Genre: NA Urban Fantasy
Title: Rain Dogs
The moment the door creaked open, Bri pressed her foot into the gap and shoved the picture of the werewolf through. "Seen him around?"
"What--" The door jerked, but the man inside recovered fast and let it creak open a few more inches. His scowl twisted into a smirk when he saw her. “Well, well. Look who’s back. Not even a smile or a hello, princess?"
She lowered the photo a few inches. Her foot stayed in the doorway just in case. "Hello."
She knew him as Dirty Dan, and he seemed to have aged ten years in the months since she saw him last. His face was jagged angles, thinned by the same drugs he tainted the block with. Dull black hair in sloppy cornrows, ashy skin pocked with sores, yellowed eyes glittering under the streetlight. Familiar. Smug. It made her itch.
The whole neighborhood made her itch, with its boarded-up windows and whiskey stink and the piles of trash hiding near-feral humans who would lash out at anyone who came too close. Made her arms feel heavy and sensitive, as if track marks reacted to memories like some kind of phantom limb ache.
Dan plucked the picture from her hand and gave it a squint-eyed look. It was ratty and a couple years old: wolves didn't usually pose for portraits. She was lucky to have a snapshot at all.
"He's been in the city six months. He was using, and yeah, a wolf, so he bought from you. Unless someone else is selling during the days lately."
Dan let out a hoarse cough of a laugh. "A hundred people buy from me. A dozen of ‘em are wolves. You think I ask for personal information? I’m not a fuckin' bank."
Bri stared straight ahead, waiting. Not meeting his eyes, not giving away a thing. The key to dealing with Dan was to become as close to a brick wall as a person could get.
When she didn't respond he glanced down at the photo again. "What's his name?"
"Looks familiar. Why the hell you looking for some werewolf? You ain’t shit, girl, but you ain't lowdown enough to be mixing with animals."
She answered through clenched teeth. "He’s missing, D. If you know anything, tell me. If not, stop wasting my time."
Eyebrows raising, Dan's gaze slid up and down her body in lazy challenge. He opened his hand and let the picture flutter to the ground. "I haven’t seen him. And if I did I wouldn’t give two sour shits. I don't make friends with dogs."
She bent to grab the photo and peel it off the damp cement step, then straightened with a glare she couldn't repress. The urge to throw an elbow in his face was strong enough to make her arm clench, but she couldn’t afford to burn any bridges. Not even shitty, smug bridges who had to be riding high on some kind of chemical just to be up and moving around.
Dan met her glower with another smirk. “Fuck off, Brianna. Next time you come by either bring some cash or keep on walking.”
She turned and moved down the uneven steps and to the sidewalk. Her hands dug deep into her pockets for imagined warmth as she left the crumbling duplex. The door slammed shut behind her, but the sound barely carried in the still, stale air.
Bri hadn't ever met Pete Evans. He was legit, living out on Somena in the government housing, working the shit job he'd been officially assigned. He was doing things right, screwed over a hundred ways but suffering it because he had to get money back to his pack. Pete started using, spending his money on drugs to get through the day instead of sending it all home. That made him a disgrace to those traditional Somena wolves, but Bri understood him. Too damned well.
Odds were that Pete sticking needles in his arm had nothing to do with why he was missing, and god knew she was gonna be dragging the slimy feeling of Dan and his neighborhood behind her like a slug trail the rest of the night. But she had to try. She wasn't gonna look for Pete any less hard than she looked for all the others who'd vanished.
Before she could head to her dad's place for the dinner she'd owed him all week there was one last place she wanted to check out, closer to the tourist-clogged streets near the Sound.
She didn't stop moving or lift her gaze from the ground until a glow began spilling onto the sidewalk ahead of her.
The difference between the world east of Broadway and west was palpable. It could be seen in the bright glow of government-erected lighting strips that started on the corner of Boren and Broadway and went into the heart of the tourist district, glaring down from dusk until dawn in a crass attempt to bring some fake sun to nighttime. It could be heard in the growl of traffic, the ripple of cheerful voices speaking without fear.
It could be smelled in the clearing of the thick rank odors behind her. The sour smell of cheap beer and the sweat of unwashed bodies never went away, not in a city big as Seattle. But downtown it was thinned by a breeze of salty harbor air and then covered with layers: perfume, car exhaust, flower stands, hot food. Endless steam from the thousands of coffee cups carried by red-eyed humans pretending it was natural for them to be nocturnal.
As soon as she stepped into the light as she crossed onto Boren, Bri carefully shifted her posture. She forced her chin up, pushed her shoulders back, moved more deliberately. Most humans didn't walk with eyes down. Not the innocent ones, at least. She was risking everything just being outside at that hour, she had to fit in with the sweet-smelling masses bustling their way from one place to the next.
Luckily in the world of humans Bri was a non-entity. Always had been. Too-skinny black girl, natural hair and dark skin. Worn out clothes, worn out face. She wasn't a threat and she wasn't for sale, so she was invisible. As long as she wasn't acting suspicious no one looked at her twice.
Less than a block off Broadway, where the lights were still patchy and the tourists weren’t clogging up the sidewalks, a sudden scent grabbed at her attention. Sweat. Human. Different from the stink of athletes or the funk of the soap-deprived. This was a potent sharp sweat all its own, cold and tangy with adrenaline.
Humans usually covered up any trace of their natural scents. They smelled like shampoo and fabric softener and garlic and stale coffee, burying anything natural until it was almost undetectable. Fear, though, was sharp. It cut through anything artificial that tried to bury it.
She slowed her pace down the sidewalk, curious. It took some focus to filter through the normal stink in the air and radar in on where that smell was coming from. Fear sweat, cheap cologne...
And near it, under it, the wispy scent of old blood. Another smell all its own. Blood was a sharp and unmistakable thick copper stink, but this was subtle. This was digested blood leaking from a cool living body the same way humans leaked their food from their pores.
Only one thing in the world smelled like a blood meal.
Bri grinned, heart pounding faster the moment she realized what she'd found. She moved fast, tracking the scent. Her fists came out of her pockets and her focus tunneled. The people moving past her, the coffee steam and perfume, the clack of heels and the chirp of cell phones, all faded to a far-off hum.
Ahead. To the right.
She slowed as she came to the opening into a narrow alley. That was it. Moving up against the boarded-up diner that made up one side of the alley, she peered in. The light panels over the sidewalks didn't put out enough glow to infiltrate the alley, but she didn't need help seeing in the dark.
The fear was coming from a human man being pressed against the wall by a slender, darkly dressed form. Behind them, against the other wall, a second dark form stood. Watchdog, maybe.
She drew her lips back, baring her teeth.
There were more than half a million humans in Seattle, and maybe a hundred vampires in the city’s tribe. On the bright and busy streets just a few blocks away crowds of tourists, locals, punk kids and businessmen were all keeping a night schedule hoping to see one of the adored undead.
Down the alley there were two of them.