The Dresden Files: Portland

Side Job: People of the Moon
Karkana Chronicles Twenty-Eight

January 15, 2014

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Side Job: Auld Lang Syne (Part II)
Karkana Chronicles Twenty-Seven
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Side Job: Auld Lang Syne
Karkana Chronicles Twenty-Seven

December 20, 2013 (Friday)

Brianna has been laying low over the last week, only venturing out to go to fight club and retrieve her car. On the day of her birthday party, Loomis drives down from Seattle to pick her up. Joey follows in his vehicle and they all head to Produce Row Cafe, where Brianna has reserved a table for dinner.

Ezekiel arrives in his old farm truck. Sydney shows up in a cute party dress and a small reticule. Even in the daylight, Brianna can detect a faint green glow from her handbag. They are sat in a deep, high-backed booth in a corner of the restaurant. When the coast is clear, Regi crawls out of Sydney’s handbag. “You should keep some gum in here,” he tells the young sorceress, “it would smell better.”

Brianna thanks her friends for coming to her party. Everyone orders food and drinks and Brianna offers whiskey to Regi as a token of her appreciation. “Your gift is accepted!” he tells her happily.

Brianna asks Ezekiel how things are going to the north. “The usual, I suppose, which is all we can ask for.”

Everyone sits and chats, clearly having a good time. One of the wait staff suddenly approaches the table, carrying a white box. “Brianna Karkana?”

“Yes, that’s me.”

“This was left at the front desk for you.”

“Thank you,” Brianna is polite, but doesn’t reach out to take the box. The staff places it on the table and walks away. She looks around the table to see if anyone seems to recognize the box, but everyone looks just curious. She looks at Ezekiel and Sydney. “If this contained something odd would you be able to tell?” They look at each other, but confirm that they don’t sense anything. Brianna turns the box, positioning the lid so that it lifts directly towards her, then slowly opens it an inch or two.

Inside is a white gown with a small card sitting on top. Fuck, Brianna thinks, but fishes out the card. The card is an engraved invitation to the New Year’s Eve ball at Nirvana for Brianna and a “plus one.” A hand-written note at the bottom reads “Happy birthday … Nerise.”

Brianna takes the lid fully off the box and holds up the gown. It is very expensive looking, with a long slit up the side, backless, and sleeveless. “Huh. I guess she didn’t want me wearing red this year,” she remarks. She carefully lays the dress back inside the box and puts the lid back on.

Regi pipes up, “It’s a pretty dress, but there’s not much of it.”

Brianna looks distinctly uncomfortable, “No, there’s not.”

“Is this a good present?”

“I think so. This is from the agent for House Raith here in Portland. She throws a large New Year’s Eve party every year, and this is my invitation to attend. Last year it wasn’t dictated what I was to wear, but apparently this year I have my outfit picked out for me.”

Loomis comments, “It gets my vote.”

Brianna tries to respond, but is flustered and not much comes out.

Ezekiel muses, “A White Court party. That must be interesting.”

“It is.” Brianna shifts awkwardly, “It was. I mostly tried to stay on the peripheral. White Court events are probably exactly what you’re expecting.”

Regi props his elbows up on a salt shaker and asks innocently, “What am I expecting?”

“Well, at the end of the night, that gown probably will be covering more than what most people will be wearing.”

“Hmm, sounds like some Fae parties I know.”

Brianna blinks, then just says “I try to stay in good with my Court here in town, so I’ll be going.”

Joey looks like he’s going to open his mouth for a comment. Brianna shoots him a dark look and he apparently thinks better of it.

Brianna is still a bit disquieted, especially by the fact that Nerise knew where she was going to be this evening (and included a plus one on the invitation), and tries to move the conversation onto other topics.

Eventually, the evening draws to a close. Brianna says goodbye to everyone and thanks them again for coming. Then she and Loomis get in his truck and head to the Sentinel Hotel. As he drives, Brianna mentions that she finds it very interesting that Nerise knew where the dinner was tonight even though she wasn’t invited. She pauses, then adds, “And clearly she has some idea of what’s going on in my personal life, because this is the first year my invitation has had a plus one.”

“Ah.” Loomis nods.

“I guess this is part of the danger of staying in one place for too long.”

“There is that, but the other part is that you build a network of support.”

“I will say that this is the largest birthday party I’ve ever had, so there is something to be said for that. It’s usually just Joey and I.”

“So, why do you think she wants you to know that she has this information? Because I doubt it was a slip up.”

“Oh no, I doubt it as well.” Brianna speaks slowly, thinking, “I just think it has more to do with showing that she knows a lot of what I’ve been up to. A reminder that she knows about anything that goes on in her city.”

“Could be.”

“The fact that she is actually dictating what I wear is a bit troublesome. She does have a lot of power here in Portland, but we’ve had a fairly amicable relationship. I currently owe her a favor, but that’s come and gone before.”

“You owe her a favor?”

“Mmm-hmm.”

“That’s significant.”

“She’s owed me a favor before, I’ve owed her. We pay our debts. To me, this seems to be a more overt message of who’s in charge. She knows what I do, she knows who I see, and she’s going to tell me what to wear.” Brianna smiles thinly. “And I will wear this dress, and I will attend her party.”

“Would you have attended the party without the invitation?”

“I don’t think so. She mailed an invitation to our apartment last year and I attended. It’s a major event for my Court. I would never party crash one of Nerise’s events,” Brianna shrugs, “but I was honestly expecting another invitation. To me, the message is that she knew where I was having my birthday party. Everyone sitting at that table tonight was specifically invited. Unless one of those people told her, which I find incredibly unlikely, she found out through other means.”

“So why does someone make a power play? Why does somebody flex their muscle?”

“Usually when they think someone is becoming a threat.” Brianna shrugs again, “I can’t see that she thinks I’m much of a threat.”

“So if you’re not the threat, who is?”

Brianna makes a “hmm” noise. “Maybe there’s someone new in town, who she thinks is a threat, or maybe it’s someone attending the party.”

“All things to think about.”

“Yeah. I’m just worried that she’s going to get angry if I don’t bring someone with me.”

“If you need a plus one, I’m here.”

Brianna looks at Loomis, “I don’t know. It’s not going to be pleasant.”

“In case you haven’t noticed, I do unpleasant.” His voice is dry.

“I know. I just try to keep as many people as possible away from the Court stuff. My House is fairly up front about things, as you might imagine.”

Loomis makes a sound of agreement.

“House Raith, on the other hand, likes their intrigue and likes it deep.”

For a moment, neither of them say anything. Finally, Loomis speaks up again, “So, are you saying that you don’t think I can handle myself at a party like that?”

“No. That’s not it. It’s something more primal.” She struggles with words for a moment, “I don’t want to share that part of my life with her.”

“So, I guess the question is who are you willing to share that part of your life with?”

His tone is quiet, but serious, and Brianna doesn’t respond for while, clearly deep in thought. Finally, she turns to face him directly. “Shawn Loomis, do you have plans for New Year’s Eve?”

“Well, I’ll have to check my calendar, but I’m pretty sure I’m free.”

“I would like you to be my date,” she says, enunciating her words slightly.

He smiles at her. “I would like that.”

“I’m going to warn you, this party is going to be in a strip club.”

“You always take me to the best parties.”

Brianna throws back her head and laughs, the last bit of tension in the air draining away. “Well, as strip clubs go, it’s a good one. It will be formal attire.”

“I think I still have my high school prom tux.”

She laughs again, “Well, by the end of the night, we may be the only ones wearing our nice outfits.”

They finally arrive at the hotel and get checked in. Brianna has reservations for one of the luxury suites with a terrace view of the city. They pile everything into an elevator and head for the top floor. As the doors slide close, Brianna can feel her nervousness growing. She tries to hide it, but Loomis takes one look at her and asks, “Are you alright?”

“Yeah.”

“I was only kidding about the high school tux bit.”

Brianna laughs, although perhaps a bit too loudly. “Well, good. This will be nothing like prom. Of course, I didn’t go to my prom so I guess really don’t know.”

“Neither did I. I didn’t go to high school.”

“You didn’t have a high school?”

“I didn’t go.”

“Well, I ran away from home my senior year, so I guess we’re both going to be outstanding in our class together.”

“No high school reunion for us.”

“No, although I suspect mine was a bit longer ago than yours.”

They are quiet for a moment, watching the elevator climb floors. “So how …” Loomis breaks off suddenly, “No, you don’t ask a lady that.”

Brianna snorts, “If you think I’m a lady, then you’ve been severely mistaken about our relationship so far.”

“So, how old are you?”

“Yesterday, I turned 53.”

“Wow.”

“If you say something about dating an older woman, I will throw this luggage at you and it will hurt when I do it.”

He laughs. “I was just going to say something about you dating a younger man.”

“If it’s any consolation, the last I dated anyone was in high school, so it’s been a while.”

“Well, you’ve go to take the training wheels off sometime.”

“I agree with that,” she murmurs, almost to herself.

They arrive at their floor and finally enter their suite. It’s very spacious and modern looking. The weather is too cold at night to explore the terrace, but it will most likely be a nice view in the morning. Brianna holds up the white box. “Well, I guess I can go try this on. I’m sure Nerise has my exact size, but it doesn’t hurt to be sure.” She heads for the bathroom and slips into the dress. It’s very slinky and clings to her body in all the appropriate places. At the bottom of the box are a pair of matching stiletto heels, which she puts on as well.

She emerges from the bathroom and does a slow turn in front of Loomis. “So, what do you think? It looks like she got the size right.”

His eyes fix on hers, intense. “It’s breathtaking.”

She smiles at him. “And if anyone gives me trouble at the party, I’ll always be able to take off my shoes and beat them to death with them.” Brianna pauses for a moment, then quietly takes a deep breath and moves to stand right in front of him. “Will you unzip me?”

“Sure.”

Brianna turns around so that her back is to him. He’s so close that she can feel the heat of his body behind her. Loomis reaches out and slowly unzips her dress. Brianna’s heart feels like it’s pounding in her chest. “Thank you,” she manages, then walks quickly back to the bathroom. She shuts the door and leans against it for a minute. Chicken shit, she tells herself, Get it together. She carefully places the dress and shoes back into the box, then puts her clothes back on.

Back in the suite, Loomis is still standing where she left him. Brianna moves in close and places a hand on his shoulder, gazing into his eyes. “I’m very glad you were able to make it this weekend.”

“I wouldn’t have missed it.”

Her voice lowers, “I’m glad I met you.”

“Me, too.”

Brianna slowly leans in and they kiss, softly at first, but then it deepens and grows into something more hungry and intense. It’s not long before Brianna leads Loomis back to the bedroom. They slowly disrobe, never taking their eyes off each other. Then Brianna moves onto the bed, pulling Loomis down with her.

As their bodies move together, Brianna feels the stirring of her demon deep within her. It never awakens fully, but it’s all tightly wrapped up with everything else that she’s feeling: the passion, the love, the insecurity, and the tinge of rage that never leaves her completely.

Later, as they lay naked in each other’s arms, Brianna lightly runs her fingers over the scars on his body. She asks Loomis to tell her about them and he tells her stories of hunting vampires, fights when he was a bear out in the wild. One of them was even from a fight on the Rez.

She makes a small noise, “It must have been a hard life.”

“It was like living in any ghetto.”

“I know about living on the wrong side of the tracks,” she says softly. She takes his hand and uses it to trace her scars, telling him how she got them. When she gets to the huge bite mark on her abdomen, she comments “That one was from a wolf. He was crazy.”

“Was that when you went out of the country?”

“Yep. Got it protecting other people. It was going to be me or him, and I’m the one here. So there you are.”

“Sometimes that’s what it comes down to.”

Brianna is silent for a moment, her hand still entwined with his. “So, this is the first time I’ve been intimate with someone since I turned.”

“Oh,” Loomis says, sounding surprised. “I knew it had been a while, but I didn’t realize it was that.”

“Well, like I said, it’s different for me now in many ways.”

Loomis’s voice is soft. “Thank you.”

She squeezes his hand, “It’s different, because I can still feel it moving when there’s so many other emotions.”

“Feel what moving?”

“The Hunger in me. I didn’t think it would be there for this.”

“It’s part of who you are. It’s why this is so scary and intimate: you lay bare all of it.” He pauses slightly, then adds “I was mentally prepared for the possibility of your hunger stirring, but I trust you.”

“I trust you too,” Brianna says, “I just wanted to say something in case I ever push you away. I don’t want to do that to you.”

“I appreciate that. A fellow could get confused.”

Brianna laughs softly.

“It hasn’t been since the 70s, but it’s been a while for me too.”

“Have you dated anyone since your ex-wife?”

“I’ve dated, but nothing …”

“Intimate?”

“Not really.”

Brianna shifts to lay her head on Loomis’s naked chest. “All of this intimacy necessitates a level of trust that I hadn’t really found before. Joey’s the only one I’ve trusted to have my back and that’s not how it is between the two of us.”

“Well, if it makes you feel any better I do come with my insecurities as well. They don’t come with berserker rage, but I do have them.”

“I wouldn’t say berserker,” she smiles.

Loomis’s voice grows serious for a moment. “Just so you know, when I make light of it, it’s because you have to.”

“There’s really nothing else to be done about it,” Brianna agrees, “It’s how things are. It’s just been a long time. Even when I did have sex in high school, it wasn’t really for the right reasons,”

“It never is.”

“And then it gets all very complicated when the majority of my Court and lives and breathes sex. It gets awkward and then I get angry because I’m awkward, and then it just becomes very confusing.”

“Yeah.” Loomis strokes her arm lightly. “That’s why I’m glad you’re going to let me be there on New Year’s. You’ll have somebody to have your back and make it less confusing.”

Brianna rolls over onto her side and looks at him. “I’m glad you turned out to be a decent person. I didn’t like you very much when I first met you.”

Loomis laughs, turning to face her as well, “That’s because I’m a dick.”

She laughs in return, “Well, I don’t respond well to people pushing my buttons, as you might imagine, and you had my cousin. And were being a dick.”

“Comes with the job. It’s part of the Academy Training: Prick 101. When you graduate you get the cop mustache.”

“Even the women? That must be awkward.”

“It is.”

“Remind me not to come to your Christmas parties.” She pauses for a moment. “I first knew I liked you when we were in that courtroom. When you made the comment about how people like us weren’t used to being hunted like prey. I knew you were someone who gets it.”

“I thought you had nice legs and desperately needed a drink.”

“I desperately needed a lot of things.” Brianna looks at Loomis, her eyes suddenly smoldering as she asks him to slide over and give her a bit more of what she needs. He laughs softly and comes to her.

Over the next few days, they seclude themselves in their hotel room, ordering room service and exploring the new physical aspect of their relationship.

December 22, 2013 (Sunday)

Brianna and Loomis pack their bags and head out of the hotel. He drives her to the apartment and on the way they plan out New Year’s. Loomis will stay the night before heading back to Seattle. Before Brianna gets out of the truck, she leans over and kisses him deeply, then says goodbye.

She carries all of her luggage back into the apartment. She gives a brief greeting to Joey then starts unpacking in her bedroom. As she’s putting things away, Joey yells from the living room, “I hope you nice kids used protection!”

Brianna grins, “You better believe it!” she calls back, “I don’t want a bunch of little White Court vampires running around! That would be insane.”

“Bunch of damn teddy bears with rage issues!”

“No kidding! I don’t want rugrats!” Somehow this conversation is easier for both of them when they’re yelling at each other from across the apartment. “Don’t worry Joey, you’re not going to be a godfather!”

“Wait a minute, that would be cool!”

“No! I’m not having children just you can be their godfather!”

“I’d make them an offer they couldn’t refuse!”

Whatever!” Brianna is laughing now. Eventually, she heads back towards the living room. She tells Joey that Shawn has agreed to be her “plus one” for the New Year’s Eve party.

“Oh, it’s Shawn now,” he drawls.

“Well, once you’ve seen someone naked, Joey, I feel that last names just aren’t appropriate.”

He makes another sarcastic comment and Brianna throws a pillow at him. Then she then goes back to her room to take a nap. She hasn’t gotten much sleep over the last few days. Later that night, she and Joey go out to fight club so she can feed.

December 23, 2013 (Monday)

After Joey and Brianna get home from working out at the gym that morning, Brianna’s phone rings. She recognizes the number. It’s Hubbard. You’ve got to be fucking kidding me, she thinks to herself, but answers. “Yes?”

“How’s tricks?” Hubbard sounds cheerful, which makes her even more suspicious.

“Things are alright.”

“Are you having yourself a merry little Christmas?”

“Not yet, but I will. And yourself?

“Oh, I don’t do the holidays of the White God. But we do celebrate the Solstice.”

“I see.”

“Boy, do we do the Solstice.”

“Isn’t that coming up? It’s around this time of year.”

“Yes, indeed. But we have business. Why don’t you come by the house?”

“I only have a vague idea of where you live. Isn’t it in the Portland Heights area?”

“It is. I’m surprised you don’t have your Baker’s Street Irregulars out looking for me.”

“I figured we’re at a different place in our relationship now. If I need to talk to you, I know how to get in touch.”

“Mmm.” Hubbard makes a noncommittal noise, but then gives her the address of 1017 Southwest Rivington Drive. “I’ll have the eggnog.”

“Let me get cleaned up and I’ll be there.” She hangs up the phone and looks at Joey. “That damn fairy. I’m off to Hubbard’s home.” She gives him the address in case something goes badly. She takes a shower, dresses in her best manager’s outfit, and get into her car. She also makes sure that the box of nails is in her glove compartment before driving off.

The address is for a very sleek, modern, and expensive-looking home. Hubbard himself answers the door. He’s barefoot, in jeans and a button-down shirt that’s open about midway down his chest. “Come on in.”

Brianna enters.

Hubbard leads her into a fashionable living room. She can’t hear anyone else in the house. He gestures to a couch that probably costs more than her apartment. She sits.

The Sidhe sits down across from Brianna and pushes a mug of eggnog in her direction. “Greetings and salutations on this festive holiday.” He picks up a mug of his own.

Brianna takes the mug. “I thought you were just joking about the eggnog.”

“I never joke.” Hubbard tilts his head, “Well, that’s not entirely true.”

Brianna smiles slightly, “I don’t know that I would call that a truth, and I thought you were supposed to be careful about that.”

“Well,” Hubbard, “I sometimes jest. I sometimes exaggerate.” Brianna holds onto the mug, waiting to see if Hubbard is going to take a sip. She truly doesn’t like eggnog, but also is hesitant to eat or drink anything offered. “I have a job for you,” he continues.

“Alright, perhaps this one won’t involved targeting a business that’s directly sponsored by the Envoy.”

Hubbard gets a very serious look on his face. “You’re not telling me my business, are you?” He voice has chilled considerably.

“I would never dream of telling you your business.”

“Good.”

“I will remind you, though, of the terms of our agreement. I won’t be doing anything that would go against the interests of my House or my Court.”

“And the Envoy has nothing to do with the interests of the White Court.”

“Well, politics have a way of getting back to one’s Court, don’t they?”

“If you’re going to make that argument, then everything touches everything else. What are you? Some kind of holistic healer?”

Brianna looks at him flatly, “You have a job for me?”

“Yes. I want you to collect some blood from a guy named Thomas Cromwell. He lives in Beaverton. He’s a writer. He owes a debt he hasn’t paid, so I’m sending you to collect in pain and in blood.” Hubbard explains further, “The guy writes best-selling crime novels. You know the type.”

“I suppose.”

“He made a deal with me to receive some insider information on some of the doings in Portland. I know some things. I’ve my fingers in various pies. He was supposed to pay me a year of his life. He’s reneging on the deal. Thus, I want the blood, and the pain is a lesson.”

“This is a mortal?” Brianna asks.

“Oh, very much so. Should be easy peasy for someone like you. Of course, if you let him talk to you, he may, you know, set you off. He tends to get under the skin. He knows how to push buttons. You already have rage issues.” Hubbard’s voice is almost hopeful.

“I know all about my issues,” Brianna says drily.

“You looked a little confused,” Hubbard retorts. “I have an address for you. 15890 Southwest Nighthawk, Beaverton. Oh! I almost forgot,” he reaches into his pocket and pulls out a little vial. “Here you go.”

Brianna takes it. “Do you need this full?”

“I need it ample.”

Brianna knows that blood can be used for a lot of things: to control a person, locate a person, or to get information about a person. If someone was a magic user, they could even key a spell to a specific person. “How exactly do you reneg on paying someone a year of your life?” she asks, curious. “How do you have any control over that?”

“Not your business.” His voice is pleasant, but steely. “Your business is blood and pain. That’s why I called you.”

“How’s the Glenfiddich working out for you?”

“Hmm. Warms the tummy, don’t you know? Chug-a-lug, chug-a-lug.” Hubbard actually sings the words in a soft tone.

Brianna finds that she can still dislike the Sidhe even more than she did before, but she tries not to show it. “Has there been any word in your circles about the events at Raven and Rose?”

“Why do you want to know?”

“Well, I don’t know if it came across in the dialog that I had with your man, but I was spotted on the way out. I was yelling quite a few things at him at the time, so perhaps he didn’t pick up on that fact.”

A low chuckle rumbles out of Hubbard’s throat. “No, that slip-up did not get past him. Or by me.”

“If want a thief, hire a thief. If you want someone to break in, steal something, and then leave, that’s when you point me in that direction.”

“Ah. But like I said, when I want to cause someone pain, that’s when I send you.”

“So, any word getting around?” Brianna ignores his comment.

“You have a vial getting warm in your pocket.”

“Well, I was going to trade you for the rest of the information that I picked up that night, but …” she shrugs and lets her voice drop off.

“Trade me? Now, that is an interesting proposition.”

“Information for information.”

“You want to know if I have any information regarding the word on the fairy streets, as it were, about your little operation?”

“I had thought it prudent not to ask myself.”

“And in return, you want to give me information about … the wine list at the Raven and Rose?” His voice is sarcastic.

“No, just bits of a conversation heard from behind a door that someone didn’t know I was listening at.”

“You were eavesdropping? How gauche.”

“It’s whatever gets the job done. I don’t considering eavesdropping as much as collecting information, something you should be very familiar with.”

They stare at each other for a minute. “The problem is that I don’t know how much your information is worth,” Hubbard comments.

“I guess it depends on how much you like to gamble?”

He chuckles. “I only like to gamble when I win, silly.”

“If you always knew you were going to win, then it wouldn’t be called gambling now would it?” She maintains a cool expression on her face, hoping that the reputation regarding Fae and bargains has some truth to it..

Hubbard is clearly interested. “How about this? We make your little bargain, but if your information is worthless, we add a day to our previous bargain?”

“I don’t think so.”

“Oh, come now.”

“Considering you’re the only one who’s going to determine if the information is worthless, how would I know I was getting a good deal?”

“Would I lie?”

She makes an amused sound. “No, we’ve already had that conversation. You don’t lie, not directly.” Brianna shakes her head, “You’re either want to know, or you don’t. I’m not interested in potentially lengthening the terms of our agreement. If I want to find out badly enough, I have other avenues I can explore without having to be the one who asks directly. I just thought while I’m here …” Her voice trails off.

“Okay. How about this? You include in your information what avenues you’re talking about.”

Brianna laughs out loud. “No.”

“Oh, come now.” he repeats.

“No, I’m not telling you where I get my information on the Fae Courts.” She looks at Hubbard, who’s clearly getting agitated. “You’re making this to be very difficult. How ever do you get anything done?”

“Very well. We shall make this bargain.”

“Alright. In good faith, then I will go first.” Brianna tells Hubbard more details about what she saw on in inside of the building, the behavior when the Envoy arrived, specific information on David Shenaut, the odd glowing alcohol, and then the exact conversation she heard between David and the owner. Brianna watches Hubbard’s expression to see his reaction to this information. He does seem to be considering her words and then smirks.

“Very good. Well, your little escapade has embarrassed the Envoy and also the fact that you were seen has put you on her radar. Inquiries are being made about you on the street. I, of course, have said nothing.”

“I would assume not.”

“Because we don’t know each other, as far as they know.”

“As far as they know,” Brianna repeats.

“Speaking of which, I do hope you took discretion in coming here.”

“Well, I wasn’t making a big announcement about it.”

“That’s good. Now, is that exchange of information to your satisfaction?”

“It was to me.”

“Good.”

“And yourself? Were you satisfied?”

“I think it’s fair to say I’m never satisfied. That’s how I’ve gotten where I am.” Hubbard points a finger at her. “So, vial, blood, pain. Not necessarily in that order.”

“Am I bringing this back to you here?”

“No, let’s not risk that. Let’s have you take it over to Sam at the B-Side. So, when do you think you’ll have this wrapped up?”

“I have no idea. I’ve even not had a chance to start looking in the situation.”

“Well, you still have Sam’s number. Give him a call when you’re ready to meet at the B-Side, or where ever else you’d like, just arrange to meet with Sam.”

“Alright.” Brianna stands up, putting down her mug, eggnog untouched.

“Happy holidays,” Hubbard tells her, almost cheerful-sounding again.

“And to you as well.” Brianna returns to her car and drives around for while, thinking about her options. She decides to go by the author’s house to see the general layout. It’s a very nice neighborhood and a nice house. Brianna takes one look and thinks That’s going to have security on it, goddammit.

View
Side Job: Whiskey in the Jar (Part III)
Karkana Chronicles Twenty-Six

December 14, 2013 (early Saturday morning)

Brianna drives back out the Ladd Carriage House around 3:00 a.m. She parks a good distance from the building and walks over. She saw some exterior cameras earlier, but wants to make a few passes again to scope out the outside.

There are no lights on inside the building. All the cameras she spots are fixed on the doors and main windows. There are some windows without cameras, but they are either too small for a person to fit through or very near the roof. Remembering the inside layout of the Rookery, Brianna knows that going through one of those windows will mean dropping down several feet to the floor and it may be difficult to climb back up without something to aid her. There are no fire escapes, but gutters lead down from the roof.

Brianna heads over to building next door to see if she can climb onto its roof. She’d like to get a better view of the Carriage House from up high. Heading up the fire escape, she pulls herself onto the slanted roof. Looking over at the Carriage House, Brianna can tell that there aren’t any cameras, but also that there isn’t any roof access. She decides that the best way into the Rookery would be to climb up one of the gutters to one of the very top windows, then drop down inside. There may still be someone inside, she really can’t tell, but Brianna is ready to get this over with.

The White Court vampire heads back to her car to get a set of gloves and fill her pockets with nails from her glove compartment. Then she returns to the Ladd Carriage House and starts climbing one of the gutters up to the top floor. She loses her grip near the top and slides down several feet, making some noise. Brianna curses silently, but pauses, listening for any sound inside the building. She hears nothing, so continues climbing back up to the top window. Peering in, the only bit of illumination is the faint red glow from the exit sign.

Brianna forces the window open with a slight ‘pop,’ then eels her way inside. When she drops to the floor, she pauses again to listen. No alarms or any other sounds. She stealthily makes her way towards the bar, moving around the shadowy shapes of the table and chairs. Brianna first heads to the cabinet that is locked, but not warded. She forces it open, breaking the lock. Using the light on her cell phone, she scans the bottles. She isn’t really surprised to see that the Glenfiddich isn’t inside. She pushes the cabinet door shut, then quietly moves over to the other.

Not knowing what the ward might actually do to her, she touches the cabinet cautiously with her foot. She can feel her foot shoved back. Brianna looks around, visually mapping out the best path to the window in case she has to move quickly. She takes off her coat, moving the nails to her pockets, so that she something to use as padding in which to wrap the bottle. Brianna reaches towards the cabinet, then suddenly stops as someone clears their throat from directly behind her.

Brianna turns and raises an eyebrow. David is standing behind her with his arms crossed. “You keep late hours,” she remarks calmly.

“Don’t we all.” They stare at each other for a minute. “I’m going to have to buy a new lock for that other cabinet. i don’t wish to re-lock that one,” he inclines his head at the warded cabinet. “You set off the silent alarm, but I told the alarm company that everything was fine and I could handle it. I thought something was wrong with you when you first came in, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. I had no idea you were a cat burglar.”

“I’m a woman of mystery.”

’Now the question is, what do I do with you?"

Brianna is on the balls of her feet, ready to move, but she keeps a calm expression on her face. “I don’t know, what do you think you can do with me, David?”

“I don’t like thieves. I could put you on ice until I figure out what to do with you. That would be amusing.”

“I suppose you could try.”

“But I’m more curious as to what it is you want.”

“Something that I think is in that case.”

“Haven’t we moved past the obvious?” His voice is cold and dry. Brianna slowly pours herself a drink, keeping her eyes on David. She’s ready to throw it, not drink it, if necessary. “You’re more than just a pretty face,” he remarks.

She smiles slightly. “That would be true.”

“Are you working for somebody or do you work alone?”

“There’s only one of me here tonight.” She pauses, “It doesn’t sound like you’re completely without plots yourself.”

“You’re the one breaking into my cabinet,” David’s voice raises slightly.

:She shrugs, “I’m just calling it how I see it.”

David suddenly moves very quickly and is standing almost nose-to-nose in front of her. “I grow tired of these games.”

“Are we playing?”

“I’m not.”

“Neither am I.”

“What is it that you want?”

Brianna’s tone is matter of fact. “You have a drink in there I want. A fifty-year old bottle of Glenfiddich. I hear it fetches quite a pretty penny. I’m not interested in whatever you’ve been serving people in that green decanter of yours.” Brianna notices that David’s eyes now have a slight cant to them, almost feline in nature, and a slight blue hazy glow surrounds him.

“Then you’re just a petty thief.” His voice is disgusted.

“If you don’t want people stealing from you, I guess you could just give it to me.”

“I think not.”

Things start to move very quickly. Brianna pulls a nail from her pocket and swings at David. She manages to hit his hand with it, searing his skin, but then she drops the nail and it rolls to the floor. In return, a cold blast shoots at her from David’s hands, but Brianna manages to dodge out of the way. A set of dragonfly wings suddenly emerge from his back, illuminated in a blue glow.

Brianna punches him hard. David looks clearly surprised by her speed and strength. A long, nasty-looking dagger is suddenly in his hand and he slashes her.

She punches him again, bloodying his nose. He misses her.

Brianna hits him once more and suddenly David isn’t there. She hits out at the air where he was standing, but nothing is there. She turns her head around, trying to see if she can hear him. Nothing.

She quickly heads to the cabinet, grabs the edge, and yanks hard. She painfully bounces off the ward. Snarling, she tries again. A blast of cold, icy power rushes out at her. She dodges most of the blast, but still feels chilled. The door hangs open, the lock broken. Brianna quickly peers through the bottles and spots the Glenfiddich. She grabs it, wrapping it in her jacket, and heads for the window.

She starts shimmying down the gutter as fast as she can, but loses her grip almost immediately. Brianna manages to tuck and roll, cradling the Glenfiddich to her chest, and hits the ground unhurt. As she stands, she sees flashing red and blue lights nearby.

Moving with supernatural speed, she dodges between buildings and down alleys, heading for her car. She can hear the wail of distant police sirens as she drives off. She passes a police car, which suddenly turns to follow her, its lights on. Brianna lets out a steady stream of curses, trying to lose her pursuer.

She barely does, pulling into a narrow side street and killing the engine and lights. Brianna realizes she’s going to have to abandon her car for now. She grabs everything she owns from it, including her insurance information and the box of nails, and heads out. Muttering darkly, she starts walking towards her apartment building.

Pulling out her phone, she calls Sam Jones. The events of the evening have made her hungry and angry. As soon as he picks up, she lays into him. “I don’t care what time of the night it is, you’re going to come get this fucking bottle from me as soon as fucking possible. If it needs to be delivered to Hubbard himself, then we’re going to his fucking house right now. I don’t care what sort of fucking Fae orgy he’s got going on at his house at fucking 4:00 in the morning, he’s getting his glass of whiskey now!”

“Somebody’s cranky.”

“Somebody’s being chased by fucking cops, so get me the hell off the street and let me get this bottle to your boss.”

“Well, we need to arrange a drop.”

“Then let’s do that! It’s cold out here and I’m carrying your damn whiskey around in my coat!”

“Alright, alright! Don’t get excited. There’s a bus station,” he gives her an address, “and there’s a locker. Put the bottle in there. Easy peasy.”

“It better fucking be,” she growls and hangs up.

It’s a very long walk to the bus station. Brianna puts her coat on and hides the bottle under it. She eventually gets to the locker and makes the drop. It’s nearly 6:00 in the morning at this point, so Brianna calls Joey to come pick her up. Once back in the apartment, she crawls into bed and falls asleep.

View
Side Job: Whiskey in the Jar (Part II)
Karkana Chronicles Twenty-Six

December 13, 2013 (Friday night)

Brianna turns to Sydney. “Will you be willing to come look at something for me? It’s somewhat of a private matter and I’d rather you didn’t talk about it to anyone else.”

The young woman pauses for a moment, then agrees.

“Then I’ll come pick you up, take you to a place of business, and have you tell me what you See.”

“With the Sight?”

“Yes. There will be other people there.”

“Wow. I’d prefer to only do that for a short time.”

“I think that can happen. There’s an area of the building i’m specifically interested in.”

Sydney explains, “It can be psychically harmful to me to be in the Sight too long.”

“Oh.” Brianna looks concerned. “Is this a bad idea, then?”

“No, I just don’t want to do it for a long time.”

“Well, I don’t want you to do it for a long time if it’s going to hurt you, but I could use your help. There are magics involved and I’m just flying blind here. It’s not my area of expertise.”

“Okay.”

Brianna arranges to pick Sydney up tomorrow at 7:30 and describes what sort of attire to wear. Back in her car, she checks the Raven and Rose’s website to see if she can find more information on this David character. His full name is listed as David Shenaut.

It’s around 11:00 at this time, so she swings by the apartment to pick up Joey. They head out to fight club so that Brianna can feed.

December 14, 2013 (Saturday)

Brianna hits the streets early, asking around the supernatural community for any word on David Shenaut. She discovers that he’s part of the “scene,” connected with the Winter Court in some way. She’s pretty sure he’s Fae, but she doesn’t know what type.

Brianna also asks around about the business owner, LIsa Migrant. Migrant is a mortal, but she has some sort of arrangement with the Winter Envoy. Word on the street is that it’s because she’s in debt with the Winter Envoy. The Ladd Carriage House itself doesn’t have a long history with the Fae community. But when the restaurant became the Raven and Rose in 2011, it became a hot spot for Winter Court and Wild Fae to gather. Apparently, it is one of the “cover” business that the Envoy has started to give Fae reliable, legitimate jobs in the mortal world.

This business has Abby Miyazaki’s fingerprints all over it. Fuck that man, Brianna thinks again sourly, cursing Hubbard’s name.

At 7:30 that night, Brianna pulls up to Sydney’s house. The young woman is wearing a slinky red party dress and looks quite striking. As she drives, Brianna lays out the situation. “As far as tonight goes, this is something that I need you to not reveal to anyone else. Not the name of the business, nor what I was having you look at.”

“I understand.” Sydney takes Brianna’s hand. “I swear upon my Power that everything we do this evening will stay a secret.”

Brianna nods at the seriousness of her vow. “I greatly appreciate it. I’m working for a client, and the client wants something that this business has. I have a feeling that it’s in some sort of warded area, but it’s hard for me to tell.”

“Okay.”

“And there are a lot of Fae around. When I was doing a bit of research today, I found out that apparently this a really happening place for them to hang out. This is why I suspect that it’s Fae magic we’re dealing with. I don’t know if that makes a difference in what you need to do.”

“Well, it’s just that sometimes Fae magic acts differently than mortal magic.”

Brianna explains the general layout of the building. “There are two locked cases behind the bar. I’m not which one has the item I’m looking for in it, but at least one of them has some sort of ward on it.”

“So you want me to look for the ward?”

:“Yes. If you do see anything else like detection spells or traps, that would also be helpful to know.”

When the two women arrive at the Ladd Carriage House, the hostess directs them upstairs. Light music is playing and people are everywhere. The bartender recognizes Brianna and calls out a greeting. Brianna and Sydney move towards the bar and find a place to sit. Brianna pays for drinks, then tries to engage the bartender in idle chit-chat to distract him from whatever Sydney is going to do. He does talk with her a bit, but still moves around to help other guests.

Sydney is slowly looking around the bar, taking in the room. Although she’s very good at hiding it, Brianna can tell that she’s under a bit of distress. Brianna leans closer and whispers quietly, “Are you okay?”

After about a minute, Sydney takes a deep breath, “Okay.” She picks up her drink and downs it. Brianna orders her a second one. She doesn’t want to ask Sydney any questions yet, so engages in light conversation. As they’re chatting, Brianna notices that David Shenaut has entered the Rookery and is looking in her direction. Brianna suggests that they get a table and move away from the bar.

David intercepts them as they’re heading to the table. He turns to Brianna, “Welcome back.”

Brianna gives him a quizzical look, drawing out his name as if trying to remember it. “Daniel?”

“David.”

“Ah. Yes. Why thank you.”

“I see you brought a friend.”

“Yes.”

“I hope you both have a good time this evening. If you’d like, I can mix you a drink. Complementary, of course.”

Brianna smiles, “Thank you, that would be lovely.”

“Excellent.” David moves over to the bar and starts pouring alcohol.

Brianna leans over and whispers in Sydney’s ear, “Watch whatever he’s doing.”

“Do you mean watch watch?”

“Not necessarily that. Can you tell if he puts anything weird in our drinks?”

“Possibly.”

“Okay.”

Both women watch David mix the drinks. Brianna can’t see that he’s put in anything different that what the bartender’s using. Sydney remarks that he’s not moved towards the warded cabinet.

David returns with two swirling green drinks in martini glasses. Brianna thanks him. “Thank you for your patronage,” he replies in turn. Although his words are pleasant enough, Brianna can feel a very cold attitude from him. David smiles, then moves away.

After he leaves, Brianna asks Sydney to check and see if she can detect anything on the drinks. The young sorceress shakes her head no. "Well, he said one thing, but sure as hell meant another. Did you feel how cold he was behind his words?

Sydney shakes her head again, “No. He just seemed very pleasant.”

Brianna takes a small and cautious sip from her drink. It appears to be just a very fine cocktail. The two women hang out for a little bit, watching the scene. At one point, the bartender pulls out a bottle from the other locked cabinet for a well-to-do patron. Afterwards, he locks it back up. Brianna takes a look around the room to see if she can spot any security cameras, but she doesn’t find any.

After a while longer, they head out. One the way downstairs, Brianna tries to spot any sort of surveillance. She doesn’t spot any inside the building, but outside there are fixed security cameras over doors and windows.

Once inside the car, Brianna turns to Sydney. “Well?”

“I’d say that half the staff and about a third of the clients that I saw had glamours, including your bartender.”

“Yeah, I spotted a glamour on the bartender yesterday.”

“The guy that gave us the drink wasn’t upstairs when I was looking.”

“I have reason to believe that he’s Fae as well. I don’t know what kind of Fae, just that he is one.”

“The locked cabinet on the left definitely has a ward of some sort, but it may also have a land mine. I think it has something to do with cold.” Brianna explains the hand gesture that she saw David use when opening it. “It’s probably something to deactivate or temporarily disable the ward.” Sydney didn’t see any other magic traps or wards inside the bar. The two chat about the possible effects of the ward for a bit, then Brianna takes Sydney home.

View
Side Job: Whiskey in the Jar
Karkana Chronicles Twenty-Six

December 13, 2013 (Friday)

Brianna has invited Joey, Loomis, Ezekiel, Sydney, and Regi to her birthday party on the following Friday. She also lets Joey know that she will and Loomis will be away for the rest of that weekend.

Brianna has just finished her morning workout when she gets a phone call.

“Hello, Brianna. This is Hubbard.”

“Good morning.” Her voice is neutral. “I take it that this isn’t a social call.”

“Well, it doesn’t have to be anti-social.” Brianna rolls her eyes, unseen. “But no, I have a job for you.”

“Are we having this conversation over the phone?”

“No.”

“I didn’t think so. Where do you want me to go? Shall I meet you at the B-Side Tavern?” Brianna drops the name of the establishment that she knows Hubbard frequents.

“Yes. That will do nicely. Meet me there at 4:00.”

Brianna agrees and hangs up. She talks to Joey about Hubbard’s request. She wants him staying away from the Sidhe as much as possible, but also wants him to know where to find her. Later that afternoon, she changes into her manager’s outfit. Putting her box of nails back in the glove compartment, just in case, she drives to the B-Side Tavern.

The B-Side is a bit of a dive. When Brianna walks in, she sees Hubbard sitting at the bar with his back to the room. She looks around to spot any “muscle” that may be keeping an eye on things. Sitting a nearby table, Brianna notices Sam Jones watching her. He tips his glass her direction. She nods in return and heads for the bar, sliding onto the stool next to Hubbard.

“Hello, Brianna.”

“Hubbard.”

“What are you having?” Brianna names a good whiskey. “Ah,” Hubbard seems privately amused at this, then calls the bartender over and orders her drink. “So, you’re a whiskey girl, are you?”

“Well, the last person who tried calling me girl got an unpleasant fist to the face, but yes, I do enjoy a good whiskey.”

“Oh, no harm is meant. I didn’t mean to ruffle your feathers. My respect for you has just gone up a few notches.”

“Well, I cannot tell you how much that excites me to hear that,” she deadpans.

“It seems that the fates are kind, with you being a whiskey woman and all. You may even enjoy this job.”

Brianna takes a sip of her drink. “I’ll bite. What do you need me to do?”

“I need you to get me a bottle of whiskey.” Hubbard’s expression is particularly self-satisfied, so Brianna just takes another drink and waits for him to explain further. When he realizes that she’s not going to ask questions, he sighs. “You’re no fun.”

“I don’t like to be baited.”

“Well, as I’m sure you’ve probably guessed it’s not just any bottle of whiskey.”

“i didn’t think so. Our bargain was too dear for you to just ask me to make beer runs.”

“No. What I want is a fifty-year old bottle of Glenfiddich.”

Brianna whistles. “That will set you back about twenty thousand.”

Hubbard looks at her, his voice silky and low. “No, you misunderstand. I don’t want you to buy me a bottle of whiskey. I wish you to get me a bottle of whiskey.”

“I’m assuming there is something about this job that made you think my particular talents would be useful? As I’ve told you, subtlety is not one of them.”

He grins at her. “Go subtle. Go flashy. If you cause a bit of chaos, it doesn’t matter to me. So long, and let me make this very clear, my name and my fingerprints don’t come anywhere near this.”

“People have tried to lean on me to give them names before and they weren’t particularly successful. I don’t plan to start now.”

“Very good. That’s what I’m counting on. Now, I happen to know where such a bottle should be.”

“So, this is a hypothetical bottle then?”

“I would say, more than just hypothetical.”

“And where should this bottle be?”

“There’s a place called Raven and Rose. It’s downtown in the historic Ladd Carriage House. The bottom floor is a fine dining restaurant, the upstairs floor is a cocktail lounge called the Rookery. In a locked cabinet in the Rookery, you’ll find my whiskey.”

“Do you know anything about the layout of the Rookery or the general security situation?”

“That’s not my job.”

“Are you aware of any persons of interest that may be hanging around the place that I need to keep an eye out for? Do these people run around in our circles?”

Hubbard just blinks at her.

Brianna inwardly sighs. “Okay, so where do you want me to bring said bottle of whiskey since you want your fingerprints no where this? I’m assuming you don’t want me to bring it back here.”

“No, no that won’t do.” Hubbard pauses, “You still have Sam’s number don’t you? He’ll arrange a drop.”

“Are there any time constraints that I need to be aware of?”

“I would prefer it to be done before the bottle gets sold or drank, but sooner is better than later. Not many patrons walk around with that much cash, but it could be parceled out. Let’s not take any chances.”

“I’d rather not,” Brianna agrees.

Hubbard finishes his drink. “I’ll leave you to it.”

Recognizing a dismissal, Brianna finishes her whiskey and leaves. Once in the car, she calls Roy Dale and asks him to get her as much information as he can on Raven and Rose and the Rookery.

Brianna drives by the establishment to try and get a sense of the building. She parks her car and finds an outdoor cafe where she can watch the traffic going in and out Raven and Rose. After a couple of hours, Roy Dale calls her to share what he’s learned. The Ladd Carriage House is on the register of historic buildings in Portland. He sends Brianna an image of the general layout. It’s a bit barn-like, large and open, with a peaked roof and many narrow windows. The owner and founder of the five-star restaurant and bar is Lisa Mygrant. While the building is quite old, Mygrant started the business in 2011. Roy also shares the names of the executive chef and other prominent staff. Brianna thanks him and hangs up.

Brianna has noticed that Raven and Rose is attracting a fairly nicely dressed clientele. She’s still wearing her best manager’s outfit from meeting with Hubbard, so Brianna feels she’ll not stand out from the crowd. Upon entering, Brianna is greeted by a hostess who directs her upstairs. The floor plan seems to match what Brianna saw earlier. The bar is expansive with places to mingle or to sit and observe the crowd. A few people are already there as the place starts to fill for the evening. A male bartender with a big smile on his face is polishing glasses and distributing drinks.

Something seems off in the room to Brianna. She gets a bit of a supernatural vibe, but she can’t tell from where. When the bartender turns at a particular angle, it’s as if a glamour slipped for just a second and she sees a bit of a bat ear. Brianna sighs to herself. Goblins. She heads up to the bar.

“Hey, what can I get for you?”

She orders a decent brand of whiskey. While the bartender moves away to get her drink, Brianna scans the back of the bar. Two locked hardwood cases sit behind the counter.

When her drink arrives, Brianna pays in cash, not wanting to give out her name. Then she moves through the room trying to pinpoint why it feels so odd to her. She spots another staff member dressed in a nice suit with glasses and dark hair. He walks over to the bartender and has a quiet word. The man scans the room, then makes his way downstairs.

Brianna decides to follow and see where he goes. When the man gets to the bottom of the stairs, he suddenly turns and addresses her directly. “So, how are you enjoying the Rookery?”

Brianna curses inwardly. “It seems quite nice.”

“We definitely try to make it a good experience. I hope you’re enjoying the beverages here. That’s what I’m in charge of. My name is David and I’m the beverage and operations manager.”

“Oh!” Brianna tries to seem pleasantly surprised by the sudden conversation. “Well, you do seem to have a nice selection.”

“We try to carry the best.”

“If I was going to see about dinner, do I need to make reservations with the young woman I spoke with when I came in?”

“Yes.”

“Good to know, thank you.”

“You’re welcome.”

Brianna heads back upstairs, fighting the urge to turn around and see if he’s watching her. Upon reentering the Rookery, the bartender catches her eye and asks if she’d like another whiskey. Brianna agrees. The place has gotten pretty busy, so Brianna sits and quietly observes the scene. After a while, she sees David return and head for one of the locked cases. Before he unlocks the case with a key from his vest pocket, he murmurs something and passes his hand over the lock. He opens and retrieves a small bottle from the case, then re-locks the case, running his hand over the lock once more. The bottle itself is made of green depression glass and bears no label. David turns and heads downstairs again.

After waiting a few minutes, Brianna finishes her drink and heads to the ground floor. She approaches the hostess stand to see about dinner and is seated immediately. Brianna takes a discreet look around the dining area. Even here, she can tell there is something off about the place. She spots David conversing with the downstairs bartender and tries to avoid staring at him. There is no sign of the small green bottle.

Brianna orders a light meal, but decides that she’s going to move on afterwards. She’s going to need help of a magical nature. As she’s eating, she notes a striking beautiful Asian woman in a long white coat suddenly enter the dining room. The woman has long green hair, a pierced lip, and a small white scar along her left cheek. At her side is a bulky man, probably hired muscle. Another woman, probably the owner, comes up to greet the green-haired visitor.

Brianna shamelessly eavesdrops as the two exchange pleasantries in low voices. “We have your table,” the owner says as she leads the other woman to a table, “What’s the occasion, Abby?” Fuck that man Brianna thinks to herself, realizing who this must be. The Asian woman, Abby, says “Just celebrating the continued success of our little venture.” As Abby and the hired muscle sit down, the chef appears from the kitchen to greet her and begins telling her about the meal planned for that night.

Brianna decides to order dessert so she can continue watching the events unfold. She can tell that Abby is noticed by a good third of the room. A couple of people even go by her table to say hello. It’s as if they’re meeting a celebrity for the first time. Brianna begins to suspect that a great number of the clientele are part of the supernatural community.

As Abby finishes her meal, Brianna notices David mixing a drink at the bar. One of the ingredients is poured from the small green bottle. David brings the glass to Abby, who accepts it graciously and takes a sip. She is obviously pleased with the drink and raises her glass to him. He bows in return.

Abby hands the drink to her bodyguard to take a sip. David reaches out and snatches the glass, saying in a very low and cold voice “I did not make it for him.” The Winter Envoy visibly bristles and gives him an unpleasant look. Then she suddenly laughs, “There’s no need to be rude, David.” The man turns on his heel and heads back into the staff area, still carrying the drink.

The tension stars to die down in the room. Abby and her bodyguard start making their way out of the restaurant. Brianna pays her bill as well, then stands and heads for the bathrooms. The door to the nearby office is closed. Brianna takes a look around to make sure no one is watching, then steps up to listen behind the door.

One voice, a female, says “Are you crazy? We need to stay on her good side.”

A second voice says, “That’s what I was trying to do before the bodyguard got involved.”

“David, were you meddling again?”

“We’re all trying to do our part.”

“But your way is going to get us killed or worse.”

“Have faith. These things have ways of working out.”

Brianna steps quickly away and ducks into the women’s restroom. She carefully cracks the door to see who leaves the office. It’s the owner, who heads upstairs to the Rookery. David emerges soon after and heads into the dining room.

Once the coast is clear, Brianna leaves the building. She doesn’t notice anyone following her to her car. Once inside, she calls Sydney and asks if it would be alright to stop by either tonight or tomorrow to chat with her and Regi. Sydney tells her it’s okay to drop by tonight.

Brianna picks up a pizza to share with Regi on the way, but soon is sitting inside Sydney’s living room. Brianna asks her two friends if there’s a way to see past glamours without necessarily breaking them.

Sydney shares that the Sight will allow a person to see past glamours. Brianna visibly shudders and shakes her head. “I don’t have access to that kind of power anyway.”

“While it’s theoretically possible to make a potion or ointment to do the same thing, it would be beyond my capability. Faerie magic is very powerful and very strange. It’s different than my magic. We’d be talking about Senior Council level magics.”

Brianna makes a impressed noise, then asks Regi if he has anything to add about glamours.

“If the Fae is good at them, then it’s hard to see through them. If the Fae isn’t good, then it’s easy to see through them.”

“But there’s nothing that would help a non-Fae see through them?”

“No. That’s kind of the point. We usually don’t want you to see through them.” He looks at Brianna. “You got glamour trouble? Of course, how would you know?”

“A little bit,” she admits, “I can tell that something’s off. My senses can pick up that much.”

“Well, that’s half the battle.”

“Yep. I just can’t see to the truth of things.”

“Do you need to practice seeing through glamours?”

“Will it help?”

“I don’t know.”

“It couldn’t hurt to try,” Brianna concedes.

Suddenly, there is a small cat where Regi was only seconds before. Brianna stares hard at it and then there is only Regi again. “I can see you,” she tells him.

“Maybe you’re getting better!”

Brianna smiles, “Maybe. That’s what I’m going to hope for, my friend.”

View
Side Job: Interlude II
Karkana Chronicles: Twenty-Five

December 8, 2013 (Sunday)

A few nights after Loomis returns to Seattle, Brianna calls him to chat. The conversation starts out like many others, but the tone changes slightly as she starts asking him many questions around a particular theme. When working with Ezekiel, he often has to do things that aren’t always in accordance with the law. As a cop, how does affect him? Does it bother him?

Loomis says that it bothers him every time, but he realizes that sometimes things are necessary. He just tries to help and protect people, even when that doesn’t fall in the constraints of human law. Sometimes, you have to do the right thing, even if it’s not the legal thing.

Brianna talks to him a bit further, but never offers an explanation as to why she’s asking these kind of questions.

December 10, 2013 (Tuesday)

After thinking about their conversation for a day or so, Brianna calls Loomis on Tuesday morning. She says that she needs to talk with him in person and asks if they can meet up in Seattle when he gets off work that night. He agrees and they arrange to meet at the Triangle Pub, an older, established bar in town.

Brianna gets to the bar a bit early and has a drink to calm her nerves. She’s not sure how Loomis is going to react to what she needs to tell him. When Loomis arrives, Brianna orders a second whiskey and he gets a beer. They exchange greetings and if Loomis notices her nervousness, he doesn’t remark on it.

“So, what’s up?”

“Something’s just been on my mind lately and I wanted a chance to talk to you about it.” Brianna chooses her words carefully, “As far as us and our relationship goes, if you don’t, or can’t, approve of what I do for a living, what does that mean for us?”

Loomis takes a deep breath, “I suppose that would depend on my objections. If you were a hired assassin, I think my objections would be stronger than if you were an Amway salesman.”

Brianna gives a short laugh. “Well, Amway salemen are fuckers.” She pauses, then continues, “What if I told you that while your job is to uphold the law, what if my job is to avoid it.”

“Your job is to avoid the law?”

“Well, if I told you my job exists by avoiding the law. Would you want to know? Or would it make it worse because every time you looked at me, that’s all you would see?”

Loomis doesn’t respond at once, clearly giving her words serious consideration and thinking out his answer. Brianna takes a drink, quietly waiting his response. Loomis finally speaks, “I want to know about you. I want to know you. Your job is part of it. When I look at you, knowing what you do for a living, I will see that, but I will see other things as well. Once again, it is a matter of degree of what we’re talking about here.”

“I’m not a hired assassin,” Brianna tells him.

“Well, that’s a relief,” he deadpans.

She laughs again. “No, that’s not my line of work.”

“But, I’m no angel either, and I’m not an idiot. I’ve had an inkling that what you do isn’t above board, whatever it may be. I’m not a fool.”

“I don’t think you’re a fool.” Brianna’s voice is quiet. “I don’t particularly like hiding this from you.”

“I figured you would tell me when you were ready to.”

Brianna sighs. “I just don’t want you to be conflicted with your sense of duty as a professional and what I tell you.”

“Well, I appreciate that.”

" And this doesn’t just impact me. Joey is truly my business partner.

“Once again, it’s a matter of degrees, of what we’re talking about. I have learned over the years to look at things with a matter of relativity. I take my oath to protect and to serve seriously. If what you do conflicts with that, then we may have more of an issue than if it’s just illegal. Do you understand what I mean?”

“I understand what you mean. I don’t think the nature of my work goes against that. No one is being taken advantage of.”

“That doesn’t seem like something you would do.”

“No, not really. I’m no angel either, and I’ve done stuff that I’m not proud of, but I like my work. It’s just that it gets problematic if it’s something that the authorities notice.”

They both sip their drinks for a while, each lost in their own thoughts.

Finally, Loomis says. “I don’t know what else to tell you, without knowing what it is you’re talking about.”

Brianna reaches out and takes his hand, watching his face carefully as she begins speaking. “I told you once before, that most of who I am and who I have become has to deal with what I am.”

Loomis makes a noise of agreement.

“In order to feed in the way I like to feed, the safer way for me to feed so I don’t lose control, is to be around people who are very angry.”

“So, you work for the DMV?”

“No, although that could be an alternate career path, I suppose.” She smiles wanly. “So, my lot in life has fallen in with fighting.” Brianna pauses, then continues, “When I ran away from home my senior year, things were pretty bad. I had just turned full vampire. I was furious at my mother, at everyone, at me, and I started living on the streets. I learned pretty quickly that I was going to have to fight to keep myself safe. One day, someone saw me fighting and offered me a job doing just that. I figured that I could make a bit of money and feed the hunger at the same time, and I was good at it.”

“Ah.” Loomis nods thoughtfully.

“I was a bit of a novelty in the rings, as you might imagine, but it helped me work out a lot of my anger.” Brianna pauses, searching his face for any reaction, but it’s hard for her to get a bead on him.

“So, Joey is your manager?”

“No, I’m Joey’s manager.”

“But, I thought you were doing the fighting.”

“I was. I slowly came out of that part of the business. The story of how Joey and I met is a different story for a different day, but we came to an arrangement. For me, it’s enough now just to be in the room. There’s enough ambient rage for me to eat. But that’s where I am almost every night.”

“You know that some of those rings are run by the Mafia. Those are not nice guys.”

“I’m not very nice either.”

They look at each other for a long moment. Finally, Loomis speaks. “I’m glad you told me this.”

“I am too. Again, I never know what will be some sort of deal breaker between us. I’m not asking for some sort of huge commitment from you, but I don’t date casually. I find it very hard to trust people at this point in my life, so I guess it’s kind of like ripping the band-aid off. If this means that it isn’t going to work out between us, I’d rather know that now than three months, a year from now, or whenever you found out. Because it’s possible that you would and I’d rather be the one to tell you. I don’t have a police record, but I do try to avoid police entanglements as I’ve said before.”

Loomis chuckles.

“And I’m breaking my own rules on that one,” Brianna continues a bit more hotly, “Believe me, I see the irony in this relationship we have.”

“It’s not a deal breaker,” Loomis tells her.

Brianna sighs, some of the tension leaving her body.

“I won’t say I like it.”

“I didn’t think you would.”

“But, it’s not a deal breaker. Unless you’re selling Amway on the side.”

She smiles, “No. I told you. Those people are fuckers. Occasionally, I’ve also picked up work on the side for my House or for other people. I suppose I could tell you about the couple of times I’ve worked for the V.U., but then I’d probably have to kill you.”

Loomis looks at her quizzically when she mentions the V.U.

“The Venatori Umbrorum are like freemasons with machine guns. They’re in the Know, but not really supernatural themselves.”

“Well, you are a busy girl.”

“Yeah. Portland’s been really interesting. Some things have been very good, some not. A lot of this stuff lately has just been weird. My paths cross with a lot of different people and sometimes I have to tell those people to get the fuck out of my way. That’s when things happen.”

After the two finish their drinks, Brianna asks Loomis if he has any weekend plans coming up as she’s thinking about doing something for her birthday. He says that he can clear his calendar. Brianna says she’d like to go out for a weekend and get a nice hotel or something. He tells her to make the call and let him know.

View
Side Job: Krampusnacht (Part II)
Karkana Chronicles Twenty-Four

December 5, 2013 (Thursday) continued

Brianna pulls up at Klein’s house and parks her car. It’s about 10:30 at night and the neighborhood is quiet. She looks at Loomis. “I’d like to take a look around the perimeter of the house and see if anything is odd.” He nods and she slides out of the car.

Sticking to the shadows, Brianna approaches and starts looking in windows. In the living room, she sees a balding man in his thirties, sitting in an easy chair in front of the television. The man seems distracted and isn’t really paying attention to what he’s watching. In the kitchen, she sees a couple of books on his kitchen table with unreadable titles. Brianna doesn’t know what language they’re written in, but it isn’t English. She also spots a piece of paper showing two circles with runic figures between them. Brianna recognizes the diagram as ritualistic in nature.

As Brianna moves in closer, she accidentally kicks the side of the house. The man bolts out of his chair and quickly approaches the window. Suddenly, the two of them are staring eye-to-eye. Klein is visibly startled to see her. Brianna raps sharply on the window and then crooks a finger at him. Klein points at the front door and Brianna moves to meet him there.

“Who are you and what are you doing to my house?” Klein asks her, his accent thick.

“I’m not doing anything to your house. Are you Mr. Otto Klein?”

“Yah.”

“Teacher over at Alliance at Benson High School?”

“Yah.”

“I’d like to talk to you about some kids that have turned up missing.”

“And who are you?”

“An interested party.”

“You go away.”

Brianna’s anger, which has never quite subsided since her encounter with the Krampus, flares up again. “I don’t fucking think so.”

Klein narrows his eyes. “I know your type. You do not scare me. Go away. You are not police.”

“No, I’m not. I get to deal with the kind of shit that the police can’t. So, I want to hear if you know anything about these missing kids and why you have ritualistic books on your kitchen table.”

“You’ll be going away now.” Klein repeats stubbornly.

Brianna leans in close. “I have had to protect one of your students this entire evening from something nasty that someone summoned and sent after him. And if that was you, you’re going to regret it.”

“You. Will. Be. Going. Away. Now. Or I will call police.”

The hostility is thick in the air as Brianna’s voice drops to a bare whisper. “If you’ve been using rituals to hurt children, the police won’t be able to help you. You’ll be a dead man.” She turns and walks back to the car, shaking with suppressed rage.

She flings herself into the car and slams the door. Brianna pulls away from the curb, her fingers tight on the wheel. “Fuck,” she mutters, then addresses Loomis, “He had hand-written diagrams on his kitchen table that showed some sort of ritual with circles and runes.” She shakes her head angrily, “I don’t know if he truly didn’t know what I was talking about or if he was lying to me. I didn’t see evidence that he was doing the rituals there, though.”

Loomis suggests, “Let’s head back and see if we scared him out of his nest.” Brianna offers to let him drive, since she’s no good at vehicle surveillance. Loomis agrees and parks the car about half a block away from Klein’s house, then kills the lights. “Now we wait. Welcome to cop work.” Brianna gives him a wan smile. She’s not particularly a patient person.

About ten minutes later, Loomis says “Well, look there.” A car is pulling out of Klein’s driveway. “Let’s see where Herr Klein goes.” The cop pulls away from the curb begins following the hatchback.

As they drive, Brianna addresses Theo, “I’m not sure exactly how this evening’s going to pan out. There’s been some very odd things that have gone on today. It may get weirder.” She turns and looks him directly in the eyes. “But Loomis and I are here to protect you and help any of your classmates. So, no matter how weird it gets, I need you to listen to us. If we tell you to run or to stay put or to hide, I need you to pay attention.”

“Okay,” he agrees.

Loomis continues to follow Klein. Eventually, the hatchback pulls into the parking lot of Augustina Lutheran Church. There are no other vehicles in the lot, so Loomis hangs back. They see Klein get out of the car, head to one of the side doors of the church, unlock it, and go inside. Once the man is inside, Loomis parks the car nearby.

Brianna leans over to Loomis. “How do you want to do this? We need to see what he’s up to, but I don’t want to leave the kid by himself either.”

“Do you want to go in and I stay with the kid?”

“Okay.”

She turns her phone on silent, “If I’m not back in thirty minutes and you haven’t heard from me, come in.” He agrees. Brianna gets out of the car and heads for the door of the church. The door is unlocked, so she quietly opens it and slips inside. It’s dark inside, but a very faint illumination comes from the emergency exit signs. There’s a hallway leading further into the church.

Brianna very faintly hears a door shut somewhere ahead of her. She stealthily moves down the hall, passing a few offices and a janitorial closet, until she comes across a door that leads to the basement. This is where she thinks the noise came from. Reaching out, she tries the handle. It’s locked. She puts her ear to the door and can faintly hear rhythmic speaking beyond it.

She quickly sends a text updating Loomis what she’s found. Then Brianna takes a step back and delivers a incredibly powerful kick to the door, busting it open with a loud crash. There is a lit staircase leading down. Using her inhuman speed, Brianna runs down the stairs. At the bottom, Brianna sees two concentric black painted circles on the basement floor. As in the diagram, runic symbols fill the space in between them. At the very center, a bound bundle of birch branches and a chain shackle lay on the floor. Klein is standing nearby, staring at Brianna wide-eyed.

“Well, this isn’t what you usually see in the bottom of church, asshole.” She glares at the man.

“I tried to send him back! I tried to send him back!” Klein seems sincerely distressed.

“What did he do with the kids he already took?”

“They go away.”

Brianna makes a strangled noise. “Yes. Go away, but where? Hell? Because that’s where the myths say he takes them!”

“I don’t know!”

“What the fuck did you think you were doing?”

“You don’t understand what they do! They were naughty!”

“I don’t care if they …” her voice chokes off again in anger, “They are kids! And you are sending them to hell with some evil Krampus!” She tries to control herself. “What does the spell do, exactly?”

“It brings the Krampus on Krampusnacht.”

“Yeah. Well, he’s fucking been here.” Her voice drips with sarcasm. “When you say you’re trying to send him back, what does that mean?”

“I try to send him back from whence he came.”

“And?”

“And nothing.” Kleins’ voice is small.

Suddenly, Brianna’s phone vibrates in her pocket. It’s Loomis calling her. She picks up.

“We’ve got trouble.”

“Yeah, I’m in the basement with this yahoo. What’s going on with you?”

“Krampus.”

Goddammit!” She glares at Klein. “This is your fault!” Brianna turns and runs back up the stairs. When she hits the parking lot, she can see the Krampus at her car, rocking it with its enormous taloned hands. “Hey, goat breath!” Get away from my car!" It turns and says something to her in a language she doesn’t understand. “The children. Bring them back!” She hears footsteps behind her and steps to the side, never taking her eyes of the creature. Klein steps up beside her and Brianna says, “Tell him to bring them back. You’re the one who brought him here, maybe he’ll listen to you.”

Klein yells something to the Krampus in a language that Brianna assumes is German. The Krampus replies and laughs. Klein continues to converse with the creature, growing more and more frantic.

“What the hell is he saying?” Brianna asks.

“He is saying that they are naughty and shall be punished and are in his domain.”

“Goddammit!” she curses again.

“And so, too, will this one.” Klein indicates the car where Theo and Loomis are trapped.

“I don’t fucking think so.” Brianna points at the Krampus. “No more!” she yells, “You give them back! And stop touching my car with your meaty goat hands!” Brianna briefly notes that the Krampus is favoring his right leg before running forward to engage him. She slams her fists into the creature and feeds deeply upon contact. The Krampus slumps, unconscious. His bag falls to the ground nearby.

A muffled “Fuckin’ A!” can be heard from within the car. Brianna stares at the fallen creature, her mind trying to work out what to do next. She knows it won’t stay unconscious forever. Brianna picks up the sack. She halfheartedly turns it over and shakes it. No kids fall out. She turns to Klein. “In your books, was there anything about reversing what it did? Anything at all?”

“Nein. It wasn’t the point.”

“Loomis, do you have any ideas? This isn’t my realm.”

The cop has gotten out of the car and is standing next to her. “No. It’s not mine either.”

Brianna gets out her phone and calls Sydney, stepping aside for privacy. She asks Loomis to keep an eye on both the Krampus and Klein.

When the young woman answers, Brianna says “I apologize for calling so late. I wouldn’t call if it wasn’t urgent.” She tries to quickly explain the situation. “I’ve got a guy here who’s been summoning Krampus, some sort of evil German anti-Christmas goat man that steals naughty children. He could be taking them back to hell or just maybe his realm, I’m not sure. He’s already got some kids tonight. I’ve got him unconscious. I’ve got his bag that he’s been using to steal the kids. I just don’t know how to make him give me the kids back, Sydney. I don’t know where they are. I don’t even really know what kind of magic I’m looking at.”

“You say he places the children in a bag?”

“Yes. I know he takes them somewhere, but I haven’t seen an actual kidnapping. We’ve just been trying to keep a kid safe all evening.”

“I’ve heard of this Krampus,” Sydney says, “outside of the legends that everybody hears. If you bring me the bag, I might be able to figure out what’s going on. I have a theory and I may be able to confirm it.”

“Do you have any idea on how to bind the Krampus? I’ve got it unconscious in a church parking lot, but I don’t know what to do with it.”

“If the Krampus is from the Nevernever, then it can be bound in a circle.” She pauses slightly, “Where are you?”

Brianna gives her directions.

“Alright, I’ll take a cab and be right there.”

Brianna tells Loomis that Sydney is on her way. She moves her car to make sure there’s plenty of room around the Krampus, never letting go of the sack. She paces angrily, waiting. Klein mutters to himself, softly. “You don’t understand. The same thing. Every day. Over and over.”

After about twenty minutes, Sydney shows up. She looks at the Krampus, “Oh my, he’s big!”

“Yep.”

“Interesting. Well, let’s get started.” She starts drawing a large chalk circle around the creature. As soon as she finishes, Brianna can feel a slight ‘pop’ in the air. “That should do it.” Sydney turns to examine the bag, turning it over in her hands. “That’s what I thought. Interesting.”

“Interesting good? Or interesting bad?”

“A bit of both.”

Brianna sighs and leans tiredly up against her car.

Sydney begins to speak again, but the Krampus stirs and stands. Everyone tenses as it begins walking forward. It suddenly stops short as it runs into the barrier of the magic circle. The creature looks around, then down, then its face contorts in anger and growls something.

Brianna asks Klein, “What did it say?”

“He is very angry at being bound. He says the night is almost over and he must go.”

Brianna turns to Sydney. “What are your theories about this bag?”

“It is an item of power. I believe it transports whoever or whatever is put in it to his domain. I don’t believe that’s hell. I just believe he has a domain in the Nevernever.”

“So, how do we get the kids back?”

“Well, that’s the bad news. We’d have to go through the sack to the Nevernever.”

“Well, how would we not get stuck there?”

“That’s the trick.”

Brianna sighs, frustrated, and runs her hands through her hair.

Sydney continues, “I believe that the Krampus is Fae. It may be that its domain is part of or adjacent to Winter. It may be that if the Krampus owes some sort of allegiance to the Winter Queen, some sort of negotiations may be possible. It would be dangerous, however.”

Brianna agrees. “I have had some dealings with the Winter Court. I’m not sure who came out on top, but I suspect it wasn’t me.”

“Most people seldom come out on top when dealing with them.”

Brianna considers her options. Then she opens the car door and asks Theo how many kids are missing. Only three other kids: Alexis, Jamal, and Kumar. He also gives her a brief description of each. Brianna nods and shuts the door again.

“I don’t know a lot of the details, but my family does have some ways of moving between the Nevernever and this world. I’ve not done it myself, but it should be able to be done. You think I can get to his domain through this bag?”

“Just put it over your head and you’ll go there, but you’ll have to find your own way back.”

The Krampus angrily stomps its uninjured hoof and says something in German. Klein translates, “He demands to be released.”

Brianna retorts, “Not until it returns those children.”

Klein speaks to the Krampus, listens to its response, then looks defeated. “He says that was not part of the bargain. The children were naughty.”

Brianna’s temper flares again. “You can tell him that if he ever wants to see his object of power back, we’re going to change the bargain right now.” She brandishes the sack.

After a brief conversation, Klein says ’The Krampus wants to know if you will bargain with him." The creature has turned to Brianna and is staring at her balefully.

“Tell him yes.”

With Klein acting as translator, Brianna and the creature start a conversation.

“You want the children I took tonight?”

“Alexis, Jumal, and Kumar. You do not get to keep them in your realm. You bring them back. You will be collecting no more children tonight. They will be off your naughty list.” Brianna turns briefly to Klein to ask if he had to give the Krampus the names of specific children. He confirms that it was part of the ritual. She turns back to the creature, “Theo, Alexis, Jumal, and Kumar. Their names will be off your naughty list. You will return the three and you will leave all four of them alone.”

“And in exchange, you will return my sack.”

“Yep. I don’t personally want your sack, but I imagine there may be other people in the Fae Courts that would be interested. I know Hubbard’s in town. Perhaps I’ll go there.”

“I cannot return them if I’m still bound in this circle.”

“You will bind yourself to this deal three times before we let you out of that circle.”

“You know the old ways, vampire.”

“I’m learning them.”

“Very well. I will return the three children and I will bother all four no more.” It repeats the promise three times.

Brianna nods, then approaches the circle. Not breaking eye contact with the Krampus, she scuffs the chalk with her foot. She feels a release of pressure and the creature reaches out a huge hand for the sack. Brianna hands it to the Krampus. It disappears.

A few minutes later, the Krampus reappears with a young woman in its arms. The girl is awake, but clearly frightened. The creature sets her down, the disappears again. Brianna asks if she is Alexis.

“Yeah.”

“Go wait in the car.” Still stunned, the girl obeys.

The Krampus brings back two young men, one at a time. Brianna orders each of them to go sit in the car. The creature looks at Brianna, “Our bargain is complete.”

“Yes, it is.”

“The night wanes and I go.” The Krampus disappears.

Brianna waits a few minutes, cautiously looking around in case the creature comes back. All remains quiet. Then she turns to Sydney. “Thank you, I appreciate your help.” She turns to Klein, “I’m not sure what I’m going to do with you yet, but you’re going to give me those books and that diagram. You don’t get to keep them.”

“I’m not going to turning it over to a vampire, to be sure.”

“I’m not going to be keeping them.” Brianna retorts, “I’m going to give the books to someone else for safekeeping.”

“You can not come into my house.”

“I can come into your house.”

“You will not,” he says, stubbornly.

“You don’t know me very well.”

“I don’t know you at all!” Klein exclaims.

Brianna takes a few steps forward and hoists the man up by the front of his shirt. “You could have cost these kids their lives! I don’t care what you think you were doing! You clearly cannot be trusted with such things!”

“You are nothing but a bully!”

Brianna pauses for a moment, then slowly sets him down. “I don’t like it when people hurt kids, although clearly that doesn’t bother you.”

“I am tired of being bullied,” Klein says softly.

“What you did tonight was not the answer. I had hope for you, you looked like you were trying to stop what you did and reverse it. I like to think you at least felt bad for what you did.”

Klein just stands, silent.

“You better go clean up your mess. I’m sure the church is going to wonder why such things are in their basement.” He shuffles off.

Brianna turns back the rest of the group. “Sydney, I’d offer to give you a ride back home, but I don’t think Ihave enough room. Can I call you a cab?” She agrees and Brianna pays for her fare home.

Before getting into the car, Brianna turns to Loomis. “Well, this is a mess.”

“Yep.”

“I don’t know what to do with these kids. I wish there was something like in that stupid movie where they could just look at a light and forget these last 24 hours. I guess nobody is going to believe them, so it’ll be up to them to make up some sort of story as to where they’ve been all this time.”

Brianna and Loomis get back into the car. She turns to the back seat, “How are you guys?”

“Much better now,” Alexis replies, “We’re no longer in that basement.”

“Is that what it looked like?”

“Yes. It was cold and dark there. There was a door, but it was locked.”

“We need to take you guys home, it’s late.” Brianna drives the group to Theo’s house. Before they get out of the car, she tells them to stop being assholes to their teachers. No good comes of it.

“Apparently,” Theo says.

“I’d recommend you make up some story of where you’ve been.”

“We’ll figure something out.”

“Well, I’m just glad you guys are safe.”

The kids thank her and pile out of the car.

As Brianna drives away, she looks at Loomis. “I just don’t think we get to have good dates,” she comments ruefully. She drives them to a quiet place and parks the car, removing her sunglasses since it’s just the two of them now. Her eyes still have a metallic hue to them. “Well, now I guess I just have to figure out whether or not to call the Warden. I don’t want him to still have those books. What if he gets another bad student?”

“Sounds like you’ve answered your own question.”

Brianna pulls out her phone and calls Capstone. The line is very scratchy, but the Warden’s voice is still audible. Brianna briefly explains the night’s events. “At the end, he did sincerely seem that he was trying to stop it,” she comments, “but he has books that he was using, which at the very least need to not be in his hands.”

“Yes. I’d would like to talk to this Mr. Klein. I’ll pay him a visit.” Brianna gives the Warden his address.

Brianna wishes her good hunting and hangs up. She remarks to Loomis that she’s glad she didn’t have to go into the Nevernever and that she didn’t have to make any big bargains with the Fae. She talks to him of her recent dealings with Hubbard, although she is careful to leave out any details about her place of business. “Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of leverage with the Fae, so I contracted with him for a year and a day to do the odd job he needs done. I hopefully left enough loopholes to get me out of anything that I don’t want to do, but we’ll have to see. He’s not called in any chips yet.”

“Hopefully, he won’t call upon you to compromise too much.”

“Yeah, we’ll see.”

“Just don’t get in over your head.”

“I try not to, but sometimes it just feels like one big balancing act. Portland has been really good in some aspects, but maybe it’s because I’ve stayed here longer than anywhere else.” They talk for a bit more, then head back to her apartment for the night.

View
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. Brianna also talked to Sydney and Regi to see if they’d like to join the group for Thanksgiving dinner. The two friends said that they would.

A few days before Thanksgiving, she calls Loomis to let him know that there will be two more people joining them. One is Sydney, whom Brianna’s already mentioned when she shared the entire Angie situation, the other is Regi. She pauses slightly, “We’ll still have to see how it works out for him to come to dinner and a movie with us. He’s wildfae and we’ll have to sneak him inside a handbag most likely.”

“In a handbag?” Loomis repeats, incredulously.

“Yes. He’s small.”

“Apparently.”

“Have you ran into the wildfae in Seattle?”

“Not often.”

The conversation moves onto other topics.

December 5, 2013 (Thursday)

Everyone had a good time at Thanksgiving. When Loomis stayed the night at the apartment, Brianna somewhat awkwardly mentioned that he didn’t have to sleep on the couch if he didn’t want to. While her offer truly held the promise of nothing else but sharing a bed, Loomis took her up on it.

On the evening of the 5th, Loomis is visiting Portland once again. The two have a dinner date planned together. Afterwards, the two walk back to the car, chit-chatting along the way. Suddenly, they are pushed apart as someone speeds right between them. Loomis calls out, “Rude, much?” after the running figure. The person veers off down an alley, panting hard.

Then Brianna sees a very large creature with goat-like hooves and huge horns sprouting from its head jump over her and Loomis. It lands on the other side, then chases the figure down the alley.

“What the fuck was that?” she asks, incredulous.

“Something big just jumped over us!”

“It was some large creature with fucking goat hooves!”

“I didn’t catch that,” Loomis admits, “just that it was big.”

“I don’t know what it was, but it’s chasing that person.” Brianna turns toward the alley.

“Are we getting involved in this?”

“Quite possibly. I don’t know what that thing was, but it was big and nasty and chasing someone down the street.”

“Alright.” Loomis starts jogging down the alley and Brianna keeps pace.

The alley opens up to a cross street. The goat-like creature is looming over someone in a playground on the other side of the street . Brianna points it out. “There’s the asshole, right there.” She starts heading quickly that way.

A deep guttural voice says something in a language she doesn’t understand. The figure, his voice cracking, replies, “I don’t know what your deal is man, but leave me alone.” He sounds like a teenager. As Brianna continues to approach, she sees that the creature is carrying a large sack.

“Hey! Goat-thing!” she calls out, moving closer. It quickly turns its neck and stares at her with red eyes. The black-furred creature has a visage that is part human, part goat, with a long tongue sticking out of its mouth. It says something again in that strange language. “I don’t speak Ugly,” Brianna retorts, “but why don’t you stop picking on the kid?” She’s close enough now to see that the young man is probably about fifteen years old.

Loomis catches up to her. “So, what are we doing?”

“I don’t know, but it’s threatening that kid.” She calls out to the goat-man again, “Why don’t you back away from the boy?”

The creature turns back to the teenager and raises his sack.

Brianna moves with inhuman speed and tries to grapple it, but the creature throws her off. Loomis tries to slam it with his fists, but the creature nimbly moves out of the way. It drops the bag, and turns towards them with a growl. Brianna notices its claw-like hands just seconds before it slashes her with tremendous force. “Motherfucker!” she yells out in pain.

The kid takes off running.

Brianna hisses at the creature and punches it, feeding on the rage she evokes. Loomis once again misses. The goat-man roars in rage and slashes Brianna again with its claws. She is bleeding heavily now.

The creature looks around and notices that the teenager is gone. It roars again in frustration.

Brianna retreats out of arm range, shrugging off one of her injuries. Loomis again tries to hit the creature, but misses. The goat man picks up his sack and suddenly disappears.

“What the fuck was that?” Brianna pants, shaking and angry from the fight. Her eyes are a bright metallic silver.

“I have no idea.”

She looks around, trying to check if the goat-man is still in the area. A livestock smell still lingers in the air, but she doesn’t see it. However, she does hear the sound of metal hitting concrete from a nearby alley, as if a trashcan was knocked over.

Brianna slips on a pair of sunglasses to hide her eyes which are still not quite human, then stomps over to the alley. She sees the teenager running around the corner, a dumped trashcan in his wake. Brianna uses her inhuman speed to get to the end of the alley and sees him hauling ass down the sidewalk.

“Hey!” Brianna calls out. The kid turns and looks at her, but doesn’t slow. Brianna gives chase, at a mortal speed, and still manages to catch up with him. She grabs the back of his shirt. “Hey, I was talking to you!”

The boy squirms in her grip, “Are you crazy, lady? It’s coming!”

“It’s gone,” she tells him, trying to get him to stop moving. “Can you just wait a second, kid?”

“It’s going to come back!” He sounds panicked.

“I want to talk to you about this thing, but my friend’s back there and I really don’t want to get split up right about now.” She manages to calm him down slightly, because the boy stops trying to run away.

“Yeah, okay,” he pants.

“Okay.” Brianna agrees, and starts leading the boy back the way they came. Loomis quickly catches up with them. “Sorry,” she tells him, “I didn’t mean to leave you.”

“That’s okay.”

She turns to the teenager. “My name is Brianna. This is my friend, Loomis. And your name is?”

“My name’s Theo.”

Brianna gives him a once-over. Theo seems fairly well-dressed, certainly not homeless. She spots a nearby coffee shop. “Let’s go get a cup of coffee,” she suggests.

“Alright.”

They enter the shop. Brianna buys the kid some coffee and leads the group to a back table. Once settled, she asks “So, can you explain what that was all about? Why some weird creepy goat thing with a sack was chasing you?”

“Man, I don’t know.” Theo still seems shaken.

“Well, why don’t you start with how your day went. Explain this to me.”

“I was at school.”

“Okay,” Brianna prompts.

“Then I was walking home and busting out of an alley came that … thing. It pointed at me and said something. I didn’t understand it. Then it raised up that sack. All I knew was that I wanted to be gone.”

“That was probably very smart of you.”

“So I ran. I’ve been running ever since.”

“So, you’ve been running for five hours? It’s been chasing you this entire time?”

Theo shakes his head. “Well, I had practice after school, so I’ve been running for about three hours. Every time I thought I’d lost it, it would show back up again.”

“What school?”

“Alliance at Benson.” He names a public school in Portland.

“FIrst time something like this has happened to you?”

“Well, yeah!” Theo looks incredulous.

“Are your parents going to wonder where you are at this point?”

“They generally don’t worry unless it gets to be after ten. But the way things have been going lately, they might actually be worried.”

“Something strange going on in your life?” Brianna asks, stirring her coffee.

“Some of my friends have been absent from school.”

“How long has this been going on?”

“Just today.”

Brianna looks at Loomis and raises an eyebrow, then turns back to Theo. “If you want, we can give you a lift back to your house.”

“Yeah, sure.”

“I feel we all have some common ground since we all saw that thing,” Brianna begins.

“Are you cops?” Theo interrupts, “You sound like cops.”

“I’m not a cop,” Brianna replies flatly.

Looms speaks up, “I’m with the Seattle PD.”

“Yeah,” the kid replies, “I thought I smelled a cop.”

Brianna leans forward into Theo’s personal space. “I wouldn’t get too snippy with someone who just helped chased off a thing that was following you for the last three hours.” Her voice isn’t quite as friendly as before.

He protests, “I’m accepting your ride, aren’t I? I’m not getting stranger-danger from you guys.”

“Alright.” Brianna writes her phone number down on a napkin and slides it across the table. “Here. You can call me if anything else weird happens.”

“Okay.” Theo puts the napkin in his pocket.

“My friend and I see weird stuff. If it seems weird and you’re afraid no one else is going to believe you, call me. And if you see that goat-thing coming around again, you call me immediately. I don’t care what time of day it is.”

Theo agrees and the group walks all the way back to where her car is parked. Brianna, still suffering from the effects of her Hunger, mutters angrily about “goat-fuckers” most of the way back.

Loomis leans in and asks quietly, “Are you alright?”

“That was taxing.”

“Ah.” He nods slightly. “Well, I don’t know what that thing was.”

“I don’t know either. I think I’m going to have to do some asking around.”

“Do you know anyone local?”

“Well, I have a couple of avenues to try.” Her expression hardens. “Not that I’m the fucking savior of this city, but I don’t like things preying on kids.”

The group finally arrives at Brianna’s car and they drive off. Theo gives directions to a nice neighborhood in Portland. When they pull up, Brianna gets out of the car to walk the kid to the front door. She takes only a few steps before smelling the same barnyard smell as before. Looking around, she grabs Theo and pulls him to a stop.

A big meaty arm suddenly grabs at her from out of the shadows. “You goat ass-holed fucker!” she curses angrily, barely ducking out of the way. Brianna thrusts the kid behind her, interposing her body between him and the goat-creature. She raises her fists.

The creature points at her and says something that she doesn’t understand.

“Fuck you, too!” she yells.

It pulls the sack out from behind its body and waves at Brianna to get out of the way.

Brianna hurriedly starts moving backwards, not taking her eyes off the goat-man. “Go, Theo. Go back to the car.” She can hear a car door open behind her.

The creature shoves Brianna out of the way and she tumbles to the ground. Loomis is suddenly standing next to Brianna helping her up. Theo throws himself into the car and slams the door. Brianna and Loomis turn and run for the car. The goat-man bounds over them, blocking the way. It brandishes the bag and laughs. A small growl escapes Brianna’s throat. She’s been filled with rage since their last encounter and now the thing is laughing at her.

She lunges forward and grapples the creature. “I’m going to fucking drain you, asshole,” she grinds out. Loomis tries to land a punch, but misses. The goat-man breaks out of Brianna’s hold with a growl. She angrily tries to hit it, but misses, but Loomis manages to punch the creature. The creature claws Brianna, who returns the favor by punching it and feeding on its emotion. It roars in rage. Loomis misses again.

The goat-man turns and starts trying to tear open the back door of Brianna’s car. “Get away from my car, you mother-fucking asshole!” she yells furiously and swings at its back. Her fists solidly connect with its hide and she feeds deeply. The creature seems crazed with anger. Loomis takes advantage of its mental state and breaks one of its legs with a well-aimed blow. The goat-man howls in pain and anger, then disappears.

Brianna and Loomis pile into the car and she starts driving away. Theo is panting hard in the back seat. Brianna’s hands are tight on the wheel as she snarls a steady stream of expletives. Finally, she is able to calm down enough to say, “Well, taking you home right now, Theo, may not be a good idea.”

“Okay. Where are we going?” his voice is cracked and trembling.

“We’re going to Powell’s.”

“Oh. Okay.”

Brianna starts making her way downtown. As she drives, she quietly fills in Loomis on the enormous bookstore and the kinds of secrets one can find in the stacks. Once there, she makes Theo stick close to her and Loomis while she researches the goat creature and what it might be.

She eventually comes across a creature that fits the description: the Krampus. December 5th is known as Krampusnacht in Germanic countries. According the legend, Krampus seeks out naughty children to punish. Whereas St. Nicholas brings toys to the good children, Krampus puts bad children in his sack and takes them to hell. Although the creature is most likely not bound to only one night of the year, it would ritualistically easier to summon it on Krampusnacht.

Brianna slams the book closed in front of her. “Well. It looks like its a big nasty thing that puts naughty children in his sack and takes them to hell,” she announces, “so that’s amazing.” The group heads back to her car and she fills them in on what she learned.

“So, Theo, have you done anything particularly naughty that would send the anti-Santa Claus after you?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Both Loomis and Brianna look at him skeptically. “Look,” she says, “both have us have gone to the mat for you with a large, sack wielding animal twice now. And that’s the kind of shit answer you give me? It’s been a long night, Theo.”

“I do my homework. I come home on time. I’m no worse than anybody else.”

“Uh-huh.” Brianna’s voice is still disbelieving.

“Maybe I pick on Mr. Klein too much.”

“Who’s Mr. Klein?”

“A teacher. Such a nerd.”

“A teacher at your school? What does he teach?”

“Math.”

“Pick on him, how?” Brianna sharply eyes the young man.

Theo looks uneasy. “Well, we pick on him. He’s from Germany and we might sometimes make fun of his accent. And we might sometimes call him a Nazi. And we might sometimes make fun of the way he dresses.”

“Were all of the other missing kids in Mr. Klein’s classes?”

“Actually, yeah.”

“What’s Mr. Klein’s full name?”

“I know his first name is Otto.”

Brianna thinks for a moment, then asks Theo for directions to his school. On the way, she pulls out her phone and calls Roy Dale. The college student answers after a few rings.

“Roy, I know it’s late, but can you get a home address for me?” Brianna gives him Otto Klein’s name and what little information she has. She’ll pay well if he can get the information to her in five minutes, but it’s a sliding scale depending on how long it takes. After she hangs up, her phone rings four and a half minutes later.

“I’ve got an address, but not much else,” Roy tells her. Brianna notes the address, then says goodbye. Klein’s home is located in the same general part of Portland as Alliance at Benson.

“Well, Loomis, we’ve got both the school address and his home address. I think both need to be checked out.”

He nods, then asks in a low voice, “Who’s Roy Dale?”

Brianna shrugs, “I’m not really very good at looking up things on a computer. So whenever I need to find out something, I call him. He’s a college kid looking to earn a bit of money in his spare time.” She grins at Loomis, “I think I’m paying his way through college.”

“Smart.” He seems impressed.

Brianna decides to drive by Klein’s home first. She asks Theo if he’d recognize his teacher’s car. The young man tells her that Klein drives a small hatchback. As they reach the address, Brianna spots a car matching that description in the driveway. She also notices that the car has a bumper sticker for Augustana Lutheran Church. The lights are on in the small house.

View
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.

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