Episode Thirteen: Hunted: Scene 10

“Thanks. I was all set to spill everything.”

“He’d have fainted. And then not remembered it. Now he thinks he’s just dealing with old European money trying to solve their problems with bullets.”

“Which won’t stop him trying to put me and Kanesha both into WP, and that would ruin her career.”

“I’ll keep working on him. He might come around some day. He’s not a bad guy…for a cop.”

I grinned. “And you, being a creature of chaos, don’t like cops.”

“I don’t. They’re boring, staid…”

“Mike likes the brownies.”

“Mike is still boring,” he quipped.

“Thea disagrees.” I used that name because I was aware that we weren’t alone. That we were, in fact, being followed.

Not that it seemed to bother Loki. It didn’t even really bother me, except that I didn’t want them hearing that name if it was another hired mundane.

Loki glanced over his shoulder, then turned to me and rolled his eyes. “Let me take care of that.”

I didn’t argue, trusting him not to do anything too nasty to the guy. A moment later, a kid brushed past us, then past him. The man abruptly realized his wallet was missing and took off after the kid.

“Was that real?”

Loki grinned. “It’ll be consistent enough. Then he’ll get yelled at for losing us, but he had about two hundred dollars in there.”

I laughed. “Thanks for not actually hurting him.”

“I don’t like it when people drag in mundanes like that.” He paused. “Kanesha and Mike don’t count.”

“They know what they’re getting into. You’re saying these people have no clue who’s hiring them. Any idea who it is?”

“Oh, it’s Surtur. I know that for sure.”

I nodded. “Figured. I need to work out a good way to get him off my back.”

“He’ll probably stay on your back until you marry somebody else.” A pause. “And not a mortal either.”

My lips quirked. “I’m not running from him forever.”

“I’m not saying you should.”

I caught the implication in his tone. “You know I can’t beat him.”

He lifted a hand. “Yet.”

Episode Thirteen: Haunted: Scene 9

They had indeed rounded them up, and they’d go on trial for kidnapping. Not a one was talking, though. I suspected a couple had even got away, but that wasn’t the point.

They weren’t talking, and now I had Detective Grayson on my case about mob connections again.

What could I tell him? I knew he wasn’t the type I could just bring in on everything, but at the same time he knew I wasn’t some ordinary woman.

Which meant I had to try the truth. It was that or end up in jail, and Mike couldn’t protect me forever. So, I dipped into the modeling funds again and offered to buy him lunch.

He turned it down, but agreed to join me. “I can’t accept what might look like a bribe.”

I nodded. “I know you can’t, but it was polite to offer.”

“I know you’re…”

I cut him off. “You don’t know much about me at all. You really don’t.”

“I know you’re not a bad person. You’re just caught up in stuff and now your girlfriend is suffering for it. We can help you get out.”

I shook my head. “You can’t. Trust me. They’d only find us again.”

He nodded. “Like that, is it?”

I was suddenly aware of a familiar red haired figure, heading into the restaurant.

“I’m not a criminal. At least, not by intent. If I have to skirt the law it’s because the people I’m dealing with are right on the outside of it.”

“I figured that. So, which…”

“Might I join you?”

I glanced up. “It’s up to the detective.”

“Who are you?” Grayson tensed.

“Jane’s father.” He sat down, without waiting for a further invitation.

Maybe he could come up with a good story. Grayson was blinking. “I thought…”

“…that I have amnesia and no clue who my parents are. I do still have the amnesia.” My tone was wry. “He found me anyway.”

“Luke Otter,” he introduced. “I can’t convince Jane to use the name, though.”

I wanted to laugh. But at least he was keeping things mundane. I was fairly sure if he’d told Grayson who he really was the man would faint. “I thought about it, but it doesn’t sound good for a model.”

Grayson fixed his eyes on Loki. “Mr. Otter. Your daughter doesn’t seem to want to tell me what’s going on.”

“She’s trying to protect her family. And what’s going on is…a feud of sorts.”

Grayson nodded. “You know. I thought it might be something like that.”

Episode Thirteen: Hunted: Scene 8

Kanesha was curled up with hot chocolate. Half asleep.

I watched her for a moment, then slipped into the kitchen to talk to Mike. “Think she’ll be okay?”

“They didn’t really hurt her, and she’s pretty tough.”

“They didn’t say anything worse than we keep hearing at school,” I grumbled. “I feel bad that she has to listen to that because…”

He interrupted. “It’s not because of you. You know her. You know…”

“…that unlike me she has no interest in men at all.” I developed a slightly wry expression. “I know.”

That had been something of a revelation. But her life was, I thought, simpler than mine. No, it was simpler for all kinds of reasons, and sexuality was only the smallest of them. A minor little issue in the grand scheme of things.

I shook my head at the thought. “She’ll be fine. She has to be. I didn’t get to kill them.”

Mike laughed. “We rounded them up. But I’m more interested in whoever hired them.”

“So am I. They hired mundanes thinking I wouldn’t be able to track them.” Which meant it was somebody who didn’t know…no, they had to know. “Or knowing I would and not caring. Expendable.”

“I think they thought it would slow you down. It might have.” Mike glanced towards the living room. “She’s…”

“I know. I should break up with her, but you know as well as I that it wouldn’t help. People would still get to me through her. We need a better way.”

“Maybe she can learn witchcraft?”

I shook my head. “That requires a talent. Like…like the natural gift for music. She doesn’t have it. Seb might know some hunter techniques that would work for her, though.”

Mike nodded. “Okay. So she can’t really learn a lot of magic. She’s already got good hand to hand skills. I’ll teach her how to shoot.”

“And I’ll teach her how to use a sword. Or get Thruor to.” Thruor would probably be better. I didn’t think of myself as much of a teacher. Just the opposite, in fact. I thought of myself as a lousy excuse for a teacher. Everything I knew was too instinctive.

Probably because I still couldn’t remember learning it.

“I think that’s all we can do. Also, I’ll see if I can’t get hold of some body armor.”

“I could probably use some too. I’m not that tough.” I smiled at him. “Thanks, Mike. I do sort of wish we could get her out of all of this, but she wouldn’t go.”

“No, she wouldn’t.”
“And if she should get out,” I added. “So should you, cop or no cop.”

He laughed. “You have me there.”

Episode Thirteen: Hunted: Scene 7

I heard the sounds of a commotion from an innocent person’s yard, and was reminded of the vampires.
Said innocent person opened the curtains, then rapidly closed them again. I was glad of that. They wouldn’t see anything, I hoped.

The commotion? Kanesha doing her best to beat up a couple of guys with her hands, quite literally, tied behind her back.

I didn’t bother drawing the sword, but rushed in fists first. Probably because I didn’t want the innocent person to see me with a blade.
“What took you so long?”

“Blame the fyrhund. He’s curled up somewhere in Muspelheim and wouldn’t help. You need to be more self-rescuing!”

“Get these off me and I’ll show you self-rescuing!”

The thugs had actually dropped back slightly, startled by our banter. Well, except for the one I’d just kicked in the groin. He wasn’t doing much of anything.

“Why did you take her?” I demanded.

“Good money.”

“You’re going to tell me who your employer is. Before the police get here.”

The thug spat in my general direction. “I’m dead if I tell you.”

“You’re dead if you don’t. Can always tell them I beat it out of you.” I cracked my knuckles in a display of willingness to do just that.

“Get these things OFF me,” Kanesha complained.

I moved over to her, but one of the thugs tried to jump me. It was too sad – I was pretty much forced to knock him out with my elbow.

Then I saw and…I was not going to laugh. They’d handcuffed her with cuffs they’d bought at a sex shop. They were pink. And fluffy. “Oh gods, Kanesha. I’m keeping these as a souvenir.”

Assuming I could get them off in one piece. Nope. I had to break the bands, but I was still keeping them. Seeing that display, the remaining thugs ran.

“Souvenir my…”

I just showed her the broken pieces. “Why couldn’t they get regular cuffs?”

“I don’t know. Maybe one of them borrowed them from his girlfriend?”

I laughed. I couldn’t help it. “Did they hurt you?”

“Not physically. Apparently they were under strict instructions to keep me in one piece and keep me on the move.”

“Which means you weren’t bait. I just hadn’t received the ransom demand yet.”

“Maybe they’ll still send it.”

I laughed. Then I hugged her. I was a little bit worried about that not physically, but she was okay. That was all that mattered.

Episode Thirteen: Hunted: Scene 6

I could, if I craned my neck, see the accident. A truck had jacknifed, blocking the road in both directions. All four lanes. “We’re definitely stuck.”

Kara considered. “I can go back and take another route.”

“If we do that I’m sure we’ll go past her.” I hopped off the bike. The cop glared at me.

“It’s an emergency,” I told him. “And this isn’t the freeway.” It wasn’t a road it was actually illegal to walk on. Just one it would be stupid to walk on if the traffic wasn’t stationary.

“Well…be careful.”

It put me on my own. True, Kara could abandon the bike, but if she did so in front of that cop, it would make things look even stranger.

I walked along the shoulder, past the cop car, wishing even more for an in on Valkyrie Net. Or something like it. I had my cell phone, of course, but Thruor and Mike wouldn’t be in a position to answer it until they got stuck in this – if Kara hadn’t sent them another way – and I realized too late that I didn’t have Kara’s number.

The truck had spilled some of its load onto the street. Boxes of teddy bears, of all things. Well, at least it wasn’t live animals, I thought, as I picked my way past. They had the driver out of the cab, paramedics checking on him, but he clearly wasn’t badly hurt. The ambulance was just parked there.

Moving the truck was going to be the hard part. It was pretty much wedged. I was glad it wasn’t my worry.

On the other side was an unmarked van that had also flipped. If anyone had been in it, they were long gone.

I checked inside it, but no, there was nothing in there. Nothing and noone.

Whoever was in it had probably caused the accident then done a bunk. I was careful not to touch anything, then looked around. If I was running from here, where would I go?

Both sides of the street had banks and then those noise walls, but only one of the walls had a gate in it. I ran up the bank and pushed on the gate.

It opened easily and I was through into a residential street. There was no other way for them to have gone.

And I knew with everything that was in me that Kanesha was with them. Maybe she’d even caused the wreck. Why had they been coming back north?

Who knew. Maybe they’d thought they’d gone too far and I couldn’t find them. Either way?

Either way I’d found them now and I wasn’t going to let them get away. Even if I did have to chase them down on my own.

Episode Thirteen: Hunted: Scene 5

It became obvious fairly quickly that Kanesha was not in Old Town. She was not quite that far west. The bike roared back across the river and then south towards Mount Vernon.

“They’re trying to pull you away from your support. But Thruor and Mike are ten minutes behind and I’ve called the others.”

Who might or might not be in a position to come – I knew that. Calling the others was a good idea, but I might have to do this with what I had.

Two valkyries, one cop who was a decent shot, and me. I had my sword and my guns. We could do this.

And there was something else, too. Kanesha would, I knew, be looking for every opportunity to rescue herself. They’d have to keep her bound and gagged or she’d be out of there. I kept my mind focused on that odd trace of her, that sense of her reality, hoping that I might feel something if she did get herself out.

I hoped she would. I really did. I didn’t like being the one doing the rescuing – it made me uncomfortable and uncertain. It made me feel like her superior again.

Maybe we needed to teach her how to use a sword. Would it help? Or did I have to get used to this. She’s yours echoed in my mind. Maybe a goddess, even a half-trained one, could never even pretend equality with a mortal.

In that case, how could we have a relationship at all?

“She’s moving,” I said, almost before I consciously realized it was true.

“Which direction?”

“North. More or less towards us.” I felt hope rise up within me. Or they had her tied in the back of a van. I hoped not – I might ride right past it before noticing she was there. I wished I could talk to her, but it didn’t seem to work that way.

Or maybe I just didn’t know how yet.

“Okay. Let’s try not to go right past her.”

“I was just thinking that I was worried I’ll do just that.”

Then the traffic hit. There was some sort of accident up ahead. Even the bike was stalled, and if she was going past in the other direction, we’d have some real problems getting out of here.


“Get us up to the accident.”

“I’m trying,” Kara admitted. “I do still need something of a gap.”

She managed to weave the bike onto the shoulder, but it was blocked by a cop car. She swore in Old Norse.

We were pretty much stuck.

Episode Thirteen: Hunted: Scene 4

Mike and Kara showed up a few minutes later. I was starting to wonder if Thruor had a Valkyrie Net going.

Maybe she did. Mike looked a little green – not surprising. I’d seen how Kara rode. “She’s still in the city. Beyond that? I need to triangulate or something.”

Mike tilted his head, then walked over to Thruor and hugged her. I didn’t blame him – if the positions were somehow reversed I’d want physical contact with Kanesha.

I’d find her.

“Or track…but yes, triangulate is probably best. Kara, take her somewhere in Southeast.”

Of course. Now Mike was here, Thruor would want to keep him. Which meant I got to ride with the maniac. Who would take being called a maniac as a compliment, I knew.

She probably did it on purpose. We had to go back to where we’d left Thruor’s bike to retrieve my helmet. I resented every moment. Now I knew she was still here and still alive and that I could find her, I didn’t want to hesitate.

I wasn’t angry in the way I had been, but I definitely wanted to stick my sword into somebody. Anybody. Anyone who got in my way.

Then we were off, heading towards Southeast. I wasn’t as uncomfortable with that idea as I had been. I could take any stupid gang types that got in my face. I’d just have to keep enough control not to kill them.

Kara wove through traffic, took short cuts, and generally rode as if…as if I thought with sudden amusement, lust imps were after her. Or maybe she’d enjoy lust imps. I didn’t exactly know her the way I knew Thruor, but she didn’t tend to goth and fetish up her outfits, which made me see her as more restrained.

It was probably a total illusion. The restraint, that was. I wasn’t about to ask, especially not now. No time. “Okay. She’s more to the west,” I said. “And she was south before, and slightly west. Old Town?”

Kara considered that. “Let’s check it out.”

“Thruor knows where we’re going, right?”

Kara grinned. “Of course she does.”

I was starting to get envious. Did they have telepathy going on? “That’s not fair. You girls can always call for backup.”

“And you’ll get your cool stuff. I promise.”

I already had quite a bit, but Kara sounded almost like she knew something I didn’t, and wasn’t going to tell me because it would spoil the story.

Or maybe she just knew more about how things worked. She looked twenty something, but I’d bet she was far, far older. “Right now, the only cool stuff I care about is stuff that will let me get Kanesha back.”

“Just remember this is probably a trap.”

I grinned. “If this is a trap, I’m a badger.” I’d heard they were really good at springing traps without getting caught.

Episode Thirteen: Hunted: Scene 3

Her choice of somewhere was Rock Creek Park. Which reminded me of facing down the cultists.

“Okay. First of all, we need to get some of this anger out of your system. It’s just getting in the way. And we…tend to feel, as you might have noticed, everything far more intensely than mortals.”

I had rather noticed that. “I’m…but I have a right to be angry.”

“Of course you do, but we need to process the anger so you don’t hurt yourself, anyone not involved, and so you can actually find her. Heck, the fyrhund might be worried…”

I scowled. “I would not cuff him!”

“But do you blame him for staying away? And the best way to get rid of anger is to burn it off.”

And abruptly she set off running. I knew what she had in mind, resisted for a moment, then took off after her. Burn it off. She was, I knew, right. I needed to get rid of the excess negative energy. The idea that I might just be able to track Kanesha scared me, too. I didn’t want that level of responsibility for her.

No. I didn’t want to be her superior. I wanted to be her equal – something which could never happen, but I could pretend. I could pretend and she could pretend and we’d both live a white lie.

It was worth a little bit of self-deceit. Assuming… No. She was not dead. I knew that as keenly as I knew my own body, although the trail Thruor was taking was not particularly familiar. Or particularly easy. After a while I had to concentrate entirely on running. No doubt that was part of her plan.

Eventually, she stopped in a clearing. “Better?”

I breathed hard for a few, but rapidly began to recover. “Better.”

“Next time you aren’t even seeing straight, take it for a run. It always helps. Now…”

“I know she’s not dead. I’d know if she was dead.”

“You certainly would. But whoever took her isn’t going to kill her. If they were going to, they’d have killed her in the deli.”

“She’s bait,” I said, grimly.

“Or leverage.”

“I’m going to assume bait. That way I’ll be more ready for the traps when I go after her.”

“We,” Thruor said, grimly. “Mike will probably want to come too.”

Mike could at least look after himself. “But first, we need to find her. And if you’re right and I already know where she is…”

I rested a hand on a tree. “I just need to work it out.”

Episode Thirteen: Hunted: Scene 2

I doubted Kanesha had been taken for any reason, of course, other than to get to me. I called the cultists.

They denied it, of course, and it didn’t really seem like their MO, but I extracted a promise – that their people on the ground would keep their eyes open for her. That was all I could really ask for and all I wanted anyway.

Half a boot print. Definitely male. What kind of a lead was that? The spring air was clear and I was trying to tempt the fyrhund – but when I really needed him, he was apparently occupied elsewhere. At the very least, he wasn’t coming.

“Screw this.” I was going to find her and I was going to hurt, if not kill, anyone who got between us. It did occur to me that might be part of their plan; that they might want me going off half-cocked.

I didn’t particularly care. True, she knew the risks of being involved with me. That didn’t mean I was going to let anyone get away with so much as touching a hair on her head.

I loved her. I really needed to keep admitting to that, because it reminded me what I was fighting for. Now, though, it was in a rather more literal sense. She was in real danger and I was messing around trying to find that…that…dang dog.

Thruor came up behind me. “No sign of her yet, but those of my sisters that can be spared are looking.”

“I can’t find the fyrhund. He could track her down.”

“Unreliable beast,” Thruor snorted. “Bear in mind he’s a thing of Muspelheim. Fire is…fickle.”

I nodded a bit. “True, but he could still find her for me. I have no clue where to start.”

“You start inside yourself.”

I glanced at the valkyrie, startled.

“She’s yours. Part of you knows exactly where she is. It’s just a matter of getting in touch with that part.”

“So, what, I try meditating or something?”

“Not a bad place to start – but I doubt you’re calm enough right now.”

“I need to beat a few things up before I can get calm enough,” I admitted. “And I’m worried if I do I’ll…lose it.” I hadn’t forgotten the couple of times I’d come close to going berserker. With this going on, I knew that if I tried to fight I’d probably end up killing somebody. Possibly an innocent somebody.

“Then we do it another way. Let’s go for a ride.”

“That…might help,” I admitted, ducking inside to get my helmet. Maybe feeling some speed would get my thoughts straight.

More likely, Thruor wanted to get me somewhere with fewer civilians and less property.

Episode Thirteen: Hunted: Scene 1

I ran into Julio’s, but didn’t see any sign of her. There was a back door, but I knew Kanesha would not have done anything like that.

Not voluntarily. “Where did the black girl go?” I demanded.

“Rest room?”

I checked. The ladies was empty. So was the men’s room. The door to the alleyway was open. “She’s not here.”

“Not our…”

I stepped over to the counter. “She wouldn’t just have left through the back room. Who went back there?”


I gave up. It was probably something supernatural that he had not been able to see. Something cloaked from him.

Or, they’d come in through the back door. How about some logic? Kanesha was in trouble, though, and that was tending to turn off my personal logic circuits.

I went back into the back corridor. Two rest rooms. Door to the kitchen. Door to the alleyway. And yes.

A male sized boot print in the dust, stepping into the corridor. Scuff marks in the dust. She probably had ducked back to the rest room.

It was a particularly big boot print. That didn’t necessarily mean giant, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all.

I moved back into the alleyway, looking for signs of a vehicle. It was rather unfortunate that it really was spring now – the snow had all melted. I could see all sorts of tire prints, but I wasn’t sure what was recent and what wasn’t. And, of course, the fyrhund had vanished.

Maybe it had vanished to look for her. I took a deep breath, tugged out my cell, and called Mike.

“What’s up?”

“Kanesha’s been snagged.”

He cursed. “Do you know who by?”

“All I have is half a boot print and I can only be sure it’s too big to be a woman. I wish it was still winter.”

“Do you? Okay. I can’t put out an APB just yet, but I’ll make some calls.”

I trusted that he would. Then I looked both ways down the alleyway. I had to find her. But whoever had taken her was, almost certainly, counting on that. Counting on the bond between us.

There was only one reason anyone would have kidnapped Kanesha. To use her as bait. For which they needed her undamaged.

I would know, in the deepest part of me, if she died. I would know, because she was mine. They would know that.

Unless, of course, it wasn’t supernaturals after all.