CH 12: In case of emergency: put your head between your legs and kiss your ass goodbye.


Clarion padded to the kitchen barefoot as she went to get a glass of water. She stood at the kitchen and danced as the sounds of Parliament filled her apartment. She reached under her counter and retrieved a few more candles to add to the twenty or so that she had all ready placed throughout the apartment. Clarion walked through her kitchen into the dining room and pulled the curtains on her window. She smiled briefly as she admired her view. She loved the corner apartment and she loved this city. Sure it wasn't home, but it had become the closest thing to it in years. She had friends she could rely on and a job with a stress factor of -3, and that was with Marianna on a rampage. She had to admit things were good even if she was being hunted down by her own kind and opening her heart to a woman that despised her kind.

Clarion laughed out loud as she thought on the irony of her situation and then she dropped her glass to the floor. Clarion knew she had only spoken to Yoshi 15 minutes earlier so there was no way the woman was on her way here. Which meant there was no way she was going to come and take care of the ten shadowy figures standing in her living room. Clarion took a deep breath and stepped around the glass. Two of the leather coated figures stepped forward and she held up her hands and smiled.

"There's not going to be some big brawl here guys. Just let me put on some shoes and a sweater and then we can leave." She tried to find the eyes of the most sensible one and caught her attention. Clarion cocked her head to the side as she realized it was the girl from the alley earlier in the week. She smirked. "That's not going to be a problem is it?" She locked eyes with the girl. She nodded in agreement. Clarion pointed to her own neck. "Still hurt?" Clarion drew her arms into her body for protection as she got growls in response. When no blow came she looked up to the grinning face of the girl. Clarion shrugged and swiftly walked to her room.

She came back out wearing sneakers and an LSU sweatshirt. She was met by two towering men who gripped her rather gently about the arms. She settled into their grips as if they were escorting her to a ball and winked at the girl. "I probably can't get you guys to trash my place can I?" The subsequent chuckles she received gave her just enough leeway to act.

Clarion used the arms of her captors like parallel bars as she swung herself up and flipped over. Two punches deftly powered into the base of their spines dropped them to the floor. She dashed through kitchen, picked up a dining room chair and threw it so that it shattered the window before she went crashing through it. Her apparent attempt at an escape from the 17th floor startled the Vampires in her apartment enough to stop their pursuit for the briefest moment. While they were pondering if she plummeted to her death, Clarion was busy breaking the sliding glass door of the apartment beneath her. She ran through the apartment without incident, out of the front door and down the stairwell. Clarion barely had time to take in the fresh night air before a clothesline her chest knocked her back three feet. She welcomed unconsciousness with the thought that at least her apartment was now thrashed. Perhaps Yoshi would find her before it was too late.


Waking up in silk sheets brought a smile to Clarion's face as she instinctively reached out for Yoshi and then realized she hadn't gone to bed with her. In reality, she hadn't even gone to bed. Clarion sat up quickly and opened her eyes. She left the dark of unconsciousness and entered the dark of the room. She squinted until she managed to fix on a dim crack of light at the far side of the room. Clarion took her time getting out of the bed, stepping gingerly testing her wooziness. She stood up and was relieved to find that while her shoes had been removed, she was still clothed. She pushed up the sleeves on her sweatshirt and ran a hand through her hair as she took a step towards the source of the light. After two small steps she stopped in her tracks as she picked up the faint sound of breathing.

With a quickness, Clarion's head turned in the direction of the noise and stood stock still. "I'll turn on the lights if you'd like." It was a man's voice. Firm, quiet, and dignified with an accent that Clarion could only describe as a mix between European upperclass and Russian. At the sound of his voice Clarion's body bristled with a feeling ofcoldness. When her mind filled with the sound of his voice asking her to take a seat, she had the distinct sinking feeling that she might not get out of this in one piece. Clarion found the edge of the bed and sat down just as a small table lamp illuminated the room in a pale yellow.

Clarion flinched as the light invaded her eyes. She opened them fully and noticed that aside from the foreboding vibes she was getting from the man seated across from her she could have been in room at the Regency-Hyatt. She gave her full attention to the man seated across from her and she got the sudden urge to grin; which she did. She creased her brow as she took in his dark three piece suit complete with diamond cuff links and a matching tie pin. His long silver-grey hair betrayed his youthful face. It was tied off at the base of his neck and the ponytail hung freely over his left shoulder. He sat with his leg crossed in a leather wing-backed chair. His cheeks were high, his face pale and devoid of hair except for thin black brows, thin lips, and a slim nose. His eyes matched the color of his hair. Thin lips curved into a grin of his own as he watched the young blonde warily eye his visage.

Finally, Clarion leaned back on her arms and crossed her own legs as she spoke. "Aramni, no?" She was referring to his suit. He slowly nodded in affirmation. "Looks good on you, all though for some reason I think you need a smoking jacket."

"I'll wear that next time."

She was silent for a moment. "I know you don't I? Or at least I should."

The man snorted as he rested his elbows on the arms of the chair and steepled his fingers. "The first and last time I saw you, I do believe you were stealing the heart of Barron Velassie…as well as other things." He raised a knowing brow towards the blonde.

Clarion wore a smug grin as she nodded. "What can I say, 1827 was a very good year." She shrugged .

"Do you realize you're the one?"

Clarion looked around the room quizzically and replied, "I'm going to destroy the Matrix?"

Silver-grey eyes bored into green for a moment as the man let her comment settle. He smiled wider revealing sparkling white teeth and the very top of his fangs. "Xander said you were a smart-ass, I'm pleased to see that you haven't lost that."

Clarion gave the man a lopsided grin and sucked her teeth. "Why should I make it any easier for you?"

"It's understandable since you don't have a choice." He spoke dryly.

Clarion released a snort of laughter. "It'd be nice to know exactly what matter I don't have a choice in."

"You've really no clue?"

Clarion sighed and kept herself from rolling her eyes. "Do you want another smart ass answer or can I save my best material for later?"

"No need for attitude. Perhaps this will help, my name is Goethe Alexi Stolova"

Clarion bit her hard on her lip to keep from reacting in the manner in which she wanted, which was to run screaming from the room. She swallowed a small lump in her throat and spoke evenly. "I take it you figured out a way to become a Master, and I figure into that don't?"

"My dear Clarion, you are the key."

Clarion lightly chuckled. "My maman always said I thought the world revolved around me. Go figure." This time Clarion rolled her eyes and sighed. "So, tell me, is this going to be quick and painless or long and horrible?" He had a girlish giggle that not only struck Clarion as extremely odd, but it also made her queasy.

"Quick, I'm afraid not. Painful…for you, I think not. Perhaps, it might even feel good." He showed his fangs fully as a smile spread across his face.

"Ha. Nothing like a good decapitation and a stake through the heart to get me going in the morning." This time she bristled at his laugh.

"There will be no such thing I promise." Suddenly he stood, and Clarion sat back on the bed in apprehension as she took in his frame. He was a whole head taller than Yoshi and he had clearly spent the last 1400 years or so keeping in shape. "Wait here, and someone will come and show you to your bath."

"Do I smell?"

"Cleanliness is next godliness." Clarion opened her mouth to rattle off the Smashing Pumpkins lyric as a comeback, but she thought better of it, and only said okay. He raised an eyebrow at her and smirked. "Someone will bring your dinner after that."

"What no tour of the palace."

"I'm afraid I am the extent of your fan base."

Clarion nodded in understanding. "Ahh, can't win ‘em all." She winked at the tall man and watched him walk from the room shaking his head.

After she heard the door lock Clarion collapsed back onto the bed and muffled a scream in a pillow. Once she felt purged she tossed the pillow and propped herself up on her elbows as she took in the room. She figured she was in a basement or underground, due to the coldness of the room and the lack of windows. She took a few minutes to assess her situation and then ran a hand through her hair as she sat up straight bolstered by a small bit of confidence. "Okay Larieux, take your bath, have a meal, and then get the fuck out of here." She looked around the room for a weapon of sorts and stopped at the end table. "Or die trying."



Yoshi had taken an extreme amount of time getting to Clarion's apartment. It had been an entire half and hour since she'd left the hospital, her mind in a cloud of doubt and confusion. She would later realize that mixed up in all that doubt and confusion was a feeling of emptiness. She just didn't know what she was missing until she made it up seventeen flights of stairs and stood in front of Clarion's door.

The door was ajar and the apartment was mostly dark. Yoshi, sensing no danger opened the door and closed it softly behind her. The light over the stove was illumination enough. Blue eyes went to the broken glass on the kitchen floor and then she turned back to the left to take in fully what she had seen out of the corner of her eye. The sliding door was wide open, curtains billowing in the cool night air. The coffee table was halved and the couch was on its side. Yoshi walked into the kitchen and bent down to pick up the broken glass. She stopped in mid crouch as she looked up. Whatever thread of sanity she had left snapped as she took in the smashed window. She stood quickly and bounded through the dining room, stopping at the edge of the window. A small glint of hope filled her insides as she saw the balcony directly beneath the window.

Yoshi turned on her heels and headed back through the apartment in search mode. Maybe she got out. Yoshi stood in front of the bookcase and began pulling out books and thumbing through every one. Perhaps she could find an explanation for her fears. She gave up after she finished off 3 of the five rows and drew up her hair in frustration. She looked around the room with her hands on hips. "What are you trying to find Yoshi? Maybe Colin's right and she left the city. Or maybe they've taken her. Or maybe she's dead?" She didn't voice her next thought out loud. At least that way I'll know she wasn't a… Yoshi couldn't even bring herself to finish her thought. She jolted out of her morbid mood with a snap of her fingers and walked through an archway, down a short hallway and entered Clarion's bedroom. She slapped the light on and couldn't help but crack a smile.

There on the mirror was a short message written in lipstick. "How cleishe is this? J Sorry I had to break our date, but something came up. If all goes well, I should be at St. Francis by dawn. Smooches." Yoshi sat down on the queen-sized bed and dropped her head into her hands. "And what does that mean if you are at St. Francis in the morning?" Yoshi shook her head in frustration as she let her hair loose and shrugged out of her jacket and collapsed on the bed. She slammed the pillow over head in effort to not only take in Clarion's sweet scent but to try and muffle the echoes of Colin's words in her head: ‘She needs to feed soon', ‘is she that strong?', ‘she's using you', ‘believe in something larger than yourself'. Sleep would not come quickly for the dark warrior this night.

* * *

CH 13: A priest, a rabbi, and a reverend are sitting in a boat in the middle of a lake…..

It was going on ten in the morning when Yoshi finally awoke with a jolt in Clarion's bed. For a moment, she forgot where she was and why, but upon seeing the lipstick on the mirror she remembered. Her head pounded as if she had gone on a drinking rampage the night before, but she knew she wasn't that lucky. The tall woman slugglishy dragged herself from the bed and busied herself by cleaning the apartment. She left an hour and half later still in a haze of confusion, but she knew eventually she was going to have to go to the church. She had hoped she could just wait Clarion out, but the nagging feeling in her gut and the pounding in her head told her otherwise. She didn't bother calling the boys as she made her way to her home to get a change of clothes.

Light stretching and a steamy shower seemed to put some life back into the tall woman, who finally picked up the phone and called the store. Tully answered.

"The Orchid, Tully speaking, can I help you?"

"It's me." Her voice sounded like glass being dragged over gravel.

Tully flinched. "You went out drinking?"

"I wish. How's everything there?"

"Cool, Colin called and Nate's got something you need to see for yourself."

The woman sighed. "Let me guess, the wannabes belonged to Goethe Stolova."

"One step ahead as always."

"Not really, just lucky."


"Uh, nothing." She sighed. "Look, if Colin calls back, tell him I've got some stuff to take care of."

"Anything else?" Tully listened to the woman breathe for a moment. He sensed she had more to say, but he wasn't about to pry.

"Um..yeah.." She drew in a breath. "Um, Cla-Clarion hasn't come by has she?"

"No, but some dude named Riley came in looking for you."

"Yeah." Her voice picked up . "Hey, if he comes back give him my cell number. Better yet, tell Nate to get his number and call him."

"Will do, uh you need anything else."

"Just water my plants and no wild parties, I'll try to check in soon."


Yoshi let the towel drop from her waist as she walked to her bedroom and sifted through her dark wardrobe for something to wear. Yoshima Miakoda had been raised to be a shadow. She learned how to move like one, fight like, live like one, and of all the things she enjoyed over the centuries was her ability to dress like one. The phrase permanent midnight came to mind as the statuesque woman stepped out into the afternoon sun ready for anything. She removed her black trench coat as she waited for her garage door to open. The raising of the door revealed booted black feet, black denim-- that left nothing to the imagination about the power that rested in her legs, and a tight-fitting long-sleeved mock turtle neck that creased nicely into the sections of her muscles when she flexed. Dark hair pooled out around her shoulders and black glasses took away the only color on her person. Yoshi automatically popped the trunk on her black 73' Camaro and dropped her jacket and two scabbards inside the trunk. She made sure the lock was secure and then brought the engine to life.


Yoshi stuck her dagger in the small of her back before she swung on her coat and ascended the steps of the church. She took a deep breath and then pulled on the brass handle of the door. As she expected at nearly one in the afternoon on a weekday, the church was veritably empty. Yoshi crossed the vestibule and wondered when was the last time she had been in a Cathedral. Apparently, the memory was too far gone for her to remember, so she merely quieted her thoughts as she walked down the center aisle. She felt a grin tug at her lips as the incense made its presence known in her nostrils, reminding her of her father for the briefest of moments. Out of respect Yoshi genuflected as she passed the alter making her way to the confessional booth.

She stepped inside and immediately the small slide was pushed back from the screen that separated her from the priest. Yoshi spoke first. "Forgive me father for I have sinned. It's has been three centuries since my last confession." Yoshi heard no movement beside her and then just as quickly the door opened. The priest that greeted her wore a slight look of expectation which instantly dropped to a look of disappointment as he took in Yoshi's form.

The small man looked Yoshi up and down and then spoke. "Hunter?" Yoshi stood and the small man stepped aside and let her walk out of the booth. He grimaced and then turned around and begin walking. Yoshi followed the priest down the aisle and through a hallway into the rectory. He waited for her to enter and then closed the double doors behind her. He stood in front of the door with his hands in front of him, right hand clasping his left wrist. He wore a long black robe that touched the tips of his shoes and cinched in at the waist . His collar was visible, but he wore no cross around his neck as Yoshi expected. They eyed each other for a moment as Yoshi finally took a seat in a chair.

He was a small man, only about 5'1" and he appeared to be of Hispanic descent. He combed his dark hair back and there was only the faintest hint of his hair line receding. Finally, after a minute or two of silence he moved from the door and stood across from Yoshi, out of her reach. "The great Yoshima Miakoda, to what do I owe this visit?" Yoshi sat up a little straighter and arched a brow at the middle-aged priest. He smirked. "It is my job to know who the Hunters are."

"So you can alert them." Slight annoyance swirled around her words.

"So I can give them a chance."

Yoshi nodded at the verbal blow. "Are you going to give me a chance Father?"

He let out a chuckle. "Why should I?"

"I didn't think you were supposed to discriminate Father?"

"I don't..but you do."

Yoshi again bowed her head to the verbal assault. "I came to you for help Father, not to ask for your betrayal."

He raised a brow. "I'm intrigued now." With that he sat down. "By the way, it's Father Munez."

Yoshi bowed in her seat. "Father Munez, I'm looking for a mutual friend."

"Forgive my sarcasm, but I find it hard to believe we have the same friends."

"Perhaps not, but in this case, we may." He gestured for her to continue with a nod of his head. "Do you know where Clarion is?"

The priest didn't skip a beat in making his reply. "I don't think I know a Clarion."

Yoshi let out huff of air and arched her brow as she looked at the confident priest. There was no look that was going to convince this man of her sincerity, so she compromised. "Fine, Father. I'm looking for a ‘friend' that's in trouble and I think you might be able to help find that ‘friend.'"

"What if I haven't seen the friend in question?"

Yoshi leaned forward resting her elbows on her knees, feeling just a tad more confident. "Perhaps, you know how I can locate my friend."

"Wouldn't that possibly compromise others?"

"If she's…if my friend is where I think, than I promise that the end justifies the means."

"I'm sure it does."

Father Munez shifted in his seat as he watched emotions play over the face of the Hunter. "What if you're friend is safe?"

"Then I'd like to know." Her voice was filled with more urgency than she intended.

Father Munez grinned . "Why does it matter?"

Yoshi grumbled as she sat back in her chair. "It matters because I have to know. It's my job."

The priest let out a knowing "aha" as he stood and wandered towards a bank of candles that stood in the corner. He appeared to be contemplating the candles for a moment and then he turned back towards the dark woman who was obviously waiting for an answer. He regarded her for a moment as he crossed his hands behind his back and moved closer. He could see the vein pulsing in her neck. She was almost scared and they both knew it. He licked his lips before speaking. "So, it is the great Yoshima's job to find her friend." He smirked and walked around her stopping when he stood behind her. He leaned down towards her ear and spoke in a whisper. "Why don't you just quit or you're going to cause the death of lots of people for no good reason."

Yoshi turned around in a flash of motion, grabbing the priest by the collar as she stood up and hoisted him up as well. He grabbed on to her hands and stared her dead in the eye without a drop of fear in his eyes. She dropped him and stepped back, unsure of whether she should be ashamed in her action or just humbled. Father Munez smoothed out his robe and sat down. He held out his hand and gestured towards a seat next to him. "Sit Yoshima." The tall woman clenched and unclenched her fists as she slowed her breathing and then took the seat offered. "I don't mean to offend you Hunter, but you're heart does not appear to be in this, and well saving a friend takes a lot more than simple obligation." He caught her eyes and held them as he spoke. "You don't walk into the recesses of Hell because you're obligated. You don't win wars out of duty. You don't triumph because it's your job. You survive because you need to. The need is like air. You are victorious because you fight with every ounce of your being. You prevail because you have heart and you believe in the greater good. And most of all, you are willing to leave a piece of yourself on the battlefield not out of a debt to God and country, but because you believe in God and country." He sat back in his chair and took in her features as his words hung in the air. He saw the smallest hint of water gathering in her eyes and watched as she broke their stare and shifted her view to the floor.

He sighed before his soft voice entered the silence of the room. "She'll find a way out."

Yoshi's head sprang up and two teardrops fell to her jeans. "Is it true?" Her voice was barely above a whisper.

He stood up from his seat and touched a hand to the side of her head. "You'll need to find that out for yourself." He held his hand to her head as he watched her shoulders slump and she dropped her hand again. He removed his hand and moved back as she emitted a faint growl.

Blue eyes suddenly flashed with rage as she lifted her head and stared at the priest. "You need to tell me how to find her." Her voice was firm, strong, and void of feeling.

Father Munez turned his back on her and shook his head. He grabbed a long match from the stand and walked towards the candles again. "You think I'm going to tell an angry Hunter how to find a lair, in the hopes that you only save your friend." He raised his eyes to the ceiling quickly. "Forgive me, but fuck you." He crossed himself and then lit a candle. He heard her stand as well as the intake of air before she spoke.

"Father Munez, please." He turned at her plea. "This is about the greater good. It's about everybody's life, everything, all of it."

The priest stiffened his shoulders. "Stolova lives."

Yoshi stood. "Then you understand."

"I understand that the outcome is written."

Yoshi raised her hands in the air in frustration. "Screw what is written Father! The Day- Clarion must be found!"

He couldn't help but smile. "You won't believe it till you see it, will you. No matter how much you read, no matter how many neon signs are blinking or arrows are pointing, you simply will not believe." He walked towards the woman until he was craning his neck to look her in the face. "I don't think you're even capable of belief." Yoshi stood with her hands on her hips as the conducted a stand-off. It was only with the heavy -pounding in her head and perhaps a heavy heart that she sat down." Father Munez turned to retrieve his seat and smiled to himself.

Redden eyes locked with the priests' as Yoshi looked up. Her voice was barely audible as she spoke. "I must find her Father Munez. I have to….I, I-I need to." He bowed his head at her admission. "She's in trouble, I can feel it, and I don't know if she'll make it out this time." Yoshi sat back and ran a hand through her hair. "And you're right, I won't believe it until I see it, so as far as I'm concerned you're all wrong." He smiled . "Will you help me?"

The priest stood and let her words hang in the air as he walked the other side of the rectory and leaned over a table. When he returned to the now standing Yoshi he held out a slip of paper. "If she's in trouble that'll lead you to her." He snatched the paper back before she could grab it, much to her obvious irritation. "Understand something Hunter, all the duty, honor, and work ethic in the world won't make much difference if you don't believe in what you're doing." This time he let her take the card.

"I just don't know how."

The priest smiled and began guiding her to the door. "Let me tell you a joke Yoshima."

She looked down at the priest and arched a brow. "A joke?"

"Just walk with me and listen." The tall woman nodded and began walking with the priest. "Okay, a priest, a rabbi, and a reverend are out in the middle of a lake fishing. After a little while the rabbi slaps his thigh and says, ‘Oh, man I left the cooler on the dock.' Reverend looks at him and says ‘okay we'll just row back.' The rabbi says, ‘nah, I got it covered.' With that he stands up takes a breath and steps over the side of the boat onto the water. The reverend watches wide-eyed as the rabbi walks across the water to the dock and back to the boat. Rabbi gets back and the reverend's all aglow. ‘How'd you do that, oh my!' Rabbi shares a smile with the priest and looks to the reverend and says, ‘Faith, got to have faith.' Yoshi stops at the door of the cathedral and stands as Father Munez continues his tale.

"A little later, the priest sucks his teeth and says, ‘Man, I left the other rod on the dock, I need it.' Before the reverend can say anything, the priest holds up his hand and shakes his hand. He then stands up and proceeds to walk across the water to the dock and back. Once again, the reverend is just mesmerized. The priest sits down and smiles at the reverend. ‘It's all about faith, got to have it.' They start talking philosophy and a little while later the rabbi looks up and says, ‘oh my goodness, I left my lucky lure in the car.' Before he can stand up the reverend stands and shakes his head. ‘That's okay, I'll get it.'

"The priest and the rabbi look at one another and then back at the reverend. The priest looks up at the reverend and asks him if he's sure. The reverend is adamant. He says, ‘Oh no, I got it, it's all about faith, and I've got faith.' The three men share a smile, the rabbi, and the priest sit back and watch as the reverend straightens his shoulders takes a deep breath and steps off the side of the boat. The reverend drops straight down like a hole opened up in the water." Father Munez looked up at the arched brow of Yoshima just to make sure he still had her attention. "The priest and the rabbi lean over the side of the boat waiting for the reverend to resurface, and the rabbi leans over to the priest and says, ‘Do you think we should have told him where the rocks were?'"

Yoshi raised both brows at the punch line as she smiled and fished for a response. Father Munez looked comically at the perplexed woman and frowned . "Was it that bad?"

"No, but what's it supposed to mean?"

Father groaned as he opened the front door for the tall woman and they stepped out onto the steps. He put his hands behind his back and shook his head at the questioning woman. "It means that finding and having faith isn't always about snake oil, incense, and High Mass. It means that sometimes it's about knowing where the rocks are. It's about seeing what's right in front of you."

Yoshima smiled and held out her hand to the priest. They shook hands and he watched with a small grin as the shadow of a woman descended the stairs and somehow managed to blend in with the wandering pedestrians well enough for him to lose sight of her.

* * *

CH 14: I should've turned left at Albuquerque


It was Vince Lombardi who said something to effect of, you know you've played well when you lay on the field exhausted and victorious. After sprinting like Marion Jones for a full minute, Clarion had probably broken her own record for the 400yard dash, she was extremely exhausted, and she was hoping like hell that she'd be victorious, but she'd settle for being alive.

The bath had been great. The meal of rare lamb chops made her want to puke at first, but then as she felt a pulling sensation in her teeth, she realized that her 6 months of nibbling on rare meats and bloody cocktails was up. Clarion devoured the meal and felt an adrenaline-fueled surge of power run through her body. When she had left for her bath she noticed that there were two hallways outside her door, one to the left and to the right. With a strained eye Clarion watched her water bearer of sorts turn down the left after bringing her meal. So it was decided that when the time came she would run right. She gave a call to her guard and got him to smirk pleasingly as she asked for seconds. She him a playful him a playful shove, stepped into his blindside and jammed her fork into his eye. As he began a quick descent to the floor she rammed her knee into his chin, probably causing him to lose of is tongue as well as knocking him out.

She made sure her wooden stake, courtesy of the end table was still lodged between the waistband of her pants and her underwear, and then she took off. She found a set of stairs and was up it a if it was an escalator moving at light speed. It was only through a heightened sense of smell that she was alerted to a Vamp at the top of the stairs. Clarion did her best John Elway touchdown leap impression and attempted to hop over the beast. Her legs connected with his head and they went down in a pile of arms and legs. He let out a yelp and she knew she was screwed so she did the only thing she could do: she screamed. Unfortunately, for the Vamp pulling at her legs it wasn't a scream of pain, but rather a scream of a surging life force. When Clarion rolled over green eyes glowed like neon lights and her fangs were glistening with anticipation. She let out a growl as she dug newly sharp nails into his neck slicing at his juggler. She managed to avoid the profuse spray of blood as he rose up and fell backwards.

Clarion was on her feet again running with new power. It was clear she was in someone's house, but she didn't have time to catalog antiques, she was still searching for an out. She was taken down by two Vamps just as she exited what appeared to be a den. They slid across the tiled floor of a kitchen, only stopping when Clarion's head slammed into a cabinet on the island. She had no time to feel woozy as she was picked up by the throat and hurled across a counter. She landed on a table which did well to break her fall. She curled into a ball as she received a few swift kicks to her back and then she was up again held by her throat and rammed into a wall. Fiery eyes that glowed red seared her flesh as stale breath was launched in her face. "I told him to chain you to wall you scrawny bitch."

Clarion clawed at the massive hand around her throat and gurgled with strained laughter. "Hey I worked hard on this figure, so I'd appreciate at some sensitivity you pock-marked shit head." She howled with pained laughter as he slammed her into the wall again. He turned to his companion. "Alert the others." Just as his companion was about to walk out of the kitchen, a one-armed Vamp bleeding from head to toe fell into the kitchen.

His companion dropped to his knees and asked in the dead language, "What the hell happened?" The bleeding Vamp uttered one word before he passed out. "Hunters." The Vamp stood and passed his eyes over Clarion and then to his brother. "Bag the bitch, Hunters are on there way." The two Vamps nodded and then they're attention was grabbed by the hysterical laughter coming from the blonde pinned on the wall. The man holding her slammed her again and spat out, "What's so fucking funny?"

Clarion looked down into red eyes and smiled as she used their language to voice her comment: "Too late."


3:05p.m., Parking Garage of Holy Cross hospital

Colin settled into the bucket seats of Yoshi's car and took a reverent whiff of the smell of leather. She leered at her friend and barely waited for him to put on his seat belt before she pulled out of the parking lot at 65mph. They hit a main thoroughfare and the Irish man was finally able to catch his breath. "Where's the fire?"

"Stolova's got Clarion."

Brown eyes went wide. "He has the Daywalker?"

Yoshi gritted her teeth. "He's got Clarion and we need to get her."

Colin rolled his eyes at her stringent disbelief. "Whatever," he grumbled, ", where?"

"It's a row house near Adam's Morgan."

"A row house?"

"Big basement, leads to sewer system."

"Little travel in the daytime."

"Perhaps, but they grabbed her last night."

He turned to the dark woman who was speeding in and out of traffic like she was trying to beat her top score on a video game. "What! Why the hell did we wait till now? She could fucking be dead!"

Yoshi turned cold blue eyes on him for a split second. "She's not dead and I had to go talk to a priest. It took me this long to find her."

"Ugh." He ran a hand through his thin brown hair. "How many."

"It's a nest, so who knows."

"A nest. A fucking nest! Me and you and a nest." He chuckled.


"Not a one, love. I'm just thinking I probably haven't had this much excitement since '65."

An evil smirk graced Yoshi's lips. "Which one?"

"I'm thinking 1665."

Yoshi fully grinned. "Crazy Scotsman."

"You're fucking-a right there. Ahh, good times." He smiled at the woman who sped around a corner like she was on rails. "You owe me a few pints of Guinness when we get out of this you know."

She chuckled from her gut. "We get out of this we're going to Ireland to get them." Colin let out a howl and pumped his fist in the air.

"The irate Irishman rides again! You wouldn't happen to have a flask back in here would you."

Yoshi shook her head as she pulled to a stop three houses from their destination and atop a manhole. "You're such a stereotype Colin."

He beamed. "Hey all the best writers are crazy drunken Irishman."

She hopped out of the car. "I'm still waiting on your novel. It's under the seat." She popped her trunk and swung her coat on. Colin stepped out of the car and glanced at her scabbard with a frown. "It's in the back." With that she gave two forceful stomps to the grate and disappeared down the storm drain. Colin slammed the trunk with a smile and followed.


The two Hunters touched fists and split, unspoken instructions and vows spoken so many times that neither felt the need to voice them. Yoshi took to the bottom floors searching rooms and Colin found the steps and went up.

Colin stood in the door way of the kitchen with his sword at his side and a crossbow raised in the other hand. He cocked his head to the side as he took in the view. One Vamp was down with another kneeling beside him, but his real attention was on the blonde that was pinned to the wall by an arm. He got a glimpse of her eyes as she choked out a laugh and sighed inwardly. He wasn't going to be the one to tell Yoshi. He caught the blonde's eye and winked, that's when she started laughing hysterical. Colin no doubt thought it a shame, he could tell even from this vantage point that she was probably a lot of fun. If she could laugh in this situation, he would love to see her after a few drinks--another life time perhaps. He shrugged off his thoughts as he pulled the trigger.

Clarion once met a woman who described the death of a Vampire like a solar explosion. Light and heat imploded and would burst forth as their hearts were destroyed. Some Vamps disintegrated upon losing a head or receiving a stake to the heart. A few even melted at the touch of silver and some boiled to death in holy water. Others would get shot, drop to the ground and convulse until their bodies simply came apart at the seams and rapidly decayed. When the arrow pierced the heart of the Vamp holding her up, Clarion fell to the floor with a thud, and found herself sitting in ashes. Before the remaining Vamp could reach for her his head left his body with a whizz of air.

Clarion stood, dusting herself off and inspected the man before her. He brought his sword back down to his side as he looked at her. Green eyes lost her glow and she grinned. "Out of the frying pan and into the flame, no?"

Colin shrugged. "Doesn't have to be."

A shrill scream made Clarion jump. She looked over her shoulder and then turned back to the man. "Yeah, you try telling her that."

He grimaced. "I'd appreciate it if you did that yourself." He scratched at his scar out of reflex.

"She give that to you?" His non-response was answer enough. Clarion just nodded her head. "Fine, I'll just send her a postcard from Bali."

Colin couldn't help but smile. "Can't let you do that."

Clarion pouted. "And here I was starting to like you."

"Hate to be an ass to such a pretty lady, but well you know."

"Yeah, I do and thanks for the compliment, not so bad yourself there." She shrugged. "As much as I'd love to stick around I'm afraid that's not been decided by me."

"How do you mean?"

Clarion looked up and then back to Colin. "Six of them. Big and ugly. You can't watch me and kill them."

Colin smiled crookedly. "Clever girl indeed."

Clarion wasn't really sure why she did it, perhaps to be a tease, but none the less, she stepped towards the Irishman and planted a kiss on his cheek before she darted out of the kitchen, wishing him luck. Colin shook his head in disbelief as he reloaded his bow and raised his sword. "Who needs luck when I got a six foot Hunter two steps away from being in love." He smiled wildly: it was going to be an interesting evening.


Twenty minutes later Yoshi and Colin emerged from a man hole in an alley a mile from where she parked. As Yoshi stepped away from the man hole, she resheathed her blade and shook her body. When she finished she had made a nice sized piece of splatter art on the concrete. Colin looked no better, as he tried to wipe blood from his face only to smear more.

"Buggar! I feel like I've been slimed." He looked to the sullen woman who went to a nearby wall and leaned against it. "You hurt, love."

She shook her head. "Nothing a little sleep won't take care of."

He walked towards her and stood. "You sure?" She nodded. "Don't worry, she got out."

Suddenly Yoshi stood up straight and stepped into Colin, so that they stood toe to toe. "How? Where?"

Colin gently pushed on her shoulders. "Calm down lass. She's absolutely adorable you know." He smiled at the woman, but only got a growl in return.

"Why didn't you grab her?"

"Well you shithead, I was otherwise occupied by six night crawling freaks attempting to draw and quarter me at a snails pace."

Yoshi fell back into the wall with a wet slap. "I apologize."

"It's accepted, now how about we clean up and you go get me that pint of Guinness you promised me." Yoshi pushed off the wall and sighed. "Matter of fact I think you own me a few pints." Yoshi nodded and started walking with slumped shoulders. "Hey," he called after her, "don't feel so bad, she's out and you know you can find her if you need to." They locked eyes for a moment, neither finishing his comment. Hey patted the tall woman on the back as they walked off. "C'mon I need a bath and you need to get piss drunk." Yoshi just laughed instead of arguing, hoping that a night swirling in alcohol might make a difference. But as sure as the sun would rise tomorrow she knew it wouldn't.

* * *

CH 15: ‘I looked all over and all I found was a phone number on the stairs.'

It was only with the orange colored fingertips of sunrise that Clarion finally rested. However, it was a rest that was short lived when her phone rang an hour later. Clarion bumped her forehead on the foot of the couch as she sat up from the floor and grabbed the phone.


"Thank God you're alive...Jesus Christ chick, you had me shitting bricks ten pounds big."

Clarion let out a light chuckle as she rested her back against the couch and adjusted the phone on her shoulder. "Hey Ri."

The man on the other end let out a skeptical laugh. "That's all I get is a ‘Hi Ri.' I should jump through the phone and beat your scrawny little ass."

Clarion sighed and mumbled to herself. "Why does everyone keep saying that."


"Nothing, Riley. Look, I'm glad you called I need to talk to you."

"Your damn right, so get up off your ass and let me in."

Clarion darted her head around her apartment. "Where are you?"

"Getting off the elevator." She let out a snort of laughter and then hung up the phone as she sprang to her feet and opened the door.

Riley did his best to try and crush the still tender Clarion in a hug as he came through the door in a rush of tangible energy. He opened his mouth to make some off color remark to Clarion when he noticed the broken coffee table pushed off to the side, the stacks of cds out of the cabinet along with books, piles of glass, and the bulging piece of plastic that was doing little to keep the chill winter air out. He let go of Clarion's shoulders with a squeeze as he walked her apartment. He came back out of the dining room and leaned on the kitchen counter as he regarded the compact woman standing in the living room.

He slanted his gaze somewhat as she meekly shoved her hands into the pockets of her warm-up pants. Her hair was freshly askew as if she had just woken up, all though she looked like she had been up all night thanks to her bloodshot eyes, which took a certain energy from her normally vibrant green eyes. Her lip was cut and there was a large purplish bruise on her right cheek that matched well with the black eye that graced the left of her face. Riley sighed as he caught the despondency in her eyes. He clicked his tongue on the roof of his mouth and then clapped his hands together.

"Okay, sit down first." Clarion gave him a wisp of smile as she collapsed onto the couch. Riley shook his head as he tossed his jacket on the couch and then ripped off a few papertowels and filled them with ice. He gave his bundle a healthy twist and then sat down next to Clarion as he held the ice to her eye with care. She let out a sigh as she closed her eyes to the touch. In the dark Clarion was assaulted with the images of deep blue eyes and strong hands that had healed her a week before. On the notion that those hands would probably strangle her, Clarion opened tear filled eyes and gave Riley a toothy grin just to show that she wasn't completely out of it. Riley shook his head. "All right soldier, you hold that to your eye while I make tea and then you start explaining why you look you've been in a Rollerderby that took place in your living room.

Clarion chuckled. "I felt like it was more of an American Gladiators kind of thing."

Riley glared daggers at the smirking woman and then turned to his task. "Yeah, I know you always wanted to join the W.W.F., but as you can see it's hell on your appearance."

"I thought beauty was on the inside."

"Tell that to Linda Tripp."

Clarion shook her head in amusement. "You're a bad man Riley."

He waved a manicured hand through the air. "Hey supposedly I'm going to hell for a ton of other things, so I don't think one dig at a backstabbing snitch is going to hurt."

"Not choosing sides I see."

Riley laughed as he returned to the couch and handed Clarion a mug of tea. "On the contrary, he was a man, he got caught, Hillary's going to divorce his ass and go on to better things. Karma always wins in the end."

Clarion dropped her smile and suddenly looked serious. "What if it never ends?"

Riley crinkled his brow and sat back, tucking one leg under the other and stretching an arm across the back of the couch. "What's that supposed to mean?"

Clarion shrugged and then winced in pain. Riley immediately reached out to touch the woman but she held up her hand. "It's cool."

Riley let out a huff. "No it's not. You look like you just went a round with Oscar De la Hoya."

Clarion stuck out her chin. "Did I lose?"

"I'm not laughing at that."

Clarion's hair bounced as she tossed her head from side to side. "I know, but you want to."

Riley sucked his teeth. "Anyway Rocky, do I get to know what happened?"

Clarion sighed loudly as she sat her mug down and ran both her hands through her hair. "Will you accept I'm in trouble, for an explanation?"

"If you'll accept another black eye."

They shared grins. "Well, I'll be honest…I'm going to lie to you, but I'll try to hit most of the important parts."

"This better be a good lie, and all the important parts better be real important." He slanted his eyes at her as he watched her squirm uncomfortable. "You were supposed to be prepared for this sweetie."

"Yeah, yeah. You remember what happened two years ago in Adam's Morgan?"

Riley shook his shoulders as an imaginary cold wind rattled his frame. "Of course honey. After that night, I believe in the wolf man the boogie man, and all the X-files conspiracies." He grimaced. "Please don't say those things are involved in this?"

Clarion started to say, ‘I am one of those things', but she held her tongue and merely swallowed the comment instead. "I'm afraid so."

The thin man rolled his eyes. "How the hell can you just be so non-chalant, Claire. I know you're calm and collected, but a Vampire is still a Vampire, I just don't get it."

Clarion shrugged as much as she could. "What can I say, I'm from N'awlins."

"Ha! I'm from New York smart ass, but that doesn't mean I enjoy muggers."

"I'm just used to different shit Riley, I don't know what else to say." The serious quality to her voice left him no want to push the subject any further.

"Fine." He nodded. "Is that why you've been gone for two days." She nodded. "They give you the delicate makeover?" Clarion nodded again. "This what happened last week?" Another nod. Riley sighed as things begin to fall into place for him. "Is talk, dark, and possibly an impulse killer a part of this." Clarion let out a small grin as she nodded. Riley ran fingertips across his short hair-do. "You're leaving town." It wasn't a question, but Clarion nodded anyway. They sat in silence for a solid minute until, Riley let out a puff of air, slapped his thighs and stood up. "Let's get you packed."

Clarion looked up at the high brow of Riley and grinned. "That's it?"

He threw his hands up. "What am I supposed to say? If I had the good sense God gave me, I'd walk out of here faster than a fart in a dust storm, but I don't have that luxury, because you are my friend and I care about you."

Clarion smiled sincerely. "You are so sensitive Riley Witherspoon."

Riley rolled his eyes and gave Clarion the finger. "And you're a fag hag." He turned and walked towards the bedroom, chuckling along with Clarion.

Clarion got up off the couch with a giggle. "I thought fag hags were straight?" She stopped in front of the bookcase as she searched the case for three tomes.

Riley called out from the back, "I've never really been clear on that one, but I'll consult the handbook later."

"There's a handbook?" Clarion stood at his side in her bedroom.

He shook his head. "You're pitiful."

Clarion looked about the room. "Damn, maybe that explains my choice of dates lately."

Riley looked up from a drawer. "Something wrong with big, bad, and homicidal?"

Clarion rolled her eyes and walked to her closet. "Stop that, and no nothing's wrong with her..technically."

"Clinically?" Riley laughed as he dodged a balled up t-shirt flung at his head. "What's the deal I thought she was helping you."

"Well, yeah, but help comes at a price."

"A price you say?"

"I think it has more to do with Karma than anything." she answered with a shrug, and then mentally added, ‘and the little known fact she's on a short list with people trying to kill me.'

"It'll get you every time."

"True. Hey, do me a favor and take down the paintings."

"Good Lord, Claire, how serious is all this?"

Clarion smiled brightly to alleviate some of his worry. "I'm not giving them to you permanently, I just want you to hold on to the suckers, for a couple of months. I'm not giving up my babies that easily."

Riley lightened up somewhat as he snapped his fingers and groaned. "Damn, and here I thought I was going to be getting a sweet deal."

She laughed and touched his shoulder. "Well, for a man that gets to cut and dye my hair as well as drive around a 67' Stingray I think you're doing okay." Clarion held her ears as Riley let out a squeal and began hopping around the bedroom. "If you drive like you celebrate, I'm not giving you the keys."

Riley quickly sobered. "Just jokes." Riley visibly slowed his breathing and gave Clarion a toothfilled smile. "How short?" She shrugged and he clapped his hands together. "Who cares, will figure that out later. So, what are we packing?"

"Pretty light, it's not that cold down South."

Riley raised a brow. "Is it ever?"

The two friends burst into a round of giggles as they each gave their own answer to his rhetorical question.


Even though Riley had clearly been joking when he suggested fire-engine red for a hair color, Clarion thought it was the best idea since toilet paper. They fought like they were crazed housewives vying for the last Princess Beanie Baby, as they stood in the hair product aisle of a local Wal-Mart. Only after the store manager shot the quarreling pair an awkward and concerned gaze, did Clarion acquiesce and settle for a little less Angie Everhart and a little more Gillian Anderson; in hair color.

After it was over, Clarion and Riley sat on the edge of her bed and just stared into the mirror for a while. Clarion rubbed her hand across the back of her neck right were her hair now stopped. She cocked her head to the right side and then the left and finally let a breath go.

Riley turned to her. "That bad?"

Clarion ran a hand through her newly sheared locks and grinned. "No, but I do wonder what else I can do with it. It's awfully flat."

"No worries, will layer it , but it's fine. I like it, all though I wouldn't suggest trying to make a ponytail."

"Not enough, you think?" They both smiled and Clarion glanced at her watch. It was almost 4:30p.m. and Clarion planned to be out of her apartment and off the street by five.

Riley caught her action and grimaced. "You looking to bolt?"

Clarion nodded. " ‘Fraid so, I should probably be off the street by sundown."

Riley groaned. "Shit, I almost forgot what the problem was here. Where will you go?"

Clarion shrugged. "Someplace safe, and then I'll get out of the city within the next couple of days, if not tonight." In truth she knew she would stay for the next three, since it would do her no good to leave D.C. when she was on the verge feeding.

Riley nodded and then eventually stood up. "All right chick, let's get your stuff together and get you out of here."

Clarion stood and stopped Riley before he left the room. "Thank you for doing this for me, I know I'm asking you a lot and not telling you a thing, but I just-

He quieted her with a wave. "Claire honey, you're my family. I'd give you my lung if you needed it. It's dusty I know, but if you needed it, I'd give it up in a second because I know you'd do the same." Clarion smiled and whispered an ‘I love you' into his ear as she embraced Riley and then proceeded to make their finally sweep through the apartment.

Sunset was still a good thirty minutes off when Riley parked the car a block from St. Francis in front of a generic chain motel. Clarion hoisted her duffel bag over her shoulder and smiled as she watched Riley get into her car. She leaned down and stuck her head in the window. "Keep it clean and no lewd sexual acts in my car Ri."

"I probably couldn't top yours so why bother."

"Funny, jack ass. Hey look, I'm sure you're going to get a few phone calls inquiring about me. Um, tell whoever, whatever you want, but just give me a few days before you start spilling the beans."

"Right now, saying you died and went to Jerusalem sounds like a good idea."

"I'm with you there, pahtna'."

"Go on girl take your country ass out of here. By the way, you look like a snorkel with that tuft of hair."

Clarion giggled and pulled on the tuft of hair that was curtailed by a rubberband and best resembled a palm tree. "I was trying something new."

"The idea is to be inconspicuous not a beacon of light."

"Shut it. Get out of here and take care of my babies."

Clarion waited until the red of her car was swallowed up in rush hour traffic before strolling down the block past St. Frances and into the cemetery.

* * *



CH 16: Back in the Saddle again

In her dreams Yoshi awoke to the soft calls of birds, the smell of the outdoors, and an oddly familiar crown of blonde hair fanned out across her shoulder. In her dreams, Yoshi wore a smile of contentment as she embraced her golden-haired lover and gave no thought to beginning the day. In reality, Yoshi awoke to the sound of jackhammers that only existed in her head. What didn't smell like alcohol, smelled like alcohol that disagreed with her stomach. And as for the blonde beauty in her arms, the tall woman was lucky her sword was in its scabbard, or she would have sliced herself to death. Yoshi moaned herself into motion as she rolled to the side of her bed only to make the short drop to the floor. The subsequent thud she made immediately awoke Colin, who was taking up most of the bed.

He opened weary brown eyes to see a disarrayed mop of black hair rise above the bed. Hands appeared on the spread and two half-lidded and blood shot blue eyes peered over the bed. She moaned and Colin laughed. Since she hadn't found her voice yet, Yoshi settled for flipping Colin the bird. "It lives." he said through a chuckle. Yoshi grunted for a comment and then Colin watched as she tried to stand. On the third try she fell towards the wall and managed to stay upright. In Yoshi's mind the floor was moving side to side and the ceiling was spinning, so she moved towards the bathroom with her back firmly affixed to the wall. Colin sat up on his elbows and grinned crookedly with empathy as he watched Yoshi make it to the bathroom. "Hey if you hit the toilet this time I'll make you some lunch." Colin got a painful moan in response and then the door slammed shut. Colin collapsed back onto the bed and wore a grin of both mirth and concern on his face. He let out his own moan as he folded himself into the covers: it was going to be a long day.


By 5:00p.m. Yoshima Miakoda was the picture of health and she was beating Colin to a pulp to prove it. While she lived on the third floor of the warehouse, the second floor housed her dojo. For the fifth time in a row, within the last hour, Colin found himself on his back with a practice sword digging into his throat. He swatted the blade away in a fit of frustration and then accepted the long arm that hoisted him to his feet.

He walked to the edge of the mat and retrieved his water bottle. He managed to actually ingest some of the water that he emptied over his face. Yoshi sheathed her blade and joined him in a drink. He glanced at the woman to his right and sneered with only the barest intention of malice. "All right, you win, you got me, I'm done, no more."

She curled her lip up at Colin and then gave him a lopsided grin. "Wuss."

He nodded without shame. "I'll admit without hesitation lass. I'm a wuss, but I'm a live wuss."

She let out a smug laugh. "Only cause I'm letting you." Colin actually looked hurt for a moment, but then seemed to take it in stride as he tossed his head from side to side and shrugged. Yoshi caught the gleam in his eye too late, as he dropped his bottle and launched himself into her body.

They fell to the ground with a slap, with Colin on top of her and in a position of leverage. After a hard forty seconds of struggling, switching hand holds, maneuvering leg locks, back bridging and grunting, Yoshi conceded with a yelp that she was pinned. With her chin to the ground and her arms bent behind her, Colin let his weight sag onto her legs just a little longer so she knew he had her. He leaned down into a florid ear. "You never could wrestle punk."

Yoshi laughed. "No need. True Samurai would have cut your legs out from under you before you had the chance to react."

He nudged her in the side with his knee as he began to slowly ease off her; prepared for her explosion of retaliation. "Samurai, Samurai, whatever. Yeah, and I'm about to start walking the earth with Cain from ‘Kung-Fu'."

"You might lose a few pounds." Colin laughed and jerked his grip on her arms causing her to wince in pain.

"And you could stand to not be so ugly."

"Well, I've been looking into plastic surgery."

Colin laughed fully as he relaxed his grip and placed a wet kiss on her cheek. "My beauty, when you go in for the face-lift, I'll do some lipo-suction." The two shared a laugh as Colin stood up and helped her to her feet.

"You're still a cheater Colin."

He shrugged sweaty shoulders. "I never said I wasn't." They laughed some more and traded punches as they ascended the stairs to the top floor. "So what are we planning?"

Yoshi stood in the open door of her refrigerator and stared at her mediocre food products. "I'm planning on finding Clarion. You need to get on a plane and start gathering."

"Are we really ready for that yet?"

"Maybe not, but I want everybody on alert."

"So this is a one woman job?"

Yoshi stepped away from the fridge. "Is that selfish?"

Colin regarded his normally reticent friend with sympathy. "Hell no. I definitely think this is something you need to do on your own, but I don't want you to think you're alone."

"Don't think I can handle it?"

"On the contrary. I think you will handle it. I think you're going to go in with both guns blazing and you're going to scare the girl half to death and if she survives she's not going to want to help anymore than you want to kill her."

"What do you mean by that?"

"Exactly what I said. I didn't want to kill her and we had a two-second conversation, so I know you don't want to kill her, no matter what law says."

Yoshi raised both brows and moved towards Colin. "You talked to her?"

"Yes, buttmunch. I told you last night."

Yoshi frowned. "You could have told me the secret of life and I wouldn't remember."

Colin wiggled brown eyebrows. "That's why I told you last night. I mean, I value our friendship and all, but I value my life as well."


"So what's the plan?"

Yoshi begin stretching her muscles. "First, I'm calling her friend Riley and see if he can help. Then I'm going to her apartment and from there scour the city."

"Why not the church?"

"If she's on the run, she won't go there, because she knows I'll look."

"Then would she rely on Riley?"

"Their friends and besides he'd jump in front of a Mack truck for her."

"How do you figure that?"

Yoshi let out a snort of laughter as she walked to the bathroom. "Because he was ready to claw my eyes out the last time we met." Colin's laughter filled her ears as she stripped her clothes and headed for the shower.


Riley was nestled in his couch with his cat, sipping red wine and feeling quite proud of himself for having given the run-around to Yoshi when she called. It was a feeling of pride that quickly turned into scared shitless, as he returned from the bathroom to find the shadow of a woman standing by the balcony doors petting his cat. Riley shrieked to high heaven and disappeared into his bedroom only to return with a large cross in his hand.

Yoshi chuckled as she stepped out of the shadow and sat the cat down on the floor. "I'm not Catholic or really religious, so I'm not sure what you want me to do with that."

Riley frowned as he stiffened his shoulders and thrust out his weapon further. "Shouldn't you explode or melt or something?"

Yoshi nodded and smoothed her coat under her as she took a seat on Riley's couch. "I'm not what you think I am."

Riley looked quizzically at the dark woman on his couch and cocked his head to the side as he watched his cat rub against her pants leg. "I guess you're not." He lowered the cross to his side. "But you're something, I know that much."

"Is that an insult or a compliment?"

He shrugged slim shoulders and sucked his teeth. "Take your pick." He tossed the cross on the couch. "It didn't do me any good in highschool either. Should I offer you something to drink or did you raid my cabinets while I was in the little boys room?"

She arched an eyebrow. "No thank you."

"Fine." Riley picked up his wine glass and stood in front of the couch with his arms folded across his chest. "Was our phone interview not enough for you?"

"I figure you know absolutely nothing or you know just about everything. Then when I saw her car parked two streets over from here I surmised that you know just enough."

Riley sipped from his wine and turned up his nose as if he had no idea what she was talking about. "I really don't know where she is." Yoshi looked surprised at his admission. "You're in my house, why lie to your face."

"Don't think you could do it?"

"Quite the opposite, I know I can, but in this case the truth is just as vague if only less entertaining."

"How so?"

"She's probably long gone by now. Where to, I'm not sure. I'd say home, but she's never been one to talk about her family and when she does it's not all that enthusiastic. Hell, she probably went to go get some sun and play hide the twinkie with Co-eds on Winter vacation." Yoshi didn't mean to, but she flinched at Riley's comment. Riley made brief eye contact with Yoshi and then sipped from his drink to hide his smirk. "Do you really want to help her?"

"Very much."

"You care about her?"

Yoshi started to answer ‘very much' but only responded with a "yes, don't you?"

Riley laughed. "True, but at least I can say it." Blue eyes bored into him for moment, but Riley happily sipped his wine. "The only person you ever lie to is yourself isn't it?"

Yoshi fixed ice blue orbs on Riley, but the thin man waved her off and went to the kitchen to refresh his drink. Yoshi sighed in frustration and stood. "Are you going to tell me where she is?"

Riley turned to face her and grinned. "Doesn't it hurt your voice to growl like that." Yoshi gritted her teeth and growled audibly. "Down tiger. Look, I dropped her at a hotel near St. Francis early this afternoon. She's going to kick my ass for telling you."

Yoshi relaxed her scowl. "She told you not to tell me?"

"Not specifically, but I knew she meant you. She just wanted a head start."

"How much of one?"

"About three days she said."

Yoshi looked at the floor as she contemplated his statement. ‘That would give her enough time to…and then she'd be gone' she thought. Yoshi started to ask Riley another question, but the man brushed by her and turned up the volume on his t.v.

‘This is Lana Wright reporting for Fox 5. I'm standing in front of the city courthouse where a decision has been handed down in the state vs. Somersville. As you may recall Stephen Somersville was convicted of the brutal raping of four college women two years ago at Georgetown University. For the last two years he has proclaimed his innocence with bravado and his lawyers have been pushing for an appeal which they received two months ago. Lawyers for the defense claim that Somersville should be released on account of police misconduct in the handling of his search and arrest.'

"I can't believe this shit. I bet you they let that bastard off."

Yoshi turned her eyes from the t.v. to Riley. "So he did it."

Riley practically choked on his wine as he looked at the woman in disbelief. "You don't own a t.v. or read the newspaper do you?"

"I was busy two years ago." ‘I was stuck in a cavern in the Himalayas with two broken legs to be exact.'

"Whatever, but yeah the son of bitch did it. They haven't had this much evidence since an unwashed blue dress. He's going to get off on a technicality because the cops that pulled him off of his soon to be fifth victim beat him within an inch of his sorry ass life."

Both Riley and Yoshi watched with disgust as the crowd gathered out of the courthouse erupted into outrage at the verdict. A convicted rapist was on his way to being set free. Yoshi looked intently at the grinning man who walked down the steps of the courthouse surrounded by his lawyers and police. It never ceased to amaze Yoshi that as much as television distorted reality, there were some things it couldn't. She looked into the eyes of the pompous man leaving the court house and she knew he'd be out and about as soon as possible. Riley's words broke into her thoughts. "If there's a God, somebody will come along and rip his head off." Yoshi only grunted and nodded as she thought to herself, ‘I think I know just the person who would do it.'

Suddenly she snapped to attention. "I need to go Riley. Thanks for your help."

Riley nodded and walked to the door. "Hey, I don't know if you had anything to do with that hit and run guy the other day, but if you did and you happen to run into the bastard, give him what for."

Yoshi couldn't stop the grin that formed. "Don't worry Riley and yes, I'll keep Clarion safe."

"You better or I'll kick your ass." Yoshi bowed respectfully to the threat and exited through the stairwell.


Stephen Somersville was a text book dilettante and psychopath. He looked as if he had read American Psycho from cover to cover and at least six times. It wouldn't have been a surprise if he carried a copy in his pocket. Of course it would be on an MP-3 to show his technological savvy. As Yoshi followed the man for the second night in a row she thought of snapping his neck, just on principle.

The way she figured, this would be Clarion's chance, if she was what she was. Clarion would only kill mosquitoes out of reflex, so for her to take a human life she would need a whole lot more than necessity. Why run the risk of contracting a disease from some degenerate despot when she could take the life of an arrogant chauvinist on a power trip. It was two in the morning when frustration begin to eat away hard at Yoshi. She ordered a Remy Martin and sipped at it in a halcyon manner. She knew etter, but at this rate Clarion would be miles out of town or even out of the country and there would be nothing she could do until morning. The evoking of Clarion's name caused Yoshi to close her eyes and imagine Clarion and herself in a more serene setting where no complications existed and they'd both grow old and die together. ‘Or maybe we could live out forever together.' Yoshi snapped blue eyes open at the random thought and downed her drink. Had she been a moment sooner she would have seen Stephen Somersville leave the bar with a lithe red-head that would have looked achingly familiar, had she seen her.

It took Yoshi less than a minute to realize that Somersville was gone and another thirty seconds to search the bar. She was out of the door like a shot. She stood on the sidewalk and scanned both sides of the sidewalk to see if she could spot him. Yoshi stiffened against the blade that was secure against her body underneath her coat. She fumed as she began walking the strip only to stop when she noticed where she was. She was three blocks from St. Francis and a short walk away from the park. Yoshi hopped the railing and broke into a light jog. When she reached middle ground she climbed a tree and stood in its branches. She raked her eyes over the landscape until she caught a flash of red hair and heard the unmistakable laugh of Somersville. A wave of emotions pulsed through Yoshi's frame. She was more than happy to rid the world of Somersville, but she knew she would be taking away the possibility of Clarion's outlet. More than that she was relieved that the woman with him was a red-head and not a blonde. ‘Maybe they were wrong.' She shrugged it off as the pair disappeared into a line of trees and then she swooped out of the trees and broke into a run.

Yoshi unsheathed her katana and held it out before her as she made quiet steps through the brush, the sight she encountered almost made her burst into a fit of laughter. It was ironic really. Here she was thinking he was out to rape this poor girl and she was hovering over him draining him dry. She was good too, as there was no blood pooling under his neck. Yoshi cleared her throat and raised her sword with one hand. "Since you're doing the female population such a service I might be inclined to let you go or just make it quick." The red head sat up slowly, her back to Yoshi. Yoshi could see the woman wipe at her mouth with the sleeve of her blazer. "C'mon, up with you." The red head stood up slowly with her hands at her side and turned around to face Yoshi.

Yoshi didn't have to scream out loud to scare the birds away in the trees, the tangible force of the rage emanating off her body was loud enough. She staggered backwards as if she had just suffered a blow to the stomach and fell backwards onto a rock. She turned her eyes away from Clarion. It was her and there was no denial. Even with red hair and a smear of blood across her cheek it was still her. Yoshi swooned and collapsed, it wasn't exactly passing out, but she hadn't breathed in almost a minute.

Clarion wanted to cry or just apologize for a long time, but she thought it better to run, before she was overcome with the urge to sleep; a small price to pay for feeding. She looked back once as she made it out of the clearing and Yoshi still hadn't moved. When Clarion turned her head back around she ran right into Colin. She bounced off of him and then grinned as she recognized his face. "It's the Irishman."

Colin grinned and folded his arms across his chest. "It's Colin."

"Good to meet you, can't talk right now though, I'm afraid I'm on the lam."

Colin nodded. "From tall, dark, and I carry I big ass sword because I can."

Clarion smiled. "Why does everyone do that?"

Colin shrugged. "Habit. Anyway, you ready to go?"

Clarion stepped back and held up her hands. "Sorry, I got different travel plans."

"Not this time cutie."

"You flatter me, but no way, she looks like she just lost her dog back there, so I'm not going anywhere with her."

"I don't think she ever had a dog."


Colin looked away wistfully for a moment and then shot out an arm and caught the forearm of Clarion as she attempted to run past him. "Un un. Not this time, I've got no one to fight."

"She's going to string me up by my toenails. Why can't you just let me go?"

"I think we should, but honestly we need your help."

Clarion stopped struggling and looked up at Colin. "Really?"

"Well yeah."

"Are you going to be there to mediate?"

"Won't let anything happen to you."

Clarion raised an eyebrow. "I want to believe you, but forgive me if I'm skeptical."

"I think it's just the hair color talking.'


"You know Scully, the skeptic."

"Aha. That's funny. Hey if I live through this maybe we'll go catch a drink."

"You know I'd-

Clarion caught the ashen color of Colin's face and knew even without adjusting her hearing and sense of smell that Yoshi was behind her. She whispered to Colin, "just don't let her knock me out."

Suddenly Colin spoke. "I'm taking her to the car." Yoshi made no response as she stalked past them both through the park. Colin looked into the worried expression revealed in green eyes and tried to smile.

Clarion managed a grim smile. "We might be having that drink sooner than I was hoping, huh?"

Colin sighed. "She's just pissed off right now." He held Clarion's arm gently as they begin walking.

"She hold grudges?"

"Once we didn't speak for three months because I pulled a prank on her." Clarion only groaned and opted to do more thinking and less talking.

* * *

Part 4

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