Blood Lines Chapter Four


Vicki had seen a thousand dawns and seen none of them the way she saw this one.

'Can you feel it?’’

'Feel what?’’ Half asleep, she lifted her head off Henry's lap.

'The sun.’’

A sudden shot of adrenaline snapped her awake and she jerked forward, peering into his face. He looked very intent, brows drawn down, eyes narrowed. She glanced at the window. Although it faced south, not east, the sky had definitely begun to lighten. ’’Henry?’’

He blinked, focused, and shook his head when he saw her expression, his smile both reassuring and slightly embarrassed. ’’It's all right, this happens every morning. It's like a warning.’’ His voice took on the mechanical tones of a dozen science fiction movie computers. ’’You have fifteen minutes to reach minimum safe darkness.’’

'Fine.’’ Vicki stood, still holding his wrist. ’’Fifteen minutes. Let's go.’’

'I was making a joke,’’ he protested as she pulled him to his feet. ’’As warnings go, it's not really that definite. It's just a feeling.’’

Vicki sighed and shot an anxious glance out the window at the streaks of pink she was sure she could see touching the edges of the city. ’’Okay. It's just a feeling. What do you usually do when you feel it?’’

'Go to bed.’’

'Well?’’

He studied her face for a moment-his intent expression back-sighed in turn, and nodded. ’’You're right.’’ Then he pulled his hands free, spun on his heel, and walked across the living room.

'Henry?’’

Although he stopped, he didn't turn, merely looked back over his shoulder.

I don't have to stay if you're sure you're all right. Except he wasn't sure. That was why she was there. And while he might be regretting making the offer-she recognized second thoughts in his hesitation-the reason he'd made it still existed. It seemed that if they were to both get through sunrise, she'd have to treat this like any other job. The client fears that under certain conditions he may attempt suicide. I'm here to stop him. With a start, she realized he was still waiting for her to say something. ’’Uh, how do you feel?’’

Henry watched the parade of emotions cross Vicki's face. This isn't any easier for you, is it? He thought. ’’I feel the sun,’’ he said softly and held out his hand.

She took it with what he'd come to recognize as her working expression and together they made their way to the bedroom.

The first time Vicki had seen Henry's bed, she'd been irrationally disappointed. By that time she'd known he didn't spend the day locked in a coffin atop a pile of his native earth, but she'd been secretly hoping for something a little exotic. A king-size bed-’’I bet your father would have loved to have one of those?’’ '-with white cotton sheets and a dark blue blanket was just too definitively normal looking.

This morning, she shook free of his hand and stopped just inside the closed door. The soft circle of light from the lamp on the bedside table left her effectively blind, but she knew, because he'd told her on that first visit, that the heavy blue velvet drapery over the window covered a layer of plywood painted black and caulked around the edges. Another curtain just inside the glass hid the wood from the prying eyes of the world. It was a barrier designed to keep the sun safely at bay and a barrier, Vicki knew, that Henry could rip down in seconds if he chose. Her body became the barrier before the door.

Standing by the bed, Henry hesitated, fingers on shirt buttons, surprised to find himself uncomfortable about undressing in front of a woman he'd been making love to- and feeding from-for months. This is ridiculous. She probably can't even see you from there, the light's so dim.

Shaking his head, he stripped quickly, reflecting that helplessness brought with it a much greater intimacy than se*.

He could feel the sun more strongly now, more strongly than he could remember feeling it before. You're sensitive to it this morning. That's all. God, he hoped it was all.

For Vicki, watching the flicker of pale skin as Henry moved in and out of the circle of light, standing guard at the door suddenly made less than no sense. ’’Henry? What the hell am I doing here?’’ She walked forward until his face swam into focus and then reached out and laid her hand gently on his bare chest, halting his movement. ’’I can't stop you?’’ She scowled, recognizing the words as inadequate. ’’I can't even slow you down.’’

'I know.’’ He covered her fingers with his, marveling as he always did at the heat of her, at the feel of her blood pulsing just under the skin.

'Great.’’ She rolled her eyes. ’’So what am I supposed to do if you make a run for the sun?’’

'Be there.’’

'And watch you die?’’

'No one, not even a vampire, wants to die alone.’’

It could have sounded facetious. It didn't. Hadn't she realized only hours before that was all she had to give him? But she hadn't realized, not then, that it might come to this.

Breathing a little heavily, wishing the light was strong enough for her to see his expression, Vicki managed not to yank her hand free. Be there. Bottom line, it was no more than Celluci had ever asked of her. Only the circumstances were different. ’’Jesus H. Christ, Henry.’’ It took an effort, but she kept her voice steady, ’’You're not going to f*king die, okay? Just get your jammies on-or your tuxedo or whatever it is the undead sleep in-and get into bed.’’

He released her and spread his arms, his meaning plain.

'Fine.’’ She pointed at the bed and glared at him while he did as he was told. Then, pushing her glasses hard against the bridge of her nose, she perched on the edge of the mattress. If she squinted, she could make out his features. ’’Are you okay?’’

'Are you daring me not to be?’’

'Henry!’’

'I can feel the sun trembling on the horizon, but the only thing in my mind is you.’’

'You're just a bundle of clich¨¦s this morning.’’ But the relief in his voice had made it sound like truth. ’’What's going to happen? I mean to you?’’

He shrugged, his shoulders whispering against the sheets. ’’From your side, I don't know. From mine, I go away until sunset. No dreams, no physical sensation.’’ His voice began to slow under the weight of dawn. ’’Nothingness.’’

'What should I do?’’

He smiled. ’’Kiss me? good-bye.’’

Her lips were on his when the sun rose. She felt the day claim him. Slowly, she pushed herself back up into a sitting position.

'Henry?’’

He looked so dreadfully young. So dreadfully vulnerable.

She grabbed his shoulders and shook him, hard.

'Henry!’’

His heart had always beat slowly;now, her ear pressed tight against his chest, she couldn't hear it beat at all.

He couldn't stop her from doing whatever she wanted to him. He had just put himself completely and absolutely in her hands.

Be there. Bottom line, that was all Celluci had ever asked of her. Bottom line, that was all she'd ever asked of Celluci in return.

Be there. Bottom line, it meant a lot more when Henry Fitzroy asked it.

'Henry, you shit.’’ She shoved her glasses out of the way and scrubbed her knuckles across her eyes. ’’What the hell can I give you to match this?’’

A few moments later, she pulled herself together with a more prosaic question. ’’Now what? Do I leave? Or do I stay and keep watch over you all day?’’ A massive yawn threatened to dislocate her jaw;she hadn't gotten much sleep during the long wait for morning. ’’Or do I climb in with you?’’

She ran one finger lightly down his cheek. The skin felt cool and dry. It always had, but with the night to give it animation it had never felt so? unalive. ’’All right, scratch that last idea.’’ Not even as tired as she was could she sleep next to the body-to the absence of Henry-that the day had created. Scooping his discarded pants off the floor, she rummaged in the pockets for his keys.

'I'm going home,’’ she said, needing to hear herself just to offset his absolute stillness. ’’I'll get some sleep and be back before dark. Don't worry, I'll lock up on my way out. You'll be safe.’’

The lamp by the bed switched off at the door. Vicki took one look back then extinguished the pale island of light, plunging the room into complete and utter darkness.

She had her hand on the knob and had actually begun to turn it when a sudden realization stopped her cold. ’’How the hell do I get out of here?’’ Her fingers traced the rubber seals that edged the door, blocking any possible intrusion of light. Could she leave without destroying Henry? This is just great. The door boomed a hollow counterpoint to her thoughts as she beat her head gently against it. I stay to save him from suicide and end up committing murder.

Go or stay?

There'd be light spilling into the hall through the open door of his office and if she opened this door here? How direct did the sun have to be? How diffuse?

We should have covered this earlier, Henry. She couldn't believe that neither of them had considered anything past sunrise. Of course, they'd both been dealing with other things.

She couldn't risk it. The entrance door to the condo had been locked and the security chain fastened. He was as safe in here as he ever was. He just had company.

Eyes closed-voluntary lack of sight seemed to help-she stumbled back to the bed and lay down on top of the covers as far from Henry's inert body as she could get.

All her senses told her she was alone. Except she knew she wasn't. The entire room had become a coffin of sorts. She could feel the darkness pressing against her, becoming a six by three by one foot box, and tried not to think of Edgar Allan Poe and premature burials.

'How did he die?’’

'His heart stopped.’’ The assistant coroner peeled off his gloves. ’’Which, in fact, is what kills us all in the end. You want to know why he died, ask me after I've had him on the table for a couple of hours.’’

'Thank you, Dr. Singh.’’

He smiled, completely unaffected by the sarcasm. ’’I live to serve. Don't keep him too long.’’ He paused on his way out the door and threw back, ’’Offhand, given the position, I'd say he was dead before he hit the floor.’’

Waving an acknowledgment that he'd heard, Mike Celluci knelt by the body and frowned.

His partner, Dave Graham, leaned over his shoulder and whistled through his teeth. ’’Someone's got quite the grip.’’

Celluci grunted in agreement. Purple and green bruises circled the left wrist, brilliantly delineating the marks of four fingers and a thumb. The left arm lay stretching away from the body.

'He got dropped when he died,’’ Dave said quietly.

'That'd be my guess. Check out the face.’’

'No expression.’’

'Right first time. No fear;no pain;no surprise;no nothing. No record of the last few minutes of life at all.’’

'Drugs?’’

'Maybe. Nice jacket.’’ Celluci got to his feet. ’’Wonder why it wasn't taken with the shoes.’’

Stepping back out of the way, Dave shrugged. ’’Who the hell can tell these days? They took the cash but not the credit cards or ID. Even left him his transit pass.’’

Carefully stepping around both the chalk lines and the bits of broken glass on the floor, the two men made their way over to the sink. Where the stainless steel had been previously scored, the acid poured into it had eaten into the metal. A vague ammonia smell still drifted up from the drain.

'No sign of what he dumped?’’

Celluci snorted. ’’Or of who dumped it. Kevin!’’ The ident man looked up from his position at the side of the corpse. ’’I want prints lifted off the glass.’’

'Off the glass?’’ Only the base and the section of the neck protected by the screw-on cap had survived in anything large enough to even be considered pieces. ’’Shall I cure the common cold while I 'm at it?’’

'Suit yourself, but I want those prints first. Harper!’’

The constable who'd been staring into the coffin started and jerked around. ’’ Detective?’’

'Get someone in here to drain the trap? the curved pipe under the sink,’’ he added when Harper looked blank. ’’There's water in it, maybe enough to dilute the acid and give us some indication of what was dumped. Where's the guy who found the body?’’

'Uh, in the departmental offices. His name's?’’ Harper frowned and glanced down at his notes. ’’? Raymond Thompson. He's a researcher, been here about a year and a half. Some of the rest of the staff have arrived and they're in there, too. My partner's with them.’’

'The offices are?’’

'End of the hall on the right.’’

Celluci nodded and started for the door. ’’We're finished with the body. As soon as all and sundry have got their pound of flesh, you can get it out of here.’’

'Charming as always,’’ Dave murmured, grinning. He followed his partner out into the hall and asked, ’’How come you know so much about plumbing?’’

'My father was a plumber.’’

'Yeah? You bastard, you never told me you were independently wealthy.’’

'Didn't want you borrowing money.’’ Celluci jerked his head back toward the workroom. ’’What do you think?’’

'The good doctor interrupted an intruder?’’

'And the janitor they pulled out of here yesterday?’’

'I thought you said he saw a mummy and had a heart attack.’’

'So what happened to the mummy?’’

Dave's forehead furrowed. The coffin had definitely been empty and, while the workroom was crowded with all kinds of ancient junk, he'd bet his last loonie that there hadn't been a body tucked into a back corner. ’’The intruder walked off with it? Dr. Rax broke it into chunks, poured acid over it and washed it down the sink? It came to life and is lurching about the city?’’ He caught sight of Celluci's expression and laughed. ’’You've been working too hard, buddy.’’

'Maybe.’’ Celluci pushed open the door marked Department of Egyptology a little more forcefully than necessary. Maybe not.

Besides the uniformed police constable, there were half a dozen people sitting in the large outer office, all exhibiting various forms of shock and/or disbelief. Two of them were crying quietly, a half empty box of tissues on the desk between them. Two were arguing, their voices a constant background drone. One sat, his head buried in his hands. Dr. Shane, her expression wavering between grief and anger, stood as the detectives came into the room and walked toward them.

'I'm Dr. Rachel Shane, the assistant curator. What's going on? No, wait?’’ Her hand went up before either of them could speak. ’’That's a stupid question. I know what's going on.’’ She took a deep breath. ’’What's going to happen now?’’

Celluci showed her his badge-from the corner of his eye he saw Dave do the same-and continued to hold it out while she focused first on it and then back on him. ’’Detective-Sergeant Celluci. My partner, Detective-Sergeant Graham. We'd like to ask Raymond Thompson a few questions.’’

The young man with his head in his hands jerked erect, eyes wide and face pale.

'We'd like to leave Dr. Rax's office as it is for the moment,’’ Celluci continued, carefully using the matter-of-fact tones most people found calming. ’’Dr. Shane??’’

'Yes, yes, of course. Use mine.’’ She gestured at the door, then laced her fingers together so tightly the tips darkened under the pressure.

'Thank you.’’

She started a little at the warmth in his voice, then visibly relaxed. Not for the first time, Dave marveled at Celluci's ability to load ’’I know you're hurting, but we're counting on you. If you fall apart, they'll all go. ’’ onto two small words.

Raymond Thompson was a tall, thin, intense man who couldn't seem to hold still;he kept a foot or a hand or his head constantly moving. He'd come in early to do catch up on a little of the work the sarcophagus had disrupted and found Dr. Rax sprawled on the floor of the workroom. ’’I didn't touch him or anything else except the phone. I called 911, said I'd found a body, and went into the hall to wait. Christ, this is so? so? I mean, hell, did somebody kill him?’’

'We don't know yet, Mr. Thompson.’’ Dave Graham perched on the edge of the desk, one foot swinging lazily. ’’We'd appreciate it if you could remember how the workroom looked. Did it appear to be the way you'd last seen it?’’

'I didn't really look at it. I mean, jeez, my boss was lying dead on the floor!’’

'But after you saw the body, you must have taken a quick look around. Just to make sure there was no one else there.’’

'Well, yeah?’’

'And the workroom??’’

The younger man bit his lip, trying to remember, trying to see past the sprawled corpse of a man he'd both liked and respected. ’’There was glass on the floor,’’ he said slowly, ’’and the plastic had been pulled off the new coffin-looks like Eighteenth Dynasty in a Sixteenth Dynasty sarcophagus, really strange-but nothing seemed to be missing. I mean, we had a pretty valuable faience and gold pectoral out on the counter being restored and it was still there.’’

Dave raised a brow. ’’Faience? Pectoral?’’

'Faience is, well, a kind of ceramic and a pectoral is a?’’ long fingers sketched incomprehensible designs in the air. ’’Well, I guess you could think of it as a fat necklace.’’

'More than historically valuable?’’

Ray Thompson shrugged. ’’More than half of it is better than eighteen karat gold.’’

Celluci turned from the window where he'd been watching traffic go by on Queen's Park Road, content to let his partner ask the questions. Whatever the reasons were behind the death of Dr. Rax, he was willing to bet robbery hadn't been a motive. ’’What about the mummy?’’

'There never was one.’’

'Oh?’’ He took a step forward. ’’I talked to one of the officers on the scene yesterday morning as they were carrying that janitor out of the building. She told me he'd seen a mummy and had a heart attack. Essentially, died of fright.’’

'Thought he saw a mummy. Someone had popped an empty coffin back into a stone box and resealed it. We thought we were getting a new piece of history and all we got was air.’’ Ray's laugh was short and bitter. ’’Maybe that's what killed Dr. Rax;scientific disappointment.’’

'So there wasn't a mummy?’’

'No.’’

'You're sure?’’

'Trust me, Detective, I'd have noticed.’’ Celluci caught a speaking glance from his partner and, scowling, closed his lips around what he'd been about to say. For the moment, he was willing to believe he'd misunderstood Trembley's explanation.

The rest of the department had even less to offer. They'd all liked Dr. Rax. Sure, occasionally he disagreed with his colleagues, but get twelve Egyptologists in a room and they'd have a dozen different opinions. No, there never had been a mummy. Professional jealousy?

Dr. Shane sighed and pushed her hair back off her forehead. ’’He was the curator of an underfunded department in a provincial museum. A good job, even a prestigious job compared to many but not one worth killing over.’’

'I suppose as his assistant curator you're next in line for the position.’’ The words were an observation only, carefully nonweighted.

'I suppose I am. Damn him anyway, I'm the only person I can think of who hates paperwork more than he did.’’ She pressed her fists against her mouth and squeezed her eyes tightly shut. ’’Oh, God?’’ A moment later she looked up, lashes in damp clumps. ’’I'm sorry. I'm not usually a watering pot.’’

'It's been an unusual kind of a day,’’ Celluci said gently, handing her a tissue. ’’Dave, why don't you tell the others that anyone who wants to go home, can. But point out that once the lab people are done, we'll need a complete inventory of that workroom. Maybe some'll stay. The sooner we know for sure if anything's missing the better.’’

Dr. Shane blew her nose as Dave left. ’’You're pretty high-handed with my staff, Detective.’’

'Sorry. If you'd rather tell them yourself??’’

'No, that's all right. You're doing fine.’’ I bet when he was eighteen he looked like Michelangelo's David. She closed her eyes again. God, I don't believe this. Elias is dead and I'm sitting here thinking about hove good-looking this cop is.

'Dr. Shane? Are you all right?’’

'I'm fine.’’ She opened her eyes again and managed a watery smile. ’’Really.’’

Celluci nodded. He couldn't help but notice that Dr. Rachel Shane had a very attractive smile, even twisted as it was with grief. He wondered how it would look when she actually had something to smile about.

'So.’’ She tossed the soggy tissue in the wastebasket. ’’You've taken care of my staff, what do you have planned for me?’’

For no good reason, Celluci could feel his ears turning red. He cleared his throat and gave thanks he hadn't gone in for that haircut. ’’If you could check Dr. Rax's office? You'd be in the best position to know if anything's been disturbed.’’

The curator's office was on the other side of the large common room. When PC Harper motioned him over to the hall door, Celluci waved Dr. Shane on alone.

'What?’’

'It's the press.’’

'Yeah. So?’’

'Shouldn't somebody make a statement;just to keep them from breaking the doors down?’’

Celluci snorted. ’’I'll give them a statement.’’

As he watched the detective stride off down the corridor, shoulders up and fingers curled into fists, PC Harper wondered if maybe he should've waited for Sergeant Graham to finish with those staff members he'd taken off to the workroom. He had a feeling the press were about to get a statement they wouldn't be able to print.

A number of the reporters milling about in the security lobby recognized the detective as a museum guard let him through the door.

'Oh, great,’’ muttered one. ’’It's homicide's Mr. Congeniality.’’

Questions flew thick and fast. Celluci waited, glaring the pack into silence. When the noise subsided enough so that he could be heard, he cleared his throat and began, his tone making his opinion of his audience plain. ’’In the early hours of this morning, a male Caucasian was found dead of causes unknown in the Department of Egyptology's workroom. Obviously we suspect foul play;I wouldn't be here if we didn't. You want anything else, you'll have to wait for it.’’

'What about the mummy?’’ A reporter near the front of the crowd shoved a microphone forward. ’’We heard there was talk of a mummy being involved.’’

Yes, what about the mummy? Although still uneasy about its accuracy, Celluci repeated the party line. ’’There never was a mummy, only an empty coffin being studied by the Department of Egyptology.’’

'Is there any possibility that the coffin could have caused both the recent deaths in the museum?’’

'And how would it do that?’’ Celluci asked dryly. ’’Fall on them?’’

'What about some kind of an ancient curse?’’

Ancient Curse Kills Two. He could see the headlines now. ’’Don't be an asshole.’’

The reporter snatched the microphone to safety just in time and, smiling pleasantly, asked, ’’Can I quote you on that, Detective?’’

Celluci's smile was just as sincere. ’’You can tattoo it on your chest.’’

Back upstairs, he found Dr. Shane and his partner standing just outside Dr. Rax's office.

Dave turned as he came in. ’’The doctor's got something for us, Mike.’’

Dr. Shane pushed her hair back off her face and rubbed at her forehead. ’’It might not be anything?’’ She looked over at Celluci, who nodded reassuringly, and went on. ’’It's just that Elias always kept a suit in his office, for board meetings and official business. He won't wear?’’ She paused, closed her eyes briefly, then continued. ’’Wouldn't wear one any longer than he had to. Anyway, when I left yesterday evening, his gray suit, a white shirt, and a burgundy silk tie were all hanging on the door. They're gone.’’

The two detectives exchanged identical looks. Celluci spoke first. ’’What about extra shoes?’’

'No, he used to say that anywhere you couldn't get to in a pair of loafers wasn't worth going to in the first place.’’ Her lower lip began to tremble but with a visible effort she maintained control. ’’Damn, but I'm really going to miss him.’’

'If you want to go home now, Dr. Shane??’’

'Thanks, but I think I'd rather be doing something useful. If you don't need me any longer, I'll go help with the inventory.’’ Head high, she walked across the room, paused at the door, and said, ’’When you catch the son of a bitch who did this, I hope you rip out his living heart and feed it to the crocodiles.’’

'We don't, uh, do that anymore, Doctor.’’

'Pity.’’

When they were alone, Dave sighed deeply and perched on a corner of the closest desk. ’’The lab'll have to go over that office. This case is getting weirder all the time.’’ He tugged at his beard. ’’It's beginning to look like Dr. Rax interrupted a naked intruder. What kind of a nut case wanders around a museum starkers?’’

Deep in thought, Celluci ignored him. He was remembering a pentagram and the human-seeming creature it had contained;remembering a man who stripped and changed and went for his throat with a wolf's fangs in a wolf's body;remembering Henry Fitzroy who wasn't human now even if he had been once. Remembering that things weren't always as they seemed.

Wondering what kind of a creature would emerge after centuries spent in darkness, locked immobile inside a box.

Except, there never had been a mummy.

He had twisted the mind of the guard so that she'd opened the outer door for him and wished him a good morning without ever wondering why an elderly man in an ill-fitting suit was leaving the museum hours before it opened. Once outside, he had turned, smiled, and brushed away her memory of the entire incident. Then he had crossed the street and lowered himself onto a bench, resting and rejoicing in the amount of space around him and his ability to move;waiting until the memories he absorbed told him it was time.

The first ka he had devoured had served to reanimate him and cover his tracks. The second had provided vital knowledge but little life force as the years remaining to Dr. Rax would have been barely a third of those he had already lived. To restore his youth and replenish his power, he needed a young ka with an almost unrealized potential.

Moving carefully, for this new country was bitterly cold and he had used a great deal of power just remaining warm while he waited, he descended underground into what both sets of stolen memories referred to as morning rush hour. He paid the fare, more for novelty than necessity, and moved out onto the subway platform. Which was when the walls started closing in. His heart slammed up against his chest and he thrust up a hand to stop the ceiling from falling. He would have run if he'd been able, but his bones had turned to water and he could only endure. Three trains passed before he calmed, realizing the space was not so small as he had first assumed, that if such monstrous metal beasts could move about freely, there would be room for him to move about as well.

One more train passed while he watched it in amazement-the memories of men used to such things had not done credit to the size or the speed or noise or the sheer presence of the machine-and a second followed before he found what he wanted. He almost balked at the door to the car when he saw how little space remained, but the need for more power was stronger than his fear and, at the last moment, he squeezed himself in.

The schoolboys wearing identical uniforms under fall coats were jammed so tightly up against each other by the crowds that the jerk and sway of the train couldn't move them. They were laughing and talking, even those able to reach a support not bothering to hang on, secure in the knowledge that it was impossible to fall.

He got as close as he could and began to search frantically for the youngest. He didn't know how much longer he could take being so confined.

To his surprise, one of the boys carried a protection that slapped his ka back and caused him to gasp in pain. Murmuring a spell under his breath, he stared in annoyance at the nimbus of golden light. The gods of this new age might be weak but one of them had touched this child-even if the child himself was not yet aware of the vocation-and he would not be permitted to feed.

No matter. There were plenty of others who lived with no protection at all.

It took a very long moment for him to meet the gray,'blue eyes of the boy he finally chose;his gaze kept jumping around, looking for a way out. The boy, seeing only a harmless old man who looked distressed, smiled, a little confused but willing enough to be friendly. The smile remained until the end and was the last bit of life lost.

The surrounding mass of people would keep the body upright until he was long away.

At the next stop, he allowed himself to be caught up in the surging crowd and swept from the train, the power from this new ka burning away his fear with his age as he strode across the platform. Those who saw the outward changes-back straightening, hair darkening-refused to believe and he marveled at how everything outside a narrow perception of ’’possible’’ simply slid from the surface of their minds. From these people, these malleable bits of breathing clay, he would build an empire that would overshadow all empires of the past.

As he had for the last two nights, Henry awoke with the image of a great golden sun seared into his mind. But for the first time, it didn't bring the fear of madness;the blood scent lay so heavily in his sanctuary that madness became an inconsequential thing beside the Hunger.

'Well, thank God, you're awake at last.’’

It took a moment for coherent thought to break through. ’’Vicki?’’ Her voice had a tight, strained edge to it that made it difficult to recognize. He sat up, saw her for a moment, back pressed up against the door, then had to shield his eyes from the sudden glare as she switched on the light.

When he could see again, the door was open and she was gone. He followed the blood trail to the living room and found her leaning on the back of the couch, fingers dug deep into the upholstery. All the lights that she'd passed had been switched on. The Hunger thrummed in time to her heartbeat.

She looked up as he started toward her. ’’Henry, don't.’’

Had he been younger, he might not have been able to stop, but four hundred and fifty years had taught him control if nothing else. ’’What's wrong?’’

'I spent the day locked in that room with you, that's what's wrong!’’

'You what?’’

'How could I leave? I couldn't open the door without letting at least a little sunlight in and as I was supposed to be preventing you from incinerating yourself, it would definitely defeat the purpose if I fried you instead. So I was stuck.’’ Her laugh sounded ragged. ’’At least you've got a master bathroom.’’

'Vicki, I'm sorry?’’ He stepped forward, but she raised both hands and he stopped again although the blood moving under the delicate skin of her wrists beckoned him closer.

'Look, it's not your fault. It's something we both should've considered.’’ She took a deep breath and settled her glasses more firmly on the bridge of her nose. ’’I can't stay with you tonight. I've got to get out of here.’’

He needed to feed and he knew he could convince her to stay;convince her in such a way that she'd think it was her idea. Although he didn't really understand, he took hold of the Hunger and nodded. ’’Go, then.’’

Vicki snatched up her jacket and purse and almost ran for the door, then she paused one hand on the knob and turned back to face him, managing a shaky smile. ’’I'll give you two things as a bed partner, Fitzroy;you don't snore and you don't steal the covers.’’ Then she was gone.

As the day had claimed him and all he could feel was the press of her lips and the life behind them, Henry had envisioned how this new intimacy would change things between them.

Reality hadn't even come close.

Vicki sagged against the stainless steel wall of the elevator and closed her eyes. She felt like such a git. Running away's a big help to Henry, isn't it? But she just couldn't stay.

Exhaustion had kept her asleep until mid-afternoon, but the hours between waking and sunset had been some of the longest she'd lived through. Henry had been more alien to her, lying there, completely empty, than he'd ever been while drinking her blood. A hundred times she'd made her way to the door, and a hundred times she'd decided against opening it. It's a bedroom on Bloor Street, she'd kept telling herself. But a trembling streak of imagination she hadn't known existed kept answering, It's a crypt.

When the elevator reached the ground floor, she straightened and strode across the lobby as though overstretched nerves didn't twang with every movement. She nodded at the security guard as she passed his station and for the first time in over a year went gladly into a night she couldn't see.

'Yo, Victory!’’

Some things she didn't need to see. ’’Hi, Tony. Good night, Tony.’’ She felt him touch her arm and she stopped. Squinting, she could just make out the pale oval of his face under the streetlight.

He clicked his tongue. ’’Whoa, you look like shit. What happened?’’

'Long day.’’ She sighed. ’’What are you doing around here?’’

'Well, uh?’’ He cleared his throat, sounding embarrassed. ’’I got this feeling that Henry needs me, so?’’

In order to be here now, he had to have gotten the feeling before Henry had the need. Wonderful. Prescient ex-street punks. Just what she needed to make the day's experience complete. ’’And if Henry needs you, you come running?’’ Even to her own ears her voice appeared sharp, and she was embarrassed in turn to realize that its edge sounded very much like jealousy. Henry had needed her and she'd left.

'Hey, Victory, don't sweat it.’’ As though he'd read her mind, Tony's voice softened. ’’It's easier for me. I didn't really have a life till he showed up. He can remake me any way he wants. You've been you for a long time. It makes it harder to fit the two of you together.’’

You've been you for a long time. She felt some of the tension begin to leave her shoulders. If anyone could understand that, it would be Henry Fitzroy. ’’Thanks, Tony.’’

'No problem.’’ The cocky tone returned. ’’You want me to nail you a cab?’’

'No.’’

'Then I better get upstairs.’’

'Before you split your jeans?’’

'Jeez, Victory,’’ she could hear the grin in his voice, ’’I thought you couldn't see in the dark.’’

She listened to him walk away, heard the door to the building open and close behind him, then made her way carefully out to the sidewalk. In the distance, she could make out the glow of Yonge and Bloor and decided to walk. City streets had enough light for her to maneuver, even if she couldn't exactly see and at the moment she didn't think she could handle being enclosed in another dark space.

A dozen steps away from the building she stopped. She'd been so caught up in getting out of Henry's apartment that she hadn't even asked him about the dream. For a moment she considered going back, then she grinned and shook her head, willing to bet that he'd be incapable of thinking coherently, let alone worrying, for the rest of the night. Tony had picked up a number of interesting skills during his years on the street, not the least of those being distraction.

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