Every nerve in Sydran’s body burned with the desire to chase down whoever had murdered Jindi—and end them. It wasn’t like him—somewhere in the back of his mind, Sydran knew that. It was that sort of thinking that could lead him down a dark path—and his mind jumped to the bodies of the rich men and the rogue wolf going around killing them. Was what he wanted to do any different?
Between the severe agony of Jindi’s loss, feeling as if half of him had been ripped away, as if there was a void inside his heart that could never be filled again, the anger and rage twisting his soul, and the physical pain his shoulder was in, Sydran couldn’t take it—couldn’t take the longing to be a wolf on top of it all.
He ran, ran as quickly as his paws could carry him. The cold, crisp air blew through his fur as his claws dug deep into the earth. Once, it would have made him feel free. Perhaps it still did, beneath all the pain and grief. Now, though, it only made him forget—forget Jindi, forget himself, forget that he was human. Like this, he didn’t have to be Sydran, a man mourning his wife, a man seeking justice. No, like this, all he had to be was just a wolf, to let the wolf take over, and embrace the wild instincts that was ingrained inside his true nature.
At least, until he found himself back at the sight of the ambush, where Lacy and her son had been tortured and murdered. As a wolf, his senses went on high alert—sharp smells reached his nose, from the strong spicy aroma of pine and the woods, to the remnant stench of fear and blood.
Sydran closed his eyes and focused on the scents, drawing them to his nose, trying to put together a picture of what happened—and why the werewolf hunters allowed Xander to find their camp so easily and kill them all. And why Lacy had lied to Xander about where she had been running.
One werewolf hunter’s scent stood out above all the rest; a pungent, leathery smell laced with a sharp chemical that stung Sydran’s nose. It formed a silhouette in his mind, so he followed the silhouette’s movements across the woods. The hunter had a gun on him—that much, Sydran could also smell—and had waved it around carelessly. Images appeared in his mind, of the silhouette firing it and Lacy flinching away. The hunter holding her slammed her up against a tree—upon which her scent clung deeply.
The image of the gun disappeared as the smell of it vanished, but the hunter stepped toward the tree and mixed with Lacy’s, along with her blood. More images appeared then as the past unfolded before Sydran’s senses.
The hunter shouted at her, but Lacy shook her head, which caught her hair in one of the branches. In response, the man took out a knife and stabbed her in the arm, pinning it to the tree. Remnant metal scraped off the knife, enough faint traces of it for Sydran to smell it, along with Lacy’s dried blood.
But she had already been bleeding. It led back to the highway, where the same man as before, among two or three others, threw her out of a van and shoved her into the trees. Sydran focused on the van—on the strong, leathery smell of the rubber tires. Before, he had been in his human form but now… Now, a clear whiff of it reached him full force—animal blood on the tire. They’d run over something small on their way here, a cat from the smell.
Sydran took off sprinting down the highway in his wolf form, letting the scent lead him and his senses deeper into the past, following history into Lacy’s last journey.
The van continued on down the highway for several miles until it turned off onto a torn gravel road. Sydran knew this road—it led back around to the National Park. But the images suddenly vanished, along with the van’s scent.
Sydran frowned. This area was scarce—just woods on either side of the gravel road, no houses or people. To his right, just up ahead, lay the dead cat. The putrid stench of death and decay slammed into his nostrils and he frowned with a faint whimper. He followed the road another half a mile, since there wasn’t anywhere else for the van to turn off to.
Then, the leathery smell from before reached his nose and once again, images unfolded in his mind, telling him the tale of what happened here. The man from before hopped out of the van where it parked on the side of the gravel road. Dozens of others joined him, hopping out of it, and unloading supplies from elsewhere—likely other vehicles Sydran couldn’t smell. They headed off into the woods, so Sydran followed the images as they showed him the way. There were others, from later on, showing the man dragging Lacy and her son into the van from deeper into the woods. Which event happened first, Sydran could only guess. The werewolf hunters might have come here before, unloaded their supplies into camp, and encountered Lacy there.
Sure enough, the scents confirmed his suspicions. The werewolf hunters unloaded their supplies, put up tents and a campfire in a camp.
The camp was littered with bodies and blood, each with slashes and bite marks. Sydran searched around for a long time, smelling each body in detail to get the full events in his mind. Xander’s scent wafted to his nose, but it wasn’t as strong as Lacy’s. Hers littered the camp here, and overwhelmed each and every werewolf hunter’s body.
Lacy darted through the woods in full speed, and stumbled onto the camp. The werewolf hunters leapt into action, shooting at her and her son, but she got to them first. She fought and clawed at them, leaping and slicing until—
The images stopped. There were too many smells here and they all jumbled together—Lacy’s, all the werewolf hunters, Xander’s, and the man from before. It was even difficult to tell how many hunters survived. The ones who had, had likely been killed by Xander.
How had Xander not smelled Lacy’s scent here? After he had found her body, had he come here, found the survivors, and killed them without realizing she had been here first?
Sydran ran back to the gravel road. After Lacy had killed the werewolf hunters, it smelled like the leader and survivors dragged her and her son here to the van, where they drove her a few miles down the road and had killed her for what she had done.
But who had been chasing her? Sydran followed her smell into the woods, but her scent vanished. The werewolf hunters had likely sprayed this area with the chemical of theirs that could block a werewolf’s sense of smell.
Why block off this area, to keep Sydran from smelling where she had been, and yet not do this camp? Or the trail here? Why would a werewolf hunter not protect his men, and would rather, leave a trail to them and, thus, put them at risk?
Did this have anything to do with Jindi?
Sydran took one last close look around the scene to see if he had missed anything. One of the dead werewolf hunters had his cell phone on him, so he changed back into his human form and pocketed it. Not for the first time, he was glad the magic of the transformation returned his clothes to him after each change. The cell phone would return as well.
So, he transformed back and raced off to go confront Xander and find out what had really happened out here.