Chapter 22: The Way Out
Tony and his two gunmen watched Razvan and Dumitra’s thrashing about with transfixed stares. The fires seemed intent on consuming all their clothing and them with it. Shortly Tony awakened from his astonishment and turned his attention to the two lab techs hiding at the far end of the room. They were clearly more concerned with the shooting than the fire.
“Do something!” Tony yelled.
The two lab techs promptly suppressed their fears and took up fire extinguishers. They then jumped to the task of dousing Razvan and Dumitra with liberal amounts of the container’s contents. Tony took a moment to note that the lab techs were complying with his instructions. Several seconds later he turned his attention and his two gunmen.
“Go after them!”
The two gunmen setoff for the basement door at a run. The gunman with the shotgun was in the process of reloading it as he went. The last of the flames about Razvan and Dumitra were extinguished by the time the two gunmen reached the top of the stairs. The lab techs then turned their attentions to the ancillary fires. As they did this Razvan and Dumitra began peeling off the remnants of their outer garments. It took them more than two minutes to complete this. They paused several times to wince in pain for the effort. When he was finished, Razvan angrily threw his suitcoat to the floor. He and Dumitra’s heads, torsos and arms were heavily scarred with burnt flesh. The sight of them shocked Tony. There indifference to his state was even more surprising to him. They did not look to be experiencing any extreme pain from these injuries.
“Where are they?” Razvan barked out with an intonation of fury.
Tony noted that Razvan did not look at Tony as he spoke. He swiveled his head back and forth twice and held his hands out in front of him as he waited on an answer. He blinked his eyelids repeatedly in response to some irritation within them. It was clear to Tony that Razvan was blind.
“Well!” Razvan shouted with an inflection of impatience. “Where are they?”
Dumitra moved to Razvan’s side in response to this shout. Her eyesight appeared to be in the same condition as his. It was the sound of Razvan’s voice that led her to him.
“They’re gone,” the gunman from the passenger seat shouted as he raced into the basement.
The gunman from the driver’s seat raced in behind the first. They were both huffing and puffing from the exertion.
“Find them! And kill the girl,” Razvan ordered at the top of his lungs.
“They’re on the street,” the first gunman complained. “We can’t gun them down out in the open. She’s a cop!”
With a fierce grimace to his face, Razvan stepped over to where the first gunman was standing. He, in turn, inched backwards. Razvan grabbed the gunman by the shirt, lifted him off his feet and brought his face to within five inches of his own. Much of Razvan’s face was distorted burnt flesh. His expression was a look of fury. When he spoke the uncharred features of the interior of his mouth stood out by contrast.
“Find them! I need that cop dead.”
Razvan tossed Tony backwards after speaking these words. The force of the shove caused him to fall to the floor. Razvan paused just long to huff from the exhaustion that the exertion cost him, and then he began to speak again.
“They can’t be far. They’re on foot. Find them.”
The two gunmen paused to give Tony a look for his approval. After a moment of thought, Tony gave them a nod of his head. The two gunmen gave each other a look after this. A second later, they raced out the basement door and up the stairs on the other side. When the sound of their movements could not be heard any more, Razvan turned his attention to what he could hear that was originating in the basement.
“Who else is down here?” Razvan questioned angrily.
“Just the chemists,” Tony answered with a hint of panic.
“Get them out,” Razvan ordered with a growl.
The lab techs listened to every word of this. They took off an instant after Tony waved them off with his hand. When they were halfway up the stairs, Tony turned his attention back to Razvan and waited for more instructions. There was silence for several seconds as Razvan and Dumitra continued to struggle with the irritation in their eyes.
“Damnit!” Razvan angrily exclaimed.
Razvan fumed over this turn of events for several seconds, grumbling and grinding his teeth as he did. Dumitra said nothing as she dealt with the pain and discomfort she was feeling with soft moans and deep breaths. Shortly into this the rumble of a cellphone could be heard vibrating off the floor. All eyes looked down to see that it was coming within Razvan’s discarded suitcoat. After a moment of recognition, Razvan knelt and retrieved his phone. With some effort, he noted that the incoming call was from Lucian. With a suspicious look, he considered the cellphone in his hand for several seconds. Lucian had made three attempts to reach him over the past half-hour. He ignored these calls. He knew that Lucian was looking for Cristiãn, and he had no intention of telling him anything. But now the situation was different. It was he that needed to know where Cristiãn was, and what he was doing. With this concern in mind, he completed the connection.
Razvan took a moment to listen to Lucian’s question, and then he ignored it in favor of saying what he wanted to say.
“He’s got her,” Razvan reported testily. “Cristiãn took Tremaine and he’s gone.”
Razvan took a moment to listen to Lucian’s response.
“How the hell should I know?” Razvan answered into the cellphone with anger in his tone.
Once again there was a moment of silence where Razvan listened to what was being said to him. He then responded to Lucian with an inflection of desperation.
“Cristiãn and that girl must be found. We’re in this together now, Lucian. There’s no telling what Cristiãn might do to protect that mortal.”
Lucian responded to this from the opposite end of the connection.
“Call him,” Razvan asserted from this end of the call. “Promise him anything, but stop him.”
Shortly after speaking, Razvan’s demeanor changed to a look of fury, but he limited his auditory expression of this to a soft grumble.
“So, what are you going to do?” Razvan queried in an angry voice.
Razvan listened intensely to Lucian’s response to this question. After a moment of silence, he blared out another question.
“Where are you?”
The answer took up all of two seconds. Razvan spoke his reply in half that time.
Razvan disconnected the call an instant after speaking his last word. He then began to ponder something that caused him to turn his attention down toward the floor. Dumitra picked up on his muse through their vampire bond. She moved in next to him and matched his demeanor. Tony could see that their eyesight had much improved. The irritation that they had been experiencing seemed to be gone. They were extremely disheveled in their appearance. Their clothing was dirty, tattered and scorched. Their hair was equally a mess. Their faces were masks of burnt skin, dried blood and scar tissue. Their heads were low, and their attentions were fixed on something that only existed within their minds.
After several seconds of silence Tony felt emboldened enough to speak on the subject that was on his mind.
“Okay, so what do we do now?” Tony questioned with a frown. “This is your mess—your area of expertise. What’s going to happen and how do we fix it?”
Neither Razvan nor Dumitra were looking at Tony when he spoke these questions. A few seconds after hearing his words they looked up at him with a slight lift of their heads and an upturn of their eyes. They held their gaze upon him for several seconds as they considered their options, and then they looked to each other out the corner of their eyes. It seemed from this exchanged of looks that they had arrived at a decision.
“Relax, Tony,” Razvan spoke wearily while moving toward him. “We’ll take care of it.”
Tony was unnerved slightly by Razvan’s decision to come to a stance directly in front of him. He inched back a little in response. After a moment of hesitation, he responded to Razvan’s question.
“We will fix this. I promise,” Razvan assured with a smile.
Tony relaxed a little after hearing this. Two seconds later Razvan grabbed him by the arm, snatched him forward until they were chest to chest and bared his teeth with a growl. His canine teeth were much larger than they were a few seconds earlier. In Tony’s mind, they were fangs, and he was terrified by the sight of them. Dumitra hurried over to Tony with her fangs bared. Tony screamed as Razvan sunk his teeth into his neck. A second later Dumitra sunk hers into the interior side of his wrist. It took a little more than a minute to drink him into unconsciousness and little more than five to drink him dead. When they had both taken their fill of him Razvan placed his body in the freezer chest that he secured for Cassidy. Before closing the lid, Razvan bit into the fleshy part of his hand and drained a small amount of his blood into Tony’s mouth.
“Wait!” Cristiãn called out as he grabbed Cassidy’s arm and brought them both to a stop.
Cristiãn recognized the car that just turned onto the street as the same make, model and color as the one that picked him up at the garage.
“What is it?” Cassidy questioned with a mixture of confusion and surprise.
Just as she asked this question, Cristiãn saw that the two occupants of the car were the gunmen they had escaped from minutes earlier. It was his suspicion that they were there to kill Cassidy. He had no doubt that this was the order that Razvan gave to them. Cristiãn had hoped that this moderately active community, with its assortment of small retail stores, would deter Razvan and his mortal cohorts from attempting any act of violence here. The appearance of these two gunmen convinced him that this would not be the case.
“It’s them,” Cristiãn reported while holding his gaze on the car.
Cassidy noted the car that Cristiãn was looking at just as he tugged her away from the street. The four-story building next to them had a for sale banner attached to the front fire escape. The windows from the second story up were boarded over. The ground floor store fronts were covered by their role down metal shutters. Cristiãn hurried over to the building’s front door.
“We have to get off the street.”
Just as Cristiãn said that the Buick LaCrosse sped up toward them. He quickly tried the door and discovered that it was locked. Immediately after learning this he grabbed the door knob with both hands and ripped it out of the door. He threw the knob aside, reached into the hole that it left behind and pulled open the door.
The exertion it took to pull open the door nearly brought Cristiãn to his knees from exhaustion. His breathing was labored. When Cassidy grabbed him to give support, she found him to be unusually warm to the touch. With her hand around his waist, she helped him through the doorway. On the other side was a staircase that disappeared into the darkness of the second floor. Cristiãn came to a stop at the foot of the stairs and dropped to one knee. With his free arm, he took a hold of the railing to stop himself from going all the way down to the floor. Within seconds of doing this, they heard a car screech to a stop on the street in front of the building.
“We’ve got to go up,” Cristiãn insisted as he pulled himself up onto his feet and started to ascend the stairs.
Cassidy held Cristiãn’s arm to give him support for his climb up the stairs. She thought his ascent was surprisingly swift considering how exhausted he was moments earlier. Despite this, he nearly collapsed from exhaustion at the top. Shortly after their stop, she heard someone at the door at the foot of the stairs. Cristiãn began to pull her away from the light that was coming through door. There was no need for either to tell the other to be quiet. They listened in silence for several seconds, but the sound at the door did not move. At the end of this wait, Cristiãn signaled with a hand gesture for Cassidy to follow him.
The second-floor staircase landing turned out into a hallway that went the length of the building. The windows at either end of the hallway was boarded over. For Cassidy, the hallway was barely visible. Light gleaming through the sides of the boards provided what little illumination there was. The air was stale and moldy. There were two apartments, one at either end of the floor. The doors to their interiors, and within their interiors, were removed.
The staircase to the third floor was built directly over the one to the second. Cristiãn led Cassidy back to the front of the building as quietly as he could. This effort was hampered by debris strewn about the hallway floor. When they reached the front end of the hallway, Cristiãn began to lead Cassidy up the staircase to the third floor. To Cassidy’s surprise, his breathing was less labored during this effort. What she did not understand was that the darkness of the building’s interior was a reprieve from the sunlight for Cristiãn. This, along with the slow quiet movements, was creating less of a strain on his constitution.
During their ascent to the third floor, their continued to be no sound from the ground floor landing. Cristiãn was more aware of this silence than Cassidy. His hearing was as acute as human designed ears could be. He knew that there was one person at the ground floor landing of this stairwell, and that this person had not started to ascend the stairs. When they reached the third floor, Cristiãn went back to the front of the building. The configuration and condition of the third floor was essentially identical to the second, and the darkness was more pervasive. The glow of light from the ground floor door was nonexistent here.
“Come-on,” Cristiãn whispered as he started to creep up the staircase to the fourth floor with Cassidy in tow.
Halfway up the staircase, Cristiãn heard the voices of two men resounding up the stairwell. He barely heard the question, “where are they?” And he faintly heard a reply that included the phrase “…a couple of floors.” When they reached the fourth-floor landing, Cristiãn led Cassidy into the apartment at the rear of the building and from there into the bedroom furthest from the apartment door.
Charlie Panko and Ben Dalby were Tony McGuire’s trusted associates. For Tony, this meant that they could counted on to act on his behalf with the same ruthlessness as he, and this is why he sent them to kill Detective Tremaine. He knew that they would do as he commanded.
When Charlie and Ben left to find Cassidy, they both thought there was a better than even chance that they would be found. They knew that Cristiãn and Cassidy had no immediate mode of travel beyond walking. It was understood that the possibility of this changing increased with each passing minute. But with Cristiãn and Cassidy less than five minutes out it was believed by them both that they were in the vicinity and on foot.
After getting their kill order from Tony, Charlie and Ben went out in haste to find Cristiãn and Cassidy. They began their search by cruising the neighborhood in the likely direction of their run. The open gate was a strong indicator of the area they fled into. They were not ten minutes out when Charlie saw them.
“There!” Charlie called out with a point.
It was their movement more than their appearance that gave them away. Out of a dozen pedestrians on the block, Cristiãn and Cassidy were the only two that scurried off the sidewalk. Ben followed Charlie’s point to the man and woman couple at the far end of the block. He, in turn, steered the Buick La Crosse to that location at the best speed that the traffic would allow.
“Park the car and follow me,” Charlie barked back as he climbed out of the vehicle.
Charlie slammed the door behind him and then ran over to the door that Cristiãn and Cassidy disappeared behind. He quickly noted that the door was unlatched, but he was in no hurry to go inside. He did not know where Cristiãn was on the other side of it, and his semi-automatic pistol was tucked into his pants and beneath his jacket. He did not want to take his weapon out in full view of pedestrians. He waited by the side of the door and listened for sounds through the two-inch-wide opening between the door and the door frame. As he did this, he watched the passersby on the sidewalk. When there was no one on the sidewalk close enough to see what he was doing, Charlie pulled out his pistol and then pushed the door a quarter of the way open with his foot.
The door’s two-foot wide opening did not enable him to hear any movement or talking on the other side of the door. After several seconds of listening, he inched his head out around the door frame and looked inside the building. He quickly noted that there was no place for anyone to hide on the ground floor. The door opened onto the ground floor landing of a staircase that went up to the second floor. The staircase filled the entire width of the area. The stairs ascended into a darkness that intensified as it went up. Emboldened by the knowledge that there was no one nearby to harm him, Charlie slipped into the stairwell quietly. He then stopped at the foot of the stairs and listened to the sounds of movement on the second floor.
Charlie knew little about the vampires, and what he did know came from Tony. This information was limited to the fact that they had an indeterminate lifespan and that severing their heads from their bodies was an effective way of killing them. This information was enough to make him reluctant to go up the stairs, but the battle at the drug lab told him that their ability to endure gunshot wounds was much higher than that of a mortal. This fact convinced him not to go up the stairs alone.
Several minutes had passed when Ben joined Charlie in the stairwell. His sawed-off shotgun was wrapped in his jacket and carried in his hand. The sight of Charlie through the open doorway gave him the confidence to hurry inside. He stopped one step past the threshold and waited for instructions. Benjamin gave him a brief look and then turned his attention back up the stairwell.
“Where are they?” Ben questioned in a hushed voice.
“I think they’re a couple of floors up,” Charlie answered with equal discretion.
After speaking this, Charlie made a nod toward the door. Ben understood this to mean that he wanted him to shut the door, and this he did despite the darkness inside the building. Closing the door made sense to Ben. He knew that they were about to use their weapons and that an open door would make it easy for the reports to echo out onto the sidewalk. Immediately after shutting the door, Ben unwrapped his shotgun and brought it to the ready.
“I don’t suppose you have a flashlight?” Charlie questioned softly.
Ben shook his head to answer. Charlie interpreted this as a no and then nodded for Ben to lead the ascent up the stairs. This he did one step at a time and with Charlie following five stair steps behind. By this time there were no sounds of movement coming from the upper floors. This silence continued during their ascent to the second floor. Charlie gave the floor a brief examination with two turns of his head. He then admonished Ben from doing any more than that with a shake of his head. Charlie was confident that Cristiãn and Cassidy were not on the second floor.
After doing this, Ben went down the hall to the front end of the building. Charlie followed his lead three steps behind. One after the other, they commenced their ascent up the stairs to the third floor. Again, there was no sound from Cristiãn and Cassidy during their ascent. Ben did a search of the floor with his shotgun at the ready. Charlie remained several steps behind. The absence of doors and furniture made this a relatively brief action. Charlie routinely held his position near the doorway of the apartment as Ben walked through with his shotgun pointed out ahead of him. They went through the rear apartment first. When they finished going through the front apartment, they began their ascent to the fourth floor.
Once again there was silence during their ascent. Despite this, Charlie had little doubt that Cristiãn and Cassidy were somewhere on this floor. He knew that the sound of them ripping a plank from a window and the clanging of the fire escape would have resounded throughout the building. This belief motivated Charlie to search the floor much slower, and with much more care than the levels below. He communicated this plan to Ben with a palm down hand gesture.
They started with the rear apartment. Charlie followed behind Ben as he crept down the hall. He followed him two steps past the doorway to the apartment and then stopped. Ben was halfway down the hall between the front room and the kitchen when he came to a stop. Charlie was briefly startled by Ben’s decision to come to a standstill. He thought he might have heard or seen something. Two seconds later this sensation of alarm went away. Ben’s appearance of indifference to his surroundings gave Charlie cause to relax. A second into his feeling of relief, Charlie noted something that confused him, Ben’s posture suddenly went limp. His arms drooped down to his sides. His shotgun fell out of his left hand and dangled down toward the floor in his right. Charlie thought to move up and investigate Ben’s situation. This thought was diffused when he suddenly began to feel dizzy.
Cristiãn and Cassidy had been hiding in the bedroom of the rear fourth floor apartment for more than five minutes. They were situated in the corner furthest from the doorway. By this time, Cassidy was aware that there were two men in the building with them. She could hear them climbing the stairs from the second floor to the third. Cristiãn had been hearing them from the moment they entered the building. He began to smell them when they reached the second floor.
The sound of them moving up the stairs to the third floor prompted Cristiãn into action. Without giving notice to Cassidy, and without hesitation, he bit into the fleshy part of his left palm behind his thumb. Cassidy observed this with a look of bewilderment. When Cristiãn turned to face her, the reflection of light off his eyes startled her into a gasp. Cristiãn quickly brought his finger up to his lips as a signal for her to be quiet.
“I need you to drink some of my blood,” Cristiãn whispered.
Cassidy quickly shook her head with a mixed expression of shock and incredulity. She inched back from Cristiãn’s predatory eyes as she did this.
“You have to drink some of my blood,” Cristiãn insisted with a whisper.
“I’m not drinking your blood,” Cassidy whispered as she pressed herself against the wall behind her.
Cristiãn could see that Cassidy was not going to comply with his instruction without an explanation and likely some discussion. He also knew that he had no time for either. With a thought, Cristiãn set his heart racing ten times faster than it had been. As he did this, he inched closer to Cassidy. He stared into her eyes as he gauged the sensation of heat radiating off his body. A couple of seconds later, Cassidy went rigid. Her mind slipped into fugue that was too deep for her brain to dispel.
“Tilt your head back,” Cristiãn whispered into Cassidy’s face.
Cassidy complied without any sign of resistance.
“Open your mouth,” Cristiãn instructed softly.
Again, Cassidy did as she was instructed while holding a dazed expression. When she was situated as Cristiãn instructed, he held his left hand over her mouth and allowed half a dozen drops of his blood to drop inside. A few drops fell on and around her mouth.
“Swallow,” Cristiãn instructed.
Cassidy did as she was told. When she had finished doing this, Cristiãn turned about, moved quietly out to the center of the room and focused his attention toward the sounds that were moving up the stairwell. He effectively ignored Cassidy as he did this. As he listened to the sound get closer, his heart continued to pump at a rapid pace. Shortly into this wait and listen, Cassidy began to awaken from her trance. Her eye lids began to blink, and her head began to move. Her dazed expression turned into a look of confusion. Cristiãn turned around and took notice just as her mind began to recall what had happened. Cassidy brought her hand up and wiped the blood from her face. She went into wide-eyed shock at the sight of the blood on her fingers. Cristiãn quickly brought his finger up to his lips to silence her. Cassidy said nothing, but the shocked expression remained for several seconds. After this, it transitioned into a look of seething anger.
Over the next minute, they listened to the sounds being created by the two men coming up the stairwell and then down the hall. After another thirty seconds, they could hear the men in the apartment, and one of them was in the hall that led to the room they were in. Cristiãn held his stance in the center of the room. Cassidy held her gaze on him from the corner. Each step that the man in the hall took raised the level of terror she was experiencing. And then, to her surprise, the man stopped moving. Several seconds went by without a sound from either of them, and then Cristiãn went into motion at a slow walk.
Cristiãn walked over to the doorway of the bedroom and saw Ben standing in the hall with his shotgun dangling by his side. He looked to be in a deep stupor. Nothing moved or reacted. Beyond him was Charlie at the mouth of the hall. He looked to be dazed and confused. His head was moving back and forth, and his eyes were blinking as if something was in them. It took Cristiãn no more than a second to recognize their two conditions, and then he started toward them at a hurried and deliberate walk. With his right hand, he grabbed Ben by the top of his shirt and lifted him off the floor. As he did this, Cristiãn stripped the shotgun away from Ben with his left hand and tossed it to the floor. An instant later, he rammed Ben against the left wall, and then the right, and the left again in rapid succession. He then dropped Ben to the floor as though he was tossing a bag of garbage.
Cassidy moved to the doorway of the bedroom just in time to see Cristiãn’s charge toward Charlie. The gunman looked to be in a bewildered state. He tried to raise his pistol toward Cristiãn, but his effort was too slow and uncoordinated. Cristiãn raced up to him, grabbed him by his head and shoulders, and then bit into his neck. Cassidy was shocked by the speed and ferocity of the act. She watched as Cristiãn sucked Charlie’s blood from his body for more than a dozen seconds and then dropped his listless body to the floor.
When Cristiãn turned about to face Cassidy, she was shocked to the point of terror. His eyes glistened like the headlights of a car in a fog. A low grumble from within his chest seemed to be reverberating out of his entire body. He was no more than a silhouette of a man in the darkness of the building’s interior. She could not see the details of his face from that distance, but his posture suggested that he was much invigorated by the meal. A moment later he began to move toward her at a deliberate pace. Out of terror, Cassidy took a quick step back. In the length of that time, Cristiãn reached the body of Ben as it lay on the floor. He quickly reached down, pulled him up against the wall and began to feed off him. He was done in less than thirty seconds. Cristiãn released his body to fall back to the floor and then he turned to look at Cassidy.
From this distance, Cassidy could barely see the elongated canines within his teeth. There was a darkness around his mouth that she assumed was blood. His eyes continued to reflect the small about of diffuse light within the rooms. Again, there was a rumble that emanated from within Cristiãn’s chest, and just for a second Cassidy feared she was next.
Cristiãn swiftly turned around and began to wipe the blood from his face with his sleeve. This action gave Cassidy reason to believe that she was going to be okay. Shortly into this, Cristiãn began breaking off the ends of his fangs with the tips of his index finger and thumb. Cassidy had no knowledge of what he was doing. When he turned around, she noted the absence of his fangs and the glistening from his eyes. This gave her cause to exhale with relief. She relaxed even more behind Cristiãn’s next sentence.
“Let’s get out of here,” Cristiãn suggested as he stooped down to search through Ben’s pockets.
Cassidy used this time to take another inhale and exhale. By the end of this act Cristiãn had found the keys. He retrieved them, stood up and started for the apartment’s exit in a quick fluid succession of motions. Hesitantly, Cassidy stepped over Ben and set off behind Cristiãn several steps behind. In the main room, she stopped next to Charlie’s body, stooped down and quickly collected his gun from off the floor. She hesitated there for a moment to note that he was still breathing. After noting this, she stood up and shoved the gun into her holster beneath her jacket. Cristiãn saw none of this. He was half way down the common hallway when Cassidy started moving again.
“Are they dead?” Cassidy questioned as she followed Cristiãn down the stairs.
Cassidy asked this question despite her notice that Charlie was still breathing. Her thinking was entertaining the idea that his breathing was a temporary condition.
“I doubt it,” Cristiãn answered as he hurried down the stairs.
“What does the mean?” Cassidy said in response.
Cristiãn did not stop to seriously entertain this query. He continued to move down the stairs as he responded to Cassidy’s questions as though the answer was obvious and insignificant.
“I wasn’t trying to kill them.”
“Then what’s wrong with them?” Cassidy huffed out as she raced to keep up with Cristiãn.
“It’s the pheromones,” Cristiãn called back as he completed the last few steps above the ground floor. “I pumped out enough to sedate an elephant.”
Cristiãn stopped at the exit door to the building and looked back at Cassidy to give what he hoped would be the last words on the subject.
“They should start waking up in about twenty minutes.”
Cristiãn could see that this answer had set Cassidy’s mind alight with thoughts, but it was producing no immediate questions on the subject. After a brief wait, he decided the wait was long enough. He pushed open the door and hurried out onto the sidewalk on the other side of it. Cassidy followed his lead. Cristiãn immediately began to scan the street for the Buick LaCrosse.
“Come on,” Cristiãn encouraged after spotting the car half a block down.
Cristiãn setoff for the car at a hurried pace. Cassidy did her best to keep up with him. A dozen steps away, Cristiãn unlocked all four doors with a press of a button on the key fob. By the time they got there, Cristiãn had the ignition key in his hand. He quickly opened the door and slipped into the seat behind the steering wheel. Cassidy hurried to the other side of the car and settled into the front passenger’s seat. A few seconds later the car was moving down the street at the best speed that the traffic could bear.
Cassidy examined Cristiãn with an expression of amazed curiosity. He noted her study of him with a glance and saw that her eyes had settled on his hands. He then looked at them and saw that her amazement was due to his newly grown half inch-long fingernails.
“It happens when I’m about to feed,” Cristiãn began explaining apprehensively. “My metabolism goes hyperactive and my—predator side—takes over.”
Cassidy studied Cristiãn’s face as he spoke. When he finished speaking, she examined him for a moment longer and then said the thought that had pushed all other matters out of her head.
“So, you’re a vampire?” Cassidy confirmed to herself more than queried.
Before responding to this question, Cristiãn turned his head slightly to the right and gave Cassidy a quick look and the he focused his eyes back on the road. His concern was the motivation behind the question.
“Vampire, Strigoi, Fantoma, Monstru, Incubi, Succubi, Dibbuk, Zombie, Demonul, Varcolac, Werewolf, we have been called many things,” Cristiãn mumbled out in reply to Cassidy’s question. “Vampire is the name that mortals of this time have become attached to.”
Cassidy studied Cristiãn as he spoke. His face looked as if it had regained twenty to thirty years over the past half hour. His wounds did not look to be bleeding anymore, but the white of his shirt was clearly stained with his blood. Her study of him was interrupted by something she heard him say.
“I thought Werewolves and Vampires were different—monsters?” Cassidy questioned with a slight look of confusion.
“That appears to be the universal misconception among mortals,” Cristiãn explained with a hint of indifference.
“What does that mean?” Cassidy pressed for more.
Cristiãn could hear in her voice that she wanted to understand this, and he could think of no reason to deny her this given their presence circumstance. He commenced with the explanation after an instant of thought.
“Your ancestors at different times in history, and often in different locations, had different names for the same thing. What you mortals called werewolves were just starving vampires that had gone crazy from several days, if not weeks, without sleep.”
Cassidy shook her head with a look of bewilderment to express her continuing confusion. Cristiãn looked her way to note this and then began to explain some more.
“It was common for such a vampire to roam about the countryside at night searching for rodents and small animals to eat since large prey roamed farther afield and were harder to find. There was also the problem of catching large animals. This was almost always strenuous—and exhausting work.
“Why couldn’t they sleep?” Cassidy questioned from behind a look of curiosity.
“They were too afraid to sleep,” Cristiãn answered with a shrug. “We are at our most vulnerable when we sleep. We sleep like the dead. Our hearts beat two to three times an hour when we slumber. Breathing is superfluous in this state. Sounds and feelings take several minutes to register in our brains. The slayers murdered most our kind while we slept. It took a brave Strigoi to close its eyes.”
“So, you’re not already dead?” Cassidy questioned with a mixture of surprise and comprehension in her voice.
“That was a lie made up to convince mortals that we’re less than human,” Cristiãn sharply returned while he continued to drive with determination.
“Aren’t you?” Cassidy spoke as a challenge to the idea that they were in any way human.
This question took Cristiãn by surprise. He gave Cassidy a quick look and confirmed by her demeanor that she was being accusatory.
“Our capacity for humanitarian behavior is no more or less than yours.” Cristiãn argued defensively.
“Oh really, and what was humanitarian about seducing me?” Cassidy quickly countered testily.
“I was protecting you,” Cristiãn insisted sternly.
Cassidy’s objection to this argument had nothing to do with a belief that it was not true. What provoked her rage was a fear that she was manipulated by a man that had no feelings for her.
“You don’t get it,” Cristiãn contended. “Razvan and Dumitra were going to kill you. You were supposed to die in that warehouse fire. The only way I could protect you was by staying near you.”
This explanation did nothing to soothe away Cassidy’s anger toward him. She felt violated, and this was fueling her anger. But it was her thinking that stopped her from continuing the attack. She took several seconds to fume over this reasoning behind Cristiãn’s actions, and then she turned her thoughts and converse to another subject.
“Why didn’t your pheromones affect me?” Cassidy questioned from behind a frown of curiosity.
Cristiãn gave Cassidy another quick look and noted that her infuriation had subsided. After seeing this, he squashed his defensiveness and responded to the query in a mild tone of voice.
“It’s my blood. It made you immune.”
This answer instantly sent Cassidy into a state of emotional shock. The tenor of her response reflected this condition.
“What?” Cassidy blurted out with a wide-eyed expression. “Did you change…”
Cristiãn instantly noted her concern and spoke up quickly to dispel it.
“No, I didn’t turn you.”
Cassidy was not satisfied by this answer and quickly challenged it.
“Your sister said that drinking vampire blood is what turns humans into vampires.”
“It does,” Cristiãn agreed with a nod and while holding his attention straight ahead. “But not in this case.”
“Why not in this case?” Cassidy pondered out angrily.
Cristiãn could hear that Cassidy needed a thorough explanation for her peace of mind. Because of this, he took a moment to organize his thoughts and then he commenced to explain what she did not understand.
“Yes, it’s our blood that turns mortals into immortals. But you must die first for that to happen. If a living mortal ingests our blood, or applies it to an open wound it does the same thing for them that it does for us. But it only works for the area that it’s applied to and only for a short time.”
Cassidy gathered some comprehension from this explanation, but it did not ease her curiosity.
“So, it would repair that area the same way that your blood is repairing you?” Cassidy questioned with a look of puzzlement.
“Exactly,” Cristiãn answered with a slight shake of his head. “The difference is, the effect would stop when your immune system fought off the infection.”
Cassidy pondered this until a new question popped into her head and then out of her mouth.
“Okay then, what does it repair when we drink vampire blood?”
Cristiãn gave this an instant of thought and a shrug before responding.
“I suppose if you have a head cold, it would take care of that.”
“Other than making you resistant to our intoxicating pheromone aura, yes.” Cristiãn explained as though he did not know what else to say. “It doesn’t change you, Cassidy.”
Cassidy thought about this for a moment and concluded that there was nothing to worry about. At the end of this analysis, she began a search for a new inquiry into the world of vampires. After several seconds her mind went to a thought that came up when they made their escape from the Ecstasy lab.
“What’s up with the mustard powder?” Cassidy questioned with a hint of whimsy in her tone “I thought vampires were supposed to be allergic to garlic.”
“We are,” Cristiãn answered softly. “Our bodies respond adversely to most seasonings if we ingest, or inhale them, or if they get into our eyes. But mustard is the worst. Twelve-hundred years ago, nobody knew about mustard seeds.”
Cassidy took this in with a shake of her head and a shrug of amazement. Shortly after hearing this answer she looked up and turned her attention to the street they were traveling on.
“Where are you taking me?” Cassidy questioned with a stern look at Cristiãn.
“I’m not taking you anywhere,” Cristiãn responded in a soft voice. “I’m taking me to my car.”
Cassidy paused to think about this answer. She was interrupted in this when Cristiãn brought the car to a stop outside of a parking garage. He promptly put the gear selector into park, and then he turned to face Cassidy.
“This is where I leave, Detective Tremaine,” Cristiãn advised somberly.
Cristiãn took a moment to examine Cassidy with a look of dread, and then he pulled his cellphone out of his suitcoat pocket. He gave Cassidy another look, and then he began typing into the cellphone with his thumbs.
“What are you doing?” Cassidy questioned with a slight shake of her head.
“I’m sending you an email,” Cristiãn explained as he continued to type.
Cassidy paused to consider this answer before speaking again.
“What’s in the email?”
“We’re in it,” Cristiãn answered just as he finished addressing the email. “I’m forwarding you the file that Razvan sent to all of us.”
Cassidy was surprised to hear this. She knew that this file contained the names and addresses of all but two of the vampires. This was the last thing she expected to hear.
“This is your only way out,” Cristiãn began to explain. “Once we’re exposed the others will have no reason to harm you.”
Cassidy’s expression of surprise intensified. She knew that Cristiãn was sacrificing himself and the other vampires with this act. And then another thought popped into her head.
“What about your sister?”
Cristiãn took a moment to consider the question and to search for his reply. At the end of this he began to speak behind a look of despondence.
“She has lived a long life.”
Cristiãn paused after saying this to give Cassidy a mournful stare, and then he finished his thought with a slight shake of his head.
“I can’t let them sacrifice you to save us—not even for Nadja.”
At the end of this message, Cristiãn pressed the button that sent the email on its way to her. All of Cassidy’s anger toward Cristiãn fell away the moment he did this. Suddenly she understood the depth of Cristiãn’s regard for her. She had no response for what he had said or done. For a long moment, she could do nothing but stare at the vampire that was looking back at her.
“Don’t make the mistake of thinking this is going to immediately fix everything,” Cristiãn spoke up shortly into the silence. “We immortals are very good at hiding. This will not solve your vampire problem—not in the short-term.”
After hearing this, Cassidy awakened from her amazement. A single phrase caught her attention above all else, and she quickly spoke to it.
“Why won’t it solve our problem?”
Cristiãn saw Cassidy’s intense interest in the explanation for this statement. He feared that his answer might deter her from doing what she had to do. This thought gave him doubt about explaining this to her.
“This is your only way out, Cassidy,” Cristiãn returned with a sincere shake of his head. “They will come after you.”
“What’s going to happen?” Cassidy queried with vehemence. “Why were you all so opposed to Evan and Christine?”
Once again Cristiãn looked hesitant. Cassidy could see that he did not want to answer this question. A moment later she yelled out another question.
“Tell me, why will vampires continue to be a problem?”
Cristiãn paused to consider Cassidy while he took a deep breath. He could see that she was not going to be satisfied until she had an answer to her questions. And then he provided her with one.
“Vampires are not the problem,” Cristiãn sternly insisted. “Humans are...”
“Why are we the problem?” Cassidy demanded from behind a look of distress.
Cristiãn paused just long enough to find the words, and then he commenced with his explanation.
“Immortality is the ultimate commodity. Mortals will give everything they have to acquire it, and not just the peasants—the Kings and Queens as well. If Dumitra and Razvan get their way vampirism will be for sale to anyone and everyone who can add to their wealth and power.”
“You’re saying there’s going to be more of you,” Cassidy stated with a questioning inflection.
“This is nothing new for us. I’ve seen mortals beg to be turned. The only reason why there isn’t a thousand of us scattered about the planet right now is because we agreed to never turn a mortal without the consent of the majority. And since our awakening this consent has never been given.”
“But Dumitra and Razvan are no longer one of you?” Cassidy stated with an inquiring inflection.
“That’s right,” Cristiãn answered softly.
“And if I expose all of you to the world, what will happen then?” Cassidy questioned with an intense stare.
For a few seconds, Cristiãn said nothing as he considered the ramifications of the answer. Shortly he concluded that he had no recourse but to tell Cassidy where this was going.
“They will use every means they have to survive,” Cristiãn answered grudgingly.
“You mean they will make more vampires?” Cassidy corrected.
“For a price, yes,” Cristiãn confirmed.
Cassidy was shocked by this answer. She hesitated to take a couple of breathes and then she asked a new question with an expression that said she feared to hear the answer.
“How many more?”
Cristiãn hesitated to reply, and then he did so in a soft and succinct voice.
“As many as necessary.”
“And then their—offspring—will make more, and their offspring behind them will do the same.” Cassidy concluded as if she was talking to herself.
“Yes, but there’s no other way,” Cristiãn insisted. “This is your only way out.”
Cassidy pondered this answer for several seconds before asking her next question.
“And how does this end?” Cassidy questioned with a frightened expression.
“It ends with a purge—on a global scale,” Cristiãn replied.
“Global?” Cassidy questioned back with an intonation of shock.
Cristiãn took a moment to consider why she was so surprised. When he came to an understanding about why this was so surprising to her, he took a deep breath and began to explain.
“Twelve hundred years ago, we were contained by the terrain, the sun and the location of our food supply. All of these made traveling across great distances unappealing to our kind. For us, sunlight and exertion is a lethal combination, and we feared being stranded alone in the middle of nowhere. So, we stayed where the food was. But in this time the food is everywhere, and all it takes is a plane, a train or a car to get there—no exertion required.”
Cassidy was stunned by this scenario. She stared into the empty space in front of her as she contemplated this. A moment later she mumbled out her thought.
“You’re talking about a worldwide infestation.”
To give emphasis to what he was about to say, Cristiãn paused to give Cassidy a fierce look. He then spoke with an intonation of finality.
“You have to do this, Cassidy. Razvan and Dumitra are going to do it anyway. The only difference is, by the time the mortals learn of our existence, Razvan and his offspring will be everywhere and into everything.”
After hearing this, Cassidy froze into a deep thought. Cristiãn said nothing as he waited on the result of her contemplation. Several seconds later Cassidy awakened from her reflection and began to shake her head in dismay.
“What are you going to do?” Cassidy questioned as she gave him a quick look over.
“I have to go,” Cristiãn softly answered. “I have an obligation to fulfill.”
Cassidy spent a moment considering this answer before concluding that he was going back to his club and the vampire alliance.
“They’ll kill you,” Cassidy exclaimed with a look of astonishment.
“Probably,” Cristiãn softly concurred and with a nod. “But it’s not like I don’t have it coming.”
“You can’t do that,” Cassidy deplored. “You have to come with me. We can protect you.”
Cristiãn started shaking his head before Cassidy reached the end of her response.
“I’m not doing that, Cassidy,” Cristiãn whispered from behind a slight smile. “I already know my way out.”
From the instant that he said this, Cassidy knew that Cristiãn was planning to die. The thought of him throwing away his life suddenly frightened her.
“You have to surrender yourself,” Cassidy commenced to rationalize. “We’re going to need your help with—with—all of this.”
“I’m not doing that,” Cristiãn returned dejectedly.
Immediately after saying this, Cristiãn pulled the door handle. The driver’s door immediately cracked open.
“I have to go,” Cristiãn softly spoke to her.
It was a reflex action that caused Cassidy to reach beneath her jacket and draw the weapon that she took from the unconscious Charlie Panko.
“Stop!” Cassidy ordered as she directed the handgun toward Cristiãn. “I’m taking you in.”
Cristiãn noted the gun with a look and then pulled the door shut.
“I can’t do this,” Cristiãn whispered from behind a stare into Cassidy’s eyes.
Immediately after hearing this, Cassidy’s mind began to fade into a stupor. Her clarity of thought was nearly gone. She no longer had the ability to formulate sentences. Within a few seconds, she lost all awareness of who and where she was. Both faculties seemed to return after several seconds. When her awareness felt to be fully restored, she noted that Cristiãn was not in the car. This came as a shock to Cassidy. She had no idea how long she had been in a daze, but she knew it had to be longer than a few seconds. She quickly looked around the vehicle for Cristiãn, but he was nowhere to be seen outside. An instant later she checked her watch. She judged by the time that she could not have been asleep for more than several minutes. After determining this, she opened the door to the car, walked around to the driver’s side and got back in behind the wheel.
After getting behind the wheel of the car, Cassidy’s first thought was to call Cristiãn. An instant later, she remembered that her cellphone was not on her. She spent the next minute pondering what to do next. Her mind raced through different methods of exposing the vampires, along with the complications and consequences of each. At the end of this analysis she concluded that there was only thing to do. She then started the car and drove off in a hurry.
Cassidy steered the car to the 94th precinct. She had two reasons for doing this. It was not far from where she was, and she was familiar with the station. The wheels of the car screeched as she forced it into a moderately hard stop in front of the closest parking space to the station. She then parked the car quickly, climbed out of it, raced down the street and went straight into the front entrance of the Precinct.
Cassidy had no trouble negotiating her way into the interior of the precinct. She had the benefit of her shield and identification to facilitate her movement through the building. She also had her history with the precinct. She was posted there one year earlier. Most of the officers inside knew her by appearance and many knew her as an acquaintance. One patrol officer she knew intercepted her in the hall and inquired why she was there. A detective she knew made the same inquiry when she was seated at a vacant desk. She told them both that she was in the vicinity on an investigation and needed access to a computer terminal. This proved to be enough to suffice their curiosity.
The moment she was situated in front of a computer, and free from the attentions of others, Cassidy retrieved Cristiãn’s email. She quickly opened the attached file and perused through the assortment of pages and pictures as fast as she dared. When she was finished doing this, Cassidy accessed the case file for the Greenbelt Nine and retrieved the phone number for The Cavern. She then picked up the desk phone and dialed out to it. She would have preferred to call Cristiãn’s cellphone, but this was not a number she remembered and it was not listed in the case file. After a dozen rings, Cassidy was convinced that no one was going to answer and hung up the phone. She pondered this no answer for a moment before concluding that she had to do what she had to do.
An instant later, Cassidy went to work assimilating the pages from the email into a case file. She worked at a hurried pace, much more so than she would have normally. Setting up the case file in the system was the quickest part of her task. This took barely more than five minutes. Printing out the more than two dozen pages that she needed for a presentation folder took a little longer. This was further complicated by the act of blacking out all the file numbers on the printed copies with a marker and then creating photocopies of each. She then shredded the printed copies and put the photocopies in her presentation folder. When she was finally done, nearly an hour had passed from start to finish and Cassidy was racing out the front entrance of the precinct with the presentation folder in her hand.