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It had to have been murder

“I can heal him, but I will need your help,” I told the youth. “It’s bad, and I will need to use some of your energy.”

“How?” he asked.

I didn’t reply, but instead went to the wolf, and looked him squarely in the eye. “I will heal you, but I have to set the bone first.” He turned his face from mine almost at once, and took it not only as I sign that I was dominant, but also that he agreed. Now I turned to the naked boy. “What’s your name?”

“Josh.”

“Well, Josh, it’s like this. I need your help. The first thing we need to do is set the leg, and that’s assuming there is no crud in the wound.” I gave a careful scrutiny of the leg, without touching it. Fortunately it was clean enough for me, so I told Josh, “I want you to pull on his leg until the bone is back in and lined up properly. One swift tug should do it, but it will hurt him like blazes. So, while you do that, I will be doing my best to block the pain. I’ll tell you when, have you got that?

He nodded, so I asked, “Now what’s your friend’s name?”

“Doug.”

“Alright, Doug,” I said, gripping his forepaws. “You will be fine, and I’ll do my best to stop the pain.” Without waiting for an answer, I moved my hands to rest on his leg, above the break, and told Josh, “Ready now.” He nodded again, while his teeth started chattering. In the circumstances he was doing remarkably well. I let my healing move to the break, and once I had a good view of it through my gift, I said “Now!”

Josh pulled, and with his were strength, everything slipped back into place. “Good,” I said, as Doug whimpered. “Now take my hand.” I let his energy flow through me and into Josh via the hand still touching him. Thirty seconds later I let go, and grabbed Doug’s head, commanding him to shift, which he did. Being now stuck with two naked boys in the middle of a very cold night, not that it bothered me in the least, I asked, “Where are your clothes?”

“At home,” Josh said, “it’s about three miles away.”

“Better shift back, and get going then,” I advised. “I’ll follow.” I knew they had questions, but they would freeze otherwise. Doug’s leg didn’t seem to be giving him any trouble as he made his way, keeping up with Josh easily. When they got to their house, which was just outside the park, they went inside naked, so I followed. Past a small hall was a large living room that was warm and inviting. I slumped down on one of the many easy chairs to wait.

A couple of minutes later, they both appeared, fully dressed, and looking rather sheepish. “Thanks very much,” Doug said, “I really needed your help.”

“Call me Moon,” I told them. “I take it you’re brothers then, since you both live here.”

“Not just brothers, but twins,” Josh replied. “Do you mind us asking a few questions?”

“As long as you first answer mine,” I told them. As a dominant I would get mine in first, something they understood. They both dipped their heads in acknowledgement, and then sat side by side on a couch, leaning forward together. “What’s your pack?” I asked.

“Don’t have one, Miss Moon,” they parroted in reply.

“What about your parents?”

“Dead, we live with cousins who aren’t like us.” Doug said.

“But,” Josh volunteered, “they know.”

“How come no pack?”

“Nearest one’s the North Ontario,” Josh said, “We’re minors with human guardians. They can’t force us to join until we’re of age.” That I understood, as I knew all the rules we lived with, as dad had made most of them.

“Are your cousins home now?”

“Yeah,” Doug said.

“Will they mind if I bunk down in the barn?”

“They would be embarrassed,” Doug told me. “After healing me you can have the spare room. I’ll leave a note, so they won’t wake you.”

I decided that in the circumstances, and with a soft bed calling me after an exhausting night, that their questions could wait. “Thanks, I’ll answer yours tomorrow, point me there.” And so they did.

I woke up to the afternoon sun streaming through a window I hadn’t even noticed when I collapsed into my slumber. Checking the time, it was past three. I had slept for over ten hours; no doubt my body had needed it. My newly improved hearing telling me I was alone in the house, I took a shower in a bathroom I found, and generally freshened up. By the time I had finished, I heard someone arriving, so I sat and waited to see who it would be. It was the boys, looking slightly the worse for wear, and based on what they carried, just back from school. “That’ll teach you to go running around on a school night,” I told them with a straight face.

“Not fair!” Doug argued, avoiding my gaze. “If we hadn’t smelled you we would have been home in time to get enough sleep, but we couldn’t stop ourselves from following you. What was it?”

“I see it’s time for me to answer questions,” I told them. “What you smelled was the first shift pheromones of a female – me.”

“Your first?” Josh was shocked. I nodded, so he asked, “How old are you?”

Doug elbowed him in the ribs for that, but I was happy to reply, “I’ll be eighteen in a couple of months.”

“That’s a year older than us, and we been shifting since we were thirteen. Why so late?” Josh asked.

“Good question if you didn’t know,” I said, and then explained why.

“How did you do that healing thing,” Josh asked, “and why did you need my energy?”

“I can heal small things like flesh wounds using my own energy, without it draining me too much, but with broken bones, I would be wiped without help. Using a bit of yours let both of us remain functional afterwards.”

“So you are strong then?” Doug asked.

“I don’t really know how strong I am,” I told them. “In fact, now that I’ve shifted, I won’t know until I meet a wolf more dominant than I am.”

“But you must be pretty strong to be able to force us to shift. I never heard of that before.”

“Stuck here without a pack, there must be lots of things you don’t know about,” I said, hoping that question time was at an end. Whether they had more to ask was moot, as I could hear a car approaching, which short circuited their enquiries. “Looks like your guardians are home.”

Their cousins were a fortyish couple who clearly loved their charges, as the wife was all over me the moment she saw me. “Oh, how wonderful,” she oozed, as she did her best to crush me in a bear hug. “I really wanted to thank you for looking after Doug.”

“I had to, ma’am,” I replied. “”it was mostly my fault to begin with.”

“I’m Dean Hatton, and this is my wife, Linda,” the man said, extending his hand once I had been let go.

“Moon Forester,” I replied, “I do a bit of modeling.” I was a long way from trusting anyone with my real identity, especially as my failed kidnappers were wolves, and I knew pretty much zilch about the North Ontario pack. Nevertheless, I liked them on instinct.

“You will stay for dinner, won’t you?” Linda urged, and I couldn’t refuse, since it wasn’t a bad hideaway for the time being.

I insisted on helping Linda in the kitchen while she prepared dinner, as I expected she might like to have a female helper for a change, and I always enjoyed cooking anyway. “The boys eat a lot, don’t they?” was the way I broke the ice.

She laughed, “You wouldn’t believe how much…well you might,” she said as she remembered I was a wolf too. “So, what are you doing round these part?” she asked, putting a chopping board and several assorted veggies in front of me.

How to reply? “It’s complicated.”

“It always is with you lot.” Probably hoping I would say something more, she got out a huge haunch of meat – my nose told me it was some sort of deer – and started cubing it for a stew. When I wasn’t forthcoming, she said, “If you don’t want to talk about it, that’s alright.”

I sighed. I did need someone to talk to, and she was a sympathetic ear. “I can’t tell you everything, but I need to keep out of sight for a little while. There are some big bad wolves after me.”

That brought a grin to her face. “So cliché! Is it pack trouble, or because you are a female?”

“To be honest, I don’t really know yet, it isn’t as if I hung around to ask them.”

I saw Linda glance at the kitchen clock. It was a hokey one with a knife and a fork for hands. “Time for the news,” she said, as she turned on a TV high in a corner. I ignored it as I continued with my chopping.

We did our thing in a companionable silence for a while, as Linda’s attention was on the TV, and I was happy zoning out with my veggies. At least I was until I heard my dad’s name, then I paid attention.

“Jerry Hammersmith, one of the richest and most politically influential men in North America was killed in a freak accident yesterday in Umatilla County, Oregon when his car was knocked off a bridge into a river by a tractor-trailer whose brakes failed. He was in fact North America’s largest private landowner, not only owning over a hundred thousand square miles of mostly wilderness land, both here and in the US, but also significant office buildings in many west coast cities. Forbes had him at eighty-seven on their list of their Four Hundred richest people. He is survived by his Canadian wife, the former Joanna Hobbes, and a seventeen year old daughter.”

Linda had noticed that I had not only stopped chopping, but had gone very still, and asked, “Anyone you know?”

I took several deep breaths before answering, an obvious tell, and then admitted, “Yes.” When I didn’t elaborate, she simply kept on making the stew, and asked me to help with getting some spices out for her. After a couple of minutes of rather scattered thinking, I came to a decision. “Do you get cell phone reception anywhere near here?” We were a bit out of the way,

“You should be able to connect at Minden, it’s about five miles away, but you’re welcome to use our landline.”

“Thanks, Linda, but I’d feel better on a cell. I have people to call, and they may be able to trace any call back here.”

I could almost hear the gears clicking in her head, but she only said, “Good luck. The stew won’t be ready for an hour, so take your time.”

Twenty minutes later I was well away from their house, and called my dad’s lawyer, Hamish Burton. He was a human who had no idea about us, but was very sharp. I didn’t call his office number even though with the time difference it was still office hours. To be safe, I called his cell phone as it was unlikely to be bugged. It helped that my dad was his largest client.

“Moon,” he said, as soon as he heard my voice, “I’m so sorry. You know tons of people are looking for you? Are you alright?”

“Yes, Hamish, I’m fine, but some of those people looking for me are kidnappers, so you may not tell anybody you have spoken to me. Is that clear?”

“Yes Miss Hammersmith, it is. Now, what can I do for you?”

“Bearing in mind that his accident coincided with my attempted kidnapping, we should not assume that it was an accident. Now, have you heard from my mother?”

“Yes, but only to advise me officially, you see, I am his executor. Of course it gave me an opportunity to convey my condolences.”

“Thank you. Please don’t tell her either. I fear that these two events were part of an attempt to gain control over some or all of my father’s estate. I do not know exactly how my mother and I stand in relation to his will, but I would like you to bear that in mind when others make inquiries.” Of course it was a naked power grab, to gain control of the packs, and I had no idea at the moment who, or indeed how many different entities were behind it. I was sure that since dad had been so very powerful, no one person would be involved. It almost certainly had to be a coalition. The only real question was: how big? Being crucial to whatever was going to happen, I felt it a good idea to keep out of sight. One danger was that I would be forcibly mated. Another one was that I would simply be killed out of hand. I didn’t want or need to think beyond that. It was time to put in motion some of my father’s contingency plans. “Thank you, Hamish, I’ll be in touch.”

“Moon, one last thing, your father told me I had to go to his house tomorrow morning, and read a sealed statement to whoever was there. In fact he gave me a list of names to invite. I suggest you call a couple of hours after lunch your time and I’ll be able to update you.

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