Blood Lines Chapter Two


'My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings: Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’’

Detective-Sergeant Michael Celluci frowned at his companion. ’’What the hell are you babbling about?’’

'Babbling? I was not babbling. I was ruminating on the monuments that man builds to man.’’ Pushing her glasses securely into place, Vicki Nelson bent, stiff-legged, and laid both palms against the concrete at her feet.

Celluci snorted at this blatant display of flexibility- obviously intended to remind him of his limitations-tilted his head back and gazed up the side of the CN Tower. From their position at its base, foreshortening made it appear simultaneously infinite and squat, the radio antennae that extended its height, hidden behind the bulge of the restaurants and observation deck. ’’Cows ruminate,’’ he grunted. ’’And I assume you mean man in the racial sense rather than the genetic.’’

Vicki shrugged, the motion almost lost in her position. ’’Maybe.’’ She straightened and grinned. ’’But they don't call it the world's tallest free-standing phallic symbol for nothing.’’

'Dream on.’’ He sighed as she grasped her left ankle and lifted the leg up until it rose into the air at a better than forty-five-degree angle. ’’And quit showing off. You ready to climb this thing yet?’’

'Just waiting for you to finish warming up.’’

Celluci smiled. ’’Then get ready to eat my dust.’’

A number of charitable organizations used the one thousand, seven hundred and ninety steps of the CN Tower as a means of raising money, climbers collecting pledges per step from friends and business associates. The Heart Fund was sponsoring the current climb;as well as a starting time, both Vicki and Celluci had starting pulses measured.

'You'll find the run pretty clear,’’ the volunteer told them as he wrote Vicki's heart rate down on a slip of paper. ’’You're like the six and seventh up and the others have been serious racers.’’

'What makes you think we aren't?’’ Celluci asked belligerently. With his last birthday, he'd started on the downhill run to forty and was finding himself a little sensitive about it.

'Well?’’ The younger man swallowed nervously-very few people do belligerent as well as the police. ’’? you're like both wearing sweats and normal running shoes. Climbers one to five were seriously aerodynamic.’’

Vicki snickered, knowing full well what had prompted Celluci's question. He glared but, recognizing he'd probably come out the worse for any comment, kept his mouth shut. With their time stamped, they ran for the stairs.

The volunteer had been both right and wrong. Neither of them cared about racing the other climbers or the tower itself, but they couldn't have been more serious about racing each other. Competition had been the basis of their relationship from the day they first met, two very intense young police constables both certain that they were the answer regardless of the question. Michael Celluci, with four years'seniority, an accelerated promotion, and a citation, had some reason for believing that. Vicki Nelson, just out of the academy, took it on faith. Four years later, Vicki had become known as ’’Victory’’ around the force, they'd discovered a number of mutual interests, and the competition had become so much a part of the way they operated that their superiors used it to the force's advantage. Four years after that, when Vicki's deteriorating eyesight compelled her to choose between a desk or leaving, the system broke down. She couldn't stay and become less than what she was, so she left. He couldn't just let her go. Words were said. It took months for the wounds left by those words to heal and more months where pride on both sides refused to make the first move. Then a threat to the city they'd both sworn to serve threw them together and a new relationship had to be forged out of the ruins of the old.

'Blocking me is cheating, you long-armed bastard!’’

It turned out not to be significantly different.

The yellow metal steps switchbacking up the side of the CN Tower were no more than three and a half feet wide-easy enough for a tall man to keep one hand on each banister and use his arms to take some of the strain on the muscles of his upper body. And, incidentally, make it impossible for anyone behind to pass.

Six landings up, Vicki put on a burst of speed and slid between Celluci and the inner wall, the damp concrete scraping against her shoulder blades. She pulled out ahead, two stairs at a time, feeling Celluci climbing right on her heels. At five ten it was almost easier for her to climb taking double strides. Unfortunately, it was definitely easier for Celluci at six four.

Neither of them paused at the first water station.

The lead switched back and forth twice more, the sound of high tech rubber soles pounding down on the metal stairs reverberating throughout the enclosed space like distant thunder. Later in the day, the plexiglass sheets that separated the climbers from the view would begin to cloud over with the accumulated moisture panted out of hundreds of pairs of lungs, but this early in the morning, the skyline of Toronto fell away beside them with vertigo-inducing clarity.

Giving thanks in this one instance that she had almost no peripheral vision and therefore no idea of how high they actually were from the ground, Vicki charged past the second water station. Three hundred feet to go. No problem. Her calves were beginning to protest, her lungs to burn, but she'd be damned if she'd slow and give Celluci a chance to get past.

The stairs turned from yellow to gray, although the original color showed through where countless feet had rubbed off the second coat of paint. They were into the emergency exit stairs for the restaurant level.

Almost there? Celluci was so close she could feel his breath hot against her back. He hit the last landing seconds behind her. One, two strides to the open door. On level ground, his longer legs brought them even. Vicki made a desperate grab at the edge of the doorway and exploded out into the carpeted hall.

'Nine minutes, fifty-four seconds. Nine minutes, fifty-five seconds.’’

As soon as I have enough breath, I'll rub it in. For the moment, Vicki leaned against the wall, panting, heart pounding with enough force to vibrate her entire body, sweat collecting and dripping off her chin.

Celluci collapsed against the wall beside her.

One of the Heart Fund volunteers approached, stopwatch in hand. ’’Now then, I'll just get your finishing heart rates?’’

Vicki and Celluci exchanged identical glances.

'I don't think,’’ Vicki managed to gasp, ’’that we really want? to know.’’

Although the timed portion of the climb was over, they had another four flights to go up before they reached the observation deck and were officially finished.

'Nine minutes and fifty-four seconds.’’ Celluci scrubbed at his face with the lower edge of his T-shirt as they moved back into the stairwell. ’’Not bad for an old broad.’’

'Who are you calling old, asshole? Let's just keep in mind that I can give you five years.’’

'Fine.’’ He held out his hand. ’’I'll take them now.’’

Vicki pulled herself up another step, quadriceps visibly trembling under the fleece of her sweatpants. ’’I want to spend the rest of the day submerged in hot water.’’

'Sounds good to me.’’

'Mike?’’

'Yeah?’’

'Next time I suggest we climb the CN Tower, remind me of how I feel right now.’’

'Next time?’’

His kind never dreamed, or so he'd always believed-they lost dreaming as they lost the day-but in spite of this, for the first time in over four hundred and fifty years, he came to awareness with a memory that had no connection to his waking life.

Sunlight. He hadn't seen the sun since 1539 and he had never seen it as a golden disk in an azure sky, heat spreading a shimmering shield around it.

Henry Fitzroy, bastard son of Henry VIII, romance writer, vampire, lay in the darkness, stared at nothing, and wondered what the hell was going on. Was he losing his mind? It had happened to others of his kind. They grew so that they couldn't stand the night and finally they gave themselves to the sun and death. Was this memory, then, the beginning of the end?

He didn't think so. He felt sane. But would a madman recognize his condition?

'This is going nowhere.’’ Lips tight, he swung his legs off the bed and stood. He certainly had no conscious wish to die. If his subconscious had other ideas, it would be in for a fight.

But the memory lingered. It lingered in the shower. It lingered as he dressed. A blazing circle of fire. When he closed his eyes, he could see the image on his lids.

His hand was on the phone before he remembered;she was with him tonight.

'Damn!’’

In the last few months Vicki Nelson had become a necessary part of his life. He fed from her as often as it was safe, and blood and se* had pulled them closer into friendship if not something stronger. At least on his side of the relationship.

'Relationship, Jesu! Now that's a word for the nineties.’’ Tonight, he only wanted to talk to her, to discuss the dream-if that's what it was-and the fears that came with it.

Running pale fingers through short, sandy-blond hair, he walked across the condo to look out at the lights of Toronto. Vampires hunted alone, prowled the darkness alone, but they had been human once and perhaps at heart were human still, for every now and then, over the long years of their lives, they searched for a companion they could trust with the truth of what they were. He had found Vicki in the midst of violence and death, given her his truth, and waited for what she would give him in return. She'd offered him acceptance, only that, and he doubted she ever realized how rare a thing acceptance was. Through her, he'd had more contact with mortals since last spring than he'd had in the last hundred years.

Through her, two others knew his nature. Tony, an uncomplicated young man who, on occasion, shared bed and blood, and Detective-Sergeant Michael Celluci, who was neither young nor uncomplicated and while he hadn't come right out and said vampire, he was too intelligent a man to deny the evidence of his eyes.

Henry's fingers curled against the glass, forming slowly into a fist. She was with Celluci tonight. She'd as much as warned him of it when they'd last spoken. All right. Maybe he was getting a bit possessive. It was easier in the old days. She'd have been his then, no one else would have had a claim on her. How dared she be with someone else when he needed her?

The sun burned down in memory, an all-seeing yellow eye.

He frowned down at the city. He was not used to dealing with fear, so he fed the dream to his anger and allowed, almost forced, the Hunger to rise. He did not need her. He would hunt.

Below him, a thousand points of light glowed like a thousand tiny suns.

Reid Ellis preferred the museum at night. He liked being left alone to do his work, without scientists or historians or other staff members asking him stupid questions. ’’You'd think,’’ he often proclaimed to his colleagues, ’’that a guy with four degrees would know when a floor was wet.’’

Although he didn't mind working the public galleries, he preferred the long lengths of hall linking offices and workrooms. Within the assigned section, he was his own boss;no nosy supervisor hanging over his shoulder checking up on him;free to get the job done properly, his way. Free to consider the workrooms his own private little museums where the storage shelves were often a hell of a lot more interesting than the stuff laid out for the paying customers.

He rolled his cart out onto the fifth floor, patted one of the temple lions for luck, and hesitated with his hand on the glass door to the Far East Department. Maybe he should do Egyptology first? They usually had some pretty interesting things on the go.

Maybe he should do their workroom first. Now.

Nah, that'd leave the heelmarks on the floor outside Von Thorne's office for end of shift and I'm not up to that. He pulled out his passkey and maneuvered his cart through the door. As my sainted mother used to say, get your thumb out of your butt and get to work. I'll save the good stuff for last. Whatever they've got out isn't going anywhere.

The ka pulled free of his tenuous grasp and began to move away. He was still pitiably weak, too weak to hold it, too weak to draw it closer. Had he been able to move, hunger would have driven him to desperate measures, but bound as he was, he could only wait and pray that his god would send him a life.

On a Sunday night in Toronto the good, the streets were almost deserted, municipal laws against Sunday shopping forcing the inhabitants of the city to find other amusements.

Black leather trench coat billowing out behind him, Henry made his way quickly down Church Street, ignoring the occasional clusters of humanity. He wanted more than just a chance to feed, his anger needed slaking as much as his Hunger. At Church and College, he paused.

'Hey, faggot!’’

Henry smiled, turned his head slightly, and tested the breeze. Three of them. Young. Healthy. Perfect.

'What's the matter, faggot, you deaf?’’

'Maybe he's got someone's pecker stuffed in his ear.’’

Hands in his pockets, he pivoted slowly on one heel. They were leaning against the huge yellow bulk of Maple Leaf Gardens, suburban boys in lace-up boots and strategically ripped jeans downtown for a little excitement. With odds of three to one, they'd probably be after him anyway, but just to be certain? the smile he sent them was deliberately provocative, impossible to ignore.

'F*kin’’ faggot!’’

They followed him east, yelling insults, getting braver and coming closer when he didn't respond. When he crossed College at Jarvis Street, they were right on his heels and, without even considering why he might be leading them there, they followed him into Allen Gardens Park.

'Faggot's walking like he's still got a prick shoved up his ass.’’

There were lights scattered throughout the small park, but there were also deep pockets of shadow that would provide enough darkness for his needs. Hunger rising, Henry led them away from the road and possible discovery, fallen leaves making soft, wet noises under his feet. Finally, he stopped and turned.

The three young men were barely an arm's length away. The night would never be the same for them again.

They moved to surround him.

He allowed it.

'So, why aren't you f*king dead like the rest of the f*king queers?’’ Their leader, for all packs have a leader of sorts, reached out to shove a slender shoulder, the first move in the night's entertainment. He looked surprised when he missed. Then he looked startled as Henry smiled. Then he looked frightened.

A heartbeat later, he looked terrified.

The double doors to the Egyptology workroom had been painted bright orange. As Reid Ellis put his passkey into the lock, he wondered, not for the first time, why. All the doors in this part of the hallway had been painted yellow or orange and while he supposed it looked cheerful it didn't exactly look dignified. Not that the folks in the Egyptology Department were exactly sticklers for dignity. Three months ago, when the Blue Jays had lost six ball games in a row he'd gone in to find one of the mummified heads set up on the table with a baseball cap perched jauntily on its desiccated brow.

Now that baseball season was over, he wondered if anyone in the department owned a hockey helmet, rest in peace being the kindest epitaph one could give the Leafs even this early in the season.

'And what've you got for me tonight?’’ he asked as he hooked one of the doors open to make way for his cart- they weren't actually scheduled to have the floors done, but he liked to keep up with the high traffic areas by the desk and the sink-then he turned and got his first look at the new addition to the room. ’’Holy shit.’’

Palms suddenly wet, mouth suddenly dry, Reid stood and stared. The head had been unreal, like a special effect in a movie, evoking a shudder but easy to laugh at and dismiss. A coffin though, with a body in it, was another thing altogether. This was a person, a dead person, lying there shrouded in plastic and waiting for him.

Waiting for me? His nervous laugh went no further than his lips, doing nothing to displace the silence that filled the huge room like fog. Maybe I should just go, come back another night. But he stepped forward;one pace, two. He'd forgotten to turn on the lights and now the switch was behind him. He'd have to turn his back on the coffin to reach it and he couldn't, he just couldn't. The spill of light from the hall would have to be enough even though it barely chased the shadows from around the body.

The breeze created by his approach stirred the edges of the plastic sheet, setting it fluttering in anticipation.

'Jesus, this is too weird. I'm out of here.’’

But he kept walking toward the coffin. Eyes wide, he watched his ringers grab the plastic and drag it off the artifact.

Man, I am going to be in deep shit. Maybe if he put the plastic back the way it had been, no one would ever know that he? that he? What the f*k am I doing ?

He was bending over the coffin, breath slamming faster and faster against the back of his throat. His eyes stung. He couldn't blink. His mouth opened. He couldn't scream.

And then it started.

He lost his most recent self first: the night's work, all the other nights of work before it, his wife, their daughter, her birth, red-faced and screaming- ’’Honestly, Doc, is she supposed to look like that? I mean, she's beautiful but she's kind of squashed? ’’-the wedding where he'd gotten pissed and almost fallen over while dancing with an elderly aunt. He lost nights drinking with his buddies, cruising up and down Yonge Street-’’Lookit the melons on that one!’’- The Grateful Dead blaring out of the car speakers, the smell of beer and grass and sweat soaking into the upholstery.

He lost his high school graduation, a ceremony he'd made by the skin of his teeth- ’’Think maybe now you can get off your ass and get a job? Now you got your fancy piece of paper with your name on it ?’’

’’I think so, Dad.’’ He lost the humiliation of not making the basketball team- They're not going to call my name. I 'm the only guy who tried out they didn't want. Oh, God, I wish I could sink through the floor.- and he lost the pain when football broke his nose. He tasted again his first kiss and felt again for the first time the explosive results of masturbation, which did not grow hair on his palms or make him blind. And then he lost them.

In quick succession he lost his mother, his father, too many siblings, the house he'd grown up in, the smell of a winter's worth of dog turds melting on the lawn in the spring, a teddy bear with all the fur chewed off, the sweet taste of a nipple clutched between frantically working lips.

He lost his first step, his first word, his first breath.

His life.

Yes.

With iron control, Henry drew his mouth back from the soft skin of the young man's wrist and laid the arm down almost gently, pulling the jacket cuff forward until it covered the small wound. Although he preferred to feed from desire-it had natural parameters for the Hunger that anger lacked-it was, on occasion, good to remember his strength. He rose slowly to his feet, brushing at the decayed leaves on his coat. The coagulant in his saliva would ensure that the bleeding had stopped and all three would regain consciousness momentarily, before the damp and cold had time to do any damage.

He glanced down to where they sprawled in the darker shadow of a yew hedge and licked a drop of blood from the corner of his mouth. As well as the bruises, he'd given them a reason to fear the night, a reminder that the dark hid other, more powerful hunters and that they, too, could be prey. He was in no danger of discovery for their memories of the incident would be of essence, not appearance, and intensely personal. Whether or not he'd changed their attitudes or opinions, he neither knew nor cared.

I am vampire. The night is mine.

His mood broke under the weight of that pronouncement and he left the quiet oasis of the park, smiling at the news-reel quality of the voice in his head-And thanks to the vampire vigilante, the streets are safe to walk again-the dream and his earlier disquiet washed away by the blood.

Celluci sighed and stuffed the parking ticket into his jacket pocket. From midnight to seven the street outside Vicki's apartment building was permit parking only. The time on the ticket said five thirty-three;if he'd gotten up five minutes earlier, he could have avoided a twenty dollar fine.

It had been hard to drag himself away. He must've lain in the darkness for a good twenty minutes listening to her breathe. Wondering if she was dreaming. Wondering if she was dreaming about him. Or about Henry. Or if it mattered.

’’What I mean, Celluci, is no commitments beyond friendship. ’’

’’We're going to be buddies?’’

’’That's right.’’

’’You don't ball your buddies, Vicki. ’’

She'd snorted and run a bare foot up his inner thigh until she could grab the soft skin of his scrotum with her toes.

’’Wanna bet?’’

So it had been from the beginning?

He scratched at his stubble and got into the car. Their friendship was solid, he knew that, the scars they'd both inflicted when she'd left the force had faded into memory. The se* was still terrific. But lately, things had gotten complicated.

’’Henry's not competition, Mike. Whatever happens between him and me, doesn't affect us. You're my best friend. ’’

He'd believed her then, he believed her now. But he still thought Henry Fitzroy was a dangerous man for her to get involved with. Not only was he physically dangerous, and that had been proven last August beyond a doubt, but he had the kind of personal power it would be easy to get lost in. Christ, I could get lost in it. No one with that kind of power should be, could be, trusted.

He trusted Vicki. He didn't trust Henry. That's what it came down to. Henry Fitzroy made up the rules as he went along, and for Detective-Sergeant Michael Celluci that was the sticking point. More than supposedly supernatural, un-dead, powers of darkness. There were a number of very definite rules surrounding his and Vicki's relationship, and Celluci knew damned well Fitzroy wouldn't honor them.

Except he had so far?

'Maybe what it all comes down to,’’ he mused, maneuvering through the maze of one-way streets south of College, ’’is that I'm ready to settle down.’’

It took a few seconds for the implications of that to sink in, and he had a sudden vision of what Vicki's response would be if he brought up marriage. He couldn't stop himself from ducking. The woman was more commitment shy than any man he'd ever met.

He frowned as he guided the car around the Queen's Park circle. It was too early in the morning for deep philosophical questions on the nature of his relationship with Vicki Nelson-things were going well, he shouldn't f*k with that. Gratefully noticing the ambulance and the police car pulled up in front of the museum, he made a U-turn across the empty six-lane road and dumped the problems of his love life for more immediate concerns.

'Detective-Sergeant Celluci, homicide.’’ He flipped his badge at the approaching constable as he got out of the car, forestalling a confrontation about the less than legal U-turn. ’’What's going on?’’

The young woman snapped her mouth shut around what she'd been about to say and managed, ’’Constable Trembley, sir. They sent homicide? I don't understand.’’

'No one sent me, I was just driving past.’’ The attendants were loading a body into the ambulance, face covered. Obviously D.O.A. ’’Thought I'd stop and see if there was anything I could do.’’

'Nothing I can think of, Sergeant. Paramedics say it was a heart attack. They figure it was because of the mummy.’’

A year ago, eight months ago even, Celluci would have repeated the word mummy, sounding intrigued or amused or both, but after having busted his ass last April tracking down a minion of hell and part of August associating with a pack of werewolves, not to mention time spent with Mr. Henry Fitzroy, his reaction was a little more extreme. He no longer took reality for granted.

'Mummy?’’ he growled.

'It was, uh, in the Egyptology workroom.’’ Constable Trembley took a step back, wondering why the detective had gone for his gun. ’’Just laying there in its coffin. Too much for one of the janitors apparently.’’ He still looked weirdly suspicious. ’’It had been dead for a long time.’’ She tried a grin. ’’I don't think they'll need you on that case either?’’

The joke fell flat, but the grin worked and Celluci let his hand fall to his side. Of course a museum would have a mummy. He felt like a fool. ’’If you're sure there's nothing I can do?’’

'No, sir.’’

'Fine.’’ Muttering under his breath, he headed back to his car. What he really needed was a hot shower, a large breakfast, and a nice simple murder.

Snapping his occurrence book closed, Trembley's partner wandered over to her side. ’’Who was that?’’ he asked.

'Detective-Sergeant Celluci. Homicide. He was driving by, stopped to see if he could help.’’

'Yeah? He looked like he could use some more sleep. What was he muttering as he walked away?’’

'It sounded like,’’ PC Trembley frowned, ’’lions, and tigers, and bears. Oh, my.’’

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