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

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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

November 6, 2013 (Wednesday)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yeah,” he grunts.

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

“Not unless you want to start anything.”

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

November 7, 2013 (Thursday)

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

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

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

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

“Sam. Sam Jones.”

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

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

“Business?”

“Business.”

Brianna looks sideways at Joey. “Tonight?”

“Preferably.”

“Alright.”

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

“No. We can step outside.”

“Excellent.”

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

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

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

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

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

“Is there something blocking the way?”

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

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

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

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

“For a short time.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Good to know, Mr. Jones.”

“I guess we’re done here?”

“We’re done.”

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

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

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

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

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

“The poor bastard was probably alive.”

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

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

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

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

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

“Right.”

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

“The first one I’ve seen.”

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

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

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

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

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

November 8, 2013 (early Friday morning)

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

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

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

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

“Which one’s your sister?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What do you want to do?”

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

November 8, 2013 (later that Friday)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Very good,” he smiles toothily.

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

It’s a nail.

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

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

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

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

“I have a boss.”

“Yeah?”

“I’ll leave it at that.”

“Heard anything else about me?”

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

“I do.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joey texts back, “GTFO.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

November 9, 2013 (Saturday)

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

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

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

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

“A short time.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joey throws a water balloon, but misses.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“No problem.”

The two walk back to the car and drive home.

November 10, 2013 (Sunday)

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

“You’ve got Sam,” a voice says.

“Sam. This is Brianna from the fights.”

“Ah. This is unexpected.”

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

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

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

“Your territory?”

“My place of business,” she concedes slightly.

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

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

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

“This is a good number.”

“Okay.” He hangs up, laughing.

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

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

“I know it,” Brianna interrupts.

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

“It is.”

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

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

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

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

“You talking about Aragon?”

“Yes.”

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

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

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

“No.”

“Alright then.”

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

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

“Ah, there you are!”

“Here I am.”

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

She raises an eyebrow. “No name?”

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

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

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

“Whiskey.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“They’re part of my territory.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“And I ask again.”

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

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

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

“Then you don’t know me then.”

“No, I don’t.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I have that effect on women.”

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

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

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

November 11, 2013 (Monday)

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

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

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

“Oh? Information?”

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

Nerise asks who this person is.

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

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

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

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

“Oh? When was this?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You have.”

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

“I am in your debt,” Brianna agrees.

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

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

November 12, 2013 (Tuesday)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Oh, really?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

November 13, 2013 (Wednesday)

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

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

“That would be acceptable to me.”

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

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

“Thank you for meeting with me.”

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

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

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

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

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

“So she must like you to some degree.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Am I?”

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

“How so?”

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

Hubbard stares at her through slitted eyes.

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

“What exactly are you proposing?”

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

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

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

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

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

“Your Court? Or your House?”

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

“And you’re not an assassin?”

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

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

“No, not necessarily.”

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

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

“What if it was something more subtle?”

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

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

“Three months.”

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

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

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

“That is entirely true,” she mutters.

“I could house you nearby.”

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

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

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

Hubbard nods. “Name your guidelines.”

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

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

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

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

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

View
Angie (Part One)
Karkana Chronicles Twenty-Two

October 14, 2013 (Monday)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Oh. So you know best, huh?”

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

“Not any later than usual.”

“How long have you been feeling off?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“An ex-boyfriend got me into it.”

“Was he a fighter?”

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

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

“He liked to get in fights.”

“Ah. Recreational.”

“Sometimes with me,” Angie adds.

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

“Yeah. He’s definitely an ex.”

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

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

“Seems like a thankless job,” Brianna comments.

“Oh, it has its ups and downs.”

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

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

“Likewise,” Angie responds.

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

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

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

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

“Joey’s well taken care of.”

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

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

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

October 15, 2013 (Tuesday)

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

“Yep.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Hey.”

“This morning didn’t go as planned.”

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

“Not to be so much of a bitch.”

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

“I’d like a chance to talk.”

“Okay.”

“Are you available now?”

“Yeah.”

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

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

“Situation?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“So, you’re serious about her then?”

“Yeah.”

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

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

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

“Not necessarily.”

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

“I can protect Angie,” Joey says stubbornly.

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

“So, what are you saying?”

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

“It’s not something we talk about.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I don’t feel any different.”

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

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

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

“Alright.”

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

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

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

Hecate_s_Wheel_Strophalos.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 16, 2013 (Wednesday)

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

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

“You have white hair,” Brianna says slowly.

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

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

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

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

“I’ll do it later.”

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

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

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

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

“No.”

“Okay.” Joey seems slightly mollified.

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

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

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

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

Sydney sounds a bit puzzled, but agrees.

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

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

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

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

“Where are we going?”

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

“Okay, we’ll follow you.”

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

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

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

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

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

“I’d notice,” Brianna remarks.

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

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

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

“I know.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“To what?”

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

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

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

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

“Yes.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Just this one,” Sydney confirms.

“Let’s do it.”

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

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

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

“It wasn’t super strong.”

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

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

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

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

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

“Possibly.”

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

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

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

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

“I feel very woozy,” she admits.

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

“Okay.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Oh. Wow.”

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

“Okay.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Do you have any way to contact anyone?”

“No.”

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

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

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

“I’m not finished yet.”

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

Angie cocks an eyebrow at Brianna. “Or?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brianna misses Angie and the hag misses her.

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

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

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

“Sydney, are you alright?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Can that spell be broken?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I’m going to go find Angie.”

“You are not moving.”

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

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

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

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

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

“But I’ve got to go find Angie.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Okay. I’m sorry.”

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

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

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

Brianna describes the situation in as few words as possible.

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

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

“Where is the hag?”

“At her house. I took Joey and ran.”

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

“Yes. Or recommend someone who can.”

“Nobody I would trust.”

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

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

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

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

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

“You say he’s a former Warden?”

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

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

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

Brianna drops the subject.

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

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

“Yes, she does,” Brianna agrees.

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

Brianna starts to pace.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Then you deserve to know the consequences.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joey stirs, blinking. “What the hell?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I have some wine.”

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

“You son of a bitch,” she tells him.

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

“What do you remember?” she asks gently.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yeah.”

“Then I was here arguing with you.”

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

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

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

“I didn’t ask you to do that.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Me, too.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I’m good if you’re good.”

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

The two finish their drinks in companionable silence.

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