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  1. #111
    Paladin Quaxo9 is offline Quaxo9's Avatar
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    Riff - that afternoon

    It was pure joy watching Sofie look out the window at the landscape and marvel at the new things she saw. Riff held Maria's hand and felt a deep settling of his heart as the fear melted away from her. A home. They were going to have a home again. One he hoped wouldn't suffer the same fate as their last. As much as he was a positive person, it was hard to ignore the pangs of worry that if it could happen once, it could happen again. Either way, he'd be with his family and while he could hope for the best, he could certainly continue to safeguard their future.

    The pack owning a motel was most clever. It kept new people centralized while dispersing the pack to avoid detection. Very clever. He was equally apologetic and embarrassed over the dog...issue. Riff admitted that the night of, he'd forgotten about Pepper, who was safely back at the hotel while the rest of them investigated the school. The admission meant that he also owed Pepper an apology, which he issued immediately, bringing Sofie to giggle at the silly notion. Thanking Gilda, they promised to check in the next day.

    He had been looking forward to settling in for the night and maybe getting some shut eye. It'd been a long week and really, things were just getting started. He wasn't about to sit back and ride along on this Pack's coattails. He needed to look for work - and for permanent housing for them all - Sofie would need to get ready to go to a new school - so much to do. *plink* That was a weird sound. *plink* It sounded like a pebble being thrown at a window. *plink* His window. Riff peeked through the curtain and saw a slim man gesture to him from the woods. Okay. Time to meet the neighbours...but what kind of neighbour threw rocks at a window as a form of introduction? He was pretty sure he could handle things in the event something went sideways, but he still cautioned Maria about the impromptu meeting he was about to attend. As he left the bedroom, he pulled the phone from the the kitchenette into the room...just in case.

    Riff took a deep breath before stepping outside. The other man was a Lycan, as he expected. Though, considering what Isaac had told him about the Pack, he was a little surprised about the man's methods. Every group had its odd ducky. Then the man begin to speak. Make that a very odd ducky. Riff stared at him for a moment, trying to figure out what to say. On one hand, he could dismiss the guy as some crazy hack and go back inside, but he knew that wasn't the right choice. The man was sincere. He truly believed what he said. And if he believed that...he could be a friend, or he could also be very dangerous. He'd overheard what had happened with Gilda's phone and he had a suspicion that he might be talking to the culprit. The man before him was clearly excited and wound as tight as a spring. Riff needed to settle him down a bit. He pulled up a patio chair and motioned to the one nearest James.

    "Friend, it is good that we have met. Have a seat - I don't have anything of my own to offer, so a chair will have to do." He folded himself into the chair, leaning his elbows on his knees and folding his hands over each other appearing casual, but interested. "I admit your accusations surprise me. Isaac and Gilda Fishblatt seem like such genuine people - good people, even - to help take in all these orphaned kids and give us a chance at a new life. I hope you don't think me rude, but it IS also a little odd for a Nazi to be married to a Jew, is it not? Not to put too fine a point on things..."

    He hoped he didn't chase this guy off with the mildly-put evidence of his own, but Riff also couldn't sit there and allow him to think he'd swallowed the line whole. To Riff, that'd be equally suspicious. On the side, his mind reeled - where would some random Lycan even get this idea in the first place?
    Winner of the dubious Vaarsuvius Award for Verbousness!

    I support altruism.

  2. #112
    James O'Brien

    This was the response James had hoped for. Interest. Willingness to listen and consider. He hadn't imagined Riff would just accept his word without evidence. It was a serious charge, and one that would cost at least one life - however deservedly. James was prepared to lay out his case in full, and after glancing around to ensure there was no activity from any of the Pack dwellings, he dived right in.

    Instead of answering Riff's question directly, he said, "I'll get to that. But you need some background first. Starting with this man."

    He set a photo down on the small table between them. It showed a smiling strawberry blond man in a Nazi officer's uniform, sporting a prominent dueling scar.

    "Hermann Kraus. Doctor and military man. His practice of medicine was far from humanitarian. In fact, his experiments on human beings were... well, you should see for yourself."

    More photos - but these were not smiling studio prints. They were graphic candids of Kraus engaging in gruesome experiments, and of the results. There seemed to be no end to them; Kraus had been meticulous in documenting his work.

    There was something James hadn't noticed in one of the photos, though - a prisoner with his back to the camera and face obscured, but perhaps still recognizable if one looked carefully.

    "And these. From his files."

    The medical charts were by no means complete. Most of those records had been destroyed during the last days of the war. But there were enough pages for Riff to get the point that countless acts of barbaric brutality had been committed by Kraus for the sake of medical research. None of the victims were identified by name - only by number.

    "So you're probably wondering what this asshole has to do with sweet little Gilda, right? Well, she's not so sweet after all - she was his mistress during the war."

    More pictures were added to the stack. Gilda kissing Kraus. Several shots of her smiling and laughing with him. Gilda posed in lingerie in what the earlier pictures had established was his office. Gilda lounging on a terrace with a familiar mountain view in the background, surrounded by friendly SS officers. Gilda clinking glasses with Hitler himself.

    "You're probably also wondering why I still care what she did. She wasn't the only German girl who improved her own fortunes by hitching her wagon to prominent Nazi men. The problem is that Gilda never stopped. Kraus is here, on the island. That's no coincidence. She's hiding him. He went to ground in the 40's and never paid for his crimes. Now he's doing it again."

    More pictures of the discarded casualties of experiments - but these shown on a cell phone. Modern. Recent. James could barely look at them himself, and just snuck glances at the screen as he scrolled through.

    "Gilda still loves Kraus. She's letting this happen. She doesn't care what he does to people, because he's her man. Look at this."

    It was the clincher of his evidence. A letter he had swiped from an archive - and one of the things that had launched this whole crusade. He passed it to Riff.

    Most of it was obscured with water damage, but the date was readable, as was Gilda's signature - and a passage of text in German.

    And so I married him. I don't care what anyone has to say about it. The law does not allow it. I don't care about that either. Our marriage may not be recognized legally, but it's binding in our hearts.

    In his excitement, James forgot to ask if Riff could read German. He just assumed it was equally clear to them both.

    "You see? The law wouldn't allow Gilda to marry Kraus because he was already married, but she promised herself to him. Forever. And she stuck to it. She's pregnant - you probably smelled that. It has to be Kraus', because she's keeping it. She wouldn't if it was the husband's. Don't you see? It has to be. I wonder if the child is doomed to be evil. Or if there's some hope. Maybe with a decent upbringing and better parents..."

    James dropped that train of thinking, because it led to unpleasant places. It led to him contemplating acts that he would never have thought himself capable of.

    "Anyway. You asked about the husband. Just convenience, probably. A smokescreen, so people would say the same thing you did - she can't be guilty if she married a Jew. Taking his name gave her a convenient false identity. Maybe made it easier to get out of Germany after the war...."

    In reality, it wouldn't have. It would have made it much harder. But James was on a roll, and blew past that fact without a thought.

    "And maybe... maybe he was a collaborator. I looked into his background during the war. He worked for them. For the Nazis. Maybe he doesn't care what happened to his people."

    But suddenly, for the first time James was hesitant. For the first time he seriously considered that he might have gone too far, and that showed on his face. He had looked into Isaac's background - though not much, because he couldn't make it fit so it was easier to just ignore it - and he knew the man had been in concentration camps. Notorious places, where slave labor was used as a slow method of extermination. Places where prisoners may have 'worked for' the Nazis... but their labors had been far from willing.

    James shook it off.

    "Anyway, it doesn't really matter. The husband isn't important in this. He's not who I'm after. And ultimately, even Gilda isn't my priority. Kraus is. Kraus is a monster, and he's still killing and torturing. I need to use Gilda to get to him. Will you help me, Riff?"
    Last edited by Monkey Kitty; 12-02-2019 at 11:40 AM.
    "Sleep to dream, and we dream to live..." -Great Big Sea

  3. #113
    Paladin Quaxo9 is offline Quaxo9's Avatar
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    Riff

    It had been a long time, but in the blink of an eye, he was back. Riff remembered that time all too well. True, he didn't know the half of it. He hadn't been in the cities where soldiers stamped all hours of the day. He hadn't been in the camps. He'd lived in a small village. His people were pacifists - which was possibly the only reason he had survived his lycanthropy. They'd been targeted by the Nazis because of their refusal to take part in the war - and unlike far too many, they had escaped. Riff credited the movement through so many different countries with his love of language, diverse musical tastes and lack of an identifiable accent.

    Seeing those pictures brought back fewer memories than he knew it would for most. So, the best he could do was live them now - and learn everything he could from them - no matter how hard it was to look. These were real people. They deserved that much from him. It was everything he could do not to shed tears in front of the other man, but his horror would have been obvious. However, when the obviously modern pictures showed up, he was somehow able to shake himself out of the fog of trauma. This was happening now. Which meant that he had the chance to do something about it. The pictures of Gilda were...a surprise. Someone that was in Kraus' employ was quite the shutterbug.

    It was a good thing that his mind was clear enough to pay attention, because not everything James said made perfect logical sense. Not that he could blame the man. Obviously something horrible was going on, but Riff had his doubts about the source of tortured subjects. He let James finish, and kept silent for a few moments. There had to be a good reason for the photos of Gilda with Hitler. Too many things he already knew about the woman didn't mesh with idea that Kraus was her current-day lover. He looked up at James. The man was wired. His eyes were ringed with red from too many sleepless nights in front of a screen or running around. Riff thought about Gilda's fear after the incident with the cell phone - and he knew that it was this guy - and that this guy should not be the one to talk to Gilda. But how was he going to convince him without scaring him off?

    Riff let out the breath he'd been holding. "You're right. We need to stop this stuff that's happening right now instead of focusing too much on the past. Look, man, I can see how much work you've put into this. All this information. All these pictures. I know you want to go shake down Gilda right now, but if you want me to work with you and vice versa, then here's what I think we should do. I think you should take those cell phone pictures to Keisha - she's the Pack's doctor, right? She'll know what kind of equipment and set up someone would need to run this kind of operation. I think you should go talk to her and leave Gilda to me."

    He held up his hands and then added, "I know. You've done all the work, but mac, I think you've gotten too close to this one. Am I right in thinking you're the one who stole her phone and called Isaac's folks? Yeah, I think if she met you right now, she wouldn't be able to give you the information you'd want. I really think you should let me talk to her first."

    Riff toyed with the idea of not telling him. But, what if he didn't tell him about his suspicions and James just went off and did something to Gilda anyway? What if this was his chance to slow the other Lycan down long enough for his reasoning to catch up.

    "Those pictures really caught me off guard. The ones of her with the Nazis. But I also don't think we can discount Isaac. Their love for each other is real. I didn't smell anyone on her other than Isaac...and that letter? You know, it would have been illegal for her to marry Isaac too, right? Dude, it would be so wrong to ignore these possibilities. I still want to know what happened - and I'm going to ask her - but why do you think that this modern-day atrocity is committed by this Kraus guy? Why does it have to be him?"

  4. #114
    James O'Brien

    "I... but I... but... how can you not see it? Riff, how do you not see it?"

    James stood and started to pace, rubbing his eyes and shoving his hands through his unkempt hair. His voice, however, remained low - he didn't want to wake the Pack.

    Where had he gone wrong? He had laid out his case. His perfect, solid case that he had worked so hard to build. He had not attacked this woman without evidence. Far from it. So why was Riff not on board?

    James took a deep breath and tried to slow his racing brain. Answer the questions. Just answer the questions, then Riff will understand.

    "Kraus was working on the Lycan virus," James said. "That was his last experiment. How to put it to military use. He has to have turned himself with it. You know he disappeared? During the war. No one knew what happened to him. His wife insisted he died. That he wasn't a coward. But she could never provide a body. He must have run when he realized the war was lost, and then he turned up here. As an immortal now. You can't think it's a coincidence? Her showing up here? And this happening? It has to be connected. I followed her here... and here he was. I followed her and found the bodies. That can't be just random chance."

    There, that would answer Riff's doubts. James nodded to himself with satisfaction. He had forgotten to say that at first in his excitement to have an ally, but now all was clear.

    "Gilda... she doesn't love that man. She can't. She's just hiding what she was. What she is. A lot of them did that, Riff. The Nazis. A lot of Nazis scattered after the war into normal lives. Their neighbors never suspected. They said the same sort of thing - these people seemed nice. They seemed kind. No one would have expected it. Gilda is no different. Neither is Kraus."

    So what next? James rubbed his hands roughly over his face one last time.

    "You should. Yes. You should go talk to her in the morning. Try to catch Kraus' scent. And put the pressure on Gilda. You're right. She won't let me in. But she'll let you in, and you can... you can force her to tell the truth. Tell her you'll scar up that pretty face. That should change her tune. Or... or threaten that if she wants to have that baby, she had better give up her lover. Whatever it takes. Just don't kill her till you find out where Kraus is. We need that information. Tell me what you find out."

    He considered the other part of the plan Riff suggested. "Going to Keisha. Not possible. She's Gilda's friend. She'll lie for her, just like they all will."

    But would she still be Gilda's friend if she found out who Gilda really was? This Pack seemed bizarrely loyal, but... there was the obvious matter of skin color. Gilda was a Nazi, and Keisha was black. Would Keisha still support these people when she found out what Gilda really thought about her race?

    "Hm. Well. Maybe worth a try. I'll think about it. But just... get what you can out of Gilda. And if you can't find anything out. Well. I guess I will."

    There were certain moral lines that so far, James had never crossed. He tried not to think about the fact that he might have to do so soon.

  5. #115
    Paladin Quaxo9 is offline Quaxo9's Avatar
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    Riff

    Outwardly, Riff was the intent listener and ally. Inwardlly, he was cringing. One thing was obvious - bringing up faults in James' logic at this moment would be to no avail. He needed to try to get the man to focus on next steps that...didn't involve any of the things he suggested Riff do to Gilda. He let James finish, then put in his last two cents.

    "I will go talk to Gilda in the morning and get all the information I can from her. As for Keisha...honestly, if you're worried that she'd cover for Gilda and not tell you the truth, then don't bring up Gilda at all with her. Show her the pictures, tell her you have very strong reasons to believe that the perpetrator is a lycan. Most people don't like seeing other people be tortured - and a lycan doing horrible things is bad press for the Pack - so she's bound to help. I am hoping that she can help you figure out where this guy is hiding in case Gilda doesn't know. Keisha is our back up plan. A different angle. And this situation is bad enough that we can use all the angles we can get."

    He hoped he had settled things between him and James for the time being. The man was on the edge and there was no telling quite how far he might go to get to the bottom of things. However, he also needed to know something else, perhaps for selfish reasons.

    "Those pictures on your phone - you took them, yeah? Were the victims...immortals? Fae?" James could probably smell the reason for his questions. If his hunch was right - and all those people were Fae, then not only was his family at risk, but it also gave them another group of people who could help them.

  6. #116
    James O'Brien

    "Huh. Hm. Yeah. That could work," James agreed a little reluctantly when Riff suggested how he could approach Keisha. So far, he had carefully avoided direct contact with Gilda's social circle - except, of course, for the mistaken phone call that apparently had been to her father-in-law. Maybe it was time to break his own rule.

    "Yeah, I took the pictures," James said. "When I found the bodies, before I buried them. I wanted to record the evidence. They were Fae, yeah. But they smelled... wrong. Fae who kinda smelled like Lycans."

    He held up a hand as if to physically ward off the obvious misunderstanding. "I don't mean they smelled like they were around Lycans. Not like how your girlfriend probably smells like you. They almost smelled like they had Lycan mixed up in their DNA just a little. Hard to tell more than that with them being partly burned..."

    James suddenly startled as if a shot had been fired... but it was only the exaggerated startle reflex he'd had since the war. All that had happened was the start of a light fall of rain.

    That change in weather told him he'd been here too long.

    "I gotta go. Meet me tomorrow at noon behind Dave's Diner. Don't let me down, Riff."

    He turned and disappeared into the darkness.

  7. #117
    Paladin Quaxo9 is offline Quaxo9's Avatar
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    Riff

    Fae-Lycan hybrids. Were they forced hybrids as James suspected? Or were they simply outcasts like many of the hybrids back home had been? No, there were too many bodies for that many of THAT type of hybrid to exist. So someone was forcing it on them, then...and discarding them. He felt a chilll move down his spine. They definitely needed to speak to the Fae community. If for nothing else, to make sure they weren't planning some sort of retaliation on the Pack for perceived involvement.

    It was clear that James had a lot of resident issues. It was part of the reason why Riff was going along with this - this man needed help for more than just the problem at hand. He needed the safety of a Pack and possibly a good counsellor. James' scent fell away with the rain almost as quickly as the man had left. Riff lingered on the porch for a minute, then turned to go inside. He needed to talk this over with someone rational. Lucky for him Maria was inside with Sofie bedded down for the night. He motioned for her to sit at the dining room table with him, where he sank onto a chair and rested his chin on the back of folded hands.

    "So, I'm sure you heard what he said. Maria, I'm worried. Someone is out there torturing Fae...and we don't have contact with their community. And Gilda...I honestly don't think she is mixed up in this. A person who feels badly about not providing for a stranger's dog is not the type of person who would be okay with this thing happening. Besides, that guy's case was not as clean as he suspected. Those pictures looked real, though. I don't want to bother her about the past, but if I don't, that guy is going to visit her instead...and I can't sit around knowing what will happen. And what could happen to other people at the hands of whoever this is. What a mess." He smiled an apology at Maria. "Sorry. I guess if everything here was too perfect, we'd be waiting for the shoe to drop. Nothing is as it seems. Sorry that we're getting dragged into something crazy again."

  8. #118
    Maria

    "Yep, I heard most of it," Maria said. When Riff had finished filling in the rest, she stood and walked to the window - more because she felt the need to move than because she needed to know what was outside.

    "Is this guy going to scrutinize everyone's sexual history, or just hers?" Maria said rhetorically as she stared out into the night. "Because I have bad news for him about mine."

    She sighed, and joined Riff back at the table. "I know you know this. And I know you'll be kind. But there's a lot of grey area between things you're physically forced to and things you want to. This Kraus - he sounds like a horrible guy. Do we know for sure he wasn't horrible to Gilda too? Maybe she didn't think she had a lot of options. Sometimes women smile because it's the only way to stay safe. If she had no choice but to be around those people, what else was she supposed to do?"

    Maria shrugged helplessly. "Or maybe we're both wrong and she really is a monster. I don't think so, though. I feel for her. I know what it feels like to not have any choice. I'm sure someone could dig up pictures of me kissing and smiling at bad guys too. I just hope she finally feels safe. And that we can keep it that way."

    "The Pack probably doesn't know what's going on. If they did, they would have put at stop to it - to avoid blowing their own cover, if nothing else. I think we can help, Riff. I think we can help everybody."

  9. #119
    Gilda Fishblatt

    Gilda felt a little reflexive nervousness when she heard the knock on the door in the morning - but peering out through the pane, she recognized Riff, Maria, and Sofie. No mysterious stalker waiting for her, then. She was smiling when she opened the door.

    "Good morning!" she said. "I hope you slept well."

    No mention of the nightmares that plagued her slumber the night before. It wasn't something she wanted to burden new friends with.

    "Please, come in. I'm baking this morning, if you don't mind chatting in the kitchen - or I can go get Isaac, if you came to see him."

    Gilda almost didn't look like the same person in the pictures. She was dressed in a flannel shirt, overalls, and fuzzy purple socks - but clothing aside, her demeanor was different. She didn't seem so tightly wound. She seemed much more relaxed, even in the current circumstances.

    "Would you like some pie? It's apple - that's Isaac's favorite, so I make a lot of them when apples are in season. Can I get you tea or coffee? Or milk or juice? I'm off caffeine till the baby is born, but I can make you whatever you'd like."

    Once Sofie was situated with some crayons and toys, and everyone had pie and their beverage of choice, Gilda said mildly, "Although I would be happy for this to be a purely social call, I guess from your faces that you have something more serious to talk about?"

    She just hoped it wasn't something about Pack life that displeased them. She had done her best to make things comfortable and welcoming.

  10. #120
    Alice Marshall

    Alice was dumpster diving behind the grocery store when the two men approached her. She was halfway up the fence that surrounded the garbage collection area when a voice called out.

    "Excuse me, miss? Do you need some help? Are you looking for some food?"

    Alice knew better than to believe in good samaritans. She had been fooled that way before. Trusting people only got you in trouble. But she was so hungry... and they were fellow Fae. She could have told that by the voice and their bearing, even without her extra immortal senses. Wishful thinking was enough to make her pause for an instant with her leg over the fence to turn and make eye contact.

    That moment was enough for them to grab her, pull her down, and shove her against the fence.

    "I told you she was one of those abominations!" the other man said softly.

    While his partner held her tightly by the shoulders, the taller man roughly shoved Alice's sleeves up and pulled aside the collar of her shirt - all of which revealed old, healed surgical scars.

    "Who did this?" the man demanded. "Tell me?"

    Alice thought it better to obey. She owed nothing to her former captors - the were the ones who had rendered her so sick and frail in the first place - and cooperating seemed like her best chance of getting out of this bizarre hostile encounter alive.

    "It was Doctor Kraus!" she managed to grasp, still winded from being shoved against the fence.

    "Kraus?" the man repeated. "Alright, where is he?"

    Alice's brow furrowed and she opened her mouth to correct a misconception. But they weren't listening to her anymore.

    "She doesn't know," the other one said testily. "The doctor has been on the move since then. We won't get anything useful out of her, and this place is too exposed. If we linger here, we'll be seen."

    He pulled a long, sharp knife from a sheath hidden in his sleeve. Alice's eyes widened with panic. But as the adrenaline kicked in, it gave her unexpected fortitude. With strength she hadn't known she possessed, she shoved her attacker away and ran blindly toward her car. Every joint screamed with pain and every muscle ached, but she knew this was the only way she would survive.

    Alice yanked the car door open, jumped into the driver's seat, and slammed the lock down a split second before one of the men grabbed the outside door handle. She jabbed the key into the ignition, hoping frantically that the unreliable engine would turn over - which it did, on the third try.

    One of the Fae pounded ineffectually on the window glass. The other, however, calmly plunged his knife into her rear tire.

    Alice slammed the car into gear and peeled out of the parking lot, laying down rubber. She only made it a few kilometers - driving on the rim for the last bit - before the flat tire made it impossible to go on. She managed to pull into an old barn... but from there, she wouldn't be going any further.

    As the adrenaline wore off, Alice's pain and exhaustion came flooding back. She collapsed back in her seat. Her hands were too stiff to hold her keys, and they slipped out of her fingers to land on the floor mat.

    Now she was even worse off than before - which hadn't seemed possible. But now her car was no longer driveable, and people were chasing her. What was she going to do?
    Last edited by Monkey Kitty; Yesterday at 06:46 PM.

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