Guess what, everyone? After many months, the second installment of Lilly on Trial has finally arrived!
I'd like to remind everyone that Lilly on Trial is a part of Alpha and Omega: The Series. If you like this story, then don't forget to follow our community (community/Alpha-and-Omega-The-Series/102949) and forum (forum/Alpha-and-Omega-The-Series/118805) for all of the latest updates on this and all of the stories in the Series.
Also, there has been a poll on my profile page for the last few months about whether you think Lilly is guilty or not. I'm still keeping the poll up for a little while, so be sure to answer if you haven't already.
I'd also like to thank Dancing Lunar Wolves for beta-reading, editing, and all around just helping to take this story from idea and rough draft to the finished product you're reading right now.
Now, I think you've waited long enough to find out what happens, so I'll let you get to it.
Without further ado, read on:
II. Trial? II.
Once again, Lilly's eyes locked with the three wolves that formed her family. In each of their eyes, she saw the same thing; shock, confusion, possibly fear. Fear? Fear for her… or fear of her? They could not really fear her, could they?
"Lilly…." Kate said, too stunned to say any more.
"I didn't… I didn't…." Lilly began, looking toward Humphrey and then Kate and then her mate, but she was too flustered to finish the sentence.
Suddenly, before any more could be said, a sharp screaming was heard. Screaming from the very body lying prone on the ground before her.
"Help! Help!" Zeke screamed. "Help! She's trying to murder me! She's trying to rip my throat out!"
"He's alive!" Kate, Garth, Claw, and Scar shouted together.
"Get her away from my brother!" Alvin hollered. "Get that monster away from him before she finishes him off!"
"But… I didn't do–" Before Lilly could finish that sentence, she felt all the air knocked out of her. Claw and Scar had rushed from their places and had ripped her away from Zeke. Lilly felt her tail and paws burn against the snow as the two Betas started dragging her to who knows where.
"Unpaw her!" Garth ordered. "Unpaw my mate, you two!"
Claw and Scar halted in their tracks and looked nervously over their shoulders. They were torn. Pack law said they should restrain any attempted murderer immediately, but they were now going against the orders of their immediate superior. And both knew that, wherever Lilly was concerned, getting on Garth's bad side could be almost as bad as getting on Eve's.
So, wisely, they quickly dropped the Omega and, much less wisely, let her fall hard into the snow.
"Owe," Lilly said instinctively as she landed on a particularly icy patch.
"Lilly!" Garth screamed as he ran over. "Oh, if she's hurt, I'm going to kill you two!"
Claw and Scar exchanged terrified glances and then made a show of checking on Lilly. They turned her over and wiped away the snow on her chest to reveal blood.
"She's bleeding!" Garth snapped. "You two are dead!"
"Um, but sir," Claw said, trying to wipe the blood off her paw. "That's Zeke's blood from earlier."
This was enough to snap back Garth's mind to the tragedy which had just nearly occurred. Meanwhile, unable to get the blood off her paw, Claw tried to wipe it off on Lilly.
"Claw!" Garth barked.
Claw jumped. "I'm sorry, sir, but it's just, she looks like a roll of Bounty already, and I figured since she's already got most of it on her…."
"Just don't touch her anymore, either of you!" Garth ordered, causing the two to jump up and scurry to a safer distance.
He lifted Lilly up and wrapped his forepaws around her. "Are you alright?" he asked gently.
Lilly did not answer. She merely kept looking downward.
"That fiend tried to murder my brother, and you're asking her if she's okay?" Alvin yelped. "What's wrong with you?"
Garth gave him a stern, burning look, reminded Alvin who was in charge here.
"I mean, what's wrong with you, sir?" Alvin said, giving a little salute and trying his best to sound more respectful.
Kate could tell from the look on Garth's face that he was not about to let a subordinate talk to him like this and there might be more trouble than there already was. Someone needed to take command here, before this turned from attempted murder to a street fight. Someone with the calm, clear-headedness, and aura of authority to keep everyone from losing it.
Kate sighed. I always have to do everything myself, she thought.
"Claw, Scar," Kate said swiftly. "Our healers' den isn't too far from here. Hurry Zeke there and maybe Reba and Janice can save his life."
Claw and Scar merely stood there and stared blankly back at Kate.
"Just do it!" Garth ordered, with the sound in his voice that he would not order twice.
Claw and Scar jumped up and rushed over, picking up Zeke and beginning to scurry off.
"Wait, you're going to trust my brother to Westerners… and vegetarians at that?" Alvin said with strong disapproval. "They'll kill him to make vegetable stew!"
"Just go with them, Alvin!" Garth commanded. Alvin grunted a little to show his displeasure but he knew that he could not afford to get any more on Garth's bad side. He could do nothing but obey.
This left Garth, Kate, and Humphrey to deal with Lilly. Kate had been waiting for her opportunity all this time and, now that it was just family present, she was ready to take charge.
She hurriedly walked up to Lilly. Lilly saw the look in her sister's eyes and immediately made to explain herself. "I didn't… I didn't… I was just trying to help…."
"Lilly, just tell me one thing," Kate said frantically. "Just tell me one thing, Lilly. That boulder, you see that boulder over there?"
Lilly looked behind her to where Kate was pointing. At the end of the clearing, there was a boulder; not a very large one, but noticeable since it was the only such feature around.
"Yeah," Lilly said quietly.
"Okay, Lilly," Kate said, not slowing down for an instant, "now, when you found Zeke, where was it? Did you find him on this side of the boulder, or that side? This side, or that side?"
Lilly shook her head swiftly and anxiously. "I… I don't know…."
"Come on, Lilly, come on!" Kate said, almost snapping. "Which side was it?"
"Come on, Kate," Humphrey said. "I don't get what it matters which side of some random boulder it was on. I think Lilly had a few other, more important things on her mind."
But Kate did not respond to Humphrey. She did not even acknowledge his presence at all. She just kept staring at Lilly.
"Come on, Lilly, it's important!" Kate said. "You have to remember!"
Behind Kate, Humphrey looked quizzically at his mate and then at Garth. He was surprised, with Kate giving Lilly the third degree, that Garth was not jumping in to tell Kate to back off. He certainly never had a problem before with that where Lilly was concerned.
Instead, Garth was just staring at Kate, suggesting that he wanted to say something, but knew it would be better not to. He just hugged Lilly tighter and whispered in her ear, "Come on, honey, can't you remember at all? Maybe a tiny bit?"
Lilly closed her eyes hard as she tried to remember. "I think… I think… it was on that side…. We ended up moving a little when I tried to help him, but it was on that side…."
As Lilly opened her eyes, Kate closed hers in relief. "Thank Heaven," she said.
"What? Why?" Humphrey said. "What could that possibly matter?"
Kate swiftly turned to face him. "It's a border marker, Humphrey. Because it happened on our side of the border, the Western side, it means it falls under our jurisdiction. That means I can handle it."
"But it was an Eastern wolf," Garth said, standing up. "Kate, you know the law. That fact alone gives me the right to call for extradition."
Humphrey shook his head. "Hey, I thought we were one big United Pack now! What's with all this talk?"
Kate shook her head. "We never got around to synchronizing the pack laws for both East and West. So we're still two separate jurisdictions as far as dealing with crime goes."
Humphrey tried to put on a smile. "Alphas! We try to keep you guys working for the good of the packs, but you always have to go off and play around instead. See what happens when you slack off?"
But Kate could not think about humor right now. Instead, she focused on Garth. "But, you're not actually going to enforce that, are you? You know what the Eastern wolves'll do if they get half a chance to get their paws on Lilly!"
"Are you saying something about my pack, Kate?" Garth said with something close to a snarl.
Kate gave him an 'oh, come on!' look. "You saw what Claw and Scar nearly did to her just now! You really want this to be under Eastern jurisdiction?"
"Guys, guys, guys!" Humphrey said, coming between them. "Is here really the best place to discuss things? All out in the open? Especially when some people are, um, sensitive?"
Humphrey pointed past them to Lilly, who had now started silently crying to herself.
As Garth ran over to comfort her, Kate nodded. "You're right, Humphrey," she said, "we need to get this someplace more private."
A crowd gathered under the cliff upon which was seated Winston and Eve's den. It seemed as though all of the Western wolves had come together to try and figure out what was going on. Nobody seemed really sure what had happened, but everybody knew something had and that it was not something good. And whenever that happens, people cannot help but wag tongues.
"What's happening?" Sweets said as she arrived. "What's everybody so excited about?"
"Word is that there's been a murder or something," Candy responded. "They say an Eastern wolf got offed and that Lilly did it!"
"Lilly!" Sweets exclaimed. "Hardly! As if Lilly could really do something like that! But you know what it is, don't you? They always blame the Omegas when something goes wrong! It's always our fault, no matter what."
"Shhh… Shhh…." Candy shushed. "Someone might hear you!"
"But it's true!" Sweets continued – becoming even louder just to show what she thought of her friend's advice. "We have to take the fall for everything around here!"
As they continued speaking like this, Sweets and Candy turned their gazes upward, to where they could just see Hutch and Can-do along the path leading to the cave, blocking anybody from interfering with the private family conference above.
The scene inside the cave was much like the one out in the snow before. All four wolves were gathered around in basically the same relative positions.
"Can I wash this blood off yet?" Lilly asked innocently.
Kate shook her head. "No, Lilly, that's evidence. You can't wash it off yet."
"But just looking down at it is making me sick!"
"I know, Lilly, I know, but we have to follow the law for now."
Humphrey winked at Lilly from behind Kate. "Besides, it looks good on you," he said. "The red's a nice contrast to the white and purple."
Instead of having the effect Humphrey intended, this just made Lilly shiver more. He was rewarded for his futile effort with a glare from Garth and an elbow from Kate.
"But what are we going to do now?" Garth asked.
Kate sighed. "We have to uphold the law."
"But… I didn't do anything!" Lilly protested. "I didn't hurt Zeke! I was trying to help him! There was another wolf there that did it, I think!"
"Another wolf?" the three other wolves said together.
"Lilly, that's important!" Kate said. "Do you remember anything else about this wolf you saw?"
Lilly tapped her paw against her head and seemed to fall into thought. Her eyes closed and she made a sort of pouting face like one does when trying to remember something with considerable effort. When she opened her eyes, however, they were filled with disappointment.
"I… didn't get a good look at him…." Lilly admitted. "Or it could have been a 'her', I guess…. It all happens so fast, and they were covered in snow…. I couldn't make out anything!"
"That's okay, honey," Garth said, patting her back reassuringly.
"Still, it's not much of a lead." Kate said. "Does anybody remember if there was any other sign of another wolf? Pawprints or something?"
Garth and Humphrey just looked at her. Then they shook their heads.
"It was all so fast," Humphrey said.
"I don't think any of us really paid attention," Garth added, "but I don't recall seeing anything like that."
Kate let out another long sigh and followed it with a sad shake of her head. "We're going to have to go through with the trial."
"Trial!" Lilly and Humphrey said together in disbelief. That Garth showed no disbelief at this was almost as disheartening to Lilly as hearing Kate say it. It demonstrated that he had already been expecting this all along.
"It's the law…." Kate said quietly. "Without anybody but Lilly as a possible culprit, we have to do it."
"But I didn't do anything, sis!" Lilly yelped.
"I know, Lilly, I know," Kate answered sadly. "But it is still the law."
"Kate, Kate, Kate," Humphrey said, "Come on, you can't be serious! Laws, smaws – we're the ones who broke the laws, remember? And, really, what's the point of marrying into the ruling family if it doesn't make us immune to the laws?"
"That's just the thing, Humphrey," Kate responded, gaining a little more of her force. "We're not above the laws because we're the rulers. If anything, that makes us more subject to the laws than any of the other wolves. We can't just go around them whenever we feel like it!"
"Um, we kinda already did," Humphrey said with a sly smile and a wink. "Remember, um, getting married, by chance? It was kinda a big deal at the time."
Kate shook her head. "Yes, I remember, and that's exactly why we can't go against the laws now. It was a pretty big change when we got married and that barely happened. So if we don't hold a trial, people will start thinking that we don't care about the laws and just throw them out whenever it suits our own whims."
"I thought that is what we do," Humphrey said. "Besides, it sounds like a pretty good way of doing things to me,"
Kate's head shook even more forcefully this time. "But not to anybody else. If they're ever going to look up to us as leaders of a United Pack and respect our marriages, we have to show them that changing the law there did not put us above the law completely. We have to show that we're capable of defending the laws and protecting order and justice in our pack, even if it hurts us to do so."
Humphrey tilted his head from side to side as he considered this. "Well, I guess…. If you care about things like having your pack trust you…. Okay…."
"But… I… didn't… do… anything!" Lilly protested again, now coming close to yelling in hysterics.
"I'm sorry, Lilly, but this is the way it has to be," Kate said. Turning to the other two, she said, "Of course, it's my duty to act as judge."
Garth stepped forward. "I don't know, Kate. I really think that I should still be judge, since Lilly is my mate. I still have the right to demand that, since Zeke is an Eastern wolf."
"I'm guessing there's nothing in the pack laws about an impartial judiciary," Humphrey grumbled.
"I know you do, Garth," Kate said gently. "But I'm asking you, for Lilly's sake, not to use it."
Lilly's and Garth's heads tilted and eyes grew narrow at the same moment, two wolves of one mind. "What do you mean for Lilly's/my sake," they said together.
"Garth," Kate said, "if you make this an Eastern Pack trial, you'll have to appoint somebody to defend Lilly and somebody to prosecute her. And do you really want to trust Claw or Scar or Edgar with that responsibility?"
"I don't want to trust Edgar with the responsibility of finding his way out of his own den in the morning," Garth responded. "But there are other wolves in the East besides those three, you know."
"Anyone you'd trust with defending Lilly?"
Garth's eyes turned downward in a rare lapse of his usual bravado. "Well, no…."
"That's why I'm asking you," Kate said, in the sweetest and nicest tone she had ever used toward the Easterner, "please let this stay a Western Pack matter. Let me keep it under our jurisdiction. I can't stop this from going ahead, but at least that way I can protect Lilly by appointing counselors who have her best interests in heart."
Garth paused for a moment and looked around the den, avoiding her amber eyes. But Kate could tell that he understood her line of argument. Finally he nodded. "You're right, Kate. As much as I want to be the one there, I couldn't protect Lilly like that. It would be better if this remained a Western Pack matter."
But then, a question filled his eyes and soon came out of his mouth. "But then, who are you going to get to be the prosecutor and the defense?"
A light, furtive smile appeared on Kate's otherwise sad lips. She walked over to the den entrance. "Oh, Hutch, Can-do, can you come here please?"
"But ma'am, what about the crowd?" came Hutch's voice back.
"They should be fine for now," Kate said. "Besides, they'll have to know soon enough."
And, just like that, Hutch and Can-do were there. But whether from a sense of awe and confusion, or a mere disbelief that these two stalwarts were leaving their posts, the crowd did not follow. Rather, a hush came over them as they waited to see what this new development could mean.
"Hutch, Can-do," Kate said, with all the authority of a leader. "I have a very special role for the both of you."
"Does it involve the crime Lilly's accused of, ma'am?" Hutch asked.
"Crime, ha!" Can-do barked. "As far as I'm concerned, those Easterners had it comin'! Only thing would have been better is if whoever did it had taken out one of those two guys who ruined your hunt, ma'am!"
"You know one of those 'guys' was a girl, right?" Hutch asked.
Can-do gasped. "You mean the brown one, with the scars… was a girl?"
Hutch just shook his head and rolled his eyes.
"It does have to do with these accusations," Kate explained. "As I'm sure both of you are aware, the only thing we can do now is hold a trial to determine whether Lilly is innocent or not. Of course, I'll be the judge and the ultimate decision has to come from me, but I need someone to argue both sides and then, in the interest of fairness, I'll have to go with whichever side makes the best case."
"Are you sure you want to go through with that, ma'am?" Can-do asked.
"Can-do, she has to," Hutch said. "It's the law."
"Precisely," Kate said. "And I can't think of any wolves I'd have more faith in to execute those roles properly than you two."
Hutch and Can-do looked uneasily at each other. "If I may ask," Hutch said, "which role goes to whom?"
"I thought that would be obvious. Hutch will be representing the defense and Can-do the prosecution."
Another exchange of uneasy looks followed.
"But, why do I have to be the prosecution?" Can-do complained.
Kate had not been expecting this response – to her, it was readily apparent – and had to improvise an explanation on the spot. "Because, Can-do… you tend to be the most… forceful in stating your opinions…."
When Can-do still seemed perplexed, Humphrey added, "She means you like to yell a lot."
Can-do considered. "Well, I do like to yell…."
Now Kate turned to Hutch. "And for the job of the steely defender who goes to whatever lengths necessary to see that his client gets a fair trial, I could only think of the most trustworthy and dauntless Beta in the whole of Jasper."
Kate had expected Hutch to be pleased with this compliment, but instead, he turned his eyes to his paws, one of which began to kick the ground nervously.
"I guess, if that's what you want, we have to do it…." he said quietly. "We'll carry out Lilly's trial to the best of our abilities."
"Why isn't anybody listening?" Lilly piped up. "There shouldn't be a trial because I didn't do anything!"
"I know, dear, I know," Garth said reassuringly as he patted her shoulder. But then he got back up and approached Kate once again. "But, even if I'm not the judge, I'd still feel better if there was some way I could help. Someway I could do something for Lilly."
Kate now turned to him and, to his surprise, threw her foreleg over his shoulder. She then threw the other one over Humphrey, who happened to be standing nearby.
"There is a way for you to help Lilly, both of you," Kate said slyly. "Just think, Garth, since you're not judging, you actually have a better opportunity to clear Lilly's name."
Garth merely looked confused. So did Humphrey. That is, until each one noticed how similar their expression was to the other and then tried to change it. This merely caused them to both look even more like each other, to their further embarrassment.
Kate could not help but smile at this. Yet, she recognized that she'd have to explain. "Because, since you won't be preoccupied with the trial, you can be out there tracking down the actual murderer!"
A smile came to Garth's lips as his emerald eyes filled with understanding. "Oh, I see…. I'll be able to sniff out who really did this and stop them. That way, you can throw out the trial and nothing bad will happen to Lilly!"
"But wait," Humphrey said. "Why do I have to get involved in this?"
"Yeah, Kate," Garth said, "why does Humphrey have to get involved?"
"Because, she's your sister-in-law, Humphrey," Kate said sternly. Then turning to Garth, she said, "And because you could use Humphrey's skill for thinking outside of the den in tracking down the real culprit. Putting your Alpha wits with his Omegas ones, you can't lose!"
"Humphrey does think out of something, I know, but I always thought it was out of his mind," Garth said, contemptuously eyeing the Omega. However, his look suddenly softened. "But if it helps to get Lilly scot-free, I'm willing to even put up with you."
He offered his paw as a sign of goodwill. But Humphrey, still stunned from this sudden change in Garth's demeanor, hesitated. He turned to Kate with a 'do I have to?' look in his eyes.
"Humphrey…." Kate said firmly, her eyes growing sharp and telling Humphrey that yes, he did.
So, reluctantly, Humphrey took Garth's paw and shook it. "Nice to be, uh, working with you, partner," he said.
"So, everything is set," Kate said. "Everybody knows their parts, right?"
When the four males hesitantly nodded in the affirmative, Kate continued, "Okay, good. I'm counting on each and every one of you to pull this off. We have to follow the law on this one, but maybe we can work something out to fix this whole mess and save my sister's life. Now, come on, we've got to go announce this to the pack."
And so, the wolves slowly walked out of the den and into the light of day, preparing to announce from the cliffs all that had been decided. But, as they walked out, each of them was buried too deep in their own thoughts to realize that they were missing the one wolf who was at the center of it all – the star of this soon-to-be three-ring circus, if you will.
Lilly continued to sit where she was, Zeke's red blood continually waging war with her white fur for possession of her chest and neck. She did not move at all from where she had been, and merely stared out with sullen and pained eyes.
"But why won't anybody listen?" said she. "I didn't do anything!"
It looks like Jasper may just be in for the trial of the century.
How shall Lilly handle being at the center of it with her life on the line?
And shall her family and friends be able to clear her name in time?