Fantasy Novel: Chapter 24
Xavier stormed past Winslow’s assistant’s desk and thrust the wooden door open. He entered with such drive that the panel banged against the wall. A loud WHACK echoed around the office and was followed by another boom as the door slammed shut.
The lawyer’s office looked like it was part of a museum. Winslow sat at his massive executive desk, made from partridge wood. The man sat with his back to the window, and the desk was positioned in such a manner as to give the lawyer the advantage of the bright light behind him. The large wooden rectangle had a plethora of drawers at the business side of the desk, and two small cupboards formed the back legs of the wide table. One wall was covered with floor to ceiling built-in bookshelves, stacked with law books and random antique office equipment. A round conference table was set one side of the room, and the floor was covered in Persian rugs. As usual, the office smelled of furniture wax and old dusty books.
“Why have you canceled my appointment?” snarled Xavier his words clipped and measured, anger pulsed from him in waves.
Surprised, Winslow’s head shot up at the sudden noise, and glowered at Xavier, raising his eyes from the document file on his desk.
“Why have you interfered with my appointment at the Aging Department?” Xavier repeated the tense words, his voice hoarse with emotion.
Already his immediate plans to find Joanne and to calm his wolf was scuttled when Ted emailed the list of the people working at the Centre for Families. He cursed his bad luck when he saw John Baker’s name at the top of the sheet. JB was his late wife’s boss and a family friend. They saw a lot of each other while she was still alive, but Xavier avoided his deceased wife’s life like the plague. Because he reverted to his real appearance, he has to be aged by the Aging Department before he could go, in case JB recognized him. That meant an hour or so’s torture at the Aging Department to alter his perceived age, to a man in his seventies.
“What is your business with Joanne White?” asked Winslow in response. The lawyer leaned calmly back against his large black leather chair, twirling the fountain pen in his right hand, waiting for his friend’s answer. His eyes were bright with anticipation.
Xavier took deep breaths and stared through the window behind Winslow. If he admitted that Joanne was his mate, the decision would be final, and he would be forced to accept the inevitable.
“Yes!” shouted his wolf “Tell him.”
Xavier could feel his wolf pushing against his wall of reluctance.
For months everybody was forever in his way, and frustration made the grip on his temper perilous. If there was a possibility that Joanne was his mate, he should discuss it with Winslow to ensure smooth contact, but for him, this was a very private matter and nobody’s business. All he wanted to do was see that the woman was safe, sort out the problem of the murdered loggers and decide in his own time if he wanted to accept Joanne, to take a decision on the way forward and act accordingly. But not under the interested glare of all and sundry.
“In any case, are you not still busy hunting for the wolf that killed those loggers? I would have thought that has priority, not for you to go off on a whim after somebody you do not have any interest in. Or do you?”
Winslow’s many questions irritated Xavier, and he ignored his friend’s probing with a dismissive wave.
The bell of the old fashioned rotary phone on the lawyer’s desk started to ring shrilly, the noise dampened somewhat by the wooden furniture, absorbing the echo. The tone echoed around the room, grating Xavier’s nerves. He put his hands over his ears, and growled, “Urgh, when are you going to throw that thing out?”
Winslow raised his eyebrows and gestured him away before he answered, frowned and rubbed his free hand over his thick brown hair smoothing it down.
“Yes, the files are with me. No.” he listened for a few seconds and replied to the request, “I do not care. I am busy with it. Tell them to take a flying leap,” the man waited impatiently while the person on the other line talked to somebody. “Fine, send them to my office.”
“What is going on in Wolfville? Arthur wants to see your lease agreement?” asked Winslow and sighed wearily. He stacked the files he was working on neatly in a pile and pushed them into the top left-hand drawer of his desk and pressed the locking mechanism of the writing desk, securing the files.
“So, you need to go. Arthur is on his way to my office. It would be better if you are not here when he arrives,” ordered Winslow, urging Xavier to leave.
“No,” Xavier glared at the man, folding his arms in front of his chest, staring like a naughty child at Winslow, who threw his hands in the air in frustration.
A few minutes later Winslow’s assistant opened the office door, “Alpha Arthur is here, you are expecting him?” she asked with a frown.
“Yes, send him in,” sighed Winslow. He stood up and walked towards Arthur and stuck his hand out in greeting, successfully blocking the Alpha’s access to his desk. Behind Arthur, Cyril walked in, his eyes stretched in surprised to see Xavier standing in the office. Charles brought up the rear of the delegation, his hands twitching nervously at his sides.
“What is he doing here?” questioned Arthur, his voice forceful and aggressive, and pressed his lips together in a tight white line.
Winslow assumed his Senior Council demeanor and moved to the conference table that stood to one side in his corner office, and indicated to the chairs.
Xavier pulled the chair in front of him and sat down, not answering the question, with the air of somebody that had the right to be there.
Winslow exhaled and lifted his shoulder and said with resignation, “Please, take a seat. So, what seems to be the problem?”
Cyril, the lawyer that organized the lease agreement for Xavier, opened his briefcase and took out a folder with documents, cleared his voice and said, “As Xavier’s agent I requested a copy of his lease agreement on the property in Wolfville. Alpha Arthur wanted a copy for his pack’s records.”
Xavier stared in disbelieve at the man that was supposed to be his solicitor and lifted his eyebrow in inquiry. “Without informing me?”
“You insisted that all copies be lodged with the Council’s notary office and you did tell Alpha Arthur to contact me about your lease,” said Cyril the words rushing out, his voice raised in defense. “I thought you were still with the Special Enforcers investigating the incident in the Wolfville woods and would be too busy for something so trivial.”
“I am not sure why you are involved Winslow,” Arthur wanted to know, unimpressed to be sidelined in the issue he wanted to be resolved quickly. “Domestic pack issues is not the business of the Shifter Council’s most senior lawyer.”
“I see,” said Winslow in a vague lawyerly manner and drew a yellow legal pad on the table towards him.
Cyril cleared his throat and began with determination, “Alpha Arthur is here representing Charles, the ex-partner of Ms. White. He feels that he, that is Charles should have access to the property Xavier is renting,” Cyril continued in a hurry when Xavier glared at Charles baring his teeth. “Charles also wants to claim his share of the rental income Ms. White has received to date.”
“So, you represent Charles, Ms. White’s ex,” asked Winslow his eyes focussed on the Alpha and then looked across the table to where Charles was sitting, the disconcerted man’s eyes nervously darted between the men around the table.
“Yes, and the Wolfville Packs interests in this matter. The relationship was so quickly dissolved that important issues were overlooked,” said Arthur and pointed his chin at Charles. “He got custody of the children but no child support.”
Winslow touched the screen on his tablet and called up a document.
“The burden on Charles has been significant,” continued Arthur, his attitude hostile. “We want Annie to come to an agreement about her property and her children.”
“Mmmm,” mused Winslow as he contemplated Arthur’s request. “So, I have been searching a while for Ms. White’s contact details in Wolfville, Alpha Arthur. Would you be able to provide me with her address? I forwarded a request to your Head Enforcer some time ago, but he has not yet sent me the information. There has been a concern lodged that some of the females in some packs have been pushed aside and are homeless. You know our policy on the risk homeless pack members poses to the shifter community as a whole.
I also need to know the quality of accommodation arranged for those shifter females, as well as their income level and job security.”
“It cannot be my pack, my people are all safe, and well looked after,” insisted Arthur in defense and stared across to Charles to answer.
“I do not know where she is. You know Silas fired her,” said Charles with hesitation, in a high-pitched voice.
“So she could be homeless?” asked Winslow with a frown.
“She has been avoiding pack gatherings,” said Alpha Arthur, as if that was her fault that he did not know where she was.
“Is she scared of the pack members?” asked Xavier with quiet outrage.
Winslow frowned at Xavier, giving him a non-verbal warning to stay out of the conversation. Xavier glared back, uncaring. Winslow raised his hand to focus the attention back on him.
Arthur ignored Xavier and looked at Cyril who fidgeted as if his chair was getting hotter by the minute.
“Mmmm, Xavier’s rent is her only source of possible income, and you want your share? Interesting, interesting,” Winslow’s voice changed, and a hard edge crept in when he looked at Charles. “I would also like to see receipts of payments you made towards schooling, and so on.
By the way, congratulation on Jakes’ full internship and scholarship from the Siviliculture Institute, it is such a prestigious bursary, few shifters are accepted into the program.”
Charles’ eyes slid slyly to Arthur and then looked down.
“So, Jakes,” Winslow continued pretending he did not see the glance, “is no longer your responsibility or in need of maintenance payments,” smiled Winslow, his eyes hooded as he looked at Charles, “and your daughter Charles, she is only fourteen, I believe.”
Charles merely nodded still looking at the table in front of him.
“I heard the young girls in your pack are sent to the City for a modeling course, is that right?” Winslow continued as he wrote down some notes on his legal pad. “According to my records, she is being sponsored by some of the mothers. So, no cost there for you then Charles? Alpha Arthur, does your pack still sponsor all the children’s schooling costs?”
Arthur pressed his lips together and did not answer the rhetorical question, all packs pay for the education of their young.
“So Charles, what do you want Ms. White to pay, the child’s food and board. How much can that be?”
Charles looked at Winslow like a fish out of water, his mouth opening and closing with no words coming out. He turned in desperation to Arthur, barely brave enough to look at the dominant man.
Before Arthur could react, Charles’ words came rushing out, “Paul, my partner said that it was a waste of time and money for girls to get an education or to attend the finishing school. All females are only good for one thing.”
The room became deathly silent, and Alpha Arthur’s eyes were shooting daggers at the man next to him. Charles seemed unaware of the people around the table’s reaction.
“Is that so, and what may that be?” asked Winslow his eyes squinted in narrow slits.
“As incubators of course.”
“Even young ones?”
“Especially young ones, they can still be bent to your will.”
Xavier jumped up. His chair crashed to the polished wooden floor. Before he could lunge at the startled man sitting across him, Winslow grabbed his arm.
“This has got nothing to do with you, calm down,” exclaimed Winslow as he tugged at Xavier’s arm.
Xavier turned to Winslow in disbelief, pulling his arm out of the lawyer’s death grip.
“Charles is exaggerating. Our young girls are important to us,” stated Arthur after a moment's hesitation.
“Yes, as what?” asked Xavier with a sneer.
“So, Xavier this is not your concern, but Alpha Arthur’s. Do you have a question for me before your leave?” prompted Winslow, urging him towards the door.
Xavier cleared his throat as if he was getting rid of a bad taste in his mouth, took a breath and said in a slow and controlled manner. “I do not want uninvited pack members on my property, especially when my hibernation starts. I want my risk clarified and do not want to be held accountable for what happens on my land.”
“It is not your land,” shouted Charles in frustration, “Paul, and I should be there, not you.”
This time Xavier controlled his anger, but snarled through his teeth, “Not while I have a valid contract.”
“So Alpha Arthur, what is your legal opinion on this issue?” asked Winslow with feigned interest.
“The property deed will show who the legal owner is, but the document is missing. It has been lost since Jake White’s death seventeen years ago.”
“So many interesting requests,” mused Winslow, nodding his head in agreement. “Well, luckily for you Xavier I recently had a look at your lease agreement. Yes, all shifter laws apply, so no uninvited guests, regardless of who owns the property. Cyril, you did such an excellent job lodging the original with the notary office here at Council,” congratulated Winslow. “So, Xavier, you can relax and go and report to Major Sam,” said Winslow forcing Xavier to acknowledge that he had to leave. “The rest is a private matter between Ms. White and Charles, and nothing to do with you,” warned Winslow. “The pack leadership has the responsibility for the wolves. You have to stay out of it.”
Xavier glared at Charles ready to punch him in the face and slowly turned his blazing eyes at Winslow, lifted his left hand in a salute, turned around and walked out of the room. The man stopped outside the door, in front of Winslow’s assistant’s desk and pulled a phone from his pocket. With deliberate precision, Xavier keyed in a number on his cell, and turned around and raised his voice to make sure the males on the other side of the door could hear him clearly.
“Michael, this is Xavier. Does your company still offer the service contracts?” he waited for Michael’s reply and continued with his request, “Yes, the top of the range product, the body must disappear. Thanks, will send you the details.” He looked at Charles and winked. Alpha Arthur and Charles both knew that Michael’s service contracts were a euphemism for an assassination order.
In the silence that followed, the men around the table stared at each other in shock.