The Shenandoah Reports

Over the River and through the Woods
My, what big teeth you have, grandma!

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David’s house was right on the Rivanna river- close enough that the sounds of the river were able to be heard as they drove up to it. He had neighbors, but the lot was large enough that he didn’t have to deal with them unless he wanted. He’d communed with the local spirits, of the river behind the house, so as they arrived, there were eyes on them before they reached the house.

So it was, on the voice of the wind, that David was warned of impending danger.

“Sir Knight, three of the enemy approach- exiting from my desmene to do harm to you and your companions. They have arms- though not as the hunters bear, but shorter. But make no mistake, they are after you. Take care- I negotiate what I can according to our pact to slow them.”

And as a counterpoint to the statement, they could hear movement through the now-resisting underbrush.

They could try to make it inside David’s wards and other protections- or try to turn the ambush against the ambushers…

David stopped his motion and held up his hand to Monk and Nick. He lowered two of his fingers and held the three fingers up. His blood thundered in his veins. How dare anyone come and threaten not only his holding, but trample through the demesne of the nature spirits around him to do it?

They could run for the wards and safety of the House, but that would leave his allies and neighbors to suffer the wrath. No, this called for direct conflict.

He closed his eyes and let the power of the land, bordering the river, fill him. His right hand went to his sword and he caught the eyes of Monk and Nick and made a small silent head motion toward the noise.

Considering she is a short, lumpy gobber half-breed, Monk courageously decides to remain hidden and let the guys with the swords and such do all the poking and stabbing.

She double checks that her little, black bag is filled with emergency medical materials. She suspects she may be needing it in short order.

Nick glanced in the direction that David had gestured, but saw nothing. “Left my sword in my other pants,” he mumbled, “but maybe I can still help.” He closed his eyes, muttered some incantations, opened his eyes, blinked, and blinked again.

“You’re quite right, David,” he said. “This place seems to be quite well warded. So much so, in fact, that my small talents are completely blocked.” He glanced at Monk, then back at David. “We aren’t going to be much help to you, I’m afraid.”

Monk considered the situation for a moment. Sword versus guns probably wouldn’t go well. They needed an advantage here, beyond the magical wards. Or… their opponents needed a disadvantage.

She begins to concentrate, drawing upon her inner nature, as much as she despises it. She nose lengthens and ears sharpen… an ugly green tint staining her face. Her teeth sharpen to fine needles and her eyes glow with on unnatural light.

The Goblin Woman whispers her curse upon her enemies, “By Bone and Stone, may you fall from your mighty throne. Be cast to the winds and forever hounded by your sins.”

Shadows creep around her, giggling and hissing, the leaves and twigs clustering into unsavory shapes… then rush out into the forest in a chittering horde.

David laughed as the shadows formed and rushed their opponents. He kept his sword guard up, but it quickly looked like their opponents had been thrown off balance and were being drawn off.

Monk’s transformation bothered him not at all.

“Well done.” he said. “We should still move quickly to the house.” David said. But they will not lightly decide to disturb us there.”

Nick wasted no time in following David’s advice.

As they headed towards the house, Nick’s keen ears heard the sound of groaning as the footsteps of their assailants faded into the distance. It could be a trap- but more than likely it was someone that had been caught in the fray…

Nick ran up to the porch. He waited there with what composure he could muster for David to open the door and invite them inside.

David moved up, still wary, watching the scene as he headed to the door. He did unlock the door with a key, but said something underneath his breath. Nick and Monk heard something like their names within that stream of half-words.

He held the door open. “You two may enter, and stay, until the sun sets again.”

Monk rubbed her shoulders, as if she’d gotten a chill she couldn’t quite remove. “I need to lie down,” she said. “I think I’m going to be sick.”

She tried to hide her face from them, shamed by the not-too-subtle changes lingering there.

David waited for them to enter and watched the woods for a good long minute. He was on safe ground, but having someone lurk around in the vicinity disturbed him. But he would not leave his safe space and only watch for the minute, before moving inside to see to his unexpected guests.

The night was silent, other than the normal sounds of nature- but again, on that breeze came the indication that silence didn’t indicate safety.

“Sir Knight, thank your for the fight to clear my demesne of the intruders. One still remains- hobbled by the actions of the changeling, and left behind by his companions. His death is only forestalled by their inclination towards the suffering of others.”

David considered this for a moment. “Thank you” he said to the spirits, softly. “I would question the intruder and violator.”

He turned toward Monk and Nick. “I will be back shortly.”Make yourselves comfortable. This is a violation of the land I hold in conjunction with the locals. I’ll see to him.”

He exited his house, with a slight sigh. He really did need sleep, but this was an opportunity to gain intelligence, too.

He stopped and listened, and followed his instincts and intimations as to where the remaining intruder still lurked.

With his attunement to the area, it was a simple thing to find where the intruder was being held. Vines were bound around him most unnaturally. But their presence seemed… right somehow. More ominously, miniature figures darted in and out, menacing the man with cackles of glee. If one didn’t know what they were looking for, the twisted fae would have been invisible, but the Knight could see that they had done quite a number on him. The coming morn would take care of their presence, so ignoring the jailers, David was able to see other details as he closed.

His gear askew, the man was shown obviously to be just barely that. David would judge him to be no more than 20. Maybe 21. Sandy hair decorated his head- almost, but not quite a crew cut. Stubble also covered his jaw, but it was more fuzz than anything. He looked up at David with a fearful gaze, blue eyes wide and searching. He started to say something, but as he did, cackling rose, and it turned into a cross between a pained yell and a mewling mess.

Cowering, he tried to compose himself as he looked up at David, hoping against hope for some sort of help.

Although the man was bound and for the moment pacified, David crouched out of reach to regard him.

He looked at the small fey around. “You’ve all done well, but I would hear what he has to say. You are brave and fierce, friends. We do not want you to have to fight night after night, however. Let him speak…for the moment.”

“Now” David said to the bound man. “It’s possible that you’ll live out the night. But only if you answer my questions fully and truthfully. If you do not, I will leave you to them.”

“You’ve intruded on them, in trying to reach me, and without cooperation, I see no reason for them not to continue their retribution.”

“Now, who sent you, and why?”

“I… I don’t know”, the man said, looking fearfully at the goblins, then even more fearfully at David’s face.

“I… mean, I never met the people in charge!” he amended quickly. “One of the guys said it was easy money! Just back him up while they took care of business!” he rambled, holding up his hands to ward off a goblin that had ventured close.

Tiny creatures are usually cute. But not goblins. They have some cute features- especially when curious, like this one seemed to be. But they were too menacing and voracious to cross over into the cute category. The dirty green tinged face looked up at David with wide eyes, as if questioning if he could have his toy now.

“It wasn’t personal, man!” the man exclaimed. “It’s hard to get a job with a DD on your back, and it didn’t seem like a big deal!”

David considered this for a few moments. He looked at the goblins, back at the man and shook his head. “You are going to need to give me more. This is insufficient.”

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As the darkness looms and the goblins chitter and wait anxiously, the young man’s eyes open with the kind of fear that crosses the border into irrationality. David knows he’s at a point of crisis- he’ll either get the information now, or something tragic will happen.

What will he do?

“Now” David said, walking toward him. “Let’s try this again, from another angle. My name is David Kiley, also known as Sir Ithildin of Star Lake. Your easy money is a facile answer, and a dishonorable one. It is in the interest of the Court that I do NOT leave you to the Goblins here, but you must cooperate for that to occur.”
He stomped a couple of steps closer.

“Surely there is some piece of information you have. Once this job was done, what was to be your next action? Where were you all going to pick up your payment for completion?”

“You can prevent this tragedy. Speak, and it shall occur.”

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The scared man shrunk into himself, skittering back in the spare space that he had.

“I… I…” Then his eyes widened and there was hope. “The cops! One of them really is a cop… or at least knows them. He didn’t tell me his real name, but I overheard them talking… Josh… Josh… Ham… Wha..?”

He stopped in mid sentence, his face taking on a quizzical look as his hand went to the back of his neck and came back… with blood. One of the impatient goblins had taken a bite. A small one to be sure.

But just like with a pack of piranhas that was all that it took. And it was all David could do to get out of the way of the ravening horde.

When they were done, there was little left that hadn’t been shredded, and a stillness settled over the forest.

Burp

“sorry. was hungry.”


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Entering David’s house, the one thing that is immediately notable is that A-frame, while a dated architectural design for houses, had been really made to work.

A very open plan, with split, curving staircases providing access to the three “Floors” within the structure modernized it, with a lot fo natural light illuminating the structure.

Walking into the first floor it was obvious that this was his centerpiece- the entertaining/relaxing/kitchen area. Though the other two floors were visible, there was enough privacy that the guests couldn’t immediately see what their purpose was. But it was a nice house.

A few minutes later, their host returned- no worse for the wear physically, but there was a sense that something had happened…

Monk is staring out the window, trying not to look concerned. She smiles at David, despite her best efforts. “Sooo… how’d it go?”

“Poorly. He did not reveal who he was working for.” David said, breathing a sigh of disappointment when he came inside. “I just didn’t have the leverage to get him to tell me who and what they were working for.”

Nick snored softly on the couch. He’d made a beeline there as soon as the door had opened, and fallen asleep as soon as he could lie down.

“I think that we should follow poor Nick’s example,” David said. “Rest, and be well. If there is ought that you need, my house is yours. We will talk more in the morning.”

Soon, sleep, blessed sleep, took them all on its wings into the morning.

View
A Pause for Reflection
With no legal repercussions from their break-in, the group decides to go through their findings...

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As far as places to go this time of night, there were relatively few- surprising in a college town. Waffle House and a few diners… but the only place to really hang out and get a good cup of coffee was The Mudhouse. The name was really a lot longer and a lot more pretentious, but thankfully the location wasn’t so much.

Finding a secluded booth in the back, they had the opportunity to look over their find in relative privacy.

It appeared that Trish did indeed have an investor backing her, but whomever it was didn’t want to be known. However, there were bank records- and such money transfers as were shown left a wide trail to those that knew how to trace such things.

There were also other papers- boring and voluminous enough that after that high of finding something, it was going to take a lot of coffee to slog through…

Monk pours over the paperwork, sipping her coffee to ward off the encroaching urge to sleep. It’s been a long, hard road, but she can smell the payday at the end of the road.

She’s no stranger to excessive amounts of files and junk. You didn’t run a clinic without learn how to wad through the mire. And seeing between the lines became an ingrained skill.

“Follow the money,” she says, pushing some of the pages back to the center of the table. “‘Cause someone was footing part of the bill, I think. Wonder if they didn’t like her having other partners.”

“Let’s compare notes, shall we?” Nick pulled out a laptop and started correlating the stolen data from Trish’s apartment with the files stolen from her office.

“Ugh,” he said distinctly, after nearly an hour. “There’s not enough coffee in the world for this. There are people who do this for a living. How I pity them. And wonder how I could get one of them to do this for me.”

David shook his head at Nick’s words. “Its better that we do this, than to involve yet others.” He looked at his Dossier of Trish Wallace, frowning. “I am not seeing anything here immediately relevant or useful in what I have, either.”

The records purloined seem to be of the mundane variety. Accounts receivable, accounts payable, stock received for shipping- all the things one would expect from records for a retail store. However, as their eyes began to cross from the boring task in front of them, they come across a series of numbers that suddenly click. One scrap of paper contains a series of numbers in a distinct pattern – a 9 digit number, followed by a 16 digit number, followed by a value that is obviously money.

Renewed, they check the accounts ledger, but it’s not immediately traceable. Whomever did this seems to have been adept at hiding numbers- more able to hide than they’re able to find. The only other way to trace it would be to trace the routing and account number- and without going to someone else, that seems unlikely. But at the mention of someone else, it clicks that there was no record of Trish being trained as such, so it is likely to lead to another party- an accountant perhaps?

There are also a few other discrepancies in relation to a vendor- Robert Redd. The payments to the vendor don’t match the inventory received. Of course, this could be because they weren’t accountants, and their forensics into the books isn’t as thorough as it should be. But, then again, they couldn’t get the numbers wrong by that much, right?

As they were discussing the discrepancies, Nick noticed that there was a handprint on the window, and he was pretty sure that it wasn’t there before. It would have been right across from them- it could be coincidence. He could be getting paranoid. But… there was that unexplained presence when they were in the store…

“That’s it,” Nick said, pushing away from the table. “I can’t look at this any more right now. I need sleep if I’m not going to embarrass myself when we meet with Wallace”—he looked at his watch—“in a few hours.” He looked at the window. “I have this feeling that we’ve been followed. Do you suppose Soup would let us crash at the Sanctum?”

David wrinkled his nose at the thought. He looked at Nick and he looked at Monk. “we all need sleep. I have an air mattress, and a couch. And my place is protected. We go to my place, we get a few hours of rest, and then we see Wallace in the morning. There is little else we can do tonight. We’re beyond our limits.”

Monk gives David a gentle smile – it’s sort of unnerving.

“I’ll take your couch,” she says. “Beats sleeping at the clinic.”

She rests her head on his shoulder, closing her eyes. “You can carry me there, if you like.”

Nick snorted. “Good enough. If it’s protected, all I need to sleep right now is someplace at least as comfortable as this chair.”

“It is protected” David said, almost fiercely. “Let us go now.”

The sleepy trio left the coffee house, walking from the safe confines of the downtown mall to their vehicle. But as they did, they couldn’t shake the feeling that they were being watched… or followed…

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We're breaking and entering now?!?
The group strays closer to the fringe as they search for answers...

Normally, it would be a detriment to starting an investigation so late in the evening. But after their questioning of Soup and their battle with vampires, the group found that the timing was fortuitous. It was late enough that the crowds were dying down, and early enough that the morning traffic hadn’t started.

The dead of the night, if you will.

The mall was made more, not less, creepy by the lights still flickering. It was like a dead city in a zombie movie… or something a little less unsettling.

Even so, it was going to require some deft work to get in the front door. There was still enough traffic that breaking in that way seemed a bad idea.

Then they remembered something Soup said- about ducking out the back. Perhaps that was an opportunity. And there was always the roof. With the way that the mall was constructed, there were plenty of opportunities to get to the roof through an adjoining over store apartment, or to cross to a roof from the parking garage in the mall.

Choices.

Newly dressed in ninja-chic, Monk studies the building from the shadows, taking note of the various approaches open to them. She pays particular attention to the rooftop.

Chewing her lip, she grunts. “Think there’s a skylight or something?” she says quietly. “I’m probably small enough to get through one or the other.”

Her eyes drift to Nick, “‘Course, I’m not good with alarms. Think you can walk me through turning one off?”

“This sort of business is much more your area of, ah, expertise.” David said to Nick. He wasn’t entirely comfortable with rummaging around the shop at night. He was a Knight, not a Thief. But even a Knight could recognize the need for the skills of a Thief, on occasion. Just as they could recognize the need for the skills of him

Nick rolled his eyes. “You turn the alarm off by entering the code, of course.” He handed Monk a card with a code on it. “I found Trish’s password file on her laptop.”

He looked back and forth between the others. “Really, people, I’m a con man, not a burglar. Please try to keep your scoundrel taxonomy straight.”

“Besides. I don’t get along well with alarm systems. Even with the code I’m likely to set the stupid thing off. One of you had better do it.”

“I’m sure that Monk can show me what I’m doing wrong.” David said, looking at the code and the alarm system. “Things are simpler when you just had to go looking for the right key, even if you do have to riddle an Ogre or arm wrestle a Kelpie. Or more like, the reverse.”

“Well, that sort of steals the drama from it all,
Monk says, looking at the card. She jerks a nod to Da Boyz, “‘Kay, you two wait by the door. Try not to look like you’re casing the joint. I’m going to go play Catwoman.”

She hurries across the street to the parking garage. When the coast is clear, she crosses over to the rooftop and to the store’s skylight. She’s patched up enough Druggies to have picked up a few B&E pointers from them, so flipping the latch ain’t too much effort.

The true test of her skills is shimmying through the small opening. Fortunately, her Gobber blood has always helped her get into small spaces – her tiny frame squishy in all the right places. She squeezes through, dropping to the tiled floor with only a couple bruises and a sore ankle to show for it.

Before the alarm goes off, she scurries over to the panel and enters the code. That taken care of, it’s over to the door and letting Da Boyz in. All easy-peazy. “Anne Hathaway got nothing on me.”

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The break-in seemed to go a lot better than it had any right to considering their lack of experience in doing such things. Monk is able to let her two ‘partners in crime’ in a bit easier than the display of agility than she had to summon up. Namely the door in the side alley.

As she went through the store, she saw what Soup meant- it was mass produced urban chic, no doubt, but high priced urban chic. And the trappings were all there. Waiting rooms with a coffee bar. Flat screens on the wall to occupy the significant other and a kids’ room. Art deco arrangements of manikins to demonstrate how cool the clothing was.

But in the end, all that means is it was a lot of ground to cover, and no obvious clues… other than the obvious office on the upper floor.

“Where to look? Where to look” David said. “I need some guidance.”

David pulled out his holy symbol. A eight sided arrow, the symbol of his adopted house, it gleamed of a metal not found in the mortal world.

He started praying softly, to find the road that he needed to take. Finding a clue wasn’t precisely the same as finding a path, but he hoped it would work.” He looked up, enlightened. “The office.” he said. “What we want is there.”

“Yes, well, it didn’t seem likely that Trish would hide clues out here in the pockets of some fashionably-ripped designer jeans. Ridiculously small pockets at that.”

Nick climbed the fashionably open staircase to the fashionable office and attempted the fashionable door. It was locked with a simple numeric key lock, but he consulted some more numbers scribbled on the back of another card, and soon the door was open.

While the other two head for the office, Monk remains stock still, staring at the price tags of what she assumes are clothes. At least they’re clothing-shaped. Not that any rational person would wear them, let alone buy them.

“I weep for the future of humanity,” she mutters, pulling herself away from the train-wreak o’ fashion.

Monk waits for Nick to open the door and then slips under him. “You do thiefy stuff and I’ll root through her drawers… Ugh, that came out wrong.” Shaking her head, she begins look for papers or notes that might be connected to the Big Bad.

David felt nervous as he stood there, letting the two of them do what he was much less capable of doing. He felt uneasy at the break-in, and decided to keep watch on the entrance as the two of them looked for clues.

“Someone is coming.” he said quietly. “Someone who is walking in the pitch blackness without a light.”

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Indeed, once pointed out, Nick and Monk became aware of the presence, but only in a peripheral way. It felt like they were being watched- or stalked.

The files that they found were in relation to the questions that they had in regards to Trish’s money source. But they hadn’t had enough time to sort through everything to see if there might be other information.

It was time for a choice- either sort through the information to make sure they got exactly what they needed- or just grab the papers and take off…

“Well, we’ve found… something,” Nick said. “There may be more things hidden more carefully, but whoever is out there is giving me the creeps. I’m ready to leave now.” He slipped out of the office and headed for the back exit.

Monk jerks a nod to Nick, “Agreed. I’m not up for another go-round with vamps or whatever.” She moves to his side, waiting for David to follow. “Go out the back though the service corridor?”

“Let’s avoid conflict.” David agreed. “Having the police or security guards descend upon us would be less than ideal.” He covered the rear of the three of them, wary of anyone following them.

They gathered at the back door. “This may sound an alarm when opened,” Nick said. “So be ready to run.” He pressed an ear to the door and listened for a few heartbeats, then shook his head. “People always do this in adventure games, but I can’t hear a thing. Let’s go.”

Nick opened the door.

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The foray into the criminal world netted the group some information- they decided that they would not be able to get any sleep until they looked it over. So leaving the way that they came in, they headed off to a local coffee house- the Mudhouse.

But as they made their way into the deep night, the feeling that they were being shadowed did not go away…

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An Emergent Situation
With Monk's sanity on the line, the group races to find a curative

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“I invite you three,” Soup said deliberately as they reached the door, “into the sanctum.”

“She’s OD’ing on the Red Court venom,” Soup said as quickly started to help David and Nick ferry Monk through the door.”

As they crossed the threshold of the sanctum, the first thought was that they were glad that they were invited. A shock of magical energy traveled through them and grounded out, eliciting a slight groan from Monk.

The second thought was that this wasn’t what they expected from the sanctum of the most powerful wizard from the White Council in the area. It looked too… normal.

“I’m not sure how to help her. Normally I’d say just let her system flush it out… but I don’t think that’s going to work.”

“Maybe the medic can help,” Nick said, with an ironic roll of his eyes. “Let’s get her in the shower, hose her down, so at least she stops taking any more of it into her system.”

He looked at the expression on Monk’s face and grimaced. She was quivering in a fit of such ecstasy that her heart might burst. He was tempted to save her soaked clothes, to wring the blood out and have it available as a weapon later. He dismissed the thought as unworthy. Besides, the stuff was magic, not chemical: it was unlikely to retain its potency until he would want to use it.

“Okay, Monk,” Nick told her, his voice taking on an odd modulation. “You’re going to be okay. I know you feel amazing right now, but you need to ease off just a bit. Just relax. Take deep breaths. That’s right, deep breaths. It’s okay, you can trust me. You’re going to take a nice, relaxing shower, and we’re going to be nice and calm and relaxed. Doesn’t that sound nice?”

Monk shivered and moaned softly, lost in the pure-bliss-orgasmic haze of the blood pulsing through her veins like liquid flame and ice. Distantly, she heard Nick’s voice. It soothed her, lulled her, helping focus her thoughts.

Enough for her to know, truth of truths, that she was dying. No matter how good this felt, she’d slip beneath the waves of pleasure and never surface. Not unless someone did something…fast.

Unfortunately, that person wasn’t going to be her. She was to busy riding this deadly high.

Like talking through wet concrete, her lips moved, croaking two words, “Bag. Naloxone.”

Her profession meant she ran into plenty of junkies. For her An evizo injector was almost as standard as bandages and alcohol.

“Right” David said, automatically. He didn’t like being in this sanctum, it was a place of power and it was not his place of power. This was dangerous ground.

He looked at Soup. “Nick’s right. Start a shower. We’ll be there presently.”

He fumbled a bit as he moved for Monk’s bag, the bag tumbling toward the floor. Lost in thought, and the danger that this place represented, and the threat to Monk. David’s hands trembled as he loaded the injector.

“Hold her down.” he said to Nick, readying the injector. He missed the first attempt to get the drug into her system. But, then, he rallied, and got the drug into her.

“Sorry, Monk.” he said to her. “Now we have to get your clothes off and get you in the shower and clean you up a bit while that drug works its way out of your system.” He nodded to Nick, and together got her clothes off…without too much damage. By the time the water hit Monk and started washing away the blood, the drug was already coursing through her veins, moving her back toward normality.

As the saliva worked its way out of Monk’s system, a palpable feeling of relief settled in the room. Soup stopped pacing outside the bathroom, and handed through the door some clothes that looked about Monk’s size- if a little longer in limb.

“Kassandra kept… keeps some clothes here, just in case she can’t get home on one of our late night forays,” he said, shrugging in way of explanation.

“And if she’s better, then maybe we should give her some time… and we can start discussing the issue at hand?”

“I am not sure you are going to appreciate Kassandra’s fashion sense, Monk.” he called into the bathroom from the doorway. “But at least the clothes are dry. He turned to Siup and Nick.

“A warm beverage, tea perhaps, might suit as lubricant for our discussions and to make Monk feel better.” he hinted to Soup.

“Oh! Yes,” Soup said, flushing at the reminder. “The study is at the end of the hall- you can go there as soon as you are able, and I will join you as soon as I’m able.”

Nick called after him, “Scotch is also excellent for such things. And research indicates that the more expensive it is, the better. We’ll see what we can find in the study.

Monk blinked through the haze of exhaustion, the nausea of coming down turning her insides to syrupy fire. Numbly, she took the clothes, changing without shame or care.

Talking strained her, so she simply grunted when spoken to or escorted from room to room.

David considered just picking up Monk and bringing her bodily to the study, but resisted the urge to do so. He didn’t need Monk to fight him, or Nick’s tongue at his backside. But he let her lean on him as much as able.

“There, there.” he said once he got her into the study and to a padded window seat. “Tea is coming, or by the Lady had better be.”

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Following Soup’s instructions, the trio found their way unsteadily to the study. Unlike the foyer, the impression on seeing the room was that this was a proper place for a powerful mage to entertain guests.

The second thought was that this room was way too large for the building that it was supposed to be housed in. Bookshelves all around, with stacks that were two stories high. But it was inviting… cozy even. A place where you could sit and enjoy a read for a nice long while.

A tea service sat on one of the side tables… along with another tray that had been set with snifters and a bottle of Glenlivet.

Soup shuffled in a bit after they arrived, and headed towards the service.

“Earl Gray? Or something a bit more potent?” he asked as he started to pour.


“I’m not sure how much I’m supposed to tell, but I haven’t been doing that good a job on my own, and our liason at the White Council hasn’t been in touch so…” he stopped to take a breath, and smiled sheepishly as he shrugged.

“Sorry,” he said simply and took a deeper, calming breath.

“I’ll start with the most relevant point- one we’ve gone to great pains to keep as quiet as possible. But you need to know it.”

He took a pull on his scotch to steady himself. “The warden is dead. Has been for some time. But the White Council didn’t have any wizards to spare. So they deputized me and my friends.”

“While we were investigating, it came out that there was a big move going on… a play by the Red Court… one that involved not just the supernatural world, but key politicians and the criminal one. That’s where Trish came into the picture.”

“One of the leaders killed Trish’s brother, and kidnapped her- in order to make use of her father. He’d gone straight, but those kinds of ties never die. And he needed him.”

Soup ran his hand through his hair, sitting forward and looking down into his glass as he continued.

“We took him out, rescued Trish, and exposed the politicians. One of my friends died in that… and all of us were changed. But we won! It was over, and everything should have gone back to whatever normal was.”

Soup shook his head as he looked up, his eyes haunted. “We were so wrong. That kind of evil doesn’t just disappear and give up. And now I’m the only one left. This place has become more of a prison than a sanctuary.”

He looked at them mournfully. “And that’s what you’re getting pulled into. I just thought you ought to know before you dive into this. I’ll help you as much as I can- for Trish. In all of this, she’s the one that doesn’t deserve to be caught in the middle. But I don’t know how much I have left.”

“We’re doing it for Trish” David said, pulling out the dossier he had been carrying all this time. “We’ve been told half-truths, partial truths and even lies in the midst of this, but the promise we made…that I made, still holds. My honor will not let me see this go undone.”

“So, your team took out the Red Court leader that kidnapped Trish the first time,” David said. “Now she’s been kidnapped again. By whom? Another Red Court vampire? And why? Do they want Drexl again? Or are they after revenge for your prior adventure?”

An odd glint appeared in Nick’s eye. “Let us help you, Soup. Let us help you help Trish. And we’ll teach the damned vampires a lesson about meddling in mere human affairs. I will make of it a tale for the Fae to mock them with for as long as they both shall last.”

Monk stayed quiet while they were talking, sipping her tea with a slow, methodical pace. It helped clear her muddy thoughts, if for a moment or two. Enough to catch threads of the conversation and tug on them a little.

“And what about Killian? Where’s he fall into this? He working for the Big Bad? I keep getting the feeling we’re the fish on a hook.”

She sipped her tea again, “I doubt we’re seeing a payday for this, either.”

“I’m not very good at this,” Soup admitted, as he tried to keep up with the conversation. “Usually, it’s one of my friends that does the talking. I’m more the lab and research guy.”

“I guess that’s why I’m still around,” he added, his head down.

“I can’t tell you who might have Trish now,” he continued looking up. “Mac- Wallace’s former right hand man- was the one that took her before. But he paid for that power play with his life.”

“But there were a lot of people we screwed over with Wallace’s help- people that want revenge. And without the warden to intervene, they’ve been getting more and more bold in their moves.”

“If you’re determined to keep digging into it, I’ll give you all the help I can- and I’ll make sure you’re not left out to dry. I can give you a list if you want- but I’d suggest filtering it through someone rather than taking on all of them.”

“Killian is on the up-and-up- at least he was when I dealt with him. But he’s mundane as they come. I can set you up with a meet with someone who’s not so mundane. But he’s pretty eccentric, so it’s touch and go whether he’ll meet with you. I can also set you up with Wallace- it’s probably better to talk to him directly… especially with the information you have. You might also want to look into Trish’s store- there might be something there also.”

After a moment, Soup stood, and a seeming decision made, pulled a case off of one of the myriad shelves. Coming back towards the group, he opened it, revealing 3 reinforced vials.

“This is the best potion that I’ve been able to make; it takes a bit of Will, but I think that any of you can manage it. I’ve put almost every effect I can think of in it in a suspended state- when you throw or drink it, think of the effect that you want, and it should reconfigure to that. They’re very rare- and very expensive.”

He put the case down on the desk. “I hope that, at least, shows how much I want to help.”

David walked over to inspect the vials, picking one up and holding it up to the light. “A potion based on will is a strange and powerful thing.” he said quietly. “Very fae, Soup. By will and desire.” He took the other two vials.

“Thank you, Soup. This IS a rare gift.” he said.

Nick nodded. “I think we should talk to Wallace: it seems like he’d know our enemies better than anyone. But tell us about Trish’s store. Maybe we can look around there while we’re waiting for Wallace to meet with us.”

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“She ran a trendy clothing store on the downtown mall – Urban Outfitters,” Soup said. “It’s in a pretty high rent location on the mall- if she didn’t take money from her dad, she had to have some sort of investors, I’d think. But I never got into that.”

“I only went in it once- it was before I even knew who she was. Arcas- one of our group- kept up with trendy stuff, and so knew about the store, and the back entrance when we were being chased. It looked really upscale without being too pretentious.”

“She had to have had backing of some sort, even if it was covert.” David said. “Hopefully said backing isn’t even more of an entanglement to chase down. Or, worse, have minions of same come poking into what happened to her.”

“I think you’re right, Nick.” he said. “We should take a look at the store, see what we can find.” He looked at Monk. “What do you think?”

Nick nodded.

“Soup, can you set up a meeting with Wallace?” He handed Soup a card. “Call me and let us know when and where to meet him.”

“Of course,” Soup replied, taking the proffered card. “I’m sorry I couldn’t be more help,” he added, looking down- ostensibly at the card- as he said so.

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Enter The Warden's Sanctum
... what are they getting themselves into now?

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The timeframe that Soup gave in his communication with Nick didn’t give the three much time to discuss or prepare if they were to make the requested appointment.

But not much time, didn’t mean that they had to come unprepared…


David wasn’t prone to taking a lot of hardware on him when simply talking to leads. When daring to go to a sanctum, however, not coming prepared was foolish.

Rhimel came with him, and David expected, unlike the last time, that he would have to name it, and produce it. Draw the blade. Perhaps blood it. It was more than a symbol of his office, it was a piece of him, and his role, in a real and tangible way. He had spent a short while in solitary contemplation, kneeling at a (to his companions) seemingly random spot, in deep and unrousable prayer for a few minutes.

Monk stayed behind David as they made their way to this new rendezvous. Tired from a long shift and too much running around, she’d gotten more than slightly punchy and paranoid. She stewed silently, constantly tugging on her empty ring finger.

“Should we have brought wooden stakes?” She suddenly said out of the blue.

“Actually, yes,” Nick said, looking serious. “That sounds sensible. Why don’t you carve some up, and I will go to the church and abscond with some holy water. Do you suppose holy water loses effectiveness if it’s stolen?”

“My catholic school upbringing would say ‘yes’” David said, with no trace of mirth. “But I am not sure that short of corrupting it that holy water would really lose any potency just because you took it from a house of worship. It wouldn’t matter to the vampire.”


After their somewhat larcenous preparation, the trio drove towards the address they’d been given by Soup. The campus of UVA was pretty quiet around this part- even for the fact that the given address was near fraternity row. It also helped that it was near administration- almost directly between them.

As the car pulled to a stop, a man stood openly between them and their destination- Soup was not in sight. Slightly rakish, he affected that nouveau hipster appearance, in an obviously tailored suit, though just disheveled enough to appear cool rather than authoritarian, with round rimmed dark shades on- even though the light was very minimal. Every movement seemed controlled- almost too graceful. He nodded to them, motioning them over.

Before getting out of the car, Nick whispered to the others, “I may need someone with a weapon to back me up here, but let’s try talking first.”

He approached the stranger, hands in his pockets. “You’re obviously expecting us,” he said, with a cheerful smile. “Are you here to welcome us or to bar our way?”

“Hmmm…” the stranger said, with a slight smile at Nick’s forthrightness. “I’d say neither really fits.”

“My friends call me Danny,” he said, holding out his hand in greeting. And despite all indications otherwise, Nick felt himself pulled towards trusting him… even to taking his hand.

“As for my purpose here? Well, you three are such interesting people… and I really wanted to meet you.” There was a certain casual and unaffected sexuality to his voice… his eyes. So much so that even those that might not be inclined would feel the attraction.

Nick barked out a short, hearty laugh, but kept his hands in his pockets. “Well, it’s a pleasure to meet you, Danny. You seem quite interesting yourself, such an aura of interestingness. But let’s both keep our fascinating auras to ourselves, shall we? I won’t play with your mind if you stop trying to play with mine.”

He smiled, through shark’s teeth. “So, really, what do you want with us?”

Despite whatever intentions he might previously have had, Danny felt himself inclined to answer truthfully.

“But that’s so… boring,” Danny said, almost pouting.

“You ever hear that old adage, ‘The enemy of my enemy is my friend’?” He smiled, his too white teeth almost glowing in the encroaching dark. “Soup has much of the information that you need, but even that is only the tip of the iceberg. Seek my assistant, River, at the Rapture tomorrow- that is, if you survive tonight.”

“You’ve made some interesting enemies- that are about to make themselves known… but take heed- they aren’t police. Hell, they aren’t even human,” he said teasingly, as cheshire cat like, he faded from view, his smile staying a bit longer than the rest of him.

But that was the least of Nick’s worries, as he noticed black clad men heading towards them, the word POLICE helpfully emblazoned on their chests.

What he immediately noticed that made him wary of that declaration was that they immediately raised their weapons to shoot- apparently forgetting the word ‘freeze’!

Nick pulled his hands out of his pockets, and with them came thick swarms of angry, buzzing insects. The swarms swelled and joined into an immense cloud of vermin that flew toward the faux policemen, conveniently blocking Nick and the others from view as he sprinted in a zig-zag path back toward the car.

“That might distract them for a bit,” he said to David and Monk as he took cover,”but I can’t make the fake little buggers bite.” He tapped each of them quickly on the forehead, right between the eyes. “There. If I concentrate, I can keep the glamour up to distract them, but now you can see through it. Time to put those preparations we made earlier to good use.”

He handed a filled Supersoaker to Monk.

Monk was still recovering from the arrival of several armed men – not to mention the freakin’ vampire doing a disappearing act. In the grand scheme of ‘We’re-so-%#&^ing-dead,’ Nick shoving a squirt-gun into her hands almost made laugh.

Almost.

‘Cause if the glamour dropped, she’d be the only one carrying a gun-shaped thing. AKA the Big Freakin’ Bull’s-Eye. Then she’d be laughing through the holes in her chest.

She kicked David in the shin, “Go get the car started while I cover the Amazing Kreskin here.”

With Gobber ingenuity, Monk rummaged through her pockets and retrieved a latex glove. She stuck the end of the super-soaker into it and began filling the glove like a water balloon. When it was full, she tied the glove off and hurled it at the lead ‘cop’ like a grenade.

“Too dangerous” David said to Monk, shaking his head, and advancing toward the false policemen.The obvious leader of them was not the lead cop, no. It was him. He saw him, and steel was seen in David’s eyes.

“This is Rhimel.” he said, patting the hilt. “Rhimel denies you your claim and desire. And so I draw her, Rhimel.”

His hand was on the hilt, but seemingly of no earthly accord, the sword drew, being named thrice. He faced the vampire, the leader of these men over the hilt. His sword was hallowed, and he said a prayer over it before advancing with the blade toward the creature.

“Creature of Chaos and evil, you will not have what you wish. I abjure you. By Star Lake, by Queen Imladris, and by the strength of my arm, I do so.”

The thing about Vampires is that they don’t all subscribe to the Van Helsing book to destroy things that go bump in the dark. The Red Court Initiate, for instance, just got wet, and looked a little annoyed a the splatter.

The tactical squad supporting him, however was supported by more than technology. A halo of St. Elmo’s Fire spectacularly erupted around them as the balloon burst. Quite impressive, accompanied by unpleasant screaming as spirits separated from the agents, leaving clumps of ectoplasm on the ground as the holy water completed it’s work.

David’s naming and invocation had an obvious effect on the initiate as his veins stood out in relief against his too pale skin, his expression a rictus of pain and rage as he hissed and covered his face.

Which merely left human agents looking bewildered at their now revealed leader in revulsion, weapons in their hands.

Channeling her inner Buffy, Monk snagged one of the wooden stakes from her Van Helsing Collection. Taking advantage of the cops’ confusion and the vampire’s incapacitation, she sprinted forward, stake in hand.

She knew enough about anatomy to approach her target well – up and under the ribs and into the heart. Like a psychotic dwarf, she jumped upward, using her body weight to drive the wood shaft home. It was only then she realized just how stupid this course of action might be.

The combination of his fellows bearing down on him and the solid faith of the Faerie Knight disoriented the vampire long enough for Monk to close in on her foe. However, a combination of adrenaline and the vampire’s sudden movement combined to deflect her blow.

Or perhaps it was luck. For as he straightened up in alarm, she took him in the stomach, which on contact with the consecrated object burst open, blood spilling forth.

The blood was unlike any other drug she’d ever seen, experienced, or heard of, overstimulating her nerve system and sending bursts of purest bliss to her brain. Thankfully, the now dead vampire couldn’t take advantage of this as it normally would… but the overdose sent her to the ground in paroxyms of pleasure.

“Quick! Get her inside!” For all of his seeming hesitancy to get involved, Soup had ventured out of the sanctum, ready to intervene it seemed, wearing a load bearing harness with an array of vials and potions- and yes, a super-soaker. He was also loaded down with more conventional weapons. But instead of looking intimidating, he looked like someone very much out of his depth, and acutely aware of it.

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Tonight's the Right Night
A meeting with a stranger leads to more questions

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The Downtown Mall at night. A perfect place to meet up and have a drink, the night scene is pretty bustling beneath the canopy of lights.

There’s also opportunities for other knowledge, as The Twisted Branch is a known quantity in the supernatural world, and Plotius is known to hang out at the Freedom of Speech wall and offers advice for a price…


“So many choices.” David said as they entered the mall. His eyes flickered around. Indecision, a bane that sometimes stayed his hand, had come up. The events at the house caused him to doubt, to feel guilty that he would steer the wrong course. He had to right himself again, get himself settled.

“Look for Drexl directly, or prowl around the Wall or The Twisted branch first?” he asked.

“Let’s do the easy thing for once, shall we?” Nick pulled out his phone and dialed the number on Drexl’s business card.

Nick talked on the phone for some time, and when he was done he sounded frustrated. “He said he wasn’t interested in meeting with subcontractors, and anything we wanted to know we could get from Killian. So I arranged for Killian to meet us here in a bit. At least this gives us a chance to show him Trish’s photo and ask if the man in her videos is the man who hired him.”

Monk hung back, nervous as an alley cat strung out of Red Bull and Sugar Bombs. “I don’t like this,” she muttered to no-one, in particular. She glanced around the mall, searching the faces for anything out of place.

“This is usually the part in the movie where the stoolies get gunned down in a Michael Bay-orgasmic gun-fight.

“You guys have done this stuff before, right?”

“Goodness, no,” Nick said, smiling. “But if I thought there was going to be a gunfight, you wouldn’t be able to see me. Or yourself, for that matter. Relax. Nobody expects us here. Nobody even knows that Killian hired us. Unless maybe you suspect Mrs. Scruggs?”

“If there was a gunflight, Nick would be in the next zip code.” David commented dryly.

“This is about as neutral ground you get, though.” David says. “People pulling out guns means that very serious stuff has gone down. Even more serious than what we’re in.

“I don’t like what you’re implying, Sir Knight. I didn’t say that I wouldn’t be here, only that you wouldn’t notice me. If the true mark of courage is to stand before a hail of bullets, I am willing to ensure that you instead are lit up like a neon ‘shoot here’ sign, so you can show everyone how heroic you are. For the very last time. Is that what you want?”

“Peace, Nick” He held up a hand. “I just recall that incident at Monticello. The Ghost?” He breathed in and out. “Your sense of self preservation was laudable, in that instance.”

“Boys, boys,” Monk chided. “Put your gherkins back in the jar and let’s get this done, kk?”

She pulled her hat down tighter, self-conscious of her ears. “Now, are we meeting him somewhere I can get a drink? I’m edging dangerously on sobriety right now.”

“Where exactly did you ask Killian to meet us?” David turned to Nick. “Certainly not standing in the middle of the mall gawking like someone on vacation from New Jersey.”

There are several places on the mall tailored to those unaccustomed to sobriety, but before that can even be considered, Monk’s ‘Gobber Sense’ picks up on the fact that there is someone watching. Someone good. In fact good enough, that she’s sure that they’ve been there for a while.

Now that she’s aware of it, it’s pretty easy to localize the shimmering of a very good veil, over near the overhang of a nearby eatery. Even as she begins to focus, the person begins to walk towards them, fading into view as he does.

Not Killian… but he doesn’t seem to be a threat. He nods openly to Monk as he approaches, slowly enough to give her a chance to assess him.

He’s short, but not so much so… she’d place his height at a bit over 5’. Shrouded in baggy clothes and a trench, most that weren’t paying attention would probably think that he was one of the many peddlers on the mall. But as Monk was decidedly paying attention, she noted that his face was a bit too clean, and though he looked bowed, he didn’t have the defeated look of the others that she’d seen in that state- his eyes showed much stress and wariness, but also an inquisitiveness and intelligence and warmth.

But what sealed it for her were the boots. Maybe he was a fashionable hobo, but Monk knew her boots. And those, though battered, were Bates. And he didn’t look like the military type…

“Excuse me for interrupting,” he said when closer- far enough away to bolt if need be, but close enough to be heard without raising his voice. He seemed casual enough, but those expressive eyes gave him away on that regard. “I think that you were expecting someone… if not me. But I was what was sent, and you must decide if you will speak with me.”

David turned as Shane stepped into view. He cursed himself for allowing Monk to spot him first. Some sort of cloaking. Changeling stuff. He felt a little vulnerable, but felt his power within him rise slightly. He might not be a visible threat, he wasn’t who they were looking for.

“We are, I think it is safe to say, open to speaking to you.” David said. “I take it that you know who we are. But who are you?” His name, his identity was still dancing around the edge of his memory. But he wasn’t going to let this fish get away.

“People call me ‘Soup’,” he said, looking them over as they did the same. “Some friends and I worked with Killian on a couple of cases a while back. He’d pinged us about something new, but we… aren’t together right now…”

He cocked his head to the right, looking closer at David. Then he sniffed, and his eyes widened. For a second, it looked like he might bolt, but he forced himself to stand pat by visible effort. “…not quite Winter… but not quite Summer either. Who are you is the more interesting question?”

Nick stuck out his hand, holding Drexl’s card in such a way that it was equally an invitation to examine the card and shake the hand. “Nick Foxburrough. My colleagues and I were subcontracted by Killian to find this man’s daughter. However, there seems to be some conflicting information.” He pulled out the photo from Trish’s apartment. “Can you by any chance confirm that this man’s face goes with the name on that card? Or tell us anything about this man at all?”

“Wait. You mean Trish? She’s in trouble again?” Soup replied. Nick’s words took his attention completely off of David.

“And no… I haven’t seen that man…” he added, cocking his head.

“Though something does seem familiar about him…”

He shook his head after staring for a moment. “It will come to me,” he said, smiling. “It always does as long as I don’t concentrate on it.”

“I can’t tell you everything. It’s not my story to tell,” continued, shrugging apologetically.

“But yes, Trish was in a bit of trouble with one of Wallace’s- ‘former employees’,” he started, complete with air quotes around the last two words. He struggled to continue, though it wasn’t apparent if it was the memory or the separation of what he could tell.

“We performed a bit of ‘aggressive negotiation’ for her return. Took a bit of ‘heavy artillery’ too- as in wardens.” Getting into the story, he became more animated- and he did apparently love his air quotes.

“They finally thought something around here was important enough to take off from their ‘war’.” It was readily apparent that there was something there, though he just let out a sound somewhere between a sigh of regret and derision. Suddenly, he looked around a bit suspiciously, and added, somewhat abruptly, “Though, I’m sure they have their reasons.” The statement was a bit too loud, and too obvious.

“Sorry about that,” he continued, shrugging. “But Wallace is a good man that made some bad decisions that put him in a hard place. And Trish doesn’t seem to understand that. Understandable with…”

He looked down at the picture again. “I wish Hugo was here… he’d remember right off the bat… yes! Trish has… had?… an older brother. Collin… or something like that. I think that’s him… one of the points of contention between her and her father. His death.”

He looked back up at Nick. “They were really close, and she didn’t take it well.”

Monk cocked her head at Soup, catching the subtle – yet weird – reaction he kept having whenever Mr. Mysterious came up in the conversation. That kept gnawing in the back of her skull as things went on – threads from the night slowly tying together. They didn’t form anything concrete, but it got her wondering.

She nudged David’s arm with her elbow, “Can vampires mind-bugger you into forgetting stuff?”

“If they get the drop on me, and the Lady’s power is not with me.” David said. His tone suggested how unlikely that combination of events was. “But you were referring to “Soup”, I take it” he said. He watched Soup and Nick interact. “Either he is frightened out of his wits, or someone has strolled through his mind.” he agreed. “Certain members of either Court can get you to forget them, so that they can visit you again and again.”

“Ah,” Nick said, continuing his conversation with Soup. “That does clear that up, thank you. So, you said you were sent. Were you sent by Wallace, Killian, or someone else? What’s your role in all this?”

Monk stepped forward, sliding into Nick’s side as if she belonged there. She cast a lazy smile to Soup, pretending to be half-listening.

But in truth, she watched him with a trained eye – one of the benefits of being a street doc. She’d dealt with poppers, crooks, and all kinds of trash. Liars all. But, for all their tricks, the body didn’t, could’t lie. Pupil dilation, quickened pulse, the flush of capillaries. All signs of untruths. Or of someone under the influence, be it drugs or booze.

“And give us the straight on this,” she added. “I’ve had a long night.”

“Apparently, something set Wallace’s danger sense into high gear, so being the cautious dodger he is, he passed you down the chain to Killian- who I take it is a bit more familiar with you,” Soup responded, drumming his fingers on the table nervously.

“Like I said, Killian had tried to get us on the job, but after last time… and with my friends out of contact… I turned him down.” He shrugged. “Without backup, I’m not so good on stuff like this.”

As Monk sized him up, she could see that he was nervous, paranoid, and frightened out of his wits, though he tried to hide it. But he seemed to really want to help.

“But… accounts still aren’t settled with Killian, so when he explained… I felt obligation to get that off my ledger. He told me it was because I was familiar with the case- but I really didn’t expect it to be Trish.”

As he finished his explanation, Monk realized what she’d missed- he was a changeling also!

“What have you found out so far? And how can I help?”

“She’d asked a B. Reidel of Alphabet Soup for information about her brother. And someone recently left her apartment via… unconventional means. Anything else is pure speculation based on very little knowledge or evidence. Maybe if you were to look at the data that Reidel sent, you could give us more insight into what it means.”

David nodded in agreement with Nick.

“We were given a dossier on Trish.” he pulled out the folder he had been carrying. “We’ve only scanned the important information, and I think the data is probably more fruitful, but if you can make sense of the thread in this labyrinth…” he let his words trail off.

“People are also covering their tracks pretty well,” Monk added. “Using bad juju. So, that ain’t sitting well with me.”

She tugged her floppy ear, weighing her next words. “And are we sure this Collin guy is dead? Or could he be mostly-dead? It might explain a couple of things.”

“Oh…”, Soup said, his eyes widening. If he looked frightened before, he was at a whole different stage of terrified out of his wits now.

“I’m sorry… I don’t think I can help you,” he said.

But at the same time, he took out a napkin from his pocket and a pen._ There’s something you should know. But we can’t discuss it here. And even writing, I can’t say too much._ He slid the napkin across where the three of them could see the writing.

Observing him as he wrote, Monk could see that it didn’t appear that Soup was operating under anything other than pure unadulterated fear.

I know how this looks… and so, its your choice. But I have to get to the sanctum to say anything else.

In addition to fear- there was more than a touch of frustration in his expression as he awaited their response.

“Ah,” Nick said, “That’s unfortunate. Well, if you change your mind, please contact me. There is a girl’s life at stake, after all.” He pulled out a business card: it referenced a disposable phone, a post office box, and a disposable email address. He scribbled quickly on the back, Tell us when and where to meet, and handed it to Soup.

“It is a matter of your dishonor” David chimed in with Nick’s shadow play. “A girl’s freedom and her life is on the line. Be it on your head and conscience that you refused to help.” He screwed his face into not quite disgust, but he clearly had weighed, measured and found the Soup wanting.

Monk crossed her arms, glaring at Soup. “Well, thanks for nothing then, pal,” she said, perhaps louder than she needed to. For the added benefit of anyone watching them, she made a rude gesture and stormed off.

Because of her tiny legs, the ‘storming’ didn’t have as much dramatic impact as it should have. Still, she hoped it’d attract enough attention away from Nick and Soup to finish their covert exchange.

“I’m getting a slice,” she called back to them.

Soup scribbles an address, and nervously slides the card back across to Nick – 105 Madison Lane – 11:30. He recognizes the street, if not the address; it’s on the UVA campus, on a street where many of the fraternities are housed. But those are in general higher numbers… the lower numbers are more towards the administration center.

“I’m sorry,” he says aloud, his voice wavering a bit. “Really, I am, and I hope you find what you’re looking for,” he continues, rising. Averring his eyes, he leaves, his shoulders slumped, vanishing into the crowd.

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Apartment Hunting
Our erstwhile detectives investigate the scene...

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With the renovations on the downtown mall to make it more inviting to nightlife as well as business professionals, there have been many renovations of buildings close to the area- changing from their original purpose to ‘unique’ living areas.

One such area is the Norcross Station Apartments. From the outside, it shows its age and original purpose as a Transfer and Storage building. But it has been renovated into one of the most hip- and expensive- places to live in the area.

Well lit and well secured with its own security, the place is a haven to those that want to party and walk home safely, but a hassle to those that want to get in quietly.


“Well, this doesn’t look too difficult,” Nick told the others. “Monk, prepare for a makeover. I could try making Sir Launcelot here look like Miss Trish, but she’d walk funny, and clank while doing so. Not very convincing.”

“There isn’t a lot of security here, according to the dossier.” David said, ignoring Nick’s barb. “But having them call the police would lead to awkward questions about what the three of us are doing here.” He looked at Nick, and then at Monk and then back to Nick. “A makeover? Are you intending to dangle Monk as some sort of honey badger?” He immediately corrected himself “Trap. Honey Trap”

Monk couldn’t decide which man’s shin to kick first, but it was certainly a close contest. Her finger pointed at one, then the other… measuring the distance between Doc Marten and ankle.

In an act of benevolence, she restrained from doing so. Or maybe, it was the alcohol. Probably the latter.

“I hate you both,” she said. “I want that on record.”

She sighed, “Alright. Work your magic.”

“Close your eyes.”

Nick wiggled his fingers, whispered some words that most people wouldn’t have understood but that were fairly recognizable to the others, and wound a bit of gossamer around the grumpy woman’s hat. David saw a shimmer, and Trish Wallace stood before them.

“Oops, almost forgot. Stick out your tongue.” When Monk reluctantly complied, Nick put a sugar cube on it. “Don’t swallow that. Not until you’ve sweet-talked the guard. In this case, literally. We don’t know what her voice sounds like, but the guard will hear it coming from your mouth.”

A tingling sensation accompanied the sweetness of the sugar cube as it touched Monk’s tongue- she had to call upon all of her willpower not to give into the sudden urge to swallow.

Just about that time, the security guard started to take notice of the trio on the street. He shifted out of his chair and walked to the small window beside the entrance, and began to look their way with definite interest.

Monk glared at Nick as he put the sugar cube in her mouth. Her jaw ached from the sweetness, nearly locking up. “What am I? A pony?”

Before she gagged on the sugar, she walked toward the build as if she belonged there. She swayed her newly acquired booty with moderate skill, letting the guard get a nice gander.

She smiled at him, catching a quick look at his name tag. A friendly wave as she headed by him, “Evening, Erich. Good to see you. Having some guests up, if that’s okay.”

Monk stopped and smiled again over her guard-stunning rack, “I was expecting some other visitors. Anyone stop by while I was out?”

David stood quietly. In truth he admired Nick’s bit of glamour. It wasn’t the sort of Seelie magic he used, of course, but he had seen it before. Been targeted by it before. Dealt with it before.

It was good not to be on the receiving end of it for a change.

Erich regarded Monk for a moment, apparently entranced by her ‘glamours.’ He fumbled with his words, “Evening, Ms. Wallace. I’m sorry, I don’t recall anyone, but you’re free to check the logbook.” He pushed the daily sign-in sheet toward her.

“Thank you, so much,” Monk smiled, leaning forward to check for names that might jump out. She made it quick before stepping away from the desk. “Guys, this is Erich. Erich, the guys.”

The guard gave them the briefest glance, before returning his not-so-subtle stare at Monk’s ass.

Monk headed for the stairs, “Night, Erich.” She hurried her step, feeling the last vestiges of the sugar cube melting in the side of her mouth.

Nick shook Erich’s hand enthusiastically. “Very pleased to meet you. Thanks for keeping an eye on the place.”

He clapped Erich on the shoulder and followed Monk away.

As they walked away, they could hear the guard door opening behind them as they mounted the stairwell.

“Miss Wallace!” The Erich’s voice rang out after them. “Miss Wallace!” They could hear his keys jingle as he picked up to a jog. But the one thing that made it more curious than alarming- he was still referring to Monk in character.

“I almost forgot- this package came for you today by courier.” As he handed off to Monk, he added, “Looks pretty important, so I didn’t want to forget about it.”

Thankfully, he walked after he nodded to her, instead of trying to engage, so the fact that Nick’s glamour had worn off was of little import.


trishsapartment.jpg

Arriving at the door of Trish’s apartment, it was striking how much the styling still resembled the transport station this had once been with the high ceilings and spacious interiors, updated for living areas with the stone floors now finished and giving it a modern feel.

The door itself was very well secured- a large sliding slab that would be hard to move silently by someone that wasn’t there with good intentions. The door itself was a vertical deadbolt- presumably with a the lock running into the floor and the ceiling- again very secure.

Nick sighed as he looked over the door. “I suppose it’s too much to hope that there’s a key in that package. I suppose I could give you some more sugar—that’s not a euphemism—to convince our friend you’ve lost your key, but even humans tend to become resistant after multiple exposures.”

He looked at David. “Your turn, I think. You look more comfortable with large metal things than either of us.”

David laughed slightly. “You expect me to muscle this door down? I may be strong, but I am not that strong.”

“However.” he added, stepping up to the door. “A lock, a door, a portal. There are other ways to get through than just brute force. Other ways.”

The crackle of energy emitted from his finger was not the typical signature of a Knight of the Seelie Court. But the Knight of Star Lake, the Lake of Worlds, could go anywhere, if he but knew there was something on the other side, and drew on the Lady to aid him.

The deadbolt slid up of its own accord. David pulled the door open. He could have done it with a touch, but being a showoff didn’t count.

Doing the job right, was.

Monk watched David work, leaning back at the sight of magic. “Well, that’s handy,” she said. “Nice work.”

She glanced at the door, then back to Nick. “So. Might be dangerous in there. You go first.”

Nick laughed. “I don’t do dangerous. I merely recount the heroics of them that do. And help out a little, from a distance.”

He bowed to David. “After you, good Sir Knight.”

The inside of the apartment is all polished wood and stainless steel- the mark of urban living. The high ceilings are almost not visible, and a picture window looks out over the downtown. The bedroom is separated from the living space by height, rather than walls, with a spiraling staircase leading up to a platform where the bed is barely visible. One supposes that the tenant needs to not have a history of sleepwalking.

The most striking thing is how clean the living area is- almost to the point of sterility. Contrasted with the bedroom, where the platform bed lies unmade, and clothes are strewn across the bed. But nothing appears to be untoward in this disarray- just the pressures of fast living.

“Searching an apartment for clues.” David said aloud. “is not precisely my strong suit.” He wasn’t desultory about it, looking over the living room and kitchen areas for signs of…something. Not satisfied, he went into the bedroom, crouched and contemplated the bed.

Monk stood in the living area for a moment, studying the excessive cleanliness. “Maybe it’s just me, but I’m thinking someone did a once-over in here. Probably where she got nabbed,” she said. “Either that or she’s bipolar.”

She wandered over to the kitchen island and set the courier envelope down. She fetched a beer from the fridge – imported (gag) – while taking a moment to look for any notes that might be stuck on the door.

She began stalking around the room, taking heavy swigs from the bottle; acting all slutty was thirsty work after all. Her attention focused on things that might be missed in a clean up – like under a couch or wedged behind an end table. Not everyone was as close to the ground as she was, after all.

“It may just be a case of public area versus private area. If she does any entertaining, she’d want to keep it cleaner than the mess she’s made upstairs.”

“Regardless, I’m afraid my curiosity is about to incite me to break federal laws.” He grabbed the package from the counter, and was about ready to rip it open, but decided it might be prudent to check the label first.

Monk slid the envelope over to Nick, “Have at it.” She gave a dark smile, “And if it’s full of Anthrax, turn away from us, KK?”

“I don’t think discretion and hesitation are your strong suits, Nick” David said dryly.

“I am very discreet, thank you,” Nick replied, mildly offended. “However, that quality does sometimes come into conflict with a keen sense of curiosity.”

courierimage.jpg

The envelope is unsurprisingly enough addressed to Trish at this location. The sender, however, is a bit less straightforward.

> Alphabet Soup, LTD
> B. Reidel

Tearing the envelope open, there are the requisite peanuts inside, protecting only a flash drive and a folded piece of paper.

> As required by our agreement, I’m enclosing all that I have on the subject. He was alive as of the last time I made inquiries, but his health was not of the highest import.
Again, I’d suggest leaving off this line of inquiry. It will lead to no good end.
But with this, I call all accounts even.
> B
>
>I can’t help adding one more thing- if you are determined, there are certain rumors surrounding your rescue of people with certain abilities. This tends more towards their arena than mine.

“She was a hardly innocent kidnap victim, after all.” David commented, poking at the flash drive with a finger. “She didn’t get to use the information on this drive, but it could give us a sense of who grabbed her.”

“Drexl didn’t know the half of it. Think that ‘he’ was our late Warden?”

“You think Drexl Wallace is an alias for Bennett? I suppose that’s possible. A move to keep his daughter safe, perhaps. And we don’t know anything about the man, except that he’s an unspecified sort of consultant with a penchant for extremely durable business cards.”

Nick picked up the flash drive in a kitchen towel and wiped off David’s fingerprint. “Surely Ms. Wallace has a computer around here. Let’s see what information is on this thing.” He looked at the other two. “Neither of you have that particular wizarding ailment that fries computers, do you? I’d have to ask you to leave the room.” When nobody answered in the affirmative, he located Trish’s laptop and started it up, plugging the drive in to peruse its contents.

Monk arched her way back to the kitchen counter, nursing her beer. “Computers? Nope. My skills run more analog and squishy. I play a mean MarioKarts though.”

She leaned over Nick’s shoulder, as if trying to make sense of the materials on the laptop-thingy. “Told you she was in on this,” she said, taking another swig. “But here’s the thing. Who are we actually working for? Maybe we’re doing someone’s dirty work. Trying to find Ms. Perky Nips for someone unsavory, rather than Daddy.”

“Maybe. Killian could be lying. Or the man that hired him could have been someone else, pretending to be Ms. Trish’s father. This story could be going in any direction. Who can tell? That’s what makes it exciting!” He continued scanning the screen.

“A-ha!” he said. “Well, that’s very interesting.”

brotherdear.jpg

The dossier is far from complete- it contains a lot of information, but little in the way of context – a series of dots with no lines to connect them.

+++++

The first video depicts low-light imagery as if from a security camera. In a pit there is what appears to be a man- ferally crouched in the center, surrounded by the corpses of unfortunates. He is nude, filthy, and chained to the floor, looking around wildly, but staying as far as possible from the corpses. It’s also notable that his features seem strangely distended, and his incisors quite a bit longer than humanly possible.

A woman and three men come through the area, clearing opposition as they do with calculated violence. A flash of light seems to erupt from one the hands of one of the men, and the camera fails suddenly.

+++++

A second clip starts- this one in an outdoor area, as a chain link fence surrounds a small field that contains several prisoners. Three of them- a man and two women- are chained to the far side of the enclosure, spattered in the blood of the animal carcasses that decorate the grounds. Another man attempts to get out of the fence, despair in his voice as two guards outside of the enclosure keep him from getting a handhold on the fence links. A third man sits a bit more outside of gate, watching with a detached, almost scientific interest.

It takes a bit, but Nick recognizes that the man is the same in both images- the he’s just been cleaned up from his time in the pit. He looks less feral, and though his facial distortions are just as extreme, his incisors are not as pronounced.

As he points it out, David, studiously investigating rights a photo frame beside the computer, and he realizes that the man on the video is the same as the one posed with Trish Wallace in the photo.

+++++

Monk meanwhile picks up on what her Gobber sense has been trying to tell her the whole time- the residue that she sees on the bed sheets isn’t some unmentionable fluid- it’s the last remnants of ectoplasm. That’s the reason that there’s no sign of a crime- the kidnappers disappeared into the NeverNever.


“Uhhhh, guys?” Monk said, wrinkling her nose at the sheets. “Looks like she took the second star to the right, and went straight on till morning.”

She glanced around the apartment. Suddenly, things seemed a boatload more unnerving, the shadows far deeper. “Not good. Really not good. Can we speed this up? I need a drink.” She polished off the beer in her hand.

“Into the NeverNever, you mean?” David asked Monk. “This gets worse and worse, although I suppose we should have not been terribly surprised at this point.”

“the man in the photo is the same one in this video.” David added, picking up the former and studying it. “We don’t want to miss an important detail on these clips, though, if we fast forward too much through this.”

“We have an idea of where we’re going to find her though.” David said. “Although the exact part of the NeverNever is the question. Maybe one of these clips will reveal that.” A chill ran down his spine, as some nasty ideas and theories ran through his head.

“I’m not sure that ‘man’ is the right word anymore. But it appears that he is Ms. Trish’s father, and she’s been looking for him. So who really hired Killian to look for her?” He took the photo out of the frame. “We need to ask him if this is who came to him.”

“I’m also curious about this note. What does it mean by ‘rescue of people with certain abilities’? These videos certainly seem to show people in need of rescue, if it’s not too late for them already. We should see if we can find this Mr. B of Alphabet Soup.” He put everything back in the envelope and wiped down the computer before putting it back.

“As for the NeverNever, as far as I’m concerned, it’s practically a dead end. I can’t re-open that passage, and even if someone else can, I’m not keen on tracking her kidnapper on the other side. It’s not likely to be profitable, but it is likely to be dangerous.” He looked at the other two and sighed. “But I suppose if David can force a way through, Monk can do the tracking. And I can chronicle our heroic journey or something.”

“That would be the division of labor I would expect you to propose Nick.” David said with a slight smile. “But we do seem to face a choice. Trying to follow Trish’s kidnapper directly is a rather direct approach, perhaps not nuanced enough for both of you to use your skills.”

Nick shrugged. “So, which will it be? The NeverNever? Killian? Or Mr. B? If we’re going into the NeverNever, we should do it now: the trail won’t get any fresher. And it gets us past this place’s security on the way out, for what little that’s worth.”

She flipped David the Bird – and not the Charlie Parker. “Nuance this.”

Monk set the empty aside, “Listen, I just patch mooks like you two up. Never been one for the adventuring side of things. I like to keep my nose out of this crap. Tends to keep it attached to my face.”

She glanced back in the direction of the bed, “Unless one of you has a Key to Neverland handy, I vote we avoid the land of pixies and redcaps. Besides, I think if we find Mr. Smiley, we’ll find Perky Nips.”

“I suppose” David said dryly, ignoring the gesture from Monk. “That settles our course of action.”

With that decided, the not-investigators made their way out of the loft, to seek out their supposed client for a meet-up…

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What's the Plan, Man?
Wings, Beer, and Planning. Always a good time!

wildwingcafe.jpg

The Charlottesville Union Station was built in the 1800s to jointly serve the cross-section of railways that meet in the area. There were renovations made in the 1915, and have been several plans to upgrade it into a full-fledged transportation hub.

But all of those plans have had major impediments of one type or another- whether financial or even environmental concerns. What is unknown to the mundanes is that it is a locus of ley lines running across the rail lines. In the end, the Warden was able to redirect mundane attention to getting the Downtown Transit Center completed.

However, the station does still serve as an intermodal transportation nexus, and the privately developed Wild Wing Cafe is one of the reasons why. Where transportation was not enough to keep the supernatural in line, a good wing served in its stead.

Though there are still supernatural disturbances, for the most part it’s treated as a neutral place to meet, greet and plan…


“I love this place.” David said as he led the way into the station and into the Cafe. “There are few truly decent buildings of age and grandeur here, or anywhere in America, really. Although a hundred and thirty years is still young.” Being a knight of a Faerie court gave him perspective on these things. And the time he spent in Faerie—his own age was somewhat murky.

“We’ve got some solid information here” he patted the dossier. I was glancing at it a bit while heading over here. “At least, solid by the standards of he whom has subcontracted us to this task.”

“I’d like to lay some groundwork, if we can, before talking to Mr. Wallace.” David added. “Just to make sure he is not, ah, treating us like a mushroom.”

Nick deftly slipped the dossier out of David’s grip and popped it open on a tabletop. “Sure, sure,” he said, sitting down and poring over it. “Planning is good, but one must know what one is planning for. What’s Wallace involved in? With whom? Why is his daughter involved? And why do I think this has something to do with our missing constable of the local weirdness?”

Monk regarded David and Nick from behind her mountainous plate of Mile High Ultimate Nachos. Her face had a slightly greenish tint to it, as the heat from her meal made her blush. She jerked a nod in Nick’s direction, apparently agreeing with his assessment.

“Yeah, I’d like to know more about this chippie we’re looking for,” she admitted. “How do we even know that she was actually kidnapped? I mean, if she has daddy issues, she might be in on this.”

She crunched down on a heavily-laden nacho, sending a cornucopia of food products flying. “What exactly do we know about him? Who’d want to wring him for dough?”

“It may have to do with the recent, ah, troubles.” David winced inside, The Troubles were something his homeland was very familiar with. Faerie on both sides of that conflict, too. “With the Warden gone, there hasn’t been much of a central authority. An attack of opportunity, perhaps.”

He reached for a nacho. “You know, you Americans invented these things. But of course the Irish perfected it, by using fried potatoes instead of these corn chips.” He smiled slightly.

“Yeah, and in the grand tradition of Irish cuisine, you lot boiled the flavor out of them,” Monk smirked back.

“I’ve got not-so friends amongst the Winters. They love gossip, especially when someone’s getting hosed. I can ask around. See if his name comes up.”

She downed the rest of her glass, “But I think we need to know more about her first. What she’s into. Or who’s into her, if you catch my drift.”

“And I’ll make some more mundane inquiries to the same effect,” Nick said, “About Wallace and his daughter. Where shall we meet after? Somewhere that we can do more investigating? Perhaps Wallace’s place? Or the daughter’s? Ah, yes, I think that could be informative.”

Meet at the daughter’s place, after our own individual investigations and…” he patted the folder nearby “study?”

He grabbed another gooey section of nachos and crunched down upon them with gusto.

Monk nodded, holding her empty pint against her chest like a talisman. “Daughter’s place, first,” she said. “See if there’s anything that’d show who she was in bed with.”

She extended her pint, “But I think I’m going to need another drink. Or two. Sobriety doesn’t sound like it’s in my best interests tonight.”

Nick gave Monk an odd look at this, but didn’t directly address the comment.
“All righty then. I’ll see you both late tonight at Miss W’s place, let’s say at 11pm. It should be dark enough then that we won’t be seen prying about.” He finished off his section of nachos and paid his half of the tab.

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Money Makes the World Go Round
A new group in Charlottesville takes up where a gap was left

moneymakestheworldgoround.jpg

Everything runs on money- especially charity. This is nowhere more evident than the clinic – equipment, drugs, rent…

Mrs. Scruggs is a tough old woman, who runs a tight business- but she gives back to the community in several ways. Funding the clinic is one of them. But even that has it’s limits.

And that’s where Monk finds herself- at Mrs. Scruggs’ limits.

“I’m sorry, Monk,” she says, and Monk can see that it’s heartfelt. “You do good work. And it helps the community. But, though my largesse doesn’t have limits, my accountant tells me that my bank account does. And I can’t carry this place alone. If we can’t get some other funding, I’m going to have to sell the building.”

But even at the worst of time, her luck shines through, in a manner of speaking. Killian – a P.I. for hire has just come in with a proposition for the good doctor. And his propositions pay. Of course, there’s always risk associated with anything he doesn’t want to take on.

Coarsely handsome, and with a manner that plays like something out of a pulp novel, he leans against the doorjamb, tapping his watch as he watches the exchange almost idly. She knows he’ll wait to discuss further- unless he already has a backup in mind.

But first to get Mrs. Scruggs satisfied…


Monk’s clinic was invaluable to David, especially since an incident at a local hospital involving testing his blood type some years back had led to a lot of awkward questions, and a rather hasty exit. Minute clinics could only go so far, of course, especially when his field-bound shoulder from the claws of—what WAS that thing, anyway? Something magical and dangerous and with claws that were way too sharp.

“There seems to be a queue.” David said idly to Killian as he stepped into the space and regarded the private investigator. His eyes narrowed as he looked at Mary Scruggs. Monk was at her economic limits. Again.

“Looks like you could use a paying customer, Monk.” he said idly. “And I could sure use your aid.”

Monk sighs inwardly, licking her too-dry lips. She needs a drink. Bad. She should have known someone would drop a steaming load through her sunroof today. After all, the signs were there. She woke up sober, for example.

She manages to keep her cool, “Yeah, I get it. But, I swear. Been looking at Foundations. Lots of money out there, but it takes time. You know how it is.” And writing applications. And, well, mailing them. But she keeps those little facts close to the chest.

“But see?” she jerks a thumb in the direction of the doorway. “Investors. And they’re loaded.” A pause, and then she expounds. “With money.”

Monk, not one for signs of affection, smiles at the men. It’s sort of creepy, to be honest.

Nick enters, clutching a bleeding left arm. “Hey, Monk,” he says, “Did you know that if a gunman thinks he’s surrounded by bats, he’ll fire wildly in all directions? What a surprise, right?”

He sees the other occupants of the room and stops. “Ooo. Didn’t realize you had other patients. Or visitors? Ah, Mister Killian, good to see again. You appear to be uninjured. Are you in need then of some other sort of, shall we say, unconventional assistance?”


trishsdossier.jpg

Mrs. Scruggs sighs. “I think you’re in the wrong business Monk,” she says, looking at the younger woman with a mock aggravated expression. “One month,” she adds crisply, and as she turns, Monk can see the ghost of a smile flit across her face.

“And watch out for your clientele,” she says, looking at Nick as she brushes past him out of the door.

Mrs. Scruggs gone, Killian straightens, moving from the doorjamb towards Monk. “Like you said… a queue,” he tosses off in David’s direction.

“So, you need work, and I have need to hire someone to take one of my less interesting cases,” he says without preamble, his gravelly voice pitched not to carry. “I’d not take it at all- most likely it’s nothing,” he shrugs.

“But I’ve done business with the client when he was paying well, so now that he’s on less solvent terms, I still don’t want to leave him high and dry.”

He reaches into his coat, pulling out a folder with the photo of an attractive young lady paper clipped to the front of it. The name on the folder reads‘Trish W.’.

“Her father is a bit skittish- it appears that some bad business happened, and she was kidnapped during it.”

It clicks suddenly for the three of them- after all the supernatural world of Charlottesville isn’t so large that the goings on remain secret. Some kind of disturbance- said to have required the intervention of the Warden- involving some powerful hitters.

“They’re not on the best of terms,” Killian interjects, almost as if to ward off the thoughts that have come to mind. “So, like I said- overprotective father, daughter with daddy issues…”

“So do you want the job?”

David winced as he found a chair to sit down. Killian’s patter was a distraction, at first, an obstacle to getting treatment for his shoulder from Monk. As he talked and pulled out the folder, the Knight reached for it.

“This sort of thing is not entirely within Monk’s skill set.” David said. He got a chill down his spine, something was winding up. He had to see to its satisfaction, one way or the other.

“I still need the patching up.” David said to Monk. “But I will help you take a look into this. If you are interested in the case, of course.”

“I’m in,” Nick added. “Rescuing a damsel in distress always makes for a lovely story.”

“I am not certain” David said. “That Monk considers herself a damsel. And…” he straightened his back. “if anyone is rescuing damsels, it should be me, yes?” he smiled.

“Monk?” Nick laughed. “Indeed, she is no damsel. I was referring to the mysterious and alluring Trish W. And certainly I don’t need to do the rescuing myself. I prefer to watch from a safe distance. You go right ahead.”

Monk glanced at Killian’s file briefly, and then headed to fetch a trauma cart. While the boys bantered, she scrubbed up and put on some clean gloves – snapping them against her wrist loudly.

“I ain’t much of a flat-foot, John,” she admited. “But if the green is right, I’ll put my ear to the ground.” She narrowed her eyes, as if daring anyone to make a crack about her ears.

She pointed to David and Nick, “You two. Shirts off, unless the holes are somewhere lower. In which case, you’d better be wearing clean undies.”

Monk nodded Nick’s way, “Bullet go in, or graze you? John? Give him a once over? Tell me if he’s bleeding still?”

She began examining David’s shoulder, seeing if it was her first priority. “These from a mundy or something else?”

David felt the cool air of the room hit his skin and raise goosebumps, even on the parts of his shoulder that had been clawed.

“No, definitely not a mundane. I had to say an invocation to my Queen upon Rhimiel to make sure the thing stayed dead.” David resisted the urge to produce his blade, upon naming it. If he named it twice more, it would have to be drawn, though.

“The creature kept wanting to get up” The gouges looked nasty, possibly ripe for infection if untreated. David’s normal healing was working—but slowly.

“Not sure what it was. Lots of fur on it, as if it were from some place colder. And you’ve noticed the claws, from their marks on me.”

Nick looked over David’s injury with some level of admiration. “Oh, those should scar nicely. That’s great material when you’re recounting your heroic escapades.” He pulled off his own shirt, revealing a physique that wasn’t as developed as the knight’s. “I’m hoping mine won’t quite be as interesting. It’s just a graze—which stings like a mother, I assure you—but obviously a bullet wound nonetheless, and would have aroused uncomfortable questions at County. Thus my arrival here. Obviously you should attend to Sir David’s festering injuries first.”


drexlwallacecard.jpg

It’s obvious that Killian is a bit annoyed- whether by the time as he looks at his watch as Monk tends to her patients, or the circumstances of Nick and David’s slide into the case, it’s not sure. But he quickly comes to some conclusion.

Drexl Wallace is the client’s name- he’ll be expecting your call to go over the particulars.”

He pulls a black card with the man’s name and the non-descriptive title of consultant on the front. He starts to hand the card to Monk, but seeing the impracticality of doing so, drops the card on the trauma cart. It rings out with the sound of metal on metal as it settles to rest on the sterile surface.

“I have to run, but I’ll be in touch,” he says as he ducks out of the clinic’s door.

As Killian left, Monk gave a wry snort. “And people say I lack social skills,” she said, pouring some alcohol into David’s open wounds – flooding them with cleansing agony. Satisfied, she gave him a local to kill the pain.

“Oo-kay,” she said. “I’m all out of thread, so super-glue, work for you, David? I know Summers don’t get that frugality thing, but there it is… right?”

With a wink to Nick, she began sewing David’s wounds closed… with thread and needle. But the Hero didn’t need to know that.

“Superglue? I’m not crazy for it.” David said. He recalled a weird commercial involving a man with a hardhat superglued to an i-beam, supposedly dangling hundreds of feet in the air.

He recomposed himself. He had plenty of questions, but quizzing Monk while she wielded a needle on him was foolish…

He’d wait until Nick was under her care. No, he corrected. Nick wasn’t a hero, but didn’t need any more discomfort, than usual.

Nick watched the operation intently: but apparently he always watched everything intently. “You’re really quite good at this,” he told her. “There may not be any scarring at all. Too bad.”

When she was done with David, he willingly submitted himself to her care, though he wasn’t as stoic about it as the knight, and requested a local before his injury was cleaned.

At his words, Monk glared at Nick for a moment – ear twitching beneath her hair. But when she realized he was being sincere, she relaxed and smiled again. “Thank you,” she said, the words tasting foreign in her mouth.

With David sewn up, she moved to Nick. “It’s superficial,” she said. “You’re lucky.” She went to work, cleaning and bandaging the wound. It didn’t take long, and required only bandages and gauze to cover up. “You’ll need to get yourself a topical ointment of some kind. Treat that every day until it heals over, K?”

She washed her hands and started cleaning up, “So. Nachos and beer. You two are buying. And we can yammer about this chickie-po with the daddy issues. Plan?”

View
Approaching Endgame
Are we even playing the right game?

The group does a bit of scouting of the area, through magic (with the welcome return of Arcas), through Technology (borrowing Myles again), through the plain research of Alucard and Hugo, and through feet on the ground, with Kassandra scouting the area with Helga. That last pairing was a bit iffy- Alucard especially didn’t want to let her out of his sight. But she made her own decisions, though she didn’t revel spending more time with Helga. There was also the added stress of leaving Soup alone back in the Americas, but it couldn’t be helped. At least, that’s what they comforted themselves with.

There had been a commission for an extension of one of the Chalets above the fall, and it hadn’t been completed. But they were able to find out that it had been continued. They were not able to find out the patron of the work, nor any information on the layout of the additional added space, but you’re able to find out a lot from innocuous information with the right hands on the wheel. The construction workers were not as thorough in covering the tracks for sourcing of materials as their patron probably would have liked, so they were able to determine that there was a small niche- about the size of a 2 room apartment- that could have been built. A lot of tech involved, which Myles was able to verify by probing the lines in the area and looking at the layout of the network topology in the area. He rode the T1 in, finding the IP of the external facing of the network. But that was it. Getting any closer would expose them to more risk than he thought they wanted. Arcas found the same- the NeverNever had been strengthened with the power of Earth, and there were major wards on the area. It was almost as good as the security on their primary target. But not quite.

Through a combination of all of their skills, they were able to find out the major weakness in the security… access from the existing structure. They were going to have a limited time to get in surreptitiously, find the actual access, and not trigger any alarms while breaching it. Then, if they timed it right, they may have the upper hand. It was a better chance than they had before- but with so much riding on this, it was very alarming.

Myles and Arcas were staying out of the action- backups to direct the group. They asked if Helga could go in as backup as she’d been quite good on her scouting trip with Kassandra, and they’d seemed to hash out their issues. She demurred with a deft deflection. But Hugo sensed that there was more to it. With so much riding on this, he was tempted to sift through her memories. But remembering the events with Alucard’s interrogation, he decided to err on the side of humanity, and keeping his.

They entered in two teams. Alucard and Kassandra posed as guests- with the help of Myles, who hacked their systems and put in a long-standing reservation for the Lawrence and Edith Adair. They’d had a nice laugh at the names- a way of breaking the tension they all felt. Alucard intuited that something was wrong- which was why they had to pair him and Kassandra together. He wasn’t going in without her at his back. Hugo ghosted in with his knew abilities, blurring the technological records of his passing with a deft touch as he maintained a field of forgetfulness. People noticed him for a very brief instant… before forgetting that he was there. Arcas was concerned that he was depending so much on his abilities, but Hugo was very confident on that point.

Everything went well. Too well, in fact. Hugo was able to get Myles deeper into the system at an air-gapped terminal with a dongle he’d smuggled in. Myles remarked on the fact that they would even think to have such procedures indicated that the mystery agent had deep ties with the Chalet in some fashion. That worried him. But they were able to find the area that the renovations were supposed to take place in, and Arcas verified that the same wards he felt from the outside were being sensed from the warden’s amulet that Hugo still wore.

Kassandra and Alucard worked at setting up their escape in case things went horribly wrong before making their way to join Hugo. What those preparations were, Alucard was strangely close-lipped about. For operational security, he said. Hugo knew that Alucard had been a bit… different… since obtaining the lighter. But this was something else, totally. As they arrived at the hatch, Hugo found himself thinking about using his abilities to delve into Alucard’s thoughts, but caught himself before that thought had gone too far. This was his friend and comrade! What was he thinking?

With application of help through the link with Arcas and the Warden’s amulet, a little tech know-how from Myles over the link, and a judicious application of Alucard’s strength, the team is able to get the hatch open- and with no alarms. A second hatch confronts them, but this one is more to seal in the environment, rather than keep anyone out. Sneaking in, Kassandra leads the way, with Alucard close behind. Hugo brings up the rear after a last check in with Myles and Arcas. It’s a calculated risk- but they’ll be cut off until they find the source of the wards. As they descend into a survivalist’s dream, the light’s come on and they can see that it’s a fully apportioned living space, with it’s own circulating air supply, fully stocked with everything one would need to survive. But it doesn’t look lived in. Hugo looks all around, extending his senses to search for the box, but comes up empty. As he looks, Alucard checks out a panel beside the hatch, and begins to key in a code. Hugo has just enough time to ask him what he’s doing as the hatch swings closed. A monitor comes on as it closes with a ring of finality, and a dead man looks back at them. Ephraim Law- but how? And Hugo’s contact… his mentor in the mental arts. That explains a lot, as Alucard shakes his head, his mind becoming clear for the first time in days.

“Thank you for joining us,” Law said over the monitor. “You have questions. But I’m not a supervillain to give answers. I just counseled my employer that you were too dangerous to handle in any other way. I suppose that eventually you might get out. But we’re on a time table- as are you- and that time will be well run out by the time you escape. If you escape.”

“There are enough supplies to last you for a few years- if you ration correctly. Why, instead of flooding it with nerve gas or some other nasty substance? You’ve left behind ties that I know are triggered in case of certain eventualities. This gives us time to unravel those. Oh, and I have a message for you, that might be enlightening, though I don’t get it. But I’ve been told you would.”

“You should have taken the deal.”

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