"What do you mean, Cynthia was attacked?!" Madison screeched into her cell phone.
"It's all right, boss!" Gary yelled right back at her. He and Bea were probably the only two in the club that could get away with it assuming that Bea ever showed enough emotion to actually yell. "She's fine! She got a little scared is all. You know everyone at the club was warned about this bitch. I promise you, none of mine are going to get hurt!"
Madison took large gulps of air to try to calm her racing heart. Gary should have known better than to tell her that one of her waitresses had been attacked without first telling her that the girl was safe and unharmed. When she felt in sufficient control of her voice, Madison asked her second-in-command and Beta of the DC Pack to tell her exactly what had happened and why one of her waitresses was even in a position to be attacked by the lamia. Okay, maybe she didn't have full control of her emotions yet. She could hear the big man take a deep gulp of his own before he complied with his boss' demand.
"It happened last night, boss," he said slowly and clearly, his deep voice trying hard to not betray his fear. "The club had shut down and everyone, just like you said, was leaving in two's or three's to head towards their cars. Cynthia, Meghan, and Josh were heading out when Cynthia said she forgot something and ran back. She had her key in the door when she heard a sound behind her. She turned around and saw a redhead in a green dress not wearing a coat or anything despite the cold. She realized who it was immediately and just barely made it inside and pulled the door shut before she heard something slam into the door. It almost buckled from the impact but it held. Like I said, she got scared, and she knows never to do anything so foolish again, but she's fine. Nothing wrong with her except stupidity; and that's kind of normal for her," he sighed.
"Everyone else is safe? No one hurt?" Madison asked worriedly.
"Everyone's fine, boss," the huge were grinned over the phone at her mother hen attitude.
"Good! All right," Madison said softly, "here's what's going to happen from now on. I want everyone to park in the garage,"
"There's not enough parking spaces, boss," Gary interrupted her.
"Then they can carpool dammit!" the vampire erupted. "Or I'll call in my chit with Jonathan and have the Pack give them rides to and from the club! I don't care how you do it, Gary, but I want my people safe!"
"Calm down, Madison!" Gary spat in the voice that he saved for use only with his pack subordinates. It actually seemed to work as the vamp shut up in surprise. "There's no need to call in the Alpha on this. I've got it, all right? I'll figure it out and get it done. Jeez, Mom!"
It was his whining like an aggrieved and put upon teenager that finally broke through Madison's panic over the safety of those she considered part of her family. It even elicited a quiet giggle before she coughed and forced her face into a frown before she spoke. She knew it didn't matter, Gary's keen hearing had to have heard the giggle, but she had to at least try to keep up appearances. "All right, I'll put my trust in you, Gary, but you know what I want. Consider each and every one of those people as you would a member of your pack. They're my family, and I refuse to lose a family member…not another one," she whispered, thinking of Alicia, and Mirabelle, and all those others that she had, for one reason or another, been unable to protect.
"Understood, Madison," he replied almost as quietly. "I know what you mean."
Madison, Raphe, Bea, Janet, and Steve had been enjoying a quiet nightcap in the hotel bar before they headed off to bed when Gary's call had come in just before one in the morning. They had all heard at least Madison's side of the conversation. Bea was behind the bar, her hands worriedly twisting the towel she had been using to wipe the counter, but Steve was desperately waving his hands trying to get the raven haired woman's attention. He was bouncing on his stool like a kid hopped up on too much sugar and caffeine in his excitement, a wide smile on his face. "Jeez, what is it Steve?" Madison sighed.
"I've got an idea," he grinned wickedly.
"Oh, shit!" both Raphe and Janet muttered simultaneously.
The flight back into Dulles International Airport was uneventful if tiring. Gary had started in on the preparations for Steve's idea as soon as he hung up the phone. It had taken the workmen three days and over thirty thousand dollars of Madison's money, but they had finally completed the work that had been requested of them. Now it was just a matter of sitting back and waiting.
"She's hungry, but she's also got an ego a mile wide," Steve told his wife, daughter, and his daughter's girlfriend one evening later that week. "And she's got a grudge against you," he said, using his beer mug to point to the blue eyed vampire sitting in the booth across from him and his wife. "She could go for easier prey, but she won't."
"I'm not saying you're wrong, Dad," Raphe sighed, "but it's been almost a week since she tried to attack Cynthia. I know it's not much of a statistical sampling, but she only waited seven or eight days after attacking Alicia before she killed Leslie Springs. And it's been almost two weeks since Madison battled her behind the Watergate."
"There haven't been any reports of attacks that match her MO, dear," Janet pointed out. "I agree with your father."
"I hope you're right," the sniper sighed again and took a sip of her drink. Madison had been oddly quiet throughout the argument. In fact she hadn't said much of anything since they had returned from Tokyo. Raphe knew she was preparing herself for what was to come, but her silence and her somber mood worried the brunette nonetheless; that and the fact that she now never went anywhere without her Masamune tachi. At present the long sword was between the vampire's legs and resting against the blood red leather of the booth's seat, its cord wrapped hilt sticking up above the level of the table. The final symptom of her mood was the mug of now cold hot chocolate that had sat untouched in front of her for over half an hour.
Josh, one of the bartenders, got Raphe's attention and nodded towards a pair of waitresses that were heading out on break. The two women were meandering towards the elevator that would take them down to the building's garage level where they had all been taking their breaks since the attack on Cynthia. As soon as they pressed the down button on the elevator's control panel the lights in the club flickered once, twice, and then a third time.
Madison was out of her seat and half way across the club before Raphe had even had an opportunity to slide out of the booth.
"GARY!" Raphe yelled above the noise of the club, but the werewolf was already ahead of her and hammering his fist against a very large and very bright red button that had been recently installed on the wall near his station. Raphe caught up with the vampire just as the elevator doors opened; the two waitresses jumping back and away from the look on their boss' face. The ponytailed brunette slipped in to stand next to her lover, checking that her Glock was fully loaded and ready for the battle that was about to begin. She could hear a rhythmic metallic clanging and screeching long before the doors to the elevator slid open.
The underground garage for Night Dreams looked and sounded like a war zone. Cars had been smashed, concrete rubble from both the ceiling as well as the battered support beams littered the floor. As they watched a massive green tail caught and flipped a BMW Z4 on top of a Mercedes 230 SLK, leaving the Toyota Tercel parked between the two vehicles untouched, before swinging back to slam once again into the newly installed titanium gate that had automatically dropped when Gary had hit the emergency button. Two inch thick titanium rods had sprung from the walls on either side to mesh with the gate and form an impenetrable barrier through which their quarry could not escape no matter how hard she tried to batter it down. And above all else could be heard the piercing screams of an enraged lamia.
To Raphe it appeared as if Samantagila had lost all grasp of whatever small amount of sanity she might at one time have claimed.
The human looking part of the snake-woman was almost emaciated from lack of her normal diet. Her hair was a filthy, wild mane of red that floated in every direction as she spun about, slamming her already wounded tail against the immovable gate. Blood flew in every direction from the myriad of small wounds she had already inflicted upon herself in her mindless frenzy. Just barely healed wounds from their previous battle reopened each time she flailed uselessly against the gate, the decimated cars tossed about the parking garage, or the support beams that shivered with each blow and loosed pebble and stone sized pieces of concrete shrapnel.
"She's nothing more than a wild animal," Raphe gasped.
"More like a rabid beast," Madison corrected her partner in a voice devoid of emotion. "And just as deadly. Don't take any chances Raphe. Stay back and let me handle her."
Raphe didn't say a word, simply nodded her agreement and readied her own weapon as the shining blade of the tachi slid from its black lacquered scabbard.
Between one rapid heartbeat and another, the vampire had sped across the garage's concrete floor to try to engage the enemy. Pieces of jagged, shattered concrete flew almost as quickly as bullets as Madison kicked them towards the lamia as she raced across the floor. The fusillade wasn't designed to cause major damage, only to distract the insane beast as they exploded to left and right against the inner walls of the garage as the vampire stalked the monster. Raphe thought her partner would go in for an immediate killing blow, but she surprised her by suddenly stopping just out of reach of that wildly swinging tail.
"SAMANTAGILA!" Madison called out in a voice that reverberated within the garage.
It could have been the sound of her name, or hearing the voice of her hated antagonist, but the lamia froze for a moment before her head turned agonizingly slowly, her crazed emerald green eyes unerringly finding her most despised opponent. There was nothing rational within those eyes, only a bestial cunning that superseded all possibility of humanity.
"Missstressssss," the beast hissed.
"Samantagila," Madison began her liturgy. "For crimes against the preternatural community and for the murder most foul of Alicia Daniels and Leslie Springs, The Council finds you guilty by your own prior admission," she whispered only loud enough for the three of them to hear. "For such crimes you are hereby sentenced to death, said sentence to be carried out immediately."
"Ssssooo, you think that you can kill a goddesssss? Jusst sseee if you can. You will die jusst like all the otherss; jusst like the ssmall, inssignificant insssect that you are." She laughed, an insane laughter that echoed throughout the walls of the garage until her tail suddenly struck out in a lightning quick movement that would have impaled the vampire on a spear of green scales and muscle if she hadn't already been moving.
Starting just three feet from the tip of that tail a red line appeared as scales parted; split asunder by the exquisite craftsmanship and magic of a master swordsmith now dead for over six hundred and fifty years. Despite its flailing, the line of blood and tissue unerringly marched up the tail until that smith's finest product buried itself to the hilt through the creature's heart; two small hands clutching its hilt. There was a moment of pure silence, as if the entire world held its breath, which was then shattered by a scream of rage and agony that shook the building to its foundations and could be heard all the way to the White House where a weary President held his frightened and trembling wife wondering what under God's heaven could make such a horrendous sound.
Madison stood upon the beast's breast as it slowly slumped to the ground, unmoving, its chest slowly deflating as the air in its lungs was expended for the last time.
For Raphe it had all seemed to happen almost too quickly. One second the beast was writhing upon the broken concrete, fighting to kill its attacker; the next it was all over except for the final coup de grace. The ponytailed brunette walked slowly across the rubble strewn parking lot, keeping a wary eye on that massive tail that had caused so much damage. Madison wrenched the sword from the lamia's no longer beating heart, her breath coming in heavy pants as if she had run an entire marathon in just those few precious seconds. Raphe held out her hand to assist the vampire to the ground. As Madison took her hand, Raphe slipped the sword into her own, transferring it to her right hand.
"Raphe?" Madison whispered with confusion.
"Please, let me. You've done your duty. Allow me to finish this for you." Before Madison could even reply the sword flashed and a head of red hair separated from the torso to which it had been attached for over a millennium.
If you have ever seen a snake right after its head has been cut off you know exactly what happened next. Unfortunately, both Raphe and Madison had forgotten.
The body of the lamia immediately went into violent convulsions, its tail curling and whipping about haphazardly at lightning speed. The vampire didn't even have time to scream as that long, heavy tail caught Raphe in the middle of her back with a sound similar to that of an eighteen-wheeler hitting a deer at high speed. Raphe's body was flung haphazardly across the garage to smack wetly into the one of the unyielding concrete walls before it crumpled almost gracefully to the ground; a bag of broken and shattered bones and exploded organs.
"RAPHE!" Madison screamed as she flew to her lover's side to cradle that bloody, ponytailed head to her bosom before it could hit the floor. "RAPHE!" she screamed again in shock, unable to believe that the woman she loved could be taken from her with no warning. "Raphe!" she cried out a third time, tears flowing unendingly down her cheeks. She heard but did not comprehend the wail of anguish that came from the throat of a mother that had just watched her child die before her eyes over a dozen closed circuit cameras. "Raphe," the black haired woman cried again, not wanting to believe that the mass of bloody flesh in her arms was the body of her love.
"M-Mad," swollen and split lips breathed silently as sightless grey eyes fluttered open. "Ma-di-son."
"Oh, Raphe," Madison wept, burying her face into Raphe's torn and battered ribcage. "Why?"
"Don't talk, love. Please, don't talk," she cried softly. "Save your strength."
"Mad…don't…let…me...go," Raphe breathed with almost no sound.
"Never, love. Never."
Raphe's eyes closed, what little strength she had focused only on her lips and tongue. "L-love…you…don't…let…go."
"I know," Madison whispered. "I love you too, Raphe," she murmured, the last hint of Raphe's breath brushing past her lips as she kissed her love's warm lips for the last time.
Almost One Month Later
Bea flashed her card key in front of the reader on the wall and turned the door's handle when she heard the click that indicated the release of the magnetic lock on the door to her boss' penthouse apartment. Despite the fact that it was a Sunday and she was expected, there were no tantalizing odors of eggs or bacon awaiting her as she entered the suite and closed the door behind her. Nor had she really been expecting any.
The past month had been filled with long hours of research interspersed with nowhere near enough hours of sleep. Over that time her boss had methodically and relentlessly hunted down and killed two more former members of the Council's Conservative Party. Only Rostovich and Larouche himself remained unaccounted for. Councilman Perrin had admitted to having contacted and set the lamia Samantagila against the ageless vampire in order to divert her attention away from their own activities. He had died an especially long and excruciatingly painful death as the emotionless killing machine Madison had become applied the death-by-a-thousand-cuts technique to end his worthless life. In comparison Martha Anderson, the American witch, had met a much swifter end when her head was removed from her shoulders atop a remote mountain peak in North Dakota.
Bea turned the coffee maker on and reached up into the cabinet above to pull out a K-cup of her favorite medium roast and one of Madison's dark roasts while the water heated. It was the smell of the coffee more than anything else that finally pulled a sleepy and still exhausted Madison from her bed and into the kitchen.
"Mornin' Bea," the vampire yawned, just barely covering her mouth in time to protect her friend and employee from a horrendous bout of morning breath. Her hair was still a mass of tangled, lank strings and knots that would take more than a half hour to brush out; assuming she bothered. Except for her hunts and kills, the blue eyed vampire had rarely left the confines of her rooms so she saw no reason to pretty herself up. "Did you bring it?"
"In my bag," the tall blonde replied with a nod of her head in the direction of the large purse set on the kitchen table. She handed Madison her mug of coffee before turning to answer the quiet knock at the front door. She let Janet and Steve in and then returned to the kitchen to fix them some drinks.
"You look like shit, Madi," Janet told the disheveled vamp as she gratefully accepted a cup of Earl Grey from Bea.
"Gee, thanks Janet," the raven haired woman replied tonelessly. "I haven't slept in three days and could care less what you think I look like."
"Humph! Someone got up on the wrong side of the coffin this morning," the older woman quipped with a sad smile.
"Ha, ha, ha. So very funny."
"Come on," the CIA instructor sighed as she put her tea down and grabbed the vampire's hand, dragging her back towards the bedroom. "You desperately need a shower and, ugh, to brush your teeth," she said, covering her nose with her hand.
"Hey!" Madison complained ineffectually, allowing herself to be manhandled back to her room, making sure not to spill a drop of her precious coffee on the way.
"I see she's no better," Steve commented to Bea as the door slammed shut behind the protesting woman.
"Nope," the tall blonde deadpanned. "Unless she's on the hunt she could care less what she looks like or who sees her. Even then she only pulls her hair back into a ponytail so it won't get in her way. I haven't seen her in anything but sweats or camo since," she faltered.
"Since Raphael died," Steve finished for her in a soft but gentle voice.
Bea shrugged, still unable to give voice to that particular phrase without breaking down into tears; something she adamantly refused to do.
"Has she really not slept in three days?" the man asked.
"More like five," Bea told him. "She's lost all track of time. All she does is sit in her bedroom with the shades down and drapes pulled tight waiting to see if I find anything regarding the whereabouts of the last two members of the Conservative Party. I don't know if she's even seen the sun in the last week."
"That's not good for her health. She can't keep this up."
"Try telling her that." A shriek of outrage floated through the bedroom door. "I think Janet forgot to turn on the hot water," Bea smirked.
At least that's what Steve thought she had done. It was still hard for him to tell even after all the time they had spent together tracking down the elusive former members of the Council. He thought he had caught her frowning one time, but it had disappeared so swiftly he wasn't sure he had really seen it. It had almost become a game between the two to see if he could get her to show some modicum of emotion. It was a game the former volleyball player appeared to somewhat enjoy to pass the time as a replacement for her Guess-Madison's-Age game that had finally come to its conclusion. He just couldn't be sure.
Almost an hour after she had been dragged off, Madison and Janet finally emerged from the master bedroom. The change in the two-thousand year old woman was like night and day. She wore skinny black jeans and a blood red silk blouse with onyx buttons. A silver cross dangled from a chain and nestled between her small breasts. Her beautiful raven black hair had been washed and conditioned such that it almost sparkled as it tried to drink the room's light at the same time. With the new outfit on it was easy to see that the vampire had lost a significant amount of weight over the past four weeks. Even still she looked good. As far as Steve was concerned she was still the most beautiful undead woman on the east coast. Only her eyes were unchanged as those normally sparkling sapphire orbs remained flat and dull, devoid of all life and emotion.
Bea took the empty coffee mug from Madison's outstretched hand and placed a fresh cup into her grasping fingers. A swift, deep gulp brought a sigh of relief from the vampire.
"Much better," Steve smiled, giving his wife a thumb up for her efforts.
"She didn't make it easy on me," the brown haired woman chuckled as she swiped at the damp spots on her blouse.
"Still, she actually is beginning to look a little human again," Bea quipped. This time Steve was sure he had seen a brief half-smile cross her features. He took it as a good sign.
"Oh, go sit on it and," Madison never finished her statement as she suddenly fled the room at a run, almost taking her bedroom door off its hinges in her haste. "BEA!" she screamed a moment later.
"My master calls," the club manager actually smiled as she grabbed her purse and quickly ran to follow the yell.
"Shall we," Steve asked his wife, holding his arm out in offering.
"I guess we should," Janet grinned widely.
The two walked sedately into the master bedroom. Bea was throwing the drapes open wide and pulling up the shade as Madison knelt on the bed.
"Slowly! Drink slower dammit!" Madison ordered the bed's sole occupant in a tone of voice that would brook no argument.
Steve and Janet moved to join Bea where she stood at the foot of the large bed, a bigger smile on her face than either of them had ever seen even as tears flowed freely down her cheeks to fall to the carpet beneath her feet.
In the bed, the comforter pulled up so that only her shoulders, arms and head could be seen, Raphe sucked greedily at a bag of red Type O blood. Another bag filled with plasma lay on the bed near Madison's knee just waiting for her lover to finish the first bag.
"Welcome back dear," Janet managed to squeeze though her emotion constricted windpipe as she and her husband gazed teary-eyed on their newly revived daughter.
When she had finished the second bag, Raphe fell back against the pillow with a deeply satisfied sigh. She then turned to look Madison in the eye and, before anyone could move, faster than a thought, she pulled her blue eyed lover into a kiss so passionate it would probably have killed a normal human.
"I love you, Madison," she whispered when she finally allowed the much older woman to breath. "I love you so much!"
"I love you too, dear," Madison replied softly as she ran her fingers through Raphe's now much longer hair. Tears started flowing unchecked from those deep blue eyes. "I'm so sorry," she hiccupped until Raphe put a finger on her lips, stopping her abruptly.
"I'm not," she smiled up into her lover's eyes. "It hurt for a bit, but the gift of being able to be with you for as long as you will have me is worth it." With that she captured Madison's lips one more time, this time with a tenderness and love that was palpable to everyone in the room.
"OH!" the brunette exclaimed as she suddenly sat back, eyes wide and sparkling with mirth as she gazed at the group surrounding her. "I almost forgot!"
"What, love?" Madison grinned, taking her lover's hands within her own, not bothering with the tears still staining her cheeks.
"Mirabelle said to tell you hello, and to remind you, um, something about the Reverend James Blair?" she finished, scratching her head while trying to remember what exactly it was that her great-grandmother had told her.
The smile that graced Madison's lips at the sound of that name was both wistful and loving as she looked into the face of the woman she intended to spend the rest of her very long life with. It was the right Reverend James Blair of Williamsburg that had secretly joined her and Mirabelle together in marriage late one February night before the candlelit alter of Bruton Parish church with only God and the Virgin Mary as their witnesses.
"Maybe later," she smiled, bending down to brush her lips once more against those of her love. Raphe's lips were no longer as warm as they had been, but neither were they the cold of the grave. "For now, baby vamps need their rest."
"Screw that! I've just been dead for almost a month! Besides," she smirked, a certain something in her eye, "there's something I just need to check on."
"And on that note," Bea said quickly, ushering the new vampire's parents unceremoniously out the door. "You can talk with your parents later," she called over her shoulder, turning only briefly to give the two on the bed an evil grin, wondering if the time Janet spent on making Madison presentable was really worth the effort given the fact that the blouse was already in shreds on the floor and the jeans were following quickly. "Much later!" she laughed loudly, startling everyone into an instant of immobility before a pair of black lace panties hit her in the face.
She closed the door quietly behind her and headed back out towards the family room intending to take Raphe's parents down to the first floor of the club where, if they were very lucky, the moans and screams that would shortly be coming from that bedroom would at least be somewhat muffled.
At that same moment, a little more than fourteen hundred miles away in the city of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, the two sole surviving former members of the Conservative Party sat down to lunch at a local restaurant. The two men spoke quietly of their grand schemes for the future, completely unaware of the demon hidden from their sight, just watching and waiting.
He could be patient. He didn't overly enjoy doing so, but it was one of the few things he had learned in his years of existence that could be measured in the tens of thousands. All things come to he who waits. So he could wait the weeks, months, or even years it might take until he finally obtained another wonderful soul to torment for a millennium or two before he finally tired of it and fed it to his familiar. At the moment he was much more concerned with what was happening up here in the human realm. It seemed that, for the first time in so very, very long, things were starting to get interesting again. And who should be involved but a very dear, very old friend.
"What have you been up to while I was away my dear Madison?" he snickered.