The Dresden Files: Portland

Side Job: People of the Moon

Karkana Chronicles Twenty-Eight

January 2 – 14, 2014

Brianna has heard nothing from Nerise or Clive since New Year’s Eve. She contacts Quincy to let him (and the Patriarch) know about the political coup in Portland. Retelling the events of that night re-ignites the fury and frustration that still simmers inside her. She asks Quincy to pass along any more information that he can find.

“I’ll see what I can do, but that’s Raith politics.”

Brianna also asks him to help track down Madeline Raith’s contact information. After the events in Seattle, Brianna figures she owes her a favor, which Brianna plans to collect. Quincy last heard that Madeline was in Chicago, but he’ll see what he can do.

“Thanks. I feel like I’m walking blind here. I don’t know what the hell’s going on. I just know that Perry Raith is now in charge, and Perry and I don’t like each other. Any information you can find out will be helpful.”

About a week later, Brianna gets a phone call from Quincy. He’s not going to be get in touch with Madeline.

Brianna is confused.

“Scuttlebutt is that she got iced in Chicago by a Council wizard by the name of Dresden.”

“What the hell?! They can just attack us?”

“Well,” Quincy admits, “It sounds she started it.”

“Oh, Madeline,” Brianna groans. “That’s just fucking awesome. I knew she was reckless, but goddammit.” She shakes her head. “Did you hear anything else about what’s going on?”

“A little bit. What Perry did wasn’t ordered by the Raiths, but there aren’t going to be any repercussions either.”

“Well, that still says something about the situation.”

“I think the idea is that if Nerise couldn’t hold her position, then she shouldn’t be allowed to.”

“I guess we’ll see what happens if Perry can’t hold it,” Brianna mutters darkly. She thanks Quincy and hangs up.

January 15, 2014

During one of her semi-nightly phone calls with Shawn, he mentions that he may be out-of-pocket for a while.

“What’s up?”

“Well, I got a phone call from back at the Rez. A guy I used to know, Jimmy Torrence, was apparently attacked. They don’t know by what. The Elders want me to check it out.”

Brianna is silent for a moment, picking her words carefully. “I guess this is kind of a hard thing, going back?”

“It’s not something I’d rather do.”

“But you have obligations?”

“Jimmy was an okay guy.”

“They’re calling you in what capacity, exactly? As a cop?”

“Partially.”

“Or for other reasons?”

“Partially.”

“So, this isn’t just something that they’d call the local police about then?”

“There are no local police on the Rez. We tried to get a police department in 2008, but couldn’t get enough money from the BIA to do anything. So now they’re just on an as needed basis with King County.”

“Are you going by yourself?”

“That was the idea.”

“Do you want someone to go with you?”

There’s a bit of a pause.

“And by someone, I mean me,” Brianna says in a lighter tone. “Someone to watch your back.”

“Okay.”

“I’m trying to lay low as it is. Getting out of town for a bit may not be a bad idea.”

“Yeah, it might be good to have another set of eyes.” Shawn is planning to head out tomorrow, so Brianna offers to drive up to Seattle tonight. In regards to how long this may take, he doesn’t think that he’ll be at the Rez for more than a week.

“Let me get some stuff squared away here first, then I’ll get on the road.” They hang up

Brianna lets Joey know what’s going on and asks him to keep an eye on everything while she’s away. Then she packs, throwing in her Kevlar and the remaining holy water as well. She tries to look up information on the “Rez,” but she doesn’t have a lot of luck. There are multiple Reservations in Washington and Shawn has never really talked about details about where he grew up.

January 16, 2014 (early morning)

It’s very early in the morning when Brianna knocks on Shawn’s door. He opens it and lets her inside.

“Are we leaving now? Or can I catch a few hours of sleep?” she asks, stifling a yawn.

“You can get a bit of sleep first.”

Being this close to Shawn makes Brianna very aware that she has still not fully recovered from using so much of her supernatural powers in the fight against Perry’s gunmen. Afraid of how her Hunger will react when mixed with desire, she is careful not to let her touch linger on him for very long. If he notices, Shawn doesn’t comment.

Later that morning, they both pack up into Shawn’s truck and head out of town. He tells her that it’s only about a thirty-minute drive.

“What’s the name of the Reservation?” Brianna asks.

“Sonqualmie.”

“Well, tell me what I need to know before we get there. You’ve not talked about it a lot.”

“Not much to say. It’s like a lot of small towns. It’s pretty insular. Everybody knows everybody. It’s poor.” He pauses. “I don’t know what you want to know.”

“So, the Elders asked you to come in?”

“Well, specifically one Elder.”

Brianna tries to gather her thoughts. “In the past, you’ve said things like the Elders wanted you to be someone that you weren’t. I’m trying to get a little bit of context of how you’re going to be received. Who’s really in charge.”

“It’s governed by a tribal council.”

“So, they’re pretty much the law on the Reservation?”

“Yeah, there’s the constitution and the tribal council. It’s kind of like city codes and ordinances”

“One person specifically asked you back?”

“Yeah, Tom Clark.”

“Do we like Tom Clark, or not?” Brianna’s voice is serious.

“He’s a good guy, but he thinks I’m some kind of spirit totem.”

“I take it that makes you very uncomfortable.”

“Yeah.”

“And the rest of the Elders?” Brianna continues to carefully ask questions, watching Shawn’s face as he drives. “I guess I’m assuming you know everyone who’s currently on the council.”

“Not all of the Elders are on the council.”

“Okay, then who are we really going to be dealing with?”

“The Elders.”

“So, do you know the rest of the Elders? It’s been a while since you’ve been back.”

“They all figured into my childhood one way or another. It’s a small place, so we’ll probably run into them.”

“And do we like them?”

“We don’t dislike them. Well, except for Sheila. I don’t think she ever cared for me.”

“How many people know about you? All of the Elders? Or just a few?”

“Most of the Elders.”

“I’m assuming this was something that was hard to keep a secret in such a small, insular community.”

Shawn nods, “Exactly. Several of the people in my generation have some idea, they just keep it to themselves. Who’s going to believe them?”

“Are a lot of the people that you grew up with still there? Do they leave?”

“They’re still on the Rez. It can be hard to get out.”

Brianna is quiet for a moment, processing everything he’s said. “Those people who know about you, do they know about the rest of the supernatural community?”

“No, just me.”

“So, not even the fact that there are other weres out there.”

“No, they just know I’m a freak.”

Brianna’s expression hardens. “You are not a freak.”

His voice drops to a mock whisper. “I know that, but they don’t know that.”

Brianna’s anger flares and her hands involuntary ball into fists. She breaths out slowly, then forces herself to relax. “Okay, that gives me some parameters on what things to say and what things not to say. Are we going to be staying there?”

“Yes.”

“Did you tell them you were bringing someone?”

“No. I didn’t know I was at the time.”

Brianna doesn’t have many other questions to ask, so shifts the conversation to relate what she learned from Quincy. “I haven’t heard from Nerise or Clive since New Year’s.”

“They may be laying low for a bit.”

“Aren’t we all?” After a moment of driving, Brianna speaks up again. “I need to mention that if we’re going to be here a full week, I’m going to need to go into town every so often.”

“Ah.” Shawn’s voice is knowing.

“I’m still a little bit shaky from New Year’s. I don’t want to be this close to the edge and not feed for an entire week. I don’t have as much control of things as I’d like.”

“Well, there’s not going to be places like Seattle here.”

“If we’re here that long, I may just have to go back to Seattle. I don’t want to cause trouble on the Reservation. I don’t want to be known as the person who causes fights.”

“Yeah, that could be problematic.”

“I just may need to borrow your truck.”

“Okay.”

About half an hour later, they pull into the small town of Sonqualmie in rural Washington. The population is about 650 people. Brianna feels claustrophobic just driving into town. Shawn pulls into the parking lot of the Tribal Building and the two get out of the truck. He leads the way inside the front lobby. A receptionist sits behind the desk. She smiles at the two of them. “Hello, how can I help …” Her voice trails off as her eyes widen. “Shawn Loomis! As I live and breathe!”

“Hello,” Shawn replies evenly.

“What can I do for you?”

“I’m looking for Tom Clark. He said I could meet him here.”

“Well, he’s just around back. Let me go get him.” She leaves her desk. After a few minutes, an older Native American man enters the lobby.

“Shawn,” Tom says heartily, “Good to see you!” The two shake hands and exchange pleasantries.

Shawn gestures, “This is Brianna Karkana. My friend.”

Brianna smiles. “Sir.”

“She’s going to be helping sort all of this out.”

Tom blinks for a moment, then says “Well, good. I suppose you’ll be wanting to view the body then.” Shawn agrees. “Then come with me. We haven’t called King County yet, but we can’t delay too much longer.” The man leads the two of them to a back room. A body lays on a table, covered by a sheet. Tom pulls back the cloth and reveals a heavily mauled body.

Brianna takes off her jacket, pulls back her hair, and dons a pair of gloves. She’s not able to determine much besides that the man was probably in his 20s or 30s. Shawn works next to her. “This person is just mangled,” he observes, “not eaten. There are bite marks, claw marks. Looks canine. Whatever did this was playing with him.”

Brianna looks at Tom. “Where was he found?”

“He was found behind his trailer house on the outskirts of town.”

“Do you have anything in this part of the country that tends to eat on people?”

“Not generally. There’s coyotes. There are timber wolves, but they don’t tend to go after people and stay in the deep woods.” He gestures, “That’s one reason we called Shawn here. It’s unusual.”

Brianna keeps her expression blank. “Do you have a good estimate of when the attack happened?”

“I think it happened the night before he was found.”

“Who were his closest neighbors? Did anyone hear anything?”

“He doesn’t really have neighbors, per se. There were no witnesses and no one heard anything. We did have Joe Reed take a look around.”

Brianna looks at Shawn and raises an eyebrow. Shawn speaks up, “Did he find anything?”

“Well, he did find some pretty large wolf tracks. But, like I said, timber wolves don’t normally come down this way … and these sets are big.”

“Was he able to figure out what direction the tracks went?” Brianna asks.

“East, but then he lost the trail.”

Brianna turns to Shawn. “What’s east?”

“Some big natural areas.”

“We should get out to Jimmy Torrence’s place and take a look around.” Shawn nods and the two start taking off their gloves.

Tom enthusiastically claps Shawn on the back. “I’m glad you’re back here, boy. You’re back where you belong!”

Shawn doesn’t respond to the comment, only saying “We’ll go check out it and let you know what we find.”

The two load up in the truck. As they drive along, Brianna asks about Joe Reed. It turns out he’s another one of the Elders. Shawn says he’s a good hunter and tracker.

Torrence’s home is on the very outskirts of town. Brianna comments on the isolated location. It would be much easier to attack someone this far away from the rest of the town and not be noticed. Shawn leads the way around the back of the house. He takes his time gauging the scene of the crime, taking his pen out of his pocket and moving trash around, examining under the trailer, and judging distances between the house and any surrounding cover.

Leaving the investigation to Shawn, Brianna keeps an eye out for people watching them or any other potential threats. When she spots a pickup truck heading their way, she calls out “Hey. There’s someone coming.”

The truck stops and an older man gets out. Shawn comments, “Oh, that’s Dave Bowie.” He pauses, “And yes, he’s heard all of the jokes.” Brianna looks at him blankly. “Like David Bowie,” he explains.

Brianna nods. They wait for him to approach. “Shawn, how goes it?” Bowie asks.

“It goes.”

“Yeah, it always does.”

The two men clasp hands.

“I heard you were back in town so I thought I’d see if I could offer any assistance.”

“Well, it’s appreciated. I’m not sure what you can do, but I appreciate the thought.”

“Always like to help, that’s all. If anything, let me buy you lunch.”

Shawn agrees, “Well, I may take you up on that offer.” He makes introductions, “Dave, this is Brianna. She’s my friend and helping me out.”

Brianna shakes his offered hand.

“Got any ideas?”

Shawn shakes his head. “It’s still early yet. I try not to have any ideas until I have a bit more evidence.”

“Probably smart, probably smart.” Dave says amiably. “Well, I’ll just stand back here and get out of your way.”

As Shawn continues to investigate the scene, Dave turns to her. “So, Brianna was it?”

“Yes.”

“So, you a policeman too?”

“No, I do more contract work.”

“Okay.” When it becomes obvious that Brianna isn’t going to offer any more explanation, the two stand in awkward silence for a bit. Shawn finally finishes up and heads back to them. He sighs and tells Dave that he’s ready for that promised lunch. The man agrees and tells them to follow him to the Tavern.

As soon as they are back in Shawn’s truck, Brianna asks what he found.

“Signs of a struggle. Some traces of blood. Probably came out of the trailer and then was jumped.”

“Well, that shows a bit more intent that you usually find in wild animals, doesn’t it?”

“Yeah.”

“Are you aware of any other sentient creatures that are running around here? From the supernatural community?”

“No one that’s been out here traditionally, but we may have some new players.”

Brianna thinks for a moment, then comments, “What I remember you telling me about the Were community is that it’s not that organized. There’s not a big Counsel of Weres or anything.”

“Not that I’m aware of.”

“So, if it was someone encroaching on an area that wasn’t theirs, there isn’t anyone to take grievances to.”

“No, there’s not. I’m afraid this may be a pack that has decided to claim this area as their hunting ground. They may need to be dissuaded of that idea.”

Brianna agrees. “Do you have any idea where they may be staying? Seattle is 30 miles away by car. Unless they’re truly feral and living in the woods, they’ve got to be staying somewhere.”

“That’s the trick, isn’t it?” He pauses, “I might be able to sniff them out.”

“This happened several days ago? I don’t have a idea how your good your sense of smell is.”

“Every day makes the smell that much more faint.”

“Something we need to try tonight, then?” Shawn agrees.

They eventually pull up in front of a place called “Smokey Joe’s Tavern.” Dave leads the way inside and they grab a table. The older man buys them all lunch and a pint of beer.

During the meal, Dave turns to Shawn, “We’re all really glad to see you back in town.”

Shawn replies that he’s happy to help.

“I know you’ve got your own life to live and I respect that. But that doesn’t mean we’re not glad to see you.”

Shawn nods, as if he’s heard this before.

“If you need anything, just let me know. Do you have a place to stay?”

“I’m going to get a room at the lodge.”

“You don’t have to. You can stay at my place if you want to. But it’s your decision, do what you want.”

Brianna is listening to the conversation between the two men, but also scanning the room to see who’s taking note of them.

Shawn replies, “No, we’ll stay at the lodge. That will be fine. I don’t want to put anybody out.”

“That’s fine, that’s fine. So, what do you think our trouble is?”

“Like I said before, it’s a bit early to say. I think our trouble is that somebody killed Jimmy Torrence and I’m going to find out who. Then we’ll go from there.”

“Fair enough, fair enough. Did Tom say when he was going to call King County.”

“Not yet. He’s going to give me a bit of time to look around first. That may cause some trouble for him, but I think Tom can handle it.”

Dave comments that “In the old days, what happened on the Rez, stayed on the Rez. That may be what’s called for here.” Brianna looks over sharply at that.

Shawn replies evenly, “Well, I think that depends on what’s going on, don’t you? If we’ve got a killer on the loose, we’ll want him arrested and dealt with.”

“Sure. If we have a killer on the loose. Now, if we have something else entirely. Well, the County Sheriffs may not be equipped to deal with it, will they?”

“I think we can just cross that bridge when we get to it. Until then, this is a murder investigation.”

“Of course,” Dave is amicable again.

Brianna notices an older woman come into the Tavern. She takes a look around, does a double-take when she notices their table, then starts stalking in their direction. “Shawn.” Brianna’s voice holds a warning.

Shawn looks up. “Oh, shit.”

“Is this Sheila?”

“Yes.”

Brianna pushes back ever so slightly in her chair, giving herself more room to move.

The woman stops right at their table. “Shawn Loomis, what are you doing in town?” Her voice is unfriendly.

“I forgot some old library books that I needed to bring back.”

The older woman narrows her eyes at him. “We don’t need your kind of trouble.”

Dave speaks up, “Don’t you have some place to go, Sheila? We’re just trying to have a nice lunch.”

She snaps, “You be quiet, Dave Bowie.” Looking at Shawn, she continues, “You always bring the kind of trouble we don’t need, Shawn Loomis. Always bringing trouble. You just eat your sandwich and get on out of here.”

Brianna’s expression is openly disdainful as she asks, “And who the fuck are you?”

Shawn speaks calmly, “I’ll leave when the time is right, Sheila, and not before. Trouble seems to follow me, I can’t say that it doesn’t.”

Brianna interjects, “It sounds like you had plenty of trouble going on already otherwise Shawn wouldn’t even be here. Would he?”

“I don’t think I asked you,” Sheila counters angrily.

“No one asks me for my opinions. I give those for free.”

The older woman looks Brianna up and down scornfully. “Is that all you give for free?”

Brianna shifts in her chair, the tension in the air growing thicker.

Dave raises his hands, “Now, now. There’s no need for any of this. Sheila, why don’t you get a beer or something? I’m going to pay this tab and we’re going to leave and do what we need to do.”

“You just don’t cause any trouble here, Shawn Loomis.” The woman turns on her heel and storms to the bar.

“Well, she hasn’t changed a bit,” Shawn remarks.

“I don’t like her either.” Brianna adds.

“Ah. Most people don’t.” Dave pays the bill and they head out of the Tavern. “I meant what I said about my place if you change your mind about staying at the lodge. If you need anything, just holler. My number hasn’t changed in thirty years.” The two men shake hands.

Back in Shawn’s truck, Brianna asks him “So was that woman like that your entire life?”

“Pretty much.”

“Why does she not like you?”

“She thinks I’m a freak.”

“So she knows about you.”

“Yeah. She think’s I’m a blight on the Reservation. That I bring bad spirits.”

“Well, if she does’t think her negativity doesn’t bring ‘bad spirits’ to air around her, then she’s blind.”

“Yeah, well it took me a long time to realize that.”

Brianna sighs, “I understand. Being a kid is a bitch.”

“Yeah.”

“So, who raised you?”

“Dave, and Tom, and Joe. Even her a little bit.”

“Where did you stay?”

“Dave’s, and Tom’s and Joe’s… I moved around a lot. And then later, I stayed with Officer Skyler.”

“He’s the one who encouraged you to join the police?”

“Yes.”

They decide to get set up in the Travel Lodge. Shawn won’t be able to track until nightfall and he wants to talk to Joe Reed before then. Brianna sets out her Kevlar vest for later as well as her jug of holy water.

Joe Reed lives in town. When the older man answers the door, he remarks, “Hmm. Shawn Loomis. Didn’t think we’d see you around here again.” Brianna senses a bit of hostility behind the words.

“Hello Joe,” Shawn replies evenly, “This is my friend, Brianna. Tom called us in to look at this Jimmy Torrence matter. I understand you tracked some canine prints from Jimmy’s trailer. I was hoping you could take us to those tracks. I’m going to see what I can find.”

“Oh, really?”

“Yeah.” Shawn’s voice holds a hint of defiance.

“So, you’re actually going to do something, are you? Take some responsibility for your people?”

“I was asked to help. I’m happy to do so.”

“Well, isn’t that something.” Joe’s hostility is a little more open now.

Brianna interjects. “So that was a yes, you’ll take us out to see the tracks? Or are you just going to keep us in your doorway?”

“Yeah, I’ll take you. Give me a few minutes. Come on in.” Joe gestures for them to wait in his living room while he puts on his coat and boots.

Brianna spots a picture of Joe and a kid that looks a bit like Shawn. “Is that you?” she points to the framed photo. He nods. “Look at you all tiny,” she smiles. Joe grabs a rifle off the nearby gun rack, and says he’s ready to go.

Back at Torrence’s home, Joe points out the tracks he found and points out their unusual size. As Joe leads the way, Brianna keeps an eye out around them, wary of a potential ambush. They walk in silence for a while, then Joe comments, “This kind of reminds me of when you were twelve and we went to Idaho, doesn’t it?”

“I suppose.”

“I only get so angry because you have a responsibility to your people.”

“We’ve been over this.”

“Yes, we have, and you still don’t listen.”

“I listen.” Shawn’s words are clipped short. “I just don’t obey.”

The older man is silent for a time. He finally stops, pointing at the ground. “This is as far as the trail got. I lost them at this ring of trees.”

Brianna speaks up, “How any of them do you think there were?”

“It’s hard to say for certain, but I’d say six or seven.”

“All big prints?”

“One’s bigger than the others. Probably an alpha.”

Shawn takes some stones and makes a small stack where the trail ends. “Let’s head back.” It’s silent on the way back to Joe’s home. They drop him off, then decide to kill a few hours before nightfall. They grab a bit to eat and swing by the Lodge so Brianna can pick up her Kevlar.

“What happened in Idaho?” Brianna asks.

“A hunting trip.”

Shawn’s response is terse. After a long silence, she speaks up again. “I know this wasn’t a good place for you, and I don’t mean to keep bringing up a lot of bad memories. If you want me to stop asking questions, just tell me. It’s just that I’m getting to see a part of you I haven’t seen before.”

“No, just ask me.”

“Okay.” She pauses, “Was this some of bonding hunting trip? He just doesn’t seem to like you very much. Was that before or after you left the reservation?”

“It was because I left.”

“He brought that up several times within the space of two minutes, so I figured it was something still on his mind.” Brianna smiles wryly.

“He thinks that because I am what I am, I have a responsibility to stay here and protect the People. That I’m some kind of savior. When I didn’t stay …. well … that I’ve betrayed the People.”

“What do you think?”

“I think that’s a lot of bullshit to put onto an eighteen year old boy.”

She nods. “That’s my opinion as well, but this isn’t my history.”

“But, then again, that’s kind of the responsibility I’ve taken on for the people of Seattle. So, there you go.” His voice trails off.

They are both quiet for a moment, then Brianna nods solemnly. “Alright, let’s go find what’s killing people.” She gathers up her jacket, a pair of shades, and throws a flashlight in her duffel bag. They make it back to the pile of stones just as the sun is sinking below the horizon.

No one else seems to be around. Shawn starts stripping out of his clothes, placing them in Brianna’s duffel-bag. Then a large grizzly bear is standing in front of her. The bear starts sniffing around the ground, searching for a scent. He turns, then begins loping off into the Three Forks Natural Area. Brianna quickly follows.

It’s heavily forested and visibility is difficult. Brianna tries to keep an eye out for anything lurking. Suddenly, out of nowhere, two large wolves spring out of the darkness and attack the White Court vampire. One misses her completely, the other is unable to get through the Kevlar vest she’s wearing. “What the fuck?” she calls out. Two other wolves pounce at Shawn. He swats at them, but misses.

Brianna’s eyes gleam silver as she uses her supernatural speed to quickly punch one of the wolves before it has a chance to react. She misses, but both of their attacks also miss her. The wolves on Shawn tear into him with their teeth. He bloodies one of their snouts for their trouble.

Next, Brianna manages to punch one of the wolves on her. One of them lands an attack on her as well. Shawn hits a wolf with such force that it breaks its jaw.

Brianna slams her fists into the wolf she is fighting. Neither one hits her. Shawn takes hits from both wolves, but then drops one with his return attack.

The White Court vampire punches the wolf, then feeds. It falls unconscious from the stress and damage. Shawn is visibly hurting from the wolf still on him. He misses.

Snarling, Brianna shifts her attention from the wolf still on her, to the one savaging Shawn. She lands a solid punch. One wolf manages to damage her even through the Kevlar vest. The other misses. Shawn hits the wolf as well.

Brianna punches the wolf one last time, then feeds deeply on its emotion. It falls unconscious to the ground. The other wolf narrowly misses her. Shawn misses as well.

She manages to punch the wolf, dancing nimbly out of the way when it tries to bite her in return. Shawn hits it with a swipe of his paw.

Brianna’s eyes glint as she hits the remaining wolf, again feeding deeply. It drops, taken out. The forest is suddenly quiet, except for their panting breaths. Four naked humans now lay on the ground around them. One of them doesn’t appear to be breathing. Brianna moves over to Shawn to check out his injuries. He looks pretty beat up along with a cracked rib, but he’s still alert.

“What do you want to do?” she asks. “Mine are just unconscious. We could take one back for questioning.”

He nods.

One of the unconscious forms belongs to a young female. Brianna picks her up and they start heading back to the truck. They leave the others on the ground.

When they return, Shawn shifts back into human form and gets dress. He pulls out a set of cuffs from the truck and secures her wrists. He also throws a blanket over her naked form. “We’ll just wait her out.”

“Fine with me,” Brianna replies.

After a while, the woman starts regaining consciousness. She looks around, clearly trying to figure out what’s going on. When seeing the two of them, her expressions sours. “Aww, shit.”

Brianna cocks her head. “It’s really rude to bite first, then answer our questions later.”

The young woman looks accusingly at Shawn. “You probably killed Darryl.”

“I reckon I probably did.”

Brianna raises an eyebrow at the woman. “I don’t think those were love bites you were giving us earlier, so tough shit.”

“Yeah, well you’re going to get worse than that when Darla finds out.”

“And who exactly is Darla?”

Shawn interjects, “Is that your Alpha?”

“She ain’t going to be happy one bit.”

Brianna moves closer until her face is inches away from the woman’s, her expression dangerous. “Why don’t you answer the question before I do something we’ll both regret.”

The woman looks away from Brianna’s cold stare, cowed. “Yeah, she’s the Alpha.” She turns to Shawn. “Is she your Alpha?”

Brianna raises an eyebrow at Shawn, surprised at the comment. He replies dryly, “I’m a bear, I don’t have an Alpha. She’s just pissed off, like I am. Now, why don’t you tell me where this Alpha is and we can hash this out.”

“She’ll find you when she’s ready to talk.”

Brianna reaches out and uses her supernatural strength to pick the woman straight off the ground by the handcuffs. “I don’t think that was an answer to the question that was asked you.” Her eyes glint silver in the moonlight.

The young woman flinches, then begins to talk quickly, “Look! There’s a cave out in Three Forks, about a half mile from the golf course. That’s where we’ve been holding up!” Brianna slowly lowers her to the ground again.

“Exactly how big is your pack?” Brianna asks.

“There’s six of us now, including Darla.”

“He’s going to want to talk to Darla,” the White Court vampire says conversationally, inclining her head at Shawn, “but I’m curious about your impression. Why the fuck are you out here messing with people on the reservation?”

“Darla said it would be easy pickings.”

“Easy pickings for what?”

“Territory.”

“And you just killed that man for the fun of it then?”

“Something like that,” the woman’s voice is faint. Brianna catches something in her tone. The woman is lying, that’s not why they killed him.

Brianna crouches down in front of the woman, leaning in close, then drops her human guise completely. Her eyes glow a metallic silver and her hair dances around her face as if caught in a sudden breeze. “You’re lying. So why don’t you try that again before I decide that I’m hungry and need a midnight snack?” Her voice is as soft as silk.

The woman gulps, recoiling away from the White Court vampire. “D-Darla said to, she said that was the job,” she stutters.

“Explain.”

“I-I don’t know much more than that. Darla said that was the job, to kill that guy.”

Brianna gives her a hard look, “You normally make it your job to kill innocent people?”

“I do what Darla says. “That’s what it means to be Pack.”

Brianna steps back from the young woman and looks at Shawn. “Anything else you want to know from her?”

“No. I think that anything else we need will come from Darla.”

“Sounds like it.”

“Now, what to do with her?” Shawn looks at the naked woman.

“Anyone you trust to sit on her, especially in case she decides to go all wolf?”

“Yeah. You watch her while I make a couple of phone calls.” Shawn moves quite a distance away to avoid eavesdropping.

Brianna leans on the side of the truck, arms crossed, watching the young woman. “What’s your name?”

“Alice.”

“How did you get involved with Darla, Alice? She seems like a real winner.”

“Why do you care?”

“Just passing the time, I guess. Just because she’s in charge, that doesn’t mean you have to do everything she tells you to do. So I’m wondering if she’s got a hold on you … or if you just like killing people. Some people do, I suppose.”

“This is hilarious,” Alice replies sarcastically, “I’m getting a lecture on killing people from a goddamned vampire.”

“Did I kill you? No. Did I kill your two buddies? No. If I thought it was my life or theirs? Then, oh hell, fucking yeah. Maybe it’s a were thing or maybe it’s some wolf thing, but it doesn’t seem to be an excuse for making bad decisions.”

Alice just stares into the distance, silent. Eventually, Shawn comes back. “Did you find a place to put Alice?”

“Not so much a place, but someone to watch her. It’ll take Ezekiel about a half hour to get here.”

Brianna shakes her head, looking at Alice. “I don’t understand this pack mentality thing. I know that my own Court has its politics, but if someone tells me to do something I don’t want to do, I do just the opposite.”

“I can’t say that I hold to it. My kind is kind of solitary.”

“Well, that’s why we get along so damn well, I think.”

The two of them wait about half an hour. Alice remains quiet, wrapped up in the blanket against the cold night air. Eventually, Ezekiel’s truck pulls up. The man gets out and greets them both, then gestures to Alice, “This my new charge?”

Shawn agrees, “Yep.”

Ezekiel turns to the young woman, “What’s your name?”

Brianna interjects warningly, “Be polite.”

“It’s Alice.” She rolls her eyes. “So where are you taking me? Are you a cop?” She nods at Shawn, “This one smells of cop.”

“Well, that all depends on what happens when we get to the bottom of this. For now, you’re going to sit tight. This man here is going to watch you. If you make any unwelcome moves, he’s going to fill you with 120 gigawatts.”

Alice looks confused. “Say, what?”

“He’s going to fill you with 120 gigawatts,” Shawn repeats.

Ezekiel opens his palm and a small bolt of electricity flickers in the darkness. “120 gigawatts.”

Alice narrows her eyes, “Goddamned wizard.”

Ezekiel replies calmly. “More or less.”

Brianna grins, showing a lot of teeth.

Shawn continues, “So, you’re going to play nice, Alice. You play nice with us, we may just play nice with you. We’re going to go find Darla and get to the bottom of this.” Shawn turns to Brianna, “You ready?”

“Yep.”

Ezekiel calls out, “Happy hunting” as they leave. Brianna can see him start to etch a circle around Alice.

The two walk off together, Shawn preferring to shift back to bear form once they’re further away. “So, how do you want to handle this?” Brianna asks.

“I want to take Darla alive. We need to find out who hired her to do this and why.”

Brianna nods, “So, about this pack and Alpha thing. What the hell is up with that?”

“It’s not much different than being part of a clan or powerful family. Do you have to do what the White King says? What the head of your family says? How much pressure would you be under?”

“Well, the last time I met the head of my household, I found ways to get around him.”

“But how unusual are you in that?”

She gives a small chuckle. “Well, some people think I have a death wish.”

“Exactly. It’s the same thing with packs. And for wolves, it’s part of their DNA. They can actually communicate with each other at a pack level. It’s under the skin, this powerful bond being part of a pack, and you don’t want to give that up.”

“Well, then the responsibility falls doubly hard on Darla, doesn’t it?” She pauses, “I guess we need to try to leave as many people alive as possible tonight.”

“Well, we’ll still need to defend ourselves.”

“Oh, I believe in defending myself,” Brianna interjects.

“I got a little carried away,” Shawn shakes his head, “but I was hurting.”

“I sure as hell can’t cast any stones. There’s a reason why I try to feed the way I do. Depending on my hunger, sometimes the Hunger takes more than I intend. I can’t even say that won’t happen tonight. I’m still psychically damaged from New Year’s.”

“Okay, let’s just try not to,” he agrees. When they get deeper into the woods, Shawn strips down and changes into his bear form. Brianna follows, trying to keep her flashlight low to the ground. Eventually, the two find themselves in front of a cave. Shawn stops.

Brianna leans down and whispers in his furry ear. “We can do this one of two ways. We can go in or we can call her out. Can you tell if they’re in there?” They both listen for any sounds of movement. Brianna can’t tell, but Shawn nods his head. “I can try calling her out then.” He nods again.

Brianna straightens and calls out in a loud, ringing voice, “Darla, we want to talk to you. Why don’t you come out?”

A female voice calls back, “Why don’t you come on in here? We’ve got a fire and some beer.”

“I don’t think so. We’re not in a drinking mood.”

Three people walk out of the cave. A young brunette woman, a young African-American man, and a slightly older blonde woman. The older blonde is holding a can of beer. She takes a long look at the Shawn and Brianna. “Well, if I had to guess, I’d guess that is Shawn Loomis. But who the fuck are you?”

“You can call me Brianna. How do you know Shawn?”

“I only know him by reputation.”

“Apparently, you’re getting one as well.”

“I don’t give a damn about my bad reputation,” the woman sings, slightly off-key.

“Cute.” Brianna remarks. “We’re here to find out who’s been hiring you to do jobs on the reservation.”

“Amway.” The woman’s grin stirs sparks of rage deep within Brianna’s chest.

“Look, bitch.” Brianna’s voice is ugly. “We can do this the easy way, or we can do this the hard way. I, personally, like the hard way, but Shawn’s got a softer touch.” She enunciates each words carefully, “Who hired you to do the job at the reservation?”

“Alright,” Darla shrugs, “He actually wanted me to tell you anyway.” She smiles, “The Margrave Diego Aguire de Calderon of Seattle sends his regards.”

Well, fuck, Brianna thinks. “So, working for the Red Court, are you?”

“What can I say? I follow the money.”

“Well, looks like someone’s getting a refund, because you’re leaving the reservation alone.”

“Heh.” Darla barks a laugh. “I already marked my territory, as it were.”

“Well, I don’t give a fuck. Go away and go bother someone else, or it’ going to be the last thing you fucking do.”

The two women stare at each other for a long minute, then Darla sighs, dramatically. “Sarah. Tyrone. Take this bitch down.”

Suddenly, everyone explodes into action. Heedless of the other two weres, Brianna goes straight for Darla. The woman barely dodges Brianna’s fists, then shifts into wolf form. She lunges for Brianna, but misses. The other two wolves attack. One makes contact, but the other misses. Shawn strikes out, but misses.

Brianna lands a good punch on Darla, stunning her. The woman misses with her return attack. The other two wolves also miss Brianna. Shawn makes contact with one of the wolves, breaking its jaw.

The White Court vampire hits Darla again, then feeds on her rage. Darla’s muzzle is bloody and her eyes crazed. She bites Brianna, getting a bit of damage past the Kevlar. One of the other wolves attacks Brianna, but misses. The other goes for Shawn, but can’t make contact. Shawn doesn’t miss.

Taking advantage of Darla’s injuries, Brianna lands another good punch, breaking her jaw. As the White Court vampire feeds, Darla falls unconscious to the ground. The uninjured wolf bites Brianna. Shawn dodges the wolf on him, but misses in turn.

Brianna bloodies the wolf on her. The wolf and its companion turn to flee. Brianna lands a powerful blow on it, feeding on its rage. Shawn also manages to powerfully swipe at the wolf near him. Neither attack drops them, however, and the wolves run off into the darkness.

“Goddamn Red Court motherfuckers!” Brianna curses loudly, staring down at Darla’s unconscious human form. “The Warden warned us what would happen with a power vacuum. Looks like there’s a new Margrave in town.” She slings Darla over her shoulder and they start heading back to the truck.

When they get close, Shawn changes back into human form and puts his clothes back on. They find Alice still in the circle, Ezekiel watching her with his staff at hand. Without taking his eyes of Alice, he calls out, “Did you find what you were looking for?”

Brianna dumps Darla’s body on the ground. “Yes.”

“Ah. You keep finding nude women in the woods.”

“God, it must be my lucky day.” Her voice is acerbic.

Shawn pulls another set of handcuffs from his glove compartment and puts them on Darla. He also throws another blanket on top of her.

“What did you do to her?” Alice asks, hotly.

“Not what I’d like to have done to her, but she’ll be fine, I’m sure.” Brianna rolls her eyes.

Eventually, Darla wakes up. She can’t speak very well due to her broken jaw, but Brianna can still see the rage and pain in her eyes. “What do you want? I told you what you wanted,” she manages.

“I don’t know,” Brianna says “I think this situation is a direct result of you refusing to go away, now isn’t it? You’re not going to be preying on the people of this reservation any more, Darla.”

Shawn gets in her line of sight. “No, you’re going to leave this place. You’re not coming back. If I hear of you or any of your pack coming back here, we’ll be back. And we’ll take care of business. We won’t leave anything unfinished. Do I make myself clear?”

Darla turns and tries to spit, but it just drools down the side of her face. “Yeah, I’m going.”

“I’ll have you swear on your Power.”

She looks at him, wide-eyed.

“Did you think we were just going to take your word on it,” Brianna asks with deceptive lightness.

Darla narrows her eyes. “Fine.” She touches her face in pain.

“Do it.”

“I swear, by my Power, to never set foot on the Snoqualmie Reservation again.” She pauses, “Will that work?”

“That’ll work,” Shawn replies. Brianna just shifts slightly, watching and alert. “Get out,” he growls, then points at Alice. “And take her with you.” Ezekiel reaches out with a foot and scuffs the circle surrounding the younger woman.

The two women, still handcuffed and naked save for the blankets, turn and head off into the night. Brianna watches them go. When she can no longer see them, she turns to the men. “Well, that was definitely interesting. Fucking Red Court business again.”

“Red Court?” Ezekiel asks.

Brianna just curses again. Shawn says, “Yeah. Apparently Darla was hired by a Margrave Diego Aguire de Calderon.”

Ezekiel comments, “Then we have a new player.”

“Have you noticed any unusual activity in the Red Court?” Brianna asks Ezekiel.

“It’s been a little quiet, actually. Maybe somebody’s been putting things in order.”

They all contemplate that for a moment, then Ezekiel says he’s going to get back. They say their goodbyes and he drives off. Brianna leans up against the truck and stares into the night sky. “We probably need to tell Tom what’s going on,” Shawn says.

“What are you going to tell him?”

“Well, Tom has an idea to the truth of things. I’ll let him handle the rest in regards to the Tribe.”

They head back to the Travel Lodge for the night, each a bit sore and bloodied from the fighting. In the morning, they check out and head to the tribal center. Tom seems as glad to see them as ever. They convene in his office and Shawn gives him a fairly accurate accounting of what happened, leaving out Brianna’s particular role in it. “Someone may sweep those woods and find a body. Maybe not if the pack cleans up after itself.”

Tom nods. “We’ll have someone look into it. Don’t want a tourist coming across that. That’s Tribal business. This thing with the Red Court. Is that dangerous for you?”

“No more dangerous than it has been.”

“You protect and serve the people of Seattle, which is noble. We’re very proud of you for that. You’ve come back to protect us here. I’m appreciative, I really am.”

“You’re welcome.” Shawn’s voice is guarded.

“I just wish we’d see you more often.”

“Well, I’m pretty busy.”

“Well, sometimes you’ve got to make time for things, you know?”

“I’ve got to get back home.”

“Yeah. Home. Well, it was good seeing you, Shawn.”

“It was good seeing you, too.”

Shawn turns and leaves, Brianna following close behind him. They don’t say much as they pull out of town, each lost in their own thoughts. Suddenly, Shawn’s cell phone buzzes. He lets it go to voice mail. It rings several more times. “Do you need to get that?” Brianna asks.

“Maybe.”

“Do you want me to see the number?” He nods his head and she fishes his cell out of his pocket. She reads off the caller ID, “It’s from the Seattle P.D. I bet you need to take this.” He agrees and pulls the truck over to the side of the road. “Do you want me out of the car?”

“No,” Shawn says, punching in the number for his voice mail. As he listens, he gets an increasingly concerned look on his face. He immediately dials a number and begins a conversation with whoever’s on the other end. “This is Loomis. Yeah. Update me.” A long pause. “What are you talking about? There’s no way. These guys are good cops.” Brianna can faintly hear a raised voice on the other end of the line, catching only a few words: “botched,” “bloodbath,” “inquiry,” “special crimes.”

“I’ll be there this afternoon.” Shawn’s voice is grim. “Yeah, you can count on it.” He hangs up. Brianna can tell he is confused and angry.

“What’s going on? I could only hear part of that.”

“Apparently, while I was at the Reservation, the Special Crimes unit that I work for was involved in supposedly botched raid that turned into a bloodbath. Several civilians were killed. So, now my unit is on the line. There’s going to be a Special Inquiry. They want me to get my ass to work to look into it. Special Crimes is the unit in the Seattle P.D. that handles the, well, weird stuff. I just figure it’s awfully coincidental that while I’m handing this bullshit …”

“This shit goes down?” Brianna interjects.

“Yeah.”

She suddenly gets a thought. “Shit.” She calls Joey. He answers. “Hey, are you alright?”

“Uh. Yeah. A little hung-over, but okay.”

“Okay. Just be on your guard. There’s apparently a new Margrave in Seattle.”

“Oh.”

“Yeah, it’s the same shit we’ve been dealing with. He caused a lot of trouble for Shawn, so watch yourself. I’ll call you when I’m heading back. If see or smell anything weird, call me.” They hang up. She turns to Shawn. “The shit’s not migrated south yet.”

“Well, that’s something.” He shakes his head, “Classic misdirection.”

She nods, “To get you out of town. Is there anything I can do?”

“No. This is internal cop politics.”

“Just be careful.”

“Yeah.”

“So, if this goes badly, could your unit be disbanded?”

“Yes, possibly. Which means that one more line of defense against the weird stuff is gone.”

They drive back to Seattle. Shawn drops Brianna at her car. “I have to go in.”

“I know. Call me when you can.”

She gives Shawn a brief kiss, then climbs into her own vehicle. After calling Joey, Brianna heads back to Portland.

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