The Avengers

a novel


Dave MacMillan

Copyright ©2000 David MacMillan


My fingers pounded the keyboard furiously - one with the Slavic demons snaking crazily about me in the music room. The flames of their torches leaped ever higher over the dark lake beyond the large windows that separated me from the cold of the November night. My fingers sped through the chords that brought Muskorgsky's music to a culmination in the one citadel of reason that remained to me, one that also mirrored the Chaos in my soul.

The silence that followed the last note hovered as brightly as a morning sun in my deepest being, ate away the layers of moral insensitivity with which I'd adorned myself most of the past 153 years. Beyond the windows, darkness lay across the German capital and my property on the lake in its northwest quarter. The eternal dark of Chaos drew closer, extinguishing mortal sight and its knowledge. Nearer. I could feel it. A threat with no name. With no substance.

My world was darkening. I sensed it hovering just beyond me, but I could not find the source of that darkness. I had not been able to find it in the fortnight the sense of Chaos had been expanding over me.


The thought touched my mind and I was on my feet and turning before mortal eyes could blink, my fangs bared and my hands became claws, ready to defend my person.

"Verdammt!" I snarled when I saw the American standing inside the door. "You closed off your thoughts so I wouldn't know you entered the room."

"Emil and I are worried about you, Liebchen-"

I smiled tightly and forced myself to relax. "I am well, Tom."

"You've taken to visiting the farm in Fläming without us." I saw he studied me closely as he recited his litany as a school child. "You refuse to go with us when we go down to the Ku-damm or take in the cabarets. You close yourself off in here much of the night - playing that gods awful Bald Mountain stuff." He shook his head slowly, his black locks slipping across his sweatered shoulders. "You've even stopped making love to us-"

"You don't have enough sex with those video models of yours?" I immediately regretted the outburst even while rushing heedlessly on: "You even have that one coming to this house and sleeping here."

I had just confirmed Tom MacPherson's concern. I suspected it was what lay behind my present emotional state as well.

His onyx eyes glittered, capturing the light from the single taper I permitted the room. They stared at me in shock. His lips moved and his throat muscles worked, but there was no sound. A severed head trying to speak. Only a kaleidoscope of insane, incoherent images shifted crazily at the forefront of his thoughts.

Crimson formed over the onyx of his eyes, spilling onto his cheeks. "Never-" he whispered after the longest time. "Never, Karli - nie!" he repeated, his words stronger now. "Emi and I - we've never done it with anyone but you - but us."

I didn't want to believe him. I wasn't going to. No matter what he said - what they both might say. I wanted an end to my own pain, whatever it was.

Barring that, I would give them pain.

"You even have this - this Johan Kys in this house," I hissed, giving vent to the frustration and anger that had grown in my heart the past weeks and months.

Tom was crying now. Blood red tears slipped down his cheeks to pool at the corners of his lips before dropping to the floor. He made no attempt to stop them. He simply continued to stare at me. An accusation as cold as death.

Finally his lids closed over the eyes I'd loved in this and his other two bodies for most of my 150 years, damming some of the flow. |Read my mind, Karl, Fürst von Muribor. Read everything. Know everything. Don't leave one thought unexplored.|

His mind was obviously open, I could feel its exposure from where I stood. I knew there would be no barriers to me, regardless of how thoroughly I plundered his mind.

Did I want to? In spite of everything I'd come to imagine of my two lovers these past months, did I dare? Did I want to know they were not what lurked just beyond my vision?

If not them, then what?

If I was wrong I would be the biggest fool I could imagine. If I didn't find out, I knew I would always be an even greater fool - at least, in my perception. My guesses were either right or wrong, but I had to know now the moment of truth was upon me. And I had no right to cause another pain simply because I was uncomfortable.

|Read his and, then, mine,| Emil told me. I knew he was watching some American garbage on the telly in the sitting room with Global Entertainment's hottest porn star, Johan Kys. |You're going to know every thing about me since I was a child.|

They had come upon me in tandem. They had come in only Tom's body but they were linked. They had plotted this and I hadn't known it.

Tom smiled through his tears and opened his eyes. "We love you, Karli - both of us. We - all three of us - made a pact before you two guys started nibbling at my neck. We're in this for the long haul - none of us can pull out. Neither Emil nor I are ready to break that pact. Neither of us want to lose you. It's either all or nothing. You got that?"

I nodded numbly, not trusting myself to speak and already guessing what I was going to find behind both the handsome faces of my lovers. I suspected I was going to be apologising for a very long time to come. But, still . . .

My desires shifted; I wanted to be wrong. I didn't want to lose them either. But, if they weren't the power behind the expanding Chaos just beyond my vision, what was?

I didn't want to consider infidelity. I didn't want the hurt. But . . .

Something as mundane as a dalliance could be forgiven. In the face of the growing prospect that there was something worse awaiting me, I would gladly accept these two men happily servicing half of Europe and work to forgive them their romps.

I sensed now far worse from Chaos. I feared my lack of knowledge.

And I wanted with desperate yearning what we had two years ago in Washington when our love was new and just beginning.

I wanted to again feel the moral certitude that had been mine when the three of us destroyed American fascism in the bodies of the Reverend Pat Koughlin and his disciple, Joey McCarthy.

* * *

"Fucking asshole faggot!" Lynda Renfroe hissed, replacing the receiver. Her gaze slowly moved from the telephone on its wall beside the breakfast table to the clock over the range. It remained there, assimilating the time. "Bastard!"

"What's up, Doodles?" Barbara Nightwing asked as she entered the kitchen and stopped at the table. Lynda pulled her thoughts back from the jumble Jimmy Boyd had left them and looked down at the short, buxom woman before her.

She smiled and hugged Barbara to herself.

"What's up?" the shorter woman asked again, her face against the taller woman's breasts.

"It's almost midnight and Boyd wants me to meet him at Traxx in an hour." Disgust dripped heavily from her voice. "The asshole can't come up with a reasonable time or place for anything - shit!" She grimaced. "Knowing him, he'll probably even decide to have his funeral at three in the morning on Ellis Island when the ferries aren't running."

"That's the FBI man who likes his boys real young, isn't he?" the raven-haired pixie asked, her voice that of the mature woman she was and had been the seventeen years Lynda Renfroe had loved her. She was the woman who'd had all of the answers these past seventeen years, almost all of which turned out to be right.

"Yeah." She nodded absently. "I know him too. He wants me to gallivant half-way around the frigging country for something he's going to label national security-" Her nostrils wrinkled in disgust. "The damned bastard gets a free workhorse and doesn't even let me have a story out of it."

"You're going to do it," Barbara told her calmly, pulling back and smiling up at her. "Just like you always do."

Lynda chuckled and grinned at her lover. "Only because this time there might be a story in it I can sell."

"He's given you more than your share of scoops, Lynda-"

"Shit, he's clamped national security on me more times than not." She took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "You going to keep Jody in line if I end up flying to Timbuktu?" She slapped her forehead with the heel of her hand. "Of course you won't. Barbie, you'd spoil that boy rotten if I didn't watch you both every minute."

The dark-haired woman studied her for a moment. "Why don't you wrangle a couple of extra tickets out of your federal buddy for me and the kid?" she asked softly. She grinned up at Lynda. "Thanksgiving break's coming up fast for our boy and-" She shrugged. "The girls at the garage keep things running better when I'm not around to stick my nose into their shit and muck everything up."

"You'd go?" Lynda wanted to pursue that thought but instead glanced again at the clock on the wall. "Shit! I've got to run." She glanced down at herself and appraised the plaid shirt and corduroys she wore. "You'll actually go? Even if it is Timbuktu?"

Barbara smiled back her answer. "It may be the last time we can all be together-" She shook her head slowly. "Jody's really growing up fast on us, Doodles."

Lynda grinned. "Yeah. That brat needs to get away from his school and buddies for a couple of days. He's got to learn there's a whole, wide world out there beyond the Potomac River."

"You look good, Doodles. You're a power lesbian at leisure." Barbara grinned as she fished into the pocket of her jeans and pulled out her key ring. "Take the Cabrio. Jody has the Jeep."

"Fucking kid! He's supposed to be home doing the dishes. It's his one night-"

"He just went out with some friends for a while, babe. Stop riding the boy's ass all the time." Barbara pressed the keys into Lynda's hand. "Get going, girl. You can't keep your queer boy waiting."

She relaxed after she was out of Alexandria and on the George Washington Parkway. Traffic was steady as she passed National Airport and turned onto the I-95 freeway into Washington, D. C. It built up slightly as she entered the Southwest Freeway but there weren't enough cars that Lynda Renfroe felt intimidated by the traffic.

She watched the lighted dome of the Capitol grow as Barbara's re-built `66 Volkswagen bug neared it and felt awe tinge her as it always did before the symbol of American power. She allowed herself to wonder how her half-brother was taking the shellacking his party had received in the elections just past. She smiled as she exited onto South Capitol.

The way Lynda figured it, Luke Renfroe had ever more loved being the Speaker of the House of Representatives the past six years. He loved the power and the notoriety of it. But, now, he was just one more Congressman from the Georgia backwater.

She laughed. The Democrats had sure rubbed Republican noses black and blue in the concrete and tarmac that paved the capital. When the 2001 inaugural opened the new millennium in January, it was going to be Democrat still in the Presidency and the party of Jefferson back in control of both houses of Congress.

If anyone deserved that kind of beating, it was Luke Renfroe. What a frigging asshole! It was hard to imagine he was born of the same woman she was.

The Volkswagen bug crawled along the unlighted block of Half Street between "M" and "L" Streets as Lynda searched for a space she could pull the car into. "Every queer boy in town must be down here tonight," she groused as the Cabrio reached "L" Street.

She pulled even with the uniformed policeman in the intersection and pulled out her press badge from The Washington Blade to flash at him. "The natives restless tonight?" she asked and grinned at the man.

"About usual for a week-end," the cop answered and glanced down "L" toward Second. "We've been keeping the alley open the other side of the Lost and Found if you want to pull in there."

Lynda nodded. She understood the cop was telling her the alley was unwatched and she entered it at her own risk. Traxx and The Lost and Found only hired three off-duty cops week-end nights - and those cops only kept their attention on what was happening on "L" Street.

"I'll risk it," she mumbled, shifted into first, and pulled past him to turn onto the cross Street.

* * *

Lynda Renfroe huddled inside her sweater, shivering. She stood in the queue waiting to enter the Denver-based bar that had bought out the old Washington Times plant when that paper went under in the late 70's before the Moonies resurrected it. She was almost to the booth, ten dollars in hand, when the bouncer beside the exit spotted her.

"Shit," she mumbled to herself, watching him approach.

"You're Lynda Renfroe, aren't you?" the man asked and she nodded slowly. He grinned. "That exposé of Koughlin you wrote a couple of years ago was damned good. You still with the Blade?"

She nodded with more assurance and grinned. "You catch my piece on our beloved mayor doing his fourth stint in drug rehab?"

The man's eyes rounded. "Asshole! DC deserves a lot better than that piece of shit. Come on, I'll let you in." He grinned again. "We've got to keep our relations with the press in good order."

She slipped through the door and made her way through the milling crowd along the dark gray hall leading into the dance floor. Traxx had never turned her on; it was too stark. Like that modern furniture made of glass and metal. And it was always dark. Like she imagined the old bathhouses had been before AIDS shut them down and the boys had finally learned to play safe. Dark and anonymous. That was a good description for the largest gay bar in the nation's capital.

That and loud. The bass was a heartbeat that mimicked her own - but louder. So loud, it was as if the walls pulsed with it. Lynda Renfroe felt her own heartbeat adjust to the music of Traxx.

Jimmy Boyd had said he'd meet her on the patio, but Lynda wanted to warm up before she went back outside. And she couldn't imagine not nosing around a little; there was no telling who she might see or what she might hear.

She smiled. "Yeah, I've got a big nose." She spotted a path through the milling crowd of young people and slipped into it to push past young guys becoming desperate in the face of the growing prospect of sleeping alone, "like Pinocchio."

Only, his grew when he lied about something. Hers grew when she started getting close to pay dirt on somebody. Like it had when she met the Prince that first time that gave her Koughlin on a silver platter. Frigging Nazi bastard! He ought to be frying in somebody's electric chair instead of pulling down life without parole. A big time preacher pulling shit like trying to take over the country. Or like with the Mayor being back in a drug tank. Everybody with a brain expected drug abuse from the city's number one drug addict. It was the preacher who'd gone unsuspected until it was almost too late.

If she could only link her half-brother up with Koughlin or something like the shit he had been trying to pull, she'd be as big as Bernstein and Woodward had been after they brought down Nixon. She didn't have to look at Woodward's royalty statements to know the man was still making millions more than twenty years after his moment in the national limelight.

The boys from The Washington Post had Deep Throat in the Nixon White House feeding them tips and she had Jimmy Boyd in the FBI feeding her hers. Maybe she would get lucky before she was old and gray.

She broke past the last clot of men trying to work sleeping arrangements out and stepped into the cavern that held the dance floor.

Beneath the strobes, heterosexual couples from American University and Georgetown bumped and ground next to gay and Lesbian couples on the floor. White shirts moved jerkily. Hands moved as a Warhol collage. Pale faces and blackened eyes appeared suddenly from nowhere and disappeared as quickly, blinking on and fading out - moving on to new positions in the moments of darkness before another strobe could emphasise them again.

She moved left, skirting the dance floor and the raised section holding tables and started for the doors to the fenced patio and its basketball hoops, volleyball courts, and Kleig lights.

The music was still with her when the doors shut behind her - but at a bearable level. One her ears accepted.

Lynda wrapped her arms around her chest and cursed herself for not thinking to wear a coat. She wondered if the supermarket tabloids promising the coldest winter in a hundred years could just maybe be right. They had to be closer to the mark with that than the crap they usually peddled about somebody finding the devil's corpse in Alaska or finding JFK alive and well in a Polish sanatorium.

She passed several men in sweats shooting hoops and wondered what it was about the male psyche that wouldn't leave a basketball hoop alone. Jody was just as bad. There could be two feet of snow on the ground and he'd still dig out his basketball and start shooting baskets - even when he was supposed to be shovelling the white stuff from the front of the garage.

Maybe it was a genetic thing, she told herself - something about those damned "X" and "Y" chromosomes not mixing well so boys got born not thinking overly clearly. No woman was going to go out in a blizzard and freeze her ass off just to get a ball through a damned hoop - even if Jody and practically every male in America did.

She spotted Boyd then. He was in a white T-shirt with an unzipped windbreaker over it. He leaned against the chain-link fence smoking a cigarette and watching her with a bemused look on his face.

"So, what do you want, Jimmy?" she demanded as she neared him. He smiled, his skin sliding up over his cheekbones and making wrinkles around his eyes. He scratched absently at the half inch of dark hair he allowed on the top of his head and glanced quickly around.

"This better be good," she growled. "You pulled me out of my nice warm house at midnight to meet with you."

"You love every minute of it," he offered and grinned knowingly.

She felt her irritation at the man begin to melt. He understood her. And he was goading her - that meant he had something good for her.

"Remember that Karl von Muribor from a couple of years ago?"

"How could I forget the Prince? He gave me that damned Koughlin story on a platter."

Jimmy Boyd grinned. "Haven't I seen your by-line come up in the mainstream press the past couple of years or so?"

"Yeah - because of Karl von Muribor and his help-" She glanced down at the concrete below them. "You too, Jimmy. You introduced me to him." Lynda studied him closely and almost forgot how cold it felt. "What about him? Is he back in town?"

"Nope. He's still in Berlin, along with those two cuties he had with him-" He shook his head slowly. "I can barely imagine a three-way - and it'd damned well have to be a once in a blue moon thing then. That bastard has one every night."

"What about him, Jimmy?" Lynda Renfroe asked, cutting off the man's traipse through a fantasyland she didn't want to know anything about.

"You got a passport?"

"Yeah." She stared at him and felt suspicion growing into a hard lump in her gut. "Why?"

"You're flying to Berlin tomorrow." He reached inside his windbreaker and pulled out an envelop. "His Lordship's in some shit that may become pretty nasty."

She stared at him and felt her pulse beat the passage of time against her temple.

"Is this something I can write articles about?" she asked finally, opting for the perfectly obvious as her best gambit.

"Not right away." Jimmy smiled. "You dig up the shit on the right people, though - and back it up like I know you can - you'll have a Pulitzer for this one."


Jimmy Boyd reached between them and took her hand. She watched as he pressed the envelop in her hand. "What's this?" she managed.

"Your round-trip ticket on Lufthansa. You leave tomorrow at eleven from Dulles."

"Whoa!" she yelped. "I didn't say I was going anywhere."

"You want to help your two best sources out, don't you?"

She nodded and knew she was betraying herself.

He grinned. "You're going."

She stiffened and pulled her hand away from his. "Not unless you get me two more tickets, Jimmy. I'm taking Barbara and Jody with me if I go."

"Your lover and kid?" he asked and she watched his brow knit in consternation.

"Yeah." She knew he'd put his foot down if her trip to Germany was dangerous. She waited while he thought his way through knowledge she knew he'd never give her.

"Do they even have passports?"

"Barbara does. Jody-" Lynda immediately felt stupid as she realised her son only had his driver's license, social security card, and selective service registration for identification.

"He doesn't," Boyd growled.

She nodded.

"Shit!" He gazed at her for a moment before shrugging. "Okay, meet me at State at eight in the morning - the entrance on 23rd Street - and have a recent photo of the kid's face with you. I'll dig somebody up who'll meet us there and issue him a valid U.S. passport."

"What's this all about?"

Boyd dropped his cigarette and ground it out on the concrete beneath his foot. He glanced about them again, ensuring there was no one close enough to overhear him.

"There's a new group of Adolf Hitler clones trying to rise up out of that cesspool of theirs." He grimaced and his voice grew huskier even as he lowered it. "They make some pretty strange bed-fellows too-"


"My source fingered the Confederated Militias, the Army of God, and a weird off-shoot of the Nation of Islam-"

"The Black Muslims are in with those Nazis and bomb-throwers?" Her surprise slackened her face.

He grinned. "Porking white ass and loving every minute of it, honey."

"How does this relate to the Prince?" she demanded, managing to re-route the conversation back to the man who was in enough danger to have the US government pay for three of its citizens to fly to Berlin. She was suddenly unsure she wanted to take Barbara and Jody into something like that.

"Their first order of business as a group was to decide he had to be eradicated." He snorted derisively. "Seems small minds hold big grudges." He pulled a pack of cigarettes from the pocket of his windbreaker, put one between his lips, and lighted it.

"A lot of the whole thing didn't make much sense and I've got my boys working on making the necessary connections between the participants right now. But them wanting Prince Karl dead was unanimous. They want him dead on or before the twenty-second of this month."

"When did they decide this?"

He smiled and sucked smoke into his lungs. "Last week."

"And this is the fifteenth-" She stared at him. "That's only a week away."

"Tell me about it."

"They want him dead - the twenty-second . . . Of November?" She looked up at him, her eyes searching his face. "This doesn't have anything to do with the Kennedy assassination thirty-seven years ago, does it?"

Jimmy Boyd smiled broadly. "It has everything to do with it, Lynda."

"How?" she demanded even as she felt her eyes bulging and her mouth drying. "Prince Karl couldn't be John Kennedy's kid. He probably wasn't even born in 1963."

He chuckled and leaned back against the fence. "I don't think I can make any explanation make sense."

"Yeah, I know," she mumbled. "They're all crazies. But how-?"

Boyd snorted. "They all seem to think President Kennedy was leading good old America down the primrose path to socialist Armageddon." He grimaced. "And they think those mob clowns shooting him in Dallas were great patriots too - them and the oil cartel that paid them. Only, the country didn't rise up and throw Johnson and the rest of the bad boys out-"

"And they want to finish the job?" Lynda finished for him. She watched the Special Agent nod his acquiescence. "And the Fürst von Muribor got in the way of their last try at doing just that. Koughlin was close to becoming Führer but he blew him wide open. So, he's got to go - to serve as an example to anybody else who gets in their way."

She wagged her head slowly. "It makes a sick sort of sense - if you belong in a nut house. Who's their would-be Führer now Reverend Koughlin's gone?"

Jimmy shrugged. "One of your brother's operatives called the meeting-"

"My half-brother," she corrected him automatically.

"Yeah - okay, your half-brother. There's nothing there to suggest Renfroe knows anything about it. Either he's smart as shit and staying out of this like he did Koughlin's crap or he's out of the loop on this one."

"Luke's been out of the loop on everything for awhile now, but that never stopped him from jumping in with both feet. How in the hell did this operative get any part of the Black Muslims to sit down with the Militias and Army of God, much less agree to put a contract out on the Prince?"

"It's not exactly a contract, Lynda. Each group agreed to put up their best and finest to take his Lordship out."

"But what's behind it?" she demanded in exasperation. "What pulled these groups together?"

"There was something about him helping Jews escape the Nazis back in 1940-"

"Him?" She stared at him suspiciously. "You mean his grandfather, don't you?"

Boyd studied her from hooded eyes for a moment. "Yeah - his grand daddy. Anyway, he's seen as the number one agent for international Zionism in its attempt to take over the world."

"Didn't that shit die out when Hitler lost the war?"

The FBI agent snorted. "Honey, you're not staying up with things. Stalin and his brand of Commies were just as freaked by Jews as the Nazis. So were McCarthy and Welch over here - and those two were the grand daddies of all these nuts blowing up federal buildings and airplanes today. Like they are of all those religious fundies who want to destroy the U.S. of A. to save it.

"The John Birch Society wasn't just sweet little old grandmas spending their nights walking along the Mississippi River looking for Russian submarines in the muddy water. It gave us the Militias, the Army of God, and the Aryan Nation, as well as the rest of these nutcases I've got to watch."

"So, how do you get the Black Muslims tied in with these nuts? I thought they actually did some good in the ghettos."

"We're working on figuring that out. And it's not the Nation of Islam - exactly. It's some sort of crazy off-shoot of them. Right now, though, the only thing I can see is that they don't like the Jews any more than the white boys do."

Lynda reined in her curiosity and brought her attention back to the middle-aged man leaning against the fence before her. "Is this courier business going to be dangerous, Jimmy? Barbara and Jody are going to be all right, aren't they?"

He grinned. "If I thought it'd get hairy I wouldn't agree to your taking your old lady and the kid-"

"Okay, I fly over to Berlin - what am I supposed to do when I get there?"

He chuckled and lighted another cigarette. "I hear Berlin is one ever more wide-open town - a real queer heaven. You might enjoy yourself for the next few days. You might write some articles for The Blade. The word's Schwule, or something like that-"

"That costs money, Jimmy."

"You got a credit card?"

She nodded dubiously.

"Good. Those Krauts take Master Card and Visa just like Americans do. Use your card and keep the receipts. The Bureau'll reimburse you when you get back." He grinned. "Besides, the Prince'll put you up."

"Come on, Jimmy. We've got an assassination plot going from what you're telling me. What do I tell the Prince?"

"Tell him there's been an escape from the Yankee funny farm. That and the leanest and meanest of the animals are planning on feasting on his carcass."

"What about the police? Interpol, isn't it? Shouldn't you go through channels - or whatever you call it?"


"Because-" She stared at him, trying to understand why a federal cop was avoiding other cops. "These guys want to kill him. That's supposed to be against the law everywhere - and that means the police where I come from."

"No." The word was a command that brooked no misunderstanding.

His face held the same inflexibility when she looked up at it.

"Karl von Muribor has more resources going for him than you can ever imagine, Lynda. If he wants to bring in the German police, he can. That's his decision - not mine or yours. You got that?"

Lynda Renfroe nodded numbly.

Jimmy Boyd smiled at her. "You got some packing to do, honey. Go home and get started. I'll see you tomorrow morning at eight sharp."

She took a step toward the doors and their promise of warmth and turned back to the FBI agent. "Why me, Jimmy? You've got umpteen million FBI and CIA people in Germany - why me?"

He grinned slowly at her and nodded. "You want the info, honey - you don't want my job or my head." He snorted. "I wouldn't trust another agent outside my group to do anything to help me out. I would trust him to knife me in the back if he could."

"Barbara and Joey will be safe?"

He pulled out his cigarette pack. "They're safe. This boy of ours can beat anything these creeps come up with - in his sleep." He lighted a cigarette. "Go home and pack. You've got a long day tomorrow."


Something lurked where nothing should exist. Unfamiliar and unknown. Yet, still a menace touching me. The sense of it plagued me, pulling me from the depths of dreamlessness, threatening me.

I reached one plateau of sleep and then another, quickly climbing to waking from the near death that was sleep for me. Memory returned. And, finally, fear - as realisation stirred among cells that preferred oblivion.

|Wake!| I commanded my companions, ready to direct destruction on what would threaten us.

I sat up in bed, my eyes and jaws open. I was awake, my mind alive completely. Ferally. Searching for the intrusion that threatened my sanctity. Mine and my lovers.

A scant moment had passed. The danger did not come closer.

Tom and Emil pushed themselves from the bed. Rising seamlessly from sleep to wakefulness, they moved together - extensions of me, yet themselves completely. Death, immediate and vengeful, had six hands, 30 claws, and three sets of jaws ready to tear life from anything mortal.

My mind and eyes locked on the intruder who had awakened me.

A long, boyish face. One framed by light brown hair and with eyes as blue as a summer Tyrolean sky, had pushed past the partially opened door into my bedroom. A face that showed nothing the moment before now was collapsed into shock, a shock that rapidly became fear. I sensed no danger - only confusion.

A tight stream of late afternoon sunlight made its way through the window louvers into the gloom of the room and puddled on the carpet near the foot of the bed. Tom stepped into the pool skirting the bed and whimpered in surprise when his bare foot touched its warmth.

I reached out and pushed into Johan Kys' thoughts while Emil rushed toward the door. The human youth stepped back, his hand still gripping the doorknob. His fear directing the unconscious movement. He had seen the unreasoning anger in Emil's widened eyes. He instinctively feared my lover's open jaws with their extended canine teeth.

I had not yet met the lad at the door but I knew him. Johan Kys. The beloved dream boy of the men of two continents who bought our sex videos. He quaked even as he leaned against the wall beyond our door. His heart pounded with an overdose of adrenaline. His mind struggled to accept the death his senses told him was about to overtake him.

|Emil, no!| I called to the Swiss member of our threesome, pulling him from his headlong rush to destroy the mortal now shaking beyond our door. |It's but our porn star.|

I permitted myself a chuckle, relaxed, and smiled innocently. Emil managed to pull to a halt before he slammed into the door. |I fear your delicious dumpling was drooling, Liebchen - at what he might find with the three of us.|

|He was scoping us out?| Emil's entire body threatened to blotch in embarrassment as he turned to face me. He grabbed up his robe from the chair beside the door, frowning when the evidence of his embarrassment began to fade. A nearly mortal frown.

|I'll learn what the little snoop wants.| I sensed a growl behind his thought. A very ungentle growl. Emil pulled the door open and stepped onto the landing with Johan Kys.

Tom continued to sit at the foot of the bed and stare at his foot. "It didn't burn me," he mumbled in surprise, rubbing his toes and the ball of his foot.

I chuckled again, giving my attention to him. "It's late autumn, Tomi. There isn't enough heat in the sunlight to burn us quickly this late in the year."

"You mean I could go walking around in the sun and still be safe?"

I grinned. "I'd suggest you cover yourself first. Many moments in the sun of even late winter would give you a bad burn."

Tom gazed over his shoulder at me, sorting through my comments and making what were to me strange and convoluted connections. He grinned then. "Hey! I can be one vampire with a real buff tan, can't I?"

I gazed at him and wondered how this 26 year old vampire could be so mortally childish about unimportant things like suntans. "If you insist on doing that to yourself, please wait until the last hour before twilight. Our skin burns much more easily than mortal skin does."

"Yeah." He frowned and looked down at his hands. "I can still remember you last year like it was yesterday. Skin and fat peeling off your ass and sizzling on the grass until it was crisp - like burnt bacon." He snorted. "I had to throw the clothes I was wearing away, they soaked up so much of your grease. It never came out."

"Then be careful if you insist upon tanning yourself. I don't want to lose you again - twice is more than enough."


I looked questioningly toward the door and found Emil standing there, gazing back at us. He moved into the room and Johan Kys stepped hesitantly into the doorway. I smiled at the mortal and hoped we could allay his fear of what he'd seen. No innocent creature - man or vampire - deserved the shock that he had received.

"Tell him, Hans," Emil said gently, prodding him verbally.

"You have a telephone call, my Prince," Johan told me in accented but passable German and bowed from the waist. "From America."

His caution was tangible and his earlier fear was still but barely controlled. That was receding, however, now he saw a perfectly normal bedroom with two naked but still normal looking men in it.

|Make him forget what happened,| I told Emil.

|Help him,| I added to Tom and reached for the telephone on the bedside cabinet.

|And find out why he came to awaken me-|

I wanted to know why Valentin had not performed his duties. I knew his mind and would not have reacted as protectively if it had been him at our door.

"Von Muribor," I said into the receiver as it neared my mouth. "Who is it?"

At the foot of the bed, Tom pulled on jeans and started for the door, picking up a shirt as he passed the chair.

"Prince Karl?" an American male asked.

I attempted to think in English, in the American version of that language.

"This is Special Agent Boyd of the Federal Bureau of Investigation-"

I blinked. It was again the summer of 1999 and I was in Washington. Again standing in the Capitol Hill townhouse of Congressman Treman of Maryland. The late Congressman. As I had three years ago, I again stood over his body and wiped his blood from my lips. "Jimmy Boyd?" I managed.

"That's me," he chuckled. "Look, Prince," he continued immediately, all trace of humour gone from his voice. "I don't have much time but I've just put Lynda Renfroe, the reporter you gave that information on Koughlin to-?"

"I remember her."

"She's on the plane to Berlin right now - she should arrive at Tegel International Airport about four in the morning your time."

"But-?" Why was she coming to Berlin? Why was this agent of the United States government calling me to tell me this?

"She has information for you, Prince. Stuff I can't go into right now; I'm on a pay phone - an unsecured line. But this is stuff that's damned important to you. Can you meet her?"

"Her flight shall be met," I answered more huffily than I'd intended. "But what is so important-?"

"Sorry, Prince. I can't go into any of it over the phone. Just listen to her and know her information is coming directly from me. There's three of them on the plane. They'll be staying in Berlin for a couple of days."

I listened in disbelief as the connection between us went dead. Wahnsinn! Verdammte Amerikaner! Like clouds heralding the coming storm, the people of that country brought more insanity to the world than it could possibly be worth.

They were bringing their insanity into my home - starting by subverting a German butler whose exemplary service had been to a Red Army General before entering my employ. A silent, unquestioning servant who inexplicably had sent a pornographic model to inform his master of a telephone call.

I was not happy recalling that the model who'd come close to having his very attractive body torn limb from limb was the same one who had netted Global Entertainment almost five million dollars this past year.

I pushed myself from the bed and began to pull on last night's slacks. It was time I met Johan Kys. I needed to charm him for all that he had done for me and my company. And learn why the structured hierarchy of my household had been so blatantly ignored to the near permanent regret of the young Czech in question.

Perhaps, I needed to accept some responsibility for both my household and the lad who made so much money for me. It would certainly keep my mind better occupied than imagining infidelity from the two young vampires who were my lovers.

* * *

|I'm here,| I told Tom and Emil as I neared the door to the sitting room. |Help your product of Bolshevik ignorance show the proper respect to a Prince of a dead Imperial realm.|

I already knew Johan Kys was beautiful. I also knew from last night's mind- and soul-searching, he had not tasted of our international vampiric menagerie. And, of course, I knew his position as Global Entertainment's transatlantic star. I liked, however, to preserve the old forms wherever possible. They continued to prove so reassuring.

He had earlier bowed to me, accepting my suzerainty without understanding his doing so. I did, however, want him to understand the position Kaiser Franz-Josef had invested in me only 128 years before. It was an understanding forbidden by his teachers while he was still a child. I might well have become an egalitarian, but I was still a sovereign Prince though I had no suzerainty left in republican Austria.

I did not, however, want him knowing just how tightly I might hold his life. That meant wiping from him the fear and shock of the moments just past us when he faced death and had only partially realised it.

I opened the door and entered among my lovers and our employee. Tom and Emil had the good grace to bow just enough from the waist they showed respect for my title. Johan, however, fell to his knees and buried his face against the floor as a Chinaman would before the Communists destroyed so many of the forms of that culture too.

"My Prince," he mumbled, his lips brushing the floor.

Not a good sign. This Johan Kys needed to learn how to handle defunct but unburied nobility as his fellow Europeans had. Respect, yes - but subservience? No.

"Rise, Johan," I told him feeling my face beginning to blotch and hoping I could avoid showing my embarrassment. An embarrassed vampire, I knew, was a singularly unpleasant sight to our mortal cousins.

I smiled as his face came even with my knees and watched him push himself from the floor. "Your screen successes have pleased us-"

"And the banks," Emil whispered loudly enough anyone in the closed room might hear. I wondered what a dying vampire might look like - and what he would think as he died at the hands of his lover. He smiled wryly at me, conscious of the direction of my thoughts.

"They're nothing but fuck films, Sir," Johan answered, gracefully pretending he'd not heard Emil. "I don't do anything but enjoy myself-" He smiled, his face broadening happily as a child's would.

"You don't act at all?" I stared at him in surprise.

The youth seemed to become uncomfortable. "I just go with what feels good, my Prince," he offered noncommittally.

"But can you act?" I asked, feeling age creep between us and become a barrier. I'd seen this lad gleefully take on what appeared to be half of young Europe in one sex scene. I couldn't imagine enjoying doing so - the pretence of such enjoyment, yes; but the actual pleasure? I didn't think so.

His eyes widened in real surprise and I wondered if Johan Kys had ever thought of his future. He was lovelier than most. Innocent. Yet so promising.

"I never had the opportunity, my Prince." He looked at the floor. "The old Czechoslovakia allowed Sudeten Germans nothing but labour-" He smiled tightly. "Or prostitution to party officials."

"You surprised us this afternoon." I led him away from his memory of that now defunct regime of his childhood and directly into what most concerned me - his memories of his excursion into our bedroom and near encounter with death.

Young Kys grinned. Endearingly. "I sort of had that impression, Sir. I was pretty surprised too." He laughed. "Almost scared really. I thought I was seeing things - things that couldn't have been real."

"What kind of things?"

He laughed again. "Long, sharp teeth in Emil's mouth, your strange eyes seemed to hold me in place, burning into me. Emil and Tom moved faster than any man ever moved - things that just couldn't be, Sir. Crazy, impossible stuff."

I smiled, agreeing to the fiction between us. And changed the subject. "Would you like to act - to try it?"

He gazed at me dubiously, one brow rising almost to his hairline. "You mean in a play like those President Haval of my country writes?"

"How about for the cinema?"

He laughed. "You mean take my clothes off and let a man have me-"

"No. At least, not necessarily," I answered and felt embarrassment threaten again to leave angry blotches across my face. Young Johan would be unable to explain that away, like he had Emil's teeth.

"We're thinking of expanding Global Entertainment's interests, Hans," Emil offered pleasantly. He moved beside the Czech youth and tried to explain. "We'll still be doing sex videos as we do now - they're money-makers. Only, we'd like to produce tele-dramas and even sit-coms as well - gay-themed ones, of course . . . But the kind that don't have the actors out of their clothes and copulating in front of a camera from the first minute."

Johan Kys stared in surprised shock first at Emil and, then, at me. "You think I could do that? That I may really act?" His eyes were truly large and the Tyrolean sky they captured went on forever.

|Tom!| I demanded, |Is this lad all here?|

I felt the American's mental chuckle. |I wondered about him too. I did check his school records in Prague. Hans is just naïve - and he's the least egotistical man I've ever met.|

"Johan," I told the young man, "we're but in the planning stages at this point-" I shrugged. "But we would like to give you a chance to play a significant role when we're ready to go into production. Would you be willing to take acting lessons while you are in Berlin with us?"

If the lad's eyes were round before, they became the expanse of the Russian steppes with my question. "Acting lessons, Sir?" I nodded. "You mean it?"

Emil smiled and draped his arm over Johan's shoulder. "Karl neither exaggerates nor lies, Hans," he told him. "We'll find you an acting coach in the next few days and see how you like it."

The lad's eyes clouded, becoming troubled. "I won't have to give up men, will I?" he asked hesitantly.

Tom laughed. "This is Europe and the beginning of a new millennium," he offered. "What you do in your own bed is your business - the Helsinki Accords guarantee that and civilised Europe has signed them."

Hans sighed and slowly smiled. "Thanks, Tom. I would like to learn to act for the Prince and the two of you." He glanced down at his hands to hide tears suddenly brimming his eyes. "My dream again lives," he breathed softly.

I excused myself and went in search of Valentin. The man who guarded my days owed me an explanation for why the agreeable young Czech had been put into a situation where he almost died.

* * *

"Why?" I demanded angrily when I entered the kitchen and found the burly man sipping a cup of steaming coffee. "Why did you send that boy to waken me?"

"My Prince?" Valentin rose to face me, placing his cup on the counter near the coffee machine. He clicked his heels and nodded.

I sensed no subterfuge about him. Only surprise at my anger.

"Valentin, you're far more than a butler, a simple servant, in this house. I must depend on you to protect me during the daylight. This was explained when you joined me."

"And I do that, Sir." His face darkened with a suffusion of blood. "I have not failed you in my year of service."

"Yet, you sent Johan Kys to my rooms rather than come yourself. I've told you no one but yourself may enter the third floor during the day."

His eyes rounded in awareness. "The telephone call, Sir? That's what this is about?" I nodded. "I do not speak English - none."

Again I nodded. Unlike men who grew to adulthood in western Germany, Valentin was from the east. His service had been to a Russian household - until that army could no longer pay its solders or retainers. But, still . . .

"I knew the man spoke English, my Prince - and I understood the word `America'. I guessed it was important. And Master Johan was sitting here with me-"

"You asked him to take the call?" Doing so would have been imminently logical - and so very German. One encounters an unknown, one finds another who either understands it or learns to do so oneself. Valentin nodded.

"But you sent him to my rooms."

"Natürlich, Fürst von Muribor." He smiled shyly. "You and the young gentlemen - you are obviously homosexual. The young Johan, too, is homosexual - and a handsome youth as well. I thought-"

Unglaublich! I had a middle-aged muscle man whose function in my household was to protect me at those times I could not do so myself - and he would also be Eros? Disbelief showed in my face.

"The Russian officers, my Prince - they were not unpleased to add to their pleasures. I thought you would not mind waking to a pleasant sight such as Master Johan - or to what he offered."

"So, you sent him to the third floor to inform me of Mr. Boyd's telephone call?"

"He suggested he go to you, Sir." He shrugged. "I saw no reason he shouldn't. He's a guest in this house. He appears in your cinema productions. He and the young gentlemen do things together. I thought-"

I smiled. And nodded. "Please, Valentin, do not think of my pleasures in future - just protect me. I cannot sleep at night - it's medically impossible," I told him, using the explanation I had used for more than a hundred years. "The same is true of Emil and Tom.

"We're medical abnormalities, Valentin. And we must rely on you to protect us when we can sleep. From everyone and everything." I smiled even more broadly - knowingly as only a man can when he discusses sex with another man. "No matter how pleasant the interruption may appear to be."

"Of course, my Prince," he answered, clicking his heels and accepting my commandment as definitive. We both understood this interview was now past us.

"We shall have three more guests arrive tonight. You need to prepare rooms for them on the second floor."

He nodded, clicked his heels again, and bowed his head.

"Would you also stock the kitchen that we be prepared?"

I smiled as a new thought struck me. "Take Johan with you. I suspect he's assimilated some of the American culture so common now in Germany. His tastes in food may be closer to those of these guests than yours."

* * *

I stepped from the shower, steam rising from my body as I reached for my towel, and found Emil grinning at me from the opened door, the towel in his hand.

I held my hand out for it but he shook his nearly blond curls. "You're holding out on us, Karli - no talk, no towel." I grabbed for the cloth but it disappeared behind him.

A moment later, it re-entered the bath room, held in Tom's hand. The American stuck his head and shoulders into the room and grinned at me.

This was how children played these days. I understood that; the understanding helped me remain calm. But I was far too old to play childish games with these two young vampires. "What am I holding out on you?" I asked in resignation.

"What was the telephone call from America about?" Tom asked, sniffing victory. He also sensed I wasn't about to play their game. He handed me the towel, tacitly accepting stalemate in this one section of the game that had been forced upon me.

"It was that federal policeman from last year-" I glanced at Emil while I quickly towelled myself off and pulled the cloth around my waist. "You remember? The one who was at Congressman Treman's house when we killed him and that other monster?"

The Swiss nodded. "He put those videos on for the police to find and introduced you to that reporter-"

"She's airborne and arriving in Berlin in nine hours," I told them as I manoeuvred between them and entered the bedroom.

"She?" Tom groaned, standing at the door and staring at me.

"Where?" Emil asked quietly, following me into the room and depositing himself on the bed to face me.

"At Tegel."

"Why?" Tom shot back and crossed the room.

"The Government of the United States of America is sending her with a message for me-"

"Message?" Emil's brow shot up questioningly.

"What fucking message?" Tom demanded, closing in on me as I pulled briefs over my ass.

"I don't know."


"Is she coming alone?" Emil watched me closely.

"Mr. Boyd said there would be three of them on the flight from America."

"Scheiße!" he groaned, echoing Tom's comment.

"There's something smelly about this - like week-old fish," Tom grumbled. "Why're they sending some reporter? I thought cops got their jollies out of intimidating the hell out of you in person."

I shrugged. "Perhaps Mr. Boyd couldn't get away from Washington?"

"There are American pigs here in Germany," he shot back. "They've got FBI agents attached to every major embassy in the world - just like they've got the CIA here."

"That preacher was convicted, wasn't he?" Emil asked. "The one behind all those fascist groups?"

"Several months ago. They proved Reverend Pat Koughlin was the man who authorised several murders - he received consecutive life sentences."

"Life?" Tom hissed. "Anyone of us would have been fried to a crisp if we'd done a tenth of what that Nazi bastard did."

"This probably has something to do with what you did to tie him to those hate groups, Karl," Emil offered.

"Why don't we just not show up at the airport? We're out of there, aren't we?"

"There's still Karl's house there in Washington." Emil smiled at Tom. "And there's also gay America's infatuation with young Hans."

"You think Global Entertainment is why this reporter's coming?" I asked, allowing the discomfort I felt at the nature of the company's business to come to the fore.

"Our company?" Tom laughed. "The FBI gets involved if you transport someone across state lines for immoral purposes. Any problems we might have in distribution would involve the Postal Service, not the FBI."

"So, it's not Global Entertainment." I pushed my doubts back into the dark recesses of my mind. "That brings us back to our showing Koughlin up as the would-be Führer he wanted to be."

Emil pushed himself from the bed. "It could be a lot of things - all of them as smelly as Tomi's week-old fish-" He grinned at both of us. "But we must wait and learn what this Mr. Boyd wants to tell us through this woman."

I heard laughter from deep within the dark shadows where Chaos hid from me. I could still see nothing of it. I had no feel for the nature of the threat it had devised for me. But it had moved closer, laughing at my awareness of it. At my defencelessness before it.