The Dresden Files: Portland

Side Job: Book of Shadows

Part One

November 1, 2012

“Bye! Have a great day!”

Angelica ushered out her last client of the day. She had been seeing a boom in her business of late and today was no exception. Between the pressures of the sagging economy and the strange earthquakes that were rocking Portland down from Mount Hood, people seemed to be in desperate need of stress relief. Angelica rubbed some lotion on her tired hands and sighed in relief. Just as she settled into her easy chair, she heard a rap at her door.

Standing in the late afternoon mist was Leilani Capstone. Moisture rose off of her grey Warden’s cloak. “May I come in?”

Flustered, Angelica stepped out of her way and stammered “Um, yes, of course.”

The Warden stepped inside and unclipped her sword sheath from the belt beneath her cloak before sitting down on the sofa. Angelica took the easy chair.

" The White Council has a task for you. " The Warden was never one for small talk. " We managed to retrieve some information from the necromancer, Tim Mulligan, that you turned over to us. Apparently this being known only as ‘The Shrouded One’ wanted Mulligan to retrieve a book for him. The book is located in the church of Saint Andre Bessette. The Council wants you to find out what book this is, why this ‘Shrouded One’ would want it, and if it needs to be in the custody of the Council. "

Angelica blinked. “I see. Do we have any more information that I can use to go on?”

“No. And our interrogations were quite thorough, I can assure you.”

The ectomancer nodded. The Warden continued.

“We’ve come to you because you’re already involved and, frankly, with the current situation, I can’t be everywhere at once.”

“Current situation?”

" The War. With the Red Court. Fortunately, there has never been a great deal of Red activity in Portland, thus my services were needed in Eugene. Speaking of which, speak with Kendria in the Alberta district. She may have some information for you on protecting yourself. She has a shop called New Horizons. "

The Warden rose and re-attached her sword to her belt and headed to the door. As Angelica opened the door for her, she turned to the ectomancer and said, “Oh, one more thing. You should not be bothered by any other visits from the police regarding this matter.” Then she exited the house.

Angelica sighed and settled into her chair once again. A war with vampires? The White Council wants her to investigate this? It was a lot to take in. She called Lau Hu Chen, but he said it was not good time to talk. He sounded stressed. Probably family issues.

Her computer pinged, indicating an incoming invitation to a chat room. It was from user ChinaDoll7, a frequent poster to some of the paranormal forums that Angelica frequented. Apparently ChinaDoll7 worked for an unnamed hotel that was reputed to be haunted. She posted various disturbances that guests have reported and seemed to be interested in the paranormal “scene”. Angelica logged in as Silvercircle3 and entered the chat room.

ChinaDoll7 wasted no time. “Do you do paranormal investigations?”

Angelica hesitated a moment before answering, “Yes.”

“Good. My hotel has had a lot of activity lately and people are starting to get worried. Can we meet?”

“We can meet . . .”

“Tomorrow lunch?”

The two arranged to meet at a local restaurant for lunch. ChinaDoll7 indicated that she would be an Asian woman in a blue hat. Angelica replied that, to live up to the stereotype, she’d be in black.

After logging out of the chat room, Angelica decided to pay Kendria a visit. She had visited with the woman before—they ran in a lot of the same circles. Kendria was into aromatherapy and Reiki treatments and both were licensed massage therapists. Kendria was also a practitioner, an alchemist, to be exact. So Angelica got in her car and drove over to Alberta.

Angelica entered New Horizons as another patron was leaving.

“Hi, Angelica! It’s been a while. I have some great new oils you might be interested in. . . " Kendria was a pretty, fit young woman with brown dreadlocks and an infectious smile.

“No, thank you. That’s not what I’m here for. I’m here to talk about more. . . private. . .matters. "

The other woman walked over to the door and locked it, and then turned over the CLOSED sign in the window.

“Okay. I’m all ears.”

“I need something for protection.”

“Physical or more mystical? I don’t really do wards, but. . . "

“Physical protection.”

“Angelica, is someone trying to hurt you?”

“No, nothing like that. Not yet, anyway.”

" Okay. You have to be careful out there. I don’t know if you heard, but the White Council is at war with the Red Court. For now, I’d travel with a friend if I were you. "

Angelica smiled. “I usually do, but he was busy tonight. And yes, that’s why I want something protective.”

“Come on.” Kendria took Angelica to the back room of the shop. “Some of us are banding together to join something called the Paranet. Have you heard of it?” Angelica shook her head as Kendria continued. “They have groups in Chicago and New York and few other places. Where people like us can protect ourselves when the Council can’t.”

“So has this group formed yet?”

" No, not yet. We had a preliminary meeting at Edgefield, but we were attacked by a pack of Reds. "

Angelica was taken aback. Edgefield was Accorded Neutral Ground in the supernatural community. “Was anyone hurt? I thought that place would be warded.”

" A few were injured. A couple of us killed. We were lucky that it was just a lightning raid of some sort. Probably to send a message. As for the wards, some think they were sabotaged. Solomon is not happy "

“Who’s Solomon?”

" Solomon Chalmers. Caretaker at the Edgefield. "

“Oh.”

“So, about that protection.” Kendria pulled a vial off one of her many shelves. “This is Red Court Antivenom. If you take a dose, you should be able to stave off the effects of their venom, for at least a short time.”

“That would be helpful, thanks.”

Kendria sighed. “You do realize, of course, that this is how I make my living.”

Angelica wanted that vial, but wasn’t sure that she could afford it, it being a fairly rare and hard to manufacture substance. Angelica pleaded her case to the other woman, who relented and said that she could have the mixture in exchange for a favor later. Angelica agreed.

Kendria told her that she would contact her with the next Paranet get-together, if the community can regroup. Angelica said thanks and left the shop.

November 2, 2012

Angelica walked through of one of her favorite restaurants, looking for her contact. She didn’t have to wait long before she spotted an attractive, Asian woman, about her same age, sitting in a booth wearing a cute, blue floppy hat. The woman extended her hand before Angelica sat.

“Silvercircle3?”

“Call me Angelica.”

" I’m Jean. Jean Ling. "

The two shook hands and Jean took a seat across from her black-clad contact.

“You know that my hotel has had a fair amount of strange activity. Enough that it has a reputation. Until now, that reputation has actually brought in more customers than it has scared off. But now, the management is starting to worry that there may be something wrong with the building. They’re not willing to say what—but just that something is wrong.”

“What hotel is it?”

" The Miranda. It’s in Old Town. Anyway, it’s going to be closed this Sunday for ‘reasons’. The management won’t say why. So I figure that I can get you inside to take a look and, well, do what you do. "

Angelica nodded. “Tell me more about these incidents.”

" Well, it’s mostly cold spots and stuff like that. Rather benign, just more of it. It all takes place on the twelfth floor. That’s why most of the old timer’s think it’s Jonathan Sundry. He was murdered on the twelfth floor back in the 1920s. It was a bit of a scandal because he was sleeping with one of the porter’s wife at the time and the porter found out and shot him. "

“Do you know who shot him?”

Jean shook her head. “No, just one of the hotel’s employees. So, are you willing to help?”

Angelica smiled. “Of course.”

“Great! How much will I owe you?”

“We’ll talk about that later.”

The two agreed to meet on Sunday morning about 8 a. m. on a nearby corner to The Miranda. Jean will then lead the way to a staff entrance and get Angelica inside, near the stairwell. The two shook hands and left the restaurant.

As Angelica made her way to her car, she got the distinct feeling that she was being watched. She looked around, trying to see if someone was following her, but saw nothing. Disconcerted, she got in her car and headed to Saint Andre Bessette Catholic Church.

Saint Andre Bessette Catholic Church was a church known for its missions against poverty and homelessness. Angelica found a line of homeless people going into one of its side entrances, with traffic being directed by a priest. She headed toward the main entrance into the sanctuary.

Inside, she approached a young priest about getting a tour of the building. He told her that such a tour would be unusual, but he may be able to arrange for her to be shown the public areas of the facility. She then mentioned the food pantry and other ministries and was told that these were facilitated by Reverend Buxman. The young priest seemed please to be able to pass Angelica over to the older the priest.

Buxman was a kindly, older man, busily directing a lot of the chaos in the mission area of the church. Angelica was introduced and inquired about having a tour of the facility and in volunteering to help at the pantry.

“That would be most generous of you, Ms. Underwood, to volunteer your time so. I believe that God has a plan for everyone. Perhaps this is your calling.”

“Perhaps. I do like to help people.”

“As far as a tour, would you be able to return tomorrow? As you can see, I have my hands a bit full today.”

“That will be fine.”

“Good. Here is the number of my secretary. Contact her to arrange for volunteer hours at the pantry.”

Number in hand, Angelica headed out. She did not have a sense of being watched anymore, but figured that if anyone was watching her, all they saw was that she visited a church.

Before heading home, Angelica decided to stop off at the library to do some research about the Jonathan Sundry case. He was apparently shot by a man named Samuel West, who later received life imprisonment for the crime. It was described as a crime of passion, but there were very few details in the old papers.

Finally, Angelica visited with a local security company and had a basic security system installed on her home. Nothing fancy, but enough to give her some piece of mind against intruders.

November 3, 2012

As Angelica parked her car on the street near Saint Andre Bessette Catholic Church, she noticed that a car had been following her. It continued down the street and passed her. She didn’t recogonize the vehicle, but she did recognize the man behind the wheel—Detective Walter Fadil. This was the detective that had questioned her about the disappearance of Tim Mulligan. The one who the Warden had said would not be bothering her anymore. Leaving that problem for later, she walked up to the church to meet with Reverend Buxman.

She met the Reverend in the sanctuary. After exchanging pleasantries, the older man took the young woman by the arm and escorted her about the premises. The church had opened in 1919 and had a lot of history in the community as a mission-oriented church. After about half an hour, the Reverend had shown her most of the administrative areas as well as the various missions of the church, including their art program. Angelica asked him specifically about the church’s library and she was shown the administrative library—a small room stocked with high shelves and a small internet-ready computer. Disappointed that she seemed to be no closer to her goal of finding the book, she nevertheless took the tour in stride and even volunteered to work in the food pantry the following Monday. Pleased, Buxman got her information and gave him his card.

As she walked from the sanctuary back out into the street, Angelica caught the glimpse of some strange writings in the older door frames in the sanctuary area. She made a mental note of the carvings and made her way back to her car.

Getting back home, Angelica conducted some research on the glyphs she saw in the door frame at the church. She concluded that they were ancient Gnostic sigils of warding and protection. But what were they protecting? And how?

November 4, 2012

After getting up early and finishing breakfast, Angelica made her way toward her meeting withJean Ling.

She parked her car in front of a shop a few blocks from the rendezvous point. She didn’t know if she was still being followed by Fadil or not but she didn’t want to take that chance and get Jean into trouble. She wandered into the shop, hoping that Fadil would take notice. Then, before she left again, she gathered a small amount of power about her and shaped into a veil that snapped into place as she left the shop. Light bent around her in a way that shielded her from sight. She maintained the veil as she moved down the street, trying to avoid fellow pedestrians while concentrating on her spell. After about a block, she ducked into an alley and released her hold on the powers of spirits, disrupting the spell. Hopefully that would fool her surveillance detail. She then hurriedly walked down the alley toward her meeting with Jean.

Jean was at the corner, just like she said she would be. She explained again to Angelica that she would get the investigator into the hotel’s twelfth floor and that she could look around if she wanted to, but they probably wouldn’t have much time. What would she do if she got caught? Jean frowned. “All right, then,” she said. “I’ll come with you. Take full responsibility for you being there. It’s the only thing to do.” As they made their way down street to The Miranda, they saw that a van had pulled up with a bright logo: " PIPs: Portland Investigators of the Paranomal. "

Three people hopped about the van, bringing out equipment. A fourth person, probably a very nervous hotel manager, paced on the sidewalk.

“That’s my boss,” Jean said. “So that’s why they closed the hotel. Did you still want to go in?”

Angelica nodded. “I do.” PIPs had a bit of a reputation in the online communities. Earnest, but amateur. She didn’t think that they could she what she would be able to. She truly wanted to help Jean and her employers as well as the distressed spirit himself. She wanted to do what she did best.

She turned to Jean. “Thanks. I’ll take it from here. No need for you to get in trouble. I’ll let you know what I find out.”

Jean smiled. “Okay. Be careful.” Then she walked away down the street, away The Miranda.

Angelica took a deep breath, squared her shoulders, and walked up to the large man with a metal cane who seemed to be in charge. If her online contacts were any indication, this would be Charlie Huffman—ex-firefighter and paranormal investigator. She stuck out her hand to the large man, who took and shook it firmly.

“My name is Angelica Underwood. I was wondering if I could help?”

“I think we have it covered, Ms. Underwood. Simon, go ahead and grab the temperature sensors.”

“I have certain. . .talents. . .that could be of use here.”

Another of the PIPs team, a young bookish woman asked. “Are you a medium or something?”

Angelica nodded. “Yes. Something like that.”

Charlie interrupted. “That’s not our usual method. We want to pick up and detect evidence of physical manifestations. Then we refer people to folks like you if their into—well, that sort of thing.”

“Well, if anything, I can be an extra set of hands if you need it.” Angelica eyed the increasing stacks of equipment being piled out of the van.

Charlie sighed. “All right. But two things: I’m in charge and you stay out of the way.”

Angelica smiled. “Fair enough. In fact, if you don’t mind, I have no desire to show up on your cameras here. I want to be anonymous.”

Charlie nodded. “We can arrange that. Okay, then. grab that case and head inside.”

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