Stone of Embers (PG-13)

EmilyH

MN Sci-fi Fan
Joined
Jun 3, 2001
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STONE OF EMBERS 1/4 Disclaimer: The characters of Forever Knight are not mine, I'm just borrowing them. As far as I know, they are owned by Sony. No copyright infringement is intended. Any characters that are not recognizable from the TV show (for example, James the fledgling and Sebastian Stone) are my creations. If you want to borrow them, please ask me first. References to other TV shows, such as the X-Files, are not meant to infringe on any copyrights.

This is a sequel to Schanke's Return and Full Moon at the Raven, which were recently posted. I strongly suggest you read these first, otherwise you will be very confused.

Thanks very much to my beta readers, listed in no particular order: S. Warner, Llarian, and AlexaKnight. You were a great help! Permission is given to archive this entire story for whoever wants to archive it.

By Emily M. Hanson

* * * * *

PART ONE It was a cloudy, rainy day. Nick had come to work early in hopes of making a dent in the stack of papers on his desk. He had gotten into the habit of using the computerized forms to fill out paperwork. As fate would have it, the one day the network was down, he couldn't find anything to write with. He could get to the ordinary applications on his computer, but not the one he needed to use.

While digging through his drawer, Nick found a watercolor-style paintbrush that had somehow gotten in there. He didn't think that hand-painted paperwork forms would be acceptable. It would be artistic, yes, but the office bureaucrats would never let him get away with it. Besides, he had nothing to paint with, save for a bottle of cow's blood in the lower desk drawer that he'd brought for lunch. The frustrated vampire growled softly at his computer. It was too bad he couldn't just whammy it.

"Growling at the computer won't help," Schanke said, causing Nick to jump and look startled. Don smiled in satisfaction. Being able to sneak up on his partner, especially now that he knew Nick was a vampire, was one of the high points of his day. "What's the problem?"

"The network is down," Nick said as his phone rang. "Hi, Nat," he said, glancing at the caller ID.

"Hi." She filled him in on the details of a new "patient" that had just arrived. It was being passed on to the Paranormal Investigations department because of the strange chemical residue on the victim's clothes, which matched the residue found in one of Nick's multiple-homicide cases. The lab hadn't been able to identify it.

"We'll be right over," Nick said.

"We've got a fresh one?" Schanke asked, referring to the body.

"Yep."

The victim laying on Natalie's autopsy table was a female, and Nick could tell right away that she was a vampire. She was dead, though, not merely unconscious as he had been when he'd last laid on the same table. She was very old. Nick sensed that right away. Her skin color was exotic, and her hair was long and black. It was difficult to place her origin. If he had to make a guess, Nick would have said Egyptian, but he thought she might be older than that.

"She's a vampire, right?" Schanke asked.

"Yes, and she *is* dead," Nick replied.

"How come her body didn't disintegrate?"

"I don't know," Nick admitted. "But whatever it is, I'll bet it has to do with that chemical."

"I took a sample and sent it to the lab. Here's something that wasn't on the other bodies that were found, though: an ID." Natalie smiled, holding up the evidence bag. "Now you have something to go on."

"Yes." Nick grinned. "I'll see what I can dig up."

* * * * *

Tracy was just finishing filling out a departmental transfer form when her telephone rang. "Detective Vetter, Homicide."

"Very professional, Trace."

"Hello, Vachon." She listened as he went into an obviously rehearsed speech about how he wanted to turn his life around, and give something back to the community, and how he needed to find a place to stay because the church was going to be renovated by the local historical society. Since he was going to have to pay rent, he needed a job. Tracy was somewhat amused by how Javier thought he needed to give her a sales pitch. "Okay, the first thing you need to do is come in here and get an application."

"That's it?"

"Yeah."

"I'll be there in a few."

Tracy assumed he meant minutes, not seconds, but Vachon came in the main entrance just after she hung up the phone. "That was fast, even for you," she remarked.

Vachon shrugged. "How's it going?"

"Good," she replied quickly. "What about you?" She wanted to scream at him and to punch him for lying to her, but she knew that would not solve any problems. It was not Vachon's fault. Tracy knew about the Enforcers and what they did to vampires who broke the code. There was no doubt in her mind that Nick had a reason to fear them, or else he would have told her the truth.

After several centuries of dealing with people, Javier Vachon knew when he was in trouble with a female. *Of course, she's mad at me for lying to her about Nick,* he thought, and hoped she would forgive him. It would probably take a lot to make it up to her. "Not bad. Am I in the doghouse?"

She sighed. "Yes and no. Yes because you lied to me about Nick, and no because you probably didn't have a choice."

"I didn't. He made me promise not to say a word. Not only for his sake, but for yours. The Enforcers were watching Nat like a hawk, and he knew it."

She nodded. "What about now?"

"There aren't any Enforcers, and there's no need for secrets. I am sorry, Trace. Really. I wish I could have told you everything a lot sooner."

"It's okay." She forced a smile. At least he apologized, she told herself. "There's application forms at the front desk."

"Thanks, Tracy."

Nick and Schanke walked in just in time to see Vachon at the front desk. They'd just gotten back from seeing Natalie.

"I never thought I'd see you filling out a job application form," Nick remarked with a grin.

"Schanke, this is an old friend of mine. Javier Vachon, this is my partner, Don Schanke."

"Old, huh?" Javier said with a mischievous look. "Not quite as old as Nick here. He's got a few hundred years on me. Nice to meet you, Captain Schanke."

This was the guy who had made an impression at the Raven the other night? Interesting. Vachon had only met one other werewolf, and that particular lycanthrope hadn't been friendly, to say the least.

*** Flashback ***

Somewhere in Mexico, in the mid 1700s

Screed was off hunting rats somewhere. Vachon had been looking for cover for the day, and he'd found an abandoned farmhouse with boarded-up windows. It wasn't the best, but it would do. About an hour before dawn, a misshapen figure stumbled into the building with glowing red eyes. It had a heartbeat, though. A mortal heartbeat. Fascinated, Javier peered over the ledge of the hayloft.

"Hello?" He asked.

A moonbeam silhouetted the figure, and Javier saw it for what it was. He'd heard tales of lycanthropes, but had truly never seen one before. This was his first encounter. The werewolf growled in barely understandable English, "Get out!" Okay, so it was territorial. Vachon sighed and, using his vampiric abilities, gracefully jumped to the ground. He didn't want a fight. The thing looked like it might be stronger than he was. Hopefully, it hadn't hurt Screed.

"Sorry, mi amigo. My friend and I were just resting here, okay? He should be back soon. After he comes back, we'll go."

"Now!" The werewolf bared his fangs and claws. Vachon didn't want to find out if the creature was stronger or not. He just calmly walked out of the old structure. Then, he found Screed, and they barely managed to find cover before the sun rose.

*** End Flashback ***

"Same here. So, just how long have you known Nick?" Schanke asked.

"Not as long as you probably think."

"Hmm," Nick said, reading over Vachon's shoulder. "I think we just may have a new rookie in our department, Schanke."

"Hey, we could use the extra help," Schanke said.

"I'll take this down to HR," Nick said with a grin. "So, why is the world's oldest slacker getting a job?"

Vachon told him about being forced to move and concluded, "I'd rather have my own place than stay at the Raven with a bunch of twenty-year-old fledgling vampires."

"Isn't that young for a vampire?" Schanke asked.

"Yeah, that's why we call 'em fledglings."

Nick glanced at Tracy, who was filling out paperwork. He hadn't spoken to his partner since revealing his secret. She'd been busy tying up loose ends on their old cases. He'd been busy dealing with new cases and turning down reporters who wanted to be the first to get an exclusive interview with him. Nick noticed a transfer form on Tracy's desk.

"Right." Vachon checked his watch. In ten minutes, his band would be on stage at the Raven. "I should go. See you around, Knight."

Nick nodded. "See you."

Tracy looked up as Nick approached her desk. "Hi," she said.

"Hi. Putting in a transfer, I see."

"Yes. I'm probably the only other cop in Toronto who has experience dealing with paranormal subjects, next to you and Captain Schanke. You guys need me."

Nick nodded. She was right. If any other cops had dealt with vampires or vampire kills before, they wouldn't have known the truth. "I don't think you'll have trouble transferring. Uh, Tracy?"

"Yeah, Nick?" Nick had been dreading this moment, but it was something he needed to do. He took a deep breath. "I'm sorry. I know I should have told you the truth."

"Yes, you should have. You could have trusted me, you know. I never said a word about Vachon to anyone. I know you were trying to protect me, and I appreciate that."

He nodded. "Once a knight, always a knight, I guess. Old habits die hard."

"So, any interesting new cases?"

"A few." He briefly told her about the multiple homicides with the residue that the lab couldn't identify. "I'm hitting my head against a brick wall here. If it was some sort of drug, the lab should have been able to identify the basic compounds. All of the compounds in the substance were unknown."

"What do you think it is?" Tracy asked.

"I don't know. I've never heard of anything being able to kill a vampire and preserve the body. At least, now I have an ID to go on," Nick said.

"Good luck," Tracy said.

"Thanks," Nick replied.

* * * * *

END OF PART ONE

I can be reached by e-mail at emily.m.hanson@usa.net

Part 1/4

STONE OF EMBERS

Part 2/4

By Emily M. Hanson

General disclaimers apply. See part one for details.

PART TWO

After the network connection had been restored, Nick's initial background check turned up few clues. The female vampire was using the name Sara Jackson. She was an instructor at a local college and taught several popular classes. Nick scrolled down the computer screen. Suddenly, he heard someone else breathing, as well as a mortal heartbeat. Schanke had managed to sneak up on him yet again.

"Ancient Egyptian Culture, Egyptian Hieroglyphics, Egyptian Mythology . . . gee, do you think she might have been from Egypt?" Don remarked sarcastically.

"It's a possibility," Nick responded. "I think we need to pay the history department of the University of Toronto a visit."

"Sounds like a plan to me," Schanke replied.

Professor Winters looked up as the two cops entered his office. He recognized both of them instantly. Their pictures had been splashed all over the local papers for the past week. Daniel Winters was wearing jeans and a university sweatshirt. He didn't like to wear suits and avoided them whenever he could. In his experience, those who wore suits when they didn't have to were either stuffy individuals, or they wanted to distance themselves from everyone else. Winters was average height and average weight, with light brown hair and green eyes. He was in his thirties, and one of the youngest PhD-holding instructors on campus. In fact, the only instructor younger than him with a PhD was Sara Jackson, who Winters thought was in her late twenties. "Hello, what can I do for you?"

"Dr. Winters, we'd like to ask you a few questions," Schanke said. "When was the last time you saw Sara Jackson?"

"Two days ago. I teach a class in European history from 4:00 until 7:45 on Monday and Wednesday, and hers begins at 8:00. We have the same room. Why, is there something wrong? She's such a wonderful person. I hope nothing's happened."

Nick and Schanke exchanged glances. It was obvious that Winters' concern was genuine. "I'm sorry to have to tell you this," Nick said, "but we're investigating her homicide." Breaking the news was the worst part of the job. Nick hated it, and he knew Schanke did, too.

Winters was shocked. He couldn't believe that anyone would want to hurt Sara, she had been such a kind person. She was one of those rare persons with a true passion for what they did. He remembered how she'd been willing to help any student who came to her, even if they weren't currently taking one of her classes. She'd been a favorite instructor of many students, and there was no faculty member who did not speak well of her. She had spoken of ancient times with passion, and brought them to life for her students. "It's so hard to believe. I can't imagine why anyone would want to hurt Sara. Everyone liked her. She had a class in the auditorium last semester, and I got the chance to hear her lecture. It was . . ." He paused, looking for the right words. "It was as if she had been to ancient Egypt herself. The way she described it was so vivid, you could picture it." Dr. Winters' eyes widened as he realized what he'd said. Had Dr. Jackson been a vampire? Was that why these two cops were investigating her murder? "Does that make any sense?"

"Yes, it does," Nick replied. He exchanged glances with Don Schanke again. "Did she ever mention anything about a sunlight allergy, or an allergy to certain foods?"

"Now that you mention it, I do recall that. It just never stood out in my mind. Was she . . ?"

Nick nodded.

Winters gaped at him for a moment, then closed his mouth and smiled wryly. "I guess teaching history would be a natural profession for a vampire to go into."

"I've done that myself," Nick admitted. "And archaeology."

"Really? If you don't mind me asking, where are you originally from?"

"I was born in Brabant in 1193."

Winters' jaw dropped, but he recovered swiftly. He tried out a couple of phrases in medieval French, and it was Nick's turn to look surprised. He responded in the same language. "You'll have to forgive me, my accent is probably atrocious," Winters said.

"Actually, it's not bad. I've heard much worse from scholars with more credentials," Nick replied. He glanced at his partner. "Did you want to ask any other questions?"

Schanke looked up from his notepad. "Nope."

"Well, I guess that's it then." The two cops shook hands with the professor. "I hope you find the guy who did it," Winters said. "I still can't imagine why anyone would have wanted to hurt Dr. Jackson."

Nick nodded.

It was the same story from the other faculty members. None of them had any apparent motive. Nick and Schanke questioned two of Dr. Jackson's students who happened to be in the office at the time. There was one possibility of a student being upset over grades. Schanke agreed to question him the next day. As the two cops drove back to the station in the Caddy, the police radio suddenly came to life. There was a fire at the Raven, and it was spreading to nearby businesses. It was suspected arson. Nick slammed on the brake, realizing he was about to run a red light. He picked up his cell phone and used the speed dial.

"Janette? It's me. Are you all right?"

"I'm fine. No one was hurt."

Nick breathed a sigh of relief. "Good. Did you see who set the fire?"

"No. There have been more mortals in the Raven in the past few days then in the past month. A hunter could have easily gotten in. This is exactly what I was afraid of, Nicolas. Now the hunters know who we are and where we live. What is to stop them from destroying us?"

"They will be punished, Janette. Arson is a crime, no matter who the victim is." The light changed, and Nick quickly told her he was on the way before hanging up.

When Nick and Schanke arrived at the scene, they were not surprised to see that a crowd was starting to gather. Most of the people just came to gawk at the fire and the vampires. A few were worried parents. Natalie was there helping paramedics treat injured patrons, including a few fledglings who had minor burns. Janette was at her side calming down the frightened young vampires so they did not attack the nearest mortal.

"Nick, Schanke, it's about time you two showed up," Natalie said matter-of-factly. "Hand me that bag over there, will you?"

Schanke grabbed it since he was closer. The bag was actually a blood pack. He grimaced and gave it to her, and she handed it to the young vampire. The fledgling had a severe burn on his arm about the size of a Canadian dollar coin, which the paramedic was putting salve on.

"That looks like it hurts," Don remarked.

"I'll live," the fledgling said. He looked at the crowd, and his eyes rested on a middle-aged couple. "I don't believe it. My parents actually came. My real parents. I haven't seen them in months."

"They must care about you," Natalie said.

"I called them, you know, to let them know I wasn't dead, after the Enforcers were destroyed. Do you think they want to see me? Would you, if you had a kid who turned out to be a vampire?"

The question caught Nat off guard. She'd known that fledglings were forced to leave their homes, allowing their parents to believe they were dead because of the Enforcers' rules. It was one thing to know it, and another thing to confront it. She couldn't believe that a parent wouldn't at least want to meet their son or daughter again, but some parents might find their differences irreconcilable. "Well, of course I would. And they're here, so they must want to see you."

The vampire who looked no more than twenty, and judging by the age of his parents probably was twenty-something, nodded. "Thanks, Doc."

The paramedic raised an eyebrow. She was astonished by how fast the vampire's wound was healing. Such a wound on a normal human would take weeks or months to heal completely, but the vampire was healing in seconds. "Amazing," she muttered. Knowing intellectually that something was possible and seeing it were two different things.

"You think that's amazing," Nat remarked, "wait 'til they sneak up on you from behind without any warning . . ."

"You mean like this?" Nick said with a mischievous grin, putting a hand on her shoulder.

"Nick!" Nat protested.

Behind him, Schanke chuckled.

"Sorry, I couldn't resist," Nick said, giving Nat his best little-boy grin. "I do need to talk to Janette, though."

Janette nodded. "Captain Schanke, you can handle a fledgling or two if there is an emergency, correct?" He nodded.

The young vampire raised his eyebrows. "You couldn't possibly be that strong, uh, with all due respect, sir."

"James, you were not there at the Raven during the last full moon, were you?" Janette inquired.

"No."

James' eyes widened as he recalled the rumors he'd heard. "You're that Captain Schanke? But you don't look like . . . I mean, uh . . ."

"It's okay, kid. Really. Relax, I don't bite. At least, not unless it's my wife's cooking." The fledgling laughed, Janette rolled her eyes, and Nick grinned.

"Okay. You can go now," the paramedic said to James, and looked at Natalie for confirmation. She nodded. "You're all patched up."

"Thanks." The young vampire headed towards his parents, who looked surprised but happy to see him.

"James!" His mother exclaimed, then threw her arms around him. She let go once she realized he was injured. "Your arm! It looks terrible. Does it hurt?"

"No, Mom. I'll live. See, it's getting better already." He showed her, and she was also astonished by his quick healing.

"Good to see you, but I wish we could've met again sooner," James' father said.

"Me too, Dad. Me, too."

The re-united family walked off towards the parking lot.

"I know you didn't see who did it, but was there anyone who looked the least bit suspicious?" Nick asked Janette.

"No one in particular caught my eye." She looked up at him. "I'm afraid, Nicolas. I'm afraid for all of us. If someone gets away with this, then others will follow."

"I will make sure that they don't get away. Are you all right?" He knew she hated fire with a passion that burned brighter than the flames.

"Yes, I'm fine," she answered.

Nick could tell that beneath the calm she projected, Janette had been torn apart. It wasn't just that a building had burned, the Raven was a part of her as well. The arsonist had struck at the core of her being, and shattered in a few minutes the sense of security she had built over the years. "Okay." He knew better than to question Janette. "If you need anything, let me know." That was Nicolas, always the knight protector.

Janette smiled. "I will."

* * * * *

Sebastian Stone saw the pictures of the arson on the television as he drank a glass of wine. It was cheap wine, but he couldn't afford the good stuff. Not when renting an apartment and paying the bills cost an arm and a leg. The vampires had it coming. Who gave them the right to play God with the lives of humans? By giving them immunity, lawmakers had completely disregarded the victims' lives. How many humans had died over the years, like cattle being slaughtered? How many lives were shattered because of vampires' careless disregard for the existence of others?

Sebastian had taken matters into his own hands because it was obvious to him that the politicians were either sniveling cowards or fools, or both. The politicians didn't understand what they were up against. They were treating vampires like some kind of new minority group, as if reforming for 100 years made up for a thousand, or even only a few hundred years of committing crimes. Idiots. They were all idiots. Only he could see the truth, and he wasn't going to let opportunity slip through his fingers.

He fingered the sleek, black amulet that hung around his neck on a piece of twine. Sebastian had seen it on his way home from work several weeks ago. It had nearly fallen through a gutter. There was something about the amulet that made him want to pick it up. The best way he could describe it was as if something was calling to him. The stone was perfectly plain. It could have been onyx, except that it had a slightly reddish cast when the light struck it at just the right angle, as if there were burning embers hidden inside. It hadn't been on the twine when Sebastian found it, it had been loose.

He'd discovered the stone's power when he bumped into a man walking beside him, and suddenly knew what the man was thinking. Sebastian took a couple of steps back, turned and fled. When he got home, Sebastian opened the door - and jerked away, because the door handle was very hot. He could smell no smoke, and that part of the building was shaded. Then he realized it was him that was hot. His hands were glowing red like coals. Strangely enough, it didn't hurt. He wondered how close he'd come to setting the apartment building on fire. Sebastian dropped the amulet, and his hands returned to normal.

That night, the news of the vampires' existence broke for the first time. Sebastian mulled over the fact that he had found the amulet only hours before. Could it be that the stone was meant for him to find? It would explain the strange sensation he'd felt when he approached it the first time. In the days that followed, with all the new laws passed, Sebastian grew increasingly frustrated with the government's inability (or so he thought) to deal with them. Horrified at the new legislation that he believed gave vampires immunity from the law, Sebastian decided to take matters into his own hands. He practiced using the amulet and discovered a few new tricks. Not only could he read minds, but he could enter them. Sebastian learned that he could also enter the mind of a vampire and hide his own presence, no easy feat considering that vampires were attuned to the scent of human blood and had a few mental tricks up their own sleeves. He also gained control of the ability to start fires.

About two weeks later, Sebastian encountered by accident an ancient vampire on her way out of the movie theater. He followed her to an alley, while hiding his presence from her with the amulet. Then, as she prepared to take flight, he entered her mind. She was too shocked to raise her own mental defenses, and he took advantage of it. Sebastian was surprised by how easy it was to kill a vampire. Not only that, but having watched horror movies as a teenager, he expected the body to disintegrate. It didn't. There would be no evidence, no fingerprints or DNA that the police could trace back to him. He doubted that even a vampire could trace him, but just in case, he fled the scene. It had been all too easy to enter the Raven and set a fire, burning the wicked, depraved vampires inside. He was sorry that there were a few mortals present, but they would die for a good cause.

As he watched the news, Sebastian became increasingly disappointed by the fact that no one had died. Sure, a few vampires had burns, but they would heal in a few hours. None of the mortals had been injured at all. The vampires could not get away with murder. He would just have to do better next time.

* * * * *

END OF PART TWO

I can be reached by e-mail at emily.m.hanson@usa.net

Part 2/4

STONE OF EMBERS

Part 3/4

By Emily M. Hanson

Standard disclaimers apply. See part one for details.

PART THREE

After a long, weary night, Schanke and Nick returned to the police station. It was about an hour until dawn. Tracy was at her desk talking on the telephone. She looked up and saw them walking in. "Dad, can we discuss this some other time?"

The vampire and werewolf exchanged glances. The police commissioner was a factor that Nick hadn't forgotten about, but certainly he hadn't expected Vetter to hinder Tracy's transfer. Of all the officers he would have considered if he'd been forced to handpick someone, Tracy alone had the experience and skills necessary to solve a paranormal case. If she couldn't talk her father into letting the transfer go through, Nick would have to convince him to allow it. The thought of whammying Tracy's father was not pleasant. However, it might be necessary.

"What do you mean, some other time? Why not right now?" Commissioner Vetter replied. "I want you working on the day shift, Button, where it's safe. No vampires to worry about there."

"Who said I'm worried?"

"My brave little Tracy." The Commissioner sighed. "Problem is, people who are brave usually end up dead."

"Dad, I'm not a kid anymore. You have to realize that I'm the only one besides Nick who has any experience dealing with vampires, and knowing the truth at the time. Doesn't that count for anything?"

"You couldn't have known about them if Knight never said a word."

"I'm not talking about Nick, I'm talking about my informants. I have several. I've known the truth for over a year."

Up until that point, Vetter hadn't realized his daughter had really meant it when she'd told him that she'd known the truth beforehand. He thought she was just trying to get him to agree with her. If Tracy really had the experience she claimed, she could be a valuable asset. But Vetter was reluctant to let her transfer.

"You had regular contact with these people?"

"Yeah, about once a week or so."

"And their Enforcers didn't mind?"

"I have no idea what they thought. They probably didn't even know about me," Tracy lied.

Her father could never know that Vachon had considered bringing her across to get the Enforcers off their backs. Her dad would go ballistic if he found out.

Vetter sighed. She was his little Button no matter what she said about growing up. Still, if he held Tracy back without good cause, he could find himself in some very hot water. The paranormal investigations unit had been the mayor's idea. If the mayor found out that anyone was kept from transferring, he wasn't going to be happy. Also, it was a widely-held assumption that because of her connection to Nick, Tracy would have a leadership role in the new department. Not to mention that she would probably tell Knight about their conversation, assuming he wasn't already listening in.

Vetter didn't want an 800-year-old vampire breathing down his neck. He hated to admit it, but knowing that Knight could break him in half -- or drain him in the space of a minute -- scared him. Schanke was another matter; he was supernaturally strong, but he was still mortal. Schanke's limits had not been tested yet, and he did not have the years of experience using his abilities that Knight had. They were both powerful, but the vampire was by far more formidable. Reluctantly, Vetter agreed to let his daughter transfer to the Paranormal Investigations department.

"All right, Tracy. I will let you do this, on one condition. You be careful out there."

"I will. Thank you, Dad!" Tracy hung up the phone and looked across the room at Nick and Schanke who were watching her, but suddenly glanced at each other. "Okay, you two," she said loudly, "you don't need to pretend you didn't hear that."

Don's cheeks turned crimson. Nick looked sheepish and Tracy thought that if he could blush, he would have.

"Sorry, Tracy," Schanke said. "It's not like we were trying to eavesdrop."

"I know, I know. I'm just glad my father made the right decision. I heard there was a fire at the Raven, was anyone hurt?"

"No one was seriously hurt," Nick replied.

"Good."

"As soon as your transfer goes through, I've got a case I want to put you on." New cases were coming in every night, but he and Schanke just didn't have the time to work on all of them. They were swamped with a string of bizarre vampire murders and the fire at the Raven, which might be connected. Then there was the other strange case which they hadn't even had time to start investigating - that killer was far more dangerous than any of the others, if what Nick suspected was correct. He was glad Tracy was coming on board, and hopefully Vachon also.

* * * * *

Sebastian slept with the amulet around his neck. He hadn't taken it off since he'd killed his first vampire. He dreamt of a fire that raged across the world, a fire that cleansed the Earth from the plague of vampires. Blood-red flames turned the vampires to dust, as well as the humans that had recklessly aided them. Only he was left standing in the end. There was a lithe and suggestively female shadow behind him; what that meant Sebastian did not know. What he did know was that this was his calling. He was meant to destroy the evil vampires and mortals. He alone would survive the blaze. The flames in his dream died down and left glowing embers that were a sign of hope for the new world that would emerge - a world free of the vampire curse.

Sebastian awoke with the knowledge imparted by the dream, feeling transformed by it. It was a good feeling for him. He spent his life drifting aimlessly from place to place, taking whatever jobs he could find. There was no purpose other than survival. Now, he had a quest to fulfill. His life had meaning, and it was glorious. Sebastian touched the Stone of Embers, which he now thought of the amulet as, and smiled.

Divia watched the young man. He was completely unaware of her presence. She was more powerful now than she had ever been as a vampire. The stone that was so precious to him was just an ordinary rock which she had imbued with power, which she would use to take revenge on those who had destroyed her corporeal form. Divia had first entered the body of a vampire and indulged her hunger, but the connection took too much energy to maintain. She soon left her unwary vessel.

Instinctively, she knew that she could send her magical energy into an object. However, one of the restrictions was that the enchanted object needed to be used by someone in a corporeal state, and mortal. That meant vampires could not use it, but Sebastian could. He was just gullible enough to believe that he would survive. Sebastian was only mortal, and mortals could not use that type of power for long. It fed on their life force. Sooner or later, the magic would consume him. Divia did not like to see her tools destroyed so quickly, but she did not have a choice. If he did not exact her revenge before that happened, she would have to find someone else. Finding someone else to influence took precious time.

* * * * *

Nick returned to the loft. Seeing the blinking light on his answering machine, he played the tape. "Mr. Knight, this is Kent Williams, from the International News Network. I hope you will respond to my request for an interview . . ." Nick sighed. Sooner or later, he would have to give an interview to get the reporters off his back. Now was just not a good time. He scribbled down the 1-800 number and erased the message. Three messages that followed were also from reporters. Another message was from a telemarketer who thought he needed a lifetime supply of sun block. Nick frowned. How had he gotten on a telemarketing list? Surely they didn't think sun block actually worked on him. Not to mention that giving away a lifetime supply of anything to a vampire would put the company out of business. He deleted that message too. The phone rang and the answering machine kicked in. He'd set it to screen all of his calls.

"Nick, this is Nat. If you're there, pick up."

"I'm here."

"A new case came in ten minutes ago. It's another one of your spontaneous combustions. Poor girl was barely twenty."

"Chemical tests come back yet?"

"Yeah. There was sulfur in the bloodstream, much more than humans can safely tolerate. They also found several elements that aren't on the periodic table." Nat sighed. "This is getting weirder and weirder, Nick. I feel like I'm on one of those sci-fi shows. I'm just waiting for the little gray aliens to show up."

"I can start calling you Scully if you prefer." Nat chuckled.

"Don't even think about it, *Mulder.*"

In the background, Grace laughed.

"Any ID on the victim?"

"Not so far. The lab is going over DNA samples. I'll let you know if anything turns up."

"Okay."

"Sleep well."

"Thanks, Nat. You have a good day."

* * * * *

Don remembered the last time he'd been to a college dorm room. That was before computers and video game systems were around. The only microwaves that existed back then were big, clunky things that took up half the kitchen, not these little sleek ones that fit neatly in the corner. The whole room looked like a display from a major electronics store. Kids these days sure could afford a lot more. The college kid who lived here was what Schanke would've called a dweeb, back in his school days. The name of the tall, skinny young man who looked like a twenty-year old version of Bill Gates was Elliott McBride. He smelled funny, but what it was from, Don couldn't say. Maybe he just hadn't showered in a while. Elliott game him a weird look.

"Man, what are you taking?"

Schanke suddenly realized he'd been sniffing the kid like a bloodhound. Embarrassed, he took a step back and cleared his throat. "I hear you were taking a hieroglyphics class from Dr. Jackson."

"Yeah, I was until some idiot wasted her. What, are you a cop? Wait, you look familiar. I've seen you . . ." he snapped his fingers. "I saw your picture in the paper with that vampire guy." It was a good thing he and Nick had been promoted, Schanke thought, because the press coverage ruined any chance of them doing undercover work.

"The vampire guy is my partner, Nick Knight." Schanke flashed his badge.

"Wow. Okay, so what do you want to know?"

"I hear Dr. Jackson was very popular. Is there anyone who didn't like her? Maybe someone who failed an exam and took it real hard?"

"Nope, no one that I can think of."

"Did you know about her allergies?"

"Yeah, we all knew she was allergic to sunlight, but it was no big deal. I mean, Dr. Jackson was very cool. She wasn't all stuffy like a lot of profs are. She was," Elliott paused while he searched for the right words, "totally in her element. She could tell a story about ancient Egypt and make you feel like you'd just stepped into a time machine."

"Did you know she was a vampire?"

"Uh . . ." the kid stalled. "No. Are you kidding?" It was clear to Don that the kid was lying.

"Nope."

"That explains a lot, I guess. Hope you find the bad guy. It wasn't a hunter, was it?"

"We don't know."

How did Elliott know about hunters? Schanke seriously doubted that it was an intelligent guess, since the college student knew Dr. Jackson's secret. Suddenly, the young man sniffed the air.

"What is that?"

Schanke smelled it a moment later.

"Burnt pizza. I'd say it was pepperoni with mushrooms." His stomach rumbled.

"Black olives, too," the young man said. The looked at Schanke in wonder. "You're . . ." The fire alarm went off. "That's what I hate about living here. Every time some idiot overcooks their food, that thing makes me deaf. Come on." He paused to lock his door.

In the student parking lot, Don turned to face Elliott. "Are you . . . ?"

"I'm a werewolf, like yourself," the young man admitted.

How he could be so casual about it, Schanke didn't know. Maybe it was the youth factor.

Elliott noticed his discomfort. "Don't tell me you're ashamed of it."

"I'm not," he protested, wincing because the words sounded like a lie even to his own ears. "Okay, so I'm trying to be normal. Is that a crime?"

Elliott looked amused. "You tell me. You're the cop here." He took a deep breath. "Look, I have a couple years of experience at this, and that's more than you've got. This is a blessing, not a curse. See that blue Dodge? That's my car. I can pick up that baby and use it for weight lifting, without shifting form. Let me tell you a story. My friend has a T-bird. Just for fun one night, we went to that old back road that no one ever uses anymore just east of town and had a two-mile race. He floored it, and later said he was going over a hundred. I shifted and beat him on foot. My point is, you can look at this however you want, but your life will never be normal. Get used to it."

"Wise words from someone who wore diapers when I was going to cop school."

The young man shrugged.

"You knew about Dr. Jackson, didn't you? I bet you could smell a vampire that ancient from a mile away."

Elliott sighed. "Yeah, but I swear I had nothing to do with her murder."

"Do you have any idea who did?"

"No. I'm sorry."

"If you don't mind me asking, how did it happen to you?" Schanke asked.

"I tried to beat a train and my alternator went out. Almost didn't make it, but the engineer saved me. When I asked him why, he said he didn't want to see me in his dreams. I haven't seen him since."

"I guess you don't have to be old to be wise." Elliott laughed.

"Good luck."

"Yeah, thank you."

Schanke walked away from the parking lot just as the fire truck pulled up. He wondered if the break in this case would ever come.

* * * * *

END OF PART THREE

STONE OF EMBERS

Part 4/4

By Emily M. Hanson Standard disclaimers apply. See part one for details.

Depending on how easily you are offended, there is a slightly questionable word. Don't say you weren't warned.

PART FOUR

It was mid-morning as Sebastian walked past the Raven. The damage from the fire was noticeable, but not extensive. Investigators were still sifting through the ashes and looking for clues. He projected himself into their minds and learned that the police were getting nowhere. There was a strange residue in the ashes, but it did not match any known chemicals in the initial analysis. Speculation of vampire hunters abounded, and there was more conjecture about Captain Nick Knight and whether he had a personal connection to the case. For now, the arson specialists were investigating, but it would probably become a paranormal file. Sebastian wondered why Knight was even allowed to continue working as a police officer, now that everyone knew he was a vampire. It was another sign that the world was weak and catering to the whims of the undead.

Divia latched on to that thought. Knight is unworthy. Though she was in a non-corporeal state, she could communicate directly with Sebastian through her link with the stone. He did not know who it was, of course. He only heard a feminine voice in his mind.

*Knight has killed mortals in cold blood before. What is to stop him from doing so again?*

*Nothing, except his own concern for the law.* Sebastian replied, amazed that the stone itself was speaking to him.

*When he decides that he is above the law, like so many of his kind have already done, what then?*

*Then my life will be in danger.*

*Yes. You must destroy him first, before he destroys you.*

*How?*

*Listen to me, and I will tell you.

* * * * * *

Nick was sound asleep when his door alarm went off. He woke up confused and startled with the remnants of a dream still fresh in his mind. "Who's there?" He shouted, with the thick traces of a French accent. "Guard!" Then, the sleepy vampire remembered when and where he was. "Oh, that's right, I'm the guard. Stop where you are!" Nick called, his accent all but vanishing.

The would-be intruder halted. For a few moments, the vampire heard a mortal's heart beat faster and faster. Then there was silence. Had he scared off the burglar? Knight listened for a little while longer. Suddenly, he heard the crackling of flames. Nick swore, picked up the phone and quickly called the fire department. After being assured that help was on the way, he flung open the door and was greeted by a thick cloud of smoke.

Nick reached out with his senses, but all he detected was a void. That was odd. The vampire should have at least been able to perceive the normal things around him. Someone or something was blocking his ability, which meant they were probably close. He peered through the thick smoke and saw a shadowy form disappear around the corner.

"Freeze! Police!"

The suspect sprinted down the stairs and Nick followed. He managed to tackle the interloper before they both reached the landing.

"What part of the words freeze, police don't you understand?"

Nick got a good look at the trespasser for the first time. The man had unkempt red hair and a wild look in his amber-colored eyes. The intruder was in his late twenties, wearing a solid black T-shirt, faded old jeans, and a pendant around his neck. The rock looked ordinary, but there was something about it that gave Nick a chill, and something familiar as well.

"I understood you," Sebastian said with a tone of pure hatred. "That doesn't mean I obey you, like all the other mortals under your control."

"No one is under my control. I'm not like that. You've obviously seen way too many horror movies."

"Why would I watch horror movies, when real life is even more terrifying?"

Knight took a deep breath. "I'm placing you under arrest for arson."

*Kill him!* Divia screamed suddenly.

Nick recoiled in horror and shock as her voice filled his mind. "You're dead! You can't be here!"

*Yes, I can. Nicholas, my dear brother, I will finish what I started. Destroy him, now, Sebastian!*

Brother?! If Knight was her brother, didn't that make her a vampire too? Sebastian felt intense rage at discovering he had been merely a pawn. The stone around his neck glowed with an intense red light, and ripples appeared in the air from the extreme heat. Nick gaped as he realized this man had killed the other vampires with Divia's help. The link that Nick had with her was fragmented, as if she had stored a tiny piece of herself inside the amulet. He realized he could feel Sebastian too, by reaching through the bond. Part of Nicholas was amazed that such a thing was possible, and the other part of him was troubled by the ramifications.

By infusing an object with her life force and linking herself to it, Divia controlled a mortal. Such a link was regarded as pure myth in the vampire community; no one had even attempted it before now that Nick knew of. What dismayed him was that it meant Divia was more powerful than he had originally thought. How could you kill a vampire you couldn't stake or burn? Presumably, the sunlight would still injure her, but there was no way to tell. There was a link between Sebastian and the amulet that was just as strong as the bond between the mortal and Divia. The stone was feeding from him like a vampire, except that it was taking his essence and not blood. Nick did not doubt that the stone would eventually drain Sebastian if he didn't get rid of it.

*No, you fool! Focus your anger on him.* Divia hissed. *Destroy Knight while you still have the chance!*

"I will no longer let you use me," Sebastian declared. "I will not let anyone control me ever again."

"Sebastian," Nick croaked as the smoke grew thick enough to irritate his throat and stung his eyes and nostrils, "stop this madness. You'll be burned alive."

"I don't care. At least I'll take you with me."

"I am not your enemy."

"Yeah, right. How many innocents have you killed to stay alive, Knight? What about your sister?"

"I am nothing like Divia."

*We are more similar than you care to admit, Nicholas. Once, you reveled in death as I did.*

Nick growled. His eyes flickered between yellow and blue. The worst part was the truth of her words. He once took pleasure from human blood, but ages and ages had passed since then. Time weighed on his shoulders like a lead blanket, and guilt was an even heavier burden. He had never been as evil as Divia, though. That was one small consolation.

Someone banged on the door. "Captain Knight, you in there?"

"Yes! Hang on, don't open the door just yet!"

"This whole place will go up in flames any minute!" The firefighter shouted.

"So will I, if I go outside."

"Nick, buddy, there's a nice dark van waiting right on your doorstep." Schanke asked.

"What's it gonna be?" Sebastian remarked. "You'll burn one way or the other, Knight."

Nick glared at him and reached for the rock, but pulled away almost immediately as his hand was nearly singed by the heat.

"I'll be out in a minute, there are a few things I want to save."

He ran upstairs and flung open the closet door in his bedroom. On the top shelf, carefully placed in a box and wrapped in cloth, was Joan of Arc's cross. Nick grabbed it. Then he gathered as many photographs as he could, and a few other antiques that meant a great deal. As he rushed down the stairs, Divia screamed and cursed in his head. He ignored her. Sebastian seemed calm.

"Schanke, how close is that van?"

"Very. The door's wide open."

"Okay. When I come out, you grab the arsonist before he gets away, got it?"

"Yeah." Schanke opened the door and quickly stepped aside to give Nick some space.

Sunlight!!! Flee! Knight ignored the instinctive warning bells in his head and flew outside. The van was parked as close as possible. It was an older style vehicle, with no windows in the back and separated from the front. He dove inside and sighed with relief as someone slammed it shut.

"I've never seen anyone move that fast," one of the firefighters said as he readied the hose.

"Not many people have to worry about spontaneous combustion from sunlight," Nick answered from inside the van.

"Gotcha!" Schanke slapped handcuffs around Sebastian's wrists and read him his rights. Then, he wrinkled his nose at the powerful stench of evil that emanated from the captive. "Something around here stinks, and it's not just the smoke. What've you been up to besides playing with matches?"

"No comment until I have a lawyer."

"Okay, fine by me, but you're still under arrest. Take him away," Schanke said to another officer who was there. Then he rapped his knuckles on the van's window. "Hey, partner o' mine, are you all right?"

"I'm in one piece, aren't I? Do me a favor, get that glow in the dark rock away from our perp; he used it to start the fire somehow."

Divia was no longer inside Nick's head, but he doubted she had perished in the fire, or even from the sunlight. She had probably found someplace to hide from the sun's scorching rays. Either that, or she might not be affected by them at all in her current state.

Don Schanke caught up with the backup officers, who were securing the arsonist in their car. "Hey guys, wait a sec." He held up an empty evidence bag. "Hand the rock over, pal."

"No way."

"Yes way. My partner said he saw you start the fire with it."

"Nick Knight is your cop partner?"

"Yeah."

Schanke felt like retching as a sudden wave of hatred came from Sebastian. Don gagged a couple of times and turned away for a moment.

"Captain, are you all right?" One of the backup officers asked.

"I will be," he answered in a strangled tone and faced Sebastian again. "Give me the rock, now." There must have been something in his voice then, because the other two cops looked at each other with astonished expressions and Sebastian tried to back away. He took the amulet off so quickly it was surprising that he didn't break the string. As he held up the evidence bag, Schanke happened to catch a glimpse of his reflection in the rearview mirror and saw his own glowing red eyes staring back at him. "Oh, ****." In panic mode, Schanke hit his head on the edge of the door while trying to get out of the car. "Ow!"

The sharp pain was the straw that broke the werewolf's back. It took him only a few seconds to shapeshift. Whirling around, he nearly bowled over the second backup officer. His shirt, having been stretched to its limit, ripped from the sudden movement.

"Oh, great. Myra's going to kill me," Schanke said. "I just bought this shirt." He sighed, then glared at the backup officer still outside the vehicle who was gaping at him. "Why are you still here?"

"Captain?"

"Get moving, Lieutenant. This guy needs to be locked up."

"Yes sir."

Don sighed and gazed at the evidence bag that now contained Sebastian's rock. It certainly looked benign enough. He supposed the arsonist had struck a match against it, or something like that. Schanke watched the firefighters spraying Nick's place with their hoses. It didn't look like Nick was going to be able to move back in anytime soon. He walked back to the van and knocked on the side of it.

"Yeah?" Nick responded.

"You got a place to stay?"

"Well, the Raven's out of the question for now."

"Why don't you come over and sleep in the basement for the rest of the day? At least, until you find another place."

"Are you sure?"

"Yeah."

"I really appreciate it. Hey, do you have a sore throat or something? Your voice sounds hoarse."

"Uh . . . something."

"You shape shifted, didn't you?"

"Yeah, don't ask. We might as well get going. This is Myra's van, so I'm driving."

"Okay. When we get there, just make sure to close the garage door before you let me out," Nick said.

"Right," Schanke replied.

* * * * *

Nick woke up five hours later, momentarily confused as to where he was. Then he recalled Sebastian and the fire. His stomach growled, and the vampire realized he'd forgotten to grab a bottle of cow blood. Someone handed him a package of raw meat, and Nick looked up. It was Schanke.

"I figured you'd be hungry. This is all we've got."

"It's better than nothing. Thanks." Nick took a pinch of meat with his fingers and ate it. If not for Natalie's experiments, he wouldn't have been able to swallow that much without vomiting. "What happened with day shift?"

"Sebastian's been formally charged with arson and homicide. The lab found the same residue on the rock, the weird stuff from the vampires."

"Good."

"I don't think I've ever met anyone with so much hate inside," Schanke said. "I mean, it was practically radiating from him. Smelled so bad I almost lost my breakfast."

Nick ate another bite of raw hamburger. "And you shapeshifted."

"Don't remind me." Don also took a pinch of meat. "This stuff is good with salt and pepper. Want some?"

"I thought mortals got sick from raw meat."

"I'm not exactly your average, ordinary mortal."

"True. So what does Myra think about all this?"

"Well, she's an amazing woman. I gotta tell ya, I didn't think she'd take me back. Myra said to me the other night, Donny, do you really think I'm gonna let you go just because you get a little furry once in a while? She really said that. I think I'm the happiest guy on the planet."

"Good." Nick paused. "Salt and pepper, huh?"

"Yeah."

"I think I'll try some."

Don reached over and grabbed the shakers. "There, now we're in business."

The vampire took a little of the seasoned meat and tried it. He made an effort to swallow without gagging reflexively. "Not bad," Nick said a few moments later. "Stayed down, anyway. That's a good thing."

Schanke ate a few more bites and then glanced at his watch. "We'd better get moving." He put the plastic wrap back over the burger. "I'll go upstairs and make sure it's dark."

Nick wondered if Divia had anything to do with his other current cases. Probably not, but he wanted to solve them as soon as possible, just to be on the safe side.

END OF PART FOUR

***** THE END *****
 
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