Kolchak: The Night Stalker
Carl paused as he watched the many news celebrities mingling in the expansive room, trying to think of the last time that he had been this happy. Las Vegas was the first thing that came to mind. Las Vegas and her. He had loved her like he had never loved another woman since, and the times were still frequent that he thought of her. But that had been a different kind of happiness, born from feeling totally alive, and was not comparable to the happiness that he felt now. No, what he felt now was from finally receiving admiration and respect from his peers, something he had not had for a very long time.
They were all here tonight to honor him, Chicago's News Man of the Year, and he was enjoying it like never before. His only wish, the only dampener on this evening's events, was that Tony couldn't be here to see it. His friend, and sometimes mentor, had died many years ago, propelling Carl into the position of Chief Editor of INS and setting him on the path that had led him here.
Reluctant at first, at the very idea that he could replace Tony, he had surprised himself by discovering that he actually enjoyed the change. Free from the daily turmoil that had compromised such a large part of his life, he was now directing those that reported the news instead of being on the playing field himself. His itch for the truth had led to supporting reporters who normally would have been dismissed, resulting in one scoop after another for the fledgling news service.
The forces of darkness that he had so often encountered seemed to fade from his daily perception, concentrating instead on the human monsters that stalked our waking world. Corruption, crime, the inhumanity of man; these became the stories that he devoured, pushing his people to uncover.
And uncover them, they did.
Twice in the last decade his team had won Pulitzers for their published findings of political corruption within the city government, and exposing criminal connections to the police force. And tonight, not twenty minutes ago, Carl had given an acceptance speech that had brought about a standing ovation. He was in his prime. He was where he had always wanted to be. But he was about to find that that fame was but a fleeting chapter in the story of his life.
Nodding, shaking hands as he made his way through the mixing crowd, Carl noticed Ron Updyke standing near the entrance to the ballroom that was hosting the event. Suppressing a chuckle, at seeing Ron's excited looked as he franticly waved to get Carl's attention, Carl headed towards the man. Carl had had a hard time dealing with Updyke when he had first taken over as Editor, but he had persevered through it. The night that Ron had nearly killed himself, after his mother had learned about his homosexuality, had brought an understanding between the two men.
Carl knew exactly what it was like not to be accepted for what he was, and he had supported Ron ever since. The once prissy man had matured, turning out to be one of Carl's best undercover reporters. Ron's demeanor and reputation had gotten him into places that no one else could have even gotten close to.
"Ron, I thought you said you couldn't make it tonight," said Carl as he neared his friend. "You missed my speech."
"Carl, you have to come back to the office right now," said Ron, skipping around their usual banter. "There's someone there you have to meet."
"What is it, Ron?" asked Carl, picking up on his friend's seriousness. "Is this something you and Jenny have been working on?"
"No. A young man showed up looking for you."
"Yeah, so? Who is he?"
Ron looked about nervously, almost as if he was afraid to say anything at all. This was one of Ron's traits that Carl simply had not been able to break the man of, the way he got jittery when he thought he was about to reveal a secret that no one should know.
"Ron, who is he?" asked Carl, again.
"He says he's your son," said Ron, his voice in a hushed whisper that Carl could barely pick up on.
Carl looked at him incredulously.
"He says that his name is Carl. Carl Foster."
* * *
Carl hit the doors of the main INS room and slid to a stop as his eyes locked on the young man setting in his office. Well, maybe not young, but definitely a lot younger than Carl. He saw her in the man's features; the same smiling eyes, blond hair, and open friendliness that he had found so appealing in her. Even without having yet said a single word to the man, Carl knew that he was the son of Gail. The only thing that he doubted was that he was the father.
Taking a moment to compose himself, Carl stepped into his office and offered only a smile to the man as he stepped around his desk. Taking a seat at the large, oversized desk, a cherished holdover from Vincenzo, Carl leaned back and looked at the man with wide eyes, his minding forming a hundred questions a minute that his mouth was unable to ask.
"Carl?" asked the man, becoming a little uncomfortable with the silence. "Carl Kolchak?"
"Yeah," confirmed Carl, shaking his head in acknowledgment also. "And you're Gail's son?"
"Uh, yeah, so I've been told. Um, well, that is," stammered Carl. He briefly wondered where the sure talking editor of an hour ago was, and wished that he felt like that man now.
"Mom told me everything about you. For years she anguished over not contacting you, over ignoring those pleas you kept putting into the papers."
"She saw those?" asked Carl, taken aback. "Why? Why didn't she answer me?"
"Because she knew that no matter where you ended up, you'd be back in the thick of it again. That you would continue to chase the stories that no one wanted to print. That someone, somewhere, would make you leave your life again."
Carl reflected on that for a moment, and realized that it was all true. Gail had known him better than he had known himself, and he had fought many a battle that ended up with him losing, but with humanity winning. If ever there was an unsung hero of the modern era, Carl Kolchak was surely he. Not that it mattered any longer, that was a chapter of his life that was over a quarter of a century into the past.
"Yes, well, your mother was quite right."
"I know. She never loved another man, Carl. If it means anything to you."
"More than you could ever know," said Carl, a sad and lost tone to his words.
"She kept track of you over the years. She was always collecting your stories, reading a lot more into them than whatever was printed. She told me about what really happen in Las Vegas."
"Oh," said Carl, surprised. He doubted that Gail had told him the full story, the story that Carl had never been allowed to tell.
Foster reached into the pocket of his jacket and pulled out a thick fold of yellowed papers. He unfolded the papers and handed them to Carl, the senior man shocked to see that they were the carbon copied pages of his original story from long ago. He skimmed over them, the words still as fresh in his mind as the day he had wrote them, and he felt a sense of nostalgia sweep over him that he had thought he had conquered long ago.
"I know about Janos Skorzeny," said Foster.
If Carl heard the man, it didn't register. He simply read his story from the past, the images of that fateful morning playing through his mind.
"That's why we came here, Carl," continued Foster. "We need your help."
We? Thought Carl, looking up from the yellowed papers.
"Mother thinks that he's after her."
"Mother? Gail, she's here?" asked Carl, feelings of hope, despair, shock, and confusion running through him. "Wait a minute. She thinks who's after her?"
"Skorzeny," answered Foster.
Carl slumped back in his chair, much the way Vincenzo use to, in defeat to the information that was just given him. He was on the verge of finding the love that he had lost twenty-eight years ago, and it turns out that she's become the paranoid one, thinking that she's being hunted by a vampire that Carl himself staked way back when.
"There's someone else with us," continued Foster, seeing Carl's resigned look. "An old friend of yours. Bernie Jenks."
Yep, this was turning out to be quite the evening.
* * *
Bernie Jenks paced the small confines of the apartment, impatience and dread combating for control of him. He hated not doing anything, waiting for Gail's son to return with the man he had turned his back on so many years ago. He had been there with Carl at the end, had helped to kill the creature that was Skorzeny, and had let Carl be fed to the wolves, not interceding on his friend's behalf at all.
Carl had forgiven him, had understood that Bernie's hands had been proverbially tied, but Bernie had never forgiven himself. He had passed some information on to Carl, shortly after the reporter had been asked to leave Las Vegas, information that told of how Skorzeny's victims had been cremated, supposedly along with the body of the vampire himself. What he hadn't told Carl, what hadn't even been revealed to him, was that Skorzeny's body had resisted the cremation, his blackened skeleton refusing to burn to ash no matter how high they set the oven.
It was not until recently that Bernie had found out that Skorzeny's remains had been sealed in a concrete vault, with a wooden stake placed where the heart would have been. A vault that had been secretly built in the bowels of the Las Vegas police department, and quickly forgotten as those involved in its construction moved on, moved up, or passed away. A vault that had recently been uncovered by a restoration crew working on the building.
Commissioner Butcher had nearly had an aneurysm when he got the report of the crew finding the vault. The only remaining member in the city government that had been involved in the cover up from back then, Butcher had raced to the old building in hopes of preventing the unthinkable from happening.
He had not been successful.
Butcher had arrived to a scene of carnage, a nightmare worse than any he had witnessed during Skorzeny's reign of terror back in the 70's. Someone had removed the stake from Skorzeny's skeleton, resurrecting the vampire in a most gruesome manner. The remains of five reconstruction workers and two police officers were spread about the vault, all drained of blood and ravaged beyond recognition.
Skorzeny was back, and more savage than ever.
Bernie had been the second one that Butcher called, the former Sheriff not knowing who else to turn to after being rejected by Senator Paine. Though he had retired from the Bureau, Bernie still had friends that liked him and were not above passing him information that wasn't considered too confidential. He found out everything about the vault, the repeated attempts to dispose of Skorzeny's body, and of a little known file that the FBI had titled The Nocturnus List.
That had thrown him for a loop. The Nocturnus List was comprised of beings that the Bureau had confirmed as being Nosferatu. Bernie couldn't believe it, that all those years ago he had been kept in the dark while the Bureau had had their own special team monitoring all the events that went down in Las Vegas. That Carl had been run out of town for doing their job, for killing Skorzeny.
Enlisting the aid of a very close friend still in the Bureau, Bernie had learned that the Nocturnus Team was already on the Skorzeny resurrection, and that they believed that the vampire had tracked down not only the name of the man that had staked him, but of the woman that he loved. Carl had no living family, so it made sense that the vampire would strike back at his killer by going after the one woman he had ever cared about.
Using a few tricks that he had learned while in the Bureau, Bernie was able to get Gail and her son out of Nebraska without the Nocturnus Team realizing it. They headed for Chicago, hoping to contact Carl and organize themselves before Skorzeny or the NT showed up.
So far their plan was going as they had hoped, Bernie and Gail deciding that best way to grab Carl's interest would be to let him know about his son. Gail had never kept the truth about Carl from her son, and the arrival of Bernie Jenks had only reinforced the many stories she had told him about Carl, his namesake.
Carl Foster had grown up seeing his father as some sort of Night Stalker, fighting the dark forces that hunted our world in front of the blind eyes of those who did not want to see the truth. He had never witnessed such forces for himself, but his mother's insistence had led him to not dismiss such possibilities as easily as others. Her insistence, and the evidence from the past that she had taken with her when she had been asked to leave town ahead of Carl, had taught him to be open minded to such possibilities.
She had spent the years moving from one city to another, bringing up her son as best she could, constantly fearing what things might be out in the night. She had been determined to never again be in a position where those in power could use her against Carl, and had settled herself to merely keeping tabs on him, collecting his stories and following his life from a distance.
And now that distance had been ripped away by the resurrection of the creature that had caused them to be torn apart.
"You're making me nervous, Bernie," said Gail from her curled position on the couch. She had been trying to distract herself by watching television, but Bernie's constant pacing had distracted her from that.
"I'm sorry," he offered, forcing himself to stop and turn to face her. "Your son's taking a little longer than I would have thought."
"Well, I suppose Carl's grilling him, not believing his story for a minute."
"We should have all gone to him," said Bernie, taking up his pacing again.
"You know that that wouldn't have worked," stated Gail. "They're probably watching him right now, and Carl would have a better chance of sneaking in than if all of us had gone."
"Yeah, I know," he conceded, spinning to repeat his path. "That doesn't make the waiting any easier."
"Bernie, would you please…"
A sudden pounding at the door caused Gail to pause, her eyes locking with Bernie's as they both were gripped with fear. Bernie pulled a gun out of his should holster and quietly stepped over to the door, motioning for Gail to remain quiet.
"Who is it?" he asked, after a second series of poundings.
"Telegram for a Miss Rice," answered a male voice.
Bernie glanced at Gail, fearing what it could mean. Rice was the name that they had rented the apartment under, and no one would use it except her son. What could have happened that he would send them a telegram, though?
"Just slide it under the door," instructed Bernie.
"I, uh, need a signature, sir," came the voice.
Again Bernie looked to Gail, but she merely held her hands out to indicate that she had no idea what to do.
"Sir?" called the courier.
"Just a minute," replied Bernie.
Switching his gun to his left hand, Bernie unlocked the door and edged it open just enough that he could look out into the hallway. A rather young looking man in a blue uniform stood there paitently, looking slightly annoyed, an envelope and clipboard in his hands. The man smiled and nodded as Bernie looked out at him, tipping his cap in greeting.
"Hold on," said Bernie, slipping the gun into his back pocket before opening the door fully.
Reaching out to take the clipboard so that he could sign for the telegram, Bernie was caught off guard as the courier lunged forward, pushing Bernie backward into the apartment. More men piled in behind the blue uniformed one, all of them carrying shotguns or machineguns, as Gail began screaming.
Two of the men grabbed up Bernie and tossed him onto the couch next to Gail, one of them slapping her across the face to shut her up. Bernie tried to rise to challenge the man that had slapped Gail only to be struck down by a punch in the stomach from his partner.
When Bernie and Gail had finally been quieted, one of the men leaned out the door and nodded. A new man stepped into the apartment, an air of menace about him that carried even to the men that were under his command.
African in descent, tall in stature, the man had close cropped hair that was silver and matched his full beard and mustache. His eyes were a deep green that had a coldness to them that seemed perfectly at home on his hard set face. He wore a long, grey trench coat that was as much a part of his character as his deep voice.
"It's too bad that you're not still with the Bureau, Mr. Jenks," spoke the man. "You were evidently a very good agent. You managed to escape with Miss Foster and her son without our knowledge, and that is no small feat."
"You must be Damascus," said Bernie, recalling the name he had been given as the head of the Nocturnus Team.
"Ah," said the man, surprised. "A very good agent indeed. Not many know of me, outside of the Director's office."
"What do you want with us?" demanded Gail.
"Bait," replied Damascus.
The far window of the apartment exploded into the room, a dark shape catapulting into the room amidst the shower of glass and curtain. The team turned as one, all of them aiming their weapons on the man that was now standing in the room, glaring at them with red rimmed eyes full of rage.
"I had that same idea," hissed the man.
"Skorzeny!" yelled Damascus.
* * *
Kolchak's restored mustang was bathed in the red and blue glow of numerous police cruiser light bars as he pulled up in front of the building that Foster had directed him to. He traded a worried glance with his supposed son, the two of them climbing out of the yellow Ford and beating a path for the front doors of the apartment building.
"Whoa, slow down, Kolchak," called a familiar voice.
Carl turned to see Captain Christine Carter walking towards them, shaking her head in dismay at the aged reporter. Her auburn locks dangled at the side of her head, a soft accent to her brown eyes, and just the right touch to the friendly expression that usually decorated her face when she delt with Carl.
"Christine, you're looking quite lovely tonight," greeted Carl, laying on the charm that they both knew he didn't actually posses.
"I didn't think you covered too many of the stories anymore, Carl," said the Captain when she finally reached the men. "Isn't homicide Willard's beat?"
"Well, yeah, but I'm not here for a story, Captain."
"Captain is it?" she asked, immediately going on the defensive. "Okay, Carl. What's up? How'd you find out about this so fast?"
"Christine, I swear this is just a coincidence. We're here to see an old friend."
"And who's your young friend here?" she asked, nodding towards Foster.
"Carl Foster," answered the man.
"Two Carls," teased Carter, eyeing Kolchak. "Does that mean twice the headaches?"
"Eh," chided Carl, smiling. "Look, Christine, what's going on here? You said homicide, so who got killed?"
"Don't know yet," she answered, looking back towards the building as multiple carts topped with black bags were rolled out by medics with pale complexions.
Carl's eyes widened as he counted off nearly a dozen carts rolled out of the building, a foreboding sense of darkness coming over him. This was either a gang related slaying, which he doubted, or the work of something from the darkness.
"Got nearly two dozen calls of gun fire and screams coming from one of the apartments. Found a bunch of corpses, a lot of bullet holes, and not a single one of them dead from gun shots."
"What did they die from?" asked Carl, his old instincts kicking in.
"Which apartment?" asked Foster, fearful for his mother.
"We don't know yet," answered Christine. "And I can't tell you that," she added, looking to Foster. "Not yet, any ways."
"My mother's staying here," said Foster, hoping to persuade the Captain.
"Don't worry about her," offered Christine. "It happened in an apartment registered to someone named Rice."
Foster blanched, and staggered back a step as if struck.
"Oh, no," said Christine, sorrowed at her error. "I'm sorry, I didn't think about her having a different name. She wasn't here. We're looking for her to find out if she knows anything about what happen."
"Are you okay, son?" asked Carl, gently grabbing Foster by the arm to offer him some support.
"Son?" asked Christine, surprised.
"Yeah," said Foster. "Are you sure she wasn't here? Were there any survivors?"
"Just one, but he's in pretty bad shape. He's lost a lot of blood."
"Who?" asked Carl.
"A, uh, Bernie Jenks. He was the only one that had any ID on him."
"Where are they taking him, Christine?" demanded Carl, an urgency in his voice that she had never heard before.
"Saint Anthony's," she answered, trailing after him and Foster as they raced back towards Carl's mustang. "Carl, what's going on? What do you know?"
"Right now, nothing," replied Carl as he slid into his car and started it up. "But you'll be the first to know when I figure it out."
Carl peeled out, leaving Christine gaping after him in a thinning cloud of grey smoke. She had heard horror stories about Carl in the olden days, and had often dismissed them, but she thought she had just caught a glimpse of the obnoxious reporter that had caused many an ulcer. She had never seen that side of him, always having found him to be rather friendly and persuasive, but she wasn't going to let him off the hook that easy, no matter what their past was.
"Palmer!" she shouted at a nearby officer. "Get a squad car."
* * *
Carl came to an abrupt halt, Foster running into him and almost bowling him over, as he rounded the corner to see an officer standing in front of the door to Bernie's hospital room. He managed to duck back around the corner, pushing Foster along, before the officer turned and spotted him. He should have realized that there would be a guard on Bernie's door, the man was a retired FBI agent and had survived a slaughter after all, but he just hadn't thought of it.
It's been too long since I've had to play this game, thought Carl.
"What's wrong?" asked Foster, not having seen the officer.
"There's a cop on the door," answered Carl, rubbing his chin as he tried to think of what to do next. "He won't let us just waltz in there."
"So what do we do?"
"Give me a minute, will you," said Carl. "I'm trying to think here."
"How many laws did you break getting here, Carl," came Christine's voice from further down the hall.
Carl turned and smiled, opening his arms in welcome as the Captain, and a second officer, approached the two men. He had always been on good terms with Christine, especially after having exposed the crooked cops that had gotten her father killed in the early nineties, but she insisted on maintaining a professional attitude when it came to case privacy.
"Christine, you should have told me you were coming here," said Carl. "I would have waited to follow you."
"If you had waited to follow me, then we wouldn't be here. Now, tell me what's going on."
Carl looked thoughtful for a moment, actually trying to decide if he should confide in Christine or not. He had worked with her many times over the past ten years, sometimes feeling like he had taken the place of her deceased father, but he had never let his profession come between them. Then again, this wasn't exactly a news story that he was overseeing, it was a personal case involving the woman he had never stopped loving and who was now missing.
"Carl, talk to me," she said. Her brown eyes sparkled with genuine concern. She wanted to know what was going on, but she also wanted to help the man that had straightened out her life. "Let me help you for a change."
"Okay," agreed Carl.
He took her arm and moved her away from the proximity of Foster and the other officer, keeping his voice low as he revealed just enough information to her to answer some of her questions. He wasn't about to spill everything to her, he had no intentions of alienating her, or traveling down that dark path of stalking the night again.
"Bernie Jenks is an old friend of mine. He came here with Gail Foster and her son to protect them from a serial killer that I thought I had put away a long time ago."
"That tells me why the FBI is involved in this already," she said.
"What do you mean?"
"On the way here, I got a call that the Feds have already stepped in and claimed the bodies from the apartment. We were told that one of their agents would meet us here to take over supervision of Mister Jenks."
"Christine, can you let me talk to Bernie before they get here?"
"Carl, that's not…"
"Please, Christine. Gail should have been in that apartment, but she wasn't. If this guy got her, then maybe Bernie heard something."
"Who is this guy?"
"Janos Skorzeny. I covered his murder spree in Las Vegas over twenty-five years ago, and we thought he was dead. It turns out that he's not."
"Why would he wait so long to come after you?" asked Christine, finding the whole matter a little strange. "Twenty-five years is a long time to wait for revenge, Carl."
"I don't have all the answers, Christine. I just found out that Bernie was here and we were on our way to talk to him when we ran into you."
"Okay, but this had better not get my ass in a sling, Carl," agreed Christine.
Carl quickly walked up to Bernie's room, the officer stepping aside as Christine signaled him that it was okay. Stepping into the semi-dark room, Carl was shocked to see the number of machines that Bernie was hooked up to. It wasn't full life support, but it was damn close, and it sent a worried chill through the senior reporter. A large plastic bag of blood was connected to Bernie through an IV, three other such bags already in the trash can next to the man's bed.
"Bernie?" whispered Carl, stepping up next to his old friend.
Bernie opened his eyes slowly, a weak smile coming to his face as he saw Carl.
"You look like shit, buddy," joked Carl, nervously.
"You…haven't aged…all that well…either," replied Bernie in short breaths.
"It was Skorzeny, wasn't it?" asked Carl, certain of the answer though he wanted to deny it with all of his will.
Bernie merely nodded in confirmation.
"How, Bernie? How did this happen?"
Bernie slowly raised his hand and pointed towards his cloths, piled on the lone chair that sat in the room. Carl grabbed up the cloths, turning back towards Bernie with a questioning look.
"Inside…jacket…" gasped Bernie. "Note…book."
Carl reached into the jacket and pulled out a slim notebook. He thumbed through it, reading over Bernie's notes of the last month, and felt his world falling apart around him. His entire life had been nearly ruined because of what he had become involved with, and now he was finding out that it had not had to be that way. There had been those that had known the truth and had decided to keep it secret, tossing Carl aside to rot in the denial that everyone else easily spewed.
"Carl?" called Bernie weakly, worried that his old friend had gone over the deep end of despair.
Carl looked up with his eyes full of tears, his complexion pale with the truth that he had learned. When he spoke, his voice was full of betrayal, anger, sadness, and resignation, a combination that had broken many a person.
"Why did they let it happen like this?" wondered Carl, vacantly looking out into the room. "They cost me Gail. My life with my son. Why, Bernie?"
"Bastards. Those God damned bastards," said Carl, his voice strengthening some. "I'll see everyone of them exposed to the entire world. They can't screw with people's lives like this, Bernie. How many others have they done it to besides me? How many other people have they ruined just to keep this secret?"
"He…has…Gail," strained Bernie, fighting off the blackness that was trying to claim his senses. "He…wants…you."
"Where, Bernie? Did he tell you where?"
"He said…the Delphi Building. He said…that you would….know where."
Carl knew. A lot of the older residents of Chicago knew of the Delphi Building and it's supposedly haunted hallways. It had been an ultra-modern building back in the late seventies, constructed to house all manners of new businesses to oversee the rebirth of the heights. That rebirth had never come, and the company behind the project soon filed bankruptcy, abandoning the building like most of the others in the area.
"Carl…you have…to promise me…"
"See that…I'm…disposed of…properly."
"You're going to be alright, buddy."
"No…I'm…not," stressed Bernie, grabbing a hold of Carl's arm. "Promise me."
"I don't want…to come back."
Carl realized what his friend was referring to. Skorzeny had drained a lot of blood from Bernie Jenks, leaving him alive just enough so that he could deliver the message to Kolchak about Gail. If, and when, Bernie died, he would come back as vampire, just as blood thirsty as the creature that had made him.
"I promise, Bernie. But don't worry about that, you'll be…"
Bernie's eyes slid shut and his chest sunk as his last breath exited his body. The monitors in the room began screaming their electronic pleas for assistance, and Carl nearly slumped to the floor as his friend's hand slipped off of his arm.
A doctor and two nurses rushed into the room, pushing Carl out of the way as they tried to resuscitate their patient. Carl stepped backwards dazedly, his senses overwhelmed with both loss and anger, and he felt the old fires burning within him once more. The fires that fueled his desire to see the dark truths of the world exposed to the light for all to see.
He would meet Skorzeny, and he would kill him again. Then the Nocturnus Team would become his next, and most likely final, crusade. He would expose them for what they were, beings no better than the vampires that they hunted.
* * *
It's Las Vegas, 1972, all over again, thought Carl as he sat in Christine's office. She has no more reason to believe in me any more than they did. She has even less, really, since there's no string of blood drained bodies for her to see. No coroner reports of neck wounds and traces of human saliva. No FBI supplied reports of a fugitive that's been on the run for over seventy years.
"Okay," said Christine, after listening to Carl tell his entire story. "What can I do to help?"
Carl looked at her in shock, not having been expecting that question to come from her. He had been expecting patronizing assurances that she believed him and that everything would work out in the end, but he had definitely not been expecting her to accept his story and offer help.
"You believe us?" asked Foster, having remained silent the entire time his father told his story.
"This FBI guy that showed up at the hospital, Alex Damascus, he matches descriptions that the neighbors gave us of a man fleeing the scene as soon as the shooting started. When I asked him if he had been there, he denied it and suggested that I keep my nose out of Bureau business."
"He must be part of this Nocturnus Team in Bernie's notes," said Carl.
"If I hadn't seen those bodies myself.." said Christine, letting the sentence trail off. "Well, like I said then, they were all dead and it wasn't by gunshot. I saw the wounds on their necks."
"Where's this Damascus now?" asked Carl.
"I don't know, and I don't care," replied Christine. "We've got about four hours of sunlight left to come up with a plan for taking this Skorzeny at the Delphi Building."
"What do you mean, we?" asked Carl.
"We're going with you," said Foster, like it was a given.
"You're not going to face him alone, Carl," added Christine.
"I'm the one he wants," argued Carl. "You two have nothing to do with this."
"Bullshit," exclaimed Foster. "That bastard has my mother, and I'm not about to set on the sidelines while you go after him. Don't take this the wrong way, Carl, but you're not in the best of shape any more."
"Just because I'm a little older now," started Carl, looking at him indignantly, "doesn't mean that I can't handle this."
"Carl, please," added Christine sarcastically. "You should have retired years ago, but you're still at it because you've got nothing else to do. You can't possibly hope to face something like Skorzeny."
"Oh? What am I suppose to do, leave it to you youngsters?"
"Why not?" asked Foster.
"We can help you."
Carl sat silently, looking back and forth between the two of them. He hadn't expected them to team up against him, but he couldn't ignore their arguments. He was a lot older than he had been, and many days he felt every bit his age. He knew that they were right, that there was no way he could hope to stand up against Skorzeny and win. He had almost lost way back then, and Skorzeny had the luxury of superhuman strength and not having aged.
"All right," agreed Carl. "You two can help me."
Christine and Foster smiled.
"But he can't know that you're there, not at first. I'll have to lure him out so that we can make sure Gail is okay, and then we try to kill him."
"I can get us some weapons," offered Christine.
"The weapons we need, I don't think the police department will have," said Carl, smiling at their confusion. "Crosses and crossbows, children."
They made their plans for infiltrating the Delphi Building, unaware of the transmitter that had been planted in Christine's office, just one of many placed by members of the Nocturnus Team. The trio's conversation had been listened into by Damascus and a few members of his back-up team, positioned in a van parked outside of the police department.
Damascus called for the rest of his men to rendezvous with him at the Delphi Building. He was going to see this matter settled before Kolchak and his groupies arrived, and possibly arrange for a little accident to be waiting for them. He hated it when civilians got in the way of his job, and he had no hesitation about eliminating them from the picture, even one that had been wrapped up.
* * *
Christine had managed to secure an armored van for their use, also borrowing a few other bits of equipment that she thought might come in useful. They were all wearing black, infiltration uniforms and body armor, only Carl complaining about the weight of the materials. At his age, the full suit of tact armor was quite a bit too much, but he agreed that it might prove useful.
She had also insisted that they each wear side arms, even if Carl was certain that they wouldn't stop Skorzeny, and had equipped herself with a sawed off shotgun. Tasers were another weapon they carried, even Carl not knowing what affect the electrical devices would have on the vampire, and she had quickly shown them how to use them.
Carl had directed them to a sporting goods store where he had produced an INS Visa card to purchase them each a crossbow and several extra bolts. After that stop, they had hit Saint Benedict's Church, Carl strangely able to talk the priest there into giving them several crosses, which the priest blessed, and a water cooler tank full of Holy Water.
Foster had found the whole incident amusing, the priest never once questioning what Carl wanted the items for, and supplying them without haste. Christine merely wondered what the connection was between the two men, and thought that maybe she really didn't want to know.
They arrived at the Delphi Building with more than an hour of sunlight left to spare, and decided on the direct approach. Foster pried off the large sheets of aged plywood that barricaded the front doors of the building, allowing passage for the first time in ages. The glass doors turned out to be unlocked, slightly surprising and unnerving, and the trio slipped into the building.
The doors gave admittance to a cavernous room lined with balconies that marked the six stories of the building, spiraling staircases leading up to each floor. A wide, circular information desk sat just a few feet into the open lobby, covered in a thick layer of dust and sprouting cobwebs. A large, directory was next to the information desk, most of its dulled white letters still in place, and Carl went to examine it.
Dim light filtered down through uncovered skylights, sparkling columns of dust spread intermittently through the massive lobby. The pale white was just enough to break up the shadows, still leaving swirling pools of blackness that could be hiding anyone or anything.
"I didn't realize this place was so big," said Christine, amazed that such a building had been abandoned. But then, thinking of the surrounding neighborhood, it really didn't seem so absurd.
"Where do you think he'll be?" asked Foster.
"Here," said Carl, pointing to dull letters that spelled out auditorium. "He'll have the advantage, there won't be any light at all there and he can watch us from a distance."
"Oh, I don't know about that any light at all part," said Christine, smiling like she had the biggest secret in the world. "I made a phone call before we left, and the power should be on here by now."
"Well bless my soul," said Carl, impressed with her initiative. "I just hope these old fixtures can take it."
"Why don't I find the power room," suggested Foster. "When you give the signal, I can turn on the lights in the auditorium."
"That sounds like a good idea," agreed Carl. "Christine can wait outside of the auditorium until then. Hopefully I'll have lured Skorzeny out into the open, and when the lights come on she'll be able to get a bead on him."
Foster patted Carl on the shoulder, then turned and jogged off towards a door marked Maintenance. They had studied the layout of the building, pulled from old city records, and he basically knew the way to the main power room. The hallway beyond the door was pitch black, and Foster pulled out his flashlight. With a last glance back at his father and Christine, he stepped into the darkness, the door silently closing behind him.
"I'd feel more comfortable relying on a shotgun instead of a foot long shaft of wood," confessed Christine.
"You'd just piss him off with a shotgun," said Carl. "You know the legends about vampires, I assume."
Christine didn't have a reply.
"Come on," said Carl, heading towards the rear of the lobby. "The auditorium is at the back of the building."
The two quietly made their way through the dust covered chamber, bits of paper and debris scattered about randomly, and kept a constant vigil for any sign that someone was hiding within the deep pools of blackness. Christine kept flashing her light back and forth, her nerves on edge despite her training and experience, the feeling that they were being watched creeping over her like a smothering blanket.
"Are you sure he's in there?" she asked, certain that the vampire had to be somewhere close, scrutinizing them with hatred and hunger.
"He doesn't like sunlight," he offered in the form of comfort. "There might not be much out here, but I don't think he'd like it too well."
They were less than a dozen feet from the large, oak doors of the auditorium when they were knocked off their feet by an explosion that destroyed the two heavy doors. Dust and debris rained down through the lobby as a fire ball roared out of the now open room and dispersed as it rose.
"What the hell was that?" yelled Christine, rising up on her elbows to look at the ruined doors.
Inside the auditorium they could see the sporadic bursts of gunfire, yellow and orange flashes briefly breaking the darkness to show shadowy men firing randomly about the large room. Another explosion thundered through the building, from deeper in the auditorium, and more dust seemed to fall from the aged structure.
Dozens of lights flared to life, many of them popping out just as quickly as they had come on, and the entire lobby and auditorium was bathed in a smoky white glow that dispelled the shadows but revealed little.
Carl and Christine clamored to their feet, racing to the entrance of the auditorium and stopping as they witnessed the battle taking place before them. Men and women in black tact armor were combating a single form, a man dressed in a dark suit that was tossing them about like they were dolls.
"Skorzeny," whispered Carl, recognizing the vampire.
Two men armed with wooden staffs that were sharpened to points on either end, charged the vampire, but his speed was more than a match for them. He stepped aside of the first attack, grabbing the man by the collar as he tried to speed past, and swung him into the path of his companion. The second man was unable to check his assault, his staff spearing his friend despite the body armor that he wore.
Skorzeny tossed the body aside, ripping the staff from the hands of the man still standing, and lunged at the surprised human. The vampire ripped into the man's throat, gulping down as much blood as what was pumped into the air in streams and a mist.
A barrage of gunfire rained down on the vampire and the human he was feeding from, knocking them both to the floor. Five more humans advanced, continuing to fire their weapons as they drew near the overwhelmed vampire.
"Stake the bastard!" shouted a tall, black man at the rear of the auditorium.
"Damascus," identified Christine as Carl strained to see him.
"Gail?" wondered Carl as he saw the form laying on the stage next to Damascus.
It was a woman, he was sure of that, but he couldn't make out any of her features from this distance. He could barely make out the hard, grey haired features of the leader of the Nocturnus Team as it was, let alone a person laying prone next to the man.
"Jesus, what's going on?" demanded Foster, running up to join the two.
"The Nocturnus Team got here before us," informed Christine.
The five that had circled the fallen Skorzeny continued firing at him, their machineguns spitting hundreds of rounds into his twisting form. One of them ceased her firing, grabbing up one of the spiked staffs that littered the floor, and prepared to finish the vampire off. She stretched back, putting all of her strength into the strike, and drove the weapon down at the vampire.
Skorzeny twisted, ignoring the hail of lead tearing at him, and grabbed the tip of the spike mere inches from his body. With a violent tug he pulled the weapon from the startled woman's grasp and slammed the opposite end into her face, killing her instantly. He then swung the staff and slammed another's gun aside, the man's shots slicing through the legs of a companion and dropping them.
The shocked man halted his firing, his concern replaced with denial as Skorzeny struck him down with the staff, spearing him through the groin and up into his midsection.
The two remaining members began backing away from the vampire, looking franticly about for a defensive position. Skorzeny rose with a snarl and launched himself at the closest agent, his fingers tipped with razor sharp nails that sliced into the man's throat. Blood sprayed into the air as the man stumbled backwards, slamming to the floor as he tried vainly to halt the flow of blood streaming from his neck.
"This is a vampire execution team?" asked Foster, sickened by the slaughter that he was witnessing.
"They're probably use to sneaking up on them in their coffins and staking them," suggested Carl, unknowingly close to the truth. "We've got to do something, though."
"Okay," said Christine, raising her crossbow and sighting on Skorzeny.
"Wait!" nearly yelled Carl, not wanting to announce their presence yet.
The bolt was true to its course, but not to its target. Christine managed to hit Skorzeny in the shoulder, missing his heart by inches, and the vampire hissed in pain as he grabbed at the bolt. He spun around to see who his new attackers were, forgetting the remaining female team member, and his eyes widened as he spotted Carl.
"You do not know how I have dreamt of this moment," hissed Skorzeny, turning fully to face the trio.
Skorzeny jerked as a spike suddenly appeared from his chest, the lone member having picked up a staff and charged him while he had been distracted. She had also missed his heart, but the wooden tip had hurt him greater than the bolt and he dropped to his knees as he fought the pain that was beating at his senses.
Damascus leapt off of the stage of the auditorium and ran towards the fallen vampire, a fire in his eyes that hinted at his determination. He pushed the woman aside, grabbed a hold of the staff with both hands, planted a foot on Skorzeny's back and pulled with all of his might.
The staff came free with a wet slurping sound, and Damascus staggered back a step. He raised the staff, ready to finally strike the vampire down, but Skorzeny recovered faster than any of them would have thought possible.
A blur of motion, Skorzeny slammed into Damascus, knocking him to the ground as he tore at the man's throat with his fangs. Skorzeny fed completely from the man in a matter of seconds, emptying every last drop of blood from the leader of the Nocturnus Team.
Rearing his head up, his face covered with blood, Skorzeny screamed out in pleasure and ecstasy. He had not felt this free in ages, had not let himself succumb to the blood lust in so long that he was relishing in every last moment of the battle. He was determined to no longer hide from the humans that over ran the world, from now on he would hunt them like the prey that they were, reveling in their terror and fear. He would lay claim to the night that should be his alone, and turn humankind back into the sniveling animals that they should have always remained.
He would make them all rue the day…
This time, fired from point blank range, the bolt struck home, piercing Skorzeny's heart and lodging there. Gurgling blood, disbelief and agony flooding over him, Skorzeny looked numbly down at the tip of the bolt protruding from his chest. Darkness again claimed him, banishing his awareness to that hellish pit of emptiness that he had already spent so many years a prisoner of.
Carl dropped the crossbow to the floor as Skorzeny slumped forward, finally dead again. Twice now he had killed the vampire, and this time he hoped that it was final. He would find a way to dispose of the remains, not just bury them away and pray that no one ever found them. He didn't want to think of someone unleashing this horror into the world again.
"Bind him like I told you," said Carl, heading for the stage.
Christine ran back to the van to retrieve the other supplies that they had brought with them while Foster stood guard over the corpse, brandishing a cross. He knew that Carl had managed to slay the vampire, but Skorzeny had been dead once before already and he wasn't up to taking any chances.
"Is she alright?" shouted Foster as Carl climbed onto the stage and kneeled beside the unconscious Gail.
Gail groaned slightly as Carl rolled her over.
"Yeah, she's alive," shouted Carl, his voice full of glee.
"Carl?" asked Gail, her red rimmed eyes fluttering open.
"It's me, Gail," answered Carl, smiling, tears stingingly blinding his eyes.
Gail sat up suddenly, her mouth an open vision of hell as Carl saw the fangs that were now part of her existence. He had no time to react, she was on him that fast, and he was only able to whimper as she latched onto his throat and began draining the life from him.
The world seemed to stop as Foster saw what his mother had become, what she was doing to the father he had just met. Even in death, Skorzeny had beaten both of them, having the revenge that he had hungered for since his resurrection. In motion ever so slow, Foster raised his own crossbow as his mother's eyes focused on him, widening in realization of what was about to happen.
The bolt struck Carl's right side, penetrating through him and into Gail's heart just as Foster had prayed that it would. A gurgled gasp was Gail's only response, the wooden bolt taking her to that same blackness that had claimed Skorzeny, and Foster dropped to his knees in defeat.
Christine returned, carrying two large equipment boxes, and let them drop with a crashing echo as she saw what had transpired during her absence. She ran to Foster's side, and saw that he was close to shock. She slapped him across the face and yelled at him to pull it together.
Looking about for the lone surviving Nocturnus Team member, hoping that the woman could help them, Christine was surprised to find the woman no where to be seen. Cursing under her breath, she guided Foster to his feet and began lumbering towards the stage. She had to keep him alert, but she also had to see if Carl was still alive.
"Let go," said Foster, suddenly, as they neared the stage.
"Are you okay?" Christine asked, deeply worried about him.
"No, but I'll make it through this," he honestly answered.
They climbed onto the stage and ran to Carl's side. Kneeling next to him, both of them were afraid to touch him, afraid to confirm that he was dead. Christine was the first to speak, terrified of losing yet another father, but having to know.
"Carl," she whispered.
He opened his eyes slightly, just enough that he could see his two children before him, and he smiled. It was a peaceful smile, but it was not reassuring in the least. It was the smile of someone who had accepted their fate.
"I always thought of you as my own daughter," said Carl, small drops of blood forming at the corner of his mouth.
"I know," affirmed Christine.
"I wish I had the…chance to get to know you," he said to Foster.
"Don't," said Carl, coughing violently.
"Shhhh," said Christine. "I'll go call for help."
"No!" asserted Carl. "You know what you have to do."
"Dad, we…" started Foster.
"Don't…make me…regret you," said Carl, coughing again, his face racked with pain. "Make me proud."
Carl's head slumped down as he passed away, Christine and Foster embracing him and letting out the tears that had been swelling in them. Their pained sobs echoed through the stillness of the auditorium, lost to the darkness that was settling over the city of Chicago.