The black SUV rolled to a stop beside the silver Airstream trailer, its bulky shape indistinct in the dim light from the moon overhead. Two black-clad figures stepped out of the vehicle and moved silently toward the trailer.
"Doesn't look like much," the man said.
His companion huffed impatiently. "What would you like it to look like?" she asked.
"I don't know, Myka," he said, shrugging. "This is Portland; I was kinda hoping we'd find the artifact in a coffee shop."
Myka Bering chuckled as she set about picking the lock. Only her partner would expect to find a mind-altering artifact in a coffee house.
Pete Lattimer leaned casually against the trailer, looking for all the world as if he were just standing there waiting for a friend. But underneath that casual exterior, she knew he was alert to any sound that might mean the owner was on his way back. They didn't often break and enter to retrieve artifacts; it was so much easier when they could simply talk the artifact out of the hands of their owners.
But tonight they'd decided that stealth and deception were the better choice. They'd been following the various people involved in this case for the better part of a day, and had come to the conclusion that it was better for everyone if the coins simply disappeared.
The soft click of the lock releasing echoed loud in the deserted storage lot. Myka pulled the door open as she put away her lock picks and pulled her Tesla, seeing Pete standing by, his gun already in his hand. He nodded at her, and she stepped up into the darkened trailer, sweeping around the small space.
"Clear," she called out quietly.
Pete followed her into the trailer as she tucked the Tesla away. "So, what exactly are we looking for again?"
"Artie said there are three half-dollar sized coins, and they're probably inside a lead-lined box, about the size of a cigar box," she explained. He'd spent their briefing spinning in Artie's desk chair, making himself dizzy. It was no wonder he couldn't remember.
To be honest, Myka wanted to find the damned things and get out of town as soon as possible. Between Artie's research and what they'd seen people do while in possession of the coins, she could see how dangerous they truly were. Whatever magic power the Coins of Zakynthos had been embued with, they made their owner irresistible, endowing them with a charisma and dynamic power that made people want to follow them, no matter where. That kind of power had started wars, and the sooner the coins were off the street, the better.
Myka flipped a switch next to the door, illuminating the room in a soft glow. There wasn't much to see: a desk, a bed, and a couple of large cabinets, plus stacks and stacks of books and papers strewn about. If there was any organization to it, she wasn't seeing it. She walked over to the desk, pulling on a pair of purple latex gloves as she went. She searched the drawers as Pete opened the large armoire, his own purple gloves standing out against the dark wood of the cabinet. She didn't find what she was looking for, but she hadn't expected to, not in the first place she'd looked.
"Hey, Mikes, look at this," Pete called over.
She looked up, squinting through the low light to find Pete swinging a studded, bat-like weapon through the air as if he were swinging for the fences.
"It looks… medieval," she said.
She glanced over his shoulder, her eyes widening at the sight. The cabinet held weapons that she'd have expected to see in a reenactment of a jousting tournament. Swords, crossbows, even a mace.
"Yeah, well, whatever this guy's into, looks like he's ready."
Myka returned her attention to the desk, lifting a stack of really old papers to see what was underneath. There was a heavy book underneath, leather-bound like the rest of the books in the trailer. She flipped it open, surprise rippling through her at what she saw.
"Maybe this has something to do with it," she said.
Pete moved behind her, leaning over her shoulder for a better look. He gave a low whistle. The page she'd opened to held a sketch of some sort of creature you might expect to find in your nightmares. "Damn. Wouldn't want to meet him in a dark alley."
A small creak froze both of them where they stood. Moving swiftly, Myka drew her Tesla in one smooth move, catching Pete pulling his gun out of the corner of her eye. Standing near the door, holding a gun on them, was a dark-haired man in his thirties. She caught a flash of metal at his waist, and realized that he must be a cop.
"Put your weapons down," he said, never wavering, despite the strange weapon she was pointing at him.
"Officer," Myka said, cutting a glance at Pete to see if he'd noticed the same thing. A slight nod from him told her that he'd seen it too. "This isn't what it looks like."
Except that it was exactly what it looked like. She winced, knowing the cop had every right to shoot first and ask questions later.
"From where I'm standing, it looks like you're breaking and entering," the cop shot back.
She had to give him credit. He was pretty calm for a guy who'd just found two strangers riffling through his stuff.
"Look," Pete said, trying out his most charming smile. "We're just looking for something that doesn't belong here. If you help us find it, we'll just take it and be on our way."
The cop shook his head. "You should leave. Now. I don't want to shoot you, but I will if I have to."
Pete and Myka exchanged glances. She could see the determination in the cop's eyes. He wasn't going to give the coins up without a fight. She hoped he wasn't under the influence. This would go a lot easier if he wasn't fighting them.
"We can't do that," Myka said.
The Farnsworth chose that moment to buzz in Pete's pocket.
"Your pocket's buzzing," the cop observed.
"Yeah," Pete said, heaving a sigh.
"You going to answer it?"
"You going to shoot me if I do?"
The cop appeared to think it over for a moment before shaking his head. "Slowly."
Pete held up his free hand, palm out in a placating gesture, his gun never wavering from its target. Slowly, he reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out the communication device, flipping the lid open.
"Pete," Artie barked. "Do you have them yet?"
"Ah, that would be a 'no'," Pete said, warily glancing up at the cop holding them at gunpoint, then back at Artie's slightly distorted face.
"What's the matter?" Artie said.
Myka leaned over, keeping one eye on the cop and the other on Artie. "We've run into a slight problem."
Artie sighed, closing his eyes and rubbing at his forehead. "Is he about five-eleven with Justin Bieber hair?"
"Justin Bieber?" Pete and the cop asked at the same time, though the cop sounded slightly more outraged.
"What? You don’t think I know who Justin Bieber is?" Artie asked. Myka covered a smirk. "Nevermind. Don't answer that. His name's Nick Burkhardt. He's a Grimm."
"A Grimm?" Myka asked. She flicked her gaze back to the cop—Nick. His eyes had gone wide, probably because not only did Artie know his name, he knew more than he was strictly supposed to. The Grimm thing was probably some big secret. "I thought he was a cop."
"He is a cop," Artie said. "And a Grimm."
Pete frowned. "What's a Grimm?"
"He can see things other people can't," Artie said.
"Like what?" Pete asked suspiciously.
"Like things you don't want to know about," Artie said repressively. "Look, he's not under the influence; the coins don't affect him. Just—explain what you have to, but get those coins."
The Farnsworth abruptly cut off. Myka and Pete shared a look, then both turned to look at Nick.
"What are you going to explain to me?"
"Can we do it without the guns?" Pete asked as he slowly tucked the Farnsworth back into his jacket pocket.
Nick appeared to consider it for a moment before lowering his gun. Pete glanced at Myka, who gave a quick nod. They both lowered their weapons, then all three slowly holstered them at the same time. Nick stood with his hands on his hips, his gun within easy reach as he waited for their next move.
Silence hung in the air as the three of them stared at each other. It seemed as though no one wanted to be the first to break. Nick wasn't intimidated she noticed, just standing there, waiting for them to explain. She had to admire him for that. Usually, when people were faced with two Secret Service Agents with a strange-looking weapon, they gave up whatever they had to in order to get rid of them. Not this guy. Of course, they hadn't exactly identified themselves, either.
"Okay," Myka said, exhaling. She pulled her badge off her belt and showed it to the cop before replacing it. "My name's Myka Bering, and this is my partner Pete Lattimer. We're with the Secret Service."
"What does the Secret Service want with my trailer?" Nick asked.
"Well, we're not exactly with the Secret Service," Pete said.
"But you just said—" Nick said, frowning at them.
Myka elbowed Pete. "What he means is, we're representatives of a group that regulates unusual artifacts. We retrieve them and store them so they won't harm anyone else."
"You're after the coins."
Myka watched carefully, but if they were hidden anywhere in the trailer, he didn't give it away. "You must know you can't keep them here. People are going to keep coming after them, and you can't stop them. Let us take the coins with us. We promise they'll be safe."
"Where will you take them?" Nick asked.
"There's this place," Pete said, "a warehouse where we keep stuff like this. Artie likes to call it America's Attic."
"I thought that was the Smithsonian." Pete grinned while Myka simply rolled her eyes. Nick smiled. "Guess you've heard that one before."
Silence fell over the group once again. Myka began to wonder if they were going to have to leave and come back for the coins later. Providing Nick didn't move them after they'd gone.
"I can't give them to you," Nick finally said; his voice seemed heavier somehow, and tinged with sadness. "If you know what they are, then you know what they're capable of doing to you. Your friend was right: I'm immune to their effects. But if you touch them, you'll fall under their spell."
"Ah," Pete said, his grin growing. "But that's why we have this."
He reached behind him, tugging the neutralizing bag out of his back pocket.
"It looks like a lead-lined evidence bag," Nick observed.
"It's actually lined with a substance that neutralizes the artifacts," Myka explained. "So are the gloves, so we never actually have to touch the artifact."
"And you won't be affected by the coins as long as they're in that bag?"
"No," Myka said, trying to assure him in the only way she knew how, by being honest. It was more than what they gave most of their targets, but Nick being a cop meant he wasn't just going to give up the coins to them without knowing they'd be safe.
"Where is this warehouse?" he asked.
"Um," Pete said, glancing at Myka before looking back to Nick. "It's—"
"Pete," Myka said, a warning note in her tone. Too much information was never a good thing, not in their line of work.
"—not here," Pete finished lamely.
Nick raised an eyebrow. Myka spoke up before he could say anything more. "We can't tell you where it is." When he opened his mouth to speak, she held up a hand. "We're not trying to be difficult, but it's better that you don't know. We promise the coins will be safe."
Nick appeared to debate with himself for the space of a few heartbeats. Finally, his shoulders relaxed. "If you think you can protect them better than I can, I'll turn them over to you. After what I've seen the last week, these things need to be as far from civilization as possible."
"That we can guarantee you," Pete said.
Nick nodded, then crossed the small trailer and reached into the open cabinet where all the medieval toys were stored. Pete and Myka edged around the desk to join him. He pulled a large case out and handed it to Pete, then reached all the way into the back.
"What's in here?" Pete asked, turning the case over and popping the lid open. His eyes went wide.
"It's an elephant gun," Nick said, his voice muffled by the cabinet.
"Shoot many elephants?" Pete asked.
Nick stood up, holding the small, lead-lined box Artie had told them about. "No, but a friend of mine shot a siegbarste with it."
"Kinda like the giant from Jack and the Beanstalk: big, dumb and hard to kill," Nick said, shrugging. He waggled the box. "So…"
"Oh, right," Pete said. He locked up the gun and leaned the case against the cabinet. Shaking open the bag, he held it out. "You'll want to stand back when you do this."
Nick looked at them skeptically, but obediently edged back just a bit. He held the box over the opening, meeting Pete's eyes. Pete nodded his head, and Nick nodded back. He let go of the box, then jumped back when sparks shot out from inside. Pete and Myka both turned away, instinctively protecting their faces until the sparking stopped.
When Myka turned around, Nick was frowning at the bag. "Does it always do that?"
"Pretty much," Pete said. He sealed the bag, hefting it in his hand. "Thanks, by the way."
Nick shrugged. "It's probably for the best anyway. If I don't know where you've taken them, I won't have to lie about not knowing where they are."
"Who else knows you have them?" Myka asked.
Nick sighed. "My parents were killed by four men trying to get the coins. At least one of them is dead, but I don't know about the other three. And then there's Farley Kolt, my aunt's ex-fiancé. I took them from him tonight, but I expect him to come after me again in order to get them."
"Are you going to be okay?" Myka asked.
"Yeah," Nick said, letting out a long breath. "Being a Grimm hasn't been easy, but I'm getting the hang of it."
"Well, we'd better get this back to the warehouse," Pete said. "It was… nice meeting you."
"You too," Nick said, chuckling.
The two men shook hands, then Nick shook Myka's hand. She reached into her jacket pocket and pulled out a card. "If you ever come across anything else, give us a call."
"Will do," Nick said, nodding. "Be careful with those. It doesn't take much for them to get ahold of you."
"We will," Pete said, all business now. "Take care."
Nick nodded. Myka followed Pete out of the trailer, peeling her gloves off and tucking them into her pocket as she went. She looked back as she climbed into the SUV, seeing Nick framed in the open door of the trailer.
"Think he'll be okay?" Pete asked.
Myka sighed. "I hope so."
If what Artie had said was true, then anyone who'd ever been exposed to the coins would be obsessed with getting them back. They were like a drug, and no amount of time would be able to break the addiction. They couldn't even guarantee that the neutralizing gel would put an end to it. And Nick, as the last person to have the coins, would be the one they'd all come after. She had no idea what a Grimm was; she only hoped he was good enough to survive.
For the first time since she'd taken this job, she felt like she was abandoning someone to their fate, and it didn't sit well.
There were days when she could walk away and never think about the people touched by artifacts. This wasn't going to be one of them. She had a feeling she'd remember Nick Burkhardt for the rest of her life.