He sighed, and looked around the bar. You know, there is this new-fangled thing you might want to consider trying, just for variety. It’s called ‘sex with women’. Why would I share you with another woman, pet? I hate you. I know. Pick one and lets get this over wi… Corner, near the window. I see it. Let’s go ruin his night.
Gabriel walked over to where the twink was swaying just a little. “Everything alright here?”
The older guy shrugged. “I think my buddy here had a little too much to drink.” He started to grab the kid’s arm. “I’ll just take him home.”
“Kid, hey.” Gabriel looked up. “You got a name?”
“I’m, uh…” The kid blinked at him, his eyes dazed.
“He just needs to go home…” The older guy narrowed his eyes at Gabriel.
“I can see that.” Gabriel nodded. “Kid, you’ve got ID or something?”
“Yeah…” The kid swayed a little, nearly losing his balance as he reached for his back pocket.
The older guy grabbed his wrist before he could get his wallet out, then glared at Gabriel. “I’ve got this under control, man. Back off.”
Say it, say it. Come on, pet. Do it for me. Say ‘starting to want you to make me’. Please. Shut up. “Kid, do you know this guy?”
A confused look came to the kid’s face. He shook his head and frowned a little. “I, uh…”
“Somebody I should call for you?” Gabriel raised an eyebrow.
“My boyfriend…” The kid started to nod.
“I said back the fuck off.” The guy yanked the kid away from Gabriel, then glared. “You want to start something?”
“No.” Gabriel smiled. “But I’m more than happy to finish it.”
“Son of a…” The guy balled up his fist and took a swing. Gabriel put his hand up and caught it, then twisted the guy’s arm up to throw him off balance. He put his other hand on the guy’s shoulder, and bounced his face off the tabletop before shoving him aside.
The guy fell to the ground and lay there, groaning. The bouncer made his way through the crowd. “Sir, I’m going to need to…”
Gabriel pulled out his badge and flipped it open. “Call the kid here a cab, get him home.” He stepped over to the man on the ground. “You have the right to remain silent.”
“What were you doing in a gay bar?” Michaels raised an eyebrow.
“My CI has a twisted sense of humor.” Gabriel shrugged. Ooh, I’m a CI now? He took the small envelope out of his pocket, and handed it to Michaels. “Might have a lead.”
“Chief wants to know how we are coming with the Montaya case.” Michaels growled. “Kids disappear off the street, nobody gives a fuck. Pretty rich girl walks through the wrong side of town and goes missing, whole city comes to a screeching halt.” He banged the back of his head into the wall. “If they’d cared just a little sooner…” He sighed. “What’s your lead?”
He opened the envelope and spread the pictures out. “Same vehicle was around three of the abduction sites within an hour of the kid going missing.”
Michaels examined the pic. “Vanessa’s?” He blinked. “That’s not a real cab, look at the plates.” He pointed.
“Plates are different in each photo.” Gabriel nodded. “But it’s the same vehicle.”
“Alright, I’ll run down where the plates were stolen. Maybe we’ll get lucky and that’ll give us a pattern to work with.” Michaels snorted. “As if it’s ever that easy.”
“We’ll find the perp.” Won’t we? Oh yes.
Ted chuckled at the look on Aaron’s face. The kid was holding the envelope like it was made of gold. “You got it.” There were tears in Aaron’s eyes. “You actually got it.” He looked up at Ted. “How’d you get them to give it up?”
“They didn’t. A lawyer friend of mine worked with the county to get copies. Birth certificate and social security card. Once you have an ID, you can get the rest of your records.” It was hard seeing Aaron’s face fall at the realization his parents hadn’t come around. Ted gave him a comforting smile. “Your driving test is Monday, 3:15 PM. Do not be late or you’ll have to wait another two weeks.”
“Thanks, Mr. Mullins.” Aaron shook his hand vigorously before leaving the room. Two of the other kids were waiting for him at the end of the hall, and began congratulating him and pounding him on the back.
Monica gave him a look of mock disapproval. “Sure, you’re smiling now, but that’s because you weren’t the one teaching him to drive.”
“He’ll be fine.”
“He took out every trash can in the lot.”
“With practice.” He frowned at her. “Aren’t you supposed to be helping Elsa with her college letters?”
“She didn’t show.” Monica sighed. “I asked around, no one has seen her in two days.”
His stomach lurched. “Did she get picked up?”
“She’s a minor, Ted. Even if she did the cops won’t tell me shit.” Monica swallowed. “Elsa’s not the trouble kind.”
“I’ll…” He exhaled. “No, she’s not. I’ll…” He took a deep breath. “I’ll file a missing persons.”
“She’s fifteen years old.”
“Look, if you’re not her parent or legal guardian you’ve got no standing to file a report.”
“Her parents don’t care, they are the reason she was sleeping on the street. Look, it’s been two days since the last time anybody saw her. That’s twice as long as the twenty-four hours you demand, and she’s a minor.”
“Sir, for all you know she’s at home with her parents.”
Hey, I know that voice. Stop bothering me at work. Gabriel frowned as he heard someone arguing with the desk clerk. Another missing kid. He walked in the direction of the argument, and saw Ted glaring at the officer on duty. “Problem?”
Ted glanced in his direction, and his eyes widened just a little. He caught himself quickly. “One of the kids from my center has gone missing, and I can’t get anyone to take a report.”
“Detective, would you mind showing this man out before I have to charge him with obstruction?” Sandy exhaled and rolled her eyes.
“I’ll take care of it.” He gestured for Ted to follow him away from the desk.
“She’s a runaway.” Ted started talking as he followed Gabriel. “But that…” He glared over his shoulder. “Won’t take a report unless it’s from her parents, and her parents are the reason she ran away in the first place.”
“Unfortunately, Sandy’s right. We can’t take an official report.” He saw Ted’s face start to fall. “Meet me at the coffee shop on the corner in twenty minutes. Bring a photo if you’ve got one.”
“Right.” Ted nodded. “Right. Thanks.”
He clutched the cup of coffee nervously. He hadn’t expected to run into Gabriel. It hadn’t even occurred to him to contact the man directly with the report. Despite the fact Gabriel had come over again three times in the past six months, they never actually talked about their real lives. Actually, Gabriel didn’t do a lot of talking anyway. If he hadn’t caught the news program, he never would have known the man even was a cop. Ted looked up when the door dinged, and saw Gabriel entered followed by another man. Both came right to Ted’s table. “Ted, this is my partner, Lloyd Michaels.” He shrugged. “Michaels this is Ted, he runs that new GLBT center. He’s got a missing kid.”
It startled him a little to realize Gabriel had known about the center. Had he mentioned it? Then again, it was the kind of thing a cop looking into runaways would know. “Right.” Ted slid the photo over as the men sat down.
Michaels picked up the photo, and immediately made a growling sound. “She fits.”
Ted really did not like the way he said that. “She fits what?”
“Several kids have gone missing off the streets. Recently another girl went missing, only this one…”
“Apparently mattered.” Michaels’ voice sounded bitter.
“Wasn’t a runaway. She was out to meet her friends and put the wrong address in her GPS. She called to let her friends know she was going to be late, and that was the last time anybody heard from her.” Gabriel nodded at the photo. “How do you know this girl?”
“I run a center.” Ted exhaled. “Elsa came out to her parents a few months ago, and they said she couldn’t live under their roof unless she went to a cure the gay away program. She’s been on the street since.”
“What about any of the other kids?” Gabriel slid a packet over to him. “Were any of them in your program?”
The faces of a half-dozen young girls looked back up at him. A chill went through him as he realized all of them were missing. He swallowed. “I don’t recognize them, but the street kids tend to know each other. I can ask if…”
“Will they talk to me, if I come down to the center?” Gabriel raised an eyebrow. “I know some of them have issues with cops.”
“I can vouch for you.” Ted nodded quickly. “Let them know you’re not looking to bust anyone, you just want to find Elsa.”
“Think any of the other girls were also dykes?” Michaels frowned. “That could be one of the reasons they were targeted.”
“Why don’t you call Vanessa’s parents and ask?” Gabriel glared at him. “I’ll go talk to the kids.”
“How long have you been running this center?” Gabriel glanced at Ted as he followed the man up the stairs.
“Uh…” Ted shrugged awkwardly. “Six months.” He glanced at Gabriel. “Didn’t realize you knew about it.”
You could tell him the annoying little voice in your head keeps tabs on him. Shut up and give me a read on the place. The kids like Ted, and they feel safe here. But… Her voice trailed off. There’s a smell outside I don’t like. Run it down. I’d do my thing, pet. You go do yours. “Your name came up early in the investigation, but you had an alibi for the first disappearance.”
Ted blinked. “I did? Nobody ever questioned me about it.”
“Didn’t need to.” Gabriel shrugged. “I was your alibi.”
“I…” Ted blinked, then turned a bit red. “Oh. I hope that didn’t cause any trouble for you.”
“Street kids go missing…” Gabriel frowned as they went down the hall toward Ted’s office. “Few care. Nobody looked over my notes.” He gave Ted an appraising look. “You care.”
He took a deep breath. “Someone has to. I uh…” He rubbed the back of his neck. “Half the kids here aren’t actually homeless, they just can’t go home. If that even makes sense. I tried to fake it for a long time, and I know better than anyone that just screws everyone up in the long run. I realized I had this building that was just sitting there and…” Ted looked around. “Suddenly I was running this center.” He laughed. “Still not sure how I managed to get all the permits. They were stonewalling me and then wham, everything suddenly went through.”
City licensing officials should be more careful who they send dick pics too. “Glad it worked out.” Gabriel shrugged as he looked around Ted’s office. There were few pictures on the walls, but several drawings of what seemed to be planned expansions. Most were drawn by amateur hands, and if constructed would have severely strained the laws of physics. He gave a small shake of his head. “Who saw Elsa last?”
“She was supposed to meet with my secretary this morning. Let me get her.”
He stopped and turned back to Gabriel. “Yes?”
“Why didn’t you come to me with the missing kid?”
“I, uh…” Ted shrugged. “I didn’t want to uh…” He took a deep breath. “I didn’t want to take advantage of our…”
“It’s appreciated, Ted.” Gabriel nodded to him. “But if you think one of your kids is in danger, you call me.”
“I will.” Ted smiled.
Ted was surprised not to feel any sense of jealousy when Monica went a little wide-eyed over Gabriel. If anything, he felt just a little bit smug. Monica filled him in on what she knew of Elsa, and Ted was mildly surprised at just how little it was. That was half the problem. These kids didn’t trust anyone, which meant they had nowhere to turn when they were in trouble. He’d started this center to help with that problem. It was working, it just… Wasn’t enough.
He turned toward Gabriel when Monica left the room. “What do you think?”
“She fits the profile.” Gabriel looked down the hall where kids were starting to filter in. “Who’d she talk to if she had a problem?”
“She and Laura were friends. I’ll take you to her.”
Gabriel shook his head. “They make me for a cop, they’ll scatter. You get her.”
“Right.” It didn’t take him long to find Laura.
And he saw immediately that Gabriel was right. She made him for a cop, and immediately sent Ted a look suggesting he’d betrayed her. He was surprised to realize it hurt. “Gabriel here is a friend of mine. I asked him here to help find Elsa.”
“Yeah, I know how cops help.” Laura narrowed her eyes.
“There are at least six kids are missing.”
“Yeah, and you only care cause the ass finally took one that mattered.”
“Stephanie Hargrave. Jessica Math. Susan Ramos. Lisa DuBois. Patricia Albertson. Elsa Vrin.” Gabriel straightened. “They matter. And I know damn well there are more, kids that don’t have anyone else looking for them. They matter too. Help me find them.”
Laura stared at him for a moment. She glanced at Ted, who swallowed when he realized Gabriel was correct. There were more. He nodded to Laura. “Please.”
“Okay.” She exhaled.
Ted was leaning on the desk in his office, his face slightly pale. Gabriel stepped into the doorway. “Ted?”
“Four others missing. Nobody even cared enough to report it. There are four little girls missing, dead or worse, and nobody…” Ted slammed his hands into the desk. “Nobody cares.”
“Laura does.” She’s not the the only one. “And we do.” Gabriel stepped into the room.
“If I’d started this place up sooner, if the expansion was…” Ted exhaled.
If all of the raindrops were lemondrops and gumdrops… Not the fucking time. Gabriel shook his head. “If it wasn’t for this place, we’d never know about the other four.”
“I need a drink.” Ted straightened.
He’s got a long drive home pet, and that couch there looks pretty uncomfortable. Since when were you the angel on my shoulder? It’s Ted. “I’ve got beer.” Gabriel shrugged. “And I live just up the road.”
He never thought he’d find himself at Gabriel’s place. He certainly wasn’t sure what to expect. And yet, the place still managed to surprise him. He knew that Gabriel was a bachelor, but the place was tidy. Even a little cozy. The quilt on the back of the couch was clearly handmade, as were the two yarn afghans folded neatly on a shelf. Ted noted, with some surprise, that there was a crucifix hanging on one wall. It was a solid, well-made piece. Gabriel certainly hadn’t struck him as a religious man, but as he looked around again he noticed a few other items. A rosary in a small crystal dish, a coffee cup bearing a church logo.
“Hungry?” Gabriel glanced over his shoulder before heading to the refrigerator. “I’ve got…” He looked inside, then shrugged. “Ketchup.” He shut the refrigerator door and opened the freezer. “And corn.”
“I’ll pass.” Ted smiled as he accepted the beer. Now that he expected from a bachelor pad. “If you’re hungry I can spring for a pizza.” He took a drink. The beer was good, rich and dark. “Can I, uh…” He hesitated. “Can I ask you a personal question?”
“Can’t promise I’ll answer.”
“How old are you?” He shifted awkwardly. “Because first time I saw you I thought you were pretty young, but then you’re a detective so you can’t be that young and uh…” He exhaled. “And I turn fifty next week so I guess I’m just wondering…
“I’m probably twenty-five.”
“That’s…” Ted blinked. “What do you mean, probably?”
“I was abandoned. Doctors figured me for only a couple weeks old.” Gabriel took a drink of his own beer. “So, I’m probably twenty five.”
“Wow, that’s…” Ted took another drink. “Please tell me you were at least left at one of those safe drop locations or something like that cause…”
That would explain the religious iconography. “That, uh…” He finished the bottle, and set it down. “I don’t even know what to say to that.” He accepted the second beer, then stared at it a while. “Honest answer, please. What are the odds those girls are found alive?”
“That many, in that short a time?” Gabriel set his beer down. “Better than you think. Pimp setting up a stable.”
Ted choked on his beer. “You mean…” He felt like he was going to vomit. “What kind of…” He shook his head. “They are just…” He took a few deep breaths, then looked up at Gabriel. “You’ve seen this before.”
“How can I help?”
“Keep doing what you do.” Gabriel finished his own beer. “More centers there are like yours, the harder it is for the creeps to hunt. And in the meantime…” He shrugged. “There’s whiskey if you prefer.”
“Yeah.” Ted exhaled. “Yeah, I think I’d like that.”
Ted stared up at the unfamiliar ceiling, attempting to get his bearings. It took him a moment to realize there was someone else in the bed. He was at Gabriel’s apartment, in Gabriel’s bed, with Gabriel asleep next to him. And he had a hangover. Not surprising, considering he’d finished off Gabriel’s whiskey. He started to shift to get out of bed, and heard Gabriel’s voice. “Morning.”
He gave Gabriel an awkward look. “You could have put me on the couch when I passed out.”
“Couch sucks for sleeping.” Gabriel slid out of the bed, treating Ted to the sight of his nude body. He’d had a naked Gabriel next to him all night, and had been too drunk to notice, let alone do anything about it. A few moments later, he heard the shower start. Twenty feet away there was a naked, wet Gabriel, and in his present condition he could do nothing with that information. He was never, ever touching whiskey again.
He’d managed to find two pictures to go with the other names Laura had given him, but the other two girls weren’t local and Laura hadn’t been sure where they were from. And there was no guarantee the names the girls had been using where their real ones. Ted had come through though. One of the other kids at the center was an aspiring artist, and he’d provided sketches of both girls. It was enough to get them into the news, and hopefully someone had seen them.
“So, earliest abduction was in April…” Michaels looked at their timeline. “Or at least, that’s when this bastard got to our town.” He glanced at Gabriel. “Vanessa’s dad screamed at me for suggesting his little girl was a dyke and wanted the names of whoever slandered his little girl like that.”
“Alright.” Gabriel glanced at him. “Which one do you make for the girlfriend?”
“Blond one. Sasha. She’s the one behind the Facebook ‘have you seen Vanessa’ campaign.”
“Let’s have another talk with her.”
Michaels folded his arms. “It’s not random. He stalks them first.” He shook his head. “Poor girl didn’t think to tell anyone because she thought her father hired a PI to spy on her.”
“And the others didn’t have anyone they could tell.” Gabriel nodded. They do now. What do you need? A starting point. Mark a mirror at Ted’s center. Heading there anyway. If someone’s stalking the kids before they go missing, one of his kids might already be a target. I want this one’s soul, pet. After he does life in prison. Ugh, you and your morals.
“I’m uh…” Michaels exhaled. “I’m going to patrol tonight. Just…” He rubbed the back of his neck. “I don’t know. Take the chance I see something. Want to join me?”
“I’m going to stop by Ted’s center. Maybe I can find us a starting point.”
“We’re going to have to take the bastard alive.” Michaels gritted his teeth. “Or our chances of finding the girls goes to shit.”
“Asshats follow us around all the time.” Laura shrugged. “Some of them are cops.”
Gabriel handed her a card. “Any of them trip your spider sense, call me. I’ll be there in five minutes.”
“Unless you’re busy.”
“Five…” Gabriel met her eyes. “Minutes.”
“And if I just wanted to call you?” Laura smiled up at him.
“Wait three more years.” Someone’s getting a crush. Shut up.
“Ugh. You’ll be old then.” Laura rolled her eyes before leaving the room.
Monica hesitated a moment. “Could I, uh…” She shrugged a little. “Get one of those cards?”
He handed it to her, and she smiled at him before heading back to her office. “This guy…” Ted exhaled. “You think he might be hanging around my center?”
“You’ve got a few employees. Anyone raise any red flags?”
“A couple workmen.” Ted slowly nodded. “I didn’t like the way they were acting around some of the kids so I let them go.” He swallowed. “Should I hire some security or…”
“How many of the kids here are over eighteen?” Gabriel raised an eyebrow.
“Quite a few, actually. I’ve been helping some get their GEDs.” Ted frowned. “Why?” His eyes widened. “No, none of them would —”
“Ted…” Gabriel raised a hand. “They’ve got a vested interest in this place. Consider hiring them.”
“That uh…” Ted suddenly smiled. “Yeah, that could work.”
“Michaels and I are going to walk the area Laura mentioned. Maybe we’ll get lucky and spot something.”
“I’ll keep my phone on, might even stay here a while.” Ted exhaled. “I put up some fliers, any of the kids spot anything they can bring it to me and I’ll tell you, that way they can stay anonymous.”
“Thanks.” He hesitated a moment, then reached into his pocket. “Don’t crash on that couch, you’ll never get up again.” He set the key on Ted’s desk. “Use my place if you need to sleep.”
“I…” Ted’s eyes nearly feel out of his head. “Thank you.”
“It’s cold. It’s damp. Someone’s actively hunting them.” Michaels exhaled. “And there are kids still out here at one AM.” He glared. “Why don’t they go to the shelters?”
“Because the shelters have to call us about runaways, and we take them home.” Gabriel shrugged. “A lot of them are safer in the cold, damp hunting grounds.”
“Sometimes I miss writing parking tickets.” Michaels sighed.
Pet, trouble north. He turned in that direction, then nodded. “See it.”
“He’s following that girl.”
“I’m going to go ask why.”
Michaels put a hand on his tazer. “Right behind you, partner.
They came around the corner to see the guy starting to pick up the unconscious girl. He glared when he saw them. “Police. Don’t move.” Michaels had his tazer out.
That guy ain’t right. Yeah. The guy dropped the girl, then abruptly flung a knife at Michaels. Gabriel only barely managed to haul his partner out of the path of the blade. Immediately, Michaels fired the tazer. The prongs hit, solid in the guy’s leg. Michaels hit the trigger and…
And nothing happened. He could tell the tazer was working, it just wasn’t effecting the guy in the slightest. “What the fuck…”
“You two…” The man smirked. “Are interfering.” The guy launched himself at Gabriel, unnaturally fast. He hit Gabriel hard enough to take him off his feet. Gabriel rolled as he landed, kicking the guy away from him. The man gave him a surprised look when Gabriel managed to block man’s attempt to drive a knife into his shoulder. The guy was strong, stronger than he had any right to be. Gabriel shifted, sending the guy over his shoulder.
The man twisted in midair to land on his feet and turned to attack again. “Holy shit.” Michaels exclaimed. Gabriel narrowly avoided another slash of the blade. He tried to go for his sidearm, and the man kicked off to hit him with a tackle, slamming Gabriel’s back into the wall.
He caught Gabriel’s wrist, then smashed his into the wall with enough force to make Gabriel drop the gun. Pet, you need to step up your game here. Right. Gabriel brought his forehead down into the bridge of the guy’s nose, then when the guy staggered back a step followed it with a kick to the side of the knee that sent the man to the ground with a howl.
“You have the right to…” Michaels had his gun out. He trailed off as the man simply clicked the busted knee back into place before standing. Then the man smiled, his mouth showing elongated fangs. “The fuck.”
The fuck? Oh, that’s not good. The man turned and started toward Michaels. Michaels fired, putting two rounds into the guy’s chest. The guy snarled and kept coming at Michaels. Pet, he’s gonna… Gabriel kicked off the wall and hit the guy with a full tackle, taking him off his feet. He drove his fist into the guy’s kidney, eliciting another howl. The guy tried to twist, to get leverage. When that failed he settled for simply launching himself backward, smashing Gabriel into the wall again. His grip loosened, and the guy slipped free. As soon as he turned to come at Gabriel, Michaels shot him. Then he shot him again. And again. The man turned to give Michaels an irritated look. “Really?” Then he aimed a punch that Gabriel narrowly dodged. The man’s fist sank three inches into the concrete wall where Gabriel’s head had been a moment before. He yanked his hand free just as Gabriel kicked him in the side hard enough to send him staggering a few paces.
Sirens wailed, coming closer. The man started to step toward Gabriel again, then gave a frustrated growl. He turned, and ran up the nearby wall to the roof five stories above their heads before vanishing into the darkness.
“The fuck? The fuck?” Michaels was staring. “We both saw that, right? I mean, he just, and then he just, and he just…”
“Is the girl alright?” Gabriel walked over and retrieved his gun.
Michaels knelt, checking her pulse. “She’s alive, we should…” His head came up. “Are you alright? I mean…” His eyes went to the hole the man had made in the wall, then flicked to another section of the wall before widening. Gabriel turned, and noted that there was an indentation where he’d been thrown into it.
“I am not looking forward to when the adrenaline rush wears off.”
“What the fuck do we say happened here?” Michaels rose. “I tazed that fucker, then shot him five times, and then he…” He looked up at the roof again. “And he…”
“We tell them we saw a mugging in progress. And that we suspect the guy was wearing a vest. It was dark, and he got away.”
“Yeah.” Michaels slowly nodded. “Yeah, yeah, we tell them that. Cause I really don’t want to see the look on the chief’s face if we try to tell him we just encountered a…” He swallowed. “Cause you’re thinking what I’m thinking there, right…” He looked up at the roof again.
Vampires? I hate vampires. Vampires are real? You’ve got a succubus in your head and you’re questioning the existence of vampires? I hate you. Was it a vampire? Yes, pet, it was a vampire. “Vampire.”
“I’d like to wake up now.”
He debated just using the key to let himself in, but decided to ring the bell instead. It was a few moments before Gabriel answered and buzzed him up. The door was open a crack, so he just went in. Gabriel came out of the bedroom as he was setting the grocery bag on the kitchen counter. The man was wearing sweat pants that looked as though they would slip off at any wrong movement and nothing else. Ted tried not to stare. “I saw the news this morning.” He started setting out the items. “Figured saving one called for a better meal than ketchup and corn.”
“Didn’t get him.”
“Mikaela Scott. Sixteen years old. Aspiring painter. She was on her way back from a gallery, where she just sold her first piece.” Ted started filling a pot with water. “She’s emancipated. Soon as she cashes that check, she’s got her first apartment.” He swallowed. “She’s going to make it out. She’s going to be one of the ones that wins.” He set the pot on the stove. “Are you alright, Gabriel?”
“I kinda…” Gabriel stood, walked over to the stove, and turned the burner back off. “Food’s not what I need right now, Ted.”
Ted reached up and caught Gabriel’s hair, yanking the man to him before roughly kissing his mouth. “Okay.”
He’s getting kind of artistic with those knots, don’t you think? Shut up. Gabriel yanked at the ropes that held him securely to the bed. Ted was bringing him to the brink of orgasm again, but from the smile on the man’s face he had no intention of granting that mercy yet. He groaned a protest when Ted removed his hand from Gabriel’s cock, and returned to the lighter caresses of the rest of his body. He’s got a good memory for your weak points. Shut. Up.
His back arched when Ted sank teeth lightly into his shoulder. Ted took the opportunity to catch his hips, and he gasped when the man roughly entered him. Ted drove his cock inside the barely prepared passage, impaling Gabriel on his full length. Pain mixed with pleasure in a dizzying swirl.
They came within moments of each other.
He collapsed onto the bed next to Gabriel, panting. Six months, and he still couldn’t figure out what that beautiful young man saw in him. Ted reached up to loosen the knots around Gabriel’s right wrist so that Gabriel could free himself. Gabriel pulled his wrists free, but remained on the bed next to him. Ted caught the man’s chin, and this time the kiss was gentle. Gabriel parted his lips as he kissed Ted back. “Thank you.” Gabriel’s voice was quiet.
“You’re why, you know.” Ted sat up, and looked down at the other man.
“Why?” Gabriel blinked at him.
“I thought about doing something for the community a thousand times. Never really had the courage to…” He shrugged. “Then I was at a bar and this…” He laughed softly. “I figured that if someone like you saw something in me, then maybe none of my excuses were worth shit.” Tenderly, he brushed Gabriel’s hair from his face. “I just thought you should know.”
“You’re a good guy, Ted.”
“I’m gonna…” He stood, and grabbed his pants. “I’m going to go make you some lunch.”
The pasta was just about finished when the buzzer rang again. Gabriel answered it, and heard Michaels’ voice. He raised an eyebrow at Ted, who nodded with only the smallest trace of reluctance. “Come on up.”
Michaels came in waving a piece of paper. “So before shit got weird I remember thinking the guy looked just a bit famil —” He blinked. “Mr. Mullins.”
“Detective Michaels.” Ted smiled. “I called Gabriel when I heard the news, and eventually managed to get him to confess he hadn’t eaten yet.” He raised an eyebrow. “Have you?”
“Yeah.” Michaels nodded. “I had…” He shifted a bit awkwardly. “A donut.”
“Oh for…” Ted shook his head. “Both of you, sit down right this minute.” He grabbed another plate.
Don’t you even think of arguing, Pet. “You were saying?” Gabriel sat down across from Michaels.
“That the guy looked familiar.” He slid a printed news article over. “Look.”
Oh, that fucking fuckfaced fuck. Gabriel looked down at the picture, and fought the urge to put his fist through something. “Congressman Jeremiah Davis.”
“The news said you didn’t get a good look at the perp…” Ted gave them a confused look as he brought the plates over.
“It’s a bit more complicated than that.” Michaels sighed. Then he gave Gabriel a concerned look. “How are you doing this morning?”
“Really?” Michaels gave him a suspicious look. “Cause, um…” He shrugged. “The guy kind of dented a concrete wall with your head.”
“Gabriel.” Ted turned toward him, his face frankly horrified. Well, considering what he was doing to you earlier, can you blame him? The shutting up thing, do it. “You got hurt?”
“I’m fine. Paramedic checked me out.” Yeah, but not in the way you’re hoping they interpret that statement. Shut up. Should have gotten her number. You said you didn’t want to share. Aren’t you the sweetest thing? “Took a couple aspirin and slept it off.”
“Okay, what the fuck vitamin regime are you even on dude, cause uh…” Michaels shook his head. “I want in on that shit.” Oh he is way too damn vanilla for us, pet. Did not need that image in my head. Ha. “What do we even do about this? We can’t…” He exhaled. “We could have him on video and have trouble making a case stick, let alone…”
“That’s the guy going after the girls.” Ted sat down heavily. “And he’s someone you can’t arrest.”
“Not without a hell of a lot more than…” Michaels sighed. “What are we going to do, partner?”
“Tail him.” That means you. On it, pet. But you know this one can’t go by the book, right? “We have to do this by the book, Michaels.” I know you heard me. “One slip, and he’s gone, likely with prejudice attached. We get one shot, and I mean one.”
“We don’t have enough for a warrant or tail. Hell, we go to the captain with this and he’s going to put us both on administrative leave.”
“Then it’s the two of us.”
“Three.” Ted started nodding. “I want to help.”
Pet, if you put Ted in danger, I’m going to sing every single verse of nine billion bottles of beer on the wall. Now who is being sweet? Off key. “You’re not a cop, Ted.”
“No, but I’ve got a camera and…” He glared. “And he’s after my kids.”
“Uh…” Michaels glanced at Ted. “Guessing you didn’t tell him about the…”
“No.” Well, you were kind of distracted. Shut up. “At least he’s already sitting down.”
“You understand how crazy that sounds?” Ted looked from one man to the other.
“Yes.” Michaels threw up his hands. “I fucking saw it, and I still don’t believe it.” He exhaled. “I shot the fucker five times, Ted. And I’ve seen Gabe break like eight boards with a punch and he was so not holding back on that asshole.” He hung his head. “Hard enough trying to accuse a congressman of being any kind of perp, but this…” He sighed. “By the book ain’t gonna be enough, Gabe.”
“He’s got a vest interest in keeping his nature a secret.” Gabriel leaned back, folding his arms. “By the book is the only chance we have.”
“And in the meantime, the kids are…” Ted took a deep breath. His stomach lurched. “The girls could be…”
Silence reigned as they all tried not to finish that thought. Michaels exhaled. “Alright, so, what, silver bullets?”
“I think that’s werewolves.” Ted shook his head. “Vampires are stakes and sunlight.”
“He ain’t got a problem with the sun, look at the picture.” Michaels pointed. “How the fuck do we even…”
“Woodchipper.” Gabriel’s voice was quiet.
“Gabe?” Michaels turned toward him.
“We find the girls. Then we find a woodchipper.”
“Yeah.” Michaels nodded. “Yeah, that seems like it would probably work.”
“I, uh…” Ted looked down at his hands. “I’ve got one in my garage.”
And how, exactly, do you plan on getting him into the woodchipper? I don’t. But it made them feel better.
Gabriel waited for Michaels and Ted to leave. Ted headed back to the center, and Michaels was off to trail the congressman. If the guy makes him, he’s a dead man. I know. He walked into the bathroom, and looked at the mirror. Her eyes were fire when they met his. “So tell me. How do I kill a vampire?”
“Not easily.” She shook her head. “Stories get it wrong on purpose. Keeps their prey off balance.”
“Figured that out. That’s why I’m asking you.”
“If you want it to stay down, you’re going to need a few things.” She nodded. “Pet, you know you’re going to have to break the rules for this one, right?”
“Yeah.” He took a deep breath. “I know.”
Where are we going? You know where we are going.
Gabriel parked and got out. Despite the cool weather, the garden was still lush. He found the man he’d come to see at the edge, leaning on one of the gray stone walls. Gabriel walked over to stand next to him, looking down at the city spread out below. “Forgive me Father, for I am about to sin.”
“You know that isn’t the way it works, my son.” The man next to him glanced at him. “I saw the news this morning. You saved another life.”
He nodded at the city. Lights were starting to come on as the sky darkened. “There are almost half a million lives down there, Father.”
“You cannot save them all.”
“Since when has that been a reason not to try?”
Father Williams smiled as he turned toward Gabriel. “You did not come here to ease your soul, son. So why don’t you tell me why you are really here?”
“I need your help.” He set the three wooden stakes onto the wall. “I need you to bless these for me.” Then he set his badge next to them. “And for you to hang onto this while I…”
“There is an appointed time for everything, and a time for every affair under the heavens. A time to —”
“Give birth and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to uproot the plant.” Father Williams nodded.
“A time to kill.”
“So you were listening.” Father Williams exhaled.
“I took an oath.” He squared his shoulders. “To serve, and protect. And I can’t do that by the rules. Not tonight.” He took a deep breath. “Forgive me, Father, for all I am about to do.”
A hand touched his neck, and then the man who had brought him in from the cold kissed his forehead. “There is nothing to forgive, Gabriel. God be with you.” He smiled. “Your mother expects you for dinner on Sunday, promptly at six. Do not be late.”
“Yes, Uncle Oliver.”
Ted dialed the phone with a shaking hand. He heard Gabriel’s voice on the other end. “Ted?”
“Laura didn’t show up for her class.” He fought back tears. “Gabriel, Laura didn’t…”
“If anyone asks, Ted…” He heard Gabriel take a deep breath. “I was with you tonight.”
His blood went cold, but he nodded. “I understand.”
Michaels was dialing his phone when the window next to him shattered. A hand caught him by the front of his jacket and hauled him out of the driver’s seat. He felt the jagged shards cut into him as he was yanked out the window. His assailant casually tossed him into the alley. “You shot me.” The congressman’s bodyguard looked at the car, then back at Michaels. “Where’s your partner?”
“Where’s the girl?” Michaels struggled to his feet.
“Well…” The man came toward him, fangs clearly visible. “Perhaps I should take you to her.” His fist struck the side of Michaels head.
Everything went dark.
Find her. I’ve got her. Take me there. He took a deep breath, and then let go. His hands turned the steering wheel on their own as she guided him to their destination.
“Hey, you awake?” Michaels shook his head. The voice hissed at him again. “Hey, Detective Not-The-Pretty-One, are you awake?”
Michaels groaned, and tried to rub his head. His wrist caught on something, and he realized he was handcuffed to a pole. “Shit.” He blinked. “Hey, you’re the girl Gabe was talking to.”
“Yeah, and you’re his partner, so…” Laura glared at him from where she was also handcuffed. “What are you doing here?”
“I was…” He frowned. “What are you doing here?” Laura rolled her eyes. Michaels shook his head, then winced again when it made him dizzy. “No, I was tailing the congressman all…” He frowned. “There is more than one.”
“You know, you should be a detective.” Laura rolled her eyes. “What about Detective Pretty Boy? Is he…”
“I don’t know. I was about to call him when…” Michaels started shifting position. He frowned, then brushed his pant leg up a little. What do you know, the clip he’d used to attached the pedometer was still there. “Okay, uh, whatever your name is. I’ve got a plan. There is a paper clip attached to my boot. Think you can get it?”
“You keep a paperclip in your boot?” Laura gave him a skeptical look.
“Can you reach it or not?” Michaels glared.
“Hang on…” Laura twisted.
“Any idea how many there are?”
“At least four.”
“Shit.” Michaels stretched his leg, trying to get his boot to her fingers. He hadn’t done so well against one. If Gabe hadn’t been there, he’d have been dead within three seconds of coming around the corner.
“Alright, got it.” Laura held up the paperclip. “Now what?”
“Now…” He exhaled. “I don’t suppose you are enough of a delinquent to know how to pick locks?”
“Oh god.” Laura hung her head. “That’s your plan, hope I can pick a lock?”
“Unfortunately…” Michaels sighed. “Yes.”
“We’re going to die.”
“You’re right. It’s probably too hard for you anyway.”
“We’re going to die and the best you can do is reverse psychology?”
“We’ve been kidnapped by vampires.” Michaels shook his head at her. “I don’t exactly have a lot of experience with this kind of situation.”
Security cameras. Cutting them off will alert our quarry. Have a little faith, pet. I’ll get you past them. Let’s go. Levels one and two have alarms on the windows. Gabriel pulled the ski mask over his face, then leapt and caught hold of the second-floor window ledge. He hauled himself up, then balanced carefully before jumping up to the next level. He hauled himself up again. Erilon? Clear, pet, but keep the noise level down.
He put his fist through the window, then unfastened the lock to slide it up. Carefully, he crept inside, closing the window behind him again and then lowering the blinds. With luck, that would keep his entry from being casually noticed.
The first guard was encountered in the hallway just outside the room. Gabriel smacked the man’s head into the door frame, dropping him in his tracks. I was about to tell you to be careful with the thralls, pet, but I think you’ve got this. Are the girls here? I’ve got a tag on… Erilon? Michaels and Laura are below you, in the basement, trying to escape on their own. Ordinarily I’d applaud the initiative, but… They are going to need a distraction? Yep. Alright then.
Gabriel walked around the corner into the group of three guards, grabbed the one closest to him, and smashed his forehead into the bridge of the man’s nose. The guard folded. Gabriel nodded to other two. “You have the right to remain silent.”
A smile came to his face as they promptly gave up that right.
“How’s it going?” Michaels glanced at Laura.
“I think I…” The cuff suddenly clicked. “Ha. Got it.” She rose.
“Um…” He rattled his own cuffs. “Mind?”
She came over and knelt behind him. “Next time I get arrested, you so owe me for this.”
Ted drove up and parked. His eyes widened when he recognized Michaels’ vehicle. The glass of the driver’s side window was broken, and there was no sign of the detective. He hesitated, then pulled his cell phone out and dialed.
Gabriel picked up a couple moments later. “Ted.”
“Gabriel, I…” Ted blinked when he heard a cry of pain followed by a thudding sound. “Gabriel!”
“Wasn’t me.” Gabriel’s voice came back over. “This is not the best…” There was another thudding sound. “Time.”
“I found Michaels’ vehicle. He…”
“Yeah, he got himself caught. I’m on it.”
“It’s outside a building…”
“31st and Goettel.” There was a shout, followed by a sharp snapping sound, another cry of pain, and another thud. “Ted, get back in your car and stay out of sight. Might need a getaway driver in a bit. You know how to get to St. Adrian’s?”
“Yes. I think so.”
“That’ll be the destination.” And then he hung up.
He stared at it a moment. “Um…” Ted shrugged, and headed back to his car. “Alright.”
Rather than stay near the already busted vehicle, he headed over to the nearby, well-lit parking lot of a restaurant. Then he held his phone tightly and waited.
Gabriel stepped into the next room to find a familiar face. Kill him a lot. “Captain Mason.”
The man blinked, then recognition flooded into his eyes. “Detective Williams.” His face broke into a smile. “I was just about to send some people out to invite you to join us.” Captain Mason’s eyes narrowed. “Your partner is already here.”
“Heard.” Gabriel nodded. “He hurt?”
“No.” Captain Mason’s smile widened. He reached out to grab hold of Gabriel’s arm. “And if you’d like him to remain —”
He caught the captain’s wrist, arresting the motion. “Good.” He smiled as the captain tried to pull free and failed. “Cause if he was…” The captain’s eyes widened. “I’d take it personally.”
“What are you?” The captain stared.
“Prepared.” He rammed the stake between the captain’s fourth and fifth ribs hard enough that the point came out of the vampire’s back. The captain let out a gasp before collapsing into dust.
The stake went back into his pocket before he stepped over the pile and continued hunting.
“Got it.” Laura’s voice was triumphant.
Michaels smiled as he felt the cuff leave his left wrist. “Alright, let’s see if we can find a way out of here.” He glanced at her. “Try to stay behind me.”
“Right.” She took a deep breath.
He did the same before opening the door. Michaels poked his head out, and noted the hallway appeared empty. “I don’t suppose you were awake when they brought you in here?”
“I think…” She gave him a hesitant look. “Left?”
“Okay. Left.” Michaels nodded and started moving. Carefully, he opened the door at the end of the hall to find… The congressman’s bodyguard was walking toward them. “Shit.”
“Right would have been better.” Laura swallowed.
He slammed the door, grabbed her arm, and started running the other direction.
Out of the corner of his eye he caught movement in the room below. He turned and saw Michaels and Laura run into the living room. Michaels barely managed to pull Laura out of the way of the man who came into the room behind them. His partner shoved the girl behind him as the vampire started toward him with a baseball bat.
Gabriel jumped off the railing and landed in front of the vampire just as the creature swung. He caught the bat in his left hand, then kicked the vampire in the abdomen hard enough to knock it backward several paces. The creature roared and lunged at him, and he brought the stake out. The creature saw it in time to block the blow, and twisted to throw Gabriel into a table.
He rolled clear just before the creature smashed its fist into the table hard enough to turn the wood into splinters. Gabriel blocked the thing’s next blow and flung it over his shoulder. It hit the wall, but landed on its feet and came at him again. Gabriel twisted, and switched to a backhanded blow to drive the stake into the thing’s heart.
It fell into dust.
Michaels was still standing protectively in front of Laura, and both were staring. “The other girls here?”
“I…” Michaels started to shake his head. Then he blinked and his eyes widened. “Gabe?” His eyes flicked to the bat before going back to Gabriel. “What the?”
“Are the other girls here?”
“I don’t know.” Michaels swallowed. He glanced at Laura. “Do you?”
She made a squeaking sound, then caught herself. “I don’t think so. They said they were going to take me somewhere else, so…”
“Both of you get out of here.” He tossed his cell phone to Laura. “Ted’s nearby, he’ll take you someplace safe.”
“Gabe…” Michaels frowned. “Uh…” He exhaled. “You’re going to need backup. There’s more than…”
Gabriel spun as the vampire came through the door, driving the stake into the creature’s heart. Dust sprayed from the thing’s momentum. “That made three.” He turned back to Michaels. “How many more?”
It was Laura who answered. “At least four, but I didn’t recognize that one so…”
“Right.” He nodded. “I’ll get you to the front door.”
He stepped over one body, then another. “Uh, partner…” Michaels glanced around at the half dozen unconscious or dead men. “I’m thinking there might be some information you haven’t shared with me.”
“Yep.” Gabriel twitched a shoulder.
“Cause um…” He stepped back as Gabriel swept the legs out from under another guard before slamming the back of the man’s head into the floor.
“You’re a fucking ninja.” Laura let out a small laugh.
“Yeah, what she said.” Michaels nodded. He tried to punch one of the guard that came toward him, only to discover it was something like punching a tree. The guard started to reach for him, and then Gabriel grabbed the man and put his head through the wall. “Ow.”
“Thralls.” Gabriel shook his head. “Not as tough as vampires, but still more than you can handle.”
They were almost to the front door when he heard a shotgun cocking. Michaels shoved Laura behind him, then shouted a protest when Gabriel stepped between them and the shotgun. The firearm roared, and he heard Laura scream.
Gabriel took a half step back, then tilted his head to one side. Congressman Davis stared at him from behind the shotgun. “What the…”
That’s the master. Got to end that one, or this was a waste of time. He flipped the stake up into his hand. Davis immediately dropped the shotgun and ran. “Michaels, get her out.” He ran after the fleeing vampire.
“You, uh…” Laura looked up at him. “You saw that, right?”
“I, uh…” Michaels turned toward her. “Let’s call Ted and uh…”
“I need a drink.” Laura exhaled.
“Yeah.” Michaels nodded. “Me too.”
The phone rang. Ted nearly fumbled answering it. “Gabriel?”
“Laura?” He exhaled. “Oh, thank god, Laura, are you alright?”
“Yeah, I…” She swallowed. “Detective Gabriel said you could give us a ride and…”
“Where are you?” He started the car.
“At the front of the building, on 31st and Goettel, you’ll uh…”
He saw her and Detective Michaels standing on the sidewalk. “I see you.” He pulled up to them. “Quick, get…” He frowned. “Where’s Gabriel?”
“I don’t…” Laura started shaking her head.
Michaels eyes suddenly widened, and he pointed. Ted looked up in time to see a man in a tuxedo leap from one building all the way across the road to land on another. And a heartbeat later, a figure in dark clothing followed, chasing the other across the rooftops. “Did they just…”
“Yep.” Laura got into the car.
“Yep.” Michaels slid into the passenger seat.
“Drive.” They both said the word simultaneously.
“Driving.” Ted put the vehicle in gear and started heading north.
North. I see him. Gabriel landed on the roof of the next building. His quarry turned and snarled at him. “I knew there was something off about you.” Davis kept some distance between the two of them. “People I hit don’t normally get back up, let alone more than once.”
“Where are the girls?” Gabriel kept the stake in his hand.
“Kill me and you’ll never find them.” Davis smiled, showing fangs. “Put the stake down, Detective.”
“These people are your responsibility.” Gabriel narrowed his eyes. In the streets below, people went about their lives, completely unaware of what was happening above them. “You work for them.”
Davis laughed. “They elected me to help clean up the streets, Detective.” He spread his hands. “To deal with the problem of immoral delinquents roaming the streets.”
When you kill this one, pet, make it hurt. “Where are the girls?”
“Where they can be of better use, Detective.” Davis shrugged. “I could use someone like you. We could make this city a worthwhile place. Clean. Upstanding. Surely, Detective, you can see the…” For the love of… He’s giving you the ‘we can rule together’ speech. Yep. He’s giving you the ‘we can rule together’ speech. I can hear him. He’s seriously giving you the ‘we can rule together’ speech. You’re distracting me from the ‘we can rule together’ speech. You sound ungrateful for that. He might be getting to a point. Ha. “… your duty. To make this a place of law and order.”
Think he’s done? He sounds done. Alright, let’s kill him. That’s my boy. “You went after children, Davis.”
“Unnatural little —”
“Children.” He shifted his grip on the stake.
“Abominations.” Davis sneered. “Wanton little harlots, playing at being whores. They should all be put to death.”
Did he just… Yep. I think I’m going to be taking that personally. “Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven.” Gabriel narrowed his eyes.
With a snarl, Davis charged at him.
“But if he got shot…” Ted shook his head. He made a frustrated sound, then hit the brakes to make a u-turn.
“Ted.” Michaels started to reach his hand toward Ted’s arm, then exhaled. “Laura, he said he was going to take you to join the other girls. That implies they are still alive. Did you see or hear anything that could tell us where the other girls are?”
“I…” Laura swallowed. “Okay, um, well…” She took a couple deep breaths. “I heard something about repairs and a warehouse. And um…” She frowned. “Oh, and about stoplights still not working.”
“Stoplights…” Michaels nodded. “Stoplights. There’s a short in the system down on Fifty-Seventh, between Burg and Rosewood.”
“I know the way.” Ted hit the gas pedal.
He flung Davis into the brick wall with enough force to send the man through it. Alarms started blaring. Davis growled. “Those girls are dead. You hear me? Dead.” He turned and ran.
Think he’s going to lead us to them? We can hope. Keep up, Pet. Gabriel shook his head and gave chase.
“Alright, I see…” Ted quickly looked around. “Six warehouses under repair.”
“Yeah and…” Michaels shook his head. “Splitting up would be a bad idea. I don’t think I want to explain to Gabe that I left either of you by yourselves.”
“Right, because you were totally the one who rescued me.” Laura rolled her eyes at him.
“Alright, where should we —” Ted hit the brakes as a figure landed in the road in front of his car. It ran down the road, and a second figure landed in the same spot a moment later.
Gabriel shot them an irritated look. “Stay in the car.” He gestured at them before turning to chase the other figure.
“I’m going to go out on a limb and say it’s that one.” Laura pointed at the warehouse the figures had vanished into.
“I would really like to wake up now.” Michaels shook his head.
“Maybe we should…” Ted caught what he was about to say, and closed his mouth again.
“Well, I was about to suggest we call the police.”
“Good idea.” Laura nodded. She leaned between the front seats and turned toward Michaels. “Hey. Police.”
“Next time I’m letting the vampires eat her.” Michaels opened the car door.
“Where are you going?” Ted shook his head.
Michaels grabbed his nightstick. “To back up my partner. You two stay in the car.” He ran into the building.
“He’s like…” Laura turned toward Ted. “Really, really dumb.”
“I’m not sure you’re helping.” Ted sighed.
Gabriel drove his shoulder into Davis’s side, sending them both through the wall. He rolled to his feet as Davis regained his. The vampire’s face was slowly shifting, losing its humanity in the process. It flung a chair at Gabriel, forcing Gabriel to dodge. The chair legs penetrated the concrete of the wall behind them, leaving the chair embedded halfway through. “I’m going to turn you…” Davis snarled, then dodged the piece of metal Gabriel flung at him. The vampire headed down a hallway.
Let me know how that works out for you, fang boy. Are the girls here? They are… Incoming. Gabriel rolled to the side to avoid gunfire. He started to come up to deal with the threat, only to see the gunman hit the ground. Michaels stood behind the man, holding a nightstick. His partner picked up the gun. “I got this, you go deal with fang boy.”
Ha. Shut up. “Be careful.”
“Right.” Michaels nodded, then smacked the next thug to come through the door across the face with the nightstick.
“We should do something.”
“We are doing something.”
“We are sitting in a car.”
“We have to help.” Laura glanced at him.
“Laura…” Ted shook his head. “I’m fifty years old and can barely jog a mile without needing to be hospitalized. You’re fifteen and don’t weigh a hundred pounds soaking wet.” He turned to look at her. “They told us to stay in the car.”
“Right.” Laura nodded. “Staying in the car sucks.”
“I could put on the radio?” Ted shrugged.
“So, how do you know Detective Pretty Boy?” Laura raised an eyebrow at him.
“I, uh…” Ted exhaled, then his eyes widened. “Well that’s…” The handsome young man he’d taken a whip to on several occasions could apparently to toe to toe with vampires. “I need a drink.”
“Yeah.” Laura nodded. “Me too.”
He hit Davis just before Davis got to the steel door, taking the man halfway across the room. Davis snarled, and tried to take a bite out of Gabriel’s shoulder. Gabriel flung him into the wall. Davis hit hard enough to make the studs crack, but landed on his feet. “Who are you?” Davis growled the question.
Gabriel took the stake out of his pocket again. “Once you die, the thralls lose their power.”
“Boy, I walked this world before English was a language.” Davis’s hands shifted, ending in claws. There was little human left in his appearance. “You think a stake is enough to take me down? A bullet couldn’t penetrate my flesh.” His fangs were long, jutting out of his mouth.
“Yeah. That’s a nice trick.” Gabriel started for him again. The door on the left, pet. Got it.
The vampire attacked, claws trying to rake against Gabriel’s skin. Behind him, two more thralls entered, trying to come to their master’s aid. A shot rang out as Michaels shot the first one. The second turned to lunge at his partner, who kept shooting. Gabriel focused on the vampire in front of him.
With a leap, the vampire smashed both of them into the ceiling. Gabriel nearly lost his grip on the thing as they crashed back to the floor. He rolled, pulling the vampire with him, then flung it at the door. The vampire landed on its feet, skidding to a halt before reaching the door. Gabriel drove his shoulder into the creature again, taking both of them through the door.
A shriek came from the vampire as it tried escaping him again. Gabriel tossed it into the center of the room. Mirrors lined one wall, reflecting the scene as Gabriel stepped into the room. The vampire snarled again as it started to circle him. He caught sight of Michaels coming toward them, a gun in his hand. Davis smirked. “After I turn you, boy, I think I’ll let your partner be your first snack.”
Shooting the thing hadn’t done him any good the first time. Running would likely be in his best interest, but if Gabriel couldn’t take this thing down he wasn’t sure what good running was going to do. Michaels swallowed, taking up a position near the door. The best he could do was prevent anything from getting to his partner, and pray that Gabriel could… Could do whatever it was Gabriel could do because he had absolutely no fucking idea what the hell was even going on here.
“It’s over.” Gabriel shook his head at Davis.
“It’s hardly begun.” Davis snarled. “I will drive the unworthy from this city, cleanse this place of the harlots and sodomites, all that I pledged my constituents that I would do. Those little bitches are nothing more than food.”
“You’re going to burn in hell.” Davis took a few steps back as Gabriel began moving toward him.
“I am the righteous wrath of — ”
Liquid black eyes caught his from the mirror behind the vampire. Flames rose around her, bathing her in red and gold. “Take him.” Gabriel straightened. “He’s all yours.”
He stared in shock as a hand reached through the glass behind the thing that had not long ago been a congressman. Michaels was sure he made some kind of sound as what appeared to be a woman made of fire dragged the vampire into the mirror. It was not a scream.
No, the screams were definitely coming from Congressman Davis, who once again looked human. The woman’s smile was vicious. “You’re mine now, bitch.”
The image in the mirror vanished, leaving the normal reflection of a world that had, until a couple days ago, made something resembling sense. Michaels swallowed. “Uh…” He felt a little bit dizzy. “What was…”
“Oh.” Michaels shook his head. “That uh…” He stared at the glass. “What the hell is a succubus?”
Gabriel put a hand on his partner’s shoulder. “Michaels?”
“Yeah?” The man was pale as he kept staring at where Erilon had dragged Davis from this world.
He shrugged. “Girls are back there.” He jerked a thumb at the door behind them.
“Right.” Michaels nodded. “You gonna explain…” He looked from Gabriel to the mirror and back again. “Anything?”
“Later.” Gabriel turned and started walking to the door.
“Okay.” Michaels nodded. “Okay. Later. Okay.”
“Ted and Laura?” Gabriel glanced over his shoulder.
Michaels hurried to catch up. “Told them to stay in the car.”
“I told you to stay in the car.” Gabriel shook his head.
“Yeah, well…” He shrugged. “I uh…” He glanced at a hole in the wall and noted several other bits of serious infrastructure damage. “Thought maybe you could use some help.”
“Well…” Gabriel shrugged. “Thank you.”
“Least I could…” Michaels shook his head, then stopped and looked up at Gabriel. “I voted for that son of a…” He exhaled. “He was supposed to lower property taxes.”
“Did he?” Gabriel raised an eyebrow.
“They went up five percent.”
“Oh, shut up.” Michaels glared. “Let’s go rescue the girls.”
“Where’s mine?” Laura frowned at Michaels as he handed out glasses and started filling them.
“You’re fifteen.” Michaels handed her a soda, and she rolled her eyes. “Ugh.”
“Alright…” Ted started to take a sip from his whiskey, then shrugged and downed it like a shot. “First off, it appears all the girls are accounted for.” He let Michaels refill his glass. “Secondly, from what the nurses who have spoken to them said it seems they were kept drugged. None of them have anything approaching clear memories of their imprisonment.”
“I’ve gotta say…” Michaels tossed back his own drink. “I’m a little relieved to hear that.” He refilled his own drink.
“And thirdly…” Ted looked at his drink.
“Yeah…” Michaels turned to look at Gabriel. “Thirdly…”
“I’m thirding their thirdlies.” Laura cracked open her soda.
“Thirdly…” Ted gave Michaels and Laura an irritated look. “It appears reporters are running with the story of a pair of masked vigilantes uncovering a sex trafficking ring. They rescued the girls and called in an anonymous tip to get ambulances there before vanishing into the night.”
“Details at eleven.” Laura took a sip of her soda.
“No, details right now.” Michaels spun his glass. “Something you want to add to the conversation, partner?”
“I want my ski mask back.” Gabriel downed his own shot of whiskey.
“No. Keeping it. You can make do with your stupid hoodie.” Michaels glared.
“Yeah, the hood is way cooler than the ski mask.” Laura gestured with her soda can.
“If we can…” Ted glared at them again. “Gabriel, you, uh…”
“I may have gone off the reservation last night.” Gabriel shrugged.
“You single handedly —”
“Hey!” Michaels shook his head
“Single handedly wiped out the vampire club,” Laura finished.
“It wasn’t single-handedly.” Gabriel sighed.
“Yeah.” Michaels narrowed his eyes at Laura.
Three faces were staring at him. He’d really been hoping to avoid this. Gabriel exhaled. “Alright, I…” He rubbed the back of his neck. “Owe you an explanation.” He swallowed. “A couple years back, I made a bargain for some help on a case.”
“That thing in the mirror…” Michaels voice became serious. “That was a demon.”
“Yeah.” Gabriel nodded. “That was a demon.”
“Oh god…” Ted swallowed, his face pale.
“I haven’t…” He shrugged. “I haven’t sold my soul or anything. It doesn’t work that way. She uh…” He exhaled. “I let her feed off my energy, and occasionally help her with her work. In return, she helps with mine and uh…” He sat up straighter. “I don’t know. I’m stronger. Faster. I can…”
“And her work is…” Ted raised an eyebrow, his face still full of concern.
“There is a special place in hell for people like Davis. Her job is to make sure they get there.” He twitched a shoulder. “With my help, she can nudge this world some, get them there a little sooner.”
“I…” Ted’s eyes widened, and Gabriel winced. He hadn’t wanted Ted to make the connection. “Father Brandt.”
“What, that pedophile priest from a few months…” Michaels frowned. Then he turned to look at Ted. “Wait a minute, that’s where I remember you from. You were the one who apparently had the great weekend.”
“Yeah.” Ted slowly nodded before looking away. “One hell of a weekend.”
“Ted…” Gabriel sighed.
“Back up.” Laura shook her head. “So, you work for a demon that’s out to get the creepsters?”
“More or less.” Gabriel glanced at her, still watching Ted out of the corner of his eye. The man had a hurt and betrayed look on his face. And the truth was he really couldn’t blame the man.
“Oh, I so want in on that.” Laura’s smile was fierce. “Hey, demon lady, I —”
Michaels immediately put his hand over her mouth, muffling her words. “Something tells me that might not be the best idea you’ve ever had.”
I wouldn’t hurt the girl. I rather kind of like her. You also claimed not to want to hurt Ted. I didn’t… Take another look. Oh. “Laura, you can help more by staying safe.” He shrugged. “In fact, if you do attempt to put yourself at risk, I will lock your ass in a nunnery for the rest of your life.”
“You can’t actually —”
“Try me.” He narrowed his eyes at her.
“Gabe…” Michaels downed his drink. “Since that’s not actually something you can threaten me with…” He set his glass upside down on the table before sitting up. “I’m in.”
“Michaels.” He started to shake his head.
“People are preying on kids in the city I swore to serve and protect.” Michaels squared his shoulders. “I’m. In.”
“Me too.” Ted’s voice was quiet. When Gabriel turned toward him, Ted shrugged. “I’m no cop, but those things went after my kids and…” He folded his arms. “I can help. Even if it’s just…” His smile was slightly sad. “Providing an alibi.”
“I’m in too.”
“Laura…” Michaels and Gabriel both said her name.
“You’re cops, and you’re old.” Laura waved her hands at them. “The ones you’re trying to protect won’t talk to you. They already talk to me. You need me.” She smirked. “And you can’t actually stop me.”
“I can.” All three of them went still as Erilon’s voice floated around them. “And I will be watching.”
Silence reigned for almost a full minute. “So, that was…” Michaels glanced at Gabriel.
Michaels started to reach for his glass again, then just shrugged and grabbed the bottle.
He didn’t look at the man who’d silently joined him on the balcony. “Michaels and Laura seemed a little disappointed they won’t also get superpowers.”
“It has its downsides.” Gabriel’s voice was quiet. “I’m sorry, Ted. I…”
“So…” Ted shrugged. “What was the job the second time you came over?” He folded his arms.
“Erilon feeds off energy. Life force.” Gabriel walked over to lean on the railing. “And the best way to generate that is…”
“Sex.” Ted slowly nodded. “I’m not the only one.”
“The energy is drawn from…” Gabriel exhaled. “Take too much from any one person, and she’ll kill them. So no, Ted, you’re not the only one.”
“Draining. I felt more alive after that weekend than I had in years.” Ted wiped at the corner of his eye. A chill ran through him, and he went still. “Gabriel, I…” He swallowed as he turned toward the younger man. “The things I did to you…”
“She can’t make me do anything I don’t want to do, Ted.” Gabriel smiled. “You’re not the only one that…” He looked away before looking back at Ted. “You’re the only one I’ve ever brought home.” He shrugged. “Only one that’s ever tied me to my own bed.”
“You used me.”
“Yes.” Gabriel slowly nodded. “I did. And for what it’s worth, I…” He looked down. “I’m sorry I hurt you.”
“I knew that…” Ted looked down at his hands. “That I was kidding myself every time I thought you and I could be…” He put his hands on the railing. “Any —” Gabriel caught him by the tie and pulled him in before kissing him. Startled, he kissed the man back, losing himself for a time. He was breathing hard when they broke apart.
“Ted, I…” Gabriel brushed something off Ted’s shoulder. “I won’t pretend this is ever going to be anything other than fucked up and you know I can’t be faithful to you. But I…” He looked up. “I like you. I enjoy your company in and out of bed and —”
“Yes.” Ted nodded. “Yeah, we can…” He smiled. “We can give it a try.”
“Good.” Gabriel smiled.
Ted turned around, and looked back through the glass door at where Michaels and Laura were arguing with each other. Apparently, neither had noticed the scene on the balcony. “What are they arguing about now?”
“I’m apparently Batman. Michaels believes that makes him Robin, but Laura objects because he’s older than I am and thinks Michaels is Commissioner Gordon. Michaels says Erilon is Commissioner Gordon and Laura is stuck being Batgirl.” Gabriel glanced at him. “You’re apparently Alfred.”
“That uh…” Ted started shaking his head. “Really sort of puts Batman in a whole new light.”
“I…” Gabriel winced. “And here I thought nothing could make that movie any worse.”
“This is good, you know.” Ted found himself smiling as he watched Laura try to settle the argument by hitting Michaels with a pillow. “I think I like this notion.”
“Being Alfred?” Gabriel raised an eyebrow.
“That this city, our city…” He turned to look back at the view. “Has a guardian angel.”
“Can’t I be Thor?” Gabriel sighed. “I like Thor.”
Gabriel found the man he was looking for in the garden again. “I saw the news.” Father Williams gave a small shake of his head before holding out the badge. “You know you can’t —”
“I can.” Gabriel walked forward to retrieve the item before looking out over the city. “And I will.”
“Gabriel.” He sighed.
“I’m a cop. I will do my job.” He looked down at the badge. “And I will follow the rules.” He looked up at his uncle. “As long as the rules apply. Last night, they didn’t.”
“That’s not your decision to make, my son.”
“Again I observe under the sun: crime is where justice should be, the criminal is where the upright should be.”
“The upright and the criminal will both be judged by God.”
“Well…” Gabriel took a deep breath. “Any time he wants to show up.” He shrugged. “But until then…” Gabriel turned and started walking away. “I’ve got a job to do.”