Disclaimer: Not mine, never were, never will be.
Note: All kudos to Joe Lawson for creating the world of Two Bloods. This fic was inspired, in part, by the stories 'enjoyed' by those who went on the ghost walk in Nottingham, during GG03. My thanks to Kerry for the proof reading.
"Where the hell are we?" Chris asked as the hired mini van moved down the dark, rain-lashed highway.
"Some place called Hitchingham, at least according to the sign we just past," Josiah, who was driving, informed him.
The team had been on assignment in Montana, none to pleased that the ATF insisted that they drive in a hired van and not fly, and they were even less amused when the assignment over-ran. A bad mood was made worse when a multi-car pile up trapped them in a stationary twenty-mile queue for almost five hours. Vin didn't do well when confined and his barely suppressed panic was picked up by Buck, who couldn't help but react to it. By the time they were moving again, it was clear they weren't going to make Denver that night. It was already nearly eight and they were still more then three hundred miles from home.
"Well take the next exit, lets find a bed for the night," Chris instructed.
Hitchingham was a one street town, which looked as if no new buildings had been added since the twenties. There were no welcoming neon motel signs, no glowing golden arches, if there were people in the small town they were behind closed doors. Finally Sanchez pulled up in front of an imposing looking brick building.
"Sign says it's a hotel, lets see if it's true," he announced.
The Hitchingham Railway Hotel no longer had a railway to serve. It stood marooned in history beside a long abandoned station, but somehow had managed to remain in business, there just weren't enough people through the little town - not when the highway bypassed it - to support more than one hotel.
Despite the dour exterior, the lobby of the hotel was brightly lit and, though its décor was somewhat dated and a little worn, it was at least clean.
"Hello," the young girl behind the counter smiled at the new arrivals.
Finally freed from the claustrophobic van, Buck was once more all smiles and flirtation.
"Well good evenin' to you darlin', drawn the short straw and gotta work late eh?" He leaned on the counter and gave her his best smile.
"Yeah something like that, you gents need rooms for the night?"
"We do, how many you got free?"
She suppressed a small laugh, then made a quick head count. "I have seven if you want them."
Buck looked over at Chris, normally they would double up, saving money, but Chris was in no mood to do the ATF any favours, and gave Buck a nod.
"Yeah, seven will be fine."
"I can put you all on one floor, if you want?" she offered.
"Darlin' that would be wonderful."
The receptionist's name was Kim, and she apologised that their rooms were on the third floor and there was no porter. The seven men assured there that was not a problem and they would not think of her carrying their luggage. The hotel had a central staircase with two corridors running off it. On the third floor - the top floor - there were four rooms off each corridor. Josiah, Nathan, JD and Ezra took the rooms on the left, Chris and Vin took the first two room on the right and Buck the last room, the one opposite his being empty. The rooms, like the reception, were a little dated but clean and bright.
Buck tossed his bag into his room without entering. "Don't know about you guys, but I need food, and I need it now," he announced.
"Amen," Vin agreed.
Kim had pointed out the diner across the street. "It's open early 'till late. Food ain't fancy but it's fillin' an it's wholesome." They were just about to head out into the rain when she called out to them. "Don't forget your keys! I go off duty at nine and we don't have a night porter."
Her assessment proved to be accurate, the menu was limited but the food plentiful and tasty. Even Ezra had no complaints after eating his way through a mountain of fried chicken. The place was full of locals. There didn't seem to be a bar in the centre of town, so the diner was the local gathering place to chat and exchange gossip. Team Seven spent an enjoyable two hours chatting and eating. It was still raining as they dashed back across the street to hotel. Everyone was tired and the beds looked very inviting.
"Diner for breakfast - seven thirty sharp," Chris announced, his eyes resting on Ezra. "Thats half past seven in the morning Ezra."
"Thank you, Mr Larabee, but I have been able to tell the time since I was three."
"Look guys," JD announced, pointing at the abandoned reception desk.
"Look at what kid?" Buck asked.
"Look at the room keys - we're the only ones here."
Josiah strolled over to the desk and took closer look. "Boy's right, look at this. Keys for room's 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, and 7 and 14." Josiah looked over at Buck, that's opposite you - right?"
"So there's someone in 4 - right?" Vin asked.
"No, there isn't a 4, it goes straight from 3 to 5." Josiah frowned. "That's weird, I mean you expect there to be no 13, but what do they have against 4?"
"Maybe it's the owners room?" Nathan suggested.
"Most likely, come on brothers I'm ready for an early night, this is one night I could happily forget."
Since there was no elevator they headed up the stairs. On the second floor landing, JD couldn't help but take a look to see what had happened to the mysterious room 4. He bounced down the dark passage only to find a blank wall.
"Hey guys, it ain't here," he called.
"What ain't where?" Vin asked, following him.
"The room, in fact two rooms, theyre just not here - look."
Vin examined the wall that foreshortened the corridor by half. "So?"
"Well don't you think it's weird?"
"No, I'm going to bed."
JD looked around to find no one was interested in the mystery, so shrugging his shoulders, he reluctantly followed Vin upstairs.
Buck finally entered his room and instantly wished he hadn't. It was cold, he checked the radiator, which was on and hot, yet the room was cold. He checked the window, but it was closed. He decided he was imagining things and the quickest way to get warm was to get into bed. It was as he pulled off his socks he discovered the source of the chill. The floor was icy, despite the thick pile carpet. As fast as he could he climbed into bed.
Chris, occupying the room next to Buck, had helped himself to a bourbon from the mini bar and switched on the TV. After watching the news and the sport, he settled down to watch a documentary about the last day of Pompeii. By the time the final credits were rolling he could barely keep his eyes open. Switching the set off, he settled down to sleep - only to become aware of new sounds. It didn't take him long to workout what was going on, Buck was having a nightmare. He'd heard this many times before, and didn't give it any though until the muttering turned into growling and then howling.
"Oh shit - not now," he cursed.
Finding out Buck was a Two Blood and could turn himself into a wolf anytime he wanted had been something of a shock, but they had got used to it. In all the years he had known Buck, Chris had never guessed, he hadn't had one inkling of his friend's true nature. He had seen Buck delirious with fever and caught in the throws of nightmares, and he had never changed into a wolf, so if he had changed now - something was very wrong. Pulling on clothes he went out into the corridor and knocked.
"Buck? Pal? What's wrong?" Instantly there came a desperate scrabbling at the door, accompanied by a plaintive whine. "Buck cut it out and open the door." But the desperate sounds of the trapped wolf continued.
Buck wasn't a werewolf, he didn't forget who he was when he changed, so why was he acting as if he couldnt change and open the door himself? Cursing, the alpha of the Denver Pack pulled out his own room key to see if it would work - no luck. Thankful the hotel still had old fashioned locks with keys; he sprinted down the corridor to get Ezra. His running brought Vin to the door of his room, dressed in his boxers, his mane of hair tousled and sticking out at all angles.
"W's up?" he called.
"Buck's gone wolf, try and keep him calm, while I get Ezra!" Chris shouted.
Not understanding what was wrong but nevertheless following orders, he headed for Buck's room. By the time Larabee had raised Ezra all the others were clustered around the door. JD was kneeling by the keyhole, doing his best to calm his surrogate brother.
"Stand back," Chris instructed as Ezra pulled out his lock pick.
As the others stood back, Chris was about to ask how long it would take to open the door when he heard the lock click. Ezra was about to open the door; the scratching and whining was by now getting desperate.
"Stop." Everyone turned to Nathan. "Are we sure this is safe? He's not exactly acting 'normal', what ever 'normal' is for Buck."
They all froze for a second, then JD spoke up. "Buck wouldn't ever hurt us, you know that, he promised," he stated indignantly on behalf of his friend.
"I agree with JD," Ezra stated, his hand on the door handle.
"He sounds scared, not aggressive if you ask me," Vin added.
Chris looked at his men and made a decision. "Nate made a fair point, but I'm gonna say open it."
Ezra didn't wait for a response, he opened the door. It was open no more than a few inches when a long silver-grey snout pushed it open further and Buck shot out past them and tore down the hall towards the stairs, six men trailing in his wake.
Buck had found it hard to get to sleep, which was unusual for him. When he did sleep he was assaulted by a dream that was more like a vision. Suddenly he had to get out, no matter what - he was driven, he had no control over his actions. The wolf took control of him, his primal side, the side of him that he had learned from childhood to suppress and control, suddenly broke free, he knew it was happening, yet he was powerless to stop it. Having got out of the cold room he had to get into the room below. He pawed and scrabbled at the apparently blank wall.
"Buck?" JD sounded scared as he came to the wolf's side, but Buck didn't even acknowledge his presence, he was trying to get under the wall in front of him.
"What's the hell's doing on?" Chris asked, but no one answered.
Josiah looked at the wall. JD had been right, this was a false wall, and it was blocking off at least two rooms. He placed his hand on the wall and pulled it back instantly.
"Vin, feel that for me," he requested.
Frowning and feeling distinctly uneasy, he did as the older man requested. "Shit!" he exclaimed as he pulled his hand back.
"What's the matter?" Nathan asked.
"The wall's cold," Vin and Josiah said as one.
"No Nate, I don't mean cool I mean 'cold' - feel it," Vin invited.
As the others tested the wall, Josiah knelt down by the distressed wolf. "Buck listen to me, I understand." He got no reaction. Josiah reached out and took hold of the big wolf's head, forcing it to turn and look at him. Sanchez couldn't suppress a gasp as he saw the degree of fear in those yellow eyes. "I understand, I know about the room, let us help you, we'll get into the room, just wait." He saw no understanding in the wolf's eyes. "Come on Buck, come back to us, fight it."
For a moment it looked like Buck would pull away and start digging at the wall again, then he gave a pathetic little whimper. Josiah released his head and instantly Buck sat back and let loose a plaintive howl before he lay down with his nose to the now badly scratched wall.
"Josiah, what the hell is going on?" Chris demanded.
"There is something very wrong with this place and with whatever is behind this false wall, we need to get in there." Josiah's voice betrayed his fear and the seriousness of the situation.
"How?" Chris asked.
"Fire escape," Vin supplied.
Larabee looked at his men - his pack - and made a decision. "Okay. Nate?"
"Stay here with Buck. The rest of you get some proper clothes on and come with me."
The five men ran back up to the second floor, and opened the window at the end of the corridor to give them access to the fire escape. They descended to the next floor to find the window boarded up. They didn't wait for instructions, but all pulled out their knives. Since becoming 'pack' Buck had insisted that they all carry knives, not the relatively small Swiss army knives they usually carried, but proper folding 'Buck' clasp knives. Working together with practiced efficiency, they managed to get the two central boards out. The window behind was dirty and locked. Ezra pulled out his pocket flashlight and scanned the widow and its lock.
"Can you unlock it?" Chris asked.
"Yes but that would be of little use."
"It's nailed shut. Someone is very keen that no one enters this room."
"How does the glass feel?" Josiah asked.
Ezra stretched out his hand and felt the glass, pulling it back instantly. "Frosty."
"Right, get the boards off and break the glass," Chris ordered.
Five minutes later, they were ready to enter the locked room. None of them was willing to go first, so it was down to Chris to lead his pack into the unknown. The room, like the walls and windows, was icy cold. Larabee stood in the room and shone his flashlight in a slow arc. In the limited beam he picked out a well-appointed room, with a large bed. All the furniture was there, and despite the layer of dust, it was clearly of good quality.
Vin clambered in after his alpha and shivered.
"Damn it's colder than a witch's tits in here," he declared.
"Why Mr Tanner, what a truly delightful turn of phrase - and so appropriate for the time of year," Ezra commented as he followed Vin in, "and " he stopped and involuntarily wrapped his arms around himself. " most accurate, it must be twenty below in here."
"Wow!" JD gasped as he swung his flashlight around. "This place looks like it ain't been used for years."
JD's assessment was accurate, as they looked more closely, it looked as if the room hadn't been used in over a hundred years. There was no evidence of electric light, the fireplaces hadn't been blocked off, there was no bathroom and oil lamps - their fuel long since evaporated - stood on the table and beside the bed.
There was a door in the wall dividing the bedroom they were in from the one behind. This proved to be a sitting room, supporting the theory that this had been a suite or the owner's accommodation. There was a door in the sitting room, which corresponded to the blank wall that was driving Buck so crazy. Josiah had climbed into the room but not moved from the window, even if the others couldn't feel it, he could, a heavy, oppressive atmosphere, a feeling of dread permeated the whole room, dark and doom laden. Never in all his years had he wanted to get out of anyplace so much as he wanted out of that room. The others had gone into the sitting room; he could hear them calling to Nathan. He used his light to navigate his way over to the bed, for some reason the bed made him uneasy.
The old and no doubt rusty lock resisted all Ezra's attempts to open it.
"Nate," Chris called.
"We can't get the door open, you reckon you can get Buck to follow you down the fire exit?"
"I can try."
Nathan knelt down next to the wolf again. Buck was still lying on the floor with his nose pressed up against the wall, whimpering pathetically.
"Buck?" Nathan started gently. "Come on buddy, if you want in that room, you gotta come with me." Buck lifted his head, cocking it to one side. "Trust me?"
Buck looked back at the wall one last time and then stood. Even before Nathan could react he was heading upstairs again. By the time Nathan reached the top of the stairs Buck was climbing out of the open window.
"I was gonna say 'why don't you change and get some clothes on', but I guess not," Nathan commented to himself out loud as he struggled to keep up with the wolf.
It wasn't easy for Buck to negotiate the narrow, open tread fire escape in the rain. As he jumped into the room all the others were watching, but he hardly noticed, he knew exactly where he was going.
Chris watched his oldest friend, his oldest friend who was currently a truly huge wolf, head straight to the fireplace in the bedroom, there he circled the rug in front of the hearth. After three turns he pawed the rug back and lay down on the bare boards. Chris, Vin, JD and Ezra had all been standing in the doorway of the connecting room; Nathan was just inside the window, while Josiah was still by the bed. None of them was sure why, but they hadn't expected Buck to do what he had just done.
"Guys?" JD started hesitantly. "Um, I don't like it in here, it's well kind of "
"Scary." Vin finished, knowing JD was reluctant to admit fear in front of his older colleagues.
"I must concur, I find myself wanting to flee, for no apparent reason," Ezra admitted.
"It's just an empty room," Nathan commented.
"You only just got here," Chris commented as he moved slowly toward Buck. He was about to ask Josiah how he felt about the room, but as he approached he realised that the big man had a white knuckle grip in the old brass bedstead and was muttering 'Hail Mary's'. Passing Sanchez he knelt down beside Buck - who clearly had some understanding of what was going on.
"Pal, I need to know what you know. I need to talk to you, please." Buck didn't move. "Please Buck, I need to talk to you, I need you to answer me." When Buck still didn't respond, Chris reached for him. Buck growled, his hackles rose. In all the time since they had found out Buck was a Two Blood, he had never shown one sign of canine aggression to any of them until now. "Buck?"
"Back off Chris, I don't think he's exactly himself right now," Josiah warned.
Chris looked over his shoulder at the older man, it was hard to see in the limited light but just the quality of his voice was enough to warn Larabee off. He pulled his hand back and moved back until Buck relaxed and rested his head back onto the floor. Time seemed to stop, yet the feelings of dread and approaching doom mounted in all the men, even Nathan couldn't pretend it wasn't there. JD was getting visibly distressed. Vin had joined Josiah in chanting quietly, his prayer a Native American incantation of protection. Ezra, bought up to never show emotions - especially fear, was having the fight of his life, every instinct in him said run, and every bit of training said stay. Nathan was only just beginning to feel what the others felt, and were fighting. The whole place felt evil, the unnatural cold seemed to penetrate his very bones, worse for him than the others since he was still in his pyjamas and robe. Somehow, despite the open window, despite the rain and wind outside, the room was totally silent; it was as if it was in a different time.
Suddenly everyone in the room, or rather every human in the room, jumped at the plaintive sound of a train whistle.
"Vin?" JD whispered.
"I thought the railroad didn't come through here anymore."
The sound of an approaching train became louder, it seemed to slow and then stop. As the men listened there was the unmistakable sound of the brakes, and steam being expelled. Although they could hear doors being opened and closed and there were no voices, no footsteps, no cars or carts. Nathan - standing by the window - turned and looked out, from the window he could see the former rail yard, now a second hand car lot. There was nothing, not so much as guard dog moving. The heavy, persistent, bitterly cold rain had driven everyone from the streets. He pulled his head back inside and swung his flashlight around the room.
"There's nothing out there," he whispered.
"Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer. And give us the strength and wisdom to see this night through."
"Amen." Five men responded, simultaneously, to Josiah's prayer.
The sounds of the stationary train died away and once more the eerie, unnatural silence descended. How long this lasted it was impossible to say, time was irrelevant. The silence was broken suddenly and violently, by the sound of the door in the sitting room being thrown open. The sound was so clear and so loud that JD and Vin - closest to the connecting door - drew their guns and, flashlights in hand, darted into the next room to confront the intruder. But the blocked off, locked and stuck door, remained closed. So distracted by this were the others, they failed to notice Buck climb to his feet. It wasn't until the other two came back and announced there was no one there, that they realised that he was on his feet, his stance one of pure aggression.
They had never seen their playful, gentle, friendly wolf like this. This was a wild wolf, an aggressive untamed creature of the wilderness, acting on pure instinct. Somehow Buck was growling and snarling at the same time, his teeth bared, ears back, hackles raised.
JD stared as his friend, the five flashlight beams cast strange, long, criss-crossing shadows.
"Fuck," JD breathed.
"Yeah," Chris agreed.
Whatever Buck could see, must have got closer because he began to move, his forepaws almost danced on the spot. The volume of the growl/snarl rose, his eyes widened, catching in the flashlight beams and glowing.
"What the hell is he seeing?" Vin asked.
"'Hell' may well be the word brother, and I would count yourself lucky we can't see it," Josiah counselled.
Suddenly Buck tilted his head and lunged forward, huge jaws snapping wildly. He lunged and retreated repeatedly, but he never once left the patch of floorboards he had settled on. Buck's fight with whatever phantom foe only he could see, lasted about five minutes, as near as anyone could tell. As suddenly as it had started it stopped. His hackles dropped, his stance relaxed, ears once more pricked, he dropped back to the floor and in a blink of an eye the wolf was gone and Buck lay there, naked and shivering on old bare boards. None of the others moved, they just stood there, flashlights trained on their pack mate.
"What just happened here?" Ezra finally asked in a hushed whisper.
No one answered him, but Nathan finally came to life, pulling off his robe, as he cautiously approached Buck - who hadn't moved. He glanced up at Chris, who gave him a node of approval. Nathan continued to approach the Two Blood.
"Buck?" he whispered, but there was no response.
Taking this as at least a sign that he wasn't about to attack, Nathan covered the naked man with his robe. There was a collective release of breath and Chris seemed to come to life. Buck's eyes were open, but they appeared to be unfocused. Jackson waved his hand in front of his friend's eyes but got no response, he shone his flashlight in the staring dark blue eyes, relieved to find that they did react to the light.
"Nate?" Chris asked.
"He's conscious, how aware he is I don't know."
"Nate get some clothes on, JD?"
"Go get Buck some clothes, Vin go with him." Their youngest was scared, he didn't want to go anywhere on his own, he didn't want to be on his own. Chris didn't stop to see if his men would obey, this was a Pack matter and he expected them to obey their alpha with out question - as they did. "Josiah?" he turned to the big profiler. "You got an answer for Ezra?"
Sanchez shook his head. "I know what I think happened - is happening, but I dont know."
Ezra crouched down, next to Buck. "My friend, can you come back to us now?" he asked softly, there was no reaction. Slowly he reached out his hand and lay it over Buck's. They were all new to life as a pack, but one thing Buck had explained, was the need, his need, for close physical contact, especially in times of distress. "Buck come on, I know you're in there."
Josiah saw what was needed and joined him, one big hand rested on Buck's broad back, through Nathan's thin robe. Slowly he began to rub gentle circles. After a few moments he turned to look back up at Chris. Nothing was said, it wasn't needed, Buck needed all of them. Chris dropped to his knees close to his old friend's head and took his other hand. The others returned, it took almost half an hour, with all of them around him before Buck began to come back from what ever waking nightmare he had been trapped in. He finally sat up, looking around himself and at the concerned faces of his pack with bemused confusion.
"Buck, do you know where you are?" Josiah asked softly.
Buck shook his head slowly.
"What do you remember?" Chris asked.
"She needed me, she was scared, I had to protected her, but " his voice trailed off as he looked down at his only partly covered nakedness. "Why am I ?"
"It seems it was the wolf who answered her call for help," Ezra explained.
Buck turned his eyes to Ezra, stared at him, as if that might bring more understanding, finally he nodded.
"Here." JD pushed the clothes he had collected for his friend toward him.
"Thanks," the Two Blood whispered, as he began to pull on the jeans and sweatshirt.
Once Buck was dressed, Chris suggested they move back to their rooms, he was keen to get out of this cold, oppressive place.
"No!" Buck's response to the almost desperate.
Josiah thought back on the events of the night, and about the way Buck seemed to defend that one patch of floor, even uncovering it.
"Buck do you know why you never left this particular bit of floor?" he pointed to the floorboards below them. Wilmington just shook his head.
"Well, lets take a look, Nate?" Josiah looked at the forensics expert.
Nathan took a deep breath and looked at the floor, then knelt as the others stood back to let him work. Buck was surprised to find how uncomfortable he felt leaving 'his' place. He found himself wanting to return to it, even though he was only a few feet from it. Chris looked over at him, sensing the confusion and even fear.
"We'll get it sorted," he assured. Buck just nodded uneasily.
Nathan was now shining his flashlight between the boards. "I reckon there is something under the floor. This plank has been pulled up in a hurry," he announced.
"Right, get it up," Chris instructed.
It took only a few minutes to pull up the plank and reveal a small bungle of cloth wedged between the joists. Nathan reached in and carefully unwrapped the cloth, which appeared to be a fringed shawl. Then he froze.
"Chris?" he breathed.
Larabee knelt down and shone his own light to were Nathan was indicating.
"Oh shit." Chris sat back and looked up at Buck. Without taking his eyes off the scared Two Blood, he spoke to the others. "Vin, JD, we need the local law, tell them we have the body of a baby."
Nathan unwrapped the tiny collection of bones a little more.
"Nate?" Buck finally spoke looking down at the pathetic little bundle.
"It didn't live long - did it?"
Nathan shook his head. He was no expert, but to him the size of the bones and the fontanel opening, the skull looked like that of a new born, or even a premature baby.
"Was it the child who called to you?"
Buck shook his head. "The mother."
Josiah moved to stand next to Buck. "What can you tell us about her?"
Buck shrugged. "Nothing, it was like a dream, and it's already faded."
"You said she needed you, she needed your protection."
Wilmington didn't take his eyes of the bones. "Did I? Josiah it needs, the baby she wants it "
Josiah's compassionate, pale blue eyes searched his friends, confused and distressed eyes for what he was unable to articulate. Suddenly the light of understanding shone and he crossed to the open window and held his huge, cupped hand out in the still steady rain for a few moments. Then returned and knelt beside the un-named child. Dipping his finger in the fresh rainwater, then he touched the small forehead. "Lord bless this child and receive it into your family." Josiah looked up at Buck. "Is that what she wanted?"
Buck nodded. "Thanks Josiah," he whispered.
The police arrived, followed by the owner of the hotel. The local police were fairly sure the bones were too old for a criminal investigation, but they would check. The owner was enraged that the blocked off rooms had been broken into.
"Sheriff, I want charges brought!" he demanded.
"Larry," Sheriff Pratt soothed. "These men are all federal agents, and since they found a body I suggest you co-operate and stop making a scene."
Larry Shaw huffed, but backed down.
"Do you have any idea who that child is?" Chris asked.
Shaw shrugged. "Maybe," he admitted.
By now it was almost dawn, the forensics team would take a few hours to reach the small town so the room was taped up and Team Seven, the owner and the sheriff adjourned to the diner, which had just opened.
Pratt looked at the seven men who had uncovered the tiny body in the centre of his town. "Maybe I should fill you gents in a bit. There have been stories about the hotel for well forever." He gave a small smile. "Everyone knows about the lost rooms and about last tonight."
"Last night? What, pray tell, is so special about last night?" Ezra asked, not entirely sure he wanted to know the answer.
"No one will work on that night, not overnight anyway," Shaw supplied. "The legend goes that when the conditions are right, you can hear a train pull in, a steam train."
"Conditions?" JD swallowed nervously.
"Rain. The rooms were where the owner lived but they've been shut up for years."
"You know why?" Chris asked
"Yeah Larry?" Pratt prompted. "There are all kinds of rumours, what's the family story?"
"Well I guess." The truth was the family wasn't too proud of this particular story, but a dead baby under the floor wasn't exactly an asset. "My great, great, great " He counted the 'greats' on his fingers. " grand daddy came over from England, he came west with the railway, saw the need for a hotel and built one. His eldest son took over from him, met a local girl, got married, but she died in childbirth, the baby - Mortimer - survived. Mortimer was a wild one, he got some poor girl pregnant and there was a real shotgun wedding. He took her home to dad and left."
"Left?" Josiah asked.
"Apparently, just left, ended up riding with Teddy Roosevelt's rough riders. Two years later he comes back a real life hero. Gets of the train on a rainy night "
"Last night?" Josiah speculated.
"Yes, well, according to family legend anyway. Anyway, he goes up the hotel, finds his wife in his father's rooms, there's some kind of row, he beats her up, and his father finds her on the floor. She died and Mortimer was tried an executed for her murder. Her child, Edmond, was my grandfather. I don't know who the baby is, no one has ever mentioned a baby," he admitted.
Chris looked over at Sanchez, he could see the man's profiler/psychologist brain was working on the little mystery. "Well?" he prompted.
Josiah sat back. "We have a young girl, pregnant, probably away from home for the first time, abandoned by her husband and left alone with her father in law. There they are, a young vibrant woman without a husband and a still youngish man with no wife, living in close proximity in a small, claustrophobic hotel."
"You think the baby was theirs - the wife and the father?" Ezra asked.
"I think it is very likely. The fashion of the day would make the pregnancy easy to hide - to begin with at least. Then she would just stay inside until the birth, once the child was born, they would, no doubt, say some guest left it behind and either give it up or offer - very generously - to adopt it. But Mortimer turns up, expecting a hero's welcome and finds his wife, the wife he left two years ago, very pregnant."
"And he loses it," Chris speculated.
"Not surprising," Pratt added.
"And beats his wife to death." Chris turned to Jackson. "Could she have miscarried then and there?"
"So Mortimer or his father, hid the baby to avoid the scandal?" Ezra looked at Sanchez. "Do you think it was already dead or did they kill it?"
Josiah shrugged. "No way to know."
"Poor thing," Vin commented sadly.
"What I want to know is, why you lot broke into the room in the first place?" Shaw demanded.
The Denver Pack all looked at their alpha. "Buck's room was cold, the floor, it was cold - what can I say? We're investigators."
"What will happen to the child?" This was the first time Buck had spoken.
Pratt thought a moment. "Once the medical examiner has finished, I guess it will be buried."
Josiah saw a look of concern flash in Buck's expressive eyes. "Sheriff," he started. "I can't speak for my friends, but I, for one, would like to leave some money with the county, so the poor child can be buried, properly, with a minister."
"That is very generous " Pratt started to say.
"But not necessary," Shaw cut in. "I'm satisfied that child is a member of my family and I will see it is given a proper Christian burial, alongside the rest of the family."
"Thank you," Buck said softly.
The Denver Pack were well on their way back to their Home Ground by the time Larry Shaw called Pratt back to his hotel, to take a look at some mysterious marks in room 12 and the corridor below.
"Those guys didn't have dog did they?" he asked.
The sheriff shook his head. "Not that I saw."
"So what the hell made those marks?" He pointed to the scratch marks on the inside of the door.
"Larry when it comes to this place, I think it's better not to ask questions like that."
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