Bearly Begun (BBW/Bearshifter Romance) (Bachelor Bears of Yakima Ridge Book 1)

By Isadora Montrose

Paranormal, Romance

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769
6 mins

Len Meets His Fated Mate

CHAPTER FOUR

The two husky boys were struggling to lift the copper tubing on the back porch. Len guessed they were about fifteen. Copper didn't weigh much, but when it was secured to rebar, that was a different matter. Cast iron was plumb heavy. Lenny signaled Tracker to heel and watched to see what the kids would do. They had the stocky build of wrestlers or junior weight lifters. But rebar was rebar.
The blonder of the two boys looked around suddenly and his eyes widened as he saw Len and Tracker watching them from the kitchen doorway. He walloped his companion on his arm, and they both tried to jump off the porch. Len let Tracker have his way with one boy while he grabbed the other one. Both kids yelped.
The panel van that had been idling on the street burned rubber. Tracker held onto his captive by one sleeve and growled menacingly. Len knew the big black shepherd had not bitten his prisoner, but he was prepared to if Len gave the word. The kid Len had seized deflated at the sound of his ride abandoning them.
Len turned to the other one. “If you struggle, Tracker will take your arm off,” he lied. “Understood?” The kid half nodded.
“Keep,” Len told his dog. Tracker released the boy and sat in front of him with his eyes on his prey. The kid moved and the dog growled deep in his throat.
Len shook the kid he had collared by his tee-shirt. “You and your pal are going to have a little chat with Officer Friendly.” He whipped out his cell and dialed 911.
The patrol officers were happy to pick up the kids. The sullen little sods refused to give their names and demanded to speak to a lawyer. Hallahan and Boswell read the kids their rights and stuffed them into their black and white. Len offered to follow them to the station in his truck. He locked up his house and set Tracker to guard.
At the station Hallahan took Len to an interview room to get his statement. He had obviously run Len through the system because he wanted to talk about the incident at Maddie's gym in the summer when he and Doug had taken down an intruder.
“You weren't charged,” Hallahan said, “But you had a gun on you and you admitted to being prepared to use it.”
“In self-defence,” Len said calmly. “Guy had a gun on two women and was setting up an ambush for my cousin. He probably would have killed us all if he'd had a chance.”
“You didn't have a gun on you today,” Officer Hallahan made it a question.
“No sir. I'm not carrying in the city. Besides I had my dog.”
“Kids say he bit one of them. You'll be lucky if you don't get charged,” Hallahan warned Len wryly.
Len shook his head. “Tracker didn't even tear the kid's shirt. He certainly didn't break skin. Didn't have to.”
“You better begin at the beginning,” Hallahan said.
“My brother and I are fixing up this house on Parkhurst. We've had us a little battle with the local thieves. Anything not nailed down, disappears.” Len shrugged. “So we nail stuff down. I changed the doors and the windows. Put in deadbolts, good latches on the windows. Security system. “
“This afternoon, I went to the hardware store.” Len went on. “You know how it is, no matter how you plan, you need something. Took the dog because it was broad daylight, after all. Mostly stuff has been going at night. While I was gone those two showed up with a guy in a van.
Len leaned back and got comfortable. “When I got home, they were wrestling with the copper tubing I bought to replace the stuff they stole last week. This time I had used zip ties to secure it to some rebar.”
Hallahan didn't allow himself a smile. “You get a tag number?”
“Well, sure.” Len whipped out his cell and showed Hallahan the photo he had taken before he confronted the young thieves.
Hallahan turned off his recorder and stood up. “I'll get this typed up and you can sign it. Maybe Boswell has found out something about those boys.” He got up and left.
Len pulled out his cell and texted Joey. He wouldn't put it past Panel Van to return to complete the robbery, even with the kids in custody.
Hallahan came back. “Their fingerprints don't seem to be in the system. But they're now claiming to be eleven. Can't charge them if they're only eleven.” He sighed. “Got a sister coming down.”
“Pretty large for eleven,” Len said skeptically.
“You wait, it'll turn out to be a lie.” Hallahan's voice was weary. We'll see what the sister says. If she's really the sister. Meanwhile Community Liaison wants to have a word with you.”
Ms. Leah Carmichael from Community Liaison made an impassioned plea to preserve two small boys from a juvenile record. Len heard her out with polite impassivity. Finally she wound down.
“So,” Len said. “Just to be clear here, ma’am. You think that if we let these little thieves off Scott free, that this will somehow improve their lives? You gotta strange notion of how to build character down here in Portland.”
Ms. Carmichael ruffled up. “I don't think you appreciate the seriousness of saddling two young people with a criminal record. We want them to be able to maintain their position in the community.”
“Yeah?” Len was at his most affable. “Their position as thieves? Or do you think that teaching a couple of eleven-year-old boys that they can steal without any repercussions is going to make them decent citizens? Gotta say, I'm all for dropping an anvil on them.”
This statement shocked Ms. Carmichael into another eloquent speech this time regarding the boys deplorable lack of self-esteem. Len listened politely. When the social worker stopped speaking he shook his head.
“I’m sorry, ma’am” he said, “But I purely don't know what a pair of eleven-year-old thieves would be doing with pride. Seems a natural response to being caught red handed stealing should be some good old fashioned shame.”
There was a brisk knock and Boswell entered without waiting for permission. “Hey,” he said to the room. “Got the sister talking to those boys. She's about at her wit's end.
“Van's stolen. Or borrowed, more likely. But the owner's claiming stolen. We're printing it now. Sister says the boy's father is an ex-con and his prints will be all over the vehicle. If he didn't wipe it down.” Boswell closed his notepad and stuck it in his pocket.
“Their father was the driver?” Len was equal parts horror and surprise.
Boswell looked pityingly at Len’s naiveté. “Father got out of prison three months ago and has been apprenticing those lads ever since. Sister wants us to throw the book at them. Wants them in a young offender facility away from their father.”
“That is not happening,” Ms. Carmichael said sternly. “Those boys have no prior record. They should be released into their guardian's care, and if she is no longer willing to take responsibility, then to a foster family.”
Boswell ignored her. “You still want to press charges?” he asked Len.
“Explain this situation to me again, sir, ma'am.” Len looked at both the standing officer and the seated social worker. “I'm some confused. If I press charges the boys get to go home with their sister who wants them in jail. If I don't press charges, ditto. Is that right?”
“If you press charges it goes in their record,” said Ms. Carmichael as if he were willfully stupid.
“So that the next time they steal, they get off again?” Len looked hard at the social worker.
“Yep,” said Boswell.
“Charge 'em,” Len said flatly.
“I'm sure we can work something out.” The social worker stood up. “I want to speak to,” she glanced at the sheet in front of her, “Ms. Pacey.”
“Ms. Salter,” said Boswell laconically. “Half-sister.” He left Len with the table.
This was a gong show. Sister was trying to have her baby brothers face the consequences of their behavior. Social services wanted to massage their egos. Courts wanted to send them out into the big old world to re-offend, at which point maybe the boys could go someplace where older kids could help them polish up their criminal skills. Craziness.
Hallahan came into the room with a tall woman dressed in a white overall. Her dirty blonde hair was scraped back into a ragged bun. Her face was haggard and pasty under the fluorescents. Leonard stood up, every sense on high alert. His chest swelled and his shoulders squared. What the hell? She wasn't even pretty. If she had a figure, it was rectangular. But his bear was on point.
“This is Ms. Salter, Cord and Hunter Pacey's sister. She's their guardian. This is the complainant, Mr. Benoit.”
Len put out one huge hand and took the one she offered in return. It was a strong hand, a little calloused, with short unpainted nails. “Hello,” she said huskily and every muscle in his body resonated to that low voice.
Len nodded. Well now, what did it mean that those boys didn't even have people names? He could think of half a dozen hounds called Hunter and a couple called Cord in French Town alone—probably dozens more on all Yakima Ridge. He smiled down at Erin and told himself the attraction he felt was just pity, but his bear was strutting and didn't pay any mind to his common sense.
Boswell pulled out a chair for her. “Ms. Salter would like to know if you would demand restitution.”
Len shrugged. “They didn't take anything, this time. Nothing to restore.”
Boswell shook his head. “Victim's rights,” he said as if that explained everything.
“Mr. Benoit,” Erin said, “If you demand restitution, my brothers will have to do some sort of community service and not just go home to play video games and hang out some more with their father.”
“Huh.” Len tore his mind out of his pants. “So how'd that work?”
“In a couple of weeks, they'll go before a judge for sentencing,” Boswell said, “He'll assign them to work at a community center or a food bank for so many hours a week until they've done fifty or so hours.”
Len shook his head. “How old are those two?” he asked Erin.
“They were eleven in March.”
“Then they need to be punished right now. Today. If you wait a couple of weeks, they'll just be resentful when they're punished. They need a sharp shock now. Also, it's nothing to me if they stack canned goods in a food bank.” Len deep voice was flat and final.
Erin's face fell. Her eyes were blinking as if she were trying not to cry. Len heard himself say, “I've got a better idea.” The others looked at him. “You let me have those two youngsters from now until, say, Christmas break. If they're not at school, if they're not asleep, they're working for me.”
“Doing what?” The hazel eyes were big in Ms. Salter's drawn face. Her voice was full of hope. She looked as if she had a vision of a knight in shining armor.
“Construction,” Len replied. “I'm renovating the place they were robbing. They can fetch and carry and I'll try to teach them a skill or two. But first time they're late or they don't show, we drop an anvil on them. What's the worst thing you guys can do to a juvenile?” he asked Boswell.
“Not much. And someone's told them that,” the cop said cynically.
Len thought. “Well, then we'll have to tell them that if they slip up they get to go live in the woods.”
“The woods?” Erin asked.
“I'm from Washington State, all we have is the great outdoors. Couple of city boys, what could be worse?” Len asked with a smile.
Boswell permitted himself a sharp crack of laughter. “Now we just have to convince Ms. Carmichael.”
“You tell her that whatever she decides, I'm pressing charges.”



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