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Freebies: Hunt the Moon, part 2


Warning: Spoilers ahead.  If you have not yet read Hunt the Moon, the fifth Cassandra Palmer book, please skip this page. 

Author's Note:  This chapter was written to follow up the previous HTM deleted scene. To fully understand it, you should read that one first.   

So what was wrong with it?

As with the last chapter, this was a "test" scene that was eliminated because a different route was taken with the storyline. I hated to delete it, because I loved the interaction between Cassie's vampire bodyguards and Caleb, and because it made a better mystery if there was a bit more of a question as to what had attacked her.
I also wanted to get the information about Tomas into the storyline, so that it was clear that Cassie was working on his situation behind the scenes. But in the end, word count limits and the need to move the book along won out.  

What was it about?

Caleb comes to the suite the morning after the attack by the Spartoi to interview Cassie. By the way, the snake tattoo Caleb mentions was actually a dragon birthmark, and is traditionally the sign of a Spartoi. It was not a rip-off of the Dark Mark!  Just FYI to keep me from getting irate emails.:D

Lost Chapter: Hunt the Moon (part 2)

     “I don’t know why we can’t go back to goddamned Central and do this in a goddamned office,” Caleb said, as I came out of the bedroom.
     I yawned at him and padded over to the fridge to see if we had anything. Of course not. We never had anything but beer. It was like living in a frat house. 
     “Because then the goddamned Senate would have a goddamned heart attack,” Fred said, slurping on something. He’d apparently made another food run, because he was sitting at the card table in the lounge, surrounded by white paper bags. 
     “And who are you?” Caleb demanded.
     “I’m the goddamned bodyguard.”
     Caleb glared at him while I meandered over to see what Fred had bought. He handed me a coffee, which compared to Pritkin’s usual brew was pretty sad. But at the moment, I’d take what I could get. 
     “What else did you get me?” I asked, peeking in bags.
     “What do you mean, nothing?”
     “I didn’t know when you were gonna get up, and anyway, you said you were gonna eat salad today.”
     “They have salads.” 
     “Chicken Ceasar doesn’t count.”
     “It has lettuce.”
     “So do tacos. So does a Big Mac. Don’t make ‘em health foods,” Mr. Superior told me,
while slurping on a chocolate shake.
     “You know, there’s not even real milk in that,” I told him.
     “Like I care.”
     “Can we do this now?” Caleb demanded, as I reached for the room service phone.
     “Depends,” I said. “What is this?”
     “You were there the whole time. You saw the same stuff I did.”
     “But I'm not clairvoyant. You’re supposed to be able to pick up on things the rest of us can’t. And all you tell us is ‘dragon, big!’”
     “Which pretty much sums it up.”
     “It does not sum it up!”
     A gravelly voice came on the line. “What you want?”
     It sounded surly, but considering what was on the other end of the line, that was actually pretty polite. “A green salad.” 
     “A green salad?” The room service guy sounded offended. 
     “Well, maybe throw some chicken on there.”
     “I told you, Chicken Caesar don’t count,” Fred piped up.
     “It’s not Chicken Caesar. It’s just chicken.”
     “Is it fried chicken?”
     “We got fried chicken,” the phone told me.
     “No fried chicken," I told it back. "Grilled. And, uh, what comes with that?”
     “What you mean, what comes with that? Salad comes with that.”
     “I’ll have an iced tea, unsweetened.” 
    I glanced at the lounge, and lowered my voice. “And throw a couple of breads sticks on there.”
     “I heard that.”
     I hung up to find Caleb glaring at me. “It does not sum it up!” he repeated. “Whoever those men were, they were far stronger and more resilient than they should have been.  They weren’t using shields, but they hardly took damage. They fell from heights that should have injured or killed them, and they shook it off. They were slinging some type of spell none of us had ever seen before, which popped our shields like damn balloons. And you say ‘dragon. big’!”
     “It’s the sort of thing that sticks with a person,” I said dryly, sitting on a stool at the counter, beside the one straining to accommodate Caleb’s 270 pounds of muscle. 
     “What I need to know is, did anything else stick with you?”
     “Like what?”
     “Like how many of those damn mages there were.”
     I yawned again, because the damn coffee was weak as water, and tried to think. “I don’t know,” I finally told him. “There were at least four or five, but there could have been six or even more. It was hard to tell. Like you said, they were freaking Weebles.”
     “Weebles?” Caleb looked confused. “I didn’t say anything about Weebles.”
     “Evil Weebles,” Fred added.
     “What the hell are Weebles?”
     “You know, those little round toy things?” I said. “They wobble but they don’t—never mind.”
     He took a deep breath and wrote something on a little pad. “All right. Did you notice anything unusual about them? Any accents--”
     “They didn’t talk.”
     “--any identifying marks? John said he saw, or thought he saw, an oddly-shaped
tattoo on one of the men. It would help if you could confirm.”
     “What kind of tattoo?”
     “A snake or possibly a Chinese dragon, sinuous and elongated, running up the right front forearm,” Caleb said reading off another page of the notebook. “He only glimpsed it, when one of the men’s coat sleeves rode up while he was choking him.”
     Trust Pritkin to notice something at a time like that. I shook my head. “I didn’t get close enough. I could give you a description, but I don’t know how useful it would be. They were pretty—”
     “Generic?” Caleb pulled something from under his coat. He handed me a small cardboard box, roughly the size and shape of a do-it-yourself hair color kit. Only this one would have to be unisex, because there were all kinds of faces on it. 
     Bartleby’s Best Glamourie, was written in big, curlique letters on the front. And underneath that: Want to be someone else for a day? Do it the old fashioned way. Since 1763.
     Caleb pulled a small, folded paper out of the box and spread it open. It was full of faces, maybe fifty or more--men, women, even a few kids. He pointed to one of the little images in the first row. 
     “Look like the guys you saw?”
     I squinted at it. “Maybe. Like I told you, I didn’t see them up close.”
     “You didn’t have to. John positively ID’d the glamourie for us.” He scowled. “It was easy. They were all using the same one.”
     “They didn’t bother to choose different ones?”
     “They didn’t even bother to tweak the one they did choose. This type lets you switch up hair color, morph features, add a mole--make the standard faces it comes with look different enough to pass as an actual person. And it’s pretty much a necessity with this kind, since it’s been around so long. Everybody in the Corps knows these faces by sight.  It’s a required memorization exercise in first year of training.”
     “Then why didn’t the men change them?”
     “Only two reasons I can think of. Either they didn’t know how common this set is, or they didn’t care. If they didn’t know, it pretty much takes them out of the mainstream magical community, maybe out of earth all together.”
     “If you’re talking about the Fey, they can do their own glamourie,” I pointed out. And I was pretty sure it beat anything that came out of a box.
     “Yes, but there’s a possibility that you can see through it, and that they knew that.  Perhaps whatever possessed you realized you’d seen him—”
     “Pritkin thinks that the spirit that came after me was female. Didn't he tell you?"
     "Yeah." Caleb scowled. "The Morrigan. It's a theory." But it didn't look like it was one he liked. "But my point was, if the spirit that possessed you is working with this group, and let’s hope it is—”
     He looked at me impatiently. “You’re as bad as John for interrupting!”
     “We hope they’re working together because we’d rather have one group, with one motivation and one skill set after you than two. Makes it a hell of a lot easier to deal with.  Otherwise, every time there’s an attack, we have to sort out who was responsible before we can decide what it tells us.”
     “So,” he said, with the air of a man winning through against great odds. “If we are dealing with one group, and the spirit realized you’d seen through its disguise, it could have told them they’d need something else, something human. And not knowing shit about earth, they wander into the first shop they find and buy the box in the biggest display.”
     “Which happens to be the oldest, best known brand.”
     “You said there’s two possibilities.”
     He shrugged. “We’ve had crimes committed by people wearing these generic types of disguises the way a human might don a ski mask. In that case, it’s not about fooling anyone; it’s about not having your face recognized.”
     “And they would worry about that because?”
     “Because we might know them. They might be in our files. And however the attack
turned out, they’d have to know we’d come after them.”
     I wrapped my arms around myself. Somehow, knowing that the Corps would avenge my death didn’t make me feel much better. I wasn’t all that big on revenge. I was big on staying alive.
     “Anything else?” Caleb asked. “Anything you can tell us might help, no matter how trivial. We need to figure out who’s behind this before we can--”
     “I know who’s behind it,” I said, staring at the little paper. There was something creepy about all those disembodied faces. Like death masks, or those wax impressions they took of people under the guillotine. I wondered what possible legitimate reason someone could have for wanting a glamourie. Magical trick or treating, maybe?  Spying on a cheating spouse? Just bored? It seemed bizarre that the Corps let them openly sell something like this. Of course, stores openly stocked ski masks, but at least they had some kind of legitimate—
     “What do you mean, you know?” I looked up to see Caleb frowning at me. 
     “Well, not know know,” I corrected. “But I have a pretty good idea.”
     “Why didn’t you mention this before?”
     I shrugged. “You were asking about the mages. I don’t know anything about them, or about what possessed me. But the dragon—that’s Dark Fey.”
     “And the Dark Fey king hates me.”
     “Dark Fey king?” Caleb frowned and started flipping through a file he’d put on the counter, because it was too thick to hold in his lap. The thing had to be two feet tall. “There’s nothing in here about you and the Dark Fey king—”
     “Probably because the Circle doesn’t know about it.”
     Dark eyes snapped to mine. “And why not?”
     “Probably because I didn’t mention it.”
     “Didn’t—” He stared at me, speechless. But not for long. “And why didn’t you think we needed to know about something like—”
     “Because when it happened, the Circle was still trying to kill me,” I said dryly. “And because I hoped it wouldn’t become an issue. And because you couldn’t have done anything about it anyway.”
     “Not if we didn’t know!”
     “Well, I’m telling you now. Not that there is much to tell. Basically, I made a deal with the king and I broke it.”
     “It isn’t wise to make deals with the Fey. It’s even less so to break them!”
     “I know that. But I didn’t exactly have a choice. We were in his lands and—”
     “You were what? When was this?”
     “A month or so ago. Ask Pritkin. Anyway, we got in, but then we had to get back out, and the only one with a portal was the king. And since he’d thrown us in prison for trespassing and was threatening to eat us—”
     “To what?”
     “—I kind of thought that agreeing with whatever he wanted made sense. It got us out of there and got sanctuary for a friend of mine who the Senate was after in a big way. So I agreed to get the king the book he wanted.”
     “What book?”
     “The Codex Merlini.”
     “The—” Caleb stopped, staring at me. “Are you mad? Do you know what that book contains?”
     “I do now. I didn’t then. Although, even if I had, I don’t know what else I could have done.  Saying no wasn’t really an option. Anyway, I got the book—”
     “You—wait. You found the Codex?”
     “But—but it’s been lost for centuries!”
     “Which is why I went back to a time before that. Caleb, look, it works better if you just let me tell it,” I said, as his skin flushed a darker hue.
     “You would think I would know better,” he muttered. “The old man always says, never ask a Pythia where she’s going or where she’s been.”
     “That’s probably for the best,” I said, trying to remember where I’d left off.
     “You went back in time and got the book,” Fred said helpfully. He’d unpacked a new bag and the smell of salty, fatty goodness was wafting around the suite. My nose crinkled.
     “Yeah. So, anyway, I finally realized that the book was bad news and I couldn’t give it to the king. So I burnt it—”
     Caleb cursed.
     “—and then started talks with the Senate about pardoning Tomas. That’s the friend I left in Faerie.”
     “Did they ever get around to doing that?” Fred asked, munching burger. It looked like he’d got an extra large order of fries, too. A little guy like that didn’t need all those fries.
     “No, but Mircea’s working on it.”
     “What’s the hold up?”
     “What is that?” Caleb demanded, looking like a man trying to keep up. I sympathized.  It was usually my role.
     “Big meeting among vamps.” I told him. “Usually, it’s held once every two years, but this one is a special order. Our Senate is trying to get the other five senates into an alliance to help with the war.”
     “What difference does that make?”
     “It makes a difference because, right now, the Senate isn’t going to do anything that might make them look bad, including pardoning a traitor they tried to publicly execute just six weeks ago. But Mircea promised me he’d see to it after the alliance was secured.”
     “Then you’ve been stalling the king to give this Tomas a safe place to stay while the Senate holds these talks of theirs,” Caleb said, working through it.
     “Yeah. They’re entering the final stages, so I should get an answer in the next few weeks. So, of course, the king’s patience runs out now.”
     “Then your friend could be in danger.”
     “Not as much danger as he’d have been in here,” Fred said. “In Faerie, he can hide.  Here, his master would call him straight into the Senate’s hands in a matter of days.”
     I nodded. “It wasn’t a perfect solution, but it was the best I could do. I was on the run myself at the time. But it is kind of weird."
     "Kind of?"
     I frowned at him. "I got the impression that the king was the finger-in-a-box type. If he hurt Tomas, I think he’d want me to know before he killed me. And I haven’t heard anything.” 
     In fact, I hadn’t heard anything from him all month, which was more than weird, now that I thought about it. I’d have expected, at the very least, a few more pixies with sharp sticks coming to goad me in the backside. The king hadn’t seemed like the patient type.
     “I doubt Tomas is even at court anymore,” Fred put in. “I mean, how would he feed?”
     Caleb frowned. “The same way he feeds here.”
     I shook my head. “Francoise—the only human at court--left with us.”
     “Then he could feed from a Fey.”
     Fred just looked at him, blinking. “Wow,” he said, after a minute.
     I shot him a look. “Fey blood doesn’t nourish vamps,” I explained. “I fed Tomas
what I could spare before I left, but the Senate had worked him over pretty good. He’d have needed to go somewhere with humans in order to get a full feeding and heal the rest of the way. He probably left shortly after we did.”
     “Then he could be back here,” Caleb said, as if latching onto something that made sense. “And if he is, maybe he could tell us if the king really is behind--”
     “We just told you, if Tomas returned, his master would know,” Fred said. “He’d feel it.”
     “And Tomas’s master is a member of Mircea’s extended family,” I added, giving into temptation and swiping some fries. “So he’d almost certainly mention it.”
     “And then Lord Mircea would tell you,” Caleb said.
     “Yes.” I reached for another fry, and Fred gave me a death glare. 
     I sighed. “I’ll trade you.”
     Fred shook his head. “Can’t.”
     “Why not?”
     “Because the master said he’d have our hides, that’s why. I mean, why do you think nobody’s tried it? We’re all curious.”
     “About what?” Caleb asked suspiciously.
     “About how a Pythia tastes. It’s not like anybody’s ever had a chance to find out, and they say she’s got all this power now, so the rush should be really—” 
     “You are not talking about feeding from the Pythia!”
     Fred blinked at him. “Well, no. I’m talking about not feeding from--”
    “Because that would be assault! And assault on the Pythia carries a death sentence!”
     “Then there should be a lot more dead people around,” I said dryly.
     Fred scowled at him. “Don’t get all worked up. Mircea already said no, and it’s not
like anybody’s gonna—”
     “And you deliberately choose to live with these…these creatures?” Caleb asked me.
     I sighed. I could have told him that I feed Billy all the time, and that this was no
different. Vamps just needed a medium to carry the life force because they weren’t spirits and couldn’t access it directly. I could have told him that the amount a master needed under normal circumstances was so small I’d never miss it, and that he himself might have been dinner a time or two without even knowing it. Despite what Hollywood would have people believe, vamps could draw blood molecules through the skin with no need to do the Bella Lugosi thing. 
     I could have told him a lot of things, but I didn’t. Because I was tired and hungry and it
wouldn’t have done any good anyway. “Are we done?” I asked hopefully.
     Caleb slammed the file closed. “For now. I’ll have a report tomorrow, if you give a damn.”
     “I give a damn.”
     “Then we only have to decide where you’re staying.”
     “I know where I’m staying,” I said, taking his arm.
     Caleb started to protest, but I cut him off. “I just told you, Mircea is trying to broker a deal for an alliance, which is not going to be helped if the Senate’s prize asset—”
     “You are not their asset!”
     “--runs off and joins the Circle.” I tugged him toward the door.
     “And if you die because these vampires cannot protect you, what will that do to his precious argument?”
     “We’re not the ones who led the damn Fey right to her!” Jules said, as we entered the
living room.
     “And we’re not the ones who almost allowed her to drown in the bathtub!” Caleb fired back.
     “She didn’t drown!”
     “Because a war mage was on the premises, thank God!”
     “We’d have handled it whether or not--”
     “Like you handled it last night?”
     “Our man was in the car!” Jules said hotly, following us into the foyer. “You couldn’t even find her!”
     “We found her, or she would have been splattered all over the sidewalk!” Caleb snapped, as Rico opened the door. “And what the hell did you do with my car?”
     "Cassie was asleep.  We didn't want to move her," Fred said mildly.
     "So you stole my car!"
     "Well, it wasn't like you didn't have people to give you a lift."
     “It's in the parking garage, 22B,” Jules told him, before he could say anything else. “Thank you and goodbye.”
     “You need to rethink your living situation,” Caleb told me, snapping his notebook shut.
     “I’ll be sure to give that some thought,” I said, as the elevator dinged and he stalked off.
     I got my back to the door and Fred handed me the rest of his fries. “Here.”
     “What are these for?”
     “If you gotta put up with these guys all the time, you deserve ‘em.”
     They were cold and there was no more ketchup. 
      I ate them anyway.