New Arrivals
Author-Alicia
Titles

Aaron's Muse
by Alicia

Summary: AU. A new menace stalks the entire West coast; when a member of the MC team becomes the next victim, Jim and Blair take it personal...leading them into a world of nightmare and myth. Crossover with Forever Knight and the Role Playing Game, Vampire, the Masquerade. Rated R for very strong language and violence.

Notes: The vampire characters of Brandon, Aaron, Cassie and Hienrich are original characters created for play in the RPG. Nick Knight is from the show Forever Knight. You don’t really need to be familiar with the game to understand the story, but you do have to be familiar with Forever Knight and the vampire genre in general to understand some of the references. I've provided some definitions from the RPG at the end of the story. For anyone who *might* be familiar with the White Wolf system, YES, I 'bent' some rules a little to fit into my story parameters…..…it's called 'creative license'! Alyssa and Loden are from the module--Chicago by Night.

Disclaimer: Usual disclaimers apply! Don't own The Sentinel, Forever Knight or the RPG!

MONDAY 11:30am

SIMON BANK’S OFFICE

"So far, the *only* thing that connects the two victim's together, in any way, is the club over on Eighth Street……..called the *Underground*. Now the first victim, Andy Chapman, got a job about a month ago as lead guitarist in the band that is currently playing there, called……..'Aaron's Muse'. The lead singer is a Cassandra LaFay. Seems to be her band." Detective James Ellison reported to his Captain, as he tossed out a few black and white publicity photos of a pale young woman.

"Has the first victim, Chapman, remembered anything about his abductor, why or where he was taken, or how he escaped?" Captain Bank’s asked, reaching for the photo’s.

"Nothing. He could only remember being approached at closing time by a shadowy figure, being engulfed in this overwhelming feeling of euphoria and pain, then coming to in the hospital, with no visible wounds, but with *very serious* blood loss and absolutely no memories of the four days he was missing. He was found last week, near sun up, wandering aimlessly in the park." Jim answered grimly.

"So all we have to go on is these men's taste in music?" Simon commented, looking over the photos. The young woman appeared to be in her late twenties, with wild hair and full lips, and dark, piercing eyes that seemed to bore into your soul. "What do we have on this singer, ‘Aaron’s Muse’……..?"

Sitting quietly up to this point, Sandburg piped in enthusiastically. "She was the lead singer in an alternative rock band called ‘Serenade’, they had quite a few hits and even a few albums but never toured much. Stayed pretty much in the Chicago area, in a bar called The Torch. About 2 years ago, they all suddenly dropped out of sight, *completely*. Not even their manager could be found. Cassie……..uh, ‘Aaron’s Muse’ now, resurfaced about a year ago, alone, playing in small clubs up and down the West Coast…….."

Simon arched an eyebrow at Sandburg’s breathless monologue. "And you would know all this because……."

"I have *all* her albums and even saw her and her band once when I was in Chicago."

"Now since we didn't have any leads with the victim's themselves and the club owner checks out I played a hunch and spent the morning cross checking Ms. LaFays' tour schedule with missing persons reports and murders while she was in each city." Jim said, taking back control of the conversation from his excitable partner. "Seems that trouble follows this young lady everywhere she goes. All in all, over the last ten months, and including our two victims, seven young men have disappeared and reappeared under similar mysterious circumstances and five others, almost six, if you count the incident this weekend, have been found murdered. In *all* thirteen instances the victims had either been band members or were seen at the club where the band played. I've requested copies of the investigator's reports……..should be getting replies late this afternoon or tomorrow."

"Could this be an jealous ex-band member trying to thwart her comeback for being left out of the loop?" Simon suggested. "Or even some over zealous fan trying to get her attention?"

"It’s one hell of a way to get attention; killing and kidnapping people." Jim said, shaking his head.

"I agree with Jim, I mean, these people may not your normal mainstream music fans; now if we were investigating suicides, yeah, maybe, but murder…..…kidnapping, I don’t buy it." Blair explained while pacing around the room. "And as far as a comeback goes, she doesn’t appear to be actively seeking one. She *only* plays small clubs. It’s been rumored that she's turned down touring offers and a few record deals. She won’t sing anything *but* the songs from her old band. That doesn’t seem like someone who is interested in a solo career. The band members themselves would share equally in album royalties, and all the members had big enough fan followings to go solo."

"Where *do* you get this stuff Sandburg?" Simon sighed.

"Internet. *Everything* is on the Internet." Blair grinned. "As a matter of fact I pulled this up and copied it. It’s a picture of her original band."

Simon took the offered photo and gave it a quick look before passing it to Jim, who studied the picture intently for a moment, before grabbing up both victim files. "We may just have found a connection between our victims and this singer."

Jim laid out the pictures of the two victims on the table and put the picture of the band beside them. "Look at victim one, Chapman.” he said, pointing to a picture of a curly haired, red head. “Now look at this band member."

"Quite a similarity there." Simon mused.

"That band member is Aaron, he was the primary songwriter for the band. He called Cassie his ‘muse’ and wouldn’t write for anyone but her and would become *very upset* if she sang any song he didn’t write." Blair explained.

"Now she calls herself 'Aaron’s Muse'—maybe *they* had a falling out. Maybe *he’s* the one stalking her? Maybe he’s got new material for her to try out?”

"But that wouldn’t make sense, captain." Blair countered. "Why would she call herself '*Aaron’s* Muse' if she wasn’t willing to sing his new stuff, too?"

"And that might be an explanation if all the victims bore a similarity only to Aaron; but, look at this band member, who does he remind you of?" interrupted Jim grimly, pointing to a young, dark-haired, clean shaven man holding a guitar.

Simon looked at the picture then at Jim, eyebrows raised. "Damn."

"*That* was Cassie’s boyfriend, Brandon." Blair supplied.

"Was there ever any 'tension' between the boyfriend and the songwriter for her attentions?" Simon asked, peering over at Sandburg.

"Haven't seen anything on any of the fan sites to indicate that there was, but I can check around some more." Blair answered.

"We need to get pictures of the other eleven victims and cross check them with this band picture…..…" Jim started.

"Jim, that is an awfully thin lead. Kidnapping, killing…..…because they ‘look like’ band members," Simon interrupted.

"It’s all we’ve got, Simon, we are at a dead end here," Jim shot back. "I've come up with nothing on this one so far."

"Has this singer ever been questioned in any of this?" Simon asked.

"Several times and only briefly. She never stays in town long enough for a thorough investigation and there has never been any real evidence to link her to anything." Jim explained, scanning the report in his hand. "We're having some difficultly in tracking her down for questioning. We tried at the club this morning but it was locked up tight so we'll try again this evening."

A knock at the door halted their conversation. Rhonda popped her head in. "Simon, Henri called. Brian is conscious now."

"Thank god. How is he?" Simon asked.

"Henri said he’s a bit dazed and very confused, but the doctor said he should make a full recovery." Rhonda reported.

"Lets get over there and talk to him. Maybe he can give us something."” Simon directed, grabbing for his coat.

Jim nodded, turning to gather up the pictures scattered across the conference table. His features grim, as he placed the latest victims picture—one, Detective Brian Rafe—on the top of the stack before closing the file.

***************************

CASCADE GENERAL HOSPITAL

MONDAY AFTERNOON

When Simon, Jim and Blair came into the room they saw a very pale, weak looking Brian Rafe sitting propped up in his hospital bed, watching tiredly as his partner hovered around him like a ‘mother hen’.

"How are you feeling Brian?" Simon asked with concern, coming to Brian’s bedside.

"Like I haven’t slept for a week. I feel absolutely exhausted…..…" Brian answered weakly.

"Not surprising man." Blair commented to no one in particular.

"What happened?" Brian asked, eyeing his colleague’s tiredly.

"That’s what we were hoping you could tell us. What’s the last thing you remember?"

Jim asked as he came to stand at the foot of the bed; dialing up his senses to catalogue his friend's health.

The young detective frowned, drawing in a deep breath. "Everything is really hazy. I’m not sure if I’m remembering, dreaming or hallucinating…….."

"Just take it slow, partner," Henri encouraged, resting a hand on his partner's shoulder. "Just tell us everything you can remember."

"Do you remember going to the Underground Club?" Simon asked.

"Is that the club over on Eighth?" Brian questioned.

"Yea. It’s an alternative rock bar." Blair explained, adding. "You don’t strike me as the 'alternative rock' kind of guy…..…"

Brian chuckled weakly. "I’m not. Got a call from an old friend of mine from back east. He was passing through on business. *He’s* a fan of that music and heard about some singer he liked that was going to be there, asked me to tag along so we could catch up on old times."

"So you did go to the club?" Jim prodded.

"Yeah. Definitely *not* my kind of music." Brain chuckled again. "Chuck and I visited for a few hours then he had to take off on a red eye to San Diego—we left the club about half an hour after the bands last set. Must have been around two fifteen or so "

"Then what?"

"That’s where it gets real hazy. I remember putting Chuck in a cab to the airport and heading over to the next block to my car…….." the young man’s brow furrowed in concentration, his voice becoming a strained whisper as he struggled to remember. "I heard…..…I heard this…..…voice. It was…..…mesmerizing. I saw this shadow…..…it was coming towards me. I felt, I don’t know…….. overwhelmed, terrified. I was fixed in that spot. I……..I couldn’t move…..…couldn’t call out…..…"

"Whoa, Brian. Calm down, man." Henri comforted, sitting down on the edge of the bed and putting an arm around the panicked man's shoulders. "You’re safe now. I’m here. We’re all here, Brian."

Brian, however, was becoming more agitated as he became lost in his memories, his breath coming in pained gasps. "Darkness…..…stifling blackness and……..and the, and the pain……..gods, the pain…..…couldn’t, couldn’t get……..get away……..tried……..couldn't get away."

The young man turned and buried his face in his partner’s chest, reaching one arm up to wrap around Henri’s shoulder. Henri wrapped his arms around his terrified partner, trying to comfort him, while also exchanging worried looks with the other three men in the room. One did not become a police officer and certainly not a member of major crimes by being squeamish or easily spooked. Brian’s state of panic and agitation had all of them extremely concerned.

After a few tense moments Brian took a ragged breath and looked up into the worried faces of his friends, his voice tense and low. "Sorry……..sorry, I lost it like that. But this feeling…..…it’s like being a child and waking from a nightmare that won’t fade…but I can feel it, it still seems so real."

"After what you’ve been through I think you’re entitled to lose it a little bit." Henri comforted.

Brian fell tiredly back into his pillows, looking up with sunken eyes to meet his partner’s gaze. "Just what exactly have I been through?"

"You were….… attacked……..after you left the club. Do you know who it was, did you see them clearly to give us a description?" Simon prodded gently.

"Attacked? I……..I don't remember…….." Brain said in surprise before trailing off.

"Damn, it was to close partner. Lucky for you some other patrons left the bar the same time you and Chuck did, scared off whoever it was before they had a chance to…..…anyway, we barely got you to the hospital…..…if it wasn’t for the transfusions…..…" Henri rambled, the memories of his partner hovering near death, causing him his own kind of agitation.

"Transfusions? Blood transfusions?" Brian interrupted, picking up on his partner's agitated state. "What in the hell happened to me?"

"It's really weird, man, but you were……..well, you were missing almost all your blood!" Blair answered the distraught man.

"Missing my blood? Are you saying I nearly bled to death? Was I shot?" Brain asked in confusion. "You said attacked, was I mugged?"

"That’s another part of the mystery, it wasn't a mugging……..you still had your cash, credit cards, your car keys. Also, the Doctors found *no* wounds. Nothing to account for the blood loss." Jim explained. "Just like the other victims."

"Other victims? There have been others?" Brian said in surprise.

"There was all ready a kidnapping associated with the club you were at Saturday…..…or more exactly the band that's currently playing there. The lead guitarist disappeared for four days and reappeared in near the same condition as you were brought in. A back ground check came up with six other kidnappings and five murders that happen to coincide exactly with the bands tour dates in other cities; all equally mysterious for there lack of clues." Jim briefly filled in Henri and Brian.

"Have the other victims been able to give any clues?" Brian asked.

"I've only got brief reports from the other PD's so far. Hopefully there will be more detail in the reports that are being faxed to us. We were really hoping you would be able to fill in the details," Jim said hopefully.

Brian closed his eyes tightly, his brow furrowed in deep concentration. A moment later he let out a long, frustrated sigh, slamming his fists down on either side of his bed. "I can’t remember anything. Why can’t I remember anything? The person in the alley was nothing more than a shadow. I *can’t even* tell you if it was a man or a woman."

"It’s all right Brian. You’re still recovering. You damn near died out there!"

"I’m a cop, dammit. I’m supposed to be trained for this sort of thing, not lay here like some helpless victim…….." the young detective raged weakly.

"There might be a way," Blair interjected quietly.

"How? I’ll try anything." Brian said hopefully.

Blair came to stand by Brian’s bed, holding his friend's gaze. "I want to warn you, it most likely won’t be pleasant."

"What’s not pleasant is not knowing what the hell happened to me!" Brian ground out. "So whatever it is I’m willing to do it."

"I could put you in a light meditative state, almost like a trance. We could take you back and see if we can break through the haze…….."

"Let’s do it," Brian interrupted.

"I think we should wait until you’ve gotten some of your strength back." Henri stated.

"And give this perp a chance to strike again. Do *this* to someone else. *I don’t think so*. You said it yourself; I almost didn’t make it. The next victim might not be so lucky; hell, five guys *didn't* make it!" Brian said pointedly, his gaze going from his worried partner to his captain. "Please, Captain, I *need* to do this."

Simon sighed heavily then nodded. "Let me talk to your doctor Brian. If *he* thinks you’re up to it *then* we’ll consider giving it a try."

"Thanks Captain." Brian said quietly.

**************************

As expected, the Doctor *was not* pleased by the Captain’s request. Only the fact that his patient was a cop *and* a victim of a very unusual assault did he agree, albeit, reluctantly. "My stipulation is that I be right there to monitor my patient, and if, at any time, I feel it’s to much for him *it will* end immediately."

"Agreed." Simon stated. "Understand this Doctor Martin, I don’t want to put my detective through this any more than you do; but Brian has a cop’s eye and the training, he may be able to give us something the other victims missed. I want to catch this lunatic before we have a victim neither of us can help."

"Let’s give him the rest of the day to rest, regain his equilibrium. You can try after dinner this evening, say about seven thirty. If you have any questions before then have the nurses page me."

"Thanks, Doctor."

Blair spent the rest of the afternoon with Rafe while Brown reluctantly left his partner's side to return with Jim and Simon to the station to help review the other case files as they came in.

***************************

MONDAY 7:45 pm

CASCADE GENERAL

Rafe was propped up in his hospital bed, watching as Blair prepared the room; closing the blinds, dimming the lights and putting in some meditation music, before coming to sit on the edge of the bed.

"Are you ready, Brian?" Blair asked quietly, and was answered by a nod. "Do you want the others to stay or go?"

Brian looked over at his fellow detectives and nodded slowly. "Stay. Please."

"We’re not going anywhere partner." Henri answered tightly.

"The doctor is going to be right here on the other side of the bed Brian. He’s going to monitor your vitals…if it gets to be too much we *are* going to pull you out immediately." Blair explained in the quiet voice that so often soothed his Sentinel.

Brian nodded and closed his eyes and laid his head back against his pillows at Blair’s gentle direction.

"Breathe in deep. Exhale slowly, and again. In, out…..…in……..and out, just like we practiced. Focus on the sound of my voice, listen to the music and let it carry you deep into yourself. Feel yourself drifting. Keep breathing: in……..and out, in……..and out. You’re getting lighter, floating. We’re going to go back to when you met Chuck at the Underground Club…breathe in and out……..see yourself at the club……..........................." For several more moments Blair’s quiet voice carried Rafe into a nether realm between wakefulness and dreams.

Rafe gave a soft chuckle as he quietly recalled meeting up with his friend after a four-year absence. Blair gave a smile himself before moving Brian through the visit with his friend and to Chuck’s departure from the club.

"Okay, Brian, you’ve seen Chuck to his cab and he’s driven off. Now you’re heading towards your car…….." Blair prompted.

"I was passing the alley next to the club…I heard this, whisper…..…it was a whisper as quiet as the wind but as loud as thunder. It called to me…..…I coul……..can’t……..I can't refuse. Her voice…..…it’s musical….…like, like the call of the Siren."

"It’s a woman? You hear a woman’s voice?" Blair interrupted quietly. "Brian, look through the haze, look *at* the woman. Tell me what she looks like."

"She’s beautiful, mesmerizing. I get lost in her eyes, so green, like the ocean…..…and her voice……..she's calling to me, smiling." Brian said in an awe struck whisper.

"Brian, what does she look like?" Blair asked again.

"She’s coming to me…..…this beautiful creature, she wants me." Brian weakly raised his arms a few inches off the bed as though moving to take someone in his arms.

"Brian. Detective Rafe. We need a description." Blair ordered firmly.

Brian, however, appeared not to hear Blair, so lost in his memories. "I’m here. I’m here."

Brian folded his arms over his chest and leaned back against his pillows, tilting his head back slightly, and giving a quiet, pleasurable moan. Blair raised an eyebrow in surprise, stealing a quick glance at the other three detectives in the room; their faces, however, showed no hint of amusement only worry

As Blair was turning back to the young man on the bed, Brian’s eyes suddenly shot open and a startled scream of both pain and surprise tore from his throat. "Wait…..…no, stop……..who? Who……..I'm, I'm not Bran…….."

He bucked and swung his arms out as though defending himself, tumbling Blair off the bed. Brian then pulled his legs up and dug his heels into the mattress, trying to push himself backwards, away from the threat in his minds eye. "Nooo…..…stop……..god’s no…..…stop…..…what are you doing? What…..…are you? Get away…..…"

Blair quickly scrambled to his feet, going back to his distraught friend, placing a hand firmly on each of Brian’s shoulders, trying to calm him down. "Brian, man, what is it? What's going on? What do you see? Brian calm down, you’re safe now…….."

The others in the room had moved forward to assist Blair in trying to calm the panicked man down, while the Doctor reached for a syringe. "His heart rate is too elevated…..…he's starting to hyper-ventilate--he needs pulled out of this *now* or I'll have to sedate him."

"Bring him out of it now, Sandburg." Brown yelled, pushing past the doctor to get to his partner. "Damn, something is scaring him to death…….."

Blair and Henri stumbled backwards when Brian suddenly arched up and gave one last hoarse scream before collapsing into the bed. Whimpering and gasping for breath the dazed young man rolled to his side and pulled himself into a tight fetal position, wrapping one arm around his legs the other going to his neck.

"Brian? Brian, you need to listen to me. Listen to *my* voice." Blair instructed his friend urgently. "You don't hear anything else but my voice. I’m going to bring you out of it now. When I count to three, you’re going to wake up and remember. One. Two. Three."

They watched tensely as Brian slowly opened fear filled eyes and dazedly took in his slow to focus surroundings. His voice was hoarse with terror as he gasped out, "She…..…she had…..…she was…..…she, she bit me! I…….I could feel it, I could *feel* my blood leaving my body."

"She bit you?" Jim said moving past Blair to stand beside Brian’s bedside.

"Bit you? Sounds like a damn vampire movie." Henri muttered.

Brian flinched when Jim reached out and touched the hand protecting his neck.

"Whoa, Brian, it's all right. No one here is going to hurt you." Jim coaxed softly. "I just want to take a look, see if you're hurt."

Nodding slowly, Brian allowed Jim to remove his hand from his neck. "There, right below his left ear. See, right there, two pinprick marks."

The doctor was next to move in, tilting his patient’s head so he too could examine the wound. "Where, I don’t see anything?"

"It’s there. Get a magnifying glass if you need to. Then check the other victim for similar wounds." Jim ordered.

The doctor just shook his head but left the room to check the other patients' file.

Simon was looking thoughtful, finally asking. "Brian, before, when this person…..…this woman, attacked you; you started to say a name, do you remember?"

"A name?" Brain repeated dazedly, wrinkling his brow in thought. "The name……..the name was…..…Brandon."

"Brandon!" Blair exclaimed quietly, giving Jim, Simon and Henri knowing looks. " The name of Cassie's boyfriend.

"Cassie's boyfriend? Who the hell is Cassie?" Brian muttered.

"The band that was playing at the Underground Club that night is called 'Aaron's Muse', the lead singers name is Cassie LaFay. She was part of a band in Chicago that dropped out of sight over two years ago, at the height of the popularity……..she had a boyfriend, a Brandon Stone." Blair explained.

"And the kidnapped guitarist, the one playing with Cassie's band currently is a dead ringer for Cassie's original songwriter…..…Aaron." Jim continued.

"So we've got some deranged female out there kidnapping Aaron wannabes for reasons yet to be determined and also, it seems, trying to kill anyone who looks like Brandon?" Simon said. "A fan or a stalker, I wonder?"

"We'll be able to answer that when we get the other victim files." Jim said.

"I think we need to read up on Cassie's old band, what was it…..…"

"Serenade." Blair provided.

"And see just why they suddenly dropped out of sight." Simon finished. "Find out if they had any enemies or stalkers while in Chicago."

"Give me a computer and a few hours and I can get you all the information on the band you want." Blair said.

"In the meantime we need to have a little chat with Ms. LaFay, see if she can shed any light on what's been going on. I'm going to contact the other police departments again and have them put a rush on the rest of those case files." Simon ordered. "I don't want this one slipping through our fingers."

***************************

MONDAY 9:30 pm

UNDERGROUND CLUB

"She’s what!" Jim exploded, his rage lost to the cacophony of ‘music’ blaring throughout the bar.

"Hey. Just what I said man. Gone. She packed up Sunday night, headin’ to 'Frisco for her next gig. She always gets there a few days in advance to get her talent…..…" the Goth looking bartender answered.

"Get her talent?" Jim interrupted.

The spike-haired barkeep sighed heavily, quirking his bushy, black eyebrows as he spoke. "She always does her gigs with local talent, man. She sets up shop at a club a week in advance and has a few open talent nights and gets her band and back up singers from the area. They get in a few days of rehearsal then open on the weekends."

"How long does she usually play in any one bar?" Jim yelled over the noise.

"Usually four weekends at each bar…..…Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights."

"She’s been touring the West coast for almost a year. You telling us she never uses the same talent twice when she replays a city?" Blair questioned.

"Can’t answerer that one, man. This was the first time she’s played our club. Might try the Blackout over on 17th, she’s played there before," the barkeep said, shrugging his shoulders.

******************************

TUESDAY, 8:30 am

SIMON’S OFFICE

"She always uses local talent and from what we’ve managed to pick up from a few sources she has yet to use the same musician's twice," the detective reported to his captain.

"What about Ms. LaFay herself? What did she have to offer?" Simon inquired.

"Uh, we didn't get to question her, sir. She packed up Sunday night and is now in San Francisco." Jim answered in frustration. "But we did manage to track down two musicians who played with her before and they could barely even remember playing with her for the last month."

"Yeah, Simon. It was really weird. They all seemed real out of it…..…like they were in some sort of daze or something." Blair commented.

"Well, most of the case files have been faxed……..only two or three haven't shown up yet." Simon informed the two men." Brown's got them now."

"That was quick, we only put in these requests yesterday." Jim commented.

"Well I spoke to some watch commanders and captains personally and filled them in that this investigation had to do with an attempted murder on a cop and may be a serial."

"We'll get right on it then." Jim said, standing and heading out of the office, Blair following close behind.

They found Brown in one of the interrogation rooms, poring over files and photos that had been spread out on the table.

"What have we got?" Jim asked, coming into the room.

"That thin theory is starting to look thicker and thicker. Look at these guys……..every single one of them bears a strong similarity to either Aaron or Brandon." Brown commented. "In *every* case these guys were kidnapped while these were all found murdered." He continued, pointing first to pictures resembling Aaron, then Brandon "

"What we appear to be looking at gentlemen is a serial kidnapper/killer. We have a total of 13 kidnappings/killings over the last ten months with the same MO. Every one of these victims can be directly associated with Cassie’s band or had been seen at the club she was playing."

"If this has been going on for nearly a year why has no one put this all together before?" Henri snapped out angrily. "Who ever had been investigating this in each city should have had some clue…..…"

Jim chuckled wearily. "Not all departments have the 'pleasure' of frequenting the Sandburg zone."

"So we can be pretty sure this is all tied to her somehow," Henri commented grimly, turning to Blair. "Hairboy, what did you find on the net about her band and her time in Chicago?"

"The band broke up real suddenly, at a real peak in their popularity. It’s rumored that Brandon was murdered, possibly by an obsessed fan……there's even speculation that Cassie murdered him in a jealous rage. Aaron, he just disappeared, as did Cassie, until recently. Now, their manager was some German guy……..Heinrich von Kress, rich guy, still lives in Chicago, owns some steel factories there. He's a real recluse, no one ever sees him. And so far I haven't come across anything on the fan sites that says he has any current involvement in Cassie's band." Blair answered, continuing thoughtfully. "I've been thinking, maybe Cassie showing up, touring up and down the coast and never staying in one location, booking only local talent from each city, singing only the band’s old music; maybe, she’s looking for them, the original band members, or trying to replace them…..…"

"But why kidnap these men? Any of those musician’s would fall all over themselves for a break in the big times?" Jim countered. "And if she is trying to remake her band then why attack non-musicians? And why murder these men who resemble her old boyfriend?"

Blair looked thoughtful for a moment, finally asking. "What order do the kidnappings and killings occur? Which comes first?"

"Where are you going with this?" Jim asked.

"Seems there is always a kidnapping first then a killing." Brown reported after a moment of skimming his notes. "Do you think that's significant?"

"I don’t know yet, it’s just a working theory but from the MO so far in each city someone baring a similarity to Aaron is kidnapped and set loose several days later and within a week of that someone looking like Brandon is murdered." Blair mused aloud.

"But then why kill only the Brandon look a-likes and not the Aaron ones, wasn't Aaron her song writer?" Henri asked.

"I'm not sure how it's important yet but I'm sure there is a reason for the pattern."

"Well, what ever the reason it’s a lot more than we had yesterday," Jim sighed. "And now she’s out of our jurisdiction, damn. I’ll have Simon put in a call to the SFPD, fax them this information, have them keep an eye on her…..…"

"Is that all?" Blair exclaimed.

"What exactly would you have us do, Sandburg," Jim snapped. "We don’t have any solid evidence linking her to any crime. Rafe’s little foray into the *twilight zone* is not going to get us a warrant. Hell, he couldn’t even positively identify her as his assailant."

"Jim, you and I, *we* could go to San Francisco, I could audition for her band…..…" Blair started to explain.

"Absolutely not. Out of the question." Jim snapped.

"Why?" Blair countered in frustration.

"One, it’s *not* our jurisdiction; two, *you* are not a cop!" Jim practically shouted. "And three, after what happened to Rafe, you think I'm going to let you any where near this psychopath."

The irate detective just shook his head, his gaze stopping on the thoughtful look on Henri's face.

"We *can't* let this one go." Henri intoned quietly.

"What? You buy into this plan?" Jim said in disbelief.

"Hell no! I’m not happy with the idea, *whatever* is going on is dangerous: the trail of bodies proves that; but I agree with Sandburg on this one. We *have* to do something. She didn’t just take down *any* fellow officer, Jim; she took down one of *our friends*. She *damn* near killed him, you saw him in the hospital; he was terrified. This *isn't* going to stop until we stop it." Henri said grimly.

"I know," Jim said tiredly, falling into his seat. "I don’t want to see her get away with this either."

"Then we'll do it?" Blair asked tentively.

"You know Simon can’t sign off on anything official for you to work undercover, especially in another jurisdiction," Jim said raising a hand to stave off the protests he knew would be forthcoming. "But, as a civilian, *you* can come and go as you please. If you choose, as said civilian, to go to San Francisco and try out for a band there’s nothing I or anyone else can do to stop you. And, if said civilian had a friend who wanted to take a few days to go support his buddy with his ‘music’ career; I could probably arrange that."

Henri and Blair gave each other knowing looks and turned to grin at Jim. "Sounds like a plan to me."

"Don't start celebrating yet…..…we still have to get Simon to authorize the time off." Jim cautioned. "And that means telling him our little plan."

*******************

"You want to do what? Are you out of your collective minds." Simon exploded, shaking his head in disbelief, upon hearing the 'plan' the three men had come up with. "No! No time off means no trip to Seattle. There, that's settled."

"Captain. Simon. Please, we *have* to do something." Henri pleaded.

"Listen Henri, I know you're worried about your partner……"

"You saw him Captain….…how can you sit there and not want to do something?" Henri ground out angrily.

"Henri….…" Simon began only to be interrupted.

"I'm going, Simon." Blair warned, emphasizing "With or without Jim."

Simon met their determined looks with a scowl and a defeated sigh; to be honest he too wanted the person who attacked his detective caught. "*Don’t* make me regret this decision. You get *anything* we can use, you call me immediately; you got that? I’m going to go ahead and get a hold of the PD and let them know we got someone up their following up on a lead to a cop’s assault, that ought to get you around the jurisdiction problem. You need help, you call for backup."

"Yes sir." the two men answered simultaneously.

"Get out of here before I change my mind.” Simon growled at his two men, waving them to the door. "Call me when you get there."

*****************************

TUESDAY, 8:30 pm

SAN FRANCISCO, CA

Outside CLUB WAYDOWN

"Yea. Okay, Simon. Got it. Are you sure? All right, but you know it’s gonna be late……..okay, okay. Yea, bye Simon." Jim closed his cell and returned it to his pocket.

"He’s still not happy about this is he?" Blair commented.

"No, he’s not. He talked to the SFPD; our contact is Detective Knight if we need back up. Simon told them we were up here to question a suspect in Rafe’s attack." Jim reported to his friend.

"So we aren’t stepping on any toes here?"

"No. They understand our need to follow up on this and Simon says they support us all the way."

"How’s Rafe?"

"He’s still shaky; but getting stronger. The doctor’s going to release him tomorrow, he’s going to spend a few days with Brown." Jim relayed what Simon had reported.

“That’s good. I don’t think he should be alone right now.” Giving a big sigh Blair headed towards the front door of the club. "Let’s get in there and get this over with……..hope I can pull this off."

Jim smiled at his young friend. "Are we doubting our abilities here chief?"

"Jim, these people auditioning want to hit the big time. They practice all the time, I haven’t had my guitar out for months…….." Blair explained.

"Don’t worry. You getting a place in the band would certainly make it easier to keep an eye on our suspect but it’s not mandatory. Just auditioning gets us in the door and a free look around."

They entered the dimly lit bar, the music nearly deafening the Sentinel before he remembered to dial back his hearing. As they crossed the bar to the manager’s table, the Sentinel scanned the room that was all ready nearly filled to capacity with fans and musicians alike.

"Dial it all down, man." Blair intoned to his sentinel.

Almost missed, even with Sentinel sight, was a figure sitting in the farthest corner of the bar; almost totally obscured in darkness. Jim eyed the shadowy figure, turning his sight all the way up to get a clearer look. It was their suspect, Cassie LaFay.

Jim gave a quick intake of breath, a chill passing over him when his eyes locked with her predatory, piercing blue-black eyes. His ‘blessed protector’ hackles rose when the singer turned that predatory gaze to rest on Blair, whose back was turned in conversation with the clubs manager.

Jim placed a protective hand on Blair’s shoulder, the action regaining the attention of the singer. His eyes again locked with the woman: daring her to challenge him. She merely rolled her eyes and sighed, giving Jim a dismissive shrug, a hungry smile playing across her face. Faster than sentinel sight could follow, Cassie was standing beside Blair.

"Play for me." her quiet voice was both steely and seductive, mesmerizing in its melodious tone. Jim watched, spellbound, as Blair looked up and seemed to melt into the singer’s intense gaze. Without taking his eyes from the woman, Blair reached down and grabbed his guitar case.

Jim watched with growing agitation as Blair responded to the singers caress, leaning into her touch. "Go, now. Play for your muse." She ordered quietly. Without a word or sideways glance to his friend and sentinel, Blair turned and headed towards the stage.

"Do you know my work?" she asked as Blair made it up onto the stage.

Blair nodded, his gaze again locked onto hers. He began to play, tentatively at first; but when Cassie began to quietly sing in time with his music his playing became more confident. When the song was over she smiled and seemed to glide over to the stage.

Holding out her hands to the young guide, "*you* shall play for me."

The woman turned her attention to the manager. "Choose whomever you wish to finish out the band, this one will play for me while I’m here."

"Yes Cassie." The manager answered dazedly. He then turned towards the waiting musicians, "I still need a drummer and a back up singer, the rest of you can go."

There was some grumbling as several of the musicians gathered their instruments and headed towards the door; Cassie, however, had ceased to notice anyone in the room but Blair.

Jim, meanwhile, had regained control of his emotions and moved to intervene between the mysterious woman and his guide. "Blair, buddy. Congratulations, you got a place in the band."

The sound of his sentinel’s voice broke Blair from his revelry. Shaking his head to clear away the fog he jumped from the stage and went to Jim’s side. "Uh….. huh. Oh, right, yeah. I’m in? That’s great, when do I start?"

Cassie turned to the Sentinel, her eyes flashing ill suppressed anger. "And you are?"

"I’m Jim, Blair’s friend……..and, manager. Here to make sure the boy gets a fair shake." Jim answered with an evil smile of his own as he held out a hand.

"He is in no need of a manager on this gig." Cassie said evenly, folding her arms

"Guess I’ll be the judge of that." Jim answered as he let his hand drop. "Where he goes I go."

"Yeah, uh…….. right. Uh……..can’t leave Jim out. We come as a set." Blair stammered.

Cassie eyed the men defiantly for a moment. "Rehearsal starts at nine pm tomorrow. Do not be late."

"We’ll be here," Jim answered, smiling at the angry woman the same time he put a hand on Blair’s shoulder.

"Uh……..yea. Nine, right. We’ll be here," Blair stuttered after her retreating form.

Jim led Blair through the crowd and out the door. Once on the sidewalk he faced his guide with growing concern. "What the hell was that all about back there. You acted like you were in a trance or something? Are you all right?"

"Uh, fine Jim. I’m fine. Hey, what’s the problem, man, I’m in." Blair shrugged off his friend’s concern, eyeing the club entrance longingly. "Say, why don’t we go watch the rest of the auditions; get to know Cassie a little better."

"I think we’ve had enough of the *muse* for one night, besides I need to check in with Simon again." Jim stated, leading his guide to the truck.

Undetected by the Sentinel’s extraordinary senses a shadowy figure watched them from a nearby alley. Her brow creased in irritation as she watched the larger man lead the smaller on away from her.

"Aaron." The name was a hissing wind in the shadows.

***********************

WEDNESDAY 10:00 am

San Francisco Hotel Room

"This case just gets stranger and stranger…..…at this moment I am reading a missing persons report on one Cassandra Bates, age 23…..…" Simon reported.

"How does it relate to our case, Simon?" Jim questioned.

"During the investigation of the first murder of a musician associated with Cassie’s band, she was fingerprinted, along with everyone else to rule out suspects; her prints came back matching those of Cassandra Bates…..…"

"Cassie Bates…….Cassie LaFay…….musicians change their name all the time. Why is it so strange that an MPR was filed on her, Sandburg said the whole band up and disappeared….…"

"Because Cassandra Bates is…….dead!" Simon answered.

"Dead!"

"Jim, this report was filed on June 17……..*1968*, by her parents. Two nights later her body was found laying across a shallow grave in the back of a cemetery in Chicago.” Simon continued.

“So either the print match is wrong or they ID’d the wrong body in ’68. The woman we saw was very much alive. If Cassandra Bates was 23 in 1968 that would make her, what, over 50 now: the woman we saw last night was definitely alive and in her late twenties at most," Jim reported to his captain.

"I had them check it twice, Jim. Even if this singer did forge Cassandra’s identity, she couldn’t forge a fingerprint check. Those prints say that that 20 year old singer is a 50 year old dead woman."

"How in the hell has this gotten past the other investigator's……..didn't anyone think to re- run her prints………question her on the discrepancy?" Jim asked in annoyance.

"There is nothing in the files, no indication of any kind of follow-up after her initial questioning………in *any* of the cases." Simon explained, equally baffled by the poor follow up to such a crucial discrepancy.

"We’ll get another set, re-run the prints." Jim said

"You do that. Check in with me later."

Jim hung up the phone; his mind trying to sort through the information his captain had just given him.

*******************

Wednesday, 7:30 pm

After dinner that evening, Jim and Blair stopped off at the local precinct to meet up with the detective that would be working the case with them. Flashing his badge at the front desk he was then directed to the morgue.

"Fun. Fun." Blair complained, following Jim to the basement.

"He is a homicide detective, chief, he's got his own cases to work." Jim said with an amused shrug.

The elevator doors parted and they stepped out into a brightly lit corridor.

"Which way man?" Blair asked nervously.

Cocking his head to listen he heard voices at the end of the hall. "That way chief."

*****

"You look distracted. Something going on?" asked a female voice.

"I've got two cops coming down from Washington State to question some suspects in a serial murder/kidnapping case." The man's voice was tinged with worry.

"Ah, and you got stuck babysitting." The female voice said in amusement.

"Nat, the report said they found unusual wounds on the victims neck--puncture wounds…" the man responded.

"Nick, every strange death is not the work of vampires. I think you're letting your imagination get the best of you…"

"Not this time." The man's voice said knowingly.

"So…it is…vampire's?"

"I read the preliminary report, did some checking on my own. The suspect they want to question, a Cassie LaFay, is…Nat, she's one of us."

"Yep, I'd say you've got a problem."

"Not half as much as those detectives do if they start poking around."

"What do you know about this vampire…Cassie…ever encountered her before?"

"No. Don't know anymore about her than what my sources gave me."

There was a moment of silence before the woman said. "So, what are you going to do? If she's that dangerous to humans, she can't be allowed to continue."

"I know. I'll just have to get to her before they do."

***********

As they slowly approached the swinging doors at the end of the hall the Sentinel's _expression became hard and angry, causing Blair to give him a questioning look.

"What is it man?" Blair hissed quietly.

Jim held up a staying hand as he continued to listen, but the voices had stopped and several seconds later the door swung open to reveal a brown haired woman. "What can I do for you gentlemen?"

Pulling out his badge again, Jim replied. "Detective Ellison, my partner, Blair Sandburg. We're looking for detective Knight……..told he was down here."

The woman opened the door wider indicating the two men should enter. "The Detectives from Cascade……..come on in, Nick's been expecting you."

Jim and Blair stepped into the outer office of the morgue. A moment later the woman came around to face them. "I'm Natalie, this is Detective Nick Knight."

"Detectives." Nick said, stepping up and extending a hand to the men.

Blair took the man's hand when he noticed Jim in Sentinel mode. "Hey, man, Blair Sandburg."

"Detective Sandburg." Nick said, shaking Blair's hand.

"No, not detective. I'm just a consultant to the department."

"Consultant?" Natalie questioned.

"I'm an anthropologist actually. I just help them out with the stranger cases." Blair explained, giving his partner a furtive look. "Jim's the detective."

"Detective Ellison." Nick said, looking pointedly at the other man.

"Detective Knight." Jim said grasping the man's hand firmly in his.

Whether it was his past ops training or just the "strangeness" that his life had been since learning of his Sentinel abilities Jim didn't know, but he congratulated himself none the less that he didn't immediately pull back from the other man's handshake in confusion and horror at what his senses told him, or rather didn’t tell him.

While Detective Knight *was* standing in front of him and *was* talking to him the man was not exactly everything he appeared to be……..like, 'alive'. The Sentinel detected no pulse, no heartbeat, and no body heat…….. and concentrating for several seconds on the other man's chest, no breathing.

Sensing his Sentinel was in some sort of distress Blair reached over and lightly touched Jim's arm, breaking the contact between the two detectives. "Uh……..Jim……..you all right man."

"Huh, yeah. I'm fine chief. Guess just a little tired." Jim stammered.

"Can I get you something Detective?" Natalie offered.

"No. No, thank you, really. I'm fine." Jim said, rubbing a hand across his forehead. "We've been going non stop on this case since Saturday night."

"The report on the last victim said it was a cop from Cascade." Nick said.

"A Detective…..…from the Major Crimes Unit. Jim's department." Blair supplied. "He's, well, he's a good friend of ours."

"Should you be on the case then? That's almost like investigating a case involving a family member." Nick said evenly.

"You're damn right it's personal, that's why we're here." Jim said, pointedly looking at Nick. "And we won't be leaving until we get answers, no matter *what* we find out."

"And what have you found out so far?" Nick asked, returning the hard gaze.

"We found out that so far there have been six kidnappings and five murders and one attempted murder in the last ten months in different cities up and down the coast…"

"And why do you think that they are all somehow tied together?"

"Because each victim can be tied back to the same band, the same woman…Cassie LaFay, the lead singer of the group--Aaron's Muse." Jim said. "And now she's in your city."

The sentinel was slightly unnerved at not being able to sense this man? His rational mind wouldn't allow him to go beyond that…..yet! But he was able to pick up on the accelerated heartbeat of the woman, Natalie, at the mention of the singer's name.

"And you want to question this singer……..this, Cassie LaFay?" Nick asked.

"We're not going to question her……..she's our prime suspect at the moment--she's under full investigation by our department." Jim said.

"Isn't San Francisco a little out of your jurisdiction detective?" Nick said quietly, his eyes locked in a silent battle of wills with the other man. "Don't you trust your fellow officers to look into the case for you."

Jim felt like he was sinking into a cloud, his vision and hearing becoming hazy as he continued to stare into Nick's eyes. Only the touch of his friend and guide shook him out of his stupor.

"Jim? Jim, you all right?" Blair asked in concern.

"Yeah, chief, I'm fine. Just more tired than I thought." Jim said with a shake of his head.

Jim felt a hint of satisfaction at the consternated look that momentarily crossed the other detectives face. "Like I said, Detective, it's personal. And if Cassie LaFay did kill those men and attack our detective know this……..she is going down for it."

"How can I help?" Nick's question sounding more like a demand.

"We have it covered." Jim said.

"Covered? How?" Nick demanded.

"We've got someone on the inside." Jim hedged.

"That was quick." Natalie interjected.

"Listen, it's been a long day. We'll keep you updated on the investigation, Detective." Jim said suddenly. "Let's go chief."

Blair was mildly surprised by Jim's abrupt behavior and less than forth coming answers to detective Knight's questions and shrugged apologetically when Jim suddenly turned and left the room. "Sorry, he's really focused on the case and is a bit of a lone wolf when it comes to his investigations……..we'll keep in touch."

******************

"That went well." Natalie said sarcastically.

"It didn't work." Nick said in annoyance.

"What didn't work?"

"His will was to strong. I couldn’t break through, and there's something else…..…something I just can't put my finger on." Nick mused, his brow furrowed in concentration.

"Well he is a cop and naturally suspicious. It would only make sense he would be a little stronger than the average human." Natalie consoled. "Remember, it didn't work on me either."

"But you all ready knew about vampires, what they were capable of." Nick countered.

"So what now? You can't let them face a rogue vampire on their own; she's all ready killed six people." Natalie said with concern.

"I get there first." Nick said. "See you later."

*********************

The look on Jim's face staved off any questions Blair might have until they were safely back in the truck.

"What Jim? What did you hear earlier?" Blair asked impatiently as Jim pulled the truck out into the late evening traffic. "Why did you treat Detective Knight like the enemy, man; and what's with the withholding of vital information? You didn't tell him anything about the missing person's report."

Seeming to not hear Blair's tirade Jim stared off, at a loss to explain what he'd heard, what he'd sensed. "I've had about all the weirdness I can handle with this sentinel stuff chief…….now….…now, I'm chasing…..…" Jim trailed off.

"*What* Jim, what are *we* chasing?" Blair pressed.

"He……..Knight, he doesn't……..chief, he doesn't…….. I didn't, I didn't hear a heartbeat…..…he wasn't breathing." Jim said slowly, unsure of himself.

"Ookaay!" Blair said slowly. "That explains your mini zone out when you shook his hand…….."

"You believe me?" Jim said incredulous.

"Shouldn't I….…..you're the one with the hyper senses man, if you can't hear a man's heartbeat when you're standing right next to him then no one can." Blair said. "What about Natalie?"

"She had one, she was breathing." Jim said with a nod of his head. "And Cassie's name got a reaction from her, too."

"What was it you heard, when we came off the elevator? You were shook up before we even met those two." Blair asked.

"They were talking about us…..…"

"And?" Blair prodded when Jim trailed off again.

"And, Knight knows about Cassie's time in Chicago…...........................…"

"He's a cop Jim, he has access to the same information you do. Simon even said he contacted the department and filled them in?"

"Knight was worried about the puncture wounds…..…"

"Why, Jim…does Detective Knight, do you think he knows something? We know when Cassie started touring again she started in San Francisco?" Blair asked in confusion.

"You could say that." Jim said. "He said…..…he said, 'she's one of us'."

" 'One of us'?" Blair repeated in confusion. "One of us…..…as in what, one of *him*……..man with no pulse and no heartbeat?"

"Yeah, man with no pulse and no heart beat." Jim said with a defeated sigh. "And he had a name for it……..for them."

Blair just raised an expectant eyebrow.

"He said they were…….." Jim took a deep breath, finishing quietly, "he said…..… vampires."

Blair let out a long breathe. "Okay man we can deal with this…..…its way out there but we can deal with this."

"Chief, how can you say that?" Jim exploded. "Did you hear what I said--vampires, undead, blood sucking demons that feed off humans during full moons…..…"

"That's werewolves…..…" Blair interrupted.

"What?"

"Werewolves. Werewolves feed during full moons, vamps can pretty much do it any night of the month." Blair said with a sheepish shrug.

"What? Don't even tell me we are having this conversation……..we are talking about vampires chief…..…like, like…….." Jim slammed his hands on the steering wheel in frustration.

"Like what……..like they *might* really exist?" Blair said with a raised eyebrow. "Jim, you’re a sentinel--a man with five heightened senses who has a big, black spirit *kitty* stalking around and a dead shaman who shows up periodically in visions to kick your ass in gear when we screw up." Blair explained slowly to his overwhelmed friend. "We live in a myth ever day of our lives, who's to say there aren't more 'myths' out there. Besides what they believe and what is actually true are *two* very different things…..…"

"But vampires chief--vampires!" Jim all but whined.

"Jim, there are documented medical and historical cases of people who *believe* they are vampires…..…even going so far as drinking blood and sleeping in coffins." Blair explained. "And today there are documented cases of a very rare medical condition where a person's skin is so sensitive to sunlight they actually break out in blisters…..…like the myth of vampires bursting into flames in the sunlight."

"Well, it was certainly no myth that he didn't have a heart-beat…if it's just a psychological condition how could he pull that off?" Jim questioned.

"Listen Jim…..…there are good sentinels and bad sentinels, right? We know that from dealing with Alex. So why can't there be good vampires and bad vampires?" Blair put forth.

"A *good* vampire chief…..…did you just hear what you said; vampires aren't real……..and……..and, they suck blood, they're evil!" Jim said in amazement. "We know of at least one that kills…..…and *why* are we even having this conversation, it's……..it's preposterous!"

"Is it? Are you going to ignore the facts, detective?"

Jim gave Blair an incredulous look. "Facts, chief?"

"Okay, maybe not facts, as such, but the presence of vampiric activity as it relates to the European mythos of the vampire legends. Everyone associated with Cassie can't seem to remember, similar to the supposed mind control powers of vampires. Then there are the strange wounds…the inexplicable blood loss…and Rafe's fear, his own admission that he *felt* the blood leaving his body!" Blair explained in his excitable 'professor' voice. "Would you ignore the evidence because it doesn’t' fit into your narrow paradigm? Face it Jim, *whatever* the explanation, this is *not* a normal case."

When Jim didn't answer Blair continued with a shrug. "Besides, Knight is a cop…..…a good guy……..right?"

"Fine, we *are* having this conversation." Jim said in defeat, plunging into the 'Sandburg zone'. "What better way to hide evidence, make sure no one investigates a case too thoroughly." Jim countered.

"Got a point there." Blair agreed, chewing on his lip. "But you said he was talking about us and other vampires with Natalie right?"

When Jim nodded in the affirmative Blair continued. "And Natalie had a heartbeat…is still on our side of the mortal fence so to speak……..so maybe *he is* one of the good guys."

"Or else he's controlling her like Cassie seemed to control you last night at the audition." Jim countered.

"But I'm fine now…maybe it's a proximity effect." Blair mused. "You want to go back and question Natalie?"

"No. As it is we're barely going to get to rehearsal on time."

"So then, we're still going through with the investigation?"

"Do you want to go back and tell Simon we can't investigate because of….… vampires?"

***************

Flying over the city, Nick saw the truck carrying the two mortals from Cascade and knew where they were heading and wasted no time in getting to the club ahead of the two men. If he was lucky he could have the problem solved before the two men found themselves in a situation they couldn't handle.

Nick was stopped at the door by a large hand on his chest; he looked up into the face of a very large man. "Sorry pal, private rehearsals, club's closed 'til Friday."

"I'm not here for the music……..pal. I'm here to see Ms. LaFay." Nick responded.

"Yeah, you and half the city." The bouncer snorted. "You'll wait to Friday like everyone else."

"No, I don't think so." Nick said pulling his badge.

The man stood a moment more in defiance before stepping aside and allowing the detective to enter the club. Inside, the club was dimly lit and the band was on stage tuning their instruments.

"Cassie LaFay?" Nick inquired at the bar.

The bartender pointed to the blonde haired woman on the stage.

Cassie saw the man and came to the edge of the stage, a frown on her face. "How did you get in here? This is a private rehearsal."

"SFPD. We need to talk. Now." He said, showing his badge. "Some place private."

Cassie raised an eyebrow and hopped off the stage. "The manager's office is this way."

Once in the office Cassie sat on the edge of the desk, arms crossed. "I've seen a lot of things in my time…..…playing cop, that's a new one."

It was Nick's turn to be surprised. "I don’t play cop…..…and how did you know?"

"Clan gift….…your aura……..and you……..I bet you're, what……..Ventrue?"

"My clan is unimportant."

Cassie merely shrugged. "So what can I do for you…….. *detective*?"

"I have concerns about what you think you're doing…..…playing rock star……. skirting so close to the edge of the masquerade that you might as well wear a sign that says--'look at me, I'm a vampire.' " Nick hissed.

"I am perfectly capable of maintaining the masquerade……..all bands have a quirk, an edge; at least rock concerts are at night. I bet early morning court dates are a real bitch." She shot back snidely.

"I won't have you killing in my city…….." Nick threatened.

"Killing? In *your* city? Didn't realize you were the prince?" she said in mock surprise, adding angrily. "For *your* information, *detective*, I *have* permission *from* the prince to hunt in the city as well as perform…..… *and* I don't kill when I feed."

"So that guitar player that disappeared in Cascade and the man that nearly died--a police detective, no less--they weren't your handiwork?" He questioned in disbelief.

"No, they weren't." she snapped.

"And I'm supposed to take your word for it?"

Giving a snort and shaking her head she answered angrily. "I really don't give a damn what you believe……..detective. Now, I have a rehear……."

"Who is it Cassie, who is it that's after you?" Nick interrupted. "Is it one of us?"

"After me? No one is after me. Why would you assume because a few mortals are killed that someone is after *me*?" she shot back, her tone one of forced casualness.

"Did you kill your lover……..did you kill Brandon in Chicago?" the detective pressed.

"No!" she snapped out firmly, adding quietly. "I loved him."

"And your songwriter, Aaron, you didn't have a falling out with him did you, like the tabloids claim?" Nick pressed.

"No. No, none of that is true…..…why are you asking all this…..…" Cassie said, growing agitated.

"Maybe because of Andy Chapman, your last guitar player, or maybe your drummer, Terry Mitchell, from the show before that or any of the other four men who disappeared after hooking up with you?" Nick said, raising an eyebrow. "Or should I start on the list of dead bodies that have been turning up: dead bodies that bare a striking resemblance to your murdered lover!"

"Stop!" she snapped.

"So tell me what is going on, don't make me bring a Justicar in on this." Nick threatened.

A look of fear and surprise crossed the young vampires face. "You wouldn't?"

"You are leaving a trail of very visible bodies everywhere you go…..…it's not just a few mortals whose cases can be swept under the rug, the last victim was a cop and his department *is not* going to let this one go." Nick said pointedly. "This investigation is open and active and you are right in the middle of it. How long did you think this could go on before it attracted too much attention? Before the Justicars' feel the masquerade is being threatened?"

"Damn." She hissed angrily, stalking around the room.

"So are you ready to tell me what's going on?" Nick asked quietly.

Cassie sighed heavily, casting a baleful glance at the elder vampire before starting her tale. "It started in Chicago……..about seven years ago…..…I had been wandering for quite a number of years after my sire was killed by the Sabbet, but that's another story; anyway, I ended up in a bar called 'The Torch' at an open talent competition, next thing I know I'm sharing a stage with some crazy Malkalvian named Aaron and his little ghoul band members. Brandon joined us about a year later. Things were going pretty good until we attracted the attention of one fan to many."

"Another vampire?"

"None other than the Princes' daughter….…Alyssa. She became obsessed with Aaron. You have to understand, being of Clan Malkalvian, Aaron was not the most stable of creatures at the best of times; probably what made him such a good songwriter. Anyway, when she couldn't gain his attentions she bound him by blood instead--tried to force him to choose between his single-minded passion for music and his bond to her. When he finally snapped under the pressures of trying to deal with the two opposing forces in his life, his ensuing dementia was so great the blood bond she forced upon him was also broken. She became enraged, blamed me, claimed if I would have just let him go he would have been free to love her, and since she could not have her love I wasn't going to have mine either--she killed Brandon in a fit of jealous rage."

"And the prince allowed this?"

"My word against hers." Cassie spat out. "She killed him during the chaos of the Sabbat uprising……..convenient that. Claimed she tried to save Brandon…bitch looked me right in the eyes as she snapped his neck and gave him over to them. By the time the uprising was over and the prince had the city under control, she was gone…..…Aaron was gone, everything was gone."

"And now she's back?"

"Don't know who else it could be?" Cassie said with a shrug. "The problems didn't start until the first time I hired a band member who looked a lot like Aaron and the guy disappeared: thought at first it might have been Aaron, but when one of the band members I hired turned up dead…….."

"And he just happened to look like Brandon?"

"Give that man a blood doll." Cassie said sarcastically.

"So in her jealous dementia she's kidnapping these men…….. believing them to be Aaron, but they aren't measuring up…..…"

"It appears, when they don't measure up she turns them out and turns her rage at me on the next mortal she sees who reminds her of Brandon." Cassie finished.

"This has been going on for months…..…and you've done nothing to stop it?" Nick accused.

"And just *what* would you have me do…..…I have hundreds, probably thousands of fans who bear a similarity to Aaron and Brandon…..…and if you're such a great detective then you know that I don't always hire musicians who look like my old band members, so she isn't content to confine her revenge to just band members, she's going after my fans too. "

"The members of your band……..you had to know she'd go after anyone you hired."

"Of course I figured that out…..…but I can't be with them twenty-four seven, or have you forgotten our little handicap. The bitch is a hell of a lot older than I am!" Cassie reminded the detective snidely. "Believe me, after the hell she has put me through, both here and in Chicago; when I get my hands on the bitch there wouldn't be 'anything' left of her for the sun."

"Why didn't *you* just stop?"

"Stop? Stop performing?" Cassie questioned in confusion. "I have my reasons."

"Reasons?" Nick demanded. "What *reasons* could you have to let a rogue vampire follow you from city to city……..what were you thinking; that no one would notice the high mortality rate that surrounds your performances?"

"Hey, your know, I'm not totally helpless here…..…the investigations never go far……..I can handle a few humans." Cassie shot back angrily. "Besides, she has to make a mistake eventually, then I can finally be rid of her…….."

"So, what is this…..…just a game to you?" Brandon raged quietly. "People are dying."

"Mortals die everyday detective…..…" Cassie said with an indifferent shrug.

"It ends, here and now……..we stop her before you leave the city." Brandon ordered.

"We?" Cassie smirked.

"This has become police business."

"Oh, an official investigation, Mr. Policeman-officer-sir." Cassie said sarcastically, giving an exaggerated salute. "Who says I want or need your interference, what the hell do you think *you* can do…….. not like you can arrest her when we find her, now can you!"

"Remember, the last victim was a cop--a detective…….. and his department has sent two men; they're here now and they're not looking to just ask a few questions and go away, they're here investigating. And they are determined not to leave until they have answers." Nick explained.

"So, duh, redirect them. Go play your little charade of cops and robbers with the mortals." Cassie said as though speaking to an idiot. "Isn't that why you have that little piece of tin?

"That's not why I put on this badge! I'm not out to manipulate justice to suit my needs…..…" Nick started to explain, only to be interrupted.

"Gods, has slumming with humans and playing all holier than though dulled your abilities that much. Didn't your sire teach you anything…..…or maybe you're Katif?" Cassie shot back with disgust.

"Unless you want to arouse even more suspicion we play this close to the mat and no parlor tricks." Nick warned. "Now, have you hired your band yet?"

Giving the detective an angry glare, Cassie finally answered. "Yeah, they're probably wondering what the hold up is……..we *are* supposed to be having a rehearsal."

"Anyone Alyssa would be interested in?" Nick pressed.

"Yeah, my lead guitarist……..another Aaron wannabe."

*****************

Nick followed Cassie out into the bar, stopping in the semi darkness of the bar while the singer proceeded on towards the stage area.

He groaned inwardly when two things became apparent to him……..the two men from Cascade had made it to the bar and their idea of a full investigation meant that they were obviously here undercover……..as band members.

The situation becoming grimmer in his mind as he realized that the younger of the two investigators was not only in the band but was taking up the guitar…..…making him the most likely target of the demented vampire.

Not wanting to take the chance of being spotted by the two men, Nick quickly left the bar. He had a few questions of his own that needed investigating.

The rehearsal lasted several hours before Cassie called it a night. As the band began packing up for the night Jim hopped up on the stage and held out bottled waters to both Blair and Cassie. "Great rehearsal for your first time together……..almost sounds like you've been playing together for ages."

Blair took the offered water bottle gratefully while Cassie looked at it blankly for a moment before taking it and immediately setting it aside. "I'm a good judge of talent." She then turned to the other musicians. "Same time tomorrow night, gentlemen."

Jim waited until Cassie had hopped from the stage and was heading towards the back offices before casually reaching over and picking up the discarded water bottle. Looking over at Blair he said quietly, "Let's see who Miss Cassie LaFay really is."

Jim and Blair swung by the PD to drop off the water bottle at the lab before heading back to their hotel room for the night.

******************

Thursday afternoon--

"What do you mean there were not prints on the water bottle." Jim exclaimed in exasperation. "I handed it to her myself, she took it from my hand and set it down."

"I don't know what to tell you detective…….. the bottle only had your prints on it." The lab tech said with a shrug.

Jim just shook his head in disbelief. "I don't believe this."

"Uh, was anyone else in here? I mean, has anyone else asked about the prints on the water bottle?" Blair asked the tech.

"No."

"Come on chief, let's go." Jim said.

Once outside the precinct Blair asked. "Do you think Knight tampered with the water bottle, maybe wiped the prints or something?"

"If that was the case then mine wouldn't have been on there either." Jim reasoned. "No, chief, we saw her. She took the bottle in her bare hands and set it aside…..…but yet she left no prints…….."

Blair frowned. "But she left prints before, the report that Simon got…..…I don't understand?"

"She was actually fingerprinted, at the precinct……..with an ink precursor even a dead body would produce prints." Jim explained.

"And since she's, uh…..…dead……..she wouldn't leave any fingerprints?" Blair asked.

"A dead body doesn't have any of the natural oils that produce a print." Jim explained.

"So then you…..…we…..…we are going on the assumption that she is…..…uhm……..dead?" Blair put forth hesitantly.

"Let's just leave it that something very weird is going on and leave it at that for now."

"So what now?" Blair asked.

"We find out if we can trust Knight." Jim said matter-of-factly.

**************

SFDP Pathology Lab

Early Thursday evening--

Natalie looked up from her microscope when she heard the doors swing open. "Hey. Did you find out anything last night?"

"Cassie and I had a nice little chat…….." Nick said grimly.

"And? What happened?" Nat pressed.

"It's not her…..…it's another vampire…..…no less than a Princes' daughter…..…from Chicago…….."

"A Prince's daughter? What's that mean?"

"It means that this situation got very complicated, even without those two detectives from Cascade."

"Wait…go back to the 'princes' daughter' part……..I don't understand. Is there some kind of vampire royalty or something?"

Nick gave a sigh, trying to find a way to explain his realm to here in terms that would make sense. "No, just politics plain and simple…..…the mortal world has its mayor's and governor's……..we have our prince's in each major city."

"So your princes are like mayors?" Nat asked.

"Good as explanation as any." Nick said with a shrug.

"And the *reason* this Prince's daughter is doing all these killings?"

"For the oldest reason in the world both mortal and immortal……..love and jealousy." Nick said flatly, going on to fill Nat in on the story Cassie had told him the night before.

"So it's some lover's quarrel?" Nat said in surprise. "So what now?"

"Go, keep an eye on things……..if our suspect sticks to her MO, she'll strike soon…….."

"Anyone in particular that might catch her eye?"

"Yeah…..…Sandburg."

"What……..you mean the man working with the Cascade detective?"

"He's playing in the band; and that's another interesting tale…….."

The opening of the outer doors halted Nick and Natalie's conversation as Ellison and Sandburg entered the office. Ellison's features were hard and suspicious while Sandburg looked both afraid and curious.

"Gentlemen." Natalie greeted.

Blair gave a little wave, while Jim barely gave her an acknowledging nod, his eyes boring a hole into Nick.

"Is there a problem?" Nick asked quietly.

"Nothing you can't clear up for us……..*detective*?" Jim shot back, flinging the two files in his hand on Natalie's desk. "Seems we're having a little trouble verifying our suspects *actual* identity."

Nick raised an eyebrow at the unspoken accusation and slowly picked up the files and began skimming through there contents.

"Nick?" Natalie questioned quietly after several tense moments.

In lieu of an answer, Nick merely handed the coroner the two files and faced the angry detective.

"And how can I help?" Nick asked innocently.

"First you can stop pretending……..we know what's going on." Jim accused, giving a light poke of his fingers against Nick's chest.

"And what is it you think you know." Nick said evenly, looking down at Jim's hand against his chest.

"What relevance does a water bottle that only has your prints on it have on this case?" Natalie interrupted, looking up from the lab report.

"Because it should have had not only my prints but also the suspects prints all over it. I handed her that bottle after rehearsal last night……..yet, somehow her prints never came up." Jim explained, dropping his hand from Nick's chest but maintaining eye contact with the other detective.

"Are your accusing me of tampering with evidence?" Nick asked.

"No." Jim answered succinctly. "You couldn’t have wiped hers without wiping mine too."

"So just *what are* you trying to say, detective?" Natalie questioned defensively.

"One of two things happened; either the tech was made to……..I don't know, maybe…..…forget, or…..…maybe our suspect just *doesn't* leave prints." Jim answered. "So, which is it……. *detective*?"

"And maybe it was just a mix up in the lab." Nick put forth evenly. "Mistakes happen."

"A mix up, I don't think so…..…" Jim reported, pointing to the other file on the desk. "Seems our suspect was fingerprinted…….. successfully…….. at the beginning of the investigation, some ten months ago. *Now*, those prints came back with a whole new set of unanswered questions…..…"

"What? This is a missing persons report…..…from 1968?" Natalie said in confusion, skimming the second file.

"The young woman in that report……..a Cassie Bates, was later found-- murdered, but her body disappeared from the morgue before the autopsy." Jim reported.

"I still don't understand?" Natalie said with a shrug.

"When the print search was done on Cassie LaFay…..…the computer spit out this thirty year old missing persons report……..seems our murdered girl in sixty-eight is an exact match…….. for our suspect." Jim said knowingly.

"And you don't think that this might just be some sort of clerical error?" Nick said with a raised eyebrow.

"No, I don't." Jim said succinctly. "Then, of course, there are the strange wounds on the victims…..…the extreme blood loss…..…the hazy almost hallucinatory memories the victims have of their attacker……..*any of this* ringing a bell, detective?"

While Natalie looked decidedly uneasy by the turn in the conversation Nick merely chuckled quietly, shaking his head. "So you think that the woman currently performing at the club is actually a dead woman from a murder that occurred thirty years ago? Don't you find that a little preposterous? Don't you think there could be more plausible explanations……..maybe the victims were drunk or drugged?"

Jim and Blair exchanged looks before Jim answered firmly. "All the victims were clean."

"Assuming for a moment that there could be any credence to your…..…*theory*, how would you go about investigating, a what……..a ghost?" Nick asked.

"She's not a ghost." Blair piped in.

"And just what is she?"

Ignoring Nick's question to Blair Jim continued in a challenging tone. "You know, detective, *it is* a ridiculous theory……..and you're probably right and it's just a clerical error. So let's just clear up the little misunderstanding in the morning, shall we? Bring Miss LaFay to the station, re run those prints, clear up a few details…..…. you up for a little early morning detective work…..…Knight?"

"And you know that you can't do that." Nick said knowingly.

"Do I? Now why would that be…..…I mean, if it is *just* a clerical error, should only take a few hours tomorrow to clear it all up." Jim shot back with a shrug and a quiet clap of his hands.

"I think you should let me handle a suspect in my jurisdiction." Nick ordered.

"No, I don't think I can do that either." Jim said shaking his head.

"Why is that?"

"Because I think you're to close to this one……..because, I think you have a *connection* to the suspect……..because I don't quite know which side your on." Jim said.

"Which side I'm on?" Nick questioned.

"Why *did* you put on that badge?" Jim pressed.

"Because I believe in order……..in justice…..…"

"Do you?" Jim smirked.

"I've seen more death and killing and brutality than you could ever imagine, detective……do not presume to judge me." Nick snapped out angrily.

"I just want to get a killer off the street before any one else dies…..…" Jim ground out.

"And you think we don't?" Natalie accused.

"You tell me, he's your…..…*friend*." Jim shot back.

"That's right detective he is my friend. And in the years that I've known him he has gone above and beyond to put criminals behind bars…..…" Natalie ground out.

"But *this* killer……..this killer is different, isn't she?" Jim questioned expectantly.

"Cassie LaFay isn't your killer." Nick said pointedly.

"And I'm supposed to believe that?" Jim shot back with a shake of his head.

"Believe what you like detective……..but I think we both know you don't have a chance of catching this killer…..…the real killer…….. without my help." Nick said knowingly.

"And that's the question isn't it; do we have your help?" Jim shot back.

"It is as dangerous for me……..to have this killer on the street as it is for…..…mortals." Nick replied. "The attention is dangerous."

"Nick?" Nat gasped out hearing Nick's sublime admission.

"So I can count on you to stand behind that badge your wearing?" Jim asked without missing a beat.

"Yes, you can." Nick answered firmly.

"What just happened here?" Natalie asked.

"We've come to an understanding." Jim said succinctly.

"So we're all kosher here right……..same side and all?" Blair asked slowly.

"Yes, Mr. Sandburg, we are on the same side." Nick said with a wry smile.

"Uh, it's just Blair……..and……..uh……..I mean, well…..…uh, we've just done a real good tap dance here and……..well………I was wondering………" Blair stammered, unable to put voice to his question.

"What was it you said was your field of study………anthropology?"

"Uh…………yeah."

"I'm sure you've come across all kinds of legends and myths…..…and it is said that all myths have a grain of truth to them." Nick said with a hint of amusement.

"Well………yeah………just how, uh…..…much truth is……….well, are………. you?" Blair asked sheepishly.

"I could ask the same; why an anthropologist works with a detective, and how they came to their *conclusions* so quickly?" Nick asked with a raise of an eyebrow.

Giving a lopsided grin Blair answered. "Touché."

"The case." Jim reminded. "Why do you believe Cassie is not the killer? Everything tracks back to her."

"She has a stalker." Nick said, again going back over the conversation he had had with the singer the night before.

"So, how do we catch this………Alyssa?" Jim asked. "Do you have a picture of her?"

"Cassie gave me a quick sketch of the suspect." Nick said, pulling a folded piece of paper from his pocket and handing it to Jim, before turning to Blair." You realize that by securing a spot in the band you've set yourself up as a target?"

"Yeah, we kinda figured out that angle………let's hope she sticks to her game plan and hasn't decided to start killing Aaron look-a-likes." Blair answered grimly.

"Alyssa is obsessed with Aaron…….…she wants to own him body and soul, not kill him." Nick said.

"Gee, that's just sooo comforting." Blair groaned.

********************

Thursday Night

Club Way Down

Cassie came out into the bar from the back office to find her current band tuning up on the stage: frowning when her eyes came to rest on the detective from the night before, standing casually at the bar.

"Here again, I see." She intoned quietly, coming up to stand beside him. "Just what do you think you can do that I haven't all ready tried to do?"

"Catch her?"

"Smart ass." Cassie hissed, continuing. "Just what in the hell are you going to do with her if you do catch her? Book her? --Try her? --Send her to jail?"

"And just what were you planning on doing with her?" Nick asked raising a curious eyebrow.

"Kill her." Was Cassie's succinct answer.

Nick's horrified look caused an evil smile to play across Cassie's face, and with a nod she turned and went to the stage.

The Sentinel witnessed the interchange between the vampires curiously and after the rehearsal had been under way for nearly a half an hour Jim casually walked from the stage area over to the bar; ordering a beer he slid onto the stool next to the detective.

"Cassie's got a point, what are we going to do with Alyssa once we catch her." Jim said.

Nick raised a curious eyebrow at the detective before answering. "I will contact individuals that can deal with her………..digression."

"And while we're waiting for these said *individuals* to arrive?"

"There are………ways, to confine her until the proper individuals can be notified."

"So how are we going to catch her, how do we prepare for this?" Jim asked pointedly "I don't like the idea of just waiting for her to make her move and hope we're ready for her, if Cassie couldn't catch her all these months, how can we? I nearly lost one friend to this psycho, I saw what she did to him………I don't want Sandburg anywhere near that."

"We have a few options." Nick said.

"And those are?" Jim pressed.

"One, Sandburg wears a wire at all times; that way if Alyssa slips past us we can track your friend."

"Okay, that's a good start; but that still leaves us waiting for her to make the first move and still putting Sandburg at to much risk." Jim said with a shake of his head. "Is there no way to………track her………ahead of time."

Nick raised and amused eyebrow. "No, detective, we cannot 'sense' each other like that, although there are those of us who can detect the aura of the individual when in close proximity; however, there are those that can feel the presence…"

"Why didn’t you bring it up before? How do we find someone like that?" Jim interrupted.

"Because you are not going to like the answer. One such individual would be another of us who had shared in a blood bond with her, like Aaron……… or, another would be you co-worker, the detective that was attacked…he now has the mark, has felt the calling………*he* can sense her. In fact he would be drawn to her energies."

"Why him?" Jim asked suspiciously. "Are you saying the men she attacked are drawn to her now?"

"They can all now feel the energies, the fires of the blood. Because his life was all but drained………because he was mere drops away from being……… turned, your friend may feel them more strongly."

"Dear god…are you saying……… he could have, might have turned into………" the thought was to horrifying for Jim to complete.

Nick just nodded grimly.

Jim shook his head, rubbing a hand over his face remembering how Rafe looked, remembered the confusion and terror in his eyes, his voice. "She nearly killed him……..how can I put him at risk like that again……..and now, knowing what she could *do* to him…..…"

"I told you, you wouldn't like it. But, he could give us the edge we need…the fore warning to stop her before it happens again……..before you partner becomes the next victim." Nick said. "Besides, her focus will most likely be on her new target, on Sandburg, and not on finishing a kill."

"That's comforting." Jim said sarcastically. "But as unstable as she is, as much as she hates Cassie…..…whose to say for sure she wouldn't snap and try to finish what she started: in her mind Rafe is Brandon *and* the only one that got away--so to speak."

"If she had wanted your friend dead…if she cared about finishing what she started, *he* would be dead." Nick said pointedly. "I believe his danger would be minimal, comparable to yours in the pursuit of this case."

"Can you……..can Cassie……….…do you have the ability to stop her; are you strong enough………..…and how can we protect ourselves?" Jim asked.

"There are a few ways……………" Nick said somewhat hesitantly.

"I have to know…………we can't face this without a way to defend ourselves…………I can't ask Rafe to do this if I can't keep him safe. As terrifying as it is that Sandburg could be next, we know she eventually releases the victims that look like Aaron, she'll kill Rafe." Jim said.

"Cassie might know her weaknesses…what can slow her down."

"So, you want to tell her what's going on?" Jim asked with trepidation. "I don't know about that………..I mean, with you ………the badge you're wearing………..*her* motives are less than………….healthy."

"She all ready knows…about me…and about the investigation, she just doesn't know who the officers are." Nick informed his fellow detective. "She *will* continue, with or without us, going from city to city, until Alyssa kills her *or* she kills Alyssa. View working with her as more of a way to keep an eye on her."

"And, are there any…uh, universal deterrents for, uh…Alyssa's kind of criminal?"

With a small smile Nick answered. "Some detective, some."

Both men became lost in thought for several moments, contemplating the intricacies of the case at hand when Nick brought up the point. "You do know the less people ultimately involved in this the better…its dangerous ground we trend on, for both of us."

"So this investigation is ultimately off the record." Jim said with a frown.

"Would you really want to write the report?" Nick questioned, raising an eyebrow.

"Understood." Jim said. "I'll leave it to you to close out the case file as you see fit."

"Tonight, after the rehearsal, we'll tell Cassie, see what she knows." Nick said.

****************

"We need to talk, let's go." Nick informed Cassie as she jumped from the stage.

"Don't you ever give up?" Cassie complained, not slowing her pace as she stalked past the detective. "What now?"

"I told you, this ends here and now…..…" Nick said, turning to follow her.

"And you still think you can solve this little problem of mine!" she snapped, stopping and turning to face him. "I've all ready told you I don't want or need you help……..that moral high streak you got going there playing good guy human would tend to get in the way of my brand of… justice…"

"Justice? It's not justice you want, it's blood………" Nick said.

"Dinner and revenge…beats a movie." Cassie said with an evil smirk, her voice a seductive hiss as she leaned into the detective, caressing his face. "But I want so much more than her blood…her life…I'm going to take what's left of her soul………she will never have existed………."

"And I can't let you do that." Nick ground out menacingly, grabbing her arms. "Diablerie is forbidden; and on the childe of a prince no less."

"You're not a Justicar and that little hunk of tin you wear *only* applies to mortals and their petty sins………" she spat out angrily, shaking out of his grasp. "Now let go of me or she won't be the only one on my menu."

"You wouldn't dare." He said in horror, taking a step away from her.

"Try me." She intoned threateningly. "I've been to hell and back more times than I care to remember, I left this world in pain and terror and a *clawed* my way back into this living hell………and I'll do anything I have to, to stay alive--*even* in this existence…..…a demon playing at being human is nothing to me."

"I told you she was a killer." A new voice sounded from behind Nick.

"You?" Cassie spat out accusingly, looking over Nick's shoulder, and taking a step backwards, "And you too no doubt?"

Jim stood his ground impassively, several paces behind Nick, while Blair gave a sheepish grin and a small wave of his hand. "Hey, if it helps any, I've really enjoyed playing in your band."

"I told you I don't need your help." She growled angrily, "and I sure as hell don't need theirs!"

"But I think you do…….." Jim said coming up to face the young woman. "*Ms. Bates*!"

"What?" was all Cassie could say.

Jim pulled two files from under his jacket and held them out to her. "Care to take a look………I'm sure………Officer Roberts would love to know we've closed his missing persons case……..…even if it is thirty years after the fact."

"How dare you!" Cassie gasped out in fury as she faced Nick. "How fucking dare you accuse me of breaching the oh so precious tenants of the masquerade……..and here you are consorting with…humans! You're no better than *Katif*…….. go ahead, detective, call in the Justicar's, see who they stake first…"

"And if you kill the prince's childe, what chance would you have…..….." Nick called out angrily to the younger vampire who had turned and stormed from the room so fast even Sentinel sight failed to see her leave.

"That went well." Blair commented sarcastically to no one in particular.

"How does she do that…move like that?" Jim questioned, waving his hands in confusion.

"Jim, I think that falls in the category of things us mortals aren't supposed to know."

Blair said quietly, seeing the hard look on Nick's face. "I take it that word…….Katif…..…is a major insult?"

"It can be, if one cares about that. I don't." Nick said stonily.

"So, what now…our only lead to stopping Alyssa just stormed out of here." Jim said impatiently. "We should probably go after her."

"No, we won’t. We wait." Nick said, turning towards the office doors. "You'd never find her anyway."

"We wait?" Jim questioned, not liking a course of inaction.

"The manager told me she is staying here, in the basement." Nick informed the two men.

"She'll be back sometime tonight."

"What's to stop her from taking off on us?" Blair asked.

"She will be back before sun up." Nick said stonily, turning to go into the back offices.

"Ah, so that's really true…the myth about vam……..about sunlight?" Blair called after the retreating form, getting no answer.

Jim and Blair gave each other raised eyebrows and with a shrug Jim ushered Blair towards the door. "Lets go and wait."

For the next few hours the three men discussed options for solving this case, skirting around as many 'details' as possible.

Finally Blair looked at Nick, asking quietly. "She wasn't just saying what she said because she was angry was she……..you could really get into a lot of trouble because of Jim and me, because of what you told us."

Nick looked at the young man, surprised to hear the worry and apology in his voice. "Yes, Blair, I could be…but if we catch Alyssa then that should satisfy these……. Justicars?"

"And if it doesn't?" Jim asked.

"If it doesn't…we all die." Nick answered succinctly.

Startled, Jim and Blair exchanged looks with each other before turning to Nick, who sat impassively. Turning back to each other Jim merely shook his head in exasperation while Blair leaned wearily into the couch.

*******************

The slamming of a door startled all three men from their restless dozing.

"What the hell are you doing here?" Cassie demanded.

"Waiting for you." Nick said dryly.

"Get out!" she yelled, yanking open the door. "Now!"

"Can't do that." Nick said.

"People with a past……..or in your case, people without one, shouldn't allow themselves to be fingerprinted." Jim said, adding sarcastically. "Must say, you've decayed gracefully the past thirty years."

"You tread on dangerous ground human." Cassie hissed threateningly.

"That's nothing new for us." Jim shot back, giving Blair a sideways glance.

"We're involved in this whether you want us or not. Alyssa nearly killed a friend of ours……..we'll do whatever we can to try to stop her." Blair interjected. "We probably can't do it without your help, your knowledge of Alyssa and her weaknesses. It's a mutual problem that needs a mutual solution."

"What is your problem here?" Jim asked impatiently. "You want Alyssa out of your life and we want her off the streets before anyone else dies…..…you haven't been able to stop her…..…"

"What in the hell do you think you can do human, I could kill you where you stand before your brain even registered you were dead." Cassie shot back. "And that's only half what Alyssa is capable of."

"Maybe, but you need us as much as we need you. We're here, we're set up and we're willing to help……..*and* willing to keep your secret."

"Who would you tell?" Cassie smirked. "You'd end up with a one way ticket to a padded paradise."

"You'd be surprised at what my superiors would believe." Jim said with a slight shake of his head.

"Like a man that can hear a conversation from across a room…or sense something amiss with just a simple handshake?" Nick questioned. "Or come to such outlandish conclusions, instead of looking for a more mundane answer?"

"Uh…..…hey, Jim's a good cop…..…uhm, he was a soldier…..…in covert ops, lot's of neat tricks there………" Blair attempted to explain.

"And then there is the fact that an anthropology, and not a criminal science grad student, works murder cases………" Nick prodded further.

"Hey, I'm just an observer…working on my dissertation on closed…….."

"On Sentinels?" Nick finished.

"What? Where did you get that idea? I'm working on closed societies." Blair said.

"Not according to your university records……….you've been pursuing sentinel research since your undergrad days. And you've been observing now, for what, nearly three years on a three month pass; hooked up with a detective who just happened to spend nearly two years in the jungle with a primitive tribe…….…"

"You checked us out?" Jim said angrily. "When?"

"After our first little chat, I figured one good secret deserved another." Nick said. "Really wasn't hard to put it all together……..…the pieces are all there for anyone interested in putting them together."

Jim and Blair just looked at one and other for a moment.

"So, what's a Sentinel?" Cassie asked impassively.

Blair looked at Jim for permission, which was given with a sigh and a slight nod.

Blair launched into his standard Sentinel spiel when Cassie raised a hand in defense. "Whoa their professor, how 'bout the Reader's Digest Condensed version."

With a sheepish grin Blair began again, hitting only the hi-lights of what it was to be a Sentinel.

Cassie looked at Blair then at Jim before giving Nick a quick look. The elder vampire merely gave her a nod of his head.

Cassie finally shook her head in defeat. "You would make a good Ventrue, kid."

As Blair raised an eyebrow, wondering whether he'd been complimented or insulted, a startled Sentinel made to move closer to the pair, perceiving a threat to his guide. "I'll take that as a compliment, I think."

"Truce." Cassie finally said. "But it has been a long night, I'm tired…..…and I haven't fe…….. *eaten* yet. So I strongly suggest you leave." She said pointedly, looking first at Nick then at the two humans.

"Tonight then." Nick said quickly, hustling the two other men from the room. "Let's go gentlemen."

Walking out into the predawn street Blair asked. "Were we almost on her menu?"

Nick just gave him a look. "Tonight gentlemen. I too must return home."

******************

Same morning

Hotel Room

"So, Jim, have we decide if we're including Rafe in this little plan, and if we do decide too, how do we get him here without Simon or Henri finding out……..Cassis and Nick certainly don't want the entire major crimes department knowing there little secret." Blair asked coming out of the bathroom, chuckling after a moment. "Simon can barely handle our little secret, I don't think he's ready for the walking dead."

"I know chief. It's bad enough that you're a target…that we're trusting our lives to two……..to Cassie and Nick……..I just don't know if he can handle it, if we should even put him in that kind of danger again."

Blair became somber for a moment. "I'll grant you that this is unexplored territory, that it is barely comprehensible…and that it is…..… well, terrifying; but like Rafe said, he's a cop……..and I think he deserves the right to make up his own mind, to see this case through; *and* to have answers to what happened to him. Wouldn't you want that option?"

"Yeah, chief, I would." Jim said after a moment.

"Besides, as long as Alyssa is out there, he will always be in danger of her rage and revenge." Blair added.

"I'll call later this morning, talk to him." Jim said.

*********************

Friday Afternoon

"Hey guys, how's the investigation coming?" Henri asked after the initial hellos.

"Slow, but we have a few leads." Jim answered, giving the detective a few details about the investigation before asking, "How's Rafe doing?"

"As well as can be expected……..physically he's improving everyday…….." Henri trailed off.

"I hear a 'but' in there." Jim questioned.

"He's just not himself…he seems to be in a daze half the time, and………and, he won't admit it, but I know he's having some heavy duty nightmares." Henri said worriedly. "Simon's looking into getting him set up with the department shrink."

"Listen, Henri, we think that we may have a suspect for Rafe to ID in the next day or so…..…"

"Great, give us the word and we can hop a flight…….."

"It’s a little more complicated than that…..…it involves some rather…..…uhm, important people…..…" Jim hesitated.

"Since when did you care about stepping on toes, Ellison?" Henri asked, suddenly suspicious. "What's going on?"

"I don't……..normally, and you know that, but this case Henri, it hasn't been normal from the get go." Jim hedged.

"So what is it your trying not to say?" Henri insisted.

"I'm saying that at this point in the investigation the fewer people involved, the better." Jim said, adding. "Besides, we can't have to many more cops tromping around up here…..…outside their jurisdiction…..…"

"Someone down there giving you problems?" Henri asked growing angry. "I thought Simon worked all that out?"

"He did, he did; and things are going okay, we're working with a detective Knight…..…" Jim was quick to assure his friend, "…..…its just…..…well, we got Blair in undercover and he's on shaking ground…"

"Everything okay……..Hairboy okay, he didn't get hurt all ready did he?" Henri exclaimed.

Chuckling, Jim assured his fellow detective that their hapless observer was indeed still in one piece, adding, "We just need to keep the badges to a minimum on this one."

"Spell it out Ellison, what is it exactly you need to wrap this case up?" Henri asked suspiciously.

"I need to know if you think Rafe is up to ID'ing a suspect in an undercover operation; I need him on the first plane to San Francisco……..and, I need him to come-- alone." Jim said slowly.

"I don't like the sound of this?"

"I wouldn't be asking if I didn't think it would wrap it up." Jim pressed. "He just has to come to the bar and ID the suspect."

"But he's coming without me." Henri shot back. "I just don't like it, man."

"He's my friend too you know." Jim reminded Henri. "Please, H, you gotta trust me on this, if we spook this suspect now, I promise we will *never* get another opportunity…..…"

"I just don't know…" Henri sighed.

"Listen, I know your uncomfortable with this, hell, I'm not comfortable with him being in the same state with this psychopath, never the less the same bar; but he's our best shot at ID'ing this suspect…..…and like Blair so 'kindly' pointed out to me he's still a cop, and he has a right to see this thing through." Jim pointed out.

"I don't understand, why do you need Rafe to ID this suspect before she's in custody if Cassie gave you a description?" Henri asked.

"Because it's all circumstantial, because we can't bring her in…"

"What are you not telling me Ellison? Just put yourself in my shoes for a minute--would you let Blair do what you're asking me to let Brian do without more to go on?"

Thinking fast, Jim let out a breath and began obfuscating to rival even Blair. "All right…..…we think that this suspect may have used drugs or some type of hypnosis on her victims…..…that makes them more, I don't know…..…drawn to the suspect, more aware of her presence than normal…..…"

"What? But Brian's tox screen was negative?" Henri questioned.

"H, this case is not normal by any stretch of the imagination…please, trust me."

"I do man but that doesn't mean I have to like it." Henri grumbled. "Look, he's still asleep…I'll fill him in when he gets up and we'll go from there."

"Fair enough. Talk to you later." Jim said, hanging up the phone.

"He's not happy is he?" Blair asked.

"What do you think; of course he's not happy." Jim said with a sigh. "Brian just got out of the hospital and now we're asking his partner to let him jump right in the middle of a case that nearly killed him."

*****************

Club Way Down

Friday Night

"So, chief, ready for your first performance?" Jim asked, pocketing his cell as he came up to the stage.

"You know I should be scared to death…only rehearsing for two days, but it just…..…I don't know…..…feels right, like I've been doing it all my life." Blair said, taking his guitar from its case. "Was that Henri?"

"Yeah. Rafe is going to be coming in on the two o'clock flight tomorrow."

"Henri actually agreed?" Blair asked in surprise.

"No. But I called Simon, explained some things to him…..…."

"You told him about Nick……..about Cassie?" Blair exclaimed.

"No, not exactly." Jim hedged. "I just told him that this case falls into the realm of things the captain doesn’t want to know…he sorta thinks it’s a Sentinel thing."

"Ah." Blair said. "So he's basically just going to let us do our thing?"

"Uh…..…yeah." Jim said with a shrug.

The performance was flawless, and Alyssa-less.

"When does she usually make herself know?" Jim asked during the bands last break.

"I've never known her to strike until we've had two or three performances." Cassie said. "The earliest anyone has ever disappeared is performance four, the latest is the third weekend. Her pattern, I imagine, is determined by her current insanity."

"This just gets more comforting as time goes on." Blair grumbled.

"Hey kid, you signed up for this walk on the wild-side, so stop with the whining." Cassie taunted.

"I'm not whining, I'm venting some well earned fear here." Blair shot back.

"We've got one more set tonight and we're going to make it a short one……..we should be packed up and out of here by two."

Cassie was true to her promise and Jim and Blair were back at their hotel by two forty five that morning.

"How long are we going to keep this up? What if Alyssa doesn't make her move this weekend? Are we going to keep up this cover all month." Blair asked.

"It's an open case chief, we're here undercover." Jim said with a shrug.

"What about Rafe, we can't keep him hanging out around here for a month? Won't that look suspicious?" Blair questioned.

"Chief, right now let's just take this one catastrophe at a time, okay!" Jim said. "Now it's been a very long day…..…night…..…something, and I would really like to get some sleep."

"All right, goodnight……….morning." Blair said with a yawn, as he crawled into his bed.

****************

Saturday Afternoon

Blair and Jim were at the airport to meet Brian when his flight landed.

"Hey guys." Brain said.

"Hey, Brian, how ya' doing?" Blair said, noticing how pale his friend still looked.

"It's getting better, still tired all the time though." Brian answered.

"Come on, we'll get you settled at the hotel and fill you in on what we've got so far." Jim said, as he put Rafe's suitcase in the trunk.

"Brown is not in a good mood over this you know, he growled all the way to the airport and I think Simon chewed through a cigar." Brian said once they were inside the car. "I have to say I'm a little thrown by all the secrecy……..what's up?"

"That, my friend, is going to be very hard to explain." Blair said, adding. "The usual suspects are, uhm, very………*unusual*."

"We've also got a civilian involved…..…besides Blair." Jim said.

"Do you guys ever get a normal case?" Brain groused tiredly.

"Hey, you started it." Blair shot back jokingly, but realized his mistake at the dark look that passed over Brian's face. "Geesh, I'm sorry, I didn’t mean it like that."

"No, it’s all right. Things have definitely been weird on this one and the sooner we solve it and move on the better I'll feel." Brain said. "So do you think the suspect will show tonight?"

"According to Cassie the earliest Alyssa has ever made a move is the fourth show………hopefully if she is anywhere in the crowd targeting her next victim you'll be able to sen…..…spot her." Jim explained.

Shaking his head and giving a sigh Brain replied. "I'll try, but I didn’t get a good look at her…you know that."

Jim and Blair exchanged quick glances, still unsure of what was going to happen when Alyssa did show up and Brian *sensed* the vampire. "It's a long shot, but it’s the only shot we've got of catching her before she gets another victim."

"But if Cassie gave you a description why can't she ID Alyssa?" Brain asked.

"She can, and she will; but it would be a little difficult for Cassie to point her out if she's up on stage." Blair said. "Besides, the bar gets really crowded and its dark…..…she could easily slip right by her. Cassie can't be everywhere. You're our extra eyes on this one."

"What if she doesn't show………how long do we have on this?" Brian asked.

"As long as it takes." Jim stated.

****************

Saturday Night

Cassie's Dressing Room

"No. No. No." Jim exploded. "Are you crazy, it's to dangerous………"

"You want to catch her………this is a sure way to draw her out." Cassie said giving impatient sigh.

"We brought Brian down here to ID Alyssa *not* be her target………again!" Jim continued to rage, "She'll kill him, and you know that."

"One thing Alyssa cannot tolerate is the thought that I might have one up on her…..…if she hears I have Aaron back *and* have Brandon it will force her to show………" Cassie explained.

Interrupting, Blair argued, "Show up and what; be so insanely jealous that she will be a total loose cannon…….…we have no idea how to predict what she'd be capable in that situation."

"It's dangerous, but I have to agree." Nick interjected.

"What?" Jim exclaimed.

"You're the one who said you don't want to wait for her to make the first move, this might be a way to control some of the variables." Nick said, adding, "Hear me out………we know Alyssa is insanely jealous of Cassie and her influence over Aaron and she wants to keep hurting her by killing her lover………"

"So you plan on *giving her* that opportunity by introducing Brian as Brandon? That's insane." Jim ground out in exasperation.

"Think for a minute, if Alyssa saw Cassie with *both* of them she is likely to go after the *source* of her torment………" Nick explained.

"Me." Cassie finished.

Deciding it was time to offer his opinion of the investigation Brian asked. "So let me get this straight………you want to go out there tonight and claim that you have your band back together; that Blair and I are Aaron and Brandon, and dedicate a song to this nut case. Now, besides the fact that this little stunt puts a big bulls-eye on mine and Blair's chest………how do you plan on pulling this off; these *are* your fans right, they *know* who the original band members were?"

Cassie bent down in front of where Brian was sitting and smiled, saying seductively. "My fans will believe anything I tell them to believe."

The sentinel was suddenly on alert as he heard Brian's heart rate spike and a sudden hitch in his breathing as the young detective locked fear filled eyes with the young vampire.

"That's enough." He commanded.

Cassie stood up and turned towards Jim, giving a shrug. "Listen, this is the quickest way I can think of……..I've never had this kind of opportunity, *backup* I believe you tin stars call it, to even consider a plan of this nature……..but now, with………well, it could be feasible now."

"With what exactly……….bait? Is that what Brian and Blair are to you?" Jim accused angrily.

Crossing her arms she looked at the assembled group pointedly. "Do you really want to take the chance of Alyssa slipping through your fingers? What is *your* problem here *detective*, I thought this undercover 'song and dance' routine was your gig?"

"When there is no other option and we have a well thought out plan, then yes………" Jim said.

"Well then, we have a plan………probably the best we can accomplish with what we have to work with, so we do this my way………you help me catch her, here and now, where you can do your *serve and protect* routine, cause you won't get the chance once I move on."

"Move on?" Jim questioned. "You are going to keep performing, despite the danger?"

"As of yet Alyssa has not *been* any real threat to *me*, only an annoyance………" Cassie reminded.

"What about the people she kills, don’t you care about that?" Blair interjected.

Cassie raised an eyebrow and gave an amused snort. "So then, I guess you'll want to help me catch her here."

"Are you for real?" Rafe snapped angrily, pulling himself up out of his chair to face the young woman. "Maybe we should be considering booking you as an accessory instead of including you in the investigation, seems to me you're as much to blame as she is…you've known from the get go that Alyssa was behind these murders and you never once reported it to the authorities."

"Oh, I'm quite real, despite the many myths to the contrary, and *I* play by my own rules lover." Cassie purred as she reached out to caress Brian's face.

Brian stumbled back a step, a look of fear again crossing his face. Angered, the Sentinel grabbed Cassie's arm, pulling her roughly out of the young detectives line of sight. "I said that's enough, don't you ever give up!"

"That's enough, everyone!" Brandon snapped. "We’ve got a killer to catch and we can't do it like this."

While Blair went to steady Brain, Jim got up in Cassie's face, locking eyes with the young vampire as he intoned angrily. "We stick with the original plan…..…tonight you and Blair go out there as usual and we let Brian stay in the crowd and try to spot Alyssa…..…"

When Cassie tried to interrupt, Jim held a finger firmly to her lips quieting her protests, before he continued menacingly. "You do anything, and I mean anything, to endanger either Blair or Brian and I will practice some of those *myths*--on you; I spent four years in special ops…..…I bet I can come up with a way to kill even you, you getting all this, I'm I making myself clear here?"

Cassie raised her eyebrows in surprise, taking a step back she smiled coyly. "I so love a challenge detective……..all right, we'll play it your way--*tonight*; after that all bets are off."

Knowing he had no choice a grim faced Jim merely nodded in agreement.

"We’re on in forty………go warm up the band kiddo." Cassie directed Blair, as she stepped behind her dressing screen to change clothes. "I'll be up in a few."

With Brian in tow Jim followed Blair out of the room. As the door closed Cassie stepped from behind the dressing screen. "You told them?"

"I didn't have to, you can get anything off the Internet these days." Nick hedged. "Besides, they deserve to be able to protect themselves."

"You are a real piece of work, you know that. What in the hell is to stop them from using their new found knowledge on us when this is over; did you *ever* consider that?" Cassie accused angrily as she stepped from behind the dressing screen. "You know I have no problem with killing them if I have too."

"I know. And you know I will do everything I can to stop you if it should come to that." Nick replied, adding. "They are honorable men…..…they know the burdens of carrying a secret…..…"

"Oh, yadda, yadda…..…so he has a few hyped up senses…..…like some damn dog…….." Cassie smirked, waving her hands about impatiently. "I hardly think that qualifies up there with the walking dead."

"Could we just try to get through this with a minimum of blood shed……..theirs or ours." Nick hissed angrily.

Cassie eyed the detective with amused disdain for a moment. "You don't even feed do you? I bet not even a little nip at the local blood bank from time to time. What is it detective--rats, sheep…..…ah, I bet you're a regular at the butcher shop."

"My feeding habits are not open for discussion…..…you've got a set in less than thirty minutes shouldn't you be up there warming up." Nick snapped.

****************

"Man, Jim, that was taking an awful big risk………I'm not sure that Cassie is strung any tighter than Alyssa. You know we can't be sure of anything I got off the net will really work." Blair said as they walked up the stairs to the bar. "I'm surprised she didn't bite your finger off."

"Bite his finger?" Rafe questioned. "Okay guys why do I feel I'm *completely* out of the loop here…..…that there is some *inside* joke I'm not getting?"

"Cassis is just proving to be very…..…difficult…..… to work with, to unpredictable." Jim said.

"Wait." Brian said putting a staying hand on Jim's arm. "There is more to it than that… ignoring the fact that you just blatantly threatened a *civilian* with special ops moves. And the fact that you told Brown that you think Alyssa may have used drugs or hypnosis on her victims…..…on me…..…"

"You should be safe…..…" Jim started to say.

Brain saw the look pass between Jim and Blair and became angry. "*Should* be? Should be safe…..…damn it, I'm part of this investigation, in every sense of the word, and have a right to know what's going on…..…hell, if there is some chance I could……..I don't know, *succumb* to some hypnosis effect, I *damn well* have a right to know!"

"Jim…….." Blair said.

"You go Blair, warm up the band. It's time Brian and I had a long talk." Jim said.

Blair looked from Jim to Brian and back to Jim. "Good luck."

Jim led Brian into the manager's office and closed the door before turning and looking pensively at his colleague and friend. "Detective Knight and Cassie are………well, they are like Alyssa………"

"Like Alyssa? How so…..…are you saying they are related or something?" Brain asked in confusion.

"Ah, well, that's one way of looking at it." Jim said with a shrug. "They all suffer from a……..condition…..…"

Jim again trailed off causing Brian to get frustrated. "Jim, I don't know whether to be furious with you for the secrecy or scared shitless that you are at such a loss for words here; now, tell me, what is going on…what *condition* do they suffer from? Are they contagious? Do we need the CDC?"

"Contagious? Not in the strictest sense of the word…..… " Jim said with dry chuckle, scratching his head. "And no, it is *not* something for the CDC."

"Jim?" Brain warned.

"Okay, here it is………Nick,CassieandAlyssaarevampires." Jim said quickly, giving a throat-clearing cough.

"What? Didn't quite catch all that but I could have sworn I heard the word...........vampire in there somewhere." Brain said in amusement.

"You, uh……..…you did." Jim said quietly, looking everywhere but at Brian.

"So…..…you're saying this *condition* that they are suffering from is……..vampirism?" Brian said slowly. "Vampires? Blood sucking monsters from fairy tales…..…"

"Yeah, that's how I felt…..…but Blair…..…" Jim started to defend, only to be interrupted by Brian.

"Oh, so *Blair* said that they were vampires?" Brain asked slowly. "And he hasn't, oh, say, bumped his head lately or anything?"

Jim gave a long sigh. "It's outlandish, it's unbelievable………but it's true, and everyone's life, especially yours, could depend on the fact that you believe what I just told you. And, I can prove it."

"You can prove it?" Brian again questioned slowly, his tone one of disbelief. "Do you hear what you're saying Jim…..…you're telling me that we're chasing fairy tale monsters; *and* that you can *prove* it?"

"Damn it, why do you think this case has been so difficult………all the tap dancing I had to do with Henri and Simon." Jim exploded in frustration. "Think about what you went through……..your wounds, your blood loss……..your fear of Cassie…….."

Brain gave an involuntary shudder and turned from his friend, rubbing his hands over his face.

Jim rested a comforting hand lightly on Brian's shoulder. "What you felt, when Cassie looked at you……..you'll be able to feel that…..…when, if Alyssa shows up at the bar………because, because of what happened, because of……..what she did………"

"Because she nearly……..killed me, right?" Without turning Brian asked softly. "So that's it huh, sit around and wait to see if I freak out or something? You're really serious about this aren't you?"

"Come with me, there are some files in Blair's stuff backstage, it will make some of this clearer……….explain things." Jim said.

Brian turned to Jim with a half-hearted smirk. "So you've got proof that vampires exist, this I gotta see!"

*********************

Jim retrieved the files and he and Brian found a booth at the back of the bar.

"This is a missing person's report from nineteen sixty eight………of a young woman named Cassie Bates." Jim said handing Brian the file. "Now this is a finger print check done at the beginning of the investigation of our singer, Cassie LaFay."

Brian perused the files for a few moments before looking up. "They match! Jim, labs make mistakes all the time…….."

"That's what Simon and I thought too, so I acquired Cassie's prints again." Jim handed Brian another file.

"Jim, this is a report of prints on a water bottle……..…your prints to be exact?" Brian questioned. "What's this prove?"

"Yeah, but it should have been mine and Cassie's. I handed her that water bottle the other night after rehearsal………only her prints didn’t show up." Jim explained.

"And this somehow proves that they're vampires?" Brian questioned in disbelief.

"Okay then, how do you explain the finger print match between Cassie Lafay and a girl that was murdered, and whose body disappeared from the morgue I might add, in nineteen sixty eight; or the fact that in each case Cassie was only questioned once, and sometimes not at all." Jim questioned. "Or the fact that her prints didn’t show up on the water bottle. Then lets not forget the victims strange wounds the bizarre nature of the attacks…"

"Okay, okay…..…I admit there is definitely something strange going on here; but vampires, really Ellison, I think you've been hanging out with Sandburg to long." Brain said with a shake of his head.

Jim leaned back in the booth and shrugged. "You got a better explanation I am all ears."

"That's not fair." Brian shot back.

"Right now I don’t have time for fair…..…or the luxury of disbelief……..Alyssa is a very dangerous woman……..a cold-blooded killer, and that makes her a monster no matter what else we might call her." Jim said pointedly. "If it makes it any easier to digest read the articles Blair pulled from the net on the psychological conditions related to the vampire myths."

"Okay, okay……..I believe you when you say that there is something highly unusual going on with this case……..and that some people out there are crazy enough to think of themselves as vampires…..…" Brain said.

"That's a good start." Jim said. "There's the MC, the shows about to start."

Rafe closed the files as the lights dimmed, shrouding the bar in shadows and darkness.

*********************

At eleven thirty the band took a break and Blair made his way to the booth.

"Anything?" he asked, sliding in beside Jim.

"If you’re asking if I've freaked out or gone all zombie like then the answer is no." Brian answered somewhat petulantly. "If she's here *I* haven't noticed."

Blair rolled his eyes at Brian's attitude and looked over at Jim. "I see you had that talk."

"Sorry Blair, I'm just having a real hard time taking all this in…..…" Brian apologized.

"Hey, I so totally understand man……..its just all way to creepy." Blair said, taking a drink of his water. "Anyway, Cassie said we'd play one more forty minute set and call it a night."

The forty minutes came and went, the club patrons slowly cleared the bar and things were locked up for the night; all without any sign of their suspect.

"That went well." Cassie complained, as she stepped behind her dressing screen.

"It was only the second performance, if Alyssa sticks to her MO then there is a good chance she won't even show up until next week." Blair said.

"Performance four is the earliest anyone has ever disappeared…..…that doesn't mean she's not out there………waiting and watching." Nick commented.

"And maybe its time we give her some incentive to show up and make her move." Cassie said.

"Would Alyssa do anything overt during a set?" Nick asked.

"She's insane…..…not stupid. Even a Malkalvian knows the consequences of endangering the masquerade." Cassie smirked. "Whatever she will do it will be after the show or through the week during rehearsals."

"So then if we do go through with this crazy plan of Cassie's…….."

"Excuse me!" Cassie interjected.

"…..… and Alyssa gets wind of it then she might show up through the week then, when there is less chance of witnesses?" Blair finished without missing a beat.

"Blair!" Jim warned.

"Jim, man, believe me I am *so* not liking being a target of *any* insane killer least of all an insane vampire; but it scares me even more not knowing where she is or when she might show up." Blair explained. "If we dangle the bait out there for her then she's pretty sure to show sooner than later……..and this can all be over with."

"Smart kid." Cassie said.

"You stay out of this." Jim snapped.

"Jim." Brian said quietly. "It's a plan…..…and you know it's no different that what we might have come up with under any other circumstance…..…I know you're worried about Blair…"

"It's not just about Blair…..…it's you." Jim said. "If we're not right on top of this, if Alyssa gets past us, to you, she *will* kill you Brian."

"Look Jim, I'm not some rookie, I know our job comes with risks…..…since the day I clipped on that badge I knew the dangers of this job and I've never backed down from a case……..and I'm *not* backing down from *this* one. We all know we could end up at the wrong end of a bullet; it's part of the job." Brain said quietly.

Looking over at Jim, Nick intoned. "There are some things worse than death."

"What the hell is that supposed to mean?" Brain asked suspiciously.

"Finish it…he has a right to know." Nick prodded.

"Right to know what?" Brian demanded.

"She could…..…she could make you into……..well, onto what she is." Jim said.

"What? Are you saying she could turn me into--a vampire!" Brain said with a disbelieving snort. "You're kidding right?"

The four faces that looked back at him told him that it was no joke.

"Actually, she all ready *thinks* you're a vampire…..…but she might try to bond you, and since you're human then in will just turn you into a mindless ghoul." Cassie supplied flippantly. "Either way, you pretty much lose."

"So, do you still want to go through with this?" Nick asked.

"She's out there and she needs to be stopped." Brian finally said, turning to Jim he added, "I just need you to promise me something."

"Anything I can do." Jim answered.

"Promise me…..…I come out of this…..…'unscathed'…….." his eyes then moved to rest on Nick and Cassie, "… …..or I don't come out of this at all."

"Brian……..I can't………" Jim started to say, knowing what Brian was asking of him.

"Promise me…I know you know ways…..…ways to make it quick…….." Brian pleaded.

"Ways to make it…..…quick……..what, wait, ……..are you asking what I think you're asking?" Blair exclaimed. "Brian you can't be serious……..you can't expect Jim to…..…"

"Yes he can." Nick said quietly. "And if he is truly your friend you wouldn't hesitate…..…"

"Jim! Nick!" Blair exclaimed.

"Would you really want to condemn him to this life in the shadows, Blair?" Nick asked. "I will do everything I can to protect you……..but if it comes down to it I won't condemn anyone to this."

"Thank you." Brian said.

"I certainly don't need a childe to look out for so you can count on me." Cassie said non-chalantley.

"Shut up! Just shut the hell up!" Blair snapped, turning to get right up in Cassie's face. "Were you always such a cold hearted bitch or is this some vampire pre-requisite or something?"

Cassie wasn't the only one to raise a surprised eyebrow at the normally even-tempered man's angry outburst.

"Come on Blair, let's go. It's late and we all need to rest……..we'll talk about this again tomorrow night when everyone is thinking more clearly." Jim said, putting a comforting hand on Blair's shoulder and pulling him away from Cassie.

"We should all leave, tomorrow night is going to be a big night and we all need to be alert." Nick said.

"Come on, let's go." Jim coaxed, gently pulling on Blair's arm and nodding toward Brian.

On the ride back to the hotel Brian tried to explain his decision to Blair.

"Blair, we all know this job is full of risk…..…and I'm willing to take it…..…"

"But you want to give up……….to die, just like that."

"No, Blair, I don't *want* to die………but what Alyssa can do to me or to anyone………it's no different than a bullet, its probably worse. All I'm asking is to give my soul the same freedom as my body, should it come to that. I can't believe you of all people can't understand that…could you really ask me to live that……..existence; would you want to continue in such a way?" Brain pressed.

"I do understand……..that doesn't mean I have to like it. I don’t want to see you as the walking dead or dead dead for that matter." Blair said.

"Enough. We're all tired and not thinking clearly………lets get some sleep and tackle this fresh tomorrow." Jim ordered.

*********************

Sunday Evening

Club Way Down

Cassie's Dressing Room

"So are we going to argue about this some more or are we going to actually accomplish something useful this evening?" Cassie asked, arms crossed.

"I don't know how you think we can pull this off…..…I can't play an instrument or sing for that matter." Brian remarked.

"Simple……..we don't plug in your amp or turn on your mic. I'm sure you're familiar with the concept of lip-synching. " Cassie said.

"And there's still the issue of a room full of your fans…..…" Brian reminded.

"You leave my fans to me." Cassie said sweetly.

"So she'll either be in the crowd tonight or will hear about the bands resurrection, so to speak, and show up to investigate." Jim reiterated the plan.

"She'll hear about it, have no doubt. If she's not actually out there then she no doubt has some of her minions in the crowd…..…"

"Minions?" Blair asked.

"Her ghouls……..human slaves…..…servants, lackeys, whatever you want to call them." Cassie waved the question away impatiently, adding with an evil smile. "I plan on sweetening the pot for her…..…"

Cassie was again interrupted, this time by Jim. "Sweetening the pot? What in the hell are you planning now?"

"Just pushing up the timetable a little."

"How?" Nick asked.

"Sadly, tonight will Serenade's last U.S. performance." Cassie said with exaggerated sadness.

"Really?" Nick said with a raised eyebrow.

"As of Monday, the band will be packing up and preparing for its first overseas tour."

"We will, huh." Blair said. "So Alyssa will have only one day to make a move…..…that's definitely pushing up the time table."

******************

"…..…so tonight I take great pleasure in announcing a reunion tour of the original Serenade members…tonight's concert will kick off our tour…and we owe it all to Alyssa…this ones for you………" Cassie said to the crowd, before stepping back and nodding to her band.

As the music started the lights dimmed to cover the band in shadow, a soft white spot illuminating Cassie at center stage……... soon she began to sing……..

***A voice cracks and twists and turns

In a way I can't explain.

Call it jealousy--

Call it an act of faith,

But I believe in me.…

Doesn't really matter.

Only hope to be as good as she,

Even though I'm not supposed to compare.

Only hope to be as good as she.

Even though I'm not supposed to compare.

I am dancing in her shadows,

I am playing in her light.

I am making her guess at every left and right.

I am closer than she thinks,

I crawl inside her head

To feel the way her blood boils, the mem'ries that she's had.

Only hope to be as good as she,

Even though I'm not supposed to compare.

Only hope to be as good as she.

Even though I'm not supposed to compare.***

Jim shook himself out of his dazed revelry and looked around the bar to see all the patrons staring spellbound at the singer on the stage; held by her lilting voice.

Even Detective Knight seemed mesmerized by the young woman on the stage.

***I am two steps ahead as she falls behind;

I stand back and capture the diamonds that she finds.

I come out at night like a slowly creeping mist…

I wanna do wrong, I wanna do right…

It’s revenge that I kiss.

Only hope to be as good as she,

Even though I'm not supposed to compare.

Only hope to be as good as she.

Even though I'm not supposed to compare.***

As the music started to fade the lights slowly came down to blanket the stage in darkness as Cassie's whispered voice reached out from the shadows.

***Doesn't really matter.

Doesn’t really matter

Not supposed to compare.

Doesn't really matter.

Doesn't really matter.

Not supposed to compare.

Doesn't really matter.

Not supposed to compare.***

Jim and Nick exchanged uneasy looks as the song ended and the crowd stayed silent, still enthralled by the haunting song. As the band began the second song of the set

the sudden flashing of lights and a loud guitar rift broke the dramatic pause.

"Uhm, that was…..…uhm………how'd she do that?" Jim stammered.

Nick couldn't help but smile. "It's a gift."

"And all these people here…..…they really believe what she just said?"

Looking around at the faces in the crowd Nick answered. "For the most part…..…have to say, she's a bit more powerful than I originally suspected…..…really didn't think she could pull it off."

"Oh, that’s real good to know, *now*! Why did you let her try then." Jim groused.

"Because we had to try something."

The evening passed without incident, and at two a.m. the band had packed things up for the night.

"So, now what?" Jim asked.

"We wait." Cassie said.

"How long?"

"She only has twenty-four hours…..…" Cassie said. "Most likely she'll show tomorrow as the band is packing up."

"So then there isn't a chance of seeing her tonight then?" Jim pressed.

"That would be cutting things kind of close..……there's less than four hours of darkness left before dawn." Cassie said. "She's never been a risk taker."

"Not a risk taker?" Blair exclaimed. "She's killed five people, and you say she's not a risk taker?"

Cassie looked at Blair in surprise. "She was never at any risk…..….and she always had plenty of time…...she's not into guerilla tactics…....not much of a fighter."

"She's a freaking monster…..…how much of a fighter does she have to be?" Brian exclaimed in disbelief. "You're talking like she's some debutante or something."

"She is?" Cassie said with a confused look and a shrug. "She's the princes' daughter……..she usually has her lackeys do her fetch and carry work; she doesn't like to get her hands dirty."

"Oh, and I suppose you do?" Jim said sarcastically.

"Who do you think did her sires, the *Prince's*, fetch and carry work…..….it was the price we paid for being allowed to stay in Chicago." Cassie returned snidely. "So yes, detective, my hands are quite soiled. I can almost guarantee Alyssa will want me to know who has *beaten* me…....she'll want to make sure I'm awake to see this come to an end."

"And it's pretty much a given that you don't do mornings." Blair joked lamely, rocking on his heels.

"We're called 'creatures of the night' for a reason, smart ass." Cassie shot back.

"Well if there isn't much of a chance of seeing her tonight, I suggest we get some sleep." Jim said.

Parting ways, the trio went back to their hotel room and quickly readied for bed.

######################

Blair didn't know what woke him..…..the small digital clock on the stand read 5:20 am. He peered around the semi-darkness of the room and was startled to see someone standing on the balcony.

"Jim! Jim, wake up!" Blair hissed sentinel soft, surprised and a little worried when Jim did not even stir.

"Blair?" The shadow on the balcony turned to look into the room.

"Brian?" Blair said in surprise, hopping out of bed and going to the sliding door. "Brian, why are you out here, man, it's like five thirty in the morning?"

Brian cocked his head sideways. "Don't you hear it?"

Blair didn't like the strange look in his friend's eyes. "Brian, I don't hear anything. Why don't you come back inside……."

Brian suddenly reached out and grabbed Blair's arm, pulling him out onto the balcony. Unprepared for that action, Blair stumbled out against Brian with a surprised yelp.

"Why'd you do that for…….come on Brian, you're acting a little freaky here…….we wake up Jim and we're both toast…….." Blair said with a look back over his shoulder and a nervous chuckle; Jim had not stirred from his position on the bed.

Brain just smiled at Blair, leaning in to whisper. "It's time."

#######################

Monday

11:00 am

The door to her office burst open to reveal a very agitated and angry Detective Ellison. "Where is he…….where's Knight?"

"What? What's going on?" Natalie asked in startled surprise.

"They're gone…….." He growled out, grabbing her arms.

"Who? Who's gone?"

"Blair and Brian. They're gone! When I woke up they aren't anywhere to be found. Where's Knight?" Jim ground out.

"Calm down, detective." Natalie said.

"Calm down! How in the hell I'm I supposed to calm down..…..I've got two men missing…....I need Knight on this one, where is he." Jim yelled, as he paced the room in agitation. "We were supposed to have until tonight……..but they're gone!"

"Come on." Natalie said, grabbing up her stuff.

The twenty-minute drive to Nick's loft was made in tense silence.

Without preamble, Natalie produced a key and let them in, calling to Nick as she set foot in the apartment. "Nick! Nick, are you awake…….."

"I am now." Called a sleepy voice from the next room, followed a moment later by a bedraggled looking Nick standing in his bedroom doorway.

"Blair and Brian are missing." Jim said succinctly. "I thought this wouldn’t happen……I thought we'd have until this evening?"

"They're gone?" Nick said in confusion.

"What? Am I not speaking English here……they're gone……I woke to find their beds empty." Jim raged. "They were no where in the whole damn building……"

"How did you sleep?" Nick asked suddenly.

"What? How did I sleep? What does that have to do with anything?" Jim snapped out impatiently.

"Last night…….*you* didn't hear anything, *you* didn't see anything…..…?" Nick pressed, a knowing look in his eyes.

"No. No, I slept very heavy, don't even remember any dreams…….." Jim said with a shake of his head. "Real hard to wake up as a matter of fact."

"Damn." Nick cursed. "This was not part of the plan."

"No shit Sherlock. What in the hell are we supposed to do now; Alyssa could have them anywhere." Jim raged.

"Not anywhere……...not if she took Brian too. It wouldn't be like Alyssa to leave without letting Cassie know who beat her." Nick mused aloud. "Remember, when Alyssa killed the real Brandon she did it in front of Cassie…….."

"So, what, you think Alyssa would go to the club?" Jim said in confusion.

"Right now the only thing we have to go on is her extreme illogic and hatred of Cassie…..….to her this has no doubt just been one big game." Nick surmised. "Besides, she doesn't know about us."

"So we go to the club." Jim said, heading towards the door.

"It’s not that simple." Nick said waving towards the window. "And besides I have a stop to make." Nick said.

####################

Cassie was roused from her 'slumber' by hands on her shoulders shaking her roughly.

"What the hell!" She exclaimed groggily, opening her eyes. "How in the hell did you get in here? Who the hell are you anyway?"

"The mistress requests an audience with you." One of the ghouls said.

"Oh, damn!"

#######################

"What the hell is going on Knight? We've been here for over two hours! Why in the hell are we standing in the cargo warehouse of the airport?" Jim complained.

"We're waiting for that." Nick pointed to the large cargo crate being brought into the warehouse.

When the forklift driver got close enough Nick pointed to the far end of the warehouse to unload the large crate.

"What the hell are you doing?" Jim asked as Nick began to pry open the top of the crate. "We don't have time………what the hell?"

Inside the crate Jim saw a smaller box………an ornate casket.

Ignoring Jim's questions, Nick jumped inside the crate and carefully opened the lid to the casket, revealing a tall, dark haired gentleman. "Prince Loden."

The man suddenly opened his eyes. "Detective Knight I presume?"

"Sire, I'm sorry for the rushed travel arrangements but things began moving more quickly than anticipated. We cannot wait until nightfall." Nick said quietly.

"Not the best way to travel but it is expedient and time was not something we had in great supply I understand." Loden assured the younger vampire. "Have you found her; where is she?"

"We are not sure, but we believe she has gone to confront Cassie………" Nick said.

"You're not sure?" Loden questioned.

"Knight, what the hell is going on? Who is this?" Jim finally said, his impatience evident in his tone.

Loden glanced over at Jim, catching and holding the human in his gaze. "A human? Why is he here?"

"He is helping with the case."

"Helping? Why?" Loden snapped.

"It is all very complicated, sire. His friend was attacked……….he followed the leads and it lead them to Cassie……" Nick started to explain

"And this makes things complicated because?" Loden's questioned.

"Remember, I told you about the investigation……..about everything that was involved." Nick said evenly.

"Listen, can we play politics later…..…right now I've got two missing men who are in grave danger…..…" Jim snapped as he tore his gaze away from the elder vampire and looked at Nick impatiently.

Loden too turned to Nick with a raised eyebrow and a nod of his head. "Complicated, I see."

Nick helped the older vampire from the coffin. "We should go sire…..…time is of the essence."

"Yes, we should go……...you can fill me in on the details as we drive." Loden said. "I assume you secured adequate transportation."

"Yes sire." Nick said, turning to Jim he said. "The van. Drive it around to the back entrance and pull it up flush with the building."

"Van. Right. One van coming right up." Jim grumbled as he turned and left the warehouse.

On the ride to the club, Nick filled the prince in on the investigation and of the activities of his 'daughter ' over the last ten months.

#######################

Club Waydown

As the young vampire was pulled roughly from her bed and dragged unceremoniously up the stairs, Cassie noted the unnatural strength of her three 'human' attackers, suggesting to her that they were ghouls: and with that thought came the realization that her plight had taken a significant turn for the worse. None of them, least of all Cassie, expected and attack in the middle of the day.

Coming out into the bar area Cassie blinked several times as her eyes adjusted to the semi-darkness and shadows.

Struggling vainly against the three ghouls that held her Cassie yelled into the darkness. "I know you're here Alyssa….….show yourself. Stop playing games and face me."

A voice drifted through the darkness, its tone condescending. "Sorry to wake you *little one*, but I couldn't let us part ways without saying goodbye."

The stage spots suddenly flashed on to reveal Blair and Brian sitting dazedly on the stage.

"Damn it Alyssa….….face me! What in the hell are you afraid of."

"Afraid? Of you?" A sing-songy voice drifted out. "I don't think so. I try to be friendly, show there are no hard feelings, and this is the welcome I get?"

"You want to be friendly, call off your ghouls……..lets settle this once and for all." Cassie said evenly, still struggling against those holding her. "This isn’t about Aaron anymore, *or* what you did to Brandon…..…this is about you and me…..….and *your* jealousy."

The diminutive vampire came out from behind a stage curtain. "Jealous, of you?"

"I had the band. Serenade even had the support of your sire……..and I had Brandon, but more importantly I had what you wanted most………what all your sire's power and money couldn't buy you………*I* *had* *Aaron*…...." Cassie said evenly. "I held his soul, his spirit…….you never understood that for him it wasn't about the money or the fame; for him it was about the music…....the life and the soul that only *I* could give his music."

"No. No, you tricked him…....you're nothing but a whoring Toreador poser..…..you bewitched him…....you kept him from me…….I could have been his muse." Alyssa raged as she came down off the stage and stormed over to Cassie.

"He didn't want you…..…he wanted me!" Cassie hissed. "Is that why you tried to blood bond him..……tried to destroy him…….."

"Destroy him? I loved him…..…" Alyssa said in surprise.

"You call what you did to him love…….is that why he left?" Cassie threw back.

"Shut up! Shut up, I won't listen to any more of your lies." Alyssa said angrily, slapping the younger vampire.

Cassie licked the blood from her lips and shook her head. "You've lost Alyssa…....don't you get it, we've both lost really: Aaron…. he's not coming back; not to you…..… not to me……."

"You're wrong." Alyssa screamed as she slapped Cassie again. "He did come back. He knew I needed him, knew I wouldn't stop looking…..…he came back where he knew I would find him..….."

"No, Alyssa, he didn't come back…..…" Cassie said. She knew it was a big risk trying to convince Alyssa that the two men on the stage were not who she thought they were, but equally certain, she knew she couldn't take the chance of Alyssa leaving with them.

"He's mine, you will not take him from me again………" Alyssa raged smashing her fists down on a table and splintering it before reaching down to grab a piece of the table leg. "I'm afraid the tour has been cancelled."

Cassie struggled desperately against the hold of the ghouls as Alyssa raised the wooden stake above her head to deliver the paralyzing blow.

"Alyssa. Stop. Now." A deep voice boomed in the semi-darkness.

Alyssa was stunned by the voice but was only distracted from her intended target for a mere moment before the stake continued on its downward arc towards her victim.

"Alyssa, I command you; stop." The voice commanded.

The downward thrust was halted and Alyssa looked into the darkness at the three shapes coming towards her. "Sire? Father?"

"Yes, childe, it is I." The man said as he came into view.

Cassie breathed a sigh of relief as she muttered. "Loden? Never thought I'd be happy to see you again."

Loden glared at the younger vampire. "Shut up pup."

"I found him father. I found Aaron. We can finally be together." Alyssa said in child like voice. "She tried…..…she tried to take him away from me, but I showed her. I showed her that she couldn't take what is ours…..…I am the prince's daughter……..."

Alyssa again raised the stake over her head. "She has to pay for taking him from me."

"Yes, she does my childe……." Loden began only to be interrupted by a cacophony of protests

"What? Heh, now Loden..…..come on now…….." Cassie began, looking at her former prince in wild-eyed disbelief and renewing her struggle to free herself from the steely grip of the ghouls.

"What the hell…...." Jim took several steps forward in an attempt to intercede between Cassie and Alyssa while Nick placed a hand on the prince's shoulder.

"Sire? Surely you don't mean to allow…..…" Nick gasped,

Loden held up a staying hand. "But *not* like this."

Loden gently took the stake from his childe's grasp. "Call to him, feel him through your bond…..…if he is truly yours he will come to you and she has lost."

"But…..…" Alyssa started to protest.

"Call to him." Loden encouraged, gently giving his childe a push towards the stage.

"But she has Blair and Brian in some sort of trance…..…of course they'll listen to her voice." Jim protested as Alyssa made her way to the stage. "What the hell do you think your doing?"

"Call to him." Loden said simply.

"What?"

Loden smirked in annoyance. "Do I not speak plain English……..call to your guide…..…the bond that connects Sentinel and Guide is more powerful than Alyssa's presence."

"What…….how……..you told *him*?" Jim's tone was angry and accusatory as he looked over at Nick. "What about Brian?"

"My childe has no interest in the other mortal only with the one she perceives as Aaron……..when he is safe so won't the other also be safe." Loden explained.

"You better be right about this." Jim muttered, quickly going to the stage.

"Aaron. Aaron, I'm here. It's time to go now." Alyssa whispered.

"Hey, chief it's over….come on back now…..lets get you and Brian out of here." Jim said quietly, a little nervous and unsure about how the insane vampire would react to his presence.

When Alyssa cocked her head and looked at him, Jim was surprised to see sadness behind the insanity in the vampire's eyes "Have you lost someone too?"

"Uhm…….yes, I have………I'm trying to find a very good friend of mine." Jim answered quietly.

Alyssa just nodded and turned to walk up the stairs at the side of the stage. Jim jumped up on the stage to intervene between the vampire and his friends.

"Chief, this would be a real good time to snap out of it…….." Jim hissed loudly, giving his guide a sideways glance; keeping most of his attention on the approaching vampire.

"You're still here." Alyssa said, her voice quiet but accusatory. "Why?"

"Because my friends are here, and I need to take them home." Jim answered.

Alyssa looked past Jim to the two men sitting quietly on the stage, finally pointing to Brian. "He can be your friend."

Jim nodded. "Brian is my friend…..…and so isn't Blair."

"Blair?"

Jim took several steps backwards to stand between Brian and Blair, placing a hand on each man's shoulder. "These men…..…they aren't who you think they are…..…"

"Don't be silly." Alyssa giggled.

"Look at them..……really look at them…..…this isn't Brandon……..and this, this isn't Aaron." Jim said urgently, indicating first Brian them Blair.

"Why are you saying these things?" Alyssa said with angry petulance, pointing to Brain she continued. "I told you, you could be his friend………I don't like him………"

"I'm his friend too." Jim said, looking down at Blair. "His name is Blair."

Alyssa pushed Jim aside. "No! No, you're wrong………"

Jim stumbled backwards over Brian, causing them both to land in a tangled heap on the floor as Alyssa bent down in front of Blair, her hand gently caressing his face. "Aaron. Aaron, my sweet, it's over…….I'm here………"

Jim was horrified to see Blair responding to the vampire's touch and jumped up with a yell. "No! Blair snap out of it! Blair, it's me……..it's Jim…….."

Pushing the startled vampire aside, Jim bent down and grabbed Blair by the arms. Pulling him to a standing position to look him in the eyes.

"Blair! Blair, buddy, look at me……..come on it's me…....it's Jim……." Jim said urgently, giving Blair a shake.

By now Alyssa was up and advancing towards the two men, anger and insanity gleaming in her eyes. "He's mine, you can't have him..….."

Shaking his friend more forcefully, Jim said frantically. "If you don't snap out of it and convince our vampire friend here that you're not Aaron you're sentinel is a goner..…."

The fog slowly lifted as Blair whispered. "Sentinel? Sentinel…….Jim? Jim..…..?"

"That's it…….come on Blair…….." Jim said with relief, dragging his disoriented Guide with him as he backed away from Alyssa. He would have preferred to pull Blair clear off the stage and away from the enraged vampire but feared leaving Brian unprotected.

"Huh…..…what? What……..Jim……..what's going on?" Blair said with a shake of his head and a shrug of his shoulders as he tried to break out of Jim's grasp and stand upright on his own.

"Aaron, come to me." Alyssa demanded.

"*That's* what's going on." Jim said, nodding toward Alyssa.

"She…….she's here? We're here? Why are we here, Jim?" Blair yelped in surprise, back peddling away from the vampire and tripping over the now stirring Brain.

"Brian……..Brian, man are you all right?" Blair said in startled surprise as he crawled to his friend.

His inquiry was met with only a groan.

Jim moved quickly to stand between his downed friends and the enraged vampire.

"You…..…" Alyssa leapt at Jim, knocking them both to the floor.

Fear for his Sentinel's safety over riding any fear he had of the insane vampire, Blair scrambled over and knocked Alyssa off of Jim, grabbing her shoulders to look her in the eyes. "Give it up nutcase….…I'm not Aaron…….Aaron is gone, and no one took him away from you, you drove him away yourself…….."

"No! No, you're wrong…....you love me…..…"

"No I don't, because I'm not Aaron…….I'm Blair……..do you hear me…….my name is Blair." Blair said angrily, shaking the vampire's shoulders.

The vampire looked at Blair blankly for a moment, bloody tears welling up in here eyes. "You…….you don't mean that Aaron, you love me…...."

Blair batted away Alyssa's hand. "No. I'm not Aaron..….."

Alyssa stumbled backwards, her tears replaced by renewed anger. "She did this….…she's turned you against me………."

Before anyone could draw their next breath, Alyssa unexpectantly turned from her intended victims and fled from the stage, grabbing up a splintered piece of wood as she went.

"You did this..…..you poisoned him against me..……" Alyssa screeched, slamming the stake into Cassie's chest.

Cassie gasped in surprise as she looked down at the stake in her chest and then into the twisted features of Alyssa. "Bitch!"

The ghouls exchanged startled looks then dropped the body to the floor, breaking everyone from their shocked stupor.

Loden grabbed his childe, who was now staring mesmerized by the body on the floor, hysterical giggles shaking her small frame.

"I win. I win. I win….…" the deranged vampire chanted over and over again.

Jim leapt from the stage and moved with Nick to kneel beside Cassie's unmoving body while Blair shook his head sadly and moved to help Brian up.

"I trust you can take care of this?" Loden said impassively, looking down at the body on the floor. "I will take my childe away from here."

"Yes. Yes, sire, I can take care of the rest of it." Nick said distractedly.

As Loden turned to leave with his charge Jim jumped up, looking back and forth between Loden and Nick. "What? What the hell's going on here..…..she murdered five people, and she just…....she just put a stake in Cassie's chest for Christ's sake….…and now we're just supposed to let her walk out of here?"

"We can *and* we will." Nick said looking up at the angry detective. "It's over."

Loden nodded at Nick and commanding the three ghouls to follow, left the club.

Jim just shook his head in disbelief as he went to help Blair maneuver a still unsteady Brian to a nearby chair,

"Is she..…..dead?" Blair asked hesitantly.

"So what now?" Jim asked Nick as he stooped back down to the body.

With a deep sigh and a wince Nick said. "This."

With his hand wrapped tightly around the splintered wood, he pulled the stake out of the young vampire.

Jim, Blair and Brian merely stared dumbfounded as Cassie's body lurched and she gave a sudden gasp. "Gods, I forgot how much that hurts!"

"Been staked often?" Nick asked sarcastically.

"Wouldn't you like to know." Groaning loudly Cassie looked around the bar with an angry grumble. "Don't tell me the bitch got away?"

"Not exactly; Loden took here away." Nick said.

"Damn!"

"He won't let her escape again. She has caused much damage….…even he knows he cannot protect her from the Justicar's if there should ever be a next time." Nick said.

"Are you all right?" Blair asked as he came to stand by the huddled group.

"Yeah, fine, great….….it feels wonderful to have a table leg rammed through your chest." She shot back sarcastically, looking over at Nick she asked impatiently. "Help me up."

Jim and Nick helped Cassie to her feet, there hands immediately coming back to offer support when the young vampire swayed.

"How can we help?" Jim asked, helping her to sit down.

Cassie smiled at him. "Spare a pint or two."

"What?" Jim said in surprise, taking a step away from the young vampire.

Blair couldn't help but laugh out loud at the look that came over Jim's face. "A young lady asks you for dinner and you turn her down."

"For dinner or to be dinner?" Jim groused.

With a wince of pain Cassie looked over at Nick. "All kidding aside here……I don't feel well and really need to…..uhm…..well, if this is going to heal all the way I'm going to need a little sustenance, you know."

*************************

Between the injury and the daylight, Cassie was soon asleep in the windowless van. Nick himself was bleary-eyed.

"Is she really going to be all right?" Blair again asked. "She looks….…well….….dead!"

"Blair…....she is dead." Nick said succinctly. "And as soon as she has fed she will be fine..…..she is young and the call of the eternal sleep is strong for the young ones during the day light hours..…….that is perhaps why Alyssa chose to strike when she did, when Cassie would be at her weakest."

"But you're fine…….and that other guy.……." Blair started to ask.

"We are..…..much older." Nick said with a smile, holding up a hand to stave off the questions he knew was coming. "It's not nice to ask your elders their age."

Once at Nick's apartment, he settled the sleeping woman in the darkened room.

"It would be best if you stayed here and rested, come nightfall we can work out the details for closing this case." Nick said before he himself retired for the day.

******************

Towards evening, the three detectives were roused from their naps by a petulant voice from the bedroom. "Ah, you have *got* to be kidding….….this is disgusting….…..come on, at least get something human…..…"

The three men just exchanged confused and warily looks as Brian mouthed. 'Get something human?'

The voice continued to complain. "You could always go the blood bank..……"

"Just drink it…..…you're worse than a child taking medicine." Came Nick's exasperated tone. "You don't drink it, you won't heal….…you don't heal, you won't have enough strength to leave here and hunt……..you getting the picture here."

"Fine! Give it to me…..….god's that is sooooo disgusting…….yuck……. why don't you just open the window and let the sun fry me…..…" the voice continued its complaints as Nick came out of the bedroom to see three startled faces.

"She's not happy with her dinner." Nick said with a sheepish shrug.

"What exactly are you feeding her?" Blair asked.

"Cow's blood."

"No wonder she's complaining." Blair said with a shudder and a face. "Ah, what does she normally eat?"

Nick set Blair with a curious look. "Do you really want me to answer that?"

"No!" Brain said quickly. "While Cassie gets her dinner…..how about the rest of us…....I'd prefer my cow to have a little more substance……..I'm starving!"

"There is a take out place just down the street……..you could order in and we can wrap up this case." Nick suggested.

"Sounds good to me." Jim said.

*********************

Epilogue

Cascade PD

Jim, Blair and Brian sat quietly in Simon's office as the captain read over the report that wrapped up the case.

"So, this wraps up the case?" he asked the three men, dropping the file on his desk. "And this is all of it?"

"Well, yeah, Captain….…Detective Knight and I wrapped up the case and since it was his jurisdiction he filed the final report." Jim said innocently. "Why, is something wrong?"

"And this is all there is to it….….this is *everything* that happened?" Simon asked with a raised eyebrow.

"I think we pretty much covered everything…….." Jim said innocently as he looked over at Blair and Brian.

"Yeah, Captain, that report pretty much covers everything." Brian said quickly.

Simon reached for the file, giving it another cursory look. "Just seems a little…....incomplete to me gentlemen?"

"Incomplete, sir?" Jim asked.

Simon sat back in his chair, steepling his hands in front of him. "Gentlemen?"

The three men merely exchanged sheepish looks; Jim shot Blair a pleading look.

"Okay, Simon….…uh, Captain.…….it all started with that missing persons report……..then we found out that dead people don't, well actually it was me who didn't know that dead people don't leave fingerprints……..then Jim and Detective Knight had this argument….…."

"Jim not working and playing well with others; why does that not surprise me." Simon interrupted.

"He had good reason…..…Knight keeping things from us and all……"

Suddenly concerned Simon sat forward in his seat. "Do we have a problem……..was this detective withholding evidence, Jim?"

"No, nothing like that Simon." Blair was quick to interject. "Actually it was Jim withholding information….…"

When Simon fixed him with a glare, Blair looked back and forth between the two detectives. "You know, some help here would be nice."

"Hey, don't look at me I was just the bait; *remember*….….cause I sure as hell don't!" Brain shot back.

"Bait? Are you all right detective?" Simon asked with concern.

"Fine, sir."

Simon sat back, waiting expectantly for his detectives to continue the tale.

"Well you know one vampire might have been something we could….…."

"Wait! Hold it right there; did you just say vampire, Sandburg?" Simon interrupted.

"Well, yeah, that's what made this case so tricky and all…..…"

"Vampires? Vampires made this case *tricky*?" Simon reiterated slowly.

The three men exchanged sheepish looks before looking at their captain.

"Vampires?" Simon asked again.

The three men nodded.

Giving a sigh, Simon reached out and signed the report in front of him and shoved it across the desk. "Signed and closed. You have cases piling up on your desks…..…"

"You don't want to hear the rest of it?" Blair asked innocently.

"Out!" Simon ordered, pointing to his door.

"But…...."

"Out. Now." Simon said again, more forcefully, still pointing to his door.

"You heard the man, let's go." Jim said quickly, rising from his chair; followed quickly by Blair and Brian.

-the end-

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DEFINITIONS:

Masquerade: the 'face' the vampire community shows to the mortal world…protecting and shielding all that is what it is to be vampyre!!!

Clan: in White Wolf there are nine established clans or family groups, so to speak, each one has there own code of conduct and own unique abilities.

Toreador: the vampire clan that has a love for the arts and music's and all things beautiful. Cassie is in this clan.

Poser: a toreador vampire who only pretends to have any gifts or talents.

Malkalvian: the 'unbalanced' ones…. they are just plain nuts, melodramatic and crazy!

Sabbat: there is evil and then there is evil and then there is the sabbat…they sire new vampires by turning them then burying them in a grave…if they can dig themselves out before sun up there in…if not, oh well!!! Cassie was turned by the sabbat and buried but was rescued by a Toreador.

Blood bond: a way for one vampire to enthrall/control another vampire.

Justicar: there is justice then there are the Justicars (never confuse the two), they are the final word on vampire justice (and there are no appeals in the world of darkness)…they are judge, jury and more often than not executioner to any vampire who breaks the masquerade.

Ghoul: a human who is under a vampire's thrall but has not been turned.

Katif: a vampire that is an 'orphan', so to speak, and is not claimed by a sire or a clan and has more difficulty in learning vampire skills/arts.

Diablerie: when a vampire kills another vampire by not just draining their blood but taking in what is left of their essence/soul. Considered a "high crime" in the world of vampires (Casssie has done it about three times in the game, she takes her vengeance against the Sabbat who turned her very seriously…its how vampires can become higher generation and gain more power).

**Also a point of note, in the RPG, vampires are not killed by a stake to the heart, merely paralyzed and put into a state of suspended animation called torpor.

**The song, "As Good As She", is track #4 from the Sentinel CD soundtrack.