- Alex had to work at the diner. Fee was cramming for exams. Michael had just returned from a weekend conference in Las Vegas.
- With the girls busy, Dylan calls Michael for assistance in surveilling Carpe Noctem, eager to use the equipment he and Alex placed the previous day.
- Dylan and Michael canvas the street, setting up a listening station in an abandoned house across the from Carpe Noctem, in an attempt to discover clues about both the ‘Sweat Walker’s’ disease, as well as the nefarious activities taking place inside the dark and sinister-seeming club.
- As if on cue, just before opening time at 11am, the old man, Trunkler, ambles up to the club and takes a seat on the concrete outside, pulling open and reading the latest copy of the Sacramento Weekly Star.
- With Dylan covering him, Michael surreptitiously approaches the club, and to his surprise, the old man looks up at him as he passes, smiles and invites him to “sit and chat awhile.”
The two men sat for a space and discussed a few different issues, including the ‘sweat walkers.’ Micheal learned that indeed, each of those so-called victims, had broken their word to the old man, who disclosed that he is a changeling, a faerie of the Winter Court. Trunkler makes deals with those in need, and he has an unusual ‘sight’ which enables him to offer those who exchange goods or services for one “Wish.” The old man’s fae heritage is that of a Portune, house faeries who grant wishes when caught. The ‘sweat walkers’ are folks who made an exchange with Trunkler, but who failed to live up to their end of the bargain. It was not Trunkler himself who cursed them, but simply the nature of breaking a pact with the fae. 101 days after the promise, each of the ‘victims’ succumbed to the dreaded affliction, losing their minds – and in their madness, they attempted to reverse the wish they were granted. Trunkler did not know all the specifics, for he was not in control of that particular part of the bargain.
Michael asked the old faerie if there were a reverse to the curse, so that no further victims and was given a thoughtful reply…
“I am sure we, you and I, could come to an arrangement to make it so.” He looked at Michael with a knowing twinkle in his eye.
Michael took a long look at the old changeling, closed his eyes and asked, “What would be required of me? What exchange would lift the curse on Alvin Teague and any others who broke their agreement with you?”
The old man squeezed his eyes shut, and Michael saw the eyes roving back and forth under the old wrinkled eyelids. The motion at first was aggressive, but then calmed suddenly, as if they fixed on some spot in space, eyes still closed.
When he opened his eyes again, they were moist and red, as if he’d been crying.
Trunkler slowly fixed those eyes on Michaels and said, “This night, you must prevent a murder. It is in a place you know, a dark and foreboding place, a place of bones.”
“Who is the victim? Who is the murderer?” Michael asked.
“I cannot say, for that information was not given me.” A large tear broke free, and ran down the runnels of the old man’s wrinkled face.
Michael thought about what the changeling was asking of him. “Must I do this alone, or can I bring backup?,” he asked.
“Your side of the deal,” replied the old man, “is to prevent the murder. What tools you use, or assistance you require, is not for me to say. The deed need be done, plain and simple.”
He extended his worn and wrinkled hand to Michael, red-rimmed eyes making plain that the pact was in need of sealing. “Stop the murder, in exchange for any currently suffering for breaking a pact with myself.”
A brief silence followed. Michael did not take long. He’d be stopping a murder, if nothing else. That alone would be reason enough to make this deal. If he failed, Teague and who knows how many others would still be under the effect of the fae curse. He would simply not fail!
Michael surmised that the dark place, the place of bones, was the lair of the monster that had murdered and eaten Brian Turvey. Turvey had been eaten by a ghoul. Michael had never battled a ghoul, but stopping it would save many lives, not just tonight’s victim. He could use his friends, and perhaps he could even get some assistance from the Bureau.
Michael gripped Turnkler’s hand and shook it with purpose. The old man smiled, relief spreading across his wrinkled features, his bushy brows lifted.
“Deal,” he said and nodded, and Michael felt a palpable energy enter him through the handshake.
There was no going back now.