Diagnosis Murder
Out of the Past
By Lucky_Ladybug

The young doctor drove down the deserted streets in his flashy dark purple car. He had just finished a long shift at Community General hospital, and he was anxious to get home to bed.

He paused abruptly. Had he just heard someone whisper his name? No, that was ridiculous! There wasn't anybody there but him . . .! He continued driving, but then he heard it again.

"Oh man," he muttered. "I must be suffering from sleep deprivation something awful!"

And so, once again, he brushed it off.

Suddenly he slammed on the brakes. He had distinctly felt someone touch him on the shoulder. He slowly turned around to look in the back seat. Nothing.

Frustrated, he ran his hands through his dark hair. "This is crazy!" he proclaimed, starting the car again.

By the time he reached his apartment, he had heard—or thought he'd heard—the voice half a dozen times, and he was ready to yell.

He opened his front door and went in. As he passed by the hall mirror, he stopped to look in it. "You'd better get some sleep, Stewart, before they lock you in a rubber room for hearing voices," he told his reflection before letting loose with a monster yawn and disappearing into the bedroom.

Unseen by him was the woman who appeared in the mirror after he left. Her long black hair cascaded over her shoulders, and she smirked widely, revealing abnormally long canine teeth.

"You won't be in a rubber room when I get through with you, Dr. Jack Stewart," she said aloud. "You'll be in a pine box!" She started to laugh manically as she disappeared from the mirror.
****
Mark smiled as he left the children's ward, sporting a red clown nose. As he walked down the corridor, Steve came from around the corner. "Hi, Dad," he greeted Mark.

"Steve! Hi!" Mark returned the greeting.

"You been entertaining the kids again?" Steve asked.

"Why, yes, I have," Mark confirmed, surprised. "How did you know?"

Steve grinned, pointing at the clown nose. "You're wearing the evidence."

Realization dawning, Mark grabbed the rubber nose and pulled it off. "So, Steve, what brings you here?"

"Just checking on things," Steve replied. "I need to get back to the station. I'll see you later, Dad."

Mark nodded and waved as Steve headed down the hall.

Suddenly Steve turned back. "Oh, by the way, Dad, I saw Jack. He seemed upset about something."

Mark looked thoughtful. "Oh really? I'll have to find him and find out what's going on." He didn't sound too concerned.
****
Mark caught up with Jack by the second floor nurses' station, where the young doctor was filling out a patient's chart.

"Hi, Jack," Mark greeted.

Jack looked up. "Oh, hey, Mark."

Mark paused. "Jack, is everything . . . okay?"

"Yeah, Mark. Any reason why it wouldn't be?"

Mark sighed. "Well, Steve said you seemed . . . upset about something."

"And what would I be upset about?" Jack asked, suddenly turning defensive.

Mark shrugged. "I have no idea."

Jack grabbed the chart. "Well, Steve must've been mistaken. See you around, Mark." He disappeared down the hall.

Mark stared after him, shaking his head. There *was* something eating at Jack, and he had better find out what.
****
Jack sighed, slowly eating a mini-bag of Doritos. He hated brushing Mark off like that, but he couldn't bring himself to tell Mark about the voice he kept hearing. It hadn't left him alone today and was still torturing him, calling his name eerily every couple of hours.

The door to the doctors' lounge opened and Amanda came in.

"Hi, Jack," she said brightly. "And how are you doing today?"

Jack groaned. "Mark sent you, didn't he?"

"Now, Jack, why would you say that?" Amanda asked innocently.

"Because he thinks something's eating at me," Jack blurted out.

"And is there?"

Jack sighed and looked away.

"Come on, Jack, you can tell me," Amanda urged.

"No, Amanda. You'll just think I'm nuts," Jack protested.

"And why would I?" Amanda folded her arms and looked defiantly at Jack.

"Because it's crazy, Amanda!" Jack burst out.

Amanda glanced down at Jack's patient roster and turned pale. "Jack . . ." she gasped.

Jack went right on as if he hadn't heard. "It's just crazy." He ran his hands through his hair. "It's gotta be all in my head."

"Jack, *this* isn't in your head!" Amanda held up the roster. Jack turned and stared at it.

Written on the roster in giant red letters was "DIE, JACK STEWART!"
****
Mark looked at the words on the roster and shook his head. "Jack, who would write something like this?"

Jack paced the floor in Mark's office. "I can think of several people who might do it, Mark—guys I knew from the streets years ago. What I really wonder is, How did they do it? My patient roster was with me the whole time, and no one even came in to the doctors' lounge until Amanda did." He grinned at the lovely pathologist. "I know I've urked her a few times, but somehow I can't see her writing it."

Amanda rolled her eyes and swatted Jack lightly on the arm.

Mark tried to erase the amused smile from his face. "Jack, this is serious! Someone wrote a message wishing you dead!"

Jack sighed. "I know, Mark." he paused. "But it was probably just some jerk playing a practical joke."

"A sick joke," Amanda commented.

Mark paused. "Jack, has anything else . . .odd happened lately?"

Jack froze. Dare he say it?

Before he could make up his mind, a smoky female voice growled, "Moriah."

"Hey!" Jack exclaimed.

Mark and Amanda turned to stare at him. "What?" Amanda asked finally.

"'What?'" Jack repeated. "Didn't you guys hear that?"

"I didn't hear anything," Amanda replied.

"Jack, maybe you need to lay down," Mark suggested.

"Agh!" Jack yelled. "See? You guys think I'm nuts!"

"No we don't, Jack," Mark said gently. "But I do think you need to lay down."

"Yes, Jack," Amanda agreed. "You have been working hard lately."

Jack sighed. "I know, I know." He paused, thinking back on what he'd heard the voice say this time.

"Remember Moriah, Jack?" the voice hissed in his ear, causing him to jump.

"You know what the voice is saying?" Jack asked. Before anyone could answer, Jack rushed on. "It's talking about Moriah."

"Moriah?" Mark repeated. "Moriah Thomas? The vam . . ." He stopped, glancing at Amanda.

"What, what?" she demanded.

Not really hearing Amanda, Mark considered this, then looked back at Jack, shocked.
****
Later, when Mark and Jack were alone, Jack told Mark everything about the voice, starting with what had happened the night before.

"You've been hearing voices since last night?" Mark exclaimed.

"That's right, Mark. I figured it was just because I hadn't had any sleep, but then when they continued today. . . ." Jack paused. "And, Mark, there's something else, too."

Mark sat on the edge of his desk, waiting for Jack to go on.

"When I arrived here at the hospital, I found vampyre fangs in my car," he stated. "You know, those plastic kind people have as part of their Dracula costumes at Halloween?" Mark nodded. "At the time, I didn't think anything of it. I figured Alex left them in my car by accident when I drove him here to CG. But he said he'd never seen them before."

Mark nodded slowly. "But how does Moriah Thomas fit into this? She's . . . she's . . ."

Jack sighed. "Yeah, Mark. I know—she's dead." He shuddered, remembering how Moriah had been attacking him and Mark and how he'd tried to defend them with a splintered leg from a table. By accident, he had staked her through the heart.

Mark and Jack were the only ones who knew Moriah had been a vampyre. Such information had to be kept under wraps. Amanda often suspected there was more to the Moriah Thomas story than Mark and Jack let on, but, of course, the thought that Moriah had really been a vampyre never crossed her mind.

Jack ran a hand through his hair. "Well, Mark, what do you think? Am I nuts?"

Mark shook his head. "What do you think, Jack? Do you think you're being contacted from . . . beyond?"

"I don't know, Mark," Jack replied. "It doesn't really sound like Moriah's voice that's been torturing me. . . . Maybe it is all in my head."

Mark picked up the patient roster. "But this isn't in your head, Jack. Someone wrote this."

"Yeah, but a vampyre who's been dead for six years? I don't know, Mark. Like I said, it's probably just some practical joke."

"What's just some practical joke?"

Mark and Jack turned around to see Norman standing in the doorway.

"Oh, hey, Mr. Briggs," Jack greeted the hospital administrator. "It's nothing—some jerk just sent me a fan letter."

Norman looked at the message on the roster and gasped. "You call a death threat a practical joke??! This is outrageous! This kind of thing happening in my hospital, and to one of my doctors!"

"Norman, it's no big deal. Really," Jack tried to protest.

"No big deal! Tomorrow morning, you might never come in for work. Why? Because you will have been murdered in cold blood! We'd go to your apartment to find out what was wrong, and we'd find your lifeless body on the floor, a knife in your back . . ."

"Norman!" Mark interrupted.

Norman stopped. Mark and Jack were glaring at him. "Well . . . you know what I mean. You're just not taking this seriously!"

"Norman, I can assure you, I'm going to be careful, and I *will* find out who wrote this," Jack said. "I'm not going to wind up dead!"

"You'd better, amigo," Norman said, waving his forefinger at him. "I don't want to read in the morning paper of your untimely demise!"
****
Amanda, unbeknownst to all inside Mark's office, had overheard the conversation from the moment Norman had gone in. She would admit it, not to Mark, not to Jesse or Steve, and especially not to Jack, but she almost felt crying with the picture Norman had been painting . . . Jack laying lifeless on the floor, never to smile at her or tease her again . . .

"Stop it, Bentley," she said to herself. "Jack's not going to die!"

She had known Jack ever since he had started medical school after Mark had taken him under his wing. They had solved mysteries together for years, and then Jesse had come along.

Amanda loved Jesse dearly, but in more of a "big sister, little brother" way. With Jack, it was something else entirely. Of course, though, she would never tell Jack any of what she'd been thinking.

Her thoughts changed to the strange voice Jack had claimed to have heard. "Wait a minute . . . Moriah?"

Amanda froze. The only Moriah she knew was Moriah Thomas, the villainous woman who'd killed three guys and had nearly made Jack her fourth victim.

Whenever Amanda tried to ask Jack what exactly had happened on that night six years ago when Moriah was killed, he was always very vague and quickly changed the subject. She knew Mark had been convinced that Moriah had some kind of mental disease that caused her to believe she was a vampyre, or that even maybe she was the real thing—but that was all total nonsense . . . wasn't it?

Amanda shook her head, trying to concentrate on the present. Even if Moriah was a . . . a . . . Oh, she couldn't even say it! But even if she was one, she was dead now, and someone among the living had written that message to Jack. Of course, there hadn't been anyone around that Jack could see . . .

"This is getting ridiculous, Bentley!" Amanda scolded herself. "You're taking those vampyre movies CJ and Dion watch much too close to heart. There are no vampyres!"

Just then the door opened, and everyone came out.

"Hey, Amanda," Jack said nonchalantly, as if there had never been weird voices or death threats. "Is your car still in the shop?"

Amanda sighed. "Yes, Jack."

"Well, I'd be happy to give you a ride home tonight," Jack offered.

Amanda smiled. "Thanks, Jack."

"Hey, no problem. I'll see you, Amanda!" Jack disappeared down the hall to start his rounds.

Amanda looked on after him, shaking her head. "How can he be so calm like that?" she said in disbelief. "He acts like he doesn't have a care in the world!"

"People handle things in different ways, Amanda," Mark replied.

"I know, but if someone threatened my life, I'd be terrified!" Amanda declared.

"Oh, Jack's upset alright," Mark said. "He just tries not to show it . . . especially when you're around, Amanda." He smiled. "Just don't tell him I told you that."

Amanda smiled back. "Don't worry, Mark. I won't."
****
Late that evening, Jack and Amanda left Community General. The wind blew through the trees.

"Awfully nippy weather for Southern California," Amanda commented, pulling her jacket close.

Jack grinned mischievously. "Yeah, well, it's almost Halloween." He glanced up at the sky. "Hey, a full moon. Don't the werewolves come out when the moon is full?"

Amanda rolled her eyes. "I just can't understand how you can be so calm!"

Jack laughed, opening the car door for Amanda. As he came around to the driver's side of the car and opened his door to get in, Amanda shrieked.

Protruding from the back of the driver's seat was a stake dripping in some red substance, with a note hanging from it, written in red.

Jack pulled the note down and looked at it.

"What does it say?" Amanda asked, almost afraid to know.

Jack handed her the note. Written in red letters was, "You killed Moriah. Now you're going to die, Jack Stewart!"
****
Steve looked at the note, shaking his head. "Jack, do you have any idea who'd write something like this, six years after Moriah Thomas' death?"

Jack threw his hands up in the air. "No idea."

"I hope you admit now that you know it's not some practical joke," Amanda spoke up. "Whoever wrote this means business!"

Jack sighed, watching the photographers take pictures of his car.

Cheryl came over with the stake in a plastic bag. "Why a stake, of all objects?" she asked. "Isn't that what people use to slay vampyres?"

"Uhhh . . . maybe," Jack said vaguely. "Could be. But I don't really follow the exploits of vampyre slayers." He looked around uncomfortably. "Can we go now, Steve?"

Steve sighed and nodded. "If you don't have anything to tell us, like who would want you dead for killing Moriah Thomas."

"And that was an accident, Steve," Jack stated.

Steve shook his head. "I still don't understand how a piece of wood like that could kill someone, accident or not. Something still doesn't add up with the Moriah Thomas case."

Then Mark came out of the hospital. "Are you two alright?" he asked.

"Yeah, Mark, we're fine," Jack replied for both him and Amanda.

"Speak for yourself," Amanda said. "I'm pretty shaken up about it! There's some crazed killer out to get you . . .!"

"Relax, Amanda. I'm not going to let them get me." Jack grinned, putting his arm around Amanda.

"Can I give you two rides home?" Mark offered, knowing that the police wanted to keep Jack's car overnight to inspect it more thoroughly.

"Thanks, Mark. That'd be great," Jack said.
****
They dropped Amanda off first.

When it was just the two of them in the car, Jack spoke up. "Mark, you know, I've never told Amanda everything about Moriah."

Mark sighed. "I know, Jack. I haven't even told Steve."

"Why would someone who was mad that Moriah died wait almost six years before coming after me?" Jack burst out.

"I don't know, Jack, but I'll be honest with you—I'm very worried about your safety."

Jack grinned. "Don't worry, Mark. I'll be fine."
"I wish I had your confidence!" Mark exclaimed, pulling up in front of Jack's apartment.

Jack laughed. "Well, hey, thanks for the ride, Mark. I'll see you tomorrow."

Mark watched Jack go in the building and let himself into his apartment. Unseen by either of them, the mysterious female, looking extremely dangerous, watched too. "Enjoy your last hours alive, Dr. Stewart," she growled.
****
Jack was haunted that night with nightmarish dreams of Moriah, and as a result, didn't get much sleep. He wound up getting up early the next morning to pick up his car from the police station.

Amanda rode with him to Community General. "It just amazes me how you can stay in such good humor, Jack," she stated as they pulled into CG's parking lot. "When some nut is chasing you, trying to kill you, and you don't even know who it is . . .!"

Jack groaned. He actually wasn't in very good humor this morning. The calm, nonchalant front he'd tried to keep up was wearing thin. "Amanda, don't remind me."

As they got out of the car, something shiny flew by.

"Duck!" Amanda shrieked. Jack grabbed her and they both fell to the pavement, just as a huge machete embedded itself in the nearby tree, narrowly missing Amanda.

"Are you alright?" Jack asked her. She nodded shakily.

Jack helped her up, looking outraged. "Okay, now I'm mad!" he burst out. "Now they're not just making murder threats, they've moved up to murder attempts! And they can't wait until I'm alone! That machete could've got you, Amanda!"

At that moment, Jesse drove up with Alex. "Hey, what's going on here?" Jesse gasped.

"Some jerk tried to run me through!" Jack replied. "And they nearly got Amanda!"

"Amanda?" Jesse and Alex exclaimed in unison.

"Guys, I'm fine," Amanda insisted. "Jack is the one they were after!"

"Why does someone want you dead, Jack?" Alex asked.

Jack sighed. "It's a long story."
****
Jack paced the floor in Mark's office. "Mark, I have tried so hard to be nonchalant and unconcerned about all this for Amanda's sake. I wanted her to think that I wasn't in any kind of danger; that it was just some sick practical joke someone was playing. I didn't want her to worry, you know?" Jack stopped pacing. "And now this happens! Amanda's life almost snuffed out by this creep who's really after me!"

"Jack, it's not your fault," Mark replied. "And Amanda's okay."

"Yeah—this time," Jack said. "What about next time? And if they're gonna take me out, why do they have to do it when there's other people around who could get hurt?" He paused. "You know, I've been checking up on Moriah's past, trying to find out if she has any relatives or someone like that who might be behind this."

"And?"

"Nothing." Jack threw his hands up in the air. "There is some record about a sister, but she disappeared years ago."

"The police are doing everything they can, Jack," Mark said. "We'll find out who's behind this."

"Yeah, but how soon? Before anyone gets hurt? I don't want to see anyone get hurt . . . or worse. It's me they're after, Mark!" Jack headed for the door. "I'm going to find out who's responsible, and if I die, I die." With that, he was gone, before Mark could say anything more.

Jesse, who was just coming in, looked confused. "What's up with Jack? He looked so determined about something!"

Mark nodded in agreement. "He is, Jesse," he said somberly. "He is."
****
It was nearly midnight—the haunting hour, especially when it would mean the beginning of October 31st.

Jack crept through the old cemetery. He had a feeling that the would-be murderer might come to pay their respects to Moriah Thomas.

As he turned the corner, he found the grave he was looking for, marked by a plain wooden cross. How ironic, he thought, that a vampyre's grave should have a cross as a headstone.

Then he heard a rustling in the nearby brush. "It's showtime," he muttered.
****
Mark was just getting off duty when Amanda ran up to him, Jesse in tow.

"Mark! Mark!" she cried urgently.

"Amanda, what is it?" Mark asked.

"Mark, when was it that Moriah Thomas died?" Amanda demanded.

"Halloween, about . . . six years ago," Mark replied.

"Exactly!" Amanda proclaimed.

"Mark, do you know what she's talking about?" Jesse asked.

Mark looked grim. "I'm afraid I do."

"It's exactly six years ago today," Amanda went on. "And what better time to finish off the job than on the anniversary of Moriah Thomas' death?"

Mark headed back to his office. "I'm going to try to call Jack and see if he's home."

Amanda headed for the elevator. "I'm going to look for him!"

Jesse stood there, perplexed. "Will somebody please tell me what's going on here??"

Suddenly Amanda came running back. "I'm being paged!" she yelled, running to the nearest phone and dialing the number.

A silky, smoky voice answered. "Greetings, Amanda Bentley."

"Who are you?" Amanda demanded. "How do you know my name . . . and my beeper number?"

The voice laughed. It wasn't a pleasant sound. "I know all about you, darling, and your precious boyfriend."

At this point, Amanda was too upset to deny that Jack was her boyfriend (which, of course, he wasn't). "What have you done with him?" she shrieked.

"Oh, don't worry, darling. He's alive . . . for now! Not for long, though. He killed my sister. Now I will do to him what he did to Moriah, and there's nothing you can do about it! Ciao." Before Amanda could say more, the woman had hung up.

Amanda stared at the phone, then ran into Mark's office. Jesse followed uncertainly.
****
"Hello, Dr. Stewart."

Jack whirled around and did a double take. Standing before him was the spitting image of Moriah Thomas.

"I've surprised you, haven't I?" she smirked.

Jack finally found his voice. "No! No, you don't surprise me. . . . It's just that you look . . . so much like . . ."

"Moriah?" the woman supplied. "I should. We were twin sisters. Until you killed her six years ago," she hissed.

"Now that was an accident," Jack protested. "An act of self-defense. Moriah was attacking me and my friend. I didn't know she was going to die!"

The woman went on as if she hadn't heard. "When I heard she'd been the victim of murder most foul, I disappeared to find the killer and get my revenge. It took me six years, but now I've found you . . . and you're going to pay!"

As she lunged forward, Jack ducked behind a statue of an angel. The vampyress dove at the statue, but Jack was already gone.

And so it went. She chased Jack all around the cemetery, and then on into a corn field.

As he ran, Jack tried to remember the ways of defeating vampyres. The stake, of course, but he didn't want to use that unless he absolutely had to. Then there was the garlic, but he didn't have any handy. There was something else, too. . . . But what was it? Jack struggled to remember.

He heard the vampyress following him and quickly ducked down into the corn. Suddenly what he was trying to recall came to him. Of course! He yanked something off from around his neck.

Just as he did so, he was tackled from behind and thrown to the ground in a clearing. The vampyress' long fingers wrapped tightly around Jack's neck. Gasping for air, he ruefully remembered the super-strength of vampyres.

"I will put you through what you put Moriah through . . . and more," she hissed. "After I've weakened you by strangling you half to death . . . Well . . ." She laughed manically. "I'm sure a stake through the heart will be as painful for you as it was for Moriah!"

Jack was almost completely unconscious from lack of oxygen as he struggled with this woman of steel. With his last ounce of strength, he raised his right hand, shoving the small but powerful object that he'd been concealing right at her.

The vampyress suddenly let loose with a shriek loud enough to be heard from California to Utah and let go of the young doctor. In a flash of smoke, she was gone, though the smoke and the echoes of her screams remained.

Amanda was nearby in her car, which had finally been repaired. She saw the cloud of smoke and had to cover her ears because of the blood-curdling screams. Leaping out of her car, she called for Jack, with no reply. With each call of his name, Amanda's voice rose higher and higher.

She ran through the trampled corn, stopping short when she found Jack sprawled on the ground. "Jack!" she gasped, kneeling down next to him and smoothing his hair back. His skin was a ghostly pale shade. He clutched something tightly in his right hand, which Amanda was unsuccessful in prying open.

She shook her head. "Jack, you can't die!" she whispered forcefully. She noticed that the color was starting to return to his face, but winced when she saw the dark marks around his throat, indicating he had nearly been strangled to death.

Suddenly Jack's eyes fluttered open. "Hey, Amanda," he said weakly.

"Jack! You're alright!" Amanda exclaimed, immensely relieved.

Jack grinned. "Yeah, I'm okay." He looked around. "I see our 'friend' has fled."

Amanda nodded. "Yes, she has. I heard her screams a quarter mile away." She paused. "How did you do it, Jack? How did you defeat that . . . that . . . vampyre?"

Jack gave her a funny look.

Amanda looked embarrassed. "Well, she called me on the phone. I can't explain it, but I could sense something . . . other worldly about her. And then when I heard the shriek and saw all that strange-colored smoke . . ."

Jack slowly opened his hand, revealing the object he had clutched so tightly—the cross he always wore around his neck. "There are three ways to defeat a vampyre," he explained. "The stake through the heart, the cloves of garlic . . . and the sign of the cross." He paused. "I didn't defeat that vampyre all on my own. . . . I had some help." He glanced up at the sky. Amanda understood.

After a moment of silence, Amanda spoke up. "Tell me about Moriah, Jack."

Jack looked amused. "You really want to know, don't you, Amanda? How about over dinner?"

He half-expected Amanda to refuse, so he was surprised when she smiled and said, "You're on!"

As they left the corn field, a mourning howl sounded in the distance.

"Was that a werewolf?" Jack joked.

Amanda tried to look serious, but wound up laughing hysterically, not so much because the joke was funny, but because she was so relieved that everything was over and everyone was still alive. "Oh, you," she managed to say as they got in the car and drove away from the cemetery.

"So long, Moriah," Jack said with a mock salute. "It hasn't been nice knowing you . . . or your sister, either."