Southern Gothic

"Pilot" - Meet Cute

Falling Scales Episode 1.1

Thursday, March 13, Early Afternoon
The Fairbanks Hotel
Park District

The Hotel’s lobby was filled with hipsters, skater-punks and journalists. It had to be some sort of convention. Alegria didn’t understand why Americans insisted upon dressing so absurdly, but that was why she was here, in New Calais, to learn American customs.

“Is this your first time in the states, Ms. Zurita-Sanchez?” – The clerk

“Si, I mean to say yes. Why is there all these people? Are the vestibule always this busy?” – Alegria.

“I’m sorry? Oh, no, this is for the XCON, the extreme sports convention that’s going on this week.” – The clerk, gesturing towards the pavilion that had been built in the park across the street.

“Ah, thank you.” – Alegria

“Any time, ma’am. You’re in the Garden Suite, Malcolm will show you up. I hope you enjoy your stay with us.” – The clerk

Alegria was only partially paying attention to the clerk and was more interested in the good looking kid in the too-tight jeans and odd little hat who was surrounded by fans.

“Is he a movies star?” – Alegria, to the security detail her father had insisted on.

The men shrugged.

“… and remember, this is a nice place, and we don’t want to get kicked out of another nice place, do we? Now if you’ll excuse me, there’s someone I have to meet” – the boy.

The large group of fans laughed sheepishly as the boy made eye contact with Alegria. With a wide grin the boy seemed to glide through the parting sea of bodies. It was only after he’d cleared them that she realized that he was standing on a skateboard. Alegria tried really hard not to blush, she didn’t know who he was, but he was obviously someone famous.

“I’m Levi, who are you?” – The boy, slipping between her and the elevator.

Alegria didn’t know quite how to react. She barely understood what he’d said, the English language was still pretty new to her.

“This is the part where you tell me your name.” – Levi

“I know… I am uh… Que?” – Alegria.

The boy smirked.

“Y’all heard the pretty lady agree to be my girlfriend, right? She said “K”!” – Levi, toward the crowd.

The crowd laughed again. She did too.

“Sí, pequeño hombre, voy a ir con usted.” – Alegria

“Oh, no, no, no. None, of that, I heard you speaking the English.“ – Levi

One of the girl’s bodyguards stepped between the two and Levi instinctively slid back, kicking the board up between them.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa, Jeeves, I got this, you take the pretty lady’s bags up to her room and leave the rest to me.”

Alegria tapped the guard on his shoulder and he stood down. He looked at her as if to ask her if she was serious and she nodded. He’d worked with her before, and knew she wasn’t asking him not to keep close.

“Come on, Bae, we’re going for ice cream. Hey everybody, I’m gonna get cream with my Bae!” – Levi, putting his arm around her shoulder.

Getting ice cream evidently meant waiting ten minutes for a giant bowl filled with at least a dozen scoops of chocolate ice cream and covered with every kind of candy she’d ever seen.

“See, Ali, This is ICE CREAM.” – Levi, gesturing with both hands toward the bowl being sat down between them.

“Yo sé lo que el helado es, idiota, sólo que no me gusta. Por favor, no me llames Ali” –

She didn’t actually mind being called Ali.

“Come on, have some. It’s got chocolate, and all women love chocolate, its science! Mmmm.” – Levi, between bites.

She tried a bite, it was good ice cream.

“See, it’s not so bad, now if only I could get you to talk to me. I know you know how to speak English.” – Levi

Alegria smiled around the spoon.

“You are that skateboarder, yes? I read an article about you at the extreme-games, you did very well for an amateur.” – Alegria

“Yeah, the X Games, that was pretty cool. Though, I’m not an amateur anymore. I’m here to compete in the XCon, they got a Street League thing going on at the park that’s going to be pretty sweet. You wanna learn? I’ll teach you.” – Levi

“No, no it is okay.”

“I’m’a teach you.” – Levi dropped his spoon into the empty ice cream bowl.

Before she could protest again, he had her by the hand and was dragging her out of the restaurant and into the city.

Alegria looked back at the bowl forlornly; she’d only gotten two bites.

A Few Hours Later
Skate Park
Dulac Park

Alegria loved how a boy so utterly nervous and so awkward as he was could move with such grace and power while riding the board. The way he and the board moved together, like they were a part of one another, the ease with which he slid across rails and flitted over the barrier.

“You hungry?” – Levi came to a stop next to her

“How can you still be hungry?”

“What do you mean? You ate all the ice cream, man I never knew how true the whole girls and chocolate thing was.” – Levi

Alegria glared at him and he smiled, showing all of his teeth. He knew she was smitten.

Dammit.

“I’m thinking enchiladas, you like those right?” – Levi

“I do not know what that is.”

“How can you not know what enchiladas are? Aren’t you Mexican?” – Levi

“… I am from Ecuador.” – Alegria

“… That’s not in Mexico?”

“It’s in South America.”

Levi blinked blankly.

“… I would love to try enchiladas.”

“Sweet! There’s this cart up here that sells the best Enchiladas in town.” – Levi

Alegria followed the manic skater-boy across the park, enjoying both his athleticism and the dark beauty of the park in the magic hour.

“Do you hear that?” – Levi, pointing at a gazebo a few yards away.

“What?”

The boy only smiled as he changed course and only as she followed did Alegria hear what he was talking about, it was the sound of someone kissing passionately.

“Levi, no, let’s go.”

“Ah, come on, maybe we’ll learn something.” – Levi, wiggling his brow mischievously.

The sounds coming from the gazebo grew more passionate and Alegria couldn’t help but look inside.

It was dark, but she could make out a woman with hair that fell in long ringlets wearing a slinky dress that had been pulled up around her waist so that she could straddle the unseen man. The man’s hands were clutching the bench while she writhed upon his lap, they were both moaning loudly and –

Alegria stepped on something and there was a sharp snapping sound.

“Oh, shit!” – Levi as the woman’s head snapped up.

The woman turned her head and Alegria’s mind buckled. her skin was ashen, weathered and cracked, her eyes were nothing so much a black orbs flecked with crimson light but Alegria only saw her mouth, a vast bloody wound that split her face and was filled by dozens of jagged translucent black teeth.

The thing hissed.

Levi was saying something but all Alegria could think about was all of those teeth.

He grabbed her arms and shook her, hard, stepping between her and the monster, wielding his skateboard like a shield.

“Ali! Run!”

The thing moved to stand up and give chase, but hesitated. Alegria ran, hoping that Levi followed but didn’t dare look back.

She only realized that she was screaming when her bodyguards appeared, running toward her. One of them took her in his arms protectively while the others ran past her.

Alegria turned instinctively to see Levi running while looking over his shoulder, oblivious to the guard’s presence as they slammed into him, tackling him to the ground.

“No! He was saving me!” – Alegria, in Spanish.

A Few Hours Later

Levi sat in the backseat of the police car, the door open, and described, for the fourth time, what he’d seen in the Gazebo. The officer asked more than once if he’d been drinking or was on drugs, but he assured them that he wasn’t.

He told them about the showing off and the gazebo and the thing that was eating the guy’s face. He knew it sounded crazy but he couldn’t tell them anything else.

It was the truth.

The Officer, Holbrook according to his nametag, told him that there was, indeed, a dead man in the gazebo, and that his face and neck had, in fact, been horrifically mutilated; his jaw was gone along with much of his neck, but Levi already knew that, he’d seen it before when the thing with black teeth turned and looked at him with those eyes like dead stars.

“Mr. Ryder, did you hear me?” – Officer Holbrook.

“Yeah?”

Holbrook grunted in frustration as he made a note.

“I asked if you could remember anything else.” – Holbrook.

Levi smirked.

“No I… Wait. Wait, there was another guy… yeah, he was older, really thin I think. He was holding a camera, you know like the ones paparazzi use? I saw him after Ali’s guards put me to the ground.”

“Can you describe him?” – Holbrook.

“I think he had black hair, maybe it was gray… he looked… thin. I’m sorry that’s probably not useful.” – Levi

Officer Holbrook made another note.

“It’s more useful than nothing at all.”

Levi didn’t believe him.

“I’m sure we’ll be contacting you in the next day or so will we be able to contact you at the hotel?” – the Officer

“Yeah, for the rest of the week at least.”

“Okay, then I think we can let you go. We’ll be in touch, Mr. Ryder.”

“Thanks, hey do you know where Alegria went?”

“Yeah, she left a few minutes ago with her security, sorry, I thought you knew.”

“Yeah, no, it’s okay, I’ll catch her tomorrow. Thanks.” – Levi.

Late the Next Morning
The Fairbanks Hotel
Park District

Levi knocked on the Garden Suite door with three quick wraps like he saw the bellhop do a thousand times.

“Hey, Ali, wanna get breakfast? They got waffles and strawberries! Have you ever had Waffles? I bet you haven’t! You’ll love ‘em.”

There was no answer.

“I got you coffee – It’s Columbian!”

He heard movement on the other side of the door. Quick words in spanish, and then the sound of the door unlocking.

Levi pumped out his chest and struck a pose, the tray of food in his right hand above his head, the coffee pot in his left, head in front of him, and a goofy grin plastered across his adorable face as the door creaked open.

“Sup, ba – you’re not Ali.”

It was one of her guards, a particularly gigantic variety of security whose neck had been lost to time.

“No.”

The door slammed shut, cutting off Levi’s whimpering.

The skater-boy spent another half a minute or so of banging on the door announcing his intentions of feeding her to the whole of the floor, Levi finally gave up and was walking away when the door began to open again.

“You’re the guy that tackled me last night, you got nerve man, I didn’t see you coming last – Heeey, girl.”

Alegria stood in the doorway wearing pajamas and a big robe, it wasn’t the negligee he’d imagined… actually his grandma used to wear the same night gown, but it never hung on grandma like that… at least he hoped not… why was he thinking about his grandma at a time like this?

“I got you breakfast.”

“I heard.” – Alegria

“It’s not from Equanor, though.” – Levi

“Equanor?” – Ali

“So, how’d you sleep?”

“I dreamt of sharp things.” – Alegria

Levi didn’t know what to say so he gave her a cup of coffee.

Afternoon
The XCON Extreme Sports Park
Dulac Park

“You know, everyone did their best out their today and you know, it was a close thing. Wally D., SUP WALLAY, he came really close today, probably should’ve been him, because he really was super good today… You know, I’m just humbled to have been able to do my thing, you know… Hay, Ali! You made it, girl!” – Levi

He’d won, it’d been close, so very close, but he’d won just the same. Seeing that Ali had made it meant it was even cooler.

He wondered if she’d like watching him work, or if she was hungry, she’d barely touched her waffles.

“That was amazing!” – Ali

She was smiling.

“You know, It’s what I do.”

She was smiling because of him.

“Can I help you, senor?” – the smaller of Ali’s guards.

Levi and Ali turned toward the voices to see a small man with matted black hair and dark, nervous eyes.

“yeah – yeah, hi, I’m Nicholas? Nick Holcomb.”

“Let him through, dude, can’t you see he’s a reporter?” – Levi

The little man squeezed past the bodyguards and tumbled toward Levi.

“Yeah… thanks…about that, I’m not actually here to talk about your win. Congratulations on that, really, it was amazing… but I’d actually like to talk to you about last night – I’m not a reporter! Not a reporter! I have credentials but only because I know a guy who owed me a favor. He let me take his place. Could I please, please, please have a moment of your time?”

Ali was hurting Levi’s arm.

“Relax, relax, relax, I got this baby, its good, its good, I’m good, I got this.” – Levi

“Look, I’ve been through what you’ve been through, I’ve seen them too, the

“Yeah, Bae ain’t cool with this conversation so I’m gonna tell you what I’m gonna do, I’m gonna take her back and we can meet in Doug’s, that restaurant in the Fairbanks, and we can talk about this man to man because we ain’t gonna upset my lady, know what I’m saying?” – Levi

“I do, believe me, Mr. Ryder, but what I have to say might help her too.” – Nick

Doug’s Cafe
The Fairbanks Hotel
Park District

Levi was digging into a Po’ Boy while Ali moved fries around a plate, her men sat two booths away watching intently, Nick had allowed them to pat him down before he’d taken his seat.

“The man who died last night was named Marshal Greel. Sadly he was survived by his ailing mother, Marisa, who is in a nursing home. I’m not telling you this so that you feel bad. There’s no reason you should, I’m just stating a fact. Someone died last night and that was just last night.”

“This town is crazy.” – Levi.

Ali nodded listlessly.

“But, it’s not just this city. I belong to an organization called the People for a Free and Honest America. Our organization has a lot of money and influence not just here, but all over the south, from Miami to Atlanta to New Orleans to Austin and even Dallas. Our influence is growing and we use that influence to search out and catalogue the supernatural; ghosts, werewolves, witches, weirder things… vampires.”

“This is a pretty lame joke, man.” – Levi, he’d stopped eating.

“No, no, no. That’s just it, most of the things we’ve found are completely harmless…relatively speaking. Some’ve even helped people.”

“Like Casper?” – Levi

“No. That’s not the point. The point is that the problem with all these things, the reason we fear them is because they hide.”

“Well, I’d be hiding too if I was eating people.” – Levi.

Ali laughed even as she teared up.

“So, what, Frankensteins are running up all around the country solving crime?” – Levi

“Uh… I don’t… probably?” – Nick

“What do you mean “probably”?” – Ali

“The appropriate answer to that question, Nick, was “no, that’s crazy”. “Probably.” Who says “Probably” to something like that?” – Levi

“All those poor children with flowers.” – Ali

“Look, Frankenstein was a specific piece of fiction, I can’t be sure if the Monster was real, who knows? Maybe? Here, look” – Nick, opening his phone.

“You said you’d make me feel better, Senor Holcomb, but all you are saying is that that thing we saw yesterday, those things my father said could not be, are real.” – Ali

“But that’s why the PFHA exists, Ms. Zurita-Sanchez, we are here for mutual protection. We have members from all walks of life. Doctors, lawyers, um, gang members, a former Mayor of Miami, Florida; I don’t know if that’s actually true, I’ve never met the guy, but I’ve heard that. Oh, police officers! We exist to protect our own. Rent money, bail money, medical care, we’re here to help.”

“Take care of your own?” – Ali

“Those who know the truth! Not every member knows what’s really out there, that would be cruel. To many it’s a, uh, social club, a place where you can meet likeminded people. And then there are the people like me and you, those of us that have seen and know the truth about the dark places. We can help you. Any help you might need. We can make sure you’re safe.” – Nick

“So… this is some Illuminati type stuff, here, you guys get all these people to pay in for this or that and then you go looking for Crocodile ladies to make us and them safe? How does that work? How does the government not have anything to do with this?” – Levi

“We feel that the government at large would ask too many questions. Our goal is to reach a point where we have collected enough information and evidence that we can eventually go public with all of this. There are a few members of our organization in various posts within government, the mayor of Miami, a few FBI agents out of New Orleans, for example.”

“You want people to know? There would be a panic if you told people that their nightmares are real. People would not want to know this. I didn’t want to know this!” – Ali

“We would not just broadcast this out, we would supply this information to the Government.” – Nick

“You think that your government doesn’t already know about it? If they don’t it is only because they do not want to.” – Ali

Nicks phone, which until now had been poised so that he might show them something went off suddenly in his hand.

Ali saw that it read simply “Church”.

“I have to take this. Please, I’m sorry.”

Nick walked a few feet away and mumbled into the phone, while cradling his head in his free arm.

“Había demasiados monstruos en el mundo cuando sólo había gente en ella.” – Ali

“Huh?” – Levi

Levi was distracted. Someone was yelling at Nick, and he wasn’t taking it well.

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry, Yes sir, I’m sorry. I know. I’ll… yes sir.” – Nick

Nick returned to the table, Levi tried in vain to appear as though he weren’t eavesdropping.

“I’m sorry for upsetting you, Ms. Zurita-Sanchez, Mr. Ryder, I’ll go. I’m very sorry for wasting your time.” – Nick, dropping a pair of twenties on the table.

“How can you just drop a bomb in our lap and then run?” – Levi, but Nick was already leaving the Restaurant.
_
Later
Levi’s Suite
The Fairbanks Hotel_

“So what would you like to watch?” – Levi

“Anything but horror.”

“No Sandra Bullock, got it.”

Ali laughed.

“Or Twilight. Or crime stories.” – Ali

“Cartoons it is!” – Levi

“You could at least sound like it wasn’t what you wanted to watch.”

“Oooh, Despicable Me.” – Levi

The next couple of hours seemed to slip by very quickly for Ali. At some point Room Service came in with pizza and some brownie-like dessert, and the two of them fought over the spoon. Alegria was finally feeling safe.

Knock

“Did you hear that?” – Alegria

“Its your boys outside the door.” – Levi

“No. It was coming from back there.” – Ali pointed at the bedroom.

“Ms. Ali are you trying to seduce me?” – Levi

KNOCK

“Could you please go look?”

“Fiiine, but only because I’m getting a soda; pick another movie, Despicable Me ended 10 minutes ago.”

Levi hoisted himself over the back of the couch as if to remind her of his physique.

Ali grabbed his skateboard and held it up like a shield. Levi suddenly realized that he himself had nothing to protect himself with and grabbed a lamp.

Levi slipped over to the door and opened it to find Ali’s men standing their looking down at him.

“Sup.” – Levi, shutting the door.

“Hey, bae, you hungry? Want some chips? Candy? I got some subway…”

There was definitely a sound deeper in the suite, now. But Levi couldn’t put his finger on it.

He had the lamp’s cord tied around her forearm now.

“Alright, I’m gonna get something to eat, hmm… maybe some M&Ms.”

Levi opens his bedroom door carefully, quietly.

“…Beautiful / beautiful boy!” – John Lennon warbled over his iPod.

“Son of a gun.” – Levi

“Hey, Ali, it was just my iPod, I forgot to take my Flintstones. Be right back!”

He heard Ali laugh and he relaxed.

“… a little prayer / Every day in ever…” – Levi shut off the iPod and tossed it on the bed.

Something heavy landed on him when he turned toward the master bathroom.

“Ali! Get help!” – Levi, as he reeled.

Whatever was on him was squeezing his chest and hadn’t secured his arm and Levi instinctively swung his fist towards his own head, shattering it against the thing’s head.

The thing was too heavy and Levi fell to his knee as he tried desperately to get a handful of the thing’s wet and sticky hair.

Shifting gears, Levi rolled to the left and away from its head, somehow breaking free and ending up on his feet. He turned and saw the bloody mess that he’d made of the thing’s head.

Even with the bloody mass of hair and the poor light he knew that face anywhere.

The Crocodile Lady’s maw of snaggleteeth opened her gray, weathered face wide, and Levi should have been thinking about that impossibly large mouth, but he couldn’t turn away from her eyes, the dead black orbs flecked with bloody starlight.

She charged him, slamming into Levi and sending the boy tripping over the corner of the bed and onto the floor.

Through the stars and the pain Levi could see only one thing as he stared under his bead

It was an important thing.

It was a stainless steel T-tool.

Levi reached out and gripped the tool by the crossbar, rolling the post out between his fingers.

The thing straddled him and he was dimly aware that she had the body of a 70 year old woman and that she was wearing sundress with a surprisingly bright floral pattern.

It seemed strange that something so hideous would wear something so new.

The Crocodile lady was bent low, her massive jaw splayed wide when poised at his throat when he drove the T-tool home, right into where her shoulder met ribcage.

He let go without thinking and saw that he’d perfectly punctured some strange glyph on her chest.

“Is that a butterfly?”

The thing howled and leapt to its feet, using his head for leverage.

By the time she was up on his elbows she was at his bedroom door.

Suddenly the room was filled with lights and sounds. A dozen explosions all happening seemingly at once.

Levi covered his head, convinced that the thing had killed him. But then he felt her weight again, she’d dropped her shoulder into his groin.

“Claro! El objetivo es abajo!” – it was Ali’s bodyguard, the one that’d tackled him.

“Is Ali okay?” – Levi, rolling the thing off of him.

The bodyguard was helping him up.

“What happened, here?” – The bodyguard.

“That thing attacked me.”

Levi pointed but even as he did he found himself bewildered. There was no hag, no crocodile mouth. Just a girl. A woman, really, but a young one. Her hair was full of blood and her eyes, a chocolate brown, were sightless. She might have been pretty had her face not been shattered by a bullet.

Her body was similarly destroyed. In a moment Levi counted no fewer than six bloody marks on her dress and a number of places where here skin was just a bloody mess.

His T-tool was still imbedded center mass in what was now, very clearly a butterfly tattoo.

“Who is that?” – Levi, to no one in particular.

Later

“I’m glad you got them, Ali, I’m glad you didn’t try to come in here. Don’t get me wrong, I could-a taken her, but I’m glad there was a plan B just in case. Your boys did all right in there.” – Levi

Ali was holding a cold compress to the back of his head. He almost certainly had a concussion and would probably need stitches from the impact tear where he’d slammed into the floor.

“What do we do?” – Levi

“Don’t worry about it, Levi, we’ll take care of everything” – Nick

Tuesday, March 18, Late Morning
PFHA Headquarters
Old Calais

The Townhouse was the picture of southern gentility. Its lavender paint and porches were practically out of a storybook. The inside was no less beautiful

Nick had offered them a seat in the lounge when a woman joined them, she was older but still beautiful, with golden hair and a smile that seemed to lighten the room, she wore a daisy-yellow sundress.

“Oh, you must be Alegria and Levi; it’s such a pleasure to meet you. Nick has told me so much about you. I’m Anna Christopher, would you care for some fruit tea?” – Anna, offering them glasses of tea from a silver tray.

Her voice was high and oversweet, like the tea and Levi couldn’t help but think that her accent, while blatantly southern, seemed ill placed in the Bayous of Louisiana.

“I’d heard what happened to the two of you and I told Nicholas that I’d like to meet you just as soon as you were able!” – Anna.

“Thank you, Mrs. Christopher.” – Levi

“Oh, please, Mrs. Christopher was my mother. I’ve never had the fortune of marrying, please call me Anna.”

“All right, thank you, Anna.”

Alegria nodded.

Anna sat the silver tray, still carrying a glass of Fruit-Tea, a pitcher of the same, and a manila folder on the coffee table before taking a seat next to Alegria.

“What that creature did to that poor man, and almost did to the two of you is just frightful.” – Anna, picking up the Folder

“The Crocodile woman, you mean?” – Levi

“Just so, though, I’m told by my associates in the know that they prefer the term “Aswang”, they’re Filipino in origin, the poor things just keep coming into the States in droves.”

“Poor thing?” – Alegria

“Oh, yes, that’s the rub, the poor girl didn’t even know what she was, not really. She’s a normal girl most of the time, her true nature only asserting itself on certain nights of the year. Its dreadful.”

Anna took a drink of her tea.

“Nicholas told me that he’s explained a great deal of what we do here at the PFHA.”

Levi noticed Anna shoot the mousy man sitting in the corner a look.

“How did it find us?” – Alegria

“We don’t know for sure. Many of the Night-Folk seem to have a keen sense for their prey, which you most certainly became once you interrupted her feeding. Werewolves have been known to track their prey across incredible distances, for example. Vampires though, and Aswang are, at the end of the day, vampires, have a particularly keen sense for those they mark. That being said, she might have simply followed you. Mr. Rider is a celebrity athlete and you, Ms. Zurita-Sanchez are known by many across South America, or at least your family is, for your philanthropy.

Alegria laughed nervously. Levi didn’t seem to notice.

“What happened to the Crocodile Lady?” – Levi

“The Aswang has been disposed of. Nicholas tells me that you’ve been rattled by your experience and I can assure you that that is completely understandable. My own brother was taken from me by these monsters but our little community has been a boon in helping me cope with my loss, as we can be for you.”

“So…you hunt monsters?” – Alegria

“Oh, no, we don’t want to destroy them. Quite the opposite, so many of them have family and friends of their own, they live relatively normal lives, some even act as particularly dangerous shepherds to us that we would be just as monstrous as we perceive them if we were to kill them.”

“Oh.” – Alegria

“Nicholas also tells me that you’re afraid of these things might be found out. Please understand that we don’t want them to be revealed to the world so that they might be forced into the light. That might actually do more harm than good.”

Alegria nodded.

“We want to embrace and learn from them, and should the day come when we can reveal the true nature of the world to the masses, we shall Unmask them to a more accepting world.”

“But to what end?”

“Because once we’ve embraced them they’ll be forced by societal pressure to act according to societal norms. Take the vampire for example: A vampire might kill a victim with impunity because there is no check on their behavior. The police cannot touch them because the police don’t even know they exist. But imagine if every police department in the country new that a body found drained of blood in an alley was probably the victim of a vampire? What if there was a vampire working for the police department? Vampires need sustenance, its true, but couldn’t they get that without murder?

“Likewise, we’re beginning to understand that werewolves have their own societal construct. What’s to say that our societies are mutually exclusive? Why can we not have Werewolf lodges in every city, right next to the Knights of Columbus and the Free Masons?”

“This is all very hard to understand.” – Alegria

“I’m sorry, dear, my accent is atrocious.”

“No, that all the pain and suffering that humans cause, that we do to one another, to learn that there are others out there, literally feeding on that pain, that is unconstrained by simple morality is utterly … I just don’t understand why you would want to add to that.” – Ali

“We are not helping these creatures, Ms. Zurita-Sanchez, we are simply studying them and mitigating the damage they do when we can.”

“But Imagine if we can not only shine a light on the deepest shadows of the world but also show these poor creatures that they do not have to be the monster scaring children under the bed, they can be your friendly neighborhood monster.”

Levi laughed.

“Your foot’s already in the door, Alegria, come on in and see the good work we’re doing! You came here because you wanted to distance yourself from the world you were born to, you wanted to be safer and that’s all we want, we want everyone to be safer. That creature only came after you because we didn’t know it was there. Had we known we’d have put a stop to her spree before it ever began. We will not tear off the blindfolds with abandon, we’ll continue to wait and watch and help people take off their own blindfolds, their own masks in their own time, and we believe that the two of you could help us do that. You have a keen mind for understanding people in power. And Mr. Ryder, you’ve a voice that people will listen. He has over ten-thousand twitter followers and he doesn’t even post.” – Anna

Levi nodded.

“And what would you have us do for your organization? Would you like a donation?” – Alegria

“We are a charitable organization so any money is more than appreciated but I was hoping that, with your experience and your background y’all would help us to Unmask this world of darkness that we seem to live in.”

“I’m in if you are, babe.” – Levi, squeezing Alegria’s hand reassuringly.

With him by her side, Alegria felt she could do anything.

“Where do we sign?”

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Raymer

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