February 10, 2010

Totems and Liquor

"Bale hound?" I leaned back against the car, not quite comprehending why Ori was so distraught.
Ori was slowly calming himself down, the questions helped, gave him something to focus on. "A werewolf that makes a deal with spirits of the not so nice variety."
"Oh, the ones Tommy was talking about. He told us he'd heard unsubstantiated rumors.. that they were worse then Pure.. usually malevolent, destructive and evil." I related from the phone conversation I'd had with him after the spirit had busted out of the computer screen.
Ori nodded emphatically. "Making deals with spirits like that usually leads down that path. Personally I wasn't even sure they existed. Most Uratha will tell you they don't, that they're just an urban myth." He paused, and seemed to come to some resolution to an internal conflict. "But we have to do something. The leader of the Architects of Steel is a fucking bale hound for Christ's sake. Her pack has to be told.. I mean, they're being led by a traitor!" He said as though he still couldn't bring himself to believe it. He wasn't outraged.. not yet. But I could see it building behind his eyes.

But I was skeptical that it was even an issue for us. "She seems to be doing good work.. she wants to make the city better.. what's the negative outcome of this? You'll have to forgive me, I'm not really familiar with the werewolf mindset."
It was actually Giovanni who responded. "Its like Nobody here working for the court then it turns out, he was an agent of the Fae the whole time."
I nodded slowly, slightly distubred that I understood the changeling simile better than the werewolf actuality.. "Ah. So what are the ramifications?"
Ori sighed and rubbed his eyes. "She may succeed in getting the city perfect, but that kind of deal? She'll probably succeed in perfection the way Hitler tried to. Chicago will be the prettiest, most perfect SCAR you've ever seen."
Maybe I should do more research on the werewolf end of things. Thankfully, Ori had already explained the concept of the spiritual scar and how it effected reality. "Probably what the killer has hanging over her then?" I suggested.
"Probably." Giovanni answered.
I shook my head, something was off. "But are they working together or is he blackmailing her? If he's ridden, why would he be working against her?" We were missing something.. something important.
Gio shrugged. "Who says the majlin get along? Could be a power struggle."
Nobody, who was sitting on the roof of the car, spoke up. "So what do we do to take her out?"
Everyone was quiet.

"We could take it to Volkas, ask his opinion." Nobody suggested.
Giovanni grimaced. "I doubt that's a good idea. Couldn't this start a big war among the werewolves?" He asked, looking at Ori, who just nodded gravely.

I was just getting annoyed. I leaned back, half sitting on the hood of the car, arms crossed over my chest and gave everyone a slightly irritated glare. Everyone seemed to be missing the most significant part of this little piece of information.  "Lets slow down. All we have is the word of a fucking beshilu.. we need to corroborate the information before we go doing a damn thing." I saw a brief flash of hope on Ori's face, that maybe the beshilu had been lying. I saw it die just as quickly as he calculated the possibility of that. I ignored it and continued."...and I think we're missing a very important point here." I looked at Ori and gave a humorless smile, tinged with mild scorn. "Forgive me for saying..but I don't give a shit about the werewolf power structure. What I care about is getting my hands on this serial killer.. and right now there is one person who has information about our serial killer." Everyone looked at me expectantly. I was a little surprised no one else had come to this conclusion yet. "This may sound foolhardy, not that that's unusual for us, but we need to get that information from that person."

Giovanni eyed me suspiciously and asked the question I think he'd already figured the answer to. "Who."
I smirked at him, reveling in their confusion, and pulled one of the surveillance photos out of my pocket and held it up. "Who do you think?"
His expression didn't change. He'd known what I was getting at. "You're insane."
My smirk was more than slightly sardonic and I said, "That's been said before.. but I'm also right. We need information that she has." Everyone just stared at me, so I continued. "The question is how to get it from her. We could attempt blackmail..show the pictures, tell her we know her secret to get her to meet with us, but we need to be sure its TRUE first."

Giovanni rolled his eyes at me and my smug expression, giving me a fantastic impersonation of my own 'you're a fucking idiot' look. "That sounds like a god awful idea. She'll just kill us."
I shrugged and put the photo away. "Either way, our first step is to verify the source. So how the fuck do we do that?"

Ori looked thoughtful for a moment, then spoke with a bit of hesitation. "Well.. if shes made an oath to this majlin, she doesn't have an oat to her tribal totem. The tribal totem would know if we asked him about it."
I quirked a brow. More werewolf lingo I was clueless about.."Totem?"
"Totems are powerful spirits who have tied themselves to certain werewolves..or in this case, a certain tribe. The Iron Master's totem is Sagrim-Ur, Red Wolf.. basically seen as the progenitor of the tribe. If Citysmith's not oath bound to him any more then he would be able to verify it." Ori explained.
"Why wouldn't he have done anything about it?" Nobody asked.
"She's at least been paying lip service.. it could be that she's made a point to avoid him. There are a lot of Iron Masters.. Red Wolf doesn't exactly sit around and constantly monitor every single one." Ori said with a shrug.
"And you can talk to this spirit?" I asked, again skeptical. It sounded like it had to be a powerful one, and I knew that Ori wasn't like Tommy- he wasn't an Ithaeur.
Ori looked nervous. "I can try. but I'll need help. I don't know where to look for Red Wolf. I'm not an Iron Master, or an Ithaeur." He paused, then sighed heavily, looking increasingly more agitated. "I gotta call someone."
I narrowed my eyes suspiciously. "Who?"
"The Whispers." He pulled out his phone and started dialing.
"Be vague." I said blandly. Weren't we trying to keep this under wraps?

I heard a tired voice answer on the other end of the phone. I recognized it as Sleepless William, one of the werewolves who'd helped us with Pain of Animal.
"Hey William! you sound tired, you sleepin' ok?" Ori said, way too cheerfully.
The voice was now tired..and annoyed. "Fuckin.. what do you want?"
I gave Giovanni an incredulous look and muttered, "Really? This guy is an idiot."
Ori just gave me a sheepish smile and kept talking.
"I need a favor.. I need to talk to the Red Wolf.. can you help? I need to ask him..."
"Hold on."
There was a shuffling noise, and a new voice came on the line, a much more awake voice.
"Hey Mike."
"You need to talk to Sagrim-Ur? When?" Mike sounded curious.
"As soon as possible." Ori said.
"Okay, meet me at 234 South Halsted in 20 minutes."

We all got into the car and headed in that direction. We'd probably get there in just under 20 minutes, so we didn't have much time to discuss the situation.
"You need to be vague when they ask why." I said from the front seat without looking back at Ori.
"I cant.. they'll want to know. Look, they're known for KNOWING things, they'll be cool." Ori responded, trying to sound reassuring. It didn't work.
"This isn't a normal secret." I snapped, turning around to glare at him.
"If I don't tell they may not help us." Ori stated matter of factly. Well shit.
Nobody rolled his eyes at Ori. "Let me give you a lesson you'll need to learn soon enough."
Ori turned in his seat and leaned in close to Nobody, giving him rapt attention with a mockingly eager face. "Oooo A lesson? Please! tell me! Because you seem to know SO MUCH about werewolves! I'm dying to know!"

I let out a bark of surprised laughter and looked at Giovanni, who was chuckling to himself.  "You know what I said about him earlier? I rescind my previous statement." I said.
"Ori, you're alright." Gio said with a grin.
Nobody looked sullen, and didn't try to finish his thought. I turned to Ori, expression now serious, but a ghost of amusement remained. "This could start war, remember?"
Ori threw his hands up in frustration. I finally saw the anger in his eyes. And the betrayal. I knew what that felt like. That look, more than anything, made me take his next words more seriously.

"Look. Every day I don't tell someone, is another day this city is being run by the enemy. I have a moral obligation to tell someone. I have to. I'm going to." He met my gaze, and his expression was set and determined, if not a little scared. He was challenging me, waiting for me to disagree with him.
I studied his face for a moment and gave a curt now. "Your call." He looked mildly surprised that I wasn't going to argue with him. He'd been prepared to dig his heels in and defend his position. I'd caught him off guard.

We pulled up to the address and it was a construction site. Equipment lay scattered randomly around, looking like oversized toys in the moonlight. Mike was leaning against his car waiting for us.
"Mind if I bring the bodyguards?" Ori said, trying to make his voice joking and light hearted, but there was an undercurrent of nervousness. However, I couldn't tell if it was caused by the conversation he was about to have with the totem, or something else. Out of curiosity, I started monitoring his aura. Like all werewolves I'd seen, it was crazy with emotion. I really had no idea how they didn't down right explode from all the pent up emotional turmoil.

We headed into the construction site and stood in front of the buildings framework. Steel girders rose in front of us like an eerie, metal skeleton. Mike pulled out a long steel blade that was surprisingly dull. He slammed it again the beams and dragged it downward, causing a loud ringing noise to assault our ears. He sheathed the knife, nodded to Ori, and walked back towards the car.

Ori looked up and his aura flickered with colors of nervousness, fear, and resolve, among other things. The rest of us exchanged a glanced and pulled out our goggles, slipping them on. The ringing turned into a piercing howl, and the biggest red wolf I'd ever seen was standing in front of us. And by big, I mean several STORIES tall. We were going to get neck cramps staring up at the fucker. He didn't seem happy, but then, I would probably be annoyed too if people like us disturbed me.

Ori exhaled, then jumped right into the fire. I suppose there was no point hedging around the issue. "We were told that Olivia Citysmith has made an oath to Lamashtu." The response was immediate. Red Wolf let loose a howl of pure, unadulterated RAGE. It rang in my ears, crawled down my spine and overall scared the ever loving shit out of me. But amid the fear was the realization that his howl would not have been so angry if the information hadn't been true. All he needed was for someone to inquire, and he'd done whatever it was totems did to verify the information. Ori knew it too. His aura flashed with rage, disappointment, and terror.

Red Wolf seemed to speak in more than one voice, because before the howl had even died on his muzzle he was demanding more information. His voice was deep and growling, and resounded more in my head than in my ears. "Where do you get this information?"
"One of the Beshilu." Ori answered. We all felt the waves of anger undulating from the huge spirit. I made a mental note to never piss him off.
"Pay the spirit in kind." The totem growled, and slowly faded from our vision. We stripped off our goggles and traded glances, eyes showing a little too much white.

"Did he just order you to kill Olivia Citysmith?" Nobody asked.
Ori took a deep breath. "Yup."
I rubbed my eyes with my thumb and forefinger. "Fantastic."

We walked back to the cars, and Mike was slumped against his, hell of his hand pressed against his temple.
Ori's aura flared with nervousness again. Interesting..

"So you're probably wondering what that's about." Ori started.
Mike winced and stood up straight. "He told me.. holy shit. OW."
"What should we do. " Ori asked, helplessly.
"I know what I'm going to do, what you do is your choice." Mike said, pulling out his car keys.
"I need advice." Ori said, slightly desperately.
Mike sighed and consider Ori for a moment. "Well you can't accuse her, you're a nobody, no offense.. I can't do it because I'm part of one of the packs vying for the city. Only other option is to convince her pack."
Easier said than done.. how do you convince a pack that they've been being led by the enemy for years? I haven't observed werewolves to be immune to the powers of denial.
Ori frowned. "Will they take the word of Sagrim-Ur?"
Mike shrugged. "The iron masters will. But the whole pack isn't iron master. My recommendation? Focus on Yussef Mahudi, her pet murderer."
"Is he Iron Master?"
"No, he's Rahu Blood Talon."
Ori winced. "Shit. Thanks for your help."
"Good luck." And he left, probably to start raising the alarm and plan for battle.


We all stood there, watching him drive away, not having the first clue on what to do. The tension was high, frustrations were high, but somewhere in there was a feeling of determination. We'd faced more difficult problems.. I think.

After a few moments of silence, Ori broke it, clapping his hands together and looking at us.
"Anyone want a drink?"
I felt a small smirk creep up onto my face. "That's a dangerous question."
Ori's eyes went wide and he covered his mouth in mock surprise. "Oh my GOD, was that a joke?"
Nobody shook his head emphatically. "No way!"
Giovanni mirrored his expression. "Couldn't be. Her sense of humor died with her remember?"
I flipped them all off, turning slowly to show them all (even Becca, who had remained silent, but couldn't keep the grin off her face) "You guys need new material." I said.
And just like that, the tension was broken. The worries were still there. We were still clueless, but it was pushed to the back of our minds, replaced by that determination and resolute attitude, with the undercurrent of foolhardiness that was becoming our trademark.

We got back in the car, and at Ori's suggestion, headed to the Hair of the Dog. I was getting pretty sick of werewolves, but it was a place we could talk and not worry much. No one at the Hair of the Dog was likely to give a shit about anything. Besides, Southpaw still owed us a favor.

We went to the bar and ordered. Everyone but me and Ori ordered something full of liquor. This was one of those times that I really wished alcohol still effected me. A stiff rum and coke sounded therapeutic right about now. I couldn't remember the last time I had a rum and coke, even before I died, and it not taste like a goddamn whiskey sour. Fucking ghosts.

When the bartender looked at Ori, he said, "Uhh.. Dos XX I guess."
Nobody looked at him incredulously, holding his whiskey and coke. "That's not beer. It's Mexican piss."
I leaned back against the bar, resting my elbows on its polished surface, facing the rest of the room. "For once, the man has a point."
Ori gestured at me with his 'beer' "Oh? And what would you like to drink Harper? Oh wait!"
I gave him the finger. Again. I pushed off the bar to grab a table in the back of the room, acting indignant. I had to give him credit, he could be pretty quick witted. It was damn amusing sometimes.

Once we were all situated, Gio decided to get back to business. "So what do we do about her?"
I frowned and leaned back in my chair, one hand on the table playing with my empty cocktail napkin. "Once again, you're all missing the point. We need the information that she has. If we kill her, assuming we even can, we lose the only lead we have on this fucking serial killer. And I don't know about you guys, but I don't give a shit about werewolf politics. I care about tearing this mother fucker's throat out."
"And how exactly do you propose we get information out of her?" Gio asked, voice dripping with sarcasm and mild frustration.
I shrugged, tossing the crumpled napkin to the middle of the table. "Blackmail... I just don't know how to keep her from shifting and eating our faces."
"What about the equalizer grenades Valkyrie has?" Gio asked. I just gave him a confused look. "Theo said they had grenades that stopped werewolves from shifting. Equalizer grenades." Gio explained.
But Ori shot that down quickly. "Look, she's an Ithaeur. What you need to worry about isn't her shifting, its her making the entire building EAT US. That's her place of power."

"So we get her out to the countryside. Tell her we know what she is, and she needs to meet us or else we'll spill her little secret to everyone. Of course, we need to do it before she realizes we already have.." I suggested.
Gio threw his hand in a dismissive gesture. "She won't come. She'll send people to kill us."
"Dead man's trigger. We die.. info goes out." I countered.
"Harper, shes got more resources than we do, by far.. and shes insane! She'll just kill us! Dead man's trigger or not, we'll be dead! That kinda defeats the purpose of the whole thing. And if not then, she'll kill us later."
I scowled. Fuckin.. I had no idea what to do. How would we get her to talk?

"What if we offered to hide her from the other werewolves?" Nobody asked as he sipped his drink.
Ori winced. "Seriously?"
Nobody gave a nasty smile. "I never said how long we'd hide her for..."
But I shook my head. "Doesn't matter. She's too proud. She won't go for it. She made an oath to Lamashtu, afterall..."

We all fell silent again, brooding over the problem at hand. I felt like we were going at this from all the wrong angles. I decided to start over. I drummed my fingers on the table and looked at Ori. "Ori.. tell me everything you know about Citysmith. Anything at all you can think of, as little as you think it may be." There had to be something we could use to our advantage.

Ori took a swig of his 'beer' and rubbed the back of his neck, trying to concentrate. "Uh.. she's trying to make Chicago perfect.. too perfect if you ask me.. she's really proud," he rolled his eyes because of the obviousness of his statement, but I encouraged him to continue. I didn't want him to leave anything out that he may feel was obvious that the rest of us may not know.
Ori continued. "Well.. she's gorgeous.. like really gorgeous, and very, VERY vain from what I've heard."
This turned the conversation in another direction. Nobody began making inane comments about werewolf beauty pageants, but I wasn't really listening. I blocked it all out and tried to think. There had to be something here. Vanity.. pride. There had to be some way to exploit that. Flattery would be useless... how did we get her to see us? Hell, all we needed was to be in the same room with her without her trying to claw our eyes out and I could at least dig into her head.

I wasn't even in the bar anymore.. I had block everything out, too deep in my own thoughts..Pride.. vanity..

Oh shit.

I sat bolt upright in my chair, causing the others to fall silent and look at me expectantly.
"Gio, you're an arrogant ass right? Pride and all that?" I asked, a smirk starting at the corning of my mouth.
Gio lifted an eyebrow at me, but answered, "Pride goeth before destruction."
My smirk turned more devious. "Exactly. So we use her vanity." I paused, Giovanni gestured for me to continue, eyes skeptical even before I'd finished my idea. "Tell me, how would it speak to her pride to have someone equally proud ask her.. beseech her even.. for help? Say.. a member of the proud Santore family who she vies against for control of Chicago?"
Everyone was quiet, but looked thoughtful. Giovanni still looked skeptical.
"Are you talking about me or someone else?" He asked. I could tell he didn't like the idea, but not because it was a bad one, more because it involved asking Citysmith for anything.
I leaned back again and shrugged. "Well, you, I suppose, unless you have a better idea."
He heaved a pained sigh."Fine. Ill do it. Lets hear the plan."

That wilted the edges of my smug smirk. "That's really it for now. ask her for her help with the serial killer...or something else to get us up to see her and keep her from automatically killing us.."  I trailed off. I didn't have more than that.
Giovanni's expression went thoughtful, like he was daydreaming, or remembering something important. Then, his eyes refocused and he took on a nasty, smug grin of his own and stood to leave.  "I need to make a call. I'll see you guys later."
I frowned at him. "Where are you going?"
"Family business. I just remembered I'm related to a girl who really enjoys fighting dirty." He took out his phone and started towards the door. I could hear the phone conversation as he left.

"Hey Bella, I need your help."
"Wait. Wait.. I'm relishing this. The proud Giovanni coming to me for help..."
"It will help you take down Citysmith..."
There was a sharp intake of breath. "You've got my attention."

Giovanni started telling her about what was going on as he walked out. The rest of us exchanged glances, coming to a mutual decision, and followed him out.

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