11.1 To It

by Matt P.

Walter leaned back in his chair, considering that proclamation seriously for several long moments. After maybe thirty seconds, he shook his head. “No, I don’t buy it.” He said with a shrug.

“It wasn’t an offer.” Morgan said seriously. “It wasn’t a debate—you want information. We can give you some on this, but if I bring you in to the…fullness of everything then you are going to be in danger.”

Walter nodded, as if he were considering the point. “And I’m not in danger right now?” He asked seriously. “Right now I don’t have people fairly regularly trying to kill me? Because the number of stitches in my last twelve months rivals some pretty intense periods of my life.”

Tania shook her head now somewhat aggressively. “There is a qualitative difference in the danger to your person if we start telling you about the dark and dangerous things in the world.” She said, and for once she seemed genuinely concerned for Walter. “You have two daughters and a son, Walter; and you were of woman born, so you have some family who presumably can at least stand you. We’ve seen good people die for half the information you have now.”

“Trust me, I get that. You don’t think they worry about that kind of thing the more classified information you know? There’s a reason they teach us survival, resistance, and evasion.” Walter sighed. “I know it’s a danger.” He conceded, waving his hand to quiet the rest of the room down as all three—including Ryan—wanted to interrupt. “But Andre told me something interesting right after my first Three Stripes killing. Border is the unsolved murder capital of the United States. And you know how many of those have been cops?”

No one responded for a long moment. “A lot?” Ryan supplied helpfully.

“We are also the unsolved crimes against police capital of the world, it turns out.” Walter confirmed with a nod. “Honest to God, I am in danger tomorrow walking down the street just minding my own business. The veil of ignorance is no protection in Border, Kansas.” Walter leaned forward. “And that is completely ignoring the fact that, and I cannot believe I am having to say this again, but my children are in danger on a regular basis, and that is unacceptable.” No one had any response to that. “How many people on the police force are clued in to what is really going on here? Ballpark it for me, those people with at least a big chunk of information.”

“Those people with a big chunk of information?” Morgan considered. “Inclusive of the people who have now been brought in on what we are, and who is really beind the Three Stripes killings?” When Walter nodded, she thought for a moment. “Let me see. Carry the one, move the digit, uh…four.”

“Four?” Walter parroted, stunned. “Four people? Including me?”

“Well yes. Siobhan and Antigone are not on the police payroll unless you’ve snuck something past accounting, and I am technically a county employee in my capacity as medical examiner.” Morgan explained. “So that leaves you, William and Andre Alexander, and Leah Silverman. Some other people might have bits and pieces, but there is no one else conclusively in the know.”

Walter shook his head and leaned back against the chair, tipping it back for a moment before letting it settle. “That’s mind-boggling and irresponsible.”

“It’s the only way for them to be safe, for us to be safe, and for the city to be safe.” Tania leaned in as Walter leaned back, leaving them staring each other much more in the face. “There is a very tenuous bond that keeps the shadows and wild places of the world from outright terrorizing the human population with their predations. More than they do, rather. And that is secrecy; none of us run to the humans and tell them what goes bump in the night, and we all keep about our business as best we can.”

Walter wasn’t too ashamed to admit that the intensity of Tania’s gaze leaned him back, and he tried to cover it by crossing his legs like he had planned to do it from the beginning, all a part of a cunning master plan. “It isn’t working. I dont know about you, but I feel predated upon.” His words were light but his tone grew in heat. “We are not safe, and you are not keeping us that way. So if that was your goal, congratulations—it isn’t working. Police go missing, men and women go missing, and children go missing. I probably can’t change all of it, but I damn well want to. And I want to make sure that the people who are supposed to protect the people of this crazy ass little town know what they’re doing.”

“So that every new officer, or corporal looking for a buck up, can try to beg a Jianshi to make a name for themselves?” Morgan asked, equally heated. “Because I guarantee you that is going to be what happens sometimes, and then we’re going to have to deal with the fact that we put him there.”

The room fell in to a tense quiet as the four people in it considered one another. They were weighing words, both those that had been said and the ones that they wanted to say next. Finally Morgan spoke up again. “And it isn’t your call. This is what we have worked out with every Marshal of Border since the town was founded, and it is the agreement we have with Marshal Alexander.”

“It is not my call.” Walter agreed, sighing. “But I want it noted on the record that I think it is bullshit.”

“Ryan?” Tania said, looking to the man.

“So noted.” Ryan intoned seriously.

Walter was quiet again for a moment before he looked to Morgan with a raised eyebrow. “Jiangshi?” He asked.

“Chinese hopping vampire.” Morgan explained. “Repelled by fire, a roster’s crow, mirrors, and vinegar. As dangerous as it is silly, and it is very, very silly.”

“And that’s seriously a thing that exists that I have to worry about?” He asked.

“We had a Jiangshi in…1994?” She raised an eyebrow, and looked to Tania who nodded in confirmation. “Chinese diplomat ended up with one in his retinue, it ended up roaming from where it was in Kansas City. There is so much here that you need to be scared of, and even we can’t tell you everything. The dark is ever changing, the wild ever growing, and this town too important to be guarded by the uninformed.” Tania blinked as she started off so strong and normal, and then veered in to that.

“What?” She sputtered.

“We will tell him.” Morgan said with a serious look to her sister. “Tell him some, not everything…but he is right. And maybe we can stop having this conversation if we tell him just a little bit more.”

“So let’s get to it.” Walter said, jumping in before Tania could try to change her mind.