October 2018 Newsletter
The nearby warehouse turned out to be a bust, but Jace had a feeling Brodie was around here somewhere, so they kept searching and searching…and searching until they practically stumbled upon an abandoned warehouse nearly a mile from Kera’s old apartment.
Jace knew it was the right place from all the barking. But what concerned her wasn’t the barking dogs.
It was the screaming.
Jace ran into the empty parking lot beside the building and went to the back door. Just as she touched the handle, something heavy hit the metal door from the other side.
The Crows backed up.
“That does not sound good,” Annalisa muttered.
Jace reached for the door handle again and pushed it down. The door was blocked from the other side, so Jace and Annalisa shoved the door open together. The mangled body of a gang member rolled back and away to flop against the floor. She knew he was in a gang from the tattoos that covered nearly every inch of visible skin.
She pushed the door all the way open, but before she could step over the man’s body, Annalisa yanked her back as a pack of dogs charged out of the doorway in a panicked mob.
The Crows squealed, moving into what they called a “protective flock” until the freaked-out dogs disappeared down the street.
“Should we track them down?” a sister asked.
“Can we just focus on one dog today, please?” Annalisa pulled away from the sisters and peered into the open door, but she reared back when she heard men screaming. “I don’t know what’s happening, but it does not sound good.”
But Jace was determined to find Brodie, no matter what the consequences. So she walked into the large building, stepping over the gang member’s body, her sister-Crows following her in.
There were cages stacked off to one side, but the doors had been torn off the hinges, freeing the poor animals inside.
It seemed it was too early for a fighting event, but a small number of men had come to the warehouse, maybe to feed the dogs.
And now, most of those men were dead. Most but not all. The survivors were in the back of the warehouse in an office. That’s where the screams and now gunshots were coming from.
Jace moved forward until she reached a makeshift pit in the middle of the room. The bodies of smaller dogs were lying in the pit, used as bait dogs probably. She quickly looked away, always unable to look at any kind of animal cruelty. It just broke her heart.
There were more screams and shots, and Jace watched two men run from that back room.
“Run!” they screamed at the Crows as they came toward them. “Run!”
Jace glanced back at the Crows and Annalisa slammed the door shut, forcing the two men to slide to a stop.
The men gawked at the Crows as Jace walked over to stand in front of her sisters.
“You stupid bitch!” one of the men snarled. “Why did you do that?”
“Just move!” the other yelled. “It’s coming! It’ll kill all of us!”
The Crows stood their ground, gazing at the men coldly.
“What the fuck? What’s wrong with you?”
Annalisa pointed at the pit where the dead dogs were. “Did you do that?”
“What are you? One of those crazy animal-rescue people? Is that thing in there yours?” he demanded, pointing to the back of the warehouse.
Jace shook her head and said softly, “You deserve whatever you get.”
One of the men punched Jace in the face to move her, but Jace had been hit before. A lot harder than this. Long before she’d even been a Crow. The difference now, though, was that she knew how to fight back.
She grabbed the fist that hit her with both hands and twisted hard, snapping the bone at the wrist. The man screamed out in pain and Jace punched him in the chest, sending him flying back several feet.
The other man raised his gun but Annalisa slammed her foot against his knee cap, crushing it. She yanked the gun out of his hand and tossed it across the room.
The first man suddenly began screaming, his body dragged back behind a stack of wood boxes. He begged for help but the Crows wouldn’t be doing that.
The man at their feet started to drag himself toward the door. The Crows stepped back to let him get by, watching him silently.
A low, rolling growl radiated around them and Jace looked to see Brodie walking slowly toward them. The dog was studying them as she moved, waiting to see what they would do.
But the Crows wouldn’t do anything but back her up. That’s what Crows did…for their sisters. Because that’s what Skuld had done here. She’d made Brodie one of them.
Wings extended from Brodie’s furred back and her muzzle was covered in a thick, fitted slab of steel that stretched down over the majority of her teeth. A special gift from Skuld just like Jace’s rage or Kera’s strength or Erin’s flame.
Jace remembered the pictures in Kera’s old apartment when they were moving her out. Pictures of Brodie. Not only had most of the poor dog’s teeth been pulled by these bastards, but her muzzle had been so badly damaged that her gums had been visible even when her mouth was closed. Jace remembered thinking how amazing Kera was; she’d done what a lot of people would not have been able to do. She’d not only approached and rescued Brodie, but she’d kept her despite the way she’d looked. She’d accepted her just as she was, which was a big deal in a city where style and glamour were of uber importance.
But Kera hadn’t cared about that. She’d cared about helping this dog. And when Skuld had brought Brodie back to be with Kera, she’d made sure the dog could not only be by Kera’s side, she’d be able to fight by Kera’s side. As a sister-Crow.
When none of the Crows stopped her, Brodie leaned down and sniffed the man on the floor. Panicked, he reached out with his uninjured hand and begged, “Please. Help me.”
Jace looked at her sisters and, as one, they all nodded. Jace looked back at the man and said with great finality… “No.”
As Erin had worked for the last three hours, her fellow artists would stop and watch her during their breaks. They didn’t say anything, but Kera tried not to take that as a bad sign.
“Do you have any tattoos?” Kera asked.
“No ‘it’s an exit, not an entry’ tattoo?”
“I never said that was me.”
“Still. A tattoo artist with no tattoos?”
“So? You, like me, were raised Catholic.”
“I was actually raised to keep my options open. As my mother pointed out, maybe when I’m ninety, I’ll want to be buried in a Jewish cemetery.”
“So you might want to bury your body in a Jewish cemetery while your soul is battling in Asgard? That seems kind of confused.”
“Maybe. Okay.” Erin rolled her chair back, stretched her neck and shoulders. “Take a look.”
Erin grinned. “You’re kind of afraid, aren’t you?”
“More than kind of.”
“Thought you were tough,” she said, her voice dropping several octaves. “A Marine!”
“Oh, shut up.” Kera stood…and immediately stopped to stretch her own neck and shoulders. They hadn’t taken any breaks during this session and she felt it now.
Finally, Kera walked over to a large standing mirror near the shop T-shirts that were for sale. And, after a deep breath, Kera turned and looked at what Erin had done to her back.
Using her stainless steel maw, Brodie grabbed hold of the man by his ass and dragged her screaming, begging prey off behind that stack of boxes.
Jace faced her sisters and said, “I want ice cream.”
“Frozen yogurt’s better for you,” Annalisa noted.
Jace cringed. “That’s not ice cream. I want ice cream.”
“Okay, but it’s going to go right to your hips. And that’s not a good thing for you.”
Jace’s mouth dropped open at the insult just as the screams abruptly stopped.
Blood-covered but back to her normal pit bull self, her wings hidden behind fur and thick muscle, Brodie padded over to them and sat.
Jace stared down at the dog and asked, “Ice cream?”
Panting, Brodie’s mouth pulled back in a doggy smile.
Brodie yawned and looked away.
Jace shrugged. “Ice cream it is then.”
“We can’t take her back looking like this,” Annalisa pointed out. “The new girl is pretty OCD. I’m almost positive she’ll notice the blood and gore.”
Erin adjusted her tattoo gun and tossed a few things out, just to convey an air of nonchalance that she wasn’t even remotely feeling.
She had no doubts about her ability as an artist. She was good. She knew it and the tattoo world knew it. And although she’d been bold in her decision not to consult Kera even the tiniest bit about the permanent markings she was putting on the woman’s flesh, she was beginning to wonder if that had been the best idea. Because Kera wasn’t saying anything. Nothing at all.
It was completely disconcerting.
But Erin had known from the second she’d seen that tacky script tattooed on Kera’s body exactly what she wanted to do. It was as clear to her as anything.
Of course, that didn’t mean Kera would like it.
As Erin pretended to confidently put her bottles of ink away, she sensed that Kera was now standing beside her.
She glanced up to find Kera just standing there, glaring at her. At least it looked like a glare.
“You’re not going to throw up on me, are you?” Erin asked. “Because every time you get freaked out, you start throwing up.”
Kera’s eyes narrowed even more. “Don’t piss me off when I’m trying to gush.”
“You call that gushing? Because it looks like you were about to start stabbing me.”
“If I did, it would be because of your attitude and not because of the tattoo you’ve given me. Because I love the goddamn tattoo.”
“I do. A lot.”
Erin let out a breath she didn’t realize she’d been holding. “I thought you might like Filipino tribal art, even though you seem to hate your mother.”
“I didn’t hate her. I just didn’t like her.”
“I had to go bigger to cover up the old piece.”
“Yeah. I’m fine with that.” Kera cleared her throat. “I also appreciate the use of Crows within the lines.”
“You noticed that?”
“Yes. And I like it.”
“You need to cover this up with a bandage, right?” Kera asked, motioning to her new work.
“Yeah. But it’ll be healed by tomorrow.”
“Do I really have to keep explaining your new life to you?”
“Again with the tone? And I didn’t realize faster tattoo healing was part of all this.”
“Thankfully it is.”
“Well, I can’t wait to show this off.”
Erin smiled. “I really am glad you like it.”
“Yeah. Me, too!”
As they laughed, Erin’s phone pinged and she glanced at the text message.
“Another job tonight.”
“You seem surprised.”
“There’s definitely been an uptick in jobs lately. It’s kind of weird. I mean, we get an uptick around a vernal equinox sometimes, but this has been extensive. Because, keep in mind, we’re not the only team going out on jobs. And the other strike teams have been working more than usual, too.”
Erin’s phone pinged again. It was a one word message from Annalisa that said, “Okay.”
“What’s wrong?” Kera asked.
“What makes you think something’s wrong?”
“Because you just sighed deeply and rolled your eyes all the way to the back of your head.”
“Oh. That.” She shrugged, not willing to tell Kera that her sister-Crows had lost her dog. “It’s nothing.”
Kera sat back down so Erin could put the bandage on.
“Are you going to be ready for tonight?” Erin asked.
“How much am I going to owe you for this? I don’t have any cash on me, but—”
“Kera, I only charge people when I actually give them a say in what their tattoo will be. You didn’t have that, so it’s free.”
“That’s big of you.”
“I know. Isn’t it?”
“They’re coming!” Annalisa said, charging back into the kitchen.
Jace continued to towel off Brodie until she heard Kera’s footsteps coming down the hallway.
They never did get ice cream or yogurt because they hadn’t planned for the pile-up on the I-10 or the protest near the 101. They ended up trapped in traffic for ages. And even though they texted Erin again, asking for more time, the difficult woman adamantly refused. So by the time they got back to the house, all they could do was hose poor Brodie down—and, boy, had she hated being hosed down—and do a quick dry before the town car that Erin had called pulled up to the front.
Jace threw the towel to Annalisa, who tossed it into a cabinet, shutting the door just as Kera walked in.
“Brodie Hawaii!” she cheered, going to her knees as Brodie charged across the room to her.
Kera hugged her dog as if she hadn’t seen her in years, laughing as Brodie licked her face and neck.
Erin walked in a few seconds later and she immediately sniffed the air, eyes narrowing on Jace.
“We have a job tonight,” Erin reminded Kera. “You better get dressed.”
“Okay.” Kera kissed the dog on her giant pit bull head, scratched her behind the ears, and stood. “Don’t feed her. I’ll feed her after I get dressed,” she told them.
Annalisa nodded. “No problem.”
Kera smiled at her dog once more before walking out of the room. When she was gone, Erin looked at them.
“What happened?” she asked, her voice resigned.
Jace opened her mouth but nothing came out, so Erin turned to Annalisa.
“There was an incident. But it was handled. Nothing to worry about.”
“Uh-huh. Why did you have to bathe the dog?”
“Because of the blood. She was covered in it.”
“Why was there blood?”
“Well,” Annalisa began, “we’re just guessing, but it seems that Brodie decided to get revenge on the guy or guys who abused her in her past. Before Kera.”
“The guys who…? You mean in Kera’s old neighborhood?”
“She went all the way back to Kera’s old neighborhood? How did she manage that without being seen or picked up by Animal Control?”
Annalisa glanced at Jace but all she could do was shrug. Might as well tell her.
Annalisa leaned down a bit and said to the dog, “Show her, Brodie.”
“Are you talking to the dog?” Erin asked. “Why are you talking to the—aaaaahhhhhh!” Erin screamed, scrambling back several feet when Brodie’s wings came out and the steel slammed shut over her muzzle. “What the holy fuck?”
“Keep your voice down,” Annalisa whispered.
“Keep my voice down?”
Brodie stood and walked from one side of the kitchen to the other, wings up, head held high. There was even a little prance to her step.
“What is with this dog?” Erin demanded. “She’s acting like a stripper with new tits.”
“She’s proud,” Annalisa said.
“She’s one of us,” Jace added.
“She’s a dog.”
Brodie stopped in front of Erin and snarled.
Erin pointed a finger. “Don’t you dare threaten me—and you are a dog.”
“Are you going to tell Kera about all this, Erin?” Jace asked.
Erin let out a little snort. “What are you? High?”