The Dresden Files: Portland

Side Job: Whiskey in the Jar
Karkana Chronicles Twenty-Five

December 13, 2013 (Friday)

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Side Job: Krampusnacht
Karkana Chronicles Twenty-Four

November 26, 2013 (Tuesday)

Joey’s birthday has come and gone. It was a low-key affair as usual, with Brianna taking him out for drinks and a nice dinner. A few days before Thanksgiving, she calls Loomis.

December 5, 2013 (Thursday)

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Ghoul, Goblin (Part One)
Karkana Chronicles Twenty-Three

November 6, 2013 (Wednesday)

It’s a fight night for Brianna and Joey. He has a very close fight, but manages to pull it off at the end. As the two are heading towards the car, Brianna notices one of the other fighters down an alley. “Sloppy Joe” Soblaski is in an argument with someone. The figure is smaller, but the shadows make it difficult for her to see much detail.

Brianna pauses at the mouth of the alley, taking in the scene. She gets a better a look at the man Soblaski is arguing with. She has seen the man lurking around recently, but she doesn’t know his name. Soblaski is saying “Look, I told ya. I’m loyal to Philo.”

“Look, loyalty is a good thing, but so is money. It’s in your interest to help my boss out. Tomorrow, hit the mat in the second and everybody will be happy.”

“I don’t know. Philo runs a clean fight.”

“I think you’ll find that Philo doesn’t run as clean a fight as you think. I’ll tell you what, what about an extra $500. How about that?”

“Look, I’ll think about it. Just back off.”

“You think about it, but don’t think too long. Tomorrow night.”

The other man continues down the alley, but Soblaski heads in Brianna’s direction. She leans against the wall until he comes walking out. “Everything okay?” she asks.

“Yeah,” he grunts.

“Just heard you arguing. Wanted to make that there’s no trouble.”

“Not unless you want to start anything.”

“No need to start anything,” she replies and lets him move by. Joey and Brianna head home.

November 7, 2013 (Thursday)

Brianna and Joey go to the gym for their daily workout. That night, they head back to the fights. There’s a bit of a hubbub in the air, so Brianna starts asking around. “Sloppy Joey” was found dead at the waterfront early this morning. No one knows a lot of details, but the rumor is he was found dismembered and gutted. Brianna’s able to determine that the body was found near the location of last night’s fights.

Brianna scans the crowd and spots the man she saw arguing with Soblaski. She asks some of the other fighters, but no one can tell her who he is. They just know that the man’s been hanging around recently. Brianna keeps an eye on him during the fights, especially during the match that Soblaski would have fought in. Because she’s keeping such a close eye on him, she’s not able to feed. The man chit chats with those around him and seems to be enjoying himself.

Joey’s match that night is close, but he doesn’t pull it off. Brianna catches sight of the man moving through the crowd. Brianna begins following him and sees him approaching Joey. She changes course and makes a bee-line to Joey. They both arrive at the same time. The man looks between Joey and Brianna. “Oh. Hey. That’s right, you’re the one who has a manager. I forgot about that.”

Brianna raises an eyebrow, “I’m sorry. And you are?”

“Sam. Sam Jones.”

“Is there something we can help you with, Mr. Jones?”

“I’m sure there is.” Brianna just silently stares at him until he continues, “I’d like to talk some business with you in a more private venue.”

“Business?”

“Business.”

Brianna looks sideways at Joey. “Tonight?”

“Preferably.”

“Alright.”

“Is there someplace you would like to discuss business? Do you have an office?”

“No. We can step outside.”

“Excellent.”

The three of them move outside and Sam takes them to a secluded area. Brianna is keeping a cautious eye on the man. As he passes through a lighted area into a shadow, for a split second Brianna could swear his features warped slightly. She notices bat-like ears and a lantern jaw, then his face is back to as before.

Sam’s tone is solicitous as he addresses Brianna and Joey. “My employer has a proposition for you. He’s making it to many of your colleagues to increase their financial holdings, as it were, in exchange for, well, let’s just call it insurance on the results of certain fights.”

“You want to pay me money to fix fights?” she asks bluntly.

“No, I want to pay him money,” Sam points at Joey. “If I have to go through you to do that, then I will. But unless you’re on the mat, I want to pay him.”

“Well, I’m afraid your employer is mistaken in our willingness to take bribes.”

“Is there something blocking the way?”

“We don’t throw fights.” Her tone leaves no room for argument. Sam doesn’t have a quick reply, so Brianna presses on. “What exact interest does your employer have in street fighting?”

“My employer has an interest in making money. This is one of many revenue stream in which he is interested.” Sam rallies again, “Come now, surely you have an interest in making more money than you can earn in these penny-ante fights. I heard that you two were once big time until some bad business got in the way. This is a chance for you to pick up more green like you used to. To keep you in the manner to which you’re accustomed.”

Brianna doesn’t reply. “Something to think about,” Sam offers, “but don’t think too long.”

“This money making deal is only available for a shot time?”

“For a short time.”

Brianna temper, which has been building all along, suddenly flares. Someone is yet again intruding on her feeding area, which pisses her off. She no longer cares about subtlety and steps up into Sam’s personal space, pushing a finger into his chest. “And if my time runs out? Is it something like what just happened to Sloppy Joe? Are you going to have me killed?”

Sam gulps and takes a step back. “Hey, lady, I had nothing to do with that.”

“Strange, that you were arguing with him yesterday and he’s dead this morning. Is that how your employer works?”

“Whoa. Back up. Rewind. I may or may not have been talking to Sloppy Joe yesterday. That is alleged. Your word against mine. But that would not be in the best interest of my employer, now would it?” Sam’s voice takes an edge of its own.

“I don’t know. I guess it depends on how pissed off your employer gets when someone tells him no.”

“My employer can get pretty pissed, but he’s not a psycho.”

Brianna can tell that Sam is rattled, but seems to be telling the truth. “If for some reason my man and I change our minds, who’s your boss? How do we come calling?”

“Me,” Sam replies. “You come talk to me.” He looks at her, “You want to talk to my boss? That’s pretty ballsy. I can talk to him and set up a meeting if you want.”

“Not at this time, but if I enter in a business agreement with someone, I’m dealing directly with whom I’m working for … not the people he sends out to do errands.”

“Well, well, well,” Sam retorts, “If you want to talk to the boss, you’ve got to talk to me.”

“Good to know, Mr. Jones.”

“I guess we’re done here?”

“We’re done.”

“Good enough.” Sam walks away and the two watch him leave.

After he’s gone, Brianna turns to Joey. “Did you notice his features shifting a little there? I don’t think that’s his real face.” Joey didn’t see anything, so Brianna describes what she saw.

Joey thinks about it for a moment. “That could have been a glamour you saw. Maybe he’s fae.”

“Fae?” Brianna repeats. She doesn’t know much about the fae in Portland except for the Wee Folk she’s met. “So, perhaps some sort of supernatural element is trying to disrupt the fights.” This bothers Brianna even more than mortals interfering in her business. She decides to investigate further into Soblaski’s murder. Even if it’s not connected to this Mr. Jones, Brianna has run into other weird elements around the waterfront as of late. Maybe it’s connected somehow to the Fomor.

She and Joey head to the City Morgue. After paying the appropriate bribes, the two are shown to the remains of “Sloppy Joe” Soblaski. As rumored, the body is dismembered and gutted. Both Brianna and Joey can tell that the damage to the body was savage, not surgical in nature. Brianna asks Hollingsworth if the gutting and dismemberment happened post-mortem or while the victim was still alive.

“The poor bastard was probably alive.”

“How was the damage done? By a blade? Sheer force? Teeth?” Hollingsworth just stares at her until she hands him another wad of bills.

“Well, I’ve seen some weird things come through here.”

“I imagine you have. Portland is a weird city.”

He continues, “If I didn’t know any better, I’d say this was a wild animal. The arms and legs were torn off. The other wounds were probably claws and teeth of some sort. I’ll tell you another thing that makes me think an animal did this. The wounds are all meat.”

“Like, where the body was gutted is where a wild animal would eat meat off a creature?”

“Right.”

“This the first body to come through here like this?”

“The first one I’ve seen.”

“I certainly hope you don’t find anymore,” Brianna replies quietly. “Would you be willing to contact me if something else like this comes through?”

“No.” Hollingsworth says bluntly. “That connects me to you and that gets me in trouble.”

She shrugs, nonplussed, “Fair enough.” Brianna asks for specifics on where the body was found since the waterfront is a big area. He looks her up and down for moment, but gives her an address. “Can you tell what size of animal did this?” she asks. “Was it dog sized? Wolf sized? Bear sized?”

“Larger than a dog, probably man-sized or bigger.”

Brianna thanks Hollingsworth for the information, then she and Joey leave. Once in the car, she turns to Joey, “Something larger than a dog that tears off a man’s limbs? Sounds like this is definitely something weird.” He agrees and they head for the address in the waterfront.

November 8, 2013 (early Friday morning)

When they arrive, Brianna parks at the street. They stealthily approach the address on foot. They both spot a bored-looking uniformed policeman out in front of the building which is cordoned off by police tape. Apparently, Soblaski’s body had been found inside.

Suddenly, Joey and Brianna both see a shadowy form emerging from a panel on the roof. The cop doesn’t appear to notice. The figure moves across the roof, then jumps across to the next roof. It’s moving with supernatural quickness. Brianna whispers to Joey, “I’m going to try to keep up with it and see where it goes. Wait here and keep an eye out.” She moves away with a burst of speed.

As Brianna runs along the strip of bank between the buildings and the river, she can get a better look at the creature on the roof. The hunched form and long ape-long arms identify it as a ghoul. She curses under her breath and continues following. It hops down to the ground and suddenly cocks its head, listening. Brianna stops, trying to be as quiet as possible. The ghoul appears not to notice her because suddenly in its place is an attractive, and naked, African-American woman. The woman walks over to a dumpster in a nearby alley and pulls out a plastic container that contains a set of clothes. She begins to dress.

When the woman is finished dressing, she peers out of the alley. Apparently satisfied, she emerges and walks on. Brianna begins silently following again. The woman begins covertly heading towards a riverboat that is unloading its goods into a warehouse. Brianna’s attention is interrupted by a sudden footstep behind her. She spins. Behind her is an attractive African-American man. He has a bit of an angry glint in his eye. “Why are you following my sister?”

“Which one’s your sister?”

“Don’t be coy. I don’t have the patience for it.”

Brianna just crosses her arms and looks at him. “I don’t have to answer to you.”

“Then I’ll assume the worst.” Suddenly before her is another ghoul. He takes a swing at her, but misses.

She returns his punch, but also misses. After another round of missing each other, the ghoul makes contact with Brianna. His claws rend a deep gash in Brianna’s arm. She misses him and he misses her. She can’t seem to hit him, but he manages to claw her again leaving a bloody wound. They miss each other again. Brianna is growing more and more angry, but still can’t hit him. He claws her a third time, leaving a deep stomach wound. Brianna is furious at herself and the situation, but realizes that the situation is bad. Even if she manages to take out this ghoul, which is proving unlikely, she will be in no shape to face his sister.

She runs, but he easily catches up with her. Realizing that she may not be able to simply outrun him, Brianna decides to try a more evasive course of action. She manages to duck into a building and lose him. She remains very still, listening for sounds of pursuit. When she thinks she’s no longer in immediate danger, she pulls out her phone and texts Joey. “It was a ghoul. She had a brother. There’s two of them running around. Don’t move from where you are.”

She quietly slips out of the building and heads back to Joey. Brianna’s Hunger is making her rattled, but she returns without any further incidents. He tells her that nothing happened while she was gone. They go back to the car and she lets him drive. “There’s a pair of them,” she says, “A brother-sister pair. She was heading towards a riverboat when her brother snuck up behind me.” She makes a frustrated noise. “I don’t know what they’re up to, but I think I’ll need some holy water with me if I go up against them again. Thank god it was just him. If she had been involved, it would have been a lot more dicey”

“What do you want to do?”

“I want to be better prepared to go after the monsters that killed someone we worked with. I don’t know why Sloppy Joe was in this neighborhood. He may have been an accidental bystander or maybe something else is going on. However, If they’re staying in this area, there will be a lot more people turning up dead.” It’s too late for Brianna to feed at a bar or a club, so she is still Hungry when they return home to rest.

November 8, 2013 (later that Friday)

Brianna and Joey head downtown to visit Broderick Cartland’s mission house. Brianna hopes he can help them obtain holy water. They exchange greetings and Brianna asks if they can speak privately.

“In fighting the monsters here in Portland, I find myself in need of holy water.”

“Holy water? That’s more of a Catholic thing, but I may be able to help you with that. How much do you need and when?”

“Soonest would be best. If you can get me a gallon, that would be most appreciated. How can I repay you?”

“No payment is necessary, but the mission is always looking for donations.” Brianna nods and hands him a couple hundred dollar bills. He says that he should have the holy water by that evening. A sudden thought strikes Brianna and she asks to look at his occult library for any information on faeries. She doesn’t find anything of interest, Cartland’s library focuses more on demonology, and so they make their goodbyes.

Brianna and Joey head to Powell’s to continue researching. After reading for a while, Brianna thinks that Sam Jones may be a goblin. Goblins are often Wild Fae but also tend to associate with the Winter Court. They are susceptible to Fae weaknesses, like cold iron. Steel rebar, pig iron, and nails will also affect them in a similar fashion.

The two leave Powell’s and purchase several boxes of nails, storing them in the glove compartments of their cars. Brianna then hits the streets, looking for information among the supernatural community. She asks around about any WInter or Wild Fae that are trying to make money in underground human activities, as well information on a brother and sister ghoul pair in the area. This takes most of the day, but Brianna comes up with no leads.

Later that night, Brianna and Joey pick up a gallon jug of holy water from Cartland. They also swing by the store and pick up water balloons and two big plastic storage containers. At the apartment, they fill up the balloons with holy water and place them carefully into the containers which they place in the back seat of Brianna’s car.

Brianna is still rattled from her Hunger, so she wants to go by the fighting pits tonight. On the way, she buys a paper to see if there’s any stories about Sloppy Joe’s death … or the mysterious death of anyone else. There is a story about Soblaski’s death, which is being attributed to a wild animal. Inquiries are ongoing with the local zoological society and other agencies. A small bio describes him as a former dock worker who lived alone. Looking closer, Brianna also notices as small report of a missing dock worker who reported for work, but never returned after his meal break. Brianna swears and tosses the paper aside.

When they arrive at the fights, Brianna places several nails in her pockets before going inside. She also notices Sam Jones at the event and they make eye contact. He winks at her and makes a motion with his hand, mouthing “call me.” “I don’t have your phone number, asshole,” Brianna mutters angrily. Fueled by Hunger and rage, she stalks over to him.

“So?” Sam begins brightly, but Brianna interrupts.

“I just realized that you’ve told me to call you when I’m interested, but I don’t have your number.”

“Very good,” he smiles toothily.

Brianna begins digging in her pockets. “I think I have something to write this down with. Here, can you hold something for a minute?” She holds an object out to him. Sam automatically takes it.

It’s a nail.

Sam yells in pain and drops the nail. His eyes narrow and his voice grows icy. “That wasn’t very nice.”

“Just wanted to see if a theory I had was correct, and it appears that it was,” she replies evenly. She picks the nail off the ground, not taking her eyes off him.

“They said you was a bitch, but I had no idea.”

Brianna leans in close to him and says in a low voice, “Are you a free agent or are you working for the local Court?”

“I have a boss.”

“Yeah?”

“I’ll leave it at that.”

“Heard anything else about me?”

“Think I’m going to spread a few rumors of my own,” he growls. “Do you want that number or not?”

“I do.”

“Good.” He reaches into his jacket and pulls out a card. It’s completely blank except for a phone number. Brianna takes it. “You’re about to get on my bad side,” he says warningly.

“I take my place of business very seriously,” she flatly. “If you ask around, you will find that out. And if you ask certain people, you’ll find out just how seriously I take it.”

Sam turns and leaves, rubbing his hand. Brianna watches him walk away. She decides to go to a dive bar instead to Feed. Afterwards, Brianna and Joey plan how to best track down the ghouls. Now that a second body has been found, she again tries to track down any rumors circulating in the supernatural community. She finds out that the La Croix clan recently cast out a couple of members: a brother and sister. She knows that ghouls can be outcast for several reasons, betraying the clan being the biggest offense, and outcast ghouls can be very dangerous.

Brianna decides to head back to original crime scene to look around again. Perhaps she can find something of interest that she could be used for a tracking spell. They cautiously approach the warehouse. The crime scene tape is still up, but the police officer is gone. Brianna quietly heads closer. The door doesn’t appear to be padlocked. Brianna decides to go back to the car and get water balloons to put in their pockets (making sure to take out the nails first).

Using her jacket to avoid prints, Brianna tries to open the door. It’s locked. She looks around, but doesn’t notice any security cameras on this building. She and Joey walk over the dumpster where the plastic container was hidden. There’s nothing there. Brianna looks around a bit more, but can’t find any evidence. The riverboat is also no longer docked at the warehouse.

Frustrated, Brianna leads the way back to the crime scene. On the back of the warehouse, a fire escape ladder provides roof access. She asks Joey to keep an eye out and climbs up to the roof. She investigates the panel, which has a window looking down onto the ground floor of the building. Peering in, Brianna see two ghoul-like figures conversing far below. A catwalk runs the length of the warehouse and provides access to the panel.

Brianna drops flat to the ground, trying to stay out of sight. She texts Joey. “Holy crap. They’re both inside.”

Joey texts back, “GTFO.”

Brianna tries to quietly move across the roof and back down the ladder. As she’s climbing down, she hears the panel on the roof open. Brianna freezes, trying to be as quiet as possible. She slowly reaches inside her pocket for a water balloon. Suddenly, a ghoulish visage peers over the ladder. Brianna immediately lets go of the ladder and drops the ten feet to the ground. She easily gets to her feet. The ghoul jumps to the ground next to her. It lands a bit harder, but doesn’t seemed phased. Brianna tosses a water balloon at the ghoul, but it splatters harmlessly on the side of the building.

The ghoul moves on her, slashing deep with its claws. Joey throws his water balloon and hits it. The holy water burns the ghoul and it howls in pain. Brianna throws her last balloon and this one makes contact. It screams again, its skin burned where the water hit it. The ghoul attacks Brianna viciously, hamstringing her. Joey successfully hits it with more holy water.

Brianna yells at Joey to run for the car and swings at the ghoul, finally hitting it with all of her might. She feels its jaw crack beneath her fist. The ghoul growls and seems to shake off some of his burns. Joey runs for the car and Brianna follows after him. She doesn’t use her supernatural speed, making sure to stay between him and the ghoul.

The ghoul catches up easily to them as Joey jumps behind the wheel. Brianna flings herself into the back seat and locks the door. The ghoul grabs her car door, but can’t open it. Joey starts the car while Brianna starts pulling out more water balloons. The ghoul suddenly pulls the car door off its hinges with a screech of metal. “I just paid for this car, you asshole!” Brianna yells, adrenaline coursing through her veins. Joey slams his foot on the gas and they take off.

As they pull away, Brianna keeps an eye out behind them. As she watches, the ghoul throws down the car door and head back towards the warehouse. She collapses into the backseat, exhausted and bleeding. “We need to kill that motherfucking pair of ghouls,” she growls. “And driving down the street without a car door is going to get us pulled over for some sort of fucking violation.” They head back to the apartment, sticking to side streets in the hopes of avoiding law enforcement. Once there, they bring the plastic containers of balloons inside.

“We weren’t prepared for that. We need a better plan, because I’m tired of getting the shit beaten out of me.”

November 9, 2013 (Saturday)

Brianna wakes up in a bad mood. She sits in the kitchen, nursing a cup of coffee. While the holy water did work, they’ve wasted about a fourth of their supply She decides to go visit Sydney to see about some magical help.

After exchanging pleasantries, Brianna tells her that a brother and sister pair of ghouls has moved into the waterfront. “They’ve killed at least two people so far. I’ve engaged with the brother twice and haven’t been doing particularly well against him. We’ve even been using holy water, but it hasn’t been enough to tip the balance. Do you have any magical suggestions? Maybe something that would make it harder for us to get hit? We’ll be going back after them. We can’t have two outcast ghouls terrorizing the waterfront. But I’m afraid that if they both come at us at once, we won’t have much of a chance.”

“I could make a potion that would allow you to be hyper-aware of your surroundings and better able to defend yourself.”

“That would be helpful. How long would it last?”

“A short time.”

“Any bit of time will help.” Brianna offers to help pay for the ingredients. Sydney says some things she’ll have to gather on her own, but gives Brianna a list of the remaining items. It may take a day to get all of the ingredients, but Brianna shrugs, “It make take a day to let them settle down a bit. We can go back tomorrow night.”

For most of the day, Brianna helps out Sydney. Joey heads out to buy a set of bullet-proof vests for added protection. By that that night, the potion is finally finished. Brianna thanks her friend and heads to the larger fight club to network and feed. While there, she looks around to see if Mr. Jones is lurking in this crowd. Not to her surprise, she doesn’t see the fae. This fight club has mob connections and she doesn’t expect Jones (or his employer) to stir up those waters.

Afterwards, Brianna and Joey talk in the car about their plans. “We need a better strategy, Joey. Not getting caught flat-footed by those damn ghouls would be a start.” They decide to park in a different spot, then approach the warehouse by stealth. Brianna will fill her pockets with water balloons. Joey will bring the rest in a sturdy handled bag, leaving one hand free to carry his shotgun.

They swing by the apartment to gather everything, put on the bullet proof vests, and head to the waterfront. Brianna is very careful as they approach, leading the way and watching for any lookouts. In one hand, she holds the sports bottle containing Sydney’s potion. Both she and Joey notice a shadowy form lurking in an alley near the warehouse. Brianna quietly moves over to the alley for a better look. It’s the sister. She’s looking around, but doesn’t appear to notice Brianna. The vampire slowly takes a water balloon out of her pocket and then throws it at the ghoul. The woman shrieks as holy water splashes her skin. Suddenly, her human guise is gone and a burned ghoul stands angrily before Brianna.

Brianna moves quickly, chugging the potion and slams a first into the ghoul’s face. The ghoul screams again as her nose breaks.

The ghoul claws at Brianna, but misses. Brianna can feel the potion working as the world around her seems to slow down allowing her to react more quickly.

Joey throws a water balloon, but misses.

Brianna punches her again, then feeds deeply on the ghoul’s rage.

Crazed with anger, the ghoul tries to claw Brianna and misses.

Joey misses with another water balloon. Neither Brianna nor the ghoul manage to hit each other. Another balloon splatters harmlessly nearby, Joey cursing his luck. Another few rounds goes by in the same way.

Joey finally manages to hit the ghoul with holy water, burning her again. Brianna takes advantage, punching the ghoul hard and draining the life from her. As the ghoul drops to the ground, Brianna’s body heals.

Brianna straightens and looks around, wary that the other ghoul has heard the sounds of the fight. It appears that they haven’t been noticed. She and Joey drag the body to the river and dump it in. Brianna throws the balloon fragments and sports bottle after it, then refills her pocket with a new water balloon. The two continue on towards the warehouse. The front door is still locked, so Brianna decides to climb the ladder up to the roof. Joey readies water balloons.

Brianna hears the sound of running feet on the roof. She uses her supernatural speed to move quickly back down the ladder. When Brianna gets to the bottom, she sees the ghoul’s face peer over the edge. She readies a water balloon as he leaps down. She throws it at him and hits.

The ghoul howls in pain, then slices at her with his claws. The bullet proof vest deflects a bit of the damage, but Brianna is still winded with pain.

Joey hurls a water balloon at the ghoul and hits him with holy water.

Brianna misses the ghoul, but he slashes her again, leaving a deep gash.

A water balloon splashes harmlessly nearby. Brianna’s punch misses the ghoul and he misses her in return. She is furious at her inability to hit him.

The ghoul screams again as a water balloon makes contact with him. Brianna takes advantage of his burns and finally punches him. Her eyes are a hard silver as she feeds on his rage.

Joey hits the ghoul again with holy water. Brianna uses the ghoul’s wounds against him, slamming a fist into him again. The ghoul drops to the ground, dead. Brianna kicks him again in the head for good measure.

They toss the body and any other evidence of the fight into the river. Brianna claps Joey on the shoulder, “Good job with the water balloons.”

“No problem.”

The two walk back to the car and drive home.

November 10, 2013 (Sunday)

Brianna stores the rest of the holy water in a container in case it’s ever needed again. She takes out the card that Sam Jones gave her and taps it on the counter thoughtfully. Then she dials the number. After a couple of rings, the line is picked up.

“You’ve got Sam,” a voice says.

“Sam. This is Brianna from the fights.”

“Ah. This is unexpected.”

“I was calling to see if I could meet with your boss.”

“I may be able to arrange that. To what can I say this pertains to, if I can use a double-preposition?” His voice sounds pleased with himself.

Brianna’s voice is crisp. “This pertains to my displeasure at another member in the supernatural community encroaching on my territory.”

“Your territory?”

“My place of business,” she concedes slightly.

“So, let me get this straight. You want me to set up a meeting with my boss so you can give him a dressing down?”

“I’m just hoping we can come to some sort of arrangement which will keep him out of my way.”

There’s a pause on the end of the line, then peals of laughter. “Oh, this should be rich! Oh, this should be good.” Sam manages to finally control himself, although his voice is still amused. “Sure. I’ll talk to him. Should I call you back at this number?”

“This is a good number.”

“Okay.” He hangs up, laughing.

Brianna stares at the phone for a minute, her expression sour, then goes about that day’s business.

A couple hours later, she gets a phone call from Sam. “Yeah. My boss would be interested in meeting with you. There’s a place called Edgefield,”

“I know it,” Brianna interrupts.

“You know it? Great. He’d like to meet there. Is that amenable?”

“It is.”

“Good. How about this evening at the Black Rabbit Pub at 8:00?”

“Very well. My business associate will be there as well.”

“Wait a minute, you didn’t say anything about a business associate?”

“Is there going to be a problem if my man comes with me?”

“You talking about Aragon?”

“Yes.”

“It’s just that you didn’t mention it before. And my boss doesn’t like surprises.”

Brianna’s is matter-of-fact, “Well, I guess you have until 8:00 to let him know.”

Sam’s tone looses a bit of its oily smugness. “You got any other surprises I need to know about?”

“No.”

“Alright then.”

They hang up. That night, Brianna puts on her most professional managerial outfit. Joey also dresses accordingly. “I want you to be an extra set of eyes and ears,” she tells him. “We’ve not had a lot of dealings with the fae. Edgefield is supposed to be a place of neutrality, but I don’t want to get sucker punched.”

At the pub, Brianna sees Sam lurking around the entrance.

“Ah, there you are!”

“Here I am.”

He takes the two to a booth where a man lounges. Sam gestures, “Brianna Karkana, my employer.”

She raises an eyebrow. “No name?”

The man speaks up, “You can call me Hubbard.” Brianna’s not particularly impressed with the young rock star vibe she’s getting off him, but guesses that he’s a lot older than he looks. Brianna has heard Hubbard’s name before in supernatural circles, but not much else. He’s very outside her social circles.

“Very good then. I guess you can call me Brianna.”

“Sam, get us some drinks.” Hubbard speaks in a tone used to commanding those around him. “What are you having?”

“Whiskey.”

“Whiskey for the lady, water for me, whatever this gentleman’s having.” Joey also orders a whiskey.

As they wait, Hubbard idly cleans his nails. “So, Sam tells me that you’re displeased in my interest in boxing.”

“I’m displeased with your interest in where I make my living and my hunting grounds.”

“Your hunting grounds. Hmm. That’s the crux of it, is it?”

“I don’t tend to like surprises and this was a surprise.” Brianna looks at Sam and says, “I now know for a certainty that you had nothing to do with our colleague’s death.”

Sam makes a dismissive sound. “I told you as much.”

“I decided to do some poking around anyway.” She shrugs, “It was a pair of ghouls.”

Hubbard speaks up again, “Last I checked, Philo’s fights were not part of Wraith territory. Are you saying they’re part of Karkana territory?”

“They’re part of my territory.”

“They’re part of your territory,” Hubbard repeats her words, slowly. “And who are you, to have territory.”

Brianna’s eyes flash and she sits up straighter. “You have my name.”

“So, you’re claiming this as your territory.”

“I’m claiming this business as my hunting grounds. It is a mobile location. I’m not claiming territory all over the city. When they move on, I’ve claimed no ground.” She looks at Hubbard directly, “Too many predators in one place is not good.”

He laughs softly. “And how does my business interfere with yours?”

“I’ve been in this line of work for a while, so I know what happens when these businesses start to go south. When they’ve been rigged. When people start taking falls. Word gets out and the whole thing just disintegrates into the wind. It’s one fight here, now, but that’s not going to be it forever. I doubt that your single interest was that one fight. I’m assuming that this is something that you’re going to keep plucking at for quite some time.” She takes a sip of her drink, “It may be small fish to you, but it’s quite important to me.”

“How would it be in my interest to leave?”

“I suppose that’s why we’re having this meeting isn’t it?”

“And I ask again.”

Brianna just looks at him. “I have heard your name in certain circles, but not enough to know what you value. Is it just the money? I would guess not if you’re spending your efforts in a low-class fighting pit.”

“From where I sit, it profits me nothing to leave and, in fact, costs me. So, why should I do so?”

“Well, I was hoping to come to some sort of pleasant arrangement. I hadn’t said anything to Mr. Barcus about what’s been going on. I haven’t gone after your man, besides a bit of unpleasantness about a piece of iron. But that was more to verify his identity than anything.”

“Then you don’t know me then.”

“No, I don’t.”

“I see. I thought you were merely being prudent and showing wisdom. Instead, it was ignorance.” Hubbard shakes his head, “A pleasant arrangement that would be mutually beneficial may or may not be able to be arranged, but I have yet to hear one proposed. But I can assure you that going after my man or other such unpleasantness would not be profitable for you. Not to sound, well, like a capitulant school boy, I have powerful friends whom would not take kindly to such actions.”

Brianna raises an eyebrow at him. Hubbard continues, “Furthermore, I think you would risk drawing the ire of Ms. Patel should you draw the ire of my friends. Things would become very complicated for you, very quickly.”

Brianna can feel herself growing frustrated and angry at this conversation, but tries to keep a reign on her temper and bites back the first words that come to her lips.

“If you have a mutually beneficial solution, I would love to hear it,” Hubbard drawls.

“Is it just the money you’re after than?”

“What I’m after is my own affair.” He pauses, “Brianna, you called this meeting. Surely you have something to propose. Yet you want me to lay all of my cards on the table. That hardly seems fair at all.”

“Well, it certainly seems I needed gather more information before coming into this meeting. You have a bit of the advantage on me as far as your connections go, which you are fully aware of. So as far as me trying to anticipate what you’d value does have me at a loss for words.”

“I have that effect on women.”

Brianna laughs, not particularly kindly. “I imagine you think you do.” Her expression turns serious, ’"I shall spend some seeing what I can find out about you and see what you might be interested in. Then perhaps I will come back."

“Well, in the meantime we’ll each continue to play our little games. I’ll continue to conduct my business and you’ll continue to conduct yours.”

“Very good then.” Brianna’s words are clipped. She stands up and Hubbard rises as well. Brianna nods at both of the men, then she and Joey leave. On the drive home, Brianna mutters darkly under her breath.

November 11, 2013 (Monday)

Brianna starts asking around in the supernatural community about Hubbard. She finds out that he is a pretty powerful Sidhe of the Winter Court in Portland. The Sidhe are the nobility of the fae. He was also involved with the goings on with the murder of a changeling a few months back. Apparently, even Mab herself got involved in the case.

Talking with Regi, Brianna finds out that he’s also heard of Hubbard. He’s in the Winter Court and apparently is kind of pissed that he didn’t become the Winter Envoy, the representative of the Winter Court in Portland. He’s tried to embarrass the current Envoy on several occasions to try and make her lose favor in the eyes of the Queen.

She also makes an appointment to speak with Nerise. After formal greetings are exchanged, Brianna says she’d like information about a particular notable in Portland.

“Oh? Information?”

“Yes. I would much rather owe you a favor than this other person, although I may be unable to get out of that situation entirely.”

Nerise asks who this person is.

“Hubbard of the Sidhe. He’s apparently part of the Winter Court here in Portland”

“I have heard the name. I don’t know a great deal about him. Our paths don’t cross very often.”

“I would imagine not. I have had some information about him, but not at a higher political level. I’m looking more for larger pieces of the puzzle. Things where your political insight may be beneficial.” Brianna shares the information she has so far.

Nerise seems slightly impressed. “You do have some good sources of information. As a Sidhe, he is close to the center of the Court. Being a potential Envoy also means that he is high in the Court, at least in Portland. That he is scheming to dethrone the current Envoy is merely typical among the Winter Court. What would be more interesting would be his tactics. I know a bit of this business involving the changeling. One of my girls was nearly a victim of the killer.”

“Oh? When was this?”

“Last year. Apparently, the killer was caught and there was some implication with the Winter Court. I never got the whole story, but there were some rumblings in the supernatural underground that the Winter Queen got involved.”

“It must have been pretty big matter if she got involved.” Brianna sighs, irritated. “I suppose this is all pointing to the fact that Hubbard is out of my pay grade, so to speak.”

“He would be a formidable foe if you chose to set yourself against him in a toe-to-toe fight,” Nerise agrees. “The political backlash would be equally daunting.”

“He bragged as much. I can’t say that I liked him very much.”

“Members of the Winter Court aren’t known for their bubbling personalities. They can be charming,”

“I think he thinks he’s charming,” Brianna interrupts wryly.

Nerise continues smoothly, “but there is an undercurrent of something darker. Of course, much could be said the same of the Wraiths, could it not?”

“To each their own.” Brianna mutters under her breath, “I hate it when it gets to politics.”

Nerise looks her in the eyes calmly, “If one is going to go about claiming territory, one should get used to politics.”

“I suppose there’s truth in that. And circumstances being what they are, I’ve spread myself thinner than I normally do. I’ve been busier outside of my occupation than in other places I’ve lived. Portland is an interesting city.”

“That it is.” The White Court vampire pauses, then asks, “So, have I been of assistance?”

“You have.”

“Good. Then perhaps you can be of assistance to me some time.”

“I am in your debt,” Brianna agrees.

Nerise nods, then stands. Brianna stands as well and makes her formal goodbyes.

Back at the apartment, Brianna and Joey talk about all of the information gathered. “Why does he care about this business,” she muses, “As much as I’d love to think that it’s just to annoy the crap out of me, I sincerely doubt that’s the case. This is low-level pit fighting. It’s not going to bring in a lot a money. So how is he benefiting from paying people to take a fall?” Neither one of them can come up with a good reason.

November 12, 2013 (Tuesday)

Brianna decides to investigate to see if Hubbard is also interfering with similar businesses, places where illegal betting may be occurring. She also wants to find out where he lives or if he has a physical place of business.

However, she decides to first go to Powell’s and research the Sidhe. She learns that the Sidhe are virtually immortal creatures with powerful magic of their own. They are the nobility of the Faerie Courts. It’s more of a rank than a race, based on ascension of power. LIke all fae, they are susceptible to cold iron. They are bound to tell the truth, although are known to be cagey, and are fond of making deals. Of particular interest to Brianna is the fact that they’re bound to a request given three times.

After leaving Powell’s, Brianna asks around the supernatural community to find out that current Winter Envoy is Abby Miyazaki. She holds court at the Elysian Ballroom, an elegant event venue in downtown Portland. Brianna learns that Hubbard has a spacious home near Forest Park, but is known to hang out at the B-Side Tavern in Burnside. When asking about reasons why he might be getting involved in illegal activities, her contacts think that Hubbard’s interest in the fights is more about the fighters than the money.

She decides to quietly ask among the fighters to see if anyone has already taken Hubbard’s offer. She gets two names: Cool Roy James and Irish Pat McGee. They’ve taken money to throw a few fights.

Brianna mulls over everything she learned today. She still feels like she’s not putting all of the pieces together, but it’s apparent that money will not be a motivation for Hubbard to leave the fighting alone. However, she’s got to come up with a solution. His interference with the fighters will eventually kill the business. Joey says that he’ll back up her decision no matter what.

That night, Brianna heads to the fight match to see if Sam Jones is there. He sees Brianna and waves. She grits her teeth and heads that way.

“Ms. Karkana, to what do I owe this pleasure?”

“When it’s convenient for your boss, I’d like to meet with him again.”

“Oh, really?”

“I have a bit more of a sense of him as a man and I think we can get into a business arrangement.”

“Okay, I’ll contact him and see what I can do.”His expression is incredibly self-satisfied.

Brianna’s temper snaps and she grabs him by the front of the shirt, lifting him off the ground. “I’d advise you to wipe that shit-eating grin off your face. If you learned anything about me, you’ll know that I don’t always do things that are in my best interest. I don’t fucking care who your boss is. If you disrespect me, I’m going to punch you in your fucking face.”

Sam’s eyes appear feline for just a second, then he laughs nervously. “And here I thought we could be friends.”

Brianna drops him. “I sincerely doubt we’re going to be friends.”

“I’ve got your number. I’ll call you.”

“Do that.” Her voice is flat. She stalks off.

Joey and her head back to the apartment. On the way, she brings up the fact that Thanksgiving is in a couple of weeks. They don’t do much for the holiday, but she’d like to invite Loomis this year. Joey is good with the idea. Once at home, she calls Loomis and extends the invitation and he takes her up on it.

November 13, 2013 (Wednesday)

In the morning, Brianna gets a phone call from Sam Jones.

“My employer would be happy to meet with you. Same place as last time?”

“That would be acceptable to me.”

“Good. How about lunch?” They agree to meet at noon.

Brianna and Joey dress nicely and head to the Black Rabbit Pub at Edgefield. Hubbard is already waiting for them. They order lunch, then Brianna gets down to business.

“Thank you for meeting with me.”

“Not a problem. I hope you have more of an agenda than last time”

“Yes, I’ve had a little more time to ask around about you.”

Hubbard nods, “My reputation precedes me then. What have you heard?”

“I have heard you do have powerful friends. It seems that the Queen herself got involved with you recently. Something about the murder of a changeling.”

His voice is dismissive. “Oh, that. That is old news.”

“So she must like you to some degree.”

“The Queen of Air and Darkness likes very few people.”

“Well, she clearly doesn’t like you enough to give you the position of Winter Envoy.” Brianna’s voice is neutral, but she can tell the jab hits home from the glint in Hubbard’s eyes.

“Yes. Well, I’m sure you didn’t invite me here to discuss my resume.”

“No, I just like to have a measure of a man before I enter into a business agreement.”

“What is the nature of the agreement you’re proposing?”

Brianna takes a sip of her drink, then continues. “Well, from what I can gather, you’re interested in fighters.”

“Am I?”

“It’s not the money you’re after. You’re after people who can throw a punch.” Hubbard is silent, so she continues. “So, if you’re after a bit of muscle, I might be able to help in that regard.”

“How so?”

She grins toothily. “I’m no slouch when it comes to fighting.”

Hubbard stares at her through slitted eyes.

“I’ve been a proxy before,” Brianna offers.

“What exactly are you proposing?”

“I would like your business interests to move away from where I feed. To that end, perhaps you have a job where my particular skills would be of use. Is there someone you need fought? I’ve also done bodyguard work. Is there someone you need protected?” She looks directly at the Sidhe. “I’m offering my potential services for you to potentially leave my business alone.”

Hubbard’s gaze meets hers squarely for the first time since she met him. It’s as if he’s finally really seeing her. “That is an interesting proposal.” He pauses, thinking. Brianna quietly eats, watching him. “Your services,” he muses out loud.

“Potentially, yes. Some it will depend on the nature of the work you need done. There’s some things I don’t do.”

“I’ve done some research on you. Your reputation, well, I’m not sure what it is you don’t do.”

“I don’t go against my Court’s interests and I’m not an assassin.”

“Your Court? Or your House?”

Brianna lifts an eyebrow at his words. Hubbard smiles coldly and she returns it. “My House, more specifically.”

“And you’re not an assassin?”

“No. People don’t pay me money to point me in a particular direction. But I am known to go more extensive lengths to protect my friends and what is mine.” She’s showing a lot of teeth.

“Now surely, you don’t mean to propose that a single job would compensate me for giving up all of my interests.”

“No, not necessarily.”

“So what would the duration of these potential services be?”

“Assuming that I was not asked to do something that violated my personal ethics, then I think I would owe you three jobs.”

“What if it was something more subtle?”

Brianna chuckles lightly, “If you’ve done any research on me, you realize I’m not a subtle creature. I don’t think we’re going to get particularly far in our business arrangements if you’re counting on that.”

“No, what I propose is having your services for an amount of time, not an amount of jobs. For instance, if I was going to have you serve as a body guard for someone, how long?”

“Three months.”

“Three months. Three moons to give up my business interests in those fights.” Hubbard muses for a moment, then counters. “I was thinking something more substantial like a year and a day.”

Brianna pauses, thinking. “A year and a day is a long time to be on call. How often would you be expecting to use my services in that time?”

“Whenever something comes up. The world is an unpredictable place.”

“That is entirely true,” she mutters.

“I could house you nearby.”

“We have our own place,” Brianna shakes her head. “We have jobs and we have other commitments that will come up. Are you expecting us to remain idle for a year and a day?”

“I’m expecting you to come when called.”

Brianna can feel herself bristle, but tries not to show her irritation. “For me to agree to such a bargain, there will have be guidelines to the type of work I will accept.”

Hubbard nods. “Name your guidelines.”

“I will not do anything that will go against the interests of my House or my Court, nor the interests of any that I claim as friends or family. Nor do I kill on command.”

“And in return, you come when I call you. You do what you’re told within those guidelines, for a year and a day, and I will withdraw my interest in Philo’s pit fighting. Do we have an agreement?”

Although Brianna doesn’t want to owe Hubbard anything, she has to protect what’s hers. She agrees to his terms and offers her hand.

“Excellent.” Hubbard shakes her hand. “I must say that I’m intrigued. I’ve never had a vampire in my employ before.”

Brianna gets in one last word before she and Joey leave, “Well, I’m not a typical vampire.” They head back to the car, heading for the apartment.

View
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 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 tension 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 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 see things. I bring them up. 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.”

“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. I was upset because you came into that fight drained. You came in not being at full speed. And I could tell it was the same case this morning. I don’t know if it’s just you’re feeling tired, if you’re getting sick, or something else. You. Are. Drained. If you really can’t tell that, with my background and knowing 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. 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.

Hecate_s_Wheel_Strophalos.jpg

She finds that the symbol is called Hecate’s Wheel. It represents the concepts of Maiden, Mother, and Crone. The symbol is sometimes used in Wiccan symbology, although it has its roots in the ancient worship of that Goddess.

Since she can’t find anything else about the symbol, Brianna decides to pay Sydney a visit. After a bit of chit-chat, Brianna asks if Sydney has heard anything further about the turtlenecked goons. Sydney relates there have been some disappearances in the supernatural community and people are on their guard. She also tells Brianna about a new group called the Paranet: a network that tries reach out to others when things go bad, a sort of supernatural neighborhood watch.

Brianna thinks it’s a bit strange, remarking that usually those in the supernatural community don’t want lots of other people knowing about them. She asks Sydney if she’s planning to join.

Sydney shakes her head. “No. They probably wouldn’t have me anyway.”

“Oh. Are they snobbish about who joins their little club?” Brianna’s voice is frosty.

“I’m just not much of a joiner. What is the saying? I wouldn’t want to join any outfit that would have me as a member.”

Brianna says she understands, but is happy to call Sydney a friend. She adds that among certain circles that may not be much of an endorsement either. Changing the topic, Brianna asks if Sydney has heard of anything called Hecate’s Wheel.

“It’s a symbol, usually labyrinth-like, representing the three aspects of the goddess. It’s sometimes used in ritualistic magic and comes from the ancient Greek worship of Hecate. It’s also a symbol of change and motion.”

Brianna interrupts. “But are you aware of particular connotations of the symbol? Is it bad mojo?”

“Well, Hecate was kind of bad mojo. Modern Wiccans use it mostly as a feminist symbol, but for someone in the ‘know,’ it could be used in ritualistic magic to borrow power from Hecate.”

“I don’t remember Hecate being a particularly nice goddess.”

“No. She was originally a kind of mother goddess, but eventually became a goddess of sorcery and magic. She was known to be quite vengeful and not always on the side of the light. It’s possible that ancient worshipers of Hecate were also practitioners.”

“Is there a way to tell if someone has magic on them or has been under the influence of magic?”

Sydney nods. “If someone invoked the Sight. Otherwise, there are spells that could reveal such a thing. It would be difficult for a plain mortal to tell, although sometime they have detected something when their spouses or friends act strange or do things out of character.” Brianna looks uncomfortable at the mention of the Sight and leads the conversation back to other more social topics.

By the time Brianna says goodbye to Sydney, it’s about 10:00 at night. She decides to drive by Angie’s address. The nice little shotgun house is in Sellwood and looks like it is well maintained. Both Joey’s and Angie’s cars are parked out front. Brianna doesn’t linger, but drives home once she takes an initial look around.

October 16, 2013 (Wednesday)

At the gym the next day, Joey’s performance is poor and he seems even more drained than the day before. Brianna also notices some white hairs on his head that weren’t there before.

Joey looks fatigued at the end of the workout. “I think I’m coming down with something.”

“You have white hair,” Brianna says slowly.

“What?” Joey voice is disbelieving and a bit hostile.

Brianna drags him into the bathroom and points him in front of the mirror. Joey just stares at his reflection. “Come on,” Brianna tells him, “Get in the car. We’re going to get you checked out.”

“I’m picking up Angie for lunch. We can do it later.”

“This needs to happen today. If you’re feeling sick, you don’t need to be spreading it do you?”

“I’ll do it later.”

Brianna’s voice gains a slight edge, “Joey. As your manager, let’s do this now.”

“I’ve got to pick up Angie,” he repeats.

Brianna exhales. “Alright. I can come with you to lunch and we can go after then.”

“Are you going to try to start a fight with Angie?”

“No.”

“Okay.” Joey seems slightly mollified.

Brianna and Joey leave the gym and drive downtown to McMenamin’s. Joey gets out of the car to greet Angie and the two of them have a brief conversation. She looks back at Brianna’s car and another conversation ensues. Brianna takes out her cell phone and gives Sydney a call.

“Sydney, are you going to be home today?”

“Well, I had a couple of errands that I was going to run, but I can be home.”

“I may need you to use the Sight on Joey and see if something’s lingering there. Would you be willing to do that for me?”

Sydney sounds a bit puzzled, but agrees.

“I’ll text you when we start to head that way.” Brianna thanks her and hangs up.

Joey helps Angie into her car, then comes around to Brianna’s window and knocks. Brianna rolls down the window.

“Angie says that if I need to go to a doctor, then we should go.”

“Okay, good. You getting in? Or is she coming with us?”

“Where are we going?”

“Well, I figured we’d first start with a basic clinic.”

“Okay, we’ll follow you.”

Brianna heads to the closest minor emergency clinic and gets Joey checked in. While he’s being seen by the doctor, Angie and Brianna sit in the waiting area. Angie’s wearing the same necklace as before.

Eventually Joey comes out with a piece of paper. A band-aid is on his arm from where they obviously took blood. Angie immediately is at Joey’s side, “Are you okay? What did they tell you?”

“Well, the doctor says my white blood cell is up. It could be that I’m fighting off a virus or something. That’s why I’m tired.”

“Do you think that has anything to do with the discoloration of your hair?” Brianna asks pointedly. Angie gives her a slit-eyed sideways glance.

“The doctor didn’t really have much to say about that. That maybe it was caused by me fighting off something, or maybe I just didn’t notice them before.”

“I’d notice,” Brianna remarks.

Angie puts her arm on Joey, “Let’s get you home and in bed.”

Brianna interrupts, “Well, I think we’ll try some holistic stuff first.” Both Joey and Angie look puzzled. Brianna clarifies, “More of the kind in Doctor Mundy’s purview.”

Angie continues to look puzzled, but Joey narrows his eyes. “We talked about this.” His voice is low and angry.

“I know.”

Angie looks between the two of them. “What’s going on?”

“We’re going home, that’s what’s going on,” Joey tells her and the two turn to leave.

Brianna reaches out and puts a hand lightly on his shoulder. “Joey, please. With our history. Please.”

Angie speaks up. “Joey, I think I want to go home now.”

“We’re going,” he replies and they head outside.

Brianna follows them, her anger and frustration at the situation finally getting the better of her. “So, Angie?” she calls out, her voice hard. “So do you actually worship Hecate? Or do you just wear her symbol?”

They both turn. Angie touches the necklace around her neck. “It’s for luck.”

Brianna can tell she’s lying. She’s quickly moves forward, pushing her face close to Angie’s. “Sometimes I can tell when people are lying to me. Not always. But that was a lie.” Brianna’s voice is sharply edged, “So, I will ask you again. Worshiping her much?”

Angie meets Brianna’s gaze, but repeats “Joey, I want to go home.”

Brianna continues to press. “Goddess of magic users, wasn’t she?”

Joey physically pushes himself between the two women,. “We’re leaving. And you promised.” He turns and bustles Angie away from the clinic.

“She didn’t answer the question, Joey. Not really.” Brianna keeps her distance, but follows them to the car. “Magic users in Portland aren’t uncommon.” Joey ignores her and they leave.

Her body shaking with repressed anger, Brianna utters some choice words, then gets back in her own car. She texts Sydney that she’s coming over now. Sydney texts back asking if Joey’s with her. Brianna texts no, that he won’t come. She calls Sydney as she drives, briefly explaining the situation: the weird behavior, the physical symptoms. Brianna periodically slams her hand against the steering wheel for emphasis. “And this bitch won’t keep her hands off him,” she seethes.

Not long after, Brianna arrives at Sydney’s home. Once inside, she tells her friend “Well, that didn’t go well. I don’t know if it’s really this lady doing something to him or if it’s someone else, but he won’t pay attention to it. He’s looking worse every day. Today he had white hair. That doesn’t strike me as something natural.” Brianna asks Sydney if there’s a way to block any spells that Angie may be casting on Joey. “I can physically remove him from the situation, but that’s going to be an ugly, ugly scene. I really don’t want to do that if I can help it”

Sydney replies that she needs to physically be there to counter a spell. Without knowing what Angie’s specifically doing, however, it would be very difficult to do so "If she’s got some sort of mental hold on Joey, it could be very dangerous to him psychically.

“To what?”

“To rip her away.” Sydney pauses, “That’s why mental magic is always forbidden.”

Brianna’s voice is hard. “Well, I’m not going to stand by while she eats my friend or whatever the fuck she’s doing. to him.”

“I just don’t want Joey hurt. We don’t know the source of the magic, or if it even is magic, so I can’t shut it down.

Brianna paces, thinking. “Would you be able to tell if her house had magic on it to keep people out?”

“Yes.”

“I know where she lives.” Brianna asks Sydney to come with her to take a look. The young woman agrees and they drive out to Sellwood together. When they arrive, Brianna spots Joey’s car, but not Angie’s. Brianna points out the house to Sydney, making sure to stand behind her when she uses the Sight to look for magical energies. Sydney confirms that there are wards on the doors and windows. “Not a magic user, my big fat vampire ass,” Brianna mutters darkly.

“Can you tell anything about the wards in detail?” she asks Sydney.

“I can’t tell if she’s put a land mine on them or not, but they’re set up to prevent people from going through them.”

Brianna quietly moves around the front of the house, looking in windows, trying to see if she can locate Joey. The house appears very quiet and empty. As Brianna investigates, she notices a small door in the living room that she can’t tell where it leaves. She heads back to Sydney and mentions what she’s seen. “Joey should be here. Angie was very clear that she was taking him back home to lie down since he was so sick. I don’t know what’s going on, but I’m going in. I can drop you off someplace else if you don’t want to be around in case something goes wrong.”

“If you need help, I’ll be here. Joey and you have always been around for me.”

The two decide to approach the house from the back, climbing over the privacy fence that encloses a small back yard. Sydney confirms that the door leading into the back of the house is warded. The young woman pulls a small hand mirror out of her bag and holds it up to reflect the door. “I can try to power through the ward,” Sydney says, “but depending on how strong it is, I might be out for the rest of the night.”

“Will it affect just that ward? Or the entire system?”

“Just this one,” Sydney confirms.

“Let’s do it.”

Brianna feels a change in air pressure and hears an electrical pop and fizz by the door. Sydney sways and Brianna reaches out a hand to steady her. “You okay?”

“I have a headache from hell, but it’s busted.”

“Is she strong?” Brianna says, referring to Angie.

“It wasn’t super strong.”

Brianna heads to the back door, but doesn’t see any alarm system. Using her shirt to hide any fingerprints, Brianna tries the back handle. It’s locked. She uses her supernatural strength to force it open. “Ready?”

“Okay.” Sydney looks inside, trying to see if there are any magical traps inside. She can’t tell however. ’There’s a lot of residual magical energy making it hard to See."

“Is that normal? Does your house have a lot of magical energy because of the kinds of things you do?”

“If I was casting a spell, yes, but normally it fades away afterwards.”

“Maybe there’s some sort of magical effect going on besides the wards?

“Possibly.”

Brianna moves through the house, looking around, but heading for the mysterious door she saw earlier. The house looks lived in and she sees evidence that Joey has been staying here. Brianna also notices a rotten smell wafting through the house. She points it out to Sydney who also detects it.

At the door, she asks Sydney to look at it with her Sight. It is warded as well. The young woman concentrates on the door for a moment, then collapses. Brianna catches her before she falls. Sydney is semi-conscious. “Sydney, are you still here with me?”

“Yeah,” her voice is faint, “I’m still here.”

“I don’t know if you can navigate stairs.”

“I feel very woozy,” she admits.

“I’m going to go take a look,” Brianna tells her, “but if I see things I don’t recognize, I may have to bring you downstairs.”

“Okay.”

“If you hear the front door opening or evidence of that bitch coming home, you yell. I’ll get up here pretty damn fast, alright?”

Sydney agrees and Brianna helps her into a sitting position. There’s a light switch inside the doorway, but it pops and explodes when Brianna flips it. Brianna swears and checks her cell phone. It won’t turn on either. She heads to the kitchen looking for candles or a flashlight. She finds candles and grabs a handful. Lighting one, she stuffs the rest in a pocket.

As she returns to the stairs and starts heading down, the rotten smell hits her in the face. It’s getting worse. Brianna swears again and keeps moving. She can feel a slight thrumming in the air, as if the air is a string that is being plucked again and again. Brianna closely watches where she steps, mindful of magical workings.

At the bottom of the stairs, Brianna sees faint light as a glowing magical sigil comes into view. It looks very similar to Angie’s necklace. Moving further in, she discovers another glowing circle on the floor. This one is made up of complex markings and in the very center of it lies Joey’s still form. Brianna looks closely and determines that Joey’s faintly breathing.

The room’s still very dark, so Brianna quickly searches for and locates a candle sconce to place another lit candle into. A bit more of the room comes into light when she does so. The flickering candle illuminates a chair sitting in a corner. A corpse rests in the chair, clearly the source of the foul odor. Brianna fills the sconce with as many candles as it can hold, lights them, then heads upstairs.

“Sydney.” The young woman is rubbing her head, but looks up at Brianna’s voice. “There’s bad shit down there. Joey’s downstairs with some sort of symbol on him. He’s breathing, but she’s got him in something. And there’s a corpse down there.”

“Oh. Wow.”

“I’m going to bring you downstairs to see what you can do, if anything. If you don’t think you have the juice to do something, I’m moving onto calling the Warden or talking to any friends you might know. I need to get Joey out of whatever he’s in. I don’t want to just go in there and blindly grab him because I don’t know if that’s going to hurt him.” Brianna’s voice is calm, but urgent.

“Okay.”

“Hold onto me.” With Brianna’s assistance, Sydney is able to make it down the stairs to take a look at the scene.

“He’s not warded as far as I can see,” Sydney finally says.

“What’s the symbol about then? Can you tell what’s going on?”

“It looks like she’s siphoning something from Joey from this circle into that sigil.”

Before Brianna can really process what Sydney just told her, she hears a board creak from overhead. “Sydney,” she whispers, “She’s here. How much do you have in you right now?”

“Not a lot,” the young woman whispers back, “but I’ll do my best.”

“Do you have any way to contact anyone?”

“No.”

Brianna quietly pulls Sydney over into the shadows. As she does so, the door opens upstairs and footsteps start approaching. Rather than hide, Brianna stands clearly in view of the bottom of the steps, her arms folded in front of her.

Angie descends into the room, sees Brianna, and says “I underestimated you.”

“Well, Ms. Petravos, I thought you were a bitch the first time I met you. I guess I didn’t underestimate you at all. Let. Him. Go.”

“I’m not finished yet.”

“You’re finished.” Brianna says coldly. “Let. Him. Go. Now.” Her voice gains a sharp edge of steel.

Angie cocks an eyebrow at Brianna. “Or?”

“I will end you.” Brianna hisses in return.

Suddenly, standing in front of her is no longer Angie’s pretty form, but that of a grizzled hag. Talon-like claws sprout from her hands. “Somehow, I think not,” she retorts.

“I guess I see why you kept your true self hidden,” Brianna taunts. “You’re fucking ugly. Harder to catch a man that way, isn’t it dear?”

“Oh, I see. You’re going to hurt me with insults. You’re going to end me that way? Sticks and stones do not break my bones, and words do not hurt me.”

“I guess we’ll just have to try something else.” Brianna runs at Angie in a sudden burst of supernatural speed. She punches the hag, using her vampiric power to evoke rage and feed.

Angie rakes at her with her claws, but misses. “Vampire! I did underestimate you.”

Brianna hisses at Angie and punches at her a second time, but misses.

A mystical force slams into Brianna, hurting her, but the vampire only laughs in reply. “You’re mine.” Brianna punches her again.

Angie misses again with her claws and Brianna misses her return punch.

The hag finally makes contact with Brianna, raking her body and leaving a large gash.

Brianna manages to hit her, feeding deeply and leaving Angie crazed with rage.

Angie successfully claws Brianna again. Brianna can feel a dull thrum through the wounds from some sort of poison.

Brianna misses Angie and the hag misses her.

The vampire punches Angie again, again feeding deeply and Angie goes berserk.

Angie misses Brianna, but Brianna doesn’t miss her. With a final punch, Brianna makes contact and feeds on the hag. Angie crumples to the ground, unconscious.

Brianna stands over the hag’s body, breathing heavily, her eyes metallic silver from drawing heavily on her power.

“Sydney, are you alright?”

Sydney is wide-eyed, but replies “yes.”

“Do you have an idea what this is?” Brianna kicks Angie’s body.

The young woman looks between the body and the symbol on the floor, then nods slowly. “Hecate and hag. Worshipers of Hecate are supernatural creatures.” She looks worried, “They usually come in threes.”

“I think we need may need back-up. Sydney, can you undo what’s been done here? Or do we need that bitch to do it?” Brianna points at Angie. “Is it even safe to move Joey?”

“It’s probably safe to move Joey,” Sydney says, “but we’ll need to break at least one of the circles first. The circle he’s in will probably be easier to break.” She adds, “I can’t reverse what’s already been done, but that will stop any lingering connection between the two of them.”

Brianna is still for a few moments, then asks slowly “So, we don’t need her alive.”

Sydney looks between Angie and Brianna, then answers carefully, “We don’t need her to save Joey.”

There’s another pause, then Brianna nods and moves over the circle containing Joey. She scrapes her foot across the lines on the floor. The thrumming in the air shudders, then stops. Joey suddenly gasps, then resumes breathing normally. Brianna kneels down on the ground besides him, “Joey. Wake up.” She turns her head and asks Sydney, “If she had some sort of mental hold on him, could you tell?”

Sydney’s eyes focus on Joey for a moment. “There is some psychic damage there.”

Brianna is uncomfortably aware that Sydney is using the Sight in her direction. The young woman seems to be avoiding her gaze. “Do you just See the damage? Or are there any lingering effects?”

“I think that she has a spell on him which is causing the psychic damage.”

“Can that spell be broken?”

Sydney sighs, “I can try, but I’m not very good at mental magic.”

“Is there someone better we should take him to?”

“Maybe the Warden. She won’t necessarily be better at mental magic because the Council doesn’t practice it. However, they would have people who can, because the Council tries to help people who are under its effects.”

Brianna takes in the scene, thinking. Joey is still unconscious and doesn’t show any sign of waking. Sydney is able to move, but very slowly. The hag’s form is motionless, but for how long, Brianna can’t be sure. “If I take her necklace for evidence, will she be able to track me down with it?”

“It depends on what it is. It could be borrowed power, it could be inherit.”

“And we just don’t know,” Brianna interrupts, shaking her head. “We’ve got to get out of here. She could have sisters coming.” She pauses for a second, musing out loud “She said something about her sister being dead. I wonder if she was lying about that?” She straightens, “It doesn’t matter. My biggest concern is getting Joey out of here. Let’s go.” She picks up Joey and the two women slowly make their way up the stairs. Sydney confirms that there is no longer a ward on the front door, so they leave that way.

Once at the cars, it’s decided that Brianna will drive them all back to Sydney’s place. They will have to leave Joey’s car here, since Sydney’s not good with vehicles. Brianna asks if she can call the Warden from Sydney’s, or if the young woman would rather her go somewhere else first. Brianna doesn’t want to take Joey to their apartment, because Angie knows where it is. Sydney is quiet for a moment, then softly agrees. They quickly swing by a store to get a new battery for Brianna’s phone so she can call the Warden in route. However, Brianna just gets voice mail. She swears softly, but leaves a message. “Ms. Capstone. We’ve met a couple times before. Once with the lycanthropes and once with the young man who was summoning constructs and killing fae. I’d appreciate it if you could give me a call back.” She leaves her number.

Once at Sydney’s, they get Joey comfortably settled and wait. After about an hour, there is still no call from the Warden and Joey wakes up. “What am I doing here?” he asks, confused.

Brianna exhales in relief, “You lucky son-of-a-bitch.” She explains where they found him and what happened.

Joey listens, but shakes his head. “That’s not Angie. She wouldn’t do that.”

“I’m afraid she would. Sydney can tell she’s got a spell on you. There’s something going on with your mind right now.”

“This jealousy business has really pushed you over the deep end.”

“You’re sick,” Brianna replies, her voice tightening, “and you need to stay here. We’ve got a call out to the Warden.”

“I’m going to go find Angie.”

“You are not moving.”

“Are you going to club me over the head again?”

Brianna’s eyes flash, but she says evenly, “I’ve not touched you. You’re not going anywhere until we get this figured out.”

“I’m going to go find Angie,” Joey repeats stubbornly.

Brianna grabs him and they struggle. Brianna isn’t using her supernatural strength and the two are evenly matched. Joey says, “Dammit, Brianna. I don’t want to hit you,”

“Believe me Joey, I don’t want to hit you either.”

“But I’ve got to go find Angie.”

“You are going to wait here until we can get your brain checked out. There’s already one dead person in her basement, and there’s not going to be two.”

“I’ve got to find Angie and let her know what’s going on.”

They continue to grapple, neither one gaining the advantage. Sydney watches, wide-eyed, but Brianna can tell she’s doing something with her hands. Suddenly, Joey’s eyes roll up and he starts to fall. Brianna catches him and lowers him down to the ground.

“Thank you, Sydney,” she says, then gives an exasperated sigh. “I can’t wait on this Warden. Can you help with this spell?”

Sydney shakes her head, “No. That’s mental magic. I’m not very good at at.” Brianna can tell that the young woman isn’t telling the truth.

Brianna pauses and tilts her head slightly. “You’re not good at mental magic? Or you don’t like to do mental magic?” Sydney looks away from her. Brianna doesn’t press any further. “I’m going to try calling some else I know, okay?”

“Okay. I’m sorry.”

Brianna moves to Sydney and gently puts her hand on her shoulder until the two make eye contact. “It’s okay. I appreciate everything you’ve done for me this evening. I wouldn’t have been able to get Joey back, if it weren’t for you.” Brianna steps back and calls Ezekiel.

There’s a bit of feedback on the phone, but the line is picked up. “Hi, Ezekiel. It’s Brianna.” The former Warden sounds surprised to hear from her, but the two exchange pleasant greetings. Brianna continues, “I have a situation and I’m hoping you’ll be able to help.”

“That’s what I do. Help with situations.”

Brianna describes the situation in as few words as possible.

“Well, I don’t know anything about hags.”

“He’s still under her influence and I can’t get in touch with the Warden here. Every time he gains consciousness, he’s trying to go find this girl again.”

“Where is the hag?”

“At her house. I took Joey and ran.”

“Mental magic is dangerous. It’s dangerous to conjure and it’s dangerous to undo. Is that what you’re wanting me to try?”

“Yes. Or recommend someone who can.”

“Nobody I would trust.”

Brianna’s voice raises slightly in frustration. “Well, I can’t get in touch with the Warden here to even ask if she would do it. It’s important that she knows that there’s a hag in town, but I don’t care about the hag. I care about Joey.”

“Okay. I can be there in three hours.”

Brianna says okay and asks Ezekiel to hold on for a second. She puts her hand over the receive and looks at Sydney. “I’m on the phone with the former Warden of Seattle. He’s going to come down and try to help with Joey. Are you comfortable with him coming here? If not, I’ll take Joey to our apartment. It’s got the wards. You can come if you want and help keep watch while Joey’s unconscious.”

“He’s not unconscious, he’s just asleep. If you try to move him, he’ll wake up. You might as well stay here.”

Brianna nods and gives Ezekiel directions. “We’re at a friend’s house. She’s helping incapacitate Joey until we can get help.” After getting off the phone, she and Sydney keep an eye on the sleeping man. While they wait, Brianna quietly tells her a little about Ezekiel.

“You say he’s a former Warden?”

“Yeah. We were all involved in some of the Red Court business that’s gone down in the last couple of months. Apparently, some people thought he was pushing a little too aggressively. Thus, his demotion.”

After a while, Brianna tries to casually ask something that’s been on her mind, “Does everything look the same to people using the Sight?”

“Not exactly the same. It’s always the truth, but sometimes it’s filtered through the mind of the beholder. There may be some nuanced differences, but it’s mostly the same.”

Brianna drops the subject.

Three hours later, there’s a knock on the door. When Sydney opens it, Ezekiel is standing in the doorway. He looks at the young woman. “You must be Brianna’s friend. I’m Ezekiel.” Sydney invites him in and he thanks her.

They take the former Warden to where he can examine Joey. After a moment, Ezekiel comments, “There’s certainly something that’s got a hold on him.”

“Yes, she does,” Brianna agrees.

“Alright, we’ll try to extricate that.”

Brianna starts to pace.

“There’s something you need to know. If this goes wrong, I could destroy his mind.”

Brianna stops, “And the alternative is? That this creature has a hold over him for the rest of his life? Will it fade with time? Or will the psychic damage just continue to sit there?”

“The hold will fade with time, as long as he’s not exposed to her again.”

Brianna drops into a chair, holding her face in her hands.

“I tell you, because this isn’t something you screw around with.”

“I wasn’t inviting you here just to screw around with him.” Her voice is slightly muffled.

“Then you deserve to know the consequences.”

Brianna looks up at Ezekiel. “I need you to be very clear with me on how much a possibility you think this is. If this was an operation, I’d be asking the doctor what his chances were. If you tell me there’s a 75% chance you’re going to fry his brain, then I’m just going to take him to Bermuda for a week and drop him off on an island until it fades.”

“I wouldn’t say 75.% I’d say more like 25%.”

“Oh, for fuck’s sake.” Brianna’s voice is strangled and she drops her head again.

“It’s like removing a leech. You’re going to do some damage when you pull it away. I’m going to try to cut it away very carefully, but something else may be cut along the way. That’s why there are laws against this type of magic. I’m willing to try it because I want to help Joey, but I’m telling you that this is dangerous.”

Brianna is silent for a long, long moment. “Once that spell is gone, is he going to be able to see things clearly? Will he be able to tell what happened?”

“It’s not going to change what happened. He’s going to remember what he felt, but he’s not going to feel that way any more.”

“is there always going to be a vulnerability there if we don’t do anything? If we just let it fade, will the magic go away?”

“The magic will be gone, but a lot of this will depend on how likely you think this thing will come back.”

“I don’t know,” Brianna admits quietly. “I didn’t kill her when I had the chance.” There’s another moment of silence. “Go ahead and do it.”

“Okay.” Ezekiel looks around. “I’m going to have to set up and that will most likely wake him.” He asks Sydney if there’s a place he can set up a circle. She tells him that they can move furniture and he can set it up in the living room as she usually does.

Brianna stands and stretches. “I might as well get ready to hold him again. If he wakes, Joey’s still not going to think anything wrong has happened. He’s not going to sit still.”

Ezekiel asks Sydney if she has any chalk. When she says yes, he nods. “Well, unless you have any objections to me messing up your hardwood floor, I can draw a circle around myself and the couch.” She doesn’t, so Ezekiel bends down and starts etching. When it’s completed, Ezekiel murmurs something and there’s a slight pop in Brianna’s ears as the air pressure changes. “Alright,” Ezekiel says seriously, “No one touch me or talk to me.”

Brianna sits and watches fixedly as the former Warden starts his ritual, her face drawn with anxiety. Ezekiel speaks softly and slowly traces symbols with his thumb on Joey’s forehead. His words almost sound like a Native American chant.

Joey stirs, blinking. “What the hell?”

Ezekiel places a hand on Joey’s chest. “Don’t interrupt me.” He continues the ritual.

Brianna is so still she’s barely breathing. “I’ve got to find Angie,” Joey says.

“If you move, you will die.” Ezekiel’s calm voice speaks once more, then he begins chanting again.

Joey’s voice is tinged with fear, “What are you doing?”

Almost unaware that she is speaking out loud, Brianna begins softly chanting “Don’t move, Joey. Don’t move, Joey.” Over and over she says the words, her voice slowly growing louder and louder and desperate.

Joey’s eyes suddenly roll back. Ezekiel stops his chanting and nods solemnly. To Brianna, time seems to stand still for an impossibly long time. Then Joey’s eyes flutter and he says wearily, “What in the hell is going on?”

Ezekiel smiles, “Just pulling your fat out the fire again, Aragon.”

Brianna begins laughing, albeit a bit hysterically, and slides to the floor. “Ezekiel, you’re the man.”

The former Warden turns to her and says, “He should be fine. There’ll be some scars, but who doesn’t have scars?”

Brianna looks straight at Ezekiel. “I will always be in your debt.” Her tone gives lends gravity to the words.

He nods once in acknowledgement, then turns. “Sydney, do you happen to have any whiskey in here?”

“I have some wine.”

“That will do.” Ezekiel breaks his circle and Brianna moves up to Joey’s side.

“You son of a bitch,” she tells him.

“What the hell is going on?” Joey sounds genuinely confused.

“What do you remember?” she asks gently.

“What do you mean? I remember we were here and we were arguing. I was going to go get Angie and then I’m out. Next thing I know, Ezekiel’s over me telling me that I’m going to die.”

Brianna leads Joey to a corner and quietly gives him the rundown of what’s been going on over the last few days. Joey looks flummoxed. “I wanted to talk to Angie.”

“I don’t know that’s a good idea on the account that she’s a hag.” Brianna gestures at her bloodied shirt from her recent encounter.

“Well, that’s just it. I’m not sure that’s a good idea anymore either. I just know I wanted to.”

“I think that the dead person in her basement may have been the guy she was with before.” Brianna pauses, then asks again “What do you really remember?” She explains the circumstances of how she found Joey.

“Well, we were on the couch,” he pauses awkwardly, “You know.”

“Yeah.”

“Then I was here arguing with you.”

“I think she did some sort of magical sleep on you or you really just passed out. She told me that she wasn’t finished with you yet.”

“I’m not saying that I don’t believe you, but it’s all very confusing.”

“She was doing something to your brain,” Brianna tells him, “and I’ve put myself in Ezekiel’s debt for getting rid of whatever it was.”

“I didn’t ask you to do that.”

“I’d do it again,” Brianna says simply.

“Well, it sounds like we need to go talk to Angie and see if she’s still in her basement.” Joey meets Brianna’s eyes. “And I don’t mean ‘talk,’ in case I wasn’t clear.”

Brianna nods. “I think you’ve got some of your own coming back to you. However, you’re not exactly at your best at the moment. Neither am I.”

“It sounds like neither is she,” he counters.

“That’s true.” Brianna heads over to Ezekiel. “We’re going to head back to the house and make sure everything’s taken care of. I appreciate your help.” Brianna starts gathering things up and Brianna briefly hugs Sydney. “Again, thank you.”

“You’re welcome. I’m just glad the big guy’s okay.”

“Me, too.”

Brianna and Joey leave, first swinging by their apartment so Joey can pick up a shotgun. Brianna explains that Angie may have warded the house again, but it’s still probably best to go in through the back door since she busted the lock. When they pull up to the house, Angie’s car is no longer there. Brianna shakes her head, “She may be long gone by now.” She looks at Joey, “Do you still want to go in? I think it’s important that you see this.” He agrees, but leaves the gun in the car.

Brianna leads the way, but has trouble scaling the back fence. She curses softly, but Joey helps give her a boost. Joey follows her. The door is still hanging open. Brianna moves carefully inside, trying not to touch anything. She moves quickly from room to room, making sure no one is hiding inside. Not touching the handle, she opens the door to the basement and leads the way down. On top of the stench from before, a burned smell is now in the air. Using the light on her phone for illumination, Brianna finds the charred remains of a corpse sitting in the chair. There’s still a little bit of a glow of embers. There are two matching burns on the floor from where the circles were. Brianna takes a few pictures of the scene with her phone. To her, it looks like they were magically ignited to destroy them.

Joey is looking around. “So, you said I was down here and there were circles.”

Brianna agrees and describes the scene she found. “Do you remember any of this? Dead bodies? Lying on the ground?”

“I remember vaguely when I first came here, I commented on the smell. I thought maybe she didn’t take out her garbage or something. She thought that was funny. And then I don’t remember noticing it any more.”

Remembering how it looked like things were missing from the bedroom, Brianna comments that Angie’s probably left town. Joey continues to stare grimly around the room. “You should probably get as much of your stuff as you can,” she adds. They head upstairs and Joey gathers his things while Brianna keeps watch. After he’s done, they drive both cars back to the apartment.

Brianna moves into the kitchen and gets out two glasses and the good bottle of whiskey. She pours doubles for both of them and they drink deeply. “Next time, I guess I will just punch you out earlier in the proceedings.”

“Yeah. Well, good luck trying.” His voice is wry.

Brianna looks at Joey for a long moment, then says “I am truly sorry that this was not what it seemed to be.”

“Well, I’m sorry for being such an asshole.”

She picks her words out carefully. “It made me wonder if I had been doing the same thing to you. With me and Loomis.”

“I don’t think so,” he answers in return.

She sighs and nods, “Okay. It’s been a weird year. Since we’ve hit Portland, things have not necessary gone as planned. Are we still good?”

“I’m good if you’re good.”

She grins crookedly. “You’re going to have to be a lot more of an asshole to get rid of me. You’re my partner. And I think we’re good.”

The two finish their drinks in companionable silence.

View
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.

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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.

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