All things Twilight belong solely to Stephenie Meyer. No copyright infringement intended.

This was the first of my two entries for the Twilight Crime Crusaders Contest, and I'm kinda shocked at how well it did. WINNER: 1st Place Public Vote (3-way tie), 1st Place Judge's Vote (2-way tie); Judge's Pick, DaPonte anhd1207; Validator's Pick, Pixiekat7; and Best Sidekick Award. Thanks to all who read, voted, and reviewed!

My eternal gratitude goes out to to my beta, iadorepugs, and my pre-readers, athome Jo and BilliCullen, for their support.

Trigger warning – while acts of violence (including murder, rape, and kidnapping) are not described in detail, please be cautious when proceeding.

1928 – Columbus, Ohio

371. The number of days since I had set out on my own, leaving Carlisle and Esme behind so that I could explore the world. The same number of days I had questioned that decision, and my reasons for it.

I knew my choice to leave, to distance myself, was hurting my family. I knew that Carlisle and Esme honestly missed me. Even more than that, I knew that they worried about me, and about the decisions I was making. Despite their reservations, they had sent me on my way with affection and wisdom. Esme implored me to stay safe—which was almost humorous, considering what we were. Carlisle simply cautioned me to remember who I was, and to reach out should ever I need anything.

Until now, there had been no reason to worry about my choices; I had not strayed from Carlisle's teachings and our chosen lifestyle, no matter the temptation. However, that was all about to change. I had set out with a purpose unknown to them, something that I needed to do, something that would not be done with their permission and could not be done while under their observation.

My mind-reading ability was both a blessing and a curse. It certainly helped us keep up appearances and avoid suspicions, but it also made me privy to thoughts and memories that should otherwise remain private.

While Carlisle and I had discovered that most vampires didn't recall much of their human lives, I found Esme's memories to be very clear, and exceedingly painful. Losing her only child was etched deeply in her mind, and oftentimes played on a loop in her thoughts. One of the curses of our vampire minds was the ability to focus on many thoughts at once, and Esme's thoughts were never far from her son.

Inevitably, when she thought of her lost son, she thought of her son's father. Although she forced herself to recall vaguely pleasant moments from her courtship by Charles Evenson (because no one tried harder to think positive than Esme), the vast majority of her memories related to the abuse she'd suffered at his hand.

While maintaining a stellar reputation in the community, Charles had taken sadistic pleasure in abusing his young wife. Not just physically, although she had spent a lot of time covering cuts, bruises, and minor broken bones. He had also been deeply psychologically abusive, isolating Esme from anyone who may have spoken out against him. He even managed to turn Esme's family to his side—they were so desperate for their 22-year-old "spinster" daughter to maintain her society marriage that they admonished her to keep quiet about his "discipline" as a dutiful wife should.

Esme had done just that; however, upon his return from battle in the Great War, Charles's abuse increased. The child that she had lost came from acts so unspeakable that I often wondered how her memories of Charles's repeated assaults had not driven her mad.

When Esme realized that she had fallen pregnant, she knew she could no longer stay and raise her child in such a dangerous environment. She packed all she could and left Ohio to stay with her second cousin in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and then fleeing even further north when Charles discovered her whereabouts.

She was posing as a war widow and living out her dream of teaching school in Ashland when she gave birth. Her son passed away two days later, falling victim to a lung fever. Esme's will to live died along with him, and she attempted suicide by jumping off a cliff. Undetectable to human ears, her heart was barely beating when they brought her to the morgue at the hospital where Carlisle worked. He was shocked to recognize her as a patient he had treated for a broken leg 10 years earlier in Ohio. Remember the smiling, vivacious girl she had been, and unable to save her human life, he brought her home and changed her. And although it had taken time, he also repaired her broken heart, claiming it as his own.

In Esme's memories, Charles Evenson loomed larger than life; a hulking, terrifying beast. But this Charles Evenson, the one that cowered before me in this alleyway? He was nothing but a bully and a drunk; a weak, pathetic man—crying, begging me to spare his life, offering me anything and everything he could to prolong his miserable existence.

Little did he know that the only thing I wanted from him was his cold, dead body at my feet. I allowed the monster within me free rein. The devil smiled sadistically as I grabbed Charles by his hair, snapping his neck and sinking my teeth into his jugular.

The taste of his blood, his sweet fear and panic, flooded my senses. Nothing else mattered, just the incomparable taste of revenge as his lifeblood poured down my throat. I consciously pushed away the instant guilt I felt at my consumption of human blood for the first time in a decade, allowing the demon within freedom to enjoy.

"Good evening, Mr. Cullen," called out a voice behind me. Startled, I lost my grip on Charles' body. I turned toward the voice, crouched and ready to attack before the corpse even hit the ground.

Standing at the entrance to the alleyway was a sharply dressed, older gentleman. I should have heard his thoughts, but I had been too distracted by my blood lust to pay attention. He should not be able to see me in the darkness, but somehow he knew not only where, but who I was. I growled, unable to quell the base reaction.

"Now Mr. Cullen, there is no need for that. I have been meaning to make your acquaintance, but first wanted to see what your intentions were with Mr. Evenson. Now that I know that our purposes are aligned, I thought it time we meet." He had a slight English accent and was extremely well-spoken, not at all what I expected to encounter in a back alley in the American Midwest.

"Who in the hell are you?" I snarled, discomforted by the obvious inference that he knew I had been stalking Charles Evenson.

"My name is Thaddeus Crane, Mr. Cullen. I will explain everything; however, we should take this conversation somewhere more private. I fear the constables are about and will be wandering this way all too soon."

He was correct; I could hear the thoughts of other people passing outside the alleyway, although we were well hidden in the shadows and no one looked in our direction. I looked down at Charles's lifeless body, his face full of terror as his eyes gazed off into the hell to which I prayed he had been consigned. The demon within smiled in satisfaction.

"We should probably dispose of Mr. Evenson. Like yesterday's rubbish, he will fit in that bin over there quite nicely. No one will ever be the wiser, nor will he be missed." I glanced up at Mr. Crane again, raising my eyebrow in question. He laughed, sounding downright jovial as his thin moustache twitched in amusement "Let us make haste, shall we? I know an establishment a few blocks over that will afford us privacy."

It was approximately half an hour later as I settled into a dark corner of the speakeasy, the dull roar of both internal and external voices surrounding me. I stayed in the shadows, knowing that even now my formerly gold irises would be streaked red with human blood.

Mr. Crane returned to the table with two ales and two shots of what smelled like whiskey; vile stuff even when I had been human. I wrinkled my nose as he set one of each before me. "You need not drink it, Mr. Cullen; I simply did not wish to arouse suspicion." He knocked back his shot, then slowly sipped his beer.

I pretended to sip my own whiskey, covertly spitting it into my ale as I studied the gentleman before me. He was most certainly human; there was nothing otherworldly about him like any of the vampires I had encountered. His eyes were blue, his dark hair peppered with gray where it peeked from beneath his bowler hat, and his build modest beneath his expensively tailored suit. He was altogether unassuming, the type of man I would have passed on the street without giving him a second glance.

But he not only knew who I was, he seemed to know what I was; even more startling, it didn't seem to bother him. "Mr. Crane, may I ask how you know my name, and how you came to find me in the alleyway this evening?" I asked.

"Well, I suppose I knew you would be there," he answered. His thoughts were calm and quiet, and I heard no deception in them.

"How could you have possibly known that, when I did not even know myself? Were you spying on me?"

"I have a… talent, let's say, for knowing where someone may be. I had a feeling you would be there this evening, and you were."

"And these feelings, do you get these often?"

He shrugged. "Often enough that I can rely upon them."

I was skeptical. "So you can see the future?"

"Sounds almost as implausible as mind reading, does it not?" he suggested mildly.

I sat back in my chair, stunned; this man knew more about me than I realized. Carlisle and Esme were the only ones who know that I could read people's thoughts.

"What are you?" I asked him.

"I am afraid I am tragically human, Mr. Cullen. I simply possess a gift that I have learned to use to my advantage. Do I see the future? Not really. I receive impressions – faces, much like viewing a photograph, accompanied by a name, and often times a location. But sometimes the timing can be imprecise. I have been in Columbus for three weeks now, awaiting your arrival. It wasn't until this evening that I knew our meeting was imminent."

"So you somehow saw my face, knew my name, and discerned that I would be in Columbus, but not exactly when?"


"Did your impression tell you my purpose, or what I am? Because you do not seem to be surprised by either."

"No, I did not know what would bring you to this city, only that I needed to seek you out. Certain of my impressions are rather persistent that I pursue them," he said with a chuckle. "As for what you are, Mr. Cullen, you are not the first of your kind with whom I am acquainted." From his thoughts, I heard the name Garrett and glimpsed a tall, rangy vampire with red eyes and long, sandy hair tied back in a leather thong. Although I had never met him, I knew that Carlisle considered Garrett a close, personal friend.

I was frankly surprised that Mr. Crane had survived his encounter with Garrett; Carlisle remembered him to be quite ruthless and bloodthirsty, especially where the English were concerned. "To what end do you seek me out? Do you wish for me to purchase your silence? Desire to blackmail me for wealth, or power?"

"No, Mr. Cullen, I have neither the need nor desire for your money. I am well-compensated by the family whom I serve. My silence is yours without cost. That does not mean, however, that we could not reach a mutually beneficial arrangement."

I scoffed; what could this mere human, despite his gift, possibly have to offer me?

"I have a proposition for you, Mr. Cullen; a partnership, if you will. Help me rid this city, and others like it, of men such as Charles Evenson, and those who are worse. Men that abuse women and children, who rape, maim, and kill without compunction. Men who, without fail, serve only to bring evil, darkness, and death to the world around us."

"How do you know that these men are indeed guilty of that which you accuse them?" I challenged. It was one thing for me to bring Charles Evenson to justice, having witnessed his conduct in Esme's memories and listened to his vile thoughts; it was quite another to act as judge, jury, and executioner on those for whom I had no proof.

While my memories of human years had largely faded, I could remember my father's frequent speeches regarding the importance of our legal system. Prior to entering private practice, Edward Masen, Sr. had worked as a prosecuting attorney, convicting and jailing some of the most nefarious criminal elements of Chicago during his days.

Mr. Crane's eyes blazed with passion, his voice ringing with the conviction of his beliefs. "I am part of an organization that works with the American justice department. We investigate some of the most ominous crimes, some of the most vile acts that have been perpetrated on the American populace. But there are times when, no matter how diligently we pursue them, certain individuals are able to take advantage of loopholes in our justice system, or those who have corrupted that system for their own nefarious ends. That's where you come in, Mr. Cullen. With your extraordinary talent, you will know of their crimes beyond a doubt, and mete out the justice that the system has denied their victims."

I could not contest that his arguments were persuasive, but for all of his passion and belief, there was one major flaw—Charles Evenson was my only intended victim. I had set out to destroy the man that nearly destroyed Esme. Now that I had done so, I planned to return home to beg her and Carlisle's forgiveness, and hopefully return to my life there.

Mr. Crane seemed to sense my reticence. "Mr. Cullen, imagine being able to rid the world of the kind of evil you know men are capable of, all the while feeding as nature intended." He pictured me in the alley this evening draining the life force from Charles Evenson. The memory of his blood rushed to the forefront of my mind, and I couldn't deny the feeling of lust at the idea of consuming human blood again.

The monster in me roared in approval, while the pragmatic son of both Edward Masen, Sr. and Carlisle Cullen weighed the options. Both of my fathers had fought hard to protect society; Carlisle from pain and disease, and Edward Sr. from those who would do harm to others. By assisting Thaddeus and his colleagues, I could offer society my aid as well. The question was did I have it in me to act the vigilante?

I was more than intrigued. "You have piqued my interest. Tell me more, Mr. Crane."

He smiled. "Of course. But please, call me Thaddeus."

1929 – Detroit, Michigan

That evening in Columbus began the unlikely partnership between Thaddeus Crane and I. We spent hours in the tavern as he laid out his research for me, providing me with newspaper clippings, police reports, and written witness testimony of the first case, a pair of brothers with mafia ties in Detroit who ran a tight squeeze on several neighborhoods. Homeowners, business owners, and tenants alike were forced to pay for protection from the very brothers they were compensating. And if they refused to pay, or couldn't keep up with those ever-increasing payments? More than one individual had turned up dead, dumped by the riverfront, their bodies broken and displayed as a warning to the others.

The brothers had been tried on two separate occasions. The first case ended in a mistrial when two of the jurors refused to vote for conviction despite the overwhelming evidence and eyewitness testimony. Investigative notes indicated that one juror had been bribed, while another's family had been threatened, although neither accusation had ever been proven. A second mistrial was declared when the presiding judge was shot in the back of the head while sitting in his car the day the case was supposed to go to the jury.

With the information Thaddeus and his contacts had gathered, I traveled to Detroit to seek out the brothers. I spent weeks following them and their henchmen, determining not just their guilt but the identity of their associates as well. Once I had the evidence I needed, it took an appallingly small amount of coin to arrange a meeting. Face to face with the brothers, I could barely stand to listen to their evil thoughts, and it took all my self-control not to kill them where they stood in the very public speakeasy.

I managed to convince them to show me their base of operations with an offering of cash and future business dealings. Listening to their thoughts as they plotted my robbery, mutilation, and murder, the monster within roared to the surface, and before I realized what had happened, the brothers were dead and drained at my feet. I was stunned by the violence, and not only my capacity for it, but the demon's euphoric enjoyment of it. When I came back to myself, I felt almost nauseated from feeding on the blood of such vile individuals, and I dumped their bodies in the Detroit River.

The brothers had kept surprisingly thorough records, which I turned over to Thaddeus's Detroit contacts to face justice. During those weeks, watching as the federal officers systematically dismantled the organization, I glutted myself on animal blood, trying to erase the self-loathing I felt for having drunk from those evil men. I felt dirty, disgusting, and tainted, even as the demon gleefully reminded me I was only doing what was natural for me, for my kind.

I left Detroit and joined Thaddeus once again. He was a pleasant companion; well-read, and surprisingly jovial given the nature of our acquaintance. He relayed stories of his experiences with the SAS – British Special Air Service – and of living in London during the Great War. He spoke frequently and fondly of the family for whom he worked. When I asked how they were faring in his absence, he shared that their son was currently traveling in Europe and Asia, leaving Thaddeus free for our pursuits.

We traveled together, combining our talents to seek out offenders. Thaddeus's impressions provided us with leads, while my mind-reading capabilities provided the absolute truth of our target's guilt or innocence. I used my ability to discern other names, potential witnesses that we were able to use against the individuals we investigated. In several cities, we did not need to resort to vigilante justice at all; we were able to secure confessions or testimony, turning the guilty over to local law enforcement for justice. The monster within was not pleased with our non-violent resolutions, and I found myself having to feed more frequently from animals to keep him subdued.

There were times, however, that even our combined gifts and the power of the justice system were not enough. Times, as contemplated by Thaddeus, where the monster needed to step forward to become the avenging angel of the victims. Philadelphia was one of those occasions.

1930 – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Our Philadelphia target was a man who ran a brothel that catered to customers with particularly perverse and violent appetites. Many a young girl walked through his doors never to exit, unless it was in a body bag. He was exceedingly careful; there was never a tie between him and any of the bodies dumped at various points around the city. His web of blackmail and bribery was widespread and deep, boasting numerous members of the police force, judiciary, and even several men of the cloth.

Posing as wealthy clients, Thaddeus and I paid a small fortune to allow us direct access to the brothel owner and his thoughts. My mind-reading capabilities were rendered superfluous; after only one shared drink, he was boasting about his accomplices, even letting slip that the police commissioner was on-site at that very moment, indulging in his particular perversions.

Sitting there, listening to the evil, greedy thoughts of the owner, as well as the depraved ones of his customers, and the helpless and horrified women and men being abused there, nearly drove me mad.

We waited until we heard the sounds of the federal agents beginning their raid, and when the man jumped up in alarm, Thaddeus slipped from the room. I was on the brothel owner in a flash. My tightly-leashed demon broke free, taking insidious pleasure in killing the owner, while the man within me nearly choked on the hot blood. I wrenched control back from the demon and dropped the brothel owner's half-drained body to the ground. I stared in horror at the man's ripped-out throat, wondering if there would come a time when I would be unable to re-chain the demon.

As with Detroit, we used the records and the thoughts of the owner to track down his clients, handing them over to the federal authorities for justice. The scandal went on for months as members of the police force, prosecuting attorney's office, judiciary, and several churches were arrested and charged with crimes from soliciting prostitutes all the way up to murder, including the police commissioner who had sung like the proverbial canary when found with two young boys in one of the rooms.

Once we had cleared the books in Philadelphia, we headed Northeast. Following leads either from Thaddeus's contacts or his impressions, we traveled to a new cities and towns, conducting our investigations.

I was spending more time than I cared for in the minds of evil men, even the occasional woman. The monster was gleeful, and so much harder to suppress when subjected to these thoughts. The exposure to the dark side of humanity fed the devil. It became more and more difficult for me to turn the evidence over to the authorities and not simply take justice into my own hands, but I kept the reins tight on my monstrous side.

I continued to saturate myself with animal blood, attempting to absolve my guilt, remorse, and self-loathing with vegetarian feeding. Although I never admitted it to Thaddeus, I was exceedingly grateful that most of our investigations were able to be wrapped up and handled by the authorities—no need to free the tightly leashed demon when the law could be followed instead. Every time the devil emerged, I lost a little more of myself

But like Detroit and Philadelphia, some crimes were too insidious, some criminals too far entrenched, and some authorities too far in the pockets of those criminals for the justice system to do its work. That was what we faced in New York City.

1931 – New York City, New York

Other cities and communities through which we traveled had been affected by the Great Depression; however, none so much as New York City. The Great Depression had begun here with the stock market crash of 1929, and it held the city in its iron grip when Thaddeus and I arrived in late October, 1931.

The condition of New York City and its outlier boroughs led to desperate times amongst their residents, who often turned to desperate measures to survive. And the criminal elements sought to build their empires on the backs, blood, and bones of those less fortunate. With nearly one-third of the workforce in New York City unemployed, and those who maintained their jobs working at drastically reduced salaries, homelessness was one of the worst problems the city currently faced. It was also one of the areas where criminals were making a killing—sometimes literally—as families desperately tried to maintain their residences.

One such individual was a tenement owner fond of taking "alternative payment" in place of rent monies due. He would threaten an entire family, usually an immigrant family with no clear understanding of English, with eviction, and then graciously offer to place the family's young son or daughter as a valet or housemaid to a wealthy family outside the city in lieu of rent payments. He would allow the family to remain in their run-down apartment and spirit away the child, whose wages would be paid in the form of the family's rent.

But what the family did not know was that their children were not being employed, they were being sold away as slaves, sometimes several states away. The tenement owner would allow the family to stay for one or two months, and then kick them out anyway, to try to survive on the streets or in a tent in Central Park's Hooverville.

The authorities in New York City had investigated the few reports they had received; however, the language barriers, as well as the latent mistrust between the residents and the police force, had led nowhere. The tenement owner actively sought to build the discord, lying to the residents about the police, and turning over residents on false charges if they persisted.

By dropping a couple of influential names, Thaddeus and I were able to present ourselves as wealthy Staten Island residents in search of young, female housemaids who could be easily trained to meet the needs of the men of the house. Even as he negotiated shrewdly, the tenement owner's mind shouted gleefully, imagining what we would be doing to these women and picturing various families upon which he could prey to provide the coin he sought. These children were nothing more than a commodity to him, and I felt my rage grow. Thaddeus had to shout mentally at me to calm down, that my eyes were going black and I was starting to make the tenement owner nervous.

We arranged a walk-through of one of his buildings, and he pointed out various apartments, giving us names and ages of the young women and children that were available for purchase. I could hear the thoughts of the residents within, the fear, despair, and despondency shouting at me from behind each closed door. The tenement owner promised that tomorrow he would have half a dozen young girls for us to choose from, and we set the meeting time.

That night, while Thaddeus slept, I wandered the streets of New York City. Even though I had changed into working-class attire, people still gave me wide berth, perhaps sensing the demon that was barely beneath the surface. Indeed, after our earlier meeting, my predatory instincts were on high alert, and I wasn't entirely sure if it was safe for me to be out amongst the populace. I reluctantly returned to our rented room, restless and actually eager for blood for the first time since Charles Evenson.

The next morning, at the appointed time, we met the tenement owner at his office. Before us stood six young women; no, not young women, but children. The oldest was no more than ten, while the youngest clutched a ragged, worn blanket and sucked her thumb, staring blankly at the ground. Two of the girls, sisters if my read was correct, didn't even have shoes, and stood shivering in the late autumn morning. My rage, already at simmering point, was ready to explode.

"We'll take them all," I snarled gruffly. The sisters clung to one another at my tone, while the youngest started crying silently. Thaddeus shot me a look and cautioned me silently to keep my anger in check and the look of disgust from my face. I calmed myself only for the sake of the children.

"All... all of them, sir? But I thought you were seeking only..."

"Is that going to be a problem?" I spat, cutting him off.

He shrunk back, fear in his eyes. "No, no, of course not. That does, of course, change the terms and price," he stuttered.

I waved my hand dismissively, nodding. I pulled my wallet from my waistcoat and started thumbing through the notes there, my anger mounting as I hear the greed in his thoughts. I signaled to Thaddeus. "Please take the children outside and prepare them for their journey. I will finish our business here."

Thaddeus nodded and gathered the girls around him. He ushered them down the long, narrow hallway and looked back over his shoulder at me, concern etched deeply on my face. He knew I was at my breaking point.

The moment the door closed, I was upon the man. I lifted him with one hand by his expensive cravat, his well-polished oxfords dangling inches above the floor. "My only regret," I growled lowly, "is that I can only kill you once. It is my fervent hope that you will burn in hell as many times over as the lives you have taken."

The smell of urine and wet wool met my nose as he relieved himself in fear, whimpering and making futile pleas and false promises. The only sound I could hear was the steady thrum of his heart. Unlike my other victims, whose necks I had broken prior to feeding, I sunk my teeth into his jugular while he was still alive. I wanted him to feel every moment of pain.

My demon reveled in the man's screams of horror and pain, the devil delighting in the wordless panic and terror of his mind. I drew out the process as long as I could until I felt his struggle ebb, the life draining from his limbs just as surely as I drew it from his veins. When his heart beat its last, I dropped his corpse unceremoniously, spitting and spraying his own blood across his face, which was blank with terror.

The door opened behind me and I turned, finding myself face to face with Thaddeus, a parallel of our first meeting. I grinned widely, seeing my face reflected back his thoughts, my eyes black, my teeth red with blood that leaked down my chin and stained my topcoat. For the first time ever, I saw fear in Thaddeus's eyes when he looked at me. The devil rejoiced, and slowly stepped toward him, licking its lips in anticipation.

Thaddeus did not move, but stared back at me with determination. He spoke slowly, calmly. "Edward, remember who you are."

The devil stopped, Thaddeus's words striking with an almost physical blow. Those words were the last ones that Carlisle had spoken to me before I left, the same words I used to ground myself after each of my vigilante kills.

The demon screamed for control, the voice within telling me to snap Thaddeus's neck and drink from him as I had done the tenement owner. It called for the blood of the young girls whose thoughts I could hear in the hallway—their families already believed them gone, so they would not be missed.

Thaddeus's words—Carlisle's words—overpowered the demon. Remember who you are. I was Edward Anthony Masen Cullen, son of Elizabeth and Edward Masen, adopted son of Carlisle and Esme Cullen. Friend of Thaddeus. Savior of those children outside, and countless others over the last three years. Had it really only been three years? It had felt more like a decade.

I felt calm for the first time in a long time, and I vowed not to give in to the monster ever again. I wiped my mouth, and adjusted my scarf so that it covered the bloodstain on my lapel. "My apologies, Thaddeus. I'm afraid that I lost myself for a moment there."

"Understood, Mr. Cullen," he said quietly, handing me a knapsack into which I stuffed the body. We would drop the tenement owner into the Hudson River after we attended to the children.

Upon our return to the tenement, Thaddeus reunited the children with their families as I stood in the shadows. He stopped not only at the parents' homes, but at each and every door, pressing enough money into each of the tenant's hands to cover rent and food for several months.

The very last door we visited was the home of the two sisters, who unexpectedly ran over to me and hugged me, their thoughts overrun with gratitude. Could a dead, frozen heart break? It felt like mine would as my coat absorbed their tears and I patted their hair awkwardly. It frustrated me that I did not understand the language they spoke, and I vowed to become a student of linguistics.

After disposing of the body, Thaddeus and I returned to search the office. There we found names and addresses across many states, which Thaddeus turned over to his contacts in the Department of Justice to reunite the families. Already, information and instructions were being telegraphed, for once the wheels of justice moving swiftly.

Thaddeus made additional arrangements for the families in the tenement owner's other buildings to receive sums enough to cover rent and food for their families as well. His compassion for their suffering was admirable, and made me think fondly and wistfully of Carlisle and Esme.

Hours later, we retired to an uptown speakeasy, where the barmaid handed Thaddeus his favorite scotch with a wink and bid us a pleasant evening. "So, what is our next assignment? Have you any impressions, or shall we review the case files?"

Thaddeus's gaze was contemplative, his mind quiet. Finally, he spoke. "I believe it is time for you to return to your family now, Mr. Cullen," he said gently.

The monster in me roared in denial, and I felt myself shaking my head. "No. Tonight was just the beginning. New York City needs our help, its citizens need our protection."

"Yes, it does. And others will step up to take your place. You are not the first with whom we have partnered, nor will you be the last." Again, his mind flashed to Garrett, and to others of my kind with ruby-red eyes and gleaming, eager smiles.

"Imagine if there were more of us," I argued. "Imagine all we could accomplish."

"Edward, you have a different purpose ahead of you. This calling, this life, is not for everyone. Rare is the man or woman that can mete out the kind of justice we do without an irreparable stain on their soul."

While I wanted to deny it, I knew he spoke the truth; the debt of taking so much human life, no matter how justified, was wearing on me. And being in the minds of those deranged and depraved individuals was stealing away what little humanity I had left. While I had vowed never to unleash the demon again, I was not certain I would be able to keep that promise if I stayed my current course.

I still felt the need to argue my case. "The work we're doing, the lives we're changing, it..."

"Will continue to be done, Edward. We will see to it, I promise."

I felt conflicted. For the first time in this second life of mine, I had felt fulfilled, convicted with the rightness of our work. "I don't know what to do with myself, Thaddeus. I have finally found a purpose for what I have become. How can I turn my back on that?"

"Does Carlisle's purpose revolve around what he is, or instead what he can accomplish because of what he's become?" Thaddeus questioned. "He is defined not by his biology, but by his heart, compassion, knowledge, and skill. He uses his enhanced senses in ways that normal, human doctors cannot. You, too, can use your gifts and skills in different ways, ways that do not chip away at your soul and humanity." He envisioned me arguing in a courtroom on behalf of people like the tenants we had helped tonight, or serving alongside Carlisle in the hospital. Both ideas intrigued me.

Thaddeus continued speaking. "Besides, I will be leaving soon and returning home. My young charge, Bruce, will return from his travels, and I need to make sure that things are ready for him in Gotham City. He does not know it yet, but he is preparing to take up the mantle that I am asking you to lay down." In his mind, he saw the bodies of a young couple gunned down in the street while a young boy cried for help. He then pictured that same boy, now a young man, telling "Alfred" that he was leaving to train so that he could hunt down his parents' killer and bring him to justice.

"Alfred?" I asked, raising an eyebrow at him.

He grinned ruefully, his moustache twitching. "My parents saddled me with a dreadful moniker, did they not? My full name is Alfred Thaddeus Crane Pennyworth. My contacts within the Justice Department know me as Thaddeus, hence the name I gave you, but young Bruce insists on calling me Alfred, knowing how much I despise the name."

"Bruce is a very lucky man to have you to guide him, Alfred," I acknowledged with a nod, raising my glass to my mentor.

He lifted his shoulders in a shrug. "I consider it not just my duty to the Wayne family, but my privilege as well. Much like I imagine your Carlisle feels about his son."

"Do you think they will take me back?" I asked, unsure for the first time. So much violence, blood, and death had filled these years away; I was not certain that Carlisle would be able to forgive my transgressions.

"Without a doubt, Edward. You know the parable of the prodigal son—your return will be celebrated. They miss you more than you know."

"And I, them," I agreed softly.

"You have much to look forward to. Soon, your family will grow, and Carlisle and Esme will need you more than ever. Your brothers and sisters, they will need you. But most of all, Isabella will need you."

Alfred was obviously mistaken; I had no brothers or sisters of whom to speak, and Carlisle was loathe to change anyone unless there was no other choice, as with myself and Esme. But the name Albert spoke, Isabella, resonated in my thoughts, and settled on my heart. "Isabella?" I asked curiously.

There was but a flash of an image in Alfred's mind—pale skin, brown hair, a pretty smile—before Alfred focused his thoughts elsewhere. He laughed ruefully. "Oh dear, I probably shouldn't have said anything. It's a very good thing you're a patient man, Mr. Cullen."

This is the first time I've ever written a vamp fic - I'm pretty happy with how it turned out.

Please leave me your thoughts and let me know what you think. Thanks for reading!