The Dresden Files: Portland

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.

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