his glance.
  A pair of haunting pale eyes, as though the winter sky behind shone through the sockets that now gazed toward him. “I have received no warnings or omens,” he said. “There was nothing in the signs…nothing. Without whispers from beyond or above, I am as blind as you were, and are.”
  “Well, there should have been something.” Rowland had thought if anything, the Druid would have had some clue to answer this dilemma. “The Gods gave us a vision of Derrick, a vision that I have failed to bring to fruition, why are we being punished? Have we not done right by them through all these years?”
  “Was your bite upon her?” His eyes looked soulfully at him, knowing the answer he sought before the Alpha could speak the words.
  Rowland said them anyway if only to bring this fundamental realization out into the world; to make it real. “No. My bite was not upon her. Derrick was the one who received it.”
  “Then the girl has created herself. If this is what fate required, then we must have faith that the Gods meant for her to exist. If you had wronged the Gods, we would have known by now.”
  Rowland gave him a reproachful look. “You talk about faith? Faith in Gods no one has seen in twenty-five hundred years.”
  “Look at your memories….” the old man urged.
  “But they are not my memories, and even if they were, that is all they are now! Memories! How do we even know they exist in this reality anymore? If they do, why cause such suffering? Why would they take my son from me, a second time?” With his eyes, Rowland begged him to provide an answer.
  “They exist because we exist,” the Druid replied, “and in turn, we exist because they do. I believe that if they had moved on from this world, we would not be having this conversation.”
  Rowland pressed the heels of his palms into his eyes. This cryptic style of conversation had happened between them many times already and suddenly made him more tired than he had felt in years. “You truly believe that this Alpha is meant to be?”
  The Druid nodded. “She is.”
  “If you believe the Gods want her to live, then she lives.”
  Smith spat on the floor in disgust. “This won’t end well Rowland,” he rumbled, “I can feel it in my bones. For the families’ sake, I hope your god logic will have some sway against Orin and his disgrace of a family, or at least his perverse curiosity. For if it doesn’t, this girl shall bring war upon our two houses.”
  Rowland took heed in his words, but there was nothing else to be done. His only hope now was to buy his family sometime before facing their neighbours across the water. Shame burned in him at the thought of Orin’s smug satisfaction upon hearing the news of his monumental error. Rowland clicked a button on the desk calling the young ones back upstairs.
  “It is imperative that this is kept from Orin’s family until after she transforms. We have to see what happens to her first,” he commanded. “There will likely be news reports about Derrick Ashton’s death, but knowing Orin he will be too wrapped up in the transformation of his own successor to notice. I want David and Eddie here to monitor her and keep her under sedation. Smith, please take the Druid and return to the house. Keryn, I need you to work on keeping the rest of the family settled. We have traditions to observe, and Alban Arthuan will still go on. Though our family may be facing a crisis, we will not risk insulting the Gods even further by not carrying out the Yule festival.”
  Everyone nodded and fell in line with their orders as they prepared to leave.
  “Oh and Keryn, send an invitation to Orin, asking him to come to us within eight days. That should give us enough time to sort this mess out.”
  “And the girl?” Keryn asked.
  “No word about the girl to anyone. After she has changed, we will transport her to the house.” He stood up from the desk, glad at least to be making plans. He had learned long ago that preparation and action lay at the heart of being a great leader.
  “Smith, if anything happens to me, or Orin does get wind of this, there will be no visits or tests done on her until she is awake. We have to be the ones to assess her, is that understood?”
  Smith grunted his approval, always ready to assume the defensive position, while the Druid graciously bowed his head.

  December 22nd, 2010

  Through the floorboards, the nightclub’s bass thumped like a muted heartbeat; infusing the blackened room with a womb-like feel. This ambience created a soothing atmosphere for Orin’s private musings. At least they did until the illusion of his thoughts were disturbed by the opening of the mirrored double doors behind him.
  Siobhan entered gracefully, her body enveloped in a wave of rhythmic sound. The shine from her black evening dress clung to her rich curves like a floating shadow. Orin dismissed her, lazily brushing his hand through the air vaguely in her direction. Unsuccessful in his attempt, she and the dress she wore, remained intact.
  She was uninterested in taking his dismissal to heart. While she slowly approached the leather chair in which he sat brooding, a sly smile ran gracefully across her lips. “My darling, are you still sulking up here in the dark….” A coyness seeped into her voice, spreading through her words like a slow stain.
  “By now you should know that I do not repeat myself, without consequence.” Though he had never really spoken in the first place, his meaning had been clear enough.
  “You are so incredibly dull sometimes, my love.” She approched the back of the chair, placing her hands on his shoulders, before sliding them down slowly across his chest.
  He grabbed her arms at the wrist giving them a squeeze. “What do you want?” an irritation arose in his voice.
  “You should turn on the news,” she suggested, as she clawed her nails deep against his chest.
  Orin had gasped a moan of pleasure before pushing away her arms. “I told you, when my new son awakens from his form then you may enter here. That is all I’m interested in.”
  Again she ignored his warning as she leaned closer, grazing his ear teasingly with her breath. Her hands massaged his tense shoulders before whispering the news. There was a satisfaction she relished, in being the first to know something he didn’t. “Victoria has had a triple murder… something about a flayed victim and a missing person. And it’s not at all who you think it might be.”
  Siobahn nipped lightly at his earlobe, knowing Orin’s mind would be too engrossed with this information to bother flinching away now. “Besides my love, you should know I wouldn’t have wasted our time to interrupt your brooding if it wasn’t important.”
  Her hands made their slow ascent back from whence they came, as she stood behind him. Without another word, she retraced her steps leaving the room, looking for all the world as though time had just reversed itself.
  Orin sat up straight once she was gone, reaching for the remote. The large wall of flat screens snapped to life with a riot of colours and sound. Most of these monitors were already tuned into several news stations, filling the room with chatter.
  A conventionally attractive blonde was in mid-sentence on the largest screen, speaking in the trained robotic pace of TV news reporters around the world.
  “… tonight’s held a gruesome turn of events on the west coast of B.C. When police released the identities of two male victims of last night’s shocking triple murder. The names for the victims are Derrick Ashton and Jackson Penn. According to the report given, Derrick Ashton, a twenty-two-year-old bank teller, was living in the condominium where the killings took place. There is still no information on the connection between Penn, the building’s night watchman, and the other two victims. The identity of the female victim is still not being released to the public, but what the police have reported is that a substantial amount of the female victim’s DNA was found at the scene — the body itself is still reported as missing. We will continue to keep you updated on our top story as more information comes in.”
  The man who now took her place on the screen thanked his colleague with a falsely grave expression. Orin’s laughter began to rise quickly, blotting out the bland words, now lost from the TV screens.
  Still lingering with her back against the other side of the door, this was a sound far more pleasant to Siobhan’s ear than the electronic beat encasing the night around her.