The Elder made it a habit to watch over them.
And it was that habit which had Cameron awake in the middle of the night, streaming movies and running surveillance on a tenant across the parking lot. The first-floor studio apartment was decorated with only the bare essentials, and the only illumination came from the flat screen tv and a laptop sitting on a cheaply made workstation in the back of the living room. Other than that, there was a lifeless gray sofa which doubled as his bed, and a wooden coffee table that had seen better days.
It all started a few years ago, back when Cameron was instructed by the Elder to install a small security camera in the dormered overhang outside the tenant’s front door. The camera was initially set up to activate much like a trail camera - if motion was detected, it would take a series of pictures. With it, they were able to maintain observations of her comings and goings, and developed a very detailed account of her weekly routines.
The surveillance continued uneventfully for almost two years, however, that all changed this past month.
It had been in the middle of the day while she was at work that a very suspicious set of images were taken. A tall, skinny stranger cloaked in a black hoodie had knocked on her door and then inspected the front-facing living room window. The camera was unable to capture a clear image of the visitor’s face, as the hood was purposely pulled down to obscure it. Attentive to the oddity, Cameron notified the Elder the same day. A week later, what appeared to be the same hooded man was again photographed during the day, prying around the front of the building.
Then, the week after that, the suspicious visitor came around in the middle of the night.
This dangerous new development prompted the Elder to take more aggressive measures, so Cameron himself was assigned to keep a closer eye on the situation by moving into an apartment in the same complex. The security camera was then switched from motion detection to live feed, which was both monitored and recorded, and he was to notify the Elder immediately of anything out of the ordinary.
That had been about a week ago, and now it was nearly 1 a.m. on a weekday night in October.
Cameron was lounging shirtless on the sofa, oblivious to the chill in the air, wearing a pair of well-worn jeans and some scuffed up black combat boots. With his legs propped up casually on the low coffee table, the glow of the television screen bathed his thin, yet extremely defined upper body in pale blue light. Yawning, he ruffled his fingers through his thick, spiky hair. It was an amber color, reminiscent of the traditional warm orange and honey colors of the actual gemstone, and was positively not his natural shade. He had a face that was too pretty for his liking, with bright blue eyes, long black lashes, and full lips all framed by a square face. It was very angelic, and he hated it. On the inside, he was an enforcer. A soldier. But on the outside, he looked like a boyish pushover. He purposely dressed in grungier, anarchist styles, in an attempt to draw away from the attractiveness of his face. Those who knew him were well aware he was not someone to be taken lightly. Among his peers, he was respected and feared. Among strangers, he’d had to assert himself physically on more occasions than he could count, making sure they knew their place.
Suddenly, Cameron picked up an unusual scent carried in through the open window on the brisk night air. It was coming from the direction of her apartment.
He got up quickly and went to his desk to check the camera. Setting his palms on the cold surface, he leaned over his laptop and scanned the data meticulously. The screen illuminated his face with video images of hooded strangers, three in total now, checking the front door and then rounding to the back of her building.
He pulled his arm through the sleeve of his leather jacket and then grabbed his cell phone to call the Elder.
“They’re back,” he said urgently, holding the phone to his shoulder with his ear as he slipped his other arm through. “Three of them this time.”
The Elder’s calm and even voice asked him to listen.
Cameron focused his senses, weeding out the noise from the tv and the local traffic, and heard the click of a lock. It was her sliding glass door. He knew it had been locked, as his sensitive ears always made out the click of the bolt when she came in from her back patio. Needing to know what he was dealing with, he inhaled the crisp night air in a few hurried shallow breaths. They weren’t shapeshifters. If they were, their scent would have been more apparent, and he would have been able to determine what type of shifter they were based off that. Also absent was the stench of the undead, which was a foul, sour smell of rot and decay. Unexpectedly, Cameron detected a somewhat mossy scent, similar to patchouli, which led him to the following conclusion.
“Fae,” he said. “They’re breaking in using magic.”
Cameron’s blue eyes narrowed sharply as he recognized muffled struggling and the sounds of objects being scattered. Soft items like clothes, and weightier things like books and drawers were being strewn around as if the trio were searching for something. Their bullish conduct exposed the fact that they weren’t much more than some low-born fae thugs. Growing more and more agitated, he felt the hair on the back of his neck stand up as he approached his front door, preparing to pay a visit to the intruders.
But the Elder stopped him. Questioned him. Cameron checked the air again. Still absent was the coppery smell of human blood.
“No, they aren’t doing that,” he replied in a clear and confident voice. “I don’t smell any blood or other bodily fluids. Just the girl’s fear.”
Instructions were being given now, followed by a careful explanation.
Cameron stood down.
“It’s quieter now. No more struggling. I'm certain she’s unconscious. It sounds like they are moving her into a vehicle. Did you want me to pursue?”
“Follow from a distance, then head back and report in,” the Elder replied.
“Understood,” Cameron responded once more before hanging up and heading out towards his motorcycle.
After giving final orders to the young one, the Elder ended the call. Tapping his cell phone to his lips, he lost himself in deep thought for a few moments. As with most things of this nature, he knew this day would come, but expected he’d have more of an idea who was sending the muscle. Under different circumstances, he would have sent Cameron in to take them out, but this was a particularly delicate matter. Finally deciding on the best course of action, he called another number on his cell phone. The line rang almost a dozen times before it was picked up.
“Sorry about that,” a male voice answered pleasantly. “I never use this thing. In fact, I had forgotten you’d even given it to me until just now. Technology is soooo... what is the phrase I am looking for? Oh yes, overly complicated.”
“I have news for you,” the Elder began, “And it’s not good.”
“Considering your voice is still civil, I’m thinking it can’t be that horrible,” the voice, still chiming along melodiously, replied.
“I’m serious, Alex,” the Elder responded.
“You’re always serious.”
The Elder could practically feel Alex roll his eyes.
“One of mine has been watching one of yours," the Elder continued hesitantly.
“One of … mine?”
Alex was momentarily silent. There was no mistaking what the Elder meant.
“No injury or any other violations occurred. Seems to be a case of kidnapping. By Fae.”
There was silence again on the other end before the Elder interrupted it.
“Did you want me to act? The one who reported this is more than capable. He’s willing, and more than able to take care of it.”
“No, we can’t have that,” Alex responded in a low voice, all pleasantries now gone. “Although I do very much appreciate the offer.”
After a few more seconds of uneasy quiet, the Elder swore he heard Alex rapping his fingers on a solid surface. When the noise stopped, Alex’s voice returned to its original lively charm.
“I’ll handle it. I have a call I can make which should remedy this rather discreetly.”
“If you need anything....”
“My dear sir, have some faith,” Alex laughed. “And treat that pup to some BBQ or something.”
His words caused the Elder to chuckle.
“Just don’t lose the phone, okay?”
“I make no promises,” Alex replied right before he pressed the End Call button and set the cell phone back on a charging pad inside the top drawer of his antique cherry wood desk.
Joking aside, Alex picked up the handset of a filigree rotary phone. He brought it up to his ear, tucking it under his golden locks as he dialed with his free hand. With an old-world elegance, the rotary dial purred as it rotated through the numbers.
After one ring, if even that, a polite, digitized voice picked up.
“It is an honor, Alesdair. How may I help you?”
“I need to hire your boy,” Alex began, voice still spirited and polite. “I need him to retrieve someone for me.”
“With all due respect, any request for the retrieval of living things is up to his discretion.”
“I am well aware of the rules,” Alex replied. “Let him know that the Fae are involved and that I would like the job done as soon as he deems it safe to proceed without putting the target in peril. I am offering him half a million U.S. in payment.”
Alex was hoping to hear some sign of surprise at the amount of money he was promising, like a gasp or choking sound, but nothing of the sort happened. All he could hear on the other end of the line was typing. Alex was very disappointed.
“I have sent him the offer. If he accepts, how may I contact you for details?”
“I have an annoying cell phone you can reach me on,” Alex said, sounding a bit grumpy that he had to fetch it from the drawer again. “Let me see if I can figure out what the number is.”
After some fumbling, Alex was able to locate his cell phone’s number and passed it along.
“Thank you, Alesdair. I will be in contact. And again, we are honored for your consideration.”
After ending the call, the broker leaned back comfortably in a leather executive chair, tented their fingers, and awaited a response from the "boy" Alesdair had referred to. After about thirty minutes, a reply came via email.
Fae, huh? That’s rare.
“That’s also a lot of money,” the broker emailed back in reply.
Tell them that if they give me a name and location, I’ll give them my answer in an hour.
After calling Alesdair back with the request, the broker was able to obtain the name of the person kidnapped, as well as the vicinity. Within seconds, that information was provided to Leviticus. It was a short email, as were most of their correspondences, and consisted of only one sentence.
Madeline McCaffrey of West Seattle.
Edited by Sinajfae