VEX: Valley Enforcers, #1 (2 page)

BOOK: VEX: Valley Enforcers, #1
8.92Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

He didn’t want a sendoff party. Hell, he didn’t even want to tell anyone he was going. He just wanted dinner with me. Pulled pork the way Ma used to make it and a couple of beers. It was the least I could do.

“So nothing happened while you were in town?” He asked as he chewed loudly.

I swallowed hard and looked away. “Nothin’ happened, man. Just another day. Kinda pissed I have to pull a double tomorrow. I’m taking Tucker out and fencing off the new property.”

I hated lying to him, but I didn’t want anyone to know about Acacia. She was going to be my little secret for as long as possible. Lying to Hakeem would keep both he and Acacia safe in the long run.

“The grunts need to do that shit.”

“Grunts aren’t ready yet. None of the prospects are over eighteen, and you know how strict Deacon is about the rules.”

One of the worst parts about our clan was the age gaps. We weren’t a large group, but our numbers weren’t miniscule. However, our age range was sporadic. We needed to fill Enforcer positions and build almost a small militia of men and women who are capable of fighting beyond basic self-defense, but most of our teens were too young or not focused enough, and those older than eighteen were already committed to different paths. Justin was the latest recruit. He was bagging groceries before he went through the program. Tucker was just as young as Justin, but he had been interested in the program early on and joined shortly after turning eighteen.

“He should bend em’. George and Barrel are going to be busy with training, so that leaves just you, Tucker and Justin for rotations? That’s bullshit, man.”

I have a half shrug. “We’ve pulled long shifts before. Won’t be the last time, either. Not like I have anything else to do.”

“Hit the bars and find a nice lady to go home with. Shoot some hoops. Sleep for more than five hours. Do literally anything other than work.”

“I’m too old for one night stands. Doesn’t matter anyway. I won’t have much free time. At least this new land will give us something new to do. The last time we had a breech it was only fuckin’ Lexi.”

“I have a feeling in a few days I’m going to be wishing for boring and routine perimeter checks,” Hakeem said as he made himself another sandwich. “Hey, think I’ll be able to bring back any cool souvenirs?”

“I doubt they have postcards that read ‘GOT MY ASS KICKED BY THE WHITE ICE CLAN’, Hakeem,” I chuckled.

He lifted his hands and made a sweeping motion. “Uncharted territory, man. Who knows what’s up there. It’s a whole new world.”

In a way, we both were heading into uncharted territory. I had a feeling, though, that whatever Hakeem would be dealing with up North would be a hell of a lot worse than my Acacia issue. Maybe not. Like he said, it was a whole new world.

Chapter Two




The door to my RV slammed shut behind me and I jumped. Somehow I managed not to spill the contents from the plastic clam that held my dinner. Or brinner, I guess. When I asked the waitress if their meat was locally sourced and organic she looked at me like I was from Mars. I went with the pancake platter to be safe. She still looked at me like a new aged hippie. I just liked knowing where my food came from.

Heavens knows I’d broken a lot of my rules for food. They don’t have many organic options in federal prison. Whatever I ate in Waseca was barely considered food but I didn’t have any room to complain. But in the middle of nowhere in Montana, hours from home, I had a choice. As I dug into the still steaming stack of cakes I was never more thankful for gluten.

Halfway through my silent meal alone my phone rang. I sprang towards my discarded bag and tore through the remnants of my day. I put up over a dozen flyers, and it was probably too soon for a phone call, but a girl could hope.
Yeah, hope it’s that sexy beast of a man from earlier in the day
. I bit my tongue.

The guy who was probably most definitely a werebear. The same one who tried to get me to leave town. He also, coincidentally, was one of the most attractive men I’d ever seen. He didn’t look like he was a Montana native. With his naturally bronze skin, dark silken hair that reached his shoulders, and even darker eyes, he looked like he belonged on a beach. His eyebrows were thick and prominent, and there was a scar that ran through the left one leaving a small patch without hair. He was tall, dark, and sexy… and completely out of my league. He tried to run me out of town, which was probably evidence enough that he thought I was a complete psycho loser.

I had completely forgotten about my phone call, but whoever was on the other end called back right away. I glanced down at my phone and let out a deflated sigh before answer.

“Hey, Jade. What’s up?”

“Wow. Don’t sound so excited to talk to me,” My older sister said dryly. “I was just checking in with you. Did you make it to the bear place or wherever the hell it is you are?”

“Yup. They threw a party in my honor. I was welcomed by a marching band and two gorgeous hunks carried me around all day.”

She snorted, “Carried you straight to the loony bin.”

“Rude, Jay. What part of that wasn’t believable? I thought I was an expert storyteller,” I said the last part a little too bitterly.

“Don’t be like that, Acacia. You know Mom means well.”

“She is worried about her reputation. I decide to go to vocational school and become a cosmetologist? Not applying myself. Start a group with my friends and go out ghost hunting and looking for Bigfoot? Need to go to therapy. Arrested and thrown in federal prison? Scandalous.”

My mom probably did mean well but I learned at a young age to keep my thoughts to myself. She was a wonderful woman and a great preschool teacher, but she always treated me a little differently than my brother and sisters. I was more of a daddy’s girl growing up. My dad was the reason I got into animal rights and environmental protection… which is eventually what led me into cryptozoology. As an environmental planner, he was always busy with something. He let me sit in his office after school and any time I had a question, he answered it. My favorite memories growing up all involved the solo camping trips Dad and I would take. Jade was always too busy on the weekends to go with us. Eden, my younger sister, was so afraid of bugs she didn’t even like to play outside. And my young brother Aiden preferred staying in and bugging Jade or terrorizing Eden. That left the trips all to me. I loved them.

And then there was the night of the attack. The night that changed the rest of my life. It was the night I learned that there were things in the world I didn’t understand – things people chalked up to myths and legends. Werebears existed. And one of them saved my life.

“You have to admit that that last one is pretty scandalous.”

“Puh-lease! It was a bullshit charge, and you know it,” I huffed into my phone angrily. “Listen, I don’t want to hear about it anymore, okay? It happened. I did my time. Now I’m trying to make my life better and do what I want to do.”

“You’ve always done what you want to do, Acacia. That’s the problem. You’re not a teenager anymore. You’re twenty-seven.”

“And this conversation is over.”

Acting more like the teenager I was claiming not to be, I hung up on her and silenced my phone. I was almost positive she wouldn’t call back, but I didn’t want to hear it ring if she did. I knew I probably wouldn’t get any calls from locals wanting to dish about bears, so I wasn’t too worried about lodging my phone somewhere between the bench cushion.

No longer wanting to sit in silence, I stood up and walked over to the tiny flat screen TV I installed just before leaving for my trip across Montana. I flipped through my DVDs before putting in an
disc and settling back down with my pancakes.

The RV had been my permanent home since I got out of Waseca. It was my parent’s but they let me buy it off of them for a lot less than it was worth. It was twenty years old, but they kept it in good shape and I renovated the hell out of it. The only place that would hire me was a plastic factory on the outskirts of town. I worked my ass off at the raging inferno long enough to pay off the Winnebago and stash a couple thousand away in savings.

My friends at the Supernatural Society – the same ones that all but abandoned me after I was arrested – didn’t welcome me back with open arms. There had been tension before shit hit the fan. Slug, my former partner in crime and the other co-founder of the society, was set on making big bucks doing quack ghost hunts. He was so wrapped up in trying to make cool videos for the internet that he completely glossed over the initial reason we started the society. I, on the other hand, wanted to stick to our roots and do things authentically. I wanted to look for Manipogo and the Turtle Lake Monster. He wanted to fake EVPs and charge confused families thousands of dollars to essentially do nothing. He took over when I went away and the attention got to his fucking head. When I tried to attend a meeting I was kicked off the property and banned from the society.

That was one of the biggest reasons I ended up in Brown Bear Valley looking for werebears. I wanted proof. I wanted to rub it in Slug’s face. I wanted to go back to doing what I loved with my friends and enjoying it. We used to stay up all night camped out in trees or breaking into old abandoned homes. We ran on coffee and adrenaline. Back before there were dozens of generic shows mocking ghost hunting or cryptid hunting on cable television, we were the kings and queens. I knew things would never go back to how they were. I guess more than anything I wanted proof for myself. Proof that my entire life hadn’t been wasted searching for made up monsters.

I knew the monsters existed. Maybe not all of them. Aliens? Hell yes. Mothman? Definitely. Nessie? Probably. Slenderman? Not so much. My ‘
The truth is out there
’ tattoo was a permanent stamp reminding me that there’s a lot out there that is unknown. But after years of being laughed at, rejected, and treated like an immiscible, I was ready to be the one laughing. No, I
to be the one laughing.

I finished my dinner and powered down the bulk of the RV. With only a few strands of white Christmas lights and the soft glow of the TV I quickly found my eyes drooping. After finishing my exhausting drive I had jumped straight into putting up my flyers and attempting to talk to people in the town. I wasn’t sure what time it was, but it was dark and I was cozy. I unfolded a fleece blanket at the end of the bench and wrapped myself like a burrito.

I dreamed of Mulder and Scully turning into angry half bear half dinosaur creatures and Mr. Tall, Dark, and Sexy saving the day.



Tearing into my protein bar, I absently wandered in the woods. Again. I had been in Brown Bear Valley four days and my investigation was at a standstill. Day One brought Mr. Tall, Dark, and Sexy. Day Two, I noticed all my flyers had been taken down. I replaced them all and attempted to talk to a few people around town. A few looked at me like I was nuts. One threatened to call the police. And another told me to leave town. Day Three I decided to take a different approach and do some field work. I picked a location close to the report that led me to the quiet mountain town and started exploring the woods. Over twelve hours later I returned to my RV dirty, sweaty, and empty handed. With my morale low, I really wanted to take a personal day and stay in. I had reading to catch up on and networking to do. But something told me to crawl out of bed and go back to the woods. I pulled off the main road that wound through the mountainside and took a few random turns before parking the RV and gearing up.

“I should get a tape recorder. At least then when I talk to myself it looks professional,” I mumbled. “Captains log: Buy a tape recorder.”

I shoved the crinkling wrapper into a side pocket and exchanged it for my cellphone. I’d been using an app to track where I walked. There wasn’t any method to my madness. There were thousands of acres and I had no way of knowing where to go.

My field work did provide me with some interesting information, however. I had yet to come across any wildlife, let alone a bear. For a town named Brown Bear Valley, I sort of expected sightings to be plentiful. I hadn’t seen or heard any indication that bears were anywhere near the valley. Hell, I hadn’t even seen a deer. Aside from a few squirrels, a gaggle of annoying birds, and a never ending supply of mosquitos that had a taste for my blood, I was alone. What kind of place is named after bears when there aren’t any around in the first place?

The boredom set in a lot quicker than it had the previous day. Without any real idea of what I was looking for, I wandered almost aimlessly. I knew how to read maps and use a compass, but I was glad there was an app tracking my route because my mind drifted more often than not. I knew it wasn’t safe to put in my headphones so I resorted to singing to myself and playing the drums on trees. Even though I hadn’t seen or heard wildlife didn’t mean it wasn’t out there. And there were far scarier things I could encounter if I wasn’t careful enough. Hillbillies. Sink holes. The Blair Witch.

A twig snapped in the distance and my head shot up. A tremor of fear rushed through my system. Was The Blair Witch like Bloody Mary? Was she summoned if you thought about her too long? Reaching back slowly, I grabbed my Taser from my pack. Fear gave way to curiosity, and like all the dumb bimbos in the horror flicks, I walked in the direction of the noise. At least I was self-aware. Even when I first started ghost hunting as a teen I never stayed afraid for too long… or I tried to, at least.

Walking deeper into the woods with my Taser handy was definitely one of those adrenaline moments that reminded me of the old days. It was impossible to record and have the Taser handy, so I kept my camera in my pack. Running a solo operation was way more difficult than even a two person team, and I didn’t have the funds for a laptop, let alone a fancy GoPro to attach to my chest.

I started climbing the hill in front of me as quietly as possible when the light suddenly disappeared and a shadow surrounded me. There was a low, menacing growl, and for a fraction of a second I thought I had stumbled across a bear, but a familiar voice followed.

“What the hell are you doing out here?”

I used my hand as a visor and looked up at Mr. Tall, Dark and Sexy. The sun haloed around him making him look like some sort of gift from the heavens. He looked like he was going out on a military expedition with his camo pants and hunter green shirt.

“I could ask you the same thing.”

He descended the hill with expertise and stalked over to me, arms crossed in an annoyed fashion. His hair was pulled back, which only made his face seem more angular and foreign. The obsidian pools of his eyes were terrifying, but they elicited something deep inside of me.

“Hunting,” He grunted. “Are you lost?”

“Hunting?” I drawled sarcastically. “I guess you could pass that off with outfit, but you don’t have any weapons. And no, I’m not lost.”

“Are you hunting, then? I don’t think a Taser will get you far in that department,” He spoke almost teasingly.

It was my turn to give him a nasty look. “Hunting is inhumane and unnecessary.”

“Ah. Okay. An animal lover.” For the first time since I met him, Mr. Tall, Dark, and Sexy smiled. It was toothy and crooked, but it was so bright and warm it needed to be illegal. “Still doesn’t explain what you’re doing trespassing on my property, Acacia.” And like that his smile was gone.

BOOK: VEX: Valley Enforcers, #1
8.92Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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