The Dresden Files: Portland

Side Job: In the Spotlight

Karkana Chronicles: Nineteen

June 17, 2013 (Monday)

Brianna receives an unexpected phone call from Clive on Monday morning.

“Nerise needs to speak with you,” Clive says.

“Now or this evening?” Brianna asks.

“Now would be better,” Clive says curtly.

After hanging up with Nerise‘s right-hand, Brianna tells Joey, "Nerise wants to see me. I’ll be back."

“You want me to wait here?” Joey asks, incredulous.

“Why don’t you come, just in case,” Brianna agrees.

After changing into more professional attire, Brianna heads out to Nirvana to meet the head of the White Court in Portland.

After the usual ritual of meeting her hired guns outside her office and leaving Joey at the door, Brianna finds herself seated in front of Nerise’s desk with a drink in her hand and Nerise Patel seated across from her. The White Court vampire is all cool confidence and allure.

“One thing I appreciate about you is your bluntness, so I’ll come to my point quickly,” she tells Brianna. “You owe me a favor.”

“I do,” Brianna says.

“I wish to collect. Have you heard of Darby Crane?” Nerise asks.

Brianna has heard the name, but she’s not sure where and says so.

Nerise nods. “He’s a horror director. Directed the ‘Scarecrow’ series of films. I’m going to trust you with some information to help you succeed in carrying out the favor. This information stays with you and goes no further.”

“I take it you mean it doesn’t go to Joey either?” Brianna asks.

“No. Further.” Nerise says, a white hot glint in her eyes. “Darby’s real name is Madrigal Raith.” She waits for a reaction from Brianna, but gets none. She moves on. “Crane wishes to use some of my dancers in his next production.”

“He needs dancers in a horror flick?” Brianna asks.

“He needs beautiful bodies,” Nerise says. “I would like you to go as my proxy to keep an eye on things.”

“Are you expecting trouble?” Brianna asks.

“I want you to make sure the dancers don’t overindulge with the local population and make sure Madrigal behaves himself with the dancers,” Nerise continues.

“Then the dancers are in the family,” Brianna says.

“They are of the Court,” Nerise says. “I need to remind you that Madrigal is important in the Raith family and that you should tread carefully with him.”

“Does he have the same temperament as his sister?” Brianna asks.

“I, personally, have dealt more with Madeline than with Madrigal,” Nerise says.

“How many dancers?” Brianna asks.

“Ten,” Nerise says. “The film is being shot near the village of Sebes in Romania.”

Brianna’s eyes widen at that. “I don’t have a passport,” she finally says.

Nerise looks to Clive, who nods. He comes over with his phone and takes a picture of Brianna’s face. “We’ll make the arrangements,” he says.

“How long is the shoot?” Brianna asks.

“Darby says he’ll need the extras for a week,” Nerise says.

“Will we be lodging in the village or is there a city nearby?” Brianna asks.

“The nearest city is Sibiu. You’ll be staying there. All expenses will be paid by Crane’s production company,” Nerise says.

“The dancers you have in mind; are they generally well-behaved with the human population ore are they gluttonous? Is there anybody I have to watch out for?” Brianna asks.

Nerise smiles. “They are generally in control of themselves, but they are young.”

“Do I have your permission to do what I have to do to keep them in line?” Brianna asks.

“And what do you need to do?” Nerise asks.

“I’m not taking no sass,” Brianna says carefully.

“You have authorization to act on my behalf. They will be told this,” Nerise assures her.

“Will they be told who I am?” Brianna asks.

“Do you want me to?” Nerise asks.

“I want them to know who they’re dealing with, yes,” Brianna says.

“Then I will,” Nerise says.

“So to recap: Keep an eye on the dancers, make sure nothing harms them, keep an eye on Darby Crane. Get back on the plane and come back.” Brianna says.

Nerise nods.

“Alright,” Brianna says.

“He would like to get things rolling as soon as possible. How soon can you leave?” Nerise asks.

“Tomorrow. Or the next day,” Brianna says.

Nerise looks to Clive. Clive says, “The paperwork will be ready by Wednesday.”

“We’ll have a car pick you up,” Nerise says.

Brianna and Joey leave Nirvana and Brianna explains the situation to Joey on the car ride back to their apartment. Joey will hold down the fort at home while Brianna heads to Romania. Joey says he’ll think about going to the pit fights without Brianna.

That afternoon, Brianna picks up a Romanian dictionary from the bookstore. She gets her preliminary packing out of the way, including the veil potion that Sydney had previously made for her, and checks on the various details of traveling to a foreign country: the availability of cell service, her clothes situation, etc.

June 18, 2013 (Tuesday)

That evening, Brianna calls Loomis, as per her usual routine. She mentions that she has a job that will take her out of town for a week or so, so she may not be available.

“Do I need to worry?” Loomis asks.

“I don’t think so,” Brianna says. “I’m hoping this will be easy peasy. My life doesn’t usually go that way, but I don’t think you need to worry.”

“Well, good luck at whatever it is,” Loomis says.

“If anything major shifts in Seattle, if you can’t get me, get Joey,” Brianna says.

June 19, 2013 (Wednesday)

In the morning, a limousine comes by for Brianna. The driver hands her a bundle of papers—tickets, passport, vaccination papers, etc.—everything she needs for international travel. The car is full of people. Apparently she is the last to be picked up.

There are five men and five women in the car with her—the dancers from Nirvana. The ladies are Kris, Desire, Patrice, Saraia, and Juanita. The men are Doug, Thackery, LeBron, Mike, and Ramon. The car is full of excitement and giggling and jostling of young bodies.

Brianna settles in and announces: “Most of you have probably seen me around the club. I’m Brianna Karkana. I’m the one in charge of making sure this trip goes smoothly. So let’s make sure it does.”

An instant pall settles around the festivities.

Once the car pulls up at the airport, Brianna finds that keeping this group together is like herding cats—young, sexy cats, but cats nevertheless. Finally, after an exhausting two hours, she manages to get everyone on the plane and in their seats. She settles in for the long flight to Romania.

June 20, 2013 (Thursday)

After a sixteen-hour flight, the plane finally touches down on the tarmac of the Sibiu International Airport. It is 11 a.m. local time. They are met at the plane by a group of three SUVs and a luxury automobile. There is a handsome older man in a trimmed beard holding up a sign that says “Crane Productions” waiting by the plane. He introduces himself to Brianna as Cosmin Ionescu. She definitely gets the feeling that he is White Court of some House or another. And when she introduces herself as Brianna Karkana, he hesitates briefly to take her hand. He has the drivers load all of the luggage into the SUVs and explains that he is Darby Crane’s business partner here in Romania. He will take them to the shooting site. He offers to take Brianna there in his automobile, an offer she accepts. They all load up and head to the site.

As they drive, Cosmin asks Brianna, “Have you been to Romania before?”

“No. I know it’s a mountainous country,” Brianna says.

“Yes, the Carpathians,” Cosmin says, nodding.

“Have you lived here your whole life?” Brianna asks.

“Yes,” Cosmin says.

“Do you travel with Mr. Crane when he works his films? I know some have been made in the U. S.?” Brianna asks.

“This is our first partnership. We are trying something different,” Cosmin says.

“I did not ask Ms. Patel; is there a working title to this film?” Brianna asks.

“Yes. ‘Naked Velvet’,” Cosmin says, with pride.

Brianna blinks. “‘Naked Velvet?’ I take it it’s not a horror film?”

“Oh it is. But there are elements of the sensual. There is a fine line between the sensual and death,” Cosmin says with relish.

“My charges will be used as extras in the film?” Brianna asks.

“Unless they have that special spark, then we may use them more,” Cosmin says.

“But they’ll only be here a week,” Brianna says.

“We hope to finish in a week, yes,” Cosmin says.

They drive through the small, Germanic village of Sebes. On the outskirts are small signs directing people to the film set. Finally, the cars arrive at a small gravel lot outside the set.

Once the cars park, Cosmin alights from the car and says that he will go and fetch Mr. Crane. Brianna exits the car and looks around. A series of trailers sit outside a series of sets. Away from the sets is a large barn. All is nestled in the clearing of a thick wooded area with mountains looming in the distance. It is very picturesque.

Cosmin returns with a tall, angular, handsome man in a button-down shirt, sports jacket, and slacks—Darby Crane. He assess Brianna with an arrogant smirk. “Cosmin says Nerise sent you to herd my extras.”

“She did. Brianna Karkana,” Brianna extends her hand.

Crane smiles a brittle smile and takes her hand. “I’ve heard of you,” he says.

“Word of me reached all way to Romania. I’m flattered,” Brianna says.

“So who have you brought me?” Crane asks.

Brianna introduces the dancers. Crane shakes hands and introduces himself down the line. He seems to take a particular interest in Saraia and Thackery. He then addresses the assembled. “Okay, what we’re working on is an erotic werewolf movie. It’s a little different than what I usually work on. But sexy is where you folks come in…”

As Crane makes his speech, Brianna watches the crew. She sees them going about their business rather furtively. She also notes that there seems to be very few of them for a set this size.

“…We’ll get started tomorrow,” Crane says. “There will be a lot of waiting between scenes. Get used to that. We mostly need you for a party scene tomorrow. So get plenty of rest and do everything I say and you’ll be fine.” Everyone chuckles and takes that as a dismissal.

“Saraia, Thackery, could I see you for a moment?” Crane says and motions to them, pulling them from the crowd. He proceeds to have a private conversation with them. Brianna tries to position herself to eavesdrop on them. All she catches is a few words: “…bonus…think about it…chemistry…”

The dancers all load back up in the SUVs. Brianna approaches Crane and Cosmin. “Is there a number I can have in case I need to get a hold of you?”

“Here’s the number of my assistant,” Crane says and hands her a card for Deirdre Thomas.

“I notice you were impressed by Saraia and Thackery,” Brianna says.

“I think they have chemistry,” Crane says.

Brianna looks around. “Where’s the rest of your crew?”

“What do you mean?” Cosmin asks.

“This is a really big set. Not many people working. I just figured you had some crew missing,” Brianna says.

“There have been some issues with funding,” Crane says, tight-lipped.

Brianna raises an eyebrow, not buying it. “Really? Alright. Issues with funding.” She changes topics, “When are we getting picked up tomorrow?”

“Nine a.m.,” Crane says.

“Nine a.m. then,” Brianna says and heads for the car.

The SUVs and the car then drive back to Sibiu and drop everyone off at the hotel.

Brianna gets everyone checked into their rooms and gets settled into her own. She then decides to look up Cosmin Ionescu on the Internet. She doesn’t get very much. Instead, she decides to email Joey and let him know that she touched down okay and to set Roy Dale onto looking into Ionescu.

Each of the dancers are in individual rooms on the same floor. Brianna arranges for a meet-up with her charges. She wants all of their cell phone numbers and she makes sure that they have hers. She tells them no one is to go off by themselves. She’d rather they stay in the hotel, but if they go out, they are to go in groups and are to check in with her. She will arrange for a group dinner. She admonishes them all to get a good night’s sleep. They are representing Nerise and so need to be fresh for tomorrow’s performance.

Brianna returns to her room and takes a shower. She then goes to the concierge to arrange for a group dinner. She takes a seat in the lobby and watches the traffic of the hotel. As she’s watching, she gets an email from Joey: “I’m on it.”

Brianna notices Patrice making her way out of the hotel with a group of tourists. Brianna stealthily makes her way behind the young dancer. “Couldn’t find someone to go with you?” she asks her.

Patrice turns around and rolls her eyes. “I am a grown-ass woman.”

“I don’t fucking care. I am in charge of your safety. You will listen to me,” Brianna says, her eyes narrow.

“Whatever,” Patrice says and starts to walk out.

Brianna grabs her and slams her against a wall. The people in the lobby gasp and start to murmur and surround them.

“You bitch!” Patrice says. “Nerise is going to hear about this!”

“I’m sure she will. Now get your ass upstairs,” Brianna says.

A short, well-dressed man in a trimmed mustache comes over and demands to know what is going on.

“Just a misunderstanding,” Brianna says.

The man looks at Patrice. “Are you alright, young woman?”

“Yeah, I’m alright,” Patrice says, looking daggers at Brianna. She then stomps back to the elevators.

Brianna says, “I’m so sorry for the disturbance. That one is a handful.”

The man says. “See that it doesn’t happen again.”

The crowd begins to disperse at this point and Brianna regains her seat in the lobby. A little while later, a group of girls, sans Patrice, check in with Brianna to go sightseeing. The guys go out to find a bar. Everyone returns in time for dinner.

At dinner, everyone gathers, including Patrice, who is sullen. Saraia tells her to get the bug out of her ass. They start to argue, but Kris breaks it up. Based on the conversation around the table, Brianna gets the impression that this group of White Court are ignorant of her House.

June 21, 2013 (Friday)

At 9:00 am, the cars from Crane Productions come to pick up the troupe. Brianna rides with Cosmin.

“Who are the principles in the film?” Brianna asks.

“Sylvia Dianova and Piotr Ivanovich,” Cosmin says.

“Are they Romanian?” Brianna asks.

“Piotr is Russian,” Cosmin says.

“They’ve been here filming for a while and this is their last week of filming?” Brianna asks.

“This is the last week of filming,” Cosmin says, nodding. He then turns in his seat and puts up his hands like a frame. “Have you ever been in a film?” he asks Brianna.

“No, I have not,” Brianna says.

“You might consider. Your features are very striking.”

“Thank you for the compliment,” Brianna says.

The cars pull up to the set and deposit the group out into the parking lot. Patrice is in a better mood this morning and everyone is excited to get started. Crane meets them out there and asks them to follow him and they will get ready for the party scene.

“We have to get you into costume as it is a period piece,” Crane says. There are some oohs and ahs from the assembled dancers. They are taken to a costume trailer where they are all fitted for costumes for peasants straight off the cover of a bad medieval romance cover. Crane then leads them to the barn off of the beaten path of the other trailers. It is decorated for some sort of barn party. Once the entourage arrives, Crane looks perturbed.

“Where’s my band?” Crane asks.

“Where’s his band?” Cosmin echoes. “Where’s his band?”

A casually-dressed blonde woman with a clipboard and Bluetooth phone headset comes walking up. “I’m sorry, Mr. Crane. They are running late, but should be here any minute.”

“Deirdre. I need a band. How can I have a party without a band?” Crane asks, petulant.

“I understand that, sir. Fifteen minutes, tops.”

“Fine. We’ll just wait for the band. People, take five!” Crane announces to the room. He then comes up to Saraia and Thackery and takes them aside. Brianna does her best to eavesdrop again.

“Did you give any thought to my proposition?” Crane asks.

“Yes. I’m in,” Saraia says.

“Then I am, too,” Thackery says.

“Excellent,” Crane says. “I’ll have a set prepared this afternoon.”

Fifteen minutes later, the band arrives. It looks like they brought their own medieval costumes. They are apparently a local folk band specializing in medieval music. They play in various faires and celebrations and such. Crane is gracious, but visibly agitated. He gets the band set up in one of the hay lofts. He then gets the dancers set up at various points around the barn.

“First we’re going to do some establishing shots. The music is going to play and you’re going to have a good time. Act natural. Action!”

After the establishing shots, Crane shoots some close ups and a few dances.

“Now we have the big shots. Those will be with the principles. Those will be tomorrow. But you’ve done a good job today. I’ve seen what you can do. Let’s break. There’s a craft service van down at the main set,” Crane announces.

The set breaks up and people start heading down to the main set. Brianna introduces herself to Deirdre Thomas. The young woman gives off absolutely no supernatural vibe.

As Brianna makes her way down to the craft service van, she once again notices the very furtive crew. It’s clear that they do not want to speak to Brianna. Along the way, she notes the trailers for the stars, including a third for someone named Andrei Negrescu. Andrei gets out of his trailer and heads for craft services. He’s a huge man, with a partially shaven head and a lazy eye. The crew gives him a wide berth.

In the food line, Brianna approaches the big man, who holds himself like a fighter. “Are you Andrei?” she asks. She very much gets a supernatural vibe off of him.

“Yes,” he says in a thick Slavic accent.

“Have you filmed with Mr. Ionescu before? Or Mr. Crane?”

“This is my first film,” he says, eyeing Brianna up and down.

“You don’t strike me as the dancing in the barn sort,” Brianna says.

“You don’t strike me as the frolicking in the woods type,” Andrei says.

“Oh no. I’m looking after them. They’re under my protection.”

Andrei looks at the dancers. “Big job.”

“Yes,” Brianna says.

Andrei smiles. “What if it is too big?”

“I’m resourceful. I never admit something is too big,” Brianna says. “Is there something I need to know about?”

Andrei shrugs. “You are far from home, little girl. And Romania has many monsters.”

“So does America,” Brianna smiles, showing a lot of teeth. She gets her food and goes to the table. After she eats, she emails Joey the names of the actors to see if they are real actors, including Andrei Negrescu. She sees the principles come out of their trailers and join lunch. They introduce themselves to the extras and Brianna gets no supernatural vibe from them at all.

After lunch, Crane comes and fetches Saraia and Thackery and leads them away with Cosmin and Deidre. Brianna follows. They go into a building set and Cosmin turns to Brianna and puts up a hand. “I’m sorry, but this is a closed set.”

“I’ve been charged to keep an eye on the whole group. Even those that get singled out from the rest,” Brianna says.

Cosmin looks pained. “One moment.” He goes inside. After a moment, he reemerges and says “Okay,” motioning for Brianna to enter.

Brianna is lead inside the set. Crane, Deirdre, a small camera crew, and Cosmin are there watching as Saraia and Thackery disrobe in a small bedroom scene. Brianna stays out of the way as they film a very adult, very pornographic scene with Sariah and Thackery. When they are finished, Crane glances over at Brianna and smirks. Brianna glares at Crane, very uncomfortable with the situation. Crane hands the two dancers each an envelope.

Crane turns to Brianna. “Did you keep your eye on them the whole time?” he asks.

“Yes,” Brianna says with a growl and stalks off.

Crane chuckles.

“Fucking asshole,” Brianna mutters as she leaves the set.

Brianna checks on the others back at craft services. They’re just finishing up their break. Crane gathers them up for an announcement—there will be another scene shot tonight—a chase scene. He points at Patrice. “You’ll do,” he says. He says Patrice is to return at 8:00 pm that night. A car will be sent to the hotel to pick her up. The rest of them are dismissed.

As the group breaks up, Brianna asks Deidre for a copy of the script. Deidre provides her with one. They all load up in the cars and head back to the hotel.

That afternoon, in her hotel room, Brianna reads the script. There is, indeed, a chase scene. A townswoman is chased through the woods, but barely makes it to a tavern in time. The “twist ending” is that the werewolf slaughters the town in the end, including the principles. After reading it, she offers the script to any of the dancers that want to read it. LeBron takes it.

June 21, 2013 (Friday, 8:00 pm)

Patrice is very excited when they get to the set that evening. The forest around the set is lit up for an outdoor shoot. Crane, Cosmin, Deidre and a few crewmen are there. Brianna is there with Patrice. They get Patrice into costume as a villager and into position.

Crane comes up to Patrice and tells her, “Here’s what you’re going to do. You’re going to walk down the trail. You’re going to see a werewolf. I want you to react as if you’ve seen a werewolf. I want you run down the trail toward the tavern. Can you do that for me, Patrice? I want to see your fear. I want to feel your terror.”

Cosmin nods in agreement, seeming to get a chill from the emphasis Crane puts into the words.

“Yeah, I can do that,” Patrice says with a smile. Everyone backs away and Crane says, “Action!”

Patrice starts off down the trail. Crane and a cameraman follow on a trolley, watching through a lens. Brianna can hear heavy breathing coming from the trees and sees a large, shadowy form emerging from the trees. Suddenly a large wolf jumps out of the forest onto the trail behind Patrice. She screams, her terror very real—as realistic as the wolf—and she takes off down the trail at an inhumanly fast pace. The trolley races to keep up—as does the wolf.

Brianna looks at Deidre, who doesn’t seem to be phased by the proceedings—though she doesn’t seem to be enjoying them either. Patrice makes it to the tavern set and runs inside as the wolf takes off into the forest. Crane yells “Cut!”

Cosmin looks happy with the performance. Deidre goes to the set and knocks on the door. “It’s over,” she tells Patrice, gently. The dancer reemerges from the tavern, teary-eyed and angry. “What the hell was that?” she demands.

Crane says, “Movie magic, my dear. Movie magic.”

Brianna stands next to Patrice. The young woman seems a bit pacified and wipes her eyes. “Well, you got me pretty good.”

Crane nods. “Glad to hear it.” Deidre gives her an envelope.

“You all right?” Brianna asks Patrice.

“Yeah, I’m all right,” Patrice says, opening the envelope and smiling.

Brianna looks at Cosmin as she says, “They were wanting fear and terror and you were very good at it.”

“Yes my dear,” Cosmin says. “You were very good.”

Patrice and Brianna head back to the hotel. LeBron is still reading Brianna’s copy of the script. When Brianna gets back to her room, she discovers that she has an email from Joey. Apparently Roy was able to discover that Sylvia Dianova and Piotr Ivanovich are low budget porn stars from the Russian and Baltic states. He couldn’t find anything about Andrei Negrescu. He’s still working on Cosmin Ionescu.

June 22, 2013 (Saturday)

The cars come once again and pick up the troupe and head for the set. Brianna gets her copy of the script back from LeBron. Along the way, Brianna converses once again with Cosmin.

“So we’re on schedule for wrapping up within the week?” Brianna asks.

“Yes, we are on schedule,” Cosmin says.

“Have the three principles worked before with you? Are then known in this industry?” Brianna asks.

“Oh, they are very experienced,” Cosmin says, nodding.

Brianna can tell he is lying. “I would have assumed Andrei was in a different business,” she says.

Cosmin raises an eyebrow. “Such as?”

“He looks like a professional fighter,” Brianna says.

“He can handle himself, I’m sure,” Cosmin says.

“I’m sure he can,” Brianna says, and turns back to read the script.

Once they get to the set, Crane meets them once again and everyone is shuffled off for costuming. Then the troupe is arranged in the barn once again for the party scene. Crane explains the scene once again to the extras, how they are not to interact with the principles once they enter the scene.

Brianna speaks briefly with Deidre about the crew. Apparently Cosmin brought them in from his own contacts in the area. They stay in the village with the locals. Why are there no locals bothering them on the set? Cosmin’s assistants apparently have made it clear that they didn’t wish to be disturbed. Cosmin apparently works primarily out of Bucharest.

Crane blocks out the scene for the extras. The entire process is extremely dull for Brianna. They shoot—then reshoot—then shoot again. After a while, they take a break. Crane announces that they will be shooting the “big climax scene” later tonight. Brianna notices that LeBron looks at bit apprehensive.

“Have you gotten to that part in the script?” Brianna asks him.

“Yeah,” LeBron says.

“What’s it say?” Brianna asks.

“It’s a slaughter. The principles, everybody, gets attacked,” LeBron says.

“The werewolf?” Brianna asks.

“Werewolf,” LeBron says, nodding.

“The slaughter I guess is the horror part of the erotic horror,” Brianna points out.

“I guess so. I guess it just makes me jumpy. But one thing I noticed. There’s no special effects crew on this set,” LeBron says.

“This is a small crew,” Brianna says.

By this point, everyone has made their way out of the barn and toward craft services.

“When you guys were in costuming, did they go over any blood packs or anything like that?” Brianna asks.

LeBron shakes his head. The two catch up to the rest of the group. Brianna offers to share her script with any of the others. One of the other dancers offers to take it.

Apparently Crane and the rest of his crew have headed off into the forest to film another scene. Briana makes her way to the edge, then hears a scream come from deeper in the woods. Brianna follows the sound, stealthily making her way through the trees.

She comes upon a clearing where Cosmin is holding a camera filming a scene in which a large wolf is devouring a young peasant woman. Deidre is quietly throwing up off to the side while Darby Crane avidly watches the scene.

“What the fuck is this?” Brianna says as she emerges from the trees. “You’re filming snuff films?” Is that your idea of erotica?"

Crane smiles slightly. “You have such a limited view of human nature,” he says.

“I suppose that’s true,” Brianna says. “This is disgusting. Did Nerise know exact tenor of the film you’re making out here in the middle of nowhere?”

“I hardly need Nerise Patel’s approval for anything,” Crane says with contempt.

“When it comes to the safety of the ten people she sends out here in my care, then you fucking do,” Brianna says.

Crane reaches out to grip Brianna’s hand, but she dodges easily. Brianna punches him in the face.

“I am no one’s food. You asks Peregrine Raith what happens when you try that shit on me. I don’t care who you are. I will take you down,” Brianna whispers.

Crane blinks at her, at a loss for words.

“I don’t know what the hell you are doing, but I want assurances that my people are going to be safe. I’ve read your script and I know what happens tonight. You better have good special effects, because if this is what you have in mind,” she points at the wolf, “then were done,” Brianna says. She feels her phone buzz in her pocket.

Cosmin then reaches out and grabs her, and she feels his power reach toward her but she fights it off. She gets out of his grip and turns and runs through the forest. She can hear the wolf chasing after her.

After a short—too short—amount of time, the wolf catches up and she feels its jaws on her. She turns to face it and grips it, sending her own power through it. It goes crazed with rage. They exchange blows for a time, missing each other, testing each other’s prowess. Finally the wolf connects, making Brianna bleed. She drives the wolf berserk with rage. Then the wolf rips Brianna open, rupturing her gut. Brianna finally gets a hold of the wolf and drains it of psychic energy, killing the beast. Lying before her is the nude body of Andrei Negrescu.

A gunshot rings out in the forest. She holds her wounded abdomen and starts to run back toward the set. As she runs, she takes out her phone and dials Clive.

“This is Clive,” the calm voice on the other side of the line answers.

“This whole thing’s gone to shit. They’re filming snuff films out here. It’s not safe. We’re getting out of here,” Brianna says, breathless.

“You’re not making much sense, Ms. Karkana,” Clive says.

“We’re heading home!” Brianna yells.

“Very well,” Clive says.

“Can’t talk. They’re shooting at me,” Brianna says. She hangs up.

Brianna breaks out of the woods and onto the set. She makes her way to the troupe. They see her wound and gather around her, wanting to know what’s going on.

“This set is not safe. We’re going back to the hotel now,” Brianna says.

“We heard gun shots,” Kris says.

“Yes. This set is not safe. We’re going back to the hotel now,” Brianna says again.

They walk back to the parking lot where the drivers are leaning against the cars and smoking cigarettes.

“Take us back to the hotel. Now,” Brianna says.

The lead driver looks at her, takes drag off his cigarette and says, slowly, “We take our orders from Mr. Ionescu.”

“I don’t think so. You’re taking orders from me. You’re taking us back to the hotel now,” Brianna says with some heat.

The driver shifts his shoulders a bit, revealing a shoulder holster. “I take orders from Mr. Ionescu.”

“No, that’s not an acceptable answer, I’m afraid. I’m bitten, pissed off, and you’re in my way. Drive the damn car,” Brianna says.

He puts out his cigarette. “You Americans expect everything your way,” he says.

Brianna punches him in the face. “Get to it! Or get out of my way!”

He goes for his gun but Brianna grabs it first. “You clearly mistake me for someone who’s just fucking around. I’m not.”

“I will drive to the hotel,” the man says.

“Was that difficult?” Brianna asks.

The drivers call out to each other in Romanian.

“Don’t get stupid,” Brianna warns her driver. Everyone loads up and the cars start heading back to Sibiu. Brianna calls Clive back and speaks to him in Etruscan.

“We’re riding back to the hotel. This was not exactly what Nerise understood as far as the situation here,” she says. She then explains the situation as best she can.

“And you think this was what was in store for our dancers?” Clive asks.

“Quite a distinct possibility. Made more so that when confronted, they tried to kill me. Shit’s been weird from the beginning,” Brianna says.

“It is apparent that we’ll have to arrange for alternative transportation out of the country,” Clive says.

“I have ten dancers I have to get safely out of the country and they know where our hotel is. And they’re not happy. They shot at me. I don’t know what sort of damage control Nerise needs to do on her end. But I think the partner was Malvora,” Brianna says.

“Do you think you all can get to Bucharest?” Clive asks.

“I don’t think its that far,” Brianna says.

“But can you get there?” Clive asks.

“Yes, I can get us there,” Brianna says.

“Go to the Hotel Venezia. I will arrange a meeting with a contact named Zvetlana. She will provide transportation to the U. S.,” Clive says.

“I’ll call you when we get there,” Brianna says.

“Very well,” Clive says, and hangs up.

Brianna checks her email. Apparently Roy Dale finally found some information on Cosmin Ionescu. He is a purveyor of low budget schlock films in Romania and the Balkans. He finally hit upon the idea to make snuff films for a very “specialized” market. He is wanted in Prague on charges in relation to these films.

Brianna forwards this information on to Clive with the message “He’s a peach.”

She looks up to find that she’s riding in the car with Mike and Juanita. Mike demands to know what is going on.

“Have you read the script? They’re taking it more literal than I thought,” Brianna says dryly. “So we’re going to get pulled out. When we get back to the hotel, I need everyone to pack their shit and pack it fast.”

She opens her phone again and starts looking for a shuttle bus to rent. She finds a company on the cheap and rents a rattletrap bus, but it should do the trick.

The cars pull up to the hotel and deposit the troupe outside. After gathering everyone up, she tells them all to gather at Brianna’s room. While she changes clothes, she explains the situation. She also asks if anyone knows first aid. Patrice says that she does. So she has her administer aid to her wound.

“We’re done. I’ve talked to Clive. We’re getting pulled out now. We have to get to Bucharest. What I need for everyone to do is get packed in record speed. I’m going to get us a bus. Because when they come looking for us, I don’t want us to be here.”

Brianna takes the script and puts it in her duffle. She then calls the shuttle rental to confirm her transaction. As soon as she finishes with the shuttle company, her phone rings—it’s Deidre Thomas’ number. She answers and her’s Darby Crane’s voice on the other end. She also hears the sound of engines in the background.

“Ms. Karkana. I trust you dealt with Andrei.”

“I’m alive, no thanks to you,” Brianna says.

“That was nothing to do with me. I can’t be blamed for a wild animal,” Crane says.

“Really. If that’s all you have to say then our conversation’s done,” Brianna says.

“I trust the events in the woods today will be the subject of discretion,” Crane says.

“I’ve told my employer. I’ll guess we’ll see what she does with the information,” Brianna says.

“I’m referring to any authorities you may wish to inform,” Crane says.

“Any grievances I have are going through Nerise. Again, what she does with that information is up to her. However, if you ever come after me again, things may change,” Brianna says.

Crane chuckles. “You are spirited.”

“I’ve been told it’s one of my more charming aspects,” Brianna says.

“Then I have nothing else to say,” Crane says.

Brianna hangs up.

Everyone is packed up and ready to go. The shuttle bus comes and is ready to go. Brianna nominates one of the dancers to be her Google navigator and the troupe is on the road again. As they ramble down the road to Bucharest for the four hour drive, Brianna looks for tails. By nightfall, they finally arrive in the capital and the Hotel Venezia.

Brianna shuttles everyone inside the hotel. In the lobby, she spots and older woman with gunmetal gray hair in a severe bun smoking a cigarette at the bar watching her and her charges as they come inside. Brianna approaches her.

“I’m supposed to meet someone here. I’m wondering if it’s you,” Brianna says.

“You’re American?” the old woman says.

“Yes,” Brianna says.

“Then probably,” the old woman says. “You’re Brianna.”

“Yes,” Brianna says.

“I’m Zvetlana,” the old woman says.

“Lovely,” Brianna says with a sigh of relief. “Those are the people I’m protecting over there.”

Brianna feels no White Court vibe coming off of this seemingly human woman.

“I have arranged a flight for you at midnight,” Zvetlana says. “We will wait at the hotel until it is time to fly.”

Brianna explains about the rental bus. Zvetlana says that it can be left at the airport and that it can be taken care of.

Brianna texts Joey: THIS WAS GOOD INFO TO HAVE. THINGS WENT A LITTLE SQUIRRELLY. GOING HOME A BIT EARLIER THAN PLANNED.

After a couple of hours of boredom in the hotel lobby, Zvetlana announces that “It’s time.” They drive out to the airport, actually out onto the tarmac. A private jet awaits them.

“I take it we will go all the way home?” Brianna asks.

“You will go to New York and then on to Portland,” Zvetlana says.

The dancers and their things get loaded up and the plane takes off. Brianna sleeps the sleep of the justified.

June 24, 2013 (Monday, 6:00 am)

The jet finally touches down in PDX. Cars are waiting for them, sent by Nerise. Everyone is brought to Nirvana. Along the way, Brianna calls Joey to let him know that they touched down okay and that she’s in town.

At Nirvana, when everyone exits from the cars, they all say their goodbyes. Even Patrice says goodbye to Brianna. Brianna makes her way inside the club and heads up to Nerise’s office.

Nerise offers her a drink and a seat at her desk.

“Tell me everything,” she says. Brianna does.

Clive provides her with another drink when she’s done with the story.

Nerise is playing it close to the vest, but Brianna can tell that she is upset at Darby’s/Madrigal’s disrespect.

“You have completed your favor to me. Clive will arrange for a car to take you home.”

With that dismissal, Brianna takes her leave.

When Brianna gets home, she calls Loomis and lets him know that she’s back in town.

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typhoid_mary

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