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"Is everybody all right?" Tom asked as I stepped into the unlighted cellar.

"The American boy-" I paused, remembering my commitment to this very man that there would be no more vampires without unanimous consent. I closed my eyes and stammered out to the two of them what I had seen and done.

Emil stared at me in the darkness. "You met Death?" He shuddered. "A real being - like us?

I tried to smile. "I suspect what I saw was my mind's picture of what I imagine death to look like. Still, there was something there in that room besides Jody and myself for that moment, though."

I sloughed off the sense of wonder that had returned to me as I relived those moments in Jody's room and gazed at the brute cowering in the corner watching us. "And this animal - he is ready for what I would do to him?" I asked in English that he would understand me.

Tom chuckled. "He keeps demanding we call the cops."

"Why didn't he call them before he shot an innocent boy?"

"I didn't kill no boy," the man groused, coming to life. "I shot that monster that destroy the preacher's work last year."

I turned to the bearded man and smiled, though I knew he could not see me do so. "This is your night to die, gunman. Your death and what leads up to it will not be easy for you-"

"You're just trying to scare me." He spat in my direction. "I've been told about you commies and your games."

"I'm certainly not a communist, regardless of what you've been told. Is there anything you would like us to tell your family?"

He stared at me. He could not see me but he knew the location of my voice. "My family? You leave them out of this!"

"I want you to tell me about your organisation and who its leaders are."

He chuckled. "You ain't getting nothing from me, buddy. Now, call the cops in and let's get going."

I smiled. Coldly. "We'll get going, all right." I reached out and entered his mind.

I made no effort to shield the man from what I began to do to him. His blood would feed at least two of us tonight. Three of us if Tom chose to join us. His meat would be feeding worms across my fields near Fläming by morning. Death promised his soul would be uncomfortable where he would put it. The man had nearly killed a guest in my home. I wanted him to know my rape of his mind in his last hours alive.

I learned immediately he was nothing, but I had already surmised that. He owned a small farm in Idaho. He wanted the ten thousand dollars my death would mean to him more than he believed in his cause. He grew more debt than he did vegetables.

"You're in my head!" he cried and scrunched in on himself, trying to make himself smaller. "You get out right this damned minute. Call the damned police and turn me over to them - but you stay out of my head!"

Even his attachment to his group was a weak one. True, he believed morality was collapsing in the United States and that this was the result of a hidden agenda that had brought blacks, Jews, and communists together to destroy his country. He also accepted America needed a strong leader to clean up the mess.

He was the stuff of which fascisti fodder was made. His views were undeveloped, acquired verbatim from his preacher and weekly hate meetings that passed for religious and moral instruction. He was a member of the Confederated Militias of America, of what he saw as the elite of that assortment of garbage. He belonged to the Aryan Church that somehow believed the deified rabbi was a German gentile. The church that had spawn the anti-Semitism of the Aryan Nation before that group joined the militias.

I pushed deeper beneath his surface thoughts even as he stared at me in shock and sought vainly to shut his mind to me.

He moaned his pain as I dug among his memories. I scrapped most of them with barely more than a glance. I cared nothing for the washed-out young woman who was his wife or the young child who was their daughter. They had already lost their husband and father the moment this man set foot on German soil. I was of the opinion it was to their advantage he would no longer be with them.

I seized his images of the preacher who had enlisted him for this assassination, however. I grabbed his memories of the preacher's home, of their meeting hall, of their armed compound hidden in an Idaho forest. I made them my own; those I would need when I arrived in Idaho to exact my revenge.

The man knew nothing of the apparachiks who filled the many voids that led from his preacher in that Idaho backwater to the monster who ordered I be killed. This American's lack of knowledge would have stymied SS-Führer Heinrich Himmler's best interrogators.

|Who else?| Tom demanded. |He can't be everything they're going to throw at us-| He paced the cellar angrily as he sought to understand the insanity this man had brought to Germany, to us. He and Emil had been connected with my thoughts since I began questioning the mortal.

"He's not," Emil answered in speech. "But-" He smiled gently at our American lover. "This ignorant paisan is typical of what the fascisti have always sent out to do their bidding - like the ignorant German bullies who made up the SA."

"No!" Tom groaned. "No. If you're going to go around killing people, you've got to have some kind of underlying philosophy behind it - you can't just kill for the hell of it."

"Ten thousand dollars was his philosophy," I reminded him and, glancing at the mortal, asked: "Did you at least receive some of it before you boarded your airplane?"

The man from Idaho was silent.

"Tomi, go through Sergei's memories," Emil beseeched him. "Ignorance seems an essential ingredient to any kind of assassination. It was true with those anarchists who spread across Europe from Imperial Russia before the great war. It was also true of the masses who gave up political power from Italy to Poland before the world war. It's just as true today with those insane Arab youths who blow up airplanes and kill people on the street. They have no thoughts - they don't know how to think. They have only the indoctrination of hate."

I gazed at the American mortal as he watched the three of us fearfully. Tom's first question, before he and Emil had become side-tracked, burned in my mind. Who else?

Lynda Renfroe had told us the FBI suspected more than just the Confederated Militias this one piece of mortal offal represented. I had four remaining mortals attached to my household. Humans it was my responsibility to protect. My honour demanded it.

This vegetable farmer hadn't waited until he had me in his sights - he had shot at the first young blond male in the vicinity. It was definitely advisable I learn what I could as to who else searched for me. Otherwise, I would be birthing more vampires than the bovine population of my small farm could accommodate and remain alive.

I threw myself again into the man's memories with abandon and he screamed at the vehemence of my renewed invasion.

I marched through memories of weather forecasts and planting schedules, delving deeper for the people who would kill me.

In my mind, there was a world of difference between playing the fool and doing foolish things. This mortal had crossed that line. I had no complaint with him and other fascisti marching about like small boys pretending to be grown-up men. None everyone could be intelligent - many were born barely borderline. But this creature had agreed to go beyond merely acting foolish. So, had his organisation.

I almost overlooked the memory when I found it. I was hurling past it when it's significance caught at me. It was hidden among the coming spring's planting schedule. I stared at the American in disgust at such a poor excuse of a mental filing system. Then, I was reaching into it as roughly as I was able.

The man screamed again and fainted.

But I had the memory, clutched in my mental fist. The preacher telling me I had to haul my ass over to the Fatherland as fast as possible.

His slack middle-aged face smiled warmly as he poured the man a glass of schnapps from a decanter on a sidetable of the couch. "Rupert, you'd best get on over to the Fatherland tomorrow-" the preacher told the man as I relived the memory.

He hugged my shoulders as he handed me the glass. "Get the drop on them niggers . . . Though, them you don't need worry about much - God never did give them monkeys much to work with up here." He tapped his forehead.

"Now, that Army of God boy might be every bit your equal and that's why you need get your ass in gear."

I watched the preacher step across the room to the mantle and felt something akin to anger at his pushing me out of everything I knew so I could go kill a commie who'd somehow infiltrated us. "I still ain't got no passport," I told him as Rupert. "I still ain't got no money when I do get there. I only get this ten thousand dollars after I kill this asshole."

The preacher turned to smile when he'd reached the mantle. "I've given you a couple of hundred out of church funds, Rupert. I also got your passport in the mail today - our boys done took care of it. I also got your roundtrip ticket on Delta - right into Tegel International." He held up a thin packet of material that had lain on the mantel, showing them to me.

"You'll be staying with sympathisers, so you gotta be careful-" The preacher looked quickly away, "that is, if you get yourself caught."

I nodded. Getting caught was a real concern. It was a bigger than life concern once I got on that damned airplane. "And these Krauts speak English?"

The preacher turned back to me, dazzling me with another smile. "Like real Americans, Rupert. They've also got a Mauser there for you to use - in mint condition."

"A Mauser? The Wehrmacht-issued one?" The middle-aged preacher nodded, knowing he had me by the balls. That was a real man's rifle, one I'd lusted for longer than I could even remember.

"Sympathisers here in Berlin?" Tom asked, pulling me away from the mortal's memory of his meeting with the hate-mongering preacher that had finally sealed his fate.

I grimaced. My sane German capital was no longer quite as sane as I would have liked it to be. "It would appear so."

"I think it would be wise to clean up the German mess as Mr. Boyd's Federal police are presumably already doing with their mess there in America," Emil offered.

Tom chuckled. "Lover mine, is your meaning that, if we clean out all our enemies at the same time, we won't have any enemies left?"

"It makes sense, yes?"

I nodded. "It makes sense. It also means this offal continues to breathe until he can re-awaken."

Tom looked at me curiously. "I thought we could read minds even when the guy's unconscious?"

"If you know where to look. And if the mind is not full of its pain at having already been plundered."

"We don't have all night-" our American lover offered hopefully.

Emil grinned at Tom. "Lock thoughts with mine and we go exploring, yes?"

I felt impatience in my cellar. Coming from everywhere at once. I cringed. I had met what waited for the vegetable farmer from Idaho. Death had strangely decided to make his wants known to me.


* * *


I turned from the keyboard and smiled as Emil and Tom filed into the music room as the last of Mozart's gaiety evaporated about us. I barely managed not to laugh at the disgust that covered Tom's face. It told me more emphatically than words could their hunt had been successful and Emil had feasted upon mortal blood from their hunt.

"The man from the Confederated Militias?" Emil asked.

"Death's sickle severed his link to this world several hours ago. His body lies beneath more than 3 meters of cow dung in Fläming."

"You fed too?" Tom asked, unwilling to meet my gaze.

"Natürlich. And you?"

"Emil did," he answered.

"You found the sympathisers?"

"A nest of vipers, Liebchen. They are six skinheads as were those stormtroopers in America last year." Emil looked down at his hands. "They are mostly Ossies - bike riders and nihilists."

"You left them alive?"

"Some," Tom answered, glancing quickly at our Swiss companion.

"Most," Emil corrected him.

"They aren't haters like that farmer this evening," Tom continued, ignoring him. "They hate - but they hate everybody and everything indiscriminately. They aren't sympathisers - they're paid guides for anyone needing an underground exit out of Germany."

"That isn't something I would expect a yokel from the potato patches of Idaho to know about."

Emil grinned. "Rupert nor his pastor made the arrangements, Karli. Those came from Washington."

"Washington?" I growled.

"If you'll remember, so did his passport," Tom offered quickly. "I have the telephone number there-"

"Telephone number?"

"Apparently our Berliners needed to make contact back with the people who acquired their services. One of the men was something of a business manager for them."

I forced myself to remain calm. "You left them alive?"

"There were but six. Two of those knew enough about the man that his disappearance could be passed along-"

"And those two are dead?"

Emil nodded slowly, enjoying himself as Tom blotched in crimson. I knew immediately there was more to this tale than either was letting on. "Tell me," I demanded.

"You remember the Promenade where you found me in Zürich?" I nodded, suspiciously watching Emil that he not pull a hare from his non-existent hat. "Their bodies now have tracks down the insides of their thighs." He chuckled and glanced at our American. "Tom interrupted a drug deal for us and we gave both our wards heroin for their blood streams before they stopped breathing."

I glanced at Tom in surprise. "You did this?"

"I was getting into it, Karli, you know?" he admitted, becoming embarrassed again.

"Until he sank his fangs into his man's vein just beside the scrotum." Emil grinned broadly. "I think our prudish American was so intrigued by the size of the man's member he forgot-"

"Shut up!"

Emil smiled nicely at him. "You tell it then, Tomi," he suggested quietly.

Tom appeared ill. He hung his head. "I drank his blood, okay? I got a little carried away there and carried him over the edge myself."

He looked everywhere but toward Emil or myself. "I felt his heart flutter. I felt him die. It had nothing to do with how big the bastard was - not a damned thing!"

"And the other ones you left alive?" I asked, pulling him quickly away from his embarrassment.

"Three men and one woman. The men - boys really - were the ones out trying to intimidate good burghers," Emil offered, taking over from our American vampire.

Tom snorted. "They had a small time protection racket going in their neighbourhood."

"They were only this morning released from a week in gaol for being nuisances," Emil added. "The woman knew nothing about the American or his mission. Her thoughts were only of an Arab who had found his way between her legs."


He shrugged. "I don't know. She knew nothing about him except the size of his member and that he spent each night with it inside her."

"Still-" I remembered Arabs and their cousins the Irani were responsible for most bombings in Europe. They killed Frenchmen most recently; but in the 1980's they enjoying bombing Americans in German nightclubs and on airplanes - before that they were pushing them off tour ships in the Mediterranean. "Monitor her thoughts," I told both of them. "Closely."

Emil grinned evilly and smacked his lips. "That may prove as interesting as one of our young Hans' videos to watch."

"Only to find if there is any connection back to us," I growled. "Now, we need to decide what to do about three mortals who know much too much about us."

Tom grinned. "Jody's mom?"

"She and her lover as well as young Johan - they all know what I am and what Jody is becoming." I spread my fingers and, letting them fall onto the keyboard, sounded a chord. "I'd like to make all three of them forget everything they know."

Tom shook his head. "You can't do that."

"Why not?"

"He lives at home with those two women, Karl. His new habits would be impossible to hide from them."

"Then he needs live on his own," I answered, unwilling to surrender my privacy so easily.

"Young people are not so lucky," Emil observed. "Everything in life is expensive and entry level positions pay little."

"He's right, Karl," Tom seconded. "This kid goes to a junior college in Virginia. He lives at home. He doesn't even have a job or he wouldn't have come over here with them. And, as an only kid, he's probably got both women watching him like a hawk now he's old enough to go looking for things to stick his pecker in."

I frowned. This earthy American aspect of our lover was not one I felt comfortable with. Neither Sergei nor Würther had ever put themselves on such a plebeian level.

Emil grinned. "He could live with us-?"

"Never!" I growled. "Two of you are enough."

"What about our sex star?" Tom asked quietly. "From what you've said, he's become entirely too familiar with how his hosts live here in Berlin."

"And what has now become the American's lifestyle as well," I added.

"Simply block his memories," Emil told us and shrugged. "We put him on the next train to Prague where he can be safe-"

"Didn't I offer to hire him an acting coach?"

"You didn't specifically offer him a German coach. A Czech would be just as good - better even-"

"Why's that?" Tom asked curiously.

"His German is weak." He smiled. "When that lad becomes excited, he does not remember German lines."

"Have you seen this up close, lover?" Tom asked coyly.

"Not that close, Liebchen - only in his videos."

"But I did commit myself to him-"

Tom snorted. In the light of the candle, his face seemed to grow rounder. "If he dies because of this bullshit coming at us from across the ocean, you'll never fulfil your commitment to him," he said, his German lilting with Sergei's Russian accent. Sergei, the ever pragmatic merchant Prince to the Romanovs who had died during Bloody Sunday more than 90 years ago. The first of Tom's incarnations I was to know.

I nodded my acquiescence. "I'll take our fledgling vampire down to the farm; it would probably be a good idea to take Johan too-" I glanced at Tom and he nodded his agreement. "You'll be able to carry him?" He grinned and nodded again. "Ensure he remains asleep."

I turned to our other lover and said: "Emil, find Valentin and tell him to fix the women something light to eat. After they've eaten, he can then drive them out in the car."









I stood in Jody Renfroe's well-lighted room and watched the short, black-haired woman kneeling beside the boy's still form. His blood-soaked jeans lay at the foot of the bed and his gore-encrusted briefs rode his pubis stiffly now they'd dried.

Barbara Nightwing had one hand on Jody Renfroe's abdomen where the jagged wound had been but hours earlier and the other against his chest. Her attention to the boy was as complete as if she were a saint adoring the de-judafied and deified rabbi of Christian myth.

"His wound's already healed," I told her softly.

She jerked at the sound of my voice but turned just enough to see me. "He's not breathing." I heard the tremble at the edges of her voice and knew she was holding herself back from Chaos by the sheer force of her will.

I knelt beside her but did not touch her. "We don't breathe, Ms. Nightwing. Except to speak-" I smiled. "Or to make you mortals think we're like you - a protective camouflage. Have you felt his pulse?"

She nodded. "It's strong." She shook her head slowly and a smile touched her lips. "That's the one thing I've been holding onto this past hour. His pulse. It didn't matter about his wound - his not breathing scared the hell out of me."

She turned and looked directly at me, her face drawn seriously. "It's sort of hard to believe he's a vampire, you know? I mean, all my life you guys were the stuff nightmares were made of - even though everybody knew you weren't real. Then, suddenly, I find this kid I've loved since he came into my life dying because somebody shot out his guts-" She snorted and her bemused smile returned. "And it's one of the undead who saves him by making him undead. Jesus!"

She turned her attention back to Jody Renfroe. "I've never seen skin as clear as this. Not a single blemish-" Her finger moved along his flank from his hip toward his armpit. "There used to be two little moles somewhere along here," she mumbled, "now, there's nothing."

"Ms. Nightwing-" I touched her elbow to bring her thoughts back to me. It took her a moment to focus on my face when she'd again turned toward me. "There will be no blemishes on Jody's body. No birthmarks. No moles."

I smiled at her watching me. "If he had extractions or an amputation, the teeth or that part of his body wouldn't grow back. But clear, non-porous skin will replace even the unsightliest burn-" I remembered my experience in Washington the year before. "Even our hair grows back."

She sobbed and groaned: "Why couldn't it have been me?"

I understood her frustration. "He isn't dead," I told her with resignation. "He lives now. He'll be the same boy tomorrow as you knew today."

"And a hundred years from now too. He can't die, can he?"

"Not by most means." I reached out and lifted her by the arms. "He'll be comatose until late tomorrow afternoon - until every cell in his body has completely transformed." I smiled down at her up-turned face still watching me. "Then, he'll be up and about, the same Jody as he's always been."

"I hope not," she growled. "I hope he grows up some because of this."

"Responsibility comes with maturity," I offered lightly. "The sense of it can be taught as a child grows, but its habituation comes with maturity."

Barbara Nightwing had accepted what Jody Renfroe was becoming. She had come to terms with it, at least enough I didn't have to be concerned for her emotional welfare. Her lover was not as fortunate, however.

"I must ask you, how is Ms. Renfroe?"

Barbara Nightwing laughed. "She's in complete denial. As far as she's concerned, her little boy's just taking a nap. Let me tell you, it's hard to imagine old in-your-face Lynda Renfroe would ever clock out like she's done. She's down for the count this time - it's hit her that hard."

"Each person has his own way of handling things such as happened this afternoon-"

"The man who shot Jody . . . Did-?" She made a face as if reminding herself of something unpleasant. "As we were running out of the house, I'm pretty sure I saw bats flying into the woods and heard some man screaming-"

"Emil and Tom captured him. He had not got far."

"I want to see him." Her eyes glared, her face fixed into a mould of determination, as she stared at me.


"So I can spit on him. So I can claw his eyes out. I want to look at Jody's murderer with my own two eyes. I want him to know just how much I hate him."

"Jody's alive, Ms. Nightwing. He wasn't murdered."

"Yeah. But he sure ain't human any more."

There was nothing I could say to that. Jody Renfroe was human only as Cro Magnon man was Neanderthal. He belonged to the same race, even the same phylum. But a million years of evolution separated him from his mother now - and from this woman who loved him as if he were her son. I decided there were some things best left unsaid.

"The assassin is already dead."

"Dead?" She stared at me suspiciously. "You just killed him? Without even a trial?"

"A trial? In Germany, he would receive a sentence of twenty years for murder. But there could be no trial. His attorneys would have pointed out your Jody was alive and well - and a vampire . . . I couldn't allow that to happen.

"The man, however, had information I needed to track his organisation back to whoever ordered this attempted assassination-"

"You got that?" I nodded. "How?"

"I read his mind. I plundered his thoughts and ensured I hurt him each time I uncovered a new fact."

"You can do that?" I nodded again. "Jody'll be able to do that too?" Again, I nodded. "Oh, shit!" she groaned. Her eyes narrowed as I imagined she contemplated life with the new Jody when they were back in America.

Instead of following that thought, her eyes widened as her thoughts returned to the assassin. "You said you killed him?"

"I fed on him and he was conscious I was doing so. He was not a happy man when he died."

"You did that here?" She looked around the room suspiciously even as she shuddered.

"I took him out to the farm before I fed. If this house were ever to be searched, I would not want the authorities to find a drop of his blood."


"Why what?"

"Why did you just kill him?"

I chuckled. "Two reasons, Ms. Nightwing. I was hungry and have grown tired of bovine blood; his appearance was a perfect excuse to award myself with a change of diet. The second reason was that no mortal must be allowed to suspect vampires exist."

I watched her closely. What I was going to say next was imperative for her to understand and accept - for my survival and that of the boy she loved. "I, my lovers, and Jody would be hunted down by the preachers and mullahs of this world. Their hate would push them to find our every hiding place. There are ways to kill us and I have no doubt they would find them out.

"Scientists as well would be vying to capture us that they may study us for the immortality we have. We would never have a moment of peace. There would be no place to hide."

She nodded. "That makes sense. You'd be hounded into the ground."

I had led Barbara Nightwing to understand what she must. "Emil had Valentin put together something simple for you. You need have Ms. Renfroe join you at dinner. Afterwards, Valentin will drive both of you to the farm."

"Where are you going to be?"

"I take Jody there now. I assume Tom has already taken young Johan."

"You'll be there when we arrive?"

I smiled. "Most certainly. The farm is my other home."

"And Jody?"

"He will be there too." I glanced at the gore-encrusted underwear covering the boy's genitals. "With your permission, I will clean him up some before I take him to Fläming?"

She studied me for a moment before turning to look back at the mess that covered the boy's body from his ribs to his knees. "Please," she mumbled and pushed herself to her feet.


* * *


Emil and Tom had a large fire blazing in the living room of the farm house when the women arrived.

Barbara Nightwing appeared to be a woman caught up in a struggle between faith and disbelief. She had information enough to sustain her faith in Jody's recovery; she had only to assimilate it. But it was a faith that was every bit as difficult to accept as most religions. I did not envy her the situation she found herself in.

Lynda Renfroe appeared to be a woman holding onto a single thread of belief and watching it unravel.

"Sit," I told them after Emil had taken their coats and Valentin was carrying their luggage to their room. Tom came into the room with cups of hot ciders for the women and I smiled at his attempts not to spill them.

I crossed to Lynda Renfroe and knelt before her. "Jody is well," I told her, taking her hands in mine. "Barbara has told you the truth - nothing will hurt him again."

Tears glistened in her eyes as they met mine. "He died this afternoon, didn't he?" she managed to ask before those tears were streaming down her face.

"He did not die. He lives just as you or Ms. Nightwing do-"

"Barbie told me you made him a vampire." Her voice broke on the word but she forced herself to go on. "You've got to die for that to happen."

"No, Ms. Renfroe," I told her as gently as I could. "Everything you know about us is fiction based on old wives' tales more than a century old."

I sighed and sat back on my haunches. "First, you need accept that a vampire is an evolutionary advance on the mortal human. We're faster, we're stronger, we can do things with our minds no mortal can do, and we are essentially immortal. Yet, we are still human - as much as you or Ms. Nighwing are." I smiled up at her.

"That's what Jody is becoming now. We aren't monsters - at least, not any more than we were when we were mortal. Jody will act tomorrow the same way he did yesterday. He carries in him what you and Ms. Nightwing have taught him-"

"But you're supposed to be creatures from hell."

I chuckled though I felt no humour. If anything, this was the worst of the wives' tales perpetuated by Bram Stoker, that Irishman so concerned with his Roman Catholic view of the world he lived in and the Victorian morality that controlled it.

"In 153 years, I have not had occasion to meet the archfiend of the Christian religion nor visit his abode. I even have reason to believe many tenets of that faith simply aren't valid."

"Jody'll be just like he was before?" Lynda Renfroe asked, hope creeping into her voice.

"Only better," Tom offered brightly and smiled at her. "Safer."

Before she could assimilate this new vision of her son's transformation and begin to raise questions based upon it, Tom continued: "The one thing we must do is make sure this doesn't get around. Jody's life would be hell from the reporters and scientists chasing after him. He could die at the hands of some hate-filled fundy who gets it in his head that, somehow, your kid's become Satan himself."

"No!" she hissed softly.

"They do it all the time with abortion doctors or anybody else who doesn't agree with them." He shook his head slowly. "No one can know about us. You two have to keep this so far under wraps it just disappears."

Lynda Renfroe nodded her agreement and glanced at her lover to ensure her acquiescence.

"That boy - Johan - how're you going to keep him silent?" Barbara asked.

"We blank out his memories of Jody and put him on a train for home tomorrow," Tom answered as I watched the smaller woman, something in her voice catching at a memory that I had avoided until now.

"They've slept together and Jody seemed to like him," she continued, pulling the noose tight about my forgotten memory and pulling it out for me to see.

"Verdammt!" I groaned. Four sets of eyes turned toward me. |Read the thought,| I told my lovers.

Both of them sat back chagrined as I turned to the women. "I suspect Jody thinks of himself as falling in love with our young Czech guest-"

"What?" Lynda Renfroe growled, climbing to her feet. "There isn't any way! That kid is the straightest boy I've ever seen. He's beaten up more than one fool who thought he'd be fair game because of us."

"He was almost dead," I told her. "I wanted his permission to give him the gift of life, however-" I saw her disbelief in her face. "I can't just make a vampire - that's forbidden to me morally. He had to give his permission."

Barbara Nightwing nodded that she accepted my need for the boy's acquiescence to make him like me. Lynda simply stared at me in disbelief.

"I told him he would be well again, that he would be with the two of you and all his friends. He wanted to know if he would be with young Johan again. Only when I agreed did he give his permission-" I shuddered at how close I had been to losing my honour. "He was beginning to release his spirit's control of his body. I promised him he could live for the Czech. It was the only way I could hold him."

"This will change things," Emil offered softly.

"Considerably," Tom groaned.

"Why?" Lynda Renfroe demanded, her face strangely frozen. "You just go ahead with your plans for that foreign boy and get him out of here while Jody's still out of it."

I gazed at her, wondering at this sudden hostility toward Johan Kys. "I can no more do that than I could have allowed death to claim your son." I noticed Barbara nod slightly and her lips began to form into a smile.

"You were - you are - guests in my home. Jody was - is - a guest in my home. As your host, I make you a commitment to protect you to the best of my ability," I explained. "I failed to protect him from the assassin. I had to do everything I had available to me to keep him from death-"

"The thinking gets pretty convoluted here," Tom offered. "You've just got to accept 150 year old Europeans see duty and, even, honour, as very real things that bind them to other people."

I glared at my American lover and thought I spoke English well enough to make myself understood without him translating for me.

"So," Barbara Nightwing interjected smoothly, "Jody's dying and asking to be with that young man binds you to keeping them together?"

I nodded. "I told him they could be together. I cannot actively make that impossible. Only, Jody or Johan can do that - we can't." Lynda Renfroe chewed her lip and did not seem especially pleased.

"What's going to become of Jody?" Barbara asked.

"He will be up and about tomorrow evening - a perfectly normal 18 year old."

"I mean, does he stay here in Germany with you guys? Or what?"

"He's certainly welcome to visit with us longer - after we've made our home safe," I mumbled.

"He's free to go wherever he wants to go," Tom offered, understanding the woman's concern. "That probably means America so he can be with you and finish his studies." He grinned at them. "If the thing with Hans keeps on growing, he can teleport between Washington and here any time he wants with no problem."

"All he has to do is think it, and - wham - he's there?" Barbara Nightwing was smiling at Tom and I accepted at least one of us had breached her reserve as well as having made a friend.

Tom and I both nodded. "He has to know the place he's going. He needs a clear mental image of it - but that's pretty much the way it is for us," he answered.

"How are you going to be sure Lynda and I will keep our mouths shut?"

I chuckled. "This is a story that can never be told. Because Jody's life depends on it. His as much as ours."

"How will you keep this foreign boy quiet?" Lynda demanded.

Tom answered her for me. "We will work it out depending on how the two of them feel about each other."

"How your son feels toward our young Czech," I amended. "I made my commitment to him."

A slight movement at the door caught my attention and, when I looked up, Valentin was standing there waiting for me to notice him. I nodded and returned my attention to our guests. "Tom and Emil will provide you refills on your drinks - or something stronger if you'd like." I smiled at them. "I'll be back shortly."


* * *


Valentin waited for me in the hall beyond the door. Behind him were the stairs down to the barn. He bowed as I pulled it closed behind me. "My Prince, their room is readied." He faced me. "I have also bathed the young American as well."

"Johan sleeps still?"

"Yes, Sir."

I saw the concern in his face, lines drawn out from his eyes, the downward curve of his lips. I sensed a surface suspicion about him. "It is only sleep, Valentin. Tomorrow, he shall wake as any other twenty year old would - and be hungry."

The muscle man smiled his thanks to me. The suspicion relaxed as did the fear that had dwelt behind it. There was only one explanation for such relief - and the doubt that had preceded it.

"How long have you known, Valentin?" I asked quietly.

"About what, my Prince?" His face remained expressionless.

I sighed. "About the three of us. That we are vampires."

He gazed at me impassively for long moments before chuckling. "Since my first month in your service, my Prince. There were so many little things: you do not sleep at night, you do not eat-"

My face showed my surprise. "Surely, you haven't witnessed that!" I gasped. All three of us had taken such pains to pretend to eat the meals he prepared. I had thought we succeeded.

He smiled broadly. "I cook and clean both, Sir. Three healthy young men - they seem to eat whatever I prepare. But there is always far too much food on the floor for gentlemen to have dropped. And in the planters or outside the windows." He chuckled.

"I did not understand - or, perhaps, I did not want to understand. Until I watched the three of you attack a cow one night here at the farm. Then I knew."

"Yet you have stayed?"

"I need the position - it is difficult for those of us who worked for the Russians to find employment. And you - the three of you - have always treated me properly."

"And now?"

He smiled. "I am now saving money for my old age."

"You are satisfied then with your employer?"

"My Prince, you and your companions have become more than that to me this past year." His face broadened suddenly. "Only, Sir, you spend far too much money."

I raised a brow in question.

"You waste money on food that will only rot." He wagged his head slowly. "Such waste."

I chuckled. "Perhaps we should reduce our household allowance in future."



"These American gangsters, they killed the American boy?"

"Almost. I fought Death himself to keep him among us."

"You made the young Czech sleep?"

I nodded. "I had to, Valentin. He had overheard me tell the women the boy was transforming into one of us. He may have even seen Death as he sheathed his sickle. I had the two women and the assassin-" I shrugged. "I did not feel capable of handling the Czech youth's confusion at the same time."

"Johan is-" Valentin grinned broadly. "He is in love with the American youth, my Prince."

I closed my eyes and wished I could close as easily my awareness of the complications these two boys were bringing to my sane, ordered world. "They'll be allowed to find their own arrangements, Valentin. Somehow, though, that lad must understand he can never say what we are."

"There are more who hunt you, Sir?"

"Two - perhaps more - but they do not know what we are. Nor do their employers. That's why we've taken your advise and moved out here. You will need to speak to our neighbours tomorrow so they can be alert." I pointed at him. "If an assassin finds his way here, I want him delivered to me alive."


"We need information to lead us back to their organisations. They have it and we don't." I studied him for several moments. "There must be no police."

The muscle-man nodded his understanding. And smiled. "Afterwards, you shall eat well, yes?"

"There's no sense in wasting food." I grinned broadly and chuckled.

"There is one thing I do regret about being a vampire, Valentin-"


I chuckled. "I regret that I can never eat the food you prepare for us. It smells heavenly and our guests have convinced me just how excellent your culinary gifts are."

Valentin smiled, accepting the compliment. "I will see to the protection of these two women and Johan, Sir."

I nodded. "I had hoped you would accept that responsibility. The three of us will return to the Grünewald tomorrow evening. With us back in the city, you shouldn't be in much danger."