Dixon was sitting in the dugout of a baseball field in the middle of Castlewood Park. He was still trying to sort which supernaturals were where in the Northside. Lieutenant Meiers turned out to be less than useful in that regard. He was old school CIS, which meant he'd been assigned to the squad because someone thought he was useless. After speaking to him, Dixon was inclined to think they were right. His main pieces of advice were that the Burger & Shake gave a fifty percent discount if you showed your badge and an officer could get a free room at the Bryan Station Inn, should he need someplace to go during his shift. When Dixon asked for his list of supernatural community leaders Meiers dug into his desk and came up with a sheet of paper with some phone numbers and notes like “cats-Castlewood”, “dogs-Winburn” scribbled on it When Dixon asked what they meant, Meiers just shrugged. “Hell if know kid. I got that list from Anderson when I got stuck on the Northside. I ain't never been stupid enough to call any of them.” Of course, Anderson was one of the officers who died in the attack on the station twelve months prior.
So, Dixon started calling the numbers. Half of them were disconnected. When they weren’t he identified himself as part of the CIS and tried to find out if the person on the other end of the line was a supernatural. It was tricky because he couldn’t come right out with a straight forward question like “Hey, you wouldn’t happen to be Frankenstein’s monster or a werewolf, would you?” Most people were unaware of the supernatural aspects of the world and both the Captain and Sergeant Sanchez had made it clear to him that part of his job was to make sure they remained ignorant. In the end only two people admitted they were supernaturals and they insisted on meeting at Castlewood Park because it was considered neutral territory. Dixon had arrived an hour earlier, at two in the morning, and turned the lights of the baseball field on. From his spot in the dugout he had a brick wall to his back, a roof over his head, and a clear view of anyone walking toward him. He hoped this meeting would be polite, but he would have some warning if things went the other way.
The first to arrive was a pack of coyotes. They walked up cautiously, sniffing the air and looking in every direction before they loped through the open gate onto the infield. Then a single, huge black panther jumped over the outfield fence and all the coyotes save the biggest turned and yipped nervously. The big one kept his eyes trained on Dixon.
The panther walked toward the infield and as it did, it somehow transformed into a pudgy white guy of about sixty, with an old Hawaiian shirt on over honest-to-goodness corduroy pants. After the panther transformed, the big coyote changed into a skinny black man who looked to be about the same age. He said something to the other coyotes and they all ran back out the gate back into the darkness. He was dressed from head to toe in a bright blue nehru jacket and bell-bottomed pants, both covered with white paisley swirls. The men walked together to about ten feet in front of the dugout.
The black man spoke first. “We apologize for the terrible clothes. This was the height of fashion back when I agreed to get bit and join the pack and Harry over there got bit while he was mowing his lawn somewhere in deepest, darkest Appalachia.”
“Yeah,” Harry chipped in, grinning “being a bitten changer gives you a long life and great health, but every time you change back you have the same stupid clothes on that you did when you were first bit. At least I've got an excuse.” He hooked a thumb at thumb at the other man. “Marcus chose that.”
The two men grinned, obviously friends. Dixon stepped forward and shook their hands.
“I want to thank you gentlemen for coming to speak to me. I was given fifteen numbers to contact supernatural community leaders and your numbers were the only ones that were actually right. You're the only members of your community who I could get to meet with me.”
“Oh, I wouldn't say that.” Marcus smiled amiably. “My pack spotted at least twenty other people out there in the dark.” He leaned over to Harry. “By the way, we spotted Anna. You might want to talk to her. I had to snap pretty hard at a couple of the younger members of the pack to keep them from chasing.”
“Yeah, the young ones are always stupid. Like as not she was baiting them; she still feels invincible. Of all people, you’d think she would already understand the concept of a ‘pack.’ I’ll have a word with her, but we both know mine aren't as easy to keep in line as yours.” Both men nodded and their semi-private conversation ended.
“Anyway, Marcus and I,” Harry waved his hand at the darkness, “and all those good people out there, wanted to see Danger Dixon, the Survivor for ourselves.”
“I don't know who this Survivor guy is. I'm Corporal Dixon, assigned to patrol the Northside for the CIS. I just want to do my job and as far as I can tell I don't have any magical abilities outside of the things CIS has given me.”
Harry and Marcus exchanged a look and then Marcus spoke. “Corporal Dixon, we've all been watching you for the entire time you've been in the Park. From the moment you got here you've had a mazikeen trying to prank you. He's tried to trip you several times and he even tried to make the switch shock you when you turned on the lights. Every time, he's failed. He's tripped over his wings a couple times, flat out missed a couple more, and you saw the sparks on the line when you turned on the lights?” Dixon nodded. “Well, that was him shocking himself silly.”
Harry spoke up. “Marcus, he can't see the little booger.”
“Yeah, well, I can fix that. Demon, Spirit, whatever ye be, I call on ye to let us see. Three times I say it. Three times you hear. Appear. Appear. Appear.”
“Alright. Alright. He can see me now.” A four foot tall man with wings on his back and wearing a toga appeared. He spoke with one of those weird New York accents. “You two are spoilsports. All I wanted to do was one little thing. Something I could brag about back in Queens.”
“Wow.” Marcus said. “You came a long way to get yourself in serious trouble.”
“Trouble? For a little prank? I didn't do anything which would hurt him permanent.”
“This,” both men intoned at the same time, “is neutral territory.”
“Crap!” The little man was in the air in an instant and halfway through the outfield before a huge half-woman, half-vulture swooped down at him. He avoided her, but crashed into the ground doing it. Then a panther jumped over the back fence and coyotes started flooding through the gates. The little winged man jumped up and sprinted back toward Dixon.
“I surrender! I surrender! Take me to Purgatory.”
The Panther stopped at the edge of the infield and the bird-lady landed beside it. The coyotes pursued the man right up to pitcher's mound, when Marcus turned around and yelled at them to stop. They yipped a lot and one of the smaller ones started to come forward until a larger one nipped its tail. The winged man stood there and held his hands out in a way that indicated he wanted to be cuffed.
They all stared at Dixon for a minute and then the bird-lady cackled – actually cackled – and spoke in a screechy voice. “Unbelievable. Marcus, you were right. They assigned the Northside another incompetent. He doesn't even know the rules yet.”
Marcus kept facing his pack and motioned to Harry.
“Right, introductions all around then. The harpy is Sherry. The young panther is Anna. I can't really keep track of everybody in the pack, but I know the lady who snapped the young one back in line is Marcus' wife Eva.”
“The particular rule Sherry is talking about is that violation of neutral territory ends one of two ways. Either the transgressor goes to the Michaels or gets hunted until he is killed. You are the only one here who can take him to the Michaels. It's your choice.”
“Um, I'm pretty sure my boss wouldn't be happy if I let somebody get killed on my first week on the job. Murder is kind of considered a bad thing.” He motioned the man over and cuffed him. “Where's the nearest Catholic Church?”
Marcus waved at his pack and they trotted back out the gate into the dark. The panther took a couple quick steps and made a long jump back over the fence. The harpy transformed into a lady in her mid-forties in a gray power suit, who looked like she spent a lot of time keeping herself fit. She walked over to the others.
“I particularly liked the point where you two yahoos spoke in a menacing chorus telling this twit what he'd done.”
She turned to Dixon. “Is your name actually 'Danger' or is that something the fate stuck you with?”
“It's something my parents stuck me with. I'm Tavish Danger Dixon, but I go by Tavish, not Danger.”
“Okay, Danger it is then. You were stuck with it from the moment that prig Beatrice hung it on you. I just wanted to know if it was really your name or not. I'm Sherry Selliers and I guess you could say I run the Northside for our people – as much as anybody can.”
“Our people are all those who are not mundanes between Winchester Road, I-75, Old Franklin Pike, and into downtown to about 4th Street – just short of Transylvania College. We're the most ignored part of the city and your predecessor never made a single arrest. You planning to be much different?”
Dixon pointed to the man in handcuffs.
“Yeah. Well, we'll see, You didn't have much choice today. And I know the reason you were sent here. They don't want the Southside being mussed up when people start taking potshots at you. Who cares if the North gets blown to bits as long as the Southside stays pristine?”
“And what's all this about taking this idiot off to a Catholic church. You a Jesuit, or something? Most everybody you arrest around here's a Protestant. Why should they be handed over at a Catholic church? It's discrimination and I'll have none of it.” She pointed at Marcus. “Take him for example. Marcus, where does your family go to church?”
“Four members of my pack go to Saint Peter Claver, and I resent your assumption that because we're Black, we couldn't possibly be Catholics. Furthermore, young lady . . .”
Harry rolled his eyes at Dixon and motioned him off to the side. “Marcus is about the only one who'll argue with Sherry anymore. They can go on for hours. If you want to get out of here any time soon you'd best break in.”
By this time, Sherry was loudly talking about community synergy and Marcus was just as loudly telling her his people could get along without her limousine liberal meddling. They were standing face to face and neither showed the slightest inclination of backing away.
Dixon put on his best concerned cop face and walked over. “Maybe you two should separate a little and cool off.” The two looked at him and embarrassment crossed Marcus' face as he stepped back. Sherry's face started with a look of disdain and slowly composed itself into a blank expression. “That's better. I'm going to run this guy in and I guess I'll take him to North View Baptist, since it's a sensitive issue.” He took hold of the little man's arm and started to lead him away.
Sherry looked in his direction and leapt into the air, transforming mid-leap into her harpy form. “Next time, Danger, don't waste our time like this. Some of us have to be at work in a few hours.” Then she was gone.
From behind him Dixon heard Marcus utter, “Bitch” and Harry agreeing with him.