Dupin: Why weren't we invited to this emergency meeting?
Jewell: You know how much I hate rhetorical questions.
Dupin: It's not rhetorical, dear. I'm on the high council. Why was I "forgotten"?
Jewell: Then it's a disingenuous question with an obvious answer.
Dupin: We were deliberately left off the contact list.
Jewell: Also obvious.
Dupin: No, it's obvious why they're cutting *you* out of the emergency meetings. This kaffeeklatch has everything to do with Ishmael, and you're responsible for his being in Wyrd in the first place.
Jewell: You would have done the same in my place.
Dupin: No, dearest. I would have found some far foreign jungle where he could live out his days in secrecy and plenty, far from the reach of Wyrd. The island of Sumatra, for an example.
Jewell: For shame, my heart.
Dupin: I wouldn't have tried to foist him on Chairman Haberman, especially not in direct violation of Wyrd orders. You should have realized Wyrd would never accept him.
Jewell: A cat in the pack?
Dupin: Cat, bear, hyena - whatever. He's an anomaly. A deviant from our so-called noble birthright as pure-blooded werewolves, if you take a page from Ahab's tome.
Jewell: And that's precisely why I did it. I am an agent of chaos.
Jewell: An unapologetic one at that, especially in light of the lives that he's saved in return.
Jewell: Well, except for the Moldova Incident, of course.
Dupin: Wait, you don't think he would actually do something like that, would you?
Dupin: Kill every one of those poor bastards?
Jewell: Surely he killed one or two of them. I know, because I saw with my own eyes the vital organs he brought back with him. I was the one supervising the chain of evidence until Burton had concluded his DNA analysis. And I don't care much damage from which you or I can recover, one must still have a brain to initiate a lycanthropic cycle.
Dupin: But he didn't kill all of them.
Jewell: Far from it. It's not in his nature.
Jewell: That's why he's the perfect Wyrd agent.
Jewell: He's more animal than man.
Dupin: What, because of his six-day cycle?
Jewell: He never kills out of sport or pleasure. For that matter, he never kills what he can use later.
Dupin: And here I was thinking he did it out of the kindness of his heart.
Jewell: He was doing it out of the kindness of his pocketbook. Why kill, when you can civilize, train, and employ for your own purposes?
Dupin: You think this is what this is about? Do you think they've figured out how he's fleeced the entire council for his own profit?
Jewell: A precipitating factor, yes.
Dupin: But not the only factor.
Jewell: Scenario one: Chairman Haberman explains to the Council that my boy has saved a small village of lycanthropes and turned them into a local economic powerhouse. Outcome: the Wyrd Council laughs in Ahab's face, claps their greedy hands together and says to Ishmael, "How wonderful! Return to Moldova and send us a substantial cut of your profits, as you do here in North America. And remain there in exile, you stinking, ugly kitty cat, and take the rest of the anomalies with you. We love you, send money. Sincerely, Wyrd."
Jewell: Honestly, darling, why kill the golden goose when you can lock him in the barn?
Jewell: Scenario two: Haberman explains to the council that my boy has saved a small village of lycanthropes and has let them gallivant abroad unsupervised. Outcome: I present financial records to prove Ishmael's good works. And yes, dear, I'm quite aware of all that's passed at Moldova. He told me before he told you.
Dupin: So you tell them you've known all along what Ishmael's been up to, and they hang you alongside him.
Jewell: Oh never hang, sweetheart. You know Wyrd prefers to drown its convicts.
Dupin: I stand corrected. But even if they let him live in exile abroad, they won't take kindly to you withholding so much information.
Dupin: It's bad enough that I've been withholding the same...
Jewell: Fear not for me, my love. The last time they left me out of a Council meeting, I disappeared for the better part of the Korean and Vietnam Wars. I have no fear for my own safety.
Dupin: And if I recall, you returned only two weeks after Ezra Grantham and Chairman Potter were discovered dead, decapitated, and displayed in a most compromising position.
Jewell: I proudly plead the fifth.
Jewell: The point is, Ahab is just as much a capitalist as my boy is.
Jewell: Ishmael the Cat offends Ahab's obsession with blood purity, yes.
Jewell: Ishmael the Man is an affront to Ahab's stubborn belief in his own racial superiority, yes.
Jewell: But that man-cat is also the single biggest income generator that Wyrd has ever seen, and Ahab will not let millions of dollars of income slip away so easily.
Dupin: So what are they doing? It's the not-knowing that's putting me in an early grave.
Jewell: Oh, you young chick. Embrace the futility of all things, and you might survive to my ripe old age.
Dupin: I don't want to live to your ripe old age.
Dupin: This is all coming completely out of the blue.
Jewell: Hardly. There has been quite a bit of planning and coordination involved.
Dupin: Otherwise we would have known about it before now.
Jewell: *Ishmael* would have known about it before now.
Dupin: Let me ask a less obvious question then.
Jewell: Ask away.
Dupin: After Ishmael, who? Ishmael commits the sin of saving lives, and now look at the state he's in. After him, kitten-hearted boy that he is, who's next?
Jewell: We should ask all those who were not summoned to this emergency meeting.
Dupin: So, you, definitely.
Jewell: I may have been left out simply because I'm Ishmael's foster-father, and if it were in my power to help him escape Wyrd "justice", I would. But if I am implicated in whatever has gotten my boy into trouble, then I am guilty by association, and must be punished.
Dupin: And after you, then it's my turn?
Jewell: You have been Ishmael's outspoken supporter from time to time as well.
Jewell: More to the point: you were the only one at the Council table who had been horrified by Ishmael's supposed actions in Moldova. Your "weakness" did not go unremarked. Terribly human of you, little wolf-child.
Jewell: My sweet, I must train you in the art of the poker face. Your pallor will be the death of you yet.
Dupin: And after me? The Moldovan enclave?
Jewell: Perhaps, perhaps not. If Ishmael had not intervened - if he had left them behind as an unprofitable rabble - yes, they would send Jay to finish the job he had begun. But now? It's hard to say.
Dupin: And then Bridget.
Jewell: That remains to be seen.
Dupin: She's another anomaly. She's a hyena-type.
Jewell: She's also at the Council table right now.
Jewell: Furthermore, she's a good soldier at heart. Give her an order, and she simply obeys it. She is loyal to a fault. She will kill on blind faith, if that's what the Council decreed.
Jewell: Kill her? No. Manipulate her? Use her? Absolutely yes.
Dupin: Yes, because if anyone has the skills, speed, and strength to subdue someone like your boy, it's Jay and it's Bridget.
Jewell: Jay is also at the table.
Dupin: So aside from you and I, is there anyone else missing from this emergency session?
Jewell: Time will tell. The smart ones will smell smoke and run from fire. I won't ask why they're running. A response will give away their position.
Dupin: All right, oh wise one, tell me this...
Dupin: Did *you* see this coming?
Jewell: I'm a doddering old man, not a fortune teller.
Dupin: Did you?
Jewell: Not like this.
Jewell: Not so after so many years.
Jewell: There is something very perplexing at play here.
Dupin: Ahab's always been unapologetic about his policies about purity of the bloodline, and all that. Every three years he comes up with some new scheme to cleanse Wyrd of the unusuals so that the purebloods can romp among their own kind.
Jewell: And every three years, I remind him how much money Ishmael has made for us in the last previous six months.
Jewell: And besides, why wait thirty years before expunging my boy from our ranks?
Jewell: For that matter, why promote a Deep South Black woman in Ishmael's role, when milk-skinned Jay Brandywine would better suit Ahab's fancy? No, Ahab never lets his racist inclinations influence his Machiavellian leadership style.
Jewell: Ahab believes that for every race - and every therianthropic subspecies - there is an exception that proves the rule, and when he finds that exceptional individual, he wrings the very talent from them for as long as it profits his own personal aims. And Ishmael has many decades of profitability ahead, if they simply let him be.
Dupin: So why is Ahab going after Ishmael?!
Jewell: That's the wrong question, my dear.
Jewell: The real question should be: Is Ahab going after Ishmael?
Dupin: Well, regardless, we have to find out what's going on.
Jewell: Not necessarily.
Dupin: We need to know if we're at risk.
Jewell: We were not invited to an emergency meeting of the Wyrd Council, though members from as far as South Africa and Australia flew in to attend. If they thought the flight was too much for us old fogeys, surely they could have invited us to a conference call.
Dupin: So we are in danger.
Jewell: They don't want us to know what's happening with Ishmael, which means they don't trust us, not where Ishmael is concerned. Are we in danger? I'm not sure. It depends on what trouble Ishmael is in.
Dupin: So we need to know what kind of risks we face, and why.
Jewell: Not really. Lying low, playing innocent, waiting for this to blow over, that's what we need to do.
Dupin: And Ishmael?
Jewell: He's all right on his own.
Dupin: So you don't care.
Jewell: No. I have an unshakeable faith in his ability to survive, especially when he's alone.
Dupin: Listen. Ishmael is the first to fall. If they can suddenly, and secretly, demote their best field operations manager, who else can they dethrone without trial? And now the Wyrd Council is shutting out two of its longest-lived members, one of whom is on the executive board. Who knows who follows. Something is happening to Wyrd, my friend.
Dupin: Shouldn't that worry you?
Dupin: Wyrd was once a tight-knit clan of thrifty, stealthy, kindred spirits. Now look at us. Sprawling. Bureaucratic. Back-biting. It's falling apart at the seams.
Dupin: And once there is no Wyrd, after centuries of secrecy and relatively peaceful coexistence, who will stand between us and the rest of human kind?
Dupin: Who will stand between people like the victims of Dr. Grey and say...I don't know...American military science?
Dupin: There was a time even you believed in what Wyrd was doing.
Dupin: There was a time when Wyrd changed its own constitution to do what you believed was right.
Jewell: We are not without our resources.
Dupin: Yes I know. Money, space, fake identities, the mines, I know.
Jewell: I'm referring to our other agents of chaos.
Dupin: ...Those two humans you've been spying on.
Dupin: ...You think we can trust them?
Dupin: Or rather, do you think they'll trust us?
Jewell: I'm certain we can argue an effective case, proving that cooperation is in our mutual best interest.
Dupin: So what do we do?
Jewell is typing...