The Dresden Files: Portland

Side Job: The Skip
Karkana Chronicles: Seventeen

May 30, 2013 (Thursday)

Loomis will be staying with Brianna and Joey when he comes down from Seattle to visit with Brianna for the weekend. Brianna decides to clean their apartment from top to bottom, attempting to maintain a calm façade to hide her nervousness over the upcoming visit. Joey notices her franticness, but makes no comment. Brianna also makes Saturday night reservations for her and Loomis at The Imperial, an impressive downtown restaurant.

Brianna and Joey’s apartment is relatively Spartan, with random sports equipment distributed here and there and very few personal photographs on the walls. There is an extensive first aid kit in the bathroom that is maintained, but other than that they don’t own a lot of household supplies. Both are “bachelors” and keep a relatively sparse lifestyle.

Over the next couple of days, Brianna maintains her contacts in the fighting circuit and keeps her ear to the ground in the underworld to see if the Red Court troubles in Seattle have spilled over into Portland. She just gets a sense that there are rumblings going on in Oregon in general, nothing specific to Portland.

Brianna gets a phone call from Philo Barcas. “You seem to check out. Mel Landry says that as a manager, you were a bit squirrelly.”

“I did have a lot of scheduling conflicts this year, I will say that,” Brianna says. “I enjoyed working for Mel, though.”

“So, when did you and your man want to get started?”

“What is the general schedule?”

“We got stuff going on every night. It’s at rolling locations.”

“I see. Well, I think we’ll start next week, but I’d like to check out one of the venues before we commit. Would it be possible to see one of the locations tonight?” Brianna asks.

“Yeah, alright.” Philo gives Brianna a wharf number to meet him at and the two work out the logistics.

That night, the two head to the wharf to see the pit fights. It is definitely a lower class of audience than the two are used to. It’s a call back to where they have come from. There’s an impromptu ring, very mobile. As they’re looking for Philo, a douche-baggy greaseball of a guy stops Brianna and asks, “What brings you to this neck of the woods, hot stuff?”

Brianna gives him an icy stare. “I’m looking for Philo Barcas.”

Joey gives him a dismissive look and says, “Move on.”

The greaseball persists, “Maybe I can help. I’m a helpful guy.”

Brianna keeps looking for Philo, but doesn’t see him. “You can help by pointing me in the direction where he is.” Right about that time, Philo appears in the crowd. Brianna and Joey bypass the greaseball in the crowd to head to Philo. The guy tries to grab Brianna’s arm, but Brianna dodges his hand.

“Don’t touch me,” she says.

“Hey, sweetheart…” the man begins.

“You may call me Ms. Karkana. I am nobody’s sweetheart,” she says heatedly.

The greaseball throws up his hands and starts muttering as he walks off.

Brianna and Joey approach Philo and shake his hand. Philo goes over the logistics of the matches and the schedule and introduces them to a few people. They discuss the law enforcement situation. Fortunately, they have been busted very few times due to their mobility. They stay and watch the fight as well. Nothing looks out of place and it looks well-organized. Nothing looks “hinkey”.

Two of the big names in this circuit are Nick Sams and Ben De Jesus. They are not fighting tonight. De Jesus is here, watching the fights. Philo points out a large Cuban gentleman for Brianna to watch. People are giving him a wide berth.

Brianna tries to sip as much rage as she can out of the evening before she and Joey head home. The two discuss what they observed on the way back to their apartment. They decide to try for a fight on Monday and continue their workout schedule.

May 31, 2013 (Friday)

Brianna maintains her contacts with the other fight club and the two continue their workout schedule at Sibley’s Gym. Other than that, the day passes peacefully.

June 1, 2013 (Saturday)

Loomis arrives around 9:00 am in his pickup. Brianna answers the door.

“Hi,” she says.

“Hello,” Loomis replies.

Brianna takes out an extra amulet and slips it over his head. “You’ll need that to get in.” She then invites him inside. “This is our home, such as it is.”

As Loomis enters, Joey says, “Hey.” Loomis returns the greeting. He’s dressed in jeans and a flannel shirt and is carrying a duffel and a garment bag. Brianna offers to let him put his bags in her room and leads him inside to put his things away and even clears a bit a closet space for him. She then gives him a mini-tour of the place, as it is not a large apartment.

“Have you already eaten breakfast?” she asks.

“I had a little something on the road,” he replies.

“I just thought we’d hang out for a bit,” Brianna says. “Is there something you wanted to see? We can catch lunch out.”

“I put myself in your hands,” Loomis tells her.

“Hmmm,” Brianna says. “I don’t know if that’s a smart thing, but we’ll go with that.”

“Okay.”

Brianna looks at Joey. “We’re going out. We have plans for tonight, but we’ll possibly see you around,”

“Okay,” Joey says.

Brianna and Loomis head out to his truck and go downtown to a series of sites Brianna had prepared ahead of time: Powells, Lan Su Chinese Gardens, Deschuttes Brewery, the Saturday Market, laughing at hipsters, etc.

As they spend the day together, Brianna asks about Ezekiel and the new Warden, not bothering to keep the ice out of her voice when asking about the new Warden.

“Actually, the new Warden has been trying to keep Ezekiel in the loop,” Loomis says.

“And you’ve met her just the once.”

“I’ve met her a couple of times more since then,” Loomis says.

“What do you think about her?” Brianna asks.

“I think she walked into a shitty situation and she’s trying to make the best of it,” Loomis says. “I think she’s a hard-ass.”

“That goes with the job,” Brianna says.

“Exactly. I can’t say I like her, but I think I can respect her,” Loomis says.

“Does she know all the details of what went down with the Margrave?” Brianna asks.

“Not all,” Loomis says.

“Alright.”

“She doesn’t know about you,” Loomis says. “As far as she knows, it was just the pack and Ezekiel and I.”

“How did she get that impression?” Brianna asks.

“Ezekiel thought it best.”

“Alright. Well, the only reason I ask is that in certain circles it has been well-noted that I was involved,” Brianna says.

“What do you mean?” Loomis asks.

“Family stuff, mostly. Whether or not that will make it back to the Warden, I don’t know,” Brianna says.

Loomis shrugs. “Ezekiel just thought it best that he didn’t mention you.”

“Okay.”

“I think he thought he was doing you a favor.”

“I don’t necessarily want the new Warden having her eye on me. I get along with Ezekiel, but I don’t know if I would have that relationship with every Warden that comes along,” Brianna agrees.

Over the course of the day’s conversation, Brianna asks him about his previous marriage. The two did not have children. He says that they are “not unfriendly, but not friendly.” They don’t talk to each other, although they still bump into each other now and again. She works in bail bonds and is occasionally at the police station. Did she “know” about him? Yes.

In turn, Loomis asks her what business she is in. Brianna smiles and says that she does “a little bit of this and a little bit of that, I suppose. You know those conversations we’ve had where plausible deniability is a good thing?”

“Is this a case of if I don’t want to know the answer to the question, don’t ask the question?”

“It’s a little bit of that, yes,” Brianna says.

Loomis is quiet after that.

“There’s some things I just don’t think you want to know because you’re a cop. And there’s some things I don’t want to tell you,” Brianna continues.

“Well I appreciate you being honest up to that point with me,” Loomis says.

“I don’t want to lie to you. I could try to feed you bullshit, but that’s not going to work for you or for me.”

“I appreciate that.”

“I don’t know if my job means that we stop this.” She gestures between the two of them. “If Portland, this weekend, kind of ends it. I just don’t know,” Brianna says, her voice tighter than usual.

“If you had bullshitted me, yeah. But you didn’t. So, we’ll see,” Loomis says.

“Okay,” Brianna says, breathing a sigh of relief.

After the day’s activities, the two go back to the apartment and change for dinner. Brianna is dressed in her red New Year’s Eve dress. Loomis is in slacks, a dress shirt, and sports jacket. The two say goodbye to Joey and head out to The Imperial.

The Imperial is an impressive eatery in downtown Portland near the Crystal Ballroom. The two have a wonderful dinner in the restaurant. Loomis seems a little subdued, but the discussion from earlier has not killed the conversation. Brianna tries to casually touch him during the course of the dinner and he responds positively, much to Brianna’s relief.

After dinner, Brianna brings up the fact that they are near the Crystal Ballroom and asks if he would like to go dancing. Loomis says he’s game, but that he is a terrible dancer. She counters that she learned to dance in a mosh pit, so she’s not much better. She takes his hand and the two head out.

Brianna remarks that it is still strange to be holding hands with someone again. “Yeah, I suppose so,” Loomis says.

“Touch has become something different for me, generally speaking,” Brianna says, and looks away.

As the two walk toward the Crystal Ballroom. Loomis suddenly pulls Brianna out of the way as a man comes barreling out of the alleyway they are walking by and hits a parked car. A woman comes running out of the same alleyway, chasing the guy, and bangs him against the parked car. Brianna stares in stunned silence.

The woman says, “Where can I find him, Eddie? I’m not leaving until you tell me!”

“Get off me, Grace!” the man yells. “I don’t know!”

“You’re lying, Eddie!” WHAM! The woman slams the man into the car.

Loomis says incredulously, “Gracie?”

Brianna looks at Loomis.

The woman, Grace, looks over at Loomis. “Shawn?” She then absently slams the man, Eddie, against the car again. WHAM!

“Ow! My nose! Goddammit!” Eddie says in a muffled voice, holding his face.

Grace turns back to Eddie and says, “Where’s Deke?”

“Look, I don’t know, but I know who might! I know who might!”

Grace hauls Eddie up. “Alright Eddie, who might?”

“Carl! Carl Penske! He’ll know!”

Brianna recognizes Carl’s name—it’s her informant she’s hired to look in on Barnabas Gould’s operation.

Eddie continues, “He usually hooks up with Carl when he gets into town!”

“Alright. Where do I find Carl?” Grace asks.

“He’s working in a warehouse. North Portland.” Eddie says.

Brianna turns to Loomis and says somewhat dryly, “I take it you know this woman?”

Loomis whispers, “That’s my ex.”

Brianna turns and gives the woman, Grace, a look-over. She’s a pretty Native American woman with dark hair and eyes. Strong features. Athletic. She’s dressed in jeans, denim jacket, t-shirt, and running shoes.

Eddie continues to hold his nose. “Ask around, you’ll find him, I swear.”

“Carl Penske?” Grace asks.

“Yeah, Carl Penske. That’s the guy.”

“Alright, Eddie, get out of here.” She gives the guy a kick in the pants and sends him on his way. Eddie leaves as fast as he can.

Loomis shakes his head. “Still riding the line on assault, huh?”

Grace looks between Loomis and Brianna, clearly assessing the situation. Brianna raises an eyebrow at her. Grace shrugs and says. “Whatever gets the job done.”

Loomis clears his throat and says “Grace Nuñez, this is, uh, Brianna Karkana.”

Brianna smiles and offers Grace her hand and Grace takes it.

“Who’s Deke?” Brianna asks.

“Deke’s a skip,” Grace says.

“From Seattle?” Brianna asks.

“From Seattle,” Grace says.

“And your job is to track him down and take him back?” Brianna asks.

“Yep,” Grace says.

Loomis says, “And, Grace is pretty good at her job.”

Brianna looks darkly amused and says, “I see where you get respect for strong women.”

After an awkward silence, Grace says, “Well, I have a skip to chase. It was good seeing you, Shawn. It was nice meeting you, Brianna.”

“Are you planning to find Carl Penske and question him exactly the same way you did Eddie?” Brianna asks flatly.

“I’ve had to question Eddie before. He’s usually reluctant. We’ll see if Carl is…less reluctant. I don’t know Carl,” Grace says.

“Well, I do know Carl Penske and I will take it very amiss if you do question him in the exact same way as that asshole,” Brianna says, an edge of steel in her voice.

Grace raises her hands and says, “Whoa, look, I don’t know you. And I don’t know Carl. I’m just going to ask him some questions, that’s all. Shawn, you better corral your date.”

Loomis says, “I’m not corralling anybody.”

“I tell you what, why don’t we go together if you’re that worried,” Grace says.

“There’s no need to approach him at the warehouse. I know what bar he usually hangs out in,” Brianna says.

“Okay,” Grace says, smiling.

Brianna turns to Loomis. “You mind if we make a detour?”

“No.”

“Lovely. We may as well go to the car,” Brianna says.

So the three of them walk over to Loomis’ truck. As they walk, Brianna asks Grace, “What did Deke do?”

“Assault. This time.”

When they get to the truck, they all pile into the extended cab and Loomis drives, with Brianna giving directions, to Barry’s Drafthouse in Hawthorne. The ride is silent.

“So he hangs out here?” Grace says when they get there.

“Yep,” Brianna says.

The three find a booth and settle in to wait. Brianna orders everyone something. Loomis takes a dark beer, Grace an IPA, and Brianna takes whiskey, straight. Brianna settles in next to Loomis.

“So how long have you been seeing Shawn,” Grace asks.

“Not for long,” Brianna says, shrugging, and sets her hand on his leg. “I’ve seen him in Seattle few times. I thought it’d be nice for him to come see me in Portland.” Brianna can feel Loomis’ tension in his stance.

Grace is showing a lot of teeth. So is Brianna. There is a long silence.

“Well, he must like you if you got him out of his beloved Seattle,” Grace says. She seems sincere to Brianna in her comment.

“Well, it’s an interesting city,” Brianna says.

“I usually only see it on its business side,” Grace says.

“Are you in Portland often?” Brianna asks.

“It’s often the first place skips run to,” Grace says.

“Well, there’s weird stuff, easy to hide,” Brianna says.

Brianna gets a supernatural vibe off of the woman—and Grace seems to size her up in the same way as well.

“Seattle sees her share of oddness as well,” Brianna continues.

The three wait for about an hour, and Carl doesn’t show.

“I’ll be right back,” Brianna says. She squeezes Loomis’ legs, rises, pulls out her phone, and heads for the door.

Once outside, she calls Carl’s number. After a few rings, a very sleep-voiced Carl answers.

“Oh, hi.”

“I was hoping to see you tonight,” Brianna says.

“I don’t think that’s going to happen,” Carl says, groggily.

“What’s going on?” Brianna asks.

“Oh. I’m in the hospital,” Carl says.

“You’re in the hospital? What happened?” Brianna demands.

“I’m not really sure. I got tagged by some kind of animal or something,” Carl says.

“What hospital are you in, Carl?” Brianna asks.

“Legacy Good Samaritan,” Carl says.

“I’m going to be right there,” Brianna says and hangs up. “Fuck.”

She goes slamming back into the bar and goes up to the table. “Carl’s in the fucking hospital. He was attacked by some kind of animal he says. Loomis, I need you to drive me there.”

Loomis says, “Yeah, sure.”

“You mind if I tag along?” Grace asks.

“As long as you behave yourself,” Brianna says.

Grace smirks and says, “I’ll be on my best behavior.”

“That’s not exactly the same thing,” Brianna says.

Everyone loads up into Loomis’ extended cab truck and heads to Legacy Good Samaritan Medical Center. Brianna stalks in and asks around until she finds Carl Penske.

They are directed to his hospital room where they find him covered in various bandages and hooked up to an IV. He’s awake but a bit out of it.

“Oh Carl,” Brianna says upon seeing him in this state. “What happened?”

“Well, I was at my place and I was getting ready to head to the bar and I locked my door and out of an alley came a big shadow and some snarls and bites and next thing I knew I was here.”

“Did they say how you were found? Did someone call an ambulance?” Brianna asks.

Carl shrugs. “Well, apparently somebody found me and called an ambulance.”

“Do they know what bit you?” Brianna asks.

“Whatever it was it was big. Maybe some kind of animal that got out of Forest Park,” Carl says.

“So it was big like a mountain lion kind of big?” Brianna asks. Out of the corner of her eye, she sees Grace give her a “what are you talking about?” look.

“I don’t know, something big out of Forest Park is the only explanation they got,” Carl says. “There have been some sightings of some animals running around out there.”

Grace says. “Has Deke Cisco been around to see you today?”

Carl turns to look at her and says, “I don’t know. Who’s asking?”

“I’m his bail bondsman. It’s important that I find him,” Grace says.

“Yeah, Deke came by. We had a chat shortly before this happened,” Carl says.

“Do you know where Deke is now?” Grace asks.

“My bet is that he’s going to talk to Harley Fingersmith,” Carl says.

“Who’s that?” Grace asks.

“He’s who we talked about,” Carl says.“He’s an old acquaintance of ours who he was looking for.”

Grace nods and asks, “Where can I find this Harley Fingersmith?”

“Why?” Carl asks.

“So I can find Deke. It’s important that I find him,” Grace says.

“If Deke finds out that I put you on his trail, he’s not going to be too happy with me,” Carl says.

Grace shrugs and says, “Deke has responsibilities that he has to take care of. It’s my job to make sure that he takes care of them. I need to find him. I’m not going to rough you up—you look like you’ve been roughed up enough. But I need to find him.”

Carl gives her an address. “But you didn’t get it from me.”

“As far as Deke’s concerned, we never spoke,” Grace says.

“Alright,” Carl says.

“How long until they let you out?” Brianna asks Carl.

“At least a couple of days,” Carl says.

“Will you be able to go back to work in a bit?” Brianna asks.

“No, I’m sorry.”

“Don’t worry about that. That’ll take time. Soon you’ll be back on your feet,” Brianna says. “Let me know. Give me a call. If you have trouble finding work, let me know.”

“Are we done?” Brianna asks the room.

“We’re done,” Grace says.

They start heading out. Once they get out of the room, Grace says, “Harley Fingersmith was the mastermind of a heist that Deke was the wheelman for a few years back. Fingersmith was the dropman for the heist as well. I think Deke is trying to get his share of the money.”

“I guess that would be a motivator to come back to Portland. I’m just concerned about who’s attacking my friend,” Brianna says. She stares at Grace—who’s looking at Loomis.

“If there’s something you’re not fucking telling me, now would be a good time,” Brianna says to Grace, with some heat.

“I think it may have been Deke that attacked your friend,” Grace says.

At this point, the three have made into the hospital parking lot.

“And what is Deke, exactly?” Brianna asks.

“A werewolf,” Grace says.

“Why would Deke attack Carl?” Brianna asks.

“Because Deke’s a right bastard,” Grace says.

“Have you heard if Fingersmith is anything in the supernatural community?” Brianna asks.

“Fingersmith? No.” Grace says.

Brianna’s expression is unpleasant as she says, “I guess Deke has some explaining to do.”

“Well I need to get Deke back to Seattle,” Grace says.

“You can take him back,” Brianna says. “But I would like to be the one who nabs him.”

Grace stares at her. “I usually like to nab my own skips.”

“I understand. You don’t like to share. I don’t like to share either,” Brianna says.

“So why on earth would I want to make an exception in this case?” Grace asks.

“One, I think you can understand bloody-minded determination. Two, I have to wonder if you as curious about me as I am about you,” Brianna says.

“So what’s your next move?” Grace asks.

“We have an address for Fingersmith. That seems like an interesting thing to go poking around in,” Brianna says. Brianna recognizes the neighborhood as St. Johns—a not-particularly good neighborhood. “It’s not a particularly good neighborhood. If we’re going to check it out, I should change clothes. Then we can check it out.”

“Alright,” Grace says.

So the three of them load up in Loomis’ truck and head back to Brianna and Joey’s place. Loomis and Brianna go inside and say hello to Joey.

“Someone attacked Carl Penske,” Brianna reports.

“Oh!” Joey says.

“Long story short, it was probably a were,” Brianna continues. “Probably the same were Loomis’ ex-wife is after this very evening.”

“Sounds like your evening’s been interesting,” Joey says.

“My evenings are always interesting, Joey,” Brianna says, frustrated. “I’m going back out. This guy getting out of our city. This guy attacked Carl. I owe him a punch to the face.”

“You need me to do anything?” Joey asks.

“No, this is odd enough as it is,” Brianna says.

Loomis and Brianna head into her bedroom. Brianna sits on the bed and says, “This evening isn’t going as planned.”

“Nor for me,” Loomis says.

“I’m sorry. I’m sure this is more awkward for you than it is for me. But he attacked somebody that I protect. I can’t let that go,” Brianna says.

“What are you planning to do?” Loomis asks.

“I’m planning to let him go with your ex-wife. Wait a minute—Is this some kind of were-thing that I’m not aware of here?” Brianna asks.

“No, she’s a legit bail bondsman,” Loomis says.

“So he’s going back to jail, not something strange. I want him out of Portland. I want him out,” Brianna says. “I just want him contained and gone.”

“Okay. Then I’ll help,” Loomis says.

“Alright. But I do want to punch him in the face,” Brianna smiles when she says this. Loomis returns the smile.

The two change clothes in the room together. It’s not awkward—it’s more like a locker room situation. Loomis also pulls out a shoulder-holster and a handgun from his bag, checks the magazine, and loads it. He puts on a light jacket over it and heads out of the room.

They go back to the truck and head out. Brianna asks Grace if she has a picture of Deke. She produces one from her jacket pocket. They then head to the address that Carl gave them.

Driving by, they can see that the lights are on in the bottom story the narrow, shotgun house. It is a two-story home. There are homes to either side. There is a 1980s model Lincoln parked out front. It has Oregon plates. Loomis drives slowly past and parks about a block away. It is now getting close to midnight.

Grace says, “We can sneak up there.”

“What is the possibility of him turning were and attacking Fingersmith?” Brianna asks.

“He wants his answers,” Grace says.

“How long has it been since this job with Fingersmith?” Brianna asks.

“Five years,” Grace says.

“And Deke was the only one who got caught?” Brianna asks.

“No, the Marquez brothers also went down for it but they’re still behind bars,” Grace says. “Deke got a lighter sentence because he was just the wheelman.”

“So the job fell through then because they got caught?” Brianna asks.

“Yeah, but the money was never found,” Grace says.

“Five years and a botched job later, I don’t know Fingersmith, but I don’t know how willing he’s going to be to pay up for something like that,” Brianna says.

Brianna slides out of the car. Everyone else follows and starts stealthing their way toward the house.

They all sneak up and look into the cheaply decorated living room. Lying on the floor of the room they see a guy in his late thirties, balding, in a wife-beater and slacks. He has a large wolf sitting on top of his chest snarling at him. The man is about to piss his pants. The wolf turns and looks straight at Loomis. It then moves to bound out of the house through the door.

Brianna runs to intercept the wolf. She runs to the door and gets there right about the time it opens where she meets a naked man, Deke Cisco. “Where the fuck do you think you’re going?” she asks, steel at the edge of her voice. He seems shaken for a second, but then man before her morphs into a large wolf.

“You just try it. Don’t you try that shit with me. You. Don’t. Scare. Me.” Brianna says. “You should be fucking terrified of me.” The steel in her voice is sharp and the look in her eyes is hollow. The stands there making whimpering noises.

“Get out of that form and change back. I’ve got some words for you. Change back. Now!”

He morphs back into his human form.

“Step back.”

And Deke steps back into the house.

“Someone needs to go check on that guy,” Brianna says.

Loomis comes forward and checks on the man lying on the floor, presumably Harley Fingersmith. “Yeah, he’s alright. He’s pissed himself, but he’s okay.” Loomis helps him up and onto the couch.

Grace comes in and joins the others, closing the front door behind her.

“We’ve been looking for you, Deke,” Brianna says.

“Who are you?” Deke asks.

“You don’t need to know that. All you need to know is you need to get the fuck out of Portland,” Brianna says. “And, luckily, there’s someone here who wants to help you with that problem.”

Grace salutes and says “Remember me? Grace Nuñez, Ace Bail Bonds? You skipped out. Time to go back. Why do you put some pants on?”

“It’s not impressive,” Brianna chimes in, looking at his crotch.

He gathers up clothes that have been discarded in a corner. Brianna watches him dress.

“Do you have cuffs?” Brianna asks Grace.

“Yeah, I have cuffs,” Grace says.

After Deke gets dressed, Grace approaches him, with Brianna keeping a close watch, and Grace cuffs him. Loomis watches as well, his gun close at hand, unbeknownst to the two women. The man on the couch sits and watches as well.

Brianna turns to the man on the couch and smiles brightly. “Sorry to have disturbed your evening, sir.”

“T-t-that’s quite alright,” the man manages to say.

“We’ll get this one off your hands,”

“T-t-thank you.”

Brianna then goes to the door and opens it, allowing Loomis to go first, then Grace leading Deke, and then she follows last. They all load up into Loomis’ truck and then head back downtown to find Grace’s car.

Once they get to Grace’s car, they unload and reconfigure once again. As Deke is being loaded into Grace’s car, Brianna leans down and whispers to him, “I don’t want to see you in this town again. You stay where you’re put.”

Grace turns to Brianna and extends her hand and Brianna takes. “I don’t know what you did, but you put the fear of something into him,” Grace says.

“I have a strong personality,” Brianna says.

“You’ll get no argument from me,” Grace says. “Keep Shawn in line.”

“I’ll look out for him. I’ll watch his back,” Brianna says. She steps back to let the two of them say their goodbyes. She gets into the truck.

Loomis and Grace stand apart and speak briefly to one another for a moment and then give each other an awkward hug. Loomis returns to the truck. The wait for Grace’s car to pull away before speaking.

“Well, that went better than anticipated. Strangely anti-climatic,” Brianna says.

“Yeah,” Loomis says. “I guess they can’t all end in blood.”

“No, I wasn’t going down that path. That not how I resolve all issues. Well, not blood and death, but punching things. That sort of what I do.,” Brianna decides to stop babbling.

“Want to get some coffee or something?” Brianna asks.

“Sure,” Loomis says.

“I take it from my impressions about your ex-wife that she’s also intimate with the supernatural community,” Brianna says.

“Yeah.”

“I don’t know if that makes it easier or not,” Brianna says.

“It is what it is,” Loomis says.

The two go to an all-night diner for coffee and chat for awhile. Nothing heavy, just chatting.

Eventually they head back to Brianna’s apartment for the night. “Weirdness aside, I did have a good time tonight,” Loomis says.

Brianna sits on the edge of the couch, which is set up for Loomis to sleep on. “Weirdness is what I think it is going to be for us. But I had a good time as well. I know that there are things that will have to be worked out between us if we decide to let this go on down the road, like my job, just aspects of my nature, what I am, but it may take awhile, but I’m still wanting to move forward with this.”

“Me too,” Loomis say.

Brianna leans forward and gives him a kiss. He returns it.

June 2, 2013 (Sunday)

Loomis and Brianna go for a run in Forest Park along the trials. Then they have breakfast together. After breakfast, Loomis gathers up his things and heads back to Seattle. He promises to give her a call when another time opens up. She takes back the amulet and gives him a kiss goodbye.

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Scenario Nine: Blood Moon (Part Two)
Part Two

November 18, 2012 (Sunday)

Yuriko

Yuriko spends half the day in Powell’s looking for information on the Jade Court and finds absolutely nothing. She does, think, however that the local universities may have better information so she chases down those leads. That leads her to the University of Oregon at Eugene, which has the largest Asian collection in the state. This collection is actually a native language collection in that it is in Japanese, Chinese, and Korean. It is ranked in the top 30 Asian collections in North America. It also has smaller Thai and Vietnamese collections. If there is any information, locally on the Jade Court, she thinks she has a good shot of finding it there.

Eugene is about 111 miles from Portland. She shares her (non)findings with Dillon and decides to plan a road trip to Eugene. She doesn’t know who all wants to come, but invites Lau Hu, so that she can read the Japanese and he can read the Chinese.

Dillon passes on the road trip, unless Yuriko thinks she needs back-up. “I’d rather stay in town for the Necro-vamp’s next move,” he says.

Yuriko doesn’t think she’ll need back-up, and there’s a lot going on in Portland right now so it’s probably best not to move everyone out of the city. She calls Lau Hu and invites him to come along. He accepts. Then she makes arrangements to rent a car. She’ll pick up Lau Hu early in the morning and make her way to Eugene.

Dillon

After Mass on Sunday morning, Dillon approaches Reverend Buxman to ask about the Jade Court. Buxman sees Dillon in his office.

“I don’t really know much of the Jade Court. No one does. They are shrouded in mystery, even from the other vampire courts. I think they like to keep it that way. I don’t think I’m going to be much help to you in this regard. That you have an acquaintance that has actually faced them and lived to tell the tale is a wonder. Perhaps he will be more helpful.”

After his meeting with Buxman, Dillon calls Laurence Storm. “Mr. Storm, I found out what killed Overland and your man in the alley, it’s nasty, dangerous, and bullets won’t help. Surveillance is your specialty so I won’t tell you how to do it, but you may want to restrict your people to day time only, nights are risky.” He also tells Storm to concentrate on the building that Angelica noted the spirits avoid. “I’m pretty sure my target is hiding out there, but use extreme caution at night. If your guys get spotted, they should hide indoors. Not a in a store or shop, but in a private home or church, preferably a church, it won’t want to follow them in there. Then stay put until morning, I don’t want anyone else getting killed.”

Storm seems skeptical, but takes it all in and says “Alright.”

Angelica

Angelica arrives at Daphne Brandenburg’s home around 3:00 pm after taking a circuitous route to avoid prying eyes. Daphne lets her in and after they say their hellos, leads her to the promised spare room. Fortunately, it has a wood floor covered in rugs.

Angelica lifts the rugs off the floor and places them on the bed. She then takes out chalk and starts to draw her circle. She confirms with Daphne that she’s not to be interrupted. “For your safety and mine, stay out of the room,” she tells Daphne. Daphne leaves. Then Angelica shuts the blinds and locks the door.

She goes back to the circle and lays out her focus items—the wedding band, the threaded sweet pea blossoms, the parchment. She starts the recording of “taps”. She then closes the circle and begins the ritual, calling for Zachary Thomas Brandenburg, using his True Name, calling for him to go home, calling upon his love of country and love for his wife to do make his final goodbye.

A shimmering form manifests in the room and the temperature drops significantly. “What are you doing?” a hollow voice asks. The form rushes the circle, but is held at bay. Angelica continues to chant, calling upon her power to draw the form back into the Nevernever. Finally, the form wisps away into a mote of light and it is gone.

Angelica starts carefully putting things away and cleaning up her chalk circle. Then she unlocks the door and heads out. She finds Daphne standing outside the door.

“I think he’s moved on,” Angelica says.

“Are you sure?” Daphne asks. “I have heard this before.”

“I’m pretty sure,” Angelica says and returns Daphne’s belongings. “I think he’s really gone. I just reminded him it was time to say goodbye. You have my number in case you feel like you need to call. But I expect things will be fine.”

“Do I owe you anything?”

“No, I do this to help people.”

The two shake hands.

“If you ever hear of anyone else having these kinds of problems, let me know,” Angelica says.

When Angelica leaves and starts to head out to her car, she notices Detective Fadil’s sedan parked nearby. He gets out of his vehicle.

“Detective Fadil. Is it a slow Sunday?” Angelica asks, her voice mostly neutral.

“I thought you should know that Tim Mulligan is still missing,” he says.

“Alright. I’m sorry you’ve not found him.”

“I know you had something to do with this.”

“You seem determined to make it such. I’m sorry I can’t be any more help to you,” Angelica replies calmly.

“It’s become apparent that you can’t,” Fadil says.

“Does that mean that you’re going to continue to follow me around in your car?”

“No. But good luck getting a consultancy,” he retorts.

“Are you telling me that you’re going to stop me helping people through the police department?” Angelica asks, anger creeping into her voice.

“I’m not convinced you help people.”

“Well, I do. There are a lot of people out there that need my help and perhaps I don’t do it with a badge and a gun, but I do it nonetheless.”

“Did you help Tim Mulligan?” Fadil asks pointedly.

“I’ve told you what I know of Tim Mulligan. And if Tim Mulligan had come to me for help like people do though the police department, or through my own contacts, perhaps I could have helped him. Detective, I’ve got the impression that you’re a good man. You try to do your job. You follow up leads. You’re sincere. Have I been annoyed that you’ve been following me around for the last month, talking to my friends and people that I’ve worked with? Yes, it’s annoying. But I chalked it up to you doing your job and doing your job well. What I don’t appreciate it is when you start interfering with my job, just because I’m not the answer that you’re looking for.”

“I’ll leave it alone,” Fadil says. “You better hope you never come into our precinct as a suspect.”

“Then we have nothing to worry about,” Angelica replies tightly.

Fadil walks to his car and gets inside, then drives off.

Angelica walks to her car taking deep breaths and then drives home.

November 18, 2012 (Sunday, 11: 51 pm)

Angelica is recuperating after a long day by relaxing in her sanctum. She looks down and notices that the talisman that Warden Capstone had given her is glowing with a faint orange light. Angelica heads immediately upstairs, calling Dillon as she goes.

“Dillon, someone’s trying to get past the ward at the grave site. The talisman is glowing orange. I’m heading there right now."

Dillon calls Sabrina and Nick and then immediately leaves the church for the cemetery.

Dillon arrives at the grave site of first, around midnight. He blends into the shadows, using his vampiric powers and the darkness to hide and observe the situation. He sees two figures near the grave of Lincoln Burgess. One is dressed in grimy coveralls and is leaning on a shovel, observing the grave, rubbing his chin. The other is dressed in black cargo pants, a long black coat, and motorcycle boots. He pulls what looks like a sharpened bone from his coat and points it at the grave. He utters an unintelligible word and Dillon sees a shimmering of light erupt around the grave. The man with the bone wand is then knocked off his feet, as is the man with the shovel. Dillon feels energy ripple harmlessly around him as the spell the man evoked bounces off of the ward around the grave and dissipates in a wave around the area. Dillon smells blood in the air as the man in the long coat rises and wipes his nose and then holds his head.

The man in the long coat shakes his head and puts away his wand. He motions for the man with the shovel to move back and then starts marking a line in the dirt around the grave in the earth, making a rough circle. The man is murmuring to himself as marks the circle. When he finishes the circle, Dillon feels a slight POP in the air, almost like a change in air pressure. Then the man stands before the circle and raises his hands and begins to chant in a language he doesn’t understand.

Sabrina joins Dillon behind the gravestone. “What’s going on?” she whispers.

“There’s a wizard trying to break through the wards. Let’s let him expend the energy fighting through the wards, if he fails, all is good. If he succeeds, we’ll make a move, they’ll still have to dig up the grave. I think we should try to take this guy either way. The Warden will want to question him and that will be one less Necro-minion for us to deal with later.”

Dillon then sends a text to everyone: WIZARD TRYING TO BREAK THROUGH WARDS AT GRAVE, APPROACH QUIETLY, MUST CAPTURE HIM

The man in the long coat continues to face the circle he’s formed and chant while the man with the shovel impatiently waits, shifting from foot to foot.

After a couple of minutes, the man with the shovel turns and looks into the surrounding the darkness. He leaves the other man to his chanting and then hefts his shovel and stalks his way to a set of gravestones. He appears to get into a struggle with a shadowy form. Then he swings the shovel and it connects with something—-THUD. He reaches down and drags the form out of the shadows. It’s Nick.

Then the man in the long coat stops chanting, distracted by the fact that he apparently can’t move his feet. He has sunk about a foot into the earth and can’t move. Looking around, Leilani Capstone walks onto the site, a bright light emanating from her staff.

Dillon says to Sabrina, “Crap, let’s help Nick and leave Necro-minion to Capstone. I’ll try to sneak up and dose the shoveler, you cover me. If he spots me, you save me BEFORE I take a shovel to the face.” Dillon stealthily approaches his target, unnoticed, slobbering on his hand as he does so…

Meanwhile, Angelica wanders onto the scene. Capstone is facing off against a man in a long coat. A man with a shovel is dragging an unconscious Nick to the grave site. She does not see Dillon or Sabrina or anyone else.

Dillon stealthily approaches the man dragging Nick and places his slobbery hand over his mouth. The man puts up very little struggle and slumps backward into Dillon, unconscious.

Then, he is blasted forcibly from Dillon’s grip by an unseen force. Dillon turns to see Angelica holding her hands before her with a look of grim determination on her face. She doesn’t appear to have noticed Dillon. The man lies face down on the ground, unconscious, his shovel discarded. Nick also lies on the ground, unmoving.

The man in the long coat is holding his wand again and pointing it at Capstone. Capstone is holding her staff before her and shouting for the man to stand down.

Angelica runs over to check on Nick. He has a large bump on his head and is unconscious. She starts to deliver first aid to try and revive, managing to get him to wake up to a semi-coherent state.

Dillon approaches the man in the long coat as he faces off against the Warden. The man raises his wand and shouts out an unintelligible word. A bolt of light shoots forth from the wand toward the Warden, but Capstone utters another word and deflects it with her staff.

The man appears not to have noticed Dillon.

Angelica still doesn’t notice Dillon lurking in the shadows. She helps Nick get to his feet, keeping herself between him and the showdown between Capstone and the necrominion. If it looks like the man may turn their way, she prepares to to throw up a quick veil.

Dillon reaches out and knocks the wand from the man’s outstretched hand.

The move gets the man’s attention, causing him try and turn around and to face Dillon, but he is still stuck in the earth.

Dillon hears Capstone utter a word and a stone rises from the ground and comes flying at the man, striking him hard, bloodying his nose.

Angelica now notices Dillon standing behind the man in the long coat.

Dillon now reaches around with a slobbery hand and applies it to the man’s mouth. He get euphoric look on his face and then drops unconscious.

Capstone approaches the prone figure of the man in the long coat and checks his pulse. “He appears to be alive. What did you do to him, Dillon? How long can we expect this to last?”

“Sleeper hold, lack of oxygen makes people dazed, but not for long. You better bind him up or whatever you have planned, before he snaps out of it!” Dillon says.

Capstone gives Dillon a long, appraising glance and then walks over to the man in the long coat. She plucks out one of his hairs and wraps it around her finger. She then begins to draw a circle in the dirt around the fallen man. Everyone can feel a change in the air pressure when she closes the circle.

She then turns to Dillon and Angelica and says that when he wakes up, she’s going place a binding on him to squelch his ability to cast. While she’s doing that, they could question him.

Angelica, after flicking a quick side-ways glance at Dillon, turns to the man on the ground next to her and Nick. “What do we want to do about him?”

Sabrina emerges from behind a gravestone and approaches the scene. She places handcuffs on the man that had the shovel and says “I’ll keep an eye on him if he wakes up.”

Sure enough, the handcuffed man begin to stir. He tries to reach up to touch the lump on his head, but finds his hands restricted behind his back.

The man in the long coat rises slowly, shaking his head. He takes in the people standing before him, including the Warden, and starts to back away, but the Warden, who is now murmuring to herself, pulls the hair she holds taut between two of her fingers and the man’s neck goes tight; he stops. Between clenched teeth he says, “You have my attention.”

Angelica recognizes that the Warden is performing a complex bit of thaumaturgy to bind the man in the long coat, both blocking his magic and using a bit of sympathetic magic to control his physical actions. Angelica steps in front of the circle binding the man, her dark eyes fixed on his. “So. Now that the Warden has persuaded you to stay and chat, why don’t you talk to us about who hired you to rob this grave?”

“No one hired me to rob this grave.”

Capstone doesn’t cease her murmuring, but gives the hair another tug and the man’s head jerks upright.

“Haven’t you heard?” he asks through clenched teeth, “There’s a man in Chinatown willing to pay $1000 for one of these hands.”

Angelica arches a slender eyebrow. “Really? And how exactly did you come across that piece of information? What’s this man’s name?”

“Shut up, Ambrose!” the handcuffed man calls out. Sabrina hunkers down close to his ear and says, “You’re hardly in any position to be giving advice, my friend.”

The man in the circle cuts his eyes toward the murmuring Warden and says, “Those of us in the trade talk. News travels. I’m surprised you haven’t heard about the bounty. A guy named Nicky Zang in Chinatown is supposedly paying the bounty. Nobody said anything about the Warden guarding the thing, though.”

Angelica smiles tightly. “No. I suppose that’s a piece of information that was left out.” She leans forward slightly, still careful to not get close to the Warden’s circle. “Once you’d disturbed the dead and retrieved your prize, how were you supposed to get in contact with Nicky Zang? Were you supposed to deliver the hand to him personally?”

The man says, “Word was we could set up a meeting with him at Skully’s—not to bring the merchandise there, but to set up a meeting for an exchange. Apparently he hangs out there. It’s a bar in Chinatown.”

“Was there a particular phrase or password you were supposed to tell Nicky when you met him? Certainly, the plan wasn’t to walk in and announce that you had a dead man’s hand for him.”

“Not announce it to the room, no. But if you got an audience with Nicky and explain that you have the goods, then he’ll set up an exchange. There’s no passwords or any cloak and dagger shit like that. Word is on the street. What good is a password when word is on the street? Word is, if you cross Nicky and say you have the goods and don’t, that some seriously bad shit will come your way. Shit like what happened to that thief Overland. Word is, he’s mixed up with some people you don’t want to cross. Underground and underworld, if you get my meaning.”

Dillon asks, from behind Ambrose, From behind Ambrose, “How were you going to get an audience with Nicky Zang?”

Ambrose glances again at the murmuring Warden and sighs. “Shen, the bartender. If you get in good with him, you’re golden. Talk him into letting you talk to Nicky—or pay him enough—and you’re in.”

“What bar, where?” Dillon asks.

Ambrose shakes his head. “Skully’s. Chinatown. If you don’t mind me saying, Warden, your help don’t hear too good. It’s about two blocks from the Chinese Garden. You can’t miss it.”

The handcuffed man raises his head and says, “Look, he’s answered all your damn questions and your precious hands are intact. Let us go!”

Angelica turns her gaze to the handcuffed man. “And let you sneak back here another night to rob from the dead?”

Ambrose speaks up. “You’ve obviously got a ward. And defenses. Otherwise we wouldn’t be having this conversation, sweetheart. We know when we’re beat. Isn’t that right, Fred?” He nods to the handcuffed man. “We can spread the word for you. Let ‘em know on the street that Nicky’s not giving such a sweet deal after all. That the Warden’s involved. That’d help, wouldn’t it? Nothing rings truer than the truth, right?”

Angelica crosses her arms. “Come on, Ambrose. You’re not being completely honest with us.” She pointedly looks over her shoulder at the Warden. “I think it’s in your best interest to do so.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about, sweetheart," Ambrose says, "I can do you a favor if you let me go. Simple as that. What do say?”

Angelica looks at Dillon. “I think he’s got additional reasons of his own, but I believe he’ll do what he says.” She gestures to their surroundings. “This has got to stop. Perhaps getting the word out ‘on the street’ will dissuade other potential grave robbers.”

“If you think it will stop the grave desecration, then let him spread the word about the Warden.” Dillon will pluck some hairs from Ambrose and Fred. “In case we need to talk to you again, I want to be able to find you,” Dillon says. “Does anyone else have questions? Does the Warden?”

When Dillon goes to get Ambrose’s hair, he crosses the circle and feels more than hears a pop in the air as the circle collapses. The Warden ceases her murmuring and says that she has no further questions. The hair she is holding in her hand burns away in an orange light. The earth at Ambrose’s feet releases him and he gingerly tries to walk.

Sabrina backs away as Fred rises and then she releases the handcuffs. He gives her dirty looks as she works.

Ambrose motions to Fred and the two gather on the other side of the warded grave. “You’ve made the right decision, Warden. You won’t regret this.”

“See that I don’t,” Capstone says. “Or I’ll have you both before the Council.”

The two men beat a hasty exit.

Angelica waits until the sounds of the two men walking away have faded. Then, she turns to the small group that remains. “Hopefully, that will give us a bit of reprieve from the grave desecrations. However, I believe we need to deal with this Zang problem now. We have a small window of time before he realizes that “word on the street” is warning people off about this job. That the Warden’s involved. If we want to move on this information … try and use it to contact Zang … we’ll need to move quickly."

Dillon says, “Ok, what exactly is your plan? What information are we moving on? I see how we might be discouraging grave robbers, but not how we are any closer to Zang or infiltrating this Necromancer’s hideout.”

Sabrina says “We’re closer to Zang, if we want to talk to him. We get in good with the bartender at Skully’s and we can talk to him. And the bartender is apparently susceptible to bribes. So it may be possible to get an audience with Zang. The question is if we want to and what we would say.”

Angelica nods. “We’ve been given a good opportunity and right now, he’s our best lead at getting at the Necromancer.” She gestures with a slender hand at Nick and the Warden, “If we got something personal off Zang, perhaps someone could fashion an illusion of him? That might enable one of us to get through the hideout door.” She looks around the group again. “Or maybe we plant a tracker on him. See where he goes, where he lives. Or maybe we do both. We’ve got to do something. I don’t want to just wait around until the Necromancer makes his next move.”

Nick shakes his head, “An illusion would be more than I could handle, magically speaking. But I might be able to fashion a tracker of some sort. I wouldn’t need something from him, but we could try to plant it on him.”

The Warden says, “An illusion of Zang would be a complex thaumaturgical spell. It would be possible with something personal off of him, but it would be tricky. I could do it, but it wouldn’t be easy.”

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Side Job: The Odd Job
Karkana Chronicles: Sixteen

May 25, 2013 (Saturday)

It is evening and Brianna has returned to Portland from Colorado mentally exhausted. After getting off the phone with Loomis, she decides to go out and feed. She takes Joey with her to watch her back. She also wears sunglasses to try to further hide her vampiric nature.

She finds a rave club in which to stalk her prey and enters the mosh pit to get a sense of the rhythm of it. She comes upon a guy that’s a likely target and jostles up against him, making skin contact and begins to feed. The man goes berserk and starts fighting with those around him. Brianna quietly leaves the floor and she and Joey leave the club.

Brianna catches Joey up on the latest news from Seattle. Joey shakes his head. Brianna thinks that they (meaning the White Council) are setting up Ezekiel to get killed. “And the others,” Joey points. “And possibly us,” Brianna says. They come to the conclusion that there is nothing they can do but watch out for themselves.

May 26, 2013 (Sunday)

Brianna and Joey head to Sibley’s Gym to workout and hobnob with other fighters. On the way, the two discuss whether or not they want to start going back to the “shitty” pit fighting situation that they had worked their way up from, but would have the flexibility they need. In the end, they decide to go for the pit fighting for now and see if they can resolve their other situations. Joey defers to Brianna’s judgment.

At the gym, as Brianna and Joey are wrapping up their workout, they see Silas Sharpe walk in.

“Heads up, Joey,” Brianna says and starts giving the large man ‘the eye’.

Sharpe walks up to Brianna and says “Mr. Gould wants to see you.”

“Mr. Gould wants to see me?”

“Yep.”

“And after our last meeting, why on earth would I want to see Mr. Gould?” Brianna asks, not bothering to hide her disdain.

Silas is expressionless. “He says he has a proposition for you.”

Brianna laughs, “That must be one damn good proposition. Regarding what?”

“That’s between you and him.”

Brianna shrugs. “I’ll think about it.”

“He’s waiting outside,” Silas says.

“Alright, I’ll bite,” Brianna says. “C’mon Joey.”

Joey follows her as Silas leads the way outside. In the parking lot is the familiar gold-plated grey Lexus that Brianna recognizes from her surveillance. She pauses outside the car with her arms crossed as Silas opens the back door. She sees Mr. Gould inside.

“Mr. Gould,” Brianna says flatly.

“Ms. Karkana,” Gould replies in turn. “Have a seat. I’d like to have a talk with you.”

“Is this a stationary business meeting or are we moving?”

“That depends on you.”

“Joey, get in the front seat,” Brianna says.

Gould looks at Silas and nods. Joey gets in the front seat and Brianna slides into the back seat next to Gould, her arms crossed and clearly not happy.

“I’d like to hire you for a job,” Gould says simply.

Brianna gives him an incredulous look. “You must be fucking kidding.”

“Not at all. You have certain connections that would be of use to me.”

“And what connections would those be?”

“Connections to the White Court,” he replies smoothly.

“Yes, I suppose I do.”

“One of my girls was found dead at The Playground Friday night,” Gould says, an edge to his voice.

“What makes you think it was White Court related?” Brianna asks.

“Her death has been ruled a heart attack. I suspect that it was murder. The police are not investigating it because they believe it was natural causes. I suspect otherwise.” Gould looks at Brianna, “My suspicion is that it was the work of one of your cousins.”

“Did you see the body?” Brianna asks.

“Yes.”

“And?”

“She was dead,” Gould says, incredulous.

“Did she look like she had been in under extreme emotion in the last moments of her life?” Brianna clarifies impatiently.

“Yes.”

“And what emotion might that have been?”

“I think we both know,” Gould says.

“There’s no lost love between us. How do I know this is not another one of your ploys?” Brianna asks.

“I suppose you don’t,” Gould replies calmly.

As far as Brianna can tell, he’s being sincere. “What exactly are you wanting to hire me to do about the situation?”

“I want you to find out who did it, to ensure that it doesn’t happen again. I don’t want my girls to be prey. I’ve gone to Ms. Patel and she was, to my way of thinking, less than sympathetic to my plight. She seemed to think that I was jumping at shadows, that perhaps my girl OD’d.”

“In exchange for finding out who did this to your girl and bringing it to the attention of those who need to be told…” Brianna begins.

“No. What I said was ensuring that it doesn’t happen again,” Gould interrupts.

“Finding out who did this and ensuring that it doesn’t happen again—what are you upholding in this bargain?” Brianna looks squarely at him.

“As I said, I wish to hire you. What is your price?” Gould asks.

Brianna names a significant figure and Gould agrees to it. Brianna also stipulates that half of it be paid up front, non-refundable, and then the rest be paid upon resolution of the matter. Gould once again agrees. She also warns him that she’s going to be “up in his business” asking questions and he better not stonewall her. He’s going to have to be cooperative. He assures her that he will be cooperative with her investigation.

“Shall we go to the club?” Gould asks.

“Yes,” Brianna nods.

“Silas, take us to The Playground,” Gould commands, and the car the pulls out of the parking lot.

As they drive, Brianna asks “What was the girl’s name?”

“Chelsea Harvest.”

“Was that her real name?”

“That’s the name I have.”

“Was she in the original set of girls that was hired?”

“Yes.”

“Did she have family in town?” Brianna asks.

“I don’t know,” Gould replies.

The car pulls up to the strip club and everyone gets out of the car and goes inside. The club is closed, being a Sunday afternoon. A few workers are still cleaning up from Saturday night.

“Show me where she was,” Brianna says. She wants a walk-through of where Chelsea was that night and her known patterns. She’s taken to a private dance room where the dancer apparently was found. This was where she was with her last client.

“Did anyone see her after her last client left?” Brianna asks.

“One of the girls found her after the client left,” Gould replies.

“And do we know what the time frame between those two events were?”

“Probably about 8 minutes. We have the last client leaving on camera. it’s not a great shot, but we have it,” Gould says.

Brianna checks out the room and the hidden security camera at the entrance to the room.

“Where was she found?” Brianna asks

“On the floor, next to the chair,” Gould says. There is a chair and an a chaise lounge in the room.

“Were there any signs of a struggle?”

“Not according to the police,” Gould says.

Brianna finds none either, but she does find some scratches on the chair—could be struggle, could be from dancing on the chair in heels. It’s hard to say.

Brianna then asks to see the camera footage. They adjourn to Gould’s office and he pulls up the footage. While the footage comes up, Gould opens up a safe and pulls out the allotted agreed-upon payment and puts it in a bag. Brianna gives it to Joey for safe-keeping.

The footage is not great and is black-and-white, but Brianna does see a scantily-clad young woman and a young man in a dark suit entering the private room. She doesn’t see a lot of detail of their entry, mostly the back of their heads. It’s time-stamped for 11:44 pm. At 12:01, the handsome dark-haired man comes out alone. Brianna notices that he’s wearing a ring on his finger that looks like a scorpion.

“Did Ms. Harvest use those rooms a lot?” Brianna asks.

“Yes,” Gould says.

“Is that a normal amount of time for a client?” Brianna asks.

“That depends on how much he paid for the dance,” Gould replies.

“So that amount of time doesn’t raise any red flags?”

“No.”

Brianna turns back to the footage and slows it down to watch the period between the man leaving and the discovery of Chelsea Harvest. She watches frame-by-frame, looking for anything unusual. Eventually, she sees another girl approach with a client. She knocks on the door. Knocks again. Opens the door. Runs in. Runs out, yelling. Brianna stops the footage, not finding anything out of the ordinary.

She decides to check all of the footage for that night to see if she can see more of the last client. She also asks for the name of the officer investigating the case. As Brianna is pouring through hours of footage, she works to hide how uncomfortable she is in viewing the dancers and their clients. Joey gives her a knowing look, but she seems pretty successful in hiding her emotions from Gould.

The guy seems to have entered the club at 11:03. He sat at one of the pole dances for a while, watched Chelsea for a while, spoke with her (probably negotiating the private dance). Then he bought her a drink and the two headed back to the private room. He didn’t touch her, but she touched him—but not skin to skin contact—at least, not before they got to the private room. As far as Brianna can tell, Chelsea was pretty into the guy, but that’s what strippers do. Chelsea didn’t have any obvious physical attributes that made her stand out from the other girls—she wasn’t the only blonde, or had particularly large breasts, or anything like that. She was petite with short blonde hair and quite pretty.

“Was there anything unusual about Ms. Harvest that I need to know about?” Brianna asks Gould, finally turning away from the club footage.

“No. She came in on time and never gave us any trouble.”

“That’s not the kind of unusual I was referring to.”

“No,” Gould says, shaking his head.

“Do you have her address?” Brianna asks.

“We have an address on file for tax purposes,” Gould says.

“Did you have any other contacts, such as next of kin, emergency contacts, or just her?”

“No, just her.”

“Did you recognize this guy that came in?”

“No.”

“What about this?” Brianna asks, tapping the screen at the scorpion ring.

“No.”

Gould finds the business card of the police officer, Detective Ramos, and hands it to her.

“Well, I’m going to contact Detective Ramos and see if I can get some more information. Can I find you here most of the time since this is still a fairly new operation for you?” Brianna asks.

“Yes,” Gould says.

“Am I going to have to pay the cover charge every time I come in to find you?” she asks pointedly.

“I’ll send word to the front desk.”

“For me and for Joey, please. Well, I have your phone number and you have mine. So, we’ll be in touch.”

“Very well.”

Gould has Silas return the two to their car back at the gym and they part ways.

By this time, after having gone through so much footage at the club, it has become evening. Brianna calls the number on the business card for Detective Ramos. A woman’s voice answers.

“Ramos.”

“Detective Ramos, my name is Brianna Karkana.”

“And?”

“I’m calling on behalf of Mr. Gould. He’s asked me to look into the unfortunate incident that happened at his club.”

“You a private investigator?”

“Of sorts. He’s asked me to do a little looking around. He’s very concerned about Ms. Harvest’s passing.”

“From what I understand, there’s not much to be concerned about. It was of natural causes, according to the coroner.”

“What it be possible to see Ms. Harvest?”

“Well, you’re not a city official. You’re not even a private investigator. You’re not family, so…no.”

Brianna grinds her teeth, muttering under her breath. “So even if I’m acting on behalf of her employer, I can’t get anything from you? Copy of the coroner’s report? Anything?”

“You could file an open records report. See some of this information in a few weeks, if it’s public.”

“Well, perhaps I’ll do that then. Detective.” Brianna hangs up. “I hate the cops!” she tells Joey.

They head over to a bank and deposit their money, then go home and change clothes.

The two head over to the University of Portland to see Roy Dale, a graduate student Brianna’s used to do research for her before. They find Roy at the student union and set him to doing research on whether or not the city has more than one morgue and if there is a branch associated with the precinct in which The Playground resides. She also wants to know if there has been a rash of deaths of “natural causes” at strip clubs in the past few months.

There is not a branch of the morgue in that district. There is only one morgue (The Office of the Medical Examiner) and it is in Southeast Portland. The other question is going to take him more time to research. Brianna gives Roy a bit of cash to make sure that it is a research priority for the next 24 hours and leaves him to it.

Brianna then goes to reach out to her supernatural underworld contacts to see if there is anybody associated with the morgue that look the other way or get her access to the body of Chelsea Harvest. She discovers that there are a couple of guys that generally work nights at the morgue that, if you pay them enough, and you don’t do anything to get them in trouble, they’ll look the other way. There’s a guard by the name of Pete Zabke and a doctor by the name of Hollingsworth.

Brianna and Joey then head out to the fights. She schmoozes around as usual and sip-feeds and also gathers information on pit fighting. She learns that if she wants to get into that circuit, she needs to talk to Philo Barcas. He doesn’t usually come to these fights, but she can find him in Kelly’s Olympian, a bar downtown. She also sees Mel Landry, who is cool toward her, but not hostile and keeps things professional.

After the fights, the two head for the Multnomah County Office of the Medical Examiner, or the County Morgue. Through the entryway door, which is locked, they see a guard station. They try the door again, which gets the attention of the uniformed guard, who comes over to the door. He opens it and says “The building is closed.” His nametag reads “Zabke”.

“Are you Pete Zabke?” Brianna asks.

“I am,” he says warily.

“Is Dr. Hollingsworth on duty tonight?”

“He might be,” Zabke says, again, warily.

“Word on the street is I might need to talk to you if I want to see a body,” Brianna says.

“Oh really,” Zabke says. “What else does word on the street say?”

“That you need good monetary incentive,” Brianna says archly. “Did you want to have this conversation in the doorway?”

“Wait here,” he whispers. He goes back to his desk, fiddles with some instrument, and then returns to the door, and opens it, and then says, “What do you got?”

Brianna holds up a hundred dollar bill. “But I need you to check your records and make sure the body I need is actually in this building.”

“Who is it?” Zabke says.

“Chelsea Harvest.”

He goes back and checks something on a computer screen, comes back and takes the hundred and directs them to the hall and tells them to turn left after the door. Brianna notices that she gets absolutely no supernatural vibes off of Pete Zabke.

They go down the hall and turn left and then come to a set of double doors that say “Examining room”. Inside they hear the sound classic rock coming from a tinny speaker. Going inside, they see a man in a lab coat working at a table, probably on a body. Nearby is a circa-1983 radio blaring the classic rock from a cassette. To the left are a series of large drawers that probably contain corpses. There are a series of tables beyond the one the man is working on deeper into the room. To the right is a counter and cabinets with various supplies and accouterments and a large sink.

“Dr. Hollingsworth?” Brianna says.

The man turns; he’s in his thirties. He looks both shocked and nervous. “Who are you? You can’t be here!”

“Pete directed us this way.”

“Did he now?”

“Yes he did. Word is on the street that you can help.”

“That depends. What kind of help do you need?”

“I just need to look at a body.” Brianna pulls out another hundred dollar bill.

“You just need to look?”

“I need to examine her. I don’t need to do anything that will be obvious.”

Hollingsworth steps forward and takes the hundred. “Which one?”

“Ms. Harvest.”

“You’re not some kind of weirdo are you?”

“Look who’s talking,” she retorts.

He goes to one of the drawers and pulls it open revealing a body under a sheet. He pulls back a sheet, revealing the corpse of a young woman. It looks like she’s gone through an autopsy, with a closed y-shaped wound on her chest. Her expression is one of rapt, lustful, ecstasy. Without the pallor and autopsy wound, she looks like young woman with a lustful, satisfied look on her face.

The only wounds Brianna sees are from the autopsy.

Hollingsworth comments, “She seems to have gone out very satisfied.”

Brianna washes her hands and says, “I’ve seen everything I need to see.”

Brianna and Joey head out and then Brianna asks her underworld contacts about the scorpion ring. She doesn’t get any information.

They finally head home for the night during the wee hours. Joey makes the comment that he feels like they’re being watched as they get out of the car at the apartment. They look around but don’t see anyone. They head to the apartment, but nothing happens. Once they get in the apartment, they keep the lights off, but stay up for a little while and watch the windows. Neither of them see anyone. They set the apartment’s alarms and go to bed.

May 27, 2013 (Monday)

Joey and Brianna check out the area outside their apartment for clues as to who—or what—may have been watching them last night. Near some shrubbery facing the entryway to their apartment, they find some cigarette butts. Brianna grabs a Ziploc bag from her kitchen and bags them up. They then head to the gym.

After working out at the gym, they decide to head over to visit with Sydney Benning. Regi isn’t in. They spend a few minutes exchanging pleasantries. She hasn’t heard any more about their last encounter with the “Big Bad”. Brianna tells Sydney that she would like to hire Sydney to create a ward to put on her apartment. Sydney says that would be doable. Brianna would also like to find out who it was that was watching her apartment and if it was the person smoking these cigarettes—and she produces the baggie with the butts. “That might be doable,” Sydney says, “if they had them in their mouth and they still have the spit on them. I can try.”

“Thank you,” Brianna says.

“Did you want me to try now?” Sydney asks.

“That would be optimal. I know we just burst in here,” Brianna says.

Sydney gets them to help her move some of her furniture around so that she can move her rug to reveal a painted circle. She also gets a bowl of water and pours the cigarette butts into it. She sits in the center of her circle. Beads of sweat break out on her brow as she chants over the bowl. A face begins to materialize above the bowl. It is the face of Jake Esquivel, the second vampire assassin that came after them a few weeks ago. The face fades and the room is filled with the smell of old, wet tobacco.

“Did that help?” Sydney asks.

“That’s exactly what I needed. Thanks,” Brianna says. “As far as the ward goes, how much time will you need to prepare for it?”

“I will need some time. I guess that depends on how powerful a ward you want. I’ll need to make some sort of talisman so you can pass in and out of your own ward. I assume you’ll want them for just you and Joey.”

“Is it more work to make more talismans?” Brianna asks.

“Not necessarily,” Sydney says, “But I have to make the talismans when I make the ward.”

“I think we’ll need at least one extra then, in case someone else needs in.”

“Okay, so I’ll make three talismans.”

“Will you be able to get in since you set the ward?” Brianna asks.

“If you want me to, I could make it such that I could,” Sydney replies carefully.

“I don’t want you to be excluded, so, make that part of it,” Brianna says.

“I didn’t want to presume,” Sydney says.

“And I don’t want Regi excluded from the ward either,” Brianna says, “Because he visits our apartment when we need to communicate.”

“So three talismans, myself, and Regi. I can do that,” Sydney says.

“Considering who you saw during your scrying, it is best to do this during the day,” Brianna warns her. “I don’t know if you can do this today, or if it is going to be tomorrow.”

“Well, it will have to be renewed periodically,” Sydney informs her.

“How often is periodically?”

“When I set it up, I can try to do it to where I renew the ward monthly,” Sydney says. “Or weekly, or daily.”

“Daily seems like an inconvenience for everyone,” Brianna comments.

“A lot of it depends on how much power I pour into it at the onset,” Sydney says.

“Monthly seems like it would be more optimal,” Brianna says.

“Okay, then I’ll come once per month to renew them. Otherwise they would expire sunrise to sunset.”

“No. Besides, it’s an apartment. Chances are that should work.”

“So, are you wanting just a ward or are you wanting a ward with an extra surprise?” Sydney asks.

“So how does that work?”

“The ward just repels. But if the ward is ever breached, then the extra surprise is a spell that goes off,” Sydney explains. “Fire. Electricity. Whatever.”

“What sort of landmines or extra surprises can you do?” Brianna asks slowly, thinking about the possibilities.

“My specialties are fire, air, and spirit,” Sydney says. “Fire might be dangerous in your apartment. Air may be useful. We could bind somebody with air.”

“How long could you do that for, though?”

“Depends on how complex we make the spell and how strong the person is we are binding,” Sydney says. “Or we could hit them with kinetic energy, if you just wanted to hit them.”

“I like the idea of binding,” Brianna admits.

“We can try that,” Sydney says.

“Is this something you’ll have to do tomorrow?”

“Probably. This is turning into quite a complex spell and I’ll have to prepare,” Sydney says.

“Alright. If you can do this for us, I would appreciate it. What can I do for you in return?” Brianna asks.

Sydney says, “You saved my life, you owe me nothing.”

“I appreciate it, but I didn’t do it to have a hold on to you forever,” Brianna looks her friend squarely in the eyes, her voice serious. “Thank you. I have many pots in the fire right now and this will be incredibly helpful. How about I reach out to you tomorrow?”

“I’ll do my planning tonight,” Sydney agrees.

Brianna and Joey take their leave and then head downtown to the Pentecostal Mission House to see Broderick Cartland. His mission house has a pretty decent occult library that Brianna wants to make use of.

At the mission, three people are sitting inside and Cartland is finishing up a fiery sermon. Brianna and Joey sit in the back. When he finishes the sermon, he goes up to them and shakes their hand and says hello.

“May we speak in private?” Brianna asks quietly.

“Alright,” Cartland says and takes them to his back office.

“How is Aiden doing?” Brianna asks.

“He’s fine. It was touch and go at first, but he’s doing well enough now.”

“Very glad to hear. I was coming to ask a favor of you. There are evil situations going on in Portland. I know you have a fairly extensive library of the occult and I was hoping to use it for some research.”

“Evil never rests,” Cartland says solemnly.

“Evil never rests,” Brianna agrees.

“You may use my library,” Cartland tells her.

Brianna starts researching to see if there is anything else that could have killed in such as way as a White Court vampire. She finds nothing very conclusive. She then looks for information on the scorpion symbol from the man’s ring. The only thing she finds is references to the astrological sign of Scorpio. They thank Cartland for the time and leave.

Next, they head downtown and go to Kelly’s Olympian. It’s a dive bar with old motorcycles hanging from the ceiling and vintage signs on the walls. Brianna orders whiskey and asks the bartender is Philo Barcas is in the house tonight. The bartender looks at her and nods his head toward one of the back tables. An old man is sitting by himself, pouring over an old ledger with a pint glass beside him.

The two approach the old man, who looks up with an unfriendly glance. “Don’t I look busy to you?”

“You Philo Barcas?” Brianna asks.

“Yeah.”

“Lovely. My name’s Brianna Karkana.”

“Who are you?” he asks, belligerent.

“I got your name from someone in regards to entertainment that happens late at night,” Brianna says.

“Sit down,” Barcas growls.

Brianna and Joey sit.

“To be blunt, I heard you were someone we could talk about regarding pit fighting,” Brianna says.

“Yeah.”

“Lovely. I’m interested in getting my man here in the pit fights.”

Barcas looks at Joey. He shrugs and says “The kid might have chops.”

“Oh he does,” Brianna assures him.

“Yeah, we’ll see about that.”

Brianna smiles and leans back with her drink. “So how does this work here?”

The two discuss the particulars. It’s a roaming venue situation. Barcas will contact her with the venue when they set up the bouts. Brianna gives him her cell number. Barcas wants to check her “references” first before setting up the first bout. Barcas does raise an eyebrow at their “step down” from the other fighting circuit, but Brianna assures him that this is because they need a more flexible schedule.

Joey and Brianna then head back to the University to visit with Roy to see if his research have yielded any fruit. On the way, Brianna calls Loomis.

“Just as an FYI,” Brianna says, “the other half of that assassin pair was lurking outside my apartment last night. Regardless of how long the Baroness is taking to act, some of the agents from before are still out there. So be careful.”

“Will do,” Loomis says.

“Catch you later,” Brianna says, and hangs up.

At the university, they find Roy, who tells them he didn’t find anything on past deaths at the night clubs. However, this morning’s paper’s police blotter had one. Apparently paramedics were called out to northeast Portland to a club called The Dollhouse because a dancer had a stroke. Gould’s club, The Playhouse, is also in northeast Portland.

Brianna asks Roy to pull up a list of all the strip clubs in northeast Portland. Roy says he could, but that there is a lot. Looking at a map, the two clubs are about ten miles apart. She then asks Roy to pull up a list of clubs in a ten-mile radius of those two clubs. He says okay, he’ll email her the list.

Joey and Brianna then head to The Playhouse. There are not a lot of people there. True to his word, they don’t have to pay a cover and are let in the door without a hitch. They head for Gould’s office and Silas lets them in.

“I have a bit of information,” Brianna says. “Have you seen today’s paper?”

“I’ve seen the paper,” Gould says, clearly puzzled.

Brianna takes a copy of the paper off of Gould’s desk and turns to the police blotter and points to the entry on The Dollhouse. “Pretty interesting, don’t you think?”

He looks at it, furrows his brow.

“Do you know who owns it? I’d like to go over and ask them some questions,” Brianna says.

“I know it’s owned by Martin Kostas. I don’t know him very well.”

“Can you get me a picture of scorpion-ring man that I can show him? Find out if he’s seen him?”

“I can print one out from the security tapes.”

“That will work. I was also able to get a look at Ms. Harvest’s body. I agree with your conclusion as far as the nature of her death.”

“I see.”

“The emotion on her face was fairly obvious. As far as who caused it, I’ll find out,” Brianna says.

“I hope so.”

Gould hands her a print-out from the security tape.

“Have there been any new developments?” Brianna asks.

“None that I am aware of,” Gould says.

“I don’t think that he is stupid enough to return to the place he came before, but if he comes to your door, you might want to keep an eye on someone like that coming in,” Brianna says.

“Yes,” Gould says.

Brianna takes the photo and leaves.

The Dollhouse is a decidedly more sleazy strip club than The Playhouse. It’s getting later and the place is starting to fill up. As Brianna and Joey approach the man at the door, they’re asked for a cover charge. Brianna says, “I was hoping you could give me a bit of information,” and holds up a fifty dollar bill. She holds up a picture of the guy with the scorpion ring. “I have reason to believe he was here last night.”

The guy takes the fifty and says “I might have saw that guy.”

“He a regular?”

“Naw.”

“Last night the first night you saw him?”

“Yeah.”

“Once they go in, you see him with any of the girls he talks to or any of that?”

“No, I just stay at the door.”

“Alright. I understand there was a bit of an incident this morning here.”

“Yeah, one of the girls was dead.”

“What was her name?”

“I don’t know what here real name was, but she danced as Lacey.”

“Can you tell me what happened?”

“Not much. She stroked out.”

“Where was she found?”

“In one of the private dancing rooms.”

“Who found her?”

“The boss found her.”

“Mr. Kostas?”

“Yeah. You’re not a cop, are you?”

“No. Not at all. Thank you.”

Brianna and Joey pay the cover charge and go inside. Brianna is pretty much the only woman not working the room. They take a table not near the stage. A waitress comes by and Brianna puts a fifty on the table and says, “I’m hoping to talk to a waitress that was here last night.”

The waitress puts her hand on the fifty and looks at Brianna sideways. “You some kind of weirdo or something?”

“No, I’m trying to track somebody down and I think they were here last night. One of the girls might recognize him.”

The waitress takes the fifty and says, “I was here last night.”

Brianna takes out the print-out and says, “Do you recognize this guy?”

The waitress says, “I remember this guy. You don’t get too many guys in suits around here.”

“He was dressed kind of the same? Wearing a suit? Did you notice anything else odd about him?”

“No, just that.”

“Do you remember about when he was here? When he left?”

“I don’t know…about 11:30? I don’t know when he left.”

“Do you know if this guy was paying attention to any girls in particular?”

“I don’t know.”

“Is there anyone else who might know?”

“You’d have to ask the girls. Or maybe the boss.”

“Is he out on the floor tonight? Is he most nights?”

“If not on the floor, then up in the booth,” The waitress points to a booth that overlooks the floor of the club. “He’s over by the bar now.” She points to a man holding court at the bar.

Brianna thanks the woman and starts heading over to see Martin Kostas. He’s a middle-aged man, slightly heavy-set. He’s talking to the bartender. He looks appreciatively at Brianna as she walks up and remarks “Well, look who wandered in!”

“Mr. Kostas?” Brianna asks.

“I am,” he replies.

“I’m Ms. Karkana. I wanted to ask you a few questions. Is there a place where we can sit?”

“That depends. Are you a cop?”

Brianna laughs. “Oh, no. I’m somewhat of a, well, private investigator. Let’s call it that. I’m looking for someone. I think they might have been here last night.”

“Last night?”

“Yes.”

He looks at her and finally says, “Alright, I’ll talk to you.”

He leads her to a table and they sit. Brianna pulls out the picture and says, “I’m trying to track down this person.”

“Yeah, I recognize that guy. We don’t get too many guys in suits in here.”

“Do you know if anyone talked to him? Did he talk to one of the girls? Did he pay attention to anyone in particular? I’d like to ask them some questions.”

“He was with Lacey last night.”

“Lacey?”

“Before she stroked out.”

“Oh. I heard something about that. Was he with her fairly exclusively last night?”

“Well, he put some dollars in some G-strings, but he didn’t really talk to any of the other girls”

“Do you know if he left with anyone specifically?”

“No.”

“Besides the suit, did anything stand out about him to you?”

“No, just that he wasn’t like one of our usuals.”

“So he was with Lacey last night, did she stroke out while he was there?”

“Well, I found her about 12:30.”

“So he wasn’t with her at the time.”

“No.”

“So he left before 12:30.”

“Yeah.”

“Well, sorry for your loss. I appreciate you answering my questions.”

On the way out, she asks the doorman, “Do you remember when that guy left?”

“It was about quarter after twelve,” he says.

“Did you see what kind of car he got into?”

“It was a BMW.”

“Color, model?”

“It was white, one of the sporty ones.”

“Excellent. Thanks.”

She and Joey get in her car and she calls Gould. “He was here last night. Last young lady to see him was the one that died of a stroke. Do you have any cameras with a view of the parking lot? I have someone that saw him get into a white, sporty BMW after he left here.”

“Yes,” Gould says.

“Do you have someone that can look over that footage for a license plate number?”

“Yes.”

“Good.” Brianna hangs up and sits and thinks for a few moments about her next course of action. She then gets an email from Roy Dale with a list of 5 clubs in the radius search.

Brianna then calls Clive.

“This is Clive.”

“Hello Clive. This is Brianna.”

“Hello Ms. Karkana.”

“I was hoping to speak to Nerise this evening.”

“This is urgent?”

“Possibly.”

“Possibly?”

“So far we have two deaths. I don’t know if there will be a third or not. Of an interesting nature. One that she may need to be aware of.”

“I will speak with Nerise and call you back.”

Brianna and Joey drive around for a bit, find something to eat, waiting for Clive’s call. After about fifteen minutes, Brianna gets the call.

“Nerise will see you,” Clive says.

“Tonight?” Brianna asks.

“Yes, tonight,” Clive says.

“Good, then I’ll see her at the club later tonight,” Brianna says.

“Very good, then.”

Brianna and Joey finish their dinner and then head to Nirvana. The exclusive club is very busy, various high-class dilettantes enjoying a hedonistic night on the town. After she and Joey enter, Brianna makes her way upstairs to Nerise’s office. The usual pair of goons guard the door. They recognize Brianna, who announces that she is expected, and let her in, allowing Joey to wait outside.

Inside the luxurious office, Clive is there as is Nerise. The White Court operative stands behind a glass desk. Clive motions to one of the comfortable chairs in front of the desk, but Brianna waits to sit until Nerise does so.

“Clive said that your business was ‘possibly’ urgent?” Nerise asks.

“I understand that Mr. Gould came to see you the other day,” Brianna says.

“Yes,” Nerise says, her face a neutral mask.

“He has hired me to look into his situation,” Brianna says.

“I see.”

“I examined the body, myself. She did appear to die of a very particular set of emotions. Quite possibly lust.”

Nerise’s expression remains a blank slate.

“The reason I’ve come to talk to you tonight is because this morning another dancer has died in another strip club. I’ve not been able to see her body yet, but the last person with her that night is the same person that was with Ms. Harvest.” Brianna takes the photo out of her pocket and sets it on the desk. “Do you happen to know this gentleman?”

“No,” Nerise says.

“So he’s not one of yours, then?”

“No.”

Brianna takes the photo and puts it back in her pocket. “Does a scorpion ring mean anything to you?”

“No.”

Brianna sighs. “Alright. I’m going to keep investigating. If it is someone from our Court, then they’ve killed two people in as many days.”

“What do you intend to do if you find out?” Nerise asks.

Brianna looks Nerise in the eye. “I’ve been hired specifically to ensure that it doesn’t happen again.”

“If this is a member of the Court, there could be consequences,” Nerise says.

“That I understand,” Brianna says, “I would hope to find a way to satisfy the honor of my employer.”

“The honor of your employer?” Nerise asks incredulously.

“Look, I don’t particularly like Gould. We’ve had our differences. But he’s trying to protect his girls. Defending what you own, protecting what’s yours, that I understand. I also understand that if this is one of our Court running around fucking things up in Portland, it does not make our Court look good. This is a little obvious. This was the last man seen going into a private room with a dancer. A little while later, the girl was found dead. To kill two girls between last night and Friday night, that doesn’t seem like someone who has our best interest at heart. I don’t pretend to understand the high Court intrigues, I don’t play those games. My particular House, we tend to solve things in a different way. But I think no matter what House of the Court, it’s not good to ‘leave an obvious trail.’ Now, I’m assuming this gentleman is going to attack and kill someone else in the next couple of days, but maybe not. Maybe he’s going to disappear into the ether. Somehow, I’m kind of suspecting not; this person can’t control themselves. These are strip clubs; they’re not establishments like Nirvana, but if you were just going in to feed, there are plenty of opportunities. This is someone who doesn’t give a fuck about the city.”

“I don’t disagree with you,” Nerise says carefully.

“As a courtesy, I wanted you to know,” Brianna continues.

“I appreciate it,” Nerise says.

“I would like to keep up a good business arrangement,” Brianna says.

“And I with you,” Nerise says, nodding.

“Well, I appreciate you taking the time to see me,” Brianna says and waits to be excused. Nerise nods toward the door. Clive sees her to the door. As he escorts her out, she gets the distinct impression that Clive wants to tell her something. She raises an eyebrow at him and says, “Keep in touch.” Clive says nothing and directs her out the door.

Brianna collects Joey and makes her way out of the club. She looks as she goes for any sign of the man in the photograph, but sees no one familiar.

Once they get back in the car, Brianna updates Joey on her conversation with Nerise. “I sure can’t read Nerise on a good day, but I certainly couldn’t tonight. But Clive had something on his mind. I hope to fuck this isn’t a case of visiting White Court nobles in town who don’t mind eating on the locals.”

Joey says, “It’s just weird that if she agrees with everything you were saying, why doesn’t she do something about it.”

“Yeah. That’s what I wonder, if something else is involved. If it’s politics. I fucking hate politics, Joey. I hate them so much.”

“But she didn’t warn you off, either,” Joey says.

“No, she didn’t. I suspect that she knows there is something going on, but she has to stay out of it. Or it’s something going on where she can’t act on it, but she isn’t going to stop me from doing it, because her hands are clean in that sense. I mean, she had to laugh at the ‘honor’ of Gould, I had to laugh, too. But if there are politics involved, it may be tricky. I just have to figure out how this is going to work, because if I catch whoever is doing this and drag them back to Nerise’s demanding justice, I don’t know if I’m going to get it. If I’m going to take out this person who’s murdering innocents in Portland, there may be repercussions if I don’t do it the right way. And, as much as I hate to say it, it needs to be said, that with more Red Court possibly moving against us, I am cautious about alienating myself from my own Court. So my preferred way is to get justice for these women and not have to run out of Portland because we have the White Court after us as well. It’s never simple.”

“Nope,” Joey says.

“I really don’t want to alienate Nerise as much as I can. We have very few allies in this city as it is. She’s more of a business partner, at times, but I think she wants to maintain that relationship, which is more than I can say for others we encounter,” Brianna says. “I just don’t know if I want to have the White Court, a notorious mob boss, the VU, and the Red Court after us in Portland. We’ll see. I hope it doesn’t come down to that. But we’ve got to find this fucker. We can’t keep coming across his victims.”

Gould calls Brianna on her cell phone. The car was found on their parking lot cameras and it had Oregon tags. It appears to be a rental, based on the identifying stickers on the car.

Brianna uses her phone to email Roy Dale to look into getting her a list of nice hotels in the NE Portland area. For the next couple of hours, they decide to check out the list of strip clubs. Brianna decides to drop Joey off at one of the nicer clubs on the list while Brianna circles the other four, looking for that car. Joey is to call Brianna if he sees the man from the photograph.

Brianna moves on to circle the parking lots of the clubs. As she drives around the last club on the list, she finds no sign of the BMW. Her phone rings—it’s Joey. “I got jumped in the bathroom! Meet me out front! Hurry!” Brianna turns the car and starts flying toward the club where Joey was dropped off. She pulls up and Joey gets in and they take off. Joey’s breathing hard.

“What the fuck happened?” Brianna demands.

“I went to the bathroom. I got jumped by that guy we saw in the bowl. But I was faster; I got one good punch in and got the hell out of the bathroom.”

Brianna checks her rearview mirror, but doesn’t notice anyone following her. “What exactly happened? Did you get a look at this guy?” she asks Joey.

Joey speaks slowly, frustrated. “I went to the bathroom. I went to the urinal. Next thing I know, a fist is coming at my head. I ducked. I get a shot in. I come out of the bathroom. I’m calling you. I don’t know any other way to say it.”

“I’m just trying to see if you saw anything before going in,” Brianna says, snappish.

“I don’t know any other way to say ‘I got jumped in the bathroom’.”

“Alright!” Brianna says, exasperated. “Fuck it! He is following us. Lock your doors, Joey, we’re not giving this up tonight.” She starts circling parking lots again, looking for the BMW and keeping an eye peeled for someone following them. After a while of not spotting either, they head back to their apartment.

As they head to their apartment door, a figure quickly emerges from the shadows and suddenly has Joey in a headlock. He has a long, red tongue that he waggles in Joey’s direction and then says, “Karkana! Back off!”

“Or what, motherfucker?” Brianna demands.

“Or your mortal slave gets it,” the assassin replies. It is the man who jumped Joey in the strip club, the Red Court assassin.

“What do you want, bloodsucker?” Brianna asks.

“I want you, Karkana.”

“This is a damn strange way to come at it, you chicken shit.”

“Who travels in twos?”

“Who’s still got a partner, asshole!” Brianna yells, trying to provoke the creature into coming at her.

Instead, the vampire tries to snap Joey’s neck, but Joey manages to fight him off. Brianna moves in to attempt and break the creature’s hold on Joey. She breaks the vampire’s grip on her friend and Joey scrambles away.

The Red Court vampire then throws a punch at Brianna, but misses her. Brianna gets in the vampire’s face and head-butts him, which momentarily disorients him. Joey punches the creature in the stomach.

The assassin attacks Brianna again, but she manages to stay out of his grasp. Brianna grabs hold of the vampire and begins to feed. This makes him enraged and crazed. Joey once again punches the vampire in the stomach.

The assassin attempts to break the hold Brianna has on him and attack her, but fails. Brianna maintains her hold on the creature and continues to feed. He falls to the ground, holding his head, his flesh mask melting away from his corpse to reveal the monster within.

Brianna and Joey drag the body into their apartment and put it in the bathtub.

“Are you okay?” Brianna asks Joey.

“Yeah,” Joey says ruefully.

“That scared the shit out me,” Brianna says. “I’m hesitant to call on Nerise for a favor at this point. We’ve got to find something to do with this fucker.”

Joey says, “We could put him in our trunk and take him out of town.”

“I guess so. Take him to the woods and leave him. Let the sunlight burn him away.”

“Yeah,” Joey says.

“That’s the best plan I can come up with. Let’s do that before it gets too much lighter,” Brianna says.

Brianna tries to wrap up the Red Court body in a blanket and then they both try to wrangle him into their trunk. They then start driving out of town, looking for old country roads on which to hide. Joey finds them a route along an old logging road. They turn off on it and pull over. They walk about thirty minutes from the car, into the woods, carrying the corpse. Once they find a clearing, they dump the body. Brianna strips him down, taking his clothes, and wraps them in the blanket. They leave him there and head back to the car.

As they head back, Joey stops and says, “Did you hear that?”

Brianna stops and listens, but hears nothing. “Where did you think you heard something?” she asks.

“In the woods,” Joey says.

“In front of us or behind us?” Brianna asks.

“Behind us. Not ahead of us. Not where we came from,” Joey says.

Brianna and Joey try to stealthily make their way back to the car, moving slow and careful. Finally, they make it back to the car without seeing any sign of anyone. Before getting back in the car, Brianna walks around the car for five minutes, looking for any sign of anyone. She finds nothing.

They load up in the car and drive away. They stop off at a convenience store along the way and buy trash bags and bleach. They then drop off the clothes in various dumpsters on the way back. By the time the sun comes up, they make it home. Brianna bleaches out the tub.

May 28, 2013 (Tuesday)

Brianna gets up with the alarm at noon. She checks the morning paper for any incidences on the previous night, but finds nothing of interest. She and Joey then get into the car to head to Sydney’s. Along the way, Brianna calls Clive.

“This is Clive,” a cultured voice says on the other end of the line.

“Hello, Clive. This is Brianna,” Brianna says brightly. “I was just thinking, I would like to take you out to lunch.”

There is a distinct pause on the other end.

“I feel like you wanted to tell me something yesterday, and I wanted to give you the chance to say it,” Brianna continues. “Maybe an early supper?”

Clive says, “I appreciate the invitation, Ms. Karkana, but I do not think it would appropriate.”

“Alright,” Brianna says. “I just get the impression, Clive, that Nerise’s hands are tied in some way. So if you decide that there is some way you can help me get my ends met, and perhaps negate a problem on Nerise’s end, why don’t you give me a call.”

“I’ll bear that in mind,” Clive says.

“Okay,” Brianna says and hangs up.

At Sydney’s, Brianna asks if everything is ready. “Yes,” the sorceress says. “Are you?”

“Yes,” Brianna says. So Sydney gathers a bag and accompanies them to their car. Brianna and Joey take Sydney back to their apartment.

Sydney takes a piece of chalk and draws arcane symbols over the windows and door of the apartment. She takes three simple talismans and places them over the threshold of the door. She then removes a vial from her bag and, from it, removes a small hair. She very carefully places it on the threshold. She then plucks out a hair from her head and places it over the threshold. She then begins chant and wave her hands in peculiar patterns over the doorway and windows. After a while, the arcane symbols that she’s drawn begin to glow in a faint blue-green light. They then fade into nothing. The hairs across the threshold light up like small fuses and burn away. The talismans then glow momentarily in that blue-green light. The glow fades and Sydney picks them up and hands them to Brianna.

Sydney looks a little flushed, so they go inside and get something to drink. “Is this something that if we move we can take off? Can you break it or is it just going to have to wear off?”

“I could break it,” Sydney says.

“I don’t plan on changing apartments in the near future, but that’s good to know,” Brianna says.

After a few moments of chatting, they all go to lunch and then Brianna and Joey take Sydney home.

Brianna hits the streets to try and find out if any high mukety-muck White Court vampires have hit town. She finds out nothing.

Roy sends Brianna an email with a listing of 10 or so nice hotels in NE Portland. She goes to the nicest hotel on the list to check it out. She heads to the valet area and tries to scope out where they are parked. She then gets out of her car and seeks out one of the valet attendants.

“Hey, can I talk to you for a second?” Brianna asks.

“Okay,” the kid says.

“I’m trying to track someone down. Can you tell me about any of the cars you’ve seen lately?”

“Maybe,” he says, waiting patiently.

Brianna catches on and pulls a $50 bill out of her wallet. “Yeah,” the kid says. Brianna describes the flashy BMW. “No, I haven’t seen one like that,” the attendant says.

“It would have been here over the past few days. You think you would have noticed it?” Brianna asks.

“Yeah, I would have noticed it. Sorry,” the young man says.

“That’s all right,” Brianna says. “Thanks.” Brianna then notices that the kid’s supervisor is coming over.

“Thank you, sweetie. I totally made the wrong turn on that street. I appreciate it. You’ve been very kind,” she tells the kid, hoping the supervisor will hear. She then hops in her car and drives away.

Brianna then moves on to the next hotel on the list. She continues to talk to valet attendants and such as she makes her way down the list, but no one seems to have seen this car. After a long day of investigation that bears no fruit, she heads over to The Playhouse to talk to Gould.

“I’m still chasing down leads. I’ve been checking hotels today, but I’ll be out again tonight seeing if I can find this fucker,” she tells the club owner. “I assume you’ve not heard anything else through the grapevine?”

“Nope,” he says.

Brianna takes her leave and she and Joey head to U of P to pay off Roy and to give him another assignment. Brianna now wants a list of nice hotels in the North Portland area. They then go home to get some more sleep. She sets her alarm for around 9:00 pm and goes to bed.

After 9:00, the two head back out to the strip clubs in NE Portland. Brianna drops Joey off at the same club she did the night before. She then goes and starts circling parking lots again, looking for the sporty BMW. On her third loop, as she comes out of the parking lot of a place called Exotica International, she spots a white BMW sports car coming in. She calls Joey and lets him know what she sees. She then circles back around and pulls into the lot.

She sees a man emerge from the sports car; it’s the man from her photograph. He’s dressed in a tailored suit. He walks toward the entrance of the club and goes inside. Brianna gets out of her car to follow.

Exotica International is a decent place, not too sleazy but not exactly high class either. Brianna heads inside, pays her cover charge, and goes into the club. The lights are low and the music plays as women dance on poles at various points on the floor. She spots the private rooms and also spots her quarry sitting at a table, watching the dancers. She takes a table near the hall leading to the private rooms and orders a drink. She sets the sports bottle containing her veil potion on the table nearby and watches the man.

Brianna suddenly feels filled with lust for the man she’s watching and he watches her with “come hither” eyes. Aware that he’s probably used his power on her, she continues to watch him as he comes sauntering over to her table.

“May I buy you a drink?” he asks. And Brianna finds herself wanting that drink.

“We can talk over drinks,” Brianna says.

He motions at one of the waitresses and orders her a whisky, neat. He has the same.

“What’s your name?” he asks.

“Brianna. What’s yours?”

“Daniel,” he says.

“Raith I’m assuming,” Brianna says.

He seems rattled, but then says, “No, Rathburn.”

“So are you from out of town or are you local to the City of Roses?” Brianna asks.

He says, “I’m a visitor. You seemed out of sorts. I thought I would brighten your day.”

Brianna says, “I don’t need your help. Staying in Portland long?” Her question is a hostile challenge.

He seems a bit shaken at Brianna’s hostile manner. He looks at her, not at all lustful or smooth, but with an intimidating glare. “I’ll stay as long as I like.” He takes his drink and goes back to his table.

Brianna gets out her phone and starts to text Joey, but then she notices her friend already coming into the club. She texts, DON’T COME OVER HERE. I’VE ALREADY HAD A CONVERSATION WITH HIM AND IT DIDN’T GO WELL :(. Joey takes a table at the opposite end of the stage.

Each of them are watching the dancers for a while. Then Daniel gets up, leaves money on the table for the drink, and starts heading out of the club. Brianna texts Joey: SEE IF YOU CAN FOLLOW HIM IN THE CAR. FIGURE OUT WHERE HE’S GOING.

Joey texts back, OK and gets up and follows Daniel out. Brianna waits.

A little while later, she gets a text from Joey. HE’S HEADING DOWNTOWN. A little while later, she gets another text: HE JUST VALETED AT THE NINES.

COME BACK AND GET ME, she texts back and heads outside to wait.

Joey pulls up and picks her up. “Joey we’ll need to watch this one a bit more carefully. I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but some in the White Court can throw emotion at you without touching you,” she tells him as they drive away.

“Oh?”

“He’s one of those.”

“Oh.”

“I didn’t ask him why he was killing girls, but I’m sure he knows something is up. But I got his name,” Brianna says. She then dials up Clive.

“This is Clive,” the familiar voice says.

“Hi Clive. I met a Daniel Rathburn tonight. Name ring any bells?” Brianna asks.

Silence reigns on the other end.

“Just checking,” Brianna continues. She hears Clive take a breath. Brianna plows into the silence. “Okay, I know you’re in a weird spot and I keep bugging the shit out of you about this, but I’m not getting anything from Nerise. So can you tell me if getting involved in this issue is relieving Nerise of a problem or creating another one for her?”

“It would relieve Nerise of a problem,” Clive says carefully.

“Perfect,” Brianna says, thinking furiously.

“For what he’s doing to these girls and the shit he tried to pull on me tonight, I’m hoping we can find a political way to handle this problem,” she continues. “So if you have any suggestions on something I can invoke other than me just beating the shit out of him at The Nines tonight, I’d appreciate it. Because I’ve about reached my last fucking nerve. I can even now claim insult to myself, as he attacked me.”

“As you wish,” Clive says, as if negotiating a precipice.

“Yes, he’s now insulted my honor,” Brianna warming to the topic. “As well as causing trouble for Nerise, causing trouble at clubs that, I assume, are under her protection.”

“You should allow Nerise to handle her own honor,” Clive says, slowly.

“I know, she should specifically ask for me to defend it for her. I don’t know why…I just know there is only so much that you can tell me, Clive.” She makes a frustrated noise. “My House tends to handle such things differently. If someone insults us, we settle it in a fairly straight-forward manner. So if I wish to register a formal complaint, do I go through Nerise to do that? A formal declaration of the insult?” Brianna asks.

“Against Daniel,” Clive confirms.

“Against Daniel,” Brianna states firmly. “He’s the one who attacked me.”

“If you wish to lodge a complaint, you may do so through Nerise. Or you may contact him directly. I would contact Nerise,” Clive’s voice is still impassive.

“That would be my first choice,” Brianna agrees. “Is she available tonight?”

“Yes,” Clive says.

“Let me get cleaned up and I’ll be right there.”

“Very well.”

She hangs up with Clive. “Politics, Joey. It’s always politics,” she says, shaking her head.

Brianna and Joey head back to their apartment and Brianna changes into nicer clothes. Then they drive to Nirvana and head up to the office on the second floor. Brianna is allowed into the office where Clive and Nerise await.

“Welcome, Brianna,” Nerise says and motions for her to sit. Brianna sits and Nerise continues. “Clive has mentioned that you’ve met Daniel.”

“I have,” Brianna replies.

“I see,” Nerise says. “And that you wish to register a formal complaint.”

“Yes. He attacked me.”

“He attacked you?”

“Yes.” Brianna does not look happy.

“And how do you wish this complaint to be settled?” Nerise asks.

Brianna smiles a feral smile and says, “I would like the chance to return the favor.”

“How do you mean?” Nerise probes. “Are you asking for a duel?”

“Yep,” Brianna says. She tries to read the White Court operative, but gets nowhere.

“Do you have a second?” Nerise asks.

“I hadn’t picked one,” Brianna replies, shrugging. “What sort of protections does my second have? I would normally pick Joey to be my back-up, but I don’t want to send him over to The Nines if he’s just going to get eaten.”

“The second will deliver your message. The second will determine if the weapons are fair. The seconds make sure that the rules are followed. They choose the venue.”

“I’m assuming it’s poor form to attack a second?” Brianna asks.

“It’s not done,” Nerise confirms.

“Good. I pick Joey as my second. Does Daniel have a patron that this is going through?”

“I do not know. I haven’t contacted him,” Nerise says. “I can contact him now.”

“I am assuming you are aware that Daniel was in town,” Brianna says, her voice neutral.

“Yes.”

“May I ask what his connections are to the Court?”

“You can ask,” Nerise says with a smile.

“What does he mean to the Court?”

“He is a cousin to Lara Raith.”

“Then we better make sure all the formalities are followed to a T,” Brianna says, looking straight at Nerise.

“Yes, we should,” Nerise says. “It is regrettable that he has insulted you so.”

“Yes, it is, considering all of the things that I’ve done for the Court lately. Plus, I’ve recently visited my Patriarch and he’s been well-pleased with my progress here in Portland. I’m sure he would be upset to know that I’ve been attacked by another member of the White Court,” Brianna replies in the same tone.

Nerise picks up the phone on her desk, dials, asks for a room number, and says, “Daniel, it’s Nerise. I’m fine, how are you? I have a bit of a situation here. Do you know a Brianna Karkana? Karkana. Yes. Well, I have her here in my office and she says you attacked her tonight. Brianna. Karkana. Yes. Calm down, Daniel. No. No. Yes, she is. She is a member of the White Court, House Karkana. She didn’t? It’s not as if we go around wearing name tags, now do we Daniel? No, Daniel. She was quite insulted. No, Daniel, she’s quite angry. No, in fact, she wishes to challenge you to a duel, Daniel. Of course I am, Daniel. No. I am well aware of what century it is, Daniel. But you are well aware that we are the White Court and the old ways are adhered to. She has her rights. She was attacked, Daniel. Do you deny it, Daniel? I see. Do you have a second, Daniel? No. I’m sure he’d be willing. Hold on just a moment.” Nerise pulls the phone away and asks, “Clive, would you be willing to stand in as Daniel’s second?”

Clive nods.

“Yes, he’d said he’d be willing to stand in as your second, Daniel. Very well, the seconds will make their arrangements and we’ll get back to you. The need for such language is unnecessary, Daniel. I’m sure I will. I look forward to hearing from her. Yes. Goodbye, Daniel.” Nerise hangs up the phone. Brianna has risen from her seat and is pacing.

“Do you need a drink, Brianna?” Nerise asks, her voice still smooth and unconcerned.

“Yes, if you would be so kind,” Brianna says, not nearly as composed.

Clive goes to the minibar and pours drinks for Brianna and Nerise. “Clive will be Daniel’s second. He and Joey will make arrangements for the duel,” Nerise says.

Brianna takes the offered drink. “What sort of terms for this sort of challenge? Is that something I set as the injured party? Or do the seconds work that out as well?”

“The seconds often work toward reconciliation. So what are your terms?” Nerise asks. “You have the right to demand satisfaction from your offender.”

“I’m just not sure how far that satisfaction can be pushed,” Brianna says. “My terms are he never sets foot in Portland again. He obviously cannot control himself in this town. He should take his trouble elsewhere.”

“So those are the terms for the stakes, but what are your terms for the duel?” Nerise presses.

“Well, usually my terms are that I beat someone down until they don’t get up again,” Brianna says with a laugh. “Until one of us yields, I suppose, or one is taken out but not killed.”

“Very well,” Nerise says. “You hear that, Clive.” Clive nods. “Have Mr. Aragon come in.”

Clive opens the door and makes a motion. Joey comes in. Nerise says, “Mr. Aragon, you will be a second in a duel that Ms. Karkana will be participating in. Clive will explain the particulars to you, your role in this as a second.”

Joey looks surprised, but says, “Alright.”

Clive takes Joey to a corner of the room and starts conversing with him quietly. Brianna looks at Nerise and says, “I hope this solves your problem as well. Although I know you may not be able to answer me.”

Nerise gives her an enigmatic smile.

“I know that this war with the Red Court seems to be continuing. Are there any problems in Portland that you’re aware of?” Brianna asks Nerise as the two other men confer.

“None so far. I hope that it does not spill over into this city. The last thing we need are Red Court troubles here,” Nerise says.

“Definitely needs to be contained out of Portland,” Brianna says, nodding. “Daniel has this ability to invoke emotions from a distance. Is this something particularly common in that branch of the family?”

Nerise says, “That’s a rather impertinent question.”

“Was it? I did not mean any offense. Never-mind.”

“Raith family secrets are not the topic of idle conversation.”

“I’m sorry. I meant no offense.” Brianna sits down with her drink.

The two men come back to the center of room. Clive says that the duel will take place in warehouse 31 on the Riverfront, Clive will set up the venue. The fight will be physical combat—no psychic feeding.

Nerise calls Daniel again and tells him of the arrangements made by the seconds. “Yes, really,” she responds to something Daniel says. “No, Clive is not kidding. The duel will take place at 9:00 pm tomorrow. If you do not show with your second, you forfeit. The terms are that if you should forfeit or lose, you are to leave Portland, never to return. These are the terms agreed upon by the seconds and set by the aggrieved party. And witnessed.” Nerise pauses briefly, then says, “Very well, Daniel, we shall see you tomorrow evening.”

Brianna and Joey take their leave and head home, getting there about 1:00 am. Brianna feels a bit of a tingle as she passes through the ward with her talisman. Once she gets settled in, she texts Loomis to see if he’s up. He is, so she gives him a call.

“My assassin problem got taken care of,” she says.

“Did it?” Loomis says.

“Um-um.”

“Got taken care of or you took care of it?”

“I took care of it. Asshole tried to snap Joey’s neck.”

“I take it he was unsuccessful.”

“Oh, he was unsuccessful. I don’t know if he was still working off dictates of the Margrave or if he had new orders. I didn’t have a chance to ask too many questions,” Brianna says. “Have things quieted down up there since the new Baroness has been active?”

“We’ve hit a bit a lull. It’s been kind of quiet. I did meet the new Warden,” he adds.

“Oh?” Brianna says, unimpressed.

“She seems alright.”

“Who is she?”

“Her name is Deandra Charles.”

“Is she from Seattle or did they bring her in from out of state?”

“She’s not from Seattle. I don’t know where she’s from, she didn’t say.”

“She was meeting with you, why?” Brianna’s voice is flat.

“She was meeting with Ezekiel and I happened to be there.”

“Oh. How is he doing?”

“As well as can be expected.”

There is a slight lull in the conversation, then Brianna somewhat awkwardly changes the topic. “Well, if you ever decide to come visit me, I have a talisman for you. My apartment is warded now.”

“Oh? Who did the work?”

“One of the practitioners here in town. I don’t know, it might be something you want to look into if things are getting serious. I don’t know how many people you have coming in and out of your house, but it might be a good idea,” Brianna says.

“Not too many,” Loomis replies.

The two chit chat for a bit and then Brianna interjects. “My work schedule has gotten a bit more flexible.”

“Oh? Is that good?”

“Well, it’s a slight change to what we’ve been doing. With everything that has been happening lately, I needed more time to take care of things. That can happen now with this new position.”

“What about weekends?”

“Weekends are pretty much free at this point,” Brianna tells him.

“Well, why don’t I come down there on the first?” Loomis asks.

“You want to come down here?” Brianna says, surprised. She recovers quickly. “That should work. Joey and I don’t have a huge place,” she adds.

“I can get a hotel room,” Loomis says.

“Well, you can sleep on the couch. It’ll just be cozy.”

“It’s whatever you want to do.”

“Why don’t you get a hotel room and we can see how it goes,” Brianna says.

“I can do that.”

“Okay. You going to stay for the entire weekend or just the night?”

“Oh, Saturday and Sunday. I have to be at work on Monday.”

“I understand.”

“Keep in touch for all the details and such.”

“Okay.”

The two hang up and Brianna stays up for awhile in thought.

May 29, 2013 (Wednesday)

Brianna gets up and starts making breakfast, full of nervous energy.

“Loomis says he’s met the new Warden,” she says to Joey as he enters the kitchen.

“Douchenozzle?” Joey asks sarcastically.

“Yes, essentially,” Brianna says. “Apparently, her official name is Deandra Charles. She was out there when Loomis went to check on Ezekiel. I’m sure it wasn’t like ‘Why yes, Ezekiel, the Margrave was a complete assbag and needed to die.’ I told Loomis he may want his place warded. There’s been a lull, but that doesn’t mean it won’t pick up. And it’s not as if he isn’t known in supernatural community. He was hunting Alyssa way before it all went down with the Margrave.” Brianna turns and busies herself at the stove, her voice attempting a more casual note, “I also happened to mention our schedule change. He might come down this weekend.”

“Oh,” Joey says, smirking. “So, do you need me to make myself scarce?”

“Not really. He’s going to get a hotel. We don’t really have a palatial space for him to be in. I also was not going to assume to just invite him over,” Brianna says.

“So, do you know what you’re going to do, where you’re going to take him?” Joey asks.

“Not yet,” Brianna says. “There are some cool things to do in Portland that have been tainted by that asshat, Borland, but I’ll find something.”

“Well, I can make myself scarce if you need me to,” Joey says.

“Whatever this is going to turn into, I’m not chasing you out of our house, alright?” Brianna says, a touch heatedly.

“Okay.”

“I’ll have him come over and we can do something. Maybe hang out here one night. I gave him our address. I’m also going to give him one of the talismans while he’s here.”

“Okay.”

“Anyway, just to let you know,” Brianna says finishes awkwardly.

“Okay,” Joey agrees again.

Before heading to the gym to work out, Brianna makes sure that her nice “fighting outfit” is clean and ready to go. After working out at Sibley’s, they head over to The Playground to talk to Gould. They are ushered in at the door and then they head for Gould’s office.

“Well, I’m making some progress. Hopefully, I’ll have some serious answers for you by tomorrow,” Brianna says.

“Okay. That’s all you’ve got for me today?” Gould looks at her.

“The situation is basically what you suspected it to be. This is also turning into a interesting struggle among the Court. There are some very specific ways in which I’ll have to proceed,” Brianna shrugs.

“But you can succeed?” Gould asks.

“I intend to. I know what I’m good at. And it’s beating the shit out of people.”

“And that’s what this requires?”

“If you want this resolved, yes.”

“That’s what I’m counting on. It’s what I’m paying you for,” Gould says, coolly.

“Yep.”

“Okay.”

She and Joey take their leave and head back to their apartment. They spend the day cleaning the apartment and spinning time until it’s time to head to the duel. They drive to Warehouse 31 on the riverfront.

At the warehouse, Brianna and Joey see that everyone else has already arrived. There is Nerise, Clive, and Daniel Rathburn. Brianna gives Daniel “the evil eye”. He’s dressed in high-end exercise gear.

Nerise begins formally, “Very well. All the combatants have made it. The seconds have arrived. So no one has forfeited the contest. Everyone is aware of the terms?”

Brianna says, “Yes,” and Daniel just nods.

“Seconds, feel free to inspect your counterparts to ensure fairness in the contest,” Nerise says.

Clive comes over to Brianna and Joey goes over to Daniel. Clive asks, “May I?”

“Of course,” Brianna says and assumes the typical TSA pat-down position. Clive gives her a cursory pat-down and pronounces her “Clean.” Brianna looks over to where Joey is patting Daniel down and notices that her partner says something to Daniel, but the White Court noble just smirks down at Joey, apparently unconcerned.

“Both seconds are satisfied?” Nerise asks. Clive nods and Joey shrugs and nods. “Then the combatants may meet out in the center.”

Brianna stretches briefly and heads that way. She looks over her opponent and notes that he is athletic and lean. She and Daniel reach the center of the warehouse and face each other.

“You may begin on the count of three,” Nerise announces. “One. Two. Three.”

Brianna immediately punches Daniel in the face. Daniel sweeps her leg with his and knocks her off-balance. Brianna punches at him again, connecting again to the face. Daniel then takes advantage of her being off-balance and tries to grab her, but she manages to stay out of his grasp. Brianna punches him in the face a third time, bloodying his nose. Daniel tries to sweep her leg again, but Brianna nimbly gets out of his way. She tries to get another punch in, but misses. Daniel attempts to punch her and misses, but Brianna successfully punches him in the face again, breaking his nose.

Joey cheers her on as the fight progresses. Both Nerise and Clive watch silently.

Daniel attempts to grab her again, but misses. Brianna claps him hard across the side of the head and breaks one of his eardrums; a trickle of blood begins to drip from his ear. He raises his hands, conceding the fight.

Brianna addresses Daniel, anger thick in her voice, “You get the fuck out of Portland and do not set foot here again. Maybe you’ll think twice before going after a Karkana again.” She looks at Nerise and announces, “He yields!”

Daniel turns, spits out some blood, and stalks out of the warehouse.

Brianna feels her power draining and her hunger rising. She seems distracted as well as exhausted. She looks to Nerise. “Is there anything I need to do to formally close these proceedings?”

“It’s been witnessed. If Daniel shows up in Portland again, he’ll have broken the terms of the agreement,” Nerise says.

“Then will I have a more serious claim on him?”

“You’ll have a more serious claim on him.”

“Does serious mean I can kill him if he comes back to town?” Brianna asks.

“Not outright. You can challenge him,” Nerise says.

“But a more serious claim this time,” Brianna confirms. “Will he keep his word?”

“We shall see,” Nerise says simply.

Brianna nods, then she and Joey return to their car and head out. They return to the apartment, change clothes, and then go back out to find a place for Brianna to feed. They find a seedy bar and an appropriate victim. She feeds and then they head to The Playground to talk to Gould.

At the strip club, they are once again let inside and then they go to Gould’s office. Silas lets them in.

“Ms. Karkana. What can I do for you?” Gould asks.

“Well, there’s been a resolution. And rather than wait until tomorrow to come talk to you, I decided to come talk to you now,” Brianna says.

“Very well. I hope it was a positive resolution.”

“Yeah. I think so,” Brianna hedges.

“Well, let’s have it then,” Gould prompts.

“Working through my Court, I was able to challenge the asshole to a duel.”

“Really?”

“Yep. We’re slightly old-fashioned when it comes to such things.”

“I see. You’re standing here, so I suppose you won.”

“I did. The terms were that he is prohibited from entering Portland again for the rest of his lifetime,” Brianna says.

“Then he’s not dead?”

“No.”

“But he’s banned from Portland.”

“Yes, banned from Portland.”

“And he’ll honor this duel?” Gould asks.

“He better fucking honor this duel,” Brianna says with heat. “It was made before witnesses of some import. If he comes back again, I can challenge him again because he’ll have insulted me and broken the terms.”

Gould pauses to consider this. Brianna continues, “I will think you’ll be pleased to know that if there is any fallout due to his connections, it will fall on me rather than you. He has powerful friends.”

“Does he?”

“He has a powerful family,” Brianna amends.

Gould says, “Which is why Ms. Patel wouldn’t touch him.”

“I really couldn’t say.”

“Things are a bit more clear. Thank you, Ms. Karkana. Yes, this is satisfactory. He should not be a threat to my interests any longer,” Gould says. “Which fulfills the letter of our bargain.”

“It does.”

He goes to his safe and brings out another bundle of money and hands it to Joey.

“I believe this concludes our transaction?” Gould asks.

“It does,” Brianna replies. She meets his eyes squarely. “I still don’t like you.”

“I can assure you, the feeling is mutual, Ms. Karkana. But it has been interesting doing business with you.”

“I understand wanting to protect, wanting to look out for, what’s yours. We’ve had these discussions before,” Brianna says.

“That’s why I knew you were the right person to talk to.”

“Well, as much as possible I’d like to keep to my business and I’d like you to keep to yours,” Brianna declares.

Brianna and Joey then leave the club and head home. On the way, Brianna comments to Joey, “Joey, it’s like doing business with a snake.”

View
Side Job: Aftermath (Part Two)
Karkana Chronicles: Fifteen

May 24, 2013 (1:00 pm; House Karkana Compound, Colorado)

Brianna and Joey are in her room discussing the logistics of investigating the small building attached to the fighting ring on the compound. Brianna is also worried about the security measures here in the lodge as far as being seen going to the building from here.

She and Joey make their way stealthily from the lodge into the surrounding woods. They leave out of a veranda door and head out, looking for security cameras to avoid along the way. Some not-very-well-hidden cameras are seen up on platforms that are sweeping the area. They start making their way across the compound toward the fight ring, using cover to hide their movements. Eventually, they make their way to the structure.

It’s a metal building with a front door and a couple of windows. It’s rectangular and connected to the larger fight arena building. It is only one story. The door is a regular, metal door with a push-button combination lock on it as well as a bolt on the outside. A security camera is on the corner of the building aimed at the door. The camera is stationary.

Brianna doesn’t remember any doors being on this wall when she toured the fighting arena with the Patriarch earlier in the day, but she does remember a series a sliding panels, like storage building doors, that slide up.

Brianna decides to go around to the front of the fight arena and try to find a way inside, avoiding cameras along the way. Joey follows. Brianna notices that there are cameras trained on the front doors. There doesn’t appear to be any other ways inside. Then Brianna thinks about the roof. She looks around for some kind of roof access and recalls seeing a narrow service ladder leading up to the roof. There were moving cameras in the area, but not fixed cameras on the ladder.

Brianna decides she’s going to use her preternatural speed to time her climb against the rhythm of the cameras and make it up to the roof. She speedily climbs up the service ladder and makes it up to the roof. Joey stays behind and hidden.

Brianna starts looking around for access into the smaller building, but finds none. She does, however, find a skylight into the arena and service entrance into the fight building. She looks in the skylight and sees no one inside the arena. The service entrance is just a metal panel. She pulls the corrugated metal panel aside and climbs down into the arena.

Brianna finds herself on a narrow catwalk above the main floor of the arena. She checks to see if anyone is in the room and if there are any cameras on her before proceeding. She doesn’t see anyone, but does notice some hidden cameras behind the ceiling panels. From her elevation, she can see them just fine—if she were on the floor, she could not see them. She can also tell that they are not powered on at this time.

She finds a way down from the catwalk and then makes her way to the sliding panels she remembered from earlier. They are padlocked. She listens to see if she hears anything behind them. She hears movement behind the panels. One of the panels looks like its been beat up a bit.

Brianna moves to a padlock and attempts to break it apart. She tears it apart easily and listens, hearing movement coming from the other rooms, but not this one. She opens the door and sees a man. He’s tall, about 6’2", with dark hair and eyes. He’s wearing tattered clothes. Behind him is a door with bars on it.

“I’m trying to break you out of here, so don’t do anything fucking stupid,” Brianna says.

He looks at her warily as she lets the broken lock drop out her hand.

“I am not coming for you,” he says, his Russian accent thick.

“Do you know how many of you are in here?” Brianna asks.

“There are three others,” he says.

“So there are three other wolves and you?”

“Da.”

“I’m not going to have any trouble from you, am I. Time is short.”

“Not if I am getting out of here,” he says.

“Then let’s get the rest of your friends out. Did you know them?”

“I do not know them?”

“Were they together?”

“They were together.”

Brianna goes over to the next lock and breaks it open, making it obvious to the man that she is not human. He goes over to one of the locks and starts working on that lock and eventually busts it.

She opens the door to the cell and sees a woman standing there in tattered clothes. “This is probably the most ill-advised jailbreak of all time, but I’m not going to hurt you. I’ve got your friend the bear out. We’re getting your friends out.”

She hears the other cell being opened and she goes to the final cell and breaks that cell open. There she sees a man in tattered clothes who doesn’t hesitate to leave his cell once its open. The two men and the woman who are now free are probably Native American.

“Since I’m going to bet my ass in so much trouble for doing this, can I at least get your names? Mine’s Brianna.” The bear is Ivan, the others are Carlos, Ben, and Sheila.

“Well, I assume that being kept in cages was not your idea,” Brianna says.

They all shake their heads.

“Are you all from Colorado? Are you from here? How did you actually get here?”

“I am with circus. We come to Denver. I go out to take piss. Next thing, I have tranquilizer in my neck,” Ivan says.

Sheila says that they are from the area and that they were out in the area, running, and they got caught. And that’s what they’re going to do now is run.

“We’re isolated in a compound. There’s a fence. I have nothing to offer you now but the chance to get away,” Brianna says.

“We’ll take it,” Sheila says.

“Are any of you particularly fast-moving, faster than a mortal?” Brianna asks.

The three wolves raise their hands. Brianna explains how she got in here and the camera situation.

“We are swift,” Ben says. “But you mean moving fast without changing. Then that is another matter.”

They decide to try and drop down the side of the building and dodge the camera that way. They all climb up to the catwalk and up onto the roof. They go to the side and study the roving camera with an eye on timing their drop when the camera is aimed away.

Brianna texts Joey that she is on her way. Then she gets ready to drop. Everyone waits and drops down, timing their drops. The weres shuck out of their clothes and change; then they bound into the woods. Brianna takes the ladder down again, with her preternatural speed, and then catches back up to Joey.

“Well, that’s done. This is where it could go to shit, Joey.”

“Well.”

“It’s just how it is. I couldn’t just let them be killed.”

The two make their way back to the lodge, once again using the trees and such as cover. They go inside and hang out in the sunken living room. There they find Quincy. They don’t talk about their afternoon excursion and Quincy doesn’t ask.

They wait in the living room until sundown. They see Miles and Veronica walk in, dressed in their finest. Veronica asks, “Are you not heading toward the arena?”

“I suppose so. Ready, Joey.”

“I suppose so.”

They all rise and follow Miles and Veronica toward the arena. People are driving into the compound, parking near the fight area. As they approach the arena, Brianna tells Quincy in a low voice, “Quincy, you’re not going to want to be next to us.”

“Are you sure?”

Brianna gives him a hard look. “I want you next to me, but you may not want to be.”

“Alright.” And Quincy breaks away and wanders into the growing crowd.

As Brianna enters the fight area, she spots Bruno out of the corner of her eye just before he’s practically in her face. She quickly turns to face him and he says, “The Patriarch wishes you to sit with him.”

“Sure. You’re in my personal space, by the way.”

“Come with me.”

“Just me?”

“Just you. Surely you’ve already eaten.”

“Yeah, but I keep an eye on what’s mine. He’s nobody else’s food.”

“The Patriarch was quite explicit.”

“Joey,” Brianna says, “Go find Quincy.”

“Alright,” Joey says, and turns to do just that.

Bruno leads the way into one of the upper stands and to the Patriarch.

“Sit down, daughter,” the older man says.

Brianna sits down and looks at him.

“You are a rebellious one,” he says.

“I suppose that’s true,” she says. “I don’t like people telling me how to think or what to do.”

“Brandon was much the same.”

“I never knew him.”

“Probably for the best.”

The Patriarch’s expression is impassive.

“My mother didn’t have very good things to say about him. But I don’t trust the things she says,” Brianna says.

“My business is conflict,” the Patriarch says, “but I will be honest, I don’t generally like it aimed at me.”

“As you know, my business is conflict as well. And I’m known to sow trouble wherever my feet take me. Usually for myself.” Brianna smiles. “But also for those around me as well.”

“That it does.”

“But I still choose my own path and I don’t look back and I don’t have regrets.”

Brianna checks the crowd and spots Bruno with Quincy and Joey. Both Quincy and Joey look tense. She considers her odds of moving toward them, but she’d have to move through stands full of people to get to them. She opts not to stare and to watch the Patriarch to see his next move.

“I’ve brought you here because I was impressed with everything I had heard about you and I wanted to learn more,” the Patriarch says. “And I have.”

Brianna raises an eyebrow.

“But there is more yet I wish to learn about you.”

“That would be what, exactly, Patriarch?”

“I wish to see you at your most primal.”

“There are plenty of eyewitnesses that can tell you how I took down the Margrave.”

“These are stories,” he says.

“Well, they’re not lies,” Brianna says.

“We’ll see,” the Patriarch says, mildly.

Brianna flicks her eyes back over to her friends and Bruno. No change has occurred to that tableau. Bruno continues to stand with them, waiting for the fights to begin. The arena begins to fill up and Brianna begins to feel the nascent raging energy she usually feels at the fights. The Patriarch is quiet. The doors that Brianna opened earlier in the day have been lowered.

Once the place fills up, a spotlight swings around and finds the Patriarch. He stands and says, “Welcome! We have games for you tonight!” The audience erupts in applause. There are probably close to a hundred people in the arena. “I have something special for you tonight.” Another eruption of applause. “But first, we have the thralls.”

The spotlight swings out to the main floor of the ring. A pair of rage-thralls, like the ones Brianna saw in the basement earlier in the day, are released and attack each other in a frenzy. The crowd are eating it up. Brianna tries to keep an eye on Joey and Quincy as well as the fights. After the rage-thralls are done with each other, resulting in one of their deaths, a pair of Karkana vampires come out. Apparently one of them tried to usurp the territory of the other and the matter will be settled for the Patriarch by combat. The two go into a rage frenzy and attack one another and one devours (so to speak) the other.

When the floor is cleared, the spotlight turns once again to the Patriarch. “I told you I had something special planned for this evening. My daughter, Brianna Karkana, is visiting from the northwest. She will show us her strength, her passion. She, who took down the Margrave of Seattle.” The crowd goes wild. The spotlight turns onto Brianna and she hears him say, sotto voce, “You will go down to the arena, or I will kill you where you stand. Or if that is not enough for you, Bruno will kill your thrall.”

Brianna stands up and tells him, “I may never forgive you for this.” She then starts to head down to the arena floor. When she gets to the end, she takes off her jacket and shoes and ties her hair back close to her head. She then heads out onto the floor and starts to stretch.

From the other end of arena, another rage-thrall is shoved out onto the floor. It shambles out and rushes toward her, screeching in berserk fury. Brianna attacks it first with her superior speed and punches it, holding back her superior strength. She manages to bloody its nose anyway. It attacks her but she eludes its grasp. Brianna swings again, but misses. The thrall swings on her and hits, knocking her harder than she thought possible, with adrenaline running through its rage-filled body. Brianna managed to hit again, but with little consequence. It swings again and misses. Brianna hits it for minimal damage, while it hits her again with a mighty blow. Brianna then misses it again, while it swings and misses. Brianna misses yet again, and it manages to miss again. Brianna then hits it, while it misses her. Brianna then hits it hard, breaking its nose. It misses her, and then Brianna takes advantage of the thrall’s newly broken nose strikes it mighty blow. It doesn’t go down, but it has taken on internal bleeding. It swings at her and misses, while Brianna punches it again, tagging its internal injuries and drops it.

Brianna then looks up at the Patriarch and nods. He nods in return and then two more rage-thralls emerge from the other side of the arena.

Brianna rushes the thrall on the left and goes to sweep its leg out from under it. She knocks him off-balance. The thrall swings on her and hits her. The other thrall then swings at her as well and misses her. Brianna then grapples the off-balance thrall to the ground and begins to feed. Its frenzy grows as its in her arms and she drains the life energy from the man, taking him out. The other thrall swings on her and hits. She pushes the thrall off-balance, and he tries to hit her again, striking her hard, bloodying her nose. She shakes that off and then goes in to grapple the thrall. She barely manages it, but holds him down while she begins to feed on his rage. He is now enraged, crazed, and frenzied, frothing at the mouth in her grip. He tries to get out of the grip, but does not. Brianna tries to continue to grip him, but loses her hold; however she continues to feed off of him, driving to further fits of rage, and taking him out.

She stands up and dusts herself off, then looks at the Patriarch and nods.

A single man then walks into the arena and gets into the ring. He rushes Brianna and outpaces her, punching at her, but missing. His white eyes and gaunt features reveal him to be a White Court vampire. She then goes to sweep his leg and knock him off-balance, but he manages to get out of the way of the sweep. He swings again and misses. Brianna goes for his leg again and misses. He swings at her again and misses. She goes for the leg a third time and misses. He then hits her hard in the face. Brianna tries once again to the sweep his leg and finally knocks him off-balance. He punches her in the face again and hits her hard. He bloodies her nose, but she shakes it off. She then takes advantage of his off-balance state to grapple with him, but he manages to shake her off. Still, she manages to touch him, allowing her to instill rage in him and feed. He becomes both crazed and frenzied with fury. He manages to break out of her grapple and then she tries to touch him to feed again off him. She does so and manages to take him out.

Brianna gets out of her fighting stance and looks at the Patriarch again and nods at him. The crowd is going wild. The spotlight goes back to the Patriarch, who stands and says, “Did I not tell you she was something special!” The crowd goes wild again. “Thank you all for coming. See you all when the games begin again. Thank you!” The applause starts again and then the lights come up and the crowd begins to disperse.

Brianna looks for Joey and Quincy in the crowd. She spots them once again with Bruno in the crowd. She grabs her shoes and jacket and starts making her way towards them. As she makes her way, the Patriarch approaches her. “You were magnificent,” he says.

“I’m glad I impressed,” she says.

“I think we have both seen all we need to see,” the Patriarch says.

Brianna nods.

“I give you leave to return to Portland.”

“Thank you.”

“Don’t lose track of what you are,” the Patriarch says. He then turns and looks at Quincy, Joey, and Bruno, and points at Joey. “We are not the same as them. Do not forget this.”

The Patriarch turns and motions to Bruno. Bruno breaks away and joins the Patriarch. Brianna gives him the stink-eye and Bruno returns it. The two men then walk away.

Brianna, exhausted, sits, once they walk away. Quincy and Joey approach and joey asks if Brianna is okay. “I am so tired,” she says. “That was exhausting. If that was anyone but him…” She looks at Quincy and says, “We’ve been given leave to go back to Portland. That was pretty much our dismissal.”

“Well, that’s something,” Quincy says.

“Yeah. Better than I was expecting,” Brianna says. “Looks like I need to look at flights out to Portland, unless you think he meant I need to be out of the house now?”

“Not unless he said so explicitly.”

“No, he just said he gave me leave to go.”

The three head back to the lodge. Brianna, despite her exhaustion, refuses to take anyone’s arm. “Did Bruno say anything to you?” she asks.

“He basically said that if we knew what was good for you, we’d sit still and watch,” Joey says.

“I got the same threat, but from the other end,” Brianna says.

As they walk back, they run into Miles and Veronica, who gush over Brianna and her fighting prowess. They had no idea of her skill. Brianna politely engages with them and Quincy tries to encourage them to move on, telling them that she’s had a long night.

At the lodge, Brianna makes plane reservations for her and Joey to return to Portland and arranges with Quincy to get a ride back to the airport in Denver.

May 25, 2013 (Saturday)

That morning, Quincy takes Brianna and Joey out to the airport in time for their flight. Brianna gives Quincy a hug. “Thanks for having my back.”

Quincy seems kind of surprised and says, “Sure.”

Then Brianna and Joey go into the airport and board their flight.

Once they are back in Portland, they go back to their new apartment. That afternoon, Brianna gets a phone call from Loomis.

“Hello!” Brianna says, trying to keep the exhaustion out of her voice. “It’s good to hear from you.”

“Well, I have a couple of bits of news I thought you’d want to be aware of. Unfortunately, none of it is good.”

“Oh, okay. Let me sit down,” and Brianna sits.

“First of all, Ezekiel got word from the White Council.”

“Oh. Well, it can’t be good,” Brianna says.

“Well…”

“Shit.”

“He’s been suspended from the Wardens,” Loomis says.

“Suspended? What does suspended mean? He’s on some trial thing like you’re suspended from school or you’re kicked off?” Brianna asks.

“His Warden status has been revoked, though it could be reinstated.”

“Short-sighted assholes!” Brianna exclaims. “Does that mean they’ll be installing another Warden in Seattle in the meantime?”

“They will be.”

“Alright. It’s stupid. Did they just feel like he should let the Margrave take over Seattle and eat everyone in the damn city?”

“It’s internal politics, according to Ezekiel. He wouldn’t get into it. Internal Council stuff.”

Brianna gets up and starts to pace. “He wouldn’t. I suppose staying out of his way is the best way to get him reinstated. If you see him, tell him I’m sorry and any number of choice swear words on my behalf. But unless he reaches out to me, I’ll stay out of the picture because I doubt I’ll do his case any good.”

“I’ll let him know,” Loomis says.

“Thank you, I appreciate it.”

“The other thing that I thought I’d let you know is that Ezekiel apparently received a package.”

“What do you mean ‘received a package’?”

" He received a package. It contained the head of Vanessa Montague. Do you know who that is? " Loomis asks.

Brianna recalls her as being the hostess of La Porte Triple in Seattle, the place where the Margrave held court.

“Someone sent him her head?” Brianna exclaims.

“With a note,” Loomis says.

“Words fail,” Brianna says. “Okay.”

“The note read ‘I am cleaning my house. Once it is in order, I will be righting some wrongs.’ It was signed Isabella Alvarez, Baroness of Seattle.”

Brianna notes that a Baroness would outrank a Margrave in the Red Court hierarchy.

“Has there always been a Baroness of Seattle?” Brianna asks.

“No.”

“Then is this who’s filling the power vacuum? Or is she just claiming this title?”

“We’re not sure.”

Brianna starts swearing. “Well, go on.”

“That’s all there is to tell.”

“So, basically the White Council has left him out to hang. What kind of protections does he have other than his own?”

“He has the pack.”

“The pack. And you.”

“And me,” Loomis says.

“Well, he has me if he needs me.”

“He knows that.”

“Okay. Don’t let him be stupid about asking for help.”

“I won’t.”

“Ugh. This is a crap situation. So this sounds like its going to be a hot-bed for quite some time.”

“Yes,” Loomis says.

“I don’t anything about were politics, but can the pack bring in help from out of state or something?”

“I don’t know. They’re pretty tight-lipped about their politics.”

“Because they’re down in their number because of Roy,” Brianna says.

“I know.”

“Alright. Well. I guess just keep me posted.”

“Sure.”

The two say goodbye and then she lets Joey know what’s going on in Seattle.

View
Side Job: Aftermath (Part One)
Karkana Chronicles: Fifteen

May 8, 2013

Brianna and Joey return to Portland after their latest jaunt to Seattle.

For the next couple of weeks, Brianna and Loomis maintain a pretty steady phone correspondence. Mostly they call each other late at night, and not on nights that Joey has fights. They talk mostly of common interests and the past and the future. They also talk about the commonalities of being predators in the human world.

Brianna talks about how she didn’t have a great childhood, how she moved around a lot, dropped out of high school. She hasn’t been in a relationship in a long time, not since her true nature revealed itself. She and Joey have been friends and business partners since they met in St. Louis years ago and the two have moved around a lot since then. They plan on being in Portland for the foreseeable future.

Brianna works out at the gym religiously, likes “stupid” television, likes sporting events and dancing in mosh pits. She doesn’t have a lot of close friends and always has the feeling she has to hide her true face, even within the supernatural community.

She shares some of her non-Gould related adventures with Loomis, including interacting with Warden Capstone in Portland. She avoids talking about her family and the White Court in general as well as her job. She does let Loomis know that work keeps her busy on Thursdays through Sundays.

She also has a few questions for Loomis:

Where has Loomis lived? He grew up on a reservation in Washington State and then moved to Seattle. He doesn’t have much in the way of family.

Did he always know he was “other”? His shapeshifting manifested itself when he turned twelve. Until then, he was a virtual orphan on the rez.

Has he been in any recent relationships? Nothing recent—he’s been too busy for that sort of thing. But he is divorced.

How long has he been working with Ezekiel? About a year.

How long has he been with Seattle PD? About ten years.

Interests? Bowhunting, fishing, baseball.

May 22, 2013 (Wednesday)

During one of their late-night conversations, Loomis brings up current events in Seattle. apparently Red Court on Red Court violence is up. It’s become a bit of a free-for-all since the Margrave was killed.

“Be careful,” Brianna says, “If you get your ass handed to you by a Red Court vampire before I get to go on a date with you, I’m going to be unhappy.”

Loomis also has a bit of news about Ezekiel. " So Ezekiel is going to be brought before the White Council. "

“That’s an interesting choice of words,” Brianna says. “Is he in trouble?”

“Yes. Apparently they felt he was pressing too aggressively.”

“That’s bullshit.”

“Wizard politics,” Loomis says.

“Whatever. What does that actually mean?”

“According to him, his status as Warden is on the line.”

“I’m very sorry to hear that.”

“Me too.”

“So is he in some kind of wizard holding cell leaving an unprotected Seattle?”

“No, he’s free while the Council deliberates.”

“Is there anything we can do for him or stay out of it?”

“I’d stay out of it,” Loomis says.

“Well, this’ll be interesting,” Brianna says.

“It could mean a new player in Seattle,” Loomis says.

“Is all that’s at risk is his Warden’s status?”

“From what he’s said.”

“I don’t know a lot about the White Council, but some offenses are more deadly than others. Does he know how long they’ll deliberate?”

“No.”

“I’m glad you told me,” Brianna says.

The two finish up their conversation and hang up.

Soon thereafter, Brianna receives a text from her cousin, Quincy: EXPECT A WIRE TRANSFER

Brianna texts back: WTF?

Quincy calls. Brianna answers with “What’s going on?”

“The wire transfer is for plane tickets.”

“Alright,” Brianna says, wary.

" The House is calling you home. Jason wants to see you. "

“Is that all the info I get from you Quincy, who I saved your life several times, or do I get some idea of the reception I’m going to receive?”

Quincy sighs. “He’s curious about you. And impressed.”

“Okay. When do I need to be there?”

ASAP.”

“Alright. I’ll have to get stuff squared away here.”

“Do that.”

“I should be able to leave tomorrow. This isn’t something I am bringing Joey to. I’ve got to find another manager for him. You going to meet at the airport?”

“Yeah.”

“I’ll send you the fight information.”

May 23, 2013 (Thursday)

Early the next morning, Brianna takes Joey aside.

“We need to talk for a second.”

“Alright,” Joey says.

“I don’t know if its good news or bad. It’s just news. Quincy called last night.”

“That’s usually bad news,” Joey says.

“I’m being summoned home. The Patriarch wants to see me. Quincy says I’ve impressed him. I don’t know if that’s good news or bad news. I’m going to have to find flights out today.”

“I just got back in the ring,” Joey says, anger rising in his tone.

" I know. I’m going to talk to Mel. I’m hoping he can find someone to manage you. I’m afraid he’s going to dump us as mush as we’re in and out nowadays. "

“So you don’t want me there?” Joey says, challenging.

“I don’t want you anywhere near my family. Quincy is a good guy. I like Quincy, but I don’t trust the rest of them.”

“Who’s going to watch your back?”

“The only human beings around my family will be thralls. I don’t think they’re too careful around humans.”

“I’m not exactly a dainty flower,” Joey says, with disgust.

“I know you’re not, but I’m also worried about someone coming after you when I’m not looking.”

“You’re the boss. If you don’t want me there, I won’t be there.”

“Loomis let me know that the Ezekiel is in a bit of trouble over the events in Seattle. Apparently, the White Council thinks he’s being too aggressive and his title as Warden is under review,” Brianna says.

“And the hits just keep coming,” Joey says, shaking his head.

“Yeah, that was the bad news. I don’t have a time frame on when that’s going to be resolved, but he could lose his job. Which is bullshit.”

Joey nods.

Brianna gives Joey an assessing look. “If I bring you, are you willing to feed me?”

Joey looks her in eye. “You need someone watching your back. If that’s the price, alright then.”

“I’d rather have someone looking out for my interests, but I may have to be very clear why you’re there and I may have to mark you as mine.”

“Mark me?”

“I just want to be very clear that you’re mine and that you’re not a thrall to be used by others.”

Brianna starts looking at plane tickets and texts Quincy that there will be two at the airport. Quincy texts back questioning whether or not that’s a good idea. Brianna responds that she needs another person watching her back.

Next, Brianna calls Mel. As expected, he is extremely pissed off. In fact, he’s had enough of their on-again, off-again, and tells Brianna “You’re out. Find yourself another promoter or promote yourself. See you around. Nothing personal, but this is business. You should treat it like it is.”

Joey is philosophical about the severing of ties with the promoter. “We knew it was coming.”

“This is going to be my life for a little while; you’re my business partner and you’re my friend. I don’t think this is turning into what you signed up for,” Brianna says. “Maybe it would be better to become a promoter and manager. It is starting to turn into where I’m not doing you any favors.”

“I’m make my own choices,” Joey says, indignant. “I’m loyal.”

“Your loyalty is not in question.”

“No its not what I signed up for, but I make my own choices.”

“Alright. I just wanted it out in the open. Let’s pack.”

The pack their professional clothes and head up to PDX to fly to Denver.

May 23, 2013 (Evening, Denver, Colorado)

Quincy picks the pair up at the airport in the Denver in a Range Rover and begins to drive them to their destination. Along the way, he is quiet.

“You’re awfully quiet, Brianna says.

“Not much to say, I guess.”

“Bullshit,” Brianna says, mildly.

“I’m a little nervous,” Quincy says.

“You’re nervous? Why the hell are you nervous?” Brianna asks, incredulous.

“Well, it should be fine, really, but the Patriarch can be intense. And so can his people. Most of the House aren’t as easy going as I am.”

“Well, that’s good, ‘cause you’re my favorite asshole. Is this King Asshole I am dealing with? Because you may not have noticed but I don’t have the best grasp of my tongue, Quincy. I don’t deal well with King Assholes.”

“I’m trying to give you a heads-up, here,” Quincy says, defensive.

“I know. I’m nervous myself,” Brianna says.

“Just remember who’s in charge and you’ll be fine,” Quincy says.

“Am I staying at the house or someplace else?”

“At the house.”

Quincy drives out of the city and into the surrounding mountains. He takes a winding mountain road to a remote resort compound near the top of a mountain.

As the three are piling out of the Range Rover, Brianna tells Quincy, “I need Joey in a room attached to mine.”

“I’ll see what I can do.”

“If not, then you better get me a cot. I’m not going to be finding Joey down in this place.”

Efficient staff and uniformed staff take the luggage while Quincy leads the way into the main resort house. It looks like a large lodge. One of the staff informs Quincy that rooms have been arranged for Ms. Karkana and her guest. The Patriarch will see her later in the evening. They may rest comfortably in the lodge. Quincy thanks the servant and says, “May as well get a drink.” He leads them to a sunken living room with a small bar. He pours drinks for Brianna and Joey and himself while the three settle themselves onto the comfortable couches.

“Do you live here?” Brianna asks Quincy.

“I stay here from time to time.”

“Is this where all the Patriarch’s live or just the current Patriarch?”

Quincy thinks, “I believe the previous Patriarch was based in California, but that was before my time.”

“How many of the family are here?”

“At any one time outside of a gathering? Five to fifteen.”

The three hang out in the living room for a good couple of hours before someone comes from a nearby hall. A tall, imposing bald man in a turtleneck sweater comes in and gives Brianna an obviously assessing look. “The Patriarch will see you now,” he says. “This way.”

Joey rises and the bald man raises a hand. “The thrall stays here.”

“He’s mine and I keep an eye on him,” Brianna says.

The bald gives Brianna an intimidating stare that doesn’t faze Brianna. “We’re wasting time,” she says.

“Take it up with the Patriarch,” the bald man finally says. “Come on.”

The man leads them into an impressive, and very masculine, den. There is a stuffed boar’s head on the wall behind a desk. There are hardwood bookcases surrounding the room. Sitting at the desk is an imposing looking older man with a mane of white hair and a beard. When Brianna enters the room, the man rises and smiles. Waves of supernatural power come off him, making goose-pimples rise on Brianna’s skin. He notes Joey’s entrance with a raised eyebrow and then addresses Brianna.

“Daughter, come here, let me look at you.”

Brianna steps forward and allows the man to take her hands. “You are more beautiful than I thought,” he says. “Please, sit.”

Brianna and Joey sit. The bald man takes up a position beside the desk while the older man sits behind the desk.

“So, Brianna, who is your friend?”

“This is my man, Joey Aragon.”

The bald man leans down and whispers in the Patriarch’s ear. The older man seems to wave something aside.

“I called you here because I was pleased with your initiative in talking the conflict to the Margrave of Seattle.”

“I’m glad to hear that, Patriarch,” Brianna says.

“I have become impressed with the things that I have heard coming out of the northwest about your dealings with the intrigues of the Court.”

“My hope was that my actions would speak well for my House.”

The old man smiles. “They do indeed. The other Houses do not understand conflict in the way that we do.”

Brianna nods in agreement. The old man continues. “Tomorrow I would like to give you a tour of the compound.”

“I would be honored,” Brianna says.

“In the meantime, by all means take advantage of the hospitality of the lodge.”

“Thank you.”

“Forgive an old man for forgetting your lineage. Whose get are you?”

“My mother is Lauren Elizabeth Karkana. Her father was Brandon Alexander Karkana.”

“I remember Brandon,” the Patriarch says, his expression neutral. “He was impetuous.”

“Family trait,” Brianna says.

The Patriarch smiles. “Until tomorrow.”

“Until tomorrow.”

The bald man moves toward the door to escort them out. He leads them back into the living room. When they get there, he turns to Brianna and says, “The Patriarch is impressed with you. I am less than impressed.”

“Fortunately, I’m not worried about impressing you, now am I?” Brianna says.

The man stalks back into the hallway.

“Asshole. Who is that, Quincy?”

“Bruno. He’s the Patriarch’s number two.”

“No wonder he’s got a stick up his ass.”

Brianna takes a few minutes and gets Quincy caught up on her conversation with the Patriarch.

“Does he normally give tours of the compound?”

“If he’s doing it himself, that’s pretty impressive,” Quincy says.

“Okay, then.”

The three then head to their rooms. Joey has a room next door to Brianna’s. Before they go to bed, Joey goes to Brianna room and Brianna feeds on him. In his rage-frenzy, Joey strikes her. Brianna, after feeding, tells Joey to lock his door.

24 May 2013 (Friday, House Karkana Compound)

That morning, Brianna and Joey meet Quincy in the living room before Quincy leads them to the kitchen area to have breakfast. In the dining area, they see Bruno eating, but he largely ignores them.

As they eat, Brianna tells Quincy about her plans of becoming a promoter as well as a manager. During the course of the conversation, a pair of family members come down and join them. They greet Bruno and Quincy. Quincy introduces them as Miles and Veronica, a brother and sister.

“Are you here for the games?” Veronica asks Brianna.

“We’ll see,” Brianna says.

“Should be interesting this time around,” MIles says.

“Oh really, how so?” Brianna asks.

“I hear he’s brought in some weres.”

Bruno gets up. “Be out in front of the house at 9:00,” he growls at Brianna.

“Goodbye,” Brianna says brightly. “Quincy, let’s have a talk,” she says to her cousin.

Quincy, Joey, and Brianna excuse themselves. Once they seclude themselves in one of the lodges’ many rooms, Brianna turns on Quincy. “What the fuck is going on? What games?”

“Fights,” Quincy says.

“What sort of fights?”

“One person against another. One person doesn’t get up. The rest of us feed.”

“Quincy, are these willing participants in these fights?” Brianna asks, teeth clenched.

“I don’t know. I don’t ask questions.”

“Some of my good friends are weres. That shit concerns me,” Brianna says.

“This is the Patriarch’s house. Remember who’s in charge!” Quincy says.

Brianna stomps away toward the front of the house. Joey follows close behind.

In front of the house, the Patriarch waits with a golf cart. Joey crawls in the back while Brianna joins the Patriarch in the front.

“Good morning,” she says.

“Good morning, my dear. You truly go nowhere without him,” the Patriarch says, motioning to Joey in the back seat.

“I keep him close. I don’t easily let go of what belongs to me.”

The Patriarch nods thoughtfully and drives away from the lodge.

As they drive, the Patriarch points out a nicely apportioned servant’s house. He then parks in front of a garage and shows them a collection of vintage cars and motorcycles that he has collected over the years. The drives them over to another garage where his fleet of actual day-to-day vehicles are stored and introduces them to his fleet staff. He then drives them to his stables and shows them his herd of horses and takes Brianna over to the barn. Here he insists that Joey stay behind with the golf cart and Brianna acquiesces.

Inside the barn, the old man shows her a secret panel that leads to an underground staircase leading down into a large chamber. The chamber is full of human beings, about a dozen of them, on chains, kept in a constant state of rage. They have lost most of their humanity and are full rage-thralls.

“This is not something I show everyone. It is important to show that a leader learns about what’s important. Since the beginning of time, part of that duty has been to keep his people fed.”

As the old man speaks, she can hear the snarls, yells, and growls of the rage-thralls. She can feel the ecstasy of rage coming off of them. She takes a step back.

“No. Come forward. Embrace your power,” the Patriarch says.

Brianna takes a slow step forward. “It’s fairly overwhelming,” she says.

“Power always is. At first. But one gets used to it.”

The Patriarch turns out the lights and the two leave the thralls to their ravings.

When the two load back up into the golf cart, Joey gives Brianna a look. Brianna mouths “Later” him and focuses on the road before them.

The Patriarch takes them to another large building on the grounds. It has a smaller building attached to its side. Inside the larger, is a fighting ring with bleachers attached to it. As the Patriarch shows them around, he says, “Tonight we’ll be having games.”

“I think Veronica mentioned something at breakfast,” Brianna says.

“Yes, Veronica. She’s an avid spectator,” the Patriarch observes. “A chance for fellowship and feeding.”

“Miles said something about weres?” Brianna prompts.

“Ah,” the Patriarch seems disappointed. “Someone has spoiled my surprise.”

“It was a secret?”

“A surprise attraction. The weres often hold a spirit of rage with them that is unique.”

“I have many were that are friends. I have fought alongside them. They’ve been good to have at my back,” Brianna says, indignantly.

“Then you know of their ferocity.”

“Yes. Who fights?”

“Sometimes my children. Often our thralls. Tonight I have some wolves and a bear.”

Brianna shifts her feet.

“What troubles you, my daughter?”

“I’m very good friends with a were-bear.”

“I fail to see the relevance.”

“I’m concerned because I don’t know the nature of these games. Did they volunteer for this?”

The Patriarch arches an eyebrow. “Volunteers do not taste as sweet. We are not Raiths where simpering fools yield to our caresses. I though you understood more of our nature. Perhaps I was mistaken.”

“I understand our nature. I just seem to approach it in a different way.”

The Patriarch, faster than Brianna has ever seen anything move, reaches out and grips her by the throat and lifts her up. She reaches for his hands to dislodge his grip, but cannot.

“Did you volunteer for that?” he asks mildly.

“No,” she says, meeting his eyes. “but now I’m defending myself. And if you weren’t my Patriarch, I’d punch you in the face.”

“But you feel it, don’t you?”

“I want to hit you, yes, but I’m not a fucking animal.”

“Then your rage isn’t pure.” He puts her down. “That’s what I’m looking for. Do you understand?”

“You’re looking for someone who won’t hesitate. Who embraces it.”

“You have potential, Brianna. But you cling to weakness.”

“I don’t see it as a weakness.”

The Patriarch shrugs. “Until you see it, it will drag you down.”

“I guess we’ll have to see. I feel it’s gotten me pretty good so far. I intend to continue to do honor to our House, regardless if you approve of my methods completely.”

They all go back to the golf cart and load up. They drive back to the lodge in silence. “I expect you to come to the games tonight,” the Patriarch says as he pulls away. Brianna nods.

Joey turns to Brianna. “I’m sorry. He’s too fast.”

“I don’t care. Don’t touch that man.”

They go into the house and find Quincy waiting for them in the living room.

“Well, that went fucking well,” Brianna says.

“What’s wrong?” Quincy asks, suspicion in his voice.

“This is a conversation for our room. I don’t know these people,” Brianna says.

“Okay,” Quincy says and leads the way to Brianna’s room.

Brianna describes the tour to Quincy, but leaves out the portion about the rage-thralls under the barn. Quincy just shakes his head afterwards. Brianna paces the room.

“Only you, Brianna. Only you,” Quincy says.

“Apparently I’m in deep with the fucking Patriarch of the House, anyway, so its good. Quincy, I try to fight the monsters, not be one. I’m supposed to come to the fights tonight. That’s awesome. You might want to start distancing yourself from me now.”

“So what are you going to do tonight?” Quincy asks.

“Something relatively unpopular, I’m sure,” Brianna says. “Quincy, can you find out for me where these wolves and a bear come from? Does the Patriarch play really deep games? because you know some wolves and a were-bear…”

“I doubt he brought them from Seattle. Asking around could be dangerous especially after your conversation,” Quincy says.

“What time are the games?” Brianna asks.

“Sundown.”

Brianna paces until she tires herself out and sits.

“Me and my mouth, Joey. Me and my mouth.”

“It can’t be helped,” he says.

“I’m going to have a hard time standing by and watching people get killed,” Brianna says.

“So you’re going to take on the entire House?” Quincy asks.

“I can’t take on the entire House. Do you know who participates in these games from the House?” Brianna asks.

“Bruno sometimes does. There are others that visit. Why?”

“What about that building he didn’t take us to?” Joey asks.

“Hmmm. Maybe,” Brianna says. She looks at Quincy. “If I do something stupid, Quincy, how much plausible deniability do you want?”

“A lot,” Quincy says.

“That’s what I thought. Go away. I love you, but go away.”

Quincy gets up with a sigh and leaves.

Brianna texts Loomis: JUST THINKING OF YOU.

Loomis texts back: OKAY. YOU ALRIGHT?

Brianna texts back: YES

Brianna then turns to Joey. “I hope you’re not sorry you came. There’s a lot of reasons I don’t hang out with my family very much. Quincy’s a good guy, but I just come at things from different ways.”

“So what’s the plan?” Joey asks.

“I think I need to check out that building. I can’t not do anything.”

Joey smiles. “Alright.”

View
Scenario Nine: Blood Moon (Part One)
Part One

November 16, 2012 (Good Earth Café, Southwest Portland, Noon)

Angelica

Angelica arrives early at the café and picks out a booth for more privacy. She is dressed, as promised, and as per her usual habit, all in black. She mulls over the various turns the conversation with jdillingham could take. She could be one of the many attention-seekers on the net and she’ll have to cut the conversation short. She could be legitimate and then this could take her away from her hunt for the Shrouded One. But if the woman, Daphne, needs help, she’s willing to give it.

Soon, a woman with a floppy yellow hat enters the café with another woman in tow. Both women are young, about Angelica’s age. The woman with the hat, jdillingham presumably, is a dark brunette, the other woman has lighter hair, a light brown. She has an embarrassed, haunted look to her face that makes it clear that she doesn’t want to be here—otherwise, she would be pretty. Jdillingham is holding her hand and persuading her to come forward. The woman in the hat spots Angelica, waves and leads the other woman to the booth.

“Hello, I’m Joyce. You must be Silvercircle3.” The woman extends her hand. “This is my friend, Daphne.” Daphne nods in greeting.

Angelica shakes the woman’s hand and the two women sit down in the booth across from her. “I’m Angelica, by the way,” she says.

“Angelica,” Joyce says, smiling.

“Why don’t you tell me what’s going on, Daphne? In your own words?” Angelica says.

The other woman, Daphne, looks first to Joyce, and then at Angelica, and nods. “Zach was in the Marine Corps. He served in Afghanistan. He won awards for his service there. Before that, we built a home together. Literally. We built our house. It was wonderful. We loved each other very much. Then, on his second tour, in Kabul, an IED went off under his vehicle and he died. His remains were shipped back to us and we buried him in Willamette National Cemetery. So I know he’s dead. He’s dead.”

Daphne dabs at her eyes. “And then I began seeing him in the house. First it was just in glimpses, out of the corner of my eye. I thought it was just grief, making me crazy. Then he began to talk to me. I saw him in the mirror of my bathroom. He said “Daphne, I’m back.” I turned, and he was gone. Things in the house would move. I’d come home to find them moved, and then I’d see them move.”

“At first, it was kind of a comfort, having him near. But now, I can’t…I can’t deal with it anymore. He’s here, but he’s not here. And—he’s violent. He’s jealous when Joyce comes over or when I go out for long periods. He gets angry. He was never like that before.”

She looks up at Angelica through teary eyes. “I don’t know what you can do. I sound crazy, I know. Is there anything you can really do? Short of lock me up?”

Angelica replies quietly, “I don’t think you’re crazy. There are many things in this world that cannot be easily explained, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t true.” She leans forward in her chair slightly, meeting Daphne’s eyes squarely, “And I have a particular knack for dealing with those things that cannot be easily explained.”

Daphne takes a deep breath and says, “Well, he’ll move things around in the house, mostly. Push things. Throw things. Appear out of nowhere and shake things. He’s never attacked me, but once he started shaking the bookcases when Joyce apparently overstayed her welcome. He doesn’t talk much. And I don’t often see him. Only feel his presence and he makes his displeasure known. Sometimes I can sing to him and calm him down, like when he was alive. He…he always liked my voice.”

Angelica shakes her head sympathetically, “I’m very sorry for the loss of your husband. It sounds like this has been an incredibly stressful and upsetting time for you. But the dead aren’t meant to linger in our world. It’s best for them … and for the living … to move on. Are you ready to let Zach go?”

Daphne nods. “Yes. I am. This…this isn’t the man I fell in love with. I don’t know what this is .”

The two agree to meet at Daphne’s home at 1:00 pm tomorrow. Angelica gives Daphne her cell phone number to contact her if anything changes for the worse. Then she shakes hands with both women before leaving the restaurant.

November 16, 2012, Church of Saint Andre Bessette (Noon)

Dillon

Dillon receives a text from Laurence Storm: OVERLAND IN APARTMENT IN OLD TOWN. WATCHING BUILDING.

Dillon texts back: OKAY.

Around 2:00 pm that afternoon, he gets a call from Nick. Nick wants to get together with him and Yuriko at his apartment as a celebration of the end of the New Moon murders. Dillon asks if he can bring a “plus one” and Nick says “Sure”.

Dillon then calls Sabrina and asks her to come over to Nicks. She says that she’ll arrive after she gets off work.

Yuriko will also be attending the celebration at Nick’s and will bring food.

At 3:15, Dillon gets the following text from Laurence Storm: GLEN HONG HAS COME TO VISIT. STREET TOUGH. ERRAND BOY FOR TONGS.

At 3:50, Dillon receives a follow-up text: HONG LEFT.

Dillon goes up to talk to Reverend Buxman about the movement of the grimoire. The move will apparently take place on Sunday, with the arrival of one of the monks of the Grotto. There will not be a lot of pomp or anything to call attention to the move—there will only be the one monk. The Rector of the monks knows what’s going on, but doesn’t really believe in sorcery. He is mostly humoring Buxman, but has vowed to keep the book secure.

November 16, 2012 (Friday Night)

The celebration at Nick’s is a happy affair of close friends. Yuriko brings food and a bouquet of flowers representing celebration, well-being, and protection. Nick opens a bottle of wine. Sabrina joins them later, which raises Dillon’s spirits.

In the midst of the celebration, there is a knock at the door. Nick looks a bit confused as he’s not expecting anyone. This puts the party on their guard, everyone expecting some sort of faerie attack. Dillon moves to be by Nick as he checks the door. Nick looks through the peephole and murmurs “Sully?” He opens the door and Dillon looks casual, but is ready to pounce if needed.

At the door is a very average looking man carrying a large duffle bag. “Sully?” Nick repeats.

“Nick,” the man, apparently Sully, says. “It’s been a long time. May I come in?” Nick invites him in and Sully comes inside.

Nick introduces him to the group and Yuriko offers him a cookie, which he takes. Both Yuriko and Dillon get vibes of the supernatural off of the man, though Dillon gets vibes similar to those he has gotten off of Nick from time to time, only stronger. Dillon also notices that the man never quite meets anyone’s eyes as he’s introduced to people.

“Nick, can we talk privately for a few minutes?” Sully asks.

“Sure,” Nick says, and the two go back to Nick’s room to talk. Yuriko eavesdrops while Sabrina and Dillon talk amongst themselves.

“Do your cop instincts tell you anything about this guy?” Dillon asks.

“Well the eye thing is a little weird, but other than that, no,” Sabrina replies.

Meanwhile, in the other room, Sully and Nick converse.

“I’m here on Council business,” Sully says.

“Oh really? Since when?” Nick says.

“Since I took the gray cloak. Can I stay with you for a few days while I conduct my business?”

“Alright. But what’s this business?”

“I can’t get into that. Do you know the local Warden?”

“Yeah.”

“Can you put me in contact with him?”

“Her. And yeah. But what’s this all about?”

“I don’t really want to get into that while you have friends waiting.”

“They’re good folks. If there’s danger coming to my doorstep, we all need to know.”

“There shouldn’t be any danger at your doorstep. But I need to talk to the Warden and I need some time and space to cast a divination tomorrow.”

“Alright.”

The two emerge from Nick’s room and Yuriko busies herself at the food tray. Sully gives her a side-wise glance, but Nick ignores her.

Dillon tries to engage Sully in conversation to get him to open up about himself, but he’s pretty tight-lipped. He knows Nick’s family and is an old friend. He works as a consultant. That’s about all he gets out of him. Nick is equally quiet. A distinct damper is placed on the festivities with Sully’s presence.

Dillon and Sabrina are the first to make excuses to leave and Yuriko follows suit. Yuriko heads home and Dillon and Sabrina go out to feed. Afterwards, they head to a park and hang out for a while.

Around 12:25, Dillon gets another text from Laurence Storm: SHADOWY FIGURE HAS LEFT BUILDING. MAY BE OVERLAND. WILL FOLLOW-UP.

Dillon texts back: BE CAREFULTHIS IS THE WITCHING HOUR

In the course of their conversation, Sabrina reveals that she has heard of Glen Hong. He’s been arrested a few times. She speculates that Hong might be Overland’s contact.

Dillon receives no more texts over the course of the night.

November 17, 2012 (Chinatown, 12:01 am)

Angelica and Lau Hu walk the desolate streets of Chinatown looking for agitated spirits around the block where Nicky Zang was spotted several days ago. Angelica opens up her senses to the spirits and looks around while Lau Hu watches her back. As they approach the block where Lau Hu and Yuriko lost Zang, Angelica can see the spirits fleeing that area. She tries to speak to some, but they speak in Chinese. She finds some that speak to her in English and she asks them what they are fleeing. “Dark powers. Dark magic.” She asks who they are fleeing and they say “She that devours.”

“I guess its safe to say there’s something fairly hinky going on spirit-wise,” Angelica says to Lau Hu.

As they move back toward their car, Angelica notices a figure watching them from a rooftop. “Don’t look up suddenly, but there’s a shadowy figure watching us from the rooftop above,” she tells Lau Hu.

Lau Hu glances up. “They are following us.”

“Is it just one person?”

“Just one.”

They duck into an alley way and Angelica throws up a veil, allowing them to hide in the alley. Unfortunately, their angle in the alley keeps them from seeing their pursuer. They wait for five full minutes.

“Did you see who was following us?” Angelica asks.

“No,” Lau Hu replies.

They go back to the car and neither sense anyone following. Angelica describes what she got from the spirits she sensed.

“I’ll pass along the information later today, but I have a client this afternoon, so I may be unavailable,” she tells Lau Hu.

She takes the young man home and then heads to her own home.

November 17, 2012 (8:00 am)

Dillon

Dillon is awoken by a phone call from Laurence Storm. The man is obviously upset. “I thought you should know that my operative got killed last night,” he tells Dillon. Apparently the man was either mauled by an animal or killed by a “crazy with a knife” in an alley near Jen Overland’s apartment. Storm has already reported the death to Jim Butler. Now Overland’s apartment building is surrounded by police and there is a coroner’s wagon parked out front. “Is there anything you haven’t told Big Jim about this job that he clearly needs to know?” Storm demands. Dillon tries to placate Storm and assures him that he will call Big Jim and set everything right.

After hanging up with Storm, Dillon calls Sabrina. He apologizes for waking her up on her day off, but relates his conversation with Storm. He would like her to find out’s going on at Overland’s apartment building and, if she can, get the police report on the operative that was killed nearby. Sabrina she’ll help.

Next, Dillon calls Nick. He tells him that he suspects that Overland is dead and that the man that they had tailing her definitely is. He asks if a spirit attacked either of them, if they got a hold of the bodies, would they be able to track who did it. Nick says that if it was a spirit, no, probably not, as the ectoplasm would have dissipated by now.

Dillon then calls Angelica. Angelica describes the events she encountered in Chinatown the night before, including what the spirits said about “She that devours.” Dillon explains about Overland and the man who was following her. He asks the ectomancer if she can speak with the dead man. She says that she can—probably around midnight tonight, when the spirits are strongest. Angelica offers to pass on this information to the Warden, and notices the unease with which Dillon assents. She also brings up the fact that she has an appointment today and the two discuss the prudence of her taking on spirits alone. Angelica insists that it is what she does.

Angelica calls the Warden. She relays the information gleaned from this morning and the night before and tells the Warden of her plan to speak with the spirit of the dead operative. When the Warden confirms that she is just speaking with the spirit, Angelica tries her best not to be offended at the questioning tone the Warden takes.

Angelica then calls Lau Hu and lets him know what’s going on. He asks if he is needed at tonight, if he needs to change his plans. Angelica says that she will call if she needs him.

In the meantime, Dillon pulls out the business card that Big Jim Butler gave him with his private number and calls it. “I’ve been expecting your call,” Butler says.

“We have an issue to discuss. Is now a good time?”

“As good as any,” Butler says.

Dillon asks Butler what sort of information he wants or needs concerning this operation. That he thought he made it clear that it was no ordinary job. He wants to know how much information he can give to Laurence Storm.

Butler asks him, “How much can we expect strange homicides like last night?”

Dillon admits that he wasn’t expecting that. He’s in the process of getting the details on the thing or person responsible for Overland’s and the operative’s death. He’s hoping to get enough information that Butler won’t need to keep up on the operation. “I think we know where this person is. So maybe you can pull your people out.”

Butler says that they are still gathering patterns on Nicky Zang and Dragon Tony. Dillon warns Butler that they have “non-traditional back-up” and that Butler’s people should not engage with them, especially at night. Butler tells Dillon to not tell Laurence everything and that he will advise Storm to follow whatever instructions Dillon gives him.

Dillon then calls Angelica. Are there any traditional defenses against ghosts that the layman can utilize? Not really. She could make talismans, but that would take time. They can’t cross thresholds or running water. True faith magic would also help. Dillon also asks if she’s heard of Sullivan McCrane. She has not.

Next, Dillon calls Sabrina again. She tells him that she’s heard about the Overland situation because it’s weird. Apparently the body was found by the landlord this morning. It was missing all of its entrails—no internal organs. Dillon wants to know if “we” can get into the apartment and Sabrina responds that that depends on who “we” is. “We” is Dillon and Angelica. Sabrina can probably swing that. Does she know if Overland was ripped open or cut open? Not yet—everything is preliminary at this point.

Dillon then calls Angelica again. “Why would the killer take the entrails?” Angelica speculates that if the entrails were taken, then it could be to build a construct, a homunculus of some sort. A homunculus would be a sort of flesh golem, a physical creature animated by a spirit.

Dillon then calls Yuriko. He catches her up on everything and lets her know that they are all meeting tonight in Chinatown to talk to the ghost of the operative. She hedges a bit, indicating that she had plans, but she’ll change them. It turns out that she was going to go running in Forest Park tonight and Lau Hu was going to join them for the first time. Dillon guilts her giving up her run and persuades her to go to Chinatown. He also asks her to ask Aleister about the situation and get some insights from him.

Yuriko calls Lau Hu and lets him know that they are all going to Chinatown tonight and that the run may be pushed back to later in the evening or maybe to Sunday night. She then calls Troy and lets him know about the change of plans. She also informs Hana. Hana says she is going on the run without Yuriko.

Lau Hu calls Angelica and lets her know that he is free tonight to watch her back in Chinatown.

Dillon then goes to Buxman and updates him on the situation so far and asks him about the state of the soul in regard to ghosts and spirits. Buxman informs him that official Church doctrine is that ghosts and spirits are not the souls of men and women, that those souls pass on to Heaven or Hell or Purgatory according to the Divine Plan.

Dillon then calls Laurence Storm and lets him know that Butler is satisfactorily informed of the situation. He also tells him that Overland is dead and that her internal organs are gone. Storm asks if he has any instructions. Dillon says to be doubly cautious at night. Don’t engage—run. Get into a house or a church. He also asks Storm if he can get any of the personal possessions of his man that was killed and his full name. All Storm knows is that his name was Lou Parks. As far as possessions, Storm says to let him get back to Dillon this afternoon.

Dillon then calls Nick, but gets his voice mail. He leaves a message, telling him that we have plans tonight and to get back to him. Then Dillon goes to bed.

Angelica

Angelica leaves for her appointment with Daphne Brandenburg early, on the off chance that she has to slip a tail. Sure enough, she spots Fadil’s sedan following her out of her neighborhood.

“Dammit,” she says.

As she makes her way to a mall, she gets a phone call from Dillon, who asks her about defenses versus ghosts and whether she knows a Sullivan McCrane. After answering his questions, she hangs up and pulls into a local mall. She parks her car and heads inside. Once inside the mall, she gets on her phone and calls a taxi to come pick her up on the opposite end of the building. She gets in the taxi and continues on her way to Ms. Brandenburg’s house.

While en route to Daphne’s, she gets another call from Dillon. This time he asks her about entrails and the making of a construct. This case keeps getting weirder and weirder.

The taxi drops her off in front of a nice, blue house in a gentrified neighborhood. She gets the driver’s card and heads up to the house. She knocks on the door and Daphne answers. She invites Angelica inside and asks if there is anything she can get her. It is obvious that Daphne is nervous, but trying not to be.

“Water would be lovely,” Angelica says.

Daphne gets her a glass of water and the two chit-chat for a time. Angelica tries to get Daphne to open up about her nervousness. She gets the impression that she is nervous because there is a new person in her home and she doesn’t know how Zach is going to react.

“May I have a tour of the house?” Angelica asks.

“Okay,” Daphne says, and shows Angelica around. It’s a nice home, tastefully decorated. It’s not large, but comfortable. Daphne points out Zach’s military decorations and certificates that are on display as well as their wedding photos. She also points out and shows where things have happened in the house. Their bathroom, where Zach often manifests. The kitchen, where Zach first manifested. The living room, and the bookcase that shook when Joyce was here.

“What things have you tried?” Angelica asks.

“Blessing by a priest. Smudging by a wiccan. Me and Joyce tried an Internet ritual—made us feel awfully silly.”

“Did Zach react to any of it?”

“He was agitated after the priest left.”

“Was Zach strong in a particular faith?”

“He considered himself a Christian, but we didn’t really practice anything. I think he grew up Methodist.”

“Do you hear much from his troop?”

“Not really, not since the funeral.”

“So, you built this house together?”

“Yes, yes we did.”

The two chat for another fifteen minutes, with Angelica hoping that Zach will show himself. Sure enough, she feels a cold touch on her arm. She turns to look and sees a shadowy form before her. She hears Daphne gasp.

“Zach?” Angelica says.

“Go,” the shadowy form says.

“You’re distressing Daphne,” Angelica insists.

“Go,” the shadowy form says again.

Daphne is standing still.

“Why do you want me to leave?” Angelica asks.

The form starts gliding closer to Angelica and tries to grab her, but misses. “Go,” it says.

“Daphne, lets continue this conversation outside,” Angelica says and takes Daphne by the arm. As they walk through the front room, the bookcase starts to shake.

“Does he visit you in the backyard?” Angelica asks Daphne as they walk quickly.

“Just the house.”

They step outside and then go to the backyard.

“Could you hear him speaking to me?” Angelica asks.

“Yes.”

“He’s not normally that active, is he?”

“Not usually.”

“I think I should be able to help him move on. It may take a bit of time for me to prepare.”

“Okay. How much time?”

“A day. In order to make this work, I’m going to need a private place where I can’t be disturbed. Some clients have left the house completely. Some give me a private room.”

“You can use the spare room,” Daphne says.

“If he starts acting up, getting more aggressive towards you, call me right away. He’s protective of you, but he’s very angry. Don’t hesitate to call day or night, even if you think its about something silly, okay?”

“Okay.”

“Do you have a recording of him saying his own name? Maybe your wedding video?”

“Yes, I do as a matter of fact.”

“Can I borrow that? And I’ll need a personal item. Something small will be fine.”

Daphne gets his wedding band. Angelica thanks her for the video and the ring and urges her again to call if anything happens. She then takes the bus to get to her car and then drives back home.

November 17, 2012 (Afternoon)

Yuriko

After she gets off work at the flower shop, Yuriko goes to Powell’s to do some research and to see Aleister.

Her searches of the stacks reveals that rituals for the flesh golem would not require fresh organs, but the fresher the organs, the better. Further, the ritual would take time, hours, to perform.

She finds Aleister at his usual haunt, the coffee shop at the bookstore. She buys him his favorite drink and approaches him at his table.

“Hello, Aleister.”

“Hello, Yuriko,” he says, warily.

“I need to pick your brain about something.” The two find a private nook in the bookstore to talk. Yuriko lays out what she knows about the murder of Jen Overland and their theory about the making of homunculus. There’s obviously something nasty going on and they want to do something about it. Is there something they can do to stop that from happening?"

Aleister says that if you can contain the spirit first, that could delay the creation of the creature. You would have to eventually release the spirit, but it could work. It skirts the line of necromancy, but it beats the alternative.

“Can anyone contain a spirit?” Yuriko asks.

“No,” Aleister says.

“Could the Warden?”

“Possibly. I don’t know her skill sets or her capabilities.”

“Is there a time limit on using these entrails?”

“I don’t know.”

Yuriko thanks Aleister for his time and heads back home to share her information with the others.

Dillon

Nick calls Dillon back. Apparently he accompanied Sully on his trip to meet with Warden Capstone. Dillon informs Nick that they are backing Angelica up tonight on her making contact with the spirit world. He is going to get a hairbrush of the guy that was following Jen Overland. Dillon confirms with Nick that hair should be a good symbolic link. Nick informs Dillon that he needs to talk to him, but not over the phone. He’ll meet him at the Church.

Laurence Storm calls and informs Dillon that he has an apartment address for Lou Parks. The two negotiate and Storm agrees to pick up Dillon at the Church. Dillon informs Storm that he’ll have a friend with him. Storm seems annoyed, but agrees.

Nick arrives at the Church first. He sits down with Dillon and first talks about why Sully is in town. Apparently Sully is a Warden from New Orleans. He wasn’t a Warden when Nick last knew him, though. He’s come to town following a pair of Lycanthropes that killed his friend. Dillon asks how he knows Sully and Nick says that the pair of them were apprentices to his Aunt back in NOLA. Sully was a rival and better than him, but he’s since gotten over it. He’s a good guy. Anyway, the reason that he wanted to speak to Dillon was the second reason Sully was in town. He was passing on some information to Warden Capstone about a prophecy that the sages of the White Council have uncovered. Nick memorized the prophecy:

“And there will come one among the corrupted who may walk in the light and not yet be burned but thirsts for the blood of man. He can walk in the holy places and wear the sacred cross. And yet he thirsts for the blood of man. He is an abomination. For if he turns away from the light and changes to a beast, the beasts will no longer fear the holy places and the sacred cross. He is the first of many who will no longer fear God.”

Nick seems to think that the prophecy is about Dillon. Dillon is in full denial about this, but Nick is concerned. Dillon is more concerned about these Lycanthropes that Sully is tailing. Nick tells him some more about them.

Lycanthropes are not shape-shifters, but are vessels for spirits of rage, berserkers, that become strong and fierce during nights of the full moon. Nick doesn’t know much more about them. Are they born or are they made? Nick doesn’t know. As far as power, where do they fall? Nick says they would be small to mid-sized in power, especially compared to what they’ve faced. Dillon is inclined to help them against the Wardens if they can’t help what they are or what they did.

Dillon also tells Nick about Yuriko balking at helping them tonight and why.

Sabrina calls Dillon and lets him know that Lou Parks had his entrails intact but was covered in claw marks. She’ll keep him posted if she finds out more.

Laurence Storm arrives at the Church. He spots Dillon and introduces himself. Dillon only indicates Nick as “his friend”, being careful not to use names. The two men get into Storm’s car and head to an average neighborhood not too far away from Old Town and to an apartment building. Storm leads the way to an apartment and, in short order, gets them inside. Dillon takes a baggie and gets the man’s hairbrush. He also finds a checkbook with the man’s full name, Louis Richard Parks. Nick indicates that it’s as close to his True Name as they are going to get and they all make their way out, with Storm locking the door behind them. Storm then drops the two men off at the Church.

Yuriko calls Dillon about this time and gives him the information she finds out at Powell’s and from Aleister. He charges her with finding out more about Lycanthropes.

Dillon then calls Angelica. He updates her on the latest information they’ve found out and asks her if she can contain the spirit. She says that dabbling in necromancy and that she won’t do that. He asks her if it is a moral problem or if she’s afraid of the Wardens. She admits that she’s more worried about the Wardens. Then Dillon suggests that she has two choices—ask permission or do it behind their back. Angelica says she won’t do it without their sanction. So she volunteers to call Capstone.

Dillon then goes to Reverend Buxman. He lays out the situation they have with the entrails and the possible homunculus. Does the Church have any way of containing a spirit? Not to Buxman’s knowledge. The Church is generally more concerned with sending spirits back where they belong than containing them. Dillon has Nick lay out the prophecy for the priest and asks if there is anything to be concerned about. Buxman says that he generally discounts prophecies unless they come from biblical prophets but he can see where Nick would be concerned. Especially if the Wardens believe this one.

Angelica

Angelica calls the Warden and says that she wants to meet face to face. Capstone says that’s fine and has Angelica name the place. Angelica picks a cafe.

The Warden is waiting there when Angelica arrives with a cup of tea. Angelica catches the stern-faced woman up on current events, including the missing entrails from the body and how they want to keep any further mayhem from happening by containing the spirit of Jen Overland. She couches it in terms of “protecting” her spirit.

“You’re striding a line,” the Warden says.

“My gifts lie in this direction,” Angelica says.

“Very well. But I would hate to see you cross into the black.”

After the Warden leaves, Angelica calls Dillon. “I’ll be ready to do the spell tonight.”

Dillon

Dillon calls Sabrina. “Can we get into Overland’s apartment now?”

“Alright. I also have her full name. Jennifer Christine Overland. And the entrails were torn out. There were bite marks on the body.”

Sabrina picks Dillon up and Nick tags along. At the Overland apartment, the front door is covered in police tape that Sabrina moves out of the way to allow them entrance. The front room is covered in blood-spatter. Dillon and Sabrina have to do a double-take at the smell of “food” in the air, and the wrongness of it. Dillon takes a hairbrush and a bloodstained pillow. They then head out

Dillon calls Angelica and she suggests that they head to her place. At Angelica’s home, she invites them in. They note the client’s sign-in book at the entrance and remember that she is also a massage therapist working out of her home. Dillon and Angelica discuss the items and information they have about Overland and Parks and what their next course of action will be. It is finally decided that they will get the most information out of Overland and that she can summon the ghost here—they will not need to be in the apartment at all. Everyone can meet here at Angelica’s around midnight.

Yuriko

Yuriko spends the evening researching Lycanthropes at Powell’s, texting Dillon with her findings as she goes.

Lycanthropes are natural spirits of rage, the source of many of the legends of berserkers. It is during the full moon when the rage manifests, with phenomenal strength and toughness and animal-like instincts. They possess free-will, but are enraged.

She goes to Aleister as well. She first invites him to dinner, tentatively setting a date and time, and then asks him about lycanthropy. He confirms what she’s already found out and she asks him how it happens. As far as he knows, they are born that way. Yes, they possess free will and can be as accidental or as purposeful as anyone else.

Dillon

Dillon asks Nick about Sully—is he the type to go rushing after people and chop their heads off for no good reason?

“Sully never struck me as the rash kind,” Nick says.

Dillon mulls this over as he decides to interfere in Sully’s investigation of the Lycanthropes.

November 17, 2012 (11:45 pm, Angelica’s Home)

As people arrive, Angelica invites everyone in. There is Sabrina, Lau Hu, Nick, Yuriko, Dillon, and herself. This is probably the largest gathering Angelica has had in her home since coming to Portland. She leads everyone down to her sanctum in the basement. She lights a few candles, illuminating the carved circle in the basement floor, her extensive library, and the other accouterments of her space. As she begins to prepare, Nick offers to help with the casting. Angelica accepts.

She places an iron box with Overland’s hair and a square cut from the bloody pillow inside it in the center of the circle. She also places a rowan branch in the circle, concentrating on Overland’s full name. Nick does the same from the other side of the circle. She burns a small bowl of rosemary and myrrh as she writes “Jennifer Christine Overland” in light blue ink on parchment and places it in the circle. Then she and Nick join hands and concentrate on summoning the spirit of Jennifer Overland.

Soon, a shimmering form appears in the center of the circle.

“Jennifer Christine Overland. Will you speak with us?” Angelica asks.

“Yes,” the form whispers.

“Who killed you?”

“A monster.”

“Will you describe it?”

“It looked like a woman. Then its head detached from its body, dangling its entrails. Its heart, its lungs. It grew fangs and claws. It flew at me. It devoured my entrails.”

“Did you recognize the woman?”

“No.”

“How did she get in?”

“I don’t know.”

“Why was Glen Hong there?”

“To chew me out about the job and to warn me the Tong was angry with me and to slap me around some.”

“Do you know who the Shrouded One is?”

“No.”

“Do you know the name the Shrouded One?”

“I’d heard the name whispered.”

“What were you supposed to do with the book?”

“Give it to Glen.”

“Thank you for speaking with us. I release you.”

Everyone is silent for a time. No one seems to have heard of such a creature as described by the spirit. Except for Lau Hu. He speaks up.

“I have seen such creatures. I have fought such creatures.”

“What are they?” Dillon asks.

“They are the vampires of the Jade Court.”

Yuriko has heard of the Jade Court, another court of vampire, based in Asia, shrouded in mystery. That is all she knows. That all anyone knows as far as she has heard.

“Are they spiritual or physical creatures?” Dillon asks Lau Hu.

“They are physical. I fought them with tooth and claw. But they are tough.”

The group in the basement begins to disperse. Angelica takes Nick aside for a private conversation. She tells him that she is interested in joining the Paranet.

Yuriko and Lau Hu

Yuriko and Lau Hu leave and go to Forest Park to run with the wolves. Yuriko texts Hana to wait for them. On the way, they chat about the night’s events. Lau Hu talks a little bit about the attack on the monastery when he fought the Jade Court.

At the park, they meet up with the wolf pack and Hana. Introductions are made all around, starting with Troy. Ground rules are established and everyone shifts. Hunting and chasing soon abounds. Afterwards, Yuriko asks Lau Hu if he had a good time. “Yes,” he says, “It was very freeing.” She tells him that he is invited to come again if he would like. “I would like,” he says.

Angelica

After everyone leaves her home, Angelica begins prepping for her spell to put Zachary Brandenburg to rest. She watches the video that Daphne gave her to get his true name, Zachary Thomas Brandenburg. She also writes to the motto of the Marine Corps, “semper fidelis” on a piece of parchment to use in the ritual. She has the wedding band as a focal point, a symbol of the love that Zach has for Daphne and a personal item of his. She also has threads sweet pea flowers, a symbol for “goodbye” together as a focal point for the spell. And she finds a records of “taps”, also known as “Day is done”, to finish out her ritual.

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Scenario Eight: Part Four
Seasons: Part Four

November 16, 2012 (Friday, 12:01 am)

Lone Fir Cemetery

Angelica and Lau Hu crouch behind some tombstones, watching the grave of the murderer Lincoln Burgess. As they wait, they see a gray-cloaked figure approached the grave. The figure removes her hood, revealing the face of Warden Capstone. The Warden carefully removes two chains from around her neck. Upon the chains are some sort of cylindrical clear crystal. She places the crystals near the center of the grave. She then removes a pouch from beneath her cloak and begins pouring out a powder around the grave, murmuring in some foreign tongue as she does so. At four points she creates lines leading from the circle around the grave leading to the crystal talismans. Finally, when the Warden closes the circle, the powder seems to conflagrate, flashing in a bright orange light that lasts but an instant. The circle and the lines are burned away and the crystal talismans glow orange and then fade away to clear again.

The Warden takes the talismans and walks toward where Angelica and Lau Hu are waiting. She hands Angelica one of the talismans. “It will glow orange anyone attempts to breach the ward. If the ward breaks, so will the crystal. Get this to the others. I’ll have the other so I can be alerted as well.”

Angelica says, “Thank you.”

Warden Capstone nods and makes her way out of the cemetery.

Angelica calls Dillon and leaves him a message about the completed ward and the talisman left to her by the Warden.

November 16, 2012

Dillon is texted two sketches from Tom Casing. The first is of the man from Audrey Langley’s dream, the man who whisked Edgar Abel away:

Hubbard_Sketch.png

The second is of presumably of Edgar Abel, the man who kidnapped Audrey Langley:

Edgar_Abel_Sketch.png

Later that morning he receives a second text:

THIS IS LAURENCE STORM. OVERLAND MADE BAIL. I HAVE SOMEONE ON HER. I’LL KEEP YOU POSTED.

Still later that morning, Dillon receives a phone call from Gordon:

“We have your mortal. He is quite mad and it has ceased to be amusing to us. Where to do you wish us to deliver him?”

Dillon calls Tom to set up a meet with Gordon and retrieve Abel. Tom suggests an obscure waterfront location in the event that “our benefactors wish to remain anonymous”. He’ll chalk up the arrest to an anonymous tip in his reports. As far as time, anytime is good. He wants this done. For his part, Gordon seems eager to be rid of Abel, and arranges a time one hour from when Dillon calls: approximately 11:00 am.

Next he texts Mr. Storm: THANK YOU FOR THE UPDATE.

Then he sends out a text alerting Nick, Yuriko, and Sabrina that Winter has Abel and he’s taking Tom to retrieve him from Gordon with the time and place of the meeting.

He then texts Angelica: “I’m fine with you keeping the crystal, it’s your area of expertise anyway. By the way, our thief made bail, she will probably be reporting in soon, be watchful for the next move by our Necromancer.”

Yuriko replies that the entire gang should be there for the pick up of Abel. If not standing in one big group, at least in close proximity. If Hubbard and/or Trevidian are going to make a final move at Abel, this could be it. And as much as Yuriko likes Tom, she doesn’t think he would be the best back-up in that situation.

Dillon texts back: “I assume Hubbard is dealt with or Winter wouldn’t have Abel, that was the deal, I get Abel when they have Hubbard. Trevidian is the wild card, Winter is supposed to protect us from retaliation by Trevidian, but I don’t know how hard Gordie and crew will try. This is would be a prime opportunity for Trevidian to show up and I don’t want the group caught in some faerie cross fire. I’m voting no on group presence.”

Yuriko will text back, clearly unhappy. She doesn’t like relying solely on Gordon and his crew to protect her friends from Trevidian. Once they hand Abel over, they’re probably washing their hands of the whole thing. Tom still has to get Abel back to the police station. She suggests that the rest of the gang be in Sabrina’s car, somewhere in the general vicinity, ready to mobilize if trouble hits.

Dillon responds: “I don’t know what you think you can do if Trevidian attacks. We had to get Gordon to handle Hubbard, and Hubbard was hiding from Trevidian. I’d rather keep the collateral damage minimal.”

When he contacts Gordon with Tom’s suggested meeting place, he asks him, “What happened, is Hubbard secured? What about Trevidian?”

The Winter Envoy’s associate says, “Hubbard’s loyalties, for now, lay where they should. He is as eager to be rid of Abel as we are and assisted us against Trevidian. Speaking of the former Envoy, Trevidian has returned with Her Majesty to his prison.”

After this is explained to Yuriko, she concedes her back-up plan.

Meanwhile, Angelica, after talking with Dillon, calls Lau-Hu. If the Shrouded One may be stepping up his plans, then Angelica feels that she can’t stand by idly. Since Chinatown has some connection to the Shrouded One, she wants to wander its streets around midnight. If a necromancer is truly working out of Chinatown, then the spirits may be very agitated. She coordinates with Lau-Hu so she is not going by herself.

November 16, 2012 (Friday—11 am)

Waterfront

Tom and Dillon arrive at the waterfront warehouse to see a luxury car waiting at the location. As the two men emerge and approach the luxury car, its doors open and Dillon recognizes Gordon coming from driver’s side. From the passenger side, he recognizes Edgar Abel from the sketch that Tom had sent that morning. Abel has his head down and he is biting his nails, mumbling to himself. Gordon comes around and takes the young man by the arm.

As the two get closer, Dillon can hear Abel muttering. “He waits. He sits and he waits. He’s patient, oh so patient. Another will come and he will be free. But the lady was pretty, oh so pretty, and the lights, oh so cold…”

Gordon says, “Here he is. Intact. Your bargain is fulfilled.”

Tom takes Abel by the arm. He barely acknowledges the policeman as handcuffs are placed on him and Tom begins to recite his Miranda rights. Tom gently puts Abel in the backseat of the car.

Dillon offers his hand to Gordon. “I’m glad it all worked out.”

Gordon stares at Dillon’s hand and then looks Dillon in the eye and says, “My mistress owes you a boon. Release her from it soon.” He turns and goes to the car.

Dillon rides with Tom to the station. Abel rides in the back, muttering to himself.

Along the way, Tom explains that this afternoon he’ll be meeting with the owner of Nirvana to see if he can see their security tapes to place their muttering friend here at the club the day that Audrey Langley was kidnapped. Every bit of evidence is going to help as he’s probably going to plead insanity. Regardless, he believes that they have the killer. He also tells Dillon to expect a check in the mail for his work as a consultant. It’s not much, but its something in way of thanks from the city in way of thanks.

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Side Job: Retribution
Karkana Chronicles Fourteen

May 6, 2013 (Monday)

Over the past week, Brianna has gotten word that her cousin Quincy has arrived in Colorado safely. She and Joey have secured a new apartment, one that hopefully Gould and others do not know about. Joey’s hand, thanks to Bill Mundy’s magic, has finally healed quite nicely. Still, she has been in a foul mood over the whole Borland debacle.

On this day, she and Joey go to Sibley’s for a light workout. With Joey’s freshly-healed hand, they don’t want to push it, but Brianna wants to get her boy back into the ring as soon as possible. After the workout, she gets a phone call. There’s a lot of static on the line, but she recognizes the voice.

“This is Ezekiel. I’m setting up a meeting. It’s important. You wanted to help?”

“Yes,” she says.

“I think I’m going to need it,” the Warden says. He gives an address—apparently a rural address, just outside of Seattle. He says there will be more information at the meeting. “Can you be there tonight?” he asks.

“Yes,” Brianna says. “There will be the two of us.”

“Alright,” Ezekiel says.

“See you tonight,” Brianna says and hangs up on the static-filled line.

She explains the situation to Joey, who quips “Just when I get my hand back.”

“It’s been a week. It’s been boring,” Brianna dead-pans.

The two pack their gear, including an illicit shotgun, pistol, and switchblade they’ve acquired on their adventures. Brianna packs her athletic gear and her “manager” outfit.

They then load up in the car and head to Seattle, going to the address that Ezekiel gave. They arrive at the address around 5 pm. The address is an old farmhouse. Out front is parked Ezekiel’s old pick-up, Loomis’ extended cab truck, Dexter Quinn’s tow-truck, a Harley Davidson motocycle, and an unfamiliar Toyota Camry.

Brianna and Joey get out of their car and leave their duffles behind. They go up to the porch and knock on the door. Ezekiel comes to the door and invites them inside. Brianna thanks him and they go into a spacious living room decorated in Native American art and family photographs. The dining room table is surrounded by people. Ezekiel makes introductions. There’s Loomis and Dexter Quinn, whom they’ve already met. A large biker with long mutton-chops is introduced as Terry. Another man with a mechanic’s shirt with a patch proclaiming him to be Mike is introduced as such. An African-American man dressed in a shirt and tie, looking like a middle-aged office worker is Roy. And a professionally-dressed Latina is introduced as Mara. Dexter indicates that Terry, Mike, Roy, and Mara are “pack”.

Brianna turns to Terry and says “I understand that you helped my cousin out. Thanks for that.”

“Yeah, we kicked a bit of ass that night,” is all Terry says about it.

Mara extends her hand to Brianna. “Its about time we have another female at these proceedings.” Brianna takes her hand.

More chairs are brought around the table for Brianna and Joey and Ezekiel takes his place at the head of the table.

“Essentially,” he says, “welcome to my war council. I’ve decided to take the battle to the Margrave’s doorstep. Literally.”

“You mean his place of business?” Brianna asks.

“No, I mean his home,” Ezekiel says.

“I think you may have gone off the deep end, hoss,” Terry says.

“It’s time,” Ezekiel insists.

“Good,” Brianna says. “I’m tired of the fucker sending assassins after me.”

“It’s a bold step,” Loomis says. “It’s putting all our eggs in one basket. I assume you have some intelligence?”

“The grounds have security lights. There are cameras. Security details cover the grounds.”

“Human?” Brianna asks.

“During the day,” Ezekiel says.

“Thralls? Or hired people?”

“Not sure. I’m assuming thralls.”

Brianna looks disgusted at the prospect.

“The mansion is on Mercer Island,” Ezekiel continues. “The gatehouse has three guards at all times. As for the inside, I haven’t seen it. No one has, outside the Red Court.”

“What about a threshold?” Brianna asks.

“Creatures such as he, no offense, don’t tend to have thresholds,” Ezekiel says. The pack shifts uncomfortably at Brianna’s question.

“I’ve gathered all of you to form a plan. If you want out, I understand,” Ezekiel says.

Roy looks around and says, “Everyone else seems eager enough to do it.”

Mara says, “We’ve been nipping at his heels long enough.”

Brianna says, “I owe him.”

“So. Plans,” Ezekiel says.

“I’m assuming we’re able to get aerial photographs from the internet?” Brianna asks.

“I can’t,” Ezekiel says.

“I can, if you have an address,” Loomis says.

“I do.”

“Then I can get an aerial view, and more.”

“During the day, or at night? He’s probably conducting business at night and won’t be home,” Brianna says.

“I was thinking of hitting during the day. I thought that would be safer for us,” Ezekiel says.

“Less cover for us in broad daylight,” Dexter points out.

“Is the house on acres of land or right next to the neighbors?” Brianna asks.

“Acres of land,” Ezekiel says.

“Dexter brings up a good point. Maybe night time is better,” Loomis says.

“A pack of wolves attacking people in the middle of the day is awfully conspicuous,” Dexter says.

“That’s another point,” Roy says, “I signed on to attack vamps. But thralls? I’m not as sure about.”

“Buck up, Roy,” Terry says, “Thralls minds are gone. They’re as good as dead.”

“They shouldn’t be hard to incapacitate. I assume someone could get them help,” Brianna says.

“It depends on how far gone they are. If we go at night, there will be more vampires,” Ezekiel says.

“Do we have any indication of how big a nest it is? Even his own get didn’t nest with him. She had her own place,” Brianna says.

“I don’t. I’ve not gotten that close. And I don’t have anything close enough to divine it, either. As Brianna says at night, the man himself may not be in, but we can bust in on his doorstep and spit in his eye,” Ezekiel says.

“If he’s not there, and we mess with his home, when we better have a plan-B. He’s a vindictive son of a bitch. He will not be happy,” Brianna says.

“What do you think, Brianna? Day or night?” Ezekiel asks.

“Do you have any way of masking our approach? I’m not as worried about a bunch of mind-rotted thralls seeing the wolves as much as security devices detecting our presence on the grounds.”

“I can hex a lot of the devices,” Ezekiel says.

“La Porte Triple opens at 6 pm. Sundown is at 7 pm,” Brianna observes. “Without seeing aerial footage, it doesn’t sound like the guards are visible to others”

“So you’re leaning towards day,” Ezekiel says.

“I want him to be there. However, late evening brings shadows and such. We can catch him before he leaves. Maybe dusk is a better time.”

“That gives us a very short window,” Loomis says. "Let’s get an aerial view. I can get that tonight. I think, though, Brianna is right. If we do this, let strike with decision. If the grounds are large, the wolves can run free. Daylight neutralizes the security spotlights.

“If Ezekiel can hex the security cameras that will be helpful,” Brianna says.

“I’ll go get that aerial view,” Loomis says.

“Everyone just want to wait here?” Ezekiel asks.

Everyone nods. Loomis starts to leave, then pauses slightly. “You want company?” Brianna asks.

“Sure,” Loomis says.

Brianna looks at Joey, who shrugs. “I’ll be back,” she says.

Loomis and Brianna load up in his truck and head in to the city. Loomis is quiet as he drives.

“What changed Ezekiel’s mind? Do you know? I wasn’t expecting to came back into Seattle this quickly,” Brianna says.

Loomis sighs. “Ezekiel’s getting tired. Fighting a lot. Then there was the body he found two nights ago. It was a college student. Just a kid, really. He said it reminded him of why he fights. People like us fight—we can handle ourselves. We can make choices. These kids, they can’t.”

“No, they can’t,” Brianna says with resolve. “There are some things kids shouldn’t have to deal with. Well, I’m glad he called.”

“I just hope we’re not in over our heads.”

“I never think I am,” Brianna says, “even when I am. You think he’s acting rashly?”

“I’ve just never seen him angry.”

“I understand anger.”

“I suppose so.”

“Does the rest of the pack know about me? I don’t hide my nature when we’re in battle,” Brianna says.

“Well, hopefully it’s okay, but Ezekiel laid out the basics beforehand.”

“Good. I don’t want to be worried about watching my back.”

“He made it clear that you were one of us.”

Brianna looks pleased at this. They pull up to the police station in Seattle where Loomis has his office and Loomis gets out. Brianna follows and they both head to Loomis’ office. Loomis sits down at his desk and starts pulling up the needed information.

“I wasn’t expecting to be back in a police station so soon, either,” Brianna comments.

“You said you were trouble,” Loomis murmurs as he works.

“I normally try to avoid police entanglements.” Brianna moves behind the desk and leans in close to Loomis, looking at his computer screen. He prints out an aerial view of the mansion in question and the surrounding community. He also gets a layout map of the first floor of the mansion that was submitted for city inspection purposes.

“Looks like ownership of the mansion is layered in several holding companies,” Loomis says.

“I doubt he’s put it in his own name. You could find these holding companies?”

“If we had the time, sure.”

Brianna touches Loomis’ shoulder briefly, then goes and fetches the printouts. The two head out and load back up in Loomis’ truck to return to Ezekiel’s farmhouse.

On the road back, Brianna says, “This doesn’t get you out of your promise to show me around Seattle.”

“Oh, you haven’t seen anything yet,” Loomis says.

“Just so you know.”

“Maybe this will make things a little less crazy,” Loomis says, hopeful.

“It would be nice to come here without people shooting at me. Makes it easier to enjoy myself.”

When they get back to the farmhouse, Loomis turns to Brianna and says, “I’m really glad you came.”

“So am I, actually. I’m glad to see you again.”

Loomis gets out of the truck and Brianna follows. They go into the farmhouse to find the others spread out in the living room. Once Loomis comes in and starts spreading the maps on the table in the dining room, everyone comes in to join him.

The mansion apparently sits on about five acres of property. The surrounding estates sit on similar lots. The are copses of trees, as well as open spaces, throughout the grounds. There are no hedgerows or other such topiary to use as cover. There is a stone fence, about eight feet high, with additional iron grillwork that adds another two feet in height. There is a servant’s house on the grounds as well as the mansion itself. Entry is through a main gate with a guard house.

“Do we think there’s some kind of basement he’s living in?” Brianna asks.

“I think we can assume so,” Ezekiel says.

“If all the human guards are thralls, we need to worry about the fine thralls? Or the ones that are more zombie like?” Brianna asks.

“Either can kill you just as dead,” Dexter observes.

“So, incapacitate the thralls, kill Red Court Vampires, find the Margrave, kill him too. That’s the plan?” Brianna says.

Ezekiel nods.

“Good. I like to be clear on such things.”

“Our approach?” Ezekiel asks. “Over the fence? Through the front gates?”

“A select few of us over the fence, take out the guards at the front gate, then let the rest in,” Brianna says.

“I suppose one of those few would be me,” Ezekiel says.

“I’ll go over,” Brianna says.

“I’ll go with you,” Joey says.

“Can you get your hands on that Kevlar again?” Brianna asks Loomis.

“Yeah. I have it in the truck.”

“That’s three going over the fence for the three gate guards,” Ezekiel says.

“You’ll also have to take care of the cameras,” Brianna says.

They set the last copse of trees from guard house to the house as the rendezvous point for everyone to meet. They then spend the next hour planning their attack on the house. They decide to go in through the motor court, secure the apartment over that motor court, then enter the mansion through the west foyer, securing each room as they make their way east through the house. They will pair up and stay roughly together as a group.

They will meet at 7:00 am the next morning at the ferry to take them across to Mercer Island. Loomis offers to let Brianna and Joey stay at his place. Everyone disperses and Brianna and Joey follow Loomis back to his house. At Loomis’, Joey takes the couch while Brianna takes the spare room.

May 7, 2013 (Tuesday)

Brianna wakes up to the smell of fresh coffee. She gets up and puts on her workout clothes. She goes into the kitchen to find Joey eating breakfast and Loomis making eggs. She politely declines the eggs, takes some coffee, and finishes getting ready.

“We came with our own guns,” Brianna brings up. “Is that going to be a problem? If so, we can take our own car.”

“I take it they’re not registered?” Loomis asks.

“Sometimes, with us, you should not ask questions if you don’t want to know the answer. Plausible deniability is a nice thing.”

Loomis looks bemused.

“You said it. I’m trouble,” Brianna tells him.

“Put them in,” Loomis says, directing them to his truck. Joey loads the guns and then they get in and head toward the ferry.

At the ferry, they easily meet up with the others in their party and head across the water to the island. Once they all get across, they drive as a convoy toward the mansion.

By this time, dawn has definitely arrived. The convoy holds up a few estates short of their destination. They all exit their vehicles and Joey gets strapped into his Kevlar vest. Brianna touches Loomis’ hand. “Good luck,” she says. “You as well,” he says.

Everyone finds Ezekiel, who is there in his Warden’s cloak with his staff in one hand and a sword strapped to his back.

With a nod from the Warden, Brianna, Joey, and Ezekiel approach the gate at an angle. As they get close, Ezekiel mutters a word and they all smell the whiff of ozone come from the direction of the gatehouse.

The three scale the fence and stalk quietly as they can toward the gatehouse. A guard comes out of the side door of the house and Brianna rushes him with her inhuman speed. She punches at him, but he manages to dodge. Joey runs to the far side of the guard house. Ezekiel conjures a bolt of focused air and knocks the guard to the ground. The guard gets up and draws his gun. Brianna punches him, holding back her full strength so as not to kill him.

Meanwhile Joey encounters an armed guard emerging on the other side of guardhouse and punches him.

Brianna’s guard fires his gun and misses. Joey’s guard fires his gun and misses. A guard from inside the guardhouse fires his gun at Joey and hits him in the Kevlar vest.

Brianna then takes down her guard. Joey hits his guard. Ezekiel brushes by Brianna and goes into the guardhouse.

Joey’s guard fires a gun at him and misses but the guard in the guardhouse fires and hits him in the Kevlar vest.

Brianna moves inside and hits the guard that’s been firing into Joey. Joey finally takes out his guard. Ezekiel floors the final guard with his staff.

Looking around, the monitors are smoking and the keyboards are sparking, as are the guard’s walkie-talkies. Brianna goes to the gate and opens it manually, sliding it open. The pack and Loomis start coming in and gather inside the gatehouse, shucking off their clothes. Soon five wolves and a bear emerge and start running toward the garage.

As the group starts running across the vast lawn of the estate, Brianna is grazed by a bullet. She shrugs off the wound but looks to see a security detail of six more guards poised and firing at them. The pack takes off at the detail. Brianna rushes one of the men and punches him. Brianna takes a shot from the security detail. The security detail continues to shoot at the pack. Loomis follows Brianna and takes a swipe at the man she punched but misses. Brianna weakly punches the guy, doing no damage. Loomis swipes at the guy, gashing him across the face, hard. The security guy shoots Loomis to no noticeable effect. Brianna, Loomis, and the security guy all miss each other. Then Loomis knocks the guy to the ground, unconscious.

Brianna moves to help the wolf pack. She moves in and punches another security guy, dropping him. With Loomis’ help, the pack manages to drop the rest of the security detail. They all start heading toward the garage. Brianna suddenly spots the glint of light from the upper apartment and the hears the “shunk” of a silenced gun as a shot misses Loomis.

“Gun in the upstairs apartment!” Brianna calls out. Everyone scatters. Brianna heads straight to the garage. She’s missed by another silenced shot. She makes it to the garage, heads upstairs and then breaks down the door. She sees a man with a high-powered rifle on a tripod facing her drawing a pistol. She punches him. The man shoots at her and misses. Brianna exchanges blows with the guy and the man manages to pistol-whip Brianna, knocking her dazed. Suddenly, Dexter Quinn is bounding into the room, knocking the man to the ground. Brianna finally manages to knock the man out.

Dexter yips and leads the way out the door. Brianna manages to shake off the dazed feeling and takes the high-powered rifle with the tripod. She heads downstairs to the garage where everyone is gathered. She unloads the rifle.

“Upstairs was a recon room, so if any footage was taken, that needs to get zapped before we leave,” Brianna announces.

Ezekiel heads upstairs and comes back, nodding. They group checks out the garage before heading into the house. The three-car garage contains a limousine with heavy-tinted windows. The two-car garage contains a Jaguar with heavy-tinted windows. The storage rooms contain oil, gasoline, and other automotive supplies.

Brianna is pacing, ready for the ensuing violence. “Ready?” she asks everyone. Everyone nods.

They start with the rear foyer of the house. Two wolves head south for the guest bedrooms while the rest of the group head north to the breakfast room/family room. They open every door along the way, checking for vampires or whatever else they can find. They can faintly hear moaning upstairs. “Anyone else hear that?” Dexter Quinn nods.

“Let’s concentrate on this floor,” Ezekiel says.

The group gets to the family room when they hear snarls coming from back down the hall where the wolves went to the guest bedrooms. Dexter goes to check it out. Dexter and only one wolf come back; the one covered in black blood. “What about the other?” Brianna asks. Dexter shakes his shaggy head. “Was it Red Court?” Brianna asks. Dexter nods.

The family room and breakfast room are well-apportioned, but empty of people. Connected to the family room is a spacious kitchen. Inside is a woman in an old-fashioned maid’s uniform. She sees the entourage and screams. Brianna rushes her and punches her. She drops like a sack.

From the kitchen, they go into a dining room. Laid out on the table, cruciform-style, is a nude body. The person suffered multiple wounds, bites and cuts covering it from head to toe. Blood is everywhere. Another body lies discarded, crumpled in the corner.

In the grand foyer, Brianna opens all the doors and windows. She does the same in the rear foyer. They find a great room full of old paintings, probably originals, all very valuable. In the conservatory they find another body sprawled on the grand piano, puncture wounds all over it.

From the conservatory, they can hear moaning coming from the next room. They approach it with caution. It’s a ballroom. Inside they see eight Red Court Vampires in their bestial forms, not even bothering with their beautiful flesh masks. They are feeding on moaning victims sprawled all over the floor in ecstasy. The vampires’ long tongues caress their victims as they drain the blood from open wounds on their arms and legs.

Brianna rushes into the room yelling, “Die motherfucking vampires! Joey, shoot out the windows and open that damn door!”

She, in turn, changes and her eyes go milky-white and her visage takes on a sharper tone as she calls upon her own vampiric heritage and attacks one of the Red Court creatures.

Dexter Quinn bounds into the room and bloodies one of the Red Court vampires as well. His pack follows close behind. Joey shoots at a window with the shotgun and misses. Loomis bounds in and misses one of the Red Court vamps. Ezekiel places his staff on the floor and utters a word. All of the glass in the room, including the windows, shatters. The vampires begin to burn and shriek as the sunlight strikes them.

Brianna takes out her vampire by feeding on its rage in a grapple. Dexter Quinn continues to attack his prey, as does the pack. Joey opens the curtains and doors in the room. Loomis manages to break his opponent’s nose. Ezekiel draws his sword and begins to attack.

Dexter continues to bloody his opponent while Brianna seeks out a new vampire to slay. The pack continues to attack while the vampires return with their own attacks. Joey opens everything up, shedding much light on the subject. Loomis continues to attack his vamp while Ezekiel continues to slice with his Warden’s sword.

Dexter takes his vamp out while Brianna takes another out by feeding. The pack continues to fight, as do the vampires. Joey gives one of the vampires a belly wound with the shotgun. Loomis manages to give his opponent a black eye. Ezekiel continues to slash at his opponent.

Dexter manages to kill another Red Court vamp while Brianna grapples Loomis’ opponent to the ground and takes it out, feeding upon it. The pack manages to take out their opponents. Ezekiel’s opponent misses him. Joey fires on Ezekiel’s opponent, but misses. Loomis goes for Ezekiel’s opponent but misses. Ezekiel finally manages to finish him off with his Warden sword.

Examining the victims, they all seem to be in a drugged, narcotic state; probably will be for hours, maybe even days.

Brianna says, “There may be another nest of these upstairs. Are we ready?” Everyone nods grimly. They continue to explore the ground floor.

They find a stately library, filled with first editions and other treasures. It is attached to a comfortable den. Joey and Loomis find a secret door panel in the den behind a bookcase. Behind the panel, is a staircase going down.

“Do we go up or down?” Brianna asks.

“I think we know who we’re here for,” Ezekiel says. He utters a word and his staff begins to glow.

Brianna heads down the stairs, followed by Ezekiel, then Joey, then Loomis, then Dexter, then the pack. As they head down, Brianna finds a light switch, which she turns on. The staircase leads into a large media room. Rows of tapes, discs, and the like line the walls. A large media system, with a screen and speakers line the far wall. Seats take up the main area. There is one door continuing on from the room and two doors to the side, to the left and to the right.

The door to the left reveals a mid-sized mechanical room. The right-hand room is a storage room, containing row upon row of discs and tapes of various types. The door straight ahead opens to reveal a hallway which ends at a set of double-doors and a door to the right.

At the door to the right, they discover that it is locked. Brianna goes to break it down and she meets a mystical resistance—it is warded.

“Can you do something about that?” she asks Ezekiel.

“It will take time,” he says.

“Let’s move forward.” she says.

The double-doors open into a large square room. At the far end of the room is another set of double-doors. There are chains on the walls of this room, otherwise it is bare of decoration.

“Can you see any wards before I run into them?” Brianna asks Ezekiel.

“If I open up the Sight,” the Warden says.

Brianna frowns, distrustful of the Sight. They enter the room.

As they make their way across the room, they can now see that in the far corner is a man in rags and a long, scraggly beard. He rises from a pallet on the floor and cries “You’re not supposed to be here!”

He makes a motion with his hand and a whirlwind of air whips across the room. The wind manages to blow dust into everyone’s eyes, but not much more. Dexter Quinn bounds forward but misses the wily man. Brianna punches at the man, but manages not to hurt him. But the pack takes him down and Joey runs forward and kicks him in the head, knocking him out.

The double-doors open out into a room. Ezekiel stops short. “There’s a ward—and hidden cameras,” he says. Ezekiel hexes the cameras—and everyone’s cellphones go out as well. The pack and Loomis begin growling at something beyond the double doors in the darkness.

Ezekiel draws a circle in the floor with chalk, sits down within it, and begins to chant something in his native tongue. Brianna sees a shimmering in the doorway and feels a shifting of energies. Ezekiel then stands, breaks his circle. “The ward is gone,” he says.

Suddenly, five Red Court vamps come bounding out of the darkness.

Brianna engages with the first of the vampires. She sweeps its leg, knocking it off-balance. Dexter Quinn misses his prey, as do the pack. Joey fires his shotgun and misses. Brianna’s vampire gashes her face, which she shrugs off. Loomis engages one which hits him hard and the one that the pack engaged manages to them. Ezekiel draws his sword and strikes out at one.

Dexter Quinn misses his while Brianna feeds on hers, making it crazed with rage. The pack gives their vampire a gash. Joey fires at Loomis’ vampire and misses. Loomis misses his opponent. The Red Court vampire fighting the pack manages to give Mara a belly wound. Ezekiel misses his prey.

Dexter misses his opponent. Brianna kills hers, while the pack brings their down as well. Joey misses again. Loomis breaks his opponent’s jaw. Ezekiel misses his with his sword.

Dexter once again misses his opponent. Brianna grapples and feeds on Loomis’ opponent while the pack breaks away to help Dexter. Dexter’s opponent gives him a severe belly wound and Ezekiel’s gives him a bloody gash. Joey misses again with the shotgun while Loomis crushes his opponent’s skull. Ezekiel manages to slash his opponent soundly with his Warden sword.

Dexter, as usual, misses his opponent, while Brianna sweeps the leg on Ezekiel’s, knocking him off-balance. The pack gives Dexter’s opponent a bloody gash. The vampires each miss, as does Joey, while Loomis goes to help Ezekiel. Ezekiel manages to hit the vampire again with his sword.

Dexter finally belly wounds the vampire while Brianna causes Ezekiel’s opponent to go into a berserk rage. She feeds on him and holds him down. The pack manages to drop the Red Court vamp on Dexter while the vamp on Ezekiel can’t break Brianna’s hold on him. Joey comes up and kicks that vampire in head, finishing him off.

Brianna looks around, taking stock of her allies. Ezekiel has a bloody gash. Dexter has a bloody gash and nasty belly wound, as does one of the wolves in the pack.

“Do we go on?” she asks Ezekiel.

“I think it’s too late to turn back now.”

She turns and faces the darkness of the double door. “Velasquez, you cowardly Spaniard. Sending out your henchmen, are you? I was there when Alyssa died, you bastard. What happened to ‘if you touch my get I’ll have your entrails strewn all over Pioneer Square?’”

A voice floats from the darkness, a cultured voice with a slight Spanish accent. “I must commend you, Warden. You found a strong champion. I have seen her fight before.”

“She tasted delicious!” Brianna calls out.

“You will be quiet!” the voice, Velasquez, demands, angry.

Brianna laughs.

“Warden, are you sure you want to do this?” Velasquez asks.

“In the name of the White Council, this ends today,” Ezekiel says.

“So be it, mortal.”

The pack starts growling. Slow, deliberate footsteps echo from beyond the darkness. Velasquez emerges into the light. He seems to take in the force arrayed before him and smiles. “I’m flattered.”

“I wonder if you’re going to taste as good as your get did?”

In an instant, Velasquez sheds his flesh mask. Before them is a bigger, more primal-looking version of the Red Court vampires they’ve been fighting. In a guttural voice, the thing says, “Your dog should keep a civil tongue, wizard.”

Dexter Quinn springs into action, attacking Velasquez. Brianna moves in, sweeping the leg to knock him off-balance. The pack attacks as well. Joey fires with the shotgun and misses. Loomis attacks and hits. Ezekiel strikes with a focused gout of steam from his outstretched hand—to little effect. Velasquez attacks Brianna with a gash.

Dexter misses the vampire. Brianna grapples the vampire to the ground and begins to feed, making it crazed with rage. The pack moves in and begins to slash at the vampire. Joey runs up and kicks the vampire’s head in, killing it.

With its last breath, Velasquez looks at Brianna and says “Hay mas a venir…”

“Does that mean anything to anyone?” Brianna asks. One of the pack nods.

“Are we done here? Do we want to clean out the upstairs? We’re pretty beat up…” Brianna says.

“I think we’re done here for the day,” Ezekiel says. “We’ve got some pretty injured folks.”

“And we have one body we need to retrieve,” Brianna says, looking at Dexter.

Brianna leads the way back the way they came, back into the media room, the den, back through the ballroom, and the dining room, finally to the rear foyer and the guest rooms. There they see an eaten up Red Court body and the nude body of Roy. Brianna picks him up to carry him. They then make their way out of the house and back to the guard house. There the shape-shifters turn back to their human forms and get dressed.

Once shifted, Mike takes Roy’s body from Brianna. “I’m sorry he didn’t make it,” Brianna says.

“I don’t know what we’re going to tell his family,” Dexter says.

“Did they not know he did dangerous things?”

“They didn’t want to know.”

“What did the Margrave say as he was dying?” Brianna asks the group.

“‘There is more to come’,” Mara says.

Brianna gives an exasperated sigh at this. She turns to Loomis, smiling wryly, “Ruined wardrobe. Covered in blood.”

“Another weekend in Seattle,” he says, nodding.

May 7, 2013, 2:00 pm (Ezekiel’s home)

Joey, Ezekiel, Terry, and Mike volunteer to go get cars. Mara, Loomis, Brianna, and Dexter all stay behind. The others finally come back with the vehicles. Everyone loads up and heads to Ezekiel’s—except for Mara and Dexter who head off for medical attention from someone they know.

At Ezekiel’s, he lays down old sheets on the furniture and lets everyone sit down to rest. He gets everyone beers and water.

“I want to thank everyone for what you did today,” he says.

“It was a pleasure,” Brianna tells him.

“There may be repercussions.”

“He said as much,” Brianna shrugs.

“There always are, hoss,” Terry says.

“It had to be done. He was spreading through the city like a cancer. And I take it personally when people try to kill me,” Brianna says.

“You all can rest here as long as you like,” Ezekiel says.

“Thank you for your hospitality,” Brianna says.

“We’ve won a major battle in a war. But, strangely enough, I don’t feel like celebrating,” Ezekiel says.

Everybody nods.

“Feels more like stiff drinking,” Brianna comments.

Terry is the first to go, says he’s got things to do. “You’re a scary one,” he says to Brianna. “I don’t want to get on your bad side.”

“You sweet talker,” Brianna replies.

Mike leaves to check on Dexter.

Brianna says to Loomis, “Joey and I are going to have to clean up before we drive back to Portland. What are you planning to do?”

“We can head back to the house. I don’t think there’s anything else to be done here.”

Ezekiel shakes each of their hands. “This battle cost us much.”

Brianna says, “It did. But I still think it was an important one. Even outside of my personal vengeance. It was horrific to walk through that house. I’m glad he’s dead.”

They all load up in Loomis’ truck and head out to his house. As he’s driving, Loomis asks, “There was something the Margrave said. What did Velasquez mean by he’s seen you fight before?”

Brianna stills momentarily, then turns and looks at Loomis. “I was somebody’s proxy for a bit of family business.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Well, some of it is White Court business, but it would be safe to say that the Margrave made a grave insult to someone else and the insult was settled in a fairly old fashioned way. Each side had a proxy to do their fighting for them.”

“And you were this proxy.”

“Yes.”

“So you’d encountered Velasquez before?”

“Um-hum. There was a reason Alyssa didn’t like me very much and targeted my cousin.”

“Hmm.”

Brianna continues to look at Loomis. “Anything else? I’ll tell you if I can.”

“No, just puzzle pieces.”

4:00 pm (Loomis’ House)

Everyone is taking turns cleaning up. While Joey’s in the shower, Brianna asks Loomis, “Did you have plans for tonight?”

“No.”

“I’m trying to figure out if we should head out tonight or if we should head out in the morning.”

“You’re welcome to stay.”

“Do you have a place you’d recommend for dinner?”

“I’m sure I can find a place you’d like.”

Once Joey comes out and is ready, Brianna lets him know that they’re going to stay there for the night and head out in the morning. He says it’s fine with him if it’s fine with her.

Loomis finds a place for dinner and they all go out. Brianna finds reasons to touch him on the arm and hand during the course of conversation and Loomis seems to do the same. Joey seems to keep leaving the table, though Brianna can’t seem to figure out why.

After dinner, they head back home. “I need to walk around the block a bit,” Brianna says, and invites Loomis to join her. He says okay. The two take a walk around the neighborhood.

“Well, there’s something I wanted to talk to you about. Just wanted you to know,” Brianna says.

“Alright.”

“Since the last time we saw each other, I had casually been seeing someone from work. More hanging out than anything, I suppose. He wanted to go one way. I didn’t think it was going to work, so I told him I wanted to be friends. Found out he was hired by someone I don’t like very much to get close to me, so I guess it worked out for the best.”

Loomis raises his eyebrows at this.

“Portland is exciting as well,” Brianna says drolly. “Anyway, makes a girl somewhat skittish, I suppose.”

She stops walking and faces him.

“I’ve not really done anything like this. Seeing people. Since I was a kid. Since things changed. And I’m not the best at reading people so all I can do is be really blunt. I’m interested in getting to know you better. But if this is something where you’re wanting to be just friends, I need to know that now.”

Loomis looks at her and says, “If we’re being blunt, I’m interested in getting to know you better, too. And I’m too attracted to you to be friendly.”

“Then we’ll just see how things go.”

“Okay.”

Brianna takes his hand and finishes the walk around the block.

May 8, 2013

“Thanks for letting us stay,” Brianna says as she and Joey get ready to leave.

“Anytime,” Loomis says.

“Call me.”

“Count on it.”

Brianna reaches up and touches his cheek. Then she and Joey get in the car and drive back to Portland.

View
Scenario Eight: Part Three
Seasons: Part Three

November 15, 2012 (Thursday)

Angelica

Angelica gets up early after her night-long vigil at Lone Fir cemetery and calls Lau Hu. She fills him in on the events of the previous night and asks if he can accompany her on tonight’s vigil. He says, “Of course.” She then gets ready to head out to the Church of St. Andre Bessette to see Reverend Buxman about the break-in last night.

Before she gets into her car, she checks for her usual tail, Detective Fadil. There is no sign of him. As she drives to the church, she doesn’t notice anyone following her. She arrives at the church relatively satisfied that she has not been followed.

As she walks up to the church, she notices Reverend Buxman standing outside of the church, shaking hands with Detective Fadil and his partner, Detective Chu. The two detectives get into their car and leave. Angelica hangs back a bit, allowing the detectives to move on before approaching the Reverend and wishing him good morning. He returns the greeting and invites her inside the church and leads her to his office.

“So, Angelica, what can I do for you this morning?”

Angelica follows Buxman back to his office.

“Dillon texted me last night that there was another attempt on the book. I wanted to stop by and make sure everyone was okay. I’m worried about the escalations. Last night I scared off men trying to break into another grave of a hanged murder. I can’t help but think those two events are the work of the same individual.”

She pauses slightly, then asks “Is that why Detectives Chu and Fadil were here? Because of the break in?”

Buxman says, “Everyone is fine and the book is secure. The burglar only made it into the scriptorium. No one was hurt. But you’re right, the escalations are disturbing and probably the work of this Shrouded One we are all worried about.”

“Actually, the detectives were not here about the break-in, but were here about you, Angelica. They are investigating a missing persons case in which you are apparently implicated and were wondering what I could tell them about you and your habits here at the church. I told them that you were a volunteer here at our food pantry and that you occasionally volunteered for other church matters as well and that you had proved to be a valuable asset to me in such things. Which is the truth. They asked if I knew anything about a man named Tim Mulligan. I said I did not. They seemed to indicate that you did and that you weren’t being very cooperative and if I were to receive any information to let them know. I said that I would and saw them out. Is there anything I need to know, Angelica, about this Tim Mulligan?”

Angelica sighs. “Detective Fadil is involving his partner now. That’s going to make my life even more difficult.”

She looks into Buxman’s eyes, choosing her words carefully. “Tim Mulligan was raising zombies and sending them to attack innocents. I helped protect the intended victims and made sure Mulligan was turned over to the proper authorities. Unfortunately, that means the police have asked some questions that I cannot answer.”

Angelica taps her fingers lightly against her leg, her irritation showing slightly. “The case was closed, but Detective Fadil is … persistent … and has been following me as of late. He is the reason why I couldn’t help with our recent ghoul problem. It also means that he may interfere with me helping others who are suffering, both the dead and the living.”

Buxman sighs. “While I disagree with the moral authority of the White Council and their methods, I do agree that the police are ill-equipped to handle a necromancer at the height of his powers. I can only hope that this man sought redemption before his life was claimed by these ‘proper’ authorities. As far as I’m concerned, the fate of Tim Mulligan was revealed to me under the auspices of the confession. It is between you and I and the Lord and no one else.”

Angelica nods at Buxman, “Thank you. I am hoping that the Detective will eventually leave me be, but I realize that I look suspicious from his point of view. Any good man would follow up on such things.”

Her eyes flick downwards, slightly uncomfortable, as she continues. "That was the other thing I wanted to speak with you about. When I first signed up to volunteer with the food pantry, I was doing it out of false pretenses. I was just trying to find out more about the book and whether it was safe from the Shrouded One.

If you think it would be appropriate, I would like to continue offering my time. You and your Church do a lot of good here in Portland. I would like to help with that."

“That would be great. We could always use the assistance. I know you have other matters that press upon your time.”

November 15, 2012 (Thursday)

Dillon

Dillon goes to Reverend Buxman’s office to speak with him concerning the possibility of moving the grimoire. As he approaches, he sees Angelica leaving the office and shaking hands with the priest as she goes.

“Hello Dillon,” the Reverend says. “Please come in. What can I do for you?”

“Reverend, I am concerned about the book. It seems the Necromancer is resorting to more traditional methods to obtain it. Do you still feel it is secure? Wouldn’t it be wise to move it before the Necromancer makes another attempt?”

The priest sighs. “For almost a hundred years, this church has been charged with the protection of this book. I do not intend to give up now. I do not know of any safer place. Where do you propose?”

“I’m not sure, I had hoped it might be something we could discuss, but it doesn’t sound like you’re really open to the idea. That’s your call, it was entrusted to your safe keeping. However, it seems the biggest safe guard you had was that no one knew you had it, but that has changed. This Necromancer has tried to break in twice, using magical and traditional means. The second time they actually made it into the room, that suggests the magical wardings are powerful, but traditional security is not so great. I don’t think the Necromancer is going to give up yet, so it seemed to me the best protection for the book was to not be there. I admit, I don’t know all the details of the protections it has, but if that burglar had made it to the book, would she have been able to take it and run?”

The priest says: "Okay, Dillon, you make a good case. Yes, much of the book’s defense was based on its secrecy. But there are other protections. If the burglar had made past the scriptorium into the basement, then into the sub-basement and the vault, then she could have gotten away with the book. All we have are physical barriers and she was on her way to breaking through them. Fortunately, the Lord was on our side and Father Riley was able to catch her early—this time.

“There is a place we could move it. We could place the book in the temporary care of the Servite monks of the Grotto. It’s not far from here and it is holy ground. I’m not sure of their physical security, though. And it would be vulnerable during the transfer. But if nobody knew we moved it, then once again secrecy would be on our side.”

“I think we should move it, but continue to act as though it were in the scriptorium. Hopefully, that will keep the necromancer focused on this church. Knowing where he will strike will help us catch him or her," Dillon says.

The priest nods. “Agreed, but it will still be vulnerable as it moves. If the necromancer is watching the church, he may see what is going on. We will have to be careful. I will contact the Rector of Servite monks at the Grotto and see if they will be willing to take on this responsibility, however temporarily. He will have to be made aware of the dangers involved. I do not know if he will believe me. Not even everyone in the Church believes in sorcery any more. Nevertheless, I have the evidence of a police report to back up my story.”

Dillon then receives a text from Tom Casing:

AUDREY LANGLEY IS CONSCIOUS. GOING TO INTERVIEW HER. DID YOU WANT TO BE THERE?

Dillon sends a return text: YES I WOULD LIKE TO BE THERE.

Tom texts Dillon the hospital information where Langley is being treated and where they can meet.

Dillon says farewell to the priest and makes his way to the hospital.

November 15, 2012 (Thursday)

Dillon

The hospital lights are bright and the halls smell of antiseptic wash. Dillon follows the directions he’s been given by Casing and arrives at Ms. Langley’s hospital room. He meets Tom outside, along with two uniformed cops posted at the door. The two men go inside.

untitled__73_.png

Ms. Langley is sitting up in her bed, watching television. When Dillon and Tom enter, she turns it off and smiles at them. Dillon, at first, feels like he’s met this woman before. And then he realizes where he’s seen her face—she bears an uncanny resemblance to Carol Ann Mosby, Ronald Feeney’s last victim from back in 1987.

Tom approaches first. “Hello Ms. Langley. My name is Detective Casing and this is Mr. Krister. If you’re up to it, we’d like to ask you a few questions regarding your abduction the other night.”

“Of course.”

“First of all, where were you when you were approached by the kidnapper?”

“I was leaving work, walking to my car.”

“And where do you work, Ms. Langley?”

“Nirvana. It’s an adult entertainment club in North Portland. I can give you the address, if you like.”

Tom jots down the address. “So you were on your way to your car and then what happened?”

“This man appears from around the corner of my car, out of nowhere, and puts a hand over my face. I smell something cloying, and I black out. Next thing I know, I’m in the hospital. They tell me that I was dosed with some heavy drugs.”

“I see. Did you recognize the man that attacked you?”

“Yes, I remember seeing him around the club, staring at me. But, to be blunt, a lot of men stare at me. Especially at the club.”

“I’m going to have you get with a police sketch artist, Ms. Langley. Do you think you can describe the man enough to do that?”

“I think so.”

“If you remember anything else from your ordeal, please don’t hesitate to call me.” He gives the woman one of his business cards.

“Did you have anything you wanted to add, Mr. Krister?” Tom asks.

Dillon asks, “Do you remember being on the island? Where you lucid at any time during your capture?”

Audrey scrunches up her face, prettily, in thought. “I think, at some point, I was in the back seat of a car. It smelled awful. Like exhaust and garbage. I heard country music playing and was staring at a bit of paper in the floor board. I think it was a receipt for a restaurant. Taco Guapo. And I remember, something else…I think I must have been dreaming, though.”

“Anything may be helpful to us, Ms. Langley. What do you remember?” Tom says.

“I remember some woods, and being carried. I was numb all over and couldn’t talk. Probably the drugs, so the doctors tell me. Anyway, then I was cold. Like really cold. And then there was a man in front of us who said ‘Put her down and come with me. It’s a set-up.’ And the man carrying me said, ‘Who are you?’ And the other man said, “You could say I’m your faerie godfather.” Then I grew cold again and faded out."

“If you could, Ms. Langley, when the sketch artist comes, I’d like you to describe the man you saw in your dream as well,” Tom says.

“Thank you, Ms. Langley,” Dillon says.

Outside of the hospital room, Tom says, “I’ll send in the sketch artist, get some confirmation on the kidnapper and possibly this other joker who showed up and whisked him away. We’ll also have uniforms canvas the area of this Taco Guapo joint. Maybe Abel was staying near there. We’ll find out if there are any hostels, hotels, or such in that area. I’m also going to talk to the owners of this Nirvana club, maybe see if we can get access to their security cameras and see Abel in action. Build a case against him. I’ll keep you posted if I find out anything new.”

November 15, 2012 (Thursday)

Angelica

Angelica checks her various message boards and online outlets of information for any news of a supernatural nature that may need her expertise. In her searches, she comes across the following notice:

jdillingham: “I need help. My friend is being haunted by the ghost of her late husband. She is in a lot of pain. I don’t know where else to turn. If you have any real information, post.”

The notice is on one of the message boards that deals with local hauntings. There are several postings from others suggesting various “cures” such as smudging and asking the spirits to leave, as well as turning to faith—priests, both pagan and Christian, are suggested. Jdillingham seems to have tried these avenues but to no avail.

Angelica invites jdillingham into a private chat room under her username, Silvercircle3.

Silvercircle3: “It sounds like you’re very upset by what is happening to your friend. When spirits linger it can be very traumatic for all involved. Can you give me more details about what’s happening?”

Angelica tries to gather as much information as possible from jdillingham in order to get a sense of the situation (including whether or not she thinks the other person is being sincere).

“Thank God. You actually seem like you know what you’re talking about. Zach was Daphne’s husband. He died in Afghanistan, an IED destroyed his vehicle outside of Kabul. Anyway, his funeral was six weeks ago and ever since that time, Daphne’s been seeing Zach in their house. At first, she took it as a comfort, that he was watching over her. But now, it’s time for her to move on and for him to move on and he won’t. He gets antsy whenever people are around, shaking things and such. I don’t know what to do. Daphne can’t seem to be able to mourn Zach with him lingering around like this, you know? I’m worried about her.”

Angelica can feel the sincere concern in jdillingham’s words. She is truly worried about her friend. Angelica has not seen her username on the boards before now.

“I do have some experience in these matters. (Angelica offers several references, other forum users with whom she has had dealings). However, I would like a chance to meet with you and Daphne face to face before we come to some sort of arrangement. Does your friend know that you are looking for help in this matter? Is she ready to let Zach go?"

“I would be willing to meet. I’ll talk to Daphne. She knows I’ve been looking for help—we’ve tried so many things and it keeps seeming to make Zach more agitated. I think she’s ready to let him go. She’s so conflicted and in a lot of pain. I know it’s for the best and she knows its for the best, but his continued presence confuses things.”

Angelica sets up a meeting at noon tomorrow at the Good Earth Café in Southwest Portland (Downtown). She’ll know jdillingham by the yellow hat she’ll wear. Angelica will be dressed in all black. Angelica logs off of the forums for the day.

November 15, 2013 (Thursday)

Yuriko

After working for most of the day at the florist shop with Hana, 3:30 finally rolls around and Yuriko gets ready to leave for Jade in Sellwood to meet with Lau Hu. She cleans up her station heads out, with Hana winking at her conspiratorially as she goes.

Impatiently, she gets on the bus and heads to the bistro to meet with her new friend. Finally, she gets to Sellwood and walks over to Jade and gets a table. She orders herself some tea and waits—she’s a little early. Eventually, she sees Lau Hu enter and spot her seated at a table. He comes over and sits down after ordering tea and pork bao from the counter.

Yuriko smiles brightly at Lau Hu, “I’m so glad you agreed to meet with me. At first I wasn’t sure if you were interested in joining our night-time games.” She takes a sip of her tea, relishing the delicate herbal flavor. “Is there anything in particular you’d like to know? I can tell you that there are usually about eight of us that gather in Forest Park, and we try to meet at least twice a week. We started out only with hunting-chasing games, but have recently included some sparring as well.”

Yuriko leans forward in her chair, lowering her voice slightly. “Personally, I’ve found it’s not only a great opportunity to run “wild” so to speak, but also to be around others who are two-natured.” She tilts her head, regarding Lau Hu carefully. “I’m not sure about tigers, but foxes don’t usually form packs. They can be fairly solitary.”

Lau Hu sips his tea and offers to share his bao with Yuriko. “I, too, can be fairly solitary. In China, being two-natured, as you put it, was considered to be a curse. I spent much time in the monastery alone in meditation or in practice, containing myself. It is difficult to run wild when you will scare people by doing so. However, I have found my other form to be useful at times and am trying to be less solitary.”

Yuriko thanks him and takes one of the offered bao. “I used to be mostly on my own, but I’ve managed to form my own little pack here in Portland with my friends Dillon and Nick. It’s grown slightly as we’ve met new people, but not as many people are aware of my other form.” She lifts one slender shoulder in a shrug. “As far as being a curse? My father would probably say it was so. He wasn’t happy to find out that I took after Grandmother.” She absentmindedly plays with the edge of her teacup, her eyes a bit distant. “I was sent away to Japan for a time to learn about my nature and how to control it. There are still those in my own family who don’t know my secret.”

Yuriko looks back at Lau Hu, her mood noticeably shifting. “But I don’t believe it’s a curse. I love being who I am. I’m able to help my friends in ways that only I can. It makes us a stronger family.” She smiles at him, “Perhaps it’s like that for you and your friend?”

“My father still thinks of it as a curse. My uncles, though, are more practical-minded. In fact, my uncle Xiao thinks it is a gift from the Buddha. I try to help Angelica however I can, whether in my other form or in this one. We have a strong bond as friends. She is the only friend I have in this country since I moved here from China. We have seen much together. We trust each other and that is something that is difficult for both of us to do.”

“Well, I’m thankful that you decided to trust me enough to agree to having tea together. Growing up here in Portland, I never saw another kitsune outside of visiting my family in Japan. Before we met you and Angelica, I had never seen a were-tiger either. I thought, perhaps, that you also were isolated from others of your kind. That you might appreciate the chance to be with others who understand what it’s like to run on four feet as well as two.”

Yuriko then goes into a little more detail about how the Forest Park group came about and the individuals who usually show up. She also compares schedules to his and try to determine the next time he could meet with the group. He could probably meet with the group on Saturday night (November 17). He has to work in his father’s store on Friday and he is helping Angelica watch the grave site otherwise. Hopefully the Warden will have her spell ready by then and he will be free.

Yuriko chats with Lau Hu for a little while longer, ordering some brightly colored macaroons for them to share as they finish their tea. She shifts the conversation away from the supernatural to other topics they might have in common such as commiserating about working in a family business.

At the conversation draws to an end, Yuriko stands up and thanks Lau Hu again for meeting with her. “Anytime you’d like to do this again, just give me a call!”

Yuriko leaves and heads back to her apartment, contacting everyone for a Saturday night run in the park.

November 15, 2013 (Thursday)

Dillon

Dillon arrives at the downtown garage. It is dark and shadowy and smells of old exhaust fumes and motor oil. He makes his way to slot 287. It is a compact slot beside one of the wide columns that support the building. There are scratch marks on the column where vehicles have obviously come too close to it while pulling in and out of the slot. There is an overhead light nearby that flickers, obviously in need of repair.

The slot is on the second level. Dillon notices no cameras whatsoever in the area. The support columns could provide hiding places and cover for the meeting. There is one that is right beside the parking space. There is also one across the way serving the same function. There is also a short wall where the parking slots park against that someone could theoretically hide behind. Based on the amount of traffic he’s observed so far, it seems that this garage level doesn’t get a lot of passers-by or observation.

parking_lot.png

November 15, 2012 (Thursday)

Nick’s Apartment

Tom Casing, Sabrina, Nick, Yuriko, and Dillon have a planning meeting about their confrontation of Officer Hines. Dillon will send the following the text to him once they know what the plan is:

TEXT: “0100, 16th, the garage, V”

Dillon tells Nick and Yuriko about his meeting with Audrey Langley earlier that day. Dillon says that it wasn’t anything they hadn’t already figured out, other than her similar looks to the last victim of the original killer. She did confirm for him that Hubbard is helping Abel and didn’t kidnap him just to hide him from Trevidian.

Yuriko and Nick compare notes on the drop in temperature with Hubbard’s spell casting and come to the conclusion that it has to do with the source of his powers.

Dillon wants to know Tom’s take on this, which is this: Right now, his priority is catching this killer. If Hines has information that will help do that, then he wants to pursue it. He doesn’t much like the idea of civilians being involved in a police matter, though. However, as this seems to be falling into areas of that “weird” stuff that Dillon seems to know more about, he’s willing to give Dillon some discretion as far as who is there. If Tom had his druthers it would be he, Sabrina, and Dillon confronting the dirty cop, making it clear that he’s got no where to run. They already know all about his complicity. He might as well talk. Tom’s gut says that if he’s been dirty about this, he’s probably been dirty about other stuff too. His sense of guilt may be too buried.

Dillon already knows that Sabrina wants to be there and confront Hines—she’s pretty angry that his role in this got a good cop, Tom, shot.

There is a discussion as far as what to do with HInes after the interrogation. Tom is of the opinion that there isn’t much to do with him after. They can’t take him into custody. Sabrina would like to just kick his ass—but she does suggest bluffing that they have plenty of information on him that they can take to IA (Internal Affairs). Tom is willing to go with that.

The police do have Abel’s car in impound and have had a forensics sweep of it. They found hair fibers that matched Audrey Hope Langley and two other samples that do not match anyone in their database.

Mention was made of a book Abel was seen reading. Books were found in the makeshift hideout, mostly New Age occult manuals.

The final plan that is worked out is that Tom will take the lead on the confrontation, with Sabrina and Dillon there as back up. Nick will be there, but waiting in the car. Tom will confront Hines with the rendezvous point, the current information, and will demand information on Hubbard in exchange for not going to IA with supposed other information. They will get together and be at the rendezvous about 12:30 am. Having agreed to the plan, Tom leaves and Dillon sends the text.

Yuriko, unbeknownst to Tom, will be there in fox-form, dropped off earlier by Sabrina. Yuriko gets a small backpack ready with a change of clothes and will “change” at Nick’s when she gets ready to be picked up.

November 16, 2015 (1:00 am)

A downtown parking garage, slot 287

Yuriko waits in the shadows, looking for the entrance of their prey. Sabrina, Tom, and Dillon also wait in the shadows for the arrival of Officer Hines. Nick waits in the car.

A car pulls into the parking garage and parks. A man in uniform exits the car and approaches slot 287, walking straight toward Tom. Tom emerges from the shadows.

“Hello, Jerry.”

“Hello, Tom.” Hines is wary. “What’s this about?”

“I think you know. I know about V. Amongst other things. Thing is, you’re caught up in a murder investigation. Things have gone south, Jerry. People are getting killed.” As Tom is speaking, Dillon starts to move in the shadows, making his way behind Officer Hines.

Sabrina emerges from her hiding place. “You nearly got Tom killed, you asshole!”

Hines holds up his hands, placating. “That wasn’t supposed to happen. I’m awfully sorry about that.”

“Prick!” Sabrina growls and gets in Hines’ face. Dillon, from his position behind the informant, can see Sabrina’s pupils start to fade to black in that peculiar way their kind do when they feed or use their powers. Dillon rushes forward, holding Sabrina close, trying to calm her down and taking her away from Hines.

“What the hell is going on here?” Hines demands.

“Never mind that,” Tom says coolly. “I want these killings to stop. You have information that can help. You’ve been talking to Hubbard. Don’t deny it. I want him. He’s fucked up my investigation. Tell me how I can find him.”

“Look, I don’t know where you get your information…”

Tom grabs Hines’ lapels and gets in his face. “I’ve got good information. I’m here, aren’t I? Don’t make me go to IA with what I know.”

Hines looks furtive. Meanwhile, Sabrina starts to calm down in Dillon’s arms.

“Alright, look,” Hines says, " I don’t like working for these assholes anyway. Yeah, I’ve been talking to Hubbard. He calls me up after V goes dry, tells me to keep an eye on you. That’s it."

“Where can I find him?” Tom demands.

“He’s got a home, over on Skyline. Nice place. I’ll give you the address. For what its worth, I didn’t know they were going to shoot you.”

Sabrina tenses in Dillon’s grip, but Tom just says “You need to choose better friends. And you need to get clean. If I hear anymore of your shenanigans, I will call IA. Let’s get out of here.”

“Do you have Hubbard’s cell phone number?” Dillon asks Hines.

Hines looks at Dillon with a “Who the hell are you?” look but Tom says “Go ahead.” Hines gives them a cell phone number.

“Does you call him or does he call you?” Dillon presses.

“He calls me.”

“At regular intervals?”

“About once a week. Twice if he gets antsy.”

Dillon asks Sabrina about taking his cell phone to do traces but Sabrina says that the tech guys in the department will only do it for a formal investigation.

Tom says “Let’s go,” and everyone loads up in the car to leave…except for Yuriko. Yuriko hides and watches and listens as Hines pulls out a cell phone and makes a call.

“Yeah, this is Hines. There’s trouble coming your way…I had to give them your address…No choice…I’m telling you, no choice…This guy’s a real bulldog of a cop…Nope, I’m out.” He hangs up, muttering “Well fuck you, anyway.”

Hines gets in his car and drives away.

When Yuriko gets picked up by the others, she quickly transforms into her human form and tells them about the call Hines made.

Dillon calls Gordon, the Winter Envoy’s aide. “Gordie! I’ve got some information for you.” He gives the aide Hubbard’s address and cell phone number that they got from Hines. He also tells Gordon that the informant let Hubbard know that the police are on his trail. He suggest that they put a tail on Officer Jerry Hines as he might be a target for Hubbard.

Gordon assures him that he will pass this in formation on to the Winter Envoy and that they will set things in motion.

“Great,” Dillon says. “Let me know when we can pick up Abel. And you guys should hurry. I don’t know if I can find him again.”

“We will keep you informed,” Gordon says.

View
Side Job: The Insider (Part Three)
Karkana Chronices Thirteen

April 22, 2013 (Seattle)

Brianna and Joey arrive in Seattle just before sundown. They set themselves up in a cheap motel and then Brianna calls Ezekiel George.

“Hi Brianna.”

“I’m back in town.”

“Ah. Be careful out there. I hear that assassins even made it out to Portland.”

“Yeah.”

“Obviously they were unsuccessful.”

“You could say that,” Brianna says, wryly.

“Happy to hear it,” and Ezekiel sounds sincerely happy.

“Suffice to say, I don’t know if the Margrave is going to try that tack again.”

“Oh?”

“I guess we’ll see.”

“So what can I do for you?” Ezekiel asks.

“Nothing much, it’s whether or not you need me to do anything for you here. Let me know if there is anything I can do to help. Please.”

“I’ll keep that in mind,” Ezekiel assures her.

“Goodnight,” Brianna says and hangs up.

She and Joey push their furniture up in front of the hotel room door and go to bed.

April 23, 2013 (Tuesday)

On the way to the courthouse to view the closing arguments for Quincy’s trial, Brianna notices a pair of guys in a familiar sports car watching them in the parking lot.

When they get inside, Brianna spots Loomis and goes up and greets him.

“’Morning,” he says. Brianna leans in close and whispers, “Red sports car in the parking lot has the two assholes who shot me last time. Any chance that when this is over we can go out a different door?”

“Stick with me,” Loomis says.

Brianna and Joey then greet Quincy and his lawyer. Apparently the trial has been going well. The lawyer expects things to go in their favor. Brianna lets Quincy know that the investigation against her has been retracted. Finally, they are all called into the courtroom.

Loomis sits with Brianna and Joey while Quincy and his lawyer take their places. The District Attorney makes his final arguments and they are good. But Quincy’s lawyer is great, summing up all the reasonable doubts in the case and the goodwill that Quincy has summoned in the local authorities.

While the jury deliberates, Joey, Brianna, Loomis, Quincy, and his lawyer stay in a conference room and have food delivered. They all make small talk. After a while, they get the news that the jury has been sequestered and that they can go home.

Loomis leads Brianna and Joey down a back hallway to another exit guarded by two sheriff’s deputies. He escorts them through. Loomis tells them to be careful. “I always try,” Brianna says and then she and Joey take back ways to their car. They leave the courthouse, careful to avoid the front of the building. They then head back to their hotel.

Brianna and Joey stay in for the rest of the night, stack up their furniture in front of their door, and go to bed.

April 24, 2013 (Wednesday)

This morning, Joey parks their car in a different lot and the two of them join the crowd of people leading inside. Brianna notices the assholes in the red sports car again. They head inside and find their group. Apparently the jury is still deliberating.

Loomis says that he also noticed their “friends” in the parking lot. Unfortunately, there’s not much he can do. Brianna reassures him that she knows. But she’s “not used to being stalked this much. It’s off-putting.” Loomis nods. “Folks like us, it’s usually the other way around.” Brianna looks closely at Loomis for a moment, then nods in return. “I think that’s the truest way to put that.”

They wait in the conference room again as the jury deliberates. During one of the lulls when the lawyer is out of earshot, Brianna lets the others know about the assholes waiting outside.

That afternoon, they are called back into the courtroom: the jury has finally reached a verdict.

The judge asks for the verdict and the jury foreman announces that the defendant is Not Guilty of all charges.

Among all the hubbub following the announcement of the verdict, Brianna approaches Quincy and hugs him. She asks him about his plans.

“I’m leaving Seattle tomorrow. I’m already packed.”

“Did you want to join us for drinks?” she asks.

“I do.”

Loomis knows of a place. A time is set for dinner and drinks.

Once again, Loomis escorts them out of the backdoor of the courthouse. Brianna and Joey take a roundabout way to the car and got back to the hotel. As they head to the hotel, they notice that they are being followed by a red sports car. Brianna manages to shake them, but she’s not sure for how long. She pulls into a crowded parking lot and waits for 45 minutes before emerging again out of a different exit. Then they head to the hotel again.

April 24, 2013 (Loomis’ night spot)

Brianna and Joey pull into the parking lot and pick a spot not visible from the street. They then head inside and get drinks after spotting Loomis and Quincy. Joey and Loomis order dinner. Brianna and Quincy stick to drinks.

“The red sports car followed us a bit from the courthouse, but I managed to shake it—barely,” Brianna announces.

“If they’re Anacondas, I can probably bust them for something,” Loomis offers.

“I don’t know how much longer I’ll be staying here. More concerned with their friends that come out after night fall.”

“Let’s stop talking about those assholes. I thought we were celebrating this asshole,” Quincy says, pointing at himself.

Brianna laughs and toasts Quincy, her favorite asshole. She then comes up with entertaining stories to tell at the table. She monitors her drinking and she notices that Loomis is doing the same.

After a bit, she turns to Loomis and says, “Thank you very much.”

“No thanks needed,” he says.

“Not everybody would have done as much,” she says.

“To Loomis!” Quincy says, raising his glass, of which he has obviously had several.

“To Loomis!” Brianna raises her glass, looking directly at Loomis.

“You’re welcome,” Loomis says, looking sheepish.

Brianna turns to Quincy. “When you leave tomorrow, and get back home, keep me posted on how things go.”

Quincy nods.

“I’m going to miss you when you go, but bad things happen when we’re together. You pull me into your crap and I pull you into mine,” Brianna says.

“Either way, it’s crap,” Quincy agrees, drunkenly.

“Family curse, I guess.”

Brianna turns to Loomis. “Talked to Ezekiel. Told him I was in town. Reaffirmed my availability if he needed help with anything. So I guess there’s a possibility of me coming back this way.”

“That’s good. Though, you could just come for a visit. It doesn’t always have to be ensuing violence,” Loomis says.

“I don’t like trailing violence wherever I go. But I don’t think its safe to be in Seattle, either. Day or night, right now I’m beginning to think violence follows me where I go, no matter what I do.” Brianna laughs bitterly and pushes her drink away.

After a while, they get a taxi to take Quincy home and Brianna pays for Loomis’ dinner and drinks. The three of them, Joey, Brianna, and Loomis, hover outside the restaurant for a bit.

“It would be nice to come up and visit. Seattle seems like it’s probably a nice city,” Brianna says.

“It is,” Loomis says. “I could show you around.”

“I’m trouble,” Brianna says.

“Trouble is my job,” Loomis says.

“I don’t know. I imagine the trouble I get into is not part of your job.”

Loomis shrugs. “Try me.”

“The Margrave sent two assassins after me the other night. Only one went home.”

“The Margrave sent two assassins after your cousin the other night. None of them went home.”

Brianna sighs. “I try very hard not to hurt people. Even with my nature being what it is. But I make exceptions when people come after my friends and family. I have a bad past, a job I still think I’m not going to tell you about, and I’m not always a nice person. But it’s rare to meet people outside of family that I feel I can trust. To see my real face.”

“I know how that feels,” Loomis says. “I’m not proud of my past either. I am proud of my job. I’m also not always a nice person. To protect and serve in this city, I’ve had to do some not very nice things. I tell myself it’s only to the monsters. I don’t think you’re one of them.”

“Some days I’m not sure,” Brianna says.

“And that’s the difference,” Loomis says.

“What do you mean?”

“You wonder. You obviously agonize. They don’t.” Loomis pauses. “Look, I’ve upset you. We were having fun. I’m sorry.”

“No, don’t be sorry. These conversations have been on my mind more lately than not. This has been a hard couple of months on a several different fronts. It is somewhat comforting to meet someone that at least understands. It’s difficult interacting with others when you’re a predator.”

“I’m always available if you want to talk,” Loomis says.

“I know it doesn’t seem like it at this point in the evening, but I had a good time. And I’m glad you came out with us.”

“Me too.”

“You’re a very interesting person, Shawn Loomis. I would like to stay in touch.”

“I’d like that, too.”

“Although, it may be easier to do so if we pick a different state,” Brianna laughs. “Even Portland’s problematic at the moment.”

“Oh?”

“Told you. I’m trouble. My intent is to stick it out. I’ve found a good place. I’d like to keep territory for a while instead of being chased away.”

“Anything I can do to help, let me know,” Loomis says.

“That’s very kind.”

“That offer doesn’t go to just anybody,” Loomis says, seriously.

“Then I truly do appreciate it. Well, I have a bunch of trouble in Portland. I was going to say at least I don’t have people trying to shoot me, but I guess that’s not true either. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see if a good time pops up. It would be nice to meet again.” Brianna walks up and touches Loomis’ cheek. “Thank you,” she says.

Loomis reaches up and touches her hand. “You’re welcome.”

Brianna smiles and backs up. “Call when there might be a good time to meet.”

“I will.”

She and Joey head back to her car and drive back to the hotel.

Joey says, “That dude is intense.”

“He is, isn’t he. I guess we’ll see if he calls.”

They head back to the hotel, stack the furniture in front of the door again, and head to bed.

April 24, 2013 (Thursday)

Brianna texts Quincy to let her know when he gets home safely. He texts back: YES MOM. She returns his text: ASSHOLE.

She and Joey pack up their gear and return to Portland. Before they go, she texts Loomis that they are checking out today. He wishes them a safe journey.

When they get back home to their apartment, Brianna finds herself staring at the rose in its vase sitting on the counter.

She calls Borland. She asks if they can meet for dinner tonight or lunch tomorrow. He says dinner tonight would be great. He asks if her business was successful. “Good! We can celebrate,” he says. Borland names a restaurant where the two can meet.

After getting off the phone, Brianna says, “We’ll see how he takes it.”

Joey says, “What?”

“I don’t think he and I have any kind of romantic future.”

“I don’t think you gave him a chance. You never intended to,” Joey says.

“There’s some truth to that. This is our life right now. What I told Loomis was true. I’m not a nice person. I’m a predator.”

“Yeah, you are. But not ‘just’. And you might as well have some fun while you’re at it instead of frowning all the time.”

“Setting aside the propensity for people in my close circle to be attacked by all sorts of creatures—human and non-human—I find it hard to be friends (or anything else) with anyone I have to hide my nature from.”

“Do what you want, that’s just my nickel’s worth. Maybe it is a bad idea. I’ve never seen you so miserable.”

“Every time I see him, I just think of how much I have to hide,” Brianna sighs.

Joey smirks. “But Loomis already knows.”

Brianna flushes.

“Well, I’m not sure that’s going anywhere either.” She looks awkward. “Not being able to tell someone what you do for a living is also problematic. Although not being terrified by my eating habits is somewhat refreshing.”

Joey shakes his head. “Do what you want.”

“Thanks for having my back, Joey.”

“Always.”

Brianna gets ready for dinner and then goes out to meet Borland. The restaurant is nice and Borland has a table waiting for them. The two chat for a while and Brianna even gets to feeling comfortable enough to talk a little bit about Seattle and why she was there.

“I’ve had some time to think it over the last couple of days. I’m enjoying our time together,” she tells Borland.

“As am I.”

“I jut don’t know if we have the same end goals in mind. I’d like us to be friends.”

“Friends. I see.” Borland seems disappointed behind his smile.

“You seem like a decent person. I didn’t want to wait until later to have this conversation. Nor is it a conversation for the phone.”

“I appreciate that.”

Borland seems to be holding in a mixture of disappointment, bewilderment, and even a little anger. “I’ll be honest,” he says. “I’m not used to being in this position.”

“You’re a charming, good-looking man; I imagine not.”

“So what do we do now?”

“I’d like to sit and enjoy this meal with a person who I hope will become a good friend. If you just think it won’t work to be friends, I still would like to finish this meal and say good bye and be pleasant when our professional paths intersect.”

“I’ll have dinner with a friend.”

“Lovely.”

The two finish the rest of the night having a good conversation. After dinner, they head out. As Brianna makes her way to her car, she notices Borland having a conversation on his cell phone in his car. He seems angry and defensive. She stealthily makes her way to his car and listens in:

“There may still be opportunities. Look, dammit, you said yourself she’d be a tough nut to crack. No, Gould, I’m not done. Not by a long shot.” He hangs up.

Brianna forcibly opens Borland’s car door. “You little bastard,” she snarls, “I actually agonized over our conversation tonight. If you’re working for Gould, you have nothing to say to me.”

Borland rears back and shoves a Tibetan prayer wheel in Brianna’s face. She recoils, hissing, and backs up. He shuts the car door, starts the car, and leaves. Brianna stares after him and then gets in her car, stewing in her anger.

When Brianna gets home, she slams the door.

“That obviously went well,” Joey observes.

“The fucker was working for Gould.” She picks up the vase with the rose and throws it against the wall, shattering it. Then she explains the evening to Joey.

“Joey, I need to feed, but I need you to watch my back. I’m in a really foul mood.”

“Alright.”

They head out to the diviest of dive bars in Portland. Brianna gets wolf whistles when she comes in. Soon, she gets in a fight and gets thrown out. She and Joey head back home.

April 26, 2013 (Friday)

That night at the fights, Brianna notices that Borland and Cortez are not there. She schmoozes with the other managers and talks to Mel. Nobody crosses her and Joey the whole evening.

April 27, 2013 (Saturday)

At Sibley’s Gym, Brianna runs into Borland’s promoter. “Is Cortez on the docket for tomorrow?” she asks.

“Haven’t you heard. Borland and Cortez bugged out,” he says.

“Really? Seemed like they were doing fairly well.”

“Yep.”

“Did they leave town?”

“I don’t know. I don’t keep tabs.”

Brianna and Joey talk later about the new development. “Maybe that’s the end of that.”

“You going to talk to Gould?” Joey asks.

“Let’s go see if he’s at his club.”

The two head over to The Playground. The banner out front now reads “Now Open”. They see Gould’s Lexus in the staff parking lot. They go in through the front door and pay the cover charge. They spot Gould almost immediately, glad-handing with patrons, Silas Sharpe ever vigilant and close-by.

Brianna finds a piece of wall, leans up against it, and stares a hole into Gould. He and Silas approach soon thereafter.

“Wow, Gould. Borland. That was a new low, even for you,” she says.

“An expensive investment,” Gould says.

“I hear he’s left town. Perhaps it was something I said.”

“He was done anyway.”

“Yes. He was.”

“Is that all you came by to say?”

“Next time you think to send some gigolo after me, don’t bother. Save your money.”

She and Joey turn and leave the club.

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