Trying to cover the fact that he was rattled, Gerard attempted a change of subject, by asking, “Where will you be going, then?”
“I’m not sure. To tell the truth I’ll probably work it out as I go. Somewhere unexpected where I’m not going to run into any wolves. I need a good place to chill and think. It’ll come to me.”
“I’m coming with you, right?” he asked, making it sound like a done deal.
Decisions, decisions. “Yes, you may. We’ll be on my Harley, and you have to understand that I may have to dump you at any time.” I looked at my watch. “You have fifteen minutes to tie things up and get ready.”
We were on the road less than an hour later, with a brand new roller bag attached to the back of the bike, which held a few important things. Gerard was newly decked out in leather gear, getting it had swallowed half the time. I really didn’t have a clue where to go except it needed to be a long way from Ottawa. I headed West, with the intention of either crossing over to the US at Buffalo, or continuing towards Winnipeg. As long as I didn’t know where I was going, I didn’t see how my adversaries could make a good guess as to where I was headed either.
In the end we stopped in Stratford. It seemed as good a place as any, and we could better decide where to go after a good night’s sleep. Once Gerard had booked us into a motel, we went out to eat. Of course he wanted a steakhouse to satisfy his carnivorous tendencies, so I let him have that, as there was no way his other appetites would be satisfied tonight.
When we were safely tucked into a corner booth, and had ordered, Gerard called to check on his prisoner. He hadn’t spoken, but his men had identified him as a member of the Louisiana pack. Interesting, but hardly damning information, since it didn’t tell us who he was working for. However, because Louisiana was one of the packs that hadn’t had an incident around the time of dad’s murder, it was a snippet that could become significant eventually. Business over, Gerard grabbed my hand across the table, saying, “I’ve been waiting a long time for this.”
“What?” I asked, pretending to be clueless. “You’ve been salivating over the idea of a steak dinner all day?”
“Now, now,” he replied. “I know you don’t mean that. Holding onto your tight abs for hours without being able to do more than rub your leathers has been rather testing.”
Knowing he really couldn’t help himself, I tried to damp down his ardor. “How old are you anyway?”
“If you’re trying to imply that I want to scoop you out of your cradle, you’re right, but you have to be willing. You must know that there is a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’ about you that is almost irresistible.”
Before I could reply, our steaks arrived, which was a useful diversion. Once our waitress had come and gone a couple of times, bringing condiments, and generally hovering over Gerard, I managed to answer him. “You wanted to come, and I know you have trouble turning off your instincts, but the next few days are going to be so fraught that I can’t afford not to have a clear head.” I didn’t want to be unkind, but he needed to damp it down and focus. He got the message, and I rubbed it in by paying the check myself. He behaved after that. Especially when I told him which bed was his and which was mine
The next morning, since he had bitched about my abs, I let him to drive the bike, while I held his waist. This allowed him to choose our breakfast spot, and he stopped by a restaurant between towns. It was popular, at least if the parking lot was any indication, and had a rustic look about it.
As soon as we were inside, it hit us: wolves. What were they doing here? We were nowhere near any pack’s territory, and from the varied assault on our noses, there had to be several of them. I knew neither Gerard nor I was bothered by a few rogues, but I was glad I had routinely damped down my own smell. Now was not the time or place for a confrontation. Gerard was putting out Alpha waves, so I decided to let him handle any interactions.
We had a surprisingly good meal, and we were left alone until we had finished eating. That was when another table was pulled up beside ours and a big group surrounded us. “Welcome,” the man who was clearly the leader said. “I take it you are passing through?” It was said in a strangely neutral tone, rather as if he didn’t know what to make of us.
“Yes,” Gerard told him in a quiet voice. “We just stopped to eat.” Trying to keep things comfortable and non-confrontational, he introduced himself, saying, “Pleased to meet you, I’m Gerard,” as he extended his hand for a human style greeting, while staying seated.
“Pleased to meet you too,” the leader almost growled. He was by far the biggest of them, at least six foot six, dark and hugely muscular. Intimidation looked to be his m.o. He left Gerard’s hand alone, still floating in mid-air. “And who is this delectable morsel?” he asked, ramping up his disdain of Gerard, and focusing on me.
Two can play that game, so I looked over my shoulder, and seeing an overweight fortyish waitress with a coffeepot, I nodded in her direction. “That your type?”
His expression changed immediately to one of fleeting surprise that morphed instantly into anger. Good, I had him off balance already.
Stretching his long arm across the table, he attempted to grab my hand. So not happening. “Do you have a name?” he asked in his gruff, overbearing voice.
“As far as I know,” I responded lazily, “do you?” This was getting to be fun. A quick glance around showed that his fellows were either shocked, or trying not to laugh. It appeared that nobody had stood up to him in a while. It was time to defuse the situation before it degenerated into violence. This was clearly a small group of unaffiliated, as we called them. Others might call them rogues.
“No more games, little girl,” the big guy said while standing. “We haven’t seen a female in a long time, and we need your company.”
Now I was getting annoyed. “If you could use better manners, you might have a little more success.” He was about to lose it, even in such a public place, so it was time to do something. There was a waitress approaching behind him carrying a tray with several plates and a carafe of orange juice on it. She appeared to stub her toe and the tray and contents hit him squarely on the back. Gerard immediately caught my eye while everyone else’s attention was on the big man. Almost every server and busboy in the place converged on him trying to make sure he was alright. It was quite a scene. He was at least a regular here, and might even have a slice of the business. More than that, I was excited that my first telekinetic attempt had been a success.
While the attention was off us, we slid away. It was one of those places where you paid on the way out. I quickly dropped a fifty at the cash desk, way more than was necessary, and pointed to our table, saying, “The change is for our server.”
We were already on the bike, putting our helmets on, when a young man caught up with us in the car park. Taking in our bike, I could see him visibly swallow. “I was going to ask if I could come with you,” he managed, “but that doesn’t seem possible now, does it?”
I made a snap decision. Nobody else had come out to chase us, but I was sure they would soon. A cab was parked nearby, with the driver killing time reading a newspaper. I pulled out some cash, and stuffed it into his hands, saying, “Get him to follow us to a place we can talk.”
Twenty minutes later, we were in a Tim Horton’s. Once Gerard had got our coffees, I said to the youth, “Tell us about yourself.”
His name was Mickey, and it took him a while to get going, as he couldn’t stop himself looking up every time a new customer came in. Eventually he got it together, and said, “I’ve been with Barry for a couple of years now. It used not to be too bad, even though there aren’t any girls wih us, I mean girls like us. Lately though, he’s been acting up, as if he’s much more important than he is, and has turned rather nasty. I can see things getting worse, so…”
He was struggling, so I asked, “What about your parents?”
“Mum’s human, and I guess dad was a one night stand, as she never mentions him. He had to be a wolf.” That was how it worked. You had to have wolf genes to be a wolf.
This was one way that wolves popped up now and then outside the pack structure. The other main one was when wolves left on their own. Sometimes they got swept up into little groups, or stayed under the radar on their own. Something struck me, so I asked, “Tell us what this Barry guy has been doing.”
“Bragging for one,” he said rather disgustedly. “He’s been telling us that he’s going to be getting a lot of money; in fact he’s been throwing rather a lot around already. Took a couple of the older guys with him and left for a week or so. First time was a month ago, second was last week. When he came back that time, he’d changed. Bought a slice of the restaurant where we met. Says things are going to be different, and we’ll become part of a pack.”
Gerard and I looked at each other. “Did he say which one?” he asked.
“No, he said we’d have a choice, but I think what he really meant was that he would have the choice, and we all would have to go with him.”
That was so wrong, but I didn’t have the time to educate him.
Gerard and I exchanged glances. It was quite likely that they had been hired by the forces arrayed against me, whoever they were. Using a thuggish type like Barry, who was outside the pack structure made sense if they were out to create mayhem and confusion. We needed to question him. Easier said than done. First, however, I need to deal with Mickey. “We think you should go and spend a little time with a real pack before deciding which one to join on a permanent basis.”
Gerard pulled a card out of his wallet, and said, “If you go to this address, and tell them that Gerard told you to ask for Jacques, we’ll look after you.”
Pulling out some cash discretely, I added, “It isn’t close, so this should help you get there. Now,” I said, turning on the dominance, “don’t be an idiot and go home first.”
“This place is in Quebec,” he stuttered, having looked at the card. “Will I have to learn French?”
“What did you expect?” Gerard asked. “Barry wouldn’t be caught within a hundred miles of any pack lands. You should call yourself a taxi right now, just in case he finds us. And you should learn French anyway; a second language is always useful.”
He got up, and pulled out his cell to phone a cab. That was when Barry showed up, with several friends.
“Don’t worry, Mickey, I can handle him,” I said, motioning him to sit back down.
Standing, I waved at him. “Barry, there you are,” I greeted him, raising my voice enough to be heard by normal people over the hubbub, and sounding enthusiastic. “Just the person I wanted to see.” If that didn’t surprise him, I didn’t know what would. After all I was pretty sure he wouldn’t misinterpret my camaraderie as flirting. There was a vacant table next to us, and he came over and sat in the spot nearest to me. As soon as his backside hit the chair, and before he had a chance to speak, I said, “I hear you’ve been a bad boy, and I want to know who you’re working for.”
I could tell he was no Alpha, but he was what we call an enforcer type. That meant he was physically very strong, loyal and focused on his job. As to being strategic thinkers, that wasn’t their thing. He reacted as I expected, and played to his strength. Standing, He took hold of my arm, saying, “You will come with me.”
“Actually,” I told him, standing as well, and pulling him towards the exit, “You will come with me.” He really didn’t want to make a scene where loads of humans could see, so he stayed with me until I reached my bike. “Hop on,” I told him. When I saw that he wasn’t so keen, I made it simple for him, “You did want to get me alone, didn’t you?” Since he still wasn’t on board, I played the ‘you are macho’ card, which his type always fall for. “Surely you aren’t afraid of being alone with me, are you?” No, I didn’t bat my eyelashes. That did it though, and he was right behind me, trying to get closer than my leathers allowed. I would get my revenge later. At least he was sensible enough not to let his hands roam too high.
I took him into the first decent sized stretch of wood that I came across, and maneuvered the bike into a clearing. Parking the bike, I flatly told him, “You are involved in something much too big for you.” That was when he made to grab me, and I let him. Still maintaining my perfect calm as he toppled us into the grass with me underneath, I simply continued, “Who’s pulling your strings?”
“I don’t care about that,” he growled, “It’s been a long time since I had a female wolf, and humans can’t take the rough stuff I like.” That was when he noticed the sharp claw I had sprouted, and which was drawing blood next to his jugular.
“I just need a name,” I told him calmly, “and I’ll let you live.”
Predictably he morphed into his wolf form, shredding his clothes. That gave me a chance to get up, and brush myself off. As expected, he came at me, leading with his snout, which I caught in my hands. Not knowing I had the power to force him to shift back, he made the classic mistake of licking his chops while he anticipated his conquest. Seconds later, he was back being human and naked. I, however, now sported a full hand of sharp claws, which I used to bloody effect. “As I said, just give me a name.”
“Wha…what are you?” he asked from the ground.
“All you need to know is that I am way more powerful than you. I mean you are not even Alpha. Now spill.” Did I want to kick him with my Doc Martens? Hell yeah, so I did. Actually several times, as that was not only what he expected, but respected.
“Horace,” he eventually croaked.
“What did you do for him?”
By now he had given up, and said, “Took a trip to Montana and blew up an outside gas tank. Took a wall down and obliterated our scent.”
I had what I wanted, so I got back on the bike. Pulling up beside him, I told him, “If you lied, you are dead.” It wasn’t that I would kill him, it was what he understood.
Back at Tim’s, Gerard was waiting in the parking lot with Barry’s friends. I didn’t see Mickey, so he must have taken my advice and left. “Barry is a couple of miles down the road, naked and bloody,” I told them. He’ll be fine by this evening. Without Barry to lead them, they seemed a bit clueless, so Gerard swung up behind me and off we went.