Author: MeanRunt PM
Fifth and last episode in the Revelations seriesRated: Fiction K - English - Words: 27,746 - Reviews: 6 - Favs: 3 - Published: 09-28-05 - id: 2598049
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
"I did it." The female voice on the phone said. "I killed that slimy tapeworm Jay Moore."
"Who is this?" Nick Knight asked as he hit the speakerphone button. At the same time he handed a note to Tracy Vetter. 'Trace this call. NOW!'. "Where are you?"
"Who I am, or where I am is not important. What is important is that he is dead. I was one of his victims almost as much as any of the others. At first, I was a willing partner, but his kinky ways and his temper were too much for me. I tried to break it off, but he wouldn't let me. He stalked me and threatened to kill me if I left him or told anyone. He even beat me on a few occasions.
He said that because he was a cop, nobody would believe that he would do anything like that to anyone. He said that I was wasting my time. That cops protected each other. He claimed that I had led him on and that he was the victim, not me. The same things he said about Dr. Lambert. When I read what he did to that doctor friend of yours, I thought he would finally get what was coming to him. Well, I was wrong. He got away with that, too. And he made all of you suffer for it too. Just like he did to me.
When the Ethics Committee fired him and didn't do anything more, I know he laughed in their faces. That wasn't even a slap on the wrist as far was he was concerned. I knew that he'd keep on doing these same things to other women. I couldn't let him get away with walking scot free. Not after the hell he put everyone through. So ... I followed him one night and caught up with him as he was leaving his latest ... girlfriend's place. I could hear her crying even through the door. I knew he was at it again. I called him into the alley and then I shot him four times. I didn't think he was dead, but I was past caring at that point. I wanted him to suffer. To bleed to death. Slowly and painfully. So I just walked away."
"You could have come in and told us then. You can still come in and we can talk. You do know that there's such a thing as the battered spouse defense. It was enacted specifically for situations like this."
The woman laughed sarcastically. "But I wasn't his wife. I was just another notch on his bedpost."
"That's immaterial. The law still would have covered you. Why are you telling me this now?"
"I'm not a churchgoer, so I don't think going to confession would do me any good. You are the only one I can tell this to who would understand. I have to clear my conscience while there is still time."
"What do you mean while there is still time? Hello? Hello?"
There was only a dial tone.
"We got a trace on the call, for all the good it's going to do us." Tracy said. "It's a pay phone in the Castle Frank Metro terminal."
An Island in the South Pacific
"Do you even realize what you've done?" Frank asked.
"What do you mean what I have done?" Logan replied. "I've done what had to be done. I've freed the vampires of the world to be what we were meant to be."
"He's right." Edmund Gloucester declared. "Now we are truly free. We have no one to answer to. No High Council. No Enforcers. No one but ourselves. We can do whatever we want without fear of retribution. We have a much better life ahead of us."
"We may not have to answer to anyone, but we also have nowhere to go. We have no home. We have no readily available source of food and we are outlaws in both the vampire community and the mortal world. You call this a better life?"
"What are you talking about, Frank?" Willie added. "We still have the Island. It's ours. We can use it as a base."
"You're out of your gourd, Willie. Before, there were only thirty of us here. Finding enough nourishment for all of us wasn't a real problem. Now there are over four hundred. Our reserve supplies of bottled blood ran out days ago and there's no way to replenish them."
"Then we drink from the source." Logan replied. "Food is as close as the nearest drunk or whore."
"If we do that, the mortal population of this Island will be depleted in a week or less. The islands around us aren't much better. The nearest large island is almost fifty miles away. Even so, there aren't even enough people there to satisfy the appetites of everyone here for very long. Maybe a month at most. What do we do then?"
"Then we make a trip to the nearest Community and get what we need." Logan said.
"Sure. I can see it now. We casually stroll into the Lava Club in Honolulu and order four hundred seventy cases of house special every month. Even if no one recognizes us and calls for the Enforcers, how are we going to pay for it? We aren't exactly rolling in dough you know."
"Who said anything about paying?" Edmund explained. "And who said it even has to be bottled? We take what we want. That's the way it's always been until those wimps in the council chambers changed the rules. No obvious kills. Don't be sloppy. Drink bottled. Make nice-nice with the mortals. BAH!" Edmund spat. "What kind of vampires do they think we are anyway?"
"Knight. Vetter. Schanke." Captain Joe Reese said as he approached their desks. "This just came in from Castle Frank. Probable suicide. They sent it to us because the woman had a note in her pocket. It said 'I killed Jay Moore'."
Nick, Tracy and Don worked their way through the crowd that was milling behind the transportation station. Although both Tracy and Don tried to shield Nick, it did little good. He could smell the blood as soon as they got out of the car and had reacted. For a split second, his eyes glowed yellow and his fangs emerged. Almost immediately, he forced them back. Up close, even he was surprised at the extent of the devastation. Blood was almost everywhere and bits of blood and brains were spattered for at least a meter around what was left of her head. It took all his will power to keep the vampire in check.
Natalie Lambert knelt beside the victim. When she saw the trio, she stood up and motioned for the technicians to remove the body.
"Female. Caucasian. 35 to 40 years old. She's a Jane Doe. No purse. No ID or anything on the body. Except for this." She held up a bagged note written on ruled notebook paper. In block letters, it said simply ' I killed Jay Moore. I couldn't let him get away.' "Single gunshot to the temple just above the right ear. Exit wound in the left skull about 2cm beyond the outer edge of the eye. Blew away a good 15cm of her skull and brains. That's almost the entire left side of her head. Death was instantaneous. The gun was still in her hand." She pointed to a baggie with a blood spattered .9mm automatic in it. "From all indications, I'd say the people from Castle Frank are right. This is a suicide."
"Any TOD?" Tracy asked.
"Got an exact time." She checked her watch. "One hour and thirty eight minutes ago. There's a whole terminal full of witnesses. Castle Frank is taking statements. From what I can see, they all pretty much agree. The woman walked out here calm as you please, put the gun to her head and pulled the trigger."
"That would be just a few minutes after the time of our phone call." Don said.
"That must have been what she meant by 'while there's still time'." Tracy said. "She must have had this all planned."
At the edge of the crowd, someone was shouting. "The vampires are responsible for this." He yelled. "We gotta stop them."
Natalie was putting the instruments into the sterilizer when Nick and his partners came into the morgue.
"Just finished the autopsy on Jane." She said. "To spite what that guy at the scene was yelling, I can flat out guarantee you this was no vampire kill. In fact, technically this isn't even a homicide. Everything points to a self inflicted wound. The angle of the wound. Gunpowder traces on her head and on her right hand. Hers were the only fingerprints on the gun. Definitely a classic suicide. No doubt about that. There's more. She was dying even before she pulled the trigger. She was extremely emaciated and I found tumors and breast cancer cells metastasized throughout her entire body. There were even traces of it in what was left of her brain. My best guess is that she had maybe three or four months at most."
"Any idea who she is ... or rather was?" Tracy asked.
Natalie shook her head. "Metro has no record of her prints on file. I've sent copies to the Ontario Provincial Police and the RCMP, but so far, no one has a record of her. Forensics says that the gun is the same weapon that fired the shots that killed Moore. The gun, by the way was registered to Moore. So that's a dead end. I sent copies of my findings and an artist's recreation of her face to all the hospitals and Oncologists in the area. Maybe one of them might have treated her. So, now we have Moore's killer, but we're still as much in the dark as we were before."
"What about dental records?" Don asked.
"No help there. Full dentures."
"So for all practical purposes, the murder of Jay Moore is still a mystery." Nick said. "And it looks like it will always be one."
"KNIGHT!" Joe Reese bellowed. "My Office! NOW!"
Nick Knight hurried into the Captain's office. When Captain Joe Reese was in this mood, it didn't pay to keep him waiting. Not unless you planned on spending the rest of your time on the police force directing traffic on the express merge ramp for QEW and the 401. At rush hour.
"Get down to city hall." Reese handed him a report paper. "Right away."
"Don't tell me. There's been a killing there. I always knew that somebody would stick it to a politician one of these days."
"Very funny, Knight. There haven't been any killings. Not yet. But there is a bunch of your kind down there carrying signs and passing out handbills demanding vampire rights. There have already been a few minor clashes with the passers by. So far nothing serious, just heated words and a few shoves. Then again, you know how the mob mentality works. You know as well as I do that the situation could change at a moment's notice. Commissioner Sinclair thinks it would be a good idea for you to be on the scene before it escalates into something really ugly. It might also help things if you could get some of your more ... moderate friends to be there, too."
"You must be joking." Janette said. "You want ME to go and try to reason with the ones who are picketing City hall?" She emptied her glass of house special. Miklos refilled it.
"Yes." Nick answered. "I need backup. The more people we have on our side at the scene, the less likely there is going to be any trouble."
"I cannot do that. I believe in what they are doing. At least in principle. For too long we have lived in the shadows. Hiding and cringing from mortals. Up until now, the only way we can move freely among them is to do as you do. Pretend to be mortal. I for one will not do that. I am not mortal. I haven't been mortal for almost a thousand years. I do not want to be mortal. I want to be recognized for what I am. A vampire."
"Since you feel so strongly about this, I'm surprised you aren't down there marching and handing out posters too."
"There are other ways to accomplish this, Nicholah. I choose to let the Elders and the Council negotiate a peaceful and fair solution to the problem as they have promised."
"Speaking of Elders, where is LaCroix?"
"You expect him to go with you?"
"Why not? He is the Elder for this area after all. It's his duty to see that there are no problems. And this could very easily escalate into a major problem. I would think he would rather resolve it himself than have the Enforcers solve it for him. And their way would definitely not be peaceful or nonviolent."
"What would the Enforcers have to solve for me?" LaCroix came into the barroom. Immediately, Miklos put a glass of his private stock in front of him.
Nick explained the situation to his sire.
"And what is it exactly you expect me to do? Isn't peaceful demonstration and protest guaranteed under the constitution?"
"It is. Unless it becomes violent or antagonistic. And this situation has the potential to be both. You made a speech about using control ... and living in harmony ... and being dignified law abiding citizens at the conclave in Cairo. Don't you believe in what you said? If this situation gets out of control, it would do much more harm to vampire - mortal relationships than that barroom brawl could ever do."
"That speech was meant for those three reprobates. How do you know what I said to them anyway? You weren't eavesdropping, were you?"
"I didn't have to eavesdrop. You were shouting so loud, it's a wonder they didn't hear you all the way back here."
"I did mean it. And yes. I'll go with you. Give me a few minutes to contact some others that I know."
"LaCroix." Nick called to his sire. "One more thing. Tell them. Under No Circumstances is there to be any violence. None."
"Can we at least threaten?"
"Threaten … Tolerable. Act on it … Bad. Very Bad!"
"Nicholas. You take all the fun out of it." The General sighed.
Lady Zera looked up from the document she was reading as Etrian, one of the Council members, entered her office. The document was a suggestion made by the UN Vampire Committee to attempt to find a homeland for those vampires who did not want to be assimilated into existing nations.
Basically it proposed granting them access to undeveloped lands in either Africa or the Far East. Principally in the Sahara or Mongolia. Another option was an uninhabited area of Eastern Russia. According to the dossier, the UN Committee had been engaged in very preliminary negotiations with the affected countries. While they would retain sovereignty over the areas, they basically agreed to give the vampires autonomous control over the internal affairs.
"You can't be seriously thinking of agreeing to this, can you?" Etrian asked the Presider.
"I can, and I am." Lady Zera replied. "The least we can do is to present it to the Elders for consideration. That includes Edmund and Logan."
"Edmund and Logan? After what they did, Edmund was dismissed in disgrace from the Enforcers, and Logan is no longer Elder of the Detroit area. Jim Hopper is. As far as I am concerned, neither Gloucester nor Grainer have any say in the affairs of the Community."
"Ah, but they do. While the ones who walked out of the conclave choose not to recognize the Council, We have a responsibility to always recognize them. In spite of everything they have done, they are still vampires, and as such, they are still our concern. Logan and Edmund, as the leaders of the rebels, are their de facto Elders.
"What about Willie and Frank? Shouldn't they be considered the leaders? After all, it was their idea to leave the Community in the first place."
"Willie and Frank? Be reasonable, Etrian. Those two couldn't lead a herd of lemmings."
Nick and LaCroix parked the Caddy about two blocks from City Hall. The police had cordoned the area around the building and this was as close as they could get. Nick showed his badge to the officer at the barricade and vouched for LaCroix, much to the Elder vampire's consternation. Vachon, Screed, and several of the other members of the Toronto Community were waiting in reserve in case there was any trouble.
At the building, about twenty vampires paraded at the foot of the steps, carrying signs detailing their request for their rights. For the most part, these were hand lettered. They were also passing out flyers, obviously printed on an ink jet printer. In the street, not ten feet away was a group of people, mortals, also marching. They too, were carrying placards. Nearly all of them ridiculed the vampires and a few used unquestionably unflattering terms. Unlike the vampires' signs, though, these signs were professionally printed. The mortal marchers were also shouting taunts at the vampires.
"Remember what I said about violence." Nick reminded his sire.
"Oh, I won't get violent." LaCroix replied. "Not that I won't want to, but I know that this is exactly what this crowd wants. They want a vampire outburst. Do not worry, Nicholas. They will not get it from me."
"Who is in charge here?" LaCroix asked as they approached the vampires.
"I am … sort of." Josiah replied. Josiah was one of the long standing residents of the Toronto Community. Josiah was not old as vampires go. He was only 188, but he was highly educated and intelligent. He had spent the last fifty years in and around the Toronto area. He was generally conceded, albeit grudgingly by LaCroix, to be the expert on the district.
LaCroix led him to a quiet corner of the building. "And who authorized this little … demonstration?" LaCroix asked, bringing his face even with Josiah's. "Was it the … Elder … by any chance?" He let his fangs show a little and there were gold rings around his ice blue eyes.
Josiah hung his head. "No, Sir. You didn't authorize it. We did it on our own. It's just that we want our rights."
"I can understand that." LaCroix said. "But you and your … companions need to have patience. Vampires as a whole have lived for four to five thousand years much as we do now. Surely we can wait a few more months or even a few years to be recognized and granted what we want, can't we, Josiah?"
"Then why demonstrate now? In a few weeks, formal negotiations will be taking place that could give us all the things you are picketing for."
"I guess you could say that it just ... sort of … happened. A bunch of us were sitting around one evening ... and well ... " He intently studied the tops of his shoes.
"Well, then I strongly suggest that you make it … sort of … un-happen. This is not the face that the Community wants to present to the public. If negotiations with the elected authorities fail, there will be many opportunities for demonstrations like this. But for now … I … prefer to let things progress in a legal and peaceful way. Don't you agree, Josiah?"
"Yes, Sir." Josiah continued to inspect the granite floor of the portico.
"Then you had better persuade your fellow picketers to leave orderly and peacefully. Javier and Thaddeus will escort you directly to the Raven, and you will all stay there. And Josiah. Do not even think about leaving the Raven until I get there. I wish to have a … discussion with you and your group. Is that understood, Josiah?"
"Before you leave, be sure and clean up this mess." He pointed to leaflets that were lying in the gutter and on the sidewalk where some of the passers by had thrown them. "We do not want the reputation as litterbugs now, do we, Josiah?"
"Oh, and when you get to the Raven, tell Miklos that the first round of drinks are on me."
"Yes, Sir. Thank you, Sir!"
Nick watched as Josiah returned and talked to a few of the picketers. Slowly, they began to pick up the trash.
Several of the mortal picketers came to them. One of them pulled down his zipper, and urinated on the pile of papers that were stacked next to the trash bin.
"What was that for?" One of the vampires asked as he stood to confront the man. His eyes were yellow and his fangs had dropped.
"That's all they're good for." The mortal replied, zipping his pants. "To piss on. Just like you. I'd be tempted to take some of them to wipe my ass with, but who knows where they've been, or what kind of creepy crawly things they got on them."
The vampire hissed and started to lunge at the mortal, but he was restrained by Nick, Josiah and LaCroix. The mortals stood ready to do battle.
"That would be a very unwise move." LaCroix said. His eyes showed the faintest hint of orange. The vampire grumbled something undecipherable and returned to picking up the pamphlets.
When all the trash had been cleared, the vampires somewhat reluctantly filed out of the area, closely chaperoned by Vachon, Screed, and the others.
"Hey! Bloodsuckers!" One of the mortals called after them. "You too chicken to stand up to good and decent folks?" His placard had only a single obscene word printed many times on it.
If looks could kill, the look that Javier Vachon gave the man would have surely reduced him to a pile of smoldering ashes in seconds. To his credit, the Spaniard did nothing to follow up.
"Why don't you and your … friends take a hint from them and leave quietly too?" Nick asked the man. "The demonstration's over."
"You ain't talkin' to us, are you fang boy?" Another man sneered. "Cause you ain't got nothin' we want to hear."
"There's no need for language like that." Nick said. The yellow flecks were beginning to show in his eyes and he could feel his fangs starting to ache.
"That's the problem with you and your slimy friends. Or should I say fiends? You're nothing but trouble. The sooner this city is rid of you and your kind, the better off we'll all be." Another shouted.
From somewhere in the crowd, an overripe tomato struck Nick squarely in the side of the head. An egg, probably rotten, narrowly missed him. Within seconds, he and LaCroix were being pelted with pungent fruit and vegetables and attacked with the placards. Some of the protesters were attempting to use the wooden handles as stakes. Nick pushed the beast down as far as he could. CONTROL! CONTROL! He repeated to himself as though it was a mantra. In a sense, it was.
Several of the officers who had been manning the barriers came into the group and began wrestling the demonstrators to the street. A number of them were being handcuffed.
"Why are you doing this to us?" The first demonstrator yelled as he was being cuffed. "We're mortals, just like you. You should be siding with us, not with … THEM. We're only standing up for the rights of all the regular folks in Toronto. The vampires are the ones who are causing all the trouble. They're nothing but a rabble rousing mob. They're the ones you should be arresting."
"If they're such troublemakers, how come you guys are the ones tossing fruit and vegetables and beating them with your signs?" The officer asked as he led him to the waiting paddy wagon. "Seems to me, they were the ones acting in a dignified and respectful way and you're the mob."
The picketer spat on the officer.
The officer stood for a moment in shocked silence. "That's showing disrespect to a law officer. That's worth a couple more days of jail time. Over and above the time you'll get for disturbing the peace and assault." He grabbed the picketer and practically dragged him to the waiting police wagon.
Nick picked up one of the signs. At the bottom was the inscription. Parliamentary Committee for Non Human Concerns.
In the background, one of the mortals put his camcorder into a bag and quietly left the area.
Natalie was waiting for them when the three came into the precinct the next evening. "Got some possible news about our Jane Doe. You know, the one who killed Moore."
"And ... " They said practically in unison.
"Unfortunately, it's another dead end. A doctor in Kitchener claims that he has been treating a woman who matches our Jane Doe for the past four months. According to him, she was terminal when he first saw her. Her name, according to his records is Marcella Hopkins. The address she gave him was a Toronto one. She said that she didn't want any of her relatives to know about her condition just yet, that's why she went out of town."
"Does everything check out?" Tracy asked.
"You're getting ahead of me. I gave the information to one of the day teams, and the results of their investigation is anything but encouraging. There's no record of a Marcella Hopkins, or anyone even vaguely resembling that, anywhere in the Toronto area. No phone. No driver's license. She's not registered to vote. No employment or tax records. And the address she gave the doctor? It's a Tim Horton's."
"So we're right back where we started from." Nick sighed dejectedly.
"So it seems." Don said. "But is that so bad? Think about it. We now have a confessed killer, even though we don't have a clue as to who she is. Plus we have all kinds of proof she was telling the truth. Namely, she had the gun that killed Moore. That's more than what we had a month ago. Why is it so all fired important to know her real name? What's so wrong about identifying his killer as Marcella Hopkins, recently deceased, and closing the case?"
"You may have a point there." Natalie said softly.
"As far as I see it." Nick added. "That's all we can do."
"So let's do it." Don said as he headed for the records room to retrieve Moore's case file.
LaCroix landed behind the Raven and walked to the front of the building. The sidewalk was blocked by a line of picketers. LaCroix recognized a few of them. They had been at City Hall earlier in the week. Like before, they were carrying signs. And like before, most of them had obscenities and vulgarities printed on them.
As he started to the door, one of the picketers, a huge burly man, blocked his way. The man stood at least seven feet tall and weighed approximately 400 - 450 pounds. A grisly scar snaked down his left cheek.
"I suggest you move aside." LaCroix fixed the man with a hard stare.
"Or you'll what?" He growled. "You and the other monsters what hang out here ain't wanted in this town, so I'm warning you. Get out. Get out now, or face the consequences."
LaCroix concentrated on the man's heartbeat. It was strong and regular. That was not good. The man had no fear. A man who is not afraid in situations like this is a loose canon. Even LaCroix, though he would never admit it even to himself, was afraid. He matched his voice to the man's heartbeat. "Move aside." He said softly.
"Move … Aside … " The man mumbled. He took one step to the side and shook his head. "Won't work, slimeball. They told me you'd try to mess with my mind. They said I had to resist you." He grabbed LaCroix roughly by the shoulder. "Now get out before I show you what I can do." He picked up the Elder vampire as though he were a rag doll and threw him against the wall hard enough to knock the wind out of him.
LaCroix struggled to his feet and started for the door one more time. Again, the huge man threw him into the wall. This time, the Elder was much slower getting to his feet. His eyes were yellow and his fangs were descended. No. I WILL not give them the satisfaction of provoking me. He willed his fangs to recede and his eyes to return to their cold blue color.
"Okay, guys." The giant man said to the others. "We got the reaction we wanted. Let's get out of here before he gets his full strength back." He pointed to one of the other protesters. "You got all that on camera?"
"Yeah, Herbie." The other one replied, holding up his camcorder. "We can edit it later to show what we want it to."
Within the space of a minute, all of the picketers were gone. They did leave a few of their placards behind, though. LaCroix picked one up. On the bottom was printed. Parliamentary Committee for Non Human Concerns.
Reese came into the bullpen. He did not look like a very happy camper. Since the incident at the city hall a week ago, there had been several more clashes between vampires and mortals. In almost every instance, the mortals were the ones who seemed determined to escalate things.
The vampire Community, on the other hand had all been 'talked to' by Lucien LaCroix. They had been told in no uncertain terms that they were NOT to do anything to the mortals who were harassing them. LaCroix had made it VERY clear that if anyone disobeyed, the punishment would be deliberate, drawn out, and exquisitely painful. Consequently, except for some hissing and fang and eye showing, the vampires obeyed LaCroix's orders. They made it clear to the Elder that they did not like it, but they obeyed.
Naturally, the incidents never failed to make the evening news. Complete with 'home video' footage. Of course, what was reported bore little or no resemblance to what actually happened. Protests by both the vampire and mortal communities to this slanted version of the truth were virtually ignored.
After nearly all of the incidents, professionally printed placards and pamphlets had been left behind by the mortals. Nearly every one was vulgar and offensive. Nearly every one of them bore the inscription Parliamentary Committee For Non Human Concerns. No one whom the police had questioned admitted knowing anything about the organization. Almost to a person, they said that they had been handed the material by 'someone', they didn't remember who, and told that they were doing the patriotic thing by demonstrating against the vampires.
"Knight. Schanke. Vetter." Reese said sadly. "I hate to say this, but this thing with the mortals and vampires may have just gone to the next level. I just got a call from the 83rd precinct. One of their patrols found a body in the park. There are two holes in his neck that look suspiciously like vampire bites. They referred it to us for investigation." He handed the report to Nick. "Do me a favor, guys. Tell me it was an animal attack."
As the trio pulled up to the scene, there was a man standing on a bench just outside the tape barrier the police had strung around the crime scene.
" … And I'm telling you. This time they've gone too far!" He yelled to the crowd. "They weren't satisfied just provoking us. Now they've killed someone. An innocent man, I might add. Killed and drained him in cold blood just to satisfy their despicable needs. Then they left him here for everyone to see how depraved they are."
With each sentence, the crowd responded with cheers and shouts.
"Are we going to let them get away with it?"
NO!" The crowd shouted back.
"Are you ready to DO something about it?"
"Are you ready to support the Parliamentary Committee For Non Human Concerns?"
Don Schanke went to one of the policeman manning the barrier. "Get him out of here." He ordered.
"We tried, Sir, but he demanded his right to free speech. They've even got their own lawyer with them. He said that as long as he wasn't advocating violence or anything against the government, it was his constitutional right to say whatever he wanted to. He also said that if we tried to deny him that right, the media … " The officer pointed to a group of reporters and journalists gathered at the edge of the crowd. " … would crucify us in the news and TV. After the incident at city hall, there were dozens of police brutality lawsuits filed. Commissioner Sinclair has ordered extreme restraint when it comes to dealing with these ... these ... I can't even say what I'm thinking in public, 'cause I'd probably lose my badge for it. But he can say whatever he damn well pleases and we gotta listen to it. It just ain't fair."
Nick walked to Natalie who was preparing to send the body to the morgue.
"Our victim is a John Doe. No ID. No wallet. No nothing." Natalie stated. "A jogger found him lying in the grass by the side of the path. The police have questioned him thoroughly. He is strictly an innocent. Talk to Constable Graham if you want." She pointed to a red headed officer.
"Was he …" He didn't have to finish the question. It was the question that was on everybody's mind.
"I don't know." Natalie answered the unasked query. "It could be. The wounds are the right distance apart. There doesn't seem to be very much blood in the body, and hardly any around the area. To an outsider, it would appear to be a vampire attack, but after what you told me that LaCroix told them, I doubt anybody in Toronto would have that great of a death wish to make a kill in the first place, let alone leave it plain sight like this." She pulled back the sheet that covered the man's head. Nick paled considerably. He recognized the corpse. It was one of the men from the protesters at City Hall.
As Nick and the others approached the Coroners Building, there were a line of marchers on the sidewalk. Several of the signs they carried proclaimed that the body that was just brought in had been killed by vampires. Others demanded the arrest of the Elders for the murder and the expulsion of all vampires from Toronto. Nearly all of the signs were professionally printed. As expected, there were the usual group of media and press.
"Detective Knight." One of the reporters shoved a microphone in his face. "Is it true that this is a vampire murder?"
"No Comment." Nick replied.
"And aren't the police trying to play this down?"
"I said 'No Comment'." Nick said forcefully.
"Yeah!" One of the demonstrators shouted. "You would say that. You're a !#$&!#& vampire after all. Aren't the wimps over in city hall trying to whitewash you and your !#$&!#& killer friends? What's the matter with them? Are they afraid that they'll come downtown and drain them all dry if they don't back you up?"
Nick pushed his way through the crowd. Don and Tracy followed.
"Hey vampire!" Another demonstrator yelled. "What's the matter? Too good to talk to us lowly humans?"
As they entered the building, Nick heard the demonstrator talking to one of the reporters. He was only able to catch a few words here and there. " … blood suckers … killers … too good for them … " He could just about fill in the blanks.
"How long have they been out there?" Nick asked Natalie.
"They were here even before we pulled up with the meat wagon." She replied. "They are already saying this is a vampire murder and I have barely started the autopsy. This whole thing shouts 'staged'."
"I know what you mean." Don said. "Every time there's any sort of trouble, they're there with their signs and leaflets blaming it on vampires. It doesn't even matter if vampires are involved or not. They're still there."
"So far though, it looks like our friend here was not done in by vampires." Natalie said. "That's the first thing I checked. Somebody went to a lot of trouble to make it look like a vampire kill. The fang marks were the right distance. There was almost no blood in the body. To any other coroner, it would be listed as a vampire kill. But I've got more experience in that area than your average ME. I can say with reasonable certainty that our Mr. Doe was not killed by one of the undead. For one thing, there's no saliva in the wounds. Two, the wounds are more or less square and relatively blunt. Almost like a meat fork. Most vampire fangs are conical and extremely sharp. Third, the wounds go right through the carotid artery. No vampire in his right mind would risk wasting that much blood by going completely through an artery. Which is another thing … "
"Yeah." Don Schanke interrupted. "They usually take the vein. That's where the phrase 'go for the jugular' came from."
"Give the man a rubber cigar." Nick smiled.
"I just have one question?" Tracy said. "Who the hells bells is this Parliamentary Committee For Non Human Concerns? They seem to be behind all of this."
"I don't know, but I am going to find out first thing tomorrow." Nick said.
As he entered the lift, the familiar buzzing in the back of his head told him that there was someone in the loft. Not just any someone, but his master and sire, Lucien LaCroix. A very angry Lucien LaCroix. The temptation to stop the creaky elevator and return it to the ground floor was great. The only trouble was that when Lucien LaCroix was in this kind of a mood there wasn't much Nick could do. The old tyrant would follow his wayward son to the ends of the earth. If only for the distraction. Nick had no choice. He took a deep breath and opened the loft door.
To his surprise, LaCroix was sitting rather quietly on the leather couch. From the vibes he was getting, Nick assumed he would be pacing the floor like a caged tiger.
"Nicholas." LaCroix said, his voice barely reflecting the inner turmoil that Nick could feel through his link. "We must talk."
Nick did a quick examination of conscience. The conscience that LaCroix insisted he did not have. There was nothing he had done in the past few weeks that could have caused his sire to be in this frame of mind.
"Our … people are getting restless. They chafe under the restrictions you and Lady Zera have imposed on them. Do you know how much it galls them to have to stand idly by and take the endless insults and humiliation that this … Parliamentary Committee is heaping on them? I hear their complaints every night at the Raven. "
"I understand your frustration, LaCroix. And theirs. I wish I could give you something positive. I know it's difficult if not nearly impossible, but please, try to keep the Community in line."
"For how long, Nicholas? I am having a great deal of difficulty as it is now. Particularly with the younger ones. They are becoming obsessed with the desire for revenge for the indignities they have suffered. It is building to a point where even I will not be able to do anything about it. If this … situation is not resolved …. And soon … I guarantee you that there will be a bloodbath."
"I wish I knew how long before we get a break."
"Do not wait too long. I will be back." With the characteristic 'whoosh' the Elder was gone.
"Yeah … That's what I thought … Thanks for your help … No, that's all I need … for now." Nick hung up the phone.
"Well … " Don asked. "What did you find out?"
"Nothing. And a lot. I put out some feelers to a few of my contacts in Ottawa and in Montreal. That was the last of them getting back to me. The good news is that the Parliamentary Committee For Non Human Concerns is not any officially recognized agency. The bad news is that no one heard anything about them until a few weeks ago. It was almost like they suddenly came out of the woodwork. They showed up here in Toronto, and from what my contacts know, there are similar groups in every major city in Ontario. They all showed up at about the same time, too. And wherever they have showed up, whatever vampire - mortal link there was, has gone down the drain. The Provincial Police here and in every other Province as well as the RCMP will be keeping an eye on them, just in case."
"And I know our boys are interested in them too." Tracy added. "Mace says he's going to keep real close tabs on them."
"That makes me feel a little better. I'd hate to think that there's opposition out there that is this efficiently organized." Nick said. "If there is, it could make things very sticky."
"KNIGHT!" Captain Joe Reese bellowed into the bullpen. "My office! NOW!"
Nick Knight practically ran into the Captain's office. When the summons was that curt and that loud, it couldn't be good news.
Standing with the Captain were several men. Although they appeared to be well dressed and important, something about them reminded Nick strongly of Enforcers. They weren't Enforcers, though. These were mortals. Nick was sure of that. Their heartbeats gave them away.
"These three ... gentlemen want to talk to you." Reese said brusquely. "Alone." Abruptly, he left the office. Nick had the distinct impression that he was not happy with these men.
"My name is Eugene Parkinson. The other gentlemen here are Michael Borgman and Larry Inderer. We are with the Parliamentary Committee for Non Human Concerns. I understand you have been making some inquiries about us. You know you have no official business probing into our organization without probable cause. Do you think we are some kind of a threat to public safety?"
"Our job is to gather up to date and accurate information on all of the vampires in Canada." Another man, Michael Borgman, said. "Since you, Nicholas Knight, are well known as a vampire, we require your cooperation in this matter. That is why we have decided to talk with you ... informally, so to speak."
"I know who you are." Nick replied, not too civilly. "I have seen what you and your people are doing. And yes, I do think you are a threat to public safety. Why don't you let the duly selected authorities for both sides work this out?"
"WE are not the problem. You vampires are." Larry Inderer said angrily. "And the authorities aren't doing squat about it. That's why we are here. To see that vampires are dealt with …properly."
"And how do you plan to do that?"
"That is none of your concern." Parkinson retorted. "I have read the statements put out by the UN ... and your High Council. According to them, revealing one's status as a vampire is strictly on a voluntary basis. That will NOT serve our purposes. WE need the names and locations of EVERY vampire. And you WILL assist us in getting those names. The Parliamentary Committee is only concerned with making Canada safe for all true Canadian citizens."
The statement smacked of vigilante groups, civil militia organizations, and the KKK. The Crusades had been based on that philosophy. It was the same logic that had been used by the Church during the Inquisition ... The citizens of Salem used it to justify the witch hunts ... Hitler authorized the concentration camps for that same reason. And too many wars had been fought over it. He had heard those words countless times before. ... Safe for all true ... Christians ... Followers of Islam ... Catholics ... Protestants ... Jews ... Palestinians ... Aryans ... White folks … Black people ... fill in the blank ...
"What makes you believe that I know every vampire in Canada? And even if I did, what would make you think I'd tell you anything?"
Parkinson's face became hard and his voice was cold. "You will cooperate or you ... and all of your kind will face the consequences. And I can assure you they will not be pleasant. Do I make myself clear?" He turned and started to the door. "We will be in touch with you." He glared at the detective. "Remember. This is not a request." His companions followed him.
"Who was that?" Tracy asked as the three figures practically stomped through the precinct door.
"That ... was Eugene Parkinson and some of the members of the Parliamentary Committee for Non Human Concerns. They were here to warn me not to investigate them too closely. And to cooperate with them. That they only have the interests of all ... true Canadians ... their exact words ... at heart."
Sounds like something right out of a vigilante meeting." Don Schanke said.
"My thoughts exactly." Tracy added
"Do you think it would help if you ran a check on this Eugene Parkinson?" Don suggested. "And maybe on his two goons as well."
"It couldn't hurt." Tracy added. "And maybe it might give us an insight into who this Committee is and why they are focusing on vampires the way they are."
"Do you think you could do that for me? It's nearly sunrise and I have to get home."
"No problem." Don said. "Enjoy your days off." He waggled his eyebrows mischievously and winked slyly. "If you get my drift."
"What is that supposed to mean?" Nick asked.
Don concentrated on the ceiling. "Nothing." He said as innocently as he could.
Nick held Natalie close as they entered the loft. It was the first time they had a weekend off together in months, and they both agreed that they would make the most of every minute. Although they were for all intents and purposes living together, their diverse schedules meant they hardly had time to say hello and goodbye to each other.
"I'll be so glad when this whole mess with this Vampire Rights thing is settled." Natalie said. "Do you think we could arrange to take some time off for a vacation then?"
Nick nuzzled her hair. He breathed deeply. He couldn't get enough of her scent. He couldn't get enough of her. Period. Ever since Etrian showed him the secret of making love to mortals, things in that respect had been going forward at almost mind boggling speed. Now, sometimes all it took was just thinking about biting her to achieve orgasm. "Better yet. Why don't we make it a honeymoon?" He said softly. "You know, you never did give me a definite answer."
"Answer to what?" Natalie said with all the mock innocence she could muster. She knew perfectly what answer he was talking about. A month ago he had proposed. Before she could give him her answer, they were locked in the throes of passion. After, she had said … again with mock innocence … that she would think about it. She meant it as a joke, but he took it seriously. Thirteenth Century males!
"You know what answer." Again, he got down on his knees in front of her. "Will you marry me?"
"Oh. That answer." He had asked her nearly every day since then, and every day, her answer was the same. I'm wearing your ring, isn't that enough to at least give you a clue? She had every intention of dragging this out as long as possible. If nothing else, to make him squirm. He's so cute when he's flustered. "I'm still thinking."
"How about I give you something to think about?" He leapt off the floor and pulled her to the couch in one movement. With another movement, she was on her back. Then, with almost vicious glee, he began working his hands and fingers over the more sensitive spots on her sides. Within seconds, Natalie had found the corresponding places on Nick's body. They spent the next five minutes in an unabashed giggle fest. Suddenly, Nick jumped up. His eyes were a bright yellow-green and his fangs had descended.
"Nick. Why did you stop?" Natalie asked. "We've done this hundreds of times before. You know you can control yourself."
"No. I can't control myself. Not this time. I can't control the beast. I'm not prepared." He ran to the kitchen. With one motion, he opened the refrigerator and took out a green bottle with a Raven label. He downed it in practically one swallow.
"Oh, Nick! I'm so sorry. You've had such good control lately, I keep forgetting that you need to … " She went to him and started to put her arms around him, but he pushed her away almost forcibly.
" … That I need to gorge myself before I can even touch you. So I don't drain you." He said, his face bathed in self disgust. "Nat. You can never forget that I'm a vampire! And from the way things are going, I always will be a vampire! You are a mortal. If you want to stay that way, you have to keep the fact that I can kill you, even accidentally, in the front of your mind at all times. You can never let your guard down even for a minute. Incidents like what just happened can't ever be allowed to happen again."
He turned his back to her and strode to the shuttered windows. She could see his reflection in the metal slats. It was pure loathing and revulsion. "Maybe I was wrong to ask you to marry me. You are right in putting me off. You do need to think about this. You need to think long and hard before you turn me down. Or better yet, maybe you had better just forget I even asked you. I must have been out of my mind to think you would ever want to marry a monster like me. Nat, you don't want the kind of love I can give you. It's nothing but pure evil."
Natalie was aghast. "What is that supposed to mean? Come on Nick. You're blowing this all out of proportion It was only a little tickling. It isn't the first time I've seen the vampire come out, and it probably won't be the last time."
"I'm serious, Nat. Don't make light of this. We're talking about your life here. The only way this relationship can end is when I kill you. And I can, you know, without even realizing it.
I won't stand in the way of your happiness. I mean that. I can't ask you to give up your chance at a normal relationship. There are many other paths that you can take. Paths with someone who can give you what you so desperately want. Who can give you all the things I can't give you. Someone who can stand in the light and grow old with you. Someone who can give you the house in the suburbs with the white picket fence. Who can give you children. Who can love you in the way that you deserve to be loved. I can't give you anything but pain. Nothing but darkness. Let's face it. Life with me is a lose-lose situation.
Maybe … Maybe it would be better if you moved back into your apartment. Your lease isn't up for a few more months. Maybe by that time, you will be able to get on with your life."
Natalie pushed back the tears that were threatening to explode behind her eyes. "Nick. Don't do this to me. Don't do this to yourself." Maybe I was wrong to string him on like this. I forgot how fragile his newfound self esteem really is. "Don't start with the guilt trips again. Not now. Not when we've come so far already.
I know who you are. I know what you are. You talk about someone who can give me what I desperately want. Don't you understand? What I desperately want ... is you. Without you in my life, there is no light. Without you, there is only darkness. It doesn't matter to me whether I love you as a mortal or as a vampire. I love you, Nicholas de Brabant Knight. That's all that matters. I love Nicholas de Brabant Knight the man. And I love Nicholas de Brabant Knight the vampire too. When will you get it through your mule headed thick skull that there aren't two of you? Both the man AND the vampire are part and parcel of what makes up Nicholas de Brabant Knight. The man I love."
He looked at her. He didn't have to try to put on a sad puppy look. His heart was heavy enough as it was. "You're right. I'm sorry." He sighed. "This whole vampire thing has gotten to me more than I realize. I was taking out all my fears and frustrations on you. I do love you, Nat. And you know I would never do anything that would put you in even the slightest jeopardy." He took her gently into his arms. "Do you think we can start this evening all over again?" He kissed her tenderly on the forehead. "Natalie Ann Lambert. Would you like to watch a movie with me?" His smile could have melted ice. Maybe she can forgive me. Maybe I can forgive myself.
Her smile matched his. He's learning. "I think I'd like that, Nicholas de Brabant Knight. Why don't you pick one out? No horror or violence, though. Something light. A comedy, maybe. And I'll start the popcorn. Oh, and Nick ... My answer is ...Yes."
"Yes. I will marry you."
How did I get so lucky? The kiss was pure passion and fire.
The movie never got selected. The popcorn never got popped. By morning, there were five less bottles of Raven Select vintage in Nick's refrigerator. By the following evening, the normally well stocked refrigerator was empty of green bottles. To no one's surprise, the beast never showed itself for those two days.
"Welcome back." Don Schanke said as Nick took his place behind his desk. "And how were your days off? I do hope you found some time to get some sleep." He definitely had that I-know-what-you've-been-doing look in his eyes.
"And what's that supposed to mean?" Nick tried to look mean, but the weekend with Natalie was more than he had ever dreamed it would be.
"It's just that you and the luscious Doctor Natalie Lambert happened to have the same days off. That hasn't happened for a while now. I just wondered whether you two made the most of it."
"Schank. Has anyone told you that you have a dirty mind?"
"I do not have a dirty mind." Don said smugly. "I had my brain washed just the other day. Myra did it for me."
"And you can't do a thing with it." Nick said, playfully patting the top of his partner's head.
"Seriously. How are things going with you two?"
"Couldn't be better." Nick replied. The grin threatened to split his face. "Now. To work." He changed the subject. "What did you find out about our Mister Eugene Parkinson, and his two henchmen?"
Tracy took a paper from a folder on her desk. "As far as we can tell, Parkinson is the brains behind the group. Borgman and Inderer are little more than flunkies. Both of them have worked for Parkinson off and on for the past ten or so years, usually in very subordinate roles. Also, it seems that those three are ... it, so to speak. There doesn't appear to be anyone else in the top echelon of the organization.
All I could find on Parkinson, by the way, comes from his website on the internet. I tried to Google him, but I got nowhere."
"Google?" Nick asked. "You shouldn't be googleing anybody. Aren't there laws about things like that?"
"Nick. What rock have you been hiding under for the past ten years? Google is an internet searcher. You type in what you want to find, and Google finds it for you."
"And how does he do that?"
Tracy rolled her eyes and sighed heavily. "Google isn't a he … It's an it. It's a computer program. It searches all the websites on the internet and lists all the ones that have the information you're looking for."
"Oh." Nick still had that It's-All-Greek-To-Me look on his face.
"You've used the search command on the police net, haven't you?"
"Google works the same way."
"Oh." He looked at Tracy as though she was talking in a foreign language. In a sense she was. She was talking computer.
"Trust me, it works. Anyway, according to his website, Eugene Parkinson is the senior advisor to George Lakehurst. Lakehurst is the Parliamentarian from Upper Solberg. That's a small district on the northeastern shore of Lake Superior. MP Lakehurst has announced he will not run for office this fall, and Parkinson has put his hat in the ring, so to speak.
Other than that … Born May 23, 1960 in Solberg, Ontario ... Educated … U of T ... Bachelors Degree in Political Science. Graduated Cum Laude. Masters from Barthing University. Served two terms as Councilman for the district before going to work for Lakehurst. Nothing spectacular happened while he was in office. Divorced ... friendly … No children … Regular churchgoer … Coach of the local high school hockey team … Big donor to a dozen or more charities … There's even several very generous contributions to the De Brabant Foundation listed. He makes no bones about heading The Parliamentary Committee. In fact he brags about it. But that's not illegal. Not yet, anyway. And except for a few traffic tickets, no police record that we can find. In words of one syllable, he's Mr. Squeaky Clean."
"There's got to be skeletons somewhere in his closet." Don said." "Did you ever hear of a politician who didn't have some deep dark secrets that he wanted to hide?"
"You're right there, Don." Tracy replied. "All the politicians I know have some dirt someplace. And I know quite a few, thanks to Daddy Dearest."
"Now the problem is how do we go about digging up that dirt. Unfortunately, both Solberg and Ottawa are out of our jurisdiction. If we were to try to get anything through official channels, or even unofficial ones, he will know about it in an instant."
"Yeah. Look how fast he came down on you for those more or less innocent phone calls." Schanke added. "If we were to try to really get something on him, he'd be all over us like ugly on a gorilla."
"So true." Tracy agreed. "What we need is a mole. Someone who is a past master at shaking the trees to see what falls out. Without being seen or heard, of course."
Nick smiled slyly. "And I know just the mole, or more precisely, the rat."
There was a whooshing of air, and Nick was gone.
"Tell me, my children of the night. What is truth?" The Nightcrawler's silky voice floated on the airwaves. "Perhaps a better question should be ... what is your interpretation of truth? As you well know, everything is subject to an individual person's point of view. It is based on one's life experiences, their ethnic background. And the religious upbringing, or lack thereof.
What is absolute truth to you may well be a blatant lie to me. Nothing is absolute. Everything is subject to alteration. For centuries, the sun and the stars revolved around the earth. Galileo proved that wrong. The world was flat until Magellan and others circumnavigated the globe. The speed of sound was impenetrable until the X2 achieved Mach 1.
Illusion is a great surrogate for truth. You may see a wall. It may appear solid and impassable until you look closely at it. Are those bricks? Or are they foam blocks cleverly disguised as bricks? An entire artistic genre is built on illusion. Trompe d' oleil ... Fool the eye. Magicians depend on illusion for their livelihood."
He took a sip of the red liquid in the goblet in front of him.
"Speaking of lies ... Is honesty always the best policy? How interesting would the world be if everyone told the truth at all times? If we knew everything about everyone? Would it be better? Or would there be disappointment and dissatisfaction? Do you really want to know that your significant other had a one night stand fifteen years ago? Do you care that the person who delivers your pizza is gay or an atheist? What would it change to discover that Marge down the street isn't really a redhead? Will you sleep better tonight knowing that a terrorist faction plans to eradicate a significant portion of the population under the guise of patriotism? Some unspoken truths are best left just like that. Unspoken."
He smiled enigmatically.
"One thing you can always be sure of, Mes Amis. I am the Nightcrawler. I will never lie to you. I will always tell the truth. You can believe in that."
" … "I wish I could help you, Nick." Edgar Rathman said into the phone. "But politicians aren't exactly my forte. Not even political wannabes. Wouldn't touch them with a ten foot pole. Or even a six foot Hungarian. Too likely to fight back if you ruffle their feathers. Now, if you wanted to snoop on a bigfoot or an Elvis clone, or maybe even an alien, I'm your man. But politicians? No way, Jose."
"Perhaps I can be of service, Nicholas."
"Lady Zera? How did you know … "
"I was in the office when you called. When Rathman mentioned your name, I had him put the call on the speakerphone. I know someone who might be able to get what you want. I certainly hope so. I will be sending the person to you as soon as possible. After what you told Mr. Rathman, I want this Eugene Parkinson and his Parliamentary Committee For Non Human Concerns out of the picture too. Before they become a major thorn in our sides, so to speak."
"Unfortunately, My Lady, they are already causing considerable problems here in Toronto and in other areas in Ontario."
"I know. I have heard some of the problems. I must congratulate you and Lucius and all the members of the Toronto Community on their handling of what could easily become a real bloodbath. I know it's been a difficult time, but please, Nicholas, keep up the good work."
"I will try, My Lady. Perhaps it would help if you could talk to LaCroix and some of the others and tell them what you have just told me. That would help a great deal."
"That is one of the things I was discussing with Rathman when you called."
Nick yawned as he approached his desk. He had spent the day trying desperately to get some sleep, but it eluded him. Even making love to Natalie hadn't helped. While it was spectacular as usual, it only added to the problems. The worst case scenario kept playing in his subconscious every time he started to fall asleep. Hundreds of thousands of dead bodies, both vampire and mortal, littered the streets. After their lovemaking session, a number of the bodies now bore Natalie Lambert's face. High above the slaughter, Eugene Parkinson stood on the balcony of the CN Tower surveying the carnage. His maniacal laughter echoed over the grisly scene. That's when he would force himself awake.
For a while, Natalie tried to console him. Tried to convince him that it was just a horrendous nightmare, but eventually she gave up. He spent most of the day pacing the living area with bottle after bottle of Raven Special as his only companion. As one was emptied, he'd get another one. He was almost relieved when it was time to go to work. At least there, it was unlikely that he would have any more dreams.
"Hey, Knight." Vera Williams called. "Just got a call from Robbery. They had a silent alarm come in from your place about twenty minutes ago. The paddy wagon is on its way in with the perp. They want you to come down and sign the complaint."
"Any idea who it is?"
"Patrol didn't know the guy, and with all the ruckus from that Parliamentary Committee, they weren't taking any chances. As they used to say on that TV show a couple of years back, they just cuffed him and stuffed him."
"Tell them I'll be down in a few minutes to take care of all the paperwork."
As Nick entered the holding area, two hefty officers were wrestling a man through the door to the garage. His hands were securely handcuffed behind his back. There was a familiar tingling sensation in the back of Nick's head. This was a vampire!
"Detective Knight." One of the other officers said, holding a clipboard to him. "This is the man we caught trying to override your security system. According to his driver's license, his name is Wesley Hunter and he's from New York City. The thing is, when we ran a check on him, the address on the license came up as an empty lot."
Nick looked intently at the man … vampire. He had never seen him before. And he had no idea why he was trying to break into the loft.
At the mention of Knight's name, Hunter stopped fighting the officers. "So, you're Nicholas Knight." Wesley Hunter said. "There's a card in my jacket pocket that will explain everything." He indicated with his chin toward his coat.
Nick reached into the pocket and took out several business cards. " … Passion Flame Massage Parlor … Hours by appointment … " He read. He took another one. " ... Oriental Pleasure School of Exotic Dance … Hmmm … This one looks interesting … Pepper's Escorts ... Hot as you want them ... And how about this one …" He held up a fourth card.
"No, not those cards." Hunter said. Nick could swear the vampire was blushing. "The inside pocket."
In the inside pocket, Nick found the card Hunter was referring to. All it had on it was a red circle with a silver diamond in it. There was also one of Hunter's business cards in there. It said simply 'Wesley Hunter, Private Investigations' and had a New York City telephone number.
"Let him go." He told the officers. "I'll vouch for him."
"But he tried to break in to your loft."
"So you told me. But I'm not pressing charges." Nick handed the blank arrest form back to the officer.
"Why didn't you tell them you were a PI?" Nick asked as they walked back to the homicide bullpen. "And what were you doing breaking into my place? Why didn't you call me? Or use the skylight?"
"You have a skylight? I didn't know that. Besides, I like to keep my skills sharpened. I must congratulate you. You have one of the most sophisticated security systems I've ever tried to breach."
"Compliments of Larry Merlin."
"I should have known. As for not telling the police my occupation, since you know Lady Zera sent me, you must have guessed by now that I am undercover. Now, if I could just get to where I'm staying … "
"No problem." Nick said. "Just give me the name of the hotel, and I'll take you there. We need to talk anyway."
"That's just it. I'm not staying at any hotel. I brought my house with me. It's a 32 foot Winnebago Alfa. Unfortunately, the police impounded it when they arrested me. We better get to it quick, before they decide to check it out. Particularly the refrigerator."
"That could be a problem." Nick said. "The impound lot closes at 11:00 and doesn't reopen until 7 AM. That's well after sunrise. Right now … " He checked his watch. "It's 11:21. Everybody's gone home. I don't think you want to be brought in twice in one night for B&E, do you?"
"And by tomorrow night, it may be too late. I really don't want to have to do a lot of ... 'splainin' ... about why I have ten bags of A positive in my freezer and nothing else to eat anywhere."
"You could always tell them you're a vampire. They'll understand."
"You may have come out of the closet, but I haven't. Bad for business."
"Still no problem. I'll just have Schanke or Tracy, they're my partners, go and bring it to my place first thing tomorrow. You can park it in the lot there. It'll be safe. That's been electronically wired, too."
"You really do have a state of the art setup. Me, I park my mobile home on that empty lot on my license. My security system is to bribe the 153rd Street Warlords. I just have one question. Do you know a really cheap motel I can flake out in 'till my Winnebago is sprung?"
"Yeah. I know one. The price is just right, too. My place." He looked at Wes. "I just have one question. Isn't a 32 foot mobile home a little big to go tooling around the city?"
Wes laughed. "Yes it is, but the Harley Hog that's strapped on the back is just the right size."
I have to introduce him to Vachon. I'll bet they'd get along great.
Natalie eased the door to the loft open. She was very late getting back, but that couldn't be helped. A half hour before the end of her shift, there was a pileup on the QEW and they brought in four bodies. One of them was the daughter in law of one of the City Councilmen, so this was a high profile, do-it-now case. At almost the same time, Dr. Hernandez, the day Coroner called in sick. Dr. Scott, his assistant, was on her third week of maternity leave. So, Natalie and Grace had to do the autopsies. It was well after noon before someone could be found to relieve them. She shrugged off her clothes as she climbed the stairs. All she could think of was a hot shower and snuggling with Nick for the rest of the day.
Natalie looked at the form curled up on the bed. All that showed above the blanket was a mass of blond curls. God. He's gorgeous. She tiptoed to him and slowly ran her finger around his ear.
" Mmmm." The figure mumbled. "Whoever you are, don't ever stop."
OHMIGAWD! That's not Nick! Whenever I do this to him, Nick always mumbles in French. "Y-A-A-A-AH!" She screamed as she backed away from the bed. She searched frantically for something to cover her damp body.
At the same instant, Wes Hunter sat up. His eyes were yellow-gold and his fangs were fully descended. He, too was naked as a jay bird. He growled something barely intelligible.
A fraction of a second later, Nick was at the door. He was also in full vampire mode and he had his gun drawn and cocked.
"Who is …SHE?" Wes asked as he pulled the blanket around him. "And what is she doing naked in your bedroom?"
Who is … HE?" Natalie asked at the same time. "And why is he sleeping in your bed?" She had a towel that Wes had hung on the doorknob wrapped around her. It barely covered what it had to.
"One question at a time." Nick said, putting his gun in the waistband of his jeans. "Okay. Everybody downstairs and I'll explain everything."
"Natalie … " He motioned to the bathroom. "Would you mind … "
"Yeah. I think I had better put something on." She returned to the bathroom.
Wes … " He pointed to his teeth. "And you had better get some clothes on, too. There's a bathrobe in the closet."
Wes closed his eyes and when he opened them, they were brown-almost-black once again and his fangs had receded.
Just as Nick, Nat, and Wes were sitting down at the table, Nick heard the lift kick in. A few minutes later, Tracy and Don entered the loft.
"We got the mobile home, and I parked it in the garage on the first floor of this techno tomb. Right beside the Caddy. It's a good thing it wasn't a foot longer or I never would have made it. I guess there are advantages to having the whole first floor of a warehouse for your garage." Don said, laying the keys in front of Wes. "She's a real beauty. Must have set you back a pretty hefty chunk of change."
"Me and Chase Manhattan Bank." Wes replied. "I still owe two years on it."
"But aren't all of you … " He pointed to his upper teeth. "You know … rich?"
Wes only frowned and shook his head. "Maybe in a few centuries I might be. I'm only 72, you know. Not much more than a fledgling. Certainly not old enough to have accumulated a fortune and a half like your partner here. Right now, I'm just a poor working slob like the rest of you."
"Oh, and partner, after driving that thing through some of the narrower streets of Toronto, remind me never to complain about the way you pilot that land freighter of yours." Don said with a broad wink.
"Well, since you're all here, I might as well make this an honest to goodness meeting." Nick said, ignoring Schanke's remark. "That way, we'll only have to go through it once."
" … And so, Wes. You think you can get the goods on Parkinson?" Natalie asked.
"You've heard the phrase 'Politicians R Us'?" Wes said half joking. "Seriously though. I've dug up some pretty serious dirt on quite a few New York politicos. I don't think Canadian politicians are much different. Besides, Lady Zera thinks I can do the job, otherwise she wouldn't have sent me."
"I'll give you what I have." Tracy volunteered. "That will at least give you a starting point."
"Thanks. That'll help a lot. But I'd appreciate it if you just let me do my thing. If we are seen together too much, it might raise suspicions."
"What's your first move?" Nick asked.
"That's just what I mean. The less you know about what I'm doing, the better. Particularly since you're cops. And now, I'll be on my way. Have to get my beauty sleep, you know." He took Natalie's hand and kissed it softly. Then he repeated the action with Tracy. With a characteristic 'whoosh' he was gone.
"Chivalry is not dead." Tracy said, a starry look in her eyes.
"Yeah!" Natalie sighed, holding her hand before her face. "Very much alive."
A low growling sound emanated from the resident vampire. His eyes were flecked with gold. Wesley Hunter is a dead vampire.
"We're dead vampires." Willie said as the group pulled up to the dock where they had moored their boat. A small scavenging party of about twenty vampires from the Island had raided the Lava Club and had gotten away with over a hundred cases of the club's finest stock. There was a price that they paid for their daring. Seven members of the group and three of the Club's staff had been killed in the skirmish. Six others had been injured. None of them seriously. "When the Enforcers hear about this … "
"They'll do nothing." Edmund interrupted. "Lady Zera won't let them. They have to be the good guys, you know. You know, this raid just might be the best thing we've done so far."
"What do you mean?"
"Think about it. Vampires killing vampires. The press will have a field day with it, and the mortals will go into a head hunting frenzy. When Lady Zera and the Council hear about it, they'll have to rethink their stand on vampires coming out. That's what we want to happen."
"Edmund. I think you got a hold of some seriously contaminated blood somewhere."
"Wait and see. I'm right. Lady Zera will recant her proposal that vampires go public and everything will return to the way it was before all this began."
"And when do the donkeys sing and pigs fly?" For that remark, Willie got the side of a crate against the side of his head.
" … And our top story comes from Hawaii." The newscaster said. "According to an anonymous source, a band of over a hundred frenzied bloodthirsty vampires descended without provocation on a restaurant in Honolulu and massacred nearly everyone there. Only nineteen patrons managed to escape. And none of them were unscathed. We have footage sent to us from a home video of the event taken by a passerby." On screen was the slightly out of focus image of a more or less generic building. Outside in the street, numerous figures could be seen frantically running about. Most of them were in the shadows and none of them were anywhere near the camera. Several bonfires were burning in the background. Bone chilling screams and police and fire sirens were heard during the entire length of the clip. "With me in the studio is Eugene Parkinson of the Parliamentary Committee For Non Human Concerns." The newscaster said. The camera panned to Parkinson. "Mr. Parkinson, what is your opinion of this horrible event?"
"My opinion?" Parkinson said. His voice was appropriately frightened. "It only goes to prove what the Parliamentary Committee has been saying from the start. Vampires are a dangerous and unstable threat not only to the citizens of Canada but apparently to the whole world. The only solution is to rid humanity of their presence. If … no, make that when, I am elected to parliament, my first order of business will be to propose and pass legislation outlawing vampires as a whole, and making it a punishable crime to be a vampire, or to help any of these despicable fiends in any way."
LaCroix nearly threw the remote through the TV screen. "How DARE he!" He fumed.
Before Lady Zera even put the receiver on its cradle, Everett and Norton were in her office. "I want Logan Grainer and Edmund Gloucester brought here." She boomed to the two Enforcers. "I want them here NOW! And while you're at it, you might as well bring Willie and Frank too. Take as many men as you think you will need."
"Yes, Lady Zera." The Enforcers said as they left the office. They nearly knocked Edgar Rathman over as they exited the anteroom.
"You sent for me?" Rathman said as he entered the Presider's office.
Lady Zera only pushed a copy of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin across the desk at him. Along with it were newspapers from every major city in the world. They all had essentially the same headline.
"I read them too, My Lady. I have a rebuttal piece already prepared." He handed her several sheets of paper. "It will go out as soon as you approve it."
Lady Zera took the piece and read it. "I definitely approve. You did very well, Edgar. I knew I did the right thing by putting you in charge of public relations."
Edgar Rathman blushed noticeably. "Thank you, My Lady. Coming from you, that's a great compliment. The truth is, I'm more used to getting threats than getting praise."
Lady Zera smiled softly. "Rathman. You have the potential to be a great journalist. I'm just glad that I am able to provide the environment that can bring that talent to the surface."
Rathman blushed even deeper.
"You had better get this on the wire."
"Yes, My Lady." Rathman nearly walked into the door from the anteroom to the hall. He had never had anyone believe in him the way that Lady Zera and the Council did.
He barely noticed as Etrian and Adrienne Walking-With-Moon and the rest of the Council entered the office.
"I've been expecting you." LaCroix said to the two Enforcers that appeared, quite literally, in his office at the Raven. "Shall we go?"
Nick was almost to the Caddy. After the newscast, he had booked off. No use putting everyone there in possible danger because of who he was. They'd have enough trouble dealing with the expected reprisals from the Parliamentary Committee. The last thing they needed was a vampire cop to enflame the public. Besides, he was so angry and so tense, he probably would have fanged the first person who crossed him. At the very least he would have thought about it.
This had to be the work of Logan, Edmund, Willie or Frank, if not all four of them. How dare they do something this irresponsible! They've played right into the hands of the Parliamentary Committee. He knew that the news broadcast had been blown out of all proportion. Probably by the Parliamentary Committee itself. According to the best reports that anyone had, there were only about two dozen or so vampires involved, and there were no mortals even present, let alone hurt or killed. The Raven was abuzz with the news when he had stopped to replenish his supplies earlier that evening.
He felt the sting of the tranquilizer dart as it struck his chest. He tried to pull it out, but it was firmly wedged in his skin. He stared at it as though it had punctured someone else, not him. It's probably barbed. He thought clinically as the world suddenly became fuzzy. Then everything turned a greenish black.
Lucien LaCroix once again stood in the anteroom of the Council chambers. This time, though, there were not only the Eastern Region Elders, but Elders and a few Ancients from every region worldwide.
"I dare say this is much more serious than I had imagined." He said half aloud.
"Much more." Guy de Meilliere, the Elder from Marseilles said.
"If we all have been summoned, it must be cataclysmic." Wilhelmina 'Willie' Drake, the London Elder added.
Several of the others agreed.
Just then, the door to the chambers opened and the Elders were escorted inside.
"Elders and Ancients." Lady Zera began. Her face was solemn and streaked with worry. "We are facing a major crisis."
Slowly, the black turned to green. The green faded to gold and was replaced with a yellow, then a white fog. Gradually, Nick could make out … things in the fog.
"Good. He's waking up." One of the … things said to one of the other … things
Nick squeezed his eyes tight shut and when he opened them, one of the … things morphed into a person. Little by little, all of the … things morphed into people as well.
"Who … what … " He mumbled. His tongue had the texture and flexibility of asphalt, and his mouth felt like it was stuffed with cotton batting. As he became more aware of his surroundings, he could see that he was in a room in what was probably a warehouse of some sort. It was apparently new, since it was clean and brightly lit and smelled of fresh paint. The room was large, about 16' by 16', and was bare except for a table and several chairs set up a few feet from him. He was squatted on the floor and was manacled in what appeared to be titanium hand and leg cuffs that were attached to titanium chains, which were imbedded in the wall.
"I am glad to see that we didn't use too much curare." Eugene Parkinson said. He had been the … thing standing closest to Nick. "We knew that curare acts as an anesthetic and also as a paralytic on your kind. Unfortunately, without any statistics to go by, we didn't know exactly what was the proper dose. We had to guess. I'm glad we guessed correctly."
"We didn't want to kill you or paralyze you. Just knock you out for a short time. It was a safe bet that you would not come willingly."
"No. Why do this in the first place?"
"As I told you before. We need information. Information that only you can provide. In the beginning, we were willing to wait until you were ready to give us that information freely, but this … situation in Hawaii made that nearly impossible. We need the names and locations of vampires so that we can defuse this … situation before it becomes critical."
"You know there's no situation, as you call it. You know as well as I do that the newscast was a complete piece of fiction."
"Ah, yes. It may have been exaggerated just a bit." Parkinson had that cat-that-ate-the-canary look. "But the general public doesn't know that. They'll be looking for vampires under every rock."
"And you want me to help you hunt down my kind? You must be out of your mind."
Eugene laughed softly. "No, we don't want all of them. Most likely, there are good and bad among the vampires just as there are good and bad among mortals. All we need is the names of some of the more evil and disruptive of them. Actually, we will be doing you a favor."
"You? Doing me a favor? Now I know you're crazy."
"Of course it will be a favor. You get rid of the unsavory element in your Communities. That's what they are called, isn't it? And we get the bodies to show the public that the Parliamentary Committee is doing its job. What could be more practical that that?"
"Your head on the pointed end of a … " A metal pipe connected with the left side of his head, effectively ending his sentence. He could feel that his cheek was broken, and several of his teeth on that side were very loose. At the very least, he had a concussion. Nick spit the blood in his mouth at the man wielding the pipe. That earned him a second blow, this time to his left arm. Again, he felt the bones break. He tried to lunge at the man, but between the restraints, the lingering effects of the curare, and the pain, he could barely stand upright, let alone fight.
His assailant was a huge, rough looking man with a prominent scar on his left cheek. He had to be at least seven feet tall and in the neighborhood of 450 pounds. "And there's plenty more where that came from if you don't answer the boss's questions." The man growled.
"I strongly suggest you cooperate, Detective Knight." Parkinson said condescendingly. "Herbie, here just loves to inflict pain. Don't you, Herbie?"
"Yeah!" Herbie slapped the iron pipe into his palm several times and grinned a gap toothed smile. "I like hurting people."
"I will leave you to think about it for a little while. We will be back later for your answer." Parkinson said. "Don't go away." He waved as he left the room.
Herbie took another swing before he left. This one broke a few ribs. "Think about it, vampire." He growled. Apparently this was his normal voice.
"I say we send a contingent of Enforcers to their island and destroy the lot of them!" Vittorio Montini from New York said. His words were seconded by a number of the others.
"And how would that make us look in the eyes of the mortal public?" Amahl T'Mutu, one of the High Council asked. "We'd only end up justifying their impression of us as bloodthirsty killers."
"At least it'll show them that we are capable of taking care of our own problems." Vincente Montini, Vittorio's twin, both as a vampire and as a mortal, and Co-Elder of the New York area replied.
"What if we put the Elders of the Island on trial?" Etrian suggested. "And made it public? That, and Rathman's article should convince the mortals that we aren't the bad guys they think we are."
"We've never done anything like that before. Do we really want the whole world to see how we conduct our business?" Eng Tai Lo, the Taiwanese Elder asked.
"That's the whole idea." Chek Kai Chang, another Councilman responded. "Like Vittorio said, we'd be showing the mortals that we can take care of our own troubles, but in a positive way."
"Vincente!" He replied indignantly. "I'm Vincente! He's Vittorio!" He pointed to his twin. "Three hundred years and they still can't tell us apart."
"You know, that just might work." Adrienne Walking-With-Moon, the fifth member of the Council said. "Now all we have to do is get the leaders here."
"I'm ahead of you on that." Lady Zera said. "I have already sent a squad of Enforcers to the Island to bring the leaders here. I had a different plan for them in mind, but what you are suggesting will work much better."
"And how do you propose to show this so called trial to the mortals?" Ivan Korinskikov, the Russian Elder asked.
Lady Zera picked up the phone. "Have Edgar Rathman brought to my chambers. I have an assignment for him."
Natalie opened the lift door and stepped inside. Nick had booked off following the newscast of the so called massacre in Hawaii. Natalie did not believe for a minute that it was true. Not after all that the Council and the Elders had done these past weeks to drive home the importance of non violence. Not just in Toronto, but world wide. Still, she was anxious. Between the sleeplessness and the pressure, there was a chance that this might be the straw that would throw him into another depression. So, she booked off, too.
"Nick?" She called. No answer. The loft was pitch dark and silent. He always left some kind of light on for Natalie, even when he was in the dark. In more ways than one. She went to the living area. Nothing. The kitchen. Nothing. Then she spotted the envelope on the floor by the door. It had only one word on it ... Natalie. It was in Nick's hand. She opened it. All it said was that he had to go out of town on family business and that he would be gone for several weeks. It was signed ... Nick.
"Well, I guess the Council called him in their inimitable way and he had no choice but to answer." She mused as she put a pot of water on for tea.
Just as it came to boil, the phone rang. It was Don Schanke.
"You have any idea where Nick is?" He asked. "About an hour ago, a messenger brought a note to the Captain saying he was going to be out of town on family business and that he wouldn't be back for two or three weeks. According to the messenger's description of the man who gave him the note, it was Nick."
"No, I don't know where he went, Don. I got the same letter when I arrived at the loft a few minutes ago. You know Nick. He'll contact us when he's ready. Or when he has something to report."
"Yeah. I guess you're right. I'll let you know if I hear anything and you do the same for me."
Under the door to the Raven was an envelope in Nick's handwriting addressed to Lucien LaCroix. Inside was a similar note.
He could tell it was morning, or close to it. Unfortunately, there were no windows in the room, so he could not be sure. But that also meant that no sunlight could reach him either.
Since Parkinson and Herbie had left last evening, no one had come by. His injuries had for the most part healed, but it had taken a great deal of his reserves to do that. He was very hungry and his arms and legs ached from the squatting position he was more or less forced into by his chains. He soon discovered that they were not long enough for him to lie down fully and they were too short and too high off the floor for him to sit down comfortably either. In addition, they were too low to stand upright as well. The only manageable position was to sit on his heels with his hands at about shoulder height.
The door opened and Eugene Parkinson came in, accompanied by Herbie. Herbie still had the pipe, but now he had a crossbow slung over his back.
"Good morning, Detective." Parkinson said. In his right hand, he had a green bottle.
Nick did not even need his enhanced senses to tell him what it contained. Blood. Pure. Uncut. Human. Blood. His mouth began to water and his fangs dropped. He was sure that his eyes were yellow as well. As hungry as he was and as close as the bottle was, he had no doubt that he was fully vamped out. He tried to lunge for the bottle, but his restraints held, and the effort resulted in him being toppled over like some bizarre marionette. Slowly, he righted himself and resumed his squatting position.
Parkinson looked at the bottle and then at Nick. "Is this what you want, Knight? Why didn't you just ask pretty please? I'll bet you're hungry, aren't you?" He asked. He held the bottle to Nick, but as soon as he made another motion toward it, Parkinson jerked it back. This time Nick stopped while he was still upright. "All you have to do is tell me what I want to know and it's all yours. Names and locations of the vampires?" He waved the bottle in front of Nick. "That's all it will take. Is that so much to ask?"
He had been this hungry before. Many times. After all the times that LaCroix had starved him over the centuries, this hunger was nothing. A piece of cake. "Go to hell." He spat.
Herbie struck again with his pipe. Several times. This time Nick's right knee shattered and his thigh was probably broken as well.
"Well, if you don't want this … " Parkinson uncorked the bottle. "I guess I might as well dispose of it." He upended the bottle, well away from Nick. Nick watched as the life giving red puddle flowed across the concrete and down the drain in the middle of the floor.
"Maybe you'll feel more like talking later." He started to the door. "Oh. If you're thinking somebody's going to miss you and come looking for you, forget it. Your boss and your … girlfriend all received notes from you saying that you were going to be out of town for an extended time. Even your master got a letter from you. Nobody's going to rescue you. Enjoy yourself, Vampire."
Wes Hunter pored over the papers in front of him. When you don't have to play by the rules, it's amazing what you can find out. A few well placed 'suggestions', a few more bald faced lies, some promises he never intended to keep, and large supply of hundred dollar bills, courtesy of Lady Zera's expense account ... in addition to some help from a certain anonymous vampire computer wizard with the initials L. M., had gotten him everything anyone ever wanted to know about one Eugene Louis Parkinson.
His web site biography, as Wes suspected, was a superb piece of fiction. He had more skeletons in more closets than the Haunted Mansion at Disney World. There was a birth certificate for Eugene Louis Parkinson on file in Solberg, Ontario. There was also one on the same day for a Baby Boy Doe #173, who was born out of wedlock to Jane Doe #396, a fifteen year old girl from Ypsilanti Michigan, and a private adoption certificate showing that Solberg's multi millionaire residents James and Martha Parkinson had adopted Baby Boy Doe when he was five days old. One of the birth records was a fake and Wes had a pretty good idea which one it was.
He did have a Bachelors degree in Political Science from U of T, but it was hardly with honors. His highest GPA for all four years was a 2.7. Barely a C. The Masters diploma that hung in his office was to all purposes legitimate. Until you nosed around a little deeper. True, there was a Barthing University, and it was accredited. In the Cayman Islands. For thirty thousand US dollars, you could become a Computer Analyst, a Clergyman, or a PhD, or anything in between. Without even setting foot in a classroom. In about the same time that it took for your check or credit card to clear the bank.
He was the Councilman for Solberg, and it was true that nothing out of the ordinary happened during his tenure. Afterward however, was an entirely different story. A routine review several years later turned up a corruption scandal of immense proportions. While there was no direct link to Parkinson, everything pointed to the fact that he was hip deep in conspiracy at the very least. Parkinson was never even formally questioned. Wes was not surprised to learn that the incident never even made it into the tabloids, let alone the mainline newspapers.
His divorce was anything but friendly, even though it was settled by mediation. His wife took him to the cleaners. Good for her. It stemmed from allegations that he had fathered a child by one of the interns in Lakewood's office. Of course, the affair was well hidden and denied by all concerned. However, there were hefty monthly checks to the intern involved, drawn on a Wisconsin bank account that was not listed on any of Parkinson's official asset sheets.
The 'contributions' to the various charities were legitimate, even if the money may not have been. There were some very shady names on his list of political donors.
"And that's only the tip of the iceberg." Wes smiled. Although it was only rumor and hearsay, there were links between Parkinson, the Committee, and organized crime.
His two 'companions' were just as Tracy suspected. They were little more than gofers. Both Michael Borgman and Lawrence Inderer had arrest records in several of the police districts of Ontario and the neighboring provinces for a variety of crimes ranging from harassment to assault and battery to vandalism, with an occasional theft charge thrown in for good measure. The pair was never brought to trial for any of their crimes. Usually for lack of evidence or witnesses.
"Wait until Nicky sees this." He put the papers in a large manila envelope. "Eugene Louis Parkinson. Your ass is grass." He crowed. "And every vampire from Prince Edward Island to Vancouver has a John Deere."
Michael Borgman hung up the phone. "We may have to move fast." He said to Parkinson. "That was one of our guys in Solberg. Somebody's been asking some pretty awkward questions about us and the Committee for the past coupla days. If he gets too close, there could be trouble with a capital T."
"Then why don't we just eliminate that problem?" Larry Inderer said.
"Too messy. He's mortal from all indications." Borgman replied. "And an American to boot."
"Then we make it look like he's working with the vampires. He probably is anyway. Why would he be checking us out if he wasn't? In any case, we smear him from here to the Yukon." Parkinson said. "After that Hawaiian disaster, nobody's going to believe a word that the vampires or their mortal boot lickers say about anything. Even though we had nothing to do with it, that was the best thing that's happened so far. Of course, that doctored tape we gave the media helped a lot. It aroused a lot of anti vampire sentiment. All we have to do is play on that and the next stop will be Ottawa and Parliament. From there, I might even be able to ride this vampire thing all the way to the Prime Minister's mansion."
"We still need some bodies to trot out for the general public to see. To convince them that the threat to them is real. It's a shame that the Coroner on the case when we gave them that 'vampire kill' was Knight's girlfriend. It seemed like the perfect way to get rid of that malcontent who was going to expose us, and blame it on the vampires. She put the quash on that one real fast. If only Knight would cooperate ... " Inderer said.
"Then maybe we need to turn up the screws. As a last resort, we can use him as the sacrificial goat. Make it look like his own people killed him to keep him from talking." Borgman suggested.
"Or we just might have him kill our ... nosey friend." Inderer added.
"I knew there was a reason I kept you guys around." Parkinson said. "Good thinking."
Wes leaned the Harley, and the machine made a perfect 90 degree turn onto Gateway Lane. He had ridden all night to get here before dawn. He had made it with over an hour to spare. Now that's riding. He stopped before making the turn into the parking lot of the warehouse at 101 and finished off the last of the bag of A+ that he had in his saddlebag. He had opened it when he left Solberg and he had been snacking on it all the way here. In a few minutes, he would be back in his trailer. By tonight, Nick and the others would have all the proof they needed to bring Eugene Parkinson down, and with him, the Parliamentary Committee For Non Human Concerns.
He had the feeling that he had been watched in Solberg, so for safety's sake, he had scanned and encrypted his evidence and e-mailed all of it to Nick at the 96th precinct and to several other places. Then he had hidden the unlabeled disks in with his unused disks. If anyone wanted them, they would have to hunt through fifty disks to find the right ones. Then they would have to un-encrypt them. That wouldn't be easy. He had used one of Larry Merlin's programs. Even the CIA had a difficult time breaking Larry's code.
"I do like it when things go right for a change." He said aloud as he dismounted the bike in the parking lot. He pulled the manila envelope and his change of clothes out of the saddlebag and headed for the Winnebago. That's when he felt the sting on the back of his neck. He reached around and felt the tranquilizer dart in his neck. Somebody wants me. Real bad. It was nice of them to send an invitation like this, but a simple 'come with me' would have been just as good. Bet a month's rations it's the Parliamentary Committee. I guess I better play along with them. He sank to the ground in a heap.
" ... What do you mean you're not interested in televising the trial of the vampires responsible for the Hawaiian incident!" Edgar Rathman practically screamed into the phone at the CNN representative. "This could be the story of the century and you're turning it down! I don't believe this!"
"Look. Like I told you before. Vampires aren't exactly the best publicity right now. That thing in Hawaii has the public seeing spooks everywhere they turn. The last thing we want to do is give them even more vampires to hate. Sorry. Why don't you try MSNBC?"
"No. You look. I'm offering you an exclusive once in a lifetime deal." He was sure that the word 'exclusive' would get the rep's ears perked. He was right. Even though he was mortal, Rathman could almost hear the man's heart beating faster even through the phone line. "The High Council already has the leaders in custody. There are only four of them that masterminded this whole thing. Four troublemakers out of all the vampires in the whole world and you're going to condemn everyone for their actions? I can't believe what I'm hearing! We are going to try them for their crimes. Justice will be done. With or without your cameras there to record everything. The least you guys can do is let the public see that we're doing the right thing. That we're not the bad guys everybody makes us out to be."
"We? Rathman, I've always known you were a bloodsucking son of a bitch when you worked for the Peeper, but now you're talking like you have become one of ... them. Have you been crossed?"
"No. I'm still mortal, if that's what you mean. And the correct term is 'brought across'." Rathman said. When did I start including myself in the same category as vampires? When did ... they ... become ... we? "I'm merely speaking as their agent. It's only natural to use 'we' in that sense."
"You just might have something with this vampire trial, Rathman. This could be a refreshing point of view showing the vampires as the good guys for a change. And it could even get us an Emmy or a Gemini in newscasting to boot. Or maybe both. Not to mention the zillions of dollars in access fees from the other news networks. "This could be something we might be willing to go with. Let me talk to my bosses and see what they have to say about this. I'll get back to you."
Edgar hung up the phone. They'd do it. He knew from experience they'd be foolish to pass up an offer like this. And a major network like CNN was anything but foolish. He could almost see the drool on the rep's chin at the prospect of an exclusive coverage of an event of this proportions.
"… And just to sweeten the pot, he's a private dick, too!" Larry put one of Wes's business cards on the table with the manila envelope. "If he had gotten to whoever hired him with this, we'd all be in very hot, very deep doo doo."
"Then it's a good thing we got to him first." Michael Borgman said. "It looks like he was working for Knight. Herbie found him in Knight's parking lot."
"Then we better make sure that he never leaves here. Now nobody will ever see this ... " Parkinson picked up the envelope and the card and fed them to a shredder in the warehouse office. " ... Or him ever again." He motioned to Herbie. "Put our ... new guest in with his vampire friend. It's been four days since Knight's had anything to eat ... make that drink. This ought to make him very happy. Oh, and Herbie, if you want to have some fun with our ... guest beforehand, go right ahead."
Herbie grinned sinisterly. "Gotcha, Boss." He growled, slapping his ever present iron pipe against his hand.
The door opened and an apparently unconscious Wes Hunter was unceremoniously thrown in the room.
"Here you go, vampire. Din-din." Herbie's, growled. "Enjoy."
As soon as the door closed. Wes Hunter opened his eyes and looked at Nick, a silly grin on his face. He put his finger to his lips. He pulled up his right pant leg and withdrew a credit card sized object from his sock. From the prone position, he pointed it around the room. This done, he stood up. His face was bruised and bloody and his left arm hung at an odd angle. There was blood on his shirt and he seemed to favor his left leg. "Good." He whispered. "There's a camera in here, but it hasn't been activated. Yet. Hopefully by the time they do, we'll be ready for them." He put the device in his pants pocket.
Nick's eyes were red-orange and his fangs were full. Most of the results of Herbie's last session with him had not fully healed yet. Some of the injuries had not even started. And there were still a multitude of signs of previous beatings as well.
The scenario from the first day had been repeated every day since then. Sometimes more than once. Parkinson would offer him a bottle if he would tell him the names of the other vampires. Nick would spit in his face. Parkinson would proceed to pour the blood down the drain. Then Herbie would take out his frustrations, or his pleasures, on Nick's body. Each time Herbie had done his thing, the beatings had gotten longer and more violent. It had taken all he had just to stay alive, if that was what you wanted to call what he was. Alive. It was only by sheer force of will that he was registering any conscious thought at all.
It was a good thing Wesley Hunter was a vampire, or he would definitely have been Nick's next meal. Although Nick knew he would have regretted it later, survival came first. He made a sound somewhere between a growl and a scream.
"Talk later." Wes said, kneeling before Nick. He unbuttoned his shirt cuff and held out his wrist. "I know it's not the same as master's blood, but it will have to do." He said as Nick sank his fangs into the proffered blood supply.
"How'd you get here?" Nick asked as he finished. The blood was working. He could feel his strength returning. Already some of the bruises and cuts were fading slightly.
"They caught me as I was going to the Winnebago. Tranquilizer dart to the neck. As near as I could tell, it contained some kind of a knockout solution, possibly succinolcholine. They probably think I'm mortal. One of their goons, Herbie, I think he was called, did a number on me before they threw me in here. I guess I was supposed to be the main course for your dinner this evening." He pulled on his left arm and winced noticeably as he straightened it. Both vampires could hear the popping sound as the bones snapped back into place. He took a few steps to test his injured leg, which was already nearly healed.
"Now to do something about these." Wes pointed to the hand and leg cuffs. He took off left his shoe and took a miniature lock picking set out of the hollow heel. "And everyone thought I was nuts watching all those episodes of Get Smart."
"Didn't they search you?" Nick asked as Wes expertly unlocked the manacles from his arms and legs.
"Of course they did. But once they found one set of everything, they didn't bother looking for any more. You ought to know that any boy scout worth his badges is always prepared. And I'll have you know I was an Eagle Scout back in Queens." Wes brought the three fingers of his right hand to his forehead.
The 'credit card' in Wes's pocket beeped softly.
"Uh-oh." Wes whispered just loud enough for Nick to hear, falling to the ground once more. "They've activated the camera. Time to start the show. Make like you're still a hungry vampire and I'm the blue plate special."
"What was that?" Nick whispered as he quickly put the now unlocked manacles around his arms and legs. "The beeping credit card."
"Oh, that? That's the latest thing in bug detection devices. It can find anything electronic from mikes to cameras to motion sensors. Got it from the Mercenary Spies Equipment Catalog. It's also great for locating blown fuses ... or the burned out bulbs in your Christmas tree lights." He whispered back with a slight twinkle in his eyes.
"You doofus!" Parkinson yelled at Herbie as he watched the TV monitor. Wes lay a considerable distance from the apparently shackled detective. "You forgot to release Knight. How is he supposed to kill that Hunter guy if he's still chained to the wall? Larry, go release him."
"You got to be kidding." Larry replied. "As hungry as he should be, I release him and he kills me as well as Hunter. I ain't no dope. You want him uncuffed, YOU do it."
Parkinson rolled his eyes. "Do I have to do everything? Okay. We'll all go. Grab the crosses and stakes. If he tries anything, it'll be the end of him as well as Hunter."
Lucien LaCroix stared at the note. "Now what is my dim witted son up to?" He asked no one in particular.
Janette brought him a goblet of his special vintage and sat down in the chair opposite him. "Trouble, mon pere?" She asked.
"Where is he?" LaCroix demanded.
"Where is who?"
"Nicholas, of course. This note says he is out of town on family business. Family business my left hind foot! WE are the only family he has and I certainly did not order him to leave town. Therefore you must have been the one."
"Moi? I thought it was you!"
"ME? I have been with the High Council all week planning the trial of the persons responsible for the killings in Hawaii. I just got back a few hours ago. Why would I have sent Nicholas out of town at a time like this? If he has gotten himself in any trouble ..." Their sire rolled his eyes and sighed. "If I have to rescue his misbegotten hide one more time ... " He thought a moment. "Lambert!" He said. "If anyone would know Nicholas's whereabouts, it will be Doctor Lambert. I think I shall pay her a little visit. I'm certain she will be more than glad to tell me where he is."
"You aren't going to do anything to her, are you?"
"Why Janette, mon cherie! You make it sound like I am a cold, unfeeling, heartless monster or something. I care a great deal about the good Doctor. I would never harm her."
"There was a time not so long ago when you would have gladly drained her and fed her corpse to the fish in Lake Ontario. In little bits and pieces."
"I will admit there was some animosity between the two of us in the beginning, but that is all in the past. You have made your peace with her, so why is it so difficult to believe that I too have made peace with her?"
"I guess you really have changed your attitude toward her." Particularly since Lady Zera has placed Natalie under her personal protection.
"Yes I have. Now that that has been settled, I shall go see our doctor friend."
"Somebody's coming down the hall." Nick whispered, low enough that only Wes could hear. He was positive that the microphone that Wes's 'credit card' had also located could not pick it up.
"I hear them too. Time to put plan A into action." Wes replied, also in the same whisper.
"What's plan A?"
"How the hell should I know? We'll just have to make one up as we go along."
Eugene Parkinson opened the door and stepped into the room. He was brandishing a cross in one hand and a stake in the other. Herbie was beside him. He too had a cross and a stake. Inderer and Borgman were behind him.
"Okay, vampire." Herbie growled. "We're gonna turn you loose. You try anything and we'll stake you where you stand." He put the cross tight against Nick's face. It only felt mildly hot, not burning.
In one motion, Nick batted away the cross and grabbed the stake before Herbie could react. He then turned the giant around and pulled the stake tight against the man's throat. Herbie instinctively dropped his ever present iron pipe.
"That cross was supposed to stop you." Parkinson said as he back toward the door. He was holding his crucifix rather shakily. "Why didn't it?"
"Because a lot of its power depends on the faith of the user." Nick replied angrily. "Apparently, Herbie doesn't go to church very much."
At almost the same time, Hunter was off the floor and expertly took out the other two henchmen with karate chops that were less than a second apart. "Didn't know I had a black belt, did you?" He said with a self satisfied smile.
Parkinson used this time to head out the door. He ran down the hall as fast as he could.
Wes started after him.
"Don't even think about it." Nick hissed. "He's mine." His eyes were yellow orange and his fangs were showing. "You can have these three." He shoved Herbie at Wes and headed for the hallway.
"You can't do nothin' to me, little man." Herbie growled.
"Oh, can't I?" Wes said as his eyes morphed from brown to yellow and his fangs dropped down over his lower lip.
Nick was in the would-be politician's office in a matter of seconds. Parkinson was struggling to open the safe.
"Here. Let me help you." Nick growled. He pulled the door off the small safe with one motion.
Parkinson stood up and leveled a gun at the detective. "This is loaded with wooden bullets. Hawthorn wood. They'll stop you even if the cross won't. They've been soaked in holy water for added effect." He emptied the revolver into Nick's abdomen and chest.
It felt as though a series of red hot pokers were being stuck into his intestines and lungs. Fortunately, he was close enough that the majority of the bullets passed through him. His eyes were red and he was making an unearthly sound as he lifted Parkinson off the floor and pushed him against the wall.
"NO! Nick! Don't!" Wes called from the doorway. "Don't do anything to him! He's not worth the effort!"
Nick shook his head to clear it. "Relax, Wes. I wasn't going to do anything drastic. That would be too quick and too painless. He's going to face justice for what he's done."
"And how do you think you're going to mete out that justice?" Parkinson said almost conceitedly. "I've got your attacks here and in the holding area on tape. A little creative tinkering and they'll show whatever I want them to show. With anti vampire fever as high as it is, there's not a jury in the country that'd find me guilty of even jaywalking, let alone shooting you. It's self defense. That's my story and I'm sticking to it. You don't have a case and you know it."
"Oh, we're not going to accuse you of anything." Wes said. "You're going to do that all by yourself."
"What do you have in mind?" Nick asked Wes.
"Finally thought of a Plan A. Go along with me." Wes answered. He turned to Parkinson "I know you've scheduled a speech on national TV tomorrow night. I'll bet that in that speech, you were going to publicly accuse Knight of killing me. Complete with doctored video tapes of the 'crime'. You were counting on public sentiment to 'try' and 'execute' him, weren't you?"
"Instead you're going to come clean that this whole vampire thing is nothing but smoke and mirrors." Nick finished the thought
"Wrong, vampire. You can't make me do anything I don't want to do. I know all about who you are. I've got proof. Empirical evidence. As long as I have that, I call the shots, not you."
"No, you're the one who's wrong. When I went public, the rules changed. Empirical evidence doesn't mean squat anymore." Nick showed just the tips of his fangs.
"And if I don't do as you ask?"
"Then we'll do it for you." Wes said menacingly. "And don't think for one moment we can't. You know I've been digging into your past. I've found enough dirt to bury you and your Parliamentary Committee For Non Human Concerns so deep it'll take an earth mover to find you."
"You've got nothing." Parkinson said. "I destroyed all your so called evidence." He pointed to the shredder in the corner.
"What do you think I am, Parkinson? Some kind of a fool? You should know I'd make backups out the wazoo. You may have shredded what was in the envelope, but that was just one copy. I still have the originals on disk. And just to cover my ass, I e-mailed encrypted copies to Knight, and to his boss, Captain Reese. As well as CBC and the papers. Oh yes, and the RCMP has a copy too. You renege, and I give them the codes to decipher them."
"That's just for openers." Nick stared deeply into the politico's eyes. He concentrated on matching his words to Parkinson's heartbeat. "You will cooperate."
" ... Cooperate ... "
"And this is what you're going to do." Wes said, as he too, tuned to the tha-thump of Parkinson's heart. "You're going to tell all. Starting with the circumstances of your birth and going right up to this evening."
"Tell all ... birth ... to tonight ... " Between the two vampires, they had managed to overcome the mental barriers that Parkinson had tried to erect.
For the next few minutes the two vampires outlined the basics of the speech that the leader of the Parliamentary Committee would give.
"And you're going to be cocky and brag about it as well." Nick added with a grin. "That ought to really endear you to the general population."
"Cocky ... Brag ... Endear ... "
Wes had a positively inspired look on his face. "Speaking of cocky, when you're finished with the speech, you are going to ... " His voice dropped as he whispered something into the politician's ear.
"Wes!" Nick said. "I heard what you just said. That's absolutely brilliant!"
"Yeah. I thought so, too." He looked at Parkinson again. "One more thing. You will believe this is all your idea. You will have no recollection of this conversation. None at all. You understand?"
"No recollection. I understand."
"Good. Now get out of here and prepare for your speech tomorrow."
Parkinson ran out of the office like he was being chased by the devil himself. The slamming door echoed through the building.
Suddenly, Nick groaned and doubled over.
"You all right?" Wes steadied his companion and led him to a chair,
"Shot ... Wood bullets ... Holy water ... Still in there ... Get ... Natalie ..." Nick gasped, barely above a whisper.
"I am going to ask you one more time, Doctor Lambert. Where is he? Where is Nicholas?"
LaCroix towered over the doctor. As he stood toe to toe to her, the over one foot difference in their height was readily apparent. He lowered his barriers slightly and let a little of his enormous power wash over her. This was usually enough to make even the strongest vampires quake in their shoes. To Natalie's credit, she did not show any fear. Not that she didn't feel fear. Her insides had turned to jelly right after LaCroix started this line of questioning. Which was right after he came barging into the loft. Although she knew that he could probably tell from her heart rate and scent that she was terrified, she was determined not to give him the satisfaction of seeing it on her face.
"And I am going to tell you one more time. I don't know where Nick is. Nobody's heard from him in four days. I got the same letter you did. And so did the people at the precinct. He said it was family business. That means you and Janette. You're the only family that we know of. If you don't know where he is, then maybe ... "
Suddenly, the Roman General doubled over in pain.
"What's wrong?" Natalie said as he sank to the floor.
"Nich ... Nicholas ... He ... " He groaned, clutching his abdomen tightly.
Just then, the phone rang. The answering machine gave its mechanical greeting. "You've reached Nick Knight. I'm either asleep or incommunicado. Leave a message. I'll get back to you."
"Natalie!" Wes's voice came over the speaker. "This is Wes Hunter. Nick's been hurt ... " There was a whooshing sound and Lucien LaCroix was nowhere to be seen. " ... We're at the warehouse on Larimer Street. The new one. Get here as fast as you can."
Natalie grabbed the phone off the holder. "I'll be there in about ten minutes." She put the phone back, and grabbed her medical bag and her purse in one motion as she headed for the door.
Both Wes and Nick jumped at the sound of the door to the office hitting the floor. Lucien LaCroix had torn the door from its hinges and was standing in the doorway in full angry vampire mode. He spotted Nick, covered in blood, sitting on a chair and Wes standing over him. He grabbed Wes roughly and threw him into the wall. "What have you done to Nicholas?" The Ancient Roman growled.
"No, LaCroix." Nick said as forcefully as he could ... considering. "He didn't do anything to me. He's one of us. He's one of the good guys."
"And what have you been up to that you ended up in this sorry state? For four days, no one has heard from you." LaCroix asked his son.
"It's a long story, Sir." Wes offered. "But now is not the time to go into that. Nick needs help. As near as I can tell, he's got at least two wooden bullets in his chest. They've been covered with holy water."
"If you didn't do it, then who did?"
"Parkinson. Again it's a long story." Wes replied. "Where's Doctor Lambert?"
"Right behind you." Natalie brushed by both of the vampires and knelt by Nick. She had broken and / or severely bent nearly every traffic law … and a few laws of quantum physics in getting here this quickly. She carefully unbuttoned his shirt. "Give me some antiseptic from my bag and a handful of gauze pads." She said.
Both Wes and LaCroix went for the satchel. Wes deferred to the Elder.
"This is going to hurt." She told Nick as she poured the antiseptic onto the pads.
"It already does." Nick drew in a long breath as Natalie gently wiped the blood from him.
With the obvious blood out of the way, she carefully examined the wounds. "I'm afraid that there's nothing I can do here. They're in too deep to probe very easily. He's going to need surgery to get those out."
"You aren't going to take him to a hospital, are you?" Wes asked.
"I was thinking more of the loft. If you'll help me get him to my car after I ... "
"I have a better idea." LaCroix said as he gently picked Nick up from the chair and cradled him in his arms. A second later, he was in the air over the warehouse district.
"So much for the idea of dressing the wounds here." Natalie said as she repacked her bag. "For all the good I did, I could have phoned it in. Now I guess I'll just have to drive back to the loft before I can start treating Nick."
"Why drive when you can fly?" Wes said as he held his hand to the doctor.
"But what about my car?"
"We can come back for it later." Seconds later, they too, were in the Toronto sky.
When they reached the loft, Nick was lying on the kitchen table and LaCroix was finishing giving him a 'transfusion'.
"I put him on there." LaCroix said as he buttoned his cuff. "I figured it would be easier working on him on the table rather than in his bed. A lot less strain on your back."
"How thoughtful of you." Natalie replied with a touch of sarcasm in her voice as she went about assembling the necessary instruments for the operation.
"First thing I have to do is put him under." Natalie said as she began to scrub at the sink. Although she knew it was not absolutely necessary, vampires could not become infected by ordinary means, it was force of habit. "There's a vial of curare in the medicine chest in the upstairs bathroom. For emergencies. Would one of you get it for me? And the package of syringes, too?"
Again, the two vampires vied for the position. Again, Wes deferred.
As soon as she was certain Nick was out cold, Natalie took a scalpel and made an incision over one of the bullet holes. She inserted a small retractor and spread it to get a better view of his chest. Wes turned numerous shades of sickly gray and quickly turned around.
"Does that bother you?" LaCroix asked the PI. "Besides the fact that you are one of us, I would think in your line of work, you would see a lot of blood."
Wes swallowed. "Yeah, but not that much, and not up close and personal like this. And for your information, except for a few very rare occasions, I never drink directly from the source." The gray began to fade to a slightly greenish color. "Could we go somewhere else and talk about something else?"
While Natalie removed the bullets from Nick, LaCroix took Wes into the living area. "Nicholas told me some of the things that happened to him on the way here. Why don't you fill me in on the rest? For starters, where is Parkinson? I only found three mortals in the warehouse. And he wasn't one of them. Two were out cold and the third was playing with an imaginary something or other and reciting nursery rhymes."
"That would be Herbie. He is very impressionable. So I thought I'd have a little fun with him. The other two are Parkinson's ... assistants, Borgman and Inderer. Were they still alive when you left them?"
LaCroix nodded. "Yes, they were still breathing. I did place a call to Captain Reese just before you and the good doctor came in here telling him where to find them." LaCroix dropped his gaze and shook his head. "I think I must be getting senile in my old age. But that's neither here nor there. You still haven't told me what happened to Parkinson."
"We let him go."
"Don't give yourself a wedgie, old man."
"A WEDGIE?" LaCroix's eyes turned yellow. "OLD MAN!" There were flecks of red beginning to show.
"O-o-okay. Maybe I phrased that wrong. Let me try again." Wes apologized. "Don't get all worked up about it, Sir. Is that any better?"
LaCroix still glared at the New Yorker, but his eyes slowly faded back to ice blue.
"He won't go far. I guarantee. Watch his speech tomorrow night and you'll understand everything. We gave him a few 'suggestions' about what he should say in that speech."
"And you think he'll go through with your ... 'suggestions'?"
"He'll go through with them all right. For one thing, he's not the resistor he claims to be. Second, Nick and I both worked on him. With a double whammy like that, he won't throw it off very soon. Third, he knows that if he doesn't do what we want him to do, he's dead meat. Maybe literally. Just watch the TV."
Captain Reese, Don Schanke and Tracy Vetter cautiously entered the holding area. Reese shook his head at the tableau in front of him. Inderer and Borgman each had one arm and one leg chained to the wall by titanium cuffs. The keys were hanging on the doorknob. Herbie sat cross legged on the floor, with the fingers of one hand laced through the fingers of the other. "This is the church. This is the steeple. Open the doors. And here is the people." He sing songed.
"Hey, you. Cop!" Larry Inderer called to Tracy. "Get us out of here. The vampires did this to us. You gotta arrest them. They're dangerous!"
"That isn't the story I got." Reese said. "Someone called the station a little while ago and said that one of my detectives was being held a prisoner in here for the past week and that he had been shot. I believe you know the detective in question, don't you? His name is Nicholas Knight."
"Yeah. We know him." Borgman answered.
"Don't say anything more." Inderer hissed at his associate. "We want to see a lawyer before we say anything else."
"Oh. That's right. You do have the right to remain silent." Schanke said sarcastically. "And you can bet your last loonie that anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You do have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford one, one will be provided free of charge before any questioning. Do you understand your rights? Say you do, slimeballs."
Both men nodded assent. "We understand them."
"Good. Lock them up before I do something that will not be strictly by the book." Reese said to one of the uniformed officers at the door.
"You can't arrest us. We haven't done anything illegal." Borgman said. "You ain't got no proof. As a matter of fact ..." He held up his manacled wrist. "We're the victims in all of this. If you want to get technical about it you're here without a warrant. That means you're trespassing. So maybe you'd better leave before we swear out a complaint against you."
"What about the blood in the office?" Schanke said. "It's possible that it's Nick's."
"It's possible that the blood is Parkinson's, too." Inderer offered in explanation. "Most likely, he was attacked by one or more vampires and they kidnapped him. You know the vampires hate him."
"I hate to admit it, but they're right. Technically. Except for that anonymous tip, there's nothing here to prove one way or another that Knight was here at all. Until we know for sure what happened here, there's nothing we can charge them with." Reese said begrudgingly.
"Maybe we can't arrest them, but if the vampires are the threat they say they are, we can hold them in protective custody for 24 hours." Tracy said smugly.
"And then another 24 hours as material witnesses." Schanke added.
"Good thinking Detectives!" Reese said loudly. "Remind me to put the two of you in for a commendation when we get back to the station." He motioned again to the officer. "Take our ... friends to the station and ... arrange for them to be housed as guests of the county for the next few days."
The glare of the TV cameras was disturbing to some of the participants, but was reassuring to others. With a little ingenuity and a lot of vampire speed, the High Council chambers had been transformed into a courtroom. Logan, Edmund, Willie and Frank sat at the defendant's table along with their lawyer, David Leistering, formerly of the Washington Community, now a resident of the Island. Leistering had been an attorney in his mortal life. The fact that it had been almost 250 years ago was of little consequence. Jimmy Huo, the Elder for the Hawaiian Community was the prosecutor, since his region was where the 'crime' took place. Also, since the Council had no guidelines for a public trial, it was agreed that the laws of the State of Hawaii and the United States would be followed in this case.
Across from them was the jury box, and twelve vampires had been randomly selected from various communities in the US to determine the guilt or innocence of the accused.
At the front was the judge's bench. Here, the design differed from the traditional American courtroom. Here they followed the English Court. The entire Council would hear the case as judges. Lady Zera, as the Chief Justice, rapped the gavel on the desk. Norton, who had been selected as bailiff, stood up. "Hear ye. Hear ye. The court of the High Council is now in session. The Honorable Lady Zera presiding." He intoned proudly. He had watched tapes of People's Court and Judge Judy nonstop for the past three days to get it right. Everyone involved in the trial had also taken a crash course in legal procedures, courtesy of an extensive collection of law books in the Council Headquarters Library.
"Mr. Huo. Are you ready for the prosecution?" Adrienne Walking-With-Moon asked.
Mr. Leistering, are you ready for the defense?"
"Members of Council." Leistering stood up. "My clients do not recognize this so called court as having any jurisdiction over them and they will not accept any verdict handed down by this court. They claim that this is nothing more than charade and that this whole travesty is illegal. Therefore I must object to this entire proceeding."
Lady Zera glared at him, and Leistering could feel the heat of her gaze burn right through him.
The council spoke quietly among themselves for a few minutes. Even with vampire hearing, it was nearly impossible to make out what they were saying. Finally, Etrian spoke. "Your objection is noted ... and overruled." Etrian replied. "It does not matter whether the defendants recognize this court or not. The ... defendants are vampires. That gives this court all the jurisdiction it requires. And all the legalities. Just be glad that this ... crime did not happen even two years ago. There would not have been a trial. There would not have been a jury. There would not have been an opportunity to even present a defense. There would have been only swift and final punishment."
"Since that issue has been settled, let the trial begin. Mr. Huo. You may proceed." Amahl T'Mutu said.
"I still do not see how this speech that Parkinson is about to give is going to change anything. He is still loved and in some cases almost deified by the mortal public for his stand on vampires. Even though we know that he had been the instigator of almost all of these problems, the general public does not." LaCroix sat on one of the leather easy chairs in Nick's loft. Wes Hunter sat across from him in the other one. Nick and Nat were on the sofa and Reese, Tracy and Don, and their significant others, were in various other chairs around the wide screen TV.
"Just sit back and take notes." Wes told him. "You are about to see a rarity in history. You are about to watch a politician hang himself with his own conceited guts. And on national TV."
"Good evening my fellow Canadians." Eugene Parkinson said. "I am Eugene Parkinson, the MP candidate from Upper Solberg. Most of you however, know me as the head of the Parliamentary Committee For Non Human Concerns. The Committee, you have been led to believe, is the first and only line of defense that the mortal population has against the terrible and ever present threat from the hoards of blood sucking, crazed vampires that are lurking everywhere in our society. I am here tonight to tell you that this whole subject is a piece of one hundred percent grade A bullshit. There is no threat from the vampires. There never was. Most of them are respectable law abiding citizens just like you are. I concocted the entire affair out of pure air. I did it solely to insure my election to Parliament. I had to do it that way because my own record is considerably less than perfect. I needed something to distract you from searching too deeply into my past. For starters I ... "
An hour later, Parkinson concluded. " ... For that reason, I am disbanding the Parliamentary Committee effective immediately." He looked squarely into the camera. "I think that what I said here should prove to you that I really am a sincere, straightforward person. If I weren't, I wouldn't have bared my soul to you like this."
"Yeah." Don said to the TV. "If Wes and Nick hadn't whammied you."
"Therefore you should still vote for me for MP in spite of what I've just told you. It's your patriotic duty to vote. Since all the other candidates are essentially as dirty as I am, it doesn't matter who you elect. Therefore you might as well vote for me. I deserve to be elected. I've schemed and plotted too hard and too long to be denied. Thank you for your support." Parkinson stepped back from the podium and put his hands under his armpits. He flapped his elbows and stuck his chin out in an exaggerated manner. Clucking loudly, he chicken danced off the stage.
LaCroix stood up. "Bravo, mon fils. Bravo!" He said clapping his hands. "That was brilliant."
"I take back everything I ever said about you ever having a decent bone in your body." Natalie said. "That was nothing but pure inspired wickedness."
Schanke picked up the ceramic cow planter that Vachon had given Nick a few years ago as a gag gift. In it was a cutting from 'Spike the Cactus'. " ... And the Gemini for the best comedy skit of the year goes to ... " He handed the planter to Nick. " ... Nicholas B. Knight for ... Ta Dah! ... 'The Political Speech'.
"I can't take credit for that." Nick said, handing the planter to Wes. "It was all his idea. Although I will admit I've wanted to do that to a politician ever since the McCarthy era. As a payback for what they did to Nicholas Girard."
Wes took the planter and made several low sweeping bows and then held the planter high above his head. "I want to thank all of you little people for this prestigious award." He said with a grin. "Seriously. We only told him to put into words what everyone knows about nearly every politician. That they're dirty, lying, conceited, arrogant, self important asses. Like Nick, I've wanted to do something like that for a very long time."
"I can pretty much guarantee you." Reese said. "After tonight, the only way Parkinson will get to Ottawa is on the 417. After what we've just seen, neither he nor anybody from his Parliamentary Committee could get themselves elected dog warden, even if they were the only candidates on the ballot."
As Eugene Parkinson left the TV studios, two men approached him. "Mr. Parkinson." One of the men said. "My name is Loris Beeler and this is John Porringer. We're here as agents for the Parliamentary Ethics Subcommittee. And believe me, unlike your so called Parliamentary Committee For Non Human Concerns, this one is very official." He handed Parkinson a subpoena. "The Subcommittee Chairman has quite a few questions he would like you to answer."
The headlines and front pages of all the Toronto papers as well as practically every other newspaper in the whole country featured Parkinson's speech. Before evening, there had been numerous calls to Nick and LaCroix from most of the city, county, and provincial elected officials offering their apologies for the humiliations and problems that the various Communities had undergone as a result of the Parliamentary Committee's actions. Many of them expressed hope that this might be the start of meaningful dialog between vampires and mortals. Quite a few of them had also said they would make their views public, either on TV or in the newspapers. Some had said that they had scheduled TV time even before they had called.
"... And so, my dear Nicholas." LaCroix said as he put the phone once more on its cradle. Since Nick was still recovering from the beatings and shooting at Parkinson's warehouse, they had been using his loft as a makeshift headquarters. "As the Bard has said. 'All's well that ends well'."
"Yeah." Nick said as he typed in another command. "But Shakespeare didn't have to try to get to his E-Mail. My mail is overloaded with messages of support from almost everyone. There must be over two hundred of them in the box alone. And there's at least another thousand more out there in internet land, but that's all my mailbox is equipped to handle at one time. Every time I move a bunch of them offline, another bunch takes its place." He tried another command, but it was no use. Now, the computer was completely hung up. Angrily, Nick clicked on 'start' and then 'shut down'. "Maybe I'll try again later."
"Just wait until you see the morning mail. I have a feeling it's going to make your E-Mail look sick." Natalie added.
The jury filed into the box. The trial had taken only three days ... or evenings. Jimmy Huo had presented an excellent case, with witnesses, pictures, and even police reports, all showing the defendants were guilty. The defense had never bothered to refute any of the testimony. Their chief claim of innocence was the one that Leistering had given at the beginning. The same one that had been overruled. That the vampires on the Island had broken from the standard Community and that they were an entity unto themselves. They were no longer under the jurisdiction of the High Council. Therefore they were not bound by the Code or the findings of the Council or any of its members. It had taken the jury only four hours to come to a decision.
Norman took the verdict form from the foreman and handed it to Lady Zera. She studied it for a few moments.
"Logan Grainer, Edmund Gloucester, Willie Marcus, and Frank Zeblow. You have been found guilty of all charges by a jury of your peers ... "
"They are NOT my peers!" Logan shouted as he stood up. "They are nothing more than a bunch of ass kissing toadies who ... "
"MR GRAINER! ... SIT DOWN! ... And BE QUIET!" Lady Zera motioned to two burly Enforcers behind the defense table. They grabbed the Detroit vampire and forced him into his chair. "One more outburst like that and I'll add contempt of court to the charges. As I said, you have been found guilty of the charges against you. And I will repeat what this court has said all along. It does not matter whether you recognize the High Council ... or the Code. You are vampires and as such, you ARE bound by the Code ... and by this Council.
Now. As for your sentence. The jury recommends that the four of you be confined to the holding area in sub level 3 of the Headquarters Building for a period not less than three centuries. As the Chief Justice of these proceedings and the Presider of the High Council, I concur. This then shall be your sentence." She motioned to a squad of Enforcers standing behind the judge's bench. "Take them away."
Wes Hunter came out of the utility room carrying two huge baskets of clothes.
"What is that?" Nick asked.
"My laundry. You said I could do it here."
"You asked me if you could wash out a few things, not your entire wardrobe."
"I thought it would be okay. I didn't want to take all these dirty clothes back to New
York. So ... " Wes tried to imitate the sad puppy dog look.
"Why didn't you use the laundromat on the corner?"
"There's a laundromat on the corner?"
"Did anyone ever tell you you're impossible?"
"Yeah. My mother. Practically every day. Well, I better get going if I'm going to make the Big Apple before sunrise."
"You're leaving? Aren't you going to stay and help get things back on track?" Tracy asked as she sorted the day's mail into various piles. Natalie was right. It had been coming in by the bagful. Everyone had been 'volunteered' to help with the influx. This was Tracy's and Vachon's turn.
"I'd love to, pretty lady, but I left several things up in the air when I came here. Got to get back home and straighten them out. Besides. If I'm away too long, the Donald is liable to erect a high rise on my empty lot. Also, Lady Zera's retainer ran out yesterday." He took Tracy's hand and brought it once more to his lips. Then he went to Natalie and kissed her gently on the cheek. "Farewell, my sweet beauties." He stage whispered breathlessly. "I shall miss the two of you most of all, but I shall have my memories to sustain me until we again meet." He put his hand to his lips and blew a stage kiss. In a whoosh, he was gone.
Nick and Vachon were both gold eyed and growling menacingly.
"I'm gonna feed him to a Carouche." Vachon mumbled. "And I don't mean Screed."
Thomas Wardle, Mackenzie de Germaine, and Antoinette Burwell stood before the High Council table. After careful review of the list of vampires on the Island, these three were chosen to lead the Community.
Wardle was the oldest, nearly 900, and as such, he would be the Elder. De Germaine was the most experienced. At 750, he had been Elder in several Communities before he left for the Island. Antoinette Burwell was the most educated. Although she was only a little over 150, she had several PhDs to her credit. These two would serve as de facto aides to Wardle.
"You mean we're on our own?" Wardle asked.
"Not entirely." Etrian answered. "We have spoken with the French Government. They own Vampire Island, as it is being called. They have agreed to place the Island, as well as the entire archipelago in our trust and give the Council sole autonomy over the ruling of it. We, in turn have appointed the three of you to be its government.
There are some restrictions, however. You, and by that I mean all the vampires on the Island, will once more be bound by the Code and the directives of this Council. You will also be forbidden to hunt or kill mortals, either for food or for sport. As I understand it, there is plenty of large game on a nearby island to satisfy the need to stalk prey. They will be replenished as needed. The Council and many of the nearby Communities will see to it that you are provided with the necessary supplies to sustain life. If any of you should take a mortal life unnecessarily, you will be subject to the Code and punished accordingly. The French government has negotiated with the mortal population of the other islands and they have agreed that as long as the inhabitants of Vampire Island are peaceful and obey the Code and the terms we have just laid out, they will not interfere with you."
T'Mutu took up the narrative. "If there are any vampires who do not wish to remain on the Island, they will be free to leave. I have discussed this with the Elders of nearly every major Community, and those who wish to return will be granted amnesty and welcomed back."
"And what of those who do not want to accept either of these alternatives?" Antoinette asked.
"They shall be free to do whatever they want. As long as they do not break the Code or endanger themselves or any mortals, they will be left alone. Should they become a menace or a threat, they will be dealt with accordingly." Chek Kai Chang answered.
"I will present your offer to the residents of the Island. I think the majority of them will be glad to accept it." Wardle said. "We followed Logan and Gloucester to the Island because we thought we would be free there, but all we found was isolation and hunger. There was never enough of anything to go around. And there was anything but freedom, either. Logan and Gloucester placed so many demands and restrictions on what we could and could not do, that we were virtual prisoners to their tyranny. Their forms of punishment for even the slightest infractions made the Enforcers seem almost benevolent. Quite a few of the vampires on the Island died at their hands. Several more walked into the sun. Because we were outlaws in the eyes of the Communities, we could not even leave without putting ourselves in jeopardy."
"These conditions are most reasonable." De Germaine added. "Thank you, My Lady and you, too members of the Council."
As Nick walked into the station on his first day back after being shot, he was greeted by a standing ovation from his fellow officers.
"I'm sorry, Nick." Don said. "I guess I sorta mentioned something to them that you were the one who got Parkinson to confess to all his skullduggery. I guess this is their way of saying that they appreciate what you did."
Nick blushed as much as he could. "I'm the one who should be showing my appreciation to you." He clapped his hands at the group. "I thank all of you for your support through all of this. I know it wasn't easy to do that with all the anti-vampire sentiment from the public. I know that a few of you were harassed and under considerable duress for your support of me and the vampire Community. Again, on behalf of myself and the Toronto Vampire Community, I thank you."
Joe Reese came out of his office. "Now that this Mutual Admiration Society meeting has been adjourned, how about some work, people?"
The sound of keyboards clicking and telephones ringing and being answered was almost as loud as the applause.
He stopped at Nick's desk "Officially Knight, I have to say that what you did to Parkinson broke and or severely bent any number of departmental rules governing investigative procedures. Theoretically, I could give you a written reprimand, or even have you dismissed for that. Unofficially ... good work, Detective." He smiled broadly.
"Thanks, Cap. What's the status on Parkinson's ... associates?"
"Since you are the chief witness for the prosecution, no one in this office can … officially discuss the case with you." Reese said. "However…" He had a twinkle in his eyes. " … if by chance you were to overhear Detectives Vetter and Schanke discussing the case among themselves ... " He hummed the theme from 'Dragnet' as he walked back into his office.
Don Schanke leaned back in his chair and put his feet on his desk. "So, Detective Vetter." He said in a second grader's stage voice. "What is the status of case number ... 3692944?"
"What case 3692944?" Tracy asked. Suddenly the light went on. " ... Oh! THAT case 3692944!" She answered in the same manner. "Of course! Case 3692944! Well, let me see, Detective Schanke. Thanks to the statement of the chief witness for the prosecution ... " She nodded toward Nick. " ... and certain other witnesses ... " She mouthed 'Wes'. "And the tapes found at the scene, the ... suspects have been charged with first degree murder for the body found in the park two weeks ago. It has been finally identified as Russell Banks. By one of the suspects, incidentally. Banks was a member of the Parla ... ah ... their group Two counts of kidnapping." Again she mouthed. 'Yours and Wes's.' "One count of attempted murder." She pointed at Nick. "Two counts of torture" 'You know who they are.' "And numerous counts of inciting to violence. Not to mention deliberate falsification of certain ... video tapes, and destruction of vital evidence. The Crown prosecutor says there should be no problem putting them away for a very very long time. As we speak, they are singing their little hearts out in hopes of a plea bargain.
Also, two of the ... suspects have indicated that they would be very willing to give testimony to the Parliamentary Ethics Subcommittee against their ... ah … former employer. Is there anything else you would like to know, Detective Schanke?"
Nick nodded, grinned, and held his thumbs up.
"No, thank you. I think that should do it quite nicely, Detective Vetter." Don said smugly. It was very hard for any of them to contain the severe case of the giggles that was threatening to explode.
You and your harebrained ideas!" Logan Grainer groused at his roommate. "Freedom!" He spat. "This is even worse than before! At least when we were here before, we were only in the cellar and we were allowed to walk the halls every once in a while. Now, we're cooped up three stories below ground. With titanium bars, booby traps, cameras, and all sorts of electronic spy thingamajigs between us and the outside world. The only time we see anyone is when the guards bring us our daily rations. Which, in case you didn't notice, is that synthetic crap. If you ever get another wild hair up your Elizabethan ass, remind me to drain you where you stand!"
Edmund turned his back and dropped his trousers. "For your information, THIS is a pearly white WESSEX ass, you Cretin. And I don't know why you're so worked up. It's only three centuries. It's not like we're going to be down here forever."
He ducked as his companion threw a metal chair at him.
In her office, Lady Zera motioned for Edgar Rathman to have a seat. "I have been thinking about something that you said to that network representative. Something about the use of the word ... we. I have a proposition that I would like you to consider."
"So." Natalie said as she cuddled closer to Nick and hit the remote to start the movie. "Eugene Parkinson is sweating it out before the Ethics Subcommittee. The rebel vampires are back in the fold. The leaders of the vampire rebellion are in custody. LaCroix was right. All's well that ends well."
"So it seems." Nick replied planting a small kiss on his fiancee's forehead.
"Now what do we do?"
"Now, how about planning that honeymoon we talked about earlier?"
"Sounds good to me. I think I'd like to go to … " Her sentence was interrupted by his kiss.
"How about we talk about it tomorrow." Nick replied when they finally came up for air. "Tonight I just want to … " His words were drowned by her mouth on his.
The movie had ended, and there was nothing but snow and white sound on the giant screen TV. The only light in the loft shone through the crack in the refrigerator door. In his haste, Nick had neglected to close the door tightly. There were three less bottles of Raven Special chilling, and there were three empty green bottles on the dresser in the bedroom.
The only sounds heard in the loft came from the bedroom. The bed was groaning and rocking. This was occasionally overlaid by sounds of moans and screams and names being shouted out.
Not in my opinion.