“So how was the luncheon?” Michaels smirked at his partner. Gabriel just narrowed his eyes. The mayor’s wife patted his ass. “I told you to spill coffee on the chief’s desk, but you didn’t listen.”
“I do not miss political functions.” Stephan shook his head and looked up at Gabriel.
“You had to go to a lot of them?” Michaels glanced at him.
“Only black guy on the force.” Stephan shrugged. “I got dragged along to all of them.” He looked over his shoulder. “Magda had to go to, until they hired…” He frowned. “What was her name? Pretty blond girl with the…” He gestured in front of his chest.
“Violet.” Ash supplied the name. Stephan smirked at him, and Ash rolled eyes. “They were very noticeable.”
“Yeah she was…” Stephan chuckled. “Almost out of uniform a few times. Good cop. She’d bat her eyes, bend a little forward, and next thing anyone knew the suspect had babbled every bit of information they had.”
“I seem to recall a certain someone walking into a pole the time she wore a mini-dress for a sting.” Magda grinned. She caught Gabriel’s arm as he tried to go past into the house. “Where are you going?”
“To change.” Gabriel glanced down at her.
“Sorry partner.” Michaels patted his arm. “They took a vote when they learned you were in dress uniform. You’re not allowed to do that.” He looked over at where Matthias and Ted were coming up the stairs. “Erilon voted on your behalves.”
“So, it was one to…” Gabriel turned to count heads.
“Nah, it was unanimous.” Michaels grinned. “I like picking on you.” He put his hand on Gabriel’s shoulder. “Remember, our job is to serve and protect for the forces of justice and democracy.” He turned back to the grill and started putting burgers onto plates for Matthias and Ted.
Gabriel started toward the door again, and Magda stepped into his path to block him. Daniel and Laura came up the stairs, and Daniel started snickering. Gabriel exhaled and looked up at the sky. “She showed him the photo?”
“She showed him the photo,” Michaels confirmed.
“What photo?” Matthias raised an eyebrow.
“Oh for…” Gabriel took a deep breath, then he shrugged.
Michaels nearly dropped the plate he was holding when Gabriel simply started unbuttoning the jacket of the uniform. “Uh, partner?” He blinked. “What are you doing?”
“Stripping.” Gabriel continued unbuttoning the jacket.
“Is anyone…” Gabriel looked around. “Going to stop me?”
“Hell no.” Matthias grinned, then put an elbow on Ted’s shoulder. Ted was running a hand down the front of his face.
Laura glared at Ted. “I still can’t believe you stopped him.” Her eyes glowed faintly. “Do you just hate fun?”
“Or have we somehow wronged you?” Daniel shook his head.
“I’m occasionally greedy.” Ted rolled his eyes. “Bad enough Laura gave you a framed copy of that photograph.”
“Adam’s a little evil.” Daniel sighed. “I mean the angle. He’s turned just enough that you can’t see…” He looked down at the item in his hand.
“Can I…” Magda reached for it.
“Mine.” Daniel pulled it away.
“I supposed it’s fair.” Ted shrugged. “I mean, you have a picture of my boyfriend without his clothes on, I got to kiss your boyfriend…”
“Wait…” Daniel’s head jerked up. “What?”
Matthias started laughing. He tousled Daniel’s hair. “Ran into Ted’s ex-wife and her little sister. Gabriel and I decided to mess with them a little bit. Anybody asks, you’re also dating Ted.”
“Woof?” Ash raised an eyebrow.
“Yep, you and Stephan too.”
“Woof.” Ash shrugged.
“Alright, but if they demand details…” Stephan shook his head. “I don’t do yoga.”
“You really should.” Ash sat down next to him. “It’s good for you.” He looked up when Gabriel came back out. “Laura gave Daniel a framed copy of the picture.”
“Tattletale.” Daniel glared.
“Next time I see Adam…” Gabriel just rolled his eyes. “Remind me to…” He trailed off, then nodded at the end of the driveway. “We expecting someone?”
“No.” Ted frowned, then shook his head. “Might be Rebecca.”
An auburn-haired woman stepped out of the car. “That’s not Rebecca.” Matthias shook his head. “Anyone recognize her.”
“I do.” Stephan started to stand up.
“That’s…” Ash’s eyes went wide.
“Stephan?” Gabriel turned toward him.
“That’s the lady that kicked me in the head.”
“Stasya.” Laura provided the name.
There were a lot of eyes looking down at her as she walked toward the patio stares. They were somewhat less hostile than she’d anticipated. She squared her shoulders and headed up, holding the briefcase tight enough that her knuckles were white. Stasya stopped at the top of the staircase. “Magda Gunnarson.”
Magda took a half step forward, nodding. “Stasya.” She looked Stasya over. “Before we decide how to react to your presence, we need to know who sent you.”
“I am currently in the employ of Ryuu Ishi.” From their reactions, they all recognized the name.
“Ryuu sent you?” Magda raised an eyebrow.
“Instructions are to deliver this, get something from you, and take it to contact in Ukraine.” She held up the briefcase, then hesitated. Her eyes went to the blue haired girl.
Before she could ask, Laura smiled at her. “Baby Bear’s okay. He’s still fighting.”
Stasya exhaled. “Thank you.” She offered the briefcase to Magda.
“You work for Ryuu.” Magda gave a small shake of her head. “That’s…”
“Hang on.” Laura stood. “Adam said he sent you to look after his family.”
“They are in Las Vegas.” Stasya shrugged. “Also working for Ryuu Ishi.”
“That…” Magda took the briefcase. “Well now.”
“I almost pity any member of the Cabal that tries going after them.” Matthias gave a small laugh.
The briefcase was opened, and Magda removed a small silver bowl from inside it. She turned it this way and that, then a small smile came to her face. “Oh, you sly bastard.”
“Magda?” Ted raised an eyebrow.
“Stasya, sit down and have a beer. You hungry?” Magda gave a shake of her head. “I’m going to need about two hours.” She put the bowl back into the case, closed it, and headed inside the house.
“I will…” She looked around at the faces of people she’d expected to find as enemies. “Beer would be nice.” Michaels handed her one, and waved her toward a seat. She opened it and took a long drink, then looked up to see Gabriel staring at her. She shifted just a little uncomfortably under his eyes. “I, uh…”
“We need to talk about some photographs you took.” He folded his arms.
“Yeah, where can I get the rest?” Laura leaned forward.
It only took him a few moments to locate Ignacio in the alley. “Iggy.”
The alpha werewolf nodded. “Jefe.” He grinned at Adam, then offered him a package. “You overpaid us again.”
“Adapt to the new standard.” Adam shrugged. “I want your people to have sufficient funding to not have to fall back on less…” He waved a hand. “Tasteful work when not in my employ.”
“Not complaining.” He shook his head. “Uh, Javier ain’t available for whatever you’ve got for us this run.”
“He’s not in trouble, is he?” Adam raised an eyebrow.
“No, no…” Iggy shook his head. At thirty, he was the oldest of the little pack. Showered and clean-shaven, he looked barely seventeen. All six were apparently cousins, inheriting the wolf from a great grandparent. “Friend called, let us know this ranch was for sale out in New Mexico. Javier’s checking it out. If it’s what’s claimed and you’re gonna keep providing us with work enough for steady pay, then we can pool resources for the down payment.”
“I’ll keep you funded, even when the work is slow. If it meets your needs, buy it.” Adam smiled. “I’d prefer it if you had a place you could lay low between jobs.”
“Oh, yeah. It’s way off grid. Got a generator now but we’ll put in solar.” Iggy grinned again. “So, what you got for us, Jefe?”
“Delivery run.” Adam offered him small envelope. “Only you’re delivering a person. Need to get her into Canada, and it’s going to need to be coyote style. She can’t go through a checkpoint.”
“On foot through the woods?” Iggy nodded. “We can do that.”
“Don’t get spotted grabbing her. Cabal wants her dead, not captured, so they’ll be shooting to kill. Keep your heads down and go stealth mode.”
“Jefe, we cross over the Rio Grande a couple times a month. Canada’s got trees to hide behind.”
“Get moving, cabrón.” Adam rolled his eyes. “Time’s wasting.”
Magda cut upon her wrist with a claw, and let the blood fill the small silver bowl. It hissed and boiled as soon as it made contact with the metal. When the wound healed, she shifted back to human. She looked up to see Ash watching her. “It’s alright.” She smiled at him reassuringly.
“Old magic. Like Erilon is teaching Anna.” He came over to her. “Can I help?”
“Yes, actually.” She gestured to the glass vials. “Would you mind a drop of your blood in each?” She offered him a needle.
He winced just slightly as he pricked his finger, but squeezed a drop of blood into all four vials. Carefully, she poured the now black contents of the silver bowl into the vials. As soon as it made contact with Ash’s blood, the it turned silvery white. “Woof.” He stared.
“If you weren’t a good man…” She ruffled his hair. “That wouldn’t have worked.” He smiled at her. She lit a candle, and used the wax drippings to seal the bottles. “Alright, this next part gets a little tricky…”
Daniel gave a small shake of his head. “Okay, we are trusting her why?” He watched the car pull out of the driveway.
“Ryuu wouldn’t have sent her if he didn’t.” Magda folded her arms.
“And if it turns out he was wrong…” Matthias shook his head. “I’d kinda feel bad for her. He’s not somebody that takes disloyalty lightly.”
“She kicked Stephan in the head.” Daniel glared.
“She apologized.” Stephan shrugged. “And right now, we’ve got other matters.”
“Yeah. We need to get to France.” Laura tucked her legs up under her. “I’m gonna need a pass —” She trailed off as Matthias handed her an envelope. She opened it, then beamed as she took out the passport. “You did get me a present!”
“How legal is that?” Gabriel glanced at Matthias.
“I plead the fifth.” Matthias shrugged.
“It at least have the right age?” Michaels narrowed his eyes.
“Under 18.” Daniel nodded.
“Buttheads.” Laura glared.
“If you don’t like it, I’ll take it back.” Matthias held out a hand.
“Mine.” She put it back in the envelope and tucked the envelope under her shirt.
“Jehanne and I aren’t going.” Anna shook her head. “She’s too little.” She looked up at Gabriel. “Will you talk to Sister Doris and see if I can stay with her?”
“Yes.” Gabriel nodded.
“We still need to figure out how to get to France, all of us, with gear, without raising government suspicion. France isn’t exactly the kind of place you can walk around with a dozen guns strapped to you.” Stephan exhaled. “But those of us that can’t throw buildings at people are going to need weaponry.”
“Who threw a building?” Michaels blinked.
“It was just a garden shed.” Matthias shook his head.
“I actually have a solution.” Ted nodded.
“Ted to the rescue.” Magda grinned. “What do you have?”
“Well, after Laura’s little…” Ted frowned, then glanced in Laura’s direction. “Are we calling it an escapade?”
“That’ll do.” Laura nodded.
“Alright, well, after Laura’s little escapade…”
A slightly disheveled looking gentleman opened the door. “Can I…” His eyes landed on Laura. “I should not have eaten those brownies.”
“Sorry, professor.” Laura grinned. Magda gave her a confused look, and Laura’s grin just widened. “But you’re going to love this.” She gestured at Magda. “This is Magda. She can give you a firsthand accounting of the French Revolution because she was totally there.”
“Or perhaps I need to eat more of those brownies.” He shook his head, then stepped back so they could enter. He stumbled just a little, then closed the door behind them. “Pardon the…” He waved a hand awkwardly, then frowned in confusion. “Thing.”
“I’m…” Magda started to reach her hand out in greeting, then frowned. “Professor Kravitz, are you high?”
“As a kite.” He walked toward a small kitchen unit, picked up a plate of brownies, then held it out in offering. “Join me?”
“Oooooh…” Magda smacked Laura’s hand away as she reached for one of the brownies. “Spoilsport.”
“What happened to…” Professor Kravitz blinked. “Where’s the rhinoceros?”
“The…” Magda glanced at Laura.
Laura shrugged. “We think Adam is the Bahamas.”
“Ah. Lovely place. Spring Break.” He took a couple deep breaths. “Why are you at my door?”
“You’re planning an archaeological dig in France, with some of your grad students.” Magda folded her arms.
“Ah. Yes.” Professor Kravitz nodded. “And you were at the French Revolution. Would you like to be a guest lecturer?”
“You’re taking the whole I was at the French Revolution thing very well.” Magda smiled.
“Well, I am…” Professor Kravitz. “Probably not going to remember this conversation in a few hours and last time she came to visit there was…” He glanced down at the plate he was still holding, then offered it again. “Brownie?”
“Professor, the expedition?” She took the plate from him as he reached for another brownie, then set it on the table.
“Ah. Yes, well, only one of the grants came through, so the second string will have to stay on the bench.” He exhaled. “Pity. I’d hoped to get the opportunity for all of them but apparently football is all that matters. With the pigskin and tossing it into the net for a touchdown and repairing the locker room because oh yes can’t flunk the quarterback even if you did catch him plagiarizing red handed and not even giving the basic courtesy of not turning in a paper containing entire paragraphs from ones very own thesis and…” He blinked a couple times. “Wait, were…” He looked up at Magda. “Oh, yes, the French Revolution. Well, it started for several reasons, many of them economical in nature, such as poor harvests and increased taxation, and —”
“Professor.” Laura snickered. “Magda was there.”
“Oh, right.” He nodded, then frowned. “Then why are you asking me about the French Revolution?”
“We’re asking…” Magda laughed. “Professor, we’d like to fund the rest of your expedition so all your students can come.”
“You…” His eyes widened. “Oh, you beautiful woman. Please, sit, sit…” He gestured towards the couch. “Can I get you anything? Soda, juice…” He shrugged. “Brownie?”
“I…” She gave a small shake of her head. “Yeah. I’ll take a brownie.”
“No.” She glared at Laura.