[Modern Day-Cathedral of Crystal]
Lana choked back a sob. Seeing her parents' death brought the pain back all over again. "I'm sorry," she apologized.
"Hey, it's okay," Clark assured her, hugging her shoulders. "That was a hard day for all of us."
"But the Professor lost a lot too," she countered.
"So did you," Dave replied, feeling his own moods swaying. "We all did that night."
"How could you do that to him?" Emma wondered, glaring at LaCroix.
"I did what I was supposed to do! Don't judge me!" the General growled.
"Lucius, you screwed up. Deal with it," Divia retorted. "And you unleashed our dark friend on us."
"But that was the least of it," Dave growled.
"Man, as if you didn't have enough to deal with," Brennan remarked. "That was some serious stuff, Chief. You sure you want to hear more?"
"He has to, Brennan," Adam declared. "For his own sake." No wonder the Child is the way he is. On top of it, we finally see this 'Dijon' and know why they fought in Istanbul.
"And so that you understand," the Empress added. "Are you ready then, David?"
He took his wife's hand and nodded. "Go on."
"Very well then," the Empress continued, waving her hands and allowing the story to resume.
[Alvarez House, Scituate-Two hours after the murders]
Karen and Dave pulled into her parents' driveway and walked into the house. She had made sure that he made it home. After leading the way for halfway home, she had allowed him to go first to make sure he would make it. Given the mess inside of his head, she didn't trust his driving skills at the moment.
"Are you guys okay?" Caroline wondered, rushing into the room. "Dave, what is it?"
His spasms had increased in their intensity. He looked at her with deep sunken eyes, bloodshot from crying. "Dr. Samuelsohn's-dead."
"Dead?" Rick demanded, entering the room along with Karen's parents and brother, Charles. "How?"
"I can't remember," Dave told him, holding his head. "It's just a big blank. It's just like someone else is there."
Isn't that the truth? Karen eyed him cautiously, recalling the medical reports from Smallville as well as the Voice in the hospital eight years earlier. They weren't sure if the beating he took would affect him. I guess we know now, don't we? The curse has taken him. Damn the witch. "Rick, don't push him. Please, everyone; let him get some rest. It's been a long night."
"All right," Rick relented. "Hope you're feeling better, Dave."
"Yeah. You and me both," Dave agreed, rubbing his forehead as he went up the stairs. "I just wish this damn laughing would stop."
"What laughing? There isn't anyone laughing, Dave," Charles pointed out.
"A woman laughing?" Karen asked, guessing at the cause.
"It's her, Karen. Somehow, she's behind this," the graduate student stated. "Damn her!"
"I know. Come on, upstairs, all right?" she urged, pushing him up the staircase. As they got to his bedroom door, she offered, "I'll stay with you tonight. You shouldn't be alone."
"All right," he agreed, leading her into the room and shutting the door behind them.
Chapter 9 [Next morning]
Karen descended the stairs dressed in her robe and a fresh nightgown. She heard her parents checking on them during the night. I'm sure they know, but Dave and I have been dating for so long, we're practically married. Why not?
"Good morning, Karen. How is he?" her mother inquired.
"Hi, Mom. He's doing all right, I guess. During the night, he had several nightmares. I tried to make him feel better," she replied.
"I'm sure you did," Mrs. Alvarez concurred.
"Mom, given his mood last night, I had to do something to reassure him. It's the least I can do for him," Karen protested.
"Even if the moods are now out of control?"
"And whose fault is that?" Karen pointed out. "Look at where he grew up and what happened to him. He needs help. I know that. He also needs our love and support."
"I'll drink to that," Caroline agreed, walking in the door with the morning paper and her coffee cup in hand. "Look at the headline."
Their mother read, " 'MYSTERIOUS MURDERS IN CAMBRIDGE.' Girls, is this what I think it is?"
"Mom, he didn't kill the Samuelsohns! You know how much he loved Dr. S!" Karen argued.
"I know," Mrs. Alvarez agreed, considering all of the possibilities. "Still, if he knows something, he should tell the police."
"But he doesn't remember anything," Karen reiterated.
"I don't know, Karen. I saw him walking to the bathroom last night. He gave me the most wicked glare you could imagine and growled something like 'git 'way' at me," Caroline told her sister.
"His schizophrenia is now fully developed," Mrs. Alvarez realized.
"So what do we do?" Karen wondered. "We can't just throw him out on the street."
"Your father and I would do no such thing to him, Karen. Dave has certainly earned his part in this family. The question is though, can you trust yourself around him?" her mother indicated.
"I-well-I don't know," Karen admitted. "Even as we were-well-together, I could feel his moods churning. I know he would never hurt me, but there's something awful inside of him just waiting to come out. Last night, it did come out. The inner child broke loose. Something terrible happened in Cambridge to force the darkness to the surface."
"Well, in the meantime, I think we can do something to cheer him up," Charles noted, joining them. "I was going to suggest getting some ribs from the butcher and asking Dad to put them on the grill."
"That's a good idea," Caroline agreed. "Come on, Karen. We won't be gone long."
"All right. Just let me change and I'll be right there," Karen agreed, getting up from the table.
[Twenty-five minutes later, Stoker's Meats, Scituate Center]
Sitting in the parking lot of Stoker's Meats, a brown van and a blue Ford car remained in view of everyone. Inside of the van, three men, each in their mid-thirties with dark black hair and moustaches, planned their next move. The car held another man like the first three and a blond woman. The Soviet spies had followed the Alvarez family for several months plotting their move. It seemed that fifty years earlier, Jeannie Alvarez's grandmother, Natalia Rudmyava, had emigrated illegally from the USSR. Now they were ordered to bring the family back at any cost.
"What do you think, Boris?" the blonde asked her partner in the car.
"According to our bug, the brats are coming," her partner stated. Seeing Caroline's car pull into the lot, he continued, "Get ready." After speaking in Russian to the walkie-talkie, he cranked the motor and moved into position behind the newcomers.
Seeing Karen get out of the car, the blond spy jumped out and pulled a pistol on her. "You will come quietly or I will shoot!"
"Karen!" Caroline yelled.
"You two, out!" one of the van men ordered, getting out with a pistol drawn.
"Get out of here! Get help!" Karen urged her siblings.
"You heard her! Let's go!" Charles declared.
"But-we can't leave her!" Caroline argued.
"Let's go!" he yelled.
We'll uncork our new beast on them. She mused about Dave's situation, not knowing how accurate she was. Burying the accelerator, she took off toward the road, hitting the state road and heading back toward home.
"Damn! Get her under wraps!" the van commander ordered the blond woman. "We'll go after the other two and collect their mother as well!" With that, he jumped into the van's driver's seat and took off in pursuit.
"Let's get to the airport," Blondie ordered her partner even as she slid in the backseat and kept her gun aimed at their unwilling guest. "I'm sure the Premier can't wait to meet you, my Dear."
Yeah, I can't wait to see how Dave reacts. Oh is this going to be a picnic. She worried about this new development as the car headed toward Logan Airport.
Chapter 10 [Alvarez Residence]
Dave rolled over and opened his eyes. After their lovemaking, Karen had allowed him to sleep off his moodiness, hoping that anything not taken care of by their activities would be dealt with in that way. She's afraid of me, though. Can't say that I blame her for that. He rubbed his head, wondering what had happened in Cambridge that previous evening. Why do I feel so lightheaded? Where's Karen? Suddenly, he felt her fear. "What the Hell?" Jumping out of bed, he threw his clothes back on from the night before and ran downstairs. "Mrs. A? What's going on?"
"Oh, Dave, the others are at the store. How are you doing this morning?" Mrs. Alvarez asked, trying to keep as much cheer in her voice as possible.
"Surviving, considering that my advisor's dead and I don't know how it happened," he retorted, rubbing his forehead. "Plus, I have this feeling's Karen's in trouble again."
She shook her head, recalling her daughter's propensity for finding trouble and Dave's rescues. One of those capers involved his breaking into this very house and dealing with a gang. Not now, kids.
He ran out to the Subaru and got on his CB. "This is Crash. I need to speak to my catcher. Hey, Ground Chuck, you out there? Over."
A minute later, the speaker crackled to life. "Crash, this is Ground Chuck! Blondielocks and I are barreling toward you! The package has been taken again. Over!"
He winced. Shit! And Garth's not here. Damn, damn, damn! "What's your ETA?"
"Five minutes. Tell Mom we've got the Coyote on our tail."
A wave of numbness rolled across his scalp and he grinned momentarily. "We'll be ready. Crash, out." Grabbing his bow and the remaining arrows from the night before, he ran back into the house. "Stay in the house and out of sight!" he yelled back at his hostess.
"Trouble?" she asked, wincing at the thought.
"Oh yeah," he replied, snickering grimly. "An' Ah git to whup me some butt too."
"Excuse me? Since when do you speak with an accent?"
"I don't have an accent," he retorted, now speaking with his normal tone.
She eyed him carefully, wondering what was going on. "Be careful out there!"
He snorted as he headed out the door.
Caroline took the left turn onto their street on two wheels, trying to put some space between them and the van. "Have we lost them?"
Charles shook his head. "They're still back there! I can't believe we're leading them home!"
"That's what Dave said, wasn't it?" she inquired nervously.
"Yeah, but he isn't exactly firing on all cylinders this morning either," he pointed out.
Don't remind me. She sighed as they saw the house come into focus. More importantly, they saw the resident houseguest lighting one of his special arrowheads. "He knows we're here!" Laying down two big honks of her horn, she announced their presence.
Dave shook his head as they sped by. This will get their attention. Aiming quickly, he fired the special arrowhead at the van speeding in his direction.
The projectile hit the grill, exploding on contact, and seeping goop into the engine. The chemical gummed the fuel lines up, forcing the van to stall.
"Score one," the archer cheered, reloading his bow and watching carefully.
At that moment, the three spies came out firing machine guns at him.
"Damn it! Garth, where the Hell are you?" Dave spat, diving behind the giant planter in front of the house. From behind the makeshift blind, he fired two incendiary arrows at his attackers, causing the street to bubble from the heat and wounding two of them.
The third hit Dave's arm with a lucky shot. "Hey, American hero! Give up now and let us take the woman and the kids. Maybe we'll let you live."
"Hey, twits! How about you go screw a lamp post?" the grad student retorted. By now, his shoulder was throbbing.
"Bullets hurt, don't they?" the Soviet goon taunted.
Behind the planter, Dave felt his control slip away, allowing the Child to assert full control.
"Yeah! 'Bout as much as yer ass is gonna feel when Ah've whupped ya'll!" The Dark One got up and advanced on the van with the three goons. "Ya'll feel real good 'bout yerself, don't ya?"
The goons continued to shoot at him; however, they saw their bullets bouncing off the air around him. "Impossible!"
"Jus' like this!" the Child cracked, telekinetically tossing the van aside and exposing the three Soviets. "Now 'bout yer whuppin'." Another wave of his hand pulled the rifles from their hands. Finally, he blasted them unconscious with a series of mental energy bursts. "Aw, ya'll can't take anymore. Too bad."
"Dave?" Caroline asked. She gasped as the Child turned around. It's that look from last night.
"Not Big Bro," he retorted savagely over his shoulder while stalking into the house.
"Big Bro?" Charles inquired, not believing this whole episode.
"He's finally snapped," she told him as they followed. Seeing their mother's astonished gaze, they figured he had passed that way. "Which way?"
"Umm-upstairs," Mrs. Alvarez managed to say.
Caroline and Charles rushed up the stairs and knocked on their friend's door.
"Go 'way. Ah'm busy!" the Child spat.
"Dave, what is it? What's happened to you?" Caroline asked caringly.
"Nothin'. Ah just came out," the Dark One told them. "Tell yer Momma that Ah won't hurt ya'll. But them boys outside, Ah got me some questions fer 'em." He opened the door and pushed past them, marching down the stairs, and out the door. Seeing one of the three spies trying to crawl away, he focused again.
Suddenly, the shocked Soviet found himself being pulled across the street and plunked rather roughly back onto the Alvarez front lawn. "D-don't hurt me."
"Or what? Lissen up, Wiseass, ya'll got someone Ah care 'bout. Where is she?"
"I won't tell you," he insisted.
The Child grinned. "Ooh, a Commie with balls. Ah like that. Means Ah git to play a bit." He willed the spy to float in the air and turned him upside down. Seeing the other's face, he asked, "Still wanna play?"
"You're complete nutball!" the spy accused.
"Balls an' nothin' upstairs. Stupid wuss," the Child growled, hitting him with another mental pulse and knocking him out before allowing his adversary to slump to the ground. "G' night." He stormed back into the house. "Ya'll can call the cops if ya wanna. Boys don't wanna play no more." Slumping into his chair at the table, he drank the rest of Dave's coffee before asking them all, "What?"
"Can you tell us what happened last night? Dave-umm-Big Brother couldn't," Caroline wondered.
"Old man died cuz of Mustard Boy an' his buddies. Ah staked two of 'em. Mustard Boy ran like a yellah belly," the Child noted, refilling the coffee cup. "This here's good. Thanks."
"You're-welcome," Mrs. Alvarez replied, accepting the compliment. "What do we do now?"
"Ya'll talk with the po-lice. Ah'm layin' low," the Child told them, heading upstairs at the sound of the sirens.
Mrs. Alvarez looked at her kids and then up the stairs. Ricardo's never going to believe this. Not in a million years.
Chapter 11 [Several hours later-Kremlin, Moscow, USSR]
Alexander Rostchenko read the field reports and growled with disgust. While one team had taken their objective and was in route back there, the other had failed. They'll expose us. They couldn't stop one American with a bunch of toys. Unreal! Then he heard a knock at the door. "Da? Enter."
"General?" a younger man with red hair asked. "I have those other field reports."
"Thank you, Private. That will be all," Rostchenko told him, accepting the folder and watching the door close. Fortunately, we put a tail on our group. As he read the second report, his eyes went wide. "Dubois is a mutant? This can't be!" This could be a great pain in our side. He stalked over to the liquor cabinet and poured himself a glass of vodka. "We'll need to bring in our own special forces, just in case."
He picked up the phone and dialed the number for his administrative assistant. "Yes. Get me the Soviet Super Soldiers. We could have a problem here." A few minutes later, he set the receiver back in its cradle and waited for further news. Five operatives against one mutant. Yes, the odds are now back in our favor, I would say.
[Toronto-Raven; That evening]
Dijon stalked through the tavern's front door and toward the bar. After the events of the previous evening, he definitely needed a blood merlot to ease his mood. Unbelievable. That one mortal could take out my entire team is unreal. Looking around the club, he observed the vampires dancing to the hard rock with disdain. If they knew how foolish they look, they'd stop it.
Janette walked over and asked, "Shall you be getting your usual, Monsieur Dijon?"
"Oui," he replied. "Is LaCroix in?"
"Yes, he is. In fact, here he comes now," she informed him. Pouring the merlot, she placed it in front of him. "I trust your latest hunt was a good one?"
"No, it wasn't," he groused, guzzling down the contents.
"You didn't deal with Samuelsohn?" LaCroix asked grimly, his eyebrow arched in disapproval.
"We dealt with him and his witch! You didn't tell us about the brat!" the Burgundian hissed.
"Brat? What brat?" the Roman inquired, taking a drink from his glass. "Dijon, who are you talking about?"
"A younger mortal with dark hair. He changed somehow and killed three Enforcers," Dijon reported.
Janette looked at her master anxiously. A mortal who can kill Enforcers?
LaCroix sighed, "It sounds like the mortal who faced me at the school a month ago. I would have killed him if not for the other mortals."
"This is serious, LaCroix. Two of my colleagues are gone because of him! I want him dead!" Dijon hissed. "You left him alive. He is now my problem." Feeling a familiar vibration in back of himself, he looked to find Nick standing there. "Nicolas, you've been standing there for the last few minutes. Is there something you want? I'm busy."
The detective shook his head at the Burgundian. "No. I just wondered what was going on. The mortal you mentioned, he wouldn't happen to be in his mid-twenties?"
"He could have been. Would you know of him?" Dijon asked testily.
"Yes, Nicholas, do tell," LaCroix added.
"I have a theory, but I'll need to check further," Nick stated. I hope I'm wrong, but it sounds like Lorenzo Alvaro's grandson. He remembered the young man from his colleague's funeral a dozen years earlier. The anger was already taking root at that point. Given the curse, this could be trouble. With that, he hustled out of the club and drove off in the Caddy.
Natalie typed away at her computer on her latest case. Cohen's going to want this one ASAP. Seeing Nick walk in, she asked, "Hey, Nick, where have you been? I left a couple of messages for you."
"Sorry, Nat, I was at the Raven checking on something," he apologized. "I also wanted to let you know that I'm going to be on vacation for a couple of days."
She shot him a curious look. Nick was infamous for never taking vacations or booking off sick. Something's definitely up. "Okay, Nick, what is it?"
"A visit to a former colleague's relative," he retorted. "Hopefully, nothing out of the ordinary."
"Hopefully? Nick, who is this?" she wondered.
"When you were in History class up at the U of T, did you ever hear of a situation in Rowenshire, Massachusetts around the year 1720?" he inquired.
She scratched her head for a minute, trying to remember her American History. "Sorry, it's been a while. I do remember the Salem Witch Trials, but what happened there?"
"Another witch. LaCroix and I were there. Before she was hung, she cursed the town and the priest's descendants," he explained.
"You don't believe in curses, do you? I mean, vampires exist, but curses?" she asked.
He picked up the newspaper and read through it. Coming across the Cambridge murders, he indicated, "There. Those murders are tied to it."
"What? A curse killed that professor? Come on, Nick!"
He glared at her. "No. Three Enforcers did that. I learned tonight though that a young man was there too. He changed and staked two of the Enforcers before driving the third one off."
She nodded. "According to the newspaper, the Cambridge police don't know who the young man is, Nick."
"They don't, but I do. I'm going to visit him. Don't worry, Nat, I'll be careful," he promised, walking out the door.
She sighed and shook her head. How do you do it, Nick? How do you keep stumbling across these things?
[Loft-An hour later]
Nick packed quickly, taking a few essential clothes and other items. He had a 2:45 AM flight to Worcester, MA. Hopefully, this won't be too long of a trip.
"I agree," LaCroix announced.
The former Crusader turned to find his master standing on the upper level. "What is it, LaCroix? Can't you see I'm busy?"
"I can see you're getting ready for a trip. Where are you going?"
"Rowenshire," Nick told him.
That name got LaCroix's attention, making him stand up straight. "Why would you go back there? There's nothing there."
"The curse, LaCroix."
The Elder laughed, "Really, Nicholas, there are no such things as curses. Lichtenfeld's challenge was nothing but pure folly."
"Your 'folly' killed two Enforcers last night," Nick pointed out. "And if Dijon's correct, you've already encountered it too in Arizona."
"Him? That mortal is the one to be split in two? Rubbish," the Roman doubted.
"I've met him, LaCroix. The witch's ghost has tortured him!" Nick exclaimed, glaring into the other's eyes. "He won't fear Dijon or you."
LaCroix smirked. "That will be his death warrant, then. Really, Nicholas, we do have other matters to concern ourselves with."
"This one takes precedence. If you will excuse me, I do have a flight to catch," Nick concluded, opening the lift.
"Good hunting, Nicholas. You know your duty. If you find him, you must kill him," the Roman declared before taking off into the night. And I will be there too to make sure of it.
Nick shook his head. Who would kill whom? I just pray that I can find him soon.
Chapter 12 [Kremlin]
Karen walked through the door of the Premier's office, feeling the two agents' guns in her back. She couldn't believe this situation was happening to her again. Looking around, she took in the carpeting and furniture around her. "When do I get some answers?"
"Quiet," the blonde urged, giving her an extra nudge with the gun.
"Agent Natilova, enough," the Premier stated from behind his desk. "Miss Alvarez deserves to know what is happening. Take a seat, all of you."
Karen sat down, feeling a tad bit anxious. "What is going on?"
"A family matter, actually. Your great-grandmother was an illegal "migr". We want you and your family back here where you belong," the Premier told her.
"I'm an American citizen. You have no right to hold me here or to demand that my family come here!" she countered.
"Nyet. We are within our rights. Tell me, who is this friend of yours?" he asked.
"Friend?" she asked.
"The young man who can levitate things with his mind? He took out three of our best agents earlier today. Who is he?" the Premier demanded.
He can levitate things? Karen scrambled to keep her composure. Dave can do things with the bow, but with his mind? That's a new one. What happened in Cambridge anyhow? "You met someone you can't intimidate. Let's just leave it at that."
"I'm sure," he replied, pressing a button on his desk.
At that moment, five more people joined them: a blonde woman in a dark black costume, a man dressed in Soviet military wear, a red-haired man in costume with a mask over his eyes and two others in armor.
"These are the Soviet Super Soldiers, my dear. I'm sure they'll prove intimidating enough," the Premier pointed out.
"Where is this boy?" Red-Hair challenged. "Let him come!"
"Vanguard, enough!" his blonde counterpart advised. "Best not to challenge someone before we know all of the facts."
"I would agree," the military-looking Super Soldier concurred. "Has the demand gone out?"
"It has. We expect a response soon," the leader concurred.
It may not be what you want. Oh, Dave, be careful. Karen shook her head, wondering what would happen next.
Chapter 13 [Scituate]
Half a world away, Dave wondered about Karen as well. Sometime about mid-afternoon, he awoke from his daze. What is happening to me? The police had asked him all sorts of questions, but he had no answers for them. There were no memories of the events, only the wrecked van and the neighbors' accounts of the standoff. His shoulder throbbed from where the Soviet bullet had struck, but that was the least of his worries at the moment. What the Hell is going on? He poured himself a cup of coffee and continued to stew for a while longer.
Finally, Karen's father joined him. "Spare a cup for me?"
"Sure," Dave agreed, pouring another cup for his host. "Some day, huh?"
"I'll say. And you have no memory of it?" the elder man asked.
"None except for the start of the fight with those Russian guys. Did the police hear anything?" Dave asked.
"Not yet. I'm sure that it won't be long. Dave, thanks though."
"For what?" The grad student looked surprised.
"If not for you, then the others wouldn't be here either," Ricardo pointed out.
"I just wish I could remember what happened," Dave groused.
"Give it time, Dave." The elder man rubbed the other's shoulder.
"If anything happens to her, I'll hunt those bastards down," Dave vowed, slamming his fist on the table. "I don't care where they are!" He glared at Ricardo.
The elder man shuddered, feeling the anger flowing from his houseguest. While they had dealt with his moods often enough over the previous decade, this was different. Something had changed in the previous twenty-four hours with Dave. Jeannie told me that it seemed like a different person was in his head. What is this?
For most of the next day, the family waited for word from the kidnappers. While they went out for a little while to try and get their mind off things, it didn't work.
For his part, Dave tinkered in his lab down in the cellar, working on a fresh supply of arrowheads. He couldn't stand to be doing nothing while his girlfriend was missing. As soon as word came, he would be ready for action.
About 3:00, Charles called down the stairs. "Dave! There's something here!"
"Be right there," the grad student declared, shutting everything down as quickly as he could and rushing up the stairs. "Where is she?"
"We're about to find out," Ricardo told him, holding up a videotape and sticking it in the VCR. "The police just received this."
Dave sat down beside Caroline and watched the TV screen flicker to life.
On the screen, a middle-aged man in a brown uniform appeared. "If you are watching this, I presume you are the Alvarez family. I make this short. You all must renounce American citizenship and come here. If not, your daughter dies. And, as for your friend, we are prepared for him. Comrade, we will attend to you as well." With that, the tape stopped.
"What did he mean? We're not Russian," Caroline wondered.
"No but your grandmother fled from there just before World War II," her mother replied. Her eyes watered. "Ricardo, our little girl is there. What do we do?"
Ricardo embraced his wife, not knowing what they would do.
"Nothin'," Dave remarked curtly. "I'll deal with it. That son of a bitch is about to learn a few things. Attend to me, will they?" He snorted rather rudely, stalking back toward his lab. A few minutes later, he had his full arsenal ready to go.
"Dave, don't do anything rash!" Caroline requested.
"I'm just going for a drive. If you need me, I'll be in Amherst," Dave informed them. Just then, the phone rang. "Hello?" he answered.
"Can I speak with David Dubois?" Nick requested.
"This is he. Who is this?"
"It's been a while. I'm Nicholas O'Connor, your grandfather's colleague. We met at his funeral."
"I remember you, Dr. O'Connor. Forgive me, but this is a really bad time. Can we talk at some other time?" Dave declined.
"Even if it's about Cambridge? You want answers, don't you?" Nick asked.
"What is this?" Dave demanded. "Tell me!"
"Not like this. Meet me in the road by your old house just after sunset. Don't worry, I know about your measures from the last encounter," Nick concluded before hanging up.
Dave shook his head. Why would he show up now? "Gotta go."
"Wait a minute!" Charles demanded. "What was that all about?"
"One of my grandfather's former archaeology colleagues knows something about me and Cambridge. He says he has answers," Dave explained, putting his duffel bag, quiver and bow in the back seat of the Subaru.
"This is too convenient. Can you trust him?" Ricardo inquired.
"Do I have a choice?" Dave countered. "If he can tell me about what's been happening, I need to know!"
"Don't go by yourself!" Caroline insisted.
"I'm not taking anyone into that place with me. Bad enough, the meeting's where it is. No way," Dave argued.
"Rowenshire? YOU'RE GOING THERE? Why?" Jeannie asked, her face turning white.
"Apparently, the answers I need are there," Dave told her. "Still, you have a point. On second thought, Caroline, you're with me."
She stared at him. "I am?"
"You want in or not? Come on, I don't have all day!" Dave snapped.
Seeing her parents nod, she collected a few things for the night and told them, "It's going to be okay." Getting into the passenger seat, she added, "Let's go."
He grunted an ascent as they pulled out of the driveway. Five minutes later, they were on the interstate, speeding northwest for their destination.
Caroline looked around nervously. From her sister's accounts, she had never wanted to see this place. The dark forest seemed creepy enough as did the old town. Compounding that, the townspeople seemed icy in their reception of Dave-almost as if recalling some wrong he had done them from years earlier.
Dave stopped the Subaru in the road by his father's former house. It still looked as unkempt and derelict as the day he had seen it last: his grandmother's funeral and the last encounter with the witch's ghost. He took a deep breath and told her, "We're here. Stay put. I hope this won't take long."
"I really don't think this is a good idea," she argued, suppressing a shiver.
"Caroline, I need to know, all right?"
"Do you?" Seeing his glare, she shrugged. "Just don't get yourself killed."
"I won't," he assured her, taking his bow and quiver out of the back and putting the latter on his back. "I'll be back." He looked around. "Okay, where are you?" he called, surveying his surroundings. His senses told him he wasn't alone.
"Ye came to see me, my Boy?" a cold voice wondered.
He turned to see the witch hovering behind the energy field. "Still stuck there. Good."
"My work's done. This can't stop me forever," the witch challenged. "One day, I'll repay ye for this kindness. And the same for ye, Nicholas."
"I don't think so," Nick disagreed, stepping into view. "Your day is finished. Leave him alone."
"Nay, Nicholas, my prophecy is coming true. Soon, the world will shudder from my dark child there," the phantasm crowed.
"What the Hell? WHAT DID YOU DO TO ME?" Dave demanded.
"She split you in two," Nick revealed. "I'm sorry I couldn't tell you more over the phone. I had to be sure it was you."
"How do I deal with this, Dr. O' Connor?" Dave demanded.
The witch cackled.
"Shut up!" Dave snarled, feeling his head going numb again, as the Child took over again.
"Ah'll never be yers, Bitch!" the Dark One growled. "An' Ah'll deal with ya'll too!"
Nick took a step back, scanning the grad student in front of him. It's true. David has been cursed by her. Then he felt a familiar twinge across his senses. "No! Not now!"
At that moment, LaCroix descended onto the scene. "Nicholas, it seems your theory was correct. Now we have to deal with him."
"Deal w' yerself, Croisie," the Child challenged, wheeling around to face the Roman Elder. "Where are yer buddies? How's Mustard Boy?"
Mustard Boy? Nick scratched his head. "Dijon?"
"Yeah. That scum ass. 'Mon, Croisie, ya'll talked real big the last time. Bring it on!"
LaCroix's eyes turned yellow and his fangs descended. "Very well." He streaked toward the insolent mortal.
The Child's open eye glowed and emitted a potent pulse, knocking the Elder to the ground. "Now we finish this shit!" Pointing at his adversary, he slammed him with another blast, sending him further back.
"David! LaCroix! Stop this!" Nick interceded.
"Shuddup or yer next!" the Child hissed. He looked at the Elder and raised him telekinetically into the air. Over and over, he smacked the vampire into the thick oak across the road from the old house before dropping him on the ground.
No wonder he defeated the Enforcers single-handedly. Nick rushed over to his master's side. While the other was out cold, his wounds had already begun to heal. "What have you done?"
"My will, Nicholas," the witch replied. "Already, he takes my revenge."
"Nah, Ah take mah own crap out. Ah'll git ya'll too, Sweets," the Child vowed again. "Now, split!"
The witch scowled as she disappeared.
"Ya'll need a ride to Amh'rst?" the Child offered.
"Thank you but I need to get him somewhere he can rest," Nick declined. "Still, can I meet you for coffee later? Talk about this?"
"Yeah, Big Bro's fav'rite place, Cappac'no 'xpress or somethin' like that," the Dark One glowered. "Keep Croisie away if yer smart."
"He won't be there," Nick promised. "Give me two hours."
"Smart boy," the Child growled. "Don't be late." With that, he stalked down the road, heading for the car.
Nick picked LaCroix up and supported the other vampire in his arms. After looking around, he took off into the night, not wanting to risk another encounter.
Caroline shuddered fearfully at the events going on around them. Now I understand why he wanted me to stay here. The sight of the witch's ghost frightened her. However, Dave's transformation unnerved her. How did he do that to the other man? Seeing him get in the car, she asked, "Are you okay?"
"Ah'm fine," the Child growled, getting back in the car. "Jackasses."
"What happened? Dave, what's going on?" she asked.
"Not Big Bro!" he snapped. "Ah'm lettin' him back out."
A minute later, Dave looked at her. "Caroline, what is it?"
"Dave, get us out of here!" she told him.
"Now that I have what I want, no argument here," he concurred, turning the key in the ignition and driving them away.
As the little yellow car vanished into the night, the witch smiled coldly. Yes, they had imprisoned her for the most part on this stretch of land. However, her magic-established years before-continued to work. They think they can stop my will from being done. Fools. Already my plans are at work.
And across the area, the eerie laughter echoed through the night air unnerving all who heard.
Chapter 14 [Amherst-Cappuccino Express]
Dave pulled into a spot by their old high school hangout. "I think this is it."
"Cappuccino Express? Why here?" Caroline wondered.
"I think this is where I told Dr. O' Connor to meet us," he replied, trying to grasp the memory from the haze in his head.
"Dr. O' Connor? You mean the guy on the phone? He wasn't there," she protested.
"He was there. The blond man who talked to me before everything went hazy," he explained.
She looked at him anxiously. "Everything went hazy? What do you mean? You don't remember the other guy landing beside you?"
"Other guy?" he asked her. "I remember being taunted by the witch. Then I was in the driver's seat talking to you."
"You don't remember any of it? Dave, you fought with that guy and wiped a tree with him. Worse, it was terrifying," she recounted. "Just like this morning, you did something with your mind. He floated off of the ground."
"What did that guy look like?" he asked.
"I didn't get a really good look. I think he was slender, yet well built and balding. He said they needed to take care of you," she continued.
"LaCroix," he hissed. Seeing her confusion, he explained, "He's the one who sent those weird guys to kill the Professor and his wife. I know it."
"Who's 'Mustard Boy'? You mentioned him," she wondered.
"Mustard Boy?" he asked, straining his brain for answers.
"Dijon?" she clarified. "I think that's what the guy called him."
"Okay, this has officially gone past weird," he retorted, shaking his head. "Come on, I really need a mocha right now."
"You and me both. Can you order for us? I'll call Mom and Dad in the meantime," she suggested.
"Go for it," he agreed. "Oh and Caroline, for what it's worth, I'm glad you're here with me. With Karen's situation and this mess, I don't think I could take this alone."
She managed a smile. "I can definitely relate to that." If he really knew what was going on, he would freak out. With that, she went to find a payphone.
He went up to the counter and ordered a large cherry mocha for himself and a cinnamon espresso for her. As he sat down in a corner booth, he sensed Nick's presence and saw him walk into the restaurant.
"David, are you doing better?" Nick asked.
"I guess. From what I understand, you were followed by LaCroix," Dave told him flatly.
"And there was someone with you," the detective countered. "A young woman."
"She's here. Let's keep the conversation to me, all right? She knows a little about what happened with LaCroix and Co. but I don't want her finding out any more than she needs to. Agreed?" the grad student noted.
Nick smiled. He respects the Community's need for secrecy. "Sounds good to me." Seeing Caroline slide in beside Dave, he introduced himself, "I'm Dr. Nicholas O' Connor and you are?"
"Caroline Alvarez, a friend of Dave's and his girlfriend's sister. Dr. O' Connor, umm-what was that scene all about earlier tonight?" she inquired.
She did see the whole thing. "What do you mean, Miss Alvarez?" Nick asked.
"What was going on with Dave? That was some fight we saw," she noted low.
"Do you believe in curses?" Nick inquired.
"You mean the witch's curse? My sister told us about that last night. What does that have to do with him?" she asked.
"Dave's ancestor was a priest in that village. She cursed his family, splitting the eldest child in two. Tonight, you saw dark magic at work. The witch caused the change and forced him to nearly kill LaCroix," Nick told her.
"You mean she can control me?" Dave inquired, his face turning white at the thought.
"Not from what I saw," the detective assured him. "Still, you need to be careful. Your other half is his own person. You will not be able to control him."
"Terrific," she muttered, recalling the events from that day and the previous one. "So what does he do when he faces the Russians?"
"What do you mean?" Nick asked.
"Dr. O' Connor, my girlfriend was kidnapped yesterday and is being held over in the Soviet Union right now. I'm going to get her back," Dave insisted. "And in that regard, I think I'm of one mind."
Nick took a deep breath, recalling the attitude toward foreigners in their space. "I'm sure you are. David, let me help you work out some diplomatic solution to get you into the country."
"When we talked before, didn't you mention you had some friends over there? Somebody who can keep this matter low profile?" Dave inquired cryptically.
He nodded. "I do. Let me speak with them."
"Very well," Dave agreed. "Caroline and I have to get back to Scituate tonight. But I will be in touch. Thanks, Doc." He shook Nick's hand.
"Indeed. And, Miss Alvarez, remember, everything you've just heard is a secret. It cannot get out," Nick urged.
"You can count on me," she concurred. "It was good meeting you." With that, she followed Dave to the car.
Once they had left, Nick walked over to the phone and placed a call. "Janette?"
Back at the Raven, the bartender wondered, "Nicolas? What happened? I felt pain from LaCroix."
"LaCroix forced a confrontation with David Dubois."
She winced. "And?"
"Dubois beat on him badly. He's resting right now. Look, I need to get in touch with Roxilana. Can you do that for me?" he requested.
"Dubois beat on him? Nicolas, he's a mortal and this is LaCroix you're talking about!" she protested.
"I couldn't believe it either. But the witch's curse has taken him. I hope Dijon remains clear of him," Nick noted.
"Dijon's an Enforcer. He will hunt Dubois. You know that, Nicolas. Meantime, what is this about Roxilana? What does this have to do with Moscow?"
"The American girl kidnapped yesterday? Did you hear?" he asked.
"Oui. Why, Nicolas?"
"She's his girlfriend. I just met with him and her sister. He's going in."
Janette sighed, "If he is who I think he is, they are waiting for him."
"Just talk to Roxilana. Thanks, Janette, I owe you."
"And I will collect. Au revoir," she concluded, hanging up.
Don't I know it? Nick hung up as well, heading for the hotel where LaCroix rested.
Chapter 15 [Faerie Realms]
Even as the events occurred on Outer Earth, the Faerie Empress kept a close eye on things through her watch portal. Well, David, you do have your dark secrets, don't you? During the expedition to the Pit several years earlier, both she and Grimwilkin had wondered about the young man's stability. I had no idea she was involved in this matter. Curse you, Anne Lichtenfeld, for what you have done to him.
"The situation is dire, isn't it?" Grimwilkin wondered, appearing beside her.
"The world beyond teeters on the brink of disaster," she noted.
"Such is always the case with that realm," he replied. "Still, to provoke our young friend in this way risks all."
"He will face his opponents and we shall assist him. I have foreseen this," she said resolutely. "Have Meroli prepare Streaker. Tonight, the dark steed of the plain will bear his rider across the great sea."
"Is this wise? One boy against an entire empire?" the wizard doubted.
She glared at him. "Certainly, you had no problem when he defeated so many trolls? No, Grimwilkin, I am confident in his ability to prevail. It is for these 'Soviets' that I fear. They have no idea of who or what they are facing." An icy smile crossed her features. "They shall rue the day they intruded into the Alvarezes' affairs."
Despite himself, he trembled a bit. When she gets like this, may the goddess help those in her way. With a slight bow, he vanished from the area.
After returning from Amherst, Dave and Caroline retired to their separate rooms and tried to get some sleep. It had been a long night indeed for the entire family, especially after Caroline gave her edited version of the events in Rowenshire. The family had some messages for the two travelers as well. Besides the expected lecture from April McKenzie about not staying at her house while in town, Garth Singleton would be there by 6:00 to figure out a way of getting over to the USSR undetected.
Still for Dave, he couldn't know what to expect. What is going on with me? He stared at the ceiling of his bedroom torn between his own personal issues and his worrying about Karen. He looked at her picture and felt his heart sink. Why can't things ever be normal for us?
Some things aren't meant to happen, David Dubois-.
He looked around, seeking the source of the Voice in his head. "Now what?"
He stared out the window to find the Faerie Empress waiting for him. "What?"
Come with me and all will be revealed. Trust in yourself and me. Or else, all is lost.
He nodded and crept down the stairs. Fortunately, he had left his gear in the Subaru so it was a simple matter to retrieve it. As he locked the car, he noticed her standing alongside him. "Milady." He gave a slight bow.
"You wish to get Karen back, do you not?" the Empress inquired expectantly.
"Of course," he replied. "Garth and I will be leaving to do so today."
"You have no idea," she told him, waving her hands and enveloping them both in the mists. When they cleared, the duo stood in the Hall of Heroes in Nurrengaard.
"Dave?" Garth asked, walking up. "What's going on?"
"I thought you were meeting me in Scituate," Dave presumed.
"I was until Grimwilkin brought me here," his friend told him. "Dave, what is this about your darkness and all of that? Is this what we saw here on the last trip?"
Dave sighed. "Apparently so. The witch's curse and all of that."
"But we trapped her! How can she do that?" Garth protested.
"Not before she had infected him with her evil," the Empress explained. "It's too late. Garth Singleton, I will advise you to be strong. You will see things from your friend that will make you question him. Remember, he is still David. He is still your friend. He will need you when this is finished."
What could be so bad that she would have to say that? "All right. When do we leave?" Garth inquired.
"You, Mr. Singleton, are staying here. Mr. Dubois is going on his own," Grimwilkin instructed.
"But we're a team! I can't let him go by himself," Garth argued.
"The Empress knows what she's doing," Dave told him. Then he felt a dark chill run up and down his spine.
["Ya're not alone, Bro. Ah'm here with ya'll."]
"Who said that?" the grad student wondered, looking at everyone in the hall.
"Nobody said anything," Garth replied.
"Except your Other, David," the Empress informed him.
"Other?" Garth wondered.
"Other," she reiterated. "Yes, his dark side, as you might call it. Now it is almost time. Streaker awaits you. Dress in your armor and be on your way."
Dave took a deep breath and walked into the stable next door wondering at what she had meant by this 'dark other side'. Even as he put on his armor and the quiver on his back, he had doubts. Could he do it on his own? What would happen? And how would his expedition affect everything? Guess there's only one way to find out. "Looks like it's you and me, huh?" He rubbed the horse's mane affectionately. "In for one war, in for all of them, right?"
Streaker stomped his hoof and nodded his head.
"I can count on you," Dave told the horse, climbing on his back. "Just stay the course."
"Are you prepared, David, for your task? Be prepared for the astounding. Go with it. Just relax," the Empress urged.
He nodded, feeling uncomfortably lightheaded. "Go, Streaker!"
The horse galloped three strides and then took off into the air, carrying his rider with him.
"What the?" Dave wondered, looking down at the Inner Realms beneath him. "This is incredible!"
It is. Now prepare yourself.
In front of him, a mist portal opened and he disappeared into it.
Onto Part 3
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