Stiles spent a wonderful weekend with Derek, shopping and cooking and storing-away meals enough for two weeks. Since the very first time Stiles invited Derek to help him in the kitchen, it was the one place both Derek and Stiles could drop any artifices and just be themselves. They would laugh and talk about music or movies or books (Derek was an avid reader), or they would talk about Derek’s family (Stiles loved learning what they were like when Derek was a child), or they would talk about school and Stiles’ ambitions for college (Stiles was leaning toward law enforcement or library studies—a blend of both his parents’ occupations).
It was really too bad nobody else was around to see it.
As Stiles pulled into a parking spot in the student lot, he mentally debated inviting Boyd to join them the next time Stiles felt like having a mass-cookery incident. The quiet boy was a good friend, and if Stiles was not mistaken—and he rarely was—then Boyd could use a few new friendships. Stiles knew Boyd wouldn’t feel out of place in a kitchen since one of the classes they shared was Home Economics.
Stiles mentally shrugged and reached into the back seat for his backpack. When he leaned forward again, he spotted Scott staring at him from the entrance area to the school. “Great,” Stiles sighed as he opened his car door, “I do not need this this morning!”
Stiles squared his shoulders and hitched his backpack high over his shoulder. Holding his head high and proud, Stiles walked gracefully toward the school. Scott left his perch and intercepted Stiles before he reached the building.
“What do you know about Tuesday?” Scott asked petulantly.
Stiles raised an eyebrow at his friend and said, “It’s the usual day after Monday, which is today, which means Tuesday is tomorrow.”
Scott huffed in annoyance. “Allison told me that her parents were going to be out Tuesday night, and I was going to go over to her house while they were out, but Mom told me this morning that I had to be somewhere Tuesday night. She wouldn’t tell me anything, and Allison doesn’t know anything, but I know you know something. So tell me what’s going on!”
Stiles tried hard not to roll his eyes when he answered, “I do know that something is going on tomorrow night. I might even know why something is going on.” Stiles screwed his eyes in contemplation for a moment. “I also,” he continued, “know that Derek tried to tell you what was going on, but you had better things to do than to listen. So I’ll just let you find out when you find out, okay?”
Scott seemed about to lose his temper for a moment, but he calmed enough to ask, “Are you going to be there?”
Stiles shook his head. “Nope, I’m not allowed to be there, for various reasons. So you’ll know how it all turns out before I do.” Stiles allowed his backpack to slide off his shoulder and into his hand. “Now,” he said as he turned to the door, “I have classes to get to, if you don’t mind.”
And he left Scott behind as he walked into the building and headed for his locker.
Scott wouldn’t be alone for long. Before Stiles turned away, he saw Allison’s car pull into the student lot just ahead of Jackson’s Porsche.
Since Stiles’ first class was English, and he had that class with Scott, Allison, and Boyd (Stiles had taken to sitting in the rear of the class with Boyd when Scott became besotted), Stiles was sure to hear anything interesting about the next night’s Tribunal.
What he had not anticipated hearing was Allison’s almost hysterical rambling about how her “mother went out after dinner last night and never came back.”
Scott was trying—and failing—to calm Allison, but she was too distracted to take the comfort.
Stiles leaned forward in his seat to hear more, but the classroom soon filled and the noise level rose too high.
And Boyd ambled in and took his attention when he asked an opinion about the essay the class was assigned.
The school day went swimmingly for Stiles. He was able to hand in assignments completed because of his work in the library. He passed a pop quiz in Calculus, and managed to ignore the incredulous look Lydia Martin gave him when they were handed back. He even made it to lunch with no more than a snide look from Jackson as they passed in the hall.
When he entered the library, Stiles held up a paper lunch bag in front of the librarian. He opened it to show that it only contained a few wrapped sandwiches, and she waved him away toward his usual table, where Boyd was already seated.
“Hey, Boyd,” he said when he sat down, “I brought some actual lunch since we’ve not been eating in here for a while.”
He placed the brown paper bag on the table between them and opened it to pull out a sandwich. Boyd looked around, as if waiting to be caught and tossed out of the room, but Stiles just shrugged. “I already got the okay to eat in here if we’re not messy. I made fairly un-messy sandwiches, if you like left-over meatloaf.”
“Thanks, man,” said Boyd as he helped himself to a sandwich. He took a bite and moaned lightly in appreciation. “This is good,” he said around a mouthful. “Did you make this?”
Stiles nodded. “Yeah. My dad cooks for shit, so I took over the kitchen duties after Mom died. It’s not beef, but you can’t tell, really.”
Boyd took another bite and chewed thoughtfully before swallowing. “If it’s not beef, then what is it?”
“Ground turkey. I stay away from beef as much as possible, because I’m trying to keep an eye on Dad’s cholesterol. I’ve been really creative with my recipes, but I have no complaints.”
Boyd nodded in understanding. “I need to learn to cook better for my siblings. Mom works hard, but sometimes I’m the one who provides the meals because she has no time or is asleep.”
Stiles smiled. “Actually,” he said pleasantly, “That is a great segue for this conversation. You see, after Scott went wonky for Allison and blew me off for our usual Saturday video game marathon, I decided to go through my mom’s recipe books. I invited Derek over, and we went shopping and spent the whole day cooking.
“We do it every now and then, making enough meals to last all of us for a week or so, and Derek is learning to cook as well. I was going to ask if you maybe wanted to join us some time.”
Boyd ate silently for a few moments before speaking. “You mean, you’d like if I came over and cooked with you and your boyfriend?”
Stiles sputtered, almost spraying chewed meatloaf all over their table. “Derek,” he gasped, “is not my boyfriend!” He looked frantically around the library, but there was nobody around to watch him. Still, he lowered his voice to a whisper when he continued. “Look, there’s a tragic back-story there, okay? But Derek is a friend right now, and if there is anything more there—well, it’s not happening yet.”
Stiles sat back in his seat and took another bite of sandwich, chewing thoroughly before swallowing and speaking again. “Look, Derek has had a very bad romantic history. It’s his story to tell, not mine, so I won’t go into it.” Boyd nodded in understanding, so Stiles continued, “I like him a lot, but he’s a lot older than me and we’re both gun-shy, so he’s not boyfriend material just yet. I’m happy to be a friend to him. I’d like to invite you to our cooking days because I can use more friends, and Derek can use more friends, and maybe you could, too?”
Boyd smiled at Stiles and took another bite of the last sandwich. “If we can make stuff like this, then I’ll accept the invitation.”
Stiles smiled in return. “Well, I’ll let you know when the next cooking day is, then. Now—are you at all ready for the History test next week?”
The study session went well, but Scott once again gave Stiles intense glares in the hallways after lunch. And Lydia was once again watching Scott watch Stiles.
That was getting tedious.
Once again, Derek was waiting beside Stiles’ Jeep when school let out for the day. When Boyd pointed it out, he asked, “Does he just walk over here? That’s very odd, you know?”
Stiles shoulder-bumped Boyd even as he smiled widely at Derek. “He’s got this incredible car, Boyd,” said Stiles carefully, aware that he could be overheard in the student lot, “but it’s a bit of a gas-guzzler. Not,” he quickly said to prevent Boyd from commenting, “unlike my own car. But Derek spends a lot of time just walking around to keep his head clear and to get used to Beacon Hills again after being away for the last six years. So, if he wants to walk over here to meet me, instead of driving his Camero around just to end up at my house, I’m okay with that.”
“But why is he going to your house at all?” asked Boyd.
Stiles shrugged. “Well, like I said, my dad knew his mother a long time ago. So when he came back to town to try to find his sister, my dad offered to help him out anyway he could. Right now, Derek’s staying at the Beacon Inn, which is a nice place but it’s still a hotel. Dad is helping him look over prospective houses and apartments. Derek has a realtor, but he’s not been here for six years, so Dad is telling him about different neighborhoods and amenities. And I feed him, because his favorite thing for dinner used to be take-out pizza.”
Boyd chuckled. “That explains why he does your cooking-day thing.” When they reached Stiles’ Jeep, and Derek, Boyd once again offered his hand politely and said, “It’s nice to see you again, Derek. Stiles invited me to join you for your next all-day cooking expedition, if that’s okay?”
Derek nodded in greeting and shook Boyd’s hand in greeting. “Yeah, that’s good. As long as Stiles’ kitchen can hold us, I say the more, the merrier.”
Stiles laughed loudly. “Let’s not get carried away. But you might want to refine your house search to include a large kitchen. Then we can just do it at your place—once you find it.”
The three chatted for a short while before Boyd excused himself, saying he needed to get home to start the spaghetti (with sauce from a jar, which Stiles scoffed at). Once Boyd was on his way, Derek and Stiles piled into the Jeep. As he was pulling out of the parking lot, Stiles saw Scott and Lydia standing near Allison, appearing to comfort her, while Jackson glowered nearby.
Stiles nodded in that direction and asked, “What’s up with that, do you think? I overheard Allison say her mom went on an errand last night and never came home.”
Derek looked at the group but shook his head. “I have no idea, really. It might be about the Tribunal tomorrow night, but I wouldn’t know why.” Derek focused his attention on Stiles as the teen drove them away from the school. “So, I should look for a place with a big kitchen, huh?”
Stiles shrugged. “Well, if you’re going to have a Pack soon, you need a place to meet, right? And meetings sometimes need food. And don’t think I haven’t noticed how much werewolves actually eat. So.”
Derek nodded. “Yeah, okay. It’s a good point.”
Because he was a detective by nature as well as profession, John did a bit of research on the warehouse the Tribunal would take place in. It was a rudimentary internet search, but it yielded a good bit of information.
Buildings 810 through 815 in the industrial park were all owned by Cygnet Corporation, whose company motto seemed to be “Building a Strong Today for a Better Tomorrow”.
The warehouses are largely empty at all times, but they do accept shipments from various companies for a holding period before the stock is moved out again. John was able to find out that those transactions were legitimate; mostly inventory for mercantile shops all along Northern California, Oregon, and Washington. It was all general goods merchandise; no weapons or drugs that he could tell. The company employed a lot of people in Beacon Hills, Beacon Heights, and Hillery, and as far as John could tell they paid fair wages and had a good incentive plan.
But ‘cygnet’ meant baby swan, and according to Regina Kincaide, Swann was the name of a prominent Hunter Clan from Canada—with roots in Germany and Sweden. Regina said the Swann Clan was the historic Clan that first came up with the Hunter’s Code of protecting innocents from feral Wolves:
Wir schützen gegen die verheerenden Dunkelheit
Which means “We protect against the ravaging darkness”.
John figured it was a good motto to have, all things considered. Knowing that gave him some hope for the Tribunal. It also gave him knowledge of another family that would be there: the Swanns. He had no idea who else would be there. Regina couldn’t really give him a list as she only knew of a few of the Clans.
John did a bit more research on the name Argent, and found the American branch of that family. There were three families with that name that caught his eye: one in Massachusetts, one in Minnesota, and one in Nevada. Since the Argent family that recently moved to Beacon Hills owned handguns—the head of the family had a job selling weapons to law enforcement agencies—they had to register with the Sheriff’s Department. John brought up the name Christopher Gerald Argent in his police files and retrieved a former address in San Francisco.
Public Records brought up the marriage license for Christopher Gerald Argent and Victoria Anne-Marie Swann in St. Paul, Minnesota twenty years prior, and the birth of a daughter, Allison Katherine Argent, two years after that.
John sat back in his chair and stared at his computer screen. Argent and Swann, united in marriage. He supposed it made sense; the families would keep the Hunting secrets together, and they’d never have to explain it to outsiders.
Still, John frowned. Stiles told him over dinner the night before that he overheard that Allison’s mother had gone out and not returned. Since the Sheriff’s Department had not received a missing-persons report, John guessed that Christopher Argent wasn’t too disturbed by his wife’s disappearance. Perhaps it had to do with the Tribunal?
However it was, John would learn all about it in two days time. For now, all John could do was gather his personal files—his unofficial research on the Hale fire and his notes about Peter Hale’s victims—and head to the McCall house to prepare Scott as best he could for the Tribunal.
“But I still don’t see why I have to go! I’m a victim, too!”
Scott McCall’s whine was beginning to give John a headache. From the look on Melissa’s face, it was grating to her as well.
John sighed deeply and rubbed a hand over his tired eyes. “Scott, when I was contacted about being advocate, I was instructed to bring you to the Tribunal. I don’t know why they want you, because they hold all the cards here and they don’t have to tell me anything.”
“But you’re the Sheriff!” Scott exclaimed. “Don’t these people have to listen to you?”
John leaned his head far enough back to bang it lightly against the wall behind the sofa. “Scott, you are a werewolf now. That world is not part of the normal world, and the normal law has no bearing in this instance. It’s out of my hands. I’m going to be there as some sort of courtesy, but that is all.”
Melissa leaned forward and wrapped an arm around her disgruntled son. “Scott, you have to go. But John is going to do his best to protect you. Just listen to what they say, and don’t speak unless they ask you. And be respectful and polite!”
John knew Melissa wanted her son safe, but Scott seemed to want to fight every step of the way.
He only hoped everyone got to walk away from this alive.
Stiles went to school on Monday and Tuesday like nothing was going on in his life.
He took pop quizzes and handed in homework, and made a fine soufflé in Home Ec with Boyd as his partner (“You do know that was an advanced recipe, right?” Eh, I had faith in us.”)
The whole time he surreptitiously watched Allison for signs of cracking under undue pressure, but she showed none. Oh, he overheard her talking to Scott and Lydia in the halls and before classes (Jackson never paid attention, since he was still brooding heavily about having to co-captain with Scott), and she only mentioned that her grandfather was supposed to be coming for a visit and that she barely knew the man.
After school, Stiles would fix a filling and healthy dinners for his father and Derek, but both men were often found with their heads bent together over their plates as they discussed the Tribunal. Stiles didn’t mind, really, because he could bring them out of it easily enough. He was just trying hard not to stress about it all because there was really nothing he could do about it.
While John and Derek attempted to plan for any contingency, Stiles meditated and practiced his “sparkage”, as he called it. Stiles had learned much from Regina while she was in town, and his bi-weekly phone calls gave him unofficial homework to hone his gifts. Magic was strange to Stiles, because he never really needed to recite a spell or use special ingredients to make something happen. He always figured that he’d need to say some rhyme for a spell to work, or have an iron cauldron on a small fire at all times.
But Regina was right—Stiles was only fettered by physics and his imagination. If Stiles wanted a magical circle set with mountain ash, all he needed was a pinch of ash and determination. If Stiles needed something from another room, and his hands were busy with dinner or homework, all he needed was to concentrate—and hope that nobody was in the way—and what he wanted would come flying to him.
So, while his father was preparing himself for a Tribunal he might never understand, Stiles did small magical exercises in the living room or his bedroom. It kept his mind occupied and it prevented him from worrying about the Tribunal.
For a little bit, at least.
“Do you want to ride with me and Scott, or would you rather take your own vehicle?” John asked at seven-thirty on Tuesday evening. It was time to head out, and John had to pick-up Scott first.
“I’d like to go with you,” said Derek as he grabbed his leather jacket. “If it all goes well, I still would rather none of the Hunters knew what my car looks like just yet. If the Argents are going to be staying around, they’ll find out soon enough.”
John nodded. “That’s fair.” He gave Derek a sideways look. “You’ll have to sit with Scott on the way there and back. Is that going to be okay?”
Derek scowled. “I’m not the one that backed away from training. I tried to do my best by him, you know.”
John returned a grim expression. “I know that. Melissa knows, too. I never knew Scott to be as stubborn as he was when he stopped training with you.”
Derek shrugged as he opened the front door. “He wants to be normal, and he’ll never be normal again. I understand that this is difficult for him, but Stiles told me that Scott attacked him during the Full Moon, so he has to get that under control.”
John rolled his eyes. “Yeah, we’ll work on that. I just hope the Argents haven’t found out about that yet. That could possibly be bad news for us if they have.”
Scott pouted the whole ride across town, so it was at least a silent trip.
The tension could have been cut with a butter knife, however.
John drove his Sheriff’s Department SUV around the industrial park until he found the 800 block, and then he slowed to read the address marks until he found 810. There were a lot of vehicles parked around 812A and 812B, and even more around 813A. The area around 813B was suspiciously clear of vehicles—except for a large armoured van with darkly tinted windows. John parked his SUV across the lot from the van, not wanting to be anywhere near it, and he exited the vehicle. Scott and Derek followed, and the three made their way to the warehouse door.
As soon as they reached the building, the loading door opened and a tall, thin man dressed in a black suit (with a silver tie and kerchief no less) stepped out to meet them. He nodded to Derek and Scott, but spoke directly to John.
“I am Duquesne,” he said in lightly-accented English. “I spoke to you briefly, Sheriff. Do you understand how you are to comport yourself?”
John nodded. “Yes, I understand.”
Scott opened his mouth to say…anything, but Derek covered his mouth quickly.
Duquesne smirked at Derek before returning his attention to John. “The Maitresse is waiting in the jury room. She will address the issues that have been raised. The accused have been sequestered for your…comfort.” Duquesne turned his back, leading them to the open loading door. “I must tell you, however, that unforeseen matters have arisen during our investigation. The safety of your territory is at stake, so you shall be witness to a True Tribunal. Hold your tongue during Judgment, as this is out of your hands, Sheriff.”
With no further words, Duquesne led the three outsiders through the loading door and into a large cargo elevator. They rode up to the third floor in silence; John and Derek were contemplative and Scott was glowering. When the cargo door opened again, they were faced with what could only be described as a medieval chamber.
There were torches on the walls—actual torches—that provided the ambient light. John looked up to see several chandeliers lit with flaming candles to provide more light. The floor was carpeted in red or dark purple—it was hard to tell in the provided light. The edge of the carpet was decorated with silver arrows, which made John struggle to stifle laughter. The tension of the event was finally getting to him.
They followed the carpet to a furnished ‘chamber’ that was lined with heavy wooden tables and chairs. There was a small platform where sat another table with a regal, throne-like chair behind it. John was shown to a table directly to the right of the platform and Derek and Scott were seated at a smaller table behind him.
John settled his file folder on the table in front of him and folded his hands together on top of it. He tried to look unconcerned, but he was certain he failed.
Duquesne took his position, standing beside the ‘throne’ on the platform, hands clasped loosely in front of him. John looked briefly at his watch; it was now eight-thirty-one and several seconds.
A bell pealed sharply in the quiet space, and a door opened behind John, spilling diffused light into the candle-lit chamber. John turned to watch as people began filing into the room. He noted Derek kept his eyes forward but Scott had turned his head to watch. Derek nudged him to get him to turn back around, so he finally did. But his eyes were wide with fear.
John then recognized the tall, light-haired man walking up the aisle as Christopher Argent, the father of Scott’s girlfriend, and he remembered why Scott was grounded. Once Argent saw Scott seated with Derek Hale, he would know why the boy was there. Since John didn’t see any other young people walking into the Chamber, he figured Allison did not know about werewolves or this Tribunal.
Or if she did, she was at home worrying, just like Stiles.
The parade of stiff-backed persons ended when everyone was seated in stiff-backed chairs. While John had been watching the Hunters file into the room—and boy, were there a lot of them—a woman had entered from a door to the rear of the platform. She was quiet and regal.
And she was quite stunning.
John could not have placed her age if he were asked. She was older than him, he was certain, but she appeared ageless—much like Regina Kincaide upon first meeting. This could only be the Argent Matriarch, Cybelle d’Argent.
She was a tall woman, around five-foot-ten, and she was slender but not skinny. She had what Stiles would call fierce cheekbones, and wide, dark eyes. Her mouth formed a cupid’s bow, but John could see smile lines on either side of it, so she was not always so stern. Her hair, which she wore loose and wavy, was dark, with one silver lock that ran from the edge of her brow to below her shoulder. She was dressed all in white, from her white leather boots to her white leather tailored jacket.
She definitely stood out among this sea of black clothing.
Even John and Scott were wearing dark clothes in honor of the somber event.
Cybelle d’Argent raised her hand and slammed a gavel (an actual gavel!) onto a wooden block on her table, and silence filled the room. The Maitresse looked around the chamber with cold, serious eyes, and everyone in front of her met her gaze bravely. Once she had satisfied whatever curiosity she had, she lifted her chin regally and took her seat. Only after she was seated did everyone else take their seats.
Never once did it occur to John that he should stand in her presence, at least in deference to her position, but no-one corrected him. He was not one of them.
“We are here,” said the Maitresse in un-accented English, “to deal with a disgraceful breach of the Hunter Code.” As she spoke, her eyes found Christopher Argent, but John noticed that Argent looked confused by the statement. “I was contacted,” she continued, “in confidence, with a plea to perform my own investigation. I take allegations as this very seriously, so I now call upon Christopher Argent to face this Tribunal.”
Christopher stood from his seat and walked to the center of the Chamber.
Once he was standing center-stage, several other Hunters rose to stand around the Maitresse in a semi-circle. All were women, and John remembered Regina telling him that Hunter Clans were matriarchal. Behind the matriarchs, another semi-circle of men formed, and John surmised that they were either Seconds or were high-ranking foot-soldiers. At any rate, Christopher seemed startled to see two of those people standing at attention in front of him.
The Maitresse spoke again, loudly to the gallery, but clearly to the Hunter pair to her right.
“Abigail Swann and Michael Warwick Swann, you have been called forth to testify in regards to your daughter, Victoria Argent nee-Swann. Explain the marriage contract.”
A fierce-looking red-head, tall and arrogant, stepped forward to stand beside the Maitresse, her spouse just behind her. She nodded to Christopher in order to acknowledge his presence in front of her. Christopher returned the nod. The tall man behind Abigail Swann made no moves whatsoever.
“My daughter,” said Swann, “was raised to follow the Hunter’s Code that we all aspire to follow, hunting only the feral and dangerous wolves that would kill humans without reserve. Her brother and sisters all aspired to this ideal, and we were a proud family. When Victoria was only fifteen, she witnessed a werewolf attack, and she saw her father take down the beast with extreme prejudice. I did not know that this instance would turn Victoria’s heart away from the Code, but it did, and Victoria was found not much later standing over the body of a young werewolf that she had shot full of Wolf’s Bane. He was only thirteen years of age, and in a stable Pack, and he was no danger to any human.
“I thought that reconditioning would be best for Victoria, and I reached out to Arnelle Argent for assistance. Victoria was sent to her as an apprentice, and Arnelle told me that Victoria was doing well, that she was renewing her belief in the Code. When Arnelle was tragically killed, Victoria found comfort with Gerard Argent and his family as they all mourned her together. I reached out to Gerard and sought to arrange a marriage between Victoria and Gerard’s son, Christopher, because I believed that the Argent family that I knew would keep her on the good and righteous path.”
After she finished her statement, Abigail Swann stepped back to her original position behind the Maitresse. Once she was settled with her husband behind her, the Maitresse spoke again.
“The matter that brings the Tribunal to peaceful Beacon Hills, California is the outright slaughter of a well-known and well-appreciated Pack, the Hales, which was done six years ago. An Emissary, not of the Hale Pack, brought to my attention that the perpetrator was from an old and respected Hunter Clan.”
The Maitresse stood from her chair and braced her hands on the table in front of her. “Is there an advocate for the Hale Pack with us?”
John took that as his cue and stood behind his table. “I am here to speak for the Hale Pack,” he said.
“Who are you?” the Maitresse asked.
“My name is John Stilinski. I am currently the Sheriff of Beacon County.”
“I see. And how do you know of the Hale Pack?”
John took a moment to gather his thoughts. He could not afford to ramble on in this inquest. “Several years ago, when I was a deputy officer in the police department, I was investigating what was reported as a domestic disturbance or animal attack. In the course of my investigation, I encountered a red-eyed giant of a man who was fleeing the scene. Later, Talia Hale came to me and explained the world of Werewolves and Hunters. We became good friends after that, and Talia and I would meet every other week or so to discuss any supernatural happenings in this area.”
The Maitresse nodded in acknowledgment of the arrangement. “Would you say the Hale Pack was full of raging, murderous beasts?”
John gave a rueful laugh. “Not at all, Maitresse. The Hales were well respected citizens of Beacon Hills. Talia was a respected advocate of children’s rights in her duties as a lawyer, and her husband’s bakery was always full of happy customers. I never had any formal complaints against any of them.”
The Maitresse gestured for John to retake his seat and asked, “Is the Hale Alpha prepared to answer to this inquest?”
Derek stood from his seat and answered, “Yes, I am so prepared.”
The Maitresse smiled slightly. “You are so young to be Alpha. My heart weeps for the choices taken from you.”
Derek offered a nod of thanks.
“How old were you at the time of the massacre?” she asked gently.
“I was sixteen years old,” said Derek clearly.
“And how many people were in the house when the conflagration took hold?”
Derek cleared his throat before answering. “There were, um, twenty-four people in the house.”
There were murmurs of dissent in the gallery, but another sharp bang of the gavel put a stop to that. The Maitresse spoke again, clearly so as to be heard. “The official body count was eleven. Tell me why this is wrong.”
Derek looked uncomfortable as he stood in front of all the Hunters, but he answered just as clearly. “There were eight children under the age of ten years, and several members of my Pack were human. The fire was very hot and it took most of the house to ash. I believe that the adult werewolves remained whole after the burning, and that those were the bodies found by emergency workers. The children and humans would have been burned to ash with the house.”
The Maitresse gestured for Derek to take his seat, saying, “I again grieve for your loss, Alpha Hale. Now,” she sat in her chair and folded her hands together on top of the table, “we shall begin the Tribunal. Please darken the witness and advocate tables.”
The torches around the tables in John’s section of the Chamber immediately went out, leaving John sitting in a pool of darkness.
Two sharp bangs of the gavel brought an elderly gentleman into the chamber, escorted by two rather large and imposing young men. Christopher Argent barely acknowledged the man who was brought to stand next to him. John found it odd that Christopher never once turned to look at him or Derek when they were speaking, but that might have been part of the official protocol of the Tribunal. So, it was possible that Christopher did not see Scott sitting there.
John somehow doubted that.
“Gerard Argent,” said the Maitresse, “Do you recognize the authority of this Tribunal?”
The old man answered, “I so recognize.”
“You have been reported as being rather industrious in your pursuit of feral Omegas. What say you?”
Gerard Argent stiffened his posture. “They’re all beasts, so they deserve all the attention I can give them. I make no excuses. I’ll kill every single one that I find, because it’s what Hunters are supposed to do.”
“I see,” said the Maitresse. “And how do you find these feral Omegas?”
“I have my sources. I travel extensively, so I am able to keep an eye out for word of dangerous animal attacks.”
“And what of the peaceful werewolves?”
Gerard scoffed. “There is no such thing. They are all less than human. They don’t deserve to breathe the same air as we do.”
The Maitresse waved a hand in the air and the large, well-muscled men took Gerard back from where they came. The Maitresse banged the gavel another two times, and two different large men brought out a woman—a very pretty blonde that John suspected was Kate Argent.
“Christopher Argent,” said the Maitresse, “you may retake your place.”
Christopher moved back to his seat in the gallery and the new Argent took his place at center stage. She stood there arrogantly, flipping her hair over her shoulder without a care in the world. Her arms were crossed defiantly, but she lowered them with one quirk of the Maitresse’s eyebrow.
“Katherine Marie Argent,” said the Maitresse, “you know where we are this night?”
Kate smirked. “Of course I know. Up until yesterday, I was visiting my dear brother and my favorite niece.” Kate twisted to look behind her and said, “Have you finally decided to allow Allison out of the Dark Ages, Chris?”
The Maitresse slammed the gavel sharply against the wooded base and shouted “Katherine Argent! You will face the Tribunal!”
Kate turned forward again and cocked a hip in a jaunty fashion. “Yes, Madame! I am here to serve!” The sarcasm rolled off her tongue, but the Maitresse chose to ignore it.
“Tell the Tribunal about the Hale Pack.”
Kate shrugged. “What do you want to know? They were rabid wild dogs, and they were put down. Nothing more to it, really.”
John looked around the gallery and saw the furious expressions on the Hunters’ faces. Either Kate was an idiot, or she was not aware that the Tribunal had researched the Hale fire.
“And how,” continued the Maitresse as if no disrespect was given, “did you come to the conclusion that the entire Pack was to be ‘put down’?”
Again Kate shrugged, but this time she looked unsure of herself just a bit. “I figured that if the youngest was a murderer, then the Alpha should be held accountable.”
“And was the youngest a murderer?”
“A young girl was killed by a werewolf. She was known to be in the company of the youngest Hale. That’s all I needed to know.”
The Maitresse frowned slightly. “You had proof that the youngest Hale killed the girl? That Paige Krassekova was killed by five year old Brian Hale? Who was, by my research, a human child of Alpha Hale?”
Kate flinched only slightly, but John could hear the sound of hard claws digging into wood behind him as Derek reacted to the proclamation.
The Maitresse was not finished. “How did you manage to ‘put down’ the Hale Pack, Katherine?”
“I, um, set them ablaze. It was a fair kill.”
The Maitresse nodded. “I see. You, a single Hunter, overpowered seventeen Wolf and Human Pack members and subdued eight children, and kept them contained long enough to set a fire?”
“I had a little help,” said Kate weakly. “And I used Mountain Ash, of course.”
“Yes,” said the Maitresse, “you had a ‘little help’ from some hired thugs that were banished from other Hunter Clans for their dishonor, and you used Mountain Ash and magic to create a barrier that held the Hale Pack captive. Very honourable for an Argent that was raised to uphold the Code.”
Kate lifted her chin defiantly and said, “The Argents have always had a different Code to follow.”
“Yes,” said the Maitresse coldly. “’Nous chassons ceux qui nous chassent.’ Who do you think I am, girl, to not understand that above all else? ‘We hunt those who hunt us’. It is very clear.” The Maitresse stood behind her table and glowered at Kate, who seemed to shrink in her place in the center of the Gallery. “What is not clear is just who the Hale Pack was hunting that you felt the need to destroy the entire family—INCLUDING THE HUMANS!!”
Christopher stood in his place and muttered, “Kate? What did you do?” But when the Maitresse turned her furious attention to him, he sat and was quiet. But Kate turned her attention to him anyway.
“I did what you are too cowardly to do, Chris! I did what you should have done! I did what Daddy has done, and what your precious wife has done, and what we should all do! They are animals! They are all animals! And they do not deserve to live!”
A single shot rang out from behind the platform, and Kate’s head snapped back. A rose-like bloom of blood formed in the center of her forehead and she dropped where she stood.
Nobody in the Gallery moved. Nobody in the Gallery spoke.
John could see Christopher register shock, but then he schooled his features completely.
“Thank you, Marcel,” said the Maitresse as she sat again. “Now that that has been taken care of, I will reveal the findings of the Tribunal.” She gestured with one hand and the Swanns once again stepped forward.
“While Victoria,” said Abigail Swann, “had been apprenticing with Arnelle and Gerard Argent, there was an attack by a band of rogue Omegas—very rare for the Pacific Northwest—and Arnelle was mauled badly. She later died of her injuries. Victoria was not with them during this attack, and Christopher and Katherine were studying in Japan, but they all received the news at the same time. Christopher went to his father’s side to bury his mother and train a small band of Hunters, but Victoria came home for a short while, and her anger festered.
“The loss of Arnelle was a difficult thing to accept for Victoria, but she hid her feelings well. Christopher tried to hold the family together, but he would not succeed. He was much like his mother, and he held her ideals in high regard. But Gerard was twisted badly by the death of his wife, and he turned his daughter into a raging killer. He also worked on turning Victoria into what he considered a ‘strong Hunter leader’. In time, she and Christopher were married, and he settled into his career as a legal weapons dealer. While he went on a few hunts, he went only when necessary and was happy to stay close to home. We had thought the same of Victoria.”
“But this was not the case?” asked the Maitresse.
“It was not,” said Swann. “During her time at home, she went to college and studied Fashion and Merchandising. It was an odd choice for her, because she always enjoyed wearing fatigues or hunting gear when out of school, but we were happy to see her moving on.” Swann paused for a moment, lost in thought. “We later learned that Victoria would use her position as a fashion buyer to attend unsanctioned hunts with Gerard, and that she did not discriminate in her killing. We had hoped that having her own child would temper her, but Victoria was sometimes a cruel mother. She maintained the Hunter rule of keeping a child out of the life until they were old enough to use good judgment, but she would withhold love and affection at times, and I was not permitted to see my grand-daughter at all.” Swann sighed sadly. “We learned that Victoria had decided to move the family to Beacon Hills on the recommendation of Kate Argent; that Kate had determined there was unfinished business here. We were ready to intervene when we were contacted by the Tribunal.”
The Maitresse again gestured and the Swanns stepped back into place. “Dispose of this mess, please,” she said, and Duquesne and another man stepped from behind the throne and carried Kate’s body out of the Chamber and into the service elevator. Once the service doors closed, Duquesne returned to his place and the other side door opened, revealing Gerard Argent once again. He seemed totally unaware of the happenings in this Chamber, and John had to wonder what kind of security this place had. Certainly it was sound-proofed, at the very least. He made a mental note to send periodic patrols here to make sure the warehouses weren’t used for illegal purposes; he would ask Regina to contact Cybelle d’Argent about it at a later date.
“Gerard Argent,” said the Maitresse, “tell the Tribunal of the ‘unfinished business’ your daughter left in Beacon Hills.”
The old man looked confused for a moment. “Is that what this is all about?” he asked. “This seems a bit excessive for a few remaining Wolves. Kate had heard that two of the Alpha’s pups were not in the fire, and she wanted to return to make sure the injured one in the hospital never got out.” Gerard shoved his hands carelessly into his pockets as if he had not a care in the world. “I wouldn’t have called a Tribunal over it. After all, we would have made sure there were no more Wolves left here to risk the human population.”
“Oh,” said the Maitresse with equal lack of concern, “but there are other Wolves here. While it is true that two of the Alpha’s children survived, one was lured here and killed by an Omega. A very dangerous Omega that killed her and stole the Alpha Spark.”
John was impressed. He had no idea how the Argent Matriarch got her information, but it took him a long time to figure all of this out.
“And that very dangerous Omega also killed several of your daughter’s lackeys,” she continued. “And in its quest for a Pack, the Omega bit an innocent young boy, turning him against his will.”
“Oh?” asked Gerard. “Well, I’m sure we can take care of that. Shame about the boy, though, but he’ll have to die as well.”
John would forever remember the look of disgust on the Argent Matriarch’s face. She looked as if she wanted very much to vaporize Gerard where he stood, and John understood that feeling a lot.
“Gerard Argent, this Tribunal has found you guilty of abandoning the Hunter Code, of violating all that we hold holy and right, and killing where mercy was needed! What say you?”
Gerard was stunned, that much was clear. “I don’t understand! We hunt Werewolves! That’s all we do! He have to protect humanity!”
The Maitresse stood and banged her gavel once, then once again, and silence fell in the gallery.
“Nous chassons ceux qui nous chassent,” she said, and another single shot rang out.
Gerard Argent fell backwards with his hands still in his pockets.
Without a word, two strong men, dressed all in black (which is why John couldn’t see them behind the throne) came and removed Gerard’s body just like they removed Kate’s.
Once the room was cleared, the Maitresse dismissed her main Tribunal from their positions behind her throne. When they were seated, she spoke directly to Abigail Swann.
“You know our findings on your daughter. How would you like us to proceed?”
Swann stood from her chair. “If it please you, my husband and I would like to personally deal with her ourselves. If you could arrange transport, it would be appreciated.”
The Maitresse nodded. “Of course. Christopher Argent, would you like a chance to say good-bye to Victoria before Judgment is passed?”
A clearly shaken Christopher stood and said, “I thank you for the offer, but I think it would be best if I returned to my daughter to explain as best I can what has happened here tonight.”
“Very well,” said the Maitresse. “The Gallery may be cleared.”
As the Hunters filed out of the chamber, John pulled his files together and made ready to leave, but Duquesne blocked his way. “If you would,” he said softly, “please stay. The Matriarch would like to speak with you all.”
John nodded and settled back in his chair. Derek left his seat and moved forward to sit next to John, pulling a shocked Scott with him. When the last Hunter exited the chamber, the Maitresse stood from her throne and walked softly to stand in front of John’s table. She took a moment to consider the three figures sitting in front of her, and then she spoke.
“I apologize for the brutality that you all had to witness here today,” she said. “We are not monsters, as I am sure you think we are. We live in a hard world. We live among the monsters by choice, in order to keep the darkness at bay. Unfortunately, sometimes the darkness creeps in anyway.”
“You just killed those people!” said Scott in outrage. “They were just sitting there, and you killed them.”
The Maitresse leaned forward on the table, towering over Scott. “Those people, that you are so concerned for, would have you skinned alive if they saw you on the street and they knew what you were. Do not question our motives or actions. We fight the monsters, but sometimes we must act monstrous.” She leaned back again and stood tall and imposing. “Do you think that you can hide what you are forever? Do you think you will be safe, just because we removed the direct threat?”
Scott pouted. “I just want to be a normal kid, that’s all. I want to do well in school and have a girlfriend and play some sports—I just want to be a kid.”
“And I understand that,” she said. “But do you not think Derek Hale wanted to be normal also, when a hunter seduced him and used stolen information to kill his entire family? The Argent Clan—My Clan—is old and mostly honourable, but there are bad eggs. There always have been; that is why we have Tribunal. We have to police ourselves because often we work outside the law. Kate Argent could have, long ago, been tried and sentenced for statutory rape—possibly arson, if the facts were known. But we would have had to keep the truth of werewolves out of the reports, and without that information there would have been a small case for murder. She would have been released, and she would have returned—and she would have hunted and killed.
“You, Scott McCall, would have been a victim, and you would not have been able to defend yourself. What we did in this room tonight—it had to happen. If not here, it would have had to happen elsewhere. Before I received the call last month, already I was investigating Gerard and Katherine Argent. The Swanns already were making moves against Victoria. But we would not have moved quickly enough to stop what happened to you, and had you killed when you lost control, we would have had to move against you.”
The Maitresse turned to John and offered a hand in friendship. “I thank you, Monsieur Sheriff, for being so diligent in your investigations. And I appreciate what you did for Alpha Hale. I am sorry we had to bring such violence into your town and county.”
“You know, don’t you?” asked John. “You know how Kate tricked Derek, and you know that Peter was the one to kill Laura.”
She nodded. “And I know that you prevented Derek from having to kill his only surviving family. Duquesne. He is my, what is the word? Ah! He is my Spark!” When John’s eyes got big she smiled. “You know what I mean when I say that, yes?”
“Yes,” said John, “I do. Can, um, all Sparks do research like that?”
A mischievous glint lit her eyes. “A Spark can do many things, Monsieur Sheriff. But I will keep silent on this matter, non ? There are those who should not know of this, I think.”
John stood and took her hand, kissing the back of it in an uncomfortable gesture. “Thank you, Maitresse. For everything.”
“Yes,” said Derek, “thank you.”
The Maitresse gave him a very direct look. “If you want to thank me, Alpha Hale,” she said, “then see to it that young Monsieur McCall is trained and in control.”
Derek gave Scott the side-eye. “I’m trying. He’s not Pack to me, so I can’t force him, but I have offered.”
“Keep trying,” she said. “I think Christopher Argent will be remaining in this area. You will be watched.”
The ride back through town was tense and quiet.
John was contemplating what all he had witnessed. Derek was pondering his future as an Alpha in his mother’s old territory.
Scott was brooding again, probably over Allison and being a teenager.
John walked him to the door so that he could speak with Melissa. Scott stormed past them at the entrance and ran up to his room. Melissa watched him with sad eyes. “Do I want to know how it went?”
John sighed. “Well, I brought him back alive, so I guess you could say it went well.”
Melissa gave him a sharp look and he shrugged. “Look, Melissa,” John said, “these people, the Hunters, they have this whole different system of justice, okay? They asked me direct questions, and they listened to my answers. They questioned Derek and heard him out. But they had already done their own very deep and intense research, and they knew the answers already. Before we left, the woman in charge told Scott to get trained. She knew he wasn’t.”
“Are they going to hurt my son, John?” Melissa asked, fearfully.
“I don’t think so right now,” said John honestly. “But if he hurts someone…yeah, they could hurt him right back. Derek admitted that Scott wasn’t part of his Pack, but that he had offered to train him. It’s all on Scott right now.”
John patted her on the shoulder and turned from the house, walking back to the SUV, where he was surprised to see Derek still waiting.
“I would have thought you might have run to the house by now,” said John as he turned on the ignition.
Derek snorted. “If I turned up without you, Stiles would have a fit.”
John chuckled in return. “Yeah. Yes, he would.”