Me and Connie were getting ready to settle in for an awesome night of relaxing in front of the TV. Sentinel had been pretty easy going lately and the “home front” had been doing well too. All in all, things had eased up a little bit. It was almost easy to forget that we had a potential time bomb waiting out there, somewhere.
It didn’t surprise me at all when the phone rang. Connie’s face told everything though. I knew it was Kevin from the moment she answered, but something was wrong. He gave us no information other than telling us to get down there.
We got to the scene and Kevin kept giving me and Connie sidelong glances. It was a gaze I’d seen him give folks when we were tracking down Shit Stain. It was distrust. The look he’d given hundreds of criminals.
When he showed us the bodies, I understood. Horrific shit. The one before us was burnt to nothing but charred meat and eschar. Even Kevin was scared. Hell, I was scared. When Kevin showed us the pictures of the bodies, I knew this was the move we’d been waiting for. Someone was calling us out.
“You know I love you both, but I have my duty to this city. Don’t make this any harder than it has to be.” Kevin finally said after a moment of uneasy silence. He held up the .357 from the Tonka Truck’s glove box.
“Kev…” I began.
“I can’t just sweep this away!” he nearly yelled. “I’ve got 9 bodies on my hands and every finger points to you two.”
“Des, close your eyes.” Connie’s voice spoke in my head. I took a deep breath and did so.
Flashbangs aren’t fun, even with your eyes closed. As Connie tucked us under her veil watch, I observed one of my closest friends in all of his leadership, essentially setting the hounds on us.
Within an hour, we’d become fugitives, with nine murders on our hands. And not a fucking clue as to who was really to blame.
Of course, both of our full names were scrawled across the bodies.
And there was the fact of the gun that was stolen out of the truck.
They were close. They knew us. And that was fucking terrifying. We sat down in the burned out basement of the Need/Want to catch our breath.
“So, we’ve got nine bodies that we’ve both been framed for. Where the hell do we start? It’s obviously the Black Council’s move, right?”
“Yeah…” Connie replied. “There’s more too.”
“What the hell else could possibly go wrong?” I said, looking up at her with an exasperated laugh.
“I’m pregnant, Des.”
“You’re…” I said, feeling a strange mix of fear, happiness and anxiety.
“Just before Kevin called…yeah.”
I just looked at her for a moment. “Damnit, that’s supposed to be good news.”
“Are you going to be okay?” I asked.
Connie smiled, despite all the shit stacked against us.
“I’ve got my magic and I’ve got you. We’ve still got our friends too, Des.”
I closed my eyes for a second.
“Okay, so we’ve got bodies. Where would we start normally?”
We stood outside the back door to the morgue. A single camera and overhead light hung over the door. Luckily, working with a wizard, who inherently destroys technology, those were an easy fix. And of course, the high security standards meant the door was propped open with a chunk of cinder block, presumably for smoke breaks. We were able to slip inside, dodging technicians every so often. We slipped into Sam’s office with little worry.
Sam nearly seemed to jump out of his skin. I thought the bubblegum was going to choke him for a few seconds.
“Sam, just stop.” Connie said.
“We didn’t do it Sam. We were framed.”
He stammered for a second. “Okay. Okay. What can I do?”
“Get us a look at the bodies.”
Connie took a look at them with the Sight. No small feat considering the horrible pain from their last moments that would be forever etched into her mind. Whatever it was, it was powerful. Of course, whoever was doing this was no small time wizard, either.
They were ready to take us down and they weren’t going to be easy to find.
“Sam, just keep safe, okay?” Connie warned.
“Thanks Sam.” I added.
“What if they come asking? I can’t just…”
“Just tell them we threatened you.”
“Okay, I’ll try not to tell anything. You guys just, be safe too, okay? I know you’re going to catch these bastards.”
God I hope so. We could hear him popping his gum a bit more nervously as we slipped outside.
Next, we hit the scenes of the crime. That’s right, the “criminals” returning to the scene. There was no common thread, but the magic had lasted quite a while. I’m no wizard, but I know enough to know that were facing something huge here. Nothing else stuck out from all of the scenes. Nothing tied the folks together. They were just average folks, people who had friends, lives but nothing necessarily notable. People just trying to get by.
We stopped into a 7/11 to get some supplies, including a road atlas for Buffalo. Plotting all of the scenes out showed a pentagram across the entire city. The first thing I thought of was some horrible zombie apocalypse using all of the graveyards in the city.
Connie, ever the pragmatist, pointed out that it was likely something involving the whole city. What, we couldn’t be sure, but it was as huge as we noted.
We needed wheels. And the 1979 Yugo sitting in the parking lot was our only real option.
I think it was running better when it wasn’t running at all.
With no clues, we decided to head to someone who had a vested interest in the city. Someone who, quite literally, owned it. Mr. Wojchinski was down the Svedka House, as we walked in. Food was brought out at a snap of his fingers.
“I’m surprised to see the two of you here, given your recent situation.” Michael said, puffing on his cigar.
“We need everything you’ve got on Evrose, Michael.”
Michael was a criminal. Some might say he is a monster. But one thing is for sure, he is a man who can get things done. He lead us to his back office, which was kept immaculately. He had records on everything it seemed. Kept in meticulous order. He knew everything that happened in his city, and that’s why we had been so glad to have him as an acquaintance.
“Hey, Mike, how big are our files, out of curiousity?”
He pointed over to a separate cabinet. “They’re in there.”
I honestly was kind of flattered.
“Evrose was before I began this new enterprise but I have some information on him….” Michael said as he thumbed through a folder.
“I learned of Donald Evrose through a gang…called The Crowley’s. I didn’t really work with them too closely. They’ve stayed pretty far off the radar.”
“Thanks, Mike.” Connie said, not without gratitude. Still, this was getting more and more frustrating. Everything was tied together by the thinnest of threads.
“And Mike?” Connie added as we turned to leave.
“It’s going to happen soon. And when it does, I hope we can count on you. It’s not just going to be a tap on the nose. They’re going to try to take Buffalo down completely.”
Mike nodded with all the surety of a king.
We slipped out with few more answers and precious few leads to dig up.
We called to Jason and Dizzy. Both of our calls gave us little more. Dizzy seemed to take it hardest, and I wondered, with surprising seriousness, whether he was going to commit Seppuku. Both of them told us that The Crowley’s seemed to be something similar to our own ParaNet. Dizzy was able to dig up a contact they’d used at one point.
That happened to be about 10 years back, and the guy was only known as “Black Templar” but hey, I’ll take anything.
As we stood outside the club listening to The Cure’s likely 12th song of the night, I looked at Connie.
“Are you ready for this?”
Next to us, some kid began reciting his poetry about death being a fickle mistress of the night or something or other.
Let’s just get this over with.
We walked up to the bar and I motioned the bartender over.
I blinked and resisted the urge to hit him.
“Black Templar. We need to talk to him.”
The guy nodded towards a corner where some self important fuck stood perched on his chair like God himself.
Just fucking great.
“Thanks.” I muttered, hearing only “Ughhh.” in response.
“Black Templar.” I said as we approached. “We need to talk.”
“And just what are you two Normies doing in our club? You don’t belong here.” he said, looking down his nose at me.
I’ll admit, I’ve take a lot of shit from people. But these guys just struck a nerve tonight.
“Evrose. Donald Evrose. I need to know who sent him your way, who hired him. Everything about him.”
The self important fuck droned on.
“And why should I tell you anything.”
I don’t know what happened. I think it’s just some nervous tic.
But the next thing I knew, he was slammed up against the wall and I was yelling into his face.
“LISTEN YOU PATHETIC FUCK! TELL ME EVERYTHING YOU KNOW OR I’LL WIPE THAT FUCKING MAKEUP OFF YOUR FACE WITH MY FIST!”
He whimpered, pathetically, as expected and told me everything.
Which, in reality, was nothing much at all. He’d arranged for everything with a woman. He didn’t know much about her at all.
As we walked out, creepy goth folks tried to hit on both me and Connie.
I felt like I was escaping zombies.
Our hunt led us to Trina, who had little to offer us other than kindness and an offer of a safehouse.
We dropped by Kyle’s place to see what info he could have on the magic that was being used. Especially since he was our resident thaumaturgy expert, we needed him on the case. After a few moments of him being terrified of “aiding and abetting” and quoting NYS Penal code 212.4.c we got him to let us in.
The kid was good. He pulled some books down, glancing through some stuff. And it all came down to time. The time delay. All of it required a lot of power. And we had been thinking that it was one person of immense power. With enough average folks, though, this spell could have been pulled off fairly easily, he’d noted.
Great. So now instead of looking at one killer, we could be looking at twenty.
Fantastic. Kyle apologized for not having more. Seriously, this kid is a damn but genius, but man, is he humble. We slipped back out to go find Rafe, out in the Clarence woods. I literally sniffed around, Connie on my furred back as we wandered about. He’d been everywhere and it didn’t seem I was going to find him anytime soon.
“Connie, hop off for a second.” I said, sitting down as she hopped off.
“If you needed a rest, you could’ve just said so.”
“I’m trying something a little unorthodox, here.” I said and threw my head back, letting out a howl that was probably the loudest thing to come out of these woods in some time. I don’t fuck around, what can I say?
It’s kind of surprising to know how far a howl can be heard. It can honestly tell you a ton about the sitaution. Luckily, we were just playing Marco Polo.
In the distance, I heard the distinctive return of Rafe.
“That’s him. Let’s go.” I said as we beat feet over to him. Well, I beat feet. Connie just hung on.
Sure enough, he sat against an old foundation to some long forgotten cabin, arms crossed as he was waiting for us. I’d never been more happy to see a dirty guy living in the woods.
Don’t tell him I said that.
We talked about Mother Goose and the loup garou fight we’d had. Unsurprisingly, Rafe didn’t have much to give us. Outside of the fact that it was weird to have someone like her out here and the fact that they don’t just cross the Never with no good reason, Rafe had nothing. Someone had pointed another gun at our head, but the shadows weren’t being pushed back yet.
We even summoned Corlaconsidhe up to give us what information she could. Of course, a big fat nada was really what we got, outside of a few more clues pointing to Kumari. At lest the cost wasn’t too bad. Kissing a Fae wasn’t too bad, surprisingly. I’m still waiting for Connie to punch me for it. She can have a delayed fuse some days.
Same with Jason, who was able to let us know that Nic was in Asia around the time of the whole Weak Link debacle.
We even slipped into the house, with the ever-present unmarked car down the street. Out in Clarence, it’s pretty hard to stake someone out without them noticing. I mean, they did their best with it, but its’ hard not to notice a Crown Vic parked in front of a bunch of woods with two dudes waiting in it.
I’ve gained a new appreciation for Connie’s Veil watch though. It let us sneak through the back door like we owned the place. We grabbed the old book we’d bought from Pageturner’s on Asian ritual magic. Conveniently, there was a section on building power over time and reducing the sun’s erosion, which was exactly what this practitioner, or team, had done.
We stepped back down into the sanctum. We decided that we’d have to play with fire on this one and fired up the summoning circle. After Belezor, both of us had been leery of summoning any sort of demon creature.
Sure enough, we were able to find one of Connie’s contacts who was more than eager for a chance at another name. We wormed our way into a deal with him, finding that he’d dealt with a man and woman in his last days. In return, I gave him my middle name, and felt the tug on my essence as he spoke it aloud. It didn’t take long to come to some sort of a conclusion as to who the man and woman were, and I was even more pissed the more I let it sink in.
Cowl and Kumari had sold me to Nicodemus and Tessa. They’d sold me off to hell.
I was going to end these two if it was the last thing I did. If they threw me to Nic so easily, there’s no telling what they’d do with a whole city. Frankly, we had to act quick.
Reviewing the Red Courts involvement in all of this, we decided to pay a visit to one of their more notorious hang outs: a water tower on the edge of the city.
I thought about slipping around the back. I really did.
But I was getting frustrated, tired and fucking tired of this run-around bullshit. Maybe that’s what they were counting on.
As the door went splintering inward, about 20 Red-Court vampires charged at us. In a flurry of magic and teeth, me and Connie worked our way through them.
Before we knew it, we had the vamp leader on his back, of course, giving us the “I won’t tell shit” routine.Crushing his entire shoulder changed his opinion on the matter and he sang like a fucking canary. A quick blast of magic and his head exploded into so much of that foul smelling blood. Thankfully, I didn’t have to worry about getting that taste out of my mouth. Man, having a wizard as a partner is fucking awesome.We swung back to Kyle’s getting a less combative young wizard this time around. He worked a tracking spell for us, drawing an exact replica of Marie Kane’s face from a picture that Adam had kept of her. It was tough, being many decades old, but if anyone could pull it off, it would be Kyle.
Sure enough, he pulled off the spell, leaving a line of graphite pointing straight into the city.
“How far does that spell even go?” Connie asked.
“Well, it’s old. Can’t be farther than 50 miles max. Probably closer to 25.”
“Which means she’s in the city…”
We booked it across town, breaking more traffic laws than I could count as we cut through side streets and alleyways, trying to make our way to the source of the spell.
The HSBC tower loomed against the needle like the bead of a gunsight.
We ran up the stairs, not wanting to trust the elevators this close to the end. I had my handgun ready as we poised at the door, ready to breach the rough. The needle pointed straight through it.
“You ready?” Connie said, her voice hardened to the multitude of fights we’d been in, but still the woman I loved. After all of this, still concerned about others.
“Yeah. Let’s go get the bastards.” I said as we burst through the door. The Buffalo skyline enveloped us as we burst onto the rough to see what could only be Kumari and Cowl standing there, waiting for us.
“I was wondering when you two would get here…” Cowl’s raspy voice spoke.
“Who the fuck are you?” I exclaimed. I was done with the bullshit. Done with the games. I wanted answers, god damnit. I wasn’t going to take being jerked around anymore.
As he pulled back his hood, for the first time, and likely the last time I’d ever see it, I felt a wave of sheer terror and revulsion flow through me as a brutalized and scarred beast of a man glared back at me.
“It’s been far too long, Desmond and Constance.” Harry spoke as he turned to face us.