Anna tightly hugged the unicorn's neck, as Gwen and Quinn descended the slight rise before they shifted. The fact they held hands gave Anna hope that Quinn finally found someone to love and accompany. He was alone since his steady girlfriend died at the hands of a vampire. Her death sparked the trip to observe the VJS in action in solving preternatural crimes. He hoped to learn as much as he could to set up a VJS in Kiev. Now Anna hoped he found something more than just a way to get revenge for his lost love.
Anna watched as the two shifted, bounding away, running into the thicket away from the grassy knoll. Anna turned to the unicorn and bounded upon her back, bent low near its ear and whispered, "Let's see if we can find your family." The unicorn reared and started at a gallop toward the meadows covered by the moon.
As Gwen and Quinn romped through the forest, they played a form of wolf tag, chased, pounced and nipped each other. They ran for thirty minutes playing until they came to a pile of rocks that resembled a tower from which to watch the world. They climbed the tower, where Gwen lay, while Quinn stood over her, watching. They felt comfortable and shifted back to human form as they calmed. At first, Gwen felt a sense of modesty and discomfort, but soon the feeling subsided as she thought about him as a man she would love. Quinn sat behind Gwen and held her close. They seemed to fit together as if they were friends for a long time. Gwen leaned against him and moaned quietly in peaceful contentment.
"Do you work for VJS, Gwen?" Quinn whispered.
"Uh ... no, I am a witness in their latest case. I came upon the scene, as I ran one day as my shifted self. I saw a group of fey and a succubus dancing around a man against a tree. They gleefully played with him as I passed. I thought nothing of it until I passed by again and he was alone. He was dead and naked. The fey and the succubus were gone. That is how I got involved.
"Wow, you saw it all, and they did not know you were a human as well as a shifter. That was good on your part. Have you identified any of the fey or the succubus?"
"Yes, I identified Molly, a succubus, and Carlo, a fey. I have not seen any of the other fey, but they were so obscure that it would not matter."
"Has anyone tried to harm you or influence your testimony? Molly's lawyer is a shifter, do you know her?"
"Raven is a leader in the local pack here where I am a member. I am on the fringe of the pack, but Raven wants me to work with her defending Carlo and Molly. I decided against that and worked with the VJS instead. It is the right thing to do."
"That is brave. Going against a pack leader can be hazardous. I have no pack allegiance at home. I am what they call a ' biryuk ' a lone wolf. Being a police detective doesn't allow joining a pack. I don't mind, though. There are plenty of places to run and since I work a lot, time to run is always a premium."
"Well, you are here now, you can relax a little, and we will be working together. My involvement with the local pack is minimal because they meet at a farm outside the city, and I don't go there often. I am a 'lone wolf' here because I am a college student and not from around here. That gives me freedom to do what I think is right and spend time with friends. The VJS group seems like the place I should be. They are open and friendly. They have taken care of me with food and at times a place to sleep and shower."
"The members of the VJS group are a close knit bunch. The mix of humans and preternatural, works and Gustaf takes care of them well. They have the latest of every tool available. I have seen a lot and like it."
"Yes, Eran has been a wonderful friend. Maria, one of the computer consultants, sold me her place at the university to live. She is wonderful. I have new friends who accept me as I am. Even Leona, who openly dislikes shifters, has given me a chance and is nice to be around."
After stopping at the rock and sitting for thirty minutes, they decided to end their romp through the forest and return to their cars. Quinn followed Gwen to her car and stood watch as she changed and dressed. They stood looking at each other as Gwen opened her door. Quinn reached out to her, and she gently folded her body into his as their lips caressed. They held a kiss for a long time, and when they broke apart, they breathed heavily and laughed.
Quinn stood smiling as he watched Gwen drive away. He felt calmer than he had in years. He had met a woman, who he felt comfortable with and wanted to hold. She made him happy, and she was a shifter like him. He whistled happily and softly as he walked back to his rental car. He wanted to spend more time with Gwen and bring her back to his home in Kiev. His life had a purpose again; this woman made him happy.
As Gwen drove away, she looked at Quinn in her rearview mirror. She loved seeing his smile as he stood watching her. Her thoughts centered on him. He was a man she felt comfortable with when they ran as shifters. When they sat on the rock, the feeling of being nude with him was normal. It felt good and natural as if they found each other many years ago. However, seeing Quinn naked in her mirror caused her to blush and feel self-conscious about her earlier nudity. Her thoughts turned to her desire to spend more time with Quinn, the man.
Carlo's first night back watching the door at Molly's Tavern gave him time to survey the men who entered closely. The regular customers greeted him with gusto to have him back. A new construction project began in the city while Carlos sat in jail, which increased the number of burly men in the tavern. Carlos saw eight new men who were strangers. He made a point to greet each of these men personally. Of the eight men, two caught his eye as potential consorts for Molly and conquests for him. His desire and need increased as the night continued and he watched the men.
Molly watched Carlo closely trying to ascertain if he was on the prowl for a new man or just being friendly selling more drinks. She gave Diana, the bartender, the task of tempering Carlo's drinking and watching his delivery of complimentary drinks. As the night wore on, Carlo seemed to select two men and Molly agreed with both choices. She signaled Diana to have a barmaid bring her one of the men.
The man selected eagerly joined Molly at her table when she offered him a pitcher of beer. He sat close to Molly, and she draped her body all over him. As she toyed with the man, she watched Carlo to catch him looking at her. He slyly glanced at Molly several times with a disapproving look on his face. She knew that Carlo wanted the man for his own with no thought of sharing. Molly did not care she needed a new man, and the man next to her was hers, Carlo could wait.
Carlo watched Molly take one if the men he found enticing. At first, he grew angry and jealous but reasoned that she provided him an alibi for the earlier deaths and a good defense lawyer for his kidnapping and unlawful restraint case. He had another man who would work for him instead. The closing time approached, and Carlo needed to make his move if this new conquest would succumb to his charm and wit. Carlo moved off the door, grabbed a pitcher of beer and engulfed his new found treasure. Within a few minutes, the pitcher drained dry; the new conquest had his head nestled in his arms on the table. Carlo enlisted the aid of a fellow fey to take the man to the cell below the tavern where Carlo performed his nefarious acts. The man woke groggily as they walked, half-carried him to the cell. Carlo took very good care of this man.
Within two minutes of placing the man in the cell, they removed his clothes and laid him on the bed. Carlo stood over the man and examined him closely. His wavy black hair lay plastered against his sweat dampened head. A small trickle of spittle leaked from his mouth. His eyes half closed fluttered as the drunken stupor increased and he became limp passing out. Carlo did not care; he needed a new man. This new conquest looked as if he belonged with Carlo.
When the tavern closed, Diana helped Molly take her man to the lavish upstairs apartment. Molly would test this man first to find out if he was strong enough to last for a few precise draining trials. When they put him on the bed, a smile spread across the man's lips. He curled on his side and fell quickly asleep. With Diana's help, Molly removed all the man's clothing. Diana looked at the naked man and smiled at Molly giving two thumbs up approving of the choice. Molly looked away with reckless disregard for what Diana felt. She knew the man was a good choice, if only he would last for more than one session with her.
Molly pushed Diana out of the room and quickly went to bed with the sleeping drunk man. She lay next to him and felt his presence was more than she hoped. He was strong and well-built able to last hours working using his brawn rather than his brain. Molly thought, "It was a good night."
Kevin and Eran sat in the conference room watching the big screen TV display the images from the cameras watching Molly's Tavern. The doors appeared closed and locked, and everyone left the premises. The extinguished lights darkened the tavern, but a few rays of light spilled brightly from a basement window. Kevin knew the light came from the cell below the bar. He suspected that the cell was not empty, and Carlo had another 'friend' with him sleeping it off. Light spilled from a series of windows on the upper floor above the tavern. Eran looked at Kevin as if to ask, "What are those lights from?" Kevin shrugged with an ignorant demeanor. The duo continued their watch.
Slade and Quinn entered the conference room and looked at the TV display. "What is going on?" Slade asked.
"Nothing much, the tavern closed about 30 minutes ago, but there are lights in the cell area of the basement and along the upper floor just over the tavern," replied Kevin.
"Do we know if Carlo left the tavern tonight?"
"Since we watched, he was on the door, but never left. We suspect he found a new companion and has him in the cell under the tavern. Can we raid the tavern to check on Carlo?"
Slade looked at Eran and Kevin with a discouraging glare. "Unfortunately, we do not have probable cause just to break in because we suspect something illegal is happening."
Kevin frowned, but Eran poked him in the side and laughed at him. Eran nodded to Quinn, who looked refreshed, but also had a glint in his eye. He seemed to radiate a feeling that she took as love or a peacefulness that did not exist earlier. Mentally she mulled over, "What could have happened to Quinn tonight? He looks as if his life has changed." Eran dismissed it but filed it mentally away for later.
Quinn spoke to the group, "Could we place a decoy into the tavern to attract Carlo or Molly to make a move? That would help us gather information and catch them in the act of a crime."
"We thought of that, but they saw all of us in various areas of the investigation. We need a new person they do not know or suspect. Have you got an idea?" Slade queried.
Quinn pondered for a moment, "I have two suggestions. I could put myself into the tavern and watch things. I may not be able to be a victim because I am a shifter, but that is a smile thing. My partner is here as well, and she could be a barmaid to aid us as well."
Slade looked up surprised, as did Eran and Kevin. "Where is your partner now? Why haven't we met her?"
"She arrived in the city last night and spent the day touring. I met her tonight with Gwen, and things went well. She is a wood nymph named Anna. She will be here tomorrow. She could easily play the role of a barmaid."
Slade smiled. Eran perked up with interest at this new development. Having people on the inside would make the investigation go faster and possibly trap Molly and Carlo as well as prevent any more deaths. The case turned a corner and sped up to a conclusion.