The Dresden Files: Portland

Side Job: The Big Bad (Part Three)

Karkana Chronicles Eleven

March 27, 2013 (1:00 am: Sydney Benning’s Apartment)

“Who ever was controlling it had to be able to concentrate on it”, Sydney says.

“What do you mean? Someplace safe where they can sit and concentrate?” Brianna asks.

“Essentially, yes. Depending on how powerful they are, depends on how far away. This is clearly thaumaturgy, so they are having to pool a fair amount of power.”

“So I don’t know much about magic, what does this mean about stopping this. I’ve seen people throw fire, water, steam…” Brianna says.

“This isn’t that,” Sydney says.

“Okay.”

“This is slow, methodical, ritual magic. But its more powerful.”

“Great. Alright. The guy doing this, if he was going to bolt he would do it by now. If there were traces, is there a time limit? Do you need to do that tonight? If we need to do that tonight we can…”

“I can’t really trace the spell without a piece of it,” Sydney says.

“That ectoplasm disappeared really quickly,” Brianna observes.

“If there is a lair nearby, maybe there’s a clue there we could use,” Sydney says.

“Is that going to be time sensitive? Tomorrow will be easier to find a trail.”

“No, that will be fine.”

“My suggestion is to go at first light, go where the construct was facing, and use that as our starting point,” Brianna says.

“Okay,” Sydney says.

Sydney and Regi agree to be picked up slightly before dawn by Brianna and Joey and Brianna and Joey head back to their apartment.

As Brianna is getting ready to go to bed, she gets a phone call from a private number. She answers. It’s Clive.

“Hello Ms. Karkana.”

“Hello Clive. It’s fairly early in the morning. How can I help you?”

“My apologies. For us, it is late.”

“Ah. Truth be told, I’ve been up and around. You’re not catching me asleep.”

“Nerise would like to meet with you.”

“Tonight? I could be there in 20.”

“At your earliest convenience.”

“I have plans that will have me out very early in the morning, however I should be able to stop by tomorrow night. Should I try to stop by before the club opens?”

“How about 6 o’clock?”

“6 o’clock it is. I will see you tomorrow.” She hangs up and goes to share the conversation with Joey, She then takes a short shower and goes to bed.

March 27, 2013 (5:30 am)

Brianna and Joey get up early, stop at Peet’s Coffee along the way and pick up some coffee and breakfast along the way, and pick up Regi and Sydney before heading to Forest Park. They retrace their steps at Newton Creek to where they met the construct and to where the creature was slain and then to where the animal trail leads away from the creek.

Brianna asks Regi, “The construct’s been preying on the Week Folk for just the past week?”

“Two weeks.”

Sydney looks at the trail and thinks that its an older trail, older than the construct. The four fan out and track for one hour, looking for signs of a lair. Joey has the best luck. He finds a trail, branches pushed back indicating movement through the trail, that lead to a large mound with a cave in it.

Brianna approaches the mound carefully, listening, hearing only the trickling of water from within the cave. She uses her phone as a flashlight and goes inside.

Inside is a roundish, earthen chamber with water running into a stone pool. A circle is painted on the earthen floor. Otherwise, the room appears empty. Brianna calls the others forward.

“There’s some kind of circle painted on the ground there,” Brianna points out to Sydney.

“That might be where they control the construct,” the sorceress says.

“Well I guess we all look for clues,” Brianna says.

“Let me look first,” Sydney says. She goes inside and after a few moments, she re-emerges, saying that she saw no magical. traps inside or wards but that he has definitely broken the First Law, as far as she’s concerned.

“Remind me of the First Law again,” Brianna says.

“You do not kill with magic.”

“So it’s that obvious.”

“Only to the Sight.”

“So as far as looking for something sympathetic to link back to the person that did this…”

Sydney shakes her head. “I was only looking for mystical bad stuff.”

Brianna says, “Let’s go in and investigate. What about the circle? Is it going to hurt us?”

“No, it’s inert.”

They all go inside the cave and take a look around. The place is pretty bare except for the pool and the painted circle. However, Sydney finds a discarded granola bar wrapper wedged between some rocks. “It’s not much of a personal connection,” she says, “But I may be able to see where its been.”

“How long will that take?” Brianna asks.

“Tonight. I can do it tonight.”

“About what time? I have an engagement at six I can’t get out of.”

“8 o’clock.”

“Do we just meet back at your place? is that where you’ll have the results or where you’re doing this stuff?”

Sydney nods. “You can meet at my place. I’ll be ready to perform the divination by the. I’ll be able to see where this wrapper has been for the past day.”

“Map coordinates? That kind of thing?”

Sydney shakes her head. “No, just images.”

The group heads back to the car.

Brianna and Joey drive Regi and Sydney back home. After dropping them off, they drive around for a bit, speculating about Malcolm Rupert and whether or not he’s corrupt—or if they can make him look that way. Finally, they end up at Powells bookstore.

Brianna does some research on were creatures there. Were-bears are not terribly common, but have occurred. There is a difference between a lycanthrope—who does not shapeshift and is merely a vessel for a spirit of rage—and a were creature—who actually changes shape through a form of magic. Generally, were abilities are not transmissible through bites and such. It is an ability one is born with the potential to have. There is the exception of the Loup-Garou, which is the result of a hereditary curse. Many of the legends of the werewolf (silver bullets, full moons, etc.) have been conflated with vampires or the Loup-Garou. Also, many times, were creatures breed true (though not always).

After researching, she collects Joey and they head back to their apartment for a while before heading out to Nirvana. Once there, they are escorted up to Nerise’s office, which Joey waiting outside. Nerise offers Brianna a chair and Clive waits nearby.

“How are you?” Nerise asks.

“Life is interesting,” Brianna says.

“So I hear,” Nerise says.

“That depends on who you’ve been talking to, I suppose,” Brianna says.

“To be blunt, and, if I recall, you prefer bluntness…” Nerise starts.

“Yes.”

“You owe me a favor.”

“Yes, I do.”

“I have something that needs doing. I though you might be the person to do it and thus clear the slate.”

“I’m listening.”

“There is a man opening an establishment in my territory. I think you can appreciate my displeasure,” Nerise says.

“Yes, I can.”

“He seems to be unaware of the situation. He clearly did not do adequate research of his neighbors. I would like you to talk to him, bring him my demands and ensure compliance.”

“What exactly are your demands?”

“I demand 15% of the take. But if negotiated, I will settle for 10%. Obviously, I would prefer the 15%.”

“Is this a mortal or someone of our Court?”

Nerise smiles. “He’s a mortal. In fact, you know him. He’s name is Gould. I thought you’d be amused.”

Brianna frowns. “I don’t know if amused is the word I’m looking for.”

“As a persuasive measure, violence should be a last resort—I’m not looking for a street war. But feel free to let him know that your employer can ensure that his club will see very little in the way of business should he not comply. Feel free to use the Raith name as a tactic if you think it will get you somewhere.”

“It might. In my relationship with Gould currently, the leverage is usually in his court.”

Nerise smiles, a predator’s look. “Let’s see if we can change that.”

“Well, I guess I am very personally motivated that he does not come out ahead in any transactions in the city. I will persuade him,” Brianna says.

Nerise motions to Clive. Clive gives Brianna a business card. “Give this to him to contact me when he’s ready to play ball,” Nerise says.

“What is the name of this establishment?” Brianna asks.

“The Playhouse.” Nerise gives Brianna an address in northeast Portland.

“Out of curiosity,” Brianna asks," what have you heard about what’s going on with me?"

“Nothing to worry about,” Nerise says.

“Alright,” Brianna says and rises to excuse herself. “I’ll be moving on this and hopefully we’ll have results soon.”

She collects Joey outside the office and they two head out. In the car, she fills Joey in on the conversation and assignment.

They drive by The Playhouse and see an “Opening Soon” banner outside. It looks like a high-end gentleman’s club. Driving around toward the back, they see a few cars, including Gould’s gold-plated Lexus. They keep driving.

Brianna finds a rough bar at which to feed. She picks a fight and gets thrown out, but manages to feed on enough rage to sustain her. They then go to Sydney’s.

At Sydney’s, they meet Regi in the hallway, who tells them “Sydney says to go inside, she’s already started.” They quietly enter the apartment and see that the rug has been pulled back to reveal a circle painted on the floor. Incense is a burning in the room and Sydney is sitting within the circle with a bowl of water. Regi tells them to “Shhh.” Light shines out of the bowl and illuminates Sydney’s face. She’s is murmuring some sort of mantra over the water. Finally she stops and the light fades. Sydney looks tired.

“You okay?” Brianna asks.

“Yeah. Just takes a lot out of me.”

Sydney stands and goes to the sink, dumping out the water in her bowl.

“The wrapper was taken out of a backpack by a teenager in that cave. I’ve seen him. Then I saw him again putting it in the backpack at home. He was wearing a blazer, from a private school. It had a patch—Whittington’s.”

“The sick person that did this was a teen? Just a kid?” Brianna asks, incredulous.

“At the very least, he was in that cave.”

“Well, that’s our lead then.”

Brianna looks up the school on her phone. It’s a private school in the posh Irvington neighborhood. “You’d recognize this kid if you saw him?” Brianna asks Sydney.

“Yes.”

“Sounds like we need a yearbook. Do you have anything in your repertoire that’s going to make it easier to go and steal a yearbook from the library?”

“I can make things invisible, but it doesn’t last very long.”

Brianna checks her phone again and finds that the library is a separate building.

“Is there anything you can do with a security system?” she asks the sorceress.

“Hex it. Technology doesn’t work well around me.”

Brianna nods. “Ah. Phone interference and all that.”

“Well, I can do it on purpose as well.”

“Interesting. Breaking into the library is probably best done at night as they probably don’t let a lot of people on campus during the day with kids there and all. Is everyone up for a road trip?”

Everyone agrees and they all load up in Brianna’s car to go to Whittington’s Private School.

March 27, 2013 (10:00 pm, Whittington’s Private School)

Brianna parks the car across the street from the campus and sends Regi to go out and scout. He comes back a short time later with a report.

There is a guard station at the front gate. There are security cameras on the wall. The wall is approximately 8’ high and there are security cameras at the library entrance and the library wall.

The group discuss various plans for awhile before finally deciding on a course of action. Joey goes to move toward the front to watch the station guards. If they start moving, he’ll text Brianna. Sydney will hex the wall camera, signal Brianna, and then the two women will scale the wall.

As the two women approach the wall, Sydney runs and is suddenly not there. Next thing Brianna sees is a puff of smoke from the wall camera and Sydney at the wall signaling for Brianna to come. Both women climb the wall with ease. Then they approach the library.

Regi tells them where the library wall camera is and Sydney hexes it—and shorts out Brianna’s phone in the process. Brianna checks the library window for security measures and finds nothing.

Brianna whispers to the others, “I don’t have a phone anymore. If this triggers the police, we’re going to have to move fast. Can I get a light?”

“Allow me,” Regi says, and fills the area with a pale, green glow. Then he pulls a packet of tiny tools out of his pouch and he goes to work on the latch.

“Regi, you’re full of twists,” Brianna says, delighted.

The window is soon open and Brianna opens it all the way to allow them all entry into the Library.

“Our mission is to get in here, find a yearbook, see if we can ID this kid,” Brianna says.

Boarder_2.jpg

Everyone slips inside. Sydney makes a light globe to light their way. After about ten minutes of searching, they find a selection of yearbooks arranged by year behind the reference desk. Sydney takes the current year, starts with the freshmen, and works her way up. She patiently makes her way through the pictures until she comes across a sophomore by the name of Paul Whitlock. He’s a member of the chess club, Honor Roll, math team—and is the kid with the granola bar wrapper. She shows the picture to everyone else and then they put the book back and head out.

They traipse back over the grounds, head back over the wall, and go back to the car.

“Sorry about your phone,” Sydney says.

“Well, it’s replaceable,” Brianna says.

Brianna drives in the general direction of the guard house to pick up Joey. They spot him and get him in the car. They catch him up on the situation.

“We have a name,” Brianna says. “Can you do anything with that?” she asks Sydney.

“Not really,” Sydney says. They head back to Sydney’s and discuss possible plans.

“Our best scenario is following the kid home from school, which Regi may be good at due to not being noticeable but if he has. thing against the Wee Folk, I don’t want him anywhere near the bastard,” Brianna says. She turns to Sydney. “In your professional opinion, do you have a sense of time as far as him creating another one of these constructs?”

“It depends on how much innate power the kid has.”

“I’m assuming he has to go to school during the day,” Brianna says. “Is this something that can be started and stopped or must it all be done in one spell?”

“It would all be done in one spell in which he was pooling his power.”

“I’m assuming he’s using that cave to do his magic in—with the circle on the floor?”

“That makes sense,” Sydney says. “He’ll probably return there.”

“If all other ideas fail, that’s one place to lay in ambush. I’m going to try tomorrow and track him down online to find a place of residence.”

Brianna and Joey leave Sydney and Regi and head out to The Playground in northeast Portland. There are cars parked in the staff area—including Gould’s Lexus. Brianna notices security cameras watching the parking lot, so she has Joey park the car next to Gould’s. She gets out and leans against the Lexus and waits.

Ten minutes later, Gould and his driver come out.

“Ms. Karkana. A pleasant surprise.”

“Mr. Gould. I see you’re expanding your business opportunities.”

“To what do I owe this visit?”

“There is some business discussions we need to have.”

“I see. Well. Come inside.”

He opens the door for her and inside is an empty strip club. Very high-end. It’s no Nirvana, but some of the girls are rehearsing their routines, which says something already of the type of place it is.

Gould leads the way into a backroom office and invites Brianna to sit. He pulls out a decanter of some liquor and invites Brianna to have some and pours both of them a drink. He sits behind a large desk and sips his drink and Brianna sips hers—it’s a very good Scotch.

“So. To business,” Gould says.

“To business. This is a nice place.”

“Yes. It will be my little jewel once I’m done with it.”

“This is why I’m here.”

“Oh.”

“New club on the scene. People notice. My employer, for one.”

“Your employer?” Gould raises an eyebrow.

“Yes. She was very distressed to find a new business venture that had opened within her district that had not approached her first. She thought perhaps it was just oversight on your part and has send me to come speak with you.” Brianna sips her drink.

“And just who is this employer?”

Brianna hands Gould the business card that Nerise gave her. “As you are new to this particular venture, all enterprises of this nature go through Ms. Raith. She is willing to overlook such matters for a token percentage, a tribute of sorts.”

Gould turns a bit red and says. “You’re not going to extort from me , you puissant little street fighter…”

Brianna laughs. “You don’t have to worry about me. You have to worry about the House of Raith coming down on your head.”

Gould takes a drink. Brianna continues. “This is not to be ugly. She doesn’t want war in the streets. She just feels it would be a shame to not be properly compensated. It be a shame not to see such a business flourish. She has a vested interested in seeing such a business flourish. Business means profits.”

“What is she asking for?” Gould asks between clenched teeth.

“My employer feels that 15% will be adequate. I think that will help her overlook the insult and will help make a much more pleasant working relationship between the two of you.”

“15%. That’s outrageous!”

“You want the two of you to have a pleasant working relationship,” Brianna asserts, her tone dangerous."

Gould takes another drink. His hand is shaking. “She has that much influence?”

“Yes.”

“I’ve heard as much.”

Brianna smiles. “Tsk. tsk. You were aware of her in the city before you started this venture. Harder to claim you were unaware.”

Gould looks at Brianna coldly. “Get. Out.”

“I’m telling my employer what, exactly?”

“I’ll tell your employer what she needs to know.”

“Very good. I’ll let her know to expect your phone call.”

She leaves, collects Joey, and the two of them drive off. As Joey drives, Brianna borrows Joey’s cell phone to call Clive.

“Clive, I just spoke with Mr. Gould. I expect hell be compliant. I expect he’ll be contacting Nerise soon. At the percentage she was hoping for. However, I would like to be kept abreast if he changes his mind from when I left him. Please contact me either way.”

“That’s good. I’ll will inform her.”

“My phone died so if you have trouble contacting me, try this number. It’s Joey’s phone.

“Very well.”

The two head back home and go to bed.

March 28, 2013 (Thursday)

Brianna uses the burner phone to call people with this new number. She then goes to the public library to look up information on Paul Whitlock—no dice. So she goes to the University of Portland and gives a tip to Roy Dale to look up the information.

Roy finds Paul’s Facebook page with photos of home and various check-ins at Powell’s bookstore. He also apparently frequents various online forums as “WhiteWarlock”. Armed with this information, Brianna and Joey hope to find out more about this teenager.

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