Ben Talbot sat in his new office and sorted through the files that came to him via the death of Josh Lindsay. He had met Josh several times when he was compiling evidence in the Tejada case. Josh had had a reputation for being a nice guy and a tough prosecutor and Ben knew he had big shoes to fill here in this office.
Ben came from the District Attorney’s office in San Diego, so he was well aware of all the border issues that Josh was against in the Tejada case. Tejada seemed to be gone, but there were whispers about not so much gone as dead. He’d get around to that soon he thought, thinking that finding out the truth to that would be like searching the proverbial haystack for a needle; in other words impossible.
Ben leaned back in the chair and looked around his office; it wasn’t the same one that Josh had. No, his dad had made sure that it was bigger, better; nothing but the best for a Talbot. His father was a high-ranking advisor to the governor and his intentions were that his son would fill that exalted chair one day. He also didn’t think it was happening quickly enough but it was okay with Ben; he wasn’t sure he was aiming in that direction anyway.
The truth was he liked being a prosecutor; he liked making the system work and putting away the bad guys. He hated injustice; he hated seeing someone hurt because someone did something terrible to them.
He yawned and stretched in the chair, listening to its slight creak with his movement. He’d have to remember to get maintenance up here with a little oil and he jotted a note on the blotter so he wouldn’t forget. He glanced down and had one box left and wearily he picked it up and sat it on the desk and started sorting through it. He pulled a binder out of the box and stared at it for a long moment.
What was this? Mick St. John?
He sat it on the desk before opening it, lightly chewing on his lower lip. As he reached for the binder he cell rang and when he saw the number he grimaced.
Here we go, he thought. He answered and listened for a moment before grabbing his jacket and heading out the door, locking his office behind him.
After Beth called the police she sank onto the floor and wrapped her arms around her drawn up knees. She was shaking like a leaf as she waited for someone else, anyone else to get there. Well, maybe not just anyone because that could include the killer she realized. She started unconsciously stroking the now invisible marks on her wrist where Mick had bitten her and a flood of comfort warmed her. She didn’t understand how it worked but it did; sometimes it felt erotic to stroke them, sometimes just as now, comforting but it made her feel a bit less alone. It was their connection; she didn’t understand it but she still felt it. She decided to call Mick too because she really needed him now.
Just her luck, she got his voice mail but she left him a message to please come to Buzzwire as quickly as he could. When she was done she heard sirens outside and knew that help was on the way. She quickly smoothed her hair back and wiped the tears from her face as she tried desperately to pull herself together.
Once the police came in things quickly became blurry as she answered questions and told them the little that she knew. She also told them to find Maureen’s laptop because whatever story she was working on had gotten her killed. She sat at her desk for a few minutes watching as what hadn’t been destroyed by the killer was disassembled and inspected by the police as they searched for clues. The crime scene investigators had already taken fingerprints and cordoned off Mo’s body as they processed her office.
Beth saw Ben Talbot heading over to her and she quickly stood up as she realized he wanted to talk to her. She knew that Ben had taken Josh’s place and while it bothered her a bit she could see that he was all business and very thorough at his job. When she asked if they have found Maureen’s computer he told her no.
Ben couldn’t believe that someone would have killed Maureen for a tabloid story and when he said as much to Beth her eyes lit up with anger; they were quite beautiful he decided.
“Beth, I got your message.”
Ben stared at the tall, dark-haired man that rushed to her and saw her obvious relief at his arrival. “Who are you?” he asked with a speculative look.
“Mick St. John.”
“Ah, I’ve heard about you,” Talbot answered as he carefully watched Mick’s face.
“Oh, good things?” Mick inquired.
For a half a second Mick only stared at him and then he turned his attention back to Beth. “Are you okay?” he asked her.
“Not really,” she told him.
Katrina Carson read the latest report that her assistant gave her on Kelly Detzien and sighed with frustration. She had been spotted hanging around Mick St. John’s apartment again and Katrina lightly chewed on the end of a pen as she thought about how to solve this problem. It didn’t help that Kostan had all but ordered her to find a solution or he would. Katrina was fully aware of what his solution would be and she shuddered as she thought about it. The tar pits were a horrible place to end up, whether you were human or vampire. She wondered just exactly how many people Kostan had sent there over the years before realizing she didn’t really want to know.
Kelly had been one of her top cleaners for several decades and Katrina had never before witnessed her taking any guy as seriously as she did St. John. Katrina had always known that Kelly had been fascinated by Mick but she was all out stalking him now and that weak little human that he seemed to be infatuated with. She wasn’t really concerned about the human; they were fragile and they eventually died one way or another but with Kostan breathing down her neck she knew that it had better not happen with any help by Kelly.
She picked up her cell and called a number and waited impatiently for it to be answered. When it was all she said was, “Get in here to the office now!”
She knew that was all it would take, when she said jump they did she thought with a satisfied smile.
Beth had convinced Mick that they needed to search Maureen’s apartment because she always had a backup to her files and since they didn’t find anything at the office Beth knew it would be here.
Breaking and entering with Mick as a human was different from his vamp days. Before he could do that sexy vampire jumping thing and he laughed as he told her that that was sort of tied to the whole blood sucking thing.
Still Beth realized that a bit of the excitement was gone but she quickly forgot about it as they searched for the flash drive. When Beth found it in a box of tampons Mick was blown away; it was the absolutely last place he would ever have looked, which was the point.
Beth discovered that the files were encrypted and they discussed possibilities when a movement out of the corner of her eye caught her attention. “Travis!” she exclaimed, getting up to pick up Maureen’s cat. She sat him on Mick’s lap as he protested that animals were naturally afraid of vampires and then she tilted her head to one side as she took in Travis rubbing against Mick and Mick’s grin as he scratched Travis. Before long Travis was purring loudly and Mick was talking softly to him.
“I think you’ve made a new friend Mick,” she told him as she watched them.
“I can’t keep him; when I turn back he’ll be scared to death of me.”
“We’ll see,” she laughed. “You said you know someone who can get into the files?”
“Yeah, let’s go.”
Beth grabbed Travis’ carrier and they loaded him in along with his food dishes, the cat food and litter box. Travis watched all this and meowed softly but seemed content.
“Where are we going,” Beth asked as they drove through the pre-dawn streets of LA.
“Um, to my friend Logan’s; he’s uh, a computer guy; the one that got us the location for Josh’s phone.” Mick was quiet for a bit as he drove. Introducing Beth to Logan could open up all sorts of possibilities he wasn’t really prepared to deal with yet, but it was going to happen sooner or later.
As they got closer he could see Beth looking around her with a smile on her face. “You do remember that this is where I grew up don’t you?” Beth asked as they passed her grade school.
Mick held an unnecessary breath as he stopped in front of Logan’s. He cast a quick sideways glance at Beth as she let out a low whistle and remarked, “This is where Logan lives? Mick, this is Clark’s old house!”
“Um yeah, it is. Logan lives in the basement actually.”
“The basement? What does he do in the rest of the house?”
Mick shrugged as they climbed out of the car. Travis, realizing that he was being left started to let out a long and loud kitty wail and Mick grabbed the handle of the carrier. “It’s okay Travis, we won’t leave you alone if you don’t want,” he said reaching through the wire door to scratch his cheek. “But I don’t think you’re gonna like it in there,” he promised the cat. Travis licked his shoulder as if to say, “We’ll see!”
Even without vamp hearing they could hear loud music coming from the basement as they waited for Logan to buzz them in. As they walked down the stairs Logan was playing Guitar Hero and Mick asked, “Is this all you do?”
“No, on Tuesdays and Thursday’s I rule World of Warcraft. He saw them coming down the stairs and stared at Beth in fascination; amazed that she was here.
He had saw pictures of her but outside of the one time he had held her as a baby he hadn’t ever seen her again. She was beautiful, so very lovely and while she would never know it he knew that he would do anything to help or protect her. She was his niece and he felt the family connection immediately.
“Beth, this is Logan; Logan, Beth. She knows about us,” Mick said praying that Logan would play along.
“Cool,” he said, still staring at her with a goofy grin.
Mick explained that they needed his help with some encrypted files and he looked at Travis who was in his carrier and definitely on alert. “Since you brought dinner,” he said, reaching for the carrier.
Travis let out a loud hiss as Logan’s hand came close to him and laid his ears back, ready to attack if necessary.
“He’s not dinner…” Beth exclaimed, horrified he would even think that.
“We’ll be paying cash today…” Mick said, pulling the carrier out of Logan’s grasp.
“Your choice,” Logan said, and got busy. A little while later they had the information they needed and Logan was more than embarrassed by the fact that he wasn’t able to get into Mo’s files; it had been Mick’s suggestion to try Travis’ name that had done the trick.
“We shall never speak of this again,” Logan said, humiliated.
Armed with information, Mick and Beth left, taking a very grateful Travis with them.
Colleen Crawford had been summoned to Katrina’s office; she knew that something was up and if she had possessed a regular heartbeat it would be pounding like crazy right now. She ran her last few shifts through her mind as she drove but couldn’t think of anything out of the ordinary that had happened. The calls had all be fairly routine - if you were a cleaner anyway and all handled quickly and inconspicuously.
Still, when you were commanded to the boss’s office it wasn’t a good thing she thought. Colleen had been working for Katrina for almost two years now and mostly enjoyed her job. Being a cleaner was pretty new to her and it was interesting and challenging most of the time except when it wasn’t she thought with a grimace.
She swung into the drive and parked, hurrying in as quickly as she could. Inside she knocked on the door and told to enter.
“Yes, Katrina? You wanted to see me?” she asked trying really hard to keep her voice even.
Katrina nodded to a chair and Colleen hastily sat, waiting for whatever was happening next.
“I’m switching your duty shift and partner,” Katrina said without any preamble. “Starting tomorrow you are on the afternoon shift with Kelly Detzien.” She watched Colleen’s reaction closely; she didn’t want any issues later.
Colleen met her gaze and licked her lips before speaking. “Alright. Have, have I done something wrong?” she asked quickly, the words coming out in a rush.
“No. I just need someone I can trust on that shift, keeping an eye on…things.”
“Oh, okay. I can do that.” Lines furrowed her brow as she debated the wisdom of her next question. “Exactly what am I watching? If I may ask?”
Katrina nodded at her and pushed two pictures and a note across the desk. “Mick St. John and Beth Turner and their addresses. Kelly has become a little too interested in them, as I’m sure you’ve already heard. If she goes anywhere near them or the addresses or if Mick calls in with a cleanup I want to know immediately.”
Colleen had heard and nodded her head in understanding; everyone knew about it. “What about when we’re not working?” she asked.
“That’s being covered. See if you can get any information out of her. That’s all Colleen; go home and get some freezer time. Your shift tonight has been covered.”
“Yes Katrina. I’ll do that,” she said as she left the room, closing the door behind her softly.
Damn! Why me?
Maureen had 3 stories she was working on; the first two were a bust and had nothing to do with Mo’s death they discovered over the next couple of days. The one exciting thing that happened was that Mick asked Beth to come over for dinner and she was so excited she could hardly stand to wait.
The third lead was for a company that sold the Donut Diet. Their spokes model Jill Button had recently died of a heart attack which seemed pretty strange for a 28 year old in seemingly good health. When Mick and Beth checked out her body at the morgue Guillermo was freaked out by Mick being human.
“It ain’t natural man,” he mumbled, watching him. When they looked at the body Beth recognized liposuction scars on her body which surprised Mick as he looked at her quizzically, one eyebrow raised.
“I have friends!” Beth declared.
They found out Jill’s doctor was Pierce Anders and they got his address from Talbot who agreed to meet them there in the morning. They had worked with him on one of the other cases and he sort of owed them; a fact that he only grudgingly admitted to.
In the morning the three of them went to speak with Dr. Anders; the situation quickly got out of control when they asked him for his records concerning Ms. Button, the spokes model.
“Patient confidentiality; I can’t share them.”
Dr. Anders stared at Talbot who stood up and said, “I know a judge; she got a bad nose job and she’s bitter.”
Nice bluff Beth thought, watching the two men face off. The tension was so thick it was hard to breathe. The next thing she knew Anders had turned into a vampire and thrown Ben across the room and quickly did the same to her. She vaguely remembered hearing Mick scream “Beth, get out!” before she hit the wall.
Mick drew his gun, on the attack and he and Anders grappled with it, knocking it out of his hand. Beth grabbed it when it slid across the floor and watched in horror as Anders picked Mick up and threw him against the heavy glass desk. Her heart screamed as she saw him break through it and it shattered into a million pieces. Mick didn’t move but Anders turned his attention to her.
Beth fired a couple of rounds at him but they didn’t deter him at all. Obviously Mick didn’t have silver bullets in the damn thing she thought in disgust. Anders got to his knees in front of her, fascinated by the blood that was trickling down the side of her face.
He caught the scent of her rare blood and his eyes gleamed with avarice. The money he could make off of her was beyond belief. He leaned down and licked the fresh blood off of her face and said, “AO-, unusual and very tasty.”
Beth’s horrified gaze looked over at Mick, still lying unmoving on the floor. She could see blood seeping out from cuts on his body and Anders cast a look over his shoulder and grinned at her.
He yanked her to her feet and dragged her out of the room telling her, “No need to worry about him; he’ll be taken care of, I assure you!”
Mick woke up as two vamps were dragging Talbot out of the room. He pushed himself unsteadily to his feet and staggered out to the Benz. His head was swimming and he realized he had lost a lot of blood. He headed to the best place he knew for blood; the morgue and he prayed that Guillermo was there or even Terrence.
Luck was with him and he stumbled into the back door and collapsed into Guillermo’s arms. G laid him on a table and immediately got a bag of O+ running into him and started to assess all the damage.
Mick had shards of glass everywhere in his body and Guillermo started pulling it out, piece by piece. He had most of it out by the time the bag was empty and Mick sat up, watching as Guillermo worked on a huge piece that was deeply embedded in his thigh.
Mick groaned deeply as Guillermo pulled it out and then stitched the gash up; G was disgusted with Mick and told him he ought to be in the hospital. Somehow he wasn’t surprised when Mick told him he was going after Anders.
“No way man, that is one bad ass vamp Mick and he won’t be alone.”
He watched Mick hobble away and knew exactly what was going to happen next. He picked up the phone and called Josef.
At the loft Mick was pulling out weapons, trying to determine which might work the best. He didn’t hear Josef come in but when he saw him he felt so much better; surely he was there to help go after Anders and said so.
“No, see I’d just get killed, trying to save you, the human liability. I’m a lover, not a fighter.”
It didn’t change Mick’s mind, Josef could see that Mick was going any way and suddenly he threw Mick across the room in an effort to show him that he was no match for even one vampire, not to mention two or three.
“You can’t save her Mick,” Josef said sadly.
Everything flashed through Mick’s mind, the joy he felt this past week as a human, the situation with Anders but in the end his need to protect and save Beth overshadowed everything else.
“You’re right. I can’t save her as a human, but I can save her as a vampire. You’ve got to turn me back!”
Josef heard the words but couldn’t believe them. “Mick, after everything you went through to get the cure? No…”
There were tears in Mick’s eyes. “He has Beth, my Beth. Please brother…”
Josef reeled as he listened to Mick’s plea and contemplated it. He didn’t know what to do but then he did. He knew he had to try because if he didn’t Mick would go as a human and die for sure.
Mick watched Josef and saw when he finally accepted the idea. He tugged his shirt down and tilted his head, exposing his neck for Josef. The movement was quick; Josef buried his fangs in Mick’s neck and drank.
Mick’s body slumped and Josef continued to drink as he laid him back over the table. He heart cried for his friend as he took his life; as he drank he tasted Mick’s love for Beth, his desperation to save her. Josef knew that if this didn’t work, if they couldn’t save her that Mick would end his own life.
So he drank and mourned the humanity of Mick that slipped silently away.
When Mick’s heart had nearly stopped he tore open his own wrist and dribbled the blood onto Mick’s lips with an impassioned plea, “Come on Mick, drink!”
One, two, three drops fell onto Mick’s lips, looking like huge drops of bloody tears; it started to run down the side of Mick’s mouth as Josef kept up the silent litany, “Drink Mick.”
Finally his tongue crept between his red streaked lips and lapped at the blood. He grabbed Josef’s arm and pulled it to him, his fangs extended and Mick drank deeply, feeling the blood course though him and he felt his strength return as he scars and pain disappeared. When he rose, he let out a huge growl that was echoed by Josef and they left to go get Beth.
Josef prayed that she was still alive.
The fight was very quick and terribly violent. Beth and Talbot sat on the floor, tied together with surgical tubing and blindfolded. Beth knew from the sounds that vampires were fighting but she didn’t know who for sure.
Anders had been surprised when he saw Mick was a vampire and immediately backed away, letting his men fight with Mick and Josef. When they were either dead of staked he realized he had nowhere to run. Mick started towards him and Anders knew this was it; he was going to die.
When it was done Mick went to Beth and pulled the blindfold off of her. She stared at his face and was shocked and then saddened by what she saw; he was a vampire again and somehow she knew it was because of her.
“Mick, your face,” she said as she reached up to touch him.
He met her gaze and said, “You know what they say, life is short…”
He helped her to her feet and told Josef to help Talbot but to leave his blindfold on.
“What are you doing?” Ben asked as he walked out.
“Saving your ass,” was Josef’s answer.
Later on Mick’s rooftop Beth and Mick sat on a blanket surrounded by candles and Beth ate the meal that Mick had intended for both of them to share. She was worried about Ben; he wanted answers.
“He should be thankful he’s alive,” Mick almost spit out.
“He doesn’t strike me as the type that likes unanswered questions.” She knew that the cleaners had done their job and no trace of anything was found there by the police. She ate a few more bites of the dinner Mick had prepared but what was on her mind had nothing to do with food.
This dinner wasn’t like either one had planned and they both knew it. They were right back where they started; he a vampire and she a human. Her heart was breaking, for them both. She didn’t know Mick the human very well, but he was a part of Mick the vampire. He had sacrificed the small amount of time he had as a human to save her and she was overwhelmed with the importance of his decision. The truth was, she loved them both, vampire and human.
He was afraid of hurting her he said and she fired back at him. “I think you’re afraid of getting hurt.” He digested that for a moment.
She started to walk away from him and he suddenly pulled her back to him, crushing her body against his as he kissed her, deeply, urgently. The kiss lasted forever and yet for only a moment; time swirled around them in a rush and it was only the two of them in the world, locked in one another’s arms. He heard her heart, beating wildly as he tried to drink her in. Beth never wanted to let him go and yet that magical kiss ended and they stared into each other’s eyes, love shining clearly for the other to see. It would take some time, but it would be okay; they both felt it and for the first time maybe even believed it.
“I don’t know. Just give me some time to figure it out,” he pleaded.
They stood looking at one another and Beth said, “Just don’t take too much time. You may have forever but I don’t.”
He held her hand for a moment as she backed away, not wanting to break this last bit of contact and then finally she was gone, running lightly down the stairs.
Mick inhaled deeply and breathed in the last of her scent before it was carried away on the breeze. He jumped up onto one of the parapets and took in the night.
Everything changes and yet nothing does. The circle was complete; he was right back where he started except now the decision was his. He took in a deep breath and realized that he was exactly where he chose to be and he was actually happy about it.
To be continued…