“I have it figured out!” Declared Chance
“Go on,” said Alex encouragingly, gesturing towards the old werewolf.
He looked around the conference room, his eyes darting to and fro.
“Wait! This is where they got her?” Asked Chance.
“Don’t remind me,” grumbled Felix, his jaw set.
l empathised with Felix. I didn’t want to be reminded of that moment either but I answered Chance’s question anyway. Chance had a right to know the details of Chasity’s kidnapping. He was her only known living relative unless we counted Mom as her ex-step-aunt and ourselves as her ex-step-cousins which was admittedly a little gross so I didn’t count that. At least, we were not biologically related.
“Well, out on the balcony of the attic, yeah,” I admitted, trying not to dwell on that memory.
“So what?!” Alex snapped, becoming impatient. “Time is of the essence! Do you have some brilliant theory or not?
Chance frowned. I knew Alex was struggling. He was trying so hard to be Alex even though he wanted to just be heartbroken like the rest of us.
“1 thought you were supposed to be the logical one,’ muttered Chance.
Alex growled. I quickly put a hand on his shoulder.
Don’t you be gruf with him too! Felix already has an attitude with him and our parents were the ones who kept him from Chasity for years! Before Mom, his own estranged daughter kept Chasity away from him. He’s old and alone. He thinks he can help and he has helped so far. He’s already provided information we would have never gotten otherwise! Let’s humour him. Make him feel important,I said in earnest.
I really felt bad for this guy. Having the love of my life, my Goddess Chasity, taken away from me for several days had been excruciating. I had no idea where Chance’s mate was but I assumed she was no longer with us. His daughter, Chalice, was dead according to him. Even if he was mistaken, then Chalice was still missing and had been for years. His granddaughter, my Chasity, was also missing after years of growing up without him. My brothers and I were miserable after our sOurce of pure bliss had been snatched away from us but this guy had been miserable for about a decade if no longer.
Alex tooka deep breath to calm himself. He took on an apologetic tone.
“Haven’t been able to keep my wolf on a tight leash since she’s been gone” said Alex with a heavy sigh. “Chasity was the greates motivating factor when it came to my control.”
I smiled. I could always count on Alex to hear me out.
“I don’t want to be overheard. This place isn’t secure if she was taken from here, said Chance, lowering his gaze and adjusting his blazer.
He still seemed flustered by Alex’s growl. I could tell Alex felt guilty for losing control if only momentarily. I threw a wary glance at Felix. I was surprised he wasn’t frothing at the mouth. If even Alex suddenly had a quick temper, Felix might go from having a short fuse to being fuse-less entirely.
“Fine. I’m hungry. Let’s go to a coffee shop, muttered Felix under his breath.
My jaw literally dropped. Without Chasity, Felix was listless. The whole ordeal had took the fight right out of him.
“I know a place,” said Danny quietly.
Danny had remained so silent throughout all of this, I had almost forgotten he was in the room.
“It’s a good place for delicate exchanges of information, said Danny in hushed tones.
“Awesome sauce, I said, a phrase usually mocked by Fellx who rarely passed up the opportunity to make fun of me.
“Okay,” said Felix to Danny, his tone deadpan.
We drove to the cafe in the most awkward silence I had ever experienced. I was relieved to exit the car and find a quiet booth.
“What’ll it be, Alphas and friends?” Said a mature waitress before our butts had fully connected with the cushioned seats of the booth.
Pack members were always keen on never letting any pack leaders wait for service. They were especially vigilant when it came to Alphas. I looked at the woman. She had a pleasant smile and wore her thick white hair piled on top of her head in a suspiciously huge bun. When I was little, I had been terrified of women with buns like that after watching this movie where an alien hid her oblong cranium under such a hairstyle. The waitress followed my eyes upwards, scrutinising the ceiling before finally realising was looking at her bun.
“May we see a menu first please?” Asked Alex politely, seemingly back to his normal self.
“Oh my goodness!” Exclaimed the waitress, chuckling at her mistake as she hurried to pass out the menus.
It’s a coffee shop, Alex, they have coffee,” grumbled Felix.
“f**k you, Felix!” Said Alex.
Okay then. Alex was not exactly back to his normal self.
I see you need a few more minutes, mumbled the waitress.
Felix snorted with laughter.
“Felix will have coffee,” said Alex pointedly. “Five coffees” announced Alex, throwing his hands up in the air so that his menu accidentally flew out of his hand and across the cafe.
The waitress scurried off to retrieve the menu. She did not readily return.
“I wanted tea,” mumbled Chance, unfettered by my feuding brothers, as he calmly browsed through his menu.
His face suddenly lit up.
“Oooh! Chocolate chip pancakes!” Said Chance, smiling.
Felix looked close to tears. Thankfully, our coffee arrived at that moment. The waitress moved at such a rapid speed that by the time the tray touched the table she had already made it across the room, far away from us, She had even left an entire pot of hot coffee with Our five filled cups so she wouldn’t have to return to our booth soon.
You’ve upset Marsha” I complained while Danny started Sipping his cup of colfee.
The P.l. didn’t add any milk or sugar.
“How do you know her name?” Asked Alex, averaging his only addition to his morning coffee, an eighth cup of milk.
I didn’t. I just went with Marsha. The alien with the big hair had been a Martian.
“Do you think all waitresses are named Marsha?” Asked Felix snidely, thinking of the Winter Moon Snack restaurant.
“Actually, that waitress is named Martha with a T not Marsha, recalled Alex.
“Actually,I don’t give a flying f””k” retorted Felix as he poured sugar only into his coffee.
I was the only one besides Chasity to use sugar and milk though not as much as she did. I smiled to myself, picturing her tasting her coffee after each spoonful of sugar and making a face if it wasn’t ridiculously sweet. Danny was filling up his now empty cup, eager for more bland coffee.
“Yeah, we all know you don’t care about getting people’s names right,” hissed Alex. “Not even Chasity’s.”
Felix had been the one to start the trend of calling her Charity with an R instead of Chasity with an S but he was truly sorry for it. He looked hurt by that quip.
“What do you mean?” Asked Chance.
My brothers and I stiffened. Danny saved us from having to explain.
“ Let’s get on with your theory, chance,” said Danny in his business-like manner.
Chance nodded, a gleam in his eye.
“Doppelgangers,” he blurted out, gesturing by balling his hands into fists and then opening them with his palms facing us.
We just stared at him. He spread his fingers a bit wider and wiggled them as though that would make his revelation hit home.
Danny downed his second cup of coffee and poured himself a new one. Felix’s expression was impassive. I glanced at Alex wondering what he was thinking
Doppelgangers?! Was he insinuating Deidre was a victim of identity theft? Chance thought the real Deidre was dead. If she was seen at two different places at once and was supposed to be dead, that meant she had two imposters. What were the chances?
“Doppelgangers!” Chance repeated. “Lookalikes!” He clarified as though he thought our vocabulary was lacking.
We were silent.
“Celebrity doppelgängers?” Chance prompted, still waiting for some kind of eureka moment from us.
Danny was focused on his caffeine addiction and my younger brothers looked bemused.
“You’re not making any sense. Explain what you’re talking about,”I demanded, furrowingmy brow.
Chance began explaining the definition of doppelgänger to our annoyance
“A doppelganger is a lookalike, a double of a person…”
“Look who you’re talking to!” Barked Felix, gesturing towards me, Calix and himself in case Chance hadn’t realised we were identical.
“We knowwhat doppelgängers are. We get what you mean by lookalikes but so what?” Questiorned Felix.
Calix tried to follow Chance’s thinking.
“Ok, so the retired supermodel who may or may not be dead has a doppelgänger!” Exclaimed Calix.
“Almost,” said Danny, chiming in suddenly. “Deidre is dead!
Chance saw her body and I trust him. The first doppelganger of Deidre, the first lookalike would be the one who went on to become a famous supermodel after the real Deidre died or rather was murdered”.
“Good, ok” said Alex, complimenting Danny’s logic.
“So there’s a third one then, since you have a pic showing one Deidre at the party we all went to with…Chasity,” said Felix, letting out a deep sigh.
He didn’t look so good. He was pale and he had dark circles under his eyes. None of us had been sleeping.
And you also have a pic showing Deidre at some bar, the Serpent’s Tongue, around the same time” continued Felix.
“So like us, there’s at least three identical people’ surmised Calix. “But, one of them is dead and they’re all claiming to be the same person. Correct me if I’m wrong but the doppelgangers were probably made after Deidre’s death. Her death was probably a requirement, a prerequisite to be able to go ahead and make other Deidre’s to take her spot. You can’t replace a position that’ filled.”
Calix had come to the same conclusion I had. There had to be three women involved in total, three Deidres, including the allegedly deceased original and two carbon copies. I smiled at my youngest brother.
“Look at Baby Boy Calix, figuring s**t out,” said Felix proudly, clapping Calix on the back.
Someone had stolen Deidre’s life completely.
“Someone killed Deidre and took over her life, continued on living as her. Realised all her potential, became a supermodel. The person even took her life’s dream”I said, feeling sorry for her.
“That’s sad” whispered Felix. “The Deidre doppelganger is better at her life than she was”.
“Well, that might be because the doppelganger is obviously superhuman in some way,” concluded Calix
We were already superhuman though and so was Deidre, We were werewolves!
“Deidre was already a she-wolf”, I said indignantly.”The doppelganger has to be using either incredible technology or magic. My bet is on magic. I wouldn’t put anything past a witch!”
I didn’t trust witches, I didn’t hate them. I was even related to one by marriage but I didn’t trust them. I also didn’t really blame them for using magic to manipulate situations. Expecting them to forgo using their witchcraft to gain the upper hand was like telling us wolves to avoid using our super strength and speed. I wondered if we should call our cousin-in-law, Luna Jamie.
“Don’t hate on witches, chastised Felix, defending them. “Our cousin, Jessie, married one. she made a great Luna. She’s kinda hot too, noted Felix.
I resisted the urge to roll my eyes. Felix had a hard time believing hotness wasn’t exactly a marker of goodness. That being said, Jamie actually did seem like a good person.
“I like Jamie. She gave me a snow globe that changes season so when I shake it up, it’s snowlakes for winter, flowers for spring and leaves for fall,” said Calix with a grin.
“You’re missing one” Felix pointed out.
“In summer, there’s nothing, it’s just empty,’ revealed
“Now, that is sad!” Said Felix.
“Focus!” I commanded, redirecting their attention.
My younger brothers straightened up in their seats.
“Sorry, Alex, I haven’t slept properly in days. It’s impossible without Chasity,” mumbled Calix, his grin slipping off his face.
“The sooner we figure this out, the sooner we can save Chasity and all take a nap,” I said softly.
I ruffled Calix’s hair. I knew this was especially hard on him. He usually wore his heart on his sleeve unlike me and Felix. Despite that, Calix was doing a good job of holding back his emotions since Chasity went missing. It had to be taking a toll on him though.
“When I get my hands on Chasity, there’ll be no napping.” Said Felix cheekily in an attempt to lighten the mood.
My wolf instantly showed me a memory reel of some risqué images of my beautiful Luna, Chasity. I pushed those aside, refusing to get distracted. Chance was glaring at us. I elbowed Felix sharply in the torso, He shouldn’t talk like that in front of Chasity’s grandfather.
“Hey! protested Felix, annoyed.
I nodded towards Chance’s indignant expression.
Felix softened, offering Chance a sheepish apologetic smile.
“Uh, that’s because we’ll stay up talking. We have really long deep chats together. Our relationship is very spiritual, intellectual as well” said Felix, clearly reaching for some feeble explanation that wasn’t s***l.
I felt a little guilty for making a s*x joke in front of Chasity’s grandfather though, to be fair, it wasn’t exactly a joke. I was going to rescue Chasity no matter what and when I did, I had a lot of making up for lost time to do. It wasn’t a total lie. The words “long” and deep still applied here.
l avoided Chance’s disapproving gaze.
All signs are pointing to Deidre. No more stalling. Let’s find her and get the truth somehow,” said Alex, redirecting our focus back onto the next logical step in the investigation.
“First, before we go skipping off to LA, we need to check out the bar, The Serpent’s Tongue, Your parents also frequented there in their youth,’ recalled Danny.
“You mean Chasity’s parents,” corrected Alex
“And yours, insisted Danny.
“What?” 1 asked instantly.
“They double dated there from time to time seeing as your mom and Chasity’s dad were step siblings who actually got along” explained Danny.
He took out a photo from his briefcase and showed it to us. I studied the photograph. There were two couples posing together. I recognised my parents back in their heyday. That meant the other couple was Chasity’s parents. Everyone was dressed for the times with Mom and Chalice donning bellbottom jeans with floral embroideries and fishtail-sleeved crops tops bearing their midriffs. Dad and Chase were wearing pale blue jeans and matching pale blue jean jackets with plain white tees underneath. I smiled. Chasity took after both of her parents. Her father had long wavy blond hair and pale skin while her mother had mocha skin and dark curls. They all looked so happy, huddled together and smiling big for the camera. It didn’t make sense. Alex took the words right out of my mouth.
“But, they hated each other?” Said Alex pointedly. “My parents all but admitted it, My mom said she had a problem with Chalice!”
“Not right away”‘ revealed Danny. “They grew apart after Chasity’s parents became more heavily involved in the Furina Ornata.
That cult Chance had told us about?
The group wasn’t supposed to be about partying and drugs” said Chance, his tone defensive. “But the parties the younger members threw became like that. There were a lot of wild young members. They felt invincible. Maybe it was the snake venom.”
I sighed. My parents had been on good terms with both Chalice and Chase at one point and yet they had mistreated their daughter.
Thinking about Chasity made my wolf whimper. There was nothing wouldn’t do to have her sitting safe and sound between Alex and me right now. I could almost see and smell her as my wolf’s memories of her were so vivid. l missed her smell so much. I missed her beautiful little face. l even missed her sassiness, including her snapping at me when I tried to order for her. Sweetness always followed her sassiness.
“Felix!” Called Alex, snapping me out of my reverie.
We’re going!” Said Calix, standing up.
“Where?” I asked, feeling dazed.
I really needed to sleep. I couldn’t stay up indefinitely. I would need some energy to rip the heads off those degenerates who kidnapped my Baby Chasity.
“To the Serpent’s Tonguel” Said Danny.
I got up, eager to get this show on the road. I felt my fatigue dissipate as a sudden rush of adrenaline coursed through me. If our visit to the Serpent’s Tongue was even half as fruitful as the Lucky Toad visit had been, we would be well on our way to reuniting with Chasity.
The Serpent’s Tongue was a little hole in the wall. It was a bar on the fringes of our pack lands, known for its dodgy reputation. The place looked like a wooden shack from the outside. No paint. The unvarnished wood had that faded look like driftwood. Alex was the first to note the graffiti on the side of the bar. Someone had spray painted a full moon with a snake curled around it on the pale greyish brown wood. There were red letters painted underneath the symbol: Iterum vivere.
“What does that mean? Wondered Danny aloud as he snapped a picture of it.
Live again,” answered Chance. “It’s latin for live again”
We marched into the Serpent’s Tongue bar like we owned the place. Technically, We owned the land on which it was built so we had every right to be here. I wasn’t expecting a warm welcome though. Places like these usually cleared out if Alphas, other pack leaders or pack police or warriors came knocking.
Just as I had suspected, the patrons all stifened as they became aware of us. I wasn’t surprised to find that the bar’s radiator was broken and thus, the bar’s interior was beastly cold in the dead of winter The fact that snow had begun to fall outside only made matters worse. Again my wolf began obsessing over Chasity thinking that if she were here l would bundle her up in my arms, tucking her into my jacket. Not that l’d actually choose this place as an appropriate date venue for my sweet little Baby. All the tables were high with creaky high barstools surrounding them. The wooden furniture was that same muted greyish-brown as the building itself.
The bar countertop was a dark green and the walls were unpainted but barely visible as they were plastered with autographed framed photographs of celebrities. I read the comments celebs had scrawled across their pictures, praising the bar. I recognised many of the celebs who were complimenting the service and locale here. Movie stars, recording artists, writers, producers, directors and politicians had come to drink here? Why?
How did the people who own this place get all these high-profile people to come here and lie on their autographed photos This place is a dump,I said privately to my brothers, Chance, and Danny.
Calix and Alex nodded, agreeing with me. The high praise was in and of itself suspicious.
We made our way over to the bar counter and sat gingerly on the rickety wooden barstools, I caught a whiff of something peculiar.
I sniffed the air, Human. The bartender was human! She introduce herself right away, seemingly fearless in the face of three Alphas. Her pluckines reminded me of Chasity although she looked nothing like her. She was short with pale freckled skin and orangey-red hair.
“Destiny’s my name, Alphas and company, she said brightly.
“Hi, said Alex.
“Hey, said Calix with a little wave.
I nodded in her direction, unable to hide my frown. Everything and everyone reminded me of Chasity and it all made me sad and sick to my stomach at the same time. Danny and Chance kept quiet.
“How about some beers to start off with?” She suggested,undeterred by our lack of enthusiasm. “Huh, fellas?
I nodded wordlessly.
“Sure, thank you” said Alex.
Calix was staring at Destiny as she fetched our five beers. They had been sitting there on the bar shelf but, because of the biting cold weather, they were all chilled as though they had been refrigerated. I followed Calix’s eyes and realised hè was looking at how exposed Destiny was to the cold. This human woman was wearing a knee-length dress. It was a barmaid’s uniform in a checkered pink and white print, She had a white apron and some pink shoes on but her legs were bare. No stockings. No socks even.
What kind of human was she?
“How are you not an icicle by now?” Asked Calix, taking a sip of his beer
Destiny giggled, covering her mouth with her hand.
Her tattoo! Exclaimed Calix over mind-link, drawing our attention to the tattoo near her elbow.
A snake curled around the full moon!
She’s one of you! She has the Furina Omata tattoo! Chance, do you know her? Asked Alex eagerly.
No, but that’s definitely our symbol, the moon snake, said Chance. I wouldn’t know any of the new converts and they wouldn’t know me. It’s been a while.
She’s human but she’s comfortable in this harsh winter with her legs out! Moon Snake Venom must have toughened her up, right? Guessed Calix, amazed.
Quite likely, responded Chance.
Destiny stopped laughing abruptly, her serene smile slipping off her face. She looked alarmed all of a sudden. We all followed her eyes to land on the recipient of her concern, a tall buff male werewolf with a strong-looking jaw, a scowl on his face and multiple pink scratch marks on every visible inch of his skin.
“Dante!” Squeaked Destiny in shock. “What happened to you?