The Dresden Files: Portland

Taking a Dive (Part One)

Karkana Chronicles Twenty-One

September 25, 2013 (Wednesday)

After a workout at Sibley’s Gym, a car drives up to Brianna and Joey. Neither Brianna nor Joey recognize it, so they keep walking. It pulls up in front of them, blocking their path and a window rolls down. Brianna slings her gym bag over her shoulder and waits.

A non-descript man in a suit and sunglasses pokes his head out of the window and says, “Mr. Smith would like a meeting.”

“Right now?” Brianna asks.

“Yes,” the man says. “Hop in.”

“It’ll be the two of us,” Brianna says, a note of challenge in her voice.

“Okay,” the man replies.

She and Joey get in the car and they drive downtown to a nice hotel. The man parks the car and gets out, then leads the two inside the hotel to a nice room. Inside the room is a laptop sitting on a table. He goes over and hits a button on the laptop. The screen remains dark, but they all hear Mr. Smith’s voice.

“Ms. Karkana, it’s a pleasure to meet with you once again. Isn’t technology wonderful?”

“It seems a little bit Jason Bourne, but I suppose so,” Brianna remarks.

“Certain precautions have to be maintained,” Mr. Smith says smoothly.

“Did it make you nervous to meet with me last time?”

“You misunderstand,” Mr. Smith says. “The reason that I have called you here is that some mysterious faction is targeting my agents.”

“Thus the caution,” Brianna says.

“Thus the caution,” Mr. Smith repeats.

“Alright.” Brianna’s voice is still neutral.

“The reason that I have called you,” Mr. Smith says, “is that I would like someone to hit back in her own imitable way.”

Brianna raises an eyebrow. “I take it this is a business arrangement we’re now entering into?”

“Of course.”

“Targeting your agents as in disappeared? Or are you finding bodies?”

“I’m finding bodies. First they disappear. Then I find a body.”

“Do you have your suspicions?” Brianna asks bluntly.

“I suspect that I have someone on the inside,” Mr. Smith says carefully. “Either working for this mysterious faction, or who is this mysterious faction.”

“Well, from what I understand of your organization, Mr. Smith, you don’t let outsiders look around very much.”

“No, not usually,” Mr. Smith agrees. “However, in this case, we’re going to make an exception. How would you like to be a new recruit? As a front, of course.”

Brianna laughs, shaking her head at the idea. “I’m not really sure what this job will entail and can’t give you an easy answer. I’m assuming that it won’t raise any conflict between me and my House.”

“I sincerely doubt it.”

“And my business partner?” .

“I am not looking to hire your business partner.”

“Will I be working out of Portland?” Brianna asks.

“Yes,” Mr. Smith confirms.

“Will I be taken out of my home? Will I be working someplace remote?”

“I don’t anticipate so.”

“So this is going to be a ‘show up someplace 9-5’ sort of thing?”

“Yes.”

As far as Brianna can tell, Mr. Smith seems sincere. “Well, I’m interested,” she finally says.

“Good,” Mr. Smith says.

“What do you want me to do when I find your inside person?” Brianna asks. “Who am I depositing said baggage with?”

“You will have a handler. You will deposit said baggage with your handler,” Mr. Smith replies.

“And you’re pretty sure this handler isn’t the person I’m watching out for?”

“I’m reasonably assured.”

“What’s the time frame?” Brianna asks. “Obviously lives are at stake so sooner is better than later.”

“Sooner is better than later,” Mr. Smith agrees.

The two then begin to discuss money and Mr. Smith flashes a very generous amount on the screen. Brianna negotiates and Mr. Smith doesn’t balk. “If you have an account number, we can deposit directly,” Mr. Smith tells her.

Brianna stares directly at the screen and says drily. “Are you sure you don’t know my account number already?”

“Being polite never hurt anyone,” Mr. Smith’s voice turns chilly. “We can make the deposit directly.”

“No, I suppose it doesn’t,” Brianna replies. “Well, where and when do we start?”

“Tomorrow morning. Report to the law offices of Hartram and Wolf,” Mr. Smith says.

“And ask for?”

“Your handler,” Mr. Smith says. " Mr. Rupert. "

Brianna crosses her arms, frowning slightly. “Mr. Rupert and I did not necessarily leave on the best of terms during our last encounter. I hope his desire to have this killer caught is stronger than his desire to just annoy the shit out of me.”

“I can assure you that Mr. Rupert is a professional. I hope I can say the same for you,” Mr. Smith says mildly.

“No one has accused me of not being professional,” Brianna counters.

“That is not your reputation,” Mr. Smith agrees.

“Also, no one has ever accused me of hiding my emotions,” Brianna uncrosses her arms. “But, I want this to work. I’ll see Mr. Rupert tomorrow.”

“Very well,” Mr. Smith says.

The man in the sunglasses shuts the laptop and escorts them out and back to the car. He drives them back silently to their car back at Sibley’s Gym.

Once Brianna and Joey are back in their car, Brianna mutters hotly, “Goddam Rupert. I don’t take being drugged, tranquilized, and beaten for information particularly well.” She shakes her head, “I didn’t think I’d have to see him again. We’ll see how this goes.”

They drive back home in relative silence, each considering the amount of money that flashed on that laptop screen and the idea that there is someone—or something—the VU can’t get their hands on.

Once they get back to the apartment, Brianna calls her cousin Quincy and lets him know of the Baroness of Seattle’s retaliation against Brianna and her friends and the results. Brianna wants to keep her House informed.

September 26, 2013 (Thursday)

Brianna dresses in her nicest professional attire and checks her bank account. The money transfer has gone through. She asks Joey to wish her luck and takes a taxi to the law offices of Hartram and Wolf.

The offices are in a twelve-story building downtown. As Brianna gets out of the taxi, she is met by Malcolm Rupert.

“Ms. Karkana,” he says, expressionless.

“Mr. Rupert,” Brianna says, matching his tone.

He motions toward the door. Brianna enters the building and he says, “Welcome to Hartram and Wolf.”

“Thank you,” Brianna, her voice still carefully neutral.

“Allow me to give you the tour.”

There is a very spacious lobby area which leads into an office area with cubicles in which paralegals are working. There is then a large “bullpen” area where lawyers have their offices. Brianna notices that a few of the young “lawyers” are packing heat. She also notices that the entire facility has an awful lot of security for a simple law firm.

Brianna is taken to a records room, run by an Esmerelda Ramos. Brianna very much gets the impression that Ramos is polite, but that she is a petty tyrant of the records room. She also notices, amongst the records, a number of occult titles in the books.

Out on the floor, she is introduced to a few people. Among them is Moses Grant, an older African-American gentleman who is very calm, cool, collected, and “far too old for this shit.” He informs her that he is 5 months, 3 weeks, and 2 days from retirement—not that he’s counting. She is also introduced to a young man named Calvin Cooley, kind of an All-American looking guy, very friendly and open. Next there is Lydia Smith; she seems a little twitchy.

Rupert takes her to a gym in the basement area of the building. Brianna is impressed with the workout equipment provided. There is also a gun range available for use. He informs her that the twelfth floor is “off-limits to people of our pay grade.”

While down in the gym, which seems to be a secure area to have a private conversation, he informs her that most of the people upstairs are operatives.

“Well, I figure not a lot of lawyers are packing heat,” Brianna says drily.

“Good eye,” Rupert says.

Brianna just looks at him.

“They’re trained in law. They handle a lot of cases. But they are also operatives.” He pauses slightly. “So, you’re here to figure out our mole problem.”

“Yes,” Brianna says. “Your boss thinks I can help.”

“What are you going to do when you find him?” Rupert asks.

“I’ve been told to give him to you,” Brianna says pointedly.

“Hmm.”

The two stare at each other for a moment. Finally, Rupert breaks the silence. “So where are you going to start?”

“I need information. I only have a very vague picture of what’s going on. I only know that people are disappearing and turning up dead. That’s not enough to turn up anything.”

“There’s been two,” Rupert confirms. “Both appear to be killed by the waterfront by the Willamette.”

“Cause of death?”

“They were beaten and choked to death and thrown into the river,” Rupert says.

“Is there something about their death that makes Mr. Smith think that there’s a mysterious faction afoot?” Brianna asks. “That this is not some particularly ill-timed unfortunate event? Why were they down at the waterfront? Do we know?”

“We don’t. But it is awfully coincidental that two Venatori from this office…” Rupert begins.

Brianna nods, “You don’t believe in coincidences. Do you have names?”

“John McGee and Julie Dunn,” Rupert says.

“Any commonalities besides that they worked here?” Brianna asks. “Were they involved in the same things?”

Rupert shakes his head.

“Both agents?” Brianna asks.

Rupert nods.

“Both working on something?”

“Presumably,” Rupert says.

Brianna cocks her head. “I’m trying to get a sense of how this works. Everyone gets their orders from upstairs and nobody really knows what the others are doing then?”

“No,” Rupert says.

“Well, that makes it tricky to figure out, doesn’t it?” Brianna says, exasperated. “Were these deaths within the past week?”

“Two weeks,” Rupert says.

“Spaced out?” Brianna asks.

“Yes.”

“Are their deaths widely known?”

“Within the organization?” Rupert asks.

“Are people worried?” Brianna clarifies.

“There’s talk, but it’s also a dangerous organization.”

“I suppose so,” Brianna says, skeptically.

She continues. “As I’m poking around and trying to find out who’s doing this, where can I go? What kind of access do I actually have? I’m not a huge computer researcher, so I’m not sure what good that’s going to do me.”

“I’m not sure what you are asking,” Rupert says.

“I’m not going to go to the 12th floor, I know that, but there are a lot of other floors, other people to talk to. There are a lot of occult books in your records room.”

“You’ll have some access to the records room as a recruit,” Rupert says. “You have what access Esmerelda will give you.”

“I’m not part of this organization. I don’t have a sense of what I should be doing that wouldn’t look weird or have other people questioning what I’m up to. What do recruits usually do here?” Brianna asks.

“The story is that you are on assignment.”

“Ah,” Brianna says. “Anything else about this story I need to know or is this the kind of story where people won’t ask?”

“Questions are to be referred to me,” Rupert says.

“Fair enough.”

“Don’t use your last name,” Rupert tells her. “People around here will know what it means. So what are you going to use?”

“Daniels,” Brianna answers promptly.

“Did the bodies get sent to the morgue or are the bodies here?” Brianna changes the topic.

“At this point, the bodies are probably on the 12th floor,” Rupert says.

“Alright.”

“However, the autopsy report is probably in the records room,” Rupert continues.

“Both of them were killed near the waterfront and thrown into the water. But no one knows how they got there?” Brianna shrugs. “Alright, some places to start. Are you following me around? How do I get in touch with you?”

He hands her a card with a number on it. “I’m sure you have mine,” she tells him with a touch of acid in her voice.

“Unless it’s changed,” he replies.

“I can get a hold of you twenty-four/seven?” Brianna asks.

“Twenty-four/seven,” Rupert confirms.

“I suppose I know where you live,” Brianna throws out.

“I suppose you do,” Rupert’s voice is tight.

“I told Mr. Smith I was going to be professional about this and that is what I intend to do.”

“Good.”

“But it pisses me off when people go after those I set out to protect,” Brianna’s voice raises slightly.

Through clenched teeth, Rupert says, “I was not pleased with this assignment either, vampire. But I, too, will be professional.”

“I think your boss just has a sick sense of humor,” Brianna retorts. She pauses for a moment, getting her anger under control. Then she asks, “Were your people able to get to Charlotte Fleming in time?”

“Yes,” Rupert says, his voice back to careful neutrality.

“Good,” Brianna nods. “I would not wish those Red Court fuckers on anyone. Alright. I’m going to get working, then.”

“Very well,” Rupert says.

The two share a silent elevator ride back upstairs.

“Do I have a desk?” Brianna asks.

“Yes.”

He shows her to her desk out in the “bull pen”. After Rupert leaves, she heads to the records room.

At the records room, she is met at the counter by Esmerelda Ramos. Esmerelda is eyeing Brianna sideways, like she doesn’t know what to think of her. The diminutive woman looks at her over her glasses and asks, cautiously, “What can I do for you?”

“I was hoping to get a couple of reports from you,” Brianna says.

Esmerelda reaches into a drawer and brings up a clipboard and a couple of forms. “Okay, fill these out for me and we can see what we can do.”

“Alright,” Brianna says and takes the forms and begins filling them out, and attempts to chit-chat with Ramos. She also asks questions about the forms, taking care to do them “by the book”.

Ramos looks them over and says, “Very well, we should be able to get these records for you by tomorrow.”

“Is there any way to get them today?” Brianna asks, crestfallen.

“Well…” Ramos wavers.

“This is my first day. I’m trying to make some kind of good impression,” Brianna says.

“I do have a back-up on various retrievals and this one is not a priority,” Ramos begins, but finally she says, “I tell you what, come back later this afternoon. I make no guarantees, but we’ll see.”

“Thank you. I really do appreciate it. Thank you, Ms. Ramos,” Brianna says.

“You’re welcome,” Ramos says.

Brianna returns to her desk and gets on to the internet and starts searching for information on the waterfront of the Willamette.

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