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Chapter 6.BabySteps

The two men headed to the car and Xavien heard the chief’s calm voice echoing in his mind again; “We’ll play your way for now… but I assure you the time will come where you will be forced to reckon with reality.”

After the car doors closed, Xavien turned to his partner; “Do you know of any way to block psychic energy? The chief keeps sending me messages.”

Andrew shrugged; “Yes, but I operate differently than your kind. My knowledge would provide no benefit. One thing I do know is that concentration can block the unwanted contact. That sort of concentration is draining after awhile.”

Xavien drove out of the garage and toward the address Andrew had provided. It was against his new partner’s advice, but neither of them had much more to go on. He was frustrated by the fact that, despite the brutal and elaborate nature of these crimes, not a single shred of evidence existed.

“Normally there is some sort of tangible evidence…” He mused aloud.

“I wouldn’t expect the sort of evidence you typically find. You’re right, most serial killers enjoy taunting law enforcement. You already have more evidence than Pags was able to dig up… Holy smokes!!” Andrew exclaimed as Xavien pulled a sudden U-turn in the middle of the road.

“Holy smokes? Ahh, nevermind… You just gave me a fantastic idea. I’ve been so turned around that I forgot the basics of my damn job. I need to get to each of the other crime scenes and back track. Hopefully I can locate something else. Even if it’s a stupid little message written in corruption, or whatever.” He then glowered at Andrew; “That look tells me that you wanted to do that, anyway.”

“Lieutenant, I had every confidence you would get on track. We’ll eventually end up at my dad’s home… but first things first.” Andrew smiled warmly.

Xavien did not like the sneaking suspicion that Andrew’s façade of innocence could shatter at any second. This was the subconscious reason he knew he could not avoid this partnership. He also understood that Andrew could actually be the killer, or at least know more than he let on. He didn’t believe in boy scouts or paladins.

The closest crime scene was, naturally, Vince Paguirillo’s home. Xavien braked quickly, which caused the wheels to squeal. Andrew chuckled and said something, but Xavien had already exited the car.

Andrew was quickly on his heels as the men entered the house.

Xavien glanced at his partner and cleared his throat as he beckoned for Andrew to remain where he was. He sauntered off to the bathroom and focused on his body to try and reduce in size. It took a bit longer this time, as it was a more concerted effort. He then nudged the door open with his muzzle and sauntered toward the steps, before he noticed a familiar scent.

His wolf claws click-clacked across the hardwood floor as he cautiously padded into the dining room. The bodies were found in the upstairs bedroom… but the smell came from this room. He scanned the room for a marking implement… finding none, he looked up at Andrew, who smiled at him patiently.

Xavien growled deeply and enjoyed the resonance in his body as the guttural sound projected his irritation.

“Don’t have a knife… but perhaps a carpenter’s pencil will do?” Andrew offered the pencil backwards, like an owner would feed his dog a treat.

Xavien snarled through his teeth as they clenched on the pencil, then returned to the job at hand. The smell of wood and lead was almost too much to focus on the smell. But, now that he’d had a name to the smell… it seemed to fit. The smell of corruption had been drawn in cursive across the dining room floor. This was a much longer phrase than before.

With the faint pencil outline completed, Xavien jumped back to get a better look. Andrew read it aloud.





The phrase infuriated him, then a mild inconsistency rang forth from the recesses of recent memory. Without another thought, Xavien shifted forms back to that of a natural human.

“You said you were physically and mentally better than I… How are you unable to do this?” Xavien questioned in an even tone, with thinly disguised suspicion.

“Ah! Good point. I can smell it, but your nose is particularly sharp to determine where it begins and ends. I am physically and mentally superior, but supernaturally? You have the edge. At any rate, the author of this knew that they were dealing with one of your kind. I don’t have proof… but I think he was looking for you all along…” Andrew said with a cringe, in an almost apologetic tone.

“Well, after the first murder, I’d requested to stay off of this case, so that I could spend more time with my wife. They asked again after the second one, but I was working on the Landau case… Not much I can do now… but I suppose that it irritated the killer that I’d ignored its messages.

Xavien nodded; “However, if I read this right… there is more I have to do before the killer will provide me, if it truly has targeted me. Additionally, I may be racing against an unseen clock, where the killer may determine my readiness… and his method of presenting the message is the most disturbing one I’ve ever witnessed.”

It, eh?” Andrew chuckled.

“I view the perpetrator as an object and refuse to humanize it any further, even if it is your father.” He reasoned.

“Fair enough. It, it is.” His partner nodded emphatically.

Xavien decided to forgo the privacy and shifted down in front of Andrew, so that he could attempt to locate any further clues. His mind wondered why the Lieutenant and his daughters were killed in the bedroom. There must be some significance beyond the abject depravity of the killer’s whim. The sexual component was so overt that it seemed irrelevant. It was more than just the death, as well. These victims were savagely murdered and either cleaned up, or put in a receptacle to collect bodily fluids… then strung up like macabre marionettes and placed in lewd positions.

He could faintly smell the corruption in the bedroom. Andrew had followed him up with the pencil, so Xavien gripped it between his teeth once again. He traced it out on the bedroom floor. It read:


He fumed. The killer had a sense of humor; Xavien hated when they had a sense of humor. He could almost respect a murderer if they showed a sense of the occasion. As Andrew had said; some people just embrace their truest nature.

He also wondered at the significance of the dining room floor versus the bedroom floor. He also wondered if the killer was running ahead of him to leave these traces. The thought also crossed his mind that Andrew was full of shit and could very well have written these words himself. The chief could have also done so. The only person he could trust to be innocent was himself; he would prefer not to have his self-confidence shattered. That was one of the few things from his old life that had been left intact.

His heart ached in anticipation for Myrna. She would likely be murdered or worse because… well because. That’s just how things go, or whatever.

He pondered the flamboyantly-dressed male figure that had presented himself. He could not quite remember the face of the killer, other than the fact that it was extraordinarily handsome, but otherwise unremarkably featured. The clothes and the ring were what stood out in Xavien’s mind. The significance of royal blue was not apparent… but the ring itself was distinctive.

He shifted to his human form, once again and turned toward Andrew; “What’s the significance of the signet ring with the letters I A M?”

“If I had to guess… it would be my father’s initials, Irving Andrew Masterson. It could also be a play on the god complex, as it was God’s message to Moses in the Old Testament. The killer, at the very least, has been sending messages, so the correlation could be that… or simply my father’s initials. I did not, however, recognize the signet ring that was in the photo you had forwarded. He hated receiving presents, did not wear so much as a wedding ring, nor did he dress in royal blue. My father dressed in a plain black suit with battleship gray shirt. There was no deviation, as this had been the first outfit he’d worn the very first time he received the spark of inspiration that brought him his signature style. Eccentric, sure, but he only had black suits and battleship gray button downs in his closet. Icky that I know this, but he does not wear any undergarments that I am aware of, not even socks.” Andrew finished.

“Did you just say the word icky? Nevermind… Okay… so I’m going to need a little more help. I’ve got the assumption that your father is either exactly what your type of being is, or very close. Is it possible that he could establish an alter ego, or intentionally alter himself while creating this new art form?” Xavien questioned, hungry for at least some clue of what he was to expect.

“I didn’t want to get into it at the station… but this is as good a place any… With my kind… anything is possible. When I say anything… Let’s think ‘god complex’ and make it less complicated. Just think of the word ‘god’ and leave it at that. The closest comparison I can draw would be the superheroes you see in cartoons and movies. It’s so much more than that because we are not isolated or restricted by any means beyond time and desire. We are not alien, nor do we all have any inherent weaknesses.” Andrew explained.

“So how do I kill one of your kind?” Xavien asked.

“Depends on what we’ve guarded ourselves against. Sometimes it could be something as simple as several hundred extra-heavy punches… or a ton of bullets… but the possibility exists that one of my kind could be resistant to any physical damage whatsoever. It really depends on the experience and focus of the individual. There is one thing that I should probably explain more. While we don’t have any inherent weaknesses, we all retain, control and build power using a nerve center within our bodies. The way it was explained to me was that it is a network of living machines that attach to our DNA. For most of us, the nerve center is in our brains… but it isn’t unrealistic to assume that one of us could discover a way to relocate it. I do not believe there is a mechanical means to nullify it, but… well, disable the nerve center and you could disable one of us—render us as a standard human. I don’t travel in circles of my kind, if you can believe it. All I know is what my mentor taught me.”

Xavien nodded thoughtfully; “I would like to meet your mentor, hopefully they are not deceased.”

“I have not had contact with them in a long time.” Andrew shook his head slowly and shrugged his left shoulder.

“Do me a favor. Can you list the types of supernatural beings that you are aware of… ones that you know to exist? I think the basics there could help.” Xavien said, as he grew weary of the constant rush of information that he should have attempted to gain much sooner.

His partner took a deep breath, as if this were a tall order; “The full list? I guess everything you could imagine, in some place or another. Honestly, it just depends on where you look. Shapeshifters, like yourself… many different types of animals. There are vampires, of course. I don’t have confirmation on this, but I’ve heard that your kind are able to enter a spirit world of infinite possibility; a dream world of sorts where a lot of undefined creatures and beings exist. I’ve never been, but I heard that it is absolutely the definition of surreal. Additionally, I understand that there may be demons, angels, ghosts, mummies and shambling dead—like zombies. However, I may have left out some that I’ve not personally encountered or identified for myself.”

Xavien nodded; “Vampires? How do you determine those?”

“They smell faintly of death and corruption, no matter how hard they try to cover it up. Some of the younger ones can cover it up so you can miss it if you don’t look for it, but the more power, the more death and corruption. They do prefer to operate at night, but aren’t solely restricted to it… I should mention that there are humans that have tried for thousands of years to fight back versus the inherently supernatural… they’ve worked the arcane arts in their favor and are able to produce magical abilities. Your kind happen to loathe magic users and vampires… the rest? Less of a threat, but I honestly don’t know why.” Andrew paused; “Next crime scene?”

Xavien nodded; “Thanks. I’m sure I’ll catch on eventually. The chief made a point to mention that this information is usually learned by someone that is much younger than I… but I had my reasons, and I stick by them as valid… or, they appeared so at the time.”

“Hey, I’m not going to beat you up about it. You wanted to live a happy life, free of all the extra bull-hockey. I’d love one, myself… But I’ll just have to hope that it happens eventually.” Andrew nodded in commiseration.

They exited the house, re-entered the car, and then made their way across town just outside of the Victorian district. The crime scene was at a row home that was located between a liquor store and a saloon. A twelve-year-old girl by the name of Doreen Kennedy had been murdered after she had been sodomized by an unidentified object. The father had been in jail for drug trafficking and the mother was a strung-out prostitute. The mother had discovered the body. The inside of the house was beautifully redone, in stark contrast to the outdoor surroundings. This was a product of the drug money.

Xavien’s attention was split; all of his senses were on the case at hand, while his mind pondered his current situation. He was rather uncomfortable with his new partnership; almost as much as he was within the realm that he had been pushed and pulled into. On the surface, it seemed stupid to him that he had rejected it for so long. Then again, he figured avoidance did not hurt anything. These weren’t matters of consequence, and he wasn’t interested in mindless violent overtures that were brought on by territory disputes on a supernatural playing field.

“Are you noticing anything at all? I’m not… Hey! Lieutenant!” Andrew waved, as if to flag down a taxi.

“Nothing here at all. Let’s go to your father’s home. We won’t find anything at the other scenes either.” Xavien spoke quietly, as if not to disturb the thought patterns in his mind.

“Are you sure? You seem kind of distracted.”

Xavien growled; “I’ve got a lot on my mind, but if you question me one more fucking time, I’m going to put your physical skills to the test; just to check if they really are superior.”

“Point taken. Apologies.” Andrew backed down before he added; “You know… you sounded like a real werewolf right there…” He chuckled to Xavien’s dismay.

“Can it, Masterson.”

The two men left and got back in the squad car. Xavien expected that Andrew, while easily the sharpest partner he’s ever had, would continue to grate on his nerves as time went on. For the time being, he would have to tolerate his presence. After all, it could still be possible that Andrew was the killer. In the back of his mind, he believed that his partner could likely have more to do with this than he let on. It wasn’t yet time to put the screws to him, but he wondered about how it would test his mental acuity. For once, he expected a true challenge to his own intellect.

“Lieutenant, do you mind if I ask you something?”

“Yes, I mind. Please do not ask me anything.”

Andrew’s face did not register a reaction; he merely nodded and remained silent.

This pleased Xavien, and allowed him to focus on the great, big supernatural world that he had yet to be fully initiated into. Perhaps some had watched him, too. Did they not think him a threat to their interests, or did many simple disregard him as he did them? He did not wish to encounter them for the mere sake of experience; all would come to him in due time.

“Detective, the relationship between us may well be limited… I am not one that is eager to get close with my new partner, no matter how nice you may be. I do not like long walks on the beach, they are boring and a waste of time. I am not a fan of drinks after work to wind-down. I am probably the least likely to be voted ‘most-popular’ amongst my co-workers. I can’t stand social gatherings for birthday or retirement celebrations. I find holidays to be ridiculous and full of plasticity that you can’t wash off of your skin for weeks. I am not interesting, nor do I have the particular desire to be. I like not fitting in, and I plan on perpetuating this.” Xavien spoke in a monotone, with the rhythmic flow of a poet.

Andrew burst out with laughter, then caught himself and sparked out in an amused tone; “I apologize… is laughter forbidden in the car, too? Word around the office said you could actually be fun and personable… Am I to believe there isn’t a friendly bone in your body?”

“Just because I can be friendly, romantic or engaging, doesn’t mean it is something I wish to be forced to do all the time. My bones are unyielding and unlikely to break easily. I’ve even thought about renaming my humerus, just so that people did not get the wrong idea.” Xavien added with a slight smirk.

Andrew was tickled by Xavien’s joke; “Awesome! You have it all under control, don’t you? You are simply too cool… You are The Man.” A few light chuckles later, Detective Masterson returned to silence and stared ahead, smile still affixed to his face.

Xavien smiled too, the first in many days. It was true that he had the immense capacity to build rapport with men and charm women. On some level, he did enjoy that part. It was the maintenance that he detested; he just simply did not want people to follow him around and expect him to care about their activities. He was only built to work and care for his family... although one of those options was now impossible, and the other option had become monumentally difficult.

He preferred the label ‘Distant, but nice once you get to know him.’ This was one he’d overhead at the station, and it seemed to fit.

Andrew provided directions and Xavien followed them. Soon, they had arrived at the Masterson home. It was neither large nor on a sprawling estate. The structure was a relatively humble, three story farmhouse on about a half an acre of land. It had darkly-stained cedar shingles and there was a bright yellow minivan with tinted windows in the driveway. The minivan, for what it was worth, seemed to be top-of-the-line. The custom paint job was curious, but highly visible; perhaps it was a safety measure?

“That thing may look simple, but it has a roll cage and bullet-proof glass. Goes nicely with the 460 horsepower sports car engine, and tires that never go flat.” Andrew said with an air of slight distaste.

“Sounds incredibly safe. Your step-brother is 4, am I correct?” Xavien asked, confirming what he already knew.

“Indeed. Let’s go inside” Detective Masterson said, then pursed his lips to indicate that he refused to say more.

The door opened, and in the doorway stood a pretty woman with a platinum blonde hair bound into a ponytail and extremely pale gray eyes. She was about 5’9 and 140lbs, and dressed in light gray running shorts and matching sports bra. Her skin was milky white and there was an unnatural beauty to her that made Xavien’s skin crawl.

“Mrs. Masterson? Lieutenant Xavien Brady, HCPD.” Xavien asked as he approached.

“Cat, please. Andrew! So glad you brought company over! I’ve finished with my workout, and was about to make lunch for Nicky and me. Come on in, boys, and I’ll feed you two, too!” She smiled wickedly in a way that made Xavien uncomfortable. It wasn’t simply flirtatious… it was as if she had already thought of the recipe she would use to cook breakfast the next morning after sex. To say he desired her would be false, but there was much about her that inspired the sexual beast within him.

He cleared his throat as he cleared his mind of the imagery that threatened to fill his mind’s eye. Xavien had always behaved in a professional and polite manner around even the most solicitous of women; he would not deviate now.

The two men followed her into the house as Andrew caught the door behind him.

“You know, you’re quite sexy for a Lieutenant.” Cat spoke casually, as if she’d already fucked him.

“News reported on the press conference that you’ve been just promoted to Lieutenant and are acting as the lead on the ‘Immaculate Artist’ case…? That seems to be a big one.”

Her overtures were almost enough to distract his sexuality and return his focus to the clinical world he preferred to exist in. Xavien tilted his head with an eye-gesture in query about his step-mother.

Andrew’s face remained pleasant but did not respond to him. Instead he walked over to his step-brother and greeted him with a warm hug, which was returned; “Hey Nicky, howya doin bro?”

“Great! How are you doing?” Nick responded politely.

“Excellently” Andrew chuckled.

The boy took his mother’s hand as they walked the rest of the way to the kitchen. Xavien noted the simple nature of the furnishing in this house. There was not a single piece of artwork on the walls, end tables or ceilings. The furniture was all a natural-wood finish, in somewhat of a modern style; without any noticeable antiques amongst the lot. This felt peculiar for a home owned by a world-renowned artist. He did not detect any other movement in the house, be it animal or person.

“Is there anyone else home, Mrs. Masterson?” Xavien spoke up.

She turned to him and placed her open hand gently onto his chest as she smiled and looked into his eyes; “Please call me Cat?” She then turned quickly, and flicked him in the chest with her ponytail; “And nope… We’re all by ourselves here, for now… why? Did you want to get the full… tour of the house?”

Xavien disliked overt sexuality in all of its forms. He also had a particular distaste for people who spent too much time with exercise. He found it to be unnecessary preening. He especially disliked people who focused on bulk over flexibility and speed.

“No, ma’am. I was merely confirming. I apologize if I don’t appear appreciative of your hospitality, but I did have some questions if you don’t mind.” He asked as he made evident his disregard of her flirtatious demeanor.

“Not only do I have nothing to hide, I look forward to answering any questions you could ever ask.” She said as she spun around and plopped down on a kitchen chair, crossed her legs and folded her hands in her lap like an obedient student. The smile on her face made it seem like that student had fucked several professors already.

This was something Andrew had failed to mention about his step-mother. His partner appeared nonplussed by this behavior, which was almost as curious the fact that he remained largely ignored. This could be a product of the fact that he was not her child, but that didn’t quite fit, either.

“Very well. When is the next time that you expect to see your husband, Irving?”

She sighed and looked up, then chewed her lip and pondered; “You know, I really have no idea… Sometimes he shows up for a day, then leaves for two weeks…”

“When was the last time you saw him?”

Cat smirked; “Last night, about 11pm… but he was only here about an hour. He had that special look he gets when he’s been inspired. He didn’t say anything to me… he just spent some time holding and kissing Nick before he left. He didn’t take any of his things with him, nor did he eat or use the bathroom. He just walked in, picked Nick up and then put him down after he was done… then… just left.”

Xavien wasn’t fond of artists to begin with, but this eccentric behavior seemed to match the mentality of the suspect. He scowled; “Mrs. Masterson… How much time would you say that you’ve spent with your husband over the past month?”

“Oh gosh… maybe six days total, give or take a few hours?” She responded in a serious tone.

“During this time, did he leave any indication of his intended destinations, plans or where he had been?”

Cat shrugged; “Sure, we worked on the plans for our dream home. I used to be an architect, you see. We also talked about Nicky and daily stuff. He discussed some of his sculptures that he’d begun work on. He often ranted about politics and how he would love to destroy the burnt-out part of Hyde City to put our dream home in the middle. He loves city life, you see… but he wants to bring art to the masses… real art. He talked about his plans to use an art-geode concept instead of just the standard statue that he’s been contracted for through the city… We argued a bit about some minor stuff related to Nicky, but… other than that… if you’re suggesting that he may have mentioned something about being near any of the crime scenes? I won’t tell you for sure that he wasn’t, because I don’t know that and can’t prove it… but what I will tell you is that he left me no reason to believe that he was involved, even if he didn’t actually tell me anything one way or another. I’m not saying he didn’t do it, either. I am only saying I don’t know in the most complete way that I can, without stirring suspicion that I may be covering for my darling husband.” She ended with a smirk that indicated marital strife.

Xavien would normally have been pleased with the logical and complete manner in which she answered his question. He would also have normally appreciated the clarity and candor when she mentioned her lack of knowledge concerning his whereabouts. But none of this was normal. She was not just some desperate housewife with an itch to breach her marital vows.

Cat’s demeanor perked up as she grinned; “So? How did I do?”

“Oh, grumpy face. I swear I’ve answered your questions the best I can! It’s okay… you can ask me more!” She continued after a playful pout at the sight of his deepened scowl.

He sighed; “Ma’am, if you’ve been honest with me, then I do not have any further questions at the moment. I would, however, appreciate that full tour. To be clear, I am disinterested in sex with a married woman and have no intention of engaging in a flirtatious exchange with you. I merely wish to have a look around and discern for myself if there is anything of interest.”

“Oh, Lieutenant! How rude to think that I would ever commit adultery! Shame on you for even mentioning such terrible things!” She scolded, with a dark expression on her face.

Andrew seemed startled and amused by the exchange, but remained wordless.

Xavien sighed and rolled his eyes; “Ma’am?”

“Very well. I am offended by your accusation but suppose that you still have a job to do.” She winked suggestively.

Andrew followed behind the two of them as Xavien wished that he could somehow use his wolf nose while he remained in his human form. It would solve several logistical issues that he’d encountered. He examined every room and all items within each room as Cat led him through all three levels of the house as well as the basement. The home itself was furnished in the same theme with the same colored wood and fabric upholstery, along with the bed linens and window dressings. It became an artistic statement after awhile. Xavien strongly disliked artistic statements.

“Ma’am… is there any insight into the reason that the furnishings in the house are so uniform?” Xavien asked.

“That’d be Irving’s way of proving to me and any guests we entertain that this is a temporary spot. He’s rather… expressive… in all aspects of his life. Personally, I do not care. My pride and joy is right there.” Cat gestured to the model of a sprawling mansion that rested on a large table in the basement. It was made with balsa wood and unpainted, but the design was already impressive, even if the detail was not evident. Some pencil drawings lay strewn about the table, as did some unfinished blueprints on a drafting table at the far end of the room.

“How many square feet is this home expected to provide?”

“So far, we have it at 24,300. We wanted to keep it small enough so that we could have a reasonably-sized hedge-maze and garden.” She nodded through her response.

“You’re an architect? This is good work. Are you employed by a company?” Xavien asked, as he continued to size her up.

“Oh, goodness, no. I don’t want to. I went to school and decided that I would become an architect… but only for purposes that suited me. I am also an artist, in my own rite. I’ve never actually held a real job in my life. I am a mother and that’s all the job I’ll ever really want. Architecture is my passion, more than a hobby. This dream home here? The first of many I shall build. I suppose that someone else could benefit from it should I decide I no longer wish to live in this home. But for now, I enjoy the fun of it and will like living in a creation wholly my own.” She smiled confidently.

“Independently rich, or in the right place at the right time to marry Mr. Masterson?”

“Perhaps both, perhaps neither. I prefer to focus on what I want in the future rather than the present or past.” She grinned carnivorously.

This was going to be a tough nut to crack. There were signs of madness in her that were unmistakable. He understood now what Andrew meant about her reliability.

“If I may pry a bit… what did you argue with your husband over?” Xavien said, as he had reached the end of his questions.

“Same old thing… he thinks I smother Nicky, or that I am over protective, or that I am too flirtatious with men in front of our son, or that I have stupid ideas on raising children… Personally, I just think it is the irrationality of his art. He just isn’t able to live in this world as it is. If he can’t change it fully or make it fully his own, he rejects it. It wouldn’t completely surprise me if he’s the killer. Part of me wants him to be… the other part just wants her husband home in bed with her every night… so that I don’t have to get down on my knees and beg the nice Lieutenant to keep her warm…” Cat said as she drew close to him, clutched at his shirt and snuggled in a bit too close for Xavien’s comfort.

He gently grabbed her wrists and tilted his head down as he scowled and subtly shook his head. He marveled at the way she smiled. It was if she were a cat who had already cornered its prey.

“Well, Mrs. Masterson, I can’t think of anything else that I need right now.” He sighed and gritted his teeth as he dreaded the next action; “But if there is something… relevant to my case… that comes to your attention, here is my card. Please call me at any time of day or night… but I will be quite displeased if your call is irrelevant.” He hedged as best as he could.

“I would never ever call you about something… irrelevant…” She gave him the most innocent of doe-eyed expressions. There was more than a primal part of his being that had become excited by her. She was more complex than she appeared, a challenge he wasn’t entirely sure he could predict… and could very likely be supernatural as well.

He outwardly ignored her as he followed Andrew up the stairs to the first floor. The hair on the back of his neck stood on end a split second before her hand smacked him on the butt.

“Oh it is as juicy as it looked!” Cat said as her enthusiastic giggle sent a chill down spine.

He wouldn’t glorify it with a reaction. He simply had to leave, and quickly. She made him miss his wife on more than one level. He’d been around his share of women that had no respect for themselves and whored themselves to any and all who would accept them. He’d also been around women who had no respect for anyone else and would use sex as a weapon. He didn’t like any of them. Clara was a good-hearted, sweet, and proper lady. There was a golden nature to her that he truly loved. He also missed sex with Clara.

Xavien fought so that these thoughts did not lead to Scott; so that he did not cry.

He walked through the hallway toward the front door and he heard Little Nick Masterson’s voice pipe up; “Why is that man sad, mommy?”

He did not turn around, but this was interesting; much like a lot of things he had recently encountered. It was interesting in a most unwelcome manner.

“Oh, sweetheart, it’s nothing we did. Everything is okay. Come, come… let mommy fix you some lunch.” Mrs. Masterson coaxed her little boy, who had begun to cry.

After Xavien closed the door behind him, he let out a long-winded sigh and then continued to the car. It upset him that the little boy cried, but it was nothing he had done.

He opened his car door and paid casual attention to Andrew as he also got into the car.

“Yeah… we think so.” Andrew spoke an answer to a question he hadn’t asked.

“Think what?” Xavien asked, for confirmation.

“You’re likely curious about how he knew you were sad. I think he may be one of my kind.”

“Fantastic. And yes, I was… but my brain hadn’t quite gotten the process around to the question yet.” Xavien responded as he pulled out of the driveway.

“Sorry. I’ve a tendency to do that to people. I will wait until you ask the question next time.” His partner said, slightly embarrassed.

Xavien thought about the concept of a tall bottle of grain alcohol for dinner. It had been a long strange day, and he felt drained for the first time in a very long time.

He drove to the station and pulled into the parking garage. The two men then got out and made their way toward Xavien’s office. Several of the officers and detectives said ‘Congratulations, Lieutenant’ as he passed them. Xavien met their eyes, smiled warmly and thanked each of them. The people that congratulated him seemed to genuinely like him, and it seemed that they liked his promotion even more than he did. It was nice that they were happy… but if they only knew what he was up against…

Then again…

…even he didn’t really know what he was up against.

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