by John Nation
One of the richest men in the world declares war on Sheriff Johnson and the Pack.
|It was a few minutes past midnight when Miranda completed the last of her company inspections. She was basically pleased with the direction most of the ones in Pittsburg were moving. A change of management in the one that did not live up to expectations should solve the problems it was having. Sara walked next to her. They would go to the airport and Sara would fly them back to Montana. They were in the taxi when Miranda’s phone rang. She answered it at once. “Miranda here,” she said. She listened as the caller spoke.
Next to Miranda, Sara’s body stiffened. She was capable of hearing the conversation as if she was the one holding the phone. Miranda’s flower shop in Houston had just burned down. The suspected cause of the fire was arson. That was bad enough, but one of her employees died in the blaze. There would be no way Miranda would allow that to go by without repercussions for whoever was responsible.
When Miranda hung up, Sara said, “Houston instead of Missoula?”
“Yes. How long will it take?”
“I’ll have to submit a new flight plan, but we can be there by first light.”
“Let’s do it.”
A little over an hour later, they were taking off. They were not traveling in the 787 the pack owned. There were only the two of them. They only used the big plane when the entire pack was going across the continent or across the ocean. They had a smaller jet for less people and shorter flights.
Just as Sara promised, they touched down as the sun rose. It was another two hours before they were at the ashes that a day earlier had been a thriving florist shop in the middle of downtown Houston. Both of them ignored the yellow tape surrounding the site and moved to get a closer look.
“The fire started here,” Miranda said after a couple of minutes. She took a deep breath of air, picking up lingering traces of different odors. “Kerosene was poured in this area and a match was tossed on it.” She began to walk. “The arsonist ran to the door and outside.” She walked across the street. “There was a car waiting for him here. He got in the passenger side and was driven away.”
She returned back to the store. Again she moved around, this time stopping in the back. “The worker was here when the fire started. By the time she realized the building was on fire, her path out was blocked.” Miranda moved around some more. “She took refuse here,” Miranda said while pointing at a large metal cabinet. “She ducked inside and closed the door, hoping to stay away from the fire. The cabinet did protect her from direct contact with the flames, but not from the heat itself. After a few minutes, she could not stay inside any longer. She pulled the door open. I imagine she decided to race through the flames at her top speed and hope she could get outside. Before she could take her first step, the superheated air burned the lining of her lungs and she fell to the ground here.”
She looked at Sara. “Someone will pay dearly for this.”
No sooner did she say that when her phone rang. “Miranda,” she said when she answered.
“Ms. Skinner, this is Lyle Montgomery. I just found out about the fire. Let me be among the first to offer my condolences. I was horrified to hear one of your people died.”
“You are nowhere near as horrified as you will be if I find you had anything to do with this.”
“Miranda, I am shocked you would have such a revolting thought. I would never do anything like this. All my dealings are above reproach. Now with that established, let me once again offer you the same proposition I made last time. I will still give you triple what the land is worth. I’ll even handle the cleaning up so you will not have to concern yourself with it.”
“The answer is still no. I do not need and I do not want your money. What I want is answers. If you have any knowledge about this, let me advice you to tell me what you know. If you come clean, I’ll see to it that all that happens is you go to prison for the rest of your life. If I have to dig, I will. I will find out who did this. If you are involved in anyway, prison is a luxury you will never enjoy.”
“How could I pass up an offer like that? I know, goodbye.” The line was disconnected.
Miranda did not put her phone away but instead pushed one of the numbers she had on speed dial.
A few moments later a sleepy voice said, “Yeah? Who’s this?”
“Sorry to call you so early, Stan. I know in Hawaii it is still dark, but I need you to get to Houston as quickly as you can.”
“Yes. Can you get here?”
“Of course,” Stan said. “What can I do for you?”
“I need you to find out everything you can about a Lyle Montgomery. I need to know where he lives, what he eats, what size shoes he wears, everything. Most important of all, I need to know who he works for.”
“Do you have anything more on him? There could be three hundred Lyle Montgomery’s.”
“That’s why I have you, you’re the best. Narrow the three hundred down to one and get back with me ASAP.”
“I’ll be on the next plane out. I need to bring a couple of my people with me. I need men I can trust, not some local that would as soon sell me out as they would take my money.”
“Bring whoever and whatever you need.”
“I should be there by nightfall.”
“See you then.”
Miranda put her phone away and the two of them returned to the waiting cab. Once inside, Miranda talked to Sara in a whisper the cab driver would be unable to hear.
“I built that flower shop in 1914. I did not visit it often at first, spending almost all my time on the west coast. In 1950 I moved to Houston. I worked in the flower shop from 1950 until 1963. It was some of the most enjoyable years I had in the 1900s. Every twenty years I had it remodeled with the latest technologies of the time. I will rebuild and make it the best florist shop in the city. Maybe in a few years when we have to leave Montana and relocate, I might move back here. We can all work in it together.”
“Tonya playing with flowers? That I would have to see to believe,” Sara said.
Miranda smiled and patted her on the knee as they drove to a hotel.
While Miranda and Sara were discussing her in Houston, Tonya was with Eddie and Diane visiting with Sheriff Johnson in Missoula. They were in a restaurant, having breakfast together.
Diane reached across the table and took the Sheriff’s hand. “It’s not your fault, Rick. You had no options. They killed two people already. If you had not shot them, you would not be having breakfast with us now, but would be getting ready to be buried. That would have broken my heart.” Diane wiped a tear from her eye at the thought.
“I have to get used to the idea. I’ve never killed anyone before.”
Tonya jumped in to say, “Better them than you.”
“I’ll get the check,” Eddie said as they stood to leave.
A minute later they were walking out the door together. The Sheriff was starting for his car when Diane placed a hand on his shoulder and gently pulled him back. “Rick, why don’t you stay here and keep me company for a moment?”
While Diane stood by the Sheriff, Eddie and Tonya left the sidewalk and started for a car up the street from them. They were only a third of the way there when the vehicle sped off. Tonya was ready to run after it. The two pack members would have no problem running down a car. Before she could start, Eddie touched her shoulder and pointed to the numerous people walking and driving along the sidewalks and streets. Watching two seemingly normal people move at over ninety miles an hour and run down a car would not escape their attention.
Tonya looked at the car as it sped away. “Later,” she called out after it.
“What was that all about?” Sheriff Johnson asked when they were together again.
“The people in the car had bad intentions towards one of us coming out of the restaurant,” Eddie said. “We could not tell who, since all of us were together, but I suspect it was you.”
“How could you tell that?”
Diane said, “Have you ever gotten the feeling you are being watched? You do not know who or where, but you have this little whisper in your ear someone is observing you.”
“A couple of times, yeah.”
“With us, it is more than a whisper, it is a megaphone going off in your face. When someone is concentrating on us or a person near us with hostile intentions, we can pick up on it. It’s one of our survival mechanisms.”
“You’re able to do that with everyone?”
“Almost,” Eddie said. “It works each time with humans. It doesn’t work on werewolves. We sneak up on each other all the time.”
“That sounds like it could come in handy.”
“It saved my life several times,” Tonya said.
“Did you happen to get the license plate?”
“Of course,” all three pack members said together. Diane called out the letters and numbers.
Sheriff Johnson called the plate in. A minute later, the report came back.
“The car was reported stolen late last night,” the Sheriff said.
“No surprise there,” Eddie said. He looked at the Sheriff and asked, “How about signing me up for a ride along?”
“A ride along?”
“Yeah, you know. You let a civilian tag along with you for a day so they can get a feel for what it is like in the law enforcement business.”
“That has to be approved by the county and there are papers to be filled out.”
“Use your clout and move me to the head of the list. It sounds like it could be fun.”
“Yeah, I guess for all you have done for everybody, that could be arranged.”
“Great, let’s start now.”
The Sheriff walked to his car with Eddie at his side. When they were gone, Tonya said, “The people in the car were after the Sheriff.”
“Were they planning to kill him?” Diane asked.
“Probably. According to the Sheriff, the two wannabe bank robbers had a rich dad. I’ve seen cases like this before. Someone with money has a supposed wrong done to them. They will let nothing come between them and vengeance.”
“Will Rick be okay?”
“Are you kidding? He has Eddie in the car with him. Eddie is almost as good as I am. There is not a group anywhere that will get near the Sheriff as long as he has a person even half good as me at his side looking after him.”
“It must be difficult to be so modest.”
“Yes, but I work at it.” Tonya made sure her hairpins were in place and the two of them returned to French Town.