Enforcement Matters
by David J Duncan


Note: Nick, Natalie, LaCroix, Tracy, Divia, Jenny, Myra, Schanke, Janette, Vachon, the Enforcers, and Alyce are all characters from "Forever Knight" which is owned by Sony Tri-Star. Xena, Gabrielle, Eli, the archangel Michael, and Eve are from Xena Warrior Princess which is owned by Studios USA and was created by Rob Tapert and John Schulian. All other characters are fictious and are of my own creation.

Thanks to Emily, Jarvinia, and Mindi for their insightful comments. As always, their ideas have improved the story which you are about to read.

Comments are appreciated!  Please send them to dante0220@yahoo.com

Prologue (Fifteen years before "Trouble in Toronto")

Traffic creaked slowly through the center of Scituate, MA on the third weekend of May. Horns honked, cars idled, exhaust hung heavily in the air, and tempers sizzled. Fourth in line at the traffic light by Maple and State Streets, a yellow Subaru sat waiting for its turn. Its owner tapped his fingers impatiently on the dashboard.

"C'mon, c'mon...." the young man hissed at the doddering red light. "Figures." He ran his fingers through his chestnut brown hair and glanced at his watch. 7:30 PM. At least, he still had an hour before he needed to be at his college roommate's house across town. "Chill out, Dave," he told himself. "Classes are over for the Summer, and Karen will be flying in this weekend. Just take it easy."


Finals at the U of A had not been easy. Dave had completed a gauntlet of papers and tests. But, even more trying was the bizarre incident which took place during Dr. Tony Samuelsohn's last class of the semester. The lecture, aimed at discussing the Crusades and the Crusaders' impact on Europe and the Holy Land, proved fascinating. As with his other sessions, Dr. S. held his students' attention tightly. But, as he started into a discussion of a particular Flemish knight, a strange intruder halted the proceedings. The visitor was slim yet well-built with piercing icy eyes, a closely-shaved head, and an aura which seemed to project a regal persona. This man's presence told the bystanders that he usually got what he wanted without much argument.

"You will stop this discussion," the man ordered.

Dr. Samuelsohn stared at the intruder incredulously, "Excuse me?"

The other repeated himself, "You will stop this discussion, now." His eyes seemed to bore into the professor's consciousness.

Dave, for his part, felt a throbbing start in his own head. The spasms had started again and whatever this jerk was doing was only making them worse.

The professor's eyes went blank and he nodded, "I...will not...go any...further."

"Good," the intruder crooned with a soft yet threatening undertone. "I would hate to have to use more force. Now, dismiss this rabble and leave."

The instructor nodded and turned toward his class. "You...are...dismissed."

This forced maneuver forced Dave over the edge. Standing up from his front row seat, he tensed and began to snarl, "Why...that sonuva..."

Andy Faulkner, his best friend, grabbed his arm. "Sit down! You wanna be next?" he asked.

"The asshole can try, but nobody ...does... that," Dave smoldered.

Andy shuddered. He had known Dave since junior high school. Despite the latter's friendly personality and wit, a bad temper had lurked beneath the surface. There had been several close calls throughout the years with his emotions. As a result, everyone wondered what would happen if Dave ever truly lost it and had nobody there to help him to stop....

The stranger glanced at them. "Let's not make a scene," he advised.

"Too late for that," Dave retorted. His eyes burned into the intruder's. "You picked this fight, Buster."

"I see that I must...discipline you as well," the other shook his head and directed his glare at the college student.

Dave gripped his head tightly as the pounding escalated. The figure and the room seemed to be turning crimson.

"You will forget," the man stated.

"Like Hell," Dave glowered.

The man frowned and redoubled his efforts. "You will forget...." he repeated, his eyes turning a slight shade of yellow.

Dave smiled wickedly. "And I said. like Hell!" He closed his eyes and shook off the stranger's spell. Then, he glared at his attacker. "Surprise, I can't be hypnotized! So, I guess you can go jump in a lake...of holy water."

The intruder snarled. This one would be trouble. He advised the inpudent student, "Mark my words, you will rue this day. I will come for you in a more...private setting."

The college student sniggered derisively, "Anytime. And may I ask the name of my creditor?"

The other nodded, "Yes, you may call me, LaCroix. And we will meet again."

"I'm sure," the enraged student found himself saying.

LaCroix shrugged and took off through the open skylight and back into the night from which he had come leaving chaos in his wake.


Ten minutes after he had cleared the traffic light, Dave parked his car in Andy's driveway. He was sure that this was going to be a great weekend after all of the hard work. Then, he saw Andy sprinting hard toward him. His face was pasty white and he trembled.

"Andy, what's wrong?" Dave insisted. "Is your family okay?"

His friend leaned against the Subaru and took two minutes to regain his breath. Finally, he nodded, "We're fine, Dave. But, it's Dr. Samuelsohn...."

"What about him?" Dave demanded anxiously.

"He called about fifteen minutes ago," his friend puffed nervously. "He sounded...scared. Something about his new find and that class last month."

Dave's mind flashed back over those events. Dr. S. had unearthed a manuscript in Eastern Europe containing several hereto-before untold secrets of the Medieval world. While this discovery excited many people, it sparked a rash of death threats culminating in the classroom incident.

"I'm sure that your folks will understand if I go there now, " Dave explained.

"I...I guess. Dave, what did you do when you provoked that guy?" Andy pushed.

"Nothing that wouldn't have happened anyhow," Dave asserted and sped away toward the north.


Tony Samuelsohn hurriedly poured over the notes spread across the oak desk in his study. Something in these memoirs was unnerving people. But what was it? And what would happen to him and his wife, Pauline, because of it?

Suddenly, he heard a crash coming from the kitchen. "Pauline?" he called.

"Tony! Help me!" she wailed.

Rising from his chair, he heard her scream once more. "No!" he realized and ran toward the kitchen. There, he found his wife lying motionlessly on the floor. He franitcally felt her wrist for a pulse. He noticed that her head was turned at an awkward angle signifying that someone had broken her neck.

"Samuelsohn," a dark voice beckoned.

The professor turned to see a strange man standing directly behind him...or what seemed to be a man at least. The visitor's eyes glowed crimson and his fangs glistened in the moonlight.

"You were warned," the intruder continued. "Now, you will be disposed of." He signaled with his right hand.

Suddenly, Samuelsohn felt his arms being restrained. From nowhere, a medium-built Oriental man and a Caucasian male held him fast. "What?"

"You are going to die," the leader smiled coldly and bent over the professor's neck, his fangs descending toward the target.

Suddenly, the screeching of tires on the asphalt in front of the house grabbed the intruder's attention. He turned his head toward the window. "Wu Han! Deal with it!" he ordered.

The Oriental nodded and strolled through the front door.

"Now, you die," the vampire hissed.

Prologue (continued)

Dave screeched his car to a halt in front of his mentor's Cambridge home. The young man shook his head fearfully. When his relations with his father had deteriorated, Dave had found support with his advisor and Mrs. Samuelsohn. When he had needed a helping hand, they had been there for him. Now, it was time to return the favor. Crawling into the back seat, he found his bow and quiver full of shafts. While several shafts didn't have tips, their sharpened edges would have to suffice. "Hang on, Doc!" he pleaded and bolted toward the house.

About halfway there, a figure dropped out of the sky, alighting in front of him. The Oriental figure was of medium-build with long raven-black hair which he wore braided down his back. His clean-shaven face was pale, his eyes glowed blood-red, and his fangs glistened in the moonlight. By all of the signs, he was a vampire.

"You should not have come. Now you die," Wu Han asserted.

Dave shook his head frantically. The figure in front of him inspired terror. His pulse quickened, his breathing grew shallow. "What have you done with Dr. Samuelsohn?" he demanded, albeit more forcefully than he felt.

The Asian vampire growled, "By now, he is dead. Do not worry. I will send you to meet him!"

That statement, meant as a preliminary threat, proved a provocative turning point. For, at that moment, Dave's spasms began anew. "Over...my dead...body," he protested.

Han snarled, "Parents should have taught brat better!" Before Dave could react, the Enforcer backhanded the young man, sending him into the massive oak behind him.

The graduate student sighed fretfully. Pain wracked his body. Frigid icy daggers stabbed at his brain. He hadn't felt like this since his father had done the same to him. His father...Dave had sworn that nobody would touch him like that again. From deep inside of his head, a terrible roar echoed.

The attacker stopped as his senses detected this transformation. Somehow, the latter's aura changed and a darker threat was surfacing. No matter, the interloper would be dead in another minute....

Suddenly, the young man's left eye snapped open and a giant leer spread across his face. "I'm...I'm free!!!" he screamed malevolently and turned on Han. "You..." The open eye started to glow and from nowhere, a blast hit the Enforcer.

Han landed across the lawn, bruised by the energy pulse, and admittedly, unnerved by the other's transformation. Somehow, this young man was more than he appeared on the surface. No matter, the Code demanded his death and, as an Enforcer, Han was obligated to carry it out.

"I hope you aren't through yet," Dave chuckled. "I think you're finished." The enraged man focused on his scattered shafts. Once again, the energy flowed through him and outward. As if they had a mind of their own, the projectiles levitated into the air and flung themselves faster than even a vampire's senses could follow. With cold precision, two stakes pierced him to the house behind him.

Dave advanced on his nocturnal adversary menacingly. "Now, what to do with you? Oh, I wish that my father were here to see this!" he laughed and sent a third missile through the vampire's heart. "Now, to deal with the others..." he asserted and stalked purposefully through the open door.

From the darkness, another voice challenged, "What? Where is Wu Han?"

Dave turned to face the Caucasian Enforcer. "I finished him," the enraged student snickered, his tone much lower than before. "And you?" He pointed at his opponent and fired a burst, knocking the vampire from his feet. Taking another sharpened shaft from the quiver, he staked his opponent as well.

"Asshole," he hissed and entered the living room. Lying in front of him was the professor, painfully shuddering.

"D...David?" the elder man whispered.

"Not exactly," the student informed him and looked around. Someone else was in the room with them. Somehow, he could sense the other presence, but couldn't react before something hard hit him across the back of his head.

He turned to see another Caucasian vampire dressed in what appeared to be fifteenth century Burgundian fashion who glowered at him.

"And who are you supposed to be? Casanova on a bad day?" Dave stated.

"No," the lead Enforcer responded. "I am Bertrand du Dijon, and I am your death!"

"Big words, Peacock," Dave doubted and slammed Dijon with a pulse.

The latter fell backward, his arm reaching into the fireplace and catching fire. Dijon screamed painfully as he ripped the flaming sleeve off, and threw it onto the floor. Unfortunately, the arm was badly burned, and the Persian rug was going up in smoke as well. The young man would pay!

"What are you waiting for?" Dave challenged. "C'mon!"

Dijon tensed, only to hear a siren approaching them. The mortal authorities. "Damn them!" he hissed. To make matters worse, the whole room was ablaze. He would need to deal with this insolent mortal at another point. "Another time!" he cursed and took off through the open window.

Dave glowered at this act of apparent cowardice. But from within the recesses of his brain, his instincts guided him into his mentor's study. Somehow, in the midst of the thick, cloying smoke and blistering heat, he located his professor's desk. Looking at the pile of manuscripts on Samuelsohn's desk, he decided to save as many as possible. Working quickly, he managed to get the desk cleared as well as flinging the contents of the adjoining case and the packing tube through the open window. By then, the flames burst into the area, forcing him to retreat.

"The old man!" he growled and rushed into the living room. By now, the inferno had consumed the room and threatened the bodies of Dr. S. and his wife. Somehow, Dave dragged them out of the burning house and laid them on the lawn.

"D...David?" the professor inquired weakly. "There is someÉthing IÉneedÉtoÉtellÉyouÉ."

"I'll give him the message," the student replied cryptically.

"You...You must keep going. Don't...Don't stop for anything," the dying man insisted. "Promise me."

Dave nodded, "We...I...promise."

Samuelsohn smiled warmly, "You...were always...my favorite student. Make...me...proud." Then, he closed his eyes and passed away.

"P..Professor?" Dave pushed. The realization of what just happened cut through the angry fog in his mind, bringing the student back to his senses. "Doc, wake up! You can't leave me!" He grasped his mentor's shoulders and shook him hard. Then, perhaps realizing that there was nothing more that he could do, Dave set the elder man's head gently on the grass, and stood up slowly. With tears streaming down his face, the student looked up into the overcast evening and made a vow.

"We will meet again, Dijon. Count on it...and only one of us will walk away!!" he bellowed angrily. "Tonight, you have sown the wind...Tomorrow, the whirlwind will come, and it will come for you!" With that, he started to gather the strewn manuscripts before the rains came later that evening.

Chapter 1 (Back in the contemporary FK universe)

In a darkened chamber on Toronto's west side, a council of vampires had congregated to discuss recent infractions of the Code and how to deal with them. While the Elders had often met to decide such matters, this group had taken matters into their own hands, lest the Community be exposed.

The vampire at the table's head demanded, "What are we to do then?"

"We have been punishing infractors," another immortal argued.

"But not conclusively enough!" the leader snapped. "Observe!" He produced a videotape and started the VCR and television set to his right. On the screen, the recent battles between Xena, Dave and LaCroix were played out. First in Toronto, then in Tucson, and finally, in Wabash. The final standoff between the librarian and Divia added emphasis to the Community's crisis. "You see...we are in danger from two forces here. First, these fights shed unnecessary light on our kind. Secondly, Dubois is an unchecked force...a renegade who needs to be dealt with!"

"What about the woman warrior?" an attractive redheaded vampiress interjected.

The leader nodded, "Yes...both Xena and Gabrielle would be considerable problems as well. Both would need to be dealt with as will the so-called Messenger of Eli."

"And the vampires? What of them? LaCroix is an elder. Since we don't want them interfering, certainly we wouldn't want to endanger his favorite or any of his companions...." she continued.

"They have broken the Code by revealing their existence to the mortal world. They should be dealt with. The Code makes no exceptions," the leader stated. LaCroix's favorite, Nicolas de Brabant, is a repeat offender and the fledgling, Alyce Hunter, has stepped out of line as well."

"And the mortals?" a red-haired immortal supposed.

"They must be eliminated as well, All of them," the leader urged. "Dijon?"

From the shadows, Dijon stepped into view. He had eagerly awaited his chance to kill the insolent mortal librarian. "Yes?"

"Why haven't you dealt with the mortals?" the leader demanded.

"The opportunity hadn't presented itself at that point," the Enforcer growled and rubbed his arm. Although the burns had healed long before, the hate and spite that he felt for Dave continued to burn brightly. "However, with your leave...."

"Yes, assemble a large group of your associates and deal with the situation!" the leader commanded.

"For Wu Han and Dubonay, it will be a honor," Dijon smiled wickedly. With a slight bow, he left the room.

The renegade vampires reclined in their seats. When the Burgundian set his mind on something, it was usually done. The situation would be dealt with soon...very soon indeed.


Chapter 2

A week later, Dave sat at the Reference desk, eagerly helping students to prepare for their exams. Nervous energy and tension filled the air as he took about fifty questions in a two hour span. Finally, just as the clock struck 9 PM, he closed up the station and shuffled his way up the stairs. Leaning slightly on the cane, which he had used since the surgery in Wabash, Dave favored his right knee on the way to his office. Unlocking the door, he made his way to the desk and the chair behind it.

"I wish my knee would feel better," he groused impatiently. Still, he knew that a rebuilt joint was a small price to pay after a fight with Divia. Considering the mortals and immortals that she had killed, he was lucky to be alive. Still, despite the fact that the last three months had been relatively peaceful, productive, and enjoyable, the familiar dread burned in his gut. Something didn't feel right....

"I wonder if the anniversary of Tony's death has me on edge?" he mused. He shuddered as the memories flooded his consciousness once again causing the Child to stir momentarily. As with Dijon, Dave harbored his feelings from that faithful evening. "Someday, I will find that slime," he affirmed.

Then, his psychic senses picked up on a pocket of emptiness approaching his office. The essence had a familiar feel...from the Raven. He waited for the cold spot to touch the door knob before swinging the door open. "Bonjour, Janette. Entre vous," he greeted.

The female vampire was taken aback by his greeting. However, she steeled herself and entered the room. "Merci, David. You are looking better these days since your tête a tête with LaCroix's daughter, eh?" she noted.

"Except for the stiffness in my knee, I'll agree with that," he nodded. "So, what brings you to Tucson?"

"My debt to you," she replied grimly.

"Your debt? For helping you? Nonsense, it was my pleasure. My apologies, however, Janette. I have no bloodwine," he disagreed.

The vampiress smiled at his kindness. "Nicolas picks his friends well," she concluded to herself. "I understand. In any case, David, I must warn you that the Enforcers are coming."

He sighed deeply. As usual, his instincts were dead-on accurate. This news meant trouble. Bad enough that LaCroix was permanently in town, but this situation could mean really serious danger. "And..?"

"And Dijon is heading the group himself, I understand," she continued.

" Dijon. So the jackal returns...finally," he nodded, a sinister smile crossing his features.

"I heard that he ran into a sticky situation...A bit of unfinished business," she reported.

"That's putting it mildly," he shrugged. "I heard that two Enforcers were staked and a house burnt itself to the ground. Dijon himself fled with a burned arm."

Janette studied the man in front of her. How would he know? Despite the rumors circulating among her kind for the past decade, no one mortal or immortal had dared to come forward in such a mannerÉ. Then, it hit her. "Mon Dieu! You were there, weren't youÉwhen the old professor, Samuelsohn, was killed?"

"Apparently, I was...Although, I don't remember much of it. I remember being attacked by Wu Han, the Oriental Enforcer, before blacking out. The next thing that I remember is the house burning, manuscripts all over the lawn, and my mentor lying dead in my arms," he noted. "I don't recall that episode, just like my memories of our confrontation are fuzzy at best."

She considered the librarian's words with great care. Of course, if what Nicolas and LaCroix had assumed was correct.... "So, the Enforcers went for Samuelsohn, but in doing so, encountered you," she guessed.

"Dijon's band released the Child. Accordingly, I guess you can say that the Enforcers are responsible for my situation," he stated. "And now, our mutual vendetta will be...addressed...one way or another." He opened the desk drawer and produced an oak stake.

She recoiled at the sight of this weapon. "Certainly, you aren't thinking of...."

"If he comes after me, I will have no hesitation. Janette, please understand. That murdering scum ripped a piece of me away...." he started and quaked suddenly. For a long minute, he sat silently. When he looked up again, the smile was painted across his face again. "When he killed the good doctor, Dijon hurt both of us. It's time to repay him for his kindness...."

The vampiress shuddered at his subtle shift between personalities. After that night in the Raven, she understood what it meant to be in the path of his rage. And on that evening, he had been in partial control The Community still buzzed over his clash with Divia and how easily he beat her to a pulp. When the Enforcers came, it would be essential to keep a close watch on his moods. "I see...." she said at last. "Well, I have delivered my message. Perhaps, you will do the sensible thing and avoid conflict."

He sighed and shuddered anew. The storm had abated as Dave once again took control. "If possible. After the last two events, I'm done for a while if I can help it," he asserted.

"I'm sure," she commented. "Well, if you will excuse me, I have other business to attend to."

"Of course, but, if you would allow me," he agreed and shuffled over to her.

She smiled and raised her right hand. Bending slightly at the waist, he kissed it. "Enchante, Madame. Au revoir."

Janette allowed her eyes to sparkle at him momentarily. Despite the boorish nature of his other personality, the librarian could be quite the gentleman when his senses were about him. "Merci. Bon soir," she replied pleasantly and departed back the way she came.

For a few minutes, Dave sat behind the desk, pondering what Janette had told him. Finally, realizing that it was getting quite late, he donned his coat and left the library himself.

Chapter 3

Natalie had typed for most of the evening at her computer. After three hours of work, she hit the "Print" button, allowing the printer to do its thing.

"Whew!" she sighed. "A good job completed!"

"I'm sure that you're glad to be finished," Annie, her assistant, surmised.

"Indeed, I am," the ME agreed. "Thanks for your help."

The intern flushed nervously, "I was just doing my job, Dr. LeBeau. But, I do appreciate it. Umm...do you have anything else for me to do tonight?"

Natalie looked at her watch. It read 10:15 PM. "Wow! I'm sorry, Annie. I'll try to let you out a little early tomorrow," she realized.

"Fifteen extra minutes isn't going to kill me," the younger woman shrugged.

"That's an admirable attitude, and I appreciate it. Look, I'll finish here. You book off, okay?" Natalie complemented.

"If you would like. Good night, Dr. LeBeau," Annie smiled and left the room.

Natalie watched the young woman leave the room. Annie was learning more and more every day. By the end of the year, she would be ready to be a fine coroner. At least, Angie Dubois and Michael Fishburne could pick good interns....

A sudden knocking at the door stirred her back to reality. "Yes?" she asked.

Tracy Brown stuck her head into the room. "Hi, Natalie. Got a minute?" she requested, a bit of moodiness evident in her tone.

Natalie wondered what had happened now. Ever since Nick and Tracy had become partners, they had difficulties trusting each other. The situation had become more difficult since she learned that he was a vampire. "Sure, Trace. What's up?"

Tracy stalked into the room. She seemed twitchy and bothered. She was biting her lower lip. "I just wanted to talk to someone is all," she sighed despondently.

"About what? Trace, you've been like this for a week at least. Are you feeling okay?" the coroner inquired.

"Sure, I guess....it's Nick...." Tracy explained. "He's been with Schanke almost exclusively and well, I was wondering if I had...."

Natalie chuckled. So, this is what the moodiness had been about. "Tracy, you've done nothing wrong. It's just that Nick and Schanke were really close before the plane crash. Now that he's back, Schanke wants to get caught up is all," she assured her friend.

"So, just give them time?" Tracy probed.

"Absolutely. If you'd like, I'll talk to Nick," Natalie offered.

"Would you? I would appreciate it," the detective grinned gratefully.

"No problem," Natalie agreed. "Meantime, I'll walk with you upstairs." She took the report from the printer and placed it in a manila folder. "I have something for Ramirez. Now, shall we?"


Schanke scanned a folder pertaining to the latest case going around the department. The Mendoza homicide had turned out to be a particularly bad case. The officers had found Estelle Mendoza, an elderly Hispanic woman, lying in an alley, stabbed multiple times.

"Hey, Schank," Nick called to him.

"Huh? Oh, Nick. How's it goin'?" Schanke inquired.

"Okay, I guess," Nick replied. "Everything's pretty much the way it's always been. Tucson has some differences, but every city has its share of crime and homicides. Speaking of comparing cities, how are Myra and Jenny adjusting?"

"They're fine for the most part," his partner explained. "Jenny's a little down about having to leave her friends behind. Myra loves the weather. And, I gotta say, it's great being around you again."

Nick grinned. He never imagined when Stonetree first paired them together that they would become such good friends. But, they had grown on each other, and would continue to work on selected cases together.

Schanke looked at his watch. "Almost dinner time."

"Is Myra bringing dinner?" the vampire detective asked.

"No, actually Dave Dubois said that he's coming by. I would guess that he wants to talk with you. He said that he was bringing eats. Y' know, Nick....I gotta admit that I misjudged him. He is an okay guy, once you get to know him," Schanke admitted.

"That's true. Just as with all of us, he's dealing with certain issues. And he's...." Nick started and then, he felt a familiar sensation brush across his senses. "What?" he puzzled and looked around. He turned to see Janette standing at the counter talking to Chris Novak.

"Nick, what the heck is it?" Schanke demanded.

The vampire locked glances with his one-time lover and stood transfixed.

Schanke looked in the same direction and discovered the visitor. "Is that...?"

"Yes," Nick indicated.

"Man-o-man, I'll get the Interview Room pronto," Schanke indicated and rushed across the room.

"Do that," Nick urged and moved across the room. Once there, he told the desk sergeant, "She is a witness that I need to talk to."

"Okay, if you say so, Detective," Chris commented. "Thank you, Ma 'am, for checking in."

"You're welcome," Janette smiled sweetly. Although she disliked the pretense, for Nick's sake, she went along with it.

"Please come with me," Nick requested.

"All right. Do you have a place where we can talk in private, Detective?" she complied.

"Absolutely," he indicated and guided her into the Interview Room where Schanke awaited them.

(to be continued)

Chapter 3 (continued)

Janette jumped at the sight of the resurrected detective. "Detective Schanke! Forgive me, but I had heard that you were dead!"

Schanke smiled, "The same might be said of you, Nick, and LaCroix."

She looked at her companion. "Nicolas, how?"

"He was resurrected. Please feel free to share anything with him as well," he noted.

The vampiress frowned. Normally, she wouldn't speak in front of mortals, but it seemed that Schanke was a special case. "Very well, Nicolas. I have grim tidings. The Enforcers are coming here."

"Are you certain?" her longtime associate demanded.

"Unfortunately, yes. It seems that the Duboises have created too much attention for the Community, as have you, Natalie, your partners, myself, and LaCroix," she continued.

Schanke shuddered. While he didn't know the exact identities of these thugs, if it made her and Nick nervous, they would be a major factor. "Great. It couldn't get any worse...."

Janette faced the balding detective. "Yes, it does. It appears that the Enforcers' leader, Bertrand du Dijon, has a vendetta against your friend, David." She sighed and turned back to the former Crusader. "Nicolas, I must warn you, David has a burning hatred for Dijon as well...from their last encounter," she reported.

He nodded. So, the stories were true. If so, his friend did indeed have a score to settle with the Enforcer. "And the Child?"

"A product of that encounter," Janette shuddered. "I talked with him about an hour ago. He teetered on the brink."

"You mean that monster?" Schanke probed.

"It's not a monster, Schanke," Nick corrected him. "It's an abused child with a great deal of power and a giant inferiority complex. We can't let Dave unleash his anger yet again." Now, he understood the full meaning of his former master's words at the Raven and again in Wabash. Samuelsohn....Yes, the old man had indeed found something and whatever it was, the Enforcers had missed it, but set off Dave's darkness in the process. In addition, LaCroix had mentioned the persistent rumor circulating around the Community. Whatever the initial cause, there would be trouble because of that clash so long ago.

"Wow! This is going to be something else," Schanke commented.

Nick glanced at his friend. While he agreed with Schanke's assumption, he certainly didn't need the reminder at that moment. Then, he sensed another presence. "Nat and Tracy are coming. And I sense Dave entering the building as well. How about we all meet at the loft later?" he proposed.

"Very well," Janette accepted. "I know where it is. Until then, mon Cher." Opening the room's window, she took off into the Sonoran night.

"She sure knows how to make an exit," Schanke admired.

"Yes, she does. However, we have a bigger problem right now," Nick advised him, albeit a bit too testily.

Just then, a knock came from the door. "Nick, it's Nat and Tracy. Can we come in?" Natalie requested.

"Sure," Nick agreed and opened the door, allowing them to enter.

"So, are you two having a private conference, or what?" Tracy probed.

Schanke shot Nick a sarcastic look which the latter shook off. Now was definitely not the time for their rivalry.

"Close the door and take a seat," the vampire detective advised everyone. "On second thought, get Dave in here. This concerns him as well."

Natalie stuck her head back out into the bullpen and signaled for the librarian to join them.

Dave nodded, and ignoring the surprised stares from the people around him, crossed the area quickly to join his friends. After walking into the room, he closed the door and handed Schanke a paper bag. "For you," he indicated.

The detective looked at him incredulously. "Nah, it can't be! I know that smell!" He unfolded the bag's top and exclaimed "Souvlaki!"

Natalie shook her head and stated, "You've got to be kidding me."

"I had Mike put extra oregano on it in place of the garlic," Dave indicated.

Schanke savored the sandwich. "This...is awesome," he commented happily. "Thanks."

"You're welcome," Dave snickered. "Now, Natalie, what is this emergency of yours?"

"Is Angie working late?" Tracy wondered.

"She's just getting out now. Why?" Dave replied curiously.

"We have a problem...." Nick started.

"The Enforcers. Yeah, I know. Janette told me," Dave indicated.

"Can you get Angie, Eve, Francesca, and the kids over to the loft in let's say an hour and a half? I'll call Alyce," Nick continued.

"You bet," Dave nodded and put his coat back on. "I'll see you later." He walked back out of the room and left the precinct.

"Nick, just what are we facing here?" Natalie demanded.

"Something very serious. Very serious indeed," the vampire detective stated mysteriously, his mind fixated on the events to come.

Chapter 4

Across town, LaCroix settled into his booth at KRAN radio. The rumor mill had been abuzz, and the vampire DJ needed feedback.

"Good Evening, Gentle Listeners. This is the Nightcrawler, riding the airwaves with you until Dawn. It's story time once again. Once upon a time, a very bad man learned something that he shouldn't have. When the authorities came to deal with him, a child wandered onto the scene...a child with a dark temper and an attitude to match. The agents struck the little brat. Then, the latter struck back with deadly force, killing two and injuring the third one. Now, the Child is here in Tucson, and the third man is coming to deal with him. What will happen? Only time will tell....The lines are open," he crooned. Having said that, the former Roman general sipped his bloodwine. That vignette would get a reaction. Hopefully, it would be the one which he desired....


Alyce landed amidst the deepening shadows on Congress St. Recognizing Nick's Caddy, she discerned that the building directly in front of her contained Nick's loft. She walked over to the door. "Same setup as Toronto. I wonder...?" Punching in the four digit code from the Tutercanal exhibit, the curator opened the door and took the lift upstairs. Once there, she saw the Duboises, Francesca, the new Religion professor, Natalie, Tracy, Nick, and the latter's former partner. But, how could that be? He had died in a plane crash.

"Alyce, thanks for coming," Nick greeted.

"Nick, what's going on? You said this was urgent," Alyce inquired anxiously.

"It is, my Dear," Janette indicated and stepped from the shadows. "We have trouble."

Angie stole glances at Francesca and Eve while bouncing Deirdre in her lap. "I agree with Alyce. Dave, what's going on?" she urged her husband.

"The Enforcers," Nick replied.

"Led by a vampire with a vendetta against me," Dave added.

Angie stared at him wide-eyed. "Whatever are you getting at?" she demanded.

Francesca jumped in, "You can't be serious!"

The librarian frowned, "I'm in deadly earnest. Tony Samuelsohn broke the Code, and the Enforcers dealt with him. Unfortunately, I arrived in the midst of their handiwork. When I tried to intercede, they attacked. The next thing that I remember is being on the lawn with Tony and Pauline next to me, the house was ablaze, and manuscripts lying all over the place."

"And in the meantime?" Eve probed.

"During the interim, the Child erupted and staked two of the Enforcers," Nick declared.

"I don't remember that, Nick, but I do remember Dijon's glare," Dave shuddered.

"You'll have help, Dave. I don't think Xena's going to stand for you being a target," Angie told him.

"And the same goes for Gabrielle," Francesca affirmed.

Janette's brow arched. "Xena against the Enforcers. That would be a very interesting battle indeed," she murmured. From previous experience, she knew that Angie could summon the Warrior Princess on very short notice.

"David, you cannot take vengeance," Eve reminded her friend.

The librarian shook his head. "Sorry, Eve. In this game, it's kill or be killed," he replied with a dark light burning in his eyes. "And I'm ready for Dijon."

"As he is for you," Janette reminded him. "These are Enforcers, not ordinary vampires!"

Dave scoffed menacingly, "Some 'Enforcers'. They wouldn't stop Divia. Now that we've cleaned up their mess, the 'Chicken Brigade' comes crawling out of the woodwork."

"They could go after your family," Natalie argued.

"Cybelle can handle herself," Dave shrugged. "Besides, I'm willing to bet that Dijon won't play games. If he wants a piece of me, he knows where I am."

"I would keep a low profile if I were you," Tracy urged.

"If they're anything like the ones that we ran into in Toronto, that won't help," Natalie contradicted. "Besides, what about the girls?"

"I spoke to Cybelle on the way over here," Dave replied. "She'll meet us later at the apartment and take them with her for the time being."

Schanke quaked nervously. While he wasn't exactly aware of what the librarian was saying, the documentary which he and Nick had been working on popped into his mind. The reporter, a woman named Tawney Talker, had taped Nick's vampire self and threatened to go public. However, the evidence and the woman's memories of the event had mysteriously vanished. "And these are the same guys?" he asked aloud.

"Yes, they are. Detective, you might want to have your family stay behind locked doors for awhile. But, I think we can lure these killing SOBs out," Dave noted.

"And how do you propose to do that?" Angie cut him off.

"They're looking for the Child, not me. So...." Dave began.

His wife sat Deirdre on the plush rug and stood to face him. Her face was bright red and taunt. "Do you think I'm going to let you go berserk?"

"Not until they're there," he argued.

"And if it's at the U of A again?" Tracy sighed. "Dave, we're still dealing with the fallout from the last time."

"I would agree," Alyce chimed in from the corner. "The Regents are still watching you after that incident. If anything were to happen to the museum...."

"If I have anything to say about it, the fight will occur off campus," he protested.

"This coming from the man who helped to bring about urban renewal in Wabash?" Angie commented wryly. "Dream on."

"Xena didn't do too badly herself in that regard," Dave jabbed verbally.

"Touche," she admitted. "Well, this has been educational, but I'm afraid the girls need their sleep as do we. Take care, Everyone. C'mon, Dave, we need to talk. Francesca, Eve, let's go."

"Thank you, Nick," Francesca smiled.

"My thanks as well," Eve added.

"Certainly. And Dave, keep your wits about you," Nick advised.

"Always," the librarian promised.

"I'll see to that," Angie affirmed as the group departed for their own apartments.

Chapter 5

For what seemed like ten minutes after the others had left, the remaining friends stared at each other in an uncomfortable silence.

Finally, Schanke broke the stalemate. "Nick, how does this affect us at the precinct?" he queried.

"Just go about your business as best as you can, Schank," Nick assured him.

Natalie shook her head. "Yeah right, Nick. A group of killers are gunning for us and your best advice is to remain calm?"

"Why not?" Janette countered. "Certainly, the Enforcers will come whether we worry about them or not. In that regard, David has the right strategy. Carry on, but be prepared. Trust in him and your friends, Natalie."

Tracy shuddered wordlessly across the room. How she wished that she could talk to Vachon at that moment.

Alyce stood up. "If you will all excuse me, I need to get back to the museum. Jolene is only on until 1 AM tonight. Nick, thank you for the invitation. I will let you know if I hear anything. See you all soon," she excused herself. Having said that, she took off through the skylight.

Janette chuckled warmly, "That younger sister of mine is certainly an excitable one, Nicolas."

"This is all still new to her, Janette," Nick indicated. "Give her time."

"Well, I think she had the right idea," Tracy cut in. "I think that we need to get back to the station before Ramirez sends out the dogs after us."

"Tell him that I'll be there as soon as I can," Nick stated.

"Well do," Schanke agreed while putting on his coat. "Bring us up to date, Nick. Are you coming, Natalie?"

"No thanks, Schank," the coroner declined. "I want to talk with Nick and Janette for a while. I'll be back later."

"Okay," Schanke nodded. "C'mon, Tracy, let's go."

The blonde detective nodded and walked toward the door followed closely by her predecessor.

As soon as the lift had descended, Janette rose from her chair and began to pace. "So, what do we do, Nicolas? Do we just talk, or do we come up with a plan of action?" she quizzed.

"No, I think that action is necessary," he agreed, looking up toward the still-open skylight. Standing there in the pale moonlight, LaCroix watched the goings-on beneath him. In a flash, he joined them.

"So, it is true. You're backÉ." Natalie supposed.

"I've been in town just over a week if you must know," the elder vampire remarked caustically.

"What can I do for you, LaCroix?" Nick inquired guardedly.

LaCroix sighed heavily. His child could be so difficult sometimes. "I'm here to talk about a certain problem of ours, Nicholas. It seems that your mortal friends have stirred up a proverbial hornets' nest. In fact, it would seem that the good people of Tucson are very concerned about it."

"You didn't!" Nick interjected. Then, he frowned as the realization hit him. "Of course you would."

"It was a good show actually. Too bad you missed it. It seems that I'm developing a loyal following down here," the DJ smiled.

"I'm sure," Natalie remarked icily, her brow furrowing, and her arms folded across her chest.

"Yes, Doctor. This city is very niceÉand once the rules are reestablishedÉ." the former Roman assumed.

Janette shook her head knowingly. The signs were all there for the familiar fight over Nick to resume itself.

"And what makes you think that things are going to be status quo here?" Natalie snapped.

LaCroix shook his head, "Soon, Doctor, you will understand my meaning. After we're done dealing with our current situation."

"Caused by you," Nick added.

"Ah, Nicholas," the elder vampire addressed his former protégé, "Have you forgotten about the Code? We must protect our existence and ourselves. Samuelsohn stumbled upon a dangerous find. I only told him to forget about it."

"And you lit the fire under David Dubois in the process," Natalie cut in.

"I went through the records for that night, LaCroix. Disrupting a very public survey class? Really now. You did more damage than Samuelsohn ever could," Nick chimed in.

"Did you call the Enforcers back then, LaCroix?" Janette inquired.

"I did," he admitted, while still glaring at the former Crusader angrily. "Although, I didn't think that they would bumble the job as badly as they did."

Natalie smiled wickedly, "Face it, this time you really did it. First, you embarrass the Community. Then, you stir Dave up. Third, you sicced the Enforcers on him, thus releasing his darkness. Fourthly, you put forces in motion up in Toronto, namely that fight with Xena which brought us to this point."

Janette and Nick both winced. They could smell the response comingÉ.

LaCroix's eyes burned yellow and his fangs descended. But, despite his ire, the coroner was right. The Enforcers would target him as well as the others.

Desperate to prevent an unneeded confrontation, Nick stepped in between them. "Both of you, that's enough!"

"Yes," LaCroix growled. "But, we will have this conversation later. For now, I'm needed back at KRAN." With that, he ascended into the night.

Nick stared through the skylight. Despite everything, the old situation was back. Even after the Enforcers were dealt with, sooner or later, the tension between LaCroix and the Duboises would erupt violently. Another fight between Xena and LaCroix would be inevitable. And what about Dave? As Nat had noted before, the old Roman reminded the librarian of his father. And as previous encounters had shown, both sides spoiled for the opportunity to confront each other.

Natalie rubbed his shoulder. "It's going to be okay, Nick. We'll deal with this just as we have everything else," she reassured him.

"You should not have talked to him like that, Natalie," Janette advised knowingly.

The ME turned toward the vampires and snapped, "And he shouldn't assume that he is going to reassume control over Nick again!"

"It is the nature of the relationship between master and protégé," Janette argued obstinately.

"You don't know about Xena's promise, do you?" he added.

The fledgling shook her head. Master or not, Nick could be infuriating. "I'm sure. You realize that LaCroix will fight her to the death over you?"

"And her daughter Eve as well," Natalie chimed in. "We don't know why as of yet, but there's a connection between her and LaCroix as well."

Janette sighed. She had missed so much since her former lover had come to this desert. He seemed so much more confident now than during his stay in Toronto, or anywhere during the previous eight centuries. Yes, this existence would be good for him, if he could survive LaCroix's efforts to control him that is. "I should be going as well," she stated.

"But, where are you staying?" Nick inquired. "I have an extra room, and I insist."

Janette smiled, "Very well, Nicolas. I accept. Bon soir, Natalie." With that, she climbed the stairs and left the room.

Natalie glared at him. Despite the turmoil of the previous year, things had started to work themselves out for them. Now, with the vampire community asserting itself in the Old Pueblo, the situation threatened to become worse once again. On the other hand, Janette did care about Nick's welfare, and he was responsible for her. Details, details, detailsÉ."I'm going back to the precinct. Call me later, okay?" she requested.

"Absolutely," he agreed and watched Natalie enter the lift. Somehow, he knew that their lives were about to take another unexpected turn.

Chapter 6

Tracy and Schanke sat at their desks in stone silence. Each tried to digest the information contained in the files in front of them.

Finally, she stood up and walked over to him. "Umm, Don. Can we get a coffee or something? I'd like to talk about tonight if you don't mind," she requested.

He looked up from the folder that he was reading. Maybe, she was starting to come around. In any event, that chat sure sounded like a good idea. "Absolutely," he agreed. "Let's hit the break room."

She smiled. Maybe Schanke wasn't such a bad guy after all.


The aroma of cheap cappuccino permeated the air in the break room as the two detectives sat at a table sipping their drinks.

"So, what did you want to know?" he started.

Tracy nervously sighed, and then, slowly looked up at him. "WellÉI was wondering about Nick and LaCroix. SinceÉwellÉsince we came back, I've been dealing with the fact that my, excuse me, our partner's a vampire. I'm doing okay with that, but LaCroix kind of scares me," she revealed.

"He scares everyone," he assured her. "Believe me, I had to talk with him in his radio booth in Toronto. Talk about a mucho scary situation!"

"And I heard bits and pieces about the Enforcers. What do you know about them?" she continued.

He sipped the coffee and pondered her question. "Well, Nick and I were working on a case for Stonetree once, and your father thought that it would be a good idea if a reporter would make a documentary on cops in action."

She chuckled and took another sip from her cup. She could see her father pulling a stunt like that. "So, what happened?"

"The crew that rode with Nick and me filmed everything. I gotta admit that I went overboard. Heck, I even went out and got my own agent. But, something weird was goin' on between Nick and that reporter. She kept picking away, asking a lot of questions about his life, family, backgroundÉall of that stuff. Then, about a week into the shoot, she claimed she had something on tape about him. Anyhow, both Nick and she disappear for a while and when they resurfaced, boomÉno tape, no evidence, and she doesn't remember a thing. That was positively weirdsville, I gotta tell you," he reported.

Tracy's eyes sparkled. So, somebody else knew what it was like to work with Mr. Supercop. "Working with Nick is always strange," she remarked.

"Yup," he agreed. "But, he's a damn great partner. Y'know, I hated working with him at first, but we got to know each other over the years. I can't tell you how many times he saved my bacon. Yeah, hanging at the Raven isn't my favorite pastime, but it's where his kind spends their time."

She nodded and saw that she had been too hard on the other detective across the table from her. "Don, I'm sorry," she apologized.

"I can imagine what it would be like for me if the situation was reversed. You two are really great partners and you'll still be that way. I'm just going to be in on some cases with you. Believe me, the swing shift stuff is easier on Myra and Jenny," he replied pleasantly.

She grinned and finished her coffee. "Thanks. Now, let's get going on those files and the McAllister case," she urged.

"Right with you," he concurred. They headed back into the bullpen refreshed and ready to get to work on the case at hand.

Chapter 7

Dave opened the door to the apartment and let the others inside. Angie put on some coffee before putting the girls to bed. Between them, the two parents managed to get their little charges to sleep in a relatively quick fashion despite the nervous tension in the air.

When they reemerged into the living room, three more visitors had joined them: Cybelle in addition to Matt and Karen Montoya. Each person wore their respective concerns in obvious fashion across their face.

"I'd ask you what's going on," Dave started. "But, I can guess why you're here."

Karen shook her head, "ThatÉis an understatement."

"Besides the fact that your daughters are safely with Mom, the vampire community is in an uproar," the priestess added. "Even I can feel that."

"Does this have anything to do with Dr. Samuelsohn's death?" Matt pursued.

Angie shook her head dumbfoundedly. Dave had certainly made his share of enemies over the years, but this situation certainly took the cake. "We just came from Nick's loft. Yes, it has a direct connection."

"And then some," Dave added. "Apparently, one of them has a vendetta against me. And I have a bone to pick with him as well."

"Who?" Karen insisted. "Dr. S's killer? The case was never solvedÉ."

"You know who the killer is, don't you?" Matt continued. "Man, I wish you had listened to Andy and not ticked that guy offÉ."

"What guy?" Karen wondered.

"He's talking about LaCroix," Dave explained.

"Him? There?" Cybelle gasped. "In the open?"

"And, I hope you never meet him. Man, what a creepy dude," Matt shook his head.

Karen chuckled, "I have news for you, dear. We met during that situation six months ago. But anyway, he's the killer? It figures."

"No, he wasn't," Dave disagreed. "The killer's name is Bertrand du Dijon, a 595 year old vampire Enforcer."

"So, how do you know?" Angie probed.

The librarian walked over to his bookcase and grasped a tome relating to the Hundred Years War. "Dijon was a Burgundian soldier in the 1420s and the best and most brutal soldier under the Duke of Burgundy's command until well, he disappeared. Then, fifteen years ago, he and his gang killed Tony and his wife. When they tried to deal with me, they released the Child."

"So, this Enforcer is trying to chase you down," Cybelle surmised.

"Actually, they're after all of us since we know about the Community," Angie explained. "Matt, since you were in the room on that night, you're in danger too."

"As usual," Karen shrugged. "Does Steve know about this yet?"

"I'm sure he does," Dave nodded. "He has several contacts in vampire circles. But, since it took him years of helping the Community to gain its trust, I would like to keep him in reserve just in case. The rest of you should do likewise."

"Ever the strategist, aren't you?" Cybelle chuckled.

"Always," he asserted. "We can't leave ourselves exposed on this one."

Angie frowned. "If only Xena hadn't lost her power to kill immortals," she mused. While she knew that her "roommate" was more than capable of wiping the floor with a few vampires, the Enforcers would prove a stiffer challenge due to their enhanced strength and abilities. Consequently, they would need every advantage they could get.

Suddenly, Eve felt the familiar call inside of her head. Dropping to her knees, the Messenger closed her eyes and began to chant. After three long minutes, she spoke aloud, "Yes, Eli. I understand." Her eyes snapped open. "Angie, I need to talk to my mother. Forgive me, but it's Eli's request."

Francesca stared at her fellow faculty member. Deep inside of her, Gabrielle smiled at the sensation of Eli's proximity.

The oncologist nodded, "Absolutely." Drawing her sword, she changed into Xena.

Matt stared in wonder at this event. "Ay caramba! Angie, IÉI don't believe it."

Karen cut his awestruck exclamation off. "We'll talk about it later. Believe me, it's a long story."

"Eve, what does Eli wish to tell me?" Xena requested.

Her daughter nodded. "He wishes to ask you to promise that you won't turn his gift upon Heaven's angels as you did before."

The Warrior Princess nodded. While Michael had certainly driven her to that point, she had learned the lesson of overstepping her bounds the last time. "I promise."

Eve smiled and looked skyward. "Behold!" she exclaimed while opening the Dubois' front door.

A shaft of light shot through the opening and bathed the Thracian warrior in its glow. She felt the familiar buzzing about her and the energy was back. Once again, she could kill immortals. "Thank you, Eli," she expressed.

Within her head, a familiar voice declared, "You're welcome."

Cybelle was the first to speak. "My congratulations on regaining your abilities, Xena. May your chakram defend the living well from the forces of darkness," she stated.

"If necessary," Xena nodded while looking at her daughter. Only if necessary."

"Meantime, the Montoyas and I need to be getting back," the priestess asserted as she opened a portal.

"Take care, everyone," Karen wished as she and her husband jumped into the mists. The priestess stole a long look at them before doing the same, and closing the gateway behind them.

Francesca looked at her cousin. "So, now what?" she inquired.

Xena put her sword back in its scabbard and changed back into Angie.

When she had regained her senses, Angie commented, "We carry on as if nothing were happening out of the ordinary. Of course, when are our lives ever ordinary?"

Dave shook his head and stared out the window. With this group, normalcy was a relative thingÉ.


Chapter 8

A week later, the monsoons fell across the Old Pueblo, washing the city clean. However, despite the appearances, the city wasn't what it seemed. In an alley on the southernmost part of the metropolis, a swarthy group congregated and discussed a plan to wreck mayhem.

Dijon looked about at his surroundings. Yes, the mixture of old and new lent this place a distinctive charm. Perhaps, he might bask in its pleasures once the job at hand was complete. For now, the main task involved drawing his victims out into the open. His senses picked up on several unique auras. They were indeed here. "Let the hunt begin," he savored to himself.

Turning to the other Enforcers, he waved toward the northeast. "Come, we must feed," he bade them.

The others nodded silently, seeing the wisdom in his plan. After he took off, they followed closely behind.


Ramirez stuck his head out of the office. "Miles! Brown! My office! Ahora!" he commanded.

Tracy gave Nick a nervous glance. What had they done now?

Nick sighed and then, guessing her thoughts, assured her, "It's probably nothing. Let's check it out."

The two detectives walked slowly across the bullpen and entered the Captain's office.

"Bueno!" Ramirez smiled. "Close the door if you would, Detective Miles."

Nick complied and secured their privacy. He noticed Ramirez's twitchiness. Something was definitely eating at his superior's gut and he was willing to bet it wasn't the nachos from dinner. Needing to know the extent of the matter, the vampire detective broke the ice. "What's up, Captain?"

"OK. We've had two murders down on West Speedway a mile past the I-10 overpass. But, they were really weird. Tell me, do you two believe in vampires?" the Captain explained awkwardly.

Tracy shot Nick a quick glance out of the side of her eye.

For his part, Nick put on his best "Joe Cool" façade for his partner's sake. Despite his own misgivings internally, he wasn't about to let on about his feelings vis-à-vis Ramirez's question. "Just like everyone else, I've heard the stories, CapÉ." he lied.

"Well anyway, " the Captain continued. "I've sent Schanke and Dr. LeBeau out to the crime scene. You're going to join them."

"On the way," Tracy agreed.

"Muy bien! See you when you get back," their superior concluded.

The two partners headed for the Caddy. Once inside, Tracy looked over at Nick and stated. "You're good. You know that?"

He chuckled, "I've had 800 years of experience, remember?"

"Yeah, I know. But, that was sure weird," she declared. "What made him ask the question?"

Nick's brow furrowed. Tracy was right in that the Captain wasn't one to go off on wild goose chases. Perhaps the recent events at the U of A had sensitized him. Especially if the Enforcers were in town, the detectives would have to be sure that their boss didn't discover too much.

Natalie studied the corpses very carefully. The young man and woman had been brutalized. He had suffered a broken arm, bruising on his side, and the telltale holes on his neck. The woman had sprained her ankle before she had been drained. While she couldn't be sure until she examined them in the lab, two things were clear to the ME. First, a vampire or vampires had worked these two people over. Secondly, in leaving the kills out in the open in such a callous fashion pointed to the high probability that the perpetrators were the Enforcers themselves. "It's beginning," she worried.

Schanke approached her cautiously. The past three weeks had been weird. And now, this scene popped up. From what he had read and his observations on the Other Side, he came to the same conclusions as Natalie. "What do you think?" he inquired.

Natalie looked up at him. "I can guess, butÉ." She looked around to make sure that nobody else was in earshot. "I'm waiting for Nick to get here first."

He nodded, "So, how do youÉ?"

"Édeal with this? Very, very cautiously, Schank," she whispered. "I'm going to have to fudge this one."

He stared at her anxiously. "You sound as if you've done this before," he replied in a very low tone.

She nodded reluctantly. "Believe me, our problems would be a whole lot worse if I hadn't done so."

"I guess," he sighed. As much as he hated to admit it, his colleague had a point. If the Enforcers committed these acts, Ramirez would be the least of their problems.

Natalie felt the familiar tingle and turned to see the Caddy pull up about fifty feet away from her and Schanke. Nick and Tracy hustled over to their side.

"So, is it?" Tracy whispered concernedly.

The coroner pointed at the woman's neck, revealing the two wounds, and glancing at Nick expectantly.

He frowned, "We know that these are vampire wounds, butÉ."

"But what?" Schanke wondered.

"But, to leave the bodies in such an open location," Tracy cut in.

"The Enforcers," Nick stated. "These bodies are a calling card." Just then, his enhanced senses brushed across several familiar presences close by. "Stay here," he urged and, after making sure that the coast was clear, rose into the evening sky. Levitating above the rooftops of the nearby warehouses, he scanned the area, but there was nothing to be found. But, while the feeling was gone, the vampire detective had the sneaking suspicion that they would be back. Lowering himself carefully to the ground, Nick made his way back to his three colleagues.

"So?" Tracy probed.

"Whoever, or whatever caused this homicide is long gone," Nick reported. "Still, I think it would be best if we returned to the precinct." He gave another anxious look at their surroundings.

Natalie studied her friend. Nick usually got nervous for a reason. Whatever it was, she determined to find out the cause once they were back at the station.


Chapter 9

Across town at the U of A, Eve sat in the back of the library's instructional classroom and watched Dave's presentation to her Religion 102d class. He held the students' attention with a riveting description of the various sources interspersed with a healthy amount of light humor. Clearly, he was in his element.

"No wonder Mother and Gabrielle suggested I bring my class in here," she mused.

For his part, Dave wrapped up his talk with the undergraduates and passed out his evaluation forms. "Remember, if there are any questions, please contact me by phone, email, or stop by, OK?" he urged. "Thanks for your time, Folks."

"That's all for tonight," Eve agreed.

Judging from the students' faces, Dave knew that he had reached them. In his estimation, few things related to his job were more satisfying than a successful instructional session. After tonight, these students would be banging down his office door come paper time. As he placed the reference works back onto the cart, he looked toward Eve. "So, what did you think?" he asked.

"You certainly have a gift for teaching. Eli would have recruited you for his cause," she complemented.

He flushed slightly, "You flatter me, but thank you. I'm not that convincing, I'm afraid."

"Mama Mia! You are so full of it!" Francesca gibed from the doorway. "Eve, I hope that you don't believe him. He's a great instructor. By the way, I take it that the class went well?"

"Very well, thanks," Eve agreed.

"Just let me shut down the main computer, and we'll be ready to go," he informed her.

"Great. Angie's meeting us at the café in fifteen minutes," Francesca detailed.

"Let's hurry," Eve shuddered. "I feel a darkness for some reason."

Dave's psychic senses also picked up on the anomaly. There was something afoot in the building. "Let's get going, but I do want to stop by my office firstÉ."

The three faculty members hurriedly made their way upstairs and down the hall toward the desired room.

"Hurry, Dave," Francesca worried.

His mind alerted him to several entities approaching them from both outside, and inside of, the library. He quickly unlocked his office and rushed inside. Once there, he reached under his desk and retrieved his bow and quiver full of shafts. "Okay, now I'm ready," he thought.

"David!" Eve called fearfully.

"Shit!" he hissed and approached the doorway. He didn't have to look outside to know that their pursuers were closing in. Readying his bow, he stepped into the hallway.

Eve pointed nervously down the hall into the inky blackness.

He nodded and raised the bow. Concentrating, he detected three cold spots down the hall. "Okay. Maybe I can't see you, but I can sense you. And since I can do that, I can hit you. So, come outÉ."

Then, in the blackness, six bright red spots appeared about fifteen feet down the hall and moved toward them, effectively cutting off any means of escapeÉ.

********************* Angie glanced at her watch nervously. Dave was normally pretty punctual about finishing his instructional sessions, especially since he knew she would be waiting for him.

"Oh well, they're only about five minutes late. I'll go ahead and order a soda," she decided.

Just then, Xena's voice urged inside of her head, "Angela! There's trouble!"

Angie whispered, "Xena? What? What is it?" She glanced around to make sure that nobody was in earshot.

"There's a situation at the library!" the Warrior Princess continued. "C'mon!"

Focusing her attention, she picked up on her companions' distress. "Darn it! How could I have missed it?" Picking up her purse and coat, the oncologist ran out of the coffee shop and hurried across campus toward the library. About fifty feet from the brick building, she noticed that four men suspiciously loitered by the main foyer as if to bar anyone from exiting the facility. "This is getting to be a habit!" she growled and slipped into the shadows. Once there, she pulled out the swordÉ.


The four Enforcers stood watch over the building. Their job was simple: just keep the mortals inside from getting out. While it sounded like an easy enough task, the vampires knew that Dijon wouldn't have devoted so much attention to any mere mortals. No, these humans were special. Once they had disposed of these troublemakers, then the traitorous fledgling across campus could be eliminated as well.

Just then, their leader, a Native American, sensed that something was amiss. "Be alert!" he hissed and glanced about expectantly.

A single tell-tale rush of air provided an insufficient warningÉ. Suddenly, the breeze turned deadly as the sharp metal ring caromed off of the wall, struck two of the vampires' heads, and careened back into the darkness.

"ImpossibleÉ" the leader muttered and expired.

The other two Enforcers stared incredulously at the leather-clad woman bathed in the silvery moonlight. With catlike grace, she retrieved her chakram and returned it to her side. From their briefing, they knew that this one was Xena, the so-called Warrior Princess. While they had been advised about her considerable fighting prowess, this new ability to kill vampires was a shocking discovery.

"Okay, Boys," she frowned. "Who's next?"

One vampire, a Circassian named Mikhail, rushed her next. "For killing my friend, you will die!" he challenged.

Her eyebrow arched and with a quick thrust of her sword, sliced her attacker in halfÉ.

The final vampire, a Cuban man with long stringy hair and a short beard, hissed menacingly at the female warrior and charged.

Xena arched her eyebrow and sidestepped the attacker's charge with ease.

The Enforcer looked around. "Dònde estás?" he roared. Then, he heard a noise like a throat being cleared. He turned to see his adversary hefting her sword.

"I don't suppose that you want to deliver a message to your leader?" she inquired expectantly.

Her immortal opponent bore his fangs and allowed his eyes to glisten in the moonlight. Clearly, he was in no mood for talking.

"Suit yourself," she shrugged as she executed a back flip and easily evaded his charge. Landing behind him, she plunged her blade right through him. The weapon acted like a stake, as he ceased to exist as well. Falling to the turf, the corpse turned to ash and was scattered by the desert winds.

"Now, for the others!" she asserted and ran toward the foyer.


Meantime, Dave stood in the inky blackness and observed the three sets of ruby-red eyes moving closer to him.

"Last chance," he informed his attackers while aiming for the middle spot. When no answer came, he fired a sharpened oak shaft into the darkness.

In response, one of the vampires screamed and hit the floor. The acrid odor fouling the air confirmed the kill.

Suddenly, the librarian sensed another attacker rushing straight at him. However, before he could react, the other collided with him, sending him flying against the nearby wall.

"BackupÉ.Eve, get backupÉ.Now!" he hissed savagely.

The Messenger nodded fearfully. She guessed that her friend was quickly losing his self-control. Hopefully, she could reach Nicholas and the others before things really got out of hand.

"You will die!" an Enforcer told her.

"Eli, help me, please," she implored her guide and steeled herself. "In the name of Eli and all of the powers in Heaven, I command the evil presence here to be gone!" She laid her hands on the vampire's arm and repeated this command.

The attacker recoiled in pain. The briefing didn't mention this one's ability to cast out the unholy essences around her. He rose to face her once moreÉonly to feel a sudden impact across the back of his neck and a piercing sensation through his heart. Stumbling, the suddenly-mortal immortal looked back at Gabrielle, slumped to the carpet, and disintegrated into a pile of ash.

"Are you all right, Eve?" the warrior-bard inquired.

"Yes, but I still sense at least three other vampires in the hallway," Eve noted nervously. "With David."


(to be continued)

 Chapter 9 (continued)

The three remaining Enforcers had gang-tackled Dave and were beating him to a pulp. They decided not to kill him, no, that would be Dijon's pleasure. However, that restraint didn't preclude them from getting their licks in.

"That's enough!" one vampire stated. "We need him alive!"

The others backed off of their victim and observed the heavily-bruised librarian. The latter spasmed violently.

"Dijon will be upset that we damaged his prize!" the vampire snarled.

"NoÉdamageÉyetÉ.," Dave snickered in a very low voice. He raised his left hand and emitted a surprisingly-strong psychic pulse, knocking the two nearby Enforcers backwards and against the decorative wooden display. Impaled on the spikes, the two thugs disintegrated, soiling the rug with their remains.

"Astounding," the remaining attacker admired in spite of himself. Dubois was everything that the Community fearedÉeverything and more. Against everything he stood for, the immortal felt fear creeping up his spine. Even in the darkened area, the librarian stood out unmistakably and, if given the chance, would exterminate them all.

At that moment, Xena reached the top of the stairs. Not knowing what would happen next, she decided to observe the proceedings. However, she would be ready to intervene if needed.

The enraged librarian climbed to his feet. He was battered, bruised, and bleeding with a swollen right eye. Still, as the Child was now in charge, the hunter was now the hunted. "Now, it's my turnÉ." Dave snarled and raised his opponent in the air. For a long second, he considered the floating immortal. "Lucky for you, I don't like to play with my food." He looked at his side and noticed the shards of wood at his side. "Ever wonder what Wu Han felt? Lucky you, you get to find out first hand."

Extending tendrils of mental energy, Dave levitated the sharp shards of teak wood into the air and whipped them down the hall and through the two nocturnal killers. With only the briefest of looks at his remaining opponent, Dave picked up a shaft, and rammed it through the Enforcer. Once the vampire had expired, Dave allowed him to drop to the floor with a sickening thud and took a deep satisfied whiff of the ash odor.

"You can come out now, Girls," he snickered darkly. "That includes you, Xena."

His companions approached him cautiously as they didn't know what to expect. "David?"

"Not yet," he wheezed. "Hang on." Dave held his head as his anger cleared. As usual, he paid for his anger with the throbbing in his head.

"David?" Xena asked carefully, betraying Angie's concern in her tone.

He nodded slowly, "YÉYeah, it's me. Come into the officeÉquickly." He managed to stumble into his sanctum and slumped into his chair. He took four pills from the bottles in his desk, gulped them down, and chased them with a glass of water.

"Now are you okay?" Gabrielle wondered.

"NoÉbut I'll be better in about fifteen minutes when the herbs take effect," he coughed. Then, he noticed the bright red alarm light suddenly snap on. "You both had better change back before the police arriveÉBad enough that I have to explain the mess, but you two as wellÉ."

The warriors got the message and concentrated. In a bright flash, they became Angie and Francesca once more.

Now, that everything was as normal as could be expected, Dave reclined nervously in his chair, waiting for the eventual confrontation with the TPD.

Chapter 10

Nick was still unnerved by what had happened at the crime scene. What if the Enforcers were near? What could they do?

Just then, the CB buzzed to life. "81 Kilo, 81 Kilo, Do you copy?"

Tracy picked up the mike and spoke up, "Dispatch, this is Brown. Go ahead."

"Please respond to an emergency call at the University. Several subjects are brawling outside of the library," the dispatcher reported.

"Thanks, Dispatch. We'll radio for backup if needed. 81 Kilo, out," Tracy concluded.

"Let's go!" Nick nodded and turned on the siren. Stepping on the accelerator, the duo flew toward the U of A. Five minutes later, they stopped right in front of the library. He rushed into the building with Tracy right on his heels. Once inside, he flew up the staircase and sprinted toward the office. His partner followed as best as she could.

"Is everyone all right?" he probed.

"We're okay, Nick," Angie informed him.

"At least, the three of us are fine," Francesca added. "Dave took the worst of it."

The vampire detective surveyed his friend. The latter's face was a hodge-podge of black and blue splotches and red areas. Obviously, given his condition, as well as the state of the hallway outside, the Enforcers had been there.

"Don't worry, Nick," Dave coughed. "There's no evidenceÉother than a splintered panel. Your cohorts are in ashes by now. The Community's safe."

He sighed knowingly. While everything was quiet for now, Nick knew that Dijon would try again at some point.

Tracy stuck her head into the office. "You know, the hall looks like a war zone."

"Caitlin's going to have a fit," Dave surmised resignedly.

"You can't help that you're a target," Tracy shrugged.

The librarian turned toward the blonde detective. "Tracy, I can't expect to keep my job if I'm being attacked by every super-powered bad guy with a grudge. Tony's killer is lurking out there somewhere and waiting to take another shot at my loved ones and me. Believe me, I'll be ready."

"Well, at least for tonight, you're safe," Eve assumed.

"For tonight, maybe," Nick stated. "Meantime, I'm going to radio in that it was a false alarm. Remember, we had some vandalism here tonight."

The four recent combatants looked at each other. They would need to keep the story straight in their heads. While Nick would have normally hypnotized them, their resister status prevented him from doing so. Furthermore, everyone preferred to prevent another flare up from Dave, at least for the presentÉ.

Chapter 11

Schanke and Natalie watched the precinct door carefully for their comrades. After all, there was no telling what kind of trouble they had run into while answering Dispatch's call.

About an hour into the vigil, Nick and Tracy plodded through the door. They seemed anxious and very concerned about something.

Natalie walked over and inquired, "So, was itÉ?"

Nick nodded and looked around, "Let's go into the Interview Room."

The others agreed and followed him hurriedly into the private area. Once the door was closed, they looked at him expectantly.

"Now, to answer your question, yes, the Enforcers did strike at the U of A tonight," he continued.

"Is everyone okay?" Schanke wondered.

"Dave's badly bruised. The others are fine," Nick noted.

"And the Enforcers, how did you drive them off?" Natalie pushed.

Tracy shrugged, "Well, we didn't have to drive them off. They were already dead by the time we got there."

"Xena took care of four Enforcers. Gabrielle staked one. And Dave, well, he lost it againÉand added three more to his total," Nick added. "As we pulled up, Angie and Francesca were already back, if you get my meaning."

Schanke scratched his head, "Geez, Nick. What are we going to tell Ramirez?"

"It was vandalism. Some students were still upset from that rally last month," the vampire detective offered.

"C'mon, Nick. You really think that the Captain's going to buy that alibi? Everything's been relatively quiet since then on campus," the ME questioned.

"Do you have a better suggestion?" Nick queried.

Natalie sighed and slumped her shoulders. No, she didn't. Oh well, it wouldn't hurt to try that explanation.

Chris Novak knocked quickly and stuck her head inside. "Sorry to barge in, but the Captain wants to talk to you, Folks," she explained.

"I guess we better get this over with," Tracy winced. "C'mon, Nick."

The vampire detective stood up and walked out of the room, followed by the others. It was going to be a long talk in Ramirez's office.


Caitlin rushed into the library and up to Dave's office. The hallway looked fine for the most part, although the paneling on the far end had taken some minor damage and some items were scattered about. "I guess that we should count ourselves as lucky if that's all the damage," she accessed. "Hopefully, he got Dr. Messenger's class out of the building before the situation escalated."

She knocked on the younger librarian's office door. "Excuse me, David?"

"Come in, Caitlin," he coughed.

The dean entered the room cautiously. Everything seemed in order here in the office, unlike the adjoining area. Drs. Messenger and Alvaro sat next to each other on the couch, each sipping a cup of raspberry tea. Alyce stared out the window. Angela stood by the desk, watching her husband wipe his face with a cloth. As she drew closer, Caitlin gaped at his condition.

"David! What happened? Are youÉ?" she demanded.

"I'll be all right," he nodded. "Just a few overeager vandals is all."

"Eventually," Angie added. "Caitlin, it looks worse than it really is. He's a little banged-up, but there's no internal damage or anything."

"You mentioned vandals. Who could work you over like this?" Caitlin inquired.

"A group of extremely strong ones," Francesca replied cryptically.

"So, is this the extent of the damage, orÉ?" Caitlin asked.

"Just the hallway," Eve reported. "We were up here when they attacked us."

"And, David, what happened? Did you?" Caitlin pressed.

"He did," Eve shuddered. "And he chased them off. Trust me, those individuals won't be back."

"You didn't kill anyone, did you?" the dean insisted. That would be all she needed to hearÉ.

"Relax, Caitlin. Nobody's dead or injured," he assured her.

"At least, nobody who wasn't already deceased," Angie concluded in her head.

"That's a relief," his boss stated. "And the police?"

"Detectives Miles and Brown have already been here," Dave commented.

Caitlin smiled in spite of herself. "It figures that those two would be involved somehow. Oh well, at least the situation is being taken care of," she mused. "And everyone else is all right?"

"We're fine. Just a bit shaken up is all," Angie noted. "With all of the uproar, we ducked for cover while Dave took care of things in the hall."

He glanced up at his wife. While Xena deserved some credit, now wasn't the time.

Caitlin nodded, "Very well. I'll talk to you tomorrow. Meantime, if you need some more time to rest after your ordeal, call in. Everyone, have a good evening." Putting on her coat, she turned and left the room.

Closing the door, Alyce asked nervously, "So, when will the Enforcers return?"

Angie and Francesca looked at Dave expectantly.

He shrugged, "That might be a question for Nick, Janette, or even, perish the thought, LaCroix. Unless they're lightning fast on their collective feet, I would expect that we bought ourselves some time tonight, mainly due to Xena's restored abilities and the Child's ferocity. But, at some point, Dijon will send more of his goons after us. You can count on that."

"Another thread left hanging," the Italian literature professor sighed. "Wonderful."

"It never stops, does it?" Angie asked him.

He forced himself to stand and gathered up his things. "No, it doesn't. But, we'll have to be ready for anything. I think that after tonight, life's going to hit the accelerator on us," he noted. "Now, c'mon, Cybelle will be bringing the girls back to the apartment soon."

His companions nodded in agreement. While they had survived one trial, there would be others in the future. All that they could do was to deal with each situation as it arose and hope for the best.


LaCroix reclined in his chair, brooding over the news from the police band. There was dissent from within the vampire community after all. Despite the fact that the Elders had not sanctioned it, the Enforcers had struck in Tucson. Something needed to be done and rapidly.

"It is time that the Elders met again," he stated to himself. "Dubois is enough of a menace without being agitated in this manner. And Xena has her accursed power to kill immortals once again. All because of a few rash children." His mouth formed itself into a straight line. Certainly, he could find a way to work this situation to his advantage. He always did.

"Yes," he smiled. "From this short term situation could come long term benefits in my relations with mortals and immortals alike. Great benefits indeed." He took another sip of the blood-merlot and flipped the switch on the radio console. Time enough for brooding later, for now, it was the Nightcrawler's turn to entertain the masses once again.....


On the top of the Modern Languages building, Dijon snarled as he watched his intended victims leave the library unmolested. While he wanted to spill their blood, the spoor of death hung too heavily in the air tonight, even for immortals. Despite the preparations and careful planning, these enemies still dispatched his fellow Enforcers and made it look easy. No, this situation would take planning and further study. Then, he could figure out how to deal with the woman warrior and Dubois's darkness with minimum harm to the other Enforcers or himself.

"Someday, Dubois. Someday," the Burgundian swore and took off into the night, leaving the ruins of his plan behind.


Natalie sat on her stool and typed away on her keyboard impatiently. In fifteen minutes, she wrapped up the summaries and put them in their respective folders. Once she handed them to Ramirez, the ME had decided to head over to the loft and talk to Nick about Janette. She was uncertain what effect the vampiress would have on him. The past year had gone so well...all things considered. One thing was certain. She had ascertained that she would lose no more ground to LaCroix or Janette.

"Yes, I think it's time for an understanding," she stated to herself.

"I quite agree," Janette's voice chimed in from the shadows.

Natalie turned to see the slender raven-haired beauty approach her. "J...Janette, what can I do for you?"

Janette smiled warmly, "Relax, Natalie. I just wanted to...chat, woman to woman about Nicolas."

"I see," Natalie replied although she wasn't as certain about the other's intent as she sounded.

Janette continued, "You have been too tense since my return. Perhaps, you are afraid."

"Afraid? Afraid of what? Of losing Nick? Of losing my life? Of losing my sanity? Or, let's see, maybe any or all of the above? I guess you can say that," the ME ranted.

The visitor nodded, "You have harbored these fears for years...as long as I have known you, no? I wanted to advise you to calm down. I am no longer the threat to you, or Nicolas' search for a cure. I wish to be friends. I plan to settle here, but your lives are your own."

Natalie gaped at the other woman. She had expected a more spirited exchange than this one. "So, what...why?" she probed.

"My brush with mortality, for one thing. Natalie, Robert made me understand the passion and need for mortal love, the need for companionship. You want to give Nicolas those things. I would not stand in the way of that," Janette explained. "When you love someone, Natalie, you want them to be happy. Being with you and coming here to this desert has made him more positive than he's been in at least four centuries."

"But, LaCroix," Natalie started.

"What about him? He, of course, will try to stop you. That is inevitable. However, he will have to face the Duboises to do so. I have seen David's rage and experienced Xena's fighting skills firsthand and have no wish to do so again. Besides, having David's trust has done something to me as well. When he saved my life without asking for a favor in return, our librarian friend made me consider some things. As long as he honors his promise from the Raven, I will keep my peace," Janette promised, her eyes sparkling. "Besides, Nicolas needs all of us, and I would do almost anything to insure that his positive attitude continues."

The coroner glanced incredulously at the vampiress. Certainly, it wasn't going to be that easy. There had to be a string attached somewhere....

"No, my dear, there are no strings attached," Janette laughed pleasantly, guessing what was going through the ME's mind. "All I want is to be his friend and yours. I do not wish to love my master and that is what Nicolas is, whether he realizes it or not."

"So, you aren't angry for...?" Natalie inquired.

Janette shrugged sadly and looked at her friend. "Natalie, I was angry at first, but I realized that Nicolas did so because of his love for me."


"Yes, his ardor shines on many levels, as a brother and past husband. We have traveled together for a long time, him and I. Over that time, we have shared much. However, in your company, I have seen his fire burn brightly. That is something which no woman save myself during the good times, his sister, Fleur, the woman, Jeanne, or perhaps that blonde, Alyssa von Strasbourg, have aroused in him. Be a friend to us both, Natalie," Janette concluded.

"Well, if that's true and I'm sure it is, would you mind if I gave you a ride to the loft? I'm still heading there and it'll save you the effort of flying," Natalie offered.

The vampiress chuckled in spite of herself. Normally, she didn't accept rides since flying was second nature to her. The only exceptions had been Nicolas and Robert. However, since Natalie had made the effort, she decided to go along with it. "Very well," she agreed pleasantly, following the coroner out of the Examination Room and up the stairs into the precinct.


Nick pulled the Caddy in back of the Social Sciences Building. He turned to his right where Dave had quietly ridden shotgun for the past two hours. Ever since the attack, his mortal friend had been too quiet...reclused within himself.

"Are you sure you want to do this?" Nick inquired.

"Nick, I have to," Dave ascertained. "But, thanks for being here with me."

The vampire nodded reassuringly. "Anytime, Dave. Well, he's waiting for you."

The librarian rubbed his friend's shoulder and got out of the car. Walking into the gathering mist, he stood before a plaque bearing the names of his mentor and the latter's wife.

"Hi, Tony, Pauline, it's me, David. Back to see you again. I wanted to let you know about Dijon. He surfaced again and attacked a group of us tonight. Know that he will pay for what he did to you in Cambridge," he started.

Then, a tremor shook through the young man and a dark glimmer sparkled in his eye. "Count on it," the Child snapped sadly. "Too much hurt for us. Needs to stop...now!"

"And it will," Nick reassured him from behind. "Maybe not now, but he will be back."

"Yessss," the other agreed and shook anew.

Dave looked up at him. "And we will be ready," he continued. "Dijon has hurt enough people."

Nick had to agree with Dave's last statement. Between the Enforcer's mortal and immortal incarnations, he had racked up quite a body count on both sides of the mortality line. With this latest attack, Dijon had crossed the line and become a liability. Just as in Divia's case, Nick hoped the Elders would allow Dave, Xena, Gabrielle, Eve, and him to work something out. "Indeed, but you must maintain control."

Dave shook yet again, but maintained his composure. "I wish I could promise that for sure, Nick. However, the Child owes Dijon as do I. The final reckoning between us will not be waged by the Marquis of Queensbury's rules. I will say that I'll make every effort to keep control. Beyond that, all bets are off...."

Nick was willing to accept that proposal as a start. Despite the difficulties of the past few months, Dave had come a long way in terms of controlling his other personality's emotions and he would put more effort into that endeavor. Accordingly, the vampire reaffirmed to himself that he would do everything possible to assist his friend in that mission. "C'mon, I'd best get you home before Angie really worries about you," he urged. "I'll be in the Caddy."

Dave nodded and turned back toward the marker. "I guess I have to go now, but I thought you would like to know what happened. I also wanted to thank you again for everything," he concluded. Then, he walked back to the car and got back in.

Nick inquired, "All set?"

Dave nodded silently as they pulled away, heading east.

For now, the danger was past. A new day would dawn in just a few more hours, bringing new surprises and challenges to them all. However, as everyone stuck by each other, so did their triumphs increase in value, as well as mutual satisfaction for the entire group as a whole.


(**I hope that you enjoyed this tale! To everyone on the list, thanks again for all of your support! Look for the stories to be posted on my site at http://Dante_6.tripod.com/stories/dubois.html or http://dante6.fanspace.com/dubois/dubois.html. )

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