The Dresden Files: Portland

Ghoul, Goblin (Part One)

Karkana Chronicles Twenty-Three

November 6, 2013 (Wednesday)

It’s a fight night for Brianna and Joey. He has a very close fight, but manages to pull it off at the end. As the two are heading towards the car, Brianna notices one of the other fighters down an alley. “Sloppy Joe” Soblaski is in an argument with someone. The figure is smaller, but the shadows make it difficult for her to see much detail.

Brianna pauses at the mouth of the alley, taking in the scene. She gets a better a look at the man Soblaski is arguing with. She has seen the man lurking around recently, but she doesn’t know his name. Soblaski is saying “Look, I told ya. I’m loyal to Philo.”

“Look, loyalty is a good thing, but so is money. It’s in your interest to help my boss out. Tomorrow, hit the mat in the second and everybody will be happy.”

“I don’t know. Philo runs a clean fight.”

“I think you’ll find that Philo doesn’t run as clean a fight as you think. I’ll tell you what, what about an extra $500. How about that?”

“Look, I’ll think about it. Just back off.”

“You think about it, but don’t think too long. Tomorrow night.”

The other man continues down the alley, but Soblaski heads in Brianna’s direction. She leans against the wall until he comes walking out. “Everything okay?” she asks.

“Yeah,” he grunts.

“Just heard you arguing. Wanted to make that there’s no trouble.”

“Not unless you want to start anything.”

“No need to start anything,” she replies and lets him move by. Joey and Brianna head home.

November 7, 2013 (Thursday)

Brianna and Joey go to the gym for their daily workout. That night, they head back to the fights. There’s a bit of a hubbub in the air, so Brianna starts asking around. “Sloppy Joey” was found dead at the waterfront early this morning. No one knows a lot of details, but the rumor is he was found dismembered and gutted. Brianna’s able to determine that the body was found near the location of last night’s fights.

Brianna scans the crowd and spots the man she saw arguing with Soblaski. She asks some of the other fighters, but no one can tell her who he is. They just know that the man’s been hanging around recently. Brianna keeps an eye on him during the fights, especially during the match that Soblaski would have fought in. Because she’s keeping such a close eye on him, she’s not able to feed. The man chit chats with those around him and seems to be enjoying himself.

Joey’s match that night is close, but he doesn’t pull it off. Brianna catches sight of the man moving through the crowd. Brianna begins following him and sees him approaching Joey. She changes course and makes a bee-line to Joey. They both arrive at the same time. The man looks between Joey and Brianna. “Oh. Hey. That’s right, you’re the one who has a manager. I forgot about that.”

Brianna raises an eyebrow, “I’m sorry. And you are?”

“Sam. Sam Jones.”

“Is there something we can help you with, Mr. Jones?”

“I’m sure there is.” Brianna just silently stares at him until he continues, “I’d like to talk some business with you in a more private venue.”

“Business?”

“Business.”

Brianna looks sideways at Joey. “Tonight?”

“Preferably.”

“Alright.”

“Is there someplace you would like to discuss business? Do you have an office?”

“No. We can step outside.”

“Excellent.”

The three of them move outside and Sam takes them to a secluded area. Brianna is keeping a cautious eye on the man. As he passes through a lighted area into a shadow, for a split second Brianna could swear his features warped slightly. She notices bat-like ears and a lantern jaw, then his face is back to as before.

Sam’s tone is solicitous as he addresses Brianna and Joey. “My employer has a proposition for you. He’s making it to many of your colleagues to increase their financial holdings, as it were, in exchange for, well, let’s just call it insurance on the results of certain fights.”

“You want to pay me money to fix fights?” she asks bluntly.

“No, I want to pay him money,” Sam points at Joey. “If I have to go through you to do that, then I will. But unless you’re on the mat, I want to pay him.”

“Well, I’m afraid your employer is mistaken in our willingness to take bribes.”

“Is there something blocking the way?”

“We don’t throw fights.” Her tone leaves no room for argument. Sam doesn’t have a quick reply, so Brianna presses on. “What exact interest does your employer have in street fighting?”

“My employer has an interest in making money. This is one of many revenue stream in which he is interested.” Sam rallies again, “Come now, surely you have an interest in making more money than you can earn in these penny-ante fights. I heard that you two were once big time until some bad business got in the way. This is a chance for you to pick up more green like you used to. To keep you in the manner to which you’re accustomed.”

Brianna doesn’t reply. “Something to think about,” Sam offers, “but don’t think too long.”

“This money making deal is only available for a shot time?”

“For a short time.”

Brianna temper, which has been building all along, suddenly flares. Someone is yet again intruding on her feeding area, which pisses her off. She no longer cares about subtlety and steps up into Sam’s personal space, pushing a finger into his chest. “And if my time runs out? Is it something like what just happened to Sloppy Joe? Are you going to have me killed?”

Sam gulps and takes a step back. “Hey, lady, I had nothing to do with that.”

“Strange, that you were arguing with him yesterday and he’s dead this morning. Is that how your employer works?”

“Whoa. Back up. Rewind. I may or may not have been talking to Sloppy Joe yesterday. That is alleged. Your word against mine. But that would not be in the best interest of my employer, now would it?” Sam’s voice takes an edge of its own.

“I don’t know. I guess it depends on how pissed off your employer gets when someone tells him no.”

“My employer can get pretty pissed, but he’s not a psycho.”

Brianna can tell that Sam is rattled, but seems to be telling the truth. “If for some reason my man and I change our minds, who’s your boss? How do we come calling?”

“Me,” Sam replies. “You come talk to me.” He looks at her, “You want to talk to my boss? That’s pretty ballsy. I can talk to him and set up a meeting if you want.”

“Not at this time, but if I enter in a business agreement with someone, I’m dealing directly with whom I’m working for … not the people he sends out to do errands.”

“Well, well, well,” Sam retorts, “If you want to talk to the boss, you’ve got to talk to me.”

“Good to know, Mr. Jones.”

“I guess we’re done here?”

“We’re done.”

“Good enough.” Sam walks away and the two watch him leave.

After he’s gone, Brianna turns to Joey. “Did you notice his features shifting a little there? I don’t think that’s his real face.” Joey didn’t see anything, so Brianna describes what she saw.

Joey thinks about it for a moment. “That could have been a glamour you saw. Maybe he’s fae.”

“Fae?” Brianna repeats. She doesn’t know much about the fae in Portland except for the Wee Folk she’s met. “So, perhaps some sort of supernatural element is trying to disrupt the fights.” This bothers Brianna even more than mortals interfering in her business. She decides to investigate further into Soblaski’s murder. Even if it’s not connected to this Mr. Jones, Brianna has run into other weird elements around the waterfront as of late. Maybe it’s connected somehow to the Fomor.

She and Joey head to the City Morgue. After paying the appropriate bribes, the two are shown to the remains of “Sloppy Joe” Soblaski. As rumored, the body is dismembered and gutted. Both Brianna and Joey can tell that the damage to the body was savage, not surgical in nature. Brianna asks Hollingsworth if the gutting and dismemberment happened post-mortem or while the victim was still alive.

“The poor bastard was probably alive.”

“How was the damage done? By a blade? Sheer force? Teeth?” Hollingsworth just stares at her until she hands him another wad of bills.

“Well, I’ve seen some weird things come through here.”

“I imagine you have. Portland is a weird city.”

He continues, “If I didn’t know any better, I’d say this was a wild animal. The arms and legs were torn off. The other wounds were probably claws and teeth of some sort. I’ll tell you another thing that makes me think an animal did this. The wounds are all meat.”

“Like, where the body was gutted is where a wild animal would eat meat off a creature?”

“Right.”

“This the first body to come through here like this?”

“The first one I’ve seen.”

“I certainly hope you don’t find anymore,” Brianna replies quietly. “Would you be willing to contact me if something else like this comes through?”

“No.” Hollingsworth says bluntly. “That connects me to you and that gets me in trouble.”

She shrugs, nonplussed, “Fair enough.” Brianna asks for specifics on where the body was found since the waterfront is a big area. He looks her up and down for moment, but gives her an address. “Can you tell what size of animal did this?” she asks. “Was it dog sized? Wolf sized? Bear sized?”

“Larger than a dog, probably man-sized or bigger.”

Brianna thanks Hollingsworth for the information, then she and Joey leave. Once in the car, she turns to Joey, “Something larger than a dog that tears off a man’s limbs? Sounds like this is definitely something weird.” He agrees and they head for the address in the waterfront.

November 8, 2013 (early Friday morning)

When they arrive, Brianna parks at the street. They stealthily approach the address on foot. They both spot a bored-looking uniformed policeman out in front of the building which is cordoned off by police tape. Apparently, Soblaski’s body had been found inside.

Suddenly, Joey and Brianna both see a shadowy form emerging from a panel on the roof. The cop doesn’t appear to notice. The figure moves across the roof, then jumps across to the next roof. It’s moving with supernatural quickness. Brianna whispers to Joey, “I’m going to try to keep up with it and see where it goes. Wait here and keep an eye out.” She moves away with a burst of speed.

As Brianna runs along the strip of bank between the buildings and the river, she can get a better look at the creature on the roof. The hunched form and long ape-long arms identify it as a ghoul. She curses under her breath and continues following. It hops down to the ground and suddenly cocks its head, listening. Brianna stops, trying to be as quiet as possible. The ghoul appears not to notice her because suddenly in its place is an attractive, and naked, African-American woman. The woman walks over to a dumpster in a nearby alley and pulls out a plastic container that contains a set of clothes. She begins to dress.

When the woman is finished dressing, she peers out of the alley. Apparently satisfied, she emerges and walks on. Brianna begins silently following again. The woman begins covertly heading towards a riverboat that is unloading its goods into a warehouse. Brianna’s attention is interrupted by a sudden footstep behind her. She spins. Behind her is an attractive African-American man. He has a bit of an angry glint in his eye. “Why are you following my sister?”

“Which one’s your sister?”

“Don’t be coy. I don’t have the patience for it.”

Brianna just crosses her arms and looks at him. “I don’t have to answer to you.”

“Then I’ll assume the worst.” Suddenly before her is another ghoul. He takes a swing at her, but misses.

She returns his punch, but also misses. After another round of missing each other, the ghoul makes contact with Brianna. His claws rend a deep gash in Brianna’s arm. She misses him and he misses her. She can’t seem to hit him, but he manages to claw her again leaving a bloody wound. They miss each other again. Brianna is growing more and more angry, but still can’t hit him. He claws her a third time, leaving a deep stomach wound. Brianna is furious at herself and the situation, but realizes that the situation is bad. Even if she manages to take out this ghoul, which is proving unlikely, she will be in no shape to face his sister.

She runs, but he easily catches up with her. Realizing that she may not be able to simply outrun him, Brianna decides to try a more evasive course of action. She manages to duck into a building and lose him. She remains very still, listening for sounds of pursuit. When she thinks she’s no longer in immediate danger, she pulls out her phone and texts Joey. “It was a ghoul. She had a brother. There’s two of them running around. Don’t move from where you are.”

She quietly slips out of the building and heads back to Joey. Brianna’s Hunger is making her rattled, but she returns without any further incidents. He tells her that nothing happened while she was gone. They go back to the car and she lets him drive. “There’s a pair of them,” she says, “A brother-sister pair. She was heading towards a riverboat when her brother snuck up behind me.” She makes a frustrated noise. “I don’t know what they’re up to, but I think I’ll need some holy water with me if I go up against them again. Thank god it was just him. If she had been involved, it would have been a lot more dicey”

“What do you want to do?”

“I want to be better prepared to go after the monsters that killed someone we worked with. I don’t know why Sloppy Joe was in this neighborhood. He may have been an accidental bystander or maybe something else is going on. However, If they’re staying in this area, there will be a lot more people turning up dead.” It’s too late for Brianna to feed at a bar or a club, so she is still Hungry when they return home to rest.

November 8, 2013 (later that Friday)

Brianna and Joey head downtown to visit Broderick Cartland’s mission house. Brianna hopes he can help them obtain holy water. They exchange greetings and Brianna asks if they can speak privately.

“In fighting the monsters here in Portland, I find myself in need of holy water.”

“Holy water? That’s more of a Catholic thing, but I may be able to help you with that. How much do you need and when?”

“Soonest would be best. If you can get me a gallon, that would be most appreciated. How can I repay you?”

“No payment is necessary, but the mission is always looking for donations.” Brianna nods and hands him a couple hundred dollar bills. He says that he should have the holy water by that evening. A sudden thought strikes Brianna and she asks to look at his occult library for any information on faeries. She doesn’t find anything of interest, Cartland’s library focuses more on demonology, and so they make their goodbyes.

Brianna and Joey head to Powell’s to continue researching. After reading for a while, Brianna thinks that Sam Jones may be a goblin. Goblins are often Wild Fae but also tend to associate with the Winter Court. They are susceptible to Fae weaknesses, like cold iron. Steel rebar, pig iron, and nails will also affect them in a similar fashion.

The two leave Powell’s and purchase several boxes of nails, storing them in the glove compartments of their cars. Brianna then hits the streets, looking for information among the supernatural community. She asks around about any WInter or Wild Fae that are trying to make money in underground human activities, as well information on a brother and sister ghoul pair in the area. This takes most of the day, but Brianna comes up with no leads.

Later that night, Brianna and Joey pick up a gallon jug of holy water from Cartland. They also swing by the store and pick up water balloons and two big plastic storage containers. At the apartment, they fill up the balloons with holy water and place them carefully into the containers which they place in the back seat of Brianna’s car.

Brianna is still rattled from her Hunger, so she wants to go by the fighting pits tonight. On the way, she buys a paper to see if there’s any stories about Sloppy Joe’s death … or the mysterious death of anyone else. There is a story about Soblaski’s death, which is being attributed to a wild animal. Inquiries are ongoing with the local zoological society and other agencies. A small bio describes him as a former dock worker who lived alone. Looking closer, Brianna also notices as small report of a missing dock worker who reported for work, but never returned after his meal break. Brianna swears and tosses the paper aside.

When they arrive at the fights, Brianna places several nails in her pockets before going inside. She also notices Sam Jones at the event and they make eye contact. He winks at her and makes a motion with his hand, mouthing “call me.” “I don’t have your phone number, asshole,” Brianna mutters angrily. Fueled by Hunger and rage, she stalks over to him.

“So?” Sam begins brightly, but Brianna interrupts.

“I just realized that you’ve told me to call you when I’m interested, but I don’t have your number.”

“Very good,” he smiles toothily.

Brianna begins digging in her pockets. “I think I have something to write this down with. Here, can you hold something for a minute?” She holds an object out to him. Sam automatically takes it.

It’s a nail.

Sam yells in pain and drops the nail. His eyes narrow and his voice grows icy. “That wasn’t very nice.”

“Just wanted to see if a theory I had was correct, and it appears that it was,” she replies evenly. She picks the nail off the ground, not taking her eyes off him.

“They said you was a bitch, but I had no idea.”

Brianna leans in close to him and says in a low voice, “Are you a free agent or are you working for the local Court?”

“I have a boss.”

“Yeah?”

“I’ll leave it at that.”

“Heard anything else about me?”

“Think I’m going to spread a few rumors of my own,” he growls. “Do you want that number or not?”

“I do.”

“Good.” He reaches into his jacket and pulls out a card. It’s completely blank except for a phone number. Brianna takes it. “You’re about to get on my bad side,” he says warningly.

“I take my place of business very seriously,” she flatly. “If you ask around, you will find that out. And if you ask certain people, you’ll find out just how seriously I take it.”

Sam turns and leaves, rubbing his hand. Brianna watches him walk away. She decides to go to a dive bar instead to Feed. Afterwards, Brianna and Joey plan how to best track down the ghouls. Now that a second body has been found, she again tries to track down any rumors circulating in the supernatural community. She finds out that the La Croix clan recently cast out a couple of members: a brother and sister. She knows that ghouls can be outcast for several reasons, betraying the clan being the biggest offense, and outcast ghouls can be very dangerous.

Brianna decides to head back to original crime scene to look around again. Perhaps she can find something of interest that she could be used for a tracking spell. They cautiously approach the warehouse. The crime scene tape is still up, but the police officer is gone. Brianna quietly heads closer. The door doesn’t appear to be padlocked. Brianna decides to go back to the car and get water balloons to put in their pockets (making sure to take out the nails first).

Using her jacket to avoid prints, Brianna tries to open the door. It’s locked. She looks around, but doesn’t notice any security cameras on this building. She and Joey walk over the dumpster where the plastic container was hidden. There’s nothing there. Brianna looks around a bit more, but can’t find any evidence. The riverboat is also no longer docked at the warehouse.

Frustrated, Brianna leads the way back to the crime scene. On the back of the warehouse, a fire escape ladder provides roof access. She asks Joey to keep an eye out and climbs up to the roof. She investigates the panel, which has a window looking down onto the ground floor of the building. Peering in, Brianna see two ghoul-like figures conversing far below. A catwalk runs the length of the warehouse and provides access to the panel.

Brianna drops flat to the ground, trying to stay out of sight. She texts Joey. “Holy crap. They’re both inside.”

Joey texts back, “GTFO.”

Brianna tries to quietly move across the roof and back down the ladder. As she’s climbing down, she hears the panel on the roof open. Brianna freezes, trying to be as quiet as possible. She slowly reaches inside her pocket for a water balloon. Suddenly, a ghoulish visage peers over the ladder. Brianna immediately lets go of the ladder and drops the ten feet to the ground. She easily gets to her feet. The ghoul jumps to the ground next to her. It lands a bit harder, but doesn’t seemed phased. Brianna tosses a water balloon at the ghoul, but it splatters harmlessly on the side of the building.

The ghoul moves on her, slashing deep with its claws. Joey throws his water balloon and hits it. The holy water burns the ghoul and it howls in pain. Brianna throws her last balloon and this one makes contact. It screams again, its skin burned where the water hit it. The ghoul attacks Brianna viciously, hamstringing her. Joey successfully hits it with more holy water.

Brianna yells at Joey to run for the car and swings at the ghoul, finally hitting it with all of her might. She feels its jaw crack beneath her fist. The ghoul growls and seems to shake off some of his burns. Joey runs for the car and Brianna follows after him. She doesn’t use her supernatural speed, making sure to stay between him and the ghoul.

The ghoul catches up easily to them as Joey jumps behind the wheel. Brianna flings herself into the back seat and locks the door. The ghoul grabs her car door, but can’t open it. Joey starts the car while Brianna starts pulling out more water balloons. The ghoul suddenly pulls the car door off its hinges with a screech of metal. “I just paid for this car, you asshole!” Brianna yells, adrenaline coursing through her veins. Joey slams his foot on the gas and they take off.

As they pull away, Brianna keeps an eye out behind them. As she watches, the ghoul throws down the car door and head back towards the warehouse. She collapses into the backseat, exhausted and bleeding. “We need to kill that motherfucking pair of ghouls,” she growls. “And driving down the street without a car door is going to get us pulled over for some sort of fucking violation.” They head back to the apartment, sticking to side streets in the hopes of avoiding law enforcement. Once there, they bring the plastic containers of balloons inside.

“We weren’t prepared for that. We need a better plan, because I’m tired of getting the shit beaten out of me.”

November 9, 2013 (Saturday)

Brianna wakes up in a bad mood. She sits in the kitchen, nursing a cup of coffee. While the holy water did work, they’ve wasted about a fourth of their supply She decides to go visit Sydney to see about some magical help.

After exchanging pleasantries, Brianna tells her that a brother and sister pair of ghouls has moved into the waterfront. “They’ve killed at least two people so far. I’ve engaged with the brother twice and haven’t been doing particularly well against him. We’ve even been using holy water, but it hasn’t been enough to tip the balance. Do you have any magical suggestions? Maybe something that would make it harder for us to get hit? We’ll be going back after them. We can’t have two outcast ghouls terrorizing the waterfront. But I’m afraid that if they both come at us at once, we won’t have much of a chance.”

“I could make a potion that would allow you to be hyper-aware of your surroundings and better able to defend yourself.”

“That would be helpful. How long would it last?”

“A short time.”

“Any bit of time will help.” Brianna offers to help pay for the ingredients. Sydney says some things she’ll have to gather on her own, but gives Brianna a list of the remaining items. It may take a day to get all of the ingredients, but Brianna shrugs, “It make take a day to let them settle down a bit. We can go back tomorrow night.”

For most of the day, Brianna helps out Sydney. Joey heads out to buy a set of bullet-proof vests for added protection. By that that night, the potion is finally finished. Brianna thanks her friend and heads to the larger fight club to network and feed. While there, she looks around to see if Mr. Jones is lurking in this crowd. Not to her surprise, she doesn’t see the fae. This fight club has mob connections and she doesn’t expect Jones (or his employer) to stir up those waters.

Afterwards, Brianna and Joey talk in the car about their plans. “We need a better strategy, Joey. Not getting caught flat-footed by those damn ghouls would be a start.” They decide to park in a different spot, then approach the warehouse by stealth. Brianna will fill her pockets with water balloons. Joey will bring the rest in a sturdy handled bag, leaving one hand free to carry his shotgun.

They swing by the apartment to gather everything, put on the bullet proof vests, and head to the waterfront. Brianna is very careful as they approach, leading the way and watching for any lookouts. In one hand, she holds the sports bottle containing Sydney’s potion. Both she and Joey notice a shadowy form lurking in an alley near the warehouse. Brianna quietly moves over to the alley for a better look. It’s the sister. She’s looking around, but doesn’t appear to notice Brianna. The vampire slowly takes a water balloon out of her pocket and then throws it at the ghoul. The woman shrieks as holy water splashes her skin. Suddenly, her human guise is gone and a burned ghoul stands angrily before Brianna.

Brianna moves quickly, chugging the potion and slams a first into the ghoul’s face. The ghoul screams again as her nose breaks.

The ghoul claws at Brianna, but misses. Brianna can feel the potion working as the world around her seems to slow down allowing her to react more quickly.

Joey throws a water balloon, but misses.

Brianna punches her again, then feeds deeply on the ghoul’s rage.

Crazed with anger, the ghoul tries to claw Brianna and misses.

Joey misses with another water balloon. Neither Brianna nor the ghoul manage to hit each other. Another balloon splatters harmlessly nearby, Joey cursing his luck. Another few rounds goes by in the same way.

Joey finally manages to hit the ghoul with holy water, burning her again. Brianna takes advantage, punching the ghoul hard and draining the life from her. As the ghoul drops to the ground, Brianna’s body heals.

Brianna straightens and looks around, wary that the other ghoul has heard the sounds of the fight. It appears that they haven’t been noticed. She and Joey drag the body to the river and dump it in. Brianna throws the balloon fragments and sports bottle after it, then refills her pocket with a new water balloon. The two continue on towards the warehouse. The front door is still locked, so Brianna decides to climb the ladder up to the roof. Joey readies water balloons.

Brianna hears the sound of running feet on the roof. She uses her supernatural speed to move quickly back down the ladder. When Brianna gets to the bottom, she sees the ghoul’s face peer over the edge. She readies a water balloon as he leaps down. She throws it at him and hits.

The ghoul howls in pain, then slices at her with his claws. The bullet proof vest deflects a bit of the damage, but Brianna is still winded with pain.

Joey hurls a water balloon at the ghoul and hits him with holy water.

Brianna misses the ghoul, but he slashes her again, leaving a deep gash.

A water balloon splashes harmlessly nearby. Brianna’s punch misses the ghoul and he misses her in return. She is furious at her inability to hit him.

The ghoul screams again as a water balloon makes contact with him. Brianna takes advantage of his burns and finally punches him. Her eyes are a hard silver as she feeds on his rage.

Joey hits the ghoul again with holy water. Brianna uses the ghoul’s wounds against him, slamming a fist into him again. The ghoul drops to the ground, dead. Brianna kicks him again in the head for good measure.

They toss the body and any other evidence of the fight into the river. Brianna claps Joey on the shoulder, “Good job with the water balloons.”

“No problem.”

The two walk back to the car and drive home.

November 10, 2013 (Sunday)

Brianna stores the rest of the holy water in a container in case it’s ever needed again. She takes out the card that Sam Jones gave her and taps it on the counter thoughtfully. Then she dials the number. After a couple of rings, the line is picked up.

“You’ve got Sam,” a voice says.

“Sam. This is Brianna from the fights.”

“Ah. This is unexpected.”

“I was calling to see if I could meet with your boss.”

“I may be able to arrange that. To what can I say this pertains to, if I can use a double-preposition?” His voice sounds pleased with himself.

Brianna’s voice is crisp. “This pertains to my displeasure at another member in the supernatural community encroaching on my territory.”

“Your territory?”

“My place of business,” she concedes slightly.

“So, let me get this straight. You want me to set up a meeting with my boss so you can give him a dressing down?”

“I’m just hoping we can come to some sort of arrangement which will keep him out of my way.”

There’s a pause on the end of the line, then peals of laughter. “Oh, this should be rich! Oh, this should be good.” Sam manages to finally control himself, although his voice is still amused. “Sure. I’ll talk to him. Should I call you back at this number?”

“This is a good number.”

“Okay.” He hangs up, laughing.

Brianna stares at the phone for a minute, her expression sour, then goes about that day’s business.

A couple hours later, she gets a phone call from Sam. “Yeah. My boss would be interested in meeting with you. There’s a place called Edgefield,”

“I know it,” Brianna interrupts.

“You know it? Great. He’d like to meet there. Is that amenable?”

“It is.”

“Good. How about this evening at the Black Rabbit Pub at 8:00?”

“Very well. My business associate will be there as well.”

“Wait a minute, you didn’t say anything about a business associate?”

“Is there going to be a problem if my man comes with me?”

“You talking about Aragon?”

“Yes.”

“It’s just that you didn’t mention it before. And my boss doesn’t like surprises.”

Brianna’s is matter-of-fact, “Well, I guess you have until 8:00 to let him know.”

Sam’s tone looses a bit of its oily smugness. “You got any other surprises I need to know about?”

“No.”

“Alright then.”

They hang up. That night, Brianna puts on her most professional managerial outfit. Joey also dresses accordingly. “I want you to be an extra set of eyes and ears,” she tells him. “We’ve not had a lot of dealings with the fae. Edgefield is supposed to be a place of neutrality, but I don’t want to get sucker punched.”

At the pub, Brianna sees Sam lurking around the entrance.

“Ah, there you are!”

“Here I am.”

He takes the two to a booth where a man lounges. Sam gestures, “Brianna Karkana, my employer.”

She raises an eyebrow. “No name?”

The man speaks up, “You can call me Hubbard.” Brianna’s not particularly impressed with the young rock star vibe she’s getting off him, but guesses that he’s a lot older than he looks. Brianna has heard Hubbard’s name before in supernatural circles, but not much else. He’s very outside her social circles.

“Very good then. I guess you can call me Brianna.”

“Sam, get us some drinks.” Hubbard speaks in a tone used to commanding those around him. “What are you having?”

“Whiskey.”

“Whiskey for the lady, water for me, whatever this gentleman’s having.” Joey also orders a whiskey.

As they wait, Hubbard idly cleans his nails. “So, Sam tells me that you’re displeased in my interest in boxing.”

“I’m displeased with your interest in where I make my living and my hunting grounds.”

“Your hunting grounds. Hmm. That’s the crux of it, is it?”

“I don’t tend to like surprises and this was a surprise.” Brianna looks at Sam and says, “I now know for a certainty that you had nothing to do with our colleague’s death.”

Sam makes a dismissive sound. “I told you as much.”

“I decided to do some poking around anyway.” She shrugs, “It was a pair of ghouls.”

Hubbard speaks up again, “Last I checked, Philo’s fights were not part of Wraith territory. Are you saying they’re part of Karkana territory?”

“They’re part of my territory.”

“They’re part of your territory,” Hubbard repeats her words, slowly. “And who are you, to have territory.”

Brianna’s eyes flash and she sits up straighter. “You have my name.”

“So, you’re claiming this as your territory.”

“I’m claiming this business as my hunting grounds. It is a mobile location. I’m not claiming territory all over the city. When they move on, I’ve claimed no ground.” She looks at Hubbard directly, “Too many predators in one place is not good.”

He laughs softly. “And how does my business interfere with yours?”

“I’ve been in this line of work for a while, so I know what happens when these businesses start to go south. When they’ve been rigged. When people start taking falls. Word gets out and the whole thing just disintegrates into the wind. It’s one fight here, now, but that’s not going to be it forever. I doubt that your single interest was that one fight. I’m assuming that this is something that you’re going to keep plucking at for quite some time.” She takes a sip of her drink, “It may be small fish to you, but it’s quite important to me.”

“How would it be in my interest to leave?”

“I suppose that’s why we’re having this meeting isn’t it?”

“And I ask again.”

Brianna just looks at him. “I have heard your name in certain circles, but not enough to know what you value. Is it just the money? I would guess not if you’re spending your efforts in a low-class fighting pit.”

“From where I sit, it profits me nothing to leave and, in fact, costs me. So, why should I do so?”

“Well, I was hoping to come to some sort of pleasant arrangement. I hadn’t said anything to Mr. Barcus about what’s been going on. I haven’t gone after your man, besides a bit of unpleasantness about a piece of iron. But that was more to verify his identity than anything.”

“Then you don’t know me then.”

“No, I don’t.”

“I see. I thought you were merely being prudent and showing wisdom. Instead, it was ignorance.” Hubbard shakes his head, “A pleasant arrangement that would be mutually beneficial may or may not be able to be arranged, but I have yet to hear one proposed. But I can assure you that going after my man or other such unpleasantness would not be profitable for you. Not to sound, well, like a capitulant school boy, I have powerful friends whom would not take kindly to such actions.”

Brianna raises an eyebrow at him. Hubbard continues, “Furthermore, I think you would risk drawing the ire of Ms. Patel should you draw the ire of my friends. Things would become very complicated for you, very quickly.”

Brianna can feel herself growing frustrated and angry at this conversation, but tries to keep a reign on her temper and bites back the first words that come to her lips.

“If you have a mutually beneficial solution, I would love to hear it,” Hubbard drawls.

“Is it just the money you’re after than?”

“What I’m after is my own affair.” He pauses, “Brianna, you called this meeting. Surely you have something to propose. Yet you want me to lay all of my cards on the table. That hardly seems fair at all.”

“Well, it certainly seems I needed gather more information before coming into this meeting. You have a bit of the advantage on me as far as your connections go, which you are fully aware of. So as far as me trying to anticipate what you’d value does have me at a loss for words.”

“I have that effect on women.”

Brianna laughs, not particularly kindly. “I imagine you think you do.” Her expression turns serious, ’"I shall spend some seeing what I can find out about you and see what you might be interested in. Then perhaps I will come back."

“Well, in the meantime we’ll each continue to play our little games. I’ll continue to conduct my business and you’ll continue to conduct yours.”

“Very good then.” Brianna’s words are clipped. She stands up and Hubbard rises as well. Brianna nods at both of the men, then she and Joey leave. On the drive home, Brianna mutters darkly under her breath.

November 11, 2013 (Monday)

Brianna starts asking around in the supernatural community about Hubbard. She finds out that he is a pretty powerful Sidhe of the Winter Court in Portland. The Sidhe are the nobility of the fae. He was also involved with the goings on with the murder of a changeling a few months back. Apparently, even Mab herself got involved in the case.

Talking with Regi, Brianna finds out that he’s also heard of Hubbard. He’s in the Winter Court and apparently is kind of pissed that he didn’t become the Winter Envoy, the representative of the Winter Court in Portland. He’s tried to embarrass the current Envoy on several occasions to try and make her lose favor in the eyes of the Queen.

She also makes an appointment to speak with Nerise. After formal greetings are exchanged, Brianna says she’d like information about a particular notable in Portland.

“Oh? Information?”

“Yes. I would much rather owe you a favor than this other person, although I may be unable to get out of that situation entirely.”

Nerise asks who this person is.

“Hubbard of the Sidhe. He’s apparently part of the Winter Court here in Portland”

“I have heard the name. I don’t know a great deal about him. Our paths don’t cross very often.”

“I would imagine not. I have had some information about him, but not at a higher political level. I’m looking more for larger pieces of the puzzle. Things where your political insight may be beneficial.” Brianna shares the information she has so far.

Nerise seems slightly impressed. “You do have some good sources of information. As a Sidhe, he is close to the center of the Court. Being a potential Envoy also means that he is high in the Court, at least in Portland. That he is scheming to dethrone the current Envoy is merely typical among the Winter Court. What would be more interesting would be his tactics. I know a bit of this business involving the changeling. One of my girls was nearly a victim of the killer.”

“Oh? When was this?”

“Last year. Apparently, the killer was caught and there was some implication with the Winter Court. I never got the whole story, but there were some rumblings in the supernatural underground that the Winter Queen got involved.”

“It must have been pretty big matter if she got involved.” Brianna sighs, irritated. “I suppose this is all pointing to the fact that Hubbard is out of my pay grade, so to speak.”

“He would be a formidable foe if you chose to set yourself against him in a toe-to-toe fight,” Nerise agrees. “The political backlash would be equally daunting.”

“He bragged as much. I can’t say that I liked him very much.”

“Members of the Winter Court aren’t known for their bubbling personalities. They can be charming,”

“I think he thinks he’s charming,” Brianna interrupts wryly.

Nerise continues smoothly, “but there is an undercurrent of something darker. Of course, much could be said the same of the Wraiths, could it not?”

“To each their own.” Brianna mutters under her breath, “I hate it when it gets to politics.”

Nerise looks her in the eyes calmly, “If one is going to go about claiming territory, one should get used to politics.”

“I suppose there’s truth in that. And circumstances being what they are, I’ve spread myself thinner than I normally do. I’ve been busier outside of my occupation than in other places I’ve lived. Portland is an interesting city.”

“That it is.” The White Court vampire pauses, then asks, “So, have I been of assistance?”

“You have.”

“Good. Then perhaps you can be of assistance to me some time.”

“I am in your debt,” Brianna agrees.

Nerise nods, then stands. Brianna stands as well and makes her formal goodbyes.

Back at the apartment, Brianna and Joey talk about all of the information gathered. “Why does he care about this business,” she muses, “As much as I’d love to think that it’s just to annoy the crap out of me, I sincerely doubt that’s the case. This is low-level pit fighting. It’s not going to bring in a lot a money. So how is he benefiting from paying people to take a fall?” Neither one of them can come up with a good reason.

November 12, 2013 (Tuesday)

Brianna decides to investigate to see if Hubbard is also interfering with similar businesses, places where illegal betting may be occurring. She also wants to find out where he lives or if he has a physical place of business.

However, she decides to first go to Powell’s and research the Sidhe. She learns that the Sidhe are virtually immortal creatures with powerful magic of their own. They are the nobility of the Faerie Courts. It’s more of a rank than a race, based on ascension of power. LIke all fae, they are susceptible to cold iron. They are bound to tell the truth, although are known to be cagey, and are fond of making deals. Of particular interest to Brianna is the fact that they’re bound to a request given three times.

After leaving Powell’s, Brianna asks around the supernatural community to find out that current Winter Envoy is Abby Miyazaki. She holds court at the Elysian Ballroom, an elegant event venue in downtown Portland. Brianna learns that Hubbard has a spacious home near Forest Park, but is known to hang out at the B-Side Tavern in Burnside. When asking about reasons why he might be getting involved in illegal activities, her contacts think that Hubbard’s interest in the fights is more about the fighters than the money.

She decides to quietly ask among the fighters to see if anyone has already taken Hubbard’s offer. She gets two names: Cool Roy James and Irish Pat McGee. They’ve taken money to throw a few fights.

Brianna mulls over everything she learned today. She still feels like she’s not putting all of the pieces together, but it’s apparent that money will not be a motivation for Hubbard to leave the fighting alone. However, she’s got to come up with a solution. His interference with the fighters will eventually kill the business. Joey says that he’ll back up her decision no matter what.

That night, Brianna heads to the fight match to see if Sam Jones is there. He sees Brianna and waves. She grits her teeth and heads that way.

“Ms. Karkana, to what do I owe this pleasure?”

“When it’s convenient for your boss, I’d like to meet with him again.”

“Oh, really?”

“I have a bit more of a sense of him as a man and I think we can get into a business arrangement.”

“Okay, I’ll contact him and see what I can do.”His expression is incredibly self-satisfied.

Brianna’s temper snaps and she grabs him by the front of the shirt, lifting him off the ground. “I’d advise you to wipe that shit-eating grin off your face. If you learned anything about me, you’ll know that I don’t always do things that are in my best interest. I don’t fucking care who your boss is. If you disrespect me, I’m going to punch you in your fucking face.”

Sam’s eyes appear feline for just a second, then he laughs nervously. “And here I thought we could be friends.”

Brianna drops him. “I sincerely doubt we’re going to be friends.”

“I’ve got your number. I’ll call you.”

“Do that.” Her voice is flat. She stalks off.

Joey and her head back to the apartment. On the way, she brings up the fact that Thanksgiving is in a couple of weeks. They don’t do much for the holiday, but she’d like to invite Loomis this year. Joey is good with the idea. Once at home, she calls Loomis and extends the invitation and he takes her up on it.

November 13, 2013 (Wednesday)

In the morning, Brianna gets a phone call from Sam Jones.

“My employer would be happy to meet with you. Same place as last time?”

“That would be acceptable to me.”

“Good. How about lunch?” They agree to meet at noon.

Brianna and Joey dress nicely and head to the Black Rabbit Pub at Edgefield. Hubbard is already waiting for them. They order lunch, then Brianna gets down to business.

“Thank you for meeting with me.”

“Not a problem. I hope you have more of an agenda than last time”

“Yes, I’ve had a little more time to ask around about you.”

Hubbard nods, “My reputation precedes me then. What have you heard?”

“I have heard you do have powerful friends. It seems that the Queen herself got involved with you recently. Something about the murder of a changeling.”

His voice is dismissive. “Oh, that. That is old news.”

“So she must like you to some degree.”

“The Queen of Air and Darkness likes very few people.”

“Well, she clearly doesn’t like you enough to give you the position of Winter Envoy.” Brianna’s voice is neutral, but she can tell the jab hits home from the glint in Hubbard’s eyes.

“Yes. Well, I’m sure you didn’t invite me here to discuss my resume.”

“No, I just like to have a measure of a man before I enter into a business agreement.”

“What is the nature of the agreement you’re proposing?”

Brianna takes a sip of her drink, then continues. “Well, from what I can gather, you’re interested in fighters.”

“Am I?”

“It’s not the money you’re after. You’re after people who can throw a punch.” Hubbard is silent, so she continues. “So, if you’re after a bit of muscle, I might be able to help in that regard.”

“How so?”

She grins toothily. “I’m no slouch when it comes to fighting.”

Hubbard stares at her through slitted eyes.

“I’ve been a proxy before,” Brianna offers.

“What exactly are you proposing?”

“I would like your business interests to move away from where I feed. To that end, perhaps you have a job where my particular skills would be of use. Is there someone you need fought? I’ve also done bodyguard work. Is there someone you need protected?” She looks directly at the Sidhe. “I’m offering my potential services for you to potentially leave my business alone.”

Hubbard’s gaze meets hers squarely for the first time since she met him. It’s as if he’s finally really seeing her. “That is an interesting proposal.” He pauses, thinking. Brianna quietly eats, watching him. “Your services,” he muses out loud.

“Potentially, yes. Some it will depend on the nature of the work you need done. There’s some things I don’t do.”

“I’ve done some research on you. Your reputation, well, I’m not sure what it is you don’t do.”

“I don’t go against my Court’s interests and I’m not an assassin.”

“Your Court? Or your House?”

Brianna lifts an eyebrow at his words. Hubbard smiles coldly and she returns it. “My House, more specifically.”

“And you’re not an assassin?”

“No. People don’t pay me money to point me in a particular direction. But I am known to go more extensive lengths to protect my friends and what is mine.” She’s showing a lot of teeth.

“Now surely, you don’t mean to propose that a single job would compensate me for giving up all of my interests.”

“No, not necessarily.”

“So what would the duration of these potential services be?”

“Assuming that I was not asked to do something that violated my personal ethics, then I think I would owe you three jobs.”

“What if it was something more subtle?”

Brianna chuckles lightly, “If you’ve done any research on me, you realize I’m not a subtle creature. I don’t think we’re going to get particularly far in our business arrangements if you’re counting on that.”

“No, what I propose is having your services for an amount of time, not an amount of jobs. For instance, if I was going to have you serve as a body guard for someone, how long?”

“Three months.”

“Three months. Three moons to give up my business interests in those fights.” Hubbard muses for a moment, then counters. “I was thinking something more substantial like a year and a day.”

Brianna pauses, thinking. “A year and a day is a long time to be on call. How often would you be expecting to use my services in that time?”

“Whenever something comes up. The world is an unpredictable place.”

“That is entirely true,” she mutters.

“I could house you nearby.”

“We have our own place,” Brianna shakes her head. “We have jobs and we have other commitments that will come up. Are you expecting us to remain idle for a year and a day?”

“I’m expecting you to come when called.”

Brianna can feel herself bristle, but tries not to show her irritation. “For me to agree to such a bargain, there will have be guidelines to the type of work I will accept.”

Hubbard nods. “Name your guidelines.”

“I will not do anything that will go against the interests of my House or my Court, nor the interests of any that I claim as friends or family. Nor do I kill on command.”

“And in return, you come when I call you. You do what you’re told within those guidelines, for a year and a day, and I will withdraw my interest in Philo’s pit fighting. Do we have an agreement?”

Although Brianna doesn’t want to owe Hubbard anything, she has to protect what’s hers. She agrees to his terms and offers her hand.

“Excellent.” Hubbard shakes her hand. “I must say that I’m intrigued. I’ve never had a vampire in my employ before.”

Brianna gets in one last word before she and Joey leave, “Well, I’m not a typical vampire.” They head back to the car, heading for the apartment.

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