Vradin, Chapter Twenty-Eight

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Tank got the text from Zoe, complete with pretty picture, and felt the blood chill in his veins. She had captured a pair of night kind driving a silver Honda Civic pulling up to the gas station in her photo. Tank was in the beemer and heading after her while he tried to get her on the line to warn her of the danger, but she did not answer his call. She did not send him another text.

He called Brawn and Paris to rouse the pack, giving them Zoe’s last known location. How he managed not to acquire a police escort to the gas station only the gods knew. He certainly wasn’t paying any attention to pesky things like speed limits, and still the twenty-five minutes it took to get there was twenty-five minutes too late.

The Beast was still at the gas pump, the door slightly ajar, but there was no sign of Zoe.

Tank went to Zoe’s car, catching the scent of vampire and the faintest hint of blood by her door. He had to breathe through the rush of Rage that provoked, before he tracked the scent of vampire and Zoe to a parking stall. Tank swallowed a growl and headed into the convenience store.

The clerk barely looked up until Tank slapped a hundred dollar bill on the counter. “I want the surveillance video from the last forty minutes, now.”

“Dude,” the clerk started to say, before he caught sight of Tank’s expression. “I’ll get my manager.”

“Fast,” Tank ordered.

“What’s this?” a baritone voice said from behind Tank.

The clerk answered, “Hey, Barry, this guy wants to see our security tapes.”

It took Tank a few precious minutes to get the manager to understand his concern, but only a touch of dominance was needed to get the manager to pull up the video record. They watched the snatch in silence, but what made Tank swear like a sailor with shore leave cut short was seeing that the vampires had headed up the mountain. There were no Houses this far from the dense population of the metropolitan zone, but there was a Door.

Tank left the manager calling in the police, and headed outside. Brawn had arrived and a fair number of the pack, too, in the time that it had taken Tank to get his hands on the trail of the vampires. Brawn organized the pack even as they assembled.

“Redirect to the Door,” Tank ordered. “Anyone who can’t make it, or who fears they won’t make the crossing should turn back, notify the Clan, and be prepared to transfer if we don’t come back.”

Brawn didn’t waste breath on cussing, dividing the notice calls between the standing pack and getting everyone back in their cars and heading up the road. He set his cell on the car speaker system, and concentrated on making it to the Door before the vampires. Once back in the Old Den, the vampires would be able to call upon the night, boosting their native speed and endurance, and keeping up with them would be difficult. Getting to them before the Montang’s keasairs did would be far more difficult the longer they were in the Old Den.

Above all, the thought of Zoe in the Montang’s grasp terrified Tank.

Brawn called within five minutes. “We have thirty seven converging on the Door, nine who are not in a position to respond in time, and three more who are too close to Enragement to cross back. Perry counts himself in both the later, and warned that the emergency bands have snapped to life. We may need to dodge first responders coming down the hill. Apparently, the tie between our Zoe and the Lakewood P.D. was quickly picked up on.”

“Right. I’m going up from Frasier’s Rest. It should be the fastest way up the mountain. As soon as we’re close enough for it, I want everyone on four feet. Don’t take excessive risks, but Zoe is our first priority, avoiding exposure is a close second.”

Carl sucked in a breath. “Would Granfertang agree?”

“We’ve been Bound, Brawn; if we come unBound, the exposure that will generate is a hell of a lot worse than someone catching a picture of the Change.”

“Ayup, ulfgart.”

“I’m informing Willy; you call Perry and get him working the lines.” Tank cut the line.

The call with Willy went much smoother, but Willy was his third, not as willing to stand up to Tank. After that call, he concentrated on driving.

Until Sargent Fergusson called.

Tank debated a moment before answering. “Have you found Zoe yet?” he asked, cutting off whatever Fergusson was about to say.

“Fuck! I was hoping you might have an answer to that. The prelim I heard was a guy matching your description knew about the abduction before the clerk. What happened?”

“She said she needed time to think, was driving up to the mountain. I wanted her to take someone along. Her compromise was to text me when she turned the engine off, gas, groceries, something. And she sent a picture text of the gas station. A silver Honda Civic was just pulling in. She didn’t answer when I called, and she didn’t text me when she left, like she promised she would.”

Fergusson started swearing.

Tank cut the call, and didn’t answer when Fergusson tried to call him again.

He didn’t know what the locals or the map makers called the pull off, if they even gave it a name. The pack knew it as Frasier’s Rest after the wolf who had fallen near there before ever a road was carved into the earth. A silver Honda Civic was already stopped.

The vampires must have driven as swiftly as Tank had. Their car was already cooling in the late afternoon sun, and the residual surgence of magic bathed Tank as he stepped out of the BMW. He left his shoes in the car and started striping off his humanity as he moved into the trees.

Carl caught up with him just before the Door, where Tank sat, his wolf’s canny nature and sense of pack holding him back, despite the binding to their Peaceful calling him forward.

His second, twice Tank’s size in human shape, was just a shade smaller as a wolf than Tank. It took minutes, precious, precious minutes for the thirty nine members of his pack able to respond to his call to assemble, but assemble they did.

Tank reached out with fang and claw and opened the Door to the Old Den, allowing Carl to lead the pack through, away from the safe haven they had found amongst the civilized, magic-depleted, children of Dimeter and back into the magic-filled savagery of Nimala, where the weak perished to feed the strong.

Where the Rage had turned guardians into predators. It was time to hunt once more.

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