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      Foxx and Wolfe, Supernatural Detectives


      Rodford Edmiston

      Part Five: Family Reunion (This story is set in mid-September of 2017)

      Wolfe swatted at the demon parrot but missed.

      "I love you momma!" it croaked, swerving away from the werewolf.

      A police officer, seeing the bird was momentarily clear of people and windows, fired his shotgun. Just as the bird dodged towards Foxx. A large section of old-fashioned plaster and lath ceiling showered to the floor, shattered by the #4 buckshot, the air filling with fine, white dust. Due to the shallow angle some of the lead pellets bounced off to punch holes in a wall. The blighted bird snatched at Foxx's white hair, the kitsune's shriek of alarm barely audible in the aftermath of the blast. She ducked and dodged frantically.

      "I love you momma!"

      "I hate that bird!" yelled one of the female officers, swinging her PR-24 baton at it.

      She also missed, but this time it swerved the wrong way, heading back towards Wolfe. It gave one last, startled squawk as she lunged for it. The werewolf snapped it out of the air, crushing the chicken-sized creature rather thoroughly in her jaws.

      "Glah!" said Wolfe, spitting out the remains, almost retching at the nasty, oily taste of the ur-parrot.

      "Hallelujah," panted Detective Davis.

      Wolfe dashed for the laundry sink to rinse out her mouth while the others took stock.

      The basement recreation room of the large, old home was littered with dead ur-parrots, nasty-oily feathers, dust, chunks of plaster, pieces of wood, blood and less identifiable fluids. There had only been eight of the creatures, and one of those was killed by the occupants before the police arrived. Still, their speed and maneuverability - and unnerving capacity for irrelevant speech - had made disposing of the rest a difficult and lengthy task. That last one had taken nearly twenty minutes to dispatch.

      Neither Foxx nor Davis were satisfied. No serious injuries, but everyone - even Wolfe - had numerous minor ones from wings, beaks and talons. Fortunately these creatures had not produced toxin, as some ur-beasts did. A little first aide and everyone would soon be fine. Nodding, Foxx went over to check on Wolfe.

      "Why'd you grab it with your mouth?" Foxx snickered at the werewolf. "You should have known..."

      "Hey, I got it, didn't I?"

      She presented a bizarre and not at all reassuring sight, with water-matted fur around her muzzle and glaring eyes. Foxx decided to leave the kidding for later, after her partner had calmed.

      Leaving cleanup to Animal Control, the team members slowly made their way upstairs and out of the house, blowing plaster dust from their noses and rubbing their ears. Even with the now-required ear plugs this battle had been noisy enough to cause problems. Concrete walls, plaster ceilings and indoor/outdoor carpet didn't absorb much sound. The family who lived in the home were outside, two of them still being treated by paramedics.

      "We got them all, and sealed the opening they came in through," Davis informed them, speaking a little too loudly. He coughed and absently brushed dust from his clothes. "We tried to keep damage to a minimum, but I'm afraid you'll still have a lot of cleanup to do."

      "Thank you, officer," said the father, shaking hands awkwardly, due to a freshly-applied bandage.

      Davis was very glad this incursion was over; the sun had set over an hour before and he and his people were all on overtime. Not to mention exhausted. Most of the officers had already left in the old, reconditioned SWAT van they used for transport, and Davis was heading for his own unmarked car, when a TV news van pulled up. Foxx and Wolfe, who were waiting to speak with the detective, watched with him as a reporter trailed by a cameraman eagerly approached. They were already recording, the reporter speaking into a mike, the bright lights of the camera turned on Davis. The detective squinted into the glare, trying to make out what was going on.

      "We are here at the scene of the latest monstrous excursion to interview Detective Lawrence Toole about the new development. Detective Toole?"

      "What new development?" Detective Davis queried, trying to shield his eyes from the glare and see who was talking. "And I'm not Toole. I'm..."

      "Surely you've heard that a local group of Sid-Hey have requested police help in finding the perpetrators of a hate-crime against one of their centers of worship."

      "I have no idea what you are talking about," said Davis, baffled.

      The reporter motioned to the camera man, who swung his lights onto Foxx and Wolfe.

      "What about you two? How do you feel, about the attack and the fact that elves are asking humans for help?"

      "Elves?" countered Wolfe, making a sudden connection. "You mean Sidhe?"

      "She who?" replied the reporter, eagerly, shoving the microphone at the werewolf.

      "No, no, you're mispronouncing the Gaelic word," said Foxx, irritated.

      "Do either of you even know about these events?"

      "If they occurred in the past hour, no. We've been busy here, saving lives and protecting property," growled Wolfe.

      "Which may be why the Sid-Hey spokesman asked why you hadn't come to help them fend off the attackers or help bring them to justice."

      Wolfe stiffened, then began advancing slowly on the reporter.

      "Are you deliberately making fun of my heritage, or are you just stupid?" she asked, in a too-calm voice with a touch of Irish lilt. "Ess. Eye. Dee. Aitch. Eee. It's Gaelic. It's pronounced 'shee.' One syllable, no hard consonants. If you can't say it right, don't say it at all."

      Foxx was having a hard time keeping a straight face. She glanced over at a concerned Davis and tried to reassure him with a wink. He appeared to relax a bit. Meanwhile, the reporter and cameraman were backing towards their van as Wolfe continued to advance.

      "It's bad enough you try to make people afraid of me. Now you insult my family, my culture, my language and my history!"

      "S-sorry!" gasped the reporter.

      He turned and hurried back to the van, the camera man following closely, still taping. The driver, watching from inside, quickly opened the door to let them in, then started off even while the camera man was closing it. Those remaining on the scene kept still as the van left, then broke out in laughter, much of it desperately needed for stress relief.

      "That... was great," Davis finally managed. "I think I recognized that idiot. Moved here a few months ago after being fired from a station in Chicago. He's desperately trying to make a comeback to the big time."

      "But what's this about a massacre?" asked Foxx, wiping tears from her muzzle as she desperately tried to assume a serious demeanor.

      "I'll find out," Davis promised, heading for his car.

                                    *                              *                              *

      "This is a place of worship?" asked Wolfe, staring at the building.

      She and Foxx had ridden with Davis to the scene, as a matter of convenience.

      "Consider how much else that idiot got wrong," was Foxx's dry rejoinder.

      The small place of business looked completely mundane - and completely unfamiliar - from outside. Inside, even the offices normally open to the public appeared quite ordinary and stimulated no memories. When they were led deeper into the building, however, both Foxx and Wolfe recognized the Medieval castle decorum. The also recognized the short, slightly plump Underhill elf they were led to. The werewolf and kitsune exchanged worried glances, then gave their full attention to what Hemlock was saying.

      "It's about time! Where were you when we could have used you?!"

      "We were on another call," said Davis, evenly.

      "Not you! Them!"

      Davis looked back at Foxx and Wolfe, who rolled their eyes.

      "So where's the damage?" Wolfe asked, as they entered the grand hallway. "Looks the same to me as last time."

      Davis glanced at her, obviously wanting to know when she'd been there before, but decided to wait for later to ask.

      "Wait'll you see upstairs," said Hemlock, suddenly subdued. "They're all dead, murdered in their sleep."

      He led them up the sweeping staircase, past the recently repaired door to the room where Bent-Tail and Jill had found the dead Sidhe only a few days before, to the next room, gesturing inside. Davis and the two shapeshifters looked in, briefly, but seeing the Crime Scene tape across the doorway didn't enter. They did see two lifeless bodies in the bed. Hemlock led them on down the hall, showing them each affected room in sequence. Each contained half a dozen bodies, many sharing beds. All were naked or nearly so. None showed any sign of what had killed them.

      "Were there any survivors?" Davis asked, noting that some of the rooms held no bodies.

      "Oh, yeah," said Hemlock.

      "Where are they?"

      "Hiding in a safe place."

      "We'll need statements from them," said Davis, eyeing the little man.

      "Hah! Good luck getting them! They're not likely to come out any time soon!"

      Finally they came to the room where the forensics team members were currently working. The Underhill pointedly stayed outside. The officers working the scene looked a bit aggravated on seeing Davis and the two shapeshifters.

      "Don't you have enough to do, playing with the monsters?" asked the detective in charge.

      "We usually handle any situations involving supernaturals," Davis countered, keeping his tone even. "Besides, we're not here to investigate. We were called in just in case this required magical assistance."

      The other detective wasn't mollified, but didn't interfere as Davis got the basics. Wolfe hovered near the door with Foxx, both obviously ill at ease, the kitsune especially.

      "The coroner can't establish a cause of death," said Davis, when he returned to the pair a few minutes later.

      "They... had their lives torn from them," whispered Foxx.

      "Yeah, but how?"

      "No, you don't... Something magically removed their entire life force."

      "Is this like those attacks on..."

      "No!" said Foxx, too quickly and too loudly. "Listen, those were... just draining off energy. This was a theft of their very essences."

      Davis obviously still didn't get the distinction, but realized it was important.

      "So who or what can do that?"

      "Things like those used in the other attacks, but left free to feed," said Foxx, shuddering.

      "Can you tell if any of the bodies been moved? I noticed that there's males with males, females with females, and in one room two males with a female."

      "Elves'll hump anything," muttered Wolfe.

      Foxx elbowed her sharply under the ribs.

      "Most Fey don't distinguish between the sexes the way most humans do," she told Davis. "Since many of them can change form...

      "Gotcha," said Davis, nodding. "Different culture, and all that."

      A female officer opened a freestanding dresser, and was almost bowled over as clothes flew out at her. She screamed and jumped back, and a small figure ran for the door.

      "Don't shoot!" someone yelled. "It's a child!"

      Foxx, Wolfe and Davis just stood and watched as the obviously panicked boy ran past them and out into the hall. There was a thump, and an outraged squawk, and considerable yelling.

      In the hall they found Hemlock angrily jerking a human boy around, one hand held ready to cuff him.

      "Stop that!" snapped Davis, grabbing the Underhill's hand.

      "This is none of your business!" the Underhill snapped back.

      They ignored him, Foxx pulling the boy from Hemlock's grasp and taking him down the hall, while Davis and Wolfe kept the low elf where he was. Several of the other police came out to see what was going on, including the rather embarrassed-looking woman who had opened the dresser.

      "Let Foxx talk to him," said Wolfe, keeping the others back. "She's good with kids."

      Hemlock, meanwhile, was livid.

      "This is none of your business! He belonged to Lord Shauvaign!"

      "'Belonged'?" said Davis, shocked.

      "Yes! The boy was his squire!"

      "We don't allow slavery in this country," snarled Wolfe.

      "What slavery? This is not slavery! Besides, this is sovereign territory! Your laws don't apply here!"

      "Is this guy a citizen of the US?" Davis asked, looking around at the other cops.

      "I don't know, but I'm going to find out," one of the detectives muttered. "I'll check on the boy, too, as soon as the fox gal gets his name."

      Davis turned back to the Underhill.

      "This isn't an embassy," he stated, firmly. "If it were we wouldn't have jurisdiction here, and wouldn't be here."

      A quick check determined that Hemlock was not a US citizen, something he freely confirmed. Neither were most of the other occupants of the building. In fact, there were no formal records of the building's occupants. It wasn't even zoned for habitation.

      "See?" the Underhill sneered.

      "I'm sure the INS will want to know how you got in this country without the proper paperwork," said Davis.

      "What part of 'none of your business' don't you understand!" shrieked Hemlock.

      "The part where you say it to cover up something we need to check into," snarled Davis. He looked at one of the other detectives. "Can you hold him?"

      "Already planning to," came the reply. "As a material witness. Though now I think we can add illegal immigration and white slavery."

      Hemlock was handcuffed, read his rights and led away, protesting at the top of his considerable lungs.

      Davis sensed Foxx approach, and turned towards her.

      "Where's the boy?"

      She sighed and lifted her hair, to reveal the youngster peeking over her shoulder from where he was riding on her back.

      "He's got his hands on my shoulders, digging in, and he's standing on the base of my tails," she stated, wincing. "However, he says he's Lord Shauvaign's son!"

      "He doesn't look it," said Wolfe, bending down to peer at the child.

      "He says his mother is a human woman who lives in a rural area south of here."

      "Then what's he doing here?" asked Davis, looking back to Foxx after deciding he wasn't going to get any information directly from the boy.

      "Says his father wanted to introduce him to Fey society."

      "Just how old is he?" queried Wolfe, nose wrinkling as she measured his scent.

      "Says he's fourteen."

      "Small for his age," said Davis, looking puzzled.

      "Well, he's half elf," Foxx replied, deliberately avoiding another issue.

      "Did the boy see what happened?" asked one detective.

      "No. He'd already gone to bed for the night. Woke up when people - you folks, I guess - started making noise. Went to get his father, found him dead, and hid."

      "Damn," sighed one of the detectives. "Not that I'd wish that on anyone, but if he'd seen what happened..."

      "Yeah," said Davis. He looked around. "Do any of you folks mind if we take this boy back to his mother? I promise I'll get her name and address and give it to you tomorrow."

      "Go ahead," the detective in charge replied, sympathetically. "The boy's been through enough for one night."

                                    *                              *                              *

      Note: For those who think I always present elves in a bad light, I direct your attention to my story A Gathering of Monsters, current version at: http://www.dcr.net/~stickmak/Stories/gatherin.htm In this tale there is mention that several elves are helping with a problem, and one Sidhe comes to Tina's rescue. There's also Ethynyl, from Thud and Blunder, at: http://www.dcr.net/~stickmak/Transformation/FOXKID/foxkid4.htm She also makes a brief appearance at Jill's second baby shower, in: http://www.dcr.net/~stickmak/Transformation/FOXKID/showerof.htm

                                    *                              *                              *

      "You're sure this is the right road?" Davis asked for the fifth time.

      "Yes," the boy, who would only give his name as Brian, replied quietly. "I remember the turns. And some of the landscape."

      "At night?" Davis countered, doubtfully.

      The boy was talking, now, but not much and that quietly.

      "If he does have elf blood his night vision is probably pretty good," said Wolfe.

      "There!" the boy cried, pointing.

      Davis, not seeing what he meant, stopped the car and they all piled out. He hoped the boy was right; Midnight was approaching and he'd already had a long, hard day.

      "You sure he's what he says?" Wolfe whispered to Foxx, as the boy led Davis to a fence row.

      "Yes. I checked. He's a human-elf hybrid, but his mother seems to have primogeniture."

      "No way he could be fooling you?"

      "Oh, come on; he's just a little boy!"

      Wolfe grimaced, then carefully pointed out that he could also be something masquerading as a little boy, and getting away with it because Foxx was checking him as if he only had the abilities of a little boy.

      "Does this place look familiar to you?" Foxx replied, apparently not hearing a word.

      Wolf snarled in irritation at being ignored, whipped around to look... and froze.

      "Oh, yeah. This is Broderic and Sue's place."


      The kitsune quickly hurried over to Davis - who was still trying to find a driveway or sign of a house where Brian indicated - and drew him aside.

      "We just realized we know who lives here. And it's not his mother."

      "Eh?" said Davis, startled. "Okay, what's going on?"

      "Let's talk about it in the car. We don't want to disturb them. Besides, it's cold out here and Brian is lightly dressed."

      Back in the warmth of the vehicle, Foxx began to query Brian in greater detail.

      "How long has it been since you saw your mother?"

      "Uhm, a few days," he said, shifting uneasily, looking down and not meeting her eyes.

      "You're sure this is the right place?"

      "Yeah. I know it's hard to see, but that's because Father put a spell on it."

      And here I thought Broderic did that, mused Wolfe. Well, maybe he added to or revived an older protection.

      "How long were you in Arcadia?"

      "Only a few days. Maybe a couple of months."

      "What's the problem?" Davis interjected.

      Foxx sighed. She had feared this was the situation and hadn't wanted to tell the boy or the detective.

      "Time runs strangely in Arcadia. Remember the old myths about mortals being taken to the fairy realm for a night, and returning to their home to find that years have passed?"

      "Like Rip Van Winkle," said Davis nodding.

      "We think something like that happened here," said Foxx.

      "But Mother was with us!" Brian suddenly blurted, straightening and looking frantically from person to person. "She came to the redoubt with us, made sure Father and I were settled in, then went home."

      "So, she may be here... or may have found that her home had been sold and gone somewhere else..."

      "What's your Mother's name?" Foxx asked, in a tone that this time Brian couldn't get away with not saying.

      Brian hesitated, then sighed.

      "Carroll Ragger," he replied.

      "Doesn't ring a bell," muttered the werewolf. "Say, Detective, can you check on that name? Maybe in real estate records, or something?"

      "I'm sorry, Wolfe, but it's getting really late and we don't have time for that kind of search," said Davis, genuinely sympathetic but also genuinely tired. "The offices with the information have been closed for hours. We need to find a place Brian can stay for the night, then pick this up in the morning."

      Foxx and Wolfe exchanged glances; both had classes the next morning, though fortunately not early ones.

      "I could take him to my parents'," said Foxx, helpfully.

      "Listen, I'm kind of flying blind, here," Davis admitted. "I'm not sure what regulations allow or require in a case like this. I mean, I know we should get him to his mother as quickly as practical, but..."

      "Tell you what," said Wolfe, "we'll take him to Foxx's folks - I give you my word, they're good people and capable of both taking care of the boy and protecting him. You tell anybody who questions this that it was a Fey matter and we insisted on handling it. You can try finding his mother through legal records, and we'll use other means, and get back together tomorrow evening."

      "All right," said Davis, not completely convinced, but also not willing to argue the matter. "Which way?"

      "Oh, no," snickered Wolfe. "Take us back to that rock cut we passed a few miles back and we'll make a gateway. You can get home from there."

      "Back to the precinct, actually, to finish the paperwork; then home," sighed Davis, tiredly. "And you two need to remember to come in tomorrow to sign the report. All right. Let's do it."

                                    *                              *                              *

      The next afternoon Jill was surprised to find a note in her book bag when she fished out a magazine to read during a break. It was from Professor Finlay, who wanted to meet with her at her earliest convenience. Jill shrugged, put the magazine back in her bag and rose.

      She was soon in the basement of the building where Finlay had his office. She was not at all surprised to see Jackie there as well, wandering the dimly-lit halls, scowling.

      "Where is that place?! I can never find it!"

      Jill giggled, took the werewolf by the arm and led her down the concealed hall to the even more concealed office door. She knocked gently, and received an immediate invitation to enter.

      "Welcome, welcome," said the sloughy, waving them to the two empty chairs in front of his desk, the only uncovered horizontal surfaces in his crowded but tidy office. "I'm glad you could come so soon. I have important news."

      "About what?" Jackie countered, puzzled.

      "I have deciphered where our missing shapeling was recently, and several other matters connected to that and its activities," the mythologist provided.

      "Is this related to the massacre at the Sidhe redoubt yesterday?" asked Jill.

      Finlay nodded solemnly, pence nez glasses glinting in reflected light.

      "They were infiltrated," said Finlay. "The shapeling did not leave after gaining its freedom, as we thought, but hid in the building, then disguised itself as one or more of the Sidhe who used it."

      "Let me guess," sighed Jackie, "they're all dead."

      "Only selected individuals, those whom I gather actually imprisoned and commanded it. Some of these were obviously sought out, but others were apparently killed on the spur of the moment."

      "That's why only some of the sleeping Sidhe were killed!" exclaimed Jill. "It was getting revenge... and maybe killing those it thought could recapture it."

      "Were the ones it sought out suspected of being involved in the attacks?" asked Jackie.

      "Yes. And the others most likely were simply killed because of proximity to the killing of the others. It then left the building, and since has kept a low profile. We are certain it is gone from the redoubt, now, and has been since last night."

      "So, this thing isn't wantonly violent, but will kill if it has a reason," said Jackie, nodding thoughtfully.

      "Do you know if Brian's father was one of those who were using it?" Jill asked, quietly.

      "No. He only recently arrived here from Arcadia." Finlay sighed and pushed his spectacles further up on his nose. "Of course, that does not mean he was ignorant of the effort. He may have been one of the plotters."

      "So he was killed why?" asked Jackie.

      "He was bedded with one of those who were directly involved," said Finlay. "Another male, if my sources are correct."

      "But he was married!" blurted Jackie.

      "Eh? Well, elves - especially the Sidhe - don't consider the marriage bonds to quite as inflexible as most others do."

      "No, I meant... he had a wife. Why would he be in bed with another guy?!"

      "My, you are an innocent little thing," snickered Jill. "Weren't you the one who was making disparaging remarks about elves' sexual habits yesterday?"

      "Ahem! You two can discuss variations in sexuality at another time and place," said Finlay, firmly. "For now, that is all I have."

      "Thank you, Professor," said Jill, standing.

      Before the sloughy could react she leaned forward and gave him a peck on the cheek, causing him to turn the most interesting shade of pink. Jackie rolled her eyes,

                                    *                              *                              *

      "I hope he hasn't been any trouble," said Jackie, as she and Jill entered the Metu home.

      "He's been a darling," Tina assured the werewolf. "He went right to sleep, and since he got here so late I let him sleep in. He didn't get to meet Jonas, Ginger and Thurla until they got home from school this afternoon, but they have been playing together and having a very good time. I have the feeling he's a pretty lonely boy."

      "He's half elf, and has been living in Arcadia for a while," said Jackie. "I wouldn't be surprised."

      Tina didn't even have to call Brian; he ran into the room excitedly, looking up at Jackie and Jill. He had no trouble connecting their human forms with those he'd seen the night before, either.

      "Did you find my mother?" he eagerly asked.

      "We think so," said Jill, grinning at his energy. "Detective Davis found out that one Carroll Ragger owned the land before the people there now, and that the same woman had recently bought another parcel in the same area. Paid with a certified check, too."

      "That's her!" Brian exclaimed, practically jumping for joy.

      "You going to take him to her now?" asked Tina, sounding a bit reluctant to let him leave.

      "Unless there's something urgent he needs to do while he's here," said Jackie. "The sooner we get him with his mom, the better for both of them."

      "Yeah, Mother," snickered Jill. "Don't you have enough to keep you busy, tending the brats?"

      "I've told you not to refer to your younger brother and sisters like that," said Tina, sternly.

      "Yes, Mother," said Jill, not very sincerely.

      "All right, Brian, you go get ready - bathroom and such - and I'll find a coat for you."

      "Yes, ma'am!" the boy cried. "Can I say goodbye to Jonas, Ginger and Thurla first, please?"

      "Sure," said Tina, grinning.

      "He sure doesn't act 14," muttered Jackie, watching him run back into the play room.

      "Not everybody matures as quickly as werewolves," Tina pointed out.

      "And he is half elf, so his physical maturation will be slower," Jill pointed out.

      "Also, if he's been brought up around elves they probably treated him as being younger than a human would," Tina added. "But are you sure about his father? The only sign I can see is that his ears are slightly pointed."

      "Yes," was Jill's definitive reply.

                                    *                              *                              *

      "Don't get it," muttered Jackie, looking back and forth between a map, a hand-written note and the land in front of her.

      The two shapeshifters were standing beside a country road in their human forms. Nearby Brian stood quietly, looking disappointed but waiting to see what the others would do.

      "There's not even a trace of magic," said Jill, "so it's not here and hidden."

      "Wait... is there magic on the original record?" asked Jackie, suddenly thinking of something. "I mean... Brian says his father hid their first home. Could he have gimmicked the records of where the second one is? He was the co-signer, and the money came from him, so we know he was involved."

      "Uhm..." said Jill, thinking. "Yes, that could have been done. But how could we tell?"

      "You're the magic expert," Jackie pointed out.

      "I don't know; I've never tried anything like this. I'm... not sure how to go about it."

      "Okay, rules of magic," said Jackie. "We have Brian, who is the son of the person we're looking for. We know her name, too. Can't you - I don't know - look for associations?"

      Jill frowned, looked over at Brian, then thought hard.

      "Hmmm... you know... that might just work..."

      Jackie reflexively stepped back, moving protectively to Brian. Jill was much better with magic these days than she used to be, but there was still a chance of a drastic fubar. And even when she got the desired results, there were sometimes... side effects.

      The kitsune shifted to her natural, foxy form, white fur ruffling periodically in the cold, fitful breeze. She held her hands so, and chanted under her breath for a moment, then began moving her hands as she continued chanting. An eerie tension built up, and Jackie shifted to her midform, pulling Brian closer, all automatically. The boy made no protest, staring wide-eyed at the work in progress.

      The tension built, peaking as Jill finished her spell with a dramatic gesture and a sharp word of command. It held for a moment, then broke like a popping balloon.

      "Told you that wouldn't work," snickered Jackie.

      "No, it did work," fussed Jill. "Something cut it off!"

      A shimmering hole appeared in the air nearby, and half a dozen armed and armored elves poured through. They fanned out quickly in front of the hole, forming a defensive perimeter. The last one through was a high-born Sidhe, clad in golden armor, long, blond hair streaming down his back. That worthy peered around, finally spotting Jill well to his left.

      With a snarl, he ordered the others to move their formation, putting the point towards Jill. Jackie, an alarmed Brian trailing closely behind, moved over beside her friend. The elves shied back.

      "Bet Sidhe did it," snickered Jill, pointing. "Cut the locator spell, I mean."

      "Who are you?" the high Sidhe demanded.

      "Oh, I'm Foxx and this is Wolfe," the kitsune replied. "I guess you folks have protective magic around Brian's mother. Sorry about that. Didn't mean to raise any alarms."

      There was a low, confused mutter among the elves, which the one in charge quickly put a stop to.

      "I don't know who you are, but if you mean Brian Eyesbright, he's already been taken to his mother."

      "Hey!" said Brian, angrily, stepping out from behind the large werewolf, made bold by his companions' presence. "We're still looking for her!"

      The high Sidhe got the most startled look on his face, and the muttering resumed, more loudly.

      "I'm telling you," the Sidhe lord said, slowly, as if to simpletons, "the group left not half an hour ago, with the boy."

      "They're putting a changeling in my place!" Brian exclaimed.

      "Huh?" asked Wolfe.

      "It's an older meaning of the word," snapped Foxx, glaring at the Sidhe. "An Arcadian creature is glamoured to look like a human child and used to replace it, to keep the parents from going looking. Damn them!"

      "But... I don't get it. They know we left with Brian. Unless..."

      She turned to look at the boy.

      "Don't you think I'd know if he was a fake?" said Foxx, agitated. "Don't you think my mother, or the brats, would notice something weird? No, this is the real Brian."

      "I am waiting for an answer!" the Sidhe snapped.

      "You haven't asked a question," Foxx pointed out, brusquely.

      The high elf colored interestingly, then abruptly ordered his men to attack. Wolfe stepped forward, snarling. They hesitated. Foxx chanted and gestured quickly.

      There was a huge rush of wind, which picked up and carried the elves - plus a sizeable amount of leaf litter, twigs, trash and a couple of passing birds - through the gate. Another command and that was slammed shut.

      "Now to do that connection spell again, but I'm gonna be a lot less subtle this time!" Foxx snapped. "Hope I burn out somebody's skrying sphere!"

      More chanting, more gesturing, but the chants were loud, and the gestures vigorous and rude. Barely-contained power surged around the kitsune. A nearby tree burst into bloom.

      "That way!" she announced, when finished. "It's not far, either!"

      "We need to get there, and fast!" said Wolfe. "You gonna draw another of those gateways?"

      "No place to draw on here," said Foxx. "And we can make it there faster on foot than by going somewhere there is. I'll have to give Brian a ride, though."

      She concentrated for a moment, then began growing larger. Not taller, but back, as she formed another pair of legs, with a fox-shaped body between the front and rear ones. And her feet - including the usual ones - were true paws, now. She smirked at the astounded Wolfe, seven white tails wagging.

      "Hop on, Brian."

      "A fox-taur?" said the werewolf, as the boy excitedly mounted.

      "I've seen your dad's fanzines. Now, hold tight, Brian. I'm going to use magic to boost my speed." She smirked again at the werewolf. "Think you can keep up?"

      Wolfe barely had time to open her mouth before the kitsune took off. Muttering, she shifted to full wolf on the fly and hurried after her friend. Wind whistled past them, stinging the werewolf's eyes to tears. Foxx bounded across the landscape, leaping gullies and ducking under low-hanging branches, and simply plowing through light underbrush, which seemed to part before them. Jackie looked back, over her shoulder, and noted only a minor spray of debris; somehow, Foxx was avoiding destroying things she didn't go over, under or around. More magic, Wolfe guessed, glad it was including her.

      The suddenly exited the woods onto a large, well-manicured lawn. Even in early Winter, it looked healthy and green. A sizeable white house crested a low hill nearby.

      "There!" Foxx gasped, pointing at the house.

      They bounded off again, at a saner speed but still covering the ground quickly. They came to a panting stop by a side door. At Foxx's urging, Brian jumped off and rang the doorbell. He stood, anxiously waiting, while Wolfe nudged Foxx aside.

      "What?!" the kitsune queried, as the werewolf shifted back to her midform.

      "I don't see any cars, or other signs of visitors. They wouldn't have gated here, would they?"

      "Oh. No. There's a barrier up, and I'm pretty sure it's not openable from outside. So that means they're still on the way. We are kinda far out."

      The inside door opened. A rather striking woman stared through the safety glass of the outer door at a beaming Brian, then almost knocked him over opening it.

      "I am going to be really wiped after I do this," said Foxx, absently.

      "Do what?"

      "Put up an illusion breaking spell. All around this property. There's already a concealment spell; I can feel it. I'll attune it to that, make the clear seeing work only inside it. This could take a while; maybe several minutes. Why don't you lose the fur and go talk to Brian's Mom."

      Wolfe nodded and shifted.

      Jackie stepped out the side door and looked around, spotting Foxx - still in foxtrot form - standing at the head of the driveway, looking out towards the road. The werewolf shifted to Wolfe mode as she walked over to join her partner.

      "Not here yet?" Jackie queried, puzzled, shifting back to her midform.

      "Just entering the drive," said Foxx. "You probably won't see 'em until they start getting out. They've concealed the car. The paranoid, pointy-eared..."

      "Hey, we've got pointy ears, too," snickered Wolfe. "Well, some of the time."

      A large and expensive SUV suddenly materialized in front of them, causing Wolfe to jump in spite of the warning. People - elves - piled out, weapons ready. The third-last out was a female Sidhe, who was holding the hand of the second-last out, a twin of Brian, whose other hand was being held by a male Sidhe, last out of the van. Except that, as they left the vehicle and its enchantments the small figure changed into a decrepit old gnome of about the same size. The male Sidhe almost bumped into the changeling as the gnome and the woman stopped in amazement at the transformation. The Sidhe lord briefly had a surprised look on his face, as well, but quickly concealed it.

      "The boy is already with his mother, who has been briefed on what has happened to him and her husband," said Foxx, taking advantage of the pause.

      There were various looks of surprise, consternation and scowls of anger and annoyance. That last from the leader.

      "You are interfering in matters which do not concern you!" that worthy snapped.

      However, he gestured to one of his men, who ordered the rest to lower their weapons. Meanwhile, the woman was vainly trying to replace the evaporated glamour on the gnome. Who would flicker a bit, then look gnomish again.

      "You have dominion over that which is entirely within your own realm, but where your realm intersects with the mortal world it must yield to mortal law. That is the agreement."

      "The boy is the son of one of ours. That makes him our concern."

      "He's half human, and his mother has been Accepted. This means they both are protected by Fey law, as well as human law. You are overruled."

      "You don't have the authority to make such a decision," sneered the leader.

      "I think you'll find that as a myobu I outrank you," said Foxx, calmly. "You'll have to appeal to someone in a higher position if you want to carry through with your plan."

      Foxx smiled sweetly, then continued before the Sidhe lord could overcome his outrage and speak.

      "I suggest you take your appeal to someone several ranks higher than yourself if you are serious about pursuing this. Because I plan to report this to authorities higher than me."

      "You presume much, Pooka," growled the Sidhe. "You interfere with our concerns, you..."

      "There is no presumption involved," was Foxx's calm reply. "Just cold, hard fact. If you can't deal with reality, I can recommend a couple of good therapists."

      The noble Sidhe colored, and for a moment Wolfe thought he was going to become physically violent. Then, with one brief, sharp command he and his people piled back into the SUV. This then faded from view as it resumed moving around the curve of the drive, heading back towards the road.

      "Whew," gasped Foxx, sagging. She gave Wolfe a weak smile. "Hate to pull rank like that, but I had to this time. Man, can I bluff, or what?"

      "I was wondering about that," the werewolf admitted. "You did say you'd be tapped out after casting that illusion-canceling spell. Oh; why didn't that work on their van?"

      "Because that wasn't under an illusion; it was under a concealment spell," said Foxx, as if that should have been obvious. "Guess I'll have to do that, too. Later."

      "Oh," said Wolfe, blankly. "Well, Mrs. Bright wants to talk to you. She's invited us to stay for supper, while we fill her in on the details."

      "Great! Free food!"

      The werewolf laughed as Foxx started to turn, but the kitsune stumbled when her hindquarters didn't move. She almost fell, though she caught her balance just before Wolfe reached for her.

      "Oops," she giggled. "Forgot there was more of me than usual."

      "Y'know, that look suits you," said the werewolf, backing off a couple of steps to give her friend the once-over.

      "You think so?" asked Foxx, turning to look at her elongated lower body.

      "Well, I know Todd would like it," said Wolfe.

      Foxx required a moment to understand just what her friend was implying. Then she chased the werewolf all the way back to the house.

                                    *                              *                              *

      "I'm glad the boy is with his mother," said Davis, "but we've had over two dozen official complaints from the Fey community. They're all variations on the same theme; the boy belongs with his father's people, we're interfering with matters which aren't our concern, blah, blah, blah... And they're all from different people."

      "It's a feudal society," said Foxx. She was sitting normally in a chair, having decided to save her foxtaur form for special occasions. "Underlings do what they're told, not only because they are told to by their superiors, but because they feel that is their duty."

      "I'm just worried about all the complications which are turning up in this case," said Davis. "That building was not an embassy, which means that those inside are bound by our laws. Also, we didn't know it was owned by Fey, or even that there were any living there. And most of the occupants have turned out to be illegal immigrants. We aren't pursuing that, but the INS has decided to. And we're being blamed for that, too, by the Fey. Now I hear there's equipment in the building which performs an important function which helps protect not only the Fey but all the supernaturals in the city. So we can't just shut them down."

      "I wonder..." mused Foxx. "Normally, they go out of their way to avoid attracting the attention of human government agencies, just like most supernaturals. Even to the point of charming people to forget they exist. Why haven't they taken such measures in this case?"

      "You think they may be using this to distract us, or cover up someone's involvement with the attacks?"

      "You did say these were complications," Foxx pointed out. "And you implied they - the complaints, the situation at the building and the situation of the people - were causing problems with the investigation."

      Davis leaned back in his chair and thought for a bit. Foxx and Wolfe exchanged glances.

      "You could very well be right. And that would explain a few other things, too. From what I've learned about the Sidhe, even if the people in charge of that building didn't know about the attacks, they would want to deal with those responsible themselves."

      "Almost certainly," said Foxx. "And this focus on Brian could be a diversion, not only for us but for those who organized the attacks. Someone could be trying to give the impression that Brian knows something."

      "Bastards," muttered Wolfe. "Using a kid like that."

      "Well, he's only half elf," was Foxx's sarcastic response.

      "Can you arrange for a watch on the boy and his mother?" asked Davis.

      "We already have, and several other Fey have agreed to help, including some of the Sidhe who were born here, rather than moving in from Arcadia," Foxx replied, nodding. "I've also put spells around them and their property. If anyone makes an attempt on them or even tries to spy we'll know about it right away."

      "Good," said Davis, with a terse nod. "I suspect that anything done against them will be beyond the ability of us mere mortals to handle."

      "Hey, you're not so 'mere,'" said Foxx, grinning. "In fact, you're kind of cute."

      Davis flushed, and shuffled some papers.

      "Ahem, well, ah, we've not had any reports of more incursions or assaults the past few days. I'm hoping the former are dying down, and the latter have stopped with the deaths of those responsible."

      "I'd say you're right in both cases," said Foxx, nodding. "Though I suspect the incursions will continue. Nothing we've found has indicated that the incursions were actually being deliberately caused; the people trapping the shiftlings were just taking advantage of them."

      "Figures. If someone wanted to bring those things over, they'd do it where they were ready for them to arrive, not in random basements."

                                    *                              *                              *

      Saturday night gaming was going pretty much as usual. Brad had stopped coming, after the others had realized that Jill wouldn't attend any sessions he was at and pressured him to either apologize or stay away. Since he refused to admit he'd done anything to apologize for, he'd rationalized not playing with the group any more by declaring them all to be "elf lovers" and storming out.

      "I smite him with the flat of my blade!" Carl declared. He rolled his D20. "D'oh!"

      "Roll again," said the GM, smirking.

      He did so.

      "Okay, you don't hit anyone in your own party, you just miss."

      Several minutes later the barroom brawl was over. The group had some minor injuries, their opponents were much worse off but still all alive.

      "Okay, the watch arrives just as you finish patching yourselves up. They take names, get reports from the witnesses, and arrest the troublemakers. However they also fine your group fifty gold."

      "What!" declared Carl. "I'll...!"

      "We pay it," said George, quickly.

      Carl fumed but didn't otherwise object.

      "Okay, that's all I had planned for tonight," said the GM, closing his notes. "You folks got anything you want to do before we quit?"

      Some minor matters were taken care of, and they started packing. Someone turned on the TV.

      "Hey, there's that kitsune girl!" said Carl, drawing their attention to a news program.

      "Hey, don't you think it's odd that she's got hair as white as our little Jill does?" kidded George.

      "Yeah, but I'm a natural blond," said Jill, absently primping her snowy locks.

      "Huh?" said Carl.

      "You can tell hers is fake," Jill stated, nodding at the image.

      "Oh, yeah," said Susan, who had been mostly quiet all night. "I hadn't thought of it before, but it's obviously some sort of dye job. I mean, it's so white it glows!"

      Carl, George and a couple of the others looked back and forth between Jill and the image on the screen. Which, naturally, vanished right then as the news switched to another subject.

      "Okay," said George, thoughtfully. "Although I guess it's more likely done with magic than hair coloring. Not only would that be something pretty mundane for a magical creature like a kitsune, but just think about how much she'd have to use to dye her whole body that way."

      "I wonder if her boobs are real, too," snickered Carl.

      "Sure they are," stated George, with a smirk. "Don't you think that if she were going to inflate her chest with magic or padding, she'd make 'em bigger?"

      Jill scowled.

      "Men," she huffed.

      End Part Five

      This document is Copyright 2002 Rodford Edmiston Smith. Anyone wishing to reproduce it must obtain permission from the author, who can be contacted at: stickmaker@usa.net