August 5, 2015
Beacon Hills - Downtown
Beacon Hills - Downtown
Downtown Beacon Hills has that feel of so many large towns and small cities: A great deal of "historic" construction is interspersed with newer buildings, none of which are more than a few stories tall, and the area tries to evoke the sophistication of a larger city while hanging on to its small-town charm. All along Main Street, classical little salons and boutiques share space with skate shops, head shops, used book stores, and a surprising variety of little cafés and bistros. The architecture has a vaguely early Twentieth Century look to it, though most has been modernized. On the smaller roads, the towns streets become less distinctive, more prone to dark alleys where one could get lost. Even a town like Beacon Hills, it seems, manages its share of urban jungle.
This area is divided by Commerce Way and Main street, running generally east to west, and connecting to the Northern and Roosevelt Bridges, respectively. Falls Street runs north to south, while Maybrook Street and Sate Boulevard offer the main diagonal thoroughfares. To north and east, the city dissolves into outskirts, eventually ending in the treeline of the surrounding forest. South of here, past Main Street, the downtown area gradually gives ground to the former site of heavy industry known as the Warehouse District.
The evening's stars are mostly hidden by dark clouds above. It's clear, warm, and breezy. In the summer months, nighttime temperatures approach an average of 60°F.
The car that pulls up to the curb is maybe slightly ridiculous. The Blue Beetle was maybe blue once, but it's been repaired -- Frankensteined -- with parts of half a dozen other junkyard Volkswagens. There's not much blue to be found on it anymore. It shudders to a halt outside the likeliest-looking bar and grill, but it's a moment before its occupant gets out.
Harry Dresden is many things, but 'subtle' isn't one of them. The man's positively giant, at least vertically, enough that just him stepping out of the vehicle makes it look like a one-man clown car. The fact that he's wearing a black canvas duster over his jeans and Western-style shirt -- and he's carrying a staff -- is also a little out of the ordinary. But he's ordinary enough to fumble the keys into the lock, look up and down the road, and head toward the grill's door.
Today finds Derek Hale uncommonly inside said bar and grill, and likely for some specific purpose. He doesn't tend to socialize all that much, at least not in general purposes or general places. He sits at the bar, but there's no one on the seats around him. Not even across from him. Guess they got the memo to stay away from him, or maybe it's just the steely demeanor he seems to bear. When he eats a fried piece of potato, it comes off like he's ripping prey apart or something, every slightest nibble a movement with purpose, like he has every fiber of his body on the highest discipline.
He'd heard there was weird stuff going on in and around this town. Stepping inside the grill, Harry can feel what they mean. There's a palpable tension in there; granted, the average person might not pick it up or would just put it down to nerves. But no: there's a taste of magic in the air, and a brief glance around the room shows him at least one epicenter. It's like a wolf among rabbits.
Harry's never been much of a rabbit. He sits down right next to Derek, resting his staff against the bar and plucking up a menu. "Hey, buddy," he murmurs. "What's good here?"
Derek shifts his eyes first. Everything with its purpose, everything with a certain intent. It's not that he minds so much that someone has actually sat close to him, it's more that nobody else in the place has really dared to get close enough. The conversation is kept at a minimum too; it's not packed at the moment, but it sounds almost empty with the way they're keeping everything quiet. Corny, but somehow appropriate music competes with most of the mumbling patrons, providing a sort of comical dissonance.
Instead of answering with words, Derek picks up the basket of his food and sort of presents it to Harry. Maybe so he can look. Maybe so he can try it? It's just not specified. It appears to be something like a reuben, with fresh chips -- the kind like steak fries, hewn roughly from an actual potato, probably pretty fresh. "I definitely haven't seen you here before," Derek rumbles. Not a threatening tone, he has a surprisingly even-sounding voice.
It's not hostility. Certainly not that. Nevertheless, the bracelet of linked shields weighs comfortably and consciously around Harry's wrist. Just in case. But the man's posture isn't threatening, his voice isn't threatening; nevertheless, there's something about him that keeps the locals at bay.
Harry inspects the meal with raised eyebrows. He doesn't try to snag a chip; he nods his approval instead, shrugging and looking back at his menu. When the bartender comes around, he orders a simple burger and fries with a Coke. "Yeah, I'm not from around here," he admits. "Just visiting Beacon Hills. I take it you're a local?"
Derek sets his basket of food down and turns back to it. Another chip down the gullet, bitten and chewed with deadly purpose. It's easy to find the thick brows and intense expressions imposing. When he looks around, and it's a slight enough movement, most of the people who were watching the stranger turn away and try to pretend they weren't actually watching. For whatever reason.
"Yeah." Derek's answer is curt, but it's not like he's really angry or dislikes Harry...it just seems to be the way he is, which could go a long way towards explaining why people don't exactly go out of their way to engage him. "What brings you to town?"
The drink comes first, and Harry takes a long slow drink. He's starting to feel it, too: the disquiet. He can't think of a better word for it. He's felt something like it once or twice -- well, more than that, to be honest. He usually feels it around serious practitioners or creatures of the Nevernever, but Derek doesn't have quite the same aura around him. Not the practitioner feel, anyway.
"Investigating some... rumors I heard. Given that you're a local, I'm actually curious. Have you heard anything, seen anything out of the ordinary? Anything unusual? I know, it's a broad question, but I'm going for the really weird. Strange people in the woods, that kind of thing."
The question is responded to by an instant narrowing of the eyes. Derek isn't really sure what he's getting from Harry either, and there's definitely something about the man if he's willing to sit on the next seat over at the bar and grill. He reaches out to pick up his own drink, a beer and half-empty, and he tilts the glass to his lips, gulping down a mouthful of it. Refreshing on such a hot summer's day. It'll be the dog days soon.
"There's a lot in Beacon Hills you could call weird. If you're looking around, watch your back." He wasn't shouting before, wasn't really even projecting his voice, but when he says that, he's quieted to even softer tones, as if he really would rather the others at the place not overhear their conversation.
Warm weather for a man to be wearing a duster, even, though at least the northwest has mild temperatures. Usually. Not predictably. Harry's eyes shift over to observe Derek's reaction. It surprises him a little: the man clearly knows something's going on. Though what it is and whether Derek has any idea, he hasn't the foggiest.
"Never stop watching it," he replies, his own voice dropping low. "The sorts of things that have tried to take a bite out of it; well, there's a list longer than my arm, and I have some pretty long arms." Harry inclines his head slightly. "What sort of things are you talking about?"
Derek doesn't meet Harry's gaze as the conversation continues. He concentrates on his food, biting and chewing. Biting with exact purpose. Chewing with efficiency. He finishes his beer and is brought another one. When he's asked the question, he still doesn't look over to Harry, but he decisively shakes his head once. At last, he turns his head slightly, as if it's incidental, to pick up his fresh glass, and meets the man's eyes. He flares his own wide, then looks pointedly to the door.
Not here, his expression would seem to indicate. Not something safe to discuss here.
Curiouser and curiouser, as Alice would say. The 'let's get out of here' gesture comes just about the same time as Harry's meal, and he asks for a to-go box. "How's the weather around here?" he adds, raising his voice a little more. "Thinking of new places to settle down." It's going to be inane twaddle until his box of food lands on the bar and he's paid for it.
With a nod to the bartender, he slides off the stool. It's with a quick glance to Derek that he pauses before heading for the door. Presumably, the taciturn young man will follow him.
Derek, clear at the pickup of his silent implication, finishes his food and drink quickly. Not anything of note is left, again showing that complete efficiency. It's not a wasted meal, and it was probably chosen for exact reasons of nutrition and balance. Judging by the man's physique, he can't be too careless about what he takes in. "I like it," he does answer the chatter, and while he's obviously no conversationalist, he does make an effort to engage and respond as best he can.
Once they're moving in the direction of the exit, he picks himself up and grabs a leather jacket off the seat next to him. He doesn't put it on, but it's kept with him. Duster, jacket, some sort of accessory would seem to be something these two have in common. He's silent, muscles shifting with his movement. A little eerily silent as he moves.
The possibilities are flicking through Dresden's mind. Of course, this guy could be a perfectly normal John Wayne type: strong, silent, looming. But he could also be... what? Not flashy enough for fae, but there's so many other kinds of supernatural creature. Demon? Again, they don't tend to be subtle...
When they're out the door, Harry falls a half-step behind. This isn't his territory, isn't his home. He'll let Derek take the lead for now, if the young man knows a better, safer place to chat.
Derek walks for a few paces, turning slightly to breathe in Harry's scent more fully. He had a chance in the bar, but it's always better to make sure, and it's easier to do that outside. His nostrils flare slightly as he does breathe in. His eyes wander along the man's form. So tall! It's unusual, so there's little chance they'll go unseen if they do anything particularly noticeable. Fortunately, the way Derek chooses seems to have less and less people on it, and they don't see him for long enough to notice. Hopefully.
Suddenly he slips down a very narrow alley, reaching out for the purpose of pulling Harry along with him. It's not exactly gentle, but it's clearly not his full strength. He's not trying to hurt him, just...remove him from the public eye for a moment.
Harry doesn't seem to have an issue with walking the streets at night. He frankly gobbles up the pavement with those long spidery legs, his staff in one hand, his takeaway box in the other. Fewer people, but more tempting hamburger aroma.
When Derek grabs him and drags him down an alley, though; well, they're probably both lucky that Harry's being patient today. He doesn't blast Derek when he gets suddenly grabbed, but he does shift his staff firmly into a defensive position and, when they're in the dark, firmly but not violently tugs his arm away. "You could just say 'down here'," Harry grits between his teeth. "I do understand words."
Derek lets the arm go without incident, without words. "I needed you to move fast," he answers, voice lowered and eyes kept on the street, for the moment. He turns them back to Harry only when he seems to be sure they're alone and unobserved. "I don't know what you are," the taciturn man continues. "You're nothing I've seen before. I don't think you're out to get anyone, so I'm going to be up front with you: this isn't a safe place for...certain people." Another glance back to the street, then his eyes return to Harry.
It's not that Derek seems frightened so much as just very, very cautious about possibly being observed. Beacon Hills must have a few issues that aren't exactly obvious to the casual observer.
Caution. Right. Harry's hackles, as it were, go down at this. A little. He lets out an annoyed breath -- one that causes the nearest street light to pop -- and straightens again.
"Fine," he says. "Okay. Alleys are fine. So tell me, what's your name? And what have you been seeing? And what are you afraid of?"
"Derek Hale." The name may mean something, if Harry has any of his fingers dabbled in the circles of his kind. The Hales were actually a well-known and prominent family of werewolves that met with tragedy...some may not be aware Derek is still around. But he has made something of a splash since returning to the area. "The only thing I'm afraid of is you walking around making enough of a spectacle of yourself to end up 'missing'. At best." He folds well-built arms over muscular chest, jacket still grasped firmly.
The name rings a small bell. It's going with the Beacon Hills bells. He did at least some research on this place before showing up. Harry's face unclouds and realization dawns; he nods slightly and with some visible degree of surprise. "Believe me," he says. "Anyone who tries to disappear me is going to have a really interesting day. It's not the first time I've been surrounded by nasty people. But you're not one of them? What have you been seeing around here?"
"Who -- and what -- are you?" Derek just cuts to the chase. No fluff, no flowery introductions. He's laid out most of his cards, certainly enough to put him at a serious disadvantage if his typical poor judgement of who to trust is coming into play here. But as he isn't being seduced by Harry, maybe his luck will hold out. It's a complicated life he lives.
Not being seduced yet, anyway. Though Harry's preferences and bad luck seem to run the other way. Usually.
"Harry Dresden. Wizard." He gives a small uptick of his head. "I advertise in the book and everything. Here." He reaches into his breast pocket and pulls out a business card, passing it over. Harry Dresden. Wizard. There's even a number and address. No email, though.
"I'm here investigating some severe imbalances in this region. Some kind of event, of... ritual, maybe, taking place outside of town."
Brows go up at that. Derek has heard of wizards. He's definitely come up against and around magic users. But as far as anyone actually technically labeled a wizard, this is his first experience. He takes the card carefully and, like everything else he does, seems to handle it with extremely careful intent towards even the slightest of movements. The card is slipped into a jacket pocket as if it were made of blown glass.
"The Nemeton," he rumbles, still not letting his voice rise too far. "There was...some druid magic and plenty of evil purpose. It's over now."
"The Nemeton," Harry echoes. His brows furrow. Apparently it's not a familiar word. But he latches onto the rest: "Druid magic. That'd be the one; that's what I was told. And I'm not sure how over it is exactly. You'd better tell me more about it."
Glancing up and down the alley, he adds: "And if you don't feel safe here, that's my office address on the card. I work out of San Francisco. You can head down the road and talk to me far away from any listening ears. But I'm willing to listen to you here and now, too. It's up to you."
"It's not really safe here. Anywhere in town." Derek's jaw is so set between statements. He doesn't even move if he doesn't move to do something, or in the direction of a goal. Apparently, he figures he might as well talk a little bit here. It's as safe as anywhere else is likely to be, and he's not taking his new acquaintance anywhere sensitive. Not after...all that business recently. Not yet.
"There was an alpha pack. Drama. Sacrifices. I didn't like it, and I don't want it happening again." Derek leans closer. "What can you do about it?" Not a challenge, but a legitimate inquiry. He's interested, but clearly gruff. It's not that he doesn't like Harry, but anyone who knows Derek can attest to the fact that it's just the way he is.
"Depends on what 'it' is. Figure out what caused it -- apparently you know something about that. Figure out what needs to be done to drag things back into balance, prevent them from getting worse. My job is being an occult investigator. I look into things like this, when I get hired. And I've been hired by an interested party, definitely not a local, to look into the imbalance that's starting here. There's a great imbalance in magic, in the supernatural. I'm told that a part of it has started -- or will start -- here. So I need to understand what this Nemeton is. What it did. What happened to it."
Derek narrows his eyes. "Who hired you?" Things must have been really hard here in Beacon Hills, at least for Derek and those he knows. He's not ready to trust entirely, and he's so full of questions. Not that it's unwise to ask, but it's clear that he can't take anyone at face value. It's all too common that even someone appearing innocuous or even good might be from a decidedly skewed perspective or a dangerous one to everything he's fought so hard to build.
A short laugh. "You wouldn't believe me if I told you," Harry replies. "Let's just go with someone outside of Beacon Hill, someone looking at things from a much more bird's-eye-view perspective. Not another wolf. More... someone who observes imbalances and wants to see them. Uh. Re-balanced." He clears his throat. "I know some about werewolves. The ones common up here are an unusual offshoot. I know there's druids up here, too, but there's massive amounts of fragmentation in the druid community. Some sects have no real resemblance to their forebears."
Derek's brow flattens, lowering. He takes a step back. "Try me." Not one to really let this go, he's after more detail and shows an utter humorlessness, even in the face of laughter. In a single smooth, graceful motion, he slides on his jacket, and it is a very nice one. Immediately, his arms are folded again.
"I talked to an angel." Said flatly, without any particular expectation, either of laughing disbelief or nodding acceptance. He's been getting both lately when he brings this up. "I'm not the sort to usually go haring after the advice of the Almighty," he adds, "but an angel appeared unto me, in my office, talking about dire portents. And yes, I'm pretty sure I didn't hallucinate him. He's shown up to some other people too, and I assure you they're just as sane as me."
If Derek disbelieves Harry, he's as collected about it as he has been for everything else. Considering what he's been through, angels and the like wouldn't be something he'd doubt, per se. He's just pretty sure it's not how he or anyone else assumes it is. But after looking Harry over a little longer, he jerks his chin upward in a gesture of acknowledgement. Derek would seem to accept it, at least for the moment.
"I don't know how sane you are, but you don't strike me as crazy. And I know crazy." Derek has seen crazy. Derek has made out with crazy. Derek has made some seriously poor judgement calls in his life. "So what are you planning to do?"
He sounds like a man who's seen some crazy. Harry shrugs at the question: "I'd like to get a full story from you on what happened. Human sacrifice? Dark rituals to raise some ancient evil? I need to find out all I can. It's what I'm paid for. A name helps; I can research a name. I'm planning on tracking down a witch or a wizard who specializes in earth magics to go over the ritual site, see what they can figure out. Track down whatever this is, figure out how to banish it or bind it or put it to sleep. In short, what my client asks."
He lets out a short huff of annoyed breath. "Jesus. I'm not even from here. Me and my library, we just ended up on the west coast one morning. I'm from Chicago. This is ridiculous."
"Darach." Derek pronounces, very carefully. And even with his natural way of keeping most of his range of emotion subdued, there's a mixture of indications that drift briefly across his face. Disgust? Betrayal? Sorrow? Whatever it is, he's uncomfortable even mentioning it. "Sounds like you haven't had that great a time either. Don't make it worse by getting yourself killed. If you stay here...take every precaution. Beacon Hills is not safe." As much as it pains him to say it, with the pride he takes in defending it; Derek's eyes shine, just for a second, bright blue.
"I'll keep that in mind." Harry extends a hand to shake Derek's. He doesn't meet the young man's eyes -- he sees that flash in them and it draws his attention, but his eyes are firmly fixed either just above or below Derrek's own. He licks his lips when he hears the name and, after the possible handshake, writes it down carefully. Not that he won't remember. "If you can think of anything else you can tell me about what's happened here, you know where to go. San Francisco is -- I hesitate to say 'safe', but it's not Beacon Hills." He takes a step back then, inclining his head as if to say goodbye. He has a lot to work on and a lot to ponder.
Derek takes Harry's hand and squeezes, but does not pump it or really move or force it to move in any way. It's a firm, strong grip, one with nothing to prove. But that's not to say the man himself doesn't have anything to prove, either to himself or to everyone else. "Come back and look around. But be careful. I'll find you." Which, despite the phrasing, is obviously meant to be a reassuring statement, that Derek will know Harry's close and will seek him out to help him.
He pulls the jacket a little and turns, that said, to continue down the alley into the darkness. Who knows, really, where he's gone after that. It's given him things to think about too. But he has the card, in any case. Connections have been made this day.