Chapter 23

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Even though the path on Mt. Chocorua, the Liberty Trail, had been closed for two solid days, police and fish and game had found no other trace of what had really happened to the murdered college student. The search for evidence in the woods was scheduled to go on for the rest of the week, tomorrow two more groups of search dogs would be added to the already large groups of police officers, photographers, and Fish and Game officers slowly hiking up and down the mountain.

For the moment, one lone police cruiser sat idling at the entrance to the trail in an effort to keep curious kids and townsfolk away from the crime scene. The lone officer sat behind the wheel of the cruiser keeping watch while he willed himself to stay awake. He looked down at his dashboard clock and sighed, it was only three in the morning. His relief wouldn’t be there until at least six.

Letting out an exaggerated yawn, he unscrewed the lid to his coffee thermos. It was already his fourth cup of the night, and the way things were going he had a feeling he would finish off the entire thermos long before the end of his shift. In the second it took to look down at his thermos to pour, a dark blur streaked past his front windshield and disappeared into the darkness of the forest. He looked back up, coffee cup in hand, and settled in for another three boring hours of nothing just as the bushes next to his car stopped waving. This is the last time I volunteer for an extra shift overnight, he thought.

Just off the trail, a lone figure ran at an inhuman speed into the forest, slowing down just before coming upon the black and yellow crime scene tape marking off the area. Coming to a sudden and silent stop, he quietly stepped under the tape and into the small patch of forest where the college student had been found torn to pieces, being careful not to step down too hard and leave footprints as he walked around. He was able to see everything clearly despite the dark, and it didn’t take him long to discover the bloodstained patch of ground the body had been dropped on. Not that he needed to see, the smell of old blood was so overpowering that he could have found this place with his eyes closed. Bending down, he picked up a single stained leaf and put it to his nose, breathing deeply. It was definitely human. Suddenly, he was interrupted by the soft sound of crunching leaves as three large shapes slowly walked up to him, one in front, one on either side. The shape in front of him had made all the noise, and he knew it was on purpose. He knew they were more than capable of walking silently through the forest if they had wanted to sneak up on him. He looked up to see the shape of a very large pale white wolf slowly approaching. The wolf had its head down and ears back, deep growls came from its throat as it bared its teeth at the figure the moment he looked up. Its growls were joined by the growls of its two darker companions on either side, he ignored them. Instead he kept looking into the eyes of the creature that now stood in front of him. “Tell me, was it you,” the voice rang clearly in his head, like a sudden explosion of noise in a silent room. He continued looking the wolf in the eyes, and slowly stood up.

“No, I only feed, I don’t kill. And even you know I would never leave this much evidence,” he said, gesturing to the blood soaked ground around him. The growls subsided from the two wolves on his sides, but grew deeper and louder from the wolf in front of him. It took another step closer, a white ghost in a sea of darkness. It was much bigger than its two companions, its pale white fur unblemished by even a single spot of color. A rare breed, the figure thought to himself.

How can I be sure? I will not risk my pack or my home!”  The voice thundered in his head, sending the figure reeling while the wolf’s eyes burned into him, reflecting bright yellow in the faint moonlight between the trees, like a pair of headlights through a blanket of fog.

“Why would I have come here alone if it was me? The old hatreds are long in the past, and I have nothing to hide. There are others of my kind around, and I’ll take no responsibility for them, except the one. Still, I don’t believe it was one of them. I think the one whom I came for, the one I’ve been hunting for centuries, is back. This time, I mean to finish it.” He held his ground against the white beast, even though he knew he would stand no chance if it was to attack. Very few alphas of this kind existed, one was born maybe every century or two, but the ones that lived had the strength of an entire pack, and the memories of all their ancestors. There was only one way to settle this, and that would be to make use of those memories.

“Did you bring it then? If the scent matches then we will help you, it is our enemy as well.” The white wolf stood directly in front of him now, his head almost eye level with the figure standing before him.

“I have it.” He said with relief. He reached into a hidden pocket sewn into the inside of his jacket and pulled out a small and battered metal box. He had carried it for a long time, never letting anyone else know of its existence or the secret it held. It was made of pure silver and about six inches long, held shut by a lock so complicated that it took the locksmith over a year to make. A modern day locksmith would have trouble getting into it without destroying it, and locking the box forever. He took a small and intricate silver key out of another pocket and inserted it into the small hole in the front. A series of small clicks came as he turned the key a full circle one way to release the first lock, then pushed the key in further to another hidden slot behind the first and turned it fully back to its original position. A final click and the top popped open for the first time in many years.

“Be careful…” he whispered, and held the open box out so the wolf could smell the old and very delicate object inside.

The white wolf took a small step forward and smelled, the great yellow eyes closing in concentration, digging for a memory over two hundred years old. The two wolves on either side let out a series of nervous whimpers, they didn’t want to attack the figure that stood between them; but even more importantly they didn’t want to face what he claimed to be here to kill.

            After a moment that seemed to take a lifetime the wolf opened its eyes and stepped back. “The scent matches, we will help you... But I will want to know more about it, soon.”

            The figures eye’s widened for a split second, half out of relief and half out of fear. He had been waiting for this for a long time, now that the moment seemed near his apprehension for facing his old enemy returned. Still, he would not turn back now. Too much had been lost, too much needed to be repaid. He closed the box, turning the key fully back once, then pulling it out slightly and turning it fully back the other way, locking the box once again. He placed the key into one pocket and the box back into its hidden pocket. He looked at the large white wolf that had now stepped back and relaxed slightly.

            “It’s going to take more than just us. Can you call on others when the time comes,” he asked quietly.

            “I can, though, I will not lead them here blindly to a slaughter. They will know the danger, and come of their own choosing. We’ll see how many still hold to the old vow of our pack.”  This time the voice sounded ashamed, as it was forced to acknowledge the fact that the old ways of honor and promise faded away with the memories the younger ones no longer carried.

            “I wouldn’t ask anything else. I may be able to get others as well, but I can’t be sure. My order will only come if things turn truly dire for all of us. Although, if things turn out like before, many could die.”

            The three wolves stood up and started walking together back into the darkness of the woods. The white wolf looked at the two smaller wolves in turn, telling them something the figure couldn’t hear. They both nodded and ran off into the darkness. Just before the white wolf ran off to join them, he turned once more to the figure standing alone in the shadows of the trees.

“And the girl? What is your purpose with her?”

“I have my reasons, and they are my own. She can’t know what I am, it may ruin everything. Do I have your help with that as well?”

The wolf nodded. “The old agreement still stands. Don’t kill and you have our help, kill and we will handle things, and you, differently.”

With those words still ringing in the figure’s head, the wolf ran off into the darkness. He stood for a moment more, the smell of the wolves now overpowering the smell of old blood. Reaching into his coat, he touched the small silver box one more time. Although his and their bloodlines were traditionally enemies, he was in truth glad to have their help. This time he at least had an idea of what he was up against, and this time things would be planned accordingly. He just hoped they would come out of it alive.

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