Now Hold on!
He had been waiting patiently inside, finishing up some last minute work. His hands were sweaty from nerves. He had taken a big chance in leaving that note on the copied map, and now he wasn’t so sure it had been the right thing.
He finished turning of his computer, and the hair on the back of his neck stood on end. There were others here. He probed gently with his senses. They were not his pack mates. No, wait. They HAD been pack mates, but there was a distinct scent of the Wyrm about them.
Marc quickly changed into lupus, hoping to catch the two Garou before his “guests” arrived. If they arrived.
He followed their scent, and as he neared them, he caught the distinct scents of various others. What the Hell?! Was there a party going on here? Then he recognized two of the scents as the man and the woman from earlier. They had brought friends. Great. Just flipping great!
He neared the two Garou, who were waiting to ambush the two approaching women. He crouched and snarled. As he was about to leap at one of them, the other was downed by gunfire.
Shit! He yelled to himself, which came as a distinctive yelp that both the women heard. Another shot was fired, which hit the remaining Garou in the head. Whomever it was firing was definitely using silver, and Marc’s stomach churned as he watched the poison eat away at the dying Garou.
The two women rounded the corner, and he slunk through the shadows toward them.
“Trapper? What the Hell is going on?”
“Looks like someone wanted to play doggie practice.”
Her smile was fierce in reply.
Marc whined from the shadows, and they both turned quickly on their heels.
“Look! The one that got away!” Trapper hissed as she moved closer, Evie’s silver bullets in the gun she carried.
How could he get them to follow him without changing form? He whined, at a loss for what to do.
Just then, he felt the presence of the sniper. He looked up, and both women followed his gaze.
“Kat! Up there!@
Marc Crinosed and warned the women, “Leave! Before he decides to hunt something besides wolves!”
Of course, being Crinosed, what he said came out a tangled mess, and neither woman understood a word he said. He changed the rest of the way, and before he could repeat his message, he caught another scent.
He hadn’t realized he had spoken aloud until he saw the faces of both women. The sniper, as well, had heard him and paused in the act of firing . . .
New ‘Salem Library
“YAAAH!” Trapper shrieked and instinctively leaped backward, flattening against the wall. Kat followed suit.
Vachon was beside them in a heartbeat. “Are you all right?” he asked both of them, but had eyes only for Kat.
The women nodded as they looked to the bar joists above their heads. They were trying to see the attacker.
Below, Evie, Schanke and Nick raced across the foyer. Their boot heels beat a loud tattoo on the marble floor. They had heard the “silenced” shots, the screaming werewolves; now they needed to find their friends.
Trapper and Kat dropped silently to the ground. Vachon trailed behind to watch their backs, constantly checking the ceiling for more surprises. As they moved around the corner, kibitzing quietly, a sound from the shadows brought them up short. They turned to see another werewolf emerging from the shadows. The man‑wolf looked up, and the women spotted the sniper at the same time Vachon did. Javier growled and moved toward the dark figure in the rafters.
As Trapper and Kat faced the werewolf, he began to change. Flesh rippled across fur, hiding it. Muscle and bone regrouped and reformed. Amid the growls and yips, a human voice was heard.
The pair looked at him in surprise. The sniper above pulled his rifle up and waited to hear more, not noticing that Vachon moved ever closer.
Two cops and a determined Evie burst through the stacks to arrive on the scene.
“Man, Nick. I’m too old for this shit,” Schanke panted.
“YOU’RE too old?” Nick smiled mirthlessly as his eyes searched for Trapper. He saw the little tableau as a moment briefly frozen in time: the sniper in the rafters, Vachon’s approach, Trapper and Kat standing amidst the remains of two dead werewolves, facing a naked, obviously upset young man.
Nick took Trapper by the shoulders and looked into her eyes. “All right?”
Trapper nodded and smiled back. “Fine, other than a serious adrenaline rush!” She grinned suddenly and turned to Kat. “If I were still mortal, I think I would’ve died of fright, but other than that,” she left the sentence unfinished. Kat snickered.
Nick turned and placed a hand on Kat’s shoulder.
She answered with a reassuring squeeze of his arm in return. “I’m fine,” she smiled.
“Holy shit!” Evie looked down at the mangled corpse at her feet. “This is very dead,” she said to no one in particular.
“Ah, yeah,” agreed Schanke, at a rare loss for words. He suddenly noticed Marc, who looked rather dazed. “Hey! You’re the librarian!”
Marc turned to Schanke, who still looked a bit confused.
Schanke pulled off his raincoat and handed it to the man. “Here. I think you need this more than I do, right about now.”
Marc obediently put on the coat, which was several sizes too big. His mind raced. ‘Hanna?’ he thought. ‘Was she back?’ He could catch a whiff of her scent, but nothing more.
They all whirled, instincts at a hair‑trigger, as they heard a loud crash. Vachon had tackled the sniper, and both of them were tangled on floor. The mysterious sniper reached for the rifle that had fallen away in the struggle. A human foot blocked his path. He looked up as he struggled to rise.
Evie looked down at him and smiled. “So, I don’t believe we’ve had the pleasure?”
By Devin Saceur
New ‘Salem Library
He was indeed getting old and sloppy . . .
The room had lit with activity almost immediately following the death of his first target. And what had happened . . . ? In the fray, he’d managed to let a simple detail slip his mind.
That detail landed him on the floor in a heap, the force of another vampire pinning him at each turn. His rifle had already fallen from his grasp and slid across the room. At least, he thought as his arms raced to find an opening, this was one of his own kind and not a werewolf. Had such been the case, Devin would have been dead already.
He heard a woman’s voice from above. “So, I don’t believe we’ve had the pleasure?”
“In good time, m’lady,” he said casually . . . as he and Vachon continued to play their wrestling match out. “There is a determined gentleman upon me whose scent is all‑too‑familiar . . . ”
Just then both of the men paused and looked at each other. Devin grinned. “Well, if it isn’t the best prey of all. Good evening, Javier. We can end the pointless battle now, yes?”
Vachon’s shoulders slumped over as a smile etched almost painfully across his face. Just beneath the line of his upper lip, a fang could clearly be seen.
The room’s occupants noted the sudden change in the atmosphere. The two men next to Evie simply stared at each other for a moment. It seemed no words were necessary. The sight was only made more unnerving by the fact that, externally, they appeared as brothers. Devin’s hair was of similar length, his face wore the same close‑cropped beard, and his build was almost identical.
Where they differed were the eyes. Javier, though rougher than many, had the eyes of understanding and sensitivity. Those of the man across from him were cold and somehow seemed more vampiric in nature. Though his face wore a smile, his eyes seemed to be taking in every detail of the room . . . and more so . . . of Javier. Like a precision hunter, his stare cut through to whatever might be hidden in those he looked upon.
But as the silence became almost electric, Devin broke it abruptly. “Come now. You have repaid me many times over. An evening of being strapped to the undercarriage of a trans‑European train some years back comes to mind.”
The reply did not come from Vachon, but from the rest of those present. “What?”
“A long story . . . ” was all that Javier could say.
Devin was slightly more vocal. ALong story indeed. Some two hundred years in length, if I recall.@
“See, Javier is what we like to call the ‘perfect runner’ in my profession. The term refers to those targets whom you can almost never find . . . and when you do, they somehow always manage to evade you.@
“I caught up with him four times. The first was in Madrid, at which time an unfortunate ‘accident’ took the life of a mortal interest of his. The remaining three occasions where we met were, admittedly, won by him. He exacted vengeance on me in as polite a fashion as possible.”
Saying no more on the subject, Devin stood and looked to Javier, whose face had softened somewhat. “You are no longer hunted, sir. At least . . . ” he laughed in embarrassment, “not by me.”
Turning to look at the others present, he bowed. “You have caught me fairly, friends. I killed the Garou in self‑defense, though it might not be viewed that way, I’m sure. What do you intend to do . . . arrest me?”
Dancing in the Dark
“Hardly. I was thinking of something slow and painful, myself.” Devin turned to the source of the comment. Evie had moved off to one side and was examining his rifle. “Nice,” she commented as she looked it over. “Matched barrel, laser sight, Heckler and Koch?”
“Yes,” Devin walked in her direction, hand extended. “If I may?”
Trapper stepped in front of him. “I don’t think so. We still need an explanation here, and personally, I’m more comfortable with you unarmed.” She glanced at the rifle. “I prefer a matched‑barrel Enfield, myself.”
Devin turned to Vachon and raised an eyebrow. “Don’t ask me to vouch for you,” Javier said, putting his hands in front of him, as if to ward off the other vampire. “I’d like to know what you were doing, too.”
Schanke turned to his partner. “Is it just me, Nick, or are we spinning our wheels when we should be looking for Jenny?” He stalked to Devin and grabbed a lapel. “Listen to me, fang‑boy. If anything you’ve done screws up finding my daughter…”
Devin shook off the hand. “You’ll what, mortal? Stake me?”
It was Nick that spoke next, his voice soft and deadly. “There won’t be enough of you left to stake.”
Vachon had been watching the exchange from where he stood, one hand draped across Kat’s shoulder. He held his finger across his mouth, an unconscious habit, and allowed a lazy smile to cross his lips. With a wink and a kiss for Kat, he sauntered forward into the potential fray.
“I’m afraid that you have gotten off on the wrong foot with my friends,” he began. “I think that explanations are in order.” He glanced to the man shivering in spite of Schanke’s huge coat wrapped around him. “But, I believe that this young man was going to help us get to Jenny.” He looked back to Devin. “We’re on a quest, you see, a quest that you may have seriously complicated.”
Schanke put his hand on Marc’s shoulder. He felt the man’s trembling. “You ARE the one who wrote the note, aren’t you?” Marc nodded miserably as he looked at the carnage defiling the library floor. “Can you help us find my daughter Jenny?”
Marc looked at the detective with dawning comprehension. That was why his scent was so close! She was his child! But what was he doing with vampires? And such strange ones, too. His companions weren’t like the ones that had lived here, the Kindred vampires. These ones were subtly different. He wasn’t quite sure how. He suddenly became aware of what he wasn’t wearing. “Yes, I can help you. But I need my clothes. If you’ll just wait a moment,” he moved away slowly, not turning his back. He didn’t trust the hunter. Not at all.
Get it? Got it? Good!
“Bor‑ring,” the blond vampire singsonged as he turned abruptly and rolled to the other side of the cave.
Sitting up suddenly, Lux Interior coughed and sputtered himself back to life, for the umteenth time. He squinted in the dim light and instinctively clutched at the wound in his chest.
“Ooooh, Angel,” she cooed. Dru crept up beside the Soulless One, rocking slightly in her excitement. “Do it again . . . I love to watch you kill him.”
Angelus brought the double‑edged sword to his lips and tasted the immortal’s blood. “I think our friend here finally understands,” he announced, passing the weapon to Drucilla. “Don’t you, Lux?” he added, bending down and patting the rockstar roughly on the face.
“Fuck you,” Lux spat, pushing himself up off the ground. “I understand you’re insane.”
“Well, he certainly has you pegged,” Spike said. He maneuvered to where Natalie was tied up ‑ her head turned and eyes closed to her captors. “I would have tried explaining it first,” he informed the Coroner, “How about you?”
Natalie didn’t answer.
Growling, Lux circled Angel and said, “He knows that explaining wouldn’t have worked.” A demented grin appeared on his face. “Nothing like a little demonstration, huh Angel?”
The Irish vampire took the sword from Dru and handed it, hilt first, to Lux. “I suggest you practice your technique, Mr. Interior. We wouldn’t want you to lose your head.”
Dru giggled at Angel and rubbed her hands together in delight. They were going to have fun tonight.
Getting to Know You . . .
after “Dancing . . . ”
Marc came back fully dressed, ignoring the smirk on the sniper’s face. He didn’t lose his clothes too often during a change, but when he did, it was embarrassing.
Schanke had waited long enough for him to come back. He cut off his entrance into the room. “So, you going to tell me where I can find my daughter or not?”
Marc looked down to where Schanke’s hand pushed against his chest, the ire rising inside of him. Then he breathed deeply and sighed. “Can I come in, or are you going to keep me in the doorway?”
Schanke gave a slight push to his hand before moving out of the way. He turned to Evie, “Do we really need this guy? I mean, he probably doesn’t even know where Jenny is.”
“Not at the moment I don’t. But I did see her the other night.”
The gasps came from everyone, except Devin, and Schanke moved toward him again.
“Wait! Before you start up again,” Marc commanded at Schanke, stopping him for a moment, “I’ll explain. I was in the forest going back to the caern when I came across a young girl. She was running from something. She was terrified and bloody. And seeing me didn’t help much since I was lupus. Anyway, I tried calming her down when this leech came out of nowhere and grabbed her.”
Every vampire in the room, with the exception of Devin, bristled at the term “leech,@ but they were silent until Marc finished his story.
“He looked like Billy Idol and when he tried taking the girl, I attacked him. We fought, and there was a freak lightning storm that broke our . . . concentration. Anyway, when we stopped fighting, the girl was gone.” He looked at Schanke, with pity in his eyes. “I’m sorry. But I do know that he did not catch her again, since my pack began arriving soon after and he had to run. And it was almost dawn. He couldn’t have caught up with her.”
The Man With the Child in his Eyes
New ‘Salem Library
After “Getting to Know You”
Schanke slammed his hand against the wall. The stacks trembled in reply. “Damn!” he cursed. “So close! And my daughter, my Jenny is out in the woods, hurt, maybe worse,” he stopped, unable to continue. He rubbed his eyes wearily.
Nick rested a hand on his partner’s back. “Easy. We’ll find her.”
“Damn right we’ll find her!” Schanke whirled on the librarian. “You said you could help us!” He advanced on Marc slowly. “You got us down here, and for what? Now you tell us you don’t know where she is?” He began to gesture wildly, arms spread to take in the room. “What was the plan? Get us down here and kill us?” He stood nose to nose with Marc. “Well? Tell me!”
Marc bristled, a low growl starting in his throat. He forced himself back under control. This human was understandably upset. His daughter was missing, there were dead werewolves on the floor, and they were no closer to answers or a rescue. “I said I’d help you get through the forest in one piece.” He looked around the room at the vampires’ glittering eyes. “But these creatures present a whole new problem.”
Nick moved away to let Schanke and Marc have a little room. He assessed the situation. Evie and Kat were deep in conversation as they examined Devin’s rifle. Devin was leaning against one of the stacks, arms folded, speaking in low tones to Vachon. Trapper was biting her lower lip and watching the interaction between Schanke and Marc. He walked up to her and placed his hands on her shoulders, kneading the tense muscles.
“So,” he said softly. “What do you make of all this?”
“I don’t know,” Trapper sighed. “By the way, I’ll give you eternity for that massage.”
“Mmm. I thought I was the one who gave you that.”
She nudged him in the ribs for a reply. “Thank you,” she said, “for a break from all this serious business.” She looked back and up at him. “Do you think this librarian can help us?”
Nick shook his head. “I’m not sure. Do we have any other leads to go on, though?”
Trapper shook her head. “Not that I know of.” She sighed again. “It’s just so frustrating. I can only imagine what Schanke’s going through.”
“A lot. And he’s not showing half of what he’s feeling.”
They continued to watch the scene play out. The night would be gone in a few hours and they were no closer to finding Jenny.
The Man With Blood on His Mind
by Devin Saceur
after Child in His Eyes . . .
“Ummm . . . ” Devin wore a sheepish grin as all turned and gave him a wary look. He’d been speaking with Vachon for a few moments, but once more his impertinence rose to the surface. “I was just wondering how long we were going to engage in this charming little social affair. Not that I mind. It’s just that . . . well, I was here to gather information. I’m also sure that our caring father over there would like to see his daughter once again.”
Schanke’s temper continued to seethe. “You don’t know a thing, fang‑boy! Shut your mouth!”
“Fang‑boy? Oh, you’ve cut me to the quick, sir. I suddenly feel so dirty . . . ”
“You should.” It was Nick who spoke, his own temper nearing its breaking‑point. But he calmed himself quickly, realizing he’d go much further using some degree of diplomacy. “You still haven’t explained yourself.”
“That’s true,” Devin snapped his fingers and tried to seem impressed. “You’re not a bad detective after all, Mr. Knight.”
“Well . . . ”
“It’s actually quite embarrassing. You see, I recently lost my treasured copy of Mein Kampf and just couldn’t go on . . . ”
“That’s it!” Nick moved in a blur of motion toward the pompous vampire. Against all better instinct, he intended nothing more than to smash the man into dust.
But as he approached, Devin was gone. Within the span of a second, he emerged across the room from the shadow of a bookshelf near Marc and Schanke. “Really. You must control yourself, sir. You’ll put your back out trying stunts like that.”
Nick snatched the rifle from Evie’s hand and tossed it over to Devin, who slung it across his back. “If you have nothing of value for us . . . leave! There is little I can do about your crimes here this evening. Just don’t let our paths cross again.”
“Don’t worry . . . ” the infuriating smirk came to his face again, “I prefer to associate with professionals. Oh, but I almost forgot. Your problem with the leeches our librarian friend described was in fact the reason I was here this evening. You see, there is a rather nauseating group of vampires now in residence in this city. They belong to a ‘sect’ known as the Sabbat. If you think I’m a bastard, try one of them on for size some evening when you’re feeling bored of eternal life.@
“My job was to find out what happened to the Kindred who previously called this place home. That’s my bit part in this grand puzzle. The problem is that I have no idea . . . yet. But I’m of the belief that the Sabbat had some involvement in the mess. Furthermore, if they happened upon a young mortal female during the escapades, their indiscretion would undoubtedly get the best of them.”
To the surprise of everyone in the room, Devin’s features altered slightly. His skin seemed less pale . . . his eyes more animated. It was as though he had become, in some indescribable way, more human. “Forgive me. It is my practice to be as inanely convoluted as possible until I’ve had a chance to better discern the motives of those around me. Now could you use an additional gun on this expedition, or am I free to go find myself a cup of Earl Grey?”
Can’t Stop the Cavalry
New Salem Library
A hand materialized out of the darkness and snatched the gun from Devin’s grasp. As he turned to see who dared, Kat stalked from the darkness, a sinuous shadow in black. She tossed him back his gun as she passed, with a casual comment. “You’re good. But, you’re not THAT good.”
Devin smiled and bowed. “Touche.”
Nick chuckled. The tension had been, at least temporarily broken. He spoke to Devin in all seriousness. “We were told of the massacre by John and Marcus. As far as we know, the vampire inhabitants were slaughtered by August and her minions. What we understood was that this was all part of some insane plot to get back at Hanna somehow. Now, you’re telling us that this is part of an even larger conspiracy?”
Evie walked to Trapper’s side as the conversation continued. “Well, the plot thickens.”
Trapper turned, smiling ruefully. “I know what you’re going to say. This is another fine mess I’ve gotten us into.”
Evie laughed and slapped her friend on the shoulder. “Let’s find out what they’re talking about. I’m starting to feel like you can’t tell the players without a scorecard.@
Trapper agreed and they moved to join the group.
“Well,” Nick said, “this does complicate matters. It’s something we’ll need to deal with, as soon as we’ve gotten Jenny out of danger.”
“Seems fair enough,” Devin nodded. “I’ll do what I can,” he turned to look at Marc. “But a lot of this depends upon what our librarian has to say about where and when we should begin our search.”
All eyes turned to Marc for the answers that they needed. He opened his mouth to speak, but was interrupted by the sharp bark of a wolf.
“What?!” he said, startled. He’d been so intent on listening to the exchange that he hadn’t noticed any intruders.
A large wolf appeared from the direction of the main entrance, followed by Fraser and the two Rays.
“Nick! We came as soon as we got your message,” Benton called out.
Stanley took in the scene. “Whoa! What happened here?”
Schanke stared, rubbed his eyes and stared again. “Don’t get me wrong, here. I’m always happy when the cavalry shows up. But TWO Rays?”
Nick shrugged. “Not a clue.” He looked at the gathered parties. “I need to tell Benton about Nat.” He looked at Marc. “Please continue with what you were saying. I’ll be right back.”
He walked toward the men, who were investigating the carnage. Deif sniffed the mangled bodies and growled softly.
Trapper joined Nick as he walked. He was glad for the company. This wasn’t going to be easy; telling Benton that Nat had been snatched by vampires.
Twice Told Tales
By Trapper, with Sukh
New ‘Salem Library
“So, now you know as much as we do,” Nick said. He stood with his hands in his pockets and waited for a response from Benton.
Trapper stood beside him in an identical pose, her eyes unreadable behind her shades.
Benton had turned away from them, obviously wiping his eyes. Deif whined and placed a comforting paw on his leg. He patted the wolf absently as he got himself under control enough to face them. “Well,” he cleared his throat before continuing, his blue eyes hardening, “Are you sure it’s Nat’s hair?”
Nick nodded and pulled the tress from his pocket to hand to Fraser.
“Yes, that’s hers all right.” Benton shut his eyes and breathed in the scent. It was “Provocateur,” what she always wore. He sighed and then made a thinking sound. “Do you have any idea where Angel might have taken her?”
Fraser’s dad, invisible to all but Benton, piped up. “This doesn’t look good, son.”
Fraser nodded, unwilling to speak to the older Mountie in front of the crowd.
“And she was such a pretty thing too.” Fraser senior looked forlorn for a moment. “Remember son, Mounties always get their man, or woman.” Then he was gone again.
It was Trapper’s turn to speak. “Evie and Schanke have researched the area. Apparently, there are some caves nearby. Since Angel hangs with Spike, we think that they might be together. The caves are the perfect place to hole up in the daytime.”
Fraser squared his shoulders. His eyes were grim and his voice was firm as he spoke. “Then that’s where we need to go.” He turned to Ray and Stanley.
“Don’t even think it.” It was Ray who spoke first. “We’re with you on this. You’re going to need all the help you can get.” He gestured at the corpses. “Especially if anything like this is waiting.”
“Then it’s settled,” Fraser said.
Nick nodded. “I’ll tell the others.” They all walked back to where the group stood. But it was larger by two, now. Cash and an almost hysterical Starr stood facing the rest of their party.
Trapper thought to herself that they looked “rode hard and put away wet.”
The hallway was a dimly lit study in elegance. Alabaster scones diffused the light into soft pools along the paneled mahogany walls. Bowls of fresh flowers cast their honeyed scent into the air, already sweet with the soothing sounds of the ever‑present classical music.
A panel in the wall silently slid open, to reveal the service elevator and its occupant, an elderly woman dressed in black.
Sonja Lensher sighed and trudged down the hall to begin her nightly rounds of clean up. Her cart rolled along behind, carrying her supplies. Her ankles ached as always. The doctor had said that the new support hose would help, but some days nothing seemed to ease the pain. She was pulling the vacuum cleaner loose from its moorings on the cart when a dark spot in the carpet drew her eye.
“What now?” she muttered to herself as she walked down the hall.
The darkness seemed to fill the carpet almost from wall to wall. She bent down carefully, to see what it was. Tentatively, she put her gloved hand out. It came back sticky and red. Blood. Her mind reeled back as she stared at her hand. Was it happening all over again?
The massacre came back to her in pictures of fire and blood in the night: people screaming and running, bursting into flames, gunshots giving the whole scene a terrible rhythm. She rubbed her eyes with her other hand. She had lost her beloved Janosh that night. She smiled sadly as she thought of him. He was so brave, trying to protect the Prince. All he managed was to die first, before the Prince and his whole clan were wiped out. She remembered running to him, heedless of the danger, and dragging him out of further danger. His gentle eyes were open and unseeing as she cradled him to her bosom. She rocked in her pain, now, alone in the hallway with her memories. A soft, keening cry escaped her lips as the tears rolled. If only little Hanna had been there. Maybe it wouldn’t have happened. But no one knew where she was, lost, perhaps dead out there.
Hanna had been the sweetest of the lot of them, She remembered. Sonja and Janosh had never been blessed with children, and they both had developed a soft spot for the tiny vampire. She, in return, had brought them a baby that she had found in a car wreck up the highway. The parents were dead, and the little mite needed someone desperately. Now that child lay in the hospital, bruised and beaten by some young maniac. Sharon would recover at least, but how much more pain could Sonja’s poor heart take?
She pulled herself up to her feet with an effort and turned to find her supplies. A note on the table by the wall made her stop. “To the cleaning staff,@ it read. Sonja unfolded it, and, to her surprise, a $100 bill fell out of it. She picked it up and read the note.
“We sincerely apologize for the terrible inconvenience. There was a small accident. I hope that this will be recompense for your trouble.” It was signed by Nicholas Knight. There was a postscript. “I’m afraid that there is a similar problem in our suite, but I hope that the money we have left on the coffee table will make it a bit easier on you.”
She smiled and wiped the tears from her face. The money disappeared within the folds of her dress. Well, perhaps some good could come of disaster, she thought to herself. She went back to her cart with a lighter step, determined to see that the halls and rooms were spotless. People were still depending on her. It was good to be needed.
still in the library
“What do you mean there will be problems with us going into the forest?”
Schanke was becoming more belligerent as the minutes passed. It irked the hell out of him that his daughter was so close, and in terrible danger, and he wasn’t there to protect her.
“What he means is that if anything that isn’t Garou or human goes into the forest, the whole lot of you are going to die.”
It was loud and snide, and everyone in the room heard it. They all turned in the direction of the voice, and were surprised to find Starr and Cash standing in the doorway. A very bloody and battered Starr, and an only slightly less bloody and battered Cash.
“Starr!” Evie exclaimed as she came forward. Of those in the room, she had known Starr the longest and had seen her at her worst. “What happened to the two of you!?”
Cash snarled in disgust, and Starr covered her eyes with her hand. “I don’t want to talk about it.” Her voice, a few moments ago loud enough to catch everyone’s attention, was hardly a whisper.
“Fine then, we won’t! Let’s just get going while we have time.” Schanke had more than reached the end of his rope.
Starr’s hand fell away from her face, her eyes blazing, and she moved forward, hissing. Cash stepped in front of her.
“Move it, dog man,” she hissed through her fangs.
“Not a chance. He hasn’t had an easy time of it lately. You know that. You’ve got to give him a chance.”
She twisted away from him, her fangs retracting. “I don’t have to do shit!” She pulled away from him and stormed to a chair near a corner no one was occupying. She didn’t want to look at or talk to any of them.
Cash shook his head, then looked sadly at the rest of them. “I’m sorry. She really doesn’t know how to handle this.”
“Handle what?” Evie asked, not wanting to hear any more bad news.
“We were in Venice with Methos, trying to . . . trying to . . . ah hell.” He sank down into another chair and bowed his head. Did it really matter? To any of them? They should be concentrating on finding the detective’s kid, and then dealing with the aftermath later. He just didn’t know how.
Devin smirked a little. “Venice, hum? Interesting place, Venice. What were you doing there, Mr. Gangrel?” He stepped forward, becoming more menacing with each step until even Evie moved out of his way. “Getting an assignment perhaps? Or selling information? How many Justicars and their Archons are following behind you?”
Cash looked up at him in near‑terror. He was so close it wasn’t even funny. “Probably all of them.”
The menace fell away for a moment. “All of them? What the hell did you do? Kill the entire Inner Circle or something?”
Cash opened and closed his mouth. He couldn’t say a word, and he turned to Starr in appeal.
“All but Harrod,” she growled.
This time it was Devin that was at a loss for words. The entire Inner Circle? The representatives of the main seven clans of the Camarilla. “You couldn’t have just walked up to them and killed them. You would have had to go through . . . ” He looked from Starr to Cash, thinking of the bloodbath that had to have occurred.
“Paolo took care of all the little ones. He and his group of . . . Hand members. The others didn’t leave us a choice. It was the only way we could get through them to get to . . . her. They would rather die than let her go free. And we still couldn’t get to her!” She shook her head and buried it in her hands, crying freely.
Oh by Gosh, By Golly!
He’d heard all they said, but one word alone circled in his consciousness . . . “Hand.@
He’d been successful at keeping his distance for far too long to be exterminated in the library of some nearly backwoods Massachusetts locale. Oh, and would they ever love to get their hands on him now. With the Inner Circle all but extinguished, his own continued existence would come into question very soon.
The deals he’d made with the Inner Circle had allowed him some degree of anonymity when passing through Camarilla held cities. But now . . . now any Prince with but an ounce of practicality would sell him out to the Hand or anyone else for whatever exchange they could find. He was a rogue, pure and simple. Nothing more needed to be known.
And if those friends of Paolo happened to show up . . .
Devin looked to Starr, who still sat across the room, huffing away. “How many additional friends will be arriving this evening?” AMore to the point,@ he added, “should we break out the champagne for Paolo and his pack?”
That hovel in the Parisian countryside was looking pretty good right about now. Kat sighed and leaned against a nearby shelf of books ‑ away from the fray. This was just too much.
Vachon noticed her retreat and came to investigate.
“I know I’m new to this, but what the hell are they talking about?!” she asked, exasperated by the overflow of information.
“Which part?” he replied smiling. He would need more than a few minutes to explain the Kindred and their ways.
Across the room, mirroring her confusion, Trapper began to ask her own questions.
Short but Sweet
Starr glared daggers at Devin, then turned her back on him.
Cash shook his head at the same time in response. “Oh, they won’t be coming here directly. They’ve got other things to take care of first.”
That brought Starr around again, only this time she looked hurt.
Trapper watched the whole exchange carefully, and then decided it was time to ask some questions. “Just what exactly has happened here? What is the Inner Circle? Who is Paolo? Harrod? Who did you not save? And where the hell is Methos?!”
A Pointed Exchange
“Everybody stop!” Schanke shouted, waving his arms for silence. He looked from Cash to Marc and back again. “Now I’m sure to some of you, this “Hand” stuff is interesting. Me, I just want my kid back, and I’m tired of the damn runaround!” He approached Marc. “So, now what you’re telling me, is that if I take Nick with me, we won’t get in the forest. Right?”
“Basically, yes,” Marc agreed.
“Because of your friends.”
Marc shrugged and held his empty hands up in a gesture of supplication. “My pack mates, my caern, they don=t like lee . . . ,” he looked around at pairs of narrowing eyes, “I mean vampires. They’ll try to kill you all.”
“But, if just the humans go, we could die anyway, because we’re looking for the vampires that snatched Jenny and Nat. Right?”
“So, then, tell me why I should go into the woods with you.”
Marc looked at Schanke steadily. “Because you stand a chance of making it if I take you. You’ll die for sure if I don’t.”
“Ok.” Schanke gave in. “I’m game. So call me stupid.”
“You’re stupid.” It was Nick who spoke up. “I really don’t like this, Schanke.”
“Me neither, Knight. But what choice do we have? Play it his way,” he jerked his head to indicate Marc, “or no way. I don’t see another option.” He stepped up and grasped Nick’s hands. “Don’t worry, partner. I’ll be fine.”
“You’d better be,” Nick muttered. “Myra’d never forgive me if anything happened to you.”
Schanke clapped his hands together. “Well, I’m ready. Evie, you game?”
“Count on it.” Evie hefted her duffel.
Trapper handed her the spare gun and a fresh clip. “All silver loads, Evie.” She hugged her friend. “Gods go with you.”
Fraser, Ray and Stanley stepped up to volunteer as well. If Nat was out there, they needed to find her.
Schanke looked around. “I guess that’s all of the humans here.” He looked to the werewolf. “So, now what?”
More the Merrier
“Count me in too,” Buffy appeared in the door of the room, her duffle bag hefted over her shoulder and in her patrol clothes. Giles stepped in the room after her, looking a bit disconcerted at the carnage.
“Hello, Constable.” Giles nodded at Fraser as he examined the dead were. “What was this?”
“Oh.” He took off his glasses and wiped his forehead. “Who is the Librarian here?”
A hand went up.
“I need some books.” Giles rattled off a few Latin demonology books he was looking for.
Micah and Duncan sauntered in.
“Well, it looks like we are just in time,” Duncan commented at the group poised at the door.
“Starr?” Micah restrained the urge to go to her. She wasn’t much for PDAs. Even from him. Besides she was with Cash. She had made her choice.
Starr nodded at Micah and took a step toward him. Then she checked herself and turned to Marcus. “What are an Immortal=s chances of getting through the forest?” She looked at the two newcomers. “As opposed to the vampires?”
Tendrils through the ‘Net
by Devin Saceur
“Give me five minutes . . . ” Devin had barely finished the sentence before he was seated at one of the library’s computers, opening a connection to the ‘Net. His fingers worked the keyboard with such speed and force that the enter key cracked nearly in half at the end of his first passage.
His patience, after waiting for what seemed an eternity for the chat applet to load, was rewarded by a simple response:
Well, good evening to you too . . . “And I thought you’d be pleased to hear from me.”
“Oh, but I am. I’ll be even more pleased when you inform me of your success.”
“Well, that may take a bit longer, my dark lord of the primordial abyss . . . my great winged mephistophelean arch‑nasty . . . my . . . you get the point, I’m sure.”
“Very funny. What is the problem?”
“A plurality of problems has set upon me this evening. I have little time to entertain you with the details of each. Let it suffice to say that the Inner Circle has been all but destroyed, a host of Justicars, Archons, and Black Hand assassins are en route, Hanna is apparently still in custody, and I’m surrounded by a fellowship of vampires, immortals, hunters, a few mortals, and one Garou . . . some of whom are about to head off to war against whoever is willing. Oh yes, and as usual, I’m being treated with great hospitality by all the shiny, happy people around me.”
A long period of “silence” followed. Then, “I see.”
“Don’t get overly vocal on me here, chief. I need some backup. If the Hand discovers me, a holy war is gonna break out and a lot of outsiders may be involved. Neither of us needs that.”
“They’ll arrive within the hour.”
“Fine. Send them to the Elysian Fields. They’ll be able to find me from there.”
Oil and Water
Kat’s lip went up in an automatic snarl; She would recognize that brogue anywhere.
Stepping into the open, she chanced to see Duncan MacLeod and Nick Knight embracing. They were apparently old friends. “Lovely,” she growled under her breath.
The Scotsman caught a glimpse of Kat over Knight’s shoulder and winked. Just as sincerely, the redhead blew him a kiss.
New ‘Salem Library
“Duncan!” Nick and Duncan exchanged a hug. “Well met.” Nick waved at the little band of humans. “They were just getting ready to set out.”
“They?” Duncan raised an eyebrow. “You’re not going?”
Trapper leaned forward to clasp Duncan’s hand in greeting. “Marc said that his pack mates would kill everyone if vampires came along.”
Duncan laughed. “Well, I shouldn’t have a problem then.”
Marc reappeared silently at Giles’ shoulder, with an armload of books. “How did you do that so quickly?”
Marc smiled shyly. “It’s my library.”
“Ah, yes. That does explain it.” Giles took the offered books. “Buffy? Will you be all right? Remember, Angel’s a part of this.”
Buffy looked at Giles grimly. “No problem. I can handle it.”
Nick looked around at the group preparing to go. “Marc, is this going to work?”
AImmortals shouldn’t be a problem. They don’t throw off the scent of ‘Other’.@
Nick nodded. “In that case, I think that the rest of us should return to the hotel.” He turned to Devin. “Would you be averse to returning to Elysian Fields and continuing our little discussion?”
Kat spoke up from where she stood, next to Vachon. “I think the bastard owes us an explanation. From what Cash and Starr have said, the hordes of Hell are on their way here, and we still don’t have a damn clue!”
Vachon raised his head to glare at Devin. “What about it, cabron?”
Devin shrugged and smirked. “I don’t see a problem with continuing our talk in a place that’s a little more comfortable.” Though outwardly calm, his mind was racing. At least, if he went to the hotel, there would be more backup . . . or cannon fodder, if it came to that. He’d lived this long. He had no intention of dying anytime soon.
Nick noticed Cash and Starr again. “Do you have a place to stay yet?”
Starr shook her head, still caught up in her private misery.
“I’ll call ahead and make sure that Jerome readies a suite for the two of you. I think it’s best if we all try to stay in one place.” He pulled out his cellphone to make the call.
Like a Bad Penny
The blood stain was gone already. He couldn’t believe it. There wasn’t any police tape or fingerprint dust either; This was one weird town. He put his ear to the Louis XIV door but heard nothing from inside. Smiling, he turned around and headed for his own suite.
Cautiously he opened the door. Lux didn’t want that vampire bitch Trapper ambushing him. He flicked on the light and was relieved to see that nothing had changed since his drunken excursion to visit the Sister. His collection still adorned the walls and an unopened bottle of Jack waited patiently for him atop the mini fridge. First things first.
He stripped off his bloody, ravaged T-shirt and checked out his death wounds. “Too cool,” he said to himself, turning this way and that in the mirror. His hands were feeling pretty good too, considering they had been crushed just this morning.
Next, he picked up the phone and placed a call to his manager in Hollywood. After a brief argument, Lux convinced him to put off the story board meeting for D.C.’s next video until later this month. “It’s good to be the lead singer,” he misquoted as he hung up.
Lux took a long, hot shower and tried to piece together a new plan. His new acquaintances seemed just as eager to decimate Sister Kat’s entourage as he was ‑ albeit for different reasons. He didn’t care; Dead was dead.
Did Somebody Say “Backup?@
By Devin Saceur
Hank was the sort of vampire whose very existence was a blackhead on the face of Kindred society. He’d been a “hillbilly” in his mortal life . . . and being dead hadn’t changed him very much. His grease and bloodstained overalls ‑ his only article of clothing ‑ were among the cleaner elements of his appearance. In his cheek was lodged a plug of Levi‑Garrett chewing tobacco the size of a baseball.
Hank spoke in sentence splices, so poor was his ability to maintain a single concept through to its mental completion. This was only made worse by the fact that the left side of his face had been devoid of motor control from birth, and as he worked to get his point across, a wave of tobacco juice would often roll out of his mouth and down his chin, where it seemed to be coalescing in a pool in his ample chest hair.
Nonetheless, Hank was a vicious Sabbat pack leader and among the most wanted Kindred of the New England states. He’d done it all, from the standard to the bizarre. He’d torn small children apart at the seams and beaten old ladies to death in the same evening. He’d raped both women and men alike and on some occasions had ground their corpses into bite‑size morsels for quick consumption afterwards.
Put simply, Hank Redman was the vampiric equivalent of trailer trash, with a sadistic spin that would make John Wayne Gacy and Jeffrey Dahmer weep at their mediocrity . . .
And tonight, he was havin’ some more fun. “This pup gots some fangs, yep! Gimme ‘at screw, Clint!” On the table before him were two gentlemen whose evenings had ended far too quickly.
They’d been instructed to meet with Devin Saceur at the Elysian Fields. The message had come through to their email box, in typical encrypted form, less than an hour ago. But as they prepared to leave their haven just outside the city limits . . .
The screams were beyond anything ever heard in the surrounding countryside. Wildlife fled in all directions upon hearing the mangled cries of those within the cabin. Inside, Hank was completing his first artistic statement of the evening. With a corkscrew and two railroad spikes, he’d made a garish representation of Christ on the Cross out of his first victim. Stepping away to admire his handiwork, he then looked to each of the five members of his pack in turn. “Well . . . wot the ‘ell ya gawkin’ at, ya saks o shit?! Ya like it or not?”
Clint was the one who spoke up, though he seemed uneasy about doing so. “‘S jus that . . . well . . . ya’ve done this kinda shit before, Hank. An’ they do it inna movees now. It ain’t . . . r..’riginal anymore.”
Clint should have expected what followed, but he was staring at the floor when the sledgehammer Hank had used to drive the nails came across and crushed his jawbone into a gelatinous mess. Hurled across the room by the blow, the backwoods art critic landed in a heap next to his other pack brothers, who were eagerly waiting for Hank to finish off his horror show on their remaining captive.
And Hank intended to do just that. But he was pissed now, having been criticized by one of his own. He’d lost his mood for fun and instead decided to end it quickly and get on to more important matters. As he neared the vampire still staked to the table, he withdrew his machete. “Now we gonna get yer boy, Devin. He ben stickin’ his nose in somma my shit and I ain’ fer takin’ kindly to it.” He raised the blade with a slow and deliberate hand. “But you gonna go ta sleep now . . . ”
The first chop, due to the rusted and nearly dull blade, didn’t quite finish the helpless vampire off. But Hank was only too happy to work his way through the spinal vertebrae with a few additional hacks. After four more, and a deluge of blood, the head rolled off the table.
Within five minutes of the massacre, Hank and his boys were speeding off in their decrepit Ford Ranger . . . heading straight for the New ‘Salem city limits.
It’s About Time!
As the entire library party left the building, they made use of the back door that opened up to an empty alley. The gunshots would have been problem enough for them. But any “unsavory” parties that happened to be watching for anything unusual wouldn’t have missed that large of a group.
They began to part ways, the vampires headed back toward the Elysian Fields, the rest heading toward the nearby woods.
Of course, as fortune would have it, their parting of ways took place near a manhole cover, one with a bright, yellow “X” spray‑painted on it.
Marc looked at it mournfully, shook his head, then started to walk away. Devin smirked and then, for some twisted reason only he would understand, knelt down and knocked “Shave and a haircut” on it, leaving out the last two knocks.
Marc growled, “Is that really necessary? Or are you just that depraved?”
“Yes . . . to both.” Devin looked up at him and smiled, giving everyone the chills. As Devin stood backup and turned to join the rest of the “You can’t go withs,@ the answering knock came.
Marc was visibly shocked, as was Devin, Starr and Cash. No one else seemed to understand what was so . . .
“…important about a couple of knocks?” Buffy was asking Evie quietly.
“You got me,” she answered quietly.
“Who cares?! Let’s go!” Schanke started walking off by himself, more than ready to face anything . . . alone if he had to.
“Well, I’m crushed, to say the least.”
They all heard the voice that echoed from the sewers. Then there was a harsh scraping, and the manhole cover lifted upwards. Marcus peeked his head out, for once not using his “Alexander” mask. He was suitably grotesque, as a Nosferatu should be, the purple growth that surrounded his bald, scaly head seemed to have grown larger.
“Oh, gross! Oh, it’s you!” Buffy exclaimed, almost having forgotten what Marcus really looked like.
“I love you too, cutie!” he replied sweetly, his mouth toothless except his front two teeth. He rose out of the sewers and walked casually over to Buffy. “I missed you sweet little face.” He kissed her soundly on the lips, then walked over to Marc as Buffy spit and raged.
“It’s been a while, boy,” he said by way of greeting.
“You never made a habit of meeting with me.”
“True. I hope you weren’t taking them into the woods alone?”
The others looked at each other, suddenly getting the feeling that they were being lead astray.
“I didn’t have much of a choice!” Marc protested. “This man absolutely insists on going out there to get his daughter. And she does need to be saved! I can’t take any of the le . . . vampires out there or the rest of the pack will kill us all!”
“I wasn’t implying that you were doing wrong, Marc. Only that your timing is off.”
“Say what?” Buffy was getting confused again, and hated it.
“What I am saying is that August won’t allowing anything to happen to the little girl. Not when she thinks Jenny will bring Hanna to her. But until then, she won’t allow you near her. Hanna is what she wants. If she doesn’t show, and you try to rescue the girl, I guarantee she’ll be dead before you set foot in the woods.”
Schanke looked at him, his heart in his eyes. “So then what are we supposed to do? Wait? For what? Hanna? She’s not coming! Ask Starr and Cash! She’s dead!”
“Not so. They merely couldn’t release her from her watery prison.”
“And?” Evie asked, not liking anything that was going on. “What are we supposed to do? Head to Venice in hopes we’ll succeed where a whole legion of vampires couldn’t?! Now, Hanna’s a friend and all, but I don’t think she’d ask us to commit suicide for her!”
“Not necessary!” Marcus held up a scaly hand, the index and middle fingers the same length, the poison dripping from his nails. “As we speak, Freidrick, Methos, John and Harrod are bringing the iron box here. The plan is to open it and leave her in the room with August.” He smiled, evil and hideous, at the thought of Hanna frenzying upon an unsuspecting August.
Found on Road . . .
By Devin Saceur
The Ranger rushed past Tom Wilkins at 1:05am . . . its speed was just over 70. But that wasn’t what had attracted the deputy’s attention. 70 miles per hour, by his estimation, was nothing worth interrupting the newest issue of Swank magazine over. He’d been waiting for months for the mag to review the amateur porn video he’d shot of his wife and some young buck from town.
It was the person dragging from the truck’s rear bumper that caused him to take his job somewhat more seriously. “What the hell?” In an instant, Tom had his tricked‑out Sheriff’s Department Mustang out of its roadside cubby hole and in pursuit of the vehicle.
“Dispatch, this is Wilkins on Route 14! I got a Ford Ranger, license plate N‑A‑T‑A‑S, dragging someone by the rear bumper! Request backup! Repeat . . . ”
Hank smiled as he noticed the lights appear from around the corner. “How fuggin’ patriotic! Look at dis, boys!” The entire truck lurched to a stop, throwing those in the back into the glass partition between the bed and the cab. Hank roared in laughter as he elbowed one of them in the head. “Get da fug outta my cab . . . and take dese guns wit ya!” He jammed a
couple of 12‑gauges out the shattered rear window, tossing a few boxes of shells along with them.
Deputy Wilkins was still screaming to what served as police dispatch in New ‘Salem when suddenly the truck in front of him stopped dead. But Tom had been watching his terminal screen also . . . and his reaction time suffered for it. Before he could get his foot to the brake, he’d already barreled over the poor soul who’d been dragging along behind the suspect vehicle.
He spun the wheel to the left, trying to avoid hitting the truck as well, but all Tom knew was the horrified cry and gurgle as the low‑riding frame of his ‘Stang made chunky salsa out of its victim. “Oh dear God!” was all he could manage.
But in the next breath, the deputy amended his exclamation with “holy shit!”, as the windows of his cruiser exploded and buckshot spread across his vest. A few pellets ripped into his neck as well, one opening a hole in his carotid artery. Wilkins struggled to reach his sidearm, but as he looked up, the only thing in his field of vision was something that appeared to be a ball of fire . . . heading directly for him.
L’amour Looks Something Like You
Nick and Trapper had said their reluctant good‑byes to the hunting party and told everyone else to meet them at their suite. They were going ahead to prepare things.
They stood in the alley behind the hotel and looked up. The curtains billowed out the open French doors of their suite, throwing a silken haze over the starlit ebony sky.
“Beautiful,” Nick murmured.
Trapper nodded. “Yes, it is.”
“No.” Nick touched her shoulder. “Not the sky. You.”
She turned and was lost in the depths of his eyes. Wordlessly, he picked her up and rose to the balcony. Still cradling her in his arms, he strode through the doors. Trapper looked at him, the gauzy draperies of the curtains clinging to his shoulders and hair. She began to giggle.
“You look like a sheik from a silent movie.”
He growled and shook free of the hangings. “And you, my willing captive.” Trapper snorted in response.
Nick carried her through the open door of the master bedroom to the huge four poster bed that dominated it. Gently, he lowered her to the coverlet and stepped back. She raised her arms to stop him, a small sound of protest rising in her throat.
He set his finger against her lips. “Shh. A moment.” He disappeared into the wardrobe and returned momentarily with an armful of scarves. His eyes twinkled with mischief.
Trapper raised her eyebrows as Nick produced a black sash from the multicolored pile. He cupped her chin and tenderly kissed both of her eyes shut before tying his improvised blindfold over them. He bent her back to the pillows as he kissed her mouth, taking her lower lip in his teeth for an instant. She reached to clasp him in her arms, but before she could make a sound, he had taken her small wrists and imprisoned them over her head with another satin scarf.
“There,” he said, admiring his handiwork. “Now we can begin.” His jacket fell to the floor. He pulled off her riding boots and slithered along her body, working his way up to her stomach. He pulled her tee shirt up and let his hot breath play along her bare skin. Trapper moaned and struggled to free herself. “Patience,” he hissed against her ribcage as he kissed his way up to her bra. “Mmm. Black, my favorite color.” He popped the front closure with one hand and freed her breasts.
Trapper felt the feather touch of his hands against her nipples. She pushed against him insistently. She could feel his tongue exploring the hollow of her throat. She gasped as he nipped her breasts.
“One more thing,” he reached and removed her leggings, his hands caressing her legs, her thighs.
“Please,” she whispered. The moment was exquisite; her need almost painful.
“As you desire, my heart,” Nick found himself lapsing into the speech of his past. He ripped her shirt in half with one hand, freeing her wrists with the other. His clothes flew from the bed, almost of their own accord, so quickly were they removed. Then he was on top of her, in her. As his fangs pierced her throat she screamed in ecstacy and sank her fangs into his neck.
The room vanished. Time itself vanished in the joining. They drowned in each other, in blood, in kisses, in need.
As they both came up for air, panting with release, a knock at the main door startled them back to reality.
The young man stood in the hall, waiting patiently by the cart. He could hear muffled laughter from within the suite, and a strangled “Be right there!” He rolled his eyes. Night shift.
Three’s a Crowd
On their short trip back to the Elysian Fields, Kat couldn’t stop thinking about Duncan MacLeod. She growled softly to herself, that was almost as bad as actually having him here.
“Ya got legs like a girl!” he laughed as Katherine modeled her kilt in the candlelight.
Doing her best to ignore the mouthy young immortal, she turned to Connor. “Is it really that bad?” she asked.
The older MacLeod, stifling a smile, gently turned Katherine around. After seeing every side of the terribly wrapped tartan, he said, “Well . . . ”
“It’s awful!” Duncan interjected. “It’s tied all wrong . . . and your legs! They’re too skinny!”
Katherine looked as if she might fly across the table and throttle him.
“Enough,” Connor scolded. To his vampire friend he said, “You would do better staying with the breeches.”
Like a parent modeling correct behavior, Katherine smiled broadly and thanked Connor for his advice. Grabbing her usual man’s clothing off the rough wooden table, she then stared expectantly at Duncan.
“Wha?” he asked, looking from her to Connor.
“Out!” Katherine shouted and gestured to the door.
“But it’s cold . . . ” he began, but realized the futility of it as his mentor went to the front door and opened it. Connor tilted his head, urging his younger clansman out into the night.
Undoing the black wool kilt, Katherine said, “He is still angry with me for having fooled him, n’est‑ce pas?” Although it had been years since she had left France, she reverted to her home language in times of stress.
“He’ll get over it,” Connor replied, taking the yards of MacLeod tartan from her and folding it. He turned just as she finished with her breeches and pulled her against him. With long red curls and her Cavalier clothing, anyone looking in the window would have seen two men kissing.
“This is what got us in trouble the last time,” she kidded him. Last week’s scene with the confused, young immortal was still fresh in her mind.
“Forget Duncan,” he murmured. “He’s a grown man with a long life ahead of him. There will be harder things for him to deal with than being bested by a woman in man’s clothing.”
“Like vampires, perhaps?” she asked quietly.
“Perhaps,” he said, kissing her one last time before going to the door. A sly grin appearing, Connor asked, “How long do you think we should leave him out there?”
“Until he cools off?” she replied, pulling on her boots.
“In that case,” he laughed and began to walk away from the doorway.
Trying to sound firm and in her best imitation of the highlands, Katherine said, “Now Connor MacLeod, you open that door!”
“Yes sir,” he answered dutifully, pulling the handle.
Katherine’s visit lasted only ten days longer, but each one was filled with bickering. Duncan teased her about her abnormal height and unfeminine behavior and Katherine berated him about his inability to read and his barbaric ways. He bothered her about not eating and she harangued him about his bathing habits. Even the good‑tempered Connor was relieved when Katherine decided to leave early out of frustration.
The two casual lovers agreed to get together again, but in London after Duncan had finished his training. Which they did and which they repeated every 20 years for the next 370. Given neither was otherwise occupied. Or dead.
Occasionally Katherine would run into Duncan and every time the two of them would revert to childish brattiness, embarrassing themselves and everyone around them. Somewhere along the line he had learned of her vampirism and had given her an even harder time.
Kat laughed aloud at the memories in spite of herself. She and Vachon entered the lobby of New Salem’s most prestigious hotel, about to face a whole new set of troubles.
Detours in the Face of Danger
by Devin Saceur
Kat and Vachon had almost forgotten that Devin was still behind them, walking ever so casually into the hotel. He moved past the desk and toward the lounge, where Fiona Apple’s “Slow Like Honey” could be heard.
“Where do you think you’re going, Devin?”
All that Javier received for a response was silence as Devin kept walking, as though he’d caught the scent of some prey. Deciding that the man wasn’t going to disappear on them . . . given that he would have already, if he’d wanted to, Vachon proceeded to the elevator.
Devin knew before he entered the room. Near the bar was a woman, wrapped tightly in a black silk high‑cut dress. She wasted little time covering the distance between the two of them. “I’ve been alone here . . . waiting.”
Without further word, she snagged his collar and led him to the dance floor. Devin shrugged his field jacket off casually and met her advance in rhythm. Their bodies wove together in a way that could only have been the effect of many years together.
For some time, the room seemed a vision of the tenderness between the two. There was nothing crude or disrespectful in their display . . . rather, they appeared as a loving couple reunited after far too long apart. Their lips met gently as the music swept into a mild crescendo. Fiona’s voice rose with the melody “so I stretch myself across, like a bridge . . . and I pull you to the edge.”
The woman rested her head on Devin’s shoulder for a moment, as though the mere action brought an indescribable relief. “When the call came in, and I heard your name . . . it carried me back a century. I recalled your touch on that night we stood in Hoffenplatz Square, gazing at the moon in the water of that grand fountain. The scent of the noble blood across from us . . . the caress of the summer wind . . . and the simple melodies of the corner quartet that came over to play for us as we held each other.”
In spite of himself, Devin found that he was equally overwhelmed by the memory. The night had been August the 7th in 1891 . . . and he had fallen in love with her in the span of a few hours. But for the depth of emotion accompanying his reverie, the man’s pragmatic nature quickly conquered his sensitivity. A potential storm was approaching, and he needed some extra guns. “And you were all they sent?”
A fierce slap met his irreverence. One of her nails cut a deep gash across his chin and brought out a healthy flow of blood. “You should know by now, darling . . . ” her posture was exaggerated, akin to a “flapper” from the mid‑twenties. “I am the only one you will ever require. But if you must know, two more will arrive shortly.”
She brought her tongue into a slow glide along his chin. Following the line of blood to his lips, she gently but assertively pushed him against the wall. Falling away from the kiss, her fangs found rest on his throat, where she drew blood with a force that left him with little more than the strength to moan.
As she pulled her mouth away, he slid to the floor, stunned by the draft she had taken from him. “Anna . . . ” he whispered in exhaustion, “I’ve missed you.”
“Don’t you even think of passing out on me, Devin. This moment has been in waiting for years.” Without hesitation or grace, Anna straddled him as he stared up at her, a near‑absurd grin lighting up his face. “Your friends upstairs can get along fine without you.”
Out in the lobby, the night clerk shifted uncomfortably as he listened to the increasingly clear sounds of a rather . . . athletic encounter in the lounge. “Vampires . . . ” he muttered without feeling. It was part of the job.
Questions and Answers
Outside the Library
“So, Marcus,” Schanke had turned, his retrieved coat flapping around him like a cloak in the dim light from the streetlights. “What you’re saying is that even if we go into the woods tonight, we’re not going to find Jenny.” He walked back to stare at the Nosferatu, making sure that he didn’t get too close. “Am I right here?”
Marcus smiled. It was more of a grimace in his current state. “Yes.”
Schanke turned to Marc. “Now, Marc, tell me something. If vampires can’t go into the forest,” he stopped for a moment. “Correct me if I’m wrong, but if it’s just us humans.” He nodded at Duncan and Micah. “And Immortal types, why are we going into the woods at night?” He was back in cop mode now, pacing and stroking his chin in thought. “I mean, wouldn’t it make more sense to go in the daylight? If we’re after vampires, I mean?”
Marc nodded. “I see your point, detective.”
Benton Fraser watched the exchange. “It would make it simpler to rescue Natalie in the daylight.”
Schanke nodded. “Yeah, yeah. It would.” He spun to face the librarian. “So, what I want to know, is, if it’s easier in the daytime, why did you want to meet us at midnight?”
All eyes turned to stare at Marc, and they wanted an answer.
Marc looked confused for a moment. “It just seemed appropriate. I get off work at midnight, and my pack mates are more active at night. I thought that we might be able to enlist their help.”
“Nice story, kid.” Schanke looked unconvinced. “Now explain to me why there are two dead werewolves in the library.”
More and More Answers
Marc shook his head. “I don’t know. You’d have to ask their killer why they are dead. As far as I can tell by their scents, they were Abominations.”
They all looked at each other in puzzlement until Evie volunteered, “Remember what Marcus had said, back when Jonas attacked Freidrick, that if he was made into a vampire he would be an abomination?” She looked at Marc. “That’s it, right? They were Garou that were made into vampires?”
He nodded. “That’s what they smell like. Unfortunately, I can’t be sure, considering the condition they are in.” He looked pointedly at their mangled bodies.
“Alright,” Schanke sighed. “So, let’s all go back to the hotel, since there is nothing we can do tonight. And ask old Devin what he was up to. Man, I do not like that guy . . . ” He walked off talking to Evie, the others following close behind, and not noticing that neither Marc nor Marcus followed.
“That wasn’t fair you know,” Marc accused him sullenly.
Marcus shrugged. “When am I fair?”
“You completely undermined any trust they might have had in me. And for what? To convince them they’d be safe in the woods during the day? Hell, it’s more dangerous in the daytime than at night!”
“The point is to keep them from going at all! They’d be lucky if they even made it to the caves, let alone made it back out with the girl, and all of them still alive!”
“I would have helped them! The pack would have listened to me! They know Hanna, their friends of hers! For her, the pack would have listened!”
“You can’t be sure of that, and you know it. How long has it been since she was here last? Twenty years?”
Marc nodded mutely, remembering too well the last night Hanna was in New Salem. And what it cost her.
“And you think, after all this time, that the pack would remember what she did?”
A single tear glided down Marc’s cheek. “It’s not something anyone could forget.”
Marcus sighed, “That may be. But it’s still better not to risk it until she is here, herself, to remind them of their promise to her.”
“Alright. But I hope you’re right about August and that girl. They’ll never forgive us if your wrong.” He changed into lupus and ran off toward the woods, leaving Marcus looking after him.
“I know,” he whispered.
Don’t You Want me Baby?
Lux shoved everything into his duffel bag. He was ready to go. No reason to stay here, he thought, right in the middle of enemy camp. It would be too easy to get caught.
One last glimpse into the mirror . . . well-aged leather pants, black button‑down untucked, black cowboy boots and his long, rock star hair . . . perfect. Scowling, he waved the Ruger Blackhawk around for effect.
Mr. Interior stuck the .357 in the side pocket of his duffel bag and turned out the lights. Almost to the elevator he began to smile. He made his way to Sister Kat’s suite, looked both directions, then kicked the door in. He quickly stepped into the room and pulled the door shut behind him. It couldn’t close completely, but it looked normal enough from a few feet away.
Their room was nice ‑ much nicer than his West Wind suite. A modified pyramid stood in the back of the large room with a king‑size bed on top. Lux walked up to it and let his imagination run wild.
Sister Kat leaned in the bathroom doorway in a leather pushup bra and thigh high spike heeled boots. She looked at Lux with blatant longing and began to run her hands over the bare flesh of her stomach and thighs. The hair between her legs was a dark red and Sister twirled tufts of it around her fingers, occasionally exploring deeper.
Lux ordered her over to him. She looked down in shame and meekly crept to the foot of the pyramid. He called her a slut and she begged his forgiveness as she stepped up next to the bed. He back handed her as hard as he could and she fell by his feet.
Sister Kat looked up at her master, pleadingly. Her lip was bleeding and her bra straps had slipped off leaving the tips of her breasts exposed. Her nipples were hard; Lux knew this was turning her on as much as it was him.
Lux unzipped his pants and pulled himself out. There was no need to get undressed. Sister Kat gratefully sought her penance and took him into her mouth. Saliva and blood mixed as she voraciously sucked on him.
Just as he was coming, Lux took hold of her short red hair and pulled her head away from his crotch. She mewled in hunger and disappointment. In his other hand was the Ruger. As the spasms took him, he pulled the trigger.
Lux Interior opened his eyes and saw the lovely gift he had squirted all over Sister Kat’s pillow. He zipped up his pants and laughed all the way out of the room and back to the caves.
I’ll Take What’s In The Box
On the Street, Outside the Library
“Whoa, shit, what am I thinking!” Evie stopped short and turned back.
“What?” Schanke grabbed her arm. “Where are you going?”
“I forgot to ask him something.”
Evie ran back to where the Nosferatu was still standing, watching the retreating Marc. “So. Are they shipping her three‑day priority, or is it seven‑day ground delivery for Hanna?”
Marcus gave her a puzzled frown, which caused her to elaborate. “When do we expect Hanna‑in‑the‑box to arrive?”
Waiting for the Delivery
There were blood tears rolling down Marcus’ hideous cheeks by the time he stopped laughing.
“Oh, my dear, I can see why she enjoys your company!” He wiped at his face, still chuckling.
Evie grinned and then asked, “So? When can we expect her?”
Marcus shrugged, “It depends. They’ve got to lift the box out of the water, once they find it. they have to pry it open, and make sure someone is present to be dinner! They might actually wait until they have her over here, since taking a plane over the water with her is going to be hell!” He sighed. “It will all depend on how cooperative they can get the little one. She’s bound to be terribly pissed.”
Evie nodded slightly. “I’ll let everyone know to expect hell when she gets here.”
Marcus nodded, smiled, then slipped away down the manhole cover with the spray painted yellow “X” . . .
Marcus walked through the murky waters of the sewers, clinging to the strength of his home. He could almost feel his dead Childer about him, almost hear them speaking to him. Blood tears streamed down his face as he reached the center of his labyrinth, this time from grief. When he had left his mortality behind, his empire had disappeared almost overnight. This time, it was he who was left behind, and he collapsed under the burden.
He sank into his favorite chair, a relic that an old friend had given him long ago. He felt slightly guilty at the lies he had told Evie, Marc and the rest of their group. But how could he have told them the truth?!
At least Harrod had the forethought to get Starr and Cash out of the way before they learned the truth about what happened in Venice. That the True Hand was finally in control of the city, and that all vampires would be marching to their tune soon, whether they be Kindred, Sabbat or Black Hand. Or that Paolo, Hanna’s long‑thought dead Childe was responsible for the whole thing.
He didn’t want to think about the implications. Or the effect this would all have on the mortal world. For centuries they had followed the Masquerade, keeping mortals in the dark about their existence, knowing that, should the mortal realm rally against them, they would cease to be. Vampires, Garou, Immortals . . . all living “supernaturals” would be hunted down to extinction.
Gehenna was approaching, only it would be mortals they faced, not Antedeluvians. The whole prospect made Marcus sick.
But not as sick as the one fact that he couldn’t bear to tell Evie and her friends. That Hanna was already here, in New Jerusalem. That she, in her iron prison, was in the possession of her bloodthirsty Childe and his minions. And that they had every intention of making her one of them . . .
Arthur sighed and shifted from foot to foot as he waited for someone to let him into the suite. He usually enjoyed working nights. It had been so quiet the last few weeks that he had plenty of time for reading or watching movies in the different suites. Now, the hotel seemed to be full to bursting with vampires. Vampires ONLY ordered at night. He scratched his head as he looked at the cart. Wait a minute, he thought. If they’re vampires, then why am I bringing espresso up here?
The Baroque Style door to the Louis XIV Suite slowly swung open. Arthur’s jaw dropped. Standing in the doorway was a disheveled woman with a mane of blonde hair. This wouldn’t have been terribly unusual for the young waiter. He’d been around the block once or twice. This woman, however, was holding a bloody silk sheet around her, and licking something red off her fingers.
“Uh, ahem, uh I=m . . . ” he stammered.
“Room Service?” she finished for him, smiling innocently.
“Uh, yes. Yes! I’m Room Service.”
She moved back to allow him to enter.
Nick was walking out of the bedroom, tucking his shirt into his jeans. “Sorry we took so long.” He waved a hand. “Just put the cart anywhere.”
Arthur wheeled the cart to the kitchenette. He was trying not to stare.
Nick had gone over to Trapper. He pulled her hair back and kissed her hard on the mouth, licking the blood from her lips. He moved to kiss her ear and whispered, “I think we’ve probably given the poor kid enough of a show. Don’t you think?” Trapper stifled the laugh rising in her throat and nodded. Rising on tiptoes, she kissed the detective’s nose and sauntered into the bedroom to dress, dropping the sheet as she closed the door.
Arthur stood frozen by his cart. His eyes were saucers. Nick gave him a wry smile and handed him a tip.
“Thanks. I think we can handle it from here.”
Arthur stuttered his thanks, stuffed the tip into his pocket and backed out the door into the hall. The door closed.
He gulped and loosened his collar. Someone must’ve been screwing around with the thermostat, he thought. It sure was hot in here. He wandered back down toward the service elevator, wondering what was behind the other closed doors. He wasn’t quite sure he wanted to know.
The kitchens at Elysian Fields were, of necessity, open 24 hours a day, and stocked with the most exotic in consumables. One never knew when a patron was going to be hit with a sudden urge to eat baby quail eggs, for example, or a side of beef . . . raw. The equipment was, like everything else in the hotel, spotless. It was Thelma=s pride to keep it that way.
She was busying herself with another cart for the Knight party when Arthur staggered in. She spoke to him without looking up.
AIt=s about time you got back. I=ve got another cart just about ready to take up.@ When there was no response, she looked around with a sound of impatience. AArthur?@
Arthur stood just inside the door, blinking. Thelma wiped her hands on her apron, sighed and walked over to him.
AArthur!@ She snapped her fingers in front of his face. Damn. She hated it when he did this.
AVampires,@ he whispered hoarsely.
Thelma sighed. Jerome never should have hired this one. He was just too normal. If he reacted this way every time he saw a few plain old vampires, imagine what would happen the next time a Nosferatu stayed in the hotel. She dug around in her pocket until she found her smelling salts.
Uncorking the vial, she held it under Arthur=s nose. AArthur! Wake up, boy!@
Arthur=s head jerked back. His eyes watered as he blinked furiously. Thelma slapped his cheek lightly. ADon=t just stand there! This needs to go up to the same suite!@
Arthur winced and wiped his eyes. AIsn=t there anyone else that can do it?@ he said in a very small voice.
The kitchen supervisor drew herself up to her full 5 feet, 2 inches and put her hands on her hips. ANo, there isn=t!@ she said firmly. AThis is your job!@ She wagged a finger in his face. AYou either get with the program, or find another place to work!@
AYes >m,@ Arthur said miserably. He wheeled the cart into the hall toward the service elevator. He really needed to find another job. Why his parents had wanted to move to such a weird place, he=d never know.
Thelma watched his retreating back. He=d never last. Good help was so hard to find.
By Trapper & Hanna
Cash and Starr had made it to the hotel. It had been an effort getting there, even with help. Exhaustion had tunneled their vision and thoughts down to the next step, the next block. The doors silently slid open, and Starr looked around at the understated luxury of the lobby. The exquisite furnishings, the scented air all combined to make her realize just how tired she was. More to the point, she couldn’t remember the last time she’d had a bath. It seemed like they’d been running forever.
Jerome’s carefully modulated tones brought them around.
“Excuse me? Mr. Gangrel?” he pleasantly inquired.
Cash looked at him with eyes that were beyond tired. “Yeah, that’s me.”
“Here’s your room key.” Jerome handed Cash a red key card. “Mr. Knight requested a suite for you. I thought it appropriate, under the circumstances, to give you the clan’s suite.” He gestured to the elevator. “Top floor. I’ve taken the liberty of stocking it with refreshment, and the staff will see to your clothes.”
Cash managed a wan smile of thanks. He and Starr helped each other to the elevator, the walking wounded. A quick shower and a drink sounded like paradise at this point.
As the elevator reached their floor, they both nearly stumbled out through the doors. They leaned on each other for support, and that almost wasn’t enough. As they neared their suite, they heard a rather frightened and timid voice call out to them.
“Were you there too?”
They both turned slowly to look, and saw a bloody mess of a teen‑aged girl. She was probably beautiful when clean, at least enough to be popular, but now she looked just as bad as they did, if not worse. Her hair, which might have been dark naturally, was almost pitch black with crusted blood. What had been a pristine white dress was now almost covered in crimson. Cash had a quick, twisted thought: a prettier version of Carrie on prom night.
“Were you there too?” Her voice rose a few octaves, and they both realized she was on the verge of hysteria. Understandable, all things considered.
“Were we where?” Cash asked softly as she stumbled toward them, looking for comfort.
“At the mall!? I was there! I went shopping, I wanted a new dress even though Giles says that it’s too dangerous in this city after dark I couldn’t help it. My other dress was wrinkled, and I didn’t want to wear it like that, so I went to get a new dress and then they . . . and then they . . . they . . . ” She covered her face with her hands and started keening.
“Oh shit!” Cash snarled. Together, he and Starr pulled the girl to them and dragged her to their suite. She didn’t fight them, just kept keening.
Cash locked the door and turned on all the lights. Starr tried talking to the girl, but made no progress.
“What the hell should we do?” Cash asked his companion, at a complete loss.
Starr drew her hand back, and then slapped the girl hard across the face. The girl’s eyes grew wide in shock, but she stopped keening.
“She was hysterical! That’s the only thing that works! Sorry!”
Cash shook his head in disgust. He looked at the blood‑soaked girl. “Do you live here? Are you here with someone?”
She looked at him and whispered, “I don’t know.”
Starr chewed on her lip a bit, then asked, “What’s your name?”
She thought about it for a moment before answering. “Cordelia.”
Pain is so Close to Pleasure
Leo, the bartender, was watching a rerun of the Orioles/Mariners game on the big screen TV in the lounge as he did his stock check. He was trying to concentrate on Edgar’s batting form, in spite of the noises from the corner table. He jumped as the phone on the bar rang.
“Lounge, Leo speaking.”
“Leo, this is Jerome.”
Leo rolled his eyes. As if he wouldn’t know Jerome’s voice after all these years. As if the manager couldn’t walk fifty feet to talk to him. He sighed. “Yeah, Jerome, what’s up?”
Jerome could be heard clearing his throat. “Would you tell the ‘athletic’ couple in your corner booth that Mr. Saceur is wanted upstairs by Mr. Knight?”
“Oh, yeah, sure.” Leo hung up. Wonderful. Bartender, bouncer and now messenger. He heaved his bulk up and lumbered around the bar to end up at the dark corner table. Even the little candle on the table had been extinguished. He twisted his wedding ring.
“Uh, ‘scuse me,” he began. “Mr. Saceur?”
A muffled, faraway sounding “Yes?” was heard in reply.
“A Mr. Knight has requested your presence upstairs.”
There was a flurry of movement in the corner, and Leo swore he could hear teeth gnashing.
“Yes, thank you. I’ll be right up.”
“Sure.” Leo backed up in a hurry, feeling a sudden need to put a bit of distance between himself and the patrons that had become so incredibly silent.
He was mopping his brow with a bar towel as he walked back to his post at the bar. The phone rang again.
“Lounge,” he began.
Jerome cut him off before he could deliver his usual greeting. “Yes, yes, Leo. Is Mr. Saceur still there?”
“Yeah. He and his friend are just getting ready to leave.”
“I have a message for him.”
“Hold on.” Leo put the phone down. “Mr. Saceur? The telephone’s for you.”
Devin pulled himself loose from the shadows with some difficulty and tried to look dignified as he approached the bar. He took the phone. “Saceur.”
“This is the front desk. I have a message for you, but the party didn’t leave his name.”
“That’s okay. What’s the message?”
“666.” The phone fell from his hand into the cradle. It was the worst possible news. No backup was coming.
Storming the Heavens
by Devin Saceur
“We’d better be going, Anna . . . ”
He’d barely finished and she was at his side, strapping a beautifully crafted Kukri blade to her thigh. Leo jumped back a step. He’d been around more than his share of vampires, but this woman had moved with extreme speed and wore an expression of seriousness bordering on the deadly.
Devin sensed the man’s discomfort and moved quickly to exit the lounge. He gathered up his jacket and slid a roll of fifty‑dollar bills across the bar. “I sincerely hope that we haven’t unnecessarily troubled you.”
Plucking up the wad hurriedly, as though fearing that his benefactor may revoke the offering, Leo smiled. “I’ll get over it.”
Devin returned the smile graciously. “I’m sure you will.”
As they made their way to the elevator, Anna fell into laughter. “Oh dear . . . this reminds me of that night in Minsk just before the turn of the century. You remember, right?”
Devin shot her a look, as if to say, “please don’t go there.”
But she wasn’t deterred in the slightest. “You slipped a bribe to that bartender who discovered us removing the head of a Tremere in the storage area. Then, on our way out, he screams ‘murderers!’ and we end up fighting with what . . . fifteen or twenty soldiers . . . ?”
“It was eight soldiers, Anna,” he smiled as the memory took shape. “But you’re forgetting the most important part. I killed that bartender later in the evening.”
“Oh yes . . . in the brothel, right?”
“That’s right. He’d taken his bribe money and gone there looking for a trick. I shot him in the back with an arrow as he was enjoying it. But the thing I shall always remember about that moment was hearing the whore beneath him cry out ‘oooooooh, you’re bulging!'”
Both of them broke into laughter, nearly tumbling over onto the floor. The elevator door opened then and they stumbled their way inside. As they turned to face the doorway, they both noticed Jerome standing behind the front counter, a look of horror stamped on his face.
“G’night, Jerome . . . ” Devin called out with a grin and an exaggerated wave.
“Now what?” Anna giggled, though she was struggling to return to the issue at hand.
“Now we have a discussion with Mr. Knight. Following that, we wait. I have a room where we can stay . . . the Mesopatamian Suite.”
“Oh . . . how tasteful.”
“Isn’t it though? I thought it the perfect choice of decor for those fun‑filled evenings of human sacrifice and cuneiform scribbling.”
Knowing the man too well to accept anything he said at face value, Anna slid herself across the elevator and planted a kiss on his neck. “How charming, my love. I see you haven’t changed a bit.”
Nick hung up the phone and stared at it. He let out a deep sigh.
Trapper came up behind him and wrapped her arms around his waist. ALaCroix@ she murmured into his back.
He nodded and turned, clasping her hands in his own. AYes, LaCroix. He=s in the hotel, and will be here shortly.@ He glanced at the overflowing room service carts, and then back at her. ADo you have enough espresso to get through this?@ he grinned.
Trapper laughed and walked over to fall onto the chaise lounge. AShouldn=t I be asking you that, considering who=s coming to our little meeting?@
Nick joined her laughter as he leaned over her. AI prefer to get my caffeine second‑hand.@ His eyes turned to molten gold as he moved toward her neck.
There was an insistent knock on the door.
AShowtime,@ Trapper said. Nick chuckled and went to answer it.
Kat and Vachon were the first ones to arrive. Javier went straight for the carts to find out what interesting vintages Nick had ordered. Kat looked from Nick to Trapper and grinned.
AI see you had a good time getting things ready.@
Nick looked down to keep from smiling, and Trapper looked up at the ceiling, whistling.
AJust as I thought.@ Kat gave them a smirk and fell into the soft couch. Vachon joined her, bringing two glasses and a bottle of Rosamund. She sniffed the open bottle. AMmm. Good nose.@
Another knock at the door heralded the next guests.
This time, it was Angelique and La Croix who breezed into the room.
ANicholas, Trapper,@ La Croix nodded. When he saw Kat, he raised his eyebrows and quirked his mouth. AKatherine. How delightful to see you.@
Kat held her hand out to him. AI=m sure.@
He kissed her hand, trying to read her eyes. He was met with a brick wall. Angelique glided to the couch, glass in hand.
Another knock at the door stopped further conversation. Cash, Starr and a slightly cleaned up Cordelia came in. Cash nodded at Nicholas. AThanks for setting up the suite.@ He looked sideways at Cordelia. AIt seems we=ve got a problem.@
AI can see that.@ Nick frowned. Kat and Trapper were already on their feet and moving to see what they could do, when Angelique caught sight of Starr.
AYou!@ she spat. AWhat are you doing here?!@
AMe?!@ Starr glared right back at Angelique.
The rest of the party traded looks. AUh, oh,@ Trapper said.
Kat nodded. AI think it=s going to get ugly in here.@
Good Girl Gone Bad
Spike was pouting in his corner, still pissed at himself for losing his toy. He had plans for that little girl, and now she was long gone.
Natalie screamed again as Dru bit into her neck again. “Dru! I warned you about that! You’ve got to play nice with Nat, or the others won’t like it!”
She raised her head, a thin trickle of blood running down one corner of her mouth. “Oh, love,” she drawled slowly, “I am sorry. I just couldn’t help myself. I was so hungry, and her neck was so pretty.” She almost purred as she stroked Natalie’s well-bruised neck. It wasn’t the first time Spike had to chastise her for biting Nat.
There was laughter in the pathway leading to their cave, and Spike drew himself up, ready to fight.
Angel sauntered in, followed by a tasty‑looking blonde in almost nonexistent black leather, each dragging behind them two unconscious mortals.
“Ooooh!” Dru exclaimed. “Presents! For me!” She moved to Angel and lay her head on his chest. “Thank you, Angel!”
He kissed the top of her head. “Don’t mention it.”
The blonde shot Dru a nasty look, and was interrupted by Spike from doing anything drastic.
“Hello, lovely!” He reached up, tracing a fingernail down the curve of her neck. “The name’s Spike, and I hope you’re here to play as well.”
She smiled, showing her extended fangs, then she leaned down to him, and licked his lips playfully. “I’m definitely staying. To play, to eat . . . ” She looked pointedly at Spike. “…to do . . . much more.”
He pulled her to him and kissed her hard. She bit his lip, and he stifled a gasp against the taste of blood. She laughed as she pulled away, letting him know that the bite was simply love play, and nothing threatening.
Had he been mortal, his blood would have been boiling, but as it was, he found the strength to ask her what her name was.
Nat screamed again when she heard the answer.
Starr had undergone a rather long past couple of days of hell. And the month previous hadn’t been any better. Come to think of it, the past few years had been hell, and she was tired of the high‑and‑mighty Queen Bitch of the Universe giving her shit.
“Listen, Angelique, I’m tired. I’m tired of you, I’m tired of him,” she pointed at LaCroix, “I’m tired of fighting, I’m tired of being dirty, I’m tired of all the shit that keeps happening. But most of all, I’m tired of you blaming me for something that I didn’t do. Now, either you can be a grown up and get over it, or you can spend the rest of your eternal life giving me shit. I really don’t care either way. But if you so much as say one nasty thing to me until this is over, I’m going to forget that I was nice to you and saved your worthless life from that raving lunatic, and correct my mistake. You got that?”
Trapper and Kat took Cordelia aside, away from the bitch fight that looked about to explode. Trapper handed the shell‑shocked, bloody teenager a can of Diet Coke and sat her down in the small alcove next to the kitchenette.
She touched Kat on the arm and stepped a few feet away. “See if you can get anything out of her. I’m going to go down to the British Suite and see if Xander and Willow can help out.”
Kat nodded and looked back at Cordelia. “While you’re at it, you might see if she has a change of clothes.”
“Good thought.” Trapper stopped to let Nick know and opened the door to leave.
Devin stood in the doorway with his companion, just getting ready to knock.
“Well. I see you finally deigned to show up.”
“My rooms are down the hall. I thought,” he paused for a moment, “WE thought we should at least drop in.” He wore his usual knowing smirk.
Trapper noticed his slightly rumpled appearance and cocked her eyebrow at him in amusement. “Refreshments are on the cart.” She tilted her head to indicate Angelique and Starr, who still stood facing each other. “You’ll want to avoid them for the moment.” She stepped past them into the hall. “Enter of your own free will and accord. I’ll be right back.”
Anna looked at Devin as they entered the suite. “That sounded ominous, darling. How many more of them have you managed to piss off so far?”
Devin shrugged and walked in. Trapper sped off down the hall in search of teenagers and answers.
The moment Trapper had suggested questioning, Kat had toned herself down. Now, as she approached the gore-covered girl, all sense of otherness was gone.
“Man!” she said, as she sat down and stole the mortal girl’s Diet Coke. “Like how weird was that?”
The redhead faked sipping the noxious stuff in the can but continued with the banter. “We were lucky to get out alive, huh?”
Cordelia, still lost somewhere, turned her head but not her eyes toward Kat. “Yeah,” she whispered.
“All that blood . . . WAY over the top,” Kat sighed and held out the soda.
The girl focused a moment on her new companion, took her drink back and said, “Definite overkill.” She smiled briefly at her own sick joke. “You look okay,” Cordelia said softly, “A little too much biker chick, but you’re clean, at least.”
Kat, relieved that the mortal was coming back to reality, said in an embarrassed voice, “My parent’s cut me off.”
Cordelia shook her head in sympathy. “Is that why you were at the mall?”
“Yeah, window shopping. That is, until . . . ”
“Until the polo team of death showed up,” Cordelia finished for her. Her lip began to quiver and suddenly her body was wracked with sobs. “People were running and screaming,” her voice hitched in her throat, “and they were cutting them down like it was a game . . . ”
Gathering the Troops
Trapper stood in front of the door to the British Museum Suite. It had been painted to look like an Egyptian mummy case. She smiled. It looked too nice to knock on, almost.
Xander flung the door open. “What’s the matter, Cordy? Lose your key?” He came up short in front of Trapper. “Oh, uh, sorry. I thought you were . . . ”
“She’s why I’m here.” Trapper walked past him into the room. Yes, it really did look like the museum.
Willow peeked around the corner from the large library the suite contained. “Trapper? What’s up? Is Buffy ok?”
Trapper smiled at Willow’s concern. “As far as I know. But Cordelia’s not.” She looked at both of them. “Do either of you know where she was going tonight?”
They answered in one voice, “The mall.”
Willow shrugged and put her hands in her pockets. “You know Cordelia. She likes to check out malls. She says it gives her a feel for a place.”
“So,” Xander prompted. “You were going to tell us about Cordelia?”
“Actually, I need to take you to her. She’s really not in very good shape.” She turned to Willow. “I need a change of clothes for her, too.”
Willow motioned for Trapper to follow her and headed for Cordelia’s room. Xander trailed along behind.
“So, is this not good as in she’s bent her credit card? Or is it not good, like really not good?”
“Just ignore him,” Willow said as she opened the door. “He does this so you won’t see how worried he is.”
“Worried? I am so completely not worried.”
Trapper and Willow ignored him as they entered the room. It looked like a cyclone had hit the entire “Brass Plum” part of Nordstrom’s and left it all over the room. Stacks of clothes were piled everywhere. In the corner stood two weary looking, deflated suitcases.
“Whew!” Trapper whistled in amazement. “Which is Cordelia’s?”
“All of it,” Willow said matter‑of‑factly. She stepped gingerly past a stack of shoes. “I’ll find something for her.” She grabbed an armful of clothing and stuffed it into an empty tote. “Ok. I think I’m done.”
“Let’s go then.” They started for the door.
“Are you going to tell us what’s going on?” Xander touched Trapper’s shoulder.
She spun around and pulled down her shades. “Xander, chill.”
He threw up both hands. “Hey, I’m chill. I’m totally frosty.”
“C’mon. I’ll try to explain on the way back to our room. But, I have to tell you, I don’t know much of what’s happened.”
They all walked down the hall in the direction of the suite.
“So, could you just, I don’t know, give us the high points?”
“She’s in shock and drenched in blood.” Trapper said over her shoulder. “Fortunately, none of it seems to be hers.”
She got to the suite and opened the door. “I’m hoping that you can help find out.”
Chill to the Bone
Lobby of Elysian Fields
Two haggard looking, blood-covered women stumbled into the lobby. They looked like survivors of a war, ragged and pale, Huge eyes haunted by sights that should never be witnessed because of the cruelty of the atrocities.
They walked like zombies, one faltering foot in front of another, shivering in fright and the shock of surviving the horror that had claimed so many with such vicious suddenness.
One of the bellboys approached and stopped them. “Is there a problem?” he motioned for the other bellboy to get Mr. Jerome. The few patrons of the exclusive hotel were staring at the women in abject horror and the limo driver looked a little pale as he stood behind with his arms full of shopping bags.
Sukh looked at the Bellboy and shook her head. “I don’t know.” She shivered. “All I remember is the screaming.”
Jerome watched from the front desk for a moment, then picked up the phone.
“Yes, Mr. Knight? Could I speak to Mr. LaCroix please?” Jerome explained to LaCroix what he had seen in the lobby with Sukh and Kay. “Yes, I understand. Consider it done.” He went over to where they were waiting for the elevator.
“Yeah.” Sukh looked at Jerome, then back at the lights of the descending elevator. She had to find Buffy, then they had to find Cordelia. She had to be okay, she had to. Sukh realized somewhere the shock was sinking in, the terror was wanting to break free, the scream was building.
“You are requested to go to the Louis XVI suite, to meet with the rest of your party.”
“Cordelia?” Kay felt a surge of hope. “Is she okay?”
“She is awaiting you at the Luis XVI Suite.” Jerome bowed and walked off.
Kay felt a huge weight left off her. “Cordelia’s okay.”
“I’m glad.” Sukh stifled the scream, layered it in icy calm and stepped into the elevator with Kay. In the elevator they leaned against the walls with shaky legs and watched the lights as they marked the floors. Halfway up Kay collapsed, her body rebelling against the sights in the mall. Sukh kneeled by her friend, tears streaming down her face, clearing small pale tracks through her bloody face.
LaCroix turned to Cordelia. ” My dear?” Cordy looked at LaCroix. “Could you tell us where your shopping mates might be?”
“She blinked then twisted her diet coke around in her hands. “I don’t know. I was so scared, I didn’t check.”
Angelique broke off her staring contest with Starr, and went to crouch by Cordelia. “That’s understandable, sweetheart. Try to tell us what happened as best as you can.”
Cordelia shook her matted head. “I don’t want to.”
Outside the doors of the elevator opened to the empty hall and two women sat in it and mourned for their lost innocence.
The suite was full of hurried, nervous activity as Trapper entered. Nick was on the phone trying to get something coherent out of the local police. LaCroix and Cash were puzzling over the fact that neither Angelique nor Starr had moved since Starr’s initial outburst. Vachon had Devin and Anna penned in a tight corner, and was peppering them with questions. And above it all, Cordelia was talking a mile a minute to Kat, who looked like she could use a pair of earplugs.
“Oh, and it was the creepiest thing! I mean, I was totally terrified by them! And they were so crazed! I couldn’t believe what they did! I mean, I ask you; how could they get blood all over a brand-new Anne Klein?!” Cordelia continued her monologue.
Kat looked up in relief as Trapper appeared. “I’m SO glad you’re back!”
Trapper grinned. “I see you got her to open up. Did she tell you what happened?”
“Apparently, a bunch of vampires on horseback came tearing through the mall, killing and maiming. From what Cordelia says, it sounds like downtown Beirut.”
“Excuse me!” Cordelia had her hands on her hips as she glared at the two women. “I thought we were talking about something important, like what happened to me?”
Xander and Willow took that moment to approach Cordelia.
“Whoa!” Xander said with wide eyes. “You really look . . . bad. Yes, bad’s the word.”
“Thank you so much, Xander,” Cordelia replied icily.
“We . . . um . . . brought you some clothes.” Willow handed her the tote. “Trapper said you might need some.”
“Oh, thank you, Willow! That was so . . . ” Cordelia looked in the tote bag. “Ewww! Gross! How can I wear these?! She pulled the peach-colored sweatshirt from the bag. “I mean, how can I wear peach at this time of the night? And with these jeans! I’ll look like . . . like you!” She looked further. “And no makeup!” She closed the bag. “What I want to know is, who died and made you Martha Stewart?”
Willow shrugged. “I thought it was a good thing.”
Cordelia grabbed the bag and flounced to the bathroom. “Well, beggars can’t be choosers. I’ll live with it somehow.” The door slammed.
Kat and Trapper looked at each other and shrugged.
So . . . What Were You Doing?
By Devin Saceur
They had been in the corner with Vachon for some time now. Devin, though his demeanor betrayed no emotion other than amusement with the endless questions, was nearly in shock. His support team had been eliminated, he was very likely on the verge of open conflict with a number of parties, and his status with those in the suite before him was uncertain at best. One way or another, things were about to get very ugly.
He’d evaded a straight explanation up to now, that much was certain. While he had not openly lied when asked his business in the library, he’d drawn outside and arguably insignificant details into the larger picture in an effort to be as ambiguous as possible.
True, the Sabbat had become an “annoyance” in the city . . . a matter that he had made it his personal business to correct. If for no other reason than to arbitrarily exterminate all record of his longtime enemies wherever he could find them, Devin had not‑so‑prudently nor quietly made them a priority.
But ultimately, the Sabbat was secondary to his purpose in New ‘Salem. His assignment parameters had been simple and clear before departing Vienna. First, he was to determine the extent of the damage to the Kindred population. Second . . . if the massacre had been absolute . . . he was to identify the perpetrator(s), contact his support team, and proceed with a “neutralization.@
Simple . . .
“…And that was my business in the library, Javier. I had discovered a ‘random element’ in the equation . . . you and your friends. While I was searching in vain for some hint of the whereabouts of August, you were gazing at maps of the nearby caves and preparing an expedition.@
“It became painfully obvious to me that the only way to make a definitive report to my employers would be to accompany you, undetected, on your outing. If you did indeed stumble upon August during your rescue, I wanted to be there.”
Vachon digested the words, yet still appeared somewhat confused. “That leaves a few things unanswered. First, how did you know the details of our meeting at the library?”
Devin looked disappointed. “I may be losing my touch, but I’m still a professional. Wide‑angle lenses, fiber optic cabling, and short‑range transmitters are fairly easy to come by these days. All are sold happily by various merchants of Cold War memorabilia, if I’m correct.” That annoying grin spread across his face again.
“You’ve been watching us?”
“And listening to you . . . yes. But do not be overly concerned. Any and all intimate moments will be erased from the final cut.”
Callous though his words may have been, Devin seemed equally embarrassed. “I had no alternative! My leads were few and far between and you people had knowledge critical to my investigation.”
Nick stepped forward, his face contorted in anger. “You could have come to us and asked!”
The disappointed look on Devin’s face shifted to astonishment. “Haven’t you been paying attention, detective?! The only one here who I had any degree of Intel on was Javier. I was uncertain how he would respond to me, given our turbulent past dealings. Would you come forward, had you been in my position?”
He knew that things weren’t going well here, but he also knew that truth was his only option at this point. He’d made too many blunders already . . . the last thing he needed was to be caught in a lie. “I sincerely apologize for having operated in such a manner. The simple fact is that when the Sabbat filtered their way into town and set up shop, my attention was distracted and I missed many important details that you managed to find. My hatred for those beasts allowed me to conveniently ignore the issue of August . . . and pursue them instead. I went hunting the petty criminals when I should have focused on the . . . ‘masterminds’, so to speak.@
“As for what happened while I waited for you at the library . . . I have no idea. The librarian didn’t pick up on me the whole time I was there, but somehow, those other two werewolves sniffed me out and set upon me like they’d been given specific orders. Now it may just be my perspective, but something tells me that they weren’t your garden‑variety Garou . . .@
His face softened just a bit as he returned to Anna’s side. “So now that I’ve made an absolute fool of myself and possibly opened the door to our mutual failure, is there any way that we can put aside all the petty arguing and get down to the business of repairing this whole mess? Whether you like it or not, we are on the same side.”
After her initial outburst, Starr turned her back on Angelique and LaCroix. She didn’t want to fight with anyone, but would if she had to. She just wished Angelique would get over it.
Sighing, she listened to Cordelia’s story about what had happened in the mall, and her stomach turned like a cement mixer. She watched the girl rant about the clothes she was wearing, the clothes she was offered, and then storm out of the room. Well, one case of catatonia cured.
“What do you know about this, traitor?” It was Angelique, naturally. Starr didn’t even have to look to know.
“And naturally, you just assume that I have something to do with this?” Starr snarled, her back still turned.
“Whenever there is trouble, you have a tendency to be a part of it.”
“Or so you think. And if you think it, it must be right!” Starr sighed again. “I don’t know what’s going on. Only it sounds like a Sabbat game Hanna told me about once, after she first Embraced me.”
The room was hushed. Everyone listening intently for some hint as to what was going on. Devin received a different kind of shock though: this Childer belonged to Hanna. Fanatically opposed to Embracing anyone as she was, Devin wondered to himself what possibly could have happened to have forced her into that situation again.
“They call it a horse race. They take real horses, and have real races, usually in some place public. Nobody ever really gets hurt. This isn’t one of those kinds of games. They usually only do it to shock the hell out of everyone, then they disappear. Hanna said that they like to keep their violence for the Camarilla, and the mortals they torture, they usually do it in private. I don’t know what could have put them up to this kind of thing, but whatever it is, I don’t want to meet him!” She looked at Angelique finally. “Or her.”
No Rest for the Weary
They all stood silent, amazed by what Starr had said. Each had their own thoughts about the massacre at the mall. Add to that this strange story about a “horse race,@ and they all had to wonder what manner of vampire would ignore the Masquerade so thoroughly.
Devin remained where he was, sipping his drink. He was afraid he knew the type all too well.
The door suddenly opened, and they all jumped as if a shot had been fired. Schanke, Evie and the rest of the hunting party staggered into the room. Their exhaustion was obvious. Their despair hung on them like ill‑fitting cloaks.
“Schanke! Evie!” Nick hurried over to them. “Any luck?” He saw the answer in their downcast expressions.
“No,” Schanke said quietly. “Marcus, the Nosfer . . . ” he stumbled over the word, “the ugly one showed up. He said that August would never let us near Jenny unless she knew that Hanna was back.” He ran a tired hand over his eyes. “I don’t know, man.” He stared into Nick’s eyes. “I just don’t know what to do!”
“C’mon. Let’s get you something to drink.” Nick gripped his shoulder. “We’ll think of something.”
Evie found a dark beer on one of the carts and walked over to where Trapper and Kat stood. They filled each other in, speaking in low tones.
Fraser, Stanley and Ray walked into the room and over to Nick and Schanke. They wanted to brainstorm a way to free Nat.
Giles and Buffy beelined for the rest of the Sunnydale crew, to find out what had put Cordelia in such a state.
Evie leaned back against the kitchenette counter and closed her eyes. “I don’t know about you, but I could sleep for a week.”
Trapper nodded. “Me, too. We’re all just waiting for Devin to explain what’s going on. And then it’s bed for me.”
Kat stretched in agreement. It had been a long night, and it wasn’t over yet. She pulled herself upright as she saw Duncan and Micah enter. Her eyes narrowed.
LaCroix had watched the new arrivals trail in. As the door closed, he frowned. “Excuse me,” he said loudly enough to silence the room. “Have any of you seen Kay and Sukh?”
End of Innocence
“No. Why?” Buffy turned and looked at the vampire. The old man looked worried. Not good.
“It seems they were in the mall where the games were held.” LaCroix looked grim. “Jerome informed me they had been spotted in the lobby and was to send them up.”
Fraser frowned. “I told them it was not wise to be about after dark.”
“They needed clothes.” Cordelia took a sip of her drink. “I just hope they had better luck than I did.”
Giles shot her a look. “Yes, well, you say they were in the lobby?”
Giles ran a nervous hand through his hair. “There are four elevators. We only took two.” He paced a tight circle for a minute. “Perhaps they were in one of the other ones and we just missed seeing them.”
“Wait!” Micah called after Duncan as he tore out of the room. “I’m coming with you!”
Duncan pulled up short, his face tight, a muscle in his jaw twitched as the two immortals left the suite.
“Where is their room?”
“Down the hall. The Collingwood suite.”
Duncan marched down the hall toward the indicated room. “I canna believe they disobeyed Fraser like that. The little fools.”
“I don’t think Fraser was that authoritative, Mac.”
“Ye know what seein that kinda carnage will do to a person, do ya?”
Micah stopped at the door of Kay and Sukh’s suite. “Yes, I do.” He laid a hand on Duncan’s shoulder. “Mortals can’t deal with that kind of shock. Those women are liable to get hysterical at the sight of another vampire.”
Duncan pounded on the door. “Sukh open up!”
“I’m over here.”
Micah and Duncan whirled to face the dark corner the voice had drifted from. Sukh and Kay were curled into a tight ball of misery on the floor.
“Ach.” Duncan and Micah went over to the women. Duncan held out his arms for Sukh and Micah gathered the pale Kay in his arms and picked her up.
“Good thing that spell worked, or you’d’ve thrown your back out.” Kay joked as he carried her out of the corner.
Micah smiled in spite of his sorrow. “Lucky me.”
Duncan crouched next to Sukh. “Is any of this blood yours?”
“Just a couple of scrapes from diving to the mall floor, that’s all.” Duncan searched for the scrapes, but all he could see was tear tracks and the pain of the night in her blue eyes. Another innocent lost. It sickened him.
“Well, the auld dragon is worried about you two.” Duncan lifted Sukh into his arms. “So we best get you to him.”
“I guess Uncle does worry about his cousins, huh Kay?” Sukh gave Duncan a tentative smile.
“That’s it lasses,” he whispered in her ear. “Try to keep your sanity. Laughing helps.”
Sukh leaned her head on his shoulder. “Does it ever get any easier?” He could feel the moisture of her tears still. Anger burned low in his belly. Mortals shouldn’t be involved in this kind of senseless killing.
“No lass, it doesn’t.” He pressed a kiss to her forehead and tasted innocent blood on her.
Let the Games Begin
Now that Dunce and his friend were gone, Kat saw the perfect opportunity to investigate a little. “I’ll be right back,” she told Trapper with a smirk and turned toward LaCroix.
Distracted by his concern for Kay and Sukh, he was almost caught off guard as Kat approached him.
“What can I do for you Katherine?” he asked, looking frequently at the suite door.
“Oh! Nothing . . . ” she assured him, “You’ve done quite enough already.” The tone she used bordered on chilly causing LaCroix to look at her more closely; She was calm and smiling, maybe he had misheard.
The Roman raised an eyebrow in question and Kat responded, “The harpsichord. It’s beautiful and it plays wonderfully.”
“Harpsichord,” he replied flatly. LaCroix shook his head slightly in confusion.
“Please,” Kat said, then leaned closer conspiratorially. “You don’t expect me to believe that Nick got it, do you? He didn’t even know I existed until last month.”
The two vampires smiled knowingly at each other.
“Very well. I did get you the harpsichord,” he purred, “But I wasn’t sure if you would accept a gift from me.”
Kat looked genuinely hurt. “Why not? You are the one to reunite me with my family after all those years alone . . . ” She kissed LaCroix on the cheek and said, “But, I have so many questions. Do you think we could get together later?”
“Of course,” he answered graciously. Kat returned to the other side of the room, to Nicholas’s other daughter.
With Angelique by his side and Nicholas under his thumb, LaCroix was ready to take on the world.
right after AEnd of Innocence@
“Wait.” Duncan stopped and looked at Sukh. “Can we go clean up first?”
“Sure lass.” He opened the door with the key she handed him and Micah followed with the unusually quiet Kay in his arms. Some gore smeared shopping bags were neatly lined up near the couch.
“I’ll never be able to enjoy maxing out Uncle’s card now.” Sukh slipped out of Duncan’s arms and went into the bedroom.
In the bedroom she sat on the edge of her bed, drained of all energy. Duncan touched her chin as he bent to her level. “I’m sorry lass.”
“Before this it was all one big adventure. Vampires were mysterious, sexy. Now one of my favorite fantasies is shattered.” Sukh shrugged. “I feel violated.”
“Let me start a shower for you.” Duncan stood. “Maybe after you clean off the mess, you’ll feel a bit better.”
“I doubt it. This stain is soul deep.” Sukh’s eyes held a new emptiness, a knowledge that terrible things did exist in her world after all.
“I’ll join you,” Duncan charmed a smile out of her finally.
“Would you be shocked if I took you up on that offer?” She smiled as she stood and took off her bloodied Toronto Metro shirt.
“Not at all Lass.” He slipped into the bathroom as she followed, leaving a trail of clothes in her wake.
“Sukh?” Kay peeked around the door of the bedroom. “I’ll just leave this on the bed.” Kay tossed a flimsy pair of black lace panties on the bed.
There was a squeal and a masculine laugh from the bathroom.
“I’m next!” Kay yelled through the door. “So don’t use up all the hot water.” Then she went back to Micah, a grin shining through the blood.
I=ll See That and Raise You
Trapper allowed herself a slow, malicious smile as Kat sauntered back from her encounter with LaCroix. ASo, did you talk to him?@
AMhm.@ She picked up her glass from the counter where she=d left it and took a long drink, emptying it. She looked at Trapper over the rim. AHe took the bait beautifully.@
Trapper glanced over her shoulder at LaCroix, who was looking insufferably self‑satisfied. AGood. When do you want to reel him in?@
Kat licked a stray drop of blood from her lip. ASoon. I asked him if we could get together later.@ She batted her eyelashes in mock innocence. AYou reunited my family.@ She spoke in a wide‑eyed, childish voice. ABut I have SO many questions!@
Trapper shook her head and chuckled.
Kat soon joined her in laughter. She composed herself and poured another glass. Raising it, she said, A A toast.@
Trapper lifted her cup of extra strong latte. ATo conspiracy?@ she offered.
AAnd to revenge. Sweetest when cold.@ Kat drank her glass to the bottom.
Trapper smiled without warmth. AIce cold.@
Where Do We Go From Here?
Nick folded his arms and glanced over to Vachon. Javier gave one of his expressive shrugs.
AAll right. I=ll take what you=ve said at face value. We should try to work together. Otherwise this is going to get out of hand, and then we=re all at risk.@ He gave Devin a quirk of a smile and stretched out a hand. ABury the hatchet?@
Devin returned the smile and shook Nick=s hand. AAs long as it=s not in my back.@
Everyone laughed and broke the tension that had held the room prisoner.
Schanke still sat where he was, arms folded. He muttered to Evie, AI still don=t like him.@
Evie leaned over to talk to him. AAny particular reason?@
ACall it detective=s intuition.@ He shrugged. AIt=s just a feeling. I don=t know, maybe I=m just tired.@
Evie patted Schanke on the shoulder. AIt=s been a really long evening.@ She looked over to Nick. ANow that we have that settled, maybe we should all get some sleep and plan what to do next.@
LaCroix stood by the window, gazing out into the rapidly vanishing night. AIt=s getting close to sunrise.@
Nick acknowledged LaCroix and looked at the gathered party. AShall we meet here tonight? Say, sunset?@
A Legend in His Own Mind
Becoming a vampire was looking like a better and better idea. Lux pulled the SUV into long‑term parking and grabbed his bag. Flying over would definitely be better than driving through those godforsaken woods again. Plus, he wouldn’t have to climb around to get to the caves. The daylight thing would suck, but hey, musicians were basically night people anyway; He could probably pull it off.
It was early Saturday morning and a sliver of moon still shone in the sky as Lux sauntered past rows and rows of cars. Now, which one of those freaks was he gonna get to bite him? It would have to be the girl, he chastised himself, Lux was no fag, thank you very much. She seemed kinda spacey . . . his favorite.
He made his way to the caves but paused at the entrance when he heard an unfamiliar voice. Maybe the corpse doctor was talking again; Angel had a way with persuasion. Turning the corner, Lux’s jaw dropped. A young blond ‑ a hotty in a dominatrix costume knelt next to Spike. She played with the spokes of his wheelchair while she sang softly to herself. Lux thought he heard the word ‘fetters.’
“Welcome back!” Angel’s voice boomed in the confined space. Everyone turned to look at the returning Immortal.
Tracy stood up slowly, not sure what she was seeing. “Lux Interior?”
The idol smiled lasciviously and answered, “The same.”
Spike was unimpressed, “So, now we’re one big happy family.”
“Do you know who this guy is?!” Tracy asked the others, her voice rising.
At a loss, the vampires waited for her to answer.
“He’s probably the biggest rock star in the world!”
Lux was loving it.
Tracy flew across the cave, grabbed Lux by the collar and pulled him a foot off of the ground. The blond shook him to emphasize her words. “How the hell are we supposed to stay even remotely anonymous with this jackass around!?”
What ‑ No Mint?
“Sounds like a wonderful idea,” she piped in, reaching to take Vachon’s arm. It had been an exhausting night; Kat was looking forward to a long stretch of uninterrupted sleep.
After a few good‑byes, the two vampires took their leave of the Louis XIV Suite. Only a few steps down the hall, Kat began to slow. It took Javier only a split second longer to register that something was wrong . . . mostly because he was occupied with sticking his hand into one of Kat’s back pockets.
“Now what?” he asked in a low tone, tensing for whatever may come. By the time they reached the damaged door, they both knew that the Aztec Suite was empty. Kat stood back, afraid that her senses would fail her again.
A very distinctive odor wafted out into the hall. Now she wished her senses would fail her. Kat growled and flew across the room and up to the bed.
“That sick fuck!” she yelled. Grabbing the defiled pillow off the bed, she flung it as hard as she could. It landed face down in the corner, but that wasn’t far enough for her. She jumped over to it, tore it to shreds and opened the balcony door. Stepping out, she threw the mess into the air and let the early morning breeze carry it away.
Vachon stepped up behind her. “He’ll wish he had died the first time,” he told her, his eyes as golden as Kat’s.
“I don’t think we should stay here today,” she sighed and closed the balcony door. “Something in this town screws with my radar,” Kat turned to her companion, “and I am so tired, I could sleep through a cattle stampede.”
While Kat called down to the desk to report the damage and to request another room, Vachon gathered a few things. Hanging up, she stopped him from grabbing too much. “They are going to send someone up to move our stuff, and give us a key to the Riviera Suite.”
Javier whistled in appreciation.
“Instead of waiting, let’s let Nick and Trapper know what’s going on.”
About 4:30 a.m.
Thelma stopped her ritual of cleaning and stretched her back. It was almost sunrise, the end of her shift. She was glad to be done for the night. It had been busier than usual, with the party upstairs, and dealing with Arthur. She shook her head and frowned at the memory. That boy shouldn=t be working here. She wondered what his parents had been thinking of, to move to New Jerusalem.
ATHELMA!@ a voice screamed as the doors banged open. Gina literally flew in the door, still holding Louise in her arms. She stood in the middle of the room, wild‑eyed and dripping with blood. She was babbling incoherently, her eyes black with shock. AI didn=t know where else to go! It=s almost sunrise!@
Thelma took in the sight of the terrorized girl. Slowly she realized what Gina was holding. ALouise?@ she whispered, and looked at Gina desperately. Louise was so bloody, Thelma hardly recognized her. She gingerly brushed the blood‑soaked hair from her daughter=s face. She couldn=t be dead!
Gina saw Thelma=s distress and forced herself back under control. She placed Louise gently on the counter. ANo, she=s not dead,@ she said, replying to what Thelma could not ask. She turned from Louise and touched Thelma=s shoulder. ABut she almost was. I had to do something.@ She took her hand back and stood there, winding her fingers together in her nervousness. AI should=ve asked you or my parents, but there wasn=t time.@
Thelma looked from her daughter to Gina, comprehension dawning in her eyes. AYou=re a vampire!@
Gina nodded, biting her lip. AWell, yeah,@ she shrugged. AI always wanted to mention it, but there never seemed to be a good time.@ She glanced back at Louise. AAnd, well, I was afraid you guys wouldn=t like me any more if you knew.@
Thelma smiled sadly. AYou silly girl. How can a body live here as long as I have and be troubled with vampires?@ She gestured at Louise. ADid you . . . bring her across?@
Gina nodded. AI had to. She was dying. But I asked her first!@
AThen you did the best you could, dear.@ She wiped her hands on her apron. ABut, now, my girl needs blood, doesn=t she?@
Gina nodded again.
Thelma looked Gina hard in the face. AAnd it looks like you could use some yourself.@ She bustled off to the wine cellar, and came back with two bottles. AHere. Now drink this down.@ Then she cradled Louise=s head on her arm. ACome now, sweetheart. Time to wake up. You need to eat.@
Louise blinked and moaned. Scenting blood, her eyes opened wide as she snatched the bottle.
ANow, now, my girl. Not too fast. You=ll make yourself sick.@
Gina had finished hers, and was watching Thelma with an expression somewhere between curiosity and love.
Thelma finished with her daughter and stepped away, patting her hand. AIt=ll be all right now, dear.@ She looked at Gina. AWhat? You think I=ve never seen a starving girl before?@
Gina laughed. Oh, it felt good to be able to laugh.
AWe=ll get you both back to the house, never fear,@ Thelma said. AWe=ll take the service tunnel. On the way, you can tell me what happened. You both look a fright.@
She gave the kitchen a quick once over, and then took her charges to the service elevator, Louise supported between the two of them. Gina began to relate her tale as the doors closed.
At My Front Door (Harry Nilsson)
Trapper settled into the large brocade couch, her usual strong latte cradled in her hands. She and Nick had decided to take a few minutes of quiet to watch the sunrise through the drapes. They also wanted to debrief after the barrage of information that they had all received that evening. The crowds were gone; Evie and Schanke were already in their rooms and probably asleep. Nick sat, contemplating the colors in his wineglass. It was a perfect, quiet false dawn. Then the knock came at the door.
Nick winced. “Maybe if we ignore it,” he began.
Trapper cocked her head to the side and listened. “No, it’s too insistent.” She rose from the couch and was at the door in one fluid motion. Nick stood behind her, ready to back her up if need be. She opened the door.
Kat and Vachon nearly tumbled into the room. Their yellow eyes told the story. Something was very wrong.
The story didn’t take long to tell. Trapper had roused Evie and Schanke to hear it, and Don was the first one to react.
“Man oh man. So now, if I’ve got this, we have a crazed singing pervert on our hands. Oh, yeah, and we think he might be immortal.”
Kat nodded. “He’s got to be.”
“He was in bad shape when he went out the window. There wouldn’t have been anything to bring across, so he can’t be a vampire,” Trapper added.
Evie finished the thought. “So, by a process of elimination,” she looked around at the sudden groans in the room. “Sorry. No pun intended. Anyway, good old Lux must be immortal.”
Nick was too quiet. His rage was apparent by his eyes, which had gone brilliant yellow. He hadn’t been a “parent” very long, but he felt the instinctive reaction that anyone would if his young were threatened. He clenched his fist to his mouth and stared out the window with slitted eyes. The sun was up. There would be no tracking the scum until sunset.
“Nick?” Trapper’s voice broke through his concentration. Nick felt the world return to focus, and the anger was draining away.
“Hi,” he said quietly. “I was just thinking of all the ways that I’d like to kill the bastard.”
“A nice thought,” Trapper said with a smile. “But only one will work.”
“In the meantime,” Nick stood to look at them all, “I think we can assume that we’re all in danger.”
Vachon looked at Kat, and then raised an eyebrow at Nick. “Tell me something new.”
“He has such a way with words, doesn’t he? ” Evie smiled.
“I’m sure he remembers Trapper,” Nick continued as he paced in front of the window. “Evie, he probably doesn’t hold fond feelings for you, either.”
Evie shrugged. “Hey, I was just trying to broaden his musical horizons.”
Nick stopped his pacing to turn to Kat. “You, however, are the one he wants the most.” He looked over at Javier. “And you, too, for being too close to her.”
Kat rubbed her eyes and stifled a yawn. “So, is this going to be another sleepless day?”
“Not necessarily. But, I think that we should take turns watching for him.” Nick walked to the phone. “I’ll call Benton and Rupert to update them. I’m sure they’ll help with this.”
“Our suite is right next door.” Vachon and Kat rose to leave. “I’ll shout if anything happens.” He grinned at everyone as the two of them left. “I’m a very light sleeper.”
A Wrinkle in Time
By Trapper (inspiration by Evie)
Kat and Vachon staggered out of Nick=s suite and down the hall to the next door. It looked strange, somehow, to them. They were too tired to care. Javier took the key that the maid had stopped by with and opened the Yale lock. This should have been a hint.
The door opened, but Javier made no move to enter. Kat tapped him on the shoulder impatiently.
AExcuse me? I=d really like to be able to get in there, too.@
AUh,@ Javier began, AI don=t think this is quite what you expected from the Riviera Suite, Kat.@
AWhat do you mean?@
He stepped in and opened the door wide for her to enter.
The room looked like a garage. The only furniture, if one could call it that, was the car that took up the entire space. It was a red 1965 Buick Riviera Gran Sport. As Kat stood openmouthed, Vachon popped the hood open.
He looked up and grinned. AWell, the bad news is that the Wildcat 465 engine is missing.@
Kat smirked back. AWhat=s the good news?@
AThere=s a minifridge and a microwave in its place.@
She shook her head, chuckling, and walked to the back. The trunk was unlocked.
AWhat=s in the trunk?@ Javier called.
ADoes it lock?@
Kat checked out the inside of the trunk lid. AYes. There=s an inside lock.@ She peeked around the side at him. AIt must be for privacy.@
He walked to the rear of the car and hugged her. AIt works for me,@ he whispered in her ear. AWe can change suites again after we=ve rested.@
With a blur of movement, clothes fell to the floor and the trunk lid closed with a satisfying click. The room was, to all appearances, empty. One would never know it was occupied, but for the muffled laughter.
I Just Called to Say . . .
Kay motioned for Micah to be quiet and picked up the phone. Micah raised one dark eyebrow and watched as she asked for Nick’s suite. “Yes, I need to speak to LaCroix.”
Uncles voice hit her like a drug, leaving her a bit lightheaded. ” Umm, I just wanted to call and let you know Sukh and I are okay. Sukh’s really shaken, but Duncan is helping her .”
“And you my dear, how are you dealing with it? I do hope you are taking it better than this Cordelia.” Uncle asked.
“I think I just need to clean up.” Kay took a deep breath. “There is one small problem.”
“We still don’t have any clothes.”
“I see. Perhaps I could be of some assistance.”
“Great! All we have at the moment is undies, so anything else is great.” She took the glass of ice water Micah handed her and took a sip. “We’re in the Colinwood suite.”
“How charming. I will be in touch.”
Kay hung up the phone as the sound of the shower running finally stopped. Micah started to go into the bedroom, but Kay stopped him. “I’d give them some extra time.”
Micah looked a bit stunned, then grinned. “By all means.”
Silence is Golden
Scott threw his head back and laughed in absolute joy. He was having the time of his life, or unlife really. When the Sabbat first approached him, the initiation scared the hell out of him. And then it was over and he was embraced by his new family.
The Sabbat knew how to throw a party. And there was nothing more Scott, who was known as Shakes by his pack mates, loved than a good party.
Like the bash at the mall last night! Now that was something else, he mused to himself. He never had so much fun just killing things in his life . . . or unlife, he added to himself quickly.
Too bad for his parents, really. They ran one of the many shops in the mall, and they were both among the victims of the massacre. Not that it mattered to Shakes. They shouldn’t have gotten in the way.
He was just about to settle down into his coffin when he felt a strong noose suddenly tighten around his neck. His hands instinctively reached up to grab the cord, and they too were bound by the thick wire. Had he been mortal, the cord around his neck would have broken into his skin and perhaps decapitated him, but it only cut enough to draw some blood. A sack was tied over his head, and he was dragged away by the cord.
He was upside down. He was certain of it. He could feel gravity pulling his head to the floor. The sack on his head was removed suddenly, and he could see almost two dozen other men, all in the same position as he was.
Upside down. Tied like animals. Bleeding from cuts in their throats.
And then He stepped up.
Throughout a small clearing in the cemetery trees he came. Dark was the only way to describe him. His hair was ebony, his skin was swarthy, and his eyes were definitely no other color but black. No light ever reached those eyes, and he certainly never possessed a soul. It was said that, as a teenager, he had discovered his mother pregnant again. And rather than share her attention with anyone else, he aborted the unborn child with his hands. His mother naturally died, and he became a vampire shortly afterwards.
Shakes stared into his coal eyes and realized that another abortion was about to take place. Only, it wouldn’t be an unborn fetus murdered, but nearly twenty‑four grown men.
Davistch let them all absorb his presence, and gave them ample time to remember all the stories they had heard about him, before he spoke.
“You disappoint me, boys.” He slowly walked between them as he spoke. “I sent you out to bring the city under my dominance, and what did you do? You decided to partake in a public bloodbath, and didn’t have the sense enough to bring me an offering! You know how tasty the young ones are! And you expect me to believe that you couldn’t find one young girl
or boy for me to enjoy!?” He struck, hard and swift, out at the face of one of the men. His cheek split open immediately and began to pour blood.
“If that wasn’t an insult enough, you have the audacity to brag about your ‘horse race’ in public, and then mention MY name!”
Shakes started to whimper, and Davistch turned his attention to him.
“What was that, Shakes? I didn’t quite hear you.” He pulled the gag out of Shake’s mouth. “Now, try again.”
“I’m sorry! I swear, we’ll never disappoint you again! I know how to get into the orphanage! I can bring you all the children you like!”
Which were the last words Shakes ever spoke. Davistch reached his hand into Shakes mouth, mumbling to himself as he wrapped his hand around his tongue. He pulled and stretched it, almost like putty, mumbling all the while. When he stopped, he inspected Shakes tongue, admiring his handiwork. Then, almost as a second thought, he nodded his head, and his devoted lieutenants began dropping the near bloodless men into their respective holes. Twenty‑four graves had been dug, filled now with twenty‑four bloodless, yet conscious, men. Slowly, they were all buried, with only a PVC pipe sticking up put of the ground.
“Why the pipe?”
Davistch smiled at the sound of the rich, contralto voice coming from behind him. He turned to her. “I wouldn’t want them to be afraid of the dark!”
She snickered, and then pushed forward his present.
Davistch eyed the young girl hungrily. “She’s lovely. Wherever did you find her?”
She shrugged. “She’s the girl Hanna wanted to find. Spike took her, I found her, and now she’s your present. In fact, if you drain her now, you can have her Sabbat before sunset!”
Davistch asked. “My, we are impatient, aren’t we, my Sire?”
August grimaced. “She’s here. Paolo brought her here, and didn’t bring her to me.”
Davistch smiled again. “It seems it is for me to return the favor of a gift. Paolo’s . . . package is in my study. And I am more than willing to deliver the goods to you!”
August clapped her hands in joy, then kissed her Childe passionately. Of all her begatting, only Davistch and Jonas had the stamina to survive this long. And Jonas she had removed herself . . . twice. But not her Davistch. Always loyal, always faithful.
And handing Hanna over to her in exchange for one worthless mortal brat.
August was more than a little happy with herself when she returned to her cave.
Duncan wrapped Sukh up in a big, fluffy towel, then scooped her into his arms. He was wearing a loose pair of workout pants, and nothing else over his damp skin.
“Let’s get you to bed.”
Sukh laughed as he carried her out of the bathroom. “Promises.”
Duncan smiled then growled as he kissed her. “Anything for a comely lass like you.”
Sukh laughed again. “So old fashioned.”
Duncan wiggled his dark eyebrows. “You have no idea.”
Duncan let he down as he opened the bedroom door. The pair wandered into the sitting area as Micah and Kay were deciding on bubble bath. Duncan grinned at Micah’s dumbfounded look at Kay and motioned for Sukh to be quiet. They watched Kay flirt shamelessly and finally Micah snagged some bubble bath and they headed for the door.
They opened the door on one unhappy camper.
Talking to God(dess)
Their love play finished, Angelique had stretched out like one of her gracious felines and gone to sleep. LaCroix, on the other hand, ever restless, watched the sun begin its slow ascent into the sky, through the special drapes that the hotel supplied for its more nocturnal guests.
As he stood, glass in hand, contemplating what had befallen, what was yet to be done, and the way the light played on the nearby crystal tower, Angelique walked in a dream.
Beautiful Thebes, not as it was now, ruins in the shifting sands, but as it was during Angelique’s mortality. She looked around, marveling at the sights. She gazed upon Mother Nile, blue‑green in all of Her splendor as She moved lazily to the sea. Across the great, shining ribbon lay Karnak and Luxor. Angelique drank in the sunlight that sparkled on the water. It could not hurt her now, and she reveled in it. How long had it been? She breathed the clean Egyptian air, full of exotic spices, and heard the sounds of her native tongue like music.
Her feet drew her forward, to the great temple of Isis. It was just after dawn, and she could hear the priests and priestesses singing the Goddess awake. She climbed the shining white stairs and entered the cool, shadowed hall. The light was filtered in here, and moved across the room like a curtain. Angelique could smell the incense: sandalwood and olibanum, precious resins from Nubia. She paused at the entry to the inner rooms and rinsed her hands in the ritual basin before proceeding.
She could hear the music of the Goddess, the sistrum and voices raised in praise of Isis, the Great Mother. She approached the statue of the Goddess with lotus flowers in her hands as an offering. Angelique’s heart beat faster as the priestesses pulled back the veil that covered the face of Isis. It had never failed to inspire the greatest awe in her as a child. The face of Isis was revealed to the morning. She was beyond mortal beauty; she was the Great Mother. Isis opened her eyes, and Angelique realized that it was the face of her mother gazing back at her as the Goddess.
“Leilah! Oh, my beloved child! I have missed you so!” She came down from her throne to clasp Angelique in her arms.
“Mother?” Angelique breathed in disbelief. It was her mother! She was not dust in some moldering tomb! She was here, real and warm. Tears trickled down both of their faces as they embraced. Angelique could not remember when she last heard that voice call her by her real name.
“Yes, my dearest flower. It is the only way that I can see you, in dreams like these.” She pulled back to stroke her daughter’s hair. “You chose a different path, but we all still await you with love.”
“Oh, Mother. Why now?”
“Because you are in the gravest danger, my little one. And a spirit that walks outside the realms of the dead needs your help.” She turned and beckoned to the darkness.
Jackal‑headed Anubis strode from the shadows, his arms resting on the shoulders of a young woman.
“Though her Ma’at is pure, she will not cross to the other side. She died untimely, and still grieves for her mortal love. He too is in the blackest of perils, Leilah.”
Jenny came out of the blackness to stand before the two women. “Help me, Angelique! Help me that I may help Giles! I need to live!”
Her mother turned back to Angelique. “As Isis brought life from death, so I give you the gift for a little while. Use it wisely, my dearest daughter, and help this poor sister.” She leaned forward and placed her cool lips against Angelique’s forehead.
Stroking her daughter’s cheek, she began to move away. “Never forget that I love you, my heart. I will wait forever for you.” As she disappeared into the darkness of the temple, Angelique could hear her words, faint and far away. “I love you, Leilah.”
“Mother!” Angelique stretched her arms out at the fading forms. “Mother! Don’t leave me!”
La Croix stroked her hair as she called out in her sleep, and wiped away the bloody tears that tracked down her face. He frowned, not understanding. He did not notice the faint silvery mark upon her forehead that faded rapidly to nothing.
In Sunnydale Cemetery, the wind howls with the coming storm. Branches break, and the ground shivers over one particular grave. The stone reads, “Jenny Calendar.@
“Arthur?” His mother gave him a puzzled frown as she entered the kitchen, her hair still rumpled from sleep. “What are you doing home so early? Is something wrong?”
Arthur sat at the kitchen table, hands wrapped tightly around the cooling coffee cup. His eyes stared straight ahead out through the sliding glass door into the backyard. The small birds had been announcing dawn for some time now but Arthur hadn’t noticed.
“Arthur?” Gloria crossed the kitchen to sit beside her son, placing her hand on his arm. “Honey, what’s wrong?”
Arthur shook his head as if shaking off a bad dream. That’s all it was, he told himself. A bad dream. Louise couldn’t . . . couldn’t be . . .
“Mom,” Arthur took a deep breath. “I quit my job.”
“Oh, honey,” Gloria smiled sympathetically. “I’m sorry to hear that didn’t work out. When are you leaving?”
“They killed her! She’s a vampire now!” The outburst surprised his mother who pulled back reflexively. Arthur covered his face with his hands and started weeping convulsively.
“Oh my god, Arthur, what happened tonight?” Gloria clasped her hands together, gripping with a force that left her knuckles white.
“I was working room service again and it was being a really weird night. All these vampires are in from out of town and people coming and going, and about 5:00 a.m. I went to check in with Thelma to see if she had any more room service orders to go out. Louise was there.” Arthur sobbed and then caught his breath. “Gina brought her in. They were at the mall when some crazy bunch of horse riders went psycho and killed half the people there.”
Gloria reached out tentatively and patted her son on the shoulder. “Poor sweethearts. They must have been traumatized.”
“Louise was killed,” Arthur hiccuped. “Well, nearly. Gina had to make her a vampire to save her life. What kind of life is that?” He turned to his mother. “I was in love with that girl! I thought we could get married after college, settle down, have kids . . . ” he trailed off and put his head down on his crossed arms, giving himself up to grief. Why did his parents have to move to this horrible, vampire‑infested town?
Gloria sat back, amazed. Her son was in love? When had he grown up?
After a moment she got up and put her hands on his shoulders. “C’mon honey. You need to get some sleep.” She shook him gently. “C’mon hon. Go to bed. We’ll talk again later.”
Arthur mumbled acquiescence and rose unsteadily, his mother guiding him toward the staircase. “It’s ok,” he said, climbing the stairs. “I don’t need you to tuck me in. I’m a big boy now.”
“I know that, hon,” Gloria smiled sadly. “Believe me, I know.”
Back in the kitchen, she swished out the coffee maker and refilled it with water. “Gloria?” Her husband Daniel staggered into the kitchen and sat heavily at the table. “What’s going on? Isn’t Arthur back from work awfully early?” Gloria rubbed her temples, anticipating the conversation ahead.
One and a half pots of coffee later they still looked serious. “We’re going to have go to in, you know.” Gloria deftly slid the omelet onto Daniel’s plate. “We probably shouldn’t have encouraged him to get a job at that place.”
“Hm. I suppose.” Daniel scooped a forkful of omelet onto his toast. “Are you going to call Skinner?”
“I think we should. Don’t you?” Gloria sat at the table and started on her omelet.
“Oh, no question.” Daniel sighed. “I was hoping it wouldn’t come to this. Interesting news, last night, eh?”
“I’m not sure that we share a definition of ‘interesting’, dear. Those poor girls!” Gloria’s mouth set into a tight line.
“Well, the one was a vampire to start. But I feel bad for Thelma and her girl.” Daniel sighed again and reached for the phone.
“Time to make that call.”
Oh where, oh where can my little girl be?
Kay & Sukh
Kissing dawn’s heels
Micah pulled the door open and walked nose first into a white silk poet’s shirt.
“In a hurry?” An irritated voice huffed.
“OhMyGod,” Sukh squealed, rushing to cover herself better.
Ricze stepped into the room and glared at Micah, then at Duncan.
“Can we help you?” Duncan asked.
“I came to speak with the young ladies.”
“Well, as you can see, the young ladies are busy,” Micah replied, stepping toward the door again.
“Down, boy.” Ricze growled. “This is a little more important than your entertainment.”
“Excuse me,” a voice behind Micah spoke up.
“Yes?” Ricze stepped around Micah and came face to face with a blood-incrusted Kay. “Tell me that didn’t happen at the mall.”
“Sukh and I made a side trip to the slaughter house,” Kay rolled her eyes. “Where the hell do, you think it happened?” She shouted, falling to the floor in a heap.
“Now look what you did,” Micah yelled.
Ricze turned on the younger man and hissed. Pushing Micah to the side he knelt beside Kay and ran a hand through her incrusted hair.
“Kay,” he whispered. “Kay. It’s all right now.”
Kay babbled something and shook her head.
“Kay.” Sukh came flying out of the bedroom, Duncan’s discarded shirt flying open from the naval down.
“I’m okay,” Kay said. “I just need a bath.”
“What was so important you had to snap at the poor thing?” Micah growled.
“Melissa’s gone. I was hoping she was with Kay and Sukh.”
“Melissa?” Sukh asked.
“Missy.” Kay said.
“Why would you think Missy was with them?” Duncan asked, sitting on the floor with Kay, Sukh and Ricze.
“She left a note saying that she was going to tag along behind them. I tried her pager and her cell, but neither is working.”
“They could have been lost or broken in the blood bath at the mall,” Sukh offered.
“She would have attempted to let me know where she was and how bad the mall had been. Missy never misses an opportunity to fill me in on how miserable things are.”
“Do you think something’s happened to her?” Kay shuddered.
“Besides being extremely pissed off, no. I haven’t had any feeling to indicate she’s in trouble. ”
“How much harm can come her way?” Sukh asked.
“The sun’s up.” Ricze stood and walked out of the room, the door standing open in a parody of a gaping wound.
Right after talking to the Goddess
Ma’at held up a single black feather. It wasn’t the feather the goddess usually used to weigh the heart of the dead.
“This one,” the Goddess pointed to Jenny. “Her heart is weighted down with anger. She must go back and right the wrong done to her.” Ma’at turned to Angelique. “You have been gifted by the Mother with a Ka of extraordinary strength. Guide her Ba back and see that her justice is served.”
Angelique bowed to Ma’at as the goddess passed the feather over her.
Then the pain started. Her Ka formed into a crow, a creature that could pierce the veil between the land of the dead and bring the trapped souls to life.
Angelique was flying, the sun was hidden behind boiling, rolling thunder heads as the brick walls of the Sunnydale cemetery passed under her wings. She used her new eyes, her black glossy wings beating in a steady rhythm, until she found the right headstone.
Jennifer Calendar. The wind was dancing on the grave, beckoning her to right spot. She alighted on he pink granite, her new claws scrabbling on the slick surface for a moment until she found a good perch.
Then she lowered her head, and sent her Ka through the soil to find Jenny Calendar’s Ba.
Jenny Calendar drifted on a sea of pain and rage. Angelus’s smirking face burned into her brain, the feel of his hands as he twisted her head and the explosion of agony in her neck. Then she hovered, watching as Angel set up the man she loved.
The rage had started after seeing the devastation on Rupert’s face as he noticed her dead eyes. She had tried to come back, to make Angel pay for the pain, but she was beating on the invisible veil between life and afterworld.
Then she saw the woman. The Egyptian priestess was a comfort to Giles and she could link with the woman to touch her beloved through her. The problem came when the vessel’s lover took exception to Angelique keeping Giles company.
Jenny had been trying to escape the afterworld ever since Angel had taken Natalie Lambert. No more mortals were to be sacrificed to the altar of his demon sect.
She screamed in rage, and slammed her fist against the prison of her coffin. The wood shattered, and she clawed out of the grave, and burst through six feet of dirt to escape the womb of her death. Rebirth came in the form of a crow that sat on her headstone.
“Welcome back,” Angelique’s voice came out of the bird’s mouth. “You know what to do.”
She smiled and fingered her rose quartz necklace. “Yes.”
Then they were off, the crow guiding Jenny to Rupert Giles’s apartment.
“He’s really upset,” Kay stammered as she stood up.
“Missy’ll turn up,” Duncan said, reaching to help Sukh stand.
“But what if something happened to her?” Kay picked up the bath items Micah had dropped after Ricze’s intrusion. “I mean the mall looked like a battle field.”
“She’s the child of a very resourceful master,” Micah stated with a shrug.
“Ricze may not be your favorite guy, but that gives you no reason to be so heartless.” Kay spat.
“Whoa there.” Micah took a step back from the raging redhead. “I was trying to say that with Ricze as a master she should be able to take care of herself.”
“If you say so.” Kay sank to the couch, fatigue settling in.
Piercing the Veil
The waitress looked like she’d had a hard night. No amount of makeup could hide the dark circles beneath her darting, nervous eyes. Her hair was rumpled, as was her uniform. In short, she looked awful. Evie made a mental note of this as she sipped her coffee and gave the waitress her order.
“A waffle with maple syrup, please,” she looked at the name badge, “Sherry.” Evie tried to act casual as she fished for information. “Rough shift?”
Sherry rolled her eyes and moved her gum to the other side of her mouth. “I’ll say. You wouldn’t believe some of the wackos that come in here.” She noticed the manager coming out of the kitchen and scuttled off to place the order.
Schanke looked at Evie and raised an eyebrow. “Okay, you want to let me in on what you’re doing?”
Evie leaned over the table. “Use that keen insight you’re always telling me about, Donnie. Something happened in here in the last few hours. I’m betting it was before dawn, if you catch my drift.”
The Toronto detective looked around the half‑empty restaurant. The help was definitely on edge. It showed in their brittle smiles and worn faces. The counter had been hastily patched to hide a deep gouge, and a busboy was obsessively scrubbing one spot on the floor over and over. The manager looked harried, and walked into the back again, running his hand through his hair apprehensively. Sherry noticed, and came to their table with her coffeepot.
“I thought I’d bring you a refill,” she said, trying to smile and not spill the coffee.
“Had a little trouble in here last night?” Schanke looked up at her, all concerned cop now.
She warmed to him instantly, sensing authority, and visibly relaxed. “Oh, yeah. You could say that.” She glanced around, to make sure no one was paying attention. “Some goons came in last night, and tore the place up pretty bad.”
“I can see that.” Schanke took a small notebook from his breast pocket and began to write. “What time did it happen?”
“It was about one in the morning. I was working a double shift to help out one of the girls.”
Schanke nodded for her to continue.
“A bunch of ’em came in the door, all bloody and screaming for service.” She paled, remembering. “We tried to seat them, but they wanted the counter.” She put down her coffeepot and pulled a tissue out of her dress pocket to dab at her eyes. “Isabelle wasn’t fast enough for them. They . . . they pulled her over the counter, ripped her throat out and drank her, right on the spot.”
“Vampires,” Schanke said with no inflection.
She nodded. “They were talking, something about a horse race.” She shook her head. In the kitchen, a bell dinged.
“That’ll be yours.” She ran off to get their order.
“It must be the ones from the mall,” Evie said.
“That’s what I was thinking. Now we just need to find out who they’re with.”
Sherry came back with their orders.
“Did they say anything else?”
She nodded. “They kept talking about how Sabbat was taking over the town, and they were all going over to the glass tower.”
She began to walk away. “Oh, yeah, and they mentioned a name: Davistch.”
Tremain General Hospital
“Wake up dear, your mother is here to see you,” the day nurse said, touching her patient gently on the arm.
It was hard to focus with all those pain killers, but Sharon looked eagerly toward the door. Ever since her father had been murdered, the two Lensher women had become very close. Sharon’s mother had taken extra hours at the hotel so she didn’t have to face an empty house, and they had spent quite a few heart‑wrenching sob sessions over dinner when their shifts overlapped. Her mom had become her best friend in the last few weeks, and there wasn’t anyone she’d rather have come to visit her.
After a few moments, Sharon called out, “Nurse?” Her voice was scratchy and weak. She tried a little louder. There was no response.
Frowning, she turned gingerly onto her side and gazed out the window. Maybe the nurse had been mistaken about whose mother had come in. There had been a crazy amount of wounded teenagers admitted into emergency in the last 12 hours. It would be easy to make a mistake like that, she thought and closed her eyes to rest a little more.
The hospital door hissed closed and Sharon smiled. “Mom?” she asked, starting to turn back over to get a better view.
“Yes sweet heart . . . ” a male falsetto voice said.
Sharon’s blood froze in her veins. Before she could scream an ice cold hand covered her mouth and pushed down hard. Eyes wild, she strained to see her assailant’s face, although she was dead sure she knew who it was.
The smell of stale whiskey and something wet filled her nostrils and long, stringy hair tickled her neck. Lux Interior leaned down and whispered, “I’m not done with you yet, cunt.”
Shadows of the Truth
New Jerusalem Times
Evie and Schanke sat in the reading room connected to the morgue of the newspaper. It was a cramped and narrow room, airless in the late summer heat. They were poring over papers dating back to the time of the massacre, looking for anything out of place in the day to day happenings of the town.
“Hey!” Schanke said. “Get a load of this!”
Evie looked up hopefully. “Did you find something?”
“I’ll say! On August 30th, bananas were only .39 a pound! They should be so cheap at home.”
“Schanke! That’s not what we’re looking for.”
Schanke sighed. “I know. It’s just that they’re Jenny’s favorite snack.” He bent back to the paper. The sooner they could find information, the sooner they might find his daughter.
“Wait a minute!” Evie sounded excited. “I think I may have something!”
She flattened the paper and began to read as the detective took notes.
“It seems that a young woman was found ripped to shreds in the library on the 2nd, just after midnight. There was no identification.” She continued down the page. “She’d checked books out, by the look of it.”
“The officers said that there was a strange, overpowering stench of decay in the place. She was so shredded that one of the officers lost his lunch. There are no suspects. One of the books was a rare copy of some ancient grimoire or something similar. All of the pages were torn out, except for one. It said ‘Re carere pernicies’.” She frowned. “Hmm. To free curses?” She looked across at Schanke. “I think this should tell us something.”
Schanke stood up. “It tells me that we need to talk to Marc Fowler, the librarian, again.”
Now You=re Messin= with an S.O.B.
Slithering across her body, Lux forced Sharon onto her back. Her mouth was no longer covered, but broken ribs and his body weight made screaming impossible. Lux pushed up and straddled her, AMiss me?@
Sharon groaned as he prodded her here and there with a calloused finger. Maddeningly, her attacker still looked like the guy on all the CD=s – young, intelligent, rebellious. She had convinced herself that the next time she saw him, his true nature would be obvious. She smiled tiredly at her own naivete.
Lux smiled back.
AI=ve learned a neat little trick. Wanna see?@ He searched briefly then selected Sharon=s breakfast fork from the tray next to the bed. This idol to millions displayed the utensil from every angle like a magician then proceeded to jam it into his neck.
Sharon struggled as blood spurt freely from the wound. With a look akin to rapture, Lux began to twist the fork, tearing open an even bigger gash. His unwilling audience gagged and spit as blood rained down.
With the fork protruding at a jaunty angle, Lux crawled off of her and went to the window. It was night suddenly and Sharon could see three dead faces peering eagerly in. The bloody rock star grabbed the latch, turned to Sharon and asked, AShould we invite them in?@
The three apparitions at her fourth floor window we hungry to get in and began to claw at the casing. Their eyes glowed red and they snarled revealing long, sharp fangs. Broken ribs be damned, Sharon began to scream.
AShh honey, you=re okay,@ her mother said calmly, Ait=s only a bad dream.@ Sonja mopped her daughter=s fevered brow with a cool, damp cloth. Unconvinced, Sharon took her mother=s hand and rubbed it against her cheek. It=s roughness and ever-present smell of pine was all the proof she needed. With a huge sigh, Sharon held her arms out for a hug. Sonja joyfully complied.
Over her mother=s shoulder, Sharon looked to the window and the reassuring rays of the sun. In the middle of the window, half obscured by the frame, was a large, bloody hand print.
Running up that Hill (Deal with God)
Airspace, above the Midwest
The young woman in First Class fidgeted, silently wringing her hands. Couldn=t the plane move any faster? She sat carefully, in her long, black dress and pearls. Her neck still hurt, but that really couldn=t be helped, she thought wryly to herself. After all, it HAD been broken recently.
Her hand went to the thin chain she wore tucked into her dress. It had her key to Rupert=s apartment on it. He=d left it on her. It had made it simple to gain access to his place and find her belongings. She almost smiled as she thought of him, putting her clothes in his closet, her purse in a dresser drawer. Fortunately, in all of the chaos, he=d forgotten to cancel her credit cards. Thus, she could manage the plane instead of hitching a ride. That would have taken longer than she had. He=d be dead for certain, or worse.
Please, she thought, let me be in time. She couldn=t bear the thought of losing him twice.
ACoffee, miss?@ The flight attendant stood next to her.
AOh, sure.@ She wasn=t used to speaking anymore. Her voice felt rusty. AThat would be nice.@ She turned a dazzling smile to the young man. He moved off, pleased at the attention.
She leaned back. It would still be a few hours, and she really should try to enjoy the trip.
The in‑flight movie was ATitanic.@ Wonderful.
Dark End of the Street
New Salem Library
The granite steps echoed under Schanke’s feet as he walked back down to the street. He looked at Evie standing beside him.
“Well, that was a wasted trip. I should’ve known he worked the night shift.” Schanke sighed and put his notebook back in his coat. “So, next idea?”
Evie shrugged and took another sip of her iced latte. “I think we should go back to the hotel.” She looked around. “It’s only a few more hours ’til sunset, and I’m not fond of this section of town after dark.”
“Yeah, I know what you mean.” Schanke fell into step next to her. “It gives me the creeps. I think it’s a little close to the woods.”
“I figure, when we get back, we can check on everything and then see if Giles is around. If anyone has a clue about these books in the newspaper clipping, it’s him.” She remembered that the night before, Giles had checked out several very unusual books. “Maybe I can have Willow go online to see if this phrase means anything out on the web,” she mused aloud.
“Hey. I’ve got an idea.”
“Hmm?” Evie continued drinking her latte and walking. If Schanke had an idea, at least it would keep his mind off Jenny.
“Well, we’ve got bad‑ass vampires, right?”
“Why don’t we take a quick buzz through the cemetery? We still have enough time before dark, and who knows? We might find a clue?”
She nodded. “You’ve got a good idea. Since these aren’t exactly normal, social vampires, a cemetery might be the thing that appeals to them. Okay, let’s turn off and do that now.”
After a bit of walking and asking directions, they came to the New Jerusalem Cemetery. The gates were newly blacked, with sharp looking spikes at the top. They stood open, inviting. Evie tried her hand at one gate. It didn’t move.
“This must be another one of those ‘we never close’ places.”
They continued on their walk. Mausoleums and crypts reared up in front of them, jockeying for position among the many ornate headstones. Weeping willows and cypress trees moved gently in the wind. It was a scene of utter peace. Schanke had stopped to look at a large marble angel when he heard the sound. It was soft at first, a wordless keening, like the wind through an alley. He frowned and walked toward a large, darkened mausoleum. It seemed to be coming from there. It grew louder as he approached.
“Hello!” he called out. “Is anybody there?”
“Schanke! This is a graveyard! Of course there’s no one here. At least, no one who’s up yet.”
“Shh. I heard something.” He stepped forward again. “Hello?”
Then he heard it clearly. “Daddy? Daddy, I’m scared! Help me!”
“Jenny!” His eyes widened with a sudden flare of hope. He pulled out his revolver (already thoughtfully loaded with silver Talons) and ran through the mausoleum doors.
“Schanke!” Evie screamed. “Don’t go in there! Not without backup!” She watched his retreating back. “Shit!” She pulled out her cellphone and punched up the hotel. “Yes, I’d like Benton Fraser’s room, please. Yes, that’s right, the Yukon Suite. And it’s an emergency.”
The top floor of the Elysian Fields was silent and still in the hot afternoon. The hallway empty and dim, shadowed against the harsh sunlight outside. The vampiric tenants of the many suites were resting, sleeping the muggy day away.
The Louis XVI Suite was no different to the casual observer. The mortal occupants had gone out, for information and a late lunch. The two vampires remaining slept, and one of them dreamed.
London, the Romantic Period. Nick walked down the crowded street in the twilight mist. The weight of his cape was comforting in the chill of the November evening. Janette was looking at him curiously as they walked along. She was, as usual, dressed in black, her hands well hidden within a fur muff.
ANicola? What are you thinking of?@
Nick shook himself to clear his head. ANothing really.@ Somehow he knew that he was in a dream, perhaps remembering some odd moment of his past. Why this time period? He thought to himself.
AI thought it might be the incredible stench,@ Janette broke into his thoughts. AHonestly, I don=t know why you insist on London so often. Paris is so much . . . @ she stopped in frustration as she searched for the English word to fit the thought.
ACleaner?@ he raised his eyebrows and quirked a smile.
AExactly. It is also larger, brighter, more exciting . . . @
AYou=ve made your point, Janette. Next time, it shall be Paris, as you wish.@
AMerci,@ she said, lacing her arm through his.
A sudden movement among the throng caught his attention. He turned to see a tiny woman bustling through the crowd. She was accompanied by a dark‑haired young man, who would=ve been handsome if it hadn=t been for his arrogant, possessive expression. It coarsened his features, somehow, and made him merely interesting, and brutal. The woman turned intense eyes on him, and Nick felt like head received an electric shock. He knew her! She was a vampire, though not one of his kind. And something more; she seemed to be trying to tell him something with her eyes.
As they stared at each other, their eyes locked, he could feel the scene shift around him.
He was in a low‑ceilinged room of some kind. He could sense that Janette was no longer with him. He was still looking at the woman, but something was blocking his view of her. He realized that he was looking at an iron coffin. Nick frowned in confusion and stepped up to get a closer look.
Bits of dried seaweed clung to its pitted, dark surface, and it was bound in chains. He placed his hands on it, and knew that the woman was trapped inside.
AIt=s really quite pointless, you know.@
Nick turned to see the arrogant youth leaning against the wall, his arms folded. AWhat do you mean?@ he asked.
With a nonchalant wave of his arm, the young man said, AAll of this dream stuff she=s conjured.@ He walked to stand at the other side of the coffin. AIt=s not going to get her out of here in time. She=s mine, now and forever, and we will make her see that.@
APaulo.@ The name came to Nick unbidden. That was the young man=s name. He struggled to think in the dreamhaze. Wasn=t it Hanna=s childe? But, he thought Paulo was dead. What did this all mean?
Nick felt himself being pulled back toward the present, toward consciousness. As he woke, he heard a woman=s voice, whispering urgently.
Nick opened his eyes. The hotel room was dark, the drapes pulled tightly against the waning light. He felt Trapper snuggled up beside him in the crook of his arm.
ADream?@ she murmured against his chest.
He nodded. AI think so, but it was more than that.@ He remembered the words spoken as he had left the dream.
Waiting for the Night Boat
Evie finished her quick call to Benton, giving him their relative coordinates, and then dashed off to pursue Schanke into the mausoleum. She stopped, just short of the doors, when she noticed about two dozen smoking PVC pipes sticking up out of the ground. Puzzled and in a daze of curiosity, she stepped a little closer to the pipes.
The smell almost overwhelmed her as she approached. It smelled like burning flesh, and worse. And then she heard the same keening that had been Jenny, only in wasn’t coming from the mausoleum. The screaming melted away into groans, almost like water pouring over a smooth surface. The way it would sound if it had been an illusion…
“SCHANKE!” Evie screamed as she turned and ran full speed into the mausoleum, knowing full well that she was entering the same trap Schanke just had. But she wasn’t about to let him go . . .
Wall of Death
New Jerusalem Cemetery
Immediately after “Waiting for the Night Boat”
The mausoleum was cool and dim. The only light filtered in through dusty leaded panes set high in the walls. Faded dry flowers littered the dusty floor and the tops of the four sarcophagi that occupied the room. Schanke stood in the center of the room, gun drawn, looking around at nothing. There was no one there, and nowhere anyone could be hiding.
“I was so sure,” he said to himself.
Evie came up behind him, panting more from fear than exertion. “Jeez, Schanke,” she gasped, as she leaned on the nearest inhabitant. “Don’t you think that was a little suicidal?” Schanke looked at her blankly. “You’re no good to Jenny if you get yourself dead! This was not good police procedure!”
“Right,” he said absently, still looking around. “I just don’t get it.”
“Well, I do. It was meant to draw our attention away, and delay us getting to wherever we were going. Someone’s going to a lot of trouble to keep an eye on us.” She tugged on his sleeve. “She’s not here,” she said more gently. “C’mon, let’s get out of here.”
They walked out of the tomb into the afternoon light, blinking against the sudden glare of the bright sun. Schanke almost stumbled over the melted, smoking PVC pipes.
“Phew! What’s that smell?” He wrinkled up his nose. “It smells like an arson at the slaughterhouse out here.”
Evie gestured to the pipes. “I think it’s coming from these.” They gingerly stepped up and took a very brief sniff, only to jump back at the stench. “Yep, that’s where it’s from. What do you think, detective?”
“I think it’s time we left.” He looked down at the pipes again. “Smells like what we’ve got is a vampire shiskabob. I would’ve suggested questioning them, but I think they’re a little beyond that.” He glanced around and back at Evie. “This must be where the sound’s been coming from.” He paused, listening. “It’s stopped now.”
“I’m not surprised,” Evie said dryly.
As they walked back out of the cemetery, she mused aloud. “Why would anyone kill that many vampires in such a horrible way?”
“Object lesson,” Schanke replied, his hands in his pockets. “Obviously, they must’ve done something someone didn’t like.”
“Well, let’s hightail it back to the hotel.” Evie squinted up into the afternoon sun. “It’s not getting any earlier.”
“I’m with you. I want to run this past everyone and see what they think.”
The pair made their way back to the street, still wondering just what had gone on, and how close had they been to finding Jenny. The day had turned bleak indeed.
She lay silently in the occupied sarcophagus, trying to ignore the stench of the recently dead and decomposing. She was pissed to no end that she had waited so long for Davistch to make good on his promise of Hanna that she was trapped her by the sun.
She had enjoyed the deaths of the Sabbat pack immensely. But then, mass murder pleased her the most lately.
She listened as Evie and Schanke’s voices faded away, snarling to herself. Well, the good detective wouldn’t be pleased with his daughter if he ever got her back. And that bitch would pay for meddling in her affairs . . .
Jump Into the Fire
New Salem Airport
The small commuter plane touched down on the tiny runway. The young woman in black smiled self‑consciously as she noticed how tightly she’d been gripping the armrests. She forced herself into calm and looked out the window as they taxied to the terminal.
There were the usual small planes one would expect to find at an airport like this one. The large, silver jet was glaringly out of place here. She hoped it wasn’t trouble arriving ahead of her.
She rose from her seat, and took her small duffel from the overhead rack. The polite young attendant handed her the garment bag he’d hung for her, and she made her way off the plane and into the waiting area. From there, it was a simple matter to walk out and hail a taxi. The driver was all too willing to pick up the lovely dark‑haired woman and take her wherever she wanted to go.
She leaned in the passenger side window. “What’s the largest hotel in town?”
The driver, Albert Singh, answered her with a huge smile and a nod. “That would be the Elysian Fields, miss.”
She opened the door, thinking to herself what an appropriate name it was. “That’s where I want to go,” she said as she got in and closed the door behind her.
“Very good, miss,” the driver said, in his soft British Raj accent. He pulled away from the curb and began the short drive into town.
She noticed with apprehension that the dying sun had filled the sky with blood.
Payback’s a Bitch
Lux grinned to himself as he sauntered into the caves. He was carrying the last of the supplies he’d picked up in town. He’d inflated the airbed and it looked like quite a comfortable little spot now. The silk sheets he’d stolen from the hotel were a nice touch. He glanced back along the passage. The vampires were holed up in another cave close by. “Dead to the world,” he giggled, pleased at his little joke. Lux wondered briefly if he should bring the doc in to keep him company. He could have fun with that one. Then again, the bloodsuckers seemed to have plans for her, so better to just let it go for now. There’d always be time later. From what they told him, he had all the time in the world.
He stripped down and settled into bed. He was dog‑tired, but his mind continued to race. At least he’d managed to get the blond cow to back down. She was almost as much of a loony as the dark one. Well, he’d have them all, sooner or later. He stretched out and let his thoughts roam.
He thought of Sharon in her hospital bed. He could almost taste her fear. He’d never realized what a rush it could be, to have someone that afraid of you, that you could smell it on them. He burrowed deeper into his pillow, smiling. This was better than drugs.
He heard her broken ribs grate as he laid himself on top of her. “Hey baby,” he whispered. “You get me so hot, I just couldn’t stay away.” He sniffed down her neck. “Mmm. Smell that terror. It’s just like wine.”
He could hear Sharon’s panicked breathing, gasping, “Please, don’t.” She tried to control herself. “It’s just a dream.”
“Whatever you say, sweetcakes.” Lux heard her whimper as he squeezed her breast through the sheet.
“I thought you liked it rough.” He closed his eyes and bit her ear. She let out a breathy little cry of pain. He tasted blood in his mouth. Maybe he’d make a good vampire yet. He savored the coppery taste, the heat and salt of it, and licked her earlobe. “Where to go next?” he purred into her throat. “So much skin, so little time.”
The blast of wind that hit him was totally unexpected. It lifted him off Sharon and slammed him into the heat register below the window. He struggled to his feet, pissed beyond words. Who dared get in the way of his fun?
He saw her standing at the foot of the bed. She was a short, stocky woman, iron‑grey hair pulled back into a severe bun. She stared at him with black eyes that impaled him like a pinned butterfly, and stepped toward him. He could swear that they glowed.
He tried to bluster. “What’s your problem, bitch? Isn’t a man entitled to a little fun?”
“No,” she said, so softly her barely heard her. She was clutching a small string of beads in her hands, and began to run it through her fingers, muttering as she did so. Then she stopped, took a deep breath and concentrated on Lux again. “Monster!” she spit at him. “You will leave my daughter alone. I give you a Szgany curse to keep you company. May your dreams all turn to nightmares, and may your worst nightmares kill you.” She tossed the little string of beads at him.
He started to laugh then, as relief set in. This was just some crazy old gypsy woman! “Oh, bitch! You had me going there for a minute! Hurting you is gonna be a pleasure!” He tried to look menacing as he began to stalk forward. A tap on his shoulder stopped him. “What?” He turned.
Trapper stared at him with dead, white, empty eyes. Her hair was wild and her mouth was open to reveal long, shiny fangs. Her hands were talons, reaching out for him. She was not alone. Sister Kat stood next to her, looking the same. The harpies grabbed him and pushed their faces close to him.
“Want to have some fun?” Trapper hissed into his ear before she punctured it with a fang. He screamed as he felt the blood trickle down his neck. She chuckled and ran a clawed hand down his chest. “Ooh, your heart’s beating like a rabbit’s! Maybe we should just pull it out and take a look!” She began to push her claws through the meat of his chest.
Kat leaned into him, whispering seductively into the other ear. “We like you being immortal, Ira. It means that we can rip you apart over and over again, and not worry about killing you.”
Lux felt the heat as he pissed himself. He couldn’t get away, and these two psychos were going to tear him apart.
Suddenly, they pulled back from him. He felt something at his back.
“Turn around,” a voice said.
He turned to find himself with a sword point at the base of his neck. He couldn’t see his attacker, but he could hear the voice loud and clear.
“All it would take is a twitch, and no head.” Lux felt the blood well up where the sword was touching. He tried to scream.
“Hey, Lux! Wake up!”
He still felt the sword at his throat as he opened his eyes. Angel was crouched in front of him, holding a claymore as if it was a toothpick. He nudged it at Lux. “You were screaming in your sleep. Usually I like the sound, but it was making the doc nervous.” Angel stood up and pulled the sword back. “By the way,” he said casually, as he looked at the blade in his hands, “you might want to get yourself one of these. It’s the only thing that can kill you.” He drew a finger across his throat, while he mimicked the sound of steel through flesh. “Lose your head, and you’re dead.”
Angel laughed to himself as he walked away. “That was a good one! Lose your head.” He stopped at the mouth to the cave, turned back and sniffed the air. “That must’ve been some dream, Lux. I think you need to change your sheets.” He snickered and left.
Lux lay in his wet sheets, trying to shake the effects of the dream off. It felt like he was moving through layers of cobwebs to get back to reality. He felt something, and looked down at his hand.
It was clutching a small, bloody string of beads. He didn’t need anyone to tell him that it was his blood.
Dimming of the Day
It was almost sunset. The sun’s dying light gilded the leaves and made every dust mote a sparkling bit of crystal. The forest was full of light‑dappled shadows. It looked peaceful, benign and utterly harmless. The woman walked in the woods. She could feel the blades of grass bend beneath her feet, smell the earthy moss as she stepped upon it. She stopped to gaze at the colorful riot of wildflowers, blissfully unaware of approaching darkness.
The sun vanished quite suddenly. A wind rose and the trees looked quite menacing in their blackness. The leaves were gone, replaced by grasping hands of bare branches. She quickened her pace, knowing that she needed to be gone from this place. A wolf howl cut through the air like a razor blade, causing the hair at the back of her neck to prickle with a sense of danger. Another howl answered it, and soon the woods were alive with the sounds of the pack. It was hunting, and the woman knew who was the prey.
Her heart beat faster as she ran. The path she’d been on was quite gone now, swallowed up in the night. Still, she ran on, only thinking to outrun the sounds she heard behind her. A large shape loomed up before her, and before she could stop herself, she’d crashed into it at the full speed of her run. Hands reached out to grab her, and she was aware of a dreadful smell. Old blood, rot, dirt, the putrid stench of gangrenous wounds assaulted her nostrils. She tried to break free, but the grip was a vice that would not let her go. A lightning flash split the sky and revealed her captor. Once, perhaps, it had been a man. Now, it was beyond all humanity. The eyes that stared at her were cloudy, red‑rimmed and devoid of any expression, except evil, all‑consuming hunger. His reeking, drooling, fanged mouth was open and descended toward her exposed throat. She tried to scream, but he stifled it with one filthy hand over her mouth. She struggled to breathe, she . . .
Woke up, suddenly, sitting bolt upright in bed. Her eyes flew open and saw that she was in her hotel room. Nick looked at Trapper, who turned to him with wild eyes.
“What was it?”
“I think someone’s going to die tonight.”
Dream Suites are Made of This
The swollen, orange, late‑summer sun dipped below the horizon and Kat opened her eyes. Momentarily disoriented, it took only one deep breath to refresh her memory. “The Riviera,” she sighed, smiling in the seamless dark of the trunk.
“Be careful what you wish for,” Vachon cautioned light‑heartedly. He shifted in the tight quarters, adjusting his grip on his bed mate. Kat felt for the latch and popped the lid but remained lying down.
“Then I guess the Monte Carlo Suite is out,” she said, swinging her impossibly long legs over the rim and letting them dangle.
“And the Bel Air,” he added, straight‑faced. The two vampires started to laugh.
The Lap of Luxury
Right after Dream Suites . . .
Javier began to drag Kat back into the depths of the Riviera=s trunk. She could see his glittering yellow eyes in the darkness. She reached out to him.
The phone rang, totally shattering the mood.
AIgnore it,@ Javier growled.
Kat sighed and reached for the phone. AIt might be an emergency.@ She answered the phone, AThis better be good.@
The voice on the other end of the connection cleared its throat. AAhem. This is Sybilla at the front desk. I=m terribly sorry to disturb you.@
AYes?@ Kat tried to keep the laughter out of her voice.
AMr. Battles left word that I was to transfer you to the Sultan=s Suite, to apologize for any possible inconvenience you might have experienced with the Riviera Suite. Shall I send up the key?@
AThat would be lovely, Sybilla. Thank Jerome for me, would you?@ She hung up the phone and turned to Vachon. AWe=re moving.@
AYes.@ She swung out of the car and grabbed up her clothes. AAnd I think this is going to be worth it.@
Kat stuck the filigree key into the ornate door. It silently slid open.
They were met by a scene straight out of 1001 Arabian Nights. The ceiling was softly draped and diffused the light to a sensual twilight. Thick, dark red Persian carpets covered the floor, with a voluptuous heap of huge, soft floor cushions in the center of the room. The faint scent of sandalwood wafted through the air from some unseen incense burner. A shesham and brass tray held several bottles of various exotic vintages, with a small note. It read, ACompliments of Elysian Fields.@.
Javier shut the door and came up behind Kat.
ABetter?@ she purred.
He swung her up into his arms. AYou have to ask?@
They fell together into the cushions, laughing.
Without You (Harry Nilsson)
Shortly after sunset
Elysian Fields was an impressive building in the early evening. The final death throes of the day had splashed the weathered brick walls with blood reflected from the crystal tower close by. The woman shivered as she emerged from the taxi. The tower was like a great, glass tombstone, and felt just that inviting.
The cabby leaned out the window. “Now, you be having a nice night, miss. Remember, if you need anything in town, you just call on Albert. I’ll find it for you.”
She waved, smiling as he drove off, and wasted no more time getting indoors.
The immaculate glass doors hissed shut behind her, and she gazed around the lobby. The palms, elegant furniture and subtle music calmed her nerves immediately. She took a deep breath and headed for the reception desk.
The young brunette looked at her and smiled. “I’m Sybilla. How may I help you?”
“I have a reservation.” She placed her credit card on the counter.
Sybilla looked at it, and checked the name against the register. “Ah, yes, here it is. You have the Romany Suite. Just wait a moment, while I fetch the key.” She turned her back, leaving the booking records open for view.
“Here we are then.” Sybilla handed a key made entirely from quartz crystal across the counter. “There’s an electronic sensor imbedded in the crystal. Quite a neat trick, isn’t it?”
The dark-haired woman nodded. “Yes, thank you.”
“Enjoy your stay.”
She picked up her bags and headed for the elevator.
Rupert Giles paced as he read. He was searching through the books from the library, trying to find something that would help their situation. He’d heard of Sabbat, Camarilla and the Hand, but had very little first hand knowledge. He placed the book on the table, took off his glasses, and rubbed his eyes. He needed a nice hot cup of tea, he thought, looking at his watch. Room service should be arriving any minute. He smiled at the knock on the door. Right on time. Giles ran a hand through his hair as he opened the door, and promptly dropped his glasses in shock.
by Suk and Trapper
LaCroix woke alone. He rolled over to find Angelique gone, and a large black feather on her pillow.
He picked up the phone and dialed. “What is the meaning of this?” he snarled into the receiver.
Trapper and Nick moaned in unison as the phone rang. Nick covered his head with the pillow as Trapper stretched across him to answer it.
“No rest for the wicked,” she muttered as she picked up the phone. “Your nickel,” she said into the receiver. This was followed quickly by a wince as she held the phone away from her ear. She handed to phone to Nick. “It’s your Dad,” she smirked. “And he sounds really peeved.”
“What?” Nick batted away Trap’s questing fingers and tried to ignore her muffled snickers. “For how long?”
“How do you know she’s gone?” Nick frowned. “I see. Then call Giles and get them together.” He hung up, then stood and stretched. He swatted Trap’s bare butt as she reached for him. “Rise and shine, ‘Dad’s’ coming over for a visit.”
Giles turned at the tapping on the window. A large crow sat on the balcony, looking very disgruntled.
“Let her in.” Jenny sipped her now cold tea.
Giles opened the door and the crow flew in to perch on Jenny’s shoulder.
“We are now one, her Ka and my Ba.” Giles nearly dropped his glasses as Angelique’s voice came out of the ebony bird.
Jenny looked unconcerned and smiled at the bird.
The phone rang.
Memories . . .
By Devin Saceur
July 6, 1994
A cheap hotel room in Bordeaux, France
The vitae poured forth with a rush that nearly engulfed him in the throes of his victim’s death. Yet he drew more from the artery . . . draining the very soul essence as his fangs searched for an ever deeper purchase in the tattered flesh. His hand tore free a mass of gore from the chest cavity as his mouth worked to bleed dry the woman beneath him.
With but a moment’s pause, he pulled himself away from the throat and bit into the handful that had been his victim’s heart. As he consumed the tissue, his eyes could focus on nothing more than the horrified expression that rested on the face below.
Then, as though struck by the light of dawn, he fell away from the carnage. His senses exploded as all control over his limbs ceased and he tumbled to the floor . . . coiled like a fetus.
Images flooded through his consciousness as his soul devoured that of another . . . on a level seldom known to any but the most depraved of vampires. In defense though it may have been, he had murdered one of his elders and gorged himself on the passing vigor of her millennia of knowledge. It was more than he could contain in what suddenly seemed to him a small and frail existence.
She had come to him earlier that evening in the final gesture of the Black Hand . . . intended to steer him, the “unruly,@ back to the fold. For years, he’d made every effort to break free of the bonds that had held him to the sect since the 15th century. His time with the Hand had been bloody and unyielding. He’d murdered indiscriminately for them . . . all in the name of ideals that remained at odds with his own. This slowly increasing conscience bringing him to his knees in the face of his myriad transgressions had sent him into hiding in the darkest corners of the earth . . . as far as possible from their influence.
Worthy soldiers could not be allowed to fade from sight, she’d told him while surrounded by a host of vampiric “escorts.@ He must return, lest all that he’d worked for be lost. Of course, there were other things to consider . . . his destruction, for one. There could be little forgiveness for those who would abandon the family.
And when he refused her open hand, uttering a simple “no,@ it was as if the fool had spit at her. She boiled in rage at the thought that this arrogant vampire would deny her generous offer of forgiveness. With that rage as fuel, the room erupted into violence.
But for all of her timeless strength and knowledge, she nonetheless failed to anticipate how well the rogue had been trained by her sect. Within the space of a minute, the scene had ended and she found herself on the floor . . . impaled by a shaft of splintered wood. The bodies of her companions were heaped around her.
Above her was a curious face . . . almost detached in its quizzical expression. “I thought for certain that you would destroy me,” he said tonelessly. “You seemed so powerful . . . so full of presence. I actually feared you.”
He placed a boot upon her throat then, and with a quick tug, removed the wood from her chest. She could barely move through the haze of pain as he kneeled down, taking her up into his arms. From her mouth she could force only a broken whisper. “Devin, you need not do this. We will forget . . . ”
“No . . . you will not.”
by Kay and Sukh
Front Lobby around 8:00 p.m.
“You boys got all that?” Sukh yelled over her shoulder to the two lumbering towers of boxes and bags coming toward the front lobby of the hotel.
“Everything’s under control,” replied a muffled male voice.
“I didn’t realize helping them shop meant serving as pack mules,” Micah muttered.
“Relax,” Duncan said. “The day’s over. At least they can’t add anything else to the pile.”
“Damn Vlashmire,” Micah swore, catching his foot on a step.
“Careful,” Sukh shouted.
“You okay, Micah?” Kay came around the boxes and smiled at him.
“Never been better,” Micah grinned back.
Duncan and Micah dropped the spoils of a day spent shopping courtesy of Vlashmire Enterprises at the front desk. Tipping the bellboy extra nice, they left to join Kay and Sukh back at the lobby entrance.
“What do say to dinner?” Sukh asked.
“As long as it doesn’t involve take out boxes, I’m all for it,” Duncan joked.
“What did you have in mind for dinner?” Micah asked, taking Kay by the arm.
“I was thinking Egyptian.”
“Geez, Kay. What are you, a rabbit?” Sukh snorted as Kay glared at her.
“I think she was referring to the restaurant we passed on the way back.” Duncan laughed.
“An Egyptian restaurant. How’d I miss it?”
“Gee, Sukh. Guess you had other things on your mind.” Kay sauntered toward the front doors with Micah at her side and Sukh and Duncan close behind.
Memories . . . back to haunt
by Devin Saceur
A room in the Elysian Fields
“…It would seem your tastes are not as bad as you would have me believe.”
Anna strolled around the room that she’d had little time to explore the previous evening. “Parisian chateau . . . turn of the century, if I’m correct.”
“Indeed. I appreciated the similarity to our old home, though I was unaware that you would be here to share it with me.” In the background, Puccini’s “Turandot” could be heard; melodies intertwined with the soft lilt of the princess at last proclaiming love for her suitor.
Devin stood slowly and moved to embrace Anna, kissing her gently in the filtered light of the descending sun through the windows. The rays stung their skin slightly, but it had always been their practice to rise just before dusk. In some way, the act of watching the sun dip below the horizon brought a simple comfort to them.
“There are preparations to be made,” his voice seemed distant as he placed his arm around her shoulder and gazed out the window. “If the Hand is aware of my presence here and has informed her, conflict will be inevitable.”
Anna looked at him in understanding. The pain on his face was all too clear. “If such is the case, Monique will come . . . we both know that. But will there really be any need for further aggression?”
He nodded slowly, as though the mere gesture required the strength of his entire being. “I destroyed her immortal mother and exhausted her blood. That unto itself would warrant Monique’s undying enmity. But I also betrayed the oath and the very honor of our sect. Was she to destroy me, not only would her vengeance be secured . . . her place in the Black Hand would be elevated.”
He moved over to the closet and removed a large flight case. After a few moments of setting items out on the floor, he stood and began placing small packages around the room. “The most painful lesson I’ve ever learned is that when you cannot negotiate, the only way to insure the end of hostility is to annihilate your opponent. Anything else is a waste of time and resources.”
Anna took in the scene, smiling at the simplicity of her lover’s strategy. “C4? You’re going to use explosives? Isn’t that a bit . . . dramatic?”
Without turning, he acknowledged the comment with a lazy shrug of his shoulders. “On remote switches. The cameras I placed in the corners upon arriving here a few days ago will serve well to alert us when she shows up . . . and I’ve little doubt that she will. The Hand would be wise to send someone with a vendetta after me. And if luck plays in my favor, they’ll storm in here like the mindless pack of Nazis they are and . . . ” He slapped his hands together forcefully.
Time passed as Devin worked diligently at the placement of the charges, when a sudden knock startled both of them. In an instant, he was at the side of the door, pulling a 9mm Glock from his jacket. “What is it? I’m busy!”
“Mr. Saceur . . . a card was just left for you at the desk.”
He recognized the voice as that of the night clerk. “Slide it under the door, Jerome. Thank you.”
The dark print of the hand was clearly visible on the card as Devin snatched it up. He nearly laughed as he handed it to Anna. “Looks like we’re eating out tonight, dear . . . ”
“What about those other people from last night?”
“They can take care of themselves. Let’s just hope that they’re fortunate enough to be out of the building when I set these off.”
“JENNY?!” he said, incredulous, as he watched her bend down to retrieve his glasses. He bent down as well, and they cracked their heads together painfully.
“Ow!” Jenny said as she fell back onto the floor. “Is that any way to greet someone who’s been dead for a few months?”
Rupert Giles grabbed her by the arms and clutched her to his chest. “Oh, God. I’ve missed you, Jenny.” He burrowed into her hair, breathing in the scent of her. Then he sat back and took her face in his hands, just looking at her. She placed her hands over his and smiled at him. He kissed her eyes, her cheeks, her nose, her mouth.
“I know,” she murmured. “I could hear you. I watched you, but I couldn’t touch you.” She gazed at him and touched his face. “I couldn’t stay away. I knew that you needed me, and I needed you.”
They made their way to the couch, still arm in arm. She handed him his glasses, and he put them on, suddenly shy. He had so many questions to ask. But, he felt afraid, as if she might be a ghost, or a figment of a fevered imagination. He touched her hair again in wonder.
“Is it really you,” he whispered, “or am I dreaming all of this?”
A knock on the door suspended the moment. It was Room Service, with the tea Giles had requested. He dealt with the nervous young man, and brought the cart into the room himself. Giles fussed with their tea until Jenny reached out and stopped him.
“Rupert, it’s okay. I’m not going anywhere.” She patted the couch. “Come sit down.”
As he sat down, the door to the suite flew open.
“Giles!” Buffy began. “We got the paper, like you asked. Boy, the mall is a serious mess.” She stopped suddenly as she saw Jenny. Her eyes grew wide. “Whoa.” She stepped warily toward the couch. “Giles, are you okay?”
“As you can see, Buffy, I’m fine.”
“No, I mean, well, Miss Calendar, she=s . . . ”
At the mention of the name, Willow lurched around Buffy and ran to Jenny, throwing her arms around her. “Miss Calendar! You’re okay! I mean, you’re alive!” She sat back on her haunches as it sank in. “Well, I, uh . . . ”
Jenny laughed. “Thanks, Willow. Yes, I’m alive.”
Buffy still hung back, looking suspiciously at the newly resurrected Jenny. “I don’t get it.”
“What? That I’m alive?”
“Yeah, for starters. Why don’t you explain it to us?”
“Buffy!” Giles scolded. “Where are your manners? It’s obvious that Jenny, uh, Miss Calendar, has gone through a terrible ordeal.”
Jenny put her hand on his arm. “No, Rupert. They have a right to know. You all need to know what happened.” She looked at each of them in turn. “So, why doesn’t everyone sit down, and I’ll do my best to explain.”
Beat the Retreat
Costa’s East was a hole in the wall on the way back to Elysian Fields, a perfect place to get Greek food to go. It was an old, down‑at‑the‑heels sort of place, with peeling posters on every wall, advertising everything from the 100th anniversary of the original Salem Witch Burnings, to the Bicentennial, to next week’s sale at the mall. In short, it was the perfect place, in Schanke’s opinion, to get something to eat on the way back.
They walked in the front door and headed straight for the little counter in the back. Despite the appearances of both the outside and interior walls, the kitchen looked to be spotless. A small, dark man bustled up to the counter, a side, white smile visible beneath his abundant mustache.
“Greetings, most favored customers! I am Konstantin Costa.” He gestured expansively. “Welcome to my establishment! What may I prepare for you this lovely September evening?” He pointed to the butcher paper menu on the back wall. “Our gyros are the best on the entire East Coast, and our souvlaki knows no peer.”
Schanke rubbed his hands, anticipating where to start. Evie grinned at him. It was good to see him occupied on something other than his missing daughter, if only for a few minutes.
“So, Evie, my girl, what’s your pleasure? It’s my treat.”
“Hmm. Hard one, Schanke. It all smells delicious!”
Konstantin nodded enthusiastically. “That’s my mother’s cooking. The heavens were smiling the day I was born to such a mother!” He beamed into the back, where a stout, smiling woman with dark hair was pretending not to hear him.
They placed their orders and sat down at one of the small tables to wait. Konstantin was immediately at their side, with tiny cups of strong, sweet Turkish coffee and plates of appetizers.
“It is not good to wait on empty stomachs,” he explained.
“What’s the plan, Schanke?” Evie asked as she sipped her coffee.
“We go back to the hotel, and check in with Nick. Then, we get a hold of this Giles character, and see if he can figure anything out from the newspaper clipping.”
Evie nodded in agreement. “Sounds good. I want to make sure everyone’s okay. I’m glad I remembered to call Fraser back and have him keep an eye on things there.”
“Yeah, he couldn’t have done anything out at the cemetery anyway.” Don looked thoughtful for a moment. “That was so weird. I could’ve sworn . . . ”
“I know. Maybe someone back at the hotel can see something in it.”
The sky was turning all of the colors of sunset by the time they walked out of the restaurant with the grocery bag containing their order. Konstantin waved as they left. As they ambled down the street, munching on gyros, Evie chanced to notice a poster hanging in a window.
“Steve Lalor, one night only at the Eigerwand? Could it be Steve from Seattle?” She snorted. “No way. That would be too weird for words.”
“What?” Schanke mumbled around a mouthful of food.
“Nothing. Just one more weirdness in the world.”
They continued on their way, hurrying a bit to beat the end of the sunset. The glass tower looked like a glistening fountain of blood as they passed.
After the Fire
Jenny sat, looking into her empty teacup. The room was silent. She looked up at Giles. “And, here I am.”
“Extraordinary!” Giles gazed at her in wonder. She’d gone through all of that to come back, to him. It made him feel special and humble at the same time.
Willow looked at her teacher with something like awe. “Wow. That’s amazing! So, are you back? I mean, really back?”
Jenny looked at her student with gentle eyes and touched her hand. “I don’t know, Willow. That’s up to the Gods. I hope,” she looked over at Giles, “that they’ll let me finish out my life.” She took Willow’s hand in both of her own. “But, if all they let me do is help now, then that’s what we’ll work with, and that’s what we’ll be grateful for.”
Buffy looked up from her Diet Coke. “Ok. So, we know you’re not a bad guy. Just why are you back? I take it we’re talking serious trouble?”
Kendra stopped her stake whittling to add her comments. “Dat’s what I’d be likin’ to know, meself.”
“I came back for your sakes,” Jenny replied, as Giles refilled her teacup. “You’re all in danger, but none more than Rupert.”
Xander said, “Hey, Giles! Looks like you’re our Danger Poster Boy. Why him and not, I don’t know, our slayers, maybe?”
Jenny frowned. “I’m not sure. That’s just the impression I get. Maybe it’s because he has the information to stop them all.”
Cordelia was sitting on the arm of Xander’s chair. “Who’s them? Are these the same postal psychos from the mall?” She took a drink from her soda. “And they were just too retro for words. I couldn’t believe they’d come to the mall!”
“At least partly,” Jenny interrupted. Sometimes it was the only way to stop Cordelia from talking. “But there are more than just them, and more coming. I can sense it.”
“So, what’s the plan?” Willow asked.
“First,” Jenny said, taking a deep breath, “we bring Angel back.”
Mysteries of Time and Space
The lobby was unchanged as always, a pleasant oasis full of plants and soft music. Schanke and Evie limped in through the elegant doors. Evie sighed in relief as the doors shut behind them. They were safely inside.
Sybilla looked up from her book. “Good evening.”
Evie waved back. “Same.” Schanke gestured with his souvlaki as they headed to the elevator and got in.
“Oh, man,” Evie said as the doors shut. “This was a long day. And my feet are killing me.”
Schanke swallowed. “Yeah, don’t I know it. Mrs. Schanke’s boy is one tired puppy tonight.” He watched the numbers on the floor display. “Maybe we’ll get lucky and it’ll be a quiet night. Then, maybe we can get some sleep.”
“Gods, that would be too much to hope for,” Evie yawned.
After what seemed an eternity, the doors opened onto their floor. They tottered down the hall and into the suite.
“Hi, honeys, we’re home!” Schanke called out as he set his bag on the kitchenette counter.
“Hey, what’s up!” Trapper leaned over the couch to look at them. “You two look beat!”
Evie nodded. “Yep, that’s me.” She rummaged in the giant shopping bag. “I brought you a triple strong Turkish coffee.” Before she could turn to hand it to Trapper, a sudden whoosh of air signified that Trapper had come to fetch it. Evie blinked and Trapper was sitting on the couch, draining the cup.
“Oh, Trapper! That poor, defenseless cup! Sucked of its life force!”
A satisfied belch answered her from the couch. “Thanks, Evie. That was just what the doctor ordered.”
Nick walked out of the bedroom. “Hello, you two! Did you learn anything today?”
“Yeah, but it can wait until I’m done with dinner,” Schanke said.
“That sounds fine. Oh, by the way, LaCroix’s on his way over.”
Evie immediately jumped up. “Well, me for the shower.”
Schanke nodded. “Yeah, I think I’ll get cleaned up too. I can always zap these in the microwave.”
They both vanished into their rooms.
Nick looked at Trapper. “Was it something I said?”
“You know I can’t stay.” Jenny touched her hand to Giles’s cheek. He closed his eyes, savoring the touch of her, even though he knew the truth of her words.
“How long do you have?” He asked.
“Until the job is finished,” the crow supplied. “The ones that caused so much pain will be stopped and she can go back to her rest.”
“LaCroix’s going to bust a gasket when he finds out his thang is now a bird.” Cordelia snickered. She stopped when the bird turned and looked at her.
“I must go. When you figure out how to find the caves, let me know.” Jenny stood and went to the door.
“How can I find you?” Giles could feel his heart crumbling all over again.
“I’ll be in touch.” Then she was gone.
Jenny and the bird ended up in the Ptolemaic suite. Once there, Angelique hopped off Jenny’s shoulder and perched on the bed. It took a few moments, but Angelique was able to regain her human shape. “You will need something much more powerful than a crow for this. The crow brought you back.” She motioned other corner and Cleo came toward her mistress. “But Sekhmet will be your guidance and protector.”
Jenny smiled and touched the sleek ebony cat. There was a bright light and then Jenny’s Ka was transferred to Cleo. The big cat growled. Then rubbed up against Jenny, greeting her with a rusty purr.
“Cleo, serve her well, the power of Sekhmet is in you both.” Angelique looked at her beloved pet. “Be safe.”
She motioned for Jenny. “Now you need to get ready.”
An hour later, Jenny was transformed. Pale white face, black kohl eyes and red lips. She wore black leather, a pair of pants and a corset-like vest. Her boots we ankle length, stacked, but with enough balance for speed and fighting. An Ankh hung around her neck, suspended on a silver chain.
Angelique nodded and Jenny took Cleo and was gone, an odd dream in the nightmare of New Salem.
Lucius padded up to Angelique and put his massive head in her lap. She stroked his sleek head as she got dressed for the coming evening.
Trapper stepped out of the shower, still muttering to herself about LaCroix=s imminent visit. Nick wrapped her in a towel and traded her places.
She sighed. AYou know, if LaCroix wasn=t coming over, we could have helped each other shower.@
Nick peered around the edge of the curtain. AHelped each other?@ he smiled with a mischievous twinkle in his blue eyes. AIs that what you=re calling it now? We=d spend all night in here.@
AMmm. That=s the idea.@ She kissed him and he vanished back into the steam. ABeing pruney all night would=ve been worth it. Ah, well, c=est la vie.@ She padded into the other room to get dressed.
As she got dressed, an absolutely evil thought occurred to her. Grinning, she called the front desk and asked for Kat and Vachon=s room.
AKat? Trapper. How would you like to come down to the suite in a bit? LaCroix=s coming over, and I thought maybe we could start the process of, well, getting even . . . @
After Kat=s enthusiastic response, Trapper hung up the phone and chuckled. Whatever LaCroix wanted was nothing in comparison to what he was going to get.
Three Silver Rings (French Girl)
Eigerwand Coffeehouse, New Salem
The Eigerwand was a ’60’s style coffeehouse at the edge of town, close to the Best Western. It was a perfect study in retro furnishings. The tables were marble slabs from a demolished theater and the chairs were wooden benches. A cheap, brass ashtray sat on every table, along with a coffee can full of wildflowers. The walls were unfinished cedar planks, covered with posters of the period. Everywhere you looked, a psychedelic mass of color assaulted your eyes, screaming the names of long‑ago bands, like Moby Grape, Quicksilver Messenger Service and The Daily Flash.
Steve Lalor walked in the door looking as though he’d just come home. He took a deep breath of the smoky, coffee‑laden air and smiled. Oh, yeah, it was good to be back.
He’d been in upstate New York, visiting his father at the rest home. How old was he now, 84 or 85? Steve shook his head. It didn’t matter. The old man had Alzheimer’s so bad that he just sat and drooled. But, he was still healthy as a horse. After that, Steve had hit the Glass Onion, and decided to come up here. They had an empty night, and he liked to play in places like the Eigerwand. They reminded him of his ancient, fleeting fifteen minutes of fame. Besides, he might get lucky. Girls still loved musicians. That had never changed.
He carefully set down his Martin guitar, “Mary,@ he called her, on the small, carpeted stage and began to set up. A waitress watched him from behind the counter, checking him out.
Steve was about 54, with a receding hairline and a long, grey ponytail. His beard and mustache matched. He wore “big boy” jeans and red suspenders over a white tee shirt that said, “Visualize whirled peas.@ He wore two‑tone saddle shoes and a tweed cap.
Marigold shook her head, rolled her eyes and walked over to see if he needed anything. God, why did her parents have to move here? At least, when they lived near Woodstock it made sense. She put on her best smile.
“Hi, I’m Mari.” She hated her name. It was so sixties. “You must be Steve.” She stuck out her hand.
Steve turned on his thousand‑watt smile and took her hand. “Nice name, Mari.” He held her hand a little too long, and finally released her. She resisted the urge to wipe it on her skirt.
“How about a latte, and a glass of water?”
“Cool.” She walked back to her counter.
He watched her go, admiring the way her long skirt clung to her hips. The flowers in her long, red hair were a nice touch. Smiling to himself, he set about tuning his guitar.
Steve had just started the second set. He was halfway through “Darcy Farrow,@ when they came through the door.
There were three of them. All dressed in unrelieved black. The two men were reasonably nondescript, but the woman was another story.
Her dress left nothing to the imagination, and her long, raven hair hung down past her waist. She was impossibly pale, with slasher red lips and eyes as black and deep as a drowning pool. She walked right up to the stage and looked up at Steve. He smiled as he sang. He still had it.
When he finished the song, he leaned over. “Any requests, darlin’?” he said in his best softly seductive tones.
“You, and a question or two,” she whispered back. He couldn’t quite place the accent. It sounded like one of those Slavic countries.
“Anything my lady desires,” he said unctuously as he put Mary in her stand and got down off the stage. He walked to her table and sat down. Placing a hand on her knee, he said, “Now, what can I do for you?”
“Do you know Devin Saceur?” she purred.
“No, I’m just visiting. Sorry.” His hand slid higher. “Anything else I can do for you?”
“Yes.” She smiled. “You can die.”
Steve watched in unbelieving horror as her smile continued to widen, showing sharp, white fangs in that beautiful mouth. She leaned forward as if to kiss him, but at the last moment, veered off to sink her teeth in his throat. He struggled briefly as she drained him, but she held him fast to her chest.
When she finished, she wiped her lips on a napkin. “Ah, aging musician. My favorite.” She stretched and walked over to where Marigold cowered by the espresso machine. “Don’t worry, my dear. I’ve already eaten.” She rested her gloved hands on the counter. “Can you tell me where the best hotel in town is?”
Marigold nodded and squeaked, “Yes, miss. It’s the Elysian Fields, downtown.”
The woman patted her hand. “There’s a good girl. I want you to go there, and leave this at the desk. Tell them it’s for Devin Saceur.” She pushed a business card across the counter. Without another word she turned and walked out, nodding to the two silent men as she passed. She stopped on her way by, to pick up “Mary Martin.@ The men looked at her, puzzled. “A souvenir,” she said, and they walked out the door into the gathering night.
When Marigold was sure they’d left, she looked down at the card and frowned. She turned it over gingerly, as if it might bite.
All it bore was the imprint of a black hand.
Nat cleared her throat and tried to ease her sore wrists. It just wasn’t possible to get comfortable with ropes tying all of your extremities. She could hear the vampires, and that crazy musician, and knew that if she was going to convince them to let her go it had to be now.
Angel sauntered over to her and lifted her chin. “Hi, doc,” he began, smiling. “How’s the fair patient?”
Nat wrenched her chin away from him and closed her eyes, trying to will her heart to slow down.
Angel stood up and rubbed a thoughtful hand over his chin. “Not your type? Yeah, I suppose your type runs more to blonde detectives and Mounties in general.”
Nat answered him with a glare.
He leaned back down over her. “Gotcha!” he whispered and kissed her forehead. He walked away laughing.
Spike had watched the exchange from his wheelchair. “Cute, Angelus. But what’s it going to gain us?” He gestured over at Nat. “She’s not even good conversation. And,” he reached out to snag Dru as she tried to creep by, “She’s a stiff doc, so we don’t know what kind of diseases she might have in her blood.” Spike directed this at Dru, who looked entirely too intent on Nat’s neck. “So, if she’s a hostage, let’s ransom her, and if this is just for giggles, then let’s turn ‘er loose and be done with it.”
Dru reached a taloned hand toward Nat. “Ooh. Did you hear that?” she whispered. “She’s got diseases.” She turned a petulant face to Spike and Angel. “She’s no fun anymore, and I’m bored.” She got a crazy smile on her face as she rubbed against Spike’s hand. “Find Dru another toy, Spike,” she wheedled.
“Done.” Spike stroked her dark hair and glared protectively in Angel’s direction.
“C’mon, Spike.” Angel took Dru’s hand and pulled her to her feet. “You’ve got to be a man to please a lady like Dru, and frankly, you don’t have the legs for it.” He laughed and danced off through the caves with Dru.
Tracy strode in, watching them leave. She stood by Spike with her arms crossed. “So, what do you think we should do with Nat?”
Spike looked up at her and grinned in appreciation of her dress. She still wore the almost nonexistent leather harness, high boots and little else. “My, you are a pretty bird, aren’t you?”
“Thanks,” she said wryly. She jerked her thumb toward Nat.
“Oh, yeah. Well, since our Angelus has seen fit to leave her here, I think that it’s up to us.” He folded his hands in his lap and looked over at Nat. “Well, Doctor, what do you think? Should we let you go?”
Nat was almost sputtering in anger. “Look, I never asked for this. I was in the middle of my job when that bastard grabbed me. I’d be perfectly happy to be back in Toronto, minding my own business.”
Tracy crouched in front of Nat. “You know, you were always too good to be true, Nat.” She stared into Nat with blue eyes that were almost sad.
Nat looked back with concern in her eyes. “And you were a good cop, Tracy. What happened?”
Tracy snorted. “Oh, yeah, right. I was such a good cop that Daddy bought me my detective shield and Nick almost got killed saving my life, how many times?” She closed her eyes. “No Nat, I’m not a good cop. Sometimes, I don’t even think I’m a good vampire.” She wiped her eyes with the back of her hand. “But, in spite of everything, you were a good friend to a scared rookie detective. So, I’m going to let you go.”
Hope leaped in Nat’s eyes.
“But,” Tracy’s hand pushing her back down stopped her elation. “If this is going to work, I need to feed off you.”
Fear blossomed in Nat’s eyes like some dreadful flower.
“Don’t worry. I won’t kill you, and I won’t bring you across. But I can’t have you leading them back here.” She reached for Nat almost tenderly, and sank her fangs into the struggling doctor’s neck.
When Nat’s eyes had rolled up, Tracy pulled away.
“Neatly done, Tracy.” Spike applauded from his chair. “Now what?”
Tracy untied Nat’s bonds and lifted her unconscious form as if she were a paper doll. “Now, I leave her by the highway. If she’s lucky, someone will come along.”
A short time later, a young woman with pale face and dark, gothic clothing was walking down the highway. A large leopard padded silently at her side. She saw what looked like an untidy bundle of rags up ahead. As she neared, she realized it was a woman lying by the side of the road.
Jenny ran to her side. She was unconscious, and Jenny could see the wounds in her throat. “Well, Cleo, I guess we need to get this one to the hospital.” She lifted Nat into her arms and strode back the way she had come. She hoped that the woman wouldn’t die.
As she walked up the road in the deepening twilight, she saw twin headlights approaching. She moved into the road a bit, so they would see her. Cleo flattened to the ground, not wishing to be noticed.
The ambulance pulled over and Sonny stuck his head out the passenger side. “Was there an accident, miss?”
“I found her by the side of the road, and she’s lost a lot of blood.”
Bernard took a bite of his donut. “Sounds like vampires to me.”
“Yep,” Sonny agreed, and got out of the car. He motioned for Jenny to follow him, and walked to the back.
When he got Nat comfortable for the trip to the hospital, Sonny asked, “Can we give you a lift back to town?”
Jenny smiled and shook her head. “Thanks, but it’s a lovely evening. I think I’ll walk.”
Sonny looked at her as if she were crazy, and then shrugged. “Okay, but you be careful.”
Jenny stood silhouetted in the fading evening light, listening to the siren fade in the distance, watching the taillights vanish in the dark. A large, feline shape glided up to her and they began the walk back to town. No one noticed them disappear.
Three Silver Rings, an afterthought
Outside the Eigerwand
The door slipped shut behind them as the trio walked out into the darkness.
AWhat an unwholesome little spot!@ the woman said, spreading her arms wide to encompass the night. AI love it!@ She handed the guitar to one of the men. APut this in the trunk, would you?@
He hurried to comply. She walked to the black stretch limo and waited impatiently for her other lackey to open the door for her.
AMiss Monique?@ The other man had stepped forward to open the door.
AWhat is it, Algernon?@ she said wearily.
ADo you think we should let the girl know . . . ?@ he inclined his head back toward the coffeehouse.
ALet her know what? That my dinner will be coming back to life shortly?@ She got in the car and looked up at him. AShe=s a waitress. She should be able to wait on him, shouldn=t she?@ Her laughter rang out merrily as Algernon closed the door to the limo and got into the front seat.
It drove off into the night, one more shadow merging with the darkness.
One Big Happy Family
10:00pm, after Dangerous Liaisons
LaCroix approached Nick’s suite with a bit of annoyance. He had assumed that Nicholas would see to it that the door was left open for him. This had not been done. Lucien LaCroix absolutely hated knocking on doors. It seemed so menial, so mortal. Perhaps he should have come in the window. He sighed. Knowing Nicholas, the window would still be shut to the evening air, to prevent just that occurrence.
He stood at the door for a moment, trying to will someone from within to open it. After a moment, he gave up with an exasperated exhale and knocked.
The door was answered immediately.
“LaCroix! How nice of you to stop by.” Nick said effusively, stepping aside to allow LaCroix to enter.
“It isn’t anything of the sort, Nicholas, and you know it. I needed to speak with you.” LaCroix stalked into the room and looked around him. “Are we alone?”
Trapper came out of the bedroom, arms open wide. “Grandfather! How lovely of you to join us!” She clasped the spluttering LaCroix by the shoulders and kissed him on both cheeks. Her eyes held the same hint of impishness as his wayward son’s.
LaCroix arched an eyebrow at Trapper. “This display of familial affection is quite out of character.” He glared briefly at Nick as he helped himself to a glass of “Mignonette”. “Really, Nicholas. I think a little decorum in your children might be in order.” He turned back to Trapper. “And don’t call me Grandfather.”
“Would you prefer nonno? Or perhaps grand‑pere?” Her eyes sparkled with laughter.
“Lucien or LaCroix will be quite sufficient, I assure you.”
A knock on the door stopped the conversation from going any farther downhill.
LaCroix snorted with impatience. “Nicholas! I really must talk to you!”
“Just a minute, LaCroix.” He opened the door.
“Ah, Kat! Javier! Well met! Come in, come in.”
Kat and Vachon strolled into the suite. Vachon went to the refreshments while Kat greeted Nick with a sisterly kiss. Trading looks with Trapper, she walked to LaCroix and took his hand. “How good it is to see you again.”
He was momentarily at a loss for words. Gratified, he clasped her hands in return and kissed her cheek. “I am so pleased to see you, my dear.”
This is all going to be worth it, she thought to herself with a secret smile.
Get a Shovel
AAt last we=re all together,@ Kat sighed happily, spreading her arms wide. AMy long lost family.@
Nick and Trapper smiled brightly while LaCroix had a strange mixture of impatience and confused pride on his face. Vachon quickly gave glasses to the empty-handed and Kat proposed a toast. The group drew together, holding their glasses high. The Roman General acquiesced, if only to speed the process along.
AHere=s to keeping your friends close.@ The crystal stemware clinked softly. AAnd your enemies closer.@
Kat swallowed the entirety of her blood in two gulps as if it were a shot of rotgut whiskey instead of a fine wine. Daintily she placed her glass on a nearby table and slipped her arm through LaCroix=s before he could object.
ATell me all there is to know about being a vampire . . . @
ANow is not a good time, Katherine,@ LaCroix said brusquely, attempting to extricate himself from the situation. He wanted to surprise them all with her true parentage, but currently he was more concerned with Angelique=s whereabouts.
AWhat should I call you?@ she mused, A>LaCroix= seems inadequate somehow. Father maybe?@ Kat began to fuss with LaCroix=s black silk shirt – smoothing the fabric and adjusting the pocket. Lucius turned to elicit help from Nicholas who was suddenly very interested in the exquisite carpet pattern.
AI know,@ she improvised, AMaster!@
Nick sputtered and coughed loudly. LaCroix=s head whipped around and he stared incredulously at Katherine.
AMaybe not,@ she said, smiling innocently.
Strangers in my Soup
The ceiling slowly came into focus. It was a tie‑dyed bedspread that had been tacked over the light fixture. The swirl of bright colors reminded Steve of a flashback he’d had about 20 years ago.
He carefully got himself into a sitting position. He was on the floor in front of the stage. His hand went to his throat as he remembered the woman. “Probably a hickey the size of New York,” he thought to himself, smiling. “Ah, Stevie boy, you can still charm the women.” The fact that no one had ever set their teeth to his neck and drained his blood escaped him somehow. Steve looked around. The place was empty. Mari was gone, and so was his guitar.
“Mary!” Steve croaked in dismay. “Damn! She must’ve swiped it and run off. I loved that guitar,” he mourned.
As he rose to his feet, he realized that he was hungry. In fact, he was ravenous. He saw the latte still sitting on the table and swigged it down in one gulp. The latte abruptly came back up as his stomach violently rejected the foreign substance. He figured that it must’ve gone bad sitting out like that.
Gathering up his things, he made his way out into the night. One of the locals was walking up the road by the motel. “Excuse me,” Steve began. “Would you know anywhere I could get a bite?”
As the woman approached, Steve found himself staring at her neck. He could only hear her words as a buzz. The sound began to fill his head, like the roaring of the Malibu surf in the winter.
The next thing he was aware of was the young woman in his arms with her throat torn out. He licked the blood from his lips and knew what he’d become.
“Whoa. This is so spiritual! So primal! I’ve really become one with the universe!” Steve dropped the woman like an empty cheeseburger wrapper and went to his little black pickup truck. He got in and drove off in the direction of town. There was probably a nice hotel downtown where he could stay while he got his head together again. The Best Western just seemed too pedestrian to him. He was on a higher plane now, maybe even enlightened, and deserved a better place to stay. As he drove off into the night, the streetlight illuminated his bumper sticker. It said, “Inspector Moonbeam.@ It was appropriate.
“I’m dying to know,” Kat said excitedly, “How long was it before you brought Nicholas into the fold?”
She looked directly into LaCroix’s eyes, daring him to lie. An uncomfortable silence filled the room as its occupants realized that all joking was over.
“Was it 769 years by any chance?” A smile played on the redhead’s lips, but this one was cold as a tombstone. “What about Janette? Did she spend centuries alone before you embraced her as a daughter?”
Kat began to circle LaCroix. “Well?”
“From the tone in your voice, I assume you already know the answer,” he stated blandly then turned away from her. “Nicholas, I came here seeking your advice on Angelique’s disappearance, not to be toyed with.”
“I don’t think Kat is playing,” Nick replied, refusing to be baited. “Answer her questions.”
“Very well. Neither Nicholas nor Janette were left to fend for themselves,” said LaCroix. “That would come later,” he added snidely, referring to his children’s habit of running off whenever the mood struck them. He took a sip from his glass then said callously, “You survived.”
“Not only that, I flourished.” Kat’s voice rose slowly and her tempo increased as she let her anger rise to the surface. “How long did you know about me? Was it when Nicholas came home from his first solo kill ‑ all bloody from his hunger‑crazed attack in the woods?!”
LaCroix raised an eyebrow; His only concession to utter surprise.
“Or was it later, perhaps, when I first came to the new world? Or when my picture was in Forbes?”
Deprived of his coup de grace, LaCroix let the truth drip out, slowly, like venom from his fangs. “If you must know, I returned to St. Etienne the next night. Mostly to feed but also to look after any messes Nicholas may have left.”
Kat dug her fingernails into her hands, drawing blood. She would not let petty insults incite her to violence. Vachon ventured over to Kat’s side of the room and stood behind her. This wasn’t his battle but it could be if the old Roman wanted it that way.
“I chanced upon a burial room and found a brother laid out. The man had died violently, that was obvious, but it wasn’t until I had gotten much closer that I saw the fang marks and that he was a she.” LaCroix strolled casually about the room, enjoying the contempt he saw in everyone’s eyes. “Unfortunately, a priest and two aides came into the room as I was about to leave . . . ”
“You bastard!” Kat yelled and flew into LaCroix, knocking them both into the far wall. The elder vampire flung her aside and righted himself. “Do you want to hear this or not?” He was almost smiling.
Trapper stepped up to LaCroix and hissed, “Make it quick and then get the hell out.”
Determined to keep whatever cool she had left, Kat stayed crouched on the floor with her eyes closed. Images of the gore‑covered burial chamber and those she had thought were her victims burned themselves on her retinas. She shook her head in denial.
“I fed quite well that night.” LaCroix dusted imaginary specks from his silk shirt. “I didn’t actually start keeping track of your whereabouts until I chanced upon you in Stratford one year . . . without your knowledge, of course.”
The little tableau in Nick’s suite was anything but a typical family reunion. The air was thick with tension, and a shimmering rage rippled through the room.
Trapper was shaking with anger. She could feel Kat’s pain like a knife. Her heart ached for the redheaded vampire that had been dealt this evil hand by the Fates. With an effort, she controlled herself enough to speak.
“I want to be sure that I understand this,” she whispered through her clenched teeth. “For centuries, Kat has blamed herself for the carnage that she awoke to. She has wandered, alone and abandoned for all this time. And you are telling us that you could have stopped all of it before it ever started.” Nick placed a steadying hand on her shoulder. She reached up and grasped it gratefully.
“Hmm. A trifle simplistic in the telling, but, yes, that’s about it.” LaCroix was bored by this exchange, and a little annoyed. What did all of this tripe matter? His little game had been spoiled, so it was, in his opinion, time to move on to something far more important. He wanted to know where Angelique was.
Nick took up the assault. “How could you do it, LaCroix? I knew that you were cold, but how could you leave her like that? And why didn’t you tell me?”
“Oh, come now, Nicholas. You were so new and uncontrolled. I needed to spend all of my time with my children.”
“And what of mine?” Nick thundered. He gestured to Kat. “She was your responsibility as well!”
“Yes, yes, yes. I know what you’re going to tell me. I’m a poor parent.” LaCroix looked at the ceiling and sighed. “This was a long time ago, Nicholas. Let’s just drop it now, shall we?” He glared at his “son”.
“Why?” Vachon spoke up from where he stood, with his arms around Kat. “Because your little play didn’t turn out?” Kat’s face was buried in his shoulder, her eyes wide and unseeing, turned inward at centuries‑old horrors.
“If you must ask, yes.” He stalked across the room. “There. I’ve said it. Now, can we move on?”
Just as things were starting to turn truly ugly, a door opened and Evie walked out into the room.
“Hi! Well, don’t you all look pleasant tonight!” She bolted for the outer door. “We really do have information, Nick, but, well, as long as Schanke’s still in the shower, I’m just going to run down to the lobby.” She smiled widely, and batted her eyes. “Can I bring back anything?”
Nick smiled in spite of himself, Trapper chuckled, and the tension went out of the room like air out of a balloon.
Evie put a hand to her forehead and closed her eyes. “Don’t tell me . . . triple latte, extra foam.” She peeked out between her fingers.
Trapper nodded, laughing helplessly.
“I’ll be back!” The door slammed shut.
Kat lifted her head and narrowed her eyes at LaCroix. “Don’t think this is over. I’ll call a truce for now, while we deal with all of this shit in town.” Her mouth was set in a thin line. “But when it’s over . . . ” She left the words unspoken, but everyone knew what she meant.
Angelique stopped touching up her lips as a shadow passed behind her, in the mirror. She set her makeup down as Lucius growled from her side and stood. He faced the now dark area between the bedroom and the door to the living area, his head lowered, crouched in an aggressive position.
A voice floated out of the darkness. “Here kitty, kitty.”
Angelique narrowed her eyes and stood as Lucius growled and tensed for a killing leap. As he arched into the air, a sword snaked out and neatly severed his head.
Angelique screamed in rage and charged toward the shadowed attacker. He caught her in the lower ribs with the stake, missing the heart, a paper was wrapped around the stake. Angelique screamed again as she clawed at the wood protruding from her torso. She stopped, and glared at Lux as he danced around her. She managed to grab a foot and topple him, he rolled onto her and grabbed one of her blood soaked breasts.
“Nice,” he pinched her nipple and she tried to buck him off.
“You will pay for this.”
He laughed and ground the stake further into her rib cage. A thin rivulet of blood trickled out of her mouth. Lux bent over Angelique and gave her a long, wet kiss. “Tell Kat I said hi. Don’t forget to give her my note.” He cackled as he turned and leapt out onto the balcony, then scrambled toward the top of the hotel.
Angelique managed to crawl over to Lucius’s body before the pain took her.
The Masochism Tango
Sybilla tapped her fingers impatiently on the counter top as she looked around. Where was Gregor, anyway? She sent him off with the message for Mr. Saceur ages ago. She sighed in exasperation and went back to the computer. She was getting the evening=s room service requests routed down to Thelma. It was the most exotic batch of requests they=d had since before the massacre. She smiled. The bar tab alone should keep the hotel in the black for months, at least until the vampire population increased again. It had a way of doing that, sort of like water filling in a depression in the sand when the tide came in.
The quiet hiss of the doors caught her ear and took her attention from the flickering screen in front of her.
AMay I help you?@ she began. Then she saw what had walked into the hotel.
AOh, jeez!@ she thought to herself as she took the sight in. What time machine from the sixties had THIS one come from? Uh, oh. His throat was crusted with dried blood. Sybilla=s eyes narrowed as she took a closer look. She mentally ticked off the characteristics: glazed wide eyes, slack jaw, staring around in wonder at everything, exceptionally pale skin. Either this guy was a brand-new vampire, or he=d found some really good drugs. Considering how hard drugs were to get in New Salem, Sybilla was betting on the former.
The apparition walked up to the counter and smiled at her. AHi, there. I=m Steve,@ he looked at her name tag, Aand you must be Sybilla.@
She forced herself to smile back. AHow may I help you?@ Jerome would shoot her if she wasn=t polite.
AI need a room.@ He looked around in seeming astonishment. AThis is an amazing hotel! The colors are so . . . bright. And the acoustics; I can hear everything.@
AYes, definitely a vampire,@ she decided. Oh boy. She hated dealing with newbies. At least it looked . . . and smelled like he=d already eaten. That was one less thing to worry about. She idly wondered if she should offer him a breath mint.
AWell,@ Sybilla cleared her throat. ALet me take a look. We=ve been awfully busy in the last few days.@ She checked the computer register. One heading leaped out at her. AOh, yes. We have something that I think will suit you perfectly.@
She had him fill out the paperwork, ran his charge card and gave him the day‑glo peace symbol key to the Psychedelic Suite.
Steve thanked her and wandered in the general direction of the elevators.
Sybilla watched his retreating back and let her breath out in a sigh of relief. Customers like him just creeped her out. She loved dealing with the older vampires. They had such an air of elegance about them. But the new ones? No way. And she had to wonder about anyone who=d even think of bringing someone like that across. She shook her head and went back to the screen.
I Can See Your Aura
Evie was humming to herself as she took the elevator to the lobby. She was congratulating herself for getting out of there and diffusing a “situation” all at the same time.
When the doors opened, she veered right into the lounge and asked Leo for a Pyramid Nitro Espresso Stout and Trapper’s usual. They made pleasant, ordinary small talk. She found out that Leo was originally from Brooklyn. More important, she found out that there was a small Irish pub down the street that had quite a bit of local custom. She made a note to mention it to Schanke as she walked out of the lounge with her drinks.
As she headed back to the elevators, she saw him. She didn’t believe her eyes and almost dropped her drinks in shock.
‘Oh, fuck!’ she thought to herself. ‘What is he doing here?’ Oh, man. Trapper was going to go ballistic. She was trying to figure out how to disappear into some of the shrubbery when he turned around.
“Evie!” Steve smiled his usual sappy, shit‑eating grin at her. “Hey, man, nice to see you. What’s a nice girl like you . . . ”
She cut him off. “Can it, Lalor. I’ve heard it all. It’s a vacation. Just a vacation.” The elevator doors opened, and she was trapped.
The doors closed and she saw with dismay that he’d pushed the same floor button. ‘Damn!’ she thought. ‘It just gets worse and worse.’ She tried to shrink into the corner. Failing that, she decided to check out Steve. Oh, no. His neck was all blood and he was doing that weird “everything is beautiful” stare. He truly came from the shallow end of the gene pool.
“I gotta tell you what happened to me tonight. It’s just put me in touch with the universe. I am spiritually evolved.”
“No you don’t, really.” But she failed to dissuade him, and he gave her the “Reader’s Digest Condensed” version. “Well, gosh, Steve,” she said when he’d finished and the doors opened. That’s really . . . special. I hope everything=s . . . cosmic for you.”
“Thanks.” He ambled off down the hall. When he turned the corner, Evie bolted for the suite. She had no sooner gotten the door opened when an explosion rattled the walls. She hoped that Steve had been in the middle of it.
At this point in the evening, Sybilla felt as if she’d seen it all. She barely flickered when the dark woman came in, looking like “Death” from the comic book she had picked up. ‘Hmm,’ she thought. ‘Right down to the Ankh. There must be a convention in town.’ The black panther walking alongside Jenny gave Sybilla pause for thought, but she just smiled quietly to herself and went back to reading.
Jenny and Cleo got off the elevator and headed down the hall. “We have one short stop to make, and then we’ll go back to Giles.” She rested her hand on Cleo’s broad back as they walked.
When they came to the Yukon Suite, she stopped and knocked at the door. Benton Fraser answered it, in the process of buttoning his shirt.
“Yes? May I help you?” He couldn’t help notice the huge feline that stood next to the woman in his doorway. Dief growled a warning from across the room.
“A woman was taken to Tremain General Hospital shortly after nine this evening. She keeps asking for Benton Fraser.”
“Just a moment, please.” Benton raised his hand and turned his head to quiet Dief. “Now, if you’d like to come in, miss,” he turned back to Jenny.
There was no one there. He craned his neck out into the hall, and looked both ways, but she and the big cat had vanished.
“Hey, Fraser! Who was at the door?” Ray sat across the room, drinking a cup of coffee.
Benton came back in, looking perplexed. “I don’t know. She said there was a woman in the hospital, asking for me.”
“Do you think it could be Natalie?”
“Only one way to find out. Come on, Dief.” They headed out the door.
About halfway down the hall to the elevator, an explosion rocked one of the suites.
Benton, Ray and Stanley all looked at each other, startled. Then, with guns drawn, they bolted down the hall, following the billowing smoke.
Not This Time
The pain was everything; a multi‑coloured haze that Angelique tried desperately to climb out of. She saw her long life spread before her. All of her loves, mother, father, gods, all of them with worry etched on their faces. “Not yet,” she whispered. “Not yet.”
The door to the bedroom blew in off its hinges. Jenny strode in, Cleo at her side. The panther ran to its mistress and mewed pitifully. When Cleo saw Lucius, her great eyes grew even wider and she rent the air with a piercing cry of agony.
“Grieve later, Cleo,” Jenny said. “We can still save Angelique. She turned the blood‑soaked woman onto her back, grasped the stake in both hands and pulled it loose. A scrap of paper fluttered free of it and Jenny idly put it in her pocket. Then she leaned close to Angelique’s ear and whispered, “You need blood. I’m taking you out of here.”
With no more effort than picking up a toy, Jenny lifted Angelique gently into her arms and quickly left the room. Cleo followed at her heels, after a last backward glance at her dead companion.
Davistch leaned back in his chair, his hands behind his head, a smile of triumph on his face. Oh, the smell of victory.
Of course, it was probably the smell of his citrus‑wood desk. Citrus‑wood, once the most prized wood in the Roman Republic. This desk had belonged to Titus Petronius Niger, one‑time storyteller and critic who had been forced to suicide by mad Nero. It went from Petronius to his relative, Lucius something‑or‑rather, a general that Davistch could care less about. After that, it passed into the hands of a Parisian whore that had become one of the more trusted assassins of the “True Hand”, his beloved Lesanne. He had more than enjoyed eating her heart, and felt it was just that she died in that manner, since she had visited
the same to the Prince of Paris only months before. After he killed her, he naturally took whatever possessions of hers he had enjoyed. The desk had been the best of the lot of it.
He pursed his lips as he looked at the young girl chained to one of the legs of the desk. She looked nothing like Lesanne, except for her eyes. They had that same sort of reluctant surrender to them, and that was enough. He cocked his hand back and smacked her hard across the face. She didn’t cry out, didn’t scream, but when she looked at him again, her eyes were full of tears. Now, she was a little girl again, and no more thoughts of Lesanne plagued him.
He snarled, then picked up the phone. He dialed a number, asked for a room, then waited briefly before barking into the phone, “This is Davistch. I don’t want or need you here.” He listened briefly then responded, “I don’t care who you’re here for. This is my city now, and I will take care of my problems. You want him, wait until he leaves.” He listened again, then snarled, “And to hell with your damned Priscus! I don’t answer to them, or to you! Get out of my city, Monique, or else
I’ll have you removed!”
He slammed the phone down and turned to Jenny, fuming. “I think I need to relax a little. I know the perfect way.” He knelt down beside her, fingering the chain around her neck. “I think it’s time to learn you a few things, my Jenny girl . . . ”
By Devin Saceur
A Land Rover ‑ parking garage of the Elysian Fields
Shortly after 11pm
The cellular chimed out, in its usual annoying digital squeak, and Devin answered it promptly. “New Jerusalem Convalescent Home . . . ”
“You’re not amusing, Saceur! What is the problem now?”
“You’re asking me?! The backup that was supposed to have arrived last evening has apparently made other plans. The only one who showed up was some useless wench . . . ” Anna delivered a sharp slap to his shoulder. “I mean . . . a very intelligent and useful operative. Unfortunately, there were supposed to be two others as well. So I ask you, what’s the problem?”
“I can’t say for sure. We lost contact with them shortly after I gave them the order. However . . . ”
The conversation was interrupted then as Anna pointed to the small monitor on the dashboard. Devin smiled. “Hold on a second . . . ” He placed his hand over the receiver and nearly burst into laughter as the room’s cameras sent a clear image to him of two men entering his suite. They carried what appeared to be semi‑auto 12‑gauges.
“How very predictable they are. We leave the door open and they just walk in without a second thought . . . ” He placed his finger on the remote switch, smiling at the prospect of such an easy kill. “A few more seconds. Let them move to a perfect spot for the blast radius.”
Anna looked around, an expression of concern crossing her features. “How powerful are those charges you set, anyway? You mentioned something about your hope that the people from last night would get out in time. Well . . . shouldn’t we also leave this garage? I’d hate to have the building come down on top of us.”
“That statement was in jest, my dear. I shaped the charges so as to blast within a radius of around seventy‑five feet. Besides, they’re low‑yield. They’ll incinerate our room and maybe one or two others, but the building will be quite stable after detonation.” His face shifted to annoyance as the voice of his contact on the phone became more insistent. “Here, you talk to him. Tell him to send another unit immediately.”
Anna snatched the phone from him, angered at his rude delegation of responsibility. But business needed to proceed, so she cheerfully greeted the contact and chirped out the request.
Devin studied the monitor closely . . . patiently . . . until the two men finally met in the center of the room. They appeared confused, one shaking his head as the other withdrew a small device from his pocket and began to move toward the door.
“Oh no you don’t.” He flicked the switch on the remote and watched as the room filled with flame. The monitor became a snowy fuzz as the explosion burned out the cameras that had served as his window view into the room. “That’s it. Two down, my love. Now we find Monique.”
Anna’s face did not share his enthusiasm. “I think we have a problem, Devin.”
“Not near as big a problem as our visitors.”
“Ah yeah . . . I think so. Our contact here just informed me that two more operatives were sent out when he ascertained that the previous ones were out of action for whatever reason. They were set to meet with us right about now.”
Devin stared at her for a moment . . . waiting for her to smile or giggle. But after a few moments of straight‑faced silence between them, he shook his head as though trying to clear a bad image. “Could you repeat that, please?”
Waking the Witch
Le Repose du Diable, a small, exclusive hotel just outside New Salem
“Cochon!” she shrieked, smashing the phone down into its cradle. “Fils d’une chienne!” A crystal water glass flew across the room to shatter into sparkling prisms. “Vous hybride! Vous porc degoutant!”
Algernon quickly moved “Mary Martin” out of Monique’s reach. A vase whistled over his head and into the far wall.
“Leave my city or I’ll have you removed! Indeed! I do not think so!” She turned to Algernon, her face white with rage, her eyes glowing yellow. “He thinks he can frighten me out! We will show him! He will see a bloodbath that will make even him cringe! She paced the room, stalking from one end to the other like a caged lioness.
Her other attendant, Larry, approached her with a glass full of “Henri”. She took it and sipped.
“Merci,” she said, forcing herself to calmness. The ice that normally ran through her veins began to slowly seep back to the surface. She stepped to the window, to look out at the darkness. “I will have Devin. I have a score to settle with him.” She turned to the two men. “But, he can wait until we have dealt with this Davistch and his Sabbat pigs.”
Algernon nodded and spoke. “Shall I make the necessary phone calls, Miss Monique?”
“Oui,” Monique said sharply. “Tell them that we want the matter dealt with.” She stared directly into his eyes. “Sans merci,@ she hissed.
Burnin’ Down the House
Shortly after 11pm
Gregor emerged from the main elevator, still preening. He blew a kiss at his reflection in the polished surface of the elevator doors. Making sure his hair was perfect, he swaggered up to the front desk, where Sybilla was sitting.
“Gregor! Where have you been! I gave you that message for Mr. Saceur two hours ago!” Sybilla was extremely annoyed. This was the first time she’d ever been in charge at the hotel, and she wasn’t about to let someone like Gregor screw it up. If Sharon didn’t come back, this could be hers permanently. “And what are you doing in one of the main elevators? You’re supposed to use the service lift.”
“I took my time coming back down. Mr. Saceur, whatever his name was, he thought I was Jerome by my voice.”
“Mr. Battles to you, jerk.”
“Yeah, yeah, whatever. Anyway, he thought I was him! So I just had to check myself out, and make sure I looked as mature as I obviously sounded.”
Sybilla glared at him. “You are such a dick, Greg.”
He was thinking of something appropriate for a stinging comeback, when the bombs went off in the Provencal Suite.
Sybilla’s hands flew to her face. She looked stricken. “Oh, no! What was that? And on my shift, too. Why couldn’t this have waited an hour?” Mr. Battles would have been in, she would have been gone, and there would be no inconvenient explanations to make.
Gregor looked dumbfounded.
“Don’t just stand there, you idiot! Get up there and find out what’s happened! She checked out her computer screen, quickly pushing buttons until the system showed her what she needed to see. “Damn!” She looked up at Gregor with narrowed eyes. “It’s the Provencal Suite.”
He looked at her blankly.
“MOVE!” she screamed at him. “I’m going to alert Security and have them meet you there. If we need to, then we’ll call 911. I’m not doing anything until we assess the damage.” Sybilla turned back to the phone, dismissing Gregor.
Galvanized by her scream, he raced back to the elevator and punched the proper floor. He hoped the rest of the floor was all right. He hoped that there were no bodies to deal with. He REALLY hoped there were no more bombs.
When Egos Collide
Lux perched on the edge of the roof like some demented gargoyle. He cocked his head to listen for screams, curses, anything that would tell him that they’d found the woman. He chuckled to himself, thinking about it. The Egyptian vampire looked so incredibly pissed when he’d sliced her cat. And he could pat himself on the back for his clever way of leaving Sister Kat a note.
He stood up and took a couple of swings with the sword. He thought he was getting pretty good with it. Maybe it could coax some action out of the Sister.
It was too quiet in the room below. He carefully inched his way over the edge and jumped to the balcony.
The room was empty. “Fuck!” he raged. One more bitch had to go and spoil his fun by not dying. Well, he’d just have to find some other fun. Maybe it was time to go exploring through some of the other suites in the hotel. Besides, he still needed to find out where the elusive Sister Kat had moved.
Steve Lalor looked around at the decor in the Psychedelic Suite. It was like a trip back in time to San Francisco in the sixties. The wallpaper was made up of reproductions of posters from the Avalon Ballroom, The Fillmore and the Hungry I. Beanbag chairs and floor cushions were scattered around the room and the spread on the waterbed in the black‑light bedroom was tie‑dyed.
This was so cool, he thought as he wandered through the rooms. He had to touch everything. His heightened vampire senses made it all so tripped out. It was like a long ago acid trip from the days of the Daily Flash, before Doug had OD’ed on heroin and messed it all up.
He found a likely looking bottle in the fridge and sat down. It said, “Moonchilde” on the label. Steve tipped it up and drank, still not quite getting the fact that he was drinking blood. He smacked his lips with relish and reached for the guitar that sat in a corner. It was a Fender Telecaster, a reproduction of Jimi’s. Steve leaned back and started playing. He never liked being too far away from the music. Now that he was so connected to everything, he could write some really great stuff.
Lux heard the guitar riff from Led Zeppelin’s “Hangman,@ and curled his lip. “Now who could be playing Dinosaur Rock?” he muttered. When he found the right balcony, he dropped down to it and walked in.
He saw the aging hippie at the same time that Steve saw what looked like a particularly bad specimen of Punk and Goth put together.
“Hey, man,” Steve said, sounding a little stoned. “What’s happening?”
Lux snorted in disdain. “God, you even talk dated!” He looked at the guitar. “It’s a shame to waste a guitar like that on shit.”
Steve frowned at him. “Wait a minute. Aren’t you that Lux Whatsit dude? Didn’t you write that boring piece of garbage about Morrison?”
Lux started. “Hey, asshole! Morrison was God!”
“Bullshit! He was just another tired junkie. I knew him, so I should know.” Steve looked at Lux. “His music was boring, and yours is crap. Give me something by CSN&Y any day.”
Lux pulled Steve up by his suspenders. ‘Whoa,’ he thought. ‘This asshole’s heavy!’ He pushed his face into Steve’s. “Morrison was great! And I’m even greater! And you’re nothing but a . . . a . . . washed up has‑been living in the past.”
“That does it!” Steve belly‑slammed Lux against the wall. “I’m damn good! I have talent, which is something you know shit about!” Steve pushed the pissed off rocker to the balcony. He didn’t realize that his eyes had turned yellow.
“Hey!” Lux yelled as they came out onto the balcony. “You’re a vampire!”
Steve stopped and blinked. “Well, yeah. I guess I am,” he said thoughtfully as he threw Lux over the balcony. He walked back inside and went back to playing.
“Shit!” Lux realized two things as he was falling. The first one was that this was going to hurt. The second was that he’d left his sword in the room.
Le Repose du Diable
The room was in shadow. A resplendent moon shone in through the fine lace curtains, making faint shadows on the Oriental rug. A warm breeze caught the sheers, making them dance like a living thing.
Monique Des Mondes stood at the window, gazing out over the peaceful, pastoral landscape, a pale flame in the darkness. She was thinking back to what had brought her to this small spot of “civilization”. She smiled derisively to herself at the word. Compared to Paris of even a century ago, this was a backwater, a tiny, rural bit of nastiness. Normally, she would’ve enjoyed herself immensely in a place like this. However, she was in this part of the world for business.
She raised her glass to the moon, watching the light turn the contents to sparkling rubies. “Ah, Devin,” she said to the night air. “How did we ever come to this pass?” She sighed deeply, “Mon frere . . . mon . . . ” she did not allow herself to finish the thought, but sipped at her drink and thought back.
He had been like all the other young peacocks when she first met him, dressed in the latest fashion of the day. Monique could remember him preening as her maman, Araminta, had introduced them. She shivered, remembering that first meeting. She had sensed such a blackness in him, a kindred lack of soul. They had such times together over the centuries; fanning the flames of the Inquisition without getting caught themselves, betraying King Louis to the partisans. Oh, it had been a wonderful life!
She frowned. When had he developed such a conscience? Her half‑lidded eyes registered a hint of pain in the recollection. Perhaps it was when he first met that vache. What was her name again? Anna? Yes, that was it. Monique inclined her head a bit and leaned it against the window sash.
And then, it had all ended, horribly, a few years ago. Her lovely jaw clenched as she thought of it. She remembered coming into the room expecting to find Devin and Araminta making amends. Instead, she found a roomful of death, with her beloved maman as the centrepiece.
“Maman!” she screamed as she ran across the room. It was slick and slippery with blood; a charnel house, the stench rising like a fetid steam from the bodies that littered the floor. She ran to Araminta’s side and cradled her, heedless of the bloody wound that had become the dead woman’s chest. She sobbed until her face was a mask of blood, rocking her dead mother until the dawn rose.
She slept amid the bodies until night returned again. She made the necessary arrangements.
When it was done, she stood outside the burning hotel like a Phoenix, newly born of the ashes. She had been recreated by the deed, all of her feelings burned away in the cleansing fire, except one: revenge.
Monique stood at the window for a long time. She did not notice that she had broken the wineglass in her hand. The blood ran down her arm, pooling on the floor.
Shake, Rattle and Roll
Shortly after 11pm to the end of Damage, Inc.
Evie came stumbling into the room, pushed by the concussion of the explosion down the hall. Everyone in the room stopped in mid‑sentence to stare.
Schanke came out of his room in an instant. His gun was drawn and he was in full cop mode. “What the Hell was that?!”
Trapper went to help Evie and retrieve her drink. They both peeked out into the hallway. “I see smoke,” Trapper said. “But that’s all I can see.” She turned to Evie. “Did you see anything at all?”
“Nada. At the point it hit, I was too busy juggling the door and trying to avoid Lalor.”
Trapper had been intent on opening her coffee cup. She stopped, not even breathing for a moment. She slowly, almost painfully raised her head and stared at Evie. “What did you just say?” Every word seemed dragged out of her mouth with great effort.
Evie nodded grimly. “Yes, you heard right. He’s here, down the hall, and it gets worse.”
“How is that possible?”
“I think someone brought him across tonight.”
“NO!” Trapper screamed the word. “It’s bad enough that he’s followed me around ever since 1986, but Steve Lalor as a vampire is too horrible to even contemplate.”
Evie grinned as a sick joke occurred to her. “You know, when you think about it, it fits.”
“Funny. You’re right, in theory, but Gods! Can’t I do ANYTHING without him copying me?” She drained her coffee cup and wadded it into a ball.
“Look on the bright side,” Evie said. “Maybe he just got blown up.”
“I’m not that lucky.”
Kat opened her mouth to suggest that they go see what the problem was, but before she could speak, the door banged open and Jenny came in like a storm. In her arms she held Angelique. The vampire dripped blood as Jenny carried her. Cleo padded into the room, growling and sniffing the air.
Before Jenny could set her burden on the couch, LaCroix was at her side and taking Angelique himself. He laid her tenderly on the settee and tore open his wrist. “Angelique!” he said urgently. “Awake! You must feed!” He held his bleeding hand over her mouth and watched the drops fall slowly into her mouth. He turned his pain‑stricken eyes to Nick, who quickly fetched one of the bottles of “Elise” from the cart. LaCroix sat, murmuring to his wounded lover as he coaxed her to drink.
This exchange was not lost on the rest of them. Kat whispered, “A revelation! He does have a heart.”
Jenny looked at Kat oddly and fished in her pockets. She pulled out the paper that she’d stuffed there. “Are you Kat?” she asked.
“Yes,” Kat looked puzzled.
“This was pinned to Angelique with the stake. It’s addressed to you.” She handed Kat the blood‑stained note.
“It’s from Ira,” she said tonelessly, and began to read.
“I think it’s time we found out what’s going on out there,” Schanke said.
Nick agreed, and walked to the door in time to see Gregor and Zac racing for the service elevator. “Hey! What happened?” he shouted to them.
Gregor stopped long enough to give them a quick rundown. All of the color had gone out of his face, and both of them looked frightened to death.
“What’s got you so upset?” Nick asked.
“There’s a bunch of armed hillbilly vampires shooting up the lobby, and it looks like they’re headed this way. Sorry, but we’ve got to get out of here!” They continued their mad dash into the elevator and safety.
As Nick turned to tell everyone, he heard Kat’s incoherent scream of fury. She’d read the note.
Nick sighed. This was not turning into a good night.
The elevator doors opened into the perpetual twilight hallway. The denizens of the various suites hadn’t come out to check on the explosion, so there was no one in sight as Gregor cautiously left the safety of the lift.
He tore down the hall, hoping that the system had operated as it was supposed to. If it hadn’t, there would be hell to pay, and soon.
He flicked open his palm computer and checked the map of the floor. It was linked to the main computer at the front desk. One of the room lights blinked ominously. Gregor hit a button on the side that opened a voice link to Sybilla. It was at times like this that Gregor most appreciated Jerome’s passion for keeping everything as up to date as it could be. The pocket‑sized computer with a modified sat‑set was a godsend.
“I’m on the floor, and almost to the room, Syb.”
“Just be careful, Greg. We don’t know who set this, or if they were caught in the explosion.”
“Yep, I’m on it.” He stood in front of the Provencal Suite. The fire door had come down, sealing the room. ‘Good,’ he thought. That meant that whatever had happened was confined to the suite. The bad news was that the fire door only activated at incredibly high heat. Anything . . . or anyone left in the room was toast.
“Ok, I’m here. Open ‘er up.”
The only answer he received over the link was the door opening with a quiet whoosh of air. He looked into the room through the settling smoky haze.
The room was destroyed. Cabinet, television, bed, all were incinerated. Greg stepped in and took in the damage. “Whew!” he whistled. “Mr. B. won’t be happy at the mess, but he’ll be glad to know that it looks like it stopped here.”
“Thank the Gods,” Sybilla breathed.
“Uh oh. Houston, we have a problem.” Gregor was staring at the charred remains of at least one human being. No, make that two. Since there were two partial skulls grinning up at him, it was safe to say that two people had perished in the room.
“What?!” Sybilla asked, urgency creeping into her voice. “Talk to me, Gregor.”
“Well, it looks like we’ve got two down.”
“Shit!” The oath exploded over the link, followed by several others. When she was calmer, she said, “Okay. Are they vamps or mortals?”
“It’s kind of hard to tell, Syb,” a grim amusement colored his words. “There isn’t a lot to work with here. So, at that point,” he walked around the remains as he spoke, “it all depends. They could be normals, which is the likeliest possibility, or they could be one of those vamp varieties that doesn’t just go to pieces when they die.” He bent and poked through the debris. “But, I can tell you that it looks like they were both male.” He looked at the remnants of what were once some expensive Bally shoes.
Sybilla sighed. “Any ID?”
“Probably gone in the explosion, but I’ll look.”
“No, don’t bother. I think we’ll just let housekeeping take care of it. I’ll call Sonja, and have her get started on it. Besides, if anyone can get a read on what’s gone on up there, it’s her.”
“Sounds good to me. I’ll have Zac reseal the place and I’ll be back down.”
“Fine.” The link went dead.
Gregor pocketed the tiny computer and gingerly picked his way back to the doorway. Zachary stood in the hallway, waiting for him.
“Evenin’ Greg. What’s the buzz?” The old security guard lifted his chin to indicate the smoldering room.
“Some kind of explosion. Syb’s calling in Sonja to take a look, and start in with clean up.”
Zachary nodded. “Fine. I’ll seal ‘er up, and then wait for Sonja. She may need a hand.”
Gregor smirked. “You still have a crush on her, don’t you?”
Zachary shrugged. “Always did. No hard feelings that she picked Janosh. He was the better man.” His voice got a bit softer. “We all ended up bein’ good friends; Sonja and Janosh, me an’ Betsy.” Zachary’s eyes held a touch of pain as he spoke. “But my Bets’ has been dead for five years now, and the boy’s off at college.” He turned his faded blue eyes on Gregor. “And, with Janosh gone, I worry about her, so here I am.”
“Cool.” Gregor slapped Zachary on the back and made his way to the service elevator. He didn’t feel nearly as cocky as he had a little while ago. He looked at his reflection in the mirror at the back of the lift. He didn’t look any different, but he’d seen things in the last few weeks that would turn a person’s hair white. If they’d just been a person, that is.
by Devin Saceur
Across from the Elysian Fields
“He was s’posed to be MY target! Wot the ‘ell is goin’ on ’round here?!?!”
Clint watched, flinching at the anger that seethed from Hank as he screamed into the phone. Apparently, things weren’t progressing as planned. Saceur’s room in the Elysian Fields had just exploded ‑ possibly killing him ‑ and things were becoming more complicated than their leader could mentally process. When such circumstances presented themselves . . . rage was his only option.
The man on the other end of the phone spoke quickly. “We don’t know what happened, Hank. We can’t be certain that Saceur was in the suite when the charge detonated.”
“Yer talkin’ shit! I wanna know who set the bomb!”
“There is no word as of yet. We will contact you. For now, proceed with your secondary directive.”
Hank slammed the phone down and threw on his body armor. “Well . . . wot ya waitin’ for, boys? Suit up. We got sum thangs ta take care of!”
Each of the men pulled on their armor and prepared the assembled weaponry for action. Without needing to be told, they stormed out of the room and down the stairs to the street. Hank and Clint followed up, each carrying a Benelli “Street Sweeper” semiautomatic 12‑gauge shotgun.
Two police cruisers encountered them first. The officers had initially been intent on finding out what had happened in the hotel, especially given that they had to be informed of the situation via a pedestrian phone‑in from the street box. But when they saw the armor‑clad behemoths running in their direction, things took on an entirely new perspective.
Sergeant John Givens, in the lead cruiser, drew his sidearm immediately. “Everyone drop your weapons NOW!” He knew that he couldn’t fire outright. He had to at least give a warning before emptying the cylinder into them.
Across from him, behind the door of the other cruiser, Corporal Linda Jameson was shouldering her 12‑gauge. “You heard him! Drop the weapons and get down on the ground!”
But the true gravity of the situation did not completely occur to the officers until they found themselves perforated by multiple rounds. Hank and his men continued to rush past the vehicles and over to the hotel, where they paused momentarily.
Clint had a few reservations. “Hank . . . man, we can’t just bust in this place. We have orders not to, right?”
“Wrong. Our orders say that after fuggin’ up that Black Hand traitor, we should take a shot at that detective and his buddies. Well . . . our first guy is prob’ly fried, so let’s jump on those people while we got a chance!” Without another word, Hank proceeded toward the entrance.
Sybilla saw them coming toward the lobby . . . all of them. Had it not been for the mass of weaponry they carried, she still would have ran from them with all speed. The leader had a blackness about him that would not relent. Evil, such as she had never witnessed, seemed to pour from this man like a wave before him.
As she ducked behind the desk and made her way to the adjoining computer room, she called out to Gregor through the palm‑top. “There are some mean‑looking guys on their way in here, Greg . . . and I think it has something to do with that suite. You and Zach better get off that floor, like now!”
This is the Owner Calling
Sybilla ducked as far as she could behind the metal door of the “Vault”, waiting for the shooting to stop. She knew that a few bellboys got hit, along with a couple of customers, but there wasn’t much she could do.
The Vault, as it was called by the employees, was built by the original owner of the Elysian Fields, one Jonas Clay, back in 1797, when the hotel had been built. His tiny wife had convinced him that it would be safer conducting his business here than in any of the “normal” rooms of the hotel.
Of course, the security of the Vault had made it a perfect place for the ever elusive August to attack Hanna and cut her throat, leaving her bloodless as a frenzy‑trap for Jonas. It naturally didn’t work the way August had planned, but Hanna wasn’t at all pleased about her first meeting with her husband’s Sire.
Sybilla caught herself almost dozing in her reverie, and she shook the memories out of her head. Hanna had given the employees that she trusted the combination for the lock to the Vault, just in case. And Sybilla definitely thought this was a “just in case” moment.
The phone in the study started to ring, and Sybilla screamed in surprise. She remembered that Hanna had said it was a phone line directly linked to the phone in the Prince’s office. As she walked to answer it, she thought to herself, “But the Prince is dead!”
She hesitated as she picked it up and then whispered, “Hello?”
“You have a disturbance?” The voice was raspy and harsh, like broken metal being dragged across stone.
“Yes.” What else could she say?
“Let me talk to Hank.”
Hank? she thought as she put the phone down. She peaked out the door of the Vault and then screamed “HANK!” at the top of her voice. The leader of the Beverly Hillbillies Rejects looked her way, and saw her imitating a phone with her hand. He wasn’t stupid enough to miss that signal, so he ducked around his “Boys”, and headed her way.
“There’s a phone call for you.”
He leered at her as he wrapped his shotgun around her back and pulled her with him. All this shooting was making him hungry.
He picked up the phone, and in his backwoods twang muttered, “Yep. Dis Hank.”
The voice on the other line yelled loud enough to make even Sybilla draw back from the phone. “WHAT THE HELL DO YOU THINK YOU ARE DOING, YOU TWO‑BIT HICK!? THAT IS MY FUCKING HOTEL! I WANT YOUR ASSES OUT OF IT NOW, DO YOU UNDERSTAND ME, YOU NO-GOOD PIECE OF DOGSHIT!?”
Hank’s lower jaw dropped open as he recognized the voice, and he got whiter than Sybilla had ever seen any vampire get. Whoever it was scared the hell out of Hank, and scared Sybilla even more.
“I’ve got people in rooms there that I don’t want you messing with, you understand? If you keep shooting up the place, they’re going to get involved, and that will ruin my little game. And you know what will happen then, don’t you Hank?”
The line went dead. Hank gulped once, then hung up the phone. He glanced at Sybilla as he let her go, pointed his gun at her and whispered, “Y’a don=t heard nothin’!” The he walked back into the lobby.
He shot one shot up at the ceiling, killing the man standing on the spot above, the shouted, “We’s outta ‘ere, boys! Da Beg Man calls, says we’s gots ta get!”
The others muttered to themselves as they stopped firing and headed out the door to Hank’s transportation, which couldn’t properly be called a car. Hank touched his gun to his head like he was doffing a cap and smiled again at Sybilla before walking out the door . . .
By RavenKat(with a tiny addition by Trapper)
That was it; She’d had enough. The only show of emotion Kat would allow herself from this moment on would be her dance of joy as she gutted Lux Interior.
Tendrils of cold stoniness crept into every fiber of her being. Anger was slowly replaced by a blackness deeper than the New ‘Salem woods. There was only one thing Kat was concerned with now. LaCroix and his games were inconsequential, August and her reign of terror seemed of another universe. Mr. Inferior would rue the day he ever laid eyes on the elusive Sister Kat.
Vachon took the bloodied note and groaned as he read, “Thinking of you, Love Lux.” As he crumpled it in disgust and threw it aside, Kat was striding purposely toward the door.
“He couldn’t have gotten far ‑ I’m outta here,” she announced, passing the wounded Angelique with a glance of regret.
Vachon=s hand snaked out and grabbed Kat=s upper arm. He spun her back into his chest and gently lifted her chin with a finger. ANo.@ The corner of his mouth lifted as he shook his head. ANot alone.@ She opened her mouth to speak, but he placed his fingertips against her lips. AThere are too many things happening; too many loose ends. I won=t risk losing you because of that bastard.@
Nick stood behind Kat and placed both hands on her shoulders. He rested his head against hers. AAnd I won=t gain a daughter just to lose her.@
Kat lowered her head and sighed deeply. AAll right. If you=re going to gang up on me, you win.@ She looked at them both. AFor now. But I will kill him.@
Trapper smiled, showing her teeth. AAnd I=ll help.@
AAhem,@ La Croix spoke up from where he sat beside Angelique. AWe will all help.@
Nick gripped her shoulders tightly once more. AWe=re family.@
Kat=s eyes suddenly puddled with tears and she ducked her head, swiping at her face in embarrassment. It was what she=d always wanted, family. Now that she had it, she was speechless. She reached out to encompass all of them.
AWell then,@ she cleared her throat and looked around at everyone, AI think we need a plan.@
May I Take Your Order
by Devin Saceur
Fifteen minutes after “This is the Owner Calling”
They sat in the two corner booths, dejected and forlorn at the loss of such a promising evening of fun. Bertram leaned across the seat back. “Hank, wha the ‘ell are we doin’ in dis place?” A thick cloud of Avila Grande cigar smoke exited his mouth, instantly enclosing Hank’s head.
As he was set to exhale the remainder, Bertram felt a sharp snap as his pack leader’s elbow connected solidly with the bridge of his nose. “Uuulf!” he involuntarily vocalized as blood sprayed from his nostrils and onto the seat back.
“We in here fer a lil’ while, til we find sumfin ta do. Ain’ no way I’m goin’ back in dat hotel, not with the big ol’ hootin’ honcho chief flappin’ his gums about us stayin’ out of it. We ain’ in control of ourselves no more. Da Man is…”
But something about the fear on the face of their leader sat very oddly with the pack. Hank had never taken orders from anyone. Hell, he’d even killed the Sabbat Bishop of Memphis when they visited there last…simply because the man dared tell the pack to hunt only in a certain area of town.
This was not the same man. They all shared a glance as Hank lowered his head in shame. No questions surfaced between them. All that they recognized, like the first scent before a hunt, was the weakness that poured from him like a rotten corpse. As the pack gazed at him, all fangs extended and eyes shifted to the deepest red.
One edict among the Sabbat endures: when your elders outlive their usefulness…destroy them. The only uncertainty remaining at the booths was which one of them would rise to take control. Even Hank began to feel the gravity of his situation as he looked up and across the table to Clint, whose face almost held a degree of sadness…
“What’ll you have, boys?”
The static in the air broke abruptly and reluctantly as all assembled turned to the waitress. A low growl seemed to come from each of the men as Hank turned to answer the woman.
Darla took a step back, noticing the obviously vampiric guests. Damn, she thought, something’s about to happen here and I don’t want to be involved. “How ’bout I give you gentlemen a few more minutes to decide?”
“WE’VE DECIDED!!!” Clint howled as he lunged across the table and shoved his dagger into Hank’s throat. The table splintered in half as the two vampires exploded into battle.
Clint tore the dagger from its resting place…the serrated edge nearly shredding Hank’s trachea. But the leader wasn’t finished off yet. He expended his blood to heal himself and drew a blade of his own. Barely a second passed and he lit into his former “right hand” with a fury unlike anything the pack had ever seen.
The two tumbled across the counter top and into the serving aisle, sending frightened employees in every direction. Hank slammed his blade into the challenger’s shoulder, rending flesh with a forceful twist in the wound. Lifting the blade, he prepared for another strike when suddenly a bullet ripped through his chin and blew the back of his skull out.
The shock of the blast lasted but an instant as he slumped over onto Clint, who pushed him off and stood…holding the pistol level as he emptied five more rounds into him.
Ne T’en Fui Pas
11:40pm ‑ after Stand Back
Nick turned to ask something of the dark woman who had carried Angelique in. She was gone. Cleo remained, trying to wedge herself between LaCroix and Angelique.
“Where did she go?”
“Who?” Trapper asked.
“The dark‑haired woman that brought Angelique in.”
Trapper looked around. “She was just here. Anyone else see her?”
Everyone looked startled to find she=d vanished. One minute she had been standing, looking sadly at Angelique, and then, mere seconds later, she was nowhere to be found.
Angelique spoke softly from the couch. “She’s gone to Giles.” Those few words were the most she could manage and she fell back into LaCroix’s arms. She looked quizzically at Cleo. ‘How odd,’ she thought, reaching out to pet the sleek head. ‘I cannot find her Ka in you, my lovely child.’
Rupert paced nervously in front of the wing‑backed chair. The explosion had rattled him, though he would never have admitted it to his charges. He stopped in front of a table full of books from the library and picked the top one from the stack. Its title was “Sabbat: How to Recognize the Spawn of Hell.@ His mouth quirked. It had been written more than a hundred years ago, hence the inflammatory language.
As he stood, leafing through the book, the main door slowly swung open. He felt the difference in the air and looked to the source.
Jenny stood in the doorway. She was drenched in blood from her chin to her knees.
Rupert dropped the book and ran to her. “Are you all right?” He clutched her in his arms, looking intently into her eyes.
Jenny smiled her sweet, lovely smile. “I’m fine, Rupert.” She gestured at herself. “I’m afraid the same can’t be said for these clothes.” She caught his perplexed glance. “It’s Angelique’s blood.”
“What happened?” He found the thought of Angelique perhaps being dead very disturbing.
“I’m not really sure.” She took his hand and walked to the couch. “Someone burst in, staked her and killed one of her leopards. I pulled the stake out and got her across the hall.” She sat down heavily, feeling the exhaustion that comes after a rush of adrenaline. “I actually came here, because I was worried about you. I heard the explosion.”
“Buffy’s gone to check it out.” He sat down next to her, still holding her hand. “I said I’d stay behind in case anyone called.”
“I should find out what went down, but I really need a shower before I do anything.” She pulled his face close to hers and kissed him. “Come to my suite after Buffy gets back. We need to plan how best to return Angel’s soul.” She stood up and walked to the door with him. “Besides, we need to catch up.” She kissed him again and vanished out the door.
He stood for some time, staring at the door.
As Jenny walked down the hall, she put her hand to her chest. ‘My soul, my Ka. You’re back!’ She hardly dared breathe, lest it destroy the faint glimmer of hope at sudden good fortune. ‘Will they let me stay?’ She almost skipped the rest of the way to her rooms.
By Kay & Sukh, with additions by Trapper
The door crashed open, splintering on its hinges.
“I’ll give you a plan!” Micah shouted, unsheathing his sword. “Lux dies and he dies NOW!” Murder shone in his dark eyes.
“Can the ‘I’m pharaoh and everyone dies’ routine,” Ricze snapped as he walked in behind Micah.
With a move worthy of a Russian ballet dancer, he twisted around and laid the blade of his sword at Ricze’s throat. “This will kill you too,” he snarled.
Ricze blinked at him and slowly moved the tip of the scimitar away from his neck. “I’ll give you that because of your anger at Angelique’s attacker. Do it again and I will rip your head off . . . very slowly.”
Angelique stood with an effort. “I am flattered, but I want a piece of him myself.”
Kat smiled. “We can all have a piece of Ira.” Vachon nodded in agreement.
Angelique’s eyes flared. “First I have to bury Lucius.” She turned to Cleo at the feline sound of grief. “My poor pet,” She crooned. ” And so soon after losing Vlad.”
Duncan scooted in behind Micah and Ricze, Sukh and Kay trailing behind a few steps.
Sukh spoke up. “I really hate it when someone messes with my characters, even if they have a weird life of their own.”
Everyone looked quizzically at Sukh for a moment.
Nick leaned over to whisper in Trapper’s ear. “Do you know what she’s talking about?”
Trapper shrugged. “Beats me.”
Angelique smiled, a cold killing curve to her lips. “I’m sure we can dispose of Lux in a way that all will be satisfied with.”
Then she and Cleo left the room, LaCroix at her side, to bury her fallen comrade.
Micah stood in the room, eyes still blazing with unspent anger. Nick looked at him wearily.
“You know, Micah,” Nick said quietly, “a less dramatic entrance probably would’ve been just fine.”
Schanke gestured with his reheated gyros. “In other words, pal, you could’ve knocked.”
Micah glanced back at the door and winced. “You’re right, of course. I allowed my feelings to overwhelm my better judgement.”
Nick waved off the apology. “Don’t worry about it. I’ll have the desk deal with it.” He checked his watch. “In fact, I think I’ll call down now, and see what’s going on with the explosion and the “hillbilly vampires” we just heard about. Jerome should be on duty in a few minutes.”
Evie looked heavenward. “Oh, boy. Jerome’s just going to love this.”
Glutton for Punishment
Outside the Elysian Fields
11:50pm ‑after “When Egos Collide”
“Ow!” His first thought as he came back to life was pain. Everything hurt. This dying stuff was hard on a person. He flexed his shoulders and winced as bones grated.
“We’ve got to stop meeting like this.”
Lux looked up from the dumpster that he’d fallen into. Angel was leaning on the edge, smirking.
“You know, Lux, if I keep finding you in dumpsters I’m going to start thinking you belong in one.” Angel stretched out a hand to help him out.
He thought of telling the smug vampire to go to hell with his offer of aid, but his bones told him otherwise. He grasped the hand and eased himself up.
“Hurts to die, doesn’t it?”
“Would you shut up, you self‑satisfied bastard?” Lux snarled finally. He couldn’t stand it when anyone else acted superior.
Angel waited until Lux was out of the dumpster and dusted off. Then, he stepped up and slammed him against the metal side of the garbage bin.
“Look, you miserable shit! You were supposed to keep a low profile! Instead, what do I find? You’re running around that hotel like some weirdass stalker.” He pushed Lux again, hard. “I don’t care what kind of hard on you’ve got for the redhead. Back off! We’ve got enough problems, without you spoiling everything.” He started to walk off, thought better of it and turned back. “And stay away from everyone else. That stunt with Angelique was pure idiocy!”
Lux had healed by this time, and his bravado reasserted itself. He sneered, “Who died and made you God?”
“You will, if you’re not careful.” He frowned and checked Lux out. He put a hand to his face and shook his head. “I can’t believe you! You’ve lost your sword already!”
“Look, I got pushed out of a window,” Lux tried to explain.
“Yeah, by some middle‑aged vampire.” Angel looked thoroughly disgusted. “Do you want to die? I can do it for you now, quick and easy. Without a sword, you’re walking around with a dotted line on your neck that says, “cut here”.”
Angel snarled and whirled back to grab Lux by the throat. He said, very quietly, “I can see you need an object lesson.” Without any further warning, Angel ripped into Lux’s throat with his fangs.
When he’d finished draining the Immortal, he dropped him to the pavement like a cigarette butt.
He was wiping his mouth off as Lux came back with a gasp. “What did you do that for?” He checked out his neck. The skin was smooth and unbroken.
“Because I can,” Angel replied as he towered over Lux. “And unless you smarten up and get with the program, I’m going to keep on doing it. You can just be the milk cow for our happy little band.”
Lux paled at the thought. He wisely kept his mouth shut for a change.
Shadows on the Mind
11:58 p.m. ?before owner
Davistch smiled down at the young girl at his feet. He wasn’t happy, but he would be. He reached out a gloved hand and stroked Jenny’s soft cheek. He leaned toward her, his smile growing as large as her brown eyes did.
“Jenny, my dear little one,” he whispered hoarsely into her ear, “lesson one will make me very happy.”
Jenny had always been a good girl, even when it was boring, because she knew it made her dad happy. She didn’t talk back too often, did her homework right when she got home from school, everything to make her parents happy. But somewhere, deep inside, there was apart of her that was born of her father’s fighting spirit. A part of her that refused mistreatment, that wouldn’t lie down and die . . . for anyone.
Without realizing what she had done, she grabbed the telephone from its place on the desk and slammed it hard against the side of Davistch’s head. It wouldn’t really hurt him, she knew, but it dazed him long enough for her to run.
And run she did, into the arms of another little girl.
“I got to get away!” she screamed.
“I know. Come with me. I know a safe place to hide from him.”
Jenny hardly noticed that the little girl’s voice sounded too old. All she cared about was the fact that she was going to help her get away.
She led her to the hallway that led to the elevator. She pointed to the wall. “Touch there.”
Jenny reached out her hand and touched the spot. A piece of the wall, so tiny that only a child would fit through, slid away. Jenny gasped, and knelt down with the girl to look.
“Now, you must be brave, Jenny dear. This cabinet is right next to the elevator shaft. It vibrates terribly when the elevator is in use, but the electricity will hide your heartbeat from him. Now go. I will come back at dawn to lead you to safety.”
Jenny nodded and crawled in. She could hear Davistch screaming her name, and she pulled back into the space as far as she could.
As the door slid shut, she whispered, “What’s your name?”
A whisper came in return. “Hanna.”