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Sincere thanks go all around. To my beautiful beta Becky, first one I've had

and the best thus far ;) To Signe, for eloquent moral support when I much

needed it. And to my sister and 'Leya, both of whom convinced me to send this

out. Hope you enjoy it!

Although this is technically a Sentinel/Forever Knight x-over, don't worry if

you're unfamiliar with FK--the emphasis is on TS, and there's only one major FK

char present. Even if it's confusing at first, all should eventually make

sense. I hope!

Warning: Title withstanding, this is quite dark. It's hard to do light

vampires, and since I've been rereading Anne Rice this is probably going to be

darker than I intended...might even deserve an 'R' rating. Depends how

squeamish you are about blood...

2nd Warning: If you're acquainted with both the shows, yes, I know the dates

don't match up. Sorry. Continuity's never been my strong point ;-)

DISCLAIMER: Sentinel chars are the property of Pet Fly. Forever Knight chars

belong to Parriott and various other ptb. Story by ERK (c) 1998.

 

 

A Dark and Endless Night

XmagicalX

 

 

Afterwards he went west. Away from the rising sun, skimming just ahead of dawn

when he traveled. He paused briefly along the way before finally settling at

the coastal city. A short break, while he journeyed nowhere and everywhere.

He wasn't escaping from the police. Even when mortal, he had been in authority,

never submitted to it; now so long past that he was untouchable. Yet he was

fleeing all the same.

It wasn't the first time he had left behind a body for them to find, nor the

last. But perhaps it was the first time the crime truly touched his long-dead

conscience, his non-existent soul crying out with the pain of loss, of guilt.

An aching, empty hole in his very self.

Screaming until it was so loud he would do anything to silence it, anything to

fill the void, and neither law nor conscience could deny him his desire.

 

 

"I've been talking to Interpol," Simon Banks announced, throwing down the case

file. "This is just the latest. Started into Toronto three months ago, one,

possibly two of the Toronto PD's own dead by this monster. You can draw a line

across Canada and the States, a murder here, a murder there--and then we get to

Cascade and somebody got stuck. This is it, the buck stops here--I don't care

what's happened in other cities, nobody's getting away with this in my

precinct."

"Yes, sir," Jim Ellison agreed wholeheartedly. He took no offense at his

captain's tone. Three homicides in one week put him in an equally pissed off

mood. And that was only in Cascade; learning that their string had a much

longer tail made it far worse. Given the distinctive nature of the murders, the

whole thing reeked of a serial killer.

Almost automatically he glanced at his partner. Blair was sitting

uncharacteristically still; his heartbeat had accelerated a hair with Simon's

words. It wasn't the captain's anger but what he had reported that disturbed

the anthropologist. Serial murderers touched a sensitive nerve, called up

unpleasant memories they'd both just as soon forget.

Of course in both their cases this made them that much more determined to catch

this guy.

 

 

"I've never seen anything like this," the coroner confessed as they quizzed him

about the latest body. Jim went over it briefly himself, found nothing

extraordinary that enhanced Sentinel abilities could detect. Blair managed to

guide him through the process by keeping his eyes carefully averted from the

corpse. The pathologist, familiar with the two, made no comment on either

Ellison's hands-on investigation or Sandburg's greenish hue.

Cause of death clear: massive blood loss. "This woman's missing over three

quarters of her plasma," the doctor reported with a hint of intrigued

excitement. "For that much to be gone they must have been using suction of some

type--the heart wouldn't be able to pump it all out. Her veins are virtually

empty; some have even collapsed. That could be the true cause of death,

actually, even before the exsanguination killed her--far as I can tell it was

drained in a minute flat."

"There was no blood at the scene," Blair remarked from the corner of the room he

had retreated to.

"Yeah, I heard that. We're talking one slick customer. The corpse wasn't moved

from all I can tell--dirt on the shoes, traces on the clothing all match the

location."

"They took the blood so neatly none was spilled," Jim said.

"In one minute, too," the pathologist reminded him. "Either this is a Red Cross

Blood Wagon worker with an extremely dedicated work ethic, or--" and his eyes

lit with unholy fire, "it's a vampire."

Jim glared down at his smiling face. "People are dead here."

"I know, I know. That wasn't a joke--I haven't shown you the best part."

Without any sign of discomfort he turned the dead woman's head aside, swept back

the hair to reveal the neck. "Look at this." One gloved finger indicated the

jugular. In specific, the pair of small round wounds perforating the skin, only

a few centimeters apart. "These are the only lesions on the entire body," the

pathologist said in a suitably hushed voice.

He broke the mood fast enough by adding, "Well, a couple paper cuts, but she was

a secretary after all. I've gone over it with a magnifying glass, and there's

no needle marks anywhere. Those," again he pointed to the wounds, "weren't

caused by a needle. Too big, too irregular. Could be from thorns or claws, but

I'm betting on teeth. Of course, they are far too small to account for this

kind of blood loss--but that never bothered Count Dracula."

 

 

"And the other victims had the same marks, same place," Blair reported wearily

later as they reviewed the other cases, those from both Cascade and Interpol.

He shoved the stack of files aside and tossed his glasses on top of them,

rubbing his eyes. "You know, Dan's vampire theory is sounding better all the

time."

"It's hardly his theory," Jim replied sharply. "Every pathologist report we

have makes some such reference. What it means, Chief, is that we're dealing

with a guy that thinks he's a vampire."

"Yeah, and he's pretty damn good at playing the part, too. Wonder where he buys

his super-suction plastic fangs?"

"Sandburg." Ellison's frustrated growl brought Blair back on track. The

Sentinel softened slightly at his mumbled apology. "It's okay, Chief, we just

have to stick to this and forget the Gothic stuff for now. Commonalties in the

victims, that's what we need. Figure out how this guy thinks and we can get

inside his head, find him before he chooses his next victim."

"Dunno if he chooses them, man." Blair leaned back. "I mean, I know Lash--" he

swallowed, continued, "Lash took real care, picking out who he wanted. But this

guy, whoever--he's bringing them down so fast he can't be too choosy. Three in

six days doesn't leave much room for being finicky. And the types--"

"A secretary and two homeless men in Cascade," Jim recited. "All in the same

part of town. In the other cities, Canadian and US, a mix of vagrants, gang

members, couple of random others."

"He's taking them off the street, man. He just goes out at night and snags

whoever walks by. What kind of reason is in that?" Blair demanded. "I mean,

even Lash, he had a purpose, he was getting identities. Revenge, well, I don't

quite get it, but at least I see it, you know? And to some serial killers, it's

the true way to know a person, or to possess someone they 'love' in their

twisted way--"

"And for some it's for the thrill of murder," Jim said grimly. "Which could be

what we have here. It's the death. Doesn't matter who, or where, just what."

"And how." Blair paused. "And when. Always at night." He went silent.

"I know it doesn't make sense," his partner spoke quietly. "It's something

you'll learn that you won't understand--I hope you never do. But some people

are monsters. No reason, no purpose. They just are. They do things and we

have to stop them. If we get too caught up trying to figure out 'why', when

there isn't an answer--"

"But what if there is?" Blair interrupted. His protest was soft. Jim waited

patiently for him to go on, "What if there is a reason?"

"Why, then?"

"Nourishment." Blair took a breath, went on before he could be cut off. "Blood.

Drinking blood, there's lots of cultures with rituals around that concept.

Animal blood and human blood. Human blood is always the most

powerful--sacrifices, and eating the sacrifices, and drinking the blood. Even

Christianity has the concept. It doesn't matter where the blood's from--well,

yes it does. Usually it does. But not always; the most important thing is that

it's from a human; if they're not picky about who..."

"Are we talking about a cult here?"

Before Jim could consider the possibility Blair responded, "No. No, look,

everyone agrees that this is one individual. Drinking blood for strength, for

power, for immortality..." He hesitated. Decided to continue before he was

stopped, "Vampires, the idea is ancient. It's in all sorts of cultures, all

over the world, these common elements. The blood-drinking, of course. But the

other stuff, too. Afraid of sunlight, great strength, live forever unless

they're killed. And that's hard to do.

"There's all the old European stuff, the nosferatu to Dracula, but there's so

much more, too. The ancient Meso-americans, Mayans and Aztecs, they had these

sort of demi-gods, jaguar men, people with jaguar teeth. And those peoples all

gave blood sacrifices to their deities. The Chinese--"

"What are you talking about, Sandburg?" demanded Jim. "Real vampires?"

"I'm just saying that we should be open to possibilities--"

"You sound like you're starring in 'The X-files'. I liked the cult idea better,

Chief." Jim shook his head. "These are all myths you're talking about--"

"And until I found you almost all I knew about Sentinels were myths."

Touche. Jim wondered how many times to come would Blair invoke that particular

clause. Aloud he snapped, "Open minds are one thing, empty ones are

another--honestly, that theory's just nuts. Simon would give us hell for

mentioning it, the rest of Major Crimes would laugh their asses off, and most

importantly, it isn't doing anything to get this solved."

Blair was suitably crestfallen at the rebuke. But his eyes sparked as he asked

of his partner, "What's up with you, man? Biting my head off for a passing

theory?"

"Sorry." Jim was honestly apologetic. "I know you weren't really serious about

it, still, I don't want you to lose all the credibility you've deservedly gained

just because you're spouting your usual nonsense. Not everyone's immunized to

it like me," and he essayed a grin.

Blair shook his head. "No go. I want to know what's bugging you, man. You've

been digging into this case worse than ever, since Simon officially gave it to

us this morning you haven't stopped pushing. Don't you think half past seven's

about time for a break?"

Immediately he denied this, then saw the vindicated gleam in his partner's eye

and knew the truth would come out eventually. Surrendering, he explained, "We

need to do as much as we can tonight. The feds show up tomorrow morning to take

over; we'll be downgraded to assistants. I don't want to be making coffee runs

for a pair of suits while there's a killer loose in my city. I don't care where

else he's been or what he did there; all I need to know is that he's here,

killing people here, and I'm going to stop him. We're going to stop him."

"Tonight?" Blair's eyebrows raised, but he had no other comment.

Especially after Jim answered, "If we can." They both knew 'the sooner, the

better' took on a whole new meaning for cases such as this.

The Sentinel tapped the pile of files. "The three murders here in Cascade were

all within a couple of blocks of each other. It's starting to get dark outside,

that's the killer's chosen hour. I'm going to go to the locations where the

bodies were found, see what else I can find, and if I scare up some suspects,

all the better. You--" he hesitated. "You can drive. If you want to come."

"Yeah, right, I'm going to sit at home watching TV while you're drawing the eye

of a lunatic." Blair snorted. "Not likely, and I'll tell you now, I ain' t

keeping in the truck, either. In case you have some strange idea I'm going to

listen to you this one time..."

The desire to keep his friend safe and protected warred with his need for

backup. The need won. "All right. But if I find you suddenly following around

a pale woman with sharp teeth you're going home, capiche?"

"No problem, man." He shrugged into the jacket Jim handed him, followed his

partner out the door and down to the pickup.

It wasn't until he was closing his door that he said, under his breath at a

level Sentinel hearing could only just make out, "I was serious."

 

 

Three different sites, and nothing at any of them except a couple of spots of

paint marking the positions of the bodies before they were carted away. Jim

invoked his full array of abilities, sight, smell, touch, anything to find a

single remaining trace.

He found a couple of dots of blood that had been missed. Hardly enough to

account for the loss, but possible confirmation of the pathologist's report--the

corpses had been left where they had fallen. The killer wasn't hiding his

tracks with that kind of subterfuge.

But however he was hiding them, he did such a good job that a trained Sentinel

couldn't find a single clue. No single hair, no odd grain of mud, not even a

distinctive aftershave. By the third site Jim was beginning to lose his temper;

the only thing that held it was Blair's calming hand on his arm, a nudge in the

ribs with his elbow. "So the guy's good--we're still better. We'll prove it.

And Simon's not going to just throw us off this case, you know that, Jim. We'll

find something sooner or later--"

"But probably not before another death," Jim growled the reminder. "The first

corpse was reported five days ago, had been dead for about twenty-four hours.

The second was killed the next day, and the woman two days after that. And she

was two nights ago, so there's another murder due."

Blair glanced around the shadowed street. Not the best neighborhood even in

daylight when there wasn't a killer wandering the sidewalks. At night it was

enough to make him step that much closer to his Sentinel. He wasn't above

showing fear. Not when there was good reason for it.

There were vagrants, homeless people, stumbling across the street or already

curled up under cardboard and ragged coats, wedged between brick walls and

boxes. There were a few guys, boys, running around far past their bedtime,

wearing black leather and brandishing switchblades. And older ones in alleys;

they had concealed guns to back their attitudes. There even was a couple taking

a stroll, jeans and t-shirts, not a formal date, and from their easy chatter

accustomed to both the block and each other.

A strange mix of humanity, a fascinating display of an American society, and

Blair had to forcibly remind himself that any one of them could be the man--or

woman?--that they hunted; any of them could be the killer.

Or more likely, any of them could be the killer's next victim. It sent a shiver

down his spine, he who had so nearly fallen prey to one of the monsters Jim had

mentioned. One of the most horrifying experiences of his life thus far,

something too terrible to even repress, and he would do almost anything to spare

someone else that fear. If that meant following Jim through these dark streets

after hours, so be it.

A sudden high sound on the edge of his hearing caught his attention. He was

about to remark on it when he saw Jim, riveted by the noise Blair could barely

make out, head cocked in his standard listening angle and his expression as

rigid as it ever became. "What is it?" his Guide asked, softly, soothingly.

Jim shook himself free of the sound's spell. "You can't hear--it's a woman,

screaming," and he took off down the street, pulling his gun from his holster.

Blair pelted after him, half praying this would be a false alarm, half hoping

that it wasn't. This might well be the break they needed...

By the time they reached the corner she had gone silent, Blair didn't try to

imagine why, and no matter, because Jim had already pinpointed the cry. He

would have kept running but the Sentinel grabbed his shoulder, ordered, "You

stay behind me," in a voice that brooked no contradiction.

Gulping for breath Blair nodded agreement, closely followed Jim down the street.

People around them flowed out of their way, keeping back from the gun, or

perhaps only trying to stay uninvolved. Jim didn't even seem to notice as they

moved off his warpath, focused as he was on his mission. Before they reached an

alley in the center he put a finger to his lips, met Blair's eyes and tilted his

head toward it. His eyes were narrowed, angry in the streetlight.

He was hearing something. This might be it--Jim raised his gun and stepped in

front of the mouth of the alley. "Freeze!"

A second passed and Blair felt his heart begin beating again. Jim waved him

forward. The Sentinel was crouched by a man lying on the cold pavement.

Shaking him. "Where'd they go, did you see them?"

The man's head lolled back and forth. He didn't speak, or couldn't. In the dim

light Blair could barely make out the bruise spreading across his temple; he had

been hit, by a weapon or a fist like iron. Definite concussion and there might

be worse damage; with an ease of long practice he whipped out his celphone and

dialed 9-1-1. Summoned an ambulance while Jim turned in circles, trying to pick

up some clue.

"Up!" the man gasped suddenly, his eyes snapping open. He struggled; Blair

gently pushed him down. "He--from above, and then--lifted her--" With one arm

he pointed to the fire escape above their heads.

Jim frowned, then without delay clambered atop the dumpster aside them, from

there leapt to the escape's landing. Blair scrambled after him, using a garbage

can for a boost to the dumpster and Jim's assistance to make it to the landing.

The window there had been smashed, the crossbeams hanging from the frame and

shards of glass forming a jagged dark hole. Jim entered without a second

thought, Blair behind him.

Shadowy floor lit only by the streetlamps' glow through the windows. At first

he could see nothing, was grateful that Jim's vision was far clearer. Then the

Sentinel was again shouting, "Freeze!" and Blair's eyes managed to pick out two

figures, not at all distant. Tall man and a woman in his arms.

At Jim's shout he released her. The body fell to the floor with a sickening

thud, long hair draped over her face. And the man turned to them, snarled.

Like a cat or a dog, not at all a human sound.

In the streetlight his eyes reflected orange, fiery circles. Demon's eyes.

Demon's teeth bared when he snarled again, human lips drawn back from jaguar

fangs. And his face was pale, as marble is pale, as bone is pale.

But his form was a man's, and the long dark coat he wore as men do. And he

paused at the gun, wide brilliant eyes flickering from it, to Jim--

To Blair, and he felt a chill like a freezing draft, shivered under that furious

glare. No sanity in those inhuman eyes, no reason. He felt trapped, deer in

headlights, and then they were no longer looking at him but at Jim again.

The Sentinel's gun didn't waver as he glared into those golden orbs. Not even

when the creature took a slow, deliberate step forward. His movements were

nearly human, slightly too smooth, too predatory. "Don't move," Jim ordered

again.

Another step in their direction, and Jim readied his gun. Then both froze,

cocked their heads in a mirrored pose of listening.

A moment passed before Blair could make out the approaching sirens. They seemed

the only sound, the rest of the world mute, and then the creature spoke. Low

voice, harsh and rasping, but the words were clear, "Later." And then, "You

didn't see me." Nothing special in the way it spoke, a slight accent but no

noticeable inflection. Except for the way it resounded in the terrible pressing

stillness, Blair struggling under the weight of that silence.

And the man, the creature was gone. No motion slow enough for the human eye to

catch, the air itself hardly disturbed by his passage. Blair lunged forward,

dropped to his knees by the woman's body. Even before he felt her neck for a

pulse he knew it was hopeless; the skin had already begun to cool. Withdrawing

his hand his fingertips brushed against her throat, against the two tiny bumps

swelling on the principle artery.

Puncture wounds. Mark of the vampire's teeth.

 

 

They didn't believe him, and Blair didn't push the issue. It would be easier if

he could believe himself, if he could be entirely sure that what he had seen

had, in truth, been there.

But he had no proof, and wasn't sure he wanted any. And Jim hadn't seen it.

"I saw the body," the Sentinel told him for the fifth time. "Only the woman's

body. No one even fleeing, and I couldn't sense anyone---we must have just

missed him." And then he thought to ask, "What did you think you saw?"

"I'm not sure." Blair shoved his hair out of his face. "I don't know." Briefly

he described it. Glowing eyes and pointed fangs on an all-to-manlike body.

Jim wore carefully attentive expression, but unhappy worry was evident in his

eyes. "Blair, I hate to say this, but it's been a tough few days. It was late,

it was dark, and you had vampires on the brain. Maybe you caught a glimpse of

the guy that I missed somehow, but what you're saying--there's no way I'd have

missed it. And I didn't see him."

You didn't see me. The vampire's command.

Or a figment of an overactive imagination, which Blair would be the first to

admit he possessed. There was no way Jim could have been hypnotized into

forgetting in less than a minute; no one was that prone to suggestion. On the

other hand, Blair's own mind had had plenty of time to form elaborate fantasies.

He dismissed his vision with a certain sense of relief. Such things as vampires

were interesting to speculate about but, comfortingly, they could not exist in

the rational world.

The two federal agents that arrived at the station would have been mollified to

hear this admittance. As it was they frowned when Jim even mentioned the word

'vampire' as the killer's possible motivation. From the way they spoke, they

had been mistaken for Mulder and Scully in the past and were not pleased by the

comparison. Especially as people in general preferred the television agents

over their own selves.

The cult suggestion was more appealing, though they rejected it as well on the

grounds of the crimes being the work of an individual. From there they went off

on a tangent about copy-cat killers and Jim gracefully slipped away, returned to

his desk to confer with his partner.

"You should be over there with the good Agents Grimm," he muttered. "You're the

one with the psych degree."

"I only minored in it," Blair argued distractedly.

Jim frowned. "All right, what's bothering you now?"

His partner sighed. Tapped his fingers on the desk and watched them move before

answering. "I've been trying to forget--but I can't. Any more than you can

remember. Jim, I saw something last night. I know that much. I don't know

what it was, or if what I saw was precisely what was there, but--something was.

Something you overlooked entirely, and I don't know why." You didn't see me.

"But someone was there, the killer was there. And what I saw of him made Bela

Lugosi look like Mickey Mouse."

Jim lowered his voice a little more. "I was hoping that wasn't it. Chief,

you've got to get over this nonsense." He didn't sound angry, more concerned.

"It's got you scared enough you're not thinking right, and I need you with your

brains on track. Yes, this guy's a monster. He's evil, but he's not

supernatural. He may be drinking blood--but he's not rising from a coffin to do

it."

"Have you ever heard of zombies?" Blair asked suddenly, also softly. "Voodoo

black magic, people that seem dead, no heartbeat, no breathing, but they're

walking? What about Indian fakirs who can stop their hearts and levitate? Or

firewalkers who don't get burned? Science doesn't know how they do this stuff.

But they do it. I've seen some of it. 'There is more to heaven and earth--'"

"'--than is dreamt of in your philosophy.' I did pass sophomore English."

"Then listen to it, man. Why do you have such a hard time with this? Come on,

Jim, science doesn't even have full explanations for your senses. You've, we've

both seen things. Why shouldn't we at least consider this?"

Jim rolled his eyes. "Okay, Chief, want the honest answer?" At Blair's eager

nod, "I just don't buy vampires. I never have. I don't even have fun watching

vampire movies or anything--well, I did read Emily Weis, but so did everyone

else. She had the best presentation, and still--it doesn't jive.

"I mean, forget the fact that they can live forever when there isn't anything

else on the planet that doesn't age. Just look at the blood-drinking. If

there's all these vampires running around sucking people dry, how come Dan said

he'd never seen anything like it before? He's been a coroner for twenty years,

he's encountered plenty of wild things. And not one of the other pathologists'

reports mentioned similarities to any other murder. This so-called vampire's

been killing at least a couple times a week, why is he so hungry if the others

run on empty?"

"Maybe there aren't that many others," Blair objected. Not sure why he was

arguing so strenuously, except that there was something here, something more

than what they were saying. "Or maybe when they kill they aren't so obvious,

maybe the signs haven't been noticed before. Maybe he's not being as careful as

other vampires." In his mind's eye he saw a flashbulb memory of the man's eyes,

those burning amber circles. Fury and madness. "Maybe he's insane."

"An insane vampire," Jim echoed flatly. "Will you please forget this, Chief?"

Blair agreed to aloud, but privately made no promises. Once in his thoughts he

couldn't avoid the image of the creature's eyes. When he closed his own they

floated there in the blackness, above white teeth. Tongue moving behind the

fangs as the thing spoke. "You didn't see me." But he had. Even if Jim hadn't.

He had.

And Jim had shouted freeze, aimed his gun at someone he never saw.

And the man had stopped, dropped the woman he had murdered, drained of blood,

same as the others. Glared at them with his fiery eyes, began to stalk toward

them, before the ambulance's approaching sirens halted him.

He had spoken twice. Before the order, his burning eyes locked with Jim's, and

he had said, "Later." One word, not a command. A promise. His victim, his

latest carnage at his feet, and he had told the Sentinel that he would return.

For him, for Jim. To continue the assault he had begun.

He pulled his victims off the street, Blair had thought. Not choosy, taking

whoever was unlucky enough to walk close enough to be ambushed. Last night it

had been two, and he had knocked down one to take the other.

But now he had chosen, now he would be hunting Jim. Would he wait for another

night to pass or would he be impatient, now that he had selected a target,

anxious to take him down with that same unbelievable speed with which he had

slain the rest.

And Jim had no idea, no memory of the hunter's vow.

Too well now, Blair remembered the impossible swiftness of his actions, the

instant it had taken him to vanish. The power in his glowing eyes, in his

hissed voice, freezing Jim in his tracks. And when he had cocked his head, the

same moment as Jim, hearing the sirens long before Blair. His hearing was equal

to the Sentinel's, his other senses might also be so enhanced.

Blair glanced at his watch. A good four hours before sunset. Vampire or mad

human, he had always killed at night, and hopefully he wouldn't break that habit

now. "Jim, just remembered, I have to go the University to pick up some things.

Mind if I head out now?"

"Sure. See you tonight."

"Well--" Blair hesitated. "I might be out tonight, don't know when I'll get

in."

Jim narrowed his eyes. "Ah, so that'd be a date you're picking up."

He tried his best to look suitably caught. "Yeah, something like that. You

don't mind..?"

"I'd say you could use the break." Jim smirked. "Good luck, Sandburg, hope she

doesn't let you down too hard."

"Yeah, thanks a lot. I'll tell you all about it--tomorrow morning." He grinned,

waved and left before Jim could hear how fast his heart was thundering.

An hour later he stood on the sidewalk in front of the building they had entered

the previous night. It was abandoned, windows on the first floor boarded up

with plywood eye patches, the other floors' either nailed shut as well or

sporting a patchwork of cracked panes of glass. Going around to the side alley

he climbed to the same entrance as before, a struggle without Jim's assistance.

At last he stood on the floor, gazed out at the flat expanse. All partitions

had fallen, leaving an empty floor like a low-ceilinged gymnasium. Musty and

blanketed with cobwebs, but not spooky as it had been at night. With the

sunlight shafting through the broken windows it felt only lonely.

He walked to the center, sneakers thumping on the bare floor. Looking down at

his feet he saw the spraypaint marks denoting the woman's fallen body. Right

here, last night, the man had stood, threatening them with that unreal animal

snarl and his impossible eyes. And Jim had seen nothing.

Blair strode the rest of the way across the floor. The man had fled, faster

than sight, away from them. But opposite was only windows. Most were broken

but when Blair looked out there was no fire escape, not even a dumpster for him

to land in. How had he escaped in this direction? There was a door leading

downstairs on either side, but both were locked, still secured.

No one here now. He left the same way he had come, dropped back down to the

alley and headed back onto the street. Looking for anything, as they had been

last night. Some tiny hint. As he walked he stuck his hands in his jacket

pockets, feeling what he had brought after a few minutes' frantic research in

the library.

A bulb of garlic, in the tradition of Dracula. A paperback copy of the Bible,

and a small silver crucifix, gift from an acquaintance unaware of his religion.

A knife, a switchblade Jim didn't even know he had in his desk drawer. And even

worse, Jim's backup revolver, from his bureau. Jim would not be pleased to

learn he had taken it. But despite his aversion to guns he knew how to use

them, and hopefully the threat would be enough.

That is, if the man was in fact human. Against a vampire the consensus was

generally knives over bullets. Wooden stakes were best, of course, but they

wouldn't fit so well in his pocket and he doubted he had the ability, physically

or emotionally, to drive a stake into the chest of a man. Or even a fiend with

a man's form.

He paced the streets for an hour, taking a rough circuit around the area of the

four kills. The sun's rays cast ever longer shadows as it lowered in the sky,

and he considered returning to the loft. Tell Jim that the date had been

rejected. Or even tell him the truth, admit to this fruitless and most likely

pointless search.

Blair drove most of the way back, stopped a block away and rethought his

decision. Tonight, or tomorrow night, it was coming, it would come. He

couldn't convince Jim, but he had already convinced himself beyond the point

that he could change his mind. Protecting his Sentinel from danger, wasn't that

one of the many unwritten principles of their code? Even as Jim protected him.

But the safest way would be to explain it all. Find a way to get through to

Jim. Even if he refused to believe it could be...supernatural--he would listen

to the threat. He would trust Blair's belief of the danger; he knew Blair

didn't panic without reason. The foundation of their relationship, all its

myriad angles depending on that trust. Trust in the other, in their abilities

and in what they knew. Jim would listen to him, perhaps not believe all of it,

but enough that when he was attacked he would not be unprepared.

With that hope in mind, Blair pulled up in front of the loft, already planning

his words. They needed to have conviction without sounding obsessive or pushy--

As he climbed out of his car the back of his neck suddenly prickled, and with an

innate sixth sense he knew he was being watched. He scanned the street

unobtrusively, spotted the figure. The other side of the street, standing in

the mouth of an alley hunched in his black longcoat.

Trying to appear casual, Blair crossed the street. He cast a glance at the sky

as he walked. The sun had dropped behind the buildings but the hues of the

clouds showed it hadn't yet fallen below the horizon. And the man had been

pressed in the shadows of the alley.

Blair thrust his hands in his pockets, one curled around the gun butt, the other

wrapping his fingers through the chain of the crucifix. Striding forward with

his eyes on the ground as if searching for something, he began passing the

alley. Stopped halfway, straightened and turned.

The man was still there, almost a shock in itself. Leaning slightly against the

brick wall beside him, watching him still, an amused look to his arched eyebrow.

A large man, as the one last night had been, and his coat was just as dark. But

his eyes were blue, an odd shade of light blue but no hint of orange flame. And

though he was pale, it didn't seem to be the bone-white pallor of the monster.

The face though--not twisted in that animal anger, lips not drawn back from

fanged teeth, but it was the same face. Hard to judge his age, forties, maybe

entering fifty. The short brushy hair was gray but his face had few lines.

The face of the monster. Blair took a quick breath. He could see no

recognition in the other's expression, hoped he was keeping it out of his own.

"Excuse me, I'm looking for something I lost, can you help?"

The man met his eyes, still with that slightest sneer. "Of course." Deeper and

not as harsh, but the same voice, the very same. "What do you seek?" Accented,

cultured, but the vampire's nonetheless.

Blair reached into his pocket. "It was a match to this," and he took out the

crucifix, chain wrapped around his fingers, the tiny cross resting on his

knuckles.

If he hadn't been watching so intently he would have missed the barest widening

of the man's eyes, the fraction of an inch he recoiled from the object. "No,

I'm afraid I haven't seen anything like that," he purred, and slowly his eyes

rose from the cross to Blair's face.

No golden flame in them, but for an moment in their depths flashed that madness

he had seen last night, in the human face a flicker of insanity that had nothing

human about it.

As he began to take a step backwards, a hand lashed out faster than a striking

snake, grabbed his wrist and pulled him close. "You did see me," the man

hissed, and now his voice was identical to the rasp of the monster's, "how

strong a memory you have, how resistant a mind."

It wasn't until he tried to pull away, when he felt the man's grip as solid as

an iron band, that Blair realized how gravely he had miscalculated, his only

comfort lying in the confirmation of how little chance Jim would have had

against the vampire.

 

 

At last the sun completely vanished, and through the air he dragged his latest

prey with him to his current hidden place. Unlike any of the many others this

mortal struggled in his hold, beat at him, kicked when his arms were locked to

his side. He had to clamp one hand over his mouth to prevent him from

screaming.

He truly was different. The previous night he had seemed inconsequential,

shadowed by his companion's fierce attitude, his driving determination. Yet it

was this one, this small man who had sought him, who had gathered the

accouterments of a vampire hunter and pressed out on his own in search of the

demon killer.

It was this man who remembered despite his command. How could he have guessed

that this young man, he looked almost a boy, could resist him for all his age?

He hadn't encountered a mortal so powerful in far too long.

Dropped, the man immediately rolled onto his feet. From his pocket he withdrew

a gun and brandished it threateningly. With his free hand he took out a

cellular phone, hit a button while his eyes never left the vampire's face.

So simple a matter, to twist out of the line of fire and pluck the phone from

his hands, crush it to meaningless sparks and bent plastic. Then he took the

gun before the trigger could be squeezed, flung it out the window and smiled

benignly on his would-be shooter.

The man's eyes were so wide they were round, white completely surrounding the

blue iris. They darted from one side to the other, and then he ran. Feinted

one way and dashed in the opposite direction, ducking as if to clear a low

ceiling. Heading for the nearer door, such a quick mind, to have already

perceived an escape.

He allowed the mortal to get so close his fingertips brushed the doorknob before

he moved, abruptly placing himself between his captive and his exit. "As you

can see, they are quite futile, so please cease these efforts," he requested

calmly. "They are of no help to you." No way to make him obey but to appeal to

reason.

Backing again to the middle of the room the man stared at him, chest heaving,

eyes if possible grown even huger. His dark hair curling about his face made

his skin look all the paler, and his mouth gaped open as he stared at his

hunter. Something in the childlike expression of innocent shock, the terrified

amazement, was so achingly familiar he almost could laugh, almost could cry.

Then the man answered him, "All right." Resignation nevertheless tinged with

defiance. Taking from this one would be the greatest he had had in so long.

Feeding more than his body with the blood, feeding his spirit with more than the

small doses of fear and horror and grief he had become accustomed to. It

helped, every little stab of pain cutting away at the hole gaping inside, but

this--this might block it, at least for a moment, the waters of Lethe flowing in

this one's veins.

The mortal was talking again. Daring to speak under his gaze. "I know what you

are, I know what you're doing, and why you took me. I'll let you--I'll let you

feed, but I want an agreement."

"An agreement?" Hard to keep his voice deadpan when presented with such

amusement. "What do you have to bargain with?"

"My--my blood," he managed, almost without stuttering. "If I'm not fighting

you--if you can take all of it, would that be worth something? If I drop this?"

And he held up his hand, the silver cross dangling from its chain.

It wasn't enough to stop him, the symbol never had been, and now even the

blisters it would burn into his flesh would be less than nothing in the face of

his greater pain. But the mortal clung to it with a belief hinged on

desperation. What did he want, that he so boldly would tempt the vampire to

get? "What would you bargain for?" he asked aloud. For what do you offer your

life?

The man breathed deeply. His heart beat faster still, hammering in his chest,

driving the blood so powerfully through his body. But his voice was steady.

"You were hunting for my partner, or were going to. I want you to forget about

him, since you have me."

Would that he knew that this bargain was already secured! He could barely recall

his companion in the face of this mortal's strength. But to him he inquired,

"Your partner?"

Another breath. "My friend. Last night, when we found you--he had the gun. The

one you told you would stalk 'later', before you made him forget he ever saw

you. He's my partner, we're police detectives."

He had supposed it before, but hearing it stated so plainly was like a physical

blow, unexpected in the force it hit him with. He doubted the man even noticed

the second he took to compose himself, hoped his weakness would not be so

obvious. To be felled by nothing but the vaguest reminder--and yet he could

picture this man, badge in hand, standing by his partner. Asking questions,

good ones they would be, sharp insights into people's minds and actions, sliding

pieces together to solve the puzzle. He saw himself standing as this man

entered, interrogating him with a half-smile not entirely sincere or false. But

even as he watched the features melted into more familiar ones, the voice

altered to match one in his memory, darker blue eyes and far lighter hair and

all that was the same was the boyish half-smile...

He wrenched himself free of the vision. Never again. Instead, calmly, he

looked to the man before him, forced himself to see his face as it was, his

smaller stature, nothing like the conjuration of his mind. Under his stare a

flush rose to the man's cheeks, living blood running warm under the smooth skin,

final proof of the difference. "So you wish to die?" he asked the mortal.

"No. More than almost anything I want to live," he denied. "But I won't let

you kill my partner." Steadier than ever, as if rather than being unsettled he

found strength in meeting his captor's eyes. So much strength to be found in

him, so much vibrant power.

"Perhaps I wouldn't kill him," he said. Tossing out words to see what effect

they would produce on that defiant expression. "Perhaps I saw the strength in

him to make him as I am."

"A killer?" He sounded frankly surprised, almost contemptuous. "Jim wouldn't

murder, not to live forever, or whatever devil's gift you'd offer him. He

doesn't believe you, that your kind exists, but if he knew he'd hunt you. He'd

stop you from ever taking another life."

"Even if he had to kill me to do so?" he murmured. "How ironic. Has he killed

before?"

The man looked away. When he only kept gazing at him he finally turned back and

met his captor's eyes boldly. "Yes. He has. But he's always been upset when

he has to, and he will never kill anyone if there is another way to stop them.

He saves lives, while you take them."

"I see. And you, are you like your partner, killing when necessary? Bringing

down a criminal, a murderer, with a gun like the one you tried to shoot me with

before?"

"I don't carry a gun. Usually," he amended. "I'm a police observer. And I've

never killed anyone. I hope to God I never will."

"You mean to say you have never fired one of your weapons? Or taken a life some

other way, watched their eyes darken and fade, looking at everything and then at

nothing? Know in yourself that you were the stronger, that you have proved

yourself to the world, in the most simple and crucial test of nature? There

were times that a man was not considered a man until he had so triumphed over

another man."

He made no effort to hide his disgust. "Times change, we learn from our

mistakes. I've seen people die, and it's never a triumph. It's a failure. Not

just for the one dead, but for all of us."

"Interesting. And yet you would not put such value on your own life."

The man eyed him suspiciously. "What do you mean?"

"You go on about the glory of life," he explained, "yet you were so willing to

die. Why is your own worth so little? An example: I was so fearful of what I

would find in Hades that I choose this instead, to go on forever and give others

to Pluto's realm instead. That is how highly I regarded life. You would

abandon it--"

"That's a sign of how selfishly you guarded your own life," the mortal told him.

"So given the choice, you would take death?"

"Over becoming a killer? I think so. I wouldn't chose it if there were other

options, certainly--I want to live." And he had battled for that right before.

He saw it in the man's eyes, realized where the determination originated. This

wasn't the first time he had danced along the line of life and death, fighting

for one while courting the other.

"But you want your partner, your friend, to live more," he stated simply.

And there was no hesitation in the reply. "Yes."

Self-sacrifice, one of those many noble traits that elevated stupidity to a

virtue. The man did it, with not an martyr's airs, but a plain, truly laudable

certainty. And that was familiar and unfamiliar too, like and unlike.

Everything about him so different and yet the same. The one had been a warrior

with a scholar's leanings; now here was a scholar in the trappings of a warrior.

The one had killed, this one never, yet both honored life, loved it with a

passion only exceeded by the love they had for the lives of others. One was

lightness surrounding a darkest self; the other a small dark-haired sheath that

hardly covered the brilliance within.

And the one was dead, forever gone, and leaving endless pain in his wake, while

the other stood living, breathing, giving friendship, joy, a happiness that

could only be matched by the agony his loss would bring.

So many virtues, so many flaws, living and dead, and he as always had mastery

over both, and wielding that power was the only way to keep it from burning,

deadly as the sun. One had asked for death, the other asked for life, and he

would grant requests as he saw fit.

He lifted his head, saw through the darkness the human fall back from his golden

glare. Opened his mouth and the fangs descended, he leaping forward to seize

the mortal. Lifted the small body in the air and plunged his teeth into the

neck, piercing the skin so that the blood poured into his mouth, and he drank it

down, the sweetest he had tasted for eight centuries it seemed.

 

 

Blair had retreated but one step when it was upon him. In his peripheral vision

he made out the glowing eyes, like embers in the darkness, and then his head was

roughly shoved back. Cold against his neck and then it burned, and he would

have screamed had not a freezing hand wrapped around his throat, crushing the

breath out.

One minute, that was how long the coroner had said it had taken for the other

victims to meet their deaths, but this was more than a minute, far longer, hours

and hours he hung helpless in the monster's grasp. At first it was agony

shooting through his body, his limbs, every finger, every toe tingling as if

pierced with needles. Gradually a cold numbness began to steal through them,

crawling up his limbs, finally reaching his body, taking away the pain and

leaving a void in its place.

It seemed that he could hear a heartbeat, thundering in his ears, stuttering

with the speed of a jackhammer, but becoming slower and slower, at last beating

at a normal rhythm. Then slower still, thumping like a ticking clock, and then

the beats were so distant that he waited in torturous anticipation for the next

one to sound, to prove itself alive.

He thought his vision should go dark, that even the golden gleam of the

monster's eyes would fade, but instead everything grew lighter and lighter. Not

yellow light but pure, starting with the gray of early dawn and brightening

until it was white, whiter than anything, so blinding he forced himself to turn

from it, his eyes closed.

"Come or go, which do you chose," demanded a voice, like no one's he had ever

heard, and yet at the same time like his mother's, like Jim's, like Simon's,

even like the monster's.

He stood at a door, a doorway on a cliff, the doorway leading anywhere, the

cliff dropping into infinity, and an unknowable figure silhouetted between them.

"You may come or you may go," spoke the voice through the figure, "but you must

do one or the other."

"How should I decide?" he beseeched the figure, and then he heard the other

call, a low and commanding tone, "Come back, come here," and he recognized the

voice of the monster.

"Come here," the figure echoed, but his gesture was toward the door and not

away.

"I can't," he gasped. No matter that he wanted to know what lay beyond that

door; there was more he still needed to understand where he was, and so much

left undone, and so much he couldn't abandon and would never do so willingly.

"I can't, I can't leave Jim, I won't, if there's a choice."

"There is a decision," agreed the voice, but the tone was grieving, the figure

mournful. All the same he turned from him, and followed the other, the voice of

the monster. Not obeying the command. But taking what he offered, because it

was the way to return, the only path he had back to Jim. Whatever sacrifice it

was, his Sentinel was worthy of it. Their friendship was more valuable than

life or death.

His mouth was filled with flame, with acid, with a raw choking energy, yet he

wouldn't spit it out, instead he swallowed it down. Felt it burn through him,

boiling away the cold inside him. He was no longer being gripped; instead he

clutched the arm to him, his mouth fused to source of this terrible pleasure,

suckling with intensity of a newborn. Every cell in his body demanded it, and

the more they swelled with the nourishment the more they cried for it, and the

stronger they became to take it.

The strength of this one was unbelievable; too soon he realized that he was the

prey, that all he had taken would soon be drawn from his veins. He ripped free,

clouted the newborn's head and knocked him to his knees, where he stayed

unmoving, shoulders hunched and heaving, tangled dark hair hanging over his

white face and shrouding the golden circles of his eyes.

Wolf's eyes, wolfen yellow eyes staring at him from the underbrush, and then the

animal was bounding away. He pursued it, dodging through the blue twilit

jungle. Barely halting in time to avoid tumbling into the abyss that yawned

before him, the cliff walls plunging down to impossible depths, the bottom

invisible even to his eyes.

He had been here before, and he looked around, waiting for the panther to come,

or the Indian, or the Sentinel, whatever form his spiritual guide took from his

unconscious. But instead he saw the wolf, still running, and as he watched the

animal launched himself in a great leap over the edge of the cliff.

"No!" he shouted, but the deed was already done, the wolf suspended in freefall

for the instant before gravity captured it.

When he stared at it he saw why, for its fur was on fire, its tail a flaming

torch, its muzzle blackening, and then it was dropping, a falling star, casting

ashes in a cloud around itself. Before he even lost sight of it the body had

burned away in the air.

Jim Ellison jerked awake with his throat aching, his own scream ringing in his

ears.

 

 

His newest one would not speak. Never had that happened to him before, that one

he had brought across would lose their faculty. True, his intelligence glowed

still in his amber eyes, but he was refusing to use it, refusing to respond,

only glared with an impotent, paralyzed rage.

He didn't even have a name to call him by. Careless, to know so little before

he created a child. But too late to undo the deed. Again it happened, as it

always did, a life once taken could not be restored and once given could not be

reclaimed. "You're hungry," he said, "Come with me and we'll feed."

No answer from his recalcitrant fledgling. Extending his hand he drew him to

his feet, lead him unresisting to the windows. His eyes widened in momentary

surprise as they leapt through them and glided to the pavement below. Yet still

he said nothing, unnaturally silent. He stood on his own, looking so small, so

young, a child in mind and body as well as in minutes from his rebirth.

Stepping into the street, he spied a young woman, nervously glancing behind

herself as she hurried on her way. Running from something, or to, it didn't

matter. He called her over. Pretty; not a painted lady; this one was looking

to buy, not to sell, but her round face had natural beauty and her smooth brown

skin was most attractive. He ran his fingers lightly down her arm; she shivered

and he whispered, "Don't move, and don't be afraid; stand still, ma belle

chere."

She relaxed and he summoned his fledgling. "She is here for you, she is for

you, all for you. Drink, and you will feel better; drink and you will feel

again, in the only way, in the greatest way." No response, and he continued,

"It is what you are now, what you chose to be. You cannot deny what you are; to

do so is to accept the death you rejected. You love life, feel hers," and

taking his limp cold hand he pressed it to her breast. "Feel it warm, hear it

beating, and you can taste it, quench your thirst. It's easy, drink as you

drank before from me, drink from her life you love. This is what you are, this

is how you are to love now."

At last he spoke, "No!" and wrested his hand away. "What did you do? No!"

"The deed is done," he reminded him, "Fait accompli, and all there is left is

for you to drink from the fountain offered."

"No!" and the shout was more anguished and more defiant than he had ever voiced

in life. Then he was running, slammed into the brick wall like a crazy man and

kept moving, out of the alley into the street.

He didn't follow. For a moment he waited, listening to the muted sounds of the

city's night, and then he lead the girl back onto the sidewalk. "Go on, go

home, and don't come here again," he told her. "Forget us, and forget why you

came, you have no need for that now." He left her leaning mutely against the

plywood window, her senses beginning to return, while he retreated to the alley

and took to the air. Not chasing, no. But he would see where his newest fled

now, what he would do.

The blood that had taken him across was fueling him now, but soon enough he

would drain that reserve, and then he would need prey. How would he reconcile

that need with his so different self? What a paradox had been created, life's

lover now life's destroyer. He had brought across a man too young to have

lived, yet old enough to know what he had lost. A match for that one gone, a

new one whose love for life and hatred of death were set against each other.

How long before he too would hunt for the impossible cure? Seek a nonexistent

solution, what many men had sought and never found, a way to return life to one

dead. Sooner or later he would begin that quest. And he, master, hunter, sire,

would watch the search again, into the night pursue his newest, darkest son.

 

 

Jim dialed the number before looking at the clock. 1 AM. Too late; the phone

was already ringing.

After five it was picked up. "Banks. This better be damn good."

"Simon, something's happened to Blair."

The captain paused for a medium length of time. "Okay, what is it? You at the

hospital?"

"No. I'm at home. Sandburg's not here, he was supposed to be out with a

girl..."

"So, he's probably spending the night over." Not an unusual situation, he could

hear in Simon's silence. But he knew better than to ignore the hunches of his

best detective pair. "What do you want me to do?"

"Get ready. I'll pick you up in a few minutes, if you're willing. I need to

check a place out--I'd like backup."

And Simon would prefer that he had backup, enough to get out of his warm bed and

dress for Jim to take them to the site. The detective drove with locked jaw,

uncommunicative as only Ellison could be. The captain asked a few token

questions, then rode the rest of the way in silence, allowing things to play out

as they would.

When they stopped in front of the building, Simon decided it was time for at

least a couple of answers. "Jim, this is the place you found the fourth victim.

I doubt Blair would take his date on a tour of a murder site." The kid might

act slightly touched but he was not foolhardy.

"He said he was going on a date--no, dammit, he didn't, he only implied it," Jim

corrected himself. "I should have pushed him, I was just too wrapped up in this

case."

"So why would he come here?" Simon asked carefully.

"He had this crazy idea about vampires--"

"Not so crazy. The suits are saying it's probably someone taking their

role-playing a little too far."

"Not like that. He meant the real thing, he even told me he had seen one, last

night, when we found the body. A demon man, fangs and glowing eyes included."

"I see." In a way. "Jim, what precisely did you see last night?"

"Nothing." Jim frowned. "I heard something, and the man pointed up, so we

climbed up here. The window had been broken in, not too long before, and we

went through." He paused, continued in a slower, more contemplative tone. "It

was empty, except for her body, lying on the floor right where you saw it. She

had only died a few minutes before--that's how close we were. A matter of

minutes. But other than her I saw nothing." His frown deepened. "Nothing."

"But Blair did." Simon considered this. "He acts a little goofy at times, but

he's got sharp eyes--not like yours, but I'd prefer his testimony over ten other

eye witnesses'. Don't tell him I said so, but it's true. He lives up to the

title of observer. If he said he saw something..."

"I know." Jim sighed. "I know. Dammit, I should have listened to him--"

"Jim," Simon demanded quietly, "what set off the late-night panic attack?"

"I had a dream." Glanced at his captain, looking for amusement or doubt, but

only saw concern. "I had a dream, it was vivid, more real than they ever are,

usually. I can still see it when I close my eyes..." He shuddered, minutely,

but for Jim as telling as another man's sob.

"What'd you see?" Most people, he'd be strongly considering requesting a psych

review. But with Jim and Blair such things were business as usual; if they

worked, he wasn't going to comment. But he listened closely. "The panther?"

Jim shook his head. "No. I was at the cliff, though--when we were in Peru,

finding you and Daryl, I was at a cliff. It might have been the same one. I

was standing by it, and a wolf came running from the jungle and leapt over the

edge. Simon, it was on fire, it burned to ashes as I watched it. As it

dropped, the smoke was rising and its ashes were falling. I couldn't reach the

wolf and it burned to nothing."

"What does it mean?" Simon's voice was quietly intense. He didn't understand

these things, could never interpret visions like that, but this one made him

ill, a strange hollow feeling in the pit of his stomach.

"I..." Jim hesitated. "Last spring, you remember, before Megan went back to

Australia. Alex Barnes, when she--" he broke off, no need to continue. That

had been far too close. "A couple nights before that, I dreamed like this. I

dreamed I saw the wolf, the same wolf, and I shot it. I killed it, and then its

body turned into Blair, lying there in the jungle, dead..."

"I see," Simon murmured. A puzzle explained; he had often wondered about that

brief time that Jim had forced Blair out of the apartment they shared. If he

had suspected he would hurt his friend--one of the few constants of the universe

was the length Jim would go to keep his partner safe. It was matched only by

the distance Blair would go to do the same.

Which made this dream all the more harrowing. Little wonder Jim had disturbed

his sleep. "Okay, if that's everything," he waited for the Sentinel's

agreement, "then let's get up there." He prayed they would find nothing as he

unlocked the padlock on the front door. Let Blair be at the home of whoever the

woman of his dreams was this week, let this be all a false alarm.

He knew them too well to place much stock in that wish, though.

At first he almost thought it might have been granted, as they strode onto the

second floor, the musty emptiness. He played his flashlight around the great

room, Jim peering into corners without the aid of other illumination; what

filtered in from the streetlamps was enough for his eyes. Nothing seemed

changed; he couldn't tell if any of the tracks through the dust-covered floor

were fresh, but he saw no other signs of entrance.

Then Jim crouched in the middle of the room, brushed his fingers along the

floor, and Simon felt the same sinking feeling in his belly. The detective's

jaw clenched that much more, one tic in the tight cheek, and he stood, intent on

what had rubbed off onto his fingertips.

"What?" Simon asked, voice hushed.

"It's blood." His voice was flat, emotionless. "Fresh, spilled under an hour

ago, I'd say. There's only a couple drops."

"But..?" He knew what was coming, simply wanted confirmation. Or better

denial, but he knew it wouldn't happen.

"It's Blair's." And there it was. Simon didn't ask how Jim could know; that he

knew was enough for him. "Someone else's, too. I don't think it's human, but I

can't say what it is."

"Jim." Simon inhaled deeply, before he started to babble, spill out what he

wanted to hear as much as Jim did. "There might be an explanation, a safe one.

All the others, far as we know were left where they were killed. He drew them

in, then killed them, nothing special." Except for last night, when he had

apparently fled from them. But no need to mention that.

Not with Jim looking as he did, that tight expression, beyond fear or anger,

deep in his eyes something burning, and deeper still something dying.

 

 

These weren't hunger pangs, not normal ones; they burned, his stomach, his

throat, his mouth, all set flaming with thirst, as if he had drunk saltwater.

Fire inside, and yet it was demanding fire to quench it, more of the liquid fire

he had swallowed before. The heat flowing beneath the surface of every human.

But not under his, not now; when he touched his white wrists there was no pulse

beating there, no blue vein written across the flesh. A corded ridge, like the

vein, but it was as bleached as the skin around it. Empty. Inhuman.

He almost laughed. Not from humor but as release for the unknown emotion

boiling up inside of him. Except when he tried only a rasp came out. A choking

sound, like his vocal chords were working without air, without breath.

Not human.

Jim. Jim would know, would understand. Accept it even if he didn't, and find a

way to make it right. He was a cop, that was what he did for a living, help

people. This wouldn't faze him. Nothing would, if he was determined. Jim

could fix even this. Nothing was quite impossible, not for him, his partner,

his friend, his Sentinel.

He clawed his way to his feet, using the rough brick wall behind him for

support. For a moment he stared around the alley, wondering at the colors

hidden in the darkness, now revealed to his new eyes. Graffiti paint, rust-red

bricks, even the dingy metal trashcans had taken on a luster in the moonlight.

Was this what Jim saw, when he walked the night streets? This spectrum under

the dirt and grime, this hidden display... How did he ever control it, how could

he bear to look away from its brilliance?

Was he a Sentinel now as well, was he in truth seeing with Jim's eyes?

Unnatural eyes...

He tried to laugh again, and again failed. Pushing himself forward he stumbled

into the center of the alley, stood swaying on the pavement. Stars above, when

he peered through the haze of the city's artificial glow. Where was the loft,

where was his home? It took some moments to orient himself, and he found

himself staring foolishly at the luminescent points embedded in the black sky,

his head rocked so far back it nearly off-balanced him.

Jim, he reminded himself, must find him. Vaguely recognizing his location, he

falteringly started toward the street.

Impossible to say what he first perceived. All at once he was aware of it. Of

the warm living scent that curled through his nostrils, the flash of motion in

the corner of his eye. And the scratching, buried by another sound, a low

unwavering patter.

Heartbeat, a tiny analytical portion of his mind defined it. Far too fast to be

human. A little heart in a small chest--he turned, spotted the green eyes of

the alley cat, reflecting eerily in the streetlight.

The creature hissed, leapt, and quicker than thought he moved. Pounced before

the animal could, and the warm squirming body in his hands. Claws raking

through his skin, leaving long bloodless scratches and distant pain he barely

felt, barely acknowledged. Its eyes were wide, its mouth pink as it wailed its

distress. He blinked at the yellow-white canines, and then inexorably his eyes

shifted below them, to the bristled fur around its neck, ruffled in the grip of

his fingers.

Something happened then, what he didn't know precisely, but his teeth brushed

against the fur, and then stabbing through it, through the skin, a rush of heat

filling his mouth, his body. Beginning to assuage the thirst--

Too soon it ended, too soon he was pulling at a cold dead thing. He dropped it,

backed away from the little corpse, a bundle of limp fur heaped on the pavement.

The green eyes reflected the light still, gleaming from a pointed-eared head

tilted at an impossible angle. A demon body, damning him with its murder.

His stomach twisted and he vomited, a pink, frothy liquid pooling at his feet.

Even as he watched it steam he felt his thirst rise again, powerful as before.

He could lean over, lap up the cooling blood--

Instead he ran. The night swirled dizzily around him and he kept falling, kept

pushing himself upright again, had to keep moving, distance himself from that

corpse he had created, that life he had destroyed, drawn into himself.

Jim could make this right. Jim could answer this, correct this, find the

meaning and the solution.

Not human.

He wasn't yet ready to face what he was.

 

 

In the warm afternoon sun, Jim shivered.

He wasn't cold, and the tremor passed soon enough, so quickly that he doubted

anyone noticed. But looking up at the daytime star, its rays a caressing heat

on his face, suddenly filled him with an uncontrollable, unfathomable dread.

He hadn't been able to sleep again last night, after the dream had come and

gone. It must show in his face, his exhaustion--people kept asking him if he

was all right, did he want to sit down or drink some water or coffee? Except

when he didn't answer him they trailed off in their requests, melted away to

attend to their own duties.

Blair hadn't returned in the morning. It had been a slim hope but one he had

been loathe to abandon. He withheld requesting an APB until noon. After that

he refused to wait.

His partner's car was parked in front of the loft, and that was one of the

biggest concerns. Jim knew he had taken it, to the University he had said he

was going. One of the other professors confirmed it; Sandburg had stopped by

his office. He seemed in a hurry, looking for something. Left around four, and

hadn't been seen since by any living soul that Jim had contact with.

Drops of his blood had spattered the floor of that abandoned building. And the

wolf had died in a glorious inferno.

They had no proof, Simon kept insisting. There was no sign that he had even

encountered the killer. There was no body, and their murderer hadn't previously

withheld his victims for any length of time.

Jim's revolver had been missing. He hesitated about telling Simon that. Blair,

taking his property without permission--uncharacteristic. This thing had scared

him, badly. Yet he hadn't told Jim about it. Or rather he had, but Jim had

failed to listen.

"Not your fault," Simon insisted.

Alex Barnes, all over again.

Only this time they might already be too late.

He was going to find this guy. Dead or alive, whether or not he was involved.

He was going to find this guy and take him down, personally see to it that he

never harmed another citizen of Cascade again. Jim hardly cared that people

might realize he was using his special senses as he combed the crime scenes one

more time. Inspected the building floor again on his hands and knees.

The other detectives of Major Crimes let him work without question, gracefully

stepping back when he entered the scene. Captain Banks frowned and chewed on an

unlit cigar, following him all the while like a surrogate partner. Even the two

Bureau agents seemed taken aback by his intensity; they made no protest when he

dominated their investigation. Any comments were quashed before they left their

lips by one hardened glare from the Sentinel's eyes.

If Jim recognized this it was only subconsciously, his mind entirely wrapped up

in the problem at hand. Grasping at any solution. "Out the window," he

announced, pointing to the nearly invisible black thread caught on a shard of

glass. "Someone went out here, that's how he escaped us."

Simon carefully leaned out and looked down. "Jim, that's a fifteen foot drop to

pavement."

"That's how he did it." They went outside, craned their necks up at the window

in question. Then went around to the other side. "He didn't use the dumpster

to get to the fire escape," Jim commented. "Unless he did it barefoot or in

socks. There's no shoe scuffs except from Blair and me." Blair had been

slipping, but all the same it looked like there were multiple sets from him. He

had come up here again, without Jim.

"You're saying," Simon inquired carefully, "that this guy jumped ten feet in the

air to the fire escape, holding a struggling woman? And then hopped out the

other side? Jim, that's not humanly possible."

"I know." And Blair had seen a yellow-eyed demon.

Yellow eyes, like the wolf's, staring at him in supplication before it plummeted

flaming to its grave.

The afternoon wore on, with him finding nothing, with no one else having any

better luck. Dusk falling, and Simon came to him, "Jim, you should go home.

You're exhausted."

"He's out there, Simon." Glanced down the streets, the streetlights casting

hazy glows in the approaching darkness. "He's still out there, walking around

here, and it's the second night since his last kill." His last kill that they

knew of.

"I've got two cruisers patrolling this area, more officers on foot. People are

pulling triple shifts to make sure there's constant surveillance. We might not

get him tonight but we'll stop him at least."

"You'll try." They might succeed. They equally might not. "I have a better

chance--"

"In the condition you're in now," the captain stated bluntly, "no, you don't.

You've been up for a couple days with little sleep, and you're worried for

Sandburg. Understandably, but you can't give up on him yet, Jim. That kid is

one tough son of a gun when it gets down to the wire; he's come through before.

And before you ask me if I really believe that--yes, I do. It's the only way to

keep going. Don't assume the worst without proof."

But he had proof. He didn't tell Simon. No way to make him understand, no

common ground to make sense of the vision. Nothing he could say that would

adequately explain the undeniable, unpreventable truth of his dream.

Regardless, he was about to obey his captain's suggestion, was climbing into his

truck when the report crackled over the radio. He headed for the scene without

delay.

Little to see. Another dark alley, another body, this one a mere boy, dressed

in a leather jacket probably handed down from a brother in another gang. His

switchblade had fallen from his loose fist, evidently an ineffectual defense.

The corpse would be taken to the morgue, a sobbing mother would identify the

pale drained husk of her youngest son. Another victim dead, spiting all their

safeguards.

He wasn't sure what it was, perhaps only a distant rustle, sneakers on pavement

or hand sliding along brick. But he looked up, saw the figure in the shadows

across the street, blue eyes glittering in the fringe glow of the streetlight.

Simon caught him staring, followed his line of vision and started. "God, Jim, is

that--"

He knew he had been spotted; he pressed farther into the alley, all but

invisible in his dark jacket and jeans. Not soon enough, though. "Simon, stay

here," Jim requested, and bounded across the street.

He was at the far end of the alley, trapped between the high walls of the

buildings around him and a chainlink fence. "Blair--" Jim began, and stopped.

The figure looked at him, blue eyes wide, transfixed on his face. Jim returned

the regard, searching him, eyes running over every detail. Pale face with the

tangled dark curls falling around it, surprised round eyes, stature made even

smaller by the defensive hunched posture. A likeness, the very likeness in

vision. In scent, a faint herbal spray, also known.

But the heart--there was no heart. Jim strained to hear, stared at the figure

in a growing horror. There was no heartbeat, nor was there the quiet hiss of

breathing. The chest stayed rigidly still, not rising or falling, air neither

inhaled nor exhaled.

And yet the figure moved, walked, stood staring at him with its own look of

terror. The mouth moved, and then a dry rattling, like bellows slowly

compressed. At last a word, "Jim," faintly, softer than a moth's wing beat.

But he knew the voice. And the quiet, terrible pleading in that single name

would have broken his heart, if only the familiar pulse had accompanied it.

He strode forward, and the figure retreated until its back rattled against the

chainlink barrier. "What are you?" Jim demanded. He seized the arm, shook it.

"Answer me, what are you!"

The mouth opened and closed, no words emerging, no breath. More roughly than he

intended Jim pulled it away from its hold on the fence. "Why do you look like

that, what have you done to him?" Shouting, and the creature cowering under his

accusations, the way Blair never did, only perhaps he had never been so furious

with Blair. Under his fingers through the jacket he felt icy skin, supple and

giving but too cold to be living. "What are you?"

It mouthed, "It's me," then whispered, "It's me," and then it truly spoke aloud,

"It's me!" and kept repeating it, like a meaningless, mindless recording, "It's

me, it's me," growing ever louder.

Jim's grip tightened, and he shook it again, but the being wouldn't stop, until

its cry became something entirely inhuman, a growl like a mad animal's. It tore

its arm free, threw off Jim's hand without effort and then shoved him back, not

gently but not with the strength it had just exhibited.

It growled again, and Jim saw its fanged teeth, its mouth wide and its once-blue

eyes shining golden green. Then they were launching toward him, and he flung up

his arms to defend himself.

This time its snarl was high, anguished, and then it was gone, springing up as

if winged, clearing the chainlink fence almost without touching it and landing

running, escaping into the night before Jim had even time to call out.

He gazed in despair around the deserted alley, whispered more to himself than to

the fled being, "Blair..."

 

 

No need to track his fledgling, not with him staying so close. Probably not a

conscious decision, but the bond he had with his master kept him on a tether,

the conflicting impulses of his flight pulling him in a tight orbit around the

one he avoided.

He felt the first time he fed as if the blood was poured into his own veins.

Except the drink was far too small. Not human, no; his wayward son had sucked

the last drops from a pitiful feline. He found the corpse in the alley it had

inhabited, and others soon went the same way. Well, at least a series of

unexplained cat deaths would not cause a stir among the local constabulary.

During the day the his instincts drove him to cover, curling up in the safety of

the very dumpster he had climbed only a couple nights before. He'd eventually

learn that he could walk abroad, as long as he avoided the direct sun. For now

it was best that this new one didn't know how simple self-immolation was for his

kind.

The master made his kill early, before the sky was black. A young man who

presumed to threaten him; he laughed at the challenge of the boy's blade and

took him the next second. A small cup, quickly drained, but sharp with the tang

of youth.

When he released the body he raised his head and saw his youngest, watching,

observing him in almost a clinical manner. He smiled deliberately, the vampire

still golden in his eyes, and ran his tongue over his bloody lips. The

fledgling did nothing, said nothing, only continued his regard.

Ignoring that stare he took to the air, the other too inexperienced to follow,

and unaware that his maker circled back to look down at him from the rooftops.

As much as his newest was drawn to him he was equally lured in return, gazing

down in fascination at what he had shaped from mortal flesh.

For many long minutes he stood there in the shadows, watching as people hurried

past, as a uniformed officer finally noticed the motionless body and frantically

reported it. The expression on his pale features was hard to interpret; it

could have been anger, it could have been grief. Sirens wailed, strobes flashed

red and blue in his eyes, and he drew deeper into the alley.

Intent as the watcher was, his interest was no match for the intensity with

which the watched stared at the other policemen who soon arrived. Knowing them,

wishing for them, their company; yet at the same time repulsed by the other

attraction he would be feeling, the longing for their life and their blood.

When he felt strongly, how obviously his emotions shone on his face! More

humanly than they had even when he was mortal--perhaps because he felt more

deeply than ever.

The object of his greatest attention, the greatest power--ah, he recognized that

tall one. His one-time partner, eyes narrowed as he examined the corpse, then

looking up. Peering as if magnetized into the shadows across the way.

Somehow despite their distance their eyes met. Almost as if the mortal man

could see his partner with the clarity of the vampire's eyes. Even when his

fledgling moved deeper into the darkness the detective kept staring with

unerring accuracy. His stride crossing the street was so single-minded the man

might have been charmed.

From above he observed their exchange with interest. The recognition, then the

realization. Striking, how swiftly the human grasped the truth and shied away

from it. To the point that he didn't even perceive the creature he touched as

the same man as his partner. There was more to this one, too--few mortals could

penetrate the vampire's true nature, not with such instant accuracy. He had

talents beyond what he showed...

And he gave a name to the young one. Blair, how perfect, how closely fitting a

label, short and swift and an unusual mix of dark and light. His Blair, now,

his soulless child. The pain in his face, how long before it became a constant

brooding, a twin of his past son's shadows?

Blair's cry became a wail of anguish and once again he was racing into the

night. Abandoned, the detective stood there, his partner's name falling

unheeded from his lips. His expression was a mirror of the other's; matching

visages of division. The agony of separation.

Immortals could in fact bond with the living. Did, often enough. But such

relations invariably lead to such pain, to such loneliness, at last to

separation eternally. As his son had never learned, or always known, and risked

despite it. And paid for his risk in the end.

Best that his young Blair be taught the lesson now, spared the greater torture.

All the better that he find the gulf between himself and his former life

impassable. Severing this friendship would serve them both later.

Exquisite, the purity of their pain, for all the unholy nature of the divide.

Strangely touching at the same time. He had broken not one but two men with a

single stroke, spread his own suffering among them. Yet the burden of loss

seemed none the smaller for all it had been shared.

As always blood, hot and flowing, would bring its own surcease. Far too early

to find another victim; he should wait at least until tomorrow night. Right now

the police would be searching for a serial killer, trying to find the

nonexistent ritual, the order to his kills. They were too young and

inexperienced to understand the soothing nature of chaos. But it kept them off

his track. Two more nights before he could feed again. In the meantime he

would benefit from the distraction afforded by his newest creation.

He pushed off the rooftop. Though the movement was nearly silent, on the street

below the detective raised his head, frowned at the sky. Almost as if he had

heard.

A most intriguing man in his own right. There was definitely more to him to

discover. Another trick, to investigate the investigators. Find out what, and

how, and why, this partner was so highly valued. Should he keep that half-made

bargain, let this one be? Accept the life of Blair as payment for his

partner's? But the strength in his blood was so evident...

Wait, and learn more, and act as he saw fit. Perhaps he should wait for the

attachment to fully dissolve on its own, or perhaps it would be better if he

tore the last remaining threads himself. Eventually what Blair did not learn on

his own he must be taught.

And as he flew he addressed his fledgling, unheard, "Don't you see what you are

now, don't you know, my Blair, my dark son? You are human no longer, and

never--you will live an eternity like this, long years moving past, while you

exist as a mannequin, a doll in the image of a man. Life without mortality's

curse, but you cannot be what you were, cannot know others as you did. You are

man's predator now, and no matter that he may wish otherwise the tiger cannot

afford to befriend the deer..."

 

 

"It wasn't Blair," Jim stated steadfastly.

"You're sure?" Simon's expression was suspicious; that he even asked the

question was indication enough of his mistrust. "It certainly looked like

him..."

"It wasn't." Sharp in the face of his captain's disbelief. I don't know what it

was... "Look, I thought so too. It was a mistaken identity on our part."

"Or wishful thinking," Simon murmured. "All right, we've got this covered here.

My order still stands--you're going home. You're going to sleep. Got that?"

"Yes sir." Resigned, and weary. Too tired, too soul-sick to argue or attempt to

explain what he had witnessed. He needed to talk to Blair about it. And he

couldn't. That simple denial ached as much as anything.

"Jim." Simon's voice lowered. "I feel terrible saying it like this--but we got

another victim. And it wasn't him."

"I know." With honest gratitude. "I'll see you tomorrow, Simon." He headed

for his truck and home.

Tried to avoid listening as he approached his door, feeling for a presence he

knew wasn't inside. No one; the lights were out, and no heartbeat.

But the being hadn't had a heartbeat. No pulse, not that he could hear. Not

human, not even alive as he understood it.

Except it moved, it walked--hell, it all but flew, and almost that.

And it looked exactly like Blair.

A Blair who had been through the wringer, certainly. A worn and sickly Blair,

the face too white, the hair with that strange oily sheen, the eyes...

The yellow eyes. Where had he seen eyes like that? The wolf, certainly, but

that was only a vision. Not reality, at least not in the way he perceived it.

But he knew those green-gold eyes. They had been blue, of that he was sure, the

same shade of gray-blue as his partner's. Then for that instant they had glowed

yellow, and he had known them. Somewhere, somehow.

They had entered the building through the window, and the girl's body was there,

and over it stood nothing. No person holding her. No sign of the killer.

White fangs flashing beneath yellow-orange eyes.

Blair had seen something. On his own, in the darkness, with ordinary eyesight

and a powerful will.

And now Jim had seen something too, something he had never wanted to see,

something he never wanted to understand, and yet he had to. Lives depended on

it. Blair's life might.

Blair's life might have depended on it.

Vampires, he had said. Insisted. Undead, unholy, nocturnal, supernatural

blood-suckers, composites of the dark side of humanity and personifications of

the seductive nature of evil.

How did a vampire create more of its kind? What rituals allow a horror fantasy

to reproduce?

Blair had gone hunting, with Jim's backup gun and the switchblade he didn't know

Jim was aware of and that ferocious determination. He hadn't returned.

"It's me!" it had screamed.

Where did he know those yellow eyes, how did he recognize them?

Jim leaned against the window leading to the balcony, pressed his forehead to

the cool glass, eyes closed but he could visualize his city still. Cascade's

skyline and its buzzing population, stalked by an inhuman monster. Four at

least had fallen prey to it; how many more? How many had fallen that they had

yet to know of?

"Blair," he murmured. To the window pane, to the city beyond it. To the one

man living in it that meant more to him than any other, more than his own life,

more than his badge, more than all his abilities, superhuman and ordinary

talents. "I need your help with this one, Chief. I need to talk to you. I

need to see you again."

Come back, Blair. I'm sorry I frightened you away. I didn't know. I didn't

know, come back, my friend.

Whatever you might now be.

 

 

PART TWO