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Chapter 24: The Vote

When Cristiãn left the Buick LaCrosse with Cassidy inside, she was in a trance. Her head was facing forward. Her eyes were staring straight out ahead of the vehicle. Ten feet away from the car, he turned and gave her a last look, and then he hurried into the garage. It took him less than five minutes to retrieve his car, pay his ticket and race off into the city streets. It took him another fifty minutes to make his way to the parking garage of his apartment building.

Cristiãn was in no hurry to meet up with the other members of his vampire alliance. He had no doubt how that meeting was going to end. But this notwithstanding, he had every intention of facing Lucian, Stefan and the others. His concern now was for the state of his attire. He spent the next hour showering, dressing and grooming himself for this meeting. A few minutes later he was back in his car and on the road.

It took Cristiãn an hour and a half to make the trip to Lucian’s Greenwich vacation house. As he rolled up the driveway, he noted that there was one additional car parked there that he was not expecting to see. Razvan and Dumitra’s presence was unexpected, but it did nothing to deter his decision to be there. He parked the car and then took several seconds to prepare himself for what was about to come. At the end of this time he climbed out of the car and noted that the eyes of several members of his vampire union were looking at him through the front bay window. The sight of them caused him to hesitate before starting his approach to the house. When he did arrive at the front door, he found Augustus standing there with the door open.

Nothing was said between Cristiãn and Augustus at the front door. Augustus ushered him through with a nod of his head. Cristiãn went through without hesitation and continued to the parlor. Waiting there for him was the remaining fourteen vampires of their union along with Razvan and Dumitra.

“Where is she?” Razvan roared at Cristiãn the instant he stepped into the room.

The room full of vampires moved out from the center of the room as Cristiãn walked into it. They immediately began to circle him like a pack of wolves circling a stray bison. Despite this maneuver, all predatory expressions were limited to Razvan and Dumitra, and to Stefan to a lesser extent. Lucian looked to be perturbed but in control, and his mate, Elisabeta displayed a look of dismay. But only Nadja and Petru showed any worry for his fate.

“What did you, Cristiãn?” Lucian hissed out at Cristiãn when he came to a stop.

Cristiãn showed no displeasure with the tenor of Lucian’s question. After spending a few seconds pondering the words to say in reply, Cristiãn began to speak in a passive tone.

“I saved her.”

This answer produced shocked expressions on everyone who heard it. Even Nadja and Petru were surprised by it.

“What about us?” Adrianna railed out with a tinge of hysterics. “Did you think about us at all?”

There was a brief wait for Cristiãn’s answer to this question, and then Lucian began to speak again.

“Is Tremaine under your control?”

Cristiãn took a moment to consider how to answer that question, and then he responded with a shake of his head.

“You didn’t blank her memory?” Radu queried with an intonation of astonishment.

“No,” Cristiãn returned in a soft voice and with a shake of his head. “I did not.”

There was a moment of shocked silence. Everyone there was contemplating the probable changes to their lives that was about to occur. After several seconds, Iona began to mumble-out comment from behind a look of dread.

“She’s probably telling everything she knows right now.”

“They may not believe her,” Flavia quickly countered with a hopefulness in her voice.

“She doesn’t have to get them to believe her,” Sorin countered glumly. “She only has to get them to investigate us.”

Stefan’s usual sour disposition was seething with anger at this moment. He took two steps forward before starting his question with an inflection of venom laced in his enunciation.

“Is that what she’s doing, Cristiãn? Is she telling her story to the police?”

Cristiãn took a moment to prepare himself for Stefan’s response to his answer, and then he began to speak it.

“I gave her a copy of Razvan’s file,” Cristiãn confessed solemnly.

For the first time, Cristiãn said something that produced an audible gasp from several within the room. Even Lucian was flustered out of his usual façade of control.

“I can’t believe you did that,” Laurentius blared out almost at once. “You’ve destroyed the lives that we created for ourselves.”

“I am sorry, Laurentius,” Cristiãn returned as he opened out his palms toward him and shook his head.

This response had no nullifying effect on Laurentius or most others within the room. Adrianna’s displeasure was no greater than most, but her quick mind and sharp tongue beat all the others to the retort.

“Cristiãn, you may have killed us all,” Adrianna verbally disgorged with a pronounced flare of temper. “You’ve certainly killed some of us. How could you do that?”

Cristiãn took a moment to look around him and examine the faces looking back at him. He then commenced his explanation behind a shrug and a sigh.

“You didn’t give me any other choice.”

This softly spoken explanation had varied effects on everyone within the room. A few softened their demeanor in reaction to Cristiãn’s confession, and for most there was no change. For the rest this response simply stoked the flame within them, and Stefan was the first to give voice to his anger.

“That’s your excuse,” Stefan raged as he flung his arm through the air. “You couldn’t have it your way, so you decided to act on your own.”

“We agreed—twelve hundred years ago—we all foreswore the killing of humans,” Cristiãn barked out in his defense.

“Except in our own defense, Cristiãn!” Stefan roared back at him. “You forget that part. It was her or us.”

Cristiãn considered this response from Stefan for several seconds, and then he responded to it in a soft, candid delivery.

“I chose her.”

“And now it’s our turn to choose,” Lucian growled into the conversation. “You have broken your vow to us, and now we get to decide what to do with you.”

“No!” Nadja yelled out. “We do not get to decide.”

“He has broken with the covenant, Nadja,” Helga shouted out with ferocity. “You cannot get in the way of this.”

“The alliance is dead,” Nadja roared back at Helga from behind a fierce glare. “Razvan and Dumitra have already broken from us. Our secret and our identities are probably being exposed to the mortals as we speak. This union no longer has a function.”

“And whose fault is that?” Lucian scolded back at Nadja. “Even if what you say is true, then that makes this one last piece of business all the more important. By his own actions, Cristiãn has earned the consequence of our dissatisfaction.”

Nadja looked about and saw the nods of agreement with this thinking from all within the room, other than herself, Petru and Cristiãn.

“No!” Nadja yelled with a step forward toward the center of the room.

“Nadja!” Cristiãn quickly called out at his sister.

Nadja turned to look at her brother and saw him staring at her. Their gaze at one another held for several seconds. During this time, Nadja could see that Cristiãn had already resigned himself to this fate. Her expression wilted at the discerning of his intention to not fight this.

“No, Cristiãn,” Nadja wept out toward her brother.

Nadja took three steps to stand before her brother face to face.

“I knew what I was doing,” Cristiãn spoke to his sister mournfully.

“You can’t leave me,” Nadja insisted with tears welling up in her eyes.

Cristiãn took a deep breath and then sighed it out before starting with his reply.

“I have been alone for too long. It is time.”

“No, I won’t let you do this,” Nadja declared while grabbing hold of Cristiãn’s arms.

“I am sorry, Nadja,” Cristiãn spoke after a short exchange of gazes with his sister.

Cristiãn turned his attention toward Nadja’s mate after saying this.

“Petru,” Cristiãn called softly.

Petru understood what Cristiãn wanted before he spoke. He walked over to stand behind Nadja and then he looked into Cristiãn’s eyes.

“Are you sure you want to do this,” Petru questioned softly.

Cristiãn knew that Petru was declaring his willingness to stand with him and fight. But it was this event that Cristiãn did not want, and he suspected that Petru already sensed this. He suspected that the question was more for Nadja’s benefit than his own.

“Yes,” Cristiãn answered with a word.

Shortly after Cristiãn gave this answer, Petru put his arms around Nadja and commenced to pull her away. Tears streamed down her face as Petru slowly moved her back from her brother. When they came to a stop several paces away, Lucian took a half step forward as he glared at Cristiãn.

“I vote that Cristiãn should die,” Lucian stated while holding his gaze.

All eyes were directed at Lucian when he spoke this vote in a stern voice. A second behind this declaration Stefan began to speak.

“I vote death,” Stefan enunciated boldly.

“Death,” Helga called decidedly as she took a stance by Stefan’s side.

There was a moment of silence as each of them deferred to the others. Over the span of a few seconds all eyes turned to Elisabeta. She noted their stares without acknowledging them with looks.

“Death,” Elisabeta spoke softly and with a hint of regret in her voice.

Again, there was a pause as those that had yet to vote deferred to others to proceed them. This deference played out again and again as all but Nadja, Petru, Razvan and Dumitra cast a vote for Cristiãn to die. It was accepted as a given that Nadja and Petru’s vote was no, and no one thought to question them on it given that they were greatly in the minority. A silence filled the room for several seconds after the last vote, and then Razvan stepped forward and spoke with venom in his tone.

“I say cut off his head and be done with him.”

“You don’t get a vote!” Nadja screamed as she charged at Razvan.

Petru and Cristiãn came to Nadja’s aid and Dumitra came to Razvan’s. A struggle erupted within the middle of the parlor and was quickly put down by the other vampires in the room. The combatants in the scuffle were pulled apart and separated to different sides of the room. Except for the huffing produced by this exertion, everyone was quiet as they paused to make sure that the scuffle was over. After a dozen seconds, the non-combatants began releasing the combatants from their restraint. Thirty seconds in, everyone was standing still without a restraining hand from another. An awkward silence held for several, and then Lucian looked to Stefan and spoke.

“Get it.”

Nadja almost gasped when she heard Lucian say these words. Petru took her hand to ease back the wave of panic that he felt erupting in her. As Nadja and Petru were doing this, Stefan was striding out of the parlor at a deliberate pace. Everyone listened to the sound of his movement up to his room on the second floor. There was a brief time when his walking seemed to stop, and then they could hear his footsteps coming back the way he went. When Stefan walked back into the parlor, he was carrying the broad sword case that he had at The Cavern.

Nadja jumped with a start at first sight of the case. She reached over with her freehand and clasped it atop the hand that Petru was using to hold hers. Nadja could not help but stare as Stefan set the case on the sofa and opened it. She gasped at the sight of the sword and then turned her gaze toward Cristiãn with a mixture of terror and pain in her expression. Cristiãn took a few seconds to return her gaze.

“You should leave,” Cristiãn advised softly.

Nadja ignored the suggestion and turned her attention toward Stefan just as he was unfolding a thin film of green plastic that was secured inside the lid of the case. She watched as he opened it out into a ten foot by ten-foot square sheet on the floor. The sight of this suddenly made this event too real for Nadja to endure in silence.

“You’re not killing my brother,” Nadja yelled out at Lucian with a display of hysterics.

Petru quickly wrapped both his arms around Nadja and restrained her from rushing Lucian.

“Nadja!” Elisabeta yelled out plaintively. “You can’t stop this. You’ll only make it worst.”

“You’re planning to kill my brother. How much worst can it be?” Nadja screamed back at Elisabeta.

Elisabeta had no response for this. Her association with Nadja went back nearly one-hundred years before they became trapped inside the cave. She valued her friendship with Nadja far more than any other female she knew. Seeing her in pain was causing a great deal of distress for Elisabeta.

“Petru,” Cristiãn nearly whispered out. “Take her out of here.”

“No!” Nadja complained as she threw Petru into the air, heels over head, and then to the floor.

Cristiãn knew that his sister was on the edge of a fierce reaction to what was occurring. Throwing Petru to the floor was a sign that she was ready to use the full extent of her vampire power on his behalf. This brought the other vampires in the room to a fighting stance.

They all knew that the strength of a vampire was simply a matter of how much fuel he, or she, was consuming at any given moment. Each of them understood that this gave them all the potential to be equal in strength across varied periods of time. It was also understood that their greater than normal strength made their flesh and bone bodies easily vulnerable to breaks and tears by another vampire. Because of this understanding, no one there took Nadja’s fighting stance for granted. Her quick reflexes and the depth of her know-how made Nadja dangerous, but in the world of vampires this was insufficient against superior numbers.

“Nadja,” Cristiãn called out to his sister.

Nadja froze at the sound of Cristiãn calling her name. She looked at her brother and saw him standing still and quiet. She knew there was no chance of them fighting off sixteen vampires. And she knew this was all the truer if Cristiãn did not fight. This thinking motivated her to slow down the pace of her heart beats.

“You can’t leave me, Cristiãn,” Nadja pleaded with tears in her eyes.

“I’m sorry, Nadja,” Cristiãn spoke sorrowfully. “I knew what I was doing. I broke my promise.”

Cristiãn exchanged a long look at each other, and then he turned his attention toward Petru.

“Take her out of here,” Cristiãn spoke softly and with a slight shake of his head.

Petru was by then back on his feet and at a defensive stance by Nadja’s side. After hearing Cristiãn’s words, he began to perceive from Nadja’s pheromones that she was resigned to what was about to occur. He took a moment to verify this, and then he took her hand into his. With a gentle tug, he began to lead a tearful Nadja out of the room. When she was gone from sight, Lucian signaled Stefan to begin. Stefan, in turn, looked to Augustus and Sorin. They responded to his looks by moving forward and taking stances alongside Cristiãn.

“I’m sorry, Cristiãn,” Augustus declared with an inflection of regret.

Cristiãn noted him with a look to his left. He then turned to see Sorin standing to his right.

“You did this to yourself, Cristiãn” Sorin asserted softly.

Cristiãn ignored the comment and then turned his head in time to see Stefan raise the broadsword out of the case atop both his hands. One hand was under the grip and the other was under the blade. He continued to watch as Stefan carried the sword over to Lucian and then presented it to him. He watched as Lucian received the sword in the same way it was being presented to him. He then watched as Lucian turned his entire person toward him.

“Cristiãn,” Augustus whispered into his ear.

It was time, and Cristiãn knew it. He gave Augustus a brief look and then he took a step forward onto the plastic. After a pause to inhale and exhale a heavy breath, he dropped to his knees. Lucian responded to this by walking onto the plastic and stopping to the right front of Cristiãn and at a right angle to him. He waited there, unmoving, with the sword still resting atop his two hands. Cristiãn interpreted this wait as a signal for him to lean forward, and so he did. Several seconds later Lucian grasped the grip of the sword with both hands and then brought the sword up over his head. When he did this, Cristiãn closed his eyes and waited on his end. He was two seconds into this stay when the sound of a car screeching to a stop in the front driveway interrupted this event.

“Lucian!” Elisabeta called from the front bay window.

Lucian lowered the sword and looked to see his mate staring out the front window. Standing there with her was Helga, Iona, Adrianna and Roxana. Lucian, Stefan, Augustus and Sorin rushed to the sides of their mates. The other vampires in the parlor hurried off to windows in the foyer and the study. Cristiãn stood up, took a stance in the middle of the room and examined the others as they stared out the bay windows. Within a few seconds of first hearing the car, Nadja and Petru raced into the parlor and stopped alongside Cristiãn.

“Who is it?” Petru questioned out to anyone with an answer.

Cassidy raced out of the 94th Precinct, jumped into the Buick LaCrosse that she and Cristiãn stole/borrowed from the two gunmen that was pursuing them, and then she raced off down the street. Thirty minutes later Cassidy was parking the LaCrosse in an open space in Midtown Manhattan. An instant after this was completed, she climbed out of the car and setoff at a run for The Cavern Nightclub—one block away. In her hand, she carried the presentation folder that she created at the 94th Precinct. After stopping in front of the club’s front door, Cassidy tried the handle and learned that it was locked. A second later she began banging on the door.

For nearly two minutes, Cassidy banged on the front door of The Cavern—off and on. At the end of this time, she ran around to the back entrance. She tested this door and found it locked, as well. After banging on this door for more than a minute, Cassidy concluded that no one was inside. This determination sent her mind into a quandary. Her plan was dependent upon the presence of Cristiãn and the other vampires being here at the club. Their absence from this location had her worried that she would not be able to find them.

Cassidy was doubtful that the seventeen vampires would choose to go to the residence of one of the vampires living in the city. She suspected that they all knew by this time that she was free and armed with the knowledge of what and who they were. She thought it likely that they already started the process of shedding the identities that they created for themselves. She also worried that Cristiãn may have been killed by the other vampires. But this event, if true, neither added to or subtracted from her belief in what had to be done. But this worry did bring her thinking back to the idea of calling Cristiãn’s cellphone.

Cassidy’s attempt to call Cristiãn when she was at the 94th Precinct failed to get a pick up. It was her suspicion that Cristiãn was ignoring her call, and she had no reason to believe he would answer a call from her now. But the thought of trying again reminded her that the vampires took her cellphone. This, in turn, produced an idea, that sent her into motion. It took Cassidy a little more than a minute to run to her own car around the corner from The Cavern. That is where she parked it when she first arrived at the club. The instant she was inside it, Cassidy went to her glove compartment and retrieved the tablet that she left there.

Cassidy was thinking that the vampires might still be in possession of her cellphone. She knew that if this was true it would give her a means of locating them. If the cellphone was still on, she knew that the find my cellphone app on her tablet could track it. Cassidy knew she was grasping at straws with this idea. Taking the cellphone with them did not make sense to her, and destroying it seemed a far more likely action. But this reasoning did not stop her from hoping that she was wrong.

For more than a minute, Cassidy studied the tablet and fumbled with its operation. She was familiar with most of the apps in her tablet, but she had never used the find my cellphone app before. Losing things was something that Cassidy was not familiar with. More than half of this time fumbling with the tablet was spent discerning which of the many apps inside was the one she was looking for. After initiating the app, she went into a wait for the program to comeback with a report. She suspected that the failure of a quick response was due to her cellphone not registering in the cellular network. This suspicion was dispelled when a map popped up on the screen, and her cellphone was clearly marked in the center of it.

The sight of her cellphone on the map was the lesser of two surprises that Cassidy noted at that moment. What startled her more was the location of her cellphone on the map. It was moving up the I-95 toward Connecticut. She hesitated to ponder this. Shortly, her mind began to entertain the possibility that this was a false lead. She considered the idea that they tossed her cellphone onto some truck that was headed out of state. But this theory was no match for the simplest answer—they took the phone with them. Cassidy concluded that acting on the simple scenario was the only option she had. Twenty-minutes later she was racing her car up the New England Thruway and closing in on the Connecticut state line. She was nearly an hour out from Manhattan when her cellphone came to a stop in a remote area on the outskirts of Greenwich.

When the vehicle carrying Cassidy’s cellphone came to a stop, she estimated that it was between ten and fifteen minutes ahead of her. This was far closer than it was at the start. It was obvious to her that the person driving the vehicle she was pursuing was in no hurry. It took her another ten minutes to reach the turnoff the vehicle took from the I-95. By repeatedly tightening the focus of the tablet, she continued using the map for navigation.

The expanse of land along with the widely-separated houses simplified Cassidy’s search for the location where her cellphone came to a stop. After rolling around the bend in the two-lane road she was on, Cassidy saw only one structure that was close enough to be a match to what she was seeing on her tablet. Her belief that this was the house she was looking for was supported by the presence of five cars in its driveway. She hesitated for a moment, and then she sped up. She steered her way into the driveway with haste and then slammed on the brakes. Her car screeched to a stop in the middle of the driveway and straight out from the front door. Cassidy did not bother with turning off the engine. She shoved the gearshift into park, flung open the car and jumped out into the driveway with her tablet in one hand and the presentation file in the other.

Cassidy turned her attention toward the house the instant her body was standing erect. She quickly noticed the many faces that were looking back at her through the front windows of the house. After a moment of examination, she recognized all of them as faces belonging to the nineteen vampires she was looking for. It took her several seconds to become convinced that Cristiãn was not among them. She then inhaled a deep breath, exhaled it, stepped around to the front of her car, shoved the presentation folder up over her head and held it there.

Lucian was first to walk out of the house. Immediately behind him was Stefan. They both moved out onto the small porch outside the front door, down the steps to the walkway below and three steps out toward the driveway. They both moved with cautious steps. Cassidy noticed a brief odd expression from the both. She interpreted this as an irritation with the blaze of the sun on their faces. They appeared to reinforce themselves to the experience within a couple of seconds and began to scan their distant surroundings. They looked to be more concerned about what they could not see in the distance than they were with Cassidy.

Most of the other vampires were content to watch her from the windows. Cristiãn was not one of them. He hurried out onto the front porch and stopped there. Razvan, Sorin and Augustus followed him there. A swell of relief filled Cassidy at the sight of him. She fixed her gaze at him and he at her. Lucian took a moment to notice this exchanged, and then he began to speak.

“Detective Tremaine,” Lucian called out with a smile. “You have a gift for showing up when and where you’re least expected.

Cassidy gave the greeting no response. She was in no humor to banter with Lucian. She was afraid, angry and doubtful that her only ally would be able to protect her. Instead of giving a reply, Cassidy walked over to the nearest parked car and placed the presentation folder down on the hood. She then backed away from it and the car.

“What’s that?” Lucian queried.

“That’s you,” Cassidy yelled back. “Names, aliases, addresses, fingerprints, history, bloodwork, everything I need to expose all of you to the world.”

Lucian was surprised and confused by this declaration. Nothing of what he was seeing or hearing made any sense to him. He hesitated to do anything so that he could ponder this situation, but Stefan was far less in the dark about how he should respond.

Everything that Stefan saw and heard told him that Cassidy Tremaine was alone. His usual stern expression transitioned into a scowl. Immediately after hearing that she had Razvan’s dossier on them, he began to move forward with a demeanor that suggested he meant to do her harm. Cristiãn jumped down to the walkway an instant behind this and was caught there by Augustus and Sorin an instant behind that. It was clear to them both that he intended to come to Cassidy’s defense. Within the middle of these movements, Cassidy began to speak.

“Careful, Stefan,” Cassidy called out as she held her tablet up in the air.

Stefan promptly came to a stop in response to Cassidy’s warning.

“All I have to do is press one button on this tablet and everything in that folder goes out to a couple of dozen well-chosen individuals.”

This remark was followed by a moment of silence. Lucian used the time to entertain the thought that Cassidy was here to save Cristiãn. This was the only scenario that came close to making sense to him. This thought gave him the hope that he might be able to salvage the status quo.

“Are you here alone, Detective?” Lucian questioned as he began to slowly move toward the presentation folder.

“Yes,” Cassidy responded as she moved to the far side of her car.

Lucian accepted this answer with a nod as he continued to move toward the folder. As he did Razvan moved down the stairs and three steps out from them. The eyes of all present followed Lucian as he moved to the folder, opened it and began to examine the contents. As he did this, Dumitra, Nadja and Petru walked out of the house and moved down the steps into the front yard. They too were fixated on Lucian and the folder he was looking through. He did this for a little more than a minute, and then he spoke to Cassidy with a playful expression.

“I don’t suppose that you’re willing to come inside and discuss this?”

“No,” Cassidy responded with a frown and a shake of her head. “I think I’ll stay out here in the open air.”

With a hint of a smile on his face, Lucian nodded his head to express his understanding. He then gave a moment of thought to his next set of words.

“If I’m not mistaken, this is a NYPD case file.”

“That’s exactly what it is,” Cassidy responded without hesitation.

Lucian paused to wonder what the thinking was behind this criminal case file. In his mind, the creation of this file seemed to conflict with her presence there. Just as he commenced this reflection, the other vampires within the house began to filter out into the front yard.

“It looks as if you’ve named Cristiãn as a suspect in an allegation of—fraud,” Lucian spoke haltingly and with a look of puzzlement.

“That’s exactly what I did,” Cassidy reportedly decisively.

Once again Lucian paused to study the contents of the folder a little more. As he did this, the last of the nineteen vampires moved out into the front yard to better hear what was being said. They were just as confused and curious about Cassidy’s presence here as Lucian. It made no sense to them that she sought them out without significant backup. The answer to this question is what drew them out of the house.

“What do you want, Detective Tremaine,” Lucian sternly questioned after a time.

Cassidy took a deep breath to prepare herself for what she was about to say. She gave Cristiãn an anxious look as she did this, and then she commenced with her explanation.

“You and I have similar concerns,” Cassidy announced and then paused for effect. “You want to stay hidden, and I don’t want a thousand of you bloodsuckers crawling all over my city,” Cassidy declared with firmness before pausing for effect. “That case file is assigned to me. No one else has reason to open it. I suspended the investigation when I put it in the computer. Cold cases exist in the tens of thousands, and this crime is too small to warrant the attention of anyone else. Precinct captains don’t like wasting resources investigating minor cold case crimes.”

Cassidy paused to give everyone time to assimilate everything she said this far, and then she continued to speak.

“Fraud cases have a six-year statute of limitations. So, if no new piece of evidence pops up, it will time out of the system. But before that happens, I will put a new one in the system. And before that one times out, I’ll put another in the system—and so on, and so on. Are you seeing how this works?”

Cassidy paused to hear what anyone had to say. There was no response to her query, and she continued to speak.

“Now, if something untoward was to happen to David Burrell—if he turned up murdered or if someone reported him missing—then the investigating officer would have to put his name in the system and that will bring up this case file.”

Cassidy hesitated for effect and pointed to the file in Lucian’s hands. All eyes were on her and all ears were listening. A new hope began welling up in Nadja in reaction to every word Cassidy spoke.

“By the same token, if something was to happen to me, then all of my case files will be assigned out to other detectives. And as a matter of course they will go through each of them—one at a time.”

Cassidy paused after saying this and scanned the many faces looking back at her. She then settled her eyes on Lucian and began to speak again.

“Now you might think that deleting a case file from the NYPD’s database is an easy thing for a vampire to do. But it isn’t. The system is setup to process case files out. No one has the authority to delete a case file. If anyone tried to delete a case file, the attempt would draw attention to it. And even if you succeeded, the NYPD criminal database is periodically backed up. The file would simply by restored.”

“Are you toying with us, Detective?” Lucian growled back at Cassidy.

“I’m getting your attention,” Cassidy returned with defiance.

“Well, you’ve got it, Detective,” Lucian grumbled out in response. “What do you want?”

“I want two things,” Cassidy grumbled out with a flash of anger. “I don’t want to hear about anymore vampire murders. Not here. Not anywhere. If I do, that dossier goes out to a couple a dozen high level government officers.”

Cassidy stopped to scowl at the assembly of faces in front of her. It was important to her that they knew she was serious. She waited and watched to see if there were any questions or reactions to what she just said. After a short pause, Lucian spoke up with a question.

“And the second thing?”

In response to this question, Cassidy turned her eyes toward Lucian from behind a grim expression. She took a moment to inhale and exhale a deep breath. And then she spoke with a finality in her tone.

“I want justice for Angela Lindstrom, Zachary Bowman, Linda Vaughn, Eric Hayward, Jacqueline Kim, Heather Kaplan, Amy Reyes, Diane Ressler, Luis Moreno and my partner; Detective Alan Mercer.”

There was a sudden silence in response to this. All the vampires were shocked by Cassidy’s demand. They looked about at each other as if they needed instruction from another on how to react. After a short time, all eyes came to rest on Razvan and Dumitra.

“She’s insane!” Razvan exclaimed at Lucian with an amazed expression. “If anything happens to us that dossier goes public.”

Lucian held his look at Razvan for a moment longer, and then he turned toward Cassidy and commenced his response.

“We can’t do that,” Lucian insisted impassively. “And neither can you if you’re serious about not wanting a thousand vampires living in your city.”

“He’s bluffing,” Cassidy disputed with an intonation of defiance.

“You can’t listen to her,” Dumitra yelled out with anger. “She’s just trying to protect Cristiãn.”

Lucian had just started to ponder both sides of this argument when Cassidy began her counter response.

“Think about it, there’s no way they would give that information to a non-vampire. If they did, they run the risk of that mortal telling others and exposing themselves along with you. And if they turned a mortal into a vampire and gave it to him or her, then that vampire would have no reason to go public with the information. They’re bluffing!”

Lucian began to ponder Cassidy’s argument. Razvan noticed this and quickly reacted with a retort.

“You can’t listen to her,” Razvan shouted. “She guessing.”

Lucian considered Razvan’s words for a moment, and then he turned toward Cassidy to speak his conclusion.

“It’s a gamble that we can’t take.”

“Well, you’re just going to have to gamble that one of us bluffing,” Cassidy insisted while raising her tablet back over her head. “And you need to do it now.”

Lucian was instantly taken aback by this demand. He stared at Cassidy for several seconds with a look of disbelief on his face. He then turned his attention around and began to scan the faces behind him.

“You can’t be considering this,” Razvan blurted out with a look of incredulity.

Lucian took a moment to consider Razvan’s response as her stared at him with bewildered expression.

“Lucian,” Nadja called out with alarm in her voice. “You know what Razvan and Dumitra’s plans are. This is a chance to stop that from happening.”

“This is no chance,” Dumitra screamed at Nadja before turning her attention toward Lucian. “If you kill us, you kill yourselves.”

Lucian gave no thought to Dumitra’s outburst. He had already considered the possibility of what she suggested. It was the possibility that Cassidy was right that dominated his thinking. In the past, he had no reason to consider taking this risk. Now that he was facing an either-or decision, his mind was in a frenetic search for some clue that Cassidy was right. Shortly he decided that there was no way to know for sure. He then turned his eyes to his mate and called for her vote.

Elisabeta was the first to vote in Cassidy’s favor. One by one, Lucian looked to the others for their vote on which argument they favored. In the end, Stefan, Helga, Eugen, Laurentius and Roxana were the only ones that voted against Cassidy and her demand. Razvan, Dumitra and Cristiãn had no say in the vote. Lucian casted no ballot in this because the outcome was already decided when the last vote came to him. Elisabeta, Augustus, Iona, Radu, Flavia, Adrianna, Sorin, Petru and Nadja had already weighed the vote unalterably to Cassidy’s favor. At the end, Razvan and Dumitra looked at the other vampires with expressions of disbelief.

“Stefan,” Lucian called out after a moment of silence.

Stefan turned his head to look at Lucian. He saw in his expression what he was being called on to do. He hesitated to move. The vote did not play out the way that he would have preferred. He then turned back toward the house and setoff for it in haste.

“No!” Razvan protested as he turned and looked for an escape.

An instant after voicing this objection, Razvan and Dumitra were tackled to the ground. Augustus, Eugen and Petru held Razvan. Iona, Adrianna and Nadja held down Dumitra. The struggling of Razvan and Dumitra was not enough to break free from three of their own kind. They raged, growl and made demands to be let go, and then defiance turned into pleas for mercy when Stefan returned with the sword.

Cassidy watched this go forward without any sign of pity or remorse, but this was a façade. She did not want to show weakness or a lack of resolve. It was not the death of Razvan and Dumitra that she wanted. She would have been content to see them arrested and tried for their crimes. Sending someone to their death as a matter of choice was not something she was comfortable with. It felt to be too much of a conflict with her sworn duty as a police officer. But she believed it was something that had to be done, and she thought this for two reasons. The first reason why she felt they had to die was because the secret of their existence could not be contained if they were arrested. The second reason was because she wanted to see the other vampires do what she told them to do.

Nearly a dozen minutes after the vote the deed was done. A reluctant Stefan brought the sword down across Razvan’s neck first. His head fell away after one clean stroke. Stefan then went to Dumitra and repeated the act. The other vampires watched this happen in silence. When they both were dead, the remaining vampires seemed to move a step back in a display of reverence. Cassidy watched all of this in an almost statuesque stance. She held this position until Lucian turn around to face her.

“Okay, Detective Tremaine, the die is cast,” Lucian announced solemnly.

Cassidy returned Lucian’s stare for a couple of seconds before responding to his remark.

“Stay away from me, and stay away from my family,” Cassidy insisted with a huff.

“Well, I think we should have a line of communication to avoid any confusion and to answer any questions you might have of us,” Lucian returned graciously.

Cassidy shifted her gaze toward Cristiãn as a reaction to this statement.

“Excellent,” Lucian responded with a smile.

Cassidy turned her eyes back toward Lucian and noted that he had interpreted her look toward Cristiãn as the connection. She chose not to dispute this even though this was not the conscious intent behind the turn of her eyes toward Cristiãn. Cassidy took a moment to come to this acceptance within her own head, and then she decided to leave.

“I want my gun and my cellphone,” Cassidy spoke in an almost demanding tone.

Lucian and the other vampires were confused by this request. Cristiãn quickly awakened from this state behind the remembrance that he had these in his car.

“Oh,” Cristiãn exclaimed suddenly. “I have those.”

Cristiãn walked down to his car, that was parked last in the line of cars. He went inside on the passenger side and retrieved Cassidy’s cellphone and handgun from the glove compartment. He then carried them toward Cassidy with the gun in one hand and the cellphone in the other. He stopped a foot away from her and held the gun and cellphone out for her.

At first, Cassidy was reluctant to return Cristiãn’s gaze. She focused her eyes on the gun and cellphone in his hands. When Cristiãn stopped, she took a deep breath, retrieved her handgun and holstered it. She did this without ever looking up. She then picked up her cellphone with her eyes still directed down toward Cristiãn hands. She examined it and saw that four calls had come in since she last saw it. After noting this, she inserted the phone in the inside pocket of her blazer. When she finished doing this, she hesitated for a moment and then looked up at Cristiãn. They looked into each other’s eyes for a couple of seconds and then Cassidy began to speak.

“Are you going to be okay?” Cassidy questioned with a mild look of concern.

“Are you worried about me, Detective Tremaine?” Cristiãn questioned back with a sly smile.

Cassidy paused for several seconds to consider the question and the person who asked it. For an instant, she considered giving an honest answered, but her pride soon overrode that idea.


Cassidy promptly turned about, climbed into her car and shut the door. She paused for a brief time to consider Cristiãn’s face for one last time, and then she put her car in gear and drove away.

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