Late Nights

by Rhoboat

CHAPTER 1

It was near midnight and the waning moon was partially hidden behind a few clouds. A lone man wearing a tattered coat pushed a cart full of his worldly possessions down the street of an industrial neighborhood. Autumn had begun, and the man wanted to move into one of the shelters open during the coldest months of the year. As the man passed one of the warehouses, he heard faint sounds of clashing metal coming from up above. Looking up, he saw strips of light streaming out from behind the blinds covering the windows of a second story loft. The man continued to push his cart along. Whatever was going on in that room was none of his business.

Inside the New York City loft, two men circled each other in a centuries old dance. Sweat littered the hardwood floor, but neither man seemed to notice. One man in sweatpants and a t-shirt held an ivory-handled katana in his right hand. The other taller man was similarly dressed, and he held the hilt of a bastard sword in both hands.

The shorter man swung the curved katana in sweeping arc toward the other manís neck, but the other man brought up the straight blade of his sword to block. This went on for what seemed like hours. One would strike and the other would parry. Back and forth the duel went, neither man backing down.

Then the dance ended.

The man with the katana lifted his blade high above his to strike. The other dropped down low and used the pommel of the hilt to strike his opponent in the ribs, knocking him back. In a few quick motions, the taller man disarmed the man with the katana. The now unarmed man found himself on his knees with a blade to his neck.

"Good job, Nick," said the man on his knees.

"Oh come on, Connor," replied the other man, Nick, breathing just a bit harder than Connor. "I know you let me have that opening."

"Well, yes," said Connor with a smile. "I just wanted to see how youíd react. You did well."

"And thanks to you, moves like that saved my life," said Nick as he helped Connor to his feet.

"And those are the moves you used on Coffey?" asked Connor.

"Not exactly, but close." Nickís eyes narrowed. He knew what Connor would say next.

"Youíve taken your first head as an Immortal, Nick," said Connor. "I wanted to make sure one last time tonight that you would be ready. You donít need a teacher anymore. Itís time for you to move on."

Nick Wolfe only nodded in reply.

**

The sun was setting in San Francisco and Detective Frank Kohanek looked at himself in his bathroom mirror.

"Jeez," he said, looking at the dark stubble against his skin before picking up his razor. "Six years on the night shift. I seriously need a tan."

It had been six years since Frank first worked on the Eddie Fiori case that led him to Julian Luna. Frank believed he was following crime bosses. Instead, he found himself falling in love with Julian Lunaís former lover, Alexandra Serris. Through her, Frank learned about Kindred, a society of immortal beings who needed blood to survive. Frank wouldnít say it to a Kindredís face these days, but he still considered them vampires. Maybe they were not as evil as the movies portrayed them but they were still bloodsuckers.

Frank finished cleaning up and getting ready for work. He arrived at the precinct and saw that Sonny Toussaint was already there. When Frank learned that Sonny was Kindred, embraced by Julian Luna no less, things were uneasy between them at first. But Sonny was a good partner, and Frank learned that working with Kindred was a lot easier than working against them, as long as Kindred followed human laws where it counted. Frank had no problem with the Kindred justice system when it involved Kindred only.

"Youíre late," Sonny said.

"Yeah, yeah," said Frank as he sat at his desk and looked at the clock on the wall. "Whatís five minutes in the grand scheme of things especially for one so long-lived as yourself?"

Sonny shook his head a little with a smile. He had gotten used to Frankís jabs at him being Kindred.

"Just finish your paperwork, Frank," said Sonny.

"Already on it," replied Frank.

Moments later, Captain Kwan called the two detectives into his office. Kwan had been promoted from lieutenant a couple years ago, but he still ran the precinct pretty much as he did before. Frank and Sonny had also been offered promotions, but they turned them down believing they would be of better service on the streets than behind desks telling others what to do.

"You wanted to see us, Captain?" asked Frank as he stepped through the office door.

"I just got a call in on another homicide," said Kwan. "Looks like our serial killer has struck again. A couple squad cars and the coroner are already at the scene. I want you two to go there and look into it. Theyíre over on 11th and Folsom, just outside Slimís. The commissioner has the media on his back. Theyíre starting to call him San Franciscoís own Son of Sam. We have to get this guy quick."

"Yes, sir," replied Frank. Turning to Sonny, Frank said, "My car?"

"Lead the way," replied Sonny.

He and Sonny had been working this case for three weeks. One man had killed four women, including todayís victim. Two other women were in the hospital in critical condition. There werenít many witnesses, but from the leads they did have, Frank and Sonny knew they were following one man.

**

As they arrived at the scene, they saw that surrounding area had already been sealed off. One of the uniformed officers saw them arrive and greeted them.

"Detectives?" said the officer.

Frank recognized the man but checked his nametag to be sure. It read: "Hernandez."

"Whatíve we got?" asked Frank.

"Looks like itís the same guy," replied Officer Hernandez. "My partner, Officer Nick Wolfe, can probably give you a better story."

"Wolfe?" asked Sonny, not recognizing the name. As a Kindred on the force, he liked to know those with whom he worked.

"Heís new in town, but he used to be a detective in Torago a few years back," said Officer Hernandez as they walked toward the main scene.

"Why the step down?" asked Frank.

"No detective openings," said Hernandez with a smile. It was no secret that Detectives Kohanek and Toussaint would not give up their jobs.

As the trio approached, Officer Wolfe looked up from the body, a woman at closer inspection. For a fleeting moment, Frank got the distinct feeling that Wolfe was staring at him in particular.

Sonny did not notice as he began introductions.

"Officer Wolfe?" said Sonny. "Iím Detective Toussaint. This is my partner, Detective Kohanek."

"So what do you have?" asked Frank.

Nick seemed to pause for a moment at Frankís question. He shook his head slightly, and started, "Michelle Adams, 24 years old with multiple stab wounds. From the coronerís preliminary exam, it looks like the same guy. Didnít need the coroner to tell me that though. Same type of stab wounds described in the bulletin, and like the other ones, she still had her purse. If you ask me, it looks like the guyís getting braver. In previous instances, the killings happened in more deserted places. Slimís just let out from a concert when people saw the body. The first ones out of the club claim to have seen someone running away. No clear descriptions though. I donít think we need to bring anyone in for more questioning."

"Wow," said Frank. "You mustíve been some detective."

With a little laugh, Nick replied, "I see Daveís already told you a little about me."

"Just a bit," said Sonny, smiling. "I bet a spot will open up for you in no time."

An hour later, Frank and Sonny finished up at the scene. As they headed back to the precinct, Frank wanted to ask Sonny a question.

"Youíre sure this isnít some crazy Kindred?"

"Yes, Frank. Weíve gone over this already. Do you have to ask me the same question for every case we have?"

"Yeah, Sonny. You know me. I just gotta make sure."

**

A week later, the San Francisco Police Department had a suspect in custody. As Nick suggested, the killer was getting braver in his attacks. He struck again, this time just outside the Haven, Lillie Langtryís club frequented by humans and Kindred alike. His would be victim was actually a Kindred from the Toreador clan. With the help of a bit of supernatural strength, Elisa was able to overcome the killer. If it werenít for the large crowds that started to gather, she probably would have killed him. Instead, she held the man down until the authorities came.

The serial killer whose name was oddly enough Sam Williams, believed that women who were alone at night needed to be killed. The whole city could rest easy now that he was finally caught.

**

Two nights after the arrest, Lillie Langtry, Toreador Primogen, visited Frankís apartment. Frank knew that Julian and Lillie were occasional lovers, but that didnít stop Lillie. She made it a habit over the last few years to come to Frank as she pleased. Frank was often only too happy to oblige. With the detective under Julianís protection, Lillie knew the prince could only step back and watch.

"I want to thank you, Frank," Lillie said as he let him in.

"What for?" said Frank. "It was one of you who finally caught the guy."

"Well, yes," said Lillie. "But like all Toreador women, Elisa likes to have her own way with men."

"I suppose that includes you," said Frank.

"Of course," said Lillie as she closed the door behind her.

**

It had been three years since Nick Wolfeís first death. Nick had come to terms with his Immortality with the help of Connor MacLeod, his teacher. Even though it seemed Amanda had sent the Scot to help him as he wandered the streets of Paris, Nick could not yet face the beautiful thief who first brought him into the world of Immortals.

Nick understood why Amanda shot him. She wanted to save his life. She did, but it was self-serving. Amanda wanted to keep Nick for herself. Nick could not bring himself to forgive her.

"Death brings life. Life brings death. What room is there for love, when there can be only one?"

Those were the words he spoke to Amanda the last time that he saw her. He had grown to love Amanda, but she doomed Nick to a life of having to defend himself against other Immortals who wanted his head. Nick had been a cop. He had killed in the line of duty to protect others. But killing for himself seemed too selfish for Nick.

Connor helped him to understand that as a good man, Nick had to do all he could to keep the Prize from falling into the hands of an Immortal committed to evil. In time, Nick could only agree. He avoided the Game when possible, but Nick would no longer hesitate to kill if an Immortal came after him. From Connor, Nick learned Immortal headhunters were not usually good for society, even if they claimed to be good people otherwise.

When John Coffey came after him, Nick used all that he learned from Connor to defend himself. Nick later learned that Coffey had been a petty crook and sometime pimp for most of his 80 years. Coffey believed that Nick would be an easy target, but Connor was a good teacher. Nick had his first Quickening. He had seen Quickenings before with Amanda, but experiencing his first one was just something he did not think he could ever put into words. It was painful and exhilarating at the same time. He finally understood why some would seek more. That was a year after Connor became his teacher.

Nick left New York but he avoided Paris. Amanda still lived there. Bert Myers was surprised to hear from Nick after a year of not hearing from his friend. The one-time spy and now head of an international private security firm knew Nick was in New York. Amanda let Myers know that and that Nick was with a friend. When Nick called asking for work as long as it was not in Paris, Myers knew enough not to ask questions. He knew Nick had fallen for Amanda. He figured they would work out whatever problems they had eventually.

So Nick worked for Myersí firm in various cities in the United States. Nick ran into a handful of Immortals along the way. He was able to take care of the ones after his head. After two years, he grew tired of private security. Helping people with money was just not as fulfilling as helping people when he was a cop. After some research and a few phone calls from old friends, Nick found himself working as a beat cop in San Francisco. There werenít any detective positions open, and he had to learn the ropes in a new city.

After a couple months on the job, Nick started to feel a bit more comfortable. Dave was a pretty good partner who had been with the SFPD a couple years already. Prior to that, Dave also served as a Marine. Nick was glad he wasnít paired with an overzealous rookie. After the Sam Williams case, Nick wanted to do a check on Detective Frank Kohanek. Something about the detective sparked Nickís interest.

A few days after making a call to Bert Myers, Nick received the package at his South of Market loft on one of his off days. The loft was expensive, but it was one of the few places in the city that had enough room for good workouts.

Nick sat on his couch as he opened the package. He read Myersí letter that came with a few files and photographs.

Nick,

Looks like Frank Kohanek is pretty clean. In fact, his file pretty much reads like yours. He was married once like you but has devoted his life as a cop. Thatís probably what drove his wife to suicide. Yeah, I know. Tough breaks, huh. After I heard what happened to Lauren, well, you knowÖ

Heís seemed to deal with it well enough, but heís had a few bumps in the road. A few years back, he had some run-ins with Julian Luna. Lunaís one of the richest businessmen in the state of California. Kohanek claimed Luna was a crime boss but has since dropped those claims. Lunaís actually cooperated on a few cases with the police.

Let me tell you something though. On the surface, Luna looks clean, but there are layers around this guy that even I would have trouble getting through. You only asked me to look up Kohanek. I wonít go digging into Lunaís past unless you ask.

As your friend, I suggest you leave Luna alone. Frank is a good guy. Thatís all you wanted to know, right?

Take care,

B. Myers

After reading Myersí letter, Nick was tempted to research Julian Luna. He had heard of the businessman from local media, but he never really paid much attention to that sort unless he had to. Thinking about Myersí letter, Nick decided to let the Luna matter drop for the moment. He valued Myersí opinion.

ĎBetter not deal with Luna unless I have to,í thought Nick. ĎGlad that Myers thinks Kohanek is a good guy though.í

**

A few months had passed since the San Francisco Son of Sam case as the media put it. Frank was at his desk at the precinct finishing up some paperwork. Sonny was out on a minor case that didnít require both of them to be there.

Before Frank could finish, Captain Kwan asked him into his office once again.

"What do you have for me this time, Captain?" asked Frank, as the captain closed the door.

"What do you know about Cameron, this guy who now head the Dock Workers Union?" began Kwan.

"Uh, wow," said Frank, a little surprised to hear about the Brujah Primogen. Frank had not had to deal directly with any of the Kindred leaders except Luna since that time six years ago. "Cameronís been their leader for a few years now, Captain. He took over after Eddie Fiori. Why? We havenít had any problems with him like we did with Eddie."

"LAPD has been looking into this alleged crime leader, Cyrus," said Kwan, handing a thick file over to the detective. "We know that Cyrus had connections with Fiori, but the guys down in L.A. have found that Cyrus has also had dealings with Cameron. I want to know if everythingís legit. But my suspicions are that Cameronís as dirty as Fiori."

"He just happens to hide it better," said Frank, having met the suave Brujah leader before.

"Right," said the captain. "L.A. has some allegations of extortion with Cyrus, maybe even some unsolved murders we donít know about, but nothing solid. If you can make a connection with Cameron, then we might be able to build a case to help L.A."

"Got ya, Captain," said Frank, as got ready to leave.

"Oh, and Frank?"

"Yeah?"

"Be careful. I donít want you hooking up with someoneís girlfriend and getting hurt again. Youíre a good cop. Iíd hate to lose you."

"Iíll be careful," said Frank.

**

Frank had been at his desk perusing the file that Captain Kwan gave him. He had his head in his hands trying to figure out how to handle this new case with Cameron. For that matter, Frank was also wondering what exactly was Cyrusí role in the whole matter. Was Cyrus Kindred? Brujah?

As a police officer, it was Frankís duty to uphold the law and bring to justice those who broke it. As Frank discovered over the years most Kindred under Prince Julian did well to follow human laws, because it kept the Masquerade together. If the captain were right about Cameron, that the Brujah Primogen had broken human laws, how would he go about bringing a Kindred as powerful as he to justice? That day that Cameron came in to say that Julian was dead, Frank saw in the Brujahís eyes a very dangerous man, even by Kindred standards. Compared to Cameron, Eddie Fiori was childís play.

"What do you have there, Frank?" asked Sonny, seeing his partnerís rather stressed appearance.

Frank let out a nervous chuckle. "I donít think you want to know."

Sonny took the file from Frank. It didnít take him long to realize the magnitude of the situation. It was much worse than Frank suspected. Unlike Frank, Sonny also knew that Cyrus was also Prince, and of a city much larger than San Francisco. The Brujah Prince had powers that extended even beyond Julianís own. But Sonny didnít want Frank to know that. Frank was a good detective though, and Sonny was sure that the human had his suspicions that Cyrus was Kindred.

"Jeez, Frank," said Sonny. Then he lowered his voice, "You know Cameronís had it in for you since the beginning. If you cross him, even with Julianís protectionÖ"

"I know, Sonny," said Frank. "I know."

Frank got up suddenly and grabbed his keys.

"Where are you going?" asked Sonny.

"To the big man himself, Julian Luna," answered Frank, taking the file from Sonnyís hands. "Coming?"

**

Frank always felt out of place at the Luna mansion. Even if the people who resided there were human, whom Frank figured probably werenít, the opulence of the house never failed to amaze Frank Kohanek.

He walked with Sonny into Julianís study.

"Frank. Sonny," said Julian, looking up from some paperwork. "Whatís going on?"

"Cameron," answered Frank. "He may have broken human laws, Julian."

"As far as I know," began Julian as he stood up to meet with the two detectives, "Cameron has been fairly obedient. He hasnít broken any laws in San Francisco."

"Thatís the problem, Julian," said Sonny. "He may not have broken the law here, but there is some evidence that he may have in Los Angeles. If we find that Cameron has had illegal dealings with Cyrus, we would need to bring him in. LAPD has been building up a case against Cyrus for years. Cameron may just be a part of it."

"Any ideas on how we should proceed?" asked Frank as he handed few of the most telling papers in the file.

The prince thought this over quietly before speaking.

"Gentelmen," began Julian, who seemed to think as he spoke. "Proceed with caution. Los Angeles is out of myÖ jurisdiction, if you will. But Iíll see make sure that Cameron goes along with the police as much as possible. Thatís all that I can guarantee at this point."

"It may not be good enough," said Frank.

"I know," Julian said.

As the two detectives began to leave, Julian called out, "Sonny? I need to have a word with you."

Frank though something was up between the two but he kept it to himself.

"Should I wait for you, Sonny?" asked Frank.

"Um, no Frank," said Sonny. "Iíll find my own way back to the station."

Frank shrugged, "Fine by me."

After Frank left, Julian asked, "Does he know about Cyrus?"

"That Cyrus is Prince of Los Angeles?" said Sonny. "I doubt it, but Iím pretty sure that Frank thinks Cyrus is Kindred."

"Iím worried if Frank gets too deep into Cyrusí affairs," started Julian, "my protection of the man will not extend to the Prince of Los Angeles. Keep an eye out on Frank for me, Sonny."

"Heís my partner, Sire," said Sonny. "I always keep an eye out for him."

**

Julian Luna knew he it would be a difficult promise to keep when he told Alexandra that Frank would remain under his protection. If Frank crossed Kindred lines, the human would have to be embraced or killed. Alexandra didnít want any of that to happen to Frank.

It was for a similar reason that Julian distanced himself from Caitlin Byrne. He fell in love with the human woman, but it was getting too difficult to keep her safe from his Kindred world. Unlike Frank, Julian made no promises in Caitlinís case, so he realized it was best for her safety to stay away from her. It was hard at first for both of them, but Caitlin was able to move on with her life. With too many emotional ties, Caitlin felt she could not work as an editor for Julianís newspaper, so she moved away from San Francisco. Julian kept tabs on Caitlin of course, and found that she married and had one child already and another on the way. If Caitlin was happy, Julian could live with that.

Three nights after the meeting with Frank and Sonny, Julian called a meeting of all the Primogens save Cameron. Since it wasnít exactly a Conclave meeting, Lillie, Cash, Daedalus, and Sonny met in Julianís study. The Primogens of the city sat in chairs pulled up around the desk. Julian stood up to speak.

"Most of you are wondering why I called this meeting," said the prince.

"As much as I dislike Cameron," started Lillie, "calling a meeting without him is ratherÖ unprofessional of you."

"She is correct, Julian," said Daedalus, the Nosferatu Primogen. "Ever since Archonís death, Cameron has been waiting for you to step outside Kindred ways. His hatred for you runs deep, but he knows he cannot hold power if you remain faithful to our ways. Thus far, you have done well to keep it at that."

Daedalus noted the momentary look of pain in Julianís eyes at the mention of Archon, former Prince of the city and Julianís sire. Through the passage of time, Julian had been able to cope, but the prince would always hold a place deep within for his sire.

"I realize that, Daedalus," said Julian, "but this matter concerns Cameron in particular. Sonny? If you would elaborate?"

All eyes in the room turned to the Ventrue Primogen,

"Frank and I have been given a new case that involves Cameron," Sonny began. "We have nothing definite yet, but the police in Los Angeles has been building a case against Cyrus whom they believe has been involved with several crimes in that city. They also believe Cameron is connected, and Frank and I have been asked to investigate."

At the mention of the Brujah Prince, Cash was tempted to say something inappropriate. Even with the Gangrelís hatred of Brujah, Cash was able to hold himself in check. After few years of being in charge of his clan, the young Kindred was able to speak with restraint.

"If Cameron is involved, heíd have to comply with human laws," said Cash. "But what about Cyrus? Julian holds no power over another prince."

"LAPD has been working on this case for years," said Sonny. "The last few pieces are just coming into place. Cameron is a big key to that."

"If Cyrus does not cooperate," Julian said, "he risks the Masquerade. As prince, he knows that. But he will also do everything within his power to maintain his place. People involved could get hurt."

"Frank," whispered Lillie.

"Yes," said Julian. "With his knowledge of Kindred, he is most vulnerable of all."

**

Later that evening, Frank opened the door of his apartment to find Lillie. He wasnít surprised by her visit.

"I guess you know about our new case," said Frank.

"Letís not think about that," said Lillie, snaking her arms around the detective. "How about you and I go out and have a little fun tonight? Hmm?"

Frank pulled Lillie closer and whispered, "Julian send you to look after me?"

"I wouldnít say that."

"Then you volunteered?"

"Perhaps," replied Lillie with mischievous smile. "Why donít we go to my club, Frank? I have a new band playing tonight. I think youíll like their music. You could have a few drinks, we could dance..."

"This isnít exactly an invitation, is it?"

"Would you refuse if it were?"

"Let me change first," said Frank without putting up a fight. Any man, Kindred or not, would be hard-pressed to escape Lillie Langtryís net once it was cast.

**

Just outside the Haven, Frank could already hear the faint sounds of jazz filtering through the night air every time someone opened the doors of the club. Frank stepped out of the car to open the door for Lillie before handing the keys to her Mercedes to the valet.

Frank led Lillie by the arm inside the club. As his eyes adjusted to the lights, Frank noticed there werenít too many people inside. Most clubs were less packed on Wednesday nights than on weekends, and Lillieís was no exception. As the couple headed toward the bar, Frank thought he recognized someone sitting on a stool facing the stage with a drink in hand.

"Wolfe?" said Frank to himself.

"I assume youíre not talking about me," said Lillie.

"Huh?" said Frank. He shook his head a little, "Oh, no. See that man at the bar, tall guy, short brown hair?"

"Yes?"

"I think thatís Nick Wolfe. Heís a beat cop, but he should be a detective. I met him once on a case a few months back. Come on. I want to say hi."

Frank saw Nick stand up as the couple approached.

"I didnít think this place was your type, Detective Kohanek," said Nick.

"Call me Frank," said the detective as he shook Nickís hand. "Nick Wolfe, meet Lillie Langtry. She owns the place."

"Ah, that explains it then," said Nick. Turning to Lillie, he said, "Nice place you have here. Good music."

Lillie held out her hand and Nick took it. She eyed him up and down and she liked what she saw. "Iím glad you approve."

"So what made you think this wasnít my type of place in the first place?" asked Frank. He noticed Lillieís appraisal of Nick Wolfe, but he was used to that type of behavior from her. Besides, she was his date tonight. "If you ask me, I wouldnít figure you to come here on your own either."

"I guess I figured youíre kind of like me and you would normally avoid social hangouts like this. No offense to you, Lillie."

"None taken," replied Lilllie. "You said liked it anyway."

"Yeah," said Nick. "It reminds me a little of a club, ah, someone I knew ran. Or still runs. I havenít kept in touch exactly."

Lillie heard the bit of hesitation in Nickís voice. ĎA lost love, perhaps?í Lillie thought to herself.

Then Frank spoke. "A club in Torago?"

"Paris, actually," said Nick. "Itís called the Sanctuary."

"The Sanctuary?" said Lillie. "Iíve been there. I believe it was a man named Andre Korda who ran the place."

"Not anymore," said Nick, a hint of bitterness in voice apparent to both Frank and Lillie. Nick seemed to shake himself out of it. He turned to Lillie again, "When were you last in Paris?"

"Oh, itís only been a few years," replied Lillie.

Frank figured a "few years" couldnít possibly mean more than twenty for Lillie, but if Nick had heard of Korda, then it really was probably only very recently, even by human standards.

Frank asked, "What were you doing in Paris?"

"Just a little business," she replied. "I couldnít stay long."

ĎKindred business?í thought Frank. ĎNevermind. I donít want to know.í

The three of them continued to talk. Nick and Frank talked a little about being cops, but nothing too telling came out in their conversation. Lillie was a little surprised to find out Nickís ability to speak French so fluently, but they all spoke in English for Frankís benefit. The small talk continued for a few minutes when Lillie saw Cameron come into the Haven with a few of his Brujah clanmates.

Cameron walked straight toward Frank. He noticed a human was with the detective and the Toreador Primogen, so he chose his words carefully, "I know whatís going on, Kohanek. Be careful or something terrible might happen to you that I wonít be able to stop."

"Iím not sure," said Lillie before Frank could speak, "but I think making threats, especially in front of two police officers, is illegal."

"Then take it as a warning," said Cameron who turned to head out of the club.

Once Cameron was outside, Nick said, "What the hellís his problem?"

"My partner and I are working on a big case that involves him," said Frank. "Do a me a favor, Nick. If this case is going to work out, we need as few people as possible to be involved. You donít need to report this incident, okay?"

"Hey, Iím off duty, right?" said Nick. But as a very curious man, he had other plans.

**

Three days later, Nick arrived home from his late night shift. He took three steps inside and he heard the phone start to ring. Setting down all his gear on the kitchen table, Nick picked up the phone by the fourth ring.

"Hello?"

"Nick?" said the voice on the other end.

"Myers? You have any info for me?"

"Yeah, man. Look, I donít know what youíre getting into, but this guy Cyrus? Heís worse news than Julian Luna. Heís been involved in extortion schemes, drug trafficking, money laundering, and more. You name it, heís got his dirty hands into it."

"Jesus," said Nick.

"Yeah, and it gets worse," Myers continued. "The police in LA are very close to linking him to several execution-style murders. This guy Cameron is a possible key witness."

"So they need Cameron to get to Cyrus," said Nick.

"Exactly," agreed Myers. "But Cameronís no walk in the park either. Your friends in the police department will have a hell of a time getting anything from him."

"Thatís what I was afraid of," said Nick.

ĎLooks like Iíll have to keep a closer eye out for Frank and Sonny,í he thought to himself.

"Thanks for the info," he said aloud.

"Sure thing," said Myers. "Oh, and Nick?"

"Yeah?"

"Amandaís asked me about you."

"You can tell her Iím fine. But Iím still not ready to see her."

"Look, I donít know what happened between you two, and I know itís really none of my business. But she cares about you."

"I know. Letís just say thatís part of the problem and leave it at that, okay?"

"Okay, then. Well, talk to you later."

"Yeah. Bye. And thanks again."

Nick hung up the phone and walked over to the couch. He sat down with his head in is hands.

ĎAmanda,í thought Nick. ĎNo matter how hard I try, Iíll never be able to forget you.í

**

A week later, Frank Kohanek was eating a late night dinner at Nighthawkís Diner. He had just finished his shift and he was starved. He turned away from his meal to flag down the waitress for more water. When he faced his food once again, he saw Julian Luna sitting directly across from him in the same booth.

"Dammit, Luna!" exclaimed Frank. "One day, youíre gonna tell me how you do that."

"Kindred reflexes," said Julian. "Look Frank, Iím here to tell you to be careful."

"Arenít I always with you guys?"

Julian paused for a moment before answering. He had been wrestling with the idea of telling Frank just how much trouble the detective was in. He decided it was best for Frankís safety to let him in on some truths about the case he was working on.

"Itís different, this time, Frank," began Julian. "I know about the case with Cameron, how you need him to get to Cyrus. Sonny is pretty sure that you know Cyrus is one of us."

"Yeah, I figured as much."

"But I assume you donít know that heís also a Brujah Prince of Los Angeles?"

"What?!" Frank cried out. The few patrons in the restaurant turned their heads toward him, so he lowered his voice. "I suppose that means he has as much power as you?"

"At least as much, if not more. L.A. is a larger city, and the Brujah are strong there."

"So what does that have to do with me exactly?"

"It means Cyrus may not recognize my protection of you, Frank," answered Julian. "Thatís why I came to ask you a favor. And believe me, this is not easy for me either."

"What exactly did you have in mind?"

"I know that you donít want us watching your every move."

"No kidding," said Frank, the sarcasm evident in his voice.

Julian let the comment slide. "While youíre on this case, will you stay with Lillie when youíre not at work, Frank?"

"Youíre asking me to be with Lillie?" Frank was a little incredulous.

"Itís no secret that youíve been seeing each other over the years, Frank."

"Yeah, butÖ"

"Sheís not my lover anymore, Frank. Not since Caitlin." Julian paused. "Look, Iíd just feel better knowing youíre with someone we both trust."

"How does Lillie feel about this?"

"She cares for you. She wants you safe just as much as I do."

"Fine, Iíll stay with her. But itís for Lillie, not for you."

Frankís alliance with the Kindred prince was never easy, so Julian considered the detectiveís agreement a victory.

* * *

CHAPTER 2

The fog obscured the moon as it rolled by the Golden Gate Bridge and into the San Francisco Bay. The heavy mist could be seen under the lights alongside the Dock Workers Union Hall where two black Mercedes were parked. A lone man on a motorcycle rode past the warehouses and made note of the two cars before he sped off into the cold night air.

Two men inside the hall were too busy to notice the deep roar of the motorcycle engine. They had bigger problems to worry about.

"The police are getting too close to connecting me to you, Cyrus," said Cameron. He was pacing behind the desk that once belonged to Eddie Fiori. The past few weeks had made the normally cool and controlled Brujah Primogen nervous. Having Eddie Fioriís sire sitting calmly across from him did little to ease his agitation.

"I didnít come all the way from Los Angeles to have you tell me what I already knew," said Cyrus.

"Then what did you come here for, hmm?"

"With Frank Kohanekís knowledge of Kindred, I have decided that he is the only human who might have a chance to lead the police to get me."

"Heís not the only one working on this case. What about his Ventrue partner, Sonny Toussaint?"

"Julian Lunaís lackey of a childe would not dare to take on another prince and you know that. Therefore, the problem of the human detective must be taken care of."

"Oh, really?" said Cameron, a bit of sarcasm evident in his voice. "How do you expect to do that? Kohanekís always surrounded by Kindred these days. Heís either with that Ventrue at work or Julianís whore."

Just as Cameron finished speaking, a woman came into the office and said, "I am no oneís whore, Brujah."

"Lillie!" Cameron was shocked to see the Toreador as she sauntered over to him. "But howÖ"

Before he could finish the question, the woman who appeared to be Lillie Langtry shape-shifted into an exact duplicate of himself and brought a knife to his neck.

"An Assamite. Youíve hired another assassin." Cameron turned to Cyrus. "Your last plan with Eddie didnít work last time on Julian Luna. How do you expect this Assamite to succeed?"

The assassin in question stepped away from Cameron and shape-shifted once again into his own guise Ė an olive skinned man with black, short cropped hair. The Assamite wore dark clothing that made his appearance seem even more menacing.

"His target is not a powerful Ventrue prince," said Cyrus. "Once we have the human detective alone, the assassin should easily complete his task. His price of my blood is well worth it. I will not have human police undermine my power."

"What about Luna? You know that Kohanek is under his protection."

"Julian Luna is your prince, not mine. Our laws allow princes to decide the fate of humans who know of Kindred. I donít have to recognize Lunaís protection of Frank Kohanek, and you know that. Besides, you took it upon yourself to leave my care to come to this city for revenge. I am not the only one to fail in killing Luna."

Cameron contemplated this for a moment. As much as he hated Julian for killing his clanmates at Manzanita Springs, Cameron knew that it was Archon Raineís fault. Archon was dead and now Cameron had to live under Julianís rule. However, unlike Eddie Fiori, Cameron could be patient. He waited ten years to come back to San Francisco. He could wait ten times that until Julian made just one wrong move so he could step in and take over.


Cameron turned once again to Cyrus. "If the Assamite succeeds, and Luna decides to go after you personally, what then?"

"Luna will not risk his own place of power to come after me. And he wonít go to the police because doing so would risk the Masquerade."

"I see." Cameron was starting to like Cyrusí plan, but he wanted to know one more thing about it. "How do you plan to get the detective alone?"

"That is the main point I wanted to discuss with you."

And the Brujah prince proceeded to lay out his ideas with Cameron. The two discussed for several minutes the plan to kill Frank Kohanek. Cameron gave some input to help the assassination run as smoothly as possible. By the end of their discussion, the two finally felt they had a plan that would work well. They were not going to make the same mistakes they did in trying to get rid of Julian Luna. As soon as Frank was alone, nothing short of a miracle would save Frank Kohanek.

**

Frank stared out of the one-sided mirror that allowed him to observe the patrons of the Haven unnoticed. But he was not really watching the people in the club. Instead, he contemplated his current situation with Lillie. Frank cared for Lillie as she cared for him. Of that, there was no question. But their relationship was not like the one he had with Alexandra. It was because of Alexandra that he was still alive. Julianís promise to keep Frank alive was all thanks to her.

And now Frank was with Lillie. In the years that he had known Lillie, she had always come to his apartment for their meetings. He had never stayed at Lillieís place until now. He had a feeling that deep down, she was still in love with Julian even if she would never admit it. He felt that after Julian chose Caitlin Byrne over her, Lillie went to him as a sort of rebound guy. But was she a rebound woman for him after Alexandra?

"Penny for your thoughts?" Lillie had just come up from stairs from the club below to find Frank standing at the window.

"I was thinking about us." Frank knew that is was near impossible for him to lie to Lillie. The Toreador woman had powers of perception that he thought may even be a bit supernatural. He found it best to be as straightforward with her as possible. But it did not make it any easier what he felt he had to say to her next.

"And?" Lillie walked up behind Frank and put her arms around his waist.

"And after this is all over, this case, I donít think we should see each other anymore. Not like this."

"Are you saying you think we should just be friends?" The question sounded more like a statement to Frank.

"Yeah, I guess so." Frank continued. "You feel the same way, donít you?"

"Maybe I do. But I donít want to think about that right now."

"You still love him, donít you?"

"Hmm?"

"Julian. You still love him."

Lillie paused a moment before speaking. "Yes, I do. But I donít think he wants me back. Not yet. Not after what happened with Caitlin."

"What happened?"

"Remember when Goth took that girlís baby?"

"Yeah?" Frank remembered all too well the time that Goth, a banished Nosferatu kidnapped a baby in an attempt for a sacrifice.

"Julian knew that I sent Caitlin after him."

This was news to Frank. "What do you mean?"

"When I found out where Goth and Camilla were hiding in the park, IÖplanted a suggestion into her mind to go after them."

"What, you put a whammy on her in the hopes she might get herself killed?" Frank pulled out of Lillieís arms and turned to face her.

"Crudely put, but yes. I did."

"How? How could you do such a thing?"

"Kindred women can be very passionate. I think after being with me and with Alexandra you would know that. I admit, I was jealous of Caitlin. Julian and I had been together for years before she came along. At the time, I didnít think he belonged with a human. After getting to know you though, Iím not so sure. Maybe Julian would have been better off if he stayed with Caitlin."

"But you still love him."

"Yes. Just like I know you still love Alexandra."

"Sheís gone, but Julian isnít. Look, maybe it is finally time for you to go back to Julian. Iím pretty sure heíll always feel something for Caitlin from what I could tell, but I think the guy will always have feelings for you too."

"How would you know?"

"I donít know. Maybe it was the way he asked me to stay with you while Iím on this case. It seemed pretty hard for him, you know."

"It was my idea. Having you stay with me."

"Really?"

"What? Canít a girl have some fun, even if for a little while?"

Frank laughed a bit at that as Lillie led him away and into her bedroom.

ĎKindred women,í Frank thought. ĎThey really are passionate creatures.í

**

Julian was sitting in his office at the mansion. He was going over some finance reports when Cash walked in through the door.

"Julian."

"Yes, Cash, what is it?" Julian looked up from the computer monitor in front of him.

"One of my guys was riding by the Dock Workers Union Hall earlier this evening," Cash began.

"And?"

"Cyrus is in town again."

"Heís planning something with Cameron."

"Doesnít take a genius to figure that out," remarked Cash. "The question is what do we do about it?"

"Thereís nothing we can do against Cyrus or Cameron unless we have proof of any wrongdoing." Julian sighed. He was afraid this would happen, that Cyrus would be back. Julian continued, "But my guess is that this time those two Brujah after Frank Kohanek, since it is the detective who poses the immediate threat."

"You want me to look out for him, donít you?" After years of working closely with Julian as head of security and his personal bodyguard, Cash often knew what the prince was thinking.

"Frankís either with Sonny or Lillie most of the time, but it wouldnít hurt to have a little extra protection."

"What about you?" Cash was fiercely protective of his prince, but he was also loyal as the Gangrel tended to be. He would do what the prince asked, but he still wanted to make sure Julian was safe.

"Have most of your Gangrel guards with me here, but I want you in particular to look after Frank. I doubt he would appreciate any more Kindred looking after him even if itís for his own safety. So stay out of sight as much as possible."

"And Cyrus?"

"Keep an eye out on him, but stay out of his way for now. We donít want to be the ones to start another clan war."

Cash nodded in response and left Julianís office to meet with his fellow Gangrel to tell them the princeís requests.

**

After researching more on the Frank and Sonnyís case, Nick decided to keep closer tabs on both of them. The more he looked into it, the more Nick realized just how dangerous this Cyrus could be. Nick called in some favors with people he met while working with Bert Myersí firm. He was able to get transferred to the same precinct as the two detectives. Nickís partner, Dave Hernandez, thought nothing of the transfer, since it was not too uncommon.

Not too long after the transfer, Nick happened upon Frank at his desk at the station.

"You look like youíre having fun."

"If Iím having fun now, I donít want to know what itís like not to." Frank looked up from his work. "Nick! Howíre you doing, man? Did you get transferred here?"

"Oh, Iím doing pretty good. And yeah, Dave and I got transferred a couple days ago. That case driving you nuts?"

"Yeah, you could say that."

"I remember the stress of working on cases when I was a detective. I thought it would be easier than being riding in a squad car all day."

"What, increased responsibilities, longer hours, deadlinesÖ"

Nick laughed. "Yeah, Iím kind of glad I donít have to deal with that now."

"Whereís Dave?"

"Oh, we just got off our shift. Heís already left. Got a wife and kid waiting for him. Just came to see how you were doing."

"Your shiftís over? What time is it?"

"Itís a bit after ten, why?"

"Damn. I need a break. Iíve been staring at these files too long. You up for a drink?"

Nick looked down at his uniform. "I think I should change first."

"Fine. Iíll take you home, you can change, and maybe we can head to the Haven or something."

"Are you sure? Is it okay for you to leave work just like that?"


"Itís not going anywhere, and Iím no good if my brain refuses to work on it right now. Címon."

"Okay." Nick was a little unsure, but Frank really did seem to need to take a break.

Frank saw Sonny looking at the two of them from across the room.

"Hang on, Nick. I need to talk to Sonny for a bit."

"Sure."

Frank walked over to Sonny and the two stepped into a quiet area next to the watercooler.

"Youíre leaving work, Frank?"

"Look, Sonny, I was just telling Nick I need to take a break. My brainís fried right now."

"Let me come with you then."

"Threeís a crowd, Sonny. I donít need you spying on me all the time. I can take care of myself. Look. Donít worry. Weíll just take a quick trip to Nickís place so he can change. Then weíll go to the Haven. Lillie will be there. Iíll be fine."

"You have your phosphorus gun with you?"

"Yeah, in my car."

"Fine, have it your way."

"Thanks, man."

**

After Nick and Frank left, Sonny picked up the phone at his desk and dialed Cashís cell phone. As the phone rang, Sonny also looked up where Nick lived.

"Cash, this is Sonny."

"Yeah?" said Cash.

"Frankís leaving work with another officer. His nameís Nick Wolfe. Heís a beat cop. Frank said theyíre going to the Haven, but theyíre going to Nickís place first so he can change."

"You got an address?"

As soon as Cash got the address, he prepared to leave his apartment to watch Frank.

**

Unbeknownst to Sonny, another person at the precinct, a human, also made a similar phone call. Shelly Stevens, a rookie cop and current desk clerk, shook a little as she dialed from a payphone in the hallway. She made sure no one was watching or listening too closely.

"Yes?" said a distorted voice at the other end.

"Frank left without Sonny, but he left with some other guy," said Shelly.

"Who?"

"Pretty new guy. Officer Nick Wolfe."

There was a pause at the other end, as if the one with a distorted voice was having a conversation with someone else. Shelly got a bit impatient.

"Look, Iíve g-given you the information you wanted. Now will you leave my family alone?"

"Weíll just have to wait and see."

And the mysterious person hung up.

**

Cameron turned off the distorter he used with the phone and turned to Cyrus. The two were once again in his office at the Dock Workers Union Hall.

"Itís time. I donít think this Nick Wolfe guy should be a problem. He isnít Kindred."

"Are you sure?" asked Cyrus.

"I make it a point to know the name of every Kindred in San Francisco," said Cameron. "You told me yourself once that such knowledge is one of the keys to power as prince."

"Iíve taught you well," said Cyrus. "I wish Eddie had listened to me as much as you do. And I was his sire."

Cyrus then took the phone from Cameron and made his own phone call.

**

The Assamite had been waiting to hear from Cyrus inside a car parked not too far from the precinct. He could not be too close because he knew Kindred who might sense his presence surrounded the station. His phone vibrated in his pocket and he picked it up.

"You know your job." That was all Cyrus said before he hung up.

As the Assamite started his car, he dialed Cashís number and spoke with a voice not his own

**

Cash was surprised to hear his phone ring so soon after he hung up with Sonny. He didnít recognize the number from the caller I.D., but he answered anyway.

"Hello?"

"Cash?"

"Sasha? Is that you?" Cash was surprised to hear from the young Brujah. She still lived at Julianís mansion, so she knew that Cash had been busy with work. But it wasnít unlike Sasha Luna to get into trouble every once in awhile. Their relationship had been rocky over the years, but Cash loved Sasha as much as ever. It was because of that love that Cash found himself bailing out Sasha more times than he could count.

"Yeah, itís me. Cash? I need to see you right away."

"Sasha, Iím busy. I have to work tonight. You know that."

"I know, but itís important. I got into a little trouble and I donít want Uncle Julian to find out."

"What is it? What happened?"

"Look, can you just come? Please?"

Cash relented. "Fine, just tell me where you are."

"Iím outside the DNA Lounge on 11th."

"Iíll be there in a few minutes," said Cash and he hung up.

ĎSashaís not too far from where Nick Wolfe lives,í Cash thought. ĎIíll check in with Sasha for a bit then look for Frank. Besides, Frank can take care of himself. Heíll be fine.í

* * *

CHAPTER 3

"Turn left here," said Nick Wolfe. He was sitting shotgun in Frankís car and giving directions to his South of Market apartment. "You can pull into the garage driveway and wait for me while I go change."

"Sure." Frank turned into the driveway and turned off the engine and headlights.

Nick stepped out of the car. He turned to face Frank before closing the door. "Iíll only be a few minutes."

"Iíll be here."

Frank watched Nick pull out his keys to open the gate to the complex. Once he saw that Nick was inside, he decided to turn on the radio. The first station to come in clearly played alternative rock. Happy with the music for a moment, Frank rolled down his window to let in some air. When he looked outside, he saw a lone woman walking on the sidewalk with her back turned toward him. Her wavy blond hair was cut short and she wore a white dress with a flowing hem that fell just to her knees. Frank wondered briefly if she was cold since she only had a thin shawl wrapped around her shoulders. She reached the corner of the block and turned to cross the street, and that was when Frank noticed her face.

"Alexandra?" he whispered. "It canít be."

For a brief moment, the woman seemed to stare directly at Frank before she turned away. He could not explain why, but Frank felt compelled to follow her. His rational side told him that this woman could not be Alexandra Serris, the Ventrue who first brought him into the world of the Kindred. The emotional side of Frank told him he had nothing to lose if he just found out who that woman was. Before he realized it, Frank found himself stepping out of the car to follow the mystery woman.

**

Nick was finished changing but he took a moment to look out the window down to Frankís car. Nick was surprised to see the driverís side door open. He looked around the area and saw Frank crossing the street at the other end of the block. Ahead of Frank, he saw a woman in a white dress.

ĎWhy the hell would he leave his car like that and follow that woman?í Nick wondered. He was not sure why, but Nickís instincts told him something was wrong. He picked up his coat and rushed outside to chase after Frank.

**

Cash arrived at the club where he was supposed to meet Sasha. He parked his motorcycle and waited a few minutes. After no sign of the young Brujah, Cash decided to go inside the club. The bouncer stopped Cash before he could go inside, quietly pointing out the end of the line.

"Look, man," said Cash. "I was supposed to meet someone here. I just want to know if sheís inside. Iíll only be a few minutes."

"You still have to wait in line just like everyone else." The tall man folded his arms across his heavily muscled chest, but Cash was certainly not afraid of this human. However, he did not really want any trouble.

"Fine, have it your way. But have you seen a girl with lots of curly dark hair? Sheís about this tall." Cash held his hand up to his eye level to demonstrate to the bouncer.

"Canít say that I have."

Cash then realized he had a small picture of Sasha that he always carried with him, one that was taken before she was embraced. He showed the picture to the bouncer.

The man took one look at the picture. "Nope, she hasnít been here tonight."

"Youíre sure?"

"Pretty sure Iíd remember seeing a girl like that."

Cash believed the man was telling the truth and walked away. His gut told him something was wrong, so he decided to call Sashaís cellular number. After the third ring, she picked up.

"Hello?" she said.

"Sasha, where are you?"

"Cash? Iím at the Haven, why?"

"You called to tell me to meet you at the DNA Lounge earlier," Cash replied. He was getting more suspicious by the moment.

"No, I didnít. Sasha said. "Besides, Iíd never go to that club. Itís not my type of music. Look, Lillieís with me. You can talk to her if you donít believe me."

"I believe you," Cash said. "Look, somethingís wrong here and I gotta figure it out. Iíll talk to you later. Stay with Lillie for me, will you?"

"What is it? Whatís wrong?"

"I canít say right now, but I gotta go." Cash hung up before Sasha could say anymore.

**

"What is it?" asked Lillie. She had been listening quietly to Sashaís side of the phone conversation. She saw the young Brujah come into her club and had been sitting with her when her phone rang. Sasha had been coming to Haven alone a lot lately since Cash was working so much.

"He just hung up." Sasha looked at her phone for a moment before putting it away inside her jacket pocket.

"Somethingís wrong." It was more of a statement than a question coming from Lillieís mouth.

"Yeah, but he wouldnít tell me what."

"Heís supposed to be looking after Frank," said Lillie. She stood up to get out of the booth. "I have to do something."

"Lillie, what can you do? You donít know where Frank is."

"Did Cash say where he was?"

"He said something about meeting me at the DNA Lounge. You know where that is?"

"Itís in the South of Market district." Lillie thought to herself for a moment. The Haven was in the North Beach area, a couple miles northwest of the club Sasha mentioned.

Sasha figured out what Lillie was thinking. "Youíll never get through downtown fast enough with your car. You want to borrow my bike?"

"No thanks. I think Iíll fly."

Sasha watched Lillie hurry out of the club. The young Brujah could do nothing but wait and see what happened.

**

After a few blocks, Frank finally caught up with the woman in the white dress. She turned around to face Frank and walked towards him.

"Frank," she said. She sounded a lot like Alexandra.

"You know who I am."

"Itís me, Frank."

"Thatís impossible. I saw you jump into the bay. You were on fire. There was no way you could survive."

The woman who looked like Alexandra stepped closer to Frank. "What? You canít believe your own eyes? Iím here. Iím back."

"How? I donít understandÖ"

ĎThis has to be a trick,í Frank told himself. He found himself stepping backwards, but the Alexandra lookalike was getting even closer. Once she had her arms around him, all rational thought escaped Frank. In a moment, Frank remembered all that he shared with the Ventrue woman six years ago. Frank so desperately wanted that back. Frank started kissing the woman with an intensity he had not felt in a long time, even with Lillie.

He pulled away for a moment, breathless. "Is it really you? Are you my Alexandra?"

The woman smiled, but it was not a smile of love. The face stayed the same, but the voice sounded like that of a man. "Foolish human."

Frank tried to pull away, but the Kindred was too strong. Frank was sure he was facing a Kindred who disguised himself as his former lover. He was too preoccupied with following the woman earlier, but Frank finally realized that the Kindred had lured him into an alley where there was no one else to be seen. He knew he had been trapped.

Before he could put up another struggle, Frank felt a sharp pain in his side and saw that the Kindred stabbed him with a large knife. He dropped to the ground instantly, and through his blurring vision he saw the Kindred run away.

Frank resigned himself to the inevitable. He was going to die tonight.

ĎAt least maybe Iíll be with the real you, Alexandra.í

**

Nick rushed out of the apartment complex and ran in the direction that he saw Frank going earlier. He saw no sign of the detective, but he was not going to give up.

A block away, Nick saw the woman that Frank was following running out of an alleyway.

"Hey! Stop!" he yelled after her. Nick wished for a moment that he had his gun, but he left it back at his loft. Nick debated whether to go after the woman or to look after Frank. He looked into the alleyway and saw Frank lying on the ground, injured. When Nick turned again to go after the woman, she was nowhere to be seen.

"What the hell?" Nick said to himself. There was no way she could have gone far.

Nick turned back to the alleyway instead. He ran to find Frank bleeding from a serious stab wound below his ribs.

"Frank." Nick knelt to Frank and placed the manís head in his lap. "Iím sorry, man. I wish I could have stopped her." Nick laughed a little to himself. "When you wake up, you have got to tell me what the hell just happened here."

But Frank was unconscious and was unable to hear Nick.

"Get your hands off him!"

Nick looked up. He was surprised to see someone else in the alleyway. "Who the hell are you?"

The other man approached but he did not answer Nick. Nick put his hands up when he saw a gun pointed at him.

"Damn," said the stranger, as he bent to take a closer look at Frankís wound. The stranger pulled out his cell phone and dialed 911. He still had his gun trained on Nick.

"I need an ambulance fast. I have a police officer, Frank Kohanek, with a stab wound to his stomach." With his gun still pointed at Nick, he walked to the street sign. "Iím in an alley, Juniper off Folsom."

When the stranger came back, Nick asked, "Once again, who the hell are you?"

"Name's Cash. Who are you?"

"Nick Wolfe."

Cash put his gun away. It seemed to Nick that Cash knew who he was, but he knew nothing about Cash.

"You know I didnít do this," Nick said.

"Yeah. But can you tell me who did?"

"I donít know. Some woman Frank was following. She got away before I could go after her. Why were you following Frank?"

Cash wondered for a moment what he should tell the human. "Iím Julian Lunaís bodyguard. Julian knows Frank and he asked me to look after the cop."

"You know about Frankís case with Cyrus."

"Yeah, and if you know whatís good for you, you wonít get involved."

"I already am," said Nick. The wheels were turning in Nickís head. What was Julian Lunaís connection to Cyrus? Why would Luna want to look after Frank Kohanek? The faint sounds of an ambulanceís sirens interrupted Nickís train of thought for a moment.

ĎDamn, Frank,í Nick thought to himself. ĎI was hoping you wouldnít die in public. But this guy seems to really care if you live or not. Maybe the doctors can save you from this and youíll be able to live normally. Otherwise, I sure as hell hope you donít revive in front of too many people.í

**

From a rooftop above the alleyway, a raven observed the scene below as paramedics wheeled Frank Kohanek into the back of an ambulance. Nick and Cash were told that they could not ride in the ambulance. Nick said something about Frankís car not being too far off at his place, but Cash said he would ride his motorcycle. The raven did not follow either of the two men. Instead, the bird followed the emergency vehicle as it headed south toward San Francisco General Hospital.

**

It seemed to be controlled chaos at the hospital to Nick Wolfe. The emergency medical team at the hospital went about their business to try to save Frank, but there was a certain extra urgency Nick saw in their eyes. In all his years as a police officer, he knew that public servants, from firefighters to police officers, worked extra hard to save one of their own. Nick also knew that news of Detective Frank Kohanekís stabbing would spread fast. His thoughts were confirmed when several squad cars and media vans swarmed the outside of the hospital. Captain Kwan himself questioned Nick about what happened. Kwan then went to question Cash, when Nick saw Lillie in the waiting room.

"Lillie! What are you doing here?" Nick was surprised to see her.

"I came as soon as I heard. Any news on Frank?"

"The doctors are still working on him. Howíd you get here so fast? The media just got here only a few moments ago."

Lillie did not answer at first, but then she said, "Cash. He called me earlier."

"You know Cash?"

Before she could answer, Julian Luna walked past the hospitalís sliding glass doors.

"Julian!" said Lillie.

Julian walked to Lillie and Nick. Nick was surprised once again. ĎShe knows Luna too? I really have to ask Frank about this when this all blows over.í

Cash was finished talking to Kwan, and he said, "Julian, this is Nick Wolfe. He was with Frank when he was stabbed."

"I wish we could meet under different circumstances," Julian said as he held out his hand. "Can you tell me who did this to Frank?"

Nick did not take it. He remembered all too well Myersí report on Julian Luna. "Look, I donít know what the hell is going on with you, but I already gave my statement to the captain. If he decides to tell the media what happened, you can find out that way."

Julian let the matter drop. "Fair enough."

A few silent and awkward moments later, the head physician stepped out into the waiting room. From her demeanor, the whole room knew the news was not good.

"I need to speak to the officer in charge," she said aloud.

Captain Kwan spoke up. "Iím in charge. Tell me what happened."

Nick followed the captain, along with Julian Luna and Lillie.

The doctor looked at the captain with a question in her eyes.

"Whatever news you have to tell me, theyíre going to find out anyway," he said, motioning to the three standing behind him.

"Okay," said the doctor. "We did everything we could to save Detective Kohanek, but the stab wound was too deep. The wound started below his ribs but it went all the way up to his heart. He lost a lot of blood, and we were unable to revive him. Iím sorry."

"You did the best you could. Thank you, doctor." The captain turned to Nick with a short glance at Julian and Lillie. "I have to make a statement to the other officers and then the media. We have to get whoever did this, Wolfe."

"Yes, sir," Nick answered.

Nick turned toward Julian Luna and Lillie. Nick saw that Luna looked mad enough to explode, while Lillie was distraught in his arms. ĎWhatís their story?í Nick wondered.

"Look, Lillie," said Nick. He hoped he looked genuinely distraught in his own way. Lillie didnít seem to notice either way, but Luna had a questioning look in his angry eyes.

"Lillie," Nick began again. "I think Iíll go home again to change before I go back to the station. Weíll get whoever did this to Frank."

As Nick headed away from the pair, he could have sworn he heard Lillie say to Luna, "You can't frenzy here, Julian. Not in public."

ĎFrenzy?í Nick thought. ĎWhatís that supposed to mean?í

**

Nick headed outside the hospital but he did not go back to Frankís car. He searched the rear of the hospital for another entrance, making sure he was not being followed. He found a door but it was locked. Nick was easily able to pick the lock with small tools he kept in the lining of his coat along with his sword. The tools had come in handy when he was working for Myers, but it had been awhile since he used them last.

ĎWell, at least hereís one thing I can definitely thank Amanda for,í Nick thought.

He made his way down the hallway and found the stairs. Nick learned that hospital morgues were usually downstairs. He walked around the floor one flight down and did not run into anyone. He heard the elevator ring and hid around the corner. Nick saw an orderly wheel a gurney with someone he was sure was Frank. Keeping out of sight, Nick followed the orderly into the cold morgue and heard him talk to the coroner. Nick was glad to hear that the coroner would take a break first before starting his autopsy. The two hospital staff members went away, and Nick stepped into the morgue. He looked around for some spare scrubs and found some in a closet not too far away.

A few moments later, Nick felt a presence tickling the back of his mind. With a sharp intake of air, Nick saw Frank try to sit up.

"What the hell?" Frank said, breathing heavily. With the sheet down in his lap, Frank noticed he did not have his clothes on.

"Welcome back, Frank." Nick held the green scrubs out toward Frank.

"Nick! Whatíre you doing here?" Frank paused, confusion clear on his face. He held a hand to his bare chest. "My heart. Itís beating. I wasnít embraced."

Thinking Frank was talking about being embraced by the light or some such, Nick said, "Yeah. Youíre Immortal, Frank. Like me."

* * *

CHAPTER 4

The morning sun shone brightly upon the white walls of St. Maryís Cathedral. The church, with its striking geometric design, sat proudly atop one of San Franciscoís many hills. Dozens of patrol cars and black limousines lined Geary Street along one side of the church. The normally busy roadway was blocked to through traffic, but the citizens did not complain. St. Maryís was often the site for public memorials, and on this day, the city mourned the loss of one of its veteran police officers, Detective Frank Kohanek.

The public memorial lasted a couple hours. City dignitaries were in attendance along with hundreds of police officers, all in uniform with black bands placed diagonally across their badges. Several eulogies were given, but perhaps the most touching moment came when a lone bagpipe player sounded out the slow notes of "Amazing Grace."

Once the service was over, eight mounted police led the vehicle containing a casket in a procession for several blocks. Police officers followed in patrol cars. Passersby looked on curiously, then paused in moments of silence to honor someone they never met, but knew must have done some good for the city. The mounted police led their horses aside to allow the procession to continue on outside the city for burial services.

The funeral procession ended in one of the many cemeteries of Colma, a small town a few miles south of the city. Frank Kohanekís coworkers at the precinct and a few extended family members were in attendance. Sonny Toussaint and Nick Wolfe were among the pallbearers. It was a simpler ceremony compared to the public one held at the church. A plain tombstone giving only the name and dates of birth and death marked the grave, which was right next to the grave of Frankís wife.

The services were only symbolic, however. There was no body in the casket to bury.

**

Sonny Toussaint stayed behind in his own car at the cemetery parking lot to wait for his prince. Sonny knew that Julian wanted to pay his own respect to Frank in private. A few hours after the ceremony, Sonny saw a black Mercedes pull into the parking lot. Cash stepped out of the driversí side to open the passenger door. Julian stepped out and helped Lillie out of the car.

Sonny stepped out of his car to greet them.

"Sire," Sonny said.

"Which way?" was all Julian said.

"Follow me," Sonny replied.

A few minutes later, the four Kindred stood at the two graves of Frank and his wife. Sonny and Cash stood by silently, while Lillie and Julian said a few words. Sonny was silent because he had already said what he wanted to say to his partner. Cash did not say anything because he did not really know the human, but he wanted to be there because he felt it was partly his fault Frank had died.

Lillie was the first to say something. Her voice was quiet and more than a little sad.

"Frank." She paused, then laughed a little before continuing, "I feel a little silly knowing youíre not really here, but I hope you can hear whatever it is I do say. I miss you already, Frank. Iím sorry I couldnít protect you. Maybe now youíre with your wife and in a better placeÖ" Lillie did not continue, her cheeks stained red with tears. She knelt to place two bouquets, one in front of each tombstone.

It was Julianís turn to speak. His voice was stronger, with a little anger behind it.

"I promise you, Frank," Julian started, "I will find a way to bring to justice the ones responsible for your death. I blame none but myself for failing to protect you." The three with Julian looked at their prince in a bit of surprise. "I should have realized that Cyrus would have found some way to get to you. He used your memory of Alexandra against you, an Assamite! Then the have the nerve to take your body away, away from a proper burialÖ" Julian shook his head. "I swear Frank, the Brujah will pay."

**

That same night, Nick drove across the Bay Bridge. He pulled up next to a warehouse near the Coliseum in Oakland. As he stepped out of his car, Nick could hear the stadium crowd cheering for some baseball game, even from several blocks away.

ĎLots of people at the game tonight,í Nick thought. ĎMust be Dollar Wednesday.í

Nick walked up to the side door of the warehouse and felt a presence of another Immortal nearby. He opened the door and saw Frank Kohanek come from behind a pillar with a sword in hand.

"You learn quick," Nick said, indicating the sword Frank held.

"Doesnít take much considering the first night you came in and I didnít have my sword ready," Frank replied. Frank recalled a few nights ago when Nick came to the warehouse. Frank figured only Nick knew about the hideout so the newest Immortal was not prepared for Nickís attack. Frank rubbed his side at the memory of Nickís bastard sword run straight through it.

After Frankís first death at the hospital, Nick brought the detective to his loft. Nick spent the rest of that night explaining Immortality, the Game, the Gathering, and even Holy Ground as a safety zone. Needless to say, Frank was incredulous at first, thinking that Nick was crazy. Nick then surprised Frank by running a knife across his hand. Frank stared in shock as the wound healed instantly before his eyes. After that, Frank did not need much more convincing that Nick was telling the truth. After all, if Kindred could exist, why not Immortals?

Nick then went on to say that Frank needed a teacher, someone to teach him how to use a sword to defend himself against other Immortals. Frank learned that the price of Immortality was a heavy one; he would be able to live forever as long as he could keep his head and his Quickening.

But Frank did not want to leave San Francisco, not until his killers were caught. Without telling Nick about Kindred, for it was not his secret to tell, Frank said he wanted to be around to make sure that whoever was responsible would be brought to justice. After much arguing, the two compromised. If the ones responsible for Frankís death were not caught within three months, Frank agreed to leave for a better teacher. The two also agreed that it would be safer for Frank to stay outside the city, hence the rented warehouse across the bay. The warehouse had plenty of room to work out, plus some small offices and a shower installed by the owners. The building used to be an auto body shop, and the mechanics must have wanted to be clean before leaving work. Frank was busy enough his first week in the warehouse making the place a bit more comfortable to live in.

Nick spent as much of his free time as he could to help teach Frank the basics of sword fighting. With all his training as a police officer, Frank was a quick study. He already knew basic self defense moves. The sword was just an extension and allowed for greater offense as well. Frankís sword and the money for the warehouse were all thanks to Connor MacLeod, who was glad to help, once the situation was explained a little over the phone to the Scot. Nick only had to describe Frankís size and body type and a sword was delivered overnight. The weapon, a Spanish rapier, was perfect for Frank. Nick promised to repay his former teacher when he had the chance.

Nick stepped into one of the offices in the warhouse. Instead of putting his stuff down and getting ready for a workout, Nick surprised Frank by pulling out a laptop. Nick set it on the desk in the room and plugged in the phone line.

"Whatís going on?" Frank asked.

"I just went to your funeral today," Nick said. "The whole state thinks Frank Kohanek is dead, so you need a new identity. Iím going to try to help you make one."

"Wow," Frank said. "With all thatís happened, I didnít really think about that. Howíre you going to do that anyway?"

"I have a friend with connections," Nick said. He continued, "All we need to do is give you a new name and make up some basic background information. Iíll send it to my friend, heíll flesh out your history some more, and in a few days, youíll have all the documents you need to start a new life."

"Thatís it? Must be some connections your friend has."

"You could say that," said Nick. Nick was not about to give up Bert Myersí secrets, and Frank did not press for more information after that. "So, what do you want your new name to be?" Nick asked, once the computer was set up.

"Uh, Iím not sure. Kinda weird to name myself, you know? Youíre lucky you got to keep your name."

"Yeah, I guess. Any suggestions then?"

"Thompson. I want my last name to be Thompson."

"That was quick."

"It was my last name before my mother remarried. The Thompsonís adopted me when I was a baby." Frank noticed the look of surprise in Nickís eyes. "What? What is it?"

"Nothing," Nick said. "Well, not really. Itís just that I was adopted too. In fact, as far as I know, Immortals donít know their real parents. Donít look at me. I canít explain it either." After a small moment of silence, Nick said, "So Thompson, huh?"

"Yeah," Frank started. "So Mike and Irene Thompson adopted me when they found out they couldnít have kids of their own. My father, Mike, died as police officer in the line of duty. I guess that inspired me to become a cop. Anyway, my mom remarried a lawyer, Dan Kohanek, and I took his name to make her happy. She wasnít too happy when I became a cop. She was afraid Iíd die young like my dad." Frank laughed a little. "Guess she was both right and wrong about that. Iím kind of glad sheís not here to see this. I donít think I could take it making her think I was dead. It was hard enough after dad died."

"What about your stepfather?" Nick asked. "I saw him at the funeral today."

"Dan? I donít keep in touch with him too much. After mom died, he moved back to Chicago and joined some big firm there. I certainly respect him enough and I donít hate him, but I was never close to him. I was already a teenager when my mom married him."

"Yeah, I think I can understand. So you want to be Frank Thompson?"

"How about William Francis Thompson? William was my fatherís middle name."

"And Francis?"

"Long version of my name."

"Of course." Nick typed in the name, and said aloud, "Billy Francis it is."

Nick ducked the swat Frank aimed at the back of his head. Once Frank decided upon a new name, the two worked together the rest of the evening on creating a new identity.

**

A few days later, Captain Kwan called Nick into his office at the precinct. Nick got the call while on patrol with his partner, Dave. Nick wondered what the captain had in store for him.

"Officer Wolfe," the captain said, "you already know Detective Toussaint here."

Sonny was sitting in one of the two chairs in front of Captain Kwanís desk, and he was facing Nick as he came into the office.

"Yes, sir," Nick began. "Pardon me for asking, but whatís this all about?"

"The commissioner had been breathing down our neckís about the Cyrus case since the beginning, but after Frank diedÖ Well, itís even more important now that we bring these people in."

"Sir, and your point isÖ?" Nick was a bit afraid of what the captain was suggesting.

"Frank was the best guy for the job. Thatís why he was killed. The problem is we canít prove that yet. I want you to work with Sonny here to catch these guys. Iíve looked over your records as a detective back in Torago, and youíre the best guy we have right now. I know itís a dangerous job, but weíre all hoping youíll take this detective promotion effective immediately upon your agreement. Iím sorry that an opening came in this way, and I know itís so soon after Frankís murder. But I can only give you a couple days to think it over before I have to get someone else."

Nick did not take long at all to respond. "Iíll take it."

ĎBesides,í Nick thought to himself, ĎFrank will be more than happy to help me on this case. And itís not like these people can kill me so easily.í

Before anyone could say anything else, they heard a knock upon the glass window to the office door.

"Come in," Captain Kwan said.

Officer Shelly Stevens stepped inside, and all three in the office could see the tension in her face.

"Whatís wrong, Shelly?" Captain Kwan used her first name to try to make the young woman more comfortable.

Shelly stared at the floor as she spoke. "I think... Sir, itís my fault Detective Kohanekís dead."

**

Sonny spent the rest of his evening debriefing Nick on the case with Cyrus. The news that Shelly Stevens gave them, that someone blackmailed her into giving information on Frankís departure from the station only added to their case. They decided to have someone go home with her and have her family be on guard at all times until everything was over. Captain Kwan also allowed Shelly a few daysí paid leave for her distress, and assured her it was not her fault Frank died.

Once the two detectives were done with the debriefing and everything else, it was already pretty late. So they decided to go home for the night. Sonny went to the mansion as soon as he left the station. Julian was in his office ready to greet his Childe.

"You have new information for me, Sonny?" Julian asked as the younger Ventrue stepped inside and closed the office doors.

"It turns out someone at the station was blackmailed into giving specific information," Sonny said, and he sat down in the chair directly across his prince.

"What kind of information?"

"A young officer was told to call a specific number when Frank left the station without me."

"The Brujah knew you would be watching Frank, so they needed an opening."

"Yes," Sonny said. "I also wanted to let you know that Captain Kwan just promoted someone to work with me on this case."

"So soon?"

"The police want Frankís killers badly, Julian, almost as much as you. But from what I know of Nick Wolfe, my new partner, he seems to be a decent man for the job."

"Nick Wolfe, he was the one with Frank that night, wasnít he?"

"Yeah. Turns out he also used to be a detective back in Torago a few years ago. I think Lillie has met him with Frank a few weeks before."

"Iíll have to ask her about this Nick Wolfe then. I also want you to look more into his past, but work with him for now. Kindred justice does not allow me to take on another prince without starting a clan war that will tear this whole state apart. I cannot allow that to happen, but I swore to protect Frank. Maybe for once, human justice just might work enough to bring Cyrus down, enough for me to take him on personally."

**

Word of Nickís promotion spread fast throughout the city. Cameron was in his home when he heard the news from some Brujah who overheard the news at the Haven. Cameron picked up a phone and immediately dialed a number in Los Angeles.

"I need to speak with your prince," the Brujah Primogen said when someone picked up on the other end. "Tell him Cameron is calling."

A few moments later, Cyrus was on the line. "What is it now, Cameron?"

"The SFPD promoted Nick Wolfe to detective to work on the same case Frank Kohanek was working on, sir."

"As far as Iím concerned, Frank Kohanek was my biggest problem because of his knowledge of Kindred. If you think this Wolfe will be a problem, work on it yourself, Cameron. You canít come running to me at every sign of trouble."

"I understand that sir. I just thought you would like to know."

"Fine." Cyrus decided to change his line of speech with the younger Brujah. "Relax Cameron. Frank is dead. Thereís nothing he can do to either of us now."

**

CHAPTER 5

It had already been two and a half months since Frankís first death, and the former detective was getting frustrated. Nick had pretty much taught Frank all he knew about how to defend himself against other Immortals. If Frank wanted to do better, they both knew he would need a more experienced teacher. Frank promised Nick that he would leave the Bay Area for a better teacher either within three months, or when his killers were caught. Frank would much rather be around for the latter.

Nick was also getting frustrated because no new solid leads had come up on the case. He even asked Bert Myers if there was anything he could find out, but it seemed Cyrus had as many layers around him as Julian Luna. Nick even tried on several occasions to ask Frank what he knew about Luna, but all he got were vague answers about an ex-girlfriend and promises to keep. Nick decided not to push the issue further, reasoning that if information on Luna would help the case, Frank would have given it up by now.

In the meantime, Frank spent his days in the warehouse practicing empty hand and sword forms. He also sparred with Nick whenever possible. When Frank ventured outside the warehouse alone, he stuck to public areas in the daytime, always with a baseball cap and sunglasses on. He needed to avoid both Immortal challenges and the possibility of someone recognizing him. Thus far, he was lucky neither happened.

After a few hours of practice on Nickís day off, the two men took a break in the kitchen area of the warehouse. Frank prepared sandwiches at the center counter, while Nick turned on a small television in the corner of the room.

"You know, Nick, basic training at the academy was a piece of cake compared to these past couple of months with you."

"If you think Iím tough," Nick replied, "I hear Duncan MacLeodís just as tough as Connor."

Frank looked up from the sandwich he was making. "Hang on, hang on. Whatís this about Duncan MacLeod? Any relation to Connor?"

"In a way, yeah," Nick answered. "I talked to Connor last night, and he said he was too busy at the moment to take on a new student. I didnít ask why, so I canít tell you. But Duncanís from the same clan as Connor, only about fifty years younger I think. I hear from Connor that Duncanís one of the best fighters. He's a good man, Frank. And I value Connor's opinion."

"So where will I find this Duncan MacLeod?" Frank asked.

"Right now, he's in Paris, but I hear he's moving back to Seacouver next month. Turns out he has a dojo up north that's perfect for training."

"So I guess I'll be staying here a little longer than planned," Frank said as he sat down with the sandwiches.

"Yeah," Nick replied as he got a sandwich from the plate Frank set on the table.

Frank grabbed the remote to change the channel, but Nick stopped him.

"What? What is it?" asked Frank.

"That news report," Nick said with his eyes not leaving the television screen. "Turn it up a bit."

With the volume turned up, the two listened to a woman reporter on location at an apparent crime scene. The woman was in front of the yellow tape marking a police line. Several police officers could be seen in the background.

"... body of a man identified as Jason Carter washed ashore in the Port of Los Angeles earlier today. Carter, an antiques dealer based in West Hollywood, had been missing since last Tuesday. Carter appears to be the victim of another execution-style murder, which have plagued the city for months.

"No suspects have been named, but our sources suggest that this case could possibly be related to alleged crime boss Cyrus. LAPD has neither confirmed nor denied this report, but they have released a statement that an associate of Carter's, a Mr. Basil Morgan, has also been missing. It appears Morgan, a British citizen living in Torago, had been in town on business visiting Jason Carter. The police have released this picture of Morgan in the hopes that if someone has seen him to please come forward."

Nick and Frank saw a picture appear onscreen of a man with a gaunt face and straight dark hair that fell past the ears. The picture then went back to the reporter.

"We will be bringing you more information as it becomes available on this breaking news story. This is Jessica Ortega reporting live for KBLA."

"You can turn it off now, Frank," Nick said as a pair of studio anchors appeared on screen. "I have to make a phone call."

"What is it?" Frank looked at Nick. "You think you have a lead?"

"Maybe," Nick said as he got up, his sandwich forgotten. "I recognized the name, Basil Morgan. He was one of Amanda's fences back in Torago."

"Who's Amanda?" Frank asked.

"The first Immortal I met," Nick said. "She was a thief, and Basil was a fence that she used."

"Sounds like there's more to this story than you're telling me," Frank said.

"Yeah," Nick said. After taking a breath, he said, "Anyway that doesn't matter right now. What does matter is I think Morgan might be one of us."

"Another Immortal?" Frank said, surprised. "But how can that help with this case? Even if he's still alive, he probably won't be anywhere near LA by this time."

"You'll see what I mean later," Nick answered. "Let me just make this call first."

Nick took out his cell phone and used the speed dial to make a call.

After a few moments, Frank heard Nick say, "Myers. This is Nick. I need you to find a number where I can reach a Joseph Dawson. He's still probably Paris, but he might be in Seacouver."

---

The sun had already set long ago in Paris, France. It was near closing time at Le Blues Bar and an older looking man with gray hair and a beard stood behind the counter polishing a few glasses with a towel. One lone remaining patron, a man who appeared to be in twenties, sat on a stool near the end of the bar with a tall glass of beer in hand.

The young looking man, with short brown hair and a pale complexion, spoke to the man behind the bar.

"Great band tonight, Joe," he said.

"Yeah, weren't they something?" the older looking man, Joe, said. "Hard to believe how young the guy lead guitar is. He could go far if he keeps it up."

"I heard you're going back to Seacouver," said the younger looking man.

"You heard right," Joe answered. "You gonna pay for that beer before I do leave, Adam?"

"Whatever happened to respect for your elders, Joe?" Adam replied with a bit of a smile.

"Don't pull that one on me, old man," Joe said, shaking his head. "With the company I keep, I'd be out of business in no time if drinks were always on the house in respect for my elders."

"Point taken," Adam replied before taking another sip of his beer. Quickly changing the subject, Adam said, "I've always wondered why Mac likes to shuttle back between Paris and Seacouver. What is it about these two cities that interests him so?"

Before Joe could reply, the phone rang, the shrill tone seemingly out of place in the dimly lit establishment. It took a few moments for Joe to pick up the phone, his uneven gait and walking cane indicating a disability.

"Le Blues Bar," Joe answered as he put the receiver to his ear. Adam was surprised to hear when Joe next said, "Nick Wolfe?"

---

One week later, Julian Luna was sitting in his study going over various business documents he needed to sign for approvals and such. It was only early evening, but Julian appeared a little tired. Though much of his time lately had been focused on the Frank Kohanek issue, life still had to go on. That meant having to keep up his business dealings in the mortal world, as well as maintaining order among Kindred as Prince of the City. Unfortunately for Julian, he kept himself too busy, so much so that he was unaware that it was a Friday night and that the papers in front could wait until the weekend was over. It seemed keeping busy was a way of venting his frustration at his inability to avenge Frank's death.

Julian's perusal of the papers on his desk was interrupted when Lillie Langtry walked through the double wooden doors. Though no less stunning than the dressier outfits she usually wore at her club, Lillie was dressed casually in black slim fitting pants and a matching halter-top, both of which accentuated her long lines. Her dark hair fell in soft waves around her shoulders.

"You're looking a little worn around the edges, Julian," Lillie said as she sat in a leather chair across from the prince. "Why don't you take a break and come with me for a drink at the Haven? I have a band playing tonight and their music might soothe you a little."

"I don't have time for that, Lillie," Julian replied a bit rudely, shuffling a few folders around. "I need to get these done."

"Julian, it's Friday," Lillie said, laying a hand on one of Julian's to keep it still. "Most of the businesses will be closed tomorrow. The papers can wait."

Julian stopped and looked at Lillie after she said that. He rubbed a hand over his forehead and sighed. "I guess I just didn't realize what time it was. I apologize for being so short with you."

"There's no need, Julian," Lillie said. "With the stress you're under, it's understandable. So how about that break, hmm?"

"Let me change, and I'll meet you in the foyer," Julian said in reply. "Lillie, thank you for understanding."

Lillie gave a little smile and said, "You're welcome, Julian."

Before Lillie could get up and leave the room, Sonny Toussaint rushed into the room.

"Sonny, what is it?" Julian asked.

"My partner, Nick Wolfe," Sonny answered, glad that Julian was not much for the formalities normally required when meeting with a Kindred prince. "He's actually done it."

"What?" Julian said, getting up from his chair.

"The story should be breaking on the news just about now, Julian," Sonny said. "You might want to turn on the television and see for yourself."

Julian pushed a button on a small console at his desk. A dark wooden panel at one side of the room slid aside to reveal a flat screen television. Getting a remote control from a side drawer, Julian changed the channel until he saw what Sonny might be talking about. Lillie and Sonny were also both looking at the television.

On the screen, they saw a video of Cyrus in Los Angeles being led away from his own mansion into a squad car by several police officers.

The three Kindred heard voice of a female reporter in the background.

"Cyrus has been charged with first degree murder among several other charges. LAPD had been building their case against Cyrus, an alleged crime boss, for months with no solid leads until this past week. An anonymous source has given the police photographs that place Cyrus and two others at the scene of a crime that took place two weeks ago. That is all that is known for sure at this time. LAPD will hold a press conference tomorrow morning to discuss this case further..."

Having heard enough, Julian turned off the television. He turned to Sonny an incredulous look on his face. He said only one word. "How?"

"I'm not exactly sure how," Sonny began, "but Nick definitely has some amazing resources at his disposal. All I got from him is that a friend of a friend of a friend helped him out on this one." At Julian's raised eyebrow, Sonny said, "Yeah, he's vague, but police officers like to keep their sources secret. Anyway, at this point that's not what matters."

"Of course," Julian said. "Bringing down a Kindred prince is sure to put pressure on Detective Wolfe that he's entirely unaware of. Keep an eye out for him, Sonny. He believes he's helping out the police force, but he has no idea the favor he has done for me. I just hope Cameron, who is sure to be angry, will not so hasty in his actions. We must call a Conclave meeting before things get out of hand."

"I'll see about getting someone to look out for Nick when I'm not there," Sonny said as he turned to leave the room.

Julian then looked to Lillie, but she spoke before he could say anything to her.

"Go. Do your job, Julian," she said, giving him a reassuring hug. She then whispered softly into his ear, "We can relax when this is all over, okay?"

Back at the warehouse in Oakland, Nick and Frank were having an animated discussion after watching the same report about Cyrus on the small kitchen television.

---

"So let me get this straight," Frank said. "There are people out there making a living just recording everything about Immortals and what, uh, we do?"

"Put simply, yes," Nick said.

"Why didn't you tell me about this before?" Frank asked.

"I kind of forgot about them, Frank," Nick said. "They're pretty good at being inconspicuous. It's their job, really. And besides, their motto is to never interfere with Immortal business."

"Then what do you call having a Watcher turn in photographs to the police with an Immortal getting shot?"

"Basil Morgan is Immortal, yeah, but not the other guy. Technically, it's not Immortal business anyway, since Cyrus and the other killers are not Immortal. "

Frank was a bit startled when Nick said this. 'Little does he know,' Frank mused. But then he said, "Nick, you gotta be careful when you go out. Cyrus may be in jail right now, but Cameron's still out there and so is the, uh, woman who killed me."

"It's not like I'm all that easy to kill, Frank," Nick said.

"Yeah, but sucks big time when you die, come back to life, and then have to come up with a new identity," Frank said.

Nick could only laugh at that.

"Just be careful, okay Nick?" Frank said a moment later.

"I always am, Frank," Nick replied. "Besides, I'm more worried about some random Immortal coming after my head. And you should be too."

"More practice then?" Frank said, grabbing his sword.

"You said it."

---

Across the bay at the Dock Workers Union, Cameron was sitting in his office fuming after having heard the report about Cyrus. His fellow Brujah clan members had left the room leaving their Primogen with his anger.

After sitting for a moment, Cameron decided to make a phone call before the Conclave meeting he was sure would be called tonight.

He called the Los Angeles Brujah Primogen, Chris Kane first to see what sort of power structure was in place with Cyrus in jail. Cameron knew Cyrus was smart and would most likely have someone personally set up to take his place if any trouble arose.

After dialing the number, Cameron was able to speak with Kane.

"This is Cameron," he said.

"I take it you've heard," Kane replied.

"By now, I bet everyone already has," Cameron said. "Whom did Cyrus leave to take his place? Is it his own sire, Carpenter?"

"Who else would be able to keep the LA clans from going to war?" Kane said. "As much I'd rather be Prince, Carpenter has already been there. The other clans respect his strength more so than mine. I suppose you'll want to speak with the new Prince."

"Yes, but not now," Cameron said. "Tell him I'd like to discuss plans with how to avenge his childe. I know who's behind all this."

"Do you now?" Kane said. "What if I decide not to give the message?"

"Don't play games with me, Kane," Cameron. "It's only a formality for me to go through you to the Prince, and you know that."

"Right," Kane replied. "Fine. I'll relay the message." And he hung up before anything more could be said.

Cameron let the matter aside while he sat to think.

'First Frank Kohanek, and now Nick Wolfe.' Cameron thought to himself. 'How the hell can two mere humans have caused my clan so much misery? Well, now it's your turn Detective Wolfe. You will pay for actions against my clan. I will find a way for you to pay.'

* * *

CHAPTER 6

News of Cyrus' arrest spread fast among the Kindred of San Francisco. Many Kindred decided to go to the Haven, knowing that a Conclave meeting would be called. Being at the Haven guaranteed hearing any news from that meeting first. The mortals among the crowd did not realize anything was different, other than the club being a bit more crowded than usual for a Friday night. Kindred gathered among their own clan members within the nightclub, paying little attention to the band onstage.

One by one, the Kindred noted as the Primogens and finally the Prince of the City arrived and went upstairs to start the Conclave meeting.

Once upstairs, the Primogens were all standing quietly until the Prince came into the room.

"Please sit," Julian said. Once everyone sat down, he began, "I am sure you are all aware by now of Cyrus' arrest in Los Angeles earlier this evening."

Seeing everyone nod, Julian continued. "No doubt you also know that the situation with the police may become dangerous if we do not tread carefully these next few months." Julian looked directly at Cameron as he said this. "Because of this, Nick Wolfe is not to be touched."

Cameron fumed, but he chose his words as carefully as he could. "What is it with you and your love for these mortals, Julian? Frank Kohanek screws with your old lover but she makes you promise to take care of him before you have her killed. Fine, maybe I can understand that. But what is Nick Wolfe to you?"

Julian took a moment before responding. He did not want to give Cameron the satisfaction of him losing his temper in fron of everyone. "If for a moment, Brujah, you can see past your rage, you'll note that the police have a habit of not stopping when one of their own is killed. It happened with Frank Kohanek, and look where Cyrus is now."

Cameron could only sit back and concede, but the look in his eyes betrayed his feelings of anger.

Julian continued, "If something happens to Wolfe, and I find you in any way responsible, Cameron, I will not hesitate to kill you. Getting the police any more involved threatens the Masquerade. I am only warning you, Cameron, because you have been able to keep the Brujah in check these last few years." Julian turned to the rest of the Primogens. "We do not need to make the situation any more volatile than it already is. I do not want to see another clan war if I can help it."

At that moment, one of Julian's Ventrue assistants came into the room.

"What is it, Patricia?" Julian asked, knowing it had to be important for her to interrupt the meeting.

"It's Cyrus, sir," she answered. "There are news reports just coming in that he has committed suicide while in custody. He threw himself out of a sixth story window."

Julian nodded, eyes wide with shock, and Patricia left the room. The Prince turned to the Primogens. "I do not know what Cyrus' plans are. Maybe he will stay in the Los Angeles area, but we must assume he'll be on his way to San Francisco just in case. Sonny, have you been able to contact Nick Wolfe yet?"

"Not yet, Julian," Sonny answered. "He isn't home, and I keep getting his voicemail when I call his cell."

"Just let me know when you do get in touch with him. Cash, coordinate with Sonny and see if you can get some of your Gangrel to keep an eye on Wolfe. Lillie, see to it that word of this meeting gets out to the Kindred of the city." Each Primogen nodded in answer as they were addressed. "And Cameron, if Cyrus contacts you, I can only ask you to tell him my warning to you, understood?"

"Fine," Cameron answered. He thought to himself, 'But it doesn't mean I'll stand in the way if Cyrus wants to do something to Nick Wolfe on his own.'

As the meeting ended, the Primogens except Daedalus left the room. Daedalus went over to Julian.

"You're handling the situation better than I expected, Julian," said the Nosferatu.

"Thank you, Daedalus."

"But I worry that Cameron won't stop Cyrus from getting his revenge upon Nick Wolfe."

"As do I, but we can only hope to do the best we can to protect the detective as well as the Masquerade."

At that moment, Patricia walked in again, this time with a cordless phone in hand. "It's Carpenter, sir. He's now the Prince of Los Angeles, and he wants to speak with you."

Julian took the phone and said, "Thank you, Patricia."

At that, Daedalus and Patricia left the room to leave the Ventrue Prince alone to continue his conversation with the other Prince in private.

"This is Luna," he said, to start the conversation.

"Luna, this is Carpenter, but I assume you already knew that."

"Yes."

"And I assume you've already heard the news about what happened with my childe Cyrus while he was in custody?" Carpenter asked.

"I just received the news a short while ago, Carpenter," Julian answered. "Why are you calling?"

"I'm just calling to let you know that should Cyrus come into your domain, I will not stop you from doing whatever you wish with him."

Julian was shocked to hear this. "He's your childe, Carpenter. Surely-"

"Yes, he is," Carpenter interrupted. "I do not like you, Ventrue. Make no doubt about that. But for years, Cyrus has also threatened the Masquerade with his business practices here in Los Angeles. With his foolishness, he has ruined his chance as Prince. He's little better than Eddie Fiori. With power now back in my hands, I can only hope to clean up some of the mess he has started."

"I understand," Luna replied.

"Good," Carpenter said.

With that, Carpenter hung up, and the Prince of San Francisco was left alone to contemplate the third piece of shocking news in as many hours.

'Carpenter's hiding something,' Julian thought to himself. 'I could hear it in his voice. What is he up to?"

-

After yet another long workout for both Nick and Frank, they finally took a break when they were both too exhausted to be effective. As they both went to the kitchen to get something to drink, Nick noticed he had missed calls on his cell phone.

"Who is it?" Frank asked.

"Looks like Sonny's been trying to reach me all night. Wonder what he wants?" Nick started to dial Sonny. He waved to Frank to be quiet while he made the call.

'My guess he's as worried about you as he was for me,' Frank thought. 'Maybe Luna's got Nick protected now? Heh, now wouldn't that be something?'

After the third ring, Sonny answered. "Nick, I've been trying to reach you all night."

"You worried about me, Sonny?"

After a slight pause, Sonny answered, "Nah. Just wanted to know if you heard the news."

"What news?"

"It's all over the TV now. Cyrus killed himself while in custody."

"What!"

"Yeah. Turns out while he was being interrogated, he threw himself out a window, fell six stories, and smashed a car."

"Why the hell would he do that?" Nick asked.

"Beats me. Listen, where are you man? I was thinking maybe we could go out for drinks. You know, to celebrate."

"You have a weird sense of humor if you want to celebrate this, Sonny."

"Well, I was going to ask even before Cyrus whacked himself, but hey, I understand if you don't want to come."

"Fine, fine," Nick answered. "How about I meet you at the Haven? Know the place?"

"The Haven?" Sonny said. "Yeah, I know the place. Frank used to hang out there. How about we celebrate in his honor? See you there in an hour or so?"

"Sounds like a plan," Nick said. "See you there."

After Nick hung up, he saw the questioning look in Frank's eyes.

"Cyrus killed himself while in custody, Frank," Nick said. "Fell six stories to his death."

"What!"

"Don't ask me. Maybe he just went crazy. You know the saying: 'The bigger they are, the harder they fall.'"

Frank grabbed a nearby towel and tried to snap it at Nick's head.

"That was lame, Nick."

Nick just shrugged as he turned to the bathroom to take a quick shower.

As Nick walked away, Frank started to think. 'Nick doesn't know about Kindred. Sonny really must've been trying to get a hold of Nick to keep an eye on him like he tried with me. Jeez, if Cyrus goes after Nick...' Frank could only chuckle. 'At least Nick won't stay dead. But man, wish I could at least get a hold of Sonny and let him know. No. It'd be too much trouble, getting Immortals and Kindred mixed up. I just hope Sonny can keep those vampires away from Nick. It'll be a hell of a lot easier that way.'

-

The following evening, Cameron was not surprised to find Cyrus sitting in his own chair in his office at the Dock Workers Union. Cyrus showed no signs of having fallen six stories the night before.

"I heard through my sire Carpenter that you know who is behind my arrest," Cyrus said, forgoing any of the formalities of introduction.

"I do," Cameron said. "His name is Detective Nick Wolfe. He's the new partner of Luna's Ventrue lackey, Sonny Toussaint."

"Find out everything you can about him. I want him killed."

"As much as I want the same thing, Cyrus, I can't help you."

"What?" Cyrus asked as he stood up to face the younger Brujah.

"Luna has specifically warned me not to get involved."

"You would listen to that Ventrue scum?"

"He's still the Prince, Cyrus," Cameron replied. "I have to listen to him. And killing Wolfe threatens the Masquerade. The police will continue to dig in our affairs if you kill him."

"They think I'm dead," Cyrus said. "You're worried about your own affairs, aren't you? Fine. Have it your way. I knew you always were too weak."

'Weak maybe, but not foolish,' Cameron thought to himself. Aloud he said, "But you're still planning something, aren't you?"

"Carpenter has agreed to help me send another Assamite to kill the one responsible for all this. Now that I have a name, we can go through with this plan. I'll just have to find another way to get information on this Nick Wolfe."

"Another Assamite?" Cameron said. "You've lost any sense originality in your haste to gain revenge, Cyrus. But I won't stop you. I know Wolfe has to pay for what he's done to our clan. Just make sure the police can't connect his death to me."

"Like I said earlier, you are weak. But don't worry, Cameron. We'll think of something."

-

A couple weeks later, Nick Wolfe was again trying to figure out why Sonny suddenly wanted to hang out more with him. It was getting harder to get away from his partner, so he asked Frank if this was normal. At first Frank jokingly replied that maybe Sonny just really liked Nick. Nick asked Frank to be serious, but Frank was either made more jokes, or he was vague in his responses.

'Something is definitely going on here,' Nick thought to himself. 'But I can't get a straight answer out of Frank.'

Nick's suspicions were even more aroused when after leaving his loft in San Francisco, he could have sworn he saw Julian Luna's bodyguard Cash trailing him. After years of policework plus years more of security work with Bert Myers, Nick was confident he was able to shake the young man off his tail. Instead of driving to the warehouse in Oakland, Nick was forced to take public transit to make sure that he was not being followed. Thankfully, the BART subway system was fairly fast, and there was a stop just a few blocks the warehouse.

When he finally got to the warehouse, Frank met him at the door, sword in hand.

"Hey, Nick, where's your car?" Frank asked.

"I had to leave it at home," Nick said.

"Why?" Frank wondered.

"If I answer, promise me you'll be straight with me when I ask you something?"

"What do you mean?" Frank said, already afraid he knew the answer to his earlier question.

"First Sonny has been on my case wondering where I've been going outside of work. Fine, I can live with that since he's my partner. But tonight, I could have sworn I saw Luna's bodyguard trailing me just as I was leaving my loft in the city."

"Cash was following you?"

"Yeah. Any ideas why?"

"Look, Nick, all I can say is that Luna must be worried about you, like he was about me. My guess is that Cyrus has friends who might come after you."

"Then what's Sonny's connection to all this? Can you tell me that?"

"I... Look, just trust me when I say they just want to look out after you. They don't want to hurt you."

"Are you sure about that?" Nick asked.

"I'm positive. Can we leave it at that? Please?"

"Okay. Just be glad that in a couple weeks, I don't have to worry about them finding you after following me."

"Yeah. I don't know whether I should be excited or afraid of going to Duncan MacLeod."

"I'd be both if I were you, Frank."

-

Nick was still a little suspicious of Sonnyís intentions three nights later. It was just after a long shift so they were talking about the nightís events over coffee at the Nighthawk Diner. Nick, wanting to test Sonny, excused himself to the restroom. Going to the back where the restrooms were, Nick instead went out the back door. He went to his car and took out his coat with the sword, but he didn't get in, thinking that Sonny would hear if he started the engine. Instead, Nick started to walk to the nearest bus stop.

On his way there, he saw a tall woman dressed in a long cream-colored coat and pants. Her most striking feature however was the closely cropped bleached haircut that she sported. She was just standing beneath the street lamp at the bus stop.

'Damn, she looks just like Amanda,' Nick thought.

As the woman turned, from her profile, Nick could almost swear that it really was Amanda.

'Impossible. I don't sense a presence.'

Curiosity getting the better of him, Nick approached the bus stop.

The woman noticed Nick coming and said, "Nick, is it really you? Oh my goodness, I never expected to see you here!"

She had a smile on her face and started toward Nick as if to give him a hug.

"You're not Amanda," Nick said, stepping back, hand ready to get his sword if necessary.

"Of course it's me, Nick," the woman said, stepping closer, still smiling.

"Who are you really?"

"Oh, you must be wondering why I'm out here of all places waiting for a bus. Well, my car broke down just over there, and there are absolutely no taxis so-"

"Stop with the lies. I know you're not Amanda. Who are you really?"

The smile disappered from the woman's face replaced with the look Nick knew all too well. It was the cold look of a killer. Before Nick knew it, the Amanda lookalike bridged the gap between them. Shock registered on his face when he realized she had stabbed him in his torso.

"NICK!"

'Sonny?' thought Nick as he slumped to the ground, and he saw that the Amanda clone was running away.

-

Back in the diner, Sonny sat with the mug of coffee in his hands. As Kindred, he found that he never really enjoyed drinking the beverage as much as just holding the warm cup in his hands. Realizing that Nick was taking a little too long in the restroom, Sonny got up to go to the back.

The door to the single occupancy men's room was locked so he knocked. "Something not agreeing with you in there, Nick?"

He heard a flush then the sounds of running water. As the door opened, Sonny's heart beat in a mix of fear and anger once he realized Nick had disappeared.

'Dammit, Nick, where did you go?'

Seeing the exit nearby, Sonny went outside.

'You can't have gone far.'

Stretching his senses as far as they would go, Sonny looked for Nick. Just a few blocks away, he saw that Nick was talking with a blond woman at a bus stop. He started to walk toward them when he saw the woman pull a knife.

'She's Kindred!' he thought, seeing that her speed was too unnatural for her to be otherwise.

"NICK!" Sonny yelled.

Sonny ran but the woman was gone when he got to Nick. Sonny saw Nick lying on his side clutching the knife that was still in his stomach. Sonny knelt down next to Nick. There was no one around in the area.

"Oh, God, Nick. I'm sorry." Sonny saw Nick struggling to pull at the knife. "No, don't pull the knife out, Nick. You'll bleed to death if you do."

Sonny pulled out his cell phone but he was surprised at what he heard Nick say next.

"No hospitals, Sonny."

"What? Are you crazy, Nick? You'll die if we don't get you to a hospital right away."

"Help me pull the knife out Sonny."

"I can't do that. It'll kill you."

"I know. Trust me."

"What's gotten into you? What are you saying, Nick? Nick!"

Before Sonny could do anything, Nick had succeeded in pulling the knife out on his own. The smell of the blood was almost too much, but Sonny tried apply pressure to stem the flow.

Nick was coughing blood, but he managed a few words. "Hide me, Sonny. Use my cell. Call Frank."

"Frank? Nick? What're you saying? Nick! Oh, Jesus. NO!"

And Nick died beneath Sonny's arms.

* * *

CHAPTER 7

The night air was cold, with little wind to make a sound. It was late, the moon obscured by the fog rolling in from the ocean. There were no people walking about, no cars driving by. There was no one around to witness two figures on the ground beneath the pale white light of a single street lamp.

Sonny had been shocked into stillness. Nick Wolfe, a man Sonny was beginning to consider a friend, had just died practically in his arms. Sonny couldn't move, couldn't think. That shock did not last long, and Sonny was determined not to give in to panic. A hundred years of experience allowed him to gather his wits. Though the breath was mostly unnecessary, it helped to calm Sonny down enough so he could think and act clearly.

Sonny's first instinct was to call in his fellow police, but Nick made it clear that was not what he wanted. Also, he knew it was another Kindred who killed Nick, and involving the police would risk the Masquerade. Sonny carefully tucked the bloody knife that was on the sidewalk under his belt. He got into a position to carry Nick's body.

'What did you mean by no hospitals, Nick? What's going on here?'

Sonny picked up Nick's body into a fireman's carry and made his way as quickly as he could to a nearby alleyway. He made sure there were no homeless people lurking in dark corners before he placed Nick's body down next to a dumpster. Sonny checked to see that no one passing by from the main street would see them.

Thinking back on what Nick had said before he died, Sonny began to go through Nick's coat. The first item he came across only added to the mystery. Within the folds of the long coat, Sonny felt a solid and heavy piece of metal. He took it out and saw that it was a sword, nearly three feet of steel glinting in what little light there was in the alley. Sonny ran a finger along the edge to test its sharpness, and winced as his finger began to bleed.

'What the hell are you doing with a sword, Nick? Things are just getting weirder by the minute.'

Putting aside the sword, Sonny searched Nick's belongings until he found a cell phone. After flipping open the small silver device, Sonny looked through the phone's memory and saw one entry listed simply as "Frank."

'Here goes nothing,' Sonny thought as he pushed the dial button on the phone.

After a few tense moments, someone finally picked up after the third ring.

"Hello?"

Sonny knew that voice.

"Frank? Is that you?"

"I'm sorry? Look, I think you have the wrong num-"

"It is you! Frank, it's me, Sonny. God, I have no idea what the hell is going on here, Frank, but Nick just DIED here. Be honest with me. You are Frank Kohanek, right?"

There was a pause, as if the man on the other end was debating whether or not to answer.

"Yeah, yeah, it's me, Sonny. God, this can't be happening. What do you mean Nick died?"

Sonny had to take a moment to let the information, that Frank Kohanek was alive, sink in. Sonny was about to reply when, with his Kindred senses, he heard a faint heartbeat coming from Nick's body next to him. Almost as soon as that started, Sonny next heard Nick's sharp intake of breath.

Nick Wolfe moved a hand over his chest, coughed, and said, "Damn, that hurt!"

Sonny heard Frank's voice through the phone's earpiece. "Sonny? Is that Nick I just heard? Sonny, you with me, man?"

For the second time that night, Sonny was momentarily too shocked to do anything.

Shaking it off, Sonny was saved from having to say anything when Nick sat up straighter and spoke first.

"Hey Sonny. Thanks for pulling me out of there. That Frank on the phone?"

Sonny only nodded and handed the phone to Nick's outreached hand. As Nick took the phone and began to talk with Frank, Sonny's thoughts raced.

'What is going on here? I saw Nick die. But he's not Kindred. Hell, Frank died, and now he's also still alive? And Nick knew. He knew all this time that Frank was still alive!'

The next thing Sonny realized, Nick had just gotten off the phone with Frank and had turned to speak to him.

"Guess we have some explaining to do."

"Yeah, no kidding."

"I told Frank that we're going to meet him. I think he should be there before I start saying anything to you."

"Where is he now?"

Nick then stood up from and motioned for Sonny to follow.

"C'mon. We'll take my car. Frank's over in Oakland right now."

-

Not long after and not too far away, a lone masculine figure made its way to the waterfront location of the Dock Workers Union. The man now clad in black had only just shed his female facade dressed in lighter colors. Such was the shapeshifting ability of an Assamite assassin.

The assassin entered the building that housed the office of the head of the Brujah Clan of San Francisco. He only had one thing to say to Cyrus who sat at a desk waiting just for this bit of news.

"The deed is done."

And that was all the Assamite said before leaving.

-

Frank never thought of himself as much of a pacer. He preferred actually doing something productive rather than waiting for things to happen. But in this case, all he could do was wait nervously for Nick and Sonny to appear. As Frank walked back and forth on the warehouse floor, his thoughts ran wildly. He thought about how he would discuss Immortality with Sonny. And what about Kindred? Would Sonny allow Nick to know about this very real, and very dangerous world of this bloodsucking society? Would Julian find out?

Frank's thoughts were interrupted just moments later, as he felt the presence of another Immortal nearby.

'That can't be Nick,' Frank thougt, looking at his watch. 'No way did Sonny and Nick get here in what, ten minutes?'

Approaching the situation with caution well learned from Nick, Frank grabbed his sword which was leaning against a nearby wall.

'This can't be happening now. Who the hell could it be?'

Whoever it was banged loudly upon the door that was the main entrance to the warehouse. Frank waited around a corner just out of view from the door.

"I know you're in there!" It was a man's voice, deep and bellowing, with a slight Latino. "You cannot hide from me."

As soon as Frank heard the shots fired at the door, he ran toward the other end of the warehouse to hide behind some gym equipment. This bought him a little time to decide what to do.

The other Immortal made his way into the warehouse.

"Come out, come out wherever you are!"

'Could he be anymore cliched?' Frank mused from his hiding spot.

"If you don't come out, who's to say I won't go out into the street and say, start shooting randomly at anyone who passes by?"

After taking in a deep breath, Frank stepped out, sword ready in hand. "Fine. You got me. But aren't you at least going to introduce yourself properly?" Frank dragged out the last few words, figuring a little bit of stalling would not hurt.

"The name is Victor Krause. And I already know who you are." Krause tried to close the gap to Frank, but Frank sidestepped to maintain some distance away.

"Yeah? How?" Frank knew that some guys loved to tell their stories if given the opportunity. He hoped Krause was that type of guy.

"Your picture was all over the local news not too long ago. I had been keeping an eye for news about you ever since you worked a homicide case several years ago. You might recall what I'm talking about, given your newfound Immortality."

Frank's hunch was right. Krause loved to talk, but Frank was also getting a little interested in what the other Immortal had to say. The wheels were turning in Frank's mind as he remembered a case he worked on long before he even got involved with Kindred. For any other cop, the case would have been a more memorable one, especially given that it had been an unsolved case and was still technically open. But as Frank began his investigation into Julian Luna, this unsolved murder became a file buried beneath many others. The mysterious case involved an unidentified victim of homicide by beheading.

Frank's musings were interrupted as Krause finally got close enough to attempt an attack. Frank got out of the way by ducking behind a post as Krause's strike swung through empty space.

"Don't tell me you're one of those headhunters," Frank said has he kept backing away. "You knew I was a potential Immortal, didn't you?"

"Of course. You young ones are always the easiest, especially one so untrained as yourself."

"And you waited until Nick was away."

Krause just smiled as he began another series of attacks. This time Frank had run out of room. While he was talking, Krause had deftly guided Frank to a space where he finally had to defend himself by parrying.

'It figures,' Frank thought to himself. 'Nothing's ever going to be easy with my life, is it?'

Back and forth the pair fought, with Frank mostly on defense. He tried to work his way out of the corner of the warehouse into more open space, but Krause was good at blocking his way. Before this, Frank thought he was in pretty good shape. After trying to swing a long piece of steel around for several minutes, he was starting to tire. Nick was good at the some of the basic stuff, but even he said he wasn't the best teacher for Frank. And Frank was starting to regret not going to a better teacher sooner.

Frank did his best but it didn't take long for Krause to knock the sword out of his hand. Frank was too stunned to see the kick to his legs that brought him to his knees.

Frank closed his eyes. He thought of his wife. Would he see finally see her again, after all these years?

"Sonny, wait! You can't interrupt!"

Frank quickly opened his eyes. 'Was that Nick?'

Krause stopped his swing of the sword and turned, sensing another Immortal nearby. After a flash across his eyes, he saw that the sword had been taken from his hand.

"What-"

Krause never finished his sentence. Frank got up and turned. He saw Sonny, sword in hand, standing over the newly beheaded body of Victor Krause. Sonny's eyes were glowing. But Frank was more worried about what would happen next.

"Uh oh," Frank said.

-

As Nick drove across the Bay Bridge to Oakland, Sonny sat quietly in the passenger seat. His thoughts ran wildly as he wondered what Nick as well as Frank had to say. And Frank! To think that his longtime partner was still alive, well, it was just mind-boggling to say the least. Sonny really had no idea what was going on, so he figured he would wait patiently to hear the whole story.

It didn't take long before Sonny realized that Nick finally got off the freeway. Sonny noticed that Nick was driving in a very industrial area in Oakland, very close to the Coliseum, in fact. Nick turned a corner and pulled up to a warehouse that looked like many others in the area. Sonny noticed that Nick suddenly seemed on edge.

"Something wrong?" Sonny asked.

"There's someone else here," Nick said.

"How do you know?"

Nick never answered, but a part of Sonny's question was answered as heard the faint sounds of metal clashing against metal.

"Do you hear that?" Sonny asked.

Nick eyed Sonny but didn't say anything. He motioned for Sonny to do the same with a finger to his lips. They both got out of the car and headed for the entrance to the warehouse. Nick had his keys out but found he didn't need them. He and Sonny both saw evidence of bullets that had shattered the lock beyond recognition.

Nick pushed in the door and went in first with Sonny close behind.

Sonny saw the reason behind the sounds of clashing metal. Frank and some stranger were fighting with swords, and the stranger had just knocked Frank's sword from his hand. Before Nick could do anything, Sonny had run from his side.

"Sonny, wait! You can't interrupt!"

But Sonny didn't hear Nick's warning. The beast within took reign and all Sonny could think was that he had to stop that man from killing Frank. With Kindred speed, Sonny ran across the warehouse floor and took the sword from the stranger's hand. What Sonny did next felt almost natural, since the beast had taken over. Sonny killed the stranger, using the stolen sword to cut off the man's head.

"Uh oh."

Sonny heard Frank, and blinked. He was a little confused by Frank's response to what just happened.

"Uh oh? What do you mean 'uh oh'?"

"Sonny, you'd better get out of the way!" Nick yelled.

"What's going on?" Sonny said.

Then Sonny felt it. It was a strange tingling sensation that was starting to build, and fast. He thought he saw tendrils of something coming from the man's body. Smoke? Whatever it was, it was starting to show up in other places. Then first spark, like lightning coming from midair struck. It hit Frank squarely in the chest. Sonny saw Frank's eyes widen, and the next thing he knew, Nick was trying to push him away from Frank.

"Man, we have got to get out of the way," Nick said.

Sonny nodded and followed Nick as they ran for cover, as far away as they could get from Frank within the warehouse.

From their point of view they saw Frank's body struck dozens of times by lightning coming from nowhere and everywhere at once. Explosions knocked out panes of glass. Even the a few lights had gone out with shards of glass from the bulbs flying. A strange smoke filled the air, but it was concentrated around Frank, swirling about him.

And through it all, Frank screamed. Whether in agony or ecstacy, Sonny couldn't tell. It seemed like both at the same time.

It couldn't have been more than a couple minutes, but it felt like forever before the chaos died down.

When it finally did, Sonny stepped out and headed toward Frank. Nick was close behind. Of the three men, Sonny was the first to speak.

"What the hell was that?"


TBC?

This story was published in November 2005 at http://www.fanfiction.net/s/1056824/1/.

Kindred: The Embraced and all characters are copyright © 1996 Spelling Television Inc.
Vampire: The Masquerade is © 1990-2007 White Wolf Publishing, a division of CCP North America. All rights reserved.