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Chapter 14.PotentialSuitor

As he pulled up to the garage, one of the bay doors opened. Giles stood off to the side, which indicated he had been the one to open it.

Giles seemed to be in a less abrasive mood as he waved Xavien inside. Xavien pulled his car inside and Giles closed the bay door behind him.

As Xavien got out, Giles spoke up; “You’re safe from prying eyes here. We’re not going to be best friends, but I’ll at least answer a few questions.”

“First one; what changed your mind?”

Giles drew in his cheeks, slowly wetted his lips and then sucked off the moisture as he chose his words carefully; “Mei Li. She and I have a lot in common with how we think. She also altered my perspective on how I viewed you.”

Xavien felt the impetuous need to dismiss Giles, but understood the spirit of the olive branch was a reluctant one. He didn’t like Giles a single bit but, oddly enough, he felt that he could trust him. “I will make every attempt to be concise and vex you as little as possible. Does everyone supernatural have a ‘spirit-name’ that we must address them by, as a matter of respect, or is it safe to call them by the names provided?”

“Most of us don’t care too much. Spirit names are actually a little too formal, except in the rarest of circumstances. It’s a bit overdramatic to refer to someone by their spirit name unless that is their preferred moniker. Think about how a kid feels when their parent uses their full name, it stirs something within that kid. Just kinda imagine that feeling, but on a primal scale. To save you the question, my spirit name is Wyrmgrinder, I have it stenciled on my bike… That’s my racer name in the mundane world, but if you call me that in conversation, you’d better be ready to fight.”

“And Mi Lei, how should I address her?”

“Mi Lei. Their given names are their spiritual names, typically. Besides, she only cares about the spirit of your conversation. If you mean well, it doesn’t even matter what words you use.” Giles explained patiently.

“…and you said Mei Li adjusted your way of thinking in relation to me. If it is not too improper to ask, I would like to know how this occurred.”

“I guess… I just see you as a different version of myself, with a different purpose. To put it as delicately as possible… I found it incredibly short-sighted of you to resist your nature for so long, I think your idealism is stupid, and you’re gunna fail miserably, short of major miracle… but your desire for freedom is not too different than mine. I admire that you’ve managed to make it that long without getting sucked in. Mei Li convinced me that it wouldn’t hurt to at least talk to you.” Giles offered, almost pleasantly.

Xavien nodded in cordial acknowledgement; “That is fair and appreciated. I do respect you, and recognize that you are likely very honorable. I have a dislike for you that I cannot quite quantify, but this may merely be from our prior interactions and affinity for your father, with the recognition for all his unrequited efforts on your behalf.”

Giles could not withhold the eye roll; “Oh, man… I get what you’re saying… but hoped you wouldn’t go there. I’m not willing to discuss it. You don’t have to get all warm and fuzzy on me, just talk to me one-to-one and get information… without ticking me off… and we’ll get along just fine. Feel me?”

Xavien nodded; “Okay. Is Mi Lei available to talk?”

“Whenever you’re ready; she’s expecting you, actually.” Giles shrugged and then gestured to the small break room where he’d first met Mi Lei.

“Thanks.” Xavien walked toward the room and opened the door.

Mi Lei sat in the room by herself, with a hot tea and a cigarette. She was still dressed in her black leather motorcycle outfit, as she stared distantly at her tea, fiddled with the cup and dangled the cigarette out of her mouth.

The cigarette was lit and smelled like freshly dried tobacco. The smoke had filled the room and billowed around Xavien as he entered.

Xavien cleared his throat and spoke quietly; “Mi Lei?”

She looked up slowly and smiled warmly in his direction, but almost looked through him to see something else. Absent was the playfulness that she had shown mere hours before.

“So, you have received my offer?” She replied quietly.

“Yes. Jonah Tan mentioned it and I’ve pondered it on the way over.”

“You hesitate, because you do not yet trust. I understand. Truthfully, my alliance with Interpol is incidental. Several of their members investigated us for wrongdoing and we stayed in touch. We spoke of you in passing and they mentioned their eagerness to meet you. This was not a favor, merely a message.” Mi Lei explained, in a genteel fashion.

“I apologize if I have offended you in any way.” Xavien bowed, slightly.

“His contact information is written on that card, which you can take after you consider it.” She smiled, as the distance left her eyes and sadness washed over her complexion.

Xavien tilted his head; “Is something the matter?”

Mi Lei provided a wan smile; “Come and sit by me. Hear me sing and take a moment to relax.”

Xavien found this to be a strange request, and was wary of potential tricks, so he hesitated; “Please do not take this the wrong way… but, will this song do anything?”

“Many things it could do… but nothing that you do not wish it to.” Mi Lei said as the small smile faded once again.

Xavien nodded and then moved to sit in the molded plastic chair next to her. She began to sing in a language that sounded neither Japanese nor human. Her voice was breathy and ethereal as whatever words left her. The song was decidedly sad, and he thought of his son and his dear Clara. He startled only slightly when Mi Lei stood up.

She stood up next to him and placed her arms around his head. Gently, she guided his head to her chest; all the while she sang her mournful song. He listened and attempted to resist the sadness, because he felt on the verge of tears though he did not wish to cry in front of her. Xavien felt compelled to hug her and allowed his arms to wrap around her body. She paused only to kiss the top of his head and then resumed.

Slowly, without conscious effort on his part, he began to understand the words to the song; the phrases in this ethereal tongue.

We are all in mourning

As sweet as happiness, it fills us

We cannot hold onto

What we were never given

We cannot possess

What could never be ours

Enjoy the gift of memory

Thank the spirits for the pleasure of sadness

For a heavy heart

Keeps one’s foot on the ground

For one’s feet on the ground

Means another opportunity

Another opportunity to mourn

Sigh not from despair, be wistful

Express not your fear

Listen now to the lessons

And live with understanding.

When she had finished her song, Xavien hugged her tightly. It did not comfort him, but there was a bit of an understanding that he felt. He did not want to end the embrace, and she patiently maintained it.

Mi Lei spoke, gently, after several minutes; “Trust who you will. Remember that the more trust that is given, the more trust shall be earned. Punish those brutally that betray your trust, and remember that there is no comfort but that which you find within yourself.”

Xavien reluctantly released her from the embrace. It felt good to be close to another person at that moment, that he hadn’t truly cared who it was.

“I do not wish to keep you from what you need to do. I merely wished to clear up any misunderstanding. Stay as you like, leave if you wish… There are others out there that could also provide shelter or aide should you seek it. This is merely one place.” She petted his cheek.

Xavien felt a bit of a tingling through his body, like a spiritual connection between him and the moment. He didn’t want to move or leave, he just wished to bask for as long as the moment lingered.

“Gentle man… So kind, sweet and careful. Such a child at heart. Though I cannot be yours, I will soothe you and tend to the part of you that cries for as long as you need.” Mi Lei said, softly as she cradled his head once more and petted his freshly-shorn hair. The smoky ambience in the room gave it an otherworldly feel. The subtle smell of her femininity was a comfort more than it was a distraction.

He spoke up, quietly; “Why do you attend to me like this?”

“It was what was told to me by the song. You hide so well behind your manly and heroic face. Behind the face you show, is someone who hurts and wishes to do what is best. I cannot tell you what ‘best’ is, but in this world, very few understand the simple but powerful nature of tenderness. You have it within you, and you should remember that you have it. Sometimes you can’t find out what is ‘right’… but you can always take care of ‘right now’ while you wait for enlightenment.” She smiled kindly.

Xavien smiled and nodded; “Thank you.”

He then noticed that there were a few dozen eyes in the room with them, which stared up from the floor at the far end of the room. He was about to be angered, then he took a deep breath and looked at her with concern.

Mi Lei smiled; “Have you not wondered where they were?”

Xavien nodded; “I was caught up in the moment and allowed my awareness to flag.”

“You will find no judgment here. You may stay or you may go.”

The moment had faded and he was a little unsettled by the multitude of eyes. However, he was without a place to sleep. Xavien reached across the table and took the card, then put it in his pocket.

Xavien then decided to act spontaneously. He stood up, bowed towards Mi Lei and then shifted down into his wolf form. He walked over to the wall opposite the pile of foxes and settled into a corner. Mi Lei smiled and doused her cigarette, then turned off the light in the room. Xavien could make out the shape of nineteen other foxes, as they all rested near each other. Soon, he felt his eyes were heavy and before he could think further, he drifted to sleep.


Xavien awakened in the morning and noted that the pile of foxes had moved to his side of the room. It was not a pillow he had rested his wolf head upon, but rather the rump of a fox. There were twenty foxes in this pile, all in various states of sleep and waking. He felt awake and revitalized for the first time in many days. His emotional state had improved dramatically, and his focus felt sharper.

He then moved so that he could investigate the foxes individually. This movement was met with some quiet grunts of discontent as the pile re-settled. There were 35 tails, but only 20 foxes. He immediately singled out Mi Lei and her 5 red & white tails. He spotted Mei Li and saw that she had 3 black and gray tails. There was a tan and white fox that had 4 tan and white tails. Three other red and white foxes had two tails, and the rest had one.

Jonah Tan spoke in his mind; “Whuddup homie… It’s nice up in here, nah-meen?”

Xavien sniffed and responded telepathically; “It was an unexpected, but not an unwelcome deviation from my evening.”

“That how fate be, yo. Sometimes the maidens say you hurt, sometimes the maidens say you chill.” Jonah waxed philosophical.

Xavien had enjoyed and appreciated the rest, but he had to touch base with his current employer so that he could inform them that Irving had left the country. He then also wished to call the phone number on the card that Mi Lei had provided to him.

He wriggled out of the pile, unsettling the group again. Several grumbles and protestations were uttered until they all settled once again. Xavien shifted up into his human form and stretched as he enjoyed the fact that he felt quite rested. He reached into his pocket and read the card. It listed the phone number for a Joseph Johnson. He would give this guy a call later. For now, he needed to reach the office and see what the fallout would be from the latest news.

He left the room quietly and walked to his car.

Giles was fiddling with some part of a motorcycle, his hands covered in grease. “Man, you really must have made an impression on them.”

“I guess it’s not a bad thing. Some of what I guess is called serendipity. It was a rather surreal evening.” Xavien responded.

Giles said nothing further, and whacked the button to open the exit to the outside world. So, Xavien got into his car and backed out of the opening bay door. He checked his cellphone and was surprised to see that there weren’t any messages. It was 7:45am, so he dialed the captain’s direct line.

Predictably, he picked up; “Lieutenant. What’s the good word?”

“Irving Masterson has skipped town. I’m working on some leads, but I think he may have been spooked.” Xavien said, with the full expectation that this would not be well received.

“Fuck! You’re shitting me! This is less than good, but also not bad, either. Do you know what airport he left from? We can track it and alert the authorities.” The captain said, as he began to multitask.

“I will get you more information when I have it. But that’s the bottom line right now.”

“Okay. I’ll have to sit on this until you do. We can’t just go ahead and notify everyone on the planet that we’re incompetent without some sort of plan.” The captain fumed.

“I am unsure of how this equates to incompetence. But I will contact you as soon as I have more. I have some leads to follow, then I will be in the office.” Xavien said and then hung up, without waiting for the captain’s acknowledgement.

Xavien then dialed Joseph Johnson’s phone number.

The line picked up but no one spoke. He decided to speak as if he had been greeted; “This is Lieutenant Xavien Brady. I was provided this phone number by a mutual acquaintance.”

The answer on the other end came; “Excellent. I was hoping you would call.” This individual spoke in clear, unaccented English. He continued; “Meet me at the Hyde City welcome center. Buy some food and we’ll chat. I’ll find you.”

“Very well” Xavien said as the line went dead. He did as he was requested and drove to the welcome center. This meeting interested him greatly, and a renewed sense of vigor filled him.

He took nothing greater than the comfort provided by the Inari; it was hard for him to build lasting connections to begin with, and it wasn’t a situation where he was eager to lose something that could very well touch him deeply. He knew that Mi Lei provided wisdom, as did Karl, Agony, Andrew and even Mortimer. There was valuable information to be had even from the vampires, it was all in what he did with the information that he was provided.

Xavien felt more confident than he did those few short days ago. After all, his mind had been in a constant state of churn and had more to process than ever before. It had taxed his thoughts but, to nail down his baseline was key; much like Karl had said. The life he’d been provided would always be ‘too much’, if looked through the wrong glass. This would be no different than his life had been to begin with, there was merely more tools he was willing to use.

He recalled his reluctance even to speak as a young child. He’d practiced in whispers when he knew Myrna was not awake, but had been unwilling to reveal that part of himself then. This behavior of his was not without precedent, as he’d always proceeded with caution; then to burst onto the scene and dive in head-long.

As he pulled into the parking lot of the welcome center and pondered his course of action. A part of him desired to leave the grid all together, but realized how unlikely it would be to survive if he did. The ruling part of him wished to dive into the deep end and prove that he could swim. He couldn’t put this new part of his life on autopilot. He would have to adapt accordingly and figure out the details over time, but the general structure of his attitude, demeanor and behavior had already begun to fall into place. This life would be considerably more politically sensitive. Cultural or verbal missteps could likely end up as bloody misunderstandings that he might not survive. He was not cowed by the specter of violence or death; Xavien merely understood that this was a danger.

This life was a big, twisted pile of love, guts and molten metal that just willed itself into various amalgams of acceptable. It was up to the sentient beings to adapt, survive or die to pave the way for other sentient beings to abort, retry or fail. He was logical enough that he nearly failed to see the point of life, if not for the individual pursuit of pleasure. However, he’d never been predisposed to selfish melancholy, nor had he been overly concerned with frivolous wastes of his previous mental or physical resources.

He thought about the promise that he had made to Myrna; about a female in his future, as well as the concept of another child. He thought about the concept of a child with distaste; it would be selfish of him to produce progeny, as there were so many that went unattended. For him to lose his progeny to another villain would only be the actualization of the inevitable consequence of his pompous desire to procreate. It was also foolish for him to promise this sort of thing to a dying woman; no matter what connection he had to her.

As his mind spun and clicked along with the various calculations that these recent events, words, promises, individuals and experiences had initiated, Xavien felt more comfortable and able. Logic was always to be his truest comfort.

He smiled as he got out of his car. Could he lose his focus again? Sure, he very well could; all the better feeling he got when he regained it once more.

Xavien would keep his promise to Myrna; if for no other purpose than to give him the potential of emotional and physical comfort later in life. He would relegate his dating status to that of ‘single and avoidant.’ His pain was not quite yet dulled or distant enough for him to allow his mind to ponder someone else quite that close; this was a limitation, an emotional baseline. The current state of affairs and insanity that permeated his life would not allow for love or progeny; another baseline. He could not allow himself to involve himself with someone, for as long as Irving remained at large. So, for those reasons alone, he needed to both avoid romance and abstain from sex.

He had made these decisions previously, but his focus on baselines was a good one. Since his emotional baseline was wrecked by the recent changes, he needed to patch that up as quickly as possible.
The rest was merely academic, and that was his strength.

Xavien walked through the automatic doorway into the chilly Hyde City Welcome Center. His desire for junk food suddenly left him; this had been a small comfort, but he knew damn well it did not contribute to his physical well being. This would be another thing he would lock-down.

There would be a draconian moratorium on comforts of the flesh, as he needed to remain as focused as possible on his study of this new and exciting life.

He walked down the hallway that was displayed hundreds of colorful tourist pamphlets and coupon books. These seemed like an incredible waste of resources as they were all geared to those with little (or little-used) intelligence. In order to evolve, modern society should attempt to cater to those of higher intellect, as this city, state and country as a whole needed to cultivate a larger brain trust.

He wasn’t against the stupid, he merely felt that they would be happier and better served in farms like cattle.

Of course, he would never call them that. They would have all the creature comforts and frivolous pastimes… they would just be… out of the way. Fewer murders and thoughtless crimes would make life easier for those who used logic as their compass.

He walked up to the shiny Golden M restaurant, with their rotating trough of burgers, fries, drinks and wilted salads. He stared long enough that the cashier spoke first; “Are you going to be sick, sir?”

Xavien nodded, slowly; “I may. I hate to say this, but couldn’t they make this poison at least look like it wouldn’t kill you?”

The cashier laughed; “Oh, some of it doesn’t look so bad. But yeah, man, totally; they don’t call ’em gut-bombs for nuthin. Hey, look… if you want… I can get you a free meal… just pretend to be real upset when you get your food.”

Xavien raised his right eyebrow and winked his left eye; “I don’t think I would have to pretend. Sure, let’s have a little fun.” He reviewed the cashier before him. She was very cute, likely highschool aged. She was sharper than he’d expect, so this was likely a temporary blemish on her resume. She was brunette with hazel eyes and a slender figure; perhaps a shade under five feet, four inches tall.

She giggled flirtatiously at him; “So what’ll it be?”

“What’s the… least toxic meal you can conjure up that will fit within a twenty-five-hundred calorie diet?” Xavien asked.

“Well, how many meals have you eaten and plan to eat today? What is the calorie division I should aspire to?” She asked in a cheeky tone, eager to impress her older customer.

“Let’s just pretend I have yet to eat today, but keep it around seven-fifty.” He smiled back; harmless flirtation never hurt. He also enjoyed a girl’s smile, no matter the age. If everyone feels good, what was the harm in being exceptionally friendly toward the opposite sex?

“Hmm… Okay, we have the Garden Salad Combo for… nine dollars and that puts you at eight hundred, but about seven forty without the dressing and soda. Is that a win?” She asked.

He nodded. Someone had arrived behind him in line; “I sincerely hope you aren’t hitting on my daughter.”

The skin on the back of Xavien’s neck tightened as he flinched only slightly. The man behind him was slightly taller than he, and likely outweighed him by a fair amount. He slowly turned and added a smile as he turned to face the irate father; “No intention beyond some deliciously terrible food, sir.”

The man; dressed in unmarked black fatigues, stood behind him and broke into a broad smile as Xavien turned to face him. He had a shaggy mop of platinum-blonde hair, cool gray eyes and was about six and a half feet tall, and weighed close to two-seventy. Not an ounce of his body seemed to be lost to excess fat, and likely had his frame cut up like that of a body builder. The thickness of his neck was remarkable but his overall bone structure seemed to support the weight. A look at the massive hands told Xavien more than he needed to know; this was not some mere human.

“That’s my daughter Michaela. She’s more of a handful than you realize, but I don’t really want you to attempt to grab any part of her; you understand?”

Xavien nodded at the man; “Her name couldn’t be Michaela Johnson, could it?”

The man dropped half of his smile and twitched both of his eyebrows upward; “Forget the nasty food. I had bets with my brother on whether or not you’d vomit. I lost. Let’s go grab a seat.”

Xavien pondered quickly whether or not he should speak up and resist politely, so as not to cause hassle to Michaela. He turned back to her and she waved him off with a smile and a wink.

Joseph Johnson waved him over to a table that was off to the side, against a wall and moved the chair backward as he sat down. This was a behemoth of a man. His arms were easily two and a half the size of his own. The admiration for this man’s physique also came with the recognition that, unlike most bodybuilders, Joseph had the flexibility to efficiently use every hypertrophic fiber.

Xavien sat down opposite Joseph; “You likely know a lot more about me that I of you; which I’m sure is quite comfortable for you. I don’t wish to unsettle a prospective employer by drawing them away from their comfort zone. So, I’d like to work this backwards if you wouldn’t mind?”

Joseph chuckled; “I am already having a blast. You’re hired.”

Xavien sniffed out a laugh; “Well, that takes care of that. What is the pay that I should expect through the duration of my tenure?”

Joseph winced slightly; “Not a whole lot, I’m afraid; but the perks are substantial. We provide you an international law enforcement passport which you get to keep, should you decide to freelance beyond the confines of our agreement. You also have the choice to withdraw from your current employer completely, or go on restricted leave. The pay is three hundred tax-free bones a day, plus expenses with the provision of receipts. You also obtain immunity for any reasonable collateral in the line of this current contract, and could be in consideration for a permanent position should you so choose to pursue it after the fulfillment of the deal.”

This would be a significant pay cut from his current salary and benefits, but the overall package seemed to be attractive enough for the freedom it would allow. He sensed that there was negotiating room, but was disinterested in it. Xavien did not like the concept of bargaining for initial pay, because it set a poor precedent for later treatment.

“Sounds fair. I’m quite interested, provided I can engage in private conversation that has an agreeable outcome. Answers that I trust are in short supply and I must be fully aware of all obligations and expectations before I can consider this a valid offer. Are you amenable to this?” Xavien asked as his brain stored each of Joseph Johnson’s facial expressions, words and body movements for later scrutiny. He also observed the younger, thinner gentleman that stood at the Golden M counter and joked with Michaela; he was not flirting with her. He was also dressed in unmarked black fatigues and seemed slightly shorter than Joseph, still with a build thicker than Xavien’s. He had sandy blonde hair and sharp blue eyes that occasionally glanced at the table where Xavien sat.

“Hah-hah… you’re fantastic! I think we can work something out. I’ll let you know… hermm… ahem. Let me start over and give this a shot.” Joseph shook his head and adopted a dour expression as he began to speak methodically; “Yes, Mister Brady, I believe there is a certain amount of discretion that is necessary in these uncertain times, especially with the considerations that you have currently. My partner and I are potentially open to a continued discourse, provided you are sensitive to the concept that we are unable to divulge any information of a confidential nature. We will provide enlightenment as dictated by the terms of our potential arrangement and allow you time to discern for yourself if this opportunity will be a fit for your skillset and career.”

Xavien drew the left corner of his mouth back as far as it would go as his right eyebrow traveled north once again. He felt that he had spoken commonly enough to warrant somewhat of a reasonable response. It seemed that the supernatural world was certainly more… alive… with interesting and vibrant characters.

Or was it that they’d all just lost their damn minds?

Xavien narrowed his eyes and nodded slightly; “Cool. Can we make this happen now, or would this need to wait until later?”

Joseph whistled toward the man at the counter at the Golden M. The man ambled over as Xavien and Joseph got up to meet him.

The man, about an inch shorter than Xavien at six feet four inches, extended his hand; “Tommy Stillwell, you must be Xavien Brady.”

Xavien shook his hand firmly, then released and held his index finger up for a quick moment; “If I may… half-brothers?”

They nodded. ‘Tommy’ seemed to smile a bit less than his brother.

Half-brother was a newly sensitive term for Xavien. He’d gone his whole life with the expectation that his biological family had all died. As much as he found it odd to admit it, he’d rather wished that had been wholly true.

“At any rate, after you, gentlemen…” Xavien smiled cordially and nodded.

“I’m all for cutting the BS, if you don’t mind.” Tommy spoke with a tone of mild annoyance.

Xavien sniffed a few puffs of laughter; “I’m always up for increased conversational efficiency”

Joseph cackled; “…and yet you say things like conversational efficiency… what’s that all about?”

“Please forgive my senior officer and darling half-brother.” Tommy rolled his eyes and then spoke telepathically; “Again, if you don’t mind… let’s just speak plainly in this manner.”

Xavien responded; “You know… I went about 26 years of my life without having a single damn conversation telepathically; now my skull feels like it is motherfucking grand-central-station. Is this what I should expect every single day? I can’t imagine having to put up with this all the time, it’s fucking exhausting!”

“You could always resist. Anyhow… what did you want to know?” Tommy said, as Xavien sensed more than one presence was in attention; likely Joseph.

“Okay. I’m going to be indelicate in the interest of time. You know what I am… what supernatural category are you both? Do I address you by your spirit-name, rank and serial number, or is Tommy and Joseph acceptable in common conversation?” Xavien rattled off.

“Damn, he wants to see our dicks already… shit… Well, since you asked… I am Pretends-to-Be, he is Thunder-Strike. We’re Tora; which share a kinship with tigers. Related by our mother’s side, I’m a Virgo, he’s a Taurus and my sister Michaela is a firecracker that just shifted and is also contracted through Interpol; she’s a bit of a sleeper-agent. That enough meat for you, or do you actually have to know the size of our cocks?” Joseph spoke telepathically, with more amusement than Xavien would have preferred. He liked Tommy, but Joseph did not seem at all trustworthy. Scrutiny of the terms and conditions of his potential employment would have to be scrubbed for subtext.

“Thank you very much for the information. I feel it is only fair that, since you know so much about me, I could know a bit about who I am preparing to enter into an agreement with. I understand it is a breach of etiquette, but I didn’t want to unsettle anyone by discovering on my own.” Xavien smiled, secretively.

Tommy allowed a wry smile to twist over his face as he nodded gently. Joseph chuckled; “So I guess you had questions beyond that?”

“Yes. What is the literal extent of your expectations for me while under contract?” Xavien asked

“Let’s walk. Three guys that stand around smiling and chuckling like girls are often mistaken for fags keen on the evening’s activities.” Joseph cackled as he spoke aloud.

Joseph then continued telepathically; “As far as I am concerned, you follow that motherfucker to the ends of the Earth and back. You do what you need. Buy and submit the receipts for whatever is necessary to aide you in your efforts. We’re stretched thinly enough as it is, and had it on good authority that your mark had left the country; your talents are wasted on your job as you knew it, and your newly assumed existence wouldn’t permit you to continue in your job as you have. Our expectations? You are your own boss, you go anywhere and everywhere unchecked… the only caveat is that you must check in every day, without fail, with your plan. If it changes, then you tell us. If it doesn’t change, then you re-state the previous day’s plan. It’s pretty-fucking-simple. If you need backup, we can provide that, but it will cost you a hundred bones a day per unit. Bodies are more precious than money, therefore cannot be expensed for their cost. There is some official paperwork, but it is simple and available for third-party review. Certain confidential documentation is not, of course, but the strict terms of your standard contract are the same as any contractor.”

Tommy nodded; “This is of particular interest to us because this guy is not only supernatural in nature, but his kind is a bit mysterious and he seems hell-bent on baiting other supernatural beings. The shroud that keeps most of us hidden from the mundane human population is thin enough as it is, and this asshole threatens it for all of us. I need not mention the despicable nature of his crime, of which I know you to be painfully aware. Please allow me to express my condolences for your losses.”

Joseph nodded; “It hurts me when children are killed. We’re put on this earth to put more kids on, which is in direct conflict with fuckers like that. Our biological imperative doesn’t change regardless of where our supernatural leanings direct us. Chicks come and go, but children are eternal.”

Xavien liked that sentiment, even though he abhorred almost every piece of Joseph Johnson that he had borne witness to. The exterior of the man exuded sex appeal to women, and Xavien saw how a female could be drawn in by his folksy demeanor. It nearly turned his stomach to know that this man had created children.

“You’ve hooked me; now let’s see if we can get this done quickly.” Xavien looked at Tommy and wondered secretly if he disliked serving under his older half-sibling.

“You don’t fuck around, which I like. I expected you’d be ready to roll out; Charles Baskerville won’t be too keen on it, but fuck him.” Joseph said, as he ended the telepathic connection.

Xavien followed the two men out to their unmarked black armored truck. He liked this type of vehicle. He would have to procure one. He was to deprive himself of delicious food and he was to remain celibate and abstinent… Suddenly, he craved gadgets, technology and high-end equipment. This was only relevant because these two individuals presented themselves like spies, which jogged Xavien’s mind to works of fiction that involved lone-wolf spies.

He spoke aloud; “I do have to ask… may I expense a vehicle? I do not own one of my own, and will have to return the one I have to the department.”

Tommy shook his head; “No need. We have a deal worked out, where you can keep your car.”

Joseph also shook his head; “I see that you’re drooling a bit over the truck… that’s not gunna happen, as those are special-issue for internal employees. Honestly? The best we could do for you is to get you a newer model of the exact car you have or something smaller and more compact.”

Xavien cast a glance at his car, ruefully, and then pondered a bit more. “It would stand to reason that all items procured during this contract that were reimbursed would need to be surrendered. I believe I understand thus far. I should be able to come up with something.”

“We aren’t wrong about you.” Joseph said, seriously; “Your abilities and resourcefulness have not gone without notice. I will admit that I am a bit surprised that you did not have a counter offer; if you should wish to, I suppose we can still negotiate.”

“I have no intention of negotiating. If that is your first offer, then that is what I will take. If you throw more money or perks my way, I will accept them… but the terms thus far are agreeable, especially as it pertains to my involvement.” Xavien smiled as he spoke curtly.

Joseph nodded; “If you don’t ask, that is what my starting and final offer will be.”

Xavien shrugged; “You seem more concerned than I do. I’m just ready to get to work.”

Joseph shook his head with confusion; “Not entirely used to anyone accepting the first offer. Very well; you can ride with us or follow to our office.”

“I’ll follow you.” Xavien nodded and headed to his car. Truthfully, he was insulted by the low offer, but was not about to quibble or grant audience to the political nature of the negotiations. This relationship wouldn’t last long, so the terms didn’t matter much anyway.

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