Disclaimer: All Sentinel characters and locations belong to Pet Fly Productions. Corineus, Michael and Selket are, again, products of my own strange mental machinations. Rated: PG
This is a sequel to Bad Blood. Thank you to all those kind people who read Bad Blood and asked if I was bringing any of them back. Well, here they are in all their beastly glory. You'd better read Bad Blood first because this one needs you forearmed. I'm warning you now that, being Aussie, my schooling and spelling is English so just flow with it and let me prattle on as best I can. I'm slowly learning. 'Blood Wite': ancient law concerning the paying of a fine for the shedding of another's blood. Wite meaning blame or reproach.
The woman's long fingers traced the pages of her book lovingly. She must have read it some 200 times and it reminded her of a language long dead, one that she remembered fondly. Language these days was clipped and broken and devoid of the passionate verbal contortions that once indicated a person's status and education. Nowadays any peasant could communicate with the spoken word. In some parts of the world, the written word, at least, still escaped those on the lower rungs.
The woman closed her worn, leather bound copy of The Canterbury Tales. Chaucer was an author she was very fond of and sadly missed her equally old copy of his Troilus and Criseyde which had long since rotted away to dust. Hers was a nomadic life and the several books she dragged around with her didn't fare as well as she.
The late afternoon sun was low on the horizon and she wriggled her toes in the cooling water, sleepily comfortable in her beach chair. The Aegean Ocean winked at her in the fading light and she fancied she could see as far as the Cyclades and, beyond that further still, the island of Crete.
She had been lodging on the small island of Aegina for some six months now and was enjoying the solitude it afforded. It was a beautiful place. No cars, only small motor-scooters being allowed. And donkeys. It reminded her of days long past and was far preferable to the polluted, choked streets of the Athenian mainland.
The islanders left her well alone, whispering behind her back but clearly heard by her as they were not exactly tactful about it. They were happy to take her money for the small, expensive villa. They thought she was a writer, come to their little corner of Greece for inspiration.
She hadn't failed to notice the handsome young Greek watching her every move from over his cup of coffee. He had been there for almost an hour. Fancies he's in with a chance, she mused to herself. If he knew any better he would run and keep on running.
Her thoughts paused as a strange feeling overtook her. The water before her seemed to become hazy and her eyes lost their focus. A pain crept up her spine and the book fell from her nerveless fingers into her lap. Her mouth was slack and a small gasp finally escaped her.
His death sounded in her mind as though it occurred right beside her at that very moment. His pain, the flames, his mind and all its knowledge snuffing out. It all coursed through her in an awful rush of panic. Then he was gone.
Her child. Sagremor. Dead at 261. A tender age compared with her 513 years. The chasm left by his passing was almost unbearable but she clenched her jaw and pushed it aside.
His thoughts of the past few days had been of the Americas. The USA now she reminded herself. Setting aside her pain she ran his past thoughts through her mind again. Faces she didn't know came to her. Ones as herself and others. Mortals.
Selket stood slowly, her toes digging into the soft sand below the knee deep water. Her treasured copy of Chaucer fell, unnoticed, sinking and she left it there. Staring blankly she left her beach chair and walked past the besotted mortal still nursing his coffee.
She would avenge her child. The two like her would taste the flames as did her poor, deadly Sagremor. The mortals she saw would also die.
She wasn't quite sure where she would start but one vision she had drawn from her child had been a signpost on the side of a highway.
Welcome To Cascade.
Damn damn damn, the detective thought to himself. See if I care, let the bastards walk. A month of investigation gone to hell. I need a beer, came the next thought.
Detective James Ellison looked up from his desk, paused midway between his chair and reaching for his jacket. He sat back down as his captain perched himself on the side of his desk. He fixed his friend with a bland expression, knowing the tall, dark man could feel his angry frustration.
"I'm sorry, Jim, we couldn't hold them any longer. They turned up nothing at their house...." Banks paused as they saw the two men in question stop at the door to Major Crimes as they were escorted from the building.
One of the men gave a smug smile to Ellison and waved. Both the detective and the captain gave the two men their best disinterested expressions, not wanting to give the drug lord and his pig of a brother any satisfaction in their disappointment.
Banks returned his attention back to his man. "I'm sorry, Jim. Your informant must have given you a bum steer on this one."
Ellison smiled grimly, leaning back in his chair. "Well, there's no way to check seeing how Masters is dead."
Banks was surprised. "When?"
"Last night. Rafferty just told me."
"Shit, I'm sorry, Jim." Banks stood and returned to his office, determining to chalk this one up to bad luck and lack of forethought. Masters had been Ellison's snitch for almost a year now since the detective had brought him in on a drugs charge.
John 'Hitler' Travers and his brother, Sonny, had just recently moved to their fair city and had started business by systematically eliminating the opposition. Since their arrival, two drug criminals and their half dozen employees had been found in varying positions of disarray, Travers having a liking for dismembering his victims in an attempt to make identifying them difficult. The brothers had been brought in on suspicion of the murder of fellow drug lord James Jameson and they now walked away, scot free, and Ellison's informant lay in the morgue identifiable only by his tattoos.
Ellison sighed as his phone rang and grabbed it to cease its annoying clamour. "Ellison!" he barked.
Blair. Ellison rubbed his eyes, regretting his tone. "What's up?" he asked in a more sedate tone.
"Umm, Jim, I just had a phonecall."
"Mmm? So?" the detective tuned his hearing into Blair's voice. Nervous. "What's wrong?"
"It was Corineus. He and Michael are coming back. He told me not to worry but they had something to tell us. Cryptic, huh?"
Ellison thought he needed a holiday. Badly. Two cases had recently flopped miserably and it had only been some four months since their strange encounter with Corineus and Michael. Vampires. What next. He went back to rubbing his eyes, hoping it would all go away. "When do they get here?"
"Umm, tomorrow I think. They're halfway here already."
"We'll talk about it tonight. No point worrying about it, it's probably nothing." Ellison stretched to rid his back of its gathering kinks. "I'm gonna see if Simon wants to go have a beer after we knock off so I'll get something to eat there. You haven't started cooking have you?"
"No, I'm still at Uni. I got the call here. I'll see you tonight, then."
Ellison replaced the handset and looked towards Banks' office. He was of two minds whether to tell Simon that their friends were coming back for another visit. Banks hadn't really been privy to the final fact that Corineus and Michael were, indeed, nosferatu. Vampire.
He shook his head slowly, not sure he still believed it himself. While they had still been there in Cascade it was easier to accept but, months after they had returned to their own country, the revelation was more becoming warped, more relegated to the unreal realm.
No, Simon didn't have to know. The last thing Ellison needed was to have his apartment walls lined in rubber by an anxious captain.
Water ran in rivulets down the ruined walls of the old warehouse. Dampness and its mildew smell rose to sicken any who walked near it. A cat ran full tilt across the far side of the large room, eager to escape the presence it sensed in its home.
Selket walked slowly about the chamber where her child had met his death. She closed her eyes and breathed in the wet air. Incessant rain, that never seemed to stop, pelted down on the tin roof, finding its relentless way in through the places where the ceiling was missing.
Stopping in the centre of the chamber, her shoe scraped something on the floor. She opened her eyes and looked down. The black, oily substance, she fancied, was in the vague shape of her dead child. Bending down she ran her hand across the black film and tortured herself with images of his last moments. Monumental pain and suffering. A horrible death, even for omnipotent beings such as they.
Selket ran her hand over her face and smeared what was left of Sagremor onto her skin. With his images of his own horror came the equal horror of his intended victim as Sagremor had felt it. A young man. Sagremor's unfortunate weakness and the cause of his eventual demise.
She ignored the fact that the victim was defending himself. Her child had always been one pre-disposed to cruelty but she preferred to think it was the nature of the beast. He had exalted in the kill, despite her teachings. Selket could see no advantage in playing with one's prey and lengthening their misery unnecessarily.
But, this time, her revenge would take on a different tone and she would visit as much pain on this one as her child had endured. And she would enjoy it.
It had taken her four months to find the accursed city of Cascade. There had been many towns in different states that went by the same name. The US of A was a big place. Now all she had to do was discover who the young man had been.
She had gotten this far on the information provided by that evening's dinner. A man who remembered seeing her child at a dance club he frequented. She did not normally kill in order to feed but she would kill every mortal she fancied in this city until she had her desired prey: the young man with the angel's face.
It had been a long day at the university and Blair wanted nothing more than a nice long shower and something simple for dinner. Corineus and Michael were due to arrive sometime during the day and he had no idea when they would actually turn up. Jim can worry about it, he thought, I'm too tired.
Blair froze on his way across from his bedroom door to the kitchen. Voices. Arguing voices.
*"It was not. It was Tuscany."*
Blair walked quietly to the balcony doors and peered out through the glass into the night beyond. Two men he knew were arguing on the balcony and he smiled at the strangeness of it. Corineus and Michael. He opened the doors.
Both paused in their argument and looked at the young man who had discovered them.
"Blair!" Michael blurted. The slim vampire slipped his arm around Blair's shoulder and walked into the apartment with him. "I didn't think you were home yet. Been home long?"
Blair smiled and shrugged out of the embrace. "A little while."
Michael frowned. "Must pay more attention. Didn't hear you."
Corineus shook Blair's hand but looked at his partner. "Getting old, Michael?" A question made all the more incongruous due to Corineus looking twice the other's age.
Blair smiled up at the big man, knowing the larger vampire was some 250 years younger than Michael. He gestured for them to seat themselves and made himself a cup of herbal tea. Corineus and Michael continued their argument and Blair was content to watch them, glorifying in the weirdness of it all. He had two vampires sitting in his livingroom arguing over some woman they met in Tuscany 100 years before. Michael, at least, reckoned it was Tuscany.
"You said you had something to tell us," Blair interrupted.
Corineus settled his gaze on the young man and Blair's breath froze momentarily. "I'd rather wait for Ellison. This concerns him as well."
Michael had fallen quiet, preferring to leave the decision to Corineus. The slim vampire smiled at Blair in an attempt to quell the anthropologist's rising fears. He knew Blair to be sharp but also knew the agile mind would be imagining the worst.
This modern age had its disadvantages. Hundreds of years ago the general population was uneducated, superstition their main source of fear. These days people had violent films and literature that opened the mind to more awful imaginings. Things that would never have crossed the mind of someone 200 years ago would torture those living in the modern world.
Creatures like us, he thought. Beasts relegated to the mists of myth, believed in hundreds of years ago and laughed at now. He had, himself, been saved from the witch's fire by Corineus. The primitives had thought him a vile witch, not knowing that he was, in fact, far worse.
He still vividly remembered the look on Corineus' face as he laughed at the irony of it all. The seemingly older man had shaken him by his shoulders, thinking him maddened by his near death. Michael had kissed his saviour on the forehead and allowed himself to be led to Corineus' wagons and the safety they offered. The merchant was introduced, that night, to the true nature of the one he had saved.
Michael also remembered his horror the following morning when he realised what he had done. Corineus had tried to reassure him that he had wanted it but Michael lived with the guilt still. His cool eyes settled on the only mortal in the room. Blair's heartbeat was fast, becoming quicker as the moments passed. The young man was still not totally at ease with the thought of two such as they being so close. Michael smiled at him again and thought back again on Corineus.
His offspring. Child. A man of forty years who, by virtue of his making, was much stronger than his maker. In real life, vampirism aside, Corineus would still have been the stronger. Michael's whip like physique not lending itself to the more arduous pursuits. He wondered at how Ellison would fare if inducted into their private hell. He would be magnificent, his build being the more naturally stronger of them all.
Perhaps it would become necessary. To fight the coming evil.
A female. The most deadly of their kind.
Selket had seen a lot in her 500 odd years. One of her earliest memories was being part of the Spanish Court during Ferdinand's rule. The same king that allowed Christopher Columbus to find this land. She wished she had never heard of America. She wished her child had never come here.
She had been born of peasant stock in Persia in a small village just outside of, the now called, Isfahan. Although not proud of her beginnings, she still refused to call her homeland by its modern name of Iran. Persia rolled more pleasantly from the tongue.
Her maker was a visitor to her land, a map charter. She travelled with him for some years before finally tiring of him and killing him. By virtue of being a female vampire, and his offspring, she had been almost twice his strength. As time went on she had sensed his growing fear of her, of her detached deadliness and his secret wish that he had never made her.
He inhibited her, so she decided to rid herself of him. She gained all his memories, adding another 200 or more years of knowledge to her own growing experience.
She drifted through Europe, living a great deal of the early nineteenth century in the Grand Duchy of Warsaw, later to become Poland. She had met and inducted the Roman Sagremor some 73 years before but, as is the nature of young ones, he soon wanted to move about on his own.
She narrowly missed being caught up in the French revolution of 1789. She had been amongst the nobility and had no intention of being beheaded for it. She had been in Berlin when the war with the rest of the world had been announced. She had been a member of the French resistance, partly due to her beliefs and mostly due to the freedom it afforded her when it came to inflicting death on others. She had been a formidable fighter and therefore given the unattractive duties, along with the men, despite her sex.
Occasionally she had met up with her own kind but they had been wary of her. A female was rare as it was considered foolhardy to make one, their superior strength being the main reason. The males gave her a wide berth and she was happy with the arrangement. But recently she wanted information and, unwilling to waste time, captured any males of her kind she came across in order to gain it.
She released them unharmed, much to their surprise. Only one remembered meeting one like she described. He was called Corineus and he travelled with his maker. So now she had gained a name and a destination. The vampire had been on the trail of her beloved Sagremor for some five decades, having gleaned that much from her child's thoughts during his long pursuit. He had secretly delighted in the fifty year chase across the world and she had decided not to help and left him to deal with it.
Now, it seems, she should have stepped in. Her Sagremor had been caught and foully murdered. Corineus and his maker had finally cornered him but the killing blow had been administered by a sweet faced and young mortal. She could still feel her child's lust and attraction to this young man but pushed it away. She would hunt him down and those that knew him.
Ellison paused at his door and sighed. He had sensed Corineus and Michael on his way up. He could hear Blair talking with them and braced himself for the coming dose of unreality once more. Opening the door he was greeted by the tall vampire grabbing his hand and pumping it.
"Jim! Long time no see."
"Corineus, nice to see you again," Jim said, not entirely lying. He had a profound respect for the man. It was the vampire youth that he didn't trust. He spotted Michael smiling at him from beside Blair on the lounge. Jim mentally sighed again, trying to squash the renewed apprehension he felt whenever the young man sat near Blair. Christ, he thought, the young man was almost 600 years old. He felt a headache coming on.
"I need a beer," Jim announced and, hanging up his jacket on the way, went to the fridge. He listened as Blair and Michael returned the conversation he had barely heard on his way up from the street.
"After meeting you two I looked into vampirism. I found references in one of my anthro texts about Madagascar and some people called the Betsilio who feared a vampire-like creature that they called mpakafo. They're supposed to cut out their victim's heart and liver and ingest it!"
"Jesus, Blair," Jim called, "I've just eaten, do you mind?"
Blair smiled in shame. "Sorry."
Michael wanted to continue the conversation anyway. "It's probably one of us. Don't know for sure, never been there."
"Fascinating," Blair answered.
Corineus caught Jim's eye and gestured to where the other two sat. It was time to tell them. Jim seated himself, drinking his beer and caught Blair's worried look. They both knew something was coming and dreaded the hearing of it.
Corineus paced a bit, wondering how to broach the subject with their two mortal friends. Michael was little help, preferring to leave the floor to him.
"Jim, Blair, we have a spot of trouble," Corineus finally said.
Great intro, thought Michael.
"It seems Sagremor had friends...."
Ellison's glare stopped him momentarily. Just great, vampires bent on revenge?
Corineus continued, "Well, one powerful one, anyway. His maker. A female."
Michael decided to join the fray. "Females are rare. It's generally considered stupid to make one as they are usually more powerful, moreso than the normal maker/child strength ratio."
Corineus looked at his companion. How eloquent. He'd keep his mouth shut and let Michael explain it.
"She is old and that makes her even more dangerous. She's on a par with me but has female strength."
"The females are stronger?" Blair interrupted. "That's interesting." In the corner of his eye, he could see Ellison grace him with a long suffering look and chose to ignore it.
"Stronger and more deadly," Michael continued, "It's as if the change removes all inhibitions and their capacity for death is far greater. They are usually more ruthless and not as struck by the wonder of it all. I, myself, am still amazed at what I can do, even after almost 600 years. But the females seem to slide right into the... role with no teething problems."
Corineus was becoming more impressed with his friend's growing grasp of the modern vernacular.
"And," countered Jim, "I imagine you're going to tell me how this concerns us?" His tone of voice was bordering nine out of ten on the angry and severely pissed off scale.
Blair watched the Sentinel carefully, the antagonism making him uncomfortable. His eyes flicked to Corineus, remembering the man's protective nature towards his maker. Corineus smiled at him in an attempt to calm him, as if to reassure him he wasn't taking offence. Blair smiled back, disconcerted, the man could read him far too easily for his liking.
Michael ignored Jim's tone and continued, "She would have seen Sagremor's thoughts as he died. There have been...others of our kind who have told us they encountered her over the past few months. She is looking for Corineus and no doubt she knows about Blair's involvement. Sagremor's...feelings for him would have been strong towards the end. The fact that Blair was the one to actually kill him would make her hunt for him all the more keen."
Blair fidgeted, running his hand through his hair. He had no memory of killing Sagremor, Michael having lifted that memory from him moments after it had happened.
Jim looked at him, feeling his nervousness even from where he stood. "And you think she can trace us?"
"The last sighting of her was three weeks ago in Portland. Too close for comfort, if you ask me."
Jim sat down again, waving his hand at the slim man to slow him down. He had the feeling he wasn't quite keeping up here. "Hold on, how did you discover all this again?"
Michael sighed. The mortals had no grasp of the network that existed amongst the friendlier of their kind. "Someone I've known for some time, Denzel, told me she was hunting for us. He'd heard it from one he knows in Europe. Word gets around, particularly when it involves a rare female. Not many would want one of them on their trail. She hasn't killed anyone yet, I mean, none of our kind. Quite surprising, they think nothing of ridding themselves of their own kind when they come across them."
"OK, so now we have a psychopathic vampire female after Blair?" Jim rubbed his eyes in tiredness and lay his head back against the couch. "Typical."
Blair had yet to utter a word. He watched the other three worriedly, embarrassed at being a target, yet again. He felt as if it was all his fault, somehow. He knew that wasn't what Jim meant to convey in his tone but he felt guilty nonetheless. His quiet question was almost missed but all three looked over at him.
"What?" Jim asked.
"What are my chances?" came the soft query again.
Jim looked at him blankly, taken aback by the fatalistic question and stunned into speechlessness.
Michael smiled at him in encouragement, but the few seconds hesitation told Blair all he wanted to know and he didn't quite hear Michael's statement that he would be fine with them nearby.
I'm dead, thought Blair.
Selket looked at the body at her feet. She shook the guilty feelings from her mind with a quick shake of her head. The mortal had served his purpose in life, to provide sustenance for a higher life form. Her long legs stepped over the still form and carried her away from the carnage.
She had been in the city of Cascade for a week now and no closer to finding her quarry. She had a faint memory of a view of some apartment from the outside but she had no idea where, exactly, it was. She could find none with a similar memory and would have to keep searching.
She had time, all the time in the world. But she didn't have the patience to match.
Jim rushed past Michael to reach the phone before it clicked over to the answering machine. It was early, only 6am, and he had only just risen from his warm bed. Michael smiled at him, and at his favourite blue shorts, as Ellison barked into the handset.
"Ellison! Sorry, Simon, just got up. You what?"
Michael's smile slowly slid from his face. He could hear what Bank's was saying and the slim vampire looked over to Corineus who was just leaving Blair's room. Both watched as Ellison finished his conversation with the police captain.
"I'll be in as soon as I can." Jim settled the handset into its cradle and went to the kitchen to make coffee. He could feel two sets of eyes boring into his back, waiting for answers.
"What...." Michael started, but Ellison's growl stopped him.
"He doesn't need to be watched that closely. What the hell were you doing in his room, anyway?" the irate detective asked Corineus rudely.
"We were talking. I was acquainting him with the nuances of our kind."
Ellison graced Corineus with a look that would have shrivelled lesser men. Corineus returned the look with an infuriating smile that told Ellison that was all the answer he could expect. The silent standoff was interrupted by the topic of their angst walking from his bedroom, open book in hand.
"I've found another one." Blair navigated, incident free, around furniture, despite his nose being buried in the book. "This one talks of Sierra Leone and its myths regarding...."
Eyes. Looking at him. Blair dragged his own from the pages that had him captivated and looked up at the three men scrutinising him.
Jim rubbed his eyes and slammed the cup he had been holding onto the counter, its contents splashing over the lip. "I'm sorry, Corineus, ignore me. I'm just a bit jumpy after Simon's call."
"I heard part of what he said. It's starting again, isn't it?" Michael asked.
"Yeah, they found a body yesterday and another last night. Completely drained. But she's a lot more bloodthirsty than Sagremor, they were almost torn apart. Kidneys missing from both. Apparently the database has traced similar killings for the past few months leading from New York, across to Chicago, through North Dakota, Montana. Basically, a beeline straight for us."
Corineus seated himself at the kitchen table. "She's here, then. It's only a matter of time."
Blair swallowed. The room suddenly felt hot and he had the strange notion of wanting to go for a walk. He backed away from the others, retracing his steps back into his room. Throwing his book onto the bed he dressed hurriedly. Jeans, a thick shirt and his old hiking boots. Thoughts ran through his mind that normally would have taken him by surprise. Tough boots, easy to run in. Jeans can hold up under a lot of stress and the thick shirt won't be easily torn in a fight.
He jammed his Swiss army knife into his back pocket along with the small bottle of lighter fluid which he kept in his room since the encounter with Sagremor. He tied his hair back to keep it off his face and picked up his back-pack. In this he put a packet of waterproof matches and his cellphone with its spare battery. Sitting on his bed he glanced around the room trying to think if he had forgotten anything.
Standing, he left his room and made for the fridge. Bottled water. This he shoved into his backpack. Car keys, by the door, get them on the way out. He walked quickly to the coffee table and grabbed up his notebook and pens, shoving them into his bag as well.
Through all this he was watched. The three men not saying anything as they watched the young man go into survival mode.
"Blair...." Jim attempted, but he was unheard.
It wasn't until Blair made for the front door that the younger man remembered they were even there. And that was only due to Corineus standing in his way with his hand on the door handle. Blair stopped and looked at him.
"Blair, what do you think you're doing?" the tall man asked gently.
"Gotta move, man. Can't stay here waiting for her to come knocking."
Corineus looked down at him and smiled. "Don't you think you'd be better off waiting for us."
"Nup. Move faster alone. If she's smart enough to track me to Cascade then she's smart enough to find my home. Be safer for us all if I just moved about."
Corineus' smile slid off his face. The kid was serious. He fully intended to leave the safety the three of them offered and take his chances. What was he thinking? Corineus couldn't see where this logic was coming from.
Jim suspected he could. "Moving about isn't an option, Sandburg, you're staying with us. We can afford you better protection than you can on your own...."
Blair rounded on him. "You think so, man? What happened last time? Who got me out of that one?" He hadn't meant for it to sound the way it did, but he was fast reaching the end of a very short tether.
Ellison looked at him, not surprised. Bingo. The kid was right. Blair had taken Sagremor on alone, and won. They had arrived in time to mop up the aftermath.
But he still wasn't going. "You're staying with us," he answered adamantly.
"Fight or flight, Jim. I choose flight this time."
Corineus took his backpack from his shoulder. "You're staying with us."
Blair looked at the man again and then past his shoulder at the others. Jim's face was grim and he knew, from experience, that he would be unmovable. Michael watched him quietly, his gaze unwavering. He knew the young man's incentive for leaving, having had similar motives himself in the past. But Blair was badly mistaken in this circumstance. His intentions may not have exactly been to run and draw the threat after him but it would have had the same result. She would have pursued him to the neglect of her other quarry until she had him.
Blair's eyes went blank as he thought of what he had been about to do. He moved away from the door and sat at the kitchen table, his head in his hands. Michael looked at his hands and picked at his nails in thought, mind whirling. He could only suppose the impending doom this young mortal imagined. The threat was real and it was frightening, even to him, for he wasn't sure himself whether they had a chance against her. He didn't know how close she was or her age. Only her name. Selket.
Simon Banks chewed his unlit cigar to the point of pulverisation, and graced his detective with the worst glower he could manage at such short notice. Ellison refused to look at him and Simon felt a glimmer of pride that he could still intimidate one such as Jim Ellison. But that did little to help Simon's mood. He had just told Corineus to take a seat and could barely contain his anger at the fact that the man was even there.
Three bodies, just like last time. Certain organs missing and he faintly remembered some outrageous premise with the earlier case about vampires being involved. Corineus wasn't visiting in an official capacity but the reason he gave proved more problematic. Someone was on their trail to avenge the death of the murderer they had managed to stop months before. This wasn't at all neat enough for Simon's liking.
He had reserved his best deadly glare yet for Blair when he was told that the chief target was their own resident anthropologist. Michael had shown remarkable tact when he announced that Blair was buying him a cup of coffee and ushered the young man out of the office before Simon could erupt.
His own target gone, Simon turned his annoyance to the remaining two. Corineus, in his infuriating high-handed way, had attempted to deflect Simon's anger away from Ellison and onto himself. He had hoped that Simon would be more civil to a visiting colleague but he was wrong. He found himself on the receiving end of a severe dressing-down and the tall man was as stunned into silence as Ellison had been.
Brown looked up from his desk and spotted Blair. All could hear the murmured sounds of an angry Captain Banks through the closed door and he wondered, not for the first time, whether Blair had anything to do with it. Brown also saw a young man he recognised standing next to his friend. He remembered him from months before and he hadn't liked him.
Blair smiled at Henri's approach. He could see the strange look on his friend's face as he regarded Michael. Brown had taken an instant dislike to Michael before and Blair could see the prejudice rising to the fore again.
"Hi, Henri, been up to much lately?" Blair said attempting to engage the detective in conversation.
Henri didn't remove his eyes from the too smug look on the strange man's face as he answered, "Not much, Blair. You back again?" The last question had been for Michael.
Michael smiled at the tall, black man. "Yes, we're collaborating again on another case. Extradition proceedings and all that."
Henri bristled. He could tell when he was being bluffed and what really annoyed him was the feeling that the other knew he knew and didn't care. Blair thought quickly how to assuage the situation but nothing presented itself and he had the feeling his mouth was hanging open.
The problem was avoided, however, when Michael asked: "Haven't you got any work to do?" and Henri replied, almost immediately: "Yes, I do," and he left.
Blair looked at Michael from the corner of his eye. "Did you do that?"
Michael sighed. "It was becoming boring. That man dislikes me immensely and, frankly, I don't have the time. Lead on, MacDuff."
Blair decided not to press the issue further. He could get his answers later. They were just about to go through the doors of Major Crimes when Banks' bellow screamed across the room at them.
Blair sighed quietly. No coffee. He swivelled about, head down like a man on his way to execution, and made his way back to Simon's office, Michael in tow. Upon entering he remained in the doorway until Banks levelled his stare on him and pointed at a chair. He took a seat, Michael behind him.
Banks sat down himself and steepled his fingers before his face as he regarded the young man through them. "Blair," his voice was like silk and Blair's head shot up at the sound of it, "they tell me you're in trouble, that someone might be headed this way because of something you did in the capture of this Sagremor."
Blair wasn't fooled by the dulcet tones. "Uh, yes." The explosion would occur at any moment and he steeled himself for it.
Banks leant back in his chair. "Jesus, kid, are you ever gonna lead a normal life?" he asked softly.
Blair couldn't answer. Simon's tone had completely thrown him and he had no answer to that type of question. The permutations of it unsettled him as he knew the only way he would lead a normal life was if Jim wasn't in it and *that* didn't even enter into the equation as far as he was concerned.
"I'm not angry with you, kid," Simon continued, "I blame these others totally." Simon flicked his gaze at the other three men. "I know there are some things I'm not being let in on here but you should know that you'll have our full protection."
Jim looked at his captain, gratitude swelling within. His captain had read Blair's predicament correctly and had instinctively known that their young friend would be shaken by what was happening. He resolved, at that moment, that Simon would be fully apprised of what Corineus and Michael really were and the extent of the threat they were facing.
Banks took in the subdued expression on Blair's face. "Will you three please excuse us, I want to talk to Jim a moment."
Blair nodded and stood to leave. Pausing, he turned back to Banks briefly. "Thanks, Simon." He left the room with Corineus and Michael.
Banks watched them close the door behind them and then looked at his detective. "I think you owe me a better explanation, Jim."
Ellison met his eyes guardedly. "You'll need an open mind for this one, Captain."
Banks settled back in readiness for what he suspected was a ripper of an explanation.
Sonny Travers watched his life flash before his eyes. He was only thirty seven and it hadn't been much of a life so far. He hung from a grip that was easily thrice his own strength and he knew his death was imminent.
Selket gazed deep into the eyes of her prey and licked his face. He had suffered from bad acne as a teenager and his face was pock-marked but, to her, his skin smelt sweet enough to eat. She could tell from his thoughts that he'd never been popular with the girls as a result of the scarring and she took a moment longer to see deeper into his memories out of curiosity.
She saw, in her mind's eye, his brother. A cruel man who played on his younger brother's quieter nature. But Sonny Travers was no angel. He had killed four people in the past year and Selket grinned as she squeezed his throat. She loved taking evil-doers and she smoothed his sweat-slicked hair out of his eyes.
Her smile froze. A familiar face. A face known to her Sagremor.
"Who is this tall man with blue eyes you think about?" she demanded.
Sonny looked at her in terror. "What?"
She tightened her grip, her fingers managing to press through the scarred skin of his neck into the redness of the flesh beneath. "The man you see! Tall with blue eyes. Strong."
Sonny had a sudden flare of brilliance. "Ellison! I was just thinking of Ellison! You know him?" He thought he saw a way out for himself. Maybe she knew Ellison. Sonny hoped his brother would appear soon. The strange woman had accosted him just outside the Central Club where his brother was currently conducting business.
"Know him? I want him dead!" Selket growled at him.
Sonny saw another possible avenue open up. "I can help you there," he gurgled past the vice grip, trying his best to ignore the nauseating slickness around his throat where her fingers held him, "I can arrange that for you...."
Selket looked deep into his eyes, her face mere inches from his and he peered into their pale brown depths. How beautiful, he thought. She smiled at that. So simple.
"No, thank you," she jerked her hand and snapped his neck, "Never send a man to do a woman's job."
Standing up straight she regarded the limp body she still held. The light was draining from his eyes as his body died. His final thoughts were of his parents but she was more concerned with what he had been thinking about moments before. The little wannabe drug lord had known this Ellison's street.
Selket played the image of Ellison over in her mind. A strong, handsome face and the bluest of eyes. Dropping the corpse she proceeded to leave the alley and its stench of rotting garbage. To her left a door swung open and a man stepped out into the daylight. She recognised him instantly. The dead one's brother.
Hitler Travers looked at the body of Sonny and then he looked at the woman standing over him. Blood dripped from her fingers and she was smiling at him! He was paralysed with shock as she made to move away but then found his voice.
"You bitch! What did you do?"
Selket turned to him again and laughed. Hitler Travers could only watch as his brother's murderer walked quickly away, disappearing around the corner. He dropped to his knees before Sonny and gathered him into his arms. His men burst from the club into the alleyway at that moment and stopped, shocked, at the sight of their boss crying over the body of his brother.
Blair watched Michael from where he sat on the couch. They had returned home after Simon's promise to join them that night after work and discuss what they were going to do. Jim was in the kitchen preparing some dinner for them and Corineus had stepped out for a while.
He was dying to ask the young vampire some questions but didn't want to appear rude. He wanted to ask about the witch hunts and Michael's narrow escape but wasn't sure how to broach the subject. Shamans were among the earliest forms of witches and he needed to know if Michael knew more.
He had managed to find details about white shamans and black shamans, the latter communing with the spirits of the underworld and performing acts of justice for them. The white shaman communed with more benign spirits and held the belief of doing no harm.
Blair suddenly realised that Michael had caught him watching him. He blushed and smiled awkwardly.
"You have some questions for me, young scholar?"
That opened the flood gate. Blair left his seat and moved to sit next to Michael, his eagerness evident.
"Umm, can you tell me about the witch hunts? What happened to you?"
Jim looked up from the vegetables he was chopping at what he thought was a rather tactless question from his partner. Jim had a sudden thought and looked at the knife he was using. It was the same knife that Corineus had used to demonstrate what he was, all those months ago. He visualised the man plunging it into his arm and turned dropping it into the bin. He'd buy another one.
Michael didn't seem to take offence at Blair's query and tried to answer as best he could. "It was nothing like the witch trials of Massachusetts...."
"You mean Salem," Blair interrupted.
"Yes," Michael confirmed, patiently, "Salem happened a couple of years after my brush with death but was, essentially, the same. I had grown too used to where I was living and far too attached. I had fallen in love with a girl who lived there and we married. But after a while it became obvious I was different. I'd lived there for some twenty years and, while she aged, I didn't. Couldn't exactly chalk it up to good moisturiser in those days and so I was accused of being a witch. Lucky for me I was living in Cornwall and Corineus had returned home just as I was arrested."
Blair could see the story was becoming difficult for the other to tell but his insatiable curiosity won out. "What happened to your wife?"
Michael turned and looked at him. It had been over 300 years and it still stung as if it were yesterday. "She was my accuser."
Blair blinked at him, "What?"
"Sarah, my wife, was my accuser. It was on her word that I was incarcerated. She testified to seeing me cavort with the devil during the full moon. Truth be known, she probably saw me with a kill so I can't blame her entirely. Her first beau still lived in the village, a soldier, and he hated me so my trial went by without a hitch and I found myself locked up."
"That's awful," Blair breathed. He could see the pain was still just as acute for the man and decided not to press for any more information, but Michael continued on regardless.
"Corineus came home the night before my sentence was to be carried out. He was duly horrified at what he perceived to be a grave misjustice born of superstition and he let me go. He took me to his camp with the intent of giving me provisions and....I made him what he is today."
Michael pushed off his shoes and tucked his legs up under him, lacing his arms about his knees and drawing his legs closer. An affectation of a human display of self-comfort that he still did purely out of habit. But it had the unconscious effect of eliciting caring in the young man near him.
"It's okay, we don't have to keep talking about this...."
"No, I want to. I've not really talked to anyone about this before. I don't mind if you two hear it."
Jim stiffened. Of course the vampire would know he could hear every word that was said. Jim returned his attention back to dinner but listened anyway.
"We left the next day. I was consumed with guilt over what I had done despite Corineus saying that he had wanted it. I had virtually no memory of it as we'd started drinking to my rescue once we made it back to his camp. I never intended to make progeny. I knew they could be stronger and it was considered stupid to make them. Corineus was naturally stronger than me anyway and I wondered for years whether he would destroy his maker."
"But he didn't."
"No, but it was on the cards. I'd known two others who were destroyed by their children and I waited for it to happen to me."
"He loves you."
Michael looked at him. "It took me a while to see that. The vampire rubbed his hands up and down his shins, becoming slightly nervous at what he was about to tell his young friend. "You know, I went back to my wife just before she died."
Blair's curiosity peaked again. "What for?"
"She was eighty years old, or close to it, and her body was failing her. I wanted her to know she had been right and I wanted to watch her die. I crept into her house one night and appeared to her in all my youth. She was too frail to call for help and the sight of me terrified her. I watched her die. Corineus and I left for Europe the next day."
Blair nodded, wondering why he accepted the strangeness of it all. But, for some reason, he did. Michael allowed the conversation to grind to a halt and die a natural death. Much like the one his first wife experienced. He didn't elaborate that, on her last night, he had knelt near her bed and whispered in her ear what he was and how many of his kind were around. He had told her of how he killed and how many had met their death at his hands. He had delighted in her horrified expression as she listened, unable to move, to his terrifying oratory of death. At the time he had felt no remorse and revelled in his cruelty.
Her betrayal had been devastating to him and he had never forgiven her. Her body had been ravaged by disease and, as he watched, he had fancied he could see its insidious fingers working its way through her frail frame. At her last breath he smiled and showed her his fine, sharp teeth. She died in horror but he had seen it a fitting end to his betrayer. For, while Corineus often killed for him, Michael had a cruel streak that his honourable offspring would never possess. Michael found himself wondering, again, that young Blair failed to pick up on this vicious streak within him but the Sentinel knew him for what he was.
Blair's curious voice pressed at him again, "Tell me about your travels through Europe. I don't mean to be annoying but you have no idea how fascinating all this is to me. I mean, you have centuries of knowledge, things that you have experienced that no one has ever seen first hand."
Michael smiled indulgently. "My memory isn't that good, Blair. Of course, I'd love to tell you of things as I remember them, but I'm no historian. I couldn't give you exact dates but I can tell you of the wonders I've seen that no one alive could ever know. The smell of the air before combustion engines arrived, the taste of the water before mass population. I could tell you of England when plague crept through the streets and people were afraid to even speak with another they did not know for fear of the pestilence passing through the air and finding its way into them. I can tell you of the wonder of electricity being seen for the first time and the first plane, the first car...."
Blair was watching him, open mouthed, as the vampire trailed off into silence. He was mesmerised by the things this man must have seen, things he would only ever know through old drawings in books and movie re-enactments.
Michael noticed the stunned stare being directed at him. "It's not all beer and skittles, young scholar, I also got to see the first two world wars break out. I got to see unjust penal systems lock away people for torture merely for speaking out against the state. I learnt early on in my...life...not to make mortal friends because I'd have to leave them eventually or watch them grow old and die. I'd led a solitary life for over 200 years before meeting Corineus and, even then, I waited for almost 50 years for him to retaliate and dispose of me in revenge for what I had done."
"Dinner's ready," Jim's voice startled them both and broke the spell of wonder that Blair had fallen into.
The young man stood and joined the detective at the table. Jim had set places for their two guests as well but Michael excused himself saying he would get something to eat later. Blair looked at Jim as the tall man dropped his gaze at his plate of chicken pasta, grimacing. Their eyes met and both knew they were suddenly not very hungry, knowing fully well what Michael meant to do.
However, Blair's stomach rumbled and he steeled himself to eat what had been kindly prepared for him. Jim watched him a few moments before managing to block out thoughts of Michael's future meal and began to pick at his own food.
"Corineus has returned," Michael announced and a knock at the door proved him correct.
Corineus entered, smiling at them all and placed a hand on Michael's arm in affection. Michael caught his gaze and returned the smile. In that instant he knew Blair had read him right and a rare affection had resulted between the two vampires. The maker and his child, as dear to each other as their own lives.
"You don't seem well, Michael. Go and feed and I'll stay."
Michael nodded and reluctantly pulled from Corineus' grip, leaving the loft quickly. Corineus walked to the couch and collapsed gracefully into it. He decided not to join the two at the table, not having missed Jim's look of concern when he had told Michael to leave and feed.
Blair watched his roommate, careful to not let Jim catch him at it. Jim knew, however, and decided not to cause a scene for the sake of peace. One thing was beginning to get on his nerves and that was the relay team the two vampires had going. One would stay while the other was gone. He knew it was petty, thinking that way, Corineus and Michael were present solely as protection but it angered him that they were even in this predicament and, perhaps irrationally, he blamed their two houseguests.
Dinner finished, Blair cleaned up and Jim excused himself and went to bed. Blair could sense the uneasy toleration that existed again between vampires and Sentinel. Their time together would be a trial and Blair regretted that. The two vampires fascinated him in a way that not many other things did. He began to feel more and more at ease with the two creatures of myth, almost as if he knew they would never harm him. He knew that Jim did not feel the same sense of kinship but that was the nature of the beast. The Sentinel didn't have cause to trust many and it was probably safer if he didn't.
Upstairs, sitting on the edge of his bed still clothed, Jim listened to Blair begin his tentative questioning of Corineus and the things the man had come across in his long life. He listened as the vampire humoured him and told him of his life when still mortal. He happily regaled Blair with tales of his travels through Europe with Michael and of when they met Bethany, she and Michael marrying shortly after she had crossed over.
Jim stripped off and settled into bed, drifting into an uneasy sleep while Corineus' deep voice floated up to him.
Hitler Travers watched the plume of smoke lift into the air from the end of the man's cigarette. He twitched his nose in irritation, thinking it a dirty habit. But he didn't voice his displeasure because he was here seeking the help of this man.
Richard Planer was a criminal of many years experience and it amused him no end that the new kid on the block had come to him for help. He didn't doubt for a moment that little Hitler had been planning his demise sometime in the near future, his brother's untimely departure probably putting that one on the back burner for a time. He resolved to allow this 'Hitler' as he called himself to put forth his case and then he'd have him killed.
"You have a little problem," a statement, not a question, "how do you think I can help you?"
Travers swallowed and met the old man's gaze squarely. Planer gave him credit for the courage of being able to do at least that.
"My brother was murdered yesterday. I want help in finding the woman that did it."
Planer's eyebrows rose in undisguised surprise. "A woman?"
"I heard them talking before I walked out of the club. I thought he was just chatting up some piece and I heard them mention Ellison."
This got more and more interesting by the moment. "Our illustrious Detective Ellison?" Planer didn't have a lot against the detective but the irritating man had managed to cramp his style on more than a few occasions.
"She was looking for him. I walked out just as she broke Sonny's neck. I don't know who she was, never seen her before, but I want her dead. If you can help me with this I'm sure you would benefit from my co-operation from time to time. You know, an exchange of information when needed," Travers completed his offer with a slick smile designed to charm.
It didn't. Planer didn't like Travers. The man was a whining creature, nothing like the old school.
Travers continued, convinced the old man's silence translated into acquiescence, "I asked around the Central Club and she'd been seen there a couple of times over the past few days. She's looking for someone and I think that someone's Ellison."
Planer regarded the younger thug a moment before answering. "I'll ask around, see if I can come up with anything. I'll let you know."
Travers smiled inwardly. Planer had a myriad of connections and he was confident that the old man's people could uncover something to help him find this woman. He nodded his thanks, keeping his face serious, and left.
Planer thought for a while before calling one of his men into the room.
Henri Brown noticed the appealing young woman the moment he stepped from the lift. Her long dark hair fell to her waist and her black pants hugged her in all the right places. As he walked slowly past he caught mention of Ellison and decided it would be chivalrous of him to help.
"Excuse me? You after Jim Ellison?" he asked her, drawing her attention from the policewoman on the front desk.
Dark brown eyes looked him up and down and Henri stopped his own appraisal of her. He had the distinct impression she was sizing him up like a slab of meat. Very unflattering.
"Yes," her voice was like silk, "I'm told he's a detective here."
"Yes, would you like me call him down?" Henri had changed his mind about her. She wasn't as beautiful as he had first thought. She made him uneasy and he wanted out.
"No. No need. I'll catch him later. Thank you," she purred.
As she left the building Henri shivered. She was definitely creepy, he thought. He looked at Beverley behind the front desk and could see she had come to the same conclusion. He hurried back to the elevator, deciding to forego lunch and tell Ellison about her.
As he reached its doors he was pushed out of the way by the young man that had been hanging around with Blair, the one he didn't like, as he exited the elevator. Michael shoved him to one side in his rush to the front doors. Brown watched as the young man skid to a halt, holding his head to one side as if listening. Michael swore, none too quietly, and turned back to Brown who was stepping into the elevator. Brown held the button to keep the doors open as Michael stepped back in, the young man swearing under his breath the whole time.
On gaining the floor to Major Crimes Michael stepped to one side, allowing Brown to leave first but then followed him all the way to Ellison's desk. Brown stopped beside his fellow detective, not happy when the other man halted directly behind him.
"Jim? There was a real strange woman downstairs asking for you. Well, about you, she didn't want you paged."
Ellison looked over Brown's shoulder at Michael. The vampire had said he felt something headed their way and now Ellison knew what.
"Thanks, Henri, I think I know who it was."
Brown nodded and went back to his own desk, happy to be away from the one called Michael.
Concluded in Part Two...