Giving Vampyres state protection as a rite isn't a very popular idea in New York and after supporting the lobby, Chrissie Monroe is suspended from the NYPD while the DA decide whether or not her sympathetic approach to Vampyrs should lead to her dismissal. She flies to Las Vegas for some R&R with an old friend but finds herself the centre of a murder investigation into the death of a Vampyr junkie. The police seem happy to convict the first Vampyr they find, who happens to be Chrissie's ex. In her plight though to free Ethan, who else is Chrissie prepared to endanger?

Porphyria

Chapter One

Metal boxes

I have never thought I would actually kill myself. I thought nothing could drive me to pull a trigger, leap from a window ledge or fit a noose around my neck.

So what the fuck am I doing thousands of feet above ground with only six inches of tin between me and a colossal emptiness?

This is suicide and I suddenly realize I don't have even have an inducement. I love my life; I am too young to die.

If man were made to fly, they would have been born as the next stage in the evolution of birds, with wings growing from their shoulders blades. Who had the fantastic idea of building a metal box, shooting it up into the sky with what seems to me to be a very tiny fuel tank for a thing this big and saying, "Look everyone! Now man can fly!"

"Are you all right?" the man across the aisle leans over with a sympathetic smile.

"Fine," I snap a bit too quickly. His smile widens.

"It's just that you haven't taken off your seat belt since we took off."

I tear my terrified gaze from the window to stare at him. Is he mad? I have never even been in a car without the belt securely fastened. I find it ironic that we are in something a hell of a lot bigger than a car which doesn't even have the amount of safety-precautions my car does. For Christ's sake we don't even have airbags!

"And," he adds, "You look a little tense."

Even I manage a tight smile at this understatement. I have been sitting rigidly in my chair, spine straight and hands gripping the armrests in a death-grip since we started taxiing along the runway with eyes locked in terror at the shrinking world out of the window. Just as we had taken off I had the panicked thought, 'What if the pilot's a terrorist planning to smash us into the side of a skyscraper?" The thought scared me so much it was nearly worth ripping off my seatbelt and racing down the aisle to the cockpit to interrogate the pilot about his religious and moral beliefs. Then the plane had dropped about twenty feet making my stomach lurch and from then on I had remained inflexibly upright in my chair.

I look at this guy. He is cute, in a pale blue shirt and black jacket and trousers and black tufty hair. Sitting beside him is a mother trying to shush her son who is loudly declaring, "I'm going to be sick! I'm going to be sick!"

"You don't like planes, huh? Scared of flying?"

"Yes."

"You know, you shouldn't be," he continues. "More people die in highway crashes each year than in planes."

"Right," what a stupid thing to say. I'm talking to him like I used to my old chemistry teacher who made me stay behind after lessons to take me through balancing equations. While she 'explained' to me in what seemed like a foreign language I just stood there nodding and saying things like, "right" and doubtful, "OKs" while really thinking, "what the hell is she saying?".

Knowing how to balance an equation has never helped me.

"I'm Kevin by the way," he reaches out his right hand. I prise my fingers from clutching the armrest and shake his hand.

"Chrissie Monroe."

"Wait," he stops and stares at me like seeing me for the first time. "The Chrissie Monroe?"

I just look at him blankly, unsure how to respond. I've never been called the anything before. Thankfully, he carries on eagerly.

"I read Melinda Cane's interview with you about Vampyr rights in Changing World magazine. I wrote an English paper based on your argument."

In my terror, I remember sitting opposite a journalist in gold hoop earrings large enough to be bracelets and holding a black Monte-Blanc fountain pen.

"Oh… oh that!" I exclaim as I begin to remember more clearly. "Oh yes."

"It's a real pleasure to meet you," he says excitedly.

"So how old are you?" I ask. I turn in my seat to face him.

"I'm twenty," he says, "I'm studying law at Oxbridge."

"You're from England?"

"No, I come from Philadelphia; my mom emigrated to England after she split with my dad. She still lives there but I'm visiting my dad in Las Vegas for the summer."

There is a rumbling sound and the plane begins to violently shake. Without thinking I grab Kevin's hand and close my eyes tight. I know at any second the plane is going to plunge.

"Ladies and gentlemen, we have hit some turbulence, please return to your seats and fasten your seatbelts, thank you!" announces an air hostess in a false, bright voice.

I can hear Kevin laughing. I open my eyes, the plane is still shaking, I can almost see the tin walls beginning to bruise and crumple as the air buffets us. My breathing is ragged and uneven as I try and tackle the tidal wave of fear which has slammed into me.

The plane stops shaking. Kevin is still laughing. I'm embarrassed but I only release his hand when the sign for 'seatbelts on' has been turned off and I'm sure we aren't suddenly going to take a nosedive.

"Hey, it's OK," Kevin grins. "Just turbulence."

I don't look at him; I close my eyes again and concentrate on breathing. I hear the boy sitting next to Kevin retch. The boy's regurgitated lunch of lasagna is now in his mother's lap. For a while all I can hear the distressed shrieks of the mother and the patter of heels as the air hostesses hurry up and down the aisle to mop up the mess.

The mother and son are both in the loos cleaning themselves up.

"I'm sorry," Kevin says apologetically. "I shouldn't have laughed."

No, you shouldn't have, I think furiously but when I shoot him a contemptuously look, his brown eyes are wide with regret.

"That's OK," I say with dignity.

"Anyway, what are you going to do in Las Vegas?" he asks.

Get off this plane, fall to the ground and kiss it.

"I'm staying with a friend who lives there," I answer.

"Oh, not campaigning for Vampyr rights?" he sounds a little disappointed.

"No," I smile. "Just taking time off work to visit a friend."

"You're a detective, right?"

Talking keeps my mind off the flight so in the next half hour Kevin knows almost enough about me to write a short biography. I used to live in California, and then moved east to New York. I explain how I first came to take an interest in the way Vampyres are treated in society, an vague version of what impact that has had on my career in the force and that my sister in getting married in October and on one of my first days as a cop I had managed to forget to put the handbrake on the squad car and it had crashed into a delivery truck.

What I learn about him is that he has a dog called Cory, first got interested in becoming a lawyer watching reruns on Sky of Ally McBeal and has one speeding ticket.

Then we begin to sink below cloud level and touch down in Las Vegas.