In the Service of the Wolf: Part XI

08Sep18

wolf11Part I here

Sitting in her usual corner of the diner Stacy was about to order another coffee when the door opened and she froze. “Shit,” she muttered to herself. Inside she felt sick, the man who had just entered had hit town for just one reason and she had a hunch it had been her hasty call to him that had tipped him off.

Patrick Coleridge scanned the diner until his eyes rested on Stacy and he grinned. In very few strides her crossed the room, almost knocking Nancy down as he passed.

“Sir?” she called after him weakly.

“Coffee,” he snarled, “Black.” His accent carried a slight New York drawl, and he spared the waitress the please. Instead he approached Stacy Dane and dropped into the seat opposite to her. “Hi kid,” he offered along with a shit-eating grin, “You got any more on that rancher Stone?”

“Shush,” Stacy whispered and swivelled her eyes around at the breakfasters, “You trying to get us run out of town?”

“Ain’t gonna happen,” he shrugged, but all the same he bent in close and folded his arms.

“What are you doing here?” she hissed.

“You called me,” he grinned again.

“I called you for information, I told you to call me if you had any,” Stacy protested.

“Well consider this a house call,” Coleridge said expansively as he unfolded his arms. “We got a big thick file on your guy.”

Stacy made with the frog pout and winced. Suddenly the story felt as if it was getting away from her.

Just then Nancy arrived and put a coffee in front of Coleridge. “You want another cup ma’am?” she said.

“Thank you,” Stacy said with a tight smile.

“Can I get some ham and eggs?” Coleridge grinned at the girl.

“Sure thing Sir, how would you like that?” Nancy projected rustic hospitality, although she no more liked the man than the good doctor.

“Two eggs sunny side,” Coleridge had already turned his attention back to Stacy. “You were gonna tell me what you had,” he said.

Stacy eyed the waitress and waited for her to go.

“The subject of my inquiry is a local rancher but what I have is my affair. All I will say is that he has a small army and the town is not going to like too many questions about him,” the petite author answered in a hushed urgent voice.

“I am sure we can trade info, the story is yours kid, I just want to know where this dude is at,” Coleridge’s shit eating grin was wider than ever.

“Okay, so give me some info,” Stacy sighed.

*

The Stone Ranch was quiet and those that did not have chores were either sleeping or kicking back with a book or a few beers. It was often the way after a hunt. Although this time the pack had other things on their mind. Everyone knew about the strange she-wolf and that made everyone uneasy. Not that Garrick or Sundance had seemed overly concerned, but in some ways that was worse. It could mean that they were trying too hard to sooth the group’s fears.

“You were out early this morning,” John said his eyes fixed hard on his brother.

Adam shrugged and stared hard into his coffee, as if all the answers lay within the steaming dark brew.

“Looking for signs of our new girly on the plot?” John pressed him.

Adam fixed his jaw and swivelled his gaze to John.

“Catch any kind of vibe, a scent maybe?” the younger man asked.

“Nothing much, nothing I could track,” Adam sighed, “But don’t think of her as a girly, not this close to home. This is trouble.”

John folded his arms and stood with his legs akimbo as if ready for action. “I am getting that, Dad made too much of a show of unconcern. Besides, your right, one girl is enough to worry about for now.”

“Alice Eden again eh?” John frowned, “The sooner she leaves town the better.”

“I kind of like her,” John groaned.

“So take her out and…” Adam sounded bored.

“Already have, it seems she had someone else on her mind,” John cut in. He offered his elder his second best smile, the one kept for when he had been bested in something and wanted to be gracious.

Adam narrowed his eyes, his interest piqued. He didn’t like the woman, but how in hell could she prefer someone to his brother?

John shrugged in response. “She kind of likes you,” he winced and punched his brother gently on the arm.

“Me?” Adam gaped, “But I…” his mind ticked over with his gaze set to middle distance. “As I recall I threatened to paddle her hiney for her.”

“Yeah, she mentioned that, call me crazy, but I think that may have clinched it for you,” John laughed.

“She said that?” his brother shook his head and smiled.

“More or less,” John sighed, “All I know is that she seems to have this whole like-hate thing going on where you are concerned and Mr Charming here is not getting a look in.”

“Interesting,” Adam drawled his mind now elsewhere, “Very interesting. Giving up?”

John grinned and gave his brother an expansive shrug. “I have another date,” he said.

“From what you say I am betting she had an ulterior motive,” Adam countered sagely. His face said, ‘it’s your look out bro.’

“To get to Dad and this legal thing,” John said glumly. Or to get to you, he thought.

Adam triggered his finger and gestured that his brother had hit he mark with a point.

“I’ll take that,” John replied, his shrug said it all. For now anyway, he thought.

*

Stacy was still ensconced in the corner of the diner gulping down her third coffee. Today she was beginning to wish it was something a little stronger. She felt a little sick. Coleridge and his team were hard core and borderline crazy. Now they were moving into town like an occupying army, Patrick Coleridge even talked about bringing in some more people. All of this was her fault, if only she hadn’t involved them.

Worse still she had no one to confide in. She had already said too much to the hunters and who else would listen? As far as Stacy was concerned the jury was still out on the existence of lycanthropes, but Coleridge already had the Stones shot and skinned. What if they were innocent? Worse, what if they weren’t and she had just started a war?

She was still mulling this over when Alice walked in. For an unfathomable reason Stacy was relieved and her face lit up and she beckoned the lawyer over.

“Hello Stacy, what is going on?” Alice said as she gestured to the SUVs now parked in the street.

“Funny you should ask,” Stacy replied sheepishly and made a little face.

“This is something to do with you?” Alice accused.

“Kinda,” Stacy wailed.

Alice sighed. “I guess you had better fill me in,” she said and sat down.

“I’ll order coffee,” Stacy agreed.

*

Sitting across the table in the diner, Alice looked up from her menu at John in amusement. John had cut his hair in a style more like that of his brother so that now she could hardly tell them apart. Not that he had opted for his brother’s sharper attire.

“Burgher, my treat,” John offered generously as if he had just offered Alice the world. From his mock-satisfied grin it was clear that he knew how ridiculous that sounded.

Alice laughed, she realised how much she liked John. “Why thank you Mr Stone,” she said in a faux southern accent.

“Wrong state,” he laughed.

“Geography,” she pulled a face, “Not one of my areas.” She shrugged.

“Wouldn’t accents come under anthropology or linguistics?” he shot back with a wink.

Alice giggled; these were long words for a small-town biker-type. There was more to him than she had realised. Then she glanced at his hair. This had to be about what she had said about Adam, she was flattered.

“I like the new look,” she said smiling at him sad encouragement. “You look like your brother.”

“Does it increase my chances,” John smiled warmly and turned his head a little to show off his haircut.

“It might,” Alice laughed again.

Just then a rowdy group of men strolled into the diner. They were all talking loudly and all but pushing the regular crowd out of the way. John’s mood changed at once.

“Some new people in town,” he said darkly. For a brief moment his visage was almost bestial and was defined by a frown.

“Hunters, Stacy said,” Alice put in.

“Stacy, that writer? What does she know?” John asked quickly.

“She knows them, kind of, I gather she thinks that she may have something to do with them coming to town,” Alice looked at the men in distaste; it bothered her that they had ruined the mood.

“How so?” John turned his attention to a serviette on the table and mussed with it as if he were bored and not listening.

Alice frowned; she didn’t want to talk about Stacy and her nutty ideas. She also didn’t want to tell him that Stacy had helped her try and get to the ranch the other day.  “I don’t know, I think she called them about some research for her book. The next thing they all hit town. Some guy called… Coleridge I think, she knew him from somewhere.” Alice was pensive, “Why does it matter?”

“Coleridge you say,” John looked up. “And you don’t know what it is about?”

“That’s what she said, and no I don’t know what this is all about?” Alice sounded impatient.

The men were laughing too loudly now and a waitress was getting jostled. John looked like a coiled spring.

“You know, let’s dip out of here and eat at the Shack,” John said suddenly as he turned away from the intruders. Then he managed a smile.

“Lovely,” Alice smiled.

To be continued



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