ladydeathfaerie: (Jean Claude)
[personal profile] ladydeathfaerie posting in [community profile] marysuevirus
Title: The Mary Sue Virus: Beyond Death
Chapter Forty Two: He Who is Without Sin
Fandom: Anita Blake universe
Rating: 18 and up
Warnings: graphic sex and violence, language, anything else i can toss in.
Disclaimer: the recognizable characters and places contained herein are the property of LKH. i'm merely borrowing for the sake of entertainment. no money is being made from this venture. the Sues are the sole property of their originators, Ginevra, Dazzledfirestar, Nanaea, SilverFoxChan and ladydeathfaerie. the concept and title of The Mary Sue Virus are used with permission from Dazzledfirestar.

Author's Notes: this one might be a little gory. don't say i didn't warn you.

The Mary Sue Virus: Beyond Death - Index Link

It was too damn early in the morning for this. And everyone appeared to feel the same way Richard did. Micah looked as if he'd been dragged from a bed he'd only just climbed into. Rafael looked weary. Maybe a little tired, but more weary than anything. Isis was a combination of worry and anger rolled up in a sense of exhaustion that clung like cobwebs. And Aedan... Richard would put good money on the idea that she hadn't seen a bed in more than twenty four hours. She looked... manic. It was kind of a frightening look. And it was getting to be more and more common with her.

The room was still and quiet, flooded with such tension that it felt like he was wrapped up in a gelatinous cocoon. Like he could strain to more his hand or his arm and it would simply be held in place by all the building tension. Richard was still trying to figure out why Aedan had called them to this dive restaurant. And why they'd all holed up in this tiny back room without apparently so much as an eyebrow twitch from the guy working the grill. If there was a waitress, Richard hadn't seen her when he'd entered. Not that he'd been looking all that hard.

"What are we doing here, Aedan?" Micah finally asked, doing his best to stifle a yawn. His words broke the tension, allowing Richard to feel like he could take an easy breath again. Micah was watching the woman with a look that suggested he felt she could have waited until everyone, including herself, had gotten about six days of sleep. Last night had been pretty stressful and scary for them all. To be honest, it was likely they all felt the same way about this impromptu meeting. "Couldn't this have waited a few more hours?"

Her only answer was to slap a piece of glossy paper down on the sticky table top before the man and press a finger to it. Her eyes never left his face.

Richard watched as Micah focused on the paper before him, his sleepy expression quickly sliding away in favor of an angry one. One of Micah's fingers touched the paper under the spot where Aedan had. "That's him."

"Who?" Rafael asked.

"The man from last night. The waiter. The one who attacked Minette," he said, then offered the glossy rectangle over to the rat king.

"It is him," Rafael said, baring his teeth in a show of anger.

Aedan stepped over to his side and took what was obviously a photo from the man. She held it up so that everyone could see it. Richard's sharp eyes easily picked out the image of the man from the photo she held. The one who had been floating around the party last night dressed as a waiter. He distinctly remembered the man stopping by his group to offer drinks. It made Richard wonder if the waiter had done the same to everyone else. Had he been scoping the party out for a likely victim? The thought was put aside when Aedan's finger tapped a second image without looking at the picture. "This is his partner. These are the two responsible for the lycanthrope killings. The attack on Andy. The body in the warehouse. Other victims. They're the ones we're hunting," she told them.

"Hunting?" Richard asked. It was a curious choice of words. It had to be a mistake. That didn't seem like the kind of thing she'd just say. Surely she'd meant to say something else. "The ones we're hunting?" He made sure to stress the last two words.

"Yes. We're hunting them. Together. The four of us. And all your people." Not an ounce of emotion touched her face or her voice. She was deadly serious.

"What about the police, Aedan?" Rafael asked. It was the question on Richard's mind, as well. And the look Micah gave her suggested he wanted to know the same thing. A glance at Isis said that the woman was eying Aedan curiously, as if she was sure this was an imposter and she was looking for that one misstep that would prove it conclusively.

She looked at them all long and hard, then shrugged a shoulder negligently. "What about them?"

Her answer left them all momentarily silent. Richard didn't know about the others, but it felt odd hearing her say that. Technically, she was the police. He wasn't sure he liked the idea that Aedan would step away from her badge for revenge. He'd never really felt she was capable of such acts. Sure, she'd talked a good game. But that's all he'd thought it was. Talk. Now, he wasn't so sure. Now, he couldn't tell if the Aedan he'd first met was the real her, or if this was the real woman and the other one had been a carefully crafted lie.

That thought made him wonder, just for a moment, if this was really Aedan speaking or if this was coming from Anita. From some remnant of her that she'd passed to the younger woman upon her death. He apparently wasn't the only one. "Are you sure that's something you're ready to do, Aedan? Hunting these two down and killing them isn't going to change what happened to Minette," Rafael told her.

She turned such a cold gaze toward the rat king that Richard swore he felt the temperature in the room drop a few degrees. If her regard bothered Rafael, he didn't let it show. "Let the police handle the matter, Aedan," Micah said quietly. Richard thought the Nimir-Raj might be just a little unnerved by the woman at the moment. "Revenge isn't the answer here."

Her finger tapped the picture of the woman again. Just once. With emphasis. "She's a wolf. She's the reason he knows how to effectively injure and kill your people. She's the reason he took a silver blade to Minette in front of everyone last night. You wanna let the police handle her, fine. They'll just lock the two of them in prison. They won't make them pay for what they've done to the community."

That news gave them all pause. A wolf helping a human hunt down and kill her own kind? Richard didn't want to believe it. But he had to admit, it did change the playing field. Maybe more than just a little. The lycanthropic community had been struggling for years to find acceptance within human communities. They didn't have the air of mystery and charisma that vampires had. Too many saw his kind as wild and dangerous and feral. People weren't enamored of someone like him. Just scared. And if history had proven anything, it was that humans destroyed that which scared them. If the police caught the killers and it was made known that a wolf had helped a human hunt their own kind, it wouldn't be the first or the last case the police had to deal with. Racists would fall all over themselves in the effort to copy the killings. More lycanthropes would die, and their murderers would claim they were doing the world a service. How could humanity trust the lycanthropes when one of their own had helped slaughter people? Because Richard was pretty sure that they hadn't been targeting only lycanthropes.

Much as he didn't want to admit it, catching them and putting a stop to their murderous acts was up to the lycanthropes. "You're sure she's a wolf?" Richard asked softly. His gaze was on Aedan, but he felt the weight of Micah and Rafael's stares when they landed on him.

"I could smell wolf musk at the crime scenes. She's a wolf. Because you'd have all felt him coming last night if he was any kind of lycanthrope."

She had them there. The server would never have gotten as close to Minette as he did had he been a wolf. They'd all have known him for what he was. As far as Richard knew, all of the servers had been human. Which is why no one had taken notice of the man who'd attacked Minette.

"Why are you so determined to take revenge upon this person, Aedan?" Rafael asked the question, his voice cool and calm and filled with reason. She turned her stare his way and simply looked at him. Maybe she was considering actually answering him. Maybe she was considering telling him to fuck off. There was no way of knowing what was going through her mind at the moment. But she sighed and made a motion with her hand that apparently meant everything and nothing.

"She's my family. The only one I have." Her voice told them all she truly believed that.

"None of us count as family?" That from Micah. He sounded like he might have been a touch hurt that Aedan didn't consider him family.

She turned her attention his way, stared at him for a good, long while. Richard could see she was considering the question. That she was really thinking about it. Finally, she glanced away and heaved a sigh. "I don't know you well enough to really call you family. Minette's been there for me through some really horrific shit. By choice. I kind of got thrown at you. At all of you." She paused then to let her gaze linger on each of them for a moment or two. "I don't know what we are. I don't know if we're family. I don't even know if we're friends. You all have reason to take issue with my presence in your lives. I know what my being here means to you. To all of you. I don't blame you for finding it difficult to stomach me."

She stopped for a moment, gaze still locked on the wall. Richard was sure she'd been about to say she had a hard time stomaching herself. Her statement felt unfinished and it seemed as if those unspoken words shimmered faintly on the air. She was pretty young to have such a low opinion of herself. It made him wonder who in her life had made her feel as if she didn't belong.

Finally, she turned to look them all in the eye. Whatever emotion she'd just been dealing with was buried and locked away. Her blank mask was in place. She was all business again. "What I do know is we were all thrown together into some weird kind of union and we've got to look out for one another. That means that I am going to hunt these fuckers with you. And I will end their miserable lives with you."

"How do we find them, Aedan?" It was the first time Isis had spoken since they'd all arrived. She let her gaze slide around the room so that it landed on each of them. "We don't know who they are. We don't know where they are. We don't know anything about them. But they seem to know plenty about us."

"They've had time to research us," Rafael said, voice sure. It made sense. It would be the only way the pair of them had been able to move around and commit their murders without being detected. "Its time we tried to level the playing field. If only just a bit."

"Rafael is right. We level the playing field. Just enough to give us an advantage. Which is where the members of the community come into play." Aedan laid the picture down on the table again and tapped a finger against it. "We use everyone from the pack, the pard, the rodere, the pride... Every one looks for these shit stains."

"And what do we do when they find them?"

"Whoever finds them calls one of us. Gives us the information. And we act. They do not get involved. I won't have any of your people getting hurt or even killed. I won't have that on my head." For a moment, just the beat of a heart, Richard heard the regret Aedan felt for the people who had been killed since she'd been in St. Louis. The self-loathing that she hadn't been able to stop the murders. That she hadn't been able to keep people safe. It was gone before it really registered. She stared at them, eyes cold and bleak, and tapped the paper again. "We'll be the ones who go after them. We're the ones who will get involved. We're the ones who will hunt them down and make them pay for what they've done."

"Just the alphas?" The question came from Rafael. Aedan turned to him.

"No. I won't have you risking your lives, either. Your seconds can be involved. Your bodyguards should be involved."

"What about you, Aedan?" Isis asked. It was left unsaid that she wasn't an alpha like the rest of them. Richard could tell Aedan knew that. The way her eyes narrowed said as much. But she didn't call the other woman on the fact that she was actually very much an alpha. She had to be in her line of work.

"Don't worry about me. I can handle myself just fine, thanks. Fuckers won't know what hit them."

Isis opened her mouth, obviously intent on saying something more. Rafael put his hand on her arm. Shook his head at her when she looked up at him. Aedan's tone of voice made it plain that she wasn't going to answer any more questions. Not if they didn't pertain to the actual topic at hand.

"Right. So what are we doing? Making fliers?" Micah asked, breaking the awkward silence left in the wake of Isis' unvoiced question.

"Yes. Fliers are the best bet. No names or phone numbers, though. In the off chance our murdering duo gets hold of a copy. Verbal instructions go with each flier handed out. Anyone who sees these two are to call it in to their alpha or a designated representative. That will help keep you guys a little safer."

"And then?" Richard asked.

"Then we wait for the right call. Once we get that, we go find them. And we end their miserable lives before they can kill anyone else." She finished her sentence with a soft voice. One filled with regret and anger. And exhaustion. Micah and Rafael heard it, too, because they glanced his way, eyes filled with the same question. Richard inclined his head toward Rafael. He thought Aedan would respond better to the rats' king than she would to either himself or Micah. Rafael curled a corner of his mouth to let them know he was going to handle it.

"Is there anything else we need to know?" Rafael asked, pushing away from the wall he'd been leaning up against. Isis took it to mean the meeting was over and rose to her feet.

"No. I think that's all for now," Aedan shook her head. "I'll have copies of the photo made and I'll get them out to you later today. I have a few things to take care of before hand. So probably sometime this afternoon. Does that work?"

"It does," Micah nodded. Then he frowned, as if something had just occurred to him, and let his gaze flick to the picture again. "How did you come by this information, Aedan? Where did you find a picture of the waiter?"

She stared at him a long, long time. It felt like she was weighing whether or not to answer him. Finally, she lifted one shoulder in a shrug. It almost hid the look of pain that flashed briefly across her face. However she'd gotten the information, it had obviously been difficult. "I have my sources. I won't keep you any longer. I know its been a long night and everyone wants to sleep."

"I'm going to do exactly that. After I check on Minette," Micah nodded. He stood and stretched. Aedan watched him almost absently. "Go get some sleep, Aedan. You're no good to us if you're dead on your feet."

She didn't respond. Which told Richard everything he needed to know. He watched as Isis headed for the door. Micah wasn't far behind her. Richard fell into step with the Nimir-Raj, confident that Rafael would work some magic and convince Aedan to fucking sleep. Which would give Richard the opportunity to talk to Micah.

He waited until they'd stepped outside, until Isis was in her vehicle and on her way home, before he pulled Micah to the side and glanced around them. Made sure that there was no one to witness their little chat. Micah held off a yawn and waited. "What do you think is going on with her?" Richard asked without preamble.

Micah sighed. Shook his head. The look he gave Richard said he was clearly worried. "I don't really know. She's been acting strange for a few days. Even Minette has commented on it. I know she's worried but she can't figure out what's going on any more than anyone else. To be perfectly honest, I don't think even Jean Claude knows what's going on with her."

Richard frowned. "Are you certain about that? Because he's in her head. If anyone would know what's going on with her, it would be him."

"You saw them last night. She barely spoke to him unless it was absolutely necessary."

Richard made a noise in agreement. "She did seem kind of aloof."

"She did," Micah nodded. "Let's hope no one but us noticed because anyone else knowing could only lead to trouble."

Richard nodded his head. Considered his next words. Took a good look around before leaning in to speak, his voice low so as not to carry. "You don't think it would have anything to do with how she feels about him, do you?"

"You noticed, too?"

"Noticed? I'm pretty sure everyone can smell how much she wants him. Maybe we should lock them in a room together and not let them out until they deal with the building tension."

Micah smiled at that, huffed out a faint laugh. "You want to be on the wrong end of that woman's temper and her gun, you be my guest. Lock them in room together. As for me, I happen to like everything right where it is and I have no desire to have it shot off. But trying to find a way to get those two naked together isn't a bad idea. You should work on that."

That comment brought forth a snort. Richard shook his head and started for his car, Micah following along with him. Behind him, he could hear Rafael and Aedan coming. Could feel her exhaustion and anger getting closer. "Like either one of them are going to believe I've got their best interests at heart. You know they both think I'm a giant asshole."

Micah laughed at that. "Probably because you are a giant asshole. Oh, well. It was just a suggestion."

He watched as Micah got into his car, turned the engine over and let it idle. Didn't move. He didn't have to be psychic to know the other man was making sure Aedan got into her car and got going okay. Not like Richard wasn't doing the same exact thing. But as he sat there and watched Rafael ensure that Aedan climbed into her car, the man's soft voice barely carrying to Richard's ears, he couldn't help but think that maybe it wasn't such a bad suggestion at all.

~*~*~*~*~

Minette had barely pried an eye open before Jason's entire face filled her field of vision. He looked worried, though that was rapidly being washed away by relief, and tired. She was sure she was the reason he was wearing both of those feelings on his face. She tried a sleepy smile, one hand reaching out to gently cup his cheek. He pressed his face into her touch, one of his hands coming up to rest against hers. "Hey, gorgeous," he said softly.

"How long was I out?" Her voice was low. Hoarse. It was enough to tell her it had been a while.

"Day and a half." It took Jason a few seconds to say it, leaving Minette wondering if he'd been considering outright lying to her or attempting to distract her away from her question.

"That long?" She shifted experimentally, checked for aches and pains that would tell her the healing process hadn't completed itself. But she felt fine. There was no telling tightness where the blade had cut into her flesh to suggest that she wasn't recovered from the attack.

"Micah figures its because you waited so long to shift."

"He's mad at me, isn't he?" she asked, just a hint of the old Minette there in her voice. Jason shook his head, sent his blonde hair into motion around his face, and offered her a smile.

"No. Not at you. Mostly he's mad at Aedan. For not telling you to shift right away." The look on his face told her that Micah still wasn't over it. And he wasn't all that happy about it, either.

"I'll have to talk to him about that," she said quietly.

Jason made no response, simply stared at her as she spent several moments mentally assessing every last inch of her body. She finally pulled herself into a sitting position and rested her back against the bed's headboard. The look that settled on her face was one of determination. "You have to understand, Minette. He was worried about you. And he knows, the sooner you shift, the sooner you start healing damage. The less chance there is of something not healing right. Aedan was selfish in telling you to wait for her to show up. He has every right to be mad at her."

"And you have to understand, Jason, that Aedan and I have been each other's whole lives for the past five years. She never went home during the summers. In fact, she took summer classes the entire time we were in college. She doesn't talk about her family. At all. Anytime anyone mentions blood relations, she shuts down. She says I'm the only family she has. And, for those years in college, she was the only family I had."

"But you have family now. Both of you. She should have told you to shift. We had no idea how badly you'd been injured and there was no way of knowing if the damage would be permanent. It could have been."

She sighed. Reached for his hand. Held it tight in her own. "Yes, I have family now. You and Micah and Nathaniel and the pard and the kiss... You're all family. But I know Aedan better than anyone here. Better than Jean Claude does. And she doesn't think she has family. She doesn't work that way, Jason. She doesn't trust easily. If she even trusts at all. She might be willing to call you friend. But she's not willing to call you, or anyone else here, family. Not yet. So I understand why she didn't tell me to shift. And I seem to recall I was the one who didn't want to shift until I saw her with my own two eyes. To be sure she hadn't been attacked. I remember that waiter coming at me. And I remember Aedan coming at both of us. I don't know what happened after that."

"Micah and I both told you she was fine. You don't trust us enough to take our word for it?" He sounded hurt. Minette sighed and gave his hand a squeeze.

"I was out of my head with pain and worry. Do you really think I was prepared to listen to you? I had to see her with my own two eyes."

He offered her a smile. "I realize that now. I don't pretend to understand whatever relationship you and she have. I don't even pretend to know the full extent of it. But what I do understand is that Micah and I care about you very much. Love you very much. And we didn't want to see you suffer. We didn't want to think about what might happen if you didn't let yourself shift and heal. Aedan made a good target for the anger and fear that those thoughts brought about."

Minette stared at him for a moment. "Oh, no. Please tell me Micah didn't try to take his anger out on Aedan?"

"I don't know for sure. I think he confronted her about it." Her eyes went wide at that. Jason gave her a hasty smile. "Relax. She didn't shoot him or anything."

"Ugh. I need to talk to him about this. I need him to understand that this is something he can't change. Where is he?"

"He's at coalition headquarters. He's up to his eyeballs in fliers and phone calls."

Fliers and phone calls? What had she missed while she'd been unconscious? She lifted an eyebrow at him, silently letting him know he could explain that one to her. He sat back and drew a breath. The breath came out in a long, heavy sigh. "Aedan found a witness to help her identify the waiter."

Minette frowned, brows drawing down as she tried to parse his words. Her mouth opened and closed, more than once, before she finally got some words out. "Aedan found a witness?"

"That's what Micah said," Jason nodded. "They had a meeting this morning not long after the sun rose. She called Micah, Richard, Rafael, and Isis to a meeting at some restaurant. When Micah got back, he said Aedan had a witness who could identify the waiter. And his accomplice."

Minette frowned at the news. Where had Aedan found a witness? Minette was fairly certain none of Jean Claude's guests would have been willing to lend a hand. She'd gotten the distinct impression every last one of them had been waiting for him to fail in a spectacular way. But more importantly than that, how did Aedan know the waiter had an accomplice. "Where did she find a witness? And why is she sure that the waiter had an accomplice? What the hell is going on?"

"Micah said she was certain that the waiter is one of the lycanthrope killers. And that his partner is a lycanthrope. A wolf. If she is, she isn't part of the pack. I think we would have noticed something like that happening within the pack."

Jason sounded sure about that last part. Minette wanted to mention that the pack was huge and it wasn't possible that they knew everything that every one in the pack did. But she didn't. It was horrible to think that a member of the pack could be responsible for the deaths that had been happening around St. Louis. So she decided to ask another question. Something about the whole situation didn't feel right, but Minette couldn't put her finger on what. Or why. "Why would the lycanthrope killer target me? And why would that happen at Jean Claude's party? I thought everyone was thoroughly vetted before the event took place."

"They were. So no one knows how one of the lycanthrope killers ended up being part of the wait staff. As for why he would target you..." Jason trailed off and shrugged a shoulder. "I don't know. All Micah told me was that Aedan had suspects and she was going to give the coalition fliers with the faces of the waiter and his accomplice on them. She wants the preternatural community to be on the lookout for the two of them. They're supposed to report anything suspicious to one of the alphas, who will pass the information on to Aedan."

Minette shook her head, frustration clinging tightly to her. "This doesn't make any sense, Jason. That isn't how she operates. She's much more level headed than this. Where is she? I need to talk to her." Minette had already thrown the covers back and was sliding out of the bed, on her way to find clothes.

"She isn't here," Jason replied. That stopped Minette in her tracks. She turned to look at the wolf, still sitting on the edge of the bed. He didn't look very happy.

"Where is she?"

"We... don't actually know. She never came back to the Circus with Micah this morning. I took a peek at her room. She hasn't slept in it in a while. I don't know where she's sleeping, but it isn't here."

"What?" Minette asked, voice rising a little bit. "What do you mean? Are you sure? How can you tell?"

"Her scent is old, Minette. She hasn't been sleeping here. I suspect Jean Claude knows. If he is, he isn't saying anything about it, though. I don't know where she's sleeping. I don't know what's going on. I don't know anything. She doesn't talk to any of us. You're probably the only one she'd talk to. And... I don't know. There's something really weird going on with her." She could tell that Jason was worried. She could hear it in his voice. See it on his face.

"What time is it?"

"Its almost eight," he told her. She turned and crossed to the dresser, then started pulling clothes out. Jason watched her for all of ten seconds before he broke the sudden silence. "What are you doing, Minette?"

"I'm going to go see Aedan and find out what the hell is going on," she replied, tugging underwear up her legs angrily. Was she trying to get herself killed? What if the waiter was looking for her? What if he, and his accomplice, wanted to end her life? Where would that leave everyone? Where would that leave her? "That stupid bitch."

"I don't think you should be going anywhere just yet, Minette. You literally just woke up from a healing sleep. You should probably rest for a while."

She turned to glare at him. There was no way in hell he was going to make her stay here when her best friend was spiraling out of control. Jason flinched under her stare. It looked like he wanted to take a step back. bow his head to her. But he held his ground, firm in his belief that he was in the right and she should still be in bed. Too bad for him. "I've rested enough. I'm going to see Aedan."

"Then I'm coming with," he replied softly. She wanted to tell him to keep his nose out of her business, but she caught herself before her temper and her concern got the better of her. Instead of snapping, she gave a curt nod of her head.

"Just don't get in my way," she warned before going back to dressing.

~*~

Aedan's power filled the office she sat in, overflowed into the hallway outside her door. Weird. Minette had never really noticed it before. Or noticed that she could actually feel it. And in it, she could feel a tightly coiled tension that had wrapped itself around something else that she couldn't find a name for. She wondered at that for a moment, wondered at all of it, then rapped her knuckles against the door before pushing her way in. She'd gotten assurances from the person at the desk that her friend was not with a client, so there was no danger of barging in on something important. Aedan didn't lift her head, kept scribbling on a pad of paper before her. But Minette saw her fingers tighten around the pen. She knew Minette was there. It was likely she'd known long before Minette even let herself into the office.

"What the fuck is wrong with you?" she demanded without preamble.

"Good evening, Minette. I take this to mean you're feeling better?" Aedan asked, not an ounce of anything in her voice to give away her thoughts or feelings. Minette stepped into the room, let Jason come in after her, then made sure to push the door shut hard enough to rattle the pictures on the wall. Aedan didn't flinch. And she still didn't lift her head.

"Save the small talk. Tell me what the fuck is going on. And tell me now." Minette's temper rose. How dare Aedan sit there and act like nothing was amiss! Minette's power spilled out into the room, pressing against Aedan's in a battle for dominance. That got a reaction. Aedan put the pen down, setting it very carefully on the desk, before slowly bringing her head up so she could stare at Minette. The look on the other woman's face was empty of everything.

"What do you want to know?" Aedan asked quietly. Paused. Spoke again, this time with a hint of irritation in her voice. "And put that power away. You don't frighten me and I'm packing silver ammo. Want to take another day and a half nap? Keep pushing. We'll see which one of us is faster."

Minette blinked at her. Aedan had never threatened her before. Ever. Something was going on with her friend. Something very not good. The surprise saw her power leaking away until only the cool taste of death flavored the air again. "Aedan, whatever's going on... You can talk to me. You can tell me. I can help."

"No, Minette. You can't. So just stay the fuck out of my business. Let me do my job."

She didn't understand. She'd never seen the other woman like this. Ever. Aedan had always known her limits, had never been one to rush headlong into a fight she knew she couldn't win. And Minette was starting to think this was a fight that Aedan couldn't win. Not on her own. It was almost like she had a death wish. Minette crossed her arms over her chest and frowned at Aedan. "Your job?" Minette scoffed. "Your job is not to get yourself killed. I am not going to sit back and watch you let some Looney Tunes mother fucker put a knife through your heart while doing your job. Or watch you kill yourself in the course of apprehending some asshole murderer. Tell me what's going on."

"Police business. That's what's going on," Aedan replied crisply, her tone telling Minette she wasn't going to answer any questions. "Was there anything else? I have a busy schedule. Four raisings before midnight. And a couple consultations before that." Her tone was filled with boredom. Dismissal. Minette ignored that tone.

"Where did you find a witness who could identify the waiter? Who is this witness? How reliable are they? Who is the murderer? Why is he after members of the community? Why is he after me?" She couldn't keep the confusion and the worry out of her voice. And she didn't bother to hide her desire to know the answers.

Aedan sat back in her chair. Crossed her arms under her breasts. Frowned at the other woman. "I can't tell you. Details of an ongoing police investigation," Aedan replied. She made sure to stress the most important words in her sentences. Minette growled in frustration and threw herself into one of the chairs across the desk from the other woman.

"Fine. You can't tell me," Minette stopped and shook her head. "No. That isn't right. Its not that you can't tell me. Its that you won't tell me. Fine. Whatever. I hope you have a damn good reason for keeping shit from me. But maybe you can tell me why you're not sleeping at the Circus. Where the hell are you sleeping? What is going on? There's so much tension between you and Jean Claude that you can cut it with a dull butter knife. What did he do?"

Aedan said nothing, simply stared at Minette across her desk. "You're scaring me, Aedan. You're my friend. Tell me what's going on."

"There's absolutely nothing going on," she replied.

"Damn it, Aedan!" Minette snarled, slamming her fist down on the edge of Aedan's desk. The contents on top jumped and jittered. The desk did, too. Minette frowned at the dent she'd left in the wooden surface. Aedan stared at her, stone-faced and silent.

"Aedan," Jason's voice cut across the silence, shattering the tension that had been growing between Minette and the other woman. Aedan shifted her gaze to the man standing behind Minette's chair, but her expression didn't change. "Minette's worried. I'm worried. We're all worried. Its obvious that something is going on. Something is bothering you. Tell us what's happening. We can help. We all care about you. None of us wants to see you hurt."

Aedan sat quietly, stared at Jason as if she was waiting for him to do something interesting or exciting. Minette waited, hoping that Aedan would give in and speak, would tell them what was going on, while at the same time sure that she would continue to give them the silent treatment. "I can take care of myself, thank you very much. There's nothing you can do. Because there's nothing bothering me. I'm sorry you both came all the way down here for nothing."

With her last sentence, Aedan rose from the chair and moved for the door. She was stiff as she walked, shoulders pulled tight in a way that Minette recognized from the first months of her friendship with the other woman. She was going to remain stubbornly silent. Which meant something was definitely going on. The door swung wide, Aedan's hand on the knob. She turned to look at both Minette and Jason. "Now if you'll excuse me. I have a consultation in ten minutes and I need to finish preparing. Thank you. Good night."

Minette frowned and shared a look with Jason. Her tone was polite. But it was cold. Which told Minette everything she needed to know. Holding back the sigh that rose, Minette came to her feet and headed for the door. Jason was close on her heels. She could tell he was not happy with the other woman's attitude. It was there in the rigidness of his posture. She'd talk him down later. For now, she stopped before Aedan and gave her a look filled with concern and worry. It also held love and friendship. "I don't know what you've gotten yourself involved in. I don't know why you're being a super bitch right now. I don't know anything that's going on with you. But I do know that you're my friend. And I know you'll come to me when you need to spill all of this shit. I want you to know that I'll be there for you when you do. Because I love you. Just do not get yourself hurt. You're not immortal. You're not invulnerable. And I couldn't stand it if I lost you."

She was out the door, Jason behind her, before her last word finished echoing around the office.

~*~*~*~*~

"You okay, Kinkade? You seem kind of distracted," Zerbrowski asked, bringing Aedan's whirling thoughts to a sudden halt. She turned to give him a look meant to scare him off, but the man merely stared at her expectantly.

"I'm fine," she told him. He lifted a brow at the gruffness in her voice, but he didn't push the issue any harder. Which was a good decision on his behalf because Aedan had had it up to her eyeballs with other people's concerns. "Let's just get this shit over with. I'm fucking tired."

He gave her a look, then nodded and made a motion with one arm toward the door to the basement. What the hell was it with basements? Why did these sick fucks have to do their shit in basements? Aedan tugged at the bottom edge of her gloves and then made sure the paper booties were properly in place before stepping through the door and down onto the first step. She felt Zerbrowski follow behind her, his steps light despite the fact that he was a big man. The weight of his stare rested on her shoulders, letting her know that he was trying to 'detect' what was going on with her. It took everything in her to keep herself from turning toward him and telling him to quit. The last thing she wanted to do was alienate another friend. She had so few of them as it was. And she knew he'd never figure it out anyway, so what was the point?

The basement was unfinished, one large room with concrete walls and floor. Bare bulbs hung from the ceiling, casting harsh light around the open space. Casting harsh light upon the river of blood that stained the concrete walls and floor. There was so much blood. Too much blood. Too much for a single body. She let her gaze follow the clotted flow to its source to find that there were two sheets covering human shaped bodies on the floor. Shit.

"Kinkade. Sorry to call you away from your necromancy job," Dolph said. He stood beside one of the covered corpses, his face impassive and blank.

"No need to apologize. This comes first," she replied. To be honest, the call had been a welcome reprieve because she'd been unable to concentrate on her appointments, her brain determined to take her to task for shutting Minette out the way she had. Maybe a good, bloody murder would do what she'd been unable to do. Get her brain to shut the fuck up. But a deep breath, taken to prevent her brain from starting up, brought the musk of wolf into her nose and completely sent her thoughts racing down that path again. "Fuck. Lycanthrope killers."

Dolph raised an eyebrow at that. "Without having to look at the bodies?"

"I can smell wolf musk. Its faint, but its there."

"You mentioned that before," Zerbrowski spoke up. "I wasn't aware that the lycanthropes had a noticeable scent."

"They do. But you don't really notice it unless you spend a lot of time with members of a group. Wolves have a musky smell. The more wolves in a room, the stronger the scent gets," she said absently, eyes skimming over the room with new intent.

"All lycanthropes?" Dolph was the one who asked the question.

Aedan nodded. "Yes. All lycanthropes. And each group's scent is similar to the animal their strain of lycanthropy comes from." She let the line of conversation drop, concentrated on taking note of blood spatters on the wall as she carefully worked her way along the edge of one of the rivers toward the sheet-draped bodies. "Just by looking at the walls, I'm going to say there was a lot of anger involved in this killing. A lot of overkill."

Dolph let his gaze slide around the space, let his eyes touch the different splatters. When he turned back to her, Aedan was almost beside one of the corpses. She stared down at it for a moment or two, hesitant to take those last few steps. Afraid of what awaited her under the sheet. Finally, she took a breath and steeled herself. Closed the distance between herself and the corpse. Squatted down so that she could take hold of the sheet. It peeled back slowly to reveal a woman's body. Her hair was matted with dried blood. There were deep penetration wounds to her shoulders. Long gashes across her chest. The arm closest to Aedan was almost completely severed, only attached by a few thin tendons. The woman had died with her eyes wide and her mouth open.

"She was screaming," Aedan remarked. Tugging a tiny flashlight from her pocket, she used it to check the back of the woman's throat. Aedan couldn't see any silver, and there were no burn marks in the woman's mouth.

Aedan pulled the sheet back further, exposing more of the woman's body. There were deep lacerations low on the victim's abdomen. Aedan frowned. That was new. She found herself staring intently at the lacerations. One ran from one hip to the other and something about it looked different from the others. She glanced back at Dolph. "Has the coroner been yet?"

"We're waiting on him," he told her.

"Do you have problems with me checking the wounds?" she asked, one hand hovering over the large cut with intent. Dolph stared at her a moment, then shook his head.

"It must be important. Do what you need to. If the coroner has problems, he can take it up with me." He must have seen how important it was to her by the look on her face, by the look in her eyes. She threw him a thankful, not really a smile smile, then gave her attention back to the corpse.

"I'm so sorry. Please forgive me," she whispered before sliding her fingers into the gaping wound. She used the other hand to pull the skin back so she could see into the woman's abdomen, took note of each organ as she saw it. Took note of what she was pretty sure she didn't see. Her hands came out of the corpse glistening in red. It took everything within her to keep her composure. Judging by the looks on Dolph and Zerbrowski's faces, she must have been really pale. "I think... " her voice cracked, forcing her to stop and clear her throat. "I think they cut her uterus out."

"You think?" Dolph asked.

"I'm no expert on anatomy. Other than knowing where to strike to cripple or kill. But it looks like they removed her uterus."

"Why would they do that?" Zerbrowski asked. He sounded like he wanted to be sick.

"I don't know. But I need a new pair of gloves before I can continue. Did anyone check her back?"

"No." Dolph's answer was curt as hell.

"Have the ME's office do it. I don't want to shift her over and have anything come sliding out of her." She shuddered at the idea of the woman's intestines spilling out all over the floor. Then a thought occurred to her. "Also, have them look for anything out of the usual inside her body. Just in case the murderers left any kinds of clues inside the body cavity."

"You think that's a possibility?" Zerbrowski asked quietly.

"I think anything is a possibility," Aedan replied, carefully stripping the gloves off of her hands. A crime scene tech had showed up to take her dirtied gloves and hand over a fresh pair. Aedan snapped them on with far too much ease and pulled the sheet back over the woman's corpse. She rose up and carefully made her way toward the second body. Dolph and Zerbrowski were silent, waiting for her to lift the sheet and give them her opinion.

She almost dropped back on her ass when she lifted the sheet. She'd seen his face before, at a couple of meetings the coalition had held back when she and Minette had first arrived. He was a member of the pack. But he was more than that. Aedan recalled that he'd introduced himself to her as an advocate. She knew that he spoke at length and volume about the unfair treatment that many members of the lycanthropic community received. "Terry Shores," she murmured.

"You know him?" Dolph asked.

"I met him when I took over for Anita," she replied. "He told me he was an advocate for the community."

Her words were spoken absently while she took time to study the damage done to him. There were bruises on his face and arms that shouldn't have been there. The bruises around his mouth saw he fishing her flashlight out again so that she could check his throat. The high intensity light reflected brightly off the pool of liquid silver resting at the back of his throat. Interesting. "I think the silver is used as a means to silence them. We need to dig, find out if any of the other victims were very vocal and outspoken about the preternatural community."

She could hear Zerbrowski and Dolph both scribbling on their note pads. "You think this is a way of silencing the members of the community who are out there every day, talking about equality and fairness?"

"I think its a pretty good explanation for the silver in their throats," Aedan replied, letting her gaze move down from the man's face to his neck and torso. They'd taken great pains in leaving all manner of marks in the man's skin. There was so much blood it was hard to tell, but her fingers could feel the rough edges around the wounds, letting her know that some of them had been made by silver. "They tortured him."

"Torture. Are you sure?"

"There are silver burns here. Under the blood. Silver would explain why he didn't heal these bruises. And torture makes sense if this is some kind of... revenge thing against the preternatural community. He's a vocal activist. They had to shut him up. And show others like him what happens if they open their mouths." Aedan paused and took a closer look at some of the gashes. She could see that they were deep, but there wasn't as much blood in them as others. "These look like they were made post-mortem."

"Why would he do that?" Zerbrowski frowned at that news.

"Sadism? Some twisted sense of trying to... cleanse the victim? I don't know. But the perpetrator is growing more confident that we'll never catch him. And more unstable with each kill. The level of aggression in this kill is staggering."

"You're saying something set him off?" Dolph questioned. Aedan knew for a fact that something had set him off. And she knew just what had set him off. She wasn't about to spill that information just yet. So she simply nodded and continued to study the body. It didn't look like there was anything else to be learned from it, but that didn't mean she couldn't commit the crimes committed against Terry to memory. So that she could ensure proper payback when the time was right.

"Detective!" a voice called from the stairs. Aedan could hear feet on the steps as they came down. She carefully covered the body back and up and rose to her feet. Muscles protested after being in the same position for too many minutes. The cop came off the last step and made it six paces into the basement before coming to a halt. He was carrying an evidence bag with a piece of paper tucked in it. He was also carrying another bag, this one bigger and heavier. Whatever was inside the bag was wrapped in a bloody towel. Based on the size of it, Aedan could make a pretty good guess as to what was in the towel in the bag. "Sir. We found these in an upstairs room."

Dolph was already on his way over to the beat cop, his serious face even more serious than before. Aedan made it to the beat cop first but kept her hands to herself. Let Dolph see it all first before she looked it over. He took the bag with the piece of paper in it, looked at it carefully before giving his attention back to the cop. "Where'd you find this?"

"The nursery, sir," the cop answered. Aedan took a deep breath, held on to her growing hatred and rage.

"I didn't think the Shores had a child," Zerbrowski murmured.

"That's why they cut out the uterus," Aedan said, one hand motioning to the other evidence bag.

"Does that explain the note they left?" Dolph asked, handing Aedan the bag he held. She took it and stared at the words on it. They were written in the same block letters as the note that had been clasped in young Katherine Harris' hands, written in the same bloody ink as that other note had been. The foundation of Family is Faith. Without one, you can't have the other.

"Possibly," Aedan replied. "Probably. We won't know until we find them and ask them." Which they'd never get to do, if she had her way. She handed the note back to Dolph. "Do you need me for anything else? I think I can still salvage my night and get at least the raisings done."

"I think we're done here. Thank you for coming out, Kinkade. I know this isn't how you wanted to spend your evening."

"I'm so sure its the way you wanted to spend yours. Call me if you find out anything from the medical examiner." Dolph nodded at her and involved himself in a discussion with Zerbrowski and the beat cop. It was a good thing, because Aedan wasn't in the mood to have Zerbrowski grilling her about her feelings and all that shit. She just wanted to concentrate on finding the lycanthrope killers and putting them down once and for all.

She climbed the stairs in silence, pushed her thoughts to the back of her brain so that she could have a few precious moments of peace. Jesus fuck, she was tired. Mentally and physically. Emotionally. She just wanted it all to end. Was that too much to ask for? Did everything have to rise up and fuck with her all at the same time? When was she going to catch a fucking break? Three different murders to try and solve. A job where it was becoming increasingly obvious that she was going to be a curiosity for months to come. A personal life that was so fucking confusing. Add to that the guilt and self-loathing that came with not being able to find the people responsible for so much death on her watch. For trying to kill Minette on her watch.

Thinking of the woman brought her visit to Aedan's office back with a vengeance. Minette had been so upset when she'd arrived. So worried. That had only increased over the course of their conversation. And Aedan had wanted to tell her what was going on. She'd wanted to tell her everything. But she couldn't. She couldn't tell anyone. She didn't want them to know. That it was all her fault. That she was to blame. So she'd played it cool. Kept everything bottled up inside. Watched and felt Minette grow more and more frustrated. Angrier.

It would be what she deserved if Minette never wanted to talk to her again.

The area immediately surrounding the house was a chaotic scene of strobing red and blue, the bright glare of camera lights, milling cops, mingling civilians, and menacing reporters. Uniforms were enforcing the perimeter, marked off with yellow crime scene tape, faces turned toward the on-lookers who strained their necks in the off chance they'd get to see something exciting or important. The entire area was alive with the crackle of static and tinny voices speaking in code over the radio, with the soft murmur of the gathered crowd, and with the brassy, loud speech of the reporters.

The moment Aedan appeared, the cameras swung her way. Reporters spoke into their microphones faster and even across the expanse of the house's front yard, she could see the hopeful, predatory looks the reporters wore on their faces. She swore they listened to the police band constantly in the hope that they'd be able to be on scene when the cops arrived at the latest murder. She really didn't want anything to do with them vultures. She knew exactly how the media worked, cutting and mixing and editing until they had the sound bites they liked best. The ones that sold the story with the most sensationalism. The ones that could make people look like the most capable souls in the world or the most incompetent idiots on the planet. The last thing she wanted to do was deal with them.

Maybe she could get one of the members of RPIT to run interference for her so she could get to her car without being mobbed.

She was on the verge of heading back into the house to find Zerbrowski when one of the uniforms approached her. The kid looked young, fresh out of the academy, and he looked a little green around the gills. Probably his first murder. She kind of felt bad for him. It was a really horrific scene. "Marshal Kinkade?" he asked as he drew up beside her. Aedan nodded her head even though it wasn't necessary. "I've got a guy over here who says he needs to talk to you."

The kid might have been green, but he had enough common sense to make sure that the reporters were unable to catch sight of him motioning toward a guy standing by the yellow tape but away from the crowd. The man wasn't looking at her, but his posture said he was nervous. "I should really get back to work. I've got to be at a cemetery in less than half an hour and--"

"He told me I should tell you that he saw the woman from the flier."

Aedan blinked before sending her look toward the crowd behind her. "Find me a place that's private so I can talk to him. Someplace where the reporters won't be able to see or hear us."

"Yes, ma'am," the cop nodded and headed back toward the lone figure. Aedan waited to catch his eye, then gave a brief nod. The man moved a hand before returning it to a resting position. Here was hoping that the man had some good information. And here was hoping that the young cop could find them a safe place to talk.

~*~*~*~*~

"Details are still sketchy here at the latest crime scene. Police still have no shared much information with us, but what we do know is this. The Regional Preternatural Investigative Team arrived on scene nearly an hour ago after receiving an anonymous tip about a possible crime having been committed at the house you see behind me." The reporter, a dark skinned woman with sleek hair pulled back into a bun, was facing the camera, a bulky microphone in one hand and a small notebook in the other. The blinding glare of her spotlight did little to disguise the flashing of police lights around her. And it picked out every cop moving around the area with ease.

"Of course they're still sketchy," he muttered to himself. "The police don't know anything. They have nothing to go on."

His sister, seated on the floor beside him, stared at the screen with a confused expression. "I thought we wanted them to know why we were doing this?"

"Of course we do!" he replied. It had always been his goal to make the entire world see that he was doing it a service. But he wanted them to think about it, to discover it on their owns. He didn't want to have to tell them anything. Where would the fun be in that? He had no plans to spoon feed the idiots. They had to learn to think for themselves. To stop being sheep and learn how to lead and take back their world. "But they have to figure it out for themselves! If the cops don't tell people why we're doing this, people won't start thinking!"

The reporter kept talking, telling her story without really presenting any facts about the case. As she spoke, the camera panned over the area. It showed the cops that milled about and flashed on the faces of the people in the crowd who had gathered to watch the events unfold. There were lots of cars on the street, nearly all of them some kind of emergency vehicle.

He was coming to hate the reports surrounding the murders. They were all the same. Same generic reporter telling the same generic story without a single actual detail worked in. He shouldn't be watching this shit. They never said anything he wanted to hear. But still... He kept watching. Kept waiting. Kept hoping. Hoping that something would happen, that the story would be different this time. He was always disappointed.

"Turn it off," his sister said quietly. She didn't look at him, didn't touch him. But he knew all the same what was coming. "I'm hungry."

He considered it for a moment, finger resting lightly against the button on the remote that would switch the television off. He knew better than to get his hopes up. He couldn't rely on the news to say anything important. But he knew he could rely on his sister. He knew that he could rely on her being the hungry little whore she was, that she'd eagerly take his cock. Where ever he chose to put it. Just the thought of it was enough to send blood rushing to his groin. The muscles in his finger tensed in preparation of tapping that button.

Pandemonium broke out.

"Are we getting this? Are you filming this?" the reporter asked her cameraman. There was a muffled sound, then the woman was pointing. The camera swiveled in the direction of her arm. What he saw stayed his finger. A lone figure was approaching the line of reporters, moving silently across the trampled grass toward them with a vaguely determined look on their face. "Mitch. Deena. It looks like we're going to have a statement from the authorities. I know you were about to cut to the next story, but stick with us for a few more minutes."

He could hear, only just, other reporters telling their anchors basically the same thing. The whole world froze for a handful of moments as the figure finished its trek across the lawn and moved to stand in a position where every news crew would be able to catch them on film. There were a couple seconds of silence, then voices rang out, each shouting and trying to ask questions. "Marshal Kinkade! Marshal Kinkade!"

She lifted her hands and brought the reporters to silence, face empty and pale in the glare of the lights. "Good evening, everyone. I have a brief statement to give to the press. I will not be answering any questions when I'm done."

There was a soft murmur of noise, but it was muffled and ill-defined. He couldn't be sure what had been said or who had said it. Not that it mattered. He wanted to hear what the Federal Marshal had to say.

"As you, and the public, all know, someone has been committing a series of heinous, bloody murders in the St. Louis area in recent weeks. I know very little information has been released to the press. That is a decision of the St. Louis police department and the Regional Preternatural Investigative Team. I have no plans on stepping on their toes and divulging information they have no intention of sharing. There has been speculation on the nature of the murders, on the victims, on the responsible party. I will not address that speculation and I will not confirm or deny anything the media has offered to the public. When the case is wrapped up, I expect that you will all be invited to a news conference that will hopefully shed light on these crimes."

The Federal Marshal paused here and let her gaze sweep the crowd before bringing it back to look straight into the camera before her. It happened to belong to the channel he was watching. It felt like she was staring right at him. He repressed a shiver of anticipation. "What I did come here to say is that we now have a good, solid lead on the identity of our killer. And its only a matter of time before we find them."

She paused again. Took a breath. He watched the way her breasts rose and fell under her suit coat. Felt his cock twitch in response. "More importantly, I want you to know that I will find you. I will not rest until I track you down and bring you to justice. There is no amount of penance you can do that will lift this stain from your soul. Nothing can save you now. Judgement day is coming. I hope you're ready to face it. I suggest making everything right with the powers that be. A man that was born a sinner will always be a sinner. Thank you."

With that, she turned from the camera and walked away. There was absolute silence from the crime scene for almost a full minute, then sound erupted as the reporters started speaking as one. He could hear questions and predictions happening. Only in a vague way, though. His mind was too caught up in memories to let him fully process what they were saying.

And then his rage exploded like dynamite, seeing him throw himself from his chair to put his foot through the television's screen. His sister cowered on the floor, rolled into a tight little ball with her face turned away from his anger as if she could escape it by simply not seeing it. "That... bitch! That piece of shit bitch!" he screamed. This time, he put his foot through a glass table, shattering the glass into giant shards. His sister whimpered softly and crawled away from him.

His anger saw him following her, hand reaching down with fingers curled into claws to grab her hair and pulled her head back. She whined, her hands curling around his wrist in an effort to keep him from pulling her hair from her scalp. "What can I do to help?" she asked. "Please. What can I do to help? Just don't hurt me."

"Shut up!" he snarled at her. She whimpered again, then whined when he hauled her to her feet and dragged her with him toward the dining room table. The edge cut into her thighs when he threw her down onto the flat surface, her stomach pressed against the table top. Her clothes tore loudly, no match for the rage in his hands, and she cried when he shoved himself inside of her. It was normally a sound that soothed him. But not tonight. Not after.... that. That bitch. She'd just threatened him. Oh, she'd done it subtly. And it was likely no one else would understand it to be a threat. But he knew. He knew it. She'd let him know she knew who he was. And she let him know she was hunting him.

His sister sobbed softly, face turned into the table so that he couldn't see her tears. So that he couldn't really hear her crying. He fisted his hand into her hair and pulled her head back. Slammed it into the wooden table. "You want to help? You want to help me? Help me catch her. Help me kill her. Help me end her life. Help me fucking kill her."

Why'd you come, you knew you should have stayed
I tried to warn you just to stay away
And now they're outside ready to bust
It looks like you might be one of us


(no subject)

Date: 2017-06-14 03:22 am (UTC)
cathryne: (Jean Claude 1)
From: [personal profile] cathryne
Holy freaking crap!

The shit is hitting the fan now isn't it?

Oh my god...I can not WAIT to see what happens next, especially looking forward to seeing the twins get their comeuppance. Holy crap....

Really REALLY intense (and great!) chapter sweetie! xxoo!

(no subject)

Date: 2017-06-14 04:21 pm (UTC)
nanaeanaven: Dolls of all my sues (animated) (rhiannon)
From: [personal profile] nanaeanaven
Aedan really needs to quit shutting people out. And I'm afraid it's going to get worse before it gets better. I just hope she doesn't alienate everyone in the process. *sigh*

And, oh yay! [/sarcasm] another gruesome murder scene. So happy that Aedan is on to the asshole. I'm looking forward to when he finally gets his comeuppance.
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