In the Dark of the Knight

by J L Kerr

March 1999 -or-


[Disclaimer: The original characters of Forever Knight were created by

James Parriott and Barney Cohen and are owned by Sony/TriStar. No

copyright infringement was intended.]

[Timeline: first season. Nothing explicit. An elusive killer stirs panic in the

city. How far will Nick go to catch his man? Flashbacks to 13th c.


[Main characters: Nick, Schanke, Janette, Natalie, Stonetree, LaCroix]



The man was sitting casually on one of the benches scattered

within Trinity Square. He was average looking, in his mid 30's, with short

light brown hair and just a shadow of a beard upon his face. He could feel

the slight increase in temperature on his body as a small patch of

sunshine broke through the cloud covered sky. He adjusted the dark

sunglasses he wore as he turned his face upwards, basking in the bright

light shining upon him. He was quite comfortable sitting there, listening to

the chirping of the birds as they flitted around the nearby fountain.

Smiling pleasantly, he returned his gaze to the square.

There were always many people passing through this time of

day. The ones in their neatly pressed suits scurrying quickly by, on their

way to this or that, to any one of the many office buildings surrounding

the square. The sloppily dressed teenagers gathered together to discuss

their as yet insignificant lives; as the occasional priest or nun, solemnly

went forth on an errand to bring their version of salvation to their fellow

man; while the homeless vagrant, noisily pushing a shopping cart through

the middle of the square, stopped to rummage through each trash can

passed. And the majority of them were the mundane men and women,

rushing to complete their everyday tasks with the determination of self-

importance stamped upon their faces.

The man chuckled silently to himself. These people had no idea

what was truly important. He turned his head sharply as he heard a loud

sound behind him. A woman walking past had stumbled and dropped her

bag. She and a small girl were gathering packages together and trying to

fit them back into the obviously too small bag. From the name on the bag,

the man assumed she had just come from a busy day shopping at the

Eaton Centre. He furrowed his brow in scorn. If she were incapable of

carrying so many packages, she should not have purchased to excess.

The harried woman finally got her items under control, and taking

the small girl by the hand, continued across the square towards a nearby

parking garage. The man continued to stare after her, then casually rose

and slowly followed in the same direction.

The tall blond man stood at his window looking out over the city

of Toronto, his blue eyes attempting to pierce the darkness to view what

few city lights could be seen through the driving rain. Night had officially

fallen a couple of hours ago, and with some relief, he was preparing to go

back to work after four days. He and his partner had managed to tie up a

number of loose ends last week and were <rewarded> with some extra

time off. He had started to tell his boss that he would rather work, but a

solid kick to his shin by his partner quieted his protest. He didn't want to

handle this much time to himself. It made him anxious, and he started

thinking about things he most definitely didn't want to think about.

A loud clap of thunder shook him from his reverie. Looking down

at the remaining contents of the glass in his hand, he took a deep breath,

and steeled himself to finish drinking the noxious substance. He downed

the rest of the protein shake, grimacing at the foul aftertaste. It was

another attempt in trying to find a dietary replacement to help with his

<condition>. Glancing back down at the glass, he decided this wasn't it.

Another peal of thunder sounded further away, and it looked like

the storm was finally moving away from the city, taking the heavier rains

with it. The storm had been lingering over the city for the last couple of

days, and it would be nice to have a little relief from the wind and rain.

Not even his kind liked to be out and about in this type of weather.

He wandered into the kitchen, and rinsed his glass and put it in

the dishwasher. Moving to the table behind the couch, he opened the lid

to a small wooden box. Reaching inside, he picked up his watch and

slipped it onto his left wrist. He then picked up a small vinyl wallet, and

flipped it open to reveal his badge and identification-- Detective Nicholas

B. Knight, Metro Homicide. He placed this in his jacket pocket next to his

gun. Lastly, he retrieved his keys and dropped them into his pocket.

Closing the lid to the box, he walked across the floor of his loft to

the elevator, and grabbing his long coat, he pulled open the door to the

elevator and stepped inside. Letting the door close behind him, he

pressed the button that would take him to the lower floor where he parked

his car, a 1962 San Remo Turquoise Cadillac in mint condition. He had

purchased it brand new when he had been living in Greenwich Village,

and just couldn't bring himself to part with it when he moved on. Climbing

behind the wheel, he felt a sense of relief wash through him as he was

able to focus his attention on his job once again.




Nick parked his Caddy at the opposite end of the block from his

destination. As he gazed towards the house, he saw the street was

awash with flashing lights. There were numerous police vehicles, a

couple ambulances, and many other cars parked along the street in front.

He smiled as he noticed the coroner's van was here and knew that Dr.

Natalie Lambert was the medical examiner on duty tonight. In the course

of their unusual doctor-patient relationship, they had also become close

friends. He trusted her with information about himself, that he had rarely

confided to another.

Stepping out of his car, he headed down the street towards the

crime scene. As he walked along, he took in the upper middle class

suburban neighborhood. The activity from the emergency vehicles

seemed out of place, but he had been around long enough to know that

murder knew no class boundary. The obvious material wealth of these

homes would be no protection from the vagaries of life usually associated

with the seamier areas of the city.

He continued to look over the houses and yards as he passed

them. He paused in front of one home, located across the street and two

doors down from the murder scene he was heading towards. He stared

at the house, not knowing what specifically drew his attention. The lights

were off and it appeared there was no one home, but he had a mild

sensation that felt as if someone was watching him. He detected no

movement, nor any indication that anyone may be there. To the right of

the house were a number of large trees surrounded by small bushes.

Something was there. Suddenly, they began to sway as they were hit by

a large gust of wind.

Looking up at the sky, Nick could see the dark storm clouds

rolling by. It had been raining hard earlier, and just recently let up. It

looked like it would rain again soon. Nick looked back over to where he

felt the strange feeling emanating, but was soon distracted by an

approaching uniformed officer.

"Excuse me, Detective. They're waiting for you up at the house,"

the young officer shouted, beckoning him to come forward.

"I'm coming," he replied back, shaking off the mild sensation. He

sped his pace to the scene, turning his attention to the house up ahead. It

was about ten o'clock on a Wednesday night and it seemed most of the

neighbors were standing in their yards trying to determine what had

happened. He hurried past them and turned up the driveway.

Nick walked past the uniformed officers, nodding a greeting as he

went by, and headed for the front door. The officers he passed were

talking to various neighbors and keeping them away from the scene.

As Nick stepped into the house, he was immediately assailed by

an overwhelming smell of blood. It was almost as if the house had been

drenched in it. Looking up, he could see the drying red substance was all

over the door frame and surrounding wall. He quickly stepped back out

onto the porch, and gulping large breaths of fresh air, he forced his

instinctual reaction, caused by the blood scent, into submission.

Situations such as this were a sudden reminder to him that he

was a vampire. Not that he ever actually forgot, but in his quest to regain

his mortality, he lived and worked with the very mortals he once long ago

hunted. He had become comfortable in their world... sometimes too

comfortable, he reminded himself.

"What's the matter, Knight? A little squeamish?" questioned

Officer Harris good-naturedly, as he manned the front door.

"No, I'm all right. Looks a little crowded in there."

"Yeah, tell me about it. It's pretty bad in there."

"So, what do we have here?"

"Two dead bodies, man and wife, and a missing six year old girl."

"Great. Do you know who called it in?"

"Uh, yeah. Petrie is talking to her now, over there." Harris nodded

his head in the direction of the driveway.

"Thanks, Harris."

Nick thankfully headed for the driveway where Officer Petrie was

talking to an obviously distraught woman. He decided that by the time he

finished talking to her and Petrie, maybe he could better handle going into

the house. He wasn't ready for this.

"Excuse me. I'm Detective Nicholas Knight, Metro Homicide," he

quietly stated as he showed the woman his badge and ID.

"Detective Knight, this is Mrs. Hornsby. She lives next door here,"

Petrie said indicating the house with the adjacent driveway. "She was

dropping by the Barnett's house here, to visit Mrs. Barnett. She said she

knocked on the door and no one answered. She knew they were home

and Mrs. Barnett was expecting her. The door was unlocked so she went

in, and that's when she saw the blood on the walls. She got scared, ran

home and called us. Harris and I responded to the call. Mrs. Hornsby met

us here in the driveway. We went in the house and found the bodies and

called it in. You probably know the rest."

Nick had been watching Mrs. Hornsby as Officer Petrie was

giving him the run down. She was obviously very upset, but then again,

who wouldn't be. He could tell she had been crying, but looked like she

was trying to pull herself together.

"Mrs. Hornsby, I know this is difficult, but I need to ask you a

couple of questions."

"Okay, Detective. I want to help," she said taking a deep breath.

"I can't believe this happened!" and then she started crying.

Nick put his arm on her shoulder in an attempt to comfort her.

This seemed to have a soothing effect. Her crying stopped and she

seemed to pull herself together a little.

"What do you want to know?" she asked, in a quavering voice.

"Were you and Mrs. Barnett close friends?" asked Nick gently.

"Yes, we were pretty close. We talked to each other almost every

day," her voice quavering even more. Nick could sense she was on the

verge of tears again.

"When was the last time you spoke with her?"

"Just a few hours ago, around 6:30. That's when I let her know I

would be over later tonight, after the kids were in bed. We were planning

a party for the children."

"Did she seem upset when you talked to her?"

"No, she seemed fine. I've been over it in my mind, and

everything seemed normal," she said, starting to cry again.

"Mrs. Hornsby, I know this is hard, but do you know if there was

anything in the last couple of months that she was unusually upset

about? Had anyone been bothering them, like prank phone calls, being

followed, or anything like that?" Nick asked in his most soothing voice.

"Janet, call me Janet please," she said as she wiped her eyes

and her nose.

"Okay, Janet."

"No, not that I know of. I'm sure she would have said something,"

and then Janet starting crying again. "Oh, this is just so horrible. Who

could do such a thing?"

"That's what we're going to find out." Reaching into his jacket, he

pulled out a card and handed it to her. "Here's my card. If you think of

anything, call me. Okay?"

"Okay, Detective," she said taking the card. "Thank you."

As he looked up, Nick noticed that the local media vans were

beginning to arrive. He didn't think Mrs. Hornsby was up to handling their

attention and turned to Officer Petrie, who was still standing by waiting to


"Petrie, why don't you take Mrs. Hornsby, Janet, home. While

you're over there, see if anyone in the family saw or heard anything."


As Petrie began to take Mrs. Hornsby to her house, Nick turned

and headed for the Barnett's front door. He took a few deep breaths,

psyching himself up to handle the smell of blood that was permeating the


"Hey, Knight. They've been waiting for you in there. I told them

you were talking to the neighbor who called it in."

"Thanks, Harris," said Nick, as he took a deep breath and walked

through the front doorway.

The smell of blood assaulted his senses immediately. There was

no way around it. Nick closed his eyes for a moment, forcing himself to

focus, to get past the smell. After a few moments he felt himself gain


As he opened his eyes he began to look around the front

hallway. The first thing he noticed was the blood painted on the walls. He

could see why Mrs. Hornsby would have been scared and run out right

about now.

Nick continued down the hall being careful to stay on the plastic

mats. He went past the living room, dining room and on into the kitchen.

This is where they found Mrs. Barnett. She was laying atop the kitchen

table and Nick noticed that all the kitchen blinds had been drawn closed.

From the looks of the room, Nick figured Mrs. Barnett must have just

finished cleaning up.

The once white kitchen cabinets were covered with large

splashes of blood. It had dripped down and congealed on the kitchen

counter. Blood was all over the floor, you wouldn't have been able to

avoid walking in it if it hadn't been for the plastic that had been laid down.

The aroma from the blood was stronger here than at the entrance. He

briefly closed his eyes and forced himself to block out the smell.

"Hey, Nick. You want to take a look at the body before I take it to

the morgue?" asked Natalie, as she glanced at him with a 'and just where

have you been' look. Nick walked over to where she was standing over

the body.

"Yeah. I was talking to the neighbor outside. The one who called

it in. I wanted to get to her before the media descended on us. She's

pretty upset."

"Yeah, I can see why." Natalie lowered her voice and asked, "and

how are you doing?"

"What do you mean?" asked Nick, with a wary look.

"You know, all this ...." Natalie shrugged, trying to indicate all the

blood that was over everything. As his doctor, in helping him to find a

cure for his vampirism, she knew of his strong desire for blood. Although

he no longer drank human blood, she knew he still craved it. This couldn't

be easy for him.

"Oh, that. I'm handling it," said Nick, shrugging nonchalantly, not

wanting her to know how hard this really was for him. "So, what have we

got?" he asked, while quickly glancing around the room.

"My guess is she was first knocked out by a blow to the head. It

doesn't look like she fought back much, if at all. That's why I think she

was dazed or unconscious before he took the knife to her. He cut her

jugular here, and she still had to be alive when that was done. That

accounts for all the blood," stated Natalie, motioning with her arm to

indicate the blood all over the kitchen.

Nick quickly stepped back from the table. "I've seen enough,

thanks," said Nick, as he pulled out a handkerchief and placed it over his

nose and mouth, trying to act casual about it.

"Handling it, huh?" asked Nat, as she motioned for them to

remove the body and take it to the morgue. Nick just glared at her.

"Hey, Knight. It's about time you got here. Where're you've

been?" asked Schanke, walking into the kitchen from another hallway.

Don Schanke and Nick had only been partners for a short while, having

been teamed up some months back by their boss, Captain Joe

Stonetree. Their relationship had started out pretty rocky, but they were

slowly getting used to each other. Much to Nick's surprise, he actually

liked having this partner.

"I was talking to the neighbor. She didn't see anything," he


"Yeah. That figures. Come back here. There's another body to

look at," said Schanke wearily, as he headed back the way he had come.

"The husband is back there in the den. It's just as bad there as it is here."

"I haven't been back there yet either," Natalie said, as she picked

up her bag and headed after Schanke. "Coming, Nick?"

"Right behind you." Nick followed Natalie down the hall towards

the den. The floor was covered by a plastic mat. He could see they were

following a trail of blood that led from the kitchen. Nick had seen some

pretty brutal murders in his time, and these ranked right up there amongst

the worse. He shuddered to think of what kind of mind could do this. It

was his job to figure it out, and he wasn't really looking forward to this


As they approached the den, Nick could see where the door

frame also had been repainted in blood. As they entered the room, the

scene was much the same as the kitchen. Mr. Barnett was laying on his

back, on top of the desk. You could see where he had been struck in the

head, probably knocking him out. His jugular had been cut in the same

fashion as his wife's. Blood was all over the wall and floor. Nick decided

he had seen all he needed to, and he really needed to leave. The smell of

the blood was cloying, almost making him dizzy. He needed fresh air.

"Schanke, maybe we should go see what the uniforms have come up


"Yeah, I think that would be a good idea," said Schanke, just a

little hesitantly. "Nat?"

"You guys go ahead. Once I get the bodies to the morgue and

complete the autopsies, I should be able to give you a good idea how my

suspicions pan out. Don't plan on any results until tomorrow though, I

think this is going to take awhile." Natalie turned back to the body and

continued taking measurements and bagging evidence.

"I'll catch up to you later Nat, okay?" said Nick, a little hesitant


"Yeah, sure Nick. See you two later," said Natalie, with just a

twinge of wry amusement to her voice. They were both looking a little

green around the gills.

Nick and Schanke made their way out of the house. They

nodded to Harris as they stepped to the porch and down onto the front


"Man, oh man, Nick. Those people were practically butchered.

What sick mind is capable of such a thing?" asked Schanke in disgust.

"Their little girl is missing, her name is Sally. No one has found a trace of

her. You think the killer would've taken her?"

"I don't know, Skank," Nick stated in a detached tone of voice.

This was really bothering him too, and he was trying to get the images

out of his head. The fresh air was helping. He took a couple of deep

breaths, then turned into the breeze, letting it blow across his face. After

a short moment, he said, "let's go see what they have for us."

Nick headed back towards Petrie to see what else they had

gathered from talking to the neighbors. Schanke went to the other officers

on the other side of the yard for the same purpose. Nick finished up,

thanked Petrie and returned to where Schanke was just finishing up also.

Halfway across the yard he spotted a large stout man, who he

recognized as Captain Stonetree, coming up the walk. Nick stopped to

wait for him, and they both waited for Schanke to join them.

"I hope one of you has some good news for me. I've got the

mayor and the commissioner on my back and they're not being very

patient. The mayor doesn't live far from here and isn't too happy about

something like this happening practically in his backyard. They both want

answers now, so what do you have?" demanded Stonetree, in a

frustrated voice.

Nick and Schanke looked at each other, hoping the other one

had something and was going to answer first. When that didn't happen

Stonetree turned to Schanke and said, "well?"

"Yeah, well," he started, glancing at his notebook. "It seems that

no one we've interviewed saw or heard anything. We found signs of

forced entry into the garage. Once there, the killer waltzed right into the

house. We think he killed the wife first, then the husband. There's a little

girl also, but we haven't been able to locate her."

"You think the killer took her?" asked Stonetree.

"We don't know, Captain. We still have men out looking for her.

We hope she just got scared and ran away, but we don't know," replied

Schanke, sounding frustrated and obviously concerned about the little

girl. "Her name is Sally, and she's just a year or two younger than Jenny,"

commented Schanke, referring to his own daughter.

"Let's not think the worse yet, okay, detective," said Stonetree


"Yeah, right Cap," agreed Schanke.

"Knight, I don't suppose you have anything?" said Stonetree, a

sound of hopeful expectation in his voice. It wasn't unheard of for Knight

to pull a rabbit from a hat. The guy had instincts that just didn't quit. It was

almost eerie, the types of connections he would make. But he was

usually right, and that was really all that mattered. Any more than that, he

didn't want to know.

"Nothing concrete," he replied vaguely. Schanke threw him a

questioning glance, while Stonetree looked at him expectantly.

"What's your gut telling you?" asked Stonetree curiously.

"I think it's obvious this isn't the first time the killer has done

something like this," said Nick thoughtfully. "He just did it too well. It

seemed pretty planned out."

"Okay, so any ideas?" asked Stonetree, first looking at Knight,

then Schanke. They both shook their heads negatively. "You two stay on

this. I want some answers. There has <got> to be something, just keep

looking," ordered Stonetree, fixing them with an 'and I mean now' stare.

"Yes sir," they both replied.

They watched as Stonetree headed into the Barnett's house,

then turned to look over the neighborhood again.

"Let's get back to the station and see what we can come up with,

okay?" suggested Nick.

"Yeah, okay. I'll meet you back there."




Back at the precinct, Schanke and Nick were making little

progress. While Schanke spent the time putting their case notes together,

Nick was on the computer looking for other unsolved cases that may be

similar. Nick was sure there were other murders. This killing felt

practiced, organized, and there seemed to be few obvious clues left


Having finished submitting his query for the information, he didn't

feel like sitting around waiting for the computer. It would be awhile before

he got the results, if they even came in tonight. "Skank, we're getting

nowhere here. Forensics finished at the house a while ago. Why don't

you wait here and see if you can get a preliminary report. I want to go

back to the house and see what we may have missed."

"Sure, no problem. I've got some old case files I want to review.

Probably a waste of time, but hey, what else is there?" said Schanke, as

he dropped the stack of papers on his desk.

Nick walked outside and headed for his car. About halfway to the

car he stopped and looked around. He just had the strangest feeling, for

just a second, like someone was watching. But the feeling left as quickly

as it came. Nick shrugged it off and continued towards his car.

Nick pulled the Caddy into the driveway of the Barnett's house. It

was just before four in the morning and the rest of the street was dark.

The neighborhood was quiet, the only sign of the earlier activity being the

trampled grass on the lawn leading up to the front door of the house.

He checked in with the officers watching the house from their

squad car in the street, then headed towards the front door. There was

yellow crime scene tape across the entrance. He opened the door,

ducked under the tape and entered the house. The smell of blood was

still strong, but he had been prepared this time. He was hoping, that

alone and unobserved, he would be able to detect some telltale sign left

by the killer.

He concentrated, forcing himself to block out the smell of blood.

He began looking around. The earlier reports stated they thought the

killer entered the house through the side door of the garage. Nick started

there, tracing the killers path through the house.

As he walked from room to room, he took note of the furnishings.

It had the look of a professional decorator. Everything seemed to blend

together, in what he thought was a slightly classical Italian renaissance

style. Passing through the living room, from the corner of his eye he

noticed a painting on the wall. Unremarkable, except for the memories it

invoked. It was of the city of Florence, surrounded by the Tuscany hills.

The picture made it look not much different now, than it had been in the


--- Start flashback ---

Florence, late 13th c.

He was sitting astride the balustrade, with one leg swinging idly

back and forth. Their villa was nestled high in one of the surrounding

Tuscan hills, overlooking the valley. He let his gaze wander over the city

below. It was dark, and few lights were burning. It was not yet midnight,

and already everyone had scattered to their homes, locking themselves

safely inside. A soft breeze had sprung up, rustling his hair as it gusted


"Nicholas..." He turned as he heard his named called. "And just

what are you about?" asked LaCroix, stepping onto the verandah and

walking over to where his son was delicately perched on the railing.

"I am bored. There seems to be nothing to do," he replied,

looking again down at the city.

"Were you not to attend a party at the home of your friend,

Cosimo, is it not?" asked LaCroix.

"His father canceled it. Said it would not be appropriate under the

circumstances," answered Nicholas sighing, obviously not happy about

having his plans changed.

"What circumstances?" inquired LaCroix.

"Remember the man that was murdered down by the Ponte

Vecchio the other night? He had his throat cut. It was that of Cosimo's

cousin. His family is in mourning, and all the social events have been

called off, everywhere," said Nicholas.

"Everywhere?" asked LaCroix skeptically.

"Well, everywhere that I wish to go," he answered.

"Then how is it you plan on spending your nights?" asked

LaCroix, curious to see what amusement Nicholas would choose for


"Cosimo's cousin was the fourth person to be murdered in as

many months. If this were to continue, there will be no more gatherings.

Everyone is frightened to leave their homes after dark," he related.

"And what do you propose we do about this?"

"I think we should go and catch this murderer ourselves,"

suggested Nicholas.

"Why should we wish to get involved?"

Shrugging, Nicholas replied, "it could be fun. We could hunt the

killer. Does that not sound intriguing?"

"Ironic, would be a better word. But, if it pleases you, I give you

my leave to do so," said LaCroix indulgently. At Nicholas' obvious

excitement, he added, "however, you must be careful. Do not do anything

that would lead the authorities to our door. They are skittish enough as is,

and may not welcome your assistance. Are we clear on this?"

"Yes, LaCroix. I will be careful," Nicholas assured him.

--- End Flashback ---

Shaking his head, Nick pulled himself back to the present. He

had no desire to dwell upon old memories, especially those involving

Lucien LaCroix, his vampire father, the one who had brought him across

into this life of eternal darkness. Closing his eyes, he could clearly see

the image of a tall and forbidding man, with close cropped white hair, ice

blue eyes that could pierce straight into your soul, and a presence that

radiated with the power and strength of his millennium of existence. That

chapter of his life was behind him. He had closed the door himself,


Pushing these thoughts to the back of his mind, he continued his

search. Finding nothing on the ground floor, Nick climbed the stairs to the

second level. There was less smell of death and blood upstairs, and Nick

was able to relax a little and let his senses flow. He was standing in the

main hallway. He carefully moved from room to room, looking for

anything odd or out of place. The last room at the end of the hall

appeared to be a child's playroom. Everything looked normal.

Frustrated, he took a deep breath, and as he was exhaling, he

thought he sensed something. It was faint. He concentrated, using his

enhanced sense of hearing, and was sure he heard it. A rapid thumping

sound. He followed it to a corner of the room where a small playhouse

stood. There was someone in the playhouse and the sound was

unmistakably a human heartbeat. It became more rapid as he opened the

door and peered inside.

He looked around and saw nothing. Standing, he announced to

the room, "I'm a police officer and I'm here to help you. It's safe to come

out now." Getting no response, he concentrated on the sound. Peering

back inside the playhouse, he was sure the sound of the heartbeat was

coming from inside, although he saw nothing. The back of the playhouse

was open and pressed up against the wall. Looking closely, he saw what

looked like a hinged door in the wall. Standing, he picked up the

playhouse and moved it away from the wall, revealing a small door

leading into a crawlspace over the garage.

Getting on his hands and knees, he pulled open the small

doorway and gently spoke into the opening, "Sally, I'm a police officer

and I know you're in here. It's okay to come out, I won't hurt you. I'm here

to help you." He could hear the increased beating of her heart, but

otherwise, no response.

Nick crouched down and crawled part way into the opening, and

said, "don't be afraid. I won't hurt you." Using his enhanced sight to see in

the darkened space, he looked around and saw a terrified six year old girl

staring back at him. She was sitting on the floor with her hands wrapped

tightly around her knees. Tears were running down her face and she was

trembling. Nick slowly held out his hand to her and said, "it's all right

Sally. I'm a police officer. I'm Detective Knight. I'm here to help you. I

won't hurt you. Do you understand?" She just stared at him with huge

terrified eyes.

He could tell that she knew what had happened to her parents...

had probably seen it happen. He continued to hold out his hand to her,

locking his eyes with her, and in his most soothing of voices told her, "it's

okay. I'm not going to hurt you. You can trust me." He could feel her

calming down and relaxing as he continued to talk soothingly to her,

when all of a sudden, she let out a small cry and ran to him.

She grabbed him tightly around the neck, pressing her face into

his shoulder, and began crying uncontrollably. Nick wrapped his arm

around her and backed out of the cramped area. He stood up, holding

her securely, and whispered to her that everything was going to be okay.

After a few minutes her crying subsided, but she didn't release her hold

on him, if anything, she was holding him tighter.

Nick decided that the best thing to do was to get her out of the

house. He didn't want her to see the blood smeared all over the walls, so

he removed his coat and placed it over her head so she couldn't see. He

then walked downstairs and out of the house to his car. He opened the

drivers' door and slid into the front seat with the girl.

He tried to put her down in the passenger side of the car, but she

refused to let go of her grip around his neck. He continued to soothe her

until she finally let loose so he could set her down on the seat next to

him, where she immediately grabbed him around the waist, pressing her

face against his stomach. He gently stroked her hair and could feel her

beginning to relax. Nick then started the car and backed out of the

driveway. He stopped alongside the watching officers, and after a few

brief words, headed back to the precinct. He left it to them to call in and

report that he had found the girl.

Meanwhile, across the street and down the block, the killer sat

hidden behind a small group of large bushes. He was silently watching as

the detective carried the small girl out to his car.

He had known she was in the house, and he knew she had seen

him earlier. It had not concerned him at the time since he was planning

on killing her too, but that neighbor woman had interrupted him. He had

been looking for the girl when he heard her enter the house. He had to

abandon his search knowing that the police were being called.

When he had seen the two detectives leave, since he couldn't go

back to the house while the rest of the police were there anyway, he had

decided to follow them. He recognized the tall blond detective as the one

who had stopped on the sidewalk outside his hiding place earlier, and

had stared into where he was crouched behind the bushes watching. He

sensed something from this one that he suspected would be trouble. This

one seemed to 'know things'.

He had sat in his car outside the police station for most of the

night and when he saw the tall blond detective leave, he decided to follow

him. It didn't take him long to figure out he was headed back to the

murder scene. The killer knew that the little girl was still in the house and

maybe the detective would find her for him. He could not allow her to live.

She had seen him.

When he saw the blond detective leave the house with the girl,

he became excited. The killer hurried to his car and quickly caught sight

of the Caddy heading down the street. 'This is just too easy,' thought the

killer, chuckling to himself.

Nick's concentration was on the little girl seated next to him. She

had stopped crying and was now sitting quietly, her arms still wrapped

tightly around his waist. They came to a stop at a red light and Nick

asked, "Sally, are you feeling better now?" She just sniffed and pressed

closer to him.

Looking ahead down the road, Nick noticed an all night burger

place. Glancing down at Sally he asked, "are you hungry? Would you like

to stop and get something to eat?" Nick figured she probably hadn't eaten

in quite a while and must be hungry. Sally didn't answer. Nick decided he

would stop. They wouldn't have anything for her at the station and it was

going to be a long day ahead for her. She should probably eat something

now while she had the chance.

When the light turned green, Nick headed down the road and

pulled into the burger place. The drive-through was closed so they had to

go inside. He pulled into a parking place and stopped the car. As he

opened his door and started to get out, Sally reached up and grabbed his

shirt as if she were frightened he was going to get away. He reached

down, grabbed her under her arms and picked her up. He carried her into

the restaurant with her arms tightly wrapped around his neck.

He went to the counter and ordered her some food. It was placed

in front of him before he could finish paying for it. He picked up the tray

and carried it, and the little girl, to a table in the center aisle. He set the

tray on the table as he sat in the booth. He managed to get Sally to let go

of him long enough to turn around and sit on his lap. With coaxing from

him, she picked up her hamburger and began to slowly eat.

Business was slow this time of the morning and most of the

customers, like Nick, were probably working the night shift and just

grabbing a quick bite. In the short time they had been sitting there, a few

customers had come and gone, so there was really no reason to be

suspicious when a man entered and headed towards the counter at the

front of the restaurant.

The killer was on the other side of the room and he stopped just

behind where he saw the blond detective sitting with the little girl. He had

followed them to the restaurant, chuckling the entire way. This detective

was making things so much easier for him that he couldn't believe his

good luck. This was a clear sign that destiny was on his side. This was

meant to be.

As Nick sat there watching Sally eat, he again sensed that

strange feeling he had experienced earlier as he was going to his car,

only this time it didn't go away. He turned around to look just in time to

see a man, tugging a ski mask over his face, pull a gun and aim it in his


Nick grabbed Sally and threw her and himself to the floor just as

the bullets passed through the air where they had been sitting. Nick

pulled his gun, rolled across the aisle and came to his knees with his gun

pointing in the direction of where the shots had come from. No one was

there. Nick saw the back of a man running out the door into the parking

lot. He held off firing and got up to give chase. He was almost to the door

when he heard Sally screaming. He hesitated briefly, before reluctantly

turning back to take care of the little girl.

He was sure this man was the killer and he tried to get a sense of

the man, as he hurried back to Sally. He holstered his gun and bent down

to pick her up. She stopped screaming the moment she was in his arms.

"Has anyone called the police?" he asked, looking around quickly.

"I did," said the manager, from the front of the restaurant. "They

said they would be right here."

"Okay, everyone be calm and stay down. I'm a police detective

and everything's under control."

He stood with his left arm supporting Sally, who had her arms

once again tightly around his neck. Then he got that strange sensation

again, very strong.

He pulled his gun and stretched out his arm, pointing his gun out

the window towards the parking lot. It was dark out there, and even with

his enhanced sight, all he could see were shadows, but he could feel the

presence. The killer was still outside. He could feel him moving, stalking

him. He turned in a slow circle, gun arm outstretched, staring intently at

the darkness, as he sensed the presence moving outside.

He heard sirens in the distance.

'Damn that detective! How did he know I was there? How is it he

knows where I am now? If he can see me, how come he doesn't shoot?

Unless he can't see me, yes, that's it. But he knows I'm here somehow.

He can sense me. He's following my every step. Damn! This could ruin

everything. Well, I'll just have to kill them both now, won't I?' the killer

thought to himself, feeling totally confident that he would be able to carry

out his plans. 'Now, how am I going to leave without that detective seeing


He heard sirens in the distance.

There was a loud noise directly behind him and Nick spun,

aiming his gun at the source of the noise. A customer crouching next to

the condiment counter had knocked over the napkin dispenser, sending it

crashing to the floor. Nick, seeing this wasn't a threat, turned back to look

for the presence he had earlier sensed. It was gone. Nick concentrated,

and surprised, sensed nothing. The killer was gone.

Just then a couple of patrol cars, lights flashing, pulled into the

parking lot. As the officers came running into the restaurant, Nick put his

gun away.

"Hey, Knight, what's up?" said Officer Harris, with Officer Petrie

beside him. They both looked around, saw the frightened customers

crouching on the floor, and noticed the table full of bullet holes next to

where Nick was standing.

Just as Nick was getting ready to answer, Schanke came

hurrying in, "Nick, are you all right? Is that the little girl?" he asked, all

worry and curiosity.

"This is Sally Barnett," replied Nick, indicating the girl who had

her face buried in his neck. Nick could feel her trembling. Her breath was

quick and hot against his neck and he could hear her heart beating

rapidly. "I found her hiding in her house and we were on our way back to

the precinct when we stopped for a quick bite. I believe the man

responsible for this is the one we've been looking for. He must've

followed us from the house."

"Here, let me take her," said Schanke, reaching up to take her

from Nick. As Nick started to push her towards Schanke, Sally started to


"It's okay, Sally. This is Schanke, he's my partner. It's okay," said

Nick, trying to calm her down.

"No, no, no," yelled Sally, as she grabbed a tighter hold on Nick,

not about to let go of him.

"Okay, Sally, it's okay. I won't let go of you," said Nick, trying to

calm down the crying child. He gave Schanke a 'what have I got myself

into' look as he hugged Sally closer to him. She stopped crying.

"Okay, now what do we do?" asked Schanke.

"Here's what we'll do," sighed Nick. "Schanke, you drive Sally

and me back to the precinct. Harris, Petrie, you guys finish up here and

one of you drive my car back to the station. How's that sound?"

"Sounds good to me. Let's go," said Schanke, heading towards

his car.

"Okay," said Harris, holding out his hand for Nick's keys.

Nick handed over his keys and then followed Schanke out to his





"Hey, honey, we're not going to let anyone hurt you. You're safe

with us," cooed Schanke, trying to soothe the little girl. She was sitting in

his partner's lap, hand tightly clenched around a fistful of Nick's shirt. She

had calmed considerably since they got her to the precinct, as long as

they didn't try to separate her from Nick. Looking up, Schanke said to

Nick, "well, you certainly put a spell on her. Now what are you going to


Looking completely at a loss, Nick replied, "I don't know. What

am I suppose to do? She can't stay with me. I don't know anything about

little girls."

"You underestimate yourself, partner. You're a natural," said

Schanke, smiling at Nick's discomfiture. "Just look," he added, indicating

Sally's small form curled up in his lap. She had lain her head against his

chest and she looked like she was sleeping.

"Okay, you two, listen up," said Stonetree, as he approached

their desks from his office. "I just got off the phone with Children's

Services. They can't get anyone over to pick her up until noon, at the

earliest. We'll have to keep her until then."

"Noon," said Nick, in disbelief. "I can't stick around until noon."

"Yeah, I know," said Stonetree, eyeing Nick speculatively. "Look,

it's almost morning. Until Children's Services show up, she's in our

custody and we need to protect her. That means she stays with you two."

"What do you mean, stays with us?" asked Schanke.

"Just that, detective." Turning to look at Nick, he continued, "take

her back to your place. That's where I told Children's Services they could

find her."

"What am I suppose to do? I can't take care of her," argued Nick.

"I don't know anything about children."

"Sure you do," replied Stonetree. "After all, you were one once

yourself, right?"

"That was a long time ago," replied Nick, thinking to himself how

long ago 800 years was. He could barely remember being mortal, let

alone being a child.

"Schanke will help," said Stonetree.

"I will?" asked Schanke.

"Sure. You're going with him," stated Stonetree. "He's your

partner, and she's in protective custody until Children's Services show

up." Turning to look at both of them, he said, "don't let anything happen to

her, understand?"

"Yeah, we understand," said Schanke, resigned. Turning to Nick,

he said, "I better call Myra and let her know I'll be going home with you

this morning."

Nick just took a deep breath and sighed his agreement. This was

not how he expected this night to turn out. Standing, he shifted Sally to

his left shoulder and walked over to wait for Schanke.

"Okay, partner. We're all set," said Schanke, turning to Nick as

he hung up the phone. "Let's roll."

"I have to go to the bathroom," said a quiet voice into Nick's ear.

"Skank?" said Nick, turning to his partner, with a 'what in the hell

am I suppose to do about this' look on his face.

"Yeah, I heard. Go ahead and take her, then we'll go. No big

deal," said Schanke, looking innocently at his partner.

"I can't take her," said Nick anxiously.

"You're gonna have to," said Schanke, grinning at Nick's obvious


"I have to go," she said again, tugging on Nick's collar.

Turning to Sally, he replied, "okay. Give us just a sec." He put her

down so she was standing next to him. She leaned against him with one

hand clutching his pants leg, and looked up at him expectantly. He was

just getting ready to say something more to Schanke, when Norma

walked over from the administration desk.

"Here, Nick. I'll take her," she said. At Nick's grateful look, she

bent down to ask Sally, "you want me to take you?"

In response, Sally turned and wrapped her arms tightly around

Nick's leg, and pressed her face against him. It was obvious she wasn't

about to let herself be separated from him.

"Sorry, I tried," she said to Nick, as she stood up.

"Thanks anyway," he replied, resigning himself to the task at

hand. "Okay, let's get this over with," he muttered, as he picked her back

up. She immediately wrapped her arms around his neck and buried her

face against his shoulder.

He walked out of the office and down the hall towards the

restrooms, with Schanke following closely behind. Just as he started to

enter, Schanke hollered, "Nick. Other door."

Turning to Schanke, he said, "what difference does it make?"

"You can't take a little girl into the men's room. You have to take

her to the ladies room," he explained to his partner's glaring face.

"You're enjoying this, aren't you?" sniped Nick.

"Yeah, I am," smirked Schanke, as he knocked on the ladies

room door. Getting no answer, he pushed the door open and held it for

Nick. "I'll guard the front."

"Do that," ordered Nick brusquely, as he brushed past Schanke

into the ladies room.

He headed towards the first stall and set Sally down in front of it.

He pushed the door open for her. She just looked up at him and grabbed

hold of his pants leg. "Go on. I'll just wait over here," he said, indicating

the area by the sinks.

When she made no move to go in, he started to move away from

her. She cried, "no," and grabbed him tighter.

Kneeling down in front of her, he said, "I'm not going anywhere.

I'll be right here, I promise."

"Don't leave me," she said softly, her eyes starting to water.

"I won't leave you," he said, sighing in resignation. "Let's go." He

took her hand and led her into the stall. After watching her for a moment,

he said, "well?"

"You have to close the door," she explained.

That done, he said, "okay. Now what?"

"Turn around, and don't watch," she answered, waiting for him to


He turned around, closed his eyes, and put his hand up to his

forehead. He couldn't believe he was doing this. He felt Sally let go of his

leg and move slightly away from him.

"You won't leave?" she asked hesitantly.

"I won't leave," he assured her. He stood there and waited for


When she was finished, she took hold of his leg and announced,

"I'm done. You can look now."

Turning around with relief, he saw that she was indeed, quite

done. He pulled open the stall door and led her out into the larger area.

As he started for the door, she said, "I have to wash my hands."

"Of course," he replied wearily, changing direction and heading

for the sinks.

She couldn't reach the water faucets, so he turned them on for

her. As she busied herself with the soap and water, Nick took a moment

to glance in the mirror. His eyes were their normal shade of brilliant blue,

without a trace of the gold or red that would indicate a transformation into

his vampiric self. But he thought he looked tired and drawn, and he still

had a long day ahead. Turning to the sink in front of him, he turned on the

water. He washed his hands, then ran them still dripping, over his face

and through his hair, before reaching for a paper towel. As he dried his

hands and face, he saw Sally staring intently at him. Then she pulled her

hands from the water and copied his movements almost exactly. Smiling,

he handed her a towel to dry her hands and face. She smiled back.

"So, you ready to go?" he asked, kneeling down to her level.

She moved closer to him and seriously asked, "do I have to call

you Detective Knight?"

Replying seriously, he said, "no, you can call me Nick."

She put her hand on his shoulder, and wrapped her fist around a

handful of his shirt. Looking directly into his eyes, she asked, "Nick, are

my mommy and daddy gone forever?"

He hesitated, as he wasn't sure how to answer her. She was only

a little girl, but he was pretty sure she knew what had happened. He

wasn't really sure how much she actually saw, but he decided it would be

pointless to try to couch the truth from her. "I'm sorry, Sally, but I'm afraid

they're gone. They won't be coming back," he said, as gently as he could.

She looked down at the floor, accepting his words. Her hand

tightened on his shirt. She breathed a small sigh, then looked back up

and asked him, "did they really go to hell?"

Shocked at her question, he asked, "why would you think that?"

"That's what that man said," she whispered, looking back at the


"What exactly did he say?" asked Nick, knowing she was talking

about the man who killed her parents. When she didn't answer him, he

placed his hand on her chin and pulled her face up to look at him. "Sally,

this is important. Tell me what you heard." She continued to stare at him,

not speaking. Her chin was quivering and she looked like she was about

to start crying again. Calmly, and soothingly, he spoke to her. "Sally, look

at me. I'm not going to hurt you. No one is going to hurt you. You're safe

here. It's okay to tell me what you heard." He could hear her heart

beating as he spoke to her. The thumping increasing as she

remembered. His voice calmed her.

"I have passed through the third circle and am sending you

onward to hell to announce my coming," she recited in a monotone.

Surprise registered on Nick's face, and he looked away, breaking

eye contact with Sally. She immediately began to cry. He pulled her close

and hugged her to his chest. "It's okay, Sally. Everything's going to be

okay. You're safe now." His words had a soothing effect and her cries

subsided. She wrapped her arms around his neck and held him tightly.

Nick looked up as the door opened and Schanke poked his head

in. "Everything all right in here?" he asked concerned.

"We're just leaving," answered Nick, picking Sally up as he stood.

"What's wrong?" he asked, as Nick brushed past him in the


"Later," answered Nick, indicating Sally's distress.

"Yeah, right. Look, we'd better hit the road. It's almost dawn,"

said Schanke, hurrying down the hall in front of Nick.

"We're right behind you," said Nick, following after.

Sally had fallen asleep during the drive, but had woken as they

stepped off the elevator into the loft. Her head lay on Nick's shoulder as

she looked around at her new surroundings. Schanke headed straight for

the kitchen and started opening cupboards.

Turning to Nick he said, "I don't suppose you have any food here,

do you?"

Looking slightly irritated, Nick replied, "no. I wasn't expecting


"Seeing as she hasn't eaten, and I'm starving, I'll go out and get

us something. What do you feel like?" asked Schanke, looking at Nick.

"Feel like?" replied Nick, confused over what Schanke was

asking him.

"You know," said Schanke, shaking his head. "Food. What do

you feel like eating?"

"Nothing for me, I'm fine," answered Nick, walking into the living

room area.

"What do you mean, fine. You haven't eaten all night. I know you

got this weird diet and all, but you must want something," said Schanke


Picking up the remote, he pressed the button to close the steel

shutters that would block the approaching daylight. "I have some stuff in

the fridge. Don't worry about me," answered Nick.

"Oh, yeah. Like what?" asked Schanke, heading for the fridge.

He got the door open before Nick could get to the kitchen. "Let's see,

what do we have. Wine, wine, wine, and what's this?" he asked, picking

up a container full of some liquid brown stuff.

"That's a protein shake," answered Nick.

"It looks disgusting," replied Schanke, shaking his head as he put

it back. Heading for the elevator, he said, "I'm going to the store and I'll

be right back." Pausing outside the elevator, he asked Nick, "will you be

okay while I'm gone?"

"Yeah, we'll be fine. Go ahead."

As soon as Schanke was gone, Nick pulled open the refrigerator

door. He started to reach for the protein shake, then at the last minute,

grabbed a 'wine' bottle. Sally had her head laying on his shoulder, and

was being very quiet. If she was going to remain this close to him all day,

he knew a protein shake just wasn't going to cut it, especially not after the

night he just had.

Opening a cupboard, he grabbed a large mug and set it on the

counter. Picking up the bottle, he pulled the cork out with his teeth and

spit it onto the counter. Glancing quickly at Sally, he saw that she had her

eyes closed. He sensed she wasn't really sleeping, but she seemed

content for the moment. He poured a liberal amount from his bottle into

the mug. Setting the bottle down, he picked up the mug. He turned up his

nose as a whiff of the cow's blood registered on his senses, then taking a

deep breath, he drank it all quickly. He set down the mug and poured

himself a refill.

He was leaning with his back against the kitchen counter, about

halfway finished with his third mug, when Sally said, "he drank from a


Nick knew she was talking about the killer. "He did?" he asked

tentatively, seeing if she would continue talking on her own.

"He was drinking blood," she said, lifting her head to look at him.

He was surprised and didn't know what to say. "Are you drinking blood?"

she asked, looking into his mug.

He quickly pulled it from her view, and said, "why would you think


She just shrugged and said, "it's red. He drank red stuff. It was

the same red stuff he painted on the doors. He said it was 'blood of the


Nick knew the doors had been painted in blood. He had been so

overwhelmed by the smell, that he had spent most of his time trying to

block it from his senses. He hadn't bothered to notice what kind of blood.

He and the others had assumed the blood was from the Barnett's. "Did

he tell you this? Was he talking to you?" asked Nick, confused and


She shook her head. "I was hiding at the top of the stairs. I saw

him in the living room. I don't know who he was talking to, he was just


"Did he know you were there?"

"He heard me crying," she whispered, burying her head against

his shoulder once again. "I ran and hid."

"It's okay," he said, trying to soothe her. "You did the right thing."

She settled down against his shoulder and closed her eyes. She

had to be really tired. She'd been awake most all night. When he had

found her earlier, she had been hiding in the crawlspace for over six

hours, terrified. He was surprised that she was able to function at all. He

supposed her 'recovery' was mostly due to his influencing of her. First,

when he had coaxed her out of the crawlspace, and then in the bathroom

when he got her to tell him what the killer said.

Since she seemed to be dozing, although not asleep, he quickly

finished his drink. He rinsed out the glass and put the bottle away before

Schanke got back. He carried her over to the couch, where he sat down

and turned on the television. He turned the volume down to where only

he could hear, and watched the morning news. The leading segment was

on the Barnett killings. The report only said that there had been a double

murder in one of the higher rent areas last night. No details of the crime

were given, and no victims names were released. A sketchy report, at


Nick closed his eyes and let his head lay back against the cool

leather of the couch. He was just starting to doze off when he heard the

elevator engage. Rubbing his eyes, and telling himself to wake up, he

stood up just as Schanke emerged into the loft.

"Hey, how's she doing?" asked Schanke, indicating the small girl

wrapped around his partner's neck.

"She's still awake," replied Nick. "What did you get?" he asked


"I picked up some stuff that I know Jenny and her friends like.

Mainly milk and cereal. Why don't you take her over to the table and I'll

bring it over," he suggested.

Nodding, Nick walked over to the kitchen table and sat down.

Sally had opened her eyes and was watching Schanke. She turned

around, sitting on Nick's lap, facing the table. Schanke came over and

placed a bowl and spoon in front of her. Nick looked at the contents of the

bowl and made a face. He gave Schanke a questioning look.

"It's what kids eat," he said, defensively.

"Isn't that an awful lot of sugar?" asked Nick, skeptical that this is

what she should be fed.

By that time, Sally had picked up a spoon and was starting to eat.

Looking vindicated, Schanke gestured towards her and said, "she seems

to like it just fine."

Nick just rolled his eyes and turned back to Sally. A few moments

later, Schanke joined them at the table. "You're eating it too?" asked

Nick, a slightly incredulous tone in his voice.

"Hey, if it's good enough for the kid, who am I to complain? And

besides," he said, in between mouthfuls, "it's a heck of a lot better than

that <stuff> you drink."

Nick just shook his head and sat there in silence, while his

partner and Sally ate what he thought was a disgusting mixture of milk,

sugar, and who knows what.

After they were done eating, Schanke cleared the table and put

the dishes in the sink. "We'll clean these up later. I'm ready to hit the hay.

What say you, partner?" he asked, turning to Nick. "How do you want to

do this?"

"Simple. You take the couch, and I don't," said Nick, heading for

the stairs. "Blankets are in the linen closet over there. Wake me when

Children's Services arrive, okay?"

"Yeah, sure. No problem," said Schanke, watching Nick climb the

stairs to his bedroom, carrying Sally with him.

When Nick got to his bedroom, he pulled a large quilt out of the

closet and threw it on the bed. He sat down in the center of the bed and

set Sally down on his lap. He pulled her shoes off and tossed them on the

floor. He did the same with his. Then, gathering up the quilt, he laid back

on the bed, Sally beside him, and pulled the quilt over them both. He

closed his eyes as he felt the small girl burrow in close to him and settle

down. He could sense her falling asleep and allowed himself to do the


Schanke woke to the sound of a buzzer. It took him a moment to

remember where he was, then he climbed off the couch and walked over

to the security monitor, mumbling, "yeah, yeah. I'm coming. Hold your


Looking in the monitor, he saw two women standing on the

sidewalk. Pressing the speaker button, he said, "hello. Can I help you?"

The older lady replied, "yes. We're looking for Detective Knight."

"And you are?" asked Schanke, figuring these must be the

Children's Services people.

"I'm Mrs. Foster and this is Dr. Reynolds. We're with Children's


"Hold your identification up to the camera," he requested. They

took turns holding up their ID. Satisfied, Schanke replied, "I'll buzz you in.

Take the elevator up to the second floor."

Walking to the foot of the stairs, Schanke yelled, "yo, Nick. We've

got company." He waited a moment before starting to yell again, but

about that time the elevator arrived. He walked over to greet their guests

as they walked off the elevator.

Mrs. Foster held out her hand and asked, "you're Detective


"No," he replied laughing, mostly to himself. "I'm his partner,

Detective Schanke. Knight's upstairs with the little girl, Sally Barnett. I

think they're still sleeping." Upon seeing the curious look on their faces,

he explained, "we work graveyard."

"Oh, I see," said Mrs. Foster. "I apologize that we are so late, but

it took us awhile to make the proper arrangements for Sally. We assume

she must be highly traumatized by events from last night, the poor child."

"Yeah, it was pretty rough on her. My partner's the one who

found her hiding in the house after everyone else had gone. She's kind of

latched on to him. Won't let him out of her sight. Starts crying. Are you

prepared to deal with that?" he asked, curious to see how prepared they

really were.

"Yes. Captain Stonetree informed us of the situation. That's why I

have Dr. Reynolds with me. Dr. Reynolds is a psychologist specializing

with traumatized children. We're hoping Sally will be able to transfer her

emotional dependence to her. It will make this much easier for the child,"

explained Mrs. Foster.

Glancing at the stairs, and not seeing or hearing any movement,

Schanke figured Nick must still be asleep. "Let me go get them," he said.

"Make yourselves comfortable." He pulled the blankets off the couch and

tossed them onto the floor, out of the way. "I'll be right back."

He climbed the stairs and walked into Nick's bedroom, as Sally

sat up and looked at him, wide awake. However, Nick was still sound

asleep. "Hey, honey, did you sleep well?" he asked sweetly. She didn't

respond, but continued to look at him. "We have some people downstairs

to see you. What say we wake Nicky boy here and go down and say

hello. What do you say?"

She still didn't answer, but turned to look down at Nick. She

cuddled close to him and laid her head on his shoulder. She continued to

look at Schanke, and finally said, "he's tired."

"Yeah, I know he is. But we need to wake him up anyway, okay,"

he explained. Looking at his partner, he said loudly, "hey, Nick. Wake up,

buddy." There was no response. Schanke grabbed his ankle and gently

shook him, saying again, "come on, Nick. Rise and shine." Still no

response. Sally sat up and looked down at him. Schanke muttered, "I

swear, he sleeps like the dead."

Sally gasped, and looked at Schanke. Realizing what he had

said, and what she was probably thinking, he quickly assured her, "no,

no, honey, it's okay. He's not dead, honest." Walking over to the other

side of the bed, Schanke said to Sally, "watch this." He grabbed hold of

Nick's pillow and yanked it out from under his head. Nick came awake

with a start, and leaped away from the 'supposed' attack.

He quickly suppressed the growl emanating from his chest, and

closed his eyes tightly, willing them back to their normal hue. Still in a

guttural tone, he snapped, "Schanke! That wasn't funny," glaring at his

partner's laughing face.

"Sure it was," he replied. "Besides, I was just showing Sally here,

that you weren't really dead."

Nick calmed considerably as he noticed Sally clinging to his arm.

"Don't do that again," he said to Schanke. He then turned to Sally and

said, "everything's all right." He looked up as Schanke shoved her shoes

at him. Nick threw him a questioning look.

"Company is downstairs," he explained.

"Yeah, right," replied Nick, taking the shoes. Looking at his

bedside clock, he said, "they're late."

"I know, but they seem to be pretty okay. The main lady is Mrs.

Foster. She's got a, um, doctor with her that she thinks can help."

Nick finished helping Sally put her shoes on, then grabbing his off

the floor, pulled them on as well. Turning to Sally, he held out his arms

and she came right to him. He picked her up, then turning to Schanke

said, "lead the way."




They had arrived at the precinct early tonight. Children's

Services, mainly in the name of Mrs. Foster and Dr. Reynolds, had been

at the loft for well over an hour before they finally left, taking little Sally

with them. She had been crying, and was very upset to be separated

from Nick. She did seem to like Dr. Reynolds, and Nick didn't feel bad

about her going. He was in no position to take care of a little girl, even if

he wanted to, which he didn't.

For now, Mrs. Foster had assured them that Sally would be well

taken care of. She was going to be placed in a high security facility, as

the police had concerns that the killer may try to come after her. And this

particular facility offered her the best protection. Mrs. Foster was also

able to tell them that Sally had a number of relatives that may possibly

take her in sometime later, after her situation was more resolved. She

would not be an orphan, which was comforting to the two detectives.

Neither of them were able to return to sleep after Mrs. Foster left.

Instead, they sat talking about the case until it was time to go into work.

Nick brought Schanke up to speed on the conversation he had with Sally

in the bathroom, but didn't mention the other one where she had said that

she thought the killer was drinking blood. That was a little too close to

home, and it had him concerned over who, or what, this killer may be.

Even though he thought he had sensed someone watching him on a

couple occasions, he hadn't gotten the impression this someone was a


These last few years, he had worked so hard to repress his

vampiric tendencies, he was now doubting his ability to accurately sense

another. At the crime scene, he hadn't even suspected that the blood

around the doors wasn't human. Although it hadn't been confirmed, one

way or another yet, he should be able to tell for certain. He shouldn't

need to wait for forensics to tell him what kind of blood it was.

Sitting at his desk, he logged onto the network. The first thing he

checked was the results of his query from the night before. The results

were in, and it looked like his request had registered a number of hits. He

wrote down the filename on a piece of paper, then quickly scanned his

email. Nothing to interest him there.

Turning to Schanke, he said, "I'm going to go check on

something and I'll be right back. Did you ever get a forensics report last


"Not yet, but where are you going?" asked Schanke.

"Just see what you can get and we'll go over it when I get back,"

said Nick, turning to leave.

"Whatever you say," replied Schanke, in resignation. It was

obvious Nick didn't want to tell him where he was going. "You will leave

your phone on though, won't you?" he shouted after him.

"Yes, you can call me," said Nick, as he paused at the

administration desk. Turning to the young woman behind the desk, he

said, "hey, Norma. Can I get you to print this out for me?"

"Sure, Nick," she said, taking the piece of paper he handed her.

"I should have this on your desk by the time you get back."

"Thanks," he said, as he hurried out.

The music bombarded his mind as soon as he walked in the

door. The soft sensuous rhythms pulled at him. He stood quietly for a

moment, absorbing the feel of it, before walking down the ramp towards

the bar.

The Raven was not crowded tonight. He could sense most of the

patrons were of the immortal variety, and he could feel their gaze

following him as he slowly crossed the dance floor, and headed towards

the dark-haired beauty who owned the club, Janette DuCharme. He had

known her his entire vampire life, she being the one who introduced him

to LaCroix. She had been his friend, sister, and sometimes lover for the

past 800 years. He still was as drawn to her, as he had been that night

long ago, when she had first seduced him.

He had only been in the club a few times since moving to

Toronto, the first time just a few short months ago. It had been good to

see Janette again, but after what happened later with LaCroix, he had felt

too guilty to come again so soon. He was afraid she would know what

had happened, and blame him for it. Although, in his mind, it was all

LaCroix' fault. But the bottom line was, he didn't want Janette to hate him

for what he had done, so he had been avoiding her.

Walking up to where she sat, he quietly said, "hello, Janette."

Looking up at him, she smiled. "Nicolas. It has been quite some

time. I take it you have been busy, no?" she asked, her soft French

accent washing over him, as she held her hand out to him.

He quickly captured her hand in his, and raised it to meet his lips,

placing a gentle kiss upon it. "It is good to see you," he said, letting a little

of how much he missed her show in his smile. "You look as beautiful as


Smiling knowingly, she replied, "as do you, my handsome

crusader." She looked into his eyes, and saw his passion simmering, just

below the surface. But she knew that was not why he was here. "May I

offer you some refreshment?" she asked, indicating her own glass.

Being around Janette always intensified his appetites, whatever

they may be at the time. He had not fed this evening, as he and Schanke

had been dealing with Sally and Mrs. Foster, and afterwards, Schanke

was still there and he had not had the opportunity. He was hungry, and

he looked longingly at her glass.

"Miklos," she said, indicating to her bartender that she wished

another glass.

With the reality of his desire thrust upon him, he quickly said, "no.

I'm not thirsty."

"You are sure, mon cher? There is nothing here that you want?"

she asked suggestively, the double entendre evident in her manner.

When he failed to answer, she waved Miklos away. "Nicolas, you are

here for a reason, are you not?" she asked directly.

"Yes," he answered. "I need your help." He looked at her to gage

the affect his words were having. She looked at him, concern written

across her face. "It's this case I'm working on," he said hesitantly.

"Case?" she asked uncomprehendingly. "What is a case?"

"You know, my job. I'm a homicide detective. We work on cases,"

he explained, smiling. He saw the understanding come across her


"Ah, yes. You are working a case. For this little hobby of yours. Is

that it?" she asked, slightly amused.

"It's not a hobby, Janette. It's my job, and I take it seriously," he


"You take <everything> seriously, mon cher," she replied, turning

to face the bar. She picked up a cigarette and placed it between her lips.

Miklos appeared almost out of nowhere, to light it for her, then just as

quickly, disappeared. She inhaled deeply, then turning to face the dance

floor, sensuously blew the smoke out between her lips. "I remember a

time when this was not always so."

Nick stood there mesmerized by her actions, as she always had

this affect on him. She turned back to him, a knowing smile on her lips.

She was well aware the influence she had on him, as he also had on her.

"This is important, Janette," he said, trying to bring his

concentration back around to why he had come in the first place.

In a bored voice, Janette turned to him and said, "very well,

Nicolas. What is so very important?"

Hesitatingly, he said, "there is a murderer I am looking for. I need

to know if he is one of us."

Janette just looked at him, mildly surprised. "You mean you do

not know?" Nick just looked at her without answering. After a short

pause, she asked sarcastically, "tell me. How can you not know?"

"I can sense him, sort of. He doesn't feel like one of us. But he

was seen drinking blood at the murder scene," he explained, obviously

confused. "I need you to tell me if you know anything."

She could see the self-doubt on his face, but she refused to

accept it. "Nicolas, if you have sensed him, and he doesn't feel like one of

us, then you have your answer," she replied firmly.

"I need to know for certain," he said abashedly, as he looked

towards the floor.

"You do know for certain," she said sharply. He looked up at her,

his unsurety evident upon his face. "Nicolas, what is wrong with you?"

Getting defensive, he replied, "nothing is wrong with me. I just

thought you could help, that's all."

"You have been playing in your mortal world too long. You no

longer trust what your senses tell you," she admonished him. "You are

not one of them, and you never will be. If you have sensed this

<murderer>, and you do not think he is one of us, then he is not."

"You don't understand," he replied.

"I understand perfectly," she responded resolutely.

They just stared at each other for the longest time, neither giving

in. Finally, Janette softened and reached out her hand to caress his

cheek. "Oh, Nicolas. Why do you do this to yourself?"

He captured her hand in his, and held it against his cheek for a

brief moment, before pushing it away. "I'm doing nothing to myself,

Janette. I am only doing what must be done. It's my job to catch these

murderers, before they kill more innocent people. And that's what I'm

going to do," he said impassionedly. "Are you going to help me or not?"

Staring into his eyes, she felt herself swallowed by his passion,

buried deep inside. He has always been this way, she reminded herself.

That is one of the reasons she has always loved him so. Sighing audibly,

she said, "of course I will help you, mon cher."

"Thank you, Janette. You will tell me if you hear anything?" he

asked, grateful for her help.

"Yes. I will call you should I hear anything," she said, smiling

openly to him.

"I have to go," he said, smiling winningly at her.

His smile could always cause excitement to leap in her heart.

She took a swallow from her glass, then turned her face up towards him.

"A la prochaine, mon cheri."

Leaning in, he gently brushed his lips against hers. It would be so

easy to lose himself with her, as he had so many times in the past. He felt

her suck lightly on his lower lip, and he pulled back, slightly startled. He

ran his tongue over a spot of moisture left lingering on his mouth. It tasted

of bloodwine. His eyes darted to her glass, then back to her face. She

was smiling at him, knowing full well the effect she was having. Taking a

deep breath, he forced the hunger down. He had to leave before the

temptation became too much. He didn't trust himself to speak. He leaned

in and kissed her on the cheek, just as she turned her head to the side.

His lips close to her ear, he whispered, "later."

He pushed himself away from the bar, turning his back on her

and walked quickly across the dance floor, the curious eyes of the club's

patrons following his every move. He was a relative stranger to them, as

he did not readily mingle with the members of their community. Janette

has been here for years, but him they've rarely seen. He was a mystery

to them, but obviously not to Janette. They could see her watch him as

he departed. The look on her face obviously not that of a stranger.

Janette watched him leave, his final word resounding in her

head. Later. How could one word have so many meanings? A request, a

promise, a desire, or all of these. She did not know. Most likely, neither

did he. He was gone, but she knew he would return. He always did,

sooner or later. Sighing, she requested another drink and turned her

attentions back to the dance floor.

Nick walked out of the elevator onto the main floor of his loft and

made a beeline for the refrigerator. Pulling the door open, he grabbed the

closest bottle. Extracting the cork with his teeth, he spit it into the sink.

Placing the bottle against his mouth, he upended it and quickly drained

the remaining contents. The bottle had been slightly over half full, but was

more than enough to quench his thirst.

After leaving the Raven, he knew he couldn't go back to work

without feeding. Before going to see her, he had almost forgotten how her

mere presence could bring out the beast in him. It was never that bad

when they lived together, just when they came together again after

having been apart for so long. He could feel the pull between them and

had to fight hard to maintain his control.

Of course, it didn't help at all that he was living in a constant state

of denial. He had immersed himself in the mortal world. He lived, worked,

and played, all in their world. He hadn't socialized with one of his kind in

years. When the mortal world became more than he could handle, he

simply ensconced himself in solitude until he regained his equilibrium.

There were times when this happened more often than not.

And then there's the blood. Always the blood. Many times it

seemed as if he was more consumed with the lust for blood now, then

when he wasn't denying himself. He had switched to animal blood a long

time ago. Cow was the easiest to get, so that's what he normally drank. It

did nothing to satisfy his cravings, but it dulled the hunger. When he kept

his mind occupied, he could pretend that the cravings didn't exist. That

worked most of the time. Most of the time, but not always.

He looked out the window and gazed at the city lights. The sky

was dark and foreboding. The perfect weather for a crime such as the

one he was currently trying to solve. The killer was out there in the city

somewhere, and Nick knew he was going to kill again. He just knew.

--- Start flashback ---

Florence, late 13th c.

Nicholas came bursting into the villa, shouting, "LaCroix.

LaCroix." Entering the main living area, he found LaCroix seated in front

of the fire, reading a book.

He looked up as his son burst into the room, curious as to the

nature of this exuberance. "Nicholas, what is it?" he asked.

"I found him, LaCroix. I found him," exclaimed Nicholas.

"And who is that?" he inquired.

"The murderer," he answered, his tone of voice indicating that

LaCroix should have already known that was who he meant.

Putting down his book, LaCroix turned his full attentions to his

overly excited son. "Indeed. And where is this murderer now?" he asked.

The excitement seemed to drain from his body as he replied, "I

am not certain."

"You did say you had found him, did you not?"

Hesitantly, Nicholas replied, "yes. But I did not exactly find


With a touch of consternation crossing his features, LaCroix

asked, "what <exactly> did you find?"

Resuming his excitement, Nicholas proclaimed, "he is one of us."

LaCroix stared at Nicholas for a long moment, then simply stated,


Stunned at LaCroix' response, Nicholas assured him, "but he is. I

sensed this to be so."

"Did you actually see this person?" asked LaCroix.

"No. But he killed again tonight, and I arrived just shortly

thereafter. His presence still lingered in the vicinity," explained Nicholas.

"I sensed him there. He has to be one of us."

"Nicholas, I would know if there were another in the city. And I

would most certainly know if this other were indiscriminately killing, and

leaving bodies laying about. I assure you, it is not one of us," said

LaCroix reasonably.

"There are over 100,000 people living in this city. How can you

know them all?" asked Nicholas skeptically.

"I do not need to know them all to know this one is not one of us,"

replied LaCroix firmly.

"But, LaCroix, I felt him. How do you explain that?" challenged


"Very well, Nicholas," said LaCroix, rising from his chair. "You will

take me to where you sensed this other, and we shall both see."

The two vampires set down just north of the Ponte Vecchio

bridge, on the north side of the Arno river. Nicholas led LaCroix down the

street and into a nearby alley. The body had not yet been discovered and

still lay where Nicholas had last seen it.

"How is it that you discovered this body so quickly?" asked

LaCroix, more curious after seeing the deserted area in which it lay.

"I was hunting, just over there," he said, indicating an area further

west of their location. "I heard the man scream and I came to investigate.

By the time I got here, the murderer was just gone, and the man lay


As Nicholas started to near the dead body, LaCroix reached his

arm out across Nicholas chest, barring his further advance. When

Nicholas looked questioningly up at him, LaCroix asked, "did you go

anywhere near this man, as he lay dying?"

"No. I stopped over there. The blood was gushing from his neck,

but I sensed the other nearby. I went to look for him, but could not find

him. That is when I returned home to tell you what I had found," he


"Very good," said LaCroix. "Stay clear of the body and do not

walk near it," he further ordered.

"Why? He is dead."

"Can you not see that the ground is covered with his blood. You

do not wish it to get on your shoes or your clothing. You do not want to

leave bloody footprints around a body that you are not responsible for

killing. It is an unnecessary risk," he lectured.

Taking a step back, Nicholas watched as LaCroix surveyed the

area. "Do you sense him?" he finally asked, tired of the waiting.

Taking a deep breath, LaCroix regarded Nicholas carefully.

Nicholas became uncomfortable under this scrutiny. There was obviously

something he had missed, that LaCroix was about to point out to him.

"Better yet, Nicholas, do you still sense this other?"

Confused at the question, Nicholas just look at LaCroix strangely.

"I don't understand."

"If one of us were responsible for this, his presence would still be

lingering. So tell me Nicholas, can you still sense his presence?" asked

LaCroix amicably.

Nicholas tore his eyes away from LaCroix and looked around the

area. He closed his eyes and concentrated on finding the telltale

presence of the other. He could sense nothing. Confused, he opened his

eyes and turned back to LaCroix. "I swear I sensed him earlier."

"Yes, and how about now?" asked LaCroix patiently.

"Now, I sense nothing," replied Nicholas, surprised at this

admission. "I don't understand."

"It is simple, Nicholas. What you sensed earlier was not one of

us," he explained.

"I sensed something. What was it?" he interjected anxiously.

"Be patient, mon fils, and I will explain," he said. When he was

sure he had Nicholas' attention, he continued. "The presence you felt

belonged to that of a mortal." He raised his hand to quell Nicholas'

protestations. "There are a few mortals that emit this vibration. It is very

weak, and if you will pay close attention, you will notice that it is quite

different than one of ours. Knowing now that this exists, you will not make

the same mistake again."

"If I can sense this mortal's vibration, can he sense us?" asked


"Not exactly," said LaCroix tentatively. "The mortal cannot sense

our presence, but those with this ability will generally find themselves

drawn to us. They will not understand why, but they will feel a slight


"Is this not dangerous to us?" asked Nicholas.

"That would depend," said LaCroix, musing aloud. "In a case

such as this, I would tend to think it not in our best interest to have this

particular mortal about. I think perhaps it is time I assist you in your


Nicholas smiled at this last. This should be great fun, he thought.

--- End Flashback ---

Nick knew Janette was right. He knew the killer wasn't a vampire.

He had been trying so hard to pretend that his vampiric abilities weren't

there. He thought if he could make them disappear, he would be a step

closer to regaining his mortality. Not only was he no closer; his senses

felt dull and he wasn't even sure if he could trust them.

Sighing, he looked at the clock and realized it was later than he

expected. Schanke's probably climbing the walls by now, he thought

amused. He quickly grabbed his coat and headed out the door.

Sure enough. As soon as he walked into the office, Schanke was

all over him. "Do you realize how long you've been gone? Since when

does a couple of hours constitute 'I'll be right back'?" demanded

Schanke, following him to his desk.

"Ease up, Skank. I'm here now, so what do you have?" asked

Nick, trying to divert his partner's attention off him and back to the case.

"You're not going to tell me, are you?" stated Schanke, glaring

angrily at Nick, who just stubbornly stared right back. "Okay. Fine. You

want to know what we have? Here." Schanke grabbed a small stack of

files from his desk and plopped them loudly on Nick's desk. "And while

you're playing catch up, I'm going to go get something to eat." Schanke

grabbed his coat and started walking off.

"Skank," called Nick, to his retreating back, a look of

bemusement on his face.

Stopping and turning around, Schanke replied, "and no, I won't

be <right back>." He then proceeded to storm out of the office.

Shaking his head, Nick turned to the papers in front of him. It was

the preliminary forensics reports. They had collected a lot of evidence

and were still sorting through most of it. Nick read through the

documents, not really finding much to go on. The reports did confirm that

the blood around the door frames was not human. It was definitely animal

blood, but they hadn't determined which yet.

They had also gotten footprints. Whoever the killer was, he had

stepped in the blood on the floor and then tracked it through the house,

as had Officers Petrie and Harris when they first arrived on the scene.

The preliminary reports confirmed what they all thought anyway; that the

killer was male. They were going to see if they could determine a height

and weight from the impressions.

It was going to take them awhile to sift through the rest of the

samples collected. They still hoped to come up with hair or fiber samples.

They didn't expect to have a more finalized report for a few days yet.

In continuing to sift through the papers, Nick noticed there was

no preliminary autopsy report. Natalie must not have had it ready when

these came over. Nick decided that as soon as Schanke returned, they

should head over to the morgue and see what she had. They usually got

better information when dropping by than by waiting for the reports


"Hey, Nick. Did you find that report I left you?" asked Norma, as

she passed by his desk, always looking for an excuse to talk to him.

He looked up to see where she was pointing. Seeing the report,

he picked it up. "Yeah, thanks," he said, smiling at her before he started

flipping through the pages.

"Sure, any time," she said, returning to her desk, disappointed

that he seemed more interested in the report.

Nick had gone through the report a number of times. He had

marked five unsolved cases that he had asked Norma to pull the files on.

She had brought them to him almost immediately, and he had been

sitting at his desk sifting through them when Schanke returned.

"Yo, partner. Still here I see," remarked Schanke dryly.

Ignoring Schanke's attitude, Nick said, "hey, Skank. Take a quick

look through these files, then let's go see Natalie and find out what she's

come up with."

His curiosity piqued, Schanke sat down and picked up the first

file. "Hey, Nick. This is pretty old. What are we looking at here?"

"I ran a computer search for similar unsolved cases going back

five years, and I thought these particular ones needed a closer look," he


"But this one is three years old," remarked Schanke skeptically.

"If our guy's been killing for awhile, that may not be too old," he


"So what makes you so sure our lunatic has killed before?" asked

Schanke. At Nick's 'you've got to be kidding' look, he said, "okay. Okay.

You've got a point. Just give me a few minutes to go through these."

After about an hour of them both studying the files, Schanke said,

"how do you figure these may be related to our guy? I see some

similarities, sure, but nothing that jumps out and bites me."

Nick raised his eyebrows in amusement at his partner's choice of

phrases. If he only knew, thought Nick, then quickly discarded that

thought from his mind. Turning serious, he said, "they're all unsolved, the

choice of weapon used was more personal, and there was excessive

blood at the scene, some of it animal."

"What do you mean, the weapon was more personal?" he asked.

"You know. Not like a gun where you could shoot them from

across the room, but the killer had to be in close contact with his victim. It

takes a certain type of killer to want to do this," explained Nick, his mind

drifting off as he said the words.

--- Start flashback ---

Florence, late 13th c.

The city had been quiet, and it was late. Dawn was barely a few

hours off and he was hungry. He had spent too much time in the

company of his friends and had neglected to feed. Nicholas had come

upon his prey almost by accident. He was hurrying along the alleyways

that ran parallel to the Arno, thinking there would be someone about

down by the river. He walked around a corner, casting a glance back

over his shoulder, when he tripped over a body sprawled at his feet.

Regaining his footing, he looked down in annoyance. The body

turned out to be a man, who seemed to be just as annoyed that he had

been disturbed. "Watch where you're going, you young ruffian," spat the

man in anger.

Nicholas looked at the man, astonished that he would be spoken

to in such a manner. "Perhaps you are the one who should be watching

out," he retorted in anger.

The man glared at him and ordered, "be off with you, whilst I'm

still in a mood to let you go."

Nicholas laughed, "you are going to let me go? Oh, I think not old

man." He reached down and grabbed the man by the remnants of his

coat and pulled him harshly to his feet, and immediately shoved his back

hard against the wall.

The man started to protest in anger, until he looked into Nicholas'

eyes. They were glowing with a golden fire, and he was grinning

dangerously, fangs gleaming in the moonlight. The man started to

scream as Nicholas pulled him towards him.

He immediately clamped one hand over the man's mouth, and

using this same hand pushed his head to the side exposing the neck. As

the man uselessly struggled against him, Nicholas tore into his throat,

savoring the hot blood as it gushed into his mouth. Momentarily sated, he

let the body dropped to the ground. Laughing, he wiped the traces of

blood from around his mouth, and looking down said, "so who is going to

let who go now." He laughed again as he bent down to pick up the body.

Flying straight up and out of the alley, he headed for the river to dispose

of what was left of his dinner.

--- End flashback ---

"Yeah," said Schanke. "A real sicko. That's what it takes."

Breaking free of his reverie, and wanting to change the subject,

Nick stood up. "Let's go see what Natalie has." He reached for his coat

as Schanke stood up to get his.

"Yeah, okay. Let's hit the road, partner," said Schanke, leading

the way out of the squad room.




"Go on in, detectives," said Grace pleasantly, as they

approached her desk. She knew they were working on that awful Barnett

killing and were probably anxious for the autopsy reports.

"Thanks, Grace," said Schanke, as he pushed open the door and

held it for Nick.

Natalie turned as she heard them enter the lab. Nick reached her

first, with Schanke just a couple of steps behind. "So, what are you boys

up to tonight?" she asked lightly, seeing the serious expressions they

were both wearing.

"We thought you might have the results ready for us," said Nick,

as he stopped to stand next to her. "On the Barnett's," he added for


Seeing that any attempts to lighten the mood were going to be

ignored, she asked, "do you guys have any suspects?" She crossed the

room to her desk, glancing over her shoulder for a response.

"Not yet," replied Schanke, looking curiously at Nick, who was

staring down at his shoes. "Nick pulled a few old cases out he thinks we

should look at, but we wanted to see your autopsy reports first."

Natalie picked up a file off her desk, and walking over to Nick,

handed it to him. He looked up just long enough to take it, then turning his

back on them both, opened the file and began to read. Looking at

Schanke, she pointed to Nick and mouthed, 'what's wrong with him?'

Schanke just shrugged, 'I don't know'.

About that time Nick turned back around and asked, "Nat. Are

you sure about this?"

"What?" she asked, peering over his shoulder to see what he

was looking at.

"This blood. The report says it was lamb's blood. Are they sure?"

"Yeah, they're sure. Why?" she asked, trying to draw out what he

was thinking.

As Nick kept reading the report, Schanke answered, "forensics

says that it was animal blood painted on the doorways, but they didn't

know what kind."

"Well, now they do. It's definitely lamb's blood," she replied.

"Why was it found on the victim's?" asked Nick, looking at her

expectantly. "How did it get there?"

"My guess would be that the killer had it all over him, and when

he killed the Barnett's, some of it transferred to them," she explained.

"You don't think he purposefully used it on them?" continued


"No, there's no evidence to indicate that," she replied.

Nick just nodded his head, then looking up, passed the file to

Schanke. As Schanke turned aside to read it, Natalie took hold of Nick's

arm and pulled him to the side of the room. "Are you all right?" she asked,

concern in her voice.

"Yeah, I'm fine. Why do you ask?" he replied.

"You seem kind of, oh, I don't know, out of it somehow. Is there

something going on here that I should know about?" she asked


"No. No, it's nothing like that," he replied, picking up on her

meaning. "It's just this case, that's all. It's, uh, different."

"Different. How so?" she asked, expecting an answer.

"You know," he shrugged casually, expecting to put her off.

"No, I don't know. Tell me," she insisted.

Sighing, he started to say something when they were interrupted

by Schanke. "So, Nick. You think we should take a look at those other

case files again. See if we can match up some comparisons, or what?"

Jumping at the chance to escape Natalie's unrelenting questions,

he quickly stepped towards Schanke and said, "yeah. That's exactly what

we should do. If we hurry, maybe we can get through most of them


"Nick," said Natalie, trying to draw him back into their


"Sorry, Nat, got to go. We'll see you later," he said to her as he

headed towards the door. "Come on, Skank."

Turning to give Natalie an 'I'm sorry about that' look, Schanke

said, "we'll catch you later. Thanks for the report." He then hurried to

catch up with his partner, who was already halfway out the door.

Once they were settled in the Caddy, and heading back towards

the precinct, Schanke asked, "so, what was that all about back there?"

Taking his eyes off the road to momentarily glance at Schanke,

he replied, "all what?"

"You know. The third degree she was nailing you with," explained

Schanke, sounding a touch patronizing. He knew Nick knew what he


"Oh, that. It was nothing," he replied, dismissing the


"Are you going to make me drag it out of you?" asked Schanke


"Skank, it's no big deal," answered Nick defensively.

"If it's no big deal, then why is she worried whether you're all right

or not? Just what aren't you telling me, <partner>," he asked.

"Honest. It's nothing. You know how she is," he replied, obviously

not wanting to discuss this.

"This has nothing to do with your health, or anything like that

then?" he asked, sounding with a mix of relief and worry.

Really confused, Nick replied, "no. Why would you think that?"

"Oh, how about because you have this weird <disorder> and

you're on this strange liquid diet, which by the way, I can't imagine any

human surviving on, need I say more," he said, finishing his mild rant.

Grinning, Nick slapped Schanke on the shoulder and said, "and

here, I didn't think you cared."

"Yeah, yeah," he replied, a little embarrassed. Then turning a

little more serious, "just tell me there's nothing to worry about."

Nick glanced at Schanke, still grinning. But seeing he was

serious, Nick replied, "Schanke, I assure you, there's nothing to worry

about. I'm completely healthy, honest."

Schanke just nodded his head and turned to look at the report in

his lap.

After a moment's pause, Nick asked, "so, you feel better now?"

Without looking up, he replied, "yeah. Now I feel better."

They rode the rest of the way in silence.

Nick pulled into the parking lot. They exited the Caddy and

headed for the precinct. Nick was in front, with Schanke trailing close

behind. Without warning, Nick came to a complete stop, and was

momentarily jostled when Schanke walked into him.

"What did you stop for?" asked Schanke, quickly backing up and

putting some distance between them. Nick was ignoring him and looking

across the fence on the other side of the parking lot. "Nick?" said

Schanke, trying to get his attention, to no avail.

Nick took a few steps in the direction he was looking, then

stopped again. He was standing rigidly, eyes narrowed, scanning the

darkened shadows across from them. "What are you looking at?"

whispered Schanke, not seeing or sensing anything out of the ordinary.

Just when he thought Nick would never answer, he did. "There's

someone over there, watching <us>," he said, growling quietly, leaving no

doubt as to what he was thinking.

"Where? I don't see anything," whispered Schanke, scanning the

area closely himself. "How do you know someone is there?"

"I can <feel> it," answered Nick, in a hushed voice. "It's him."


"Our killer," replied Nick, taking another step forward. He was

unable to pinpoint the exact location, he knew someone was over there. It

felt the same as the presence he had sensed at the restaurant. He knew

it was the same. It was the Barnett's killer. He just knew it.

If it were anyone else saying this, Schanke would have chalked it

up to anything, other than reality. But he had been around Nick long

enough to know this was probably real. "We should get some men and

canvas the area," he suggested, pulling out his cell phone and calling into

the precinct.

"You go ahead. I'll see if I can locate him," said Nick, starting to

move away.

When Schanke realized Nick was moving forward, he tried to

grab the back of his jacket and missed. "Nick. Wait." He was too late. His

partner was already moving rapidly across the parking lot, towards the

area he thought the killer was waiting. Schanke pulled his gun and

started after him.

Schanke started cursing when he saw Nick go over the chain

fence. Just then, a number of uniformed officers rushed out of the

precinct and over to where he was watching Nick disappear between two

buildings. He quickly had the men form teams and sent them out in

search of Nick and the suspected killer. Schanke and two other officers,

then took off over the fence attempting to follow the same path taken by


Meanwhile, Nick still hadn't seen anything. But he was sure he

could feel a presence. If he trusted his instincts, he should be able to find

whoever this was. He knew he was out here. Nick paused and tried to

focus his attention. He tried to locate the vibration he was feeling. It was

very difficult. He was distracted by the noise the others were making as

they searched the area, and he could hear Schanke calling his name. He

tried to block it all out and concentrate. Frustrated, he continued to move


He thought he heard something up ahead. He hurried his pace

and quickly rounded the corner. Nothing. He looked around using his

enhanced sight, and still saw nothing. The feeling remained. It hadn't

grown any stronger, nor had it weakened. He was still here. Taking a

deep breath, Nick forced himself to relax. He could do this, he knew he

could do this. He just needed to concentrate. It used to be so easy. Of

course, it hadn't always been.

--- Start flashback ---

Florence, late 13th c.

"Nicholas, you are not concentrating," scolded LaCroix.

"I am. There is nothing there," replied Nicholas, clearly frustrated.

"You need to pay attention," ordered LaCroix.

"I am paying attention," insisted Nicholas.

"Try again," demanded LaCroix.

Tired of this, Nicholas replied, "I do not want to do this any more.

Let us do something else."

"No," snapped LaCroix. "We will stop, once you have done this."

"I cannot do it. There are too many people about," groaned


LaCroix grasped him by the shoulders and said, "look at me."

When Nicholas continued to stare at the ground, LaCroix gently shook

him and said more firmly, "Nicholas, look at me."

Nicholas raised his eyes to look at LaCroix. He could tell by the

resolve in LaCroix' face that this lesson was far from being over. "This is

too hard. Maybe we can try again tomorrow," he suggested.

"It is not too hard, and we will do this tonight," stated LaCroix


Nicholas sighed in resignation as LaCroix stepped behind him to

stand at his back. LaCroix put his hands firmly around his shoulders, and

held him tightly against him. LaCroix' mouth was close to his ear,

whispering to him. "Look around and tell me what you see."

They were standing to one side, in the dark shadows of the

Piazza della Repubblica. It was early evening and there were still many

people about. It was a clear warm night, with the moon high in the sky.

The night lanterns were lit around the square casting a false light about

the area, making it easy to move about and continue the day's

socializing. Taking a deep breath, Nicholas began in a bored voice, "I see

the marketplace, shops, the artisan stands, the tower, people, horses, ..."

"Enough," whispered LaCroix. "I want you to relax."

"I am relaxed," replied Nicholas, a bit too quickly.

Chuckling softly, LaCroix tightened his grip on Nicholas'

shoulders, pulling him closer. Nicholas' back was firmly pressed against

LaCroix' chest. Whispering again in his ear, LaCroix said, "I want you to

close your eyes, take a deep breath, and relax."

Nicholas did as he was told. He closed his eyes tightly, then

taking a deep breath, slowly exhaled, willing his body to relax. "I am

ready," he said.

"Are you sure?" asked LaCroix, gently squeezing his shoulders.

Taking another deep breath, he replied uncertainly, "I am sure."

"Open your senses and cast them out from you. Then, tell me

what you feel," whispered LaCroix.

After a few moments, Nicholas replied, "I do not feel anything."

Patiently, LaCroix whispered, "concentrate. You can do this,

Nicholas. Just focus your concentration like I told you. Now, tell me what

you feel."

Nicholas tried hard to do as LaCroix wished. "It is not there," he

said, struggling to find this elusive vibration.

"It is slight, but it is there. Can you not feel it? Concentrate," he


Concentrating as hard as he could, he started slightly when he

thought he detected something. "LaCroix, I think I felt something."

"Focus your concentration. Reach out with your mind for that

which you feel," he whispered, guiding Nicholas in the subtle nuances of

this fine art. "Do not let it slip your grasp. Concentrate."

Startled and surprised, Nicholas opened his eyes and stared

straight ahead through the crowd. "LaCroix, I feel it. He is there," he said

smiling broadly, then reaching out with his hand, he pointed to the mortal

source of this vibration that he had been seeking.

Before his gesture drew attention to them, LaCroix captured his

wrist and pulled his arm down to his side. "Very good, Nicholas. Very

good. I knew you could do this," he praised him, smiling as he did so.

"There are not many of us who can master this technique. From mortals,

the vibration, when there, is so weak, and therefore very difficult to

knowingly seek out, but I knew it was within your abilities. For this

success, you shall be rewarded."

"May I have him?" asked Nicholas, looking hungrily at his mortal


"No. Not tonight. We will leave him for a future lesson," explained

LaCroix. "Come, I have something more satisfying in mind."

Nicholas happily followed LaCroix out of the piazza, looking over

his shoulder at the mortal man whose vibration he had sensed. Since

discovering that some mortals had this vibration, Nicholas had been

eager to learn how to detect them. The murderer, that he still sought, had

such a vibration. This would make it much easier to catch him.

--- End Flashback ---

Startled, Nick jumped for cover. A bullet had barely missed him,

bouncing off the wall next to where he had been leaning. He looked up,

and quickly ducked again. He saw the flash from the muzzle just a

fraction before he heard the impact, less than a foot away. The sound of

the gunshot echoing against the walls.

The shooter was behind the corner of the building just up ahead

on his left. Nick jumped to his feet and ran around the building to his right,

hoping to come up behind the shooter. As he rounded the second corner,

he pulled his gun and stopped up at the next corner. He could sense a

body just beyond. Diving into the alley, he rolled once, and came up on

his knees, gun leveled in front of him, and yelled, "freeze. Police." He

cursed softly as he saw the two uniformed officers quickly lowering their

guns so he wouldn't shoot them.

He stood up and walked towards them. "Did you see anything?"

he asked, already knowing that they hadn't. To confirm this, they both

shook their heads negatively. He turned yet again when Schanke came

running up behind him.

"Nick, are you all right? Who was shooting?" asked Schanke, out

of breath.

"Someone took a couple shots at me, but I'm fine. They missed,"

said Nick, clearly irritated. He shoved his gun back in his holster and

turned to the others. The other two officers that had been involved in the

search rushed around the corner, joining them. "Did anybody see

anything?" demanded Nick. They all began to talk at once, but the bottom

line was, no one had seen anybody or anything. Other than the two shots

taken at Nick, there was no evidence that anyone had been there.

"Do you think this guy is still in the area?" asked Schanke.

"No. He's gone," replied Nick disdainfully.

"You sound awfully sure of that," said Schanke skeptically.

"I am sure," said Nick arrogantly, kicking at a stray box standing

in his path.

"Drop the attitude, Knight. We all want to catch this guy," scolded


Nick just glared at his partner, but didn't say anything more. As

Schanke was directing the officers on what to do next, Nick turned

around and started stalking back towards the precinct. He had only gone

a short distance when he was stopped by a shout from Schanke.

"Nick, don't you dare go stomping off without me. Just wait, right

there," demanded Schanke.

Impatiently, Nick waited. As soon as Schanke caught up to him,

he said, "I don't need an escort."

"Yeah, and I don't need a dead partner," retorted Schanke.

"I told you, the killer is gone. He was here, and we blew it, and he

got away," raged Nick, storming off in the direction of the precinct


Schanke ran to catch up, then matched him stride for stride.

"Look, you're not the only one upset about this. And we don't even know

for sure if it was him," said Schanke, trying to dissolve some of Nick's

anger and frustration.

"<I> know it was him," snapped Nick. "And he was right there,"

he continued, stopping to point back in the direction they had just come.

Schanke was feeling a little exposed standing in the middle of the

parking lot. Grabbing Nick's arm he pushed him in the direction of the

building and said, "come on. Let's get inside."

With one lingering look behind them, Nick allowed himself to be

propelled across the parking lot and up the few stairs into the building.

With Schanke at his back, he led the way to their office. As they walked

by Norma seated at the administration desk in their department, they

could see Stonetree standing by their desks, with his arms folded tightly

across his chest.

"Would one of you two like to tell me what is going on out there?"

he bellowed.

Nick was still fuming. He glared once at Schanke, then turned his

back on them and started removing his coat. Stonetree turned his

attention to Schanke and said, "well?"

"Nick spotted someone, who we think may be our guy, on the

other side of the parking lot when we pulled in. We went after him. He

took a couple shots at Nick, and then got away. The uniforms are

canvassing the area now," said Schanke wearily.

While Schanke had been explaining to Stonetree, Nick had

walked behind them and dropped into his chair. He looked up when

Stonetree turned to him and asked, "so. Did you actually see this guy?"

"No," replied Nick tersely.

"But you're sure it was him?"

"I'm sure."

"Then I suggest you quit sulking and go find him again,"

commanded Stonetree, just as he turned and headed for his office.

Turning back to them, he added, "I don't want this to go on any longer

then necessary. Understand?"

As soon as Stonetree left the office, Schanke sat at his desk and

said to Nick, "like he thinks we do. Man, I tell you. You almost get killed

tonight, and he acts like we're not doing enough."

"Well, we're not," admitted Nick. "We should've had him."

"Hey, Knight," said Schanke, his tone indicating a change in

attitude. "Tell me. Just <how> did you know he was there? And <how>

did you know it was our guy?"

Nick just stared blankly at Schanke for a moment, then

shrugging, picked up a file and tossed it to him. "Let's go over these and

see what we can come up with."

Schanke fixed Nick with a knowing look, and said, "that's what I

thought you'd say."




The killer leaned against the building, breathing hard. 'Damn!' he

swore silently. 'That was close. Too close.' He bent over at the waist,

hands on his knees, trying to quickly catch his breath. After a few

minutes, his breathing eased. When he could, he stood and looked

around the area. He was a few blocks away from the precinct and his

abandoned car, which he had parked in the opposite direction from where

he had been forced to run.

This had never happened to him before. No one had ever seen

him, or known that he was watching. He knew he had been well hidden.

But that blond detective had known right where he was. And this wasn't

the first time either. He had chalked that first time, in front of the house,

as up to coincidence. But later at the restaurant, that was uncanny. 'That

Detective must have eyes in the back of his head', he thought irately.

'And how was it that he immediately followed me when I was outside in

the parking lot; when he could see me, but not see me', the man mused,

angry and confused.

'Well, Mr. Detective, whoever you are, this cannot be allowed', he

thought to himself in determination.

Having completely caught his breath, and feeling more

composed, the killer decided it was time to leave. He would come back

for his car later. He was sure the police were all over the area. 'How

could I have missed?!' the killer berated himself. 'If I had aimed just a little

more carefully, that detective would be history. I wouldn't have to worry

about him interfering any more'.

He walked up to the nearest Metro station that was on the corner

of Bloor and Yonge just a few blocks away. He climbed aboard the first

train, and grabbing a seat by the window considered carefully his next

move. He still hadn't located the little girl. After he had lost track of her at

the restaurant, he had thought he would see her if he watched outside

the police station. However, those two detectives had come in early

tonight without her. He thought they would be guarding her, but she was

nowhere. When they had both left earlier tonight, he had wandered into

the station and had casually looked around. Since he didn't want to draw

attention to himself, he didn't remain in any one area for very long. But

there was no sign of her.

Maybe she wasn't all that important, he began to think. After all,

she's just a kid, and who's going to believe anything a kid says. Maybe

that's why the detectives dumped her already. They had no use for her

either. Made sense to him. And anyway, that tall blond detective was

definitely more worrisome than any little girl, no matter what she may

have seen.

That detective changes things. None of the other police had ever

even got close to suspecting him. Maybe he should consider moving up

his timetable. If that detective is going to try to stop him, then the sooner

he finishes his journey, the sooner he will be powerless to do anything

about it, he thought to himself gleefully. He hadn't realized he was

chuckling out loud, until he saw a passenger in front of him turn around

and give him a dirty look. He sneered back at the man, then composed

himself. He didn't want any attention drawn to himself. There would be

time enough for that later.

Meanwhile, Schanke and Nick were sorting through the stacks of

files they had already accumulated on the case. They had them pretty

much in order, when Schanke said, "Nick, I don't know about you, but I'm

ready to call it a night."

Nick looked over and smiled, "yeah, I think I am too. Help me

load these files into a box. I think I'll go through them this afternoon."

"You, partner, should get some sleep," chastised Schanke.

"I will," replied Nick, amused at Schanke's concern. "This will just

give me something to do when I get up, that's all."

"Yeah, okay," replied Schanke, loading up one of the two boxes

of files. "I'll carry this one down, you grab the other."

The two detectives booked out at the desk and carried the boxes

down to the parking lot and loaded them into Nick's trunk. As Schanke

started to climb into his car, he said, "how about if I stop by your place on

the way in? That way, you can tell me all about what you've found."

"Sounds good to me," replied Nick, climbing into his own car.

His sleep was restless. He had gotten to bed late and kept

waking intermittently. As he lay, half asleep, half awake, unbidden

memories rose in his dreams.

--- Start flashback ---

Florence, late 13th c.

He woke suddenly, not knowing what had caused him to wake. It

was still very early in the day, and his tiredness came back upon him

heavily. He lay back down, and after tossing and turning for a short while,

he climbed out of bed. He was uneasy, unable to shake the night's tumult

from his mind.

Rubbing his eyes tiredly, he left his bedroom and padded softly

across the hall to the room opposite his. Entering this room, he saw

LaCroix laying on his back, appearing to be sound asleep. He stood at

the door, pausing with indecision. After a few moment's thought, he

walked to the foot of the bed, then falling to his hands and knees, crawled

towards the headboard. He pulled the covers back and slid his feet and

body down underneath them.

As he was settling in, he heard LaCroix speak softly, "Nicholas, is

there a problem?"

"No," he mumbled, rolling onto his right side, facing LaCroix.

"Is there a specific reason you feel the need to share my bed?"

he asked solicitously.

"Uh, uh," he grunted, edging closer and burrowing in beside


He felt LaCroix raise his arm, allowing him to nestle even closer.

Almost immediately, he relaxed and dropped into a sound sleep.

--- End Flashback ---

Nick awoke with a start. 'Where in the hell did that come from?'

he thought to himself. Looking around, he convinced himself that the

memory was really just a dream, an unwelcome dream. After forcing the

thoughts of LaCroix from his mind, he settled back down to sleep. It

wasn't long before he was back in that state between waking and


--- Resume flashback ---

Florence, late 13th c.

He was jostled awake by the sudden loss of his headrest. He

opened his eyes just barely enough to see LaCroix rising from the bed.

Slowly pushing himself up on one elbow, he looked sleepily at him and

asked, "is it time to get up?"

Reaching down, LaCroix moved his pillow to occupy the area just

vacated by his body, gently pushing Nicholas down so his head and

chest rested upon the pillow.

His eyes closing of their own volition, he heard LaCroix whisper

in his ear, "it is early yet. Sleep." He began to drift away, his last

sensation being that of a soft caress against his cheek.

--- End Flashback ---

Nick jolted awake. Sitting upright, he pushed the sheets away

from where they had been rubbing against his face. He looked around in

momentary confusion, as if he almost expected LaCroix to be in the

room. Realizing immediately that he was once again reliving old

memories through his dreams, he covered his face with his hands and

said into them, "no. Go away." After an unsuccessful attempt at banishing

LaCroix from his thoughts, he decided he would get no further rest this

day, and figured he may as well get up.

Nick came downstairs, still in his black silk pajamas and red

brocade robe. He headed directly for the refrigerator and sharply pulled

the door open. After a slight hesitation, he grabbed the protein shake. He

pulled the cap off and smelled it, making a face as he did so. Holding his

breath, he quickly downed half the contents. Shuddering from the awful

taste, he replaced the cap and put the remainder back on the shelf. Next,

he drank a large glass of water, trying to wash the taste from his mouth.

Whatever was in that, it left a queasy, heavy feeling in the pit of his

stomach, enough to kill his appetite for anything else.

He looked at the clock and noticed that it was shortly after one in

the afternoon. He turned on the television to the local news, and saw that

it was still overcast outside. They were expecting rain later tonight. 'Well,

that's nothing new', he thought and leaving the television on as

background noise, he walked over to the kitchen table.

He randomly poked through the case files still sitting in the

boxes. He pulled out the ones of the Barnett's, and opening them,

organized the photos over the table. He carefully studied each picture,

hoping something would jump out at him, but nothing did. The grisleyness

of the murders seemed much more acute, seeing them spread out in this

manner. He didn't remember the actual crime scene being this cold and

austere. The killer obviously had no respect for the lives he took.

--- Start flashback ---

Florence, late 13th c.

Nicholas dropped the old man in the river, and hovered long

enough to see the body sink below the splash of its' entry. He flew back

to the main road and landed near the bridge. He turned sharply at the

sound of an unexpected voice behind him. "Nicholas, I see you found

some nourishment this evening," said LaCroix, as he walked over and

stood next to him.

"I had to settle for some ragged beggar," he complained,

brushing the dust off his coat with his hands.

"Indeed. And why is that? I thought you had finally found some

suitable entertainment this night," remarked LaCroix, slightly amused.

"There was no one else about. This murderer has everyone

frightened and they are all staying indoors. Unless we catch him soon, all

that will be left for us will be the dregs that live under bridges," he


"I do think you are exaggerating, just a bit," chided LaCroix.

"What of these <friends> with whom you spend so much of your time?"

Nicholas looked at LaCroix, surprise evident on his face. "You

are not suggesting that I feed off my friends, are you?"

"I offer the possibility, if what remains otherwise is that distasteful

to you," he replied.

"If I were to do that, then very soon I would have no friends left.

Then what would I do for entertainment?" he asked, his attitude much

more subdued.

"Then we would move on, and you would make new friends,"

suggested LaCroix.

After a moment's thought, Nicholas replied, "I do not want to do

that. I like it here. And I like my friends. I would much rather we catch this

murderer. Then everything will return to the way it was. That is what I

want," he said decisively.

"Very well. Then that is what you shall have. For now, we will go

home, and tonight we will start the hunt," announced LaCroix.

Nicholas smiled in anticipation, then turned to follow LaCroix.

--- End Flashback ---

He grabbed the boxes and moved them to his coffee table. He

sat on the rug, between the table and the fireplace, giving himself more

room to spread things out. Picking up the remote, he turned on the

flames in the fireplace. Next, he pulled out the latest forensics reports and

started through them in minute detail. He caught a note that said some

more of the blood work was supposed to be finished by noon today.

Going to the phone, he called forensics and asked them to fax the latest

information to his loft. A few minutes later he heard his fax machine

engage. He walked over and read the pages as they came off the


'That's odd,' he thought, reading through this one page. It was

the results on the evidence found in the backyard. Although it had been

raining heavily that night, they had found traces of blood on the grass. It

seemed to be centralized in one spot. Something nagged at Nick's mind.

He went over to the kitchen table, and among the pictures still spread out,

he found the one he was looking for. It was of the Barnett's backyard. It

was of the spot where the blood was found. There was a coil of rope laid

out in a circle on the grass. Even with the rain, you could see where the

grass had been stamped down in the center of the coil. According to

forensics, the blood traces found were a mixture of those belonging to the

Barnett's, and also lamb's blood. That means it had to have been the

killer who did this. But why?

Nick recalled what Sally had told him she heard the killer say, 'I

have passed through the third circle'. Could this be representative of the

circle the killer was referring to? And if so, what did it mean?

Nick tried to envision himself as this killer. Just what was he

thinking? What was he doing? What was his reason? All killers had a

motive. Nick suspected this killer really enjoyed what he was doing, but

there was more to it than that. This killer thought he had a purpose. A

grand plan perhaps. He wasn't simply killing, he had some ritual about it.

If Nick was right, it was going to make this murderer harder to catch.

They would need to anticipate him, and to do that, they needed to know

why he was killing.

Looking up from the floor, Nick's eye caught the scorch mark, still

very much in evidence on the elevator door. It was as if it were mocking

him. Why did he torture himself this way? Why can't he just bring himself

to paint over it? He asked himself these questions for the hundredth time.

Every time he looked at it, he was reminded of LaCroix. Is that why he

can't get rid of it? Because it would be liking getting rid of LaCroix? Once

and for all? Isn't that what he'd always wanted? No, not always.

Nick cast his eyes down, away from the vivid reminder. Despair

threatened to overwhelm him. He flung himself on his back, and lay on

the floor staring up at the ceiling. He tried to force his mind blank, drive

out all thoughts of <him>. The harder he tried, the more the memories of

LaCroix invaded his being. Everywhere he looked, everything he did, all

that he was, reminded him of LaCroix. 'Surely I will go crazy', he thought.

Sitting up, he leaned back on his arms and stared into the fire.

He forced himself to think of all the horrible things done to him by LaCroix

and to those close to him. If he focused on those memories, and only

those, he could bear this. It would get easier in time... he knew this.

LaCroix' death had not been that long ago and it was still so fresh in his

mind. When he closed his eyes, he could still feel the texture of the wood

as it slid through his hands, as he allowed his rage to drive it into LaCroix'

chest. He could remember the sudden fear and anguish that had gripped

his heart as he realized Alyce was dead, killed by his father, and how his

fury turned to a numbing shock when he looked up and saw that LaCroix

had vanished. But what was done, was done. LaCroix had taught him

that, too.

And it truly was for the best. He kept telling himself he didn't have

to worry about <when> LaCroix would appear, or what he would do. What

new ways he would devise to interfere in his life. He was completely on

his own now. No one to tell him how he must live, what he must do, when

he must do it, or who he should do it with. Not that he hadn't lived on his

own before. He had, many times. But always with the knowledge that

LaCroix could show up at any time, with no warning, to totally and

completely disrupt whatever life he had built for himself. Well, no more.

That would never happen again. He had made sure of that. 'But at what

cost, this freedom?' he asked himself.

Staring morosely into the fire, he felt lost. His surroundings

seemed strangely out of focus. He had to snap out of this. He couldn't

allow himself to sit around and wallow in self pity. If LaCroix were

watching him somehow, from some afterlife or other, wouldn't he just be

laughing up a storm. This is exactly what he would have expected to

happen. Nick could hear him now, saying 'I told you, Nicholas. You would

be lost without me'. Well, he wasn't lost. And he was happier, or he would

be someday.

His attention was drawn to the television. The news was playing

and he had heard a reference to the Barnett's. He quickly stood up and

walked to stand in front of the set. There was that news reporter, what

was his name, Steve Tate. He was describing the murder scene, along

with the fact that the police had no suspects, no leads, and basically, no

answers. Nick groaned aloud at this coverage. They were probably going

to be in Stonetree's office half the night. It would most likely start in the

mayor's office, and run downhill until he and Schanke were standing knee

deep in it.

Nick looked down at the files scattered on his floor. He still had a

couple of hours before Schanke got here. He had practically memorized

the forensics' report on the Barnett case, and other than that strange

circle with the blood in their backyard, nothing stood out. He had those

other case files that he had Norma pull for him, and he hadn't really gone

through them in detail. Well, no time like the present, he thought, but

before settling himself down to read, he crossed to the kitchen and

poured himself a glass of blood. Natalie wouldn't be happy, but he did

drink half that shake she had brought him, and he really did need this.

With a final glance at the elevator door, he crossed the room and settled

down in front of the fire. Taking a swallow of his drink, he set down his

glass and picked up the first of the five files.




"Yo, Nick. You up?" shouted Schanke, as he walked off the

elevator, into the loft. Seeing no movement, but hearing the television, he

walked into the living area. He was carrying a brown paper bag and was

being careful to hold it upright. Looking all around, he didn't see Nick

anywhere. "Nick, where are you?"

"I'm here," said Nick, from the top of the stairs. "I'm getting

dressed. Give me a minute."

"Sure thing, partner," said Schanke, walking in front of the fire to

get a good look at what Nick had been working on. Seeing all the files

and photographs spread out, and looking at how organized and

categorized they were, he shouted, "did you actually do any sleeping


Smiling, Nick came bounding down the stairs. "I slept a little," he

answered. "How about you?"

"Yeah, sure. About as much as one can dealing with all this," he

said, indicating the files Nick had been working on. "Hey, did you catch

the news tonight?"

"Yeah, I saw," answered Nick solemnly.

"What say we skip the office and work from here tonight? Looks

like you've got everything we need," suggested Schanke, not really

expecting to be taken seriously.

"Actually, Skank. I did come up with a couple leads for us to

check out," he said happily.

"What, you think you've got a bead on this guy?" asked Schanke,

prepared to be astounded.

Smiling ruefully, Nick replied, "not exactly. But I think we have

evidence of some of his prior work."

"No kidding?" replied Schanke. "That's still something. Show me

what you got."

"Sure," said Nick, walking towards one of his piles of folders.

Curiosity getting the better of him, he asked, "what are you carrying in

that sack?"

"Oh, yeah. Almost forgot. This is for you," he said, handing Nick

the bag.

Before taking it, Nick asked, "what is it?"

"Something I'm sure you don't want, but Myra insisted,"

answered Schanke, shoving the bag into his hands. "I told her all about

yesterday. You know, taking care of the kid, you getting shot at..." his

voice trailed away.

Looking inside, Nick asked, "what is it?"

Schanke rolled his eyes, "oh, come on, Knight. What's it look


"How am I suppose to know?"

"Look, I know you don't eat the stuff, but I figured you would at

least know what it looked like," he proclaimed. At Nick's blank look, he

added, "it's a casserole. Myra's assuming you don't eat right. Which, by

the way, you don't," he added for emphasis.

Grinning, Nick asked, "what am I suppose to do with it?"

"Stick it in the fridge, then, when it has fuzzy green stuff growing

on it, you throw it away," he explained, matching Nick's grin. "But don't

throw away the dish. Myra wants that back."

"Sure, no problem," said Nick, as he walked over to the

refrigerator and set the casserole on a shelf. "Tell Myra, thanks, I guess."

"I told her you wouldn't eat it. In fact, I told her you didn't eat

anything, but she insisted," he continued to explain.

"Well, it's the thought that counts anyway, right?"

"Yeah, right," said Schanke, wandering back towards the files.

"You were going to show me what you found."

Nick dropped to his knees on the floor, and pick up a couple thick

accordion files. "Take a look at these," he said excitedly.

Schanke sat on the couch and took the files from Nick's

outstretched hand. "What are these?" he asked, as he started to flip

through them. "Didn't we look through these last night?"

"But look here," he said, showing Schanke the pictures of the

Barnett's backyard. "See this?" he said, indicating the depressed circle of


"What about it?"

"There's similar evidence at these other two scenes," stated Nick.

"And that's not all. These other scenes also have forensic evidence of

lamb's blood."

"No kidding," said Schanke, stunned at Nick's discovery. "How

did you find these?"

Nick just shrugged, and said, "I asked the computer to do a


"And it just popped these right out?" asked Schanke


"More or less," replied Nick. "There were a few other cases too,

but they didn't look like possibles to me."

"If these pan out, well, that's good work, partner o'mine," kidded


Nick just rolled his eyes. "It doesn't get us any closer to the killer,

but it might help us figure out his motivation. And if we have previous kills

of his, we may be able to link the victims."

"I'll give you motivation. How about sick, psychopathic,

demented, deranged... need I go on?" expounded Schanke.

Nick just stared at Schanke seriously, then said, "it's not always

that simple."

"Sure it is. Anyone who kills, is a real sick puppy, Nick," said

Schanke vehemently. Looking at his partner's turned back and rigid

stance, he asked, "you don't agree? You think he may have a good

reason for killing?"

Turning around quickly, Nick replied sharply, "I didn't say that. I

just think it's important to know why, before we start making any


"Fine," said Schanke sarcastically. "I'll let you handle all the

touchy feely motivations, while I concentrate on catching a killer. And

make no mistake, Nick. This guy is a killer, and there is no excuse for

that. Hell, he even tried to kill <you> last night," finished Schanke,

obviously still upset about the shooting. "For the second time, I might


Nick just shrugged nonchalantly, and said, "all I'm saying, Skank,

is that in order for us to catch him, we have to know why he does what he

does. That's all."

"I guess," replied Schanke, a bit embarrassed at his outburst.

"After all, it's not like he's leaving his name and address laying around for

us to find."

"He was careless last night," observed Nick.

"Was he?" asked Schanke skeptically. At Nick's questioning look,

he added, "or were you just unnaturally observant?"

Breaking eye contact abruptly, Nick said, "we better go. I'm sure

Stonetree is anxiously awaiting our arrival." With that said, Nick started

picking up files and shoving them into boxes, leaving Schanke to handle

the two files that warranted further investigation.

As Nick hustled around, preparing to leave, Schanke whispered

to himself, "thought so."

"So, you think our guy is a serial killer, is that it?" asked

Stonetree, trying to get a clearer handle on what his detectives were

telling him.

"Yeah, I guess," said Nick hesitantly.

"You guess," challenged Stonetree.

"I definitely believe he was responsible for these other killings,"

said Nick firmly. "And if that makes him a serial killer, then so be it."

"Do you think it's possible he killed these other people, and he's

not a serial killer?" asked Stonetree skeptically.

"Nick's into all this touchy-feely motivational crap," spouted

Schanke, looking challengingly at Nick.

"Is that right?" asked Stonetree, raising his eyebrows

questioningly and looking at Nick for confirmation.

"I'm not saying it excuses anything, I'm just saying I think

motivation is important," answered Nick defensively.

"Yeah, right. And if his mother hadn't dropped him on his head

when he was a baby," sniped Schanke.

"Stow it, Schanke. If Knight thinks motivation is important, then

it's important. End of story. Got it," said Stonetree, glaring at Schanke.

"Yeah, I got it," he replied wearily. "But look, I'm just saying that I

don't see how knowing his motivation is going to help us catch this creep.

Who cares why he's killing. We just need to stop him."

"Skank, this guy is just not going to walk in the station and turn

himself in. We're going to have to go out there and find him," said Nick


Schanke just looked at Nick for a long moment, then replied,

"okay. Okay. You're right. I guess if we're going to go on a manhunt, we

need to know who we're hunting.

--- Start flashback ---

Florence, late 13th c.

"Nicholas, pay attention now," he said sharply.

"I am paying attention," replied Nicholas defensively. "I thought

we were going to go hunting for the murderer."

"We are. But before we start, a short lesson," said LaCroix


Nicholas turned his back to LaCroix and rolled his eyes. "I do not

see why we cannot just go and find him," he sighed, in a hurry to go.

"Very well, Nicholas. And where would you go? Where will you

look? What will you look for?" asked LaCroix, wryly amused. He was well

aware of Nicholas' impatience.

"We will go to the piazza," he stated.

"And why there?"

"There are lots of people there. Now that I know how to sense

him, that is what we will do?" he explained, pleased with his reasoning.

"And what makes you think this murderer will be anywhere near

the piazza?" inquired LaCroix.

"Why would he not be?" asked Nicholas, confused. "Many people

are there. It would be easy for him to pick one, follow them, then kill


LaCroix considered this, then said, "true. So, it is your belief that

the murderer chooses his victims from a crowd, follows them until they

are alone, then simply kills them." At Nicholas' hesitant nod, LaCroix

asked, "and why do you believe this?"

"That is how we hunt," said Nicholas shrugging, not

understanding why LaCroix was arguing the point.

"Do not assume this murderer is anything like us. There is no

comparison," said LaCroix sharply, getting Nicholas' attention.

"He is a killer, we are killers. What is the difference?" retorted


"The difference is in the motivation. Why does he kill? We kill to

survive, we kill to eat. We do not kill simply for the sake of killing. That is

not true for this one," lectured LaCroix.

"We also kill for pleasure," argued Nicholas.

"It is not a crime to enjoy the partaking of sustenance. Do your

friends not enjoy their meals?" he asked.

"It is not the same thing. They did not kill to put food on their

tables," he said.

"Did they not?" replied LaCroix sarcastically. "They may not be

as direct about it, as are we, but I assure you, Nicholas, their meals did

not come without a price."

Frustrated by LaCroix' logic, Nicholas finally said, "what has any

of this to do with us hunting this accursed mortal."

"I simply wish to point out to you, that in order to catch him, you

must first understand him," responded LaCroix.

--- End Flashback ---

"So, where do we go from here?" asked Stonetree, looking at


"Schanke and I should review these other case files more

thoroughly. I know they're old, but I'd still like to check out the murder

scenes. Get a feel for where they happened," said Nick, bringing himself

back to the present.

"And we could use some help to have the witnesses

reinterviewed. See if we can come up with some common denominators

that may tie the victim's together," offered Schanke.

"Didn't you say the detectives on the marina killings were Bissett

and Clarke?" asked Stonetree. At Schanke's nod, he added, "they're out

of the 96th. I'll see if they want to pitch in on this."

"Fine, but make sure they know it's our case," said Nick,

obviously not wanting any interference.

"Getting a little territorial, aren't we, detective?" asked Stonetree,

slightly amused.

"Don't let it bother you, Captain. I've gotten use to it," replied

Schanke, giving Nick a friendly slap on the shoulder as he stood up.

"Come on, partner," said Schanke, opening the door and starting through


Nick's immediate reaction was to respond to the comment that

Stonetree had made on his motives, but he could tell they had both

already moved past it. He didn't want to make an issue of it and give their

thoughts more credence, so he clenched his jaw shut, and after sending

a short glare Stonetree's way, got up and followed Schanke out of the


After they were both seated at their desks, Schanke asked,

"where exactly do you want to start?"

Sighing, Nick answered, "see if you can get us on that yacht in

the marina. I'd like to take a first hand look at the murder scene."

"Even though it's been over a year?" asked Schanke, curious on

what Nick thought he was going to find.

"Do you have a problem with that?" asked Nick haughtily.

"Jeez, Knight, lighten up," chastised Schanke. "I know you had a

rough night last night, but don't take it out on me. I'm on your side,


After staring at Schanke for a moment, he visibly relaxed and

replied, "yeah, I remember. Just set it up, okay?"

"That's much better," said Schanke, shuffling through the files

looking for a phone number.

"I want to go back out to the Barnett's tonight," said Nick,

distractedly staring at the photo of their backyard.

"You think the killer may still be hanging around there?"

"No. I want to take a look at this," he said, waving the picture at


"Give me a minute to get this together, then we'll go," replied





Nick looked up at the darkening sky. He could feel the cold

breeze ruffle his hair as it swept past him. Standing, with his hands in his

coat pockets, he looked back down at the ground in front of him.

"We'd better hurry up, before it starts raining again," suggested

Schanke, noticing the gathering storm clouds. "I'm not looking to get

drenched out here."

"A few more minutes," answered Nick, removing his hands from

his pockets, and bending down closer to the ground. They were standing

in the Barnett's backyard, near where forensics had identified the blood

on the grass.

Nick could see the impression left from the rope, which was itself

now a part of the evidence collected and removed from the scene by

forensics. It was a rough circle, about two feet in diameter. He reached

out with his hand to let his fingers trace the indentation in the grass. He

quickly pulled them back when he felt a mild burning sensation. Looking

at his fingers, he was surprised to see the already healing burn marks.

"What is it? Did you find something?" asked Schanke, noticing

Nick's reaction. He leaned over Nick's shoulder, shining his flashlight

down, trying to get a look at what he may have found. At the same time,

Nick quickly stood up, almost knocking him over. Schanke reached out a

hand to steady him. "You okay?" asked Schanke concerned.

"Yeah, I'm fine," he answered. Then seeing the questioning look

on Schanke's face, he continued, "I don't see anything here."

There was a low rumble of thunder in the distance, and a few

scattered raindrops fell onto them. "Are you ready to go then? Bissett and

Clarke should be at the marina waiting for us by now," said Schanke,

anxious to move on.

"Yeah, let's go," said Nick, taking one last look at the area. He

noticed, from where he was standing, close to where the killer had stood,

that this spot was protected from prying eyes. None of the neighbors

could see into this section of the Barnett's yard. It was protected from

view by the surrounding fence and the angle of the house. The killer

could have stood here for quite some time, without risk of being seen.

"Knight, are you coming?" asked Schanke impatiently.

Turning his attention away, he followed Schanke around the side

of the house, back to the street and the Caddy. As he pulled his keys

from his pocket, he looked again at his now healed fingers, remembering

the mild searing sensation.

"Are we going to go, or what?" quipped Schanke, looking at him


Nick was looking up the street, towards the house where he had

originally sensed a presence when he first arrived at the crime scene. "I

want to check out one more thing," said Nick distractedly. Turning to

Schanke, he noticed his partner's annoyed look. "You can wait in the car.

I won't be long."

"Why? Where are you going?" asked Schanke plaintively.

Nick started across the street, angling towards the house two

doors down. Schanke hurriedly ran to catch up with him. "You don't have

to come with me," answered Nick, starting across the grass towards the

small clump of trees and bushes.

"You are not going off anywhere by yourself, comprende,

partner?" declared Schanke. "This psycho has already tried to shoot you

twice. I'm not about to let him have a third run at it."

By this time, they were standing on the grass in front of the trees.

"So, what? You're here to protect me. Is that it?" asked Nick, obviously


"Listen, Nick. I don't think this is funny, and neither should you.

This guy is obviously serious about whatever it is he believes he's doing,

and I don't like him using you for target practice," lectured Schanke,

poking his finger at Nick's chest for emphasis.

Realizing Schanke was obviously more upset about this than he

had realized, Nick replied, "you're right. And believe me, Skank, I'm not

taking this lightly."

"Well, good. Because I'm telling you..."

"I get it, okay?"

"Okay," replied Schanke, settling back down. Looking casually

around the area, he asked, "what's here?"

"The killer was here," answered Nick, pointing to the small

clearing behind the bushes. "He was here watching when we arrived on

the scene. I think he was also here when I found Sally."

"How do you figure that?" asked Schanke skeptically.

Nick ignored his question and walked around to the back of the

clearing. He circled the small copse of trees a couple of times, before

finally entering the clearing. Once there, he bent down to the ground near

where he believed the killer to have been. Sure enough, he found a slight

imprint of a shoe in the ground. Schanke had come up behind him and

was looking over his shoulder. Nick pulled a plastic glove from his pocket

and put it on. With the gloved hand, he snapped off a low lying twig from

the bush. Holding it up, Schanke shown his flashlight on it. Traces of

what looked like blood were on the leaf.

"Well, I'll be," commented Schanke, pulling out an evidence bag.

"One of these days, you're going to have to tell me how you do this."

"Nothing mysterious," replied Nick, sticking the leaf in the bag

and watching Schanke seal it and shove it in his pocket. "Just simple

deduction. There's not too many places to hide on this street, and this

looked like a likely spot. That's all."

"Yeah, right," replied Schanke skeptically. "I don't suppose your

<deduction> will tell us where the murder weapon is, will it?"

Ignoring him, Nick headed back towards the car, Schanke

following closely behind. When they reached the car, Schanke climbed in

right away. Nick stood at the open driver's door, looking up at the sky.

The rain was starting again in earnest. Nick remembered the sensation

he felt that night, when he first arrived on the scene. He had felt it again

at the burger joint, and then outside the precinct last night. That first night

he was unsure. He had even gone to ask Janette. And she was right, he

should have known. He did know.

--- Start flashback ---

Florence, late 13th c.

They were standing at the scene of the latest murder. The

authorities had already disposed of the body earlier. No one had stepped

forward as a witness, and there were no suspects. The authorities were

being pressured to solve this spate of killings, and that was dangerous in

and of itself. They would be tempted to latch on to the likeliest of

suspects, with no regard as to whether said suspect ever committed the

crime. Anyone with strange habits, or any peculiarities was at risk. That

made it especially hazardous for Nicholas and LaCroix to be about, late

into the night.

"It is unfortunate we were unable to arrive before the authorities

decimated whatever evidence may have been left behind," remarked

LaCroix, walking in a circle around the scene.

Nicholas stood off to the side, looking at the spot where the body

had lain. "How will we catch him, if he eludes us so?"

"Nicholas, we have only just begun to hunt. This mortal will not

be able to evade our detection. Not for long, anyway," said LaCroix


"But there are no clues. Even the authorities are baffled," replied


"The authorities are fools, Nicholas. They have no where near

the intellectual capacity of you or I. This murderer does not stand a

chance against us. It is only a matter of time," proclaimed LaCroix.

"Where do we start?" asked Nicholas eagerly.

"You have sensed this mortal once, and you will do so again,"

said LaCroix, looking expectantly at Nicholas.

"What should I do?" he asked, knowing LaCroix expected

something of him.

"See the blood, here and here," he said, circling the area and

pointing out patches of drying blood.

"Yes, I see it," answered Nicholas.

"Are you sure it all belongs to the victim?" asked LaCroix.

"Perhaps, our victim fought back. Perhaps, our murderer himself did

bleed," he suggested.

"How can we tell?" asked Nicholas, eager for a new lesson in


"Like this," said LaCroix, bending down to touch his fingers to the

small pool of blood at his feet. He looked at the red liquid on his

fingertips, rubbing it casually with his thumb, smearing it evenly. He then

held it under his nose, sniffing delicately to get a sense of the life which it

once supported.

Watching him closely, Nicholas did the same. The smell was a bit

stale, not sweet like fresh blood. It had a distinct aroma that did not

please his senses. Once he was sure he had ingrained the scent into his

mind, he moved his fingers closer to his mouth to taste of the essence

therein. Before he was able to do so, he felt his wrist grabbed and

wretched away. He looked at LaCroix in surprise.

"Do not put that in your mouth," ordered LaCroix.

"I was just going to taste it," said Nicholas, confused at LaCroix'


"You know better than that," chastised LaCroix. "This is no


"Sorry," said Nicholas, as he rubbed his fingers against the

ground to remove the blood.

"Now that you have the victim's scent, see if you can find any

trace of another's," commanded LaCroix, as he moved about the area

looking for patches of blood.

Nicholas moved away from the body in a direction opposite of

LaCroix. He sniffed several blood trails, all those of the victim. Moving

further away, he spotted a patch far off to the side. Sniffing this, he

noticed it was different. "LaCroix, here. I found it," said Nicholas excitedly.

LaCroix grasped Nicholas' wrist and held his fingers to his nose,

sniffing the blood. Catching the scent, he replied, "very good, Nicholas.

You have done well. This most likely belongs to our killer."

Nicholas smiled. "What do we do now?" he asked impatiently.

LaCroix sniffed the blood again, then said, "engrain this into your

memory. Mark the scent, if you will. This, along with the vibration you

previously detected, will lead you to our quarry."

--- End Flashback ---

"We're going to be late," yelled Schanke. "Are we leaving or not?"

"We're going," replied Nick, shaking himself from his reverie.

"Okay, let's review this," said Schanke, pulling out the file on the

marina killings, while Nick concentrated on driving. The rain had started

to come down in earnest, obscuring their vision of the streets. "Can you

see okay? I can't see a thing," remarked Schanke, peering out of the


"I can see fine," replied Nick, using his enhanced vision to make

certain he stayed on the road and didn't hit anything.

Chalking it up to one more on the 'I don't want to know how you

do this' list, Schanke turned back to the file in his lap. "Let's see, where

were we... oh, yeah. Just over a year ago, Jason Kraft and Carol Ward

were found murdered on a yacht in the marina, owned by none other than

Jason Kraft. They both had been bludgeoned, and their throats cut. Lots

of blood, just like the Barnett's. Forensics reported that there was lamb's

blood found liberally spilled at the top of the ramp, completely covering it

as you stepped onto the boat. At the bow, there was a coil of rope, about

two feet in diameter, with small amounts of human and lamb's blood in

the center. Also, just like at the Barnett's, there were bloody footprints,

but no other evidence to link directly to a suspect. Apparently, Jason and

Carol were both married and carrying on an illicit affair. Carol's husband

Bob admitted that he suspected, thereby making him a suspect, but it

was dropped due to lack of evidence. The killer has never been found,

case still open," finished Schanke, closing the file as he said this last.

"You didn't see anything that would connect Carol Ward or Jason

Kraft to the Barnett's, did you?" asked Nick, already knowing that there

was nothing there.

"Nope, not a thing. They didn't live in the same neighborhoods,

work in the same part of the city, jobs weren't even closely related,

nothing, nada," said Schanke. "I don't know why we're even here, to tell

you the truth. What do you expect to find, anyway?"

"If I knew, we wouldn't be here," replied Nick, glancing irritatedly

at his partner.

"Look. That must be Bissett and Clarke," said Schanke, pointing

to a dark Buick parked next to the pier, as he and Nick pulled into the

parking lot of the Yacht Club. Nick maneuvered the Caddy alongside the


Schanke glared at him briefly, knowing that Nick purposely

parked to the left of the Buick, meaning he had to roll down his window

while his partner stayed nice and dry. Nick just shrugged in reply.

Schanke cranked down the window, as his counterpart did the same.

"You Bissett and Clarke?" he said, raising his voice to be heard

through the rain.

"Yeah, I'm Bissett, and this is my partner Clarke," he said,

indicating his passenger.

"I'm Schanke, this is Knight," he said. "Thanks for meeting us

down here."

"Our Captain told us you wanted to look at the yacht where the

double homicide occurred last year. That right?" he asked curiously.

"Yeah. We got a similar case. We think they may be related,"

explained Schanke.

"Let's go then," sighed Bissett, looking up at the rain as he

pushed his door open. Clarke stepped out of the passenger side, carrying

an umbrella. They moved over to the pier to wait for other two detectives.

Schanke rolled up the window, and wiped the water rivulets off

his face. Turning to his partner, he said, "you're not going to melt on me,

are you?"

Nick just glared at him, then opened his door and stepped into

the pouring rain, pulling the collar of his leather coat higher around his

neck. Schanke quickly joined him, pulling his own trenchcoat tighter

around him. They followed the other detectives down the pier, and then

up a ramp onto a yacht. Clarke produced a key, unlocking a door that led

into the main cabin.

Even though their coats were water resistant, Schanke and Nick

were drenched, while Bissett and Clarke were relatively dry, having had

the foresight to bring an umbrella. Schanke was mumbling about the

weather, while Nick ran his hands over his face, and through his hair,

shaking off the clinging water.

"Well, if it's any consolation, it was raining like this the night of the

murders," said Clarke.

"Really," said Nick, looking out the window at the water. "It's

pretty dark out here, you can hardly see."

"That's probably one of the reasons there weren't any

witnesses," replied Bissett.

"Is this where the boat was docked then?" asked Schanke.

"Yeah. It hasn't moved. Since the murders, no one has really

been on board. It's almost as we left it about a year ago. Mrs. Kraft hasn't

been able to bring herself to deal with it, although we released it months

ago," explained Bissett.

"Where were the bodies found?" asked Nick, looking around the


"Kraft was found here, in the living room. The woman was found

in the bedroom," answered Clarke.

Just as Nick was about to ask another question, Bissett

interrupted by saying, "before we play twenty questions, why don't you

guys tell us what you have. After all, this is still our case."

"While Schanke's filling you in, I'm going to look around," replied

Nick quickly, patting Schanke on the back as he moved off down the hall.

Schanke glared at him with a 'you better appreciate me' look on his face,

then turned back to the other detectives to start filling them in on the

Barnett case.

As Schanke started talking, Nick went back to the bedroom. He

stood there looking over the scene. He had carefully studied all the

pictures from the file and was able to easily envision where Carol Ward's

body had been found. He wandered around the room, trying to imagine

himself as the killer.

The coroner's office and forensics had already confirmed that

Jason Kraft had been killed first. That had occurred back in the living

room where they had first entered. The killer had then walked back here

in order to kill Carol Ward. She had probably thought it was Jason

returning, and that was how the killer got the drop on her. Not that she

probably had a chance anyway, but there had been no evidence of a

struggle, not by either of them. Just as with the Barnett's, the killer had

taken them both by complete surprise. But the question still remained...


Nick still didn't understand the significance of the lamb's blood or

the circle of rope. Many cults or sects used lamb's blood as a purification

against evil. He supposed a warped mind could assume that the couple

killed here were evil, afterall, they were having an adulterous affair. But

nothing they had discovered about the Barnett's tied into that theory.

Holy water. The thought just struck him. That was why his fingers

were burned at the Barnett's. Whatever made the circle in their backyard,

holy water was used. That would tie into a religious angle and support a

theory that the killer was expunging evil of a sort. But what did the

Barnett's do that a killer would consider evil? He headed back out into the

living area, where Schanke was finishing up with Bissett and Clarke.

"Find anything?" asked Bissett skeptically.

Nick just shook his head negatively. "Where was this circle of

rope found?"

"There," said Clarke, pointing out the window.

Nick walked over to the window and looked out. All he could see

was water. He headed for the door, obviously to take a closer look.

"Nick, you're going to catch your death out there," warned


Smiling ironically, Nick replied, "somehow, I don't think so. I'll be

right back."

The other three detectives stood in the living area and watched

as Nick stepped out into the rain. He circled the deck until he was

standing in the area indicated by Clarke.

After watching him stand there for a minute, Bissett asked, "how

long is he going to be out there?"

"When he says he'll be right back, that could be anyway from two

minutes to two hours," replied Schanke. "There's no way to know for


"You put up with this?" asked Clarke.

Schanke just shrugged.

"What's he looking for, anyway," asked Bissett.

"He thinks the only way to catch this guy, is to get into his head.

That's what he's doing," answered Schanke.

"Is he able to do that?" asked Clarke doubtfully.

Shrugging, Schanke replied, "I don't know. But I'll tell you, he's

come up with some amazing connections in the past. I don't know how he

does it, but these giant leaps of his are usually right on target."

"We've heard you guys are pretty good. That's the only reason

we agreed to meet you here tonight. Anyone else, we would've just blown

them off," explained Bissett.

"Any chance you're going to let us in on this?" asked Clarke, still

eyeing Knight through the window.

Following Clarke's gaze, Schanke replied, "depends on what my

partner there comes up with."

Meanwhile, Nick stood in the pouring rain gazing out over the

water. The deck swayed roughly under his feet, constantly threatening to

knock him down. There was nothing but darkness, wind, rain, and the

pounding of the water as it slapped against the yacht. He had to squint to

keep the driving rain out of his eyes, and finally closed them, letting the

elements assault him. Even with his enhanced senses, he could hear

nothing but the wind and rain.

Opening his eyes, there was nothing but darkness before him.

He was trying to determine what the killer had been doing out here. It

must all be part of some ritual performance. For some reason, even

though he couldn't quite make sense of it, the religious angle felt right. He

believed this killer was motivated by his perception of the forces of evil.

Whether he was serving them, or fighting them, was yet unclear. At this

point, in his theory, a case could be made either way.

Looking down at the deck, Nick knew the killer came out here

after the killings. It had been raining hard that night. The killer laid down a

coil of rope, possibly soaked or sprinkled with holy water, then stood

inside the circle. The rain would have washed the blood from the killers

body, causing it to pool at his feet. Forensics found human and lamb's

blood here, which meant the killer had already poured the lambs blood

upon the ramp. Nick suspected this was done before the killings. The

lamb's blood would act as a barrier to the evil; either keeping it out or

keeping it in.

The killer, standing in the circle, allowed the rain to wash the

blood from him. Was he cleansing himself of the evil? Or was he

wallowing in it, concentrating it's energies? Loud thunder sounded

overhead. Nick looked up into the sky, just as lightening lit up the backs

of the clouds. He had experienced enough of mother nature for one night.

He turned and headed back towards the cabin.

"Come up with anything?" asked Schanke, as Nick closed the

cabin door behind him. Bissett and Clarke were looking at him like he

was nuts, but Schanke looked like he actually expected some kind of

revelation of sorts.

"No," he answered, wiping the water from his face, and then

shaking it off his coat. He brushed his hair back with his hand, and looked

down at the floor. Water was running off of him and pooling at his feet.

Continuing to stare at the floor, he realized that this is what the killer saw

when he stood in the rain, only it was blood being washed off him by the

storm. It was a cleansing ritual. The killer would stand in the rain

afterwards, letting nature cleanse him of the blood from the victim's. The

lamb's blood was used for purification. The killer believed he was fighting


"Knight," called Schanke, demanding his attention.

"What?" he asked, finally looking up.

"Come on. We're leaving," said Schanke firmly. Then turning to

the other detectives, he held out his hand, shaking each of theirs in turn.

"Thanks, guys. We really appreciate the tour."

"No problem," said Bissett, turning to Nick, who held out his hand

to shake as well.

"You won't forget us if you come up with something, will you?"

asked Clarke, eyeing Nick speculatively as they shook hands.

Nick didn't answer. He politely pulled his hand away and stepped

to the door. Schanke jumped in and said, "we'll keep in touch. If we find

out anything, you guys will be the first to know."

Schanke and Nick exited the cabin and dashed for the Caddy,

leaving Bissett and Clarke still aboard. Settling into the car, they were

both soaking wet. "Jeez, Nick. This is no night to be out traipsing about

on yachts."

Nick just stared out the window, into the darkness, his mind

obviously elsewhere.

"Okay, what is it?" demanded Schanke.

"Nothing," replied Nick, dismissing him. He started the car and

backed out of the parking space. He turned the wheel and headed out of

the lot and onto the road. He headed north up Spadina. The clouds were

so low, that looking at the CN tower to their right, the top disappeared into

the fog.

"Where are we going now?" asked Schanke, feeling cold, wet

and slightly disgruntled.

"Back to the precinct."

"Great. It'll be nice to be somewhere warm and dry. You know,

Nick, it wouldn't kill you to get your heater fixed. It is freezing in this car,"

complained Schanke.

"It's not that bad. I'm not cold," replied Nick, grinning at his

fidgeting partner.

"You're the one that's going to end up coming down with

pneumonia. I hope you know that," responded Schanke.

"I'll take my chances," he replied, turning right on Richmond.

"Why are you turning here? I thought we were going to the

precinct," asked Schanke.

"We are, Skank. I just want to make a quick stop first," he said,

pulling into a parking spot along the curb. "Wait here. I'll be right back,"

he said, closing the door as he stepped to the sidewalk.

Cranking down his window, Schanke yelled after him, "I am not

sitting out here all night."

Nick just grinned, waved, and kept walking.




He paused just inside the doorway, shaking the loose water from

his coat. Even though it was quite late, the club was still very busy, but

Nick figured that was to be expected on a Friday night. He headed down

the ramp while looking over the rail for Janette. He didn't see her near the

bar, or in his quick scan of the throng of customers. He walked slowly

down the stairs, towards the bar. He pushed his way through the crowd

of people, and demanded the bartender's attention.

"Where's Janette?"

The bartender just shrugged, and asked, "what'll you have?"

"Who knows where she is?" he slightly shouted, trying to be

heard over the crowd and the music.

"She's here somewhere. If you wait long enough, I'm sure you'll

get a chance to see her. Do you want something to drink, yes or no?"

Irritated, Nick pushed himself away from the bar and headed

towards the backrooms. As he stepped in the back hallway, one of the

vampire security staff stopped him. "You can't come back here," he said,

sensing Nick as one of their kind, but not recognizing him.

"I'm looking for Janette," said Nick.

"And you are?" he asked in a bored tone.

Taking a deep breath, he composed a smile and replied,


"Go wait at the bar. I'll tell her you're here," ordered the man.

Nick was tired, wet and impatient. The bar was crowded and

noisy. "You will take me to her, now," he demanded.

"That's not the way it works around here," he answered warily.

He didn't know who this guy was, but just in case he was a friend of

Janette's, he didn't want to do anything that would upset her.

"It is tonight," said Nick, pushing past the man to go in search of

her himself. The vampire grabbed Nick by the arm to stop him. Nick spun

around, and before he knew what was happening, Nick had grabbed him

by the front of his shirt, lifted him off his feet and slammed him against

the wall. "That was not a good idea," snarled Nick, eyes glowing with a

golden fire.

"Nicolas," said Janette loudly, from just behind him. "Release


After a slight hesitation, Nick dropped the man and backed away

from him, still keeping his eyes firmly on the other's.

"Thank you, Carlos. That will be all," she said, dismissing him.

Carlos slowly backed away, eyeing Nick cautiously.

Taking Nick by the arm, she led him back out into the club. "Mon

cher, I would appreciate it if you would not terrorize my staff."

Starting to defend himself, he turned to her saying, "Janette, I

was not... okay, maybe I was." Seeing her smile humorously at him, he

continued, "I'll try to control myself in the future."

She led them over to an empty table, between the bar and the

dance floor. It had a reserved sign prominently placed on it, obviously her

private table. He sat in the chair next to the wall, and she sat beside him,

their knees touching. "What brings you back so soon? And why are you

so wet?"

Laughing, he leaned forward, brushing his lips lightly against

hers. "It's raining outside," he explained, indicating his current condition.

"And a lot has happened since I saw you last."

"Such as?" she inquired curiously.

"Well, for one thing, you were right. This murderer isn't one of

us," he admitted.

"You mean, you were right," she said firmly, then softening, "and

what else?"

He told her about the incident in the parking lot at the precinct,

and everything that had happened since then. He made certain not to

mention his memories of Florence, or of LaCroix. She hadn't asked him

why LaCroix had suddenly seemed to have left Toronto, and he didn't

want to tell her. He forced those thoughts from his mind, as he didn't want

her picking up on his emotions. He finished up by saying, "we're just on

our way back to the precinct, to call it a night."

"And who is we?" she asked.

Grinning, he answered, "my partner, Schanke. He's waiting in the


"I see," she replied, sounding disappointed. She had hoped he

was planning on staying. "So, you just stopped by to tell me that this

murderer is not one of us. That is the only reason?" she asked, implying

that she expected more.

"After my last visit, I thought you would want to know," he

explained, looking longingly at her. She was so beautiful, and if things

were different, he would like nothing better than to lose himself with her.

She recognized the look in his eyes, but it had been a long time.

They had not been together for over fifty years. Not since London, during

the war, and then they were only together because of the war. And that

had ended badly. After Daniel had been brought across, Nicolas left soon

after. He returned to France and had joined the Resistance. Then soon

after, LaCroix followed him. She had not seen either since. Not until this

year, anyway. She had heard Nicolas had moved to Toronto, but he had

been here three years before looking her up. And then, it was only

because LaCroix had arrived in town and Nicolas had wanted to locate

him. Now LaCroix had gone and Nicolas was still here. She did not know

what had happened between them, and using these past 100 years as a

guide, she was sure she did not want to know. Nicolas had only come to

see her a few times since LaCroix had come and gone, and obviously did

not want to talk about it. That was fine, as far as she was concerned.

There was too much discord and she did not like being in the middle

between them.

"Janette," he said, drawing her attention.

"Sorry, mon cher. I was lost in thought," she admitted, smiling at

him. She reached out with her hand, and caressed his cheek. He

reached up and grasped her hand, holding it against his face. Leaning

forward, she kissed him, and was surprised when he did not pull away.

He leaned into the kiss, opening his mouth against hers. He

gasped slightly, when he felt her tongue gently touch the roof of his

mouth and rub against his recessed canines. He was slowly losing

himself in his desire for her, when his attention was abruptly diverted.

"Knight!" shouted Schanke, slapping his hands on the table and

leaning forward to yell at his obviously engrossed partner.

Nick and Janette separated hurriedly, both turning to look at him

in surprise.

"Nicolas?" queried Janette, traces of irritation and humor in her


"I thought I told you to wait in the car," snapped Nick, surprised to

find Schanke hovering over him.

"And I told you I wasn't going to sit out there all night," retorted

Schanke. "But of course, I didn't know you were coming in here to play

kissy-face with the owner." Turning quickly to Janette, he politely added,

"no offense, Janette."

"Skank ...," said Nick irritatedly, but was cut off by Janette's

laughter. "What is so funny?" he said, turning to her.

"Nothing, mon cheri. Absolutely nothing," she said, still smiling,

stroking his cheek with her hand. She took her thumb and rubbed it

across his lips.

He pulled away saying, "what are you doing?"

"Lipstick," she said, showing him her thumb smeared with traces

of lipstick she had wiped from his lips.

"Oh," he replied, rubbing his hand over his mouth, removing the

last remnants from his mouth.

"If you don't mind, I'd like to get back to the precinct," said

Schanke sarcastically. "If you want to continue this, you can come back

on your own time."

Standing, Nick replied, "this isn't what you think."

Snorting, Schanke answered, "yeah, right. Can we go now?"

Glaring at Schanke, he turned back to Janette and said, "I'll see

you later." Taking her hand in his, he gently brushed his lips across the

back of her hand. Releasing her, he stepped around her chair and

followed Schanke across the dance floor and out into the night, glancing

back just before exiting.

Wistfully, she watched him leave, smiling secretly to herself, for

she knew he would be back soon. Now that he had finally made contact

with her again, he would not be able to stay away. And she wouldn't have

it any other way.

They walked in the precinct office together, Schanke loudly

complaining about Nick leaving him waiting in the car while he had been

entertaining himself in the nightclub. Nick was fuming, having listened to

Schanke all the way over in the car. He stormed through the reception

area, ignoring the stares of the others in the bullpen, as he headed for

their desks. He started grabbing folders and stuffing them in boxes.

Schanke finally reached their desks, and said, "what are you


Nick just glared at him without speaking.

"You have no right to be upset with me, and I have every right to

be upset with you," accused Schanke.

Grabbing another stack of folders, Nick shoved them into the box

on his desk.

"Will you stop?" demanded Schanke, indicating his partner's

packing efforts. "You are not taking those home with you this morning."

"And why is that?" demanded Nick.

"Because, you were up all day yesterday with them, and that's

not going to happen two days in a row," answered Schanke.

"You've decided that, have you?"

"Yeah, I've decided that."

Nick shoved another file in the box, then stopped to stare at

Schanke, who was staring right back. "I don't take orders from you," said

Nick, obviously very irritated.

"Look. I know the last couple days have been rough, and maybe,

just maybe, I shouldn't have gotten so upset," said Schanke, almost


Nick was staring at the top of his desk. "I didn't plan on being that

long," he admitted.

"Okay, then. That's it. Everything's fine, okay?" said Schanke,

looking at Nick to agree.

Looking up, Nick finally nodded and said, "yeah. Everything's


"Great. Now, leave that here," he said, pointing at the box of files,

"and let's book out of here."

"I might get a chance to look through these today."

"Forget it. There's plenty of time tonight. You, partner, need to

get some sleep today. No more burning the noontime oil," advised


Sighing, Nick agreed that Schanke was right. He was tired. That

was what had lowered his defenses with Janette. If Schanke hadn't come

into the club when he did, he might not have been able to pull himself

away, and he really wasn't ready to get involved with Janette anew. At

least, not yet anyway. He needed more time.

"You're right. Let's get out of here," said Nick, turning to follow

Schanke out.

The killer sat in his car, watching as the two detectives left the

precinct. He had contemplated following the blond one, to see where he

lived, but the more he considered the idea, the worse it seemed. The

streets weren't nearly crowded enough this time of morning, and he was

sure to be spotted, especially by this one.

He was still angered by the events in the parking lot the other

night. That detective should not have known he was there, and he was

upset with himself for having missed when he shot at him. That was twice

he had tried to kill him and missed. Well, like they say, the third time's the

charm. This next time will need to be better planned.

In the meantime, he had firmly decided to move up his timetable.

His next victim had already been chosen, and he just needed to wait for a

suitable night. Perhaps tonight. He would need to check the weather

report, but he would be ready.

Nick woke up early, having slept fitfully. After having not slept

well, or much, the last few days, he had fallen into a sound sleep as soon

as he had gone to bed this morning. He got up feeling better than he had

in a while.

Having showered, shaved and dressed, he headed downstairs.

He turned on the television to catch the local news and was just going

down to get his paper and mail, when he heard the elevator start

descending. He waited for it to come back up, and was pleasantly

surprised when Natalie emerged.

"Hey, Nat," he said, smiling as he greeted her.

"Here," she said, returning his smile and handing him the large

bag she was carrying. "Take this into the kitchen."

He took the bag from her, and carried it over and set it on the

counter. "What's this?" he asked, peering inside.

Having dropped her coat over the back of a chair, she walked

into the kitchen and nudged him aside. She reached in the bag and

started pulling out containers. "Protein shakes for you," she said, smiling

at his practiced expression, "and muffins for me."

"You shouldn't have," he said sarcastically.

"Oh, but I must," she said humorously. She opened the

refrigerator and took out the partially empty container inside. Holding it

up, she asked, "did you actually drink this?"

"Of course," he replied innocently.

"Did you like it?"

"Are those the same thing?" he asked, indicating the ones she

was now placing on the shelf.

"I tried something a little different with these," she offered.

"Good," he said, then turned and walked into the living area.

"Nick," hollered Natalie from the kitchen. "Why do you have a

casserole in your refrigerator?"

"Myra sent it over with Schanke," he explained.

"And what's the milk for?"

"You pour it on cereal."

"Nick," she said, feigning exasperation.

"It's from the other day, when Schanke and Sally were here," he

said amused.

"Oh, yeah. I forgot about that," she replied, joining him in front of

the television. "So, what's on?"

"The news. They're still talking about the Barnett killings."

"Have you guys come up with anything yet?" she asked, as she

turned to look at him. Although he hadn't told her, she had heard about

the two attempts on him. The one at the burger joint was reported on the

news, but no connection to the Barnett case had been made by the

media. And the one near the precinct hadn't been picked up yet, but she

had heard about it from some other detectives.

"We came across a couple of old unsolveds that look like they're

by the same guy. Skank and I are running them down now," he said.

"You think this is a serial killer? How sure are you about those

other cases?" she asked surprised.

"I'm sure," he replied. "The information should have been sent to

your office this morning. Schanke and I have one old crime scene to

check out tonight, then we'll probably be by to see what you have."

She nodded in acknowledgment. "So, anything else I should

know about?" she asked, her tone indicating that she expected there was

still something for him to tell her.

He just stared at her, not sure what she expected him to say. The

weather report came over the television, and he turned his attention to

the reporter.

"Nick," she said, drawing his attention back to her. "Do you want

to tell me why someone is trying to kill you?" At his look, she added, "I

heard about the shootings."

"It's the Barnett's killer. He followed me the night I found Sally,

and then the next night he was watching us in the precinct parking lot.

When I took off after him, he shot at me," he explained calmly.

Frustrated at his seeming nonchalance, Natalie retorted, "you

know, it's not really a good thing if you get shot."

"Nat, it's not like he can really hurt me," he replied reasonably.

"Not permanently, no, but he could get lucky. If he were to hit a

vital organ, you'd be out of commission for a short while. And if anyone

happens to be around, then what are you going to do when you

miraculously wake up?" she asked.

"I'll be careful," he answered. At her skeptical look, he added, "I


"Okay, fine. I suppose you know best," she commented dryly.

Walking back to the kitchen, Natalie returned carrying a plate

with her muffins, and a tall glass that she set down on the coffee table in

front of Nick, then joined him on the couch.

"You want me to drink that now?" he asked tentatively.

"No time like the present," she replied, taking a bite of her own


He picked up the glass and took a whiff of the contents. It didn't

smell very appetizing, but since Natalie was watching him expectantly, he

took a deep breath, then swallowed a large mouthful. It tasted worse than

it smelled. He managed a second swallow, just as his stomach began to

immediately rebel at the onslaught. He placed the remainder back on the

table, and then rising, he walked rapidly into the kitchen.

"That's it?" she asked, turning to see what he was doing.

He grabbed a glass from the cupboard, filled it with water and

rinsed out his mouth. After setting the glass in the sink, he returned to the

couch where Natalie was eyeing him with dissatisfaction. "Sorry, Nat," he

said, one hand over his stomach as he sat back on the couch, "but that

was pretty bad."

"Fine, I'll try something else," she replied, tight-lipped.

"Don't be mad," he said, trying to appease her. "I did at least try

it, which is more than I could have done a few months ago."

Nodding her head in agreement, she said, "that's true. At least

we're making some progress. I just expected this to be a little easier,

that's all."

Sounding slightly astonished, he replied, "you thought curing

vampirism would be easier?"

"No, that's not what I was referring to," she said, somewhat

annoyed. "I meant finding a food substitute. If we can just find something

that you can get past the 'gag reflex', it will be a lot easier to start working

on a cure."

"I thought these were the cure?"

"Just the first part," she explained. "I'm convinced that it's the

blood that keeps you a vampire, but it's also your only source of nutrition,

and we can't just cut off your food supply. You'll starve, like what nearly

happened a few months ago when LaCroix hit town. Remember?"

"Yeah, I remember," he said solemnly, then stood and walked

over to the windows.

Sensing that the mood had definitely taken a turn, she stood and

walked to stand next to him. He turned his face away and stared out into

the night.

"What is it?" she asked. When he gave no sign that he intended

to answer, she continued, "Nick, talk to me. There's something else going

on here, isn't there?" He glanced at her briefly, then sighed and went

back to staring out the window. "Come on, Nick, out with it. I sensed there

was something else bothering you before, at the morgue, and you

managed to dodge me then, but not now, so talk."

Taking a deep breath, he resigned himself and said, "it's


She hadn't expected that. Softening her stance, she said, "he's

dead, right?" At Nick's nod, she continued, "he can't hurt you any more.

He's out of your life, forever."

Hanging his head, he replied, "it's not that simple."

"Of course it's that simple," she replied firmly. "He's dead. He's

not coming back. You killed him yourself, right here," she said, pointing to

the scorch mark on the elevator door.

"You don't need to remind me. I know what I did," he replied


"Then what's this all about?" she asked, surprised at his


Calming down, he wearily turned and walked over to the large

leather chair. Dropping down in it, he leaned forward and rested his face

in his hands. Natalie followed him and sat on the couch near him.

Looking up, he saw that she was patiently waiting for an answer. "I can't

quit thinking about him," he admitted.

"That's not really unusual, Nick. Even for a mortal, it hasn't been

all that long since it happened. You just have to keep reminding yourself

that it's for the best," she said comfortingly.

"Is it?" he asked. His thoughts kept bouncing back and forth on

this. There were times when he was elated, and there were just as many

times he was despondent.

"Nick, how can you ask that?" she said shocked. "He was a

monster. You yourself told me of all the horrible things he did to you."

"I didn't tell you everything," he said.

"You told me enough," she replied heatedly. "He was a cruel,

sadistic monster."

"Not always," he admitted to her, and to himself.

"How can you say that? After everything you've told me, how can

you even think that?" she asked, astonished at his seeming remorse.

Looking up at her, he answered, "things were really pretty good

between us for a long time. It was only this past century that we began to

have problems. And even then, not always."

"Ever since you stopped killing, and started looking for a cure.

You told me that he would never allow you to find a cure. That he would

do anything to stop you, even if it meant killing you himself. Didn't you tell

me this?" she asked.

Nodding in agreement, he said, "yes. It's just that sometimes,

some of the better memories surface, and then I'm not sure."

"So, tell me. If he were still alive, where would he be right now?

What would he be doing?" Nick just looked at her strangely. "Come on,

Nick. If you're having any doubts as to whether you're glad he's dead,

then think of how things would be if he weren't. Which is better?" she


After a few moments of thought, he was feeling relieved. "You're

right. I can't let old memories haunt me. I'm just having some trouble

dealing with this, but I'll be okay," he said.

"Of course you will. Just give yourself some time. It'll get better,

you'll see," she said encouragingly. Seeing his mood lighten a bit, she

continued, "let's talk about something else." Natalie managed to distract

him in other conversation until it was time they both left for work.

Heading down in the elevator together, Nick said, "I'll probably

see you later tonight. I think Schanke and I plan to drop by when we get

back from Brampton."

"What's in Brampton?" she asked.

"That's where our first victim was killed," he answered.

The elevator came to a halt and Nick walked Natalie outside to

her car. On the way in he picked up his mail and paper. Not seeing

anything of interest, he placed them on the rail near the elevator. He'd

take them upstairs when he returned home later. Climbing into the

Caddy, he backed out of the garage and headed to the precinct.




As Nick crossed the parking lot, going from his car to the

entrance of the precinct, he noticed movement out of the corner of his

eye. Turning, he saw a man walking quickly to intercept him. The man

was carrying a microphone, and a cameraman was walking hurriedly

behind him, trying to keep pace.

"Detective Knight, may I have a word with you?" shouted the

man, as he closed the gap. Nick recognized him as the reporter from the

local news channel, Steve Tate. He was the one who was reporting on

the Barnett killing.

"I have nothing to say," answered Nick, changing his course to

avoid the reporter.

"Just a couple questions," said Tate, reaching the bottom of the

stairs first, blocking Nick's path.

Nick started to glare at the reporter in annoyance, but noticed the

camera was on. Keeping his expression neutral, he replied, "sorry. I'm in

a hurry."

"I won't take up much of your time, Detective. Do you have any

leads on who killed the Barnett's?" Tate asked, pointing the microphone

in Nick's direction to pick up his reply.

"I'm sure you'll be informed as soon as we make an arrest,"

answered Nick. "If you'll excuse me," he added, moving to walk past the


Tate stepped in front of Nick, and asked, "is it true you think the

same person is responsible for the marina killings last year?"

Nick stared at him for a moment, then firmly replied, "no

comment." He started to make his way past again, when Tate backed up

a couple of steps to remain in front of him.

"Is it true, Detective, that you were involved in a shoot-out with

the killer the other night and he managed to get away?" asked Tate more


"I said no comment. Now get out of my way," answered Nick

strongly, forcing his way past the reporter and into the precinct.

As the door closed behind him, he could hear the reporter talking

into his microphone, "and there you have it. That was Detective Nicholas

Knight, lead investigator on the case, here at the 27th precinct..."

"Hey, partner, how're you doing?" asked Schanke, as Nick

reached his desk.

"Just great," answered Nick, removing his coat and hanging it on

the rack. He had barely sat down, when Stonetree came out of his office.

"Knight, Schanke. In my office," he shouted, storming back

inside, obviously not in a pleasant mood.

Nick and Schanke eyed each other warily, then rose from their

desks and walked the short distance to Stonetree's office. Entering, Nick

sat in one of the chairs facing their Captain's desk, while Schanke closed

the door before doing the same.

"What's up, Captain?" asked Schanke.

"I just got off the phone with the Commissioner's office. He wants

to know what the hell is going on? He has reporters calling him and

asking about a serial killer. One who's also taking potshots at the

investigating detectives. Now, gentlemen, just what am I suppose to tell

him?" roared Stonetree.

"Gee, I don't know, Captain," replied Schanke nervously.

"You don't know," said Stonetree calmly, looking first at Schanke,

then at Knight. "You don't know," he repeated, his voice rising. "That's

just great. You two are suppose to be solving this case, and you don't


Frustrated, Schanke exclaimed, "we have no motive, no

fingerprints, clues that don't mean anything yet, and a couple of old cases

that might be the same guy. This is going to take us some time to put


Turning to Knight, who had been silent up to now, Stonetree

asked, "what is your plan? What are you doing to catch this guy?"

After a slight hesitation, Nick answered, "we're reviewing the past

case histories. Hopefully we'll be able to detect a connection between the

victims that will lead us to the killer."

"That doesn't sound very encouraging, Detective," challenged

Stonetree. "What else?"

"We're going to check out the first crime scene tonight. On our

way back, we'll stop by the morgue and see what Natalie and forensics

have. We sent over the files yesterday, so they should have the

information on the possible link between the prior killings and the

Barnett's. By the time we return here, we hope that most of the

reinterviews will be done and we can go through those," replied Nick.

"And you expect then that you'll have a line on this killer?" asked

Stonetree skeptically.

Nick just stared at Stonetree, so Schanke asked, "what else

would you have us do?"

Stonetree just shook his head and glanced down at his desk. He

knew they were doing the best they could, and there was nobody else

that could do any better. These cases just took time. "Okay, gentlemen,

just keep me informed of your progress," he ordered, as he looked at the

two of them, effectively dismissing them.

Nick stood first, opened the door and headed back for his desk.

Schanke paused in the doorway to say, "yes, sir. We'll keep you up to

date." Pulling the door closed behind him, he returned to his desk. Nick

was putting his coat on.

"Let's go," said Nick. He called dispatch and checked them out.

By the time he hung up, Schanke was ready to go. They walked out the

door, headed for Brampton to check out the scene of the first murder.

The killer was sitting on the couch in his apartment, making

preparations for his next victim. His television was tuned to the current

news program. He was waiting to hear the weather for tonight, although

he had already determined conditions were not quite right. There was a

storm on the way, but it would not be here for another day or two. He had

already decided to move up his timetable, so he wanted to be ready. That

blond detective made him nervous. There was something about him that

just wasn't right. He couldn't quite put his finger on it, but he felt it

nonetheless. He was an unanticipated problem, but nothing that couldn't

be dealt with.

The killer's attention was suddenly captured by the story on the

television. The broadcaster had been talking about the Barnett killings.

That, in itself, was of no interest to the killer, but there was a reporter on

the steps of the precinct building, trying to interview that blond detective.

That <was> of interest. His eyes were riveted on the screen, devouring

each word, each movement, each nuance. He watched, captivated as the

blond detective replied, "I said no comment. Now get out of my way," then

pushed his way past the reporter and disappeared inside the precinct.

The reporter continued, "and there you have it. That was Detective

Nicholas Knight, lead investigator on the case, here at the 27th precinct.

Although there allegedly has been contact with the killer, the police are

no closer to making an arrest and the investigation is ongoing. We will

keep you informed of any new developments. This is Steve Tate

reporting from the 27th precinct."

'Detective Nicholas Knight, of the 27th precinct. Now I know who

you are, but you still don't know me. But you did figure out I did the

marina killings, that is not good. Who else, and what else does he

<know>. No, no, no. This is not good, not good at all'.

After a few minutes of contemplation, an idea sprang to mind.

'This could be fun', thought the killer gleefully. Grabbing his phonebook,

he looked up the number for the 27th precinct. He almost picked up his

phone and called, then at the last minute stopped himself. This was the

police department, and they could be tracing these calls. He was smarter

than that. He wasn't about to make a stupid mistake and have them stop

him before he was finished. And there was no doubt in his mind, they did

want to stop him. Especially that Detective Knight. He put on his coat,

picked up his car keys, and headed out into the night.

Schanke was sitting comfortably in the passenger seat, more

than content to have Nick driving. They had just passed onto Queen

Elizabeth Way on their way to Brampton. He was busy reading the

newspaper, and reading aloud the articles he found interesting to his

silent partner.

"Hey, look at this. A tiger from a circus got loose. You like the

circus, don't you? I've seen that poster you have on your wall," inquired

Schanke casually.

"Yeah, sure," commented Nick distractedly.

"It killed two people before they could recapture it, and in the

process they killed it. That's awful," he related sadly.

"It's always awful when people get killed," replied Nick.

"Well, yeah, that's true. But I was actually talking about the tiger.

It's too bad that they killed it," explained Schanke.

"How can you feel sorry for the tiger? It killed people. They say

once a tiger has a taste for human blood, it will always want more," said

Nick, thinking of how those same words related to him. A quick memory

of the taste washed deliciously through his mind, and he quickly forced it


"It wasn't the tiger's fault. That's their nature. You can't blame

them for that," replied Schanke.

"Legend says that a tiger that kills man, is possessed by an evil

spirit, therefore becoming evil itself. The only way to stop the evil is to kill

the tiger, otherwise the evil will continue to grow and consume all in its'

path," related Nick solemnly.

"Get real, Knight," exclaimed Schanke sarcastically. "You say

that like you believe it."

"What's not to believe?" asked Nick.

Folding the paper in his lap, Schanke turned and looked at his

partner. "First of all, just because a predator kills, that does not make it

evil. They kill to survive, to eat. That's what they do. There's nothing evil

about it. It happens in nature everywhere you look," he said. "Heck, even

we're predators."

"How about when they start killing, just because they like to kill?"

debated Nick.

"So, now we're not talking about tigers any more. Now we're

talking about our sociopath. And that, partner, is a whole different story.

And even then, when we catch him, nobody's going to kill him. They'll just

lock him up for the rest of his life. If society doesn't kill those who kill

others for pleasure, why should we punish predators, who by their very

nature, must kill to live?" philosophized Schanke.

Surprised, Nick turned to take a quick look at his partner, not

really sure what to make of his statements. Schanke had turned back to

the paper, having it spread out before him once more. If he only knew

that a real live vampire was sitting in the seat next to him, remembering

the thrill of drinking hot, fresh human blood, he'd probably have different

thoughts on the subject. Nick forced his eyes back to the road and

mentally shook himself. "Let's talk about something else," he said, forcing

himself to concentrate on the road and his driving.

"Sure thing," replied Schanke, noticing that their recent

conversation seemed to push Nick deeper into one of his darkening

moods, which was the exact opposite of what he had been trying to do.

Turning to the sports section, he asked, "how do you think the Leafs are

going to do tonight?"

The killer pulled his coat around himself as he stepped out of his

car. He rounded the hood and stepped on to the sidewalk, and then

walked the half block to the pay phone. He dialed the number for the 27th

precinct and when the phone was answered, he asked for Detective

Knight. His call was transferred, and a woman answered the phone.

"Homicide, may I help you?"

"I'm looking for Detective Knight," said the killer politely.

"He's not in at the moment. Can one of the other detectives help

you, or I can take a message?" she offered.

"When do you expect him back?" he asked, a thought taking form

in his mind.

"Not for sometime yet, but I can get a message to him."

"I'll try again later," he said, hanging up quickly. He was only a

few blocks from the precinct, and he started walking in that direction.

Schanke spotted the house they were looking for, and Nick

pulled the Caddy into the driveway. Another car was already parked

there, with a woman sitting inside. She stepped out of her car to greet


"Hello, I'm Diane Graham, with the realty company. Call me

Diane," she said pleasantly.

"I'm Detective Schanke, and this is my partner Detective Knight.

We appreciate you meeting us here like this," he said.

"I was surprised when my office got your call. It's been three

years since the murder took place, and I wasn't aware that the police

were still investigating," she replied.

"Yeah, well, we never close the books on unsolved cases, and

we recently got some new information. That's why my partner and I

wanted to take a look at the scene," explained Schanke.

"Well, I don't know what you're going to find in the way of

evidence. All traces of the incident have been cleaned up and painted

over," she said. "However, as you can see, the house is still on the

market. When people find out about that awful murder that happened

here, they lose all interest in purchasing the property."

While Schanke had been talking with the realtor, Nick had walked

around the house. Everything seemed quiet and normal. He found the

spot in the backyard where the rope circle had been found, with the blood

evidence, and as expected, there were no lingering traces. He had bent

down and touched the grass, as he had at the Barnett's, and nothing. Of

course, any traces of holy water would have washed away long ago, so

he wasn't surprised.

Coming back around to the driveway, he walked up to his partner

and Diane and politely asked, "may we go inside?"

"Of course," she said, and headed for the front door, the two

detectives trailing behind her.

As they walked through the unfurnished house, they noticed that

the floors were clean and the walls were all nicely painted. As Diane had

said, there was no visible trace of the murder. They were in the den

where the body had been found, where Schanke was going through the

pictures taken at the crime scene. They showed the position of the body,

and were a stark contrast to the immaculate present.

Nick was wandering around the room, his preternatural senses

on full alert, but was picking up nothing. This had been a long shot at

best, so he wasn't really disappointed that nothing turned up. It looked

like this had been a wasted trip.

"Hey, Knight. Come look at this," said Schanke, sounding like he

had something. Nick walked over to his partner, who was standing in

front of the fireplace holding a picture out in front of him. "What do you

make of this?" asked Schanke, handing Nick the photo.

Nick took the picture and held it out at arm's length, orienting

himself. The picture was of the window and wall. Not standing in the

room, you wouldn't notice that the edge of the photo aligned with the

fireplace. This was only significant, because in the photo, there looked to

be a design on the wall. But standing in the room, looking at the wall, and

visualizing the design, it didn't make sense that it was part of the decor.

"Do you have a bigger shot of this?" asked Nick.

"Yeah, hang on," replied Schanke, sorting through the photos. He

finally pulled one out, and after a brief glance, handed it to Nick.

In this photograph, all by itself, was the design. It turned out to be

a phrase, painted on the wall. It was very neatly done, and almost looked

like it could belong. It said 'in orbem consistere'.

"To form a circle," said Nick absently, looking intently at the

photo. He noticed that the window overlooked the spot where the rope

circle had been found. You couldn't see the spot unless you walked right

up to the window, but he knew that was where it had been.

"What did you say?" asked Schanke confused.

"In orbem consistere. It's Latin meaning 'to form a circle'," he


"How do you know Latin?" inquired Schanke, skeptical at his

partner's translation.

"Just something I've picked up," he replied, staring blankly at the


--- Start flashback ---

Florence, late 13th c.

"I see no reason for further lessons," declared Nicholas.

"You are hardly proficient, and until such time as you are, you will

continue your studies," stated LaCroix.

"I do not know why you insist on all these tutors. And besides, my

Latin is sufficient," he further avowed.

"Really?" inquired LaCroix skeptically.

"Yes," insisted Nicholas.

LaCroix immediately launched into a long discourse, all in Latin.

Nicholas stared at him blankly, understanding only half of what

was being said.

Feeling justified with his demands, LaCroix said, "obviously you

require further instruction. I have obtained the services of another tutor.

He will be here in the morning."

Nicholas glowered, disgruntled. "I do not wish to have my

mornings taken up with tutors."

"I can always arrange for them in the early evenings, if you

prefer," suggested LaCroix amicably, knowing his son most definitely

would not want his evenings occupied in such a manner.

Seeing that he was not going to get his way, Nicholas reluctantly

replied with a sigh, "mornings will be fine."

"One last thing to remember," said LaCroix. As Nicholas looked

at him expectantly, he continued, "they are not breakfast. You will not

dispose of this new tutor, as you did the last. Is that clear?"

"He insulted me," replied Nicholas, defending his earlier actions.

"Nicholas," said LaCroix warningly.

"As you wish," promised Nicholas grudgingly.

--- End Flashback ---

"Nick!" shouted Schanke.

"What?" replied Nick, turning quickly to look at his partner.

Schanke shook his head and mumbled under his breath to

Diane, "see what I have to put up with."

Annoyed, Nick flipped the photo back to Schanke and said, "let's

go." He then headed for the front door.

Schanke hustled to collect all the photos back in the file, then

followed Nick and Diane back outside.

Once they had reached the driveway, Nick turned to Diane and

said, "thank you for meeting us and showing the house."

"It was my pleasure, detectives. If there is anything else I can do,

please call me," she replied, handing Nick her business card. He put it in

his pocket and got into the Caddy, leaving Schanke to say his own good-

byes and join him.

They waited until the realtor was in her car and drove off, before

Nick backed the Caddy into the street and headed back towards Toronto.

The killer walked up the steps and into the precinct. He pulled

down the bill of his baseball cap to shade his eyes, tugged the collar of

his coat tighter around him, and then finally made sure his gloves were

on securely. He went to the desk sergeant and asked for Detective

Knight, and was directed to homicide. When he entered the department,

he stopped at the administration desk to his right.

"May I help you?" asked the woman behind the desk.

"Yes. I am looking for Detective Nicholas Knight. Is he here?" he

asked, keeping his head down and not making eye contact.

"I'm sorry. He and his partner are out right now. Can someone

else help you?" she asked, indicating any of the other detectives that

were seated at their desks.

"No, I really need to talk with Detective Knight. When do you

expect him back?" he inquired politely, keeping his eyes downcast.

"I'm afraid he won't be back for sometime," she replied. "Would

you like to wait, or leave him a message? I can get it to him right away."

"No, that's okay. It's not really urgent. Can I just leave him a


"Of course," she replied, handing him paper and pen.

He scooted down to the end of the counter and wrote a quick

note. After folding it in thirds, he asked, "do you have an envelope?" She

handed him one, and he sealed the note inside. On the outside of the

envelope he wrote, 'Detective Nicholas Knight'. Handing the woman

behind the counter the envelope, he asked, "will you see that he gets this

as soon as he gets back?"

Taking the envelope, she replied, "yes. I'll give it to him as soon

as he returns." She then placed it in a slot under the counter.

The killer turned, and slowly made his way out of the department,

and out of the precinct. By the time he reached the street, he was smiling

broadly to himself.




"Oh, Natalie. Come out, come out, wherever you are," shouted

Schanke playfully, as he walked into the morgue, Nick close behind him.

Grace had said she was in here, but he didn't see her.

"Here she comes," said Nick, as he saw her enter from the room

where the bodies were stored.

"Hi, guys," she replied, making sure the door was firmly shut

before crossing the room to join them. "So, how was Brampton?"

"Total waste of time," responded Schanke, exasperation

sounding in his voice.

"I wouldn't say that," rebutted Nick mildly.

"You wouldn't?" inquired Nat.

"And what made it worthwhile?" asked Schanke. Nick pulled the

picture from his pocket and waved it at Schanke, who merely rolled his

eyes. "We already knew that."

Natalie took the picture from Nick's hand and looked at it

curiously. "What is this?"

"It's a Latin phrase the killer must have printed on the wall. It

means 'to form a circle'," explained Nick.

"Yeah, I know what it means," replied Natalie. Seeing Nick look at

her somewhat surprised, she continued, "you're not the only one who

knows Latin. We, meaning doctors, do Latin too, you know." She grinned

at having caught him slightly off guard.

Smiling, he snatched the photo back and replied, "yeah. I knew


"Yeah, right," replied Schanke. "Now, if you two scholars are

quite through, would one of you like to explain just what it's suppose to

mean?" He looked back and forth at each of them, neither one offering an


Finally, Nick replied, "I don't know, Skank. But it's got to tie in

somehow. Maybe if we put it together with what else we have, it'll make

some sense."

"And just what else do we have, Natalie?" asked Schanke, as

both detectives turned to look at their favorite medical examiner.

Moving over to her desk, she picked up a file. "Well, while you

two boys were out taking a joyride this evening, I was reviewing these

files you sent over yesterday. I pulled up the results from the autopsies

and made some comparisons."

"Did you find anything?" asked Nick eagerly.

"Okay, to recap, here's what we know," she started, switching to

her professional lecturing mode. "Between the three crime scenes,

spread over three years, there are five bodies. One body at the first, two

at the second, and two at the third."

"But if you take into account that he was planning on killing Sally,

then that would be three at the third. You think he's using the body count

to tally his murders?" asked Schanke disgustedly.

"I don't know. That doesn't really make sense, and would be hard

to maintain if he were to keep going," replied Nick.

"Are you two through? May I go on?" asked an amused Natalie.

At their chagrined expressions, she continued, "they were all killed by

having their throats cut with a large, sharp knife. My guess would be a

hunting knife. And while I can't say with absolute certainty, since

nobody's found the murder weapon, it's probably the same knife.

Preceding this, each of the victims had been hit with a large blunt object,

most likely rendering them unconscious first. It looks to me like it could

very well be the same killer. You guys did a good job putting this


"Well, that's what they pay us for, right, partner?" said Schanke,

slapping Nick on the back.

"Yeah," his partner replied, glancing at him before turning back to

Natalie. "What about forensics?"

Picking up a larger folder, she answered, "your first victim,

Professor Johann Freid, was a physicist at University College. No DNA

evidence from the killer was found at the scene. There was lamb's blood

painted on the door frame of his house, and traces of it and the

professor's blood were found pooled in the center of a rope coil in his

backyard. And you have that," she said, pointing at the picture Nick still

held in his hand.

"Practically the same as the other two scenes; only on the yacht,

the ramp entrance was covered with lamb's blood, instead of a doorway,"

said Schanke. "And the doorways at the Barnett's were covered with

blood. What is with that anyway?"

"Some believe that placing lamb's blood on the door assures

them of God's forbearance," explained Nick.

"You think that's what this guy is doing?!? Telling us that it's okay

that he kills these people? That is just sick," proclaimed Schanke.

"Just a thought," replied Nick. Turning to Natalie he asked, "what


"The rope. I pulled the fiber samples from all three scenes, and

they match. It appears to be from the same coil. And again, at the first

scene, the circle of rope was made with one coil, two coils at the second

scene, and then three coils at the last scene," she reported.

"Great. One, two, three, again. It must mean something," said

Schanke thoughtfully.

"The rope coils tie into something Sally Barnett said to me,

remember, Skank. She said she heard the killer say 'I have passed

through the third circle and am sending you onward to hell to announce

my coming'. Sounds like these coils represent some kind of circle, a

passageway or something," theorized Nick.

"Forensics evidence indicates, that after his victims were killed,

he went outside, created these circles, then stood in the center in the

pouring rain. That would account for the lamb's blood and the victim's

blood, all pooling in the center of the circles," said Natalie, as she closed

the folder and set it back on her desk.

"Sally also told me that she saw him drinking the lamb's blood,"

said Nick.

"Yuck! That is so disgusting. Who in the world would want to

drink blood? Especially animal blood," exclaimed Schanke.

"So, non-animal blood would be better?" asked Nick, amused

and mildly disconcerted. He turned to Natalie, slightly startled, when she

whacked him on the arm.

"It's not necessary. There's got to be plenty of other options out

there," replied Schanke, giving a little shudder.

"There are," stated Natalie firmly, looking at Nick.

"It's all a cleansing ritual," said Nick, turning away from her glare

and focusing back on the killer.

"You think this is some kind of religious thing to this guy?" asked


"Starting to sound that way," replied Nick. Turning to Natalie, he

asked, "did forensics detect anything on the rope?"

"Like what?" she asked suspiciously.

Shrugging, he replied, "I don't know. Chemicals, or holy water,

maybe?" He looked down and inspected his fingers. There was no

physical sign where he had burned them, but he remembered the


Lifting his head, his eyes met Natalie's. She stared knowingly at

him, and answered, "no chemicals, and it was soaked with water.

Presumably from the rain."

"Okay, okay. Enough about the rope. Assuming this all means

something, it sounds like the first murder, was the first murder," stated

Schanke. At Nick and Nat's questioning look, he added, "that phrase 'to

form a circle'. You only do that the first time, right? If you've already got a

circle going, then you don't need to form one. That's why it was only

found at the first scene."

Smiling, Natalie replied, "very good, Detective."

"Yeah, makes sense to me," added Nick.

"The question still remains, now that we know all this, how does it

help us catch this guy?" inquired Schanke.

"Well, assuming we're guessing right, knowing his motivation can

only help," said Nick.

"Yeah, help how?" demanded Schanke.

"I don't know yet," replied Nick wearily.

"Well, when you boys figure it out, be sure to let me know, okay?"

she said, walking over to her lab table.

"Ooh, I think we've been dismissed, partner," said Schanke


"Yeah, well, Captain Stonetree is waiting for us. We better go

give him an update," said Nick, as he started to follow Schanke out the


"Nick?" he heard Natalie quietly call to him.

"Skank, I'll meet you out at the car in a minute, okay?" asked


"Sure," whispered Schanke, glancing back at Natalie. "Just make

sure it's not a repeat of last night. I don't want to have to drag you out of

here, too."

"It's nothing like that," hissed Nick, slightly annoyed. Schanke

threw him a knowing look, then headed down the hall. Nick turned back

to Natalie and waited to hear why she called him back.

Walking up to him, she quietly said, "is there something I should


"Like what?"

"Drinking blood. Holy water. What's that about?"

"Sally saw the killer drinking blood, and I burned my fingers on

the ground where the rope had been laying at the Barnett's. I'm guessing

it was soaked in holy water," explained Nick, trying to allay her


"Let me be blunt. Do you think this killer is a vampire?" she asked


"No," he answered firmly.

"Are you sure?"

"Yes, I'm positive. This killer may be a bit uncanny, but he's

definitely not one of us."

"He's tried to kill you twice already," she said worriedly.

"Another vampire wouldn't use a gun. It can't kill me," he assured


"No," she agreed, "but it could incapacitate you long enough for

something else to kill you."

"That's not going to happen."

"You just be careful," she ordered.

"Nat," he said, humoring her, "there's nothing to worry about."

"Famous last words," she retorted.

He frowned at her comment, then shaking his head, turned to

leave. As he exited the door, he heard her shout to him again, "be


As soon as they walked in the door of the precinct, the desk

sergeant told them that Stonetree wanted to see them ASAP. After

checking in, Nick and Schanke made a beeline for Stonetree's office.

"Hey, Cap. We just got back," said Schanke, poking his head into

the office.

"Where's your partner?" inquired Stonetree gruffly.

"I'm right here," replied Knight, crowding in behind Schanke.

"Well, both of you. Get in here and shut the door," the Captain

ordered. Stonetree leaned back in his chair and waited for the detectives

to get seated. Once they were settled, he asked, "so. What did you find


They spent the next ten minutes briefing the Captain on what

they had figured out in Brampton, and what the ME's office had put

together connecting the three crimes. Schanke had done most of the

talking, and ended the briefing by stating, "so, Nick here thinks this guy is

one of those religious nutcases."

Stonetree gave Knight a measuring stare. "Is that right,


"It seems to fit," answered Nick nodding. "The lamb's blood, the

circles of rope, what Sally Barnett heard him say."

Stonetree continued to stare at Nick. "Why do you think he's

killing these people. What's he trying to accomplish?"

"We haven't figured that out yet," answered Nick.

"But we're working on it," added Schanke.

"How's that, Detective?" asked Stonetree skeptically. Schanke

shifted uncomfortably in his chair, then turned to look at Nick, who just

shrugged. "That's what I thought."

"We're trying. We've got a lot of information, but nothing

identifying our killer," explained Schanke.

Nick perked up as a thought struck him. "How about we have

Sally Barnett work with a sketch artist? I think she saw our guy, and

maybe she can help with a composite."

"Come on, Nick. She's just a kid. You really want to put her

through that?" asked Schanke.

"We'll check with Dr. Reynolds and see what she says. It can't

hurt to ask, and it could even help Sally deal with her guilt if she actually

helps us catch this guy," reasoned Nick.

"She shouldn't have any guilt. It wasn't her fault, and she's just a

little girl. Not like she could have done anything to stop it," replied


"You know that, and I know that, but try to tell her that," said Nick.

"You're my two best detectives. I expect you to solve this case,"

said Stonetree, as he leaned forward in his chair. "Do what you have to


"Yes, sir," replied Schanke, as both he and Nick rose to their feet.

As they were leaving, Stonetree looked at Nick warily and asked,

"so, this religious angle. Is this going to be a problem?"

Not sure what he meant by that, Nick just gave the Captain a

blank look and shook his head negatively, and then continued out of the

office. Stonetree's comments sometimes made him uneasy. It was almost

as if he knew something he shouldn't, like he suspected Nick was more

than he appeared to be. Stonetree couldn't possibly know, and he never

came right out and asked or said anything specific. Nick dismissed his

thinking as paranoid and put it out of his mind.

As Nick walked to his desk, he heard Schanke already on the

phone with Children's Services, trying to reach Dr. Reynolds. He turned

around as he heard someone call his name. "Hey, Norma. What's up?"

"Some guy was in earlier looking for you. He left you this note

and asked me to give it to you as soon as you got back," she said,

handing him the sealed envelope with his name written on it.

"Thanks," he said, accepting the message. He turned back to

listen to Schanke on the phone, as he looked over the envelope briefly,

then tore it open. He extracted the single sheet and unfolded it. As he

read, his body tensed. He must have made a noise, because Schanke

looked up sharply from his phone conversation to stare at him. Nick didn't


"Hey, Nick. What is it?" whispered Schanke, as he listened to

someone talking to him over the phone. Schanke could tell something

was wrong, and when Nick didn't reply, he spoke into the mouthpiece,

"look, I have to call you back. Sorry."

Coming around the desk to see what was about ready to make

his partner spit fire, Schanke asked, "what is it? What's it say?"

Nick hissed through his teeth, and shoved the note at Schanke,

who gingerly retrieved it from his outstretched hand. Nick was furious. He

looked like he wanted to tear someone apart.

"What's going on?" asked Stonetree, coming out of his office. He

had seen Knight's reaction to the note Norma handed him and figured it

must have to do with the case.

"I don't get it," said Schanke curiously, as he finished reading the

note to himself.

"Read it," ordered Stonetree.

"Dear Detective Knight. 'O thou who art led through this Hell,

recognise me, if thou canst.' Signed, ... then there's a picture of a knife

with what's probably blood dripping from it," read Schanke.

"Sonofa ...," Stonetree started to swear. "Is that from who I think

it's from?"

"Yes," answered Nick, a soft growl sounding in his throat. "That's

from the killer. He was here, and we missed him."

--- Start flashback ---

Florence, late 13th c.

Nicholas had been confining his hunting to the area north of the

Arno river, just west of the Ponte Vecchio. He thought this would give him

a better opportunity to find the killer, as this seemed to be the same

general area most all the killings occurred. Knowing that, one would think

most people would keep clear of the area, but that was not so.

Dawn was not for a couple of hours yet, when he heard the

muffled shouts from a short distance away. Looking down from his perch

atop one of the higher buildings, he leaped off the roof and quickly flew to

where he heard the shouting.

As he landed, he noticed that all was silent now. He ran up to the

near building, and stopping, peered around the corner. He saw a man,

bending over another. The one on the ground was not moving, while the

other man was wiping, what appeared to be a knife blade, across the

chest of the fallen man.

Concentrating, he reached out with his senses to confirm that

this was the murderer he sought. As he felt the subtle vibration reach

him, the man suddenly stood and stared in his direction.

Nicholas stepped out from the corner of the building and

advanced towards him. The murderer immediately took off running in the

opposite direction. Nicholas gave chase, running across the street and

into the same alley. Pausing at an intersection, he saw the man turn a far

corner and he rushed to close the shortening distance between them.

He emerged from the alley onto a narrow street, running as fast

as he could. He saw the man dart into a doorway, just up ahead. Without

breaking stride, he followed the man, bursting through the partially ajar

door. The impact of his body on the door caused it to swing open hard,

and crash into the wall opposite, surprising all on the other side. Startled,

Nicholas forced himself to a sudden stop and looked at all the staring


"What is the meaning of this?" said a loud booming voice to his

right. This voice belonged to a very large man, who had the look of the

proprietor about him. He was wiping his hands on an old cloth, and

walked towards Nicholas, who was still standing just inside the open


Slightly taken aback, as he had not expected to enter a crowded

tavern, having limited his narrow focus on the chase, he stumbled a

response, "I am looking for a man who just entered before me."

"And who would that be, young sir?" sneered the proprietor,

looking him over from head to toe, obviously not pleased to have him in

his establishment. The rest of the patrons were silently glaring at him as

well, hostile looks upon all their faces. It was not often, if ever, a well-

dressed gentleman visited here, and the regular patrons preferred it that


Straightening his stance, Nicholas looked imperiously at the

proprietor and said, "the man who is responsible for the killings of late,

has just entered here. You will tell me where he is."

After a lengthy pause, another man stood and stepped forward.

He was tall, with a narrow and grizzled face. He glared hatefully at

Nicholas and said, "you're mistaken. Go look elsewhere."

"I saw him enter," replied Nicholas firmly. He stared back at the

man, narrowing his eyes. "He is here, and I will have him."

Nicholas stepped deeper into the room. His intention was to

ignore these mortals and use his senses to spy out the man, but before

he had a chance to do so, the majority of the customers stood as if to

challenge him. Surprised, he stopped his advance. A few of them circled

around behind him, leaving him no clear path to take.

"And who are you, that we would turn over one of our own to you,

on your say so?" shouted the same grizzled faced man who had already

challenged him. "How do we know you are not the murderer? Perhaps

this man you claim to be chasing escaped you."

"The man he killed is laying out in the street even now," said

Nicholas, turning to point in the direction he had just come, annoyed and

frustrated. He knew his quarry was here, and this riffraff was keeping him

from ferreting him out.

"You had best leave, now," ordered the proprietor. "I don't want

any trouble here."

"That's good advice, lad. Young gentlemen, like yourself, tend to

get swallowed up in places like this," said the group's self-appointed


"Are you threatening me?" asked Nicholas incredulously.

His question brought laughter to the room. Many of the patrons

stepped forward, crowding closer to him. Even though he was so close to

catching his quarry, Nicholas decided the wiser move would be to retreat.

He could not take on everyone in this room. He knew the murderer was

here, but there was nothing he could do for the moment.

Grinding his teeth in frustration, he reined in his temper, and

keeping his eyes locked on the man who had threatened him, he slowly

backed towards the door. It was then he felt hands grab onto his back

and shove him roughly forward. He twisted around as he crashed

backwards into the forward circle of men. More hands grabbed him. He

twisted, trying to break free. A fist impacted on his ribcage, causing him

to gasp for breath.

Using his vampiric strength, he shoved back at the men in front

of him, sending them flying backwards. This enraged the crowd, and he

soon found himself buried beneath a multitude of bodies. He managed to

roll onto his back, and put his hands over his head, trying to protect

himself from the blows being reigned upon him. Kicking out with his feet,

he tossed off a couple more men.

The weight of the bodies pressing upon him began to lessen, and

he heard the loud shouting, "enough. I said enough." He felt a large hand

close over his upper arm and pull him roughly to his feet. The owner of

this same large hand, stepped in between him and the others, still

shouting, "back. All of you get back. Leave him be."

Gaining his feet, Nicholas looked on as the proprietor brought

order to the crowd. His angry customers slowly backed away. They

clearly had no desire to go against the owner of their favorite gathering


"Okay, boy, are you all right?" asked the proprietor gruffly, turning

to look at Nicholas.

"I am fine," snarled an angry Nicholas, as he wiped away the

blood from his cut lip, while scowling irately back at the retreating crowd.

"Then I suggest you get yourself home. This is no place for the

likes of you to be. Consider yourself lucky you're still in one piece,"

warned the proprietor, as he grabbed Nicholas by the arm and shoved

him towards the open door.

Nicholas jerked his arm from the proprietor's grasp, only to be

roughly shoved through the door. He fell to the ground in the street.

Catching himself with his hands, he immediately rolled to a sitting position

facing the door as it was slammed shut. He could hear the cheering and

yelling from those still inside.

Fuming, he sat there and glared at the door for the longest time.

He was furious. He had killed men for less, and in his current state of

mind, he wanted to kill them all. He knew the murderer he sought was still

inside. He had not been one of the men who attacked him, for he would

have known. Even though he could not sense him now, he knew he was


Growling in frustration, Nicholas hit the ground with his fist. In

fact, he hit the ground so hard, it hurt. He looked at his injured hand in

surprise. The pain lasted only a few moments, then it was gone. Nicholas

stood up and brushed off his clothing. He strode angrily across the street

and into a nearby alley. He straightened out his now torn clothing as best

he could. Since dawn was still a short time away, he hid himself in the

shadows and settled in to watch the doorway. During the time he stood

watching, he saw some of the men leave, but not who he was waiting for.

Still angry, he became disappointed when he looked up to see the first

hint of the oncoming dawn upon the horizon. Having to call it a night, he

checked to make sure no one was about, then leapt into the air and

headed for home.

--- End Flashback ---

Nick snapped himself back to the present, and heard Norma

finish describing the man who left the note to Schanke. "He was about

5'10", 160 pounds. Even though he had a cap on, his hair was short and

light brown. I couldn't see his eyes because of the cap, and it didn't look

like he had shaved."

"Isn't there anything else you noticed, Norma?" asked Schanke


"Sorry, Detective," she said.

"Let's pull the security tapes," ordered Stonetree. "Knight, you

and Schanke go take a look and see if you can get an ID." Turning to a

couple of uniformed officers, he continued, "Miller, Dubois, interview

everyone that came in contact with this guy."

Schanke went into the interview room to make sure the video

recorder and monitor were ready to go, while Nick went to retrieve the

video surveillance tapes. As soon as Nick returned with the tapes, they

popped them into the video recorder and hit the play button.

They quickly identified the portions that had their alleged suspect,

and went through them practically frame by frame. There was not one

clean frame that showed his face. It was clear to the two detectives that

the killer had planned to elude the camera's. They had sent the envelope

and paper to the lab for fingerprints, but that hope was dashed as they

saw he never removed his gloves.

Disappointed with their lack of findings, they went to talk with

Miller and Dubois. They spent the rest of their shift reviewing the

interviews the two officers had provided, along with looking through all

the reinterviews from the other crime scenes.


They were sitting at their desks. Schanke was busy flipping

through some papers, and Nick was still basically stewing over the fact

that the killer apparently had the gall to walk in here and leave him a note.

At least they were assuming it was the killer, and Nick felt pretty confident

that it was.

--- Start flashback ---

Florence, late 13th c.

Arriving home, Nicholas closed the door loudly behind him and

strode forcefully into the drawing room. He was still fuming about his

encounters in the tavern, which also allowed the murderer to elude him

yet again.

"Nicholas. Where have you been?" asked LaCroix, annoyed with

his son's lateness. After critically eyeing his appearance, he added, "and

just what have you been up to?"

"I almost caught the murderer. I chased him into a squalid tavern,

and with the help of the dregs inside, he escaped me," snarled Nicholas,

obviously quite upset. Seeing LaCroix raise his eyebrow, silently saying,

'oh, really?' he rapidly continued, "there were about fifteen men in there,

all rabble. They wouldn't tell me where the murderer was, and then they

attacked me. I had to fight them off to escape. Then I waited outside for

the murderer to come out, and he never did. When I saw the sun start to

rise, I had to come home."

"When you fought this <rabble> off, did you reveal yourself to

them?" asked LaCroix cautiously.

"No," he replied, then sheepishly added, "the proprietor pulled

them off me."

"I see," replied LaCroix, relieved at not having to deal with the

situation otherwise.

"I am going to go back there tonight, and I will take my revenge

on that wretch that attacked me," he raged, referring to the man who

threatened him in the tavern earlier. "I am going to kill him, and everyone

that helped him."

"No, you will not," said LaCroix calmly. At Nicholas' questioning

look, he explained, "there is already a murderer on the loose that has the

authorities notice. You will not deliberately do anything that will guide their

attentions in our direction."

"I will make sure that no one sees me," said Nicholas, annoyed

that LaCroix would think him careless.

"They will not have to see you to suspect you," explained

LaCroix. "After your encounter tonight, should they all turn up dead, who

do you think they will look to for their murderer? And then what is to stop

them from blaming you for these other deaths as well?"

"You want me to do nothing?" asked Nicholas astonished. "I

should just let them get away with treating me like that?"

"There will be time enough for revenge later. For now, you must

concentrate your energies on locating your elusive murderer. Once the

authorities are satisfied, then you may seek all the retribution you like,"

reasoned LaCroix.

"I do not wish to wait," sulked Nicholas obstinately.

"You will wait," ordered LaCroix. Seeing the thwarted expression

crossing his son's face, he added firmly, "you will do as I tell you."

Nicholas grudgingly acquiesced. "Fine, I shall wait."

LaCroix noted how upset Nicholas still was, so suggested, "you

are obviously too agitated for bed. Come with me to the ballroom, and we

will work off some of that energy you are so palpably radiating."

"What is in the ballroom?" asked Nicholas sulkily, yet intrigued.

"Come," replied LaCroix, walking out of the room and down the


Nicholas quickly followed.

--- End Flashback ---

"Hey, Knight," repeated Schanke, tossing a wadded up piece of

paper at his partner, hitting him square in the chest.

Nick's eyes refocused and zoomed in on his partner. "What?"

"You figure out what he meant?" asked Schanke, referring to the

note the killer left. "Must be some kind of quote or something, what do

you think, Nick?"

Leaning forward and rubbing his forehead tiredly, Nick replied,

"yeah. I think you're right. It sounds vaguely familiar, but I can't place it."

"It's like he's daring us to find him," said Schanke thoughtfully.

"Come on, it's almost morning. Let's call it a night. We'll pick it up fresh


Nick readily agreed. They both checked out and headed to their

respective homes.




Nick spent most of the day tossing and turning. Although he had

slept, he still felt as though he hadn't. Each time he fell asleep, LaCroix

would appear in his dreams, calling to him. He would look and look, and

not be able to find him. He would begin to panic, then the voice calling to

him would grow fainter and fainter, and then finally in a frenzy, he would

wake. He would remind himself that LaCroix was dead and couldn't be

calling to him, and he was happy that this was so. He had a difficult time

convincing himself of that last part, which is probably why the dream kept

returning. He admitted to himself that he didn't really believe he was

happy, only that he wanted to be.

He arrived at the precinct before Schanke, and noticed that he

was the first on the night shift to arrive. The afternoon shift was having a

little birthday party in the bullpen for one of the detective's. Half the office

was crowded around a desk, having just sung 'Happy Birthday' and he

could still smell the smoke from the recently blown out candles. As he

walked in, he was greeted with a number of friendly hello's, and some

gentle ribbing about being in so early. He tried to skirt past the crowd and

get to his desk, but was stopped by one of the younger officers.

"Hi, Nick. You're in early," she said, still laughing from the earlier


"Hello, Elaine. I've got a lot of work to do," he replied, moving

past her.

"Wait, wait," she said in a rush, turning her back to him briefly.

When she turned back around, she handed him a paper plate with a

piece of birthday cake. "Here, you have to have a piece of this. I made it


"Thanks, anyway, but that's too much sugar for me," he replied,

hoping she would accept his excuse.

"Don't be silly. You hardly need to be watching your waistline.

Take it," she laughingly insisted, shoving the plate in his hand.

Not wanting to offend her, he smiled politely and said, "sure,


As he started to move towards his desk again, she asked, "aren't

you even going to try it?"

"Uh, I'll save it for later. I just ate before I came in," he replied

awkwardly. He was relieved when she let it drop and he was able to gain

a few more feet towards his desk.

"Hey, Knight. How's it going?" asked Detective Baxter. "Heard

you and Schanke are working on a nasty one. Is that what has you in so


"Yeah, we've got a lot of work to do," answered Nick.

"Schanke on his way in early, too?"

"No, just me."

"Oh, good. I see you got some of my cake."

Realizing that it must his birthday, Nick replied, "yeah, Happy


"Thanks," he responded, then moved off to talk to some other co-


Seeing a clear path before him, Nick darted quickly to his desk.

He set down the cake, and seeing that people were starting to head in his

direction, he kept walking and ducked into the locker room. Just his luck

that he came in early and walked in during a rare social event in the

office. So what if they thought he was anti-social. He wasn't in the mood

for chit chat tonight.

He killed some time by rummaging around in his locker, then

headed back into the squad room. By the time he got back to his desk,

the party had broken up and people had pretty much returned to their

normal duties.

He went through his and Schanke's inboxes, and pulled out any

new information related to their current case. Nothing of major interest.

Next he checked his email, and again, nothing worth noting. He started

reorganizing the files they already had, and was just finishing when

Schanke arrived.

"You look like you've been busy. When did you get in?" he

inquired curiously.

"A couple of hours ago," replied Nick absently, as he kept

skimming through the files.

"What? Couldn't sleep?"

"I slept. What about you?"

"Like a baby," Schanke declared.

Nick looked at him skeptically, with a half-smile on his lips.

"Well, for a little while anyway," he added. "And don't go telling

me you did any better."

Nick looked up, a look of utmost innocence upon his face.

"Yeah, right. I see those circles under your eyes. You don't hide

your lack of sleep very well either," observed Schanke.

"Maybe if we make some headway tonight, we can both sleep,"

commented Nick.

"Yeah. Tomorrow's our night off. It'll be nice to take some time

and regroup a little," sighed Schanke. "So, what's the plan for tonight?"

"I don't know," replied Nick, sounding a little discouraged. "I keep

thinking we must be missing something. This guy couldn't have killed five

people without leaving a clue about who he is."

"So, you're saying we need to go through the files... again?"

"Unless you have a better idea."

Resigning himself to the tedious task at hand, Schanke grabbed

a stack of files. "I'll go through these."

"Keep them in order. I just finished reorganizing them <again>,"

Nick commented offhandedly.

"Don't worry. I'm not going to mess up your precious files," he

retorted. At Nick's stern look, he added, "it's not like he's going to get

away due to bad filing."

"Maybe not, but if we're just not seeing something in the files

that's there, that could slow us down in catching him," he justified.

"Fine, fine," replied Schanke exasperated. And the night had just

begun. He shouldn't get so snappy. He and Nick both hated all the

paperwork, files, and forms... but someone had to do them. He was just

finishing organizing his desk, when he noticed something unusual on

Nick's. "What's that?" he asked, almost accusatory.

"What?" asked Nick, surprised.

"That?" said Schanke, pointing to the object of his interest.

Seeing what drew Schanke's attention, Nick grinned. "Oh, that.

Elaine gave it to me. It's a piece of Baxter's birthday cake. They were

throwing him a little party when I got here."

"Well?" exclaimed Schanke, after Nick went back to reading his



"Aren't you going to give it to me?"

"Why would I do that?" asked Nick, smiling now.

"Come on, Knight. It's not like you're actually going to eat it. Hand

it over," demanded Schanke.

Grinning from ear to ear, Nick handed him the cake. "She made it

herself," he added.

"Delicious," he said, after taking a large bite.

Nick was just starting to say something in reply, when Stonetree

interrupted them. "Hey, Cap," he said. "What's up?"

"What are you two doing tonight?"

"File work," replied Nick, indicating the two large stacks, one on

his desk and one on Schanke's.

"No new leads?" he asked, already knowing the answer, as both

of his detectives shook their heads negatively. "Well, here's something

else for you. Before you book off tonight, I want you both to catch up on

your daily reports, and I want your weekly status reports, too. Okay?"

"But we've got all these files to go through," replied Schanke.

"Then I suggest you get busy," Stonetree responded, as he

walked away towards his office.

Once the Captain was safely out of earshot, Schanke said, "man.

How are we suppose to find time to do all this paperwork, and go through

these files. Do they want us to catch this guy, or do reports? I do <not>

want to work late on our one night off."

Nick closed his file and dropped it back on top of his stack. "Let's

do the reports, then if there's any time left, we can go through the files."

By the time they finished the status reports and got them turned

in, their shift was almost over.

"We might as well book off. We're not going to get anything more

done tonight," suggested Schanke.

"Maybe we can take these files home and look them over. That

should give us a head start for when we come back," Nick further


"No, absolutely not," stated Schanke firmly. Nick looked at him in

surprise. "We need to take a break, come back with fresh minds. That's

not going to happen if you spend all your off time going through files. And

besides, you already know what's in them," reasoned Schanke.

"Yeah, I suppose you're right," he replied.

"You know I'm right. Now let's just pack these away and head out

of here."

Nick was wandering around his loft, not ready to go to bed, and

yet, not really having anything to do. He couldn't stop thinking about the

killer he and Schanke were after. He was starting to get a idea of what

this killer was like, but there were still a lot of gaps. Something kept

tugging at his mind, but he just couldn't grasp whatever it was. Maybe he

should take Schanke's advice and just take his mind completely off the

case for awhile. Maybe he was trying too hard.

Briefly, he turned on the morning news and saw there wasn't

anything of real interest, except the weather report. There was another

storm coming in and rain was expected at any time. The three murders all

occurred on very rainy nights, and he was sure that wasn't coincidence.

He turned off the television and returned to wandering the loft.

He tried playing the piano for awhile, but that just wasn't focusing

his mind enough. There wasn't anything good on television, and listening

to music wasn't going to do it. He spotted his chessboard set up on the

table near the fireplace. Maybe a good game of chess would focus his

mind and push these other thoughts away, at least for awhile.

Before settling down to play, he went to the fridge. Opening the

door, he looked long and hard at the protein shake sitting there, then

opted for a glass of cow's blood. He told himself that he would drink the

shakes tomorrow. He carried his glass over to the chessboard, and

settled himself on the floor in front of the fire. He quickly became

engrossed in the game.

After a couple of hours, he was in the middle of the game, when

he just stopped. Suddenly losing interest, he decided this wasn't any fun.

True, it was keeping his mind occupied, but it wasn't the same as having

an opponent to play. He turned to stare into the fire, and let his mind drift

to other times.

--- Start flashback ---

Florence, late 13th c.

Nicholas stood at the window and watched the rain as it pounded

against the earth. He could hear the wind howling as it roared over the

villa and every so often, the sky lit up with the flash of lightning, swiftly

followed by peals of thunder. The eye of the storm was very near. It was

certainly no night to be out, not even for a vampire. Nicholas had no

desire to be blown about by the elements, or to become drenched in the

cold winter's rain.

Hearing footsteps in the hallway, he turned as LaCroix entered

the drawing room. "You are not going out in this weather, are you?" he


"This is hardly a night for man, beast, or vampire to be about,"

replied LaCroix, looking Nicholas over with a critical eye. "Do you intend

to finish dressing?"

"I am dressed well enough," he replied. He was wearing a casual

short tunic, unbelted, that fell to just above his knees, with silk hose and

bare feet. At LaCroix' frown, he added, "it is not like any one will be

visiting." He turned back to stare out the window.

Acquiescing, LaCroix asked, "what would you like to do this


Nicholas merely shrugged and continued to look out the window.

He had absently raised one hand against the glass, and was tracing the

edge of the panes with his fingers.

"Come over by the fire. I will set up the chessboard and we will

play," said LaCroix.

Without turning around, Nicholas replied quietly, "I always lose."

"That is only because you do not properly apply yourself. You

need to be more patient, and think through your actions more carefully.

Chess is a game of strategy that requires planning," replied LaCroix.

"Now come, you still have much to learn."

They were well into the game, and Nicholas was studying the

board intently. He was sprawled on the carpet in front of the fire, laying

on his stomach, elbows propped in front of him, his chin resting on his

hands. He idly swung his feet in the air over his back, crossing and

uncrossing his ankles. He barely noticed as LaCroix rose from the carpet

and refilled their goblets.

Rather than reclaim his spot across the board from Nicholas,

LaCroix sat on the floor next to him, and slightly behind. As Nicholas

reached out for his bishop, LaCroix leaned forward to see, slightly

brushing against him. Nicholas hesitated and withdrew his hand.

"Very good, Nicholas. You are learning," commented LaCroix

chuckling, while he gently ruffled his son's hair. "You were wise to change

your mind. You must plan carefully, study your opponents moves,

determine his plans."

Slightly annoyed, Nicholas brushed LaCroix' hand away from

him, and said, "I cannot think while you are talking to me."

"I see," replied LaCroix humorously. "Then I shall endeavor to be

ever so quiet."

Nicholas frowned at him, but went back to studying the board.

This was hard. He had been unable to figure out LaCroix' strategy, and

he knew whatever move he made, LaCroix would immediately counter it.

He was not really enjoying this, but it was a way to pass the time. He also

knew that if he did not make a real effort to play well, LaCroix would

become upset with him and most likely make him play again, so he may

as well put forth the effort now.

In the midst of his concentration, he felt LaCroix lightly run his

fingers up and down his back. Nicholas shrugged him off, but LaCroix

kept it up. Finally, Nicholas said while squirming, "you are distracting me."

"The world is full of distractions. You must put them aside and

focus on what you need to do," replied LaCroix, not taking his gaze from

Nicholas' back.

LaCroix continued to run his fingers lightly over his son's back.

"You are taking unfair advantage," said Nicholas. "You are not afraid that

I may win, are you?" he asked, surprised as the thought occurred to him.

"There is no such thing as <fair>," answered LaCroix, now

tracing patterns on his back.

Nicholas dropped all concentration on the game. He quickly

rolled over and sat up facing LaCroix, and said, "well, two can play at


Sighing, LaCroix replied, "I am trying to teach you a lesson. You

must learn to maintain your focus and not become so easily distracted.

You are actually doing quite well, and if you will but continue to apply

yourself, you may just be surprised at the results."

Disappointed, Nicholas turned back to the game. Rolling once

again onto his stomach, he continued to study the board, determinedly

ignoring LaCroix' distracting behavior. Finally, he moved his knight.

"Very good, Nicholas. That is exactly what I would have done,"

replied LaCroix, quite pleased. Nicholas' pleasure was short lived

however, as LaCroix immediately made a counter move and said, "I

believe it is your turn."

Sometime later, Nicholas thought it obvious he was losing. He

was discouraged and bored, and finally announced, "I am tired and I do

not wish to play any longer."

"We will finish the game," replied LaCroix.

"I will concede."

"You will not."

Sighing heavily, Nicholas returned to the game, forcing himself to

concentrate. When he finally made a move, he was surprised when

LaCroix did not take his turn right away. They had been playing all night,

and although Nicholas could spend up to an hour determining his next

move, LaCroix rarely spent any time on his. Nicholas smiled and said, "is

there something wrong?"

"Quiet," answered LaCroix, frowning slightly as he studied the


"What were you telling me earlier? Oh, yes. The world is full of

distractions..." he managed to say before he was interrupted.

"I said be quiet," said LaCroix, slightly annoyed.

After a short interval, LaCroix moved his queen, however, he

didn't seem very happy.

Newly inspired, by what he interpreted as concern on LaCroix'

part, Nicholas carefully studied the board. He looked up when LaCroix

stood and walked to the fireplace, placing one hand on the mantel and

staring down into the flames. Turning his eyes back to the board, he

could hardly believe what he saw. Carefully reviewing all the positions to

make sure he wasn't mistaken, he again moved his knight and said,


Taking a deep breath and turning back towards Nicholas,

LaCroix said, "very good. I knew if you would but persevere, you would

one day prevail."

"This is the first time I have beaten you," said Nicholas joyfully.

Then looking at LaCroix' emotionless face, he asked, "you did not let me

win, did you?"

"I assure you, Nicholas, I did not let you win," answered LaCroix


Nicholas beamed happily at LaCroix. "I did not think I could win,"

he said, still smiling.

LaCroix' face softened as he saw how happy Nicholas was. "If

you would but put your mind to it, you can accomplish most anything."

--- End Flashback ---

Angrily, Nick struck out with his hand, sweeping the chess pieces

violently from the board. They flew across the room, and smashed into

the wall. 'No', he screamed in his mind. 'I don't want to think about him'.

He jumped to his feet and strode across the room. He flipped on

the sound to the stereo and let the music blast out of the speakers. It did

nothing to redirect his thoughts. Out of desperation, he silenced the

stereo and turned on the television. He finally found a show that was

somewhat interesting, and was able to distract him from his own


Nick opened his eyes as the sound of strange voices penetrated

his brain. He was laying on the couch, and the voices were coming from

the television. He must have fallen asleep with it on. He was tired and

groggy. Without rousing himself overmuch, he got up, turned off the

television, and went upstairs to bed. It was still quite early in the day. He

returned to sleep as soon as his head hit the pillow.

It was well after dark when he next woke. He had finally fallen

into a deep sleep, and had slept soundly the rest of the day, and partly

into the night. By the time he had showered, shaved, and dressed, he

was feeling fairly energetic. The only problem was, he still didn't have

anything to do.

Opening the fridge, he remembered his promise of yesterday,

and grabbed one of the protein shakes Natalie had left for him. The taste

was so vile, but after a short struggle, he finally forced himself to drink the

entire shake. He stood there for awhile, his eyes closed, concentrating on

keeping it down. Once his stomach got used to it, the queasiness

lessened and he began to feel a little better. Eyeing the container he had

just drank from, he thought that in the future, it may be best not to drink a

whole one at once. It was still not settling well.

He had raised the steel shutters when he first came downstairs,

and could see the storm raging outside. He could hear the wind blowing,

and the rain beating against the windows. Since he had overslept, he

missed the evening news, so had gone downstairs to retrieve his mail

and newspaper. He sat down at the kitchen table and read the paper.

Soon, he was up and pacing the loft again. Normally, he could

come up with any number of activities to keep himself occupied, but not

tonight. He was just anxious and restless. As he wandered across the

loft, his eyes darted around the room. When he caught sight of an antique

sword hanging on the far wall, his gaze lingered. He went and sat in the

leather chair in front of the fireplace and continued to stare at it.

--- Start flashback ---

Florence, late 13th c.

LaCroix noted how upset Nicholas still was, so suggested, "you

are obviously too agitated for bed. Come with me to the ballroom, and we

will work off some of that energy you are so palpably radiating."

"What is in the ballroom?" asked Nicholas sulkily, yet intrigued.

"Come," replied LaCroix, walking out of the room and down the


Nicholas quickly followed.

They entered a large ballroom, where all the shutters had already

been closed, blocking out the deadly rays from the sun. LaCroix began to

light the candles along one wall, and instructed Nicholas to do the same

along the other. Once all the candles were lit, the room was aglow with a

soft luminous light. With their vampiric senses, it was actually quite bright.

"What are we going to do?" asked Nicholas.

Walking to a table that ran alongside the wall at the front of the

room, LaCroix pulled the cloth covering away. Laying neatly displayed

were a number of swords. "Choose one."

Nicholas quickly chose a long blade, reminiscent of his days as a

knight, while LaCroix chose a slightly shorter blade, similar to what he

had carried as a Roman general. Nicholas' blade was heavier, and a bit

more cumbersome to wield, while LaCroix' was easier to maneuver, but

didn't have the same reach.

"So, what exactly did you have in mind?" asked Nicholas, smiling

in anticipation.

"I thought we could spar some," suggested LaCroix mildly. Then

smiling suggestively, he added, "a little bloodsport, if you think you are up

to it."

Smiling back, Nicholas replied, "oh, I am up to it. Are you?"

"Let us see, shall we?" challenged LaCroix.

They both set their weapon down long enough to rid themselves

of any cumbersome clothing, then picked up their swords and began. At

first, they warily circled each other, carefully checking each others

defenses, looking for any possible openings.

Without a hint of warning, Nicholas suddenly lunged, his blade

swinging horizontally towards his opponent's chest. LaCroix easily

stepped back, raising his blade to deflect the attack. Metal rang loudly,

the sound echoing off the walls, as time after time, they thrust and swung

at each other, neither one obtaining a distinct advantage over the other.

After about twenty minutes of this, they both dropped back and eyed

each other critically. They were both breathing hard, and a light sheen of

sweat covered their bodies.

"Come, come now, Nicholas. You are not tiring, are you?"

taunted LaCroix.

"I am just getting warmed up, but you seem a bit out of breath,"

provoked Nicholas. "It has been awhile since you have wielded such a

weapon. Perhaps you have had enough."

In reply, LaCroix attempted an uppercut, which Nicholas quickly

avoided. Swinging his sword forcefully, their blades met in an upward arc,

propelling LaCroix forward. Nicholas dropped his blade, and spinning on

his heels, swung his sword around in an attempt to take advantage of

LaCroix' off balance position.

Before he could get his blade around, LaCroix regained his

balance, and swinging his own blade, turned to meet Nicholas' attack.

Their blades clashed again and again, each trying to gain advantage over

the other. LaCroix pressed his attack, never letting up. Nicholas found

himself continually giving ground, until his back was nearly against the

wall. Not wanting to be trapped, he ducked under LaCroix' swing, and

surged forth with an attack of his own.

This maneuver left him off balance, and he was not able to

recover before LaCroix parried and swung. Nicholas yelped in pain as he

jumped backwards, looking at his left upper arm as blood began to flow

from a deep wound.

"It would seem that I scored first blood," said LaCroix merrily, as

he lowered his sword and walked close to Nicholas to examine his

wound. LaCroix' blade had sliced through Nicholas' upper biceps, leaving

a long serious gash. Nicholas' sleeve was quickly turning red from the

gushing blood.

"You got lucky," said Nicholas sullenly, wincing as LaCroix took

hold of his arm and carefully pulled the soaked material away from his


"Let me make it better," replied LaCroix, lowering his mouth to

the cut. He placed his lips over the wound to catch the blood as it spurted

forth. He gently sucked at the hot liquid, until the flow ceased of its' own

accord. Pulling his mouth away, he looked to see that the wound had

closed. After a few more moments, only an angry red mark remained. In

a short time, that too would be gone, once again leaving the skin smooth

and unblemished. Looking up, he met his son's eyes. "Do you wish to


In reply, Nicholas shoved him roughly away, swinging his blade

before his father could regain his balance. He was disconcerted that

LaCroix had drawn first blood, as he had considered himself the better

swordsman of the two. To him, this was no longer a game, and he was

bound and determined to win. He yelled in frustration, as LaCroix agilely

dodged his blade.

"Nicholas, do not allow your emotions to get the better of you,"

warned LaCroix, as he sidestepped the other's weapon.

Knowing the advice to be sound, Nicholas quickly brought his

feelings under control. He focused his entire attention on the battle at

hand. He rapidly swung blow after blow, beating LaCroix backwards. He

maneuvered him towards the table. As LaCroix' attention was

momentarily diverted, trying to avoid a collision with the table, Nicholas

closed in and was rewarded with a cut across his opponent's right

forearm, causing LaCroix to drop his sword.

"Now it's my turn," said Nicholas, smiling as he advanced.

LaCroix held his arm out to his son, allowing him to take hold of his wrist.

Nicholas twisted the arm to gain better access to the wound, and lowered

his mouth to drink. LaCroix' laceration was not as deep as his had been,

and healed up much quicker. Frustrated, he started to bite at the wound,

in order to draw more blood.

LaCroix felt Nicholas' teeth, and harshly pulled his arm away.

"You know the rules. No biting."

Growling lightly, Nicholas grabbed his sword and stepped quickly

away. He had not gone more than three steps, when he suddenly

pivoted and slashed down with his blade. LaCroix, having not yet

recovered from his injury, jumped clumsily away. Nicholas pursued,

swinging repeatedly, giving LaCroix no chance to regain his equilibrium.

LaCroix tried again to reacquire his balance, but Nicholas was

relentless. He saw the swing coming, and could not raise his blade in

time to deflect the cut. He fell backwards, to the ground, as Nicholas'

blade sliced across his chest.

Nicholas smiled as he felt his blade cut through the unresisting

flesh. Seeing his father on his back with blood quickly soaking his shirt,

he dropped his sword and fell to his knees beside LaCroix. Pulling the

ruined shirt roughly aside, Nicholas bent down and began to drink


LaCroix, having been torn between the dismay of losing, and the

pride of watching his child achieve victory, lay quietly allowing Nicholas

his prize. As his son drank as if starved for sustenance, LaCroix raised

his hand to the back of his head, running his fingers through the soft silky

blond curls. His wound, not all that deep, healed quickly. He started

unexpectedly, as he felt Nicholas sink his teeth into his shoulder.

Grasping a handful of his son's hair, he roughly pulled his head

away. Nicholas jerked his head free, and reburied his teeth into his

father's neck. LaCroix allowed him a moment to drink, then more firmly

grabbed his head and pulled him away. "Nicholas, you know the rules."

"But I won. I get to make my own rules," he replied petulantly.

"Do try," challenged LaCroix.

Nicholas attempted to pin LaCroix to the floor, only to find himself

tossed to the side. Before he could get his bearings, LaCroix jumped him

and they quickly became embroiled in a wrestling match. After a lot of

thrashing around, Nicholas found himself flat on his back, with LaCroix

sitting on his chest, and his wrists securely pinned to the floor above his

head. He struggled uselessly, unable to free himself.

Smiling, LaCroix asked, "do you submit?"

The question caused Nicholas to erupt in a frenzied attempt to

extricate himself, all to no avail. LaCroix held him firmly in place, not

yielding his position. Nicholas finally calmed down.

"Are you going to submit?" asked LaCroix again, smiling


After another short bout of trying to wriggle free, Nicholas finally

replied, "I submit."

"Good boy," said LaCroix, releasing him as he stood up. He

reached a hand down and helped him to his feet. "So, do you think you

are sufficiently exhausted and ready for bed now?"

Nicholas just frowned and replied, "I do not think I am all that


"Tell you what then, go get yourself cleaned up, change into your

bedclothes, and I will come in and read to you before you sleep. Would

you like that?" asked LaCroix solicitously.

"I suppose," replied Nicholas, somewhat despondent over having

lost, yet again; earlier in the tavern and then now. As he began to walk

away, he turned and said, "I did beat you with the swords."

"Yes, you did," acknowledged LaCroix. "But in the end, you lost."

"I almost beat you," said Nicholas.

"Almost is never good enough," replied LaCroix solemnly.

"Remember that."

Nicholas stared at his father for a moment, then nodded his head

knowingly as he started out the door.

--- End Flashback ---

As the memories left him, he felt a wave of despondency start to

descend upon him. He stood up, as he immediately sought out the scorch

mark on the elevator door. Taking a deep breath, he closed his eyes. He

was not going to let these memories invade his mind. The harder he tried

to not remember, the quicker and clearer they seemed to come.

Frustrated and determined that this was not going to happen, he crossed

the floor and grabbed his coat. He started to reach for the elevator door,

and couldn't bring himself to touch it. Instead, he pulled open the door to

the stairwell and quickly ducked inside. He had to get out of here.




He didn't have a specific destination in mind, he was just driving.

At least, that's what he told himself. The wind and the rain were

obscuring the roads, and there was too much traffic, and he found

himself becoming more agitated just from having to deal with the other

drivers. It wasn't long before he found himself in front of the Raven.

Parking the Caddy in the alley that ran alongside the club, he

made a dash for the main entrance. No doorman, and no lines to get in.

Being a Monday night, there wasn't much of a crowd. He made his way

down the stairs and spotted Janette at the bar. As he made his way

towards her, he noticed that the patrons were mostly regulars from the

community. There weren't many mortals present, and business seemed

kind of slow. But it was early yet.

Janette smiled at him as he approached. "Bon soir, Nicolas. How

nice to see you?" She set her glass down on the bar, and raised her chin

to accept his kiss.

He lightly brushed his lips against hers, and casually leaned

against the bar next to her.

Looking towards the door, she asked teasingly, "did you leave

your partner in the car again? Will he be joining us soon?"

Smiling ruefully, his eyes downcast towards the bar, he

answered, "no. I'm not working tonight. I'm here by myself."

Lifting her eyebrow in a pleasant surprise, she inquired, "you're

not here on business?"

He shook his head no, as he began to idly play with a coaster

laying on the bar.

She placed her hand over his, to stop his fidgeting. "So, why are

you here, mon cher?"

Shrugging, he raised his eyes to meet hers. "Just kind of at loose

ends, I guess." Turning, so his back leaned against the bar, he surveyed

the dance floor. "So, what's going on here?"

She studied his visage closely. All was not well. He seemed

tense and anxious. She had seen him like this many times in the past,

and she could tell by the way he was acting, that something was really

bothering him. She knew better than to ask, for he would be quick to deny

it. If she chose, she could coax it from him. That was really the only way.

Taking his hand, she stepped forward, tugging on him to follow

her. In answer to his curious expression, she said, "come. Dance with


With the barest of hesitations, he allowed her to lead him onto

the dance floor. He took her in his arms and began to gently move to the

rhythm of the music. It was soft and melodious, guiding them into a mild

swaying motion. They slowly moved across the floor. Nick closed his

eyes and let his cheek rest against her temple. He felt her arm move

around him, and her body molded closely against his.

"You are very tense, my love. You should relax, non?" she

whispered in his ear. She felt him hold her just a little bit tighter. "Do you

wish to tell me what is troubling you?"

"No, I'm fine," he said. "I just need to get my mind off work for

awhile, that's all."

"I see," she replied, having expected just such an answer.

"Schanke and I are kind of hitting a brick wall. We have lots of

information, but no real clues," he explained.

"Oh, my. That does sound a mite frustrating," she replied


"I have the feeling that there's something there, just out of reach.

I just can't figure it out." He let his hand that was resting on her shoulder

slide down to the middle of her back. Taking a deep breath, he noticed

how good she smelled.

"So what do you do when that happens?" she asked, trying to

keep him talking. She felt him shrug.

"Schanke says we're trying too hard. That if we quit thinking

about it for awhile, it'll just come to us," he answered.

"And what do you think?" she asked solicitously, raising her hand

and softly stroking his face.

"I don't know," he answered absently, rubbing his cheek against

her hand.

Smiling mischievously, she whispered, "maybe you just need to

think about something else entirely." She felt his body stiffen slightly.

"I've tried that. It doesn't work," he said, more harshly than he

intended, thoughts of LaCroix rushing quickly through his mind. He

expelled them forcefully and turned his concentration back to Janette.

Feeling him beginning to withdraw from her, she guided him to a

table near the edge of the dance floor. "You are obviously choosing the

wrong thing to think about," she said playfully.

"Sometimes it's not really a matter of choice," he replied,

sounding perturbed.

"Now <that> is something I can definitely help you with," she


"How's that?" he asked skeptically.

"Here. Sit," she replied, pushing him down towards an empty


He sat, a question beginning to form on his lips, when she

effortlessly glided onto his lap. As he started to protest, she placed her

hands on his shoulders and pushed him back, effectively holding him

gently trapped in place. "Janette ..." he began warily, and was quickly

silenced by her words and actions.

"Hush, mon cheri. I am going to give you something else to think

about," she replied breathily, as she lowered her mouth to his and kissed

him soundly. He didn't react at first, but as she pushed her tongue deep

into his mouth, she felt him try to pull away. Ending the kiss, she pulled

back and asked teasingly, "you did not like that?"

"It's not that ..." he barely got out before she kissed him again.

Harder, deeper, longer. His senses were bombarded. It had been a long

time since they had been together, but his body remembered. He could

feel a tingling sensation in his stomach, starting to radiate throughout his

being. He opened his mouth, allowing her greater access.

When she was certain she had his complete and undivided

attention, she pulled away, ending the kiss. "Would you like more?" she

asked, looking into his eyes. She saw that he did, although he continued

to hesitate. Taking the decision away from him, she quickly kissed him

again. Then, taking his hand, she rose to her feet, pulling him up with her.

"Come." She started to lead him across the dance floor, towards the


"Janette?" he said, coming to a stop as they reached the bar.

She turned a questioning look to him. "I don't know about this."

Before he could say any more, she pressed her fingers to his

lips, silencing him. When she was certain he was going to stay quiet, she

removed her fingers and rewarded him with a short, soft kiss. "Come with

me," she entreated, pulling him gently along.

He allowed himself to be persuaded, and quietly followed her

through the back, and upstairs to her living quarters.

She could sense how reticent he was, and nervous. She knew

what he needed, and wanted, if only he would admit it. Not wanting to

give him opportunity for second thoughts, she led him through the living

room and into the bedroom.

He hesitated at the doorway, slightly pulling away from her. "May

be we could talk," he suggested. He was confused. He wanted her, but

he was reluctant. There was too much unsettled with them, and he was

fearful of having it come between them.

"We will talk," she said soothingly. "In here, where it is more

comfortable." As he continued to hesitate, she asked, "Nicolas, do you

not want me?"

"It's not that," he answered quickly.

"Then what is it?" she inquired, trying again to draw him out.

"I just have a lot on my mind right now, that's all," he weakly


"So you've already said, mon cher," she replied, smiling

charmingly at him as she moved close to him. "I thought the whole idea

was to have your mind not think about anything for a time."

As he acknowledged her words, she reached up and cupped his

face in her hands. When he didn't try to stop her, she kissed him. As she

felt him respond to her, she slowly backed towards the bed, leading him

with her. As her legs touched the bed, she turned them both around and

gave him a light push. He fell backwards onto the bed, and looked up at

her a bit surprised. "Now, that's not so bad, is it?" she asked, as she

climbed onto the bed, straddling his hips.

"Janette, what are you doing?" he asked, as he tried to raise

himself on his elbows, only to be pushed back down by her. As she

leaned down to kiss him again, he whispered, "I thought we were going to


"Oh, we will, mon cher." Just before her lips touched his again,

she added, "after."

"After?" he whispered back. As her mouth enveloped his, he

succumbed to the physical stirrings generating within. He wrapped his

arms around her, tightening his hold, as he felt her body stretch out along

the length of his. He relaxed, and began to return her ardor with a

passion of his own.

It was very late and the area was deserted. Everyone in the

office building had already gone home for the night, except for one man.

Outside, an observer stood in the secluded courtyard, watching the lights

go out in the last occupied office. The only sound to be heard was the

heavy pounding of the rain upon the courtyard patio.

It shouldn't be long now, the observer thought, as the last of the

lights were extinguished. He watched the man step outside and set down

his briefcase, then turn around and insert a key in the door. Having

locked the door, the man then picked up his briefcase and walked along

the covered walkway, towards the gate leading to the parking lot.

The observer pressed himself flat against the wall of the building,

standing between the large shrubs decorating the wall. He watched as

the man walked past him unnoticed, and once again set down his

briefcase to unlock the gate. As the man was reaching to pull the key

from his pocket, the observer stepped forward from the darkness and

walked up behind the man unseen.

As the man started to insert the key, the observer, turned

assailant, raised a thick oaken staff and swung it hard toward the man's

head. The man fumbled and dropped his keys, and just as he was

bending down for them, the assailant finished his downward swing. The

blow missed it's intended target, and instead hit the gate.

The man, taken completely by surprise, turned as the momentum

from the assailant's swing carried him forward. The assailant fell against

the gate, but recovered quickly, furious at having missed, and

immediately began another assault. The man reached out to protect

himself, grabbing for the assailant's arm, in an effort to forestall the blow

he saw coming. There was a brief struggle, which ended when the

assailant kicked the man in the chest, incapacitating him. As the man

slumped to the ground, temporarily winded, the assailant swung the

oaken staff again, this time connecting with the man's head. The body

dropped to the ground, having been rendered senseless.

The assailant tossed the staff towards where he had been hiding,

then bent down and grabbed the unconscious man's ankles and dragged

him towards the center of the courtyard, into the pouring rain. Once he

had the body positioned, he returned to his hiding spot to retrieve his

backpack. It was then he noticed the blood on his wrist. When the man

grabbed him, he tore a gash in his wrist, which was now bleeding. The

assailant took a cloth from his backpack and bandaged his arm. It wasn't

that bad, and he would take care of it later. Now, he needed to get to

work. He didn't have much time.

Nick lay on his back, eyes closed, head thrown back on the

pillow, his neck stretched taut. Janette was curled up at his side, her

head resting on his shoulder, one hand idly rubbing up and down his

chest, and occasionally allowing her fingers to travel along his neck,

stroking him lightly beneath his ear. Nick sighed contentedly. Janette

leaned forward and brushed her lips against his upper jaw, and gently

nibbled on his ear lobe. He squirmed slightly at her attentions, causing

her to chuckled seductively.

"Feeling more relaxed now?" she asked, lightly running her

fingers across his nipple, just to enjoy his reaction..

"Much," he answered, nodding his head.

"Tired?" she inquired casually, letting her fingers stray down to

his stomach, rubbing little circle patterns on his skin.

"Actually, no, I'm not," he answered, opening his eyes to stare at

the ceiling. He felt her bare leg rub along the length of his. He took a

deep breath, and released it slowly, relaxing even more. He was very

comfortable and satisfied. This was a very familiar feeling for him, and he

had almost forgotten how enjoyable.

"No?" she said teasingly. "Does that mean you want to make love

to me again, or have the last couple of hours been enough?"

He rolled onto his side, so close, their faces were almost

touching. He leaned forward and softly kissed her. Pulling back, he

replied, "I could never have enough of you."

Smiling, she placed her finger against his lips, lightly tracing

them. "Good answer, mon cheri."

Kissing her again, he replied, "thank you, Janette."

"You are <very> welcome, my love," she said, smiling adoringly

at him. "I will always be here to help ease your troubles. You do know

that, do you not?"

Frowning slightly, and breaking eye contact, he responded, "I

know. But there's only so much anyone can do."

She could sense that something was deeply troubling him, and

she had a hard time believing it had anything to do with this job of his.

When they had been sharing blood, she could taste the emotional turmoil

within him. He was afraid and worried, and was trying to bury those

feelings within himself. There was something very wrong, that much she

could tell. "Do you wish to talk now?" she asked encouragingly.

"There's nothing you can do," he whispered.

She put her arm around him and kissed him soothingly on the

forehead. "Come," she said, pulling his head to her shoulder. He cuddled

close to her, and she wrapped her arms around him, holding him tight,

her chin resting against his silken curls. "You know you can tell me

anything." She felt him tense at her words. "Nicolas, mon cher, tell me

what is troubling you."

Taking a deep breath, he decided to tell her. After all, she was

going to find out sooner or later anyway, so it may as well be now. "It's

LaCroix," he said quietly.

So quietly, she almost couldn't hear him. "What about LaCroix? I

thought he had gone. Has he returned?" she asked, concerned.

"No, he hasn't returned. He won't be back," he answered


"And why is that?" she asked curiously. If this was true, it would

be very unexpected. LaCroix had never left Nicolas alone for long. In fact,

she had been very surprised when she discovered he was no longer in


Instead of answering her question, he replied, "I keep dreaming

about him, and even when I'm awake, I can't stop thinking about him."

"It almost sounds like you miss him," she replied, chuckling

slightly. Knowing how eager Nicolas was to escape LaCroix' scrutiny, she

doubted very much that he would admit to missing him. She was

surprised when Nicolas tightened his hold on her, and buried his face

closer into her shoulder. Something was wrong, very wrong. "Nicolas,"

she said sternly. "What happened with LaCroix? Why did he leave

Toronto? What happened between the two of you?"

After a long pause, he finally answered, "it was an accident. I

didn't really mean for it to happen."

"You didn't mean for <what> to happen?" When he didn't answer,

she had a feeling of dread trickle through her. "Nicolas, tell me what

happened," she ordered. When he still didn't answer, she asked, "why

won't you tell me?"

"I don't want you to hate me," he admitted, his embrace

tightening even more.

Kissing him lightly on the forehead, she said, "I could never hate

you, Nicolas."

"Don't be so sure," he replied bitterly.

Something really awful must have happened for him to think she

would hate him. Running all the possibilities through her mind, she

couldn't come up with anything that would cause her to hate him, and told

him so. "Nicolas, there is absolutely nothing you could do that would

cause me to hate you." When he pulled away to look her in the eyes, she

repeated, "nothing."

They stared at each other for a short time, and then Nick decided

he needed to just tell her and go from there. "LaCroix' not coming back,

because he can't." Seeing the confusion in her eyes, he continued, "he's


Janette stared at him for the longest time, trying to determine

why he was saying this. She finally realized, he believed what he was

saying. "Why do you say he is dead?" she asked curiously.

Breaking eye contact and looking away, he answered quietly,

"because... I killed him."

"You did?" she asked skeptically. At his nod, she inquired, "how

did you kill him?"

"I was in the middle of a case, and there was an altercation at my

loft, and there was a fire. LaCroix showed up and killed the suspect, and

then tried to kill Dr. Hunter. I tried to protect her. LaCroix and I fought,

and he knocked me out. When I woke up, he was attacking her. I

grabbed the closest thing I could find as a weapon. It was a flaming

stake, and I stabbed him in the chest with it... and he died," this last was

said very quietly.

"You are certain that you killed him?" she asked, finding this hard

to believe, even though she was certain that Nicolas believed it.

"Yes, I am certain," he said.

"You do not seem very happy about it. I would think, that after all

the times you have threatened to kill him, that you would finally be glad

that you had succeeded?" she inquired curiously. She was having a hard

time believing LaCroix could really be dead.

Nick rolled away from her on the bed, and lay down with his back

to her. She's right. Why wasn't he happy about it? He knows he should

be. After all the terrible things that LaCroix had done to him over the

years, he should be throwing a party. All he really knew was that he

wasn't happy. It upset him every time he thought about it. But Natalie had

told him that was normal, that he would get over it in time. And it really

hadn't been that long, just a few months.

Janette slipped further under the sheets and moved closer to

him. She slipped her arm around his waist, and settled her body against

his. She laid her head against the back of his neck, leaning forward to

gently kiss him on the shoulder before settling back down against him. He

lay tense and unmoving beneath her.

This news was very disturbing to her, but not for the reasons

Nicolas would think. LaCroix couldn't simply die without her knowing

about it, she would have felt something, as would Nicolas. Yet Nicolas

truly believed he had killed him. "What did you do with his body?" she

asked softly.

"His body?" replied Nick confused. "There wasn't anything."

"What do you mean, there wasn't anything?" she asked, her turn

to be confused.

"I told you, I stabbed him with a burning stake. The fire consumed

him, there was no body," he explained.

"Mon cheri, tell me <exactly> what happened. What you <saw>

happen," she requested.

Sighing softly, he said, "I stabbed him in the chest with a burning

stake, pinning him against the elevator door. I went to see how Alyce

was, and discovered she was dead. I looked back at LaCroix, and he was

already gone."

"What do you mean, gone?" she asked, something here was not


"Gone. Burned up. There was nothing left but the burning stake,

and some of his clothes. Everything else had burned," he related quietly

to her.

"Don't you think that it is strange that he would have burned so

quickly?" asked Janette.

"That's what vampires do when they catch fire. They burn

quickly," he explained gruffly.

"You've been in fire. You've been burned. I don't recall you

disappearing so quickly," she replied.

"I don't know how long it really took. It didn't seem like any time

at all, just a few seconds, but it must have been longer. And where else

could he have gone?" asked Nick, then continuing, "and besides, this

was months ago. If he hadn't died, you could be sure I would be dead by


"Oh, I doubt that, mon cheri, and you have lived long enough to

know that nothing is for certain," she retorted.

Pushing her off him, he rolled over and sat up. "I was there. You'll

just have to take my word for it. He's gone, and he's not coming back...

ever," replied Nick, in a combination of anger and sadness.

Janette decided to let the matter drop. It was obvious that there

was no doubt in Nicolas' mind that he had killed LaCroix. From what he

said, and from what she knew, she doubted that LaCroix was really dead.

She didn't doubt that Nicolas had seriously injured him, but no more than

that. He was probably just off licking his wounds somewhere, bidding his


"Very well, mon cheri, I do not doubt that you believe you have

killed him," she acquiesced, "and see, I do not hate you." At his timid

smile of relief, she asked, "so, do you want to tell me about these dreams

and memories that are plaguing you?"

"It's no big deal, really," he said, feeling relieved that the worse

was over, and she was still here. He had been so concerned that she

would hate him and never want to see him again when she found out

what he had done to LaCroix. Her acceptance was a huge relief to him,

more than he had expected.

"So, tell me then," she said, once again wrapping her arms

around him and drawing him to her. She lay on her back, pulling Nicolas

down with her. He put his head on her shoulder and wrapped his body

around hers. She stroked his hair, and kissed his forehead. "Tell me."

"It's this case I'm working on. It reminded me of when we lived in

Florence, just after I was brought across. It was before you joined us.

There was this murderer, and I wanted to catch him. LaCroix helped me."

After a moments thought, Janette said, "yes, I remember. You

wrote me about it while I was still in Paris. And when I did join you in

Florence, it was all you talked about for weeks."

"Back then, I thought it was pretty exciting," he chuckled as he


"Yes. Who would have thought, that 700 years later, here you still

are, hunting mortal killers," said Janette reminiscing. "And it was so unlike

LaCroix to get involved, even back then."

"He was just helping me. I was the one who had wanted to get

involved," he responded morosely.

"Well, the whole point of you two going to Florence without me for

so long, was because LaCroix thought you needed to ... what do they say

now ... spend <quality time> together," she remembered.

Nick raised his head and looked at her strangely. "LaCroix never

told me that. He said you didn't want to come, not until we were well

established in Florence."

Smiling ironically, she said, "that sounds like something he would

say. Anything but the truth, if it had to do with how he felt."

Frowning, Nick sat up and turned around, his back to her.

"I didn't mean to upset you," said Janette, reaching out to him.

He didn't pull away when he felt her hand on his shoulder. "You

didn't," he said, turning back to her. "I didn't realize how late it was. I need

to go."

"Are you sure?" she asked, a little worried about his state of

mind. "It's hours yet before dawn, but you're more than welcome to stay

the day with me."

"Thank you, Janette," he said, then leaned in to kiss her. Pulling

he away, he continued, "but I have to go. You understand?"

"Oui, I understand. You go, but do not be a stranger, Nicolas.

Promise me."

"I promise," he pledged. Rising from the bed, he began searching

for his clothes.

After a few minutes of watching him, Janette rose to assist him in

his search. Soon, they were both dressed and she walked him back out

to the club. They said their good-byes, under the watchful eyes of the

clubs regulars, and then she wistfully watched him head up the stairs and

out the door.

Her thoughts were interrupted as Miklos set a wine glass in front

of her. She raised the glass to her lips and took a small sip. She

continued to think about Nicolas, and was concerned about his believing

he had killed LaCroix. Well, she decided, she would just have to help him

get over it.




He felt much better after his visit with Janette. Until now, he

hadn't realized just how much he had been dreading telling her about

LaCroix. Just thinking about how well she took it was a huge relief. It was

like a tremendous weight had been lifted from him, one he hadn't even

realized he had been carrying.

Nick pulled the Caddy to a stop as the streetlight turned red. It

was still raining heavily, but traffic had eased considerably since earlier

tonight. It was late enough that there was hardly anyone on the roads.

That was one nice thing about living nights. You didn't suffer from the

same congestion in traffic, or with people, that you would living days.

The light turned green and he was just stepping on the gas when

his police radio blared suddenly. "81 kilo, 81 kilo. Please respond." He

just looked at in surprise. He was suppose to be off tonight. Why would

dispatch be calling him on the radio? Then he remembered he had left

his cell phone at the loft.

Picking up the microphone, he replied, "this is 81 kilo. What's


"81 kilo. Report to the scene. Downtown at First Financial Trust."

Confused, he replied, "what's going on? I'm off tonight, and that's

not even in our precinct."

"81 kilo. Meet the Detectives, Bissett and Clarke. Stonetree's


Sighing, he answered, "81 kilo responding."

He parked the Caddy on the street, well away from all the other

emergency vehicles at the crime scene. The rain began pelting him

immediately, as he hurried forward. When he neared the scene, a

uniformed officer stepped forward to stop him. He reached into his pocket

and pulled out his ID, holding it up for the officer to see. "Detective

Knight," he said. "What's going on here?"

"There's been a murder, sir. Back there, in the courtyard," the

officer answered, pointing towards the parking lot running alongside the


He craned his head to see if he could get a better look. "Bissett

and Clarke there?"

"Yes, sir. All the way back, to the right," he replied, stepping

aside to let Nick pass.

Nick slowly walked through the parking lot, heedless of the water

running through his hair and down his back. He headed for the courtyard

he saw up ahead. He wasn't sure why Stonetree wanted him here, but

assumed it might have to do with his current case, especially since it

seemed Bissett and Clarke were involved.

He reached the gate and turned into the courtyard, ducking

under the covered walkway. He spotted the other two detectives right

away. They were talking to a security guard up near the entrance to the

building. Looking to his left, he could see where an impromptu plastic tent

had been erected in the center of the courtyard. There, kneeling over a

body, was Natalie. Other members of the forensics team were under their

umbrellas, scouring the area looking for anything the rain hadn't washed

away yet.

He walked up and greeted her, "hey, Nat. What have you got?"

He squatted down next to her.

Looking up at him in surprise, she answered, "a little out of your

jurisdiction aren't you? And isn't this your night off?"

"Yes, on both counts. Dispatch said Stonetree wanted me here,"

he replied, as he looked down at the body curiously. "Well?"

"Mind you, I can't say absolutely for certain, but it does seem to

be the same MO as at the Barnett's. The victim, one Edward Lanier. He's

a financial advisor here, and apparently was working late. The security

guard found him when he noticed his car was still in the lot. It looks like

he was severely bludgeoned, then had his throat cut. Forensics is getting

samples now, but there's blood on the outer doorway there," she pointed

towards the exit Edward Lanier used to leave the building, "and on the

gate there, "she pointed to the parking lot. "I'm guessing lamb's blood, but

we won't know for sure until we run some tests."

"What about a rope circle?" he asked, intrigued and a little


Cocking her head to the side and nodding, she answered, "yep.

Over there." She pointed to the far corner of the tent.

Nick could see where a piece of rope had been coiled four times.

He stood up and walked over to it, not noticing that Natalie had risen to

follow him. He squatted next to it and looked it over carefully. It was in the

grass with a diameter of about two feet. There were visible signs of blood

in the center where the grass had been stomped down.

He closed his eyes and concentrated. There was a lingering

presence that he could just barely sense. Concentrating harder, his mind

began receiving fuzzy images. A man standing in the rain, hands raised

above him, the water washing down and cleansing his blood splattered

body. All the while, the image of the man was smiling and laughing, as he

kept slowly turning in a circle, over and over and over again.

"Nick. Nick," she called, before he finally snapped out of it and

acknowledged her presence.

"What?" he asked dazedly.

"You tell me what. You looked like you were in a trance or

something," responded Natalie.

"Something," he replied absently, staring back at the circle. He

slowly reached out and touched the rope, jerking his hand back quickly

as the fiery sensation burnt into him.

Natalie grabbed his hand and turned it to look at his fingers. They

were visibly burned. "Holy water?" she asked.

"That's my guess," he replied, pulling his hand away and

standing. He cradled his injured hand against his chest.

"Here, I can give you something for that," said Natalie, tugging on

his arm.

"No, it's fine. Just give it a few minutes," he answered, quickly

checking out his burned fingers again. They did feel a little better already.

He wasn't surprised he had burned them, as he had been expecting the

holy water.

"What was with that trance thing?" he heard Natalie ask.

"Oh, uh, it wasn't really a trance, I was just sensing something,"

he replied.

"Sensing what?" she asked a little more forcefully.

"It's the same guy that killed the Barnett's," he stated.

"You're sure?" she inquired skeptically.

"I'm positive," he replied.

"But you still don't know who he is?"


Her face and tone brightening, she said, "you may be in luck


"How's that?" he asked, smiling at her mood change and

following her back to the body.

She squatted back down next to the body and lift the victim's

hand. "It would appear that Mr. Lanier may have gotten a piece of

whoever attacked him. It looks like skin and blood under his fingernails.

I'll be able to check it out at the lab, but my guess is, it's your killer."

"That's great," he said, surprised at finally seeming to get an

substantive break. He watched as she wrapped the victim's hands in

plastic bags to protect the evidence. He stood up and stepped away to

give her room, then turned when he heard his name called.

"Knight, what are you doing here?"

Nick turned as he saw Bissett and Clarke approaching him.

"What brings you to this side of town?" continued Bissett warily.

His demeanor changing to mirror the other detectives, he replied,

"looks like the same as the Barnett killings."

"Yeah, and the marina killings from last year," commented Bissett

dryly. "So, that still doesn't answer why you're here."

"Stonetree sent me," replied Nick casually.

"You and Schanke anywhere on the Barnett killings?" asked

Clarke, matching Nick's casual tone.

"We're still working on it," answered Nick. "So, what have you

guys found."

"We think it's the same guy too," replied Clarke.

"And?" encouraged Nick.

"And, why don't you tell us what you've got," answered Bissett, a

little sarcastically. At Nick's 'you've got to be kidding' stare, he added,

"after all, this makes two cases we've got, to your and Schanke's one."

"Schanke and I have been working on this for the past week. You

guys haven't looked at it since last year," parried Nick.

"There's no reason why we can't work on this together," said

Clarke, to his partner. "Right, Knight?" he asked, turning back to Nick.

"After all, we did help you through the marina crime scene."

Smiling tautly, Nick replied, "that is why Stonetree sent me here.

So we could work together."

"See?" replied Clarke to his partner, giving him a friendly jab in

the arm. "So how do we want to do this?" he asked, while Knight and

Bissett stared at each other, neither one smiling.

Finally, Nick replied tightly, "I'll have Schanke call you."

The three men were interrupted then by their Coroner, who had

been patiently waiting for their conversation to come to some sort of an

end. "Well, if you boys are done divvying up the turf, I'm ready to take the

body. Anyone want a last look?"

Bissett and Clarke both shook their heads no. Bissett closed his

notebook and placed it in his inside coat pocket. With a final glare at

Knight, he and Clarke turned to leave.

"Nick, are you through?" she asked, looking at him as he

watched the other two detectives depart.

Breaking out of his distraction, he turned to her and replied,

"yeah, I've seen enough."

"What was that all about?" she asked, indicating the conversation

he had been having with the other detectives.

"Nothing," he replied. Then seeing her skeptical look, he added,

"you know, just cop stuff."

"I see," she replied turning away from him and rolling her eyes as

she moved away.

As soon as the body was removed, the scene began to clear.

Before very long, there were only a couple uniformed officers, and a

couple forensics people still about. Nick had stayed behind mainly for two

reasons. He wanted a chance to check out the scene with fewer people

about, and he just wasn't ready to go home yet.

He had gathered from the speculative conversations he had

overheard, that they thought Edward Lanier had been attacked by the

gate, then his body dragged to the center of the courtyard, where his

attacker then cut his throat, killing him. Keeping that in mind, he

wandered over to the gate. It was hard to detect if anything else was

here, as he recognized the scent of lamb's blood all over the immediate


He closed his eyes, forcing back the sensations brought on by

the smell of the blood. Oddly, this wasn't as hard as he would have

normally expected. Smiling to himself, he thought this was one more

thing to thank Janette for. He hadn't felt this satiated in a long time.

Turning his mind back to the crime at hand, he started down the

walkway towards the building's exit door. About a quarter of the way, he

stopped. Something had got his attention. It was a smell. Slight, but there

nonetheless. Looking around, using his preternatural vision, he spotted

the blood on the bushes next to the building. Stepping in between the

shrubbery, he saw where there was an impression in the dirt, as if

something had been laying there. He bent down close to the ground and

saw footprints. This must be where the killer had stood in hiding.

Casting his eyes about for further clues, he saw none. Drawn

back to the blood stains, he reached out to touch them. They were wet

and sticky. Rubbing his thumb over the wet blood on his fingers, he held

it up to his nose. This was human blood. He closed his eyes, drawing the

scent into himself and imprinting it in his mind. When he was certain he

had it indelibly etched in his memory, he turned and wiped his fingers on

the grass. Returning to the tent where Edward Lanier's body had just

been removed, he bent down and repeated this process with the blood

found there. It was different. Nick decided that the blood by the shrubs

belonged to the killer. In fact, he was certain of it.

Suddenly looking towards the sky, Nick realized dawn was not

far away. It was time to go.




The next night, Nick walked into the precinct to find Schanke and

Stonetree waiting for him. Not bothering to remove his coat, he followed

Schanke into Stonetree's office where they shut the door and sat down.

"So, Nick. You made it to the crime scene last night?" asked


"Yeah. It was our guy," he answered.

"You sure about that," inquired Stonetree gruffly.

"Yeah. I'm sure," he stated assuredly. Then plunging right in,

"you know, Cap, it's going to slow us down if we have to work with Bissett

and Clarke."

"Is that right?" asked Stonetree skeptically.

"Hey, what's this all about?" inquired Schanke cluelessly. "What

crime scene last night?" Turning to Nick he asked, "what were you doing

at a crime scene last night? You were suppose to be off."

"I sent him," stated Stonetree, putting an end to the question.

"And as for time off, there isn't going to be any until you two catch this

guy, capice?"

Schanke stared at Stonetree for a moment, then when realization

dawned on him, he turned to Nick. "You mean that banker last night was

done in by our guy?"

"Yeah," answered Nick. "And Natalie might have some DNA

evidence from the killer this time."

"Oh, that does sound good, partner," replied Schanke smiling.

His smile quickly turned to a frown as he thought, "wait a minute. Didn't

that murder occur in the 96th?"

"Yes, which is why I sent Nick there to check in with the

investigating detectives," answered Stonetree.

At Schanke's questioning look, Nick replied, "Bissett and Clarke."

"Oh, yeah. From the marina," remembered Schanke neutrally.

"So, Nick. How did you leave it?" asked Stonetree knowingly.

Somewhat hesitatingly, Nick replied, "I told them you sent me

down there so we could work together."

"Did you now?" stated Stonetree skeptically.

"Well, yeah, sort of," answered Nick, a little fidgety.

"I hear you weren't real cooperative," said Stonetree


"I was cooperative," replied Nick defensively.

"How so?" inquired Stonetree.

"I told them that ...," he hesitated knowing how lame this would

sound, " ... Schanke would call them."

"Oh, yeah. Real cooperation, that," replied Stonetree


"It was late," responded Nick, in the way of an excuse.

"I see," said Stonetree, "so, it's safe to assume that you'll be

more forthcoming at your next meeting then."

"Oh, great, so now I'm suppose to call them," huffed Schanke.

"Sorry, Skank," whispered Nick, in an aside to him.

Becoming more serious, Stonetree leaned forward and asked,

"so, Nick. Did you get a better read on this guy last night?"

Nick looked at Stonetree, trying to get a notion of what he was

really asking. The Captain already knew what he had reported from the

scene. There's no way Natalie would have said anything about him

sensing anything, so what was Stonetree really asking.

"I'm not sure what you mean, Cap," answered Nick cautiously.

"I mean, you were there checking out the scene almost right after

it happened. It was fresh. The killer must have barely left when it was

called in. Did you get a sense of this guy?" inquired Stonetree again,

distinctly giving the impression that he wouldn't be surprised if Nick pulled

out the killer's address and phone number right then and there.

Nick thought to himself, 'yeah, I got a sense of this guy', but it

can't be what Stonetree is asking, could it? Playing it safe, he answered,

"maybe I picked up a clue or two. We're waiting for Natalie to come back

with the lab results on skin and blood samples. She thinks the victim got

his nails into the killer."

"Good," said Stonetree, leaning back in his chair, obviously


"Now maybe you can clue me in, partner," commented Schanke.

"Sure," responded Nick.

"Well, what are you two waiting for. Go catch me a killer," ordered


Both detectives rose at the dismissal.

"Yes, sir," replied Schanke, exiting the office quickly.

Nick gave Stonetree a hesitant look, then nodded and followed

his partner.

Reaching his desk, Nick took off his coat and tossed it on the

coat rack behind him. He and Schanke then went through their normal

procedures. Looking through their inboxes, reviewing the regular mail, the

email, and finally voice mail.

Nick had a few messages in his voice mail, but only one that

really got his attention. It was a man's voice, and the message was time

stamped about 6:00 a.m., earlier today. He listened to it, his face clouding

over. Although he didn't recognize the voice, he knew who it belonged to.

"Skank," he hissed, as he finished listening.

Seeing the dark look marring his partner's features, Schanke

new something was wrong. "What is it?"

"Listen to this," replied Nick harshly, punching a few buttons and

then shoving the handset towards Schanke.

Schanke listened to a man's voice recite, "thou harborest a vain

thought; the undiscerning life that made them foul now makes them dim

to all discernment," followed by laughter, then a click.

"Who, or better yet, what was that?" asked Schanke, staring

intently at Nick.

"<That>," said Nick, voice deepening into a growl, "is our killer."

"Are you sure?" asked Schanke, not wanting to believe it. "I

mean, it could be..." his voice trailed off as he saw the look on Nick's

face, the one that said, 'what's wrong with you, of course I'm sure.'

Sighing in frustration, he asked, "okay, so now what?"

Nick frowned. He didn't have a next move. They kept getting

more and more information and evidence, but so far, it wasn't leading

them any closer to the killer.

Seeing Nick's indecision, Schanke suggested, "how about if I go

ahead and call Bissett and Clarke and set something up. We'll go from

there." At Nick's nod, Schanke picked up the phone to place the call.

A few hours later, both detectives were much calmer. A couple of

numbing hours pouring through reports will do that, especially reports

you've already seen a half a dozen times. Nick parked the Caddy at the

curb. He and Schanke exited onto the sidewalk and began to stroll

towards the cafe on the corner.

Nick slowed down at the newsstand, and called to Schanke,

"hold up a sec. I want to buy a paper."

"We're already late. I don't think it's a good idea to make them

wait too much longer," replied Schanke impatiently.

Smiling, Nick answered, "it'll only take a minute."

Schanke waited for Nick to make his purchase, then walked

anxiously next to him as he insisted on slowly strolling down the sidewalk.

"Nick, will you pick up the pace."

"Where's the fire?" he asked calmly, turning over the paper in his

hands as he walked.

"For crying out loud," Schanke lamented. "Finally, we're here.

Now remember, I'll do the talking, okay?"

"Sure, whatever," replied Nick distractedly.

Schanke pulled open the door to the cafe allowing Nick to enter

before him, then followed close behind. Nick stood in the cafe lobby, until

Schanke grabbed him by the arm and tugged. "Look. There they are.

Come on."

They casually strolled over to the booth occupied by Bissett and

Clarke, and sat down opposite them.

"We already ordered," said Bissett, looking at both detectives.

"We got tired of waiting."

"Well, you know how traffic is this time of night," commented Nick

sarcastically. Schanke kicked his shin under the table, shutting him up,

but not before drawing an annoyed look.

"Sorry, we got held up at the station," Schanke said in answer to

Bissett's statement, ignoring that Nick had even spoken.

"Let's get to it then," said Clarke. "We got the results back from

forensics and the M.E. Whoever killed Lanier is the same person that

killed the Barnett's."

"We already knew that," intoned Nick.

Ignoring him, Clarke continued, "and as you already figured out,

this same person killed the couple on the yacht last year, and the

professor in Brampton three years ago."

"So, you guys have any idea who this someone may be?" asked

Schanke congenially, feeling he needed to make up for Nick's less than

friendly attitude.

"No more than you," sneered Bissett, looking at Nick.

Any reply that may have been made was interrupted by the

arrival of the waitress. "You gents ready to order?"

"Yeah, bring me a cheeseburger, lot's of onions, side of fries, and

a diet cola," ordered Schanke. Nick looked at Schanke and rolled his

eyes. "What?" asked Schanke, looking back at him.

"Nothing," replied Nick with a grin.

"So how about you?" the waitress asked Nick.

"I'll just have water," replied Nick.

The waitress made her notes and headed off to the kitchen with

her order.

"So, you won't even eat with us?" asked Bissett incredulously.

Before Nick had a chance to reply, Schanke said, "ignore him.

He never eats. He's on this weird diet, and apparently it doesn't include

food." Schanke chuckled at his last statement. Nick gave him a dark

questioning stare, and Schanke answered, "what? Am I wrong?"

Nick just shook his head and turned to look at his paper.

The detectives chatted more about the case, but there really

wasn't a lot of unknown information to share. It was decided that since

Bissett and Clarke had two cases in their jurisdiction, they would focus on

trying to find the link between the victims, while Nick and Schanke would

try to track down the clues left from the evidence at the crime scenes. It

was obvious that Bissett and Clarke expected to have more success,

which is why they opted on investigating the victims. They clearly had

more information to work with.

When the waitress brought their food, Nick continued to read the

paper while the others ate.

"Hey, Nick. Give me the sports section," requested Schanke,

between mouthfuls.

"Why? It looks like you've got your hands full already," he replied


"Hardy, har, har. Just hand it over," said Schanke, setting down

his cheeseburger.

"I haven't read it yet," replied Nick.

"So, I'll give it back when I'm through," responded Schanke.

"I don't think so," said Nick, pushing it a little further away.

"You just really don't like to share, do you?" accused Schanke.

"And this is news to you?" retorted Bissett.

"And what's that suppose to mean?" inquired Nick, irritated.

"It doesn't mean anything," answered Clarke.

At Nick's stare, Bissett added, "yeah, it was just a joke."

"Well, it's not funny," replied Nick, to Bissett and Clarke. Then

turning to Schanke, he said, "and besides, you're busy eating and I don't

want you to get grease all over it."

"Oh, yes. Heaven forbid I should get grease on your precious

paper," retorted Schanke. At Bissett and Clarke's look, he casually

added, "I put up with this all the time."

Nick just shook his head and went back to reading the paper,

while the others turned back to their plates to finish their meals. When

Nick finally got done reading the sports section, the others had finished

eating. He folded the section up and tossed it at Schanke, who just barely

caught it before it landed in his dirty plate. Schanke threw an accusatory

frown at Nick, who just smiled pleasantly in return.

"Ready to roll?" asked Nick.

"Yeah, sure," Schanke replied to Nick. Then turning to the other

detectives, he said, "we'll see you guys around later."

"You'll let us know if you come up with something?" asked Bissett


"Just as we know you'll do the same," replied Nick sarcastically.

Schanke gave Nick a push towards the door, and said, "let's go."

Nick and Schanke returned to the precinct after their dinner

break. Since it was their job to put together the clues from the evidence,

they put in the necessary calls to make sure the results from last night's

murder also got routed their way, instead of only to the 96th. Nick just

hung up the phone from talking with Natalie, while Schanke was still on

the phone with forensics, as a couple of uniformed officers brought in a

suspect. They took him to a desk, just across the room from Nick, and

pushed him into the chair, handcuffing him in place, then went to look for

the detective who was handling the case.

This was a normal nightly occurrence, and usually didn't even

rate a second glance. But tonight, Nick found himself staring at the man

in the chair. The suspect's free hand had been injured, and was wrapped

with a makeshift bandage. The injury must have been bleeding quite a

bit, because the bandage was soaked. Nick couldn't take his eyes from it.

His nostrils flared slightly at the smell, and he gasped quietly as the

hunger hit him unexpectedly.

After last night with Janette, he felt as though he had strayed way

off of Natalie's diet regimen, more than usual. He hadn't drank any

human blood, but he had drank quite a bit of Janette's, which in some

ways was even worse. It had quenched his hunger in a way he hadn't

remembered for a long time, but his body craved a repeat of the

experience. Cow's blood just didn't do it.

To make up for his dietary lapse, when he got up this evening, he

had forced himself to drink almost an entire protein shake, and had

forgone his normal 'bovine chaser'. As he continued to stare at the blood

soaked hand, he began to think that had been a mistake. Nick closed his

eyes and could taste the scent of the blood as it continued its' assault on

his olfactory senses. His mouth began to water, and his teeth began to

itch. He closed his eyes tighter and clenched his fists, digging his nails

into his palms.

"Knight," snapped Schanke, for probably the fourth time. "Will you

snap out of it." Nick's eyes flew open as his brain finally registered

Schanke's words. "Just what in hell is wrong with you? You are acting

weirder than normal."

"I've got to go," he replied dazedly, then jumped to his feet and

fled the room. He dashed quickly into the locker room. He had to get this

under control.

Meanwhile, in the squad room, Schanke jumped to his feet. His

intention was to follow his partner and find out just what his problem was.

Before he had a chance to do so, Natalie arrived at his desk.

"Schanke, what's going on?" she inquired worriedly, looking

towards the locker room where Nick had just disappeared.

"That's what I was about to go find out," he replied, and started to

move off.

"Wait," said Natalie, figuring the last thing Nick wanted was to

have anyone follow him right now, even though she didn't know what the

problem was. At Schanke's curious look, she added, "I brought over

those reports you guys just called me about. The ones on Edward


"It'll just have to wait a minute. I need to go see what's up with

Nick," replied Schanke, heading off towards the locker room.

"But, Schanke... ," she started to say, in an effort to dissuade


"Just wait. I'll be right back," he said, hurrying through the door

into the locker room.

Sighing heavily, Natalie turned around and sat in one of the

chairs facing the detectives desks. As her eyes wandered the room, she

spotted the suspect, and his bandaged hand. Putting two and two

together, she figured that must be what was bothering Nick. But on the

other hand, she thought he seemed to be handling being around blood

much better. It hardly affected him at all anymore... or so it appeared.

In the locker room, Schanke found Nick sitting on the bench in

front of his locker. "Nick, do you want to tell me what's wrong?"

Having removed himself from the room where the blood scent

was, Nick was quickly getting a grip on his craving. He was just telling

himself that it was only affecting him this strongly because it was

unexpected. Normally, he knew when he was going to be exposed to the

blood and he could prepare. Seeing Schanke standing anxiously at his

side, waiting for an explanation, he replied, "there's nothing wrong."

"You've been acting strange all night," retorted Schanke. "Even

strange for you."

Nick gave his partner an annoyed glance, and answered in an

irritated voice, "thank you for that astute observation."

When he realized that Nick wasn't going to say anymore, he

demanded, "so. Spill. What's wrong?"

"Nothing," insisted Nick.

"There's got to be something," contended Schanke.

Realizing that he wasn't going to let it drop, Nick went with the

first excuse that came to mind. "I didn't sleep well last night. I'm tired,

that's all."

"I've seen you tired. This isn't it," pressed Schanke.

Standing up, Nick replied hotly, "okay, fine. Maybe the pressure

of this case is getting to me. Are you happy now?"

Accepting this answer, and trying to help, Schanke replied, "just

relax, okay? I think this one is getting to all of us. There's a lot of pressure

being heaped on us. It only makes sense that you'd feel it a little now and


Turning his back on Schanke, he leaned against the lockers.

"Well, that's not going to help solve this case, now is it?" Nick turned back

around when he heard Schanke chuckling. "What?"

Shaking his head, Schanke replied, "the way you're acting, it's as

if you think you're suppose to be some superman that just pulls all the

answers out of thin air." At Nick's questioning look, he continued, "look. I

know you've got great instincts, and I'll be the first one to admit that I

don't know how in the hell you come up with some of these great leaps,

or hunches, of yours. So, this one's taking a little longer. Big deal. It'll

come together and we'll figure it out. You'll see. No one can do any better

than us."

"Skank, people are dying. And not only do we not know who the

killer is, we've got him trailing us, shooting at us, coming into the precinct

and leaving handwritten notes, and voice mail messages on my phone.

And those quotes, I know I've heard them before, but I can't remember

where," ranted Nick mildly, very frustrated. "And what else do we have to

go on. Lamb's blood, which he can get anywhere. Rope that can be

purchased at any one of 1,000 different stores in the city alone. We have

his footprints at all the crime scenes. We have him on videotape here at

the station. And we still aren't any closer to knowing who he is."

"Jeez, Nick. You're raving like you think he's some kind of

supernatural demon, or something," retorted Schanke. "Well, he's not.

And we will catch him." At Nick's seeming return to normalcy, he

continued, "and speaking of which, Natalie is here with the results on

Lanier. Maybe she has something we can use."

Nick looked at Schanke skeptically, then stepped past him and

headed back for the office.

"Everything all right?" asked Natalie, looking closely at Nick as

the two detectives took their respective seats at their desks.

"Yeah, everything's fine. We want to hear what you found out,"

responded Schanke.

Eyeing the two detectives speculatively, and seeing that she had

both their attentions, she proceeded. She opened the file she had

brought with her, and laid it in her lap. "Actually, there's not a whole lot

more. The only thing we picked up from the Lanier crime scene, that

wasn't at any of the others, was the blood and tissue samples under his

fingernails. They confirm that it's a Caucasian male, blood type A

negative. You catch somebody, we'll be able to match it."

"Great," sighed Nick sarcastically.

"I take it things aren't going well," she commented.

Nick just shook his head negatively, and Schanke leaned

resignedly back in his chair. They both looked a little miserable, their

hopes dashed that she would be able to give them some unexpected new

evidence that would lead to the killer's capture. The three of them sat

silently, mulling over the information they did have. Nick began staring at

the floor, his thoughts on his frustration and how it would be nice to get

just one piece of solid evidence to go on.

--- Start flashback ---

Florence, late 13th c.

Nicholas had slept restlessly most of the day. He was anxious to

return to his hunt for the murderer, and these thoughts kept him tossing

and turning. He had come so close the night before, and he was

confident that he would be successful this evening. As much as the thrill

of the hunt excited him, he was still smoldering over the humiliating

experience in the tavern. LaCroix had forbade him to take revenge on

those responsible. He consoled himself by thinking of when this was

over, then he would be able to seek them out, and then they would pay


As soon as dusk descended, Nicholas left the villa and went

directly to the tavern. He took up the same position he had vacated just

that morning. From his spot in the alley, he could see all the comings and

goings from the front door of the tavern. He soon became bored, but had

no intention of reentering the establishment. Before long, he reasoned it

was yet too early in the evening for anything worthwhile to occur, and

decided that he would go hunting for dinner instead and return to the

tavern thereafter.

It was a couple of hours later, after successfully locating and

partaking of a satisfying meal, that he returned to his post. He waited for

hours, and as each hour crept by, he became more and more discomfited

and edgy. He wanted something to happen, anything at all. He could not

take just standing around in an alley, waiting for the murderer to appear.

He wanted to be doing something.

Just as he began to think he could not wait any longer, he saw a

man he recognized leave the tavern and start down the street away from

him. Smiling dangerously, Nicholas decided to follow him, as it was the

grizzled faced man from the night before. He rationally told himself that

by following this man, he might lead him to the murderer. That is all he

was going to do.

As the man walked down the street, he occasionally tottered and

fell against a nearby wall. He would soon straighten himself, then start off

down the street again. He was making very slow progress. As he

staggered past an alleyway opening, a hand suddenly appeared. It

grabbed him firmly by the front of his shirt and jerked him into the alley. In

his drunkenness, the man was not able to immediately comprehend what

was happening. He had been dragged halfway down the alley before he

was able to react. He dug in his heels and was able to stop their

progress. In his mild stupor, he turned to his assailant and demanded,

"unhand me, you idiot."

"Make me," demanded the assailant. The man tried

unsuccessfully to break free. His assailant laughed and said, "where are

all your cronies now? And just when you need them," he hissed.

The man looked up into the face of his assailant and froze. He

stared in sober recognition of the face before him. He had not looked so

dangerous last night. After all, by the looks of him, he appeared to be

nothing more than the young pampered son of one of the cities rich

families. He most likely hadn't known a day of hardship in his life, nor was

he about to. The man decided it must be the ale that caused him to see

anything to fear in this young one before him. "What is it that you want,

boy?" the man asked roughly, in an attempt at false bravado. He didn't

know why, but he was very frightened.

"I am still looking for the same man I was seeking last night. Tell

me where I may find him," demanded Nicholas harshly.

The man laughed, and at the same time pushed Nicholas hand

off his shoulder. As he turned to leave, he said, "you were sent home last

night. You should have stayed there."

Nicholas' temper flared. He grabbed the man and whipped him

back around to face him. He slammed him against the wall. The man's

face began to take on a look of horror, as he witnessed his assailants

eyes begin to glow with a inner golden fire. "You will tell me," he hissed


"I don't know," the man stuttered.

"You must know. You were protecting him last night," reasoned

Nicholas. "Now, tell me."

"Honestly, I don't know. The man you were chasing, he ran

through the tavern and out the back door. I don't even know who he

was," babbled the terrified man, as he watched the golden orbs change to

blood red in color, still glowing eerily. The man began to tremble, and

pleaded, "let me go, please, let me go."

Nicholas smiled menacingly and said, speaking to himself as well

as to the man, "my father only said I could not kill everyone. He did not

say I could not have just one." The man made a desperate attempt to get

away, but to no avail. Nicholas held him tightly against the wall. "I have

been looking forward to this all day," he whispered to the man, while at

the same time baring his fangs. The man was too terrified to scream. He

just stared in horror, knowing he was about to die. As Nicholas saw the

acceptance reach the man's eyes, he grinned and asked, "do you not

wish now, that you had been more helpful last night?"

"I'm sorry," whispered the panicked man, a spark of hope

entering his befuddled brain.

Pressing his body against the man, Nicholas whispered in his

ear, "too late." Nicholas exposed the man's neck, and quickly nipped it a

couple of times with his fangs. The man squealed in terror. Nicholas

laughed, then without further hesitation, bit solidly into his neck. He shook

his head slightly, causing his fangs to rip the jugular open further. He

swallowed convulsively as the blood spurted into his mouth. As the blood

flow lessened, and then came to a stop, Nicholas withdrew from his

victim. Stepping away, he released the man and watched as his body

slumped to the alley floor, and lay there unmoving, dead.

Nicholas basked in a moment of total satiation, closing his eyes

and letting the feeling wash over him. After a few moments, he took stock

of his surroundings. He judged that he had just enough time to dispose of

the body, and return home far enough ahead of the sunrise so as not to

upset LaCroix with his lateness.

--- End Flashback ---

"Okay, that's it. We're calling it a night," declared Schanke,

pushing himself to his feet.

"What?" said Nick, shaking himself mentally.

"We're both tired; you're out of it; we just need to go home and

start fresh tomorrow. Maybe we just need to sleep on it," reasoned


Standing up, Natalie dropped her report on Nick's desk and said,

"Schanke's right. Go home."

Climbing to his feet, Nick replied, "yeah. I guess you're right. I'll

see you tomorrow." He watched as Schanke grabbed his coat and

headed out of the office. Turning to Natalie, he said, "come on. I'll walk

you to your car."

Hesitantly, she asked, "do you want me to come by this morning?

Maybe we could talk."

Seeing the worried look on her face, he answered, "really, I'm all

right. I just need to get some sleep and I'll be fine."

As they headed across the floor, she asked, "you're sure?"

Holding the door open for her, he answered, "yeah, I'm sure."




It was the middle of the afternoon, and the sun had just poked

through the overcast sky. It was only a momentary break in the wind and

rain storms that were one after another passing over the Great Lakes

area. As the man stepped out of his car, he looked up, squinting. He put

on his sunglasses and pulled his cap down over his face, as he began

the short walk to his destination.

The man smiled to himself as he walked those few blocks. He

constantly amazed himself with the ease in which he was able to fulfill his

mission. Granted, playing this little game with Detective Knight hadn't

originally been part of his overall plan, but he knew there would be

obstacles to overcome.

He paused in the middle of the block and checked the address

carefully. Yes, this was it, 101 Gateway Lane. And to think, all he'd had to

do was look it up in the phonebook. He needed to be really careful now.

Since Detective Knight worked nights... how appropriate, he laughed... he

probably was asleep now. But with this one, you didn't know for sure. He

was a bit eerie, to say the least.

He slowly walked up the sidewalk, inching his way towards the

door with the security panel. He saw the camera in the ceiling of the

alcove and avoided it easily. He noticed the slot in the wall next to the

door. He carefully lifted the metal flap and slipped the envelope inside. He

didn't realize that he had been holding his breath, until he was well away

from the door and around the corner. It wouldn't have surprised him to

find Detective Knight laying in wait for him, the same way the Detective

had known he was being watched in the parking lot that night.

Feeling confident that his presence had not been detected, he

started walking rapidly back to his car. He quietly chuckled to himself,

trying not to draw any unwanted attention. This ought to put Detective

Knight in the mood to play, and with any luck, after tonight he would be

out of his way for good.

As had become habit of late, Nick slept restlessly. He had finally

dropped into a sound sleep when he was startled awake by the sound of

his alarm clock. He groggily sat up in bed, reached over and silenced the

alarm. Rubbing his face with his hands, he tried to recall the disjointed

dreams that had been plaguing him most of the day, but they were rapidly


Freshly showered and dressed, he descended the stairs. As

night had already fallen, he grabbed the remote and pressed the button

that would raise the steel shutters. He thought he caught a glimpse of

starlight through the blinds, so pressed the other button that retracted the

shades. He went to the refrigerator, and just to make sure there wasn't a

repeat of last night, he bypassed the waiting protein shake and opted for

the contents of a green wine bottle. Pulling the cork with his teeth, he

removed it from his mouth with his hand, and lobbed it the short distance

into the sink.

He walked up to the window and looked out over the city, taking

a long swallow straight from the bottle. Over the years, he had built up a

tolerance to the taste of cow's blood. He couldn't quite say that he

enjoyed it, but it was no longer abhorrent to him as a steady diet, as it

had been when he first started drinking it regularly. But tonight, the taste

was unusually bitter. Again, he attributed that to his recent encounter with

Janette. After having tasted her blood so recently, what he was drinking

now was vile in comparison. But drink it he would. The alternative was

just not acceptable any longer. No matter how much he craved human

blood, he would not allow himself to partake of it. He couldn't be with

them, work with them, call them friends, if he was still feeding from them.

He just wouldn't do it.

Taking another long swallow, his taste buds cringed at the flavor.

To distract himself from his thoughts, he put the bottle down and went to

retrieve his newspaper and mail. Maybe if he didn't think about drinking

human blood while he was feeding, it wouldn't be so bad.

Stepping back off the elevator, he walked over and dropped his

paper on the kitchen table. He sorted through the mail, separating the

bills from the junk, until one envelope caught his eye. It had been in with

his mail, but was unposted. Looking it over, he noticed there was no

return address, and the front of the envelope simply said, 'Detective

Nicholas Knight'.

Frowning, he walked back to the window, examining the

envelope for any clues to its' contents. He picked up his bottle, took a

long drink, then set the bottle down and opened the letter. Inside was a

single sheet of paper, with the words neatly printed, 'O foolish creatures,

how great is that ignorance which harms you!' Nick was momentarily


This letter was left by the killer, who had obviously walked up to

his home and dropped it in his mail slot. It wasn't there when he got home

this morning, so the killer must have come while he was sleeping. Nick

couldn't believe it. It had been on the bottom of the pile of mail, which

means the killer must have dropped it off before the postman came. The

postman usually came sometime after 2:00 p.m., so it was dropped off

before then. The killer had actually been standing at his front door.

The more Nick thought about it, the angrier he became. He

already believed he was being played for a fool, and having the killer walk

right up to his front door and drop off a letter addressed personally to him,

didn't help assuage those feelings. Nick was furious. When he got to

work tonight, they had better be able to come up with something. Nick

wasn't sure how much longer he could take this taunting before it drove

him to do something he didn't want to do.

After an interminable amount of time, Nick finally settled down.

Raging around his loft wasn't going to help anything. Schanke was right,

he needed to calm down and think. And what is with these weird

messages. They were eating away at the back of his brain. Every time he

thought he was close to remembering something, a door in his mind

would slam shut. He laughed humorlessly to himself. Every time he was

on the verge of remembering something, it involved LaCroix. That's why

he wouldn't let himself think about it.

Okay, so maybe whatever he wanted to remember, legitimately

did have something to do with LaCroix. Nick took a deep breath and

composed himself. He told himself that LaCroix was dead. He wasn't

coming back, and he was just going to have to live with it. And in order to

that, he had to be able to think about LaCroix without starting to fall apart.

He couldn't let memories of their past life together throw him into a

tailspin, especially the good memories... which in all honesty, were

greater in number than the bad. Every time he thought of LaCroix, he

forced himself to dredge up only the bad memories. He thought that

would make it easier to live with, but he was coming to the realization that

he had to be able to deal with them all. He really had no choice. He

couldn't go on like this for the rest of his life, which could be a very long


He sat down in the leather chair in front of the fireplace and

closed his eyes. He thought about the messages left by the killer, the

note at the precinct, the one on his voice mail, and now the one tonight in

his personal mail. The words sounded familiar, not well known, but

familiar. It was from something he knew.

He let the quotes, for he was certain they were that, flow through

his mind. 'O thou who art led through this Hell, recognise me, if thou

canst', 'thou harborest a vain thought; the undiscerning life that made

them foul now makes them dim to all discernment', and then tonight, 'O

foolish creatures, how great is that ignorance which harms you!' As the

words passed through his mind, he heard them in LaCroix' voice. The

phrases were disjointed, as though they didn't really belong together, but

were connected.

Then it dawned on him. They were from a book that LaCroix had

read to him. That's why his memories were in LaCroix' voice. But what

book. LaCroix had always loved the sound of his own voice, and had

frequently read to him and Janette in the early morning hours just after

dawn. They would be sitting in front of the fire, full from a night's

pleasures and drowsy with the morning sunrise. He would lay with his

head in Janette's lap, while they both listened to LaCroix' recitations. Or

sometimes, LaCroix would just read to him while he fell asleep.

'Stop', he shouted mentally to himself. That's more than he

wanted to remember. Rubbing his forehead, he turned his concentration

back to the phrases left by the killer. But his thoughts kept drifting to

LaCroix, and then there were the memories of Florence from long ago.

He started to mentally shake himself again, to break this train of thought,

when it came to him in a flash. Dante. Those were quotes from The

Divine Comedy.

The times in Florence that he had been remembering, Dante had

lived there then. He had never met him, and he didn't think LaCroix had

either. His book was written after their stay in Florence, but he

remembered having it read to him. He had read it himself sometime much

later. He recalled that LaCroix had found it amusing, and at the time, Nick

had merely been intrigued by the concepts.

The pieces started to fall together. Dante, the Latin quote about

circles, the lamb's blood, holy water, what Sally Barnett had told him she

overheard, "I have passed through the third circle and am sending you

onward to hell to announce my coming." It was all beginning to make

sense. This guy is a real lunatic. He thinks he's descending through

Dante's circles of Hell. The lamb's blood and holy water would be an

offering, as if to say he was sanctioned by heaven to kill these people, for

whatever his purpose. He thinks he's on some kind of divine mission.

Nick gasped at his own thoughts. If he was right, and he felt

certain he was, this guy was a complete madman. And the fact that he

was getting away with his crimes, just kept feeding his warped delusions.

He should have thought of this sooner. This guy would hardly be the first

maniac to latch onto Dante and his circles of Hell for some kind of divine

inspiration. In fact, it was rather cliche, but nonetheless deadly for its'


And how will knowing this help find this psychopath. Every little

bit they were figuring out was bringing them just a little bit closer. This

guy had to be insane to think he could actually carry out this plan, and get

away with it. Nick was certain he was bound to make a mistake. One that

would lead them right to him. The fact that he was successful up to now

had to be luck; it certainly wouldn't last. Now maybe they could come up

with a plan to catch him.

--- Start flashback ---

Florence, late 13th c.

"Where have you been?" asked Nicholas anxiously, as LaCroix

stepped through the door just moments before the sunrise.

"Do not tell me that you were concerned?" answered LaCroix


"The sun is almost up. You are always telling me to be home well

before dawn begins to touch the sky," admonished Nicholas, as he

followed LaCroix into the drawing room.

"And now you know why," he replied. Nicholas frowned and

glowered at him. "So, tell me. Did you have any success tonight?"

"What do you mean?" asked Nicholas quickly, trying to hide the

sudden feeling of guilt.

LaCroix looked at him questioningly, and watched as Nicholas

turned his back, then bent down to stir the fire. "I am referring to your

murderer. Did you locate him?"

"No," replied Nicholas, sighing. "I watched for him outside the

tavern, but he never showed up."

"But you did not wait all night," stated LaCroix, in a slightly

questioning tone of voice.

"What do you mean?" asked Nicholas, thinking LaCroix knew

what he did.

"You did hunt, did you not?"

Nicholas stood and turned to look at LaCroix. He saw the

suspicious look on his face and decided it best to just tell him. After all, he

had done nothing wrong, not really. "The man from the bar last night,

well, he came out of the bar and walked right past where I was standing,"

explained Nicholas, thinking that was close enough to the truth.

"Yes? Continue," ordered LaCroix.

"I followed him down the street, and pulled him into an alley. I

thought he could tell me where the murderer was."

"And did he?"

"No. He did not know, or so he said."

"Do go on."

"There was no one about, so I killed him." Seeing the frown on

LaCroix' face, he rapidly continued, "you only told me I could not kill them

all, and I made sure the body was properly disposed of. No one will find

it, I swear."

LaCroix turned his back and walked a few steps away, a smile

upon his lips. "Very well, Nicholas," he replied, turning back to face his

son, the smile replaced by his stern countenance. "While you were out

<amusing> yourself, I discovered what is motivating our murderer."

"How did you do that?" asked Nicholas, astounded at the


"Do you not remember what I told you earlier?"

"I remember," said Nicholas annoyed. "You said that in order to

catch a murderer, you must first understand him." After a brief pause, in

which LaCroix did not speak further, Nicholas asked, "what did you


"I spoke with the families of the victims, and I discovered what

they all were doing on the night that they were murdered," replied


"You saw the families? And they just told you?"

"Well, it did take some small amount of persuasion, but I did get

the information," he responded.

"Tell me," demanded Nicholas impatiently.

Chuckling at his son's eagerness, he continued, "it would seem

that they all shared a common interest in visiting a particular house of

pleasure, and I would wager that they all enjoyed the same company


"Femme galante?"


"How does this help us?" asked Nicholas.

"I have a plan," replied LaCroix, smiling in wicked anticipation.

--- End Flashback ---

Feeling newly energized, Nick grabbed his coat and headed for


Having already checked in at the precinct, he filled Schanke in on

having received the letter this afternoon, and the quotes as coming from

Dante. Once his partner was up to speed, they filled in the Captain. Nick

didn't have the patience to sit around sorting through paperwork, and it

didn't take much convincing before he and Schanke were in the Caddy,

cruising the streets. They needed to come up with a plan.

Before they left, Schanke had insisted on leaving a progress

report for Bissett and Clarke. Nick wasn't really against having them

involved, he just preferred working alone. And by alone, he meant just

him and Schanke. Funny, how a few months ago he would have meant it

literally, but to his surprise, he had quickly gotten use to having Schanke

as a partner, and now, actually preferred it.

Nick rubbed at his chest where his kevlar vest was chafing him,

and adjusted his T-shirt for protection. He hated wearing these things, but

Stonetree wouldn't let them out on the streets without one. Not after

having nearly been shot twice already while working this case.

"81 kilo, 81 kilo. Please respond."

"Yeah, 81 kilo here," answered Schanke, having snatched the

mic at the first call. He and Nick had been discussing their options, and

not having much luck. They were both grateful for the interruption.

"81 kilo. See the man. Riverdale Park. South of Winchester St."

"Who is it we're suppose to be meeting?" he inquired curiously.

That was a strange location to be called to meet someone.

"Check with the desk, Detective. They took the call."

"Roger that. 81 kilo out," he replied, putting the mic away. "So,

what do you think?" he asked, turning to Nick.

"Check it out," answered Nick, noticing that Schanke already had

pulled his cellphone and was dialing the number.

"Hey, Norma," greeted Schanke. "We just got the call from

dispatch to meet some guy in Riverdale Park."

"Yes, Detective Schanke. I took the call. Says his name is Virgil

Lombard, and he's a neighbor of the Barnett's. He says he has some

information about the murders and he wanted to meet with you and

Detective Knight."

"What's with the weird location?"

"He said he was taking his dog for a walk, and he didn't want to

upset his family by having you come to the house. Says he'll be there for

the next hour."

"Okay, Norma. Thanks," replied Schanke, pocketing his cell

phone. "What do you think?"

"I remember seeing the name on the list of neighbors that had

been interviewed. It can't hurt," answered Nick, already turning the car to

head for the park.

"Who knows. Maybe this guy videotaped the whole thing and just

now remembered," quipped Schanke.

Nick just looked at him and grinned.




After parking the Caddy, the two detectives got out and headed

into the park. There weren't any other cars about and the area looked

fairly deserted. It wasn't really all that late, but it was cold and there was a

light rain falling. They walked slowly around the area, deeper into the

park. Neither one saw anybody about.

"Well, if he's walking the dog, he could have wandered off

anywhere. I say let's go back to his house and wait for him there,"

suggested Schanke.

"Give it a few more minutes," countered Nick, looking deeper into

the darkness. He was trying to tell if he could detect anyone nearby, and

he thought he sensed someone up ahead. There was an open field in

front of them, with a heavy copse of trees atop a small incline on the

other side. He sensed the presence in the trees. "This way," he said,

heading across the short field.

The detectives made their way to the trees, but by the time they

arrived, nobody was there. Frowning in confusion, Nick looked around,

seeing if he could pick up the presence again. They walked along the

treeline as it led further up the crest of a small hill, finally ending at a

short, steep embankment.

"Now what," said Schanke, disgusted at this seeming wild goose


"I guess we go back to his house," replied Nick, at a loss as to

where this someone he sensed was. Just as they started to turn,

something caught the corner of his eye. "Wait a minute. What's that?"

asked Nick, moving further along the edge of the embankment to the next

clump of trees.

Schanke saw it then too. "It looks like a rope, with something

hanging from it."

They both reached the object at the same time. A piece of rope

was hanging down, having been tied to a tree branch. Attached to the

end of the rope was a large hunting knife, with what looked like blood

stains on it.

"Are you thinking what I'm thinking?" asked Schanke,

unbelievingly. "What's the odds of that being our murder weapon?"

Before Nick had a chance to answer, there was sharp popping

sound, then Schanke was on the ground holding his arm. Nick stared in

amazement as the second shot splintered the bark of the tree next him.

Having seen Schanke get shot, and then smelling the blood, was enough

to make Nick go berserk. He had seen the flash from the second shot

and quickly started moving in that direction.


Meanwhile, the man with the gun was grinning, trying to control

his elation. He just couldn't believe how easy it had been to lure them

here. And soon, they would be out of his way permanently. As he saw

Detective Knight turns toward him, he aimed and fired a third shot. He

obviously missed, as the detective kept coming. He was getting ready to

fire a fourth shot, when he saw the glowing red eyes of Detective Knight.

Instantly grasping the situation, he threw his gun in Detective

Knight's face, momentarily deflecting his attack and buying himself a few

more seconds. Rolling to the ground, he grabbed his backpack and

pulled out a large brass cross. As Detective Knight came at him again, he

held the cross out towards him, ecstatic at Detective Knight's reaction.

As he closed the short distance between them, Nick sensed the

mortal's vibration and knew this was the killer. Nick flinched as the metal

object was thrown in his face, but recovered quickly and went for the man

again. He was caught off guard as the cross was shoved in his face, and

his reaction caused him to fall backwards, as if he had been struck by

lightening. The man advanced towards him, wielding the cross. Snarling

and baring his fangs, Nick scooted back and away.

The man had come to terms with this revelation rather quickly.

No wonder he had sensed something uncanny about Detective Knight,

he was a demon sent to stop him. Only a demon from Hell would have

glowing eyes, fangs, and be repelled by the cross. He had expected

something like this to happen, so he had been prepared. As the demon

scampered backwards across the grass, towards his downed minion, the

man carefully bent down and retrieved his gun.

From his position on the ground, Schanke lifted his head and saw

a man with a cross in one hand, and a gun in the other. The man was

moving up the hill towards Nick, who was on the ground and scampering

backwards, trying to get away from him. Schanke pulled out his gun, and

would have taken a shot, but Nick was in his line of fire. The man with the

gun seemed to have his full concentration on his partner. Rolling to his

knees, Schanke climbed to his feet and pointed his gun over Nick's head

and at the man, yelling, "freeze, police."

Without hesitation, the man dropped to the ground, putting Nick

once again between them, then turned his gun towards Schanke, while

still holding the cross in Nick's direction.

Thinking the man was about to shoot Schanke, and not being

able to get to him because of the cross, Nick took the only other course

of action he saw open to him. Using his vampiric speed, he turned and

ran up the hill towards Schanke, jumping him and sending them both

tumbling over the edge of the embankment, but well out of the line of fire.

Schanke yelled as Nick's body impacted against his, and then

they were both airborne for a few brief moments. Nick had wrapped his

arms around Schanke's chest, holding on to him, and had turned their

bodies so he took the main impact of their landing. The breath was

knocked out of him as his back slammed into the ground, and the full

weight of Schanke's body landed on top of him, followed by them both

tumbling and sliding to the bottom of the hill. When they came to a rest,

they both lay there, stunned by what had just happened. Nick reached

out with his senses to determine if their unbalanced killer was pursuing

them, and found the presence he sensed getting fainter, telling him that

the man had fled.

Nick gasped for breath, and upon hearing Schanke's moan, he

forced himself up from the ground. They had come to rest in a large, wet

patch of mud, and they were both soaked and filthy. Nick crawled on his

knees to Schanke, and asked, "how bad is it?" There was so much mud

he couldn't see the wound.

"I'll live," gasped Schanke, out of breath. "He just nicked me in

the arm. I don't think it's that bad."

"Let me help you up," said Nick, holding his hand out for Schanke

to grab.

With his good arm, Schanke took hold of Nick's hand and let

himself be pulled to his feet. They spent the next minutes scaling back up

the wall of mud, with Nick taking the lead and dragging Schanke up

behind him. Before they reached the top, Schanke asked, "are you sure

this guy is gone? He's not just waiting there to take another shot at us?"

"Trust me, Skank. He's gone," answered Nick wearily. This mud

was hard to maneuver in and it was all he could do to keep them from

slipping back down.

"Trust you?" quipped Schanke. "You just threw me off a cliff."

Nick just glared at him, then softened his look at Schanke's grin.

They finally reached the top of the embankment and slowly made

their way to the car. They were both wet and covered in mud, from head

to foot. Nick was debating on what to do. He didn't relish having them

both in the Caddy, getting dirt and mud all over the interior. Maybe he

could have a squad car pick them up and one of the officer's could drive

the Caddy.

He was just starting to reach for the mic, when Schanke

staggered against the hood. Turning his attention to his partner, he could

smell the fresh blood seeping from his mud covered arm. A stab of fear

shot through him. "How's your arm?" he asked nervously.

"I think it's just a flesh wound, but I tell you Nick, I don't feel so

good," answered Schanke weakly.

Without thinking any further, Nick pulled open the car door and

shoved Schanke into the front seat. Rushing around to the driver's side,

he jumped in, starting the engine as he pulled the door closed. Then he

backed up and peeled out of the parking lot and headed for the nearest

hospital emergency room. By the time he was out of the parking lot, he

was already calling it in to dispatch.

"Hey, slow down. I'm not dying here," yelled Schanke, at Nick's

panicked driving.

Nick didn't say anything. He just put the flashing light on the

dash, turned on the siren and kept driving.

In no time at all, they were careening into the emergency room

driveway entrance. The Caddy skidded to a halt, and Nick leapt out of the

car. A couple of orderlies rushed out at the commotion. Nick pulled open

the passenger side door and started helping Schanke out of the car.

Turning to the orderlies, he shouted, "get a doctor. A police

officer's been shot."

The orderlies rushed a wheelchair over, and helped Schanke into

the seat. He tried to wave them off, and let them know it wasn't that bad,

but he couldn't be heard over Nick's shouting. He was feeling tired and

dizzy, probably from the blood loss, but he couldn't believe he was hurt

as bad as Nick was making it out to be.

He was wheeled into the emergency room as quickly as possible,

with Nick dogging the orderlies every step, telling them to hurry. As soon

as they entered the main area, Nick started shouting for the doctor.

A nurse came right over and instructed them to take the patient

into the nearest vacant exam room. As Nick followed, the nurse tried to

get him to wait in the lobby, but he insisted on following them inside.

Seeing how worried he obviously was, she relented. As she started to

exam the wound, he interrupted her.

"Excuse me, where's the doctor?"

"He's with another patient and will be here in a few minutes," she


Nick grabbed her arm and pulled her away from Schanke. "I think

you should go get him now."

"He'll be right in, I assure you," she said, removing her arm from

his grasp. "Maybe you should wait outside," she suggested again.

"Maybe you should just go get the doctor," he snapped at her.

"Nick, calm down. It's okay. I'm sure the doctors and nurses

know what they're doing," said Schanke, trying to calm his partner down.

"Look," said the nurse, trying to explain, "I need to look at the

wound and clean it for the doctor. He'll be here as soon as he can."

"That's not good enough. He needs a doctor <now>, and if you

won't go get him, I will," he insisted.

Taking a deep breath, the nurse nodded her head and exited the

room. She returned a few moments later with the two orderlies. Looking

at her and the orderlies suspiciously, Nick said, "I thought you went to get

the doctor. Where is he?"

"The orderlies will show you to the waiting room. The doctor will

come see you when he's through in here," she answered, indicating he

should leave with the orderlies.

Shaking his head, Nick replied angrily, "I'm not going anywhere."

"Knight," shouted Schanke, getting his partner's attention. "Go."

Nick glowered at the nurse and orderlies, finally acquiescing to

Schanke's request. Reluctantly, he allowed himself to be led from the

room. Turning at the door, he said to the nurse, "he had better be all


"He'll have the best of care," she tried to assure him.

As they reached the hallway, one of the orderlies took hold of

Nick's arm and started to guide him towards the waiting room. Nick jerked

his arm free and snapped, "don't touch me." Both orderlies back away,

their hands slightly raised in the air to show that they were going to keep

their hands off.


Nick turned to see Stonetree calling to him from the lobby waiting

area. Taking one last look at the closed door to the exam room, he turned

away and walked to where the Captain was standing.

"How's Schanke?" asked a concerned Stonetree.

Shaking his head angrily, he replied, "I don't know. They wouldn't

let me stay."

"I'm sure your yelling at the nurse didn't have anything to do with

that," commented Stonetree, mildly sarcastic.

"I wasn't yelling," replied Nick defensively.

"I could hear you from the porch," responded Stonetree

conversationally. "So tell me what happen. And what's with all the mud?"

"Schanke got shot," answered Nick worriedly, eyes wandering

back to the closed door.

"Come over here and sit down," requested the Captain, indicating

a couch in an alcove off to the side.

The area indicated was out of sight of the exam room and Nick

was reluctant to move that far away. "I want to be here when the doctor


"The doctor's not going to be able to tell you anything until after

he's examined your partner. Then, I'm sure he'll come out here and let us

know what's what." When Nick failed to acknowledge that he had spoken,

or make any attempt to comply with his suggestion, Stonetree ordered,

"that wasn't a request, detective. Now, get over here."

Nick tore himself away and walked to the couch indicated and

dropped onto it. He leaned forward, elbows on his knees and put his face

in his hands. He was worried about Schanke. He raised his head and

looked at Stonetree when he felt a comforting arm on his back. He was

surprised to see that the Captain was worried about him, so hurried to

convince him, "I'm all right."

"It's not every day your partner gets shot," replied Stonetree,

patting his back a couple times before removing his arm. "You look like

you've been mud wrestling. Why don't you take a deep breath, calm

down, and tell me what happened."

After a moment's hesitation, Nick took a deep breath, relaxed a

little, then proceeded to tell Stonetree everything that happened since

they got the call in the car until they arrived at the emergency room.

When Nick was done with his narration, Stonetree asked, "so you're

absolutely certain this man is the killer you're tracking?"

"Or, at least the one who's been tracking us," he said in disgust.

"Did you get a good look at him?" asked the Captain.

"He was wearing a mask, like in the restaurant that night with

Sally Barnett. I didn't see his face," Nick reluctantly admitted.

Sighing, and looking up at the ceiling, Stonetree replied, "I've got

a team scouring the park. Forensics is on it, and they'll find anything

that's there to find. What are you going to do?"

"What I should have done in the first place," he answered with

grim determination.

Stonetree just look at him speculatively. He had a good idea what

Nick meant by that, so didn't feel the need to ask. This lunatic needed to

be caught, and however Knight did it, he probably didn't want to know.

Just then the doctor came in. Nick leapt to his feet and rushed

over to meet him. "How's Schanke? Was he hurt very bad? Is he going to

be okay?"

"Slow down, Detective, and I'll be happy to answer your

questions," replied the doctor. "You're his partner, Detective Knight. I can

tell by the clothing," he observed humorously.

"I'm Captain Stonetree, Doctor. How is he?" The doctor and

police captain shook hands briefly.

At Nick's impatient and glowering look, the doctor answered, "I'm

Doctor Lefebvre, and your Detective Schanke is going to be fine. There

was one bullet penetration, in his left biceps. It was a flesh wound, just

under the skin and clean through. I'm going to keep him overnight for


"If he's all right, why do you need to keep him overnight?" asked

Nick, worried he wasn't getting the whole truth.

"No offense, Detective, but that filth you're both coated with could

cause an infection, and he did lose a fair amount of blood before he got

here. I've given him some antibiotics, and I just want to make sure they're

working before we release him," explained the doctor.

"So, he's really all right?" asked Nick skeptically.

"We're just getting ready to move him upstairs to a room. If you

want, Detective, you can see him before we do." At Nick's eager

expression, the doctor pointed down the hall and continued, "he's still in

the exam room. Go on back."

Nick hurried down the hall and into the exam room, leaving

Stonetree to finish up with Doctor Lefebvre.

"Hey, Skank, how're you doing?" he asked as he burst through

the door.

"I'm fine. They're just going to keep me overnight. How are you

doing? Since I've been thinking about it, I could swear that psycho got

one into you too," inquired Schanke curiously.

Nick just nodded nervously, then patted his chest. "Got the vest,"

he replied. "You sure you're okay?"

"Yeah, lucky me. Just think, if his aim had been as good with me,

I wouldn't be sitting here either," Schanke replied, laughing tensely.

"Do you want me to call Myra?" inquired Nick quietly.

"No, no, no. I better call her. If she hears about this from anyone

else, she'll never believe I'm not laying dead in a ditch somewhere," he

replied hurriedly. As Nick nodded in agreement, Schanke asked, "you

going after this guy on your own?"

"Um, yeah, I thought I would go get cleaned up, then maybe go

back to the park and see what I can pick up. Stonetree has a bunch of

people there looking for clues, and maybe I'll help," he replied hesitantly.

"Listen, Nick. I know nothing I say will change your mind, so just

be careful, okay?"

"I will."

"I mean it, Nick. This guy is a whacko. I don't want to wake up in

the morning and find you in the bed next to me. Understand?"

Grinning, Nick replied, "don't worry. I'll be careful."

The nurse entered the room with the two orderlies. "We're ready

to take you to your room now, Detective."

At her stern look, Nick said, "I was just leaving." Giving a last nod

to Schanke, he exited the room. As he headed down the hall, he saw

Stonetree talking to a woman at the admittance desk. He skirted around

them and out the door before he was seen, and headed for his Caddy.




Nick arrived at the precinct a couple of hours after having left

Schanke at the hospital. He had gone home to shower and change, and

also took the opportunity to make sure he was well fed. The events

tonight had been stressful and he needed the extra energy that he didn't

get from his usual regiment.

He then went by the morgue to see Natalie. He figured she would

have heard about what happened in the park and want an update on

Schanke. And he was right, she had been worried. He told her most of

what happened, leaving out the part with the cross, as he didn't want her

to worry unnecessarily.

He was on his way back to the park, and first wanted to check

with the precinct on the off chance any useful information had turned up.

When he checked his voice mail, there was another message from the

killer. It said, 'with lamenting and with sorrow, accursed spirit, do thou

remain, for I know thee, though thou be all filthy'. He became so angry,

he almost crushed the telephone receiver in his hand. He caught himself

just in time. That's it, he thought. I don't care what it takes, I'm going to

catch this guy. With those thoughts firmly in his head, he stormed out of

the precinct, heading for the park.

The crew Stonetree had dispatched to the park were gone by the

time he arrived. From the reports he had heard, they hadn't found

anything he would consider useful. The rope and the knife had been sent

to the lab, the latter being expected to match as the murder weapon. Nick

walked to the place where he had last seen the killer.

He was quick to spot the killer's footprints, and easily followed

them north until they reached the street. This was where Nick and

Schanke had parked when they first came, and there hadn't been any

other cars in the area. Nick figured the killer must have still been on foot.

He crossed the road, then walked back and forth along the shoulder,

looking to pick up the tracks again. His eyes had taken on a golden hue,

enflamed by his desire to capture this lunatic.

About fifty feet further up the street, using his enhanced night

vision, he spotted where the killer had left the road and started north

again. Nick bent down low to the ground and trailed his fingers in the

outline of the tracks, lifting traces of mud to his nose. On a number of

tries, he had attempted to pick up the scent of his prey, but the rain was

obscuring that part of the trail. Even with his preternatural senses finely

tuned to the hunt, he was unable to detect a distinctive smell. A low snarl

sounded in his chest as he looked in the direction taken by the killer.

Nick silently followed the tracks through the Necropolis and into

Hillcrest Park. The trail took him through the cemetery and stopped at a

wrought iron fence, then abruptly ended. After searching for about ten

minutes, Nick was unable to pick up any further signs. Frustrated, he

forced himself to remain calm, and focus. He knew the killer had gotten

this far... so, where did he go?

As Nick walked slowly along the fence, all his senses were

trained on detecting the killer's trail. He paused as he caught a whiff of a

very faint, but familiar scent. He closed his eyes and allowed his entire

being to focus on the smell. After a short time, he opened his eyes and

walked the short distance to the fence, and closely examined one of the

iron bars.

Blood. There was a trace of blood present that was all but

impossible to see. Touching his fingers to the still wet substance, he held

them to his nose and recognized the scent immediately. It belonged to

the killer. He remembered it from courtyard where Mr. Lanier was

murdered. He figured the killer must have climbed over the fence.

Growling softly, he levitated over the fence and landed quietly on the

opposite side. He then followed the trail until he reached Wellesley Street,

where it once again ended.

All along the next block, the street was empty of cars. Nick slowly

walked down the center of the street, searching for any clue that would

indicate the direction taken by his quarry. Finding no evidence of his prey

in the first block, he searched the next block over. There were parked

cars scattered along this block. He had walked the full length of the street

twice, and was now doubling back on the sidewalk, when he spotted

clumps of mud on the curb next to an empty spot on the street.

It looked as if someone had scraped their shoes. He bent down

to examine the mud. It had the same consistency as that in the park and

he felt certain it was from the killer. He must have come back here to his

car and scraped the mud off his shoes before driving off. Nick stood up in

frustration. He had tracked him this far and wasn't about to let him get

away now.

He stood and turned in a tight circle, looking over the

neighborhood. It was a combination residential and commercial, so

strange cars coming and going was unlikely to garner any special notice.

He was beginning to scowl in frustration, the growling in his chest getting

louder, when he belatedly focused on a convenience store located

directly across the street.

--- Start flashback ---

Florence, late 13th c.

They were standing outside a large well kept house. A small

amount of light slipped through the shuttered windows, onto the street.

With their vampiric hearing, the two vampires listened to the revelry


"I do not understand how this plan will work. If the girl is

discovered dead, they may think you killed her. So how is it that you will

be able to spend the night with this <girl>, and not kill her?" asked

Nicholas, finally voicing his thoughts.

"Nicholas, mon fils, you are very young. There is much for you

yet to learn. Suffice it for me to say, it will not be a problem. Now, do you

remember what you are suppose to do?" inquired LaCroix.

"Yes. I will wait out here for the murderer. Assuming he has not

made his presence known beforehand, when you leave I will follow and

catch him when he tries to kill you," answered Nicholas. "Why can I not

also go inside? Perhaps I will be able to sense him sooner."

"We have already discussed this. If he sees you first, before you

are able to determine who he is, we may lose him completely," explained


"He could not have gotten that good a look at me the other night,"

argued Nicholas.

"You do not know that for certain. The plan, as it is, will work,"

asserted LaCroix.

"And what if it starts raining again, while I am standing out here

waiting?" asked Nicholas exasperated.

"I think you can survive a little rain. Now, do you wish to catch

this murderer, or not?" he inquired pointedly.


"Then make sure you stay well hidden," cautioned LaCroix.

"Do not worry. I know what to do," replied Nicholas firmly, as he

moved away and disappeared into the shadows.

--- End Flashback ---

As a surge of adrenaline went through him, Nick hastened across

the street and to the store. Pausing briefly outside, he consciously took

stock of himself and made certain that any outward appearances of his

beast were buried. He had felt his fangs retract, and looking at his

reflection in the glass, only blue eyes stared back. Satisfied, he pulled the

door open and strode purposefully to the counter.

"Yes, sir, may I help you?" asked the very young clerk, who

looked like he should still be in high school.

Nick pulled out his ID and held it up to the young boy's face. "I'm

Detective Knight, Metro Homicide." The young boy gulped nervously.

"Does this store have video surveillance camera's installed?"

"Yes, yes, sir," the boy stuttered.

"I need to see the tapes," stated Nick determinedly.

"I'm sorry, only the store manager has access to them," the boy

replied hesitantly.

"Then call him and get him down here," Nick said, more harshly

than he intended. At the boy's stricken look, he softened his tone and

added, "I really need to see those tapes."

"Yes, sir. I'll call him," responded the boy, picking up the phone to

call his boss.

Nick waited very impatiently for the store manager to arrive. To

the boy's relief, he did most of his waiting outside. Nick took the time to

check out the rest of the neighborhood and concluded that this store's

videotapes were his best chance of identifying the killer.

"Detective?" called a man, just stepping out of the store to look

for him.

Nick came forward quickly, and asked, "you're the manager?"

"Yes, why don't we go back to my office and you can explain to

me what you're looking for," suggested the manager, as he held the door

for Nick to reenter the store.

Once in the back office, Nick explained what he wanted. The

manager acknowledged that the store had the tapes, and that there was

a good chance that the information he was looking for was on them.

"Then you'll give me the tapes," Nick stated.

"I'm afraid I can't do that," replied the manager. Seeing the

detective's expression darken, he explained, "it's corporate policy, and

I'm just the manager. I can't give you the tapes, at least, not without a


Nick wasn't about to wait for a subpoena. Not when he was this

close. Looking the manager in the eye, he leaned forward intently. He

heard the sound of the man's heartbeat slow and saw his expression

glaze over. "You want to help the police."

"I want to help the police," the man repeated in a dazed


"You don't really need a subpoena."

"I don't really need a subpoena."

"You'll give me the tapes."

"I'll give you the tapes."

Nick broke off his stare and the man swayed slightly, then put a

hand up to his forehead.

"I'm sorry, I don't know what's wrong," apologized the manager.

"That's okay," replied Nick. "You were saying about the tapes."

The man started as if he just remembered something, "oh, yes.

Let me get those tapes for you." He moved to a locked door behind his

desk and pulled out his keys. As he unlocked the door and retrieved the

tapes, he added, "we always want to cooperate with the police."

As the manager handed the tapes to Nick, he responded, "thank

you for your help. We'll make sure these get back to you when we're

done with our investigation."

"Yes, of course," replied the man, following Nick out of the office

and through the store. He stood by the counter with his young clerk, as

he watched the detective head down the sidewalk towards the park,

tapes in hand.

Nick drove straight to the police video lab. Once there, he got a

technician to run the tapes and he was able to identify the man he

believed to be the killer. The man stepping into the car was not wearing a

mask and they were able to get a clear picture of his face, and as the car

pulled away from the curb they got his license plate number. Running it

quickly through motor vehicles records gave them a name, Erich Volker,

and an address just off Dundas near Eaton Centre.

A short time later, Nick was in Stonetree's office. "What do you

mean, we can't get a search warrant?" he demanded hotly.

"Listen, Knight. The judge won't issue one without a positive ID.

Seeing a man get into a car is not grounds for a search warrant," the

Captain explained again.

"But I'm telling you, that's the man who shot at me and Schanke

in the park. I tracked him to his car, and that's him," Nick continued to


"And how do you know it's him?" demanded Stonetree.

"I just do," replied Nick, through clenched teeth.

"Sorry, Nick. I believe you, but the judge isn't buying it," replied


"So, what are we suppose to do? How many more people is he

going to have to kill before the judge does buy it?" preached Nick hotly.

"No one's seen him?" inquired Stonetree.

Nick held the picture of the killer in his hand, thoughts churning

wildly in his mind. "What did you say?" asked Nick, snapping out of his


"I asked if you were sure nobody can identify this guy?" asked


After a moment's hesitation, Nick replied quietly, "Sally Barnett."

"The little girl."

"Yeah, she saw him." Getting excited again, he asked, "if I can

get her to identify him, can we get the warrant?"

Not wanting to burst his bubble, but trying to insert a touch of

reality, he replied, "it's the middle of the night, Nick. Do you really think

she'll be able to identify him?"

"There's still a few hours before dawn. That's plenty of time,"

reasoned Nick. "And yeah, if <I> show her the pictures, she'll be able to

identify him."

"Let me get this straight, you want to wake up a little girl in the

middle of the night, and ask her to pick out the man who killed her

parents?" Stonetree asked incredulously.

With a determined look on his face, he replied, "if that's what it

takes it get a warrant, then yes." At Stonetree's dubious look, Nick added,

"we're going to have to ask her anyway. What difference does it make

when? That is, except to the killer's next victims."

"Okay, you've got a point," said Stonetree, his mind made up. "I'll

call Children's Services and let them know you're coming, and then I'll get

hold of the judge. Call me the minute you get an ID, one way or the other,

got it?"

"Thanks, Captain," answered Nick, as he practically ran out the


When Nick arrived at the Children's Services facility, Dr.

Reynolds was waiting for him.

"I just want you to know, Detective, I don't approve of this," stated

the doctor firmly.

"I understand, Doctor, and if there was another way, I wouldn't be

here," replied Nick sincerely.

Barely mollified, Dr. Reynolds said, "follow me."

They walked through the lobby to the elevator, and took it up to

the third floor and exited onto the top floor of the building. As they headed

down the hall, Nick sensed there weren't many people in this wing, and

commented on his observation to Dr. Reynolds.

Dr. Reynolds looked at him questioningly, not knowing how he

could notice such a thing, but replied, "we thought it best for Sally, to

keep her in this less populated section. She's going through a rough time

right now and it's not really for the best that she mix in with the other

children yet. She still needs to come to terms with what's happened to


Nick nodded his head in understanding and followed Dr.

Reynold's into a room just up ahead. As soon as he walked in the door,

he heard Sally yell, "Nick." She then jumped off the bed and ran to him,

wrapping her arms around his knees and hugging him tightly.

Dr. Reynolds looked a little surprised. "I told her you were

coming, but even so, she hasn't been very responsive since coming


Nick didn't reply to the doctor, but instead, squatted down to a

level with Sally. She let go of him just long enough to grab him around the

neck. He wrapped his arms around her and picked her up. Holding her

close, he carried her back to the bed and sat down. He pulled her away

from him just enough so he could look at her. She stayed on his lap, one

arm around his neck. With her other hand, she grabbed onto the lapel of

his coat.

"Hi, Sally. Dr. Reynolds tells me they're taking good care of you

here," he said gently. When she didn't reply, he asked her, "how are you


Sally just shrugged, and said, "I miss my mommy and daddy."

"I'm sure you do," he replied, hugging her again. She seemed to

be content to sit on his lap and play with the fabric of his coat. Not really

wanting to unduly upset her, yet wanting to go after this killer before

dawn, he rushed into the conversation sooner than he would normally

have liked. "Sally," he began slowly. "Do you know why I'm here?"

"To see me," she answered.

"Yes," he agreed. "But did they tell you why I asked them to wake

you up so I could see you?" Nick could see Dr. Reynolds frowning at him.

She obviously disapproved of his visit.

"She said you wanted to show me some pictures," she replied


"Yes, that's right. Is that okay with you?" he inquired.

Sally looked up at him, and seeing that this is what he wanted,

she answered, "it's okay."

Dr. Reynolds wheeled a tray table over near the bed. Nick

reached into his coat and pulled out six photos. When he had them

spread out on the tray table, he said to Sally, "take your time. I need you

to look at these, and tell me if one of them is the man you saw."

She knew what he wanted her to do, but was too frightened to

look. Instead, she pressed her face against his chest and held him tight.

Nick gave her a few minutes to settle down, then he pulled her

away. Tilting her head to look up at him, he caught her eyes and calmed

her with his look. "Sally, everything's going to be all right. No one's going

to hurt you. I want you to look at these pictures and tell me if you

remember seeing one of these men before. You will remember," he said,

emphasizing the last.

Slowly, she turned her eyes away from him and looked at the


Dr. Reynolds was watching, very curious over Sally's reactions to

Detective Knight. She hadn't seen the child this calm since she was

brought here, and she was surprised at the composure that Sally

displayed in complying with Detective Knight's request.

Sally stared at the pictures for a long time. Nick was beginning to

think that maybe he shouldn't have influenced her as hard as he did.

Then, to his cautious delight, she pointed to the picture he believed to be

the killer.

"He's the one that killed my mommy and daddy," she replied


"Sally, are you sure?" he had to ask.

"Yes," she replied, just as she turned and buried her face against


He put his arms around her and said, "it's okay, Sally.

Everything's going to be okay." Then turning to the doctor, he said,

"would you look at the photo and make note of the one she chose?"

"Of course," Dr. Reynolds replied dryly. Picking up the photo, she

looked at it carefully. "Is this what you were hoping for?" she asked.

"Yes," replied Nick, determined now to get his search warrant

and arrest this madman. Taking Sally by the shoulders, he gently pushed

her away. "Sally, I have to go now."

"I don't want you to leave," she replied sadly.

"I have to," he explained. Holding up the photo of the man she

just identified, he said, "I have to go and arrest this man and put him in


Staring at him for the longest time, she pulled away and said,

"okay, he should be in jail."

Dr. Reynolds picked Sally up from Nick's lap, allowing him to

stand. Placing a hand on her hair, he said, "I'll come back and see you

later, okay?"

"Promise?" she asked hopefully.

Smiling, he replied, "I promise."

Seeing a satisfied look come over her face, he turned to Dr.

Reynolds and said, "thank you."

"Of course, Detective. I hope you catch your man," she


Nodding an acknowledgment to her statement, he slowly stepped

out of the room, then quickly departed the facility. As soon as he slid into

the Caddy he called Stonetree, who assured him that the warrant would

be issued by the time he got back to the precinct.




Stonetree had insisted on informing the 96th precinct as soon as

he found out the judge was signing the warrants for Erich Volker. Nick

wasn't really upset about this, he just didn't want any interference that

would delay the arrest. And here he was now, standing in the hall of the

apartment building with Bissett and Clarke, and a bevy of uniformed

officers from both precincts. They were spread out along the hall and

men had been posted at both the front and back entrances of the


Since it was Nick's information that was used to obtain the name

and address of the suspect, which then provided for the warrants, it was

agreed that he would take the lead. Standing next to the apartment door

with his back pressed against the wall, Nick reached around and banged

loudly on the door, shouting, "Metro police. We have a warrant. Open the


There was no response. Nick looked at the others and could feel

the tension in the air. He banged on the door and shouted again. Still no

answer. Warning everyone to stay back, he quickly pivoted in front of the

door and kicked it in. The wooden frame splintered, and the door crashed

open loudly. With guns drawn, they all went rushing into the apartment.

As a room to room search was conducted, it was quickly apparent that no

one was home.

Bissett and Clarke took over the scene and started issuing orders

for a full scale search of the premises. Nick was in the living room where

there were two windows overlooking the alley. Peering through the glass,

he saw where the one window opened on to a fire escape and on closer

examination, he noticed that the window was unlatched. He raised the

window and stuck his head outside to take a quick look.

As soon as they had entered the apartment, Nick had been able

to sense that the occupant was the person they were after. Leaning out

over the fire escape, he used those same senses and realized that the

suspect had just recently been this way. Staring down the alley, he knew

they had just barely missed him. Somehow, he must have known they

were coming.

"Knight," shouted Clarke. "Take a look at this."

Hearing his name called, he pulled his head back inside and

turned to Clarke. "What?"

"Back here," replied Clarke, walking into the kitchen where his

partner Bissett was arranging items on the dining table.

"Looks like we're on the money," commented Bissett, indicating

the gallon jug of blood that he had just removed from the refrigerator.

They all assumed it was the lamb's blood used at all the murder scenes.

This was placed on the table with a number of other incriminating items

that had been easily found.

Nick picked up a book and flipped it over to read the title, 'The

Divine Comedy'. There were also a number of other books that focused

on cultish religious themes, along with a notebook that looked like the

suspect had been keeping as some kind of journal. On a page near the

front were the names and addresses of the first two victims. There was

also some partially used first aid supplies. Nick picked up a bloodied cloth

and briefly held it up to his nose before dropping it back onto the table.

The scent was that of the killer.

"There's no doubt about it in my mind. This is our guy," stated


"Where do you think he is?" asked Clarke.

"He went out the window and down the fire escape just before we

got here," replied Nick tightly. He wanted to catch this killer so badly, he

could almost taste it.

"How do you know that?" demanded Bissett.

"The window was unlocked, and there's a fresh scuff mark on the

windowsill," Nick improvised.

"He couldn't know we were coming," reasoned Clarke. "For all we

know, he's on his way home now."

"Fine," said Nick. "You two stay here and finish the search while

you're waiting for him to come back."

"What are you going to do?" asked Bissett sarcastically.

"I'm going after him. He couldn't have gone far," replied Nick, as

he moved towards the window. The fact that he had been able to sense

the killer on the fire escape meant that he had <just> been there. As he

headed out the window, Bissett and Clarke stayed behind. They didn't

expect Nick to have any luck, but they didn't try to stop him either.

Erich Volker was crouching behind the dumpster near the end of

the alley, watching to see what was happening in his apartment. Just

moments earlier he had been returning from the basement, having

decided to do some laundry, when he had seen the first car pull up out

front, and he knew right away that it was the police. And then he had

seen Detective Knight, correction, the demon on the sidewalk waiting for

some other men to join him. Probably more of his minions. Volker had

then rushed back to his apartment, running up the stairs as fast as he

could. And then grabbing his backpack containing all his equipment, he

went out the window and down the fire escape. Because of the cops

milling around, he had decided to just hide a short distance away hoping

that when they didn't find him, they would just leave.

He swore quietly to himself when he saw the demon stick his

head out the window and stare down the alley to where he was hiding.

He was relieved seeing him return inside, but decided just to be safe he

had better start moving. He slowly crept down the alley, making sure to

avoid the few officers they had in the area. When he realized that they

were only stationed at the front and rear entrances to his building, he

laughed quietly to himself. Once again he was outsmarting them.

He turned to take one last look at his apartment before turning

the final corner to escape the area, and saw the demon coming out the

window and starting down the fire escape. Hissing through clenched

teeth, he angrily took firm hold of his backpack and started moving at a

faster pace toward Yonge Street. He thought if he got to the other side of

the busy thoroughfare, the demon wouldn't be able to track him.

Nick dropped the last few feet to the alley. There being no one

else in the near vicinity, he put his preternatural senses to work. The

killer, who he now knew for sure to be named Volker, must have landed

right here. Nick could still sense his fading presence. He slowly walked

first one way, then the other, trying to get a feel for where the presence

was strongest. When he was finally convinced that he had determined

the correct trail, he took off in that direction. He quickly moved to the end

of the alley and paused, for he knew Volker had just come this way. He

was able to sense the vibration lingering in the area, and it was stronger

here than when he first landed in the alley. After sensing for the proper

direction, Nick headed towards Yonge Street.

Volker was fidgeting from one foot to the next, and kept stealing

quick glances back in the direction he had just come. He was standing in

the middle of the block, trying to cross Yonge Street. There shouldn't be

any traffic this time of the early morning, but there were just enough cars

and trucks to slow him down. Finally, the way was clear and he started

across. Just as he reached the other side, a niggling feeling crawling up

his spine made him turn around and look. Just stepping onto the sidewalk

was the demon. Their eyes met briefly, just seconds before a large truck

passed between them.

Nick stopped dead in his tracks as his eyes met those of the

killer. Volker had just reached the sidewalk in front of the Eaton Centre

when he had turned to look in his direction. As the truck rumbled by,

blocking their view of each other, Nick rushed up to the street. Once his

line of sight was clear again, Volker was no longer on the sidewalk.

Looking around anxiously, Nick spotted him racing down the street and

quickly took off running after him.

He could feel the pursuit behind him, and quickly ducked into a

service entrance alcove leading into the shopping center. It was too early

for the mall to be open to the public, but for those who worked the after

hour maintenance shifts, there was access. Volker pulled out his

employee pass and ran it through the security scanner. He then punched

in his personal code and heard the door locks tumble. Pulling the door

open, he quickly darted inside, letting the door slam shut behind him.

'That ought to slow him down', Volker thought gleefully, then headed

towards the lower levels.

Reaching the door Volker had just entered, Nick grabbed the

knob, shaking it in frustration as he realized it was locked. Glancing

towards the eastern sky, he could see the dawn approaching as a few

early rays of the sun peaked over the horizon. The rain had stopped a

couple of hours ago and the sky looked like it was beginning to clear.

Nick thought he was too close to stop now, but he couldn't afford

to be caught in the Eaton Centre's glass towers in the full sunlight.

Deciding to cross that bridge when he came to it, tightening his hold of

the doorknob, he used his vampiric strength and twisted the lock until he

heard it break. Pulling the door open, he stepped into an enclosed

hallway and immediately spotted a staircase off to the side. He sensed

with elation that Volker had headed downward, where the lower levels

should provide him protection from the sun. It was only a matter of time


--- Start flashback ---

Florence, late 13th c.

Many hours after LaCroix had enter the pleasure house, Nicholas

was pacing back and forth in a nearby alley. He was careful to keep his

eyes on the main entry, as it was agreed that LaCroix would be sure to

exit that way. The rains had returned, and Nicholas was very wet. He

pulled his cape tighter about his neck, trying to keep the water from

running down his back. There really was no place to seek shelter and still

maintain his vigil.

Although he could not sense the approaching dawn, he knew it

was close. Just then he heard the door opening and peeked around the

corner. He had been surprised at the number of men coming and going

throughout the night. LaCroix had said that he was certain he would be

able to ascertain the identity of the girl and obtain her services. If he

should choose incorrectly, then this had all been for naught.

Just then LaCroix stepped out onto the street, and Nicholas

watched as he made his way slowly towards the river. They had

previously agreed upon the route to be taken, so there was really no

chance of losing him. Nicholas took to the air and followed his progress

from the rooftops, and searched his trail for the murderer.

Nicholas followed LaCroix for quite some distance, as his sire

slowly wound his way through the streets. He was just about to give up

hope of this plan working, when he spotted movement some distance

away. A man was making his way through the alleys, on what looked to

be an intercept course with LaCroix. Excited, Nicholas flew up to the

rooftop nearest the man and looked down upon him. The man did appear

to be stalking his father, but Nicholas was unable to sense if this were the

murderer. He silently dropped to the ground a short distance behind the

man, and almost immediately, he could feel the vibration, confirming that

this was the man he sought.

Meanwhile, LaCroix discerned the activity behind him. He noted

the mortal's presence at the same time as did his son. He did not need to

sense this man to know he was the murderer, why else would he be

following him. LaCroix continued his leisurely walk, smiling in satisfaction

to himself. He knew this plan would work, and he quite anticipated the

pleasure Nicholas would take in its' conclusion. He sensed the silent

approach of the mortal, but continued calmly on. The mortal was getting

quite close. He could feel Nicholas nearby, but could not completely

pinpoint his location. It would be very annoying if he were to be forced to

deal with the mortal himself.

Then just as the mortal dashed out of the alleyway, his intention

to attack LaCroix, Nicholas flew at him. Growling loudly, he tackled the

man about the torso, and they both crashed against the opposite wall.

LaCroix calmly turned around, and raised one eyebrow in surprise at the

ferocity with which Nicholas had attacked this mortal.

The mortal, still conscious, had been completely caught off

guard. He had not expected to be attacked while he was in the middle of

his own assault. His arm being free, he swung his knife at his attacker.

Nicholas captured the mortal's wrist, and while snarling viciously, he

squeezed the wrist, crushing the bone and causing the mortal to drop the

knife. The man howled loudly in pain.

"Nicholas," said LaCroix warningly. "The authorities are nearby."

Without turning to his sire, Nicholas released the mortal's wrist

and clamped his hand over his mouth to silence him. All that could be

heard were the mortal's muffled screams and the vampire's low growls.

Nicholas eyes were ablaze, and he smiled in anticipation. He had been

hunting for this mortal for almost two weeks, and he fully intended on

savoring this kill. Exposing the mortal's neck, he placed his lips over the

jugular and slowly licked the sweat drenched skin. He could taste the

fear, mixed in with the saltiness, and it made him smile all the more. The

man began thrashing against him, trying to break free. Nicholas held him


"Quit playing with him and finish this," ordered LaCroix. Nicholas

lifted his head and glanced at LaCroix in annoyance. "Now, Nicholas."

Nicholas turned back to the murderer, and with a deep breath

inhaled the essence before him. He opened his mouth and with a roar,

savagely tore into the mortal's throat, draining him completely. Finally

satisfied, he let go and stepped away from the body. Wiping the blood off

his mouth, he licked it off his fingers, then said to LaCroix, "your plan


"Of course," replied LaCroix. "Finish up here and make yourself

presentable while I go fetch the authorities. I am sure they will be quite

pleased to have their murderer."

Nicholas dropped to the ground next to the deceased body.

Grasping the murderer's head in both hands, he savagely twisted the

neck, snapping it easily. He then stood, looking down at the murderer

thoughtfully, while he waited for LaCroix to return.

--- End Flashback ---

With predatory anticipation, the vampire detective felt the chase

coming to an end. Smiling grimly to himself, he rapidly descended the

stairs in search of his prey.

Volker could feel a menacing presence nearing, and knew it had

to be the demon. He ran down the hallway, turning the corner into an

alcove, and saw up ahead a small intersection. Looking wildly around, he

could see there was no one about. He knew further down the hall, one of

the corridors, extending off the intersection, led to where there were

others: employees, unlike himself, that were just arriving to their jobs and

preparing the stores for opening time.

He dropped to the floor and opened his backpack and withdrew a

couple of items. The first thing he pulled out was the cross. It had worked

before and should work now. The second item was a vial. He stood up,

carefully placing the vial in his jacket pocket, making sure it was easily

accessible. He unzipped his jacket and felt for the gun shoved into his

waistband. Secure that he was ready, he took a position and waited.

Nick sensed the killer just up ahead. Confident, he strode forward

and rounded the corner, spotting his quarry immediately. He slowed his

advance until he was within a few meters of Volker and then stopped.

They stood there staring at each other, each studying the other

carefully. Volker didn't seem as apprehensive as Nick expected him to

be, which caused him to become more wary. Nick noticed that Volker had

one hand behind his back, while the other seemed to be gripping

something in his jacket pocket.

Forcefully, Nick stated, "Metro police. You're under arrest."

Laughing, Volker replied fervently, "I know what you are, and

you're not going to stop me."

As Nick took a step forward, Volker quickly pulled his hand out

from behind his back, shoving the large cross in Nick's face. Momentarily

stunned, Nick jumped back against the wall. His eyes instantly changed

from their customary brilliant blue to a more seldom seen dark gold.

Baring his fangs, he snarled at his provocateur.

"Yes, demon, cower down at the sight of the cross. Depart now,

or I will destroy you," invoked Volker madly.

Incensed, Nick held his ground. Quelling the beast inside, he

willed his eyes to return to their normal blue, however, he continued to

prominently display his fangs. With quiet and firm determination, Nick

slowly and menacingly stepped towards the killer, who continued to

brandish the cross at him. For each step he took forward, Volker stepped


As Volker's back was pressed against the wall, he held the cross

more rigidly in front of him and shouted, "begone, demon. I command


Nick stood firmly without backing away, yet kept his distance

from the cross. Volker withdrew a vial from his jacket pocket and threw

the contents at his face. Although he moved to avoid being hit, some of

the liquid splashed on his face, much to the killer's delight. Nick howled in

pain as a couple drops of holy water burned in his eyes, momentarily

blinding him.

Without wasting any time, Volker ran out of the alcove and down

the corridor. Nick recovered quickly and took off after him in a fury.

Running as fast as he could, he rounded the far corner and quickly

skidded to a stop as he realized he had just entered a populated area.

People were all about, preparing the stores for the day's new

business. The wide corridor ran almost the length of a city block, before

branching off up ahead. The metal gates were raised on most of the

storefronts along both sides of the hall, as the men and women were

pushing handcarts, stacking boxes, and arranging the goods on the retail


Nick slowed to a fast walk and strode purposefully through the

corridor, drawing a few curious stares as he passed. He spotted Volker

meandering purposefully up ahead and moved to intercept him.

When he was about halfway to him, Volker must have sensed

him closing, for suddenly he darted to the side and grabbed a young

woman that had been busily stacking boxes. The woman started

screaming, attracting everyone's immediate attention. Volker held his gun

to the woman's head, as Nick also pulled his weapon and aimed it at him.

Yelling to the crowd, Nick shouted, "Metro police. Everyone get

down." Having seen the guns and having heard the woman screaming,

most all had already rushed to escape the area or get out of the way.

Staring steadily at the killer, Nick pointed his gun and demanded,

"release her."

"No," Volker shouted back, over the woman's screams. Turning

to her, he yelled, "shut up. Shut up!" The fear on her face intensified, as

her screaming diminished in volume.

The two men stood frozen in place, their weapons drawn. Off to

the side, one of the store manager's, who was safely out of the way,

crept to a phone and called the police.

"Release her," shouted Nick more forcefully, holding his gun


Volker held the woman tighter and pressed his gun against her

head. "Stay back," he warned.

Nick didn't move. He stood glaring in frustration, as Volker stared

back at him. Nick tried to capture his attention, thinking he may have a

chance to hypnotize him into releasing the woman and surrendering. For

a moment he thought he had him, until Volker's eyes darted away,

breaking the tenuous connection. Volker started to back away, dragging

the woman with him. Nick slowly followed. "You can't get away with this,"

said Nick, trying to reason with him.

Realizing he wasn't far from an exit, Volker ordered Nick, "put

down your gun." As Nick shook his head negatively, Volker continued

adamantly, "put it down, or I'll kill her."

The woman started crying and beseeched Nick with her eyes to

help her. Believing that Volker may just do as he threatened, Nick felt he

had no choice. Carefully, he lowered his gun. Bending down, never letting

his eyes leave Volker, he laid it on the ground. As he stood, he saw

Volker smile as he moved his gun from the woman's head and pointed it

at him instead. Relieved that the woman no longer seemed in immediate

danger, Nick tried to reason with Volker again. "Give up. You can't get

away with this. We know who you are."

"And I know who <you> are," said Volker, self-righteously. Then,

without warning, Volker suddenly shoved the woman out of the way,

while at the same time firing twice rapidly.

Nick felt the impact of the bullets on his chest, the force knocking

him backwards into a stack of nearby boxes and toppling them as he fell

to the floor. He could hear people screaming around him as he lay on the

floor gasping for breath. The intense agony passed rapidly and as Nick

rolled to his hands and knees, he could sense Volker's presence fading.

Lurching to his feet, he put a hand on his chest in an attempt to suppress

the lingering pain throbbing within. Staggering at first, then recovering

enough to run, he started after Volker.

He could see him up ahead. He gave chase, stumbling

occasionally, and was soon close on his assailant's heels. Volker

suddenly darted to the left and through a door. Without pausing, Nick

rushed after him and crashed through the door behind him, severely

startled to find himself in bright sunshine. Reacting on pure survival

instinct, Nick recoiled and leaped quickly back the way he had come,

seeking the life sustaining shade of the inner corridor, a few small wisps

of smoke marking his course.

In his panic to return the way he had come, Nick's vampiric

strength had caused him to inadvertently rip the door from it's hinges. He

had moved far enough down the hall to be sheltered from the sunlight,

but was still visible, to the one standing out in the courtyard, as he sat on

the floor trying to catch his breath. Nick's eyes once again glowed bright

amber with just a trace of red and with his fangs clearly visible, he

snarled in frustration.

Volker had paused once he realized the chase had ended. It only

took him a moment to realize the servant of the devil could not stand in

the light of day. At first smiling, then laughing at the clearly frustrated

demon, he proclaimed, "I have won. You cannot defeat me. I command

you to go back from whence you came; back to the bowels of the earth.

Tell your evil master that I am more powerful and I will not be stopped.

Interfere with me again, and you will surely die."

"You cannot escape me this easily. I will stop you," proclaimed

Nick, in the deep guttural voice brought on by the emergence of his


Continuing to laugh maniacally, Volker slowly stepped towards

Nick, stopping when he reached the edge of the sunlight. "The day has

been won, and you have lost," declared the killer. "Begone, demon," he

evoked, raising his gun to take careful aim at the supernatural detective

before him.




Just as Nick flinched and drew back, in expectation of being shot,

he heard footsteps run up behind him and a voice yelled, "freeze." He

opened his eyes as a shot was fired wildly in the corridor, and he caught

a final glimpse of Volker as he ran out of sight across the courtyard.

"Hey, Nick. Are you okay?" asked Schanke, hurriedly and out of

breath. He dropped to the ground behind Nick, who was barely nodding,

and put his hands on Nick's shoulders, gripping him tightly. He continued,

"man, he was going to shoot you. Are you sure you're okay?"

Nick nodded again, as he glared out at the courtyard where

Volker had last stood. He was furious. He had come so close, he should

have had him. Nick closed his eyes and took a couple of deep breaths,

forcing himself to regain some semblance of normality. He managed to

calm himself enough so that no outward sign of the beast was apparent,

although inwardly he was seething. Rubbing his chest absently, he noted

that the pain from before was almost gone.

They slowly made their way back inside, returning to the area

where Volker had taken a hostage. As they drew nearer, they could hear

shouting. Turning the corner, Nick saw where a small contingent of Metro

police officers had already descended on the scene and were taking

charge of the witnesses.

"Nick, are you really sure you're okay?" asked Schanke, yet


"Skank, I told you I'm fine," replied Nick wearily. Then as another

thought dawned on him, he asked, "why aren't you in the hospital?"

"Hey, partner. It wasn't really that serious, and when I heard you

were involved in another shooting match while pursuing our guy, I had to

come," replied Schanke, "and good thing too, wouldn't you say?" He

grabbed Nick by the shoulders and was holding him at arm's length,

looking him over.

"What? What's wrong?" asked Nick, perplexed at the scrutiny.

"I heard you took two in the chest," answered Schanke, releasing

one hand from Nick, just to soundly pat him on the chest a couple of

times. "Thank God you didn't take this off," he commented with a relieved

sigh, referring to the kevlar vest Nick was still wearing.

Nick cringed slightly at the pressure on his chest. Getting shot

wearing a vest was actually more painful than if he hadn't been wearing

it, at least for a vampire, although it did make it easier to explain why he

was still walking around.

Seeing Nick wince, Schanke hurriedly said, "geez, I'm sorry. I bet

that still hurts."

Nodding in agreement with Schanke's remark, Nick looked

around at the activity. "Looks like everyone is all right," he commented


"Yeah. It's just too bad, what's his name, Volker got away. But

don't worry, partner, we've got cops all over the streets around this place.

If he's still in the area, we'll catch him," proclaimed Schanke. "How did he

get away from you, anyway?" he asked curiously. "It's not like you to let

one get away when you're so close on his heels. What was that I walked

in on back there?"

"He ran outside. I couldn't follow him," answered Nick tiredly, as

he casually started walking towards a table and chairs sitting in front of a

closed coffee bar.

As soon as he sat down, Schanke said to him, "where's the


Looking up at him questioningly, Nick answered, "a couple of

blocks over by Volker's apartment. Why?"

"Give me the keys. I'll have a couple uniform cops go pick it up

and bring it around to the parking garage. Then I can take you home. It

looks like you had a long night and could use some sleep," he explained.

Looking somewhat amazed, Nick replied, "you're the one that got


"Yeah, well so did you," Schanke retorted mildly. "Now just give

me the keys."

Nick handed over his keys and watched as Schanke went and

talked to a couple uniformed officers. As soon as the officers left,

Schanke rejoined him at the table. They waited there for the officers to

return from their errand. After some slight prodding, Nick filled him in on

the events since leaving him in the hospital. When the officers returned

with the car, Schanke drove Nick back to his loft, with Nick in the trunk

and out of the bright sun.

He had just gotten out of the shower and was drying off when he

heard his name being called.

"Nick, are you here?" yelled Natalie from the kitchen.

Sticking his head out his bedroom door, he called down to her,

"just a minute." He threw on a pair of old jeans and a sweatshirt, then

joined her downstairs.

"What are you doing here?" he inquired, as he was halfway down

the stairs.

"I heard about what happened at the mall, and I was worried.

When I didn't see the Caddy downstairs, I wasn't sure if you were here or

not, even though the sun's been up for hours," she answered.

"Schanke took the car after dropping me off," he explained, as he

reached the kitchen where she was standing. They stared at each other

for a moment, neither one speaking. Then Nick said, "So, you were


After a moment's hesitation, she replied, "with good cause, it

would seem."

"Nat, I was fine the whole time," he responded.

"Is that the whole time while you were being shot, or the whole

time when you were playing outside in the sun?" she asked sarcastically.

"Look, I was wearing a vest, and I didn't know the door led

outside. It just caught me a little off guard, but everything worked out

fine," he replied.

"This time," she remarked dryly, sensing she wasn't really getting

the whole story. She watched as Nick walked over to the fireplace. He lit

the flames using the remote, then stood there staring at them as he ran

his fingers through his wet hair. "Nick?" she called to him. When he

looked up at her, she continued, "you want to tell me how this guy caught

you so off guard?"

"I guess I'm just a little out of practice," he commented, sighing.

"Out of practice for what?" she asked curiously, thinking that was

a strange answer.

He hesitated, wanting to answer her, yet not really wanting her to

know. Finally, he settled on saying, "I was too focused on tracking him,

and then chasing him, that I didn't pay close enough attention to what

was going on around me. I was so intent on Volker, I didn't notice the

people up ahead. If I had, I may have been able to prevent him from

taking that woman hostage."

"You don't know that," she interjected.

Conceding to her, he continued, "maybe. After he shot me, I was

so angry I just wanted to catch him. I was chasing him too fast to stop,

even if I had realized the door led outside."

"You're lucky the door didn't close behind you, locking you

outside," scolded Natalie.

"As it was, I ended up ripping the door off it's hinges anyway," he

replied with a smile.

"So, what's next?" she inquired.

He just shrugged.

"Well, I mainly just wanted to make sure you were okay. Since

you're obviously still alive, although why I don't know, I'll head home and

let you get some sleep," she said, starting to leave.

Nick turned around, then hurried to walk her to the elevator.

"Thanks for stopping by. It's nice to know you worry about me," he

commented, smiling at her.

"I just wish you would be a little more careful. I don't know why

that's so hard," she entreated.

He pulled the door open for her, then gave her a quick kiss on

her forehead. "I know what I'm doing," he said confidently.

Smiling, somewhat reassured, she said, "I'll see you tonight."

Nick let the door close and stood there as the elevator

descended. He then headed for the fridge. Pulling out a green bottle, he

uncorked it and poured the contents into a glass. Leaving the bottle on

the counter, he picked up his glass and wandered over to his piano. He

took a swallow from his glass, set it down on the piano top as he sat on

the bench. He ran his fingers lightly over the keys.

He hadn't really played in a couple of weeks, and now he needed

something to calm his mind so he could sleep. He cleared his thoughts

and let the music come. He played bits and pieces, stopping inbetween to

sip from his glass. After a short while, he got up for a refill, then returned

to the piano. As he began to relax, he continued to play. As he played, he

reviewed the events of the past week in his mind.

Since this case began, he had relied on his vampiric nature more

so than he had in any previous case. He felt saddened and exhilarated at

the same time. He was sad, because he had been working so hard these

past couple of years in trying to suppress these traits, and he thought he

had been succeeding. In fact, when he had first seen Janette again, a

few months ago, she had even commented on how she could hardly

sense him any more. At the time, he had taken it as a sign that he was

moving closer to his coveted state of mortality.

Now he knew that this was not the case. His senses hadn't been

fading, they were just laying dormant within himself. This past week had

proved that much was evident. As his frustration with not being able to

track this killer using mortal methods increased, he had turned to his

darker side. He had found his vampiric abilities waiting just beneath the

surface, and they came rushing to the foreground at his slightest urging.

And the more he used them, the more empowered he felt. They were

what had allowed him to track this killer, and what allowed him to come

within a handsbreath of catching him. But they were also what allowed

the killer to escape. Using them more had also reawakened his desire for

the hunt, for blood, for satisfaction. That's probably what led him to

Janette the other night, and why he now had such a thirst.

Laughing morosely to himself, he thought it ironic that this killer

thought he was a demon. This was something he had sometimes

wondered himself. There were those among his kind that believed their

nature was brought about by demons, although he had never believed

that himself. Probably because LaCroix wouldn't hear of it. LaCroix didn't

believe in demons. LaCroix didn't believe in a lot of things. LaCroix was

dead, he forcefully reminded himself.

The thought of LaCroix immediately took over his thoughts, a

direction that he did not want to go. It was the reemergence of his beast

that was responsible for his thoughts of LaCroix. Of that he was sure.

This case, combined with him starting to use his senses again, are what

dredged up the memories of his father, and of Florence. But that was so

long ago, and much had happened since then. Many things were

different, very different. LaCroix was dead.

He forced himself to stop thinking about LaCroix, about the killer,

about the blood. He turned back to the music and began to pay closer

attention to what he was playing. He needed to clear his mind. He

needed to rest. He knew he couldn't sleep with all these thoughts racing

through his head. Focusing on the music, he continued to play.

Meanwhile, Erich Volker was holed up in a motel up by the

University. It really hadn't been hard to elude the police, and since he

hadn't known where he was going, he felt certain that the police wouldn't

either. He had been wracking his brain all morning trying to figure out

how they found out who he was. The only thing he could think of was

Sally Barnett. She was the only one who had seen him and could identify


Of course, now there was also Detective Knight. But no one was

going to hold it against him for purging a demon from their midst. After all,

it's not like he was human or anything. But he would be a problem. He

had been sent to stop him, and that just couldn't be allowed. There was

still much left to do. Planning was the key. The first step would be to

eliminate Sally Barnett. He should have done that before now, but he had

been tricked into thinking she didn't matter.

First thing he needed to do was find out where she was. There

would only be so many places to keep her. Let's see now. What was that

news reporter's name? Tate, that's it. Steve Tate. Just in case they were

tracking incoming calls, Volker went to find a payphone.

After leaving the motel, he found one a few blocks away. Looking

up the number in the phone book, he dialed it now.

"Children's Services Division. How may I direct your call?"

"I'm Steve Tate, a reporter for CRTV. I need to talk to someone

about Sally Barnett."

"Yes, sir. Just a moment. I'll connect you with Dr. Reynold's


"Dr. Reynolds office."

"Yes, I'm Steve Tate, a news reporter with CRTV. I'm doing a

follow up report on the Barnett killings, and wanted to see if I could speak

to someone about Sally Barnett. I understand she's at one of your


"I'm sorry Mr. Tate. You would have to speak with Dr. Reynolds

regarding any information, and she's not available right now. Can I have

her return your call?"

"No, that really won't be necessary. Actually, all I really need is to

have you confirm to me where Sally Barnett is located. I can follow up

with Dr. Reynolds a little later."

"I'm sorry sir, I can't give out that information. You'll need to

speak with Dr. Reynolds."

"I'll call her back later then."

"Very well, sir. Thank you."

After hanging up the phone, Volker headed back for his motel

room. He didn't want to be on the streets any more than necessary. He

didn't want some lucky cop to bump into him; that would be messy.

Finding Sally Barnett wasn't going to be as easy as he hoped. He

was going to have to go snooping around for her himself. But at least he

knew her doctor's name now. If he could find this Dr. Reynolds, she could

lead him to the little girl.

Groggily opening his eyes, he tried to determine where that

sound was coming from. It was his telephone. Grabbing the back of the

couch, he pulled himself up and picked up the receiver just before the

machine would have answered.

"Yeah, Knight here," he spoke, his voice sounding a little gravelly.

"Detective Knight?" was the queried response.

"Yes, who's this?"

"Detective, this is Dr. Reynolds," she answered. "Obviously I've

woken you, I'm sorry about that, but I thought you would want to hear


Almost fully alert now, he replied, "what's that?"

"I received a strange phone call this morning. A man called and

spoke to my secretary. He said his name was Steve Tate and he was a

news reporter with CRTV," she began.

"I know who he is," commented Nick.

"Well, he didn't want to leave a message, and he said he wanted

to know where Sally was staying. When my secretary wouldn't release

that information, he said he would call me back. When I returned from

lunch, rather than waiting for him to call, I decided to call him instead.

Well, when I got him on the phone, he claimed he didn't know what I was

talking about," she finished.

"He hadn't called you?" inquired Nick.

"According to him, no," answered Dr. Reynolds. "Do you know

what this is about?"

"I think so," he answered. "I want you to increase Sally's security.

That was probably the man who killed her parents looking to finish the


"You warned us this might happen, so I was sure you would want

to know," she said.

"You're right. I appreciate your calling," he replied. "Thank you,


As soon as he hung up from speaking with Dr. Reynolds, he

called Schanke and told him to get right over. There was still a couple of

hours before sunset, but Nick thought he just might have a plan to draw

out Volker, and he needed Schanke's help.

A couple of hours later, everything was set up in Nick's garage.

Schanke had come right over and helped him with the details. Nick had

called the reporter, Tate, and had easily enlisted his full cooperation.

"Okay, Detectives, ready to go?" asked Tate, as he straightened

his tie.

"We're ready," Schanke answered for them.

Tate made a final check with the cameraman, then giving the all

go signal, waited for the count, then began. "Good evening. I'm Steve

Tate, with CRTV, and we're here with Detectives Nicholas Knight and

Don Schanke. They are the team investigating the brutal murders from

last week, of George and Donna Barnett, with their daughter, Sally, as

the sole survivor." He moved aside slightly, and turned to address the

detectives. "I understand you have identified the killer, and almost

apprehended him this morning."

"Yes, that's right. His name is Erich Volker. We went to arrest him

this morning, but he had left just before we arrived. We tracked him to the

Eaton Centre, where there was a small altercation, and he got away,"

related Schanke.

"Detective Schanke, I understand you were wounded last night.

How did that happen?" asked Tate.

"Oh, that," Schanke said, laughing lightly. "Fortunately for me, the

guy's a lousy shot. It turned out to be just a scratch. We had tracked him

to a nearby park. After he took a couple potshots at us, he got scared

and ran away. My partner followed him to his car, and then it was just a

matter of looking up his address and going to his apartment."

"Detective Knight, what can you tell us about Erich Volker?"

inquired the reporter.

"We have his picture, that I believe you're going to show. Other

than that, from what we've gathered, he's not really all that bright. He had

a lucky break this morning, that's the only reason he's not in custody.

We're confident that we'll be picking him up soon," answered Nick.

"What can you tell us about his motive, Detective. Why did he kill

those people?"

"He has these juvenile delusions, and fancies himself some kind

of devil worshipper. He sees demons everywhere. That's just further

proof of his lack of intelligence. He commits these spectacular crimes

because he wants to be caught," explained Nick.

"You say he wants to be caught. What makes you say that?"

asked Tate, requesting further clarification.

"Well, for instance, he left clues all over the crime scene,

including an eye witness. You don't do that if you don't want to be

caught," reasoned Nick.

"You're talking about Sally, the Barnett's six year old daughter.

Aren't you concerned that he may change his mind and try to go after

her?" Tate further inquired.

Schanke stepped in and replied, "no, not really. I mean, he might

try, but the Hayter facility has the best security there is. It would be really

tough for him to get to her there."

"Detectives, how soon can we expect an arrest?"

"We're closing in on him as we speak. Any time now," replied

Schanke confidently.

"Okay, and there you have it. This is Steve Tate, with CRTV."

The cameraman gave the signal that the tape had stopped

running. The bright lights were turned off and Tate handed the

microphone to his assistant.

"Exactly when is this going to air?" asked Schanke.

"I've already cleared it with the producer, and it'll be the lead

story on the local early evening news tonight, then every broadcast

through tomorrow. And we're going to advertise it every half hour. If he's

watching, he'll see it. So, you think this will work?" asked Tate, excited at

the prospect, and the promised scoop.

"You'll be one of the first to know," answered Nick.

As Tate and his people began to pack up the camera's, Schanke

turned to Nick, "so, you don't think we laid it on a little thick?"

"No. You did great," replied Nick, with a smile.

"You weren't half bad yourself. I liked that devil worshipping bit.

That ought to send him over the edge," said Schanke, laughing a little


"I'll stay here while these guys clear out. You better get over to

the Hayter facility and make sure everything is ready for Mr. Volker,"

suggested Nick.

"On my way," said Schanke, glad to actually be able to be

proactive on this case for once.




Schanke was checking over the readiness of everyone at the

Children Service's Hayter Facility. The east wing on the second floor had

been cleared, and all the staff were actually police officers working

undercover. Just enough of a lapse in security had been left to allow an

intruder entrance, but not so much as to make it appear to be a set up.

Now all they had to do was wait, which was the hardest part.

Nick was in the room that had been identified as belonging to

Sally Barnett. A small mannequin had been placed in the bed, and Nick

was hiding in the closet. He knew he would be able to tell the moment

Volker entered the room. A signal from him on the radio, and the room

would be swarming with cops. There was no way Volker would get away

from them tonight.

Volker had missed the early evening news, but had seen the,

"more news at eleven" ads and tuned in. What he saw sent him through

the roof. He was furious. How dare they say he wasn't very intelligent.

He'd been outwitting the police for over three years now, and they didn't

track him to the park. He lured them there. But the worst blow of all was

being called a devil worshipper. That was so far from the truth, and that

Detective Knight knew it. In fact, Detective Knight was the one in league

with the devil.

But there was one thing they were right about, and that was

leaving Sally Barnett as an eye witness. He'd show them who wanted to

be caught. Well, one good thing came out of their flagrant distorting of the

facts. Their obvious stupidity let him learn where Sally Barnett was, and

the last thing they would expect would be for him to show up there

tonight. Grabbing his backpack, he headed for the Hayter facility where

he would rid himself of at least one problem tonight. Let them explain that

on the news tomorrow. They would be the ones looking like fools.

"Hey, Nick, you there?" crackled his radio.

"I'm here. What's up?"

"We got a situation down on the lower floor. I'm heading down to

take care of it. Will you be okay while I'm gone?"

"Yeah, Skank. I'll be fine. Let me know if there's a problem,"

answered Nick, impatiently waiting for Volker to show. Nick was certain

he would.

Schanke headed down to the lower floor. "Hey, Petrie, what's the

problem?" he asked once he got there.

"A couple of detectives from the 96th are here, and they're not

very happy. They demanded to see either you or Knight. We moved them

back over there, out of the way," said Petrie, motioning down the hallway.

Schanke looked around the corner and saw Bissett and Clarke

restlessly cooling their heels. Taking a deep breath, he sighed. "Thanks,

Petrie. I'll take care of it."

As he was seen approaching them, Bissett blurted out, "just what

the hell are you and Knight doing?"

"What are you guys doing here?" asked Schanke, ignoring the

earlier question.

"That's what we came to ask you, and I want an answer,"

demanded Bissett.

"Keep your voice down," implored Schanke. "What does it look

like we're doing?"

"Did you and Knight forget that this was our case too?" asked


"Yeah, and just where is the golden-boy?" sneered Bissett. At

Schanke's questioning look, he added, "we heard about his little

<altercation> at the mall this morning."

"How come we had to see you two on the news to find out what

was going on?" inquired Clarke. Neither man had given Schanke a

chance to reply.

"Just hold your horses," said Schanke in a rush. "No one's trying

to squeeze you guys out of anything." At their skeptical looks, he added,

"this was a last minute, spur of the moment thing. We didn't want to

spread the word around because we don't want our suspect to know this

is a trap."

"You don't want him to know it's a trap?" asked Clarke

incredulously. "You did everything but show him a map. Do you honestly

think that Volker is going to come waltzing in here tonight?"

"Yeah, we do," stated Schanke.

"Well, while you two are staked out here waiting for him, he's

probably figured out it's a trap and is headed over to the D'Arcy facility as

we speak," retorted Bissett.

"Look, you two can either stay and help, or get the hell out of our

way," quipped Schanke.

"Fine. You and Knight can spin your wheels all you want. This is

a waste of time. We're out of here," snapped Bissett, turning to storm off,

his partner close on his heels.

Shaking his head, Schanke left the hallway and headed back to

the upper floor to resume his wait.

Meanwhile, unbeknownst to the three detectives arguing in the

hallway, a lone observer lingered in the room at the end of the hall. He

had held the door open just a crack, and had heard the entire

conversation. So, this was a trap and they thought to catch him. Well, as

it turned out, he was smarter than them. He now knew it was a trap, and

he also now knew where Sally Barnett really was. Very quietly, he

allowed the door to close, then carefully retraced his steps out of the


It was late, and Sally should have been sleeping. Instead, she lay

in bed in her room, listening to the noises from the hallway. She had been

here almost a week now, and was almost beginning to get used to what

noises were normal and which weren't. She sat up, seeing the door to her

room beginning to open. Anyone coming to her room certainly wouldn't

creep in, she thought nervously. She crawled onto the floor and crouched

at the end of the bed, waiting to see who was coming to see her.

When the man finally made his entrance, the glow from her night

light illuminated his face. She recognized him immediately. It was the

man who killed her parents, the man that Nick said he was going to

arrest. Scared, and in a panic, she ran into the bathroom and slammed

the door shut, locking it behind her.

Volker cursed as he saw the girl run and lock herself in the

bathroom. She wasn't going to get away from him that easily. Moving to

the door, he paused for a second, then kicked it hard. The door gave a

little, but didn't open. He kicked again, and again. On his third try, it

smashed open. He dashed into the bathroom, only to find it empty. The

door on the opposite side was open to another room, and Sally must

have run out. He followed after her, but she was no where to be seen.

The door from this room to the hall was open, and the floor was

practically deserted. She couldn't have gone far, and there were only so

many places to hide. He began searching for her.

"Hey, Nick," said Schanke into the radio.

"What is it?"

"It's getting kind of late. Don't you think he would be here by

now?" inquired Schanke. "The last news broadcast was three hours ago."

"Maybe," replied Nick. "Let's give it some more time."

"Roger that," said Schanke, signing off and settling back in to


Sally huddled in a dark corner, scared. Every once in awhile she

heard a noise, but it never came close. She knew <he> was here, and

<he> was looking for her.

Volker knew the little girl was hiding from him. He had begun a

methodical search, only to have it interrupted occasionally when a late

night worker wandered by. He would duck down and hide, then resume

again after they passed.

Dr. Reynolds had been informed of the trap that Detectives

Knight and Schanke were using to try and catch Sally's parents killer.

She had decided to remain in her office until she heard it was over, as

there was no telling how the results may affect the small girl. Being a little

at loose ends, she decided to go peek in and see how Sally was doing.

She was very surprised when she found the child was not in her room,

and after checking with the staff, no one knew where she was.

Suspecting the worse, she placed a call to the precinct.

A short time later, Schanke received a phone call and he

immediately radioed Nick. "Hey, partner. You there?"

"I'm here," answered Nick.

"Just got a call from the precinct. Dr. Reynolds called and said

Sally is missing. No one can find her," reported Schanke.

Nick stood up and came out of his hiding place. "They're sure

she's missing?"

"Said they searched everywhere, can't find her," related


"He's there," spat Nick with conviction.

"You don't know that," cautioned Schanke. "She could have just

wandered off."

"And what's the odds of that?" asked Nick skeptically.

After a slight hesitation, Schanke replied, "you're right. What do

you want to do?"

"Handle things here, just in case. Then dispatch some men to the

D'Arcy facility. I'll head over there now," ordered Nick.

"Will do, partner. Keep in touch," replied Schanke.

Nick walked over to the room's window and raised the glass.

Looking outside, he saw no one about. He jumped out the window, and

started flying in the direction of the D'Arcy facility. If Volker was there,

then Sally was in trouble, and he had to save her.

Sally heard someone nearing her hiding place. She knew if he

caught her, he would do to her what he had done to her parents.

Terrified, she quietly crawled on the floor towards a nearby couch. She

squeezed herself between the couch and the wall, and began waiting


Nick reached the facility in just a couple minutes, as it had only

been a short distance away. He forced open a window on the top floor,

and entered the building unnoticed. He passed through the room and into

the hallway. Once there, he paused, listening carefully. He thought he

heard something down the hall to his right. Extending his senses, he tried

to see if he could detect Volker's presence. Nothing yet. He headed down

the corridor.

As he slowly walked down the hall, he came to a large

community room at it's end. As soon as he neared it, he sensed a

vibration. He couldn't see him yet, but he knew the killer was there. As

Nick walked into the room, a man at the far end stood up and spun to

face him, and they locked stares with each other. Nick started towards

him, just as Volker pulled out his cross and brandished it in his direction.

Growling, he instinctively fell back a pace, but held his ground.

"Give it up, Volker. You won't get away this time," snarled Nick.

Feeling supremely confident, he replied, "of course I will. You can

lie all you want, demon, but in the end, I'm stronger and I will vanquish


"Not a chance," proclaimed Nick determinedly.

Then, just as Nick began to advance towards Volker, he moved

away. They warily circled each other, looking for the other's weakness.

Just as Nick was thinking to rush Volker, a movement caught him out of

the corner of his eye.

He and Volker both turned to look. It was Sally. She must have

heard Nick and was coming out of hiding to go to him. Nick and Volker

started for her at the same time, but Volker was much closer. She hadn't

seen him until he snatched her around the waist and lifted her off the

ground. She screamed.

Tightly gripping the little girl, he lifted her up with one hand, while

steadily holding the cross with the other. "Stay back, demon," ordered

Volker, as he slowly backed out of the room.

Nick followed him, keeping a discreet distance, looking for an

opening. Volker backed out the door of the community room that led to an

outdoor patio. Once they were outside, he looked wildly for an exit. The

nearest one was far on the other side.

"I said stay back," demanded Volker, holding the cross high in his

outstretched arm. Sally was crying, screaming, and struggling in his grip,

distracting him. He held her tighter, knowing the demon wouldn't attack

him while he held the child.

Nick, finally having enough, rushed forward. He grabbed the

cross and ripped it from Volker's hands. Ignoring the burning pain that

seared through his palm, he furiously tossed it aside, the faint smell of

burnt flesh lingering in the air. Volker looked at him in total astonishment,

and dropped the little girl. Nick quickly grabbed Sally and shoved her

behind him. Believing her now to be safe, he turned his menacing visage

upon her captor.

Meanwhile, Volker got over the shock of having the demon

snatch the cross from his hand. Quickly reaching into his backpack, he

pulled out an already armed small crossbow, and pointed it at Nick.

Laughing, he shouted, "die, demon."

Having already unleashed his beast, Nick watched Volker in

silent fortitude. As the arrow flew the short distance between them, in a

motion faster than the human eye could follow, Nick reached up and

snatched the deadly missile from the air. Glowering sternly at Volker's

shocked expression, he squeezed his fist, snapping the arrow in half, and

let the shards fall to the ground.

Volker looked on in horror, as the demon's enraged and glowing

red eyes turned to him. Panicking, Volker turned and began to run, as the

demon bared his fangs and advanced towards him, growling in it's ire.

Hoping to reach the far exit and escape, Volker ran with the knowledge

that his life depended upon escaping this demon's wrath.

With instincts born of the hunt, Nick flew at his antagonist. The

impact of his body on Volker, propelled them both forward towards the

roof's edge. As their momentum threatened to send them over, Nick

tightened his hold on Volker, while with his other hand, he reached to

grab hold of the railing, just as gravity pulled their bodies downwards.

They hung for a few moments, suspended in the air, until Nick's fingers

lost their tenuous grip, causing them both to fall the three stories to the

ground. As they fell, Nick released Volker and pushed him away, and

then called on his vampiric abilities to control his own fall. As it was, his

body impacted the ground hard. He landed on his back with the wind

knocked out of him, gasping for air.

As soon as he was able to catch his breath, he pushed himself to

a sitting position and looked around for Volker. At first, he didn't see him

anywhere. When he got to his feet, he smelled blood and looked in the

direction of the scent. Startled, he stepped back in surprise when he

spotted the body. Volker had fallen the three stories, impaling himself on

a wrought iron fence. He was very dead.

As he started to step towards the body, he was halted by the

frantic shouting coming from his right. Turning to look, he saw Schanke,

with a squad of officer's, rushing onto the grounds. Looking up, he

spotted Dr. Reynolds on the patio peering down. She waved, indicating

that everything was all right where she was. Sally was okay.

He staggered slightly as Schanke reached him, slapping him on

the back.

"Man, oh, man, oh, man. I do not believe this," exclaimed


Nick gave him a slightly dazed look.

Schanke continued, "now that is what I call real shish kabob,

partner. Just how did you do that? That's over thirty feet," he added,

indicating the distance from the roof to the ground.

Nick just raised his hands in a gesture of, 'who knows?'

"Good job, partner. Good job," declared Schanke, slapping him

on the back some more. Schanke threw his arm around Nick's shoulders

and pulled him out of the way as the various teams descended on the


Nick and Schanke stayed to oversee the activity. Stonetree was

the first to arrive and congratulate them. It had been just less than a week

ago that the Barnett's had been killed, and the fact that they had solved a

seemingly complex case in so short a time was considered remarkable,

especially so for having tied in the previous murders. Stonetree

mentioned that he had already called the mayor, who was extremely


Shortly after Stonetree, Natalie arrived in her capacity as Medical

Examiner. After a brief inspection of the body, she ordered it removed

from the scene. It took a little work to extricate it from the fence, but it was

finally loaded into the coroner's van and headed for the morgue. Natalie

stayed behind with Nick and Schanke, as the rest of the forensics team

finished their work.

While all this was going on, Nick had gone back upstairs to see

Sally. He had stayed and talked with her until Dr. Reynolds finally

decided to give her a light sedative. This had been a very traumatic event

for her, especially coming so closely on the heels of seeing her parents

murdered by the same man almost a week ago. Once Sally was tucked

in and sleeping, Nick headed back outside to join Schanke and Natalie.

"Well, partner," started Schanke, as soon as Nick returned, "I

think it's time to call it a night, don't you?"

"I think you two deserve it," added Natalie, smiling happily at the

two of them.

"Yeah, I could use some down time," admitted Nick, smiling with


Schanke put his arm around him, slapped him on the back and

hugged him. "I'm with you, partner. We did a fine job here tonight, and the

citizens of Toronto can rest easy in their beds once again."

Nick looked at Schanke as if he thought he was laying it on a little


"What?" asked Schanke, grinning at Nick's look.

"Where are you two headed," inquired Stonetree, coming back to

join them.

"Um, well, we thought we'd book off now," declared Schanke.

"You do that," ordered Stonetree. "And I don't want to see either

of your faces again until Sunday night, hear me?"

"Are you serious, Cap?" asked Schanke, surprised. "You're

giving us four days off?"

"Is that a problem, Detective?"

"No, Captain. Not at all," answered Schanke happily.

"What about you, Knight? You got a problem with taking some

extra days?" asked Stonetree curiously, knowing his star detective had a

tendency to balk at taking extra time off.

Much to the Captain's surprise, Nick answered, "no. No


After seeing Schanke off, Natalie offered to give Nick a ride to his

car, which he readily accepted. Driving the short distance back to the

Hayter facility, Natalie pulled up and parked behind the Caddy. They

lingered in her car, both mildly hesitant to leave right away.

"You know, Nick," said Natalie, a bit tensely. "This whole case

really had me concerned."

"Nat, I told you that you didn't need to worry about me," he

replied softly, interpreting her meaning. "Everything turned out okay."

"You have to admit though, I had good reason to be worried," she

insisted gently.

He looked out at the ground, not responding.

"I know you haven't told me everything," she informed him, "and I

just want you to know, that's okay. I don't expect you to tell me every little


Smiling, he looked up at her, and said sincerely, "I just don't want

you to worry."

Laughing, she replied, "that would be much easier if you could

refrain from getting shot, stayed out of the sun, and quit leaping off of

cliffs and tall buildings."

"Did I do all that?" he answered, grinning charmingly back at her.

"Yeah, you did all that... and probably a lot more that I'll never

hear about," she retorted teasingly.

"Okay, I promise. I'll be more careful," he replied.

Nodding her head in agreement, she said, "good. I know I'll sleep

a lot better."

Turning serious, he leaned over and kissed her on the forehead.

"It's nice to know you really care."

She looked up at him wonderingly, as he opened the car door

and stepped out, closing the door behind him. She looked at him for a

brief moment, then started her car. In response to his wave, she waved

back at him as she then drove off, headed for home.

Nick stood there, lost in thought, as he watched her leaving. After

a short moment, he shook his head, and smiling to himself, headed for

his car and home.




Later that morning, with the steel shutters closed tight against the

burgeoning sun, the loft was aglow with the soft radiance of a myriad of

candles set about the room. The fireplace was lit, shedding an even

brighter light upon the faces of the two who were very comfortably

ensconced in the blankets and pillows sprawled on the carpet in front of

it's burning flames.

Janette was sitting up, a pillow at her back, leaning against the

leather chair, dressed only in Nick's unbuttoned silk shirt. Nick lay with

his head in her lap, eyes half closed in relaxed satiation, staring

unseeingly into the fire. She picked up a nearby bottle and refilled her

glass. She raised it to her lips, taking a small sip. All the while, she

absently stroked Nick's hair, as he occasionally sighed with contentment.

"Nicolas," she whispered softly, knowing he was still awake.

"Hm?" came the quiet reply.

"Would you like something to drink?" she inquired solicitously.

Pushing himself off her lap, he sat up and turned to face her,

gathering the blankets about his waist as he did so. He accepted the

glass she handed him and took a swallow. "Thank you," he replied.

She watched as the firelight shimmered against the pale skin of

his chest. "I'm so happy that you invited me over. I can't think of a better

way to spend the day, mon cheri." She smiled warmly at him.

He had told her all about Volker. About tracking him down,

chasing him, only to have him escape. Laying a trap, only to have it miss,

then having to chase him down again. She could tell he was very

satisfied that this killer had been caught, although he lacked the

enthusiasm of 700 years ago. But that was to be expected.

"I'm glad you came," he replied, smiling comfortably at her.

Shortly after arriving at home, he had an impulse to call her, and

did so before he could give it more thought. This had been a rough week

for him. Volker was dead, and that case was over. He could put it out of

his mind and go on. He knew that would not be a problem. But a lot of old

feelings, old memories, and long suppressed desires had also risen to

the surface. They weren't so easily dismissed.

He and Janette shared an intimate closeness brought on by their

800 years of knowing each other. She always made him feel good,

happy, content, warm, and safe. And since the worse thing he could have

done to cause a rift between them was now out in the open, and she

freely admitted she didn't hate him for it, he felt incredible relief... and


He doubted if their relationship would ever go back to what it was

at it's most intense, but he had missed their frequent interludes together.

With her, he could be himself, completely. He needed no barriers, no

excuses, no reasons. He could simply be, and she accepted that. Turning

to look at the fire, he put his glass to his lips and drank.

Janette reached over and took hold of his glass. She met his

questioning look with a smile. He released the goblet to her, looking on

with anticipation of her motives. He didn't have long to wait, as she

leaned forward to kiss him. He moved towards her, and moaned softly as

his lips melted against hers. He raised his arms and wrapped them

around her, then lay back on the blankets, pulling her on top of him. He

sighed as he felt her soft skin caress against his, their naked legs


She held his face between her hands, and continued to kiss him

thoroughly. He surrendered himself to her ministrations completely.

Pulling her lips from his, she moved slightly away, softly kissing him again

as he raised his mouth to follow hers. With a final kiss, she pushed him

back down. He looked up at her in joyful expectation.

"Nicolas, mon cher," she said, her voice a soft caress. "You will

confess all your troubles to me, will you not?" He just nodded in

agreement, his eyes never leaving her face. "And together we will make

them all go away, non?"

"Yes, I will tell you everything," he said breathlessly. "After." He

smiled seductively at her as he said this last.

"Oh, but it is <after>," she laughed, teasing him.

"No, that was just the beginning. I have four days before I have to

return to work. Will you indulge me until then?" he asked lightly, making

his intentions clear.

"Oui, my love," she smiled, agreeing quickly, then leaned down to

once again devour him with her passion.