Blood Valley Investigations: Book One
A Deviation in Destiny
Written by Kian Rhodes
©2017 Intact All Rights Reserved
(Read at your own risk – completely unedited)
I included a longer excerpt than usual because you are going to notice some of the background from All in His Mind is repeated to set up the scene. Don’t fret! Everything after this is entirely new!
Alpha Rafael Borrero
Blood Valley Pack
“Is everyone ready to begin?” Ralph Coraine, my immediate supervisor and the director of the Council of Packs Security Division, raised his voice over the conversations filling the conference room. At the murmured agreement, he turned his eyes to me. “Proceed.”
“Good morning, everyone.” I glanced around the table, taking note of the various investigators and department heads that were present. It seemed my little investigation was garnering extensive interest. “If there is no objection, I am going to start with a brief history of the case.”
Not only was there no objection, but several people pulled out pen and paper, poised to take notes.
“As you all know, on Solstice Day my mate and I welcomed our first child.” I paused for the usual round of congratulations, biting back a grin as the attention made Colby blush clear to the tips of his ears. “Thank you.” I winked at my Omega, ignoring the daggers he glared at me, and continued.
“On January second, we took her to Wolfsrudel General Hospital for an appointment. At that time, we were approached by a man who identified himself as Shawn Murphy, a medical doctor who specializes in neurological disorders. He also claimed to be the director of the rehoming facility known as the Verlorene Hoffnung Rehoming Center.”
I paused to passed out photocopies of the flyer that the doctor had given me when we’d met. The flyer with the pictures that had made me cringe. The flyer that had launched the entire investigation.
“Excuse me?” A soft-spoken Beta that I recognized from the cyber crimes team raised her hand. “Forgive me if this is too personal, but this is very odd. Why would he approach you?”
I glanced over to where Colby sat at the end of the table, seeking his permission but he took the ball and ran with it.
“It’s fine, Nancy,” Colby assured her. “There were complications during the delivery, and our daughter was born blind.”
I ignored the surprised gasps and continued on.
“If you look at the pictures, I believe you’ll see the cause for concern.” I waited for another moment, allowing them to review the images of beings that appeared to be forcibly restrained. “It was with this evidence that I requested authorization to initiate an investigation into the circumstances of those beings housed in the facility.”
I paused for a drink to lubricate my throat, hoping the water would help clear out the bundle of facts about the failed rescue attempt that were sticking in it.
“That investigation culminated in a rescue attempt that took place last night.” I met the eyes of each person seated around the table before continued. “We were able to successfully extricate thirty-two shifters of various ages and species under the age of 18. Unfortunately, the stronghold had been built with escape tunnels, and the perpetrators were able to flee with the adult shifters being held; the ones that we believe to be in the most immediate danger.”
The silence in the room was only broken by the sound of the panel taking notes. When scratching of pencil on paper stopped, I waited for the questions to begin.
“Do you have an idea of approximately how many shifters are still endangered?” Ralph asked, his brow knitted together.
“Not specifically,” I admitted. “We think that there are less than 20, but there’s no way to really be sure. We only had eyes on a small portion of the compound from the inside.”
“What’s going on with the children that were rescued?” Nancy asked.
“All the beings that were rescued needed medical attention,” I explained. “They were suffering from dehydration, physical injuries and varying degrees of starvation. They’ve all been admitted to the hospital for assessment and care.”
“Is there any danger of this,” Paul Stevinson, an agent from the crimes against Omegas division that I worked with before, paused and looked back over his notes, “Dr. Murphy, I suppose it was? Anyway, is there any danger of him coming into contact with the rescued shifters?”
“None,” I assured him firmly. “The hospital administration has been advised of the circumstances and suspended his hospital privileges. The Council has security personnel posted around the hospital, and they’ve all been notified of the warrant for his arrest.”
“What, if anything, do we know about the presentation status of the missing shifters?” Ralph asked.
“Not a damn thing,” I answered. “I have a crew still out searching the building for information, but so far we haven’t been able to determine where they kept the records – assuming that they kept records. There were no computers, no paper files, nothing to indicate where any of these beings hailed from.”
“I see,” Ralph said slowly. “Other than that the investigation is ongoing, do you have anything to add?”
“Not this time,” I admitted. “But as soon as I do, you’ll be the first to know.”
They – the motley collection of riffraff charged with maintaining control in the second circle of Hell known as the Verlorene Hoffnung Rehoming Center – were scared of the shifters they ruled over. So scared, in fact, that every effort – including drugs, sleep deprivation, and starvation – were employed in various combinations to keep their captives locked in their more easily controlled human forms.
What this group of undesirables turned jailors had forgotten was that humans – especially desperate humans – could be every bit as dangerous as any animal. And after six months in their “care,” I was looking at desperate in the rearview mirror.
In some ways, I was luckier than most of the pathetic creatures crammed into the tiny locked cages. I was human and, therefore, not a threat to their minds, so I wasn’t beaten or drugged, and, while I was underfed, I wasn’t intentionally starved. I also had a private cell, unlike the children who I knew were packed in small cages like sardines in a can. Of course, it wasn’t all good. The reason that I rated that private cell was that I was a “marketable commodity” – an Omega who was legally old enough to be bred with no pack ties – a goose’s golden egg for a slaver. That’s where things went from bad to worse.
The slavers couldn’t sell me for top dollar unless they could show I could be bred, but at eighteen, I remained heatless. The slavers couldn’t very well take me to the doctor for an exam, so they resorted to an old folklore cure that was based on the belief that an Omega could be forced into heat by copulation.
I was strapped to a rough-hewn wood frame that locked me spread eagle for up to twenty hours a day while various Alphas – some from the staff and others who had paid for the privilege – wandered through and used me in any manner they wished, the hollow gag in my mouth allowing them full access but denying me the opportunity to cry out.
I was suffering through one of those visits when the door to my cell opened silently, and an unfamiliar being stepped into the room, shock showing in every line on his face. He raised a finger to his lips, warning me not to alert the Alpha grunting over me, and raised a device of some sort. Then, as quietly as it had opened, the door closed and he was gone.
When my old friend, Quinn, the Omega that had briefly considered accepting my claim, had invited me along on a reconnaissance meeting to the Verlorene Hoffnung Rehoming Center, I was intrigued.
“I’m supposed to be helping Rafe and Colby out tonight,” Quinn had told me when I’d suggested other plans.
I hadn’t been in the Coruscation pack lands long at that point – less than a week, actually – and I knew my confusion was showing on my face at the reference to names that I wasn’t familiar with.
“Rafe is the Alpha of the Blood Valley Pack,” Quinn explained. “They do a lot of work for the Council of Packs. Right now, they are investigating a shifter rehoming facility that they think is breaking some laws. I’ve already made contact pretending to be carrying, and I’m supposed to go back in a couple hours to try and get more information on their program.”
I nodded my understanding and Quinn’s face suddenly split into a huge smile.
“Do you want to come? We could tell them that you’re the father?”
“Sure,” I agreed; it wasn’t like I had anything else to do. “But why would I be willing to give up our pup?”
“Oh, there’s a story there,” Quinn explained with a mischievous grin. “When I first went in, I told them I came from a very traditional pack and that the father belonged to a warring pack – a real Romeo and Juliet story.”
I laughed. “Lead the way, Juliet.”
The director of the facility greeted Quinn fondly, eyeing me with suspicion. A few minutes into the tour, I could already tell there was a snow job under way; everything was perfect. Too perfect. I asked for directions to the restroom and proceeded on my own unguided tour.
Down the hall opposite the one I’d been directed to, I found the truth of the situation. There was room after room of emaciated beings in full restraints, most naked but a few in tattered clothing. They were tied to rings that were set into the walls like horses tied to hitching posts. There were rooms lined with cages that were packed so full of children that I didn’t know how they could breathe. And the stench of waste and unwashed bodies made me question if they even wanted to.
One door I opened led to a small room with a heap of what looked like dead bodies next to an enormous blazing fireplace. A humanoid was whistling as he fed one into the fire and stirred up the flames.
The last room hit me particularly hard; probably because the being that was strapped to a wooden frame saw me and all I could do was snap a picture and walk away. I couldn’t risk the rescue we were trying to arrange by busting in and saving him.
I went back in search of Quinn and the director, mildly amazed that not a single employee had questioned me while I wandered the building, taking pictures.
“Sorry. I took a wrong turn,” I apologized when I rejoined them, focusing my attention on Quinn. “The babies all seem pretty happy, don’t you think?”
At that, all of the irritation left Doctor Murphy’s face and he gave an almost feral smile.
“I’m so glad you see that!” he exclaimed. “It can be so hard for parents to see how their child might be better off with us.”
“Well,” I searched for the right response, wrapping an arm around Quinn’s waist to speed our departure. “We know we can’t keep it. Right, honey?”
“Um, yes,” Quinn squeaked, clearly taken off guard by my PDA.
“We’ll be in touch with you closer to his delivery date,” I said firmly, using the arm around Quinn’s waist to direct him to the door. “For now, I better get him back before they realize that he’s missing.”
“Of course,” Murphy agreed with a gleam in his eye. “I look forward to our next meeting.”
“As do I,” I assured him, holding back the snarl my wolf itched to add. “As do I.”
“We need to get out of here. Now.” I opened the truck door and all but shoved Quinn inside. I waited until we reached the bottom of the mountain road to pass Quinn my phone.
“Holy shit.” Quinn blanched as he looked through the pictures. “We need to get these to Rafe, fast,” he said quietly. “Some look so thin that they may not make it much longer.”
The Coruscation Alpha, Clint, joined Quinn and me at the Blood Valley pack’s meeting house where Quinn explained the setup as I passed my phone around.
“Son of a bitch,” Rafe whistled under his breath. “How did you get these?”
“I told the prick in charge that I needed the bathroom and then went the other direction when he turned his back,” I said with a shrug. “No one even questioned me as I walked through the hall and opened doors.”
“How many employees did you see?” Clint asked curiously.
“At least three dozen.” I thought on it for a minute and continued. “There may be more I didn’t see, also. And the ones I did are pretty brawny. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that there were some weres in there, but I didn’t want to be obvious by scenting them.”
Rafe nodded. “Good call.”
“Rafe, we need to get them out,” the Blood Valley Omega, Colby urged, a desperate note in his voice.
A twitch from the corner of my eye drew my attention to where their hands were joined on the table. Blood was pooling on the table from where Colby’s claws had forced their way free and sliced through the flesh of his Alpha’s hand.
“We will, baby,” Rafe agreed soothingly, ignoring the injuries as he comforted his mate. “We just need to finalize the plan.”
Horace had just snuck into my cell and unzipped his stained jeans to pull his dick out for what he referred to as his “nightly bonus” when the building suddenly rocked on its foundation and a booming thud echoed through the halls, temporarily deafening me. He shoved himself back in his pants and zipped up on the run, heading out to the post he had been neglecting as chaos descended on the usually ordered halls of the facility.
A werewolf from the security team, Kulbert, wrenched the door to my cell open and swore when he saw that I was still tied down.
“Shit!” He crossed to me quickly, slashing through the leather of my restraints rather than take the time to unfasten them. “We need to move, now!”
“Yes, sir,” I agreed obediently, spitting out the gag he released and taking advantage of his distraction to slide my bone comb – the one personal item that I had been allowed to keep – off the shelf by the door, securing it in my hair before following him to the door.
The hallways were packed with snarling beasts screaming and locked in combat, the floor was already slick with blood as the small contingent of jailors ushered us toward the escape tunnel that led into the woods. I noticed immediately that the children were being left behind; only the adults were being evacuated.
I was trailing behind with Kulbert pushing me to catch up to the group ahead of me when I pretended to stumble climbing out of the escape hatch. There were only two beings behind me – a were I couldn’t place and an Omega that I had never seen before. When the were was charged by a black wolf that materialized from the shadows, Kulbert spun around to jump to his assistance. Knowing I would never have a better opportunity, I slid my comb free of my hair, pushing the handle that I had carefully honed into a blade between his ribs with a sudden thrust and jerking it free. When he turned back to me in surprise, one clawed hand clasping at his chest, I slashed from left to right, opening his throat into a macabre grin that kept him from calling for help, and eased back into the shadows of the dark mountainside without being seen.
I picked my way through the darkness, searching for the river that I knew ran down the mountain. Instead of following it to town, the direction that any logical being would go, I splashed through the center of the stream against the current and climbed higher, counting on the water to mask my scent. Once the fracas cleared, someone was sure to notice me missing and that meant a high probability that shifters with advanced senses would once again be hunting me. There was no way in hell I was going to make myself easy to find….