Black Spring Page 6

Jude shoveled a few more mouthfuls of pancake into his mouth before continuing. Now that I looked at him closely, it did seem that he had a lean and hungry look about him, and new lines were present around his eyes.

He leaned back and took a large gulp of coffee. “Remember when I left, before you destroyed the vampires?”

I nodded. “Beezle said you had pack business.”

“I did. Wade contacted me because we urgently needed to move the pack. Someone had discovered we were werewolves and ratted us out to the townsfolk. Before the vampire lord went on television, they would have thought the very idea of werewolves a load of rot. But after everyone in the world saw the nice Chicago commuters having their faces eaten off by creatures of the night, the locals were more than ready to believe in our existence.”

“And were, doubtless, gathering up their pitchforks and torches,” I said.

“You’re not far off,” Jude growled. “We’ve always lived in isolated spots, staying as far from towns as possible. Even without knowing about weres, people aren’t generally fond of wolves, especially in the country. Farmers and ranchers see us as varmints, and they shoot first and ask questions later, no matter what species-protection law might say.”

“But you have primarily resided on your own private land, yes?” Nathaniel asked.

Jude nodded. “That’s so.”

If the land belongs to you, couldn’t you keep people off it? Anyone who tried to attack you on your own property should be prosecuted, Samiel signed.

“‘Should be’ is the operative term here,” Jude said. “There are some who have decided that supernatural creatures don’t have any rights to speak of. And those who have decided also have the ear of the local authorities.”

He paused, seeming to swallow some strong emotion.

“They attacked us, chased us off our land, killed several members of the pack, including two cubs who got lost in the confusion. They hunted us until we were too exhausted to go on, until we were forced to split up and hide where we could.”

I was afraid to ask. I wasn’t sure I wanted to know the answer. “Wade?”

“Is safe,” Jude said, “and so is his wife and daughter. But there are many other families torn to pieces in the last week or so, and my pack is scattered to the wind.”

“Isn’t there a safe place that you go when the pack is threatened?” I asked, remembering a fragment of conversation with Jude from long ago.

“Yes, but that place is under surveillance,” Jude said. “We were betrayed.”

Daharan spoke. “Your pack was infiltrated by this shapeshifter.” It was not a question.

“Yes,” Jude said.

“How did it happen again?” I asked. Last year, members of the pack had been killed by Lucifer’s shapeshifting son, Baraqiel. “After Baraqiel and the kidnapping of Wade and the cubs, I’d have thought you would be on your guard against any newcomers looking to join the pack.”

“We were,” Jude said. “This shifter wasn’t a newcomer. He wasn’t like Baraqiel, pretending to be a lone wolf looking for a pack. He was one of us.”

“A member of your pack gave you up to humans?” I asked, shocked. It seemed to go against everything that I knew of the family bonds of a werewolf pack.

“No. This shifter killed one of us and took his place,” Jude said. “And there was nothing to reveal the difference. His scent didn’t change; his manner didn’t change. The shifter became our pack member so completely that we never suspected, almost as if it had swallowed the soul of the person he took over.”

“So how did you discover the traitor?” Beezle asked.

“We didn’t. We didn’t even realize what had happened until Wade and I came upon the body of the real pack member while hiding from the hunters. It was decomposed almost beyond recognition.”

“Which means this shifter infiltrated your pack weeks ago and you never knew,” I said. “What put you on his trail?”

“I wasn’t on his trail,” Jude said. “We had received word you were still alive, and I was planning to come here in any case. Then the harassment began. Once the pack was broken up, I thought to come here, to see if you could help us. Imagine my surprise to discover my own self standing in your backyard, and you walking blindly into the teeth of the shark.”

“She does that,” Beezle said. “Responds emotionally instead of thinking and gets herself into trouble. I’d say it was a pregnant thing, but she’s acted like this her whole life.”

“And I stopped you from going after him,” I said, pretending Beezle hadn’t spoken. It was usually the best course of action with Beezle. Anything else encouraged bad behavior.

“You said we would find him and so we shall,” Jude said.

He did not blame me for letting the shifter go free. He didn’t even blame me for the scourge of vampires that had revealed the existence of supernatural creatures to the world, and thus opened his pack to harm. The weight of all the lost lives that could be laid at my door became heavier with each passing day.

“It seems our pack has been under a curse these last several months,” Jude said. “So many strange occurrences, kidnappings, deaths.”

“It’s because of me,” I said. “Wade’s association with me opened you to all this, brought you to the attention of my enemies.”

Jude shook his head. “I believe it is more than that. We are being targeted by someone, someone with a vendetta against us.”

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