Series 10 Episode 5
Pacing back and forth, Cody felt angry. The plan was ruined and now the entire pack was in jeopardy. He didn’t know what to do, and that wasn’t something that happened very often. It was only making him more and more frustrated.
There was one thing that he knew for certain, though. He had to rescue Oscar. He’d become such an essential part of the pack, and going back to life without him wasn’t worth thinking about.
The only problem was how. There was no way they could break Oscar out of jail. Cody and Keisha were both at the crime scene too – they were people of interest and would surely be arrested on sight. He couldn’t guarantee that Archie and Mariana weren’t known to the sheriff’s department as well. Sending them in to rescue Oscar was far too big a risk.
“Quit pacing,” Keisha yelled. She, Archie and Mariana were gathered on the sofas, but Cody couldn’t sit down. He was much too anxious to relax.
“How are you so chilled out? Oscar’s not safe, and we’ve got no way of getting him back,” Cody vented, “He’s one of us, remember.”
“No. He’s your pet. Your lover boy. He’s nothing to do with us,” Keisha defended.
“He’s saved your ass so many times, Keisha,” Cody was furious, “You seem desperate to hate Oscar, but why? What do you get out of bashing the first person I’ve ever loved?”
“I get an alpha that isn’t distracted from doing his job,” Keisha justified, “It’s all Oscar this and Oscar that, but you’ve not mentioned Brett once. This guy just lost his boyfriend, and he came to us for help. Now, he’s in a fucking cell and it’s all because of us. What are you going to do to help him?”
Cody slumped down at last. Keisha had a point, but that didn’t need to distract from Oscar. He needed saving too, and it wasn’t one or the other.
“We can’t abandon Oscar,” Archie chipped in. It was rare that he got much of a word in edgeways. Cody and Keisha were so loud, going at each other’s throats.
“Then we rescue both,” Cody decided, “But how? We can’t get near the sheriff station.”
“We wait.” Mariana answered. She never spoke much, but when she did, she always made perfect sense, “Oscar said the Sheriff is Drummond’s stepdad. He’ll be released and back in Crystalshaw in no time.”
Cody smiled. That was genius. His route back to Oscar was clear, and the morning couldn’t have come soon enough.
Jolting awake, Dylan was taken aback to see Oscar stood at the side of his bed. It wasn’t the soft, gentle awakening he was hoping to have every morning over the summer.
“What?” Dylan groaned. With Freddie staying with George for the time being, and Josh guarding Lily, their bedroom was empty and perfect for Oscar to sleep in. What Dylan didn’t sign up for was the early wakeups.
“There’s someone in your bathroom. Someone different,” Oscar explained, “I don’t recognise the scent.”
“Huh?” Dylan’s brain still wasn’t switched on, “Oh, it’s probably my aunt.” Of course, it made sense that Maria would be hogging their only bathroom. As if she wasn’t getting in the way enough already.
“Oh,” Oscar sat on the edge of the bed, “Sorry for waking you up.”
“It’s okay,” Dylan sighed, “I’m not used to an empty bed. It took me a while to sleep last night.” Of course, Jono was protecting Lily too, and while Dylan understood, he still missed Jono dearly.
“Me too,” Oscar admitted. Dylan hadn’t thought about that – it was his first night without Cody. Whatever his opinions on him were, Dylan understood Oscar’s feelings. Love was pretty difficult to deny, “Any news?”
“She’s okay, she’s human again,” Dylan relayed the last text Jono had sent him. Of course, he’d updated Oscar and Brett the night before. If they were back, they deserved to be kept up to date.
“Thank god,” Oscar replied, sharing Dylan’s relief.
Three knocks came from the door. Before Dylan could grant access, Maria poked her head inside.
“Bathroom’s free,” she interrupted, skipping the pleasantries, before catching eyes with Oscar, “Who’s this one, Dylan?”
“This is Oscar,” Dylan answered, “Oscar, meet my aunt Maria.”
“Nice to meet you, Oscar,” Maria beamed, “Aren’t you the one who went missing?”
Dylan groaned. He was gobsmacked at just how brazen she could be. There wasn’t a single splinter of sensitivity in her body. Dylan found it difficult to imagine Maria and his mum growing up together – they were so wildly different.
“Thanks, Aunt Maria, I’ll see you later,” Dylan swerved the question and wrapped the conversation up as politely as he knew how. Getting the message, Maria backed out, much to Dylan’s relief.
“Woah, you could cut the atmosphere with a knife,” Oscar chuckled, “She doesn’t know, does she?”
“No, and she doesn’t need to. She’ll be gone soon, and things will be back to normal,” Dylan insisted.
“And until then, she’s slap bang in the middle of everything,” Oscar commented, “Come on, let’s get ready. No time to waste.”
Dylan sighed. He didn’t have the energy yet. He understood how keen Oscar was to see his mum, but Dylan had barely slept. Something told him it was going to be an exhausting day.
Her mind whirring away on overdrive as she confidently paraded through the sheriff station, Yasmin hadn’t stopped trying to process everything happening around her. So much weird stuff was happening all over Crystalshaw, and it made so little sense. Normally, she’d be desperate to find the links between events, but nothing seemed to check out.
There were the murders. The letter from so-called “David.” The return of Oscar and discovery of his new pack. Lily becoming a fully-fledged werewolf. So much to take in, and far too much was going on for these events to be unrelated coincidences, but how did they link? She had so many theories, but they were all based on guesswork.
Usually, Yasmin would sound her ideas out on one of her friends, but they all seemed preoccupied. Dylan was looking after Oscar, Freddie had enough baggage to deal with between Sammi in hospital and his dad’s return, and Josh and Jono were looking after Lily. This time, it was a solo mission.
The sheriff station was the perfect place to find some answers. Ed knew the most about the seven murders, and that seemed like the sensible starting point. The more she knew, the better equipped the whole pack would be.
“Hey,” Yasmin strolled straight into Ed’s office, oblivious to anything happening. It was far more comfortable than a sheriff’s office should ever have been, but Ed wasn’t far off being family. Embarrassingly though, Yasmin realised Ed wasn’t alone. She’d intruded on something. Sat on the opposite side of Ed’s desk was a friendly face, one Yasmin hadn’t seen in a while. She knew Brett was back, but this was the first time she’d seen him face-to-face, “Oh, I’m sorry.”
“You could’ve knocked,” Ed raised an eyebrow.
“Hey,” Brett raised a slight smile, which was more than Yasmin expected from him. He must have been wrecked after what happened to Johnny. It truly put things into perspective for Yasmin. The supernatural world was dangerous, “Don’t worry, I want her to stay,” he notified Ed, before looking back to Yasmin, “If that’s okay.” Yasmin nodded. Her detective work could wait. Brett was more important.
“Of course. Take a seat, Yasmin. Just a couple more questions and then we can wrap,” Ed continued, “Who were the kids you were with?”
Yasmin pulled up a chair next to Brett, who had gone completely silent. He seemed unsure over whether to answer or not. As if he were protecting someone.
“Oscar’s safe now,” Yasmin reminded. She knew these were the people who had Oscar with them for so many months, but Brett didn’t need to protect him now.
“They weren’t the killers,” Brett insisted, “They were helping me. They’ve got a bit of a reputation for offering help, and I was desperate.”
“That’s all well and good, but I need their names, Brett. I need to be able to rule them out if nothing else,” Ed reasoned. Brett paused again, pondering. To Yasmin, this was a no-brainer, but Brett seemed to think differently. What else did he know?
“There’s four of them. The two with us were Cody and Keisha. I’m sorry, I don’t know their surnames. Cody’s the alpha, and he’s Oscar’s boyfriend. Keisha’s second-in-command,” Brett informed, “The other two are called Archie and Mariana. I’m sorry, I don’t know much about them.”
“You’re doing really well Brett, just one more thing,” Ed encouraged, “Where can they be found?”
“There’s a warehouse about five minutes from Crystalshaw College. That’s their base, maybe even their home,” Brett revealed.
“Thank you, Brett, you’ve been more than helpful. You’re free to go home now if you wish,” Ed smiled.
“You know,” Yasmin chimed in, “I could do with an extra pair of eyes, if you’re not busy.”
“I think I’d appreciate the distraction,” Brett nodded, “And to be fair, I have kinda missed this. What’s up?”
“Why do I get the feeling this is going to involve me discussing confidential police matters with civilians?” Ed raised an eyebrow.
“Do we count as civilians? You’re lucky I’ve not asked to be added to the payroll,” Yasmin chuckled. She knew Ed was willing to help them – there was far too much at stake for him to say no.
Gazing aimlessly at the ceiling, Josh was struggling to stay awake. He’d been up most of the night keeping watch. It wasn’t the first all-nighter he’d pulled, so the concept wasn’t new, but that didn’t make it easier. His eyelids felt like they had weights pulling them down.
Initially, Josh and Jono had intended to take it in turns to keep watch, but Josh was doing his friend a favour. Jono had done so much for him over the years, so the least he could do in return was allow him some rest after one of the most stressful days he’d ever had.
Besides, it wasn’t difficult work. All Josh had to do was check on Lily occasionally, and it had been good news all night. Lily had been human the entire time. For now, the worst was over.
“Wh…what time is it?” Jono slurred, waking up from his makeshift bed on the cold, slightly damp floor of the bunker tunnel.
“Ten past nine,” Josh replied, checking his phone. 7% battery left. He could do with a trip home – a change of clothes, some charge for his phone and a nap wouldn’t go amiss.
“What? Dude, you were supposed to wake me,” Jono was agitated.
“Don’t worry, she’s fine. We’re through the worst, I think. The next obstacle is the full moon,” Josh relayed.
“Or something that makes her pulse race,” Jono corrected.
Almost on cue, the entrance to the underground tunnel slid open. A pair of legs shot into view, climbing carefully down the rusty ladder. Their identity was obvious from the clothing: tight-fitting, bright red trousers and a patterned t-shirt to match. Josh only knew one person with such a vibrant, androgynous fashion sense. Alex.
“Where is she?” he demanded to know.
“Oh, hey Alex, how was the flight?” Josh sarcastically hit him with some small talk. Alex had spent the first few days of summer with his family, begrudgingly, but he’d caught the first flight back when he heard about Lily from Jono.
“Dude, I think we’ve got bigger priorities than chit-chat,” Alex cut to the point, and Josh couldn’t blame him. He’d missed a lot in a short space of time, and the person he cared for the most was in potential danger. Josh could only dream of having someone to care for him in that way.
“Look, why don’t you go home? Get some rest. We’ll be okay, I promise,” Jono suggested. Josh couldn’t refuse such an offer – he was shattered, and he wasn’t sure his phone would last through another Fresh Prince episode.
“Okay, but if you need me, you have to promise you’ll call,” Josh insisted before dashing to the ladder up. All he could do was trust in Jono – he was perfectly equipped to handle the worst physically, but he had to find the emotional strength too.
Fresh and full of energy, Sammi was buzzed to be leaving the hospital. She’d received the all-clear from the doctor and finally, she could go home. The sensation of her own clothes against her skin had never felt so good, but anything and everything was preferable to the hideous gown she’d spent the night in.
It felt like she had an entire entourage to take her home, too. Freddie had spent the night by her bedside, and both Jeremy and Felix were there too. The fuss was pretty sweet, if a little over the top. All she needed was someone to drive her home.
There was one thing Sammi just couldn’t shake, though. The glowing eyes in the window the night before. She knew those eyes anywhere. The familiar silhouette. The note in the lake. It wasn’t some hoax after all. Somehow, her dad was alive, and he was reaching out.
“Got everything?” Freddie smiled, picking up Sammi’s rucksack for her. He had really stepped up to the doting house-husband role, and Sammi wasn’t against it. A little extra fuss was exactly what the doctor ordered, pun aside.
“I think so,” Sammi replied. She hadn’t told him about David, or anyone else for that matter. Freddie had his own fatherhood problems without Sammi adding to them. Ideally, she needed to speak to Dylan, but it was going to be a tough conversation. Everyone in the pack had been scarred by David’s actions, “Go and bring the car to the door, we’ll meet you there.”
“Sure. Don’t be too long, okay? Remember I’ve got an appointment,” Freddie nudged, not for the first time that day. The appointment was less formal than it sounded – he was meeting up with his dad. Sammi wasn’t forcing him to talk about it, but his anxiety was obvious. Anyone would be the same in his shoes.
“Of course, we’ll be right out,” Sammi assured. Freddie nodded and slipped out of the room, which afforded Sammi a little privacy with her brother and Felix. They were the only ones who knew the truth, and they needed a plan of action.
“You’ve not told him,” Jeremy observed.
“He’s got enough on his plate,” Sammi insisted, “Everyone does. Before we tell the others, we need more information.”
“We saw his glowing eyes, that’s pretty concrete,” Felix reminded.
“But why is he here? Why now? How did he survive? There’s so much that doesn’t make any sense,” Sammi reasoned.
“Okay, we need answers, but how? We don’t know where he is, and I don’t think a friendly catch-up is on the cards,” Jeremy pondered.
“I think I know how we can find out,” Sammi considered, “You saw Jono’s message in the group chat, right?”
“About Lily and some shop? Yes,” Jeremy answered.
“Wait, you have a pack group chat?” Felix interrupted, aghast.
“Duh,” Sammi replied.
“I feel offended that I’m not involved, just saying,” Felix noted.
“I’ll add you later, let’s keep focused,” Jeremy reminded, “What’s the plan? How is Lily involved?”
“Only an alpha can create new werewolves. She was bitten, Jeremy, and it wasn’t by Dylan. I’d bank on it being him,” Sammi justified, “Lily was found near town, so wherever she had been before that, whatever shop this is, it must be close by, and there must be a scent. If he’d been there, you’d be able to suss it out.”
“I can give it a go,” Jeremy committed, “But if we find him, promise we’ll tell Dylan?”
“Promise,” Sammi assured. David was far too dangerous for them to face alone.
Daunted by the building towering over him, Oscar was beyond nervous. It had been the best part of a year since he’d seen that house. He’d spent as much time away from it as he’d spent living there before college.
It still felt like home, though. Much more than he anticipated after moving out of his childhood house. Sure, he still had all his belongings, and the same bed, but it was the company that mattered. He always had his mum with him. They’d always been close, and not seeing her for so long has played on Oscar’s mind like mad.
Every time he thought of his mum, Oscar’s heart broke. He never had the opportunity to explain his deal with Cody to her. Heck, she didn’t even know that he was a werewolf. She must have been so worried, and it was all his fault. He didn’t have a clue how to explain where he’d been for so many months.
There was no backing out, though, even if Oscar wanted to. This had to happen sooner or later, and it had to come from him. It was the least his mum deserved. Not that the inevitability stopped him being terrified. At least he had Dylan for moral support. It made a strange moment feel just a little comforting.
Dylan rang the doorbell while Oscar attempted to compose himself. Deep breath in. Deep breath out. He wasn’t sure it was working, but at least it provided a little mental distraction.
“Hello?” Oscar watched as his mum answered the door. Her expression relaxed upon seeing Dylan at the forefront of the doorstep, “Hi Dylan, what brings you here?” Then she noticed. For the first time in a long time, Oscar made eye contact with his mum. The clarity of his vision was obscured by the cloudy tears that sprinted down his cheeks like a criminal fleeing custody. He couldn’t contain himself any longer.
“Hi mom,” Oscar wiped the tears from his cheeks.
“My boy,” she was crying just as much as he was. Quickly, as if she might miss her opportunity, she wrapped Oscar in a tight embrace. Oscar felt so overwhelmed, but being in his mum’s arms was all he needed to feel safe, “Are you okay? Come inside, tell me everything. Where have you been, sweetie?”
Oscar stepped inside, holding back on the question-and-answer for the time being. The wonderful scents of home blessed his nostrils for the first time in so long. The house looked just as he remembered. None of the photos on the walls had changed at all. Oscar supposed home redecoration hadn’t exactly been a priority.
“Let me make you a coffee,” his mum insisted, “Then you can tell me everything.” Oscar nervously glanced at Dylan as they sat side-by-side on the sofa. He’d taken for granted how comfortable it was; Cody’s furniture was nowhere near as luxurious.
“What happens next is up to you,” Dylan advised, keeping his voice low, “But from my experience, keeping secrets benefits no-one. The truth comes out eventually. It always does.” Oscar knew he was right. He had to be honest.
Jono felt so relieved to be driving Lily home at last. Leaving her in the bunker overnight felt cruel and horrible. The fact it was necessary didn’t soften the blow. The first few hours after the bite were the worst Jono had ever experienced. His animalistic instincts had never been stronger, and control was non-existent.
Learning control was an art in itself. It took time and practise, and a lot of determination. Lily hadn’t seen this side of being a werewolf before. She was used to the vision, hearing and healing, but the rough part was brand new.
The pack were experts at dealing with newly-bitten werewolves, though, and that made Jono feel more optimistic. Dylan, Freddie, Oscar, and Jono himself had all been through it within the space of a few years, but Lily wasn’t the same. She was already part-werewolf. Something had caused a shift in her, and that was cause for concern. Something was out there. Something with immense power. Jono couldn’t lie – he was terrified.
Lily hadn’t been herself, though. She was quiet and reserved – quite the opposite of her usual self, particularly in Jono’s company. Perhaps it was tiredness, or anxiety after everything that had happened? Even so, something seemed off.
“How are you feeling?” Alex asked. Lily was cradled in his arms across the back seat.
“Fine,” Lily replied, being unusually blunt. Something was definitely up, and Jono was scared. She wasn’t like that the night before.
Jono took a left off the main road. He knew the way home like the back of his hand, so his driving was basically on autopilot. The roads were delightfully quiet – rush hour had passed and the world had settled down again, meaning there wasn’t a single bit of traffic – just the way Jono liked it.
“Err, Jono,” Alex said, confused, “Where are we going?”
“Home,” Jono answered, bewildered. What a strange question. Where else would they be going? Undeterred, Jono kept driving along the blissfully empty road, before parking up in a somewhat deserted car park next to the forest.
That wasn’t right. How were they at the forest? Jono was confused. They weren’t anywhere close to home. The lakehouse was the complete opposite end of the forest, in fact. Worry started to infiltrate Jono’s mind. This wasn’t normal. This wasn’t right.
“Dude,” Alex’s concerned tone was growing stronger, “Are you okay?”
“I told you,” Lily sounded terrified.
“Told him what?” Jono spun around to face his passengers, startling Alex. His face went from confused to terrified in a split second. Jono was alarmed. The situation was growing weirder and weirder by the second. It was like some weird nightmare.
“Jono,” Alex stuttered, “Look in the mirror.”
Jono spun back around to check, unsure of what to expect. Sure enough though, it became apparent immediately.
His eyes were red. Glowing, just like Dylan’s.
Just like an alpha’s.
Belittled by the building in front of him, Freddie felt uneasy. The place he was only just learning to call home had begun to feel unwelcoming. Freddie was stood still on the doorstep of the Drummond house, key in hand, but he wasn’t sure he had the courage to open the door. Once he’d committed, there was no going back.
Freddie knew this moment would come, but he was shocked it had happened so soon. The emotions he felt hadn’t vanished. He still felt angry, and annoyed, and upset, and blindsided. It was going to take a lot of time for any of those to vanish.
From his arrival, Freddie knew his dad wanted to talk. He wouldn’t have shown his face if he didn’t want to speak to his sons, and Freddie wanted to hear him out. At the very least, he’d get some answers to the questions he’d asked ever since he was a kid. The vague, wishy-washy replies from his mum when Freddie felt jealous at his classmates running into their fathers’ arms at the end of the school day.
Taking a deep breath, Freddie slid the key into the lock. After all, he knew he didn’t have a choice. Running away is exactly what his father had done, and Freddie was better than that. There was no way he was going to make the exact same mistake.
“Freddie, is that you?” a voice immediately called out as he shut the door behind him. That voice. The voice he couldn’t have picked out of a crowd just a few days before, yet it now carried so much weight. Sheepishly, Freddie followed the voice into the living room. There he was, sat cosily on Caroline’s armchair, clearly making himself at home, “Take a seat. I made coffee. I wasn’t sure if you wanted milk or sugar, so I brought it all in.”
“Thanks,” Freddie half-smiled, noticing the tray on the coffee table organised neatly with two mugs, a milk jug and the sugar pot, “Just milk, please.”
“Snap,” Mark smiled broadly. Freddie sat down at the far end of the sofa while Mark poured a splash of milk into one of the mugs. He couldn’t deny it – the effort was admirable. It was the least he could do, Freddie supposed, “Thank you for coming. I know I’ve got a lot of explaining to do, but I hope we can get to know each other a little.”
“Why did you leave?” Freddie asked.
“Oh,” Mark seemed surprised by the question, but Freddie didn’t want to endure endless, mind-numbing small talk. He was ready to get to the point, “Your mom and I had been arguing. Like, a lot, for the best part of a year. We tried everything. Date nights, a break from each other, even counselling, but nothing was working. The divorce was going to be messy, and my mental health was at rock bottom.”
“Did you talk to mom?” Freddie was listening intently.
“It wasn’t the done thing for men to be seen as weak, so no, but I wish I had,” Mark admitted, “Because I’ve seen the consequences of not talking and they’re not pretty.”
“So you just left?” Freddie tried to piece the story together.
“I had to, for both our sakes,” Mark clarified.
“But why did you cut us off entirely? No cards, letters, calls,” Freddie queried, “Not even when mom died. You let George step up and become my parent because we had nobody else. It was that or the care system.”
“I tried, you know,” Mark glanced at the floor, his head low, “I wanted to come back for the funeral. For you both. I tried, but I couldn’t. I had an anxiety attack that day. Coming back meant facing up to what I did. Even now, coming to Crystalshaw wasn’t an easy decision.”
Freddie didn’t know what to say. He was learning so much, and his heart was breaking. It was easy to assume the worst of someone, but he didn’t have the full story.
“I’m sorry,” Freddie finally said.
“It’s okay. You’ve had every right to hate me, but I can already tell you’re a smart kid, Freddie. You get that from your mom. I’d love to learn more about you, whenever you’re ready. No pressure,” Mark requested.
“I’m at college now, studying computer science,” Freddie divulged, “I’m dating a girl called Sammi, she’s Jono’s cousin and she’s amazing.”
“I’m so proud of you, and George too. I assume he wasn’t up for seeing me today,” Mark wondered.
“He’ll come, in his own time,” Freddie replied. George wasn’t going to be swayed so easily, not when he was burned first-hand by Mark’s actions, but the truth spoke volumes.
It was like a weight had been lifted off Freddie’s shoulders.
Brett loved watching Yasmin in action. She was never more at ease than when she had a case to crack. It was obvious that she loved the challenge of piecing the evidence together, and she never missed a trick.
On the other hand, investigative work didn’t come so naturally to Brett. He wasn’t as stupid as many assumed – he wasn’t the basketball meathead jock who could barely spell his own name, but that didn’t stop people assuming the worst. Johnny was the first person to truly see through that, and he taught him how to love himself. He’d never lose the value of self-love.
Despite that, Brett was feeling like a spare part in Ed’s office. Yasmin was in full flow and Ed was offering all the answers she needed, but Brett hadn’t thought of anything to contribute that wasn’t stating the obvious.
It was better than being at home, though. Brett hadn’t slept much the night before – how could he? His mind was consumed by grief and sadness. It felt like it would never go away.
“Seven murders, all around Crystalshaw, but what’s the link? Why these people?” Yasmin pondered aloud.
“Does there need to be a link?” Brett considered.
“Not necessarily,” Yasmin thought, “But they could have killed anyone. Why, specifically, these seven people?”
“What are their names?” Brett wondered. He’d surely recognise the names of any werewolves; Dylan wasn’t exactly little-known in Crystalshaw after all.
“All seven, right here,” Ed passed a lined piece of paper, his semi-legible writing listing the victims. Brett paused for a moment, doing a double take when he saw Johnny’s name at the bottom of the list. It still hadn’t properly sunk in yet, “Recognise any?”
“No,” Brett sighed. So much for that idea. He examined the details of the victims more closely, “They’re all different ages, with different backgrounds. There’s literally nothing in common.”
“There’s always something,” Yasmin insisted, “Maybe it’s subtle, but it’s there. We just need to find it.”
“And if they kill again? We can’t waste time,” Brett was determined. He couldn’t let any more lives be lost.
“If we don’t keep looking, people will definitely die,” Yasmin corrected, “This is how we get justice for Johnny, Brett. I promise.”
Brett sighed. Yasmin was right – she always was – but it felt hopeless. Nevertheless, he glanced back at the list. Though it seemed stupid, Brett checked the first letters of each name.
No luck. No hint of any clue or anagram among them. Brett was getting frustrated quickly. He’d make a terrible detective; patience was not on his side.
There it was. Staring him right in the face. The first letters meant nothing, but that wasn’t the only way to form an anagram. The last letters were a different story entirely.
Y. O. H. F. S. R. T.
A harsh shiver slammed through Brett’s body. He looked over to Yasmin, oblivious to his discovery. How could he break this news to her? What did it even mean? Brett was confused, but he knew it wasn’t going to be good – nothing involving her father ever was.
“Um,” Brett piped up, bracing himself, “I think I found the link. Heads up, you’re not gonna like it.”
“What is it?” Yasmin asked, almost excitedly. Brett felt guilty. He was about to burst her bubble, and he hated that it had fallen onto his shoulders.
“Look at what the last letters spell out,” Brett held out the piece of paper. Yasmin’s expression turned from intrigued to terrified in a split second.
“M-my dad,” she stuttered. She was horrified, and Brett felt much the same.
There was always a slight awkwardness when sitting on someone else’s sofa, Dylan thought. He couldn’t casually lounge like he would at home. His posture was bolt upright, both his feet were on the floor, and his hands laid on top of his knees. It wasn’t the most comfortable position; why did spreading out on someone else’s sofa feel rude?
Besides, Dylan was more focused on Oscar than himself. He was sat similarly, more reserved than you’d expect him to be in his own house. After all, it hadn’t been his home for a while. Nevertheless, Dylan could sense Oscar’s nerves against his own skin. The emotions were so strong in that room.
“You look well,” Gemma observed. Dylan had visited Oscar’s mum several times during his absence. He felt it was part of his duty as Oscar’s alpha, not that she knew the full story. Nonetheless, she’d insisted on first name terms. Ms. Madden-Whelan was quite the mouthful anyway.
“Yeah,” Oscar nodded, “Look, mom, there’s a lot to tell you, but there’s one thing I have to show you first. Please, don’t be scared, it’s nothing bad. Promise me you won’t hate me.”
“Oscar, I could never hate you,” Gemma insisted. Dylan knew she was telling the truth. She had been lost without her only son.
“Okay. Give me a moment,” Oscar requested, hiding his face with his hand. Dylan knew what was coming next, but there was no way Gemma could prepare herself. Slowly, Oscar withdrew his hands, exposing a sight that had become familiar to Dylan.
“Oh my god,” Gemma’s eyes widened, her jaw dropping like a cash register as she saw her son’s transformed face. His cheeks were hairy, his mouth brimming with extra teeth and fangs, while his ears had grown pointy, sticking out from his stylish blonde shaggy locks that remained untouched. That was the weirdest part – he was still visibly Oscar, but the cuteness had morphed into an animal, “What are you?”
“Werewolf,” Oscar answered, glowing his bright yellow eyes. Dylan didn’t doubt Oscar for a second, but he was definitely relieved that he hadn’t lost the innocence of that yellow colour in his absence.
“But…how?” Oscar’s mum could barely form a sentence.
“Long story,” Oscar replied, shifting back to his human form, “There’s a fair few of us. Jono, Josh, Freddie.”
“And me,” Dylan chipped in.
“Dylan saved my life. If it wasn’t for him, I’d be dead, but it meant I became a werewolf too,” Oscar recalled.
“Um, okay,” Gemma had never looked so baffled, “Is this a game?”
“No, mom, it’s real, you saw…” Oscar was worried. This was what he’d feared.
“It was a mask. I saw you hiding your face to put it on,” Gemma was determined not to believe.
“You think?” Dylan stepped in. He allowed the wolf to take over, like raising a barrier in his mind. He let his face morphing into its alternative form – it wasn’t painful, but it never stopped feeling strange. Dylan tried to avoid shifting when he could, but this was a separate scenario.
“No. This isn’t real,” Gemma insisted.
“Mom,” Oscar knelt down and took her hand, “This is real. This is me. If you want to know where I’ve been, you must understand this first.” Gemma fell silent. Finally, she was opening her mind.
“Okay,” Gemma nodded, “Please, tell me everything. I’m listening.”
“I’ll save you the trouble,” another voice butted in. A voice Dylan didn’t recognise. His eyes shot to the right, seeing a figure stood at the far end of the room. How he got inside, Dylan didn’t know, but he had a bad feeling. The figure was male, with messy red curls drooping just below his shoulders. To make matters worse, his hair colour wasn’t far off the sharp glow of his eyes.
This had to be Cody.
In a split second, Cody shot across the room. He ignored Dylan and Oscar completely; Gemma was the target. Before Dylan could intervene, he slammed his claws into the back of Gemma’s neck.
“No,” Dylan called out as Oscar lunged forward to fight, “I’ve seen this before. We can’t break the link, or they’ll both die.”
Dylan knew little about who Cody was, but he was sinking in his estimations with every passing second.
Focused intently on his nose, Jeremy was in the zone. He knew Sammi and Felix were relying on his enhanced senses, so he couldn’t afford to mess up. It surely couldn’t have been that difficult to follow a scent anyway, particularly that of his own cousin.
It hadn’t been long since Lily was last at this shop, whatever shop it might have been. That was good news for Jeremy, as it meant the scent would still be lingering. The more time that passed, the weaker the scent got.
The problem was the location. It was midday during summer break, so Crystalshaw high street was busier than ever. So many people were around, hundreds passing Jeremy by every minute. So many scents to cloud his nose. His job was so much tougher, but not completely impossible.
“Anything?” Sammi keenly questioned.
“Nothing at all,” Jeremy fed back. So far, it felt like a gigantic waste of time.
“We must be close,” Felix encouraged. Jeremy always knew he could rely on him. Felix was the only person who truly understood the inner workings of Jeremy’s chaotic brain. Even Jeremy himself didn’t completely understand his mind most of the time.
The trio passed shop after shop and still, Jeremy couldn’t find a thing. It felt hopeless – whatever happened to Lily clearly didn’t take place in a busy shop, so they had to look for somewhere less obvious. Somewhere nearby where Lily could be taken without anyone seeing.
The difficulty was that there weren’t any empty buildings in sight. Every shop was occupied, which explained the complete lack of scent. They were almost definitely wasting their time, and Jeremy didn’t want to be a spare part.
“This is hopeless,” he sighed, “We’re looking in the wrong place. She can’t have been anywhere as busy as this.”
“You’re right,” Sammi admitted, “But where are there empty shops?”
“I’ve got an idea,” Felix piped up, jogging on ahead. Confused, Jeremy followed with Sammi bringing up the rear. He took them to the end of the high street – the quiet section, with much fewer people around. Felix ground to a halt in front of a single, deserted shop building. They were in luck: Jeremy picked up on Lily’s scent. She had been there.
“This is the place,” Jeremy announced with glee, “How did you know?”
“I didn’t,” Felix admitted, “Lucky guess I suppose. My dad used to own a repair shop but it went under a few years ago.”
“You’re the best,” Jeremy smiled proudly. Felix looked back modestly; it was so cute.
“Right, let’s go in,” Sammi keenly decided – too keenly for her own good, Jeremy suspected.
“It’ll be locked, nobody’s been inside in years,” Felix mentioned. They knew that wasn’t true, though, because Lily had been there. Jeremy attempted the door, and sure enough, it creaked open without any bother.
“Oops,” Felix gulped. He was getting scared, and Jeremy was too. They were about to walk into the unknown, and Jeremy wasn’t confident.
“Come on,” Sammi made up for their reservations, springing into the shop first. Jeremy shared a look of worry with Felix. Neither of them felt positive, but together, they stepped inside. They had each other’s backs above all else.
Inside the shop, Jeremy instantly noticed how dirty it was. Empty shelving units were coated in thick dust jackets; Felix was right, it had been abandoned. The walls were bare, and the only other furnishing was the cash desk, which was, of course, just as dusty as the shelves.
“Guys,” Sammi called. Quickly, Jeremy dashed further into the room. Slithering into view was an alarming patch of dried blood. Well, mostly dry. It hadn’t been there long.
“It’s Lily’s,” Jeremy identified, but something wasn’t right. There was more than just Lily’s scent there. One that he recognised, “And another scent.”
“Whose is it?” Sammi impatiently queried.
“No,” Jeremy figured it out. He knew exactly whose it was, “It can’t be.” The rumours were true.
“It’s our dad’s.”
Gently stirring, Josh’s eyes adjusted back to the light with great difficulty. He really needed some blackout curtains for that room. Thankfully, he’d managed a significant nap – not quite enough to make up for his all-nighter, but the edge had certainly been taken off.
Josh had no regrets, anyway. He did Jono a favour, which went some small way towards repaying him for everything he’d done. After all, Jono could have cut Josh off years back – he’d had more than enough reasons to. Instead, Jono had remained loyal, as had Dylan and the rest of the pack. Now he had a home and a family that he could rely on, and it was thanks to them.
Heaving himself up, Josh checked his phone. One hundred percent battery, thankfully. As per usual, he had a few notifications: a couple of new Instagram followers, a Duolingo reminder and a countdown to his birthday. Unusually, though, the pack group chat was silent. It was only ever quiet for one reason – everyone was busy, and considering it was the summer, there could only be one thing keeping them occupied.
Grabbing his trousers from the floor and a fresh t-shirt from his chest of drawers, Josh was getting ready in record time. Whatever was going on, he wanted to be involved. He wanted to help in any way he could. Ready to go, Josh grabbed his phone and headed out the door. Confusingly, though, the door was locked. Josh was baffled – the door didn’t have a lock on it. Did he slam it by mistake and jam it?
Nonetheless, that wasn’t enough to stop him. Josh was a werewolf, he could perfectly land a jump from the window. Strangely, though, the window was locked too. This was weird. Josh was beginning to feel scared. Something was up.
“Did you miss me?” a voice broke the blissful silence like a wrecking ball. A voice he knew. A voice he’d prayed never to hear again. A voice he thought was long since dead and buried. Nervously, Josh turned to face the voice. Sure enough, there he was. The most impossible sight. Josh was frozen to the spot. His worst nightmare had come true.