A/N - First of all I must say I could not be doing this without the support of the EBs. You ladies make writing fun again. Pix and Rei - many many thanks and IFLYs to you two for reading this, giving me suggestions, pointing out things that needed to be changed, and listening to my insecurities. We shall dance the Macarena and throw confetti in November. Please review if you think I should keep going.
This chapter is Jasper's POV, Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight (but I touched Alex).
Chapter 1 - Theories
We entered the house and were immediately greeted by our solemn family. Alice was at my side faster than a mortal heartbeat and crushed her small frame into me. I loved that woman.
The mood was completely somber, and rightfully so. A human was dead, killed by the forces of our world, and we had no idea what happened.
"Did you find out anything?" Carlisle questioned us softly, with more compassion in his words than I think I had in my entire being.
"Paul is completely blaming himself. His memories of the – event – were short and fleeting, I'm assuming because he didn't want to think about it," Edward told us, and he rubbed his temple. He was hiding something. That kid had the worst poker face out of all of us. I was still amazed that it took Bella as long as it did to catch on. We did, however, respect that if Edward was withholding information he usually had a good reason. He would share whatever it was with Alice or me if he felt it should be shared.
The soft swish of Esme's dress was the only sound in the room as she took a step forward and asked the question all of us were impatient to know.
"He also is blaming Paul. He has a theory," Edward stopped speaking abruptly and we all heard it then. Two wolves were approaching.
"Emmett, Jasper, Alice, Edward," Carlisle said sternly and the four of us followed him onto the porch. We had a good relationship with the wolves since we stood up for them against the Volturi, but this situation was new and we all were on edge. I was beginning to tire of the tension and it had only been five days.
Sam and Seth emerged from the woods wearing their suit trousers from the funeral. It seemed as though they needed to talk to us in a hurry.
"Hello Sam, Seth, it's very nice to see you, and I'm terribly sorry for your loss. If we can help you in any way please don't hesitate to ask," Carlisle greeted, and it looked like Seth truly was holding back tears.
"Thank you Carlisle. We came to talk about what happened and ask you if you found anything out," Sam said, directing the last part to Edward.
"Paul took off?" Edward questioned, and Sam's sharp eyes narrowed. He nodded slightly and I felt his worry take over his emotional state.
"He said he would be back, but we all know how impulsive he can be. Did you hear anything from him at the funeral?"
"A lot of guilt, but nothing more specific about what happened," Edward told him, again not disclosing the other information that he had. His gaze shifted to Seth. The poor boy looked completely worn out and had his head lowered. I focused on him and felt sadness, frustration, and hurt.
"We don't know that, Seth," Edward said kindly, and Seth looked up, his eyes showing the hope he wanted to have at Edward's words. "Sam didn't hear that and neither did I. Paul is just grieving and needed to be alone."
My head turned quickly to Edward.
"Care to share?" Emmett asked crossing his arms. He had no patience for private conversations and at this stage neither did I. Edward sighed, looking again at Seth.
"I thought that maybe Paul was taking off because he knew something and was trying to get revenge," Seth volunteered the information and lowered his head again. In a flash Alice was off the porch with her arm around him.
"He wouldn't do that. I don't know Paul well, but he wouldn't abandon his brothers," She spoke gently but forcefully and I hoped she was right. Just like one of us wouldn't leave our family, a wolf wouldn't leave his pack to act on his own when it was something of this magnitude. Or would they?
"We," Sam started to speak again and paused, the next part difficult for him to ask. "We really could use your help on this one. We don't know what killed Rachel and none of us want to go back there right now."
"I'll go," I offered. I thought my unique experiences on the battlefield might help them.
"There's blood," Sam said quietly, and I nodded.
"I'll be fine."
"I'm going too," I could always count on Emmett for anything that might lead to a fight.
"As am I," Carlisle decided, and I caught Alice's eye. She was worried about me with the blood. I raised the corner of my mouth slightly to show her I knew what I was doing.
"I think Bella should go see Jake if she's up for it," Seth mumbled, and Edward nodded but I knew his emotional state. He didn't want her anywhere near Jacob.
When the Volturi showed up six months after the newborn attack to force our hand in changing Bella or killing her Jacob did not take it well. None of us did, but it was a choice we had to make. Had Edward never gone to the Volturi to ask for death, things would have been much different. But, he did go, and they did come to Forks and Bella wanted the change.
Edward was difficult to convince, but given the choice between Bella being turned or dead he chose vampire. He still felt guilty whenever he looked at her. Her pale, hard skin broke his heart but his relief over her not being a fragile human anymore fueled the guilt more. I thought he needed to get over it already. She was a vampire. They would be together as long as they existed. Unlike Paul and Rachel. I think the situation was finally allowing him to see things in a different light.
Then there was Jacob. I mentally sighed as I thought about him. He had come to see Bella when the Volturi were "visiting". He overheard the conversation about turning Bella, his anger got the best of him, and he phased. The Volturi were none too pleased that we had kept the wolves' existence a secret and went to work immediately to try to eliminate them.
I didn't want to fight the Volturi, but I didn't want the wolves to be hunted by them, either. They had fought with us. They had bled for us. The Volturi guard that came to Forks was not large. Aro and Caius, Jane, Felix, Demetri, and a few personal bodyguards made up the contingent. With the seven of us and the pack we were able to convince them that the wolves were not a threat. And what I mean by convince is fight. Jane's a bitch to deal with, but her power was shown to be useless against the wolves. That was the deciding factor. Felix was killed, Brady and Jared were injured, and we had to reattach Emmett's arm, but it was over. The Volturi promised to leave the wolves - and us - alone.
The entire situation never set right with me. I was distrustful by nature, a side effect of spending years in the middle of war, and this seemed too easy.
The tragedy and task at hand brought me back to the present. Edward was looking at me, curious as to why I was thinking about the Volturi no doubt.
"We need to know who did this as soon as possible so we can deal with it," Sam was saying, and I wholeheartedly agreed. The sooner the better, even though there was no way we would be satisfied with what we found.
Sam and Seth ran with us to where the murder had taken place. When the house came into view both of them slowed and low whines escaped their throats. They lowered their muzzles and were overcome with sadness.
"Why don't you two go back to Billy's? I'm sure they could use some help and support," Carlisle suggested, knowing how difficult it must be for them to smell her blood and be reminded of all that Paul and Jacob had lost.
With a nod of his head, Sam along with Seth ran into the woods.
"Jasper?" Carlisle questioned, his eyes tight with concern for our departed friends.
"They're all grieving, obviously, but they're mostly worried about their brothers. Paul was never the most stable of the pack and Jacob has a lot of hostility towards him."
Carlisle nodded, not surprised by this news.
"What do you think happened?" Emmett asked no one in particular as he surveyed the scene. We were in a small clearing in the woods very near La Push. Paul and Rachel had a quaint house that rested against the tree line. They had thought it best to be near the woods in case Paul had to phase in a hurry.
"This is definitely where she died," Carlisle spoke softly, reverently. He had been the one to examine Rachel's body. She was so mauled that he couldn't positively say what had killed her. As I looked around I recalled our first conversations about the murder with perfect clarity.
"Was it a vampire?" Bella had asked Carlisle when he returned from pronouncing Rachel dead.
"If it was I've never seen a vampire kill this cruelly."
There were torn limbs from trees and bushes lying in the clearing. I looked up into one tree and saw a small scrap of fabric on a branch. I quickly climbed the tree and my horrible suspicion was correct. It was a piece of Rachel's pajamas.
"What if it was the Volturi? Seeking revenge on the wolves?" Emmett's deep voice had volunteered the idea.
"Alice would have seen it if the Volturi were involved, she's watching them," I had answered. I didn't think a vampire had done this.
From my vantage point in the tree I saw more of the debris. I wondered how she could have gotten so far up into the tree. It seemed much too high for a human to climb… unless she was thrown up here.
"Could it have just been a wild animal, maybe a bear?" Esme's soft voice had been pained. She did not like thinking about the death of a human, especially one that had seemed particularly violent.
"I suppose it's possible," Carlisle had sighed, obviously not convinced.
The amount of damage on the forest floor was disconcerting. It was almost as if whoever had done this was trying to send a message. From the tree I also saw that there were no trails that led away from or into the clearing. We knew from the pack that the only signs of struggle between the house and the clearing were one broken vase and a few snapped twigs.
It was eerie how Rachel's body and all of the destruction had rested in one tiny area of the forest. That fact didn't stop Emmett from heading into the woods while Carlisle and I investigated the obvious crime scene.
"There's another option," Rosalie had stated. Her voice had been cold and harsh, even for her. Edward turned toward her, his normally stoic expression turning to sheer surprise.
"You can't possibly be serious," he scoffed, putting an arm around Bella instinctively.
"Jasper, do you smell that?" Emmett called from deeper in the woods. I leapt down from the tree effortlessly and followed him. I moved carefully, inhaling the rich scents around me – trying to pick up whatever he was.
"There's a hint of something familiar, but it's extremely faint," I spoke quietly and if I were talking to anyone but a vampire or a werewolf I know I would not have been heard. We both started to naturally move in the same direction and the odor was getting stronger. I think he recognized the scent at the same time I did because we locked eyes.
"I am serious, Edward. It wouldn't be the first time a wolf lost it around their imprintee," Rosalie had continued, voicing what only Edward had heard before.
"What happened with Sam and Emily was enough of a warning to the rest of the pack that they must maintain composure at all times," Carlisle had stated, attempting to discredit the idea.
Paul. His scent was everywhere in the woods.
"That may be, but he is the most volatile of the pack," Alice had said softly, not wanting to believe it but having to admit that Rose had a point.
"It makes sense, though – their house isn't far from here, he would need to be in the woods to phase. Just because his scent is near the clearing, well, it doesn't mean he did anything," I spoke aloud, not sure if I was trying to convince Emmett or if I was just stating the obvious.
"No. I cannot believe that Paul killed her. The way I see the crime scene in Carlisle's mind convinces me it wasn't him. People are not that cruel to people they love," Edward had stood up for Paul.
"You didn't want me around Jacob for a long time," Bella had reminded, and Edward's jaw clenched. I felt him become angry at the mention of Jacob's name.
"I still don't want you around him, but for different reasons now," he had replied and anger also had begun to emanate from her in waves. Bella was still considerably new to being a vampire and her emotions got the better of her quite often.
I did my best to diffuse the situation with my abilities.
"Jasper, you know I like Paul – I hope to get into a fight with him someday – but the dude isn't stable," Emmett said, shaking his head.
"Why isn't his scent in the clearing, then?" I questioned, raising an eyebrow incredulously.
"Can you smell anything but blood there?"
I shook my head in defeat. I didn't believe Paul did it, but we weren't finding a lot of evidence that pointed in any particular direction.
My abilities had failed. Edward and Bella were both stubborn as hell when they wanted to be.
They both had become quiet and Emmett cracked a joke about not getting enough action.
"Emmett! Jasper!" Carlisle called and we both recognized the disbelief in his voice and hurried back to him.
Carlisle had his back turned and appeared to be examining a tree trunk. We joined him and he took a step back. There, imbedded deep in a tree were bloody claw marks like ones we had seen many times before.