“You can’t bring that dog in here!” A nurse chased Fraser as he walked into the emergency area.
“Deif” he stopped and looked at the wolf mix. Deif whined and sat at his side as the nurse caught up with them.
“Sir, a dog‑‑”
Ray stepped up. “Ma’am, this is a specially trained police dog.”
Nurse Rachett scowled. “He’s a Mountie.”
“Yes, well the case is involving a Canadian national, so he was called here.” Ray smiled as Stanley went to another station to find Nat’s room, flashing his badge.
“This is highly irregular‑‑”
“We can make him wait outside.” Fraser motioned to the door. “Go Deif. Look for unusual suspects.”
Deif refused to budge.
“Go ahead.” The nurse shook her head. “Just keep him quiet.”
“Yes, Ma’am. Thank you kindly.” Fraser tipped his hand and followed Stanley.
Natalie Lambert didn’t look too good in the ICU pod. Tubes were everywhere, one clear saline bag in one arm, and a half-full blood bag in the other. She was breathing on her own and opened her eyes when Fraser sat next to her.
“Benny.” She smiled faintly. “You came.”
“Yes,” He smiled. He had a heart stopping fear all the way over that he would be too late. “It looks like you had a rough night.”
“No worse than when I almost had my heart taken.” She felt for his hand, and grabbed it as he offered it to her. “Those vamps that took me, they were playing hardball.” She looked like a frightened child for a moment, her eyes bruised from the blood loss and rough treatment. “They want to rule.”
“No, the country.” She tried to sit up, but Fraser forced her back down. “You have to tell Nick and everyone.”
“I will.” He bent over and kissed Nat’s forehead.
Deif growled outside the curtain, and Ray breathed at him, “We have a problem.”
Various places in New Jerusalem
The Obachine was a small, elegant and very exclusive restaurant close to the glass tower. It catered only to the elite among vampires and humans. The Prince of the City had always kept a private dining room in the back, where he could entertain out of town guests in quiet luxury. The music was very tasteful; the decor was all dark wood, hunter green and ivory. Night-blooming plants gave the impression that one was dining in a civilized garden. It was only an impression.
It was to this place that several Sabbat lords had come to sit and savor their leader’s victory. The men all gave the impression of being Mafia dons, with their slicked hair and dark suits. They sat and made small talk over a vintage “Antoinette” and Cuban cigars.
Several silent waiters entered the room in their standard black and green livery. They bore silver trays and came to stand one behind each of the diners.
Etienne, the host of the evening’s festivities, looked slightly annoyed. He had nothing else planned. Perhaps this was some impromptu menu change, to include a live wench from town. He shrugged and looked to the headwaiter. “Yes? What is it? Be quick!”
The waiter smiled, showing his sharp, white teeth. “Why, my lord, it’s dessert!”
Etienne had enough time to smile before his throat was severed by the razor edge of the waiter’s tray. Blood fountained across the crisp, white tablecloth and over the black and white marble floor. His guests found themselves in similar circumstances.
When the heads had been severed, the waiters gutted their victims, removing their hearts for disposal by cremation. They neatly bagged their grisly trophies and headed out the door.
The majordomo paled visibly when he saw the blood‑soaked men walking out of the private dining room. “Excuse me,” he began in a shaky voice.
The group filed out the door and into the night. The leader stopped long enough to hand the majordomo an envelope. “If you’re wise, you’ll use this,” he said in a calm, soft voice.
The envelope contained $30,000.00 and a one way ticket to Rio de Janeiro.
The music had stopped in the private dining room. The only sound that could be heard was the steady drip of blood from the bodies scattered around the room. In the center of the tablecloth, there was a message written in blood. It read, simply, “Number 1”.
Across town, in a dive called “The Bone Cellar”, five Sabbat flunkies were having a fine old time tearing the place up. Literally.
Barmaids were dragged from behind the bar and slit open to provide drinks on the house. A pretty brunette was flayed open on a table, and several vampires were greedily slurping at the trough. She tried to breathe, but they’d torn her lungs out for more room. As her life faded Jesse raised his dripping face from her chest and planted a wet, red kiss on her dying lips.
“Thanks for the drinks, hon,” he cackled and looked for new prey.
The double doors swung slowly open. Two women walked into the butcher shop that had been a bar. They were identical, from their short, black hair to their 6″ stiletto heels. Skintight red mini‑dresses and black leather coats completed their ensembles.
Jesse and the boys wolf‑whistled at the new arrivals.
“Whoa, boys!” Jesse howled. “Look what we got for fresh meat!”
Jesse and the other four surrounded the two women.
“So, little honey,” Caleb said as leaned over with fetid breath. “What’s your name?”
The first woman lifted one perfect eyebrow. “Why?” she asked in a husky voice.
“Well, we like to know what to call dinner.”
The boys all laughed uproariously at the joke.
“In that case,” the first one said, as she reached into her bag, “You may call me Plague.”
The other one spoke up. “And I’m Pestilence.”
The hands that emerged from their shoulder bags wore silver “brass” knuckles. There was a difference between these and the ordinary knuckle‑duster. These had long, razor claws attached. They windmilled through their would‑be captors, slicing, hacking and gouging. Blood spurted, heads flew across the room and five hearts ended up in the large, brightly burning fireplace in the corner of the bar.
Plague wiped her claws with a bar towel and returned them to her purse. They walked out of The Bone Cellar and vanished into the night.
On the sidewalk in front of the place was a bloody scrawl. “Number 2”, it read.
Shoot Out the Lights
Various places in New Jerusalem
A tiny, silvery chime sounded out the last toll for midnight. Chester sighed and pulled out the pocket watch. Yes, it was time to walk the perimeter. He levered his tired old bones out of his chair at the guard desk and walked carefully toward the main doors. At his age, the old arthritis was beginning to take its toll. He stopped a moment to look again at the watch. It was a beautiful thing, solid gold case, and played the Westminster chimes every hour. The Prince of the City had given it to him at his thirty‑year anniversary. Chester stuffed it back in his pocket and wiped his eyes with an old red bandana from his jacket. Damn, but he missed the Prince. He always had a kind word for a person. ‘Yep,’ he mused silently, ‘even offered to embrace me.’ Chester grinned ruefully as he thought about it. Maybe if he’d been thirty years younger, he’d have taken him up on it. But he was too old, now. Darling Elizabeth in her grave for the last five years now, and the Prince dead, too. At least the new owner had seen fit to leave Chester his job. It paid for the occasional meal out and stamps for letters to his son in New York City.
As he opened the big glass doors to the outside, he noticed what a pretty night it was. Times like this, he could see why being a vampire could be so attractive. Ah, but there was nothing like a warm day to chase the rheumatism out of the bones.
He stepped outside and stood on the sidewalk. Something was out of place. He stepped away from the building and turned around. With a gasp, he realized that horror had visited the tower.
There were twenty or so human heads, arrayed in a pyramid next to the planter. Their expressions told a tale of surprise and agony. As Chester squinted at them, he saw that they were the out of town Sabbat bodyguards that the boss had been expecting. Something was fluttering in the pile, and he moved closer to see what it was. With a trembling hand, he reached out for the piece of paper. It was nailed to a forehead. Then, he dropped it and ran back inside, faster than he thought he could. Upstairs needed to know about this.
The paper leaped in the slight breeze like a dancer, and settled to the street. The letters were a crimson slash across the white surface. They said, “Number 3. Tag!”
Monique sat by the window and gazed out over the trees. The small chalet was comfortable and very well guarded.
Algernon padded into the room to stand at her elbow. “Miss Monique?”
“Yes,” she said without turning.
“I’ve just had word that number three has been completed.”
“Thank you, Algernon.”
As he left the room, a slow smile cut its way across her face.
Jenny smiled to herself as she stood in the main room of the suite and toweled her hair dry. The Romany Suite was designed to look like a gypsy caravan circled around a main common area. Every room was a different wagon. When she’d first gotten to the suite she’d had to peek into every room. The stiffness of the drying blood convinced her that she needed to shower before she did any further exploring.
She quickly dressed in a simple long skirt and blouse, and sat down to figure out what she was going to need to resurrect the curse on Angel. She ticked off the items as she dragged them out of her bag. Thank the gods that Rupert hadn’t disposed of the orb she’d picked up back in Sunnydale. Jenny checked over her list and furrowed her brow in concentration. She was missing a couple of items. They were small; easily procured at the Botanika she’d noticed on her ride into town. On a sudden hunch she went to the master “wagon” and began rummaging through the drawers. Several herbs that she was going to need were neatly nestled in a divided cupboard like the one her Grandmama used to have. She turned the herbs over in her hands as she walked back into the main room. There must be a gypsy somewhere on staff. No mere decorator could know to supply the room with these particular items.
A sudden determination drove her to seek the telephone. She called down to the front desk.
“Yes, Mr. Battles? This is Jenny Calendar in the Romany Suite. I hope this doesn’t sound like an odd request, but do you happen to have anyone on staff of Romany extraction?” She waited for the response. “Oh, yes, that’s wonderful. Would it be too much trouble to send her upstairs before her shift? I need to speak to her. Thank you so much.”
She hung up the phone. Sonja would be up in twenty minutes. This was going to help immensely.
Recaps, Renovations and Reconnaissance
“Anyway,” Schanke said as he finished his gyros, “that’s it in a nutshell. Evie figured that we needed to talk to Giles about the book.”
“Let me get this straight,” Nick said as he hung up the phone. “The Denny’s waitress told you about the horse race, mentioned a name…”
“Davistch,” Evie prompted.
“Right. And when you got to the cemetery…”
“Yeah.” Schanke’s eyes misted over with the memory of Jenny’s voice.
Ricze spoke up from his spot by the door. “It’s an old Sabbat punishment, specifically for brethren that…talk too much.” He shrugged. “It’s vicious, but effective in keeping the troops in line.”
“And then we’re back to the newspaper clipping.” Evie sat, contemplating her beer.
“I’m assuming the librarian works nights?” Nick asked with a touch of wry amusement.
“Yep, right as rain, partner.” Schanke took a swig of his cold coffee and winced. “I knew I should’ve nuked this.”
Nick rose from the couch. “Well, I think we need to find Giles.”
“Did you talk to Jerome?” Trapper gestured at the door.
“Yes. He said that someone would be right up to fix it. It’s amazing, you know. Nothing seems to faze the man. He also mentioned that there were two people caught in the explosion.”
“He didn’t know. He’s having one of his staff take a read on them.”
Everyone rose to leave, except Schanke. “I’m going to wait here until the maintenance guy shows up. Besides, he might know something about what’s been going on around town.”
“Good idea, Schanke.” Nick and Trapper headed for the doorway.
Duncan walked over to the fridge and pulled out a Grant’s Scottish ale. “I think that Sukh, Kay and I are going to stay as well. I don’t think it’s a good idea for any of us to be alone right now.” He looked pointedly at the two women. “And I don’t want the two of you in the middle if there are problems.”
Sukh and Kay bobbed their heads up and down as they sat on the couch.
“Sounds good to me!” Sukh said.
Nick nodded, and the rest of them filed out of the room.
Micah stopped, turned and walked back to Kay. He leaned over and planted a kiss on her upturned lips. “Be careful.”
The party walked out into the hall to try to make some sense out of the evening. Things were getting stranger by the minute. And where were Devin and Anna, anyway?
The dust and smoke had cleared out of the hallway, and it was hard to tell that anything had occurred in the hotel. When the group arrived at the Provencal Suite, however, it was another story.
Instead of the elegant, rather baroque style door, there was a blank sheet of metal. Nicholas put his hand on it.
“This must be the fire door that Jerome mentioned.”
“Now what?” Micah’s eyes still blazed with fury at what Lux had tried to do to his sister. He was disappointed that nothing presented itself for his rage to vent against.
“Jerome said that Sonja would be up shortly,” Nick answered without turning around.
As if in answer to an invisible summons, the panel concealing the service elevator slid to one side. An elderly woman dressed in black emerged and made her way to the fire door where they all stood. She had eyes only for the metal door, and Nicholas moved to one side as she approached.
“Sonja?” he asked.
She nodded in reply as she touched an oddly shaped key to a small depression in the door. “There will be a rush of air as I open the door. Please to stand back.”
They did as Sonja asked, and the door slid aside with an audible whoosh. Without hesitation, she walked into what was left of the suite. The rest of them followed closely behind.
Sonja stood in the center of the room, making small sounds of disapproval. “Tcha. What a mess this will be to clean up.” She looked around until she spied the two skulls. Carefully, reverently, she picked them up and looked into their empty eye sockets. “These two are most unhappy,” she frowned. “Yes, they were vampires, both men.” She looked up at Nick, who had come up beside her. “This,” she gestured at the room with the skulls, ” was an accident. The explosion was not meant for them.” She placed them back on the floor and wiped her hands on her apron.
“Did you see anything else?” Nick asked gently.
“Only letters. Does C‑4 mean anything?”
Nick smiled and raised an eyebrow. “Oh, yes. Thank you.”
“You are welcome.” She looked at her watch. “I must go. I have one more stop on this floor before I can clean this up.” She bustled out of the room in her black skirts, looking like the chatelaine of the tower.
“Okay,” Kat said as she continued to poke through the debris. “We know they were both men, so it wasn’t Devin and Anna that got caught in this.” She looked thoughtful as she came up with what was left of the weaponry.
“Heavy hitters,” Vachon remarked as Kat held up the partially melted gun.
“Indeed,” Ricze said. “So, it begs the question. What were they doing here?”
“I think this is another thing we need to ask Mr. Saceur,” Trapper said.
“All right,” Nick spoke as he dusted his hands off. “Let’s go back to the room and see if we can’t track down our man of mystery. Maybe he can shed some light on this.”
“Mmm. And maybe where the explosives came from, too.” Evie commented as they picked their way back out of the ruined suite.
“I still think we should be looking for that bastard, Lux,” Micah muttered as they walked back down the hall.
“I don’t think he’s leaving the area any time soon,” Nick said as they walked along. “He still has some demented score to settle with Kat.”
“Imagine my excitement,” Kat said dryly.
The Making of a Madman (Part 1)
Some time ago…
Clint had missed his calling in life…
Back in the “days of old”, as he liked to call them ‑ though he had been a vampire for little over a quarter of a century ‑ he’d been an expert marksman. A natural talent, Clint developed his sharpshooting at an astonishing rate, very early in life.
His “Pa” had been the one to nourish the ability. Pa did many things with young Clint in those days. He’d spend endless hours with the boy, teaching him the “ways of the world”. His lessons had been hard…much too hard for a child.
Often, Clint would pay the price for failure by spending an evening strapped to the old oak tree across the lake from his trailer. Pa would come out every so often, a beer in one hand and his thick leather belt moist and ready for action in the other. The beatings would sometimes go on until the boy was rendered unconscious. Sometimes longer.
As he grew, Clint’s punishments became even more severe. But he was older then, and his father saw that the usual methods weren’t working as well. The boy had developed thick scars on his back from years of abuse and was all but numb to the brutal weapon that was his father’s belt.
So it was that one evening, in the humid, mosquito‑heavy air of Mississippi in mid‑August, 1968…Pa found a new way to hurt his son.
After a particularly grueling day spent drinking and working under the hood of his battered old Chevy, Pa entered his home and found that things had not been cleaned as he’d asked. It was a simple request, for Christ’s‑fucking‑sake, and they couldn’t get it done!
His wife, Jodi, was the one to meet with his rage as she came out of the bathroom. Before she could even begin to decipher what had happened, she found herself being drowned in the draining tub water she’d left behind from her bath. The fierce impact of her husband’s fists on the back of her head sent her into a haze as her life was torn away in a violent rush.
Clint came home later in the evening. He’d been out all day and had simply forgotten about his chores. The addiction to liquor apparently ran with the genetic code of his family, so the poor young man had taken all too easily to the bottle in his teens. On that particular evening, he’d finished off a fifth of Wild Turkey in the span of a few hours.
When he stumbled into the bathroom, he saw his mother lying face first in the tub. There was a thick coat of blood on the broken shards of tile from the wall and literally sprayed across the basin of the tub itself. The back of the woman’s head was also matted with blood and appeared to be crushed inward.
Clint stood in utter shock for a few moments…uncertain whether to yell out, run, or lift his mother into his arms. In all the years of torture he had endured at his father’s hand, Ma had been the only one to come to his side. She’d nursed his wounds and even come to his aid by standing in front of Pa in an attempt to shield the boy. In each instance, she paid dearly for her compassion.
As he stood there, struggling against intoxication and the horror of his mother’s death, Clint found that he could only cry. The enormous shock and pain would allow him no other action.
But when Pa came in the front door, swaying from his own inebriation and carrying that old belt in his hand, the young man found new strength. He looked to his father and knew immediately and without a doubt that he was the one who killed his mother. Though he needed desperately to believe it, he knew that there had been no burglary or any such thing. This work was too much like his father for anyone else.
As if to confirm the thought, Pa stood there in the hallway, nearly devoid of emotion. With a sickly, near‑toothless grin, he pointed to the oak tree, which could be seen out of the open door of the trailer. “You and me got some work to do, boy. Your momma has a hole in the dirt waitin’ for her.”
The answer he received sent him flying into the wall, with his newly shattered nose pouring blood down his face. Clint moved in quickly, unwilling to give his father any time to stand up. He repeatedly smashed his fists as hard as he could into the bastard’s face, breaking his few remaining teeth and dislocating his jaw as he went.
Old Pa was without recourse. Clint tore the belt from his grasp and tightened it around his neck, jerking forcefully upward as he held the man face down with a knee jammed into the apex of his spine. As he twisted the belt tighter around his father’s throat and pulled with every ounce of his being, Clint heard a loud pop, and the man beneath him suddenly fell silent.
He stood then, initially stunned with his first act of murder. But as he looked back to the pitiful heap that had been his mother, he knew that he’d done right. He kicked the body of his father soundly and proceeded to storm out the door to his truck.
He was met there by his friend Hank Redman. Shortly after, Clint effectively disappeared from the mortal world.
Into The Thick of It
As they gathered themselves together to return to Nick’s suite, voices from down the hall caught their attention. Buffy and her crew came around the corner, oblivious to the adults in their immediate path.
“Cordy, I told you that going this way was a total waste of time.”
“Thank you so much for your opinion, Xander,” Cordelia replied icily. “I didn’t think it would be too much to see if they had a Coke machine in this place.”
“Well, we were here to check out the explosion, Cordelia,” Buffy said, attempting patience.
“Well, excuse me. Everything’s always about something else. What about me?”
“What about you?” Willow asked in seeming innocence.
“Whoa,” Xander looked up. “Vamp alert.”
“Hey, guys!” Buffy smiled as they approached. “Did you check it out?”
Nick nodded. “Not much to see, I’m afraid. The suite is destroyed.”
Xander whistled. “Anyone in there?”
“Not anyone you’d want to know now,” Evie said with some amusement. “Two vampires, both male, both very dead.”
“And the occupants of the suite nowhere to be found,” added Trapper.
“Evie looked at the teenagers. ” Do you know where Giles is? We found some information, and we think he may be able to help us with translation.”
Cordelia sighed in exasperation. “Well, if it’s dry, boring and Latin, he’s your man. Do you guys have any Diet Coke in your suite?”
Willow put a hand on Cordelia’s shoulder. “There is always room service.”
Cordelia brightened. “Oh, yeah! Room service! I could get all sorts of stuff.” She was off down the hall.
Xander looked at Willow. “You really needed to do that, didn’t you?”
Willow shrugged and smiled.
Buffy shook her head. “I think you’ve created a monster.” She looked back at the adults. “Look, I’ll go back to the room and send Giles down. Your suite, Nick?”
“Yes. That would be fine.”
“Cool. Then we’re gone. We’ll be down in a few.” They went off down the hall, and around the corner.
“Why don’t we cruise the hall once more, and then go back to the suite?” Kat was watching the way Buffy had gone. “I think I’d feel better if we checked out everything.”
Vachon agreed. “Who knows?” he smiled. “We might even run into Lux.”
“What a lovely thought!” Kat laughed and they began to walk quietly down the hall, looking for more clues, or in Micah’s case, someone to hurt.
Jenny sat on a large, red velvet floor cushion. She had pulled her knees up and wrapped her arms around them. Her eyes were closed as she remembered the past. Life was so simple; riding in the brightly colored caravan; dancing for the pennies that passing strangers threw at the Gypsy child. She frowned as a tear escaped her shuttered eyes. That was so long ago now, an entire lifetime away. It was a time of innocence, before she reached the age to receive her mission in life: follow Angelus, and ensure that happiness escaped him. One woman from every generation had been sacrificed to this calling, following the cursed vampire from country to country through the centuries. She alone had failed in her trust, allowing Angel to catch her in an unguarded moment.
‘Well,’ she thought to herself, ‘this will be remedied very soon.’ She came out of her light trance at the sound of a knock on the door. She rose gracefully to her feet and glided to answer it. An elderly woman stood in the hall.
Jenny bowed and waved her into the suite. “Enter, wise one, of your own free will and be welcome at my fire.”
Sonja walked in and beamed at Jenny. She reached to touch her face. “Ah, how well you know the words, moya droga.” She studied Jenny for a moment, looking deeply into the young woman’s eyes. “You look like a Kalderash.”
Jenny smiled back and ducked her head shyly. “You favor me, little mother.” She motioned toward the one small loveseat. “Would you sit and take tea?”
“I would love to. It has been a long time since I spoke with anyone of the Blood.”
The time passed swiftly as Jenny told Sonja about Angel and what she was trying to accomplish. At the end of it, Sonja held Jenny’s hand in both of her own.
“I have what you need, my dear child. I would be honored to help you in your task.” She rose and looked at the tiny clock pendant that hung around her neck. “My shift starts soon, but I will bring everything to you at noon tomorrow.”
Jenny hugged the old woman as she escorted her to the door. “Thank you. But, don’t you need to sleep after your work?”
Sonja laughed as she walked out into the hall. “I’m an old woman. Time enough for sleep when I am dead.”
Jenny watched Sonja’s sprightly walk until the elderly gypsy vanished into the service elevator. Then, Jenny closed the door and leaned against it. By tomorrow night, Angel would have his soul back.
The Making of a Madman (Part 2)
Dunkin’ Donuts/Elysian Fields
Hank had been his deliverer. He’d pulled Clint from the misery of his existence and given him a new life…one in which he would never feel fear.
And in return, he’d just sent the man to his final death.
But it was the way of things, Clint told himself as he collected his belongings from the table in that deathly quiet Dunkin Donuts and ordered his pack mates to “saddle up”. Hank had shown weakness. To the Sabbat, any sign of weakness was a harbinger of doom for the entire pack. Such frailty could not be tolerated in a leader.
“So what’s the deal, Clint? We goin’ on wit our work or what?”
“Damn right, we are. We gots sum people that need killin’ in that hotel. And I ain’t fer backin’ down fer nothin’! Let’s move!”
They did just that, each member infused with a new enthusiasm brought on by the ascension of Clint. They hooted and hollered their way out of the building and over to the Elysian Fields, where they prepared their weapons once again.
Clint looped a belt filled with shotgun shells around his shoulder and smiled. “If’n the ‘man of the house’ ain’t fer likin’ our entry, we’ll kill his ass and any of his own that say two fuggin’ words about it. Got it?”
They all agreed with an unintelligible grunt and proceeded into the building…
What Have I Done?
Elysian Fields parking garage
“We should stay in the background for a while, Anna.”
“There is always a chance of us being found, even if we hide.”
“Oh, but out in the open…around Herr Knight and his pals…we have a better chance of being undetected, right?”
“That’s not what I mean. What I’m getting at is the concept of ‘safety in numbers’.”
“None of them trust me, my dear…in case you’ve forgotten. I’m little more than the unbalanced bloodsucker who ruined their library party. They wouldn’t draw a weapon in defense of me.”
“If they knew the story they might.”
Devin laughed then, but his tight stare revealed no hint of sincere amusement. The man was very worried, it seemed to her then in the low light of the parking garage. His eyes spoke volumes of emotion to her as she reached into the undercurrents of his thoughts for the first time in over a century.
She had vowed never again to scan his mind. Though she possessed the power to do so in an instant, she had always left his thoughts for him alone. Could it be any other way? Could she, with any justification, read the depths of his soul without violating the very elements that gave rise to her love for him? Should one ever know their lover completely…or is it the hidden development and continuously unfolding complexity of another’s being that births an enduring passion from the embers of the initial blaze?
She had loved him since that evening in August of 1867, when they exchanged silent and yet knowing glances near the shores of the Danube. They recognized each other as vampires then, standing only fifty feet apart as they enjoyed the gentle breeze and night air that imbibed the spirit with the capriciousness and childlike grace of late summer.
But it was so much more than that, she remembered clearly. The weight of their first glance had removed any option of simply walking away into the night. Their recognition of each other went beyond a mere acknowledgment between immortal kindred. They had seen into and through each other in the span of a second…and had found a connection beyond triviality or the worldly confines of flesh and blood.
She had known him in that moment, through his thoughts, but she had not known that level in him since. As she scanned him now, it was as though she suddenly saw him…below all the shallow masks of strength and cunning built over his years of turmoil…behind the outward presence of his being…far beneath the very skin that enclosed his ageless body like a stoic wall before a tempest.
In those moments, she knew him like never before. And though it pained her to have committed the act, the understanding gathered from her telepathic intrusions opened her eyes to the truth of the man she had spent countless nights with…
He was frightened.
Had the fear been born of a need to preserve himself, she would have understood and let it pass with that. But the terror that gripped Devin had little to do with him at all. In its raw simplicity, he feared for her injury or death in the approaching conflict. And as if in confirmation…as she tracked the slow passage of a tear down his face, she was nearly expelled from his mind by the force of the emotion.
This fear was common, almost instinctive to a mortal. But to a vampire…to the undead…and above all else, to a man of his callous and violent history…such concern seemed almost alien. To Anna, the man sitting across from her suddenly appeared more human than she had ever known him to be.
“I’m sure they would understand.”
“Understand what – that I murdered an elder vampire and consumed every drop of her blood.”
“One does not mutilate in self‑defense.”
“You were acting on instinct. There were five in the room who would have destroyed you. You had to act without the benefit of foresight. Though it may have been a particularly brutal solution you arrived at, it was ultimately in self‑preservation.”
“I’ve no doubt that you can view it in such a light, but I doubt that our friends will do so.”
“What is that supposed to mean? You believe me to be a barbarian ?”
He nearly choked on the words, not realizing that he’d spoken them until the insult was already done. “No, no. I simply meant that you are more accustomed to extreme acts than the others may be.”
“Mr. Knight is a cop, Devin. Think about it. He’s also a vampire. I’m sure he’s been around long enough to know the darker shades of kindred existence. If he judges you in the face of his own transgressions, then he is a hypocrite.”
“Fine. I’ll call them…for your sake. But I’m still of the opinion that this is a mistake.” He punched a series of numbers on the cellular then and waited.
The anxious voice of Jerome answered. “Elysian Fields…”
“Connect me with Detective Nicholas Knight and party, please.”
Jerome recognized Devin’s voice, but said nothing to acknowledge him or his request at first. He wasn’t entirely sure whether to be relieved or disappointed that the strange guest had been absent during the blast that obliterated his suite. After a few seconds of silence, he uttered “one moment.”
Shortly after, Nick’s voice greeted him. “Mr. Saceur. I believe we have some matters to discuss.”
“Yes, we do. However, for obvious reasons, I’d rather not do so over the phone. I’d also like to avoid your suite. Considering how easy it was for me to infiltrate the room and place surveillance devices…I am of the opinion that others have done so as well.”
“Fine. Then where do you want to meet?”
“Ask Jerome if there is a secure place where we can hold a meeting. For some reason, I trust that man.”
“Fine. Give me fifteen minutes.”
“Agreed.” He flicked the switch on the cellular and then reached across to place his hand on Anna’s shoulder. “I hope that you’re right in this.”
Against his instincts, Devin opened the door to the vehicle and prepared to head into the hotel.
Time to Dance
Nick hung up the phone, and stood for a moment, thinking. They had no sooner gotten back to the suite than the phone began to ring insistently. Nick had taken the call, and promptly made another one. He turned to the questioning faces gathered around him.
“That was Devin. He wants to meet and discuss the little problem with his suite.” He chuckled. “He certainly is a magnet for trouble.”
“So, is he coming up?” Schanke was still sitting in the recliner where they’d left him.
“No. He wants Jerome to set up somewhere more secure.” Nick looked around the room with a frown. “Considering how easy it was for him to bug the room, I’m inclined to agree.”
“Is there such a place?” Micah was restive, clutching his sword and still looking for an enemy to smite.
“Actually, there are two of them, according to Jerome.” Nick moved off toward the fridge for a drink. “One is called the Vault, and it was built by the owner.”
“Jonas,” Micah offered.
Nick found the vintage he was looking for and poured a glass. “The other one is newer. Jerome added it after the massacre. Since he’s the only one that knows about it, surveillance would be difficult to achieve. That’s the one we’ll use.” He tossed off his drink and set the empty glass down. “If anyone needs fortification before we go, now’s the time. We’ll be meeting him down there in a few minutes.”
The phone rang again. Trapper answered it, turning noticeably paler as she listened to the caller. “Just a moment, Jerome.” She placed her hand over the mouthpiece. “Remember the two employees that mentioned something about hillbilly vampires a while ago?”
Nick nodded. “Yes. I assumed that was a false alarm.”
Trapper held the phone out to him. “Talk to Jerome. It seems that they’re just outside the main door; and they’re looking for blood.” She paused for a moment. “Ours.”
The Old “Two‑Step”
“Such wondrous mahogany sculpting, wouldn’t you say?” Devin seemed transfixed on the moulding in the parking garage elevator as it slowly ascended to the lobby. He traced the curves with his index finger and pointed out various elements of Victorian styling to Anna, who seemed wholly uninterested.
“Please be serious, Devin. We can discuss at great length your infatuation with period art when we’re not being hunted by highly trained assassins.”
“As the door opens, walk out as casually as possible and then try to act surprised.”
“There is a group of men up there in the lobby.”
“How do you know?”
“I can hear them.”
Anna listened closely for a second before shrugging her shoulders. “I’ll take your word for it. You’ve always had better hearing than I.”
“They’re aggressive‑sounding. Be prepared for anything.”
“What are you going to do?”
“A bit of shadow play.” As he finished, the elevator door opened and Devin melded with a shadow thrown by the light from the lobby. Effectively, he disappeared from sight, leaving Anna momentarily off‑balance.
But the sense of shock became even worse as she found herself targeted by a host of men in the lobby, each carrying their own special brand of firearm. The man in the foreground shouted “git outta the el’vater and put yer hands up, bitch!”
“Whoaaa! Sure thing,” was all she could manage as she stepped out into the lobby and found herself in the midst of the very angry ‑ and quite odorous ‑ men. Though she knew that Devin was also somewhere in the lobby, she felt no small degree of annoyance at what seemed to be his carelessness in dealing with this situation. Damn him, she thought to herself as one of the foul creatures approached her…he’d better have a plan.
“Ooooh, mama…” Bertram nearly fell over at the sight of Anna as he neared her. Those shapely thighs, large and yet firm breasts, and the beautifully sculpted abs which could be seen through the light black lace that barely covered her torso. “You comin’ home wit me, slut.”
Clint wasn’t overly amused by the display. “You can get ‘er later, Bert. We gots business ta take care of.”
The man looked her over for a moment longer, before pulling a wrap of nylon rope from his jacket. “This one’s the kind to run. I better tie her up and take her along.”
But as he readied the rope, Anna pulled her Guhkri knife from its sheath on her back and quickly rammed the blade into Bertram’s chest. The wickedly curved steel cleaved through the man’s sternum and lodged in the center of his trachea, instantly filling his lungs with blood.
Bertram had not used his lungs in decades. Nevertheless, he sucked in reflexively, and found the intake of air drowned by the gurgling of blood as it filled his entire chest cavity. He wanted to howl in pain, but all that surfaced was a deluge of near‑black vitae, shot forth in a geyser that painted the nearby walls as well as the woman who had been his demise.
As Anna pulled the blade free, she was not at all surprised to see a neat line slice across Bertram’s throat just before his head flew off in an angle towards the front desk. She knew that Devin was there the entire time…she just wasn’t sure how he would make his entrance.
Apparently, Clint and his boys hadn’t been ready either. As they tried to get their bearings on the rapidly unfolding situation, all they could make out was the form of a man as he rushed past them on his way to the stairs. “Get that sum bitch!!!” Clint yelled as he opened fire with his shotgun. Each of the men followed suit…practically ignoring the woman standing across from them with a large, angry‑looking blade in her hands.
Jerome nearly wet himself as two consecutive slug rounds shattered the desk before him. Needing no further persuasion, the man dove to the ground and reached for the twelve‑gauge beneath the counter. He didn’t want to get involved, but if one of those bastards came over his counter flashing the trademark “Mason‑Dixon Grin” at him, he’d be filling someone’s ass with lead in a big hurry!
The ruckus was about to upgrade into the higher ranges of absolute chaos when the elevator chime suddenly sounded off. The doors opened a second later, and out of the lift came another group, bearing weapons of their own and looking more than ready to dish out a bona fide ass‑whipping…
I’m a Wanderer
Kendra watched Spike as he stood and paced outside the entrance of the cave. She crept forward, step by step, until she was a couple of feet away.
“Maybe I can help.” A tallish man with short hair and a trench coat, popped out from behind a tree. Kendra reacted without thinking, lashing out with the stake in her hand.
“Maybe not.” Methos deflected the blow with his forearm and grabbed her, pinning her to a tree. “Now who are you, young lady and why are you wandering the woods at this hour?”
“And who are you?” The girl spit at him.
“I am Adam Pierson, and I am looking for Joe Dawson.”
“I am Kendra the vampire slayer.” He released her and she turned to look at him. “And Joe is not here. He is in town, with the handsome immortal.”
“And him?” Methos pointed to Spike. Spike had frozen like a wary deer and was approaching.
“He is a vampire.” Kendra motioned for Methos to fade into the brush. “And I need to catch him and bring him to the hotel for Buffy’s watcher.”
“Buffy’s watcher?” Methos frowned. Another division of the Watcher organization.
“Rupert Giles?” He knew him from a brief stay at Oxford. The young man had been unhappy about taking on his destiny. “I’d be happy to help.” Then he pulled out his sword and vanished.
Spike had heard voices, so he went to see whom was invading his territory, or worse yet, seen him walk. He had been saving the walking for the right moment to catch Angelus off guard and hurt the man for stealing his Dru. And the stunt with the vampire bird, dropping her in the lake. Angelus was getting more frightening each day, with the erratic behavior. He stopped stock still as he felt a cold steel blade at his neck.
“I think someone I know wants to talk to you,” Methos suggested, as he held the sword at Spike’s throat.
Kendra appeared in his line of vision. “Come wit’ us.”
After receiving the call from Jerome, the room had been galvanized into action. Kat and Vachon raced down to their suite for their weaponry. Ricze followed suit. Evie pulled out her trusty Sig Hauer P229SL. She’d bought the .357 conversion kit for it after their last trip to Toronto. What she had now was a 12 shot, ornately engraved, unblacked double‑action death dealer, full of silver Talon custom loads. She checked it and made sure she had the extra magazines, just in case.
“Jesus, Evie!” Schanke sputtered. “What are you doing with that? Were you expecting to go elephant hunting?”
“Girl’s got to be prepared, Donnie‑boy,” Evie replied with a grim smile.
Trapper made sure that her Barnett Nitro Pistol Crossbow was in good working order. It was a fairly light weapon, but she knew that she had “other” weapons she could use. She grabbed a handful of double fletch arrows with silver heads and stuffed them into the breast pocket of her motorcycle jacket.
Nick looked over at Duncan, who was polishing his sword as he waited. “Mac?”
“Would you mind staying here with Sukh and Kay? I really don’t want them in the middle of this.”
Duncan smiled broadly and placed his sword on the coffee table. “It would indeed be a pleasure, Nick.” He placed an arm around each of the ladies and pulled them closer. “I’m sure we can keep ourselves amused ’til you return.”
“No doubt,” Nick answered.
Ricze had returned with an incredible amount of ordinance, most of it illegal, from the look of it.
“I take it you brought this along on your jet?” Nick said with crossed arms and a wry grin.
“Yes,” Ricze shrugged. “I thought it might be necessary to have the firepower.”
“Then we should go.” Nick stalked out the door and into the hall.
The rest of them followed suit. Micah’s sword gleamed in the light from the wall sconces.
Kat and Vachon met them at the elevator, and they rode down together to meet whatever it was that awaited them in the lobby.
The elevator doors opened on a scene straight from the Ninth Ring of Hell. Blood and black ichor dripped from every surface near the elevator. A large pool of foul smelling blood spread across the lovely marble floor, and in the middle of it lay a headless body, still twitching in its death agonies. Blood spatters marked the trajectory the head had taken back toward the front desk, which had a couple of nasty bullet holes in it.
Anna stood alone in the middle of the room, drenched in gore from head to toe. She was poised for attack, and held a wicked blade in her bloody hand.
Devin was nowhere to be seen, but from the sound of the howling mob, he had made for the stairs.
As the hunting party exited the elevator, the angry Sabbat pack took notice of the new arrivals.
“Well shit!” Clint crowed, as he looked them over. “What’ve we got here? Are y’all fresh meat?”
The rest of the odiferous lot guffawed over the remark and gazed hungrily at the warriors.
Lenny was the first one stupid enough to approach them. He began sauntering toward Evie, his hands outstretched. His breath was the fetid stench of a cesspool as he spoke. “Aren’t you a honey. Whyn’t you jes’ come over hyar and keep me comp’ny girl? “h kin’ tell, you ain’t no vamp. Yer blood smells too sweet.”
Evie’s answer was the roar of her gun as it fired a shot straight into his forehead. It was actually quite a neat, tidy hole in the front. Lenny had time to blink before his brains exited in a rush from the gaping wound in the back of his head.
“First blood, Evie,” Trapper said as she cocked her crossbow. “Nice shot.” She fired and caught Luther in the throat.
He choked on the blood that came pouring out of his mouth and grabbed at the arrow that had bisected his Adam’s apple. Trapper quickly fired off three more arrows, catching him in the eyes and mouth. Micah strode forward as Lenny fell to his knees and swiftly sliced off his head with one clean blow.
After that, the mayhem was swift, bloody and deadly. The Sabbat crew fell one by one before the onslaught of the storm. Kat was taking particular delight in pulling Gus’ heart out as Vachon held the struggling vampire. As Gus fell to the blood‑slicked floor, Javier wiped his hands on his jeans in disgust.
“These pigs are filthy,” he muttered.
Clint was backing away toward the door as Trapper noticed him. He’d lost his weapon in the melee and was looking for a quick exit.
“Not so fast, bucko,” she growled as she stepped to face him. She dropped her crossbow into the harness across her back and looked at him as she lowered her glasses.
Clint saw that she was weaponless, and his face split into a wide grin. “Well, darlin’, whut ‘r ya aimin’ t’ do with no little toy t’ even th’ odds?” He began to stalk forward with an anticipatory leer. “Ya want me?” He grabbed his crotch as he looked her over. “Mmm. “h cud show ya a real good tahm.”
Trapper cocked her head for a moment, making sure that he stood directly before the doors. Then she smiled and took a deep breath. Her eyes turned up in their sockets, leaving only white in their place.
Evie turned suddenly, having heard the breath. “Shit! Everybody down!” she screamed.
Clint said, “Huh?”
Trapper stretched her arms toward the vampire and began to sing in a high‑pitched wail. Clint watched in amazement as his flesh began to shred from his bones. Fortunately, his screams were drowned out by the all‑consuming banshee howl. His organs exploded one by one into gobbets of flesh and blood that flew out the shattered door. Still she came on, as his skull fractured and his eyes popped and oozed down his ruined face. His brains poured out his ears, his mouth; every handy orifice was full of gore.
When she stopped, there was only a heap of bones and fluid amidst the bloody scraps of clothing. A final word wisped up from what was left of Clint, as his spirit finally departed. They told her later that it was impossible, but Trapper swore that she heard it.
Empty park near a glass high rise
LaCroix watched her as she poured the flammable liquid over the remains of her pet. Her mouth was drawn into a tight line of grief. Her braids hung around her head like small lapis tipped tears. She had not shed any pink tinged tears yet, she was like him, one to bury the pain in deep where it couldn’t surface. She turned and nodded, and he lit the match and set it on the body, starting the pyre. Angelique stood, alone and watched Lucius burn. Cleo, an ebony statue next to her, bowed her magnificent head low between her shoulder blades and mourned the loss of a second mate in one year.
LaCroix slid up behind her, and slid his arms around her waist. Angelique leaned back and watched the flames dance in the summer night air, and let the silent pink tinged tears fall. They had both been through so much, the fever, losing Vlad. Nick had lost Natalie to the Mountie, Jeanette was furious at Nick for bringing her back across and Vachon had barely escaped death at the hands of his demented Divia. And then there had been that nightmare with August.
And her attraction to Giles. That bothered him most of all, her being attracted to a mortal, bringing back painful memories of Fleur. He had been longing for a mortal of hundreds of years, yet Angelique had never once used that information against him. “Mea Culpa,” he whispered into her braids as the flames consumed Lucius.
Her body tightened and she hissed. He looked across the pyre, and noticed a man; no a vampire, there was no heartbeat. The creature was rubbing his hands together, his mirrored sunglasses reflecting a savage Angelique.
“Leave!” She growled as she pulled out of LaCroix’s arms.
“And miss the barbecue?” The punk laughed as Angelique circled around the pyre to face him.
Angelique felt the rage burning as she looked at the young childe. He looked like a former bodybuilder, a huge Ankh was tattooed across his wide chest and tattooed snakes slithered up his arms. “This is a private ceremony.”
“Not any more.” The flames reflected off his mirrored sunglasses as he smirked a pointed arrogant tilt of the lips at her.
“Nice Ankh.” He reached out and fingered it. “I think it’d look really good on me.” He started to yank it off her neck.
“This was a gift from my father, the Pharaoh.” She crushed his hand as he struggled to get his hand out of her grip. “You are not fit to look at it.”
She forced him to his knees and ripped off his shades. He squinted from the flames light and looked up at her. He saw Sekhmet, her mane whipped around by a sudden breeze, her feline eyes glowing with rage. “Show proper homage to the Goddess.”
His eyes widened as she picked him up by the throat with a displeased laugh. “No? Then die.” She ripped out his throat, his blood showered in her as she drank of his elixir.
LaCroix watched in awe as she drained him and threw his husk aside. She looked so feline; Her fangs and eyes looked at him over the dying flames. Then she was there, moving past him at the sounds of gunfire.
“It’s the hotel.”
They launched themselves to the sky.
Trapper swayed and dropped to her knees. It was always this way after using The Voice. She rubbed her eyes and looked wearily around the once‑elegant lobby. Blood dripped from the potted palms, the tables; even the overhead fans had been redecorated with ghastly paint. It washed over the floor in an obscene flood and combined with the other bodily fluids that had been spilled tonight to create an incredible stench. The bullet holes were merely an added reminder of the horrific melee.
She became aware of a gentle hand under her elbow, helping her to rise on wobbling legs. A very concerned Jerome helped her to a couch that had, miraculously, been spared the bloodbath.
“Are you all right?” he asked quietly.
Trapper nodded and managed a smile. “I’m fine, Jerome,” she said huskily as she patted his hand.
“I must say that you have a rather unique way of dealing with trouble,” he said with the ghost of a smile.
“Thank you. It does occasionally come in handy.”
Nick walked up to them and gazed down at the blonde, blood spattered woman. “You never cease to amaze me. I forgot about The Voice.”
Trapper grinned up at him from under her bangs. A thought struck her and she returned to seriousness. “The others?”
“All fine. We’re just cleaning up some of the…wreckage.” He turned to Jerome. “Just put this on the Foundation’s tab. We can certainly afford to take care of your cleanup expenses” Nick looked at the many bodies piled up, “as well as disposal costs.”
“Very good, Mr. Knight,” an astonished and grateful Jerome replied. “Thank you so much.”
Across the room, Anna was looking at her ruined clothing.
Kat glanced over. “You look like you could use something to change into.”
“Well, yes,” Anna said with a grimace. “I’ve just noticed that this seems to be drying, and it’s most uncomfortable.”
“I’m sure I have something that you can wear, until you can replace what was in the suite.”
“Thank you,” Anna quirked her mouth. “I had entirely forgotten that my wardrobe has been incinerated.”
Vachon peered around the room. “Where’s Devin?” he asked of Anna.
Anna shrugged. “Last time I saw him, he was headed for the stairs.”
“Saceur!” Nick shouted. “It’s time for that little chat!”
Out of the Line of Fire
Avoiding the numerous body parts strewn about the lobby, Vachon walked with her to the elevator. Kat pushed the button then said to him lightly, “You can stay here.”
Her faithful escort remained.
“I’m just going upstairs to get some clothes,” she laughed.
Javier thought for a moment, eyeing her carefully. “Okay,” he finally acquiesced, “be careful.”
“But of course,” she replied with a French accent and stepped into the waiting elevator. Kat blew her worried lover a kiss as the doors slid quietly shut.
All around, polished brass reflected golden images of her. She took stock as the bell softly chimed the passing floors. Other than bloodied arms, she appeared untouched. But, Kat wasn’t so sure. Had she just ripped out a vampire’s heart with her bare hands?!
Bummer . . .
By Devin Saceur
“Yoo‑hooooo!” came the call from the second‑story loft. “Could someone please come up here?”
After a few annoyed groans, Anna, Nick, and Vachon trotted up the stairs and found Devin. He was standing completely still in the middle of the loft that served as a second dining area. Protruding from him at various locations were long‑shafted arrows, some of which had passed almost completely through his body.
Anna stepped over to him, nearly tumbling into laughter. “You certainly know how to find trouble, don’t you? Come on . . . let’s go. I’ll pull those out for you. Nice and slow . . . ”
Devin smirked. “I’m afraid I can’t do that just yet, hon. You see, my foot has found its way onto a pressure‑sensitive mine.”
Anna looked down. “I see. You aren’t uncomfortable or anything, are you . . . standing like that, I mean?”
“Please. If you must know, this sucks! Why don’t you stand on this thing for a while and let me shoot some arrows into you?”
Nick came over to look more closely at the mine. Finding the item to be quite well placed, he rubbed his hands together and smiled. “Any idea who did this?”
“I didn’t recognize the face, but this is almost certainly the work of the Hand. Only they would be so comically twisted in their approach.”
Vachon piped in. “Aren’t you supposed to be an expert at this kind of thing? How did you, of all people, get caught in this situation?”
“Look, would everyone like a pizza while you’re finishing your ridicule session?! All I know is that, after relieving that fool hillbilly of his head, I ran up the stairs to avoid being shot to pieces. As I stepped into the open up here, I felt my foot come down on this pressure plate. Then, some nice gentleman comes out in a very classy Armani three‑piece and starts popping arrows into me. You know . . . a game, to see if I would move.”
“But when the singing started, he bolted from here in a hurry. Now are you going to help, or stand there throwing wisecracks at me?”
“Oh, I don’t know.” Nick stood and scratched his chin as if in contemplation. “How fast can you run?”
“I’ve already thought of that, detective. I’m not sure if I’m fast enough.”
“Now’s a good time to find out, because there’s no way we’re going to disarm that thing. It’s definitely state‑of‑the‑art.”
“Figures! They couldn’t just use dime‑store shit on me . . . ” a nervous grin cut across Devin’s face as he tugged another arrow from his leg. “All right. I’ll meet you downstairs.”
“Try not to land too hard.”
Anna walked slowly over to him as he pulled yet another shaft from his shoulder. “Dev . . . I just wanted you to know. If you die, please go to the afterworld knowing that I love you very much. I always will.”
“I don’t suppose you’d like to go with me then, sweetums . . . hmmm? Romeo and Juliet at the altar?”
“No, I don’t think so. There’s nothing poetic about this situation. Melodramatic . . . maybe. But definitely not poetic.”
He held back the rising laugh, knowing that any excessive movement could send him through the roof. “Thanks, Ann. Now get out of here. I’d rather just get this over, one way or another.”
Following a light kiss, she turned and hastily exited the loft. As she reached the lower level, she found Nick and the others already moving to a more secure location.
Trying to remain as light‑hearted as possible, Devin whistled while he completed the task of removing the arrows from his body and healing himself slowly through his blood. As he dropped the last of them to the ground, he gazed longingly toward the railing at the edge of the loft. “Just a few feet . . . five . . . six maybe. Damn! Who am I kidding?” The railing sat exactly twenty‑six feet from his position . . .
“Just do it already, man!” Javier seemed to be enjoying the man’s predicament just a bit too much. A huge smile lit up his face. “Think of Jesse Owens in the ’36 Olympics!”
As he finished his jibe, the loft exploded into a cloud of flame. From the blast came Devin’s distinct form, hurled through the air and into the far wall from the progressive shockwave. Upon collision with the upper wall, he immediately dropped down and into a table filled with tourism brochures. Under the force of his landing, the table split into several pieces, depositing the vampire onto the floor in a heap. “Owww!”
Anna rushed over to him as the wave of fire subsided. Plaster and wood confetti slowly rained to the ground all over the lobby. “Are you all right?”
As he lifted his head to her, his eyes showed the deepest shade of green. “I need blood . . . now!”
Without a second thought, she exposed her neck for him, leaning in tight against his chest as he buried his fangs deep beneath her skin. He drew hard from her, pulling her even closer as the swell of vitae passed into him and healed his wounds. After a moment longer, he tore himself away, though the inner beast demanded so much more. If not for his years spent developing control, he would have extinguished her in that instant.
The next thing Devin saw as he finished healing himself was the assembled party before him . . . staring down at him. Nick extended his hand. “We were going to have a chat, yes?”
“Would you mind if I take a minute to relax first? I’ve been having a rough evening, in case you haven’t noticed. I need some clothes to change into . . . ” his eyes shifted to Anna, who still wore a shiny, dried coat of blackish blood. “Apparently, you could use some freshening up as well. Nice thing you did with the blade, by the way. Like a fatal Heimlich Maneuver. For a second there, I thought that redneck would jettison a pork chop from his mouth.”
Jerome stood across the room, but he heard every word. “Oh, thank you for that wonderful imagery, Mr. Saceur. Remind me never to allow you access to this hotel in the future.”
Deal With It
Picking through a closet full of nothing but black clothes might have driven somebody else crazy, but Kat knew each and every piece by its shade and texture. As her hands worked at grabbing and folding, her mind replayed the battle downstairs.
A lightweight pullover and leggings seemed appropriate ‑‑ her nails easily tore into the flesh of his chest ‑- Anna was shorter, this outfit will look natural as oversized ‑‑ the long‑dead heart glistened, covered in gore.
Kat grunted angrily and slammed the suite door. “I’m a vampire for christssakes!” she yelled to the empty hallway, “Get over it!”
The hard part about gutting a complete stranger was not the gratuitous and flagrant violence of it all, but that Kat had enjoyed it. There had actually been a dreamlike moment when she had wanted to take a big juicy bite out of the hillbilly’s heart!
Kat shook her head, trying to clear it of the ancient lust. Yes, she drank blood to survive. Yes, she had feasted off thousands in her lifetime…but she had never killed a vampire and she hadn’t relished the beauty of death for a long, long time.
Reaching out to open the Louis XIV door, Kat realized she hadn’t washed the blood off of her forearms yet. She planned on doing just that, first thing. Stepping into the room, she heard laughter. By the time she remembered who had been left behind it was too late. Directly in front of her stood Duncan MacLeod in the process of pulling off his underwear.
“Mother of all creatures great and small ‑ NO!” she shrieked, causing the two fully clothed mortals to look around in shock. Duncan immediately snatched his boxers back up and sat down.
“I’m blind! I’m blind!” Kat continued as she raced to the nearest bedroom, her hands covering her eyes.
Milk Carton Blues
Missy woke up on a world of pain. Her jaw ached where Angelus had punched her jaw, the bone was mending slowly.
“Oh look a pretty toy.” Some skinny nutcase was circling her, a maniacal gleam in her dark eyes. The vampire reached for Missy and Missy jumped back, scooting her chair back. She started to try to break the chains. Silver, bad news. The nutcase was pouting and shaking. “She isn’t playing nice Angel.”
“Dru, sweetie, let me help.” Angel squatted down in front of Missy and ran one hand up her leg. “My friend Dru wants a playmate.” He squeezed the kneecap until it popped. “I think you can be more sociable than this.”
Dru leaned in and sniffed Missy’s blood crusted hair. “I think she needs a bath.”
“Yep.” Angel picked her up, chair and all and started to walk out of the cavern. A blonde guy in a wheelchair rolled up.
“Where’d you get the bird?” He looked at Missy and grimaced. “And how’d she get so nasty?”
“The Sabbat had a horse race in the mall tonight.” Angel moved toward an underground lake. The water was deep endless blue, the blue of bottomless lakes. Angel unchained her and as she tried to flee he shoved her into the lake. Then he hit Send on the cell phone.
“Ricze Vladmire?” He smiled. “Finders keepers. I hope she can swim.” He shoved Missy back in as she crawled out of the lake, and she fell in with a scream.
Nick’s suite 1:20 am
“Uno!” Sukh shouted as the weary gunfighters straggled into the suite. Nick had Devin in front of him. The rest were straggling along behind Devin.
Nick grinned at the sight of the players. ‘“And nobody’s naked. I am impressed with your gallantry Duncan.”
Duncan, held a full hand of very high point cards. “Don’t be. It was strip Uno.” He looked to the pile of clothes at Sukh’s feet.
Vachon laughed at that. “That explains why you are down to the skivvies.”
“Like I need to play cards to get him naked.” She laughed as she tossed Duncan’s clothes at him.
Duncan glared at Vachon and laid his cards on the table. “You guys look like Kay and Sukh did last night.” He counted heads. “I’d hate to see the losers.” He caught the clothes Sukh tossed and pulled on his black jeans.
“Little bloody spots, all of them.” Trapper was making her wobbly way to the coffee supplies.
Ricze laid his firearms on the bar and took off his gore splattered long coat. “I’m going to change then I’m going to look for Missy.”
A cell phone rang, and hands dived into coats. Ricze frowned. “Mine. Missy?” he growled into the phone.
Ricze went extra pale. “If you harm one hair on her head, I will tear you apart with my bare hands.” His eyes turned gold as he crushed the phone in his hand. “They have Missy.” He turned and looked at Buffy. “Angel has my protégée, and I heard her scream in the background.”
by Devin Saceur
“Uno!” Sukh shouted as the weary gunfighters straggled into the suite. Nick had Devin in front of him, the rest were straggling along behind.
Anna had moved off to find Kat and some new clothes and Duncan sat before the crowd…barely wearing any. The general mood remained tense as everyone tried to clear their heads of the bloodbath in the lobby.
After a moment of chatting with Duncan, Nick not-so-gently-nudged Devin towards one of the suite’s many chairs…away from the others. “What just happened down there?”
His first thought was to respond in some inane or arrogant manner. But things had already become too complicated. “I have no idea who those disgusting men were. Forgive the cliché, but perhaps they were just pawns in the little game that is apparently being played with me.”
“Yeah. My former associates would like me to be no more than a bad memory. The gentleman who filled me with arrows up in the loft was just the beginning.”
Nick nearly laughed. “I can in some ways empathize with them. But why…exactly?”
“I killed one of theirs a few years ago. An elder.”
Nick knew some of the intrigues associated with the various vampiric sects. But the Hand, with its shady, depraved murderers and their twisted ideologies was beyond mystery to him. Only one item was clear: a vampire may not kill their own kind…and most certainly not an elder. “You did what?”
“Don’t feign surprise, detective. Contrary to the laws set to govern our kind, vampires kill one another at much more regular intervals than you might wish to acknowledge. For nearly five hundred years a veritable jihad has been raging in our quaint little subculture that would rival the bloodiest mortal conflicts. Sadly, I don’t think it will end anytime soon.”
Vachon stepped forward, a stern look cutting across his face like a wound refusing to heal. “Sadly?! Devin, you are as guilty as any…perhaps even more so! You have been involved in this for nearly ALL of those five hundred years! Tell me you haven’t killed simply to secure your ancient ass from the tides of change! That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? It’s about fear and ennui in the face of the unbearable millennia.”
“YES!!” Devin’s face flushed with blood as his eyes shifted to a deep green. A tear slid down his face in the only response he could manage. He struggled to compose himself as the memories flooded into his consciousness, nearly severing his grip on the present. “It is not only the younger ones who suffer for our paranoia. Elders kill each other, if for no other reason than the terrible need to rejuvenate our souls. We are so detached from the act that it literally means nothing to us. All that matters is our continued survival.
“None of you will understand this like the immortals among you.”
Duncan looked up from his cards, which he’d been studying just a bit too intently. He said nothing, but the look on his face spoke volumes.
Javier kept his gaze on Devin, who appeared to be regaining his composure slowly. “I’m sure we all know the reasons, though they cannot truly be justified. But the question remains…what does this have to do with us?”
“Well…you’ve undoubtedly been seen in my company. This could easily make all of you targets.”
“Bring ’em on.”
“I don’t think you understand, Javier. My former associates are not as grossly incompetent as I have been lately. They will not come at you head‑on…”
There was a flurry of activity across the room as Ricze crushed his cell phone, saying “they have Missy. Angel has my protégée, and I heard her scream in the background.” The room became a bustling site as the man fumed.
Nick stood, knowing that there were many problems to be dealt with this evening. “So in a nutshell, what are we going to do?”
Devin appeared uncertain. “The only thing I can say is that we should get to Hanna as soon as possible. If we eliminate August, we will have gone a long way towards extracting ourselves from the huge mire we’re in. Then we can deal with the other issues one at a time?”
“Not much of a plan, considering how elusive August has been so far. But I guess there aren’t many other options.”
Devin grinned slightly, though he felt anything but relief. “True. Besides, I’d like to have that old midget around again. I’ve missed her.”
A secluded chalet just outside of New Salem
The blackness of the night seeped in the window and seemed to permeate the room. The sheer ivory curtains moved silently in the light breeze. Monique had not moved from her position. She was an alabaster statue staring out into the ink‑dark landscape. The moonlight gleamed in her obsidian eyes, and a slight smile curled the edges of her blood‑red lips.
Algernon entered the room and stood nervously, shifting from foot to foot. He hesitated to disturb her thoughts at any time, but this was bad news. Let’s just say that her temper could be rather explosive.
“Ahem,” he cleared his throat.
The statue did not move.
“Miss Monique?” he began quietly.
A flicker of movement showed in her eyes. She blinked. “Yes, Algernon?” she said in a voice so soft it might have been only in his mind.
“I have some news about Mr. Saceur.”
“Do you?” The statue took a deep breath, “I love the night, Algernon. Don’t you?” She gestured at the window with one pale hand. “The darkness hides everything. Every lustful thought, each murderous intent is cloaked in ebony.” She turned the brilliance of her gaze upon her hapless servant. “What about Devin?”
“Well, mademoiselle,” he loosened the collar of his shirt with a sweating finger. It had become suddenly stifling in the room. “It seems that there was an explosion in his suite this evening.”
She raised an eyebrow.
“Apparently, neither he or his companion were there at the time, but two vampires were caught in the blast.”
“Interesting. But, if he wasn’t involved, what does it matter?”
“There’s more, Miss Monique.” Algernon began to fidget. He hated being the bearer of ill tidings. Miss Monique had a nasty habit of killing the messengers of this sort of news.
Her eyes opened a little wider and she pinned him in place with her stare, rather like one would attach a butterfly to a display board.
“A band of Sabbat ruffians invaded the hotel, with the intention of killing Mr. Saceur.” He was trying very hard not to stammer.
She blinked. “And?”
“They were unsuccessful.”
“Can we question them to find out who sent them?”
Algernon shook his head rapidly. It made him look like a high‑strung rabbit. “No. They’re all dead, I’m afraid.”
Monique smiled as she stepped over to the sideboard. “Was Devin responsible?”
“Actually, it appears that Mr. Saceur has some friends who dispatched the would‑be assassins.”
She spoke as she poured herself a drink. “Friends,” she mused, almost to herself. “They must not know him very well.” She glided to a chair by the window and sat down with her glass. Monique looked into the dark red contents as if scrying the future in the ruby depths. “What else, Algernon?”
He managed to stay reasonably calm while he explained the Hand operative’s attempt on Devin’s life. Having finished his narrative, Algernon studied Monique’s face, trying to gauge her reaction.
She slowly raised the glass to her mouth and drained it. When she turned back to him, her eyes were bright yellow and the pupils had shrunk to tiny jet chips. “Phone,” she said.
Algernon rushed to comply. She punched the number in without looking, and waited until the connection was made.
A torrent of French cursing ripped into the phone. Monique allowed no response to interrupt her tirade. “Do you understand me, cochon? I will not have anyone else interfering with my plans! I thought I had made it quite clear before I left. The next agent I encounter will be sent back to you in pieces, and then I will come and tear your heart out myself. Now, will we have any further problems? Good. Adieu.”
She slammed the phone down and looked at Algernon. “I think we’ve straightened things out.” She stood. “I’m going to get some air.” The room shimmered with her passing as she vanished out the window.
Algernon breathed deeply and staggered to the door. “I’m getting too old for this,” he muttered as he left her room.
“My, my, we seemed to have missed all the fun,” Angelique stopped in the lobby and savored the scent of blood in the air. The scent was intoxicating, and she bent over to touch a drying blood spot. She brought the crimson smeared finger to her mouth and licked, the same slow tasting that LaCroix used to drive her into a frenzy. It tasted so dark and sweet, this vitae, and she wanted more.
She turned and looked at LaCroix, one finger still in her mouth and smiled. Then she walked to the elevators. He followed fascinated, by her wanting to see what she was leading up to. In the elevator, she pinned him to the wall, her mouth fusing to his, bringing on his bloodlust, teasing and tormenting him with the promise of pleasures to follow.
In the suite, Cleo waited. Something was wrong, very wrong with her mistress and she was pacing, waiting.
The door opened, and LaCroix almost dropped Angelique in astonishment. Cleo was there, growling. Not at him, at her.
Angelique growled back, slipping out of LaCroix’s arms and circled her pet. They charged at each other and Cleo slowly drove Angelique back toward the bedroom. Angelique sprang, catching Cleo and pinning her on the ground. LaCroix watched in horror as she ripped open the throat of her trusted companion and feasted.
“Angelique!” LaCroix shouted, fear chilling his even cold blood even more. She was acting like Divia, insane and dangerous. “You are killing her.”
“So?” She looked up, her chin dripping blood and stood. “I thought you like me like this.” She moved closer to him. “Feral and dangerous.”
“Yes,” he watched her, his limbs curiously frozen between flight and attraction. “But‑‑”
“But nothing, you love me when I’m on a rampage.” She pulled off the top of her dress and threw it down. She smeared Cleo’s blood on her dark skin, over her breasts, tweaking her nipples and offering the crimson tips to him. “Come taste the blood of battle General.”
He stepped closer, one hesitant step at a time until he was in her arms.
“See, you can’t resist.” Then she lowered her head to tear out his throat.
He managed to push out of her deadly grip, looking for a way to restrain her. The discarded stake from Lux’s attack still lay on the floor. He dived for it as she shrieked and jumped for him, rolling in pinning her to the floor in one motion.
“I’m sorry my dark Venus,” He tried to stroke her face and she snapped at him like a ravening dog. Then he headed to Nick’s suite.
She had gone mad, and he needed to find out how to get her back.
Angelique lay on the floor, the Setite poison thrumming through her, clawing at the stake in her sternum.
Oz tossed his keys to the somewhat less than thrilled valet. “The luggage goes wherever I end up.” He leaned over and whispered, “Be very careful, it could detonate if you aren’t gentle.” He grinned at the paling face of the valet and sauntered into a charnel house.
“Holy Sh . . . ” his voice faded at the sight of half a dozen cleaning types frantically trying to get blood out of the walls, ceilings, and the very old carpet. One less turn-of-the-century tapestry carpet for Sotheby’s.
Buffy was good, but she couldn’t have done all this by herself. No way. He had a sudden pressing urge to find Willow and check her for damage.
“May I help you?” The night guy was looking at his lobby in the sad way people look at burned out houses after fires.
“I need to find Willow Rosenberg.”
“Do you know which party she might be with?” The man moved in front of his terminal and began to type.
“Buffy Summers and company.”
Jerome frowned. “Yes. The British museum suite. Shall I call for you?”
“Nah. I want to Surprise her.” Oz turned as Kendra, the other slayer, and a tall dark-haired guy walked in. They had Spike, and the guy holding a wicked looking sword to the blond vampire’s neck.
“They could have used the service entrance.” Jerome muttered and Oz fell into pace with the new arrivals.
Kendra went into defense mode, then relaxed. “It is you.”
“Are you going to where Willow might be?”
“Yes, Wanta come along?” Kendra punched a button on the elevator. “This here is Adam Pierson. He is a Watcher.”
“Hi, Mr. Pierson. Oz.” Oz offered a hand, then withdrew when he realized the man had no free hands.
Methos smiled. “Call me Adam. I feel so old when you call me mister.”
“Sure.” They all stepped into the elevator.
It felt as if she was somehow defiling the ornate marble sink with her bloody hands. Scrubbing at herself with a tiny soap in the shape of a sun, she watched the cloudy water swirl away down the drain. Kat found the beauty and opulence of the bathroom comforting. In surroundings like these it was easy to ignore the outside world. At least for a while.
As Kat admired the gilt‑edged towel on which she dried her hands, the door to Schanke’s suite opened and closed. Anna turned the corner and stood in the doorway.
“Well, you didn’t miss much,” she said sardonically.
Kat regarded the woman who was now covered with a light layer of plaster dust and responded, “I can see that.”
“I’ll leave you to your ablutions,” Kat said, easing past her, “I lay a couple of things on the bed. If they’re not what you want, just let me know.”
Anna started the shower and called out, “Thanks. I really appreciate this.”
Slipping out into the main room, Kat heard a male voice yell, “Missy!” When Ricze explained that his companion had been kidnapped, Kat relaxed her battle stance a little. Better there than here, she thought caustically.
Across the room, Duncan MacLeod, fully dressed, was flirting with a couple of buxom mortals. Not able to resist such an opportunity, Kat sauntered over and in a bimbo’s baby voice, said, “Oooooh, Mr. MacLeod, these ladies are soooo lucky to have such a handsome man protecting them.”
The longhaired Scot raised an eyebrow and crossed his arms over his chest. “You are lucky to have such a good-looking boy protecting you,” he smirked.
Kat laughed. “Vachon is not a boy and he’s not protecting me,” she retorted, a hard edge to her voice.
“If you say so,” Duncan said lightly then turned to fix himself a drink.
His vampire nemesis leaned close to his ear and whispered, “Why don’t you get naked again, Dunce? I didn’t get a good enough look at your sword . . . ”
Before Duncan could respond, a gut wrenching scream cut through the air.
This Debt is Paid
A torrent of vivid pain coursed through Angelique’s body. The stake that protruded from her chest kept her pinned to the floor, which was all well and good for the shadowed figure that entered the room.
Cleo barely managed a weak hiss as the figure approached. “Hush now,” it whispered, as the form placed a bowl within reach of the leopard. Cleo caught the scent of fresh blood and began to lap slowly.
The figure crawled to the staked and poisoned Angelique, shaking its head. “This is going to hurt me a lot more than you. Not that you’ll mind anyway…” There was a sharp snarl from behind when the figure leaned down and attached itself to Angelique’s stiff arm.
The figure pulled blood out of Angelique, as well, leeching the poison from her. She should have known better, drinking the blood of a Setite. The figure shook its head as it pulled away. “Damned fool. You would have died for nothing.”
Weak, the figure almost dropped the rest of its precious cargo. It pulled a bottle out of its coat, wedged the cork out with its teeth, and poured the contents down Angelique’s throat.
The bottle empty, the figure collapsed to the floor. Someone else would have to pull the stake out. She didn’t have anymore strength left to give….
Cash had slipped out of Nick’s room the moment he had realized Starr was gone. Naturally, no one had noticed the absence of either of the two outcasts, which would have suited them fine. Notice brings attention, and they had both had their share of attention recently.
He had ventured through some of the more familiar parts of the city, even tried dropping in on Marcus but found that the Nosferatu wasn’t seeing anyone. Cash had shrugged and walked away. Marcus had been too damaged by recent events to bother with him. Besides, Cash could tell that he was hiding something. Something Cash figured he was better off not knowing.
After a bit, he returned to the hotel to find the place a wreak. Noting the damage, he thought of Trapper and what he had been
told of her Banshee‑like talents. He was delighted to have missed it.
Jerome informed him that Starr had rushed up the side staircase roughly half an hour ago. Cash quickly followed the path
she had taken; It was fairly easy since he knew her scent so well.
One doors was partially open and Cash could smell fresh blood. His stomach churned and his heart sank at the same time.
He knew who occupied this room. He knew that Starr wouldn’t have put up a fight. Not anymore.
He slowly stepped into the room, completely unprepared for what he saw: Angelique, lying staked on the floor, her face smeared in blood; a mangled figure lying almost on top of her, an empty bottle in its hand; and a wounded leopard who had, once its dish was empty, made a meal of the nearby headless corpse.
Cash sank to his knees without a sound. Had he been able to think of how to respond, his body wouldn’t have been able to react to his demand. He caught sight of the necklace lying nearby the corpse. The one Hanna had given Starr so long ago, when they had all been dumped in 1920s Los Angeles. The vial that had contained Jonas’ potent blood was empty as well. She must have given it to Angelique…
Cash let out a scream, full of anger, terror and grief. Those who had congregated into Nick’s room yet again all looked at each other, their hackles rising.
“Oh shit,” Schanke muttered, “now what?”
LaCroix was the first out of the room. He had left Angelique staked. Any fool that came across her would get what they deserved, but it would still be his responsibility that she came to no permanent harm. The others close behind him, they entered Angelique’s suite. Cash had been unprepared. They where overwhelmed…
Under the Skin
Luckily for all those present in Angelique’s room, her wayward brother was off amusing his need to kill. Sometimes he used his sword, but mostly his hands sufficed. He needed to feel the life running out between his clenched fingers. He needed to feel the pain he inflicted. He needed to quiet the voice inside his head.
“You are mine
You belong to me
From my wiles
You can never be free.”
He knew the voice. Somewhere, in the back of his tormented soul, that voice ruled him. Called to him. Enjoyed every person that perished in his grasp, almost as if it fed on his rage.
“Your life is mine
To abuse as I will
Only to please me
Is why you must kill.”
He stared down into the lifeless eyes of the woman he had just murdered, the tattered shreds of her throat hanging loose around his fingers. He dropped her suddenly and ran. Ran as if the Devil himself was chasing him.
“You are what I chose
You act as I command
You live to serve
My every demand.”
He could hear the sound of rushing water nearby, and he plunged into the icy river, frantically trying to wash the blood from his body. And then he heard her laughter. The sweet, calming music of her voice. He climbed, dripping, out of the water, searching for her. “Hanna?” he called out as he walked.
He rounded a grove of trees, and found her there, smiling at him and waving. He was overwhelmed by absolute joy. It had been so long since he had seen her, held her. He ran toward her, gathered her into his arms. “My love . . . ” he began to whisper into her hair.
He pulled away, and found that it was August. The same voice that was in his head that had encouraged him to kill had forced him here, to this place. Into her power once again.
He hardly felt it when she latched herself onto his neck, and drained him to the point of death. His mind was already gone . . .
Micah finally woke chained naked to a damp wall. The air was cool and a bit stale, and he knew by the raw feeling on his neck, she had been feeding of him again. He growled and struggled against the heavy steel chains. Not again, please Ra, not again.
“Well, he is a nice specimen.” He looked up at the child’s voice. The blonde girl was young, in the first bloom of adolescence, and she moved closer to him. ” And a Pharaoh too.”
August smiled at the young one. “He is a friend of your blood sister’s. Her brother I believe.”
“Really?” The girl smiled and revealed fangs. He jerked back. No, it couldn’t be. She was gone, locked in a tomb for 2000 years.
“Divia?” He gasped as she closed in on his exposed throat.
Greeks Bearing Gifts
The heart‑rending, agonized scream split the air like a straight razor. The occupants of Nick’s suite held their collective breaths for the space of a heartbeat. The following silence freed them from paralysis and they tore from the room in pursuit of the source of such pain.
Devin stood where he was, still caught in the aftershock of what he’d told the gathering earlier. He wiped bloody sweat from his forehead and tried to recover the shreds of his shattered composure. He looked around to see who had remained in the room. Nick and Trapper answered his look with their own from across the room.
Trapper smiled at him. “Someone has to hold down the fort. It might as well be us.”
Nick looked thoughtfully out the doorway. “Besides, the way that LaCroix ran out of here, I’m not sure I want to be anywhere near him when he finds something to vent his anger on.”
Devin nodded in agreement and walked over to the mini‑bar. “May I?”
Nick waved. “Help yourself.”
Devin forced himself to hold his hand steady as he poured himself a glass of “Lizbet”. Actually, his little soul baring had gone better than he’d hoped. Other than a few raised eyebrows, his gruesome story really hadn’t fazed them at all. Maybe he’d overestimated their moral outrage. He allowed himself a small, private smile as he returned with his glass.
The knock on the door threatened to destroy his carefully reconstructed bravado.
“I’ll get it.” Trapper rose from the couch to answer the summons.
A jolly looking, dark-haired man stood in the hall, carrying a large box. “Forgive me for disturbing you so late. I am Konstantin Costa, and I was asked to bring you this.”
“Would you like to come in?”
“No, no,” he said rapidly. He was most definitely nervous about something. “A woman came to my stand a short while ago. She said to bring this to a Mr. Saceur?” Konstantin’s eyes darted around the room. “Is he here?”
“Yes,” Trapper said evenly. “We’ll take it for him.” She effortlessly took the heavy box from him and set it in the room. “Could I recompense you for your time?”
He shook his head and backed away. “Thank you, but I’ve already been paid.” He turned and practically ran down the hall.
Trapper closed the door, a puzzled look on her face. “That certainly inspires confidence in the contents of the box.” She approached it.
Devin cleared his throat. “Is it ticking?”
Trapper shook her head. “It doesn’t appear to be.” She paused and sniffed. “But it smells like fresh blood -a lot of it.”
Nick rose from the couch. “I think it’s time to open it, Devin.”
Devin nodded and gingerly ran a hand over the surface. Nothing came immediately into his mind. The box had been wiped quite clean of any impressions, other than the Greek shopkeeper’s fear. He pulled a small knife from his jacket and cut the tape that bound the odd package. When the flaps had been freed, he carefully leaned over and peeked in.
“What is it?” Nick said as he neared the box.
“It appears to be the assassin that turned me into a pincushion earlier.” Devin raised his head to look at them. “He’s quite dead.” He reached into the depths of the box and pulled out a bloodstained envelope. He opened it and read the enclosed card. His smile widened as he finished it.
“Well?” said Trapper. “Going to share?”
“It’s from Monique.” Devin looked at their confused expressions. “Another very long story. It says that I needn’t worry about anyone else coming after me. She wants me all to herself.”
“Oh, wonderful.” Anna stood in the doorway to Schanke’s room, drying her hair. “That makes me feel so much better.”
The Plot Thickens 1
Everyone surged into the hall, halting at he open door of the Ptolemaic suite. LaCroix was frozen at the entrance, his eyes widened in horror at the bloody tableau. Then as the rest of the group crowded behind him, he galvanized into action, darting across the floor to end up on his knees at Angelique’s head. He lifted her head to his knees and bent over her, whispering in an ancient language to her as he stroked her hair. Giles pushed through the rest of the horrified group, and kneeled at the other side of Angelique’s head. LaCroix looked up, and only Giles could see the fear and pain on his face, a crack in the cold veneer of the old vampire.
LaCroix put his mouth to his arm and opened a vein. He put it to Angelique’s mouth. “Drink, Angelique,” he implored her in a soft whisper as his blood leaked down her slack mouth and pooled behind her head. “Please, Mea Amortea,” his voice was just above a breath.
Schanke took one look at the carnage and picked up the phone. “Nick, you best get over here now.”
No one dared move as LaCroix continued to try and feed Angelique, a futile gesture at most. Kat went and stood at Cleo’s side while the cat laid at her mistress’s side, her head over Angelique’s shoulder.
Cash was sitting nearby, holding Starr’s ravaged body in his arms as Nick, Devin, Anna and Trapper arrived. The quartet took in the bloody show with wide eyes.
“What happened?” Trapper knelt at Cash’s side, watching as he held her head on. Starr’s head lolled then the wound in her neck gaped like a hideous smile, before the spine cracked audibly.
He slid her body to the floor and set the head at a semi natural angle, shrugged and held up the empty vial of vitae. Trapper took it and examined it, while she watched Duncan and Ricze examine the headless body.
“I think she gave it to Angelique.”
“The vitae of Jonas?” Trapper frowned. “But, these vampires have a different body makeup than ones of Jonas’s type. How’s that going to effect her?”
“It will keep her from the Setite poison.”
“Duncan, over here.” Ricze called.
Duncan drew his sword and crept over, Nick behind him, gun drawn. “Yes?” He mouthed, catching the faint movement behind the balcony curtain. Nick motioned for Buffy, and she joined them on silent feet, stake in hand.
At Nick’s nod, Buffy rammed the stake through the curtain. There was a groan and the curtain fell, bringing an unknown creature to the floor. Ricze pinned him to the ground with a foot. A vampire, dressed in moldy clothes that resembles a crusaders mail and surcoat. Nick frowned trying to identify the coat of arms on the rotting fabric.
“Who the hell are you?” He growled as the vampire clawed at the stake in his chest. Ricze thumped the stake with the side of his boot. “Answer!” The vampire convulsed and bowed.
The vampire mumbled something in Latin and Nick stiffened. “I would suggest you identify yourself.” Nick’s tone of voice was ominous.
The vampire spit at Nick and Ricze. Nick shot him in the shoulder and stalked away, his eyes vampire bright.
Duncan held his sword to the creature’s neck. “Did you do this to Angelique?” The vampire growled again in Latin.
“He said he would have if he could have.” Nick interpreted for the Latin challenged.
Duncan sliced the vampire’s head off, then stepped back. He noticed something, and bent over the new dead one.
“What is this?” Duncan showed Giles a set of tattoos on the corpse. Giles frowned and crouched for a closer look.
Nick knew that symbol. “It’s the symbol of the Knights Templar.” Then he turned and looked at Devin.
The Plot Thickens pt. 2
After part one
LaCroix continued to feed blood to the unresponsive Angelique. Buffy watched him trying to bring her back for a long moment, then walked up to LaCroix.
“Umm, can I help?” Buffy knelt over Angelique.
“She needs blood.” Buffy tried not to notice the pink sheen of his eyes.
“Maybe the stake?” Vachon offered. Kat stood behind, not involved, but not uninvolved.
“Yes.” LaCroix nodded and slid back a couple of inches. Vachon positioned himself over Angelique and yanked the stake out, while Kat and Buffy held Angelique’s shoulders. Angelique arched, then settled back to the floor.
“Here.” Ricze was there, anger burning in his vampiric eyes. He whipped out a dagger and slashed his wrist turning it over Angelique’s mouth. “Hold her mouth open.”
Buffy slid her fingers into Angelique’s mouth and forced her jaw open. Ricze dribbled the blood into her open jaws while LaCroix opened his vein and joined Ricze. Kat massaged Angelique’s throat, forcing her to swallow. Angelique snapped her jaws shut, almost causing Buffy to lose a few fingers, and curled up into the fetal position.
“Angelique?” LaCroix touched her face. She looked at him, her eyes blank and trembled.
“Micah.” She rasped before she closed her eyes and shook, her forehead covered in a fine pinkish sweat.
Spell Book to the Rescue?
By Kay with help from Sukh
“Angelique?” LaCroix touched her face. She looked at him with blank eyes and trembled.
“Micah,” she rasped before closing her eyes and shaking, her forehead covered in a fine pinkish sweat.
“Micah?” Kay forced her way into the room. “Did she say something about Micah?”
“Angelique?” Ricze smoothed the hair back from her forehead as LaCroix tried to still the shaking. “Talk to me, Angel. What’s happening to Micah?”
“Micah.” Angelique gasped. Her eyelids snapped open to reveal cat eyes glaring vampiric gold. “Micah,” she screamed, reaching with frail arms, scratching at the air, trying to grasp at something not there.
“It’s all right,” LaCroix crooned. “Micah’s all right. Fight it, Mea Amorta. You have to fight the poison.”
“Micah,” Angelique cried, struggling to sit up. “You can’t have him,” she spat.
“Who? Who has Micah?” Kay tried to get closer to Angelique only to have Ricze push her away.
“She’ll tear you apart.”
“I don’t care. Where’s Micah? What’s going on?”
“That’s what we are trying to ascertain.” Ricze gave the frantic mortal a stern glare. Duncan snagged her from behind and held her at bay.
“August, you bitch.” Angelique sat up, baring fangs and hissing before collapsing to the ground in a healing sleep.
“August?” Kay turned, searching the room for Sukh. “What’s August up to now?”
“Hell if I know,” Sukh answered. “But when I find out who tried to off Angelique I’m gonna do some serious damage.”
The group of assembled immortals turned to stare at the two.
“And just what do you plan on doing?” Trapper asked. “You do realize that you are nothing more than August bait.”
“Oh yeah,” Kay said, whipping ye olde trusty pocket size spell book out of her back pocket. Flipping through the pages she began to grin. “Watch this!”
Rummaging through her purse, she came up with a bright shade of lipstick. Drawing symbols on the ground, she settled in the middle of the circle, dragging Sukh with her, and began reciting from the book. The air in the room stilled and began to swirl around the two women as blue, green and red lightening slashed through the air funnel.
A loud crash thundered through the room and the funnel died down. Where Kay and Sukh had stood two Amazon warriors sported leather-babe outfits complete with lethal weapons.
“Oh My God,” the redheaded breastplate clad warrior exclaimed upon examination of her outfit. “Did you have to do the Xena cross over, Kay?”
“Yes.” Kay stated.
“Oh no,” Duncan groaned. “Do you even know how to use those things?”
“Good point.” Kay said. Flipping through the book she began to recite another passage. More lightening and thunder coursed through the room.
Giles removed his glasses, wiping them clean of some imaginary grime. “That’s interesting.”
“We are now officially in the Twilight Zone.” Xander gaped.
When the room stilled once again Kay and Sukh looked at each other.
“Wow, what a rush.” Sukh murmured as she checked out her sword.
“Excuse me.” A voice piped from behind the Amazon warriors. “Where the hell am I?”
All eyes turned to see a curly headed, dark blonde woman in a clan tartan complete with breastplate. In one hand she held a big Scottish walking stick and in the other she held a leather laptop case.
“MacCousin.” Kay and Sukh shouted.
“Kay? Sukh? What have you done now? I have a message for ya’ll from the NSVVs.”
LaCroix’s eyebrow raised at the mention of his personnel NA guard.
The two advanced on the new warrior with frantic hand signs to keep her mouth shut.
“I got this strange e-mail just before a flash of lightening enveloped me. It went something like’ the war is over. The chariots are still missing. Where are the funds?’ There was also a message that the anatomically correct Nunkies pops have disappeared.” MacCousin dropped her laptop case on the ground and stared at the two women. “Do you have any idea how long I’ve been trying to contact you two? And what on earth are you wearing? Better yet, why do have my Pendragons on?”
“They happen to be our Pendragons,” Kay said. “I conjured them up myself.”
“However much fun this may be,” Nick coughed. “We are in the middle of a crisis here.”
MacCousin blinked. Looked at Nick, then at LaCroix, then at Schanke and Vachon. She blinked again.
“You’ve been playing with that spell book you found at the faire haven’t you, Kay?”
“I had to.” Kay retorted. “Micah’s missing. August has him. Sukh and I were being left out of all the action because we are mortal.”
“And how did I get here?” MacCousin asked.
“What were you doing when the lightening struck?” Sukh asked.
“Chris and I were trying to e-mail you bozos.”
“What was Chris wearing?” Sukh asked.
The phone rang. Trapper walked over and picked it up.
“That was Jerome. He says some guy wearing a kilt just smashed up the bar with a Claymore. He was wondering if perhaps we knew who he was.”
Bull in a China Shop
Devin stumbled over the nightstand, knocking a glorious Tiffany lamp onto the floor. Without blinking, he shyly raised his hand. “Pardon me?”
Nick sighed. “Yes…?”
“Just when I thought that thing were becoming simple, I suddenly find myself in the midst of a maddeningly complex scenario. Forgive any lack of mental prowess on my part, but what the hell is going on around here? And what, pray tell, are ‘anatomically correct Nunkies pops’?”
Nunkies: The Sad Truth
LaCroix cleared his throat. “I believe I may be able to explain.” He whispered into Angelique’s ear, and she smiled for the first time in a long time. She had always found the mortals that drooled after him amusing, and now he was going to admit a somewhat embarrassing fact about himself to Nick of all people.
Nick arched his brow in a very LaCroixian manner. Cash even lifted his head and looked curious.
“You see, on the computer, there is a group of people, women mostly, that seems to find me quite fascinating.”
Cordelia snorted “I’d believe that,” in her best teenage scorn tone. LaCroix gave her one of his looks and she slunk towards Xander.
“They have made a virtual shrine, and they seem to want to call me Nunkies.”
Nick started laughing. “You mean the Nunkies Pops are–” He pointed to LaCroix’s pants.
“Actually they don’t really do him justice,” Angelique purred as she draped herself around LaCroix. “I need to feed before we go and find my brother.”
“I would like to see you explain the Knightstick Brigade to the good people here.”
Nick sobered fast. “I’d rather not.” He looked away at Trapper who was smirking behind her shades.
“As fascinating as this is, ” Buffy interrupted. “ We have work to do.”
“I’ve been doin’ me job,” Kendra was in the doorway with Spike, a dark-haired man held a sword to Spikes neck.
“What a dilemma,” Xander smirked at Spike as Methos shoved him into the room.
Willow squealed and threw herself at Oz. He grabbed her and spun her, then stopped dead at the sight of Cash holding Starr’s mangled body.
“Oh man, this does not look good,” he murmured as he moved closer to Buffy and the Scooby Gang.
“And you are?” Giles asked as Buffy covered Spike.
“Adam Pierson.” Methos extended his hand. “You must be Rupert Giles. Joe Dawson has told me about you.”
Giles nodded and shook, noting the Watcher tattoo. “And where has Mr. Dawson gone off to?”
“He is in the library, looking for some books.” Methos and Giles walked off to discuss watcher stuff.
Spike bolted, LaCroix was there to stop him. “Not enjoying our hospitality?” his voice was icy. “A pity.”
New Salem Nocturne
Kay, Sukh and MacCousin looked at each other, wide eyed.
“Shit!” Sukh exclaimed. “We’ve got to get down there and calm him down!”
Duncan looked up from cleaning his sword. “I’ll come along. You all look like you could use an escort.”
Kay nudged Sukh in the ribs and grinned as they all ran out the door.
Giles rose from his examination of the dead vampire. He looked at his charges. “We should find Jenny. Too much has happened since the last time we saw her.” He spared himself one quick glance at Angelique as he walked out behind the teenagers.
Nick continued to gaze speculatively at Devin.
“What?” Devin asked in annoyance? “Do you expect me to know every malevolent vampire that comes crawling in the window?” He gestured disdainfully at the corpse. “He looks like some reject from “Monty Python and the Holy Grail!”
Evie muttered, “Complete with sharp, pointy teeth.”
Trapper stifled a giggle and turned away.
“Sorry,” Nick offered. “You just seem to attract the truly strange ones.”
Anna smiled, but said nothing. She was thinking of Monique’s latest note.
Kat and Vachon bent down to Cash. He still sat, crooning to Starr as the tears ran down his face.
“Is there something we can do?” Kat spoke softly as she put a hand on his shoulder.
He raised his blood-streaked face and stared with stricken eyes. Without a word he looked back to Starr’s mutilated corpse and pulled her to him again. He pressed her face to his chest and sat, rocking her in his arms while he stroked her hair. “It’ll be all right, baby,” he whispered hoarsely.
Kat’s eyes filled with tears as she turned away from the tableau.
Vachon placed a gentle hand on the small of Kat’s back. “Let’s leave him to his grief.”
Kat nodded and leaned against him as she looked over at Nick. “Back to your suite?”
Nick nodded. “LaCroix? Do you need anything?”
LaCroix picked Angelique up from the floor and placed her gently on the chaise. “If you could have room service send up some refreshment, I believe that Angelique could use a drink. I know I could.”
Schanke looked up. “Yeah, a drink sounds great right about now?” He nudged Evie. “How’s about we saunter down to the lounge and pick up a couple of cold brewskis? We could check on the hotel lobby and the sword nut at the same time.”
“Sounds like a plan, Donnie.” Evie looked at Trapper. “We’ll be back in a couple.”
“Cool. We’ll be back at the suite.”
Evie and Schanke left on their mission of thirst quenching. Everyone else was walking toward the door when Angelique suddenly sat upright.
Her eyes stared into a nothingness of horror as she screamed, “Micah!” She grabbed LaCroix’s jacket frantically. “She’ll kill him! We have to find him, Lucien!”
Devin sighed. It was already a long night. It wasn’t getting any better.
Promises To Keep
Spike bolted, but LaCroix was there to stop him. “Not enjoying our hospitality?” his voice was icy. “A pity.”
“Maybe I can help?”
Ricze came up beside LaCroix. The two made eye contact. Each recognized the other as a master in his own right but also as a father. It was as fathers that the exchange was made. LaCroix handed the pathetic excuse of a vampire over to Ricze with a slight nod and stepped back to Angelique’s side.
“Where’s my daughter?” Ricze hissed. He clenched his fist around Spike’s throat and pushed him up against the wall; barely resisting the urge to squeeze the life out of the helpless rag doll the vampire had become.
“I don’t know!” Spike snarled.
“Wrong answer.” Ricze flung Spike over his head. The younger vampire tumbled across the floor to land at LaCroix and Angelique’s feet.
LaCroix bent and using his index finger pulled Spike up by his chin. “I’d answer, if I were you.” He purred.
Spike choked on a protest as Ricze pulled him to his feet by the neck of his cheap leather jacket. “I’ll ask again. Where is Melissa?”
“That prick Angelus has her.”
“I already knew that much,” Ricze growled.
Anger broke through the brick wall that held it at bay. It took control and crushed Spike’s throat. Ricze dropped the barely “living” corpse to the floor. Turning to the wall, he put his fist through it.
“Well,” Buffy sighed. “That was helpful.”
Ricze snarled at the teenager before sinking to the ground and shaking his head. He sat there silent, eyes closed tight as if concentrating. “Nothing,” he muttered. “I feel nothing but fear from her.”
LaCroix and Angelique stood. They stopped before Ricze and Angelique knelt beside her brother.
“Why do you mourn so for this girl?” She placed a delicate hand on his shoulder.
He looked up into Angelique’s eyes. “I promised on her mother’s death bed to keep her safe from harm. When she was attacked and nearly killed I brought her into the family. The thought of losing her so soon after her mother was unbearable.”
“How can you hold yourself responsible for something you had no control over?” Nick asked. He made eye contact with Schanke and saw in the mortal’s eyes what was tearing through the vampire’s soul.
Ricze stood and pushed past his sister and her lover to approach Schanke. “Your daughter still lives. I promise to help you find her and at the same time punish those that have taken Melissa should we not find her in time.”
Better Late than Never
Màire shifted her weight from right side to left as she stared at Elysian fields. Her nose twitched at the smell of pine cleanser mixed with the aftereffects of a bloodbath. She had lived for nearly fifteen centuries and there was nothing on earth that could cover that smell. Her stomach growled a protest at traveling so long without a meal.
For some reason a few nights ago she had the strangest urge to go to the airport. Màire assumed it was another bout of the Celtic wanderlust working its way through her limbs. She was not usually one who ignored her instincts, but she was far too busy helping Margaretha with one of her many projects. She didn’t have the heart to leave her child so soon again.
Then, yesterday morning Màire dreamt of wandering through the graveyard in Beal Atha an Fheada again. The moonlight danced along the canopy of trees. Then that age-old feeling wound it’s way down to her bones. Her master was nearby. Within a few milliseconds, Màire was a fledgling again, lost within a maze of gravestones, trying to understand her new powers.
“Where are you?” she asked the wind.
“Closer than you could possibly imagine,” murmured a voice over her right shoulder.
Màire turned, to find Lucius standing beside her, eyes hazed in amber.
“Just listen. Not with your ears but with your mind.”
Màire woke up and began to pack. For some reason she had yet to fathom her master was calling his eldest back to the flock.
Màire was about to mosey up to the front desk when she heard a ruckus. She turned and glanced over her right shoulder into the bar. There was a tartan flurry of movement within the bar and Màire’s curiosity got the best of her.
She watched patiently as the kilted warrior continued his destruction of the bar. The bearded man whirled around with a five-foot Claymore and nearly knocked over the red-haired woman, standing in the doorway.
Chris stopped and looked down as the vampire folded her arms across her chest and smiled at him.
“That’s a fine ‘xample of drunken Scottish brutality,” commented Màire with a wee bit of a brogue.
“I was jus’ bloody-well warming up,” replied the Scotsman with a thick brogue.
Màire returned to her normal speaking voice. “You’re Chris aren’t you?’
“It’s Gilchrist! I’ve gotta speak wit a Scottish accent. Chris is na Scottish enuf.”
“O-kay,” Màire answered, rubbing her forehead. *Canna live with Scotsmen, canna live wit out ’em. * Even though this warrior was no vampire, Màire couldn’t help being reminded of Ciarán, her ex-husband. “Why na’ speak proper Gaelic then?”
“‘Cause I winna understood a word of it,” was his answer.
Màire glanced up at the ceiling, “I have the feeling we’re missing something,” she murmured. She took Chris’s arm. “Come on, Gilchrist and let’s see what we’ve missed. After all, better late then never.”
“Actually it’s Gillecriosd, but I doubt that too many would be able to say it.”
Kay and Sukh had raced into the bar just in time to watch Gilchrist mangle a corner booth with his Claymore. Leo knelt behind his marble-topped bar, searching frantically for his shotgun.
They approached the wild Scotsman warily, and just missed being hit by a wild swing from the huge two-handed sword. As they tried to decide on the best course of action, a woman glided into the bar and took charge of the situation.
Kay and Sukh shrugged at Duncan, who had watched the destruction from his vantagepoint in the lobby. As they all headed out toward the elevators, Jerome stepped quickly from behind his desk, effectively barring their way.
“Ahem,” he began, his arms folded. “If I may be so bold to inquire, just who is planning on paying for the damage to the lounge?” He waited imperiously for an answer. His staff was still cleaning the lobby, and he wanted no more incidents to mar his shift. This was all becoming most tiresome.
Gilchrist looked sheepishly in his sporran. “I’m sorry, but I seem t’ have misplaced m’ funds, sir.”
Jerome raised his eyebrows and pursed his lips in annoyance. “Anyone?” he addressed the group.
Duncan began to step forward, but Sukh was quicker. She whipped a card from the ample bosom of her breastplate.
“Just put it on Uncle’s account,” she smiled as she handed Jerome the piece of plastic.
Jerome thanked her and returned to his post to enter the transaction.
Kay nudged Sukh in the ribs. “You didn’t return it!” she hissed.
“Well, it’s not like we really got a chance to use it, with the mess at the mall.”
Jerome returned the card and receipt to Sukh, and the items promptly disappeared back into her clothing.
“Well?” said Duncan. “Shall we return upstairs, and make introductions?”
Introductions in the Elevator
Kay, Sukh, Duncan, Màire and Gilchrist stepped into the elevator.
“Nice bodices,” Màire nodded at Sukh and Kay’s leatherwear. “I love Pendragons.”
“We conjured them,” said Kay with a smile. “I’m Kay,” she said offering a hand to Màire and then Gilchrist. She giggled as the kilted one brought her knuckles to his lips and then Sukh’s knuckles received the same treatment.
Màire and Duncan looked at each other and rolled their eyes. The two immortals turned to each other.
“Duncan MacCleod of the Clan MacCleod,” said Duncan. He and Gilchrist clasped arms in the traditional highland manner.
“Gilchrist of the clan MacDubh.” Gilchrist and Duncan warily stared at each other for a moment. Each trying to remember if their respective clans had anything against each other.
“Donnchadh, don’t you remember me?” Màire interrupted Duncan’s train of thought.
Duncan stared at the red-haired woman for a few minutes. She did look familiar.
“Mael Muire ni???” began Duncan.
“It’s just Màire Moran now,” finished Màire, shuddering at her real name. “You and my ex-husband knew each other in Edinburgh.”
Duncan nodded. “Now I remember you,” he said.
Duncan turned back to Gilchrist, still upset for the earlier distraction.
*Did you have to make such a mess? * Duncan asked in Scottish Gaelic.
Gilchrist stared at him for a moment. Despite the fact he had grown up in the Fife district. They only spoke Scots Anglish. He knew a few phrases in Gaelic and was finally able to translate Duncan’s question and answered to the best of his knowledge.
*The teapot is on the fire, * Gilchrist answered in Gaelic.
Màire started laughing and was about to translate for Kay and Sukh’s benefit when the elevator door opened.
The Beast Within
“That was lacking in finesse, Ricze,” Angelique said, sitting down next to the unconscious Spike.
“He’s a vampire, he’ll heal,” Ricze shrugged, rage still glinting in his eyes.
Buffy and co. watched as Angelique whispered into Spike’s ear. They had been heading toward Jenny’s when Kendra and Mr. Pierson marched up the hall with Spike. The entire Scooby gang had done an abrupt turn and followed, curious to see what was up for Spike. Spike stirred and Buffy knew Spike was in trouble.
“Poor Spike – unable to answer the simplest questions.” Angelique crooned as Spike struggled to sit up. “Perhaps I can find the answers.”
Angelique’s smile would have frozen Drucilla in one spot. “No, my dear fledging, I’m not.” She sat Spike up and touched his chin.
“I’m outta here,” Buffy spoke up. ” Just leave enough for me to stake.” They all turned to leave, except for Giles, who was mesmerized by the unfolding drama. Buffy tugged on his tweed sleeve. “Jenny, Giles. We need to find Jenny.”
Giles snapped out of it and looked at the young slayer. “What? Ah yes; Let’s go then.” He looked toward Angelique and back at Buffy, then turned and followed.
Angelique touched Spikes face, searching for the soft spots of the temples. Then she forced his head around, and looked in his eyes. Mentally, she reached into his head – an invisible touch to the rotted brain, looking for his demon.
“See Spike, there is a very real difference between you revenants and we creatures.”
His demon hissed at her.
“We are not puppets of some crude demon from the Christian pit of hell.” She reached for Spike’s demon, it slithered away. “We are creatures of darkness, and we have something you possessed do not.” She brushed against Spikes demon, and pulled it into her mental grasp. “We have Ka, which gives us a choice. We don’t have to blindly follow the directions of the parasitic host, we have free will. As compelled to the blood as we are, we can choose not to give in to the inner beast.” She choked the demon as it clawed and spat, Spike began to convulse.
“Most of the time my beast is quiet, sated by the occasional child molester or killer. My lust for death has long been dormant.” She smiled as the demon lost consciousness. “But the events of this evening have rattled it’s cage. And well, my beast won’t lay down again until I find Micah, Jenny and Missy.” She smiled and Spike faded. “Until then, I am your worst nightmare.” She let the demon go and laughed as Spike contorted on the floor.
She turned her green gold eyes to the balcony. “I need to feed.”
LaCroix watched the stricken vampire writhe on the floor and said nothing. A hunt would be welcome, but Spike had to remain a prisoner.
“I’ll go,” Ricze looked at LaCroix and smiled as the older vampire’s eyes changed to green-gold. “It’s been a long time since we’ve hunted together.”
“Don’t forget where she belongs,” LaCroix growled as he stood to go toward Angelique. He stopped and touched her face. “I regret I can’t join you tonight, but I must insure our guest is comfortable.” He looked at Spike, now slack on the floor. “We can hunt another time?”
Angelique leaned close and kissed him for a long, heated moment. “For when we get back.”
Ricze laughed, “For now, you are with me.” He slid an arm around her waist and propelled her to the window. “Dawn is in a few hours, and we have places to go and people to eat.”
They flew and LaCroix watched, his anger building.
“Not so fast,” the watcher had Spike against his blade again.
“Methos? Yes, I will take care of our guest.” He approached Spike a cold smile on his face. Methos backed off, stand close to the door. Space was good when surrounded by vampires.
“So what’s your story, babe?”
Dru ignored the question and continued to run the tips of her fingers across the candle flame. She could see the future and the past in that tiny fire and she could feel the present in the singeing of her flesh.
“Spike’s gone,” she said dreamily – her vampire lover’s name sounding like ‘Spoyke’ because of her English accent.
Lux Interior studied the feminine death machine, wondering what the hell she was talking about. Drucilla tilted her head as if listening then looked slowly to the mouth of the cave. The immortal rock star followed her gaze.
Out of the darkness, Angelus appeared – An evil grin played across his lips. “Does this belong to anyone?” he asked loudly, pushing the empty wheelchair into the center of the cave.
Back for More
2:35am – right after “Beautiful Oblivion”
Drucilla watched the empty wheelchair roll across the cave into the far wall. She rose and moved to it with her strange, weaving gait. Her hands roved over the surface, caressing the metal armrests, as she would have her lover. The entranced vampire knelt down beside it and rubbed her face over the cold steel, murmuring to herself in her singsong voice.
“They’ve taken him,” she announced to the air. “They’ve taken my Spike, and they’re going to hurt him.”
Angel leaned against the wall with his arms folded. “That’s a real shame, Dru,” he smirked.
“I’ve got to go after him, and bring my baby home.” Drucilla walked past Angel and out of the cave.
Lux looked over at Angel. “Aren’t you going to go after her?”
“And spoil the fun?” Angel laughed.
“That’s it. I’m following her.” Lux walked out in pursuit of Drucilla.
“Your funeral,” Angel called after him, alluding to the fact that Lux no longer had a sword.
Angel looked at Missy. “Well, sweetheart, it’s just you and me now.”
Missy glared at him over the gag he’d used to stifle her screams after the phone call to Ricze.
“Oh, such a look!” He sauntered over and hauled Missy to her feet. “Okay, if you insist. We’ll follow them back to the hotel. I’m sure that’s where good old Spike is.” He dragged her out as he spoke. “And you’re going to be my lovely little insurance policy.”
His laughter echoed in the empty caves for quite awhile after he left.
Spanking the Inner Child
“It was kind of overkill, if Ricze expected him to talk, don’t you think?” Trapper made the aside to Nick as they stood by the door of the Ptolemaic Suite, ready to leave.
“Well, I know that, personally, I find it rather difficult to talk around a crushed throat.”
Trapper looked up to see the humor glinting in Nick’s blue eyes. He leaned over and brushed her ear with his lips.
“I think it’s time to go. We can accomplish more back in our own suite.” He straightened and looked over at LaCroix. “We’re going to leave you on your own. Somehow, I don’t think that Spike will be giving you any trouble for a while.”
LaCroix nodded absently as he stared at Spike. The punk vampire swallowed nervously, and his eyes darted to the other vampires in a silent plea.
They moved toward the door, calling out their goodnights.
“Goodnight, Grandfather!” Trapper said over her shoulder.
“Bonne nuit, Grand-père!” echoed Kat as they all exited.
LaCroix’s eyes flared gold momentarily, and his jaw clenched as the door swung shut. Methos chuckled from his position next to the exit.
Nick collapsed, laughing, against the wall in the hallway. “If it were possible, I’d say that you two are going to give LaCroix gray hair!”
Trapper feigned innocence, one hand to her chest and fluttering her eyelashes. “Us? We were just saying goodnight.”
“Uh huh. And Ricze was just persuading Spike to talk.”
Their laughter echoed down the hall as they returned to Nick’s suite. Even Devin and Anna had been caught up in the frivolity of the moment. They all knew that the moment wouldn’t last.
Parents and Children
By Evie & Trapper
They rode down the elevator in companionable silence. The doors slid open and they cruised through the lobby and into the lounge. As they walked they marveled at Jerome’s efficiency. The majority of the chaos had been cleaned up, and the pile up of bodies was gone. Even the front door had already been replaced. Several employees still worked on cleaning the lobby but, all things considered, it looked quite presentable again. The bar, however, was another story.
Leo stopped righting the few undamaged tables to check out the customers entering his lounge. He was relieved to see that they looked refreshingly normal. He waved them in the direction of a table in the small untouched area next to the bar.
Schanke picked his way through the debris as stepped up to the table and sat. Evie went to the bar and ordered several bottles of “the usual” for the Louis XIV suite and handed the bartender a list for the others. It was an odd assortment of vintage “sang de gout”, espresso, diet coke and freshly extracted carrot juice. She also ordered a pair of Samuel Adams’ Pale Ale for herself and Schanke. Obviously they ignored the state liquor laws here. Evie laughed softly to herself as she carried their drinks to the table and sat down.
“What is this?” Schanke picked up the glass and examined it.
“Sam Adams. It’s good. Trust me.”
“Labatts or Kokanee would’ve been fine.” Schanke sipped cautiously and nodded approvingly. “But you’re right.”
“Hey,” Evie commented, smiling, “I come from the land of microbrews. I know whereof I speak.”
They toasted their continued survival and drank in silence for a bit, allowing themselves to unwind.
Evie watched the shadows fall across Schanke’s face. She knew that he was thinking about Jenny. She reached a hand across the table to pat his arm.
“We’ll get her back, Don,” she said softly.
Schanke smiled mirthlessly. “I wish I was as sure as you seem to be, Evie.”
Evie sat back in her chair and looked at him over her glass. “I have a kid, too, you know.”
He raised his eyebrows at her.
“It’s true,” she continued. “He’s eight, and a real pain sometimes, but I wouldn’t trade him in for anything.” She smiled. “Let’s just call it Mom’s Intuition, but I think Jenny’s going to be okay.”
“Thanks for that,” Schanke said, and took another thoughtful sip of his beer. “I gotta tell you, it kind of threw me when Ricze offered his help.”
Evie laughed. “I could tell. You looked shocked.”
He shrugged. “It’s just, y’know, hard to imagine him as a “father” figure.”
“No shit. It just reminds me that even though they don’t reproduce the way we do, they care for their kids. Even the really creepy parents. And of course the vampire disfunctional family is *really* disfunctional.” She laughed.
“Yeah. I guess you’re right.” Schanke took a pensive sip, then drained his glass and stood up. Evie looked at her watch.
“Well, considering the hour, do you think our elusive librarian might be at work now?”
“Why don’t we find out?”
“Y’know, I’m not really sure why but I feel like he’s one of the few folks in this town we can trust.” Evie emptied her glass and stood.
“Yeah, yeah. He lied to us.”
“It’s not a lie if you don’t know you’re not speaking the truth. Let’s reserve judgement for now.”
Schanke shrugged. “I suppose. But the longer Jenny’s missing, the less patience I have.” He stuffed his hands in his pockets and headed for the door.
“So,” he continued as they walked out of the hotel, “What does your son think of your girlfriend?”
“They get along great,” Evie replied easily. “She’s a microbiologist and knows a lot about guts and yucky things. That goes over well with the 8 year old.” They both laughed and continued on their search for the truth, and just maybe, a daughter.
Lessons in Humility
By Maccousin Heather
The MacCousin, rather red-faced, slithered out of the Ptolemaic suite when she heard of the attack on the hotel’s bar.
“Why do guys always have go smash things?” she wondered to herself. She couldn’t help wondering what a good place to hide would be. Then again it really wasn’t Gilchrist’s fault. They both had been drinking way too much heather cream, ale and hard cider that night. However, being sent through space to Elysian Fields had been quite tiring. Heather couldn’t help yawning.
Heather began a search for the stairs so that she would hopefully miss Sukh, Kay and Duncan on their way to find Gilchrist or on their way back. She paused in front of the doorway to the stairs when she heard the elevator bell.
“Crieche,” she murmured softly as the door opened.
The elevator doors slid open noiselessly and Heather could hear mirthful laughter within. It was too late to run now. Kay, Sukh, Duncan, Gilchrist and an oddly familiar looking woman stepped out of the lift.
“Lass!” Gilchrist rushed past everyone to her side. “I wuz wonderin’ if you ended up here too.”
Heather grinned, “As if I could leave you alone here,” she replied, returning his hug. She was so relieved to see him in one piece, she forgot her embarrassment.
Heather turned back to her friends. “Now you’ll have to educate me as to what’s been going on here.”
Sukh shrugged, “all you need to do is read the files. You probably already have them on your laptop.”
“Of course, there isn’t much time to do that,” added Kay. “You’ll just have to play it by ear.”
The MacCousin looked down at the cumbersome laptop bag she had been carrying through the hallways and grinned. “Well let me just set up shop somewhere and we can get down to business.” Her glance fell on Màire.
“You look really familiar to me,” began the MacCousin.
“I should,” replied Màire. “We met at the ‘Tip. I was singing there during the Irish festival and you bought one of my CD’s.”
“Oh…yeah,” the MacCousin lied. The truth of the matter was that she had bought way too many CD’s during the festival. Plus she had made the mistake of imbibing a wee too much that night. It didn’t help that Màire had bought her several drinks as well. Her memory of that evening had faded quickly.
“Well, I’m going to go see what I’ve missed,” said Màire. She could sense LaCroix nearby and wanted a word with him. “I guess I’ll try to play it by ear myself. I’ll be staying in the Tara suite if anyone needs me.” She started toward the Ptolemaic suite.
Heather, Kay and Gilchrist turned around and noted that Sukh and Duncan had disappeared as well.
Kay snickered. ‘Well I guess we should start setting up the computer,” she said with a twinkle in her eyes. Heather noticed a gleam in Gilchrist’s eyes as well.
*Oh great, * thought the MacCousin to herself. She couldn’t help but wonder if she needed to start hiding pillows. No serious work would be done unless she took care of that.
The suite rang with the sounds of everything from Hendrix to Seeger…or, it would have if Steve Lalor had run the guitar through the main instead of the headphones. As it was, a casual passerby would only have heard the thup, thup sounds of electric guitar strings sans amplification.
He’d been playing the Telecaster since Lux took a hasty departure through the window a couple of hours earlier. Steve marveled to himself that he wasn’t tired, and didn’t particularly want a cigarette. There must be something to this vampire stuff. It just made everything so much brighter, so real. Sounds were so much purer now that he could listen to himself play for hours. Some things never changed.
Finally, he put the guitar in its stand and removed his headphones. His ample stomach had reminded him that, no matter how in touch with the great cosmic “all” one was, he still needed to eat. Maybe he’d take a saunter down to the lounge and grab something like the blood that had been in the fridge. He looked at himself in the mirror, smiling his best disarming grin. ‘Maybe there’d be someone who wanted company down in the bar,’ he thought. ‘I could bring her up here and impress her with my playing.’ Satisfied with his appearance, Steve stopped preening and walked out into the hall.
As he neared the elevators, a voice made his ears prick up. He saw the group of people crossing the hall. One of them was heart-wrenchingly familiar.
“Trapper!” he called out.
The blonde woman winced and shuddered. She made a low sound in her throat, like a trapped cougar. Nick looked at Steve and back at her.
“Is he a problem?” Nick asked softly, a hand on her arm.
Trapper sighed and shook her head. “Just the one Evie was talking about. I knew I’d have to deal with it sooner or later.” She looked up at him. “Go on in. I’ll be right along.”
He gave her a quick kiss and herded the rest of the group into the suite. Trapper turned to the approaching problem and folded her arms across her chest. Her mouth was set in a thin line. “What do you want?”
“Hey, Graves,” Steve said, with his arms outstretched. “Good to see you. I ran into Evie, but she didn’t mention that you were here.”
Trapper danced back out of his reach. “And I’m eternally grateful for that.” She raised her hand to stop his advance. “I would’ve been even more grateful not to have run into you at all.”
“Always the kidder, Traepischke. You can’t hide your feelings from me. I know there’s still something there.”
“Abject loathing,” Trapper said icily. “Look, Lalor. It was over thirteen years ago. Get a clue; get a grip; get lost.”
Trapper turned to enter the suite.
“You know you’ll never really be happy unless you come back,” Steve persisted.
Too fast for the eye to follow, Trapper spun and pinned Steve to the far wall. Her hand gripped his throat painfully. “I should stake you now and do you a favor,” she hissed. “Leave me alone.” She stepped back to the suite door. Almost as an afterthought, she turned back to him. “If you truly want to be one with the universe, you should go watch a sunrise. It has a whole new dimension when you’re a vampire. You can really say that it’s a once in a lifetime experience.” She smiled maliciously and entered the suite, slamming the door behind her.
Steve leaned against the wall, fingering his throat with a foolish beaming smile. “Ah, she must love me to react so violently.” He resumed his walk to the elevator. “Hate and love are almost the same thing,” he murmured to the empty hallway. “I’ll have her back in no time.”
Schanke drove the Caddy down the long and empty streets of New Jerusalem. Both he and Evie were silent, dwelling in a kind of terrified awe.
It was almost as if there wasn’t a living soul present anywhere. There were shops, cafes, dive bars…all open, their lights crying out into the empty night, begging for some attention. Some of the owners had even taken to sitting outside their stores, as if in a trance of waiting.
“God Almighty,” Schanke whispered under his breath.
As they drove slowly along, they thought hard about the spectacle before them. The city had been built by vampires…or Jonas rather…for vampires. And without its vampires, it was dying.
Schanke slammed on the brakes suddenly, and Evie just barely caught herself by bracing her hand against the dashboard.
“What the Hell, Schank!” she yelled, exasperated.
He pointed and she looked.
“The Taboo? I thought it burned down, when they killed all those vampires inside.”
Evie swallowed, her throat suddenly dry. “It did.”
Fashion Police on Patrol
As Sukh and Duncan disappeared around the corner, Kay, MacCousin and Gilchrist walked toward the Collinswood suite.
“Should we stop in on Nick and company?” Kay asked MacCousin.
MacCousin looked at Gilchrist, noting the two-handled claymore on his back, the basket hilt claymore on his left hip, highland dirk on the right hip and a skene dhu in each boot.
“Maybe not,” she smirked.
“Good point,” Kay laughed. She lead the two Scots past the Louis XVI suite and down the hallway to her and Sukh’s suite. She stopped dead in her tracks at the elevator.
“Oh My God,” she shrieked. “It’s a hippie vampire.”
“Where,” MacCousin asked.
Steve Lalor turned and smiled at Kay and MacCousin then leered at Gilchrist.
“Hey man. What’s with the dress?”
“It’s nae a dress,” Gilchrist exclaimed. “It’s a bloody kilt.”
“Not to be critical or anything,” Kay smirked, waving a finger at Steve, “but aren’t your adaptation skills about 3 decades off.”
“Hey man, it’s retro,” Steve answered with a flourish of his hands.
“What ever,” Kay snickered.
“You’re a bloody fine one to be talkin’,” Gilchrist said. “You’re looking a little confused yourself.”
“Hey,” Kay snapped, planting fists on her hips. “It happens to be a Xena/She-Ra cross. Got a problem with it, oh kilted boy.”
“I’m a bloody man. Not a boy.”
“I’ll trust ya on that one.” Kay turned back to Steve. “There’s a clothing shop in the lobby. You might want to check it out.” She turned on a heel and headed off toward the Collinswood Suite, MacCousin and Gilchrist trailing behind.
“They call me the wild rose
But my name was Elisa Day
Why they call me it I do not know
For my name was Elisa Day.”
Her mind settled into her body once more, though she could hear the commotion outside of her iron prison. Davistch was furious. Davistch was killing underlings left and right. And Hanna laughed.
She had looked into Jenny’s eyes as the girl peered out from Nicolai’s old hiding space, and saw a hell she recognized. Only Jenny was at least five years younger than she had been, when that same hell found its way into her soul…
Racine leaned forward, his rank breath making her weak stomach beg to heave. “Such a pretty lady, are we not, Ahan? Far too pretty for the rankers. I’ll keep you to myself, but only if you behave.”
He slung her over his shoulder and carried her into his room. She noted, with disgust, that he had chosen her father’s room for himself. He tossed her onto the bed she had been born on only sixteen full turnings ago, and started to strip off his clothing. Her eyes widened in fear and loathing, but she did not move. Maybe she couldn’t. After she had watched him remove her father’s head…
Completely naked, Racine crawled onto the bed, stinking of sweat and filth. He moved to mount her, ripping at her gunna as he did. Engrossed, he did not see her reach for the dagger her father had kept in the mattress until it was already planted into his shoulder.
“Filthy bitch!” he screamed, jerking back, trying to remove the dagger. But she had struck hard and true. It was buried in the bone.
He backhanded her until she fell off the bed, her tattered clothes trailing behind her. She moved for the door and was intercepted by a handful of the Norman guards.
One of them moved to help his wounded commander, the others waited, holding the vainly struggling girl tightly. Racine screamed out in pain when the knight broke the blade off. It couldn’t be removed.
“I’m going to gut you, you filthy Saxon whore!” Racine snarled as he came forward, the broken blade clenched in his hand.
He gutted her that night, and plenty of other nights. “long with the rest of the Norman century stationed at the old Saxon manor of Darkenloft, where none of the original inhabitants still lived, all having been slaughtered up their arrival. Save the old lord’s daughter, who was raped daily for sport.
Jules de Caines, as he had chosen to go by this century for some unknown reason, rode silently in the evening air. He came alone, save one servant. “ Nordic man by the name of Skoal, who seemed to never sleep, and watched over his master constantly.
As they neared the old manor, they could hear the animal like screams coming from somewhere within. Jules looked to his servant, who acknowledged silently that the voice belonged to a human female. Jules sneered. Animals, he thought to himself. They are all animals. And I, the monster among them, would never, have never, stooped to such a level.
Dawn was approaching, so he dismounted. Skoal took the horse, an incredible steed with toes instead of hooves, and tied it to a nearby tree. Jules entered the nearest hut, poorly made, but suited to his needs for the day. As long as there was no vermin, he could handle sleeping in the mud if he had to.
The screaming had long since stopped when they finally settled down. Skoal stood guard near the door, Jules laying down on his pack blanket. They both heard the crunching of dry leaves, and came to immediate attention.
Looking out of a crack in the wall that was supposed to be a window, Jules watched silently as a filth covered woman made her way to the river nearby. She stripped of what was left of her pitiful rags, then carefully made her way into the water. Her clothes were once white, and now covered with blood and worse. A virgin, if he wasn’t mistaken. At least, she had been.
That didn’t surprise him. Where knights went, virgins were deflowered and men died. A fact of war. But he looked upon the finely formed tiny body, and felt something build in him he had never felt before. He wanted nothing more than to hold the tiny body, stroke away the hurt, kiss away the pain…
She turned suddenly, knowing by instinct that she was being watched. Her face, though battered, was still quiet lovely. And then Jules began to burn with that all to familiar hunger. He had to feed on something, but what? Certainly not the girl!
The dilemma solved itself when one of the Norman soldiers came after the girl. He backed her into a tree and was about ready to rape her yet again when he felt a strong hand clasp him around the throat. He opened his mouth to scream out for help, but was quickly silenced by the breaking of his neck.
Jules had every intention of feeding from this man, but knew he couldn’t do it in front of the girl. He would have to kill her as well, and he couldn’t bring himself to do that. So he opted for the freshly dead blood. It would make him sluggish, but he would be sleeping soon anyway.
He looked kindly upon the terrified girl, seeing so many faces he once knew and loved. Shaking his head, he motioned for her to go, not daring to speak to her. She darted away, not looking back to see what happened next.
After he fed, he lay back on the cold floor. As he sank into slumber, he dreamt of her eyes, so full of spirit and life…and hell…
“From the first day I saw her I knew she was the one
She stared in my eyes and smiled
For her lips were the color of the roses
That grew down the river, all bloody and wild.
When he knocked on my door and entered the room
My trembling subsided in his sure embrace
He would be my first man, and with a careful hand
He wiped at the tears that ran down my face.”
Trapper slammed the door and leaned back into it, eyes closed. She clenched her teeth and rhythmically pounded her head against the door. She stopped when she realized how silent the room was.
Opening her eyes, she looked around. Everyone was standing, staring at the far corner. A raven-haired woman lounged in the chair by the window. Her lips were bent in a smirk, but her eyes were glaciers as they stared across at Devin. Anna’s return glare was equally lethal.
Trapper raised her eyebrows in a question. Devin caught the movement, and half turned toward her.
“Trapper,” he said, clearing his throat. “Allow me to introduce Monique.”
“Oh, great,” she muttered. “Out of the frying pan and into the fire.”
All Dressed Up and No-One to Kill
Out and about New Salem
Angelique leaned close and kissed LaCroix for a long, heated moment. “For when we get back.”
Ricze laughed, “For now, you are with me.” He slid an arm around her waist and propelled her to the window. “Dawn is in a few hours, and we have places to go and people to eat.”
They flew and LaCroix watched, his anger building.
As they took to the air, Ricze turned to Angelique. “Perhaps a change of clothing is in order. I know the perfect shop.”
They descended into a dark alley and approached the back door to a nondescript establishment. Ricze punched in a code on the door and in they went.
“Herr Vlashmire.” A chubby balding man in latex breathed.
“Evening, Karl. The lady and I are in need of some evening attire.” He swept Angelique to the front and turned her in a slow circle.
“A nice one you’ve got there. I have just the thing.” Karl winked at Ricze and shuffled off to the front of the store. “Cecil,” Karl yelled, snapping his fingers. “Back. Now. We have a client to see to.”
Cecil sulked into the back room. Took one look at Ricze, gave a little wink and smile then glared at Angelique before circling her.
“A 6 Grande,” he-she simpered.
“Tall,” Angelique corrected with a warning growl.
“Cecil, you know Herr Vlashmire is a valued client.” Karl scolded, coming back into the storeroom. “You will extend that courtesy to his guest.”
“Sister,” Angelique purred, running a hand possessively down the front of Ricze’s shirt.
Ricze captured her hand and planted a soft kiss to her knuckles. “Aye, but still very close. At times”
“Now and then.” Angelique smiled, wrapping an arm around his waist and molding herself to his side.
“A 6 Tall, you say.” Cecil disappeared into the show room. A few exasperated moments later, he-she came stomping back into the store room with a gold cat suit, crisscrossed at the breast and snapping behind the neck. A wide, black v-waisted belt and stiletto thigh boots with tiny, gold embroidered roses up the outside completed the outfit.
“Does the lady think she can handle the shoes,” Cecil smirked.
“Yes,” Angelique snapped. Snatching the boots away from the he-she she turned to Ricze. “Nice merchandise, but the staff gives me indigestion.”
“Annoying, but possessing a talented eye.” Ricze smirked at Karl as Cecil turned on a heel and stomped back out to the show room.
A few moments passed before Cecil returned with tight fitting leather pants, thigh boots with gold buckles up each side, a silk poet’s shirt, and a gold studded leather vest. “ gold silk tie for his hair completed the outfit.
The two changed their attire and left the establishment. Karl promising to forward the bill to Vlashmire Industry’s home location this time.
Ricze and Angelique flew toward the outskirts of town and landed down the block from a newly opened coed dancer’s club.
“Suitable for your game, Angel?”
“Always. You promise to behave this time?”
“I give my word to try my hardest.”
They swayed, arms linked into the club.
Death and Death’s Sister.
The patrons of Sinful Secrets unaware that destruction was on the prowl.
It’ll be a Hot Time…
By Devin Saceur
The silence that followed on the heels of Trapper’s last statement was unnerving. Everyone seemed anxious for someone…anyone else to open the conversation…or combat, whichever came first.
Devin moved to the bar, measuring his steps and watching Monique closely. Her eyes met his and persisted as he removed a bottle of warm vitae from the cabinet beneath the bar. He poured himself a glass casually; his gaze never left the angry visage of the woman, whose contempt seemed ready to spill over at any moment.
“So…” Devin began as he absently spun the glass between his hands. His “shit-eating” grin, as Anna had dubbed it, spread across his face. But the act had nearly drained him. It was as though a fissure in his soul was slowly consuming him as he stood in the focused wave of animosity. His demeanor was confident, but it was clear that he was nearing either an explosion or a breakdown. “How ’bout them Mets?”
Monique didn’t respond, nor did she move in the slightest. She was akin to some demonic statue, those baleful eyes cutting through any vestige of humanity…poisoning every passing moment with rage for past injuries unforgiven. Her spirit was lost to all but the furtherance of evil…and her revenge that in its steadied progression seemed to her the very taste of glory and justice.
Devin knew the depth beneath her surface and saw the utter futility of his attempt at humor. “What are you doing here, Monique? Have you missed me so much that you could not simply sneak up and murder me from behind? Was it so necessary for you to look me in the eye first?”
No one moved. No one breathed. It was a surreal tableau, suspended in a moment of time like a spider in amber.
In that time outside of time, between heartbeats, Monique flew across the room to Devin’s side. She had been swifter than an eyeblink, not giving Devin even the time to react.
“Of course I missed you, mon amour,” she breathed as she molded herself to his side. He held himself still with an effort as she rubbed her cheek against his and reached for his glass.
“How could I forget those times we shared?” she whispered and took a sip before pressing the glass back into his nerveless fingers. Monique moved like a snake to his other side, draping an arm across his shoulder in passing. “Don’t you remember those nights in Paris?” Her eyes took on a soft, faraway look. “When we sat, filling our glasses beneath the guillotine of ‘La Revolution’?
He smiled briefly as the memory returned.
Anna hissed from where she stood, but made no move to come nearer. She knew how deadly those daggerlike fingernails of Monique’s could be. Devin would have to get himself out of this one.
“But of course,” she pressed her blood-warm mouth against his ear, “that was before you killed Maman.”
Devin jerked as if he’d been shot. He stared at her as she came around to face him. “I repeat,” he said, controlling his voice, and affecting a nonchalance he was far from feeling, “what do you want?”
“Perhaps,” she said, looking at him from beneath her long, sooty lashes, “I needed to see you again. I would not kill you from behind, cher’. I would do it looking you in the face.” She ran a finger down his cheek. “And, perhaps, I came to warn you.”
“Davistch knows you are here, and why. He tried to warn me off, but you know how difficult that is.”
She heard the movements of the other vampires behind her. “We will speak again, Devin. You owe me a long overdue explanation before I kill you.”
A rush of air, and she was gone. Devin still felt the lingering pressure of her departing kiss on his cheek. As he raised his hand to touch it, he heard Anna’s voice cut through the fog like a razor blade through silk.
“You’ve got lipstick on your face.”
The Great Kilt Caper (1/3)
by MacCousin with help from Kay and Gilchrist
Kay started walking toward the Collinwood suite again with Gilchrist and the MacCousin in tow, when she heard the two of them snickering behind her.
“What are you two giggling about?” Kay inquired.
“Nothin’ at all,” replied MacHeather, still chortling.
“We were jus’ thinkin’ ‘bout havin’a bit‘o fun with Mr. MacLeod,” answered Gilchrist.
Kay’s curiosity was piqued. She grinned evilly. “What kind of sick, twisted plans do you two have for him?”
“Well, the MacCousin and I were just saying what a shame it is that Duncan denies his heritage by nae wearing the kilt,” said Gilchrist.
Kay giggled and shook her head as she took out her passkey for the suite. She unlocked and opened the door.
“Whatever you two are planning,” she began. “I want in on it.”
September 6 –
Sinful Secrets dance club
Angelique and Ricze entered the club. The scent of mortals was intermixed with the stench of death and the heady musk of sex. Bodies pulsated and coalesced on the dance floor to bass enhanced music being pounded from speakers set in the ceiling.
“So, this is Sinful Secrets?” Ricze scanned the interior of the club, pausing to admire the current dancer on the stage in the center of the club.
“Sinful, yes. But I don’t think it is very much a secret.” Angelique responded. They moved through the crowd toward the tables lying beyond the dance area that surrounded the stage.
A small woman of Hispanic heritage turned and admired Ricze then hissed at Angelique, challenging her right of possession over the male she accompanied.
“Immortality is no excuse for stupidity, childe.” Angelique starred into the young Sabbat’s eyes.
“Think you’re tough, huh bitch?” The girl lunged at the Nubian princess only to fall to the ground, an open slash on her neck from Angelique’s nails seeping blood.
“Hey,” shouted the male she’d been dancing with.
“Tend to your friend,” Ricze warned. “Mine is in a sour mood of sorts.” He pulled Angelique to his side and stepped over the convulsing body on the ground. Settling into a corner booth, he pulled his sister in beside him.
“We must so something to curb this anger you hold. Perhaps a lap dance would do you some good?”
“Um. Yes, but who’s lap where you intending to dance in?”
“Naughty girl.” He tweaked her nose.
“Which one do you prefer? The night is on me.”
“Let me see.” She scanned the dancers. All young. Most trim. Some sickly, but all willing to be used.
“That one looks promising.” She pointed a long finger toward a young man with shoulder length dark hair in tight curls. It hung wet, partially hiding his face as he knelt to accept tips from groping admirers. “ collar adorned his neck. Silver loops graced each nipple. Angelique watched his muscles flex as he stood. She smiled an invitation when he looked toward the booth she occupied with Ricze.
“And you,” she asked, turning toward her brother. “Who shall the lucky young lady be?”
“I had something along those lines in mind.” He motioned toward the side stage on the far end of the center area. A tall Native American youth with wavy hair cascading down his back was strutting for the crowd of drunken women that gaggled at the base of the stage.
“You promised to behave.”
“I said I would try my best to behave. I promised nothing. Besides, he’s just too perfect to let slide by.”
“You could have at least worn a dress had you planned on picking up the same gender.”
“That can be arranged.” Ricze raised his left hand in the air. Angelique caught his wrist just as he was about to snap his fingers.
“Not in public. You’ll frighten the young ones.”
“Fear keeps them in their place.”
Angelique straddled his lap. Trapping his hands above his head she captured his mouth, raking her fangs against his lips. “So wicked. So into instant gratification. That’s what I’ve always loved about you.”
The curtains still moved in the breeze created by Monique’s exit. Devin smiled sheepishly at Anna and took her proffered handkerchief to scrub at his cheek. She did not look amused.
“She still has it for you, Devin,” Anna said flatly.
Devin looked at her sideways over his hand as he continued wiping his face. “Has what for me?” he asked. “A deep, abiding hatred? I’ll buy that.” His voice was flippant, but his guts quivered like well-set Jell-O. His mind whirled as he considered Monique’s visit. What did she mean by the warning?
The rest of the room spoke quietly together. Vachon raised his head to smirk at Devin.
“Nice one, amigo,” he said with twinkling eyes. “The only person I know who can have two gorgeous women interested in him. One wants to kill him, one just looks like she wants to.” Vachon laughed and shook his head.
Devin was trying to think of some clever riposte when Trapper’s cellphone went off. She looked startled by the noise and retrieved it from her jacket.
Everyone suddenly looked around the room. Evie and Schanke had gone out for a drink, and ordered fresh stock for the bar. They hadn’t come back yet, but no one had really registered the fact with all of the excitement.
Trapper frowned and looked perplexed as she listened to Evie. Finally, she said,” yeah. Of course, we’ll be right down. Don’t go in ’til we get there. Okay? Yeah, you too.” She pushed “end” and returned the phone to its home.
“What was it?” Nick asked. “She and Schanke are all right, aren’t they?”
Trapper looked thoughtful, her brow still creased. “Yeah, they’re fine.” She looked around at everyone. “They were on their way to the library, to see if they could catch up with Marc.”
Kat leaned against Javier, her arms crossed. “They’re about the only ones who can get anywhere near him at this point.” She looked over at Devin. “I don’t think he exactly trusts the rest of us.”
“Anyway, as they were driving, they noticed the “Taboo”.”
“You mean they noticed the ruins and the chimney. The place burned down during the massacre.” Devin spoke up. He had done a thorough reconnaissance of the town when he first arrived.
“Well, no. They saw the “Taboo”, whole and looking reasonably untouched.”
“That’s impossible!” Nick exclaimed. “We just saw it last night!”
“I know. That’s why I told her we’d be right down, and not to go in without us.” She shrugged on her jacket and walked to the window. “Coming?”
A moment later, the room was empty.
In the alley behind Elysian Fields, Angel and his little party looked up to the sky. He smiled as he saw the vampires flying away, and leaned over to caress Missy’s cheek with his own.
“Looks like the cavalry’s not going to be here, darlin’. That means we can have some fun.”
Missy glared at him over the gag.
Drucilla ran her hands over the wall. “He’s in here, Angel. My Spike needs me.” She vaulted to the roof. The rest of them followed suit.
Lux used the fire escape, muttering all the while. “They could’ve carried me, but nooo. Let good ol’ Lux find his own way in. Snotty bastards.”
By MacCousin & Sukh
LaCroix sat in the Ptolemaic suite quietly fuming. Spike could do no more than try to avoid the icy eyes that burned in fury across from him. Methos watched the scene with an air of amused detachment. However, he would admit that the idea of spending more time with these two was not a pleasant one.
LaCroix turned away from Spike, and narrowed his eyes, allowing Spike to escape the withering glare he had received all evening. LaCroix could sense her coming and heard her through the walls. He easily recognized the sound of leather swishing against leather and Màire’s scent of vanilla and sandalwood floated down the hallway. He tilted his head and smiled.
His eldest was here.
Màire stopped in the middle of the hallway to glance at her appearance in one of the mirrors. She dusted a bit of facial powder off her black silk shirt and studied the black leather pants she had thrown on so carelessly earlier in the evening. She ran her fingers through her auburn tresses and viewed herself critically.
She sighed, turned on the heel of her boot and walked toward the door. She was relieved to see the door open a crack, but LaCroix did not welcome her. She knew he was there, yet he did not invite her inside. She stepped over the threshold and looked into the room.
A rather sulky looking young punk revenant sat in the middle of the room. Spike, too weak to do more than watch, began to tremble as her cold eyes settled on him. Màire sniffed the sharp bloody smells. The young one was still healing.
The other one was not a vampire, yet he was not a mortal either. He held his sword with the easy grace of a seasoned warrior, and watched her with the precision of a hawk hunting. She smiled at him, a slim smile acknowledging his wariness, and turned to LaCroix.
LaCroix looked up to his child, his glare had become a smirk. “Màire,” he murmured. “What a pleasant Surprise.” LaCroix turned to Methos. “Leave us,” he ordered. “And take this thing with you.”
Màire tossed the passkey to Methos. “Tara Suite,” she said. “Four doors down to the right.”
Methos took one look at the two pairs of cold blue eyes staring at him and gulped. He picked up Spike by the back of his shirt with sword in his other hand.
The door clicked silently behind them and Màire gave a small smile to her master. “I see Angelique has you baby-sitting again, Lucius,” she said. Màire couldn’t help chortling, but quieted down quickly at the sight of his eyes becoming laced with gold. “Where is she?” She walked around for a moment, then stopped and sniffed. “I can smell her. But why isn’t she plastered to your side, like so much lichen?”
A small snarl escaped LaCroix’s lips. The next thing Màire knew she was pushed up against the wall. “That is none of your concern.”
“Left you again, did she?”
He snarled again and ran his hand down her pale throat. “You know better than to push me.” His hand feathered over the fragile silk of her shirt.
Màire’s answer was a laugh as she showed her master fang.
LaCroix practically tore Màire’s shirt in two. The buttons scuttled across the floor. He could hold back no longer. He dipped his head and slid his teeth in the soft white skin of her throat, groaning at the scarlet rush of her recent exploits.
Fangs slashed into her neck and Màire’s own gums ached as she wrapped her legs around his waist, rubbing against his hardening sex. Her first emotion had been anger, yet she felt his need and unconsciously arched her neck, allowing him more access to feed. He pinned her against the wall, gorging on her vitae, grinding against the vee of her pants. Anger raged, need consumed him, the pearlescent skin of his eldest beckoned him to slake his fury in her yielding cold fire.
LaCroix ripped off her the tight leather pants, and trailed his fingers up her thighs. He hissed as her hands slipped under his shirt. He nails scraped down his back in a delicious melting of pain and pleasure. He pulled out of her neck, with a feline growl, licking at the tiny crimson trails weeping down her collarbone. Her hands stroked him through the linen of his trousers, he arched into the sweet torment of her muted touch and hissed as she and unzipped him. She stroked him again, rough against his sensitized phallus. He pumped his hips as she released him and pressed her moist center against him.
Màire forgot everything she had planned to bring up to the sweet fire of his caress as her body slid onto his. “Now, Master.”
He sucked in a sharp breath and pressed into her in slow increments, his head lowered against her shoulder, licking at the drying blood trails. When he was all the way in her, she smiled and licked his neck. She grasped the smooth curves of his buttocks in her hands and pressed him to pump. He did, slowly, teasing her with the exquisite feel of his sliding friction as he filled her.
She groaned and ran her teeth up his shoulder, nipping at his nape. He moved faster, picking up the pace, sending the pleasure spiraling higher as she bit into his shoulder. Scarlet pleasure washed through her as she took the excitement from his vitae, blending, tasting and melding into one white-hot eternal realm of sensual excess. They climaxed together, a mixture of fury and sensation haunting the gratification trembling through them.
LaCroix loosened his grip on his child and gently licked away the leftover smudges of blood dotting Màire’s neck. Her sweet supple skin glowed like red-hazed moonlight. He ran his fangs down toward her shoulder, enjoying the small droplets of her life’s essence that slid down his throat. Her sweet fragrance surrounded him once again.
“A chuisle mo chroí,” Màire murmured reverently. She ran her fingers through his hair as he kissed her forehead. Chilling kisses traversed to her lips. Màire began ripping away his shirt, needing to sate her reemerging hunger.
“A thaisce,” he murmured in her native tongue. He carried her back to the bed.
By Devin Saceur
November 29, 1866
New York, NY
Just before Midnight
New Salem Time: 3:45 a.m.
Manhattan seemed unlike any other city that evening. Having spent nearly a millennium in a nomadic state had all but dulled him to the miracle of fine, marvelously decadent civilization. His tastes, bound to the dogmatic climate of the Black Hand, had turned to a deep appreciation of silence. Each hour to himself had been spent in the pursuit of solitude…of any means to escape the drudgery and utter monotony of conflict.
But as he strolled, his arm around Monique, he felt the shocking beauty of the turbulent metropolis as though it were the very first time. The interplay of energy from street to street seemed to rise like an immense cacophony, searching for coherence and yet excited and reinvigorated each second with the pure, unordered splendor of existence.
The endless vitality of the city brought Devin to life once more as the two moved like shadows through the crowds along The Bowery, one of the city’s most degenerate areas. The two were indiscriminate hunters, ultimately, and as such, places of low class were no more obscene than a quaint chateau or manor populated by the aristocratic evil.
Just a ways down, crossing Houston Street, the swell of mortals was unreal. Peddlers hawked their wares to every passer. Filthy taverns served up a curious assortment, ranging from laudanum and other opiates to bathtub whiskeys and whores of every nationality and persuasion.
The avenues they traversed were lit only by the lantern power seeping from the shoppes and side alleys, wherein it seemed the most wretched forms of life had congregated to share their torment over a bottle, a pipe, and meaningless conversations aimed only at passing yet another evening in their collective hell.
A carriage narrowly missed the two vampires as they stepped cautiously around the various frozen aggregates of dirt and ice that so often founder the careless. The driver yelled some obscenity or other as he rounded the corner to Stanton Street and disappeared. Devin smiled as they continued across, Monique leading the way into a tavern that had been tastefully named “Rory’s Hole”.
Looking to the sign that hung precariously above the door like a wounded animal, Devin stopped and burst into laughter. “Are we honestly going to enter such a place?”
“Well why not?” she asked with a grin. “Come, come Devin…you’re far too prissy sometimes. Besides, we have business here. Now come inside.”
He studied Monique’s eyes and then allowed his to wander over the assembled crowd. Near the back of the poorly-lit place, a fight had just broken out. The groups of ghastly, unbelievably drunk men involved were stumbling about…overturning tables and kicking at each other in a futile attempt to do damage. Just to the right of the door, barely behind a curtain, a woman lay awkwardly on a bench with two men sprawled over her…each investigating a separate orifice.
Devin gawked for a moment as he reluctantly entered the building. “What a depraved establishment you have brought me to, darling. Are we to be married here?” But after his initial shock, he was surprised to find himself laughing again, rather than covering his mouth in disgust. There could be little doubt that the patrons of this tavern were among the most insipid and ill-bred of New York’s residents. But as he knew himself and his own deeds far too well, it was clear to him that judgment would be best reserved for someone else.
Without further thought, other than the wish for an expeditious end to this portion of the evening, Devin moved quickly to Monique’s side and proceeded with her up a flight of stairs. As she led the way, she called out through the noise to the bartender, who’d been watching them since they entered.
“Has my room been disturbed, Rory?”
“Not a bit, m’lady. Sealed just like ya left it.”
“Very good,” she muttered on her way up. Devin followed behind, trusting his lady implicitly, though his instinct told him that something wasn’t right.
When they reached the loft, Monique withdrew a key and quickly opened the door. “Get inside…”
“Not to be impolite or anything, right?” As he complied, Devin was instantly struck by the smell of decay. It couldn’t have been as pungent to the mortals, even on the same floor, but to his heightened sense it seemed straight from a tomb. The room was unlit, but he could clearly make out a small human form, suspended just above the floor by two lengths of rope attached to the ceiling.
Lying on the ground, a few feet across from him, were two bodies. Obviously dead, the corpses had already found rigor and were in the process of being consumed by a small horde of rats. A few had skittered out of sight when the door opened, but many continued their feast, undisturbed by the intruders.
The form dangling from the ceiling let out a faint, indistinct utterance as the two entered. Devin looked back to Monique, who had already closed the door and was moving to stand beside him. “What is this?”
A candle flared to life as she stepped past him, to stand before the hanging figure. As the light settled, Devin could clearly make out…beneath a thick, dried layer of blood…the facial features of a boy that could not have been more than six years of age. The mouth moved slowly against the obviously painful seal of the dried gore upon his lips. In his torso were many open slashes.
Monique backed away from the scene, a stunned expression on her face. Devin didn’t fare as well. From deep inside, his soul shuddered and he covered his mouth as he moved to the window. A tear slid down his face as he flushed with horror. “What have you done, Monique?! What in hell have you done?!?!”
She continued to back away, nearly stumbling over pieces of a shattered chair behind her. “I did not do this! Anton?! Where are you?!”
From out of nowhere came the shape, having apparently been melded with the shadows when they entered. The man casually stepped over to the broken young boy and smiled into the light from Monique’s candle. “I have been waiting for you…and now you are here. Pleasant evening to all. Saceur…I am charmed to meet you at last.”
Devin turned from the window, a deep line of anger across his brow. “Why have you done this to the child?”
A twisted smile showed the man’s fangs clearly, made even more hideous by the low light from the candle. “You should be asking your lady why I have done this. Oh, but let us not overlook formality. I am Anton…” He extended a terribly clawed hand.
Monique shook her head forcefully. “I did not ask you to do THIS!”
“I know who you are…” Devin accepted the offered hand with a feigned smile, and then pulled the other vampire toward him in a violent rush, slamming his other fist into the man’s face. As Monique stood, still stunned and trying to avoid settling her eyes on the hanging child, she watched in shock as Devin buried his dagger into Anton’s eye. As he pulled back, leaving the dagger in place, he plunged his hand into the man’s neck and tore free a sizable portion of his trachea.
But the man refused to die. Lifting himself and his aggressor from the floor, Anton shoved Devin into one of the ropes holding the child. As it snapped away from the ceiling hook, the boy fell nearly to the floor, groaning absently as the other rope prepared to break under the strain.
Devin rolled and came up across the room, fangs and claws extended as he prepared to lunge into Anton again. His eyes blazed a deep green, the last vestiges of his humanity laid bare in the face of the inner beast that was rapidly consuming his every thought and action.
The air itself seemed ready to ignite as the two vampires roared and charged into a frenzied attack. It was all Monique could do to remove the remaining rope from the child’s arm and carry him to the other side of the room as she watched Anton stab the dagger he had torn from his eye into Devin repeatedly…puncturing and rending flesh with each impact.
The two tumbled over…Anton kicking and lashing out with the dagger. Devin’s hand worked about on the floor until he found what he’d been seeking. With a sharp thrust, he buried a leg from one of the broken chairs into his opponent’s chest, cleaving his heart as it passed through his torso.
Following a piercing scream, the man collapsed beneath Devin, who quickly locked his fangs onto his throat. A few seconds passed and he drew his head back, involuntarily allowing streams of blood to run freely down his face as he struggled through will alone to heal the many wounds spread across his body.
As his gaze shifted to settle on her, he growled “I believe you have a bit of explaining to do, Monique.”
She didn’t answer. Rather, she sat looking at the child, a worn and ancient look eating into her face like the sudden retribution of ages denied. No tears left her eyes, but the woman seemed truly dead in that moment…as though something had been irrevocably torn from her spirit. She gently touched the boy’s forehead and shuddered. “He’s dead…”
Barely a second passed before she found herself roughly lifted into the air. Devin’s maniacal glare cut into her as he slammed her against the wall. He seemed fully prepared to rip her apart and she found the only thing manageable was a scream. “I didn’t do this!!! I told him to question the child…that’s all!”
“Question him about what?! He was a young boy! He couldn’t have known anything!”
“His parents…the two over there on the floor. They witnessed the murder of one of our own! The one who committed the act left a collection of papers in the possession of the father. We wanted to threaten the man with the loss of his boy if he didn’t hand them over. We think the writings may lead us to the Prince of this city…for we believe him to be responsible for our friend’s death!
“But I did not intend for Anton to do such things to the boy! I swear it!”
His expression lessened in rage slightly, only to be replaced by a profound anguish as he dropped her to the floor. “You had no business with that child. Whether you intended this or not, you are responsible for his death. Moreover, you should never have allowed that monster Anton to perform your interrogation for you. Or hadn’t you noticed that he killed the parents beforehand? There was no threat on the boy’s life made to them. He killed them and kept the boy alive for his own sick pleasure!”
Viewing the carnage around him, Devin stepped past Monique and opened the door. “I think that I’ve seen enough of your nature for one evening. Goodbye.”
Ships Passing in the Night
The strains of Ravel’s “Bolero” drifted through the hotel. Jerome had been a bit adventurous in his musical selection for the night shift, but it certainly did seem to get the clean up crew moving.
The promise of passion slaked after desire wound its tantalizing way up the staircase and insinuated itself in the halls. Many visitors to Elysian Fields were caught in the musical spell. Moistened lips and glistening eyes fell prey to the charms of the tune.
The sounds eventually found their way up the airshaft, to flavor the night air above the hotel. Angel danced with Missy, whirling her gagged and bound form as he tripped across the rooftop.
“Ah,” he breathed. “Can’t you feel it? The spell of the night is on the wind.”
Missy looked at him as if he’d gone insane.
The music ended and he stopped his imitation of a dervish. Missy tried not to pass out from dizziness.
“Well, babe, the dance’s over.” Angel pinched Missy’s cheek. “Time to find dear old Dad.” He looked around. Drucilla and Lux had wandered off. He shrugged, grabbed Missy by the waist and dragged her around until he found the window he was looking for.
He swung easily over the ledge and onto Ricze’s balcony. The doors stood open to the night.
“Hellooo! Anybody home?” He looked around the suite. It was obviously empty. He hauled Missy into the room. “Well, sweet cheeks, it looks like you’re just not important enough for Daddy to wait up for. What do you say we leave him a little message, hmm?”
With one swift movement, Angel slashed Missy’s shoulder with his fangs. She moaned behind the gag. He proceeded to write on the pristine white wall with her blood.
When he was done, he stood back to look at his handiwork. The wall read, “Sorry we missed you. We’ll try again” in dripping crimson.
He grabbed up a bottle of “Sinclair”, opened it with his teeth, and drank off half of it. Then, yanking down Missy’s gag, he fed her the rest of the bottle. She drank it eagerly, ignoring the source. The wound in her shoulder vanished.
“There now,” Angel smiled and replaced the gag. “All better. Well, time we were heading home, dear.” He snatched another bottle and vanished out the window with his captive.
In the Company of Vampires
As they took flight, Kat noticed a lack of extraneous movement. She was glad that her self-achieved style closely matched that of those around her. Floating speedily toward town, she wondered if the others ever let loose and twirled about in the sky. Centuries of secrecy probably kept their mode of transportation as sedate as it had kept hers.
Of all the talents that vampirism brought, flying was the only one Kat had not analyzed to death. It was a romantic feat, one she had dreamt of as a mortal girl; to solve it would be to ruin it.
It was interesting, really, how different actual vampires are from those in fiction. When Kat first read about Varney the Vampire and Bram Stoker’s Dracula, she had been horrified…and curious. Several attempts had been made at lycanthropy, yet, not once did she change into a bat or a wolf. The church thing generally held true, but she had held an aversion to religion long before she became one of the undead. Rather it was the force of someone’s convictions that kept Kat at bay, more than any religious icon.
There was no problem crossing thresholds but garlic did make her sick. Homeland, literally, helped her more sleep more soundly, but coffins lined in soil had been out for a long time. That is until Gothic came back in style.
As time progressed so did the image of the vampire. They had become romantic leads – tragic heroes. No longer were they portrayed as drooling, animalistic maniacs that slept in coffins and fed off babies. What Kat had seen and heard lately in New Salem convinced her that the original authors had not been too far off.
Even though this town was designed for vampires, Nick cruised around the corner of the club before landing. The others followed suit, preferring darkness to the well-lighted street out front. Detective Schanke and Evie could be seen in a similarly dark alcove across the way. They darted through parked cars and made their way to the group of vampires.
Schanke patted his partner on the back and asked, “Everybody ready to go down the rabbit hole?”
Tinkerbell and Scary Poppins could float around this fancy hotel all night long for all he cared; Lux Interior was leaving.
The fire escape groaned and clanged hollowly as he carelessly bounded down each consecutive level. Lux had ceased trying to be quiet about seven floors ago. Both because he doubted anyone who cared could actually hear him and because he needed to move as quickly as possible. His sudden aversion to stealth coincided exactly with a bizarre incident that occurred as he passed one of the windows on the upper level.
Sneaking a peek, he thought he had caught a glimpse of Spike lying mangled on the suite floor. He wasn’t sure because the milky drapes obscured any clear views. There was a buzzing in Lux’s head and it got louder as he had leaned in for a second look. It felt like being watched or like being snuck up on. He didn’t like it.
Something in that room with Spike was giving off some serious vibes. Lux slowly brought his face to the glass and squinted. Strolling around the suite was an average looking guy — short hair, biggish nose. He didn’t exactly look all that scary — especially after seeing Angelus in full vamp mode, but something about him warned Lux to get the hell out of Dodge.
Unbelievably, Spike’s captor stopped pacing and stared directly at the hotel window, as if he could see Lux peering in. Logic told him that because it was so dark outside and so light inside, there was no way that guy could see him out here. But, logic be damned, Mr. Average had grabbed a sword and was heading toward the crouching Immortal. Lux knew that these windows couldn’t be opened yet he stumbled backward anyway. He reached frantically for his own sword until he remembered where he had left it.
“Damn!” he whispered fiercely, scrabbling quickly to the other end of the fire escape. Without so much as a second thought Lux began his swift and noisy descent to the alley below.
Man, did he need a drink.
Something to do?
Somewhere on the streets
“Hello…Devin, my love…?”
The sarcastic inquiry cut through his painful recollection of the past. But he’d been so deeply involved in the thought that Anna’s voice almost sounded like Monique’s…and he jumped, startled to be standing just around the corner from the Taboo.
Searching for some composure amid the torrent of the emotions resurfacing in him, Devin merely stared at her for a moment before replying simply, “what?”
Anna glared back at him, but chose to keep her cool. She knew all too well what thoughts raced through his head. “We’re going inside, in case you’re curious.”
“Oh yes…yes, of course. Lead the way.” His face showed just a bit too little interest. Deep within…past the pleasant face he tried desperately to show, he thought only of Monique. Not of the anger and disappointment he’d felt on that terrible evening in Manhattan. Rather, he pondered what may have been…and of what was between them before that night.
Suddenly…though he walked beside one he cared deeply for…Devin felt more alone than he had in nearly a century.
The Well of Silence
Nick grasped Schanke’s arm, relived to see he and Evie were all right. “Did you do any reconnaissance around the place?” he asked, inclining his head in the direction of the club.
Schanke nodded and looked back at the club. “Yeah, we scouted around some, but we didn’t want to get too close. It was just a little too weird, if you get my meaning.”
Trapper walked over to Evie, who was checking out her handgun. “Thanks for waiting.”
Evie looked up and grinned. “Hey, self preservation is our middle name!”
They both laughed at that, forgetting for a moment the seriousness of their mission.
The other four vampires approached from around the corner.
“What do you make of it, Evie?” Kat asked, her hands in her pockets.
Evie shrugged as she replaced her firearm in the shoulder holster. “I don’t know. The read that I got off the building is just…odd. There’s no overt magick, but there’s obviously something going on. It vibes like it doesn’t quite belong in this dimension or something.” She peered at the building again, as if willing it to give up its secrets.
“Are we ready to try this?” Devin said. “We don’t have a lot of darkness left.”
“Good point,” Nick conceded.
Vachon stepped to the door and grasped the handle. “It’s locked.”
“This just gets stranger by the minute.” Schanke said. “I mean, you’d think, if it was a club again, that it would be open. Am I right?”
Devin nodded and headed for the back of the club. He returned a few moments later.
“No windows, to speak of, and the door there is locked as well.”
“In that case,” Trapper reached into her seemingly endless bag, “why don’t we leave a note on the door for John? We can tell him that we’re looking for him and Marcus.” She pulled pen and paper out and began to write.
Kat looked over her shoulder. “I think that’s a good idea. This is not a place that I want to get caught in.”
Anna agreed. “It just screams ‘TRAP!’ doesn’t it?”
Trapper pinned the note to the door. “Ok, shall we fly?”
Evie looked up. “Funny lady.”
“You know what I mean.”
They proceeded back to the hotel, as perplexed as when they’d arrived. Something was afoot. Now, if they only knew what.
Sinful Secrets, II
By Kay and Sukh
Angelique gave Ricze a long, deep kiss, running the tip of her tongue across his fangs and grinding her hips into him. He pulled one hand free and ran it down her back and slid his fingers under the fabric to grasp her cheek. He pressed her against him as she laughed and tilted her head back. He then arched up and ran his mouth along her neck, nipping at the tender flesh of her throat.
She hissed and pulled his vest open, scraping her nails across his nipple, shredding his shirt. He arched into her touch, and groaned as she sank her teeth into his nape, pulling a drought of his powerful blood.
Angelique pulled out with a sharp gasp, excitement shuddering through her at the taste of his arousal.
“My turn,” Ricze grated as he pulled her to him and pumped his hips. He held her by the back of her head, under her hair. One hand brushed the crotch of her latex suit, cupping her heat. “Next time, mhuirnín, I get one with snaps.”
He pulled her head back, exposing her throat. He took his time, licking, stroking and blowing a trail of cold fire down her nape. Then he pierced her skin, and let the first carmine rush of her power flow over his tongue. She was desire, anger and pure feline strength.
“Mmm, mmm, looks good,” a muscular blonde in a T-back leered. “Can I have some?”
“No,” Ricze snarled and started to rise.
“Too bad.” The blonde shrugged, giving them one last appreciative glance before moving on.
“He didn’t put up too much of a fight.” Ricze frowned as a cold chill snaked up his spine. “You usually get more of a rise out of mortals.”
“Can I get you anything?” A waiter stepped up. “Perhaps a special vintage?”
Ricze looked at the waiter and smiled, tempering his usual smirk into a more friendly expression. “I’d prefer on tap this evening.”
The waiter nodded “And you, Miss?”
Angelique tapped her nail against her chin for a moment before pointing to the dancer she had noticed earlier. “I would like a private dance with that young mortal.”
The waiter looked at the dancer, then back at Angelique. “That can be arranged. Anything else?”
“Thank you.” Ricze watched as the waiter moved away. Then he took a large roll of bills out of his pocket. “Go make nice with your dinner.” He looked around at the gyrating dancers and the large crowd. “And watch your back.”
Angelique peeled off a bill and wandered away as Ricze continued to scan the crowd. The groups of mixed mortal and vampires flowed around her, and several pairs of eyes watched her progress. He tensed; She was attracting more attention than he was comfortable with. He reached towards his trenchcoat, which was draped over the seat to the right, and fingered his Glock 9MM as the waiter returned and slid into the seat next to Ricze. The copper skinned man smiled at Ricze as he lifted his hair from his neck and bent his neck to Ricze.
“I am flattered,” Ricze purred as he ran his hand down the man’s neck, then stopped over his rioting carotid. He slid one finger across the fragile flesh, putting on pressure, slitting the thin tissue and releasing the scarlet treat. He bent over the man and latched onto the small slice, sipping, savoring the flavor of him. His memories seeped into Ricze, as did the fire of his Polynesian blood. He sucked harder, and noticed the slight bitter taste of rebellion, and something familiar that he couldn’t place.
Ricze opened his eyes after the initial rush and watched Angelique approach her dancer. The dancer leaned to talk to her, and she ran a nail across the mortal’s nipple. Then he stepped off the stage and led her to a dark corner. As the mortal straddled her lap, she leaned in and latched on to her toy’s shoulder.
The hair along the nape of his neck rippled as he noticed a gang of young vampires maneuvering around the feeding Angelique in a loose circle. Angelique had been unable to feed off fresh mortal blood in some time and was lost in the pleasure of the blood haze. The dancer slumped over her, his head thrown back, clutching Angelique’s hair and shaking.
Ricze pulled out of the waiter and pulled his trenchcoat off the back of his seat. The waiter curled closer, trying to sit on the coat and pull it out of Ricze’s grasp. Ricze pulled the Firestar out of his boot and pressed it to the waiter’s belly as he slid them both out of the booth.
The first round hit the waiter dead on in the chest.
Shades of Futures Past
He watched quietly as the others left the note behind and vanish off again into the night. Why had they come here, and not sought him out?
He walked over to the piece of paper flapping absently in the wind and picked it up. Why leave a note like this, and here of all places? Had they been truly looking for himself, or Marcus, why did they not try to reach the Nosferatu in the sewers?
John shook his head as he walked back through the ashes of his much-loved, and much-missed, night club. What had they seen that had provoked them to such a response?
Walking With the Dead
By the time that Drucilla found an appropriate way into the hotel, she had already unnerved the few “normal” guests of the hotel. People engaged in quiet dinners or intimate moments in their suites were suddenly startled by the upside-down view of the Ophelia-like vampiress, peering in their windows. Her eerie, Cockney cries of ‘Spike!’ cut through the still night air, leaving people feeling rattled and nervous.
She found the little balcony at the end of the hall after several dead ends. She dropped silently and walked into the artificial twilight.
“Coo, Spike. What fancy digs you’ve gotten yourself into, my love,” she muttered to herself in her mad singsong voice.
Like a blind woman, she felt her way down the hall, closing her eyes and trying to feel the atmosphere for a sign of her lover’s presence. At a turn in the hallway, she was rewarded by the sight of a door with Celtic knotwork allaround the lintel. She put her ear to the door and softly called.
“Spike. It’s Drucilla, come to take you home, pet.”
Satisfied that it was the right room, she broke the door loose of its hinges and walked in.
Spike lay against the wall, bloody and disheveled with his ordeal at the hands of Ricze and LaCroix. Drucilla ran to his side and laid her face on his shoulder.
“Spike! What’ve they done to you?” She untied the bonds as she spoke. “Drucilla’s here now, and she’ll make everything all right, just you wait an’ see.”
Spike managed to croak out his thanks as she hauled him to his feet.
“Excuse me.” The cultured accent caused Dru to stop and turn.
Methos stood in the doorway, arms folded and eyebrows raised.
Shadow Dancing for One
A nameless chalet on the outskirts of New Salem
Algernon looked at his watch again. It was getting late and the mistress wasn’t back yet. Monique’s vanishing acts weren’t terribly unusual, but she hadn’t been given to wandering off since their arrival in New Jerusalem. He glanced around at the room one more time, satisfying himself that everything was back in order. He absently walked to the sideboard and checked the vintages, to make sure that they were either chilled or body temperature, depending on the type.
Larry poked his head into the room. “Is she back yet?”
Algernon shook his head. “Nope. And I don’t mind telling you that I don’t like it.”
Larry stepped into the doorway, a large, looming shadow in the flickering candlelight. “This is odd, even for her.”
“I know.” Algernon peered out into the night, thinking that if he looked hard enough, he’d see her return. As usual, he was wrong.
A gust of wind blew the curtains horizontal and battered the French doors open. Monique collapsed into the chair next to the sidebar, legs over one arm of the old, overstuffed Morris chair, and arms crossed. With her rumpled hair and scowl, she looked like a petulant twelve-year-old.
“Welcome home,” Algernon said as he whisked to the bar. “Cold or warm?”
He handed her the glass.
She drained it in a gulp and held it up again. “More.”
He rushed to comply. “Rough night?”
She took the glass and turned her head to him, arching one perfect eyebrow. “Just an annoying one.”
“I take it you saw him then.” He tried to sound casual.
“Mmm.” She emptied the second glass and held it out.
He filled it and left the bottle on the small table at her side. “I was starting to grow concerned, Miss Monique.”
She smiled slowly at him. “You were worried about me?” She reached up and patted his cheek with her cold little hand. “How sweet.” She sighed, put her glass down and stood, rubbing her hands over her eyes. “I apologize for my sarcasm, Algernon. You didn’t deserve that.”
She paced to the window and held the curtains aside, looking out at the night. “I didn’t expect to feel anything but hatred when I saw him,” she murmured. “But, all of the old feelings, the memories came right back into my hand.”
She turned halfway. “Do you know what I mean? Have you ever felt like that?”
“Yes, ma’am, I have. The emotions are very close to one another.”
She nodded and crossed to the chaise to lie down. “I know that I must kill him, face to face. He knows it, too. It’s the only way that this can end, but…” She left the thought unfinished.
Algernon padded silently to the doorway, herding Larry out before him.
“Thank you for caring.”
“Of course, Miss Monique.”
The door closed, and she was left in the darkness. Her thoughts mimicked the flickering flames as they danced through her mind. How long had it been since she had felt a tender embrace? She hugged herself as she ticked off years. She rose again and walked out onto the balcony. Perhaps the night breeze would clear her head. To think of the past; well, there lay madness.
She stood on the balcony ’til almost dawn; a pale wraith among the shadows. The moonlight glistened on her tears. Vengeance was a lonely game.
Sinful Secrets, III
By Sukh and Kay
Ricze shoved the waiter’s lifeless body at the first wave of shooters as he leapt up onto the back of booth. His right arm disappeared into the sleeve of the trench coat, sliding free of the arm with a six inch silver blade grasped in his palm. The first three henchmen to reach him lost their heads as he spun to his left, jumping from the booth he occupied to the back of the next.
Angelique’s head snapped up at the sound of gunfire. She looked toward the stage to see Ricze leaping along the back of the booths. His trench coat billowed behind and above him as his left arm slide into the depths of the open sleeve. He landed solidly on the stage as he left arm leveled his favorite toy on the crowd rushing the stage.
Yet again Ricze had interrupted her at her meal.
“I can’t take him anywhere,” she hissed.
She noticed a group of seven mortals intermixed with Sabbat closing in on her.
Sliding the semiconscious dancer off her lap, she gracefully stood and pulled a silver dagger out of her thigh boot. She stabbed the first charging vampire in the heart and swung him into the chest of the next attacker.
Shrieks of terror and outrage rang through the air as Ricze opened fire from the stage. Silver bullets rained through the crowd. Angelique’s blade sliced the throat of an advancing mortal. Using the dying body as a shield, she shoved through the crowd, heading toward the stage, toward Ricze and his arsenal.
“Angel,” Ricze shouted as he reached the edge of the stage. Angelique took to the back of the booths, dodging mortals and vampires alike as she leaped from booth to booth.
“Who’d you piss off now?” Angelique smiled as she reached Ricze’s side on the stage.
“A set up,” he answered. His right arm dipped under the trench coat and came up with two titanium-blazed swords. “Shall we make our way to the exit?”
“Ah, the sweet memory of Paris.” Angelique’s eyes twinkled with delight as she took a sword in each hand. Ricze pressed into her back, the shotgun in one hand and his own sword in the other.
They leapt from the stage, Angelique swinging both swords in a breathtaking, deadly display of beauty. What the swords didn’t slice through, her long legs smashed to the floor. Ricze shadowed her back, wielding the sword with grace as the blast of silver bullets cut through the crowd.
The barrel cocked empty and he slide it inside the coat, replacing it with a lighter weight automatic machine gun. He swung the spray in a wide arc, clearing away any would be pursuers as Angelique freed the exit for their escape. They fled the bar; Ricze spun on his feet and mowed down the few vampires that slipped out after them before they took to the air.
Davistch watched the fight from the monitor at his headquarters. Heads would roll for this fuck up. He hissed and reached for the telephone as Angelique and Ricze disappeared through the exit of the club, leaving an incredible trail of carnage behind them. August would not be pleased.
Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes
Drucilla looked the stranger up and down. Methos continued to stand there, looking at her quizzically.
“He feels odd, doesn’t he?” she murmured to herself as she approached him.
Methos looked at the dark haired woman curiously. He assumed that she was a vampire, here to rescue Spike from their ‘tender mercies’. Well, he’d soon show her he wasn’t an easy mark.
She sidled up close to him, gliding along and looking at him sideways from under her hair. “My, but he is a pretty one, though.”
Methos looked down at her. “You will find, Madam, that flattery will get you nowhere in this particular case. If these were other circumstances…” he shrugged expressively.
Dru smiled and brought her hand to her face. “Look at my eyes,” she chanted softly at him. “Be in my eyes.” She moved her fingers in front of him like a snake charmer with a flute. “Be in me. Be with me.”
Methos blinked once, twice, and realized that Dru and Spike were gone. The curtains moved in the breeze through the open window.
“Damn!” he cursed as he strode to look for them. What had he been thinking of? She could have taken his head and he would’ve been none the wiser. He hit the sill with his fist and stared out into the darkness. He absently put his hand to his throat. It came away red.
“The witch drank my blood!” he exploded, and promised himself that it would prove to be an expensive snack for her.
The Great Kilt Caper (2a/3)
By Gilchrist and MacCousin
Kay, Gilchrist and MacCousin wandered into the suite. The MacCousin began to unpack the laptop and other supplies, trying to ignore the challenging smirks passing between Kay and Gilchrist.
Before MacCousin could say a word the two of them jumped for a pillow and began trying to wrestle it from each other. MacCousin rolled her eyes.
“It’s my pillow, you kilted fool,” shrieked Kay, trying not to let the tickling get to her.
Gilchrist pulled the pillow underneath his knees, oblivious to her attempts to tickle him.
“Would you two give it a rest?” grumbled the MacCousin, staring at the laptop screen, willing it to work.
Gilchrist and Kay happily ignored her. Five minutes later, Kay was still pillow-less, as well as purple-faced.
“MacCousin,” Kay grumbled. “Aren’t you going to help me??”
“I’ve been down that road many a time,” replied MacCousin, staring at what seemed to be the thousandth blue screen o’ death. “Damn compaqs,” she muttered to herself. She turned off the computer and watched the other two warriors, who were taking a resting break before they continued their little game.
“Okay, Gilchrist,” MacCousin said, turning to her old friend. “Why are we going through this fiendish plan with MacLeod? I know I’m doing it because I think it’s a waste of great legs to not see him in a kilt. What’s your angle?”
Gilchrist leaned back against the pillow in question and grinned. “I canna believe I’m tellin’ you two this, but here it is.”
By RavenKat & Trapper
Vachon kissed her firmly then turned her around and pushed her gently toward Nick. If Kat had detected even the slightest disapproval, she would never have pursued it – but Vachon had completely understood her feelings and encouraged her to approach Nicholas.
Trapper and Nick stood hand in hand, waiting for the elevator to arrive. They conversed in quiet tones, the affection evident in their hushed voices and body language. The lobby had been cleaned up; even the damage from the explosion was in the process of being fixed. Anyone signing in today would never believe what had happened in this beautiful place, only hours before.
Kat stepped up behind the two vampires, at a loss at how to start. Sensing her presence, they turned to face her. Smiling, Nick asked, “What’s up, Red?”
“I was wondering…I mean…” the words were stuck in her throat. Still holding hands, Trapper and Nick waited patiently for her to finish. The elevator came and went before she could find the strength to continue.
“I may never have known you were my creator if Ira hadn’t stabbed me. In a weird way I am thankful to him. If he hadn’t tried to kill me, I never would have tasted your blood…” her voice trailed off.
“I know, Katherine. I’m grateful, too,” Nick said compassionately, hoping to save her from further embarrassment.
Trapper reached a hand out to Kat and gave her an encouraging smile.
“There is still so much that I don’t know. I was hoping you would spend the day with me – with us, in the Sultan’s Suite,” she asked. “Of course, this involves you too, Trapper. Please know I would like you there, as well.”
Nick felt Trapper squeeze his hand then smiled as he replied. “Of course we’ll be there.”
“Just let us make sure that Schanke and Evie are safe and sound,” Trapper added. “Then we’ll clean up a bit and be right over.”
The elevator doors opened again and they all rode up to their floor. As they went off to their rooms, Nick turned.
“If I haven’t said it before, I’m really very pleased to find out that I’m your father.” He grinned boyishly.
Kat beamed in return and waved as they vanished around the corner.
Vachon looked at her as they walked along. “I think you were great,” he murmured and drew her close.
They stayed that way, arm in arm as they went back to their suite.
And in this House
“And in this house of malcontents
Where evil comes to dwell
There resides a tiny, little girl
Who is going straight to Hell.”
Jenny leaned her head against the metal wall of her hiding space, trying hard to stay awake. The last thing she wanted to do was fall asleep in this place, especially with Davistch still roaming the halls, furious over her escape. The hum of the elevator, which seemed in constant use, was almost too much to bear, and Jenny’s eyes closed frequently.
Whenever her eyes closed, she would hear that same velvet voice in her head, trying to keep her from danger.
Only this time, Jenny didn’t need the help. Three voices approached and then stopped in front of the wall panel that hid her. She recognized Davistch’s nails-on-the-chalkboard mixed with broken glass voice immediately. The other two she didn’t know. One had the sound of very old Italian, mixed in with poison. She shook her head slightly. That voice gave her goose bumps. The other one sounded like a whining old woman. After a few seconds of hearing him speak, she had to put her hands over her ears.
“It is your own fault, after all. You shouldn’t have expected her to stay put.” The Italian was laughing, only it was nasty and scornful. He hated Davistch, she could tell.
“It wasn’t like he could have expected the little bitch to smack him with the phone!” the whiner added. His voice was cut off abruptly, followed only by a gasp of pain.
“Don’t you speak of my sweet little peach like that ever again!” Davistch warned, his voice dropping to a snarl. “That girl is going to be my masterpiece, and I’m going to enjoy debasing her for centuries. You insult her again, and I’ll torture you until she’s ready for her first kill.”
“I’m…mmm…sor….rrry…,” gasped the whiner.
“You will be, Guilford.”
There was a thud, and Jenny knew that Davistch had been holding Guilford up off the floor by his throat. She shook her head again, trying to clear out all that Davistch had just said about his plans for her future.
It will not happen, Jenny. I promise you.
The voice came again, and was almost soothing. Until Guilford started speaking again.
“She is a lovely toy though. Did you see the curve of her hips? The tiny buds that promise a full bloom.” There was a brief pause, and then, “Davistch, I know you want her for her first time…but it’s been so long since I’ve tasted such a peach. Can I nibble too? Just a little bit off the top? I won’t hurt her…too much. Just enough to make her bleed, just the way you like it! Please? I’ll be good, I promise!”
Jenny didn’t hear Davistch’s response to Guilford’s whining request. Her stomach was turning and her head was spinning. She started to gag, even though she knew they would hear her if she vomited.
Be calm, Jenny dear. I will not allow him to touch you. But you must be calm. If they find you know, I will not be able to help. It is almost dawn. Be strong, little Jenny.
She felt a steady trickle of water suddenly and looked up. There must be a fire sprinkler in the elevator, she thought to herself without really knowing why. She heard Davistch and the other two shouting orders at servants and screaming at one another. After about ten minutes, the voices were gone, along with the water.
What just happened? she thought to the voice that came to her.
I set Davistch’s office on fire.
It is not important. But I did not wish for them to hear you, had my attempts at calming you failed. Now rest easy, Jenny dear. Another hour, and it will be time…
Great Kilt Caper (2b/3)
By Gilchrist and MacCousin
Spring in Edinburgh was unlike any other season. The heather flowers began to grow, the snows melted and filled the lochs with water, and the days grew warmer. However, the spring of 1745 was a hot season indeed. The Jacobites had risen for the third time, this time supporting Charles Edward Stuart for the thrones of England and Scotland. Prince Charlie, as he was known in the taverns, claimed the throne of England and Scotland on the basis of his grandfather, King James I of England (James VI of Scotland). Many of the Highland clans supported Prince Charlie. However, the Lowlands were split into factions who supported Prince Charlie and factions called Loyalists, who supported King George I of England.
A man named Ron of the clan MacDonald owned one of the most popular taverns in Edinburgh at this time. The place served moderate, if passable food and drink. The place was known for how fast you could get your food. Rumor had it that food was prepared a day in advance of your arrival so you could get what you wanted immediately upon arrival. The tavern had lost business for a while, however, as rumors had spread about their practice of using horse meat and vegetable substitutes in their meat pies. But, nothing had been proven.
The other interesting feature of the tavern was its sign. Ronald built a sign, the likes of which had never been seen in Edinburgh before. He had this sign built after customers had complained about not being able to find MacDonald’s place. The sign was unique because it was toped with two gold arches of a sort. The simple man that he was, the arches formed the first letter to his surname so that all around would know that this was his place. After all, how many Mac’s are there in Scotland? No others, according to a MacDonald.
Duncan and Connor MacLeod were sitting at a table in the corner one evening in March. Tensions were high, even though months had gone by since Prince Charlie had defeated Sir John Cope at Prestonpans on Sept. 21. Prince Charlie was retreating back to Scotland with his 7,500-man army after the French and Jacobite English failed to honor their promises of support with more troops. Duncan was in Edinburgh to spy for Prince Charlie.
Connor munched on a particularly rare meat pie, savoring the iron taste of the meat juices in his mouth. Occasionally, he picked at his fried potato, which never seemed to be cooked completely. The barmaid, however, always managed to keep his mug of ale filled.
“I don’t know how you can stand munching on that meat pie,” Duncan commented as he munched on a slab of fish fillet on some barley bread. “You don’t even know what kind of meat you are eating. It could be English, you know.”
“Weeth hoow hungree Iee am. Iee can eeet pleenty of food, noe matter whaat eet was,” Connor answered between bites. “The meat pie was actually quite good,” Connor thought to himself.
“Well, there’s no guessing when it comes to fish, I’ll wager,” Duncan gloated.
Connor stared Duncan in the eye. “Hoow doo yea knoow thaat yuur feesh ees actually feesh and naught dolphin?” Connor asked.
Duncan put down his fish. “Dolphins never hurt anybody. We shouldna kill them for our food,” Duncan rambled. “Connor, promise me we will never eat at MacDonald’s again.”
“Dreenk yuur mead, Duncan,” Connor answered derisively.
At that moment, Connor and Duncan felt a familiar pain in their heads.
Several Scots stood up to greet a man coming through the door to the tavern. Connor stood up to see who it was. Gilchrist MacDuff had arrived. Gilchrist was known by some to support the Loyalists in favor of King George I. The Tavern was apparently full of Loyalists today; only Loyalists seemed to come to Ronald MacDonald’s two for one special on Tuesdays.
Gilchrist looked above the heads of the crowd gathered around him and spotted Connor. Gilchrist excused himself from the mob, walked over to Connor, and clasped Connor’s offered hand. “Sae gude ta see yea, Connor.”
“Eet’s beeen a whiile, haasn’t it, Gilchrist?” Connor asked.
“Aye. ‘N wha dah’ee hae heir?” Gilchrist asked as he looked at Duncan. “I’m Gilchrist MacDuff frae tha Clan MacDuff, Guide of the Scots fur mony yeirs mair than ye’ar ages combin’d.” Gilchrist offered his hand.
Duncan grasped his hand. “And I am Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod. I offer you, Protector of Scotland, a drink of mead with us. Do you accept?”
“Aye,” Gilchrist replied. No Scot worth his weight in gold ever turned down an offer for mead or ale. Gilchrist sat down with Duncan and Connor at their table. A serving wench immediately brought a mug overfilling with sweet smelling mead.
“So, tell me about our pursuit of the Young Pretender?” Duncan asked casually.
“We are forc’n him inta tha Hielans. We suld hae tha Young Pretender gared into Inverness bae April.” Gilchrist cheered.
Another man walked into MacDonald’s tavern. The man was slightly shorter than Gilchrist, wearing the tartan of the Jacobite. Many of the Loyalists avoided talking with the new arrival.
Duncan yelled, ” Hey, Colm! Come join us!”
Suddenly, Gilchrist jumped to his feet. “Yur a Jacobite,” he yelled at Duncan. Gilchrist promptly spat on the floor.
Duncan rose, along with Connor, and defended his position. “Prince Charlie is the rightful heir to the Thrones of England and Scotland.”
“Nae, an I weel prove’t,” Gilchrist responded.
“Uilleam. Doo naught puursuue thees action. Let heem go,” Connor pleaded. The last thing MacDonald needed was another massacre like the one at Luby’s place, down the lane.
“There can be only one,” Gilchrist and Duncan said in unison.
Gilchrist drew his basket hilted claymore first, only to feel a cold draft where none was felt before. The entire tavern erupted in laughter at the sight. Gilchrist had cut his own Kilt clean off his body when he had drawn his blade.
Gilchrist, barely able to speak through his angry embarrassment, managed to stare at Duncan and Connor and said an oath, “MacLeods, our clans were foes in tha past. We even became friends fur a’time. But ne’er wull we be friends again!”
Gilchrist spat on the floor and left the tavern. Many of the Loyalists left with him.
Gilchrist finished his tale and slid down onto the floor. His hazel eyes had become mischievous and a wicked smile wrapped across his face.
“I can’t say I’d blame you after that,” said Kay. “I’ll even help you with the supplies,” she continued, grasping her spellbook.
Morning Has Broken
“Are you as tired as I am?” Trapper yawned as they entered the suite.
“The answer to that is yes,” Nick said as he shrugged out of his jacket. He came up behind her and wrapped his arms around her.
“Shall I order some espresso, since we have to go out again?”
“Mmm. That would be nice.” She leaned her head back against his chest. “Or, we could just stand here and fall asleep.”
Nick freed one hand and called down to Room Service for refreshment.
Schanke and Evie trailed in with Devin and Anna close behind as Nick hung up.
“Is everything buttoned up for the night?” he asked an exhausted Schanke.
Don nodded, barely keeping his feet underneath him. “Oh, yeah. And Mrs. Schanke’s boy is off to bed. Sweet dreams, y’all.” He staggered off to his room.
“I’m with him,” Evie muttered as she went off to her quarters. Her blood-encrusted jacket left a little trail of brown flakes as she pulled it off. They heard her tired exclamation as the door closed. “Oh, jeez! I have got to take a shower! I look like a refugee from Evil Dead 2!”
“Have you got a place, Saceur?” Nick asked.
Devin still looked a bit distracted and shell-shocked from his earlier encounter with Monique. Anna nudged him.
“Nick’s talking to you, Devin.”
“Oh, yes, Detective.” Devin tried to clear the cobwebs from his mind and bring himself back to the present. “I took the precaution of booking the Mesopotamian Suite at the same time I booked my ill-fated Provencal.”
“Then I assume we’ll see you at sunset?”
“I wouldn’t be anywhere else,” Devin said wryly. “I still want to get inside that club.”
They said their good-byes and exited the suite.
Trapper turned in Nick’s arms and kissed him. “I’m going to take a quick shower and change.”
Nick smiled as she reluctantly pulled away. “I’ll bring your latte in when it gets here. As soon as I’ve showered and changed, we’ll be off.”
He pondered all of the happenings of the night as he waited for the drinks to arrive, and hoped they were getting closer to finding out what was going on in New Jerusalem. So far, they’d managed to rack up an impressive body count and avoid being killed in the process. But the solution to their troubles continued to elude them.
By MacCousin and Cousin Suk
after 5 AM
“By Morrigan’s teat, ” Ricze spit as they landed in front of Elysian Fields. “I’m gonna use August’s kidneys for wall hangings.” He stalked through the doors, the quiet Angelique beside him and strode through the lobby.
Fraser and the Rays stopped and watched the pair as they moved to the elevator in long angry steps. They were dusty, covered with dirt and dried blood. Ricze’s leather trench coat was full of holes and Angelique had a pair of lethal looking Katanas in each hand.
“This does not look good.” Ray muttered as Benton started to follow. “What are you doing?”
“Checking to see they make it safely to their rooms.” Benton froze as Angelique looked back at him and snarled. Her face was contorted in an expression of pure fury, fangs out and eyes gold-green. “I think that we need to find out what happened to them tonight.”
“I’ve never seen a woman that pissed.” Stanley watched as the pair of vamps disappeared into the elevators.
“I have.” Benton narrowed his eyes and moved toward the other elevator.
“Hey,” Ricze stopped Angelique outside the door of the Ptolemaic suite. “Don’t worry, we’ll find Micah.” He pressed a kiss to her forehead. “Then we can kick August’s ass.” He waved as he moved toward his own room.
Angelique let herself in and grimaced. The cleaning crew hadn’t arrived, and blood was tacky on the carpet. The scent of her blood
mingled with Lucius’ and the young revenant Spike’s blood to stench up the area. However there was a strange new scent that drifted through the room. It was a cloying smell that was somehow familiar.
As she moved to the bedroom, closing curtains as the dawn lightened the sky. She opened the door and froze.
Màire. In bed with LaCroix.
Angelique stood immobile for nearly a minute. She tried to see through the thin red haze surrounding her. She moved, yanking off the covers and burying her hand in Màire’s red hair. She yanked the other woman out of the bed and shoved her against the wall. ” I don’t think so,” she growled as her head bobbed in rage.
Màire glared back. ” He’s tired of you, ya dried up OLE hag.”
Angelique grabbed her by the arms and shook Màire. “Don’t even go there, you Irish whore.”
Màire grimaced and dug her long fingernails into Angelique’s arms. Angelique let out an enraged roar. Màire managed to throw the taller woman to the ground and leaned over Angelique. “Dinna ev’r call me a whore again, bitch.” Her brogue that had disappeared within the last millennia was back. Unfortunately she didn’t seem to realize that her long hair was in grasping reach. Angelique growled and grabbed two handfuls of hair on both sides of Màire’s head. She pulled down her opponent’s head and then hit Màire square in the nose.
LaCroix sat up in bed and watched them with a raised brow.
Màire stumbled away, grasping her nose and cursing in varying languages. Angelique rolled away and was preparing to grab Màire from behind.
“Hooshia!” Angelique growled.
Màire whirled around and grabbed a large vase, smashing it on Angelique’s head. “Focáil leat, schank,” she retorted. Both women
stumbled around. Màire still holding onto her nose, Angelique was rubbing away the blood streaming down her forehead.
Angelique found one of her Katanas and whirled around. The blade gleamed in the light.
“A crieche,” growled Màire, wishing she had brought her own claymore with her. Then she spied another Katana to her left side. Angelique brought the blade down through the air and neatly clipped Màire’s shoulder.
Màire’s howl of fury echoed through the suite. She moved quickly and unsheathed the other Katana. The smells of their spilt blood surrounded them in a miasma.
The two bleeding women growled as they faced each other. Their faces distorted in rage. The swords clashed and whistled around them.
“Ladies,” LaCroix commanded as he looked from one woman to the other. They froze at his icy tone, and looked at him. ” As flattered as I am by this, it is time to stop.”
Angelique rounded on LaCroix. “Don’t even think you can tell me what to do.” She slashed at him with the blade. His eyes widened as he spun out of the way.
“Perhaps you’ve had a bad night my dear.”
“Bad doesn’t even begin to cover it.” Angelique swung at him again as he wrapped the sheet around himself toga style.
He lunged out of the way and caught the sword Màire tossed at him. “I don’t wish to hurt you, Angelique.”
She laughed at him. “Well, guess what? I don’t have a problem hurting you after the night I’ve had.” She twirled the Katana in front of her in a few rapid feints then lunged at LaCroix. He countered her swing, crossing her sword and pushing her back.
“Perhaps you would rather sit down and discuss it in a rational fashion.” He growled as she nicked his forearm.
“No. I’d rather make you both bleed.” She snarled as he managed to maneuver them out of the bedroom.
The far door shook as Cleo tried to escape and help her enraged mistress.
“I grow tired of this petulant display of jealousy,” LaCroix managed to disarm her. He tried to hold her as she went to her knees, but she shrugged him off. ” Now, my dear, tell us what brought this outburst forth?”
Angelique growled as a naked Màire planted herself at LaCroix’s elbow. “What’s wrong, dearie, Ricze not satisfy you?” She draped an arm over LaCroix’s shoulder and smirked. “Wait your turn.”
Angelique screeched and lunged at Màire again, pulling her over into a spectacular backflip and sitting on the Irish vampire’s stomach. As Màire spit and scratched, Angelique bitch slapped her and started to pull out her hair in small clumps by the roots while muttering in Egyptian.
LaCroix lifted Angelique off the hissing Màire and pinned her to the closest wall. “I think you need to find another bed for this day. Come back when you are ready to explain this foul mood.”
Angelique shoved against the wall and propelled her and LaCroix into a very old table. She yanked herself out of LaCroix’s grip and stalked over to free Cleo, before leaving the room.
Benton and the two Rays watched in silence as one Egyptian princess in a shredded latex catsuit made her way to Micah and Duncan’s room.
She laid her head on the door, wishing that he brother were there to counsel her, then passed the door on, stopping in front of Ricze’s room.
As she raised one blood caked fist to knock there was a blood curdling roar and Ricze flung the door open. He stared at her for a blank moment, rage contorting his features.
“What now?” She sighed, her ancient bones feeling all their years.
“That Fucker Angelus had Missy here.” Ricze growled. “And he made her bleed.”
Angelique could feel her knees buckling. “That’s nice.” She whispered as she passed out in the hallway.
Ricze scooped Angelique off the floor. “I don’t care if he does get his soul back, I’m still going to pound him into a bloody spot.”
Once inside, he laid her on Missy’s bed. Then he moved into the living room and paced, growling and snarling as he stopped every so often to read the bloody note on his wall.
Ray turned to Fraser. “Man, we are going to die in this forsaken town.” He griped as Benton made himself comfy in the middle of vampire central hall.
“Then by all means Ray, go get some sleep.” Benton patted Deif’s head. “We’ll be safe for the day.”
Ray and Stanley looked at each other, groaned as one, and hunkered down on the floor. “I hate when you play martyr Benny.”
The massacre had been impressive but over much too quickly. As soon as Angelique and her escort had made their way out of the demolished club, the endless party had started up again. Blood flowed freely and those that weren’t dying from its loss were reveling in its plenty. Dancers of both sexes smeared handfuls of gore onto their naked bodies, all the while writhing to the techno beat.
Ignoring his desperate grasping, Tracey stepped over the gutted waiter. He begged her, “Please…” then grabbed at her leather miniskirt. With a look of mild disgust, she brushed his hand away and kept walking. She wasn’t really looking at the slaughtered Sabbat, she was reliving her Becoming at Casa Loma.
Something was nagging at her mind, something she should be remembering but couldn’t quite catch. Much of the torture she had endured was blurry, intricately mixed with bizarre childhood memories; Tracey wasn’t sure which parts were based in reality and which were hallucinations from her exhausted and tormented mind. She could almost see her torturers, almost put faces to the bastards that had strung her up and beaten her within an inch of her life, but every time she thought she had it, the images would slip away leaving her more angry and frustrated than before.
“Ey, Miss? Wanta nip?”
Tracey was wrenched from her memories by an English accent. She turned violently, eyes golden, to see a black vampire holding a very willing dancer by the hair and swinging her in Tracey’s direction. Her over-reaction was missed by the generous man. Controlling herself, she shook her head in response.
“Suiter self,” he said cheerfully before tearing into the neck of his victim.
The young ex-detective took a last look around Sinful Secrets; The sun would be coming up soon. She may be only a month dead, but Tracey knew when it was time to head back to the caves.
by MacCousin and Gilchrist
LaCroix stared as Angelique stalked out of the suite with Cleo at her side. He then turned his attention to Màire, who was gathering pieces of her hair. Her hands, arms and shoulder coated in blood.
He offered her his hand and her eyes flashed, as she stood on her own, ignoring his hand. “Why did you stop us earlier?” she grumbled, her brogue had disappeared. “I could have taken care of myself.”
“I didn’t want either of you to harm each other further,” LaCroix replied.
“Yeah, right,” replied Màire, curtly. “You enjoyed it, Lucius.” She looked over her shoulder at LaCroix.
Her master gave her a cryptic smile.
Màire looked at the clumps of red hair in her hands and began checking her head for thinning spots. She looked at her master, lower lip quivering. “Am I bald?” she asked.
LaCroix laughed, “you still have plenty of hair.”
Màire took a shaky step toward the bedroom. “I have to take a bath,” she murmured. “Then I’m going to bed.” She stumbled and nearly fell on her weakened legs. LaCroix moved to her side.
“Of course you are quite welcome to stay, but,” he paused and raised a brow in her direction.
“Of course Ill stay!” laughed Màire. “Ill be damned if I let Angelique kick me out. I may not be as old, but just because…” She took another couple of steps toward the bathroom.
“Never mind, just something that happened a long time ago. I managed to forget some of it, until she pulled me out of bed. Then the memories came back.” Màire stood in the doorway and looked back at LaCroix with her quirky grin. “Angelique’s rather territorial isn’t she?” Her smile widened. “As if I can say I’m not.”
Màire wavered a moment in the doorway. And for once I won,” she said, a small note of pride in her voice. She paused to study LaCroix. The pain in her scalp and arms was fading and her hunger returned. Amber flecks danced in her eyes. “Give me a minute to clean myself up,” she murmured.
LaCroix leaned into the doorway, his eyes reflecting her own.
“Unless you wish to help.” Màire grinned wickedly.
“I believe I’ll wait for your return.” LaCroix leaned into her once again. A fang slid its way down her earlobe. Màire shivered with pleasure and watched as LaCroix backed away.
Màire giggled as she closed the bathroom door. “Whee!!!!!!” She whooped in joy.
She turned on the water, splashing the warmth with her fingertips.
(20 minutes later)
The water was still running in the bathroom. LaCroix noticed the time and walked by the doorway. There was water seeping onto the carpet within the bedroom.
He opened the door to find his eldest child sitting on the toilet seat, snoring quietly. Màire’s right hand in the overflowing tub. Her left arm was wrapped around her face. He turned off the faucet and picked up Màire.
LaCroix tucked her in, remembering how he had done the same thing nearly fifteen hundred years ago to a foster daughter he hardly knew. He stroked her hair gently, watching a familiar smile flit across her lips. Màire opened her golden eyes. “Now where were we, before we were so rudely interrupted?” she asked coyly.
Lesson Number Two
by Kay and MacCousin
“Why don’t we get some sleep first,” MacCousin suggested, packing up the useless Compaq Kay had zapped into the WAR with her.
“Good idea,” Kay said. “You can use Sukh’s room. I think she’ll be busy until at least noon.”
“And what about me,” Gilchrist asked. Kay and MacCousin looked at the man kneeling atop the pillow.
“I’ll call room service to get a blanket to go with that pillow you love so much.” Kay sauntered over to the phone and dialed the front desk. As a second thought she ordered Sukh a care package….one could never have to much fudge and pastry brushes.
“Damn,” Kay grumbled as she hung up the phone. “How am I supposed to sleep without my music?”
“I think I have a Chieftains CD,” offered the MacCousin helpfully.
“Yeah right,” laughed Gilchrist. “Irish reels to sleep by.”
Kay pulled MacCousin towards the doorway. “We’re going to the gift shop,” she said.
Before MacCousin could voice an opinion, she and Kay were in the hallway.
“Why don’t you just zap in a CD?” MacCousin protested as Kay yanked her along toward the elevators.
“I’m not in the mood to deal with side effects. Besides, Ricze’s card is begging to be used and abused,” Kay laughed, punching at the button on the wall. “I hope they have something decent down there.”
The two stood in the hallway, chatting away the time as the elevator made its way to their floor. Dead silence filled the passage when the doors slid open.
“Oh My God,” Kay shrieked.
“What?” MacCousin yelled, jumping back just in case.
“It’s that hippie vampire again.”
“You,” Steve said, stepping off the elevator. “I was just thinking about you lovely ladies.”
“Quick, Kay. Run for the room while you can.” MacCousin grabbed Kay’s arm and pulled her toward the suite.
“Wait,” Steve whined, running after them. “Don’t you want to join me for a couple of drinks?”
“I prefer my blood where it is,” MacCousin snorted. “Thank You Very Much!”
“I wasn’t askin’ you,” Steve simpered.
“Thank God,” MacCousin shouted, throwing open the door of the suite.
Steve stopped the door from slaming in his face. “Here I was thinking what a nice time I could have with a lovely lady like yourself.” He reached for Kay’s arm, but MacCousin yanked her into the suite.
“Get lost.” She told Steve.
“It’s a free country, I can ask the lady to spend time with me if I want to.”
“Not here you won’t.” MacCousin planted her fists on her hips, daring Steve Lalor to come further into the room.
“What’s all the ruckus,” Gilchrist asked, coming out of Kay’s room.
Steve used the insuing confusion to snatch at Kay’s arm.
“Hey,” Kay shouted. She jerked Steve toward her then shoved him backwards with both arms. He floundered to the ground, then stood up, coming at her again.
“What’s with you women?” He asked. “Can’t a guy get any respect around here?”
“You sick pervert,” Kay scoffed.
“She has a guy, for your information.” Gilchrist came up to stand beside Kay.
“Excuse me,” MacCousin shouted, shoving Gilchrist from behind. “You just earned yourself a permanent home on the couch.”
Steve rushed Kay again. She stepped aside. He went sailing past her, crashing into the floor. She planted her legs shoulder width apart and drew her sword.
“Try it again, and your shish-ka-bob.”
Steve muttered something under his breath. Kay’s eyes squinted. She growled low in her throat and charged at him. He stood there, like a bump on a log, the sword slicing right through his stomach.
A small sound escaped his throat as he looked down at the sword passing through his body then back up at Kay.
“What’d ya do that for?” He whined.
“Because I can.” Kay walked toward Steve, forcing him closer to the window. MacCousin opened the glass panels just as Kay reached the opening. She withdrew her sword and kicked Steve out the window. Kay and MacCousin watched as Steve fell toward the alley, landing in a dumpster with a loud crash. The top fell shut from the impact.
“And stay there,” they both shouted before closing the window.
“Someone really ought to put that guy out of his misery,” Kay said.
The Reluctant Rescuee
Jenny opened her eyes when she heard the door to the compartment open. The rush of fresh air was wonderful, and she spent a few moments breathing deeply.
Breathe later Jenny. Davistch has lay down for the day, but he can still rise if needed.
Jenny nodded her head in understanding, then crawled out of the safety of the cubby. She followed the tiny girl named Hanna to the stairwell, and together they climbed down all 25 flights of stairs. When they reached the lobby, they stopped.
Two guards blocked the main entrance, and a clerk worked busily behind the front desk. Hanna stared down the opposite corridor for a moment and all three “officials” ran hurriedly in that same direction. Quickly, Jenny opened the door, noting how Hanna never actually touched anything.
When they reached the safety of the streets, Jenny asked her, “How did you do that?”
It is not important. This way.
Jenny followed after her, staring hard at Hanna. “You’re one of them, aren’t you? I mean, the fire, the guards, talking in my head. You’re one of them!”
In a sense. We are all vampires, but I am nothing like them.
Jenny pulled away from her, and Hanna started to fade. “Wait!” Jenny yelled to the fading vampire.
Listen to me, Jennifer. I can only help you if you allow me to. The sun is almost up. I can only stay on my own until then. If you resist my aid, I will be gone, and you will be alone. You do not know this city, and you know nothing of the travesties that occur here, even during the day. I cannot abide you alone in this city, but if you resist my help, I will have no say. I need your faith, Jennifer. Allow me to help you to return to your father.
Jenny listened carefully, growing sadder as each moment passed. She didn’t want to fear Hanna, and she definitely didn’t want to be alone. “All right. Now isn’t the time to be picky. I’ll be mad later.”
Hanna smiled and reached out a tiny hand. She almost brushed Jenny’s cheek, but turned away suddenly.
We are being followed.
Together, they started to run. They ran and ran until they almost reached the forest. Hanna stopped suddenly and hissed, scaring Jenny almost to death. The tiny vampire turned, hate blazing in her black eyes. Jenny looked and saw the men that were following them. They looked, and smelled, like dead things. Even worse, they were all carbon copies of each other. Their hair was lank and straggly, their eyes bled freely. Their clothes were in tatters about them, and their mouths hung open as if their jaws were broken.
“What?” Jenny whispered in terror.
Blood Brothers. They are a Sabbat toy. All of them are exact copies with the exact same thought in mind: whatever one is told to do, they will all do until they are destroyed.
A newsstand owner was just about to open shop when the Blood Brothers passed by him. He moved out of the way of one, and immediately bumped into two others. Their reaction was quick, faster than Jenny though decaying bodies could have moved. The twelve of them devoured the screaming man with all the frenzy of piranha, leaving only near-spotless bone remains behind.
Jenny couldn’t help herself. She started screaming. Hanna reacted quickly. She stared at a nearby warehouse, gave it the same sort of concentration she had the corridor, and then the building collapsed upon itself. The rumble spilled rapidly into the street, most of it landing upon the Blood Brothers.
That will only stall them for a few minutes. We must hurry.
Jenny ran after Hanna, noting that the form was almost translucent. Oh please Daddy, she whispered to herself, not yet. Let her stay just a little longer.
As they entered the trees, Jenny almost turned back. The howling of wolves started immediately. Before they got too far into the forest, they were surrounded by an entire pack of snarling wolves.
Enough of that. There is not time.
One of the wolves whined, and the others touched their noses to the ground. The wolf that whined, the Alpha, steadily grew until the wolf was a half-wolf/human, and then continued growing until he was a man. He limped slightly as he moved, and he carried a long, ivory bone which he used as a walking stick.
“My apologies, She Who is Just. Others confuse your scent. We smelled only intruders, but sensed much worse.” His voice was soft, and he carried himself with great dignity. He reminded Jenny of her grandfather…
I apologize, my old friend. The child is a pawn in a nasty game the other Wyrm-spawn are playing. August is at the center of it again. The only place the child will be safe is with you, in the caern. She is clean, and her blood is unshed. She will not pollute your holy place.
He nodded and smiled kindly at Jenny, then looked again to Hanna. “And the other?”
He sighed, tired. “Yet again.” He turned to the pack, and it was silent for a moment. Then he turned back to Jenny. “Come, innocent. Safety awaits nearby. Your father will be with you again when his work is done.”
Jenny looked from him to Hanna and back again.
It is all right. They will protect you with their lives.
“Why? I’m not one of them. Werewolves kill people, don’t they?” She backed away nervously.
- They leave all of Gaia’s creatures to their own peace, unless they are violated. But they welcome you, Jennifer, not only because it is I asking them, but also because your innocence will bring them peace and the blessings of Gaia. They would all die before they let anyone harm you, and they will allow no one near you unless I tell them it is all right. Be at peace, Jennifer.
Jenny would have answered her, only Hanna was at the limits of her strength. What was left of her strength was gone, and her image
- Jenny sighed, then looked up at the man.
“I am called ‘He Who Walks with Bone’, for the obvious reason. My pack is Fenris. We are Garou. By all that Gaia deems worthy, I pledge that I will allow no harm to come to you, if it takes my lifeblood to prevent it. Come child, before those fiends come.”
Jenny reached out and took his offered hand. She walked quietly beside him, thinking of the woman that had tried to save her. She wondered if she would ever see tiny Hanna again. And if she would ever be able to repay her for her kindness.
They reached the safety of the caern as the Blood Brothers entered the forest…
Doing it Right
Vachon leaned on a blood-red floor pillow, his legs stretched across the equally scarlet Persian rug. Kat had persuaded him to change into something she had found in the well-stocked closet. He wore old brown leather pants and a voluminous cream colored shirt. Their guests for the day would be receiving the outfits Kat had sent them, as well.
Sometimes Kat could act painfully mortal, he thought. Getting excited about family coming to visit. It had been a long night and he let his eyes close. Perhaps tonight hadn’t been such a great idea….
Vachon awoke with a start. Katherine stood in the draped doorway to the bedroom, a shy look on her face. She wore a pale violet gown; Supremely elegant yet amazingly simple. Javier couldn’t believe the transformation.
Her short red hair was softer and the green in her eyes was magnified by the color of the silk. She wore no jewelry, save the silver chain around the waist of the dress, and she was barefoot. Gone was the rough and tumble vampire that had torn out a man’s heart in the lobby of the Elysian Fields.
“Too much for what?” he asked. “They’re just coming over to talk,” he joked, an eyebrow raised, “Right?”
“It is too much,” she blurted, rushing back into the bedroom.
“You look incredible,” Vachon called, getting up to follow her. “I can’t wait to see what Trapper looks like,” he added lustily.
Kat pulled him into the dimly lit bedroom and kissed him fiercely. “I think not,” she growled happily, as there came a knock at the door.
Spoils of War
by Trapper and RavenKat
Trapper had just stepped out of the shower when the knock came at the door. She heard the low voices as she toweled off. When the door closed, she peeked out of the steamy bathroom.
“Who was that?”
Nick turned, smiling, with boxes in his hands. “It was a bellboy. Apparently Kat and Vachon sent us clothes to wear.”
Trapper ran from the bathroom in her towel, and they both sat on the floor to tear open the packages. They acted more like children on Christmas morning than adult vampires.
With a gasp, Trapper held up the shimmering dress and its trappings. “I’ll be right back!” she exclaimed, and raced from the room with her prize.
When she returned, some moments later, it was to see Nick, freshly showered and dressed in his new clothes. He stepped forward and took her hands.
“You are more beautiful than ever, if that’s possible,” he breathed in amazement.
“I was about to say the same thing about you.”
“Shall we, milady?” Nick held out his arm.
“Thank you milord.” She curtsied and they were off down the hall to the Sultan’s Suite.
The two vampires greeted Vachon and stepped past him into another place and time. Just as beautiful and accurately furnished as their own suite, the Sultan’s Suite was a velvet explosion to the senses. Sandalwood drifted on the air, jewels sparkled in the candlelight and brass shone darkly from within endless yards of draped fabric.
“That fits you perfectly!” Kat called from across the room. The deep violet silk gown and silver chain looked as if it had been made especially for Trapper. Her long blonde tresses were loose and stylishly carefree. She too was barefoot.
Nicholas wore black leather pants and a violet chemise – both from another era. The stage was set.
“We look like we belong on a romance novel,” quipped Vachon, holding his arms out to display his own finery.
Kat brought four goblets and a demitasse of Turkish coffee on a tray over to the guests. “And how would you know what a romance novel looks like?” she asked without looking at him. To Trapper she noted, “I wasn’t sure which you would prefer.”
“Thanks, I’ll take the coffee first, and I’ll try not to sound like I’m killing it.”
They all laughed in camaraderie and arranged themselves around the room on the many plush floor cushions.
“This is a wonderful suite!” Trapper said as she took it all in.
Kat stretched out her legs and smiled. “And so much roomier than the last one!”
Nick reached for a glass. “May I propose a toast?”
Kat and Javier both nodded their approval.
“To family and friends, the most important things, and may we never have enough of them.”
They drained their glasses and refilled them. They all knew how fragile and hard-won this little island of peace was, and they were determined to enjoy it as long as possible.
Micah opened his eyes, taking in a great gasp of air, reviving. Divia laughed with delight and approached him, her blue eyes and soulless smirk reminding him far too much of her father.
“I like that trick. I can do whatever I wish, and you will be repaired.” Divia trailed her small hand down his chest, her smile widened, revealing her fangs. “This will be fun.”
“You sister will do nothing!” Divia dug her nails into Micah’s chest, leaving tiny, bloody half moons. “Don’t even mention her name to me.”
“Why?” Micah spit at the twisted child. “Still holding a grudge because you daddy prefers adult women?”
Diva’s face contorted and she laid a deep gash into his stomach. “He was mine, she promised him to me,” Divia growled. “She betrayed me, she took him from me.”
“Sure she did.” Micah tried to pull away from her as she slid her hand down his stomach, caressing the blood flowing form the wound.
“You are her brother,” She said with a dreamy smile. “Through you I can have Lucius back.” She smiled. “An exchange, perhaps? After all, I know you have had her, and she has had Father.”
“I never–” He stopped as she caressed his slack sex.
“It is common knowledge that Egyptians prefer sisters to wives.”
“I never did.” Micah tried not to get sick, but his insides roiled with each caress of her childlike hands.
Divia signaled for him to be unchained from the wall, he was led by his shackles to a table and a toga was put on him. Then they chained him to a table that resembled the top of a sarcophagus. He looked at the old/young creature as she donned a white toga and noticed that cameras had been set up. August was behind one, smiling as Divia approached Micah.
“Now, you are Leilah’s brother and through her, I have Father.” She smiled as she climbed and straddled his chest. She ripped the Toga down to bare Micah’s chest and pulled out a slim, ivory handled knife. “I wish to write Father a note.” The began to carve into Micah’s chest and he gave one cry of surprised pain before forcing himself to endure.
“Shall I read it?” She leaned toward Micah’s ear, smearing herself with his blood. She sat back again, August approached and taped Diva’s flesh and blood note. “It says, I wish to show you what you missed Father.”
“Missed?” Micah whispered. Divia slid down his body, licking at the blood he’d shed. She moved to his stomach and looked up.
“Oh yes, everything.” She slid one small hand under his toga.
“We should have taped this when Horton had you Micah.” August watched as Micah tried to resist, tired not to feel ill, tried not to respond. “Your sister would have loved it.”
The Final Perversion
She felt herself pulled away from Jenny, and was terrified. Someone must have figured out what she had been doing, and was now nearby, waiting to make her…
“…Pay for this, you midgit bitch!”
She knew the voice. Who didn’t? One never forgot the sound of Davistch’s voice.
“Still trying to save them all, eh little Hanna? Thought you could get Jenny away from me, and that would make it all better, right? WRONG!”
With the scream, she felt wet pain. He pulled back a blade from her chest, drenched in blood.
“Hang her,” he commanded.
Her bound feet were tied to a butcher’s hook, and she was hoisted up. She felt what little blood she still had in her body being drained from her. She opened her eyes, and saw the floor beneath her, Davistch standing under her as well, bathing in the shower of her blood.
She started to lose consciousness, her last thought saved for Jonas.
Davistch performed a grotesque little dance underneath her hanging body, then turned to Paolo. “We’ll finish it at sundown.”
Ticket to Ride
“Finally!” Lux sighed melodramatically as he spotted the club around the corner. Mr. Number-One-with-a-Bullet was sure he had circled this block at least once before, but after wandering the streets of this ‘burb for hours – everything was starting to look familiar. A neon sign sizzled coldly in the early morning air, inviting him. Lux trudged purposely toward the entrance and snickered, “Nice Gimmick.” Stepping up to the rear end of an ancient Chevy, he ducked his head and descended into the Taboo.
Couldn’t be too bad of a town, he thought, if bars could stay open after hours. He’d just sneak in real quick for a snort-full before they closed. The first thing Lux noticed was the persistent odor of Patchuli mixed with the stink of cigarette smoke. Those smells reminded him of being on tour; Groupies all dolled up and trying to look older than they were. Nothin’ better than young pussy, he thought greedily.
Turning the corner past the coat check, Lux was surprised to see that the club was empty. Voices and music enveloped him in a soft, muted blanket of sound. Maybe everyone was holed up in a back room or the party was upstairs. No matter; He wasn’t in the mood to mingle anyway. A simple bottle and glass would suit him just fine.
Candles lit the tables and colored gels tinted the dance floor – the joint looked like it was ready to open for the night, not close down for the day. Whatever.
“Barkeep!” he yelled leaning over the bar. Waiting all of five seconds, Lux slipped around the barrier and grabbed some JD. He popped the pour spout out of the top of the bottle and brought the whiskey to his lips. It burned in his mouth and all the way down his throat, but that was exactly the way Lux liked it. Returning to the other side, he picked a stool and looked out toward the dance floor.
“Huh?” he asked, suddenly aware that he had been lost in thought. Looking around, he laughed at himself, this part of the bar was still empty although he could hear the party raging somewhere nearby. Need to get some sleep, he chided himself. He spun on the stool to set the half-empty bottle down and nearly fell off when he looked up.
A bartender stood in front of Lux, his hand out to accept the bottle – but the rockstar was looking past him. Behind the silent barman was a mirror. In it, Lux could see himself, as well as, an entire club full of people. He whipped his head around and checked the still empty space behind him.
“What the …?” he grunted in confusion. Turning again toward the bar he noticed the music and voices became louder and clearer. In the mirror Lux could see dancers way across the room as well as people perched at the bar on either side of him. Shaking his head Lux looked more closely at the bottle of Jack Daniels. Somebody musta put some serious acid in here.
A hand reached out to retrieve the cursed bottle from him, and Lux let it go. Looking up, he hoped the bartender could give him a place to come down – a place with rubber walls, preferably. The bartender regarded his customer with disdain.
“I thought you had bigger balls than that, Ira.”
Lux stared, unbelieving, at his server. In a tiny voice, he asked, “Jim?”
Back in the Chain Gang
Just at dawn
He opened his eyes, listening to the sound of Divia’s humming. He groaned and she smiled.
“Nice of you to wake up, oh Immortal One. I was beginning to wonder about your stamina.”
He muttered something around the gag in his mouth, and her brow creased. She walked toward him, her nails growing as she got nearer.
“What was that, Pharaoh? You mustn’t speak with things in your mouth. It makes it hard to understand.” With a crook of her finger, the gag disappeared. Micah’s eyes widened a bit. Where the hell did she learn to do that?
Divia chuckled sweetly as she ran her nails across his chest. His flesh, once proud and strong, continued to show signs of aging. Scars from the long tortures he had been suffering were no longer healing properly. The damage started by August only a month ago was continuing to spread throughout his body. His Immortal ability to heal himself was gone, along with whatever protected them from aging. His hair was long around his shoulders, almost fully gray. He had a full beard of the same color. And his dusky complexion was of a sickly hue, showing signs of great age.
“Poor little Micah. I doubt your sister will recognize you when she comes here. Won’t it be just another lovely surprise for the whole lot of them?”
He groaned, then whispered, “They won’t come here. They know it’s a trap. They’re to smart to just fall into it.”
She let out a little giggle. “Oh, but you see, that’s the whole point! They won’t come on their own. Not willingly. They have to think it’s safe for them to come for Jenny.”
Jenny? he thought to himself. But August had said Jenny had been taken from her in exchange for Han…His thought stopped as he began to think her name. Whatever he was going through, he knew she was suffering more. August and Divia amused themselves with him only because they wanted to hone their appetite. They were waiting for Hanna and Angelique. Micah they didn’t care enough about to hate. The other two they despised with every fiber in their being. Angelique they wouldn’t capture unless they forced her into a trade. Hanna was easy prey because she had more heart. Searching for Jenny (and August), she had been betrayed by all those around her. And now she paid. He could feel it.
“Still pining over that tiny little slut of yours? For shame Merneptah, you can, and have, done so much better. Besides, what would her husband think?” She laughed again as she poked at the urn on the floor beside him. “Not that he thinks much at this point.”
She stood to her full height. “No more games. That little bitch just lead Jenny to those mutts in the woods. We’ll fix them all, you’ll see. But first, Micah darling, we need something from you.” She snapped her fingers, and two ghouls moved forward. They unlatched his neck chain from the wall, fastened it to a leash they place in Divia’s hand. They no longer needed to manhandle him. He was too weak to fight them anymore.
They moved to a part of the caves where the rocks had caved in slightly, and a tiny hole had been created near the top. A large fire blazed in the center of this place, and August stood there naked, dripping blood. Three…no four bodies lay about her, and she smiled at him, chilling him to his soul.
“They are too weak for our purpose, dear one,” her rich contralto voice reaching into his mind above the blaze nearly drove him to his knees. “You are weak, but your blood is still pure. We require you, Micah. Now.”
They worked late into the morning. Vampires that they were, they grew more tired with each passing minute. And revived themselves with Micah’s Immortal blood. They chanted, made marks in the area around the fire, added things to it that made the fire hiss and sizzle. Live, screaming creatures were put into the fire, along with a few children that had been obtained from the orphanage.
Micah passed out many times, some of the time from temporary death, but mostly from sheer horror. His mind twisted and turn as he helplessly watched the slaughters, as well as the other unspeakable rites they committed.
About sunset, he noticed that the fire had changed color again. It was a sickly, greenish hue, and looked almost as if it was burning rot and not a flame. He shuddered as he watched the smoke billow out the hole in the ceiling of the cave. He heard the birds grow quiet, and the trees stopped rustling in the wind. And then he heard the sound of screaming, and knew that whatever they had planned was working…
On the Air
Jonas Science Center
Good morning sleepy heads. (sound of a rooster crowing) It’s 7 am and you’re listening to WHCM – the sound of Helen Carter Memorial. The college rock station that rocks New Salem. I’m your host for Saturday Morning Jams – Lou Brutus. I got lots of great stuff for you today. Some new releases and some of your old favorites. We’ll be taking requests here in a minute but first, here is our Minister of Information, Alan Scott, with a giant scoop of rock n roll gossip.
Thanks Lou! Well, rumor has it the MTV Music Video Awards will short one of it’s best performers this year. That’s right, Daisy Chainsaw won’t be attending. (booing) They’ve decided to stay in the studio and work on their next album.
But they just got off tour!
I know, Lou, they’re one hard-working bunch of guys. Lux Interior was interviewed recently about the newest single, “Give it Up Sister.” As you know, this song has gotten a lot of heat, and it hasn’t even been out a week yet. This is what he had to say.
“Man, Give it Up is a tribute to the legends of rock n roll…a love song based on the underground rumors of the late sixties.”
(interviewer) “Lux, some people find the lyrics disturbing. How do you feel about certain record stores and radio stations banning it?”
“BLEEP ‘em, man! The only people I care about are the ones that buy my records…everyone else can BLEEP themselves!”
(Laughter) Nice guy, huh?
Yeah, but he’s one hell of a singer…………….It’s 72 degrees, this morning, and it looks like it’ll be another beautiful day at Miskatonic U.
Well, you’ve been asking for it. Here’s Mr. Sicko himself, Lux Interior and Daisy Chainsaw with “Give it Up Sister”….
Ah, But in That Sleep of Death…
The Queen Anne style four poster bed dominated the bedroom. It had been hung with black velvet draperies as extra insurance against the sun. Within its ebony confines, Monique tossed and turned her way to sleep.
She had never been one of those vampires who descended into oblivion with the break of day. Even as a human child, so long ago, she had been the last to fall asleep and the first to awake. Her father used to call her volontaire, and her indulgent grand-pere called her his little hibou de nuit. Even Christien, her first love, used to remark on her sleeplessness.
The merciless day beat in vain against the shuttered windows of the chalet, and Monique fell, finally, into a tortured sleep.
It was the dream again. She knew it in her cold heart. Why now? It had been such a long time since she’d had it.
She walked through the dark forest of her youth, mist coiling around her feet like ephemeral serpents. The light ahead showed her family’s chateau, lying just at the edge of the woods. Monique approached the house with her usual dread. She already knew what awaited her. It never changed.
The door stood open to the night and every candle was burning. The rushes scattered over the flagstones were dark and sticky with blood. Servants lay everywhere, their throats torn out and their sightless eyes staring at her in accusation. She moved unwillingly through the rooms, reliving the horror of her rebirth one soul wrenching moment at a time. She touched the blood spattered doors of the Great Room. They whispered open at her hand. Beyond the threshold lay true horror.
The fire had dwindled to embers, giving everything a hellish red glow. The candles guttered in pools of glittering wax and cast fantastic shadows. Beautiful, intricate tapestries upon the walls hung limp and sodden with gore. Her dear parents had been gutted on the long oak table, their blood staining the light wood and trickling onto the floor in a steady drip. The far corner of the charnel house was the worst of all. Her beloved Christien sat, sprawled on the floor, his head thrown back and his throat gaping open like a
second, hungry mouth. A figure crouched over him, lapping at the blood that still welled from his many wounds. The hideous sounds of feasting caused Monique to clap her hands to her ears and shriek.
“Stop! Stop this now! I cannot stand it!”
The figure froze at the sound of Monique’s cry. Slowly rising from the floor, the bloody, gore drenched ghoul turned to face Monique.
It was her own eyes that stared at back at her from the crimsoned face that smiled with demonic glee.
“Oh, come now!” the apparition laughed. “A little late for moralite, is it not?” A red-taloned hand gestured at the room. “This was all your doing. Do you not remember the hunger? The frenzy?” She hugged herself as she laughed. “Ah, delicious!”
Monique turned and ran from the room, the chateau. Her evil doppelganger’s voice followed her back into the darkness. “Especially your Christien! You enjoyed draining his life away!”
Monique ran faster, branches reaching for her hair, briers snagging her clothes. She ran until she fell from exhaustion, face first into the soft grass.
It’s strange in a dream, how flexible time becomes.
After a moment, an hour, some immeasurable amount of time, Monique became slowly aware of her surroundings again. A familiar stench assailed her nostrils and burned her eyes. She raised her head and was nearly overcome by the foul reek of decay and death.
“Oh, no,” she whimpered in despair as she looked around. She was back in “Rory’s Hole”, in the foul-smelling apartment that she used to keep. The two swollen, reeking bodies still occupied the filthy corner. Monique could see the ruby eyes of the countless rats that swarmed over the fetid remains.
She winced at the creaking sound of a weighted rope, swinging slowly in the centre of the room. The haggard woman looked up to see what she expected. The boy hung there, his lips cracked and bloody. Weeping wounds crisscrossed his body through his tattered clothes. A faint wheeze of breath could still be heard from the broken little body, arms disjointed from days of hanging from the ceiling. As she rose to untie him, the breathing stopped in one harsh, choking rattle. Devin stepped out from behind the tiny corpse, his eyes blazing with hatred and blood-tears tracking down his face.
“What have you done, Monique?!” he roared with rage. “What in hell have you done?”
His anger, the look of disgust in his eyes cut her like a thousand knives.
“I did not do this!” she pleaded, falling down upon her knees.
He stepped past her to the door. She clutched at his pant leg, begging his forgiveness, but he was gone and she was surrounded again by mist. Monique sobbed into her hands as she knelt on the floor and the room lightened. She knew what always came next, and she did not wish to open her eyes.
When she did, her Maman was before her, her heart torn from her chest, Ribs broken like some ancient shipwreck. Monique clutched the dead woman to her chest and continued to sob, a keening wail rising in her throat. A sudden movement stopped her voice. She looked at the burden in her arms.
Maman was looking at her with her cold, dead eyes, a sardonic smirk visible through the mask of blood she wore. The nightmare vision patted Monique’s face.
“There, there petit, it’s alright. You should have protected me from him, but I understand. You never were good enough.”
“What are you saying?” she asked the corpse in horror.
“Well, you aren’t my get, my girl. I should not have expected so much of you.”
Monique stood as if she had been burned, and rubbed her hands on her clothes as if to clean them from this woman. She had trusted her maman with everything. In the end, she had no one.
Larry looked questioningly at Algernon as he heard the screams from upstairs. Algernon looked at his watch and put down his book.
“Don’t worry, Larry. It’s another one of her nightmares. I’ll bring her a bottle and wake her up.”
Larry rose to follow, but Algernon shook his head.
“Don’t. You’ll only make it worse. She can be pretty bizarre when she first comes out of it.”
Larry watched his partner’s retreating back. Some days he hated his job.
One Care Package Coming Up
*Broadway and underwear?*
Kay sat up in the massive bed, tossing the covers to the foot of the mattress. She looked around the room then remembered where she was. That had definitely been the strangest dream. No doubt brought about by indiscernible Enya lyrics.
Stretching her arms above her head, Kay slid off the bed. Time to get up and moving if she was going to help Gilchrist pull off his prank.
She padded over to the stereo system and removed Enya, packing it away in its case. She rummaged through the pile of CDs she and MacCousin had picked out the night before down in the gift shop. Finding the 80’s collection she’d orgasmed over, she put it in the CD player and pushed the play button.
Switching the speakers to pipe into the bathroom, she turned up the volume, as well as the bass. Dancing across the room, she disappeared into the bathroom. Twenty minutes later she came out wearing a soft green towel and smelling of vanilla. Just in case Gilchrist should decide to barge into the room, she slipped on the short chemise that went under her leather breast plate along with a pair of cotton panties?some modern practices just couldn’t be forgotten.
Gathering up the notebook and pen last night’s delayed visit to the gift shop had produced, she plopped onto the floor.
“Let’s see, Sukh’s gonna need a little hint to what’s going on.” She began to scribble out a message. After several tries she settled for *Bed sports unavailable. Remember to come up for air. Eagle lands at noon. Have fun :)*
“Now onto the rest of the goodie bag.” She picked up the CDs from the gift shop. Shifting through them she tossed Celine Dion, Enigma, ERA, Enya, Sarah Mclachlan, Lorina McKennett, Prince and a love song collection onto the bed. Each cover had select titles circled in red ink.
“One custom made seduction CD coming up,” she giggled.
Kay put the end of the paint pen in her mouth. What else would Sukh need? Strawberries, champagne, fudge, redi-whip, a pastry brush, a feather, some peach shower cream? She scribbled out her notes, tossing the individual papers onto the bed with the CDs.
As a last thought, she tossed on a note to have her and Sukh’s manicures and pedicures redone…Amazon WARriors or not, they had to look their best at all times.
Satisfied the package was complete, she drew a red circle around the items on the mattress.
Stepping back, she picked up her spell book and flipped through it. She sat down, criss-cross-applesauce as the kids used to say, and put the book in her lap.
Closing her eyes, she took a deep breath. Picking the book back up, she began chanting. A slight whirlwind grew inside the circle on the bed then picked up speed. Blue lightening flashed before the wind died down.
Kay stood up, catching sight of her fingers and toes. Not bad. She Could forget shelling out $50 a month for vanity’s sake.
Everything on the bed was in order. Kay put everything in the box She’d found in the gift shop and sealed it with a gold bow on top.
- Nothing odd or out of place had happened along with the spell. As a second thought, she looked around the room. Sneaking around the suite, she checked in every nook and cranny she could find. Satisfied everything was as it should be she called down to the front desk. Best get Sukh her package ASAP.
Elsewhere in the Hotel…
Anna rolled over opening one eye slightly. She did a double take then sat up in the bed.
“Hmm?” Devin sat up and stared at her.
Devin’s hands instinctively went to his head. “What the fuck?” He Jumped from the bed and stood before Anna dressed to the tee in colonial French aristocracy, powdered wig and all.
Sharp Intake of Air
Devin hastily moved toward the mirror. “By the gods…This is some perverse Liaisons nightmare and I’ve been hideously transformed into John Malkovich!”
“I think not,” Anna piped in…barely holding back her laughter. “I wouldn’t associate with that man if sanity depended on it!”
“Well my sanity may depend on getting out of this costume! There are reasons why the fashion world progressed…and this is one of them.”
Anna stood and walked slowly over to where he was standing…smiling to herself as she watched him adjust his wig. “Is there something I should know about, my big handsome man?”
“What?” he answered quickly, trying to affect a regal pose. “What are you talking about?”
“Well…you weren’t wearing that when you came to bed, love. Obviously.”
“Are you implying…?”
With a grimace, he crossed his hands behind his back and tugged upward on the band of his new found silk breeches, which were riding just a bit too uncomfortably in the wrong place. “I can assure you…I did not outfit myself in this manner. I haven’t worn such things in a long, long time.”
“Are you quite certain, hon? I don’t have to worry about you moving on to browsing a Fredrick’s catalog for your own purposes, do I?”
“Certainly not, darling…” he limply waved his hand in the mirror. “I’m more of a genteel mistress. My tastes are along the line of Victoria’s Secret.”
With a giggle, she ran her hands along his thighs. “Well you look very proper, Devin. You must have been quite the chevalier in those days. I’m almost sorry I missed it…”
“From what I understand, you were more of a bastard back then…weren’t you?”
“More?” He wore a silly expression of innocence. “Why yes…by comparison, I would suppose so.”
Paris, France February 12, 1787
“…It is an Italian libretto…da Ponte, if I’m correct. You know as well as I the comedic disposition of that man. Besides, would it be allowed to play, were there any true concerns regarding content?”
In her best effort to restrain herself, Monique leaned in as far as she could to Devin’s side and whispered harshly as he grinned and saluted each passing acquaintance. “Content? The play nearly brought about an uprising mid-act! You were there…and now you wish to see it set to Mozart’s stirring melodies? You must be mad! I wager they’ll storm the tiers by the first intermission. Like
rabid dogs to virgin flesh.”
“What???” Devin burst into a barely controlled laughter as he turned to face her. “You are glutted with blood this evening, dear. Calm your feeding. It tends to make a monster of you.”
She slapped his arm, though a smile managed to break through her reserved façade. “You know what I mean.”
“Yes. And I’m telling you…in The Marriage of Figaro, there is nothing you need be concerned about. It’s practically vaudeville!”
The voice came from below…resonating through the stairwell in playful, yet dangerous tones. “You might think otherwise, Devin…were you capable of any insight.”
“Maman!” Monique ran towards her immortal mother, seeming genuinely pleased to see the woman. “So good of you to come.”
Her eyes planted squarely on Devin, the old vampire feigned a smile. “How could I not? Your charming beau offered me exquisite seating, so that I might better hear the monotonous arpeggios of Herr Mozart.”
Devin stepped forward and planted a light kiss on the woman’s hand. He found himself thinking briefly, as his lips met the fine silk of her gloves, that he’d like nothing more than to rend and tear the hand from her arm in a wonderfully bloody assault. “Always a pleasure, Madame. However, I must object…there is nothing monotonous about Mozart.”
With a careless whip of her arm as she struggled against her uncomfortable bodice, the Madame gazed upon him smugly. “Ah, the young mind.”
“Ah, the old mind…” he extended an arm to her, which she quietly refused. “Besides, it is not as though a tasteful theatre piece would harm the much-neglected development of your sensibilities.”
Her face flushed, but she continued to display her deceptively calm exterior. “This is a tumultuous time for France, Devin…in case you haven’t noticed. Revolution steeps in every corner of the country now. I should think this would concern you…given the high cost associated with your indulgent lifestyle.”
A grin met him as his eyes drifted from the Madame to Monique, who quickly looked away in an obvious attempt to contain any expression of her amusement at this exchange. He smiled as he looked back to the venomous old wretch beside him. “My money is far too old and well-vested to be more than temporarily affected by the political climate of any one country. Of that you can be
With a confident bow, he extended his arm to her. “Now, shall we enjoy a simple opera…for these simple times?”
“So…” Anna smiled, wrapping her arms around him gently. “What can we do about this? We have many hours before sunset.”
Startled momentarily as he returned to the present, Devin shrugged. “There is nothing to do. I suppose I’ll simply set this costume aside for later.”
“You mean…no…you’re not going to wear it tonight?”
Exhausted, Javier had passed out exactly where he sat, somewhere between a hilarious story of Schanke driving the Caddy and raucous tales of life in a band. Politely, the other three vampires had moved to a far corner and continued their animated conversation in private. As the day grew stronger, though, even they began to wane.
“Let me take this for you,” Nick offered and accepted a half-empty glass from each of his offspring. As he disappeared from sight, Kat whispered to her blond sibling, “Thank you so much for this.”
The younger vampire smiled and replied softly, “We wanted to be here.” The sisters hugged, but before they released the embrace Kat said, “Can I ask you one more favor?”
Pulling away with a smile, Trapper replied, “Say no more.” Crossing the floor, she met her lover and whispered tenderly into his ear. They kissed and Trapper continued into the second bedroom.
Nicholas approached his flame-haired daughter and took both of her hands in his. “This has been nice,” he sighed, “Thank you.”
She looked into his eyes then freed one hand and tentatively touched her creator’s face. Kat realized that, unconsiously, she had been expecting to see scars. The razor-like tool she had used to defend herself so long ago had torn her attacker’s face to shreds…had torn Nick’s face to shreds. With almost physical effort, Kat replaced the horrid images of that night with those of Nicholas de Brabant, Crusader. She knew all too well the desperation brought on by blood-crazed starvation; She couldn’t hold it against him.
“You may not need to hear this,” she said, continuing to drink him in with her eyes, “but I need to say it.”
Nick pulled the hand he still grasped up to his mouth and kissed it obligingly.
Tears filled Kat’s eyes and she murmured, “I forgive you.”
Nick’s eyes glinted through the tears which had suddenly appeared at Kat’s declaration. “You’ll never know what that means to me,” he whispered brokenly as he turned away to wipe his eyes with the back of his hand.
Kat put a tentative hand on his shoulder. “I know that we’re all exhausted, but before you retire, could I ask you something?”
“Anything,” he said, turning back to her.
She twisted one of the long sleeves of her dress nervously and looked at the floor. “I was wondering if, maybe we could…” She found herself unable to finish the thought.
Nick put a finger under her chin and raised her tear-stained face. “Yes, I think we should do this properly. It’s long overdue.”
Hope and gratitude leaped in Kat’s eyes as she watched his eyes turn slowly to gold. He tenderly turned her head to the side and cradled her cheek in his hand. He put his other hand to her waist and pulled her close. She let out a small sigh as he gently pierced her throat with his fangs. When he finished, he kissed the wounds shut. Still holding her around the waist, he raised his other hand to his lips and opened the vein. Nick offered Kat his bleeding wrist and she took it, drinking from the wound almost reverently.
When the short ritual was finished, Nick looked at her with wonder. “I’m so sorry. You’ve been through so much pain.”
Kat stopped him with an upraised hand. “And so have you. This is our New beginning. No more recriminations, no more pain. This is a fresh start, ‘Father’.”
Nick took her by the shoulders and kissed her forehead. “A fresh start, then, ‘daughter’.”
They went to their separate rests, knowing that they had created a bond as bright and untarnished as the new day was promising to be.
The Best Revenge
Kay & Sukh
about 12 noon
Ricze paced across the floor for what had to be the millionth time. Daylight seemed to be taking it’s own sweet time in passing. He turned to the back wall. The once pristine white surface was marred by Melissa’s dried blood.
“Try again later, my ass,” Ricze growled.
That Calendar woman be damned. When he caught up with that Irish prick, blood was going to run in a slow, painful river. He planned on slicing through Angel once for each letter that Missy’s blood had provided the ink for.
He opened the door to Missy’s room. The silent figure gracing the bed stirred. Ricze approached the bed and sat on the edge of the mattress. Angelique stirred again, the lithe body stretching as she came awake. Her eye’s fluttered open.
“Ricze?” She whispered. She sat up, gathering the sheet about her exposed breasts. “What am I doing here?”
“LaCroix kicked you out.”
“Kicked me out’” Her face contorted into a snarl. “Why was I kicked out of my own suite?”
“He was in bed with Maire.” Ricze brushed Angelique’s hair away from her face. “You tried to kill the Roman bastard and his Irish whore. Unfortunately, sanity returned and you came here.”
“Something’s happened,” Angelique said, raising from the bed.
“I received a message from Angelus,” Ricze growled.
“The little demon had nerve to show up here.” Angelique glided into the bathroom. Ricze followed behind her, admiring the sway of her slim hips.
“The message, from Angelus.”
Ricze shook his head, clearing the image of Angelique naked and in his bed. “It’s on the wall in the other room. He made her bleed and wrote in her blood.” Ricze’s eyes turned a deep shade of gold, his fangs lengthening. “That Irish whoreson is going to die under my bare hands.”
Ricze stormed from the bathroom.
“I’ll just get cleaned up.” Angelique muttered as she turned on the warm water. Ricze had been kind enough to remove the tatters of her catsuit, leaving her with nothing to wear but Missy’s clothes. She hoped Missy had good fashion sense, she didn’t want to have to return to her suite with Maire there for something to wear. Angelique frowned, Maire better not be wearing her clothes, but hen again Angelique was a bit taller than that Irish shrimp.
“Angelique?” Ricze knocked on the door. “I have a question.”
“What is it?”
“Exactly what happened between you and the old man?”
“He was with Maire. What more do you need?” Angelique growled as she managedto unbraid the intricate braids in her hair and work the long length out forwashing.
Ricze opened the door and walked in as bold as you please. “I was thinkingthat if he is with Maire–”
Angelique turned and glared at him.
“Face it,” Ricze shrugged. “It’s not like he made her leave.” Ricze poured some bubbles into the large inset tub and turned on the jets. He stood next to her, and trailed one finger up the valley between her breasts. “Besides, we never finished last night.”
She smiled. “We were rather rudely interrupted.” She slid her arms around his waist. “One thing.”
“What?” Ricze’s mouth was millimeters from hers. “I get to help kick Angelus’s ass.”
Ricze smiled. “But of course.”
Angelique stepped backwards into the round tub. Settling back, she grabbed a handful of Ricze’s shirt and pulled him into the water atop her.
“Oops,” Angelique smiled, tugging at Ricze’s leather pants. “Looks like you’re going to need some new pants.”
Ricze growled and tore open his shirt, flinging the satin material over his head. “Guess I’ll have to replace that too.” He pushed her against the rim of the tub and settled between her legs, capturing her mouth with his, softly biting at her lower lip.
The Great Kilt Caper (3/3)
By MacCousin and Gilchrist
Elysian Fields – Collinwood suite
MacCousin watched curiously as Kay pulled out the spell book and began flipping through it. “I don’t know about this,” she began.
“Should’na be that hard.” Gilchrist stated in Kay’s defense. “Just a great kilt like mine’ll do, as well as a belt.” He spread out his arms to show more of it. “Make sure it’s tha’ ancient MacLeod of Harris,” he specified, taping his finger on the tartan pattern in the book Kay and MacCousin had bought earlier that day.
Kay nodded, immersed in reading the spellbook. “No problem,” she said.
“Yeah, right” murmured MacCousin in an undertone to Gilchrist. “The last time she probably said that, we ended up here.”
Kay stood up and began to draw a circle on the ground. A gust of wind blew around them and then intensified within the circle, picking up speed.
MacCousin hid behind Gilchrist, wondering what would go wrong this time.
A few seconds later a yellow and black tartan lay in the circle. A wide black belt with a silver buckle was next to it.
“Nice going, Kay,” remarked MacCousin. “That’s the MacLeod of Lewis.”
“Otherwise known as the Loud MacLeod,” chortled Gilchrist. “Actuallee, this is much betta.”
“What are you two complaining about?” asked Kay. “It’s a kilt, isn’t it?”
(In Duncan and Micah’s suite)
“Would you two hush?” grumbled Gilchrist at his two compatriots. MacCousin had giggled constantly as they quietly shuffled into the hallway. Kay had been trying rather unsuccessfully to get MacCousin to shut up with threats.
Fortunately, the shower kept Sukh and Duncan from hearing anything.
Gilchrist ran toward the closet and began grabbing all the clothes he could. He didn’t bother separating clothes.
MacCousin cleaned out all the drawers in the room, tossing the loose clothing into the hallway. As a second thought, she took Duncan’s collection of nifty barrettes. She needed barrettes anyway. She threw those into the hallway as well.
Kay managed to grab everything from the room then dropped the kilt on the bed along with one of Gilchrist’s spare penanulars and the belt. She also left behind a diaphanous white chemise for Sukh.
The three of them ran into the hallway rather noisily. They didn’t make it halfway back to their suite before they collapsed and began laughing. They were loud enough that several guests opened their doors to see what all the commotion was about.
Finally Kay, Gilchrist and MacCousin were able to stand up and carry the stolen clothing into their suite.
(Inside Duncan’s suite)
“What the hell was that?” asked Duncan, peeking around the shower curtain as Sukh pulled him back into the shower.
MacLeod of Who?
Kay & Sukhs Suite
“What the Hell?”
Sukh came running at Duncan’s bellow. On the bed lay a plaid that looked more like a Scottish bee than any other pattern she had seen. She knew they were going to do the kilt thing, but that plaid was plain old obnoxious. “Problem?”
“Where are me bloody clothes?” He stood at glared the black and yellow length of wool.
“Umm…I don’t know?” She pulled the collar of the hotel robe up closer to her neck. If she was an immortal, she would be in deep doo-doo right now.
He turned and gave her a patented Duncan MacLeod furious look. “I don’t believe ya lass.” He crossed his arms over his chest. Sukh’s eyes started to glaze at the play of his hard muscles. “Now, I need my clothes.”
“Why not wear the kilt?”
He curled a lip. “That’s no my clan’s tartan. That’s Loud MacLeod’s pattern.”
“And that means?” Sukh was confused.
“I won’t be wearin’ the kilt.” Duncan took the next half hour to search high and low for the clothes that the others had made off with. “I guess I’ll be going to my suite for more clothes.” He sighed as he gave up the futile search.
“Duncan?” Sukh was sitting on the bed fingering a woman’s chemise. “I’d really like to see you in the kilt.”
He turned and glared at her. “I donna see as I have much choice.” He whipped off his towel, trating Sukh to a wonder butt shot, and pulled the tartan to the floor and arranged it. “I’m gonna have Gilchrist’s head for this.”
Sukh watched for a moment, then slipped into the bathroom with the thin silk chemise, a diversion was needed. When she returned a few minutes later, he was looking resplendent, bare-chested in his kilt. His eyes widened at her new dress.
“Well, lass.” He indicated she should turn for him. “You look like a fairy princess.” He smiled at the sheer material and the off the shoulder gold band.
She smiled back. “You look like a Highland prince.” She moved to him and put her arms around his neck. “So what do Scotsmen really wear under their kilts?” She asked as she nuzzled his chest.
His smile was teasing as he bent to lay a trail of kissed down her neck. “Let me show you.” She whispered in her ear as they fell to the bed.
By Sukh (with input from Kay)
about 4 pm
Angelique slipped out from under Ricze’s protective arm. He stirred and cracked open one eye. “Where are you going?”
Angelique pulled on a hotel robe and went to the special treatment window, never quite looking at her blood brother, staring out at the artificially darkened skyline. “I need to have my hair redone.”
“Angelique, don’t feel guilty. LaCroix isn’t worth the pain.”
She looked at him. He was propped up by one elbow, his long hair cascading over his forehead, obscuring one eye and tumbling over his shoulder to pool on the bedsheet. She had thought she loved him once, this Celtic rogue, before she had been to Rome.
“I can’t help it.”
“Come on, mhuirnn, don’t do this.” Ricze slid up behind her, holding her to him and pulling her against his chest, He rested his chin on her shoulder. “I understand so much more than you think.” He twined her fingers with his.
“You were lost to me as a lover the first time you met Lucius, when we had gone to Rome and you had managed to become quite popular in Vesperian’s court.” He sighed and pulled her with him as he sat on the edge of he bed. “I knew you were gone when you watched Vesparian award the General his laurels for fighting the Gauls. You and master took off to Pompeii that week, to wait for the General’s return home.”
“Yes, and if not for our brat sister Divia, he would have been my blood.”
“But he is yours, no matter who pops up, the old man always ends up back with you.”
Ricze pulled down one lapel of Angelique’s robe, exposing the dark promise of one slim shoulder. He kissed it gently. “Besides, I have been dead to you these past 500 years.” He licked the column of her throat. “This time we have spent together will be a memory I treasure. Don’t tarnish it for me with wanting my arms to be someone else’s.”
Angelique sighed and shifted to face him. Her smile was wistful. “I am glad you were not killed by the Sabbat in Paris 500 years ago, and this time is a special gift. I will not look that gift horse in the mouth.” She kissed him, a brief touch of the lips. “But I still need to get my hair done,” she teased. “Tonight I talk to Lucien.”
Ricze picked up the phone. “Sybilla? I need a hairdresser in the Celtic suite. One that specializes in African ancestral braiding. Two hours? Perfect. Yes, I do need some refreshment, perhaps Spanish? Thank you.”
He pulled Angelique back into the bed, and pinned her. “Until tonight, you’re mine.”
“Yours… ” She arched up and ran the tip of her tongue up his neck, smiling as his eyes went vampiric. “Until the hair dresser shows.”
“We better hurry then.”
Truth or Consequences
Monique sat up in bed, her hands wrapped around a glass of “Giselle”, And tried not to tremble. She hated the way the dreams left her feeling; weak, dizzy, disoriented and frightened. Algernon had been his usual helpful self, gently awakening her, fluffing her pillow and bringing sustenance to chase away the rest of the haunts.
She stared, unseeing, at the glass of warm, red fluid. The thoughts of the nightmare still held her in thrall. Did seeing Devin unnerve her so much, she wondered, that it triggered the dreams? The weary vampire drained her glass and ran a hand through her rumpled hair. It wasn’t yet dusk, and she was reluctant to give up her dark sanctuary. She lay back against the pillows and stared at the ebony canopy. What was it that horrified her so much? Was it the murder of her family? Her Christien? Could it be Devin’s disapproval of
her? She sighed and closed her eyes. No, it was hearing her Maman speak those words to her, ‘not good enough’. She remembered the first time she had ever heard them.
It was the 1600’s, and they had gone to visit one of Maman’s many relatives in Carpathia. The darkness had come suddenly in that mountainous country and their host had suggested a night of hunting. She could still hear his silky, aristocratic accent as he led them into the forest.
“You will find our country most exhilarating, Monique. The peasants are a strong-blooded lot. They will give you a merry chase and a good meal at the end of it.” He sidled closer to her horse. “Perhaps you would allow me to accompany you into the forest? We could hunt together.” His voice had dropped to a conspiratorial whisper and he leered at her. She winced at his foul breath.
Before she had time to think of an appropriately cutting response, Devin had brought his steed up abreast of hers. “Excuse me, m’lord,” he said in tightly controlled tones, “but the lady is spoken for.”
“Indeed?” the aristocrat said, with an arched brow. “Pity.” He reined his horse back at a level with Maman’s and spoke in low tones about the ‘young wolf’ she had in her fold.
When they reached the woods, they dismounted and took different directions, all looking to the kill. Monique ran into the trees, reveling at the sights and sounds in the dark. She heard the tiny, quick heartbeats of rabbits and foxes as they scurried out of the path of the predators. A new sound caught her ear, and she stopped in a clearing to sniff the air for scent.
The unmistakable aroma of human blood came to her, making her mouth water and her fangs extend. Her eyes turned yellow as hunting vision took over. She crouched and ran noiselessly through the underbrush, listening for the signature pulse of the human heart.
She found it in a copse of ash trees. It was a child, hiding in a tree. Her eyes were wide and round with fright in her grubby little face as she stared at Monique. The two stared at each other for a long moment, until the spell was broken by the rest of the hunting party’s arrival.
“Oh, well done, my dear! First blood goes to you,” Radu said softly.
She heard Devin’s horrified intake of air as he realized what she’d treed.
“Don’t stand there like a silly goose, girl!” Maman’s voice was sharp as metal in the still night.
“I…I can’t, Maman!” she said, looking back at the elder with stricken eyes. “It’s just a child!”
“It’s food, imbecile!” With an exasperated snort, the elder vampire strode forward, ripping the girlchild from her perch and savaging her throat. When she was done, the small body was tossed to the ground like rubbish. “I don’t know why I bother trying to civilize you, Monique. It’s obvious that you simply aren’t good enough.” Her skirts swirled as she left the woods and Monique behind.
Tears sprang from Monique’s eyes as she remembered the stinging rebuke. It was not her fault that she was not Kindred.
An acquaintance of Maman’s had brought her across in a midnight frenzy of bloodletting, and then handed her to the woman, saying, “Bring her up as you like. She’s my present to you, since you have no daughters of your own.”
But she could never quite measure up in the eyes of the Family. After all these years, it still hurt.
She hiccuped a little sob and reached for the bottle. It was dark now. Time to be up and about.
A Widening Ripple of Influence
Monique’s hideaway chalet
The inky velvet draperies parted in time to show the sun, throwing off the brilliant colours of its daily death throes as it sank behind the trees. Monique swung her legs over the edge of the bed and squinted at the sunset. Algernon had the nasty habit of opening the shutters early so that she’d get her Vitamin D for the day. Monique had never been able to convince him that she didn’t need vitamins anymore.
Discarding her glass, she took a long swig from the bottle of “Giselle” and ran her hand through her tangled mane. The dreams had disconcerted her more than she wanted to admit. Her body was still weary and she felt unrested. What she needed more than anything was a shower and a fresh kill. That had always been the remedy to send these unwanted thoughts scurrying back to their dark corners.
Twenty minutes later, she stepped out of the bathroom in a billowing cloud of steam. The towel turbaned around her head made her look like some exotic Eastern princess as she stalked through the room in her bath sheet.
“Now, where were the clothes that I laid out?” she muttered, gazing around the room. She stopped in horror, her eyes widening.
“ALGERNON!!!” Monique shrieked.
“Miss Monique?” Algernon peeked around the corner of the doorframe.
She pointed across the room. “What is the meaning of that?!”
He followed her direction and looked puzzled. “I don’t know. They’ve been there most of the day. I assumed you had gotten them somewhere and decided to wear them this evening.”
She turned and looked at her manservant incredulously. “Algernon, I don’t know how to tell you this, but it’s not 1787 anymore.”
Monique and Algernon approached the apparition as if it might attack. Where last night had been a black minidress and velvet jacket, stood a dressmaker’s dummy. It was clad in the duplicate of a black and silver gown she’d worn to the opera in Paris two centuries ago, right down to the powdered wig.
Her eyes narrowed. “Magick. I can smell Devin’s hand in this.”
A Flying Lesson
by MacCousin and Cousin
The dumpster outside Elysian Fields opened with a loud creak. Steve Lalor clambered out of the dumpster.
“Oh man,” he rubbed his rumbling stomach. “I’ve *got* to get some eats.”
Steve stumbled into the hotel and headed toward the bar.
(Upstairs in the Ptolemaic suite)
Màire’s eyes snapped open. Sunset was settling over the hotel like a red, yellow and orange blanket.
She sat up in bed and glanced over at LaCroix, still asleep. She leaned over and kissed his forehead, almost laughing at the way his forehead wrinkled in sleep. It was time to get some clothes from the gift shop or from her suite. Unfortunately, she had not packed much. Màire pulled on her leather pants and managed to find her ripped shirt near the bedroom door.
“Where are you going?” LaCroix sat up in bed as Màire was pulling on her shirt.
“I have to get some clothes from my suite or the shop downstairs,” she answered. “I can’t run around with this torn shirt on all night.”
She turned back to LaCroix. “Would you like to meet me in my suite later?”
“Perhaps,” he murmured. “However, I have unfinished business with Angelique. ”
At Màire’s pout, he arose from the bed and traced the edge of her left cheekbone with his fingertips. “We will meet up again later, chroi.”
Màire walked out of the suite, into the hallway. She stopped at her suite. Her jaw dropped. “What the hell! Loscadh is dó ort!”
Methos looked slightly sheepish as she leaned into the room. He recognized those particular words.
“What happened?” Màire asked.
“Spike’s girlfriend paid us a visit,” answered Methos.
“I see,” Màire replied grouchily. “I was on my way downstairs anyway, I’ll stop at the front desk.” Màire stomped off toward the elevator.
Methos watched as she continued grumbling and sighed. “It’s going to be another one of those nights.” He said, shaking his head in disbelief.
Màire walked to the front desk, holding onto her silk shirt, muttering further Irish curses under her breath. Màire didn’t notice the vampire leering at her from the bar.
Sybille inwardly shuddered at the sight as Màire came closer. “Can I help you?” Sybille asked.
“Yes, the door to my suite seems to have been kicked in,” answered Màire, as if she were discussing the weather. However pleasant her voice was, her face was a thundercloud. “It’s the Tara suite.”
Sybille nodded. “I’ll have the carpenter take care of that.”
“Thank you,” answered Màire. She turned to go back to the elevators when a new vampire jumped into her pathway. Màire shuddered at the sight of him. “Whose mistake is that?” she asked herself.
“I know you!” grinned the vampire. “I’ve seen you sing!”
“D’oh!” Màire groaned inwardly. “That’s nice,” she said, with a tone of ice in her voice. “I *don’t* know you.” She began to head toward the bar, much in need of a drink.
The young one didn’t seem to get the hint. He practically skipped at her side. “Can I buy you a drink? I’ve been looking for some pleasant company from a lovely lass such as yourself.”
Màire rolled her eyes. “What a perv.” She thought to herself. Suddenly a wicked smile spread across her face. “Sure,” she said, her voice a singsong mixture of sweetness and light. “I’d love to get a drink with you.”
Steve grinned, not believing his luck.
Màire took a seat at the barstool and ordered her usual as Steve took the seat next to her.
“I can’t believe running into you here,” Steve said, with a feral grin.
“Really?” asked Màire, her face a mask of innocence. She took a sip of her drink.
“Oh man, at that festival. I was playing there, too, and saw you. You were just amazing. I think that we could make an incredible duet.” Steve leaned in closer.
“Uh, thanks, Steve,” she replied.
“How did you,” began Steve. Then his smile became bigger. “Wow! You must’ve seen me play!” When she didn’t respond, he knew he needed to try a different approach. “Or else…” he narrowed his eyes at her. “Hey, I’ll bet you read my mind, didn’t you? That is sooo cool, man,” Steve shook his head. “You must know a lot of vampire tricks…” He paused, trying to recall her name.
Màire looked up from her drink. “Màire,” she said. “My name is Màire.” She sighed, tiring of the small talk. “Say,” she began with a furtive whisper. “Have you learned any tricks?”
Steve puffed up. “I’ve learned a lot,” he bragged.
Màire slid a slender finger around the rim of her drink. “Do you know how to fly?” she asked.
“Well, actually,” began Steve. “I was hoping a lovely lady like you would come along and show me.”
Màire grabbed his arm, a smile curved its way around her face. “Let’s go up to the roof then.”
Nick, Trapper, Vachon and Kat walked out of one of the elevators. Steve and Màire stepped into the other one. Nick did a double take at Màire and the evil grin that was on her face.
Vachon followed his look. “Did that look totally weird to you?” he asked his companions.
“Who’s that?” asked Trapper. “And what is that poor woman doing with Steve?”
“That’s Màire, my oldest sister,” said Nick turning to Trapper. “She only smiles like that when something is up. Let’s follow them.”
LaCroix stepped out of the Ptolomic suite and walked to the Tara suite. He stared for a moment at the torn-off door. He sensed Màire in the elevator with another vampire. He decided to follow them. He pushed the button for the elevator. A few seconds later LaCroix later was greeted with the grating sound of…
“Hi pops!” said Trapper, relishing the way LaCroix shuddered as he entered the elevator.
“Nicholas,” LaCroix turned to his son. “I take it you’re following Màire as well.”
“She had that look on her face,” answered Nick.
“I see,” replied LaCroix.
“What is going on?” Kat asked.
“You’ll see,” answered Vachon, he was used to Màire’s practical jokes.
The five vampires rode in silence the rest of the way to the roof.
Màire laughed as her hair whipped into her face. “It’s so very easy!” she began. She noted the five vampires watching her from a small distance.
“Okay,” yelled Steve. “Explain to me how it’s done again?”
“Go really fast that way,” answered Màire, pointing to a building across from them. “If something gets in your way, turn! I’ll show you.”
She took off in a heartbeat and landed a few moments later across the way, her face beaming. “Now you!” Màire called.
“Hell, if you can do it!” bellowed Steve, convinced of his flying skill. He began to run to the edge of the building.
“AAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!” he yelled as he leapt off Elysian fields. He didn’t stop yelling until he slammed into the side of the other building.
“All right!” Màire raised her arms. “NOW TURN!”
Vachon, Kat, Trapper and Nick all began rolling across the roof. Their laughter and Màire’s echoed through the night. Màire flew back to the hotel, still giggling. She joined her brother and the others rolling across the cement.
LaCroix raised a brow at his daughter and began clapping quietly.
The next thing they heard was a whiny “OWWWWWWWWWWWW! What’cha do that for?”
A few minutes later, the laughter still rang through the night.
LaCroix leaned over the younger vampires. “Really, Màire. That was not, that funny.”
All Màire could do was shake her head. Her blood-tears blurred her vision.
Steve slid down the side of the building and landed once again in the dumpster. The top of the dumpster slammed down on him once again.
Angelus whistled as he walked by the dumpster. He watched as Steve fell and the dumpster slammed shut once again. He walked to the lid and raised it and looked at Steve. “Now that’s a real shame,” began Angelus. “When folks be throwing away a perfectly good vampire like that.”
In the Company of Wolves
Jenny had slept all day in the warmth and safety of the caern, never once stirring in her sleep. He Who Walks With Bone watched over her himself, and she knew she would be safe.
As she lay there, with her face pressed against the cool moss that blanketed the caern, her nose wrinkled at a strange smell. And her ears hurt as they were pierced by high-pitched screaming. She struggled to open her eyes, and then she fought to sit up. And she wished she could have slept through it all…
Marc ran on all fours towards the caern. He had come because he had seen the Taboo earlier, seen it flicker in the light of day, and grow solid again at night. The pack must be warned that the Infernalist was present again.
And then he heard the screaming of wolves, smelled their blood throughout the forest. As he neared the caern, he noticed that the entire forest, normally alive with sound, was still. The air he breathed burned his lungs, and the acrid smell of death hung in the air.
As he came into view of the caern, his scream was the only sound that penetrated the silence of the dead.
He stumbled forward, whining as he view the mutilations before him. How could they have allowed…?
As he moved towards the caern, a putrid cloud of greenish-black vapor extended toward him. Everything it passed over twisted and collapsed upon itself, as if eaten from the inside by some sort of rot. He stepped backward, watching in amazed horror as trees and rocks collapsed upon themselves as if dissolved by acid. The further he moved away from the vapor, the faster it moved toward him.
He stopped. “Say what?” he asked aloud.
Feed me, doggy boy!
The vapor raced at him suddenly, and had he not tripped over a fallen branch, he would have been lost. He morphed into a wolf again and ran full speed toward the city. He had to get it away from the forest. The city could protect itself. Gaia had no one to defend her.
He neared the outskirts of the city, and could feel the thing almost upon him. He stumbled into a hole he hadn’t seen, twisting his hind leg. He howled furiously at himself, and looked up in time to see the thing descending upon him…
After A Flying Lesson
Rich laughter filled the halls of Elysian fields. Màire nearly tripped as she stepped out of the elevator, she grabbed onto her master’s arm and steadied herself.
LaCroix raised a brow at her. Màire looked up at him, her lower eyelids pink in color. “I’m sorry, Lucius…” She began laughing again, shaking her head at the same time. “He tried to pick me up in the lobby. I had no idea that he didn’t know his kind couldn’t fly. It just fell into place…” She started laughing again and leaned forward, her hands on her knees. Her master merely stared at her. He turned on his heel and walked toward the Ptolemaic suite. When he heard Màire began wheezing he stopped and turned to face her.
“Honestly, Màire,” LaCroix grumbled. “You are the only vampire I know of who seems to suffer from bouts of hyperventilation.” He paused and then continued. “If you were mortal, you would probably have ended up like that dreadful Mrs. Fitzherbert.”
Màire, still snickering, shrugged. “Dying of exhaustion from a laughing fit wouldn’t be a bad way to go.”
LaCroix opened the door to the Ptolemaic suite and ushered his daughter inside, before she made too much of a spectacle of herself.
Màire sighed and sat down on the couch and sighed as she stretched out. “So, Lucius,” she began. “You never told me what you were doing here.” A small smile slid across her lips as LaCroix took the chair across from her.
LaCroix placed an open bottle on the table between them and poured the thick red elixir into two glasses. He passed one to Màire. They held the glasses and their eyes locked.
“You first,” she said. They played this strange game every time they met through the ages. Toasts had played an important part in both of their civilizations.
LaCroix smirked and raised his glass. “Bonum vinum laetificat cor hominis.”
‘Mo sheacht mbeannacht ort,’ replied Màire. Their glasses clicked together and they sipped their drinks.
“Now, Lucius, do tell me what you and the princess are doing here?”
“A rather fascinating mystery involving a dear old friend of yours,” answered LaCroix with a sardonic smile.
“Somehow I think this person you speak of is no friend of mine.” Màire gulped down the rest of the wine. Fear nearly paralyzed her. “It’s not him is it?”
LaCroix looked across the table at Màire, her eyes widened in a strange mixture of fright and ire. He reached out and touched her hand. “No, chumann, Witter is long dead. Unfortunately, his friend August is in town. We followed her here.”
The pain rolled through her body, but that she could ignore. The visions gave her the most horror now. Her eyes could stay shut forever, but the sounds of immortal and human torture drifted through the walls, and her resistance which had been so strong a few weeks ago was gone now. Her imagination magnified the sounds of suffering.
There were shuffling sounds now and quiet murmurs. The door opened and black eyes fell on her and she quaked in fear and hatred. Her senses settled on a new presence in the small back room.
“So this is his wife?” a rasping voice queried. The figure was draped in darkness. It had been so long since she fed, she couldn’t
concentrate on seeing the stranger. The voice and scent were familiar, yet foreign.
“His former wife, I’m afraid,” replied Witter. “Her blood and strength are very nearly gone,” he sighed, disappointedly. “However he still is rather taken with her from what I’ve heard. If you want to get to MacKeracher…” He paused.
Her blue eyes opened for the moment. A small cruel smile played at Witter’s lips as he tenderly wiped away the blood sweat on her forehead. She pulled away from his touch.
Witter laughed and turned to his guest. “Once she was so willing to help. When I’ve taken what I need. I can send her to you.”
“Her head will suffice,” replied the figure. “However, I would like a word with her.”
“Of course,” Witter answered. He turned on his heel and she heard his boots scrape on the wooden planks outside of the room. The door shut, the figure turned and moved away from the shadows. August’s face loomed close to her own.
“It’s been a long time, hasn’t it, Moy?”
Màire set down her glass. LaCroix watched as her long fingers gripped the wineglass, which became nothing more than a few hundred shards on the table.
Màire looked up from the shattered glass in her right hand. “I guess I got carried away again,” she murmured.
Misery Loves Company
“You’re not really going to wear that, are you?” Anna stood, hands on hips and stared at Devin. He continued to preen in the full-length wardrobe mirror.
“I think I look quite dashing, actually.” He adjusted the wig and tried to decide if he needed a beauty spot.
“What about me?” Anna gestured at her own black leather miniskirt and leotard. “I look mismatched!”
Devin turned and smiled slowly. “I think you look delicious.” He growled and gathered her into his arms.
The phone rang.
“If I didn’t know better, I’d think you timed this.” Anna pulled out of his grasp and went to check her makeup.
Devin picked up the phone. “Saceur…”
“DEVIN!” the phone screamed at him. This was followed by a torrent of French curses, spoken too fast for the human ear to follow. Devin, however, knew exactly what the caller was saying.
“Monique. Lovely to hear your voice, too.” He winced as the volley continued.
Anna peered around the corner with an appraising look at the sound of the name.
When Monique finally paused for breath, Devin answered her, forgetting that he was speaking in the same archaic French dialect.
After about ten minutes, the call ended, and Devin hung up. Anna returned to the room to find him staring at the phone, an odd expression on his face.
“What did she want? And don’t tell me it was just a social call,” Anna asked, annoyed.
Devin smiled, but didn’t look up immediately. “Apparently, her clothes were exchanged for the same time period as mine, sometime while she slept.” He shrugged and gave Anna a lopsided grin. “Naturally, she thought I had something to do with it.”
“I don’t like this,” Anna said warily.
“Neither do I, and neither does she.” He put his arms around her. “We’ve called a temporary truce, so we can figure out what’s going on.” He nuzzled her neck. “She’ll be here shortly,” he murmured into her neck.
Théâtre des Vampires
The four vampires were an explosion of merriment as they entered the Louis XVI Suite.
“Did you see his face?” Trapper asked, tears of laughter coursing down her face.
Kat nodded, laughing too hard for words.
“The dumpster was a nice touch,” Javier snickered.
“Priceless!” Nick agreed.
Trapper stopped suddenly, her eyes gone yellow. A growl started in the back of her throat. Nick quickly assessed the situation and grabbed the collar of her jacket.
“It’s just a fresh carafe of lattes, Trapper,” he murmured into her ear. “No need to hunt them. They’re not going anywhere.”
Trapper smiled sheepishly and walked to the refreshment stand. As the rest of them followed suit, Evie emerged from her room, looking blearily at the roomful of vampires.
“Whoa!” Trapper said, as she reached for the coffee. “You look like you could use this.” She poured her rumpled friend a cup and handed it over. “Did you get any sleep today?”
Evie took the cup and fell into the nearest chair. “Yeah, but not so’s you’d notice. I had dreams, well, nightmares really, like you wouldn’t believe.”
Kat sat across from Evie, cradling a glass of “Enrique”. “Must’ve been a powerful nightmare.”
Evie nodded and raised her head to look at them. “It was Hanna. She’s in terrible trouble.”
Before Evie could continue, the door to the suite opened to admit Devin and Anna.
Nick turned and raised an appraising eyebrow at the twosome. “Devin?” he began.
Devin raised a hand. “Don’t ask. I haven’t any idea who could be throwing magick around this hotel.” He stretched his arms out to his sides. “I woke up like this.”
Anna stood behind him, trying to stifle her laughter.
“Well,” said Nick, “I have to admit that it’s an interesting fashion statement, Saceur.”
“That’s a polite way of putting it, Nick.” Vachon was making no attempt at masking his amusement.
“Apparently, Monique was similarly…afflicted,” Devin said, pouring himself a drink. “We’ve called a truce to figure out what’s going on.”
Anna rolled her eyes, but refrained from comment.
They all sat to compare notes, Kat and Trapper regaling them with the tale of Màire and the “flying lesson”. Schanke finally crawled out of his room and called room service for souvlaki. Evie had just begun to relate the story of her dream when Trapper rose from her chair.
“Nick?” she began.
Evie and Devin rose as well, all looking suddenly disoriented.
Hanna’s psychic screams ripped through their consciousness like a hot knife through butter.
**She reached out, and they all ran to the other corner of the room. She would have laughed, had it been funny. But now, she screamed her frustration.**
Evie shrieked and collapsed on the floor.
Trapper! Stop me!!
**She lunged again, this time scratching one of them as they ran by her. There were tiny droplets of blood on her fingertips, and she licked them with relish.**
“No, Hanna!” Trapper reached out to the air, her eyes wide as she dropped to her knees.
She turned quickly, pounced upon one of the children, and in a fury, pulled his neck to one side.**
Devin? Yes! Devin!! Help!!
**She lowered her fangs to his neck and fastened her teeth. The first rush of the young blood filled her with warmth. What she needed. Fresh blood.**
Devin fell to his knees and gasped at the pain that ran through him. He shook his head, trying to clear it as he looked around.
“Devin?” Anna put a hand on his shoulder, wide-eyed with concern.
“It’s Hanna!” he whispered through gritted teeth. “She’s screaming for help.” He reached out. “Give me your hand!”
Anna complied. His thoughts ran through her and she grabbed for Nick. “Nick! Take Trapper’s hand! Everyone! Join hands!”
Evie fought for control. “Maybe we can stop her, if we all can concentrate!” Her brow furrowed as she felt all of them. “It’s not enough! We’ve got to keep trying!”
The balcony doors blew open in the sudden breeze that heralded Monique’s arrival.
“Merde!” she exclaimed as she alit. “Now I remember why I hated to fly in these clothes.” She looked around at the strange tableau. Seeing Devin on his knees in obvious pain, she ran across the room and took Anna by the hair.
“What have you done to him?”
“Nothing!” Anna looked at her through eyes glazed with concentration. “We’re trying to help someone!”
Devin reached out with his free hand. “Take my hand! It’s Hanna! We need your strength!”
At the mention of the little vampire’s name, Monique’s eyes inexplicably filled with tears and she gripped Devin’s hand with enough force to crush a mortal. She reached to Schanke to complete the ring.
“Hanna!” they sent wordlessly. “Stop! Listen to us! We’ll come for you, but stop! Don’t kill the children!”
Far away, they could see her. She had stopped her advance. Her head cocked to one side as she listened to the silent voices begging her to be calm. She could feel their strength pouring into her. They saw through her eyes as she looked at her bloodied hands. Then the link went dark as she fainted from the horror of what she’d done.
With the link broken, the inhabitants of the suite fell to the floor, unconscious. Their last thought had been Hanna’s keening wail of despair echoing through their minds.
Màire carefully swept away the shards off the coffee table.
“I suppose I don’t know my own strength,” she muttered, glancing upwards at LaCroix. She stared down at her hands and sleeves, now soaked in a gory mixture of shards of glass, bloodwine and her own maroon blood, and sighed.
“I really should get some other clothes,” she mumbled under her breath.
Màire walked into the bathroom and began carefully removing the glass and blood from her hands.
LaCroix was not used to see his daughter so remote and quiet. Her eyes spoke of the unspoken sadness. It was a sight that was nearly as painful to him as reliving that experience was for Màire. She had never confided to anyone about what happened during her time at that Alchemist’s. She ignored the event as though it had never happened. Whenever Witter was mentioned, she would slip into her private world and there was only one thing to do to snap his eldest out of this.
LaCroix walked into the bathroom and smirked into the mirror. “I’d offer you something, but I doubt Angelique would appreciate my loaning you her clothing.”
LaCroix watched, as his daughter’s back became ramrod straight over the vanity sink. “I wouldn’t take anything of hers you offered me.” She growled haughtily.
LaCroix couldn’t help smiling to himself. At times it seemed a shame that his children were so easy to manipulate, however this was for his daughter’s own good.
“Probably better that I left awhile,” fumed his child. “I’m in no mood to see that Princess!”
LaCroix couldn’t help chortling. “Don’t tell me you are still upset about an event that took place nearly a millennia ago.” He knew full well what her response to that question would be.
Màire turned and hissed in her master’s direction. “You tell me.” She whispered furiously.
“All this for a…” began LaCroix with a knowing smirk.
“He was my…never mind. I don’t want to think about it. I’m going shopping.” She began heading for the door.
LaCroix watched her leave with some amount of relief. Màire had no problem dealing with the ages-old feud between herself and Angelique.
In a strange way, he was almost grateful that Màire had taken the bait, she was still angry as ever with Angelique about that Pict.
He sipped the leftover dregs and poured himself another glass. At least with Angelique, Màire acted as she had over the last millennia.
On the other hand, he had forgotten her response to the mention of Witter and his friends. Instead of the exuberant, rather opinionated daughter who had entertained him over the past 1,500 years she withdrew. Her eyes becoming mere shadows. Her voice became a fearful whisper. His immortal daughter became his mortal foster child once again.
Mentioning Angelique would always wound Màire’s pride and with that she would momentarily forget whatever it was that happened with Witter and August nearly 500 years ago.
Màire ran her fingers up the side of the long black leather skirt. The leather slid like butter between her sensitive digits and she smiled.
“I could never pass this up.” She told the salesgirl, who was nearly blinded under a mound of clothing and shoes. “I’ll wear it out along with that black lace shirt.” She removed the shirt from the grateful girl’s arms and began to walk to the dressing room. Màire paused mid-step and turned and gave the salesperson a smirk.
“Now do you have any Celtic jewelry?” she murmured, arms wrapping around what was left of the black silk shirt she had on. She loved seeing the salesclerk’s horrified look. The poor woman had been helping her for over an hour.
“I’m just kidding,” she said.
(A few minutes later)
Màire stared at the new door to her suite and began shifting her bags and packages. She slid her keycard into the lock and opened the suite and breathed in.
The lavender had arrived and she sighed, enjoying the herb’s calming effects. She dropped her bags on the couch and wondered briefly what happened to her sword-wielding guest.
A small note next to the phone caught her eye. She pulled it up to get a better look at it. A few minutes after deciphering the message, Màire decided it read ‘Margaretha called at 6:30. Call her at work’. She picked up the phone and began to dial.
Kiss Me, Judas
She hung, almost lifeless. Left to drip dry, she thought wryly to herself. She heard footsteps in the corridor, at first just those of Davistch and Paolo, and then others. Smaller footsteps. Children.
“You see,” Paolo’s thick Italian came toward her, “I told you she would know what we were planning for her the moment she heard their tiny little feet.”
Davistch snorted in response. She couldn’t see what he was doing, but by the sound of the additional footsteps, he had probably instructed some servants to bring in the children.
Her head was pulled right side up, forcing her to see the dozens of children before her. She didn’t want to listen, but she heard Paolo whisper in her ear, “Dinner time, Hanna love. Time to feed. And I know you’re hungry. You haven’t eaten in weeks.”
She heard him bite into his wrist, and then felt the tiny trickle of blood on her face. “There. You smell it? Blood, my Sire. Don’t you want some?” His finger reached out, placed a small drop of his blood on her bottom lip.
She fought, as best as she could, to keep from tasting the blood on her lip. Not because she didn’t want to humiliate herself in front of those she hated. But because if she tasted, the children would die. She would feed and feed until their little bodies could yield nothing else to her hunger. About 28 children, she thought. They wouldn’t be enough.
“Don’t you want to taste them, Hanna? Their blood is warm and fresh. Listen to their tiny hearts, pounding out their fear. They know what you will do to them. Smell their fear.”
She tried not to listen to him, but his voice was hypnotic through the haze of bloodlessness and ultimate hunger. Her iron control over herself was slipping, and the penalty…
“Yes! Surrender to it! Give yourself to the hunger, and become my Goddess again!”
She groaned, remembering the awe and reverence upon his face as he watch Sandro painting her into his mural. His Goddess. She could…It wasn’t as if she had any reason not to. Jonas was gone. Marcus was…who knows. Starr…Freidrick…Marc…Micah…it wasn’t as if there was anyone who needed her to be strong anymore.
Her eyes glazed over black, and Paolo laughed a deep, throaty laugh. “Let’s go, men. It’s up to her now.” He kissed her cheek as he unbound the rope that held her up. She dropped hard to the ground and he laughed again. “See you soon, my Goddess.”
They hurried out, leaving the children and locking the door behind them. The children, naturally, chose that time to start screaming.
She snarled at them, and they quieted instantly. Then she lay upon the floor, too weak to move. She absently licked her lips, and felt her mind explode as she tasted the blood.
“Shit!” she snarled, the first expletive to pass her lips. What had she just done? She screamed inside her head as she moved toward the first child. They all cowered back at the sight of her blood-red eyes and gleaming fangs.
She reached out, and they all ran to the other corner of the room. She would have laughed, had it been funny. But now, she screamed her frustration.
Trapper! Stop me!!
She lunged again, this time scratching one of them as they ran by her. There were tiny droplets of blood on her fingertips, and she licked them with relish. Merciful mother! She turned quickly and pounced upon one of the children, and in a fury, pull his neck to one side.
Devin? Yes! Devin!! Help!!!
She lowered her fangs to his neck and fastened her teeth. The first rush of the young blood filled her with warmth. What she needed. Fresh blood. When he was almost bloodless, she tossed him over to the side. Fresh blood. It was all she cared about now. No more morality. No more choice. The Beast Hanna had become…
Coming to a Head…
Of those in the room, Devin was the first to sit up. It wasn’t necessarily because he was stronger, but he had more experience dealing
with this sort of thing. He glanced at Monique as she raised her head off the floor, her eyes still glazed from the effort of calming…
“We did stop her, yes?” she asked quietly. They had all seen Hanna drop to the floor, wailing in despair, but that didn’t guarantee that it had ended there.
Devin shrugged tentatively, closed his eyes and the sighed. “Maybe, if we’re lucky. Who knows. We might show up where ever she is, and she’ll kill us instead.”
Nick helped Trapper up, Schanke did the same for Evie. Vachon helped Kat up, and Anna brushed away Devin’s hand and stood on her own.
“She wouldn’t do that,” Schanke groaned as he rose to his feet. He didn’t really know Hanna, aside from the fact that she had taken off instantly to find August and his daughter. That was good enough for him.
“Yeah, right,” Devin muttered in reply. “She doesn’t usually attack children either!”
They all stared at him, trying not to remember what they had seen.
“It wasn’t her fault, and you know it.”
They all turned at the sound of the voice, and found Marcus standing in the doorway, with Freidrick, Methos and another man none but Devin recognized.
“Well, well, what made you crawl out of the sewers this time, Harrod?” Devin asked the other man, not trying to hide his contempt in anyway.
Harrod sneered back at him, but made no attempt to answer the gibe.
“Shut it Devin,” Freidrick snarled.
Marcus held up a hand before Devin could answer. “That’s enough. If anything, you should know that we haven’t got the time for the bickering right now. Do it on the way if you have to, but let’s be off before it’s too late.”
“For what?” Vachon asked.
“To save her.”
Devin advanced on Marcus, “You know where she is then? And didn’t think we should know this before anything like this happened?”
Marcus stared at Devin hard. “We’ll discuss my reasoning later. Let’s go if you’re coming.” He turned away, Methos and Harrod walking behind him. Freidrick snarled at Devin once, then morphed into lupus and trotted after the others…
Big Man on Campus
Tracey paced the width of the cave, angered at having been ordered to stay put. Nobody told her what to do, not anymore. There was something different about these vamps though, something that quieted her protests when Angel started getting bossy. Hell, Spike and Dru looked like Girl Guides next to Angelus.
Earlier, Drucilla had carried her wounded punk back from the hotel and placed him in his chair. Her sleeping in his lap created a sickening family image, thought Tracey, making another trip across the cave. She began to slap the stone when she reached the end of her short tours, both to release frustration and to inadvertently awaken the two lovebirds.
Tracey became suddenly aware of someone at the mouth of the cave. She tensed and her eyes went red/gold instantly. Hoping it was a lively meal, Tracey licked her lips and prepared for attack. She was sorely disappointed to see Lux Interior instead.
“Oh. It’s you,” she growled, turning away from him. “Nice do,” she added sarcastically before resuming her next lap of the cave.
“The sun is down children, wake up,” Lux announced forthrightly.
Tracey chose to ignore his authoritative tone – just this once. Dru stretched slowly and rubbed her eyes, daintily descending her boyfriend’s metal housing. She squinted at Lux then smiled brightly, reaching down to shake Spike and wake him.
“Oooh, we’ve got a visitor, love,” she said, never taking her eyes off of the Immortal. Spike opened his eyes, awakened instantly.
Lux spied his sword and picked it up with ease. “This’ll do,” he admitted under his breath. While admiring his weapon, he said off handedly, “Get up William, Dru’s tired of pushing your sorry ass around.”
Spike curled his lip and stood up. He prowled over to Lux, gently patting Drucilla’s hand trying to calm her reaction to his miracle.
“What’s with the hair, mate?” Spike asked cautiously as he approached. The yank’s hair had gone completely white.
Dru reached out, took a lock of it and touched it to her cheek. She closed her eyes and began to purr. Lux looked briefly at her and it, and commented, “Oh that. Let’s just say I’ve seen the light.”
Trapper shook her head and glared at the four men who had turned to leave. Her eyes flashed yellow and Evie winced as she heard her friend inhale.
“STOP!” she barked.
The four stopped in their tracks, visibly shaken by “The Voice”(tm). They turned back and stared at her. Harrod’s eyes were wide. Devin noticed this and chuckled quietly.
“Please come back in and shut the door,” she said evenly. “That was a very small taste of what I could do if annoyed.”
They arranged themselves in front of the door. Freidrick padded off to one side and waited, still in wolf form. Methos allowed himself the barest hint of a smile at his companions’ discomfiture.
“In case you hadn’t noticed, we’ve all just gone through an ordeal of our own. If you want our help, you’re going to have to wait until we’ve managed to refortify ourselves.” Trapper gestured at her traumatized friends. “We’re no good to Hanna in our present conditions.”
Nick handed her a steaming latte and stood next to her with a hand on her shoulder. He could feel the tremblings of the rage she held so carefully in check.
“While everyone is getting something, you can explain your convenient entrance, Marcus, and why it’s been so damnably hard to find you.”
Devin raised his chin and looked at the men pointedly. “Yes, and I’d like to know why you’re associating with the likes of this gutter rat.”
It was Nick’s turn to speak up. “As you can see, Marcus, we’re all a little short-tempered and weary of the games we’ve been dropped into. I think that we’d like to find out just what’s going on. Now.”
The alley behind Elysian Fields
Angel leaned on the lip of the dumpster, his chin propped up with one hand. He was experiencing some difficulty staying awake.
“Now, let me get this straight. You know she loves you; she just doesn’t know it right now?” Angel rolled his eyes.
Steve Lalor still hung half out of the dumpster, looking rather rumpled and a bit forlorn. “Yeah. You can’t imagine, man. I know she still needs me. Being in tune with the universe, I’m sure we’re soulmates, and she’s just forgotten.” He brightened slightly as he pondered his shallow thoughts. “But, it’s okay. She’ll realize it, now that we’re both vampires.”
Angel stifled a yawn and reached down to help Steve out of the garbage bin that seemed to have his name written on it. “Well, Steve, I’m sure this is very interesting to a person with as few brain cells as you.” He grunted as he heaved the overweight vampire over the side and onto the pavement. “But, really, I think that you and my strange companion, Lux, have a lot more in common – what with this obsession theme. Personally, I just want a little mayhem in my life, but instead, I’ve stood here wasting time with you.” He brushed himself off and looked up at the hotel.
“I think I’m going to grab Missy and party.” He grinned, showing his fangs, and turned to go.
A sound reverberated from the hotel, rattling the lid of the dumpster slightly. Angel frowned, and then noticed Steve’s expression. It was positively beatific.
“It’s her! I’m going to go see if I can help!” Steve looked at the wall, contemplating trying to jump to the fire escape.
Angel grabbed him by the arm. “Haven’t we already been through this?” He turned Lalor to the side. “Use the front door this time.”
He shook his head as he watched the middle-aged bloodsucker waddle off down the alley. Glancing again at the open windows on the suite floor, he smiled. “This could be fun. I’d better hurry. I wouldn’t want to leave my date waiting.”
The sound of his laughter echoed in the alley long after he’d gone.
The Circle is Drawn
Jenny walked the perimeter of the room, checking her list against the items at each of the four quarters. Everything looked ready. Sonja had brought the rest of the supplies at noon, along with a large pot of Romany goulash. It sat, simmering in the kitchenette, scenting the room with the aromas of Jenny’s childhood. She smiled when she thought of the woman’s kindness.
The ritual had been planned out to the smallest detail. Buffy and the rest of the kids would be arriving at 9:00, which meant that they could start by 9:30. By 10:30, if everything went according to plan, Angel would have his soul back. Jenny clutched the ankh hanging around her neck and breathed a fervent prayer to the gods and goddesses to bless their endeavor.
Satisfied that everything was in order, Jenny entered the master “wagon” of the caravan. Rupert Giles slept under a large, fluffy quilt, one arm thrown over the pillow. She smiled lovingly as she watched him sleep. His face had lost the constant worry that nagged him during his waking hours, and he looked as innocent as a child. Jenny leaned over and touched his shoulder.
“Rupert,” she whispered. “It’s time to wake up.”
He opened his eyes and gazed upon wonder. Every time he was allowed to gaze on her, to see the face that he thought gone forever, it was a miracle. “Thank you,” he said, and kissed her hand.
“No, thank you. Thank you for today, and tonight and everything.”
He rose to lean his head against her stomach. “I should like to thank you like this every morning and evening.”
Jenny wrapped her arms around him, her eyes filled with pain. “Shh, love. Let’s not talk about tomorrow, or the future. We don’t know what’s going to happen.” She reached down to his face and gazed into his eyes. “If the gods let me stay, then we can make all of the memories we want. But, if that’s not to be, then I’ll hold today to my heart. It will be my talisman against the dark; my lifetime of memories to last me until I see you again.”
They embraced once more, knowing that their time could be short, and there was still much to do.
“Lucy, You Have Some Splainin to Do!”
Marcus looked across the sea of angry faces and dropped his straining “mask”. The face of Alexander gave way to the hideousness of Marcus, and there were quite a few shudders in the room.
Devin smirked, “I hope you don’t honestly hope to scare us into doing what you want, Marcus, because I’d hate to tell ya bud,” he put his hand to the side of his mouth and whispered, “it ain’t gonna work.”
Anna rolled her eyes, and Schanke let out a nervous laugh. He had never seen such an ugly vampire before, and Marcus definately took the cake for hideousness.
Marcus hissed at Devin, “That wasn’t it, and you know it, Devin.” He looked at everyone else in the room. “I am sorry if it disturbs you, but even Devin here can tell you that it is difficult to maintain a masque when under enormous amounts of stress.”
Devin shrugged his shoulders, but Monique wasn’t prepared to let it go.
“Enormous amounts of stress, my ass! Listen, gutter rat, no one here is interested in your personal little tragedies. As far as any of them have seen, you aren’t worth a shit, Marcus. And I know you, so I know it’s true. You’re whining about not being able to keep yourself pretty, while the whole world is coming down around our heads. We just saved dozens of kids from a hunger-crazed maniac, and you show up, snapping your fingers as if you have some right to command us!”
“Ah, yes, the children,” Marcus sighed, ignoring most of what Monique had to say. “She will never be able to forgive herself that one.” He neglected to mention that those children Hanna attacked were the very same children he had fought to protect as his own Childer died at the hands of August’s goons. He glanced up, and looked directly into Trapper’s eyes. In a twinkling, he was gone from where he had been, having moved across the room so quickly, no one was able to follow him. Their first inkling of it was when they saw Monique hoisted in the air and pinned against the wall by a blur of air. A moment later, Marcus was there, holding her up by her ivory neck, his face apoplectic in fury.
“You, of all present, are the last to judge. How many innocents have died by your hands? But that doesn’t matter at present. There is an abomination ready to seize this city, which has been plagued entirely too often as of late. It has already devoured the forest, killing every last bit of life in the woods, including all the Garou living there.” He didn’t glance at Schanke, but they all knew whom he was talking to when he snarled, “Your daughter was with them. Hanna led her there, to be safe. And what you saw of her and the children was her punishment for saving Jenny. When the Garou were murdered, Jenny…” He stopped, catching his breath, and his temper. “She wasn’t killed, but she’s gone. Whoever sent that thing has her now.”
“How do you know all this?” Nick asked, holding on the Schanke’s arm to keep him from attacking Marcus.
“I got the information out of Marc…before he slipped into a coma from his wounds. The thing that destroyed the forest attacked him at the edge of the city. It looked almost as if it was digesting him as it touched him. The forest was…almost the same. Like it was turned into rot from the inside out.”
“Why did it stop at the city?” Evie asked, watching Schanke closely.
Marcus let go of Monique, who starred daggers at him but didn’t move. “Because she’s here. August sent that thing. I can smell her in it. She doesn’t want to destroy everything. She just wants to make certain that Hanna is completely off-balance with anger and self-loathing when they face each other. It’s the only way August can win. And you must all understand the burden Hanna bears. No matter how many of us suffer or are killed, it is not because August wishes to hurt us. It is only to make Hanna pay. And the longer we delay, the more she will suffer.”
Advice comes not single spies, but in battalions.
by Devin Saceur
Friedrick moved over to Devin during Marcus’ sermon and came to within an inch of the his cheek. The vampire seemed not to notice at first, appearing more than a little absorbed in the speaker’s hideous visage. But after a few moments of low growls, he turned and smiled. “My dear pup, if you desire a treat…why not just nuzzle me in a friendly manner? Invading one’s space is not very polite. Besides…you have a dire case of halitosis.”
The wolf quickly reverted to humanoid form and sat on the edge of the bed against which Devin leaned his back. “You haven’t changed a bit.”
“Nor have you, Friedrick. But concern for my psychological state isn’t your reason for annoying me…” He let his eyes fall squarely on the man before him. “What do you want?”
“I want to speak with you…alone.”
“Very well. Next time, though, just ask.”
With that, the two exited the room, Devin noting to the others that they’d return momentarily. As the door closed behind them, he looked to Friedrick. “So what can I do for you?”
“I would like your assurance. Hanna is in need and there is little time for us to be fighting amongst ourselves. I know of your disdain for Harrod, but you must give me your word that you will not stir aggression between the two of you.”
Devin grinned and leaned in closer to the Garou…whispering in a low, conspiratorial tone. “Let me say only this: I have no direct reason to dislike him. It is the indirect reasons – those that you cannot know of – which make all the difference to me. If Harrod is forthright…sans his beloved intrigues, I will leave him be. But if he makes one false move, I will kill him. To hell with approbation or rebuke…I will act as I see fit and allow fate to deal in its own manner.”
Friedrick turned away, a look of weariness on his face. “You are a stubborn leech, aren’t you?”
“I’ve merely spoken the truth. Pardon the language, but my tolerance for bullshit and indecisiveness is unusually low these days. There’s too much weighing on my mind.”
“I’d imagine so. Was that Monique I saw in there?”
A dead-pan expression dropped over Devin’s face, but he was clearly uneasy. “Yes. And no…I don’t want to talk about it.”
“Oh really…? What happened? Last I recall, she was ‘The Enemy.’”
“Aren’t ALL women ‘The Enemy?’”
“Poorly evasive, Saceur. What’s the deal? Are you having second thoughts?”
“Do I know you well enough to be having this conversation? Barely. But like the open book that I’ve apparently become lately, I’ll answer you in as concise a manner as possible.”
“That would be a pleasant surprise, coming from you…”
Devin shot him a comical attempt at a reproachful glare. “Do you wish to intrude on my private affairs or not?”
“I’d like nothing more.”
“Then let me continue.” He waited for a moment. Upon seeing that his listener had nothing further to add, the vampire donned an expression of deep contemplation, lifted his hand to the heavens, and seemed prepared to enunciate to the highest tier in an opera house. “’There is a tide in the affairs of men which, taken at the flood, leads on to great fortune; omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries.’”
Friedrick stood still for a moment, as if waiting for something more. “…And…by dragging Shakespeare into this, you hope to accomplish what?” He nearly burst into laughter as Devin deflated before him, exaggerating his disappointment in a series of pitiful facial expressions.
Leaning his arm against the wall in a feigned despair, Devin shook his head slowly. “Admittedly melodramatic in the delivery, but a bit of friendly advice is my hope. Perhaps you might help me see better.”
The Garou gave him a stern look. “Undead are all the same. The games you play, especially with yourselves, serve only to confuse an otherwise simple situation. You potentially have an eternity on your side, so you throw time away on foolish ruminations.”
Mimicking Devin’s raised hand and puffed chest, the Garou continued…speaking to some imaginary audience. “Tell me if thou dost buy this line of tripe: ‘I were better to be eaten to death with a rust than to be scoured to nothing with perpetual motion.’”
“Of course not. Apathy isn’t my favorite dish. But you’ve merely rephrased my quote.”
“Only to see if you honestly believed it.”
“Who’s playing games now?”
Friedrick laughed as he clapped Devin sharply on the back. “Well then, just weigh the pros and cons of your desires – whatever they may be – and decide whether you would do more harm by pursuing them…or staying your present course.”
The face that answered him was filled with more than a little disappointment. “That’s it?”
“What else do you want? You either gamble in making a decision, or you cause needless anxiety by sitting on your hands forever. You say you can’t stand the indecisive…so don’t allow yourself to be.”
“Point taken.” He felt it then…the presence of another vampire. Very close behind. And without another thought, Devin spun and threw his leg into a swing kick. His foot connected solidly with the face of the approaching man, who was thrown into the door of Nick’s suite…shattering it as he tumbled to the floor in an unconscious heap.
Friedrick, stunned from the sudden violent outburst, looked into the suite. “What the hell was that all about?!” His question was mirrored on the faces of the room’s occupants, who looked to the broken form on the floor in amazement. Only Trapper responded at first…with an exasperated “not again.”
Devin stepped in after the man, kneeling down to get a closer look at him. “I sensed him approaching from behind and thought he meant to attack. But this…man…appears incapable of such a thing. My mistake.” With a sheepish grin, he lifted the man’s head by the hair and turned it so those across the room could get a better view. “Anyone have a clue?”
“Unfortunately, yes…” Trapper answered. Evie let out a low giggle as she recognized the bloodied face of Steve Lalor.
How Can I Miss You When You Won’t Go Away
Trapper groaned and hit her clenched fist against her forehead. Evie continued to snicker quietly. She stopped as Trapper quirked her mouth and glared sideways at her.
“Lalor!” She nudged his shoulder with her boot. He mumbled incoherently. “LALOR!” The nudge became the first stage of a vicious kick to his side. “Damn it! Get up! You’re bleeding all over the carpet.” She placed her hands on her hips and scowled down at him as he attempted to rise. “And you’ve broken the door! Just what do you want?”
Steve sat back on his heels and looked up at her. “You look great when you’re pissed,” he beamed stupidly.
She winced and knuckled her eyes with her hands. “Would you please just tell me what you’re doing here?” she spoke slowly, her voice chilling the room like a sudden ice storm.
“I was in the alley,” he started.
Kat, Vachon and Nick all began to snicker, remembering the flying lesson they’d witnessed.
“And I heard you call out,” Steve continued. He shrugged. “I thought you needed me.”
As Trapper continued to snarl at Steve, Monique watched from where she stood by the door. She frowned.
“Mon Dieu!” she said as she recognized the battered singer.
Devin looked at her quizzically. “Hmm?”
She looked at him and touched her lips with her fingers. “Indigestion.” She gestured at Steve. “I’m afraid my dinner has come back on me.”
Devin looked at Steve and back to Monique. “You didn’t.”
She sighed. “Oui,” and shrugged her small shoulders beneath the glittering jet gown. “He was so…so…”
“Smarmy? Boorish?” Devin offered.
“Exactly,” she nodded. “I simply could not help it.” She raised her chin and contemplated the scene. “I should really take care of this.” As she moved away from Devin, she leaned over to whisper in his ear. “You need to consult your tailor, cher.” She pointed down.
Devin followed her gaze and noticed that his pants had torn in a rather bad spot. He pulled his waistcoat tighter and buttoned it. “Merci,” he muttered.
She gave him an enigmatic smile and glided across the room. Approaching Trapper, she laid a slim, gloved hand on the other woman’s arm. “I am sorry that my leftovers have disturbed you,” she said, gesturing at Steve. “Please allow me to clean up.”
Trapper waved an arm expansively. “By all means, Monique. Please do.”
Monique removed her gloves and leaned down. Hooking her long fingernails under Steve’s chins, she raised him to his feet. A tiny rivulet of blood ran down one alabaster finger. She leaned close to his face. “You have disrupted our evening,” she whispered to him as she led him across the room. She escorted him to the balcony as she spoke. “Just remember. I made you. I can just as easily unmake you.” Leaving him no time to respond, she threw him over the balcony. The satisfying clunk of a dumpster lid was heard as she turned back to the room, dusting her hands.
“Brava!” said Devin, applauding. The rest of the room did the same as she curtsied in acknowledgment.
Across the room, Anna watched the proceedings with folded arms and narrowed eyes.
The Pict (part one)
Elysian Fields — Tara Suite
The phone rang several times before finally being answered.
“Yeah this is Utopia.” Said a nasally New York voice.
“Is Margaretha around?” she asked.
The woman sighed. “Who?” She asked, yelling over the deafening music.
“Margaretha Zelle.” Màire practically screamed into the receiver.
“Lemme ask.” The New Yorker grumbled.
A few seconds later Margaretha picked up the phone.
“Màire,” she whispered into the phone breathlessly.
Màire could barely hear her child over the loud thrashing music.
“What???” she yelled.
“You could not have called at a worse time. The police just broke up a fight. We are still cleaning up,” Margaretha growled into the mouthpiece.
“That must have been entertaining. Not that I don’t miss the sound of your voice or anything, but why the call?” asked Màire.
“I have some good news and some bad news.” Margaretha sighed softly, willing herself to calm down. She studied her fingertips, then took a big sip of her drink. Her maker was not known for her good temperament.
“And the news is…?”
“Ciarán came to visit.”
“And…” sighed Màire, with her daughter it was almost like pulling fang at times.
“He wasn’t here to visit me. He wanted to see you.”
Màire rubbed her forehead and scratched a small scar near her hairline. “Is he there?”
“No,” answered Margaretha. “He left after he found out you went to New Salem to see LaCroix.”
“Dammit, Mata! Why did you tell him that? You know very well what happened the last time those two were in a room together.”
“I did not tell him, Moy.” Margaretha said calmly. She could hear the start of a typical Màire-Irish hissy fit and it was important to remain calm in that situation. “He found the note you left for me.”
Màire sighed. “Great,” she grumbled. “Now I’ll have to deal with him and the Princess.”
“The who?” her daughter asked.
“I’ll tell you some other time,” Màire replied. “I’ll call you later, Margaretha.” She hung up the phone. She couldn’t seem to escape the reminders of that past event. She closed her eyes and sighed as the events rolled by in her mind again.
(Paris – 11th century)
Màire stared dolefully into the parade of possible victims that walked by. She watched the men walk into the bar and begin yelling to their friends. She sighed and his eyes settled on her.
“What’s the matter, mhuirnín?” her husband queried. He reached out and gently pulled on one of the plaits in her hair.
“I don’t know,” grumbled Màire. “Perhaps I long for a hunt. They wander about like cows, waiting for the slaughter. I grow tired of drunks and wayfarers.”
Ciarán smiled, his blue eyes sparkled. “A hunt,” he murmured, his eyes becoming feral. “That is an excellent suggestion…” He pulled up his wife and ushered her through the doorway. Ciarán ran his fingers through his dark hair and stopped as a figure approached him.
Màire paid no attention and continued walking through the sidestreets and paused. She turned back to see Ciarán speaking to a tall figure draped in black. Màire’s nose wrinkled. It was that woman!
Màire stomped back towards the noisy pub. She stopped a few feet from the two Enforcers. The other hooded figure continued speaking with her husband in hushed tones. A long dark elegant hand touched Ciarán’s shoulder. Ciarán raised the hand from his shoulder and kissed the graceful fingers. Angelique gave him a dazzling smile in return.
The Enforcers turned from each other and walked away, Angelique toward another hooded figure in the shadows and Ciarán toward the scowling figure of his wife.
“Woman,” he growled. His own brogue roared through the street. “Dinna tell me you still hold a flame in your heart for that Roman.” He gripped her shoulder.
Màire shook off his hand. “LaCroix is my master. Ye canna change that.”
“He may be your master, but he is my enemy,” growled Ciarán, his eyes glowed red in the darkness.
“And you are my husband,” retorted Màire. “I know that woman. I know her too well.” She sighed, her ire and brogue now under control.
“Weel, ye have nae need to worry, because I am working alone this time,” replied Ciarán coldly.
She turned to her husband. “What does this errand entail? Or rather what can you tell me it entails?”
“I’ve been requested to help with a interesting dilemma,” murmured Ciarán. “A problem we’ve been working on a long time.” A wicked smile slid across his features. It was always strange to Màire to see the transformation, Ciarán’s eyes turned cold and hard.
Màire nodded. She was used to his way of life. The secrecy, the games, the late night visits. Usually it was Ricze or another who pulled her love from her side.
“Why was the princess here?” asked Màire looking into his eyes.
Ciarán shrugged. “Other than the business at hand I have no idea.” His eyes narrowed on her. “Don’t even think of visiting him.”
Màire let out a sharp laugh. “I don’t think LaCroix would take me back into his family,” she murmured. “After all I married you, didn’t I? Besides that he has the princess to entertain him.”
Ciarán arched an eyebrow at her. His eyes became gentle as he leaned forward to kiss her forehead. “Enjoy your hunt, Moy,” he whispered, as he embraced her. “I’ll see you in the dawn.”
Birds of a Feather
“You have seen it, haven’t you?” Drucilla asked, her eyes focused directly on Lux. She took note of every inch of his body but always returned to his eyes. They were a deep, deep black and if one dared look long enough…
Lux returned her gaze, but remained silent.
“Seen what, my pet?” Spike inquired. The crooner looked the same to Spike, excepting his hair of course, but he had learned to trust Drucilla’s intuition. He hoped it was something that would allow him to rip the rotter to shreds; Spike was hungry.
“Eternity,” she breathed.
Spike rolled his eyes and sucked his teeth. “Of course he did, Dru. Can you tell Daddy anything else?” He grasped her firmly by the shoulders and turned her to face him. The revenant nun smiled as if seeing him after a long absence.
“Do you love my insides, Spike?”
“Eyeballs to entrails, my sweet,” he replied tiredly, knowing that whatever insight she had was lost for the moment.
“I’m sick of you and I’m sick of waiting!” Tracey blurted from across the cave. She turned on her heel and headed for the niche where they had stashed Missy. She mumbled angrily to herself, “Too much talk and too little action.”
“You get an A for enthusiasm, Detective, but I fear you need a little work on your group skills,” Angel commented from the mouth of the cave, effectively stopping her in her tracks. He strolled in, a wad of clothing in one hand. “Spike!” he smiled coldly. Angel patted him sturdily on the back as he passed by. “Good to see you up and around again,” he added with a deliberate wink.
“Anybody up for a little fun?” he asked his comrades-in-arms. Night was upon them and Angel could feel the electricity growing. Taking a second look at Lux, he said, “Uh, a little dramatic don’t you think?”
“Destroying the book was useless,” Lux said calmly. He felt for the nickel-plated Luger stuck in the small of his back. His tone was nonchalant, as if he found the whole thing way too boring.
Angelus stopped smiling and Spike began to. “Oh this is rich…”
Angelique nodded to the hairstylist as she tilted her head and examined the even rows of small braids. The rest of her hair was wrapped around a ponytail, leaving her hair off her neck in small braids. “Very nice,” She commented as she stood. “I would like a card so I can call on you again.”
“Thank you Ms. Sekhmet.” She gave Angelique a card and smiled. “It was a pleasure to work on such a striking sister.”
“Such talent deserves a good canvas.” Angelique smiled as Ricze stepped in and handed her a glass of Henri.
“You look stunning, Angel,” Ricze handed the stylist a large bill. “For the wonderful job.”
The stylist gasped, then grinned. “Anytime, Sister, anytime.” Then she scooted out the door.
“Now for clothes.” Angelique shrugged out of her hotel robe and peeked into Missy’s closet. She found a black slipdress with black lace edging. “This will do until I can get back to my clothes.”
“Please try not to destroy it, Missy loves that dress.” Ricze watched as she slithered into the dress.
“I will do my best,” Angelique turned and touched one side of Ricze’s face. “I have to talk to him.”
“I know. I just don’t want to give you up yet.” He bent and kissed her lips. She pulled away after a few moments, and smiled.
“I may be back really soon.” Then she walked out the door.
LaCroix turned at the sound of a key in the lock. “Maire?”
“No,” Angelique walked in. “Disappointed?”
“Actually, I am quite glad to see you,” He moved closer and she put up a hand.
“I have things to discuss. First, I need to change.” She was gone for fifteen minutes, then emerged in black leather, hip hugging pants and a crocheted tank top in red. A few tantalizing inches of her smooth stomach peeked out between the hem of the shirt and the low waistband, drawing his eyes to her bellybutton.
“What shall we discuss first, Ricze or Maire?” LaCroix sat and sipped at the glass he was nursing.
Angelique poured another glass and sat across the coffee table from him. “Neither, yet.”
LaCroix raised one eyebrow.
“There I something very wrong in this town. Something that is really affecting me, bringing out a part of me I had thought was long dormant.”
“This town?” LaCroix frowned. “I know that many bad things have happened to you in this cursed town.”
“Yes, and now Lucius is dead and Micah is missing. I was poisoned, staked twice and Ricze and I were ambushed at the bar we were hunting at. Now Maire is here.”
“What makes Maire’s presence a calamity?”
“You. She wants revenge for the Pict, and she knows she can hurt me the most through you.”
“Of course you sleeping with her was in very poor taste.”
“How?” LaCroix set his glass down. “If I recall, you ran off with Ricze.” His voice lowered to a growl. “I doubt you were chaste with him around.”
“I could smell him all over you, and the scent of arousal.” He stood. “Don’t think that you can censure me over my sport with Maire, when you were all over Ricze like a cat in heat.” He snarled as Angelique stood and faced him.
“I didn’t share his bed until after I found you and that Irish slut together.”
“You slept with him?” His voice was sibilant with rage. “Isn’t that the pot calling the kettle black?”
“He offered me comfort. I though he was dead these 500 years.” Angelique shot back as she shoved the coffee table aside.
“So you leapt back into his bed?” LaCroix countered.
“Well my side was taken in yours.” Angelique snarled.
They were interrupted by a knock on the door. LaCroix strode over and yanked the door open with vampire yellow eyes.
Angel lounged there, a tape case in his hand. “August sends her love,” He smirked as LaCroix reached out for him. “I’d watch this first.” He tossed the tape into LaCroix’s curled hands and sauntered off.
The tape was addressed to LaCroix. Odd, none of his other get were in town. He set the tape down and called the front desk. He requested that the major players that arrived from Toronto in the hotel meet in his room at 10 PM.
Under the Milky Way Tonight
During The Pict parts 1, 2 and 3
On the way to New Salem
Ciarán stared from the windshield of his Porsche at the starless night above him. He had driven in a delirium from Utopia. The road stretched before him in a never-ending line to the horizon. Damn, why had she left New York City?
“Such a good little soldier,” he said in a mocking tone of voice, taking a sip from the bottle of Amie. He pulled out a CD and turned up the music loud, drowning out all his thoughts, anger and fear.
Fear of what August might do. Anger at Màire for leaving to see *him* and absolute fury at LaCroix for drawing Màire back in. He punched the accelerator down to the floor. The Porsche hummed in joy and sprung forward into the night. Ciarán’s lips were set in a frown as he exited the highway for New Salem.
His knuckles became white as he gripped the steering wheel. He took another sip of his drink, relishing the flavors gleaming through the wine and the memories. His own pushed to the side.
*Wish I knew what you were looking for…might have known what you would find.* The singer queried.
Ciarán stared at the radio momentarily, then concentrated on the road again. It stretched before him and the car purred like a satisfied cat. A lock of unruly brown hair slid across his face and he blinked and pushed it aside. His eyes closed, contemplating the last time Màire had done that. She left the next evening without a word. They did that to each other all the time now. Ever since she had lost faith in him. He bit his lip at that particular memory.
The blood tears that stained the front of her dress as she gathered her clothing and left him. Telling him he had broken what was left of her cold bitter heart. Their relationship shattered with her heart.
Things had never been the same since. There was companionship and of course the physical. Ciarán allowed himself a rare smile at that. Even though he had saved her from Witter, with the help of Nicholas and that bastard LaCroix, things really had not changed. They could be together in the same room, but still worlds apart. Just when things had started to improve between them, she had moved back to New York. He had left for Edinburgh on business and when he returned she was gone.
Margaretha feigned innocence but he found the note. He left a few minutes later.
Ciarán pulled into the hotel driveway, relishing the screeching tires that sent the mortal guests and valets running for the sidewalk. A cruel smile slid across his face and he slid gracefully out of the driver’s seat. He handed the keys over to a fearful valet and watched his car grind its way to the parking lot. Ciarán picked up a single bag and walked into the lobby. His boots quietly squeaked on the freshly cleaned tiles. He walked up to the front desk and coughed to get Sybille’s attention.
Sybille knew instantly who he was. Another one of them.
“I called about two hours ago,” he said.
Sybille had him sign the register and passed the keys to him. Ciarán turned to go upstairs.
Sybille remembered the note and various RSVP’s to the front desk.
“Mr. MacKeracher,” she called out. The chilling pair of blue eyes turned to study her.
“Yes.” He practically spat, angered at being held back.
Sybille held up a note. “This may be of interest to you,” she said.
Ciarán took the note from her hand, he smirked and handed it back to Sybille.
“That is rather enlightening,” he said to Sybille. “Thank you.”
The Pict (2 /3)
Several hours later –
11th century Paris
Flashback in Elysian Fields
Màire was gleefully following the young soldier. His scent had enticed her since she had seen him walking through the streets of Paris.
“Now shall I play the innocent, lost, virtuous maid or a creature of hell and nightmares?” she wondered to herself. She opted for the later. It was so much more fun that way.
She was entertaining the possibilities when she felt him.
Màire paused in the contemplation of her victim-to-be when saw her master and a fledgling at his side. They appeared to be following the same soldier. LaCroix and Màire exchanged glances from a distance. The young raven-haired fledgling was completely unaware of the electricity flowing between her master and the stranger.
Janette stopped as the pair of cold blue eyes settled on her. She stopped trailing the young soldier.
Màire merely nodded in Janette’s direction. “Go on and take him,” she said, not knowing exactly why she offered the fledgling such a prize. Maybe because something in the fledgling reminded Màire of herself nearly five hundred years in the past.
Janette stared back at the cloaked figure. All she could see was the eyes peering from behind the cowl of a long black cape. “Merci,” she said softly, and continued after the soldier.
LaCroix watched his Janette continue her silent hunt through the misty streets of Paris. It had been nearly eighty years since he had last seen Màire.
“That was uncharacteristically generous of you, Màire.” He murmured softly. He was shocked he said nothing else. One look at her and his rage left him. No matter that she was MacKeracher’s wife, she was still his blood.
“She looked hungry.” Commented Màire, removing the hood of her cape. She gave him a small smile. “The young are always so hungry.” Màire’s own stomach betrayed her hunger.
LaCroix couldn’t help chortling.
“She’s exquisite as well,” added Màire. “Where did you find such a prize?”
“A brothel.” Answered her master. “She was so feverish with ire when I saw her.” LaCroix’s eyes softened momentarily, “Janette looked just like you.” He turned to peer into his child’s eyes. “You would have loved the way she took the brothel owner.”
Màire nodded. “I could sense that.”
“A strange occurrence, running into you here.” LaCroix turned to examine the stars. “I thought you were still traveling about Scotland with…” he paused, sneering. “…that Pict”.
“Clan warfare quieted down,” answered Màire. “We decided to come to Paris for a change of pace. It seems so odd to be back here,” she sighed and then before she could stop herself, she said. “I remember hunting with you down these streets. Seeing you and your child,” she bit her lip to stop from saying more.
LaCroix nodded. He remembered leading her down these paths. “Yes, I know.” He turned away from his eldest, feeling Janette’s innate joy at her conquest of the soldier.
“Bonsoir, LaCroix.” Màire gave him a small cryptic smile. She decided to forgo dinner and return home.
“Bonsoir, ma petite.” LaCroix answered to the night sky.
Casting the Bones
“Well,” Jenny said, surveying her troops, “I think we’re ready to start.”
Willow looked at her former teacher. “Miss Calendar? Now that Oz is here, do you think he could help?” She was holding the hand of her werewolf boyfriend as if he were her lifeline to reality. “I mean, I know he’s a werewolf, but, you know, the werewolf energy might be, well, helpful.”
Jenny smiled and nodded. “Yes, Willow. I’m sure that Oz will be a great asset. Now, we should all take our places.”
“If I might briefly interrupt?” Giles stepped into the room and shut the door. “It seems that we have a message from LaCroix.” He read the brief note and set it down on the side table.
Jenny frowned. “This complicates things a bit. I really think we need to do this tonight.”
“I couldn’t agree more.” Giles removed his glasses and polished them with the edge of his jacket as he spoke. “I think Buffy should go to the viewing while the rest of us cast the spell.”
Buffy nodded. “Cool. Kendra can stay here and watch over you guys. That way, if anything weird happens down the hall,” she looked around at her friends, “or here, we can take care of it.”
“Exactly,” Giles agreed and went off to phone LaCroix’s suite.
“Well,” Buffy patted Jenny’s shoulder. “Knock ’em dead.” She looked at Jenny’s crooked smile. “Or undead. You know what I mean. Bring Angel back alive.”
“Will do,” Zander said unenthusiastically. “But, I gotta say, that I still don’t understand why you want him back.”
“Zander!” Cordelia slapped his arm. “I think it’s romantic. You know, Buffy and Angel, the slayer and the slayee, um, the vampire.”
“Thanks for the word of support, Cordy.” Buffy grinned. “It’ll be fine.” She walked off to her room. “I just need to get a few things before I go.”
“Things?” Giles raised his eyebrows.
“You know, Giles; stakes, a cross, girly stuff.”
“Oh, yes. By all means.”
Buffy walked out of the room and down the hall a few minutes later. She could hear the beginnings of a chant follow her down the hall, and sent a little prayer of her own to go with theirs.
The Pict (3/3)
Flashback in 11th century Paris
Ciarán slid into the dank brothel. Human filth and stench drifted through the air. He nearly retched on the smells. Parisians could be so unclean. Ciarán wondered again why he had allowed himself to be dragged to France. His wife wanted a change of pace and Paris was her choice. He turned away from those thoughts, remembering his assignment.
Remove the rogue vampires that were protecting August. His partner would arrive soon. The other enforcer would slip into August’s room and take care of that ugly creature. Ciarán was surprised to see Angelique saunter into the hallway from another window. He shook his head and smiled as she shook out of her black cloak.
“MacKeracher, you look surprised.” Angelique smiled, bearing fangs at the handsome vampire. “Surely you knew I want to take care of August, myself.”
“I’m not surprised,” Ciarán slid to Angelique’s side, studying her. His eyes slid down her frame. “I’m pleased you came instead of a strange Enforcer who hasn’t even seen the destruction that monster causes.” From what he had heard, Angelique had quite a few reasons for wanting revenge.
“Monster, Ciarán?” Angelique smiled. She eyed him appreciatively. “I thought that was what we were meant to be.”
“Hmmm,” her partner chuckled softly, nodding his head. “I canna argue with that, so lets start.” He turned to glance around the room. “I will tell ye what I think then.” His brogue became evident, as he smelled vampiric blood. “I think it was entirely too easy to get in. I smell a trap.”
Angelique nodded; her trailed her hand lightly up his chest. “We must take care then.” She murmured. She pulled away to concentrate on the matter at hand. She couldn’t help the attraction, and it appeared to be more than mutual. Ciarán took her wrist and brought it up to his lips. A sigh of pleasure escaped her lips as he gently blew air across the backside of her wrist, his teeth scraped against her skin. “I will trust ye to stay at my back,” he whispered, drawing a blade and stake with one hand. His eyes ran golden. “I will even let ye have the pleasure of burning August.”
The infamous caves
Missy lay on the floor, staring at the walls of her prison. They dripped with the ever-present moisture of the caves. Once she became a vampire, she had never considered the possibility that she could hurt as much as she did at that moment. Every muscle was screaming with a cramp, and her jaw ached from the tightness of the gag.
The whistling of a Celtic air made her ears prick up with hope. Maybe Ricze had found her! If that was the case, he was taking his own sweet time about it, she grumbled to herself. Angel’s appearance in the passageway shattered all of her notions of rescue. He was grinning, and holding a bundle of cloth in one hand.
“Hey, babe! Miss me?”
She glared at him over her gag.
He sauntered over and hauled her to her feet by her bonds. She gasped with the shock of movement. “Since you’ve been such a good girl, I thought I’d take you back to the hotel. Y’know, back to the bosom of your family?” Angel brandished the bundle he’d brought in. “I even took the liberty of grabbing some clothes from your room.”
He started to untie her bonds. Her mind was racing with thoughts of escape as she felt the blood rush back into her nerveless fingers.
Missy felt his breath on the back of her neck as he leaned close and spoke. “Oh, and if you’re thinking of trying to escape, I thought I’d let you know that Dru and Spike are waiting for us by the entrance to the caves.” He handed her the impossibly tiny black dress that he’d found. “So, you just change into this, and we’ll be on our way.”
She moved away from him, looking for a corner to change in.
“Don’t worry,” Angel said, making a great show of turning his back. “I won’t look.”
She was so engrossed in the concept of clean clothes, she didn’t notice him turn and peek between his fingers. His wolf whistle brought her around with a start.
“It’s okay,” he raised his hands in mock innocence. “It was a brief lapse.”
After a few minutes, he turned again to find her finished and glaring at him again.
“Ah, a vision.” He grabbed her arm roughly, and placed a piece of duct tape over her mouth. “Insurance for the duration of our trip.” With a smirk, he gestured to the hall. “Shall we? We wouldn’t want to be late for the viewing.” He laughed at her bewilderment and dragged her off into the darkness of the caves, toward the hotel.
Les Plaintes d’un Icare
about the time everyone will be watching the tape
Paolo glanced over his shoulder from the front seat and muttered, “Shut up, or I’ll cut your tongue out.”
She glanced back at him through bruised eyes, and quietly closed her mouth. She had never liked Baudelaire. The gloom of his poetry reminded her of the death that had kissed her briefly before releasing her back into the world. But as she sat in the back of the sedan that was taking her to her final doom, she felt him suddenly appropriate. And so, in a husky voice, caused by the damage to her throat from screaming, she recited the only poem of his she remembered.
She tried not to think about all that had just occurred, but her conscience wouldn’t fully let her alone. None of the children were dead, though a half dozen were in pitiful shape. That was being saved for the end of her punishment.
They reached the cemetery in due course, carefully avoiding all the places that the Infernalist curse had touched. She did her best not to look at the decayed forest around her, or think of the dead Garou rotting in the center of it, or of poor Jenny, who had been so brave.
“Get out,” Paolo snarled when the car came to a stop, ignoring Davistch’s warning glare.
She sat motionless, even when she heard the crying children being pulled from the van that had followed them to the cemetery. One girl screamed when Paolo bit into her tender neck.
“I said get out,” he hissed, his mouth full of blood.
She stared at him, astonished at his denseness. “Do you honestly expect that to work now, my Childe? You are just going to have me kill them when it is over anyway. Why prolong their suffering? If I sit long enough, you will kill enough of them in anger that I will not bear them all on my soul.”
“HA!” he laughed harshly as Davistch pulled her out of the car. “In that case, we will move your ourselves! I wouldn’t want to spoil you breakfast when you awaken.”
Davistch set her down on the ground, next to a freshly dug grave. “Let’s see how much longer it takes you to truly break, oh high and mighty one!” His voice, which usually grated on her nerves, was almost like her own. The parallel made her laugh in response.
“She’s already lost it,” Paolo muttered as much to himself as anyone else. He moved to her side and together, he and Davistch slit each side of her throat without pause. Quickly, they attacked themselves to her, taking what little blood she had taken from the children.
When she was nearly bloodless, they pushed her towards the grave and let her drop into it. Nodding to the nearby men, they watched patiently as the freshly dug earth was returned to the ground, mixed with quick drying cement.
“Why the cement?” Guilford asked in his usual whine.
“It’ll make it that much harder for her to get out. If she even tries. If she makes it, we’d like to be certain that she will be suitably feral, and none of that self-righteous humanity of hers remains. I want her to be a monster, which will only happen if it is too hard for her to remove herself. Her loyalty must have no question.”
They continued to watch as Guilford pondered it. He suddenly broke out in laughter.
“What’s so funny?” Paolo asked testily.
“Oh, nothing really. I was just think of what it might be like to take the children after she has finished with them. You know, have tons of little brats around for me to use any way I might.” He licked his lips thoughtfully. “How long do you think she’ll take?”
Crime and Punishment
Feeling the hot gaze upon him was enough…
Devin abruptly cleared his throat and moved over to where Anna sat, her arms crossed. The expression she wore was not in any way a pout. Rather, she seemed to stare directly through her lover as he slowly sat down beside her. Even the least perceptive of those present would have been capable of easily unraveling the exchange that had occurred earlier between Monique and Devin.
For Anna…the air itself was like a stifling cloud, slowly extinguishing her spirit.
As he cautiously slid himself across the couch toward her, Devin reached out to touch her hand as gently as possible. The movement caused her to jump as though he had clawed at her. “Don’t!” she tried to whisper, but the sound came out like a sharp snap as she quickly dove her fingernails into the skin of his wrist, cutting past the muscle and into the bone.
He drew back, but she had gained so strong a purchase as to tear free a chunk of flesh as he jerked his arm away. He stared at her in disbelief, and indeed, all others in the room seemed suddenly anxious to find some activity that might allow a convenient ignorance of what was unfolding. Nick sparked up a conversation with Javier, Kat, and Trapper as Evie and Schanke moved towards the coffee cart, seeming suddenly very interested in what would otherwise have been a common tea cup.
Even Marcus and Company appeared more than happy to avoid the situation. A deep conversation about the ’45 Stanley Cup Finals cropped up in an instant, with Friedrick espousing his undying love of Maurice “the Rocket” Richard’s last minute slam goal that ended Boston’s hope of a series comeback. Marcus argued fiercely, claiming that there was interference to the goalie, but Friedrick
stood firm “man, it was a fat goal…that’s all there is to it.” But the debate continued…
Devin continued to gawk at Anna as he forced enough blood into the open wound to heal it. “Would you mind explaining that, please…?”
Anger seething behind a deceptively calm demeanor, her voice came out in a purr. “Devin…if you even try to play innocent, I’ll cut your lying fucking tongue out right now. Believe it.” As if to accentuate the point, she slid a fine dagger from an arm sheath and extended her fangs.
“Please…” Devin looked more than a little faint as he reached for her hand again. “I…I don’t make excuses. There is nothing hidden from you, Anna. I could not hide if I wanted to.”
“You’re right in that regard. So maybe you would like to explain yourself to me…so I don’t have to steal it from your thoughts.”
His face flushed with a mixture of embarrassment and pain as he lowered his voice. “To be honest, I don’t know why this has happened. I no longer love her, but there is something…something I cannot explain. I don’t even understand it myself.”
“It’s not the feeling…it’s the action. What are you going to do?”
Such a simple question suddenly seemed so very complicated to him. He was all but dulled to the present, so vibrant were the swiftly revived affections he held for Monique. Centuries had been spent in her company. Countless hours had been passed in her arms, sharing ideas and gazing out into the wondrous night through the windows of their chateau in Chalons su Marne.
Monique had stood by him many times through the years. Especially in the trials concerning his somewhat questionable actions during the Sabbat civil war. She came to his defense without question…even when it seemed that she would be persecuted along with him.
But time had eventually seen the end of their relationship. As surely as the passion that had brought them together, the inexorable force of change finally severed their union. But not all at once, he recalled while looking upon Anna’s soft hand beneath his, though I might try to convince myself so.
The detachment had been there long before the final words between them. He’d meandered somewhere between the desire to hold on and the realization of the inevitable. He’d waited for years…hoping someday to bring about a rebirth to the love that had been smothered by the growing silence between them.
He never questioned her, never told her of his changing views, never asked why it was that they…and the Black Hand they served…had become little more than despondent predators among a rapidly changing and growing culture. Nor did he ever look back when it finally dawned on him that he’d lingered too long and had allowed his indecisive trend to leave more damage in its wake than a quick and certain ending.
It was this simple and yet undeniably profound memory that had found him staring into the past, entertaining some twisted notion of reconciliation. Friedrick had instructed him, all too plainly, to examine his desires and conclude whether he would do more harm by pursuing them…or standing still in his position.
Indecisiveness had been his crime in the past. If he held any hope for redemption, it could not be with him into the future.
As he gazed into Anna’s eyes…those beautiful, timeless eyes that had enraptured him so many years back, all confusion melted away in a rush. He held her hand with a gentle, positive strength; an affirmation as much for himself as for her. Without a word between them, the answers were clear and resolute.
Monique stood across the room, sipping from her glass of wine. Though no large measure of words had passed between the two that had become the focus of her attention, she nonetheless gathered all that had transpired…
War and Peace
Monique watched the dance across the room with interest. Anna was obviously upset, and Devin was doing his best to calm her. Monique’s dark eyes flashed and her mouth tightened as she observed their exchange. ‘Why was Anna upset?’ she wondered. It couldn’t be the mild flirtation they’d engaged in moments ago.
She smelled Devin’s blood before she saw it flow from the sudden wound Anna inflicted. She held herself in control, willing detachment to flow over her. Otherwise, she would have flown across the room and torn the woman’s throat out for that. Monique smiled ruefully to herself at the thought. Old habits die hard, and Devin had been the hardest to break. Perhaps it was the silence of years, unbroken and unexplained, that caused her to still react so to him. To leap to his defense, though it was he who had killed and then desecrated her Maman. Ah, she had allowed her guard to fall during this short truce; to remember the unreconciled past that lay between them. Briefly retreating to a corner, she removed the cumbersome wig and let her knee-length hair free, to fall in a wave, black as a raven’s wing. Then, squaring her small shoulders, she moved across the room, a glittering apparition of jet beads and alabaster flesh. It was time to deal with this.
The couple looked up as she approached. Anna’s stare burned with anger, while Devin looked stricken, like a deer caught in headlights. The room hushed around them, every nerve strung taut.
“I fear I owe you an apology, Anna,” Monique said in her darkly musical voice.
Anna looked at her, too shocked for words.
“I’m afraid that being among this many civilized people has gone to my head.” She looked briefly, sadly at Devin. “Though we have several unresolved issues, I should never have allowed myself the liberty of being at ease with you.” She returned her gaze to Anna. “Our exchange was a light-hearted crossing of swords, nothing more.” She took a final glance at Devin. “We do need to deal with…things. Not the least of which is this,” she said, gesturing at their clothes.
That received a flash of smile from Devin, quickly stifled lest Anna notice.
“But, not before I assure you, Anna, that you have nothing to worry about from me. It’s you he loves, my dear. Whatever we shared was a very long time ago. And, at least for him, it was probably never so noble a feeling.” Her small hand moved of its own accord, to brush back an unruly lock of hair from Devin’s forehead. “Adieu, mon coeur,” she breathed, and was gone across the room in a whisper of silks.
Anna raised her eyebrows and stared after her.
Monique turned the handle of the door to leave, and was startled by the two young women who stood there.
“Um, ‘scuse me,” said the dark-haired one. “I’m Gina. Louise and I are helping out, and we need to deliver these.” She waved a handful of paper, and handed one to Monique. “Thanks,” she said, and they wandered off down the hall.
Monique turned back into the room, holding out the paper to Nick and Trapper, who had approached as they heard the conversation.
“What is it?” Kat spoke up as she noticed their frowns.
“It’s from LaCroix,” Nick said. “There’s been a video delivery that he wants us to watch at ten.”
Trapper looked at her watch. “I’d say we should leave now.”
They moved to the door in a crowd, sweeping Monique along in their midst toward LaCroix’s room and whatever awaited them there.
Such Stuff as Screams are Made of
The surging tide of bodies rolled down the hallway, toward LaCroix’s suite. Every psychic within five miles suddenly came down with a migraine, brought on by the intensity of emotion in the group. Nerves were long past their fraying point, and tempers had grown short. The inactivity brought on by being thwarted at every turn had taken its toll on all of them. Their universal hope was that the videotape would lead them to Hanna.
Monique suffered the close press of people with growing dread. She had never been claustrophobic, but she found herself gasping for air that she did not need as the crowd moved along. She had been on edge since the first time she entered the hotel. Perhaps it was the nearness of Devin after all these years that made her heart pound.
The door to the suite was open and the throng poured in. LaCroix was at the far end of the Ptolemaic Suite, speaking to some early arrivals as he adjusted the television. He turned to greet them.
The room had narrowed to a black tunnel in Monique’s vision, with only LaCroix at the end of it. She stopped as if she’d been poleaxed, her hands flying to her face.
Forest. She was running through the forest. Mama and Papa had warned her to be back by dark, but time with Christien raced by when she kissed his sweet lips. It was dark, and she could hear the wild dogs howl in the distance. Her blood pounded in her ears and every breath was a searing pain as she ran. Home. If she could just make it home, everything would be fine. The lights from the lanterns out front beckoned from the chateau, promising safety and family. She thought she would make it until the hand grasped her long hair and roughly jerked her up short. She screamed. She fought, kicking and scratching, but it was like attacking a stone statue. She was clasped in arms like steel, and the stranger pulled her head back, exposing her ivory throat. Monique strained to look as the moon moved from behind a cloud, illuminating her killer. Long, white fangs bore down on her. And his face! It was LaCroix!
Devin reeled back as the force of her fear and horror hit him. He had thought their ties were severed long ago, but the frantic touch of her mind was as strong and fresh as it had been five centuries ago. He turned to look at her.
She was as white as a sepulchre, as if every drop of colour had been drained. Her dark eyes were black with fright and rage. No humanity shone out from their ebony abyss, no look of recognition. Her mouth was a round “O”, in which he could see fangs beginning to descend, and he could hear the manic hammering of her heart. In that moment he knew what she saw. Her maker. The one who had bound her to Maman, to that life of perversion and corruption she had known for far too long.
Devin stepped forward to comfort, to restrain perhaps, but it was too late. With an inarticulate cry that made everyone’s hair stand on end, she launched herself across the room at LaCroix. Her shrieks and sudden ferocity froze everyone to the spot at she tore and bit at the surprised elder vampire. If they didn’t stop her soon, she’d have his heart.
I Don’t Think So
“Stop her!” Angelique growled as she tried to separate the brawling vampires.
“I can fight my own battles,” LaCroix shoved Monique from him. She charged back at him like an enraged cat, claws and teeth, her talons digging at LaCroix’s chest. He batted her off again, and caught a stake as it was tossed in the air, centering it over the frothing Monique’s heart. “Move and you die,” he snarled as she stilled. “Now, my lady, what is this about, pray tell?” His eyes were red tinged. “I don’t take kindly to being attacked.”
No one even noticed Ciernan as he snuck into the room and stood at the back of the enthralled audience.
“STOP!” Devin moved in a blur to stand between the two opponents, who seemed more than ready to continue their battle. Monique seemed to hear not a word, and she rushed to his right, bringing her taloned hands into a striking posture.
LaCroix readied his stake for the killing blow…but was surprised to find his target suddenly lifted from the ground and shoved forcefully into a wine cart. Bottles of precious vitae flew from the cart and shattered upon the floor as Monique’s suspended body rushed past them and into the wall behind.
Devin’s eyes, now equally in ferocity to both of the combatants, met Monique’s and nearly overpowered her with a sudden and undeniable strength. The man seemed all at once larger and vastly more imposing. His powerful arm, though momentarily meeting the sting of Monique’s frenzied claws, held her fast against the wall. “That is enough! Calm yourself, lady! An explanation is in order, yes?”
LaCroix threw the stake to the ground and straightened his jacket in a huff. “I should think so!”
Turning his near-feral gaze to look upon the proud vampire with disgust, Devin smirked. “I didn’t ask you, old man! But as you are so forthright…perhaps you should be the one to shed light on this matter!”
LaCroix cocked an eyebrow at Devin. “Young cockerel,” he said in an off-hand manner as he approached. He reached out his hand to brush the veil of hair from the pinioned Monique to get a better look at his attacker.
She snarled in warning as his hand approached, but when he touched her face she flinched in terror. Her wide, stricken black eyes looked at Devin in desperation. “Please,” she whispered, “don’t let him touch me again.”
“Shh,” Devin said, brushing her eyelids shut with his free hand.
Monique sagged against his restraining hand in reply, and he folded her against his shoulder and away from LaCroix’s interested gaze.
“Ah, yes,” LaCroix smirked as he touched a finger to his lips. “I knew that her blood would remind me. This must be the fair Monique.” He took a step toward her, but stopped at a look from Devin.
“No farther,” Devin said, his voice ice. He settled Monique into a Neo-Roman chaise lounge and turned back to face LaCroix. “Explain yourself.” He cocked his head toward Monique’s still form. “She’s terrified of you, and consumed with hatred, all at the same time. You’re the sadistic son of a whore that made her, aren’t you?”
LaCroix shrugged. “What of it?” He stepped away to salvage a drink from what was left of the beverage cart. “She was a pleasant diversion for a few evenings.” He frowned slightly at an old memory. “Perhaps I was a bit…harsh with her. But for Gods’ sakes! It was centuries ago!” He stole a glance at her. “I must admit, she’s certainly become a lovely wench.”
“And after you were finished with her, you gave her to that monstrous bitch with “The Hand”.” He looked back at Monique sadly. “I thought she was the monster,” he said softly. “I see now that she came by it honestly.”
Kat squeezed Vachon’s hand and stole past the combatants to where Monique lay. Without a word, she brushed the woman’s hair from her face and took her hand. They looked at each other, and their eyes said it all.
Take a Number
Bt Deviant and Blood Hunt (10?)
Squeezing the stricken woman’s hand, Kat knelt down in front of the chaise lounge. While Monique had been quieted by Devin’s touch, Kat was afraid that the smallest wrong move would set her off again. Whispering in the archaic French of her youth, Kat hoped the elder vampire would hear her comforting words and understand.
The common thread running between the two vampire’s lives was too strong to be ignored. Although not bitten by him directly, Kat had died because of Lucien LaCroix. Fortunately, her unlife had been an isolated and mortal-filled one, not the nightmare that Monique’s must have been. Kat had sworn to hold her vendetta against the old Roman until after the circus in New Jerusalem was over, but seeing her own fathomless anger in Monique’s visage was almost too much to overcome.
She focused instead on the intricate black fabric of the other woman’s gown. Even without the powdered wig, Monique had the look of aristocracy. Kat had spent that same era in the colonies, on the other side of the mortal struggle for human rights. She smiled, wondering what sort of animated discussion they could have on the subject. Kat stood then sat in a tiny space on the edge of the chaise. The tape was about to start.
She looked around; It was entirely too crowded in the suite for Kat’s taste. LaCroix on one side of the room, her long-time Scottish sparring partner on the other and a whole lot of near strangers, was making her uncomfortable. All that would be needed to wipe them all out, would be a nicely placed firebomb. One like last night’s. She grimaced as she pictured all that was left of the vampires in Devin and Anna’s suite.
“It’s time,” Angelique spoke behind, her voice a quite whisper. The tape sat near the VCR, clouded with dark vile things.
“Very well.” LaCroix looked around, most of the eyes he looked at slid away from his. Nick’s eyes burns yellow, Trapper’s eyes were hidden behind her glasses, reflecting his image back at him. Vachon was studying his drink, Buffy looked at him like he had grown an extra head, Màire was shaking her head. Benton looked calm, way too calm, Ray and Stanley were talking to Schanke and Evie. Duncan, Sukh, Kay, Methos and Joe were waiting. MacCousin and Gilchrist were finding a spot near the other mortals, and Devin was glaring at him form Anna’s side. The others had come to attention at Angelique’s soft statement and a man stood in the shadows watching. Ricze had moved to stand by Angelique, his hand reached out, then dropped to his side as she shuddered and shook her head.
LaCroix picked up the tape. “This was received about an hour ago, from August.” He looked at Buffy. “It may not be suitable for some.” His gaze swept over to the mortals in the leather.
He put the tape into the VCR and pressed play.
August appeared on the screen. “Hello fair warriors, I have a message from a friend. Lucius might want to pay special attention.”‘ He laughter was heard as the camera panned in to a close up of the immobilized Micah. “Behold the proud Pharaoh,” she cackled.
A new voice was heard. “I have a message for you Father.”
LaCroix paled and reached for the edge of the couch before stumbling to the floor. “No,” he whispered as the blood carved Latin on Micah chest was brought into sharp focus.
Angelique stumbled over and sat at LaCroix’s side. She put a hand on his shoulder as Divia spoke again.
“For you father, I will do to him what you denied to me long ago in Egypt. Things you could give to that Nubian whore.”
“Who is that?” Devin asked as Divia started to degrade Micah.
“LaCroix’s master,” Nick answered as he turned from the tape.
“Oh my God.” Buffy went for the bathroom as the tape played.
Kay watched, tears streaming down her face. Methos took one look at her and wrapped himself around her, cradling her as she cried silently, his face growing colder as each perversion unfolded.
“Someone’s gonna to pay for this,” Duncan growled as Sukh crawled into his arms and buried her face into his chest. He met Ricze’s enraged eyes, then Nick’s, then Vachon’s, then Gilchrist’s, Then Benton, and on to each person in the room, as each sick action was carried out and Micah, on tape, began to plead for mercy.
As Micah began to scream, Angelique crawled over to the screen and reached out a hand towards her brother. Red tears flowed down her face, as her trembling hand reached out for him and touched the TV screen. Then she curled up into a ball, rocking and whispering her brother’s name.
“Mea Amorta,” LaCroix pulled her into the shelter of his embrace. “Shhhh,” he soothed as he stroked her hair. “We will find him.”
“It’s my fault,” she whispered.
“Never. I should have stayed and made sure she was ashes.”
“I should have never tried to have you. I was the one that wanted to bring you across.”
“But she wouldn’t let you.” LaCroix reached out a flicked off the tape. “I spoiled my daughter like that, letting her have her every heart’s desire.”
“You were her heart’s desire.”
“But she never had me.” LaCroix crooned. “I was yours.”
“I have to find Micah. She will break him, even more than Horton did.”
“We’ll find him Breila.”
“Ciernan!” three voices gasped in unison and varying degrees of shock. “After all she has broken the code. Divia must be destroyed as a liability to the community.”
Ricze went and stood next to Ciernan. “As enforcers, it is our duty,” looked to the rest of the warriors. “We now declare a blood hunt for Divia. Death is her sentence.”
Some in the room cheered.
“Did I miss something?” Angel appeared at the door the usual smirk painted on his face.
Let’s Rub ‘em Out!
By Devin Saceur
During and after “Blood Hunt”
Devin viewed the film with a detached curiosity, though at times, the horror broke through even his carefully constructed walls. He found himself truly wanting to turn away at some points.
At the climax of one of Divia’s more perverse moments with Micah, the woman looked into the camera lens and donned a sardonic smile such as Devin had rarely seen. “Yep. She ranks pretty high on the ‘Sick Fuck’ list. You can almost feel the deranged pleasure she derives from her actions. This is no professional killer. This is a butcher, pure and simple. There are no more satisfying prey than those of her breed. You say you’re calling a blood hunt…well let’s do it. We’ve been enjoying mochas for too long now.”
As he turned to exit the room, Devin noted the entrance of one smirking Angel…
Hope you Guess My Name
“Did I miss something?” Angel appeared at the door, his usual smirk painted on his face.
The horde of angry vampires turned eyes bright with rage upon the nonchalant vampire.
He smiled. “Now, before you all rush to greet me, you might want to see who I’ve brought along for this little soiree.” Spike, Dru, Tracy and Lux entered arrogantly and lounged against the wall. “Oh, and my new friend!” He dragged a bound and gagged Missy in front of him. “Just in case anyone has ideas,” he left the words unspoken, holding a dagger against her throat. “We just thought we’d join your party.” He reached out with a free hand and grabbed Buffy’s arm.
Before she had time to react, he’d planted a kiss on her mouth and spun her away again. She collapsed against a coffee table, glaring at him and wiping her face.
“You used to like my kisses, Buffy. I’m hurt.” Dragging Missy as a shield before him, he sidled over to where Monique lay. “Now, you’re a lovely one.” She looked up as he touched her hair. Kat and Devin moved toward him at the same time. He pressed the dagger against Missy’s throat and they backed off a bit.
Devin clenched his fists at his side. “Leave her alone, you fucking psychopath,” he growled. “She’s been through enough tonight.”
“Ooh, possessive, aren’t we?” Angel leered at Anna. “And greedy, too, Saceur.”
Buffy looked down at her watch. She closed her eyes and prayed.
Ricze had begun to advance on the demonic vampires and rogue immortal when it happened.
A sudden wind whipped through the room and around Angel. He screamed, falling to his knees as his eyes flashed red. His body bent backwards, contorting with pain before he fell, face first, onto the floor.
Ricze raced to Missy and untied her. After assuring himself that she was unhurt, he turned, snarling, to Angel. “This is it. Now you pay.”
But Buffy was quicker as she moved to Angel and put a hand to his shoulder. “Angel?”
He looked up at her, confused. “Buffy?” he breathed. “Where am I?” He looked around with wonder. “What’s going on?”
Buffy flung her arms around him. “You’re back! It worked!”
Angel hugged her back, like a drowning man clinging to a life preserver. “I don’t understand.”
“It’s okay,” she murmured. “Everything’s going to be all right now.”
Ricze moved forward again, reaching for Angel. “Yes, everything’s going to be fine, because you’re going to be dead!” he spat.
Buffy whipped a stake out of her jacket and held it in front of her. “Think again.” She rose, still holding onto Angel. “Jenny’s spell worked, and he’s got his soul back. I’m not going to let you kill him now.”
Angel looked from the maddened vampire to Buffy. “What did I do?”
Buffy shook her head. “Later. Let’s just get you back to the room.” Still holding the stake, she maneuvered to the door and out. The door shut loudly behind her.
“Ricze,” Angelique spoke from where she sat next to LaCroix. “Let it go. Missy is back and we need to find Micah.”
As they turned their attentions to the hunt, Devin noticed LaCroix. His eyes were haunted. ‘Good,’ he thought. It’s time the bastard got some of his own back. “So, old man,” Devin looked down at him. “I think there’s still some unfinished business to take care of.” He gestured to where Monique was trying to sit up. “Before she comes to her senses and tries to kill you again.” LaCroix looked at the younger vampire with hooded eyes. Devin ignored it, saying, “Not that I’d blame her if she did.”
We Interrupt this Spat
“I’ll be right back,” Ricze as out the door with Missy before anyone could react.
“Damn it,” Angelique growled, as she turned to Devin. “As illuminating as this is,” she motioned toward Kat and Monique. “Time is of the essence.”
Devin and LaCroix turned to glare at Angelique. She glared back. “Besides, with a sire like that,” he pointed to the fuzzy TV. “Do you expect anything less?”
“Besides that,” Nick stepped in. “That couldn’t be true. After all, we vampires have different, skills and weaknesses, than your kind do.”
Devin looked at LaCroix, then Monique. “That’s beside the point. LaCroix did something to her. Something that made an ugly memory.”
“Excuse me?” Sukh spoke up. Spike was stroking her face and in vampire ugly mode. “I think there is a more important problem right now.”
Duncan drew his sword and pointed it at Spike. Drucilla smiled at Duncan and went into vamp mode. “My what a pretty man.” She walked up, Duncan following her with his weapon. “We don’t need this, do we handsome.” Her smile was dreamy and sent chills through the room. Duncan blinked and shook his head. “That’s right, look into my eyes, Highlander.” She moved the sword aside and leapt on him as Spike spun Sukh into his arms.
And Chaos Erupts
By Devin Saceur
Given his already enraged spirit, Devin found himself at the end of his last patient thread. “No!” he sunk his clawed fingers into Drucilla’s neck, latching onto her spinal column as he pulled her from Duncan and spun her to face him in his full bestial rage. “Look into MY eyes, bitch!”
Before any could react, he’d dove into her throat with his fangs and tore free a large portion of her carotid artery. A veritable geyser of blood sprayed forth as Devin drew a gurkha blade from his back sheath and slit a long line down her chest.
The action had taken place so quickly that Drucilla could only stand and gawk as she bled profusely upon the floor. Devin found himself deliberately slowing his movements…to play with her. “Come, young one…test your charms on me!”
Drucilla screamed and began to close on him, looking for an open attack.
Waving one hand in invitation while the other spun the blade casually, Devin smiled. “You picked the wrong room, child!”
Across from him…behind Dru…Anna moved silently into position with her own blade.
Monique still sat on the chaise. Her eyes stared into places no one would wish to visit in their darkest dreams. She heard Devin’s voice.
“LaCroix did something to her. Something that made an ugly memory.”
Monique chuckled, a wild sound that caused Kat’s hackles to rise as she heard it.
“Ah, ugly memories,” she murmured. “If only it were as simple as a bad memory, mon coeur.” Tears began to flow down her cheeks like pale pigeon’s blood rubies on snow.
Kat continued to sit by her, thinking her own dark thoughts as she watched the unfolding scenario across from her.
Devin continued his dance with Drucilla, while Anna moved ever closer. Spike noticed what was happening and flung Sukh at Devin’s partner, causing them both to crash in a tangle of arms and legs.
“Ow!” Sukh looked down at Anna’s blade, caught in her cuirass.
Anna smiled as they both struggled to their feet. “It could’ve been worse,” she said as she disentangled her kukri. The smile slid from her face as she turned to check on Devin.
Devin continued to play with Drucilla, calmly turning her attacks away while his thoughts roiled beneath an icy facade. Drucilla was screaming in pain and rage as the blood poured from her wounds. Still, she would not give up the attack, and kept swiping at him with her bloody talons.
Spike moved to intervene, but Tracy was quicker, stepping between the combatants and whirling Dru away from Devin’s glittering knife. Nick and Vachon both moved to intercept her as she dragged the frothing Drucilla toward the balcony.
“Tracy?” Vachon began. Nick reached out for Tracy’s shoulder.
She refused to turn around and face them. “Don’t,” she said. “Just don’t.” Before they could stop her, she’d flung herself and Dru off the balcony and into the darkness.
Devin turned in time to see Spike and Lux scuttling for the door. He moved to follow them, but the sound from the alcove brought him up short.
LaCroix was standing menacingly over Monique, his hands clenched. Kat had positioned herself between the livid vampire and Monique, trying to protect and restrain the distraught woman at the same time.
“Just stop right there, LaCroix,” Kat growled.
Devin rolled his eyes and stepped forward, willing himself to calm. Someone had to deal with this.
To Ease the Madness
By Devin Saceur
Devin moved over to kiss Anna and lay his hand on her shoulder in as reassuring a manner as possible. He knew that she would disapprove of his being so close to Monique, but he also knew that he must help the woman in any way he could.
He glared at LaCroix as he approached. “Alright, that’s enough. Go to your cage, old man!” He pointed across the room.
“You’re joking…” LaCroix almost laughed, but a lingering anger kept his eyes golden and his stance rigid. “That’s very funny.”
“No, I’m not joking. Go have a seat and pour a mocha down your fat cat throat.”
LaCroix had just about seen enough of this insolent child. “Do not even think to press yourself on me, young one. It could be most unpleasant for you.”
But Devin wasn’t stifled in the least. He came to within an inch of the elder vampire’s nose and continued in a casual tone. “I know how old you are, Lucien. And you know how dangerously insane I am. Is it really necessary for us to explore the possibilities of this combination?”
LaCroix smirked and did a quick grinding motion with his lower jaw. Then he simply laughed and shrugged his shoulders in an exaggerated manner. “I would kill you in an instant. However, I’ll play your game for now…it is of no consequence to me.” With that, he moved across to Angelique, who stood shaking her head in a barely concealed amusement.
Seating himself on the edge of the couch where Monique lay, Devin gently brushed her hair from her eyes and took her hand in his. “Monique.” He held her hand tightly…the warmth of his blood seemed to rush through his skin and bring hers to life. “You must face this now. You are too strong to be ruined by this. I know that there must be so much more to it than a bad memory, but there is nothing that cannot be resolved if we take the time. Please…”
Blood and Roses
10:55pm – after “Madness”
She stood in the forest. A wind was whipping her hair and clothes, chilling her to the very heart. She hugged herself against the cold and peered into the blackness. She was lost. No hope of rescue cheered her desolate soul. The horrors of her “birth”, so carefully buried, had spilled out like the ghastly rotted remains that lay in her family’s crypt. They confronted her at every turn, offering her no escape from their fetid embrace. She whimpered quietly and continued to stare into the night.
She heard the familiar voice, so faint and far away. She felt her hair move and the warmth of his hand on hers. As she listened, the words grew clearer, louder. She blinked to clear her eyes, and…
Monique focused on Devin’s worried eyes. “Devin?” she whispered hoarsely.
He looked at her exquisite porcelain face, and the haunted eyes that looked at him with such sudden trust. His heart twisted painfully. He pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and wiped her tear-stained face. “It’s all right,” he said soothingly, as if she were a small child with a bad scrape. “I promise, it will be all right, ‘tite chat.” Devin wrapped an arm around her shoulders and pulled her up to a sitting position, brushing her hair back with his other hand. “There now, ange. Take a deep breath. We can handle all of this, you know.”
She nodded mutely, not daring to look around for fear HE would be there.
The rest of the room watched the uncharacteristic gentleness of the usually arrogant Devin with some surprise. This was a side they had never expected to see.
“Come now, ‘tite soeur.” Let’s get you something to drink. And then, you must be strong. I promise that we will deal with this, but we must find Hanna and Micah.” He gratefully took the glass that Trapper handed to him and held it to Monique’s trembling lips.
She cupped her hands around it and drained the cup.
“Good.” He helped her to her feet. “Come and help us now. Can you do that?”
Again she nodded at him. “Oui. I am better now.” She took a long, shuddering breath, which stopped as her eyes lit on LaCroix.
“Don’t worry about him,” Kat said, noticing her sudden panic.
“He’ll not come near you.” Devin squeezed her hand once more for emphasis.
“No, he won’t,” Trapper growled menacingly. Nick and Vachon added their agreement.
Devin breathed a long sigh of relief. Disaster had been, at least temporarily averted. Now they could concentrate on their task. LaCroix could wait. But there would be a reckoning, he promised himself.
“Well?” Angelique stood before them suddenly, hands on hips. “Let’s go! The night is getting no younger, and the trail goes cold as we speak.”
Marcus rolled his eyes. “Finally.”
Friederick morphed back into his wolf form and they all trooped out into the hall. Woe be to anyone or anything that got in their way tonight.
A Prayer for the Dying
Angelique slipped to the rear of the troop and snuck back into the room, to the balcony, the moon washing over her in a silver embrace.
He eyes closed, trying to erase the horror inflicted on her brother. The rest had fallen into quarreling with each other, and all that ran through her being was her brother’s name, over and over like a dark benediction. The rest were an angry seething mob, as angry with each other as they were with the perversions on the tape. She was past anger, to a cold place she had never wanted to go again. Beyond anger lay fear and desperation, unlike any that had plagued her before.
When Qu-Raa had made her into a vampire, her brother had saved her from becoming a ravening beast. He had helped her regain the blessing of Isis by being her first kill. Then as she wept and raged at the monster she had become, he rose as good as new. As immortal as she, yet able to feel the touch of Ra still.
Her eyes close and her Ka flowed, searching for her brother, looking for his Ka. It was her turn to make her life sacrifice.
His Ka screamed.
It writhed in Set’s grasp. Set looked up at Angelique, his onyx eyes fathomless. “He is mine now, in exchange for the loss of Angelus.”
Set smiled, and looked at the Vampiress. “Such beauty, and in such a deadly package.”
“I belong to Isis, I am her daughter, my Ba is pledged to her’s.”
Set laughed. “Foolish childe, do you think she really cares?” He loosed his hold on Micah, and the screaming stopped. Micah began to get younger, his hair darkening, the lines of pain etched in his face eased. “This one,” his voice was sibilant with excitement. “August has fed me well.” He stroked Micah’s hair. “it will take much to persuade me to give him up.”
“I will do what is needed.” Angelique knelt before Set’s dark throne.
“A trade.” Set stood over Angelique. “I want you Dark Angel, Ka and Ba, your body, for all time.”
“Let Mernptah go and I will do your bidding as long as you wish it.”
“Be it so. You are mine Leilah, for as long as I wish.” He smiled as he reached out for Angelique’s hand. She took it and stood, trying not to break and run. “Now, go find you brother and August will release him.”
His dark laughter roiled over her in a fetid cloud. “And you shall be her right hand man.”
Angelique’s eyes snapped open. She shuddered then took off into the night sky.
The band of warriors took off down the hall at a trot. First, they needed to find Ricze and Missy. Then, they could pick up the Slayers and be on their way. LaCroix waited until they all left the suite. Then he turned and walked back into the room.
Once again, his past had come back to haunt him. He wasn’t particularly proud of the way he’d treated the woman, but he’d hoped that the past would stay where it belonged. He’d picked up his jacket and was heading for the door when he heard Angelique’s voice.
He moved to the balcony with his usual stealth. Who was she speaking with? He felt the blackness of the voice that answered her, and his heart grew even colder than it already was.
“And you shall be her right hand man.”
The laughter froze the blood in LaCroix’s veins. He ran to the balcony, arms outstretched to stop her, but his hands found only emptiness as Angelique vaulted into the night.
“NOOOOOOO!” he screamed as he fell to his knees. No one answered.
The group had arrived at the Romany Suite when they heard LaCroix’s howl of pain. A smile flickered across Monique’s face, mirrored by a similar one of Devin’s. Trapper raised her hand to knock at the door, when they heard an answering scream from the other side of the door.
They burst in to find Buffy, Angel and the rest of them standing around Jenny. She lay senseless on the floor, shaking her head and fending off some invisible attacker.
“No!” she shouted. “You cannot! You must not!” The ankh upon her chest glowed like a brand.
Lest We Forget
Had the gathered group not been so absorbed in Divia’s care package, they might have noticed the sudden stillness of the rest of the hotel. Almost the same sort of stillness that proceeds a great storm.
But he was quite certain that they were fully occupied before he began. Carrying a box loaded with lighter fluid, he calmly left stream after stream of the fluid in his wake. In every corridor, he had set up deposits of explosive and combustible materials and covered them with gasoline.
All except the floor they were all on. No good to have one of them walk out of a room and see the pile of doom he had for them.
He finished the last bottle of lighter fluid, and then proceeded to the first floor again. The servants he had tied up in the kitchen with
her…with her…with her body. Fitting for them to die too. Had one of them been nearby doing their jobs, she…she wouldn’t have died.
He lit the first stream. As it took it’s time getting to its pile of “non-flame resistant” materials, he quickly flew up the stairwell and
lit the next line. Up he went, the first explosion taking place just as he reached the door of the suite they were all in.
There was a woman writhing on the floor, screaming as if possessed. Everyone watched in transfixed horror as she struggled. Evie happened to glance towards the door as she felt another rush of air, and she asked with a start, “Cash?”
He snickered, and at the same moment, the first floor exploded in flames. The suite rocked slightly, and everyone swayed a bit.
“What the hell?” was echoed many times throughout the room.
“Is where you all deserve to be!” Cash snarled as the second explosion rocked the building.
Marcus was closest to him, and he reached out and grabbed the Gangrel. “What have you done, Cash?”
He pulled himself violently away from Marcus. “I’m making sure you all pay for what you’ve done to her!” His shout was followed by the third floor explosion. “She gave her life for that self-centered, self-righteous murdering whore! And for what? Not one of you even gives a shit that she’s dead!”
The fourth floor erupted, and this time almost everyone was knocked off their feet.
“I don’t get it,” Xander whispered. “If he’s blowing the place up, why isn’t it coming through the floors?”
“It’s a vampire building, Xander,” Buffy whispered as Angel help her to her feet. “They said it was built to protect the other vampires here, in case of fires and stuff. All the floors are like metal enclosures…”
“Only it still burns, Slayer,” Cash snarled at her. “It takes a bit longer, but you’re all still going to die!”
He laughed furiously as he opened his trenchcoat. His torso was wrapped in the classic “Dynamite shirt” technique. At least 14 sticks of dynamite were strapped to him, and he held up his hand, his finger on a small device. “You see, you move, I let go, you all die. Someone tries to take my finger off the button, you all die.”
He smiled at the looks of horror on their faces, and then whispered, “For you, baby. I’ll make sure they don’t forget you now…”
“STOP” Screamed through her head with enough force to drop her from the sky. She tumbled to the slick sidewalk, and lay for a moment, wrestling with the urgent need to continue.
The she heard it. A soft whoosh of a fire starting in the hotel, coupled with the sharp burn of lighter fluid.
Angelique took to the sky, heading back to the hotel, crying silently to her brother to hold on. The bottom floor of the hotel was burning, mortals screamed as the inferno took them one by one into agony. She felt for her connections, then flew through the window of the Romany suite in a shower of glass.
When she rose, no one recognized her. Raged burned in her red eyes, her face was a great lioness, a tawny mane whipped around her neck and shoulders. She snarled and Cash laughed.
“Well, the queen bitch returns.” He waved the ignition device at her. “Here to try to save them?” He went dead still. “You’re so out of luck. The mortals are going to burn, as will the vampires. The immortals…well they will burn, but they will revive to find the rest dead.”
As Angelique glared at Cash, Trapper motioned for Duncan to get the mortals next to him out the ruined door to the Romany suite and into the hall. Sukh and Willow tiptoed out and charged for a room with an open window. The scrambled into the Ptolemaic suite and to the balcony.
Sukh looked at Willow and they eyed the dumpster under the balcony, five stories down. “I’m willing if you are.”
Willow gulped and nodded, they joined hands and leapt toward the open dumpster.
Back in the hotel room, Angelique confronted Cash. “How dare you profane her memory like this,” Angelique growled as she advanced on Cash. “She died for me, she died for all these people here.”
“And look at the thanks she got.”
“For her we defeat August.”
Cash laughed. “For ignoring her you all die. You hated her.”
“I hated what she did to Sion.” Angelique watched Methos drag Cordelia and one of the Rays out the door. Benton sent Deif out and carried the MacCousin out over his shoulder, Stanley right behind. “Remember, I tried to help her, before Julian forced her into the kindred life. She betrayed me and mine. I didn’t want her dead, just punished for her betrayal.”
“Lying bitch.” He followed her, turning his back on Giles as he scooped up Jenny, Xander darting out with them. Angel tried to shove Buffy out, but she stayed her ground.
“Do you think she would have lived if I wanted her dead?” Angelique threw her head back and laughed. “More the fool you are.” She pointed to her chest as she stepped closer. “I am the law for my kind. I choose who dies and who lives. Do you really think that a bunch of mortal weapons will frighten me?” She ripped the detonator out of his hand, taking the thumb with her. Then still holding his severed thumb to the trigger, she pulled off the explosive shirt. Giles stood in the doorway, Jenny in his arms, and watched as Angelique reached into Cash’s chest and tore out his major organs. Then she stuffed the explosive shirt into the hollow cavity.
“Run,” she warned the rest of the stunned folks in the room and they took her advice, diving for the door as Giles scrambled out of the way.
Most of the gang had dumpster dived when the fireball rolled through the Romany suite.
Trick or Treat
as the hotel is being blown up
Drucilla stopped right outside the caves and shuddered. “‘es here.”
“Who luv?” Spike could fee the tremble in her arms as he tried to pull her into the cave.
Dru smiled that vacant, happy smile. “The bad man.”
“What bad man?” She didn’t look too unhappy to have the bad man around.
“That would be me,” A tall black man in a bright suit stepped out of the dark mouth of the cave. “It looks like you folks could use some backup.” A small army of lesser vampires assembled behind him.
“Yeah, we could,” Spike grinned as he shook Trick’s hand. “Does August know?”
“MmmHmm” Trick nodded and a bright smile split his dark face. “She promised me a fine sista for my work. She said I’d love her.”
Spike laughed “The Egyptian? Oh yeah, she’s a hot piece.” They walked into the caves, Dru trailing behind. Tracy frowned as she walked with the maniacally smiling Dru. This was bad, messing with the old one LaCroix.
Assessing the Damage
Alley outside Elysian Fields
Giles heard a small moan next to him. He maneuvered among the many arms, legs and attendant bodies to find Jenny.
“Jenny?” He gently patted her face. “Are you all right?”
She opened her eyes and smiled wanly. “I think so. No broken bones, anyway.”
They struggled to the edge of the dumpster. Nick and Schanke were standing next to the dumpster, and helped them get out.
Jenny brushed her skirt and looked around. Angelique stood a little removed from them, looking bleakly at LaCroix. Ignoring their privacy, Jenny took Rupert’s hand and walked him over to the desolate looking couple.
“Angelique,” Jenny began.
The tall, bloodstained Egyptian woman sighed deeply and turned. Her face was tear streaked. “Little one?” One look at Jenny’s face told her everything. She placed a bloody hand on the woman’s shoulder. “It is no use. I must do this to rescue my brother.”
“But you can’t!” Jenny took Angelique’s hand in both of her own. “Set lies! You know that! He may give you Micah, but there’s no guarantee he’ll still be alive,” she looked deeply into the face so close to hers, “or sane.”
Angelique nodded. “I know.” She turned away and stared up at the starry sky. “But what choice do I have?”
Jenny moved behind her. “There are always choices.”
“Actually,” Rupert cleared his throat and spoke up, “I might have a few ideas, if you’d care to hear them.”
Everyone was crawling out of the dumpster and trying to comprehend what had happened.
“It looks like everyone’s ok,” Trapper said.
Evie grinned. “Thanks for the lift. Remind me not to give you shit about flying.”
“Ow! Get off me! You’re crushing my guitar hand!”
“Bummer,” Xander replied as he used Steve’s ample stomach as a springboard to the alley.
“Hey, you could play with our band now,” Oz said. He thought better of it as he looked at Steve, gray-haired and covered with garbage. “Or not.”
Evie raised an eyebrow, while Trapper winced.
“Sounds like Stevie-boy hadn’t made it out of the garbage when everyone took their swan dive.”
Trapper just snickered and shook her head.
At the other end of the alley, Sybilla was checking on the surviving employees. Pulling out her cellphone, she made a call to Jerome.
“Yes, it looks like everyone made it out all right, except for Terrance and Amanda. Thelma was handling the late shift, so she hadn’t come in yet. No, Gina and Louise are here, and they’re fine. Yes, Sonja and Zac, too. No problem, I’ll handle it.” She rung off and called up damage control. With a little bit of luck, they could be up and running again by around noon.
“So, now what?” Schanke said, looking at the hotel. “We sure aren’t sleeping here tonight.”
“Well,” Kat said, “we were just getting ready to go after Micah, and then see if we could find Hanna.” She followed Don’s gaze to the smoking hotel. “But you’re right. We need to do something about a place to stay when the sun comes up.”
Monique looked over at them. “I have a chalet just outside of town. We could take anyone who’s staying behind there, and then go there ourselves at sunrise.” Devin raised his eyebrows at her. She answered with a half-smile. “It’s quite large, Devin. Not so large as the chateau at Chalons su Marne, but quite sufficient for this little band.” She pulled a cellphone out of her reticule and called Algernon to bring the car, and to tell the servants that there would be company.
Hell hath no fury…
Outside Elysian Fields
After Assessing the Damage
Ciarán stumbled out of the dumpster. He pushed his sunglasses back onto the bridge of his nose and was about to speak when a redheaded streak pushed him against the wall. Màire furiously slapped his arms, her eyes red in fury. She spoke (or rather yelled) in a particularly old dialect of Gaelic that only a few warriors could understand, thankfully.
“Go scriosa cúnna ifrinn do bhall fearga!” She cursed.
“Go gcreime na míolta crúbacha do ghrianán rúnda,” he replied coldly.
Duncan and Gilchrist looked at each other and blushed.
Buffy turned to Angel. “What are they saying,” she whispered.
“I don’t know,” replied Angel, relieved that the unhappy pair were switching from Scots Gaelic, to Irish Gaelic to Welsh without any
“You don’t want to know,” said Methos. “It’s a domestic dispute. Just stay out of the way, and they’ll get over it.” He shook his head at the loud display; thankful hardly anyone could understand the wild talk.
Ciarán pushed Màire against the wall. “You making a scene, me rún.”
“Don’t call me, your anything,” she replied. “If you’re here to bed her again, get in line. You’ll be the last of course. I do believe that the mortal watcher, Giles is in line ahead of you.”
“I’m here as an Enforcer.” Ciarán growled. “Not get into Angelique’s bed.” Ciarán studied Màire and scowled. “Unlike some people, I’m not here to sleep with anyone. My main reason was to get you back to a safe place. You do remember what August did to you, mhuirnín?”
Màire growled and stalked away from him and then turned back to face him. “I have just as much reason to get even with her,” she snarled in Gaelic. “You could never make me leave. The only reason you’re here is to get me away from LaCroix.”
“I doubt I could get you to leave anyway,” he replied coldly. “You’re the most stubborn creature I’ve ever met. Go back to your master, like the good little slave you are.” He paused. “Mael Muire. They should have named you Mael Lucius, because you’ve spent all of your immortal life serving him!”
Màire and Ciarán turned away from each other, cursing quietly to themselves.
Bait and Switch
“And it came to pass that the dreadful God Set, weary of His long imprisonment and angered by the short memories of mortals, did connive to escape. He would place Himself above all other Gods and bring everlasting night to the earth. And the other Gods, knowing this, did gather in council to defeat him, and the place was wracked with thunders and lightnings. Their howls rent the night sky, for they were most wroth with Set.” **Translation: They were pissed.
Angelique looked sadly at Jenny and Rupert. The bloom of life had returned to the Gypsy woman’s cheeks, and the love that sparked between the two mortals tore the ancient vampire’s heart. This love was such a fragile thing, so like the two beings that stood before her. How easily it could end, snuffed out with the brief candle flicker of their lives. She sighed and pulled herself from reverie to listen.
“Set wants a mortal, body and soul, to be his agent of destruction,” Jenny stated. She had thought this through very carefully, after the Goddesses had spoken to her. She knew what had to be done. Now it was simply a matter of deciding how.
“That much is plain to me.” Angelique shuddered at the memory of Set’s hot, fetid breath on her cheek, the unspoken promise of an eternity in His dark embrace. “Please continue.”
“I have spoken with the Gods,” Jenny said, taking Giles’ hand in her own. “I must go back to ensure that this will work.”
Giles looked stricken, and a small moan escaped him.
Jenny turned and smiled at him. “It’s all right. They said that I can come back, but this has to be done. Then, I can meet you back in Sunnydale when this is all over.” She touched his cheek. “You wanted me out of danger, didn’t you?” At his wordless nod, she continued. “Well, this is the best way.”
She turned back to Angelique and continued. “The only thing to do is find Him another soul.”
“Not yours!” Giles exclaimed. “I won’t hear of it!”
“Shh.” Jenny placed her small hand over his lips. “It’s all right, ‘Ripper’,” she smiled impishly. “I didn’t mean mine. And it’s not like He’s going to be able to truly keep it. We offer it to Him; we get Micah back, and then we snatch the soul away from Him.”
LaCroix cleared his throat. He had questions. “How will we keep someone like this Set from keeping whatever soul we offer Him?” He still worried that Angelique would offer herself up. This, he could not bear.
“Ah,” smiled Jenny, with a touch of malice in her voice. “That’s the best part. He needs body and soul, ba and ka to make His plan work. All we have to do is deprive Him of one of those, and we win.”
Giles looked thoughtful as he removed his glasses to clean them on his coattail. “But, who would we use? Who is useless, indeed, clueless enough to do this?”
Steve Lalor staggered out of the dumpster. He’d been tossed, pummeled, bashed and stabbed when everyone fell on him. As he attempted to reorient himself to his surroundings, he noticed the small knot of people talking, and made his way to them.
“Hi, there,” Steve began. “Anyone seen Trapper?”
“Ask and you shall receive,” LaCroix said drily.
The Burning Times
Alley outside Elysian Fields
“Okay. Will’, Oz, Cordelia and Xander. You go back to the chalet when the limo comes. That way, Willow, you can start cruising on the laptop for info’ on bad nasties that waste forests. Who knows? Maybe a counter-spell, too.” Buffy turned to Kendra. “And I’m thinking that maybe you should go with the crew. That way, they’ve got some backup in case something goes weird.”
Kendra nodded silently, and moved to join the rest of the teenagers. Xander looked at Buffy with amazement.
“Whoa. Time out, Buf’,” he stepped up. “You think we’re leaving you with Mister Mindless Killer here?” He pointed at Angel.
“Xander,” Buffy sighed. “This has all been explained. He’s better now. Go.”
Cordelia and Willow each took an arm and dragged the protesting Xander away.
Angel remained glued to Buffy’s side, where he’d been since his soul was restored. “What about us?” he said softly, as they watched their friends move away.
Buffy turned and gazed into his eyes. “We go where we’re needed,” she replied, stretching up to plant a kiss on his lips.
“I think we should go after Hanna while we still have some darkness,” Nick faced his friends as they all stood in the light from the flickering flames of the hotel.
The fire department had put out the bulk of the fire, but the occasional hotspot remained to flare up. They were all in pretty good shape, considering their near-death experience that evening. Gina and Louise had salvaged a beverage cart and were serving “Penny” to the crowd, as well as coffee, tea and sodas.
“Sorry it’s just domestic,” Gina murmured as she pressed a glass into Devin’s hand.
“It’s fine,” he smiled. Turning back to his conversation, he said, “I agree with Nick. We’ve got to find her tonight. Any later, and she’ll probably be dead.”
“If she’s not already,” Marcus muttered.
“Do you know where to look for her, Marcus?” Kat turned and cast a peevish eye in his direction. He’d been sullen and argumentative all evening. “Are you holding out on us?”
“Hardly. I figured that the caves would be the likely place for everyone to have gone.”
“Hmm.” Trapper drained her latte and discarded the cup. “I don’t know. I think they’d take her somewhere they could torture her.” She looked up. “The woods, maybe?”
“No good,” Friederick spoke up. “Trashed by the Infernalist.”
Devin suddenly dropped his glass and fell to his knees. He screamed as he hit the ground amid the sparkling shards.
Everyone was startled into silence by the action.
“Devin?” Anna asked anxiously.
“Cher‘?” Monique looked at him with a frown.
Evie walked up and took him by the shoulder. “Get a grip, Saceur. Tell us what’s happening!”
Devin was trembling visibly as he raised his face. “I saw her,” he whispered. “It’s awful. She’s burning.”
The comment drew gasps from the crowd of vampires that surrounded him. They were notoriously leery of fire and other burning things.
“But, I know where she is now.” He slowly got to his feet, picking the bits of glass from his stockings and knee britches. “She’s in the cemetery.”
“What’re we waiting for?” Schanke yelled. “Let’s do it!”
Killing in the Name of
It felt like a scab. A thick, invisible layer over every inch of his body. It didn’t hurt, it simply froze Lux’s facial expression. No matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t look anything more than completely calm. This was fine, because Lux did feel calm – eerily calm. Detached even…most of the time.
The vampires held their crazed pep rally and Lux watched from the sidelines. Ever since Jim Morrison, or rather, the thing wearing Jim Morrison had shared a few insights with him, Mr. Interior saw things differently. The vampires around him in the cave resembled puppet corpses, at times transparent in body and soul. Except for the spiteful police detective, Tracy. She looked basically alive, but she wore her story on the outside just as plainly as all the others.
No matter. Lux no longer cared. The feelings that had ruled his meager existence up until his trip to the Taboo, had been scrubbed away. Hate, envy and lust had been flash burned and blown away by the Lizard King and his revelations. Lux felt the wave, the thermonuclear pulse that incinerated all fear, all emotion, all humanity from his soul. It washed over him, apparently stripping the color from his hair and all expression from his face.
“The better to eat you with, my dear,” he commented aloud.
As William the Bloody, Drucilla and all the others plotted their takeover, Lux waited. New Jerusalem was the doorway and Lux was part of a larger plan.
I Will Meet You at Lenny’s. I Mean Denny’s
By Cousinsuk, Heather
in the alley
Sukh, Duncan, Methos, Gilchrist and MacCousin stared at the arguing couple as their ears were assaulted with a variety of Celtic curses.
They continued staring as the argument ceased.
“Wow,” said Sukh. “That was highly entertaining. I don’t have any idea what was said, but it was highly entertaining.”
“Yeah,” agreed MacCousin, her stomach growled, announcing it’s presence to all gathered. “I could really use a patty melt.”
Sukh’s glanced across the street. “Denny’s,” she sighed. “We have to make a Denny’s run!”
“Yes!” The MacCousin lost her composure (not that this wasn’t something that happened on a normal basis). “Denny’s! Denny’s!” She began patting herself, checking for a wallet. “Damn! She murmured. “My wallet is in the towering inferno.”
Sukh stared down at the flimsy chemise. “I don’t have any money either!”
Sukh and MacCousin stared at Gilchrist, with hopeful grins.
“Uh sweetie,” began MacCousin. “We’re starving! Can you give us some money?”
Gilchrist sighed and opened his sporran. After a few minutes of his shuffling around papers, a checkbook, and a card for his local favorite gentleman’s establishment, he handed everything to Methos and found two bills. He handed them with a flourish to MacCousin.
“Two dollars?” asked MacCousin. “What kind of patty melts can we get with two dollars?”
“I didn’t mean for you two to get two patty melts. I thought you could share one.” He grinned wickedly.
“You’ve got to be kidding!” Sukh grumbled.
Duncan rolled his eyes and began to pat his kilt. “Damn! I left my wallet upstairs, because I couldn’t carry it. Thanks a lot, Gilchrist!”
Methos sighed and opened his wallet. He handed Sukh and MacCousin each a twenty. He handed Duncan his cell phone, then removed his jacket and offered it to the shivering Sukh.
“Even Denny’s has standards,” he said.
Sukh grinned as she pulled on the jacket. She and MacCousin took off toward Denny’s.
Duncan sighed and started calling for replacement credit cards.
Denny’s was nearly empty except for a few students. Sukh and MacCousin took a seat at a booth. They waited rather impatiently for the waitperson. MacCousin opened her laptop and sighed deeply.
“Locked up again?” Asked Sukh.
“Mprexe.exe, a pox upon thee!” grumbled MacCousin closing the laptop firmly. The two women twiddled their thumbs and happened to look across the street. They both did a double take at Duncan, Gilchrist and Methos. The three Immortals were in deep discussion. Even stranger, LaCroix was talking to Steve Lalor.
“We’ve been banished,” grumbled Sukh.
“That’s just so frickin’ weird!” commented MacCousin, still staring at the interaction between LaCroix and Lalor when the waiter interrupted them.
“What’ll it be?” He asked as he leaned over to check out the MacCousin’s laptop.
“It’s broken,” MacCousin made a frowny, pouty face and stuck out her tongue at the misbehaving electronic. The waiter laughed.
“I think we’ll have two patty melts,” said Sukh.
“With water and lemon,” added MacCousin.
The door opened and the Scooby gang wandered in.
(Fifteen Minutes later)
The Scooby gang had settled in the same booth with Sukh and MacCousin. They were talking about the latest a-doin’s at the hotel and who had landed on whom. The waiter came back with the patty melts and began to take orders from the Scooby gang.
“I’ll have the monstro burger with onion rings and coffee,” ordered Buffy.
Cordelia scanned the menu with a jaded eye. “I bet they use lard here,” she grumbled at no one in particular.
“I guess I’ll have the big salad,” she finally decided.
“What kind of dressing would you like on that?” asked the waiter with a cheesy grin
“Do you have no fat Italian?” asked Cordelia.
The waiter looked at Cordelia as if she had grown another head. “You haven’t ever been to a Denny’s before, have you?” He snickered.
“It’s not Spago’s”” grinned Buffy.
“Well, no.” Cordelia looked shocked at the suggestion. “Obviously you’ve spent a lot of time at them,” she added cattily. “I’ll have it plain then.”
The waiter gave her a sly smile and turned to Willow. “And for you?” he asked.
Willow glanced up from MacCousin’s laptop. “Uh…I’ll just have coffee.” She said. MacCousin leaned over her shoulder.
“Why are you reading my email?” asked MacCousin.
“I’m checking for attachments to make sure there aren’t any viruses,” answered Willow. She looked up from the laptop. “Hey, what’s GASP?” She asked.
Sukh and MacCousin grinned at each other across the table. “Oh nothing,” they twittered.
The waiter shook his head, his ponytail flying and turned to Oz. “I’ll have a bacon cheeseburger,” he ordered, glancing at Willow’s menu.
“And you?” The waiter turned to Xander at last.
“I’m not really hungry,” said Xander. “Maybe something later…”
“HEY!!! Giles would not do that with Buffy’s Mom!” Willow exclaimed.
“Huh?” asked Buffy. She leaned over and gazed into the laptop. “EWWWWW!” she said. “That’s just NOT right!”
“You two are sad, twisted people,” commented Willow as Sukh and MacCousin giggled. She soon turned back to the laptop. All of a sudden, the computer started talking. “Cool! I found a way cool site, with audio and everything!”
“Must be a Secret Shadow Government role play thing,” commented Oz, watching Xander snatch some fries of Sukh’s plate.
Sukh glared at Xander. “We can get you some of your own,” she growled.
“Nah,” Xander shrugged as he stuffed his face. “I’m not that hungry.” His hand snaked out and he snatched more of Sukh’s fries.
The waiter caught Sukh’s eyes and grinned, heading back to the kitchen.
“It’s like a secret ops, spy game!” said Willow, with a big grin.
Birkhoff stared at the screen. Somebody had actually hacked into the secret files of Section One. He stared at the screen, watching the person scroll into top security missions and sighed. Then he tapped on his keyboard and started the trace.
“Wait up, Schanke,” Nick put a restraining hand on his partner’s shoulder. “Before we go running off, we need a plan. And,” he gestured at the group, “we need to get these kids off to the chalet.”
“Which means?” Schanke began impatiently.
“Which means we wait for the limo to arrive.” He clapped Schanke’s shoulder. “C’mon. Let’s see what we can figure out before we go running to the cemetery.”
Schanke reluctantly agreed and shuffled over to the small crowd, his hands in his coat pockets.
Devin was crouched on the ground, sketching out the perameters of the cemetery grounds with a pencil in the dirt. Vachon looked on with a jaundiced eye and shook his head.
“You tried the same thing in Madrid a hundred years ago, Saceur.”
“Didn’t it work?” Kat asked with half a grin. She’d been watching the interplay between the two men with some amusement.
Vachon blinked. Then he grinned back at her and snorted. “Not only didn’t it work; it almost got me killed.”
Devin looked up with a mock-serious expression. “I do notice that you haven’t yet passed to the great beyond, Javier.”
“No thanks to you.”
As the banter continued, Trapper and Evie noticed headlights down the street.
“Hey, guys!” Trapper called out. “I think the limo might be here.”
A sleek, blood red Cadillac stretch limo pulled silently into the alley, stopping directly in front of them. The headlights went black.
Monique frowned. “That’s not my limo.”
The windows were tinted black, and the driver made no move to get out of the car. They all stood, staring at it as the passenger door slowly opened and the object of their curiosity got out. Monique gasped and Devin blanched as they recognized him. The rest of the women just stared.
The tall, slender stranger brushed himself off as he stood before them. His long, black hair looked like silk and fell into his eyes, giving him a deceptively boyish look. He fastened his red eyes on Monique and a sardonic smile slowly bloomed on his face.
“There you are, ma belle. I been lookin’ all over for you.” He leaned against the car and folded his arms. “I missed you, petit‘.”
“Remy,” she whispered. “How did you find me?”
“Does it matter? If you must know, I overheard your conversation wit’ your servants, ange.” She flinched as he pierced her with his gaze. “I expected you to be celebrating by now.” He gestured at Devin, who had recovered his composure. “But what do I find? You hangin’ wit’ this tcheue poule.”
Devin’s temper flared at the insult. “What do you want here, LeBeau?”
“Besides your head on my wall, Saceur? Rien.” Remy looked back at Monique. Viens ici.” He commanded.
“No!” she responded, lifting her chin and glaring at him defiantly. “Va-te’n!”
“Not so easy to be rid of, ‘tite chat.” He began moving toward her. “C’mon. Let’s rip out his heart, ma jolie fille, and then laissez le bon temps rouler.”
It was a standoff, and not the kind Devin relished. Remy LeBeau was a bounty hunter that the Hand used on its truly difficult jobs. They’d run into each other before, and both still bore the scars of their encounters. Devin needed his wits about him if he planned to stay alive.
Meet You at Lenny’s, I mean Dennys (2/?)
By Sukh and MacCousin
Across the street from Elysian Fields
(Back at Denny’s)
“Here, ” MacCousin handed Willow a headset and mic. “See if you can talk in this.”
“Kewl,” Piped Willow as she plugged in and tried it out.
“Hello?” She nodded and punched something into the computer. “I’m on the channel.”
Everyone watched as Willow turned into super secret spy girl.
“Wow, she’s like Emma Peel, only without the leather suit,” Oz frowned. “I need to get her a leather suit.”
The waiter came bearing food. Buffy got a monstro burger, Willow her coffee, Oz his burger, Xander a bonus plate of fries. Cordelia got a BIG plate of lettuce.
“What’s this?” Cordelia frowned.
“A plain salad.” The waiter refilled the water glasses.
“It’s not like the picture. I want it like the picture.” Cordelia insisted.
“Then you wanted the salad just no dressing.” The waiter wandered off.
“What kind of freaky place is this? ” Cordy grumbled as she speared a piece of iceberg lettuce.
“Denny’s ” Sukh responded as she stole few fries from Xander.
The waiter returned a short time later with a collection of bowls. “Here,” He said as he placed each one in front of Cordy. Each one had separate types of veggies in it. ” And I found some low fat Ranch.”
Cordelia perked up. “Well, that’s sorta better.” She dipped some lettuce in the dressing.”Oh look,” Willow exclaimed as she smiled. “A cartoon, Xander you and Oz would love this.”
They both leaned over as a small rotund cartoon child started singing “Kyle’s mom is a big fat b–ch.”
Xander and Oz looked at each other and grinned.
Birkoff frowned at the audio he was getting, Who was Kyle and what was wrong with his mom? He frowned and retried the location. There was an operative across from the signal he was receiving. Birkhoff signaled to the operative.
“Willow?” He asked the hacker as the location popped up on his screen. “Who is there with you?”
She told him, as well as explaining about the cartoon.
Madeline came up behind him. “The hacker?”
He nodded. “I don’t think they realize what they did.” He frowned as he got more snips of conversation. “They seem to think it’s a game of some sort.”
Madeline nodded. “We need to bring some of them in for questioning.”
“I’d send Micheal and Nikita, give them tranqs instead of bullets.”
“Actually,” said Madeline. “We were going to use tranqs plus sedatives in the coffee and water. Give me a fix on the location and we can let them go.”
Willow smiled, “Hey, it’s that guy that was fighting with that redhead in the weird language.” She frowned. ” I thought his name was Ciarán, though.”
“Let me see, ” Xander leaned in to see. “Harem? Why does he have a harem? I want a harem.”
Cordy sighed. ” You have a harem.”
Xander grinned. “One does not make a harem.”
Cordelia glared. “Fine, See how zero does!” And flounced off to the bathroom.
(WAR time later)
Michael and Nikita pulled onto the street that Birkoff directed them to. “We are approaching the area.”
“It looks like there was an explosion recently, a big one.”
Birkoff, back in Section, was giving directions. “Not the spot, we have an operative on site there and ready for backup.”
“Confirmed.” Nikita watched Michael scan as he drove. He turned the black Suburban into a restaurant parking lot and Nikita frowned. “Birkoff, we are at a Denny’s.”
“Yes. Is this right?” Nikita and Micheal got out and stood.
“Yes. Remember tranqs and sedatives.”
“Right.” Michael answered. ” We take the one on the laptop and the laptop owner, correct?”
“Confirmed.” Nikita shrugged at Micheal and they snuck around the building to the back entrance.
Nikita grabbed a Denny’s tag with the name ‘Alice’ and took off her jacket and sunglasses. She attached the tag to her white shirt and
walked to the drink center.
Michael quietly watched for any intrusion. He nodded as Nikita began placing the packets of sedatives into the water and coffee.
The waiter looked up from his orders to see Nikita holding both the water jug and coffee container.
“Hi, I’m new,” grinned Nikita. “I can go take care of everybody if you like.”
“Thanks…Alice,” said the waiter. Odd that no one had mentioned to him that someone new started the graveyard shift. He continued with his orders.
“Give me a positive ID,” Nikita asked Birkhoff.
“Redhead, sixteen and a woman in a leather dress with a sword.”
“Armed?” Michael clarified.
“The sword is for show.”
Nikita walked to the large group sitting near the window. She quietly began to refill coffee and water. The two women and passel of wholesome teenagers thanked her. She headed for the other customers.
“The staff?” Michael asked Birkoff.
“Tranqs, no causalities.”
“Confirmed.” Micheal quietly walked into the kitchen and tranqed the kitchen help. He then turned on the wait staff.
“Hey where did everyone go?” MacCousin put down the second half of her patty melt.
“Yeah it’s too quiet,” added Buffy, sipping on her coffee.
Xander visibly yawned.
Willow looked up as Buffy turned to watch. ‘Hey, it’s that guy, that vampire that we were talking about -” A hollow thunk and Willow was slumped over the keyboard.
“What? _” Xander was next. He fell into his plate of fries as Michael pulled the headset off Willow and flipped the console around.
Buffy made a few inarticulate sounds and fell asleep in her onion rings.
“I have it.” Micheal started to punch out a series of commands, then turned off the computer and shut it down.
MacCousin and Sukh looked at each other, then at Michael and opened their mouths in a fishlike manner. Sukh and MacCousin both fell into their sandwiches. Michael dragged the unconscious Sukh to lay on the floor with Oz and Xander.
Nikita pulled Willow out of the booth. Michael turned around and began to pull MacCousin to the Suburban.
Cordelia walked out of the restroom and saw Nikita dragging Willow.
Nikita turned as Cordelia fled the restaurant to get help. Nikita sprinted after Cordy.
Cordy was crossing the street as fast as her long legs would take her. “Giles!” She screamed, waving to catch his attention. “Help!”
Giles and most of the WARriors looked up in time to see Cordelia get tranqed. A blonde in black started to drag her off.
Nick growled and flew out in Cordy’s defense. Nikita looked up to see a golden-eyed monster watching her from a few feet.
“Urk!” Nikita made a hiccuping noise as she dropped Cordy into the street and ran for the Suburban.
Nick grabbed the unconscious Cordelia and flew her back to the alley behind Elysian Fields.
Willow and MacCousin were slumped in the backseat of the car as Nikita jumped in.
“What happened?” Michael asked Nikita.
“I don’t know,” said Nikita. “You wouldn’t believe me if I told you,” she sighed, running her fingers through her long hair.
“Try me,” said Michael pulling out of the parking lot.
Nikita sighed. “Okay, how about if I told you I saw a man with yellow eyes and fangs.”
“Kita, did you drink that water or coffee.”
Nikita looked back at the teenager and young woman in the backseat and sighed, trying to think of when she had been so young and carefree.
11:57 concurrent to Maljardin
In spite of war looming on the horizon, the atmosphere in the French Quarter of New Orleans was as festive and wild as ever. Devin and Monique had taken up residence in Maison DesMondes on Rue Conti, one of Monique’s holdings. They stood on the balcony in the night air, reveling in the sights and scents that populated the darkness. It was All Saint’s Day, 1812, and the streets were full of people making pilgrimage to St. Louis Cemetery. It was tradition to bring their nightly party to the dead on this day, and the residents of Vieux Carre’ were at it with a vengeance.
Devin looked at Monique, saw the flush in her cheek and her sparkling eyes as she took in the street below.
“Shall we join them, ma douce amie?” He leaned closer, ‘til she could feel his breath tickling her throat.
She gasped. “Mais oui, cher’,” she managed huskily. “I’m feeling a little…hungry.”
They moved like glittering shadows through the crowds, enjoying the nearness of mortal flesh, the myriad heartbeats and the heady scents of blood.
The gates to St. Louis Cemetery stood open to meet them. Though it was only a few years old, it was already crowded with tombs and crypts. Marble saints rubbed shoulders with weeping angels keeping watch over the dead.
Monique and Devin had found their prey, a lovely young couple having a tryst behind the Bordreaux family crypt. Monique bit deep into the youth’s throat, savouring the sweet, warm, copper taste of his thick, rich blood as it ran into her mouth. Devin was similarly occupied with the fresh-faced young woman when he heard a noise. Perhaps it was only a rat, but it brought him up short. He cradled his prey like a lover as he called out into the night.
“Va-te’n, whoever you are! Can’t you see we’re busy?”
Monique giggled through her dinner.
A tall figure detached itself from the shadows and glided toward them. Red eyes shone in the blackness. As he stepped into the moonlight, they could see who it was.
“LeBeau,” Devin growled. “What do you want here?”
“You know him, cher’?” Monique whispered. She lowered the young man’s corpse to the ground and rose slowly to her feet. She did not care for the sound of her lover’s voice and she wanted to be prepared.
“How you greet me, mon ami!” Remy placed his hand over his heart. He glanced toward Monique. His eyes flashed as he grinned at her. “What is dis?” He moved in for a closer look, but Devin was faster and barred the way. “Saceur! Where have you been hiding dis belle femme? Perhaps we could call a truce, and you could introduce me?”
“Arrête sa!” Devin clenched his fists. He knew what Remy LeBeau did to women. Devin had buried several friends who had suffered his attentions or drawn his interest. “Monique is with me, and she will stay so. Now, be gone before I add you to the residents of this city of the dead.”
“Monique?” Remy’s eyebrow went up in a perfect arch on his rough-hewn face. “Bon Dieu,” he murmured. “Dis is the old woman’s protege, mais yes.” He looked past Devin’s shoulder, seeing the wide, black eyes in a porcelain face. “Petite fleur, you would be much better off wit’ me than ‘tit boule here.” I am at least twice de’ man he is,” Remy smirked.
“I’ve seen what’s left of your affairs d’amour, LeBeau.” Devin stood his ground. He had known Remy for years. Nothing he had seen could ever convince him that the man had ever had a decent thought.
Remy had been a bounty hunter as long as Devin had known him. The Hand had used him eagerly over the centuries to bring in some of the most desperate fugitives. Devin had been sickened by the casual cruelty Remy practiced, as well as his zeal for his work. The poor, bloody remnants that LeBeau brought in illustrated the very worst aspect of the Hand. Now, he looked to be interested in Monique. It made Devin’s blood chill to think of it.
He had made the mistake of letting his guard down as he thought back, and Remy took full advantage of his lapse. The next thing Devin knew, he was flying across the pathway into the outstretched arm of a marble faun. He lay senseless until Monique’s scream brought him around.
Remy was struggling with Monique. Her fingernails strained for his face, but he held her tiny wrists easily as he chuckled. “Oh, ‘tite chatte, you are a fighter.” He dragged her closer. “I like that,” he breathed against her hair, his voice rough in her ear. “C’mon ma bon pichouette.” He nuzzled her throat as she tried to writhe away from him. “Allons danser.” His fangs sank deep into her throat as she screamed.
And then he was gone. Monique raised her hand to her bloody neck and looked around. Devin and Remy were tangled on the ground, snarling as they fought.
Devin finally stood, wiping his mouth. “Get lost, LeBeau. This is your only warning.”
Remy gathered himself up, the smirk still in place. “C’est la guerre.” He shrugged. “There will be another time.” He looked at Monique, her hair loosened from its pins and tangled around her waist. “And you will be mine, ma belle. Your blood is too sweet to stay away.”
He vanished into the shadows but his laughter lingered long after he was gone.
Monique moved unconsciously closer to Devin as the memory faded. The nightmare was real, and it still stood before them in the alley.
Once More into the Breach
By Devin Saceur
It was obvious to Devin that LeBeau’s stance carried no hope for reconciliation between them.
Many years had passed since their last heated encounter. In the interim, Remy had grown even more hateful of his rival…who seemed to effortlessly draw the applause of his superiors, no matter the depth of his transgressions. Somehow, Saceur had always come out ahead.
Not that Remy had ever sought the favor of those ancient and useless council members. No, he could easily do without the subtle back-scratching and biting which had and always would be the aristocratic way of the Black Hand “elite”. He preferred a raw feed, rather than that conniving manner in which the elder socialites of his sect served up their insipid rhetoric whilst positioning a coward’s dagger at the back of their listener.
Each word spoken with intent to ploy. Each sentence a line to be decrypted, lest hidden meanings be overlooked. Each smile or other gesture a satisfied acknowledgment between parties…a dividing line between those who do and those who either cannot, or will not.
Thinking on it had always sent his head spinning in both annoyance and confusion. Remy wanted action. Moreover, he wanted to be recognized for his strength, enthusiasm, and cunning. To be seen as more than a mere hound to be called when the coals burned too hot for his leaders. To be known for his power and his ability to handle any job at any time…
But for all his talent he had claimed few rewards, and had attained no other status than that of hunter…or Shakar, as the Hand termed his caste. Meanwhile, Saceur smiled and patted the backs of the council members as he sat with them, joining in on the reverie and the paranoid rantings that often birthed some crusade or another. He carried his boyish grin and impertinent attitude on a full circuit swim of the sect as though every mundane detail of the decadent culture bore some significance known only to him.
But in the end, that significance was painfully revealed to all…as the man betrayed his sect and its secrets to their enemies in an exit that could only be dubbed: “expensive”.
It was this cowardly act that had finally turned the monstrous gears of the Hand in Remy’s favor. With Saceur gone, leaving in his wake a crippled infrastructure, a door had opened. For both himself and Monique, the opportunity to claim the power they had long been denied came in the form of the most satisfying of all hunts…the traitor.
He’d longed for this moment. The time of favor was past for Devin. Now LeBeau’s long-standing desire for revenge could be acted upon. Not only would he kill the man finally…though that, in and of itself, would be a beautiful moment. He would use the hunt as a political foothold against those decrepit elders who had mindlessly allowed the disaster of his departure to occur.
But here he stood, this traitor…and with him Monique. As though no time nor pain had passed between them, the two occupied the same area in a relative peace that stood Remy’s hairs on end. The entire scene carried more than a few bad memories back to him.
Devin had stood in Monique’s defense on that night in New Orleans so many years ago. Would she do likewise for him now? After all that this man had said and done to her and her family, and with the weight of the council’s decree regarding his destruction …would she defend him?
As he weighed the uneven circumstances, Remy looked to Devin, whose face wore that sickening, condescending grin. He seemed forever certain of himself, the bastard, with little apparent regard to the fluctuations around him. It was this simple and absolute confidence that Remy had always despised most about his rival. Even more frustrating…he could never be entirely sure just how
much bluff accompanied the flippant expression.
Devin, in turn, carefully measured LeBeau as the man stared at him through venomous eyes. He’d been paying close attention to Anna, who had relayed impressions of the other man’s thoughts to him telepathically. Convinced of Remy’s momentary confusion, he saw a simple opportunity unfold.
Waving his hand in a lazy arc, Devin turned to Monique. “He’s right. Though this could have been a fond reunion, mon vieil ami, you have ultimately to attend to your business here. That business is my murder…and you must see it through.”
As though shocked by a sudden current, Monique turned to stare at him in disbelief. “What?”
“We cannot deny who we are.” He smiled, though it was clear to her that a sadness cut cleanly through his soul. “I am a liar and a betrayer. I killed the only person you knew to be your immortal parent. Whether she gave her blood to you or not, she cared for you and it was my hand that destroyed her.”
Placing his hand on her shoulder, he whispered in a hushed tone. “But do be careful of this one, cher…Il est plus de votre ennemi.”
Smoke and Mirrors
Monique’s eyes were wide and dark with shock as Devin’s words echoed through her mind. She clutched the hand that rested on her shoulder and stared into his eyes. “Mais sa c’est fou!” she hissed.
Anna watched the interchange in horror. Having heard what he’d said, she tried to read his thoughts. But Devin had effectively blocked her out. Now she could only watch as he placed his life in Monique’s hands. “For once,” she muttered, “I agree with her completely. Are you mad, Devin?”
Devin shook his head to silence Anna, and continued to gaze at the woman in front of him.
The rest of their party stood at a little distance, watching.
Kat looked sideways at Javier. “Did you catch any of that?”
Vachon shrugged. “My French is rusty. Other than ‘I’…mumble…’you’…mumble…’crazy’, I didn’t get much.” He folded his arms and frowned. “But, if Remy’s here, it can’t be good news.”
“You know him?”
Vachon nodded. “Oh, yeah. He’s the proverbial bad penny.”
“And where he shows up, there’s always trouble,” Nick added.
“You know him, too?” Trapper asked.
Nick spoke softly. “I think we all have had dealings with him at one time or another. He sells himself to the highest bidder.”
“Like Saceur,” Javier said.
“But,” Nick raised a hand for emphasis, “unlike Devin, he has no conscience. I sometimes wonder if he was ever human.”
“Sounds like LaCroix’s type,” Kat said with venom.
“They have been known to frequent the same circles.” He looked at his red-haired daughter. “I’m surprised that you haven’t run into him yourself.”
Kat shook her head. “No, I would’ve remembered that one.”
“Well, I don’t know about you, compadres, but I think it’s time to break up this little stalemate.” Schanke rubbed his hands together and began to walk toward the standoff.
Nick reached out and grabbed his collar. “Schanke. Let us handle it. I think that subtle persuasion is the way to deal with this.”
Kat, Trapper and Evie looked at each other and grinned.
“You thinking what I’m thinking, ladies?” Evie said, with a wicked gleam in her eye.
Without another word, the three women strode to where the action was.
Remy stopped his contemplation of Monique and Devin to notice the new arrivals.
“My, my. No wonder you’re here, Saceur. This place is bursting wit’ belle femmes.” He smiled and spread his arms wide. “Bonne nuit, jolie filles! And what may Remy do for you dis lovely night?”
“For starters,” Evie looked at him evenly. “You can leave our friends alone.”
“There’s plenty of time for vendettas later,” Trapper said acidly. “At the moment, we need to find Hanna, and you’re wasting our valuable time.”
Remy’s eyes brightened at the mention of Hanna’s name. How long he’d waited for a chance to get that one between the sheets! He smiled at the thought. “Well then, mesdames, let us find the ‘tite vampire.” He gave Devin an evil grin. “You’re safe for now, Saceur. The fine ladies have bought you some time.”
As the group began to move off, Kat turned back to Remy. “Oh, and if you have any thoughts of getting in our way,” she gestured at Trapper. “I happen to know that she’d be delighted to sing the flesh from your bones.”
Remy watched them as he prepared to follow. “Mmm. A banshee. Dis jes gets more interesting by de minute.”