DISCLAIMER – This story features images of violence, adult language, and some adult situations.
The following story is Copyright © 2015 Padraig O’C. Copying this story without permission from the author is strictly prohibited.
Down Town bellingham was built on a series of hills that arched along the lip of the souther part of Bellingham bay just before a road that ringed the bay heading out to Fairhaven. A series of shops, and small buildings playing at skyscraper reached up to greet the sky in a mixture of brick and mortar along with glass, and steel. It had a distinctive hunker down feeling with many of the buildings only being a few stories tall. In many ways it appeared like many main street areas of smaller towns, just in a much larger proportions. Alleyways with trash even greet the tourists as they drove through, but other than that the city was clean. It was along one of these streets that just a few blocks from the Bellingham Library sat the Dive-Bomb. In fact the small coffee shop was ringed by a menagerie of other business including a wine bar, a book store, and tattoo parlour.
The street even had a fire escape that ringed one wall that melded with the brick and mortar of the apartments above to paint a setting that aged the block to appear much older than it really was. A series of wide open bay windows faced out toward the street ringed with small planted treets, and across from a a large open parking lot. Nyla arrived and parked in front of the tattoo parlour as a cold wind chased leaves down the street. At the moment most of the city was still quiet. Slowly sleeping from the recent clash of battles in the mall and the big box stories during black friday. Nyla herself was kicking her busted arm for slowing down her shopping for the season. This lateset snag was just another complication in the ongoing saga of her current case.
After all this bullocks I am taking a vacation. Nyla quirked any eyebrow as she stared at the building, and realized that the usual debating bunch that sat under the fire escape was gone. In most cases the small crowd of friends outside were always shifting, and always changing. However, she always heard them discucssing politics, and subjects of the day. That is a tad bit odd. She pushed the door open to the Dive-Bomb, and took a few steps inside. Instantly the cool air outside was replaced by a rush of warmth that greeted and embraced her. The smell of mocha, beans, and steamed milked wafted from the barista area as she took a few steps forward. A young woman was in front of her so Nyla was patient in making her order.
The Dive-Bomb could only be described as quirky. To the right of the entrance sat what many called the “merch” counters, a place filled with various geek wares, t-shirts and paraphenalia from the shop. Even Dive-Bomb bags of coffee beans sat there with the signature black fatman bomb emblem. Along with the motto “Don’t set the world on fire” (taken from the infamous Ink Spots song of the fifties). She glanced at the posters on the wall declaring the arrival of various indie bands, and even a zombie march night before christmas. However, what drew her attention was the fact she could finally order.
“Your up,” she was told by a young man wearing a black beanie and sporting a long thick scraggy beard. The young reporter took a step forward as she utter out her order, a vente chai latte. If there was one thing hot and sweet that made Nyla Clarkson content it was Chai. She was in a way addicted to the stuff.
“Alright for here or to go?” she was asked, and gave the response of, “For here.”
She was going to be waiting for or meeting Jennifer Ramirez, and if she was going to likely end up in a fist fight she wanted to be content before hand. Speak of the devil. Her mind snapped out of its reverie as she noticed that Jennifer was already waiting for her in at a small table near the large windows of the coffee shop. Glancing over at the barista who was taking another order she made her way to meet with her wayward foe. A pair of blue eyes met her, strange for a woman of colombian descent, and ebony skin. Jennifer was as she said herself a throwback, a genetic mishap that was somehow possible. She glanced over to notice Nyla’s arrival, and placed a grim look on her face.
Jennifer was taller than Nyla, and had a lanky build from years of playing basketball in college. Her long black kinky hair was styled into a series of braids shifted with every movement of her head. Her face showed her father’s african heritage with slightly pronounced lips, and a rounded jaw. Her nose was a bit flat, and Nyla sometimes wondered if she had either Ethopian or even Massai or Dinka heritage. All she knew was that mister Ramirez’s was born of former slave stock in Colombia.
“So what you wan Ny,” the woman said as she casually leaned back in her seat.
“Did you research any other killings like that of Richard Daniels?” she asked.
“Sure, but why you want them?” was the reply.
“Cuz I’ve been dealing with the wonderful debate of the Colson, and Cunningham families via my work at the paper,” she said, “And I know you are dating a cop and he’s feeding you intel.”
Jennifer Blinked slowly sighed and grasped the mug of mocha latte she had before her. Miss Ramirez saw the ongoing debate between the two most powerful families in the the county, and the forces behind the ongoing land disagreement between the County Council, and the Tribal Council.
“So you’ve had not time to dig up police intel from your squeeze Mateo?” Jennifer asked.
“No, I haven’t. And he’s not my squeeze, I dated him once and suddenly he’s my squeeze,” Nyla barked in returned.
“Once is all you get when you wore those shorts,” the woman replied with a cat ate the canary grin.
“My ass,” she began and then stopped. The entire date was fun, but she wanted to forget, especially the part of her dancing to Creu.
“Mateo is not on the best of terms with me, he only gives me the slightest information. Not after I stole the profile from him to end that stupid Siren Cultist,” she replied.
“Do -not- ask, it was a guy who thought he was the next coming of the Fisher,” Nyla said.
“Alright fine, back on topic, Sure fine I’ll give you the files I dug up, but to tell you the truth I’m not sure what I’m looking at. I’m still trying to understand why your friends let me know about them,” Jennifer added.
“Jack was pleased with your work on the case dealing with the missing kids,” Nyla stated, “And he thinks the Society while meddling, can be a bit of help.”
“Yup, I get don’t meddle too much or those big scary guys I met once, will kill me, got it.” Jennifer was fully aware of the consequences when it came to the Fae, and the various codes they abided. The one about the mundane not learning openly about their existence was perhaps the strongest.
“They take the Treaty of Old Oak seriously.” Nyla walked over for a second while momentarily interrupting their conversation to retrieve her chai latte. Meanwhile Jennifer finished uploading the files to an encrypted cloud account before handing the access information over to Nyla. The paranormal investigator even had physical images and paper for Nyla to read. One picture was of particular interest to the young research. It was grainy, and without real color, but it depicted a woman hung from her arms (in a similar fashion to Richard Daniels) over three concentric circles.
“Same Kipling poem bits, this time an earlier verse. Much older though, so this might be who your Alchemist learned it from. The killer was caught and convicted, but was given to an asylum for his perceived mental instability.” Jennifer then carefully explained the details of the crime including the fact the victim had died in the hospital after the man botched cutting the wrong vein to bleed her out. The assailant in question was a Croatian immigrant by the name of Radovan Knezevic, a disturbed man who had fled his homeland during the Croatian-Serbian War at the fall of Yugoslavia.
She glanced at the information and took a moment to read it. Radovan suffered from serious disassociative problems, and lost a job only a few months after coming to the states There was evidence that he usually kept to himself, and worked in isolation. Apparently, while she read further, the man had a daughter who disappeared not long after she finished college a year ago just around the time of his conviction. Some were investigating Radovan himself for the disappearance down in Seattle. he had no property up in Bellingham. Why come all the way up here? She found a picture of him and glanced at it, no identifying marks, but it was a much younger image (the photo being dated for the late eighties).
“You got a recent picture of him?” she asked. Jennifer reached into her satchel and procued a mug shot showing Radovan right before he was sentenced. His skin was covered in blackened veins, and dark scrolling vine-like tattoo. She raised an eyebrow as she saw how far the briar-brands had covered his body. A whirling leaf like vine pattern whorled around his neck and was move toward his mind.
“An adept deep in the madness that magic causes,” she told Jennifer under her breath.
“I see why you told me to avoid that hobgoblin offering me the joys of magic last year,” came the comment from the paranormal investigator.
“His brain is fried, he do anything in jail?” she asked herself as Jennifer watched the woman sifted through the now accomulating pile of papers ont he table.
“From what I’ve read no, he just went into a coma and they keep him on life support,” Jennifer answered.
“What?” Nyla said. If he’s in a comatose state and. The threads started to knit together, slowly she remembered a case Jack had told her about years ago. From what she could remember the evidence involved the obscure deaths of several women of the night in London’s East End. What she did remember was several rituals that were similar to the ones occuring in Washington.
“There was a case like this round the time of Jack the Ripper, a madman used the killings to hide his rituals in an attempt to stave off the briars,” she uttered slowly.
“How?” Jennifer inquired.
“By making a deal with something from between this world and the other realms,” Nyla said slowly shaking off the deep unsettling feeling that was pooling up from her stomach.
“I am going to go out on a limb and guess that these briars are probably worse than getting kuru,” Jennifer said with disgust.
“Think of boiling liquid seeping into your veins up to your vein and slowly moving up with each usage of magic, but worse.” The description caused both to shudder. The last picture of Radovan Knezevic was of a man broken, and utterly without hope. His eyes were deep and hollowed out, and almost white over with cataracts. The briar-brands had destroyed his mind, and he had paid with desperate horrible acts in an attempt to stave off the effects. It would only be a stop-gap, there was no way for adepts to end the madness that came with the entangling briars.
“I do not even know how to think of that so I’ll just give you this information,” the glum response was all Jennifer could muster.
“True story,” Nyla began, “I doubt he has an address up here. But with a name I can plumb local informants.”
Fae usually kept track of adepts when they appeared in town. It was how Nyla usually tracked down the local hedge wizards and witches that tried to play with ouji boards and ended up summoning a vengeful spirit. Her countenance shifted into an expression of grim assignation. Her job was far more focused, and clear now. But it was becoming more difficult, far more difficult.
She would have to go bother Finn, and perhaps a few others. A situation which she simply wished to avoid at the moment. Jennifer however then decided to break her mumbling period with the one singular comment:
“Actually we found evident of someone buying supplies used in the ritual killing, well my contact in the department did. The issue was they could not track the person once they individual was out, but they do know its a woman.”
Why are the police sitting on this? It hit her without fail, there was more to this case than just the death, and the Alchemist. There were other forces, probably Fae influencing the investigation. That part was obvious. How had she not really considered it further? They hate me. Correct no, I’m just an annoyance. Why did she have to dramatize things so much? It felt like the first time in only a few weeks that she was worrying over that major character flaw once again. Its why I nearly always bite Jack’s head off in the mornings when he visits.
“Where is the um….store?” she asked almost stuttering over the word. Why am I having problems talking? Nyla was not perhaps the most communicative person around. Jennifer quickly outlined directions to the small supply store where the woman or the ‘Alchemist’ had allegedly purchase the candles. Thanking her friend, and finishing up her chai latte Nyla then made a beeline for her bike. Now she was on the hunt, or at least was getting closer. Still no burning sensation on her arm so no one, including the Alchemist herself was watching the young reporter at the moment. With the Fae Yule celebration fast approaching the last chance to make a major splash across the Faerie Courts.
Jennifer slid her a piece of paper with instructions for the small boutique and Nyla almost kissed her. I wouldn’t mind at least. She then bid Jennifer farewell while grabbing the rest of her Chai Latte and leaving it the buss tub in a shelf near the wall. Nyla’s mind was now set, she would find the stupid little store and see if she could maybe track the damn Alchemist. Of course she would not at all be able to face the damn woman, but she would at least be able to get to know her physically. A smile crept upon her lips as she affirmed that she finally had a hand up against her adversary.
Next Part: Chapter 21
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