Chapter Seven: Targets Inspired
Dirk arrived at his apartment, and they were all there. Ruby, Gavin, Ariadne, Luther, Kenji, and William. Thor and Alestair, of course, had beaten him there, but Thor looked none too thrilled. His jacket was stained with some kind of green fluid, which Dirk guessed had belonged to Locklear.
"Well, hello," he said slowly. "I see everyone's here."
Ruby nodded. "I managed to heal the survivors from the station. Now the question remains, what's our next move?"
"We have Locklear's list," Thor pointed out.
"We could use it," Alestair said, picking up the line of reasoning. "At least it'd be a start. We could see if we can fill it in when we target the names on there."
Dirk took out the small book and put it on the table. "There it is. Here's our list of targets, or what were his targets. Thor, is he going to be a problem?"
"I blew him to bits," Thor replied. "Even he won't come back from the blasting I gave him."
"Good." Dirk's eyes narrowed.
Ruby looked at him. "Dirk, are you...are you okay?"
"Fine," he replied, his voice harder than he had meant it to be. "So we're all here." Then, he raised his voice."Listen up. For those of you who don't know, we're up against the Liberatum. It's basically a monster terror group. Their goal? Invert the food chain, and put the monsters on top."
"What?" Kenji asked. "That's crazy, isn't it?"
"I wish," Alestair said.
Noting the tone in his voice, Kenji started. "You're serious. They really mean to go through with this?" He swore softly, shaking his head. "That's insane. The natural order is the way it is for a reason. They can't just upset the balance!"
Dirk snorted. "Yeah, good luck convincing them of that. They didn't seem open to debate, from what I saw."
"So who's on that list?" Ruby asked, tapping her dagger on the table.
"Politicians, bureaucrats, businessmen," Thor said. "The list goes on. I recognize some of the names from a few of our previous missions, but not all of them. We might hunt them down..." his voice trailed off uncertainly.
"Okay, so let's take the first two names," Dirk said, trying to direct the conversation toward something productive.
"Janice Walther?" William asked. "As in the Shadowborn-turned-professor?"
Alestair shook his head. "She's clean. No evil connections to speak of."
"I wouldn't be so sure," Dirk said, looking at his friend.
Ruby sighed. "Let's at least check it out. Alestair, you and I should have it covered. The other name is...?"
"A businessman, Daniel Stone," William said. "Luther, Gavin, and I can check it out."
"I'll stay here," Ariadne said.
Gavin shook his head. "I don't want you to. I'd like you with me."
"I need to be here," the gorgon replied. "Please understand, I have to. There's a few leads I need to run down, and I can't go out there and be turning people to stone, now can I?"
"Agreed," Dirk said. "She stays." Seeing Gavin's obvious consternation at the statement, he sighed. "Look, if it were literally anyone else, I'd reconsider, but look at it logically, Gavin. We have to. And I can't send her out in the field, at least not yet."
Gavin sighed. "Fine. But I'm not happy about it."
"I'll stay with her. If it makes you feel better." Thor put a hand on Gavin's shoulder.
"It does," Gavin replied, looking at Thor with new admiration. "Thanks so much."
"I'll stay too," Luther said, speaking up. "No offense, but keeping our trump cards hidden might help our cause."
Seattle Police Station
"Okay, so we just got attacked," Lucas said. "There's an indication that we were on the right track." He added, as an afterthought, "As though we needed more proof."
Douglas sighed. "Look, because they started this investigation, I'm going to be stuck in bureaucratic red tape until forever. So that sucks. It also means that you're on your own."
"So where do I go?" Lucas asked.
"Conduct the investigation on your own," Douglas advised. "If you're set on it. You have good investigative skills and a solid mind. I'd bet folding money you get to the bottom of this. Also, stay in contact with Dirk. His knowledge should prove invaluable."
"But they told me to stop," Lucas said.
"And that's the problem," Douglas said. "I got in contact with your boss when you first showed up, since I didn't really trust you. He said that the C and D didn't come from him. So there we have it."
Lucas frowned. "Think it might be from up high?"
"Do you care if it was?" Douglas asked.
"Not really," Lucas said. "But who said it? Someone I need to listen to?"
Douglas shrugged. "Depends on whether or not you really, really like that job."
"I'd live," Lucas replied, looking far away for a moment.
"Good. So there's this retired agent in town, might be able to get you what you need. Lionel Franklin. He owes me a favor, so he might be willing to help you if you mention my name." He scribbled the address on a piece of paper and slid it to Lucas. "Go on now, get." Lucas got up, took his coat, and left, shaking his head as he did.
Investigation is my job, he thought. What's going on? They have a clear case, but they're doing nothing with it. It makes no sense. He hailed a taxi, gave the address, and the driver took off. As he shifted in the backseat, Lucas found himself overwhelmed by fatigue and drifted off to sleep.
He woke up to the taxi driver's obnoxious voice. "We're here." Lucas handed him the cash for the trip and got out, looking up at the apartment complex. Wow, sketchy much? He thought. The FBI agent opened the front door and stepped through. Inside, he saw a pager pad with numbers all over it. He punched in the number that the police chief had given him. 347. A gruff and definitely accented voice came through the speaker.
"What is it?" The man on the other end snapped.
"Douglas Carter sent me," Lucas told him. "He said you could help if someone needed help the Feds wouldn't give."
The man sighed, sending a hiss of static through the speakers. "Doug talks too much. Yeah, yeah I can help ya. Getcherself up here now." And the door unlocked.
He ascended three flights of stairs and made it all the way to the room. "It's unlocked," came a gruff voice from inside. "Get in here already. It gets drafty when the door stays open." Lucas moved inside, carefully shutting the door behind him. The African-American man at in his living room, cleaning out his shotgun.
"Look," he said, "I'm gonna say this exactly once. Kid, if he recommended that you come see me, you gotta be desperate. So watcha got?"
"It's a murder, or rather a string of them," Lucas explained. "The FBI issued a C and D. From what we can tell, there's a lot unsolved here, but the few details that add up don't point to anything good."
The man nodded, stroking his chin. He put the shotgun parts down, carefully turning the weapon away from Lucas as he did. "Is that everything? Because I'm pretty sure they don't just stop investigating cold cases like that. Especially not given everything you've said."
"They...." Lucas handed the man the book that van Helsing had given him. "Read that, please." The man took the book, his eyes skimming the pages. After he finished, the man stopped and looked at Lucas.
"Are you serious?" He asked. "Monsters? Conspiracies?" The man snorted. "Next you'll be telling me Area 51 was fiction." He sat back, laughing. "Doug likes to send me the crazy ones." The man sat back.
Okay, my name's Lionel Franklin, and I was so deep in deep cover back in the day they threw away the hole they shoved me down." Lionel folded his hands. "Monsters. You believe that, kid?" Lucas nodded.
Lionel sat back. "Okay, then. Guess that makes sense, given Prescott." Seeing Lucas' blank expression, Lionel sighed. "Okay, kid, your monsters aren't the craziest thing I've seen, but we'll accept it for the sake of argument. I'm not happy to do that, mind you," he added, sighing.
"Why not?" Lucas asked.
"It calls a lot into question," the former agent responded. "Like why the heck I'm talking to you instead of offing myself. But here we are, chatting each other up like it's nothing."
Lucas folded his hands and rested them between his knees. "Okay. So how long did you work for the FBI?"
"FBI?" Lionel snorted.
"Something funny?" Lucas asked him. "You said you worked for the FBI."
Lionel rolled his eyes. "Nah, kid, you said that. I said I worked for the government, not the Federal Buttheads of Ineptitude. No, I worked on something deeper, and your little book here could fill in a lot of blanks. You come up with this all by yourself, kid?"
"I didn't," Lucas replied. "A hunter gave it to me."
"Then why not ask him?" Lionel's deep brown eyes seemed to bore into Lucas' soul, and he did not like it.
The agent hesitated, unsure of what to say. "I...He might be the expert on monsters, but he doesn't know the law like an agent does. That's why I wanted someone with a more level head."
"So this hunter's insane?" Lionel queried. "Come on. Why'd you take the book then?"
"He just doesn't act within the law," Lucas finally admitted, hesitant.
Lionel took the shotgun parts off the table and began reassembling the weapon. "Tell me, these creatures, do you think they're within the law?"
"I..." Lucas stopped, having never considered the thought. He had, not even to his own knowledge, been operating under the presupposition that the creatures were human. "I never thought about it," the agent admitted, looking down. "Am I going to have to come at them like I'm not a cop? I am a cop, Lionel, and that's not going to change."
"Ask him to set up a PI firm," Lionel advised. "That way he can consult on your cases. I'm guessing hunting doesn't pay well. I'll hang around too, but burners only. Nothing permanent. Change your numbers frequently, and don't ever trust someone we don't send your way. Based on the fact that you got a C and D from Washington and the locals, I'm guessing they've got men on the inside. Also, get this hunter friend up here so all three of us can chat."
Lucas nodded. "I can give him a call now, if you'd like." Lionel nodded, and Lucas pulled out his smartphone. "Hey, Dirk, it's Lucas. Yeah, I'm fine, but we need to talk. How soon can you be at the apartment complex a few blocks from the police station? Okay, meet me there." And he hung up.
Dirk hung up the phone and sighed. "Change of plans. Ruby, honey, would you mind if I catch up with you later?"
"Something wrong?" His girlfriend asked, noting the tone in Dirk's voice.
"Just..." Dirk looked pensively over his shoulder. "Just need to wrap up a few loose ends."
Alestair put a hand on his friend's shoulder. "We can handle it, Dirk. I promise. Come on, it's me and Ruby. We could do this in our sleep."
"Let's not get ahead of ourselves," Ruby demurred. "Sure we're good, but I don't want to be overconfident going into this. Just be careful, okay, Al?"
"She's right," Dirk said softly. "Be careful." He looked outside. "I don't want to thing this poor woman is involved in anything, but the truth is we can't be sure anymore. Be back in a few." And he hopped back on the bike and drove off. Ruby watched him go, shaking her head.
"Trouble in paradise?" Alestair asked.
"He's so moody," she said, sighing. "More than usual, and it's freaking me out. He's not generally the kind of person to get upset. Has something recently happened? Any sudden change in his behavior you've noticed?"
"This fight has been hard on all of us," Alestair pointed out.
Ruby nodded. "Sometimes I wish he'd forget it. I mean, I'm one of the strongest witches in existence. I could just make all of that go away, but he wants to keep doing this. I'd just like to settle down, get married, have some babies, y'know?"
"I can't say I understand," Alestair said, holding open the door to the university. "After all, I can't exactly...have..." His voice trailed off, and he hung his head.
"I didn't mean it like that," Ruby said, looking at him with sympathy in her eyes. "I just...he's been at this awhile. You both have. You could use to find a nice girl and settle down. We could start a little community of beautiful monster and hunter babies. It'd be nice, don't you think? And there's ways, Al. You can. Don't give up hope."
He shrugged. "I don't know if I ever had any, honestly." The vampire went to the frond desk. "Hi, we're looking for Janice Walther. Is she in today?" The young woman at the desk looked up at the vampire.
"She's currently speaking with one of her students about an upcoming exam, but they should be done in a few minutes. If you'd like to wait, she'll be with you in a moment. Please have a seat." They did so, and the young lady went back to her homework, scribbling furious notes from what seemed like some kind of psychology textbook.
Dirk eased the door closed, and was surprised to see Lucas and Lionel waiting for him.
"Oh." The words were not coming at the moment. To be honest, he was surprised to see that the FBI agent was not at the police station. "Lucas, why are you here? Did something happen at the station?"
"We got an order to cease and desist," the agent replied.
"Oh." Again, Dirk displayed a notable lack of eloquence. "I see."
Lionel peered at Dirk intently. "Son, I don't think you do see the gravity of the situation. This boy here has been slaving away at his investigation for several weeks now, and you just waltz into his life one day and everything goes to crap. I think you owe the both of us some answers, but first and foremost, I want to know why you're here and what exactly you're going to try to do about our monster problem."
Dirk sighed. "Look, we've been globe-trotting trying to find out what exactly is going on, and we've only recently discovered the truth. The monsters are trying to take humanity off the top of the food chain, and put themselves on top instead. The organization you're up against-" Seeing Lucas' surprise and Lionel's skepticism, Dirk sighed. "Yes, I said organization. There is one, and they mean business. Anyway, they're monster terrorists. We've been tracking them for some time, and near as we can tell, they came after your police station to try to kill you. When I went back inside, the survivors had already been killed by a Wendigo."
Lucas blinked. "A who-the-what now?"
"Wendigo. A Native American monster born from eatin' human flesh," Lionel explained.
"Correct," Dirk said, nodding approvingly in Lionel's direction. "I didn't catch your name, by the way."
The man looked at him. "I ain't throwin', son. Better keep goin', 'cause I'm gonna start shootin' if ya don't."
"We're trying to run down leads collected by another hunter in the area," Dirk explained. "But we can't tip that hand to the public."
"And how d'ya think a bunch of murders are gonna look in the public eye?" Lionel challenged, glaring at the hunter.
Dirk sighed. "I don't know, honestly. We've usually fought in the shadows, but here, they've infested every level of government. There's not a whole lot I can do, especially since their backers seem wealthy and well-connected. I'd never admit it to the crew I've got together, but we're just going to be stuck treating symptoms unless we find a solution to the problem."
"What about the law?" Lucas asked.
Dirk shook his head. "The law can't do anything, Lucas. They're not..."
"If you can't take them down without the law, maybe you need to consider using it," Lucas snapped, suddenly enraged. "No offense, but you can't keep acting like the law doesn't exist. I mean it, Dirk. Sooner or later, someone's going to tie you back to one of these cases and try you for murder."
"Okay. Then what do you suggest we do?" Dirk asked.
"I might have a few ideas," the FBI agent replied.