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Chapter Eight: "Sometimes Old Habits Die Easy"

The four Rollers took Sandy’s little diesel to the diner near Thompson’s office for their rendezvous with his latest odd catch. Thompson considered the location to be about as neutral and safe as possible for such a sketchy and potentially volatile reunion, though he did have faith in the girls’ ability to keep it clean, and Veronica had promised that things would not get sideways. The onset of armpit-deep supernatural hubbub would seem to have the same relaxing effect on rules of thumb for parolees looking to settle old scores, as it does on law enforcement protocols, coroner’s work, and general cohesion among those who would otherwise be thought of as strange bedfellows.

Crimson and his rider followed together on his bike behind Thompson, as he made his way back down to Tacoma. En route, they passed by the Inland Inn, which though differently lit during daylight hours still came across as little more than sister shades of blue and gray.

When they got to the diner, the Rollers were already inside and seated at a booth. Quite parliamentarily, both Veronica and Becca stood as their long lost acquaintance, his associate, and the detective approached the table. There were no handshakes, but the collective courtesy of every party’s presence set the bar for the golden ground rules of behavior during this particular interlude and all future interactions among members of this odd dinner group.

Becca had killed Crimson’s brother, and Veronica had been his arresting officer in a case that led him to serve hard time in the Arizona prison system. Now, he had the cojones to mosey out here and request an audience with them both, which is the sort of thing that people do when they are either conducting leaps of faith, which closely describes the Rollers’ circumstance of their comeuppance as magical wolf angels incarnate, or, facing cataclysm through werewolves, which is presumably true for everyone whether they are conscious of it or not. Then again, he could be wanting to make amends, which was certainly a part of what Crimson was up to.

And he was mindful of his awkward position. It was a relieving for him (and Thompson) when these shiny women took Crimson’s presence easily in stride, and greeted him like an old family friend. Apparently it was an old joke that everyone called both of the Crimson brothers Bobby.

“Hello Bobby,” said Veronica, who was the first to speak after all were seated. “How long have you been out?”

“About two months,” Crimson answered. “Thanks for calling me out.”

“I’m glad you got my message. You’re going to be all right Bobby Crimson,” she said. Veronica and Becca politely introduced Dusty and Rainy, who in their state of being freshly resurrected, were effectively shining like the sun from the diner booth. All four of the Rollers swirled and glowed for Bobby and his girlfriend, neither of whom would ever be the same again.

Several Veggie Mongo Taco Plates were ordered, and when they arrived, the group gorged deliberately for a solid 20 minutes before any significant conversation, beyond “pass the taco sauce” occurred at the table.

Crimson explained that he had been at the derby contest in Phoenix, the one between the Flagstaff derby squad and the Phoenix Bloody Rollers, after which Maricopa County authorities had been informed that the Rollers had all disappeared. There were other reports from derby fans that neither team showed up to the match in the first place, while others reported having watched it in its entirety. Crimson’s version of the contested historical event was that both teams showed up and played hard, to include Veronica, Becca, Dusty, and Rainy.

“But there was something weird, and it was the first of any number of events that ultimately led me out here to see y’all,” Crimson explained. “First of all, I could tell that there was something different about you girls. You were glowing like angels—much as you are now. I don’t know if everyone was or is perceptive or sensitive to it, but it seemed obvious to me. It’s even stronger now, being here with you.”

“But there were some negative experiences also,” Crimson continued. “We saw some things out in the parking lot, and in local bars, and on the highway on the way home, that were not at all right. I have seen many dark, scary things, but nothing ever like this before.”

“That is why we contacted you Bobby,” Veronica said. “We knew you were at that match, and we know that you have seen what we are up against. We will prevail, so not to worry. Since you’re aware of the situation at hand, you can help. Next, we’re riding down to California, it should take us about half a day to get there. Come on down with us. It’s a long straight shot south on I-5. We leave later today and get there in the morning. Once there, we will rest until it’s time to go hunting the moon dogs tomorrow or Tuesday night.”

It was due time for Carrasco and Lopez to head back to San Diego, so Thompson suggested that the two visiting officers travel with the group bound for California. That way, the OPD chief wasn’t put in a position to give the key to the city what might appear to him as no more than a squad of derby biker whozits, regardless of their currently favorable position among the pecking order of contemporary West Coast monsters.

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