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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
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Spirit Wolves - 5. Chapter 5

Ben starts settling in rather nicely. Which means it's time to stir things up.

The following morning set the bar for what would become Ben’s routine for the next couple of weeks. He’d get up and get dressed while his coffee was brewing. Once it was done he’d pour some into a large travel mug and go down and fix breakfast for himself and Silas, usually some eggs, toast and bacon or sausage.

One of Silas’s little projects turned out to be cleaning out his huge cellar. It ran the length of the house and a portion extended back to where the garage was. A narrow staircase led to an access door in the garage. After the first week, Ben had cleared out about a quarter of the space. He dragged every box and piece of discarded furniture, broken appliances, and all sorts of odds and ends upstairs for Silas to examine. The stuff then went into one of three places; outside to the curb if it was trash, in the spare room down the hall if Silas wanted to keep it, or back into a box or bin to be donated to the local thrift store.

It was hot, dusty work and Ben got a real workout lugging the boxes up and down stairs or out to the curb. Most of the stuff was old appliances or knick knacks. Silas told him he had been a teacher way back in the day and many of the items he had been given to him by his students. He kept a few that had sentimental value to him and donated the rest. There are just so many teacher-themed mugs, key chains and ornaments that one needed.

Ben would usually get in three or four hours of productivity before stopping. He’d fix Silas a sandwich or some soup before he left, take a much needed shower, then head to the diner. Ben really liked working in the diner and enjoyed working with Sandi. She was not only witty, but a hard worker. She was proud of her enterprise and it showed. The patrons respected her and the staff always gave her 110%.

She showed him where everything was, went over the cash out procedure and had him read over the menu. Ben had worked in several restaurants and quickly picked up on how Sandi wanted things done. Other than a few small mix ups with orders, his first night went smooth as molasses. By the end of the week he had everything down pat.

It still amazed him that he was surrounded by wolf shifters and by all accounts they seemed like normal people. Whenever he came across them before, he gave them a wide berth.

One thing that he noticed in his travels was that big cities had very few shifters. Vampires, however, congregated en masse in a few of the major metropolises, like New York and Los Angeles. Ben figured that vampires needed to be close to humans as they were their primary food source, which is opposite of shifters, who need wide open spaces to hunt game. After all, how often do you see deer roaming through the streets of NY or LA?

He kept his eyes and ears open, like he promised himself. After being on the road for so long, his powers of observation had been fine tuned and a quick glance yielded volumes of information. The diner’s regular customers gave him a unique opportunity to observe wolf shifter culture up close. It didn’t take him too long to figure out some of the pack dynamics.

Caleb was the Alpha, his mere presence commanding attention and respect. Ben noticed that whenever Caleb entered the diner, every shifter would tilt their head slightly and avert their eyes for a fraction of a second. Caleb’s gaze always swept the room, accounting for each pack member. The habit was so ingrained in them, so instinctual, that Ben didn’t think they even knew it was happening.

Sandi must’ve held a high ranking in the pack as well. The shifters that frequented the diner all showed proper respect to her and her staff.

Ben’s duties included just about everything. He bussed tables, waited on customers and helped with cooking during the dinner rush. During the few lulls that occurred he learned a little about the people that he interacted with.

Sandi was married. Her husband Wayne worked as a Forest Ranger for the Montana State Park Department. He always stopped by for dinner when he finished working. They’d been married several years and didn’t have any kids yet. Sandi admitted that the thought of being responsible for a tiny little being scared the shit out of her.

Sandi’s wolf was a pretty silver color with some black and brown mixed in. Ben had a feeling she was going to be a great mom once they decided the time was right to start a family. Wayne was a big guy at 6”3’, packing about two hundred-fifty pounds of muscle. He, too, commanded an air of respect. His wolf was big too. Not quite as big as Caleb’s, but close. The beast was a dark chocolate brown color.

Caleb seemed to show up shortly after Wayne and the two always ate dinner together, often conversing in low voices, not wanting to be overheard. Every once in a while Ben would catch the name of one of the guys that were on their research project’ trip.

In addition to Caleb’s nephew Zev, two other shifters were with him, doing whatever it was that was keeping them from the pack for so long. Logan and Cooper were the two who normally worked at the diner. They were identical twins and Sandi’s cousins. No one ever mentioned the exact reason the three young shifters were gone, other than to say they were researching some information for a project. What type of project it was wasn’t made clear.

Whatever the real story was, Ben didn’t pry, nor did he give any indication he knew the town was full of shifters. The townspeople were polite to him and kept their distance as well. That’s the way he preferred it.

Towards the end of his second week he was deep in the bowels of Silas’s cellar when he came across a stack of paintings and wall art. He gathered them up and brought them upstairs, making four trips to get them all. Silas’s eyes widened at the stacks of frames.

“I’d forgotten about all of these,” he told Ben. “I don’t think some of these have seen the light of day in centuries.”

Ben pretended not to hear the old shifter’s reference to centuries. He knew that they lived longer than humans. The internet had little along the lines of accurate information regarding shifters. Some of it, he found out, was right, but most was just pure speculation. Ben wasn’t sure what their actual lifespan was, but now he knew it was much longer than any human realized.

Ben helped Silas sort through the various paintings. Most were oil paintings of landscapes. A few were actual photographs of people and places.

Silas put a few of them aside and the rest went into a corner of the room. Ben would take them to the thrift store as soon as Rowan was done with his car.

Rowan had called the salvage yard and they had what he needed. It had taken Rowan almost a week to make the trip over there, as he had several other jobs to finish. Ben had spoken with him yesterday morning and Rowan had assured him that the little Escort would be back up and running by Thursday. Ben was looking forward to having functional transportation once again. He didn't mind walking, but the past few days had been tough. The weather was starting to embrace winter and the temperatures reflected such.

Ben flipped through the last stack of paintings and stopped as he got toward the end of the stack.

“Wow!” he exclaimed as he pulled it free from the others. Silas looked up and his eyes widened as he caught sight of the painting.

The large frame looked like a dark, rich brown colored wood, it was hard to tell with the dust and grime that accumulated during years of being hidden. It was matted with a charcoal gray and silvery border.

Ben wiped the filmy layer of grit off of the glass that protected the painting. The picture itself was about 48”x 36” and depicted a beautiful landscape of a large rock outcropping overlooking a lush valley. Tall, snow-capped mountains were in the background. Most stunning of all were the three pairs of wolves sitting on the rocks.

The middle pair was in the forefront in the painting. They were negative images of each other. The larger of the two had a black body. His paws were pure white. The end of his tail was a combination of silver and mahogany and the tip was white. His ears also blended the unusual colors with the white topping them off. The smaller wolf was a replica, only his colors were reversed, His body was white, and he had four black paws. His tail and ears matched his mate’s, both were tipped in black.

The pair of wolves to his right were negative images of each other also. They were about the same size, one had a mahogany body with silver paws, the other had a silver body with mahogany colored paws. Both had tails and ears that were a mix of all the colors, tips matching the primary color of its mate. All four wolves had blond streaks in the thick fur along the sides of the neck, starting just under the ears and meeting in the middle of their chests.

The third pair of wolves were both completely blond with the exception of a blend of black, white, silver and mahogany mirroring the necks of the other wolves and meeting in the middle of their chests. There was no doubt that the painter wanted the connection between the six to be crystal clear.

Silas sneezed at the dust that had been kicked up when Ben had pulled the painting out. He looked at the work of art with an expression of reverence on his face. The picture must have held a lot of significance for the old shifter.

He really couldn’t contain his curiosity so he asked, “What’s the deal with this painting? You look like you’ve just discovered a new Michaelangelo or something.”

Silas smiled and looked at Ben. “It’s been many moons since this painting has seen the light of day. It’s been in my family for generations. No one is really sure who painted it. Honestly, I had almost forgotten it even existed.”

Ben watched as Silas tilted his head back and forth as he examined the beautiful scene. Silas continued, “I think this needs to be cleaned up before I hang it. I have a feeling it’s time for this to be seen.”

Ben wasn’t sure what he meant by that, so he let the comment slide. “Do you want me to take it somewhere to have it cleaned professionally? If it’s as old as you say, it probably needs an expert to clean it up so it doesn’t get damaged.”

Silas chuckled. “Unless you know of a museum curator close by I think a little mineral oil on the frame, Windex on the glass, and a damp cloth to the painting itself will have to do for now. I’ll have Caleb take it down to Helena next time he makes a trip there. He can have it properly spruced up for me.”

Ben carefully put the painting to the side and then helped Silas go through the last few. Most were in good shape and would be donated so that someone else could enjoy them.

It took Ben another couple of days before he reached the back of the cellar. It was filled with mostly large pieces of furniture. There was an old couch, a few chairs, several bed frames and some dressers. Ben had reached the end of what he could do by himself. He surveyed the cellar that was now devoid of all the clutter that had been piled up for years. The remaining furniture would have to wait for the boys to come back. There was no way Ben could carry any of it up by himself. Even the bed frames, made of solid wood, were heavy

Ben made his way upstairs and let Silas know what was left. Silas thanked him and told him that he would take him out to dinner on his next evening off. Ben was surprised. In the two weeks that he had been there Silas had never left his house. Most people just asked Ben how he was doing once they found out where he was living.

Ben was working five or six days a week at the diner. He covered the dinner shift, usually coming in at three and working until they closed at nine, then staying until the cleanup was done. On Friday and Saturdays they were open until ten. That’s when most of the young couples were out on dates. Ben discovered that roughly three hundred people lived in the town itself, and as far as he could tell they were all shifters. It still left him gobsmacked whenever he stopped to think about it.

There were truckers who stopped in, as well as the odd family or two who needed something to eat on their way through. Silverton didn’t offer travelers much more than the diner and Rowan’s gas/service station/convenience store. There were no campgrounds or motels to entice people to stay.

Ben speculated if it was done on purpose.

The shifters were a tight knit group. He often wondered what it was that had allowed him to slip into their lives, even if it were on the fringes.

It was Friday evening and things were winding down at the diner when Ben heard the bells over the door jingle. Looking up, he watched as Sandi greeted the stranger. The man took a seat at a table not far from the door. He was human, but Ben saw more.

The man had the mark of a hunter.

Sandi was walking by when Ben pulled her aside, and in a low voice, calmly said, “Sandi, I need you to trust me. Go in the back and call Caleb. Tell him there’s a hunter in the diner. I’ll wait on him. You try to get the rest of the townsfolk to leave quietly. We don’t want to tip this guy off.”

Sandi looked at him incredulously. Ben merely tilted his head slightly, then nodded, silently conveying that he knew what she was.

Sandi slipped out of sight to the back where the small office was. Ben strode over to the man’s table. He plastered a smile onto his face and said, “Hi there, I’m Ben and I’ll be taking care of you tonight. Can I start you off with something to drink?”

“Coffee, please,” the man replied in a gruff voice.

Stalling, Ben took his time getting the coffee. He took a moment to scrutinize the hunter. Mid-forties, lean, with a coiled tension that was reflected in his body language. He had a hardened edge to him, the look of a man who would face danger head on and not blink.

On his way back to the table, Sandi came out of the office. She looked at him pointedly. “We all need to talk when this is over.”

Ben just nodded. He expected nothing less.

He went back and took the hunter’s order. Sandi went over to the two tables that still had a small group of young shifters and spoke to them softly. Within a couple of minutes they were packing up their stuff and heading out the door. Ben was relieved when the door closed safely behind them.

Pancakes and scrambled eggs. It was an easy meal to fix and in a few minutes Ben was carrying a plate stacked with food.

He’d barely set the plates down when the bell over the door jingled again and Caleb strode in, decked out in full uniform.

The next minute or two seemed to happen in slow motion to Ben, but in reality time spun out of control. The second the hunter’s eyes landed on Caleb his hand came up from under the table holding a gun. In the span of less than a heartbeat, he pointed the muzzle at Caleb and pulled the trigger.

Ben stood close enough that he was able to reach out and hit the man’s arm just enough to throw the bullet’s trajectory off course. Ben swore he saw the bullet graze Caleb’s State Trooper hat. The deafening sound of the bullet exploding from the gun echoed off the walls.

In the next instant Caleb was hauling the hunter out of his seat. Sandi came out from the back and locked the door. Caleb dragged the hunter across the diner to the back where he slammed the man up against the wall.

“Who sent you here?” Caleb growled. Ben could see his wolf clearly. The beast was ready to attack.

“Fuck you. I’ll never say anything, you mangy mutt,” the man spat.

“Then you’ll die,” Caleb told him calmly.

“You don’t have the balls to kill me. Besides, if you do, you’ll never find out what happened to the missing pup,” sneered the hunter.

Caleb’s eyes turned golden and his teeth grew lethally long and sharp. “I’ll give you one chance to tell me where the pup is. Otherwise your life is over. It doesn’t matter to me. We’ll find our pup one way or another. You’re just a pawn, and I think you know it. So what's it going to be, talk or die?” he growled menacingly.

The man was silent. After a good 60 seconds there was a loud ‘SNAP’, before the man’s head fell to the side. The next sound was a resounding thud as his body hit the floor.

Caleb let out a heavy sigh. He then looked over at Ben and as the golden color faded from his eyes and his teeth shrank back to normal, he nodded at a booth and sat down.

Ben slid in the seat across from him, his heart still hammering wildly, while Sandi fetched some coffee from the back and took the seat next to Caleb. Ben waited silently while Caleb called Wayne and told him what happened and asked him to come to the diner. They would need to dispose of the hunter’s body and vehicle after they searched it thoroughly.

Caleb took a sip of the coffee and looked at Ben. “Care to explain?”

Ben gave him a wry, lopsided smile and replied, “I can see supernatural beings.”

Caleb and Sandi stared at him and finally Caleb said, “You’re going to have to give me a little more than that.”

Ben took a swig of his own coffee and explained how he was able to see’ their wolves.

Caleb looked as though he was having a hard time wrapping his head around that idea and asked Ben specifically what he meant by seeing’ their wolves.

Ben explained, “When I look at you, or any shifter I see what their animal form looks like. It’s as if the wolf is superimposed over your body. Think of it like a holographic image. It’s not solid, but it’s there. Your wolf is gray and black. He’s huge too. Your bearing and the way the other shifters respond to you basically screams ‘Alpha. I’ve learned to sort of mute it so that the images are more or less in the background….unless I choose to focus on it.”

Caleb seemed to understand better with that explanation. He motioned toward the lifeless body on the other side of the room. “So how did you know he was a hunter?” he asked as he nodded at the figure on the floor.

“I accidently saw a hunter kill a vampire once. It was through a window, covered by a curtain and it was the middle of the night. The man never saw me. Hunters have a sort of shadow that follows them. It’s dark and unlike anything else I’ve come across. I have a theory that maybe it appears after a hunter makes his first kill. Kind of like a scar on their soul that manifests as a shadow. I’ve only seen three hunters before and the three shades of darkness were different for each one’s shadow.”

“Why did you reveal yourself to us?” Sandi interjected.

Ben looked at her, shrugged, “You’re my friends. Everyone in this town has shown me nothing but courtesy and kindness. I couldn’t sit back and watch anyone get killed.”

“Old Silas was right. He told me when I first brought you over that there was more to you than meets the eye,” Caleb remarked. “Thank you Ben. Now I think I owe you an explanation also. Four months ago one of our youngsters disappeared. Zev and his friends are trying to track down information as to what happened to him. So far all that they have found out is that there have been a rash of pup disappearances across the northwest, both in the U.S. and Canada. Word is that there’s an organization that is trafficking the youngsters. If what we’re hearing is true, it’s absolutely horrifying.”

“What have you heard?” Ben inquired.

Sandi shuddered, knowing exactly what Caleb was about to say.

“We’ve heard that someone is kidnapping young shifters, usually between the ages of twelve and fourteen. It’s always pups that have just had their first shift, or are about to. Apparently they have found a way to get them stuck in mid-shift. Then they’re sold to deviants who get off on raping partially shifted young kids.”

Ben felt like throwing up. “Who the fuck would do something so evil?”

“That’s what we’re trying to find out. Zev and the boys have hit nothing but dead ends. I think it’s time to call them back and regroup,” Caleb said as he pulled out his phone to send a text to Zev.

Just then Wayne arrived, entering through the back door which he had a key to. He scooped Sandi up, scenting her deeply to make sure she wasn’t hurt.

Caleb filled him in on everything that happened, including what Ben knew of them. Wayne thanked Ben for saving both Caleb and Sandi’s life. Ben assured him he would do it again in a heartbeat.

Caleb told Ben that Wayne was his Beta and the lead enforcer for their pack. The pack was just over six hundred, but half of them were spread out over two-hundred square miles of territory. There were some subdivisions that resided up in the mountains and in some more remote areas that surrounded the little town, as well as a few ranching families. They weren’t technically part of the pack, but the areas they inhabited fell within Caleb’s territory and therefore they were under his protection. They would need to be told to look out for hunters.

Caleb told Wayne to get the word out and also to let the rest of the pack know that there would be a mandatory meeting on Sunday night.

Caleb looked up from a message he was reading on his phone and turned to Ben and said, “I’d like you to come to dinner tomorrow night. It’ll just be a few of us, so we can discuss what has happened. It’ll be informal, steaks on the grill and maybe you can convince Sandi to make her lemon meringue pie. Zev and the twins will be back here tomorrow.”

Ben knew that the Alpha really wasn’t asking him so much as ordering him to come to dinner, so he didn’t hesitate to accept the offer. Caleb also asked him to bring Silas. He needed to know what was going on as well.

Ben agreed and told Caleb that he would talk to Silas tomorrow and get him up to speed. He had a feeling that the old shifter knew more than he let on. Ben said goodnight and drove the short distance back to Silas’ house, thankful that he had gotten the little car back.

The house was dark, the only light burning was the outside one over the garage that Silas always made sure to leave on when Ben was working. He appreciated not having to stumble up the exterior stairs in the dark.

Knowing that the next few days would be busy he got ready for bed and thought about everything that had just happened . Little did he know that his life was about to completely change. Ben slowly drifted off and dreamed of wolves.

And so the plot thickens!
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Copyright © 2021 kbois; All Rights Reserved.
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 
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