You can read the story from the beginning here.
Rhys had reluctantly moved into Mark’s office, at least until after the funeral and Mark could take over. The whole business was turning his fur grey. The mood in the pack was uncertain and Rhys didn’t think that any change to the leadership would help right now. Mark was as twitchy as a cat in a dog pound, and Rhys didn’t feel like tugging on his tail. It would be a lot easier, Rhys thought, if Mark would just have a snarl around and reminded everyone who was in charge.
Rhys slumped behind Mark’s desk. With Mark being absent so much, first looking after Claire and now guarding her body almost every hour of the day, it had put Rhys firmly in charge of sorting out the funeral and the memorial, while still keeping track of the planning permission for the new builds in Garforth and the renovations over in Middleton. On top of that, he felt a lingering duty to the mill over in Yeadon and he wondered about Surjit. They had had a good time at Bolton Abbey, but he hadn’t had much time to do more than text over the last few days.
Stella bustled in. “I’ve started making the food,” she said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if there weren’t five hundred for the cremation, what with all the packs near here and people sending their condolences in person. I’ll need some men to take the chiller van to the farm.”
“Can’t Stacy and Leah drive it?” Rhys said. “They’ve both got licences.”
“You mean, apart from all the women getting caught up in the cooking?” Stella said. “I hate to say that we need a strong man to help us, but we’ll be picking up a lot of meat. A full bull’s carcass weighs a ton. I mean, almost literally. We won’t be just picking up beef either.”
“We could always pick up some frozen stuff from the wholesalers,” Rhys said.
“Mark would have a fit,” Stella said. “He likes to have feasts prepared the traditional way. And he had a point. It’s part of the way that the women come together and makes it more of a communal thing. It helps us feel useful.” She leaned over the desk and patted his arm. “Don’t worry too much. We’ve got plenty of stuff in the freezers and pantries.”
Rhys pulled his notebook towards him and made another note. “I’ll send Shaun and Dev with you,” he said. “They’re strong enough and won’t chase the sheep.”
“And they’ve got the sense to do what I say,” Stella said smugly.
Rhys continued jotting. “We’ll need to get the big marquees out of storage,” he said. “We can’t trust the weather at this time of year. I’ll get Alex and Tim to check out the heaters as well.” He looked down at the drift of papers scattered over the desk. “I’m going to have to get some of the lads pulling double duty. Between setting up and covering the work, we’re going to be stretched.”
“The women can cover most of the set up,” Stella said. “I know how you’ve been having trouble in Armley and have a lot on your plate with the job in Middleton. If you can deliver the marquees and the chairs and tables, we can cover the rest.”
Rhys managed a weary smile. “Thank you,” he said. “I appreciate that.” And that was another thing. Mark had kept the women very much in the kitchen, but time and again they had proved how capable they were. He should have a word when things calmed down. “I’ll get the extra space heaters out as well, just in case,” he said. “Half of them will be in fur anyway, but it’s better to be sure. And we’ll need to order in the drinks.”
“And we’ll need plenty of that,” Stella said. She hesitated. “Mark hasn’t said anything, has he?”
Rhys knew what the question meant. Mark should have been sorting this out. It should have been him deciding on what food to serve and who to send for the stuff in storage while keeping the business going. And Stella had been less than impressed when it had been Rhys talking to the minister and floundering around trying to work out what readings and hymns should be included. Rhys didn’t want to be entangled with those kind of questions, though. “Mark’s upset,” he said. “And he’s been guarding Claire.” His sharp ears caught footsteps approaching before the sharp rap on the door. “Come in,”
To Rhys’ relief, it was the undertaker rushing in and not Mark. “What’s this about Claire being moved?” he said. “The cremation is supposed to be tomorrow night but Mark has cancelled it.”
“What?” Rhys said, staring. “I don’t know anything about it.”
“He can’t just cancel,” Stella said. “We’ve got hundreds of guests coming.”
“He said to ring him if you have questions,” the undertaker said. “But he didn’t answer any of mine. He just told me that a private ambulance would be collecting Claire later this afternoon.”
Rhys pulled out his phone and called Mark. “Hi, the undertaker is here,” Rhys said. “And he’s not making sense.”
Mark’s voice was raspy over the phone. “I’ve found a better way of remembering Claire,” he said. “The cremation’s on hold.”
“Mark, are you okay?” Rhys said. “This isn’t normal, this isn’t right.”
“Just pay off the undertaker and wait,” Mark said. “And I’m sending someone for Claire’s things.”
“Mark, I know that you’re grieving, but you can’t just give away Claire’s stuff without catching a breath,” Rhys said. “You’re not thinking clearly. You should wait a little while before making big decisions.” He exchanged a worried glance with Stella. “And we have a few hundred guests coming. Some will already have set off. We can’t cancel it all.”
“Just sort it out,” Mark said. “I’ll be back in a week or two.”
“You can’t just vanish for a week!” Rhys said. “We’re going to be sinking as it is.”
“I’m sending you a picture of the man coming to collect Claire’s things,” Mark said. “Let him get what he wants from her room. And just sort it all out.”
Rhys stared at his phone. “He hung up. And he’s sending someone to collect Claire’s things.”
“What are we going to do?” Stella asked.
“And what’s happening with Claire?” the undertaker said. “You can’t keep the remains of a werewolf too long or people will be getting too interested, if you know what I mean.”
“I’m sorry that you’ve been put out like this,” Rhys said, trying to be diplomatic. “I’ll be in touch with you as soon as I find out more.”
“I understand,” the undertaker said. “Grief can affect people in strange ways. I’ve known Mark a long time, and he’s always been too intense for his own good. This was never going to be easy for him.”
Rhys glanced at the picture that Mark sent. The image of a tall, dark haired man gave him an uneasy feeling, but he couldn’t quite put his finger on why. Still, that wasn’t the only worry. “Stella, we’re going to have to go ahead with the gathering tomorrow,” he said. “Too many people will have already set out and it’s going to be chaos trying to change plans. Just do your best and we’ll call it a remembrance. Perhaps a couple of us can make speeches. It will be a bit like the memorial but it can’t be helped.”
“What do we tell people about Mark?” Stella asked.
“I’ll think of something,” Rhys said.
“You’ll have to,” she said. “Or the pack will look weak.”
“Stella is unfortunately correct,” the undertaker said. “There is already talk in the area.”
“We’re not weak, and we’re doing fine,” Rhys said. “I’ll think of something.”
Stella shook her head. “I think you need to make decisions about more than the cremation,” she said. “People are looking to you now.”
“This isn’t the time for that sort of talk,” Rhys said. “Mark’s been caught up with Claire and it’s taken a toll. But he’ll be back just as strong, taking charge and getting us all jumping.” He stopped and stared at the figure getting out of the black Mercedes that had just stopped in their car park. It was the man coming to collect Claire’s belongings and while he looked so completely ordinary, from his neat hair to his business style shoes, every instinct in Rhys was screaming that this was danger and death and all the wrongness. He fought to stay out of fur, his lips curling in a reflexive snarl, and he could see Stella fighting the same instincts. The undertaker glanced between them and backed slowly out of the room before turning and running.
“Get everyone out of the way,” Rhys growled to Stella through clenched teeth. “Get the kids into the back field. I’ll come when it’s gone.”
“It’s all quiet,” Bron said as they met Lady Mary in a shaded spot away from The Iron Sickle. “There doesn’t seem to be much activity at all.”
“There wouldn’t be much at this time,” Lady Mary said. “It’s 8pm on a Sunday night. It’s not the most popular time for drinking.” She looked at Tyler. “Are you okay?”
Tyler nodded. “Too much is changing,” he said softly.
Lady Mary looked over to Bron where he stood with Sir Dylan and Sir Philip. “I am bringing my authority here,” she said. “But Tyler is in charge. He will be dealing with the werewolves.” She looked around. “I notice that Kidder isn’t here.”
“He’s with Ewan back at the cottage,” Bron said. “He’s with us, now, and he isn’t going to cause trouble. And you can’t expect him to go after Fang, not after what happened last time.”
“And will you be in control of yourself, Bron the Ancient?” Lady Mary asked. “This is personal for you, isn’t it?”
“I just want the truth,” Bron said coldly. “And then I’ll want justice. I know the difference between justice and vengeance, and I’ll grieve in my own way.” He glanced around the group. “Shall we?” He turned and, without waiting for the others, marched straight up to the doors of The Iron Sickle and pushed his way inside.
The pub was silent as Bron stalked up to the bar, followed by the rest of the group. The lights were dim and the half dozen or so drinkers were spaced widely around the bar, hunched over their drinks. The clock behind the bar ticked loudly. “Where’s Fang?” Bron asked.
There was no reply. Tyler stalked up to the bar and slammed his hand down onto the counter. The drinkers flinched as he glared around. “Where is Fang?” he snapped. “I’m taking over and I’ve come to challenge him. Show me!”
An older werewolf pointed hesitantly and Tyler paced slowly towards the unlit corner. “Fang, show yourself!” he called. “”Meet the challenge.”
“If he still has the Orache Stone, this could go very badly,” Sir Dylan murmured to Sir Philip.
“And that’s why we’re here,” Sir Philip murmured back.
Bron shot them a look and followed Tyler as he slid out of his jacket. “And you’re to answer to me, boyo,” he called. He hooked his jacket over the back of a chair and stood at Tyler’s shoulder. “Who killed Violet, Fang?”
Tyler held up his hand and turned to the bartender. “Why are the lights out?” he asked.
The bartender swallowed. “The orders were to keep it dark,” he said.
Tyler smiled coldly. “And my orders are to switch on all the lights,” he said. “Let’s see what we’re dealing with.”
“These lot don’t look like they’re going to be trouble,” Sir Dylan murmured to Sir Philip as he glanced around the drinkers. “But we stick back to back and give them space to run if they want to.”
Sir Philip gave a slight nod. “They look like they’re more likely to run than fight, but who can tell,” he said, glancing swiftly around the room. “We can fall back to the slot machine. That looks stable enough to have at our backs.”
The bartender edged along the bar and started flicking switches. The drinkers squinted at the bright light and one fled the bar. “Let him go, for now,” Tyler said. “I want to see Fang.”
As the lights reached the corner, Tyler recoiled. The shape sitting there was barely recognisable. Fang was in cloth, his human form emaciated and his eyes blank. His tangled hair was wild and he pushed himself back into the bench as he flinched at the light. “Not me, not me,” he mumbled. “It’s my stone, my stone, I said it was and she wasn’t saying. I said it was mine.” Drool ran down his chin. “She said she knew how to use it, but didn’t say. It’s mine, mine and she should have told me. She took it. I fought but she took it, old lady bitch.” Fang’s thin hands clenched and unclenched. “She should have told me. She threw me away. Hurt me, hurt me with silver even though it was my stone.”
Bron pushed past Tyler and grabbed the creature’s shirt, hauling him to his feet and staring into what was left of him. “He lost the stone,” Bron said. “He lost it, but after it had taken his mind.” He tossed the werewolf onto the floor in front of the bar. “Ewan was right. Fang fought Violet and lost.” He looked up to Tyler. “He’s all yours.”
“You’re giving me the job of justice?” Tyler said. “Are you going soft?”
“Violet would still be here if she hadn’t been weakened,” Bron said. “And I’m not sure I’d know when to stop.” He looked at Fang who was drivelling at his feet. “It wouldn’t be a fair fight, and the werewolf pack needs justice.”
“We’re not a pack,” a skinny lad next to the bar said, then winced as he regretted speaking up.
“You are now,” Tyler said. “You acted enough like a pack under Fang, so now you can be a pack under me and I’ll sort you out.” He kicked out at Fang, who whimpered. “I’ll start here.”
“I’ll be off now,” Bron said. “But here’s something.” He picked up his jacket and pulled out a box which he placed on the bar. Opening it, he took out a purple orchid. “It’s the wrong type of year for violet flowers,” Bron said. “But Violet, the elfen who would be alive but for this, should be remembered, as a little bit of justice. I can rely on you all here to keep her memory and a memento behind the bar, can’t I?” There was steel in his tone.
Tyler nodded. “That sounds fair enough,” he said. “Now, all non werewolves should leave now. Things are going to get interesting.”
Bron, Lady Mary and the Knights Templar left and walked across the road and down to a small park. The distance helped to muffle the screaming now coming from the bar. Lady Mary looked Bron up and down. “That was a sensible decision,” she said. “It must have taken a great deal of effort.”
Bron shrugged. “I could be inventive, but I don’t have the time,” he said. “I have to speak to Mark Davies.”
Lady Mary tapped her elegant finger on her chin, ignoring the frantic howls coming from The Iron Sickle. “That could be problematic,” she said. “The cremation is tomorrow night, and several hundred are expected to attend the pack house afterwards. You are formidable, Bron, but even you would struggle with those odds. I believe some have already arrived.”
“He can’t be allowed access to several hundred wolves with the Orache Stone,” Bron said urgently. “Do you want that many werewolves ravaging through Leeds? The bloodshed could be horrific.”
“I hadn’t considered that,” Lady Mary said. “Regardless, you can’t challenge Mark Davies in front of several hundred werewolves at the cremation of his wife. If possible, you need to wait a day or two, until the last puppy has gone home.” She looked at Sir Dylan. “I believe that there will be a contingent of Knights Templars present,” she said. “And several high ranking elfen will also be paying their respects, including Lord Marius and Steve Adderson. It should be possible to deflect any trouble even if we can’t stop it completely.”
“I’ll put a general alert out,” Sir Dylan said. “The top brass at Lincoln were already waiting for a call. We’ll make sure that we have reinforcements ready.”
“I’ll bide my time and be ready,” Bron said. “I’m not an idiot.” He looked around the group as the snarls and growls behind them grew. “But I still get that son of a bitch, right? I still get Mark Davies.”