Page 7 of 7

No one chooses to go through eternity alone.

Chapter 7: Living for the Weekend

"Howard, did you find anything?" Dt. Vera Washington asked, looking across the aisle to Dt. Russo.

Detectives Vera Washington and Howard Russo were in the middle of validating the alibis of the men Kathryn Dryden serviced when she was a professional escort. It was a task they started at 7am Friday morning and had been working on nonstop for more than three hours. The names of the men that Kathryn escorted were given to them by the agency she was registered with. No contact was being made with these men, but their locations at the time of James Dryden's murder were being checked through records. The fact that nearly all these men did not live in New York state made verification easy.

"I've got a couple names to go," Dt. Russo returned.

Dt. Russo's report that he was two names short of completion captured Vera's interest. Her thought was that Dt. Russo was being held up by a name he could not disqualify as the shooter.

"Is there a hold up with one of them?" Vera eagerly asked.

"Nah. We've got movement on the Gary Bibb murder," Dt. Russo explained dismissively. "I'm looking through it now."

Gary Bibb was the Manhattan South bodega owner who was robbed, shot and killed seventeen days earlier. The job of finding his killer fell to Dt. Hale and his team. An absence of suspects and next to no evidence limited the investigation to CCTV searches for suspicious persons and vehicles around the time of the crime. The one piece of evidence they did have was the mangled .38 caliber bullet that pierced through Gary Bibb's chest and burrowed into the brick wall behind him. By this time in the investigation, the team was mostly convinced that the investigation was doomed to become a cold case that might never be solved.

Vera turned to Dt. Russo with an expression of curiosity and asked, "what kind of movement?"

"We got an E-mail from NIBIN with links to 34 open cases across the country that our bullet could be a match for; four of them are in the county. The most recent is four years old, and the oldest 27 years old," Russo answered.

NIBIN was the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network. Images of the bullet that killed Gary Bibb was sent to NIBIN and compared to the millions of bullets in its database.

"So, they've got nothing," Vera snidely commented.

"Well, it gives us something to look at," Dt. Russo mused.

"No, we don't have time for that," Vera quickly rejected. "Send it to Tremaine," she finished with a toss of her hand.

The conversation between Dt. Russo and Vera was passively being overheard by the team. Cassidy's interest in the exchange went from passive to active the instant she heard her name. Cassidy did not want another ancillary investigation pushed wholly onto her desk. She could see that these solo investigations were keeping her away from the James Dryden case.

"One of the cases is a four-year old shooting in Brooklyn," Dt. Russo announced like a warning.

"You got a name for the shooter or an owner for the gun?" Dt. Vera Washington challenged without hesitation.

"No, it looks like a gang shooting—plenty of suspects there," Dt. Russo responded as he examined the readout on his monitor.

"It's a goose chase," Vera promptly denounced. "Give it to Tremaine."

Cassidy understood the meaning behind the goose chase remark. Without knowing who owned the gun the investigation was slightly better off than where it was before, which was only true if it was the right gun. Cassidy knew the mangled bullet that was dug out of the wall at the crime scene would be difficult to match to a gun, and 34 possible matches told her all were likely mismatches.

Dt. Russo did as Vera suggested and sent the E-mail to Cassidy's inbox. Cassidy was still too busy with the Pier 17 stabbing to devote any attention to the NIBIN report. She was nearly two hours further along in her search for the identifies of hundreds of faces in the concert images when she got a cellphone text from Adrianna that read, across the street. Cassidy examined the message then pocketed the cellphone in her blazer, logged out of her computer, and and started for the squad room exit.

Cassidy's attention to her cellphone and her preparation to leave the squad room went unnoticed by everyone accept Vera. To everyone else, Cassidy's exit from the squad room looked like a typical bathroom or kitchen run, but Vera knew neither of these was the case, there was little that Cassidy did that went unnoticed by her.

"Hey," Vera called out to Cassidy in a hushed voice.

Cassidy stepped over to the side of Vera's desk and responded with a "yeah" in the same hushed tone.

"You should limit your personal life to personal time," Vera nearly whispered with a cautionary frown.

Cassidy took immediate offense to Vera's intrusion, but she stopped herself from acting upon the feeling with a deep breath.

"This is important," Cassidy hissed with marginal contempt.

"Just a friendly suggestion," Vera returned softly and with a phony smile.

Cassidy reacted to Vera's suggestion with a momentary glare, then she walked away with long quick strides. The exchange between her and Vera went unnoticed by most within the squad room and with indifference by the others.

Cassidy made her way down the stairs, through the building and out the front door of the precinct in little more than two minutes. It took her a few seconds to find Brooke wearing a cap and sunglasses and standing in the shadow of a building halfway down the block. Cassidy hesitated a moment to fume at the sight of her, and then she quickly started down the street towards her.

"What do you want?" Cassidy demanded as she stopped in front of Brooke.

"You know what I want," Brooke returned impassively. "I need you to get me out of that jury duty summons."

"I already have," Cassidy snapped back. "I've been assured that you'll get an exemption letter," she continued with a forced calmness.

"You're sure about that?" Brooke queried with a frown.

"Yes, I'm sure," Cassidy insisted with exasperation.

"Okay, okay," Brooke returned in a manner that said she wanted Cassidy to calm down. "I just wanted to know if I needed to take other measures."

Cassidy took a moment to huff out her feeling of aggravation.

"You could have called," Cassidy complained with a scowl. "It's not like I don't have other things to do."

"I told you, we don't talk private business over the phone," Brooke softly reproved.

"And another thing," Cassidy continued to complain. "I don't like you coming to my job."

Brooke took a step toward Cassidy as she smiled in response to her complaint.

"Well, you made it very clear that we're to stay away from your home and family," Brooke softly countered.

Brooke's return annoyed Cassidy even more than she already was. She hesitated to fume at the Dacia Vampire and took satisfaction from the sight of Brooke inching back from the direct sunlight that was beaming onto her shoulder.

"Careful, you almost got a little sun there," Cassidy sarcastically mocked.

Brooke noted Cassidy's snide remark before directing a sly smile at her.

"Although, coming to your house in the evening would be a lot more convenient," Brooke pleasantly suggested.

"Don't even think about it," Cassidy argued back. "If any of you bloodsuckers come to my home, I will expose you all."

Brooke crossed her arms with a hint of defiance before responding.

"You do know that when you shoot that bullet there will be no putting it back in the barrel?"

Cassidy took a long pause while glaring at Brooke, then she spoke in a definitive voice and a point of her finger.

"Stay away from my house and my family."

Cassidy held her stare to give emphasis to her words, then she turned and walked away. Brooke endured Cassidy's displeasure with indifference and walked away a few seconds later.

Tony McGuire had not slept since his Thursday meeting with Ruiz Castellano. He wanted to be awake when the text from Ruiz came because the time and location of the exchange might require immediate action, and he feared his newly adopted habit of sleeping during the day would slow him down. To be sure they were ready, Tony, Jeremiah, Charlie and Ben were now staying inside Jeremiah's home so that they could support each other. The four of them had been awake all of Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and they stayed in because of the possibility that the text might arrive at any time. It was just past 10pm Saturday when Tony decided to break that rule.

"Where are you going?" Jeremiah asked Tony as he came down the stairs in his suitcoat.

"I need to get out" Tony grumbled. "I'm tired of being cooped up."

"Do you want me to drive, boss?" Ben queried while quickly getting up from the dining room table chair.

"No," Tony barked as he walked toward Ben. "Give me the key."

Mildly confused, Ben pulled the car key out of his pocket and handed it over to Tony. According to his memory, Tony never went anywhere alone when he and Charlie were available to drive him. Tony's departure from the norm had Charlie and Jeremiah wondering if there was something more to this need to go out.

"I'll be back in an hour or two," Tony stated as he walked toward the front door.

Tony had no idea where he was going. He was not motivated by a need to go someplace. He was being driven by a want that he was not getting in Jeremiah's house. Because he could not put his finger on exactly what he wanted, Tony felt compelled to move about in the cool, dark-of-night. He hoped the sights, sounds and smells of the world outside would mollify his senses and quiet the tingling irritation spreading out from his core.

Tony had been cruising the streets of Brooklyn for more than thirty minutes when the confine of the vehicle became an unacceptable barrier between him and the world outside. He parked the car on a dimly lit side street and got out to walk. After a short stroll to the nearest intersection, he turned onto a main street that had a dozen or more people loitering about the sidewalks and a steady trickle of cars crisscrossing by. Many of the individuals had the look of being street hustlers and drug dealers. A myriad of aromas flooded his sense of smell and nearly staggered him. But it was not the food cooking in the small eateries or the stench of trash and urine on the street that was overwhelming him. It was the scent of mortals wafting into his olfactory receptors that had him startled. For more than five minutes he savored the smell of each person he passed as he walked up the street. Finally, he realized why he was so antsy in Jeremiah's house, and he stopped to appreciate his new understanding.

"You looking for a date, sweetie?"

The question surprised Tony and awakened him from his reverie. It took him a moment to comprehend that he had been staring at a voluptuous, thirty-plus year-old prostitute with a powerful aroma. She was wearing a black one-piece halter-topped mini dress with a wide V-neckline. Tony quickly realized that it was her proximity that made her scent so potent and the likelihood that she had recently engaged in sex.

"Sorry. I got distracted for a moment," Tony explained with a stoic expression.

"Don't be sorry, sugar," the prostitute returned, stepping forward with a smile. "I have that effect on men," she continued while posing with her hands on her hips.

Tony held his stance and gave the prostitute a look up and down.

"You see something you like?" The prostitute continued.

Tony knew at that instant that she was what he was looking for. He suddenly realized that the cold, bloodless, store bought raw meat had become mediocre faire for his appetite. The taste of Charlie's blood when he was human spoiled him for anything less. Tony knew he could survive on the meat, but it was the rush of energy that he got from fresh warm blood that had him salivating for more. In his mind, the difference between meat and blood was comparable to adding wood or gasoline to a campfire. The invigoration he got from blood was intense and immediate; and the physically drain that came from being awake so over the past three days had him drooling to experience that intensity again.

"Yes," Tony responded to the prostitute after a brief eye to eye stare.

A big smile spread across the prostitute's face as she maneuvered alongside Tony and hooked her arm around his.

"Well, hell, sugar," the prostitute blared with a hefty laugh. "Spend some money on a girl and we can have a good time."

Tony accepted the attention of the prostitute with a pleasant smile.

"How much money would I have to spend for a good time?" Tony asked with a sideways glance.

"Honey, a hundred will put a smile on your face for thirty minutes, and three will keep you grinning for an hour."

Tony quickly scanned the area indicating that he was interest in having this good time.

"Let's say that I only have thirty minutes to spare," Tony suggested. "Where do you suggest we go?"

"No problem, sugar." the prostitute promptly countered with a smile. "I know just the place."

With her arm looped around his, the prostitute ushered Tony down the block to the intersection and around the corner. A short distance down the side street was a nondescript three-story brick building. The prostitute led Tony to the front door of the building and stopped. She rapped lightly on the door which quickly opened. A scruffy man who looked to be in his forties and of average height and build gave the prostitute a look and then let them pass. The prostitute led Tony to the staircase near the front entrance and up to the second level. As she led him down the hall, Tony's keen hearing detected movement and voices of other people in the building, some—of—which were achieving climax. The prostitute guided Tony to a room at the left end of the hall. When they were through the doorway, she closed the door and turned to look at Tony with a serious stare.

"Show me the money," the prostitute asked with a mixture of insistence and petulance in her delivery.

Tony pulled out the thin wad of bills he kept in his hip pocket and held it up for the prostitute to see. A wide smile quickly spread across the prostitute's face.

"So, what are we talking about, sugar. For a hundred I can give you hand job, and for two I can give you blow."

"A hand job will do," Tony answered unceremoniously.

"You sure about that, sugar?" The prostitute questioned back in a sultry voice. "For three-hundred you get the full treatment."

Tony peeled off one-hundred dollars from his wad of bills in response to her offer.

"The hand job will be enough," Tony declared as he dropped the money on the bed.

"Okay, sugar," the prostitute cheerfully agreed as she collected the money off the bed. "You're the customer," she continued while stowing the money in her halter top.

When she finished putting her money away, she turned toward Tony with a wide smile and gave him a gentle push onto the bed. She eased down beside him while sliding her hand up his thigh. She looked down into Tony's lap, found his zipper and started undoing it. She glanced up into Tony's face and was suddenly startled by the light in his eyes. She stopped and caught her breath. A moment later, Tony parted his lips and the sight of four elongated canine teeth terrified her. She thought to run, but Tony quickly clasped his left hand over her mouth. Almost in that same instant, he reached across her back with his right arm and grabbed her shoulder, pulling her head down to his chest. She struggled, but his strength was too great by far. In a little more than two seconds, Tony had her squirming across his lap with his fangs buried deep into her neck. A minute later she was listless. Tony tossed her backwards onto the bed and went back to feeding from the wound in her neck. Two minutes later, the prostitute was dead.

Tony felt an intensified sensation of vigor and power. Without thinking, he stood and expressed his enhanced feeling of wellbeing with a roar. Several seconds later, his emotions began to calm, and then he looked down on what he had done. At that moment he began considering the question—what do I do now? Up until this moment, Tony's thoughts were focused on what he wanted. His craving for warm blood had suppressed all thought of danger and consequence. It was only now that his thoughts were entertaining concerns about being seen and identified. He suspected that if he left alone by the way he came, the doorman would certainly remember him. He considered but realized that killing the doorman was also problematic; a disturbance at the front door would attract the attentions of others in the building and possibly more in the street.

Tony shortly realized that the money he gave the prostitute was the only thing in the room that had his fingerprints on it. He removed the money from beneath her halter-top and then used tissues from a box on the dresser to open the door to the room. He unobtrusively walked to the staircase and went up to the next level and then to the next as quickly and quietly as he could. When he reached a locked door at the top of the third flight of stairs, Tony rammed his shoulder into it and broke it open. He then raced out onto the roof of the building. Without hesitating, Tony ran across the rooftops of the buildings with ease. Height differentials between rooftops and the spaces between them were traversed with little detriment to his forward momentum. When Tony reached the far end of the block, he climbed down the side of the building in three quick drops from handhold to handhold. When he reached the ground, he walked away as though nothing had happened.