tagNonHumanRose Ch. 21-24

Rose Ch. 21-24


"I'll be at the airport in sixty minutes. Call the pilots and have them get ready." I was already jumping out of bed, any good mood I had from last night was long gone now.

"They are being called now."

"Good, text or email me updates as they come in." I ran into the bathroom, quickly doing my business. I called Linda and Craig while I was brushing my bed head and trying to make myself a little more presentable. They were already up, the office had called them as well.

Gunny was standing by the small closet, looking for clothes. "What are you doing," I said as I came out of the bathroom.

"I'm going with you," he said.

"Oh HELL no." I grabbed his good arm and turned him so he was facing me. "You are still on bedrest, the doctor hasn't cleared you for normal activities, much less working or flying."

"I'm fine, Rose."

"No. You're going to follow the Doctor's orders. Plus, you are needed back home, and I need you back home. When Doc clears you, Josh and Charlotte need to get home. There's still a killer out there, our Pack is in danger, and our Pack needs you home." I got up on my toes and kissed him. "Do this for me, baby? I need to know the ones I love are safe."

He sighed, turning his head towards the door he saw Craig coming in. "And Gunny," Craig said, "If you don't listen I'll have Ella put alpha command on you AGAIN. You're starting to piss them off, and that's not a good idea."

I hugged him. "Go home and look over what they are doing for surveillance and protection. You're a damn sniper, you will know where someone would hide and what they should be looking for."

"Fine." He gave me a deep kiss. "Hurry back to me, and keep yourself safe, Rose. I'm not there to save you now."

"I'll be fine." I smacked him on the ass and walked out the door, grabbing my bag along the way. I was so glad I was flying the private jet, as I wasn't going to explain why THOSE things were in there. Gunny would be released soon, I didn't see me coming back here once he got home.

Craig and I got into the back of a Suburban, with Linda in the third seat behind us and two of the Gila warriors in front. As we pulled out, I saw another Suburban following us. "More security?"

The driver looked back at us. "Yes, ma'am. After the attempt on you, we don't go anywhere outside our borders without at least one warrior for each person we are escorting. You guys get more since you are a high value target. There are another six in the tail vehicle."

I looked over at Craig, suddenly nervous about Gunny driving back. He read my face. "I already talked to Robert about that. They'll be escorted back, similar to what we are doing."

I immediately felt better. "Craig, before we join the humans again, what are your thoughts on the investigation?"

He thought about how to say it. "I still don't trust the humans, Rose. No offense."

"What do you mean?"

"It's all just too much to believe. The number of women in the world with the skill and training to do what this woman has done and get away with it has to be so few I could count it on one hand. The fact that we are no closer to figuring out the shooter makes me wonder if there aren't people working against us."

My jaw fell open. "You think she has help on the inside?"

"Yes. Think about what was involved in just the attack on you, Rose. We didn't decide to have the press conference until late the day before, and normally it would be inside, in an enclosed space with security. There wasn't much time to do a lot of scouting, to find a good shooting position, to plan an escape route."

"There was time, though..."

"The cameras, Rose. There are cameras everywhere downtown. How exactly did this shooter not just get away moments after firing the shot, but avoid being caught by them?"

Linda spoke first. "You think someone helped her avoid the cameras, maybe even deactivated some so she wouldn't be seen."

He nodded. "Or when they were reviewing the tapes, they knew which one to look at and either erased a portion or just didn't enter the data into the database."

My mind was spinning, I couldn't believe it. "Why would someone help her?"

"Not everyone likes werewolves, and not everyone wanted the war to end. Alpha Renee was the catalyst for peace, she was the one the country rallied to when her mate was killed. She was the one who the President went to, who the Alphas rallied to. Without her, the entire peace process wouldn't have happened, and we would still be fighting- and losing- a war with the humans."

"Wait, it all began with her," Linda said. "The tape said, 'These deaths are all on her, she started it. She is the only one who can stop it.'"

"It can't be that simple, can it? They want the war to restart?"

Craig nodded. "It could be. Now that we are out, the Government knows where we are, who we are. Keep killing Pack members, set werewolves against humans, maybe some retaliate, or maybe humans decide to join in."

"So what do we do?" I looked at Craig. "We set up this whole task force so we could have wolves working side by side with humans, just to avoid the lack of trust."

"We use Josh and his hacker buddies, for one. I'm going to send him a list of people involved in the investigation, people at the FBI office and local law enforcement. They can do some searches and see if anything seems off."

"And we can send them the raw traffic camera video," Linda said. "Put the Packs on to watching it and writing down plate numbers, and compare it against the list the FBI compiled. If we find something missing, that might tell us not just who the killer is, but who they are working with."

"Do it," I said as I leaned my head back, pinching my nose. I didn't want to believe it, but I couldn't argue with it. We had a huge manhunt, all these people, all this technology, yet we couldn't figure out who the shooter was. We didn't even have a list of subjects.

The cars arrived at the hangar while I was still trying to figure out what to do next. Linda and Craig had been on their phones constantly, working with werewolves in the investigation and talking to Josh. We agreed to never speak about our suspicions around humans.

It didn't even seem weird to me that I was already seeing myself as Pack and not human, even though I hadn't changed yet. I think Charlotte felt the same way, in fact I knew she did, and she had only known her mate for a few days.

The FBI team met us at the plane; Rob, Melody, Luis, and Luke Thompson, the FBI profiler who had been assigned to the case. We were wheels up shortly after we arrived, drinking the coffee and eating the breakfast they had brought onto the plane for us. "What do we know about the new shooting," I asked.

Rob plugged his laptop into the projector and pulled up the most recent information. "The victim was Kirsten Ann Dunn, age 17, oldest daughter of a family of five. Killed in the kitchen of their house as she cooked pancakes. She lived in a rural area outside Wisdom with her parents and extended family on their farm."

"Wisdom? Is there a Pack there?"

"No," Melody answered, "It's a human territory. The nearest Alpha is in the Ozarks. I called him on the way here, he verified they are werewolves, lone wolves actually. No issues with them."

"Lone wolves? How?"

"It can happen," Craig said, "Especially if it is a large family with a somewhat dominant wolf. They have enough to give their wolves security, but not enough dominance to establish a territory. Sometimes they have had bad experiences in a Pack and just decide to stay on their own."

"So how did someone find out they were werewolves?"

"Social media," Melody said. "The victim was a 17-year-old girl, her Facebook page shows her in wolf form. Her stepfather is the werewolf; he met his mate after the war, she was a widowed mother. He changed his wife and older children right before Wolfstock."

"How did she do it?"

"Parked on a road about three hundred yards away, waited for her to wake up and go downstairs, and shot her through her kitchen window. The family heard the car driving away, but didn't see it. The area was rural enough that law enforcement didn't arrive for ten minutes. They found the Scrabble piece on the road." Rob pulled up the crime scene photos that had been sent; there wasn't much. The road showing where the piece was found, the piece itself (both sides), a view of the farmhouse from the road. He kept clicking through to the scenes in the house. The girl was very pretty, dressed in Capris and a T-shirt. The bullet had entered the center of her back and blew clean through her chest, killing her instantly.

"Did they recover the bullet?"

"Yes, it's consistent with our shooter." Melody was just as pissed as I was. "No leads, no cameras, no witnesses so far."

"Fuck, we're going to get killed on this one," I said. "Anything else we can do?"

There wasn't anything for a while, just tapping on phones. Finally, Craig showed me his screen. My eyes went wide, this would certainly help.

We landed in a nearby airport and were picked up by the Sheriff's Department. They took us straight to the crime scene, where the media circus was already gathering. We spent an hour going through the crime scene and talking to the investigators. There wasn't much we could add. Linda pulled me aside, it was time.

We went through the police tape to the area where the Sheriff was about to start his press conference. We waited as he confirmed the victim, the major details of the scene, and the connection to what was being called the "Scrabble Killer." He then turned it over to me. "Ladies and gentlemen, this killing spree cannot continue. There is someone out there who knows the killer. Someone who trained her, sold her equipment, saw her at the gun range, or talked to her on social media. That person hasn't come forward yet, and people are dying because of it."

I paused for a moment, then looked right into the camera. "I am announcing that the Packs are now offering a TEN MILLION DOLLAR reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the killer. Make no mistake, the FBI and the Packs will not rest until you are behind bars, and God help anyone who assists or hides her. Ten million dollars. Call your tips in to 1-800-FBI TIPS. Also, a $25 Amazon gift card will be awarded to the person who solves the Scrabble clue. Thank you for your time."

Author's Note: The ten million is fake innerweb currency, the gift card is real. Please don't call the real FBI, though.

Ch. 22

The reward caused the number of tips to pour in, which was good and bad. Good, because we got more leads, but bad because 99.99% of them were bogus and it took time and people to go through them all.

The trip was frustrating; the pressure on me to solve the case was building by the hour, but this woman had left nothing behind to lead me to her. The press was becoming a problem, and Linda couldn't control it. Press conferences became events covered by dozens of cameras, complete with shouted questions and outraged pundits. Coverage on news channels was wall to wall. There wasn't much new information, so most was 'experts' and coverage of the victims. The press was hounding the poor family, who was hiding out in their home behind police lines as they had to plan their daughter's burial.

I spent most of the ride back to the airport on the phone with the Deputy Director, who was not happy with the lack of progress. If not for Craig taking the phone and saying the Packs would not accept any other agent in charge, I would have been replaced already.

I was the sacrificial anode, I knew that. I could take the fall because my career was over anyway.

Linda and Craig had to work to keep my spirits up after that call. Then I got a text from Josh. "I NEED TO SEE YOU AND ALPHA, ALONE. DON'T MENTION THIS TO ANYONE ELSE."

I quickly texted back. "IS IT CHARLOTTE?"


I was seated next to Craig, so I showed him the phone; he frowned but nodded. It was times like this I was wishing I was Pack, because then we could talk mentally. It would be SO damn convenient. Now, Gunny being able to read my mind and emotions? Not so sure. I leaned up against Craig's shoulder and fell asleep as he kept working his laptop.

He shook me as we were on final approach to Albuquerque. The sun was just setting, and the mountains were beautiful. If I wasn't arriving to such a shitshow, it would have been better. Linda gave me a quick update; we weren't going to answer questions at the airport, but we would have an update in the press room in the Federal building conference room. Outside was too big a risk, and the normal press room wasn't near big enough for the media frenzy. The meeting was set in an hour, in order to give us time to talk to the team and gather the politically important people.

Most of them turned down the invitation. Politicians want to be associated with success, not failure.

We were driven to the building and parked underground. Luis went to his office, and we met in a conference room with the senior members of the task force. There was just as little there as we had gotten from the latest crime scene. We still had no leads from the Albuquerque traffic cameras; the team was now expanding it beyond the original ten-block radius.

Nadine and Nora gave an update on the database. They were making progress, it had over seventy thousand names in it already. They were tuning the search criteria to try and identify likely persons of interest; so far, they had identified over six hundred females who scored high enough to warrant further investigation. These were being farmed out to the nearest FBI offices for follow-up.

Finally, the agents that had been sent to the Gila Pack gave their update. "We've walked through her history with her and her Pack members, with an eye towards anyone who she killed or harmed who would have female survivors. Let's just say its quite a list."

"What do you mean," I asked. "Renee is a kind young woman."

The group started to laugh, Agent Murphy snorted loudly, his eyes rolling. "You don't have much history on her, do you?" I shook my head no.

I looked at Craig, he looked a little sheepish, like he had known and hadn't told me. It wasn't my fault, werewolf history wasn't exactly important to me before. Working with Gunny and Ella had been my first direct experience with shifters, and they were both panthers. "Renee first killed at age thirteen. Ella was visiting Alpha Renee and her family, their mothers were sisters, and the families were close. As they were driving, their group was attacked by wolves. They injured her aunt; Renee jumped in the driver's seat and ran over three of the attackers, killing them. They were from Packs in Minnesota, and what was worse, the Alphas didn't accept responsibility for the attacks. Her uncle, the former Johnson Pack Alpha, ordered them skinned and their bodies burned with the trash."

Oh God. "The families..."

"Yes, they weren't happy, even when they found out their Alphas were evil. Those men had mothers, sisters, mates."

"But those were other werewolves, and the shooter is a human."

Craig leaned back. "Before our existence was revealed, some werewolves found human mates but didn't fully claim or turn them. Not all Alphas allowed turned wolves in their Pack. It was better for the Pack and their wolf to be ignorant of our nature if we fear they will leave us or break the secret. At the time, revealing our existence to humans was punishable by death, both for the mate and the werewolf responsible for her."

"All right, what else."

"When the war started, she fought for her Pack. Even though she was only thirteen, she was the Next Alpha, second in command. She fought for five years, all the way to the cease fire." Murphy showed me a list of names, three columns, two pages single spaced. "These are all the war dead in her sector from the time she was active. She spent the last few years leading a team that performed surveillance, raids and asymmetric warfare. Even finding her first mate came with a cost, he was a downed F-15 Strike Eagle pilot. Her team shot down one of the two rescue helicopters, those were the last six deaths we could assign to her. By now, she was eighteen and widowed."

Craig picked it up. "Of course, Alpha Renee was a key figure in the peace treaty being pushed through. There were a number of people who didn't want it to be ratified, some even made threats. We've added those people to the database, but realistically, anyone who lost a family member in the war could blame Renee for finding a way to end it."

Crap. "What else?"

"Renee has killed two Alphas personally, and embarrassed another badly. Then there is Wolfstock, which was a driving force in establishing common laws among Packs." Joe pointed to another list. "You add in the half-dozen Alphas who lost their positions after the rule changes to the ones who just don't like the rules."

I put my head on my arms, I had no idea that a sweet young lady like Renee would have literally hundreds of people who might want her dead. I thought for a moment, then looked up. "The fact remains that the shooter is a human female of childbearing age. Focus on the war dead; it's far more likely than a werewolf with a human mate. I mean, how often does THAT happen?" Craig started laughing. "Present company excluded, of course."

When the laughter died down, it was time for the tip line. "We've received over ten thousand tips in the last two days," the supervisor said, "And we've classified them three ways. Level one is what we call strong leads, ones with enough detail behind them to warrant immediate follow-up."

"How many of those?"

"Eight hundred and twenty-four. Level two are possibles, we have over two thousand. Most of these are being cross-checked with the database, and if we get hits there, they get priority. Level three are the majority; not enough detail to be a strong lead, or something doesn't sound right. We are still feeding these into the system, but the database is set up to just check commonalities, Nadine doesn't give much credence to these. Still, you never know."

Linda poked her head into the room, it was five minutes to the press conference. I looked around the room. "All right, what do we want to emphasize in this conference other that the normal boilerplate 'we're conducting an active investigation, following up on all the leads, call in your tips' boilerplate?"


"Really, people? Nothing new to talk about?" I looked around the room, then stood up, put my right fist to my heart and said, "WE WHO ARE ABOUT TO DIE, SALUTE YOU!" I turned and walked out of the room, Craig, Linda and Luis joining me in the elevator. "I'm so fucked," I said.

"Aren't you glad we demanded you be in charge?" I glared at Craig, but I could see the strain on his face as well. I might have to answer to the Justice Department and others, but he had the Packs after him for results, and the Packs were the ones being hurt.

The doors opened, and we walked into the conference room. I ignored the flashes and the cameras as I took to the lectern, introducing myself and the other three for the record. "The full resources of the United States are being employed in the largest FBI investigation since the Unabomber. We are carefully screening and evaluating thousands of tips and items of evidence. Make no mistake, the shooter will be caught, and her reign of terror will end. Questions?"

Only about a hundred. I pointed at the reporter for CBS. "Agent Conspiell, we are well into this investigation and yet there is still no name, no sketch, no photograph of the subject. Is the killer that good, or are you that incompetent?"

I let out a breath, amazed that I could be so unlucky in choosing a questioner. "Your question is offensive to the hundreds of agents and investigators who are working non-stop to find this killer. We have determined these attacks had significant planning in order to avoid detection, leaving evidence behind and evading capture. Our job is to make this far more difficult, and I am confident we can identify the killer before she can strike again."

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