(Unfortunately, LJ is still posting all of my pictures at odd angles. My apologies.)
The Girls step sideways back into the Real World and see the sun just setting on the horizon. For a moment they panic—Walker is with them. He hides beneath a shadow… but nothing happens. He cautiously extends his hand into the dim sunlight… but nothing happens.
“Strange,” he says.
The Girls and Walker head back to the coffee shop.
When they arrive, Sebastian is there waiting for them. “There’s been an accident,” he says. He shows them Adam, up above the coffee shop. “He’s been shot,” he says. “The bullet almost hit his heart. Nearly killed him. The only thing that saved him was Jack’s whiskey.”
The Girls leave Adam alone and walk back downstairs to the coffee shop. That’s when the phone rings.
“Tapped Grounds,” Kiera says. “Whuddya drink?”
“Is this Kiera?” a woman’s voice asks.
“Yeah. So what?” she says.
“One moment please.” There’s a pause on the other end of the phone.
Then, a man’s voice. “Hello. Kiera, I presume?”
“This is getting kinda creepy,” Kiera says.
“This is Jacob Collins. I’m the new Prince of Minneapolis. And I’d like to visit Dinkytown this evening to arrange for a new contract between my city and your people.”
The Girls pause for a long moment. Kiera says, “You gonna show up by yourself?”
“No,” Collins says. “I’ll be bringing along my associate, Ms. Lethe. But that’s all.”
Kiera talks quietly with the other Girls. They agree.
“You can show up,” Kiera says. “But if you bring anybody else, you’ll be seeing sunlight.”
“I understand,” the gentleman on the other side of the phone tells her. “Ten o’clock, then. I’ll be there.”
The Girls spend the next couple of hours preparing. Walker says, “I can be invisible when he arrives. Stay out of sight. If there’s any trouble,” he touches his revolver, “I can help.” He stands behind Misty. "If he lies to you, I can tell," he says. "If he lies to you, I’ll tap you on the shoulder." Misty nods.
Misty sits in the back of the coffee shop away from the other girls, near Walker.
When ten o’clock rolls around, they see a limousine pull up outside the coffee shop. A woman who looks like she belongs in the cast of Ally McBeal steps out and opens the back door. Jacob Collins lifts himself from the back of the limousine and walks to the coffee house door.
His coat looks Victorian, although made from modern materials and tools. He walks with a cane. He has a slight moustache and goatee. And a glimmer in his eye. He smiles when he reaches the doorway. “May I come in?” he asks.
Misty asks, “If we don’t invite you, do you have to stand outside?”
He shakes his head. “Oh, dear no. But I am a stickler for formalities.”
The Girls invite him inside. He steps across the threshold with his companion just behind him. “This is Ms Lethe,” he says. “My only attendant this evening.”
He sits down and says, “I see there’s some coffee. I’d very much like some. And those biscuits look wonderful.”
“You can drink?” Misty asks.
“And eat?” Melanie asks.
“Of course I can,” he tells them. “A little trick I learned not too long ago. It makes my presence among mortals a little less uncomfortable.”
"Did you build the Cathedral?" Lilith asks.
"Indeed, I did."
Lilith watches him closely when she asks, "Are you a Magician?"
Collins looks startled. "A what?"
"And Alice. She was your… assistant?"
"I’m afraid I have no idea what you are talking about."
Walker taps on Misty’s shoulder.
He smiles and points at each of the Girls. “Melanie,” he says. “Kiera. Lilith.” And then at the back of the room. “And Misty. Am I right?”
The Girls all nod. He laughs.
“Very good. I’m glad my information was correct. Now, I understand that your previous contract with Minneapolis was unacceptable.”
The Girls nod again.
“Excellent. Well, I am open to suggestions. Please. Tell me what would be acceptable.”
The Girls talk about it. Kiera says, “The previous contract was fine. Except for that clause about us giving up one of our own every Halloween.”
“I agree,” Collins says. “Terrible. Absolutely terrible.”
“So, we want a non-aggression clause. If a vampire attacks a changeling or if a changeling attacks a vampire, the contract burns.”
Collins shakes his head. “That isn’t a severe enough punishment,” he says. “’The Contract burns.’ And what does that accomplish? It only means we have to sign another one.”
The Girls listen to what he says.
“I assume your contracts are magical of some kind?”
The Girls nod.
“Very well. Make it this. A non-aggression treaty. But if one side attacks the other, the individual who sparked the violence becomes… helpless. Is that possible?”
The Girls look at each other. They talk a little while.
“Yes,” Misty says. “We can do that.”
“Very good,” Collins tells them. “Write up that contract. I will sign it.”
The Girls spend a moment writing up the contract. They hand it to Collins. He looks it over. He nods. “Very well,” he says. “This seems perfectly acceptable to me.” He raises his pen and is ready to drop it. But then, he hesitates. “Oh. I’m sorry. I forgot one small thing.”
“Of course,” Misty says.
“I cannot sign this contract unless I am allowed to return to my city with the individual who is responsible for the many deaths of my people. I’m afraid the Council will not allow it.”
“Aren’t you Prince?” Melanie asks. “Aren’t you in charge?”
He shakes his head. “I am Prince,” he says. “But a newly restored Prince. My power is not yet consolidated. The Council will strip me of my title if I do not return with what they demand. And then, you girls will have to deal with a new Prince.” He pauses. “One who may not be so agreeable as I.”
Misty waits for Walker’s tap. It doesn’t come.
“We’re not giving up Adam,” Kiera says.
“As you wish,” he tells her. “But if you do not give him to me, I shall be forced to try taking him myself. Against your will. And I am certain no-one in the room wants that.”
The Girls stiffen.
“Give him to me. I will sign the contract. You will get everything you want. Just give me the one who is responsible for murdering my people.”
The Girls talk about it. They agree. “We’re not giving you Adam,” Kiera says. “We can’t do that. But… can we give you someone else instead?”
The Prince shakes his head. “I’m afraid not. You see, there are members of the Council who will know if they are being tricked. It must be someone who has murdered Minneapolis vampires.”
“We can give them Smith,” Melanie says. The other Girls glare at her.
“Who is Smith?” the Prince asks.
“He’s a mortal living in St. Paul. He kills a lot of vampires,” Melanie says.
“What are you doing?” Lilith asks Melanie.
“He doesn’t mean anything to us,” Melanie says. “He kills people. He likes guns. He’s scary.”
“He’s not family,” Kiera says.
Misty doesn’t say anything.
“If he’s responsible for vampire murders, he is an acceptable substitute.” The Prince sips his coffee and eats a danish. “Can you bring him here?”
Misty nods. “I have his phone number.”
“Then do it. I will take care of him when he arrives.”
“He’s very dangerous,” Melanie says.
The Prince nods. “I will take care of him.”
The Girls call Smith. They tell him there’s a vampire they want him to kill. He says he can be there in forty minutes.
The longest forty minutes of their lives.
When Smith arrives, the Prince has already spilled blood on the table in front of him. The wound in his hand is open, but not bleeding. Smith opens the door. The Prince raises his hand and all of Smith’s blood rushes out of his body into the Prince’s hand. He clenches his fist and Smith falls to the ground.
“Excellent,” the Prince says. He looks at the Girls. “It was a pleasure doing business with you.”
Then, Ms Lethe lifts Smith’s unmoving (but still living) body with one hand and throws him into the limousine’s trunk. The Prince gets back into the limousine and Ms Lethe shuts the door behind her.
And the Girls watch the limo pull away.