The Dresden Files: Portland

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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