Find the full chapter list for The Man Who Made Monsters and links to related stories here.
Tim checked their communications gear for probably the fifth time as they waited outside of Miller's Pub. Brigid watched the street, hands shoved into the pockets of her cargo pants. "Stop obsessing," she murmured. "You're going to draw attention."
Tim shot her a glare. "From who, the pub crawling crowd? I doubt it."
Brigid suppressed the urge to snort. He says that like it’s never happened before. She let her eyes unfocus for a moment as she stared down the street, the figures blurring together in the light from the streetlamps. The city felt too quiet. That worried her.
You’d think we’d still be getting hiccups after what happened when the power went down. I don’t like it. Feels wrong.
Wes popped up behind them like a ghost, tilting his head curiously to watch Tim. “The pub crowd has some of the worst people in it, and they do pay attention. Pub crowds are good hunting grounds.”
Tim jumped, snarling at Wes, not exactly happy to have been snuck up on. "What the hell?"
Brigid stifled a laugh, shaking her head. "Where's your friend?"
Wes beamed at Tim, his smile as friendly and golden as the summer sun. “Making out with his girlfriend in the alley.”
"That alley's haunted," Tim said sullenly, crossing his arms.
Somehow, I don’t think they care. Brigid quirked a brow. "Girlfriend?"
“Yeah. She doesn’t trust you guys, so she decided to tag along.” Wes smiled again. “She’s the paranoid type. And also the stubborn, pushy type.”
“And also the beat-you-up-when-you-annoy-me type,” Jo said, stepping out of the alley with Tom just behind her, smiling almost apologetically.
"Gee, that sounds familiar," Brigid said. She slanted a sidelong glance toward Tim, who winced.
"No, she didn't, though she definitely thought about it. I reminded her about Fiona and she backed off." Tim and Kate’s daughter was usually a good way to get Kate to take a step back from getting involved in something potentially dangerous--but only if Tim was already involved.
Tom looped his arm through Jo’s, as if they were just a pair of young twenty-somethings out for a stroll. “Jo wouldn’t have backed off.”
"Before we had Fiona, neither would Kate." Tim grimaced and glanced toward Brigid, a look that was as measuring as it was censuring. "We could have made John come along."
Brigid rubbed at her temple. "He has a date tonight."
"Don't be a dick, Tim." Just leave your cousin alone.
Tim grinned, shoving his hands into his pockets. "If he's the right guy, he wouldn't complain and it's better that John knows now rather than later."
“Uh oh,” Wes said, glancing sideways at Jo. “You’ve upset the balance.”
Jo waved a hand, unapologetic. “They have the force of the government on their side. What’s little old me to do?”
"It's all right," Brigid said, shaking her head. "There's no one we would have brought along anyway."
Wes watched Jo for a moment contemplatively. Then he turned back to Tim and Brigid. “Full disclosure, she does hit like a Mack truck. We’re strong, but she’s… well, I really should’ve just left it at the Mack truck metaphor.”
"In other words, be glad she's on our side?" Brigid smiled wryly. "In the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that we do have comm rigged so we can send a mayday out if we need to. We've got one of the psychics that was with us in the tunnels on standby, though I would really rather not interrupt his date."
“It’s nice to see how we all trust one another,” Tom said, clapping his hands together. “We’re gonna make just the best team ever.”
Wes shot him a stern look but Jo grinned. The power of the girlfriend was apparently stronger than that of the best friend because Tom didn’t look sorry at all for his sarcasm.
Tim rolled his eyes. Brigid just looked amused, studying the trio of twenty-somethings.
This is going to be interesting--both in the short term and the long term.
Wes shoved his hands in his pockets and looked to Brigid. “I suppose I’m supposed to be leading this thing,” he said, though it seemed to be leadership in deference to her.
"You the one that invited us to come with you. Your rodeo."
Wes glanced to Tom. “Do your thing.”
Tom pulled away from Jo and tilted his head as though listening for something. Then he started off down the sidewalk, and Wes and Jo followed after quite as if they expected Tim and Brigid to follow, too. “He’s got a compass that always points to trouble eventually,” Wes explained.
“Sometimes we just wander,” Jo added. “But we find things faster if we let Tom look for them.”
Tim gave Brigid an I-told-you-so look. "If you get me killed--"
"I am not going to get you killed," Brigid said evenly. "Why are we having this conversation, really? Do you really think that I have ever walked out the door and said 'I think I feel like getting my best friend killed today'?"
Jo elbowed Wes lightly. “He might bitch more than you.”
Wes’ lips twitched but he manages to look something like stern. “Be nice.”
Brigid stifled a sound that might have been some kind of laugh.
Yes. Very interesting.
She glanced toward her partner. "Tim, you want to flip comms over to the police scanner and see if there's anything worth checking on, as long as we're out here?"
"Tony's watching the band back at ops," Tim said, shoving his hands into his pockets. "He said he'd ping us if anything popped up."
"You know, I do seem to recall saying to leave Tony out of it."
Tim shook his head. "He's covering shift tonight."
“That’s cheating.” Tom looked back over his shoulder at them. “Anything the cops respond to, the cops can probably deal with. It’s the sneaky stuff you gotta find.”
Brigid smiled wryly. "Sometimes we swoop in when we hear things on the police bands before local PD ends up in over their heads. We've got a relationship with the office of emergency management here in the city and a couple of assets inside local PD and fire departments."
“Still cheating.” Jo broke away from Wes to go and loop her arm through Tom’s again, and Tom pulled her close. “The worst people get away with the nastiest things because no one knows to react to them.”
“Of course, some assholes are just causing a ruckus to cause a ruckus,” Wes countered. “And the cops are going to get there before anyone on account of a ruckus is noticeable.”
“Alright, I concede the point,” Tom replied, but then he added, “But the nastiest people don’t want to get caught, so they keep their ruckuses quiet.”
“Is it possible to keep a ruckus quiet?” Jo asked. “I thought the very definition of a ruckus is that it isn’t quiet."
"Typically, ruckuses are pretty loud," Tim agreed. "Clusterfucks, however, can be very quiet. Shenanigans can be quiet."
“Shenanigans often lead to ruckuses, though,” Wes said thoughtfully.
“Clusterfucks are the worst because they usually involve a ruckus and you’re too busy with the ruckus to realize you're getting screwed over there where you think nothing is happening,” Tom said.
"What about conspiracies?" Brigid asked. Dealt with a few too many of those over the years. She still didn’t like them--probably never would.
“Conspiracies often lead to clusterfucks and shenanigans. The clusterfuck is a subset of conspiracies,” Wes said.
“Yeah, because some smartass puts up a false flag in order to distract you from the real stuff,” Tom added. “Conspiracies run on clusterfucks and shenanigans.”
Brigid nodded slowly, crossing her arms. "False flags or something else."
Tim shudders visibly. "It's always that that worries me."
“Not everything is a false flag, though,” Jo said suddenly. “Getting into a conspiracy frame of mind is a great way to screw yourself over. Some things really do happen they way they seem to happen."
"Also a true statement," Tim admitted.
“We have come to no solid conclusion,” Wes said. “Congratulations everyone.”
Tom stopped without warning, and stumbles when Jo, who still had a hold of his arm, didn’t realize she needed to stop, too. “Whatcha got, Lassie?” Wes asked. “Found little Timmy in the well already?”
Tom frowned. “Shut up a minute.” He looked to Jo and said, “Can you feel that?”
Jo rested her forehead against his, closing her eyes, and then she frowned, too. “Yeah.”
Brigid cast a sidelong look at Tim, who shook his head slowly. "Nothing on my radar yet," he said quietly, "But we both know where my senses are tuned."
She winced. "Right."
“Fear,” Tom said tightly. “I feel fear. I think they’re…” He suddenly cut down an alleyway without finishing his sentence, Jo hard on his heels, and Wes follows without another word.
Brigid took off after them, Tim darting in her wake--half a second after weaving a protection spell with a few murmured words and a gesture. She could feel it shiver across her skin, cloaking them like a mist that was there one moment and gone the next, though its power lingered beyond those first few seconds.
There were times she was very, very glad Tim was on her side.
Whatever Tom sensed, it is apparently strong enough that he could sense it from quite a distance. When they finally got a little closer, he slowed down, his movements, the turns he takes and the side streets and alleys he cuts through more careful and studied, as if he was solving a puzzle, until they finally stop in an alleyway beside a fire escape. “Inside,” he said, looking to Tim. “Can you feel them now? I think they’re kids.”
Tim nodded slowly, face parchment-white. "Since two turns back," he said, voice thick, oddly strangled.
Damn. Brigid's expression tightened as she reached for her partner's arm, fingers digging into the flesh of his biceps. "How many?" she asked, her voice soft and deadly.
“Nine, maybe ten,” Tom answered. “That’s part of what made it seem weird. One or two scared kids… well, kids get scared, but this is different.”
“Where?” Wes asked.
“They’re being held on the second floor, I think. Building’s mostly empty. There are people on the first floor… Can’t tell how many yet.”
Jo moved toward the fire escape. “Wes, help me.”
Wes cupped his hands. “Gimme your foot.”
He boosted her up and she pulled down the ladder. They made an honest attempt to be quiet, but the ladder’s metallic whine made them both freeze when she hit the ground again, listening.
"Wait," Tim murmured. "Wait, wait. Let me try something." He eased over to the ladder, reaching a hand up toward it, eyes half-lidding as he began to murmur something under his breath.
Jo watched Tim intently, as if trying to figure out what he was doing but Wes took the chance to pull out his pistol and check it. Tom only stared at the building, frowning, his eyes a little glazed over.
After a few long moments, Tim withdrew his hand, nodding toward the ladder. "Try it now. Shouldn't make a sound. Not one anyone can hear, anyway."
Wes put his pistol away and cupped his hand again to boost her up. Jo apparently decided to trust Tim on this completely, because she pulled the ladder down without a moment’s hesitation.
Her trust wasn’t misplaced. The ladder didn’t make a sound--nor did any of the metal attached to it.
I don’t remember ever seeing that one before. Brigid glanced at Tim. "When did you learn that trick?"
He grimaced. "During the time I don't like to talk about."
Ah shit. He’d learned it before he’d come home, while he’d been trapped far away from home, in the hands of people who wanted to use him for the talent he’d been born with and hadn’t known about--hadn’t been aware of and certainly hadn’t known how to use.
Wes was already halfway up the ladder with Jo close behind and they both began checking windows, looking for one that would open easily.
Brigid shook her head. "Take rear?"
"Yeah," Tim confirmed. "Better hurry."
She shot him a quick grin and was next up the ladder after Jo and Wes.
“Aha.” Wes slid a window open slowly and paused, listening. “Ladies first,” he murmured, stepping back to let Jo in. Once inside, Wes said, “Take Tom, find the kids.”
Jo nodded, and murmured, “Don’t start anything until we’re out.”
Brigid glanced toward Wes, frowning. "What is that supposed to mean?"
Wes tilted his head. “They’re kids. We want them out of the line of fire if that’s possible.”
Tom nodded. “There are people downstairs. The kids are lightly guarded, I think.” He paused, looking to Tim as if he hoped the other would support the statement. “We want to know who they are. But again, kids.”
“Out might not be good, though,” Wes mused. “Too open.”
“Up?” Jo asked.
"We can do out," Tim murmured. "I can shield them."
Brigid cast a concerned look at Tim, her brows knitting. He stared right back, jaw tight.
"We both know how this ends," he said quietly. Brigid nodded grimly.
Wes nodded. “Alright, if you think you can do it, I trust you.”
Then he turned to slip away but Tom stopped him, saying, “Not so fast, big guy. Last time you went alone, we got saddled with these guys.”
"I'll back him up," Brigid said softly. "Tim, go with those two and get the kids clear. Double click when you've got them. Standard SOS if you guys run into trouble."
Tom considered this, and then nodded. “Good enough.”
Tim squeezed Brigid's arm. "Be careful. Kate'll kill me if something happens to you."
She smiled faintly at him, laying her hand on his for a bare moment.
Click here to move on.