Killers in the Night
Highlander: The Series, Forever Knight, X-Files, JAG, and Tom Clancy novels crossover
Waking up has never been one of my favorite times of the day, but trust me when I tell you that it is much more palatable when you're awakened by a gorgeous, naked red-head running her hand along your back.
"Good morning," she said brightly, apparently knowing I was awake from the sound of my breathing.
"It's looking good so far," I mumbled, stretching one arm out in front of me from where it had been pillowing my head.
My apparent civility didn't fool her. She knew that my patience for anything except a shower or breakfast at this stage of the day was transparently thin.
"How'd you sleep?" she asked, staying polite and non- controversial.
"Strange dream," I commented, trying to gather its remnants back into a comprehensible image. I needed something to focus on before my body decided to just shut down again.
"Was I any good?" she asked mischievously.
I smiled a little and answered in the way that I knew would drive her nuts. "You weren't in it."
Her hand stopped. Too bad. It had felt good. "Was SHE any good?"
My grin spread. "No women were in it at all."
She took a moment before asking, "Is there something about you that I should know?"
I chuckled and opened my eyes for the first time, looking over my shoulder to see her hair charmingly tousled. Her green eyes were studying me intently, not so much with dread as curiosity. "Dream wasn't like that," I answered. "Imagine playing a game like hockey with a ball that floats, wearing jet backpacks, on an indoor basketball court."
She blinked as she tried to imagine such a strange combination. "This is definitely the LAST time I let Rich invite you over to their place to watch sports."
Chuckling, I climbed out of bed, ready to face another day.
I was halfway through my breakfast when the phone rang. "Chessman residence," Jennifer answered casually. Her expression brightened immediately. "Grandma! How're —" she broke off her question, and her face fell. Lowering the phone slightly, she looked over at me and said, "Get on the other extension." Her concerned look and tone got instant obedience from me. Something was most definitely wrong.
Abandoning the remainder of my cereal, I went into the other room and picked up the phone.
"Hello, Ryan," I heard.
"Terry," I greeted Jen's 'grandmother'. "What's going on?"
I heard her take a calming breath. That in itself scared me. Anyone who had lived for three thousand years was tough to rattle. Whatever had happened must have really spooked her. "You remember Tracy Vetter and Javier Vachon?"
"Uncle Nick's partner and her boyfriend?" Jen asked.
"Yes," Terry confirmed. "They were found less than an hour ago."
That didn't make much sense. Had they been lost? "What do you mean?" I asked cautiously. Since it was just after dusk here in Seacouver, Toronto had been dark for a couple hours.
"Their bodies were found," Aaron clarified when his wife didn't seem likely to.
"Shit," Jen muttered. "What happened?"
"Nobody's quite sure," Terry answered. "They were found near the Raven." Hardly surprising, that. As a vampire, that would be one of Vachon's common haunts. Terry went on, "Vachon was decapitated, and Tracy's . . ."
"Her throat was ripped out," Aaron finished flatly.
"Hell," I grumbled. "How's Nick taking it?"
"Not very well. They weren't on duty. There's no indication that it was even a police matter. Whatever happened, it was quick. Tracy never got her weapon out."
"Service revolvers aren't all that useful against some assailants," I pointed out delicately. Vampires were nearly immune to normal bullets, after all.
"Not hers," Aaron stated firmly. "I helped her find special bullets. Useful in all sorts of circumstances."
I nodded to myself in acknowledgment. Aaron knew what it took to produce bullets that could at least slow down a vampire. Embedding wooden splinters into a hollow point bullet casting was the most common method I'd heard of using. It didn't surprise me to hear that he knew of a gunsmith who could and would do such a thing. "Any idea who?"
"I'd love to guess that it was someone angry with Tracy because she was a police detective, but somehow I don't think the answer's going to be that simple."
I heard Jennifer snort derisively. "Not likely," she stated flatly.
"Agreed," Aaron said. "Which is part of the reason we called you."
"You need us over there?" I guessed, though that didn't sound right.
"No," he answered. "It's possible that they were killed because they were a . . . mixed couple."
Oh, hell. He was worried that some sort of vampire hunter took them down because they were a human — vampire couple. I was about to comment that I was a little tougher to take down than a normal human being, but then I remembered how Tracy was killed. Someone, probably a vampire, tore out her throat. While such a thing MAY not kill me permanently, it would definitely slow me down to the point of not being any good in a fight. And Vachon was a lot older, and therefore more powerful, than Jen. We would be totally screwed if the same thing were to happen to us that had happened to Tracy and Javier.
"Shit," Jen muttered again, apparently having gone through some of the same thoughts that I had. "What do you need from us?"
"Stay put, keep your heads down, and give Richard and Hoa the news," Terry answered.
"Nick and Nat are welcome to join us here," I offered. "They might be as much a target as Tracy and Javier if your concern is valid. For that matter, you two could be a target as well."
The few seconds of silence on the other end of the line spoke of their concerns more than anything they could have said. "We'll keep that in mind," Aaron finally answered. "There've been rumors running around Toronto of something happening even before this. It might be worse if Terry leaves. And Nick won't leave town until the killer is found. You know that."
"Yeah," I agreed. The man was fiercely loyal. And two of his friends had just been brutally murdered.
After a quick call to Harm and Diane where they were living in Chicago, I called Rich and Hoa. To all of them, I gave the same suggestion: Keep your heads down and your eyes open.
After the calls, I sat and stared at the phone, chewing on a lip. I was sorely tempted to hop a plane for Toronto, but common sense cautioned against that. Nick was a superior investigator, so there was no need for me to be there for that. Aaron was a vastly better fighter, and I was just finally getting onto par with Natalie. In short, there was nothing I could do to help. More to the point, I would only get in the way if I was there.
Just try telling that to my ego.
The next week passed in uneasy peace.
Jen was working at an all-night medical emergency center, so I had the apartment to myself most evenings. While working on the backlog of software projects and web pages that my slowly increasing business was accumulating, I typically had the radio on for background noise.
So it was in a newsbyte that I heard about the second beheading in town that week. I stopped my efforts at trying to get the database query to work properly and focused my attention on the radio. " . . . are not releasing the name of the victim or any other details, but have admitted that they are asking the Federal Bureau of Investigations for assistance in what is beginning to look like a cult or serial murderer. In other news, the price of imported ham is on the decline due to . . ." I mentally tuned the radio out again and leaned back in my chair.
Rubbing one hand against my face, I sighed wearily. I wasn't particularly concerned that this had anything to do with the problem in Toronto. For one thing, there had been another vampire slaying there on the same night as the first kill here three nights previously, but it had not been picked up by the Canadian news media. The killer in Toronto was working in alleys. The killer here was working in parks. All that meant to me that the two cities had different killers roaming around.
I had visited the site of the previous killing in Seacouver to see if it had any earmarks of a Immortal Quickening, but there wasn't so much as a charred blade of grass. My concerns of a headhunter in town had faded at that point.
With a second beheading, there would be a lot of unwanted attention brought to Seacouver, though. Standing, I turned on a local news broadcast on the television and found what I was looking for immediately. The local sheriff was holding a press conference. The caption below her face told me that this was the second beheading and that the newest one was in Memorial Park.
"Can you confirm the rumor that this beheading is linked to the one on Monday?" a reporter asked.
"I can't comment on that," the sheriff replied, pointing to another reporter.
"The autopsy report released yesterday said that there was nearly a quart of blood unaccounted for from the previous beheading. Is there blood missing from this one?"
I hadn't heard that part before. I began to wonder if the Enforcers would become part of the investigation now.
"It's very tough to tell. There is a great deal of blood at the scene, so I don't know if any is missing. We'll have to wait for the coroner's report on this one before we know if any is missing."
"Is it true that you have asked the FBI for assistance?"
"Yes. The FBI is sending an investigative team to assist."
"Serial killer profilers?" the same reporter asked.
"Just a team specializing in unusual cases."
I grinned, wondering if it was going to be who I thought it might.
"Don't you think this could be a serial killer on the loose?" That reporter was persistent, but he was asking the question on everyone's mind at this point.
"It's too early to tell," was the predictable reply.
The questions and answers proceeded for a few more minutes, but nothing new came out. I was about to go back to work when the phone rang. "Hello, Chessman residence."
"Hi, Ryan. It's Aaron."
"Hey, Aaron. You don't sound upset, so I'll assume there's no bad news. What's up?"
"What's going on out there in Seacouver? I heard about a beheading."
I blinked. "How'd you hear about it?"
"It's on CNN."
"Really? Second killing was this evening. I checked the site of the first one, and it doesn't appear to have anything to do with us or our wives."
"Our wives? How do they come into it?"
"There was a quart of blood missing from the first corpse."
"Great," he said sarcastically. "Sounds like the Enforcers might need to become part of the investigation."
"They might," I agreed, "though they're keeping a very low profile if they're already here. I haven't heard anything yet. Oh, and the sheriff is talking about the FBI coming in to help."
I heard his sigh. "That's the last thing we need."
"Relax," I said. "Like I said, no earmarks of it involving us or them. At first glance, it appears to be a normal serial killer. As normal as serial killers get, anyway."
"How are things there?" I asked him.
"Tense," he said. "Only the two killings, but one didn't make the news."
"Any idea what's going on?"
"Not for sure. Vachon and Tracy were the first. The second was one of Michelle's people. Everyone is thinking that it was hunters."
"Any proof one way or another?"
"Nope. Nobody's coming forth and claiming credit, so it's not a terrorist thing against the Community."
"Well, I let Rich and Hoa know, as well as Harm and Diane. Everyone in the family is keeping their head down, though Toronto is the only city to have a problem so far that I've heard about."
"Yeah. Maybe it is hunters."
"You don't sound so sure."
"Then what's your theory?"
He paused for a few seconds. "It's not a firm enough idea to even comment on. Don't worry, I'll do everything I can to keep us all in one piece."
"Fair enough, Granddad," I teased.
"Say that with respect, you young whippersnapper." We shared a chuckle. "If needs be, you willing to be the Council representative out there?"
"Sure. Let me know if there's something you want me to do. Like I said, though, it doesn't look like an issue for us at this point."
"So far," he qualified.
"So far," I agreed. "I've got to get back to work. Watch your head."
"Always," he assured me. "You, too."
Making a mental note to visit the newest crime scene either late tonight or early tomorrow morning in order to check for evidence of a Quickening, I headed back to my den and the recalcitrant query.
I didn't get to check out the crime scene until early the following evening. I drove to Memorial Park and walked toward the blocked off area marked with police tape. Since there were only two people still there, I didn't think I would be bothered while I just stood outside the area and looked in. Police were used to rubber-neckers, and I didn't imagine I would be bothered so long as I stayed outside the yellow tape.
That was until I hit two Immortal buzzes as I approached the crime scene.
Halfway expecting to find them, it didn't take me long to identify Mulder and Scully. Continuing forward with a smile, I greeted the two FBI agents as they turned to watch me approach.
"Ryan," Dana greeted me in surprise once I was close enough to identify. "What brings you to this neck of the woods?"
I gestured toward downtown Seacouver. "I live here currently. You two investigating the beheadings?"
They nodded. "You know anything about them?" Mulder asked.
I shook my head. "Only what's been on the news. I looked at the first site and didn't find any char marks, which was the only thing I was really looking for. Heard last night that the first corpse was missing some blood."
"It was," Mulder acknowledged. "Did your wife have anything to do with that?" he asked.
"Mulder," Dana hissed.
I was expecting him to ask such a question. Michelle had told them about vampires several years ago, so they knew about vampires in general. A few nights later they watched as Michelle and Jen tackled another vampire, so they knew my wife was one as well. "It's okay," I soothed Dana. I turned to Mulder. "She was at work both nights, which you can confirm, so she isn't responsible. Besides, I can't believe she would do something like that. Moreover, it's well outside the norm for her people to do this. Not at all subtle."
Mulder nodded. "I had to ask. For what it's worth, I agree with you that this isn't them."
I waved around at the green trees and grass. "Or us. No char marks here, either."
They both shook their heads.
"Any ideas?" I asked, still not having entered the taped off area.
"None that are fit for polite company."
"I may not be a federal agent right now, but I don't exactly faint at the thought of blood."
"It's not that," Dana hedged before pausing.
"Privileged information?" I asked, thinking I knew why she was hesitating.
She relaxed a fraction when I gave a casual shrug. "No problem. I was just curious. You guys need a local guide while you're in town?"
"So you can keep an eye on us?" Mulder asked cynically.
"Mulder," Dana growled at him again, with less patience than the last time.
I looked mildly back at him, refusing to let his paranoia get a visible reaction out of me. "No, not to keep an eye on you. I thought you might appreciate someone who can help and you don't have to hide your nature from." I pulled one of my business cards out of my wallet and handed it to Dana. Addressing her, I continued, "If you change your minds, give me a call. Nice seeing you again, Dana." I merely nodded to Mulder. I then turned on my heel and walked back to my car, turning a deaf ear on Dana's one half-hearted attempt to call me back.
I got a phone call four hours later.
"Chessman Software," I answered my business line. Most of my regular business contacts knew I kept night hours, so it was common for me to get phone calls at midnight.
"Ryan, it's Dana."
"Hi, Dana. How's half of my favorite FBI team doing?"
"I'm fine. I want to apologize for Mulder."
I made an impatient hand gesture, regardless of the fact that she was only a voice on the phone. "You may be his teacher, but you're not responsible for his actions."
I could hear her sigh. "Maybe, but it's easier for all concerned if I apologize for him anyway. Besides, he had a reason for being an ass."
"I was a suspect," I calmly commented.
"Yes," she acknowledged without the slightest trace of embarrassment. "As were any of us here in town at the time. But after the autopsy I just performed, that isn't an issue anymore. True, we still could have done it, but the decapitation was too sloppy for anyone but a novice to have done it. With a dull ax, by the way."
"Did I really need that mental image?" I teased her.
"You'll be happy to hear that your wife is off the hook, too," she continued, ignoring my comment. "One quart of blood is missing, just like last time."
"Not that I'm not happy, but why does that mean my wife is off the hook?"
"ONLY one quart is missing. There was plenty available, but only a quart was taken, give or take."
"And because the perpetrator wasn't greedy, it wasn't someone who needed it?" I asked.
"Something like that. Mulder's convinced it's a serial killer, and I'm not disagreeing with him."
"From what I know of you two, that has to be a first."
"Oh, very funny."
"I thought so. So we're dealing with a run of the mill serial killer, huh?"
"Not that they're terribly normal by any stretch, but yes. Nothing supernatural in this one."
"How will you ever survive the boredom?"
"We'll manage," she responded dryly, finally giving in to my teasing.
"So do you two want a chauffeur?"
"Probably not. No offense, Ryan, but currently you're just a citizen of the fine city of Seacouver. Now if you were still a federal agent the story would be different, but since you aren't, then we can't include you without jeopardizing your cover and having to explain to our superiors why a civilian was along for the ride."
I grinned, knowing that their superior was also their Watcher. Add to that the fact that he knew me and that all meant that he was unlikely to object. But she was right. Including me would just cause too many questions for everyone involved. "Wish I could help, but you're right. How about this: before you leave town, we can get together for a meal."
"Make it a meal and a sparring session and you have a deal. Mulder needs a new sparring partner."
"So do you," I pointed out.
She made a non-committal noise.
"Give me a call when you're ready to leave town and we can figure out the logistics."
The city had been gradually growing more tense as the local media would not let the case go. The sheriff insisted that the case had been handed over to the FBI and that they were taking care of it with local assistance. The local reporters refused to accept that.
The tense calm was shattered by a third killing two nights later.
The press conference later was interesting to watch.
"What can you tell us about the latest victim?"
"I cannot release any information at this time. The next of kin hasn't yet been notified."
"Don't you even have any suspects in this case?"
Here, the sheriff paused. "No."
"Anything more you can say about the previous victims?"
The sheriff shook her head. "I've already released everything I can on them. Martha Francis aged twenty-three and Emily Zimmer aged twenty-five. Both students at Seacouver University."
"Does the latest victim match the pattern?"
"What pattern?" the sheriff asked innocently.
"Twenty-something female college students."
She shook her head. "I cannot release any more information on the victim until the family has been notified, as I said."
"Come on, Sheriff. You need to tell us something."
The sheriff on screen glared at the reporter. I agreed. She had already told what she could, but the reporters wouldn't leave well enough alone.
"The FBI has control over the case and has examined the latest crime scene. I will release more information when it is morally and legally acceptable to do so. Until then, I have nothing further." She stepped away and ignored the shouted questions. The scene on the television changed to the local anchor as the remote feed became pointless.
I nearly applauded. Tell them where the line is and then stomp on them if they try to cross it.
If nothing else, it gave me another crime scene to look at the next evening.
I heard Jen get home from her shift at three the following morning. Saving the program I was working on, I went out to the front room to greet her.
She was peering around the room in concern. It appeared that she was looking for something.
"Jen?" I asked.
She flinched and glanced at me before continuing to poke around.
"I don't know," she answered, not slowing her search. In fact, it seemed to be gradually speeding up.
"Jen, what are you looking for?" I asked, becoming concerned.
"I don't know," she repeated, voice rising a little. "Something's wrong. I'm missing something. I don't know." In the process of crossing the room again, she abruptly stopped in mid-step and closed her eyes. Taking a deep breath, she slowly lowered the tense set of her shoulders. "Something's wrong," she announced in a reasonably calm voice. "I don't know what it is or how I know it, but I do."
I looked at her. For the first time since I had met her, she was fidgeting. Something was well and truly spooking her. Keeping an eye on her, I crossed over to the phone. I had no idea what the problem might be, but I figured I could at least call Terry and either ask her what was wrong or get her to talk with Jen. I picked up the handset and hit a speed dial.
"Grey," Aaron answered after the fourth ring. Even he sounded tense.
"Aaron, it's Ryan. Is Terry there?"
He sighed. "Yes, but is this about Jennifer?"
"Yes," I answered slowly, having no idea where this conversation was heading.
"She's acting tense, and she doesn't even know why?"
"Clearly you know what's going on," I accused him.
I heard another extension pick up and Terry say, "Let me talk to her, Ryan."
Jen was already reaching for the phone, having heard everything. I handed the receiver to her and sat down, watching my wife. Something was going on. Even if I wasn't going to hear what Terry said to Jennifer, I wanted to be nearby.
"What's going on, Grandma?" Jen asked, almost desperately.
The tense set of her shoulders abruptly deflated five seconds later. She hung her head and brought her other hand up to her mouth. "When?" she asked in a quiet voice. Another pause followed by, "Where?" until finally, "How?" Each subsequent question was in a softer voice than the last. "Thank you, Grandma. Let me know if you're going to do anything?" She nodded and said, "Bye," before hanging up the phone.
She had her back to me during the call, so when she turned around and I saw a red tear trailing down a cheek, it shocked me. What I could hear of her conversation had scared me, but a bloody tear was a surprise. I stood and pulled her against my chest. "What's wrong?" I whispered.
"Someone killed Michelle. Because she is . . . was my mistress, I knew something was wrong and that I was missing something. I just didn't know what."
The phone rang, and I snatched it up with one hand without releasing Jennifer. "Hello," I answered, almost politely.
"Ryan, it's Rich. Everything alright?"
I blinked. "Mostly." Something fell into place, and I asked, "Is Hoa alright?"
"Something's wrong, and she's convinced it's Jennifer."
I grimaced. The mistress — childe bond was clearly stronger than the vampires in the family had hinted. "Yeah. We just heard that Michelle was killed. Jen was a wreck until she knew what the problem was. She's calming down, now, though."
"Aw, man. You two going to be okay?"
"We should be," I answered, feeling Jennifer slowly uncoil.
"Let us know if we can do anything, okay? And if there's going to be a memorial or something, tell us. I can't imagine that sending flowers is the right thing to do, but we'll figure something out."
Jennifer gave a hiccupping little laugh and I grinned slightly at Rich's attempt at lightening the mood. "I'll let you know when I know."
Jennifer stepped away from me and pulled out our address and phone list.
"Fair enough," Rich said. "Take care."
"You, too," I answered and hung up the phone, keeping my attention on what Jennifer was doing.
Pulling out one card, she came back over to the phone and dialed a number. While it was ringing, she saw the question in my face and tilted the card enough that I could see it was the one for David and Diane Bell. That was the current alias for Harmon Rabb, Jen's other childe and his Immortal wife.
Nodding, I took the card and replaced it as Jennifer spoke with Harm. She took five minutes to calm her other childe down before she hung up the phone.
I was sitting on the couch again by this time. She sat down in the hollow I formed with my arms and legs. Enfolding her into a hug, I asked, "What happened?"
Jen shook her head. "Grandma Terry just said she was killed in the line of duty. We couldn't go into too much over an open phone line."
I nodded at the reminder. Both Immortals and vampires had turned paranoia into an art form. "How are you doing?" I asked her softly, coming to the heart of the more immediate problem.
She was silent for a few seconds before saying, "Surprisingly, not bad. Now that I know why I was so skittish, anyway. I'm sorry that Michelle was killed, but you already know that she and I weren't that close."
I nodded. Even though Michelle had brought Jen across a year before we had met, they didn't run in the same crowd. They got along fine, but they were by no means friends.
"If you want to talk about it, you know that I'm here, right?"
I tilted my head toward our bedroom. "Come on. You've had a rough day. Let's get you to bed."
She shook her head but stood up anyway. "You finish up whatever you were doing in the den when I came in. I'm going to take a hot bath." She smiled in a coy manner, but the stresses of the past few hours robbed it of some of its usual force. "You can join me if you get your work done quickly enough."
I raised an eyebrow and smiled at her. Standing, I went into the den to shut everything down.
Just after sunset the next evening, it didn't surprise me to find Mulder at the newest crime scene. What did surprise me was that he was sitting against a tree instead of looking at the scene. A small pile of sunflower seed shells indicated that he'd been waiting for a few minutes.
As he stood and brushed off his slacks on my approach, I greeted him, "Mulder. What's up?"
He waved vaguely at the crime scene. "I figured you'd be by this evening, Chessman."
"You were waiting on me?" I asked. "Should I be flattered?"
He graced me with a sardonic grin. "Sorry, you're not my type. You asked us to let you know when we were on our way out of town."
I frowned. "The killer's still loose."
Mulder slowly shook his head. Tilting his head toward the scene, he said, "That WAS the killer. Or at least the killer in the first two."
"Someone killed the killer?"
He nodded. "I have files on a whole series of cases like this. A serial killer starts going and then suddenly ends up dead, killed in the same method as his own victims. I have a theory that there is actually a serial killer of serial killers. He'll find the real killer and then kill them in the same method as the original victims."
"He's finding serial killers faster than the police are?" I asked pointedly.
He grimaced. "Yes," he admitted. "But he's less constrained by due process. In most cases, we find evidence that the original killer's home had been burglarized. I think that the second killer will narrow down the list of suspects to a few almost as fast as the police do. Then they'll break into the suspects' homes and look for evidence. Once the original killer is found, the second killer will stalk them just as they stalked their victims and kill them in the same manner."
"Who's to say they aren't copycats?" I had no reason to not believe him but was playing devil's advocate to understand the answer.
He nodded, not bothered by my seeming doubt. "Two reasons. First, no more murders with the same MO occur afterwards. Second, the second killer stops when the first dies. He doesn't go on and . . . desecrate the body as many of his victims had done. Additionally, the original murder weapon is always found with the last victim or original killer, depending on how you look at it."
"And what makes you think this last victim was the original killer?"
"True, we don't KNOW he was the original killer, but he was the prime suspect at the time. A search of his home is turning up a ton of circumstantial evidence against him, too."
"The murder weapon was found on the victim last night?"
He nodded again. "Dull, bloody ax. With three separate blood sets on it, incidentally. The first two victims and the original killer's."
"Sounds like it is being tied up WAY too neatly."
He shrugged. "Serial killers pick their victims by some logical criteria. Logical to them, anyway. So this serial killer's victims are all serial killers themselves."
"So is this last guy a serial killer or vigilante?"
"Legally speaking, there is no such thing as a vigilante. He's a multiple murderer, plain and simple."
"We'll ignore the fact that he's performing something of a community service."
Mulder grimaced but didn't dispute my statement.
"You said you have files of this stuff. How many?" I asked.
"Nearly a dozen going back a decade or so."
"Nothing tying them together?"
"Just the MO."
I shook my head. "Weird."
He half-smiled. "Remember what I once told you my middle name was? Fox 'Weird and Unusual' Mulder, at your service."
I grinned at him. "Wasn't 'paranoid' in there, too?"
He waved one hand negligently. "Sure, bring THAT up."
I chuckled. "So if you two are heading out, did you want to do a quick dinner and then some sparring?"
He shook his head. "Unfortunately, we can't do that. We have a flight out in three hours."
"Don't take this the wrong way, Mulder, but if you have a theory on who this killer is, aren't you going to do something about it?"
He nodded. "I have someone sorting through airline reservations. The problem is in the timing. Like I said, this pattern goes back ten years. This is too long for a normal killer. Some of the dry spells are a year long. Serial killers absolutely do not wait this long between killings." He paused and continued, "There is also a similar pattern in Europe."
I perked up at that. "So that would make it easier, wouldn't it?"
He sighed. "Yes, but that one lasted fifty years."
I blinked in surprise. "Someone's been doing this for at least sixty years?"
He nodded. "Someone's been doing this without detection for sixty years. Or the first one trained someone else so exactly that the pattern has seamlessly continued for this long." He took a breath and gave the last possibility in a quiet voice, "Or the killer I'm looking for doesn't age."
"Hell of a psychology to make one of us do this for decades on end," I commented after some thought.
He nodded agreement. "There is another possibility here, Chessman. It might not be an Immortal." He was studying me intently as he pointed this out.
I smiled slightly. "Yes, a vampire is a possibility, but a very unlikely one. You said yourself that the bodies are not desecrated post mortem. Given what I understand of the psychology you're hypothesizing, a vampire would kill the last victim in whatever manner is appropriate. So far, no change from what you've seen. Once dead, however, there's no further point in desecrating the body. And at that point, the corpse has something that the vampire can use. There's no reason a vampire wouldn't drain a body completely and then dispose of it in a manner that would assure that it would never be recovered."
"And since we're finding the bodies with blood still in them, it can't be a vampire?" he asked.
I shrugged. "Hardly conclusive, but it makes sense. To me, anyway."
He tilted his head in a manner that was neither agreement nor denial of my comment. "I'll give that some thought. At any rate, I just came over to say that we're heading out of town. Take care of yourself, Chessman."
"Watch your head."
Jen and I caught a redeye flight Toronto the next evening at Terry's last minute request.
Upon our arrival, Aaron met us and quietly filled us in on what had been happening locally once we were in the car and out of the airport.
"Michelle's second in command in the Enforcers told us that she had checked out the fifty caliber sniper rifle, so everyone thinks she knew who the killer was. She was found on a rooftop in downtown Toronto with a stake in her chest and her head lying five feet away. The rifle she was carrying never made it out of the case."
"Fifty caliber?" I asked in astonishment. Bullets that big were used as anti-aircraft rounds during World War II.
"A hit in the neck or head is a clean decapitation due to the impact force, even for a vampire," Aaron explained.
I nodded in understanding of why such a large bullet was used. The fact that it was a sniper rifle made sense, too. You would not want to be too close to the target if that target was a vampire. They could hear anyone close, after all. It wouldn't surprise me if the bullets were supersonic as well for the simple reason that the shooter wouldn't want the target to hear it coming. "I can't believe that Michelle would do that without telling someone who she thought the killer was," I commented.
"She left a note. Her senior surviving lieutenant found it, put together a takedown group and went out. According to what the Enforcers later told LaCroix, Terry, and the other senior vampires in town, the vampire that Michelle's note indicated committed suicide when he was cornered. This happened three nights ago. The next night, someone went after Nick Knight. Nick killed him in self defense and went to report it to LaCroix, showing up just in time to help defend his sire. Under interrogation, the surviving attacking vampire, who was master to all the other attackers by the way, admitted that he was after LaCroix's position as Master of Toronto. Tracy was killed and Nick attacked in an effort to weaken Lucius's position."
"This was all an effort by someone —"
"Edwards," Aaron supplied.
"Edwards," I amended, "to improve his position in the pecking order? Tracy, Vachon, Michelle, and another Enforcer were killed so he could improve his SOCIAL STATUS?" I finished incredulously.
"Yes," Aaron answered calmly without taking his attention away from driving.
"This is how vampires live, Ryan," Jen answered from where she had been quietly curled up against my side.
"How is that much different than us?" Aaron asked. "Immortals, after all, kill each other just to become more powerful."
"Personally, not socially," I grumbled. I saw his point, though. I shook my head at another thought. "Why'd Terry ask us to come here, anyway?"
Aaron paused a moment before he answered. "Michelle's Will."
"What about it?"
"She specified who had to be at the reading. You two are on the list."
I frowned a little in confusion and glanced at Jennifer. She just shrugged, clearly as mystified as I was.
"Could you repeat that?" Jennifer asked. I'm glad she did because I was totally incapable of speech at that point.
The vampire attorney looked amused at my reaction. At that, he was definitely less overtly hostile than the Enforcers in the room. Aaron and I were the only two non-vampires in the room out of about a dozen. They were clearly unimpressed at our inclusion. The last lines of the Will did nothing to endear me to them.
Still smiling at my totally dumbfounded expression, he repeated, "The remainder of Michelle's estate goes to Ryan Chessman. After the various bequests that I've already mentioned, this comes out to a tidy sum."
"How tidy?" growled one of the Enforcers.
"That is a matter between me and Mister Chessman."
"But we deserve . . ."
The unflustered attorney raised a hand. I had no idea how old everyone in the room was, but the instant obedience from a senior Enforcer had to mean something. "What you may think you deserve has no relevance here. The Will is legally binding, both in the mortal sense and in ours. If Michelle wants to leave the estate to the chosen husband of her only childe, that is her right."
The Enforcers were decidedly unhappy about that, but nobody could dispute the point.
"Now, unless there is anything further, I will be sending the appropriate paperwork and bequests to each of you individually within the next month. Mister Chessman, if you could stay, we have more than a few items to discuss."
I nodded dumbly. Me? Why would Michelle leave anything to me? Not that we hadn't gotten along or anything, but we could hardly be considered friends.
The various Enforcers and Michelle's other acquaintances left without any further fuss. Aaron and Terry began getting up as if they were going to leave, too.
I waved them back down and finally got my tongue back. "Please stay." I turned to the attorney. "Assuming you have no objection."
He shrugged. "The remaining information was intended for you. If you wish for them to hear it, then I have no objections." He studied me for a few moments before saying, "Forgive me, but I find this to be very curious. You clearly know about us." He phrased it as a statement, but his eyebrows went up in obvious query.
"Vampires, yes," I acknowledged.
He looked at Jennifer and Terry in obvious request for more information.
Aaron and I caught each other's eyes. It was clear that he didn't know about Immortals.
Terry saved us from having to explain anything. "Antonius and Ryan are not vampires, that is true. However, they are what you might call a subspecies of human that live for a very long time."
He blinked a few times, processing this.
I nearly frowned at Terry. SUB species? Hmph. Though from a vampire's point of view, anything other than another vampire would qualify as a subspecies. Besides, that neatly sidestepped a drawn out explanation of Immortals.
The attorney turned to Aaron. "Antonius?" he asked.
Aaron stood and gave him a stiff half-bow. "Antonius Aurelious Constantine, late of the Holy Roman Empire."
He stared at Aaron for nearly a minute before flicking his eyes to me. He again blinked rapidly for a few seconds before finally settling back into his chair and steepling his fingers. "Fascinating," he eventually muttered. Shaking his head, he looked up at us again. "Very well. Michelle's choice makes more sense now, as do the choice of mates for you two ladies," he made a gesture indicating Terry and Jen.
He re-focused his attention on me. "Michelle's estate is substantial. You may not be aware of it, but she was approaching her fifteenth century of life. In that time, she accumulated quite a 'nest egg' I believe the term is. On her instructions, I have sold all of the remaining items, converted the money to US dollars, and put it all into an account for you. She only has one stipulation on it." He pulled another sheet of paper out of the portfolio on his desk and read, "Ryan, I'm leaving this money for you with one request and one wish. I want you to use it to keep Jennifer safe. I already know that you would do so in any event, but this money should simplify matters for you. My wish is that you also find out a way to keep yourself, Antonius, Natalie, Richard, Diane, and all the rest of your kind safe as well. I'm aware that this is a tall order, but give it some thought. You're a bright boy. You'll think of something." He placed the page down on the desk and pulled out two sealed envelopes. "After reading that to Mister Chessman, I was instructed to give you two ladies these envelopes." Glancing at the front of each, he passed one to Jennifer and one to Terry.
Terry put hers onto her lap and folded her hands over it. Jennifer looked torn on whether to read it right then and there. In the end, she did not. Instead, she put it onto her lap.
I was still in a state of shock. Totally out of left field I had been told that I was rich. Just how rich I did not yet know.
Apparently seeing that my brain was not yet on track, Aaron asked, "Mister Johnson, have your fees been covered?" The attorney nodded. "Was the money publicly declared, or is it hidden?"
"Hidden," the lawyer answered evenly. With that simple announcement, he also showed that he understood that Immortals had the same problems as vampires with regard to keeping finances for a very, very long time. "At the moment, it is in a Swiss account. I can help you with keeping your finances hidden from the Canadian or US tax collectors if you wish. As well as Interpol, of course."
I shook my head, finally finding an even keel among all the surprises being thrown at me. "Thank you, but I've been given some instructions along those lines. Also, I have several good teachers available to me," I indicated Aaron and Terry.
"As you wish," Johnson agreed.
Aaron looked at me hesitantly for a moment before asking, "What kind of number are we talking about?"
Johnson looked to me, silently asking if he was free to divulge the information. At my nod, he pulled another sheet of paper out and looked it over. "As of the balance query yesterday evening," he slid the page across his desk to me, "slightly over fifty-two million US dollars."