By David J. Duncan
Note: Nick, Nat, LaCroix, Schanke, Tracy, Alyce, Daniel, Divia, Vachon, Fleur, Henry of Brabant, and Janette are from the show "Forever Knight" which is owned by Sony Tri-Star. Xena, Gabrielle, Joxer, Eve/Livia, the Amazons, and Ares are from "Xena Warrior Princess which was created by Rob Tapert and John Schulian and is owned by Renaissance Studios, MCA/Universal and StudiosUSA. All other characters are mine and are fictional. Any use of real names is purely coincidental.
Advisement to the Reader: There are some scenes of physical abuse in this story. Just thought you would like to know. Thanks!
Comments?: Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
The sun had recently set over Tucson's western mountains, allowing the nocturnal shroud to descend upon the Sonoran Desert once again. Marvin Lowmiller opened the door to his twelfth street apartment just south of the university. It had been an extremely hard day at work between the meetings, disagreements with his bickering co-workers, and an animated argument with his boss. After all of that, he wanted to relax and have a drink. He walked over to the refrigerator and pulled on the handle. As if in protest, the door to the ancient appliance creaked open.
Reaching toward the pitcher of Tequila Sunrise left over from the night before, he promised himself, "Just one glass. I'll just have one...."
Pouring himself a glass, he collapsed into
his dilapidated recliner and guzzled his refreshment before pouring himself
Three hours and the whole pitcher later, the angry man dozed in an alcoholic stupor. This was his time of peace and quiet. Nobody yelling at him...no bratty kid...no crabby ex-wife...nor anybody else. He snored loudly, not caring if he disturbed anyone.
At this point, the door opened again. Lowmiller's son, Raymond, crept nervously into the room. Seeing his father sleeping on the couch, the kid hoped he could get to his room in peace. The bruises from the previous night's beating still ached on his arms and right side. Moving as lightly as he could, Ray tiptoed toward his bedroom door.
The father slowly opened his eyes at a particularly loud creak. "Ray, is that you, Boy?"
"Y...Yes, Dad," the boy stammered. "I just got home from school."
Lowmiller frowned. He knew that his son's classes had ended two hours before. The guidance counselors were probably filling his young head with foolish ideas about parental abuse. Well, this would end. Now. "Late again, huh? Stupid! Didn't I tell you 'bout that?" he slurred angrily.
"S...Sorry," Ray trembled, his hair standing on end in fearful anticipation of another beating.
The older man rose with great effort from his chair. "C'mere!"
"I didn't...." Ray protested.
"Damn it! Don't lie to me!" Lowmiller scowled and struck his son across the face hard.
The boy recoiled, his lip bloodied, and the tears streaming down his cheeks. The throbbing began in his side again. Ray, to his credit, realized there was no reasoning with his father on this night. The man was too drunk to care what happened. Grabbing his coat, he ran from the dwelling and ran straight north as if the hounds of Hell were on his tail.
With the coming of night, Alyce Harris rose from her bed with a groan. The night before, she had performed preliminary research on several exhibits for the museum. Progress reports were due by the following evening to the main curator.
"Oh well," she sighed to herself. "You wanted to be the night curator." She looked at her watch and remembered the dinner appointment that she had with David and Angie Dubois. "I'll just make it to the café." After selecting a brown business suit with a white blouse, the immortal academic opened a window, and took off into the evening sky.
Dave sighed deeply and reclined in his office chair. It happened. It had finally happened. When Jerry Thomas, the longtime Europeanist had retired from the History Department, he had recommended that Dave take his place. And with an offer like that, how could he refuse?
"Yup, this is going to be great!" he thought contentedly and took another sip from his bottle of Pepsi One. For the hundredth time, he scrutinized the syllabus for the Crusades seminar. Everything seemed in order, which of course, he knew was true. The bookstore had told him they had received the texts. The other readings sat on the reserve room shelf downstairs, awaiting his students, who he knew from the class list, were the best the department had to offer. "What else could a professor want?"
Just then, a knock came from the door. Reaching out with his psychic senses, he determined the visitor's identity immediately. "Come in, Princess. The door's open," he chuckled to his wife.
Angie smiled warmly as she entered the office. "Can't I surprise you about anything?" she teased, although she didn't mind Dave's elatedness. After all of his dark moods, she certainly wasn't going to do anything to ruin the moment. Rather than say anything else, she walked over and kissed his cheek.
"Well, since I can't read your mind, you can tell me. Anything earth shattering?" he asked.
"Other than the fact that Alyce and Eve are waiting to meet us for dinner, no...I don't think so. Let's get a move on," she declared.
"Yes'm," he stated and picked up his satchel. "Now, shall we?"
"We shall," she giggled and led him out the door.
Alyce landed just behind the museum. From here, it was only a short
walk over to the restaurant, and she would have a few
minutes to check her email. She walked around to the front of the building and admired the student traffic going through the
Speedway underpass. Several students waved to her, and she returned the greeting. Yes, she was definitely glad that she had
settled in the Old Pueblo.
Then, as she turned to make her way up the stairs, her enhanced hearing
picked up on a peculiar voice. A young boy sobbed
miserably from within the museum. Fearing the worst, she raced up the stairs and into the lobby of the building. Sweeping the
marble-walled lobby, she sought out the sound's source. Peering under the twisting staircase, she found him cringing in terror
and nursing his bruises. "Are you all right?"
He crawled further back into the space. "Don't hurt me...." he sobbed.
She exhaled deeply. Who could have done this to the boy? Well, she needed
to find out. "I'm not going to hurt you. I just want
to know your name. Just your name."
Ray looked at the strange woman anxiously. Something about her indicated that he could trust her. "I...I'm Ray."
Alyce smiled warmly, "Thank you, Ray. My name is Alyce. Can I get you something?"
"A glass of water...p...please," he requested skittishly.
"Certainly," she nodded and walked over to the nearby fountain. Pulling
a paper cup from the dispenser beside it, she filled it
and brought it to him. "There you go."
"Th...Thank you," he sighed deeply and gulped the drink nervously.
She studied the young man carefully. With her senses, she could tell
that he was extremely agitated and, from the faint gurgling
sounds in his stomach, he was hungry. "Ray," she asked. "Have you eaten anything today?"
"Well, I...had a piece of toast this morning," he replied, eyeing her
suspiciously. "Why? You're not going to take me to jail! I
didn't do anything! Honest!"
The curator backed up and reassessed the situation. Obviously, somebody
had beaten the young man within an inch of his life
and left him afraid of his own shadow. Something needed to be done, but first, he needed to eat dinner. "No, I'm not going to
take you to jail. Please relax, Ray. You haven't done anything."
"Then what...?" he probed.
She sighed despondently and continued. "I'm meeting some friends for dinner. Would you like to come with me?"
He tensed, "If I go back out there, he'll find me!"
"Who will find you? Can we call your parents?" she inquired curiously.
"No!" he protested. "My Mom's in Albuquerque. She doesn't know about
this situation. My Dad ...well...I've been bad. He
keeps me in line, but it's for my own good.... If you call him, he'll beat me for sure!"
"But isn't he worried about you?" Alyce countered.
He snickered cynically, "Nah, he's too drunk to care about much of anything.
But, if you call him, he'll beat me." Then, the
wild-eyed fearful look returned to his eyes. "Please, Miss Alyce, I'll go with you, but don't call him...."
"What did you do that he had to hit you?" she asked.
"M...My teachers wanted me to stay after school. I called and left a
message at home. But, I guess he was too trashed to care,"
he shuddered. "When I got home, he was already drunk and...he ...." Overcome by anguish, he began to sob uncontrollably.
"H...Help me, please...."
"Well, first, we're going to go eat. Then, if you would like, we can call your mother," she offered.
"Th...Thank you," the boy gasped and hugged his new friend tightly.
"Shh...It's going to be all right," she assured him. "Now, let's get to the café."
"O...Okay," he relented and followed close behind her.
Fifteen minutes later, Dave, Angie, and Eve sat around an old oak table,
waiting for Alyce to join them. Everyone had been
involved with complicated reports, long meetings, and midterms. A good dinner followed by a long sleep was on everyone's
agenda. What they didn't know was that the evening would be far from relaxing....
Angie looked at her menu curiously. There were so many yummy choices.
They would bring dinner home for the girls. Deirdre
loved tuna and the twins liked chicken salad. They had been so good lately, putting up with their parents' long hours. Francesca
was spending quality time with them so they wouldn't feel neglected. But, as for herself, she needed to decide on an entrée.
"Dave, what do you think?"
The newly-minted History professor looked up from his menu. "Hmm? About what?"
"Dinner, Dummy, what else?" she teased.
He gave her hand a playful squeeze. "The roast beef melt looked really good, Princess. Either that or the lamb stew."
"The stew sounds great," she agreed. "Eve?"
Her friend looked up at her. The Religion professor could sometimes
be confused by Angie's questions. On the one hand, she
was her colleague. On the other hand, due to the fact that the spirit of her mother, Xena, resided inside of Angie, the meaning
could be maternal as well. "I'm going with the Greek salad."
"That sounds great," he agreed and looked around for Alyce. He sensed
her presence coming into the restaurant. But, she
wasn't alone. Somebody with pain...great pain....His scalp went numb and he winced.
Angie hugged her husband's shoulders. "Hey, are you...?" she asked anxiously.
"No...I'm not," he smoldered.
Eve saw Alyce approaching the table with a young boy, but recoiled at the latter's condition. "Eli, have mercy," she whispered.
The oncologist noticed their friend approaching them. A split second
later, she felt Ray's pain as well. Now, she knew what was
causing Dave's latest fit. Something was very wrong here....
"Hi, everyone," Alyce greeted. "Sorry I'm late, but I met somebody on
the way here. This is Ray. Ray, these people are friends
of mine. Meet Eve Messenger, Angie Dubois, and David Dubois."
"Hi there," Eve greeted.
"Nice to meet you, Ray," Angie smiled.
Dave looked up and nodded. With great effort, he managed to keep the
Child in check. "Please join us. Are you from around
"Yes, Sir. I live pretty close by," the boy replied.
Dave considered his new friend's words carefully. There was the nagging
feeling pervading his consciousness.... "And your
folks...Are they working right now?"
Ray bit his lip nervously. For some reason, this man was playing with
him and his eyes seemed to penetrate right into the latter's
skull. Just who was this creepy guy anyway?
Angie stared at her husband anxiously, wondering what he was trying to gain.
He gave her a comforting pat on the shoulder and continued, "Don't worry,
Son. I'm not going to report you. I was just
wondering if we should help you get some medical attention."
"No! I'll be fine. Honest!" the young man protested. He knew there would be questions if they went to the hospital.
From within Dave's head, the Child moaned fretfully. He knew the signs...even
if Ray wouldn't admit it. The bruises, the
downtrodden look, the skittish/frightened puppy attitude...the young man was being abused. "Are your parents at home so we
can call them?"
"My mother lives in Albuquerque. After the divorce, my Dad and I came
here. He works hard all day and comes home. I try to
leave him alone, but...." Ray sighed.
"But what...?" Alyce inquired.
"But, I'm a bad kid," Ray continued.
Angie shot him an incredulous look. "Excuse me, Ray, but you don't seem to be the type. Who would tell you that?"
"Your father, right?" Dave added knowingly.
Ray jumped back in his seat nervously. "N...No, he wouldn't!"
"Then who?" Dave continued. "I agree with Angie. You seem like a really
nice guy. Trust me, you don't have to take that from
"But...but, fathers have to keep discipline..." the boy blurted out.
Then, realizing his slip, he clammed up and sat there, arms
folded, and a glare aimed back at the History professor. "Besides, how would you know?"
The man across the table smiled uneasily at the question. "Because,
I've been there, Kid. And no, keeping discipline doesn't
give anyone the right to beat on you physically, mentally, or emotionally." A shudder shot through Dave, and a tear drizzled
down his left cheek.
Ray scratched his head perplexedly and turned to Alyce. "Is he okay?"
The curator assessed the situation and shook her head, "No, Ray. He's not. He's had long standing problems of his own."
"But...but, it's nothing that you did," Dave assured his young acquaintance and steeled himself. "Now, let's get something to eat."
"What do you think I should get?" Ray probed.
"Anything you want," Angie commented. "It's our treat."
"Th...Thank you," the boy stated appreciatively and looked over the menu for his choice as the waitress approached.
Nick looked around the bullpen. So far, so good...no sign of Ramirez.
The captain had been on edge for the last few evenings.
Consequently, the vampire detective wanted no part of his superior. He made his way to his desk just as the phone rang.
"Miles," he replied.
"Hi, Nick. It's Nat. Listen, are you, Trace, and Schank ready for those results? I just finished the report," Natalie informed him.
He spied Schanke and Tracy entering the area and signaled for them to join him. "Sure, we'll be right down. Give us a minute."
"Great! See you then!" Nat concluded and hung up.
Schanke leaned over the desk and asked, "What's up, Nick? Was that Nat?"
Nick nodded, "Indeed. She has the Reilly report ready downstairs."
"Good. I'll tell ya, I'll be glad to get this case put to bed," the paunchy detective fretted, looking over his shoulder.
"I know what you mean," Tracy concurred. "Now, let's see that report...."
Natalie stirred a beaker of orange liquid with a wooden spoon. The file
was indeed ready, but she had finished her latest
treatment for Nick's condition. Six months of hard work had gone into this mixture, but this time, they might have it licked. She
held the beaker to the light. The artificial hemoglobin had a special mixture of Vitamin A byproducts and donor white blood cells
contained with it. The coroner was particularly pleased with the cherry taste.
Then, she felt the telltale feeling, letting her know Nick was close by. "Nick?"
"Yeah, it's me, Nat," he answered. "Along with Trace and Schank. What do you have for us?"
The ME slipped into her official role. "Emily Reilly was stabbed and poisoned."
Schanke and Tracy looked at each other. They hadn't seen any stab wounds on the victim. Finally, Tracy asked, "So, how?"
Natalie smiled mischievously. Sometimes it was fun when you had the
answers. "I was just as mystified as you until I did the blood work."
"And?" Schanke urged.
"And, there was enough curare in her to kill twenty mortals," Nat continued,
giving Nick a glance. "The needle mark was
beneath the third fingernail on her right hand."
"So, the curare killed her? I thought that stuff only worked on vampires," Tracy winced, recalling what Vachon had told her.
"Curare only has a tranquilizing effect on us, Tracy. It's a deadly
poison for mortals," Nick noted while looking at the beaker
resting on Natalie's desk.
Natalie handed the folder to Schanke and chuckled at her immortal friend's discovery. "Yes, Nick. It is."
Tracy verbally nudged, "It's what?"
"Another of her food supplements," Nick winced, already feeling his stomach protesting at the thought of the previous attempts.
"Oh come on, Nick. At least try it," Natalie shook her head.
Tracy grinned, "Go on, Nick. Take your medicine like a man."
Schanke shook his head at the blonde detective beside him. "Tracy, there's
no need to rub it in." Then, he assured Nick, "If you
need anything, Bud. I'm here."
"I know," Nick smiled and set his jaw. Picking up the beaker, he fought the urge to dump it down the sink.
Everyone watched him anxiously.
"Down the hatch," he sighed and guzzled the concoction. For a long minute, he waited for the usual nausea.
"So?" Natalie asked.
"I feel fine...." Nick told her. "In fact, I...."
"What?" Natalie insisted. "Nick?"
The vampire doubled over in pain as the delayed nausea hit him. He reached
the sink and surrendered his last feeding to
Tucson's sewage system.
"Hey," Schanke stated, rushing over to his side. "Are you okay?"
"I'll be fine...." Nick assured his friend. "Sorry, Nat."
The coroner shrugged, "Well, it was a good attempt in any event."
"I can get the file upstairs," Tracy offered. "Nick, I'm sorry if I
Her partner waved it off. "That's okay, Trace. Now, get that stuff up
Ramirez before he blows a gasket. You too, Schank. I'll be there in a
"Okay," Tracy agreed. "If you say so." She left the exam room and headed upstairs.
Schanke gave his friends the thumbs-up and followed the younger detective to the bullpen.
Nick shook his head. "I tried, Nat. Sorry," he apologized.
"At least you did that, Nick. Thanks. I appreciate that. Now, I guess
Ramirez is waiting," Natalie agreed and smiled warmly.
He sighed in discomfort and stood up straight. He managed a warm grin
for the coroner and left the area, leaving Natalie alone
to her thoughts.
Lowmiller stirred in his chair. Where was his son? Then, he remembered.
The miserable brat had run away again. Well, he
knew he would never find the little cuss on his own. No, he'd better go file the paperwork with the police. That way, they could
track Ray down and he could wait for the call. Besides, he thought as he put on his coat and started for his car, that way he
would have more energy to lay into his son with when they got back there....
Nick walked up the stairs to the bullpen. His complexion still held
a greenish pallor and the waves of nausea continued to assault
his stomach. Struggling to reach his desk, he collapsed into the chair and took several deep breaths.
"Are you okay, Detective?" Chris Novak inquired.
The vampire detective looked over his right shoulder to see the pleasant
desk sargeant standing over him and examining his
"It was something I ate...it didn't go down the right way," he continued.
Chris winced, "I would say not. Sorry, Nick, but you look like death
warmed over. Maybe after your meeting with the captain,
you should book off."
He looked up at her and sighed, "Okay, I think I will." He rose slowly
and made his way across the bullpen. Once at the door,
he rapped loudly.
"Detective Miles?" Ramirez inquired.
"Yes," Nick replied and walked into the office.
Ramirez studied the detective carefully. Schanke and Brown had advised
him about Miles' condition. "Are you all right? This
"No, let's proceed with the case," Nick urged. "May I sit down?"
The captain nodded, "Absolutamente! Sienta te, por favor."
"Gracias," Nick managed and slumped into the chair.
"Okay," Ramirez continued. "Nick, I have already delivered this message
to your partners, and I'll say the same to you...Good
work. There are some inconsistancies with this case, but nothing we can't solve later. Go home and get some rest."
Nick looked at the other man in disbelief. It couldn't have been that easy. Could it? "Anything else?"
"Nothing for now. Go home," Ramirez assured him.
The vampire detective nodded and worked his way back to his desk chair.
He dropped heavily into it and looked at Schanke
and Tracy who eyed him carefully. "What?" he asked.
"Nick, are you okay?" Schanke probed. "You're greener than you were downstairs."
"I'll get the paperwork done, Nick," Tracy offered. "You get back to your loft."
Nick nodded absently and started to rise. Then, he noticed the messy-looking
Caucasian man stride into the station and walk
over to Sargeant Novak's desk. Oh well, it was probably nothing and the way he felt at the moment, it shouldn't concern him in
any event. Maybe, if the Duboises were close by, they could give him a ride home. He took out his cell phone and dialed their
number. However, there was no answer. Given these circumstances, he wondered if someone would be willing to give him a
The Duboises, Alyce, and Ray had a great meal at the cafe. For his part,
the timid young man had developed a small measure of
trust for these people. The others, for their part, enjoyed his company. Now, as promised, they returned to the museum, and let
Ray call his mother. Since she had changed her name to Anita Fisher after leaving Tucson, it took some doing to find her. But,
eventually, the number was located and the call was made.
"Hello?" Anita answered.
"Mom?" Ray greeted. "It's me."
"Ray? Is that you? What's going on?" she probed. "Is everything all right?"
"Now, I'm fine. I met some people at the university and...well, I'm feeling better. Still hurts though..." he explained.
"What still hurts? Ray, did your father hit you? You tell me if he did," she demanded.
Ray sighed guiltily. He had slipped again. No wonder his father thought he was a bad person. "He did, Mom. I deserved it....."
"No, you didn't. Ray, can you stay safe until I get there? This time,
he won't be able to lie his way through custody proceedings.
I'll be there as fast as I can. Can you put one of the people on please? Thanks, son for calling me and letting me know," she
Ray handed the phone to Alyce. "My mother wants to talk to you," he informed her.
The curator nodded, "Hi, Ms. Fisher, this is Dr. Alyce Harris, I'm the
night curator at the university museum. What can I do for
Anita responded, " How badly is my son hurt, Dr. Harris?"
Alyce detailed, "He's bruised and his eye's swollen. I found him in
the museum, hiding in a closet when I started my shift tonight.
He won't talk about his father."
"I would guess not," Ray's mother stated grimly. "That man doesn't have
a responsible bone in his body. Has he eaten
"My associates at the university and I fed him over at the cafe. He really likes ham and beans," Alyce assured her.
"He always did," the worried mother agreed. "Dr. Harris, I'm on my way
to Tucson from Albuquerque even if I have to drive all
night to get there. Can I call you tomorrow when I arrive?"
"Absolutely, my number is (520) 621-5432. Meantime, I'll see what I can do for your son," the curator agreed. "See you soon."
"Sure...and thank you, Dr. Harris. I'll be in touch and thank you for keeping Ray safe," Anita concluded and hung up.
"Right," Alyce agreed and hung up as well. She walked over to Ray who
was sipping on a can of Coke. "Your mother will be
here tomorrow. Meantime, we might want to keep you in a safe place."
"What about my father? He'll get mad if I don't call," Ray gulped nervously.
"We can call him when we get to my friend's place. You'll like him," she noted.
"If...If you say so," Ray agreed albeit nervously.
"Sure," Alyce added. "Let's go and see what Dave, Angie, and Eve are doing. Then, when we're ready, we can go over there."
Dave sat beside the window and stared out into the night. He promised
Angie and Eve that he would see Ray to a safe place
when they had left. Besides, looking at that young man, sent him back to a time long before....a time he had forgotten....
(Ludlow, MA, September 1982)
Dave ran into the house from school. Between the exams and his class
project, life was certainly challenging enough for the high
school sophomore and he only had a few minutes to get ready for his evening job at the library. As usual, his grandmother had
left a plate with two chocolate chip cookies and a glass of iced tea on the table as an after-school treat.
"Hi, Dave," his grandmother called, coming into the room.
"Hi, Gram," he replied pleasantly. "How's everything?" Then, he noticed
the embers in the fireplace. "Why did you need a fire
today? It's seventy degrees outside."
The older woman frowned, "Your father wants to talk to you. He'll be back in a minute."
He trembled fearfully. Stuart Dubois was known for his fierce temper
tantrums and stubborn attitudes. "Can't this wait? I have
to get to work," he indicated while running up the stairs.
Janet Dubois called up the stairs, "No, it can't. He's not happy."
The teenager frowned and responded sharply, "When is he ever happy with
me?" Then, he noticed that his door was ajar.
"That's odd," he thought. "I know I closed it this morning." Giving it a slight push, the room seemed fine, but the young man
knew somebody had been in there. Then, he dropped his jaw in horror.
His books were gone...and his notes had been rifled through. Dave felt
his emotions churning inside of him. He thought of the
fireplace downstairs. It had been odd to have a fire burning today. Now, he knew why.
"So, you've discovered that your books are gone," his father's voice sounded behind him.
"Why, Dad? Why?" the young man moaned.
"Because I won't have any book worms in the family! Damn it! You're
the oldest son. My oldest son! You'll be a plumber just
like the rest of us and like it!" his father screamed.
"No!" Dave denied the last statement.
"What was that?" the elder man bellowed.
"I said I won't! I made a promise and I'm sticking by it!" the boy challenged.
"I'll teach you!" the man snarled and backhanded his son repeatedly
across the face. I brought you into this world, and I can
take you from it as well...as well...as well."
The words still stung thirteen years later, sending another shudder through Dave.
"C'mon!" he advised himself. "The kid's scared enough! No sense in getting him anymore worked up. Cool it."
He rose from the chair in the corner with great effort and motioned
for Alyce and Ray to join him. The sooner they got the kid
to Nick's loft, the sooner he could get home and deal with the Child's moods.
Schanke's station wagon sped through the downtown section and along
Congress St. Finally, after what seemed to be an
eternity, but in reality was only ten minutes, the detective slammed on the brakes in front of his friend's warehouse loft.
"Here we are, Partner," he indicated. "Do you need a hand?"
Nick looked up. Although his stomach was a bit less nauseous from Natalie's
drink, the vampire knew that he would need rest.
He also sensed Janette close by. "I think I'll be okay, Schank," he indicated. "Thanks anyway."
Schanke scratched his head in confusion. Granted, Nick had great recuperative
abilities, but he was still sick. "If you say so, but
I'm stayin' put until I know you're okay."
"That is admirable, Detective Schanke," Janette replied pleasantly as
she landed beside the paunchy detective's side of the car.
"But, I can take care of Nicolas."
Schanke regarded the vampiress. Even before he knew what she was, he
had sensed from their encounters at the Raven that
she was not a woman to be taken lightly. If she said that Nick would be taken care of, then it would be so. "Thanks. In that
case, I'll be heading back to the precinct. Oh, by the way, Natalie and Tracy should be dropping the Caddy off here within the
Janette nodded and opened the passenger door. Gently easing her shoulder
under Nick's left arm, she braced her master and
helped the latter to his feet. "Thank you, Detective, for assisting Nicolas. It is very much appreciated."
"No problemo," Schanke smiled. "Nick's my friend. He would do the same for me. Well, call if you need anything."
"Thank you. I will," she concluded and helped Nick toward the door.
Once out of earshot of the car, she murmured to her
charge. "Let me guess, Natalie's been trying to cure you again."
"Her intentions are good, Janette," Nick coughed.
Opening the door and assisting him into the lift, she chuckled, "I'm
sure, but the road to Hell is paved with good intentions, eh?
Certainly, you would have learned by now."
Nick sighed painfully as they made their way to his bedroom, and he slumped on his bed. Once there, he was out like a light.
Janette shook her head. She knew that Nick wanted mortality, but she
didn't want to watch as he suffered as well. "Que sera,
sera," she surmised and walked back downstairs.
At that moment, across town at KRAN, LaCroix sat down at the microphone and slipped on his headset. After a day of
deliberation, he decided to let his audience have an "open session". For the sake of popularity, the general mused, best to let the
masses maintain the fantasy that they had some form of control. He took a draught from the glass of blood-merlot beside him
and looked up at the clock. "Hmm...10 PM, showtime."
He turned on the microphone and started, "Good Evening, Gentle Listeners.
This is the Nightcrawler once again, and I will be
here with you for a while yet. There is no specific topic tonight. The floor is yours...."
The red light on his phone blinked incessantly at the vampire DJ.
"I believe we have a call," LaCroix crooned and spoke into the mike, "You are on the air."
"Y...Yeah. How'ya doin'?" a drunken voice replied.
"I'm fine. The question, my friend, is, how are you?" the DJ probed.
The man coughed abruptly, "Cripe! It's my kid, he keeps running off.
Never listens to me. I always have to beat some sense into
him. Stupid brat."
LaCroix shrugged, "You are the father, are you not?"
"Damn straight," the other stated emphatically.
"Well now, you do have the right to enforce the rules of your household,"
LaCroix advised. As soon as he said it, he smiled to
himself and hoped that David Dubois was listening. That statement was certain to make the insolent mortal fly into a rage.
He noticed that the phone lights were going off at the last statement
in sequence. So, the self-appointed bleeding hearts were
responding. Good, let them.... Meantime, this particular mortal merited all of his attention. "Tell me, where is the boy now?"
"Hell if I know. I've been looking for him, but he vanished into thin
air!" the man bellowed. "Ray has always been a
disappointment. His mother mucked with his head, and now, I can't keep him in line."
"Do what you must, my friend. You are the father, and, as the head of
the household, you have the right to keep control."
LaCroix concluded and moved through the next batch of calls. As he did so, his mind flashed back.....
(Pompeii, 79 AD)
Lucius prepared stringently for his next campaign. The Emperor needed
him and his step-sister, Livia, to head north and take
out the remaining barbarian tribes in Gaul and western Germania. While equal in rank, as head of the familia, it was he who
controlled the flow of the planning.
The younger woman seethed at this turn of events. For the past three
years, she had received the subtle whisperings from Ares,
the god of war, himself. She knew what needed to be done. Still, she had to flatter her step-brother. "We head north through
Gaul and annihilate the remaining hordes," she stated.
"Germania is weaker, Livia, and we will go through there first," he
"And pray tell why? Ares says..." she started.
He growled, "I don't care what you think Ares said! I think we should go here."
"Even when he says otherwise?" the female warrior contradicted.
The general ground his teeth in rage. "I have made my offering at his
temple, and I know my plan! As the paterfamilias of this house, I will
Livia's hand instinctively moved to her sword, but did not grasp it.
While she was grateful that Gaius Martellius had raised her as
one of his own, her allegiance did not automatically transfer to his pretentious heir. Lucius had always looked out for himself first
in all things...especially when it came to his military command. "I will go and say farewell to Divia," she informed the other and
walked back toward the house, leaving the other to his pathetic musings....
(Back in the Present)
LaCroix sighed. Seeing Livia again, especially in her pathetic guise
as the Messenger of Eli, brought back painful memories.
Rather than dwell on them, he moved onto the next call, preferring to deal with the present rather than the past.
Francesca closed the door to her cousins' bedroom quietly behind her.
It had been an interesting evening to say the least.
Always in tune with their parents' feelings, something had upset them. The Italian literature professor was willing to bet that
"something" was Dave's darkness in turmoil yet again. How she wished that he could find a way to keep both sides of his
persona happy simultaneously. "Oh well," she pondered. Such is life." Then, she noticed a set of headlights outside of the
window. Looking through the curtains, she recognized Angie's car. "Good, she and Eve are back," she thought.
"But, something's not right," Gabrielle's voice explained.
Francesca turned to see the Blonde Warrior-Bard of Potadeia's shimmering
form standing in the kitchen. "Gabrielle, what do
"Eve's upset about something. And I can feel Xena gritting her teeth
inside of Angela. Trust me, something's up," her spiritual
"I see," Francesca commented and watched as her two companions entered
the dwelling. Despite the fact that most meals at the
café were pleasant, on this evening, both Angie and Eve were depressed.
"Should I ask how dinner went?" she continued.
Eve sighed and trembled slightly, "Sorry, Francesca, but if you will
excuse me, I need to be alone for a while. Thank you, Angie,
for bringing me with you and David tonight."
"It was our pleasure," Angie assured her. "By the way, if you want to talk, both Xena and I are here."
The Messenger smiled briefly, "I know. Thank you. I'll see you at the
apartment, Francesca. Sorry that I'm not more talkative right now,
Gabrielle. It was a rough night." With that, she walked back through the door, heading across the pavement for her sanctum.
Gabrielle frowned, "Okay, Angela, what happened tonight?"
Angie sighed, "We were on our way to dinner when Alyce found an abused
boy hiding in the museum. Anyway, the pain was
emanating off of him in waves, and it set Dave off."
Francesca winced, "That must have scared the boy senseless."
Angie shook her head, "Fortunately, Dave reined in his temper. The young
man was unnerved, but I think they adjusted to each
other as the night went on."
"And what about Eve?" the Bard interjected.
"Eve's mood has been sinking since we left the restaurant. Ray-that's
the young man's name-reminded her of something in her
past," Angie noted.
"It's Lucius' doing," Xena's voice cut in.
The threesome watched as the Warrior Princess' spectral image stood
beside her best friend's form. The newest arrival was
agitated over the events of that evening.
"What do you mean 'Lucius'? Who?" Francesca wondered, her head swimming.
Xena's eyebrow arched and her mouth set in a grim line. "Lucius is Lucius of Pompeii. You know him," she explained firmly.
"How? Angie, what is she talking about? How could I...?" Francesca
insisted incredulously and turned to her "roommate". "Gabrielle, who?"
The Potadeian spirit shivered briefly and looked at Xena. After receiving
a nod from her companion, she continued, "Lucius is
Francesca's jaw dropped and she muttered, "Mama Mia! Are you sure?"
"Yeah. And I'll bet my last dinar that he and his father both have
something to do with how Eve's feeling right now," the Thracian warrior stewed. "Just wait'll I get my hands on Lucius. After
they corrupted her...."
Angie shrugged helplessly, "If she wants help, she'll ask for it. Meantime, you and I both need to be careful."
Xena's image nodded and stared out the window. A sudden monsoon was sending a torrent of rain down on the complex.
Eve curled on her bed and stared at the bare whitewashed walls of her
room. When she returned to Earth, she had maintained
her stoic practices from antiquity. She had hoped that now she would have been able to spread the word about Eli without
interference. All of those plans changed when Lucius had appeared in Tucson. It had been bad enough to know that he had
survived in his corrupted state, but now that he was nearby, the prophetess sensed that he would make a claim on her. She also
knew that her mother would never allow him to enforce it....
Tears drizzled down her cheeks. The memories were still very poignant despite the fact that they were Livia's.
(Pompeii 79 AD)
As she had on many other clandestine trips, Livia rode hard from the
villa into town. Upon reaching the house where she knew
Selene and Divia lived, the commander dismounted, stalked into the house, and observed the goings-on. The other women of
the household busied themselves with daily tasks. However, it was not them whom she was concerned with. Rather, it was the
little blonde girl who sat alone on the hearth, staring angrily into space.
"Divia?" the female commander called.
"Yes?" Divia snarled and looked up to see the woman in front of her.
"What do you want, Aunt Livia? Don't you know that
Lucius won't like it if he finds you here?"
The commander was confused as to why this girl brought out such
feelings in her. Despite the fact that Ares had commanded her to banish those emotions, she could not bring herself to do so.
Perhaps it was the fact that they were both outcasts. Unfortunately for the latter, the youngster was Lucius' illegitimate daughter.
"But, at least she knows her parents," she mused to herself. "In that regard, she is better off than I am." Composing herself, Livia
replied pleasantly, "Your father and I are leaving shortly, Divia. I wanted to say farewell before we depart."
Divia shook her head sadly. With her father's and aunt's departure,
nobody, save her mother, Selene, would care about her. Oh
sure, they would talk to her, but the young girl knew that they really looked down on her because of her mother. "Will you be
back soon?" she asked.
"Only the gods know that for sure, Little One," her aunt recolor="#ff0000">New