"So how did the girl escape?" Percival inspected the cord before him had been cut through, but messily; she had apparently used a small blade and sawed her way out. As the perpetrator would have ensured she was disarmed, this made the frayed cord interesting. He petted one of the two large wolves shadowing him. "Yeah, makes no sense." Otherwise, the scene was similar to others he had seen in the last month. A victim, apparently a teenager, had been flayed, possibly while alive, and placed on the altar. The gender of the victim changed each time, making predicting the victim difficult. The knife that had been used was missing from the scene, maybe taken by the perpetrator. He adjusted his glasses. He could hear the rest of the pack arriving; they would be here within minutes. He grabbed a half-dozen backpacks from his ATV and quickly laid them out; they would dress and guard the area until he returned. He climbed aboard his ATV and signaled to the large wolves to track down the smell of the girl. He gave them a few seconds and then gunned the vehicle. * * * * * A half-mile away, a girl clad in nothing but underwear ran through the woods, tears running down her cheeks. She had no idea where she was, and her fear and confusion wouldn't allow her to concentrate. All she knew was that somewhere behind her someone was chasing her and her survival depended on him not finding her. Jimmy, poor Jimmy, her boyfriend, had been sacrificed to some ancient god. She had been so scared that she hadn't listened to the incantation, but she had had bigger problems; if she couldn't escape she would have been next. The silver chain around her wrist had been her biggest problem; it prevented her from accessing the mana around her, and without that, she was practically defenseless. She had been almost drained of her personal stores; she had had just enough to grow out a single fingernail just enough to allow her to free herself. Now her woodcraft training was keeping her alive. She was following a creek; it would lead her to help eventually. She had at least the presence of mind to not try and cross it; her pursuer was too close behind her and would see any sediment disturbed by her passing. She soon saw a light from a cabin and ran towards it. A young man walked out and the two almost collided. She bounced off him and fell backward. He was shocked to see her and stepped back. Before he could react to her presence, the shaft of an arrow appeared in his chest. She looked in the direction the arrow came from but saw nothing. The sound of an ATV from her right drew her attention: She saw two huge wolves bounding towards her; the two wolves circled her and then stopped, facing the direction that the arrow had come from. Percival stopped the ATV and jumped off of it, running towards her. She broke down as he approached her. He grabbed her and talked into his walkie-talkie. "Found her. Send an ambulance. Two wounded." He holstered the walkie-talkie and crouched down to her. "You are under the protection of the Northern Stream Pack." She fainted. He noticed the silver chin and yanked it from her wrist. "Well, at least I can eliminate that problem." He looked at the young man in front of him. "This just got complicated. Guess I'm going to have to call her." * * * * * Sheriff Ann Thames was pouring herself a cup of joe when the call came in. "Elsbeth Sheriff's Office, Sheriff Thames." She smiled as she recognized the voice. "So you finally need my help, Percy?" She put the coffee down and slipped into her chair as her face drained of blood. "That's just sick." She looked for her pen. "Is the girl okay?" She grabbed her pen. "Okay, is the scene secured?" She looked upwards. Of course, it was. That pack was serious business. "Yeah, I know. You stay where you are; the ambulance will be there ASAP." She listened for another minute. "Got it. Will be talking to you in person shortly." She hung the phone up. She rose and grabbed her keys. Looks like we're working together. She almost ran to her SUV, propelled by the need. * * * * * Jena woke with a start, sweat on her brow. She felt as if something had not walked over her grave but had brought friends. She tied her long, red off with a thong and pulled herself out of her bed. She walked over to her table and her scrying bowl. She poured water into the copper bowl and waved a hand over it. She quickly checked over the coven's properties and other important places to make sure that no one had broken the coven's wards. One location had been cloaked, so she skipped over that to check the others. Only the one area had been cloaked. She consulted her calendar; sometimes the others in the coven cloaked areas so they could hold "private castings", but they were supposed to let the others know. There was no such annotation on the calendar, so she looked at the location a little closer. Not only had the area been darkened, but there appeared to be a small wisp that had separated from it and had traveled a good mile or two. Her eyes widened when she realized what the wisp was. This is the same as a few weeks ago! She grabbed her smartphone and unlocked it. In mere moments she was waiting for her mother to pick her up. The leader of the Seventeen Oaks of the Blackbriar would know what to do about this threat. * * * * * Percival had just returned. He had waited for the ambulance to pull up, administering to the young man as well as he could. When the girl and the young man had been taken away by the ambulance, he mounted the ATV and returned to the site. It was time to start the more formal part of the investigation. Four young men and two young women were on guard around the site; he grabbed his evidence kit. "Rogers, start taking pictures. Be thorough." A young man with a camera nodded and started taking pictures of everything. "Seamus, call in the coroner. May as well start that going." Another young man nodded and brought out his phone. "The rest of you be on guard, and we're being advised that we're expecting a guest. Leave her be." They nodded. The two wolves lay down next to the ATV. He looked at the body. The coven is going to hate this. He inspected the body for any obvious clues, followed by the few instruments left at the bloody scene. This guy was thorough; I bet we don't even find traces of his aura. He took out a measuring tape, adjusted his glasses, and started making notes on the scene. He hated that he was going to have to make use of the county's coroner, but they did at least have a decent medical examiner. Soon enough the sheriff's SUV was parking next to the ATV. The wolves lazily looked at the SUV and returned to their nap. Sheriff Ann dismounted and walked over to Percival. She gave the scene a hard look before removing her hat and offering a small prayer. She put her hat back on and turned towards Percival. "Percy. This is not how a college kid should be spending a beautiful fall night like this." "Sheriff. Agreed, but it does provide a needed break from the make-out sessions." Sheriff Ann smiled. "Guess I need to get my game on." She looked at the surroundings. "Found a silver bracelet yet?" He looked up. "On the girl." "And traces of sage, with sprigs of mistletoe, and maybe some yew leaves?" He looked at her, an eyebrow raised. "Yeah. A bundle was found near where the girl was found. She was tied to a tree with a linen cord." "Interesting." She looked around for a stick, found one a meter long, walked over to the body, and moved it just enough with the stick to look at the boy's back. "And I'll bet that the kidneys were removed before the skin was removed." She put the stick down. "The coroner is going to love this." Percival lowered his notebook. "You've seen something similar?" She looked at him. "We've had four murders with similar crime scenes. You?" "This is only our second." He put his notebook down. "I hate coincidences." "Looks like we not only have a serial killer, but one attacking both our communities." She paused as she looked at the body. "Any major astrological events I should know about? A confluence, or an eclipse maybe?" He pulled out his phone. "Let me consult the orrery." He started adjusting the dials on the display. She smiled. "Nice to see you guys adapting the technology to your needs." He didn't waste time on a glare. "Don't confuse me with my father." "Good man, your father." "Thanks." He sighed. "So there appears to be a small syzygy happening between some of the inner planets." "I'm guessing it's in about four days." He put his phone away. "Yeah, as a matter of fact. And you knew that how?" "As you should know, that's the freshman mixer." She smiled at him. "Got a date yet?" "Yeah, and I should have realized that. Major event and all that." "Like you said: I hate coincidences. Especially when major astronomical events happen at the same time as major local events." "True." He stood up. "So....working together on this?" "Sure. Should be fun." She put her hand out. He grabbed the proferred hand and shook it. "Yeah. Should be." He released her hand and opened up his notebook. "So, I guess we're comparing notes while we wait for the coroner." "Like I said: Fun."