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The Long Road to Redemption
Nick Knight pulled his black robe over his silk pajamas and descended the steps to the living area of his ultra modern, yet archaically decorated loft apartment. He crossed to the large refrigerator and took, what to the casual observer would look like an unlabeled bottle of red wine, removing the cork with his teeth he spit it into the sink and took a long pull from it. Perhaps the same casual observer would say that Detective Knight has a drinking problem. This observer would be correct for Nick Knight, a Toronto homicide detective has a very serious drinking problem, but wine is not his drink. It's cow's blood, and he is a vampire.
The first bottle, drained, was set aside and Nick reached into the refrigerator for a second. When the telephone rang he hesitated before deciding to let the answering machine pick up. He was in no mood to interrupt his 'breakfast'. The second bottle was half finished before he sat it down again. Wiping a thin trail of blood from his chin, he moved forward to listen to the incoming message.
"Nick, this is Reese. Look something has come up here at the station and I have to put you and your partner on special assignment. Tracy is on her way in and I need you here as soon as possible"
Nick scowled as he took up the bottle again to resume his 'meal'. He knew from nearly eight hundred years experience he would not be safe to his mortal companions until the beast within him was sated.
Forty- five minutes later the sun had sunk behind the Toronto skyline and Nick was entering the precinct doors. He paused to look for Tracy, but it was his vampiric hearing that located her in Reese's office. He made his way across the room pausing at his desk long enough to drape his jacket across the back of his chair. He tried not to concentrate on the conversation his supernatural hearing had targeted on, but could not help but be aware of the distress in his partner's tone. Obviously this special assignment, like most others, would be very unflattering. He knocked lightly on Reese's door. He heard their voices pause and he entered the office. Reese looked up from his desk where he was seated. Tracy Vetter, his partner was sitting in front of the desk.
"It's about time, Detective." Reese made little effort to hide the irritation he was feeling.
"Sorry, Cap. I overslept." Knight lied with a wispy smile. Now was not the time to remind his superior of his 'allergy to sunlight'.
"Well, you're here at least." Reese turned his large bulk in the chair so that he could hand and assignment sheet to Knight. "Here's tonight's call. Your partner here is less than enthusiastic, so please try to explain to her that when the city is turned on its ear like this we all have to do our part. At least it isn't traffic duty."
Knight looked at the sheet then back to the Captain. "On it's ear, Sir?"
"You know, the soccer championships are in town and all the uniforms are out protecting the peace. That leaves the rest of us to fill in the gaps."
Knight feigned understanding. "Oh, Yes. Soccer championships, right." Knight didn't bother to follow current world events much less sports news. After all he had seen in his lifetime it had become mundane.
"Any questions?" Reese was obviously impatient. When neither Detective replied he got up and opened the door. "Good, then get out there and do your job."
When they were in the parking lot and safely out of the Captain's hearing, Tracy turned to Nick. "How bad is it?" she asked.
Nick glanced at her questioningly, and then remembered the assignment sheet in his hand. "Oh," he said as he looked it over, "It looks like we are on bodyguard duty tonight. There is a famous author slash psychiatrist in town giving a lecture, Dr. Colleen McMurphy." As he said the name he stopped and his jaw went slack. Suddenly he was drawn back in time twenty some years and half a world away.
The explosions from the mortar and rocket fire lit up the hilly terrain as army medic Nick Reynolds slid through the mud on his belly, slowly making his way to his objective. Fortunately, the young man he was on his way to care for had stopped screaming ten minutes ago, but as Nick made his way closer he began to note the severity of the man's condition. There were thousands of ways to die in Vietnam, but one of the most feared was to be caught by a 'Bouncing Betty'. The 'Bouncing Betty' was an antipersonnel device meant to cripple and maim its victim. Those that didn't die immediately from loss of blood or shrapnel wounds were usually left legless or armless if they were lucky. The boy before Nick now had obviously been victim of such a device. Nick crawled up to him and looked into his eyes. They were glazed and in shock obviously, this boy was on deaths threshold. Even if he got to a medical facility immediately he doubted the boy's survival. As Nick gave the boy a pain killing injection he considered the possibility of taking the boy's pain from him. Within seconds, if he so chose, the boy would be out of his suffering. Nick shook his head, dismissing the thought. He had not come to this forsaken country to take another life, but to move toward his own redemption by saving lives. He stood up and lifted the boy in his arms. Keeping as low as he could with his burden, he made his way across the field away from the fire. There was Medical Unit a couple of miles away and Nick took his burden into the air, calling on his preternatural abilities to save this life.
Within a couple of minutes Nick burst through the doors of the medical surgical unit with his charge. Immediately a young dark haired nurse exuding goodness and competence raced to his side accessing the patient. She looked at Nick with compassionate eyes. "I'm sorry." Nick understood. He had tried and lost. It had happened hundreds of times and would happen hundreds more. After she moved on to other duties, Nick stood there holding the young man's lifeless body in his arms. Finally, a black man came and relieved him of the burden. He looked at the man, whose nametag said Beckett and asked about the young woman. Beckett looked over his shoulder for a moment, and then replied, "That's Lieutenant McMurphy."
"Nick? Nick?" Tracy was giving him one of those 'how do you tie your own shoes?' looks.
"Sorry, Trace. I was just thinking." He smiled trying to set her at ease.
"Okay, but if we don't get to our assignment, Reese will have us on traffic patrol." She said as she climbed into the passenger side of her partner's classic Cadillac.
Nick and Tracy waved their badges at the door security as they entered the auditorium. One of the security guards pointed them in the direction on an older woman speaking to a group of reporters. As soon as she noticed them she broke away from the group and came over to them. Extending her hand she offered a toothy smile. "Hello, I'm Angela Drewer. You must be the police. Where are the other's?"
Tracy spoke up first. "I'm detective Vetter and this is detective Knight. As far as I know, this is it. With the soccer championship in town we are a little over taxed."
Ms. Drewer gave the detective a disgruntled look. "This is it? Oh, dear." She ran a nervous hand over her auburn hair, " Well, I suppose you'll have to do, Dr McMurphy is due out in a moment, please come this way." She started off toward the back stage area.
Tracy gave the woman an offended look before following behind her. "I can assure you that Detective Knight and I are quite qualified." Knight smiled at the exchange and followed behind.
"I'm certain you are, detective. It's just all the death threats we have received since this book tour started. It seems that many people take offense to the doctors views on the war." She said without turning back. She stopped as they arrived at an area in the wings. "Here. From this spot you can see the entire audience as well as the doctor. Now, if that will be all, I have a hundred details to attend to." Without a backward glance Ms. Drewer went off down the corridor, smoothing her charcoal suit as she went.
"I wonder if it's too late for that traffic duty," Tracy said flatly.
Nick had decided to position himself on the floor off to the side of the stage where he figured to have a better vantage point. As the auditorium began to fill to capacity he began to wonder if he and Tracy would be adequate if there were trouble. He hoped to never find out. The audience grew quiet as the lights were dimmed. Within seconds twin spotlights illuminated the area of the podium and Nick felt the electrified aura of the audience. He craned his neck to look around as Ms Drewer approached the podium. Adjusting the microphone she cleared her voice and announced the speaker. "Thank you for coming tonight. I want to remind you that there will be a question and answer session after the lecture, and a book signing in the lobby after that. Now, please welcome Dr Colleen McMurphy."
As the crowd erupted in applause Nick noticed a woman approach the podium. She stopped and looked over the crowd. With a slender hand she pushed back a lock of graying hair. The lines around her eyes were deeper than Nick remembered, but the smile gave way to the natural beauty she still possessed. Yet despite the beauty, Nick looked deeper and saw the pain she still possessed or rather the pain that still possessed her.
When the crowd quieted and took their seats she began her oration. "As many of you know, from my book, I was a triage and OR nurse with the 510th Evac Unit, China Beach. Vietnam. As women we were considered non-combatants we weren't presented with the decorations for valor that many of our male counterparts were. But, as a good friend of mine once said "there are no non-combatants in Vietnam". Instead of decorations we returned home with emotional scars. Scars the public didn't care about anymore than the medals. For many of us it has been a long journey to regain our selves, to look in the mirror and know that what we did was right. We did our jobs with honor."
"You know they say you never get used to the smell of this country."
Nick turned to see Colleen McMurphy crossing the bridge to stand beside him. "I've known worse." McMurphy took a drink from the bottle in her hand and held it out to him. "No thanks, not my brand." He turned back to the swamp.
"The kid you brought in tonight, he didn't have a chance, you know. If he would have lived and returned home he still would have been behind in the game with no hope to catch up." McMurphy leaned against the rail of the bridge.
Nick turned and looked at her surprised that such a compassionate woman could give in to such disparity. "Maybe not, but at least he would have been alive. Alive to love. Alive to fail. Alive to try. There's a lot to be said for being alive."
McMurphy looked into his eyes. "I wait for the day I live again. When I return to the world is the day I live again. Until then, I hold their hands and tell them they'll still have one when they return."
Nick looked across the auditorium. He wondered how many others. Faced the brutality of a country born to destruction and destroying every living being within it's borders. He had known many wars over the centuries, but none had devastated so many. Wounded bodies and wounded souls, lives ripped apart from thousands of miles away. As he observed the audience a sudden movement caught his eye. Undetectable to the human eye the form raced to the front of the stage. Nick used his vampire speed to intercept. He came up to the man just as he pulled the trigger on the firearm he had pointed at the speaker. Nick reached out and grazed the man's arm just enough to throw his aim off. Turning to meet his eyes, the man's eyes glowed red, fangs extended. With a loud hiss he took off at superhuman speed for the exit. Nick was afraid to be observed using superhuman efforts so he ran for the exit at human speed. He was not surprised to find the creature gone when he got outside. Returning inside he found Tracy directing local security to block the exits and start taking statements. Pandemonium had erupted in the room. He dispatched one of the guards to call the station. He reached Tracy and she looked up and spotted him.
"Got away?" she asked
"I'm afraid so. Anyone hurt?"
She looked around at the stage. "We have a body over by the stage, a stagehand. Bullet wound to the chest." She sighed. "It's a shame. A room full of nurses and no one could help."
Nick felt a familiar touch on his shoulder he turned to find himself looking into the beautiful eyes of Dr Natalie Lambert, Toronto PD's forensic specialist and his closest mortal friend. "Hi Nat. How did you get here so fast?"
"Believe it or not, I was in the audience. I'd have been over sooner, but Dick Tracy over there," she pointed to a sheepish looking guard, "Refused to let me over."
Tracy smiled. "Well, we have business for you." She turned and pointed them over to the body.
Natalie went to the body kneeling close to Nick as she examined the corpse. "Did I see what I think I saw earlier?" she whispered.
Nick replied in an equally hushed voice. "It was a vampire, Nat. But what I don't understand is why. And why use a gun. There are too many ways for a vampire to kill. It doesn't add up."
"Nick?" The voice came from behind them.
Nick stood up and turned around. He smiled wistfully. "McMurphy."
Natalie stood at Nick's side. "You two know each other?"
Without taking his eyes off Colleen, Nick answered. "Colleen is an old friend." The inflection rather than the words, told Nat that Colleen was privy to Nick's secret and that they had known each other in another of Nick's lives. Nick reached out and took Colleen's hands. "The years have been good to you."
Colleen McMurphy looked at Nick with gratitude. "Some good, some bad, but that's another story. How about you? Have they been good to you?"
The question behind the question was not lost on Nick. He searched within for words, but was spared when Captain Reese and the crime scene technicians came in. "I'd like to talk to you sometime. Catch up, but I have to go to work now. Is there someplace I can call you? Or you can call me." He reached into a side pocket and produced a small card. He wrote the name Nick Knight on the back and handed it McMurphy. "That's me now." He said in a low voice.
"I've got a book signing tomorrow, but I'm free tomorrow night."
"Perfect. I'm off." He glanced over at Natalie who had been silent through it all. "We can all have dinner." At the last word he smiled cryptically.
"Sounds great. I'll call you." McMurphy pocketed the card and moved off toward her secretary.
Nick turned to Natalie who was smiling. "Small world. You were in 'Nam huh?" She took the latex gloves from the crime scene technician. "Well, this should be easy." She said as she moved off toward the corpse.
This vision of the creature Nick had confronted moments before kept eating at Nick. He could remember very little about it except it seemed to be of Asian decent. He didn't know if it meant anything or not, bit Nick filed the information away for later use. Completing as much on scene as possible he decided to return to the station to start his incident report before heading over to The Raven to visit his 'source'. His 'source' was actually his vampire father. He didn't know why, intuition perhaps, but he felt LaCroix would have some insight in tonight's incident. The proprietor of The Raven, Toronto's haven for vampires knew more of the vampire species than he had cared to impart to his 'son'. Fortunately, he had never denied access to it when asked. Actually, LaCroix had never denied his favorite 'child' anything except his freedom.
He had just placed the last bit of paperwork in his outbox when the phone at his desk rang. The picked it up quickly "Knight."
"Nick, Natalie here. Can you come over? Alone?" She sounded anxious.
"Sure. On my way." He hung up the phone. He smiled at Tracy, who was still working away at her own version of the events. "I've got to meet someone, then I'm heading home. Call if you find anything."
Nick entered the deserted forensics lab and found Natalie crouched over a microscope. She hadn't heard his approach so when he touched her on the arm she jumped and drew in a sharp breath. When she had regained her composure she gave him a dirty look.
"Sorry. I guess I should try to be noisier?" he said offering a charming smile.
Knowing she wouldn't stay mad at his, she returned his smile with equal charm. Even with all she knew about Nick and his nature, he still made her heart leap whether she expected him or not. She knew deep within that part of the reason she worked so diligently on his cure was the hope that they could one day have a more intimate relationship. "Forgiven," she said as she motioned him toward a special microscope. "I was about to bag this and send this to ballistics when I noticed something different about it. So, I took a look."
Nick leaned over and looked through the eyepieces. Some minor adjustments were made he noticed some scratches on the hub of the used projectile. "What is this?"
Natalie sighed, "I'm not sure, but because of the nature of our shooter I thought you would want to see it." She flipped a switch on the side of the microscope. "Look again."
Peering into the lenses again, this time Nick made out a symbol. He studied it for a full minute. It was vaguely familiar but he couldn't think of why. He stood straight and looked at Natalie. "I've seen it before, I think."
It was raining again, but that wasn't out of the ordinary for Vietnam. Nick Reynolds cursed the weather when it rained like this the abandoned tunnels he used as shelter during the daylight hours would flood and he would have to make do with what was available. He opened the door of the empty storage shed and peered out into the darkness. Fortunately, the rain had kept everyone in door and there wasn't much chance of detection.
He pulled his collar up around his neck and headed for the hospital. If he was lucky, he would find the blood stores unlocked and he could feed .He moved quietly in the darkness though the hard rain made this unnecessary. It was almost completely dark inside as he entered through a side door. The only light was coming from the nurse's station where he saw McMurphy working on a patient's chart. He crept silently to the refrigerator door and grabbed a bottle of blood. He had just opened it and begun to feed when he heard the sound of a voice from the ward. "What are you doing here? Who are you? STOP!" The last word made Nick put down the bottle and raced toward the door to the ward. When he got there he stopped stunned at the sight. McMurphy was advancing on someone hovering over one of the patients. She continued to yell as she approached the unheeding interloper. She grabbed his arm and tried to pull him away but was flung across the room by the beast that had looked up at her revealing its red glowing eyes and fangs. Noticing Nick, the beast decided to feast on healthier prey and started toward him. Nick was grateful McMurphy was unconscious as he felt his own transformation begin. His own eyes glowed and he felt the sharp tips of his own teeth against his lips as he moved to meet his assailant. With vampires speed the two creatures locked in battle. Animal against animal they twisted and fought trying to get to each other's unprotected neck. Having not fed properly, Nick felt his strength waning and he began to fear losing this battle. Suddenly, his assailant's body bucked and his eyes grew wide with surprise, then he slumped to the floor. Nick looked up into the face of McMurphy who had the broken end of a wooden broomstick in her hands.
"What the hell was that?" she asked as she looked up from the still body. "And what the hell are you?" The adrenaline rush caused her knees to go weak. She sank to her knees trembling.
Feeling his old self-return, Nick kneeled at her side. It was unfortunate she had seen the exchange, but he owned his life to her. He looked deeply into her eyes and spoke slowly "Listen carefully, McMurphy, you didn't see anything. You fell asleep at your desk. Nothing happened."
Her face was expressionless for a couple of seconds before she spoke "Nothing happened? You want to tell me that….thing didn't try to attack one of my patients and then me?" She gestured to the impaled body on the floor. "And something tells me you know something about this. I want…no, I DEMAND and explanation."
Nick rolled back on his heels, "Great, a resistor." He stood up and took McMurpy's hand to help her to her more steady feet. "Okay, but you're not going to like it."
While examining the corpse, Nick explained in as little detail as possible about himself and his kind. Though he took pains to explain the he abhorred the taking of human life and had for sometime, he noticed she subconsciously or not she tried to distance herself from him physically.
"So, now what? She asked.
"We have to burn the body. Or leave it uncovered when the sun rises." Nick offered. As he said it he began lifting the body from under the arms. As he threw it over his shoulder in a fireman's lift, he heard something metal clang to the wooden floor. McMurphy stooped and picked it up. She examined it a moment before handing it to Nick.
"It's Vietnamese. I recognize that, but I don't know what it means."
After examining it for a few moments, Nick slipped it into the pocket of his fatigues. He disposed of the creature and McMurphy took care of the ward. Fortunately, There had been no witnesses and neither of them mentioned it again.
Nick made a stop by his apartment then headed to the Raven from Natalie's lab, it was time to talk to LaCroix he decided. The bouncer recognized him and waved him in immediately. He paused just inside to take in the atmosphere. Young mortal and vampire dancers were occupying the dance floor moving their bodies to the beat of the music. Nick moved to the bar where a bartender handed him a wineglass with his special blend in it. Nick gave him a questioning look and the bartender pointed to LaCroix's studio. Looking at his watch Nick noted that LaCroix would be on the air in a half hour. He knocked on the door lightly before entering the studio where his master broadcast his live radio show every evening.
"Nicholas, this is a surprise. It's been a while." LaCroix never lacked in displaying delight at seeing his favorite child.
"Hello, LaCroix. Getting ready to corrupt minds and insult the city?" Nick made no effort to hide his distaste at the attitude of the programming.
"Ah, another criminal case gone awry and made you cranky? When will you give it up and return to your own?"
"I'm in no mood for your verbal bantering tonight, LaCroix." Knight reached into his pocket and pulled out a metal object then tossed it on the table. "What can you tell me about this?"
LaCroix picked it up and examined it. His eyebrows went up in surprise. "Where did you get this?" When Knight didn't reply he went on, "Never mind. No doubt on one of your exercises of independence." He returned his attentions to the prize. "Actually, this is the first time I have seen one of these and I am quite surprise are alive to possess it."
"Meaning?" Knight prodded.
"You see this particular object is Vietnamese in origin. It belonged to a vampire tribal member. It was never to leave their possession except in death, and then it would be handed down to a newly acquired member. Only member of the tribe were allowed possession. I am very interested in how you came by it."
"I took it from a dead body in Vietnam." Knight said flatly.
"Well then, let me offer you some good advice. Get rid of it by whatever means, because sooner or later one of them will come looking for it and it is guaranteed they will not ask nicely. If you think our kind is secretive you would be astounded to find that anyone, man or beast, which knows about this community is not allowed to live. I doubt it's worth your life. And they will find you." The older vampire turned his attention to his equipment, preparing for his broadcast.
"I think they already have." Knight replied as he exited.
Colleen went to the bar and poured another drink. She had given Scotch up years ago when she had conciliated with ghosts past, but tonight she found herself confronted by her ghosts again. Nick Reynolds, no Knight she corrected herself. Detective Nick Knight of the Toronto Police Department. Another life and another name. He hadn't really changed from the Nick she had known in country, at least not physically. And it stood to reason he wouldn't, he was immortal. Yet, she had made the transition. It had taken longer than it should but she had finally found the middle ground where she could live with her past and have a future. It had taken her so long, coming from the triage nurse holding the GI's hands and literally holding their lives in her hands, to helping them see how to live with the hell that they had known. It was different for everyone, and she hadn't seen it at first. The Army had expected the men to go from killing machines to civilian lives, and the nurses and doctors to return to the mundane practice of daily living. Offering Band-Aids and cleaning bedpans couldn't hold her after what she had known. In Country every sense was alert and every emotion was filled. It was living life to its fullest while watching everyone die around you. How many times had she declined a return to the world just to stay with her guys at China Beach? Nick didn't ever have to go there, yet he did. And he stayed. Long after she had been evacuated when Saigon fell, she suspected he had remained to help and protect the indigenous population. But the genocide had been even too much for him. She looked at the amber liquid in the tumbler. She put the glass to her lips and emptied it in one motion. The Scotch, aged though it was burned all the way down setting her already roiling stomach on fire. She set the glass on the bar and went to bed.
The creature waited in the darkness on the roof of the building. He had been watching the woman for some time and sensed that the time to strike would be soon. It had been many years since the Elders had sent him to track the American woman down and retrieve the talisman. His anger grew as he remembered the night he found his tribal brothers body in the river behind the camp, his heart pierced and the talisman missing. The woman's scent had been on the weapon and at that moment he had vowed to inflict his revenge if it took eternity. He felt great satisfaction in knowing that his mission would soon be complete and he could return to his home, but his hunger for her destruction had waned with the years. His homeland was to ravaged and too scarred by destruction wrought in the name of others. He couldn't justify that anther would make it better. For now he yearned to complete his duty and return home to walk in the sun one more time, bringing his miserable journey to an end. Soon.
Nick had an uneasy feeling as he left the Raven. If what LaCroix said was true and he believed it was then it was likely the creature would strike again tonight. Time was short so he took to the air hoping he would make it to McMurphy's hotel first. Within Minutes he was walking into the lobby of the Le Chateau Hotel. Showing his badge to the guard posted at the door he was not challenged. The clerk at the desk looked hesitant when Nick asked for McMurphy's room number, but with a little vampiric persuasion Nick was soon on his way to room 701.
The first thing he noticed when he made it to the 7th floor was the patrol officer asleep in the hall. Wary, Nick nudged the man who acted as though drugged. This immediately set off alarms in Nick head. Calling on his supernatural hearing he listened for sounds of a struggle but heard none. He hoped he wasn't too late. When he reached McMurphy's room he didn't need to nudge this office to know that he was also induced. He grasped for the doorknob to find it ajar. He silently crept in to the suite using all of his preternatural senses to aid him. All appeared normal as he looked into the living room. Then like a shadow crossing his peripheral sight he sensed something moving toward the bedroom. With lightening speed he followed. He thought he had imagined it when he caught it again in his periphery leaning over the still form on the bed. Quickly he reached out for the light switch, hoping to throw the creature off just enough for his advantage. The creature, clad in black turned and bared fangs with eyes burning red. Nick reverted to his own beast to meet the creature on equal ground. The creature turned as the form on the bed stirred. Using this distraction to his advantage, Nick crossed over to put himself between the creature and McMurphy. Nick waited for the creature to charge, but it seemed distracted. It seemed to sense that Nick was much older and stronger. He seemed unwilling to fight one so strong. Then it reached down and pulled an ornament from beneath its shirt. It was similar to the ornament that was in Nick's possession. Nick reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out his and held it toward the creature. Tentatively, it reached out and took it. Again it turned its attention to McMurphy. Nick sensed that wanted retribution for the death of one of its own, but was unwilling to face him down. Using this uncertainty to his advantage, Nick crouched over the unconscious McMurphy and let loose with a territorial rage. It was all the discouragement the young creature needed to go to the window and take to the air.
Relieved, Nick sat down on the bed and sighed. As he peered out the window after the younger vampire, relieved the ordeal was at an end. Or was it? LaCroix had indicated the tribal vampire would be bent on revenge, but instead it had seemed satisfied enough to retrieve it's treasure and leave. Perhaps, like himself, it had known enough destruction and wanted only to find peace within. Nick knew he would likely never know.
McMurphy began to stir from her coerced state of unconsciousness as Nick noticed the sky lightening on the horizon. It was time to seek the shelter of his apartment. He knew neither McMurphy nor any of the staff would recall anything about the night's events. For that he was grateful. The skyline began to glow as Nick leaned out the ledge and let the wind's currents lead him home.
There was a brief knock on the door before it opened and Natalie Lambert entered the loft apartment followed by Colleen McMurphy. Natalie was the only mortal who knew Nick's security codes and was allowed free access to his apartment. "Nick? You here? She called.
"Hi. Just on my way down. Come on in." He yelled back as he descended the stairs with a small wooden box tucked under his arm. He placed it on the sideboard and kissed each lady on the cheek.
"I ran into Colleen downstairs." She placed a large paper bag on the seldom used table and started unpacking it. "I stopped by for Chinese," she said to Colleen. "I hope that's OK?"
"Perfect." Colleen replied as she took off her over coat revealing a tight fitting black dress. "What can I do to help?"
"I've got it," Nat replied taking plates down from the cabinet. She couldn't help but notice that Nick had noticed Colleen's slender figure and perfect lines that were associated more with a twenty year old than a fifty five year old. Nat felt the pangs of jealousy rise up within her. Something she very rarely felt around mortal women. Glancing at Nick she noticed that he had noticed as well. She handed the plates to Nick with a knowing smile and turned to take the wine glasses down from the rack.
Colleen took the plates and distributed them on the table and set the flatware beside them. Nick took the wine and uncorked it, grimacing as he sniffed the alcohol-saturated plug. He poured a generous portion into two of the glasses. The third he left untouched.
"I suppose you're going to insist on your special vintage tonight." Natalie remarked with more than a hint of sarcasm. She generously filled two of the plates and set them next to the filled wine glasses. In the third, she put a smaller portion and set it next to Nick and the empty glass. "At least taste it. Please." she added in a softer voice.
Nick glanced at the plate with a revolted expression. He took his fork and speared a small piece of chicken. He regarded it for several seconds before placing it in his mouth with great disdain. Immediately his body repulsed and he moved with blurring speed to dispose of it.
Natalie shook her head in resignation. "I've been trying to get Nick back on a more human diet. As you can see, it's an uphill battle." she said to McMurphy.
"I suppose it is a little like us trying to acclimate to real American food again once we were back incountry. You have to take it slowly." she tried to hide an amused smile behind her napkin.
Nick went to the refrigerator and removed an unmarked bottle of his 'special vintage'. "I've been on this diet for over eight-hundred years, I'm not sure I can change." He sat down and filled his glass as he motioned for the women to continue with their meal. He was desperate to change the topic of conversation incase these two strong willed women decided to pool their talents and find a way to make the change. "So, Colleen, what happened from the gang from the 510th?"
Her expression became veiled and it was obvious to Nick both from her facial expression and the change in her aura that this was an open wound.
" Some made it some didn't. I've seen most of them here and there. A few of the survivors are among my regular patients. The ones that did make it are the ones I didn't expect to and the ones the didn't--" she stopped and drained her wine glass. When Nick moved to refill it she put her hand over it. "I'm a recovered alcoholic." Understanding, Nick sat back down and waited for her to finish. "K.C. didn't make it long after the war. She went to Hong Kong and started a business. Before she died she sent her daughter to Boonie to raise. Richard is on his third wife, but has a thriving OB practice. Dodger became a preacher and runs a parish in Montana with his son who he finally got into the states. And Boonie..." her eyes softened and she smiled, "Boonie is raising a happily married man. I never thought he would survive after he lost his legs, but he proved us all wrong."
Nick remembered the night Corporal Boonwell G. Lanier lost his legs....
The rain was driving washing away roads and threatening to move anything not staked down or buried in concrete. The rice paddies over flowed their banks causing the water to rise on the roads. The men assigned to the 510th were busy trying to secure loose equipment and recover irreplaceable items. The rain had not let up in several hours and it was becoming obvious that the situation was dire. A young marine corporal, drove his jeep break neck through the wash. He was trying to secure medical supplies that would surly be lost if the weren't moved immediately. Somewhere uphill a levy broke and the water raced down hill catching the jeep broadside and flipping over like a pare in the wind. Boonie Lanier was trapped in the driver seat.
Nick hated nights like this. He hated to be wet and there was little that he could accomplish in his pursuit of freedom. He decided to head over to the 510th and see if they needed his help. He took to the air only because it was less messy that trying to maneuver on the roads, but not by much. Crosswinds, buffeted him causing him to overshoot his destination. Frustrated, he let himself glide to the ground, it would be easier to cover the rest of the distance on foot. He was pulling his collar up around his neck in a futile effort to keep the rain out when he stopped and listened. A noise or cry rather had keyed his senses. He tried to reachout and home in on the sound with his preternatural hearing. He began to move with blinding speed and came upon the over turned jeep in seconds. He could barely make out Boonie's head above the rising water.
"Help!" the failing voice called out. "Somebody, help!"
Nick was at his side in seconds. He reached down and pulled at Boonie's collar, but he was pinned hopelessly.
"Nick," he said as he recognized his would be rescuer. "You gotta help me, man. I can't move." His eyes were pleading.
"Sure, we've just got to move this thing." He patted Boonie on the back in reassurance.
He ran his hands down the side of the jeep, but it was buried in the eroding mud. He tried pushing on the side, but his hands only slipped on the wet metal. He put his shoulder against the vehicle and pushed with all the mortal strength he possessed. There was no way this jeep could be moved ---by a mortal. The problem was he was just coming out of the bush and had not fed in three days. His strength was been depleted by his vampiric fligt earlier. "Damn." he swore.
He looked back at Boonie and saw that sometime during his struggle McMurphy had come up and she was now desperately trying to hold Boonie's head above the rising water.
"What's wrong?" she yelled above the rage of water.
"It's stuck in the mud." he yelled back.
"That shouldn't be a problem for you. I've seen what you can do."
"I'm weak. I haven't fed in a few days. I haven't got the strength." he cried in anguish.
They both looked down at Boonie. Fear had seized him and he trembled with the realization that he was going to die. Tears mingled with the rain that fell upon his face.
McMurphy reached out and grabbed her collar and ripped it open. She looked Nick straight in the eye. "Do it!" she ordered.
"Colleen, I can't. What if I can't---"
She reached out with her free hand and pulled him closer. "DO IT! It's the only way!"
Nick hesitated for a moment. He was very hungry. What if he couldn't make himself stop? He looked down that Boonie again. The water was almost over his face. He knew then he would have to try. He leaned over McMurphy and plunged his teeth into her jugular. The warm blood flowed into him restoring him and making him drunk. It had been so long since he had fed on a human that the pleasure took over all thought, evicting every feeling in the moment. When a vampire drank the blood of a human they lived every moment of their victim. Her every thought and feeling belonged to him now. Suddenly a hand struck his chest and pushed him away. He recovered and looked at McMurphy. She was pale and weak, but thank God she had the presence of mind to stop him from draining her.
With his renewed strength he lifted the jeep. On cue McMurphy struggled to pull Boonie from the wreckage.Once clear Nick set the jeep down and lifted Boonie into his arms. The young corporals head rolled to one side and he looked at Nick and smiled , "Dude, your eyes are all red."
Hours later McMurphy exited the OR.. It had stopped raining and the water was moving swiftly through the camp. She saw a familiar shape puling debris from the flow. He stopped as he heard her approach.
"I didn't thank you." she said without looking at him.
He didn't reply. He was at a loss, he had broken his own cardinal rule. He had fed from a human. It was the one thing he was sworn against. His redemption seemed further away that ever. Maybe it was a goal he was destined to never reach. He was damned and destined to stay that way.
McMurphy reached out and took his hand and for the first time she looked into his eyes. "It was a good thing you did, you can't think anything else. Boonie would have died tonight if not for you and your.....abilities. That can't bean evil thing. Maybe that's what you're meant for." As she smiled at him he could tell her color was much improved.
"You mean to only use my powers for good?" he joked back.
"Perhaps. No God I know would hold what you did tonight in low regard."
He looked at her for a long moment before kissing her tenderly on the forehead. A blood tear rolled down his cheek. "Oh McMurphy, for all you have seen you still hold on to your faith above all. For all you know, you are still pure at heart. Even a broken heart." He smiled at her as he hugged her close to him. "you can fool the rest, but not me. Not now."he whispered.
"Nick?" Colleen and Natalie were staring at him.
"Sorry, I was just thinking about Boonie." he smiled wistfully. He lifted his glass. "A toast. To the 510th, and especially, Dr McMurphy who lived to live with her demons and found redemption."
After they had drank, Colleen lifted her own empty glass. "To the good in all of us,"
The night air was damp and cool as Colleen bid her friends farewell. She hugged Natalie and insisted she call her if she ever got to Kansas, then walked to Nick and took his cold hands in hers. Her eyes sparkled in the moonlight as they met his.
"I'm glad you're doing well, Colleen. I've thought of you often, wondered where you were, what you were doing. I'm happy you made it."
"It was a long road with a lot of potholes, but I made it." she brushed her hand against his cheek. "And you're going to make it, too."
"If you ever need anything...." he started, but he couldn't finish the words. It was a promise he might never be able to keep. He never knew when this life would end and the next would begin. He handed he the small box he had brought with him from the loft.
She opened it enough for the streetlight to reveal it's contents. "My Rosary!" She cried as she pulled it out. Only to replace it very quickly as she noticed Nicks discomfort.
"I found it after you left. I've kept it as a souvenir."
She smiled knowingly and stepped toward the hired car."Thank you" she whispered."Take care of him, Natalie." She called as she got in.
Nick and Natalie stood arm in arm as the lights disappeared around the corner. Finally, Natalie smiled and broke the silence. "I like her."
"You should, you have a lot in common."
"Oh?" she lifted her eyebrows.
He turned and slid his arms around her waist. "Sure, you're both doctors, you both know me and you both look great in a tight fitting dress."
Natalie smiled and reached up to brush his cold lips. "Thank you. you two have a lot in common as well."
Nick gave her a questioning look.
"You are both battling addictions. You've battled against evil and adversity to stay on the side of good. And like her, I know you're going to win."
Nick smiled glowingly for a second "Yeah, but I don't fill out a dress like that." He turned and walked back to the loft leaving a stunned Natalie in his wake.