JULY 31, 1997
On the Road Again 9:45 a.m.
Immortally Compromised Midnight
NIGHT OF AUGUST 1 & 2
Watchers? Where? Day
Danger Zone 2:00 p.m.
Everything Old 9:00 p.m.
Lost in Space 9:30 p.m.
Too Much, Too Little 11:00 p.m.
Turn of the Corkscrew 11:00 p.m.
Hunting a Hunter 11:30 p.m.
The Plot Thickens 11:45 p.m.
Allo? Allo? Midnight
Mercy Date 1:00 a.m.
Leaving on a Jet Plane Paris Time
The Streets of 1:00 a.m.
A Good Dog 2:00 a.m.
Mooo 2:00 a.m.
The Reluctant Student German Time
Canadian Gothic 4:00 a.m.
Welcome Home 6:00 a.m.
On the Road Again
by Phoenix W. a.k.a. Evie
July 31, 1997
“Are we there yet?”
The joke was definitely wearing thin. Trapper glanced in the rearview mirror, her long blonde ponytail swinging slightly, and her gloved hands gripped the wheel with a subtly increased pressure. Evie was certain that, had James been able to see the eyes behind the mirrored sunglasses, he wouldn’t have asked. Not even with his usual joking banter.
Her tone, however, was one of patient amusement. “James. We’ve only been on the road for two hours. Go back to sleep.”
Evie, who was playing co‑pilot, turned her gaze back to the unfolding scenery, and sipped her espresso. “This part’s not too bad,@ she commented to Trapper. ” At least it’s not flat.”
“I hate the Midwest in summer,” Trapper muttered.
“It’s no better in the winter, is it,” Evie agreed. “Let’s just say, =We hate the Midwest= period.”
“The gig was decent last night,” Dennis chimed in from the back. “The house was air conditioned. The crowd was better in Minneapolis, though,” he added thoughtfully.
“Oh I don’t know,” Trapper said, taking a sip of her espresso and setting it carefully back in the cup holder. “I liked the college crowd in Madison.”
“Especially that cute young thing up front,” Evie agreed, finding the bag of scones and grabbing one for her and Trapper. “Breakfast anyone?”
Michael’s head appeared between the seats as he reached for the bag of scones. “Are these left over from lunch yesterday?”
“Yeah,” Evie replied, passing him the bag. “But they’re still good.”
“Great,” Michael agreed. “Nice bakery. Lots of no‑sugar stuff.”
Silence settled comfortably over the vehicle as the band known as Coventry settled in for the long road trip to Chicago. Several hours later Trapper pulled the van into a rest stop. “Pee break, shift change,” she called out as she shut off the engine.
Everyone piled out of the air-conditioned vehicle and groaned in unison as the heat hit them. No, the Midwest in July had not been the most fun they’d ever had, Evie thought as she stretched out. But the gigs had been good. And this was still more comfortable than the last road trip she’d taken. The one that had changed her life.
Staring out at the landscape she thought back to the previous October when she’d taken her bike to LA. Trapper had told her then that she was crazy, to take the vintage motorcycle over the Siskyous that close to winter, but she’d done it anyhow. And what a screaming fine ride it had been, she thought, grinning wryly.
She’d gone to LA on vacation, to attend the Ren Faire with her friends from the Fang Gang. She soon found she’d gotten herself into a great deal more than she’d bargained for. A trip back in time, a tangle with vampires and immortals in 1920’s LA, a close‑enough brush with death and the shock of a lifetime to find that really‑o truly‑o these guys did exist. Vampires. She shook her head. Some days she still didn’t believe it. And all she had to show for the adventure was a new leather jacket, hers having been lost in the fray. A gift, it was, from someone who had not yet chosen to reveal who they were. A minor mystery. Just one loose end that served to remind her that she hadn’t really lost her marbles.
She’d left the jacket at home this time, along with the bike and her seven-year-old son, tucked safely away with his grandparents, on an adventure of his own. They’d been very understanding when she’d explained that her band had been offered the chance of a lifetime ‑ a recording contract and tour for the following summer. So here they were, promoting the album, driving and playing gigs, and she loved it as she’d loved few things in her life. She wasn’t sure what she would do when she got back, to no job and bills to pay, but she was confident something would come up. Maybe it’s time to go into contracting, she thought as she headed for the loo.
When she got back to the van, it appeared she’d been selected to drive the next leg. That was fine with her, she liked driving. “Mind if I put on a tape?” she asked the assembled as they settled into their places.
“Please, no more Andrew Lloyd Webber” James pleaded. “I can’t take any more Requiem, really!”
“OK, all right,” Evie conceded with a laugh. “How about Boiled in Lead?”
“Fine with me,” Dennis mumbled from the far back. “I’m going back to sleep.”
Several miles later, they passed from Wisconsin into Illinois. Evie glanced at Trapper “I’m really looking forward to Toronto,” she confided.
Trapper looked at her. “You mean you really want to try to look them up?”
“I know,” Evie acknowledged. “It seems really far‑fetched. But I know what I know, and now I want to know more, since we just happen to be booked there.”
“I suppose I should be glad you didn’t ask me to book us in Seacouver,” Trapper laughed, searching for some middle ground between disbelief and acceptance.
“Didn’t I tell you? ‑‑ it does exist,” Evie said eagerly. “Seilidhe mentioned having met Joe there.”
After a silent moment, Trapper replied evenly “No, I don’t think you mentioned that.”
“Well, anyway,” Evie continued, oblivious, “I think we’ll find what we’re looking for at the Raven.”
“Well,” Trapper said thoughtfully, “I am glad we didn’t book there. That’s what I call a truly hazardous work environment.”
“Meanwhile,” she continued, stretching out her legs as best she could, “there’s Chicago, and Columbus and Rochester between here and there.”
“So let’s make the best of it, then,” Evie laughed, and cranking up the music, she fell to singing at the top of her lungs.
He opened his eyes, and there was nothing. Only darkness. He would have shaken his head for his futile thoughts, but it hung past his shoulders and he could not lift it. He tried moving his arms, but they were numb, and no amount of imagining could bring him mental contact with the rest of his body. He cursed himself weakly. To have lived for so long, only to be slowly destroyed like this!
“Now, now, Merneptah, I’ve told you thousands of times, I don’t wish to destroy you.”
By all his forgotten gods, how he hated the sound of that voice!
“I see we still haven’t learned our place,” the rich, contralto voice forced its way into his brain. “You are mine. I told you that. You turned your back on what would have been your only hope. Now, no one will help you, not your cheap slut of a sister and certainly not that miniature whore of a girlfriend of yours!”
Unbidden, images of the two most precious people in the world, to him, appeared in his mind. His lovely Nubian sister, Angelique: At times, they hated each other to no end. Nevertheless, he truly did care for his lovely, graceful sister. Then came the image of his beloved: tiny and delicate, though only in appearance. Her midnight black hair, silky in his hands. Her eyes that were normally violet, but ranged in color with her emotions. Her ivory skin, soft against his time‑roughened hands. And her velvety voice that was music in his ears. That solitary night they had together had contained more passion, more delight and more surrender than any other moment in his life. The fight that they had afterwards . . . he had sworn that she meant nothing to him, but it was a lie. He had loved her from the moment he first laid eyes on her. His beloved . . .
“HA!” the voice laughed harshly at him. “Your Hanna?! Sweet, loveable, little Hanna? Oh, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry!”
“Why would you laugh?” his voice barely a whisper. He was amazed that he could use it at all.
“Laugh? Because you’re ridiculous! You’re one of the oldest living beings in the world! You were even Pharaoh once! And you’ve fallen in love with a barbarian whore! I would laugh out of contempt for you!”
“Why would you cry?”
“Out of delight, should her beloved husband find out about the two of you! You, he’d simply tear to pieces. Her . . . even the gods would cringe at her fate!”
He struggled against the weakness that plagued him. Something she had just said . . . “Husband? He’s dead. You killed him.”
The voice chuckled briefly. “Oh, no, dear Micah. Jonas isn’t dead. He’s merely without a body. I’ve enjoyed torturing him for thousands of years. I’m not about to let him go. No, my darling pet, I’ve got him packed up, nice and cozy, on the shelf above your head!”
Then there was light. It stabbed his eyes, and he shut them tight in pain.
“And that is just a candle darling! Imagine if I put you outside!”
He still couldn’t see her, but he felt her walk forward, take his face in her cold hands, and turn his head to the side. “No,” he whispered.
“I told you. I will do this until you serve me willingly. If you won’t, I can always try blackmail. I’m certain there are other . . . Immortals who would love to know about that little Quickening you had on holy ground. Imagine what they would do to you, Micah dear!” He felt her move to his neck, and then the sharp pierces of her fangs. She drained almost all the blood he had, leaving him just enough to live. Then she pulled away.
He was gasping, even weaker still. “Don’t do this to me.”
“But I want to! I’ve never had a blood puppy before. I find it refreshing to not have to hunt every night. I give you just enough time to gain back some of your blood, and then I drain you again. It keeps you nice and compliant, just the way I want you. And until you agree to serve me, I will keep you this way forever. I know you’ll live through it.”
He sighed, the image of Hanna still fresh in his mind. “All right. I’ll do whatever you ask me.”
July 21, Texas ~ 4:30 p.m.
August 1, On a plane to Toronto
“Come on Warren I don’t want to miss the movie!”
It was a bit of an odd sight. No, not the teen dragging a twentyish looking man toward a theater. The fact was that the man, Warren, was dressed in head to toe black. In the middle of July. His hair was black. His clothes were black . . . the only bits of color being his piercing blue eyes, a slight streak of white in his hair, and a small silver medallion flopping around his neck. Two exact opposites, attracting stairs from various passers‑by. Considering Shayna was dressed in far more cheerful attire.
“How many times have you seen this movie any way? Two . . . Three?”
“This would be the fourth,@ she said off handedly.
Warren put his hand to his head. He felt another tension headache coming on. “I don’t know what you see so fascinating about a secret agency that acts as the intergalactic immigration police.”
Shayna stopped in her tracks, seeming to give the rhetorical question some serious thought . . . “The clothes. Yea those Ray Bans are cool. Oooo, but that memory zappy thing was neat . . . hee hee, wouldn’t mind having one of those noisy crickets . . . ,@ she trailed off.
Warren groaned, teenagers.
“Besides,” she slapped the Druid on the arm, “you still have some stuff to learn about reality. You=re way too stiff.”
Warren rolled his eyes, “I’ve been in reality for four years now. And you know what? It’s a lot like the other half of Terra.”
“Yea well . . . Oh hold on. I left my purse in the car. You go on ahead and get the tickets . . . I’ll catch up.”
Warren walked ahead grumbling something to himself in Welsh.
Ever since Shayna had accidentally transported Warren from her imagination to reality, life had been anything but boring. There seemed to be no way to reverse the spell that had brought him here, so he had set up residence permanently. Thankfully she had managed to pass him off as her distant cousin from England (he had little trouble convincing her parents.) Now he lived in a small studio apartment by UNA. But every once in a while he left to travel. Scotland, England . . . Canada . . . and even France for some odd reason. He was back now though, so Shayna was loading him up on pop culture.
<<Clang Clang Clang>>>
What was that? She paused half way to the car to listen . . . It was probably one of the side exits. Must be ajar? But, something did catch her eye. Shadows of what looked like two people fighting were being thrown on the wall of the opposite building. Curious, she went to the side of the theater . . . She was right. Two men were fighting . . . With swords? Shayna stood there and almost laughed out loud. What did they think they were doing? Obviously they didn’t like each other to well. The look on their faces conveyed that much. One of the men started to get the upper hand and, to Shayna’s horror, ran the other thru and . . . “CUT OFF HIS HEAD?!” “HOLY ##&@! *$%!”
Lightening began to pour out of the headless body, knocking the uh . . . winner? to his knees. The energy enveloped the survivor and the entire space between the theater and the next building. Totally freaked, Shayna bolted. Yelling for the one source of all weirdness in her life.
Several minutes later, Warren and Shayna stood at the entrance to the alley. The man that had been electrocuted was gone. All that was left was a headless corpse and a woman writing something down on a pad.
“You see, I wasn’t making it up, look!@ Shayna said in a shocked/horrified garble.
The woman, who was oblivious to their presence till now looked up, startled. Warren looked from her to the corpse. “Are you with the police?”
“Not exactly . . . ” Her attention turned to Shayna, ignoring Warren.
“What exactly did you see?”
Shayna stared wide eyed at the body.
“This dude, like, cut off that guys head . . . and then lightening came out of it and totally fried him . . . ”
The woman regarded the kid carefully. She had seen too much. No amount of excuses would persuade her that she saw something else, it seemed. The woman sighed, they really needed to be more careful of where they chose to fight. Glancing at the kid once more she decided to take a leap of faith….
“This may sound totally fantastic, but you must listen carefully. I am part of a secret society that observes and records the actions of them,” she pointed to the headless body. “You have two options, you can become a Watcher, or you must forget you ever saw this….Choose….”
Shayna mulled over the events of the past few days. Watchers, Immortals. She always knew the world was a very strange place . . . Now she really knew how strange. This could definitely be cool. Although she had never pictured herself in a secret agent type job . . . well, such is the universe. The Watchers did seem to have it together. Her parents thought that she had won a contest, and the prize was a trip to Toronto. Ha, if they only knew. Well, at least she had convinced them to let Warren go with her instead of one of them. Heck this could be fun.
“Hey, I forgot to mention. A friend of mine lives in Toronto,” said Warren.
“Really, what does he do?”
“He’s a police detective. Do you think we can stop by for a visit before we go to see this Dawson guy? There=s something I want to take care of.”
“I don’t see why not. What is it you have to take care of?”
Warren shrugged sheepishly. “Oh nothing much. Just a little payback is all.” He tossed her a wry look.
Sometimes Mages could be so damned subversive. Pay back? What the hell does that mean?
Oh, if she only knew.
Everything Old is New Again
Four Seasons Hotel
That’s how she felt, naked. The revealing dress shimmered as its facets caught the light. Kat turned her body to one side, checking herself in the mirror; The Versace chainmail gown clung to every curve and pooled around her feet. Somehow the designer had made it smooth, slinky and not‑too‑heavy . . . incredible, really.
She wished she could stay barefoot. The ‘look’ didn’t need the distraction of shoes, but she was quite sure that making an appearance at the AGO fundraiser would require wearing something on her feet.
Kat already stood out as it was ‑ just a hair under 6′ tall, she had short flaming red hair and a tattoo of a full moon visible on her shoulder. “Maybe my bare feet won’t really matter, after all,” she chuckled. There was the little black jacket that could be worn over the dress’s tiny straps . . . that would take care of the tattoo. As for her hair and her height? “Screw it!” she thought, she’d been hiding both for much too long. Tonight she was going to enjoy being who she was.
And who was that? Well, as far as the Niagra Group was concerned, she was Mme. Canelle’s personal assistant and representative at tonight’s festivities. The Niagra Group had invited all of its biggest investors to a ‘get together’ at the Art Gallery of Ontario, and if they couldn’t get the reclusive yet generous Madame Canelle to attend, then they would settle for her right‑hand.
Kat grabbed a hand full of the metal dress, pulled the excess up from around her feet and walked over to the velvet vanity chair. She sat down and looked at herself in the mirror. Her skin was remarkably pale with only the shadow of the freckles that once were. It was funny, pale skin didn’t cause such a ruckus anymore. The rich and famous now avoided the sun like it was the plague. “Or cancer,” she said aloud. Her eyes were hazel but tonight they looked green because of the dark purple shadow she used around her eyes. With her hair a tousled mess of red, she thought she really looked the wild Irish lass.
She had wispy hairs fringing her neck and ears with some semblance of spiky bangs hanging in her eyes. “A new stylish cut,” they had called it at the salon. It looked more to Kat like the punk style she had worn during the early 80’s. “Oh well, everything old is new again,” she mused.
Wedged between the mirror and its frame was the invitation to this evening’s gala. The paper was a rich cream and the lettering was in gold. “You are cordially invited to attend blah, blah, blah.” All the usual stuff. Except that usually, invites like these never made it past the secretary. Jan must have thought it was a piece of personal mail. She was entirely too ‘anal’ to have not noticed it. Either way, it had made its way into Kat’s hands and here she was.
Lost in Space
Toronto hotel room
Moments after “Everything Old.”
Yes, here she was. In Toronto. Yep.
What in the HELL was she doing in Toronto?
Officially, she was here to pose as her own personal assistant at a gathering of the ‘Rich and Aimless.’ But she got invitations to this type of thing all the time. People were always trying to find out what Mme. Canelle looked like, what her business secrets were, whom she confided in. Why did Kat suddenly find this particular event less offensive than all the others?
She had been perfectly happy in her latest incarnation; she was the daughter of a rich and powerful Washington family. Her time was filled with partying, traveling and rock n’ roll. She left all that boring business stuff to be handled by managers and Jan the Enforcer (her ever‑present and all‑powerful secretary). Kat had already spent most of her time on this planet accumulating all that wealth. She deserved some time off. Right? Right. So why not go up to Toronto and have a good time?
Because now that she was here, Toronto was giving her the creeps. And giving Kat the creeps was pretty close to impossible to do. “Let’s be real,” she chided herself, “you started feeling strange when you first saw that invitation.” She reached up and freed the miniature envelope from its crevice in the mirror. Except that back then, ‘strange’ felt a little more like excitement and a little less like nausea.
Georgetown, June 1997
Kat scooped up the mail that Jan left her in the sterling silver chafing dish next to the stairs. She rifled through it, halfhearted, as she walked down the townhouse’s narrow hallway. “Same old crap,” she mumbled, “different day.” The next doorway on the right was the library’s so she turned slightly and shot her arm out to sail the pile of correspondences onto her desk. It all landed safely, nestled in among the other piles of discarded mail. She knew she would have to come back to reality soon. Some of that mail was probably important. Oh well.
Something fluttered and caught her attention as she pivoted to return to the front of the house. Apparently a smaller piece of mail had been placed in between the sturdier stuff and dislodged itself when the whole bunch had been airborne. A small cream envelope lay face down on the library threshold. She stooped, picked it up, turned it over and started to throw it when she saw that it had no return address.
Man, she hated that! Now she had to know. She headed back into the library and grabbed the miniature sword she used as a letter opener. The handwriting was beautiful yet masculine, strong and fluid. It was addressed to Canelle. Jan must have missed it. She proceeded to slice open the top seam, anyway. Inside was a plain but elegant invitation written in gold ink. Opening it, she saw the address of the event was Toronto.
Suddenly she felt light headed, like she did when her hunger caused her to take too much. She steadied herself by holding onto the edge of the desk until the feeling passed. What was wrong with her? She read the note again. Nothing. Did she really expect the same thing to happen on cue, like in a bad movie? Well, actually, yes she did.
Kat grinned. She placed the note back in its envelope and stuck them both into her back pocket. She was going to take a trip to Canada.
Hotel Room, Toronto
August 1, 1997
Having forgotten her original sense of foreboding, Kat set about to find a pair of cool shoes to go with her amazing chainmail gown. She was looking forward to going out on the town tonight.
Too Much, Too Little, Too Late
About 11:00 PM
“You really do have a way with people, don’t you, Nick?” Natalie asked him, a smile of patient disapproval on her face.
“What did you want me to do? Take the day shift? Reese suggested it, and I told him no way.” He tried to brush it of casually with one of his smiles that always made Nat do whatever he wanted.
“No. Tracey said you told him, quite specifically, to take a flying leap!” She tried to ignore that smile, and the way it made her knees weak. Lucky for her, she was ticked enough at him to hold onto her train of thought.
“Well, I didn’t mean it literally! He just wasn’t listening to me when I told him no!”
“Fine, Nick, but you could have been a bit more diplomatic than ‘Take a flying leap!'”
He shrugged. “Yeah, maybe. So, we still on for dinner?”
She looked at him, hard. She almost snarled. Then Grace walked in, and she turned her back on Nick.
While Nat and Grace started discussing a new customer, Nick sat on Nat’s desk and pondered. Okay, maybe he should have been a little more diplomatic, but Reese…..
“….Damn you, you bastard! Why did you leave me?…” And then pain throughout his neck. “Teresa.” He spoke the name aloud he realized when Nat’s head came up.
“Nick?” She said, that knowing yet puzzled look on her face.
He shook his head. “Gotta go.”
He rushed out the door, out of the building, into the alley. Taking to the air, he flew in the direction of the last echoes of the thought he had heard. The Raven.
When he got there, LaCroix was already with her.
“I take it, Nicholas, that this is one of your more…neglected Children?”
He nodded as he walked up to the mutilated body of the Childe that he had abandoned so many years ago. “Who would do such a thing? I mean, killing her is one thing. But like this?”
LaCroix leaned towards him as he walked back to the Raven. “I am certain, Nicholas, that you will think of something.”
Turn of the Corkscrew
About 11:00 p.m.
It was a slow night. She had been working since sunset, and hadn’t had a single customer yet. It had been the same all week, only two or three customers a night. It wasn’t the money the tricks brought in that mattered. She was more concerned about the blood she took from them. She only took a little at a time, never enough to arouse suspicion and never enough to kill anyone.
She had been a whore since she was eight, when her mother died and left her to fend for herself on the streets of London. When she had died at the tender age of fourteen, and became a vampire, the one who made her brought her to Chicago with him. But when he became a police officer, he abandoned her again to the streets. She took up her old profession again, this time seeking out customers for their blood rather than their money. She killed a few before she got the hang of it, and she had operated that way ever since.
She turned down the alley next to the Raven and leaned against the wall. There had to be more, she thought to herself. She was bored with this life. She was a vampire! Where was it written that she had to stick to this kind of life now? She had wasted all this time, when she could have been doing more for herself! Like learn how to read. She had always wanted to be able to read.
Her head turned in a flash when she heard the rustle of trash in the alleyway. When the first shadow moved toward her, taking the shape of a man, and then the second, she turned to bolt out of the alley. And ran into the arms of yet another man. He was tall, dusky, gorgeous. At any other time, she might have sallied him for a trick. Now, she was terrified. The look in his eyes was horrendous.
She felt her arms being grasped roughly and pulled back behind her. The two men lifted her up, and she felt one of her arms break as she tried to win free. They pulled her back, kicking and screaming, to a couple of empty crates. They stretched her out and she screamed.
“Here. Use this.” The other one still waited a few feet away, not actively participating, but doing nothing to hinder the act.
One of the men held out his hand to catch what was tossed to him. He closed his hand around it instinctively, and gasped in pain. Opening his hand, he found it was a corkscrew. The handle had the name of the bar and the symbol of the Raven carved into it. He looked back at him. He had actually gone into the Raven and gotten it from behind the bar!
The man snarled at him. “Get it over with!”
He turned back to the girl. When she screamed again, he drove the corkscrew through her mouth, pinning her to the crate. The sounds she made were a muffle of screams and gagging, all through a mouthful of blood.
His “assistant” finished tying her arms down then drew his sword. “Ready?”
They nodded to each other, then looked back at their “supervisor.@ He stared at them in impatient disgust. They looked again at each other, shrugged, and turned back to their work.
The one with the sword raised it, then brought it down on the neck of the girl. The last thought she had was of her Sire . . . Damn you, you bastard. Why did you leave me? …..
…” And then pain throughout his neck. “Teresa.” He had spoken the name aloud. He realized it when Nat’s head came up. “Nick?” She said, that knowing yet puzzled look on her face.
He shook his head. “Gotta go.” He rushed out the door, out of the building, into the alley. Taking to the air, he flew in the direction of the last echoes of the thought he had heard. The Raven.
When he got there, LaCroix was already with her. “I take it, Nicholas, that this is one of your more . . . neglected Children?”
He nodded as he walked up to the mutilated body of the Childe that he had abandoned so many years ago. “Who would do such a thing? I mean, killing her is one thing. But like this?”
LaCroix leaned toward him as he walked back to the Raven. “I am certain, Nicholas, that you will think of something.”
Hunting a Hunter
About 11:30 p.m.
She was being followed. Angelique walked a little faster. Three heartbeats. “Cleo, go,” She whispered to the ebony leopard in the shadows next to her. The cat took off with a graceful leap into the inky mouth of the alley. She walked on, heading in the general direction of the waterfront. Danger was thick in the cold Toronto night.
The heartbeats followed. Damn. She turned, her jacket a swirl of black cashmere, and watched the three men approach. Clean cut, conservative types. One drew a small, but lethal handgun from the pocket of his expensive trenchcoat.
“What do you want?” She asked the men as they split apart and surrounded her. Cross shaped tie tacks gleamed on their ties, forcing her to look away from them. Flee.
No answer. They moved closer.
She launched herself upward. A soft thwack, and pain exploded from her shoulder, her clavicle bone shattered. She plummeted to the ground, a wounded bird of prey. A stake protruded from her. One of the men rolled her over. She caught a glimpse of a tattoo on his wrist as she was forced flat on her back. She sucked in an agonized breath as pain seeped into her veins.
One of the men held a fired crossbow. Vampire hunters. She struggled to her feet, one arm hanging uselessly at her side. “It will take more than that to take me,” She snarled as she launched herself back into the Toronto night, out of the astonished circle of men.
Two blocks later she crash-landed in a dark alley, and crawled behind a trash dumpster. Her body was on fire with agony. She rolled into a tight ball with a soft groan. The tip had been dipped into holy water. The poison spread through her in thin threads of torment. She needed help, and fast. She closed her eyes and conjured up her caroushe. Cleo! The cat loped out of the shadows and stopped by her mistress with a low growl.
“Find Lucien,” She whispered as her vision started to blacken. “Or Nick.”
The cat leapt into the sky. Angelique groaned again and forced herself to stay conscious. The hunters could find her.
The Plot Thickens
LaCroix froze as a low feline growl echoed through the alley. Cleo slunk into view, her eyes red with anger as she stopped in front of LaCroix her head low and tail slashing the air in agitation.
Nick walked up behind his master. “Isn’t that?”
“Yes I believe it is Angelique’s pet.” He stepped toward her. She hissed. He backed off and frowned, something wasn’t right with this picture. “Now, now, is that anyway to talk to me?” Cleo snarled, but didn’t try to bite or claw. ” What is it, Cleo?” He whispered at her. She made a low sound in her throat and leapt out of the alley to stand in the street. Then Cleo loped off.
The cat stopped at the mouth of an alley near Nick’s warehouse, turning to look back at them before disappearing into it. Nick drew his gun as he slid into the darkness of the alley, his back against the wall. LaCroix shook his head, the followed with a soundless stride. The copper scent of blood was a faint olfactory trail in the cold air. They followed the smell to a dumpster. Cleo stood waiting at the side.
“Nick?” The soft question was filled with pain and hope. Nick shoved the dumpster aside to find Angelique curled up into a helpless fetal position. A stake protruded from the left side of her shoulder, near her neck. He turned to look at LaCroix. His master stood staring at Angelique, a muscle twitching in his jaw.
“Angelique.” LaCroix gathered her up into his arms and turned to Nick, then they both launched themselves to Nick’s loft. Once through the skylight, he set her on the couch. She was paling, aging as the stake sapped at her ancient strength.
“How?” He hissed in anger as he assessed the damage.
She shook her head. “Get it out of me.” She forced herself onto her back with a low moan. “It’s been dipped in, ” she hissed in pain, “Holy water.”
LaCroix glared at her for a moment more then turned and looked at Nick. He gave Nick a look that shook Nick to the very marrow of his bones, then turned back to Angelique.
“Lucien, the stake,” Angelique’s voice was weak, but impatient.
LaCroix grasped the rough wood in both hands, the holy water burning into his palms. He let go with a hiss, and pulled a pair of black leather gloves from his coat pocket. He grabbed the stake again bracing one foot on her chest. “This might hurt a bit.” He warned her as he yanked on the stake.
It pulled loose from her flesh, drawing a high scream from her. LaCroix dropped the poisoned stake on the ground with a look of distaste.
“Who did this?” The older vampire asked, his eyebrow suppressed, his voice rough with rage. “Who has dared to do this to what is mine?”
Angelique tried to laugh, it came out as a watery cough. “I see you still haven’t learned that I belong to no one.”
“Angelique, you have always belonged to me.” His voice was gruff and gentle as he cradled her head. His eyes flashed gold‑green” Whoever has done this will pay.”
“It seems we have a hunter among us.” Angelique drew her body into a fetal position, curling around the comfort of LaCroix’s body.
“You need blood.” LaCroix offered her his wrist. “Here drink, regain some strength.”
She latched onto his wrist, drinking in his power with greedy gulps. He closed his eyes as she fed, enjoying the sensual feel of his blood being pulled out as he clasped her head to him.
She pulled away from his wrist with a gasp and leaned back with her eyes closed. Her body trembled, then shuddered as LaCroix’s blood overwhelmed the holy water.
“What should we do now?” Nick asked as she lay on his couch and healed.
“I know who can help.” Angelique opened her eyes.
“Really?” Nick and LaCroix waited for Angelique to sit up. Cleo padded over and sat under her hand.
“No.” LaCroix’s jaw clenched.
“I don’t need your permission to contact him.” Angelique stood and stretched, then fingered the large hole in her cashmere trenchcoat.
“Blood never comes out of this fabric.”
“I don’t want you near that immortal.”
“Ten years is a long time to hold a grudge against someone,” Nick waded into the conversation.
“He slept with Angelique.”
“So? You don’t own her. You never got this angry at Janette for finding her comfort elsewhere.”
“Janette was more yours than mine.” LaCroix glared at Angelique.
Angelique glared back. “You’re just mad because you didn’t get to watch.”
They both turned at Nick’s burst of laughter. “Besides, when I met Duncan he didn’t seem so bad.” He was still grinning. “And the women at the ball were competing to get your attention as much as his.”
Angelique picked up the cordless and dialed. In rapid perfect French she asked for a connection to Paris. Duncan MacLeod picked up the phone on the third ring. “Hello?”
“Duncan?” Angelique smiled into the phone far to brightly for LaCroix. “Hello!”
“Angelique?” What the devil was she calling for?
“Yes, Duncan. I have a problem and I think you need to help me solve it.”
“Yes. A group of men staked me this evening.” Alarm bells went of in Duncan’s head “What?”
“They missed, but I have one concern.”
“What is it?”
“They had tattoos that matched your friend Joe Dawson’s one.” She watched LaCroix’s eyebrows shoot up at that. Nick frowned, going into his thinking mode.
“Where are you?”
“I’ll be on the next flight.”
Art Gallery of Ontario
“I’ve been wanting to do this all evening,” he growled. Grabbing handfuls of her dress, he pulled her roughly against him.
“I know,” she said, under her breath.
Fifteen minutes earlier they had discreetly left the main exhibit hall where the Niagra reception was being held. It had taken him that long to maneuver her into this dark corner of the second floor balcony. The man was rich, powerful and drunk.
“You are sooo hot,” he moaned, nuzzling his face into her shoulder, “you could be a model.” He began to rub her ass and grind his pelvis into hers.
“Uh huh,” she replied automatically. Did he really think she hadn’t heard that before? Boy, was he smooth.
A soft breeze was blowing across the balcony and Kat could hear calypso music floating up from the streets below. Toronto’s Caribana festival was in full swing ‑ its passion and heat calling to her. She wanted to be down there with the revelers, carried by the flow of dancing bodies, lost in the Caribbean beats.
Kat was suddenly tired of this man pawing at her. She pushed him off of her and into the brick wall. He gasped in surprise but grinned lasciviously when he registered that things were about to get rough.
“Oh, yes,” he cried when she closed in on him. She grabbed the lapels of his tuxedo and yanked him closer. Eyes closed, he tilted his head back to better enjoy her dominance.
Still pulling his coat tight with one hand, she reached around to cup the back of his head with the other. She paused to let the hunger well up inside her . . . surging up from within. It overwhelmed her. Her eyes flew open, burning yellow like the sun. Her mouth opened instinctively as she angled her head over his exposed neck.
She licked him once languidly, slowly bringing her tongue across his throat. He moaned. Kat could feel his pulse throbbing hotly against her lips. She opened her mouth wider.
Suddenly, she bit into his neck. He twitched violently and began to struggle but she held him firmly against the brick. His blood pumped into her mouth and she swallowed it greedily. She hadn’t needed to feed tonight but this solicitous gentleman had presented her with such a perfect opportunity.
As he began to weaken, she staunched the flow of blood ‑ Kat had learned long ago, on her own, how to keep from killing her victims. She had learned everything on her own, there had never been anyone to teach her, she had always been alone.
He was groggy but conscious when she walked him over to a well‑lighted area of the balcony. Anyone who saw them would say that he was drunk ‑ which was true because Kat was beginning to feel the effects of alcohol in his blood. She sat him down and had a brief but meaningful discussion with him.
All he would remember about their little tryst would be his disappointing > inability to perform= with a very willing young lady. She winked at him before she jumped off the balcony into the Toronto night.
Leaving on a Jet Plane
Right after ‘Allo? “Allo?
Duncan booked a flight for two to Toronto, made rental reservations then started to pack.
“Hey Mac, where are you going?” Sky wandered onto Duncan’s barge, on time for her daily sword practice. Her long dark hair was pulled back and she was dressed in loose clothes for easy movement.
“We, Skye, where are we going.” Mac turned and looked at the tall woman. “We need to go to Toronto.”
ABecause it’s time for you to resume Watcher duties.” Duncan looked her over and smiled. “You can’t travel first class dressed like that though.” He zipped up his traveling bag and lay it at her feet.
Sky sighed, then shrugged her shoulders. “When do I need to meet you?”
Duncan pulled her into his arms. “Not for a bit.”
“Good.” She sighed as he lowered his mouth to hers.
The Streets of San Francisco
San Francisco, CA
The phone rang. And rang. And rang.
He threw the lamp across the room. Damn it! He was in the middle of something! He picked up the phone and yelled into the receiver, “What the Hell do you want?!”
“Now, Julian, is that anyway to talk to me?”
His heart, had he actually had one, would have leapt to his throat. Instead, he marshaled his anger. “I’m sorry, my lovely. I was . . . a little occupied. I had no idea it would be you.”
“Better. You’re learning quickly.”
He looked at the woman lying on his bed expectantly. Damn, he was hungry! “What can I do for you, my goddess?” He almost felt sick. He hated sucking up to her!
“Oh, Julian, I love to hear you try to butter me up!” She laughed, and he could feel her menace through the phone‑line. “What can you do for me? You will be on the next flight to Toronto. You will be here sometime this evening. Do you understand?”
“This evening?! But August that’s imp . . . ”
“Excuse me?” He could hear her tapping the phone against a table. “What was that you were saying? I don’t think I heard you right.”
He swallowed again. “Yes, my darling. I’ll be there this evening.”
“Much better,” she purred. “I will see you then.”
He had almost hung up the phone when he heard her say, “Oh, and Julian?”
“If you make it on time, you can help me rip out little Hanna’s rotten little heart!” She hung up the phone, but he could hear the echo of her laughter in his head.
- In Toronto. He moved to the bed. “Get up, and get out,” he told the girl as he threw some bills at her. He then walked out the door, downstairs to talk to Cash and get things ready. He was going to eat that little bitch’s heart before dawn tomorrow . . .
A Good Dog Always Obeys it’s Master
Around 2:00 a.m.
He looked at his face in the mirror. He hadn’t aged since the day he died more than four thousand years ago . . . until now. His once proud face was beginning to show age‑lines. His lips were drawn tight, with wrinkles at the corners. And his hair, once a luxurious midnight black, was now streaked with silver. What would she think of him now?
In anger and shame, he pulled back from the mirror, punched it, shattering it into hundreds of tiny pieces. He ignored the pinpricks of blood that welled on the knuckle of his hand. He’d heal. He always did.
“So certain, are we?” The voice he hated caused the hair on the back of his neck to rise.
“Certain of what?” he asked, his sword arm twitching to grab his katana, run her through, take her head.
“Oh, come, Micah darling. You know that I can hear your every thought!” She walked toward him, the smirk on her lips begging to be beaten off. “Are you certain you’ll heal? Look at your face. Oh! That’s right,” she gasped as she picked up a piece of the broken mirror, held it up to his face, Ayou already did!”
He slapped her arm away from him, and caused her hand to move back far enough for the piece of glass in her hand to come close enough to her face to cut.
Her eyes flared red, and a thin trickle of blood moved slowly down her cheek. The next moment of awareness he had, was of hitting the wall across the room. He didn’t even see her hand fly, wasn’t conscious of how hard she had hit him. He just hit the wall. When he tried to move, pain blinded him. He took several short gasps of breath, and started coughing, which made the pain worse.
He felt her grasp on his hair, and she ripped his head backward to make him look at her. “Don’t you EVER try and defy me again, Merneptah. I OWN you, mind, body and soul! If I decide to tear up that pretty face of yours, you’ll let me, and you’ll like it!”
He tried to answer her, but all he could manage were a few more choking gasps. She’d broken his ribs, and punctured a lung. He could feel it.
“Now, dog, get on your feet!” She stood imperiously over him, her eyes allowing no opposition.
He struggled to his knees, and stopped, spitting blood for his efforts.
He felt the blinding pain, this time at his face. Damn bitch! She’d slashed his face with the piece of glass she still held!
“GET UP!” Another slash.
Micah struggled to his feet. Had he been able to see straight, he would have tried to kill her then.
Her grasp was locked in his hair again, and she tore his head over to the side. “Here, you were doing so much better, I had thought. Now, you’ll have to be punished like the mongrel dog that you are!”
He felt the fangs again, not even remotely kind in their response to her will. She’d never really damaged him before when she drained on him, but this time, he could feel chunks of flesh being ripped from his neck.
She let him go, and he sank back down to the ground. He heard her snap her fingers, and then the sounds of footsteps approaching.
“Take him to the basement, and lock him up the way I showed you. He’s been a very bad little pup, and he needs to learn his lessons.”
He felt two pairs of arms lift him and start to drag him away.
“Oh, wait!” He could hear the laughter in her voice. Now what game was she playing? “I almost forgot to tell you, Micah darling! My little gang found your sister, and paid her a little visit.” She nodded to the men, and they took him away.
Angelique? He thought to himself. NO! She can’t be dead!
They had only been in Toronto for a few hours; but instead of being at the hotel resting and waiting to be contacted by Joe Dawson, they were crouching by a skylight atop a warehouse.
“Can’t we do this later? I’m tired . . . ”
“Shhh, he’ll hear you. And no, we can’t do this later. Later we’ll be busy. As the old saying goes, >No better time like the present=.”
Shayna shifted uncomfortably, putting her backpack ‑ combination ‑ purse down.
“Would you watch it? You=re going to spill the paint,” Warren hissed.
“Well excuuuze me, unlike some people, I can’t stay in one spot like this for hours on end. Let’s just get this over with.”
She paused, only now thinking of a question she should have asked at the beginning. “What’d this poor sap do to you anyway?”
Warren turned a slight shade of pink, he had hoped Shayna wouldn’t ask.
“Oh come on, out with it.”
“Okay, but you must swear never to tell anyone.”
“Yea, Yea, yadda yadda. So what did he do?”
Warren stared at her a moment. “No way, No. Never mind. If I tell you, I’ll never hear the end of it.”
“Come on Warren.”
“No, and that=s final,” he put up a finger to stop any more prodding.
AIt would be wise,@ Shayna thought, ANot to get a Mage angry, lest I spend the rest of my life as a reptile of some sort.@
“Fine then lets just get on wit . . . ”
“Shhh, okay lets go, he just left. Grab the bolt. I=ll get the bottles and paint.”
A few minutes later, after a precarious climb down a rope, Shayna and Warren stood in the middle of the loft. “Hmm, your friend has good taste, to bad we have to redecorate.”
“Hey, he asked for it. Besides, the spell will only last a little while, or until I weave a counter spell. Whichever comes first.” Grinning mischievously Warren scanned the loft. “Okay, unroll the bolt of cloth over there.”
Shayna walked over and unrolled the black and white cloth in front of the couch. “What next?”
“Move out of the way.” Warren took two buckets of paint, (one black one white), and poured it all over the cloth. Then he pulled out a Gate Way 2000 ad from his pocket and put it on top of the mess.
“You might want to shield your eyes, this place is about to go vertigo.” Warren began to rub his silver medallion between his hands and chanted something under his breath. That=s when it started. The pool of black and white began to ripple and spread. Soon it enveloped the entire interior of the loft. The walls, ceiling . . . EVERYTHING . . . began to warble, warp, and spin. Warren stood completely composed, still quietly chanting. Shayna on the other hand was about to hurl, even though she had her eyes closed. But soon, sooner actually, than Shayna had perceived, it all stopped . . . she opened her eyes . . . and just about laughed herself to an early grave.
“Whoa,” she choked. “Wall to wall COW!”
She meant that quite literally. Absolutely everything in the loft looked like a cow to some degree. “Hey Warren, didn’t that winged cow perched on the fireplace used to be a dragon? …..Warren? What are you doing?”
He had moved to the kitchen and was pouring the contents of several unmarked wine bottles down the drain, replacing them with a few bottles of LaCroix’s special vintages. “Oh nothing,” he replied. “Just a favor for another friend of mine.”
“What is that stuff anyway? It looks a bit thick to be wine.”
“Just cow blood.” he said casually. “I mean the man’s nearly eight hundred years old. You’d figure he’d get of this angst binge of his and live a little. After all, he does have eternity. What a thing to waste.”
“Cow blood? Eternity? Warren, what kind of freak is this guy?”
“Oh, didn’t I tell you? Nick’s a vampire.”
Shayna plopped down on the (cow) leather couch. Watchers, Immortals, and now, Vampires. If she didn’t find all this so totally fascinating, she would have had herself committed a long time ago. “A vampire, huh? ” she laughed weakly, “What next? Werewolves?
“Oh, they exist too. And Wraiths, and Big Foot and the Loch Ness monster. Which, by the way, is one of the few dragons left alive.” Warren stopped to take a breath. “Am I going to fast for you?”
“Why doesn’t anybody ever tell me these things?!”
The sound of the elevator gears stopped Warren=s reply short.
“Oh shit, he’s back. Hurry up . . . up . . . up . . . Oooo give me that Elmo thing . . . ”
“Why?” Shayna looked at her Tickle me-Elmo’s head that was sticking out of her backpack.
“Just give it to me.”
Shayna handed it over. Warren put his hand over Elmo’s chest and chanted really quickly. He dropped the Elmo, dissolved the rope, and drug Shayna behind the stairs.
Teresa, one of his forgotten children had been murdered. He still didn’t know by who or why. It was his fault. He should never have abandoned her. Yet another victim in a long line of . . .
The Elevator door slid open and Nick looked up from his shoes.
“What the hell happened here!” First Teresa, now this?! God must really have it in for him. Nick viewed Cowland. Cows! Cows Everywhere! All the events of the past few years started to take its toll. He really needed a drink. Nick practically flew to the fridge, grabbed a bottle and headed for the cow couch. Eyes now golden and fangs in place, he bit off the cork and started chugging. He didn’t even notice it was human blood. Cows, where did they all come from? Even his fireplace had been cow‑ized. And for no apparent reason, images of Serena in a cow costume floated through his stressed out mind. “I’m losing my mind! This is too much.”
Out of the corner of his eye, Nick noticed some red furry thing sitting next to him. “GREAT, JUST GREAT! NOW I’M HALLUCINATING MUPPETS!”
“Hello, I’m Elmo, do you want to play?” The little red monster made googly eyes at his new best friend.
Nick completely lost it . . . He may have done some unforgivable things in his life time but he did not deserve this. He picked up the fuzzy thing, half-drained it and threw it across the room.
“Ha Ha Ha That tickles,” said Elmo weakly.
“That takes care of that,” Nick lay back on the couch and in a very loud voice tried to convince himself that it was just another of his guilt trip dreams. (Just in case another hallucination was listening.)
Shayna and Warren watched the whole sad exchange.
“Warren, you’ve driven him insane!”
“I didn’t know that he would react this way!”
“Well reverse it stupid!”
Several chants later, Warren and Shayna were back on the roof, and Nick lay passed out on the couch (bottle of HUMAN blood still in hand.)
“Whew, I thought that was just supposed to be a harmless prank.”
“It was, I wonder why he lost it like that. Something must really be bothering him.”
“I don’t know, but we better get out of here before he wakes up, just incase. Did you reverse everything?”
“Yea, I think so . . . Wait where is your Elmo?” As if in answer to Warren=s question, Elmo (still very much alive) popped out of Shayna’s backpack. “I’m Elmo, what’s your name?” it said between its fangs. Shayna flung the backpack off. Elmo crawled out and walked over to her. “Pick me up,” it squeaked
“Warren, what did you do to Elmo?”
The Reluctant Student
Outside of Dresden, Germany
Around 2:00 a.m.
Starr sat on the dead tree stump, slouched over to one side, one leg touching the ground, the other slightly off it. She leaned on one elbow, it resting on the slightly raised knee.
“Do we have to keep doing this?” She asked in a huff. She was tired. Tired of being trained, tired of being kept “at home,@ tired of being told what to do.
“Yes, dear. You need to learn.” Her voice came back, patient as always.
Starr let out a puff of air in the direction of the stray hair that lingered in front of her face. Then she concentrated. She had to get that “right” feeling in the pit of her stomach. She tried for another minute or so, and then threw her hands up in the air.
“This is pointless!”
“No, it is not.” She came out of the shadows then. Tiny, beautiful, regal. And downright pushy, Starr thought to herself. She looked at Starr the way one might look at a dog caught playing with a new pair of slippers, half in playful amusement, and half in stern determination.
“Starr, if you do not learn, then there will be nothing to protect you from Julian when he comes for you. Or Cash if he is sent for you. Or Angelique for that matter, should she decide that enough is enough. I cannot be with you constantly. I know how much you want your freedom. But I would rather not have you leave, only to wind up being a snack for someone with a grudge!”
Starr pouted for a small while. She really hated this. She knew she needed to learn whatever Hanna could teach her, but she hated being forced into it. The woman had kept her constantly with her since last October, never allowing her any free movement to do what she wanted. She wasn’t some pet, no matter what Hanna thought.
“STARR!” Her voice was stern, exasperated. “I do not, under any circumstances, consider you a pet! Or a toy. Or a slave. You are, however, my Childe. I never had the chance to instruct Paolo, and he died for it. I will not lose you because you are impatient. Remember, there is not only Julian or Angelique to deal with. If I have not trained you properly, and you happen upon another of our Kind, or upon a Prince, or a Justicar for that matter, you could be killed for the slightest mistake well before I had a chance to defend you. So, please, for your sake, will you try to learn?”
She almost decided to give in for a little while, when she heard him laughing. She turned on her “stool” and stared at him hard. He was tall, six‑and‑a‑half feet, looking every bit like an old Germanic warrior. His golden hair, streaked in colors of blonde and brown, hung down to the middle of his back. His eyes were a bright, crystal blue. His beard and mustache, the same color as his hair, made him look positively barbaric. He was well framed, not overly muscular, and well tanned. And Starr loved every inch of him. Which was exactly why she snapped.
“Listen, dog, I don’t need any commentary from you!” she shouted as she jumped forward, off her perch.
The laughter was replaced by a slight snarl. “You are an arrogant baby, aren’t you?” he growled.
“Baby?! Why you overgrown house dog . . . !” She started toward him, fully intent on trying to beat him up, and knowing full well that he could kick her ass at any moment.
They both stopped, and looked at Hanna, Starr in surprise and Friedreich in mild shock. The tiny woman, who neither had ever seen lose her temper, was very close to it.
“I would swear that, between the two of you, I have aged a few centuries! I am tired of the two of you bickering!” She turned on Friedreich. “Now, why do you find it necessary to say the one thing you know will get a rise out of her?”
“ME?! What about her?!”
“What is this, Friedrich? The old ‘I didn’t do it, she did’ game that children play with their parents. You are old enough to know better. For Caine’s sake, you are older that I am! Can you not at least try to act like it once in a while?”
He looked at her, mildly hurt. And sulked off.
“Good! Run home to your kennel!” Starr couldn’t help but to add, and when Hanna turned on her, she regretted every word.
“Must you do that?”
“Do what?” she asked innocently, her stomach twisting with sudden anxiety.
“Persist in calling him a dog. It is not entirely accurate, you know.”
“He’s a wolf, isn’t he? I thought wolves and dogs were the same family, one wild and the other not.”
“Dogs are quite a bit like wolves. Only wolves are far more regal, and more devoted to each other than any common house pet. Regardless of that, he is not a mere wolf either. He is Garou. He is a werewolf. Which makes him half man. Which is precisely the part of him you wound when you call him a dog.” She looked at her askance.
After waiting under that gaze for an unbearable thirty seconds, Starr shouted, “What!?”
The only answer she got was a knowing smile.
Feeling a bit guilty, and even more agitated, she repeated her question. “What?”
“You love him, do you not?”
She laughed, boldly, harshly, in denial. “I do not love that great big hunk of . . . of . . . ”
She smiled again. “Do, go on. When you find your tongue that is.”
She flushed. An amazing trick, at that. One of the many things Hanna had taught her reluctant student. How to continue to look human. “I do not . . . love him. I just think he’s cute.”
One delicate eyebrow rose. “Indeed?”
“Oh yeah!?” She needed to be defiant. “What about Micah?” And she knew that she had flubbed up again.
Hanna’s violet eyes turned a dull, murky sort of brown. And the smile vanished, replaced with that same sorrowful down‑turning that Starr had noticed the first time she laid eyes on her. Then, she had been still grieving for the husband she had lost. Now, she mourned for Micah.
“Micah . . . is a different story. He . . . I . . . there is no way I can explain it. I love my husband Starr, and faced with the option of the two of them, I would choose him. But Micah is special. There is no doubt of that.”
Just then, they could both hear, and feel, the approach of something “otherworldly.@ They moved back to the house they all shared in time to see a tiny car pull up. Looks like a Volvo, or a Yugo, Starr thought to herself. And out stepped . . . well, what do you know?
“Methos!” Hanna managed a tiny smile for him, although she hadn’t seen him in years.
He moved toward them, took Hanna’s tiny hand in his own, brought it to his lips. “Hanna.”
Starr blushed again when he looked at her. She’d always liked Methos too.
“And you must be Starr.” He repeated the gesture on her hand as well.
She nodded slightly when he released her hand. Well, she wouldn’t be washing that hand anytime soon!
“So, Methos, what brings you to my humble dwelling after all this time?” Hanna asked after he offered his arm, she took it, and they all proceeded to the house.
“Let’s wait until we’re inside. And you’re sitting down.”
She stopped. Looking at him, pain and dread in her eyes, she barely got the words out. “Micah? He is not . . . ”
“No.” He touched her hand. “No, he isn’t dead.” And they could all feel the sudden tension fade.
“But it is about him, yes?”
“All right,” she sighed, “we’ll go inside first.”
The Sanctuary Club
“Head like a hole
black as your soul
I’d rather die
than give you control . . . ”
Kat let the raw, industrial sounds pound into her. She closed her eyes but she could still see the spinning, pulsing disco lights overhead. The air was ripe with odors – smoke and sweat, beer and hair spray. With her back up against the bar, she looked out over the crowd and grinned. Even though the Sanctuary Club was subtitled, “a Vampire Sex Bar,” Kat never felt safer.
“What self-respecting vampire would be caught dead in a place CALLED a vampire bar? Am I right?” she shouted to the punk next to her. She didn’t want to run into any vampires here tonight if she didn’t have to. Kat knew when they were around, she could sense it – but this place was clean.
Slumped to her right, her new buddy was about to fall off of his bar stool. He couldn’t have cared less about what a self-respecting vampire would or wouldn’t do. She shrugged it off and ordered them each another shot of Jagermeister.
She had come close to meeting others of her kind on several occasions, but her innate ability to sense them first had protected her. Kat knew how to shroud herself, how to pull her aura inward. As a mortal, her myriad of talents got her labeled a witch, as a vampire they merely enhanced her repertoire.
Initially, she avoided contact out of instinct. Back then, when she had no concept of what she had become, Kat shied away from the powerful and predatory emanations she felt from other ‘creatures of the night.’ Later, she had her all-encompassing anger to contend with. Whoever had created her, had also abandoned her – she separated herself out of spite. Eventually, it was simply habit. Kat had been alone among humans for so long that she did not know how to be accessible anymore. She had so many protective walls around her that, somewhere along the line, she had become a prisoner.
Kat was brought out of her reverie by the abrupt change of music – from the acid opera rants of Diamonda Galas to the smooth song styling of Frank Sinatra. The house lights came up and the DJ announced last call, causing the pastey-faced, black-clad patrons to cringe and moan in disgust.
It was time to go.
Four Seasons Hotel
She felt one ankle then the other. “Damn,” she thought, “where is that little #&*$!@ ?” The doors had closed already and the elevator was waiting patiently for direction. Kat paused to rack her brain then quickly bent over to take off her right shoe. As she started shaking the ruined Ferragamo, the elevator doors slid open and a couple in matching running outfits stepped in.
Everybody froze – Kat all hunched over with her arm raised in mid-shake and the incredibly normal, health-conscious early birds with their pained expressions. Kat slowly turned her head to look, arm still raised, and flashed an apologetic grin. The runners smiled back, glad to know that the tall, skinny, red-haired punk in the metal dress was not completely insane.
“I can’t . . . seem . . . to find . . . my key,” she explained as she proceeded to stick her hand into the shoe and root around.
“Uh, is that it?” asked Mr. Mortal, hesitantly. He was pointing toward the floor.
Everyone looked down and there it was; A tiny silver key stuck to the side of Kat’s bare and dirty foot. Her toenails were painted black, making it look entirely as if her foot had been run over and the nails were ready to fall off.
“Cool! Thank you so much,” she said. She plucked off the offending key revealing a clean spot. Her demolished shoe was put back on before she asked, “What floor would you like?”
Kat pushed it for them. As the elevator began its ascent, she then inserted the key into a special slot on the button plate and turned it. “Penthouse,” she explained.
“Ahhh,” they replied in unison.
Before the doors could close completely behind the exiting couple, Kat began to giggle. She slumped back against the rear wall as she started to laugh harder. Kat laughed so loudly and so forcefully that by the time she arrived at the top floor, she was patting her chest and gasping for another breath with which to laugh.
She took a step into the foyer and any laughter froze in her throat. Somebody was here! Reaching behind her, she slid the key into the call slot and turned it, sending the elevator down and away. She slipped off her shoes and began to creep in the direction of the bedroom.
So this was it. This was going to be her first encounter with another vampire. Fine. She could handle herself – ages ago a Scotsman had taught her, among other things, the fine art of swordplay. The only problem was, you couldn’t kill a vampire with a sword, could you? According to all the stories and movies, you needed a wooden stake or some fire . . . Two things that the Four Seasons Hotel probably frowned upon.
At the doorway to the bedroom suite, Kat stopped to gather her resolve. She didn’t have a sword. Maybe if she just waited here, the intruder would simply go away. Whoever it was, definitely didn’t know she was there and was still stealthily moving about the room. Kat felt sick. Besides the usual sensations she got from vampires, she felt a sort of tugging, or was it burning? She couldn’t exactly define it, but it was making her antsy. A couple of her toes started to squirm and she had the sudden urge to scream. What in the hell was going on?
Deciding that surprise was her only option, Kat turned and bounded through the doorway. She was just in time to see a blur shoot between the heavy damask drapes and out into the predawn sky. Kat sped to the window, herself a blur, but saw nothing out of the ordinary.
“Shit! First those two religious freaks in Queens Park and now this,” she growled. She yanked the drapes closed over the broken window and turned to check out her room. The sun was beginning to rise leaving her no time to look for clues tonight. She wouldn’t even have time to clean up before the inevitable, undeniable sleep took her over. Her only comfort was that whoever had raided her room would also be unable to function until sunset.
Kat rounded the king size bed and reached down to pull back the ornate spread when she spotted the business card on the far side pillow. It had writing on it. She snatched it up to see. In the same gold ink and elegant hand as the invitation, was the word familie. Was that Middle English?
In shock and exhaustion, Kat lay down to get some rest. As an afterthought, she flipped over the tiny black card.