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Chapter 10.OhShit

Andrew and Xavien spent the next two hours in silence as Andrew tried to figure out what was going on with his new partner. Xavien seemed lost in thought, but made it clear through his body language that he intended to stay within sight of the tattoo shop.

Xavien, seemingly unaffected by Andrew’s confounded expression, munched on one of the three remaining doughnuts. This one was strawberry-crème filled with a white icing and chocolate sprinkles. It wasn’t warm any longer, but it still had the gentle crisp of a fresh doughnut.

The attention of both men was pulled by a well-dressed man that happened to be dressed in an expensive suit. He was entering the tattoo shop with great purpose, and no expression on his face.

“Oh, holy cow, that’s my him!” Andrew sparked out under his breath.

Xavien grinned and nodded; “Let’s get after him!”

“I’m going to call for backup.” Andrew said as he began to do so.

“Knock yourself out, I’m going in.” Xavien chuckled quietly as he opened the door, then shifted down in his seat to his wolf form and sprinted across the parking lot. He slipped in through the door a second before it closed and shifted up into human form before it made the audible ‘click’ sound.

PJ was at the counter, in the middle of greeting the customer when Xavien stood up.

Both PJ and the well-dressed man looked at him at once. As the well-dressed man looked at him, there was a flicker of recognition in his eyes. Xavien looked at him and noted that his suit was black, not royal blue. His face didn’t have the same distended expression as the one he recalled… but then he spotted that infernal ring with the initials: I A M.

That was all Xavien needed for proof; “Irving A Masterson, you’re under arrest for—”

Before Xavien could continue, Irving shook his head and flicked his left hand toward PJ Peoples. A long silver spike extended from his palm and drove itself through PJ’s nose and through the back of his skull.

The instant Xavien saw this, he shifted into a werewolf and went to swipe at Irving’s face with his claws, which cut his cheek to ribbons. Unshaken, Irving managed to grasp and crush Xavien’s wrist before it recoiled.

There was a heat wave-like shimmer to the air around Irving as the color of his clothes turned to royal blue. Irving shook his head and smiled; “Not yet, sweetheart. You surprised me once… but it’s not time yet. We’ll fuck later!”

As Irving spoke, Xavien saw a powdery light blue smoke billow from around Irving’s body. Xavien had previously passed out from exposure, and he neither wanted to run out into the outside world as a werewolf, nor did he wish to remain indoors and be rendered unconscious. He would get no such option as Irving balled his fist and landed a punch that crushed his windpipe on contact.

Xavien’s final thought as he slipped into unconsciousness and barely clung to life… I have never seen a punch that fast in my life…

He awakened in his human form as his body was pulled quickly through the door of the now-burning building. An old oriental man pulled him free, with a detached expression on his face.

The calm alone caused enough suspicion in Xavien that he tried his best to conjure up the memory of what Karl had tried to teach him. Suddenly, his eidetic memory recalled the hand motion and he mimicked it as he forced every part of focus he had on the old man’s face… then to the world behind his head… then back to the pause in between.

He focused as sharply as he could… and barely captured what he thought he saw before his focus faded. There was enough for him to hazard a guess.

He spoke quietly; “You’re a… dragon?”

The oriental man smiled cryptically; “You did not see anything.”

“Like hell.” Xavien spat out as he noted his throat and wrist somehow functioned as normal.

“Yes. That is exactly what it’s like.” The white-haired Chinaman smiled. His face was clean shaven; he wore black sweat pants and a long white shirt.

“Damned if you don’t look like that guy in those old movies…” Xavien chuckled.

The man did not react further as he stood up from his crouch and walked away, quietly. Xavien did not follow, but he pulled himself to a seated position to watch the Chinaman, Kuan-Yin, walk away.

“Lieutenant!” Came Andrew’s excited voice from the direction of the building.

Xavien slowly turned his head and looked at his partner as if to say ‘You’re too late.’

“I know, I know… I had to call it in, and I did not know you were going to run pell-mell in… uhh… well, the way you did. Sheesh! This is why I needed to know what was going on! If I’d known, I could have… I dunno, helped…” Andrew said quickly and apologetically.

“Not that I am angry at you, because I just don’t care what you did or think for the moment… but how did the old guy come to my rescue before you did?” Xavien questioned with great concern.

“I looked down at the radio, then when I looked up you were… just gone… I thought you’d gone for cover so I continued to call it in. Then the building exploded and I saw the old guy walking calmly toward it. He did not seem dangerous, so I yelled at him to pull you clear and I went in to investigate…” Andrew said quickly as he rattled off the events in quick succession.

This seemed to be plausible enough to move beyond, so Xavien swallowed and flexed his right hand a couple of times before he continued to speak; “If that was your father, then your father is the ‘Immaculate-Artist’… and I just have absolutely no idea what the hell I am to do with him, even if I do catch him.” Xavien sighed; “I tore his face up… but I think it was because I surprised him.”

Andrew sighed and nodded in shame; “I was just hoping it wasn’t true. This… is really hard for me to deal with. I knew in my heart that it was and could well have been him. I just hoped… you know?”

“Stow it for now, I don’t have time to console a hurt little boy. You can stay here and cry… or you can come with me to your father’s house. It’s the only possible place I can think he would go. Plus, I want to ask your step-mother some questions. I believe she was somewhat truthful, but I have a different perspective now.” Xavien shot to his feet and bolted to the car.

“Well of course, I’m coming with you…” Andrew ran past Xavien and flung his body into the open door of the car as he grabbed the radio to inform dispatch that they were in pursuit of a lead.

Xavien did not like how fast Andrew was able to move; Andrew’s father Irving had moved quicker than anything he had ever seen. He hoped Karl had some methods of increasing his speed; otherwise there would be three little vampires that would get a werewolf-for-hire in exchange for some training.

Xavien pondered as he drove with his siren and light on, then he floored the accelerator to push this car to its full speed. He’d never done anything like that in his entire life, but he’d run out of patience. Andrew looked at him and merely nodded.

That was the last exterior thing he noticed as Xavien’s eyesight became focused on the road ahead, and the frightened shiny things that made noise. The steering wheel became just another appendage he was to maneuver, and his reflexes focused on his memory of the streets, as well as the prior directions to get to the home of Irving Masterson. Traffic was at a dead stop ahead due to road construction, but Xavien spotted a patch of sidewalk that was just barely wide enough to fit the car around the barricade of vehicles.

He yanked the emergency break and pulled into a power slide that allowed him to pull the tight maneuver needed to get him to the sidewalk without squashing any of the people that now happened to notice the fact that there was a car headed directly for them. He barely regained control of the car in time to avoid a large telephone pole and a parked motorcycle. Once he made it past the bewildered construction workers, he deftly flung the car back over the curb onto the street with a discernable ‘thump’ and continued through traffic at breakneck speed.

Xavien’s senses were alive and clicking on all cylinders as he honed his focus; he just knew Irving would head to his home. Either to collect, or to kill his family… Or, if Xavien got lucky-ish, Irving would just leave them for him to question.

He made it to the north of Hyde City and down the road to Irving’s home, and then he pulled into the drive way just as the entire house exploded in a massive ball of bluish yellow flame. Before the car stopped, Andrew opened the car door and rolled into a run as he hollered; “Nicky!”

Xavien yanked the emergency brake and pulled the car to a screaming halt. He then vaulted out and toward the destroyed house, still in flames from the violent explosion. Before he got to the house, he stopped and paused to think… There wasn’t anyone home. If he’d only remained conscious, he could have gotten here before Irving. Then he’d… do… pretty much the same thing that he did at the tattoo shop.

Andrew ran into the burning ruins of the family home, then came back out shaking his head; “No one is home…” He shouted as he tossed his hands outward.

Xavien trotted back to the car and called into dispatch that they were looking for Irving A Masterson and to send emergency crews to the Masterson house, as well. He then heard his cellphone ring and he sighed.

It was the Captain.

The captain’s voice was uncharacteristically quiet “Xavien…”

“Yessir?” He responded.

“First the good news… we have Myrna in protective custody, just because of everything… We don’t want bad luck to take everyone from you. The bad news? Your tattoo shop fiasco? Well… we’ve got witnesses that put you on the scene, dragging a corpse behind you by the foot and walking out of there laughing as the place blows up behind you… and get this… there is even a video up about it on the news. I’m not sure what to make of this… but I can’t believe it fully. Something is really ‘off’ with how this has happened. Then I hear you call over the radio that the Masterson house just blew? It just seems like you went rogue… but again… I’ve seen the video of this and I can’t believe it.” Captain Crane sighed.

Xavien was about to adopt his normal, clinical approach… but then he got an idea; “Captain? I ask that you listen… Why not just let me go on air and take credit for it? We can paint these as haunts of the ‘Immaculate-Artist’ and just… lie… for once. Fuck truth and justice for once… let’s go for the throat and change our tactics. Spin this our way and calm the hysteria that the killer is intent on spreading.”

“How can you… wait… what? I’m sorry, what? You tell me that you didn’t do these things, which I know… in one breath… but that you want to take credit for them… I mean, we can prove that the guy was in a disguise or the video was doctored… whatever it takes—we know you didn’t do it… Obviously. But… I—and this from you?” The captain was beyond incredulous.

“I want to get on television. The general public won’t remember who the fuck I am in thirty minutes anyway… But for now, we just… give them… something. Let me at this… I need you to trust me, even though I have absolutely no idea what I’m going to say… but let me at it. I just… have a feeling about it. Worst case? I’m publicly disgraced and we pretend that I get thrown in jail…” Xavien stated calmly, as his brain spun diabolically.

“I’m going down with you on this one, possibly the chief too… I’m going to get laughed out of this bloody meeting we’re about to have… but… uhh… if you… I am not completely sure about how this would go down. This is also completely unexpected coming from you. Shit, I gotta get in this meeting… Let me put you on speakerphone… you can pitch this.”

“Can’t, captain. Doing my real job… get me on TV without any qualifiers… This could backfire, but it may make a bit of an impression… potentially calm the public down… hysteria is contagious.” Xavien said and then he hung up.

Andrew had made his way back and heard the tail end of Xavien’s side of the conversation; “Press conference? Is that wise at this juncture?”

“They have video that implicates me in the explosion of the tattoo shop and the murder of the owner. Then add to the fact that this fucking house blew up… trying to turn turds into lemonade, here.” Xavien cackled.

“Huh? How did they get video of you? Nevermind. We know you didn’t do it, so it must have… I dunno somehow been manipulated by my father. You know what, though? You’ve not been talking to me all day, so I’m not going to question you and expect any kind of legitimate response right now. Do what you like, and just pretend that I’m a puppy that follows you around.” Andrew sighed bitterly.

“I apologize that I’ve left you out of the loop. I’m not used to working with a competent partner. I’ll try to keep you in the loop from now on.” Xavien consoled, half-heartedly. He did not have time for a pouting detective.

Andrew snapped back; “Please do not patronize me. Just because I don’t curse like you, doesn’t mean I’m some ignorant child. I understand that you do not trust me and also wish you could work alone. I am just frustrated because I am trying to help you work through this difficult time, and deal with the fact that my own father is a heinous criminal as well.”

“A lot of it is too convenient for me. This world is turning upside down on me. So much so that it would not surprise me if somehow you are your father, but bi-locate like the fabled monks of the Catholic Church to commit crimes while appearing to chase yourself at the same time.” Xavien smiled as he shrugged and shook his head to show exactly how at a loss he was for how his life had changed.

“Admittedly, I have been anticipating that line of thinking. I don’t mean to make things worse, but not only was that a predictable leap, it is a logical one and possible for one of my kind. I wish it weren’t, and I wish that there was some way that I could provide irrefutable proof to the contrary. Sadly, all I have is who I am and my willingness to follow your lead. I should not have been quite so terse before. I have a greater capacity for understanding and I should have been more sensitive to the changes that have gone on in your life. All apologies, Lieutenant. Please let me know if there is anything I can do to make it up to you; anything at all.” Andrew said, with apparent regret.

“Don’t give me unsolicited advice. You may be inherently sharper; I do not care. Do not question me in the field or challenge me on anything based solely on moral ground; I do not care. Let me make mistakes, even unto death. I have come this far on my own, I’ve had my shot at happiness and I blew it. I have a monumental task ahead of me that I am only just now understanding the scope of. You do these things, and serve as your chosen role in the HCPD and I will try to keep you in the loop.” Xavien paused, then narrowed his eyes; “But make no mistake… this will not change the fact that I dislike how convenient it was to have your path intersect with mine. I may enjoy your company… eventually. But this will never completely erase from my mind the feeling that you could be actively working against me. Hopefully I’ve made myself clear.”

“Crystal. I understand and will comply. I admire and respect you, and appreciate the sentiment. One thing I will warn you on; I will not complete any task that violates my morals, regardless of utility. Just plan for my lack of participation and understand that it is out of respect for you that I resist the urge to interfere on the off chance you do something particularly obtuse.” Andrew responded.

“We understand each other perfectly, then.” Xavien grinned.

“Admittedly, you look a bit uncomfortable and slightly insane when you smile like that.” Andrew chuckled.

Xavien sniffed a laugh; “So… this press conference thing… it seems ill advised… but it is something that will, at the very least, calm the public; albeit in an unconventional manner.”

“It’s going to get rejected. The powers-that-be are doing their best to save face and it’s in their best interest to keep it as quiet as possible.” Andrew offered.

Xavien scowled. He was beyond frustrated. Prior negativities began to well up and he felt on the edge of violence. Andrew sighed in the passenger seat, which also fed his worsening mood. All of the delayed anger and negative emotion that he had held at bay for so many years seemed ready to surface and actualize in dramatic and violent fashion. He felt trapped inside of his own body. His focus attenuated and shifted into a darker mental pathway. He wanted… needed… to kill something.

“May I make a suggestion?” Andrew asked quietly.

Xavien growled under his breath in response. He could barely hold it together.

“Take off. I will cover for you. Do what you want, and I’ll just tell the captain that you will get back to him once you are available.” Andrew continued.

Xavien nodded and exited the car without another word. He left his phone in the car and took off on foot. He had no idea how exactly he was to regain his footing. As each footfall hit the ground, it brought him closer to the realization that he had a limited shelf life in his current professional role. The chief was admittedly corrupt, the captain was powerless to make a major move without the chief’s consent, and all that Xavien’s promotion really meant was that he was now the highest paid kid in daycare. Between the corruption and ineptitude, it was a minor miracle that Xavien had lasted as long as he had.

He’d sold that part of himself short because he wished to dwell as a man. He’d also been intent on the solution to his mother’s murder, and his idealism had clouded the reality that any difference he would make would be counter balanced by the rest of the department. He couldn’t continue in an institution that blocked the relatively righteous from making a true impact beyond a feel-good news story.

Xavien’s life had fallen completely to shit, but his mind was still sharp enough to assess his situation for efficiency… and this would not be acceptable long term. He would have to compromise himself to play the political games to move up any farther, and he found politics to be only a shade away from corruption to begin with; regardless of intent or ideal. He did not wish to quit unceremoniously… but he needed to find a support network that could snap into the void that it would leave. Regardless, he was going to locate and incarcerate or kill Irving A. Masterson.

He couldn’t trust anyone in his life beyond Myrna. There was no way for him to allow anyone else that close without significant time and proof of integrity. Andrew certainly presented himself well, but there was little chance of a lifelong partnership. He pondered the concept of a supernatural female as a lover, mate and partner, but then dismissed it; at least for the time being. He’d never been co-dependent and was perfectly content to remain alone on the romantic front. He could keep himself busy on many other levels, without the complications that a female would bring.

As he walked past a beautifully restored Queen-Anne mansion, Xavien noticed a well-dressed man in a burgundy button-down shirt, expensive black slacks and Italian loafers. The man had short black hair and crystal blue eyes full of sinister mischief. Deep in Xavien’s mind, he knew this was not Irving. He did not know how he knew… but he did.

This must be some other evil guy. Xavien pondered the amusing concept of a trading card set with all the corrupt and evil people he had met recently and expected to meet.

Xavien’s mood oddly derailed and he became rather interested in conversation with this person. He paused; “Good Afternoon, sir! What brings you to the end of your driveway?”

The man smiled, chortled slightly and spoke with a crackling southern drawl; “If I said serendipity, would you believe me?”

“Not a chance.” Xavien smiled back, with suspicion that lurked just beneath the surface of his façade.

“I suspected as much. Please allow me to introduce myself. My name is Samuel Mortimer Taggert, but I prefer to be called Mortimer.” The man said as he extended his hand with a slight bow and a crooked smile.

Xavien sighed, he felt it almost pointless to introduce himself, but did so anyway; “Lieutenant Xavien Brady, HCPD. I prefer not to be called at all.”

Mortimer nodded with a smile; “Clever, dear sir, clever. As fortune would have it, I happen to have a pot of tea on. Perhaps you would like to join me for a cup or so? I won’t take but a moment of your time, but since my neighbor’s house has recently exploded I would certainly relish the chance to tell you what I know of them.”

Xavien smiled, shook his head, sighed and rolled his eyes as if he had just been told a silly joke; “Sure, why not. I was merely considering career suicide out here… maybe you’ll talk me off a ledge.”

“Perhaps so. Perhaps so. Right this way and we will discuss what we can.” Mortimer said as he turned to walk the long driveway back to his less-than-humble abode. Xavien forced himself to forget the conversation he’d had with Charles Baskerville, as it related to the Taggert family. He needed to experience this with a fresh face, without the tainted perspective from a corrupt public official.

When they had made their way it up to the ornately carved entryway, Mortimer turned the doorknob and gently pushed the door wide. Xavien followed him and Mortimer closed the door behind him, and then led him through the long mahogany-paneled hallway to the kitchen. There was an old-fashioned steel tea kettle whistling on the stove.

“Oh, excellent timing; I take pleasure in small victories such as this.” Mortimer said aloud, but not directly to Xavien.

Xavien looked around the kitchen and attempted to mentally catalogue its contents. He saw the standard array of pots, pans, cabinetry, modern appliances and a large black marble-topped island. There was a small cherry wood table and chair set in the small breakfast nook. There were two place settings already on the table; blue and white china teacups with saucers and a plate with a pile of thin cookies that had a delicate yellow glaze.

“Please, have a seat, good sir.” Mortimer gestured graciously. It seemed strange for someone like him to serve tea; instead of a hireling. The inside of the house was desolate and eerily quiet. Xavien was a fantastic read of character, and this setting did nothing to change his first impression. He took a seat as directed.

“Black tea with Lemon alright with you?” Mortimer asked with the obvious tone that it would be impolite to suggest otherwise.

“Fantastic; my favorite.” Xavien deadpanned quietly as his host poured the boiling water over the mesh ball in each teacup.

“Please, help yourself to a cookie. I freshly prepared them this morning. Never know when you will have guests; plus, I’ll admit they are a weakness of my own.” Mortimer smiled.

Xavien glanced at the cookies with suspicion, as if they were magically delicious enough to steal his soul. This did not go unnoticed by Mortimer, who laughed; “My goodness, I don’t offer my poisoned cookies right away… I promise you that they are merely delicious… nothing more.”

Xavien selected a cookie from the top of the pile and noted the lightweight nature that promised a gentle crisp. The cookie did seem delicious, regardless of the nefarious nature of his host. He bit a small piece off, just enough to taste the icing. It was the best tasting lemon cookie he’d ever eaten, to be sure. He nodded and gestured with the cookie to indicate his thanks and praise for its goodness.

Mortimer winked; “Indeed. Ancient recipe… been in my family for over 200 years. Honey for your tea?”

Xavien shook his head gently.

“Wonderful. I prefer the bitterness myself, keeps a man’s mind sharp and focused.” Mortimer smiled as he sat down and took a bite of a cookie as well.

“So, Mr. Taggert… You mentioned that you had information on your neighbors, the Masterson’s?” Xavien said, before he took another bite of the addictively delicious cookie.

“Straight to the point, I like it! Yessir, I do. Far be it from me to be nosy, but one cannot help but to observe that which happens outside in broad daylight. I do so enjoy my grove, and a walk through it helps me clear my head when it gets too full for comfort. Just so happens that one could overhear a fair amount from the east side of my grove and I would be remiss if I failed to mention how interesting it was to listen in, on occasion.” Mortimer pulled his teacup to his lips and took a tiny sip; “The man and his wife often would spat in their garden, and it was such a shame because that poor little boy would be there to witness it; such a shame for a child to see their parents quarrel so. One conversation of note came when the husband, Irving his name is, came home after quite a long absence. The wife, was a bit more than a little perturbed at this… after all, the young boy benefits so from the presence of his father. At any rate, she said simply that she loved him and his boy misses him… and Irving mentions that she’s no mother ’tall and he is ashamed to call her his wife. Then he goes off in a diatribe about how her obsession with their son is not only unhealthy for her, but hazardous to the child. Very strange conversation.”

Mortimer paused and allowed Xavien a moment to digest.

Xavien nodded, took a sip of the tea and spoke thoughtfully; “It seems that you place high value on family, am I correct?”

“Oh, sir, the highest. It’s the only thing one really ever has.” Mortimer nodded, seriously.

“You seem to be a man of reason, in addition to your observational skill; was there anything in any of these conversations that indicated a sudden yen to… I dunno… destroy the house or, at least, vacate at a moment’s notice?” Xavien asked, casually.

“You’re too kind. As for your question? Goodness, no. However, I do have concerns for the safety of that poor woman. In my limited contact with her, it did seem that she was a bit more… shall we say attached… than a standard mother. I am not one to judge, but one could certainly see what Irving’s point may have been. The man, however, seemed to have his own peculiar suite of issues all to his own; the biggest of which seems to be his temper. He certainly seems to be capable of destroying his own house, and it wouldn’t surprise me ’tall if he accidentally forgot to tell his family about his plans to do so. The other of his issues also seems to be an eerie calm that sets in almost out of nowhere.” Mortimer continued.

This was not useful to Xavien, as he already knew the most important pieces to this. He needed to get more information, or just leave before any more time was wasted; “Did you… incidentally overhear… anything about a potential location that they may relocate to?”

“I believe Irving has family in Wales, but it would seem strange for him to head there. The only other place they seemed to have earmarked was a place in the inner city. The wife often talked about the Landau estate. I believe Irving is related to the owners. They may be able to provide more information than I have.” Mortimer smiled wickedly.

Xavien’s blood ran cold. He needed to leave. This had hit too close for comfort and he did not appreciate the smug aura that this Mortimer carried with him. He sipped at his tea, but did not wish to extend his visit any longer than was absolutely necessary.

“If you don’t mind my asking… do you live here alone?” Xavien asked casually.

“I certainly do, for now. It’s a bit much for little ol’ me, but family does come into town on occasion. I also rather enjoy dinner parties, as I love company.”

Xavien pried further; “Did you ever invite the Mastersons over? If so, did they accept?”

“Yes, I did. But, sadly, they chose not to take me up on it. I did have the opportunity to watch the little boy, Nick. The mother had asked me to, in a moment of desperation. Apparently, she was concerned for her safety and did not want the child to be there to witness it. It was only for a couple hours, but when she returned she was no worse for the wear and seemed to be in a better state of mind.” Mortimer responded, with a slight sadness to his tone.

“Special boy, that Nick, wouldn’t you say?” Xavien said.

“Indeed. Different type of special than you or I, but definitely special.” Mortimer said, with a knowing wink.

Xavien scowled as the realization hit him; Mortimer wasn’t just some kind, yet nosy neighbor. Unlike the vampires he’d met the previous evening… He recalled to memory his conversation with Charles Baskerville and knew enough to play stupid with Mortimer. However, it became evident that this had failed. He would maintain his pretense and remain cordial.

Xavien polished off his tea and cookie, then nodded; “Thank you very much for your time and hospitality, Mr. Taggert. I need to be going.”

Mortimer nodded; “But of course! Anytime you feel yourself nearing any ledges… feel free to drop by.” He added with a smile; “Regarding our boy Irving? I would be curious to know what his family life was like as a boy… doesn’t strike me as someone that grew up with a proper father figure. It’s a shame, that.”

“Thanks again, Mr. Taggert.” Xavien nodded as he stood up.

Mortimer also nodded, stood up and led him to the front door. He opened the door and smiled; “You know, I don’t expect you to accept… but I will extend the offer regardless. I am hosting a dinner party next Saturday. You and a ‘plus-one’ are encouraged to attend and enjoy if you so like. Perhaps you will surprise me and show?”

“Thank you. I will give it consideration.” Xavien said, politely. He hoped he never had to lay eyes on this man again.

Xavien exited and quickened his pace back down the driveway. He made a left and headed back to where the Masterson house used to be. He hoped that Andrew was there, still.

After his encounter with the smarmy Mortimer Taggert, he felt a new appreciation for Andrew. He also felt the need to speak to Myrna. His time with her was at a growing premium, and his heart ached for the day where she would not be… available… to him any longer. He was somewhat grateful that he did not have anyone else to lose. Personal ties made certain things more difficult, even as they made certain other things easier to bear. He certainly did not want his affection to be a danger to another; that felt like the ultimate curse.

He would never fully embrace the face that he was a werewolf; never.

He could not enjoy or gladly accept something that felt every bit like it had stolen his life.

He thought back to Agony’s words from the previous evening, as it pertained to his so-called ‘spirit-name’. He would be ‘The-Man’… forever.

The sadness he felt would not rule him. The anger he felt would not cloud his vision. He refused to give in to self-loathing. Negativity wasn’t efficient and it was not going to bring his wife and son back to him. The darkness that was within him was nowhere near as terrible as the darkness that was in the world around him. He did not need to add to the pervasive negativity, or allow his own demons to affect the outside world.

All he would have to do from this point was to roll with the punches and find his purpose, whatever that would be. Irving was not to be his life’s work. Xavien would catch him, and then move on. But to what end?

He pondered further… Had his purpose been dictated before his birth? He certainly did not disagree with the Van de Leur family concept… Why, he had his work cut out for him with Charles Baskerville alone!

Xavien made it back to the Masterson house and was pleased to see Andrew as he leaned against the car. Andrew smiled at him, as if he were pleased to see him.

Xavien smiled back and nodded. He didn’t believe in epiphany… but he did believe in acceptance of a challenge. Charles Baskerville had issued it first but it was truly life, itself, that had challenged him.

If the Van de Leur family was meant to be peacekeepers and law enforcement for the Baskerville and Sykes family; that would certainly be enough work to keep him busy. If he ever got bored with that, there would always be another inequity to realign.

“You look like you feel much better.” Andrew said as Xavien approached.

“Well I certainly couldn’t have felt much worse.” Xavien chuckled.

“I hear you on that. What did the trick?” Andrew asked.

Xavien raised his eyebrows and allowed his smile to fade slightly; “I think I just met the motherfucking devil. That has a way of realigning perspective.”

“The devil? It is hard to tell if you are being facetious… Care to explain?” Andrew said, his own smile faded into an expression of concern.

“The closest thing I’ve ever met; a southern gentleman that I’m somehow related to that knows more about me than I do, and just so happens to bear the markers of something supernatural that I can’t place.” Xavien sighed.

“You must feel pretty rotten… You’ve gone your whole life without much more than a blip, and now you’re a magnet for it… I must say I empathize.” Andrew consoled.

“Nahh… ya know what? It’s cool. I’m cool, really. We’re all just humans or a deviation thereof; admittedly some are more deviant than others. If you focus on that aspect, I’m actually set up pretty well. I’ve made it my life’s work thus far to focus on that part of myself, and in that vein… I may be in a better position than other supernaturals… As far as the unexpected? We all have to deal with that on some level. So, yes… I have some learning to do… but I’ve already begun my acclimation and done quite well with my limited ability so far. Don’t you worry about me, Detective.” Xavien said, calmly.

“Seriously? I have a hard time believing that it is quite so simple as you put it… It’s great that you are confident, but how do you suppose you are going to ‘catch-up’ with others that have already learned abilities that far surpass your own?” Andrew asked.

“Maybe I don’t really need to. That’s the point. I need to focus on me, because that is the weakest point right now. If I focus on others, it’s just going to slow me down. Sure, I got run through the ringer and allowed emotions to tear at me a bit. It’s all an adjustment. You’ll have to accept my humanity in that regard. I’m not better, by any stretch, but I will deal. Not only will I make it through this… I’m going to surprise the shit out of those that would dare oppose me. For once, I am the underdog… and I fucking love it.” Xavien smiled with hunger in his eyes.

Andrew smiled broadly and nodded slowly; “I can see it. Whatever ‘it’ is… that you have… you’ve got it. Will you succeed? Who knows… but it is good that you got it now. Even if it meant that you had to meet the devil to scare it out of you.”

“So… I think we need to pay a visit to the Landau estate. I have some questions for the Kretchmar’s.” Xavien said, as he pulled the focus back to the task at hand.

“Fair enough. What are you going to ask?” Andrew asked.

“I’ll know when I get there.” Xavien winked.

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