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You See, But You Do Not Observe

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Prologue

As Nick led the man away, still apparently morphed into a bat-like creature to Monroe’s eyes, Monroe couldn’t help the swell of pride that bloomed inside of him. He tamped it down with vicious insistence, but it persisted. There was his baby Grimm, the naïve man who honestly thought silver bullets were needed to kill a blutbad and mispronounced creatures’ names on such a regular basis that Monroe had thought he was doing it on purpose, all grown up and taking down bad guys without him. A part of him twitched at the thought of being proud that a Grimm was growing into his namesake, but over the past year, the doubt Monroe originally felt had faded—this guy really was different.

He just didn’t know how different.

The Story: Chapter One

“Are you sure he’s gone?” Nick asked for the third time as they crept around the house.

Monroe rolled his eyes in exasperation. “Positive. I was watching the house the whole time and he left an hour ago.”

With a nod, Nick performed some magic that Monroe was fairly sure was called “breaking and entering” in mundane circles, and the door swung open with a creak. The inside was dark, the streetlights just enough to illuminate the shadowy outlines of furniture and knick-knacks. Nick suspected the man who owned the house of being responsible for the rash of drownings nearby and had naturally dragged Monroe into it through means of persuasion that may or may not have involved a particularly good year of Sauvignon Blanc. He was about to ask Nick when said wine would be delivered when the man suddenly tensed, drawing his weapon and looking around, alarmed.

“What?” Monroe asked peevishly. “I told you the guy left.”

“What about the person sleeping on the couch?”

Monroe barely had time to ask where on earth Nick had gotten that from when they heard a wet squelching sound from behind and whirled just in time to see a scaly blue face with rows of razor-blade teeth coming toward them. Monroe ducked while Nick dodged, the creature landing on the floor in an undignified puddle. Nick jumped, pinning it to the ground with one knee firmly between its shoulder-blades and his gun pointed steadily at its neck. The creature immediately stilled.

“Grimm,” it said in a voice that sounded like a river-rock being pulled from the mud.

“Who are you?” Nick demanded in a cool voice.

“Light a candle by the sea and sacrifice your ale, we will leave you be, and you will live to tell the tale,” the creature said cryptically.

Nick’s face was baffled. He turned an inquisitive look to Monroe, who shrugged.

“Old school,” Monroe suggested. “They sometimes talk in rhymes.”

“We sing in riddles and talk in rhyme,” the creature said in the same sickening voice, “As has been our custom since the dawn of time.”

“Here’s a riddle for you,” Nick said, hauling the creature up, “What’s big, blue, and about to go to jail?”

“Clever,” Monroe said dryly.

“My brother and I are not the ones for which you seek,” the creature said in warning.

Nick frowned. “The murders last week?”

“Oh, don’t you start,” Monroe groaned.

The creature and Nick ignored him. “He lurks within the deep, a cousin of my kind. Look under the waves for what you wish to find.”

To Monroe’s amazement, Nick released his grip on the creature’s arm and holstered his weapon. He stared at the creature evenly and said in a calm voice, “I’ll be watching you. If I find out you or your brother is responsible…”

He trailed off and Monroe had to fight back his natural impulse to the threat. As they walked out of the house, something pinged in Monroe’s mind.

“How did you know someone else was in the house?”

Nick shrugged. “It was pretty obvious.”

Monroe looked at him doubtfully. “Right.”

Chapter 2

Nick glanced up at Hank as he walked in through the door and hid his grin.

“Have a good time last night?”

Hank sat down, a secretive smile on his face. “Pretty good. Watched the game, had some dinner.”

“Oh, yeah? You often go to La Monde Petit for dinner by yourself?”

Hank groaned, leaning back in his chair and giving him an accusatory look. “I’m glad you’re back to normal, man, but seriously? You gotta do this?”

“I can’t help it,” Nick shrugged. “So did your blonde beauty likes dancing, I take it?”

Hank laughed. “Okay, I’ll bite. How’d you know?”

Nick pointed to his brown bag. “You usually buy lunch, but you brought a bagged one today, which means that you went out to eat somewhere expensive last night. The fact you went somewhere expensive means that you had a date, which means you wanted to impress her—the only place you could get on short notice would be La Monde Petit. I know she’s blonde because,” Nick plucked a hair off of Hank’s jacket and held it up, “of this. You were limping slightly when you walked in and sat down immediately, which means that you either took her jogging or went dancing.”

Hank shook his head in amazement. “How’d you know she was beautiful?”

“That was the easy part—you don’t settle for anything less,” Nick said with a grin.

“You know that’s right,” Hank said smugly. He held up his case file. “I hope you saved some of those spooky skills of yours for today. We’ve got a new body.”

“Let’s go check it out,” Nick said, grabbing his jacket.

Chapter 3

“Hank and I went to another crime scene today,” Nick said as he sipped his beer. Monroe didn’t look up from his clock, but made a questioning noise. Nick continued, “A man, forty-three years old, drowned. Everyone who knew him said he was a strong swimmer. I just feel like I’m missing something.”

“Mmm,” Monroe said, fiddling with a reluctant gear. “You sure it’s not our big blue friend who tried to attack us?”

“I’m not a hundred percent positive his brother isn’t behind it, but he was definitely telling the truth.”

“You can’t possibly know that,” Monroe said crossly.

“Yes, I can,” Nick said.

“No, you can’t,” Monroe said patiently. “People like me and him lie every single day to hide who we are—it’s our entire lives. We’re pretty good at it.”

“And I'm good at telling when people are lying,” Nick said stubbornly.

“Fine. I skipped pilates today. Am I telling the truth or lying?”

“Lying.”

Monroe eyed him suspiciously. “I called my mother today.”

“Truth.”

“And had oatmeal for breakfast.”

“Lying.”

“I fixed three clocks before you came over," Monroe said, a tad desperately.

“Two,” Nick corrected him.

Monroe stared at him. “How the hell—are your Grimm superpowers kicking in? What number am I thinking of right now?”

“How should I know?” Nick said, puzzled. “I can’t read minds.”

“There’s no way you could have gotten all that without like, telepathy or Grimm-pathy or something. And the other night, you knew someone had been sleeping on the couch before we saw him. Seriously, maybe this is like Superman, where your powers come in gradually and—“

“It is not like Superman,” Nick insisted. “I just can read people really well, and I notice stuff.”

“Notice stuff like calling my mother when you weren’t here? What else do you know with your demon powers?”

“They’re not—oh for goodness’ sake,” Nick sighed. “Forget it. I need your help. I wanted to see if you could sniff anything weird out at the crime scene.”

“Fine, but you keep your creepy powers out of my head.”

Chapter 4

“So how long have you had this advantage and not told me?” Monroe said as he drove the car out to the scene.

Nick sighed in frustration from beside him, but had given up ten minutes ago on convincing Monroe that he hadn’t made a pact with the devil or somehow grown into some super-special-secret Grimm powers. He tried again, “I’ve always been able to do this.”

“Aha!” Monroe said triumphantly. “You’re lying. You’ve never done this creepy mind-reading thing before.”

“I never knew what I was looking for before,” Nick said patiently. “Even you’ve said I’ve gotten better at the creature stuff.”

Monroe hunched low in his seat. “Whatever. I still don’t believe you.”

“Yeah, I figured you wouldn’t. Turn right here.”

They pulled into a dimly lit parking lot abutting the lake. The wind was stirring soft ripples across the surface, the moon’s reflections adding silver threads to the crests of the waves. It was pleasantly cool, enough that Nick felt thankful for his light jacket, and the air felt damp and humid around them. It sank in more than the light breeze, sending a shiver down his spine. He glanced around as Monroe walked behind him, still babbling something about game shows and Vegas and making a fortune. He ignored him.

“I still can’t read minds,” Nick said, not really expecting it to make a difference, but figuring if maybe he could say it enough, Monroe would believe him.

Monroe snorted. “Whatever, Professor Xavier.”

“I need you to tell me what you smell.”

“Rotting fish, old cigarettes, McDonald’s—did you know the McRib is back? I miss those—your Old Spice body wash, seriously, did you use the entire bottle?”

“Anything unusual,” Nick clarified.

“Fine,” Monroe said, miffed. He took another exploratory whiff of the air. “I can’t really tell with the water so close. It mostly just smells like – wait, there is something kind of weird. I can’t quite tell but it’s sweet, reminds me of spring somehow…”

“Like hay?”

Monroe stared at him. “You’re doing it again,” he said, backing away slowly. He put his hands up, fingers in the shape of a cross. “Get back!”

Nick slapped his hands down. “Will you quit it?” He nodded toward the ground. “There’s some hay on the ground over there.”

Monroe looked to where he was pointing and said, “Oh.”

Nick was about to lean over to pick it up when Monroe grabbed his shirt and pulled him back. “How can someone who reads minds be so stupid?”

“Still can’t read minds, and I’m not stupid.”

“Oh, sure, says the man who was about to lean over by the water where people have drowned mysteriously. That sounds smart. Can you tell what I’m thinking right now?”

“That I’m an idiot?”

“I’m giving you that one because duh.”

Nick gave him a look that could have curdled milk. “Did you get anything else?”

“Just that. Water really isn’t my thing,” Monroe said with a helpless shrug. “It screws with scents and really has powers beyond that. It’s kind of a creature thing, very ‘four elements’ type thing. Whatever this thing is, I’m guessing it’s very old.”

“Didn’t the blue guy say that whatever is killing around here is its cousin?” Nick asked.

Monroe thought back, nodding. “Yeah. What are you thinking?”

Nick picked up a piece of damp hay between his fingers and stared at it speculatively. “I’m thinking it’s time to hit the books.”

Chapter 5

“You know, by ‘hit the books’, I kind of assumed you meant read. Silly me,” Monroe commented.

“I can’t look it up if I don’t know what I’m supposed to be looking for,” Nick pointed out. He rang the doorbell again. It opened to reveal a plain-looking man with watery blue eyes and a flattened nose, like a boxer past his prime. When he caught sight of Nick, his eyes widened and he tried to slam the door shut. Nick’s foot caught it before it closed and he forced the door open wider with his hands.

“I’m not here to hurt you,” he said. “I just need you to answer some questions.”

“Let him in,” he heard another voice behind the man say. The first looked over his shoulder before reluctantly opening the door and allowing Nick and Monroe to enter. The two brothers eyed them warily, faces shifting into the blue-scaled creatures Nick had seen the night before.

“Thank you,” he said politely, and could almost hear Monroe rolling his eyes behind him. “I’m trying to find who’s behind this. You said that you knew.”

The one who had attacked them before let out a wet laugh.

“We who live in water-dark caves know who is behind the deaths by the waves.”

“Do you talk like this in ordinary life?” Monroe interrupted. “Because that could get tedious.”

Nick nudged him hard in the ribs with his elbow.

“Can you tell me what I’m looking for?”

The brothers glanced at each other, their eyes growing narrow. One of them smiled, not pleasantly, and Nick suppressed a shiver. “We’ll give you three hints, little Grimm. If you guess them, then you will find him.”

“Fine,” Nick said shortly. “What are the hints?”

“Sand touched by the sky, water, and ice becomes a treasure hunter’s prize.”

“Sand touched by the sky,” Nick repeated softly. “The sky doesn’t—lightning. Sand hit by lightning turns into glass. Touched by water and ice, frosted glass… sea glass.”

The creatures hissed in displeasure.

“An easy one for our young knight, but see if you can get the next one right.”

“Bring it,” Monroe said confidently. “He has magical powers.”

“The sign of new life, the heart of Eire, the color of envy’s stare.”

“Easy,” Nick said. “The color of jealousy is green. So green.”

“The final one will lead you to the answer, if you can guess, anthroposomancer: neck clad with thunder and feet made of steel, riding the winds of Earth’s turning wheel.”

Nick thought it over before nodding slowly. “Thanks.”

The creatures made a ch-ch-ch sound low in their throats, like rain tapping against leaves. Nick nodded toward Monroe and they headed for the door.

“Well, that was cryptic,” said Nick as they left the house.

“Oh, really,” Monroe said. “The creatures who speak in bad Dr. Seuss poetry and like riddles gave you a cryptic answer? I’m shocked. Really, look at my face, this is my shocked face.”

“Doesn’t matter,” Nick said cheerfully. “We got what we needed to know.”

Monroe looked at him skeptically. “Oh yeah? You Grimm something back there, Obi-Wan?”

“You really need to let that go,” Nick said seriously.

“I will when you stop using your spooky powers on people.”

Nick let that one pass. “It’s a kelpie.”

“A kelpie? Seriously? Those are—wait, how did you get that?”

“Their TV was on,” Nick said casually. He kept walking, leaving Monroe standing on the sidewalk as he puzzled it out.

“Oh, well, of course, now I understand everything!” Monroe shouted. Jogging to catch up with him, he muttered, “Talk about cryptic.”

Chapter 6

By the time they made it to the lakefront, it was dark and an ominous fog had rolled in from the water. The lot was deserted, as if even ordinary people somehow sensed the intrinsic wrongness of the place. Nick and Monroe proceeded cautiously, walking in single file toward the water.

“What’s the plan?” Monroe asked.

Nick shrugged. “Use you as bait?”

“That’s not funny,” Monroe growled. “I hate the water.”

Nick was about to answer when he suddenly stopped, glancing around alertly.

“What is it?” Monroe hissed. “Are your Grimm-senses tingling?”

Nick let out a frustrated breath through his nose and turned around to face Monroe. “Okay, for the last time—“

His explanation was cut off, however, by something very strong and very wet slamming into his back. He hit the ground, his shoulder striking the concrete and sending shockwaves of pain through his arm. Groaning, he rolled over in time to see Monroe staring wide-eyed at what looked almost like a horse, if the horse had a very questionable lineage that included replacing the flat molars of ordinary equines with the razor sharp teeth of a shark. Its hair was green and slick, still dripping water onto the concrete, and its mane was tangled with seaweed and debris from the lake. Its eyes were rolling around in its head and it reared up, slamming hooves that sparked against the parking lot. Nick scrambled back out of harm’s way, reaching for his gun.

It was amazing how such a commonplace animal could look so terrifying when up close and personal with the fact that there was over 3,000 pounds of an angry stallion with coal red eyes trying to kill you.

Nick didn’t dwell on it.

From his left, Monroe yelled, “Iron! Pure iron kills them!”

“On it!” Nick shouted back, pulling his gun and aiming. The kelpie’s flanks shuddered, preparing to rear again, and Nick shot it twice in the chest. It bellowed out a cry of pain and staggered. He stood shakily, hands reaching for a knife he kept tucked away in his back pocket just in case. It was taken from Aunt Marie’s collection and from his guess, it was pure iron. He hoped it was pure iron; the creature was already recovering and rising to its feet.

Nick plunged the knife into its neck and backed away as fast he could while the creature thrashed, powerful legs kicking out. It tossed its head against the concrete, slamming it down, until its frantic movement stilled. As Monroe and Nick watched, its body melted away, until all that was left was a slimy green puddle of ooze.

They stared at it in shocked silence.

“Don’t tell PETA,” Monroe commented. When Nick glared at him, he shrugged. “Sorry. But seriously, those things? Usually go after kids. They’re bad news. The last one I heard of drowned twenty-nine kids before someone finally killed it. I wouldn’t feel too bad.”

“Yeah, I guess,” Nick said.

They trudged back to the car, the damp mist sinking into their clothes and making the walk thoroughly miserable.

“So are you—“

Nick stopped him before he could continue the thought. “The reason I knew it was a kelpie was because the weather channel was on in the brothers’ house. They were predicting storms in this area—those things were storm kelpies, a cousin of what we just killed.”

Monroe blinked. “Oh. That makes sense. What about the fact you knew there were two of them when we broke in?”

“All of the pillows were on one side of the couch,” Nick said patiently. “The blanket over the back was also kind of sloppily made. Put it together, and someone was sleeping there.”

“And the truth or lie game?”

“You’re always more relaxed when you do pilates, your phone was next to the address book and had doodles all over it, which you only do when you’re bored, so it wasn’t hard to guess that you were talking to your mom this morning, all the dishes were in the dishwasher and everyone knows you have to soak oatmeal dishes otherwise they congeal into glue, and you only had two sizes of screwdrivers on your workspace when I went, meaning that either two of the clocks had the same size gears, or you only worked on two clocks.”

“So you guessed.”

“It was an educated guess!” Nick defended himself.

“You could have told me all this before I made an ass out of myself,” Monroe said grouchily.

Nick stared at him. “You’re kidding me, right? I tried telling you and you wouldn’t believe me!”

“You never explained it before!”

“You never let me! You were too busy making smartass comic book references.”

“When I should have been making Sherlock references this entire time.”

“Then it’s a good thing you didn’t listen, because I would have killed you by now if you had done that... Watson."

They walked along in silence for a while longer before Monroe grunted. “I can’t believe I’ve been spending all this time trying to think in French.”

Nick thought about telling him he had taken French in college, but decided against it.

He was going to save that one for April Fool’s.