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I was back on duty. Same team room. Different team. I was just getting to know most of them. A couple of faces were familiar.

Franklin Moore had been on the MHI team that responded to a zombie outbreak in Elkins, West Virginia, only to find it had been cleared by a recently discharged Marine named, well, me. Five-eight, brawny, black and unflappable. That covered Franklin. He’d taken over as head of Team Hoodoo and kept the name.

David King, aka Decay, had helped me out about a year before with some vampires. He’d joined MHI after he finished recovering from a torn-up forearm, gone through training and spent the next six months working with our New York team. He wasn’t a New Orleans native but knew the town from a couple of years working as security in clubs, mostly Goth/punk. Six-four, blond but shaved scalp, which was normal in Team Hoodoo, solidly built.

The Happy Face team would remain in town to backfill us until Team Hoodoo was back up to speed…supposedly, unless Earl felt like screwing me over again on a whim. Most of them I knew, especially Ray IV and Milo.

As I walked in and sat down, Milo waved.

“Chad. Earl said you’d be back. Glad to see he was right.”

“Glad he’s such a fucking clairvoyant,” I said.

Milo looked hurt. Earl had saved his life and avenged his family. Earl was like a dad to him. Milo was just too damned nice for his own good. Hurting Milo’s feelings always felt like kicking puppies.

“I’m back. That’s all there is to it. Shit happened. Time to get my game face on.”

“So,” Ray said. “Subject change. Susan wanted me to say thanks for Julie’s birthday gift, Chad.”

He didn’t sound like he actually meant thanks. Sounded more like Susan had said other words.

“Did Julie like it?” I perked up. The Shackleford kids were adorable.

“Right up until we had to explain it was going to have to go to a nice farm upstate to live with all the other baby kaiju.”

“Why?” I asked. “Those things take like a hundred years to grow to any size.”

“Whass a kaiju?” Norbert LeClerc asked.

Norbert was another recruit from New Orleans. About a year before, we’d started to recruit through the New Orleans Truth Teller, the paper the MCB published that covered local hoodoo. The MCB worked very hard to cover up the existence of the supernatural. In the case of the Truth Teller, it was a matter of lying by telling the truth badly. The Truth Teller was full of misspellings, bad grammar, and things that had clearly never happened. It looked like it was published by a psycho. But embedded in it were many true stories of supernatural outbreaks. That way, if some true story filtered out of New Orleans, somebody else could “disprove” it by pointing to the Truth Teller.

I’d heard already that the New Breed of MCB in New Orleans had put a stop to it. But a year or so ago we’d used it to do a full-scale recruiting drive. LeClerc was one of the returnees from that campaign.

Young, black, skinny, but more muscular wiry than when I’d first met him, he was functionally illiterate and as purely street as you were going to get. But he’d done pretty well for six months on my old team in Seattle and, again, knew the town, so that was a bonus.

“Godzilla,” Decay said. “Baby godzilla.”

“Did you know the juveniles climb trees?” Ray said.

“Duh. It keeps them away from the cannibal adolescents.”

“Have you ever tried to get a baby kaiju out of a live oak?” Ray asked.

“No. Was it funny? Did you get a home movie?”

“Oh, yeah it was funny as heck,” Milo said, grinning. “We’ve got about two hours of video of Ray cussing up a storm trying to catch that thing. They’re fast!”

“And they start breathing fire really young,” Ray added, holding up his arm. “Which is where the fresh burn scars come from. Oh, and Susan wanted me to add that you owe us a new refrigerator.”

“Why refrigerator?”

“It figured out where they were keeping the fish!” Milo said, howling. “And it burned a little circular hole in the bottom of the door! Climbed right in and ate everything in the fridge!”

“I’ll cut you a check.”

“Where’d you score a baby kaiju?” Decay asked.

“I’ve got friends in low places. And I didn’t score a baby kaiju. I scored a kaiju egg. And painted it up to look like an Easter egg.”

“We’ve learned to carefully examine all of Chad’s gifts,” Ray said darkly. “He got that one by us.”

“Ray and Susan’s kids say Uncle Chad always gets them the best gifts.” Milo giggled. “Like those flash-bangs you gave Nate.”

“You gave a kid a flash-bang?” Jon Glenn said.

Jon Glenn was another Truth Teller returnee. Heavy-set, bearded and still wearing that stupid beret. At least he’d gotten rid of the SAS badge. Seriously obnoxious, obsessive, libertarian, paranoid schizo. His abilities were proven in earning nearly three hundred grand in PUFF money before he even found out about PUFF. I’d put up with the constant diatribes about the evils of government, special interests and iron triangles for the headbanger hoodoo-killer mentality. He still was annoying.

“No,” I said innocently. “Julie had mentioned that what Nate really needed for Christmas was a lump of coal. So I sent him some.”

“Which turned out to be, essentially, very powerful fireworks disguised as lumps of coal,” Ray said drily.

“I did warn you on that one. Nate’s little. I didn’t want him to get hurt.”

“You mentioned that for coal it was, and I quote, a little energetic,” Ray said. “You didn’t say it fucking explodes with tremendously loud bangs.”

“That is the chemical definition of energetic. You should have remembered my sole high school A was in chemistry.”

“Which was, to be clear, one hell of a surprise,” Ray said. “Especially in our fireplace.”

“That was the point,” I said.

“That’s evil,” Decay said. “I like it.”

“I will never have kids of my own and the only nieces and nephews I might ever have are from my brother who I avoid like the plague. And assuming he ever spawns, they will be—let me make this clear—spawn. So all I’ve got to spoil is Ray and Susan’s kids. I put a lot of thought and energy into spoiling them.”

“The kaiju burned a stack of Julie’s favorite copies of Guns and Ammo,” Ray said.

“Replaceable,” I said. “And I’m sure it gave her useful experience in the operation of a fire extinguisher. Besides, baby kaiju are cute.”

“It was cute,” Milo said. “Julie was heartbroken when Ray and Susan took it away.”

“Making us the bad guys,” Ray said.

“That’s what parents are for. Parents are meanies. Uncles are fun. That’s why I don’t intend to be a parent and love being an uncle. I hope you didn’t actually kill it. Not only are those things endangered, they’re expensive as hell.”

“We didn’t. You’re not the only one with contacts. We got it shipped to a kaiju island.”

“There are kaiju islands?” Decay asked.

“Where do you think they come from?” Milo said.

“The life cycle of kaiju is breed in water, lay eggs on land,” I explained. “Something like turtles. But instead of returning to the water, the young spend their first century on land. They are omnivorous and cannibalistic, which is why the very young climb trees. To get away from their older siblings. They’re also hunted by various other critters. Seagulls will eat a baby kaiju. Very high death rate and the mature adults are rare and breed very rarely. Only about one kaiju in ten thousand makes it to adulthood.”

“Then they eat Tokyo,” Milo said.

“Only found on certain islands near the Japanese coast,” Ray added. “The Japanese consider them something like gods and protect the islands where they grow. Couple of them aren’t even on maps. When they’re about two centuries old they go back to the water, where they are still preyed upon by bigger kaiju, great whites and giant squid. Until they get big enough to eat back. When they get really big…”

“They eat Tokyo,” Milo repeated.

“They eat Tokyo,” Ray agreed. “Almost always those are females looking for a good place to lay eggs. Tokyo Bay used to be one of their main laying grounds and the Japanese islands used to be a primary growth area. So the Japanese hunters try to drive them back into the water rather than kill them.”

“And sometimes they lay eggs while stomping all over power lines. Which are worth a pretty penny on the black market.”

“Which are strictly forbidden for trade by the Japanese government,” Ray said darkly. “As we were reminded.”

“Which are why they’re worth a pretty penny.” I shrugged.

“The little ones are really pretty just before they, you know, blast plasma,” Milo said. “They get all glowy in blue and red…”

“Which gives you just enough time to jump off a branch that’s twenty feet up in the air,” Ray said, “and sprain your ankle.”

“Big guys,” I said, shrugging again. “No agility.”

Earl entered the room. “We got a call.”

“Oh, thank God,” Ray replied.

“Shamblers in a cemetery.”

“I’ve got it.” I stood up. “You’d think this town would eventually run out of bodies…”

* * *

I was up on the wall of the cemetery, coaching Norbert in the finer arts of killing shamblers while avoiding being bit, when MCB showed up.

Be aware, before the Revenge of the Crawfish, MCB rarely, if ever, showed up for an incident. Trying to keep a lid on knowledge of hoodoo in New Orleans was like trying to deny the existence of rain in Seattle. But the new crop of agents were serious players from DC. They were going to shut down any reference to hoodoo in New Orleans and get this town under control!

Yeah. Right.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing up there?” Agent Larry Rivera yelled.

There was a Special Agent in Charge and two Senior Agents assigned to New Orleans. In addition, they generally had a junior agent shadowing each as well as a cast of I wasn’t sure how many working in the office doing background cover-up. Rivera was the new second Senior Agent along with Jack Robinson who I’d met briefly before my vacation. Serious player with time in the SRT and that bulky spec-ops look. He knew his job and wasn’t taking any shit from hunters, by God.

“I’m shooting zombies.” I personally felt that was fairly obvious. You could see the arms waving through the wrought-iron gate.

“Right up there in front of everybody?” he practically screamed. “You’re right off I-10! There are hundreds of people just passing through New Orleans watching you right now! This would be a Class One event if it wasn’t for your grandstanding! Now it’s at least a Class Three!”

“Aware that the answer is yes, would you prefer we get down on the ground and get bit? From up here we’re out of reach and—”

I don’t care what your excuse is!” the agent screamed. “Don’t do this in plain sight!”

“Or what?” I asked, leaning over and shooting another shambler.

“Or I’ll place you under arrest!”

So now I was in the back of a squad car, minding my own business. Great first day back at work.

* * *

Earl paid my bail for discharge of a weapon in the city limits. Remi picked me up, bland faced. I thought about the issue the whole way home.

“Remi,” I said as we walked in the door, “could you be so kind as to call Congressman Terry and begin planning a dinner party for…ten guests? Nice one. Four days after the full moon has passed.”

“The guest list, sir?” Remi asked.

“Myself, hostess. I’ll need an appropriate hostess. Miss Collins won’t do for this. Please enquire with Madam Courtney on that subject. Ask her to ask the loas. Congressman Randolph and whichever wife he’s on. Madam Courtney and gentleman. Councilman Delon plus one…”

“The councilman, sir…” Remi said uncomfortably.

“Councilman Delon and Madam Courtney are not friends.” My real estate lady was also a powerful hoodoo practitioner, White side. “I am aware. Last, Supervisory Special Agent Campbell plus one.”

“Again, sir…”

“You doubt Special Agent Campbell will attend? That is why I need Mr. Terry.”

* * *

“Hey, Gary,” I said.

Garrett Terry and I had known each other for a while. Two years before while handling a zombie outbreak in a small town in Washington, who should show up but the local congressman. He was from a neighboring town, had gone to school in the town zombies had just wiped out, was just read in on the existence of the supernatural, and was that pissed about everything hoodoo and how it was handled by the government.

That was when I’d gotten involved in politics. Not doing politics, working background. I raised campaign finance funds from Hunters and funneled them, via the congressman and his senior aide, Bert Kemper, to other congresscritters. I’d even testified before the Select Committee on Unearthly Forces a time or two.

Surprisingly enough, Hunters prior to my involvement had very little voice in the whole thing. I hadn’t changed that entirely but I’d gotten the voice out there. There was still more money going to monster advocacy groups than Hunters, even with PUFF bonuses, but we at least had a voice and some representatives that were on our side for more reasons than the ongoing campaign money. Our lobbyist regularly pointed out that one of the reasons monster advocates were always around to schmooze was that they weren’t, you know, out there fighting monsters and saving people.

“Hey, Chad,” Gary said. “You never call, you never write…”

“Katie didn’t get the babushka doll?” I asked, referring to the congressman’s daughter.

“You got any idea how hard it is to convince a six-year-old not to talk about a magic babushka doll?”

“She can talk about it all she wants. Nobody’s going to believe her.”

“She wanted to take it to school for show and tell.”

“That might cause issues,” I replied.

“Where in the hell did you get that thing?”

A babushka doll is one of those Russian dolls where you open up the outer doll and there’s another smaller one inside. Open that up and there’s another. Mostly there’s generally six. Really good ones are up to ten or twelve. The magic babushka had about sixty. All the same size instead of increasingly smaller. But in addition, all you had to do was say a magic word and they started bouncing around and singing a Ukrainian nursery rhyme about Baba Yaga. Very cool. Much better than a Teddy Ruxpin.

“I have contacts. Like one of the senior aides on the SCUF committee.”

“So you must want something,” Gary said.

“I need an arm twisted. I’m planning a small get-together after the next full moon. Some friends and acquaintances. Congressman Arnold…”


“You know I’ve made contributions.”

“The guy makes Huey Long look honest,” Gary said.

“Which is part of the point. I’ll get him for the party. That’s not the issue. He’ll show up just to keep the money flowing and ’cause I set a good table. With whatever bimbo he’s currently married to or shagging. Problem is Campbell.”

“Name doesn’t ring a bell.”

“Supervisory Special Agent Campbell. MCB’s finest. New boss here in NOLA.”

“Problems?” Gary asked.

“I just got released from NOLA PD custody. For discharge of a firearm in city limits.”

“Isn’t that sort of your job?” the congressman asked, confused.

“The actual reason was I was standing on a wall potting zombies, and I quote, ‘in full view of everyone.’ ’Cause I didn’t want to get down on the ground and get bit. Which annoyed one of the new guys from MCB here in town. When I refused to comply with his directives to put myself and my newbie partner in harm’s way, he placed me under arrest.”


“So I’d like to invite Agent Campbell to a friendly party. With a corrupt congressman who is, also, one of the senior Democrat members of the SCUF committee, which decides not only how much funding MCB gets but who gets promoted and who doesn’t, a houdoun White priestess with more contacts than God, and a NOLA city council member who’s a known Dark hoodoo dabbler, who is one of the congressman’s main supporters.”

“Chad, do you like playing with fire?” I could hear the unstated groan. And I was pretty sure he’d start stress eating right after this call. He never ate anything but salads when we’d eaten out but he kept a drawer full of Moon Pies in his desk.

“It’s going to be a few days after the full moon. We’ve partially gotten the loup-garou infestation under control.” And by we I meant Earl. “But the full moon, still, is a major issue every month. I think he’ll be sufficiently beaten up by that he might see some sense. If not, I’ll have to up the ante. ’Cause I’m not going to be told to take chances by MCB with our casualty rate. Not going to happen. Are we making lots of money in this town? Yep. Tons. Is it worth the casualty rate? We’re on the edge of saying no, Gary. And if MHI isn’t here, who’s going to control the hoodoo? Some other company? Nobody is as good as we are and everyone knows it. Look at what happened in Portland. If we can’t do it, who can? SIU has already been hammered. You going to permanently install an SRT? Or you just going to let the hoodoo flow and let local MCB try to handle it?”

“I understand,” Gary said.

“I don’t think you do. I don’t think anyone does. ’Cause there’s no one left who has the experience of fighting this shit in this damned city day in and day out. I know damned good and well Campbell doesn’t. We damned near had a Class Five at Mardi Gras. We came within a big pile of our bodies of having mantis shrimp cracking Brent Musberger’s skull right in front of God and everybody!”

“Yeah, I got the briefing on that. I’m sorry about your friends.”

“That wasn’t our fault, but the first thing Campbell did when he came to town was chew my ass for it. The sole fucking survivor, Garrett. That’s who got his ass chewed. The guy who’d held the fucking line and saved not only hundreds of lives but kept it from turning up on live television! Because I was the only one left to chew their ass! Everyone else, Garrett, was fucking dead with their brains scooped out. So, I’ll be God-damned if I’m going to take shit from some no-account, no-experience, no-guts MCB agent who thinks his only job is intimidating people! I fucking quit, Garrett. I quit Monster Hunting! For two weeks I was done! And if this is what we’re going to be dealing with, I’m damned well not going to be fighting hoodoo and MCB. And neither will MHI.”

“I’d heard you took a vacation. I hadn’t gotten the rest of that.”

“So pull whatever strings you need to pull. Twist whatever arms you need to twist, but Campbell is going to accept an invitation to a dinner party. And by then maybe he’ll be amenable to reason. Maybe he’ll realize that this isn’t DC, this isn’t St. Louis. This is the City of the Dead and life is short and cheap in this fucking town. Assuming you don’t spend eternity as an animated corpse.”

“Listen…There’s other things going on. Can you take a few days?” Garrett asked.

I thought about that for a few seconds. “As long as I’m back for the full moon. Why?”

“Seriously need a sit down. Something’s come up.” That sounded ominous.

“I’ll call Earl and catch a flight,” I said.

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