So once upon a time in 2010, I wrote a little story that became Good Intentions.
As I’ve noted before on this blog, Good Intentions came up while I was writing Poor Man's Fight and got stumped on a minor bit of character development. I wanted to keep writing even though I was a bit stuck. I also wanted get unbiased critical feedback on my writing skills before I dove any further on Poor Man’s Fight, too, and, well… there was this website I’d been to many times called literotica.com where people could post stories for free to a rather wide readership.
For all its erotic content, I am to this day still unsure whether to consider Good Intentions a work of erotica in an urban fantasy setting, or if it’s an urban fantasy tale with lots of erotic content. I’d like to call it the latter. My need to make sure nobody’s shocked at the explicit content says I should probably stick with the former.
There’s no explicit sexual content in this blog post, btw. Hope that's not disappointing.
So. I hadn’t really written erotica before, but I figured, hell, I could do this. I would have to have a plot, though. It gets back to something I heard George Lucas say when I was a kid: “A special effect without a story is a pretty boring thing.” (Yes, he actually said that. Look it up if you’re jaded and full of doubt.) I generally feel the same about sexual content in any medium. I don’t want there to just be two people going at it for no reason; I want some sort of context, because I feel like that makes the whole thing better, right?
I should also note that about the only erotica I had ever read was stuff on literotica.com and a few other random bits and pieces. I did not exactly have much in the way of grounding in the genre.
The story changed dramatically from my initial plans, even over the first few chapters. I originally conceived of a much snottier, more aloof and not-remotely-fun Rachel. I envisioned a story with Alex striving to measure up to Lorelei’s standards while Lorelei, in turn, strung him along as cover while she rebuilt her personal power and mortal resource base. Lorelei would use Alex to her own ends without much care as to whether he lived or died at first, but as he survived and overcame every obstacle in spite of her expectations, she’d warm up to him. Lorelei would also use Alex as a temporary sex toy. I had no plans for a rich cast of supporting characters, or for a storyline about redemption, or for Alex to have a past even he didn’t understand (no spoilers in the comments, please!).
I had in mind a climax where the mystic bonds between Alex and Lorelei broke at some sort of prom-like thing just as Lorelei really began to feel genuine love for him, and then she’d fly off to answer the summons of her old arch-demon master with one last longing look at Alex. I saw Alex calling in his markers with Rachel to help him go rescue her.
But then I started writing chapters two and three, and I realized there was no real reason why Lorelei wouldn’t just eat his face and be done with him. That required a major course correction to make the whole thing work.
The more I thought about it, the more interesting it seemed to me that rather than being evil but susceptible to good, Lorelei was just… tired of being evil. Not looking for redemption, but knowing that her current path was empty and boring. And while I didn’t want a storyline about a bad girl changing her ways for the love of a good man—any story about one person “changing for love” makes me wince—I did like the idea that Alex represented opportunities and choices she could make to change herself.
And then Rachel went and grew a personality, too.
It also grated on me a bit that Alex, though not quite twenty years old yet, felt so much to me like an older sort whose compassion and forgiving nature came from a whole lot of mileage. He seemed to me like a guy who’d had his heart broken a lot, and sometimes deliberately and brutally… but no matter how vicious and real high school drama can be, that’s all still high school drama. I realized then that Alex had a past he didn’t understand.
I figured out, eventually, that these were three weary and lonely people with a lot of scars on the inside.
So if you’ve read this far, you are probably very interested in what happens in the sequel. I have tentatively titled it Natural Consequences. The prologue should be a big hint, of course. Aside from that, you will see:
*Alex in legitimate fear of losing his goddamn mind
*the origin of Lorelei
*the return of Diana the Werewolf
*Lorelei explains The Truth About Monsters
*a lot of very pissed off vampires
*much more of Molly and Onyx
*Alex and the guys having their shittiest Halloween ever
*Why Wade came home early from Afghanistan
*Jason trying to start a relationship that doesn’t kick off with a girl literally jumping in his lap--or, as gamers like him would call it, “playing on hard mode”
*the reason behind Alex’s long, long run of bad luck (hint: it wasn’t luck at all)
*plenty of explicit sex
*plenty of explicit violence
*and plenty of explicit Rachel (as if there’s any other way!)
So here you are: the prologue to Natural Consequences (until and unless I change the title).
“But there is no way you can perpetrate that amount of carnage and mayhem and not incur a considerable amount of paperwork.” --Nicholas Angel, Hot Fuzz
Prologue below the cut!
"This is the case of the United States of America versus Raven Sebastian Winterhome, AKA Sir Julian Storm, AKA Lord Marcus Etienne Ravenscar... birth name Marvin Kowalski," the judge added with a cynical frown. His eyes glanced up from the papers in front of him. "Are you Marvin Kowalski? Or any of these other aliases?"
The chamber bore greater resemblance to a bunker than a courtroom. The furnishings and layout were all present—tables for prosecution and defense, a judge’s bench and witness stand, a currently empty jury box, seats for an audience, even an American flag in one corner—but there the physical similarities ended. The concrete walls had been left unpainted. Heavy steel doors fit for a naval ship lay closed and locked at either end of the room. The digital clock embedded in the wall noted an hour far too late for any ordinary court proceeding.
The judge sat in black robes at his bench. The prosecutor and defense attorney both wore suits, as did the pair of men and the sole woman in the gallery. Three uniformed bailiffs stood at the ready. All attention fell on the deathly pale, young-looking man with black hair, frosty blue eyes and the bright orange jumpsuit of a prison inmate behind the defense table. Multiple thick chains connected his manacles to a similarly thick bullnose ring imbedded in the floor. He could stand and sit and not much else.
“Fuck you, chum,” the pale man said. His Cockney accent and defiant tone contrasted sharply with the calm, business-as-usual demeanor of the judge. “This ain’t no real cour’room. Why’nt you tell me wot the fuck you lot ‘re doin’ ‘ere an’ knock off the fucking charades, eh?”
“Mr. Kowalski,” murmured the attorney to his right, “speaking to the judge like that won’t help.”
The judge was unmoved. "I am Judge Eduardo Castillo. Mr. Kowalski, you've been charged in an indictment with the murders of Caroline Morris, Raymond Wong, and Douglas Kramer. You are also charged with three counts of kidnapping, twenty-three counts of aggravated assault, arson, possession of stolen property, possession of an unregistered firearm, possession of a concealed weapon without a permit, assault on federal agents, resisting arrest, misprision of felonies and tax evasion." He lifted his eyes toward the defendant. "Do you have a copy of the indictment?"
“Fuck yourself wi’ your indictment. Stick it up your crusty arse!” The defendant tugged at his chains again, struggling as if he had every reason to believe they might break. “Let me the fuck ou’ of ‘ere! You sacks dunno wha’ you’re dealin’ with!”
“It’s here, your honor,” confirmed the attorney beside the prisoner.
"Very well. Mr. Kowalski, let me inform you of your constitutional rights. You have the right to remain silent. You don't have to say anything to anyone. Anything you say can and likely will be used against you. Do you understand your right to remain silent?"
“Fuck you. That’s what I understand.”
The defense attorney leaned in, his face a portrait of calm professionalism as he hissed, “Mr. Kowalski, do you understand that this will be a capital case?”
“Oh, piss off, mate!” the other man frowned indignantly. “These fuck’ead Feds jus’ jumped me in the parking lot of a fucking ‘otel three hours ago! Even if this is a real court, all o’ this is bollocks an’ they know it! So either quit the fucking farce an’ tell me what’s goin’ on, or give me my phone call so I can get a real fucking lawyer!”
“Mr. Kowalski, they know what you are.”
Taken aback by the warning, the defendant asked, “Wot?”
“Your fangs are showing,” advised the attorney.
Judge Castillo continued. "You also have the right to representation by a lawyer with appropriate security clearances. You are currently assisted by Counselor Lopez, who holds proper clearance. Do you have a different lawyer with top secret clearance you would like to use?"
"Wait, clearance?" the defendant blinked. "What the fuck you talkin’ about?”
"Mr. Kowalski, this court operates under top secret Federal orders pursuant to national security. You will make no phone calls. You do not get to pick any old attorney off the Internet. So again, do you currently have on retainer an attorney with top secret clearance? If not, I will appoint Counselor Lopez to continue to represent you. The court will cover all expenses in such a case."
"What the—wait, this is ridiculous!" the defendant spat. "I want a real fucking court with a real fucking lawyer and a real fucking judge! Don't give me this 'top secret' bullshit!"
"Very well," Castillo conceded. "I will remand you to the Federal District Court of Los Angeles, and your arraignment will proceed at 10 am on Thursday, October 22nd."
Marvin's bluster ground to a halt. So did his phony accent. "Wait, what?"
“10 am tomorrow, Los Angeles,” Castillo repeated.
Marvin blinked nervously. "Ten in the morning?" He swallowed, looking to Lopez on his left. "They can do that to me?"
Lopez gave a bit of a nod. "If you're transferred to the regular court system, they'll run on their own schedule. This is the only court in the nation that accommodates supernatural conditions."
"None of the other courts fucking know about supernatural conditions!"
Again, Lopez nodded. "It's a problem.”
Marvin looked from the judge to the lawyer and back again. "Uh, Judge... I think... I think I'll take this court. And, uh, this lawyer."
"Understood. I hereby appoint Anthony Lopez to represent you. Is defense counsel prepared to proceed with the arraignment?"
"Yes, your honor," Lopez answered.
"Are you correctly named in the indictment? Would you like me to formally read the indictment into the record?" He took his cues from Lopez's short, quick replies. "How do you plead?"
Lopez glanced at Marvin, who looked back at him at a complete loss for words. “Your honor, my client pleads not guilty,” Lopez announced.
Castillo's attention turned to the suited man at the table across from Lopez's. "What is the government's position on detention?"
"Your honor, the defendant struggled violently against arrest, assaulting several Federal agents," the prosecutor explained. "His health conditions require the ingestion of warm blood, and he has shown every willingness to commit assault to attain it. He has also demonstrated extraordinary strength, speed and stealth, and is largely unharmed by most weapons carried by police or the general public. He is part of a massive criminal network of similarly powerful individuals with formidable material and financial resources. It is the government's position that he is a severe flight risk, and further that it is in the public interest that he remain in government custody where his dietary requirements can be managed.”
"Very well, Counselor Oaks," Castillo nodded, "Mr. Kowalski will remain in Federal custody until trial."
“What?!” Marvin burst. “That’s it? That’s my bail hearing?”
“Yeah, they always screw my clients on that one,” Lopez shrugged, glancing down at his paperwork on the table. “Look, you’ll get two liters of fresh blood every night. It’s chicken blood, but you’ll get by.”
Behind him, the suited man rose and turned for the door. He was a trim man in his early thirties, tall and clean-shaven. Completely undisturbed by the proceedings, he held the door for the younger woman who followed him out while Kowalski unleashed a torrent of worried questions on his attorney.
“That one’s gonna be a slam dunk,” said Agent Paul Keeley.
Agent Amber Maddox was not so comfortable with all this. It showed on her young, pretty face. Her pantsuit did little to show off her athletic figure, but that was how she preferred it. It was hard enough to be taken seriously given her age, and doubly so for looking even younger than that. Dressing in anything but the most conservative styles typically only made it worse. Tonight, at least, she could accessorize with the small gauze pad taped over her temple. Kowalski’s arrest had not gone as smoothly as anyone had hoped, but in the end the Bureau got its man.
Kowalski had been her first supernatural case. Up until now, she had focused purely on learning the ropes within the task force, building a case and making the arrest. Thoughts of what would come after that had to be put on hold, but now those concerns were front and center. “What makes you say that?” she asked. “I mean, Kowalski is obviously not all that bright—“
“Dumb as a box of rocks,” interrupted Keeley with a wry grin, “if you want to be charitable.”
“—and his defense attorney there might not be the most energetic I’ve seen—“
“Lopez knows how to pick his battles,” Keeley shrugged. “He’s good at his job. Knows a shit case when he sees one. Not all those charges will stick.”
Amber paused, wondering if she should say something about being allowed to say her peace. Keeley, to his credit, caught her understandable frustration immediately. “Sorry,” he grunted, “it’s late. Go on.”
“Like you said, not all the charges will stick,” Amber said. “I mean, he gets a full jury trial, right? You said this is done by the book, secrecy notwithstanding?”
“Well,” Keeley shrugged, “they’re entitled to a jury trial. Doesn’t mean it actually happens. Remember what we told you about the loyalty oaths? Swearing fealty when they’re given the big bite and such? Secrecy is the biggest component of that. It’s the most important aspect. Every vampire is brought in promising to do his or her best to keep their existence secret, even at the cost of their lives. They enforce that on one another brutally.
“The second a vampire realizes he’s been made, he starts sweating bullets. Having to go through a trial like this is some scary shit for them, because even if they get out, their vampire buddies would be all over them to know if they slipped up even just a bit… and they wouldn’t be here if they hadn’t already slipped, right?
“A jury is twelve more people who know the truth. That’s twelve more screw-ups on the vampire’s part. So usually they waive their right and opt for a bench trial. Lopez argues that the trial isn’t legit, because it violates the defendant’s Sixth Amendment right to a public trial. Oaks says the defendant waives that right by opting for this court over a regular public courthouse, and Castillo agrees, so that settles that. And then we move to the bench trial.”
A small part of Amber kicked herself for not getting these details before now. It wasn’t as if Keeley or the other agents on the Kowalski case had held anything back on her. “And if they want a jury?”
“Then we give it to ‘em,” answered Keeley. “Twelve U.S. citizens, fluent and literate in English, with no previous connections to the case, who all hold top secret security clearances. And yes,” he added, “Lopez objects to that wrinkle, too, and points out that this creates a jury that is naturally predisposed toward the government. Castillo overrules and life goes on.”
Amber walked beside him, finding herself full of questions and unsure which to ask first. That had more or less been the story of her life for these last few weeks. “So is this how it always goes?”
“For the vampires, yeah, pretty much,” said Keeley. “We’ve had a couple curveballs, of course, and in the beginning everything seemed so crazy that there’d never be a normal. But you start to see patterns. The werewolves have their own goofy habits. And then there’re the other weirdoes,” he grunted. “We’ve only scratched the surface of what’s really out there.”
Amber’s next question had been on her mind for some time. In the midst of all the cloak and dagger procedures and the grim confidence of the task force, it had seemed almost naïve, but now she had to ask. “What are you gonna do when one of these cases finally ends in an acquittal?”
Keeley came to another door. He paused before he opened it to look over his shoulder at the young agent. “I don’t know,” he smiled. “I’ll tell you when it happens. ‘til then, we just keep moving on to the next case. And this one’s a bit of a problem.”
Amber followed him into a conference room dominated by a long table and a white projection screen opposite the door. The room’s half-dozen occupants had all gone for loosened ties and rolled-up shirtsleeves. She saw Chinese take-out boxes, bottles of soda and a good number of manila file folders. One wall of the room was covered with suspect sketches.
“You ready for us, Joe?” Keeley asked as they entered. “Arraignment’s all pretty much finished anyway.”
Standing taller than the rest was a blond man with football hero shoulders, a square jaw and something just shy of a flat-top. The sight of Keeley and the other man together immediately made Amber think, “Good cop, tackle cop.”
She met Agent Hauser briefly when she was first recruited onto the task force. He hadn’t said much at that meeting. Now, he acknowledged her with much the same grunt as then, but this time he spoke. “Agent Maddox,” he nodded, “it’s good to have you here. Congratulations on your first arrest with the task force.”
“Thank you, sir,” Amber mumbled.
“Everyone,” Hauser said to the others present, still betraying little emotion in his gravelly voice, “this is Agent Amber Maddox. Received her high school diploma and her Associate’s degree at age 17, thanks to Washington’s Running Start program. Graduated from the University of Washington with double honors degrees in chemistry and physics, age 20. Worked for three years in the Bureau’s Applied Sciences lab here in LA, then went to the Academy in Quantico and served in C.I.D. for a year before she signed on with the task force three weeks ago.”
Amber glanced around at the others. One woman, three men, plus Hauser and Keeley, all staring at her. “That’s a bit more of an introduction than I usually get,” she said. Ten minutes from now, she knew, she’d come up with the perfect comeback line.
“Everyone here has at least ten years on you, Amber,” Hauser explained, as if it weren’t plainly obvious to everyone. “I don’t want anyone wondering why you’re here, least of all you. You’ve kicked a lot of ass to be here.” He paused. “Plus I needed to see if you’d blush.”
“No. Have a seat, everyone.”
Amber felt many eyes still upon her as she took up an empty chair. “I only did the honors program in chemistry,” she confessed with a smirk. “Physics is hard.”
“Amber, these are Agents Matt Lanier, Douglas Bridger and Colleen Nguyen,” Hauser began as the lights went down and the projector mounted in the ceiling flickered to life. “They’ve all been on the task force for several years. You’ll be working with them for the foreseeable future, relocating to your hometown of Seattle.”
Amber blinked. She knew relocation was a potential factor in this transfer, but thought that train had left the station. “I’m not staying with the LA office?”
“No,” Hauser said. “No, that was just your audition. We had to make sure you wouldn’t freak out at the first encounter with a supernatural. Some people don’t deal well with it.” He paused, offering up a wry grin. “Most people don’t respond by tackling the perp.”
She felt grateful the lights had dimmed. It was a pretty sure bet she’d be blushing by now. She paid attention to the map of the west coast on the screen and its red, blue and green circles here and there.
“The west coast is something of a hotbed of organized supernatural activity. We’ve got large vampire groups in LA and San Fran, and a couple of distinct werewolf packs spread out across the southwest. But the largest concentration of them has been in Seattle.
“The vampires organize themselves in a semi-feudal structure. There’s no king or queen, but there are trappings of nobility and chains of allegiance. A great many chains lead to this woman, Lady Anastacia Illyana Kanatova of Seattle.”
The slide changed, offering up a well-detailed sketch of a thin woman of regal beauty. She was blonde, with Eastern European features and a haughty, elegant look. “We have no idea of her original name or how old she might be, but she clearly dates back centuries. As far as we can tell, she’s the best-connected vampire on the west coast. She’s in charge of a group of at least sixty other vampires in the Seattle area—probably more—and has close allies in many other cities.”
The slide changed. Amber saw Kanatova’s picture at the center of a web of other pictures, with various solid and broken lines connecting them. “Now, we’ve been tracking a good number of these people for some time. They practice decent security, but they aren’t as slick as they’d like to believe. For a while now, our real concern has been over how to move in and start nabbing them without revealing the existence of the task force.
“Then about a month ago, the Seattle group vanished. We haven’t picked up a trace of them since.”
Amber blinked. Hauser shifted to the next few slides, which showed the burnt-out ruins of what must have been a huge house or a mansion. Little more remained than a scorched foundation. She had to wonder how long it had burned before the firefighters in the pictures had arrived.
“We know that in mid-September, there was some sort of major party at this house in one of Seattle’s northern suburbs. We don’t know what the hell happened at that party. The fire that destroyed it burned so hot we can’t really piece together any physical evidence. Property records are very sketchy. We matched a number of abandoned vehicles nearby to known vampires in the Seattle metro area. We suspect at least some of the vampires survived, but they’ve gone to ground.
“Local authorities found one still-unidentified woman in the tree line with her head twisted almost in a full turn, and two antebellum-style dresses full of ashes,” Hauser said, clicking the slideshow along, “but that’s pretty much it. No human remains. No shell casings. Nothing. And as you can see, the fire burned grass that should have been too wet to catch as well as it did.
“We’ve got wire-taps on vampires from here to New York and Miami. Everything indicates they haven’t a clue what happened and they’re extremely concerned. We know they’re investigating. They suspect it was a hit by another supernatural faction. Fighting between supernaturals is a fact of life for them, but hits this size just don’t happen.
“About a week before this incident, there was a similar fire at Sacred Heart Cemetery in Seattle,” Hauser continued, shifting to a spread of pictures of a ruined chapel. “Again, cause undetermined. No human remains. Nothing but ash.”
Hauser leaned forward on the table. His voice held steady, but his frustration couldn’t be missed. “Years of investigations. Thousands of hours of surveillance. Research. Solid cases, just waiting for a safe moment to nab the suspects. All gone up in smoke without an explanation. And vampires all across the country on a hair-trigger to retaliate.”
Amber glanced around the table. The expressions worn by her fellow agents confirmed that they knew all this already. This briefing was specifically for her. “So we don’t have any leads at all?”
“One,” Hauser grunted. He clicked to the next picture.
She saw a typical cell phone self-portrait: bathroom mirror, sink in the foreground, towels on a rack on the wall behind the subject. The skinny guy in the picture might barely be old enough to drink. He had short, wet brown hair, a pale, mostly hairless chest and a towel wrapped around his waist. His thug-life posture looked so comical that he couldn’t possibly be taking himself seriously. In one hand, he held his cellphone. In the other, he held what appeared to be a wooden stake and a necklace of fangs.
An inset photo beside the youth’s face provided a blow-up of the fangs, with markings to denote their likely legitimacy.
“His name is Jason Cohen.”