The big black cat padded through the dark, mostly empty streets, rain sheeting off of its fur. It kept to the shadows, not out of any kind of fear for itself, but rather to avoid scaring anyone who happened to glance out a window. It probably wasn’t necessary to be so careful anymore, but old habits died hard.
As the cat approached a broken-down looking old storefront, it slunk behind it, to the alley side, and walked to the back door. It stood against the building, and the air shimmered around it as it transformed into a man.
Brennan stood in the alley, pulled his clothing on quickly, ignoring the cold, wet air. He looked around. The city was dark, as it had been for three weeks now. Zeus’s storms had knocked out power throughout the city, and the almost-constant lightning and rain made it impossible for work crews to get everything up and running again. Anyone who could, had gotten out of town. The rest, those who remained, were proving to be either victims or troublemakers. It was becoming nearly impossible to protect the first from the second. Looting, rioting, and general chaos reigned. The National Guard had finally been called in, but so much damage had already been done.
One month. She’d been gone a month. It already felt like a lifetime.
He shook his head. Thinking about Molly only made him feel more alone, more worried. All he could do for her was focus on making sure she had something to come back to.
She’d be back. She had to.
With that thought, which he’d thought about a thousand times since she’d disappeared, he opened the back door of the building and walked in. This was the type of place Normals didn’t know about, even in the best of times. Now, with no power, candles lit the interior of the small dim bar, and his senses were assaulted by the scent of stale beer, paraffin, and his fellow shifters.
Brennan scanned the room for the person he was meeting. He spotted the hulking form of the police chief seated at the near end of bar, and slid onto the stool next to him.
“Brennan,” Chief Jones said in greeting, raising his beer bottle to his lips.
“Mike,” Brennan said. He gestured to the beer in the chief’s hand. “One of those,” he said to the bartender. “You supposed to be drinking on duty?” Brennan asked.
Mike grunted. “I’d have to drink a hell of a lot more than this for it to have any effect. Tempted to give it a try, though,” he finished.
“How’s the team?” Mike asked.
Brennan shook his head. “Running around like a bunch of chickens with our heads cut off.”
“So same as us, then.” They were quiet for a minute. “Any word on the Angel?”
Brennan tried to ignore the way his stomach twisted, just as it did every time he thought of her. His connection to her was still steady, warm, and for now it would have to be enough. “No word,” he said quietly.
He glanced over to see Mike watching him, concern on his face. “She’ll be back,” Mike finally said. He’d gotten to know the police chief over the years, and, as fellow shifters, the two men had formed an almost father-son type of relationship. They kept each other informed about what was happening in the city. In fact, the only time Brennan had refused to help Mike had been when he was investigating Molly.
“She will,” Brennan said. “If she was here, she’d just storm down the street shouting at these assholes and they’d start behaving.”
Mike chuckled. “Yeah, she would, too. She’d yell, and she’d threaten and swear at them, and she’d tell them all to go home and they’d forget why they were pissed off in the first place.” He paused. “Is Nain being a dickhead?”
Brennan snorted. “What do you think?”
Mike laughed, a hearty sound that immediately made Brennan feel a little better. “So, he knows.”
“Yeah. We’re just mostly staying out of each other’s way at this point. He takes Ada and Stone and some of the shifters and patrols, and I have Molly’s demons and imps and the rest of the Grosse Pointe and Northside shfiters,” he said. “Thanks again for that. They’ve been a huge help.”
“No thanks necessary,” Mike said, waving it off. “They wanted to work with you.”
Brennan rested his forearms on the bar, looked around. “So what did you need, Mike? What’s going on?”
Mike took a deep breath. “Things are getting messy, man. I don’t suppose you’ve had time to check YouTube or Twitter or anything lately?”
“Uh. No,” Brennan said.
“Yeah, me neither. But my daughter has been staying at one of the shifter farms out of the city, and she still has Internet access. In all the fighting, Normals have been getting glimpses of us. One of them got video of one of us during the shapeshift and posted it on freaking YouTube. And then there were more. And the vampires are using the chaos to their advantage and biting people on the streets whenever the hell they feel like it. There’s video of a demon, in his fucking demon form, looting one of the stores in Midtown.”
“Shit,” Brennan said, rubbing his hands over his face. “What’s the consensus? Do people believe what they’re seeing?”
“Plenty do. We have people working on putting it out there that the videos are hoaxes, but there’s only so much damage control we can do when supernaturals decide that they have no reason to hide themselves anymore.”
“There have always been those that wanted to stop hiding,” Brennan said.
“Yeah, but those were individual cases, and I could catch them and lock them away and do damage control, and everyone would forget the next time some starlet did something stupid. Now? It’s everywhere, and I don’t have the time or resources to do damage control.” He took a breath. “It gets worse.”
“I hate it when you say that.”
“It’s making other supernaturals more bold, seeing what’s happening here. The national media is picking up on it. Supernatural happenings in Chicago, New York, Miami, Houston. We’re not going to be able to stay a legend or fairy tale much longer. Once they accept that we’re here…”
“They’re going to realize we’re a danger to them. We’re more powerful. And some of us are more than happy to use our power against them,” Brennan finished.
“It’s no coincidence, the National Guard showing up now. They could have come at any damn time, and maybe gotten shit under control. But the videos go up, and all of a sudden, we have military here.”
“You think they’re here for us,” Brennan said.
“I do. I think we need to watch our backs. Make damn sure your team knows to keep up a nice, normal front.”
“I will.” The men sat in silence for a while, each lost in thought and trying to solve unsolvable problems. “Nothing’s going to be the same when she gets back,” Brennan finally said.
“Well. Considering this is all happening because of her…”
“Don’t finish that sentence, Mike,” Brennan said, and he could hear the growl in his voice. “She can’t help who she was born to. And if she hadn’t sacrificed everything, you wouldn’t have a city left to police. Most of us would be dead, in one way or another.” He looked at his old friend. “You weren’t there. You didn’t see what they can do. And she’s there, alone, with them, because she wanted to save this world from what they’d do, the way they’d steamroll everything here with their stupid war. So don’t you dare, ever, fucking try to lay the blame for this on Molly.”
Mike held his hands up. “Okay. You’re right. I’m sorry. I’m tired, and I’m pissed, and I can’t go beat down the ones actually causing this shit.”
Brennan took a sip of his beer. “Yeah. But you better believe that if Molly’s locked there with them, they’re going to get everything they’ve got coming to them.”
Mike was quiet for a minute. “Do you really think a bunch of gods will be afraid of Molly?”
Brennan just smiled. “They’re freaking terrified of her. And they should be.”
Thank you for reading! New episodes of Hidden every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, with special Interlude episodes on Saturdays. Thoughts? Predictions? Please feel free to share them in the comments.