The Dresden Files: Portland

Angie (Part One)

Karkana Chronicles Twenty-Two

October 14, 2013 (Monday)

About two weeks have passed since the events with the Fomor and things are seemingly back to normal for Brianna (at least as normal as they get). With some of her new funds, Brianna buys another used car so she and Joey can each have a vehicle. She shares cautionary information about the Formor presence in Portland with Sydney and Nerise. With Nerise, Brianna also describes the note that she found in the warehouse as it concerns the White Court.

The only thing out of the usual is that Joey seems to spending time with one particular woman, rather than his usual “love them and leave them” approach. Brianna had previously noticed the woman, Angie, hanging around the fighters as a groupie. An attractive blonde, Angie appears to be a little bit older than Joey, but not significantly so. Brianna also gets a very possessive vibe off Angie, which makes her take some notice. Brianna has never been good about sharing. Joey is spending a lot of time at Angie’s place, but as he never made a habit of bringing his “dates” home, that fact doesn’t necessarily surprise Brianna.

Tonight is a fight night at the pits. Brianna can tell that Joey’s performance isn’t his best: he seems tired. He loses his fight, which pisses him off. Brianna isn’t particularly pleased either. They head to a back corner so he can collect himself.

“You seem like you’re a bit off today. You look tired.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Joey says a bit sullenly.

Brianna just looks at him. “I do know what I’m talking about, Joey. Do you feel fine? Or are you just bullshitting me?”

“I’m fine,” he repeats, but Brianna gets the impression that he’s not “fine” … and that Joey knows it.

“I don’t think you’re fooling anyone.”

“Oh. So you know best, huh?”

“We’re been working together for quite some time and I can tell when you’re shitting me.” Brianna’s voice is blunt. “Are you getting sick? Did you just stay up too late?”

“Not any later than usual.”

“How long have you been feeling off?”

“I’m fine.” Joey won’t give her anything else.

The crowd is starting to disperse. Angie comes bouncing up and puts her arm around Joey. He looks at Brianna, “Angie and I are going to go get some waffles. Want to come?”

Angie speaks up, “I’m sure that she has something to take care of.”

“Actually, no I don’t,” Brianna smiles. “I’d love to.”

As Joey came in Angie’s car, he gives Brianna directions to the restaurant. Once everyone arrives, the group sits down at a table. Joey is still brooding from his loss from the fight and Angie puts her arm around him in a comforting manner.

Brianna starts up a conversation with Angie. Has she lived in Portland long? About a year. Before that, Angie lived in San Francisco.

“How did you get interested in watching the fights?”

“An ex-boyfriend got me into it.”

“Was he a fighter?”

“No.” Angie corrects herself, “Well, not like Joey.”

Brianna raises an eyebrow. “So, he was a fighter, but just not a professional?”

“He liked to get in fights.”

“Ah. Recreational.”

“Sometimes with me,” Angie adds.

“I guess it’s good that he’s out of the picture then,” Brianna says.

“Yeah. He’s definitely an ex.”

Joey mutters darkly, “If he shows up around here, I’ll put two exes over his eyes.”

Brianna continues asking Angie questions to get to know her better. She’s a waitress at a McMenamin’s downtown.

“Seems like a thankless job,” Brianna comments.

“Oh, it has its ups and downs.”

The two women chat some more. Angie lives in Sellwood. She mentions sisters at one point, but Brianna gets the impression that they’re dead. Although she’s happy to talk about her job or her relationship with Joey, Angie doesn’t go into a lot of detail about her past. Strangely enough, the weather brought her originally to Portland. It suits her. During the entire conversation, Brianna reads Angie’s body language as being very possessive of Joey. She physically holds onto him and is always very close.

When the meal is over, everyone rises to leave. Brianna sticks out her hand, smiles, and says, “It’s was nice getting to chat with you.”

“Likewise,” Angie responds.

“I like to know who my man’s hanging around.”

Brianna chooses her words intentionally and notices Angie twitch a little.

Your man?” She still doesn’t reach for Brianna’s outstretched hand.

“Yeah.” Brianna slowly lowers her hand. She’s still smiling, but it’s grown a bit more toothy.

“Joey’s well taken care of.”

“That’s good to know. I look out for his interests. We’ve been together for quite some time.” Brianna can tell that although she’s trying to hold it back, Angie is quite angry. Joey has picked up on the tension between the two women and he puts a protective arm around Angie.

“Come on Angie,” Joey says, “Let’s go. She’s been in a mood all night.”

Brianna gives Joey an unfriendly look, but just says, “Watch out for yourself. I’ll see you at Sibley’s in the morning.” Joey and Angie leave the restaurant. Brianna follows behind at a short distance to get a good look at Angie’s vehicle, a late 90s Ford Mustang, then she heads home.

October 15, 2013 (Tuesday)

Brianna arrives at Sibley’s a little bit earlier than normal so she can hit a bag for a while. It feels good to punch the shit of something. When Joey shows up, she eyes him and asks “You ready?”

“Yep.”

Brianna runs Joey hard through his training routine. As she observes him, it is very apparent to her that his stamina is down. She turns to him. “Your stamina is shit today. If you try to open your damn mouth and tell me that you’re feeling fine, we’re doing this again.”

“Then are we done?” Joey’s voice is flat.

“Go hit the showers.” He does. Brianna decides to take a quick shower as well to cool herself off. By the time she’s finished, Joey’s left the gym. She swings back by the apartment to see if Joey’s there. He isn’t. Most of his stuff is still there. Since he’s been staying at Angie’s there has been a slow disappearance of some items: toothbrush, toiletries, changes of clothes, etc.

She searches Joey’s room for any information about Angie or where she lives and comes across a McMenamin’s matchbook with a phone number written on the inside. Brianna leaves the matchbook where she finds it, but jots down the number. She calls Roy Dale to see if he can find an address connected to this phone number. She also offers to double his payment if he can get her the information today.

Brianna wanders back into the apartment’s small living room and calls Joey’s cell phone. He picks up.

“Hey,” Brianna says, in way of greeting.

“Hey.”

“This morning didn’t go as planned.”

“I guess that depends on what the plan was,” Joey comments.

“Not to be so much of a bitch.”

“Then, this morning didn’t go as planned.”

“I’d like a chance to talk.”

“Okay.”

“Are you available now?”

“Yeah.”

Brianna suggests Barry’s Drafthouse and Joey agrees to meet her there. By the time that he arrives, Brianna already has his usual drink waiting for him. They each drink in silence for a moment or two.

“I’m not sure what to think about this Angie situation,” Brianna says, finally.

“Situation?”

“I don’t know how much I’m reacting in horribly suspicious ways.”

“What are you talking about?” Joey looks confused.

“I’m worried that you seem off. I know that I don’t always have a clear view when it comes to people I protect. I can get reactionary. But there has also been an immense amount of shit that has come our way over the past year, and it keeps getting worse.”

“So, let me get this straight. What you’re trying to say, in some convoluted way, is that I’m off my game because Angie is some sort of monster.” His voice is edged with anger.

“Yeah, I guess that’s what I’m saying.”

Joey rolls his eyes. “Well, I guess we’re done here.” He stands up. “Angie’s not a monster.”

“Okay,” Brianna says, her voice earnest. “If you’re off your game and not doing well because you’re staying up all night and having crazy monkey sex that’s fine, but say something to me. I see things. I bring them up. And you don’t want to talk about it.”

“Because some things are … mine,” Joey replies, running his hands through his hair.

“They are.” Brianna’s voice is softer. “Will you please sit back down?” Joey sits. She half-smiles at him. “It won’t be easy for you. Now you have two possessive women in your life.”

“I have a feeling that Angie’s going to be part of my life for a long time, so you’re going to have to get used to it.”

“So, you’re serious about her then?”

“Yeah.”

“I can throw no stones on the relationship front. It’s been an interesting year for me, too.” The two sit in silence for a while, sipping on their drinks. “I guess I’ve not been around much lately either.”

“Well, we’ve both got shit to do,” Joey remarks.

“Well, you’ve been also involved in all of the big supernatural crap that’s been going on this past year. Are you wanting to back out?

“Not necessarily.”

“The stuff that hits us, tends to bleed over to those around us,” Brianna warns gently.

“I can protect Angie,” Joey says stubbornly.

“It’s going to take all of us looking out for each other to make things work. Not any one of us could have dealt with this stuff alone. You know the monsters that are out there.”

“So, what are you saying?”

“Does she know? Does she have a clue?”

“It’s not something we talk about.”

“It’s something to think on,” Brianna tells Joey. “It’s not the kind of thing you want catching someone unawares.” She shakes her head slightly, changing topics. “From a sheer practical nature, for us and for our business, whatever you do in your spare time is your own, but when you’re in the ring, you need to be good.”

“I’m doing the best that I can,” Joeys says with gritted teeth.

“You’ve always done the best that you can,” Brianna replies evenly. “What I’m saying is that whatever you’re doing outside the fights, you just need to get your sleep. To take care of yourself.”

“Alright.” Joey still seems a bit sullen and Brianna doesn’t get the impression that he still fully understands what she’s talking about.

“I’m getting the impression that you still think I’m just bullshitting and making this up. Do you realize that you’re not at your full potential? Because maybe that’s why this entire conversation has been going wrong.”

“I’ve just never had you react this way after me losing a fight.”

“It has nothing to do with you losing a fight,” Brianna says with some heat. “You’ve lost fights before. Sometimes you get out there and crap happens. Sometimes you have a better opponent. That is not the issue, so I’m going repeat this again very slowly. I was upset because you came into that fight drained. You came in not being at full speed. And I could tell it was the same case this morning. I don’t know if it’s just you’re feeling tired, if you’re getting sick, or something else. You. Are. Drained. If you really can’t tell that, with my background and knowing the communities we run in, that’s a red flag. So, I need you to be very clear with your next words, Joey. Are you aware that you’re not operating at 100%?”

“I don’t feel any different.”

“I can tell you, as I’ve been your manager for many years now, that you are not the same. You don’t have the energy that you normally carry with you.”

“I don’t know what to tell you. I feel normal. I’m fighting as hard as I can. Angie is not a monster.”

“Then let’s start with making sure that you’re getting plenty of rest, that you’re getting the diet you need, and we’ll see if that makes any difference.”

“Alright.”

“If not, you need to go get yourself checked out.”

The two finish up their drinks and go their separate ways. Brianna heads to Powell’s to do research on anything else in the supernatural community that can drain a person’s energy or stamina. While Brianna is in the stacks, she gets a phone call. It’s Roy Dale. He gives her an address and name for the phone number: Angelina Petravos. Brianna continues to research for the rest of the day. She finds that some spirits, vampires, demons, or spells can drain a person’s essence. However, based on her research, the chance of this being caused by a spirit is probably a long-shot. The vampire angle, except for maybe Black Court vampires, is also fairly unlikely due to their habits of feeding at a faster and more significant rate that what Brianna is observing. Black Court vampires or demons would be more likely to string their victim along. A sorcerer using a spell of some sort could also cause a slower rate of drain.

Brianna thinks back to her observations of Angie and whether or not she wore any particular jewelry on her person. She suddenly remembers that Angie wore a necklace that bore a strange symbol. Brianna hits the books again to see if she can find a reference to it.

Hecate_s_Wheel_Strophalos.jpg

She finds that the symbol is called Hecate’s Wheel. It represents the concepts of Maiden, Mother, and Crone. The symbol is sometimes used in Wiccan symbology, although it has its roots in the ancient worship of that Goddess.

Since she can’t find anything else about the symbol, Brianna decides to pay Sydney a visit. After a bit of chit-chat, Brianna asks if Sydney has heard anything further about the turtlenecked goons. Sydney relates there have been some disappearances in the supernatural community and people are on their guard. She also tells Brianna about a new group called the Paranet: a network that tries reach out to others when things go bad, a sort of supernatural neighborhood watch.

Brianna thinks it’s a bit strange, remarking that usually those in the supernatural community don’t want lots of other people knowing about them. She asks Sydney if she’s planning to join.

Sydney shakes her head. “No. They probably wouldn’t have me anyway.”

“Oh. Are they snobbish about who joins their little club?” Brianna’s voice is frosty.

“I’m just not much of a joiner. What is the saying? I wouldn’t want to join any outfit that would have me as a member.”

Brianna says she understands, but is happy to call Sydney a friend. She adds that among certain circles that may not be much of an endorsement either. Changing the topic, Brianna asks if Sydney has heard of anything called Hecate’s Wheel.

“It’s a symbol, usually labyrinth-like, representing the three aspects of the goddess. It’s sometimes used in ritualistic magic and comes from the ancient Greek worship of Hecate. It’s also a symbol of change and motion.”

Brianna interrupts. “But are you aware of particular connotations of the symbol? Is it bad mojo?”

“Well, Hecate was kind of bad mojo. Modern Wiccans use it mostly as a feminist symbol, but for someone in the ‘know,’ it could be used in ritualistic magic to borrow power from Hecate.”

“I don’t remember Hecate being a particularly nice goddess.”

“No. She was originally a kind of mother goddess, but eventually became a goddess of sorcery and magic. She was known to be quite vengeful and not always on the side of the light. It’s possible that ancient worshipers of Hecate were also practitioners.”

“Is there a way to tell if someone has magic on them or has been under the influence of magic?”

Sydney nods. “If someone invoked the Sight. Otherwise, there are spells that could reveal such a thing. It would be difficult for a plain mortal to tell, although sometime they have detected something when their spouses or friends act strange or do things out of character.” Brianna looks uncomfortable at the mention of the Sight and leads the conversation back to other more social topics.

By the time Brianna says goodbye to Sydney, it’s about 10:00 at night. She decides to drive by Angie’s address. The nice little shotgun house is in Sellwood and looks like it is well maintained. Both Joey’s and Angie’s cars are parked out front. Brianna doesn’t linger, but drives home once she takes an initial look around.

October 16, 2013 (Wednesday)

At the gym the next day, Joey’s performance is poor and he seems even more drained than the day before. Brianna also notices some white hairs on his head that weren’t there before.

Joey looks fatigued at the end of the workout. “I think I’m coming down with something.”

“You have white hair,” Brianna says slowly.

“What?” Joey voice is disbelieving and a bit hostile.

Brianna drags him into the bathroom and points him in front of the mirror. Joey just stares at his reflection. “Come on,” Brianna tells him, “Get in the car. We’re going to get you checked out.”

“I’m picking up Angie for lunch. We can do it later.”

“This needs to happen today. If you’re feeling sick, you don’t need to be spreading it do you?”

“I’ll do it later.”

Brianna’s voice gains a slight edge, “Joey. As your manager, let’s do this now.”

“I’ve got to pick up Angie,” he repeats.

Brianna exhales. “Alright. I can come with you to lunch and we can go after then.”

“Are you going to try to start a fight with Angie?”

“No.”

“Okay.” Joey seems slightly mollified.

Brianna and Joey leave the gym and drive downtown to McMenamin’s. Joey gets out of the car to greet Angie and the two of them have a brief conversation. She looks back at Brianna’s car and another conversation ensues. Brianna takes out her cell phone and gives Sydney a call.

“Sydney, are you going to be home today?”

“Well, I had a couple of errands that I was going to run, but I can be home.”

“I may need you to use the Sight on Joey and see if something’s lingering there. Would you be willing to do that for me?”

Sydney sounds a bit puzzled, but agrees.

“I’ll text you when we start to head that way.” Brianna thanks her and hangs up.

Joey helps Angie into her car, then comes around to Brianna’s window and knocks. Brianna rolls down the window.

“Angie says that if I need to go to a doctor, then we should go.”

“Okay, good. You getting in? Or is she coming with us?”

“Where are we going?”

“Well, I figured we’d first start with a basic clinic.”

“Okay, we’ll follow you.”

Brianna heads to the closest minor emergency clinic and gets Joey checked in. While he’s being seen by the doctor, Angie and Brianna sit in the waiting area. Angie’s wearing the same necklace as before.

Eventually Joey comes out with a piece of paper. A band-aid is on his arm from where they obviously took blood. Angie immediately is at Joey’s side, “Are you okay? What did they tell you?”

“Well, the doctor says my white blood cell is up. It could be that I’m fighting off a virus or something. That’s why I’m tired.”

“Do you think that has anything to do with the discoloration of your hair?” Brianna asks pointedly. Angie gives her a slit-eyed sideways glance.

“The doctor didn’t really have much to say about that. That maybe it was caused by me fighting off something, or maybe I just didn’t notice them before.”

“I’d notice,” Brianna remarks.

Angie puts her arm on Joey, “Let’s get you home and in bed.”

Brianna interrupts, “Well, I think we’ll try some holistic stuff first.” Both Joey and Angie look puzzled. Brianna clarifies, “More of the kind in Doctor Mundy’s purview.”

Angie continues to look puzzled, but Joey narrows his eyes. “We talked about this.” His voice is low and angry.

“I know.”

Angie looks between the two of them. “What’s going on?”

“We’re going home, that’s what’s going on,” Joey tells her and the two turn to leave.

Brianna reaches out and puts a hand lightly on his shoulder. “Joey, please. With our history. Please.”

Angie speaks up. “Joey, I think I want to go home now.”

“We’re going,” he replies and they head outside.

Brianna follows them, her anger and frustration at the situation finally getting the better of her. “So, Angie?” she calls out, her voice hard. “So do you actually worship Hecate? Or do you just wear her symbol?”

They both turn. Angie touches the necklace around her neck. “It’s for luck.”

Brianna can tell she’s lying. She’s quickly moves forward, pushing her face close to Angie’s. “Sometimes I can tell when people are lying to me. Not always. But that was a lie.” Brianna’s voice is sharply edged, “So, I will ask you again. Worshiping her much?”

Angie meets Brianna’s gaze, but repeats “Joey, I want to go home.”

Brianna continues to press. “Goddess of magic users, wasn’t she?”

Joey physically pushes himself between the two women,. “We’re leaving. And you promised.” He turns and bustles Angie away from the clinic.

“She didn’t answer the question, Joey. Not really.” Brianna keeps her distance, but follows them to the car. “Magic users in Portland aren’t uncommon.” Joey ignores her and they leave.

Her body shaking with repressed anger, Brianna utters some choice words, then gets back in her own car. She texts Sydney that she’s coming over now. Sydney texts back asking if Joey’s with her. Brianna texts no, that he won’t come. She calls Sydney as she drives, briefly explaining the situation: the weird behavior, the physical symptoms. Brianna periodically slams her hand against the steering wheel for emphasis. “And this bitch won’t keep her hands off him,” she seethes.

Not long after, Brianna arrives at Sydney’s home. Once inside, she tells her friend “Well, that didn’t go well. I don’t know if it’s really this lady doing something to him or if it’s someone else, but he won’t pay attention to it. He’s looking worse every day. Today he had white hair. That doesn’t strike me as something natural.” Brianna asks Sydney if there’s a way to block any spells that Angie may be casting on Joey. “I can physically remove him from the situation, but that’s going to be an ugly, ugly scene. I really don’t want to do that if I can help it”

Sydney replies that she needs to physically be there to counter a spell. Without knowing what Angie’s specifically doing, however, it would be very difficult to do so "If she’s got some sort of mental hold on Joey, it could be very dangerous to him psychically.

“To what?”

“To rip her away.” Sydney pauses, “That’s why mental magic is always forbidden.”

Brianna’s voice is hard. “Well, I’m not going to stand by while she eats my friend or whatever the fuck she’s doing. to him.”

“I just don’t want Joey hurt. We don’t know the source of the magic, or if it even is magic, so I can’t shut it down.

Brianna paces, thinking. “Would you be able to tell if her house had magic on it to keep people out?”

“Yes.”

“I know where she lives.” Brianna asks Sydney to come with her to take a look. The young woman agrees and they drive out to Sellwood together. When they arrive, Brianna spots Joey’s car, but not Angie’s. Brianna points out the house to Sydney, making sure to stand behind her when she uses the Sight to look for magical energies. Sydney confirms that there are wards on the doors and windows. “Not a magic user, my big fat vampire ass,” Brianna mutters darkly.

“Can you tell anything about the wards in detail?” she asks Sydney.

“I can’t tell if she’s put a land mine on them or not, but they’re set up to prevent people from going through them.”

Brianna quietly moves around the front of the house, looking in windows, trying to see if she can locate Joey. The house appears very quiet and empty. As Brianna investigates, she notices a small door in the living room that she can’t tell where it leaves. She heads back to Sydney and mentions what she’s seen. “Joey should be here. Angie was very clear that she was taking him back home to lie down since he was so sick. I don’t know what’s going on, but I’m going in. I can drop you off someplace else if you don’t want to be around in case something goes wrong.”

“If you need help, I’ll be here. Joey and you have always been around for me.”

The two decide to approach the house from the back, climbing over the privacy fence that encloses a small back yard. Sydney confirms that the door leading into the back of the house is warded. The young woman pulls a small hand mirror out of her bag and holds it up to reflect the door. “I can try to power through the ward,” Sydney says, “but depending on how strong it is, I might be out for the rest of the night.”

“Will it affect just that ward? Or the entire system?”

“Just this one,” Sydney confirms.

“Let’s do it.”

Brianna feels a change in air pressure and hears an electrical pop and fizz by the door. Sydney sways and Brianna reaches out a hand to steady her. “You okay?”

“I have a headache from hell, but it’s busted.”

“Is she strong?” Brianna says, referring to Angie.

“It wasn’t super strong.”

Brianna heads to the back door, but doesn’t see any alarm system. Using her shirt to hide any fingerprints, Brianna tries the back handle. It’s locked. She uses her supernatural strength to force it open. “Ready?”

“Okay.” Sydney looks inside, trying to see if there are any magical traps inside. She can’t tell however. ’There’s a lot of residual magical energy making it hard to See."

“Is that normal? Does your house have a lot of magical energy because of the kinds of things you do?”

“If I was casting a spell, yes, but normally it fades away afterwards.”

“Maybe there’s some sort of magical effect going on besides the wards?

“Possibly.”

Brianna moves through the house, looking around, but heading for the mysterious door she saw earlier. The house looks lived in and she sees evidence that Joey has been staying here. Brianna also notices a rotten smell wafting through the house. She points it out to Sydney who also detects it.

At the door, she asks Sydney to look at it with her Sight. It is warded as well. The young woman concentrates on the door for a moment, then collapses. Brianna catches her before she falls. Sydney is semi-conscious. “Sydney, are you still here with me?”

“Yeah,” her voice is faint, “I’m still here.”

“I don’t know if you can navigate stairs.”

“I feel very woozy,” she admits.

“I’m going to go take a look,” Brianna tells her, “but if I see things I don’t recognize, I may have to bring you downstairs.”

“Okay.”

“If you hear the front door opening or evidence of that bitch coming home, you yell. I’ll get up here pretty damn fast, alright?”

Sydney agrees and Brianna helps her into a sitting position. There’s a light switch inside the doorway, but it pops and explodes when Brianna flips it. Brianna swears and checks her cell phone. It won’t turn on either. She heads to the kitchen looking for candles or a flashlight. She finds candles and grabs a handful. Lighting one, she stuffs the rest in a pocket.

As she returns to the stairs and starts heading down, the rotten smell hits her in the face. It’s getting worse. Brianna swears again and keeps moving. She can feel a slight thrumming in the air, as if the air is a string that is being plucked again and again. Brianna closely watches where she steps, mindful of magical workings.

At the bottom of the stairs, Brianna sees faint light as a glowing magical sigil comes into view. It looks very similar to Angie’s necklace. Moving further in, she discovers another glowing circle on the floor. This one is made up of complex markings and in the very center of it lies Joey’s still form. Brianna looks closely and determines that Joey’s faintly breathing.

The room’s still very dark, so Brianna quickly searches for and locates a candle sconce to place another lit candle into. A bit more of the room comes into light when she does so. The flickering candle illuminates a chair sitting in a corner. A corpse rests in the chair, clearly the source of the foul odor. Brianna fills the sconce with as many candles as it can hold, lights them, then heads upstairs.

“Sydney.” The young woman is rubbing her head, but looks up at Brianna’s voice. “There’s bad shit down there. Joey’s downstairs with some sort of symbol on him. He’s breathing, but she’s got him in something. And there’s a corpse down there.”

“Oh. Wow.”

“I’m going to bring you downstairs to see what you can do, if anything. If you don’t think you have the juice to do something, I’m moving onto calling the Warden or talking to any friends you might know. I need to get Joey out of whatever he’s in. I don’t want to just go in there and blindly grab him because I don’t know if that’s going to hurt him.” Brianna’s voice is calm, but urgent.

“Okay.”

“Hold onto me.” With Brianna’s assistance, Sydney is able to make it down the stairs to take a look at the scene.

“He’s not warded as far as I can see,” Sydney finally says.

“What’s the symbol about then? Can you tell what’s going on?”

“It looks like she’s siphoning something from Joey from this circle into that sigil.”

Before Brianna can really process what Sydney just told her, she hears a board creak from overhead. “Sydney,” she whispers, “She’s here. How much do you have in you right now?”

“Not a lot,” the young woman whispers back, “but I’ll do my best.”

“Do you have any way to contact anyone?”

“No.”

Brianna quietly pulls Sydney over into the shadows. As she does so, the door opens upstairs and footsteps start approaching. Rather than hide, Brianna stands clearly in view of the bottom of the steps, her arms folded in front of her.

Angie descends into the room, sees Brianna, and says “I underestimated you.”

“Well, Ms. Petravos, I thought you were a bitch the first time I met you. I guess I didn’t underestimate you at all. Let. Him. Go.”

“I’m not finished yet.”

“You’re finished.” Brianna says coldly. “Let. Him. Go. Now.” Her voice gains a sharp edge of steel.

Angie cocks an eyebrow at Brianna. “Or?”

“I will end you.” Brianna hisses in return.

Suddenly, standing in front of her is no longer Angie’s pretty form, but that of a grizzled hag. Talon-like claws sprout from her hands. “Somehow, I think not,” she retorts.

“I guess I see why you kept your true self hidden,” Brianna taunts. “You’re fucking ugly. Harder to catch a man that way, isn’t it dear?”

“Oh, I see. You’re going to hurt me with insults. You’re going to end me that way? Sticks and stones do not break my bones, and words do not hurt me.”

“I guess we’ll just have to try something else.” Brianna runs at Angie in a sudden burst of supernatural speed. She punches the hag, using her vampiric power to evoke rage and feed.

Angie rakes at her with her claws, but misses. “Vampire! I did underestimate you.”

Brianna hisses at Angie and punches at her a second time, but misses.

A mystical force slams into Brianna, hurting her, but the vampire only laughs in reply. “You’re mine.” Brianna punches her again.

Angie misses again with her claws and Brianna misses her return punch.

The hag finally makes contact with Brianna, raking her body and leaving a large gash.

Brianna manages to hit her, feeding deeply and leaving Angie crazed with rage.

Angie successfully claws Brianna again. Brianna can feel a dull thrum through the wounds from some sort of poison.

Brianna misses Angie and the hag misses her.

The vampire punches Angie again, again feeding deeply and Angie goes berserk.

Angie misses Brianna, but Brianna doesn’t miss her. With a final punch, Brianna makes contact and feeds on the hag. Angie crumples to the ground, unconscious.

Brianna stands over the hag’s body, breathing heavily, her eyes metallic silver from drawing heavily on her power.

“Sydney, are you alright?”

Sydney is wide-eyed, but replies “yes.”

“Do you have an idea what this is?” Brianna kicks Angie’s body.

The young woman looks between the body and the symbol on the floor, then nods slowly. “Hecate and hag. Worshipers of Hecate are supernatural creatures.” She looks worried, “They usually come in threes.”

“I think we need may need back-up. Sydney, can you undo what’s been done here? Or do we need that bitch to do it?” Brianna points at Angie. “Is it even safe to move Joey?”

“It’s probably safe to move Joey,” Sydney says, “but we’ll need to break at least one of the circles first. The circle he’s in will probably be easier to break.” She adds, “I can’t reverse what’s already been done, but that will stop any lingering connection between the two of them.”

Brianna is still for a few moments, then asks slowly “So, we don’t need her alive.”

Sydney looks between Angie and Brianna, then answers carefully, “We don’t need her to save Joey.”

There’s another pause, then Brianna nods and moves over the circle containing Joey. She scrapes her foot across the lines on the floor. The thrumming in the air shudders, then stops. Joey suddenly gasps, then resumes breathing normally. Brianna kneels down on the ground besides him, “Joey. Wake up.” She turns her head and asks Sydney, “If she had some sort of mental hold on him, could you tell?”

Sydney’s eyes focus on Joey for a moment. “There is some psychic damage there.”

Brianna is uncomfortably aware that Sydney is using the Sight in her direction. The young woman seems to be avoiding her gaze. “Do you just See the damage? Or are there any lingering effects?”

“I think that she has a spell on him which is causing the psychic damage.”

“Can that spell be broken?”

Sydney sighs, “I can try, but I’m not very good at mental magic.”

“Is there someone better we should take him to?”

“Maybe the Warden. She won’t necessarily be better at mental magic because the Council doesn’t practice it. However, they would have people who can, because the Council tries to help people who are under its effects.”

Brianna takes in the scene, thinking. Joey is still unconscious and doesn’t show any sign of waking. Sydney is able to move, but very slowly. The hag’s form is motionless, but for how long, Brianna can’t be sure. “If I take her necklace for evidence, will she be able to track me down with it?”

“It depends on what it is. It could be borrowed power, it could be inherit.”

“And we just don’t know,” Brianna interrupts, shaking her head. “We’ve got to get out of here. She could have sisters coming.” She pauses for a second, musing out loud “She said something about her sister being dead. I wonder if she was lying about that?” She straightens, “It doesn’t matter. My biggest concern is getting Joey out of here. Let’s go.” She picks up Joey and the two women slowly make their way up the stairs. Sydney confirms that there is no longer a ward on the front door, so they leave that way.

Once at the cars, it’s decided that Brianna will drive them all back to Sydney’s place. They will have to leave Joey’s car here, since Sydney’s not good with vehicles. Brianna asks if she can call the Warden from Sydney’s, or if the young woman would rather her go somewhere else first. Brianna doesn’t want to take Joey to their apartment, because Angie knows where it is. Sydney is quiet for a moment, then softly agrees. They quickly swing by a store to get a new battery for Brianna’s phone so she can call the Warden in route. However, Brianna just gets voice mail. She swears softly, but leaves a message. “Ms. Capstone. We’ve met a couple times before. Once with the lycanthropes and once with the young man who was summoning constructs and killing fae. I’d appreciate it if you could give me a call back.” She leaves her number.

Once at Sydney’s, they get Joey comfortably settled and wait. After about an hour, there is still no call from the Warden and Joey wakes up. “What am I doing here?” he asks, confused.

Brianna exhales in relief, “You lucky son-of-a-bitch.” She explains where they found him and what happened.

Joey listens, but shakes his head. “That’s not Angie. She wouldn’t do that.”

“I’m afraid she would. Sydney can tell she’s got a spell on you. There’s something going on with your mind right now.”

“This jealousy business has really pushed you over the deep end.”

“You’re sick,” Brianna replies, her voice tightening, “and you need to stay here. We’ve got a call out to the Warden.”

“I’m going to go find Angie.”

“You are not moving.”

“Are you going to club me over the head again?”

Brianna’s eyes flash, but she says evenly, “I’ve not touched you. You’re not going anywhere until we get this figured out.”

“I’m going to go find Angie,” Joey repeats stubbornly.

Brianna grabs him and they struggle. Brianna isn’t using her supernatural strength and the two are evenly matched. Joey says, “Dammit, Brianna. I don’t want to hit you,”

“Believe me Joey, I don’t want to hit you either.”

“But I’ve got to go find Angie.”

“You are going to wait here until we can get your brain checked out. There’s already one dead person in her basement, and there’s not going to be two.”

“I’ve got to find Angie and let her know what’s going on.”

They continue to grapple, neither one gaining the advantage. Sydney watches, wide-eyed, but Brianna can tell she’s doing something with her hands. Suddenly, Joey’s eyes roll up and he starts to fall. Brianna catches him and lowers him down to the ground.

“Thank you, Sydney,” she says, then gives an exasperated sigh. “I can’t wait on this Warden. Can you help with this spell?”

Sydney shakes her head, “No. That’s mental magic. I’m not very good at at.” Brianna can tell that the young woman isn’t telling the truth.

Brianna pauses and tilts her head slightly. “You’re not good at mental magic? Or you don’t like to do mental magic?” Sydney looks away from her. Brianna doesn’t press any further. “I’m going to try calling some else I know, okay?”

“Okay. I’m sorry.”

Brianna moves to Sydney and gently puts her hand on her shoulder until the two make eye contact. “It’s okay. I appreciate everything you’ve done for me this evening. I wouldn’t have been able to get Joey back, if it weren’t for you.” Brianna steps back and calls Ezekiel.

There’s a bit of feedback on the phone, but the line is picked up. “Hi, Ezekiel. It’s Brianna.” The former Warden sounds surprised to hear from her, but the two exchange pleasant greetings. Brianna continues, “I have a situation and I’m hoping you’ll be able to help.”

“That’s what I do. Help with situations.”

Brianna describes the situation in as few words as possible.

“Well, I don’t know anything about hags.”

“He’s still under her influence and I can’t get in touch with the Warden here. Every time he gains consciousness, he’s trying to go find this girl again.”

“Where is the hag?”

“At her house. I took Joey and ran.”

“Mental magic is dangerous. It’s dangerous to conjure and it’s dangerous to undo. Is that what you’re wanting me to try?”

“Yes. Or recommend someone who can.”

“Nobody I would trust.”

Brianna’s voice raises slightly in frustration. “Well, I can’t get in touch with the Warden here to even ask if she would do it. It’s important that she knows that there’s a hag in town, but I don’t care about the hag. I care about Joey.”

“Okay. I can be there in three hours.”

Brianna says okay and asks Ezekiel to hold on for a second. She puts her hand over the receive and looks at Sydney. “I’m on the phone with the former Warden of Seattle. He’s going to come down and try to help with Joey. Are you comfortable with him coming here? If not, I’ll take Joey to our apartment. It’s got the wards. You can come if you want and help keep watch while Joey’s unconscious.”

“He’s not unconscious, he’s just asleep. If you try to move him, he’ll wake up. You might as well stay here.”

Brianna nods and gives Ezekiel directions. “We’re at a friend’s house. She’s helping incapacitate Joey until we can get help.” After getting off the phone, she and Sydney keep an eye on the sleeping man. While they wait, Brianna quietly tells her a little about Ezekiel.

“You say he’s a former Warden?”

“Yeah. We were all involved in some of the Red Court business that’s gone down in the last couple of months. Apparently, some people thought he was pushing a little too aggressively. Thus, his demotion.”

After a while, Brianna tries to casually ask something that’s been on her mind, “Does everything look the same to people using the Sight?”

“Not exactly the same. It’s always the truth, but sometimes it’s filtered through the mind of the beholder. There may be some nuanced differences, but it’s mostly the same.”

Brianna drops the subject.

Three hours later, there’s a knock on the door. When Sydney opens it, Ezekiel is standing in the doorway. He looks at the young woman. “You must be Brianna’s friend. I’m Ezekiel.” Sydney invites him in and he thanks her.

They take the former Warden to where he can examine Joey. After a moment, Ezekiel comments, “There’s certainly something that’s got a hold on him.”

“Yes, she does,” Brianna agrees.

“Alright, we’ll try to extricate that.”

Brianna starts to pace.

“There’s something you need to know. If this goes wrong, I could destroy his mind.”

Brianna stops, “And the alternative is? That this creature has a hold over him for the rest of his life? Will it fade with time? Or will the psychic damage just continue to sit there?”

“The hold will fade with time, as long as he’s not exposed to her again.”

Brianna drops into a chair, holding her face in her hands.

“I tell you, because this isn’t something you screw around with.”

“I wasn’t inviting you here just to screw around with him.” Her voice is slightly muffled.

“Then you deserve to know the consequences.”

Brianna looks up at Ezekiel. “I need you to be very clear with me on how much a possibility you think this is. If this was an operation, I’d be asking the doctor what his chances were. If you tell me there’s a 75% chance you’re going to fry his brain, then I’m just going to take him to Bermuda for a week and drop him off on an island until it fades.”

“I wouldn’t say 75.% I’d say more like 25%.”

“Oh, for fuck’s sake.” Brianna’s voice is strangled and she drops her head again.

“It’s like removing a leech. You’re going to do some damage when you pull it away. I’m going to try to cut it away very carefully, but something else may be cut along the way. That’s why there are laws against this type of magic. I’m willing to try it because I want to help Joey, but I’m telling you that this is dangerous.”

Brianna is silent for a long, long moment. “Once that spell is gone, is he going to be able to see things clearly? Will he be able to tell what happened?”

“It’s not going to change what happened. He’s going to remember what he felt, but he’s not going to feel that way any more.”

“is there always going to be a vulnerability there if we don’t do anything? If we just let it fade, will the magic go away?”

“The magic will be gone, but a lot of this will depend on how likely you think this thing will come back.”

“I don’t know,” Brianna admits quietly. “I didn’t kill her when I had the chance.” There’s another moment of silence. “Go ahead and do it.”

“Okay.” Ezekiel looks around. “I’m going to have to set up and that will most likely wake him.” He asks Sydney if there’s a place he can set up a circle. She tells him that they can move furniture and he can set it up in the living room as she usually does.

Brianna stands and stretches. “I might as well get ready to hold him again. If he wakes, Joey’s still not going to think anything wrong has happened. He’s not going to sit still.”

Ezekiel asks Sydney if she has any chalk. When she says yes, he nods. “Well, unless you have any objections to me messing up your hardwood floor, I can draw a circle around myself and the couch.” She doesn’t, so Ezekiel bends down and starts etching. When it’s completed, Ezekiel murmurs something and there’s a slight pop in Brianna’s ears as the air pressure changes. “Alright,” Ezekiel says seriously, “No one touch me or talk to me.”

Brianna sits and watches fixedly as the former Warden starts his ritual, her face drawn with anxiety. Ezekiel speaks softly and slowly traces symbols with his thumb on Joey’s forehead. His words almost sound like a Native American chant.

Joey stirs, blinking. “What the hell?”

Ezekiel places a hand on Joey’s chest. “Don’t interrupt me.” He continues the ritual.

Brianna is so still she’s barely breathing. “I’ve got to find Angie,” Joey says.

“If you move, you will die.” Ezekiel’s calm voice speaks once more, then he begins chanting again.

Joey’s voice is tinged with fear, “What are you doing?”

Almost unaware that she is speaking out loud, Brianna begins softly chanting “Don’t move, Joey. Don’t move, Joey.” Over and over she says the words, her voice slowly growing louder and louder and desperate.

Joey’s eyes suddenly roll back. Ezekiel stops his chanting and nods solemnly. To Brianna, time seems to stand still for an impossibly long time. Then Joey’s eyes flutter and he says wearily, “What in the hell is going on?”

Ezekiel smiles, “Just pulling your fat out the fire again, Aragon.”

Brianna begins laughing, albeit a bit hysterically, and slides to the floor. “Ezekiel, you’re the man.”

The former Warden turns to her and says, “He should be fine. There’ll be some scars, but who doesn’t have scars?”

Brianna looks straight at Ezekiel. “I will always be in your debt.” Her tone gives lends gravity to the words.

He nods once in acknowledgement, then turns. “Sydney, do you happen to have any whiskey in here?”

“I have some wine.”

“That will do.” Ezekiel breaks his circle and Brianna moves up to Joey’s side.

“You son of a bitch,” she tells him.

“What the hell is going on?” Joey sounds genuinely confused.

“What do you remember?” she asks gently.

“What do you mean? I remember we were here and we were arguing. I was going to go get Angie and then I’m out. Next thing I know, Ezekiel’s over me telling me that I’m going to die.”

Brianna leads Joey to a corner and quietly gives him the rundown of what’s been going on over the last few days. Joey looks flummoxed. “I wanted to talk to Angie.”

“I don’t know that’s a good idea on the account that she’s a hag.” Brianna gestures at her bloodied shirt from her recent encounter.

“Well, that’s just it. I’m not sure that’s a good idea anymore either. I just know I wanted to.”

“I think that the dead person in her basement may have been the guy she was with before.” Brianna pauses, then asks again “What do you really remember?” She explains the circumstances of how she found Joey.

“Well, we were on the couch,” he pauses awkwardly, “You know.”

“Yeah.”

“Then I was here arguing with you.”

“I think she did some sort of magical sleep on you or you really just passed out. She told me that she wasn’t finished with you yet.”

“I’m not saying that I don’t believe you, but it’s all very confusing.”

“She was doing something to your brain,” Brianna tells him, “and I’ve put myself in Ezekiel’s debt for getting rid of whatever it was.”

“I didn’t ask you to do that.”

“I’d do it again,” Brianna says simply.

“Well, it sounds like we need to go talk to Angie and see if she’s still in her basement.” Joey meets Brianna’s eyes. “And I don’t mean ‘talk,’ in case I wasn’t clear.”

Brianna nods. “I think you’ve got some of your own coming back to you. However, you’re not exactly at your best at the moment. Neither am I.”

“It sounds like neither is she,” he counters.

“That’s true.” Brianna heads over to Ezekiel. “We’re going to head back to the house and make sure everything’s taken care of. I appreciate your help.” Brianna starts gathering things up and Brianna briefly hugs Sydney. “Again, thank you.”

“You’re welcome. I’m just glad the big guy’s okay.”

“Me, too.”

Brianna and Joey leave, first swinging by their apartment so Joey can pick up a shotgun. Brianna explains that Angie may have warded the house again, but it’s still probably best to go in through the back door since she busted the lock. When they pull up to the house, Angie’s car is no longer there. Brianna shakes her head, “She may be long gone by now.” She looks at Joey, “Do you still want to go in? I think it’s important that you see this.” He agrees, but leaves the gun in the car.

Brianna leads the way, but has trouble scaling the back fence. She curses softly, but Joey helps give her a boost. Joey follows her. The door is still hanging open. Brianna moves carefully inside, trying not to touch anything. She moves quickly from room to room, making sure no one is hiding inside. Not touching the handle, she opens the door to the basement and leads the way down. On top of the stench from before, a burned smell is now in the air. Using the light on her phone for illumination, Brianna finds the charred remains of a corpse sitting in the chair. There’s still a little bit of a glow of embers. There are two matching burns on the floor from where the circles were. Brianna takes a few pictures of the scene with her phone. To her, it looks like they were magically ignited to destroy them.

Joey is looking around. “So, you said I was down here and there were circles.”

Brianna agrees and describes the scene she found. “Do you remember any of this? Dead bodies? Lying on the ground?”

“I remember vaguely when I first came here, I commented on the smell. I thought maybe she didn’t take out her garbage or something. She thought that was funny. And then I don’t remember noticing it any more.”

Remembering how it looked like things were missing from the bedroom, Brianna comments that Angie’s probably left town. Joey continues to stare grimly around the room. “You should probably get as much of your stuff as you can,” she adds. They head upstairs and Joey gathers his things while Brianna keeps watch. After he’s done, they drive both cars back to the apartment.

Brianna moves into the kitchen and gets out two glasses and the good bottle of whiskey. She pours doubles for both of them and they drink deeply. “Next time, I guess I will just punch you out earlier in the proceedings.”

“Yeah. Well, good luck trying.” His voice is wry.

Brianna looks at Joey for a long moment, then says “I am truly sorry that this was not what it seemed to be.”

“Well, I’m sorry for being such an asshole.”

She picks her words out carefully. “It made me wonder if I had been doing the same thing to you. With me and Loomis.”

“I don’t think so,” he answers in return.

She sighs and nods, “Okay. It’s been a weird year. Since we’ve hit Portland, things have not necessary gone as planned. Are we still good?”

“I’m good if you’re good.”

She grins crookedly. “You’re going to have to be a lot more of an asshole to get rid of me. You’re my partner. And I think we’re good.”

The two finish their drinks in companionable silence.

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