Thank you for continuing to read DARK PRINCE. I'm glad you're enjoying it.
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Ronnie Barber was not happy. Those fucking dogs had followed him and his boys out to LA. He had three men dead with their throats torn out, and Davis Trellum wanted him in Washington. It was like he couldn't do his job and was getting dumped. He sighed and sat back in his seat. He looked out at the wing of the aeroplane taking him to Washington.
He'd soon find out if Trellum was pulling him out of the first strike units. Why did those fucking dogs have to follow him from Washington?
His career with the CMUM had been a real roller coaster ride. Everything would go along real smooth and he'd relax. And, just then, something would come along and knock him and his first strike units for a real loop. He wondered for a moment if Trellum was setting him up but discarded the thought fast enough. There was no reason for him to make Ronnie look bad.
This shit of dogs attacking his men and killing them did make him look bad. They were attacking the skinheads, too. He'd even heard they took out some drug dealers over in Anacostia too. It was just plain crazy. It'd only happened in Washington, though -- until two nights ago. He lost three good men over in West Hollywood to those damned dogs.
Maybe Trellum had a leak at his end. That'd explain the dogs in Washington and, then after he and his men were in LA a couple of weeks, them showing up in LA. It'd mean the leak was in Washington too. And whoever trained those man-killing hounds. He was going to have to ask Trellum about that. The man seemed to know everything about everybody -- maybe he'd know who in Washington had that kind of dog.
They met in the pastor's study of the little church in Towson, Maryland. "You said on the phone that you lost three men to dogs?" Trellum demanded as he entered the room, not even giving Ronnie time to stand up and be respectful.
He couldn't tell anything from the Black man's face or his voice. The man's whole demeanour was neutral. "Yes, sir. Just like those five over in Washington just before we turned things over to the skinheads. Their throats were torn out, their hands chewed on."
"And there weren't any incidents in DC since you left until three nights ago. That is something to think about."
"Somebody who trains dogs is getting information on what CMUM is up to, Mr. Trellum."
Davis Trellum smiled. "I thought of that one, Group Captain. I spent a week in Atlanta going through each sensitive file in the Christian Center. We don't have a spy. I'm sure of it."
"How's the information getting out to this guy with the damned dogs then, sir?"
"That I don't know." His lips twitched. "You know, Group Captain, it's quite strange that, every time we had a mission in southeast Washington, those dogs came out to interrupt it. Either that or the next mission if it followed right after the first one."
He pulled at his right earlobe. "The skinheads left southeast Washington alone until the other night and those dogs didn't show up once."
"You think there's some connection there, sir?"
Trellum faced him and smiled. "I think there is a house that could stand some close surveillance. You probably know it -- the big, white two-storey with a wrought-iron fence around it? A block south of Pennsylvania and about a half block west of Sixth Street?"
"On "I" Street! There's a little park in the centre of the street across from it?"
"Yeah, I know the place, what about it?"
"It's owned by some Austrian Prince. He's got two other men living there with him -- another foreigner and one from Baltimore. They're faggots."
"Do they raise dogs?" Ronnie asked, feeling himself get excited. It sounded like Trellum wasn't mad about the men lost in LA; it even sounded like the man was going to give him something he could sink his teeth into. He liked situations that offered excitement. This beating drunk queers to death had got real old. Even his men were getting tired of it.
"I don't know. I don't know one single thing about them except what I just told you."
"You want me to check them out?"
"I want you to detail a couple of your first strike boys to do that. Men who have brains, Group Captain. Men who can think on their feet."
Ronnie nodded. "They can do what they want to do with these men?" he asked.
"They've got carte blanc."
"You said you wanted me to detail two men to this. What about me, sir?"
"I want you and five of your best to meet me day after tomorrow. I'm taking you to North Carolina for a month."
"You're going to train for a mission, Group Captain. It's the most important mission you could ever undertake." He grinned. "It's the one that will finally put the Christian Center in power."
"Finally!" Ronnie breathed and felt his chest tighten.
"First things first, however. This American living in that house. I do have information on him." He reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out an envelope. He pulled out several photographs and chose one which he handed to Ronnie.
Ronnie's mind switched gears and was again focused on the three queers living in that big house on "I" Street.
"His name is Thomas MacPherson. His family lives off of Eastern Avenue here in Baltimore, just above little Italy. He might go home for the holiday, so watch the house in DC for him to leave."
"We can get him when he's away from his buddies."
"That's probably not a good idea. If these three are in some way behind the attacks on CMUM people, we don't want to alert the other two by taking him out."
"You suggest we wait until he's back in Washington?"
"If your men are fast enough and smart enough, they could get inside that gate." Trellum grinned broadly. "He'd even let them in, wouldn't he?"
"What about the other two?"
"From what we can tell, there is never anyone there during the day -- except for this MacPherson. And he's usually not there, either. He works for a temporary accounting firm."
"We'd get inside and check everything out before the others got home." He met Trellum's gaze. "It could've been a robbery that went sour?"
"That's what I was thinking."
"Even if we don't find anything?"
"Even if you don't find anything."
* * *
It was Easter week, and I sat in front of the television alone. Emil had left for Los Angeles at the beginning of the week. Tom was visiting his parents in Baltimore for the weekend. It was Saturday evening, and the house felt empty.
Emil had already broken up two beatings in West Hollywood. Tom was as bored in Baltimore as I was in Washington. The house rumbled softly around me, the machinery of the central air conditioning struggling to keep me cool. I struggled to think of something to occupy myself but my mind was lethargic with the heat.
The television forecaster announced that the day's high temperature was 97 degrees Fahrenheit with no relief in sight. It had reached 60 degrees in Stockholm. In mid-April. I wondered where the spring had gone.
I was bored -- and lonely.
I watched the news on the television and found twenty feet of an interstate freeway in Arizona had exploded into boulders of macadam, killing three motorists and injuring a score more. I turned it off. I did not want to hear how unsafe America had become in its heartland. I did not want to think of the country's destabilisation.
I entered the music room and forced myself to sit before the piano, exposing the keys that gleamed up at me. Beethoven?
No! Too strong. Even overpowering for how I felt now in my loneliness.
Never! Too dark and foreboding. I would have Slavic daemons threatening me the rest of the night and in my dreams through tomorrow.
I smiled as my fingers touched the keys and brought forth the unabashedly gilded pleasure only the older Strauss had given his every composition. I played Tales of the Viennese Woods in its entirety, uplifting my spirit and feeling his joy touching me from across nearly two centuries. For those moments that I played, I was again in Vienna before the hell of the twentieth century began. The music lifted me from the doldrums I had descended into as I had watched Tom leave me with the sun sinking beyond the city of Washington.
I rode the currents above the city. Even in the heat, I enjoyed the freedom that flight gave me and I revelled in it. But I had another motive as well. I had not seen the army build-up that Tom had seen -- or the street brawls between Queer Nation and skinheads that had been in Trellum's mind.
The bars and restaurants of southeast Washington were busy and unmenaced. I flew on. Connecticut Avenue from DuPont Circle to Rock Creek Park thrived. I followed the creek back to "P" Street.
Ten men stood in front of the petrol service centre at the intersection of "P" Street and 21st Street. Swooping lower, I saw that each held a baseball bat. They chatted amiably amongst themselves and, occasionally called out a friendly greeting to a bar patron who ventured by. I landed on the roof of the station to study them closer.
"Another dead night," one groused to a friend.
The other one laughed. "Didn't you know skinheads don't have balls?" They both laughed then.
I flapped my wings and was again airborne. The gay community of Washington was protecting itself and it appeared to be enough to frighten away its enemies. I wondered if Trellum was happy with his skinheads avoiding the fights he wanted.
I sensed fear as I approached the Convention Centre and flew closer.
Four humvees were parked in front of the centre. Their men stood on the street before them -- twelve of them, all armed with handguns. A block down Fourth Street from them were two men already caught in a circle of five skinheads. It was their fear that I'd sensed earlier. I landed in the car park beside them and willed myself into wolf form.
It was obvious that the army was there to support the skinheads. I had been shot recently and did not relish the idea of having it happen again so soon. I reached out with my thoughts to the men beside the humvees.
|You see nothing,| I told them. |There is only a pack of dogs here. Get into your vehicles and leave.|
As the soldiers began to climb into their humvees, I turned my attention to the skinheads and their intended victims. Did I want to kill? Did I want witnesses to that killing? I felt bloodlust flow through me, calling me to tear out the throats of the skinheads. They were nothing and would be nothing. Death was a quick release from the absurdity of life for them.
I approached the one closest to me and sniffed at his jeans. Definitely nothing. His stench was strong. The rubbish couldn't even wash himself regularly.
The man jerked when he saw me and kicked out. "Fucking dog!" he growled as I scampered out of his reach.
I stood and raised my eyes to the moon and howled.
And felt a new, stronger fear. The five skinheads had heard of what had happened when one of their teams had ventured into southeast Washington and remembered what happened during the winter at "P" Street beach. I howled again and moved towards their circle.
One raised a chain and took a step towards me. "No fucking dog can take five of us!" he growled.
"You want your throat torn out? Go ahead."
The other four skinheads were stepping slowly away from me. And away from the two men they had cornered.
The man with the chain realised that his companions were pulling away from him, leaving him to confront me alone. "You fucks!" he yelled at them but began to inch away from me as well.
I snarled and stepped closer. It was at that moment that I chose to spare them. I gave each of the five an image of me holding him down as I lowered my jaws to his neck.
"Let's get out of here," the one with the chain said. He looked back at the two men. "You faggots got lucky tonight. It won't happen again." He and his men continued to back away from me.
The first skinhead reached a car and, opening the door on the driver's side, slipped in. The door closed quickly as another reached the back door. The other three ran to the other side of the car and hurriedly piled in.
I and the two men they had trapped watched as their car pulled away, squealing tyres. I took a deep breath and began to change. I knew that in human shape I would be nude, but I chose to warn these men.
"This didn't happen," I said as soon as my vocal chords worked.
"Sweet Jesus!" one moaned.
"This didn't happen. If you report it, you'll be put in an asylum. If you thought these men planned on killing you, know that a gay man put in an asylum, talking about vampires, will die quickly." I didn't know that to be true, but I didn't want word of me getting around, either.
"We didn't see anything," the other one agreed, understanding their situation.
"You shouldn't come here. It's not safe."
Both men nodded. One realised I was naked and became interested in my manhood.
I felt myself becoming aroused. "Go. Now!" I told them and concentrated on becoming a bat again.
* * *
Fear! The sound of bone breaking. Pain.
I woke to the sounds of violence inside my head. Beyond the tight louvers on the windows, I sensed hot sunlight beating down on the house.
|Help me, Karli!| Sergei Alexandrovitch again called to me. Mind to mind.
Even as I pushed back the bed covers, my body was already changing. I was a wolf as I bounded from the room and flew down the stairs. A kaleidoscope of images flitted through my thoughts, Sergei Alexandrovitch's holding mine and drawing strength from me.
I saw through his eyes. Two men had followed him inside the grounds and now had him behind the tall azaleas that trooped along either side of the drive. One held Tom's arms as the other hit him -- in the face, in the stomach, in the chest. His jaw was a mass of pain.
Anger surged unrestrained through his brain. The man pulled closer to swing again, Tom's foot shot up and slammed into the man's testicles. He watched with righteous pleasure as the man collapsed into a foetal position. But the other man still held him and he was strong.
"Get up, you wimp," the man holding Tom called to his companion. "You got to be careful even if he is a queer. Hit him again."
I willed the front door to open as I neared it and rushed through it almost before there was room for me to do so. All four of my paws left the veranda at the same time as I propelled myself over the rhododendron along its border into the yard beyond.
Heat hit me immediately, burning me even through the coat of fur that covered me. Steam rose along the nearly hairless ridge of my snout and streamed past me as I raced across the yard.
"Son of a bitch faggot!" a ragged voice hissed as my paws touched the macadam of the drive.
"Hit him again!" another voice egged the first one on. "Just watch his feet this time."
"I'm going to kill the fucking queer!" the first voice hissed.
I broke through the column of azaleas. And sprang. My jaws snapped closed on a bare arm drawn back in preparation of delivering another blow. My teeth tore through thick body hair and skin to sink into human flesh.
My flesh burned. I shook my head, holding the arm in my teeth, ripping its flesh further. I let it go, turning to face the other skinhead still holding Tom. Beside me, the one I had wounded sank to the ground, shock growing across his mind as he stared down at his mangled arm.
"Nice doggy," the man behind Tom and holding him said, fear palpable in his voice. I growled. He reached for a knife at his waist as I stepped towards him.
"Sweet Jesus!" the man groaned, pushing Tom away from him and stepping back as he tried to pull his knife free. I sprang, my jaws open, aiming for his throat.
His windpipe was crushed as he fell under me. I pushed away from him and turned to his companion. Steam rose along my spine and a clump of fur and skin fell from my body. Only my fury saved me from feeling the pain of my beginning cremation under the hot mid-afternoon sun.
I stopped, staring from the bleeding skinhead to Tom climbing to his feet. "Get inside now!" he commanded me. But it was not Tom MacPherson telling me what to do. Sergei Alexandrovitch commanded me.
His voice brought me to my senses -- and to the pain.
"Leave them," he told me, taking a cautious step towards me. "Get out of the sun now."
I didn't want to. I wanted to kill the second intruder. I wanted death to claim these two who would enter my property and attack this man I loved. But awareness of my pain grew as more skin blistered under my fur. I groaned awareness of that pain to him. And started towards the house, surprised at how weak I felt even through the growing pain.
I was impossibly weak and growing weaker. The veranda suddenly seemed impossibly far away.
"Move it!" Tom growled at me.
I felt the heated macadam sear the pads of my paws. I slipped through the branches of the closest bush and left fur behind as I crossed the hot tarmac. I whined in pain.
I was too weak to run. I gasped as I left half my tail on another branch as I broke through the azalea. I saw the steps then. Impossibly lighted by the sun, gleaming white across impossible metres of grass.
Pain. I had never known such pain. I could barely move.
One foot forward. Then another one. I fell. Skin and flesh pulled from my hands, exposing bone.
I was in human form again. Naked. Crawling on my hands and knees towards the veranda. Towards the house. I told myself my body would repair itself -- if I could but reach the house. It became a mantra that I held in my mind even after I could no longer speak.
Skin fell from my back and ass, crackled on the grass and burnt into nothing. Fleshy fat sizzled across my exposed buttocks.
"Come on!" I heard Tom's voice grunt above me as I felt his hand reach around me and grasp my chest.
I fainted. My mind seeking the relief that shutting down brought it in the face of the pain of death.
Tom pulled Karl towards the veranda, ignoring the odour of his burning flesh. His mind refused to see bared muscles as skin stretched and broke across Karl's flanks and waist or the hints of grisled bone beginning to appear across his back.
Sergei Alexandrovitch over-rode the pain of Tom's beating, taking command of both his body and his mind. He infused Tom's mortal body with unnatural strength to carry Karl, pulling him into the dark interior of the house and, lifting him into his arms, toting him up the stairs to the bedroom and laying the vampire on his bed.
"It was close, that," Sergei Alexandrovitch mumbled as he lay Karl on the bed. He leant over the body beginning to swell on the bed and placed his ear against its chest. He stood back up smiling. "You'll live, mon amor."
He looked down at his tee shirt and shuddered at the body fluids and fats Karl had left there. He picked up the hand closest to him and examined the exposed bone of the fingers.
"There's still cartilage and some muscle." He looked down at the swollen face and nodded. "Another minute -- two at most -- and I would have been left to wait for your return as you have mine, Karli."
His finger traced the bridge of Karl's nose down to his lips. "You are going to be an extremely ill vampire, mon ami," he whispered against the gristle that was all that was left of Karl's ear.
He touched his own jaw and nodded. The bone was already welded together. It felt strange but he could talk and there was no pain.
He stood back. "I have two monsters to take care of, mon cher. I shall return as soon as I have them imprisoned in the cellar." He took a step towards the door. "I can also use this telepathy to reach Emil -- if I can find a way. But, first, let's make sure our little monsters have stayed where I left them."
Tentatively, he projected his thoughts out, reaching beyond the house into the mid-afternoon sunlight until he finally touched the confused thoughts of the two men. It wasn't as easy as he remembered it being. His thoughts were burdensome, unwieldy; but he managed to find the men still in the drive.
|Stay!| he commanded them as he left Karl's room. He took the stairs two at a time, a grim smile spread across his face.
Karl would heal in the days ahead, but the two assailants needed to be secured now.
Sergei had mastered this mortal body -- at least enough to heal it and use its mind to communicate. It didn't come naturally; it resisted him. He had consciously to manipulate the mechanisms of Tom's brain to do it. That was why it felt so unwieldy. He would die if he were sufficiently hurt to be unconscious -- like Karl. It would probably take several days, but Karl's subconscious mind would heal his body completely.
His mastery was imperfect compared to what he could do with a vampiric body. But it was far better than being just a simple mortal.
He was still Sergei Alexandrovitch when he called to Emil across the width of America, strong and clear -- and demanding.
|Come home now.| It would be enough to wake him from his stupour.