Episode Two: Monster Hunting: Scene 21

The presence, though, shied away. We watched the hospital all night, and I was yawning a little. Not Thea…come to think about it, I wasn’t sure if I’d ever seen her actually tired.

But there was no sign of the kelpie. “Still doesn’t want to take on both of us. He’s going to wait until we leave.”

“Looks like it. And we can’t watch 24/7.”

“You might be able to.”
She didn’t immediately deny it. “You stay here. I’m going to get us some backup.” She hopped onto the bike and left. I breathed a lot…less easily. This might well be the opportunity he took. He didn’t, though. Maybe he was tired. Or maybe he’d found some way to sneak past us and we were wasting our time out here.

I didn’t trust for sure that I could sense him. It seemed that I could, but I was uncomfortable with relying on it. Part of me wanted to go inside and make sure the junkie was still there.

The wind shifted and it was raining again. I ducked under one of the trees that grew by the building. Right at the corner, not far from the cross suspended on the outer wall. Perhaps a comfort to some of the patients, it didn’t resonate with me at all.

Probably not with the junkie either. I wondered who would end up picking up the bill. He’d be a charity case, no doubt. Or possibly yet another casualty of a healthcare system I’d been told by more than one person was thoroughly broken.

I found I cared, but only a little. Or maybe I cared in the abstract, not the particular.

And then half a dozen bikers showed up. Half a dozen female bikers. “Pulled in the big guns,” Thea noted. “Let’s go home. You need some rest.”

“I wish I could be as tough as you,” I noted as I hopped onto the back of the bike.

She didn’t answer, and I almost felt she was uncomfortable with the question. What did she know about me?

Whatever I could sense, I was an ordinary girl otherwise. And maybe that thing had been pushing into my mind intentionally. Gunning for me. Or assuming I would know it was there.

Did everyone else know more about me than I knew about me? No, I thought wryly, the junkie didn’t.

Once we got back, I collapsed onto the bed. At one point I dimly stirred. I could hear Thea talking to somebody by the door, but only hear such a mumble in response I wasn’t able to identify the other beyond male. Then the conversation was over.

My head finally cleared about an hour later. I realized it wasn’t just the all-nighter – I’d been running on fumes for days. Thea offered me some kind of tea, which helped. It wasn’t just tea in it, but some other things too. “Who was that?”

“A concerned friend.”

“Did the thing show up again?”

“No. Like I said. They’re cowards.”

Episode Two: Monster Hunting: Scene 20

The ambulance was there, loading the junkie in. I didn’t want them to see us go into the safe house. So, I started to walk away. Thea followed me. “Good work.”

“I guess it didn’t want to take on both of us.”

“Oh, definitely. Kelpies aren’t the bravest creatures on the whole. I’m surprised it even tried to take on you.”

“I think I pissed it off,” I admitted, brushing back my hair. “But I’d sort of rather have it gunning for me than…”

“Huh. You aren’t shaping out quite like I thought. I thought you were using that guy as bait.”

“Not entirely. I thought about it, decided against it, then the bastard showed up anyway. Offered to tell me who I really was. He really wanted that guy.”

“Then he’s going to go after him again. Which hospital are they taking him to?”

“Providence. Should I have gone with?”

“Nah. They’d have questioned you. Up for staking it out?”

“Why would he be after a junkie?” I turned to face her, my eyes fixing on her almost washed out blues. “I mean…”

“Bloodline, possibly. Or just…those things aren’t entirely sane by any standard. The guy has something he wants.”

“He wants to eat him.” I shuddered. “I want that thing dead.” An admission, that, that I didn’t like. I didn’t want to admit I wanted anyone dead, and as crazy and dark and unpleasant as the kelpie was, he was an intelligent being. Not a thing. Not a disgusting monster.

“They have that effect on one. They’re a very dark fairy. But there might be an alternative to killing him.”

“Sending him back where he came from?” I asked, one eyebrow elevating.
“Exactly. Come on.” She’d circled around to where she’d parked her bike. I hopped on behind her. Still the best way to get around the city, and heading north towards Providence.

Pretty much the closest since they’d closed the old D.C. General. Which had been a good thing and a bad thing. People were still trying to decide which. I really didn’t have…or at least remember…an opinion. She parked the bike about half a block away, and we stood looking at the hospital.

Now I did remember things. I’d spent some time in a room here, while they tried to work out who I was and if my memories were coming back any time soon. Not good memories. Not good memories at all, but they were part of what I had.

And I sensed a dark presence across the city.

Episode Two: Monster Hunting: Scene 19

I could hear distant sirens, but response times in this part of town sucked. That was, of course, part of why we were here. And then I sensed the bird again.

“Give him to me,” its voice whispered, not human this time, but carrying with it layers and layers of wind and water.


“What’s he to you? A mortal junkie. Dying anyway, from poisons he’s put in his own body. Why care about such a thing?”

“Maybe I just don’t want you to get him.” I ducked inside, retrieved the sword. Looked around for a place to hide it when the paramedics came. “Or maybe I just want you to try and take him.”

I might not have wanted to use the guy as bait, but he’d given me an opportunity to take this thing down, the dim light glinting from the blade. It started to rain, water dripping out of the sky slowly, for now, but definite in its presence. Glinting off the blade.

It wasn’t natural rain, I slowly realized, and now the thing was in the alleyway. Except now it was neither bird nor man. It was dark green and smelled of weed and water and it resembled a horse, but with water plants twisted into its mane. “Give him to me.”

“Never.” I moved to stand between the two, feeling a tension between me. The desire to just let the beast take him. The desire to make some kind of trade. One junkie to get this thing out of the city.

The desire to kick its butt. The desire to protect. All of these warred within me but, for now, protect won. The blade was not wavering this time, lifted towards the chest and neck of the…now I knew what it was.

Kelpie. Water horse. Feeder on human flesh and, of course, human dreams. Nightmare.

“Your kind aren’t welcome here.”

“Plenty are willing to invite us in. It’s you who aren’t welcome. Or wouldn’t be. If anyone knew what you are, who you are, it would be you they’d be clamoring to expel. I could tell you the truth. Just let me have him.”

“Bargaining with what I have anyway? You can’t sell me what’s already mine.” Pretending I already knew. Using that pretense, I hoped, to knock some of the wind out of his sails.

“The hard way, then. He lunged towards me, I leapt to the side, the blade slashing his shoulder. He bled salty water, more like tears than blood. The junkie’s eyes were open, staring.

Staring and recognizing but, I hoped, not remembering. I whirled again, slashing at the beast’s legs as it reared, striking towards me with dull grey hooves. Then, it abruptly turned and fled into the night. Nobody seemed to see it. Nobody but me and one druggie aware of its presence.

And Thea, who was standing in the other end of the alleyway.

Episode Two: Monster Hunting: Scene 18

The sword came out of its sheath easily as I turned to face the stranger who had come through the door. Either he’d picked the lock or he had a key.

“Whoah. Don’t stick me with that thing, okay?”

“Who are you and what are you doing here?” He wasn’t exactly pizza delivery. Medium skin. Hoodie. I try not to judge by hoodies. I spend enough time around people who wore them to know they didn’t mean anything.


“How did you get in?”

Grudgingly, he held up what did indeed look like a lockpick. It was a pretty old lock on this place.

“Well, you’d better leave and forget you were ever here. Or I’ll catch up with you and stick you.”

“I…” He had his hands above his head. “Please.”

“Please what? Don’t hurt you? I won’t if you leave now.” I did feel the point waver. It was hard to bully somebody as clearly pathetic as this guy. No older than me, and now he was shaking a little.

“I need money. Need my fix. Need…”

“You don’t need your fix.” I wished I could help him, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t clean drugs from somebody’s system, but maybe something out there could. “Breathe.” I lowered the sword point. “I can’t let you rob me. Not that I have much.”

Thea had most of the cash. We weren’t stupid enough to leave it lying around. But what was with this place and junkies?

“Sword’s probably worth something.” He wasn’t coming any closer to me, though.

“It’ll be in you if you try to take it,” I promised. I hated to threaten him. “Now. Drop the lockpicks. And leave.”

He dropped them, then tried to flee. Somehow, he tripped over the steps, fell headlong. I sighed and put the sword down, moving to drag him out of the building, turning him over. He was barely conscious, his pupils staring.

I did the only thing I really could do. I got him outside, closed and secured the door, then called 911. Kept an eye on him. I hoped he wouldn’t…nah, in the state he was in, he wouldn’t be believed. I flashed back to what had happened to Barry and found myself becoming angrier and angrier. And I could sense the bird’s presence again. If I left this guy alone, he’d be eaten. Nobody would miss him.

Heck, he probably wouldn’t even miss himself. This might, though, be the perfect chance to take that thing out.

Moralities warred in my head. Not using a helpless junkie as bait, in the end, won. And I was totally not giving him his lockpicks back.

Episode Two: Monster Hunting: Scene 17

He faded off into the darkness, and I felt my heart rate return to normal. What had I done? Pissed him off was the obvious answer. I needed to find out what he was. What would hurt him.

Swords, I suspected, but I couldn’t just wander around with one. This was so much easier in the movies, when people could apparently do such things. Run around with swords and hammers and spandex and somehow be celebrated for saving the world instead of denigrated and arrested.

I had no illusions about what we would do to Superman. No illusions about what people would do to me.

Sooner or later. I knew I couldn’t stay hidden forever, but maybe after we’d dealt with the cult I could go back to pretending to be normal. Keep my head down.



That was not going to happen, not with unpleasant shapeshifters, crazy guys…and I wasn’t sure Thea would leave me alone either. She had her own expectations. Not quite for me to turn into her, but for me to acknowledge I wasn’t ordinary. She’d given me the sword.

I didn’t go directly back to the safe house. I took a convoluted route and made sure I was on the Metro for part of it. So I couldn’t be observed from the air. Thea, though, wasn’t there.

I sat on the bed, then picked up the sword. Not my sword. Thea’s sword, for all that she was lending it to me. It wasn’t mine. I knew that with the same kind of deep instinct that showed me how to use it. But it was serviceable and I knew it would be proof against the shapeshifter.

If I could come up with a way to use it without being arrested. It wasn’t legal to carry a sword. Thea wouldn’t care about the morality of it. I didn’t care about the morality of it. Just about not getting caught, and what did that make me?

Somebody who wanted to protect others from a threat I was pretty sure no jail cell could contain. What if he could turn into a much smaller bird to just fly through the bars? Or…yeah. There was no way the cops could hold a monster, especially as none of them would believe it was real.

Or would they? There might be cops who had seen enough to know this was real. The door rattled. It sounded like Thea coming back.

It sounded like her, but I didn’t get up to open it, just in case it wasn’t. I kept the sword across my knees…also just in case it wasn’t. Thea was right. Swords were scary.

They were even scary when you were the one using them.

It wasn’t Thea.

Episode Two: Monster Hunting: Scene 16

Eventually, I had the sense that the bird had left to find easier prey. I tossed the empty froyo carton in the trash from, perhaps, a further distance than would have been wise. Keep a low profile, I told myself. Keep a low profile.

Out into the street as the air began to cool a little. A little. Or maybe most of it was the froyo. It was certainly the weather for it; over a hundred degrees and sullen, the air heavy and full of moisture, the sun veiled. I wasn’t quite used to it. Wherever I was from was cooler than this.

I had a dim memory, for a moment, just a flicker of snowcapped mountains and quiet, rolling meadows. Norway? Sweden? Colorado? I had no idea. Another planet as I’d wondered earlier?

There was somebody following me. A thin figure, birdlike, and I turned. I’d been joking, but it was definitely the same being.


“Interesting,” it…he…said, drawing the i out into several syllables. “Parts of you don’t match.”

“Is that why you tried to eat me?”

A sardonic smile that reminded me of Mr. Otter, except I didn’t feel as safe with this…being. “I wasn’t trying to eat you. Or you’d be dead.”

The threat was delivered so deadpan it made me shiver. There was no emotion to it. His eyes showed cold fascination. I realized after a moment there was no difference of color between iris and pupil.

A fairy, Thea had called it, but I wondered if it wasn’t more like a devil. Even the male gender did not want to settle in my mind. “Then what do you want?”

“A truce. Leave me alone.”

So, he felt threatened by me. Straggly dark hair. He looked like a starving Goth poet, I decided. “Why should I?”

“You ran fast enough.”

I lifted a shoulder and tried to channel Thea. “Broad daylight? Come on. I’m just waiting until I can find you without witnesses.”

“There are always witnesses.” One bony shoulder lifted, a suggestion of wings. “The humans are everywhere.”

Part of me wanted to retort that I was human, except that right now I wasn’t sure I actually was. “Point. Maybe we should take it outside.” I wasn’t nearly as confident as I sounded. I really, really wanted a sword right now.

Or a source of fire, some instinct suddenly rising up within me. Birds have feathers. Feathers burn. But he was not just a bird. He was something else, something of water.

“Maybe we should. You’re going to keep getting in my way and I want dinner.” He smiled, showing sharp, pointed teeth, more like a cat’s than a human’s.

“Not on my watch.”

Episode Two: Monster Hunting: Scene 15

I ventured out about 15 minutes later, followed by the sales assistant’s glare. He clearly didn’t want to have anything to do with me.

I couldn’t blame him, really. It wasn’t like I’d had any intention of actually buying anything. But the bird was still there. It didn’t actually stoop on me right away, though. It swooped above me so close I felt the beating of its wings as wind, heard a cry that struck to my soul.

No words in that cry. Just an attempt to instill panicking fear. It didn’t want to take me on in a fair fight and I felt heartened by that, even as I wished I had a sword. Unfortunately, I couldn’t really carry one.

What was that old TV show where the characters could hide swords in any outfit? I didn’t have that ability.

So, I ducked into a different store. This one sold customized frozen yoghurt. You took your cup, added scoops of whatever flavors you wanted, your own toppings. I started to put a cup together, all the while thinking what kind of weapon I could use against that thing.

I could tell it’s fear cry hadn’t had the desired effect on me. It hadn’t quite worked. That made me feel a little bit…better about my self. I was strong enough. I was strong enough to beat it.

I just didn’t have any way to do so. I couldn’t grab a flying thing and bring it down by mere strength. Bullets wouldn’t work even if I wouldn’t get arrested for shooting at it. I began to understand Thea’s frustration with what she called “civilization” in a darkly sardonic way, meant as no compliment.

She didn’t like the rule of law…or at least not the rule of law as it was. There was something about her that wasn’t…

…maybe she was an alien. Maybe I was, like Skye in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Alien. Dropped out of the sky with my memory wiped. Except for all the people trying to kill me. And now this bird.

I finished putting together my froyo cone, paid for it by weight, and then sat at one of the two plastic tables inside, looking out the window.

Maybe it would shapeshift into a human and come in here.

The hair on the back of my neck prickled at the thought. I glanced at the door, but the only person coming in was an overweight, middle-aged woman, dragging a couple of squalling brats with her. I wasn’t one to be bothered by small children, but these two were definitely not happy.

Hopefully the froyo would silence them. That was clearly their mother’s plan. But I knew she wasn’t a monster in disguise.
The kids might be monsters, but they weren’t particularly disguised.

Episode Two: Monster Hunting: Scene 14

This time, I saw it. This time, it was a dark shadow across the sun. It wasn’t as huge as I had first thought.

It was closer to the size of a man than a roc, flying low above the city, and it was as if the bright and lightness was drawn out of the world in its wake.

A kind of fairy, Thea had said. And I knew it wasn’t literally pulling away light. It was pulling away…happiness, maybe? Although it wouldn’t find much of that here, not in this city where people tended to hurry through their lives, grey clad, heads down. I might not remember anywhere else, but I’d talked to people. Seen pictures.

There was not much happiness to be found here. Only insane levels of stress and misery, and in some ways I was insulated from it being poor.

I just had school stress and poor people stress. So, maybe it was feeding off of that, but it wasn’t a good thing. I knew that.

I saw it.

And it saw me. Its head turned as it flew, then it swung through a turn, dipping its left wing to turn towards me, riding the air easily. I used a word that would have got me thrown out of any classroom.

It was coming for me, and nobody else could see it, and I decided the best thing to do was be somewhere else. I ducked into the nearest shop. I was pretty sure I couldn’t shoot it. It wasn’t real enough for that, or it was too real.

Why hadn’t I been able to see it before? I decided I couldn’t afford to care about that. I could see it now and that meant it knew what I was, or who, or whatever was going on with that.

Whatever was going on with that I didn’t like. If I found out who I was, would the world end? Thea thought I couldn’t take it. The cultists thought the world would end.

Otter just liked keeping secrets. I sensed or knew that about him. Breathing hard, I glanced around at the store.

It wasn’t one I had any business being in. Menswear. I took a deep breath. If I stepped outside, would it get me? It wasn’t raining, so I couldn’t use that excuse, but the sales assistant was already glaring at me.

I pretended to be looking at ties. Maybe I could say it was a gift for my dad or an older brother. A man who needed a tie. I couldn’t afford to actually buy one, but I could pretend to look. It gave me enough time to get my presence of mind together. There wasn’t a back door I could exit through.

A fairy was probably smart enough to know I’d have to come out sooner or later. I couldn’t shoot it. I tugged out my cell phone, sent Thea a text. “Bird thing has me cornered.”

Then I went back to looking at ties. I wasn’t sure how long it would take me to overstay my welcome. I could hear huffing noises from the direction of the sales assistant. He probably just saw a grubby girl.

And Thea did not respond.

Episode Two: Monster Hunting: Scene 13

“You want to help? Thea told me…”

“That I want to recruit you to my agenda. That I am not to be trusted. That’s fine. Most days, I don’t trust me.”

I couldn’t help but laugh at that. “I’m not sure I trust me either. I don’t know me as well as I’d like.”

“And you’re worried you’ll end up like her.”

“Honestly? The idea has its appeal.” I sensed a shadow. The bird was around again, but this time I intentionally chose to ignore it. “She’s strong, tough, a good fighter, but…I don’t want to be exactly like her.”

“Good. She’s also straight-laced and boring.”

“She goes to BDSM clubs!”

“No, she’s being paid as a model. It’s different.”

It was. But she had known her way around Pan’s. Or maybe that was why…maybe it was all part and parcel of the same thing. “I suppose it is.”

“She follows the rules, even when they get in the way.”

“Not all of them. She kills people.” Which was generally against the law. I glanced around before saying it, making sure nobody was close enough to overhear. After, I admit I found my turkey club interesting. He was right about the turkey. It was particularly juicy and delicious. Good bread, too. I definitely needed to remember this place.

“Oh, that’s not the rules she lives by. Killing people is fine, as long as there’s a good reason for it. Did they start the fight?”

I nodded.

“But there are many things she won’t do. You might find that gets in the way. When it does? Come to me.”

I nodded. “So, you’re offering to be…what? Sneaky? You still can’t have the horn.”

“Oh, you will hand it over eventually. But sneaky is what I do. You have to admit…”

I tried to envision Thea being sneaky. I failed utterly. In fact, the image was rather humorous. “She does seem to be rather the walk right in guns blazing type.”

And I felt that I was much the same way. The temptation to take him up on his offer was growing. “She also said you would never intentionally hurt me.”

The sardonic smirk faded. “Intentionally.”

So, that feeling I had might be accurate. That he had somehow hurt me. That he had not meant to. Which meant he cared about me, because those are the very people you unintentionally hurt.

The people you most care about.

Episode Two: Monster Hunting: Scene 12

I still wanted to go…well. Not home. I didn’t have a home. I’d accepted that a while ago, or thought I had, but being homeless did not mean not having a roof over your head.

It meant not having anywhere to belong. So, in some ways, I had more of a home with Thea than in the group home. She wanted me to belong to her, but it was…she wanted something of me I wasn’t sure I could give. She wanted, maybe, a smaller, younger version of herself.

Mr. Otter? I definitely didn’t think I could give what he wanted of me. To start with, that would mean knowing what it was. And I wasn’t sure I even wanted to know.

Despite that, I took the metro out to Ballston, alone, without any real second thoughts. There was one thing I was sure of. Nobody would attack me while I was with him. I wasn’t sure what he’d do to them. Just this vague sensation that it would be worse than anything Thea did.

She would just kill you. Otter gave the impression that he played with his food. But I believed Thea when she assured me he would never intentionally hurt me.

Unintentionally? That was the feeling in the back of my mind, perhaps the hint of a returning memory. That he had somehow hurt me. That he had not intended to do so. Almost the feeling that he was…not capable of not hurting people.

Despite that, I hopped off the Metro. He’d asked to meet at a deli type place. I didn’t know anything about it, but I did trust him on one thing. He really didn’t strike me as the type of person to go somewhere bad for lunch.

So, I walked through Ballston, following the GPS on my phone. I really didn’t know this part of town. Old Town was easy – almost everything was on King Street. Ballston, unless you were going to the big mall, was a maze.

The man himself was a signpost, though, when I reached the place. He’d already staked out an outdoor table, sitting relaxed by it.

“Order whatever you want. It’s on me,” he offered, rather less smarmy than usual.

I managed a slight smile. “Any…recommendations?”

“Anything with turkey in it.” I took that at hand as I went inside to order. Once I had, he vanished to get his own, not wanting to leave the table unattended. I couldn’t blame him. It was busy. Not insanely so, but busy enough that if we’d both ordered food at once we could well have ended up with nowhere to eat it. The outdoor tables had glass tops and wrought iron stands, wrought iron chairs with cushions. Comfortable enough to eat at, not so comfortable as to encourage loitering.

I made a mental note to try and remember this place if the food was any good. It wasn’t that expensive, either, not by DC standards. I bought a turkey club, trusting his recommendation.

He was right. About the turkey. “So…” And then I cut right to the chase. “What do you want?”

He lifted and spread his hands – slender, almost feminine fingers. “To help.”