Troy finished getting dressed after his evening shower. The hot water had washed away the tenseness from the meeting with the Weitzman lawyer. He wondered whether he should visit the old haunt of the Liberty’s Sentinels, but wasn’t sure if his pass extended that far.
There was a soft knock at the door. A quiet voice came through the door, “Mr. McAllister, I’d need to have an urgent word with you.” Troy took the pistol out of his holster and eased a round into the chamber. Leaving the chain on, he partially opened the door. Though the hallway was darker than he remembered, a man with unassuming features looked through the gap. “It’s about the contract with the Sentinels.”
Troy moved his head away from the small opening in the doorway, and used his gift of partial change to make his olfactory senses far greater. He sniffed the air to see if the the man smelled “wrong”. “Who are you?”
The change is always a little overwhelming. Troy had to filter through all the scents in the hotel room, from the lingering cigarette smoke, to the wet soapiness of the bathroom, to the faint lingering scent of spent sex from the unwashed bedroom. Eventually, he zeroed in on the man opposite him. Troy could smell the man’s cologne. He could tell that he had recently smoked a cigar. That was where the normality ended. Beneath the heavy scents, he could smell blood on him. More disturbing was what he could not smell. The man did not smell nervous, or angry, or even anxious. In fact, there was no bodily scent on this odd man.
“My name is Van Alden. Can we talk privately?” The name was vaguely familiar. Did Jamie Eagle-Talon mention him? Life as a Liberty Sentinel was brief already and now seemed like a lifetime ago.
Troy kept mulling over the man’s name in him mind, trying to remember. Troy shut the door, unhooked the chain, took three steps back. He stood with his left hand behind his back, holding his Glock, safety off. “Come in”. As the man entered, Troy motioned, with his right hand, for him to sit in the chair about ten feet away. “What seems to be the problem, Mr. Van Alden?” ‘I can be polite’, Troy thought to himself, ‘until it is time not to be’.
Van Alden closed the door behind him. He paused, the briefest look of questioning flitted across his face. He took the seat, purposefully placing his palms down on his knees as if to say, ‘This is unnecessary, but I’ll allow it for now.’
“I have been unable to locate Mr. James, or, I suppose Mr. Eagle-Talon to your clan. I earnestly would like to contact him, because it appears that our tenuous peace has been broken by your people.”
“What do you mean, the peace has been broken?” ‘Shit’, Troy thought to himself, ‘they don’t know the Liberty Sentinels are dead’?
Van Alden’s fingers arched slightly, pressing into his legs. Clearly, Troy’s expression of ignorance brought some result, anger? “Very well, if we wish to continue this way.” He relaxed his fingers, smoothing his pant legs. “A number of my people have been extinguished through means that can only be attributed to your own. We need to communicate to determine the reason for these assassinations.”
“This is the first I am hearing about these assassinations. I can assure of one thing Mr. Van Alden, the liberty Sentinels are not responsible for them.”
“I am sure that your leader does not impart all his knowledge to you, Mr. McAllister. This is the reason you need to put me in contact with him. Regardless of your awareness of these attacks, mutual separation was the core of our contract with your clan. You and your people would remain free of our machinations and we would turn a blind eye to yours. It now falls to you to stop your people’s aggression towards mine. Otherwise the contract will be broken and we will be forced to express our extreme displeasure.”
“I can see how these actions would be extremely upsetting. I promise you I will do what I can to find out what is going on, and resolve the issue. But know this, this is the first I am hearing of the deaths, and I had nothing to do with them. Do we understand each other?”
“So long as you and the other Liberty’s Sentinels are aware it is your responsibility to end this. Failure to do so will result in the removal of our protection.” Van Alden stands and removes a business card from his coat pocket. “Have your leader contact me at this number.” He opens the door and steps over the threshold, “And have him do it soon.” He closes the door behind him.
Troy pulls out his cell phone, “what the fuck did I walk into here?” He speed dials Heartdrinker.
“Calling back so soon, Shadow-Runner?” This time the alpha of the Mountain Laurel Legion receives your call, “Let’s make this quick.”
“OK I’ll give you the short version, did you know I was heading into a fucking war zone here? It seems the new pack here has declared open season on the nocturnals, and they are none to happy about it.”
“Two things: First, you seem to have your information crossed. The new pack’s name is the Nocturnals. Second, I am not master of any territory but my own. Pack’s are responsible for their own lands, none are beholden to keep me informed of their actions.”
“Fine, can you at least tell me who the asshole is, that runs this new pack?”
“I assume, that when you spoke with Cauldron, he told you that your pass did not allow you to interfere with another pack? Surely, if another of the People came to your territory you would not want them to rock your boat.”
“Yeah, and normally I would totally agree with that, but the vampires are blaming the liberty sentinels for breaking the truce, and since they are dead, they are blaming me.”
There is pause long enough for you to check the connection on your cell phone. “I would first advise you to tell these allies of your former pack that Liberty’s Sentinels have disbanded and are no longer beholden to any Oaths.” Another pause lets you imagine Heart-Drinker weighing the Nocturnals and your own pack, attempting to divine which served her purposes better. “But should you feel the need to speak with them, I would contact Mr. Cash. He seemed to be the most vocal of that group. I’ll forward you their contact number.”
“And Troy, I would tread carefully.” She hangs up abruptly. Moments later, your phone vibrates with an incoming text message.
Troy packs his things, and gets ready to leave. He takes a cab to the bus station and purchases the first ticket to home, in cash. He goes outside as not to be overheard, takes a deep breath, and dials the phone number on Van Alden’s business card.
“Mr. McAllister,” the phone is answered almost immediately, “so good of you to be prompt at a time like this. It speaks of good character. Tell me you have some good news.”
“That depends on how you want to look at it Mr. Van Alden. Unfortunately, the Liberty Sentinels have been…disbanded and no longer exist. Your situation has been caused by a totally different pack of fellows. None of which I am at all familiar. At this point I believe you have two options. One, to try and strike up a new agreement with this new pack, or two, decide to protect your own interests any way you deem necessary. I truly wish you luck on either front, just know that I am now, completely removed from the situation.”
“Disbanded.” The pause is heavy with thought. “How unfortunate. But perhaps I should speak with this new clan, as you have said. Perhaps you could arrange a meeting in the interests of peace?”
“I don’t know what really I could do, but I will try to get the ball rolling for you, I will call you back.” ‘If this guy thinks I am going to go to a face to face meeting, that could turn into the Valentines Day Massacre all over again, he must really be dumb, or think that I am’, Troy thought. “Out of respect for my old pack, I will do this though”, Troy said to himself. He looked at the number Heartdrinker texted him, then dialed it, using the *69 option to block his own number.
The phone rings enough times that you can see them wondering whether to pick up or not. “Harry Exterminators. What can I do for you?” There is another pause when you ask for a Mr. Cash. You hear sounds like a machinist’s shop in the background.
By the time another voice appears on the receiver, you’ve figured out that the shop noise is actually a looped recording. “Who am I talking to?” Cash demands.
“Mr. Cash, I am Mr. McAllister, I trust you recognize the name? It seems that you and your comrades have been living up to your call-sign, and been exterminating some…large pests. What I believe you don’t know, is that the former controllers of Philly, had a mutual stay of execution, with them. Now I know what you are thinking, what the fuck does that have to do with me? I’ll tell you, the pests are about to declare open season on the exterminators, unless a new agreement can be reached. Which by the way, is something you might want to consider. Now I don’t really care either way, but since you were kind enough to let me visit my old stomping grounds again, I thought I would return the favor.”
“Shadow-Runner? Yeah, I know who you are.” You hear him taking a drag on a cigarette, “Agreements with parasites?” You can hear the disgust in his voice. “Still, if they want to be left to their ways, I’d be willing to see what they’d pay for their survival. Set us up in a nice peaceful place where we can talk privately.”
’I’m nobody’s fucking secretary’, Troy thought with a flash of anger. He took a calming breath,
“I will text the both of you, each others phone numbers, and you can work the details out for yourselves, Philly is history for me.” ‘You can both fucking die for all I care’, thought Troy.