New Berwick, Illinois, a mystical land where witches rule under the watchful eyes of the Dominions.
(Recap from previous chapter)
The wolves are enjoying their new freedom from the moon curse, quite unaware that another problem: A young Pathologist could reveal the Sooner boy's inhuman blood (He’s a little werewolf). This could derail everything Jewel and the wolves have done to keep their secret. Someone has to stop the Pathologist from getting that blood sample to the state lab. A frightened Dr. Sally Lorac woke Jewel at mid-night with a phone call to warn her that the secret of the wolves could be uncovered.
Jewel blinked several times to clear her eyes. She swung her legs from under the covers and sat on the edge of the bed. The fluff of the scatter rug slipped between her toes when she placed her feet on the floor. River quietly snored behind her. Half-awake now, Jewel switched the phone to her other ear. “What do you mean we’ve got a problem?” she asked.
“Charlie Daniels, the pathologist at the medical center, was just here. He was all pale and looked as if he’d seen a ghost,” Dr. Lorac said.
“You’re waking me …” she looked over at the clock, “… twelve o’clock at night to tell me you had a visitor?”
“Jewel, please. Don’t be ridiculous. Just listen. Charlie has discovered the Sooner boy’s inhuman blood and …”
“What! You were supposed to take care of that.”
“I did, damn it. I switched a tube of my own blood.”
“Then what happened?”
“Somehow the label fell off two of the collection tubes—one was Russell Sooner’s and another child’s. Charlie went back to the children’s ward and drew their blood again. So …”
“… Are you telling me that this pathologist actually tested Russell’s blood?”
“I’m afraid so. Jewel, I’m sorry. I really thought I had it covered.”
Jewel’s shoulders slumped. She left the edge of the bed, walked across the room and stood in front of the bedroom window. The temperature of the floor chilled her bare feet and woke her more. “It’s not your fault,” she said, running her fingers through her hair. “What are the odds that his blood sample would be in one of the tubes with a missing label?”
Dr. Lorac strolled over to the overstuffed chair and sat down. She leaned back and crossed her legs. “I’ll do whatever you want to make this right,” she said, grabbing her glass of Brandy from the end table. “Just tell me what you want me to do.” She took a gulp of her drink and waited for Jewel to answer.
“No, you’ve done your part. As I said, it wasn’t your fault. I’ll tell River and we’ll take it from here.”
“You’d better hurry then. I told Charlie not to mention it to anyone. But from the looks of him a few minutes ago, I don’t think he can sit on this. He said something about taking the sample to the state lab.”
Jewel turned quickly from the window and slowly walked back towards the bed where River stirred. He lifted his head from the pillow and widened his eyes at her. “Who the hell is that at this hour?”
“Just a minute,” she said, crinkling her face at him. "He’s got to be stopped, Sally.”
“Sally? Who’s got to be stopped?" River asked, yawning.
Jewel shushed him with a wave of her hand. She turned her attention back to Dr. Lorac. “When is he taking it to the state lab?”
“He didn't say exactly. They're closed on weekends. He can't do anything until Monday anyway.”
"Thank the stars for that. It gives us just enough time to stop him. Thanks for the heads up, Sally.” Jewel clicked off and laid the phone on the night table. She flopped down on the bed facing River.
River sat up and put his pillow behind his back. “Now, can you tell me what’s going on ... and what Sally wanted that’s gotten you so spooked?”
“You’re not going to like this,” she said, shaking her head.
“Shit! Now what?”
“Something happened with the switched blood sample and Charlie, that’s the pathologist, tested Russell’s blood."
"How the hell did that happen?"
"Does it really matter?"
“And now he knows.” River said, avoiding her eyes. “Anyone else know?”
“I don’t think so. Whoever he tells is not going to believe him. But, Sally thinks he might be planning on taking the sample to the state lab Monday morning.”
“Which means,” River said, looking off and staring deviously, “I have to keep that from happening.”
She playfully flashed her blue eyes at him. “I was hoping you’d say that, husband dear. Problem solved.” She slid under the covers.
“Oh, just like that, huh. I get to clean up the mess?”
“It’s so nice to have a wolf around the house,” she joked.
“Yeah, especially when witches screw up.”
She turned to him sharply. “You take that back.”
“Make me," he chuckled.
Jewel quickly sat up, grabbed her pillow and hit River over the head several times until he, all the while laughing, apologized. He pulled the pillow from her hand and placed it back behind her. She clicked off the light. He gathered her in his arms, and they huddled together under the covers.
“What are you planning on doing?” she asked, snuggling up to him.
“I’ll call Dex, Rick, Matt and a few other wolves. See what we can come up with."
“You’re not going to hurt him?” Her voice was somewhat poignant.
“That depends on him.”
“River, promise me you won’t hurt him.”
River sighed, but said nothing.
Jewel's voice rose. “River!”
“All right,” he said. “I won’t draw blood.”
“Is that the best yes you can give me?”
River kissed her on the forehead, rolled over on his side of the bed and pulled the covers up over his shoulder. Jewel blew out hard, pulled the covers up to her chin and closed her eyes.
The next day, in the afternoon, Dex, Matthew, Rick and six other wolves gathered in River’s house, in the clubroom, where they had been summoned earlier that morning. The girls were at the movies, and Jewel was out with Beatrice baby shopping. The men sat on the dark, u-shape, sectional sofa—each nursing a cold bottle of beer. River stood in front of them, leaning against the bar. He took a swig of his beer, then placed the bottle on the marble counter. His forehead wrinkled and he gently bit his lower lip before speaking.
“This better be good, River. I gotta get those trout home for dinner,” Dex said, smelling like a fish market.
"I have bad news. And I need you guy's help.”
“Oh shit! What is it now?” Dex blurted.
“Sally, Doctor Lorac to most of you, called Jewel last night with some depressing news." The men sat listening, swilling beer, their faces turning grim as River slowly spilled the details.
“So, where do you want the body buried?" Rick said with a smirk.
"Negative. Jewel made me promise not to hurt him."
One of the other wolves spoke up. “You think this guy’s gonna just hand the tube over? What do you mean, don’t hurt him?”
“Of course we may have to hurt him. But I promised Jewel I wouldn’t draw blood.”
“You always do what your wife says?” a young wolf blasted him.
"If I don’t want to be turned into a little green frog—yeah."
"Haaah!" the men's laughter echoed beyond the room.
“I’m sure glad witchcraft skipped over my wife,” said another wolf.
"Yeah, but it landed on your mother-in-law. Isn't Mommy Dearest still living with you and Nancy?"
More laughter erupted and lots of high-fives at that remark. Everyone knew his mother-in-law called the shots.
“No wonder you’re home prompt every night,” Rick teased.
Matthew weighed in. “And all this time I thought it was Nancy making you toe the line.”
The room erupted with more laughter and hand slaps. The young wolf took the teasing on the chin and cracked a half-smile.
“All right, all right. Let’s get back to the problem at hand,” River scolded.
But then an older wolf took a stand. He stood with his chest out--his dark hair frosty with grey. “See, that’s what’s wrong with you young pups today. You’re not real wolves. Now, in my day, a wolf ruled his home. Take my wife’s mother. She lived with us for a while. And one day she opened her mouth once too often. I grabbed her by the neck ...”
“And did you snap it?” a young wolf asked.
“Well, no. But she knew I wanted to.”
“Aah!” The wolves yelled with disappointment, followed by loud laughter, boos and their hands waving the old wolf to sit down.
River banged his fist on the bar several times. “Okay, guys, guys, settle down. Now, this is important. This blood tube thing could affect us all. Please, fellas.”
“River is right,” Dex said. “And no more beer until the meeting is over.”
"Nah!" the men buzzed with disappointment, but finally sat quietly with ears tuned-in. River verbally laid out his plan, with suggestions coming from the other wolves. Nearly an hour passed--a little scheme was drafted, and the men, after guzzling more beer, soon left and went their way.
The weekend faded quickly. Monday morning rose with an orange sun. Charlton Daniels sat seven floors high in his luxury condo and sipped a cup of freshly brewed coffee while sitting at the table on his balcony facing a quiet creek. He kept twisting the blood tube between his thumb and fingers, looking at it like it held some deep, life altering secret. The ringing of his phone startled him out of his deep thought. He laid the tube by the sugar bowl and clicked his phone. Charlton frowned after seeing the name. "Doctor Lorac?"
"Charlie, good morning. I want to apologize for the way I acted the other night and to tell you that if you insist on taking the blood sample to the state lab today, there's a short cut that can get you there faster. I know you don't want to be driving all morning."
"Thank you. That's very kind. I wasn't aware of a short cut."
"It's a back road, behind Norwick Forest. Not too many people use it. I doubt, even know about it."
"I think I know where that is."
"With your GPS system, you shouldn't have any problems finding the lab from there."
"Thank you again, Dr. Lorac. Awe, actually, I was just about to leave ... "
"Oh, of course. I don't want to hold you up. We'll talk later."
"Sure thing." Charlton clicked off and drank the rest of his coffee. He put the tube in a small brown envelope and slid the envelope inside his sports coat pocket. He walked from the balcony to the back of the kitchen where he stepped into a private elevator and rode down to the garage.
Dr. Lorac immediately phoned River who was standing by. "He bought it," she said.
"Good, we're on our way."
New Berwick, Illinois is comprised of four regions: Falcon Haven, Northern and Southern Greyscott Falls, Sheerfield County and Ironforge.
Northern Greyscott Falls:
River Porter....... Main Character
Jewel Porter....... River's wife
Their daughters....Chelsey, Abby, Dria, and Becca
Southern Greyscott Falls:
Dex Porter.........River's brother
Matthew (Matt) Porter... Dex's son
Jan Porter ....Dex's wife and Jewel's cousin/sister-in-law
Raymond Carter.. Dex's neighbor
Debbie Carter... Raymond's mother
Beatrice ....... Jewel's best friend
Kayla Morrison.. Beatrice's niece
Wayne Tilbert....... Sheriff of Sheerfield County
Reece Tilbert....... Wayne's wife/Sheerfield Bank president
Veronica (Ronnie) Tilbert...Wayne daughter/Kayla's BFF
Christopher Tilbert.........Wayne and Reece's son
Christa......................Veronica and Kayla's BFF
Bob Wilson..................Sheerfield County Coroner
Hollie Brewer...............Corina's sister/Sorcerer
New Berwick residents
Art Work: Her Eyes by Diane Azdamar at dianae.cgsociety.org