The Dresden Files: Portland

Angie (Part One)
Karkana Chronicles Twenty-Two

October 14, 2013 (Monday)

About two weeks have passed since the events with the Fomor and things are seemingly back to normal for Brianna (at least as normal as they get). With some of her new funds, Brianna buys another used car so she and Joey can each have a vehicle. She also shares cautionary information about the Formor presence in Portland with Sydney and Nerise. With Nerise, Brianna also describes the note that she found in the warehouse as it concerns the White Court.

The only thing out of the usual is that Joey seems to spending time with one particular woman, rather than his usual “love them and leave them” approach. Brianna had previously noticed the woman, Angie, hanging around the fighters as a groupie. An attractive blonde, Angie appears to be a little bit older than Joey, but not significantly so. Brianna also gets a very possessive vibe off Angie, which makes her take some notice. Brianna has never been good about sharing. Joey is spending a lot of time at Angie’s place, but as he never made a habit of bringing his “dates” home, that fact doesn’t necessarily surprise Brianna.

Tonight is a fight night at the pits. Brianna can tell that Joey’s performance isn’t his best: he seems tired. He loses his fight, which pisses him off. Brianna isn’t particularly pleased either. They head to a back corner so he can collect himself.

“You seem like you’re a bit off today. You look tired.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Joey says a bit sullenly.

Brianna just looks at him. “I do know what I’m talking about, Joey. Do you feel fine? Or are you just bullshitting me?”

“I’m fine,” he repeats, but Brianna gets the impression that he’s not “fine” … and that Joey knows it.

“I don’t think you’re fooling anyone.”

“Oh. So you know best, huh?”

“We’re been working together for quite some time and I can tell when you’re shitting me.” Brianna’s voice is blunt. “Are you getting sick? Did you just stay up too late?”

“Not any later than usual.”

“How long have you been feeling off?”

“I’m fine.” Joey won’t give her anything else.

The crowd is starting to disperse. Angie comes bouncing up and puts her arm around Joey. He looks at Brianna, “Angie and I are going to go get some waffles. Want to come?”

Angie speaks up, “I’m sure that she has something to take care of.”

“Actually, no I don’t,” Brianna smiles. “I’d love to.”

As Joey came in Angie’s car, he gives Brianna directions to the restaurant. Once everyone arrives, the group sits down at a table. Joey is still brooding from his loss from the fight and Angie puts her arm around him in a comforting manner.

Brianna starts up a conversation with Angie. Has she lived in Portland long? About a year. Before that, Angie lived in San Francisco.

“How did you get interested in watching the fights?”

“An ex-boyfriend got me into it.”

“Was he a fighter?”

“No.” Angie corrects herself, “Well, not like Joey.”

Brianna raises an eyebrow. “So, he was a fighter, but just not a professional?”

“He liked to get in fights.”

“Ah. Recreational.”

“Sometimes with me,” Angie adds.

“I guess it’s good that he’s out of the picture then,” Brianna says.

“Yeah. He’s definitely an ex.”

Joey mutters darkly, “If he shows up around here, I’ll put two exes over his eyes.”

Brianna continues asking Angie questions to get to know her better. She’s a waitress at a McMenamin’s downtown.

“Seems like a thankless job,” Brianna comments.

“Oh, it has its ups and downs.”

The two women chat some more. Angie lives in Sellwood. She mentions sisters at one point, but Brianna gets the impression that they’re dead. Although she’s happy to talk about her job or her relationship with Joey, Angie doesn’t go into a lot of detail about her past. Strangely enough, the weather brought her originally to Portland. It suits her. During the entire conversation, Brianna reads Angie’s body language as being very possessive of Joey. She physically holds onto him and is always very close.

When the meal is over, everyone rises to leave. Brianna sticks out her hand, smiles, and says, “It’s was nice getting to chat with you.”

“Likewise,” Angie responds.

“I like to know who my man’s hanging around.”

Brianna chooses her words intentionally and notices Angie twitch a little.

Your man?” She still doesn’t reach for Brianna’s outstretched hand.

“Yeah.” Brianna slowly lowers her hand. She’s still smiling, but it’s grown a bit more toothy.

“Joey’s well taken care of.”

“That’s good to know. I look out for his interests. We’ve been together for quite some time.” Brianna can tell that although she’s trying to hold it back, Angie is quite angry. Joey has picked up on the mood shift between the two women and he puts a protective arm around Angie.

“Come on Angie,” Joey says, “Let’s go. She’s been in a mood all night.”

Brianna gives Joey an unfriendly look, but just says, “Watch out for yourself. I’ll see you at Sibley’s in the morning.” Joey and Angie leave the restaurant. Brianna follows behind at a short distance to get a good look at Angie’s vehicle, a late 90s Ford Mustang, then she heads home.

October 15, 2013 (Tuesday)

Brianna arrives at Sibley’s a little bit earlier than normal so she can hit a bag for a while. It feels good to punch the shit of something. When Joey shows up, she eyes him and asks “You ready?”

“Yep.”

Brianna runs Joey hard through his training routine. As she observes him, it is very apparent to her that his stamina is down. She turns to him. “Your stamina is shit today. If you try to open your damn mouth and tell me that you’re feeling fine, we’re doing this again.”

“Then are we done?” Joey’s voice is flat.

“Go hit the showers.” He does. Brianna decides to take a quick shower as well to cool herself off. By the time she’s finished, Joey’s left the gym. She swings back by the apartment to see if Joey’s there. He isn’t. Most of his stuff is still there. Since he’s been staying at Angie’s there has been a slow disappearance of some items: toothbrush, toiletries, changes of clothes, etc.

She searches Joey’s room for any information about Angie or where she lives and comes across a McMenamin’s matchbook with a phone number written on the inside. Brianna leaves the matchbook where she finds it, but jots down the number. She calls Roy Dale to see if he can find an address connected to this phone number. She also offers to double his payment if he can get her the information today.

Brianna wanders back into the apartment’s small living room and calls Joey’s cell phone. He picks up.

“Hey,” Brianna says, in way of greeting.

“Hey.”

“This morning didn’t go as planned.”

“I guess that depends on what the plan was,” Joey comments.

“Not to be so much of a bitch.”

“Then, this morning didn’t go as planned.”

“I’d like a chance to talk.”

“Okay.”

“Are you available now?”

“Yeah.”

Brianna suggests Barry’s Drafthouse and Joey agrees to meet her there. By the time that he arrives, Brianna already has his usual drink waiting for him. They each drink in silence for a moment or two.

“I’m not sure what to think about this Angie situation,” Brianna says, finally.

“Situation?”

“I also don’t know how much I’m reacting in horribly suspicious ways.”

“What are you talking about?” Joey looks confused.

“I’m worried that you seem off. I know that I don’t always have a clear view when it comes to people I protect. I can get reactionary. But there has also been an immense amount of shit that has come our way over the past year, and it keeps getting worse.”

“So, let me get this straight. What you’re trying to say, in some convoluted way, is that I’m off my game because Angie is some sort of monster.” His voice is edged with anger.

“Yeah, I guess that’s what I’m saying.”

Joey rolls his eyes. “Well, I guess we’re done here.” He stands up. “Angie’s not a monster.”

“Okay,” Brianna says, her voice earnest. “If you’re off your game and not doing well because you’re staying up all night and having crazy monkey sex that’s fine, but say something to me. I bring it up. I look at things. And you don’t want to talk about it.”

“Because some things are … mine,” Joey replies, running his hands through his hair.

“They are.” Brianna’s voice is softer. “Will you please sit back down?” Joey sits. She half-smiles at him. “It won’t be easy for you. Now you have two possessive women in your life.”

“I have a feeling that Angie’s going to be part of my life for a long time, so you’re going to have to get used to it.”

“So, you’re serious about her then?”

“Yeah.”

“I can throw no stones on the relationship front. It’s been an interesting year for me, too.” The two sit in silence for a while, sipping on their drinks. “I guess I’ve not been around much lately either.”

“Well, we’ve both got shit to do,” Joey remarks.

“Well, you’ve been also involved in all of the big supernatural crap that’s been going on this past year. Are you wanting to back out?

“Not necessarily.”

“The stuff that hits us, tends to bleed over to those around us,” Brianna warns gently.

“I can protect Angie,” Joey says stubbornly.

“It’s going to take all of us looking out for each other to make things work. Not any one of us could have dealt with this stuff alone. You know the monsters that are out there.”

“So, what are you saying?”

“Does she know? Does she have a clue?”

“It’s not something we talk about.”

“It’s something to think on,” Brianna tells Joey. “It’s not the kind of thing you want catching someone unawares.” She shakes her head slightly, changing topics. “From a sheer practical nature, for us and for our business, whatever you do in your spare time is your own, but when you’re in the ring, you need to be good.”

“I’m doing the best that I can,” Joeys says with gritted teeth.

“You’ve always done the best that you can,” Brianna replies evenly. “What I’m saying is that whatever you’re doing outside the fights, you just need to get your sleep. To take care of yourself so you can be good when you get to the ring.”

“Alright.” Joey still seems a bit sullen and Brianna doesn’t get the impression that he still fully understands what she’s talking about.

“I’m getting the impression that you still think I’m just bullshitting and making this up. Do you realize that you’re not at your full potential? Because maybe that’s why this entire conversation has been going wrong.”

“I’ve just never had you react this way after me losing a fight.”

“It has nothing to do with you losing a fight,” Brianna says with some heat. “You’ve lost fights before. Sometimes you get out there and crap happens. Sometimes you have a better opponent. That is not the issue, so I’m going repeat this again very slowly so I know we’re on target with this. I was upset because you came into that fight drained. You came in not being at full speed. And I could tell that was the same this morning. I don’t know if it’s just you’re feeling tired, or if you’re getting sick, or something else. You. Are. Drained. If you really can’t tell that, then that’s also part of why I’ve been concerned. Because to me, with my background and the communities we run in, that’s a red flag. So, I need you to be very clear with your next words, Joey. Are you aware that you’re not operating at 100%?”

“I don’t feel any different.”

“I can tell you, as I’ve been your manager for many years now, that you are not the same. I can tell that you don’t have the energy that you normally carry with you.”

“I don’t know what to tell you. I feel normal. I’m fighting as hard as I can. Angie is not a monster.”

“Then let’s start with making sure that you’re getting plenty of rest, that you’re getting the diet you need, and we’ll see if that makes any difference.”

“Alright.”

“If not, you need to go get yourself checked out.”

The two finish up their drinks and go their separate ways. Brianna heads to Powell’s to do research on anything else in the supernatural community that can drain a person’s energy or stamina. While Brianna is in the stacks, she gets a phone call. It’s Roy Dale. He gives her an address and name for the phone number: Angelina Petravos. Brianna continues to research for the rest of the day. She finds that some spirits, vampires, demons, or spells can drain a person’s essence. However, based on her research, the chance of this being caused by a spirit is probably a long-shot. The vampire angle, except for maybe Black Court vampires, is also fairly unlikely due to their habits of feeding at a faster and more significant rate that what Brianna is observing. Black Court vampires or demons would be more likely to string their victim along. A sorcerer using a spell of some sort could also cause a slower rate of drain.

Brianna thinks back to her observations of Angie and whether or not she wore any particular jewelry on her person. She suddenly remembers that Angie wore a necklace that bore a strange symbol. Brianna hits the books again to see if she can find a reference to it.

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Taking a Dive (Part Five)
Karkana Chronicles Twenty-One

September 28, 2013 (Saturday)

After heading out of the office, Brianna take a taxi by the warehouse just to see how many cars are parked there. The same two vehicles are there. She then heads to the apartment to get some sleep, setting her alarm to right after nightfall.

When the time comes to get up, she dresses in dark clothing, grabs the veil potion, and heads back to her original hiding position. She sticks to the shadows, waiting to see if the second car leaves around the same time as before. Eventually, two goons leave the warehouse and start heading for the smaller car. Before they get in, however, one of the men stops and nudges his companion. Then both start heading in Brianna’s direction at a pretty fast pace

Brianna sprints away, trying to lose the men in the darkness. With her supernatural speed, she easily outdistances them. Now that her hiding spot is compromised, Brianna decides to head upstream from the warehouse, hoping to find a way to approach the building from the riverside.

She moves stealthily towards the Willamette River. There isn’t enough of a bank to walk along, so Brianna has no choice but to swim. She slides into the cold, dark water and begins making her way downstream. The current is strong and Brianna is carried along more than she swims. However, she is able to grab onto the dock’s piers before being swept past. She climbs up and looks around. The dock leads up to a set of double doors that are partially open., revealing light from within the building. A set of security cameras are aimed at the doors. Brianna can also faintly hear the sound of talking, but can’t make out what they’re saying.

She moves silently along the wooden boards, trying to get closer, but also trying to stay out of range of the security cameras. She can make out several deep voices. One of the voices says, “The Masters will not be pleased. Do you know who they were?”

“No.”

The first voice speaks again, “Is it from the organization?”

“Perhaps.”

“Then our parcel within the organization did not give us warning. That is a problem. The Masters will not be pleased.”

“Whoever they were, they could move supernaturally fast.”

A third voice speaks up, “That does not sound like the organization.”

The first voice says, “No. It does not.”

A fourth voice asks, “What should we do, Gordon?”

The first voice, Gordon, says, “The two of you go out as usual. Try to find recruits. Keep an eye out for this interloper. I shall report to the Masters. They will not be pleased.”

Brianna hears the sound of a door opening and then she sees the light coming out of the door get blocked. Brianna knows she doesn’t have long before she is spotted. She quickly drinks the veil potion and quietly rolls off the dock, clinging to the boards underneath.

One set of footsteps passes overhead, the boards creaking. Then Brianna hears a splash of someone jumping off into the water. She waits silently, but doesn’t hear any sound of swimming. She peers over the side and sees a robe laying discarded on the end of the dock. Light is still emanating from the building, but she no longer hears any voices.

Brianna pulls herself back up to the top of the dock. Quietly, she moves and examines the robe, but finds nothing of interest. She also doesn’t see anyone in the water. She returns to the edge of the security camera range, pulling her jacket over her head to obscure her features, then ducks inside.

The inside of the warehouse is filled with various crates and boxes. A desk and a couple of chairs are arranged close together. One of the large goons is sitting on a chair, but stands up when Brianna enters the room. In a deep voice, he calls out “Hey!” and starts heading towards her. Brianna moves forward to engage.

Brianna gets the first swing at him. She chooses not to use any of her White Court powers, as not to tip off her nature to the goon. The big man clearly knows what he is doing and dodges her blow. He returns her swing, but Brianna is unable to get out of the way in time.

She punches again, but the goon proves very hard to hit. He doesn’t miss, and hits her hard. The big man doesn’t appear to have supernatural strength, but he’s still powerful.

Brianna tries again to connect, but he’s still too fast. She manages to dodge his return blow.

She misses again, then is missed in turn. Brianna is growing increasingly furious as she misses her opponent again, then dodges his blow. Her vampiric nature begins to manifest as she invokes her powers.

She finally manages to hit the goon, hitting him with a hammer blow. The man misses her.

However, with next round, she misses again. The man doesn’t miss her, and blackens her eye with a well-aimed punch.

She manages to connect once more and he takes damage, but only because of her supernatural strength. He hits her in turn.

Again she manages to hit the goon, bloodying his nose. However, he solidly returns the blow, leaving her with a split lip and a broken nose.

Brianna realizes that the fight isn’t going well for her. There are various papers sitting on the desk behind the man. She figures her best option is now for a grab and run. Trying to avoid getting hit again, she uses her supernatural speed to run through the warehouse to gain a bit of ground on the goon. He chases her, but Brianna manages to stay ahead of him.

She runs past the desk, grabs a handful of paperwork, and heads for the door. Luckily, it isn’t locked and she flings it open. As she tries to make her way outside, Brianna feels a very strong hand on her shoulder. However, she is able to pull away and sprints away. She hears footsteps behind her, but never slows down as she outdistances the goon.

Brianna runs until she thinks she has lost her pursuer. Ducking into the shadows, she gathers herself together. Her supernatural healing abilities kick in and some of her wounds fade until she is mostly just bruised. The night’s activities have caused her Hunger to surface, and she is incredibly pissed off and angry. She pulls her phone out, but it didn’t survive the swim in the river.

She stalks through the streets until she is finally able to locate a taxi. She has the cab driver take her to a well-lit bar. She finds a corner table, orders a whiskey double, and lays out the stolen papers before her. Whenever anyone gets too close to her table, she shoots them incredibly nasty looks.

The papers turn out to be invoices and bills of lading for various goods being held at Aquarian Enterprises. The merchandise seems to consist of imported tchotchkes, nothing of real monetary value, coming from one of three primary vendors out of Cambodia. A few documents bear Gordon Lyton’s signature as the General Manager. At the bottom of the stack, Brianna discovers a piece of what appears to be parchment paper with a weird laminated sheen. A spidery script in ink reads:

“Nirvana is Raith territory. Beware of hunting there. All others are fair game.”

Brianna gathers everything up and puts the papers back in her jacket. Donning her sunglasses, she targets the most drunk-looking crowd in the bar. As she passes, she brushes up against a particularly intoxicated person. She incites rage and feeds, trailing chaos in her wake as she leaves.

She takes a taxi to Walmart, buys a new phone, and texts Rupert that they need to meet soon. “A lot of shit went down tonight.” It’s close to 1:30 a.m., but he replies immediately.

“I can meet tonight if it’s urgent.”

Her return texts are brief. “Yep. Where?”

He sends an address, which turns out to be another bar. Brianna heads inside and finds Rupert at a booth. Brianna is very conscious of the fact that her face is bruised, her clothes are rumpled and dirty from her swim in the Willamette, and she doesn’t look as professional as she likes. Her jaw is clenched as she drops into the seat across from him and orders another whiskey double. Rupert is already sipping on a bourbon or whiskey of his own. He looks her over, then asks “So what’s so urgent?”

Brianna’s voice is bitter, “Well, tonight went a little more fucked-sideways than I was expecting it to go.”

Rupert raises an eyebrow. “Oh?”

Brianna gives him a rundown of the night’s events, an expletive or two escaping as she tells what happened. She watches him closely for any flicker of recognition or emotion, but his face isn’t giving anything away.

As she finishes, Rupert states calmly, “So, you allowed yourself to be compromised.”

Brianna’s voice is tight, “It certainly fucking sounds like that doesn’t it? And allowed isn’t really the word I was looking for, Rupert. That makes it sound like it was by choice.”

“Your choices are what got you there.”

She shoots back at him, glaring. “Don’t fucking mince words with me right now. I’m not in the mood.” Brianna sits down her glass with a bit more force than necessary. She fishes in her coat and lays out the stolen papers. “This is what I have to show for this evening, besides being in a spectacularly bad mood.” She taps forcefully on the piece of parchment that lays on top. “The good news is that they don’t think I’m from the V.U. since the organization doesn’t hire supernatural creatures.”

Rupert gives her a disdainful look, “Not usually.”

Brianna leans in close and says in an low voice, “Mortals aren’t all they’re cracked up to be, either. You’ve pissed me off a lot Rupert, but you’ve never struck me as a bigot.”

Rupert turns his attention to the parchment. Brianna comments, “That worries me outside of just this particular job. They may have been avoiding my Court at this point, but they know we’re there. And after the events of tonight, it’s going to be fairly clear what he was dealing with. Now, I get to be worried about that fallout.”

“Have you ever heard of the Fomor,” he asks, finally.

“No.”

“They’re an aquatic race. Very mysterious shape-shifters and sorcerers. As a faction, they’ve been very quiet until now. That is what I suspect we’re dealing with.”

“Been quiet up until now, as in until the events of tonight? Or is there something else you’ve been sitting on?”

“The events of tonight.”

“And the Fomor have a mole in your office?”

“That is what I’m beginning to suspect.”

Brianna shakes her head, “Why?”

Rupert replies, “I really don’t know.”

“I’m guessing it’s part of the reason why John and Julie were killed. The reason that I was in that warehouse to begin with was because that was where the bodies most likely went in the river. The autopsy reports were consistent with bruising and ligation marks being made by large human hands. That nasty, smelly Fomor-thing I encountered tonight was very good at what he was doing.”

“What you encountered was not the Fomor.”

“I thought that’s what you said we were dealing with.”

“What you encountered was their human servant.”

Brianna shakes her head, “That wasn’t human.”

“They change them.”

“What do you mean they change them? To be smelly and big?”

“To be pliable and able to serve.”

“Well, that’s fucked up,” Brianna retorts.

“You’ll get no arguments from me on that for once,” Rupert smiles without humor.

“They don’t make them bigger? They were really big and strong.”

“They select them for that purpose.”

Brianna orders the two of them another round of drinks. “Well, that doesn’t bode well if all four of them are running around.” She grits her teeth, but continues, “I’m not particularly a slouch in this department, but that did not go well. I would not want to do that again without backup.”

“So, what is your next move?”

“I think that warehouse is pretty much dead to me at this point. They’re going to be agitated. The only other thing on my agenda was to talk to Ramos on Monday morning to see who could have had access to those files.” She sighs, “However, they have my face now. So I suspect that will be another thing I’m dodging. I guess the only saving grace is that they didn’t seem to think I’m from the organization, so they won’t be looking for me there.”

“If they change their mind about my connections with the organization, then they will most likely be very angry at their package. This means the mole will be under more stress because of the Masters being pissed off, which means he or she may make a big move. If there isn’t any repercussions for the mole, then it’s back to just wandering around and trying to determine who they are.”

“Okay.”

Brianna holds up the piece of parchment in front of Rupert, “Regardless, this isn’t something that should be sat upon. What are you planning to do about it?”

“I will take it to Mr. Smith.”

“Good. I guess I can try to research these three companies and see what I find. Maybe they’re front organizations.” She straightens, downs the rest of her drink, and stands, saying “Well, I’m glad we had this talk.”

She goes home. Since it’s almost 3:00 a.m., she quietly slips into her room and goes to bed.

September 29, 2013 (Sunday)

Brianna’s face is still pretty bruised this morning. Joey comments on it over breakfast. “It did not go well last night.” she says flatly.

“Well, hopefully it went worse for the other guy.”

“I don’t know that it did. This has been a bit interesting.” Brianna doesn’t get into details about why she was hired or where she was, but she mentions that there’s another faction in town that causing trouble. She asks him, but Joey hasn’t heard of the Fomor. “Their agents are in town. Hunting. Be careful out there.”

After applying makeup to hide her bruising, Brianna calls a taxi and heads into the office. There are not a lot of people there on a Sunday, although she does see Esmeralda Ramos. As Brianna puts her things down, Ramos doesn’t seem to be glaring at her as before. Brianna heads over to the records room.

“Ms. Ramos.”

“Ms. Daniels.”

“I have a question for you.”

“Okay.”

“Who has access to personnel files, exactly. Under normal circumstances?”

“Twelfth floor personnel. Myself.”

“Are those the only people who have access?”

“Yes.”

Brianna watches her face closely. “So, if something was altered in an agent’s file, those would be the only people who had access to it.”

She replies, “Those are the only people who have authorized access.”

“I’m assuming everything is kept under lock and key.”

Ramos confirms, “There is a security system.” She points to a camera behind Brianna’s head and a bio-metric thumbprint lock behind her that leads to the records area. She pauses, then calmly asks “Is there something you’re trying to say, Ms. Daniels?”

Brianna smiles thinly. “Just trying to figure out who would have had access to remove things from people’s files.”

“Is there a point to this line of questioning?”

“Nope. I just need to figure out where any problems in the system may be.”

“Is there a problem?”

“There’s missing information, so I guess so.”

“What information is missing? Perhaps I can be of service.”

“Well, not unless you can tell me who may have excised the last case information from a couple of files and why.”

“Perhaps if you tell me what files, I could be of service.”

Brianna stares at her “John McGee and Julie Dunn.” Her voice takes on an steely edge, “You wouldn’t happen to know anything about that, would you?”

Ramos gulps visibly, but says “I don’t know anything about that.” She appears to be telling the truth, but is obviously intimidated by Brianna. “Those were the files you were looking at yesterday, right?”

“Yep.” She presses harder, “Has anyone else been asking about them?”

“No. None that I know of.”

“Can you tell how many times the records room was accessed in the last several weeks?”

“Yes.”

“I need to know who those people were.”

“That’s confidential,” Ramos shakes her head.

“If it’s been proven that files have been tampered with on your watch, how’s that going to look for you?”

“I see where you’re coming from, and I’ll do what I can, but I could lose my job.”

Brianna’s voice is flat, “You could lose your job either way.”

Ramos concedes, “I’ll do what I can.”

“How long is it going to take for you to get that information?”

“A day.”

“Alright.” Brianna goes back to her desk to do research on the companies doing business with Aquarian Enterprises. She doesn’t find anything out of the ordinary. Every so often, she looks over toward Ramos sits.

When Ramos gathers her things to leave, Brianna decides to follow her. As soon as the elevator doors close, Brianna sprints to the stairwell. Careful not to use her superhuman speed in case of cameras, she hauls ass to get to the parking garage floor right before the elevator doors open.

Brianna hovers in the stairwell, trying to observe Ramos undetected. Looking around, Brianna doesn’t see Ramos’ car. When the elevator dings, much to Brianna’s surprise, Calvin emerges wearing a dress. It’s the same dress Ramos was wearing a few minutes ago.

Brianna steps forward, calling out in a ringing voice. “Calvin. That’s a fetching color.” And she snaps a picture of him with her phone. He looks at her startled, as she sends the photo to Rupert. “Neat trick, that. Is that a potion? A veil? Are you a shape-shifter?” Brianna texts Rupert. “Now! Parking garage, now!”

She resumes talking to Calvin, “When you do that, does it give you her biometrics as well? Like with fingerprints and crap like that?” Her voice starts to raise, “Because that would be fucking convenient for you, wouldn’t it, Calvin? So, why don’t you tell me what you’ve been up to, asshole?!” The look in her eyes is vicious, “Because we’ve got people who are dead and I’m wondering how much of a hand in it you had!”

Calvin appears to be quite intimated by Brianna, but he pulls a gun from underneath his dress and aims it at her.

“You will fucking regret that if you try” she snaps coldly. And she snaps another picture and sends it to Rupert. “I don’t know, Calvin, maybe that will look really good in inter-office mail. Hold on for one second. I’m sure the Twelfth Floor is going to fucking love this.” She gestures at the gun with her other hand. “What, are you going to shoot me? That’s your big plan to get out of here?” Her eyes are steely, “Why don’t you put the fucking gun down? Don’t make this worse for yourself.”

Calvin cocks the gun, and Brianna simply laughs at him. He says, “I was going to have the Masters take care of you, but I guess I’m going to have to do it myself.”

“You can fucking try. Do I look worried? Not really.”

Brianna notices Calvin’s finger is tightening on the trigger and uses her supernatural speed to move to him, knocking the gun out of his hand. He takes a swing at her, but misses. Brianna returns his punch, clocking him hard and breaking his nose.

Calvin tries to hit her again and connects. She punches him back, blackening his eye. It’s enough to make Calvin surrender. Brianna takes the belt from his dress and ties his hands behind his back. She makes him sit down until Rupert arrives.

Eventually, Rupert shows up. Brianna catches the amused look on his face. She points to Calvin, “He had some sort of spell on him. He was shifted. He was Ms. Ramos upstairs. I don’t know if he was to be trusted, but he said that the only people that had access to the files was the Twelfth Floor and Ms. Ramos … or, a shape-shifted asshole who has the same biometric access as Ms. Ramos. Plus, he did make some sort of sarcastic comment,” and Brianna pauses to lightly cuffs him, “about giving me to the Masters, so I think this may be our mole.”

“Is that so,” Rupert says.

“Yes,” Brianna hisses. She points out the fallen gun to Rupert, then gets very close to Calvin’s face. “Would you like to tell Mr. Rupert something, or would you like me to beat the shit out of you some more?”

Calvin speaks up, “This is only a minor setback for the Masters.”

Brianna pokes Calvin sharply in the chest, “Your own people died because of you. People you’re supposed to be protecting. This isn’t a minor setback. This is the beginning of the end. And you’re the first one going down.” The look in her eyes is hollow and her voice is ice cold.

Calvin looks a bit cowed and turns to Rupert “Since when have the monsters worked for us?”

Brianna re-positions herself so she is starting dead into Calvin’s eyes. “That’s funny. I only see one monster here. Who betrays their own? Hmm? Must be you?”

She backs up to let Rupert approach. “What do you want done with him? If it were up to me?” She pauses significantly. “But it’s not up to me, it’s up to you.”

“I’ll be calling Mr. Smith.”

“Do you want me to walk away at this point? Or do you want me to wait with you?”

“I don’t know, I’ll let Mr. Smith make that determination.”

“Very good.” Brianna withdraws so Rupert can make a private phone call, but keeps an eye on the situation in case things go badly. She is feeling very jittery from all of the use of her vampiric powers.

After a bit, Rupert comes over to where Brianna stands. He arches an eyebrow at her, but doesn’t say anything else about her behavior. She asks, “Do you think he’s been feeding people to the Fomor? He’s had access to all of those personnel files.”

“That’s what I’m afraid of.”

“Unfortunately, when I was talking to him, he was in the records room for another 30 minutes after I spoke with him. He may have been trying to cover his tracks.”

“We’ll look into it. Mr. Smith says that for your services you have our gratitude and the rest of your payment has been forwarded to your account. You are free to go.”

“May I ask what he said about the Fomor? What they’re doing in town? Why they’re picking up people?”

“We didn’t discuss it at this time.”

“Okay. I’m going back upstairs to get my purse. Do you want to meet one more time? I still have the folder with the personnel information.”

Rupert agrees and Brianna nods at him. As she passes Calvin on the way to the elevator, she tells him “To be nice to Mr. Rupert. Because if I have to track you down, it’s going to have a different outcome.” Calvin is visibly shaking.

She goes back home.

A few days later, she meets with Rupert to turn in her fake ID and the personnel files. He tells her everything went okay with the transfer of the package. She tells him that she was glad to be of help. “I don’t particularly care for people who don’t protect their own.”

He replies quietly, “Neither do we.”

She offers her hand and he takes it. “Looks like more interesting things are happening in Portland.”

He nods. “Looks like it.”

“I plan to do investigating on my own.”

He meets her eyes. “I have no doubt.”

The two part ways.

View
Taking a Dive (Part Four)
Karkana Chronicles Twenty-One

September 28, 2013 (Saturday, 2:00 am)

Brianna continues to watch the building through the night. Midway through her shift, she texts Joey to let him know that she’s okay. Right around dawn, as Brianna readies herself to leave, two large men come out and get into the bigger car. They are not the same goons that she saw before, but they are of a similar build. She makes note of their licence plate number.

After the car drives away, Brianna takes a taxi back to her apartment building to shower before heading into work. The records office is dark, but she notices that Calvin is also at work. He looks up and salutes her. Brianna raises a hand at him, then heads to her desk.

She tries to look up Aquarian Enterprises again, but only manages to locate a yellow page ad for it under import/export businesses. Her computer has access to a license plate database, so she runs the number from the goons’ car. She gets a hit for Gordon Lydon. Brianna then searches the internet for references to Gordon Lydon, but has no luck at all. She tries to search for a map that would pull up nearby businesses, but can’t seem to find anything.

Tired and extremely frustrated, Brianna heads downstairs to the gym. She changes into workout clothes and hits the bag, trying to physically work out her anger. In the background, she can faintly hear the sound of gunshots in the firing range. After a while, she feels a bit calmer. After she showers and changes back into her work clothes, Brianna finds a voicemail on her cell phone.

The message is from Roy Dale. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to find very much. Aquarian Enterprises is a privately-held company, so not a lot of information is public. He was able to find an address, which matches the warehouse on the waterfront. The rest of what he found also duplicated the information that Brianna already had. She texts Roy to let him know that she received his message. Before heading back to her desk, Brianna decides to wander through the gun range and see who’s down here on a weekend. It’s Malcolm Rupert.

Not wanting to approach Rupert from behind when he has a gun in his hands, Brianna slouches on a nearby bench to wait. It seems that Rupert is distracted as his aim is quite off. He retrieves his target, wadding up the paper in disgust. Rupert puts up another target, but doesn’t notice Brianna sitting nearby.

Still not wanting to startle him, Brianna pulls out her phone and sends Rupert a text. “So, you’re here on a Saturday as well?”

Rupert stops and checks his phone, then puts away his gun, slowly turning to spot Brianna for the first time. He takes off his headgear, then walks over to where she sits.

“Any progress?”

“I just did an all-night stakeout down at the docks.”

“And?”

Brianna looks at him. “Is it safe to speak here?”

“Probably.”

Brianna shrugs and describes what she’s found and what she’s seen. She sees a brief flicker of recognition in Rupert’s eyes when she mentions the bad smelling men. “Does that ring a bell for you?” she asks.

“It might, but I’m not certain.”

“Okay. If there’s something I need to know, I’m trusting that you’re going to tell me.” Brianna continues going over the night’s events, finishing by saying, “I’m going back again tonight. I just wanted to come in and do a little research. I just didn’t get very far.” She pauses, “Does the name Aquarian Enterprises mean anything to you?”

“No.”

“I checked the files that you gave me earlier, but anything current was completely missing. Do you have any knowledge that would connect the two agents to this business?”

Rupert frowns. “No. But I find it very interesting that anything recent in their files is gone.”

Brianna’s brow furrows slightly. “I assumed that you already looked at the files. Is that unusual? For the recent cases to be missing? Because office gossip says there’s a conspiracy afoot that goes all the way to the top.” She looks more closely at Rupert and realizes that the man is genuinely surprised about the missing information.

“You’re here because there’s suspicion of a mole.”

“Yes.”

“Someone who had access to that file removed information.”

“You know this organization a lot better than I do. Who would have access to that information? I’m guessing not a lot.”

“Not a lot,” Rupert confirms.

“Can I get a list of the people who would have that clearance?”

“It sounds like you need to speak to records.”

“She doesn’t like me. She’s just pissed I got access to the files. Having people angry at me doesn’t hurt my feelings very much, it just makes it more difficult to get information.” Brianna sighs, “I take it Ms. Ramos will be back in on Monday?”

Rupert nods.

“Alright then. Now I’m going to figure out how to get into this warehouse.”

View
Taking a Dive (Part Three)
Karkana Chronices Twenty-One

September 27, 2013 (Friday)

Brianna decides to start her day by visiting the records room and putting in an information request with Esmerelda Ramos. She wants to compare the last cases the murdered agents were last working on to see if there were any similarities. However, Brianna is crisply informed that she doesn’t have the necessary clearance to see that information.

Undeterred, Brianna tracks down Rupert. She’s noticed him moving around the office floor, appearing to supervise other staff. He looks up as she approaches.

“Ms. Daniels.”

“Mr. Rupert. May we speak privately?”

“Very well.” He ushers her into a conference room.

Brianna continues, “Esmerelda tells me I don’t have clearance to look at anything that John and Julie were working on before they died to see if there were any commonalities.”

Rupert confirms, “No. You wouldn’t have the clearance to look at the case files of another agent.”

“So, am I going to be able to get those files from you? Or I am I supposed to just assume that other people have already looked over them for evidence that John and Julie were pissing someone off? Someone who would beat them, kill them, and throw their bodies in the river?”

“If you suddenly have that clearance, it’s going to look awfully suspicious.”

“I understand that. I don’t know if you have that clearance.”

“I do.” There is a long pause. Finally, Rupert says “I’ll see what I can do.”

“Okay. Redact what you need to redact. I’m just trying to find patterns. It’s a lot more difficult to be subtle if I just start going around and asking people why they thought these two agents were killed.”

“I understand.”

Brianna meets his eyes squarely, “Unless the general idea was that I’m supposed to ask a lot of questions and become the target of the next attack.”

Rupert smiles thinly. “Mr. Smith is counting on your competence, but is also aware of your expendability.”

Brianna’s smile matches his. “I’m not that easily expendable.”

“We’ll see what we can do about those files.”

“I’m trying to pick up what I can. When Mr. Smith hired me, he knew my skill set didn’t involve sweet-talking people and getting them to talk without realizing that I am prying. If the idea is for me to be subtle about this, then the information you can get me will be much more helpful. I want to do this job well. I don’t want anyone else getting killed.”

“This is why you have a handler.”

Brianna snorts. “Your lucky day. Alright, see what you can get me. I don’t know how much you want to be informed on what I’m doing, but I may be down on the waterfront later on today.”

Rupert nods and Brianna leaves the conference room. She decides to spend time chit-chatting with her coworkers, trying to pick up on all of the office gossip. She quickly determines that the biggest gossip in her department is Dan Dawes. From him, Brianna learns that there’s a lot of speculation about the murders. There’s even talk about a mole in the organization, although it appears that Dan has been the one spreading those particular rumors. It’s unclear if anyone else believes him. When Brianna asks him about the mole’s influence, he thinks “it goes all the way up” to the top of the organization.

Later that afternoon, Brianna’s phone rings. It’s Roy Dale. From the information she gave him earlier, he was able to triangulate a possible location on the waterfront where the bodies went into the river. It seems to be near a warehouse. Brianna quickly gathers her things. As she heads out the door, she notices that Calvin is watching her with a concerned expression on his face.

Briana calls a taxi to take her to the waterfront. The warehouse that Roy pinpointed is an older building, with a chipped and pealing wooden sign reading Aquarian Enterprises. It has two big bay doors and a nearby smaller door, perhaps leading to an office. A security camera sits outside the smaller door and a security camera and light system are stationed outside the bay doors. The building doesn’t appear to be open, but a late 80s model sedan is parked on the street outside.

As Brianna tries to unobtrusively scope out the place, a late 80s hatchback pulls up beside the first car. Two very large men with turtlenecks and pea coats get out. Besides choosing an odd fashion choice, the men also seem a little overdressed for the weather. As the men start to pass where Brianna is lurking, they stop, looking in her direction. Up this close, she notices that there is a very “off” smell about them: a weird combination of stagnant water and rotting fish. In a deep basso voice, one of the men says “Come out.”

She complies. One of them asks, “What are you doing here?”

Brianna shrugs. “I don’t know that it’s any business of yours. What else is a woman going to do when she sees two huge men walking up? This isn’t a good neighborhood.”

The other man says, “Get out of here.”

She edges away, but watches the two men as she does. They return her stare. Brianna leaves the neighborhood and grabs a taxi back to the office. By the time she returns, it’s about 4:00 in the afternoon. She sits at her desk and starts researching Aquarian Enterprises, but doesn’t have any luck. After cursing under her breath at her computer, she finally texts Roy Dale the name of the warehouse and arranges for him to research it.

Right after that, Rupert walks by Brianna’s desk and drops a packet of folders on her desk. She mutters her thanks and starts going through them. Some things are redacted, although a lot more is redacted out of John’s file (probably since his is much larger). In looking at their recent cases, Brianna does notice that for each agent there’s a large chunk of time missing between their last case and their death.

By this point, it’s close to 9:00 p.m. Brianna gets up and stretches, looking around the office. Calvin and Lydia are both still working at their desks. Esmeralda is standing outside of the records room, her eyes shooting daggers at Brianna. When Brianna catches her gaze, she raises an eyebrow. Esmeralda’s eyes narrow.

Puzzled, Brianna places the files in her purse and leaves the office, saying goodbye to people as she leaves. As she passes Esmeralda, Brianna says “Goodnight, Ms. Ramos.” The woman just continues to glare at her.

“Have I done something to upset you? This is not a friendly look you’re giving me.”

“Security clearances are there for a reason.”

“Alright then. Sorry to upset you.” Brianna leaves the office, silently speculating that she’ll never get anything out of the records room again. Before heading home, Brianna hides to see if she’s being followed. She sees Lydia leave the building, go to her car, and drive away. A while later, she watches Calvin and Esmeralda do the same.

Brianna swings by her apartment first, hiding the file folders in the ventilation shaft in her room. She grabs the invisibility potion and heads back to the warehouse, having the taxi drop her off several blocks away.

She stealthily makes her way to Aquarian Enterprises. The two cars are still parked on the street outside. Brianna moves into the shadows across the street and hides. After a couple of hours (about midnight), two large men exit the warehouse and leave in one of the cars. About two in the morning, the car returns and the men reenter the building.

View
Taking a Dive (Part Two)
Karkana Chronicles Twenty-One

September 26, 2013 (Thursday)

Brianna examines the maps of the Willamette waterfront while she waits for the autopsy report from the records room. There are several miles of waterfront to cover. She decides to wander the coffee break room, office floor, and cafeteria to observe people.

Everyone is acting pretty normal, except for Lydia—who keeps acting twitching and eyeing Brianna. So Brianna gets a cup of coffee and swings by Lydia’s desk.

“Hi!” she says brightly.

“Hi,” Lydia replies, more warily.

“So, first day on the job. Just wondering about lunch. Do we eat here?”

“Most of us do,” Lydia says, looking nervous.

Brianna lowers her voice, “Forgive me for asking, but are you alright? You look a little pale.”

Lydia looks down at her work and says, “I’m fine.”

“Alright.” Brianna pauses, not sure how much to push the conversation.

Brianna looks up and sees Calvin coming from the other direction. She smiles at him as he approaches. He stops and says, “Hello, Brianna. Hello, Lydia.”

Lydia continues to work. Brianna replies, “I was just talking to Lydia about the cafeteria here. Is the food good?”

“It’s passable. You want to pass it as quickly as possible,” Calvin says with a grin.

“Ah, I see what you did there,” Brianna smiles in return.

“But, you know, it’s free.”

“What time does everyone head there?” Brianna asks.

“That depends on where their work takes them,” Calvin says.

“Well, maybe I’ll see you guys there.”

“Maybe so,” Calvin replies, pleasantly.

As Brianna walks away, Calvin catches up to her. “Don’t mind Lydia,” he says. “She hasn’t been herself since the incident.”

“Since the incident? She seems really jumpy.”

“Well, if you got taken to the Nevernever by a Knowledge demon, you’d be a bit jumpy, too.”

“Oh. Poor girl,” Brianna looks back to where Lydia is bent over her desk. “Clearly someone was able to retrieve her. Or did she free herself?”

“She freed herself.”

“Oh, that’s horrible,” Brianna shakes her head. “I imagine that’s the kind of thing that sticks with you. They allowed her to go back to work?”

“Primarily as a researcher.”

“Ah, so she’s not really a field agent anymore.”

“No,” Calvin confirms.

“Was this recently?” Brianna asks.

“It was about nine months ago.”

“Well, I’m glad it’s not me. I was wondering if I had done something to offend her,” Brianna says.

“No,” Calvin says and walks away.

Brianna continues to wander about the floor and sit at her desk until lunch. She heads over to the cafeteria and gets in line for food. The good-sized room is filled with “lawyers” sitting with each other, talking shop. She sees Rupert sitting with some agents and makes eye contact with him. He doesn’t return the contact, so Brianna gets the impression he doesn’t need to talk to her.

Brianna sits down to eat her lunch and tries to listen in on the conversations going on around her. The agents are discussing past exploits, using code words and jargon. A lot of what they do is intelligence work—not as much actually busting in a door and hunting down vampires. Eventually, the conversation turns to the murdered agents, John McGee and Julie Dunn. People are hoping that it’s not a Red Court problem, but the speculation is that it doesn’t really sound like Red Court. Brianna interjects that it doesn’t sound like Red Court to her, either. She asks if the two were working together and no one seems to know. No one at her table was particularly close to either of the murdered agents.

After lunch, Brianna heads back up to records and Esmerelda Ramos hands her two reports. “You’ll have to look at them here,” she tells Brianna.

“Ah, I was wondering how that worked.”

Brianna takes a seat at a small table in the records room and starts studying the reports, noting commonalities or anomalies in the reports. Both agents sustained multiple contusions before death. Both died of asphyxiation before being thrown into the river. Both were found near the same place on the river, but probably were not killed there—they most likely floated downriver.

As Brianna works, she can feel Esmerelda’s eyes on the back of her head. She turns around and finds the records clerk staring at her. She asks Brianna, “Are you finished?”

“No, not yet,” Brianna says, surprised at the question. She goes back to looking at the files.

As evidenced by the pattern of bruise marks, the asphyxiation was probably caused by a large pair of hands closing around the victims’ throats. The bodies had bruised and scraped knuckles, indicating that they did not go down without a struggle.

Brianna sticks her notes in her pocket and hands the reports back to Esmerelda. “Had they worked here long?” Brianna asks her.

“John was a veteran,” Esmerelda says. Brianna remembers from the report that he was in his 50s.

“Julie, I wouldn’t call a rookie, but she wasn’t seasoned yet,” Esmerelda continues.

“Did they ever come to records, asking about similar research?” Brianna asks.

“I’m not at liberty to say,” Esmerelda replies primly.

“I understand. Thank you for the reports.”

Brianna heads to her desk and pulls up the maps of the Willamette. Looking at maps of the river currents, the locations of where the bodies washed up, and the times of death, she tries to pinpoint where the bodies entered the water. Unfortunately, the calculations seem to be beyond her.

Brianna decides to take a taxi to the waterfront area where the bodies were found. She gets out at a pier leading up to a warehouse. The bodies were found washed up against the posts of the pier. Not much of the riverbank is walkable in this area—thus the pier. The water is moving along at a pretty good rate.

Brianna gets on the phone and calls Roy Dale to see if he can do the calculations to figure out where the bodies mostly likely entered the river. He says that he will work on the “word problem”. They work out a price and he hangs up.

She gets another taxi and heads back to the office. By this time it is close to 5:00 pm and many people are heading out of the building, calling it a day. During the exodus, Rupert stops by her desk.

“So, how was your first day?” he asks.

“Met with various people. Got some records from the records room, which was nice. Something to start with, anyway,” Brianna says. She looks around surreptitiously and lowers her voice, “I was able to get the autopsy reports.”

“Um-hmm,” Rupert says, nodding.

“It looked like something strong killed them,” Brianna says quietly. “I’ll be poking around the waterfront, I think.”

“Okay.”

“Does this place mostly shut down at night?” Brianna asks.

“For the most part,” Rupert replies.

“Well, until I get more concrete information, I don’t think I need to be pulling all-nighters at this point,” Brianna says, gathering her things. She and Rupert leave the building together and she calls a cab.

“I guess I’ll see you tomorrow, then.”

“Very well,” Rupert says.

“Okay,” she nods and gets in the cab to head home.

Once home, she chats briefly with Joey and then the two of them get ready to head out to the fights. Joey has a bout that night and Brianna needs to feed.

The bout is a pretty mean little scrap, but Joey comes out on top. Brianna feeds on the rage of the audience and then they come back home. Brianna doesn’t talk about her new job.

September 27, 2013 (Friday)

Brianna heads to the office. She joins everyone else as they come into the office, clock in, head to their desk, and start to work.

View
Taking a Dive (Part One)
Karkana Chronicles Twenty-One

September 25, 2013 (Wednesday)

After a workout at Sibley’s Gym, a car drives up to Brianna and Joey. Neither Brianna nor Joey recognize it, so they keep walking. It pulls up in front of them, blocking their path and a window rolls down. Brianna slings her gym bag over her shoulder and waits.

A non-descript man in a suit and sunglasses pokes his head out of the window and says, “Mr. Smith would like a meeting.”

“Right now?” Brianna asks.

“Yes,” the man says. “Hop in.”

“It’ll be the two of us,” Brianna says, a note of challenge in her voice.

“Okay,” the man replies.

She and Joey get in the car and they drive downtown to a nice hotel. The man parks the car and gets out, then leads the two inside the hotel to a nice room. Inside the room is a laptop sitting on a table. He goes over and hits a button on the laptop. The screen remains dark, but they all hear Mr. Smith’s voice.

“Ms. Karkana, it’s a pleasure to meet with you once again. Isn’t technology wonderful?”

“It seems a little bit Jason Bourne, but I suppose so,” Brianna remarks.

“Certain precautions have to be maintained,” Mr. Smith says smoothly.

“Did it make you nervous to meet with me last time?”

“You misunderstand,” Mr. Smith says. “The reason that I have called you here is that some mysterious faction is targeting my agents.”

“Thus the caution,” Brianna says.

“Thus the caution,” Mr. Smith repeats.

“Alright.” Brianna’s voice is still neutral.

“The reason that I have called you,” Mr. Smith says, “is that I would like someone to hit back in her own imitable way.”

Brianna raises an eyebrow. “I take it this is a business arrangement we’re now entering into?”

“Of course.”

“Targeting your agents as in disappeared? Or are you finding bodies?”

“I’m finding bodies. First they disappear. Then I find a body.”

“Do you have your suspicions?” Brianna asks bluntly.

“I suspect that I have someone on the inside,” Mr. Smith says carefully. “Either working for this mysterious faction, or who is this mysterious faction.”

“Well, from what I understand of your organization, Mr. Smith, you don’t let outsiders look around very much.”

“No, not usually,” Mr. Smith agrees. “However, in this case, we’re going to make an exception. How would you like to be a new recruit? As a front, of course.”

Brianna laughs, shaking her head at the idea. “I’m not really sure what this job will entail and can’t give you an easy answer. I’m assuming that it won’t raise any conflict between me and my House.”

“I sincerely doubt it.”

“And my business partner?” .

“I am not looking to hire your business partner.”

“Will I be working out of Portland?” Brianna asks.

“Yes,” Mr. Smith confirms.

“Will I be taken out of my home? Will I be working someplace remote?”

“I don’t anticipate so.”

“So this is going to be a ‘show up someplace 9-5’ sort of thing?”

“Yes.”

As far as Brianna can tell, Mr. Smith seems sincere. “Well, I’m interested,” she finally says.

“Good,” Mr. Smith says.

“What do you want me to do when I find your inside person?” Brianna asks. “Who am I depositing said baggage with?”

“You will have a handler. You will deposit said baggage with your handler,” Mr. Smith replies.

“And you’re pretty sure this handler isn’t the person I’m watching out for?”

“I’m reasonably assured.”

“What’s the time frame?” Brianna asks. “Obviously lives are at stake so sooner is better than later.”

“Sooner is better than later,” Mr. Smith agrees.

The two then begin to discuss money and Mr. Smith flashes a very generous amount on the screen. Brianna negotiates and Mr. Smith doesn’t balk. “If you have an account number, we can deposit directly,” Mr. Smith tells her.

Brianna stares directly at the screen and says drily. “Are you sure you don’t know my account number already?”

“Being polite never hurt anyone,” Mr. Smith’s voice turns chilly. “We can make the deposit directly.”

“No, I suppose it doesn’t,” Brianna replies. “Well, where and when do we start?”

“Tomorrow morning. Report to the law offices of Hartram and Wolf,” Mr. Smith says.

“And ask for?”

“Your handler,” Mr. Smith says. " Mr. Rupert. "

Brianna crosses her arms, frowning slightly. “Mr. Rupert and I did not necessarily leave on the best of terms during our last encounter. I hope his desire to have this killer caught is stronger than his desire to just annoy the shit out of me.”

“I can assure you that Mr. Rupert is a professional. I hope I can say the same for you,” Mr. Smith says mildly.

“No one has accused me of not being professional,” Brianna counters.

“That is not your reputation,” Mr. Smith agrees.

“Also, no one has ever accused me of hiding my emotions,” Brianna uncrosses her arms. “But, I want this to work. I’ll see Mr. Rupert tomorrow.”

“Very well,” Mr. Smith says.

The man in the sunglasses shuts the laptop and escorts them out and back to the car. He drives them back silently to their car back at Sibley’s Gym.

Once Brianna and Joey are back in their car, Brianna mutters hotly, “Goddam Rupert. I don’t take being drugged, tranquilized, and beaten for information particularly well.” She shakes her head, “I didn’t think I’d have to see him again. We’ll see how this goes.”

They drive back home in relative silence, each considering the amount of money that flashed on that laptop screen and the idea that there is someone—or something—the VU can’t get their hands on.

Once they get back to the apartment, Brianna calls her cousin Quincy and lets him know of the Baroness of Seattle’s retaliation against Brianna and her friends and the results. Brianna wants to keep her House informed.

September 26, 2013 (Thursday)

Brianna dresses in her nicest professional attire and checks her bank account. The money transfer has gone through. She asks Joey to wish her luck and takes a taxi to the law offices of Hartram and Wolf.

The offices are in a twelve-story building downtown. As Brianna gets out of the taxi, she is met by Malcolm Rupert.

“Ms. Karkana,” he says, expressionless.

“Mr. Rupert,” Brianna says, matching his tone.

He motions toward the door. Brianna enters the building and he says, “Welcome to Hartram and Wolf.”

“Thank you,” Brianna, her voice still carefully neutral.

“Allow me to give you the tour.”

There is a very spacious lobby area which leads into an office area with cubicles in which paralegals are working. There is then a large “bullpen” area where lawyers have their offices. Brianna notices that a few of the young “lawyers” are packing heat. She also notices that the entire facility has an awful lot of security for a simple law firm.

Brianna is taken to a records room, run by an Esmerelda Ramos. Brianna very much gets the impression that Ramos is polite, but that she is a petty tyrant of the records room. She also notices, amongst the records, a number of occult titles in the books.

Out on the floor, she is introduced to a few people. Among them is Moses Grant, an older African-American gentleman who is very calm, cool, collected, and “far too old for this shit.” He informs her that he is 5 months, 3 weeks, and 2 days from retirement—not that he’s counting. She is also introduced to a young man named Calvin Cooley, kind of an All-American looking guy, very friendly and open. Next there is Lydia Smith; she seems a little twitchy.

Rupert takes her to a gym in the basement area of the building. Brianna is impressed with the workout equipment provided. There is also a gun range available for use. He informs her that the twelfth floor is “off-limits to people of our pay grade.”

While down in the gym, which seems to be a secure area to have a private conversation, he informs her that most of the people upstairs are operatives.

“Well, I figure not a lot of lawyers are packing heat,” Brianna says drily.

“Good eye,” Rupert says.

Brianna just looks at him.

“They’re trained in law. They handle a lot of cases. But they are also operatives.” He pauses slightly. “So, you’re here to figure out our mole problem.”

“Yes,” Brianna says. “Your boss thinks I can help.”

“What are you going to do when you find him?” Rupert asks.

“I’ve been told to give him to you,” Brianna says pointedly.

“Hmm.”

The two stare at each other for a moment. Finally, Rupert breaks the silence. “So where are you going to start?”

“I need information. I only have a very vague picture of what’s going on. I only know that people are disappearing and turning up dead. That’s not enough to turn up anything.”

“There’s been two,” Rupert confirms. “Both appear to be killed by the waterfront by the Willamette.”

“Cause of death?”

“They were beaten and choked to death and thrown into the river,” Rupert says.

“Is there something about their death that makes Mr. Smith think that there’s a mysterious faction afoot?” Brianna asks. “That this is not some particularly ill-timed unfortunate event? Why were they down at the waterfront? Do we know?”

“We don’t. But it is awfully coincidental that two Venatori from this office…” Rupert begins.

Brianna nods, “You don’t believe in coincidences. Do you have names?”

“John McGee and Julie Dunn,” Rupert says.

“Any commonalities besides that they worked here?” Brianna asks. “Were they involved in the same things?”

Rupert shakes his head.

“Both agents?” Brianna asks.

Rupert nods.

“Both working on something?”

“Presumably,” Rupert says.

Brianna cocks her head. “I’m trying to get a sense of how this works. Everyone gets their orders from upstairs and nobody really knows what the others are doing then?”

“No,” Rupert says.

“Well, that makes it tricky to figure out, doesn’t it?” Brianna says, exasperated. “Were these deaths within the past week?”

“Two weeks,” Rupert says.

“Spaced out?” Brianna asks.

“Yes.”

“Are their deaths widely known?”

“Within the organization?” Rupert asks.

“Are people worried?” Brianna clarifies.

“There’s talk, but it’s also a dangerous organization.”

“I suppose so,” Brianna says, skeptically.

She continues. “As I’m poking around and trying to find out who’s doing this, where can I go? What kind of access do I actually have? I’m not a huge computer researcher, so I’m not sure what good that’s going to do me.”

“I’m not sure what you are asking,” Rupert says.

“I’m not going to go to the 12th floor, I know that, but there are a lot of other floors, other people to talk to. There are a lot of occult books in your records room.”

“You’ll have some access to the records room as a recruit,” Rupert says. “You have what access Esmerelda will give you.”

“I’m not part of this organization. I don’t have a sense of what I should be doing that wouldn’t look weird or have other people questioning what I’m up to. What do recruits usually do here?” Brianna asks.

“The story is that you are on assignment.”

“Ah,” Brianna says. “Anything else about this story I need to know or is this the kind of story where people won’t ask?”

“Questions are to be referred to me,” Rupert says.

“Fair enough.”

“Don’t use your last name,” Rupert tells her. “People around here will know what it means. So what are you going to use?”

“Daniels,” Brianna answers promptly.

“Did the bodies get sent to the morgue or are the bodies here?” Brianna changes the topic.

“At this point, the bodies are probably on the 12th floor,” Rupert says.

“Alright.”

“However, the autopsy report is probably in the records room,” Rupert continues.

“Both of them were killed near the waterfront and thrown into the water. But no one knows how they got there?” Brianna shrugs. “Alright, some places to start. Are you following me around? How do I get in touch with you?”

He hands her a card with a number on it. “I’m sure you have mine,” she tells him with a touch of acid in her voice.

“Unless it’s changed,” he replies.

“I can get a hold of you twenty-four/seven?” Brianna asks.

“Twenty-four/seven,” Rupert confirms.

“I suppose I know where you live,” Brianna throws out.

“I suppose you do,” Rupert’s voice is tight.

“I told Mr. Smith I was going to be professional about this and that is what I intend to do.”

“Good.”

“But it pisses me off when people go after those I set out to protect,” Brianna’s voice raises slightly.

Through clenched teeth, Rupert says, “I was not pleased with this assignment either, vampire. But I, too, will be professional.”

“I think your boss just has a sick sense of humor,” Brianna retorts. She pauses for a moment, getting her anger under control. Then she asks, “Were your people able to get to Charlotte Fleming in time?”

“Yes,” Rupert says, his voice back to careful neutrality.

“Good,” Brianna nods. “I would not wish those Red Court fuckers on anyone. Alright. I’m going to get working, then.”

“Very well,” Rupert says.

The two share a silent elevator ride back upstairs.

“Do I have a desk?” Brianna asks.

“Yes.”

He shows her to her desk out in the “bull pen”. After Rupert leaves, she heads to the records room.

At the records room, she is met at the counter by Esmerelda Ramos. Esmerelda is eyeing Brianna sideways, like she doesn’t know what to think of her. The diminutive woman looks at her over her glasses and asks, cautiously, “What can I do for you?”

“I was hoping to get a couple of reports from you,” Brianna says.

Esmerelda reaches into a drawer and brings up a clipboard and a couple of forms. “Okay, fill these out for me and we can see what we can do.”

“Alright,” Brianna says and takes the forms and begins filling them out, and attempts to chit-chat with Ramos. She also asks questions about the forms, taking care to do them “by the book”.

Ramos looks them over and says, “Very well, we should be able to get these records for you by tomorrow.”

“Is there any way to get them today?” Brianna asks, crestfallen.

“Well…” Ramos wavers.

“This is my first day. I’m trying to make some kind of good impression,” Brianna says.

“I do have a back-up on various retrievals and this one is not a priority,” Ramos begins, but finally she says, “I tell you what, come back later this afternoon. I make no guarantees, but we’ll see.”

“Thank you. I really do appreciate it. Thank you, Ms. Ramos,” Brianna says.

“You’re welcome,” Ramos says.

Brianna returns to her desk and gets on to the internet and starts searching for information on the waterfront of the Willamette.

View
Changes: Part Four
Tabitha White

January 2, 2013 (Wednesday Afternoon)

“You okay, Nick?” Sabrina calls out as she drives. “You don’t look so good.”

“I’ll…I’ll be okay. I’m just tapped out. Gave myself a headache. Need some time to recover,” Nick says.

“What the hell were those guys?” Daymar says.

“I don’t know,” Sabrina says.

Yuriko is upset and shaking. “Those were people like us. People that the Fomor changed into their horrible foot soldiers. You heard them! They are planning to raise some sort of army and go after everyone who signed the Accords. The White Council, the Fae, the Vampire Courts!”

“You win Yuriko, when we get home, I’ll call Gordon. It just feels like trying to put out a fire with gasoline," Dillon says.

Yuriko shakes her head. “I don’t know what else to do. I can try to call Capstone, but I haven’t heard from her since the holidays. This is big if people have been disappearing from Seattle as well.”

January 2, 2013 (Wednesday, 5:30 pm)

Sabrina pulls up to Yuriko’s apartment and lets everyone out. Yuriko collects her baseball bat from the trunk.

Sabrina takes Dillon to the side. “I’m going to tell Tom what happened. I’m probably going to get in trouble for my illegal search, and nothing legally can come of it as a result of that, but he ought to know that trouble may be coming.”

Everyone else heads upstairs where Yuriko makes a pot of hot tea. She hands Nick a cup of tea (and offers him a couple of aspirin). She then gets Daymar settled on a couch and sets a cup in front of him as well. Yuriko curls up in a chair, still clearly shaken from the afternoon events. “Why are they after you, Daymar? How do they even know who you are?”

“I don’t know,” Daymar says. “I guess they found me the same way that mobster found me. Same way you guys found me. They asked around. As far as why, maybe its for what I do.”

“So maybe the Fomor are looking for very specific talents, including Divining. Daymar, are you the only practitioner in town that specializes in that magic?” Yuriko asks.

“I’m the only one I know of that specializes in it,” Daymar says.

“I have no contacts in the Paranet that specialize in it like Daymar does,” Nick says, “Though I do know a lady in Sellwood that has some minor precognition.”

Yuriko frowns. “Not to stir up panic, but maybe you need to get word out through the Paranet, Nick. So people can watch their backs. So we can hear if someone goes missing.”

Nick nods and says “I’ll call Kendria as soon as I leave here and start getting the word out for people to watch their backs. Go out with friends. Use the buddy system for a while until this gets sorted.”

Yuriko offers to try and pass along information to Capstone as well. “I’ll text her and see if she responds.” She continues, “If these guys are going after all members of the supernatural community, it may be hard to get to word out. Some groups aren’t as well connected as others.”

Meanwhile, Dillon has come into the apartment. Yuriko hands him a cup of Earl Grey. He calls Gordon. “Hello Gordo, it’s Dillon. I need some information about a group called the Fomor. What can you tell me?”

Gordon chuckles. “You are either extremely naïve or insanely insolent, mortal. Do you offer nothing in exchange for this information?”

“I believe I am owed a favor. Give me a thorough report including their weaknesses, specifically how to fight them and why they are kidnapping mortal practitioners, and we can call the debt settled,” Dillon says.

“That is quite a lot for a single boon,” Gordon says. “You will have to talk to the Envoy, as it is her boon to give. I will make the arrangements and get back to you.”

Sabrina gets off the phone and comes up to the apartment. She knocks on the door and waits for someone to answer before letting everyone know that she has to go into work. Tom wants to see her and she’s going to run some of these names from the IDs in the database and see what pops. Not sure what can be done with them, but at any rate it’s something she can do.

Dillon says to Sabrina: “Hey, if you get in trouble at work, just say you had to chase us in. As an officer of the law, you are obligated to protect the citizens of Portland. And watch your back, those guys know what we look like. They may decide hitting us individually will make grabbing Daymar easier.”

Back inside, Dillon says to the group, “They may be focusing on ‘Diviners’, in two encounters they completely focused on Daymar and never made a move on Nick, who clearly showed off that he was a practitioner of the arts. So, they’re purposeful, not just grabbing any and every wielder. Maybe we should make a trip to Sellwood and find this, ‘Precog’ lady, give her a heads up and watch her place. She may be a viable target for them.”

Yuriko nods. “I’ll also talk to those I know in the supernatural community that may not be connected to the Paranet. I can see if Aleister will spread the word as well.”

She turns to look at Daymar. “We need to keep you away from those goons. Can you continue to stay at the church with Dillon? Do have another safe place you’d rather be?”

Daymar shrugs. “I’ve got no other place to be, but for how long can we keep this up? I can’t stay at the church forever.”

January 2, 2013 (Wednesday, 6:45 pm)

Dillon, Nick, and Yuriko (Sabrina is still at work) head to the Sellwood neighborhood of Portland. There are lots of really “cute” houses and kitschy business along the main avenue. There are also several eateries and night spots.

On the way, Nick explains that the precog, whose name is Tabitha White, gets brief visions of the future or of somewhere else in the present. However, these visions are coupled with debilitating seizures. She has no control over when the visions come or what she sees. Sometimes they may be important to her—sometimes they can be mundane and useless.

Tabitha lives in an apartment above a record store. Nick leads the way up the stairs at the rear of the store that lead to the apartment. When he gets up to the door, he knocks. The three can hear movement beyond the door and then a door-chain being moved before the door is opened.

“Hi Nick. What’s going on?” Tabitha is an attractive woman of color, her heritage being hard to tell for certain.

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She’s dressed in yoga pants and a tank-top and her hair is up in a ponytail.

“May we come in? It’s pretty important,” Nick says.

She looks at Nick and company a little warily, with a more than a little skepticism, but says, “Yeah, all right.” She steps aside and lets every one come in.

Tabitha’s apartment is small, but neat. One unusual feature is a boxer’s long punching bag dangling from a strong chain in the corner of the unused breakfast nook.

“Have a seat,” she says, indicating the couch. She takes a nearby chair. “What brings you over to Sellwood?”

Nick starts by introducing everyone. “Tabitha, this is Yuriko and this is Dillon. They’re two of my closest friends. We’ve been dealing with some stuff that may affect members of the Paranet, but may also deal specifically with you.”

Tabitha cocks an eyebrow. “Me specifically? I keep to myself, you know that. What are you talking about?”

Yuriko leans forward slightly from her spot on the couch. "I don’t know if you’ve heard the rumors, but there have been some disappearances lately. People from the supernatural community turn up missing, and some weird fish-goons were involved. The reports were originally from Salem and Eugene, but we personally know that they’ve now shown up in Portland as well. They’ve been targeting a friend of ours, someone with a divination talent. We’re concerned that these goons may also be targeting anyone with similar abilities. "

“And naturally you thought of me,” Tabitha says, looking at Nick. “I appreciate the heads-up. Do you know why they want people like me?” she asks the room in general.

“We don’t know yet, it’s just a guess that they are targeting diviners, but we wanted to make contact and give you a heads up just in case," Dillon says.

Yuriko adds, "These goons are controlled by an old race called the Fomor. The Fomor are known to capture and magically alter people to be their slaves. It can’t be for any good reason.

Tabitha nods, “Well, like I said, I appreciate the heads—” Tabitha’s eyes roll back into her head and her muscles lock up. She starts shaking and slumps out of her seat onto the floor. Nick rushes over to her and picks up her head. She’s jerking in his arms. As suddenly as the fit began, it stops and Tabitha takes a deep breath. She looks up at Nick. “Did you say fish-goons? I think they’re on their way…”

Yuriko springs out of her chair. “We’ve got to get you out of here! Do you have a car?”

“I…I have a van. It’s parked in the street,” she says. Tabitha seems a little jittery from her seizure. “I’m not sure we have time. I saw them downstairs.”

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Yuriko speaks urgently, “We need to lock the door and put something heavy in front of it. Those creatures are strong. Tabitha, if you have anything you need to take with you, now’s the time to grab it.”

Tabitha runs into the bathroom and grabs a bottle of medication and shoves it in her pocket. She then runs into the bedroom and grabs her purse. Right about that time, there’s a hard rapping at the front door.

Yuriko runs to the window nearest the fire escape to see if there are any goons waiting outside for them. She sees none.

Dillon asks Nick, “Can we raise a magic circle in front of the door, will that slow them down? If not, let’s start barring the door with furniture!” Dillon makes a mental note to carry spray paint to make magic circles on the fly.

Nick says, “I’m not sure a magic circle will stop them. I think they’re mostly human, after all. But we can try both.” He asks Tabitha for a marker. She gets one out of a drawer in the kitchen and tosses it to him. He draws a circle around door on the wall and calls upon his will. You can feel a slight shifting of energies in the room when he’s done and then you start moving Tabitha’s furniture against the door as more pounding ensues.

Yuriko quietly opens the window by the fire escape and starts gesturing for everyone to sneak out.

As Yuriko makes her way down the fire escape, there is a loud BOOM as the goons try to crash in the front the door. As Tabitha makes her way down the fire escape, there is another loud BOOM as the goons try to breach the door. As Nick makes his way down the fire escape, there is a loud CRASH as the door is opened by goons. Dillon can see that the goons are not slowed by the magic circle scrawled on the door, but are being slowed by the furniture piled up in the entryway.

Dillon turns and shuts the door to the bedroom and locks it and makes his way down the fire escape to the join the others down below. From downstairs, they all hear the CRASH of Tabitha’s bedroom door being smashed open.

Tabitha leads the way to her van. It’s a VW microbus, powder blue. Everyone loads up inside and Tabitha takes off.

“I don’t know where I’m going!” Tabitha calls out.

Dillon suggests Yuriko’s apartment and Yuriko agrees. Directions are given and the microbus flies down the road.

They all arrive at Yuriko’s apartment and manage the shuffling of talismans needed to get Tabitha inside past the ward. Once inside, introductions are made to Daymar and to Hana.

Once everyone gets settled, Tabitha asks, “So now what? I can’t stay here indefinitely. I have a life I need to get back to.”

“I’m hiding at the church. You can come with me, if you want,” Daymar says.

“Hiding is not a plan,” Tabitha says.

“Is so,” Daymar says, a bit petulantly.

Dillon says, “We will lay low until we get more information. These guys are tough, every head on confrontation has ended with us running, they busted through your door, they’re strong. We’re waiting on some…friends…to get back to us, hopefully with details and weaknesses, that’s the best we’ve got so far.”

Yuriko chimes in that she will be contacting both the current and former Wardens so they can help spread the word about the danger for the supernatural community. They may have suggestions as well.

Although there’s not a lot of room, Yuriko also offers her apartment as a temporary place to stay. The wards may help.

“Look, I appreciate all this, I really do. But I’ve got to work. I’ve got a life. I can’t hole up in a stranger’s apartment for who knows how long,” Tabitha shakes her head. “I just don’t know if I can do this.”

Yuriko cocks her head at Tabitha. “If you don’t want to stay here, of course that’s up to you. But you need a safe place to be and that’s not your apartment. Do you have another friend you can stay with? Maybe someone else in the supernatural community who can have your back and help keep you safe?”

Her expression turns grim, “Because we’ve been up close and personal with those creatures. We’ve seen what the Fomor have done to them. It’s awful. There doesn’t appear to be anything left of the people they were before. If they get a hold of you, you won’t have your life anymore. You’ll have what they give you.”

Tabitha’s eyes flash at Yuriko. “I understand that. But I also have a job that isn’t going to go away because I tell them I have fish goons chasing me. I have responsibilities that don’t go away because of this. ‘Lying low’ is all well and good if I didn’t have a life that doesn’t accept the presence of fish goons.” She sighs. “Look, I don’t mean to snap. This is a lot to take in. I’ll stay here, if you’re still offering. But I can’t stay here forever. There’s got to be something to be done.”

Yuriko nods. “We’re trying to do something. None of us want you or Daymar … or anyone else for that matter … getting nabbed by these fish goons. The Fomor are up to no good and we need to find a way to stop them. However, before we can stop them, we need more information.”

She pauses slightly, then continues, “You can certainly still stay here for the time being. As for your job, can you take any time off for now? If the fish goons decide to target you at work, you may be putting other people in danger as well.”

Tabitha shakes her head. “I’m an actress. If I don’t show, I don’t get paid. If I don’t get paid, I lose my apartment.” She sighs. “But I suppose I got a bit tucked away for emergencies. For a little while. Alright. But let’s hope this information you get helps.”

Dillon’s phone rings—it’s Gordon’s number.

Dillon answers. “What’s the good word, Gordo?”

“The Envoy will be holding court at the Elysian Ballroom downtown tomorrow beginning at 8 am. There you may petition her for your boon,” Gordon says. “A bit of free of advice mortal, if you will listen. You will be in a court of Faerie. Your usual flippant manner will not do. Your words will matter.”

“Oh, of course Gordy, I’m only playful when talking to friends. Bye”

Yuriko and Dillon discuss whether or not he wants back on this meeting, as it is not on Accorded Neutral Ground.

“Hmmm, this whole thing is suspicious. Why am I having to petition her for a favor she spent most of a year reminding me she owed? She has also seemed quite annoyed that I haven’t collected. Now I have to ask permission to collect on the debt she owes? The whole thing smells like a set up. I just don’t know for what purpose.”

“I do want back up, but not in the Faerie Room Proper, just in the building or at least close enough to hear me scream. And, everybody pack iron, literally!”

“As far as 8 am, that’s when court starts, not when I’ll arrive. I believe the term is, fashionably late.”

Dillon intends to fill his pockets with iron shavings as a deterrent.

Yuriko does some research on the Elysian Ballroom. Words used to describe the Elysian Ballroom are “Delightful, Glorious, Blissful…”. The Elysian Ballroom is conveniently located on the corner of Southwest 9th and Yamhill streets across from Directors Park. Guests will enjoy convenient parking across the street at the Smart Park and is on the Max line and within blocks of most of downtown Portland’s major Hotels.

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There is a main ballroom, a lounge, and a staging area for the bride and the groom. How the Envoy is utilizing these areas is unknown.

The Elysian Ballroom facility appears to occupy the 5th floor of the building.

The 2nd floor is another ballroom, The Adrianna Hill ballroom. The other floors, I believe are the staging areas for the ballrooms and the offices for the management of the ballrooms.

The group plans for Dillon to arrive at noon and for Nick, Yuriko, and Sabrina to be ready in the nearby parking garage in case there is trouble.

Yuriko texts Warden Capstone “Agents of the Fomor are in Portland, targeting those with divination talents. We think they’re responsible for some recent disappearances. We’re spreading the word for people to watch their backs. The Fomor have a bigger plot in mind.”

Capstone texts back: AM OUT OF THE CITY. FOMOR ARE FORMIDABLE ENEMIES. POWERFUL SORCERERS. GOOD TO SPREAD WORD TO BE SAFE. WILL RETURN AS SOON AS ABLE.

Yuriko plans on visiting Aleister at Powell’s on the following day before heading to the ballroom.

View
Side Job: Shadow's Price (Part One)
The Restless Dead

February 11, 2013 (Monday)

View
Side Job: Kristallnacht (Part Four)
Karkana Chronicles: Twenty

September 16, 2013 (Monday)

Loomis calls Brianna to let her know that he’s finished his investigation of the Baroness and is going to present his findings to the group at Ezekiel’s farmhouse. Brianna says that she and Joey will come up to Seattle to hear him out.

She and Joey make the drive back up to Seattle and meet with the group that evening for a “War Council.” Deandra and Dexter are there as well.

Loomis lays out his findings. He unravels a street map of Seattle on the dining room table. “She travels in a motorcade of three: an Escalade, her limo, and then another Escalade. The limo contains a driver, a woman who I assume to be her, based on my surveillance, two bodyguards…”

“The two observed at the club?” Brianna asks.

“They’re definitely heavy muscle,” Loomis replies. “And another gentleman. He looked familiar, but I couldn’t quite place him.”

“He looked familiar to you?” Brianna asks. “Anyone you’ve seen working around?”

“I couldn’t place him,” Loomis repeats.

“It wasn’t the crazy guy we saw at the Margrave’s was it?” Brianna muses. “The guy we found in the basement? Magic user?”

“If it is, he cleans up real good.”

“Any idea who’s in the Escalades?” Brianna asks.

Loomis shakes his head. “Five people in each,” he says.

“Geez.” Brianna says.

“My guess? Probably members of the Court,” Loomis says.

“She’s not fucking around, is she?” Brianna comments. “That’s a lot of people.”

Loomis traces a finger along the map. “Based on the route, she comes down from Queen Anne, down to Pike. Probably the most vulnerable point is where the entourage turns off of 5th street. There’s a stop light there and that’s the easiest point where the entourage could be separated if enough of a lever was brought to bear.”

“Well, I guess we need to talk about whether we can bring enough leverage to separate her from the rest of the caravan. I don’t think going up against her bodyguards and the contents of two SUVs is going to be an easy task,” Brianna says.

“No,” Loomis agrees.

“Then there’s trying to do that much battle in a public street.”

“If we wanted to do it with the least amount of public reaction, it would be on the way back, closer to dawn,” Loomis says.

“She takes the same route back? Is that what you said?” Brianna asks.

“Yeah.”

“What buildings are around there?” Brianna asks, pointing to the area on the map.

“Some apartment buildings, some businesses. It’s primarily a business district.”

“Newer model Escalades?” Brianna asks.

“Yes,” Loomis confirms.

Brianna looks at Ezekiel. “Could you hex them?”

“Probably.” .

“If we can take out the two Escalades, what are the chances that she tries to make a break with the limo?” Brianna asks the group.

Ezekiel says, “I imagine if we’re doing this closer to dawn, she’s going to want to get to her home as quickly as possible.”

“Right, she’s not going to want to get caught outside. I’m trying to talk out any scenario in which she would voluntarily leave the two Escalades behind. I don’t really see us somehow taking the car over, leaping into it at a stop light and driving away. And if we incapacitate all three vehicles, chances are they would all pile out and we would see a damn big fight.” Brianna asks, “Has there been any more information on her since we last were here? Has she made a move against anyone?”

“No,” Loomis says, “But the Red Court in general has been very active.”

“Well, if that’s where we hit the Escalades, we need to figure out where the best place to encounter the Baroness by herself is,” Brianna says. “Is this the best location for a fight or where their group is the weakest?”

“Where their group is the weakest,” Loomis clarifies. “She’s going to be guarded for a while, so if we can catch her anywhere on the route, one’s as good as another.”

“So then, if one our group uses magic to hex the Escalades, he or she will have to move pretty damn quickly—or they could be left out of the battle,” Brianna says. “Unless they can do some sort of EMP hex from a distance.”

“That’ll also catch her,” Ezekiel says.

“Where do they park when they get to the club?” Brianna asks. “Is it in a controlled area?”

“It’s in a controlled, valet parking area,” Loomis says.

“The only other thing I can think of is planting something on them,” Brianna says.

“It’s not like a bomb,” Ezekiel tells her.

“So, someone is going to get left behind, then,” Brianna says. “Our group is not that big, I hate to split our forces like that when the big fight goes down.”

Deandra says, “I can hex the Escalades with the vampires in them, what you do with the limo with the Baroness inside, I can neither confirm nor deny.”

“Okay. Well, unless anyone has any big objections to that?” Brianna says.

No one objects.

Brianna confirms that Dexter is not bringing any of his pack-mates with him this time around.

“Well, once she gets far enough away from the rest of the group, then we hit her. Ezekiel can hex the limo. Or we do it in an old fashioned way—put cars in her path so she can’t get by,” Brianna thinks for a moment. “Will hexing make you less able to fight later?” she asks Ezekiel.

“It is mentally taxing. If it’s purposeful,” he says.

She asks Loomis if he can get a hold of any of those tire spikes that cops use to make a roadblock. He says that he can probably do that.

“What does everyone think of the plan so far?” Brianna asks.

“Now that you mention it, it probably was that guy from the basement cleaned up real good,” Loomis says, his face scrunched up in thought.

“Well, we know he’s some sort of sorcerous character. Ezekiel, you saw the kind of wards that were up around the Margrave’s place. Can you tell if he’s actually a wizard gone crazy or just some other sort of spellcaster?” Brianna asks.

“It’s hard to say,” Ezekiel says. “If he did the wards, then he’s probably a sorcerer.”

“Well, sorcerer not withstanding, there’s some very powerful people in that car,” Brianna says. “I think we need something to level the playing field a bit.”

“So,” she continues, “We hex the Escalades, and the limo continues down the street until it reaches here,” she indicates a place on the map selected to be a good choke-point, “where it hits the tire spikes. Four people jump out, including two ghouls, a Red Court noble, and, perhaps, a sorcerer. If they are ghouls, is there anything they are more sensitive to than brute force?”

Ezekiel says, “They’re affected by holy water. They’re not very bright.”

“Do we have access to such things?” Brianna shrugs, “I’m not church-going folk myself.”

Ezekiel nods, “I can probably get some.”

“It seems like that might help,” Brianna says. “Anyone have any ideas on how to incapacitate Crazy Wizard or Sorcerer? He just seemed broken last time we saw him.”

Ezekiel says, “As far as taking out the sorcerer, I can concentrate on him.”

“That was going to be my next question, who’s going to get who—assuming we get the luxury of being able to decide,” Brianna says. She volunteers to go after the Baroness.

“Then I have your back,” Joey says.

“It may not be that we get to choose,” Brianna says, “But I want Joey to have a lot of access to holy water, thank you.”

Dexter growls, “Then I’ll take a ghoul.”

“I’ll do the same,” Loomis says.

“I assume you gentlemen will be going in animal form,” Brianna says. Both men nod. “You may have to throw your holy water and then shift. We’ll also need our vehicles stashed somewhere in case things go crappy.”

“We can stash them on a side street,” Loomis says.

“When are we going to do this?” Dexter asks.

“Assuming Loomis can get the tire spikes and Ezekiel can get the holy water, I don’t see any reason to wait. It’s Monday. She does this routine on Friday, Saturday, Sunday, so I don’t think it matters what day. In general, as far as nightlife goes, Sunday may be quieter. It will give her a couple of days of feeling safe,” Brianna says.

“So Sunday then?” Loomis asks.

“Yes,” Brianna says. “Should we come up the night before or just that day?”

“I think everything is pretty straightforward,” Ezekiel says.

“Okay, I’ll come that day,” Brianna says.

The meeting disbands soon thereafter and Brianna and Joey drive back to Portland.

September 22, 2013 (Sunday)

Brianna and Joey head back up to Seattle. Brianna texts Loomis to have Kevlar available for Joey.

Everyone gathers at Ezekiel’s farmhouse. The mood is grim, although Loomis greets Brianna warmly. He has also brought the Kevlar and the tire spikes. Ezekiel has a milk crate with 15 ampules of holy water.

Brianna brings up the fact that Deandra doesn’t have a cell phone, so they need to get the timing right on this “caper” to make it go off without a hitch. So a timetable is worked out.

The ampules are distributed around to everyone who needs them and everyone (except Deandra) loads up into Ezekiel’s panel wagon to head into the city.

Ezekiel parks on a side street near 5th and everyone waits, watching the time, waiting for the appointed hour of attack. Brianna takes the time to stretch and prepare for the fight. A limo is suddenly seen speeding down 5th street. As everyone starts to pile out of the vehicle, Brianna tells Loomis “Good luck,” and gives him a passionate kiss.

With a loud noise, the car hits the tire spikes and is crippled by four blowouts. The car skids to a halt.

Brianna moves in, with Joey close behind with the milk crate. Loomis, Dexter, and Ezekiel move in as well, the two weres on either side of the vehicle.

The driver gets out of the car and reaches into his jacket. Brianna moves forward with blinding speed toward the man. She grabs his hand before it can close on the gun in the shoulder-holster beneath his jacket.

“You get out of here,” Brianna growls at the man, taking his gun.

“But the Mistress…” the man says, plaintively.

“Then you just sit down here and stay out of trouble,” Brianna says. She drags him away from the car. He resists, but cannot put up much resistance against Brianna’s preternatural strength.

“But the Mistress, the Mistress!” he cries as he’s being dragged away.

The two back doors of the limo open and two large individuals emerge. One is a man, the other is a woman, but they are both dressed in identical black slacks and black polo shirts. They shut the doors.

“Vaht do ve have here?” the large man says.

“Exactly what it looks like, asshole” Brianna retorts.

Two vials of holy water fly through the air. One hits the ground near the large man’s feet. The other hits the woman square in the chest. She screams in pain as the water begins to burn her. She transform into a strange hyena/jackal-like creature with long arms and sharp claws and teeth—a ghoul.

Brianna shoves the driver away and offers the gun to Joey, who takes it. She rushes forward to meet the large man.

Brianna goes to touch the large man and feed, but misses. Dexter springs into action, transforming and leaping into the fray, scoring a gaping belly wound on the man. The man takes a swipe at Dexter but misses. The woman takes a swipe at Loomis, but misses. Joey hucks another ampule of holy water at the woman and scores another burning hit. Loomis lumbers in and misses.

Brianna goes into to feed again, connecting with the man and driving him into crazed anger, before killing him. Dexter moves toward the other ghoul and strikes her. The ghoul then turns her attention to Dexter and attacks him, but to no avail—he nimbly jumps out of the way. Joey attempts to unleash more holy water on the ghoul but misses. Loomis misses the ghoul once again.

Brianna goes to the limo and attempts to open the door. It is locked. She tries to yank it open using her preternatural strength; it creaks and moans, but she fails. Dexter takes another swipe at the ghoul, but misses. The ghoul then attacks Dexter and opens up his belly. Joey throws more holy water and misses his target. Loomis mauls the ghoul, breaking her jaw.

Up through the sunroof of the limo pops a man in an expensive suit. It’s the sorcerer from beneath the Margrave’s mansion, but with his beard and hair neatly cut. He makes a gesture and suddenly the whole area is engulfed in a whirlwind. Joey and the ghoul are both knocked to the ground. The man laughs maniacally from the top of the car.

Brianna jumps onto the car, grabs the sorcerer, and attempts to pull him from the car, but fails to heave him out of the sunroof. Meanwhile, Dexter attacks and kills the other ghoul with a vicious bite. The sorcerer continues to laugh at Brianna, who’s in his face, and then he says, “Fuego!” A fireball erupts around Brianna and she barely manages to move out of the way. Her eyebrows are singed, but she loses her grip on the sorcerer.

Brianna, angry now, rushes the sorcerer again, grabs him, and tries to haul him out of the car. This time she manages to throw him to the ground. Joey picks himself up off the ground, as does the sorcerer. Ezekiel then emerges from the nearby alley and gestures towards the sorcerer. Suddenly the maniac is bound by bands of air. The spell seems to taken its toll on Ezekiel, however; he sags in fatigue.

Brianna drops off of the car onto the driver’s side and tries the driver’s door—it’s unlocked. She uses the door panel control to unlock the other doors of the car. Dexter approaches Brianna, looking a bit worn. There is a loud CLICK as the locks re-engage from the back seat of the car. The others seem to be waiting for Brianna to make a move.

Brianna hops back up to the top of the car and quickly drops in through the sunroof. As she drops down, a ball of saliva barely misses her as she lands in the seat of the car facing the Baroness. Brianna throws her ampule of holy water and the Baroness dodges it, her motions a blur. It smashes against the interior of the car. The Baroness hisses and Brianna hisses in return. Then the Baroness utters something in Spanish and makes a sweeping motion with her hand. Brianna feels supernatural force blow by her, but she manages to avoid the power. Brianna moves in to try and touch and feed on the Red Court noblewoman, but misses her. Then the Baroness attempts to strike Brianna and misses her. Brianna manages to touch the vampire and begins to feed, driving her into a rage. In her rage, she scratches away her flesh mask and her beastly aspects are now visible.

The newly bestial Baroness claws at Brianna and scratches her deep across the face. Brianna attempts to feed again, but misses touching the Baroness. The Red Court noble then claws Brianna again. Brianna finally connects again with the Baroness and tries to feed, but the Baroness manages to mentally fend her off. The Baroness claws at Brianna again, opening up a serious belly wound on her. Brianna tries to hit the Baroness again and misses her. The Baroness claws at Brianna—but misses. Brianna then tries to hit and feed on the Baroness again—she scores a hit and begins to feed. The Baroness becomes crazed with rage, thrashing about the interior of the car. She misses hitting Brianna by a narrow margin. Brianna grabs a hold of her and feeds again—making the vampire more enraged. The Baroness lashes out at Brianna and misses. Brianna reaches out to touch her again and feeds, but fails to take her out. The Baroness shudders and seems to regain some of her composure and attacks again. She connects with Brianna, opening up a severe bloody wound on her. Brianna goes in to feed again and finally succeeds—killing the Baroness by feeding on her life force. Brianna is able to heal herself to some extent, though she still has major injuries.

When the door to the limo opens, a very battered Brianna falls out. Joey and Loomis rush forward to check on her. “What the hell was going on? Where was everyone else?” she asks, breathlessly. Brianna’s expression twists in a mix of satisfaction and pain as she nods towards the limo and adds, “Got her.”

“Sorry, we couldn’t get in the car,” Joey says.

“How long did that take?”

“Minutes,” Loomis says.

“Ouch,” Brianna moans softly, holding her bloody abdomen as she slowly stands up with help from Loomis and Joey. “So, where do we go from here? We’ve got a dead vampire and we’ve got two dead ghouls. We don’t have a crew to take care of this. Do we throw them in the panel van or what?”

Brianna looks around; apparently the driver has run off. Ezekiel is still holding the sorcerer. Brianna asks Ezekiel if he has anybody that can take care of these bodies.

Loomis goes to the panel wagon to collect his clothes and then gathers up his tire spikes. Brianna starts to blush, just now realizing that he’s been naked all this time.

“Deandra’s going to meet us,” Ezekiel says. “She’s going to turn him over to the White Council as a sorcerer. As far as the rest, the White Council will take care of it.”

“Just walk away?” Brianna asks.

“Just walk away,” Ezekiel confirms.

The holy water that Joey was carrying is still intact despite the whirlwind he was caught up in—the milk crate seemed to protect the ampules. Everyone limps back to the van and heads back to Ezekiel’s farmhouse.

September 23, 2013 (Monday, early morning)

Ezekiel has a first aid kit that Brianna and Dexter can avail themselves of and Brianna takes a shower. By this time, the sun is starting to come up. Dexter leaves to get medical attention and Joey helps Brianna dress her wounds.

“She was a practitioner of some sort. I don’t know if she was a necromancer, but she tried to hit me with some kind of force,” Brianna tells Ezekiel after she joins everyone in the kitchen.

“Then we were lucky you had her confined to the car,” Ezekiel says.

“Yeah,” Brianna agrees. “It didn’t go horribly south.”

“Now we wait and see what happens,” Ezekiel says.

“Just keep us posted,” Brianna says.

Loomis takes Brianna aside and says quietly, “I’m glad you’re alright.”

“Me too.”

“I’m sorry we couldn’t get to you in there.”

“Next time, tell me not to go jumping into a confined space with a crazed vampire. Or not. I probably wouldn’t listen to you anyway,” Brianna smiles wryly. She lays a hand along his cheek. “I’m glad you’re alright. I wasn’t sure how that was going to go.”

“If you do a housewarming party for your new place, let me know,” Brianna says, changing the subject.

“I’m a guy; I don’t do housewarmings,” Loomis says, smiling.

“It was my subtle way of inviting myself to your place at some point,” Brianna grins.

“Ah,” Loomis says. “Alright then.”

Brianna shakes Ezekiel’s hand, gives Loomis a kiss, and she and Joey head back to Portland.

View
Side Job: Kristallnacht (Part Three)
Karkana Chronicles: Twenty

August 29, 2013 (Thursday)

When Brianna contacts Loomis in late August, he tells her that Ezekiel is giving “the word” that the plan is going forward. Things will go into motion on August 30. People will be meeting at Ezekiel’s farmhouse. Loomis will bring Kevlar for Joey. Deandra will not be there as she will be performing her distractions.

Brianna and Joey pack up and get ready to drive to Seattle.

August 30, 2013 (Friday)

Brianna and Joey arrive at Ezekiel’s farmhouse outside of Seattle. Dexter is there, as are Ezekiel and Loomis. There is also a very Goth-looking young woman who is introduced as Angelique. She shakes hands with Brianna.

Once everyone is gathered, Ezekiel gives Angelique a jade pendant and tells her to wear it all times. She says, “I know, I know,” as if she’s already had this conversation a thousand times before, but he cuts her off.

“I’m serious. All times.” Ezekiel’s voice is deadly serious.

“Okay,” Angelique says, subdued, and puts it on.

Ezekiel addresses the group, “We’ve gotten more information. The Baroness holds court every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. She travels from her home at sundown, to the club, and then from the club back to home at dusk in her limousine. The other weeknights, she spends at home and has food brought to her from various points in the city.” Brianna looks disgusted at this.

Ezekiel continues, “In order to see through the pendant, I’m going to have to be in a semi-trance state. I can describe what I’m seeing.”

“How close can we be? I know we wanted to be near enough to also be an extraction team,” Brianna asks.

“Well, I have a panel wagon,” Ezekiel says. “So we can all be in it somewhat close. it’s old enough to where I can do a working in it and perhaps it won’t affect it.”

“Good,” Brianna says. “Let’s hope it won’t come to that.”

“Any questions? Last minute details?” Ezekiel asks.

“I don’t think so. Angelique is just going to go in, talk to the Baroness, see what she can see, and then get out, yes?” Brianna asks.

“That’s the plan.”

“And we’re just going to see through her eyes with this necklace? We’re not leaving anything behind?” Brianna clarifies once more.

“Right. Loomis has given her some background information on a possible drug operation so she sounds like she knows what she’s talking about.”

“Do we have a basic layout of this club? If things go to shit and we have to get in there quickly, I want to know where the VIP room is.” .

“We have a basic layout of the public areas, but not the private areas. Angelique will be in the private areas,” Ezekiel says.

“Then you’ll have to describe what you’re seeing when it comes to that,” Brianna tells him.

They load up in an old, 1940s-era panel wagon that Ezekiel has procured, Angelique will follow in her own vehicle. Dexter drives. Painted on the floor of the back of the panel wagon is a magic circle. Joey gets into the Kevlar vest that Loomis brought for him. Brianna is carrying her “veil” potion. Ezekiel raises an eyebrow and Brianna explains that she had it made for another mission and didn’t use it. “I know other magic people besides you, Ezekiel,” she says, playfully.

The convoy goes lurching into the city. Dexter parks the van on one of the side streets and Ezekiel clears everyone from the magic circle. He places a piece of jade at the circle’s center. Dexter gives Brianna clear instructions on how to get to the club from here. Ezekiel sits in the circle and runs his hand over the circle, closing it with an effort of will. Everyone feels the ripple of energy that closes as he does so. Ezekiel places his hand on the jade and begins to murmur to himself; it sounds like a Native American chant.

Ezekiel, still touching the jade, says, “She’s inside. There’s a crowd of people. People are lounging. Dancing. She’s going to the VIP concierge. She’s asking to be let in. She’s gotten on a list. She’s going to the bar to buy a drink. She’s waiting until they come to fetch her.”

No one interrupts Ezekiel as he makes his recitation, then they wait quietly for Ezekiel to report more. It seems like forever, but finally he says, “They’ve come for her.”

“She’s in. I see her. The Baroness. She has two bodyguards. They look large. I bet they’re not human. The Baroness, she has long, brown hair, up, long neck, beautiful. Spanish features. Classically beautiful. I’d recognize her if I saw her again. Angelique is talking. The Baroness is asking questions. Angelique is answering them. The Baroness seems pleased. The Baroness gives her permission to continue her operation and dismisses her. Angelique is making her way out. Everything seems fine.”

Ezekiel frowns suddenly at something no one else can see. “The Baroness stops her. The Baroness asks her who sent her. Angelique says that no one sent her, that she needed to ask her questions. The Baroness says that something is going on, that someone is watching her. Angelique says that she doesn’t know anything about that. That she just came to ask her questions and that she got her answers and that she is fine to leave. The Baroness is raising her hand and says ‘You may go.’ Angelique is making her way out.”

The tension in the panel wagon is palpable.

“Angelique is quickly making her way through the bar. She’s in her car. She’s driving.” Ezekiel lets go of the jade.

“In the end, was Angelique able to fool her? Or did the Baroness not believe her story but let her go anyway?” Brianna asks.

“I believe Angelique was able to talk her into letting her go,” Ezekiel says.

“Well, let’s go back, let’s not be in this alley,” Brianna says.

Dexter starts up the panel wagon and they drive back to Ezekiel’s farmhouse.

As they pull up toward the farmhouse, Brianna notices another car parked in the weeds near the house, partly hidden. Brianna tells Dexter to call and tell Angelique to stay in her car until they get there.

As they pass, the car just sits there. The panel wagon pulls up to the house and Ezekiel volunteers to get Angelique inside. Brianna, Joey, Dexter, and Loomis decide to go check out the car. After a brief discussion involving each of their relative stealth abilities, they agree to let Dexter take point. Loomis and Dexter begin to shuck out of their clothes and Brianna averts her eyes. The men each take on their bear and wolf forms, respectively, then they all start stealthily heading out to the car.

As Brianna approaches the car, she can see that there are two figures in the car watching Ezekiel’s house. Neither figure looks familiar. She also does not see Loomis or Dexter.

Brianna heads up to the driver’s side door and flings it open. She grabs the man inside and pulls him out. “Hey, fucker. This is private property. Mind telling me what you’re doing here?” she says as she pushes him against the side of the car.

“We’re just lookin’!” he protests.

Brianna thumps him up against the car, hard.

“I don’t think that was quite the correct answer. Let’s try that again,” Brianna says.

The guy in the passenger seat gets out of the car. Brianna snarls at him. “Don’t you get any bright ideas.” He backs off.

Loomis, in bear form, comes bounding out of the shadows, swiping at the guy from passenger seat, but misses him. Both figures from the car are clearly moving at preternatural speed.

“Look, you’ve made my friend angry. If he’s angry, he might eat your fucking head. Who sent you? Why are you looking at this house? Tell me!” Brianna demands.

“The Baroness sent us to watch the girl!” the man stammers.

“What girl?” Brianna says.

“The drug dealer,” the man says. “See where she went.”

Brianna starts patting the man down for a wallet. She finds one and discovers an ID. “Hello, Allen. And where are you going to tell the Baroness that the girl went? Think carefully, I now have your home address.”

“You don’t have nothing on her,” Allen says.

“You’d be surprised,” Brianna says. Loomis has been holding the other man at bay. Brianna walks over to the other man and collects his ID. His name is Titus.

“What, exactly, is the Baroness to you?” Brianna asks them.

“She is our mistress,” Allen says.

“Are you just her lackeys? Does she send you to do her dirty work?” Brianna asks.

The two men say nothing.

“Now, the question is what to do with the two of you,” Brianna muses out loud.

Suddenly, bounding out of the shadows, is Dexter Quinn in wolf form. He bites Allen, who vamps out as his flesh mask is torn away.

Brianna punches Allen in the stomach, bruising him. Dexter bites again, but misses. Titus claws at Dexter, scoring a hit. Loomis attacks Titus, scoring a hit. Joey misses Allen.

Brianna hits Allen again. Dexter bites again, scoring a hit. Allen misses Dexter and Titus misses Loomis. Joey manages to hit Allen, but scores no damage. Loomis misses Titus.

Brianna grabs a hold of Allen and begins to feed. The Red Court vampire becomes enraged and starts thrashing about in Brianna’s grip. Dexter bites Titus and opens an artery. Titus attacks and hits Loomis, who isn’t doing well. Allen manages to break Brianna’s grip on him and attacks Dexter. Joey attacks and misses. Loomis attacks and misses.

Brianna reaches out and touches Allen and feeds again. She pours all she has into her feeding and manages to break him mentally and kills him. Dexter attacks Titus and misses. Titus attacks Loomis and misses. Joey attacks Titus and misses. Loomis attacks Titus and hits.

Brianna moves to Titus and hits him with the intent to feed. She scores a hit, snarls and begins feeding. The vampire begins to go berserk with rage. Dexter attacks and misses. Titus, still berserk, attacks Brianna and claws her mightily. Joey attacks and misses. Loomis attacks and hits hard, finally taking the vampire out.

Brianna and Joey stand there panting as Dexter and Loomis spit out vampire flesh.

“Well, I guess the Baroness will know something is up when her goons don’t come back, but at least she can’t point the finger at Ezekiel,” Brianna says. “We have a car and bodies that will probably dissipate upon sunlight. I guess we can head back and decide what to do with them.”

Brianna tosses the vampire bodies into the trunk of the car. Then they head back to the farmhouse. Once there, Loomis and Dexter shift back into human form and get back into their clothes. Brianna reports to Ezekiel what happened.

“Well, it’s a good news, bad news situation. The bad news is they were the Baroness’, sent to follow Angelique to see where she went. The good news is they won’t be reporting back.”

Ezekiel raises his eyebrows at that pronouncement.

Dexter says, “I made an executive decision.”

Brianna just shrugs. “The Baroness was going to be suspicious either way. This way she’s suspicious but doesn’t know where they went,” Brianna adds, “I have a set of keys and two driver’s licenses I don’t want to keep forever, so we need to figure out what to do from here. If we’re going to do something with the car and the bodies, doing something more quickly than not would be good. I don’t know where you have your magical ‘dispose of Red Court bodies’ pile. Who you call when you have Red Court lying around.”

“The White Council sometimes has teams that take care of these things,” Ezekiel says.

“Do you have a team? Is this something that you can get worked out tonight?” Brianna asks.

“This is something I can get worked out,” Ezekiel says. Brianna gives him the keys and the IDs.

“So, she clearly was suspicious, but not enough to stop Angelique. She wanted to follow Angelique home,” Brianna comments.

Brianna discusses the possibility of Ezekiel and Angelique putting their impressions together to come up with a sketch of the Baroness as they are the only two to have seen her.

Ezekiel speculates that the Baroness has probably employed ghouls as her bodyguards.

Brianna and Ezekiel both agree that they still don’t have enough information for a “War Council.” They want to bring in the Warden for it and will also need reconnaissance of the Baroness’ grounds. “We probably want to know more going in, or we’ll pay the price for it,” Brianna says.

“Roy did,” Dexter brings up. “But we knew that going in.”

Brianna also wants to know ahead of time if the Baroness is a necromancer. Ezekiel points out that it would be awful hard to find out.

“How much of this do you want to do if you don’t have the backing of the Warden?” Brianna asks Ezekiel.

“We could use her help,” Ezekiel points out.

“True,” Brianna says. “And I have more of a chance of the backing of my House if this is a White Council-approved event. Not that it’s going to dissuade me one way or the other. But it’s nice to know if things don’t go smoothly, I’ll have some support from my family.”

“I’m willing to do this with or without Deandra’s support, but it would be nice to have it,” Ezekiel says.

“Then I guess our next plan of action is to see if she wants to be part of it,” Brianna says. “I don’t if she wants us to go to her with a full-fledged plan, or if we’re going to just sit around the kitchen table and hash something out.”

“I’ll give her a call,” Ezekiel says and heads into another room.

Brianna drags her duffle into the bathroom and gets cleaned up. When she returns, Ezekiel announces that the Warden is on her way.

Brianna turns to Joey and says, “I’ll try not to call her ‘douche-canoe’ to her face.”

“That’s your name for her, not mine,” Joey says.

After a while, a large truck—about the size of a moving van—pulls up to where the Red Court vampires’ car is parked. Ezekiel takes the keys and IDs out to the truck and speaks with the driver. After a short while, the car is loaded up and hauled away.

Soon after that, Deandra Charles arrives.

Deandra comes in and acknowledges everyone. She looks at Joey, then looks at Brianna. “Business partner?” Brianna nods. She introduces herself and shakes the big man’s hand.

“Ezekiel let me know what happened tonight at the club, as well as subsequent events,” she says.

“I take it your evening was also eventful?” Brianna asks.

“There are some Red Court that won’t be reporting back in tonight,” Deandra says.

“Perfect.”

“So, next steps?” Deandra asks.

“We know what she looks like. We know she has two supernaturally huge bodyguards. We know a little about her patterns as far as where she is and when she’s doing it. We know her vehicle of choice. We know the layout of her house. And that’s what we have,” Brianna says. “As far as intelligence, I don’t know how much more we can hope to gather. As far as whether or not she is a necromancer or just has a necromancer in her employ, we won’t know until we make a move. Unless you’ve been able to find out anything differently in the last month.”

“No,” Deandra says. “Although the rumors say that she’s a practitioner.”

“So, at least there’s a pretty good chance that she’s a necromancer. So many shades of not right,” Brianna shakes her head. “I guess the trick is now is to figure out a plan that doesn’t upset the apple cart, so to speak.”

“Whatever plan we come up with is going to upset the apple cart. That’s the point of the fucking plan is to upset the apple cart,” Dexter says with heat. “I don’t understand a plan that’s not going to.”

“I think the whole point was to figure out a solution that was permanent, that’s going to basically going to get her out of the way and out of our hair. The question is whether getting her out of the way causes a power vacuum and something comes in that’s even worse. If it’s going to be ‘Oh, you messed with her, and now we’re going to send something worse after you’,” Brianna retorts, matching his tone. “Otherwise, yes, this is an incredibly simple solution: we go in and kill her. Executing it may be challenging, but again…”

“What can I say, I like direct,” Dexter says.

“Do we have any sense if the Red Court is just determined to keep a presence here in Seattle? Is this just a challenge to them essentially?” Brianna asks.

Deandra answers, “The Red Court is determined to keep as much territory as they possibly can. They certainly don’t wish to lose Seattle. They’ve enjoyed a strong presence here for some time.”

Ezekiel speaks up, “Perhaps we don’t need to be worrying about what’s to come next.”

Deandra asks, “What about the devil you know?”

Ezekiel looks at her, “So you put up with the devil we know? That’s wrong.”

Brianna adds, “If we wanted to put up with the devil we know, we would have let the Margrave live a long time ago.”

“And not doing that is exactly what has gotten Ezekiel into the trouble he is in,” Deandra says.

Brianna looks at the Warden, her eyes narrowing slightly. “And the alternative was exactly what? Leaving him alone to eat on the people of the city? Ezekiel was already busting his ass trying to help people from an out of control Red Court. The Margrave eats one person too many and we’re just supposed to say ‘Oh it’s okay, it’s the devil we know?’ Let’s just let him eat all the people! It’ll be okay! It’ll be fine!” Her voice is caustic.

“No. I suppose not,” Deandra says. “But that is how the Council is going to see it.”

“Haven’t the Red Court totally broken the Accords anyway? Isn’t that what this war about?” Brianna asks.

“They have,” Deandra says, carefully.

“Well, I can understand not having the manpower to go around and drive them all out, but why does it matter what we did? I guess that’s what I don’t understand. If the Red Court have broken the Accords, and if there’s a war going on between them and the White Council, then why doesn’t the White Council support the actions of those carrying out that war? And doing a much more direct hit than some other people can claim!” Brianna’s voice starts to raise in frustration. “I don’t understand! Do they only want it to be their idea before someone goes out there and does something?”

“It is not the place of a Warden to explain the internal politics of the White Council to an outsider,” Deandra says, coldly.

“Fine.” Brianna spits out the words. “I’m not asking you to explain it. But do you understand why this sounds like crap to me?”

“I can understand,” Deandra replies.

Brianna stares quietly at her for a moment, some of the rising tension easing between the two women. “I guess that’s all the satisfaction I’m going to get. Because this really sounds like crap to me.” Brianna sighs heavily. “I’m still angry on behalf of my friend. That has nothing to do with you. I apologize. Let’s get back to the matter at hand.”

“Let’s,” Deandra says.

“If we make a move, if we take her out, are we on our own again?” Brianna asks. “Are you going to work against us? As a representative of the White Council?”

“No,” Deandra says.

“Okay,” Brianna says. “So then it comes down to a plan.”

Brianna wants confirmation from everyone else that they are for taking out the Baroness. She gets it. She looks at Deandra. “And you?”

Deandra says, “I cannot sanction a hit on a noble of the Red Court. That is not, as they say, in my pay grade.”

“Politics. All right. So you can’t support us, but you won’t interfere, then,” Brianna says.

“I will not interfere,” Deandra says.

“What does that mean exactly? You can’t sanction it, you won’t interfere, does that mean you’re going to help?” Brianna asks.

Deandra just looks at her.

“I guess it just comes down to planning,” Brianna says.

Brianna thinks that going after the car is a more viable option than going after the house. This will involve more surveillance and setting up patterns, which means more waiting. But “we don’t want to lose people like we did on the raid at the Margrave’s.”

Dexter chafes at the idea of waiting longer, but sees the reason behind it. Not going through her stronghold and going through her wards and traps and such. She’s probably more vulnerable on the move.

Loomis is selected to be the one to look into her patterns and investigate the Baroness’ movements and to formulate a plan. The “War Council” will meet again once more information is available.

Brianna and Joey prepare for their long drive back to Portland. They shake hands with the Warden. They say their goodbyes to everyone.

August 31, 2013 (Saturday)

Brianna and Joey arrive back in Portland after a long drive.

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