The next killing occurred only a day later. This time, the body was discovered in a grocery store parking lot. Frank and Sonny arrived on the scene just as forensics was finishing with the body. This time, the victim had been a young male…probably his mid twenties. His throat had been torn out with equal savagery as the last, and his hands were bloodied from clawing at the pavement. Frank paused to rub his eyes for a moment, wondering, not for the first time, how he had become so embroiled in Kindred business.
“This pair isn’t shy at all, are they,” Frank said. He didn’t even need to ask Sonny for confirmation that it had been the rogue pair responsible. His partner shook his head, rubbing one hand across his mustache in thought.
“They are trying to make a point to the Camarilla. Flaunting their disregard for the rules.”
“Yeah…flaunting’s one word for it.” Frank bent down to take a closer look at the youth. His mouth had been frozen open, perhaps in a last attempt at a scream. Wincing as he rose back up, he turned to see Sonny watching him in concern.
“You okay, Frank?” he asked, his eyes flicking to the turtleneck the man wore.
“I’m fine,” Frank groused, touching his neck gingerly. The motion accidently revealed the hint of a finger-shaped bruise at his throat.
“Frank! Man, what happened?” Sonny said, and darted forward to inspect the bruise. The mark was dark, and shaped almost like the print of a hand wrapped around the front of his throat. The bruise was no doubt painful…Sonny wouldn’t be surprised if it even hurt Frank just to talk.
Jerking his collar back up, Frank glared briefly at his partner.
“It’s nothing, alright? I just ran afoul of Kindred last night who wanted to make clear her opinion of a mortal, and a man, dating the Prince.” Frank’s voice was calm, but his eyes were pained. The attack had bothered him more than he was letting on.
“Julian is going to be pissed when he finds out,” Sonny said. There was no doubt in his mind that if the Prince discovered who had assaulted his lover, that person would be made to quite effectively disappear.
“Yeah, well…I wasn’t exactly going to make a big deal out of it. I mean, we kind of expected this, after all. I was already stepping on a lot of toes just by knowing so much about Kindred. Now that I’m with Julian…. I’m just surprised it took so long for someone to make a move,” Frank said, then shook his head savagely. “Damnit…why do you guys have to be so damn complicated? You’d think it wouldn’t be a big deal,” Frank muttered. Julian moved forward and squeezed the other man’s shoulder.
“Look…Frank…I can’t change how we are. But I know things will get better. The Kindred will get used to the idea of you and Julian, just as they got used to the idea of you knowing about the Masquerade. All you have to do is be patient, and it’ll all work out,” Sonny said. Frank laughed softly, the sound raspy on his damaged throat.
“I appreciate the gesture, man, but I don’t think just ducking my head and waiting for everything to blow over is going to work this time.”
Cameron had mobilized his clan as soon as the Blood Hunt had officially been called. He was determined for the Brujah to have the honor of destroying the rogues, rather than the Gangrel. Having heard talk about a murderous Kindred duo from the Brujah Primogen of Seattle, Cameron had his eyes and ears across the city on alert. It was therefore scarcely sixteen hours after he’d left the mansion that he received a call that the Malkavian had been spotted.
Four of his clan had witnessed the Malkavian circling through the crowds outside a popular downtown club. They reported his behavior as extreme even for his clan type…erratic, careless, and very clearly out of his head. They’d seen no sign of the female, however. Cameron couldn’t help but grin in anticipation as his car pulled up near the boarded up old restaurant where his clan had planned to corner the rogue Kindred. He would make very sure that Cash and Julian remembered the Brujah’s easy victory. The Gangrel were not the only clan who could be counted on to track down and destroy the scum of the Kindred world!
Cameron’s smile disappeared, however, as soon as he stepped from the car. Even outside the restaurant, the smell of blood…kindred blood…was thick in the air. Accelerating his pace, Cameron felt a tremor of unease travel up his spine. One mad Malkavian should have been no trouble for four of his strongest Brujah.
Nothing could have prepared him for the site that met his eyes inside the condemned building. The dusty floor between the broken tables was a pool of blood and thicker things that Cameron preferred not to linger upon. The source were two of his Brujah…both old, powerful members of the clan. Their bodies…for they couldn’t be anything but truly dead…were sprawled amidst the blood, their flesh shredded nearly completely from their faces and arms, revealing the wet, glistening muscle beneath. What was most shocking, however, was that they appeared to have been fighting each other, despite the fact that they had been the best of friends for decades.
Crouched on the ground nearby stood a third of the quartet, head bowed, and with the phosphorus gun that had killed his kin hanging loosely from one hand. His breathing was ragged, and he, too, was marked with numerous claw marks. The fourth of the group stood just beyond the pool of blood, staring down at the decapitated body of the Malkavian. The head had rolled to rest against a barstool…still grinning madly.
“John? Berin?” Cameron called cautiously, still utterly shocked by the scene. “What happened?”
Berin didn’t move from his crouched position…indeed, he didn’t appear to have heard at all. John looked up from the body, and his eyes were deeply pained.
“We cornered him just like we planned,” John began slowly, flatly. “But he didn’t seem surprised we found him. He…toyed with us. Led us on a chase up and down the street, all through the buildings…kept disappearing like nothing I’ve seen. When we finally backed him in here, he…did something to Ty and Oren. They went mad almost in an instant, tearing each other to pieces…” John inhaled a slow, shuddering breath. “We tried to pull them apart…keep them from killing each other…but they turned on us, too.” John didn’t continue, but Cameron didn’t need to hear the rest. John had managed to take down the Malkavian, and Berin…he had put his brothers out of their misery.
Cameron stood and stared at the blood pooled on the floor, no longer anxious to make the gloating phone call to Julian Luna. John and Berin needed him now, and he would not abandon them to their grief. Luna could wait.
“Frank, no. I cannot have the authorities involved in this any more than they already are,” Julian said, crossing his arms in annoyance. Frank glared at him, unmoved, and feeling somewhat threatened despite himself by the Kindred’s mood. They had been arguing in circles ever since Julian had invited Frank to the mansion to tell him that the Brujah had taken care of the rogue Malkavian. Frank had responded with a mix of emotions that had both surprised and annoyed the Ventrue Prince to no end. At first, Frank had been relieved that the Kindred had been found. Then, however, his formidable stubbornness had reared its head.
“If you don’t let us in on some of it, you know this could get out of hand! What if the girl decides to up the ante to get back at you for killing her companion? It happens with criminals all the time, I don’t see why a psychotic vampire would be any different,” Frank was arguing again. Julian had to admire the man’s tenacity…though they’d argued the same point several times already, never did Frank argue his point the same way twice.
“It’s just not worth the risk involved! If she does ‘up the ante,’ as you say, then having mortal authorities involved would only put a greater risk to the Masquerade,” Julian responded, feeling his patience coming to its end. He was beginning to think that, aside from the late Eddie Fiori, Frank Kahonek was the only man capable of rousing his temper so completely. Julian prided himself on being a calm, rational man. After all, as Prince of the City it was absolutely necessary to always maintain control. But Frank…ever since he had met the mortal, the man had seemed to possess an uncanny skill to rile him.
“Not worth the risk?! Julian…look, letting the police help would put more eyes on the street, and mean less people dead. Or does that not bother you?” Frank prodded, and Julian felt the last of his patience burn and die.
He was across the room in an instant, silvery-green eyes locked onto Frank’s as he pinned the man against the bookshelf where he’d been leaning. “Enough of this,” he hissed. “I am Prince, and I have made my decision,” Julian hissed, leaning so close that he could feel the mortal’s warm breath against his lips. He could see the honest fear in Frank’s eyes, feel the tremble in the body so close to his. It was then that he noticed the bruise. Not waiting to ask for permission, Julian pulled on Frank’s collar, revealing the purpled hand print on the man’s neck. Julian’s control, already fragile, snapped.
His nails blurred into claws, and his normally indulgent smile was instead full of gleaming, sharp teeth. He could feel Frank’s shock, the breath stalling briefly in his throat as he realized what was happening. Something had caused the Prince’s Beast to seize control.
“Julian…get a hold of yourself,” Frank tried, but Julian’s eyes were locked on the bruising at his throat, the muscles in his face twitching as if he were only just restraining himself from violence.
“WHO?” Julian demanded, and the sound was more animal than human, with little resemblance to the cultured voice Frank had grown to appreciate.
“I don’t know, Julian,” Frank said slowly, trying to control his own fear. He hadn’t seen Julian so crazed since the Brujah had forcefully embraced Sasha. “A female Kindred outside the Haven. Please, man…you have to calm down. Getting pissed off isn’t going to change anything,” Frank pleaded. Something he said seemed to startle some of the Beast out of Julian, though his eyes still swam inhumanly silver.
“Someone dares attack you…a mortal under my protection, my lover, and you call this pissed off?” Julian laughed, and then pulled back enough to shake his head.
“If I knew who was responsible for this, right now, there would be no law human or Kindred that would keep me from ripping them to pieces with my bare hands.”
“Then maybe I can,” Frank said, and before Julian could try and make do on his promise, Frank mashed their lips together in a hard, angry kiss. At first, Julian’s lips remained hard and still. But then Frank sensed a subtle shift in the man, and suddenly it wasn’t Frank controlling anything, but Julian.
The Kindred’s hands sought Frank’s waist, the still-present claws eliciting a tingle of unexpected pleasure as his shirt was freed from his jeans. Frank gasped as Julian’s cool hands touched his back, pulling him roughly against the taller man. Julian’s kisses became increasingly desperate, as if he were trying to devour him, even as his hands clutched at his back, shoving the shirt past his ribs as they sought more skin to explore. Slowly, Frank began to participate, meeting each of the Kindred’s heated kisses with his own. He followed the other’s lead and un-tucked the blue silk shirt he liked so much, reaching his hands beneath the silk to the cool skin beneath. If anything, it only seemed to inflame the Kindred further. Both shirts quickly found their way to the floor, buttons neglected and left to fall at their feet.
Frank moaned as he gave in completely, no longer caring about anything save how much of his body he could press against Julian’s. His groin throbbed, tearing a gasp from his throat as it brushed an answering hardness. Whirling, Frank was barely aware of his feet leaving the floor, before he found himself pressed into the cushions of the leather chaise nearby. Kicking off his shoes, he wrapped his legs around the body above him, arcing his hips into Julian’s. The Kindred’s mouth had progressed to his neck, licking and sucking almost tenderly at the junction of neck and shoulder.
Frank nearly growled in frustration as Julian drew back, locking brown eyes with silver with sudden seriousness. “Will you let me taste you, Frank?” he asked, and his voice was low and thick. Frank swallowed thickly, lost for a moment on how to form words.
“Y-yes…god, yes…” he panted, and then gasped as Julian descended on his throat again. Now, though, the warm tongue rasped against his skin deliberately, teasing the pulse that beat powerfully beneath. Frank forced himself to focus on the body pressed against his, to ignore the sudden flare of terror at the first hint of sharp teeth against his throat. The body felt unfamiliar beneath his hands, the angles and muscles very different from Alexandra’s soft curves…but it wasn’t an unwelcome strangeness. Instead, he reveled in it. This was something new, something entirely unknown and wholly irresistible. His hands encircled the taut waist, obsessed with the bands of muscle tensed beneath the skin. Though he thought he might, he didn’t miss the presence of breasts at all. Julian’s chest was lean but well muscled…smooth and beautifully hairless. Frank felt inadequate beneath him, but not foolish enough to let it dampen the heat that pulsed through his body.
A sudden, sharp pain at his throat was all the warning he had. For a second, it was pain, and the awareness of Julian’s lips pressed to the wound. Then, his body jerked, and his eyes were blinded by a starburst of color. Heat and pleasure overwhelmed his senses, blocking out everything but the feel of Julian’s body against his, and the mouth pressed to his throat. Suddenly, he felt something altogether alien and impossible…for a moment, it was if their positions were reversed. He felt his own mouth pressed to a warm throat, the sweet, coppery taste of blood on his tongue, the feel of a lithe, aroused body beneath his… Then the world flipped again, and a flood of emotions not his own made him gasp anew. Pleasure flooded his body twice-over, then possessiveness, need, protectiveness, pure joy, and a love that left him floored. Fear lingered there as well…fear of rejection, of loss…that this moment would be yet another joy ripped from his life before its time. Frank wound his hands in the Kindred’s hair, shocked by the surge of protectiveness in his own heart for the man who feared for him so profoundly. And then Frank could take no more, and his world exploded in white, body arcing as he found his release.
Frank was barely aware as Julian licked gently at the wound, his saliva encouraging the fragile human flesh to knit together. Soon, all that would be left was a faint, pink scar. Frank found that he didn’t mind. He wanted a reminder of that connection. In those brief few moments before Julian had pulled away, Frank felt he knew him more profoundly than he’d ever known anyone in his life.
Julian was smiling when Frank finally blinked the last of the spots from his eyes. The Kindred was sprawled half on top of him, his eyes returned to their usual dark shade. Frank drew in a shuddering breath, not caring a whit that the soppy grin on his face probably made him look ridiculous.
“Well? Did my blood pass muster?” Frank asked jokingly. Julian’s grin widened.
“You taste like everything I’ve ever desired, and more,” he said, and shifted subtly.
“And you, Frank? What did you think?”
“I think with that memory alone, I could be a happy man for the rest of my life,” Frank said. Julian laughed heartily, and then rolled smoothly off the couch with a grace any cat would envy. Holding out a hand to help the Detective up, he grinned mischievously.
“What would you say to creating a few more memories, then? I do believe we could both benefit from a shower and a change of clothes,” Julian purred. Frank took the hand and laughed.
“I think that’s an excellent idea.”
Frank was still grinning like a fool when he pulled into his driveway the next evening. He hadn’t intended to spend his day off at the mansion…but one thing had led to another and a few hours had become the entire night. It had felt…right to share a bed with someone again. Though they had behaved themselves after sharing a shower (an experience Frank was eager to repeat), Frank had reveled in being able to lay with the other man beneath the sheets, surrounded by the scent that was uniquely Julian. Not to mention waking in the other’s arms seemed to soothe much of the ache Alexandra’s death had left in his heart.
Emerging from the car, Frank leaned back against the cab and stared into the long shadows that bathed his front yard. To one side, the old kit bike that had once been his pride and joy lay wrapped beneath a blue tarp, surrounded by weeds. When his wife had still been alive, the bike had been his hobby. Over several months he had painstakingly built it from scratch, promising his wife a ride down the coast as soon as it was finished. She had committed suicide before he could give it a final coat of paint. Frank hadn’t touched it since then, though sometimes he had sorted through his tools and thought about it. Idly, he wondered if Cash would know anyone who wanted a project bike.
Shoving his hands in his pockets, Frank had taken only a step toward the house when he spotted something on the ground near the bike. Jogging the few steps to it, Frank crouched down for a closer look, only to jerk back in disgust. It was a dog. It’s thin, matted body was soaked in fresh blood from the savage wound at its throat. The poor beast’s neck had nearly been cracked backwards, leaving the dark, wet tunnel of its windpipe open to the air. Every instinct that had ever saved Frank’s life suddenly came roaring to life, screaming that something was horribly wrong. The dog’s blood hadn’t even begun to dry; whatever had killed it was still nearby.
Frank rose slowly, his eyes darting across the yard and the street beyond. Nothing moved in the growing shadows, though the neighborhood, too, was quiet. Narrowing his eyes, Frank listened for the normal sounds of life in the neighborhood…but all he heard was silence. No dogs barking, no children crying, no televisions blaring. Frank nearly jerked as he noticed another thing….all the houses up and down the block were dark. No lights shone in any of the windows despite the fact that it was nearly dark. There were cars in driveways, but every window was dark and quiet. Terror surged up from the back of his brain, and it was only years of training that kept Frank from bolting on the spot.
Focusing on keeping his breathing calm, Frank began to move slowly back toward his car. From the car he could call for backup…or something…who did you call when you suspected something had happened to all of your neighbors, but you had no immediate proof?
“My, you do catch on quick,” a woman’s rough, hoarse voice spoke into his left ear. Frank leapt away, whirling in a complete circle and freeing his gun from its holster in a move that would have made any human assailant piss their pants. But the woman wasn’t a human…not by any means. She stood in the middle of his yard, grinning at him with a mouth coated with blood. Her enlarged fangs overlapped her lips as she smiled, a strange, hungry light in her cold yellow eyes as she watched him. Her clothing was mere rags, but the entire front of her ragged shirt was plastered to her skeletal frame with wet blood. Her arms, too, were coated to her elbows. “I admit I had hoped that you would get to see my gift for Julian…I’ve been working on it all day. But no matter…” she said, cocking her head in a strangely birdlike way.
“Katerina Novolski…” Frank breathed. She barely resembled her picture as she was now, with hair wild and streaked with blood. Up close, she seemed even more inhuman. Her fingers were too long…tipped with hooked talons like a wildcat’s. And her expression…it was too still, too alien to be confused for anything but a predator. Her lips quirked into an ugly smile at the sound of her name.
“And you are Frank Kahonek…the Prince’s human soldier. I can see why he spared your life, mortal,” her smile widened. “He owes me a mate…and I think you’ll do just fine.” She took a step forward, and Frank pulled the trigger.
Though he knew from experience that regular bullets wouldn’t faze Kindred, he’d been hoping to gain himself enough time to run for it. Where he had intended to run didn’t matter. Katerina, however, didn’t as much as flinch. And then she pounced.
The gun bounced away into the grass as Frank hit the ground, his entire body screaming at the impact. And then he felt her teeth tear into his throat, and he screamed. Unlike Julian’s bite, which was pure bliss…this was agony. She tore at his throat like an animal, barely sucking at his throat but gouging her fangs into his neck as if digging for his spine. The smell of his own hot blood was in the air…and Frank knew she’d killed him. Through the pain, he fought to see…the keep his vision from fading into black. It was the only thing he could still control. But the sky whirled as his brain starved, and the black crept in like a cancer.
Katerina pulled back, her mouth smeared with his blood. Raising one clawed hand, she deeply slashed one wrist. Frank jerked, his body twitching as he fought to move. But his strength was gone…only a frightening numbness that crept up from his toes remained. She was grinning when she thrust her bleeding arm to his mouth, using her other hand to force his jaw open. Frank tried with the last ounce of his strength to keep his mouth shut, to meet true death rather than let the monster have her way with him…but he was no match. The blackness claimed the last of his vision, and in the darkness, Frank’s last awareness was of the damning blood sliding across his tongue.
Sonny was getting worried. A few hours ago he had been pissed off, convinced that Frank hadn’t been answering his calls because he was holed up with Julian, having a good time when there was work to be done. Then, as the hours ticked by, Sonny had gotten worried. It wasn’t like Frank to miss work. Hell, even if he was sick he showed up (though it usually didn’t take long for the Chief to send him home). Frank loved his job…there was no way he’d deliberately jeopardize it by pulling a no-show. Not long ago Sonny had given in and called the mansion, but the secretary had reported that Frank had left hours ago.
Grabbing his jacket off the back of his chair, Sonny made a decision. He would check Frank’s house. Maybe nothing was wrong, and the man was passed out on his couch or something equally benign. If he was, Sonny would enjoy letting him have it. But if he wasn’t…if there was something wrong…he didn’t know if he’d be able to forgive himself if he didn’t check to see.
Though their partnership had taken a serious blow when Frank had discovered Sonny’s secret, they had mostly managed to patch things up. Frank was still quick to remind Sonny of how long he’d been lying to him, and Frank’s trust in him was still very shaky…but they were friends again. The rest could be repaired with time and persistence, and Sonny had both to spare.
Frank lived relatively close to the station, and it didn’t take long until Sonny was pulling his car up to the curb in front of Frank’s house. His car was there, Sonny quickly noted, but the house itself was dark. Popping open the door, Sonny froze in the middle of rehearsing the speech he would give Frank if the man was drunk.
Blood…lots of blood. The air was thick with it. Quickly shutting the door again, Sonny sucked in a shuddering breath of the untainted air in the car. Never had he smelled such a bloodbath. He could not even begin to count the sheer number of people whose blood mingled in that cloying scent. Fumbling for his phone, Sonny called the only number that would be of any help in such a situation.
“This is Sonny…I need to speak to Julian immediately. It’s an emergency,” he said into the cell. Julian picked up after only a moment.
“Sonny? What’s happened?” Julian asked.
“Julian…we need our people down here now, everyone who can be spared,” Sonny began, dread creeping down his spine as he noticed just how completely dark the entire street was.
“Where are you?”
“In front of Frank’s. Something is very wrong…I’ve never smelled so much blood in the air in my life. The houses are all dark, and I can’t sense any humans or Kindred.”
“Cash is getting the others. They’re on their way,” Julian said, then paused, and in a softer voice continued, “Sonny…is Frank…?”
“I don’t know. I’ve been trying his phone for hours. His car is here, but I can’t sense him.”
The phone was silent. Then, “I’ll be there as soon as I can.”