Dead & Dealing

A Ductor Is Born

Was it this easy for everyone?

I thought to myself as I stood in a very brightly lit and painted blinding white hallway. All these months of hard work and organizing so not one little thing was out of place. This place would be my weapon against the world and my sacred sanctuary from the world and those whom would seek to harm however they went about it. It was then I realized I failed to name my creation. Well, if the Ductor was Latin then it was only proper that followed suit. This provided me an excellent opportunity for a test run.

I began walking down the hallway.

Normally the intensity of the light should have greatly hindered my eyes, but they did not. Everything was perfectly illuminated and silent. Not even the dull hum of florescent light bulbs or the light whir of an air conditioner. All that could be heard were my footsteps on polished marble floor the sound echoing up and down the hall. Just as the thought that it would be nice to have some light music playing in the background, I felt a weight in my pocket. I retrieved a small remote half the size of a dollar bil with only two buttons. The first was a triangle turned sideways and I instantly knew that it was the symbols for play on countless radios and music players. The second button was two smaller triangle also pointing to the right which was the symbols for next.

I hit play and music began to play. It was a song I had heard before and instantly recognized it as The Beatles classic Let It Be. It was just like I remembered, slow and simple with minimal fluff and flash.

There will be an answer, let it be

Let it be, let it be

Let it be, let it be

Yeah there will be an answer, let it be

Let it be, let it be

Let it be, let it be

Whisper words of wisdom, let it be

I then hit next and the song changed instantly. This one I had not heard before, at least not performed by any professional artists I knew of. It was part of an unfinished project of mine, one of many, that I had started and promised myself I'd finish it later. I had only played it on piano, but this version was performed by a full band.

I have often dreamed of a far off place

Where a hero's welcome, would be waiting for me

Where the crowds will cheer, when they see my face

And a voice keeps saying, this is where I'm meant to be

I'll be there someday, I can go the distance

I will find my way, if I can be strong

I know ev'ry mile, will be worth my while

When I go the distance, I'll be right where I belong

I continued down the hallway, slipping the remote into a pocket before it's weight disappeared as quick as it appeared. As I walked, I'd passed several doors. Each door was considerably different from the rest. One was a rich dark mahogany with a handle of polished brass with the next one was composed of opaque glass like an office door. Then came a sliding patio door, but the glass was pitch black. There was even one made of Chinese bamboo tied together by woven vines. Not all the doorways had actual doors. Some merely had bead curtains, but they had dozens upon dozens of designs. One was a tropical beach with a hammock between two palm trees while the following one was two red macaws flying through the jungles of Brazil.

Next to each doorway was a little sign that labeled the room. To anyone else, they were incomprehensible. To me it was plain as words on a page. For example, I passed a door with a stone knife crossing with modern day M16 rifle which meant beyond the door was a collection of information on weapons both old and new. Next to the door adjacent to that one was a little map of Europe with no labels. Only a little red X on the northern French beach with the date June 6th 1944. If I was to enter that room, I'd would be surrounded by various war strategies and tactics.

I quickly came to a four way intersection. Ignoring the way I had come from, three ways stretched before me until I could not see any farther. There were no arrows or signs of any kind. The only markers of any kind were a pair of statues posted opposite each other like gate posts with a gate. To my left were larger than life marble statues of the two greatest Roman Generals, Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus and Gaius Julius Caesar. The path straight ahead was flanked by an imposing Genghis Khan on a rearing horse his mouth wide open in a silent battle cry carved entirely of black granite. Opposite him was a stoic red clay, but just imposing in his own way, Sun Tzu. Finally on my right was, standing at attention in his uniform, a bronze statue of George S. Patton with wax figure of a the most famous Chiricahua Apache, Geronimo.

I took the path to my left and walked between Caesar and Scipio.

This new path was exactly the same as the previous one. Same white walls and ceiling. I began to pass more doorways, but each was flanked by marble columns of various designs and colors. There were no labels like the previous corridor. Instead, each doorway was marked with items just above it. I passed a door with a full red and gold shield the size of a refrigerator door which sat next to a door way with pristine slightly pink columns that had an old map of Italy overhead. I stopped at the next door and smiled feeling extremely please. Right where I left it.

This door was not like the others. There were no marble columns or fancy designs to distinguish itself among the others. It was made of simple polished wood with a golden handle and slid to open. Stamped in gold were the letters SPQR with two laurel wreaths curving to cradle the letter on either side. I grasped the handle and carefully slid the door open.

Rather than a room, I reveal a small compartment with a single shelf. On the shelf, on a simple wooden stand, was an incredibly thick red leather bound book. It appeared to be those gigantic tomes you would seem in films that wizards and witches often recited spells or consulted from. It had to be at least six inches thick and with pages and cover a whopping one foot by five inches. I carefully picked up the book, surprised by it's lack of weight. Then I remembered where I was. Of course, I wouldn't feel it's weight. It would just be a hindrance. The title were two simple words, Lingua Romae. The authors' names were written on the spine instead of under the title and were cited as Romulus et Remus.

I opened the book. There was no table of contents or dedication page. After all, I wasn't looking for a novel. I examined the first page to be certain I had opened the correct the door. It read :

abbas abbatis : father / abbot.

abbatia : abbey, monastery.

abduco : to lead, or take away / detach, withdraw.

abeo : to go away, retire / depart from life, die.

abscido : to cut off, to separate, take away.

absconditus : hidden, concealed.

I smiled proudly and waved a hand over the pages. As if by magic, it was in a way if I was honest, the pages turned themselves at great speed. Just as quickly as the began, they stopped and I was staring at the 'S' section. As you might have guessed, I was holding a very easy to use, and special, Latin to English dictionary. It read :

sabbatum : sabbath.

sacculus : purse, little bag, little sack.

sacrificum : sacrifice.

sacrilegus : sacrilegious, impious.

saepe/sepe : hedge, fence, enclosure, haye.

saepenumero : repeated, again and again.

I nodded and waved my hand over the page again. The pages did not turn themselves like before. Instead a small little glow appeared at the bottom of the right page. Before I could blink, the glow floated off the page and stopped at eye. The glow died down slightly and I saw it was a word with its definition.

"Sacrum." I read aloud.

I felt it was missing something. The word continued to float and I returned my gaze to the book in my free hand. Like before, I waved hand over the page. A second glow appeared, this one near the middle of the left page, and joined the first word. I felt I was incredibly close to my goal.

"Sanctuarium." I nodded, agreeing with the word.

I closed the book and returned it to its stand.I closed the door and turned my full attention to the floating words. Together, they would the perfect name. It would just require some fine tuning.

"Sacrum." I repeated and observed it's meaning. "Sacred." Then I turned my attention to the other word and its definition. "Sanctuarium. Sanctuary." I held my chin for a moment before I made a go away gesture. "Shoo!"

Just like that, the definitions twinkled and faded away. I nodded once and twirled a finger in a circle. The words switched locations with Sanctuarium in front of Sacrum. I held my palm over Sacrum and letters began to appear and shift around at blinding speed. I removed my hand half a second later and was rewarded with a derivative of sacrum, sanctum. I turned my attention to sanctuarium and repeated the process. I took a step and marveled at my handiwork.

This would be my sacred sanctuary from and against the world.

My Sanctum Sanctorum.

With my goal achieved, I closed my eyes.

When I opened my eyes, I was back in my apartment sitting cross legged on a leather recliner. I looked down and saw Tux curled up in my lap. Despite the money I spent on the most comfortable pillows I could find in New York, my lap was her bed of choice. I scratched behind her ear and she barely stirred. Either her earlier nap had taken a lot out of her or she was still in that post meal coma that occurred whenever she devoured an entire fish with a creamy sauce. I leaned back slightly and looked around as if I wasn't already certain what I was looking at.

I had seriously redecorated since that night. I had spent my considerable fortune on my perfect home and spared little expense. I had done away with the old couches and recliners and replaced with them handmade and stitched genuine brown leather sofa with two matching recliners and two loveseats. For such a large purchase, and a substantial tip, the shop owner in a little a nondescript all the way in eastern Queens had thrown in a handful of cushions that matched the furniture perfectly. All except the piano, but there was nothing wrong with it other than the color and it struck as idiotic to get a rid of it and get a new one simply for the color. Plus, it held provided a convenient place for my work which was piled high until I found a proper place for a small mountain of paper.

The large price tag and long wait was worth every penny and second. The leather was genuine and supple as satin, but hardy enough that Tux's claws couldn't damage them even if she somehow acquired opposable thumb and went at it with a knife. It was so restful, I close my eyes and swear I was floating on a cloud. That was just the recliners. The couch was softer than some beds, but not so much that you would sink ten feet, and I made mental note not lay on it when sunrise was close. I had made that mistake once, and if not for Tux jumping onto my groin, I almost slept to death.

Directly ahead of me, past the coffee table piled high with stack of paper and pens, were my aquariums. Technically, it was one very large and long aquarium tank that was divided in two by a pane of glass down the middle. Neither side was a common aquarium with goldfish and the like.

The left side I was particular proud of. It took a bit of scouring the city for just the right materials or, failing that, some jerryrigging on my part, but I was rewarded with a scale model of China's Yu Garden. Actually it was not the whole garden as I required far more space than I had. Instead, it was a scale model of the Nine Lion Study in the middle of the space and surrounded by water. Some stones that had been shaped and polished were tucked into the corners with little Chinese wooden bridges connecting them in long arcs over the water. I thought it would make the occupants feel at home. That was assuming they had actually seen their home country.

The occupants were Tzu and Bin. They were what the Chinese called nishikigoi, or literally broaded carp. Most just called them Koi fish. Tzu was a scarlet koi. While I wouldn't call the beautiful scales that glistened in the right light a true scarlet, it was undenibely a gorgeous color that I'm sure most salmon would commit genocide to have such skin for just a day. He wasn't completely one single color. Like Tux and her paws, whom I am certain plots countless schemes to eat Tzu and Bin whenever I am out, the edges of Tzu's tail and fins were white and sparkling as freshly fallen snow. Bin's scale, on the other hand, were just as eye alluring only colored in reverse. Bin was almost completely white like an albino, but the edges of his tail and fins were the very same shade of scarlet as Tzu.

They were surprisingly intelligent for fish. They both could recognize me and playfully splashed whenever I fed them. They even ate out of my hand and seemed to enjoy when I gentle rubbed their heads. Despite what Tux might have thought for the first few nights, I had not grown bored of her. It just seemed like a nice addition to apartment when I passed a little shop called Zhang's Eastern Fish Emporium on Canal Street between Mott and Elizabeth in Chinatown. After a chat with the owner, an old Asian man who was probably older than some vampires and called Frank Baxster instead of Zhang, I came back the next night and bought Bin and Tzu.

While my new companions were a bit expensive, roughly three-hundred for each of them, I understood why. It was like buying a Best In Show's purebred puppies, if those puppies could potentially live a century or two. Once Frank told me about me a particular scarlet koi called Hanako, I was certain I made a wise choice. Hanako had been born sometime in mid 1751, with ownership being passed down through several family generations, and finally succumbed to natural causes in 1977.

Most humans have the problem of out living thier pets, but I had the exact opposite problem. Only a handful of animals on the planet that could even match a regular human lifespan and most of them don't make ideal pets. There was the Saltwater Crocodile with seventy plus average life span, but they grow far too large to keep for more than a couple of years. Then was of course the obvious fact it would be difficult to walk one down Broadway without leaving a bloody trail of severed limbs and stray poodles that had gotten to curious for their own good.

So I decided to go with Bin and Tzu. We might not share a taste for violence and bloody dismemberment, but we could do worse than grow old together.

It was that same reason I also that I kept another long lasting friend in the adjacent tank. He had just crawled out the water and onto his favorite sun basking stone. I swore I could see with a relaxing smile that I half expected him to take off his shell and properly get a tan. I had been a fan of a certain comic series and enjoyed the, if somewhat childish for a recent high school graduate, cartoon show that featured a popular team of mutated adolescent members of the Trachemys scripta family who practiced ninjustu. The members of this team shared name with the fathers of the Renaissance. Names like Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael, and Michelangelo. While my friend didn't share a taste for pizza or the skills of a master ninja, he did have share a famous namesake from the Renaissance.

Galileo was a common and hardy red-eared slider. Red-eared sliders get their name from the small red dash around their ears. The "slider" part of their name comes from their ability to slide off rocks and logs and into the water quickly, of which I had yet to see Galileo do. They are almost entirely aquatic, but, as they are cold-blooded, they leave the water to sunbathe to regulate their temperature which I had supplied with a common heat lamp.

To my surprise, I learned Galileo was not entirely a vegetarian. Until he reached maturity, he'd require more protein than vegetation. Much to Tux's displeasure, whom apparently did not like sharing her precious shrimp, I fed Galileo shelled and shredded raw shrimp on a very small leaf of dark green romaine lettuce that he would have to eat to get to the more desirable protein.

If I could, I would of breathed a sigh of content. I had all I needed and wanted for the moment. I was living in a very spacious five bedroom apartment, which was actually two apartment that had been combined when the previous owners found they needed more space and convinced the landlord to renovate. That apartment sat in very sought after neighborhood in the most expensice borough of one, if not the, most expensive city in the world completely rent and utility kitchen had been updated to include a state of the art refrigerator, for both Tux's meals and my blood, along with marble counter-tops and red mahogany cabinets.

Just down the hall, formerly Doyle and Regina's rooms, was my library which was I was slowly filling with books ranging from every subject from Anthropolgy to Zoology. My room had not gone unchanged either. I had done away with my furniture and augmented my wardrobe. My bed was now an intricute wrought iron frame with the head and foot board beautifully twisted and bent in a very complicated design that someone had slaved long over. After searching an entire night and a long ferry ride to Staten Island, I found the perfect matress from a shop that I shocked to learn no one knew about. Not too firm that it was like solid concrete nor so soft one sank like a stone in a lake. Combined with the 1000-Thread-Count cotton sheets, I would find it hard to get out of bed if I could sleep more than two hours during the night.

While the closet still had the false bottom where my coffin sat, it also held my wardrobe. When I was human, I had sacrifice looks and quality for price. It wasn't the case anymore. I had done away with most of my old clothes. Although I kept both my JLA (Justice League of America) and Marvel shirts out of nostalgia. It was just as well. Some were too faded and worn. A few of my red shirts were a shade away from pink and my black and blue jeans were practically gray and sky blue. A quick trip to the Garment district to one of the landmarks boutiques that had been open since the fifties, or the many high end shops that were slowly cropping in northern Soho along Broadway, and had clothes that could match any of the celebrities and model in Tribeca.

I scratched behind Tux's ear to wake her up. She yawned and looked up at me still half asleep, but with an annoyed glint to her gaze as if it had better be important to interrupt her slumber. I gently coaxed her off my lap and she reluctantly took my spot on the recliner when I walked to the bathroom. I didn't feel the need to leave the apartment tonight. I had blood in the refrigerator, courtesy of Sally's connections to the many blood banks in the city, and I was incredibly close beating the final level of Super Mario World and defeating King Koopa. I was in for a long night or a short one if I snapped the delicate plastic controller. I was down to my last one and the only shop that would sell them in bulk was out of the way on the far side of Chinatown. I made a mental note to take one apart some night and make a more durable one, perhaps out of metal.

I had never had the chance, or money, to play video games before, but there was no reason for that to continue. I had heard of the NES and heard great things about the games you could play on it. The owner had explained that a new model had been released roughly the same year I was allowed to leave the apartment. So I bought a SNES or Super Nintendo which came packed with a game that was proving a frustrating challenge even after a month, and enough controllers to pay for two new systems, of playing. I had bought, played, and beaten other games. Games that were surprisingly deep and engaging like Super Castlevania IV and The Legend of Zelda : A Link to the Past, but Super Mario World was proving difficult. I was dangerously close to throwing the cartridge into the Hudson. Maybe I should have taken the shop owner's offer to subscribe to Nintendo Power.

Princess Peach would just have hold on a bit longer after I had a relaxing soak. I had remodeled the bathroom as well, but not as much. No need to change the toliet since there was no need to use it. The medicine cabinets I kept as they were. The only major change was I had done away with the tub and replaced it with a Jacuzzi. I don't know how I lived before I used it for the first time. With the water so warm while being massaged by the jets, I had contemplated on numerous occasions just laying there all night. Nothing but me, my thoughts, and slight hint of lavender in the steamy air.

I filled the tub with hot water and sprinkled some lovely scented bath salts from a little beauty boutique on Bleeker Street in Greenwich Village. I quickly undressed and adjusted the jets to just the right intensity. I made sure to turn on the radio I kept next to the stink before I slipped into the water.

"Ahhh . . ." I sighed as I slid up to my neck.

"Welcome back to WCBS-FM 101.1 FM!" came from the radio. "Where we play the greatest hits of the '60s, '70s & '80s!"

"Mhm." I managed to say at first. "Something good." I told the radio as if they could here me.

"Back before he was the bad thrilling king of pop, he was part of a small family band." cried the DJ. "If you can call The Jackson Five small. This is one of their first hits all the way back in '69."

Oh baby, give me one more chance

(To show you that I love you)

Won't you please let me back in your heart

Oh darlin', I was blind to let you go

(Let you go, baby)

But now since I see you in his arms

(I want you back)

Yes I do now

(I want you back)

Ooh ooh baby

(I want you back)

It just went to show that even the smallest thing can upset your plans. Here I had planned on merely enjoying a hot relaxing soak and sitting down on my most comfortable couch with glass of warm blood, courtsey of Sally's connections, and finally rescuing the princess. No regrets or distractions to occupy my mind other than how calculating how many lives I might need before I attempted to storm Bowser's castle. Instead a simple song, one I had enjoyed on countless times before without incident, just sent me back in time.

In my mind, I went back to a very important night. All the way back to that night where the idea for my Sanctum Sanctorum had been born out of anger and realization my gift was akin to a bar of metal that had yet to be shaped and polished into a lethal blade.

(Ten Months Previously - Febuary 14th - Valentine's Day)

"What is it with you ticks and your sick jokes?!" Christine demanded.

"Ticks?" Mai looked to me for explanation.

Sometimes you forgot that most vampires had lived in times before government funded education and they're knowledge was limited in some areas. Most of the time it evident when someone mentioned a medical procedure.

"Little spider like insects." I said calmly as I thought of a way out of explaining my alter ego to Christine. "They survive on blood."

"I see."

"What are you doing here, Mai." I asked.

"Dominick?" Christine asked. "You know her?"

"I would ask you the same, Ductor." Mai stood aside.

"Christine, this Mai." I quickly strode past Mai. "Mai, this is Christine."

I sank into a chair and opened the second bottle of blood. Something told me I was going to need it and part of me wished it was something stronger. Mai stood directly in front of me while Christine entered, but stood a step from the door and left it slightly ajar. If I unsettled her, then Mai probably made her even more anxious. At least enough to have an escape route handy.

"So who is the bitch?" Mai asked.

"My words exactly." Christine sneered.

"Enough!" I snapped. "Mai, why are you here?"

"Fulfilling Matthew's end of our bargain." She motioned to the pack at her feet.

"Bargain?" Christine asked.

"Yes." Mai eyed Christine annoyingly.

"Care to elaborate?" Christine raised an eyebrow.

"No."

"Do it anyway."

Mai hissed, branding her fangs, and snarled. "Do not give me orders, Akrooteh!"

Christine flinched, but to my surprise, she snarled back. "The fuck you call me?"

"I said enough!" I shouted.

"I do not take orders from you!" Mai snapped while she locked eyes with Christine.

"Considering my orders saved a lot of our kind and your master's face." I reminded her. "I say you do!"

Mai seemed to mull it over for a moment and straightened, as did Christine. They both continued to lock eyes, but at least that was the worst of it.

"Dominick, what dose she mean Mathew's end of the bargain?" Christine asked.

"It dose not concern you." Mai growled. "It is a vampire affair."

"I wasn't asking you."

"You will get the same answer."

"You don't speak for me." I said firmly. "But I get your point." I looked to Christine. "Let's just say, I took care of pest problem for Matthew who is one of the higher ups in the area."

"After all we've been through, that's all you're going to tell me?"

"Be grateful that he is even giving you the courtesy of an answer." Mai remarked. "Especially to one your kind."

"Mai, you're not helping."

"I am not trying to help." Mai said plainly. "After all her kind have done to us, to you, I am confused to why we are not draining this kalb dry."

"I'd say we're even if you factor all we've done to them."

"What the fuck are you two talking about?!" Christine demanded.

"Very well. I will tell you." Mai sneered. "Matthew is my maker and sheriff of area two. Like Ryuu in Area Three, he suffered from a pest problem"

"Mai!" I shouted. "Don't!"

"His pest problem was a group of mongrels and their lesser friends had grown arrogant and thought little of their superiors." Mai stepped toward Christine who backed up. "They fought like the cowards they are and thought themselves the victor after claiming a paltry few!"

"Mai!" I shot to my feet and shouted. "Enough!"

"Then they learned we are not to be trifled with and paid for that lesson with their meaningless lives. Ryuu was swift. He was merciless and he was relentless. He and those who followed him did not stop until every last whimpering mongrel pup was nothing more than puddle at feet and unfit to drink!" Mai continued inching closer and Christine continued backing up. "But as the proverb says, one cannot teach an old dog new tricks and those that fled for their lives continued with their spineless ways abducting our kind."

Mai paused when Christine was against the wall and looked to me for a moment. I knew she wouldn't stop until she had finished and there was nothing I could do. All i could do was use the time to explain my reasons. I just hoped Christine didn't have any close relatives among the dead. I recall Shifters and Weres had an unusual high infant mortality rate even in this day and age with the miracles of modern medicine. So perhaps the odds were in my favor at least in that regard.

"Again, they cowardly slew a small handful and thought themselves untouchable in their secret holes." Mai placed both arms on either side of Christine as if to stop her from fleeing and she began sliding slightly to the floor. "And like before, they paid for their error and we razed them and their so called haven to the ground."

"W-we?" Christine repeated.

"Dominick, his maker, and I." Mai said smugly. "Three against a dozen of Weres and Shifters."

"Dominick isn't like that." Christine protested. "He wouldn't kill for fun."

"Dominick the human might not, but Dominick the vampire certainly can and does." Mai clarified.

"You're lying!" Christine said firmly. "I know he wouldn't. It was the Ductor who did all that."

"And what would you know of the Ductor?" Mai asked in mock sweetness.

"It's only because of him that you guys won!" Christine snapped. "You think you vamps are so great and stuff. Then why did you go running to him the second we stopped laying down?"

"Think again!" Mai snarled. "He offered assistance. We did not seek him out."

"You just don't want to admit that it hardly took a scratch and you big tough vamps went pulled out the big guns!" Christine growled. "My uncle Sebastian and the rest of them should be proud that it took an ancient roman general to take them down!"

That was, how kids like to put, when the shit just got real.

Christine had mentioned her father was a Were. That meant it was impossible that her uncle Sebastian was the same that had abducted Mai and I since only the first born in a Were family would be a Were themselves. Unless, ignoring the fact he was just a close friend of her father's, Were females had multiple "firstborns" with multiple males. It made sense if their population was in constant jeopardy.

Either way, that meant two things for certain. I had killed her uncle with my bare hands which given a second chance, I'd do all over again. The second was what had done to Mai. The exact thing I was too late to prevent from happening to HER. Mai had never said anything about not killing him herself and hadn't stopped me, but I knew she'd kill Christine for what her uncle had done.

I had to stop her somehow.

Mai had already moved so swift that Christine appeared to have shot a foot into the air. Mai effortlessly held Christine against the wall by her neck and was slowly tightening her grip. Christine gagged and coughed while she kicked and tried to wrench Mai's hand from her throat. Her eyes went wide in panic and tears ran down her face as she began to flail. Mai was clearly enjoying herself and it evident in the way she ran the tip of her tongue under Christine's jawline and up her cheek. She even went as far to press her body against Christine and toyed with the button of her jeans with her free hand. She was going to pay Christine in kind for what her uncle had done. Or, and I wish I hadn't thought of it, kill her like Sebastion and put her hand right through her.

"She's is mine!" I shouted the first thing that came to mind.

Mai paused, "What?"

She was still choking Christine who looked terrified, but seemed to understand I was trying to help her.

"I said she is mine." I said firmly.

"Am I to care?" Mai demanded.

"You know our rules."

"Not this one, Ductor!" She snarled. "This one is not human."

"She belongs to me!" I roared. "Her life is mine to end. Not yours!"

Mai ignored me and resumed. She must have gotten hungry and made a show of dragging her fangs along Christine's cheek. The lack of air was taking its toll and Christine's flailing was quickly slowing.

"I said get away from her!" I tried to shove her away.

That turned out to be a mistake. The next thing I knew, I was lying on my back with Mai snarling down at me and pinning my arms to the ground. I was vaguely aware of Christine gasping and coughing a little to my right. She was safe for the moment, but I could not say the same for me. Mai, despite having centuries to learn to keep herself in check, was close to losing control.

"Do. Not. Interfere." She snarled each word low and full of warning. "She will pay!"

I tried to lift my arms, but they might as well weighed several tons for all I could do. I had no chance of overpowering Mai. So all that was left were what I could say. For Christine's sake, it had better be enough.

"I am calling in my debt." I said.

"What are you talking about?" Mai demanded.

"I saved your life." I reminded her. "You owe me."

"No!" She hissed. "She is our enemy!"

"I killed our enemy!" I snapped. "You were there!"

"And you know what he did!"

"Yes! What he did. Not her."

"Why do you defend her?!" Mai snarled.

"The same reason you will not kill her." I growled. "A debt."

Mai seemed to consider that a long moment and all that could be heard was Christine as she recovered from nearly suffocating. Then, just as swiftly, Mai released me with a very deep reluctant growl. I stood as she went to leave. Before I could get my bearings, Mai gave Christine a swift kick to the side. Then, just as I opened my mouth to protest, Mai appeared in front of me and I was suddenly flying. Later, when I replayed the night events in my mind, I would learn Mai had picked me up and tossed me like a rag doll into the kitchen. I felt and heard my bones snap when they collided with counter only to split my split my skull when the force took me up and over the counter to finally be stopped by the refrigerator.

Everything went black from there.

When I woke up, I was aware of a great weight on me. I struggled to open my eyes and saw Christine was straddling me. Her eyes were red and puffy from crying and i could feel she was on the verge to start again. She had a massive black and blue bruise that wrapped around her neck, courtesy of Mai. Part of me realized it must be at least an hour later. I also figured that no one had called the police with all of the noise we must have caused. That was the city for you. It would take the sound of automatic gunfire for someone to consider phoning the authorities. After all, who'd want to get involved when you had your own problems o deal with.

It was when Christine moved her hands that I noticed what she was holding. She was desperately clutching a wooden spoon or rather a broken wooden spoon. Perhaps it was the massive blunt force trauma to my skull and my upper spine, but it took me a moment to realize the gravity of the situation.

Christine was holding a wooden stake.

"Please . . ." She pleaded. "Tell me she was lying."

"Lying?" I repeated.

"That you're the fucking Ductor!" She shrieked.

"I — "

"Don't lie to me!" Christine sounded hysterical. "If you're still my friend, you'll tell me the truth!"

"You said yourself." I told her. "He's from ancient Rome."

"That's just bullshit." She wiped her eyes. "Some say he's Roman and others say he's Greek and taught Alexander. They're just rumors." She placed the point of the stake over my left pectoral and stared into my eyes. "Talk!"

Now I could of easily disarmed her, but she had been through enough and god only knew how serious the Mai's kick had been. I also could of let her stake me. I must've told her about my dextrocardia, but she must have forgotten with all that occurred. I decided to tell her everything.

"When I was turned, something happened to me." I began.

"No shit!"

"No, I mean something unusual for vampires." I said. "Unusual, but not unheard of."

"Unusual how?"

"Can you put the stake away?" I asked.

"Not a chance." She growled. "Talk!"

"Alright." I began. "Every now and then, vampires develop special talents. We call them gifts." I motioned to her. "I've heard some can fly while others can communicate with their children telepathically, but they're not limited to just that."

"So you're one of these gifted vamps." Christine concluded. "What can you do?"

"Intelligence."

"What?"

"I might have been smart when I was human, but I was still normal." I explained. "When I was turned, I became exponentially more intelligent. I didn't realize it at first, but I began to notice I could think faster and reason much more easily than before. I could even out think and outsmart far older vampires with centuries of knowledge and experience."

"So . . ." Christine began to comprehend.

"That's why no one had heard of the Ductor until about a year ago." I said. "I don't how or when the rumor started that the Ductor was an ancient Roman or Greek general, but I guess it's because Rome has strong ties to wolves in general and the original myth for werewolves started with Greece. Either way, most seemed to agree that only a very old vampire with over a millennia of experience could deal with Weres and Shifter the way he could."

"So you got a few extra IQ points and thought you could score some points with sheriffs and a bit of cash." She growled. "Innocent kids died! All because of you!"

"That wasn't me." I protested. "At least not in the way you're thinking."

"Then explain!" Christine snarled. "Since I'm just a dumb pest to you."

"Normally, we keep to ourselves as do the Shifters and Weres, but the Mahingan pack thought they could strike a deal with a group of vampires on Long Island." I wondered how she would take that her uncle's pack dealt in drugs, but she demanded the truth. "They went to Ryuu, one of the higher ups in the area, and offered a cut of the profits if they could use his clubs to distribute drugs. Ryuu didn't want to run the risk of police snooping too close and turned them down. Maybe he wasn't as polite as he should have been to them or left something important out, but they didn't take his refusal well and began attacking. It went on for a few months with the pack killing a couple of vampires that were passing through or simply living in his area and burning a couple of clubs." I waited for a moment to let it sink in. "You have to understand that Ryuu is responsible for the safety and secrecy of any vampire who place themselves under his protection. From his point of view, he was dealing with a hostile invading guerrilla force who had superior number and tactics."

"Even if that is true, it doesn't excuse massacring an entire pack including innocent women and children and burning their homes to the ground!"

"Vampires know to look to the future." I said reluctantly. "If he hadn't then ten or twenty years down the road he'd have to deal with another group. Another group with motive and two decades of time to plan, scheme, and gather allies."

"That's what you fucking told him!?" Christine shouted.

"No." I answered. "I put it all together later when I had time to think."

"Then what did you tell him?!"

"He had met my maker at the turn of the century and knew she had a nest of old vampires. Like you said, there aren't that many of us in this part of the country." I tried to sit up, but Christine flinched and pushed the stake harder against my chest and I laid back down. "I had only met Ryuu that night. He told us what had happened and I accidentally suggested he'd try a new approach. I didn't go into the details, but it boiled down to taking out the leaders during the day to confuse and buy him time to regroup."

"What do you mean accidentally?"

"Age is everything to us." I explained. "At hardly a year old, I was barely above a Were in his eyes. I was basically cannon fodder and no right to speak. It would be like a five star general using a plan that grunt only two weeks into boot camp came up with. I muttered something and he demanded I speak, probably to put me in place and teach me to keep my mouth shut. That was when I gave him a strategy that he, or anyone else, couldn't poke holes."

"You honestly expect me to believe you came up with plan in less than an hour while this Ryuu couldn't after months of working at it?!

"A pair of fresh eyes can make all the difference." I said gently. "Either way, it didn't matter because the Weres and Shifters attacked us hardly a couple of hours later. I think they had gotten over confident or heard that Ryuu had contracted outside help. They had numbers and surprise on their side, but only a few realized they had shift back into human bodies to pick up a stake. After the fight, we found that one of them had survived. He refused to talk and Ryuu ordered him killed." I mentally took a breath. "And that's when I tried to stop him. I didn't know it then, but that was what led to Ryuu winning like he did."

"Why did you try to stop him?" Christine asked suspiciously. "You had to of killed a couple of Weres at least in self defense. Why was this guy so different?"

"Because I am different." Then I relented. "Was different. When you become one of us, you go under a massive personality shift. For the lack of a better word, you die. You don't see people as people like you used to. You see them as food and playthings nothing more. You still remember your life before turning and think more or less the same as you had, but you find yourself making decisions that you would have once found wrong or even cruel and enjoying things that normal humans would call living nightmares." I paused for a moment to gather my words. "I'm not sure or why, but it was different with me. Or at least less intense at times. I think my gift let me keep a part of myself or maybe it just something that fades over time and it just took longer for me."

"Get to the point!"

"Long story short, I didn't think it through. Had I just let Ryuu kill him, he would have just used my plan and only the heads of the packs would have been killed. Instead, I stopped him in an ill timed moment of humanity. Ryuu naturally demanded a reason and I had only half second to come up with something."

"So you suggested and helped him kill innocent children and their families!" She snarled.

"No."

"No?"

"I just told him to use him as bait and set a trap so he could take out the pack leaders." I told her. "He's the one who went ahead and ordered everyone killed."

"And you?"

"I was too injured to fight. I spent the rest of night and the next recovering. It wasn't until I turned the TV that I even knew he set the houses on fire and left a note to warn other packs and shift the blame to the pack leader."

"You still helped him!"

"The Weres attacked us first!"

"No they didn't!"

"They attacked Ryuu because he turned down their offer to use his clubs to sell drugs." I growled. "He didn't seek them out. They came to him."

"That doesn't justify killing children!"

"I've never harmed a child. As a human or a vampire!"

"You still helped!"

"You remember that school shooting that happened three years after we graduated? Back in '89?" I asked. "The Stockton schoolyard shooting?"

"What dose that have to with anything?"

" Are you honestly telling me that Patrick Purdy wasn't to blame and they should have went after who sold him the rifle?" I demanded. "Yes. I helped Ryuu. I gave him a plan, but he's the one who put into motion. My plan was to take a few key individuals out and force a surrender. You can't blame me if Ryuu went with the scorched earth approach. I don't approve of what he did then and I still don't approve, but no matter what I do or don't I can't change what he did."

"And my uncle?!" She snarled. "I know for sure he survived. He came to live us with for a few weeks after your little chat with Ryuu. He was demanding we start a war. Unite the packs and take out every single vampire in the state!" She leaned harder and the stake was beginning to pierce my skin. "They turned him down because they didn't to risk another massacre. Even then, people were whispering about you. How some sheriff called for help and the next thing anyone knows is that the entire Mahingan is killed in a single night!"

"If you're uncle is the same Sebastien Mae and I knew, then he is dead." I said flatly. "He has been for months now. Along with any allies he managed to cobble together."

"How?"

"I killed him."

Christine merely froze at my confession. Perhaps she had convinced herself that he was off somewhere cooling off or piecing his life back together. After all, no body had been found or reported. Then again, I'd made sure that was impossible.

"He survives Ryuu's massacre of his wife and kids and you just kill him!" I could tell that Christine was seconds away from pushing all her weight onto the stake and sinking it into where my heart should be. "How?!"

"I'm telling you, Christine, you don't want the details." I warned. "Just know that I killed him and leave it at that."

"Hrrrrrwg?" She growled through bared teeth and I could feel she was fighting the urge to shift and rip me to pieces.

"I stabbed him with a sword, kicked him so I shattered his teeth and jaw, literally put my arm through and ripped off his genitals, before having my maker drain him dry." Then I added. "And I'm telling you, if it's the last thing I say, he deserved worse."

That was when Christine had all she could take and did something that I did not expect to her do. Up to that point, I had never seen her so much as hit someone with any real feeling for it. Sure she once shoved Brian when he started dating another girl who was willing to put out, but that was worst and most violent I had seen her.

So imagine my shock when she went ahead and shove the stake through my chest.

I won't lie and say it was painless, but I was so surprised that it took me a moment to realize she had staked me and yanked the stake out to do it again. Then, with her fury reeling in my mind, I was angry. I had saved her life twice, both times at the risk my own life. Regardless of her relationship to Sebastian, I deserved to explain my actions. On second thought, I did not. With the exception of two — my first meal and that Muttontown cop Jefferson — there was not a human life that I had taken that did not deserve it on some level. Who knew how many women, vampire or otherwise, Sebastian had entertained over his lifetime. My only regret was that his death was not slow enough for my liking.

With an angry snarl, I sat up in the blink of an eye. The next thing Christine knew, she was slammed back into the refrigerator and her hands held together and pinned over her head. Even with the blood that Sally had given me, I was hungry and the damage I no doubt sustained at Mae's hand only made it worst. So naturally, once Christine was immobilized, I lunged at her neck.

On any other occasion that would have been the end of it, but I had had Christine's blood. I could feel her emotion almost as if they were my own and at the moment she was terrified. She was terrified of me. Of me!

I stopped just as my fangs tickled her neck and pulled back. She was looking away and her eyes were shut tight. She was even trembling. Even if a human was as close as I was they would not be able to see the slightest of tremors in her body, but I could see and even feel it against my skin.

I plucked the stake from my her hand and stared down at my blood staining the wood. It would be so easy to give a taste of her own medicine or knock her out and give her to Mae, but mentally sighed and resigned myself to the inevitable. She had given me hope when it mattered. Her friendship was soothing balm to any otherwise painful and excruciating existence. I had hoped she could be again, but life had other plans.

I waited until she opened her eyes, but I refrained from using my glamor.

"Here's is what is going to happen." I told her. "You're going to leave and go home. Go back to what you were doing when you thought I was dead. Become a doctor. Find someone who loves you and start a family." I said firmly. "Forget you ever saw me."

"I — " She began

"After you leave, I'm going to pack some clothes and find a safe place to sleep for the next couple of nights." I continued. "From there, I'm going to come back with a small army to kill any possible attackers. Then I'm going to set up traps and alarms so if I'm ever attacked during the day, whomever tries it will need an army the size of Russia just to get past the lobby." I paused to see if she would speak and went on when she didn't. "And for the sake of peace, for both of our kind, do not tell anyone who I am. If the Weres learn the truth they won't be afraid anymore and attack vampires again who will, in response, call me in to finish it like Hitler tried with the Jews." I tried to keep my voice devoid of emotion. "I'll refuse at first and be forced to go into hiding and no one can hide forever. If they do catch me, it'll be years of torture until I do what they want which will end with my death along with every Were and Shifter. Do you understand?"

She nodded.

"You can tell them you met the Ductor. You won't exactly be dishonest." I said. "Just let them know that as long they keep to themselves or, barring that, do not attack us without provocation, they have nothing to fear. Just carry on with whatever they were doing before all of this happened." I swallowed hard. "Can you do that?"

Again, she nodded.

"Good." I stepped away and motioned like a butler to the door. "Now get out. I'm not completely sure if Mae is waiting for you or even still in the building, but you should be able to survive until sunrise. Sunrise is only a couple of hours away and I doubt she'd want to take the risk."

"Should . . .?" Christine's voice was barely a whisper.

"She'd want to take her time and then she'd have to make it look like a human killed you and not a vampire so not to spark another fight." I said. "Or scatter you in pieces all over the state. Of course the simple thing would be the Hudson or New York Bay on the ferry to Staten Island."

"P-pieces?"

I know I was probably not doing her any favors by putting those images in her head, but whatever made her leave and never return was worth it. She, like family if I returned to them, would be in constant danger if she stayed with me. Even if we never grew past friends, she would be putting her life and future in jeopardy. All for what? An occasional friendly dinner or a night on the town ? Or even a casual drunken roll in the hay in the coming years? No. It was better for the both of us in the long run for her to go on with her life before she learned I wasn't as dead as she thought.

"Just go." I said. "Please. Before I can come up with a reason not to let you."

And that was it. Without another word, she left. She did not run or hurry in anyway, but she did not look back either as she quietly closed the door behind her. I rushed to the door and locked both the deadbolt and lock in the knob before securing the chain. I spent the next minute piling any furniture that wasn't bolted to the floor in front of the door.

It was I when turned back and saw my cane on the ground. It was then it came to me, all to well after the fact. I fell to me knees and ignored the blood pooling at the edge of my vision.

I could of used it to kill Mae when she was occupied with Christine. One quick swing and — Micheal would hunt me down to the ends of the earth no matter the cost and he'd have near infinite resources to do it. I might go with Christine and beg shelter from her father's pack. No that wouldn't work. One slip up from Christine, if she forgave me, and I'd have to deal with the vampires and Weres of New York City. I could have used the silver edge to get Mae to back off and . . . and. She'd just use her superior speed and strength to either kill me or injury me severely enough that I would be helpless long enough to watch Christine die for what her uncle had done. More scenario came to me each one more ludicrous than the last.

"ARRHHHHHHHHHHHH!" I howled.

There had to have been a way. I was given the gift that most vampires had to wait centuries to acquire. All I had to was use it. No matter how hard I tried, no matter what thoughts or strategies I conjured, none solved my dilemma.

Then the strangest thing happened to me.

HER words echoed in my head.

Dominus, Dominor, Dominare. Do you understand? Your very name means to dominate to and control.

Your perspicacious mind, however technically dead, was a natural part of you and continues to be so. Now unhindered by human limits and emotions.

The general sometimes commands soldiers older than himself.

Then I remembered what I said to Abraham. I had in fact been bluffing, but seemed to have a new meaning now.

Are you capable of visualizing each and every variable, the possibility of weapons or strategies, and forming a flawless counter to all of them?

Like when a bat crashed through a window of Bruce Wayne's study, I realized what I had to do. I had been given a gift. No, not a gift. A weapon. However that weapon was nothing more than a lump of metal. I could cave someone's skull with enough force, but I could forge that lump into something far more deadly that everyone would fear be it human, Were, or vampire.

I had to become the Ductor.

"Rrow?"

I looked to see Tux nuzzling my wrist.

"I'm fine." I picked her up and began scratching behind he ears. "I realized it's time for a change."

"Rrow!"

"Oh, I don't know." She began to purr in my lap as I sat in the middle of the room. "Me."

From then on, for the next ten months, I sought and piled information and knowledge like countries preparing for war stockpiled weapons and supplies. I devoured books on every conceivable subject no matter how obscure or seemingly useless. I consumed textbooks on Astronomy the wonders of the universe. I engrossed myself in biology text and documentaries to see how life had adapted over millions of years. I learned, through a few measly beginner college textbooks, how to make acids and bases from common household cleaners. When I reached engineering and all it entailed, I began to develop plans for weapons. I never built them, but I knew they might become useful in the coming years.

I also studied history and art. I studied and learned tactics from Alexander The Great to Zulu. Political tricks such as the ones used during by Augustus and Julius Caesar during their times and by the English during the War of the Roses. Naturally, I read Sun Tzu's Art of War. For the sake of keeping a balanced mind, and because I had always been curious, I took up painting. I was no Da Vinci, but I realized I had a slight talent for it. It might be a decade or three before any of my work was gallery worthy, and possibly centuries for a museum, but I found it enjoyable and continued with it along with my violin practice.

Of course, all knowledge in the world wouldn't help anyone if you could remember and apply. That is where my Sanctum Sanctorum came into play. The Method of loci (plural of Latin locus for or location), is a mnemonic device adopted in ancient Roman and Greek rhetorical treatises. In layman's term, it was a method of memory enhancement which uses visualization to organize and recall information. Truth be told, it had very little to do with brain structure or intelligence, but more to do with a technique of using regions of the brain that have to do with spatial learning. It is also known as the "Journey Method," used for storing lists of related items, or the "Roman Room" technique, which is most effective for storing unrelated information.

In short, whenever I entered my Sanctum Sanctorum I was doing the same any normal person did in any library in the country. The onyl differences were that it was all in my mind and the organization system was all my own. For example, when I took the path past the statues of Cicero and Scipio, famous Roman figures, I knew I'd find all the information I possesed pertaining to ancient rome whereas in plain library a simple written sign would be enough for anyone to navigate.

It would become far more common knowledge once the BBC modernized Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's work with Sherlock.

I was shocked from my mental recall when I heard Tux screeching and hissing from the living room.

I leapt from the water and reached the living room before any water hit the floor. What I saw shocked me. The Man from Memphis AKA Elvis Presly was standing in my living room and holding a flailing Tux by the scruff of her neck. He was incredibly pale and his skin glowed slightly in the light. So that explain the rumors that he wasn't truly dead. He was dead, just in the traditional sense.

He brought Tux to his mouth, fangs glistening in the light.

I charged, snatching up my sword from its spot leaning in the hallway entrance, and attacked.

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