Chapter One – Trials and Triumphs.

There had been a time when running had been a joy instead of a necessity and even now, as they fired shot after shot at his back, running made everything seem less real, less frightening. He had been running for a long time now, a day, maybe two, and his feet hurt as they pounded on the tarmac. This was the second city he had fled through in the past week and in his haste to avoid the rain of bullets that seemed to be constantly upon him, he had forgotten to check the name of the place. Not that it really mattered but he did like to keep track of where he'd been hunted to.

He led them round a corner, his pace becoming a lolling trot as opposed to a sprint as it had been before. He had to stop to sleep for a while, find somewhere safe to rest his head. For now though, somewhere to hide from them as they passed would suffice. In desperation he crawled under a nearby Jeep and lay there, belly in the gutter with the scent of petroleum strong in his nose.

It was hardly dignified but he was thankful for the rest it afforded him, a chance to catch his breath and give his ears a break from the relentless dull clunk of gunfire as they stopped shooting to look for him. His amber eyes peered out from beneath the vehicle and he caught a whiff of gunpowder even over the overwhelming stench of gas. They were close still. He would have to remain very quiet and entirely stationary until he was sure they had gone. He could feel his legs begin to stiffen up, his muscles tired from running for so long and sore from stopping so abruptly.

An hour or so passed and he finally dared to crawl out from his hiding place. He looked around, trying to find any clue as to his location. He was in the suburbs, that much was certain, the neat rows of houses well spaced, each with large gardens full of mature trees and a view from the kitchen onto the fields.

It was a good area, the kind of place parents hoped to raise children. He stood up properly, his back creaking with relief at standing straight after such a long time. The sign at the end of the road read Pterodactyl Place though he had no recollection of any Pterodactyl ever having been discovered in the United Kingdom, not that it really made all that much of a difference.

He realised that his mind was working on a tangent again and he decided to stop trying to find a reason for the name of the street and find somewhere to hide there instead.

The moon was just a silver sliver but she shone as brightly as she could, for which he was grateful. The sprinkling of stars helped and he said a silent prayer to the night for its grace and the comfort he found in the darkness. Finally, after about fifteen minutes of searching he found an unlocked car, opened the driver's door and opened the trunk. With a skill brought about by years of practise, he slipped beneath the parcel shelf and curled up as tightly as he could, pulling the door down as quietly as was possible. Within minutes, he was sleeping soundly.

The sky was white with a heavy veil of rain, misting the air and giving the day a hazy sheen. Little droplets of water freckled the windows and clung to the glass, defying gravity and making it near impossible to tell if the shower had stopped or not.

Frankie stared out of the window, concentrating on the occasional crack from the fire and thinking about all the other far more useful things she could be doing. She pondered making breakfast for her friend but the concept of being so thoughtful made her feel a little uneasy and she neglected the idea almost as soon as it came to her.

She heard footsteps behind her but didn't turn. The heavy way in which the person moved, with a long gait and lolling speed, meant it could only be Travis. He moved to her side and they stood together for a moment, staring out into the vague grey of the morning. Neither spoke for a while, they simply concentrated on the darkening clouds which were currently bruising the sky, each staring at an unidentifiable spot in the middle-distance.

"I can't wait until summer," Travis ventured after a long period of silence. They still didn't look at one another – as far as they were concerned it was too early in the morning for social niceties. Frankie tugged a dark tendril of ash-brown hair from her face and shook her head a little.

"I miss autumn. It looks like I feel." It was an absent comment, but Travis couldn't resist making a snide remark.

"Dead and crispy?" Frankie allowed him a pitying chuckle and decided to explain.

"Not dead and crispy, no. Autumn is beautiful – it's still warm and everything's so bright and vibrant. It's like all the trees are trying to prove they're still alive even though they're dying. Down in a blaze of glory and all that. Autumn is beautiful because of death, because everything tries to deny that death is there, waiting for it with the first frost. The world becomes beautiful because it's dying. It reminds me I'm alive. That I still have chance to make a difference." Her tone was not bitter, not upset, merely conversational.

"What made you all morbid and poetical?" Travis asked with a frown, china-blue eyes still peering out across the fields.

"I don't know," Frankie admitted, brightly, "I feel a change coming on though." She slumped back, resting the top of her thighs on the back of the sofa which faced away from the big bay window.

They stood in silence for a little longer and a verse Frankie hadn't heard since she was very young sprang to mind.

As life's autumn days decline

Thus to live a libertine

Fancy free as thoughts incline

Manhood's older age and colder

Now forbids, removes, destroys,

All those ways of wonted joys.

It was a verse from a twelfth century song in the Carmina Burana and it came totally unbidden to her mind. The full thing was beautiful but she couldn't remember it regardless of how hard she tried.

"Cup of tea." Travis stated and left to put the kettle on.

"Yes…" Frankie breathed.

The day dragged on. A sullen morning became a dull afternoon and eventually dark clouds faded into night. There was no sun for a sunset and Frankie only left the sitting-room to gather provisions and more coal for the fire.

Travis couldn't work out what she was waiting for – the others weren't due back for a day and as far as he could tell she had no publishing deadlines to meet. Her black eyes remained locked on that spot in the middle-distance until the light was too poor to see it.

At about nine o'clock Travis joined her. There was thunder in the distance and both feared a power cut would leave them without light, save the dying fire. Travis was still unsure why Frankie was so distant, why she was so detached. He didn't dare ask her because her answers were normally confusing.

They sat in silence for a while longer until the phone rang. Travis went to answer and was only vaguely shocked when he heard Mish's voice announce that she and Jay had failed and that they would be back in a few hours. Frankie had obviously known this, hence her peculiar mood and strange demeanour.

It was one of the many strange qualities of Frankie and Mish. They always seemed to know what the other was doing, where they were, how they were. In their own words they were psychic brain twins but what frightened Travis more was the fact that after a while in their company, they started knowing similar things about you.

"Jay's been hurt," said Frankie as Travis entered the living room again.

"What a revelation. It's not like that happens every other day."

"Fuck off, Travis. Fetch me the bath and I'll start boiling water." She suddenly seemed like herself again, giving orders and moving with some sort of purpose. Travis groaned.

"You know, normal people have fixed baths with running water. Normal people like being clean."

"How many times do I have to explain this? When Mish and I installed running water we had the choice to either put a full bathroom in the littlest bedroom or put a shower room in the biggest cupboard. Since we didn't want to loose a bedroom we picked a shower. No one has baths anyway, except when they're all sick and stuff."

"I still think you should just have sacrificed the bedroom. It just meant one less person could stay here-" She cut him off mid-rant.

"And what if that one less person had been you? Imagine we hadn't room for you the night you found us. What then?"

"I'll get the bath."

Three aces and the six, seven, eight and nine of clubs. It was a winning hand and Jay held it, trying to keep the grin off his face. Frankie didn't bother taking her go, preferring instead to fold her hand and stare aimlessly out of the window. She knew Jay had won anyway.

It was New Years Eve and in three hours time it would be the year 2000. While the millennium meant a lot to many people, it meant all the more to Frankie and Mish, despite the fact that they were treating the whole affair with a great deal of distaste.

For once, the house fondly known as Pandemonium was without many lodgers. In fact, only Jay remained to keep the owners company.

"I'm bored. Jay keeps winning." Mish declared.

"There's nothing to hit recently either," Jay muttered darkly. Frankie failed to see how this was somehow her problem but bit her tongue. The night was cold but there was no snow so the traditional snowball fight and Jay-burying was impossible.

"Anyone want a cup of tea?" Mish asked, the silence becoming almost palpable. Frankie shook her head and Jay made a face portraying his distaste.

"I will have some of that funny looking blue stuff in the drink cabinet though – it's been fascinating me for years and I think that maybe I should drink it before it gets ideas and hurts me."

Frankie raised an eyebrow at Jay's comment but crossed the room and poured the funny blue liquid anyway. She was too bored to worry about the contents of the bottle and even if it did contain some sort of Jekyll/Hyde formula she was entirely certain it couldn't do Jay any harm.

Outside there was a flash, a firework, and Mish got up to go and watch. The others joined her and slowly smiles crept across their faces. Frankie handed Jay his glass in silence without taking her eyes from the coloured display in the sky. Jay took the glass, also without looking, without comment, the ease of a long friendship enabling them to avoid spillages.

"You know what we need? – Music. I mean, tonight is meant to be a party, even if there are only three of us and we're all as cheerful as that frog which attacked me in the garden." Mish pushed a CD into the stereo and Jay groaned.

"The frog didn't attack you…"

"It went for my throat!"

"How could it possibly go for your throat? It's a frog you idiot!"

Frankie cut the argument short with a simple, yet effective OI! and a prod in the general direction of the window. Mish and Jay returned, the sound of the Eagles peopling the empty room.

Mish bit her bottom lip and Jay's permanent scowl deepened. Flashing across the horizon in loud streaks of blue were three police cars, coming ever closer. Frankie slipped on a pair of tattered flip flops and grabbed the nearest blunt object, which happened to be an antique violin case. Mish cringed, took the case from Frankie and handed her a hat stand.

The three of them moved into the hall in a sort of lose formation, brought about more by familiarity than necessity or premeditated plan. Frankie, who led them simply because she held the hat stand, opened the door and stepped boldly out into the cold. Nothing looked too out of place but the usual noise of night birds was replaced by an odd cacophony of fireworks and sirens which combined in a sort of absent attempt at a tune.

"Perhaps they're not coming here?" Mish hissed.

"No, they are," Jay growled back, "Count the cars, ladies."

They did so.

Frankie's battered, once red, rusted baking tray on wheels sat where it always sat, looking out over the garden with unblinking pearl white eyes. Mish's new, hard earned Saab was presumably in the garage where they had left it and Jay's mud-caked jeep was ready at the gates in case they should need to get out in an emergency.

Just behind the 4x4 though, there was a new addition, something that certainly didn't belong. A beautiful, shining blue Triumph Spitfire was parked, leaving two dark trails in the gleaming frost from the road to the house.

"Fuck. Get that thing out of sight and get the driver inside, I'll deal with the police when they come," Frankie said and passed the hat stand to Mish, heading down towards the car with Jay. Mish pushed the hat stand into the house and ran to the garage, opening the door by remote and jumping into her Saab.

She pulled the car forwards, round the house so it was facing towards the garage again. By this point Jay had the driver pinned to him and was carrying the man towards the house. Frankie jumped into the Spitfire and drove into the garage. Mish followed her in with the Saab so as to hide the former vehicle from obvious view before running after Jay into the house.

Frankie made her way to the 4x4 and sat patiently behind the wheel, waiting for the police to come past. She fiddled with her keys, looking for the right one to start this car. She found it just in time and pulled the car out as the police rounded the corner, almost causing a crash.

In the house, Jay winced.

The police got out of the car, looking murderous. Frankie bit her bottom lip and tried to look apologetic, jumping out of the jeep.

"I am so sorry! You can't see anything from this drive way… I was just shifting cars round so the Saab wouldn't have to stay out of the garage!" She tried her best to sound like a silly teenager, even giggled on cue.

"Miss, I will have to ask you to move the car. We are in pursuit of a-"

"Oh! The shiny blue car that went past? I wondered why they were going to fast. Thought they must be drunk to go that quick on these roads." She clambered back into the jeep and reversed, making sure she did so sloppily. The men went back to their cars and took off again, ancient wards in place around the house to stop them wanting to search it.

Frankie parked and headed back into Pandemonium, fuming. She strode into the living room and glowered around her. Jay was still holding the man down but he had ceased to struggle. Mish was out of the room, presumably calling a few old friends and ex-residents to have something done about the Spitfire.

Frankie slumped into a seat and looked at the driver. He was familiar – very familiar. His hair had grown since their last meeting and he looked a little more unkempt, his goatee beard straying over the rest of his face. His waist had thickened a little with age but he still looked ready to beat Jay the minute he let go.

"Travis? What the flying fuck do you think you're doing?"

"I need somewhere safe. When you guys were working for me at the garage I remember you saying nowhere was safer than your house. Well, I got stupid…stole a car I should have left alone and need somewhere to hide. Have this guy let go of me Frank, you know I won't hurt you."

"Swear not to hurt Jay."

"I swear."

Years on, Travis was still a car thief, still a Pandemonium resident, and still had the Spitfire in the garage. He seemed an indispensable member of the team now. And the Ghosts loved him.

Mish entered Pandemonium carrying Jay as best she could. He lay draped across her shoulder, his feet dragging where he tried to walk. Frankie supported his other arm and between them they managed to half carry, half drag Jay into the kitchen. Frankie placed a stool in the bathtub and stripped Jay to his underwear. In no time he was soaking in the clean, hot water by the AGA. Frankie set about finding fresh towels and some weird smelling ointments. Mish turned to Travis and began to explain events,

"We were on the hunters' trail. Almost had all five of the buggers and then we round a corner…nothing. Jay feels something alive in some car boot. We head towards it, careful like, and Jay opens the thing up. This lanky little half wolf half kid leaps out at us and tears the shit out of Jay, even though he's trying to help. We had to abort going after the hunters 'cause Jay was so cut up."

Frankie began scrubbing at Jay's wounds as he winced and swore at her. She swatted him around the head and continued, frowning at Mish's description of events without really paying her patient much attention.

"Werewolves? Doesn't that mean Jay-" Travis began.

"No, a bite only turns a person on certain occasions and besides – Mish said the kid had only half changed so Jay's safe. He'll heal soon enough because that's what he does but in the mean time we'll keep an eye on him." Frankie began rubbing some bitter smelling salve into Jay's wounds, which already didn't look half as bad as they did when he came in. She was gentle but he winced occasionally nonetheless. Silence descended, broken only by Jay's occasional complaints, Frankie's slaps and her orders for him to stay still.

"What's tomorrow's plan?" Travis asked.

"I don't know," Frankie conceded, "It's Mish's call."

"We'll be back on it tomorrow. Tonight though, I am far too tired to care. Sleep well guys…" she smiled weakly at them all and plodded up the old servants stairs from the kitchen. Travis gave Frankie a hug and then followed Mish.

"Well," said Frankie with a little smirk, "That just leaves me with an almost naked you… I bet I've got some whipped cream in the pantry!"

She laughed and stood, before wandering over the cupboard beside the AGA and grabbing a towel. She tossed it at Jay and crossed the room to put the kettle on. As she was getting the milk from the fridge she took a can of something horrifically sweet and fizzy, placing it near Jay on the table. By the time Frankie had made herself a cup of tea, Jay was dry and waiting for her.

"So when should I get up tomorrow?"

"Have a lie in, you deserve it," Frankie said, sipping from her steaming mug.

"But Mish always goes early."

"Yeah. You're not going with her though."

"Why the hell not?!" Jay's voice rose and Frankie sighed, looking down at her cup.

"You've been healing far slower of late. You have to stop being so reckless – I can't afford to lose you."

"I promise I'll come back to you!"

"In how many pieces?! If you fall, Jay, then who ever is with you falls too. If Travis was with was then what would have happened? Mish would have been fine, she would have healed. But Travis… he would have been dead! You're staying tomorrow and that's final."

Jay put down his can, the towel slipping off his shoulder a little, revealing a scab, the bite of the wolf no longer an open wound. Frankie openly studied him, looking for scars, the artificial lemon glare of the electric light shining off the beads of water dripping from his dark hair. No scars. In all the years Frankie had known Jay she had seen him beaten to within an inch of his life more times than she could remember and there was not a single scar on his toned body. She scowled as she looked at him, wondering just what made him so strong.

His eternal frown deepened as he noticed her staring, then he smiled, unexpectedly, and asked with an impish grin,

"What's the matter? Never seen a body this good before?"

Frankie couldn't help but smile. She stood, picked up his clothes and tossed them into the bin - she'd burn them in the morning so the dustbin men wouldn't ask any questions about the blood. She turned to him and tried to look stern.

"Go to sleep…" She turned tartly and headed for the servants stairs, which led directly to the half landing on which her room was situated. Over her shoulder she breathed,

"Dream well, friend."