Faithslinger Chronicles – Price of Oaths

A few hours ago, the captain broke down the operation for the SAU squad about their current case. A Black Court Vampire named Miguel Rojas smuggled himself across the Mexican border and made his way to Phoenix, AZ in the last month. With the sudden disappearance of the Red Court, a number of havens have become vacant. Anonymous sources have stated that Rojas has begun nesting in one of these properties and started gathering a following. The plan was to bust the property and break up the next before the body count starts to climb beyond the couple of corpses that have started to appear.

However standing outside within a mile of the nest, a storage building in the industrial section of the city, has proven to be more difficult. There was an unnatural cold front in town, making the temperature outside unseasonably chili. Detectives Earp, Carter, and Warner were bundled up outside with members of Phoenix SWAT reviewing the layout of the building and planning their assault.

'Any idea where Redfeather is? I thought you called him in.", asked Carter.

"Do I look like his keeper? He's probably already inside and just didn't tell anyone", retorted Earp.

Cloud Redfeather is a 20something shaman in training living in the neighboring Pima Indian Reservation. He had been influential with cases of a spiritual nature in the past and has been well received by the members of the SAU. A few members of the Pima Indian community have gone missing since the arrival of Rojas and having a representative of the nation could help in taking down this vampire. Also it made good PR for the SAU since the IKEA debacle.

'Listen up!' called out the SWAT Commander. 'There are two entry points to the building, the front entrance for clients and the loading docks in the back. There are two other fire exits on the other sides of the building as well. A squad of 5 SWAT will be taking the loading docks while the SAU and a couple of more SWAT will enter from the front. Two squads of three will be covering the fire escapes just in case. Sources say that they are not armed, but take no chances. Use nonlethal ordinance if they won't surrender, switch to lethal only if necessary. We move out in five, and as always, be careful. "

The SAU officers and SWAT moved up to the front of the building, staying in the shadows as much as possible. As they approached, they spotted a security guard manning the booth at the front of the office. Warner motioned for the others to hold their position and walked in briskly into the office.

Warner walked up and swung the door to the warehouse open, briefly checking out the warehouse name before stepping in. "Hey buddy, is Jenkins here?"

"Jenkins?"

"Yeah, Jenkins. He told me to meet him here with the cash I owe him."

The guard looked at his clipboard for a moment. "Yeah, he's here. But he's doing the rounds right now. You can leave the cash with me; I'll get it to him."

"Great", Warner replied, drew a thick envelope, and handed it to the guard. As the guard took the envelope and turned away, Warner drew his ranged Taser and took down the guard quickly. Warner moved around the desk to secure the guard as the others entered the front office. "Damn, thermal imaging cameras. These guys are not playing around…Jenkins is on Camera 2 heading back from the docks, a dozen guys by the loading dock doors inside, and two more guards upstairs in the Foreman's office. And there goes SWAT moving into position. I can deal with Jenkins and give SWAT a head's up, you guys move upstairs to deal with the other two guards."

"No sign of Rojas?" asked Carter.

"Rojas won't show up on electronic surveillance', replied Warner." Fangers don't have reflections."

Carter, Earp, and the two SWAT members moved beyond the guard station and moved up the stairs towards the office. As they came up to the door, they found it cracked open and a small tail disappearing behind the door. One of the SWAT officers peaked through the crack to find the two guards by the foreman's desk, back facing the door. A green faux leather sofa rested against the wall to the right with a large bay window overviewing the warehouse floor below, with a gang of a dozen ruffians waiting below.

The SWAT officer whispered over his secured comm, "We'll have to take them all down simultaneously, but we'll need a distraction. Any ideas?"

"I got this," buzzed Warner. "One minute…"

The phone in the downstairs warehouse rang, which drew the attention of the gang downstairs. A couple of them moved towards the phone and one of them answered. As the crowd's attention drifted towards the phone, SWAT moved in through the loading pay doors and quickly took down the crew with rubberized bullets. The noise drew the attention of the guards upstairs, and with that SWAT moved in followed by Earp and Carter.

The two SWAT team members tased the two guards before they could react, however it was too late to act against the third assailant. With blinding speed, the figure crossed the office and attacked the clump of officers. A single man, decked out in a black club shirt, jeans, and biker boots, made a wide swing with his left arm catching Earp and the two SWAT officers. One of the officers was knocked back down the stairs and Earp pushed into the drywall by the doorway, knocking down Carter, and only being stopped by the vertical board holding the sheet in place. The other officer was swept through the bay window and fell to the warehouse floor as the other SWAT officers were securing the gang downstairs.

Carter rolled with the fall and regained his footing by the sofa and looked up at the vampire before him and his pistol by the desk. He quickly drew a long arm from under his long coat, slapped a round canister beneath it, and started opening fire on Rojas without blinking. As the casings hit the floor with quick succession, the Rojas took a number of shot center mass causing his body to flail about as he was staggered backwards until the magazine was empty.

Rojas straightened his stance and looked down at his chest, his exposed wounds already closing beneath his torn shirt. 'Pendejo! Did you really think you could take me down with that old piece of crap?"

"Nope", Carter remarked with a smile," I just needed to get you close enough."

Rojas looked at Carter perplexed for a moment as a shadow grew over him from behind. The last thing he saw was the massive bear claws strike his head, followed by a spinning room. His decapitated body fell to the ground in place. The tall black bear stared at Carter with a grin, and Cloud Redfeather shifted back to his human form. Carter took off his long coat and handed it to Redfeather and the two high fived each other.

"A TOMMY GUN!" screamed Earp as he picked himself up. "You brought a Tommy gun to this fight?"

"You got your Colts, so I didn't think there would be a problem", replied Carter.

"My Colts are family heirlooms, registered with the police department, and I only draw them when absolutely necessary. You had better have that weapon cleared with the department!"

Just as Earp was about to say something, the personal comm sounded again, and Warner's voice came over the speaker." 10-00, officer down. Repeat, officer down."

The wagon pulled up to 5th Street Jail and entered the loading docks. SWAT and Carter took their positions and started unloading the prisoners into the jail for processing. Earp, Warner, and the SWAT Commander got out of a second vehicle parked a ways away and started walking to the jail.

"How are you men doing?" inquired Warner.

The SWAT Commander replied," well better than expected. Ramirez took a nasty spill down the stairs and separated his shoulder. He'll be out of action for a few months at most, but they discharged him after treatment. Jenkins's armor and helmet took the brunt of the fall. He seems okay, but the doctors are keeping him overnight for observation."

As the trio approached the entrance into processing, they heard snickering from the officers as they were being unloaded from the wagon. 'Four, ah, ah, ah! Five, ah, ah, ah! Six, ah, ah, ah!" chimed Carter as each prisoner was being unloaded.

Earp started to approach Carter when he was stopped by the SWAT Commander. "Cut him some slack Earp. Tonight two of my officers were injured taking down one of your suspects, one maybe on the shelf for a couple of months. If your man can put a smile on their faces after that, then he's okay by my book."

Earp took a moment to ponder that point as one of the security guards was unloaded from the wagon. "Earp? As in James Earp?" asked the guard.

"That's correct." responded Earp. "What's it to you?"

The guard's eyes slowly widened and face became pale. "We're in so much trouble", he uttered under his breath and quickly proceeded to processing, never looking up at the men.

Earp exchanged curious looks with the others. "What was that all about?" asked Warner.

The SAU detectives parted from the SWAT team after the prisoners were unloaded and sent to processing. "Carter gets the paperwork?" asked Warner. Earp nodded.

"Wait! What? Why?" stammered Carter.

"You brought a Tommy gun to the fight and shot up the vampire", replied Earp. "No good deeds…"

Carter sighed at this. "Okay, fine. I'll do the paperwork", replied Carter." One moment…" Carter drifted away from the others and opened the trunk to put away the Tommy gun. Warner and Earp looked at each other for a moment and approached the vehicle behind Carter. Inside they found an open case where Carter placed the Tommy gun and was about to close the case. They caught a brief glance of a Mossberg 500 Shotgun, a Smith & Wesson .357, Colt M1911, an M-14, and AK-47. Carter locked up the case and shut the trunk. "Um, those are family heirlooms?"

"We're going to have a long talk about that after work", replied Warner.

Carter, Earp, and Warner were at their desks talking strategy before interrogating the suspects for information on the activities of Miguel Rojas. The general consensus between the men was that the security guards that were in the Manager's Office were in the know. As they were about to leave of Interrogation 1, the SAU Captain stopped them in their tracks.

"Earp, I need to speak to you in my office. Warner, take the lead on the case for now."

The three men looked to each other for a moment, and then Carter and Warner proceeded to Interrogation 1 to question the first guard.

Earp walked with the captain to his office to find a man in a suit leaning against the Captain's desk. The Captain shut the door and drew down the blinds while Earp surveyed the stranger. Earp questioned," What's going on?"

"Det. Earp, my name is Investigator Dobson, IAB. Accusations have been made against you claiming that you are using your influence in the department to eliminate the competition for members of an organized crime syndicate. As of right now, you are on suspension pending investigation. "

Earp looked at Dobson dumbfounded, then to his captain. "This is a load of crap, Captain. I don't know who made this up, but it isn't true."

"Detective", said Dobson," I've seen your record and outside of a couple of incidents, you have an exemplary record. I don't believe that these accusations are true, however considering how certain aspects of the supernatural world now have ties to organized crime, we have to investigate all possibilities. I'll need you to come downtown for questioning. I suggest that you contact your union rep for legal counsel if you think you need it."

Earp just stared back at Dobson, but didn't do anything. Nothing that he could say or due could expedite the process or prove his innocence any faster at this point. He quietly said," I'll contact my union rep. Let's just get this over with."

At the end of the day, Earp found he back home exhausted and angry. Inspector Dobson spent upwards to 4 hours grilling Earp on the incidents he had on his record, about his previous cases, and about his association with civilian consultants like Marc Tremere. His union rep was not much help in the situation either, constantly telling him to hold his comments and forcing Earp to pick and choose his answers to each question. Earp wanted to get this situation out in the open and resolve it right away, but his rep contradicted his desire.

Sat in front of this TV watching the news and finishing his plate of spaghetti. Earp thought about the people who would get dragged into this debacle: Marc can handle himself. Cloud was a member of the Pima Indian Community, so he was already covered. However, others like Aiden and Patty and Dave at the Graffiti Bar were innocents in all this. They don't deserve to be dragging into this, treated like criminals just because Earp went out of his way to help them from time to time.

A knocking came from the front door. "Detective Earp?"

Earp looked up from his seat in the living room. "Who is it?"

"I have some information that may be of use to you."

Earp replied, "I'll be right there." Earp walked to the kitchen and set his plate in the sink. He drew a firearm from the kitchen cupboard, a Glock 20 he stashed just in case and approached the door. He peaked through the sight to find a blond woman standing outside, facing the door but looking around the walkway cautiously. Earp unlocked the door and began to open it when a shock ran up his arm and through his body. His body hit the floor with a numbing sensation running through him, the Glock a foot away from him. Two men pushed the door open and entered the room, one kicking the sidearm away and the other grabbing Earp by the arm and dragging him back to the sofa by the TV. The blonde, statuesque and attractive walked in behind them intently watching Earp as the other two went through the rooms of the condo. "All clear."

The first two men came back from the other rooms and left the condo as quickly as they came. One stationed himself outside by the stairs while the other went down. Two other men appeared in the doorway and entered the premises. The first was a six foot five mountain of muscle with fiery red hair, which pulled over a chair across from Earp and took position by the kitchen. The second was a six foot man in a business suit, black hair and green eyes, who moved into the condo with predatory confidence. He surveyed the room, taking into account the décor and sat down in front of Earp. The statuesque blonde picked up the Glock and took position standing next to the man seated in the chair.

"Mr. Earp, it is a pleasure to finally meet you. My people had a chance to go through your place and I have to admit I like the décor, monastic yet rustic. Police detective for the Supernatural Activities Unit, loyal church goer and member of your choir, and a man in possession of the power of true faith. You have quite the reputation amongst the circles that I'm associated with. I apologize for the sudden entrance, but I wanted to meet you and would not accept no for an answer."

Earp eyed his uninvited guest closely. The man showed no sign of overconfidence or emotion, completely controlled. The blonde next to him had the Glock, and the bodyguard probably had a couple of firearms as well. Earp muscles were still tingling from the shock and he realized there was no way he would win a fight under the circumstances. "That's Detective Earp", he replied.

"Detective Earp, while I appreciate the fact that we are technically on opposite sides of the law, you have involved me in a messy incident without my prior knowledge or permission. I can't have you running around making claims in my name, especially without my permission."

Claims? Permission? Earp was truly perplexed with the what this guy was talking about. "Sorry, but I don't even know who you are."

The well-dressed man looked at him for a moment. "You're not lying. You really don't know who I am. My name is Gentleman Johnnie Marcone. Perhaps you heard of me?"

'Gentleman John Marcone, the crime lord of Chicago sitting my living room. It explains why IAB was leaning on me so hard now, but how did I get caught up in all this', thought Earp. "Come again?" responded Earp.

"Quite simply, you were recently involved in a sticky situation with a Black Court Vampire name Miguel Rojas. He was a degenerate leech who was trying to make his way up the criminal hierarchy and I knew that I would eventually have to deal with the individual, but I was willing to address the issue when the time was right. But you had to get involved and drag my name into this fiasco of your."

Now Earp was truly confused. What did he mean by that? "I'm sorry, but I don't see how protecting the good people of Phoenix has anything to do with you."

Marcone looked at him with a brief glint of anger at that response, took a deep breathe, and continued. "In a previous encounter with a grendelkin name Aksel, you made the claim to be the Knight of the Mortal Court. The conviction of your words convinced Aksel to interpret your interaction as an official matter of the Unseelie Accords and promptly aligned himself with the Winter Court. As the only mortal to sign the Unseelie Accords, all eyes turned to me for an and explanation to this…misunderstanding."

Earp came to the realization of what his words had done. Even though they were spoken in anger in the heat of the moment, there was a price to be paid for speaking out of turn. "Wait a minute! I said that to intimidate him, I didn't mean to say that I work for you."

"It doesn't matter what you meant, the fact that you made this claim is enough. The Unseelie Accords doesn't recognize the spirit of the words, just the words themselves. By claiming to be the Knight of the Mortal Court, you have in essence sworn allegiance to me in their eyes."

Earp thought long and hard for a moment about this. In an instant, a couple of words spoken without thought has gotten him in deep trouble again. His words, essentially a claim, has placed him in the spotlight based on the Unseelie Accords, and even worse, under the thumb of the biggest crime lord of Chicago. "So what's going to happen to me now?" asked Earp.

"Nothing", replied Marcone. "I thought about making an example of you to show what happens if someone spoke out of turn in my name, possibly hand you over to the Black Court as a means to make amends between them and me. But it would be a wasted gesture in exchange for Rojas' demise since he was a low rung on their ladder. No, having my own knight who was able to defeat a grendelkin earns me a measure of respect amongst the other signers of the Unseelie Accords. They will have to regard me more seriously now. I hate to chat and depart, but I have a flight back to Chicago that I cannot miss."

With that, Marcone stood up and proceeded to walk to the front door. His bodyguard opened the door, looked both ways and proceeded out first. The blonde walked calmly to the kitchen and placed the Glock back where Earp first drew it from.

Marcone stopped at the door for a moment and said," I would not worry about IAB. There is no paper trail between us, so I expect their investigation to turn up nothing and the charges to be dropped. However, the presence of a 'Mortal Knight' has become a buzz on the Paranet. You should get accustomed to the notoriety. I'll be in touch when I need you." With that, Marcone departed the premises, followed by the blonde, who shut the door behind them.

Crap.

The following weeks were somewhat of a whirlwind for Earp. Just as Marcone said, the IAB investigation against Earp was dropped due to a lack of evidence and he was reinstated to the job. However, on the street members of the supernatural community not only altered their perception, but their behavior around Earp. This new reputation of being the 'Mortal Knight' caused lesser denizens to treat Earp with more regard not knowing if he was visiting them in a more official capacity, which in turn made the job as a SAU Detective more difficult.

Earp went to the Graffiti Bar, one of the local watering hole for the supernatural world and was welcomed warmly by Patty as always. Her changeling husband Dave as always cooked up Earp's order and served it without fail. However, the others in the bar quieted down at his presence, some even left immediately after his arrival.

Earp sat with his BBQ Sandwich and Coke and quietly ate, contemplating his situation with some concern. With this new 'responsibility', his actions would be further scrutinized by not only his superiors but by others as well. Without any way to separate himself from Marcone, no one would be able to tell if he was upholding the law or furthering the agenda for the only mortal signatory of the Unseelie Accord.

"You look like you had a tough time", said a stranger who moseyed up to the table and sat down next to Earp.

"Do I know you?" questioned Earp as he eyed the stranger. Six feet tall, messy brown hair and dark eyes. He was wearing a t-shirt, jeans, and a pair of sneakers.

"No, but you look like a man that could use a friend, or at least someone that could use a friendly ear to hear you out."

"Friend, I don't know you from Adam and I don't feel like speaking my mind with a perfect stranger." retorted Earp and took another sip of his Coke.

"Well you fought a troll and ran your mouth, which has drawn some unwanted attention from members of the Unseelie Accord. Now you have to deal with usual responsibilities, but you're under the thumb of a Chicago crime lord, in addition have to now deal with a heap of trouble that you can't find a way out of?"

Earp looked at the stranger with suspicion. This guy knew too much and could be trouble.

"It could be worse. You may have had a hand in the destruction of the Red Court and had yourself shot to protect your loved ones. Only instead of ending at that, you go through a 'It's A Wonderful Life' montage and be forced to accept your fate or sign on with the Winter Court because you realize that your time on Earth is not yet done."

Earp just stared at the man sitting with him in disbelief. Who is this guy?

"The name's Harry, Harry Dresden."