It is Sunday afternoon and Eric and Arthur are laying sprawled on dark brown leather loungers in the pack’s rout room, each savouring the single malt whisky, the Alpha brought home from his recent travels.
Even though the room has a distinctly masculine feel, the luxurious red Persian carpets on the hardwood floor create a cosy atmosphere. A fire smouldering in the far corner of the room to keep the chill autumn air outside. There are leather loungers scattered around the room, to seat all the senior pack members at their weekly planning meetings. The comforting smells of the fragrant wood burning in the grate and smell furniture wax should relax the two men, but there is a palpable unease in the room.
“It’s good to be back home,” said Arthur as he leant back and gave a contented sigh, as he savoured the slight burn of the single malt whisky on his tongue.
This is the first pack meeting in more than four months and it bothers him that only Eric could be here. Ben the pack’s Beta, Michael as the pack’s Security expert and Cecilia the pack’s Head Tracker are all out of town, leaving just the Alpha and Head Enforcer for this meeting.
Eric nodded in agreement. His right hand is circling a pattern on his knee. Every time Michael is away from town for an extended period, he worries about Michael’s safety. As the Wolve Council’s consultant on Safety, Security and Anonymity, Michael tends to end up in unplanned dangerous situations. Eric’s concern is evident in the circling of his fingers on his right knee.
“How long will Michael be away,” asked Arthur looking at the restless fingers of his Enforcer.
“Should not be more than two days, Alpha, Michael’s parents are staying with his sister in Chicago and Michael went for a visit.”
“Selina, only just got settled in Middleton, is there problems with her and her new pack?’’ asked Arthur with a frown.
“No, it’s Michael’s youngest sister, Patricia. You’ll remember Billy was in a serious relationship with Patty before his mating with Fred. Fred told Patty that Michael betted that Billy was gay. He also told her that we gave Billy bridging finance to prevent his business going bankrupt. Michael was unaware that she knew about the bet and is unhappy he hurt her feelings. She left without saying goodbye.” Eric frowned as he thought back to Michael’s distressed reaction when he heard Patty left town. Annie’s comments about Michael hating women spurred him on to mend bridges with his family.
“He will be back by Wednesday, ” said Eric as he moved his shoulders to ease the increased tension in his back. “He did say that the new intakes’ inputs are done and the HB 2015 programme is working on all relevant government dB’s changing their data.” Eric understands that Arthur wants the hibernations to be done smoothly, but sometimes family comes first. Michael has just healed the breach with his father, who was very upset to find out that Michael was gay and did not have the confidence, to be honest about it with his family.
“That should conclude the safety checks and start on the identity changes for the new hibernation intakes. What is happening with Xavier’s arrangements? I know it was very last minute. Silas complained this morning that he is still waiting for the lawyer to finalise the documents,” queried Arthur, determined to have all the hibernation arrangements concluded. He looked at Eric questioningly while savouring another sip of whisky.
“Xavier’s lawyer settled with Annie White. She offered her family home for Xavier’s hibernation. The contract was signed earlier this month. Xavier has already demolished the house. You know how environmentally conscious he is and he has already started to build one of his new off the grid houses.”
“Why did she not let Silas handle the arrangements? Does working for his Estate Agency not prevent her from doing business on the side, it is surely a conflict of interest?” Arthur asked with irritation. He sometimes cannot understand how women’s mind works, this will just create needless tension with pack members.
“Silas fired her just after you left for Ireland,” replied Eric, knowing this will surprise and further infuriate the Alpha. “The house by the lake is in Annie’s name and does not belong to the pack. So she was by rights to rent it out.”
“Silas’ wife had a bee in her bonnet about the Charles’s mating and she held Annie responsible for not being woman enough or some such nonsense.”
“Shit, Silas must learn to control his female, that woman is always sticking her nose into things she knows nothing about. Is this the reason why Charles wants to see me tomorrow?”
Eric also told the Alpha, that his pack members Charles and Annie’s marriage has been annulled. He also explained that their marriage has been overturned by Michigan State Law and the Shirter Council. Arthur waited impatiently for Eric’s detailed explanation to finish. Eric explained that there is a section in the Michigan Marriage Bill that facilitate the annulment of a marriage when one of the partners lied about his/her sexual orientation.
Arthur rubbed his face in irritation, this is bad news for the pack. When the pack females find out about the clause in the Marriage bill, the bisexual men in his back could lose their families. Women just cause more problems, he sometimes wishes the pack could do without females.
“Have you spoken to Annie recently?” enquired Arthur with a frown.
Eric told Arthur about the incident at Annie’s house and how she set fire to her bed, wedding dress and other detritus and that he and Michael found her injured on the step of her house later that evening.
“Why did you take her to the hospital?” Arthur asked in surprise as pack members are treated at the Alpha’s house unless it was too severe and need specialised treatment.
“She insisted on going to the hospital. She had a long laceration on her arm and needed several stitches, a tetanus shot, and she fainted from blood loss,” Eric tried to be brief as he would rather not tell the Alpha that his mate was the reason why she did not want to come to his house.
“Have any of you spoken to her since?” repeated Arthur wondering at the uncomfortable look on Eric’s face.
“No, not since we dropped her off at the hospital. Few people have seen her since. Annie had not been to any of the pack runs or get-togethers from the time when she and Frank had that squabble.”
“I’ll ask Frank when last he saw her. They used to be good friends,” said Arthur over his shoulder as he left the room to look for Frank.
The weak afternoon sun was starting to fade and the darkened room was bathed in the red glow from the fire.
A few minutes later Arthur returned frowning, switching on the room’s overhead spotlights. All of a sudden the soft light in the room changed to a harsh white light.
“Frank said that the last time he saw Annie was at the pack run three months ago.”
“Set up a meeting with her, we need to find out how the access to the lake through her property has been dealt with in the agreement with Xavier.”
Arthur walked towards the pack’s regional map hanging on the north facing wall and stood looking at the different hibernation sites and access roads. The Alpha stood staring at the aerial photo of the Wolfville conservancy area. His seven-foot stature allows him an enhanced view of the print but he keeps on rubbing the back of his neck, trying to get rid of this feeling of that he is missing something.
He saw that all hibernation locations were occupied except the oldest cabin at the far end of the pack lands. The more insular shifters like to use that cabin, but it is unpopular and can only be described as very basic. That cabin was clearly unsuitable for Xavier, and he should be thankful that Annie gave up her home. Nevertheless her action will create other problems with pack members, fearing that they will be forced to give up their homes, for other shifters.
“What was the arrangement with Annie’s grandfather?” asked Eric as he also stood up to have a look at the map. Eric usually towers over pack members with his six foot three inches and his rank as enforcer garners him respect but the irritation vibrating from the Alpha male made him stand some distance from the large man.
Arthur looked at him in surprise, he forgot about the promises he and Jake made to each other when they established Wolfville more than fifty years ago.
“You’re right, her grandfather Jake and I laid out the various access roads to the lake,” said Arthur as he walked to his desk to search for the agreement.
“Access to the lake through Annie’s property is no longer an option. Xavier fenced off the whole property and has started with the naturalisation of the area,” said Eric as he traces his finger along the routes on the map. When a shifter naturalised his property, only foolhardy shifters will enter without invitation, trespassers will be attacked.
“It is important that I have that meeting with her? She needs to be reminded of her grandfather’s promise to the pack.”
Eric wiped his hands on the sides of his chinos, knowing that to get Annie to come to Arthur’s house will only happen by force. It will be near impossible to get Annie to come willingly. Arthur’s protectiveness of Frank will not help to defuse the hostilities between Frank and Annie. Eric sensed that Annie’s aggression will not bode well for any negotiations.
Eric wondered if the pack took the right of entry to the lake for granted. The only other access is the abandoned secondary road, on the far side of the town. This change could affect the Alpha’s plans for attracting more families to the area, using access to the lake as an attraction.
Several families have already applied for transfers to other packs. Without access to the lake, the pack could lose more pack families, instead of increasing the pack’s size.
“We cannot let this slide. Will you arrange a meeting Annie tomorrow afternoon?” requested Arthur with a sigh. “I will see her tomorrow after I met with Charles.”
Eric remained standing in front of the map, wondering if he could find another route to the lake without having to approach Annie. He just knows that she will be uncooperative.
Arthur sat down in his chair with a sigh, leaning forward toread the promissory note he and Jakes drew up.
The note was short and to the point.
I, Jacob Johnathan Rucher hereby promise to secure all available land by purchase deed to meet Land Registry requirements in the Wolfville district. I will establish the Wolfville Conservation area to ensure a safe and protected area for the Wolfville pack in a joint trust between my direct descendants and the leaders of the Wolfville pack. Rules to be agreed upon as required. I entrust my promise to my granddaughter Jo-anne Rucher, and her offspring.
I, Arthur George Lakin hereby undertake to protect and safeguard the family of my friend Jacob Johnathan Rucher, when he is no longer able to do so.
After he had read the note, he remembered the day when he made the promise to Jake Rucher that he will look after Jake’s granddaughter as if she was his own. Frowning, he thought back over the last fourteen years, wondering if he honoured his promise.