… And it was the most totally awesome thing I ever experienced." Tracy Vetter said to the group of detectives gathered around her desk at the 96th precinct. "I was back in the eighteenth century and I was a violinist named Faubert ... And I was a man."
"You didn't go back to that Psychotherapist, Dr. Kadlec, did you?" Her partner, Nick Knight came to the group.
"As a matter of fact, I did. You remember those feelings of deja vu I was having? She took me back into a past life. It was the most amazing phenomenon I've ever been through. Have you ever been regressed into a past life?"
( I don't have to be regressed. I've lived more past lives than you could possibly imagine. ) Nick smiled. "No."
"You should try it sometime." Detective Alex Grant said. "I've done it, too. I found out I was a horse thief in Tombstone Arizona while Wyatt Earp was the Marshal there."
"Yeah, Knight." Detective Gregory Vassater taunted. "Who knows, you might find out you were an anal retentive nerd in some past life. That would explain where you get your social skills from in this life."
Nick fought the urge to drain the obnoxious policeman on the spot. Witnesses or no witnesses.
"I wouldn't go there, Greg." Officer Vera Marshall cautioned. "Otherwise you just might find out why they call him the Knightmare. Up close and personal."
"Well, are you going to do it?" Tracy asked. "Everyone else here has agreed to be regressed. Come on, it might be fun, and who knows, you could find some interesting things lurking around in that subconscious of yours."
Reluctantly, Nick shook his head yes. "Okay, I'll do it." A vampire couldn't be hypnotized, but he couldn't let Tracy know that. Particularly after Vachon had 'hypnotized' him into 'forgetting' about the Inca while they were standing right in front of her. All he had to do was 'remember' some of the details of past identities that he had assumed in his 800 years. He smiled slightly. ( I might even 'remember' Nicholas de Brabant. ) It would definitely be interesting, to say the least.
& & & & &
"It was terrific!" Vera Marshall gushed to the group gathered in the precinct break room. "I was a member of Cleopatra's court. I had all these sexy Egyptian warriors slobbering all over me. I tell you it was any red blooded girl's ultimate fantasy." She looked up as Nick came in. This was an occasion. He rarely visited the break room. In fact, he never even took breaks. Oh, it was true that he'd disappear for hours on end sometimes, but never to the break room. "So, when is your appointment with the fair doctor." She asked as he approached the table.
"Want us to go with you to make sure you don't chicken out?" Vassater sneered.
Nick balled his fist at his side. ( One of these nights, someone is going to find him in the alley behind the station. A couple of quarts low. ) "Have you been hypnotized yet?" He asked the Detective.
"Who, me? No way. Somebody's got to stay clean to collect the blackmail. Besides, I can't be hypnotized. Something about it only works on people with an average IQ ... or lower."
This time it was Vera's turn to glare at him.
& & & & &
Nick sat on the couch and leaned back.
"Relax, Detective Knight. I promise you. No one is going to bite." Dr. Lisa Kadlec said.
( That's what you think. ) Nick observed.
She pressed a button on the remote she held and soothing music wafted from the speakers skillfully hidden in the corners of the room. It was barely above hearing levels. "Just close your eyes and let the music surround you." Her voice was silky and soft. "Listen to the music. Let it take you where it will."
( Is this what I sound like when I whammy someone? ) Nick closed his eyes and relaxed. He couldn't identify the melody, but the music was soft and tranquil and extremely pleasant, almost sensual.
As if from a distance, he could hear Dr. Kadlec talking. "Let go. Concentrate on the music. Let the music enfold you like a soft warm cocoon. Let it transport you into your past ... "
Without even realizing it, he seemed to be floating in a delicately colored pastel mist.
& & & & &
Pompeii 63 AD
Slowly he opened his eyes. Everything seemed strange yet familiar. A Nubian woman came into his line of sight. He somehow knew her name was Emyrak. She was one of the household slaves, and his nursemaid.
"Good. You are finally awake, my sleepyhead." She reached down and kissed him lightly on the forehead. "Now you must hurry and get ready. Your father will be arriving any minute." She pulled the covers off him. "Quickly, Master Marcus."
He slipped off the bed and padded to the dresser. He stopped at the full length mirror beside it. There, looking back at him was a nine or ten year old boy.
He walked to the atrium. Two more female slaves, Ammara and Olymive, were waiting for him. They stripped off his sleeping gown and gently eased him into the shallow bathing pool. Between the two of them, they washed, rinsed and dried every part of him. When they were finished, they helped him into a white knee length toga trimmed with gold and purple and then fussed with his wavy blond-brown hair until they were satisfied that it was perfect.
"Now you are a son that the Tribune would be proud of." Ammara said as she placed a gold colored cloth band around his locks and tied it in the back.
"I try very hard to be a good and dutiful son." He said proudly.
"And you succeed very well." Olymive added.
The sound of horses and carriages grew louder as the entourage turned from the road to the house. "He's here." Emyrak said as she led her charge to the door.
Already, the first contingent was dismounting. Then, HE came up to the portico. He was riding on a magnificent chestnut stallion. The saddle was elaborately decorated with gold and sliver and semi precious gems. The morning sun glinted off his highly polished breastplate. His helmet gleamed and the red crest stood stiffly on it's top. He was every inch a Tribune Commander of the elite XXI Roman Legion.
"Papa!" Marcus cried as he slipped from his nursemaid's grip. He ran toward the figure riding in his direction.
The grin nearly split his face as he pulled up to the door. He vaulted from the saddle almost before the horse had come to a stop. He tossed the reins to a waiting slave and scooped up the small boy running toward him and lifted him high above his head. "Marcus, my son." He said as he placed the boy in the ground. "I have missed you so. "
"And I have missed you too, Father." Marcus cried as he hugged his father tightly.
"I understand cook as prepared a sumptuous breakfast for my arrival. Let's go in and eat. I am starved." He took the boy's hand and led him to the main room.
In the shadows, a large man watched the event with a sinister eye. Soon, he would have his revenge on this pompous ass. How dare the Tribune think that he was more qualified for a seat on the Senate than he was! He, Aurilius Hirminian Granipius, a hereditary nobleman should hold that seat. After all, his father before him and his father's father had sat in the inner circle of the Emperor. This … coarse upstart's only credentials were that he could swing a sword better than anyone else could.
& & & & &
Marcus sat in the corner and listened to the men talking in the main room. Nearly everyone that was of any importance was here to welcome his father back from his tour of duty in Rome and to catch up on the latest doings in Caesar's domain. After the supper, the women had retired to the sitting room to do whatever females do, and the men had come here for drinks and entertainment.
Aurilius Granipius extended his arm to the Tribune. "Welcome home, Lucius Pletano." He said coldly. "I trust that your mission went well."
"It did that." The Tribune replied, his voice even more icy than the other's. "My sources inform me that His Divinity will be making the choice for the Senate seat vacated by the death of Veronias, in a few weeks. I understand that you have placed your name in contention for it. I wish you the luck of the gods."
Aurilius did not answer, merely nodded stiffly and released his arm.
"A cold one, he is." Flavius Titanis, the Tribune's aide and confidant said.
"And one you do not show your back to." The Tribune replied.
& & & & &
Marcus lay on the grass, his head nestled in his father's lap. The Tribune still had a few days before he had to report back to Rome, and the two of them had spent the day at a private beach swimming and frolicking in the warm waters of the Mediterranean. Marcus liked these times when his father could get away for a well earned leave. Ever since his mother died, he had wished that he could accompany his father. Lucius was all the family he had now. Although Selene, his new stepmother, was capable, it was also obvious, even to him, that there was no love between her and the Tribune. Marcus had heard some of the servants talking. They had said that the marriage was one of convenience. She, the daughter of an influential merchant, and he, aspiring to greater power in the seat of the Empire. A wife of stature and good breeding would project stability. A husband in the favor of Caesar could guarantee her family many comforts and privileges they would not otherwise enjoy.
"When is your next leave, Father?" Marcus asked. He virtually lived for these moments.
"Perhaps never." Lucius replied, tousling his son's hair. He was so like his mother. The same dancing blue eyes. The same golden hair. The same cherubic face. The same enthusiasm for life. No wonder his world revolved around this boy. And to think that this exquisite creature was his. "I have it from an excellent source that the Emperor is considering appointing me to a Senate seat. If that is so, then we shall all go to Rome to live. I will never be separated from you again."
"Do you mean that, Father?" Marcus's eyes lit up like a pair of lanterns. "I shall pray to all the gods I know for your sake. I may even pray to the Christian God."
"Do not pray to Him!" He said harshly. "Christians are the enemies of the Empire. I should know. I have had to put more than a few of them to death for their traitorous teachings."
"Oh. Then I shall not pray to that one."
Lucius hugged his son tightly. "I suppose you could pray to Him if you wish. What's one or two more gods? We already have so many, it is becoming impossible to tell them apart."
& & & & &
Several all too short days later, Marcus watched forlornly as the company made their way down the road. It was always a sad time when his father returned to duty. But if what his father said was true, perhaps this would be the last time he would have to leave. This time, he was taking Selene with him. According to the gossip among the servants, he had appointments with many highly placed patricians and Selene would be a definite asset. He was glad, in a way. At least he would not have to endure her contemptuous and sharp tongue for a few months.
He sighed heavily as the last of the wagons turned a bend in the road and disappeared from sight.
"I understand what you are feeling, Master Marcus." Emyrak said, putting her hand on the boy's shoulder. "It is never easy being separated from your loved ones." She, too gave a mighty sigh. Marcus had a distinct feeling the African was not talking about his father. "Why don't you have cook pack you a lunch and spend the day in the hills. I think what you need right now is some peace and solitude." She said. "I won't tell anyone."
Marcus smiled broadly. When he was sad or troubled, he liked nothing better than roaming through the hilly wooded areas at the base of Vesuvius. Most of the area that he traveled was still on his father's property and there were several caves hollowed into the volcanic rock that afforded shelter and privacy. In short, it was nearly the perfect place for a boy to go for some time and space to himself.
& & & & &
He sat entranced as a squirrel consumed a nut not five feet in front of him. Another squirrel darted past the first and they both took off across the meadow and disappeared into the trees. It fascinated him watching these and the other small creatures in the woods. He did not see or hear Aurilius Granipius until he grabbed him.
"Let me go!" He cried as the huge man pulled him to his feet. Granipius held him tightly around the chest. He tried to kick, but there was nothing for his legs to contact. He flailed his arms, but the blows did no harm.
Granipius laughed as he dragged the wriggling lad to his horse. He swung the boy onto the horse, but before he could mount, Marcus kicked the horse solidly. The animal tried to bolt, but Granipius held tightly to the reins. Instead, the horse reared, and Marcus was unceremoniously dumped to the ground. His head hit the earth with a sickening thud.
"There is no doubt you are Pletano's son. Just as stubborn and as pigheaded as your sire. If you would only quit fighting me, it will be much easier on both of us." He said as he picked the limp youth from the ground and threw him over the saddle.
& & & & &
Toronto, Present Time
Lucien LaCroix could almost feel the anger and confusion emanating from his son as he strode through the Raven. Pasting on his best concerned face, he smiled at Nick. "To what do I owe the pleasure of your company? Could it be business? There hasn't been another murder, has there?"
The look on Nick's face became more intense.
"Oh, let me guess. You have come to enjoy a pleasant evening with your loving father." He said, sarcasm dripping from every word.
"Why didn't you ever tell me about Marcus?" Nick asked grimly.
For a brief second, a look of intense pain and anguish covered the Elder vampire. Just as quickly, it was replaced with his usual haughty countenance. "Come into my office."
"How do you know of Marcus?" He asked.
Nick told him what had transpired in Doctor Kadlec's office. "You knew that when you brought me across, didn't you? You knew I had been your son in a previous life."
"No. I brought you across for Janette's sake. I did not find out about Marcus until later. On rare occasions it is possible to discover remnants of a previous existence in a person's blood. I found Marcus in yours. You do not know how overjoyed I was. I had my son back. This time for all eternity."
"And that's why you refuse to let me go, isn't it? That's why you chain me to you like you do. It isn't me you want, it's Marcus."
"I lost my son once. I am not going to lose my son again." LaCroix said angrily.
"Why didn't you come then? Why didn't you rescue him … me?"
"I did come."
& & & & &
On The Road To Rome
Lucius paced the confines of his tent. If he had been alone, or with only a small squad, he could have made Rome in one day, but with Selene, and all the baggage and servants she had brought with her, they would have to stop here for the night and continue in the morning. He never could comprehend why a man needed only a small knapsack while a woman required three wagons of supplies and a dozen servants. He could not tolerate delays. It only afforded more opportunities for problems. Problems were something Lucius Pletano was well used to dealing with, but that did not mean he liked them any better.
The rider caught up with the entourage. Breathlessly, he approached the sentry guarding the tent. "I have a message for Tribune Pletano's eyes only." The guard opened the flap and ushered the messenger inside. He handed the parchment to Lucius and quickly left. He did not know what Aurilius Granipius had written, but he was reasonably certain that he did not want to be anywhere in the area when the Tribune read it.
The color drained from Lucius's face as he read the message. He quickly crumpled it and threw it on the floor. There was a look of anger and anguish on his face that Selene had never seen before.
"What is the matter, my husband." She asked. "Whatever it is, I am positive it can wait until later. You must get some sleep. We will be in Rome by tomorrow morning and you will need to be well rested for your appointments. We both have a busy day."
"WE are not going to Rome." He said with barely controlled anger. "You may go if you wish, but I am returning to Pompeii. According to this letter, my son has been abducted. It says that if I wish to see him again, I must return."
"But unless you attend these meetings, you have little or no chance to claim that senate seat. You have to go. Let your personal troops attend to Marcus's return." She patted the coverlet beside her. "Come. Sleep with me. Rest."
"To Hades with the Senate!" He shouted at her. "Don't you understand! MY SON needs me."
& & & & &
The messenger had confessed everything he knew about Granipius and the boy before Lucius dispatched him to meet his ancestors.
There was no one guarding the shack. He dismounted and went inside.
"Marcus! Marcus, where are you?" He called. There was no answer. Then he saw him. He was lying on a cot in the corner. He appeared to be sleeping, but Lucius knew that wasn't true. Marcus was a very light sleeper. He would have surely awakened when he heard his father calling. Lucius ran and picked up his son. As he did, the boy's head turned and he could see that the side of his face was bashed in and bloody. He felt the boy's chest. There was no movement. His blue eyes stared sightlessly into empty space. The cry came from the Tribune's very depths. It could be heard throughout the area.
Slowly, he wiped the tears from his cheeks. He laid the small corpse back on the bed. He gently closed the lids and fished two coins from his pouch and placed them on his son's eyes. He was only barely aware that Flavius was standing in the doorway behind him.
The Aide held out his breastplate and sword. "I will tend to the boy." He said with tears in his eyes as well. "Do what you must do."
& & & & &
Aurilius Granipius watched the scene from the top of the hill. He heard the screams and cries coming from the shack. Even from this distance, it was obvious that the Tribune was angry beyond words. When Lucius Pletano was this angry, there was only one thing to do. Run. For all the good it would do. He could be hiding in the bosom of Mars, and Lucius would still find him. He spurred his horse to a gallop and took off toward his villa.
He had only gone a little over a mile when Lucius caught him. The Tribune spurred his horse even with his and grabbed the reins forcefully. The horse buckled and tumbled to the side carrying his rider with him. The horse struggled to its feet and took off across the field. Aurilius was not so lucky. His right leg lay at an unnatural angle. In addition, Lucius had dismounted and at this moment was holding the tip of his sword in the hollow of the nobleman's throat.
"Mercy, Lucius!" Aurilius gasped.
"Why?" The Tribune growled.
"I only wanted to delay you long enough that you would miss out on the interviews." He whined.
"For this you killed my son?"
"It was an accident. He hit his head when he fell off the horse. I did not know he was dead at the time! I swear!"
Lucius tore open the nobleman's shirt with the tip of the sword and returned it to the throat. "Beg me." He said flatly.
"I beg you. Lucius. Remember we were boyhood friends. I beg you. Spare my life." There was the smell of urine and a wet liquid stained the ground beneath Aurilius.
"Do not beg me to spare you." He drew his sword diagonally across Aurilius's chest, cleaving through the skin. Blood spurted from the wound. "Beg me to make it quick and painless."
"At least permit me to fall on my sword. I deserve that consideration."
Lucius's answer was to draw another line of the X.
"Let me die with honor, I implore you. You give that much to even the Christians."
"They were honorable men and women. They knew how to die. You are nothing but a sniveling coward." He pushed the sword just below the ribcage and drew it to the top of the pubic bone. Aurilius's entrails popped through the opening. Lucius sheathed his sword and walked toward his horse.
"Please! Lucius! Please! Do not leave me here like this! Kill me! I beg of you! Don't let me suffer! Kill me quickly! Please!" Aurilius cried.
Tribune Lucius Pletano mounted his steed and turned to the Via Roma. Above him, three vultures circled.
& & & & &
Selene held her husband's hand as they walked away from the funeral pyre. Lucius stood ramrod straight and stared straight ahead. He had not shown any sign of emotion or grief since his son had died. "I know you grieve for him, Lucius, but we must plan for the future as well. Since neither you nor Aurilius were present when it came time to announce his decision, Nero appointed Tovias Cletus to the honor. He did tell my father that he has a special assignment waiting for you when you return. Father says it is one that could still lead to a promotion or even a senate seat."
Lucius still looked ahead, still showed no emotion. "I have lost my son. Nothing else matters to me." He said flatly.
"Then perhaps this would be the best time to give you my news. According to the midwife, I am with child."
& & & & &
"This only proves what I have said all along. Good breeding will always show itself." Vassater was saying to the group. "I decided to give that psychic quack a go after all. You know what? I found out that I was a Roman Nobleman named Aurilius Granipius. So you see, I come by my superior status naturally."
( Maybe tonight. ) Nick contemplated.
Detective Vassater continued gloating.
( Definitely tonight. )
& & & & &
This was supposed to be a short (1 or 2 page vignette) for LaCroix's Conversion day present. However, a certain Thirteenth Century Crusader and a Roman General had other ideas. (Maybe we'll write a few embarrassing scenes into the next one to pay them back.)
Okay, just for that, you futes anes, a month of Protein Shakes for both of you.
Honest. I was just joking … Retract the fangs … I have a cross and I'm not afraid to use it … Nick … LaCroix … Let's be reasonable about this. Guys?