Little Acorns

North Glenn 
#1
 Life was a large problem, composed of many smaller ones. There were many that were unavoidable, like death and taxes. There were also many within his ability to control, and that’s what he intended to focus on. He could not sweep in for a fair solution for all when it came to the troublesome existence of vampires, but he had evidence he could wrap his fingers around to bring justice to a murdered young woman. He could not change the tragedy of his past, but he could use them as motivation to work toward the future. He could not figure out what the problem of problems lay beneath Alex Davidson’s coarse exterior, but he could emerge from his Jeep outside her home and search for answers. This wasn’t for her sake alone, and nor for his ease of working with her, but some kind of hybrid animal of its own kind.
 It was mid-afternoon but she had said herself that she had nothing better to do. The idea of saying such a thing was irritating, but he tempered that reaction by directing the hostility to the cold. Fucking cold. He rubbed his hands together vigorously through their leather gloves before knocking on her door, much more politely and patiently than he had in the past.
 Yet it was cold, and despite the carded flannel of his coat and the thermal treated layers of clothing beneath, he was freezing. The heat sapped from his extremities fast, and he had not been standing outside more than a couple minutes and already the feeling in his toes had been stolen. At least it woke him up—a night’s sleep had done well for the bags under his eyes, but he had by no means recovered from his waking binge.
 Rude or no, he huffed and knocked again.
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#2
 The second she had had the bright idea to say she had a tummy ache, she knew this shit was coming sooner or later. Halfway anticipating it in the form of a text or a phone call, the house visit was an additional layer on the canvas of bullshit that had been set in front of her. As always, along the way, she'd gotten distracted by a close-up and mixed the full view: not friends.

 But she was better now, reassessed and determined to find not just a way to make this whole mess more tolerable, but rather a way to get out of it. Not that she would say it in so many words, coming just after his second knock and scowling as she opened the door and stared at him before stepping to the side. "Guess what? There are other rooms in this fucking house besides this living room and that kitchen and sometimes I have to walk through them."

She'd nudge the door shut behind him with the toe of one fuzzy sock. "Patience is a virtue, or whatever. Anyway, what's up?"
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#3
  Something about “cold” was muttered in response as he shuffled past her and into the protected interior of the house. Socially he felt more comfortable on the stoop, but he fled the elements and into the shelter she’d opened for him. The way his head ducked and shoulders tightened around his neck was meant as a display of the real reason for his impatience, like that might suffice for apology. She’d already scolded him, and he hadn’t offered protest, and that was as close as they were going to get.
 The question made him perk up and look at her, quizzical at first but he was quick to tamp down the show of emotion and turned his face back to steely neutrality. This was a game, he was sure, she was playing dumb.
 "That’s what I came by to find out," he answered with his jaws locked tight and lips barely moving. "What’s up?"
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#4
 "I told you, my stomach hurt - coyotes have those too. Stomachs." She stared at him, frowned as she turned away and headed for the kitchen. "I'm sorry I didn't bark loud enough to appease you when you introduced me to the good guy cop."
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#5
  She betrayed herself from one moment to the next. At first it was only her stomach, but then he was supposed to be mad. She had her back turned, and so he reacted in safety with a curious raise of his eyebrows and the dropping of his lip.
 When he forced himself not to be volatile, and instead to turn that criticizing eye inward, perhaps he shouldn’t be too surprised. He was a hard man to understand as he’d been told, and such bred distrust and conflict. Squall sighed and wondered what specifically he needed to address, and how.
 Doubt she has a clue. He pressed forward with a readying breath, and took the plunge, "I’m not mad, I’m confused." He didn’t know, and it was surprisingly painful to hear himself say it. He recoiled at the statement, and watched her back.
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#6
 "Oh, yeah?" There was a slight lift to her tone as if she was curious and wanted to hear him explain himself further. "Well I'm mad enough." Food. Food sounded like a good idea, something appealing and distracting when there was a tug of aggravation if she looked at him for more than a brief glimpse.

 "Hear me out:" She pulled a half-finished loaf of bread from the fridge, tossed it onto the counter and grabbed the jelly from the door before she shut it with her foot. "Imagine you do some shit you're not supposed to, right? And you get caught, which ..." She pulled a butter knife from the drawer in front of her, waved it a bit and dismissing the whole notion that it was a reasonable turn of events.

 "Arrangement's simple enough - spill the secrets to the greater supernatural world, don't go to a fucking FEMA camp for the feral, continue on as normal." She glanced back and got to work delving out globs of preservatives. "I am upholding my part of that but now, no - that's not enough. Now I need to meet people. Now I need to what - get training?!" If she were any stronger, she wondered if she could bend her cheap ass cutlery with how tightly she held on.
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#7
 Eager to hear her out Squall gestured with a half bow and extension of his hands to welcome her to the floor. She had a butter knife, so he did not follow after her, but kept to the periphery of the kitchen nearer the front door, as if suspecting his welcome to wear thin quickly.
 She unveiled more of what she saw as the issue, most of which felt like a confirmation of suspicions, but he knew better than to pounce and seize it as a moment to declare himself right. He’d been married long enough to learn that even when he was revealed in being right, he was wrong.
 "Okay," he said finally, when he was sure she was finished with her piece and when he had given his reply a considerable amount of thought. "Do you want me to answer that or do you want to yell at me some more?" He said it agreeably and understandingly, like he might be just as happy to let her blow off the steam and not take it to heart if that was all that need be done. Better to leave it up to her, he decided, than be presumptuous.
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#8
 The answer that he provided to the whole tirade sounded like something from a Thursday night sitcom. Somewhat sexist, a whole lot of annoying. She gritted her teeth, kept her eyes on the backsplash and her back to him when she couldn't guarantee that they were an entirely normal shade of blue.

 "You're missing the fucking point, it doesn't matter what you say because it's do it or die. It's just fucking converting precious oxygen for the sake of appearances. What I want is to be done with this shit." Or in the very least to have some sort of seal, a cap to how much work she was expected to put in.
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#9
  Yelling it was. He’d already realized there was not anything he could say that could appease. He could say what he thought she wanted to hear of course, but that wouldn’t be the truth, and was therefore off the table. Squall took his licks without protest , and tried to find something he could pick out and address, and perhaps alleviate some.
 He licked his lips thoughtfully before replying, "You don’t have to do anything." Not contractually at least, not in the vein of which he had called her the night before. "As a matter of fact, if my superior finds out about this, I’ll probably lose my job." The idea put a wistful tilt to his voice. It was more terrifying to him than anything, and yet he chose to face it; he could lose his purpose, but the risk was worth the potential reward.
 "You’ve done enough," He murmured a little quieter, not to purposefully veil the words but because he was pained to speak every syllable.
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#10
 "Wait -" Sharp again even when he got all quiet and reflective, she turned on her heel and leaned back so that the counter pressed less than comfortably into the small of her back. "If your superior knew what exactly? About me?" Taken aback at the suspicious idea that life could really be just this easy for a moment, so simple.
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#11
 "About asking for your help in the field," he clarified, the words droned on dully with a hint of suspicion rising beneath. She had been cooperative, then hot about the subject, and with her mood currently so temperamental he was wary with how to broach the topic. He wanted to remind her again that she wasn’t required, but killed the words in his opened mouth before he could speak them: she had not reacted well before.
 He bit his tongue and left it at that.
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#12
 "Mm, ..." Slowly with enough shifting and frustration a clearer picture started to form, she worked hard to keep from seeming even remotely excited or even fazed. "So, your superior," She cut her sandwich at a diagonal, took a bite and swallowed before she spoke again. "Safe to say - not a Were fan? You can be honest with me."
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#13
 Squall rolled his eyes at her deduction. "Not a fan of unauthorized personnel participating in FBI activities," he corrected her, lest she get too far down that track of thinking. "Especially criminals."
 It should bother him more as well, but he’d gotten to know her some. She had said she wanted to do the right thing, and from his estimation would have turned out differently had her opportunities in life been different. She had at first made him more confident in this assessment initially on the phone, but now he was not so sure.
 "If you don’t want to help, then don’t." He offered, wary of her choice of questions that seemed to have to little to do with the issue. He wanted to stay on topic.
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#14
 "Technically I'm not a criminal anymore, files wiped - remember?" Wanting to reiterate that good and plenty even as he tried to backtrack. But the goddamn brake might as well have been clean cut, she trusted he knew that as well as she did.

"Too late, Tomas is on board."
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#15
  He was irritated. He opened his mouth to tell her that she was irritating, because that was honest wasn’t it? At least at the surface level. Yet when he forced himself to be level and to think, he knew that wasn’t all of it. Jesus, give me strength… The intentions he had come here with had been sincere, and he clung to them steadfast in the face of this storm. It meant he couldn’t look at her, had to look at the ground in front of him when he spoke, but the concern he voiced was somehow more honest—the real problem.
  "This…" He waved his hands back and forth between them, trying to indicate their discourse in gestures rather than words, which was an usual tact for a man typically succinct and precise with his diction. "This is not a conversation."
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#16
 There was a block of new and fairly sharp knives one sharp turn away, the gun she'd acquired from him and it's eccentric loadout were tucked in the discreet shelf of the coffee table. She could shift within, what? A minute? Two? She stared at him, watched how he avoided eye contact and made a point to stay very still.

"I'll bite. What is it then?"
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#17
 Silenced again, Squall held up his hands to surrender to the question. Hell if I know. He was trying to figure it out even as he stood in front of the door, ready to leave should things come to that. It helped him think, he found, to keep his distance and to try to stay in the moment, as aware and suspicious of his own thoughts as of hers.
 Every word from his tired tongue was scrutinized before being uttered, causing him to speak slow and stall with his shrug before confiding, "I came over to talk." He didn’t know what their exchange had been until now, but he knew (or he believed) that they had ‘talked’ in the past. He wasn’t sure how to conjure it on demand, other than to stand and request as politely as he knew how.
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#18
 Gun in the living room, knife in the kitchen, coyote on call. She kept it in mind like a mantra, slowly came round the counter but didn't outright approach him and tried to consider how to proceed. Dante said not to kill him, he said don't turn him - but he didn't really say anything useful. Fair, because it wasn't his fucking problem, but it felt like she was running out of options and when you couldn't back down you had to buck up.

 Still she didn't make any moves, didn't want to play that racing game unless she had to unless she was absolutely fucking certain there was no other way for this to go. "You mean like - midnight pizza and old case files kind of talk? " The sort of talk she'd done when she'd been in denial about what constituted as a cage. "You can't have it both ways."
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#19
  "I don’t know what that’s supposed to mean," he admitted. They were going places now. This felt more honest. His voice didn’t rise in agitation with his confession, but was layered above a thin stratum of hope that they might have that conversation he’d drove out here for.
  Now he looked her in the eyes, because he was more sure of himself and his alignment with his intentions, and he made no attempt to hide that.
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#20
 "I mean I'm not stupid." Selfish sometimes maybe, impulsive, reckless, but not stupid. "You can't expect me to ask you how your fucking day was when you got one finger over the big red button of my life." Like a dog, really. "So if you want me to shoot the shit with you and be your buddy, then you need to get me the fuck out of this deal. I'd still help off the record, but ..."

 In her head, Jo would barge in and kill him for her. Kai would scowl and disapprove of this whole thing from start to finish. The crazy fucking homeless guy from last spring would have probably killed him for her by now. Nicodemus would have burned him alive or got fucking killed for a second time trying. But it was a lot easier to squeeze that fucking trigger when it was hypothetical.

 "And I know you won't, because who the fuck would do that?" She shrugged, glanced to the door over his shoulder. "But in that case I don't want to play darts and talk about life, buddy."
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#21
 His tact had worked. Squall was surprised with himself. Despite her closing remark, this was a conversation. This was the kind of honest discourse that affected change, for better or worse, nothing facile or forced. He wasn’t here to talk about darts, he was here for this. She was direct, and he was not reactive, even with his face cast in its usual stony glower.
 She was upset with the position she’d put herself in, and that was fair enough. Facing real consequences to ones actions was never sought after; Squall thought of the Flood, and of Cain. He breathed there quietly for some time and let the implications of those thoughts wash over him.
 "I want to." He had not wanted to see her rot in prison, and did not want her to be imprisoned outside those fences either, even before he’d gotten to know her. She was the kind of criminal on paper that needed reform, and that was preferable by far.
 He wanted to end it, and yet when she’s asked him where the finish laid, he’d plead his ignorance: he didn’t know when it would stop. Not every determining factor was up to him.
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#22
 "Well thanks for the good intentions, but those don't really do anything for me." Feeling like she was trying to claw her way out of a trench, muddy and slick and exhausted despite the lack of progress. "Help."
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#23
 He nodded. She wasn’t wrong, but at least it was a start, and more than she could hope for from someone else in his position he felt. It was progress, and helpful, but the question she posed earlier still stood: why would he? The arrangement protected them both, and ended it to work on faith alone meant risk on either side. He had his own motivations, many of which he’d expressed, others he’d kept to himself, but none had pushed him over the edge.
 Why not? He rubbed his mouth as he sought for answers within him, and voiced what was conjured forth from the wellspring of forthrightness they’d seemed to stumble on, "I’d have to trust you." He had to decide if that was something he could do.
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#24
 She supposed now would be a bad time to make an ultimatum that boiled down to violence or results. Instead, she wondered out further on that particularly thin ice and shrugged. "Well I suppose that can be flipped to, you need to try to find out." Aggravated at this loop that she could see forming, an endless cycle of blame shifting. "I can tell you that you can, but that doesn't mean shit."
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#25
  It wasn’t the first time she’d called him out, but it was the first that he felt called out. I this really what I came here for? Last time he’d arrived at her apartment, he’d given her a firearm and rounds in an act that could not only lose him his job, but land him in prison should his prosecutors choose to be unkind. Of course he could deny the act, and felt there was little risk, but the chance was there. The choice had still been easy, and felt right down to his core.
 This moment was wrought with more indecision. He could not parse what felt right, as much as he stood at her door trying to pull out the truth. As a result he was quiet, and ran his hand over his head, wiped his mouth, all anxious and thoughtful body language.
 Perhaps he couldn’t know what was right, but he knew what felt wrong, and at the least he should strive to move in the opposite direction of that.
 "Okay." He murmured it quietly and his lips did not move; he wasn’t even certain that he’d heard himself.
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#26
 Careful, careful, careful - like the last pass on an art piece that called for a delicate touch. There was some surge of relief at the simple response, the sort of happiness that she had to reel in, reminding herself to not get too ahead in the conversation. "I'm not trying to - you know, harass you, but ... okay?" What the fuck did that even mean?
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#27
 "Yeah." Suddenly he felt the need to sit. A glance behind him confirmed that he had in fact not moved since shuffling inside, and without thinking he slid down the door to sit on the floor. He felt in want of a smoke, but also a little to vomit, so he kept his lips pressed and hands still to quell the roiling sensation in his stomach.
  She would be waiting for an answer, and he was aware of that enough to mumble more, "We could alter the contract with a termination date..." The listless nature of his voice made it clear he had not thought the plan all the way through. His superior wouldn’t be thrilled to lose an asset, and he’d have to take such actions under the table. Perhaps it wasn’t the best long-term solution, but she prompted him for answers and he had yet to recover from the gravity of the decisions made.
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#28
 "Are you fucking with me? Because I don't want lip service, just be fuckin' honest." Cautious about anything going so smoothly, particularly after all the contingency plans she'd put into place. Unsure what to make of his current position, sitting on her floor looking as if he'd just discovered something hard to fathom. "... You uh, need some water or something?"
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#29
 "I am fine." Relatively speaking. He had not faced Rebecca’s mortality half as well as he was enduring his own. There was not the same insurmountable urge of regret that struck him to the soul. That feeling had burned into him so deeply, he responded to its threatening presence here like a trauma. Then Squall find himself here, making choices that he could not properly rationalize.
  She cursed him again and he twitched. Squall looked back up to her, took a breath, swallowed and blinked. His eyes were knowing, as yes he was aware he was sitting on the floor. "I could use a second to think," he suggested. The practice of his straight-faced delivery paid off in this moment, and allowed him to keep his voice dry and dispassionate. He continued on in the spirit of honesty in the same patient tone, "I would appreciate it if you were more quiet or helpful."
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#30
 He was fine, but she needed to shut the fuck up for a bit. Content then to grind her teeth, she turned from him and went back to the kitchen to start on another sandwich if only to keep herself busy. "Let me know when you're done, I guess." Thinking, sitting on the floor, whichever came first.
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#31
  The meaning of “silence is golden” dawned on him in a new way. She was irate perhaps, but he wasn’t sure that was a negotiable state for her, so he let her busy herself with that while he gathered himself on the floor. His time in mountainside had grown increasingly perilous until this point. It wasn’t that he hadn’t faced dangerous adversaries, but this was different, so outlined by Detective Morgan in her car as she asked him what they were going to do when they found their quarry. Die, probably.
 So many had already perished. That was why he’d called her in the first place to ask for her help. That was why he was here, making some of the most senseless choices of his life. At least he’d go with a clearer conscience.
 "I can’t just ask my superior to cut you loose," he said finally. "It’s not all the way up to me." His eyes were tired in spite of the sleep he’d gotten. Exhaustion caught him in the depths of understanding just what he had promised, and what paths they may have to take to follow through.
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#32
 "Alright." And there was a sense of defeat in it, the obvious conclusion that nothing could be pure and simple as it should be. She neglected the butter knife, discrete and calm as she slipped one from the block and got to cutting. [q]Well, then what do you purpose here?[/b] The benefit of the doubt, to just wait and see and ... maybe end up eating a detective instead.
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#33
 Feeling a little stronger, Squall pressed his foot against the floor to test his leg. The muscle and bone held fast so he braced his hand against the wall and readied himself for what came next. "I could..." He had ideas, all of which felt like a betrayal. His superior would be quick to condemn her, and unlikely to acquiesce easily.
 He pushed off the wall and slid himself up it to standing. His legs were sturdy, and he bore all of his weight on them to stand straight. Squall drew in a sigh, and finished his thought with a dry question, "What will you do with it?"
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#34
 "With what, freedom?" She didn't let go of the handle but positioned her body to mask it as she glanced over her shoulder at him. "Not anything illegal, I can tell you that - not that fucking stupid." And there was no way to really answer that without outing a shit ton of Were's and their groups, and as much as she liked her insides inside, she chose not to do that.

"I just - you know, want that. Freedom, I mean."
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#35
 "But what?" He looked around her space. She was here, with no job that he was aware of, and an expressed dismal look into the future. He wasn’t asking after specifics, and he clarified, "Are you just going to keep doing what’s best for Alex?"
 It wasn’t that he didn’t understand. Self-preservation was a hell of a monster to tackle. They did what they must to survive, whether it had been the advantageous approach he’d taken on their relationship, or her life of villainy. Surely they were more than just mouths to feed? He had to believe it to be here.
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#36
 "I mean if you're asking me if I'm going to sell all my worldly possessions and become Mother Theresa, the answer is no." Seeing no reason to blow smoke pointlessly when he had at least some sense of her personality by now. "But I told you I would try to make a point of helping from time to time and I meant it."
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#37
 The last of his fight having been snuffed out of him, he sank into himself again. His shoulders collapsed and chin dropped low, and his posture stooped in a tired way so unlike his normal rigid structure. He clasped his hand onto the opposite forearm, to feel the odd sensation through the skin there now. Everything felt strange since the skin from his back had been sheared off to replace it. The feeling was a reminder as much as it was an idea.
  The idea had been there all along. From the moment they’d met, when he’d stacked the entire accumulation of her life before her and made her sign on the line, the seed had been planted. It had burst and taken root in his accountant’s mind like a horrible weed until it consumed all, and now forced its way out of his mind and into the world, made manifest through Word, "I’ll burn it," he announced lowly, through gritted teeth and past sluggish lips. "Every file and every drive of Alexandra Davidson. I’ll burn it so there’s nothing left." There was the purest kind of freedom in losing everything at once, and he’d learned there was something worthwhile at the end of self-immolation, so long as one was made of more than just deadwood.
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#38
 He looked like he'd just been given a grim diagnosis, which made it that much more confusing when he seemed to finally arrive on a conclusion that was ... good. Suspiciously good, better than she had ever truly anticipated from him. "Really?" A stupid level of surprise, as if Were hearing wasn't a thing at all.

"That's ..." Super not legal, for one. "You'd really do that?"
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#39
 Her disbelief was echoed in a sputtering laugh from his lips, resounding through the depressing house. He gave his arm one last squeeze before his hands went to hang limp at his sides, and he rocked his head back onto one shoulder to peer down his drawn face at her.
 "I promise." A contingency plan was developing in his mind in how he might survive the cataclysms he'd invited into his life. There was no certainty of getting out of this unscathed, but he was good with systems and understood the value of prestige when it came to organizations like his. A public embarrassment would be costly, and this was something he could perform quietly. His career in the future might be limited, but he should at least be able to do this one last thing. "As soon as we solve the Yahn case."
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#40
 Any sort of hope that had snowballed into something substantial went out like a goddamn candle, face falling as she stared at him. "It was a vampire." Or a series of vampires, a Clutch, or whatever. He knew it, she suspected it - what else was there to say about it? "Do you know how many fucking vampires there are in Colorado? The States? The world?" She didn't have the census on it, but enough that having just a species as a lead was madness in itself.

 "That's - if it's more than one if it's a group or even a few friends ..." A cold case that spelled a whole lifetime of hassle.
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#41
 "I know it was a vampire," he confirmed with a numb nod. From his pocket he drew out a folded up series of papers, three of them stapled together. When he unfurled it there appeared to be a list of sorts: names and addresses and dates.
 With the same certainty as before he declared, "And their name is on this list. Yahn burned down the house of a vampire, and she was killed in revenge. I have means and motive, I just need your help in identifying which one of these residents is a vampire… and maybe help us apprehend them." He extended the papers out for her and swallowed.
 "We are so close, Alex."
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#42
 She took the paper from him because it was about all that she could do, smoothed it out against her thighs and sighed at the idea of being a forensic dog for the police department. "I don't know ..." Stupid. This was all just stupid. "Fine. But if I'm involved it stays between you and Dakila and that is that." An authorized vampire killing coyote, in theory that sounded vaguely badass at least.
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#43
 She stepped forward and much to his surprise, took the paper from him. He half expected her to look it over and cast it aside, so when she agreed he was more than floored, he'd crashed through the cellar and into the bowels of the earth again. Wow. The moment felt a little unreal, and yet he could not deny the flood of excitement that coursed through him.
 His eyes flashed to and fro over her face in a helpless search for how to respond to the urgency and satisfaction he felt welling inside. All he could do was find something else for his mind to cling feebly to, and his lips quivered when he questioned her, "'Dakila'?" He meant to suggest it was queer for her to be so familiar with him already, and perhaps that was the most pressing issue at this very moment.
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#44
 "He texted me to make sure that he had the right number, told me I could call him Dakila." She waved it off, staring back at him and kept her teeth clenched as she waited. "So that it, are we done here?" An impossible task and then freedom - sounded about like the bullshit she should have expected.
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#45
 Dismissal returned to the front, and his disorientated mind did not keep pace. He did not concern himself with devising the reasons, just tried to move from one track to another. She was familiar with Tomas and he’d been familiar with her, and that was still strange and unanswered. She’d said he’d called and told her to refer to him as such, but that did not explain what he’d been asking.
 And then were they done? "Yeah," he answered immediately. There was little else on his agenda here, but he was not sure where to go next either. Perhaps a smoke in the car would clear his head enough to develop a plan, as he was not in a position to after having just picked himself up off the floor.
 "‘Patrick’," he went on in the same automatic manner. His hands lifted to smooth his coat and check the buttons were all still fastened.
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#46
 Something lingered there, a sort of hesitation that could easily put her on edge - she didn't let it take shape, knew better than to entertain it. They were done and that was that and tomorrow was a new day of the same justice seeking bullshit. "Pardon?" Unsure if she had actually heard him correctly as her head tilted the slightest measure.
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#47
 The fidgeting intensified when she brought his exposure in question. He sought the comfort of the Luckies in his pocket. Every damn time I see you I need a smoke… She worked him up like nothing else could.
 In spite of her request for clarification, he did not speak more clearly at all. He mumbled with his head cast downward, as if it took such concentration to draw out a cigarette from the pack. "If you must call me something… privately…" He practically whispered the qualification, and there was a hint of agony in the word like he suspected she would not respect it even a little. "It’s Patrick."
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#48
 Dakila and Patrick and a coyote that really didn't want to be an inside dog. If she wasn't tired and frustrated and more defeated than she was proud to admit, maybe she would have taken the time to insult him. Instead, she nodded, resisted that streak of curiosity that wondered how in the fuck you got Patrick from Reynard.

 "Alright. Patrick." So it was written, so it would be done or whatever. "Thanks for stopping in." The slightest tip of the scales towards guilt as she thought of the vivid mental imagery that had went into shoving a knife between his ribs just a few moments ago. "Have a safe drive."
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#49
 "Yeah." He gave a polite nod, just as eager to escort himself out as he was being ushered. Cold be damned, he’d gladly bear the freeze to smoke a cigarette or three on her porch before taking the drive home. He needed time for his head to clear before getting behind the wheel, and staining his Jeep with the scent of smoke was condemnable.
 He stepped out into the cold with the door so close at hand. When it shut behind him he squinted into the wintry sun obscured by clouds. At least Colorado had the decency not to be exceptionally windy.
 Spark flew, and a little flame flickered between his palms. For a moment his fingers were warm, until the ember caught and smoke filled his lungs, with the heat left as a fond memory while the Zippo was tucked back into his pocket.
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