Part Twelve

I slept in the next morning. It was the first time in nearly two weeks that I didn’t have somewhere to be or something to do, and I ended up sleeping until noon. Mercifully, I didn’t dream.

I woke up feeling both rested and restless, a slightly paradoxical state of affairs which I blamed on my wolf. I could feel her pent-up energy just beneath the surface currents of my thoughts, pushing me to do something, anything at all. She wanted to run. I wanted to run.

I made breakfast instead, deliberately taking my time in doing so, just to prove that I could. And by hyper-focusing on the slow, deliberate motions I was making, I could drown out the internal sound of wolf shouting at me.

I set the finished meal on the table next to my laptop and started eating, pausing occasionally to type a quick note as I recalled various portions of the previous day’s meeting. Although at the time my attention had been mostly focused on dealing with my wolf, she had been paying rapt attention to the meeting, or at least to Welles. And while she didn’t understand the words, with a bit of coaxing I was able to recall the memories from her and use them to supplement my own. One of the little perks of lycanthropy that made it just a little bit more bearable.

The resulting chronicle was spotty, fragmentary, and probably a little incomplete, but it was sufficient to serve as the basis for an article. I spent the next hour editing it into a decent piece about what I had learned – leaving out, after some internal deliberation, any mention of Welles’ vampirism – which I emailed to Kurt for review and publishing in Monday’s edition.

With that duty completed, I stopped to take stock.

The prior week had moved past in a blur, skipping from lead to lead in pursuit of a nebulous and rapidly growing story. I’d been so caught up in the chase that I hadn’t had time to consider any other course of action. My instinct – or wolf’s instinct, it was hard to tell sometimes – was to continue chasing, but maybe there was a better way to go about it.

I pulled out a sheet of paper and scrawled the words no fly list on it. Next to it, I wrote Pipe Wrench and drew a line connecting the two. I thought for a moment, then erased the line and wrote unknown executive agent in its place, then connected it to the other two with new lines.

I continued in this fashion for a while, scribbling down such things as FBI, John Kerry (poison pill?), Joseph Kidd (anti-para bias… too obvious?), Attorney-general (Mason Starr), early February (2-3 weeks after inauguration), Roger Morton (resigned April 2016), and a host of other random thoughts and fragments of information. By the end of it, I had a paranoid web of people and phrases that gave me a headache to look at.

I had pieced the map into two theories. The first, and the one I assumed to be more likely, was that Kidd’s administration had uncovered the Pipe Wrench list and had quietly inserted it into the no fly list. Zanetti’s denial would then be exactly that – a denial. But we’d been trying to find proof of that for most of the last week, and so far nothing concrete had turned up.

The other theory, which had slowly been gaining traction in the back of my mind as it continued to go without being disproved, was that Kidd had been setup. It was possible – however unlikely – that in the bureaucratic reshuffle after inauguration, someone in the outgoing administration had made the addition to the no fly list as a poison pill for Kidd. It would explain why he hadn’t stepped forward to claim credit immediately, and it would explain why neither Ash nor myself had been able to track down anyone who knew where the addition had come from, beyond the fact that it had been internal.

I pulled out my phone and texted Ash. Have we talked to any DOJ/AG staff from Kerry admin? Silence from gov might be cause they know nothing.

Even if it was unlikely, it couldn’t hurt to be sure.

Searching for something else I could do, I finally caved to an inquisitive pressure that I’d been ignoring since I woke up. Feeling slightly guilty about it, I called the desk at the Reporter and asked for copies of several of the morgue files – the archived clippings of older issues of the paper, organized by subject and content. Many of them had already been digitized, but everything before 1985 was still on microfiche. With any luck, the archive librarian would find what I wanted and have copies on my desk later that week.

Then, because, I had already gone that far, I asked them if they could do the same search on the archives of the Star Tribune. That would probably raise a few eyebrows, but it wasn’t uncommon to use another paper’s archives when doing background research. If anyone asked, I could (mostly honestly) tell them it was related to the story I was working on.

My phone buzzed, and I looked down to read Ash’s reply text. No, was focusing on contacts in current admin. Will folo on ex-admin staffers tomorrow.

There was another buzz and another text. You think it’s a setup?

Maybe, I wrote. Keep thinking that if it’s Kidd why haven’t we found anything? Just considering alternatives.

Existence of PW certainly suggests that Kerry admin was capable of such action, she sent back. Orrrrrr. Possible Morton link? Kidd pushed hard for FBI purge during campaign, maybe Morton loyalist trying to hit back.

Now there was a theory. I’d dismissed the possibility of a connection to the Morton scandal because of Morton’s resignation the year before, but FBI Directors always lingered for a bit, didn’t they? Even after death, if you believed some of the stories about Hoover.

Like I said, consider alternatives. Kidd connection is obvious, but not proven. I hadn’t intended to get into an extended text conversation, and found myself wishing I had just called her. Judging mood and tone is hard enough when you don’t have any smells to go off of, but without any vocal cues either…

You wanna tackle the Morton/FBI angle while I take the Kerry staffer side? She asked.

Sounds good, I replied. Let you know if I find anything big.

Same. TTY Monday.

I set the phone back down and sighed. We were doing the journalistic equivalent of chasing our tails at this point, and I suspected that Ash knew it too. Although, given that I’d seen many of my own packmates pull that off, maybe that metaphor was too optimistic.

Erwin sauntered over (in my experience, cats never walk in any other way) and rubbed his head against my foot, demanding attention. Reflexively, I leaned down and stroked the back of his head, then paused to consider the absurdity of the situation. Here I was, big scary werewolf, being bossed around by a ten pound cat.

He mewed plaintively, so I picked him up and set him on my lap to continue petting him.

“What have you got figured out that I don’t, huh?” I asked.

He purred in response.

That was the nice thing about cats, really. As long as you fed them and didn’t bother them, they didn’t care about you at all. And it was nice, for a change, to have someone who was completely unconcerned by my lycanthropy, even if it was only because they were entirely unconcerned with me. It made me feel almost human.

I sat there quietly for a few minutes, thinking about what I was going to do next. I could call John today and start working on another set of feelers among my FBI contacts. If there were any Morton loyalists left, there wouldn’t be many people looking to protect them…

Erwin looked up at me and mewed.

Train of thought derailed, I looked down at him to see what he wanted. He mewed again, then rolled over off my lap and landed on the floor. With an overly-dignified air that was meant to signal that he had totally meant to do that, he sauntered off in a huff, tail twitching.

I watched him for a moment, trying to pick-up the thread of my interrupted thought, then shook my head. “What the hell,” I said aloud. It was a weekend, I had the day off, and I’d already written a piece for Monday. The story could wait for a few hours.

I stood up and got a bottle of wine from the fridge, then pulled a book at random from the stack of unread library books that I’d been renewing for the past three months and sat down to read. The rest of the day was me time. I’d earned that.

4 comments

  1. Hi, I’m not dead.

    This one is both late and short, and I apologize for that. September was a very busy month for me, and I ended up not having much time for writing. We should be back to a normalish schedule now.

    As for the length, that’s just a consequence of what’s happening in the story. We’re about to hit a pace of more than 1 in-story day per update, and this is sort of the last part before things start happening more quickly.

    Thanks go out to my beta readers, for proofing this at hours no sane person should be awake, and also to Jim Waldrop for supporting me on Patreon. (Obligatory link to my Patreon page: https://www.patreon.com/Bade )

    Meanwhile, if you’ve enjoyed the story, why not take a moment to vote for it on top web fiction: http://topwebfiction.com/vote.php?for=newshound

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