Fantasy Novel: Whistlestop Chapter 21
“What?” asked Xavier, he kept his face blank as he walked into the room.
“Something is off. I do not think you are telling us everything,” said Ted with the confidence many years friendship gave him, “What’s up?”
Xavier had such an impressive reputation as a tracker that he assisted other packs all over the world when they needed specialized tracking of either animals or humans. The SE saw his abilities as their secret weapon and one of the reasons the SE team sitting in Xavier’s lounge was so successful. The men had troubled expressions on their faces as they watched Xavier slowly walking towards them. It appeared as if he was vibrating with suppressed energy. Xavier studied the faces of his team members and saw that he would not be allowed to leave until they were satisfied with his explanation.
Xavier sighed, “If I cannot trust this team, who has had my back for many years, who can I trust?” He took a deep breath and he uttered the words slowly as if he could not believe what he was going to say, “There seems to be a connection between Joanne and the wolf that mutilated the loggers.”
The team was surprised into silence by his unexpected response.
“What makes you say that?” asked Gavin, as usual, the first with the questions. His analytical brain was unable to accept blanket statements, the cogs in his brain whirring away trying to find an answer.
“There was no scent to follow.”
“Nothing?” asked Ted shocked.
“How did you manage to track him for 100 km without a scent trail to follow?” asked Sam his eyebrows drawn together in a frown.
“Broken twigs and disturbed earth, the human way,” was Xavier’s indifferent reply.
“For over 100 kms?” asked Gavin surprised.
Ted had a smug look on his face as if to say only Xavier would have been able to achieve such a feat.
“Somebody in Wolfville must know about the wolf. There was evidence that a wolf has been living in those woods for years,” was Xavier’s short reply, “also, somebody tried to obscure the trail.”
“How, so?” was Gavin’s quick question.
“He tried to destroy traces of the other wolf, but I saw through his sloppy efforts. It seems the pack is unaware that the wolf’s essence is odorless, ” was Xavier’s calm reply.
“Our orders are unchanged. Find and neutralize the animal. This,” and Sam waved his arm at the forest outside the windows, “is his territory, and he will return once he feels safe. However, we all know the aborted search has only bought us time before there is another attack.”
“So, we are not out of the woods yet,” said Ted his face expressionless.
As one man the SE Team groaned. “That was terrible Ted,” said Gavin in disgust, taking a mock swipe at Ted laughing at their reaction.
Xavier sat on the bar stool watching his team members talking and planning their next move. His wolf was urging him to get moving and find Joanne, but his human side was hesitant. “What will I say to Joanne once I find her?” He hoped that he would be given the next week to search for her while Ted sets up the camp, as long as he knew she was safe for the time being he could focus on tracking the wolf, and maybe this whole mating dilemma would disappear in time.
“Xavier, you seem to have integrated into the Wolfville Pack, so for the time being, you are relieved of duty, but keep your ear on the ground. Report anything out of the ordinary to Ted.” Sam turned to Ted and said, “Ted, your friendship with Xavier should be cover enough if Xavier wants to report anything of value in person. Will you be able to contact each other without being observed or must we set something up before we leave today?”
“I’ll link one of the encrypted frequencies from the testing site with Xavier’s comms. That should be sufficient for immediate contact,” said Ted. Xavier handed him his cell phone and raised his hands in the air when Ted wanted to explain what he was going to do.
“Make it happen, we have only a few hours before we have to meet the last train at Whistlestop,” instructed Sam, looking at his watch as if calculating the time they have available.
“Boss, give me half an hour max, everything has already been set up for Xavier’s hibernation experiment,” said Ted as he grabbed his tool bag that was never far from his side.
“There is a pack run in an hour’s time, but with one thing and the other,” said Xavier shrugging, as if to say it was not very important to participate in pack events.
“Okay, men you have your orders. Those of you that are staying behind with Ted can move out towards the site, it is not very far from here as the crow flies. Ted, you collect the Sappers with the team van. Xavier will drop the remaining team members at the station on his way to the pack run. We need to create the perception that the search is over. Until further notice keep Michael out of this, as his loyalty will be with Eric.”
Xavier dropped Sam and three of the SE team members at the station and drove to the large public picnic area on the other side of the town. The open area had picnic tables and lush green lawns and large oak and plantain trees that acted as markers for the footpaths that lead from the open area into the woods.
Silas was eager to inform Xavier on his first pack run that the pack owned the forest area that stretched from the town to the border of the next county, away from the lake and the State Forest. The vast secluded area was the reason why they built the hibernation cabins and started the hibernation program that Xavier was planning to use. Xavier saw in his mind’s eye the large areal map in the pack’s meeting room when Michael explained how their hibernation system worked and the different sites used.
He parked his vehicle next to Eric’s black SUV and walked over to where the pack’s chief enforcer was giving orders to several burly men, the pack’s enforcers.
“Are your guests gone?” asked Eric when he saw Xavier standing at the edge of the group.
“Only Ted and Gavin are still here. They are meeting the Sappers.”
“You’re not part of the team setting up the new camp?” asked Eric with feigned indifference.
“No, it’s a Council Enforcers program,” said Xavier shrugging as if to say it has nothing to do with him.
Eric gave him a friendly pat on the shoulder, “Glad you could make it, we missed you these last weeks.”
“Why the extra security?” asked Xavier as he saw several enforcers being posted around the park.
“We have some new pack members, and we do not want them to get lost,” replied Eric as they walked towards the rest of the pack. About fifty men were milling about waiting for Ben, the pack Beta, to give them the signal that the run as started.
“Aren’t the women running?” asked Xavier surprised when he saw only men in the group.
“There was an incident, typical female shit, you know, one of new pack members said something to some of the old biddies about them outliving their usefulness, and they should realize it was time leave,” said Eric dismissively. He continued to explain Arthur told the women they were overly sensitive, and he did not have time for their imagined slights.
“Where are your Beta female, could she not sort this out?” asked Xavier surprised.
“That is another thing that is irritating us, Holly, our Beta female has all the young girls so busy with this Finishing School nonsense. It made it easier for us to split the women and children from our run,” said Eric proudly, as if he thought that was an excellent solution.
“So double duty for your enforcers?”
“Luckily no, the husbands and brothers took over that responsibility. Look, there is Charles, his daughter is one of the girls attending the Finishing School. He tried to stop Julia from going, but Holly would have none of it. She insisted that it was a good project for pack girls integrate smoothly into City living when they move away.”
“Arthur okay with this?” asked Xavier. It seemed strange to him that they were encouraging the girls to leave. “Would that not that put the pack’s the future in jeopardy?” wondered Xavier surprised.
“Oh, yes, he is working towards a system that would make the females calmer and silent, fewer emotions, you know,” was Eric’s calm reply. “We thought we could, later on, use some of the young girls to breed with, sometime in the future.”
Xavier remained stoic at that strange response and walked towards Michael standing on the edge of the main group.
“You also off the hook?” asked Michael implying that he also did not receive further instructions from SE Command.
Xavier nodded in confirmation and raised his eyebrow in the direction of the men standing with Michael as if to say, “Who are they?” Michael introduced them as two were new pack members. His wolf dismissed them as their scent was not familiar and were not part of the immediate threat. The other two were Wolfville pack members that moved back from other areas.
Xavier had seen George around town and remembered that George was a self-employed carpenter. The odors of turpentine and wood glue whiffed of the man like a cloak. Before he could move nearer to identify the scent of the other wolf or even get his name the signal was given that they should shift and be back for supper at the clubhouse by eight o’ clock.
The wolfs milled about as they sorted the run order, Xavier smelled the wolf that tried to obscure the tracks of the attacker, but he lost focus when Arthur butted him with his head. The Alpha wolf showed he wanted Xavier to run with him, an honor that could not be denied. Refusal would be seen as a challenge for the Alpha’s position.
Xavier’s acquiesced and paced himself so that he did not appear to be a threat to anybody. As usual, the larger men dismissed Xavier, as a scrawny and insignificant man. He encouraged the false impression as it gave him the opportunity to move about unobserved. As he loped with the pack, he quickly identified Silas as the wolf who tried to mislead him in the woods. To Xavier each wolf’s essence was unique, and he could effortlessly detect scents, even redolent or strong scents used to cover a particular odor.
“Why would Silas get involved in such a dangerous activity,” wondered Xavier as he gave himself over to his wolf. “Next time I am not allowing you to lose my mate,” growled his wolf aggressively.