by Drakonlily and Cendri
Some mornings felt like winter even when there was no snow on the ground. The calm and quiet felt chilled despite the warmth bright fall colors seemed to promise. The open window let sun float into the room and cast a line of light through the space. It cut along the grey sheets and defined a strong, naked thigh. The covers billowed around and made a nest that hid all but a tuft of black hair from view.
The sight brought a smile to Snow White’s face. His own hair was ice blonde and he was searching the floor for his boxers. The quiet of the morning wasn’t disturbed in the slightest as he padded softly into the kitchen. The smell of coffee was what had awakened him. He enjoyed the peace and poured two cups before he went back into the bedroom and settled onto the window ledge. “Woolfe?”
A muffled growl reverberated from the covers.
A dark tail rolled up and then flopped down along the naked leg and large ears were flat against Woolfe’s otherwise human face. Two almond colored eyes blinked in the light and Woolfe stretched, leaning back on his knees and raising his backside in the air. The ears pivoted forward and the tail flopped again as he yawned. A human tongue curled against very sharp teeth.
“Your tail is showing,” Snow teased and dropped the comforter onto the floor.
Woolfe reached a hand out and pulled at Snow’s boxers. “You like it, come back to bed.” He let the band snap softly against Snow’s hips and flopped down on his back.
Snow smiled, and crawled back onto the bed and straddled Woolfe. “We have work to do, we can’t spend the whole morning here.”
“There’s no reason why we cannot spend the morning and most of the day here. We have coffee.” Woolfe wasn’t ever particularly stressed; he smiled up at Snow and placed his hands in the other man’s boxers. “You know you’re too attached to this whole money thing.”
“You may be able to live naked out in the woods, but I require a roof.” It was a conversation they had a lot. Snow was used to it, considering that he’d taken up with a wolf in the first place. “But in my world, you have to earn your keep through work. I know you can work.”
“Eating strangers would be much less work.” Wolves were oddly lazy creatures when well fed, Snow had learned. He sat up and worked his hand further into Snow’s boxers. His nails were sharp, but the carefully crafted enchantment kept them normal enough to pass for human. He nipped gently at Snow’s collarbone before pulling the boxers down further. “But I can be persuaded to get out of bed, I suppose.”
Woolfe had been Snow’s first friend in the city, after leaving–well, running away–from his provincial kingdom. Maybe if they hadn’t been friends for a couple of years first, Snow wouldn’t know that the best way to persuade Woolfe was with a firm bite on the shoulder. “I’ll persuade you.”
Woolfe growled and flipped them both over so that he was laying on top of Snow. The dark tail lashed back and forth and when Woolfe sat up on his knees, he yanked Snow’s boxers off. Snow responded by purring in Woolfe’s ear. “Where do you want me?”
Woolfe’s response was to bite at Snow’s ear while his hand slid down Snow’s chest. The hand traced down to wrap around Snow’s cock and slowly stroke up and down. Woolfe’s other hand groped about the nightstand for a squeeze bottle. Once he found it, he used his thumb to flick the lid open and get out some of the lubrication.
A soft, animalistic snarl rose in Woolfe’s throat as he applied the gel to himself in the same slow, fluid motion as he was using on Snow. He edged forward and leaned over to nip at Snow’s chest as he entered. His hands gripped Snow’s hips firmly and his tongue flicked over Snow’s neck and chin while he thrust into his partner.
Snow was relaxed and received with a slightly dark smile; not every man could say they had a big, bad, wolf for a partner. He gripped Woolfe’s shoulders hard to keep his balance, and moved with him, glad that he’d taught him some of the more human sex etiquette.
Snow urged him with short quiet commands and pleadings that would have been hard for a human to hear, but Woolfe understood quite well. Woolfe had enough control to keep the hand on Snow going at a different rate than the thrusting. The motion prompted Snow to gasp and arch below him just before he was ready. Even when he came, Snow was quiet. He barely spoke above a whisper as his body trembled in release.
Sex in the morning was one of the better ways to wake up; in Snow’s opinion. It got one’s heart going like a brisk jog and ensured that breakfast would be eaten. Woolfe left light scratches along his hips when he came with a snarl. He sank down beside Snow’s body and curled his long tail over his partner’s hips. “I think the coffee is cold.”
“See this? Is why we have a job.”
Snow sat at his desk reading through the morning paper and sipping some actually hot coffee. Reading the paper was always the best way to get an indication about any cases that might pop up. Of course, the paper was a dreadfully sensationalist thing, full of advertisements for enchantments and snapshots of princesses caught in their underwear. Today, however, there was a headline that caught his eye.
“Woolfe, I have a feeling we may be taking a trip soon.”
Woolfe was not sprawled out on the floor as he probably wanted to be. Instead he was seated at a desk of his own, clicking away on a laptop computer. The tail and the ears were gone now and to a casual observer there was no way to tell that Woolfe wasn’t really a man. He stopped what he was doing and looked up at Snow. “What do you mean?”
Snow turned the paper so that Woolfe could read the bold headline, with appropriately large letters. ‘PIED PIPER SNARES NEXT VICTIM’ Once Woolfe had read it, Snow turned it back around to read the article aloud.
“Early yesterday morning the body of a young man was found behind the Miss Moffet Curds and Whey convenience store on Tenth and Far Far Away Ave. He showed signs of the Piper’s signature style: a look of contentment on an otherwise battered body, suggesting post-mortem enchantment.”
Woolfe seemed unimpressed.
“Point is, we could get some gold out of this.” Snow shook the paper for emphasis. The action caused a small gust of wind to knock one of the many unopened bills from Snow’s desk. The envelope that fluttered to the ground stated clearly in red letters ‘Cauldron Heating: Final Notice’ Snow groaned. “And not a moment too soon.”
Woolfe had stopped in mid sip as the letter fluttered to the ground. Still with a hunter’s instinct, he watched the item land. Once it stopped moving, he continued his drink as though nothing had happened. It had taken the wolf quite some time to realize that pipes froze when they got cold and burst and that such things were bad. It was a good guess that he only considered frozen pipes and no heat in a house to be bad because they annoyed Snow.
Woolfe sighed and leaned over on one elbow, chin in hand. “That’s in Sleepy Hollow, isn’t it?” Woolfe made a face. “That place has more going on with it lately, I heard the Sheriff skipped town when the Piper showed back up.” He got up to refill their mugs. “And they shoot anything that seems aggressive. That place should be cursed or something.”
For what gave off the appearances of a busy market in the middle of miles of sleepy farmland to the casual outsider, Woolfe was correct in saying that Sleepy Hollow was a dangerous place. It had a busy port-yard and a multitude of fly by night street vendors, as well as casinos and other amusements for rich nobles. They also were the home of the annual Feast of the Hunter’s Moon that drew attentions from every prince in the ten Kingdoms. Woolfe snapped up the paper and huffed as he finished the article. “With the Hunter’s Moon fast upon us, the local shops are worried about business. ‘If this Piper isn’t captured, who will send their princes here on vacation? The Hunter’s Moon is our biggest event and if attendance is down it will affect our economy all year’.” The image of the speaker was on the front page, a man seated at a giant inn with a variety of trophies on the walls and a bearskin rug at his feet.
“The economy is obviously something we should try to protect, then. Did it give any information about a reward for apprehending the Piper?” Snow wasn’t greedy, really. He was just practical. Besides, catching a serial killer was one of those things that helped everyone.
Woolfe bit back some sort of retort that he obviously wanted to say and scanned the paper. “The Citizens’ Commission, lead by Commissioner Sprat has amassed a reward of seven thousand gold pieces. ‘We realize that this is a difficult situation, so rest assured if you come to Sleepy Hollow for any reason in the future, we’ll remember you and you won’t want for anything. This town is good to its people’. “ Woolfe shrugged. “Sounds like someone’s making a push for Mayor next election to me.” He tossed the paper back to Snow’s desk. “If you think it’s a good idea, we’ll go.”
Snow took another look at the phone, as if he were willing it to ring and provide them with a person looking to find a lost relative or something more personal. But a reward was a reward. “There’s always some shady business going on in Sleepy Hollow. Might as well.”
Woolfe sighed and nodded. “Then we’d better get going now.”
One thing that the ten Kingdoms boasted was an excellent transit system. Every city had a bustling train station that allowed quick and effortless travel from one place to the next. The Pumpkin Coach Rail was one of the most popular and despite the odd colored cars was by far the most comfortable for the price. Woolfe curled up in their car and dozed nearly immediately with his head against Snow’s shoulder.
Hours passed as the cars cut through the countryside, taking them out of the smoky city and into the lush forests and fields.
Woolfe grumbled when Snow poked him to wake him, but adjusted his shirt and ran a hand over his head to check for ears before he headed out of their train car. Woolfe had explained before that while he was a very old wolf, the enchantment was still a bit difficult to maintain. Younglings couldn’t become human on a whim and this was probably a good thing. Once outside he tilted his head back and sniffed. “Oh, I smell Shepherd’s Pie…”
Snow yanked at his partner’s scarf. “Come along, we can’t eat till we get settled. Can’t leave our suitcases out in the street for anyone to find.”
With a bit of a whine Woolfe followed Snow along the brick streets. Mother Goose Tavern and Grill was one of the first buildings they came across, which despite the family friendly word ‘mother’ in the title seemed more a place for riff raff. A banner under the sign proclaimed that this place was ‘Home of the Huntsman’s Feast’. Woolfe’s stomach complained as the door opened up with customers leaving, the scent of meat following them out into the street.
They passed by several other charmingly dangerous places following the yellow brick path through the center of town, where bogus enchantment sellers and gamblers found safe havens to prey on the pocketbooks of rich tourists. As former royalty himself, Snow’s first time in the town had been when he was much younger, and with his father and stepmother harmlessly losing a bit of gold while he ran around with the other children of nobles who weren’t old enough to get into the real trouble yet. It had mostly been a good vacation, but through his child’s eyes it had just been a colorful place where his stepmother relaxed and didn’t hate him for a while.
As an adult, all the seediness came through. And maybe something more sinister. Snow couldn’t help but feel he was being watched as they reached the end of the road and the Inn. Maybe it was just the fact this is where the series of murders were taking place, and he was being paranoid. Probably that.
He looked over at Woolfe, who seemed to still be concerned with his stomach, judging by the way he would randomly sniff at the air and then try to hide his wolfish mannerisms. Pretending to be human was more than just looks, after all.
“I’m sure they have a dining room at this Inn. Just don’t gorge. We’re on a budget.”
Woolfe snorted in reply, and Snow couldn’t help but smile a little. No, he was just being paranoid. Who would bother them?
Snow found he was still trying to push aside his unease in the dining room as they ate. He wanted to go upstairs and hide very badly. The feeling was more of dread than anything else and he chose to sit next to Woolfe instead of across the table from him. Snow was starting to feel relaxed when a commotion started at the doorway. A large hound dog had come in with its owner and the moment it caught scent of Woolfe it began baying and snarling as one would expect it to. It barreled around patrons and stopped at their booth with its hair standing on end.
Snow dug his nails into Woolfe’s wrist to stop him from snarling back; it wouldn’t do to have a grown man growling at a dog in public. His partner went still and glared at the dog. For its part, the dog was wise enough to not push the issue before its owner arrived. The man was extremely apologetic. “I don’t know what got into him, were y’all hunting today? Maybe some deer musk got on your clothes. Never seen him go nuts on a person like that before.”
“Something like that…” Woolfe’s tone was level.
The man yelled at his dog again, who then backed down with one more glare in Woolfe’s direction.
“Maybe we should take our meal upstairs?” Snow offered.
Woolfe nodded, and he asked for some containers to take the food up in from one of the servers passing by. Snow could swear a man towards the back of the dining room was watching their every move as the server returned and boxed up their meal. His hat had a large enough brim to cast a shadow on his face and the table he was sitting at obscured much of his body. Worst case: he was a Hunter, and that incident with the dog had revealed an old and powerful wolf.
Or he was probably just a tourist, curious about the commotion. Snow had to stop assuming everyone knew his partner was a wolf.
The bed was warm and comfortable, perfect for lulling someone into slumber. Snow had been quick to fall asleep with his head safely tucked under Woolfe’s chin. Snow’s dreams were unusually fitful and he could hear Woolfe growling in them. Snow felt the bed move and realized he hadn’t been simply dreaming. He sat upright in the bed, his heart thundering. “What … Woolfe?”
No longer looking like a man at all, Woolfe’s natural form took up more than half the bed. His thick mane stood on end and his teeth caught the lights from outside that crept into the room. He was looking to the door, intent on ripping whoever was on the other side of it apart.
Someone tried to come in. They put a letter under the door.
Snow grabbed the pistol that was usually on him when awake from under the bed and tiptoed over to the letter. It was obvious that whoever had put it there wasn’t around any longer, as there was no shadow under the door. He still made sure that the safety was off as he picked up the letter. The envelope was blank, with no distinguishing characteristics. Inside there was only a single handwritten line, just barely legible in the half dark that all rooms in Sleepy Hollow had.
Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?
He felt his chest sort of seize as he read it. Snow knew that Woolfe was perfectly capable of taking care of himself, but this was a hunting festival. They’d been surrounded by fur peddlers and the like since they arrived. Snow had worked very hard to form a new life for himself, away from other people’s influences and much of that included Woolfe. Snow was nearly paranoid about losing him. “Maybe we should leave.”
Still a wolf, Woolfe sat on the bed. Obviously they’re worried about us.
“Worried?” Snow swallowed a lump in his throat. “Or they’re excited. We should just leave.”
Woolfe hopped from the bed and trotted to Snow and sniffed at the letter. When Snow reached to touch Woolfe’s head, he didn’t have to bend over. Woolfe easily stood with his shoulders at Snow’s hips in this form. Let’s get the jump on them.
It was a bold move, and Snow’s immediate instincts were to be cautious. But they were here to find a serial killer, and maybe this was a lead. Still, he felt something cold in the pit of his stomach.
“We have to be careful, if we do. You have to be in human form no matter what.”
Once dressed and looking properly human the two of them started out into the halls. Woolfe breathed deeply, trying to catch the scent of whoever had left the letter. Snow followed him along hallways, out the door, and then into the city itself. Focused, Woolfe didn’t pay attention to Sleepy Hollow’s night life. The people throwing dice or the hookers on the corners didn’t register. He turned down the paths as though he knew them before stopping suddenly. “It splits. They went different directions.”
Two people? This was interesting. And problematic. If they both went after one, the other would get away. If they split up, it could be dangerous… “We should probably split, but I’ve got a bad feeling, Woolfe.”
“Be careful,” Woolfe agreed and then started off down one of the dark alleyways.
Snow almost ran after him. Something inside of him wanted to grab Woolfe by the hand and go back home. He didn’t care about the heat or the electricity. It took a few breaths to steady himself. He was being irrational and emotional and they were here to catch a serial killer. “You’re not at home anymore, Snow,” he told himself and turned to go down the other alley.
Without Woolfe’s sense of smell, however, every door seemed to be the same. There was nothing that caught Snow’s eye. He was a good detective, in all reality, and the fact that nothing tipped him off down the trail was more than mildly annoying. He started listening against doors, looking at various fliers on buildings, but nothing was out of the ordinary. He turned another corner and noticed a building that finally looked like it could be something. ‘Scorpion’s Frog’ was scrawled on the door and though no one answered, there was noise behind the door. Snow knew better than to barge in alone and turned to head back to the hotel room to get backup.
Woolfe would be there soon; he was always dependable.
He kept an eye out for any strange dealings. Sleepy Hollow at this time of night was almost an overload of strange and possibly illegal dealings. And with the festival happening soon, the shady dealings were trying their best to match their clientele; hookers dressed like the best trashy approximations of princesses, dice games included gold die, and accommodations for any kind of depravity.
It made him think about his first relationship after running away and his most memorable time in Sleepy Hollow. But it wasn’t the time for that. Snow shook his head and found himself walking faster back to the Inn, where Woolfe would no doubt be waiting.
When he got to the room, however, Woolfe was not there. Snow tried to tell himself that maybe his partner was just following a simple lead. Something that would take some time. Snow got himself some tea and pulled out one of his books. It was silly to worry about a wolf, he’d been told countless times. And Woolfe always came back. When the book was finished, however, Snow started to worry in earnest.
He had started pacing and debating whether or not to go look for Woolfe when there was a knock on the door.
“Woolfe, you forget your key?”
But it wasn’t Woolfe standing there. The man standing just outside the doorway stood taller than Woolfe did in human form and was much leaner. He wore a wide-brimmed hat and a dark cloak with high boots. His eyes were a bright green that could hold a person’s attention not because they were haunting or beautiful, but because they were obviously dangerous.
“Lie with dogs and you get fleas, you know.”
“I thought we were on first name terms, Snow.” He walked into the room with a grim smile. His presence was enough to throw Snow completely off kilter. Huntsman smelled, acted, and looked just the same as always. It had been years and Snow thought he was over what had happened, instead his pulse raced and he backed up to avoid touching Hunstman who leered. “After you ran off without a word.”
Snow opened his mouth and closed it again. That was true. But he’d done that because Huntsman was certifiably crazy and not exactly any better than the weirdness of his stepmother’s reign in the palace. In fact, if he hadn’t met Woolfe he likely would have gone on thinking that there were no worthwhile people in the world and that he was alone and and…
Woolfe. Of course. “Where is Woolfe? Because I know you know where he is.”
“Nasty beast that one is. Huge creature. It’s more manageable now. Why? You’re not seriously concerned about it, are you?” Huntsman closed the door behind him and latched it. It wasn’t as if Snow couldn’t run to the door and unlock it. That wasn’t the point. The message was that the Huntsman was in control. It was always the message he wanted to get across.
Huntsman had been controlling in ways that probably should have been warning bells to Snow. Harsh demands with unrepentant violence were normal with Huntsman. He liked to invade people’s space and make them frightened. He didn’t just want to be in control, he liked scaring people. “Didn’t seem to be your type.”
Snow would have to think fast now, if he was going to get to wherever Woolfe was being held. It added up now; two people had come to their room and left the threatening note. He had an accomplice, and whoever it was must have been powerful too, or else Woolfe would be in the room with Snow. He was quickly running out of options, and Huntsman was getting closer.
“I guess I just have a thing for predators.”
The tall man was fast. He grabbed Snow by the hair and yanked. The motion pitched Snow off his feet and made him totter forward into Huntsman’s chest. “I think you’ve been running off for long enough, Snow.” Typical crazy possessive behavior. It was the reality of the man that had gotten him out of the palace while his stepmother was going into a spiral of her own psychosis. And he was locked into a room with him, after having run away.
“What do you want?” Snow didn’t even know why he asked or why he didn’t just pull his pistol from his holster and try and be aggressive about it.
The hand that held the hair at the crown of Snow’s head gripped tighter. “That’s not very polite at all, Snow White. Your mom’s been worried about you. Do you think she’d be happy to see that you’re languishing around with a scruffy wild animal?” Huntsman’s free hand grabbed roughly at Snow’s hips before he found the pistol and lifted it away. “What were you going to do with this, pretty?”
He felt very cold all of a sudden. Huntsman was probably just using his stepmother to scare him; he’d stopped working for her years ago. Still, the threat got the desired effect. “I was… I was going to defend myself.” Snow realized that he would have to outsmart him, instead of fight him. He knew too many things about Snow. Huntsman would be able to anticipate his moves. But he wasn’t the scared teenager he’d been when they were first together. And Woolfe needed his help.
“But that’s not what you want me to do.” He swallowed, and leaned into Huntsman. Better to appeal to his vanity.
“And here I was worried you’d forgotten.” There was a note of irony in Huntsman’s voice. “Not like you, Snow. Coming all the way out here to find a serial killer? What has gotten into you, pretty?” He tossed the weapon down and it slid across the wooden floor. With a snarl, Huntsman roughly slapped Snow’s face, in the same motion he released the hair in his grasp with the other hand.
Snow fell to the floor and rolled onto his back. He scooted backwards out of instinct while Huntsman advanced. It wasn’t that he hadn’t been in his share of fights these days. Snow had tackled suspects before, he knew how to fight. No one had been so violent with him without a reason in a long time and it sent him back to when he used to feel helpless. He could feel a bruise forming alongside his cheek.
“You know, people can be worth almost as much money as that animal is. And there are always new people coming and going here in Sleepy Hollow.”
Huntsman was rather vain about his abilities. How he could track down just about any animal he wanted, overtake the largest and meanest beasts. Snow had taken particular satisfaction that Huntsman had only found him because he’d shown up in the town that he was obviously working in.
Snow always kept a truth potion in the pocket of his coat. If he could get to it… but he’d have to get Huntsman’s guard down first. “How much would I be worth?”
“Well, that’s the problem, Snow. The money’s in virgins. You should know that. You’re from that wealthy sect that trades in this sort of thing. I let Piper handle the ones that aren’t. We’d just have to-” Huntsman smirked, and then let out a dark chuckle. “-keep you special. No sense letting you run off again. Depends on what your dear mother says.”
He was grasping at straws. He had to be. Huntsman was an accomplished hunter in many ways. An excellent woodsman. However he never was good at matters of court. He didn’t understand nuances and certainly didn’t understand that some people couldn’t be bullied. “I’ll just keep you for now.”
Huntsman kicked off his boots and they both barely missed Snow before he flopped to the bed. “Get up and get over here.”
His coat was hanging on the bedpost. Even if he felt sick at the idea of Huntsman touching him, he knew that it would probably be the easiest way to get to the potion and disarm him.
Snow got up slowly and unbuttoned his shirt as he approached.
“That’s better.” Huntsman had never been patient when he wanted something. The more Snow looked back on it the more he wanted to go back in time and shake himself. He was going through motions that he’d gone through before, but he had a reason. It wasn’t as if he’d ever really enjoyed this sort of thing. He’d been afraid and his heart was still pounding.
Snow wasn’t afraid for himself this time, was the difference. The time he’d spent with Huntsman had opened Snow’s eyes to all sorts of things. Usually steeped in blood and that disgusting sort of joy that he’d never understood. He didn’t manage to get the shirt off before Huntsman reached out and ripped the item from him.
Huntsman sat up and clasped one hand behind Snow’s neck the same way one would hold a cat by the scruff. His other hand roughly reached into the front of Snow’s pants. The motion was hard and dry skin against skin only pinched and pulled in an uncomfortable way. When Huntsman bit his shoulder the hand moved, still rough and unrelenting.
Snow couldn’t help but think it was an awful parody of the kind of bites that Woolfe tended to do. Maybe that was the difference between killers who did it for sport and killers who did it for survival. But he had to start enjoying something soon, or Huntsman would get impatient and start getting enjoyment in much more painful ways.
Snow closed his eyes, shifted his weight, and tried to pretend.
Somewhere between Huntsman forcing him to his knees at the side of the bed and actually getting the other man’s cock in his mouth, Snow realized that he’d always been pretending with Huntsman. It was difficult to enjoy anything when you were almost shaking in fear of someone. The shocked whimper was legitimate, however, when the hand at the back of his head got more forceful and Huntsman rocked his hips too quickly forward. He choked a moment and nearly began to fight.
That earned a laugh from Huntsman. “Out of practice?”
Snow hadn’t been expected to respond. Instead, Huntsman thrust into his mouth one more time before he threw Snow to the floor again. “Fine, you’ll do better next time.” His green eyes looked around the room, most likely for lubrication. It wasn’t that Huntsman had any sense of courtesy, but it hurt both ways without it and he didn’t like pain for himself at all.
It was the perfect chance. The potion didn’t have to be ingested, merely put on the appropriate person. In his job having the proper enchantments was key.
“In my left coat pocket. Black bottle.” He’d pump him for information while Huntsman was pumping him. It was a good thing that he’d been hit on the cheek so hard, or he would have been smirking.
Predictably, Huntsman grabbed the vial without looking at it. He didn’t even bother to undo his pants aside from loosen the belt. Huntsman never really took them off; it was too much work or something to that effect. He barely moved the large hunting knife on his belt-loop before he yanked Snow by the hips and dumped the potion out. He tossed it aside and roughly forced himself in. The zipper on Huntsman’s jeans was rough and scraped, but it wasn’t something that would make Snow lose his train of thought.
He muttered the word that came with the enchantment to keep the interrogator from falling under the same truth effects and got to the matter at hand. “Where is Woolfe?”
“With Piper in the basement of the Scorpion’s Frog Casino.”
That was really all he needed to know. And Huntsman’s realization that he’d been duped would happen soon, so Snow had to act quickly. The arrogant bastard’s own lack of politeness for anything but his own satisfaction had given Snow the perfect weapon.
Snow reached around to Huntsman’s hip, pulled the knife from its holster and stabbed him in the thigh.
That earned a very satisfying scream from Huntsman who bucked up, pulled out, and then rammed his head against the bedpost. He flopped to the side, still out of his pants and with a knife in his leg. It wasn’t a pretty picture. Fitting, but hardly pretty.
Snow also kept a sleeping potion in his suitcase; that was mostly something he held onto when he used to have nightmares. He pulled his own pants up and ignored the burning on the side of his face. It didn’t take long to pull that potion out and dump the contents unceremoniously on Huntsman’s head. As an extra precaution, he tied the man’s hands behind his back and then secured him to the foot of the bed.
He retrieved his gun from the floor, tossed his coat on without his shirt since it’d been ruined, and went to go confront the Piper.
It was easy to see why they had chosen the Scorpion’s Frog as a place to hide their despicable dealings; it was the place where only the richest of the nobles went. Easy pickings as well as not much oversight, as nobles tended to be engaged in some of the worst things themselves.
When the bouncer stopped him, Snow was rather surprised. Of course, Snow had forgotten that he was walking around with just a coat and trousers, and a increasingly more visible bruise on his face to boot.
“No shirt, no service.”
“Sir, I have urgent business inside, it’s a matter of life and death.” He rather hated talking to people; Woolfe was so much better at it. Too honest or too direct or something. Snow wasn’t quite sure what his problem was there. But he needed inside soon.
“Can’t let you in. No riff raff.”
Snow huffed, and glared. Rude, but understandable. And it was likely that Huntsman and Piper had a separate entrance anyway. If only he’d had the time or the control to have asked for that too before disarming the bastard…
He’d only just rounded the corner when he heard music. Ungodly flute music. It was obvious now who had done the heavy lifting of the two; Huntsman had probably done most of the dirty work. Piper had just done the, well. Snow didn’t want to think about that.
When he heard snarling, he knew that he was nearly there. The door was one of those obviously used for deliveries; concealed so that the nobles could pretend that the laborers didn’t exist. Typical, and a good place to enter if you had a kidnapped young noble.
Lock-picking was a skill that Snow was very glad to have learned.
The flute music was enchanted. It reminded Snow of something his nanny had used to play to lull him to sleep as a child. He could have slapped himself for not making the connection. It was little wonder they’d managed to capture Woolfe. Music had a far more intoxicating property for animals than it did for people, even if Snow wasn’t mostly immune from exposure.
They were in what appeared to be a control room; one window looked out into the bay and the door to the office was closed. From where he was standing on the dock, Snow could easily make out the cage that Woolfe was in. It danced back and forth from his violent efforts to free himself. He would stop and let out an otherworldly snarl before he began to attack the bars in earnest.
The cage was too small for Woolfe and he was going to hurt his teeth. Snow shook his head. Those first thoughts were not important. He’d be getting his partner out of this mess soon. From the desk in the office, Piper was worriedly tooting away on his flute. His back was to the door.
Idiot. Obviously Huntsman had needed a lure, and Piper was better at that. People needed more coaxing than animals did. And Piper had that delicate harmless artistic look about him, which is probably what made him all the more charming to their human victims.
Snow didn’t have to do much to surprise him and pull the flute from his hands. An elbow to the kidney to stun him and a quick grab and his main weapon was in Snow’s hands.
“Father always warned me about artists,” he said, as Piper gaped at him.
The blow had taken the wind from Piper who wheezed and glared at him. “Maybe he just got burned by one.” He recovered admirably and to his credit, Piper’s smile was entirely charming. Almost dashing in that princely sort of way.
To Snow’s credit, that look always made Snow want to punch people in the face.
OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT
Snow wouldn’t have to punch him in the face, though. Woolfe was understandably upset; he had problems with cages. The only thing worse would have been if they put a collar on him, which thankfully they didn’t.
Snow calmly approached the cage, knowing that Woolfe would keep thrashing about in there, but wouldn’t snap at him. “Blood sports are terribly awful things. I hope you’ve learned that, Piper.” Usually Snow didn’t like violence at all, but he was angry on Woolfe’s behalf. It wasn’t right to just put him in a cage. “It’ll take a while to calm him down.”
The Piper seemed relieved for a moment, until Snow undid the latch. He tossed Piper his flute then. “Now see if your little flute will do anything in a fair fight.”
“So, according to your testimony, the wolf then ate the Pied Piper.”
Snow nodded to the Commissioner. “Yes, sir. Flute and all.”
The man’s brow furrowed. “Huntsman did state under truth serum that they’d captured a wolf to run in a dog fighting ring while we were taking his confession.” He was conflicted about giving up so much gold, that much was obvious. On one hand, Snow didn’t blame him. On the other, they’d earned it. “I really can’t give you the full reward unless I have some proof that the Piper is also dead.” Commissioner Sprat then got an idea and his eyes gleamed. “Where is the wolf? We could open its stomach for the proof.”
“How about if he pukes a flute up on your carpet?” Woolfe in human form looked more than a little green and was suffering from quite a case of indigestion.
Snow bit back a laugh and grabbed the satchel of gold from Sprat’s desk. He ignored the confused look and started out the door, pushing Woolfe a bit in front of him. “Never-mind, half is fine with us, we’ve got ourselves a train to catch. Enjoy your festival.”
Woolfe made it into the hallway before the flute came up, much to the Commissioner’s dismay.