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It was a Saturday afternoon and the typical Saturday night crowd hadn't arrived yet. There were a few patrons around Enrique's bar, called "Las Rompecabezas", and Enrique spent his time cleaning glasses and tables. Occasionally one of the patrons would ask for another drink and he'd comply, and then take some time to chat with those at the bar.

The big news around the city was the bombings and killings that had been happening around the city as well as Damien Oakland. There were rumors that he had "special powers" and it made Enrique wary to check the Atharim hit lists. The guy was doing good around here. The drug cartels were shaking in their boots. Enrique would do what he had always done - focus on the monsters.

He had a tip off about a rougarou nest outside of the city that he was going to check out, but it would be a good idea to go with back up. He had no idea how many he would run into. He had tried getting a hold of Eduardo, but had been unable to for quite some time. Enrique was beginning to worry.

The conversation in the bar shifted to football - real football, not that United States stuff - and who they thought was looking good this year. Enrique and the other patrons all pretty much agreed that Argentina had a great line up this year.

Enrique checked his stock and all was set up for the Saturday evening crowd. He hoped it would be a busy night. He was feeling in a social mood.
Jacinda shut the engine off and got out of her truck. The Tacoma's front gave off a lot of heat. Course she had just driven it across the Chihuahuan Desert. Not straight though. She had been trailing a pack of rougs since she'd picked up the trail Las Cruces, NM. The bodies left little doubt about the type of prey she'd been hunting. She'd done her little FBI impression- agent Emily Prentiss- and had gotten a good look at the pics, since the bodies had already been buried. The ME was there though and confirmed what she thought she saw. There were at least three sets of teeth marks. So three rougs had been there a week ago.

She'd asked the local PD about any other bodies turning up like these three and he'd said no. Course there were a lot of homeless people and run-aways. And being this close to the border meant there were a lot of illegals. If one or even many of them went missing it probably wouldn't have been reported. She decided to try that avenue after she left the sheriff's station. After cleaning out the pamphlet stand at the station, she hit up a couple of the trailer parks and presented herself as a worker from the battered women's shelter. It was the middle of the day but at least one or two women would be at home. She kept her visits- all in fluent Spanish- innocent of anything more than a simple attempt to hand out information for them. One or two of them tried to tell her more and she listened, pretended to put their information in her wallet, and then continued on her way. A few of the men who were around tried to give her a hard time but after she broke the first guy's nose they left her alone.

She did get some good intel though. A couple of guys- two brothers- had gone missing two days ago. Their wives had been frantically worried. Jacinda found out where they had been working and the route they usually took to get home. They were working for a rancher and took care of his fences. Jacinda drove the dirt and paved roads looking for their vehicle. Finally, in a slight valley far to the west along the fence she saw it. She got out and reconned the site before walking closer to the car- didn't want tire tracks to mar the scene. She saw blood but nothing else. The tires had been flat. There were cuts in the electrically monitored fence though it seemed to have been repaired. She stayed there for a while, surveying the site, and gradually a picture had formed. The rougs had lured whoever was maintaining the fence to this area. The place wasn't travelled that often- the car hadn't been found- so they probably were familiar with it. They were from around here. But they had taken the bodies. Which meant they wanted to keep them for food.

Three rougs. Five victims. That was a lot of meat. Rougs didn't like their food to go bad. So the men were probably alive. But why so much? She continued to circle the site in larger and larger rings, getting a sense for how the rougs might have seen things. She couldn't explain it, really, but after an hour or two, she could see the place as the rougs did. And from there, it was easy to figure out a what direction they had come from. Sure enough, down in hollow by a stream she saw foot prints and more blood. And tire tracks. So these were functional rougs. She trailed the tracks to an old shack, now abandoned. But the rougs had lived here. She found scraps of "food", though nothing fresh. She followed the tracks to the highway. Down the way was a gas station where she stopped. She was pretty persuasive to the attendent and was soon looking at the footage from the cameras that watched the pump. She didn't know what she was looking for but she looked anyway. Not like the rougs would be in a truck with the words "Rougarou" along the side. Still, it was her only lead. She saw vehicle after vehicle go by and nothing really stood out. But she knew she was missing something. She watched it again and again, letting her mind go into that place like when she was hunting. Gradually the chaos and randomness of the traffic made its own pattern in her mind, the steady flow of cars in both directions, the stops in for a fill up or whatever. It all gelled in her mind and was "normal" the backdrop. Once she had that, she could see it. One truck moving more a bit more slowly than normal. It was careful. Even as it pulled in, it didn't do so with the casualness or frustration of the other drivers. She saw one guy get out. The footage could be zoomed in of course- this was a gas station video system where license plate numbers needed to be visible. She zoomed in the occupants of the truck one at a time. While they might look human, rougs had a way of moving, of walking, that Jacinda knew from decades of experience. These were hers. Very likely the brothers were tied up in the back of the cab. They did like to snack on living meat, she knew. They filled up- it was a big tank from the length of time it took- and then got back into the vehicle and took off south.

She went to her vehicle and started on in that direction. This went on for days as she trailed them to Jaurez, then across the border and through the desert. At one point she saw some birds and stopped to look. It was one of the brothers. All the easy meat had been cut off him and the carrion birds were finishing him off.

She continued on her way and followed every little clue she could find until she found herself in Mexico City. It had been maybe 10 years since she'd been there last. She'd worked with El Chacon, as he called himself. Hunted down some chupes in the area. He'd been alright too, as far as it went. A little full of himself but that was expected. Being a hunter didn't exactly breed humility. She knew she wasn't after all. Pissed her off, though, that he'd not wanted to screw around when they were done with the hunt. Here she was all hot and bothered after a fight such as that and he just didn't like women. She'd found a replacement at the bar but it wasn't the same. She loved the immediateness of rutting like animals right after a kill, right there at the place of battle. It was like declaring that she had won again, that in the war of life, Jacinda Cross had once again proved superior.

She knew of a safehouse here that she could use. It wasn't new but she hadn't been here last time. She hoped whoever it was that ran it was a hunter, not just a clerical sort, keeping house or whatever. She could take out three rougs no problem. But they came here for a reason. There might be more than three.

The place was called "Las Rompecabezas", Puzzles. Funny name. Was two story too. She walked in and it wasn't too crowded. Probably filled up on weekends or during a soccer match or whatever they called it here. It wasn't football, that was for damn sure. Youngish guy behind the bar noticed her and so she went and took a seat. "Shot of Jack"
she said in Spanish. She turned around and surveyed the room. She needed to find the owner and get some intel and lined up with a place to stay.

Edited by Jacinda, Nov 1 2014, 09:40 PM.
Enrique smiled as the woman entered the bar. She was older, but also attractive. She walked like someone with a purpose, and quickly went to the bar. She sat and ordered a shot of Jack before he could even mention a greeting of some sort.

He kept the smile on his face anyways and said, "Of course."
in Spanish.

He noticed that she was probably not a local and guessed American from her accent. She spoke Spanish very well though. He poured the shot and handed it to the woman who was surveying the room. Enrique wasn't sure what she was looking for, but not that it mattered. She was here to drink, and he would oblige.

Enrique decided to talk to her. There was no reason not to, and he enjoyed talking to people. He continued in Spanish. "What brings a beautiful woman like you to Mexico City? And do you prefer English?"
The guy behind the bar came over and pulled out a glass and poured two fingers of Jack as he spoke. Was the usual friendly/flirty way of speaking bartenders had. Was always fun for a little while anyway. And she was here for a reason.

"Spanish is fine."
She slammed the shot and then tapped the bar with two fingers for a filler up. The whiskey was hot going down her throat and she felt the vapor of it in her nose. A nice warmth spread through her and she took her jacket off. It was Mexico, after all, even if it was technically winter. Underneath she had a simple button down black and white plaid shirt woth 3/4 length sleeves. The shirt looked good on her over her tight blue jeans that were tucked into black calf-length boots. Her tattoo- a tree of life inside an oroboros- was partly visible.

He poured again and she let it sit for a while. She'd drink it in a second. She wasn't hunting tonight anyway. She knew they were in the city but with a population in the millions, it was going to take some time to find them. Sucked, especially for the surviving brother, but what could she do? That she had been able to track them here across the desert was a feat unto itself. But she'd make sure he didn't die in vain. It was able the best she could offer.

To his question, "Business mostly. Maybe a little fun too. You know the owner? I've got something to discuss with him."
She'd noticed the tattoo on his arm but decided to play along.

"That would be me. Enrique Salguero."
He offered his hand to shake. "How can I help you, Señorita"
She looked him up and down. He had a good build on him. Not pudgy at least. Probably not clerical then. At least not just, anyway. And running a bar in Mexico City was usually an active job. She looked around and didn't see any hired muscle. Course things were slow right now. Still what with the drug cartels running the country- at least until recently if rumors could be believed- any place where alcohol was served usually needed muscle for those men who'd a bit too much and got too rowdy. At least if it wanted to stay in business for more than a week.

She smiled wryly at him. "Well Enrique. I'm Jacinda Cross. I think we're cousins,"
she said as she lifted the sleeve of her shirt so the tattoo was fully visible. It wasn't her only one, but it was the only one that meant anything to another Atharim. She let the sleeve drop. "I'm looking for a place to stay. I've been tracking some old friends from New Mexico for the last few days and they've holed up somewhere here in the city."
She looked over at the tables nearby. Most were empty and the Ranchero music probably made it difficult for anyone to hear them, but she dropped her voice anyway. "These friends are bad news. If you haven't heard of them, I expect you will. All kinds of nasty stories of things being found."
She narrowed her eyes and her smile became feral.

She slammed the shot that had been sitting there, enjoying the burn. "You think you can help a pretty little senorita out?"
Her tone was mocking. She knew she was pretty and her clothes only accentuated that she was all woman, tall and fit. But any man that thought of her as a demure lady in need of rescue or help usually found out the hard way how it was.

She tapped the bar top again for another shot.
Recognition gleamed in his eyes as Jacinda introduced herself and Enrique didn't have to look at the tattoo on her forearm to know who she was. She was a legend and had been through Mexico a couple of times. He had a legendary hunter in his bar. He took a moment to look her over as she took off her coat. He let her notice it too. She was well built for sure.

She wanted to use his safe house and was tracking some "friends from New Mexico." Doubtless these were the rougarou that Enrique had just heard about earlier that day. But hell...tracking from New Mexico...that was quite some skill, especially in the desert. Her reputation was well deserved.

Enrique caught the change in her smile as she mentioned the "friends." She enjoyed what she did. It fit Enrique's mood - the hunt was always exhilarating.

Jacinda took the next shot and her tone become mocking. Enrique had a bar for a long time and reading people was something he was good at. Also her reputation preceded her; he knew she was no damsel in distress. He gave her another grin and decided to play along.

He spoke, mimicking her own tone. "I'm always willing to help a pretty little señorita out."

He pulled out another shot glass and poured two shots of Jack. He lifted his shot in a silent toast and they drank the shots together. He casually leaned on the bar and matched her volume. "I have a place for you to stay, and perhaps some insight on your friends. You can get settled in and we can talk more about it once my relief arrives."

With that the door swung open and four people arrived. The two bartenders for the night and his muscle. Good. "Speak of the devil."
Enrique said.

The two bouncers took their place at the door and the bartenders arrived, Miguel and Angelica. They greeted him and Enrique returned it before turning back to Jacinda. "So...shall we?"

The kid was game it seemed. She snickered as he called her a 'little senorita' since it was clear that he was being sarcastic. He knew who she was. And he had what she needed- including, it seemed, a line on where her quarry had gone to ground.

The third drink went down and she felt satisfied for now. Well, nearly. "Let me have a tall Negro Modelo. If I'm gonna be talkin a lot I'll need something to wet my whistle that isn't gonna have me dancing on the tables."
She looked around at the still mostly empty place. "Course, this place could use it. Shit, Ricky, is it usually this dead?"
She was teasing him of course. It was a 3 on a Tuesday. Most would still be waking up from their siestas or whatever. That always amused her, an entire country taking an afternoon nap. Course it was hot, she had to admit. But still. Next thing you knew, bars would be serving warm milk and playing lullabies to their patrons to help them fall asleep.

His relief staff arrive and she did have to say this about Mexico. Damn but there a lot of lookers down here. Especially those in the service industry. Which made sense, really. Pretty little thing or hunky spice serving you was probably gonna keep you coming back on the regular, that's for sure. But the staff arrived and after Ricky lined them up for the night, he took her down to the basement. It was nice and cool down there. And spacious. There were a couple couches and chairs, some computers, maps, supplies, and maybe 3 or 4 Job-Boxes locked with pad-locks. Probably where the weapons and electronic surveillance stuff was kept. There was another door too, probably to some alternate exit. Once the door was closed, she couldn't hear anything from the bar above. Sound proofed. All in all, it was a good safehouse. "You got a sweet set up Ricky."
She looked around and nodded her head. "Real nice."

She sat down in one of the chairs and looked at him. "Alright. So I've been trailing three rougs since Cruces. They killed and fed on three vics and took two with them. I found one of the guys in the desert a day or two back. You can imagine what they'd done to him before they left him."
She shook her head remembering the butchered corpse. "Tell you what, if the poor bastard had somehow been alive it'd been a kindness to put a bullet in between the eyes. They'd really taken him apart."
She exhaled. "I've been maybe five days behind them. The last guy is probably nearing death or, if God is mercificul- which I gotta say I ain't seen a whole lot of evidence of in this work- dead already. But that just means that they've probably set up somewhere in the city and have already snatched their next meal. So...."
she finally slowed down, took a swig of her beer, and looked him square in the eye. "What have you heard about a nest of rougs? How solid is the intel?"
Enrique couldn't help but feel proud about the safe house. He had really put a lot of work into it. He also smiled at the nickname. Ricky was better than what most Americans called him. He wasn't that Latin pop star from the turn of the millennium. Of course she might be referring to the other Latin pop star. He wasn't even a singer!

He brought down another Negro Modelo for Jacina and handed it to her as she began to talk about her journey. He had his own beer and drank from t as he listened. The bullet to the victim comment made Enrique think for a bit, but he guess he understood her train of thought. He had picked up one of the maps of the city and set it on the table as she began to ask what he knew.

"I only received the information this morning. From what I get, there is a nest around this area."
he pointed to an area at the west end of the city, "that puts them either right outside or inside the city. There's an abandoned convent that might be worth checking in the area.
he went to the desk and pulled out a folder and handed it to Jacinda. "Photos of the victims. Looks like rougs to me...and more than one. You say three. I think it's safer to bet there are more."

The planning part was boring, but knowing the hunt was coming got him excited. "I hope you don't mind a little company. My trigger fingers are getting itchy."
He took another sip of his beer.

Edited by Enrique, Oct 28 2014, 09:32 AM.
Ricky pulled out a map and pointed to the western end of the city as he talked. She didn't know the city that well and it had been 10 years. She pulled out her wallet and set it to holo-mode to display a map of Mexico City's environs. He'd mentioned an abandoned convent in the area so she zoomed in. She needed to get a feel for the area before she'd agree. There were a lot of places a nest of rougs might hide. Absentmindedly she said, "I tracked three. I saw them on surveillance."
She looked up at him briefly, then added. "Doesn't mean they didn't meet up with others in the city though. Rougs functional enough to relocate are not too common. One would think a town near the border might be a perfect place to live and feed, what with all the traffic fleeing north."
The display flew her over the various buildings and crowded living spaces as she put herself in the mind of an intelligent roug. Fleeing from something in the north- not really sure what. Planned a trip and brought food along. That kind of thing was rare in her experience. Not unheard of but rare. In the end, it didn't matter the reason why they'd come. They were here and had friends.

Each place she saw had its advantages. But it also had drawbacks. Gradually, her mind centered on el Desierto de los Leones National Park. What had been a national park anyway. The government infrastructure collapse under the weight of the cartel wars had made luxuries like parks an unsustainable expense. At its height, it had been nearly 5000 acres covering almost a fifth of this entire valley. Now it was a large fairly autonomous region. People were scattered throughout in shanty-towns nominally still under the government's control but effectively left to the mercies of the cartels and street gangs. The constant fighting meant high casualties. Drugged out junkies, runaways, street urchins, prostitutes and homeless comprised a sizable portion of the area. All kinds of other illegal activities were carried out, including human trafficking and brothels. It would be a perfect feeding ground for rougs since they could hit up any number of towns and no one would notice the disappearances. And it was right off of the 15, which they had hit from the 550 on their way south.

And there, smack dab in the center was El Convento Desierto de los Leones. Her map displayed pertinent information and pictures of the place. It had been beautiful at one time with its large stone buildings and Spanish architecture. Now it was run down and falling apart. It didn't surprise her to learn that local legend had began calling the place haunted almost 40 years ago. Disappearances, strange creatures, butchered corpses all made it clear that this was a prime place for any number of things to have occupied over the decades.

The last time she'd been in Mexico City it had been on the eastside and very quickly led them out to the south. The park hadn't shown up on her radar. But the Atharim database showed that this place had been hit more than once by the brethren over the decades. Oni's and chupes had been here and exterminated. Lot's of other things too. And then, it simply laid in wait until the next parasite decided to take up residence. And because of the legends, the people left it alone- including the cartels. It was a lure. Pity the convent hadn't been destroyed.

"Alright. I think you are right about their location. And that we are dealing with more than three rougs. No telling how many there will be. Rougs being rougs though, hopefully no more than ten. More than that and they get to fighting among themselves. You know, food. "
She looked at images of the compound. This was going to be tough. She laughed. "How many other Atharim are in the city? We need to plan this out. We're going to hit it tomorrow."
She looked at the job-boxes. "Open these. Let me see what you have. I've got some stuff on my truck but I'm sure we'll need more."
She had a few bars of C4 but the walls of the convent were pretty massive. And she always liked to have more than enough. Plus, she loved the explosions. She didn't get to make them often- too much attention. But with the chaos in the country and buildings already being destroyed and the cartels openly at war with the government, she had a free hand.

She couldn't help the stupid smile that wouldn't leave her face.

Edited by Jacinda, Nov 1 2014, 09:41 PM.
The briefing was finished and their hunt would begin tomorrow night. He might go back up to the bar, drink a bit, and hang out with some ladies. It was getting around busy time and the bar should be filled. It really depended on Jacinda though. He was a good host.

"To answer your question, it's really just me you have to work with. The drug cartels have scattered us. Anyone else around here I wouldn't want on my back in a fire know..."
He mimicked typing at a computer. "My partner is missing, that investigation is pending. Otherwise he could join us too."

He turned towards the boxes as she asked about them and the smile on her face made him chuckle. She looked like a kid on Christmas morning. He couldn't help but hum Feliz Navidad as he opened the boxes. There was plenty to look at. Some of the boxes had surveillance equipment, others semi-automatic pistols. The longer boxes had rifles. There were some explosives - some pre-made as well as components for making more. He opened the larger cabinets as well which contained ammunition for the guns as well as swords for those interested in blades. Those with more exotic weapons usually brought their own. Still it had taken him many years to amass this collection.

He stepped back and allowed her to look around. She could use whatever she wanted to. It's why it was here. He couldn't help but grin, Feliz Navidad still running through his head.

"So...what do you think?"

Edited by Enrique, Oct 28 2014, 11:55 AM.
She was seriously impressed but of course she didn't show it. Not her style. "Nice Ricky. Let's get some of these explosives out and check them to make sure they work. Radio-detonators too."
She went from box to box, pointing at things they'd need. She wouldn't say, but she was just as glad to use his stuff. Being a safe-house, he'd be able req replacements more easily than she would anyway. "Umm...let's take a couple automatics each. Load up on magazines too. We'll bring a first aid kit for each of us, though honestly, I'm not sure we'll need them. Very likely it's gonna be ugly."
She stopped and looked at him. "You ever seen a roug nest skippy? If you haven't prepare yourself. You know about rougs. But it's still something to see them in action."
Her voice got quieter. "Or to see the after math."

She shook away the memory of her mom's mangled brutalized corpse. Her father's too, though at the time Regan had told her it had been a bear, trying to spare her. And then he had been killed by Rougs but she never saw his body at these times. She'd killed those rougs before they'd had time to feast. A tight smile pulled at her face and she felt a snarl in her throat. Oh yeah, she'd made them pay, that's for sure. That was the night she had been reborn. The terror in their eyes had been sweet and she savored that memory.

She looked at a few of Enrique's swords and daggers but they never really were an option. Her trusty long heavy-bladed knife had been by her side since she'd taken if off of Regan. It had been her companion and tool in all the years since then. She'd use it then. She hoped that she'd have a bit of fun too, on her own. The look on their faces as fear and realization hit them was always the best part.

They spent the next hour going over the equipment, making sure the guns were clean and worked, the explosives' diagnostics came up green, the radio detonator comms worked, they and the headsets were all charged up.

The next hour was spent on their plan of attack, though Ricky seemed to get a bit bored. She ignored his comments and went over everything with a fine toothed-comb. You always had to plan even if you knew that chaos was going to reign once you stared. Information was a weapon every much as your gun or knife and she didn't care if he got pissy. They went over entry points into the convent. Satellite imaging showed them as much as it could, as did online plans, and they had uploaded them, as well as a number of nest location possibilities marked out, to the land-warriors that Ricky had- excellent black-market score, that.

By the time they were done, her beer glass had dried out and she was getting hungry. She hadn't eaten since this morning. It would be good to go over things again, but not tonight. Tomorrow. It would give her mind time to relax and think about it in the background. It was like with the traffic videos, or when she was examining a crime scene or when she was stalking something on the ground. Gradually, she developed an intuition about patterns or the lack of them and eventually she could see things that she didn't at first. In this case, she needed time to let their plan gestate. Almost always she came up with some ideas or potential flaws that she hadn't thought of the first time. Gave it time to gel in her mind.

"Alright Ricky. We can do this again tomorrow afternoon. Let's go get some food and another beer or three."
They went up the stairs and he opened the door and the loud sound of music and people talking and laughing and of glasses and dishes and forks and knives clinking suddenly washed over them. The smell of food too and her stomach rumbled. She made her way to the bar and sat down to order some food.

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