The Hunters 3

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The Hunters 2


"Ten-HUP!" yelled the minute pixie when he entered Rey's bedroom. He saluted stiffly and waited, hovering on gossamer wings in mid-air until Rey opened her eyes. Since she wasn't quite awake yet, he cleared his throat and yelled "Ten-HUP!" again.

Rey blinked slowly and, uncaring of her nudity, sat up with the sheet falling around her hips. She'd been up late last night, finishing up the requirements to get the downstairs half bath and all the chimneys to pass inspections After a quick bath, she'd just collapsed in bed before she'd had a chance to throw on a nightshirt. "Report," she said huskily, forcing herself to pay attention.

"We are taking casualties your Hind-ness! We request re-forkments! Once we recover the troops who.." he looked vaguely embarrassed, "ran away."

"Ran. Away." Rey was now more or less completely awake. "Are you sure?" The pixies were so attached to their mac and cheese, especially the case of the deluxe stuff in the new pantry, that there were very few things that would make them run away, as opposed to "transfer to a new command" or leave to do something else.

"Well, those who didn't got squished," he said sadly. "Or put in glass pots with lids on them. Reports are vague I'm afraid, your Golden Creaminess."

Rey stiffened. "Are you telling me someone is hunting the troops?" Anger flared in her. How dare someone harm her pixies!

"Oh no not at all! Someone hunted the troops. They left once they got all they could find," he said with a sniffle.

Rey slipped out of bed and grabbed the clean clothes she'd let on the chair by the dressing table. "When did this happen?" she asked as she quickly got dressed. She had a long list of questions just wanting to burst out of her, but knew she had to go one at a time if she wanted to get all the information they had.

He cocked his head. Pixies didn't wear watches and they had a fae impression of time. "Recently!" he said emphatically.

"Before or after you had the spicy mac and cheese feast?" Rey asked, pulling on her work boots. She'd made the stuff for them a week ago and it had almost caused a riot - mac and cheese purists versus the spice lovers. Luckily, the pasta was all gone by the time the pixies were tempted to start a food fight, and then she'd sent them on a mission outside to look for signs of the return of the raccoon invaders.

That proved to be so long ago, this pixie didn't recollect. He gasped with sudden delight. "That sounds delicious! And also good for re-forkments. And morals!" He was oblivious to the difference between morale and moral, but that was kind of true of most fae.

So, the past couple of days, Rey thought to herself. "Can you show me where the squished pixies were?"

In response he flew straight out the door. Rey hadn't had time to put clothes on, so he swished in and out of her room impatiently while she pulled something on. When she was finally ready, he simply couldn't wait anymore and fluttered straight out to the back yard. Rey had to run to keep up. Leading her to the rear fence-line which was also bordered in thick, unruly hedges that pixies liked to make little homes within, he stopped suddenly and pointed. One pixie, obviously crushed first, was impaled on a spike of the cruel iron fence. Two others, having been batted out of the air on the other side of the fence and then stomped, had been pulled into the hedge by quick-thinking brothers and sisters. They lay crumpled on the ground in the dark beneath the lowest branches of the hedge. A few other pixies were standing there, little hats in hand, looking sadly over their fallen siblings. One female pixie openly wept at the side of one of them.

"Whoever did this," Rey said, her voice a mix of anger and grief, "is going to pay." Without any regard for her own safety, she removed the impaled pixie with reverent care. Anger turned to rage when she realized the broken body she held was Thorn. "Come," she said as she gathered up the other two tiny corpses and gently carried the dead into the house. After she laid them on a clean kitchen towel, she grabbed her cell phone and called Less and Mira, telling them someone was murdering her pixies and she needed their help.

Mira arrived in a surprisingly short amount of time, about ten minutes. Then again, ever since Rey had moved she'd been able to drastically cut travel times when going to Rey's new place. Less arrived not too long after.

Knowing what they meant to her, Mira said nothing when Rey met her at the door, but just gave Rey a hug. She waited quietly for Less to arrive so Rey wouldn't have to tell her story twice.

"I'd hadn't noticed any unusual movement of the pixies," Rey said, her voice tightly controlled. "There's always some level of turnover, and for the most part they have the attention span of gnats, so they lose interest and wander off, or get distracted by something else. But someone is taking them, and has killed at least three that I know of." Rey looked directly at Mira. "They impaled Thorn on one of the old iron spikes atop the rear wall of the garden." She wasn't accusing her friend, but Mira had interacted with Thorn, had known him. Rey's brambles shifted restlessly, thorns needle-sharp and barbed, and she tried hard not to pace restlessly as she described what she'd been told by the pixie "officer on duty", and what she'd found when she'd gone to look at the hedge.

"Who would do such a thing?" she said with an underlying growl.

Mira shook her head slowly. "I'm not sure. But the pixies aren't the only fae to turn up dead in the last couple days."

"She's right," announced Less soberly. "Todd is missing. Bea, who went looking for him was assassinated in an alley with a cast iron bullet." He let the implications of that speak for themselves as he met both their eyes (simultaneously).

Mira's eyes widened in surprise. Iron bullets? That sounded bad. Real bad. She'd had enough experience with bullets of the normal kind to know they were bad enough. But now bullets deliberately intended to bypass fae defenses -- that was much worse.

"Do we have any clues?" Rey asked. "Any leads?" Her brambles stopped shifting and seemed to draw in on themselves, weaving together to form a patchwork armor. Someone was kidnapping and murdering fae, and this might only be the beginning of it all.

Mira volunteered, "We think that before they were murdered, Less's agents were getting close to something calling themselves New World Order. I think we've all heard conspiracy theories with that name attached, but I think this is something different. Something new."

"I bet they took Todd and killed Bea," Rey said. "They grabbed him and killed her because they had what they wanted, just like they did with my pixies."

Mira nodded somberly. "Can we see the place your pixies were attacked? Maybe the three of us together can find something."

Rey brought them to the scene of the pixie murders. It was still a grim sight, but the bodies of pixies were gone. In their places were extraordinarily detailed chalk outlines, complete with the dying expressions of the deceased. A tiny wreath was hung on the iron fence a few inches off the ground. It was adorably sad.

"Aw," Mira said. She knelt to get a better look at the scene, but stayed back so Less could investigate.

Rey couldn't help but smile at what she saw. She knew the pixies had watched tv shows with crime scenes because she'd watched them, but it was immediately obvious they'd misinterpreted the purpose of it all.

As Less and Mira got in closer to take a look at the scene, Rey turned her eye to things beyond the chalk outlines and the tiny wreath. She wanted to find things that were out of place, things that could lead them to who had done such a horrendous thing.

Looking at the ground, she saw something glistening on the grass near the edge of the hedge. When she got closer she realized it was milk and honey, as if a bit had sloshed out of a dish. Rey growled softly at the evidence her pixies had been lured into danger, and that what had happened was premeditated.

Further under the hedge she saw a shiny dime, and she knew how it must have gotten there. The pixies were like crows, stealing shiny objects and anything else that caught their eye. The coin could have been brought there from anywhere, but she looked higher in the hedge to where a bird house nestled snugly in the thorny branches. What she saw there made her breath catch - sticking out of the entrance hole was a twenty dollar bill.

Paper was always a snatch of opportunity. Pixies didn’t care about it enough to carry it any real distance, so it had to have been taken from somewhere - or someone - nearby. Rey reached into the hedge and carefully, more out of concern for the house than getting scratched by the thorns (which never seemed to bother her once she’d moved into the house), lifted the roof off.

The interior of the house was a veritable trove of pilfered treasures. Pins and needles, fletched and turned into arrows and javelins. Thimbles turned into helmets and the bowl of a broken spoon fashioned into a chestplate. She even recognized the shiny silver button that had been turned into a shield as one that had gone missing from the Renaissance-style doublet she’d been secretly making for Chase.

The twenty dollar bill sticking out of the house was not the only one inside. Another one, along with a few other denominations, had been turned into wallpaper by the pixie who lived in this house. There was something else, though, that caught her eye: two laminated id cards, bound together with elastic bands, like someone wanted to make sure they stayed together in one’s pocket. They had to belong to one of the attackers, because there were little milk and honey handprints on the cards.

Rey removed them and exclaimed “yes!” when she saw what they were: a driver’s license, a Mythic City transit pass. She removed the elastic bands and to her surprise, a small SD card fell out from between them. If the pixies had stolen this from one of their attackers, Rey and her friends had just caught a huge break. "We don't have far to go to find one of these bastards," Rey said after a glance at the name and address on the license. "Wilson Baker, and he lives one street over."

Mira's eyes widened in surprise. "Do you think he knows about you?" she whispered, as if worried there were spies in the bushes. Other than the pixies.

"I don't think so," Rey replied. "Otherwise he probably would have gone after me already. I don't know if he and his buddies will try to get info out of the pixies, and I really don't know what the pixies would tell them. We have to assume they will eventually find out if they continue to search and observe the area." She glanced toward her mini-mansion. "And the house isn't exactly the most defensible location, and I'm home alone most of the time. The house can't even support a security system, not until all the exterior work and rewiring is done."

"Then we have to get him first," Mira stated resolutely. "Let's go return this asshole's ID and then see how he likes being treated the way he treated the pixies."

"As much as I'd love to do that," Rey said. "He didn't act alone. He has friends, and we need to know who they are so they can be neutralized. Otherwise, this will escalate out of control."

Anything Mira was going to say was preempted by her cell phone ringing. She looked at the phone with a vaguely surprised look on her face. "Um. I have to take this." She turned and took a few steps away.

"Hello." The fact she didn't address him the way she knew he preferred sent the message that she was in mixed company.

"Good evening, ma petite," Remy said. "How are things?"

Mira smiled, her mood lifting a little at the sound of his voice. "I'm okay," she said honestly. "But lately someones been killing fae, including some mostly harmless pixies. We know where one of these bastards live, so we were just talking about putting an end to it. How are you... Remy?"

"I am well," he replied. "But my mood has taken a turn for the worse with this news. Hunters have been targeting vampires and those who serve them as well. You will be careful?" His last words were more a statement than a question.

"Yes sir, absolutely. I will not attempt to act on this alone." The news hit Mira hard, too. It meant that their foes likely had a wide array of tools with which to deal with the supernatural. "May I share that? It might be helpful."

"Yes," Remy said. "If they are going after two species of supernaturals, it is not a stretch to believe they might be going after all kinds." He knew that would likely occur to Rey, and she would in turn contact her werewolf friends. His spies would be on the lookout for their movements and reactions and report back.

"Thank you," Mira said. "Is there anything else you'd like me to do?"

"Just keep me apprised of the situation," Remy said. "Another bit of information. The servants of the two vampires who were murdered disappeared shortly before their masters were killed. The hunters are likely taking servants or anyone else who might have information about potential targets before they strike."

Mira's blood chilled at that and her back went rigid.

Remy continued, "If I learn anything else that would be of use or value to your attempts to deal with the situation, I will get it to you."

"I understand," she said, realizing he was specifically assigning her the task of getting to the bottom of all this by implication. She knew he would not expect her to risk her life over it, but at the same time she sensed he expected some kind of results. And frankly at this point she felt committed enough to the task she didn't need much encouragement to see it through.

"Very good," Remy said, and said his usual goodbyes before disconnecting the call.

Rey couldn't help but listen to Mira's phone conversation, but when she saw Mira stiffen, she immediately became concerned. Whatever it was Remy had told her really worried her friend. She remained silent, though, not wanting to interrupt.

Mira put her phone away and walked back to her friends. She spoke very calmly. "Someone is hunting vampires and those who serve them." She continued in a normal tone after a moment. "It seems reasonable to think that, if this is connected to the fae murders, someone may be hunting any kind of supernatural."

Rey nodded, a grim frown on her face. She couldn't care less about vampires dying, but if these hunters were going after all supernaturals, then Chase, Lyla and the rest of the pack were in danger. "I need to call my friends and let them know." She took a step back from her friends, then turned her back and walked a short distance away. Her friends might be able to listen in anyway, but she at least wanted the illusion of privacy.

But who to call? Her first instinct was to call Chase, but she didn't want to be putting Chase into a bad situation with Zeke. Zeke was the more logical choice, but that would introduce even more into the mix, especially since Zeke knew nothing about the pixies or Rey's true nature, while Chase did. That left Lyla. Her friend didn't know about the pixies, but did know what Rey truly was, even if she might not understand it. Lyla could also be trusted to keep Rey's secrets. That made the female alpha Rey's best choice. She quickly dialed her friend's cell phone and hoped she'd answer. If she didn't, Rey decided, she'd call Chase.

"Hi Rey." Lyla answered on the second ring.

"Hi Lyla," Rey replied. "Sorry to disturb your evening, but we've got a situation. There are hunters in the Mythic and Santa Fe area. They've killed a couple of vampires, and some of my people, including my pix- people I'm looking out for. My friends and I think the hunters may be going after all supernaturals."

"I'll let Zeke know to put expansion plans on hold for a while. Are you okay? Are they hunting you?"

"I don't know," Rey replied. "Servants, followers or whatever of the victims disappeared shortly before the victims were murdered. The people I'm looking out for know just about everything about me, and were lured into traps. I don't know if its related, or if they're trying to learn more about me."

Lyla responded, "Okay. Why don't you let me come over there. This is the new place right? I can be there in fifteen minutes or so."

"I'll be here." Rey looked at her phone after Lyla rang off, and was about to return it to her pocket when she realized she needed to take pictures of the "crime scene". "Lyla's on her way."

While Rey took pictures Mira and Less were left to ponder the situation.

When Rey finished, Mira asked, "So if I promise not to kill him out of hand, can we go over to this Baker guy's place and rough him up until he talks?" Her tough talk might have be incongruous if one made the mistake of thinking the attractive nymph was also sweet. Her purple eyes held violence in them and she wasn't afraid to unleash it.

"I'd like to wait until Lyla gets here. She's got a lot of experience dealing with this kind of thing," Rey said. "But yes, make the promise include not to kill him unless I explicitly tell you to, and you've got a deal."

Mira looked at Rey curiously, then smiled. "Okay, I promise. I will not kill this Baker fellow unless you explicitly tell me to." She was frankly tired of the investigation phase because she felt so useless. Busting heads, however, she understood. And interacting with people, or getting them to talk. She liked that activity, too. Sneaking about, also good. Working out mysteries? Not so good. Not good at all in fact. She always had to rely on using her abilities as an oracle and it drove her nuts.

Rey took them into her house where they retired to the room that would eventually become a kind of study or office. It was the place she had her laptop sitting on a card table with a couple folding chairs for now and most importantly, it had power to keep the portable charged. She slid the SD card into the machine and waited a moment for it to mount.

The first thing that happened was that the card asked if she'd like to view images with Imageviewer. A quick look showed there was a folder with a bunch of images and one large file that was unfortunately either encrypted or required a special application to open, or both. But the images were interesting. They had no names, just numbers, but they did have creation dates, providing a hint as to when the images were taken.

Over the past year, pictures had been taken of a several score individuals. In images where more than one person appeared, the subject of the image was circled in red. Mira, Rey and Less recognized almost none of them.

Almost.

Less recognized images of a couple of the subjects as the mortal faces of his missing or dead agents, Todd and Bea. One image showed Chaska's face, but that was the only one Rey knew.

Mira recognized several more. One was tough-looking old woman in her 80s that Mira identified as very powerful hag in the Duke's court. She was called the "Eatie", which was short for Eater of Hearts. Another was the mortal face of Viscissitude. One picture captures only the silhouette of its subject but Mira was sure it was Baron Carnifex. She identified three other pictures of fae of particularly horrible habits or fearsome reputations. Finally, she identified two she claimed were vampires. One she didn't know the name of. The other, she named Leopold.

Rey was both relieved and concerned about seeing Chaska on that "hit list". He wasn't in the area anymore, so he could be safe, but what had he done to get himself noticed by the hunters? "We should show these pictures to Lyla," she said aloud. "See if she recognizes anyone." Rey grabbed a blank disc and slipped it into her computer's burner. "I'll make a couple of copies of this stuff. Don't want to lose our only copy of that data file. And we need to find someone who can hack it. Someone we can trust."

"I bet that Baker fellow knows how to open it," Mira offered.

"Probably," Rey had to agree. "But if he can't or won't do it, we need to have a backup plan."

"Well, what do you think that file will tell us that we really need to know?" Mira asked. "I mean, I doubt he was walking around with files on his own allies. This looks like a monster portfolio. Do we care about their schedule or notes on the rest of these people? We need to stop them now, and we don't need that file to get to work on that."

"The file might contain locations of where they take people, other members and contacts, or people who they might be after but don't have pictures of," Rey replied. "I'm not saying we wait to act until we've got the file deciphered, but I don't think we can afford not to try and get this info. What if there's more than one group, operating in independent cells? We might need to take them all out."

Satisfied they wouldn't have to wait until they found a hacker to do something about these killers, Mira was quiet until Lyla arrived. Rey met Lyla at the door, and then the female werewolf wanted to be brought up to speed. Rey told her what they knew about the fae victims, and revealed the people of hers who she felt responsible for was a tribe of pixies - though she described the relationship as 'they do me little favors once in a while in exchange for a place to live'. She left the info about the vampires to Mira.

At Mira's suggestion, they had Lyla come and see the pictures for herself with the idea that Lyla might know a different set of supernaturals. She pointed out two more, people she stated were possessed by powerful, malicious spirits and who had powers quite beyond mortal abilities. They'd managed to avoid Storm Front. However, the pack had managed to track down and destroy several people who'd given themselves over to spirits over the years, willing partners to allowing evil into the world. Chaska led hunts to destroy them and send the spirits back from whence they came. That, she said, might have put Chaska on this list, if these people didn't understand what he was doing.

Lyla also pointed out that one of the two vampires Mira had identified looked like the guy that recently burned to death in his home. She'd seen his face in the paper -- it was Mortimer Wheeler. Less was able to confirm that.

"So they are hunting what they think are monsters," Lyla said. "Lovely. And they have the means to identify and track them, too. Even better," she added sourly. "That will change when they notice you three hunting them and you'll be on the list next."

"I think we'll end up on the list anyway," Rey said. "They might come back to see if there's a reason the pixies chose that hedge, or see if they've spread. They might already know about me, if they got any information out of the pixies." She knew that Mira had a safe place, with her apartment warded tighter than Fort Knox, and Less had countless boltholes and safe houses, but Rey herself had nothing.

"And maybe you already are on the list but that they just don't have pictures of you yet," Lyla suggested cheerily. "Maybe your neighbor stopped by to get some candid shots of you, too, but found your pixies instead. Why don't I have Jesse look at the file and open it up for us."

"That would be very helpful," Rey replied with a little chuckle of bemused unease and offered Lyla the disc. "I made a copy of the file and photos."

Lyla made a call to Jesse. Jesse was at loose ends these days and sounded eager to have something like a challenge to do, so she agreed to swing by. When she did, she got to work right there in the study. Lyla went to go patrol the grounds a bit and Less seemed interested to see how Jesse broke into the encrypted file. That left Mira and Rey to themselves as they retreated to the kitchen for a snack.

"What's up with you and Remy these days?" Rey asked as she got two glasses down out of the cupboard.

Mira hesitated. "We've been close. After Drake died, I fell apart. Really fell apart. But Remy really helped me pull together. He's not like fae or mortals, I know. He doesn't feel deeply, you know? Well, you know. He's a vampire. But he knew exactly what to say and do and when to listen. He's very patient. And..."

"And what?" Rey's voice was gentle and encouraging, even as her mind was racing, praying the vampire hadn't take advantage of her vulnerable friend.

"I need him," Mira said. "But not just the way you might think. I believe that the Duke is using the situation between Baron Carnifex and Countess Blackthorn to weaken both the Fief and the Barony. When he's ready, I think he plans to destroy the Barony and then turn on the weakened Fief. In so doing, he'll force me to betray you and Less and any other seelie fae friends I have.

"But you know I would never let that happen," Mira said, looking Rey in the eye. "Never. So I'm taking steps."

Rey knew, somehow, that Mira had done something inadvisable in order to protect those she cared about. "What have you done?" she asked, unable to keep the thread of worry out of her voice.

Mira's eyes suddenly teared up. "Please don't be mad at me."

Rey hadn't even had a chance to get mad yet and already Mira was fretting over what her friend might think. That didn't bode very well.

"Unseelie do it all the time. The backstabbing and betrayal and all that," Mira continued. "I'm not really doing anything different am I? Except that the Duke doesn't deserve my loyalty. You do. And Less."

Rey took a step forward and wrapped her arms around Mira and pulled her into a hug. "Mira." She squeezed her friend tight. "Just tell me."

She hugged Rey back. "I needed someone who wouldn't force me to betray my friends. Someone very powerful and who I could trust. I chose Remy." She knew she was still dancing around it. "I asked him to bind me to him, so that I would be his and not the Duke's." She swallowed and closed her eyes against what she was sure would be Rey's anger and disappointment.

Dismay crashed into Rey. "Oh, Mira," she whispered, still holding her friend tight. This was possibly the worst news, but deep down, she couldn't really blame Mira. The nymph may have played right into Remy's hands, but Rey knew the torment Mira was going through. Mira had traded one monster for another, but Rey couldn't help but tell herself Remy was the lesser evil. The vampire was honorable in at least his own way, and very little was worse than the Duke and his kind. All the anger she felt was at the Duke.

"I'm sorry," Mira said. "You must think me a monster too, now. But please don't think badly of Remy. This is entirely my own doing. I went to him and kept going to him until it was done. He could have been a jerk about it. Believe me, I'm well aware. He never was. Now everything is different for me. I don't feel like I have this horrible cloud of doom hanging over my head. I play my role in the Duke's court for now, but I know in my heart the only one I must obey is one who cares about what happens to me. And my friends."

Rey didn't know what to say at that, but the words "Does Less know?" popped out of her mouth.

Mira shook her head and stepped hesitantly out of the hug as if unsure she was ready to break contact. "I don't think he does. I haven't told him. I hadn't really meant to say anything to anyone at all, but I didn't like the way that made me feel around you. I needed to tell at least you."

Rey kept her hand on Mira's arm in a friendly - and hopefully reassuring - touch. "I don't think he needs to know. Not yet at least." She paused for a moment, and made direct eye contact with her friend. "It means a lot to me that you told me. I can't pretend I'm happy about this, but... I understand."

Relief flooded Mira's face and she smiled a little. She hugged Rey with heartfelt gratitude but kept this one shorter. "I'm really glad. I'd hoped that you would understand, and I knew I could trust you with it. I'm a little bit the coward, though, if I think I might have disappointed you."

"There's nothing cowardly about worrying about the opinions of the people you care about, and those who care for you in return," Rey said, and then she gave a short, sharp laugh. "And now I sound like a cheesy greeting card or motivational poster. Now, what do you want to drink? I hope it's not milk because the pixies used the last of it this morning, and I was going to grab some later tonight."

Mira smiled widely. "Actually, just water would be perfect."

When they returned to the study, they learned that Jesse had made good progress. She'd identified the type of file it was and that it was encrypted. However, after a few failed wild guess attempts she ran a brute force script against it. Already it had part of the password deciphered. The rest would take a little longer, but she expected no more than 7 hours running on Rey's little laptop, and they'd be able to open the file.

Rey looked at Less. "Do you want to wait to move until we see what's in that file, or go now?"

While Less had been staring at the monotonous flicker of numbers the computer displayed as it churned through potential code keys, his mind had been going over the various revelations of the evening. Two things were bothering him. First: Wheeler. His death suggested he had been a supernatural of some kind, which was believable - the long family history could have been covering up his immortality just as his sudden reclusiveness would hide the fact he wasn't aging. But the fire didn't fit somehow. You didn't assassinate someone by burning them.

Suddenly, however, he made a connection to one of the two vampires Mira had pointed out, not the one she named "Leopold", but the one that was not named. He'd seen that face recently, in the paper. The paper had run a picture from years ago and the hair style and facial hair had been different. But now he realized that the second of the vampires was Wheeler. That made sense of the burning -- there were very few ways to permanently be rid of a vampire, but burning was one very certain method.

And there had been a second body. Was this the vampire's associate? Servant? Vampiric offspring? Or perhaps some hapless hired guard that got in the way?

From there his mind had nowhere to go until he could dig up more information so he went on to the second thing that was bothering him: Baker.

Considering how professional and careful the NWO had been up to now, to find a name, address, and hit list all wrapped up in a neat elastic band was like a red neon sign blinking "TRAP." It wasn't subtle enough for his spy-counterspy mind, but the presence of pixies could throw all that out the window. The address on the license pretty much guaranteed that he had been living on the street over for a while. He knew Rey hadn't received her new ID yet. What were the odds that an NWO agent would be living one block away from Rey and her entourage? Of course, Jesse would tell him it depended the relative population densities of NWO agents to regular people, and really, when you came down to it, Fate didn't ring her charming little bell-curve when it came to the Fae.

With all of this tumbling around in his head he asked, "Do you think the NWO is connected to that creepy doctor? The one with the weird bees when we all first met? Rover said at the time that his laptop indicated he had been part of a larger organisation that hunted supernaturals."

Mira paled. That bastard had murdered some of her friends. Nothing in her life had been the same since then. "Oh my god, Less. This could be them!"

Rey's heart skipped a beat, and not in a good way. She'd hoped to never encounter them again.

"Yes," said Less, still somewhat distracted by thought. "We have to tread very carefully. I already know that the NWO controls the police force in Mythic. For all we know they manipulated the real estate market to lure Rey into Baker's easy reach. If Baker isn't a trap, of course."

"They control the police force?" Rey said, giving Less an odd look.

"Perhaps I spoke hastily," replied Less as things slotted into his brain. "I had come to this conclusion when the detective investigating Bea's murder was abruptly pulled from the case. However, she was put onto the spontaneous combustion case. I didn't know until tonight that the victim was also on the hit list. I had expected evidence to be turned up that the second victim had been Todd and a nice little story of the murderer getting caught in his own conflagration would satisfy all parties. But now that Wheeler might have been supernatural my conspiracy theory sort of falls apart." He paused in disappointment, then he looked back up and added, "What supernaturals are vulnerable to fire?"

"All but certain elementals," Mira replied immediately. "Though there are a few creatures in which only fire is a certain, permanent destruction." She counted off on her fingers, "Spellslingers and mortals, of course. Many fae, but not all -- some are elementals of water or fire and difficult to burn. Shapeshifters can all burn to death as we all know. And vampires. While there are certain other ways to kill a vampire, what must be done is different depending on what sort of vampire you are dealing with. However, fire is the great equalizer -- that always works on any vampire."

"Oh right," Less nodded. "You mentioned Wheeler was a vampire already." He crossed something out in his notebook. "Given that I suspect Baker's house to be a trap for us, I should mention that the Roundhill family is probably also mixed up in all of this. Todd was investigating them when he disappeared. I understand the desire for action, and will support you in it if the majority decides that retribution should be extracted immediately. But I cannot recommend it without careful analysis of available intelligence. At the very least, an ambush should be employed so that Baker could be nabbed while not surrounded by potential home defences."

"Well," Mira admitted grudgingly, "we do tend to get skinned up pretty badly when we rush into things. I guess I'm worried they might ambush us before we get them more than anything. How should we go about drawing him out?"

"Assuming he exists," footnoted Less.

"I'm pretty sure he exists," Rey said. "The license and transit pass were stolen when the hunters were grabbing and killing my pixies. The cards, plus several twenty dollar bills, had mild and honey pixie handprints on them. Baker might not even know his cards are missing. We could use that to our advantage. Call him, saying we found his card but not saying where, and arrange to meet him somewhere of our choosing to return them. Or, we could dangle some bait he won't want to pass up in front of his nose."

"Good idea," said Less. "I can call him from the train station. An anonymous clerk telling him that his transit pass (and associated wallet) was returned and he can come pick it up."

"Didn't find the wallet," Rey pointed out. "Just the cards. But then what do we do with him at the train station?"

"Throw him on the train tracks?" Mira ventured.

"I'm very interested in how they are finding the supernaturals," said Less. "How are they seeing through the Mask? Can they do it themselves, or are they being fed names and photos from a crazed supernatural? So, I'd like to observe him as he accepts his ID before we spring the trap."

Mira nodded. "And I'll do no throwing him on the tracks unless Rey says so. Or unless it's just to scare him, not kill him." She smiled at the others. "Great! We have a plan. Shall we go?"

Rey barely bit back an involuntary laugh. She was pretty sure that wasn't the plan Less had in mind. "If throwing him on the tracks isn't feasible," she said to Less. "What trap did you have in mind?"

"I think I'll leave that up to you," said Less. "I'll take care of meeting with Baker and observing him. You can have Mira and your werewolf friends around the station. Do you want to nab him while he's at the Lost & Found or after he leaves?"

"Excuse me?" Rey said. "They are my friends, not my minions."

Less found dealing with werewolves (and here he grouped Rey in with them) very often baffling. Hadn't he said 'friends'? "Well, I'm sure you and Lyla can work that out between you."

Rey just looked at Less then shook her head. "Do you really think it's such a good idea to expose so many previously unidentified supernaturals to Baker and his allies? And I'm not so sure grabbing him at the train station is such a good idea. I doubt he'll come alone."

Mira looked between them, then said, "I think Rey only asked Lyla over to watch the house. I think we are on our own otherwise." She didn't add that in her experience, most of the wolves around here seemed to take pleasure in alternately hitting on her or trying to humiliate her. She'd feel better without them, generally speaking. "But I personally don't care if he comes alone or not. If there are too many to deal with, then we just don't spring a trap. We follow instead."

"Fair enough," said Less. He wasn't totally in favour of any of them getting into contact with Baker but he had forced their hand. "Hopefully he won't suspect a trap in coming to get a lost transit pass, but we we will have to be ready if he does suspect he was pocket was picked. I am still leaving the details of capturing Baker to you two. What would you prefer to do?"

"I would like to seduce him, then get him alone. I don't know what kind of supernatural he is, but I strongly suspect not fae and not vampire. We'll need to figure that out. Then we'll know how to neutralize what he can do. After that, question him until Rey lets me kill him."

"Before we talk any more about snatching him," Rey said. "Where are we going to keep him, and how are we going to hold him there?"

"There's a container in the rail yards that would be suitable," said Less, meeting Mira's eyes. It was where they met to discuss infiltration of the Brimstone Barony. "Or I could get the keys to a warehouse. Do either of you have an anonymous place?" He looked to Mira who might know of something through her vampire friends.

Mira shook her head. "I'm sorry. I really don't have another place. But I think your container could work really well."

"Is there anything you need to acquire before we spring the trap?" asked Less. "Grenades, maybe, or a flame-thrower?"

Mira laughed good-naturedly. "I don't think so. I think we just need a ride to the train station."

"No witchery or protective amulets?" He laughed himself and wiggled his fingers at her as if casting a spell in a B-movie.

"I expect some bewitching will be necessary," Mira admitted. "But I expect to use these," she said as she pushed up her breasts with her hands. "And if that doesn't work, to make him think of this," she said, with a hand at her crotch. She grinned at him, enjoying how she flustered him.

Rey couldn't help but laugh, but she managed to keep it to a low chuckle.

Less pursed his many lips for a moment while his brain reset. "Rey, can we take your car?"

"To get there, sure," Rey replied. "But we'll need to find a different vehicle, or find a way to disguise mine, as I'd much rather it not be connected with Baker's disappearance. I don't have a disposable car, or disposable identities."

"To save time, why don't we take a cab, then. We'll go to the train station and Less can make his bogus call regarding Baker's lost items. When he arrives Rey and Less checks to see if he brought friends with or has them following him. Then when he leaves Less's office, I throw down the charm, lure him out to that shipping container and we spring our trap. By then hopefully one of us has figured out what he is and let's me know -- maybe via text message if not by word of mouth. You two will follow me down after I charm him so that if I have any trouble subduing him at all, you'll both be right there to give me a hand. Sound about right for everyone?"

Less had been about so suggest he place a glamour on Rey's car but Mira's plan sounded good to him. "Yes, sounds good to me."

"Mira, I can help you make sure you get him firmly by his libido," Rey said. "But any magic we use will need to be subtle, in case he can detect it. At least until it's too late for him to do anything about it."

"Then do a glamour for a sense people overlook the most. One you know better than any. Give me a scent of something all men find irresistible. With a bit of glamour behind me, I can seduce God himself," Mira said. She meant it, too.

Less cringed at her hubris. Sure, the old gods were well-known to sleep with all manner of woman (or beast) but involving the gods in your boasting was a sure-fire way to get struck down.

Rey thought for a moment. "No problem." She smiled and then touched Mira, and the nymph was suddenly surrounded with an ever so faint scent of vanilla. Not a candy scent, but a natural, light scent, with the slightest touches of unnamed spices.

The Hunters 4