Fantasy Novel: Whistlestop Chapter 20
The two vehicles left the forest camp in quick succession. The team split up, some traveled in the SE van and the rest rode with Eric and Michael. They agreed to meet at Xavier’s home to do the group debriefing. Everybody was speculating that Sam was going to terminate the investigation.
Xavier traveled with the SE team and sat in the seat behind Ted, the team’s driver. Ted was a man of many talents, one was his engineering know-how, but why he was team driver always mystified Xavier. He drove over the uneven dirt road as if he was behind the steering wheel of an all-terrain vehicle; the only speed he seemed to know was flat out. His passengers knew they were in for a bumpy ride and all hung onto the grip handles for dear life. Ted smiled broadly at Xavier in the driver’s mirror, his eyes were bright with amusement, “Enjoy the ride boys, enjoy the ride,” his braying laugh echoed around the vehicle.
“It’s only your engineering expertise that saves you from SC kitchen duty,” snapped Sam after his head almost hit the roof when the van hit a deep pothole.
Ted revved the van as soon as he reached the bottom of a hill and gunned it up the 45-degree incline. Halfway the van almost stalled and started to slide slowly downhill as the tires lost their traction on the slimy decomposed leaves on the forest floor. He quickly geared down and managed to squeeze the last bit of power from the vehicle to carry the van over the crest of the hill onto a tarred road. The silence of the smooth tarred road was deafening after the noisy bush-bashing they just endured.
“Wow, the dirt road has led us directly to the edge of Wolfville,” said Ted, his surprise mirrored on the faces of his team members.
Xavier’s inner wolf pounded inside his head, his mind’s eye seeing the images of the loggers’ mutilated bodies on the forest floor. “Joanne is in the City and far away from danger,” he said as a comfort to himself, hoping her fear would keep her away, but a refrain got stuck in his head, “Not safe.”
A few kilometers from where they left the forest they drove past a high boundary wall covered in creepers and tree branches that obscured the brickwork. Xavier pressed the fob in his pocket, and the hidden perimeter gate slid open.
Instead of the old driveway that sloped steeply to the bottom of the hill, they drove onto a large level paved area. The existing gradient was filled in, and the flat surface paved with old cobblestones. Ancient beech trees grew around the perimeter of the covered area like sentries guarding a treasure. The main entrance and four-vehicle garage were level with the paved area, and the rest of the house blended with the environment and was built into the hillside.
The van drove to one of the empty spots inside the garage and Eric’s SUV followed them from the road and parked outside, under a tree. He, Michael, and the two other SE Wolves trailed Sam and the rest of the team into the house.
A short passage led them into a large open plan living area, the kitchen, dining area, and lounge all part of the vast cavernous room. An 180-degree view of the woodlands and lakeshore was visible through the floor to ceiling glass folding that opened up onto a patio that ran alongside the house. The team settled in the overstuffed leather chairs and sofas and waited for Sam’s instructions.
“This is a fantastic house. You created a work of art. The change is remarkable,” said Eric admiring the view of the valley. “As teenagers, Annie and I used to fight whose turn it was to carry something up the steep slope.”
“You were friends with Joanne?” asked Xavier, startled, realizing that she has been a member of the pack since she was a child and not a recent addition as he assumed. “What happened to Joanne that she was scared of a man that was a childhood friend?” he asked himself. “Why is she not living with the Wolfville pack?” he demanded with his voice harsh with unease.
Before Eric could answer Ted jumped in with his usual tactless comments, “Wolfville does not seem to like their women, or what do I say chum?” his braying laugh grated on Xavier’s nerves, as his friend slapped his back. “Maybe they want a bachelor pack. I read that some buffalo bulls roam in herds,” said Ted and he went off on a tangent about these bachelor herds. Ted’s rambling gave Xavier an out before he said something that he would later regret.
Ted changed the subject mid-sentence and questioned Xavier on one of the new systems he designed for the house. While he answered Ted’s questions, Xavier walked to the kitchen and started the coffee percolator; soon the fragrant aroma of roasted coffee filled the room. After weeks of roughing it around the clock, decent coffee was just what they needed to remind them that they were part human. Xavier saw that Sam was deep in thought as if he waited for something before he would start.
“Do you know if there are any land available for purchase this side of the lake?” asked Sam turning his back on the view to face Eric.
Eric lifted his shoulders before answering Sam’s question as if he did not believe what he was saying, “Silas’ Estate Agency handles all the property transactions in town, you best ask him.” His free hand strayed to the back of Michael’s neck sitting next to him on one of the love seats.
“Okay, men let's finalize this so that we can all go home,” said Sam he moved to face the males seated around him. He stood with his legs were apart, and his hands clasped behind his back. “It was a godsend that the authorities believed our account about the attack on those loggers. The situation could have become unmanageable. Xavier what did you find?” asked Sam, the quiet strength in his voice, emphasized the importance of Xavier’s answer.
Xavier touched the scar on his temple before responding. He sat with his legs again stretched out, his knees locked to stop them from shaking with irritated agitation. “This wolf is an old hand at masking his scent and his tracks. I followed him to the edge of the State Forest, about 100 kilometers from the kill site. I could not pick up any discernable scent for a radius of about 50 kilometers after that.”
Sam looked pensive, and he stood pondering the information before he continued. Xavier knew the next phase of the operation was going to get tricky and Sam had to consider the tense relationship between Alpha Arthur and the Council. If they did not have Joanne’s permission to use her property, Alpha Arthur’s objection would have stopped any investigation. “The lack of evidence has made it pointless to continue our inquiry and with the authorities satisfied the SC decided to suspend further actions. One good thing that came out of this tragedy was the location where the attack took place. We have been looking for such an area to test some of the SE’s equipment currently being developed.”
Sam continued to explain that the SE Command sanctioned the establishment of a temporary testing camp in the general location of the kill site. He explained that the secluded area was hard to reach from the town but had the potential for easy access to the river system. “Ted, you will have a week to set up camp. The SE Sappers are arriving on the last train to Whistlestop, this afternoon.”
Eric stood up and said, “Alpha Arthur instructed me to confirm the final details we arranged with the SC. The non-negotiable request is that all outside SE wolves entering the territory must clock-in at the pack enforcers’ office.” He started to walk up and down and gestured to Sam to accentuate the urgency of what he was saying, “Our pack’s safety remains our overriding concern.”
Ted asked his usual salvo of questions on the operational requirements. Sam’s calm answers neutralized the team's excitement, but that changed as each team member’s mobile phone beeped. “That will be your orders and rosters from SE Command,” he said dismissing the team. The atmosphere in the room changed from lethargic disappointment to excited anticipation. The SE team members gathered in groups to look at their orders and to on speculate on the equipment to be tested.
With the men dismissed Xavier accompanied Eric and Michael to their vehicle.
“What’s your interest in Annie, I thought you were attracted to that young man you met at the school football game?” asked Michael with a puzzled look on his face.
“Nothing really, only she is my landlord, and I wanted to run something by her, a dull legal issue, that’s all,” said Xavier shrugging his shoulders indifferently.
“Arthur is also looking for her. I will let you know when we have found her,” promised Eric as he slid behind the steering wheel of his vehicle.
Xavier stood watching their SUV as they drove away. A sudden gust of wind blew in from the lake rustling trees noisily with sounds of dry leaves shattering and cracking twigs. He shivered and tried to ignore his troubling thoughts and the feeling of foreboding. He walked with determination towards the house eager to find out if his request for a leave of absence was approved.
He was surprised to see the SE team seated and waiting for him.
Last edited by Annamarth; 12-16-2016 at 05:35 AM..