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  1. #81
    Gilda and Isaac Fishblatt
    Moonlight Motel Proprietor's Cottage
    Hollywell, Fog Island


    The Arts Council meeting ran late. By the time they got home, Gilda was exhausted from a long day, and her feet hurt.

    "I am never wearing heels to one of those again!" she announced with mock defiance, kicking off her shoes by the door and heading into the bedroom in search of socks, still chatting to Isaac as she went. "If I end up with a blister, so help me..."

    Isaac was poised to joke back - but an unexpected scent caught his nose. An unfamiliar Lycan. Gone now, but definitely from earlier today. Instantly, he was on edge.

    "Gilda," he said, carefully keeping his voice calm. "Did you have a guest today? Someone I don't know?"

    Please say yes! he willed her. Please say yes, and that will be the end of it, and we can laugh that I was being paranoid.

    Even though they were fairly new in town, Gilda had guests relatively often. Mainly Pack members, but not always. People seemed to gravitate toward her kindness, and it was common to find someone sitting at their kitchen table, eating food she had made and telling her about their problems.

    But Gilda was shaking her head. "Nope. No one today. Why?"

    Isaac sniffed the air. "Don't panic," he said - but he knew she would worry once she heard. He was plenty worried himself. "Someone was in here today. A werewolf. A stranger."

    "Someone was in here?" she repeated, her eyes darting to every corner as if an intruder might still be there.

    "He's gone," Isaac assured her. "Hours ago. But yes, someone was here."

    Whoever the Lycan stranger was, he'd been all over the house. He'd gone through the contents of their bedroom - and Isaac shuddered when he picked up the smell even on Gilda's pillow. Isaac followed the scent trail to the woods, but lost it in the confusion of forest smells, and had to return to the cottage none the wiser.

    "Try not to worry," Isaac said - though he was at least as concerned as she was. "We'll change the locks tomorrow. Maybe we should think about an alarm system. Hopefully this was just a one-time thing. Some curious weirdo who got whatever he came for."

    "I hope so," Gilda agreed, but when he hugged her, they were both clinging extra tightly.
    Last edited by Monkey Kitty; 09-29-2019 at 06:26 PM.
    "Sleep to dream, and we dream to live..." -Great Big Sea

  2. #82
    James O'Brien
    Fog Island


    James was frustrated. It wasn't that his plan had failed - on the contrary, it had gone without a hitch. He'd managed to steal and copy her house key when she took her car in for an oil change, so he had no problem slipping in the back door. He'd timed everything perfectly. Neither the Nazi woman nor her Lycan had been home, so he'd had plenty of time to search.

    The search, though, had yielded nothing. He'd gone through every drawer and cubby, looking for secret love notes or trinkets from Gilda's old Nazi flame. All he needed was a letter Kraus had written to her, or a piece of jewelry with the initials HK...

    Nothing. He'd found nothing.

    In his desperation, he'd even rummaged around in her pillowcase in a mad hope she'd be so reckless as to hide something from her Third Reich past inches from where the Jewish man slept.

    Nothing. Not hidden under her pillow. Not anywhere.

    That didn't mean there was nothing to find, though. It just meant she was more clever than he had given her credit for.

    Maybe she was on to him.

    He would have to be more careful when he followed her in the future.

    James was getting tired of this. He was getting tired of living in the dark shadows this woman cast. Again and again, he flipped through the stack of photos.

    Image after image, black and white, all confirming the depravity. Gilda kissing Kraus at the dinner table. Gilda in lingerie, smiling at the camera in Kraus' office. Gilda clinking glasses with Hitler himself. James made himself look at the more difficult images, too - the pictures of what Kraus had done to his victims.

    That was what this was all about, James reminded himself. It was all about finding Kraus. The woman was nothing. Finding the monster was all that mattered.

    Perhaps the time had come for a more direct confrontation.
    Last edited by Monkey Kitty; 10-05-2019 at 08:40 PM.

  3. #83
    Paladin Quaxo9 is offline Quaxo9's Avatar
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    Riff

    The shock pushed him back into human form and he let the man's lifeless body slump to the floor. He barely saw the man as his vision swam. Maria...she'd been found out - but how? Clare's voice brought him back to the present and for the fist time he noticed the fire alarm bells. He must have been really focused on the fight. Riff glanced at the bomb in the furnace. He knew enough to know that he didn't know enough about bombs to try defusing one. The best choice was to get out while they still could.

    "Right - make sure everyone's safe." He turned and ran with Clare back up the stairs. On the way, he told her the man's dying words. "They think all the kids here are Fae - and they expose Maria online. How did they find out? I mean, they're wrong about all the kids being Fae, of course, but still...there are quite a few. What made them suspect to begin with?"

    Once outside, Riff couldn't contain his pace alongside Clare and ran to be with Maria and Sofie. After holding them for a moment, he stepped back. "Are all the kids out? Everyone accounted for? Are they okay?"
    Winner of the dubious Vaarsuvius Award for Verbousness!

    I support altruism.

  4. #84
    Clare Murphy

    "Those men were Cold Iron Brotherhood," Clare told him, not quite managing to keep a note of disgust from entering her voice. "Like the men who took Declan. There have been rumors about the school. It even made the news. But since there's no certain way to test if someone is Fae - at least not that the public knows about - nothing was done. I suppose they tried to take matters into their own hands tonight?"

    But why Maria? Why had she been singled out? As important as Maria was to Riff, she was not a strategic or political target, or a material threat to anyone. Why expose her secret online when they planned to blow everyone up that night?

    And that was it, Clare realized.

    "They exposed Maria because she did something unexpected," Clare mused aloud. "She heard the song, and decided to go to the concert... but they didn't know that. All they knew was that the night of their planned disaster, suddenly she wasn't there. They didn't know why she left - or if she was coming back. So they went with a backup plan, to avoid loose ends. They probably weren't even sure she's Fae... but if they're wrong, they don't lose anything."

    Twisted, yes. But it made sense.

    Clare stopped talking when they got in earshot of Maria. Of course Maria needed to know, and soon - but let them have a moment.

    "Everyone is out," Maria assured Riff, as she and Sofie returned his hug. She was about to ask what had happened in the basement... but it quickly became unnecessary.

    The entire school building began to rumble and shake, then almost seemed to lift on its foundations - then it exploded in a massive ball of flame. Clare, Declan, and Maria all moved to shield the nearest children from any flying debris just in case, but everyone was safely clear. Clare could feel the heat on her face as the building flared.

    After the initial blast, the flames died down to a smaller but steady blaze. It was clear there would be nothing left of the structure.

    "Well, I guess that simplifies a few things," Clare said. Her tone was calm - too calm, even to her own ears. She wondered if she was going into shock.

    Swithin School was gone - and unless they turned their backs and walked away, they had now become responsible for the wellbeing of the unwanted children it had housed.

    Better with us than here, Clare thought. She knew where the children might find a decent welcome.
    Last edited by Monkey Kitty; 10-07-2019 at 07:47 AM.

  5. #85
    Declan McDermott

    The fire truck arrived first. It was an old one, seeing use only infrequently, but it wound its way up the mountain road from the nearest village seemingly the moment the locals reported seeing an explosion.

    An ambulance arrived next, and paramedics hopped out and began checking the children and staff for injuries. The medics were closely followed by the police...

    And, only a moment later, by the news media.

    Declan declined to comment when a reporter shoved a microphone in his face. It wasn't that he was media shy - he'd done plenty of interviews, and he spent practically half his life on stage - but he didn't want to inadvertently say too much, or have people wonder what a career musician was doing at the site of a boarding school fire in the middle of the night.

    Apparently he ended up in the background of the footage anyway, though, because faster than he thought news could possibly travel, his phone was ringing.

    "Hello, Mum..."

    "DECLAN?! WHAT IS GOING ON OVER THERE?! Why in God's name are you standing in the middle of a FIRE?..."

    "I'm not in the middle of a fire, Mum. They're putting it out. We're just... here helping the kids."

    It was an oversimplification to the point of practically being a lie, but it was one his mother would understand.

    "Well... good," Sue McDermott said, still sounding a little flustered. "Are you okay? Is Clare there? Are you being careful?"

    "Yes, yes, and yes, Mum." Declan couldn't help a little bit of a smile. He knew the worry was because she cared. "We're all fine. But look... we might need some help, okay? There are these kids, and they'll have nowhere to go..."

    "I'll get it figured out," Sue said, sounding calmer now that she had a mission. "I'll make some calls. Call me back in twenty minutes."

    "Mum, that's great of you, but um..." He'd expected she would just offer to help a few. Obviously she didn't know the scope of the problem. "There are forty-six of them. They're suspected of being Fae." His voice dropped to a whisper, and he glanced around to make sure no one was listening. "I think some of them actually are..."

    "Declan. I told you. I will make some calls. Phone me back in twenty minutes."

    "Okay, Mum."

    Who was he to argue?

  6. #86
    Gilda Fishblatt
    Fog Island


    At first, Gilda didn't even let herself consider the possibility.

    It was just the stress of the break-in, she told herself. They still hadn't figured out who was responsible, or why. Issac had alerted the rest of the Pack, but no one recognized the scent. And of course, they couldn't go to the police. They had no proof other than a rogue smell that their home had been invaded - and what could the police do against a wayward immortal anyhow?

    Needless to say, the situation had put her on edge. And as always, they had been busy with various projects in the community. It was enough to throw anyone off. Wasn't it?

    Gilda drove all the way to Saint Mary to buy the pregnancy test. She didn't want to risk anyone she knew seeing her - and then having to explain awkwardly that it was just a false alarm, that no congratulations would be needed. She didn't even tell Isaac. There was no point getting his hopes up.

    She couldn't be pregnant, she reminded herself. Fae hybrids were incredibly rare. In all her years with Isaac - and with everyone else, a long time ago - she had never experienced so much as a glimmer of possibility that she might have conceived. The odds were a million to one. Gilda told herself it was silly to even buy the test. But at least a definite no would allow her to move on from the ridiculous notion.

    Sitting on the bathroom floor, staring at the test, Gilda couldn't believe her eyes.

    Impossible! Wasn't it?

    She took two more, just to be sure. Each time, the evidence appeared unmistakably. They were having a baby. Gilda found herself laughing hysterically, then crying, then laughing again at the sheer surprise of it all.

    Isaac would be as overjoyed as she was, she knew. He had wanted to be a father - but he had accepted that with Gilda, that was biologically unlikely. He had chosen her over the chance to continue his bloodline. Gilda was grateful that he had made that choice... but she wished he could have both. That she could too.

    They had talked about adoption. It was an idea that appealed to both of them. But the timing had never been quite right. Gilda still hoped it might happen someday, if they found a young immortal in need of a home.

    For now, though, Gilda delighted in the thought of finally becoming a mother, and making Isaac a father. Not that anything was certain, she reminded herself sternly. It was still very early - too early, even, for her Lycan husband to notice a change in her scent. She might not be able to carry the pregnancy to term. A hybrid baby might not survive. She knew all this...

    But even so, she couldn't help a radiant smile whenever she thought of what would lie ahead if all went well. She couldn't wait to give Isaac the good news.

  7. #87
    Gilda and Isaac Fishblatt
    Fog Island


    Gilda spent the afternoon trying to decide how to share her news with Isaac. Women in the movies always seemed to make a big show of it - but that didn't seem quite right. It wasn't really their style as a couple, for one thing; neither of them were seekers of the grand gesture. And from a practical standpoint, it seemed unwise when there was the possibility she might miscarry. A premature celebration would only make the memory a harder one, if the outcome was not happy.

    In the end, she decided it was best to just say it. When he got home from the library, she made them both tea and settled on the couch with him.

    "Isaac, I have something I need to tell you," Gilda began. He looked worried, and she shook her head. "Don't be nervous. It's a good thing. But it's... well... it's kind of a lot." She took a deep breath, and went for it. "I'm pregnant. I just found today. I know it sounds crazy, but I took three tests, and..."

    At first, Isaac just gaped at her. Whatever possibilities he might have imagined for the news she would share, that hadn't been among them. Slowly, though, he broke into a grin... then wrapped her in a hug. His eyes were misty. But then, so were hers.

    "Gilda, that's... that's wonderful. I never expected... We're going to be parents! We're really going to be parents!"

    The beaming delight on his face made Gilda smile too, even as she forced herself to urge caution. "It's still early. There are no guarantees."

    "I know. I understand. But this... it's an incredible gift."

    "I agree," Gilda replied. "And I know this is incredibly premature, but... well, I was thinking about names. I wanted to suggest something."

    "Already?" Isaac teased lightly. "I expected that I'd be bringing home stacks of baby name books."

    Gilda nodded. "Only if you like the idea, of course. But I was thinking Rachela if it's girl, or Benjamin if it's a boy. Our child will never get to meet their aunt or uncle, but if we named them after your sister or brother, I like to think that the child will carry their blessing."

    Isaac had to wipe away tears in earnest now, and he nodded emphatically. "I'd like that," he managed to whisper, his voice thick with emotion. Even after all the years that had passed, Isaac still missed the siblings the Nazis had taken from him. This seemed a fitting way to honor them. "Thank you, Gilda. For... for all of it."

    "Of course," she said, and kissed him. "Whatever happens, I'm so glad it's you I'm sharing this with."

  8. #88
    James O'Brien
    Fog Island


    Just when James thought things had reached an equilibrium - an unpleasant one, yes, but at least a plateau - the situation got worse. As usual, he was watching from the treeline in the morning when Gilda walked from the cottage to the motel office. He caught a whiff of her scent... and recoiled with disgust.

    Ordinarily, she smelled of Fae and sea breeze, but now there was something else. A subtle shift in hormones perceptible to a sensitive Lycan nose. She was pregnant. James wanted to vomit.

    Obviously, the father had to be Kraus. It was the only possible explanation. James was sure that if she had accidentally gotten pregnant by the Jewish husband, she would have quietly taken care of it before anyone was the wiser. The fact that she seemed to be planning on continuing the pregnancy was proof enough that the Nazi woman was carrying the Nazi baby of her Nazi boyfriend. It was proof that she was spawning another generation of evil.

    James considered considered just killing her.

    She didn't know he was there; he could take her out before she had a chance to react. It wouldn't take much for a Lycan to snap that delicate Fae neck. It would all be over in seconds. She would never see it coming. It would mean losing the chance to get information from her about Kraus. But it would prevent another evil from being brought into the world.

    And yet... James hesitated. It seemed wrong to murder a pregnant woman - even one such as this. Was the baby doomed to be evil too? Or was there a chance for salvation, even for the offspring of monsters?

    What if the child was raised by someone else? After Kraus got his comeuppance - and if all went well, Gilda did too, though James was willing to sacrifice that for the bigger prize - the baby could be taken and raised by better people.

    In a sense, that was taking the easy way out, James knew. It was postponing a distasteful decision. But there was no reason she had to die this morning. He had plenty of time.

    Still, it meant he needed to accelerate his time table. He needed to confront her. And - he realized - when it came to the confrontation, her condition might work in his favor. It would give him more leverage, something else to threaten her with. If she cared about staying pregnant, she'd be more willing to cough up the whereabouts of her Nazi boyfriend. Then James could finally end this. If not, if she didn't cooperate...

    If she didn't cooperate. Well. Nothing was off the table.

    James knew he only had one shot at this. Soon he would be ready.

  9. #89
    Declan McDermott and Clare Murphy

    For a few minutes, Declan just stared into the flames as the remains of the school building blazed and collapsed. How quickly life could change! An hour ago, these students had been asleep in their beds, secure in what they thought was certainty that tomorrow would be just like today. Now they stood in their night clothes staring in disbelief, facing an unknown future. Just as everyone's future was - truly - unknown.

    He realized he was making a mistake. He had been carrying an engagement ring all over Europe, waiting for the perfect time to propose... but they weren't guaranteed tomorrow. They weren't guaranteed a minute from now. The only certainty was the present. That was all they could ever be sure they had.

    That made this moment - and every moment - the perfect one.

    He wasn't going to wait anymore. Not when in the blink of an eye, this could be all they had.

    "Clare, can I talk to you for a second?"

    She nodded, and he took her aside. When they had a modicum of privacy, he pulled the ring box out of his pocket, and got down on one knee.

    "Clare, this is... honestly the weirdest proposal possible. I'm sorry for that. I was waiting, trying to make it perfect. But that meant I was wasting time - time when, if you tell me yes, I could have been engaged to you. I love you, Clare. You make me a better man. And certainly a happier one. I don't want to waste any more time not saying it. So here goes: Clare, will you marry me?"

    She grinned, pulled him to his feet, and kissed him. "Yes!" she said without hesitation. "Yes, of course I will."

    There was chaos all around them. But for Clare and Declan, just for a moment, time seemed to stand still.

  10. #90
    Paladin Quaxo9 is offline Quaxo9's Avatar
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    Riff

    It'd blown up anyway. Sure, they'd gotten the kids out and everyone was safe and that was wonderful - but - he'd left these kids without any place to go. He should have checked the wires...or...something. He should have known how to stop it, like those guys in the movies. A smile suddenly broke across his face. At least in one way he was like 'those guys' - he had his girl safely in his arms. The fire truck and ambulances were expected, and Riff was more than happy to let the professionals deal with the flames and check on all the kids. The arrival of the media, however, instantly put him back on full alert. He took hold of Maria's shoulder and swiftly, but smoothly moved the three of them behind a rickety bus. He looked down at her and smiled, though his eyes were serious.

    "One of those men in there said they'd outed you on social media. We need to find a way to make you unaccounted for - and quick." It was too bad that they couldn't tell the kids to keep quiet, but that could always backfire. Maybe if they were kept busy, they wouldn't think to ask after the maid...who had helped them escape. No, things were definitely not looking good. He was peering though the bus windows, trying to keep an eye on what was going on, but a tug from Maria turned him around again. She was looking rather pointedly at his shoulder - oh right, he'd been shot. "And I suppose I don't want the EMTs trying to treat me either, you're right. What are the chances little Natalie would tell the police about my being around? Maybe I should be the one slipping out the back."

    Riff peeked through the window again. Declan was being filmed, whether he knew it or not, and was on the phone with someone. Maybe he was ahead of Riff on this one already. Though, if anyone could make someone disappear, it was Riff himself - he just didn't think he was going to be running an Underground job for his own girlfriend and kid. Would they have to be separated again? Would that keep them safe? Or maybe, just maybe, they could still be together. But a life on the run was no place for Maria and Sofie...what was he going to do?

    "Alright. We need to avoid being on camera, but I think we also need to get to the van. We can hitch a ride to town and then move on to the next step from here." He hugged Maria close. "Don't worry, I've got this. I've been in the biz for awhile - I'll find us a place. We can still do this."

    After all this time...he couldn't bear the thought of that statement not being true.

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