The Dresden Files: Portland

Side Job: The Insider (Part Two)

Karkana Chronicles Thirteen

April 18, 2013 (Thursday)

Brianna and Joey attend the Thursday night fights so that Brianna can sip on the ambient rage-filled energies. While driving back home from the fights, Joey informs Brianna that they’ve picked up a tail—a nondescript sedan that he hasn’t seen before. He tries to get away but then finds himself pinned between it and a second sedan that pulls out of a side street.

Brianna and Joey get out of the car as four men get out of each of the surrounding sedans. The men are all in suits and armed with handguns. They each point them at Brianna and Joey.

“What the hell is going on here?” Brianna demands. The men in the suits fire their guns.

Brianna notices that she is bruised by a tranquilizer dart as she is peppered with more of them and drops to the ground. She shakes off the affects of one, but is overwhelmed. She sees Joey drop beside her as she falls unconscious.

Brianna wakes up, chained to a metal chair in the center of an empty room. She feels groggy, euphoric, uninhibited, and hungry—essentially, drugged, and an IV is taped to her arm. In front of her she sees Malcolm Rupert.

“Ms. Karkana. Are you awake?”

“I think so,” Brianna manages to croak out.

“Good. I’d like to have a chat.”

“You obviously worked very hard to get my attention.”

“Yes. an epiphany that came a bit late but better late than never.”

Brianna strains against her bonds. As she does so, Rupert says, calmly, “Remember. We have your friend in another room.” Brianna stops struggling.

“If you wanted to chat, you could have called,” she says.

“You’re very uncooperative when I call. Very…inhibited.”

Brianna pulls out the IV. “What do you want to chat about?”

“I want to know where the crystal ball is.”

“You’re still on that? The scales are balanced. Didn’t you hear your boss?”

“They may be balanced with the organization, but not with me.” A steel edge cuts across Rupert’s tone.

“Ah. This is ‘personal’ then.”

“I lost a lot of prestige in the organization, thanks to you.”

“Because you lost an object or because you’re dealing with a corrupt manufacturer of drugs?”

“Where is the crystal ball?” Rupert reiterates.

“I don’t know. Same questions over and over. Frustrating. Yes, you are frustrating.”

“Where did you put it?”

“I gave it away,” Brianna says, almost before she realizes it. The drugs must be having an effect.

“To whom did you give it away?”

“To someone I’m more afraid of than you. Has Gould perfected his recipe? The side effects were kind of interesting before.”

“Let’s stick to the topic at hand,” Rupert says.

“I don’t know. This is the topic at hand. It comes back to him, doesn’t it. I can’t figure out if you’re working independently or if the whole thing has to do with the VU.”

“Gould has nothing to do with this. My dealings with him are terminated. Now, who are you so afraid of?”

“I don’t think I want to tell you, Rupert. I like my life, such as it is. I just want to be left alone. You’re making that very difficult.”

“Is it someone in the White Court?”

“Rupert, if I tell you, it will go badly for me, and those I care about. You’ve put me in an impossible situation. We’re in this situation because I was helping someone out. And to save someone else, I’m now locked to a chair. You’re asking me to put someone I care about back into danger, not to mention my own skin.”

Rupert, exasperated, raises his hand and snaps a finger. Brianna hears a hollow FWIP sound and then feels a sting on the back of her neck. Then, she’s unconscious again.

When she wakes up again, it’s dawn. She and Joey are in their car. Her head is muzzy, but she remembers her interrogation by Rupert. She doesn’t remember the details, but the gist of what happened. He last clear memory was of being followed. Joey lifts up his sleeve and reveals a matching IV wound to hers.

“What did you tell them?” she asks him.

Joey looks away. “I spilled it.”

“Oh, Joey,” Brianna says with feeling. “We need to go home, shower, get some coffee, and figure out what we’re going to do.”

They drive home in silence.

Once they get home, the two have a talk at the kitchen table.

“I’m not sure what our next line of attack should be,” Brianna says.

“Attack? What about defense?” Joey counters.

“What do you mean?”

“If Rupert and his cronies go after Butler, guess who’s in the lurch?”

“Us.”

“Yeah.”

“I don’t know how to get around that, Joey. Do we tell Butler about Rupert?”

“That’s why I’m talking defense!”

“It’s getting to where we can’t get from point A to point B in this city…” Brianna laments. “I’m not sure how we’re going to defend ourselves. I don’t think we have a way to keep Rupert from trying to get the stupid orb back. I can’t see any scenario in which alerting Butler that someone is coming after it is going to go very well. I don’t think he cares we were attacked and drugged. I’m not sure who’s a bigger player, who can keep Butler way from us. And it’s not just us. We used that orb to get Sydney out of trouble. Did you have a suggestion besides moving back to St. Louis?”

“Well, maybe things are too hot in Portland,” Joey says.

Brianna slumps in her chair. “I don’t want to leave Portland, that’s the problem. This was becoming quite a nice set-up. This is mine… Regardless, this may need to be a conversation with Sydney. Even if we decide to bolt, Sydney’s left to have to deal with the ramifications. Let’s go.”

April 19, 2013 (Friday)

Brianna and Joey head over to Sydney’s apartment. Regi isn’t there. Sydney invites them in.

“What’s going on?” Sydney asks, noting the concern on her friends’ faces.

“Nothing good,” Brianna says, “but as it tangentially involves you, we thought we should have a talk.”

“Oh.”

“I think its time to tell you some of the circumstances of how we got your release from Butler.”

“Okay.”

“With some of our other interactions in the city, we came across an actual crystal ball that we managed to intercept. And gave it to Butler to pay off your debt.”

Sydney nods. “That explains a lot.”

“Obviously there were risks involved in that kind of transaction. But he knew it was hot when he got it, but there was the usual caveats of not pointing anyone in his direction. However, what we didn’t know was that the person we intercepted the item from was working for the VU.”

Sydney raises her eyebrows appreciatively.

“Yeah. Anyway. There’s been a lot of digging around since then. Did I take it? Did I not? I just recently did a job for them. That’s why I was out of town. It was to balance the scales with them. However, the guy I originally took the ball from didn’t feel that equalized anything and Joey and I just spent the night interrogated, drugged, until he got the name out of us.”

Brianna gets up to pace. Sydney nods in understanding. “I see.”

“This is problematic in many ways,” Brianna continues. " I don’t know what’s going to happen. I don’t know if Joey and I are going to have to run for it. I don’t wish to run. I have established my territory here. However (sigh) I can’t take on Butler, the VU, and everything else that seems to come my way. If Joey and I have to leave town, I don’t want to leave you unaware of what’s going on. This doesn’t just impact us."

“I appreciate that. What can I do to help?” Sydney asks.

“Unfortunately, that’s the fucking $10 million question,” Brianna says. “I don’t have any way of keeping him from getting the orb back.”

“Do you think he’s that foolish?” Sydney asks.

“I like to think not. But his reputation took quite a beating from losing the orb in the first place. But I suspect even the VU doesn’t want to take on Butler, much less a lone operative. He does have enough resources to hire eight people with tranq guns to assault us so he does have some resources at his disposal.” Brianna sits on the couch. “I’m so tired of people come at me with tranq guns.” She continues. “You know Butler in ways better than I do, I suppose. I only met him once. I assume he has quite a powerful hold on organized crime in this city”

The three of them discuss the consequences that could arise of not telling Butler what’s going on. Would he shoot the messenger? If they wish to stay in Portland, do they wish to burn that bridge? Butler is known to be a fair business man. Brianna finally decides to call on Butler.

Brianna and Joey leave Sydney’s and call Butler Industries. Brianna gets Butler’s personal assistant and leaves her name, that it’s an urgent message regarding their previous business transaction and leaves her number. After leaving the message, the two head to the gym to beat the shit out of something for a while.

As the two are getting ready to head out to the fights for the evening, Brianna receives a phone call.

“This is Jim Butler.”

“Mr. Butler. Thank you for taking my phone call. I have fairly sensitive things to speak to you about. Should we meet face-to-face or is this phone alright?”

“My car can pick you up.”

“Wonderful.”

“Give me an address.”

Brianna supplies her address and Butler hangs up.

The limousine arrives minutes later. She and Joey climb in and Butler is in the back.

“So what is this business?” he asks.

“May I talk freely?” Brianna asks.

“Yes.”

“The original owner of the crystal ball tracked us down and decided to employ chains, drugs and interrogation to find out where it was.” Brianna takes off her jacket to show her IV marks.

“You gave them my name,” Butler says, voice flat.

“Yes,” Brianna says.

“Actually, Mr. Butler, sir, I did. She didn’t,” Joey says.

“I take the blame for it,” Brianna says.

“I don’t give a fuck who takes the blame for it,” Butler says, annoyed. “Pipe down. Who is this?”

“A gentleman by the name of Malcolm Rupert,” Brianna says.

“And he’s who you got this ball from?”

“Yep. I don’t know that he’s stupid enough to try and get it back. I’m sure he just thought I had it sitting around my house. As I gave my word and broke it, I knew I needed to tell you first.”

“What kind of resources does this Rupert have?”

“Well, enough to send eight guys after us with tranquilizer guns. But the extent, I don’t know.”

Butler thinks for a moment. “There’s to be consequences for breaking your word to me. But I acknowledge that you could have cut and run.”

“I don’t tend to run from a fight. But you probably know that,” Brianna says.

The car pulls up in front of Brianna and Joey’s apartment building.

“You can go,” Butler says to Brianna. “We’ll probably talk later if I hear from this Rupert. Your friend stays. We have matters to discuss.”

Brianna gives Joey an apprehensive look but Joey motions for her to go. “Goodnight,” Brianna says as she gets out of the car. The limo pulls away.

Stressed and upset, Brianna goes out to feed. She goes out to a bar and provokes a fight and goes home.

When she gets back to the apartment, Joey is sitting in the dark. His left hand is wrapped in a bandage.

“Is it broken?” she asks, already knowing the answer.

“In three places,” he says. “He told me to convince him not to break my hands. I guess I was only half convincing.”

“It should have been me, Joey.”

“I’m the one who talked.”

“That should have been me.”

“It’s not always you, Brianna,” Joey says, with some heat.

“Don’t go anywhere,” Brianna says and gets Joey some ice for his hand, but not without first punching a hole in the kitchen wall.

Brianna then heads to Sydney’s. Sydney invites her in.

“How are you with broken bones? Is that something you can handle?” Brianna asks.

“No,” Sydney responds, mystified.

“We got in touch with Butler tonight. Joey’s hand’s been broken in three places.”

“I’m sorry. What you would need is a biomancer. And it would still take time. But it would heal clean.”

“Joey makes a living with his hands. I suppose it would need to heal slow or mortals would get suspicious. Do you know a biomancer?”

“I don’t, but I may be able to find one.”

“I’ll have to take him to the hospital tonight most probably. I can’t take the chance his fingers won’t set. I’d appreciate it if you find one that might be willing to come to some kind of arrangement.” Brianna then heads home to Joey.

Apparently, one of Butler’s men set Joey’s bones and wrapped them. This was after they beat him up one side and down the other.

“Sydney is looking for a biomancer. Someone that can help with the natural process. So things can heal right,” Brianna reassures Joey.

Brianna calls Mel to take Joey off the calendar indefinitely. He’s pissed, but there’s nothing to be done about it. She sends Joey off to bed.

Later that night, Brianna hears a rapping at the window. She goes to check it out and opens the window. “Hiya, lady.” it’s Regi. She offers him a drink, and in a serious voice he intones that he has no drink to offer her in return. She figures it must be a Fae thing. At any rate, he lets her know that he knows of a biomancer. She offers to share a drink for the information. He accepts. They share a lid-full of scotch and he offers up the name of Bill Mundy in the Alberta Arts District.

Brianna asks Regi if they need an introduction and Regi offers to introduce them. She wakes Joey up and the three of them head out to the Alberta neighborhood to find Bill Mundy, with Regi giving directions.

Eventually, they arrive at a brightly colored home with a the flag of Trinidad/Tobago flying out front. Brianna knocks on the door and it is eventually answered by a black man in a bathrobe. The man spots Regi and says “Regi? Whatchyou doin’ here for?”

“Hiya, Bill. Got a guy that needs some help.”

“Come on in out of the dark.”

The man leans toward Brianna as they come inside his home. “I’m not gonna have any trouble from you, am I?”

“No, I’m here for my friend,” Brianna says.

This seems to satisfy the man, who nods and says “Let me go get my bag.”

“Regi, you know some interesting people,” Brianna says.

“I’m an interesting guy,” Regi says.

Bill comes back with what appears to be a medical bag and starts examining Joey. “Many contusions here,” he says, tsking.

“I cleaned what I could,” Brianna says.

“The hand has been set, which is good,” Bill says.

“Glad to hear it was done correctly,” Brianna says.

“I take you folk want me to speed things along,” Bill says.

“That was the hope. And that his hand heals well. Hopefully as good as new, or close to it.”

“This will still take time. Magic will help, but time is the master.”

“You’re the first biomancer I’ve met. What kind of arrangement can we come to for your services,” Brianna says.

“Do you have an offer?”

“We have some funds.”

“Bah. I don’t need money. What I need is my back yard mowed.”

“You want us to mow your lawn.” Brianna repeats, slightly incredulous. “Is there something I need to know about your yard?”

Bill nods. “Old dog holes.”

“Did you want us to do it tonight?”

Bill looks horrified. “No! You’ll wake the neighbors!”

“Tomorrow morning?”

“That’ll be fine.”

The two shake hands and introduce themselves. Bill has Brianna take Joey to the “spare room” and settle him down into a bed.

Brianna turns to Regi. “Does he normally trade services for yard work?”

Regi shrugs. “Sometimes. Sometimes for beads.”

“Beads?”

“Yeah. He’s a beader. Sometimes he charges a bunch of money. Depends on his mood.”

Bill returns to the spare room with is medical kit and cutting board. “Everybody be quiet so I can concentrate,” he commands.

With a small eyeliner pencil, he draws three small circles on Joey’s hands while murmuring in Latinate phrases. Brianna can feel the energy shift in the room. Joey grimaces. Bill traces his finger along the circles as he murmurs. Then he moves on to the next circle. Looking carefully, Brianna can see a thin skein of ectoplasm along Bill’s finger as he moves from circle to circle along Joey’s hand. The substances dissipates quickly as Bill moves on. Finally, after about an hour of murmuring and tracing, Bill bandages Joey’s hand back up.

Brianna thanks Bill for his work and everyone heads out. Bill looks exhausted. They take Regi back to Sydney’s and head back home.

April 20, 2013, (Saturday)

At 8:00 am, Brianna reports to Bill Mundy’s house, ready to mow. Bill shows her to the shed out back and the mower. Throughout the morning, she mows, pulls weeds, and edges the yard. Bill brings out water for her to take breaks. He compliments her on a nice job. He tells her to tell her friend to stay out of trouble.

“We try. Unfortunately, it has a habit of finding us.”

Around noon, Brianna heads back to the apartment and showers.

Quincy texts that closing arguments will be on April 23, 2013, at 8:00 am. Brianna texts back that she’ll be there. She asks how the new hotel is working out. He says it’s fine and she says she’ll see him on the 23rd.

She shares the information with Joey. She’ll head up there on the 22nd. Joey wants to come—change of scene and all that. Brianna decides to look into renting a car in case her car has been made by the gangs of Red Court in Seattle.

That night at the fights, Brianna schmoozes and sips as usual. She hears the rumor that Joey got his hand broke for flapping his gums. Aaron Borland is there. She doesn’t avoid him.

“Looks like I will be free on Monday,” she tells him.

“That’s good,” he says.

They arrange to meet at noon at the gates of Chinatown.

“Just so you’re aware, Joey won’t be fighting tomorrow,” Brianna says. “I’ll still be around, but we’ll be out of the ring for a little while.”

“I saw you were off of the schedule. What’s going on?”

“Joey had a bit of an accident. He hurt his hand. Just don’t want to push it. Want it to heal as much as possible.”

“If there’s anything I can do, let me know.”

“It’s nothing that time won’t fix. But thank you.”

“I know what it’s like to be taken out by an injury and it’s not fun.”

“Makes it important to get back into the ring.”

April 21, 2013 (Sunday)

Joey goes ahead and attends fight night. Some wag makes a comment about Joey’s “mouth making a check that Joey’s mouth can’t cash.” Joey pops him in the mouth with his good hand and says “How’s that check, buddy?” Brianna gets between them and gets in the other fighter’s promoter’s face.

“You will keep a fucking civil tongue in your mother-fucking fighter’s mouth when talking to my man.”

The man apologizes. Brianna says, “Alright, get the hell out of my sight. Does anyone else have something they want to say? Because now’s your chance.”

The crowd disperses.

She schmoozes and sips as per usual. Borland comes by and compliments on the handling of the situation.

Cortez wins his bout.

Brianna and Joey go out to eat and then head home. Brianna pulls into the parking lot at their apartment building and the two head to their apartment. She sees someone lurking in the shadows near their door. Brianna moves in front of Joey.

“I can see you in front of my door. What the hell do you want?”

The female Red Court vampire that attacked Brianna and Quincy in Seattle steps into the light and says, “You.”

The Red Court vamp rushes Brianna, but misses her. Brianna sweeps the woman’s leg and knocks her off-balance. She hears a grunt behind her as Joey is struck by the male vampire from before. The female Red Court vamp hits Brianna but then Brianna wrestles her to the ground and begins to incite her rage and feeding on her. The vamp begins to grow crazed with rage. Joey, with his good hand, manages to punch the other vamp hard with a killer blow to the stomach, punching through the creature’s flesh mask. Brianna holds the woman down and continues to feed, draining the Red Court vamp of her life force. Joey continues to spar with the other vampire, dodging his blows and popping him with his good hand. The other vampire tries to grab him but Joey moves like an eel and dodges him. Brianna rises and knocks the other vampire off-balance. The Red Court vamp bolts into the night. Brianna tries to tackle him, but he’s too fast and she fails.

Brianna checks the woman for any identification. She’s carrying nothing on her. They drag the body inside their apartment and the flesh mask starts to melt away, revealing her monstrous shape. Brianna and Joey debate on what to do next. What are they going to do with this body?

Finally, Brianna calls Clive.

“Good evening,” Clive says.

“Unfortunately, I must asks a favor of Nerise and I’m not sure if I should ask in person or not. The Seattle Margrave has sent a pair of assassins after me. One got away and the other did not. I don’t know if she’s willing to assist me in this clean-up or not.”

“You know that the White King has declared our neutrality in the Red Court and White Council troubles,” Clive says.

“You realize there’s neutrality and there’s self-defense. They came after me. I also realize this may be a larger boon, then.”

“I will bring this to Nerise and call you back.”

“Thank you.”

A few minutes later, Clive calls back.

“Nerise is willing to help in this matter on the condition that you owe her a favor.”

“Yes, of course,” Brianna says.

“Very well. An exterminator van will arrive in the morning.”

“Please pass along my thanks to Nerise.”

April 22, 2013 (Monday morning)

An exterminator van parks outside the apartment building and a pair of men come into Brianna and Joey’s apartment hauling a 55-gallon drum marked “toxic waste”. They also bring a roll of plastic sheeting and a slew of electric tools. They go into the bathroom and the sounds of electric sawing is heard. Soon, they haul the drum out and leave the bathroom clean and smelling of bleach.

Brianna cleans the bathroom again.

On the way to her Chinatown lunch date, Brianna calls Loomis.

“It’s Brianna. Joey and I are coming in late tonight for closing arguments tomorrow.”

“Oh. Good. Things have been busy here, as usual.”

“Things have been busy here, too. See you tomorrow.”

“See you tomorrow.”

Brianna walks into the gates of Chinatown in an odd mood.

Borland meets her at the gates with a rose. Brianna pauses for a moment, then takes it.

“Are you okay? You seem off,” he asks.

“Had a rough night,” she says.

“Did you need to take a rain-check?” he asks, concerned.

Brianna pauses again, considering. Finally she says, “No. I’d like to be out of the house today.”

As Brianna and Borland go through Chinatown, sampling the shops and taking in the sights, Brianna is not talkative. She seems to have a lot on her mind. Aaron takes up a lot of the conversational slack. He seems slightly annoyed, though Brianna barely notices.

They find a dim sum place for lunch and eat and then head back to the gates.

“Thank you for the afternoon, and for the flower,” Brianna says.

“Of course.”

“I expect I’ll see you at the club soon,” she says.

“I’m sure. Would you like to get together some other time?”

“I’m going to be busy the next couple of days. I’ll call you when my schedule opens up.”

“This isn’t the ’I’ll call you and we’ll do lunch’ bit, is it?”

“And I don’t call? No, if I decide I don’t want to see you anymore, you’ll know because I’ll tell you. Outside of work, that is.”

“Okay.”

Brianna heads back to her car and goes to the apartment. She puts the rose in a vase with water and looks at it for a while. After that, she starts packing, rents a car online and gets Joey ready to head to Seattle so they can get there right before sundown.

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