Home > On the Prowl (Alpha & Omega 0.5)(7)

On the Prowl (Alpha & Omega 0.5)(7)
Author: admin

He'd never been on Chicago's elevated train before, and, if it weren't for a certain stubborn woman, he wouldn't have ridden one this time. Though he admitted, if only to himself, that he rather enjoyed it when a rowdy group of thugs disguised as teenagers decided to give him a bad time.

"Hey, Injun Joe," said a baggy-clothed boy. "You a stranger in town? That's a foxy lady you have there. If she likes her meat brown, there's plenty here to go 'round." He tapped himself on his chest.

There were real gangs in Chicago, raised in the eat-or-be-eaten world of the inner city. But these boys were imitators, probably out of school for the holidays and bored. So they decided to entertain themselves by scaring the adults who couldn't differentiate between amateurs and the real deal. Not that a pack of boys couldn't be dangerous under the wrong circumstances...

An old woman sitting next to them shrank back, and the smell of her fear washed away his tolerance.

Charles got to his feet, smiled, and watched their smugness evaporate at his confidence. "She's foxy, all right," he said. "But she belongs to me."

"Hey, man," said the boy just behind the one who had spoken. "No hard feelings, man."

He let his smile widen and watched them shuffle backward. "It's a nice day. I think that you should go sit in those empty seats up there where you see your way more clearly."

They scuttled to the front of the car and, after they had all taken a seat, Charles sat back down next to Anna.

There was such satisfaction in his face when he sat down that Anna had to suppress a grin for fear that one of the boys would look back and think she was laughing at one of them.

"That was a prime example of testosterone poisoning," she observed dryly. "Are you going to go after Girl Scouts next?"

Charles's eyes glinted with amusement. "Now they know that they need to pick their prey more cautiously."

Anna seldom traveled to the Loop anymore  -  everything she needed she could find closer to home. He evidently knew it better than she did, despite being a visitor. He chose the stop they got off on and took her directly to a little Greek place tucked in the shadow of the L train tracks, where they greeted him by name and took him to a private room with only one table.

He let her give her order and then doubled it, adding a few dishes on the side.

While they were waiting for their food, he took a small, worn-looking, leather-bound three-ring notebook from his jacket pocket. He popped the rings and took out a couple of sheets of lined paper and handed them to her with a pen.

"I'd like you to write down the names of the members of your pack. It would help if you list them from the most dominant and go to the least."

She tried. She didn't know everyone's last name and, since everyone outranked her, she hadn't paid strict attention to rank.

She handed the paper and pen back to him with a frown. "I'm forgetting people, and other than the top four or five wolves, I could be mistaken on rank."

He set her pages down on the table and then took out a couple of sheets with writing already on them and compared the two lists, marking them up. Anna took her chair and scooted it around the table until she sat next to him and could see what he was doing.

He took his list and set it before her. "These are the people who should be in your pack. I've checked the names of the ones who don't appear on your list."

She scanned down it, then grabbed the pen back and marked out one of his checks. "He's still here. I just forgot about him. And this one, too."

He took the list back. "All the women are gone. Most of the rest who are missing are older wolves. Not old. But there's not a wolf left who is older than Leo. There are a few younger wolves missing as well." He tapped a finger on a couple of names. "These were young. Paul Lebshak, here, would have been only four years a werewolf. George not much older."

"Do you know all the werewolves?"

He smiled. "I know the Alphas. We have yearly meetings with all of them. I know most of the seconds and thirds. One of the things we do at the meetings is update the pack memberships. The Alphas are supposed to keep the Marrok informed when people die, or when new wolves are Changed. If my father had known so many wolves were gone, he would have investigated. Though Leo's lost a third of the pack membership, he's done a fair job of replacing them."

He gave back the list she'd written  -  a number of names, including hers, were also checked. "These are all new. From what you've told me, I'd guess that they are all forced Changes. The survival rate of random attack victims is very poor. Your Leo has killed a lot of people over the past few years in order to keep the number of his pack where it is. Enough that it should have attracted the attention of the authorities. How many of these people were made wolves after you?"

"None of them. The only new wolf I've seen was that poor boy." She tapped the paper with her pen. "If they didn't leave bodies and spread out the hunt, they could have easily hidden the disappearance of a hundred people in the greater Chicago area over a few years."

He leaned back and closed his eyes, then he shook his head. "I don't remember dates too well anymore. I haven't met most of the missing wolves, and I don't remember the last time I saw Leo's old second except that it was within the last ten years. So whatever happened was after that."

"Whatever happened to what?"

"To Leo, I'd guess. Something happened that made him kill all the women in his pack except Isabelle and most of his older wolves  -  the wolves who would have objected when he started attacking innocent people, or quit teaching new wolves the rules and rights that belong to them. I can see why he'd have to kill them  -  but why the women? And why didn't the other Chicago Alpha say anything to my father when it happened?"

"He might not have known. Leo and Jaimie stay away from each other, and our pack is not allowed to go into Jaimie's territory at all. The Loop is neutral territory, but we can't go north of here unless we get special permission."

"Oh? Interesting. Have you heard anything about why they aren't getting along?"

She shrugged. There had been a lot of talk. "Someone told me that Jaimie wouldn't sleep with Isabelle. Someone else said that they had an affair and he broke it off, and she was insulted. Or that he wouldn't break it off and Leo had to step in. Another story is that Jaimie and Leo never got along. I don't know."

She looked at the checks that marked the newer wolves in her pack and suddenly laughed.


"It's just stupid." She shook her head.

"Tell me."

Her cheeks flushed with embarrassment. "Fine. You were looking for something that all the newer wolves had in common. I was just thinking that if someone wanted to list the most handsome men in the pack, they would all make the cut."

Both of them were surprised by the flash of territorial jealousy that he didn't bother to hide from her.

It was probably a good time for the waiter to come in with the first course of food.

Anna started to move her chair back to where it had been, but the waiter sat his tray down and took it from her, seating her properly before he got back to setting out the dishes.

"And how have you been, sir?" he said to Charles. "Still haven't given up and moved to civilization?"

"Civilization is vastly overrated," Charles returned as he put the sheets of paper into his notebook and shut the cover. "As long as I can come up once or twice a year and eat here, I am content."

The waiter shook his head with mock sadness. "Mountains are beautiful, but not as beautiful as our skyline. One of these days I'll take you out for a night on the town and you'll never leave again."

"Phillip!" A bird-thin woman stepped into the room. "While you are here chatting with Mr. Cornick, our other guests are going hungry."

The waiter grinned and winked at Anna. He dropped a kiss on the woman's cheek and slipped through the door.

The woman suppressed a smile and shook her head. "That one. Always talking. He needs a good wife to keep him in line. I am too old." She threw up her hands and then followed the waiter.

The next twenty minutes brought a series of waiters and waitresses who all looked as though they were related. They carried food on trays and never said anything about it being odd that two people should eat so much food.

Charles filled his plate, looked at hers, and said, "You should have told me you didn't like lamb."

She looked at her plate. "I do."

He frowned at her, took the serving spoon, and added to the amount on her plate. "You should be eating more. A lot more. The change requires a lot of energy. You have to eat more as a werewolf to maintain your weight."

After that, by mutual consent Anna and Charles confined their conversations to generalities. They talked about Chicago and city living. She took a little of a rice dish and he looked at her until she took a second spoonful. He told her a little about Montana. She found he was very well spoken and the easiest way to stop a conversation cold was to ask him about anything personal. It wasn't that he didn't want to talk about himself, she thought, it was that he didn't find himself very interesting.

The door swung open one last time, and a girl of about fourteen came in with dessert.

"Aren't you supposed to be in school?" Charles asked her.

She signed. "Vacation. Everyone else gets time off. But me? I get to work in the restaurant. It sucks."

"I see," he said. "Perhaps you should call child welfare and tell them you're being abused?"

She grinned at him. "Wouldn't that get Papa riled up. I'm tempted to do it just to see his face. If I told him it was your suggestion do ya suppose he'd get mad at you instead of me?" She wrinkled her nose. "Probably not."

"Tell your mother that the food was perfect."

She braced the empty tray on her hip and backed out the door. "I'll tell her, but she already told me to tell you that it wasn't. The lamb was a little stringy, but that's all she could get."

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