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  1. #101
    Alice Marshall

    Alice managed to hold it together long enough for the phone call. She didn't want to worry Katie. But they were quickly approaching a point where worrying Katie was inevitable. Alice was getting sicker and sicker. Katie didn't know - not yet. But Alice didn't think she had much time left, and she didn't want her death to be a complete shock.

    This wasn't how Alice had planned for things to go - living in an old car, surviving on odd jobs she could manage to get, and all the while illness taking over. She had planned to get a better job, something steady. Then she could get an apartment, a real place to live. Once she had a place to call home, she could finish high school. Then someday, Katie would come live with her again.

    All that seemed hopelessly out of reach now. Alice could barely get up in the morning. It was getting harder and harder to work, which meant she often didn't eat. The aching, stiffness in her joints, chills, and intermittent fever were getting worse.

    She was going to have to tell Katie soon. And then she was going to have to say goodbye.

    Maybe once Katie was in the foster home. Maybe Katie could come see her one last time.

    Of course, Katie wouldn't be there when Alice actually died. She would have to do that part alone. Alice wondered if anybody but Katie would notice she was gone. What did they do with you if you died with no one who could claim you? She didn't even really have a name to call her own - a first name from her first adoptive family, and a last name from her last one. None of them around anymore... but maybe that was for the best. Only one person would be burdened by her death.

    She needed to rest, so she'd be ready when Katie called back. She never knew what time of day or night that would be. Alice didn't mind, though. It was something to look forward to.
    "Sleep to dream, and we dream to live..." -Great Big Sea

  2. #102
    James O'Brien
    Hollywell, Fog Island


    James ran the phone number through an internet search engine. It was a landline, connected to a house just off the Cliff Road. The owners of the house were listed as Hirsch and Sara Fishblatt.

    Sloppy, Gilda, James thought. Uncharacteristically sloppy. You shouldn't have hidden your boyfriend under your own assumed surname. You're making this almost too easy.

    He drove up the Cliff Road and parked the car in a field about a half mile from where the GPS said the house would be. Up the hill in the other direction, he could see what he knew to be the Moonlight Motel sign through the trees.

    Audacious, for Kraus to be lurking so near a place where Gilda's husband frequented. How had they not crossed paths? Either Gilda was insanely lucky... or the husband was in on it too. The latter thought made James sick.

    James hiked through the woods to the house. It was dark out, and a light was on inside, so James could see the man perfectly without being seen. The man...

    The man wasn't Kraus.

    Even James, in the habit of seeing what he wanted to see, had to admit that. The man was older than Kraus would have been when turned, and a few inches shorter. His hair was dark, unlike strawberry blond Kraus. Hair could be dyed, of course, but eyes could not... and these eyes were definitely brown. The face shape and features were all wrong. And though the man wore a beard, James was fairly sure that the cheek lacked the dueling scars that Kraus - as an officer of a certain age and social class - had proudly sported.

    It wasn't Kraus. It couldn't be.

    James swore and slunk away, cursing himself for his own arrogance. He should have gone through the phone more carefully, instead of throwing it away at the first sign of a lead. By now, it was probably too late to retrieve it.

    Well, he would have to shift to a different tactic. James got back in the car.
    Last edited by Monkey Kitty; 11-08-2019 at 12:57 PM.

  3. #103
    Paladin Quaxo9 is offline Quaxo9's Avatar
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    Riff

    The plane ride had been reasonably serene, except for the knowledge that they were travelling to a different continent and possibly joining a Lycan community that he knew nothing about. Issac had sounded like a nice guy on the phone - even had a wife - and Riff was reasonably certain that if Declan's mom was as nice as her son, then this friend of hers was probably a decent guy too. There was probably nothing to worry about. Unfortunately, though Riff was an optimist, experience had taught him to be a realist. There was no truly safe place. There was no perfect life. But, he could work hard to make the place and life they had as much safe and perfect as he could.

    Stepping out onto the tarmac, Riff took in a deep breath, pulling in every scent he could. Only a couple of Lycans on the breeze - and one was right in front of them. It had to be Isaac. The grin spread naturally across, Riff's face even as he squeezed Maria's shoulder as if to say 'Don't worry - see? These are great people. It's going to be okay.'.

    "Good to finally meet you, Issac. This is Maria and Sofie. We'd be happy to...get things settled." He could only assume that they were about to find out the rules and regulations of this new Pack. Hopefully they'd align with their own set of morals, else they'd be hitchhiking to the mainland.
    Winner of the dubious Vaarsuvius Award for Verbousness!

    I support altruism.

  4. #104
    Isaac Fishblatt

    "I won't keep you talking long," Isaac assured them. "You've had a long journey, and you must be exhausted and eager to settle in. I'm sure you also have questions about this place, though - and I should answer a few of the more important ones so you know what to expect."

    Once the children were being cared for in the gym, Isaac sat down with Riff, Maria, and sleeping Sofie on a bench outside, out of human earshot.

    "As I'm sure you know from your travels, Lycan Packs vary considerably in their expectations. I'll tell you a bit about ours. We're good neighbors. We don't start trouble. We live side by side with humans, and we do them no harm. This island does not have a permanent Vampire presence that we know of, but we get travelers passing through - and we let them go on their way undisturbed unless they cause harm. No one here is interested in war with them. Any personal conflict you may have with the 'Bloods,' it will need to be set aside if you join us. Likewise, most of the local Fae prefer to be left alone, and we do so. Obviously if you are attacked, you are free to defend yourself - or to defend others who cannot - but we are not instigators. We have no desire to bring violence to this place."

    He smiled briefly at the sleeping child.

    "Our Pack is like a family. We help and support each other, and that will include the three of you, if you choose to stay. Obviously we have some ground rules about who may join that family, for the safety of all. We aren't thugs, nor are we animals. This is not a place for those who choose to use their Lycan nature as an excuse to murder, or rape, or plunder. Basic decent conduct is required. It's really that simple."

    "So," Isaac said. "I'll let you think about whether this is something you can live with. If not, no hard feelings - you may stay for a few days as our guests until you find a place more to your liking. If it is... I have just one question for you, Riff, and it's this: what is your top priority? I am also happy to answer any questions you may have for me in return."

  5. #105
    Paladin Quaxo9 is offline Quaxo9's Avatar
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    Riff

    Isaac may have started to wonder about Riff as he described the Lycan community of Fog Island and could see the man's face break into a wider and wider grin, despite briefly looking somewhat disappointed about the local Fae wanting to be left alone. How lucky were they? To find a place similar to where they'd left so many years ago - well, at least in spirit. There were no vampires, hybrids or Fae in the pack, which was a distinct difference. But, there was nothing saying that couldn't change. By now, Isaac must have noticed that Maria and Sofie were Fae, much like his wife. Riff hoped Gilda and Maria would get along.

    Riff realized that he should probably say something. He chuckled lightly at himself, grin never dipping.

    "Honestly, these two right here are my top priority. Isaac, your community sounds great. We came from one that was pretty similar four years ago - except that we lived with all groups. There were humans, vampires, hybrids, Fae of every kind and mages too! We've really been missing the security of a good community. There are a couple things we need to let you know about." He took a deep breath, "We have reason to believe that Maria has been exposed on social media as being Fae. We realize that this could be an...issue. I've worked for years getting people Underground and I can do it again with us, but boy, it would be really nice to get to stay in one place for awhile. I hope we can make things work."

  6. #106
    Isaac Fishblatt

    Isaac was pleased by Riff's reaction to learning about their peaceful lifestyle. Not all Lycans found that appealing. It was always nice to meet someone seemingly like-minded. Maria was harder to read, but Isaac didn't blame her. No doubt she was frightened and overwhelmed.

    "I would love to see our little family become more diverse," he said with a smile. "Perhaps that is something you can help us with, if you choose to stay. In the meantime - Maria, please don't think that you and Sofie will be excluded, or treated as second rate. As you saw, my wife is Fae also. We are equals in this Pack, Lycan or not."

    It was obvious to Isaac's nose that Sofie was Maria's biological child, but not Riff's. He didn't ask about that. It was none of his business. His only role in this was to reassure them that their whole family was welcome.

    Isaac smiled and nodded when Riff answered the question about his priorities. "Good," he said. "I always like to hear that a Lycan has their priorities in order. Family is truly most important. I appreciate your honesty about the exposure. I already knew about it - Sue told me that was the reason for urgency here - but it speaks well of you that you were forthright. I've discussed it with the others, and we have agreed that the risk is an acceptable one."

    In fact, the conversation within the Pack had been a far less clinical one than a mere assessment of risk. Isaac was not the sort of leader who made major decisions unilaterally, but he had spoken strongly in favor of taking the chance. He had no intention of living in the past - but the past still had echoes. It could not be far from his mind that during the war that had so altered his family's lives, countless more could have been saved if they had not been turned away when they merely sought refuge. Isaac did not intend to make the same mistake... and he was proud that his Pack didn't either.

    "Riff," Maria said softly, speaking up for the first time. Her voice was hesitant and shaky. "I think we need to take them up on it. Before the opportunity passes and we lose this chance..."

    But Isaac shook his head and told Maria comfortingly, "The offer doesn't expire. Sleep on it. Talk about it privately. See the way you'd be living with your own eyes. I don't need a commitment tonight. Wait till you're both sure. I'll take you back to the motel, and you can get settled..."

    Isaac's phone rang, and he glanced at the screen. "Excuse me," he said. "I need to take this."

    He swiped the screen and put the phone to his ear. "Hello, Papa," he said.

    Riff's Lycan hearing would surely pick up both sides of the conversation as the older man replied, "Hello, Isaac. I'm sorry to bother you at a busy time, but I wanted to let you know that I think Gilda's phone has been stolen. We just received a crank call from her number."

    "Thank you," Isaac replied. "I'll let her know, and we'll get it taken care of."

    Such thefts were not common on their little island, but every now and then it happened. It would be a simple matter of canceling her line and heading to the city to replace her phone...

    "Isaac, there's something else. What the man said when he called. He asked for... for that doctor..."

    Isaac's blood ran cold. He didn't need to ask what doctor his father meant. This had suddenly taken on a seriousness beyond a missing phone. Isaac was visibly shaken.

    "Isaac? Are you still there?"

    "Yes, Papa. Thank you for the information. We'll get it sorted out."

    "You're welcome. Oh, and Isaac? Did you get a chance to ask Gilda if she's free for dinner tomorrow?"

    "I did, and she is. She said she'll bring a pie."

    "Excellent. We'll see you both tomorrow. And... please be careful, son."

    "I will. Good night, Papa."

    Isaac turned back to Riff and Maria with a smile that couldn't quite hide his tension. "I'm afraid we'll need to have a change of plans," Isaac said. "My wife is having a problem with a stalker, and as I'm sure you heard, the theft of her phone is concerning as a result. I'll arrange transportation back to the motel for you while I make another attempt to get to the bottom of it."
    Last edited by Monkey Kitty; 11-22-2019 at 11:48 AM.

  7. #107
    Gilda and Isaac Fishblatt

    It was easy to find Gilda's purse where it had been discarded. It smelled of her - and of the stranger who had broken into their home. Isaac mentally berated himself for holding his conversation outside, too far away for him to catch the scent in time. By now the man was long gone... and Gilda, fortunately, was not. At least the man had only taken her phone, and not her.

    He found her alone in the stairwell. Gilda sat with her arms wrapped around herself, staring into space. Isaac could guess the reason - another almost-but-not-quite familiar scent he had picked up in the hall, and then inquiries he made as a result.

    "I assume you saw the Siren child?" he asked gently, sitting down beside her on the step. When she nodded, he said. "I thought so. I recognized the scent and asked around about her."

    "She's fourteen," Gilda said softly. "Fourteen was... such a hard year for me. I wish for her it could be different. I wish she was happy. But she's not. It's so obvious how much pain she's in." She added hastily, lest he think she was trying to drag him into this vortex too, "I know there's nothing we can do. We'll just have to hope they find her a nice family. By this age, she'll be carrying a lot of trauma already. That won't be easy. And we're having a baby. We have to stay out of it, obviously."

    "Are you trying to convince yourself, or me?" Isaac asked, slipping his arm around her.

    "Myself."

    "Okay, because I completely disagree. I think we might be the right family for her. We know what she needs. We can make her feel safe. She can learn from you how to control her gifts. Yes, there's the matter of your pregnancy, but by the time the baby is born, she'll have had some time to settle in. I'm not saying it'll be easy. But I really think we can do this. I think we should at least consider it."

    Gilda's breath caught in her throat, and for a moment she just stared at him. "You... you really want to do that?" she asked haltingly. "After all these years you've spent dealing with me - my problems, my baggage, my fears - you wouldn't find it too much of a burden to do this for her?"

    Isaac shook his head and kissed her. "You aren't a burden, Gil. Never. I'm a lucky man, that you chose me. And she won't be a burden either."

    She buried her face against his chest, not quiet crying but taking ragged gulps of air. Isaac had always been a kind and generous man, but this was an incredible act of love. She had been prepared to spend the rest of her life fearing for this poor child's future - but now she wouldn't have to, because Isaac wanted to help too. Isaac wanted to make the world less terrifying and lonely for another Siren. It was going to be alright.

    ***

    By the time she met back up with Riff, Maria, and Sofie, Gilda had pulled herself together - and panicked when Isaac had to break the news about her phone and the caller's ominous words - and pulled herself together again.

    She greeted them with a smile, and a hello in her pleasant, soft German accent. More noticeable than Issac's accent, which was barely detectable.

    Keisha had agreed to drive all four of them (plus Pepper) back to Hollywell while Isaac made another attempt to track down the unknown Lycan. Without a Lycan sense of smell there was no way Gilda could be of help, and as the Pack's only medical professional Keisha typically did not get directly involved in such matters - it wasn't worth the risk of the only person who could effectively treat injuries getting injured herself.

    Gilda showed Riff and Maria's family to the apartment they would be staying in. A short time later, she returned with dog food, dog dishes, a dog bed - and heartfelt embarrassed apologies that she had not originally realized their guests included a dog. When she had made sure they had everything they needed at least for the night, Gilda left the tired travelers to get some rest.

  8. #108
    James O'Brien

    James, on the other hand, wasted no time. This was an opportunity that did not often present itself - a way to gain access to the Pack without his own exposure, since his scent was by now surely known - and he needed to take full advantage of that potential before the newcomer Lycan developed loyalties here.

    As soon as the door to the Fishblatt cottage locked behind Gilda and Keisha, James walked quickly down the path to the main building and started lobbing tiny stones at the apartment window. Plink, plink, plink.

    As he saw the shade draw and Riff's face appear to investigate, James pointed to the porch, then sat and waited.

    He didn't expect to be invited in. The newcomer would be a fool let a stranger that close to his partner and child. They could talk out here in the darkness; James had already helpfully unscrewed the porch light bulb.

    When Riff appeared on the porch, James said in a low voice. "I'm here to warn you. These people aren't what you think. This place may look pretty on the surface, but it's all an act. That woman who just left? Gilda? She's a Nazi. Her secret boyfriend is a terrible war criminal, and at least some here are conspiring with her to hide him. Do I have your attention? If so, I'd be happy to offer proof."

  9. #109
    Isaac Fishblatt

    Once again, trying to track the intruder proved fruitless, much to Isaac's frustration. They had followed the man's circuitous route through the school and to the parking lot, but there the trail faded and ended - the obvious conclusion being that he had gotten in a car. If so, he was lost to them. Again.

    Isaac was about to admit defeat and head home to join Gilda, but as he was taking one last hopeless pass by the school, he heard an adult loudly berating a child. Concerned, he went back inside, only to see one of the staff waving something in the Siren girl's face. A second glance revealed that it was Gilda's stolen phone, now with a broken screen.

    The girl did not appear to be at all cowed. With her arms crossed defensively, she yelled back, "I did not steal it. I told you. I found it!"

    "That's a ridiculous lie!" the worker replied. "People don't just throw away phones. I'm calling the police, and then there will be consequences..."

    The girl turned pale. "Please. Don't have them lock me up. Please..."

    Isaac stepped between them. "Excuse me," he said "I couldn't help but overhear. The girl is telling the truth. The phone belongs to my wife, and the person who stole it made a call to my parents. It was an adult male, not a teenage girl. She probably found it after he tossed it away."

    The worker looked unconvinced. "But the girl had the phone in her possession. If your wife wants to press charges..."

    Isaac shook his head. "I'll tell her, but I assure you, she won't. Thank you for finding the phone for us, Katie. The matter is closed, then. I think it's time for these children to get some sleep - don't you?"

    He smiled at Katie, and headed back to the car. There was nothing more he could do tonight. Going forward, though, he was all the more determined to make sure Katie ended up in a safe home.

  10. #110
    Gilda and Isaac Fishblatt

    Isaac arrived home not long after - but by then a light rain had obscured the scent of James enough that Isaac did not note the other Lycan's passage when he arrived, nor did Keisha as she left.

    Gilda was grateful that her friend had stayed until Isaac got there - being alone at night hadn't seemed wise under the circumstances, and Keisha was good company - but she was relieved that Isaac was home. It didn't matter that he was returning empty-handed except for her broken phone; what mattered was him being there, safe and uninjured.

    Her dreams didn't treat her as kindly as reality had, once she and Isaac had gone to bed and she had finally drifted off. The nightmares were old ones - sleep terrors that had receded over the years but were always ready to rise back to the surface when something stirred them up. Tonight, a phone call had done that.

    Gilda dreamed of concentration camps. Of piles of bodies and heaps of ash. A hospital basement. Isaac curled up on the floor, starved and barely alive. She tried to call his name, but she was mute and unable to move. Then Kraus, putting a gun to Isaac's head and pulling the trigger. Smoke and ash rising from a chimney...

    "Gilda? Gilda! Wake up, sweetheart. It was just a dream."

    She woke out of breath, tears streaming down her cheeks. Her throat was sore - she must have been screaming. This hadn't happened in awhile... but Isaac remembered the need to calm her fears. He could guess what she had been dreaming about.

    "You're alright?" she asked weakly.

    "I'm fine, Gil," he said, wrapping his arms around her and kissing her forehead. "Just a dream."

    She leaned into him, resting her head on his chest. From that position, she could easily hear his heartbeat and his breathing. She could reassure herself that he was truly alright.

    The demons of the past had been conjured up again. Gilda hoped they could soon be laid to rest.
    Last edited by Monkey Kitty; 11-28-2019 at 07:48 PM.

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