Forever Knight Discovery

Big time spoilers for Night In Question and Fever, as well as the stories in between.


"Shots fired! Officer down! Officer down!" Don Schanke shouted into his cell phone. He and his partner, Nicholas Knight had been called to the warehouse on an anonymous tip. The caller said he had information about the case they were working on. Over her protests, Tracy was at the station to finish up the report on the Malverton file that was due over a week ago. Reese had blown a gasket and had ordered Tracy to remain behind while her partners checked out the informant. As they carefully picked their way through the carnival floats and props, several shots ripped through the darkness. Nick crumbled like a piece of paper. After making sure that there was no more gunfire, Schanke approached his fallen partner. There was small hole in the left side of his head, where the bullet had entered, and a large jagged hole at the front just above his eye, where it had exited. His life's blood was pouring onto the cement. Don had seen his partner 'fake it' several times after being 'shot'. He was not faking it this time. He was really seriously injured, if not mortally wounded. "Hang in there, Partner." He whispered frantically. "Help is on the way."


After what seemed like an eternity, the ambulance finally pulled up to the Emergency entrance. Schanke ran beside his partner as the medics wheeled him into the Trauma room. The medics had wanted him to stay behind at the scene to talk to the officers investigating the incident, but one look at Don Schanke's face gave them all the authorization they needed to let him ride in the ambulance.

He spotted Captain Joe Reese, Tracy Vetter, their partner, and Natalie Lambert, the Coroner and Nick's 'friend' sitting on a bench near the door. The three looked as though they were about ready to explode with worry. He knew that dispatch would have passed along the word to the three of them. Behind them, nearly all of the squad room, as well as several officers from the 27th Precinct waited for word of their fallen comrade.

Natalie was at the trauma room door almost before the stretcher. Two orderlies blocked her way. "Please!" She begged. "You've got to let me see him. I'm a doctor. I'm his doctor."

A young black woman placed her hand on Nat's shoulder. "I'm Doctor Turner." She said. "I'll be the attending physician. You're a doctor. You should understand that time is of the essence here. I'll let you know as soon as I know anything."

"I'm sorry, Nat." Schanke said as he led the doctor back to the bench. " I should have called you first, but when I saw all that blood and I realized that he was really and truly seriously hurt, I ... I guess I just panicked."

"It's all right." Nat replied. "You did what any good partner would have done. Things will work themselves out. They always do."

Seconds later, the Code Blue alarm sounded and technicians and equipment came rushing into the room. Ten minutes later, Dr. Turner came out. She was visibly shaking and her complexion was a pasty gray-beige. "I'm sorry." She murmured. "He was in cardiac arrest. No heartbeat. No pulse. No respiration. We did everything we could ... " Her voice trailed off.

"LET ME IN THERE!" Natalie demanded as she barged into the room without waiting for an answer. "GET OUT!" She ordered the technicians who were removing the monitors and lines. "NOW!" Without a word, they quickly filed out of the room.

As soon as they were gone, Natalie made a hasty examination of the wounded vampire. Even through the bandages, she could see that the wounds were trying to heal. The bleeding had practically stopped and some of the blood was beginning to seep back into his skull. Unfortunately, there wasn't enough to compensate for what he had lost. She pulled a bag of thick maroon colored liquid from beneath her coat. She took an IV setup from the tray beside the gurney and attached it to the blood bag. After inserting the needle directly into Nick's abdomen, she opened the stopcock to full drip. "Please, Dear God. Let him be okay." She prayed as she watched the blood flow into him. As soon as the bag emptied, she hooked up another one. The transfusions were beginning to have an effect. He gave a weak gasp and his chest began to move up and down in ragged breaths.

Natalie let out a small scream. Aware that others may have heard her, she quickly removed the IV apparatus and put on a pressure cuff. She grabbed the chart and quickly scribbled some notes. As she was finishing, Dr. Turner and several of the ER personnel came in.

"What happened? He was dead a few minutes ago." Dr. Turner gasped as she saw her patient was evidently alive.

"Apparently your CPR worked. It only took a little longer than normal." Natalie said, handing the chart to Dr. Turner. "I took the liberty of making a preliminary examination. As you can see by this chart, his vital signs are nowhere near normal, but he is alive." In a manner of speaking.

Turner nodded as she read Nat's notes. "Good work, Doctor. I agree that his vital signs aren't exactly normal, but they are good enough for him to go to surgery. The sooner we get the bleeding stopped and the damage repaired, the sooner he can begin to heal properly."

"He doesn't need ... " Natalie protested, but her words were lost as the orderlies, nurses and technicians crowded her out of the room. " ... Surgery."


Lucien LaCroix stood in the surgical prep room. He was dressed in scrubs. As Doctor Turner came in, he gently guided her to the x-ray panel. He had surreptitiously substituted a head x-ray from another patient for Nick's. He held her eyes for a moment and concentrated on her heartbeat. "This patient is one of the luckiest men alive." He prompted. "The bullet only grazed his very thick skull. He only has a severe concussion. And minimal blood loss. It looked a lot worse than it was. He does not need surgery. He has recovered completely from the cardiac arrest. I suggest you keep him until tomorrow night for observation and then release him to recuperate at home."

"Thick skull ... concussion ... release tomorrow evening." Turner said absently. She shook her head as if to clear it and took a look at he x- rays hanging from the panel. "This patient is one of the luckiest men alive. The bullet only grazed his very thick skull. He only has a concussion and minimal blood loss. It looked a lot worse than it was. He does not need surgery after all. Since he has recovered completely from the cardiac arrest, I think I'll admit him until tomorrow night for observation and then release him. He should be well enough to go home then."

"Thank you, Doctor Turner." LaCroix said, bowing slightly.

"Thank you, Doctor ... ? " She turned to thin air.


"So. Nat." Schanke said, "Is he going to make it? Is he going to be all right?" His face was thick with worry as he paced the hall.

"He will live." Nat answered. Her voice, however, said that she was not entirely positive of that. "After all, he is ... " She glanced at Tracy, who was busy talking with one of the orderlies. "He is ... what he is. People like him are hard to kill." She whispered. "As far as him being all right ... I hope so. I haven't seen him this badly injured since he first showed up on my exam table six years ago. He was okay then, so I have every reason to believe he'll be okay now."

"And how are you going to explain it to the others? I mean we all saw him nearly dead when he came in"

Just then, LaCroix came out of the surgical suite, still in the scrubs. He gave Natalie a thumbs up sign and in the next instant, the hallway was empty.

"I don't think that is going to be a problem." Natalie said as she watched the elder vampire hurriedly depart.

"I guess not." Schanke said as he gazed at the place where LaCroix had been


He pounded his fist into the table. "DAMN!" He said. "That @#%$&*^ cop is still alive. They'll all pay!" He picked up a framed photograph and touched the picture inside. "I guarantee you they will pay for what they did." He smiled and the silver cap on his front tooth gleamed in the light from the bare bulb hanging from the ceiling of his dingy flat.


Lucien LaCroix came into his 'son's' room. He was still dressed in the scrubs. For all practical purposes, he looked like any other doctor on the floor. He placed his hand on the pale countenance of his son. "Nicholas." He whispered. "What have you gotten yourself into this time." He took his arm and disconnected the intravenous apparatus. "You don't need this." He said. He took a scalpel from his pocket and made a small slit in his wrist. He made a corresponding cut in Nick's wrist. He placed his bleeding arm over Nick's. In a few minutes, Nick's breathing became more regular and his color, such as it was, became better. Nick turned his head and tried to open his eyes. "I do hope that this wave of altruism passes quickly. It is quite distressing." LaCroix licked the wounds on both of them until they were nearly healed. He then reinserted the IV. "Welcome back to the world of the living ... Such as it is." He said as he gently kissed his son's cheek. Only a slight motion of the air signaled that the master vampire had left.


Natalie came into the hospital room that afternoon and stared open mouthed at the scene in front of her. She had expected to see the wounded vampire comatose, or sleeping the sleep of the dead as he usually did during the day. Instead, Nick was sitting up in the bed, heartily devouring a tray of sliced chicken, dressing, mashed potatoes, peas, and coffee. The heavy bandages on his head from the night before had been replaced with only a small patch on his forehead. The side of his head was completely healed from what she could see.

"NICK!" She half screamed, half shouted. "You're awake! And you're EATING! Real food!"

He looked at her, a puzzled frown on his face. "Of course I'm awake. Doctor Turner said that I had only a severe concussion. According to her, I'm the luckiest man alive. And why shouldn't I be eating? It is lunch time after all."

"But your ... your ... condition."

"My what?"

" ... Nothing." She stammered. Apparently the shooting had removed any memories that he was a vampire. Since he couldn't remember what he was, he was acting as a mortal would act. Maybe this is the cure we've been searching for. She prayed. "It's just good to see that you're recovering so well after all you've been through." She touched his cheek. It was warmer than it usually was, but still not anywhere near normal for a mortal.

He searched her face intently. "Excuse me, do I know you?" He asked.

"Nick. It's me. Nat. Natalie Lambert. Your ... friend."

"I think I remember you. Weren't you in the Emergency room last night? I think you were one of the doctors."

"Yes. Lambert. Doctor Natalie Lambert. I'm your doctor. Don't you remember?"

Dr. Turner came into the room at this point. "I'm afraid he doesn't remember anything before last night. It seems the injury caused amnesia. Whether it will be temporary or permanent, only time will tell. I plan to release him this evening if there are no further complications. Perhaps in his own home and in familiar surroundings, his memory will come back."

"An excellent idea, Doctor Turner." Lucien LaCroix came into the room. This time he was wearing a white lab coat. The hospital ID tag read: L. LaCroix MD

"Doctor Lambert. This is Doctor LaCroix. He has been taking care of Mr. Knight. He said he was asked by Detective Knight's family to be his personal physician. He's been here all day with him. He wouldn't let anyone else do anything for him."

LaCroix shook Nat's hand. "Doctor Lambert." He acknowledged. "It's been a real pleasure taking care of Mr. Knight. I hope I haven't intruded on your territory." He said with a sardonic smile. "I know how much you've done for him."

Nat swallowed hard. "Not at all ... Doctor." She replied.

"I hope I can continue to care for him after he is released." LaCroix said. He reminded Nat of a vulture circling for the kill.


Nick looked in awe at the cavernous loft. "Are you sure I live here? This is so ... " He paused as though he was searching for the right word.

"Yes, you really do live here. Are you hungry?" Natalie had ducked out of the hospital while he was sleeping and made a quick trip to a supermarket. She had stocked his refrigerator with everything a person would normally have there.

"As a matter of fact, I'm starved. Everybody's right. Hospital food really is terrible."

It as hard to suppress the grin as Nat watched him devour a meal of steak, baked potatoes, baked beans, and coffee. He polished it off with three pieces of chocolate cake. She hardly had touched her meal for enjoying seeing him eat his.

Nick looked up. "What's wrong? You've been watching me as though you've never seen me eat before."

"Nothing's wrong. It's just that you've been ... sick ... for quite a while. You haven't been able to eat like this in a ... a long time."

"How long? And what was wrong with me?"

"Yes, Doctor Lambert." Lucien LaCroix said. This time he was dressed in his customary black ensemble. As usual, no one had seen or heard him enter. "Do tell him what his ... condition is." He held out a bottle of 'Raven Special' "This is a little homecoming present, Nicholas. You WILL be needing it ... and soon."

"You're another doctor from the hospital, aren't you?" Nick asked.

"I am Lucien LaCroix." He answered. "I have been taking care of you for a very ... very long time." He stared at Natalie. "You must tell him, Doctor. The sooner the better." In a split thought, he was gone.

"What is he talking about? He gives me the creeps."

"Don't let him get to you. He's nothing but a troublemaker." She said as she hastily placed the bottle in the back of the refrigerator. "It isn't important what was wrong with you. It appears that you are cured now. Just do me a favor. Don't go out during the day for a while."


"Please. Just do as I say."


"Bonsoir, mes amis. C'est moi, (Greetings, my friends. It is I,) the Nightcrawler, with you, soothing your confusion, keeping you company until the sun rises. Tonight's meditation is on lost friends, lost from each other, lost from themselves. And the simple fact is, the way back for one is the way back for the other. For we must never forget what we are, or whom we came from. This is our lifeblood, our nourishment. Without it we wither, and become nothing.

You will come back. You must come back. It is your destiny, and destiny will not be trifled with.

All's well that ends well; although it never really does end for some of us. Anyway, until tomorrow, I remain a friend to all, and as always, when you have a friend in the Nightcrawler, who needs enemies?"


Nick guided Natalie into the living area of the loft. After dinner, they had talked about many things concerning his life. She had explained that he was a policeman, that he played the piano, and was an accomplished artist. She carefully skirted any questions concerning his 'illness', saying that it had apparently been cured. She also carefully avoided any mention of LaCroix and his relationship with him.

"I know you have told me we are friends." He said, putting his arms around her waist and drawing her to him. "But something inside me tells me that we are more than just friends." He nuzzled her neck. "A lot more than friends."

She turned to him and his lips met hers. It was a kiss filled with passion and love. When the kiss ended, she gazed into his eyes. They were blue. At any other time, they would have had definite signs of gold in them.

"Did I say or do something wrong?" He said, a puzzled and hurt look on his face.

"No." She whispered. "So far, you've done everything absolutely right." She caught his lower lip with her mouth and sucked on it gently. No fangs.

"Well then." He said. "Let's see what else I can do right." His mouth met hers again. Without breaking the kiss, he guided her toward the bedroom.


Nick touched her face. It was either very late or very early when they had finally fallen asleep. It had been incredible. Why would she say that they were ' just friends' when it was so obvious that they loved each other so deeply. Although he couldn't remember her, or his relationship with her, his body knew, and so did hers.

Suddenly, his head seemed to explode. There was a blinding flash. A picture of him and Schanke inside a warehouse. Shots. A man's face. Although he couldn't see it too clearly, he knew that it was the face of the man who had done this to him. Being careful not to disturb the sleeping woman beside him, he got up and got dressed. She said not to go out during the day, but there are still several hours before sunrise. More than enough time to investigate the warehouse. He thought as he headed for the door. He wasn't sure how he knew about the sunrise, but when he looked at the clock, it only confirmed he was right.


The officer stopped him practically as soon as he entered the warehouse. "I'm sorry, sir." She said. "No one is allowed in here. It's a crime scene."

"I know." He replied, showing her his badge. "I'm the officer that was shot. I just want to take a look around and see if it can jog my memory."

She reluctantly followed him through the aisles. As he came to the spot that was cordoned off with the ever present yellow tape, memories crowded into his mind. He and Schanke picking their way through these same aisles ... The sound of the gun being fired ... A face illuminated by the flash of the shots ... Something gleaming in the light ... Teeth .... A front tooth ... Metal ... Pain ... Darkness. The face engraved itself on his mind. Yes. That was the man. He knew without knowing that this man had a record. Now, all he had to do was go the precinct and search the mugshot database for a match.

He started for the door. As he pulled it open, a beam of early morning sunlight hit him squarely in the face. Screaming in pain, he quickly shut the door and retreated behind one of the floats. He looked at his face reflected in one of the mirror panels on the carousel. It was red and blistered, as though he had been severely burned. His hands were the same where the sunlight had touched them as well.

"Are you all right?" The officer asked.

"Get out of my way!" He shouted. He pulled his coat over his head and made a frantic dash for the Cadillac that was parked at the curb, smoke streaming behind him.


At the precinct, Schanke and Tracy were going over the mugshot database. Schanke shook his head as the pictures scrolled by. "None of these look familiar. I mean, we put a lot of these perps in here, but none of them look like the guy who shot Nick. I've tagged a few guys that might be the one, but I only caught a brief glimpse of the bastard. Not enough to make a positive ID. Maybe when Nick's memory comes back, he can pick out the right one." He picked up his coat and started for the door. "I tell you what. Why don't we call it a night and continue our search tomorrow. I for one, am bushed."

"Go on home, Schanke." Tracy said. "I think I'll stay here for a while longer and keep searching the files. Maybe I'll find something."

"Okay. If you do, give me a buzz. See you later."

"Schanke just might have hit on something while he was going through the mugs." Tracy said absently. "Maybe that's the key. Maybe it's someone Nick arrested and maybe he wants revenge." She pulled up Nick's arrest records on her computer and began to compare the mugshots that Schanke had tagged against the files. Unfortunately, there were no matches. The same was true for Schanke's records. She quickly pulled up the records for Nick and Schanke as a team. Again, no matches.

On a hunch, she decided to pull her own arrest records. Although she hadn't been a detective that long, she had made a few arrests as a uniformed officer. Maybe whoever shot Nick was actually after her. The phone message had said bring your partner, after all. Maybe he didn't know that there were three partners in this particular team. She typed in 'Vetter' and hit the enter key.

After a few moments, the screen began to fill up with data. I know I didn't make all of these. She thought as the final page filled in as 35 of 35. Oh no, I forgot. Daddy was a policeman before he became Commissioner. It brought up both of our records. I should have typed in 'Vetter, T' for my account. She started to hit the delete key and stopped for a second. On second thought, let's just see how good a cop my daddy dearest really was. She paged to the top and began scrolling through the file.

Suddenly, she stopped. There, on the screen was a face that matched one of the faces that Schanke had tagged. According to the data, his name was Leon Sharp. Eleven years ago, he and his brother Jimmy had robbed a convenience store. Lieutenant Richard Vetter had apprehended them a short while later. They attempted to flee him. In the chase that followed, Jimmy was shot and killed. He was only sixteen. If he had lived, he would be only two years older than Tracy. Leon was convicted of armed robbery and sentenced to 10 years in prison. He was released two weeks ago.


Nick practically burst through the loft door. Wisps of smoke trailed through the fabric of his coat. "What is happening?" He growled at Natalie. "What is going on?" He turned to her. His face was a mass of blisters and red patches. His hands were no better.

"I told you not to go out in the daytime." She replied, a look of panic on her face. "I had hoped that you were cured, but I see I was wrong." She rooted through the refrigerator until she found the bottle that LaCroix had brought. "Here." She said, handing it to him. "Drink this. It's not what you normally drink, but right now, it's what you need."

"What is it?" He said as he removed the cap. He took a smell. The contents both repulsed and excited him.

"It's blood. I'll explain later. Just drink that."

"Explain now." He held the bottle to him like it was a treasure. His body cried out that it needed the life giving nectar inside. "What am I, and why are you giving me blood?"

"It's not easy. Your condition ... " She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. "I guess the best way is just to come right out. You're a vampire. Your birth name is Nicholas de Brabant and you are over 800 years old ... " She spent the next hour bringing Nick up to date.

As she was talking, a myriad of images flashed through Nick's mind. The Crusades. Janette. LaCroix. The Night. Everything came flooding back in chronological order right up to the present. He was remembering.

" .... And you want to be mortal again. We have been working on a cure for the past six years."

He took a long swallow from he bottle. As soon as he did, the pain in his face and hands began to disappear along with the outward signs. By the time that Natalie had finished, the bottle was empty and there were no signs that he had ever been burned.

"And that's why we never ... got together." He said softly, almost disappointedly.

Nat nodded. "Vampire lovemaking requires that you take blood. You were always afraid that you wouldn't stop in time. That you'd kill me."

"But we ... last night we ... "

"Last night was different. Last night you did not remember that you were a vampire. So you made love to me as a mortal man. And it was fantastic. Last year, you had a case where the suspect had multiple personalities. One of them was a vampire. The other personalities didn't know about this, so they were able to function as normal mortals. I was hoping that if you never remembered what you were, you'd be able to be mortal as well. I see I was wrong." The look of disappointment on her face was great.

"Maybe. But even you must admit. This is a big step forward." He held her close and this time he pulled away very slowly. "If I did it once, who knows, I may be able to do it again. We just have to take it very slowly, a little at a time."

Nat smiled. "That's supposed to be my line." She said, playfully jabbing her finger into his chest.

The security buzzer interrupted them. Nick pushed the intercom.

"It's me. Don Schanke. Your partner. Can I come up? I got a big favor to ask you."

Nick set the lift in motion and a few minutes later, Schanke came into the area. He held out his hand to Nick. "I don't know if you remember me or not. The doctors said you have amnesia. We've been partners for the past four years."

Nick embraced the portly man. "Yes, Schanke. I remember you. I remember everything. It all came back just a little while ago."

"GREAT!" Schanke said hugging his partner tightly. "That's one hurdle we won't have to pussyfoot around. Everything? Even ..." He put his two fingers against his eye teeth.

Nick nodded. "Everything. Even that. Now, what's this big favor?"

"Well ... what I came here for is to ask you if I could ... ah ... borrow the ... ah ... Caddy tonight. I know how protective you are of that land supertanker, but this is an extreme emergency. You see, Myra's car is in the shop. Again. And she's got this big Skin Pretty show tonight and she needs to use my car to get to it. So ... since you ... "

Nick reached into his pocket and handed Don the keys. "Of course. Just be sure to have it washed and waxed before you bring it back." He said with a large grin.

"You really do remember everything." Don said, matching Nick's smile. "And you ain't gonna let me ever live that down, are you?"

"Not if I can help it."


As Schanke approached his desk, Tracy handed him a printout. "I think this is our killer. It turns out he wasn't really after Nick at all. I think he might have been after me. It just so happens that Nick was in the wrong place at the right time." She explained as Schanke read the papers. "According to the trial transcripts, after he was convicted, he swore that he'd make my dad suffer as he has suffered. I think he thought I'd be with either of you at the warehouse. I suppose in the dark, he saw the blond hair and thought it was me. I'm sorry, Schanke."

Just then, her phone rang. Tracy picked it up.

"Tracy Vetter?"

"Yes." Tracy answered.

"I know who shot that cop." The voice on the other end said.

Tracy hit the speakerphone button. "Who is this?" She asked.

"Jimmy." The man replied. "Meet me at the warehouse where the cop was shot in an hour and I tell you everything. Come alone. If anyone is there besides you, the deal's off." There was the sound of the dial tone.

She hung up the phone. "So. I guess I'm going to the warehouse." Tracy said as she took her gun out of her drawer and slid it into her holster.

Schanke put her hand over hers as she picked up her purse. "Wrong. You're staying here. This guy's a nut case. He doesn't want to talk to you. He wants to kill you. I'll arrange for some ... special backup and we'll have him in custody before he knows what hit him." He reached into her purse and took out her car keys and put them in his pocket. "And this is to make sure you don't try anything foolish, like following me. And I'll also tell the motor pool not to issue you an unmarked car as well. Now stay put. That's an order."

Tracy intently examined her shoes. "Yes ... Sir. " She said giving him a mock salute. She put her hands behind her back and assumed the position of Parade Rest.

"As soon as I answer the call of nature, I'm going to get this Leon Sharp."

The minute Schanke left the room, Tracy brought her hands from behind her back. The fingers on both hands were crossed. She picked up her purse and headed for the door. "Hey, Muller. If Detective Schanke asks, tell him I'm in the ladies room." She called to the desk sergeant.

A few seconds later, she was standing at the back of the Caddy. She took a slim leatherette case from her jacket pocket and pulled out two thin metal strips. Carefully, she inserted them into the trunk lock. "I always knew that correspondence course in locksmithing I took would pay off someday." She whispered as the lid popped open. Well, if Nick can do it, so can I. She climbed into the trunk and pulled the lid shut.


Leon Sharp climbed onto the roof of the warehouse. This time he would get the right cop. He'd make Vetter suffer the same way he suffered. Vetter killed his brother, so it was only right that he kill Vetter's daughter. He made the mistake of shooting too soon and almost killed that other blond headed cop. He cursed himself for not taking the time to make sure he had the right person the first time. If he had, Jimmy could be resting in peace now, his murder avenged. He carefully loaded the rifle with the hollow point bullets and checked the telescope sight. Everything was working perfectly. The street lights illuminated the loading dock area almost like daytime. There would be no errors like the last time.


Don Schanke pulled out his cell phone and dialed Nick's number. He waited until the answering machine went through its prerecorded speech and the familiar beep sounded. "Hey, Partner." Don said. "We think we found the scumbag that nearly did you in. A low life named Leon Sharp."

Nick picked up the phone.

"Turns out he was after Tracy." Don continued. "Seems her father killed his brother and he wanted to kill Tracy to even the score. He called the station a few minutes ago. Tracy was supposed to meet him at the warehouse where you were shot, but I persuaded her to stay at the precinct while I took care of the perp. I know you would want to be in on the collar, so if you want to meet me there, I could sure use your particular brand of help."

"You know I do. I'll meet you there." Nick said as he hung up the phone. He checked his gun and shrugged into his shoulder holster. Natalie came over to him as he was putting his badge case into his coat pocket.

"Where do you think you're going?" She asked.

"To catch a killer."

But you shouldn't be going out ... "

"Nat. I have to do this." He kissed her gently on the cheek.

"I know. Please. Be careful."

"I will. I promise." He said as the elevator door opened.

"I love you." She whispered as the lift headed for the ground floor.

Once outside, Nick checked to see if anyone was in the area and then took to the air.


Nick was waiting for Schanke as he turned the corner into the street where the warehouse was located. He stopped the car and walked to where his partner was standing. "I think I spotted someone on the warehouse roof. " Nick said. "If that's Sharp, he's definitely the one who tried to scramble my brains. I don't believe he's seem us yet. That'll give us the element of surprise. You take the stairs on the left and I'll come in from the back."

Schanke nodded and pulled out his gun and checked it. He started for the alley between the buildings, being very careful to stay in the shadows. Nick went around to the back and started up the fire escape, being careful not to touch the stairs or to make any other noises that would give away his position.

No sooner had the two detectives left the car than the trunk opened. Carefully, Tracy Vetter climbed out and stretched. "I don't see how Nick could possibly call that comfortable." She mumbled as she messaged a kink from her leg. "I've had more room stuffed in a Volkswagen with thirteen other people." For a brief second, her mind flashed images of her university days. She picked up her purse and began to walk toward the loading dock.

"That's far enough." A voice from the rooftop yelled.

"Jimmy?" Tracy answered.

"Wrong!" A volley of shots punctuated his remark. Tracy dived behind a stack of pallets as the bullets kicked up a line of cement chips behind her. "Jimmy's dead. I'm Leon, and your father's gonna pay for killing him." Another series of shots rang out. "An eye for an eye. That's what the Bible says. He took my family, I'm going to take his." Several more shots rang out and one of them hit a gasoline pump behind Tracy. She dove and rolled out of the way as it exploded in a brilliant ball of flame.

Nick heard the shots as he reached the top of the fire escape. He reached Sharp just as the gasoline pump exploded. Schanke was only a step or two behind him. He grabbed Sharp and hoisted him into the air. His eyes glowed even brighter in the light of the blaze from the ground below and his fangs glistened in the flames. "She better be all right." He growled as he balanced Sharp on the edge of the roof.

"NO!" Schanke called. "Don't do it, Nick! Think of the paperwork! I'm not going to do it for you this time."

Slowly, Nick turned to his partner. The red was already beginning to dissipate from his eyes. Schanke breathed a sigh of relief as Nick pulled a quivering Sharp back from the edge of the roof. The gambit had worked once before. It was working now.

Nick released the frightened gunman and. Sharp leaned against the low parapet and brought the rifle even with Nick's chest. "Get away from me!" He gasped. "You're not human!"

On the ground, Tracy saw Leon level his weapon at Nick. In one motion, she drew her gun and pointed it at him. Taking quick aim, she squeezed the trigger several times.

Leon turned to the loading area, a look of surprise and shock on his face. "Jimmy ... " He whispered loudly. "I tried ... " He grasped at the large bleeding holes in his chest where the bullets had exited. Seconds later, he toppled to the ground below.

Tracy rushed to the spot where the broken body of Leon Sharp lay. Although she knew that she wouldn't find anything, she felt at his neck. She was right. There was no pulse. It only took a few moments for her partners to join her.

"You all right?" Schanke asked as he helped the trembling detective to her feet.

"No, I'm not all right. I mean I'm not hurt or anything." She replied. Her gaze never left the lifeless body on the ground before her. "I ... killed him." In the light of the flames, her features were as pale as Nick's. "Do you ever get used to the killing?"

"No." Nick replied. At least not in eight hundred years.

"Pray you never do." Schanke added, as much for Nick's benefit as for Tracy's. "If that happens, that's when you lose your humanity."

In the background, they could hear the fire and police sirens.


Captain Reese came out of his office. The two IA investigators were right behind him. Nick, Don, and Tracy sat anxiously at their desks. After the incident at the warehouse, and then the questioning by the investigating officers at the scene and here at the precinct, they all were near exhaustion. Now they would have to undergo a grilling by IA. None of them were looking forward to that.

Tracy, as the shooter, was first. Thirty minutes later, she came out shaken and ashen. "They made it sound like I did it deliberately." She said in little more than a whisper to her companions.

Don was next. Forty five minutes later, he came out of the interrogation room. He was obviously shook up. "They're making it sound like we are the criminals and Sharp was an innocent victim." He wiped a bead of sweat off his face. "Man o man, I hate to think what they'll do to Knight."

Nick sat in the chair opposite the investigators. He had been through IA sessions before, but this one almost reminded him of the Inquisition. They had bombarded him with questions, picking apart every word of his answers. He was tired. He hadn't fed since very early the previous evening. His head was throbbing. And these two were getting on his last nerve. He homed in on their heartbeats. The blood called to him. One bite. That's all he needed. It was tempting. He had to remind himself that there were cameras and tape recorders trained on him. Empirical evidence. He took a deep breath and concentrated on the tha-thump heartbeat of the senior investigator. "This shooting was justifiable homicide ... " He said slowly and carefully. "Detective Vetter had no choice but to fire at Sharp or he would have killed me for certain. She was only protecting the life of her partner ... "

"Protecting ... " The investigator repeated.

Nick took a mental deep breath. Thank goodness. He's not a resistor. " ... That is how you are going to rule in this case." Nick added in the barest of whispers. While he did not believe that the recorder would pick it up, he knew that the detective's subconscience would.

"Well." The detective said, shaking his head as though he was lost in deep thought for a moment. "I don't think we need to investigate this matter any further. It is obvious to me that Detective Vetter acted in a logical and prudent manner to save her partner's life. As far as I am concerned, this shooting was justified."

"But ... " His partner started to say something.

"I am the senior officer here. I say this matter is closed." He picked up his papers and shut off the recorder.


Linda Wyatt sat at her desk. The experiment was going much better than she expected. The tests showed that the vaccine had almost completely erased any traces of the virus in the rats and other lab animals. The next step would be to begin clinical trials. To do that, though, would require funding that they did not have and so far, could not get. That's why she was here at the laboratory so late. She had to convince The Powers That Be at the drug manufacturers that this was a viable project and worthy of their funding. She had just finished the last page of the prospectus when she heard the noises. Cautiously, she approached the door.

Dan Garrett was her assistant and partner. In fact, they were the only employees of Hausen Pharmacuticals. He stood at the bank of cages, one of them open. In his hands was one of the lab specimens. On the desk was an open briefcase filled with papers

"Where do you think you are going with that?" She demanded as she grabbed for the rat. It panicked and scurried out the open door.


Screed climbed into the dumpster. This particular garbage bin was usually good for a meal or two, and this time was no exception. There were always plenty of rats and other small animals feasting on the refuse from the coffee shop that was on the first floor of the building. He picked out a particularly fat and juicy rat and was about to devour it when he spotted a white rat scurrying away on the ground. It wasn't often that he got a prize specimen like this. He licked his lips as he jumped from the bin. He grabbed the squealing rodent and eagerly sank his fangs into it.


Nick, Schanke and Tracy pulled up to the scene. As usual, there were numerous police, emergency and other vehicles gathered in the street around the doorway. As they started to go in, something in the alleyway caught Nick's attention. It was a dead white rat. From the looks of it, it had been attacked by some animal. Or maybe a Carouche. Nick mused as he picked it up and deposited it into an evidence bag.

Inside, Natalie Lambert was just finishing her preliminary examination of the body of Dr. Wyatt. She signaled that the technicians could take the stretcher to the waiting coroner's van.

"According to her assistant, one ... " Schanke consulted his notes. " ... Daniel S. Garrett, this was an accident. He thinks she might have slipped on the newly waxed floor."

"Entirely possible." Nat mused. "The floor at the top of the stairway is very slippery. Of course, my autopsy could reveal something else, but for now, that's the way I'm going to rule it."

Tracy brought a large book to them. "This is Dr. Wyatt's appointment book for tonight." She said. "There are three entries. Janet Dornhoff, Derek Swanson, and Calvin Tucker."

"Calvin Tucker?" Nat asked.

"You know him?" Nick asked.

"Since Medical school. He was well on his way to being chief of staff at Metro General."

"What happened?"


"What was he doing here at this hour of the night?" Schanke asked.

"Let's ask him." Nick said as he headed for the Caddy.


Calvin sat in the chair opposite Nick and Schanke. Nat stood against the wall.

"I was hoping for a miracle." He said. "Linda Wyatt was on to something. She needed human guinea pigs but she didn't have the proper authorizations to get them in the usual way. She asked me if I'd help."

"So you decided to help her, even though you knew what you were doing was illegal?" Schanke asked.

Calvin looked at Nat. The expression on his face was one of desperation. "I have ... what ... three, maybe four years at the most. I've seen too many of my friends die from this. I have nothing to lose and if this treatment works, and from all indications it is working, I have everything to gain. Of course I helped. Wouldn't you if it were you?"

Nat only nodded sadly. "I guess I can understand why."


Tracy and Vachon prowled the sewer cavern that Screed called home. While this part of tunnel was at least reasonably clean and neat, there was still that lingering scent of filth that permeated the entire system. Tracy nearly gagged as a particularly pungent odor caught her. She wondered how Screed even managed to tolerate it, with the vampire's enhanced senses.

"We found a dead lab rat at a crime scene." She said to the Spanish vampire. "It had been partially chewed and drained. I think Screed was there."

"Even if he was there, I don't think he'd make a good witness. Why don't you ... "

Seemingly out of nowhere, Screed burst into the room. His eyes were red and his fangs were long. He made a beeline to Tracy. Just as he was about to seize her, Vachon grabbed him by the front of his scruffy coat and slammed him against the wall of the tunnel.

"Back off." He hissed at the Carouche.

"Let me at 'er." Screed growled. "She's got the finest fruits in 'er. The best vino around, and that's what I needs right now."

"I said BACK OFF!" He threw Screed onto the pile of ragged blankets that served as a bed.

"I NEEDS!" Screed gasped. Beads of blood sweat drenched his forehead. He pushed at Vachon, still trying to get at Tracy.

"Screed is a Carouche." Tracy said, hardly believing what she was seeing. "Why would he want human blood."

"When the 'unger gets this bad, a body'll go after whatever's available. It's lots worse than even the first 'unger was." Screed said as he sank his fangs into his own hand.

Gently, Vachon lifted the Carouche's head and bared his wrist. Screed latched on to it and drank greedily.

"I take it this isn't normal." Tracy commented.

"No. Definitely not normal." Vachon winced as Screed dug his fangs deeper into his arm. "He's starving."

"Maybe he's sick."

"Vampires can't get sick."


"You've got to get your doctor friend." Vachon had come to the loft to get Nick's help. "I've got this sick friend. I can't exactly take him to the hospital. What'll I tell them? He's allergic to garlic, crosses, and sunlight. He's 450 years old and he can fly."

"One of us?" Nick said. He cradled a bottle against his cheek as though it were a lover.

"It's Screed. He got a hold of a contaminated lab rat and now he may be dying. You gotta help him."


Nat took the vial of blood that she had just drawn from Screed and put it into her bag. "High fever. Extreme hunger. Delirium. If he were mortal, I'd prescribe a broad based antibiotic. I can analyze these samples, but I don't even know what I'm looking for. Even if I could identify the cause, I doubt if it will do any good. At least not for him. There's bleeding into the abdomen and lungs and probably into the brain as well. Veins and arteries are almost non existent. As far as I can tell, he's in the final stages of this disease, whatever it is. He probably won't last more than a few hours at the most." She was definitely worried and saddened.

Could it have come from the rat?" Nick asked.

"That's a distinct possibility. I'll cross match it with the rat's blood."


"Hey, buddy, where you been?" Schanke asked as Nick came into the squad room.

"Visiting a sick friend."

"Okay. Whatever you say." Schanke gave him a leering wink.

"Schanke. Get your mind out of the gutter. It's Screed. He's sick."

"Vampires can't get sick."

"That's what I thought, too. But he is very sick. He's dying."

Tracy came over to the duo. "I was going through Linda Wyatt's notes on the experiments. It seems that Natalie's friend Calvin Tucker was part of the control group. According to this, he was getting a placebo."

"And you think maybe he found out, and that he may have pushed her down the stairs?" Schanke asked.

"Let's talk to him and see." Nick said as he headed to the door.


"A placebo? You're sure?" Calvin asked the detectives.

Tracy nodded. "It's all here in Linda's notes." He held out the folder.

"But it was working. No opportunistic infections in over six months. My T cell count was almost double. And now you're telling me I was getting ten CC's of salt water every three days. Maybe it worked because I wanted it to work." He sighed loudly. "That just shows you that anyone can be a damned fool."


"I believe him." Tracy said as they walked toward the precinct door. "He seemed genuinely devastated when we told him the news that he was getting a placebo."

Nick doubled over slightly, a look of pain and hunger on his face. He homed in on the sound of the beating artery in his partner's neck. The steady thump thump of her heart was tantalizing. It called to him. It ...

"Nick ... Nick ... Are you all right?"

"Yeah ... Sure." He shook his head to clear it and then walked away as fast as he could without using his vampire speed.

"What's with him?" Tracy asked Schanke.

Schanke only shrugged and shook his head. "Who knows."

"Maybe he's coming down with the flu." Tracy commented.


Vachon held Screed's head in his arms.

"We 'ad a good time of it, mate didn't we." Screed gasped. "We sure gave it a good roll and all that." He coughed and a trickle of blood ran down his chin. "Just do me a favor, V-Man."

"Anything." Vachon said as he wiped the thick bloodsweat from his friend's head. "Just name it."

"When me ... when me time comes ... plant me bones down by the water, will ya ... I never was very much comfortable ... on dry land." He gave a deep sigh and then his head went limp in Vachon's arm. Vachon gently closed the unseeing eyes and held his friend closely. Blood tears streamed down his face.


Nick followed Janette and LaCroix into the Raven.

"But I saw it. He was dying." Nick explained.

"Nonsense, Nicholas. WE are immortal. WE cannot die. Not that way." LaCroix countered.

Janette poured a glass of Raven Special. Before she could drink from it, Nick picked up the glass and downed it in one gulp. She poured another one and Nick did the same. "Would you like one?" She asked.

He shook his head no and set the glass down. Janette refilled it. Before Nick could grab at it again, she picked it up and drained it. "Then don't touch mine." She said angrily.

"As I started to say, this fantasy of yours about becoming mortal has finally gotten the best of you." LaCroix continued. "If you can make yourself believe that we can die, then your precious mortal community can sleep safely in their beds while an invisible people are completely eradicated form the face of the earth." Nick picked up his glass and brought it to his lips. LaCroix grabbed his glass of bloodwine from Nick's hands just as the detective was about to drain it. He drained it instead. "They have tried to eradicate us with lies. They have tried to kill us with fire, yet we are still here. You really think a ... germ ... could kill us?"


Vachon stared at Tracy. Her blood called to him like nothing had ever done. "Screed was right." He said as he gently brushed the hair from her neck. "Your blood is a sweet fruit. It's intoxicating."

"Must be my shampoo." Tracy said pulling away. The look on the vampire's face was more intense than she had ever seen before. It was frightening her.

"No. It's your blood. It has a scent all its own." He gently ran his hand over her chin. This time she did not flinch. The more he caressed her, the more she wanted him. "Everyone has their own special smell. Special flavor. Yours is Apricots and Callia Lilies." As he nuzzled her throat, his fangs descended. The sweet elixir was only a few centimeters away. Just beneath the skin. He reared his head. Suddenly, just as he was about to pierce the flesh, he threw her away. "GO!" He hissed. "GET AWAY. NOW! RUN!"


Tracy came into the morgue just as Nat took a sample from the centrifuge. "Any luck?" She asked.

"Not much. The antivirus is very fragile. Almost all the samples die before I have a chance to examine them. So far, I don't know anything more than I did when I started. It's terribly frustrating to just stand by and watch someone you know die and know you can't do anything to help them. Maybe if I had graduated from medical school at a different time, I'd be like Linda Wyatt, looking for a cure instead of trying to find ... "

"The person who pushed her down the stairs?"

"Something like that." Natalie nodded.

Tracy slowly edged toward the blood cooler while she was talking. Shielding it with her body, she reached inside and withdrew several units and hid them in her coat. "Yeah." She said. "I know what you mean." She exited just as Nick and Schanke came in.

Nick looked both pale and flushed at the same time.

"I know it's hard to believe, but I think he's sick." Schanke said.

Nat put her hand to Nick's head. It was hot. At least hot for a vampire. When she pulled it away, it was covered with blood.

"I hunger." Nick said hoarsely.

"Oh no. You've got it." She gasped.

"Got what?" Schanke asked.

"The fever." Nat answered. "As far as I can determine, the antivirus that Linda Wyatt was working on is potentially fatal to vampires. It seems to bind with the vampire factor and slowly kills it. In the process, it kills the vampire as well. So far, the only substance it can survive in is blood. The more he feeds, the stronger the antivirus becomes."

"But how ... " Nick said.

"The rat. Screed got it from feeding on the rat."

"But I didn't feed from it."

"But you did pick it up with your bare hands." Schanke said.

"I think so."

Natalie's face went nearly as pale as Nick's usually was. "If that's the case, the fever can be spread by simple contact."

"Then the whole Community is at risk." Nick said as he headed for the refrigerator where the surplus blood was stored.

"NO!" Schanke said, pulling him away from the door. "If what Nat says is true, drinking blood will kill you."

"And staying away from it will save me?" He stared at his partner's throat. Schanke put his hand against the vein.

"Not unless I can find an antidote." Nat said. "But your restrictive blood intake has slowed it down. Apparently it likes human blood the best."

"Fast or slow. What's the difference? What if this is nature's way of saying it's tired of unnatural creatures feeding off the world? Maybe this is God's way of getting rid of all the vampires. Maybe I'm meant to die."

"Don't give me that crap!" Natalie shouted. "Do you think this is God's way of punishing vampires? God doesn't send sickness as a means of punishment. What about the innocents? I've seen too many people die from AIDS, cancer, pneumonia, accidents. Were they all being punished? And what about Cal? How can you stand there and talk about dying when people like Cal would give anything in the world to live just a little bit longer?"

He grabbed her roughly by the throat. Schanke tried to pull him from the Coroner, but the vampire was too strong. Nick turned to his partner. His eyes were yellow and his fangs had descended. He stared for a few seconds. Slowly, he released Nat and even more slowly, he returned to normal.

"C'mon, Partner. I think I had better take you home." Schanke said, gently leading Nick to the door.

"Schanke." Nick said. His voice was still hoarse. "Do you have a cross on?"

"Yeah. Why."


Schanke reached inside his collar and pulled his crucifix to the top.


Tracy pulled one of the blood bags from beneath her coat and handed it to Vachon. From the looks of the Spaniard, he was not doing very well. He was ghostly pale and a slight sheen of bloodsweat covered his face and hands. Vachon shook his head.

"Not hungry?"

"Not any more."

It's not fair. We only met a little while ago. We haven't even had the chance to ... you know ... really get to know each other."

"That's the way it goes." Vachon managed a small smile. "Although it's usually the other way around. You'd be amazed at the number of mortal friends that I've buried over the centuries."

"Does it get any easier?"

"I'll let you know." He sighed as he took her hand in his. He closed his eyes, and Tracy watched closely to be sure that his chest was still going up and down.


Reese came behind Schanke as soon as he came into the precinct. He had taken Nick home and seen to it that he was safely in bed. He was worried. He had never seen his partner like this. All the way to the loft, Nick kept staring at his throat and Schanke was convinced that if it hadn't been for the large crucifix that he had on his chest, he would have been his partner's lunch.

"Your other partner Tracy took a personal day too. Sick friend." Reese said. "I've heard that excuse for everything from a golf date to getting a little on the side. Personally, I don't care, but when it interferes with a case, I do care. What have you been doing on the Wyatt case? Why haven't you brought this Garrett guy in for an interview? Have you gone over their files looking for anything unusual?"

Schanke just stared into space. His mind was at the loft ... and at the morgue.

"I can see you have things on your mind, but right now you're on duty. Put a pin in your personal troubles. Go talk to Garrett. Go now."


"They say the ages of man are denial, awareness and acceptance. A young man believes he will live forever. A middle age man knows he will not. And an old man is ready." LaCroix took a deep drink of the red liquid in the goblet before him.

"What then of those taken out of sequence? How to prepare them for the bitter end? " He coughed and wiped a drop of blood from his lip.

"A man who knows he will not die is a young man. He is kept young by the knowledge that death shall have no dominion over him. There's nothing so hard as watching that die." He paused again and blood sweat began to glisten on his brow.

"A dozen in a single night. My children ... and my people ... who should have lived forever ... living their last. Who would ever believe that they would die? My people..." He wiped a tear from his eyes as he thought of the vampires who were dropping like flies from the mysterious ailment. His mind settled on one vampire in particular.


"My children. One short sleep past. We awake eternally and death shall be no more. Death ... Thou shalt die!

We will survive."

He queued the tape for the rest of the show and exited the broadcast booth. Ignoring the crowd, he climbed the back stairs to the private rooms on the second floor.

"LaCroix?" Janette said, barely above a whisper. She looked small and thin lying in the huge canopy bed. "Est-ce que c'est vous? (Is that you?)"

"Oui, mon coeur. C'est Moi.(Yes, my heart. It is I.)" He sat in a chair beside her and dipped a cloth in the basin of cold water sitting on the nightstand beside her. He wiped the bloodsweat from her face. "Comment allez-vous se sentant? (How are you feeling?)"

"J'ai le feutre mieux. (I've felt better.)" She smiled slightly. "Je meurs, n'est-ce pas? (I'm dying, aren't I?)"

"Oh! no. je ne vous permettez pas de mourir. Vous etes la mine a jamais et je ne vous permettez jamais d'aller. (Oh! no. I won't let you die. You are mine forever and I will never let you go.) He stroked her head softly and kissed her gently on the cheek. "Quand ceci est par-dessus, nous retournerons a Paris et nous ferons ... (When this is over, we will go back to Paris and we will ... )

"Je vous aime... mon père. (I love you ... my father)" Janette heaved a huge sigh. Her body stiffened for a second, and then went limp.

"Janette ... " He cried, holding her limp head closely to him. "NO! NO! N O - O - O !!!" Slowly, he rocked her body. "Sommeil, Mon Enfant et paix assiste te ... (Sleep, My Child and peace attend thee ... ) He softly crooned


In the loft, Nick sat up in the bed. Thorough the bond with his master and his sister, he felt all that had gone on. He knew that Janette had died and that LaCroix was only hanging on by a thread. Only his anger and outrage at what was happening was keeping him going.

Slowly, painfully, Nick pulled himself out of bed.


Calvin looked up from the microscope. Dan Garrett stood behind him. "It's a bust. It doesn't work." Cal said as he started to the door.

"Where do you think you are going." Dan said as he grabbed Cal and pushed him into the lab table. "What about the project? What about the job you promised me?"

"I'm going home. Don't you understand? There is no cure. There is no project. There is no job. There is no money. It's over. Done. Through. You killed Linda Wyatt for nothing."

"Not for nothing! For you!" Dan seized him and threw him against a nitrogen tank. Cal grabbed at the handle to steady himself. As he struggled for balance, the valve opened and the freezing gas sprayed over Dan's face. The assistant stopped in his tracks, frozen forever in the shocked position.

Outside, Nick and Schanke pulled up to the lab building at almost the same time.

"And just what are you doing here?" Schanke asked. "You're supposed to be home in bed."

"Janette." Nick said flatly. "She's ... She's ... " The look in his eyes said it all.

"No." Schanke shook his head slowly. "No ... She's not ... " He embraced his partner and held him tight. "I'm so sorry." He said as tears rolled down his cheeks.

From the lab, Nick picked up the sound of Cal screaming. The duo rushed upstairs.


Cal sat in the interrogation room. "I thought Linda was on to something. Hausen Pharmacuticals was a small change operation. It would have taken her ten or fifteen years to get the cure on the market, if at all. I have the connections. I could have done it in half that time." His face dropped markedly. "Turns out, her cure only worked in the test tube and on the lab animals. In the human body, the HIV virus overwhelms it and renders it useless."

"So you paid Dan Garrett to steal her work." Schanke asked.

Cal only nodded. "It wasn't for the money, you understand. I thought she had the cure. I only wanted to live. I only wanted others to live."

"And because of your actions, two people have died. " Nick said. And who knows how many vampires will die.

On the other side of the two way mirror, Nat and Reese watched the proceedings.

"Do we have to prosecute?" Nat asked.

"He was involved with two deaths." Reese said sadly. "I am going to recommend that he be released on his own recognizance. And if I know our court system, it's highly unlikely he'll ever even make it to trial."


Cal sat in his apartment and stared at the myriad of pill bottles in front of him. Behind him was a whoosh and a wave of air. He turned and stared into the fully vamped face of Lucien LaCroix.

"You have faced mortal justice and they have released you. Now you will face my brand of justice." He snarled.

"Who ... Who are you?" Calvin stammered as he attempted to get away from the specter.

"One of the damned. One of your damned. The search for a cure for your pathetic little virus has brought my people to their knees. How many deaths will be on your conscience, Doctor?" He spat. "A dozen? A hundred? A whole race? A race that dares not even speak its name. A race that cannot turn to medicine for help. They die ... Silently ... Invisibly ... Out of the light. I am their only voice. And my people cry out ..." He forcefully grabbed Calvin's neck as his fangs descended. " ... For revenge!"


Natalie and Nick walked into the morgue. LaCroix stood beside a sheet draped gurney.

"What are you doing here?" Natalie asked.

"I have brought you the fruits of your work. You claim that medicine is the be all and end all. It could not save your friend." He pulled the sheet back to reveal the corpse of Calvin Tucker. "Your medicine could not save Janette. Your medicine cannot save us. You are powerless."

"Why are you so angry?" She asked. "You're not sick."

"But you were sick. You had the fever too. I felt it." Nick said. "What happened?"

"I have looked death in the face this night, and I have called its bluff."

"You killed him. You drank his blood ... And you're not sick any more." Nat stared at Cal and then at LaCroix. "Of course. Ohmygawd. That's the answer. Cal said that HIV overwhelms the anti virus in the body."

"So. The killer is the cure." LaCroix smiled sinisterly. "How appropriate. His tainted blood will be our salvation. Come, Doctor. We have much work to do."


In the abandoned church, Tracy kept her vigil at Vachon's bedside.

Slowly, he opened his eyes. "Still here, Querida (Loved one)?" He whispered. "How long?"

"It's almost sunrise."

"You'd better go. I won't last another night."

She reached down and gently kissed him full on the mouth. It was a kiss filled with passion and sorrow. Quickly, before he could see the tears, she got up and ran out of the door.

Seconds later, Nick came in.

"Here to give me the last rites?" Vachon asked, a hint of a smile on his face.

"You were expecting a priest." Nick grinned. "I've got something better." He held up a syringe filled with the vaccine Nat and LaCroix had distilled from Calvin Tucker's blood. "Give me your arm."


The tombstone read Calvin Tucker. Natalie placed a sapling in the hole that Nick had dug.

"Nat. When LaCroix asked you why you were willing to save vampires you didn't answer him." Nick said as the tamped the dirt firmly around the roots.

"Why did I do it? There are those who believe that some people deserve to die. Some people believe that those like Calvin aren't worth saving. Who are they to decide? Who am I?"

In another part of the cemetery, Lucien LaCroix stood before the grave. He looked at the simple marker. All it said was 'Janette Du Charme - 1996' - Beloved. "Au Revoir, Mon Couer. (Goodbye, My Heart.)" He said as an unbidden tear rolled down his cheek. "Une partie de moi egalement est enterre ici. (A part of me is also buried here.)" He put his hand to his lips and then gently placed them on the marker.

At a small park by the lakefront, Vachon stamped the dirt firmly over the unmarked grave. "I told you I'd dance on your grave." He knelt and took a handful of the dirt and let it sift through his fingers. "Rest in peace, Screed." He said sadly. He stood up and opened a bottle of the Raven Special Blend and took a long drink. He poured the rest of the bottle over the freshly turned earth. "See you in Hell, Sailor." He said as the ground soaked up the red liquid.


Schanke paced in the loft as Nick and Nat sat on the couch. "You really should tell her." He said. "She's got a right to know. I mean if she could have come to one of us when Screed and Vachon got sick, maybe the outcome might have been a lot different."

"Maybe you're right, but it's still too dangerous for her to know about me and the rest of the Community." Nick replied. "It's bad enough that she knows about Vachon. What do you think the Enforcers would do if she knew about the rest of us."

"Think about it for a minute. Vachon nearly died. If that had happened, what do you think that would have done to Tracy? I mean, she would have had no one to turn to. No one to help her through the crisis. Is that fair to her? Is it?" Nat added.

"I'll think on it."


Nick smiled as he sat at his desk at the precinct. The past two months had been going great. Maybe getting shot and then nearly dying had its good side after all. He and Nat were starting to get closer. Although they hadn't tried any intimacy except for that one night, they were progressing farther and farther each time. They could now engage in considerable serious foreplay without the vampire making itself known. Eventually, though, he had to break it off because of the beast threatening to rear its ugly head.

Then there was LaCroix. If he found out ... He did not want to even think about that.

"Earth to Knight." Don Schanke called, waving his hands in front of the detective's face. "You in there, partner?"

"Sorry." Nick said, glancing down at the form he was supposed to be finishing. "I guess I was daydreaming ... again."

"I hope it was about the luscious Dr Lambert." He noted the silly grin on Nick's face. "Yep." He said to Tracy Vetter, seated across from them. "Twitterpated."

"Twitter ... what?" Tracy asked.

"Twitterpated. You remember. From the movie Bambi. When Thumper falls in love, Owl calls it twitterpated. I do believe our boy has got it in the worst way."

"Okay, kiddies." Reese said as he came out of his office. "Here's one right up your alley. A body by the tracks over on ... get this ... Lambert Avenue. Looks like it's been severely mutilated. Meet the Coroner over there.


" ... Severely doesn't even begin to describe this." Natalie Lambert said as the technicians wheeled the body bag to her. Male. Caucasian. Age probably somewhere between 30 and 35. So far a John Doe. No identification on the body. Time of death about twenty four to thirty six hours ago." She zipped open the bag. The victim was naked. From just the head and upper torso, Nick could count at least ten or more knife cuts. The eyes had been gouged out and huge chunks of the hair and the underlying flesh had been stripped away. It looked as though the man had been scalped. Nick turned quickly as he struggled to keep his fangs and eyes from turning. "His hands and feet have been mashed almost to a pulp and it appears that his heart was cut out as well." Nat continued. "I think I can say with reasonable accuracy that he wasn't killed here. Not nearly enough blood."

Nick casually put his fingers to his mouth as if to ask One of us? . Nat raised her shoulders imperceptibly. "Too soon to tell." She mouthed.

"You okay, Doc." One of the technicians asked as he rezipped the bag. He looked at Knight. "When she first saw the corpse, she lost it. Tossed her cookies big time." Then, looking at the Doctor, he continued. "Of course, I can't blame her. So did Officer Haroldson over there, and I nearly did it too. He pointed to a young woman who looked to be fresh out of the academy.

Officer Haroldson was talking to two teenage boys. She still had a slightly greenish cast in her coffee and cream skin. When she saw Nick, Tracy and Schanke approach, she saluted them and said. "These are the ones who found the body, Sir. This is Tom Parker and the other one is Giles Trenton."

"Thank you Officer." Nick said awkwardly returning her salute. Yes. A real rookie. Green as grass.

According to the boys, they were walking the tracks to Earlscourt Park when they saw a pack of dogs tearing at something under the bushes. When they investigated, they saw the body. They ran to the nearest house and called the police. They didn't see anyone or anything else in the area.


"I know I've seen some sickos in my time, but this one takes the cake." Schanke said as he and his partners came into the Coroner's Office.

"Who ... why ... " Tracy half mumbled.

"I can't give you a who." Nat told the detectives. "But I think I can give you a pretty good theory as to why." She lifted the sheet on the corpse. "Notice the cuts. At first they seem to be random, but if you examine them closely, there is a definite pattern to them. Here." She pointed to the cuts on the victim's cheeks. "The cuts are in groups of three. See. The ones on the end are relatively short while the middle ones are large. The same goes for the scalping. Three cuts. Two small ones and the middle large. Also, the manner of the mutilations. The head, the hands and feet, and the heart. These are the supposed seats of the emotions. The head to think. The heart to care. And the extremities to help. Also, it is very likely that the victim was alive for a good deal of the torture. My best guess is that this is a ritualistic murder."

"A cult?" Tracy asked.

"Either that or somebody's been practicing carving pumpkins a bit early." Schanke commented. For his efforts, he was rewarded with several wads of paper towel. "Hey. I was just making a little morgue humor there. Don't get all warped out. I know how serious this can be."

"Could those marks have been made by the dogs?" Nick asked.

"Not unless dogs can chew in a perfectly straight line three inches apart." Nat said as she moved the body into the cold room. "There are quite a few marks that I've positively identified as dog bites. But none of those are it."

The phone rang at the same time as three pagers beeped.

" ... Yes they're here." Natalie said to the dispatcher. "I'll pass it on to them." She hung up and turned to the trio. "It looks like we have another one. Avenue Rd. and McPherson. In the railroad underpass. Only this time it's a woman."


"Why do we get all the fun ones." Tracy said as she looked at the body. Nick could see the beginnings of a greenish tinge around her hairline. "I think I'll take a short walk." A few seconds later, there was the sound of retching the area where the cars were parked.

This one was even worse than the first. To Nick, as well as nearly everyone else, it was obvious that this one was fresh. Probably not more than twenty four hours old. In addition to the mutilations and the scalping, the woman's abdomen had been cut open and the intestines were lying outside the cavity. Soon, Natalie joined his partner behind the cars. Nick stared at Schanke. He looked like he was having a hard time keeping his food down too. Nick swallowed several times to keep his stomach in place and to fight back the vampire as well. It would be difficult to explain why he was vomiting blood.

Both Nat and Tracy looked pale and weak as they joined the others. Nat took several masks and a tube of wintergreen from her bag and passed them out to the assembled persons. "This will make it a little easier." She said as she slipped one of the masks on.


"This one's the same as the others." Nat said as she pulled the sheet over the body and signaled the technician to take it away. "In all probability the work of the same person."


"Nick, could I see you a minute." Nat said as they left the coroner's office. "I didn't want to say anything in front of the others, but I think this one might be the work of one of the Community."

"Are you sure?"

"Not completely. There aren't any animal bites or scratches on this one, but there are definite puncture marks on the underlying tissue beneath two of the cuts on the neck."

"This doesn't look like anything that any of the Community would do. Everyone knows better than to leave a body in the open. They know what the Enforcers would do. As well as LaCroix. I don't know which they fear more."

"What about a rogue? Maybe a nutcase who doesn't care?"

"I'll ask around." He kissed her gently on the forehead and went to join his partners.


"You had better catch whoever did this and you better catch him fast." Reese said to the three standing in his office. "Two grotesque killings in two days." He threw down a copy of one of the tabloids. The headline read 'Monster Mutilator Stalks Toronto Streets'. "The press is having a field day with this." He put a copy of the Sun on top. Its headline read 'Killer On The Loose.' "The Commissioner is having a bird. Get him yesterday. You hear me? Two days ago is not soon enough."

"We're doing everything we can, but we don't have anything to go on." Tracy explained.

"Then GET something to go on." The vein on the Captain's head stood out noticeably.


He carefully cut out the clippings and laid them in the box together with the pictures. Now maybe he could put his demons to rest. Now maybe they'll be satisfied. Just a few more and they'll be out of my life for good.


"We may just have our first break." Tracy said as she hung up the phone. "That was missing persons. They think they might have an ID on our John Doe. Two weeks ago, a report was turned in on a man who may match the victim. They're waiting now for the verifications come back."

"Shall we go talk to the people in missing persons, then?" Schanke said.

"Why not?" Nick replied. "It's better than sitting here twiddling our thumbs."


"Yeah." Dave Masters said, pulling a file from the stack on his desk. "When I saw the Coroner's report, something clicked." He handed the file to Schanke. "Verification just same in. Several partial fingerprints that Dr. Lambert managed to lift matched his US military records. Name's Boyd Turner. American. Age 36. Single. Came here for a holiday a month ago. He was supposed to go back to Boston three weeks ago. When he didn't return, the family contacted us. As far as we can tell, that's his itinerary while he was here." He pointed to the folder. "Nothing out of the ordinary, though. Saw the CN tower, did some shopping, and took a three hour tour of the lake. All that's on his credit card. Took a cab to the airport on the day he was supposed to leave. Never used his return ticket to Boston. Just dropped off the face of the earth after he got out of the cab. From the hotel and a few others that remembered him, there was nothing special about him. Pleasant. Friendly. Courteous. Mr. Everyman."

"You know we have to double check everything you told us." Tracy said.

"I know. You know it's sad. Someone like Turner shouldn't have had to die like that report says he did, while the scum who did it to him walks free."

Schanke put his hand on the detective's shoulder. "I agree. And we're going to do everything we can to see that he isn't walking around much longer."


Natalie relaxed as Nick's fingers massaged the knots along her shoulders. "M-m-m. I could get very used to this kind of treatment." She half purred. It was so rare that the two of them had days off together that they took every advantage of them. A movie played on the giant screen TV, but no one was watching it. They had spent most of the night exploring the limits of Nick's new found control.

"I was thinking the same thing." Nick said as he bent and kissed the top of her head. "You must admit. We've been taking some giant steps lately. I think maybe in a couple of weeks, we might be able to try for a little more intimacy again."

"You really think so?" A broad grin split her face. She remembered that night when he had come home from the hospital. It was the most fabulous experience she had ever had.

"I know you're going to blow a fuse at what I'm going to say, but I've been doing a little experimenting on my own."

"What kind of experimenting?" Nat sat up in the chair and turned to face him.

"Promise you won't get angry?"


"Okay. Do you remember the night after I was shot?"

"How could I forget."

"Well, I got to thinking. I had just come from the hospital where I had gotten several transfusions of whole human blood. Then, after I came back from the warehouse, you gave me more human blood. Each time it calmed me to the point where the vampire was very easy to control."

"What are you trying to say? That you've been drinking human blood again? Nick. I thought you realized that the blood is what has been keeping you from coming back across. How could you?" Her voice was going up several tones with each sentence.

"Not exactly whole blood. I've been mixing it fifty fifty with the cow. And I've been adding it to the protein shakes as well."

"Why didn't you say something to me? Don't you realize you're undermining everything we've been working for?" Nat was on her feet and up against his chest. Her face squarely into his.

"What if you are wrong? What if it isn't the blood that's keeping me from coming back? I've tried to stay away from it and all it got me was more out of control. At least since I've been drinking it, I'm able to be with you and do some of the things that I've only dreamed of doing. Doesn't that count for something?"

"Yes. It counts for something, all right. It tells me that you aren't interested in becoming human after all. That I've been wasting my time these past years. That maybe all you wanted was a good roll in the hay. Well, if that's the case, you can go roll with someone else." She grabbed her coat and was out of the door before Nick could gather his senses.


Tracy set her purse on her desk and threw her notebook onto the blotter pad. "I don't know about you, but I've just spent the evening interviewing everyone at every one of the tourist attractions in the city. Do you know how many there are? Of course you don't. Anyway, a lot of people remember him, but nobody remembers seeing anything suspicious about Boyd Turner. Like Masters said. He was a completely average man."

"That checks out with what I found. I just got off the phone with his sister." Schanke added. "He worked for an accounting firm, Bartus, Femmers, Prataer and Gooch. One of the best in the city. Did colonial interpretations at the Boston Commons on the weekends. Graduated from Boston College in the middle third of his class. Served a hitch in the Navy. Dated, but no one steady. According to the Boston Police, Turner didn't have so much as an unpaid traffic ticket. In fact, he was a supporter of their PAL program. Volunteered tutoring kids at the youth center. In other words, an all around good guy. His employers said much the same thing."

"So now what do we do?" Tracy said.

"I don't know about you, but I'm going to get me some lunch. Anybody want something? There's this new Italian restaurant that just opened up and ... " Schanke took a few steps back as his partners glared at him. "Okay. So I forgot. Tracy, you're on a diet, though I don't know why. And Nick has his ... food allergies. So just shoot me and get it over with."

"You said something about going to lunch. I don't think so." Reese put a crime report on Nick's desk. "I think that's number three."


Nick helped Tracy down the steep bank of the Moore Park Ravine. According to the report, a husband and wife who were collecting bottles and other trash from the ravine floor had spotted the body of a young boy. He was lying next to the small stream that emptied into the Don River not far from here. At first, the couple thought it was a doll, but when the husband went to investigate, they found the dead boy.

The child had been mutilated in the same manner as the other two victims, but somehow, on a child, the disfigurements seemed much more grotesque. The child could not have been much more than five or six at most. From his appearance, it was probable that he was one of the homeless kids. In addition to the heart, the scalping and the other mutilations, the boy's genitals had been amputated as well. From the condition of the body, it was fairly obvious that he had been dead only a few hours. Some of the wounds were still seeping and rigor mortis had only just begun. This time, Nick followed Tracy and Schanke and Dr. Lambert into the wooded area to empty the contents of his stomach.

"Do I have to ask what we have here?" Nick asked as he helped Natalie back to the crime site.

"Yes. DETECTIVE you have to ask." Natalie replied. Her voice could have frozen ice cubes. "It's part of your job. Just as it is my job to give you the details. "As you can plainly see. The victim is a male. Black. Probably six years old. His injuries are, from a preliminary inspection, similar to ones that were inflicted on the two previous victims. In my professional opinion, they were all killed by the same person."

"Natalie. I ... "

Natalie turned and followed the technicians removing the body before Nick could finish his sentence.

"What was that all about?" Schanke asked. "If I didn't know better, I'd swear that you were her worst enemy."

"Maybe I am." Nick said sadly. "Or maybe I'm my own worst enemy."


Carefully, he put the small heart into a plastic zipper lock bag and then placed it in the mini refrigerator with the others. The hair strips, he hung on the clothesline to dehydrate with the rest of the pieces. He mixed the blood he had collected with the others in the crystal decanter, just like they told him to do. He poured a small amount into a glass and carefully examined it under the light. Yes. The mixture was almost right. Just one more ingredient needed. He also put the bottle in the refrigerator. At this rate, in a few days, he would be ready. Then his demons would taunt him no more. All he needed was one more collaborator. This one would not be nearly as much trouble as the others.


"You got to have something to give me." Reese said to the trio standing before him. "The Commissioners are breathing down my shorts. They want results and they want them two weeks ago. You can't tell me that we have some nut case running around torturing and butchering men, women and little children and nobody in a city this size didn't see anything."

"I wish we did have something." Nick finally said, "But we don't know any more that we did when these killings started. We have an appointment with the profiler first thing tomorrow evening. Maybe he can give us an idea of who we are looking for and why he's doing what he does."

"I'm making this a priority. Drop everything else. If it'll help, I'll assign every free man to work on this one with you. This guy's gotta be stopped." Reese wiped his forehead with a handkerchief. "Now get out there and get me a killer."

"You mean we're going to let some psychic quack look in his crystal ball and tell us who the killer is?" Schanke said as they left the office. He moved his index finger around his ear. "We really are getting desperate, aren't we?"

"No." Tracy corrected. "We're going to a profiler. He is a highly trained professional who has made a thorough study of the criminal mind. From what I understand, Dr. Jannings is one of the in the business."


Ron Jannings shuffled the papers into a neat stack on his desk. The desk, like everything in the office was white glove neat and orderly. Already, Schanke hated him. I bet he color codes and cross indexes the things in his trash can, too.

"I'm afraid we don't have much more to tell you than we already have." Tracy was saying. "I hope that's enough to give you some idea about our killer."

"Fortunately, I do have more than just what you told me." Jennings said, pulling a folder from the stack. I have here the reports from the witnesses, the officers on the scene, the Forensics and the Coroner's report. This, combined with what you have said gives me a reasonably good picture of what the killer is."

"And what is that?" Schanke said. He stared at the wastebasket at the side of the desk. Instead of being crumbled, each paper in it was folded neatly in quarters and stacked on the top of the others. He's probably anal retentive, too.

"Your killer is in all probability is very intelligent. Only someone with a high degree of knowledge, if not actual experience, could perform the surgery necessary to do the things he has done. That means he probably works, or has worked, in a hospital or some other medical facility. He is possibly a loner, with few, if any, friends. He most likely has an inferiority complex as well. That is one of the reasons they do what they do. For attention, and to exercise control over their victims."

"How do you know it's a he?" Tracy asked

"While it could be a woman, it is highly doubtful a woman could carry a man the size of Boyd Turner with the ease and speed necessary to dump him in the bushes at Earlscourt Park and leave without being seen. Or put the woman's body in that culvert. He would have to be well above average height and weight. Either that, or he works out with heavy weights on a regular basis."

Or he is a vampire. "Go on." Nick said. Leaning forward. So far, the profiler had not said anything that would rule out a vampire.

"From the methodology in his killings, he is probably heavy into the occult, and possibly belongs to one or more of the fringe cults. He also probably is an obsessive-compulsive. Each of his killings follows the same pattern as the one before it with one added element. Most likely he has sought psychiatric help of some sort for his problems.

He definitely lives alone, probably in some rural area. Since the killings did not take place where the bodies were found and since the victims were tortured before they died, he would need some place isolated to keep them without being discovered."

"So how do we find this bozo?" Schanke asked. He could be describing himself.

"That, Detective Schanke, is your job. I just describe them. You have to catch them."


"Blood and guts. Gore and death. More appropriate for Halloween than for now." Lucien LaCroix whispered seductively into the microphone. "But then, my children, man has always had a fascination with the morbid. He has always been drawn to the ... how shall I put it ... darker side of his nature. Why?"

The Nightcrawler paused and took a sip of his drink. He let it slide down his throat. After just the right amount of silence, he continued. "Why, indeed do we hang on every fact of a grisly and vile murder. The bloodier the better. Is it because we secretly admire the perpetrator of these deeds." Another long pause. "Is it because that person is doing things that the so called average man can only dream about in his worst nightmares.

Think on it, mes enfants. We decry the acts as the workings of a madman, yet at the same time we devour the tabloids and newscasts for every shred of fact or theory about these very same acts. We condemn them as warped and unnatural. Yet, animals in the wild commit these same violent acts every day and no one thinks any less of them for it. Could it be that man has not strayed as far from his evolutionary roots as he would like to think?" He smiled his usual sadistic grin. "I am the Nightcrawler. You can be safe with me. I will never cause you pain."

Nick was at the bar when LaCroix left the studio. "I take it this is not a social call, Nicholas. But then, none of your visits are social in nature are they." He took a sip of the glass that Miklos set in front of him. He motioned for the bartender to bring one for his son. He was only mildly surprised when Nick took a sip. "Ah. You are drinking human blood again I see. Does that mean you are returning to your true place in society?"

"No." Nick answered flatly. "It means that I drink human blood from time to time. I haven't given up my quest to be mortal. And yes, this is business." He took another sip of the bloodwine. "I need to know if there are any new vampires in town."

"Why the sudden interest in tourists?"

'Because I suspect that a vampire is behind the mutilation killings that have been taking place recently."

"Nicholas. You know better than that. Every vampire knows better than to leave his kills where they can be easily discovered. They know that sooner or later, I will find out. They do not want that. Trust me, they would fare better at the hands of the Enforcers than at mine. At least the Enforcers will make it quick and relatively painless."

"What about a rogue or an orphaned newbie. A lot of them were brought across by the vampire's need for blood during the fever. When their masters died, they were left on their own."

"I know that. You don't have to give me a history lesson." He snapped. "I was there. Remember." For a brief second, anguish flooded his face as flashes of Janette raced through the elder vampire's mind.

He took a long sip from his drink. Almost immediately, his mask of indifference slid into place. "Most of the new ones died too, if not from the fever, from ignorance of our ways. The Enforcers had to deal with a few of them as well. I haven't heard anything about any of the survivors going rogue. I will, however, keep my eyes and ears open for any unusual activity." He drained his glass. "Now, if you will excuse me, the tape is almost finished and I have a radio show to finish. Do come back soon, Nicholas, and we shall have a father to son talk." He patted Nick on the cheek. " It is long overdue."

A low throbbing sound escaped from Nick's throat.

Do not growl at me in that tone of voice. LaCroix shot as he entered the booth.


Nick stopped at the door to the Coroner's office. He swallowed to ... to what, he didn't know. If he didn't know better, he would have sworn he had butterflies in his stomach. There shouldn't be any reason for them. He told himself. All he was going to do was explain about the blood. After all, she was a rational, mature, professional, adult. She'd understand. Wouldn't she. He rubbed his hands together. It surprised him that they were sweaty. He wiped them on his jeans, but it didn't seem to do much good. Even though they were now technically dry, his palms still felt wet. Hesitantly, he knocked lightly on the door.

"Come in." Nat said from the other side.

Slowly, he opened it, not knowing what to expect.

For a brief second, Nat had a broad smile as she saw Nick come in, but the professional Doctor Lambert face quickly replaced it. "How can I help you, Detective." She said crisply. "I don't have the complete workup on the boy yet, but here is what I have." She pulled a file from her desk and handed it to him.

"Nat. That's not what I came for." He said softly. "We have to talk."

"What is there to talk about. You said it all the other night. You are drinking human blood again. You started without even having the consideration and respect to tell me. Nothing you can say or do can possibly erase that. How do you think that makes me feel? You acted as you always do. You did what YOU wanted to do. Everyone else be damned. You betrayed my trust in you, Nick. You betrayed me. You betrayed us. How do you think you can talk your way out of that?"

"It's not like that." He said softly. He reached for her hand, but she pulled it away before he could grasp it. "Nat ... Don't ... "

"Don't what, Nick? Don't believe everything you say? Don't keep looking for a cure you obviously don't want? Don't let myself care? What? What do you want of me, Nick?" She quickly walked to the other side of the room and busied herself with sorting the various instruments that lay on the sink drain.

I want to love you like you deserve to be loved. "I want to be human again. I want that with all my heart. We have tried every other way to reverse the vampire, and so far nothing is working. If I am to be near you at all, I have to maintain control. The only way I can control the beast, though, is the very way you can't accept."

"But you were making such good progress. Before the shooting, you were in control. You could do so many things." She tried desperately to keep her voice on a cold professional level. It was hard. Tears were threatening to well up in her eyes.

Nick shook his head slowly. "No. It only seemed that way. Tell me this, Nat. How many times did we kiss? I don't mean just a peck on the cheek. I mean a real passionate kiss? How many times did we hold each other and caress each other. How many times, Nat, how many times did we make love?"

"I ... "

"And how many times have we been able to be with each other since the shooting. I haven't given up, Nat. I ... I just wanted to try another way. Maybe going cold turkey isn't the answer. Maybe the secret is to wean the blood slowly, so my system has a chance to adjust." He put his hands on her shoulders. This time she did not pull away. She still stood with her back to him, though. "Think about it, Nat. Just think on it. Please. Call me when you're ready. I'll be here." He quickly kissed the top of her head and in a whoosh of air, he was gone.

"I'll try. I promise." Nat whispered. It was hard to talk with her throat choked with silent sobs.


"What's the matter, honey." Grace Balthazar put her arms around her boss and friend, and drew her into her more than ample bosom. "You look like you just lost your last friend."

"I may have." Nat sobbed as the floodgates opened.

"Is this because of Nick?" Grace asked.

"Yes ... No ... I don't know ... It's because of something he did ... Something I did ... I've lost him." Nat said between heart rending sobs. "I've lost him ... "

"I doubt that. I've seen the way you two look at each other. If ever I saw pure unadulterated love, it's in your eyes when you look at each other. Whatever happened, I know that the two of you can work it out."

"I don't know if we can work this out. I felt that he had betrayed me, and I reacted. I went completely off the deep end. I bit his head off for no good reason. Then, to make it worse, He came in a little while ago and tried to apologize and I bit his head off again. I don't know what's the matter with me. Any other time, We'd have just sat down and talked this thing through." She wiped her face on the towel that her assistant handed her. "Grace, my whole world is unraveling and I don't know how to put it back together again."

"Honey, you've had a pretty hard time of it the past few months. What with the plane crash, and then there was that haunted house murder ... I wasn't even there and it gave me the heebee jeebees. Then with Nick being shot, and now these gruesome murders ... Maybe you just need some time off."

"Maybe you're right."

"No maybe's about it. You've been working nonstop the past few weeks and it's getting to you. It looks like a light night. I know you've got tons of personal leave time built up. Why don't I book you off and you start taking some of that time right now. Go home and cuddle Sidney, pour yourself a large cup of hot chocolate, put on your favorite Barry Manilow CD, and lose yourself in a good deep tub of hot bath water."

"But I ... "

"Don't argue with your Auntie Grace, girl. Grab your coat and go."

"I've got to finish the autopsy report on Little Boy Doe before ... "

"No you don't. You've already finished the autopsy and done the preliminaries. In case you've forgotten, I'm a pretty good hunt and peck typist. I can transcribe your notes from the tape recordings of the procedure, and I really shouldn't be telling you this, but I can sign your name better than you can. Now, get out before I drag you out bodily."

"That's no secret." Nat said as she put her coat on. "I've known you were the one who has been signing my name to most of the requisitions ... and the leave requests, for the last eight years."

"And you didn't say anything?"

"Why should I? You saved me a from a lot of tedious paperwork in that time." She said with a sly grin. "Besides it's a piss poor assistant who can't forge her boss's name. See you tomorrow." She called as she headed out the door.

"Better make that sometime next week." Grace called after her. "In case you don't know it, you just put in for a week's leave. The paperwork will be on the Director's desk in the morning. All signed and sealed with all the I's dotted and all the T's crossed."


He hid in the bushes as the man walked his dog. Yes, that one will do perfectly. A magnificent Chocolate Labrador Retriever. Strong. Fearless. Efficient. Perfect. He put the whistle to his lips. Although he knew the dog would hear it, the man would not. He watched in satisfaction as the retriever broke from the man's side and headed to the bushes. He kept a steady blow on the whistle.


"You want your killer." The Enforcer said to Nick. It was the one of Middle Eastern descent. How he got into the loft, Nick did not know, and what's more, he did not want to know.

"Then it is a vampire."

The Enforcer nodded.

"You can give him to me?"

"No. But I can tell you this. He will be dealt with."

"Can you at least tell me who he is?"

"I can do that. I do not know what name he is using now, but his original name was Almahar."

"If you know who he is, why can't you stop him."

The Enforcer smiled ever so briefly. "If only it were that easy. He is an extremely old and powerful vampire. Rumor has it that he may be one of the firsts. In addition, before he turned rogue, he was one of us for over a thousand years. We have been close to apprehending him several times, but each time he manages to disappear just as we are about to close in. In a sense, he is somewhat like you. After more than five thousand years, he does not want to be a vampire any more."

"But the killings ... "

"He believes that the means to reversing the effects lies in the black arts. He has made a pact with the dark forces. He is to bring them the essences of innocents, and in return, they will release him from his torment. The other times, we managed to close in on him after only one or two kills. This time, though he is much more clever than we realized."

"You think he will succeed?"

"I don't know. Somehow, I feel that even if he does succeed in ridding himself of the vampire, he will only take on a more powerful evil. We cannot allow this to happen."

"Why are you telling me this?"

"Eight hundred years ago, my name was Irahem Al Membari. I was a soldier in the Ninth Saracen Brigade. I was seriously wounded after a skirmish with the Infidels. My own companions had fled, leaving me to die. A young knight named Nicholas de Brabant took pity on me and bound my wounds. He left food and medicines with me before he rode off to join his company. I am only repaying that kindness."


"I understand what you are saying, Detective Vetter." The voice on the other end of the phone line was saying. "I know that animal deaths aren't the problem of the Homicide Division, but I think you should come to my office just the same. I think this one might be connected to your case."

"How do you know that, Dr. Harris?" Tracy asked. The call was from the owner of a veterinary hospital in Cresentwood Park area.

"When I saw what was done to this dog, I called the SPCA. They referred me to ... Anyway, it's a long story. Just come out here and you'll see for yourself."

"Okay. I'll be there in about a half hour." She said as she jotted down the address.


Tracy blanched as she saw the corpse of the dog. Not only had the dog been mutilated much the same manner as the others, his tail had been chopped off as well.

"I was running with Hersh in the park yesterday about nine PM." Josh Banner, the dog's owner said. His wife and two young sons were all holding on to each other tightly. "We do it every night. All of a sudden, he bolted toward some bushes down by the lake. I thought maybe he had spotted a rabbit or something and decided to chase it. He is a hunting dog, after all. Well, when he didn't come back in a few minutes, I went looking for him. I couldn't find him and it was getting late, so I went home. We had been to the park enough times that I figured he knew his way back home.

When he didn't come back by this evening, I came Back to the park looking for him. Everybody was searching for him. My wife. My kids. The neighbors. That's when I found ... " His voice cracked slightly. "I've had him since he was a puppy. Ask anybody. He was the friendliest, gentlest ... Hersh is ... was ... like one of my kids. They're devastated. Who would want to ... "

Tracy put her arm around the grieving owner and his family. "We'll find whoever did this. I promise you."


Almahar added the blood to the carafe and put the heart and the other organs with the rest. His task was complete. Now all he had to do was to call upon those that had promised him release and he would be rid of the demons of vampirism forever. He opened the ancient book and began to recite the incantations.


LaCroix watched as his son approached the bar and ordered a glass of Raven Finest. This was highly unusual. Two visits in as many days. Something was up. Maybe it involved Dr. Lambert. He had heard through his sources that Nick and the Doctor were not on the friendliest terms lately. Maybe this would be an opportunity to bring the wayward vampire back into the fold where he belonged.

"To what do I owe the pleasure of this visit, Nicholas." He said as he put his hand gently on the detective's shoulder. "I sincerely hope that this time it's pleasure and not any more of your dreary business."

"Almahar." Nick replied, taking a sip from his glass.


"You heard me. I didn't mumble. What do you know about a vampire named Almahar?" He said.

"Why do you want to know. Do you think he is involved in these slayings?"

"Then you do know him."

"I do not think you should go there, to quote the current idiom." LaCroix swallowed and for a fraction of a second there was almost a look of panic. He took a deep breath and his stony impassive expression returned.

"Why not?"

"Let us say that he is a member of one of the most powerful families in the vampire world. Even I would be hesitant to meddle in their affairs. Let this drop. Trust me. It will be far better for all of us if you are not connected in any way with any of this."

"He has killed ... no, he has butchered ... three people here in Toronto and who knows how many more elsewhere. I cannot just walk away from this. Either as a policeman ... or as a vampire."

"You will do as I say!" LaCroix seethed. "Since when did you consider doing anything as a vampire! Drop this line of questioning, Nicholas ... DROP IT IMMEDIATELY!" He stared at Nick with feral eyes and his fangs showed beneath his lips

"Or ... what." Nick said coldly. His countenance matched his Master's

"JUST ... DO ... IT!" LaCroix spun on his heel and strode away.


He watched in awe as the yellow clouds swirled around the makeshift altar. He had set the items on it as the book instructed. Now, all his work was paying off. Although the odor was choking to his sensitive nose, he continued to chant the mantra again and again. Suddenly, there was a piercing wailing sound, as of banshees singing their tale of woe. It was accompanied by a harsh wind, even though there was no windows in the basement room that he had set up. Suddenly, the candles that had been placed in a pentagram around the table went out, throwing the room into pitch blackness. Even his ultra-perceptive eyes could not penetrate it.

Out of the darkness came a voice that froze even his cold heart. "Why have you summoned me?" The voice asked.

"To rid myself of this curse." He replied. "Can you show yourself to me?"

"When you are ready." The voice replied. "You will see all."

"I am ready. I have done all that you require." He pointed to the platform where he had laid out the things he had collected. "I have gathered the hearts of innocents and have mingled their bloods." He pointed to the crystal goblet that stood in the middle of the hearts.

"Excellent. There is only one more thing that is needed and you shall be free of your torment forever."

"I have done all that you have commanded. I have lived up to my end of the bargain. Now it is time for you to live up to yours."

"Do not presume to tell me what I must do." The voice commanded.

"Then what is the other thing I have to do."

"I need the essence of one of your kind. One who is pure and righteous."

"A pure and righteous vampire?" Almahar laughed. "There is no such thing."

"There is, and you must bring him to me. Then can you be free of your vampire curse."


Irahem was waiting for him as he returned to the loft.

"You've found Almahar?" Nick asked the Enforcer.

"Not yet. You will help us locate him."

"Me? If the Enforcers cannot find him, how do you think I can."

"Because he needs you."

"He needs me? For what? How do you know that?"

"I cannot go into too many details. Perhaps I shouldn't even be telling you this much. I feel that I can trust you. I need you to give me that same trust."

Nick shook his head slightly. "I'm sorry I ... "

Irahem smiled slightly. "I understand your reluctance. For centuries, you have been taught by your Master, and by experience, to fear and dread the Enforcers. Now, one of them is asking you to trust him and even place yourself in jeopardy. And without even so much as a pertinent reason. I know it is a stretch of credibility, but trust me. There is no other way to apprehend Almahar, and we will do everything in our power to see that everything turns out for the best."

"You are right. It is a stretch. But, if you are certain there is nothing else that can be done ... Yes, I will help you. What do you want me to do?"

"Nothing. If my information is correct, he will be coming for you shortly. You will allow him to capture you and then we can follow him to his lair and deal with him there."

"There is one more thing I must do. I need a small sample of your blood."


"This will create a temporary bond. I can use that to find you wherever you are. Are you willing to let me do this?"

Nick nodded.

Irahem gently pulled Nick's neck to the side and carefully slid his fangs into the carotid artery. It was one of the most exotic experiences that Nick had ever had. It was nothing like when LaCroix fed from him. No pain. No fear. Just ... just what, he did not know, but he knew he wanted more. After a few sips, he withdrew. In the next instant, he was gone.


"Anything more on any of our victims ... or the killer?" Tracy asked as Don Schanke came to his desk.

"We may have a lead on the boy. Reverend White at the Faith mission called Missing Persons about a Theodore Wobert. He seems to match the description of our Little Boy Doe. Neither he nor his mother have been to the mission in several days. Could be that they have moved on to greener pastures. Or he could be the boy lying in our morgue. By the way, where's the ever popular Detective Knight?"

"Called in sick. Something about the flu."

"Flu, huh. Okay, I'll buy that. Well, let's go talk to Reverend White. Maybe he might be able to shed a little light on the case."


Almahar watched the loft. Of course! It had to be him! The one that they call the Community Joke. A vampire who no longer killed. A vampire who defended and protected the mortals. The innocents. It would not take much to lure him into the equation. After all, if the tabloids were right, he was seeking the person who had committed those so called 'Monster Murders' wasn't he? All this poor fool needed was one clue and he would be the final part of the spell. He took out a cell phone and dialed the loft number.


Reverend Richard White looked at the computer reconstructed picture of Little Boy Doe. "Yes." He said sadly. "That's Teddy. He ... he was such a sweet little kid. Always helping. Always had a smile for everybody. It's hard to believe that anybody would want to hurt him, let alone do anything like what you said was done. Do you know what he told me the last time I saw him?"

"No, what?" Tracy asked. She wasn't absolutely sure she wanted to know.

"He said that he wanted to be a minister when he grew up. So he could help people just like I do." The cleric's voice broke and he wiped the tears that had started flowing down his cheeks.


"This is Nick Knight." The answering machine kicked in. "I'm either in bed or incommunicado. Leave a message. I'll get back to you."

"You want your killer." The voice said. "I'll ... "

"Who is this?" Nick said as he hurriedly picked up the phone. This could be Almahar ...

"A concerned citizen." The voice replied. "Meet me at the corner of Lawrence and Chedington in twenty minutes. I'll give you everything you need to find him." The next thing Nick heard was the dial tone.

He shook his head. Lawrence and Chedington was on the York University campus. By car, he could never make it in less than twenty minutes. He rose to the skylight and stepped out on the roof. Carefully, he searched the streets below. No one was anywhere in sight. Swiftly, he took to the air.

Almahar watched as Nick took off. In a flash, he was behind him. It only took him seconds to catch up with the flying detective. He reached into his pocket and took out a syringe. As he drew alongside his prey, he plunged the hypodermic into Nick's back and pressed the plunger.

Nick felt the stab of pain in his back. Before he could react, he felt a burning sensation as the contents of the syringe emptied into him. Within seconds, the world around him started to weave and swim. He vainly attempted to steady himself while he searched for a place to land. It was useless. As the drug took effect, he felt himself falling. The last thing he remembered before the green darkness enveloped him was the top of the telephone pole rising up to meet him.


Slowly, the greenness dissipated. A blur stood before him. As he worked to focus his eyes, the blur coalesced into a shape. A man. Or, more rightly, a vampire. The cold air brushed over him and he was aware that he was naked. He tried to move, but his arms and legs were securely bound with heavy chains to some sort of table. He pounded it as best he could. A metallic thwang told him it was a metal examining table similar to the ones that Nat had in the morgue.

"You are awake." The figure said. "I was worried that I might have miscalculated the dosage."

"What did you ... "

"Curare. Full strength."

"Where am I?" Nick managed to mumble. His mouth felt like it was stuffed with cotton balls.

"That is not important, Nicholas de Brabant. You are going to help me return from the world of darkness. I know you can appreciate my wanting to cast off this burden. I would like to say that I could help you do the same, but unfortunately, that will not be possible. You see, to help me return, I need your essence. As you must comprehend, that will mean that I must kill you."

"Like you killed the others." It was not a question.

"Yes. And to make the potion work, your essence must be pure." He took out a scalpel and made a slit in Nick's abdomen about a foot long. "You must suffer. It is only through suffering that any vestiges of impurity can be purged from your system. You understand, don't you? The others understood this."

Nick gritted his teeth as a wave of pain shot through him. The vampire, it could only be Almahar, made a second and then a third incision on either side of the first, each one smaller, but parallel to the first one three inches apart.

Irahem. Where are you!

Almahar smiled evilly. " It is useless to think your Enforcer friends will try to save you. Yes, I know that you agreed to help them find me. I took the liberty of sampling a small bit of your blood. I am far more powerful than you can imagine. I can easily hide my presence from them. I have outwitted them many times before, and I will outwit them now." He made another slit in his scalp. "Even if they do manage to trace me, in a few minutes, it will be too late. You will be dead, and I shall be rid of the accursed vampire forever. "

Nick screamed as the madman tore a strip of skin from his head.

Almahar took a small dish and held it tightly to the end of the incision. He watched with glee as Nick's blood filled the pan. "On second thought, I think I will keep you alive. I think I shall let my benefactor have the pleasure of finishing you." He added the blood to the goblet on the altar.

Almost immediately, the noxious yellow smoke filled the room, and as before, the wind blew out the candles. A figure, grotesque and misshapen, appeared out of the smoke. He had a man's head and torso and the lower part of either a goat or a bull. Out of his head curled two huge horns. He looked exactly like the classic pictures of the devil.

Almahar threw himself to the ground before the demon.

"You have done well." The monster said. "Now I shall keep my end of our bargain. You shall be free of the vampire forever."

"Thank you, I shall be eternally grateful to you."

"Your gratitude is appreciated ... And it will be for all of eternity. However, there is more to the bargain than you realize. You are free of the vampire, but for releasing you, you will remain in service to my Master until the end of time."

"Your Master? But I thought you were ... "

"Satan?" The fiend laughed evilly. "Of course not! Did you really think you were important enough to attract his attention? I am only one of his lowly minions. As you will be also."

The man beast turned to where Nick was laying. Slowly, he walked toward him. "I see you have brought me a present. Nicholas de Brabant." He ran his claw like fingernail along Nick's cheek. "I had you once, but you managed to use that ... priest to exorcise me. That shall not happen this time. This time you shall be mine."

"As if I'd let you!" Nicholas managed to growl. The pain of the cuts and the scalping had brought the vampire to the fore.

"Ah, yes. You would be a problem. Even if I did possess you again, you would probably walk us both into the sun."

"But I shall not let that happen." Irahem and three other Enforcers stepped out of the shadows.

Immediately, the monster turned to the three. "You pathetic beings really think you are powerful enough to overcome me?" He sneered. "Come. Give it your best shot."

"Maybe individually we cannot best you, but the three of us together can bring you down." Irahem said.

"The four of us." Nick managed to say. "Bond with me again. I defeated him once, I can help you defeat him again."

There is no need. The bond is still in place. Irahem sent.

The three positioned themselves in a circle around the monster. At an unsaid signal, they attacked. The fight was quick and bloody. Within minutes, two of the Enforcers were dead and Irahem was seriously injured.

"You have defeated them." Another voice said from the shadows. "Now it is my turn." Etrian stepped to face the creature. A look of horror covered the fiend's face and he backed away. Etrian continued to press. Slowly, the beast thing retreated. Etrian held out his hands. "Return to where you came from." The Ancient intoned. "And tell your Master that he has no power here."

The dark spirit growled something under his breath. Then the sulfur cloud surrounded him. Seemingly from out of nowhere, there was a hurricane force wind and then darkness. When Nick's eyes managed to adjust to the infinitesimal amount of light, the being was gone.

Etrian quickly went to Irahem and examined him. The Ancient bit into his wrist and let his blood drip into the Enforcer's mouth. Seconds later, Irahem coughed and sputtered. "He is injured, but he will heal." He said to Nicholas.

With one motion he pulled the restraints that held Nicholas to the table. Carefully, he lifted the vampire to his neck. The Ancient's blood called to him like nothing else had. "You need more intensive treatment." He said as Nick's fangs pierced his throat.

Nick's head spun with the images that flowed from the elder vampire to him. Just when he thought he could not absorb any more, Etrian pulled him away. Most of his injuries had already healed, and those that had not, would be healed shortly.

"Help me!" From the floor a small unsteady voice called out.

Etrian ran to the figure and knelt beside him. "I am here, my brother." He lovingly lifted the former vampire's head to his lap. Before his eyes, his thick black hair began to turn gray, then to thin and turn white. His face lost its elasticity as wrinkles lined the once supple countenance. Carefully, Etrian brushed the thin fragile wisps of white hair from the wrinkled brow.

"I don't want to die." Almahar croaked. "Help me to live." He looked into Etrian's face, pain showed in his rheumy, cataract clouded eyes.

Etrian only shook his head slowly as the man took a gurgling breath and went limp. Within seconds, the flesh and bone shriveled and then slowly disintegrated into nothing but a pile of ashes.

"Your brother?" Nick asked.

"My brother. Both as a person as well as a vampire. We were together from the moment of conception. Our mother was Elmathea, daughter of Pemerth, and granddaughter of Jepeth. We never knew who our father was. We knew we were different almost from the start. We have been as you see me as long as I can remember. We traveled together for over a thousand years. Then, Almahar began to use his powers against other mortals. I could not condone his acts and we went our separate ways.

I have not seen or heard from him in over five hundred years. When Irahem told me that he was the one that was doing the killings I did not believe him. He was my brother, after all. He could not have sunk so low. I did not act. I was wrong, and because of that disbelief, too many mortals have died."

He reached down and picked up a small handful of the ashes from the floor. He sifted it through his fingers into the goblet that sat on the altar. Reverently, he picked it up and drank from it.

"Theese innocents shall not have died in vain." He said to Nick. "Their lives and their memories shall be a part of me. My brother and I have been apart too long. Now we are one again." He drained the glass. "If you don't mind." He said to Nick and Irahem. "I want to be alone for a while."

The two left the Ancient standing before the altar.


LaCroix approached the bar. His anger barely suppressed. How DARE he sit there calmly sipping his drink.

Etrian saw the master vampire as he entered the room. There would be angry words, of that he was certain. He was correct.

"You put my son's life in danger." LaCroix said as calmly as he could. "I want to know why."

"It was necessary." The Ancient replied, taking a small sip of the maroon drink. "This is an excellent vintage. You have exquisite tastes."

"Do not change the subject. Why did you use Nicholas as bait? Without my permission and without even having the courtesy to inform me of your plans."

"In case you haven't noticed. Nicholas is of age and the mission was carried out with his permission. There was no need to either inform you or get your so called permission. My I have another drink?"

LaCroix's eyes became cold as ice as he motioned for Miklos to bring the Ancient another glass of his private blend. "I do not tolerate ... outsiders ... coming into MY city and usurping MY authority." He said with barely controlled anger.

"I ... Do ... Not ... Care." Etrian said, matching LaCroix's anger "What I did was necessary and essential in order to rectify the situation." He took the full goblet that Miklos offered. "Thank you." He said to the bartender. "You are most kind." He placed the full glass in front of LaCroix. "I have things I must do." He rose and picked up a small alabaster jar that had been sitting beside him on the bar and headed to the door, followed by his Enforcer bodyguards.


"A vampire?" Don Schanke asked. "You're sure he's the one doing all the killings?" Nick had phoned him after he returned to the loft. "So what do we do now?"

"Now, we try to identify the woman." Nick replied. "Then we continue as though we are looking for something. I have a list of some of the other cities where Almahar tried to reverse the spell. We put that into the record, and when there are no more murders, everyone will assume that the murdered moved on."

"Sheesh, Nick. I don't like to do that. What will the Captain say? What will Tracy say if we just give up."

"You don't know how many times this has happened before, Schank. I'll bet you a third of our unsolveds in the last six years are because of vampires."

"Okay. I'll accept that, but I don't have to like it. To change the subject completely, how are you and the lovely Doctor Lambert doing?"

"None of your business." Nick growled. "And I'll thank you to keep your meddling nose out of it."

"Nick. Look. I'm only trying to be a fiend. If ever there were two people who ...'

"I said ... BUTT OUT!"

"Are we being a wee bit testy?" Schanke said.

"If you had been through the kind of day I had, you'd be a bit ... testy ... too. Now leave me alone. I need to relax."

The next sound Schanke heard was the phone being slammed to the receiver.


"Are you sure this will work?" Grace Balthazar asked the Detective as she handed him the Ebertz autopsy reports.

"It almost has to." Schanke answered. "We've tried everything else to get those two together. I know Nick was in a world of hurt when I talked to him yesterday. I think it's because of the situation. What kind of friends would we be if we let them continue like this? Now you know what you have to do."

"We've been over it three times already."

"Good. Then I'm going to head over to the loft. You call me there when you have your end set up."

********** Schanke looked slack jawed at the scene before him. The TV was on and a soundless line of credits were rolling off the screen. The place was littered with green bottles, and a few brown ones as well. In addition, there were a dozen or so cans of Molson Premium in and around the trash can. Most of them were empty. Nick lay sprawled half on the recliner, half on the floor. He clutched a nearly empty bottle in his hand.

Carefully, Schanke approached his partner. He grabbed at the bottle out of Nick's hand just as it was about to drop.

"GIVE THAT BACK!" Nick snarled as he made a half hearted swipe for the bottle.

Schanke took a sniff of the bottle. It was obvious that the blood was generously cut with whiskey. From the smell, a very cheap whiskey at that. "Whew!" He said, curling his nose at the odor. "How many of these have you had?"

"Not nearly enough." After several tries, Nick managed to pull himself into something vaguely resembling a sitting position. "Now, give it back." He growled.

"And I think you've had a few too many." Schanke took the bottle into the kitchen and poured the remains into the sink.

"You're playing with fire, Schanke." He growled and let his fangs drop. With a great effort, he managed to stand, weaving very noticeably. He reached for the back of the chair for support.

"And you're not playing with a full deck." Don put his index finger on his partner's chest and gave a push. The vampire slumped back into the chair. "In the shape you're in, even Jenny could get the best of you."

Nick growled and made a sort of wobbly lunge for the detective. Schanke easily sidestepped and Nick landed on the floor with a loud thud.

Shaking his head, Schanke reached under his partner's shoulders and attempted to lift him, but the vampire was passed out cold. After several futile efforts, Schanke returned the figure to the floor 175 pounds of dead weight vampire is too much for me. .

"C'mon. Nicky boy. Snap out of it." Don said as he attempted to roll the vampire onto his back. After a few tries, he succeeded, only to have Nick return to the prone position. Finally, Don sighed and gave up. "If that's what you want, that's what you're gonna get." He said as he began to pick up the mess and clean the area. He had to step over the sprawled vampire several times to do it.

After a half hour, Nick showed no signs of recovering.

"I know it works for mortals, and it better work for him, too." He mumbled as he went into the kitchen and took a glass off the counter. He held it under the faucet. He took out the cross he always kept under his shirt and put it prominently on his chest ... Just in case ... Then, he took the glass and slowly poured it over the prone figure on the floor. He quickly took several steps back as Nick began to stir.

"Qu'arrive? Est-ce que quelqu'un a recu le numero de ce train? (What happened? Did anybody get the number of that train?)" Nick groaned, holding his head.

"Nick. Nick. You all right?" Schanke said, still keeping his distance.

"Schanke? Est-ce que cela vous est? (Schanke? Is that you?)" Nick held tightly to his head.

"If you don't start talking English, I'm gonna leave you on the floor just like that."

"Sorry ... Hard ... Thimk ... Englilsh. Let alone ... shpleak." He made no effort to get up, just continued to hold his head.

"Are you hung over?"

"Is that what thish ish?" He mumbled. His tongue felt as though it was crazy glued to the roof of his mouth.

"C'mon, pal." Schanke made another attempt to rouse the drunken vampire. "Give me a little help here."

"What do jeyou wanpt me to do-o-o." Nick said as he alternately helped / fought his partner's efforts to put him on his feet.

"I think the first thing we ought to do is get you into a cold shower." He said as he not too successfully guided the weaving person toward the guest bathroom. There was no way he was even going to try to get him upstairs to the master bath.

"You know ... Sc-h-h-ank ... Donny ... you're the ... besht ... partin-her I effver had." Nick slurred as he laid his head on Don's shoulder. "Je vraiment ... vraiment vous aime. Vous me comprenez. (I really ... really like you. You understand me.)" He patted the detective's cheek tenderly.

"I don't know what you just said, but if you try to kiss me, I'm gonna stake you where you stand." Don said as he finally wrestled the wobbly vampire through the door.

He finally gave up trying to get Nick out of his clothes and just guided him fully clothed into the stall. He turned on the water and let it run over the drunken figure. Several moments into the treatment, there was the sound of retching as Nick emptied his stomach of the blood boilermakers he had been guzzling.

"You gonna be all right for a few minutes while I get you some clean decent clothes?" Schanke asked as the vomiting stopped.

"Uh huh." Came the weak reply.


Thirty minutes later, Don and Nick sat at the kitchen table. Nick was clean and scrubbed. He was still holding his head as though it would fall off if he let go.

"I know if you were a mortal, I'd fill you full of black coffee." Schanke said. "But how do you sober up a vampire?"

"Whole blood ... uncut ... second shelf ... refrigerator. With red ribbon ... warm."

"Warm?" He said as he rummaged through the refrigerator for the bottle. "YUUK!"

"Microwave fifteen seconds."

"You do not need that." LaCroix said from behind him. As usual, no one heard or saw him enter the loft. "You need the blood of your Master to relieve your problems." He said as he loosened his collar.

"I don't need anything from you." Nick snarled. "Who invited you anyway."

"Why Nicholas. You know that a father always knows when his children are in pain. I do not need an invitation." His voice dripped with acerbic concern.

"Schanke is helping me just fine. Now, leave."

"Detective Schanke." The master vampire said, turning to Don. "As a father, I'm sure that you can understand my feelings on this. If it was your child who was troubled, you would want to help her yourself, and not have a ... stranger doing it for you."

"Don't bring my friends into this." Nick said. "This is between you and me."

"Au contraire mon fils. (On the contrary, my son.) This involves all of your mortal ... friends. If you would stop this foolish quest for mortality, you would not be in the situation you now find yourself. You would do well to forget about Dr. Lambert and return to your true place ... By my side."

"You leave Natalie out of this." Nick glared at his father. His eyes were red, although it was not clear whether that was from the drink or from anger ... or both.

"I cannot leave her out of this." He said sinisterly. "After all, she is the reason for your distress. Don't you see? It is as I nave been trying to tell you all along. She doesn't love you. She loves the challenge you present. As long as you were doing things her way, everything was fine. As soon as you took the correct path, the path back to your true nature, she dropped you, as they say, like the proverbial hot potato."

He went to the counter and took a steak knife from the drawer. The bared his wrist and made a large slit in it. He held his arm over the cup that Schanke had placed there and watched as his blood filled it. Then he placed his mouth over the bleeding cut and gently sucked it until the there was only a thin red line. Seconds later, it was impossible to tell that the wrist had been injured.

"If you won't drink from me, at least drink from this." He said, placing the cup in front of Nick.

Nick pushed it away. "Only if you leave ... Now."

"Detective." LaCroix said to Schanke. "See that he drinks it all." With a whoosh of air, the vampire was gone.

"I don't need that. The Raven bottle will do just fine."

Schanke set the cup in front of the hungover partner. "Drink! That's an order." He watched as Nick drank the contents. "Better?" He asked.

Nick nodded.

"Good. Now we can talk. I don't know what brought this on. On second thought I think I do. Ever since you and Nat had whatever you had that split you to up, you've been acting like you're about to bite the head off the whole world. Literally. I hate to say this, but LaCroix is right. Either you get back with her or you get over it. Personally, I hope you get it on with her."

"I wish it were that easy. Nat has written me out of her life." He held up the bottle. "And it's because of this."

"Blood? She knows you're a vampire. She knows that blood is your natural food. Why should that cause a split?"

Nick sighed heavily. "For the past hundred years, I've been drinking cow blood. While it did the job, it never quite satisfied me. It's like eating tofu. It fills you up, but there's always something missing."

"Yeah. I know what you're saying. I've been through several of Myra's diet kicks. All I wanted to do was run to the nearest McDonalds and wolf down a sackful of Big Macs."

"Only I don't crave Big Macs. I crave blood. Natalie's blood in particular. Every time I'm even close to her, I have to constantly fight just to maintain some semblance of control. Then, after I was shot, I received a lot of human blood. It did the trick. As long as I'm drinking the ... good stuff, we've been closer than we ever were. My only mistake was telling Nat about it. She went off the deep end. I can't blame her, though. It's all my fault. I should have told her what I was doing right from the start."

"So, you apologize. You grovel a little and send her two dozen roses and a box of Godiva chocolates. That always did it with Myra."

"I wish. I tried to apologize the other day. She wouldn't even look at me. I asked her to call me. She hasn't called." He took a long drink straight out of the bottle. "What am I going to do, Schanke? I love her so much. I can't go on without her." He took another drag on the bottle. "I'm seriously considering walking into the sunrise." He hung his head and took another swallow.

"You can't be serious."

"I've never been more serious in all my eight hundred years. Nat is my soul mate. Without her, I'm nothing. If I can't be with her, I don't want to go on." He drained nearly half the bottle.

"Hey, c'mon pal." Schanke said, putting his arm around his partner. "I didn't go to all the trouble of sobering you up so you could get drunk all over again. How about laying off the sauce."

"Don't worry, Schank. I can't get drunk on whole blood. That other stuff was laced with Wild Irish Rose. And just a touch of curare. Downed it with a can of beer. Guaranteed to get me drunk ... Drunk as a skunk ... however drunk a skunk can get."

"Well, it worked."

Just then, the phone rang. And just as suddenly, Schanke remembered his and Grace's covert mission.

"Hi. This is Nick Knight." The answering machine kicked in. "I'm either asleep or incommunicado. Leave a message. I'll get back to you."

"Detective Knight. This is Grace Balthazar. I know it's your night off, but I need you at the morgue right away. It's urgent." There was the dial tone just as Nick picked up the phone.

"I wonder what that was about." Nick said as he grabbed his watch and holster from the table .

"I don't know, but Dr. Balthazar sounded serious. We had better get to the morgue PDQ." Schanke said as he grabbed his coat from the back of the chair where he had deposited it earlier that evening. Obviously, Grace had done her part.


"Okay, Grace." Natalie said as she entered her office. "What's the big emergency that you had to call me in from that week's leave you bamboozled me into taking. I was just about to get seriously involved with Adrian Paul when you called."

"Adrian Paul, who's he? A new boyfriend?" Oh lord, I hope not.

"Grace! What rock have you been hiding under for the past three years? Adrian Paul stars in The Highlander. It's only the hottest series on TV."

A TV show! Thank goodness.

"Now, what's this big emergency?"

"In there." Grace said, pointing to the cold room.

"Well, bring the body out."

Grace held up her right arm. It was encased in a fake cast. "I can't do it by myself. You're going to have to help me."

"What happened to you?"

"I tripped over a loose rug and broke it this morning. The doctor says it's only a chip fracture, but it hurts like hell." She struggled to open the door with her left hand.

"Here. Let me do that." Nat said. She opened the door and stepped inside. Immediately, Grace shoved the door shut. "I'm sorry, Honey." Grace said over the intercom. "I felt a little dizzy and I backed against the door. Must have been that painkiller that they gave me in the ER. I'm going to get someone to get you out."

She had just finished pulling the cast off her wrist when Schanke came through the lab door.

"Where's Nick?" Grace asked.

"Parking that lake freighter of his." He replied. "His usual spot in front of the fire hydrant was taken."

"Pigeon number one is on ice." She pointed to the cold room.

"And here comes pigeon number two." Schanke whispered as Nick came through the door.

"Now. What is so urgent that you had to call me in on my day off? I thought that the Ebertz case was finished, and there haven't been any more monster murders in the past two days, have there?. Don't tell me he struck again."

"In there." Grace said. "See for yourself."

As soon as Nick had opened the door, Schanke and Grace pushed him in and slammed the door shut.

"Schanke! Grace! What's going on out there! Let me out! NOW!" Nick shouted as he pounded on the heavy steel door. His answer was the click as the lock slid into place.

"That's what I've been trying to do." Natalie said from behind him. "They aren't listening."

He had not sensed that there was anyone else in the cold room. Of course, he didn't have the time to. "What are you doing in here?"

"I don't know. Grace called and said there was an emergency. The next thing I know. I'm locked in here."

"Same here." He pushed on the intercom button. "Let us out. Now. Natalie's freezing to death."

"It's not that cold in there." Grace's voice came over the speaker. "It's only fifty six degrees. Same as outside. Just be glad we didn't put you in one of the drawers. They're at thirty eight degrees. We'll let you two out when you've kissed and made up. The cold should give you some incentive to make that as soon as possible. In the meantime, Don and I are going down the hall to get some hot coffee from the cafeteria."

"You can't do this to us!" Nick yelled. "Schank! I'm going to get you for this when we get out." He heard the office door slam.

Nat rubbed her arms to ward off the cold. She had been in there several minutes before Nick arrived and her lips were beginning to show slight traces of a blue tinge.

Nick took off his jacket and wrapped it around her. "Better?"

Nat nodded. "A little." She pulled the coat tightly around her. "So, what do we do now?" She asked.

"We wait. They can't be so cold hearted to leave us in here for very long." He moved to the opposite side of the room from where Natalie was standing. "I know you don't want to be in here with me any longer that you have to. As soon as this is over, I will get out of your life for good."

"What will you do?"

"Perhaps I'll move on. Perhaps I'll ... " He sighed heavily. "Regardless, you won't ever have to see me again."

She shook inwardly. That was the last thing she wanted. She could not imagine her life without him.

"Nick I ... " "Nat I ... " They said in unison.

"You go first." "You go first."

"I'll start." Nick said. "I've been doing a lot of thinking lately. About us. You were right. I should never have started drinking the human blood. I should have stayed with the program you laid out. If you could find it in your heart to give me one more chance, I will do my best to do just what you want me to do."

"Nick I ... "

"Please, Nat. Don't interrupt. I have to say this while I still have the courage. I ... I betrayed your trust. I know we can never be as we were. But could we at least not be enemies? Perhaps one day, you might even be able find it in your heart to forgive me."


"No?" His face fell and he became even paler than he usually was. He knew then that he had a heart, because he could feel it breaking. "You can't forgive me?" He fought the tears welling in his eyes. "I can understand. What I did was unforgivable."

"No. You don't understand. I can't forgive you because there's nothing to forgive. If anything, I should be the one asking for forgiveness."

"Natalie. You didn't do anything ... "

"Yes I did. I've been giving a lot of thought to what you said and what you did. I was wrong. I did the unthinkable. Asking you to live on a diet of protein shakes and vitamins was wrong. It was the same as expecting Sidney to live and thrive on a diet of salad. Blood ... human blood ... is your food and your body needs it as much as I need regular food."

"But I have been living on nothing but cow blood for over a century. If I can learn to live on that, I can learn to live on protein shakes."

"And you've been slowly starving yourself for over a century. You need human blood. You should have human blood. Particularly now that you don't have to kill to get it."

"Are you sure about this?"

Nat nodded. "And I was wrong to tear into you like I did. I was completely out of line. Can you ever forgive me?"

He pulled her into his arms. "That's a absurd question. How can I do anything else? I love you, Natalie Lambert. I can forgive anything you do. Although in this case, I was the one who was wrong."

"Nick. If you say that one more time, I'm going to reconsider my feelings toward protein shakes." She said with a laugh.

"I tell you what. I'll stay with the fifty fifty protein shake, blood mix. That's what seems to be working the best. Can you live with that?"

"Only if you agree to at least try a sixty forty ratio in say, about three months."

"Forty eight. Fifty two."

" Fifty seven. Forty three."

"Forty five. Fifty five. And in six months."

She smiled broadly. "Deal."

Nick pushed the intercom button. "I think you can let us out now." He said. "We've reached an agreement. Incidentally, you two could give lessons to a yenta in matchmaking."

"Nick. Did you say you love me?"


"Then show it."

Don opened the door. He smiled at Grace. "I think we had better get them out before they thaw out everything in sight."

Nat and Nick were entwined in a passionate kiss.

********** The End? Not on your (or their) life!