Henry Pope’s office was always organized and clean – nothing in the room indicated how busy its occupant’s days were and how often he stayed there for the better part of the night, pouring over files and dealing with tedious paperwork. The man was old-fashioned, responsible and hard-working; it seemed sometimes that he was the only chief of police in the whole of Chicago who wasn’t squarely in the pocket of some mob boss or another. Crime was running rampant and justice was hard to come by – especially in the wilder parts of the city, in the suburbs where the packs gathered, and where a police office wouldn’t even dare set foot in. Those areas were essentially ungovernable, full of wild, snarling beasts ready to tear the throat out of anything with a badge.
Today, Henry was faced with the most daunting task of all – on his desk lay a freshly printed sheet of paper. Another casualty report. Tyler Robert Hudson hadn’t been with the force for long; fresh out of the academy, full of determination and enthusiasm, optimistic to a fault…Henry sighed. This shouldn’t have happened, he thought. One would think that after almost thirty years he would get used to losing a man every now and again. It was inevitable, after all. But it never got any easier, not really.The loss was made that much worse by circumstance – the man’s body was found lying in a ditch in one of the many slums of Englewood, face down, naked, mangled. Bite wounds littered almost every inch of the skin, none fatal enough to kill, all of them were shallow, almost superficial. But the sheer number of them was truly astounding – all signs pointed to a “kill for fun”. The wolves probably surrounded him and took turns sinking their teeth into his flesh until…The worse part was what they’d done to his face – it was essentially just a large gaping wound, full of twisted, torn flesh, sickening to look at. And now here Henry was, pen hovering over paper, the pull to report everything truthfully and to its full extent warring inside him with the desire to keep Bob’s inglorious end away from those who would be heartbroken to hear of it. Namely his beloved wife and his young daughter, who shouldn’t have their memories of him tainted by the horrible end he’d been met with.
Henry knew who was responsible, it wasn’t that hard to figure out. Only one pack in the whole of Englewood was able of such unapologetic cruelty and monstrous evil – only Lechero would suffer his wolves to commit something that atrocious. But Lechero had a kingdom of his own; he was virtually untouchable, hidden deep within his den, surrounded by desperately loyal wolves submissive to his every whim. Any effort on Pope’s part to bring him to justice would be a declaration of war. And as it were, he was short on everything – weapons, manpower, courage. And as much as Pope was convinced of who was to blame in this, his officers weren’t so keen to agree. Especially his deputy, the inimitable Bradley Bellick, was strongly against it. “Let’s not forget, boss, that Lechero is not the only homicidal maniac running around Englewood,” he’d insisted. “Let’s not forget about that bastard Burrows.” That statement was met with murmurs of agreement, which only served to spur Bellick on. “He’s been building his own pack, after all.” Lincoln Burrows presented an infinitely more pursuable avenue of investigation, that much was clear. His pack, like all the other pseudo-packs of Englewood, was hardly a force to be reckoned with. Probably just a few straggling wolves, too weak or too scared to play with the big guns. Sure, Burrows might have a bit of a reputation in the human world for killing the vice-president’s brother, but sending a bullet into someone’s brain hardly earned you respect among the wolf community. He was not a threat, just a scared little puppy backed into a corner – he couldn’t leave Englewood, where he was virtually above the law and safe from prosecution, but he couldn’t make a name for himself there, either. Under Lechero’s thumb, nobody could rise above the rest.
As horrible as Bob’s death was, it was nothing compared to what Lechero’s wolves were prepared to dish out on anyone who dared challenge the iron grip they had on the territory. Those stupid enough or brave enough to step up and bare their teeth were disposed of forthwith, without mercy and without a care, made into an example for anybody thinking about following in their footsteps. Skinned wolf carcasses, chomped-off limbs and torn-apart wolf bodies were a regular find in the streets where Lechero ruled. Burrows and his pathetic pack of mange-infested dogs were probably huddled together in some nondescript basement, too scared to even fart too loudly, lest they be discovered. Going after him was going after the easy kill.
Lechero wasn’t the kind of ruler who was willing to come down from his dais and speak with the plebs eye to eye. No, that wasn’t his style. His reluctance to deal too closely with those he deemed beneath himself may have been rooted in a deep sense of superiority that didn’t allow him acknowledge them as anything but the dirt on the bottom of his shoe, but it was more likely a simple shrewd calculation – the knowledge that those who seem untouchable are perceived as almost invulnerable, and therefore infinitely more intimidating.
His residence was located in the deepest, shadiest part of Englewood and yet its large, sprawling grounds spoke of nothing but wealth, power and refined taste. That too, seemed hardly anything but a show put on for the occasional visitors, meant to overwhelm as well as intimidate – Lechero was throwing his vast wealth, illustrated so completely by his lifestyle, into the face of anyone who might’ve come thinking that the man couldn’t possibly live up to his reputation. "Look at the empire I've built" the unnecessary golden statues framing the driveway on each side like glamorous guardians seemed to say "You’re no match for me. Whatever plans you came here with, don’t even try." The mansion itself was as grand as the grounds around them hinted at and promised – lavish and unnecessary and breath-taking in its excessive grandeur. The entire south wall was dominated by a large balcony with a golden canopy above it. On that balcony stood Lechero himself, gazing down at a ragtag pack of rugged wolves on the ground under him. He preferred talking to those under his domain from his elevated position, as though his metaphorical superiority needed to be properly illustrated to be satisfyingly emphasised. God forbid the leader of the biggest, wealthiest pack in Englewood stood on even footing with Lincoln Burrows and his pathetic little squadron of doggies. Burrows’ pseudo-pack was one of many Lechero had under his thumb, but it seemed that, while there definitely was no love lost on the others, he despised Lincoln just a smidge more than the others and was milking them for all they were worth, as though it was his goal to wring them all dry.
“What’s this about, Lechero?” Burrows asked gruffly, keeping his eyes trained on his knees. “We’ve already paid.”
For his insolence, he was dealt a swift blow that snapped his head harshly to the side. When he straightened again, a bruise was already blooming across his cheekbone.
“That you have,” Lechero said. “This time, it's not money I want. I have a task for you.”
Burrows had to almost visibly restrain himself from lashing out; he was an Alpha and Alphas didn’t take orders from anybody, after all. They were born rulers, not followers, their very natures rallied against mindless obedience and subservience. And Lincoln Burrows was stubborn and rebellious to boot – no matter how many times Lechero beat him into submission, he always got back up, his eyes shining with defiance no amount of physical pain could suck from his bones. He was born to hold his head high and look everyone in the eye, not crouch at the feet of his betters, begging for scraps like a mutt. But he had a pack who relied on him. True, it was not a pack in the traditional sense, but a pack nonetheless and his betas needed him to bow down and swallow every angry insult that was bubbling up in his throat and making his insides boil with anger. They needed him to put their well-being above his pride and submit to the man who held their lives in his hand.
“What I need you to do for me is bring me one particular set of blueprints, which is currently housed at Middleton, Maxwell and Schaum in the city.”
Lechero took a sip from his colourful cocktail and smiled magnanimously down at his subjects. His right-hand man and secondary Alpha Sammy Norino stood by his side, hand casually on the butt of his pistol. The man was as vicious as Lechero was cunning, hot-headed and violent, but easily kept in line. Unlike most of Lechero’s pack, his loyalty wasn’t born out of fear or greed, but rather of a deep-seated bloodlust and thirst for chaos and death. All he needed to be satisfied was the occasional hands-on, bloody execution and he was as obedient as a well-trained puppy.
“The prints are of a building called ‘The Allele’. You will find them and you will bring them to me without attracting undue attention – you have three days.”
Lechero clearly didn’t care what any of them had to say about their assignment. Without waiting for Lincoln to respond, he turned and walked back inside. The guards, standing silently by, in a body took a step closer to Lincoln’s pack in a clear indication that their audience has come to an end. They stood up slowly, and without protest headed single file back the way they’d come from. First came Linoln Burrows, fists clenched and eyes narrowed. Behind him followed Alexander Mahone, who was considerably more put-together, walking calmly and casually behind his Alpha.
Alexander Mahone was Lincoln’s secondary Alpha, and the two of them, much like Lechero and Sammy, complimented each other perfectly. Lincoln was all brawn, his attitude leaning towards “punch first, ask questions later”, and Mahone, while not hesitant to employ muscles when the situation called for them, was a quick thinker and preferred more elegant and less violent solutions to their problems. The two of them did not always get along; their personalities were too different for them to always be able to see things from the other’s perspective, but their disagreements were always as quick to spring up as they were to get resolved.
Behind Alexander trailed Manche Sanchez, a fat little man with his hands shoved deep in his pockets. His dark brown curls bounced with every step and his baby face was set in a deep frown. The man was a Beta in the worst sense of the word. Quiet, unassuming, nor very bright or brave, the best that could probably be said about him was that he was not the worst. Considering the kind of upbringing that’d been bestowed upon him, it was a miracle he wasn’t in prison – a small-time criminal born to a family of small-time criminals who’d probably spent more time locked up than free men, Mache’s path to incarceration had been clean and clear from birth. He was a bitten wolf, a fact that only increased his chances for a short, unglamorous life of a seedy crook. But, somehow, against all odds, Mache had managed to evade the long arms of the law and together with his cousin he’d found a new home in Burrows’ pack.
His cousin Fernando Sucre’s character held up much better under scrutiny. He was no stranger to the realm of the illegal, but his nature was not that of a thief or a murderer. He was a loyal wolf – and an even more loyal husband. His wife, Maricruz Delgado, was the centre of his universe and he was determined to do everything he could to ensure that she and their unborn child would never want for anything in their lives. Despite the less than savoury characters he’d associated with before he’d been bitten, he was still what one would call ‘a good man’, if a little rough around the edges.
C-Note, or Benjamin Miles Franklin, was a disillusioned veteran who’d come from his deployment in Kuwait saddled with a dishonourable discharge from the army and soon earned himself an eight-year prison sentence for possession of stolen goods. Upon his release, he still had a family to take care of – but with the shame of a dishonourable discharge hanging over his head and prison time on his resume, employers weren’t exactly clamouring to snatch him up. Not even five months after having finally secured himself a job for UPS, he was bitten by a werewolf and his life went off the rails again. Now, as part of Licoln’s pack, he and his wife Kacee were struggling to make ends meet. Both of them tried their best by their daughter Dede, who’d been diagnosed with a rare kidney disease at birth, but try hard as they might, once they’d paid for her treatments, there never seemed to be enough money for everything they needed.
The last member of their pack was David Apolskis, or Tweener, as they’d taken to calling him. It was as much a commentary on his baby face as it was on his emotional and intellectual maturity. Having been deemed academically ineligible, he’d turned to making a living by pickpocketing. In fact, it was that particular talent and that particular talent only that got him accepted into Lincoln’s pack. There wasn’t much his quick fingers couldn’t snatch, and they were in fact the only fixed source of income the pack had to rely on. It was arguable that the young man caused more trouble than he was worth. He was as loudmouthed as he was stupid, also insubordinate and argumentative, desperate to prove himself, quick to posture and just as quick to turn tail and run when things inevitably went sideways.
It was far from a glorious ensemble, but they’d had each other’s backs though some tough situations over the years, if only for a lack of other options. Each had their own reasons for not joining up with Lechero, even if it would make their lives easier – each had their own reasons for staying but in the end, they were all loyal to Lincoln, because without him, god knows where they’d be now.
“My cousin works there,” Sucre volunteered. “He can let us in.”
They would do what Lechero had asked of them – the other option was completely out of the question and therefore nobody had even bothered to bring it up, regardless of how doing Lechero’s bidding rubbed them all the wrong way. In the end it didn’t even come down to their non-existent chances should they decide to challenge his authority. It was just a simple matter of biology – he was still their true Alpha, after all.
“Your cousin works at Middleton, Maxwell and Schaum?” Mahone asked disbelievingly.
“Yeah,” Sucre confirmed peevishly. “So what?”
“Well first of all, I’m having a hard time imagining anyone from your family actually working, but especially not for them,” Mahone clarified.
“Why?” Lincoln butted in. “What’s so special about them?”
“They’re only the most prestigious architecture firm in Chicago, probably the entire state. They’ve put together projects for the governor himself.”
“And your cousin works for them?” Lincoln turned to Sucre.
“He’s the janitor, okay?” Sucre snapped. As always, he didn’t take too kindly to anyone insulting his family. Calling Hector Avila his cousin was a real stretch of the word, but that didn’t detract any from Sucre’s loyalty and his protectiveness over the man’s reputation.
“Now that I can believe,” Mahone muttered under his breath.
“Okay, Sucre, here’s what I need you to do,” Lincoln said, ignoring Mahone completely, “I need you to call your cousin – what’s his name?”
“Right, I need you to call Hector and get him on board. With an inside man, this job would be a hell of a lot easier – not only could he let us in, as a janitor he probably knows where everything is stored and we won’t have to turn the place upside down looking for those damn blueprints.”
“He owes me one,” Sucre said. “He’ll be in – or I’ll kick his ass in.”
“Do it then!” Lincoln snapped, when Sucre just stood there like a tree stooge.
“What, now?” Sucre seemed completely flabbergasted by the idea, as though he’d never head something so preposterous in his entire life.
“No, next Saturday. Of course, now!”
“Okay, okay,” Sucre said, rising his hands in surrender. “I’m on it, papi.”
“Do you really think we can pull it off?” Mahone asked candidly, when Sucre was out of earshot. Manche and Tweener, who hadn’t contributed anything to the conversation, were hanging back, bickering about something and not really paying attention. It’s been decided early on that the two of them wouldn’t be going – they didn’t exactly need everybody and those two were bound to bring problems raining down on their heads. It was a decision Tweener and Manche were more than happy with and now didn’t consider the robbery any of their business. C-Note hadn’t refused to take part in the heist itself, but had some prior engagements and left as soon as they’d come back.
“Why not?” asked Licoln, ever the optimist. “If Sucre’s cousin gets on board, we have and in – won’t have to break any door or windows and risk triggering the alarm, because I’m sure a fancy place like that has one. We’ll be in and out in a snap and nobody needs to know anything.”
“And what if Sucre’s cousin doesn’t get on board?” Mahone pressed. “What then?”
“We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it,” Lincoln responded casually. Mahone wasn’t exactly satisfied by that answer and frowned down at the tips of his shoes. “I think we’re risking too much with this.”
“Hey man, if you want out, you’re out. Me and Sucre and C-Note will manage fine without you. Just never pegged you for a coward I guess.”
Mahone didn’t show nearly as much anger at that accusation as would’ve perhaps been appropriate; considering his position as secondary Alpha and even more so his previous employ with the FBI, he was bound to feel a slight to his pride at that particular insinuation. But it seemed that Mahone was too preoccupied by other thoughts to even spare Lincoln’s accusation any brainpower whatsoever. Lincoln, clearly thrown by Mahone’s lack of reaction, scoffed angrily. “You got something on your mind, FBI?”
“Nothing,” Mahone said. “The idea of doing Lechero’s dirty work just really doesn’t sit well with me, you know?”
“Well, join the club. I don’t enjoy being his lackey any more than you do.”
“I know that,” Mahone said. “And I know there’s no way out of this, but it still…pisses me off.”
“Well, get you head in the game man. We’ll need you at your best if we’re going to pull this off. I don’t remember you being so hung up about running drug shipments for him.”
“Yeah, but this time it’s different,” Mahone drawled reluctantly.
“Good news, papi!” Sucre pranced back inside, stuffing his phone in his pocket with a sunny smile on his face. “Hector’s in. Wasn’t too keen at first, but changed his mind pretty quickly.”
“Did you explain to him what exactly we’ll need from him?” Mahone asked.
“Yeah. Let us in once everybody’s gone, tell us where the plans are and then let us back out. Easy.”
“And does he know exactly where the plans are stored?”
“He says there building has more than one storage space and that the location depends on when the project was completed. Unless it’s in the archives though, locating it shouldn’t be too difficult.”
“Damn Lechero,” Lincoln muttered. „He didn’t give us almost anything to go on. We’re basically running in blind, hoping to stumble over what we’re looking for. Are you sure we can trust this cousin of yours?”
“He’s family,” Sucre defended. “Hell yeah I’m sure.”
“Alright,” Lincoln conceded. “When is he coming then?”
“He says he’ll be here in four hours or so. Do we all need to be here for that?”
“Why?” Lincoln frowned. “You got somewhere better to be?”
“Yeah, kinda?” Sucre said hesitantly. “It’s just that I promise Maricruz I’d come home early today. C’mon man, you don’t need me here. I’m not exactly a big planner.”
“Alright,” Lincoln conceded. “Manche, Tweener!” he called at the two bickering betas. “Come here!”
“What’s up, boss?” Tweener mumbled as they came closer.
“I don’t need you here so you can go. I hope I don’t need to remind you not to talk to anybody about this, okay?”
“You got it,” Manche nodded eagerly, clearly happy at the prospect of getting out of their stuffy den. Tweener nodded his assent as well and they both disappeared. “Sucre, you can leave too. But be on time tomorrow, or else.”
Sucre’s face split into a wide grind. “No worries, Linc, I’ll be here,” he promised. “I’ll be an hour early!” he shouted cheerfully over his shoulder on his way out.
“Are you sure letting Sucre go is a good idea?” Mahone inquired. “Maybe Hector won’t want to talk to us without him here.”
“I’ve met the guy before,” Lincoln assured him. “It’s gonna be fine. We just need him to here to smooth out a few details and give us the layout of the building. It won’t take long.”
“I hope you’re right. I wouldn’t want to postpone the whole thing, considering how little time we have, just because Sucre wants to spend his every waking moment with his hands glued to Maricruz’s belly.”