Disclaimer: Gargoyles and all characters within are the property of the Walt Disney Corporation unless noted otherwise.

Special thanks to Masterdramon, Gryphinwyrm7 and BookwyrmPendragon13 for serving as beta readers and providing feedback and inspiration.

"Would that I had a child as white as snow, as red as blood, and as black as the wood of the window-frame."

~Household Tales by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm


September 20th, 1997 A.D.

She looked over her shoulder for the third time in as many minutes. Even this late at night, a few pedestrians moved mechanically along the sidewalk, eyes fixed firmly on the pavement, walking just fast enough not to seem too obvious about it. It wasn't the kind of neighborhood where it paid to draw too much attention to yourself.

Just two more blocks.

Coming to New York had been a mistake. 'LaVonne', as she'd called herself for years, realized this now. She'd been so stupid, so naive, dreams of stardom and success dazzling her common sense.

Sure, she'd had a few promising gigs here and there, the odd pet food commercial. By some miracle, she'd even managed to snag an audition for the lead in some kid's TV show. She thought the whole thing looked kinda stupid frankly; some sorta cheesy cross between American Gladiators and the A-Team. But it had turned out to be a gravy train once it hit the airwaves. So of course, she'd been beaten out by some slut whose boyfriend owned the fucking studio.

It had been after the rent money dried up that she first met Price. She'd felt like Snow White watching her Prince riding over the horizon. It was a while before she realized what she thought of at the time as roguish charm was just a well-practiced routine. He said he had 'connections', said he could make her a star. In the end, all he did was rent her out to whatever sleezeball could afford it.

That was all over now; she hugged the battered old duffel bag like it was a life preserver and she was in the middle of the Atlantic, over ten grand of Price's, no... her money. She was the one who worked for it. Thank God the paranoid bastard didn't believe in banks. Something about them all being pawns of the 'New World Order' or some crap. Not that finding where he stashed it all had been easy.

Whatever, he'd spent pretty much every night over the last week partying it up at that new club. And spent most of the following days in a drunken stupor. With any luck, she'd be half way across the country before he even noticed.

One more block.

Ten grand wouldn't get anyone that far in Manhattan, but it'd sure get her far the Hell away from it. She didn't even particularly care where to. She'd thought about going home to her drunk hag of a step-mother, for about five seconds before saying 'fuck no!' to that idea.

In the end, she'd settled on heading for LA. She could give the acting thing another shot. If she had to resort to the world's oldest profession again, at least she'd be working for herself this time, choosing her own clients and keeping her own fucking money.

The bus stop looked deserted, save for one bum who was passed out on the bench. Storm clouds rumbled threateningly overhead. She checked her watch, twelve minutes until the bus arrived. Twelve minutes and she'd be free forever. She looked around nervously, paced a bit and checked her watch again.

Twelve minutes.

Her hands shook slightly as she started to rustle through her bag for a pack of Marlboros. She'd managed to fish one out and was already cupping the lighter in her hands when thunder rumbled across the sky and the heavens opened in a downpour of almost Biblical proportions, instantly soaking her, cigarette and all.

"Oh fu-" she never had a chance to complete that thought as a hand clamped over her mouth and a large thick arm pinned hers to her side, dragging her into a nearby alley.

"You dumb bitch!" Price snarled as he slammed her against the alley wall, whiskey on his breath and rage in his eyes. "I always knew you were stupid, but I never thought you were fucking suicidal!"

"Price, please... I," She trembled, she'd seen Price mad before and it never ended well, but she'd never seen him this bad.

"Where's my money, bitch?!" Price practically shrieked.

"In the bag," She whimpered. "Look, I'm sorry, Price. It was stupid, I'll never do it again, I swear to God! I-I'll make it up to you, baby, please!"

"Oh, we are way past kiss and make up," Price whispered, drawing a switchblade that shimmered in the dim lightof the alley as he pressed it against LaVonne's throat. "You're gonna bleed for this, bitch."

She clenched her eyes shut and bit her lip. If she was going to die, then dammed if she was going to give him the satisfaction of hearing her beg or scream.

In an instant, the alley was filled with a bestial cry of fury mixed with what sounded like Price screaming in abject terror. She felt him being forcibly dragged away from her, and heard his body hit the opposite alley wall with a sickening thud. For several seconds, all she could do was stand there; eyes shut tight. Then, after what seemed like hours had passed, she slowly opened them.

The creature stood in the alley with its back to her, great leather wings flared like some guardian demon as Price staggered to his feet and ran, screaming and blubbering. All she could do was stare.

It was one of Them.

She'd seen Them on the news, always seemingly soaring across the night sky to or from some disaster. Everyone in the city seemed to have some crazy theory about Them. They were everything from scouts for an alien invasion to government genetic experiments to fallen angels escaped from Hell. She even knew a girl who claimed she'd been rescued by Them. But to LaVonne, They had never seemed quite real, until now.

"Hello," She stepped forward gingerly. "I... I don't know if you understand what I'm saying but... thanks for-"

The thing turned to face LaVonne, blazing red eyes and bone white fangs gleaming in the dark. Then she screamed.


October 24th

"So then the guy turns 'round to face Goliath, wearing the gaudiest purple and green costume I've ever seen, great big yellow bug eyes on his helmet, and introduces himself as 'The Beetle!'" Detective Elisa Maza of the NYPD glanced at her partner, Matt Bluestone, as they waited in traffic. She had expected at least a chuckle, but he just stared pensively out the passenger window.

"Fashion sense aside," Elisa cleared her throat. "Guy does have some serious tech, winged flight suit, some kinda gas gun. Lex thinks he might be getting it from Nightstone, which would make sense, he's mostly been hitting SCARAB Corp and a buncha Xanato's other interests."

Elisa glanced again, still no reaction. "Hello! Earth to Matt! You've barely said three words since we got in the car?"

Matt's shoulders sagged as he let out a sigh. "I've been thinking."

Elisa arched an eyebrow. "About?"

"Maybe," Matt tensed as if he was about to reset one of his own bones. "Maybe you shouldn't tell me this stuff anymore?"

"Excuse me?" Elisa was dumbfounded. "What happened to 'partners should always trust each other'?"

"It's not about trust, Elisa, it's just…" Matt turned away again.

"It's just what?" Elisa asked icily.

"It's just," Matt began. "The less I know, the less I'll have to lie later."

"What's that supposed to mean?" Of course, Elisa knew exactly what that meant.

The past year as head of the NYPD's Gargoyle Task Force hadn't been easy on Matt, and it wasn't just the workload or the stress. Matt was one of the most scrupulously honest people she'd ever met. It was one thing for him to keep knowledge of Manhattan's own defenders of the night to himself when he was just another overworked and underpaid police detective. It was quite another to lie to his superiors on colleagues nightly by using his position to run interference for the clan.

"Look, I'm sorry," Elisa offered, "That came out harsher than it should have."

"Nah, it's okay," Matt pinched the bridge of his nose, "Maybe we should talk about this later?"

"Yeah… sure," Elisa's fingers started to tap the wheel as awkward silence filled the car. "So… Any idea why Detective Stacy wants to see us? It's been a while since we got called in for a regular old homicide."

"No idea," Matt shrugged, "Doubt it's anything good though".


Matt was right, it was bad. The victim couldn't have been any older than her early twenties, if that. Her limbs were bent in ways human limbs should never be. A vivid red gash was gouged across her pale throat. The analytical part of Elisa's brain thought it odd there was so little blood spatter on the skyscraper's rooftop. The rest of her was just trying not to throw up.

"Janitor found 'Jane Doe' this morning," Stacy, a well-built if somewhat graying man, began. "He swears the rooftop's been locked since last night but we're tracking down anyone who might have had access to a key just the same."

"Looks like she was dropped from a height," Elisa commented. "We have a time of death?"

"I reckon sometime between 'leven and two last night, Detective." a female voice, with a thick Texan accent piped up.

Elisa looked down at the pathologist who was still examining the body. She was dressed plainly save for an amber charm around her neck, with brown hair cut short in a tomboyish style and deep hazel eyes Elisa would almost describe as "soulful".

"Doctor Will Hutter," She introduced herself. "Pardon if I don't shake your hand, detective, but…" She held up two blood-stained latex gloved hands by way of explanation.

`"Elisa Maza, Gargoyle Task Force, and no problem." Elisa kneeled to meet her at eye level. "So what have we got here exactly, doc?"

"The victim has several broken bones," Dr. Hutter exposited. "The fall'd do that sure 'nuff, but judging by the lack of bruising, I'm reckoning they were sustained post mortem. The more likely culprit is this here wound on the throat. Looks like the poor miss was mauled by some kinda wild animal, and judging by pallor, died o' blood loss."

"Hold up," Matt raised his hand. "Are you saying something mauled this girl and then dropped her corpse on the roof of a skyscraper?"

Elisa tensed, she didn't like where this was headed.

"You see why we called you in?" Stacy piped up.

"You think a gargoyle did this?" Elisa struggled to keep her tone as neutral as possible.

`"Frankly, Detective," Stacy sighed in exasperation. "I was hoping you could tell me."

Dr. Hutter offered no opinion on this point, drawing back the victim's ruby red lips to shine a penlight into her mouth. "If it's alright with you, detectives, I'd like to hold on to this one o'er the weekend at the city morgue?"

"Any particular reason?" Stacy asked.

"Just a hunch," She shrugged. "Might be nothin'. I don't wanna play my hand just yet. Not 'til I've seen all my cards, anyhow."

"Well," Stacy slumped. "She has no ID, and it'll take us a week at least to run her prints and check with Missing Persons. If nobody steps forward to claim her before then…"

"Much obliged," Dr. Hutter made a gesture which, to Elisa at least, looked she was tipping an invisible cowboy hat.


Eyrie Building

Elisa arrived on the battlements of Castle Wyvern about quarter of an hour before sunset. She was momentarily taken aback by the image of a golden winged gargoyle shimmering in the dying sunlight by Goliath's stone form.

"Hey, Coldfire," Elisa saluted.

"Sister," The robotic gargoyle turned to meet her. "It is good to see you again!"

Elisa smirked, "Really, Coldfire, you don't have to call me that."

"Nonsense," Coldfire extended a hand to clasp Elisa's forearm, "We are clan."

Elisa returned the gesture, "Coldstone around?"

"He is engaging in a final sweep of the castle's perimeter before the rest of our clan awakens." Coldfire gestured upwards, towards the distant figure of a cybernetic gargoyle circling far above them. "Honestly, I suspect he simply wanted something to do. I was going watch the sunset from here, care to join me?"

"Sure," Elisa smiled. They sat in silence as they watched the amber orb slowly edge below the horizon. With almost anyone else the silence would have been awkward, but Coldfire had a way of putting people at ease. Not an easy trick when you're a packing built in flame throwers, Elisa thought. Before she and her mate had re-joined the clan, Elisa had only known Coldfire by reputation. It was nice spending the last several months getting to properly know her would-be "Sister in Law".

Elisa's thoughts were broken by the sound of faint cracks forming across the stone visage, traveling across the gargoyle's entire form, climaxing in an earth-shattering roar as flecks of stone skin were sent flying in all directions. The Leader of the Manhattan clan flared his great leather wings as his own roar was answered by a similar chorus from the battlements below.

"Never gets old," Elisa smirked

"Elisa!" Goliath whisked his mate into a passionate embrace, boldly defiant of their precarious perch atop the world tallest skyscraper. Coldfire simply smiled indulgently.

"Elisa?" It only took Goliath a moment to notice the haunted look in her eyes. "What is wrong?"

"Goliath," Elisa sighed. "You should get everyone together. We need to talk."


"And you have no idea who is responsible for this…" Goliath's fists tensed as he fought to keep his voice level, "atrocity?"

"Not a clue," Elisa sighed. "Though Homicide is at least considering the possibility of gargoyle involvement."

"I hate to admit it," Brooklyn narrowed his lone eye. "But they may have a point. We're not the only gargoyles in Manhattan, and let's be honest; some of them aren't exactly model members of the species."

"Is it…" Angela steadied herself. "Is it possible Demona did this?"

Coldfire gently placed an arm around her rookery daughter.

"I doot it," Hudson stroked his beard thoughtfully. "It's not like Demona to single out any one human like this". He did not bother to add 'except Elisa', it went without saying. It was true Hudson had few illusions regarding his wayward rookery daughter. He'd always known what she was capable of, perhaps even better than Goliath himself.

"Aren't we forgetting something?" Lexington piped up. "We're not the only ones in Manhattan who can get airborne either."

"Lex is right," Broadway agreed, placing a hand on Angela's shoulder. "For all we know, this could just be some lunatic with a helicopter, or that Beetle guy!"

"That'd be some trick," Gnash piped up. "Seeing how we spent most of last night chasing him up and down the city last night, and what about Thailog? He's definitely a twisted enough basta-"

"Nashville… gengo," Katana spoke softly as she sharpened her sword, barely above a whisper. As far Gnash was concerned, that was all she ever needed.

"Gomenasai, Sensei," Gnash bowed sheepishly.

"Enough!" Goliath voice cut off all further debate. "Speculation will not bring this killer to justice. We will double our patrols, search every inch of the city if we must, until they are found!" He turned to the two cybernetic gargoyles who had remained quiet until now. "Brother, sister, I want you two to resume daytime patrols of the island."

Coldstone looked to his mate then back to his leader. "Brother, is that wise? The castle-"

"Is merely where we sleep," Goliath placed a hand on his rookery brother's shoulder, "Manhattan is our protectorate, and I will not allow this… butcher to roam it unchallenged. I want everyone assembled on the battlements and ready to depart within the hour!"

As the rest of the clan filed out of the great hall, Elisa took the opportunity to grab Goliath by the arm and gently pull him aside.

"Is something wrong, Elisa?" He raised an eyebrow ridge.

"That's what I was going to ask." she began. "I can't help but think you're taking this awfully personally."

"As I said to Coldstone, this island and its people are our castle," He looked away, seeming almost ashamed. "This woman is dead because we were not there to save her."

"This isn't your fault, Goliath," She placed a hand on his cheek, bringing around his eyes to meet hers. "There are over a million people living in Manhattan alone, and you're not God. Even Superman can't be everywhere at once."

"I know," He let out a deep, rumbling sigh as he placed his hand on hers. "But that does not make it any easier."


23rd Precinct

"This is absolutely outrageous!" Margot Yale pounded on the table for emphasis. "These animals are on a killing spree and you plan to just sit back and do nothing?"

Matt Bluestone looked around the room for some support, any support really. Like almost every other time the Assistant District Attorney had been on the warpath, the rest of the NYDP's Gargoyle Task, including Elisa, had suddenly become inordinately fascinated with the coffee mug stains on the meeting table. So of course, it once more fell to Matt to try and appease her wrath. Such was the burden of leadership.

"With all due respect, Ms. Yale," which in Matt's private opinion wasn't a whole lot. "We have no evidence of any gargoyle involvement in this death. It's just one among many theories being explored."

"Really?" Margot scoffed, "Tell me, Detective Bluestone, what other 'theories' do you currently have? Alien abduction?"

That hit a little close to home.

"You'd have to ask Detective Stacy." Matt said in his most diplomatic tones. "Until we see evidence to the contrary, this is Homicide's case. The Gargoyle Task Force will be operating in a purely advisory capacity at their discretion. To that end, I'm appointing Detective Maza as our liaison to Stacy's team."

Elisa shot him a look but Matt just shrugged. Burdens of leadership.

"And our 'Federal response' is okay with this?" Margot turned to a bespectacled man, slouching in his seat and sucking a toffee, seemingly oblivious to the latent hostility in the air.

"Well, ma'am," Agent Martin Hacker swallowed his toffee. "The way I see it, I'm just here in something of an 'advisory capacity' myself. I certainly wouldn't want to go around stepping on New York's finest toes or telling y'all how to do your jobs. Unless I have to." Hacker offered her a stupidly inoffensive smile.

Matt had to hand it to Hacker, he played the lazily indifferent bureaucrat well. He'd also gotten his point across. Deal with this, Matthew, or we will.

"It goes without saying," Matt concluded, "Until we know more and the Department is ready to make an official statement, nothing leaves this room. The last thing any of us want is The Daily Tattler getting their grubby little claws into this."


Quarrymen HQ

John Castaway was at his desk. It was already just on the brink of midnight but it looked like he'd be here well into the early hours of the morning. Just a few short days remained to the one year anniversary of the Quarrymen's "official" founding. One year since humanity at large learned what "John Castaway" had known all his life, that there were things that go bump in the night, one year since…

He shook his head; attempting to banish the demons, both figurative and literal, that haunted him by diving back into his work.

He'd planned to commemorate this milestone with a massive rally in Central Park that would hopefully signal a whole new wave of recruitment and expansion for the group. A group which, John Castaway fervently believed, represented humanity's one real line of defense against the things that stalked the night.

Of course, such an undertaking meant a thousand different minor things constantly demanded his attention in the lead up to the event. Right now, he was working on his introductory speech. He supposed he could save time by hiring a professional script-writer, but he liked doing this sort of thing himself.

He looked up to admire the poster gracing his wall, depicting the white silhouettes of three lost children as a bat-winged shadow loomed overhead. Under the image, a caption in blood red font drove home the message.


Ever since he was a child, he'd always been fascinated by the media, the power of words and images to reshape hearts and minds on a mass scale. His relations had never understood. At best, they saw it as a hobby; at worst, a distraction from the "Family Business". Only his aunt had ever supported him in it. It gratified him to think the skills they'd derided had become his greatest weapons in humanity's war against the demons.

He was snapped out of his reverie by a knock on the door. "Come in."

"Sorry for bothering you, Mr. Castaway," a middle-aged woman with glasses and short blond hair poked her head through the door.

"Nonsense, Sarah," he beamed cheerily at his secretary. "What can I do for you?"

"There's a… gentleman, here to see you." she replied. It was clear from the tone in her voice that "gentleman" was the most diplomatic term she could find in her personal lexicon.

"I see," nodded Castaway. "Well, send him in."

"Gentleman" was in Castaway's estimation, perhaps too generous a term for the individual who shuffled in. He wore what had probably once been a fine Italian suit though clearly hadn't been properly cared for in a while. His hair was disheveled and greasy, his eyes haggard. Even from across the room, he could catch the faint scent of alcohol.

"John Castaway," Castaway forced his best smile and extended a hand. "At your service, Mr…?"

The man took Castaway's hand in a weak grip and mumbled in response.

"Friends call me 'Price'."


The Labyrinth

October 25th

"That does sound nasty, sis," Talon's fur stood on end as he and his sister walked through a deserted section of the underground complex that provided sanctuary to all the city's many outcasts.

"Derek," Elisa tensed, "I really hate to ask this but…"

"It's okay, sis," her brother smiled, flashing feline fangs. "I used to be a cop too, remember? Maggie and Claw were down here every night for the past week, same goes for Delilah and company. They're sleeping now but if you want to ask them yourself, sunset's only an hour or two away."

"That's okay, I'll take your word for it," Elisa knew it wasn't rational or fair but even after all this time the sight of her "half-gargoyle" clone still made her bristle. "Don't suppose you've heard from Fang lately?"

"Not since Sevarius busted him out last year," Talon snarled. Fang had been the Labyrinth's resident Judas. As far as either Elisa or Derek had ever gathered, he'd been nothing but a petty grifter before Anton Sevarius got his syringes in him. Despite being a 'man-bat-mountain lion-electric eel', he'd remained a petty grifter at heart. Could Fang kill if pushed to it?


If there was one thing Elisa's years on the force had thought her, it was that most people were capable of almost anything if they were scared or angry or desperate enough. But this was different, this felt calculated, malicious. Whoever had killed that girl, Elisa was willing to bet one thing…

They'd done it before. They'd done it before a lot.

Elisa suddenly looked over her shoulder, almost without conscious thought. The corridor behind her and Talon was stark empty.

"Everything okay?" Talon asked.

"I thought," Elisa shrugged, "Nothing, just nerves, I guess. Anyway, I better be heading back topside."

"Oh no," Derek grinned. "I know for a fact you're not back on duty for hours yet, and you are not getting out of dinner with me, Maggie and your godchild that easy, sis."

It was easy to lose track of time underground, and Elisa enjoyed catching up with Derek and family, so it was over two hours past dark before she made it back to her car. Unfortunately, that was about as far as she got.


"Come on, come on!" Elisa turned the key in the ignition again only to be repaid with a sickly sputtering of the engine. It was just as she resigned herself to finding a payphone and calling for a tow that a thunder crack echoed across the sky and the rain began to pour.

"Terrific," Elisa stepped out of her car and pulled up her collar to shelter herself as best she could. She hadn't gone twelve feet when a jet-black limousine pulled up next to her.

"Detective Maza," a feminine voice called out through a rolled down window. "Can I interest you in a lift?" The girl in the limo was dressed smartly in black and spoke with a slight Middle-eastern accent. She seemed vaguely familiar but Elisa couldn't place her.

"Sorry," Elisa's eyes narrowed. "I don't take rides from strangers," As she turned away, Elisa noticed a couple of heavies in trench coats stepping out of an alley and patting their breast pockets meaningfully.

The girl in the limo smirked. "I insist."


The girl sat on the opposite end of the limo's back compartment watching Elisa for several minutes, as silent and serene as a cat.

"So," Elisa folded her arms. "Care to tell me what all this is about?"

"Gladly, Detective Maza," Elisa was momentarily startled by what, for only a split second, sounded like Goliath's rich dark voice coming from an inbuilt speaker. "Or can I just call you 'Elisa'? After all, we're practically family at this point."

Elisa's eyes narrowed. "Thailog."

"I apologize for not being there in person, but I find automobiles so… cramped." Thailog's disembodied voice chuckled darkly.

"Whatever your planning, when Goliath and the others notice I'm missing-"

"Please, Elisa," Thailog's voice cut her off. "If I wanted to hurt you, I would have done it long before now."

"Then what do you want?" Elisa spat.

"To clear my good name," Thailog's voice responded in mock indignation. "After what happened to that poor human girl, I imagine I'm near the top of a very short list of suspects?"

Elisa's eyes widened. "How do you know about that?"

"'Ms. Zade' keeps me well informed about a great many things."

The cat-like girl said nothing, but simply smirked as though enjoying a private joke.

"Alright," Elisa deicided to humor them for now. "Can you account for your whereabouts two nights ago?"

"At Nightstone HQ, working on a few 'special projects' with Brentwood. The lad is quite the prodigy. Ms. Zade can vouch for the both of us."

"Of course she can," Elisa glared at the girl. "What about Demona, don't suppose you two have been in touch lately?"

"According to my sources, Demona's been overseas since her last… 'episode', probably searching for some ancient magical doomsday something or other."

Elisa had no reason to trust a word Thailog said. For all she knew, he and Demona had kissed, made up and decided to murder some random human to celebrate. No, that didn't make sense either. Thailog was ruthless and sadistic but never random. What was Thailog even trying to achieve with this stunt? It wasn't like she could put any of this 'interview' in her official report anyway.

"One more thing," she might as well try to salvage something useful out of this.

"Yes?" Thailog sounded curious.

"What do you know about 'the Beetle'?"

Thailog's voice chuckled darkly through the speakers. "I believe this is your stop, my dear."

The limo slowed to a stop as 'Ms. Zade' handed Elisa a business card. Elisa tossed it as the doors unlocked, unwilling to spend another second in the vehicle, weather be damned.

"Oh, Elisa," Thailog's voice rang out. "I promise to do everything within my power to help bring your investigation to a close."

"Don't do me any favors," Elisa slammed the door of the limo. She was at least a block from the 23rd and it was still pouring rain. If she had just looked up, she might have noticed when, for a split-second, a bolt of lightning illuminated a winged shadow soaring through the sky.


October 26th

Coldfire soared over the Manhattan skyline alongside her mate. Their in-built thrusters carried them higher and faster than any natural gargoyle wings could. The coming sunset made every glass skyscraper seem like a tower of molten gold. "Beautiful, is it not, my love?"

"I suppose," her mate shrugged.

"Something troubles you?"

"We should be back at the castle," he grumbled. "Guarding our clan as they sleep! If Xanatos and Fox-"

"Had intentions to molest our clan, they would have done it long before now," She interjected.

"You trust them?" he snarled.

"I trust their sense of enlightened self-interest," she responded. "We're far too 'useful' to them as willing if begrudging pawns. Goliath agrees, it was he who suggested these 'daytime patrols' after all."

Her mate didn't respond.

"My love," she angled her flight so that her optics directly met his. "Ever since re-joining our clan, we have barely left the castle. Is it solely their safety that concerns you… or are you simply seeking an excuse to brood?"

"What would you have me do?" he asked simply

"I would have you live," she responded.

"Live?!" he brandished a mechanical talon. "Like this!"

"My love," she reached out in mid-flight, taking the cold metal hand in her own. "I believe there is Pattern and Plan in All Things. I do not know why we have been granted this second existence, but I cannot believe it was simply to spend eternity wallowing in self-pity."

"Perhaps you are right," he let out an exasperated sigh. "I am sorry for…"

"My love?"

"Do you see that?" he pointed to a roof top far below them.

Coldfire optics zoomed in. She saw an open skylight, unguarded and unlatched. "I recognize that building. It is the city morgue, a place where humans store their dead in preparation for burial."

A low synthesized growl rumbled from her mate's throat. "I can think of no wholesome reason anyone would clandestinely seek access to such a place."

"I agree," she responded icily. Desecration of the dead was something they both took very personally.


Elisa had set out immediately after receiving Coldfire's radio, only taking the time to leave a message at the castle and arriving at the morgue a few minutes after sunset. Forcing the door open had been easy enough, though she had expected alarms to start blaring the minute she busted in. The tomb like silence that greeted her instead was not a good omen.

"Coldfire," she whispered into the mic hidden in her jacket collar. "Coldstone, either of you guys there?"


Gun and flashlight drawn, she cautiously made her way towards the security office. The door was already open. In the dim light of a bank of monitors showing only static, she could make out the form of the security guard slumped in his chair, back to her and eerily still.

"Hey," she whispered. "Buddy, can you hear me?" No response. Elisa edged closer, and gently swung the chair around. The guard drooled.

A quick pulse check confirmed he was indeed still alive. Elisa shook him but again got no reaction. He'd evidently been drugged. An examination of the chair showed he'd been tightly bound by his wrists and ankles. Elisa undid the ropes and briefly considered moving him but decided against it. Whoever did this could have easily killed the guard but instead had been content merely to sedate and bind him, so he was probably safe enough for now.

She noticed a small silver crucifix glinting around his neck. "Guess Somebody up there's looking out for you, pal."

As Elisa stepped back, she noticed something odd, a long thin circle of white powder around the guard's chair. Her first thought was cocaine, as bizarre as the idea of four-foot circle of cocaine on the floor of a morgue seemed. She bent down to touch it.

Someone grabbed Elisa from behind.

Fortunately, Elisa had enough presence of mind to use her attacker's own momentum against them, throwing them over her shoulder. Despite Elisa managing to take her attacker by surprise, they landed on the ground with almost feline grace.

It was a woman clad head to toe in black, dark hood obscuring her face. A large, wickedly curved knife hung mercifully sheathed at her belt, along with several other pouches and tools Elisa could scarcely identify.

Elisa only had a split second to take all this in before diving for her gun, which had fallen in the commotion. The Woman in Black's gloved hand shot out like a cobra, grasping Elisa's wrist like a vice and twisting her arm behind her before slamming the detective into a wall.

"Why are you here?" The Woman in Black spoke in what Elisa recognized as a crisp English accent.

"You tell me," Elisa shot back. "You're the one breaking into a morgue."

"I came to cut out an infection before it had a chance to take root," the Woman in Black replied. "Your… friends prevented me."

"My friend's?" Elisa tried to keep the concerned panic out of her voice. Did this woman do something to Coldfire and Coldstone?

"It's too late for them," the Woman in Black spoke simply, relaxing her grip.

Elisa immediately snatched up her gun, training it on her attacker. "What the Hell does that mean?!"

The Woman in Black seemed unconcerned by the loaded weapon.

"You should go home, Elisa Maza," she spoke softly. "Forget the dead girl. If you challenge him… he will take away everything you care about."

"Who the-" Elisa was cut off by a shrieking howl coming from the direction of the main storage room. It didn't sound human, or even gargoyle, more like some dammed soul crying out in rage and lust. Elisa only looked away for a split second at most but by the time her eyes darted back, the Woman in Black was gone.

"Perfect," Elisa ran in the direction of the howl, busting into the main cold storage room and sweeping it with her weapon. The door of one of the cabinets used for storing dead bodies had been violently torn off its hinges. The chamber within lay empty.

But what most shocked Elisa was the sight of Coldfire and Coldstone's limp forms lying prone on the floor. Coldfire's golden chassis was scratched and torn in several places, and Coldstone's robotic arm had been torn clean off.

"Coldfire!" Elisa rushed to the robotic gargoyles side. "What happened? Are you okay?"

"AttacBZZZKTked," Coldfire sputtered. "CouldZZZTn't see-see-see!"

"Just hold on," Elisa placed a hand on Coldfire's metallic talon. "Goliath will be here with Lex and the gang any-" something dripped on Elisa's shoulder. Wiping it away with disgust, she was surprised to find that it looked and felt very much like… "Saliva?"

Elisa looked up.

The naked thing cling to the ceiling like a giant spider, gaunt pale limbs ended in grotesque talons. But the most horrific thing was its face.

Its bone white face was undeniably that of the dead girl Elisa had seen only three days ago. Its once blank dead eyes gleamed through strands of raven black hair with hellish lust. The corpse smiled, blood red lips peeling back to reveal needle like fangs.

Then it pounced.

To be Continued…