Debts Outstanding 5.12

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Thirteen minutes later, I staggered in the front door of Pryce’s and found a seat at the long walnut bar. Will this really help anything? Snowflake asked me curiously, dropping to the floor at my feet.


Probably not, I admitted. But, well, I don’t know about you but I really need a chance to catch my breath. It was a slow time of day, and I was one of less than a dozen people in the whole place, mostly the hardcore regulars who never seemed to leave. I slumped over and rested my head, my arm hanging off the edge of the bar.


Snowflake licked my hand and looked at me, concern easily visible in her eye. Are you okay?


No, I said thoughtfully. But I don’t have time to not be, so let’s not dwell on things, eh?


Pryce meandered over to where I was sitting. The big, barrel-chested bartender was, I think just to complete the image, busily wiping glasses with a white cloth so spotless he must have never used it on something actually in need of cleaning. “Sick?” he asked, his voice possibly even deeper than Pier’s.


I don’t know that he cared. I don’t know that he was capable of caring. But he wouldn’t have been the perfect bartender if he hadn’t asked.


“Sick and tired in more ways than I can begin to describe,” I groaned. “Can you get me a pitcher of iced tea and however much food I can buy for thirty dollars?”


“No problem,” he said, moving around behind the bar. He didn’t have any other employees on right now, there being nowhere near enough business to justify it, but he always had a cook there.


Although actually, now that I come to think of it, I’ve never seen the kitchen, or found out for sure who the cook might be. Just one more strange, mildly unsettling point of interest at Pryce’s. There are more than a few of them, once you look past the surface.


On the other hand, it’s good food, company who, generally speaking, really do know what you’re going through, and absolutely nobody takes the “neutral ground” policy lightly. The customers there might not be titans like the champions of the Sidhe Courts, but they aren’t anything to scoff at either—and Pryce on his home ground is a force to be reckoned with. You break the rules (none of which, of course, are actually written) at your own extreme peril, at Pryce’s. Of course, even that might not be enough to keep out Court business, but I didn’t have a lot of options available.


I took my pitcher of tea and slunk off to my second-favorite table in the corner. My favorite table, the one with a chessboard inlaid in the top in walnut and beech, was already taken by a small-time operator called Luna Kuzmak. I was, after all, far from the only one with a fondness for dimly-lit corner tables where you could clearly see the entrance.


I felt a bit better when I saw that. Good to finally have something go my way. Luna was small fish—and she was smart enough to know it, which was more than some could say—but when it came to keeping an ear on the pulse of the local preternatural, supernatural, and othernatural community she was hard to top. There was an excellent chance that I could get some info out of her, and she owed me enough of a favor I might not even have to pay for it.


After, of course, I got to eat something. I mean, what kind of werewolf would I be, otherwise? We always eat first. It’s, like, in the job description or something.


What about Ryan? Snowflake asked me, sounding somewhat depressed. Couldn’t blame her.


I’d been trying to avoid thinking about that particular subject. I have no idea, I admitted. I feel like we ought to do something for him, but I have no idea how. He’s probably dead by now anyway, I suppose.


Maybe so, Snowflake said moodily. I just…I wish for once it wouldn’t go like that. You know?


Yeah, I sighed. Yeah. I do.


One excellent and very large meal later, I judged it was time to get over the pity party and get back to work. In this case, that meant going over to sit next to Luna. Snowflake came with me, because there wasn’t really any point trying to pretend she wasn’t there. It was too well known, around here at least, that we tended to stick close together.


Luna is not a good person. I mean, she’s not like a rampaging murderer or something, but she’s definitely not playing for the good guys. She’s not evil, exactly, so much as disinterested. The way she phrased it was that if bad people are punished by God’s law, and good people are punished by Murphy’s law, the only smart place to be is in the middle. She’s a fence who knowingly supplies some pretty terrible people with some pretty terrible things, and never asks any question but “how much?”


I don’t hold it against her. I mean, I’m not in a great position to judge myself, you know?


Somehow, though, I never ceased to be surprised at the dissonance between what I knew of her and the persona she managed to project. I’m no stranger to a wholesome mask—that’s, like, one of the top ten favorite tricks of supernatural nasties everywhere, after all—but somehow hers got me. I think maybe it was just that she looked so incredibly average. Brown hair, brown eyes, just tan enough not to look pale, fit without looking thin, pretty without being beautiful…Michelangelo couldn’t have done it better. Her attitude backed it up, too.


“Hullo Winter, Snowflake,” Luna said as I sat down. “What can I do you for today?” Luna liked us; I’d provided her with a number of items that, presumably, made her clients happy, and Snowflake has charisma. That’s what she tells me, anyway; I wouldn’t recognize charisma if it bit me.


“Hello, Luna,” I said. “Got a minute?”


“For you? Always. Watcha need?”


“Well,” I drawled, “I hear there’s a certain item going around, and I thought somebody might have contacted you looking to sell it.”


“Might be. I do a lot of business in certain items. Which one was this?”


“A spear,” I said, carefully not mentioning that the speariness was the tip of a very nasty iceberg. “Big-time magic, maybe a Sidhe signature.”


She thought for a moment. “I don’t know about a spear,” she said after a moment. “But yeah, I heard something about a major Sidhe artifact. This was, I don’t know, three weeks ago or so.”


“What’d you do with it?” I asked, struggling to contain my excitement. Who’d have thunk I’d get so lucky?


She snorted. “Do? I didn’t do anything with it. I know my limits, Winter, and the service doesn’t include dealing with fae bullshit. I’m not desperate enough to buy that kind of trouble.” She eyed me, and didn’t ask whether I was.


“Come on,” I said. “When have you known me to not be desperate?” Snowflake laughed, at least. “Who was selling?”


Her smile became more acquisitive. “The service isn’t complimentary, either.”


I smiled. “I seem to recall that you haven’t yet paid me back for that creep I ran off for you.” Creep was probably all kinds of understatement for someone willing to make a deal with a very-nearly-literal devil to more effectively stalk someone, but I’m pretty sure it’s also an applicable descriptor, so whatever.


“You’re calling your marker in over this?” she asked me sharply.


“You know, it would appear that I am.”


She muttered something very impolite under her breath, demonstrating an inventiveness and enthusiasm in profanity I normally only encountered in Aiko or Snowflake. She wasn’t their match, of course—her litany included no inexplicable acts being performed upon random vertebrates, for example—but she gave it a solid try.


“What?” I asked curiously.


“Reminding myself why I don’t do fae bullshit,” she said. She fixed her gaze on me grimly. “I give you this, you leave me out of it. Nobody finds out about it, and you don’t come to me for help when it goes to shit.”


“What makes you think it will?”


Gee, maybe it’s because she’s met you? I don’t care what titles Loki feels like using today, you are the undisputed Master of Disaster in Colorado. I’m pretty sure I saw at least one cop cross himself when he saw you coming, you know.


Luna said something similar, albeit somewhat less eloquently worded. And at much greater length.


“All right, all right already,” I said, rubbing at my forehead with one hand. “Geez, Luna, I think we get the point. Deal.”


“Deal. It was that airhead you work with sometimes, the one that thinks she’s a Wiccan. Erica, I think the name was.” Luna knew Erica’s name, of course, whatever she said. This was just her way of showing that she didn’t regard the other woman highly. At all. By which I mean that she once offered me twenty bucks if I could get Erica to cry on stage during karaoke night. (Not at Pryce’s. He doesn’t do karaoke, and I don’t know of anyone who has the balls to ask him to after what he did last time.) That says a lot about Erica, really.


What says even more is that, for a few minutes there, I was really tempted. And not for the twenty bucks, either. There are not very many people I could say that about.


Luna stood up and started for the door. “Where are you going?” I asked, more out of casual curiosity than anything. Luna practically lives at Pryce’s, and she definitely works out of the bar. Makes sense, really, given that practically everybody in the supernatural community goes there at least occasionally and Pryce quite literally does not care about the law. Where better to do dark-grey market business catering to the discerning supernatural customer?


“Out of the blast radius,” she tossed back over her shoulder. “Try not to die right away.”


How cheery. Hey, I bet she doesn’t want the rest of that fish.


I’d been considering calling Mike already, and Erica’s involvement turned it from a “good idea under general principles” sort of consideration to “obvious way to proceed.” He wanted to meet me somewhere more convenient, but as I was still unwilling to leave the relative safety offered by Pryce’s walls, I held out. As a result it took him nearly an hour to finish up his current business (shocking, I know, that a cop should have business other than doing me quasi-legal favors) and make it there. I spent this time napping, on account of I’d gotten pretty used to the nocturnal thing since I quit my job, and also because I knew that it would help accelerate the healing process.


I woke up when Snowflake nipped my ankle lightly, feeling much better than I had been and also like I could still use about a billion hours more sleep. I picked my head up off the table, wincing slightly at the stiffness this action revealed in my neck, and looked over toward the door. Mike was pretty clearly walking into the room. I could tell, on account of how I couldn’t actually see out said open door.


Mike’s not as big as Pier of the Daylight Court—but he does his best.


Likewise, his voice when he sat down across from me wasn’t as freakishly deep as Pier’s, but he still sounded like a bass drum. “Winter. Glad to see you’re keeping busy.”


“Bite me,” I muttered, rubbing my eyes. “It’s been a long day.”


“I know,” he said, sounding surprisingly sympathetic. “Mac told me about it.”


I tensed. “Told you what?”


“About your injuries,” he said patiently.


I relaxed again. I wasn’t entirely sure what I’d been afraid he would say—Mac didn’t exactly know my dark secrets and such, largely because she wants to hear them even less than I want to talk about them—but this was relatively safe. “To be honest,” I said, “I’d nearly forgotten that. Listen, I need a favor.”


He looked at me soberly. “I can’t promise anything.”


“Understood. But trust me, it’s better that you help me. For everyone, this time.” I looked blearily at my cup, found that there was still a bit of tea (the ice was long since melted, of course), and drained it. “Has Erica done anything stupid lately?”


“Does Erica ever stop?” he asked dryly.


“Point,” I said, nodding. “But this is a dumbass move even by her standards. I think she got her hands on a serious relic—a spear, one made by the fae. And I need to know where she got the damn thing.”


Mike was silent for a long moment. “I told her it was stupid,” he said eventually. “But she didn’t want to listen to me.”


“Wait a second. You thought it was stupid? Wow, this is worse than I thought.”


“Ha ha,” he said sourly. “Truly, your wit is unmatched in the known universe. Did you want to hear this or not?”


“By all means, please continue.”


“Thank you. Where was I?”


“I believe you were about to explain how Erica managed to do something stupid enough to stand out of her background stupid, which I believe is on a level approximating a chimpanzee after two quarts of vodka.” I can get a little silly when I’m tired, okay?


I don’t know if I’m comfortable with that joke. I mean, there are some very personable chimpanzees out there, and frankly I find the implication that a chimp would be that stupid after just two quarts to be highly insensitive. Snowflake also gets a little silly when I’m tired.


“Oh right. So you remember that clusterfuck a few weeks ago? Well, she decided anyone who could set up a massive underground complex like that must have some seriously valuable toys to stock it with.”


I stared, aghast. I mean, I don’t get many opportunities to be really aghast—it doesn’t mesh with my hardass seen-it-all-before image, you know how it is—but this was definitely one of them. “You’re joking. Please tell me you’re joking.”


“I wish. I did tell you this is stupid, remember?” He shook his head. “Anyway. I tried to talk her out of it, but she wouldn’t hear a word. She went back in through the evac tunnel—you remember, the one we came out of?”


I remembered. “I really wish I could say I didn’t believe you.”


Mike nodded gloomily. “I really wish I could say I was joking. Anyway, she came up with twenty pounds of magic shit and started trying to sell it.”


You know, I commented to Snowflake, this may be the happiest I’ve ever been to not be human.




‘Cause this way I don’t have to be ashamed to be in the same species as someone who would do something that mind-numbingly moronic.


Seconded, she said. I mean, if you’re going to get yourself horribly killed, you might as well at least get a cool video out of it to put on the Internet.


“It went all right at first,” Mike was continuing, oblivious to our little side-conversation—he was, after all, a very inexperienced shaman. “Until we got to the spear.”


“Wait, we got to the spear?”


He shifted uncomfortably. “She’s dumber than a post, but she’s still a friend. I couldn’t let her get herself killed,” he said sheepishly.


I was sorely tempted to say that she might well still have done so. “What happened then?” I asked instead.


“Nobody wanted it. Even Kuzmak wouldn’t take the thing, and I’ve never seen her turn down easy money before. Eventually, somebody took pity on her and told her that the reason nobody wanted it was because it was major bad news to own.” He shrugged. “Even she was smart enough to dump it after that.”


“Yeah,” I said grimly. “Dump it on some poor shopowner, you mean.” I hadn’t thought it was possible for Erica to lower my opinion of her any further. I was somehow both disappointed and disgusted to discover that I was wrong.


“She told me she buried it,” Mike said. His voice is deep enough that it always sounds slightly threatening—and damn if that doesn’t say weird things about my subconscious—but this particular statement was less friendly than most.


I snorted. “Yeah, in the sense that she picked a random pawn shop and sold it cut-rate.” I shook my head. “The owner was killed not long after. Sloppy, really, given that she’d already sold it.”


“I see,” he said flatly. I got the distinct impression that Erica would be receiving a quality lecture, if she lived long enough to hear it.


“Anyway,” I said. “I hear a similar spear was taken out of an apartment as evidence after a shooting soon after.”


He looked at me oddly. “Where’d you hear that?”


“Little bird told me,” I said airily.


“The worst part is,” he said sourly, “I’m never sure with you whether that’s a literal statement.” He shook his head, as though clearing it. “Yeah, that’s right. I saw it there, recognized it straight away—you’d have to work to miss the thing, believe me. I might not know exactly what it is—” might not, I noticed, not don’t, which might be interesting—”but I know that thing’s bad news. ‘Evidence’ was the fastest excuse I had to get it off the street.”


“Makes sense,” I agreed with a grin. I like Mike—very practical guy, for a cop. “Where’d you disappear it to? I thought you guys kept pretty close track of that sort of thing.”


“What do you mean?”


“Well, it vanished from evidence. Where’d you put it?”


“Winter,” he said slowly, “I haven’t heard anything about this.”


The smile faded from my face. “Oh. Well, if it wasn’t you….”


He had the oh shit expression on, and I was pretty sure mine wasn’t too far different. For that matter, even Snowflake couldn’t think of a rude joke, something that was practically unheard of.


I’m not sure if überpowerful beings warp the nature of probability by their mere presence, or they listen at the door waiting for the perfect moment, or luck is still upset by that one crack I made about its mother, but I’ve noticed that all kinds of spooky things seem to have absolutely uncanny timing. It was for this reason that I was not particularly surprised when the door picked that exact moment, when the realization was just starting to sink in for both Mike and myself, to slam open.


Everyone in the room (excepting those of us currently too shocked to think clearly) immediately turned to the door. As I was still watching the crowd blankly, I got an excellent view of the reaction. It was gratifying. More than half of the patrons blanched visibly. Two people crossed themselves, one of them muttering the Lord’s Prayer under his breath.


That wasn’t nearly as entertaining as the more exotic reactions. The old regular at the bar who drank harder than Jacques and never showed any of it grabbed the neck of his bottle like he was planning to use it as a weapon, and made the sign of the horns with his other hand. He was joined in this endeavor by the strange cloaked figure in the corner that was ten feet tall and nearly half as wide, although I didn’t recognize his choice of warding gesture, and his hand was gloved. One woman presented a crucifix and started reciting an exorcism, while another fell to her knees and genuflected towards the door. By this point even the few people who hadn’t reacted at first were catching on, and more than a few of them made motions like they were thinking about bolting for the exit—except the only door out was also the only door in.


As you may have noticed, that accounts for pretty much every damn person in the bar. A few more customers had come in while I slept, as it was getting closer to lunchtime, but still. Wow.


That, in itself, would have been enough to make me very, very nervous. Pryce’s clientele is drawn from the spooky side of things, and you don’t last long over here if you rattle easy. I had never, in all the years I’d been eating there, seen a reaction this extreme from one of his customers, let alone all of them at once.


But what was infinitely creepier, what really made me ready to throw down with a dragon or an elder monster of the infinite dark or something, was Pryce’s reaction.


He turned to look at the door. He planted his feet like he was planning to lift a car—not one of those wimpy ones, either, more like a Caddy or a limo or something. And he looked….




Pryce. Looked scared. In his own bar. Scared. Pryce, who faced down Watchers without batting an eye and bounced drunk and angry werewolves most every weekend with as much difficulty as most bouncers have with a six-year-old. Looked scared.


That’s the point where I stopped considering fighting, and started trying to figure out which wall I could most easily escape through.


Fenris walked into view. And he wasn’t wearing his happy face today.


I normally thought of Fenris as being, as far as physical appearance goes, an exaggeration of my own less ordinary features. Well, right now he looked like a similar exaggeration, but one applied to his regular appearance. He stood nearly seven foot tall, and looked less human than some werewolves do in fur. His hair was a matted, mottled grey mane that hung halfway down his back, and his eyes were literally glowing golden, which was easily visible because they were so sunken. His cheekbones looked sharp enough to cut an awkward silence, and he was baring long, sharp teeth in a snarl I was willing to bet he wasn’t even aware of. You could clearly see that they were a wolf’s teeth in a man’s mouth, and it gave you the distinct impression that he would distinctly enjoy biting someone at the moment.


Perhaps most distressing of all, though, was his attire. There was a wide silver ribbon without seam or knot around his neck like a strangely plain choker, and the ugly steel piercing in his lower lip looked incredibly painful. More disturbingly yet, they actually went with his outfit. Now, that wouldn’t be so bad, except that every time I’d seen him he’d been wearing pretty standard clothes—jeans, T-shirts, that sort of thing. Seeing him wearing leather and furs—in April, no less—came as something of a shock.


Strangely, though, it looked entirely natural—less like he’d put on a mask, more like he took one off.


Needless to say, the scary god who looked like he really, really wanted to kill something made a beeline for me. Several of the other patrons gave me sympathetic looks, although most were too busy bolting for the now-clear door.


Within ten seconds of Fenris being in the bar proper, it was practically empty, only the truly hardcore staying behind—Rachel had even left in the middle of a billiards game, and I didn’t think there was anything that could do that. I stayed, of course, and Snowflake, and Mike stuck his ground too. The old man at the bar went back to his boozing, and the thing in the corner with the cloak went back to…whatever it was doing, and of course Pryce wouldn’t—couldn’t—leave. Other than that, there was no one willing to stay with Fenris there.


I’m pretty sure I’m the only one that saw the pain in his eyes, when that happened. It was only there for a moment, gone too fast for me to ever be willing to swear I saw it at all, but I knew it would be haunting me for a while.


“What have you done?” he asked me, pulling one of the newly abandoned chairs over. “What have you done, Winter?”


“Hello, Fenris,” I said dryly. “This is Michael Adams, a detective with the local police force who specializes in events of supernatural leanings. Mike, this is Fenrisúlfr, the Wolf of Asgard, Loki’s son, and general all-around nice guy.”


“Charmed,” Mike said, sounding like he’d been hit in the head with a board. Actually, I take that back; I’m pretty sure hitting Mike in the head with a board would just make him angry.


Fenris ignored both of us. “I don’t know what you did,” he said. “But it wasn’t smart.”


My stomach dropped. I’d thought Carraig was bad enough before. I wasn’t sure I even wanted to know what he could have done to make Fenris think I was a moron to piss him off.


Unfortunately, what I want seldom has anything to do with what I need. So I went ahead and asked, “What’s he done now?”


“He’s called the Wild Hunt against you,” the god said simply.


My stomach continued to drop. It was now somewhere in the vicinity of my kneecaps. “You mean that, like, a wild hunt, right? Not The Wild Hunt with all capital letters, right? Right?”




“Well shit. Why doesn’t he just call in a fucking nuclear missile and get it over with?”


The Wild Hunt is not bad news. That is entirely inadequate to grasp the sheer terror involved with the concept. In fact, I’m not sure there are words that can express how bad the Wild Hunt was. This might be because it predates the entire concept of words.


The Wild Hunt is one of the biggest scare stories in the supernatural world. Almost every culture, from every corner of the earth, has some kind of story about it. I learned several when I was a kid, from the werewolfy corner of the earth. They tend to have a different tone than most other stories about them, one which tends to be a little more awestruck than frightened. Werewolves have a lot in common with the Hunt, on a basic level, and that changes how they tend to think about it.


But in spite of that, there’s still a very real fear there. The Wild Hunt is a very old magic, very primal, and very powerful. When the Hunt rides nobody’s safe, and nobody can hide. It’s more a force of nature than anything. You can’t beat it, or persuade it. You could as easily defeat a winter storm as fight the Wild Hunt.


I explained that to Mike in hushed, funereal tones. Fenris waited patiently. I had little doubt that he’d heard this story before, and likely all the rest.


He might even know which of them was true.


“I don’t get it,” Mike said finally. “What’s the big deal?”


I stared at him. Then I looked at Fenris. “Explain it to him?” I asked.


“Words aren’t my gift,” he said, with just a hint of growl. “I’ve told you that.”


I snorted. “Yeah, I ain’t exactly a poet myself. I’m sure you know the stories better than I do, too. And which of them are true.”


He made a growly, grumbly noise I took for acquiescence. “The Wild Hunt is more than just a hunting troop,” he said after a moment. “It’s the spirit, the idea of the hunt. Like Winter said, that’s old magic, and strong. They never tire, they never stop, they never lose the trail. It’s been five hundred years since someone escaped them after they got his scent.”


“Oh. So that’s bad, then.”


“Yeah,” I agreed glumly. The Hunt existed on an entirely different level than I did. I couldn’t beat the Wild Hunt. I might have been able to hide, or just be less entertaining than the other available game—except that they had my scent specifically. “How long do I have?”


“They are primarily a force of the night, so I would expect until dusk at the least.” Fenris shook his head in frustration. “That’s the thing that bothers me.”


Just one? Damn, he was lucky. “What?”


“I wouldn’t have thought that one of the Maidens’ champions could call the Wild Hunt. Not many can.”


“I don’t get it,” I said, confused. “You just said they’re a force of Night, and his boss is a big fish in the Courts.”


“Yes, yes,” he said impatiently. “But the Hunt doesn’t answer to the Courts, or formal hierarchy. They’re more primitive than that—closer to a werewolf pack, you might say. You can’t be given the Wild Hunt, you have to earn their respect. There aren’t many that can, and most of those who have are on the Twilight Court at the least.”


“Oh,” I said. I think that’s when it started to click—both what was happening, and what I could do about it—although it didn’t really settle into place until later. “Well, I think we’ve beaten that to death. Might as well get some things done before I kick it.”


“Wait a second,” Mike said, the first he’d spoken in a while. “You’re just giving up? Just like that?”


“Of course not,” I said indignantly. “I’m hardly going to lie down for them, if that’s what you mean. But you have to be realistic about some things. I couldn’t beat Carraig solo, and he wasn’t trying. With the Wild Hunt added in, it’s just a question of whether they’re having too much fun to want it to end so soon, if you see what I mean. Barring divine intervention, I don’t think I’m making it out of this one.” I looked at Fenris.


He growled under his breath. “I could,” he confirmed, and the humanity was gone from his voice entirely. It sounded, as it had the first time he’d spoken to me, like an amalgam of the grimmer sounds in nature—wolves, storms, that sort of thing. It was actually even creepier, knowing that I sometimes sounded like that myself. To my ears, at least; I’ve never asked anyone else what they heard. I think I’m scared of the answer. “But I’m not permitted.”


I shrugged and looked at Mike. “I have a few hours yet. I might be able to get the damn spear out of here by then.”


“It won’t matter,” Fenris said softly. “Not now. He is committed, and the Wild Hunt will not be swayed by less than his death.” He stood up. “If you should die tonight, Winter, know that I will tell of it. I have seldom known a stronger man, and I swear to you your name will not die so long as there is a wolf alive to sing it.”


“Thanks,” I said, sincerely touched. “I hope you’ll understand if I’m not eager to hear it.”


He nodded soberly and left without another word.


“Don’t bring the likes of him here again,” Pryce told me seriously.


I was currently rather doubting it would be a concern. But I didn’t want to make a big deal out of it, so I just shrugged and said, “Sorry, Pryce. If I’d have known, I’d have…well…I’d have done something.


He nodded, not looking significantly mollified, and went back to what he’d been doing. Pryce is a hard guy to flap.


“Okay,” I said, turning back to Mike. “You didn’t take the spear. Who else had access to it?”


He stared at me. “Shouldn’t you be, I don’t know, taking this a little more seriously?”


“Cry, beat my chest, and tear out my hair, you mean?” I asked sharply. “No. Thank you, but if I’ve got less than twelve hours to live I find myself disinclined to waste any time complaining. Now, maybe you didn’t notice this, but we’re actually on a schedule here, so could you please get with the program?”


Zing, Snowflake said. That was pretty good.


Thanks. You’re not going to nag me too? Snowflake was usually pretty protective.


She sent the mental equivalent of a shrug. You’ll die. Or you won’t. Either way’s better than spending the rest of your life in this bar.


Wow, did she have my number. “Well?” I said to Mike.


He shook his head briskly, resembling Snowflake coming in out of the rain. “I don’t really know. Any evidence we take in is stored in a rented storage unit—they want to keep anything to do with the freaks as far away as possible from real police work. Sergeant Frishberg’s the only one with a key.”


“Interesting,” I mused. “The good sergeant didn’t call you earlier, did she.”


“No. Why?”


I smiled. “Oh, no reason in particular. I don’t suppose you know where this storage unit is?” He did. He told me. I wrote the address down carefully. “Thanks for the help, Mike.”




I waved one hand idly, cutting him off as soon as I heard the maudlin tone of voice. “Save it, please. Like I said, my time’s currently at a premium. Now, unless you can think of anything else….”


He started to say something, thought better of it, and simply shook his head. He got up and left without saying goodbye.


I tried calling Frishberg, and was entirely unsurprised not to get an answer. At this point, I was pretty sure that the person I’d met earlier hadn’t actually been Sergeant Frishberg. That kind of impersonation is well within the capability of the fae, and it would explain why Mike hadn’t actually heard from her. At this point, my major questions were who that had actually been, and why they’d given me information that was at least partially correct, although I didn’t think either of them was a particularly promising avenue to pursue.


In any case, it didn’t shock me that she wasn’t answering her phone. I tried twice more, just for the principle of the thing, and didn’t leave a message. What would I say, anyway?


Then I spent a few minutes thinking about my next step, while Snowflake took advantage of the haste with which most of the patrons had left to sample the plates they left behind. Surprisingly enough, Pryce didn’t object to this.


I’d already made the decision to trust Fenris, and I didn’t see either reason or benefit in going against that decision now. Furthermore, it was impossible to believe that he was wrong about something like the Wild Hunt. I mean, heck, I’d be shocked if he hadn’t run at their head a time or two himself. It was very much his kind of magic.


That left me with two conclusions. The first was that, come sunset, I had to be out of town. Part of this was because my magic would be stronger outside of an urban area—I might be resigned to death, but I was sure as hell going to make it as hard for him as possible—and most of it was because, in most of the stories, the Wild Hunt isn’t exactly careful when it comes to the ancillary casualties, if you get my drift. I reckoned it would be better to take that far away from any major population centers, if at all possible. I mean, I’m not a saint or anything, but that’s just common sense.


The second thing I could conclude was that I didn’t need to worry about further harassment—at least not from Carraig—until then. He wouldn’t go to this much effort and then kill me anticlimactically before the Hunt was even mustered. So I could probably leave Pryce’s without having to worry about taking an arrow to the face.


Unfortunately, that still left me with the question of where to go. Frishberg was starting to look real interesting, but I couldn’t easily find her—and trust me, the knowledge that I’d so recently had the opportunity to squeeze her for information and blown it did nothing to improve my mood. I supposed I could ask Kyra; after all, she’d introduced me to the sergeant, and after Snowflake and (in some ways) Aiko I trusted her most of anyone alive. Or dead, actually, now that I think about it.


I didn’t really think she would be able to help, though. Players on the level of the Sidhe Courts could certainly keep a secret from a relatively young werewolf, even an Alpha. Plus, she hadn’t exactly made it sound like she and the sergeant were terribly close, making it unlikely she could do much more in the way of locating her than I already had.


I could probably find a way to get in contact with Carraig, if I wanted to badly enough. But I really didn’t see how that would help. Pier was a slightly better bet, but only slightly. I didn’t know who he was, what he was doing, or what his stake in this game was with any certainty. I could call Loki asking for help, but I frankly thought I’d be better off soaking myself in goose fat and a tangerine marinade before waiting for the Wild Hunt. At least all they would do was kill me, whereas it was entirely possible that Loki had already done something much worse.


So. Running was out—there was nowhere, in this world or the Otherside, that the Wild Hunt couldn’t chase me down. Appealing for help was out—anyone strong enough to do anything about my situation would charge more than I was willing to pay.


There have to be boundaries, after all. There has to be a point at which you draw the line.


I supposed that just left finishing the job solo.

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One Response to Debts Outstanding 5.12

  1. Emrys

    This is an author’s commentary written after the completion of the series. Spoilers are in a rot13 cipher; if you aren’t familiar with that there are a number of very easy deciphering websites to use. These spoilers may cover the full series, not just this book, and they may make reference to major plot points and character development. You have been warned.

    The Wild Hunt is one of the things I’m more conceptually happy with in this series, I think. The execution might not always be there, but I think that as concepts go it’s an interesting one that has a lot to work with.

    Other than that I enjoyed writing Fenris here, and particularly writing how people responded to him showing up. It was another piece of contrast, you know, another case where Winter’s perspective just doesn’t line up with the rest of the world’s. Something that seems almost normal to him is shocking and frightening to them.

    Celpr’f ernpgvba urer vf va fbzr jnlf n engure gryyvat bar, V guvax. Gubhtu vg’f zbfgyl pyrne whfg ubj gryyvat vg vf bayl va uvaqfvtug. Ur nofbyhgryl sernxf bhg orpnhfr ur unf n frevbhf ungr ba sbe gur tbqf, ur unf na vqrn jung whfg jnyxrq va, naq ur’f abg unccl ng nyy nobhg vg. Lbh pbhyq frr gung pbzvat sebz uvf vagreyhqr; rira vs vg’f abg nccnerag lrg jung Uhagre vf qbvat be jul, vg’f cerggl pyrne gung Celpr qbrf abg unir tbbq nffbpvngvbaf jvgu qrvgvrf.

    Ohg gur snpg gung ur ernpgf guvf jnl gb Sraevf va cnegvphyne vf engure gryyvat vs lbh’ir ernq gur jubyr frevrf, V guvax. Vg fhttrfgf gung Uhagre qbrfa’g funer gung vasbezngvba rira jvgu crbcyr ba uvf fvqr, juvpu ur qbrfa’g. Vg’f n fznyy guvat, naq abg ernyyl vzcbegnag gb gur fgbel, ohg V’q yvxr gb guvax gung vg nqqf n ovg zber qrcgu gb jung’f tbvat ba sbe crbcyr jub’ir nyernql ernq vg.

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