Thicker Than Blood
Outline and Writing by Todd Jensen.
Previously on Gargoyles…
As the female anchor stood before the steps of the 23rd Precinct, her serious look and crisp voice being captured by the standing cameraman and sound technician just a few feet in front of her, she relayed an air of urgency that was reflected in her blue eyes.
"From mysterious explosions, to the mass reports of fantasy phenomena that have gripped the entire island over the past week, it is safe to say that whatever the experts find out may be too fantastic to believe. And we are not alone. Reports of similar events have been reported from all over the world: from as far away as Japan, South America, England, and Czechoslovakia."
"While scientists argue over what is the cause of these bizarre events, the citizens of Manhattan, and the world, are forced to find their own answers. Are these signs of a coming apocalypse? With the year 2000 right around the corner, only time will tell."
~ Aftermath, Part 2
* * *
"Why'd you do it, Vince?" Dracon asked, looking him in the eye now that he had his attention. "You were gonna sell out humanity, man. What were you thinking?"
Vince balled his hands into fists. He could feel the energy surging inside him. He could probably incinerate them all before Glasses even had time to pull off one shot. But instead, he resisted, fighting the rage, fighting the urge to use the powers he should never have accepted in the first place - the powers that had already cost him his humanity.
"I don't know, Mr. Dracon," he answered at last, truthfully. He shrugged miserably. "Maybe I just wasn't thinking at all."
* * *
Hudson frowned at Lexington's bitter tone of voice. "He's gone, laddie," the old soldier reminded. "Don't be givin' him life by holdin' on to yuir hate. Let it go."
Lexington looked up sharply at the clan's eldest member. "I'm not!" he protested automatically, then realized that he was. "Well," he conceded, "maybe I am. But... he caused so much damage and hurt so many people! I can't help it!"
The stocky warrior nodded as he began to circle down toward the warehouses. "I know," he acknowledged. "But if you live in the past with the pain, then he's won again." Hudson looked at his younger companion with his one good eye. "Hasn't he?"
The web-winged gargoyle's eyes shifted away from his elder and his body stiffened with effort as his emotions warred. After several long moments he replied, "I won't let him do that to me. I won't let Madoc win again."
~ Seeds of Change
The wind whistled shrilly as it blew around the old mansion. It stirred the leaves of the trees growing upon the grounds, and even plucked a few off, to whirl them away into the distance. The grass waved beneath it, swaying back and forth, almost like waves at sea.
Harker stood upon the front porch by the door, his hands thrust into his coat pockets, shivering. It was a fairly warm night, but the temperature was not the reason for his discomfort. He gazed up at the clouded sky, staring intently at it for any shapes that might be flitting about above.
"Mr. Harker, I presume?"
Harker spun around at once as he heard the voice, a deep one with a faint accent, behind him. Then he sighed with relief as he saw the speaker, a tall, gaunt man with a thick moustache, standing stiffly at attention upon the porch. "Oh, it's you, Mr. Tepes," he said. "And Mrs. Tepes, as well," he added, seeing the attractive middle-aged woman accompanying Mr. Tepes. "Um - good evening to you both."
Mr. Tepes nodded in a formal manner. "You were expecting someone other than us?" he asked.
"I was afraid that it might be some gargoyles," said the old caretaker. "This is just the sort of night that they're likely to show up, after all."
"Indeed?" asked Mr. Tepes. He sounded mildly interested, though more in the detached manner of casual curiosity than of obsessive inquiry. "Then there is the possibility of gargoyle sightings in this area?"
Harker nodded. "Very much so," he said. "Those things have been prowling around New York for the last three years, at least. Maybe even more. And I have to tell you, they still give me the creeps." He shivered. "They look like giant bats, almost."
"I was always rather partial to bats, myself," said Tepes, in a slightly distant tone of voice. "They can be very useful in keeping the mosquito population down. But these gargoyles," he continued, "have they been seen in this particular neighborhood, then?"
"They've been seen in practically every neighborhood in this city," Harker answered. He sighed. "I know that the PIT Crew says that they're not evil monsters and that they don't mean us any harm. But all the same, whenever I see one of those things flying overhead - it just gives me the shivers. I'm thinking of moving to Buffalo once I retire - just as long as the gargoyles don't start showing up there."
"I feel that I can tolerate the presence of such beings," replied Tepes calmly. "According to what I've heard, they generally keep to themselves, do they not?"
"Well, that's what the PIT Crew says," replied Harker. "Unless you're a criminal. But still -"
"Well, this is all very interesting, but I doubt that we have time to discourse on such matters," Tepes broke in. "Now, you are going to show us around the house, are you not?"
"Oh, yes," said Harker. He pulled out a ring of keys from his pocket, and looked through it for a few minutes before he found the key that he was looking for. He quickly unlocked the front door with it, and swung it open with a creak. "Just come inside with me, if you please?"
"Thank you very much," said Tepes, nodding. He and his wife followed the man inside.
Their steps rang through the dusty entrance hall of the mansion. The Tepes couple looked about thoughtfully, both appearing to be almost sniffing the air. Mrs. Tepes examined the cobwebs festooning the walls, and then spoke. 'This house has been empty for a long time, then?"
"Twenty years," replied Harker. "That's when Jacob Varney died. He was the last of the family, and left the house and grounds to the city in his will. We've been looking after it ever since."
"And the city has not decided to demolish it?" she asked. She spoke with a similar slight accent, although not quite identical to her husband's. There was keen interest in her eyes as she took in everything: the dusty drapery, the faded portraits, the cobweb-coated chandelier mounted over the grand staircase leading to the upper storeys.
"It can't," said Harker. "There was a special clause in Mr. Varney's will about that. They can't tear it down unless it's too run-down to live in any longer. And it hasn't reached that point just yet."
"I am glad of that," said Tepes, with an approving nod. "Coming from an old family as I do, I find I much prefer this variety of dwelling-place. These Gothic-style mansions have a comforting atmosphere about them. The air about them is much richer than that of some common apartment building. I am certainly pleased that this abode is available for myself and my family. Not all of us, after all, can afford to emulate Mr. David Xanatos and transport an entire castle over here from the old country."
"I'm glad that you like it, sir," said Harker. "Now, if you'll follow me this way, please, we have the dining hall over here."
They followed him into the next room. Mrs. Tepes looked at the large window, heavily curtained, that ran alongside the dusty banquet table, and frowned. "We'll want to do something about this before we move in, won't we?" she said to her husband in a low voice.
"Indeed," he said, nodding. "But then again, we knew from the beginning that there would be some necessary remodellings. This can scarcely come as a surprise to us."
"True, true," she said.
"You and your predecessors have done an excellent job of upkeep on this place, Mr. Harker," said Tepes, turning his attention back to the caretaker. "It seems to have remained undamaged by age."
"Thank you, Mr. Tepes," said Harker. "Although it hasn't always been easy. Especially not with the last two winters that we've had in this city."
"Ah, yes," said Tepes. "The infamous severe winters that New York has recently experienced. I must confess myself more than a little curious about them. You wouldn't have any ideas as to what caused them, now, would you?"
Harker shook his head. "No, sir," he said. "A meteorologist might be able to tell you, but I'm just a caretaker. I don't know much about this sort of thing."
"It was more than just odd winters, as well," said Mrs. Tepes. "I understand from what I have heard that there were some - unusual sightings in the last couple of years. Sightings of strange beings other than gargoyles."
"Well, that's what the Daily Tattler said," Harker replied. "But that's all that I know, sir. Really."
Tepes nodded resignedly. "I see," he said. "Well, I'll not press you any further then on that matter. Whatever caused it, it has now ended anyway. Continue showing us the rest of the house, if you please."
Harker nodded, and walked ahead of them towards the next room. Tepes turned to his wife, and spoke in a low voice. "Well, he knows nothing, at least."
"You're certain of that, then?" she asked. "If he is merely feigning ignorance, we can always extract the truth from him."
"That'll hardly be necessary, Elizabeth," Tepes replied. "I can tell when a man is merely pretending that he does not possess knowledge, and when he truly does not have it, and this man is clearly of the latter. That means that we will simply have to question others more knowledgeable than he."
"And if we cannot find them?" Elizabeth asked.
"We will find them," Tepes replied. "In all of New York, there must be one person who knows what really happened when the Banished Ones came. And we will find that person, and learn the full tale from him or her, before we leave this city."
* * * * *
Three Weeks Later
"And that concludes our main story tonight on 'Nightwatch'," Travis Marshall was saying on the television screen. "And now, our 'Manhattan Oddities' segment, with Nicole St. John."
"Thank you, Travis," Nicole said, as the picture on the screen immediately switched to her, standing outside a frowning Gothic mansion. "Tonight on 'Manhattan Oddities', we bring you New York City's latest oddity: Mr. and Mrs. Vladimir Tepes."
Lexington and the twins looked up from the hand-held video game that Lexington had been repairing at the television screen. Hudson had already been watching it thoughtfully from his recliner, while Bronx continued to contentedly chew on his bone as he sprawled out beside it.
"I know that house," the little web-winged gargoyle said. "Isn't that the old Varney place? The one that's been abandoned for years?"
"It doesn't seem to be abandoned any more," replied Hudson, stroking his beard.
"The Tepes couple and their household moved here recently, taking up their home in Varney House. As some of our viewers may recall, this mansion was built by William Varney in 1847, and served as the residence for his descendants since then until twenty years ago, when the last Varney died and left the house to the city. Only three weeks ago, however, Vladimir Tepes purchased Varney House, and has now moved in with his wife Elizabeth, their children Imre and Mikaela, and their valet, Mr. Walter Ferguson.
"We unfortunately know extremely little about Mr. Tepes. He has, to date, declined all interviews since moving to New York, as have all the members of his household. All that we know is that he moved here from Devonshire, England, and is of Romanian descent. The Tepes family was driven out of Romania following its Communist takeover in 1947, where they were once members of the aristocracy. They have, however, preserved their family fortune, and remain very wealthy. In fact, they could rank alongside David Xanatos and Fox as members of New York's social elite, if it was not for their extremely reclusive nature."
Lexington frowned troubledly, as he stared at the screen. He said nothing as yet, however, but merely continued to fix his gaze on the television, not even blinking.
"While the Tepes have refused to grant interviews," the blonde reporter continued, "they have still, from time to time, met with city officials, including the Mayor, City Council, and Police Commissioner to ask various questions about recent events in New York. Most of these concern the recent harsh winters that this city has experienced in the last two years, and the reported sightings of mythological creatures, particularly those on the night of April 30 earlier this year. Mr. Tepes has as yet not given any reason for his interest in this matter, beyond a general interest in the paranormal. However -"
She was suddenly interrupted by a loud cough from a short, powerfully-built man with a very pale face, dressed in formal dark clothing, who had walked up suddenly from behind her and was now staring at her in a disapproving fashion. She turned around at once to face him, only nonplussed for a moment. "Good evening," she said, holding out her microphone to him. "And you are -"
"I am Walter Ferguson, Vladimir Tepes' personal assistant, Ms. St. John," said the newcomer coldly. His grey eyes continued to glower at her as he spoke.
"Ah, yes, I see," she said. "And is there anything that you would like to tell our viewers, Mr. Ferguson. Anything relating to your employer?"
"Indeed I do," said Ferguson, his voice even frostier. "He wants you and your fellow bloodsuckers to leave these premises at once. And that means, this very moment."
"I beg your pardon?" Nicole asked.
"You are to leave at once," Ferguson repeated. "You are trespassing on my master's property, and disturbing his privacy. We are giving you five minutes to pack up and depart, before we inform the police about your presence."
"Now, see here, Mr. Ferguson!" Nicole began indignantly. "Maybe you do things differently back in Europe, but over here in America, we have something called 'freedom of the press'! You have no right to muzzle us for what we are doing here, and -"
"I beg to differ with you, Ms. St. John," Ferguson retorted. "We have every right. This country of yours also has laws about the inviolability of privacy, laws which you and your crew are disregarding at this moment. If you media parasites continue to remain here, prying into my master's personal affairs, we intend to take very severe action."
"The public has a right to know!" Nicole snapped back.
"The public has no right to intrude upon Mr. Tepes' home," said Ferguson. "Let me tell you something, Ms. St. John. My master has already done some research on you. You have a history of disregarding the wishes of the people into whose lives you routinely pry. Does the brief time that you spent incarcerated for invading David Xanatos's home a few months ago mean anything to you? It seems, from your present actions, that it has not."
Nicole looked about ready to say something further, but the camera crew had evidently had enough at this point. They began to retreat, and one of them appeared on the screen to pull the clamoring reporter away from Ferguson, just before the television shifted back to the "Nightwatch" studio. Travis Marshall was apologizing to the viewing audience for the abrupt ending to "Manhattan Oddities", but the gargoyles barely paid any attention to what he was saying.
"Well, what do ye make of that?" Hudson asked.
"I don't like it," said Lexington. "The last time that we had some mysterious guy from Europe show up here, it got us into nothing but trouble. I don't think that this time is going to be any different. I'm not sure that I can trust this guy."
"Ye may be misjudgin' him, lad," said Hudson. "This Mr. Tepes may be nothing more than what he seems. Ye should not jump to the conclusion that he's cut from the same cloth that Madoc was, just because there are some similarities between the two of them."
"I know," said Lexington uncomfortably. "But - I just don't like it. Especially not all that secrecy of his. It sounds like somebody who's got something to hide."
"But, Uncle Lex, just because he doesn't want that St. John woman around his house, that doesn't mean that he's trouble," piped up Ariana. "I mean, would you want her poking around here, trying to find out more about us and getting ready to tell everyone about it on the television?"
"Yeah, she's already done that sort of thing with us," said Graeme. "Dad says that she's even better at sticking her nose into places where it doesn't belong than Nudnik is."
"The lass's right," said Hudson. "Let Mr. Tepes be, lad. As we've seen before, many wealthy humans like their privacy. Why should this man be any different?He can hardly be another Unseelie, anyway. They've all been destroyed or scattered, remember."
"Yes," said Lexington. "But what if he's something else? Something just as bad?"
* * * * *
Tony Dracon reached for the remote and turned off the television set. "You saw all that, Glasses?" he asked.
Glasses nodded. "So what do you make of it, Tony?"
"I don't like it," said Dracon, frowning. "There's something about this Tepes fellow that bothers me. I can't quite put my finger on it, but I don't think that he's quite normal."
"I know what you mean, Tony," said Glasses, nodding. "That Ferguson fellow in particular - he reminded me a bit of Vince. Something in the way he looked, and moved. Do you think that those big bad fairies are back?"
"I don't know," Dracon replied. "That butler didn't look like anyone I saw in their mob. But, yeah, he did remind me a little of them too. So they could have something to do with the Unseelies. And even if they don't, they could be trouble in other ways. The last thing that we need is another Tomas Brod around."
"So what do you think we should do about it?" Glasses asked.
"I want you to pay this Tepes fellow a little visit tonight," Dracon replied. "See what you can find out about him, and if he really is human. Then report back to me when you're done. Oh, and take Vince with you. He might be able to sniff something out even better than you can, in his current condition."
"Right away, Tony," said Glasses. He left the room at once.
* * * * *
Vladimir Tepes stood in front of the security screen and watched the WVRN news van drive off with a thin half-smile of approval on his face. "That should encourage those priers to mind their own business," he said. "I sincerely hope that we never see that woman on our doorstep again."
"Why didn't you just let us take care of her, dad?" a dark-haired youth in his late teens asked. He was dressed in trendy dark clothing, and was lounging moodily against the wall of the upstairs room where Tepes had been observing the scene between Nicole and Ferguson. "We could have made certain that she'd never come back."
"She's a reporter, Imre," said Tepes sharply, turning to face him. "True, that makes her one of the lowliest forms of life that this world has yet produced, but it also makes her extremely visible. Her sudden disappearance would draw even more attention to us than she could ever have accomplished as one of the living." He stared the young man straight in the eyes. "All these years, and you still understand nothing! Your inattentiveness will be the doom of us all one of these days."
"Well, excuuuse me, dad!" said Imre.
"And don't talk that way to me!" Tepes all but snarled, glowering straight at him. "Show some respect to your sire, boy!"
The door opened, and Elizabeth Tepes entered. "What is all the commotion about, Vlad?" she asked.
"It's that accursed reporter from WVRN," replied Tepes grimly. "The woman they call Nicole St. John. She seems to have taken it upon herself to do a news story upon us. Fortunately, Ferguson has driven her off."
"Well, that gives us all the more reason to find the answers we came here for," said Elizabeth. "The sooner that we learn just what did happen to the Unseelie Lord, the sooner that we can leave this city for some place less conspicuous."
"Yes, and some place where we can get some decent meals for a change!" put in Imre. "I want some real food, not that dull stuff that the machine concocts!"
"This 'dull stuff', as you call it, is our means of attracting as little attention to ourselves as possible," retorted Tepes, turning back towards the youth. "While we remain in this city, you will have it along with the rest of us, and like it!"
"But, father -" Imre began.
"No buts," Tepes interrupted. "We cannot risk exposure, and certainly not in a city like this. For one thing, there are gargoyles living in New York, in case you have not noticed. If they even suspect what we are, how long will it be before they fall upon us? We came here to learn, not to do battle!"
"What part of the city do you think we should investigate tonight, Vlad?" Elizabeth asked, changing the subject. "Do you think that we should risk the Eyrie Building? According to the reports, that was where the greatest part of the disturbances took place."
"We will enter Mr. Xanatos's abode only as a last resort," Tepes replied. "According to the evidence that we have gathered so far, that is where the gargoyles are most likely to roost. We will only increase our risk of being revealed to them if we venture there. No, that place we must avoid for now. We only go there if all other roads are closed to us."
"Then we might investigate the Conservatory Gardens," said Elizabeth. "My sources indicate that there were some unusual goings-on in that area, all throughout the long winters."
Tepes nodded. "I had heard the same myself," he said. "It does indeed sound promising. Yes, that is where we will go tonight. We may find some useful clues there. Gather the others. We leave for the Conservatory Gardens at once."
"What, all of us?" asked Imre.
"Did you have something better planned for tonight, then?" Tepes asked, transfixing him with his glare.
"Well, it's just that Mikaella and I wanted to go see the sights," Imre protested. "I mean, this is one of the most happening cities in the world, and we haven't even had any fun here. Can't we at least go out to the movies, or a concert, or something?"
"No," replied Tepes. "Not in view of what you and your sister consider the real attractions of Manhattan. You will stay with us, where we can keep an eye on you, and that is my final word."
Imre looked as if he was about to whine further, but one look from Tepes and he fell silent at once. He turned and left the room.
"Adolescents!" said Tepes, with a disgusted snort. "That boy and his sister have had things far too easy for them. When I was their age, I was not nearly so fortunate! I would have given a great deal back then for the sort of freedom that they have now!" He shook his head. "Elizabeth, remind me never again to adopt such spoiled youngsters when we wish to expand our family."
"Believe me, Vlad, I am as ashamed of them as you are," Elizabeth agreed, nodding. "But they can still learn."
"They had better, if they wish to survive as long in the world as we have," Tepes growled.
* * * * *
"I still don't like this idea of yours, Lex," said Broadway, as he, Angela, and Lexington alighted on the roof of Varney House. "I mean, can't we leave these new people alone? Yeah, they're a little weird, but that's about it."
"Broadway's right," said Angela concernedly, caping her wings. "We can hardly invade their home just because you feel troubled by them."
"It's better to be safe than sorry," Lexington replied. "As I told you before, we've got to find out all that we can about these people. Every time some strangers like them show up in town, they usually wind up going after us. First the Canmores, then Madoc. We can't let something like that happen again."
"Lexington, I understand how you feel about this," said Angela. "Yes, we have suffered from others like them before, and yes, we have to see to it that something like that does not befall us again. But we can't go about spying on this Tepes person and his family just because he's a little bit different."
"Yeah," said Broadway. "You're kind of judging them the way that humans judge us."
"I know, I know," said Lexington impatiently. "But there's just something about these guys that rubs me the wrong way. I want to find out more about them."
"You don't even know that much about them," said Broadway. "Well, except for a news report. And that's not much to go on. Especially when that reporter lady St. John's running it. You know how she likes to sensationalize things."
Lexington did not reply. He was pricking up his ears, listening intently. "Did you hear that?" he asked at last.
Broadway and Angela listened as well. A single car was approaching, nearing the mansion. It came into view outside the wall that surrounded the grounds, and halted. The doors opened, and three men climbed out.
"That's some of Dracon's gang," whispered Broadway, staring down at them. He had clearly recognized Glasses and Pal Joey among them, as well as the pointy-eared man accompanying them.
"What do you think they're doing here?" asked Angela, in a low voice.
"Probably up for some burglary," said Broadway. "I think that it's time that we did a little home security work."
He was about to swoop down straight at them as they climbed over the wall and crept towards the house, but Lexington stopped him. "Not just yet," he said. "I've got a better idea."
* * * * *
Glasses led the other members of Dracon's gang across the grounds, slowly and quietly. "Nobody in sight," he said at last, as they reached the side of the house. "Good. Now we break in."
"The windows are all shuttered tight," said Pal Joey in a whisper, as he studied the closest one. "This ain't gonna be easy."
"Why did they do that, anyway?" asked Vince, looking at the shutters.
"We'll probably find out once we get inside," replied Glasses. "Now start prying these loose."
The three mobsters tugged at the shutters, and finally tore them free. After that, Glasses took a glass cutter from his pocket, cut a hole in the window pane, thrust his arm through the opening, and felt about until he discovered the window-lock on its top. He easily unlatched it, and raised the glass. "Come on, let's go inside," he said in a low voice, and led the way in.
They climbed into the dark room. Glasses shone the beam of his flashlight about. "Nobody at home," he said, his gaze sweeping over the sitting-room, with its antique shop-worthy sofa, armchairs, and coffee-table. "Let's start to look for what we can find."
They crept through the room, and into the hallway. They did their best to tread softly, but the floorboards still squeaked and groaned beneath their feet. Pal Joey and Vince shivered, but Glasses ignored them. He shone his flashlight's beam before him, staring ahead, a determined look in his eyes as he examined their surroundings.
"Pretty standard 'haunted house' furnishings," he said, eyeing the faded portraits in their dull gilt frames and the tattered wallpaper. "Not enough to prove that this Tepes fellow has anything to do with the old Unseelie mob, though. He could just be a guy who's read too many Gothic horror novels."
"Well, at least there's nobody around," said Pal Joey, in a quavering voice. "That's something."
"Just because you haven't seen anybody in here doesn't mean that they're not here," replied Vince. "I mean - some of the Unseelies could turn invisible. They could be watching us and we'd never even know it until it was too late."
Pal Joey swallowed hard. The idea had clearly not occurred to him, judging from his response. "Um, Glasses, can we go home now?" he asked.
"Not until we're done here," Dracon's second-in-command replied grimly, pausing by the grand staircase in the main hall and glowering at the others. "Or do you want to go back to Tony and tell him that you came down with a case of the heebie-jeebies? We're not leaving this place until we get a better idea of who the new neighbors are. Besides, if somebody was here besides us, wouldn't they have shown up by now?"
"Yeah, good point!" cried a loud voice from the top of the stairs. And the speaker, a large turquoise-colored gargoyle, hurled himself straight for Glasses, eyes glowing white as he came. Two more gargoyles came after him, a small one with web-like wings and a female lavender-colored one.
Glasses only barely managed to get out of the way in time, to avoid getting rammed into by Broadway. "It's those creatures again!" he shouted, pulling out his gun. "Get them!"
Pal Joey and the others pulled out their fire arms as well, and began shooting. The three gargoyles scattered, however, dodging the bullets in the nick of time. Broadway and Angela made for Glasses and Pal Joey, while Lexington hurriedly led Vince away, down another hallway. Broadway snatched Pal Joey's gun from his hand, and neatly crushed it.
"So you're stooping to burglary now, are you?" the portly gargoyle asked. "Organized crime not making enough money?"
"Fall back!" Glasses ordered Pal Joey, hurriedly retreating himself. "Quickly!" Pal Joey ran after him, not needing to be told twice. Broadway and Angela chased after them, running now on all fours.
* * * * *
Lexington was dashing, himself, down the corridor, until he halted in front of a door. He tried the knob, but it refused to turn. "Locked," he muttered to himself, then turned to see his pursuer charging for him. Vince halted, and raised one hand, clearly about to hurl a blast of magical energy at him. Lexington nodded, a smile forming on his face. He stood directly in front of the door, and cried out, "Na na na na na, can't catch me!"
His face contorted with fury, Vince shot out his bolt. But Lexington dodged it in the nick of time, leaping onto the wall nearest him and digging into it with his claws to anchor himself. The spell struck the door head on, shattering it in half, and what was left of the magic hurtled on through the charred remains, into the next room. An explosion sounded from inside.
Lexington had only a moment to glance at the object that had been demolished inside. It looked like some sort of machine, or rather, as if it had been some sort of machine before Vince's spell had struck it, and if he had had more time, he would have gladly examined it much more closely, to see if he could figure out what it was supposed to do. But there was no time for this. He turned and leaped at Vince, eyes glowing, snarling as he came.
Vince attempted to blast Lexington again, but the sight of the little gargoyle in an aroused state of battle-fury was too much for him. He turned and fled in panic.
* * * * *
"How much longer are we going to have to stay here? This place is dead boring!"
The speaker was an attractive young woman in her late teens, with pale skin, long dark hair, and an overdose of eyeshadow. She was half-lounging against one of the pillars next to Imre. Both adolescents were looking as deliberately uninterested as they could manage.
"We will leave when your sire is finished with his work here, and not before, Mikaella," replied Elizabeth in a severe tone of voice. "You and your brother might consider assisting us, if you have nothing better to do."
Both youngsters let their gaze wander over to where Tepes was standing at the far end of the Gardens, over by the obsidian trellis. He was sniffing intently, his brow furrowed thoughtfully. Then he bent down and laid one hand upon the ground, still silent with concentration. At last he straightened up, and walked over to them.
"He was here, only a few months ago," he said. "I know the smell of that one. But the aroma has a different flavor to it than what I have found elsewhere. Almost a stench of death."
"Is it possible that he is indeed dead?" Elizabeth asked.
"I do not know," said Tepes, frowning. "I would have thought that he, of all beings, would be immune to such a fate. And yet, the odor would suggest it. Very strange, indeed."
"Well, if the big bad Unseelie Lord's dead, then why do we need to hang around New York any more?" asked Imre. "We've found out what we wanted, so why can't we go somewhere where Mikaella and I can have some real fun, instead of being kept on a leash all the time?"
"We leave this city when I feel that it is time for us to leave, and not before," retorted Tepes coldly. "And I will be the one to make that decision, boy, not you." He stared Imre and Mikaella straight in the eye, his own eyes almost seeming to blaze like fire. Neither of the two young people could long abide his gaze; they hurriedly lowered their heads.
"We do not know for certain that the Lord of the Banished Ones is dead," Tepes continued. "He may have indeed met his end, but the signs are not entirely clear as yet. He may have merely feigned his death to deceive his foes, and be waiting in hiding, to rebuild his strength. He is a great deceiver, a prince of lies, and his sleights and cunning are many. And even if he is dead, we must know the manner by which he was slain. Anything powerful enough to destroy him may be a threat to us as well."
"But, sire!" Mikaella whined.
"I said, we remain here!" Tepes snapped. "That is an order!" And he turned away from her to face Elizabeth, and also Ferguson, who had just joined them.
"We've learned all that we can in these gardens for tonight," he said. "We return to the house now. And tomorrow night, we move our investigation to learn who might be able to tell us exactly what happened here on May Eve."
He led the others out of the gardens, without another word.
* * * * *
The bullets from Glasses's gun missed Broadway, to strike a vase on the mantlepiece in the sitting room, shattering it. Broadway bounded neatly away, landing on the nearest armchair. "You're gonna have to do better than that!" he called to Dracon's lieutenant.
Glasses frowned, and prepared to fire again at the large gargoyle. But before he could do so, Vince burst into the room, followed closely by Lexington, who was pursuing them with glowing eyes and a snarl.
"Come on, Glasses, let's get out of here!" cried Vince frantically. "This place isn't worth it, not with those things around!"
Glasses was about to argue, but then took stock of the situation. Pal Joey had already been disarmed, and he himself was almost out of ammunition. All three gargoyles were still in fresh condition, and were beginning to close in on the gangsters. He spoke.
"Retreat!" he ordered. "We're not going to be able to find what we're looking for, not with this lot around. Out, now!"
They retreated to the window through which they had entered, and hurriedly clambered out of the house. The three gargoyles rushed to the window after them, and halted, watching them flee.
"Do you think that we should go after them?" Angela asked.
"Not necessary," replied Broadway with a shrug. "We stopped them from burgling this place, after all." He looked thoughtful as he spoke. "I wonder why they were doing it, though. Dracon's lot are organized crime, after all. They don't usually go for breaking and entering."
"Maybe they had the same worries about Mr. Tepes as Lexington," said Angela. "After all, Elisa did mention that Dracon found out about the true nature of Madoc's forces. He could be expecting more such beings to appear in this city now."
"Could be," said Broadway. "What do you think, Lex?"
"Those guys broke something while they were chasing me," Lexington replied. "It looked like a machine of some sort. I think that we should take a closer look at it."
"Well, if you say so," said Broadway. "I mean, you're the expert there."
They followed him through the hallways until they came to the charred remains of the device that Vince's blast of magic had destroyed. All three gargoyles bent down to take a closer look at it. "What do you suppose it does?" Angela asked.
Lexington was studying what was left of the machine intently. At last he sighed. "We'll probably never know," he said. "It was too badly damaged by the explosion. There's not enough left for me to be able to identify its purpose. I'm sorry."
"We could stay here a while longer, perhaps, and explore some more," suggested Angela.
"I don't think so," said Broadway. "We've stayed here long enough. We still have the rest of our patrol to do, and besides, if the folks who live here get back home and find us here, things could get pretty messy. I think that we'd better leave."
"Yeah, I suppose you're right," said Lexington. "I still wish that those guys had blown up something else, though. I really would have liked to get a good look at that machine."
The three gargoyles headed back up the main staircase, making their way towards the attic by which they had entered.
* * * * *
Tepes stood in the entrance hall of the mansion some minutes later, eyeing the marks of the recent battle with considerable annoyance and distaste.
"We have had intruders," he said, his voice filled with anger. "Someone broke in while we left." His eyes glowered with barely-suppressed rage.
"I can't believe that the criminals of this city would dare attempt to rob us!" cried Elizabeth, in equal anger. "I knew that they were brazen, but for them to violate our home - they dangerously overstep their bounds."
"It's the fault of those weaklings who rule here," said Tepes, walking down the hallway. "They are too lenient in passing judgement on lawbreakers. Now, if they were to have such people hanged, drawn, and quartered, we would soon see some proper order in Manhattan."
"Mr. Tepes, sir?" said Ferguson, walking up to him with a concerned look in his eyes. "There's a problem with the Supplier."
"And what problem might that be?" asked Tepes, turning to him.
"Let me show you, sir," said Ferguson. He led Tepes and the others down the hallway, and into the room that Lexington, Broadway, and Angela had visited just before their departure. They gazed down at the remains of the machine.
"Who did this?" asked Tepes, after a moment's stunned silence.
"I honestly don't know as yet, sir," said Ferguson apologetically. "But maybe the security footage will be able to inform us."
Tepes nodded. "We must look at it straightaway. Then we can learn the identities of these intruders, and decide on what manner of reprisals to take against them."
"But that still leaves us with the problem of nourishment," said Elizabeth. "We needed that machine, Vlad. Without it, we risk going hungry."
"All too true," said Tepes grimly. "Ferguson, how long will our supplies last? Do we have enough on hand to supply us for the remainder of our stay in these parts?"
"I fear not, sir," said Ferguson, shaking his head. "We have enough for three more days, but that is all. Then our reserves will be exhausted."
Tepes scowled. "Well, that leaves us with only one recourse now," he said at last, with a sigh. "I had not wished to do this, not in this city. There's little hope that such activities can go by unnoticed, and especially after what New York has so recently endured. But with the Supplier lost to us, we have no alternative, short of departing this place early. We will have to obtain our food the old-fashioned way."
"Yes!" cried Imre and Mikaella eagerly.
"But not without precautions," Tepes continued, facing them at once. "The danger of our being detected is still very strong, and remember, this is a city with gargoyles in it. That only makes the peril worse for us. So, I stress to you all, be discreet. Do not draw attention to yourselves. Is that understood?"
Both adolescents bowed their heads, with joint sighs. "Yes, sire," they said, in downcast voices.
* * * * *
"And so we came back here," Broadway was saying to Goliath in the courtyard of Castle Wyvern, completing his account of the fight with Dracon's men at Varney House.
Goliath frowned concernedly. "I am not quite certain that I can approve of your actions," he said to Lexington, Broadway, and Angela. "On the one hand, you were prying into the affairs of strangers who may not be a threat to us or to this city, based on nothing more than some fears that may be unfounded. That past visitors to Manhattan have brought trouble to us, I cannot deny. But you should not have acted as you did without further evidence on your parts."
"We're sorry, Goliath," said Lexington, bowing his head.
"Still," Goliath continued, "your presence did result in the prevention of a robbery by Dracon's men, which is a good thing. So perhaps it was fortunate that you three were there. However, I must order you to leave Mr. - Tepes and his people alone for now. Granted, they may have aroused your suspicions, Lexington. But we have no evidence that they are a danger to this community."
"I know," said Lexington worriedly. "And you're right, Goliath. I guess that I've been a bit jumpier about newcomers ever since the whole Madoc business. We'll leave them alone, then. I wish that I'd gotten a good look at that machine, though. As it is, we don't even know what it does."
"And maybe we're no worse off for not knowing its purpose, lad," put in Hudson. "Not every one of these devices that the humans are makin' nowadays was created to do us harm. Perhaps it's best if you let it go."
"Yeah, maybe," said Lexington resignedly. He did not look entirely convinced, however.
"I'd like to know why Dracon's gang was breaking into the house, though," said Brooklyn. "Broadway's right; burglary generally isn't their thing. I can't help but think that there's something odd going on here."
"Well, we must let it rest for now," said Goliath. "The recent attack that was made on Brooklyn has shown that not all the humans in this city trust us as yet. We cannot afford to erode that trust still further by breaking into a home that is not our own, not without a very good reason for it. Perhaps this Mr. Tepes may mean neither us or our protectorate some harm, but until we know for certain, we must let him be. We have enough enemies at present without making more."
The other gargoyles nodded in assent.
* * * * *
"I knew that these devices would be useful to us when we moved here," said Vladimir Tepes to Elizabeth. The two of them were watching the footage from their security cameras. "Burglars and gargoyles, both! This intrusion was even more serious than I had expected."
"But what were these gargoyles doing here?" asked Elizabeth. "Do you suppose that they suspect us, Vlad?"
"I hope not," he replied. "And it is quite possible that their presence had a different reason. These creatures do have a certain obsession with protecting the humans that they dwell with, after all. They may have been simply following it in repelling the invaders. But I am not entirely certain." He frowned. "However, it may be wisest for us to let it slide for now. I would not be averse to battling gargoyles on other occasions, but a war with them now could only hinder our search for the truth, and that is more important for now. We cannot afford to provoke them."
He continued to watch the playback in silence, until it reached the point where it depicted the destruction of the Supplier. He leaned forward, examining the man responsible for the act, the man with pointed ears who had let loose a fiery bolt from his fingertips.
"Ferguson!" he ordered. "Find out who that man is, and where he lives. I have a few questions to ask him."
"Yes, sir," said Ferguson, nodding. "I will begin the search at once."
"Do you really think that he can serve as a lead for our investigation, Vlad?" asked Elizabeth, turning to her husband.
"I do not 'think' it, Elizabeth," he replied grimly. "I know it. I can recognize the handiwork of the Unseelie Lord when I see it. That man was altered by Lord Madoc; he may be familiar enough with his ways. And with his exact fate."
"But will we learn the answer in time?" asked Elizabeth. "We have to forage now for food, and if Imre and Mikaella start behaving the way that they did before -"
"We will just have to hope that they do not," said Tepes. "And if they do, I will have more than a few things to say to them."
* * * * *
A Week Later
Brendan stood impatiently outside City Hall, and checked his wristwatch for the sixth time that evening. "What's keeping her, anyway?" he asked himself aloud. "She should have gotten that business finished half an hour ago."
He looked around uneasily. Except for himself, the sidewalk was deserted. There were no passers-by, not even in cars. He felt alone all of a sudden, very much so. More than anything else, he suddenly wished to be safe back at home.
"Margot's got no right to keep me waiting like this," he said to himself sharply. "When she finally gets done with that meeting, I'm going to give her such a talking-to -"
"Excuse me, sir?" said a female voice behind him.
Brendan turned around. A young woman was standing there on the sidewalk before him, with an almost plaintive expression on her face. She was very pretty, with long dark hair worn loose, large grey eyes, and an attractive narrow face, if a startlingly pale one. She wore an elegant but old-fashioned-looking dark green dress, that appeared to have been fashioned in the style of the 1930's. Her lips were amazingly red, in contrast to her deathly pallor.
"Yes?" asked Brendan, his annoyance at being accosted by this stranger quickly fading away. "Is there anything that I can do for you, miss?"
"My brother and I haven't had a decent bite for a few days now," said the girl pleadingly, in a musical voice. "Please, sir, could you help us?"
She didn't look like a panhandler to Brendan at all; her attire was too elegant and untattered for a "street person". And he had more than half a mind to bring that up to her. But something about her made him nod his head, although not before looking around cautiously to make certain that Margot wasn't coming out of the building first. It would be all too easy for her to misinterpret the situation. "Very well," he said. "If you'll just let me get out my wallet -"
"Oh, that won't be necessary," said a male voice behind him. "My sister and I don't need your money, sir. We just need you."
Brendan spun around in time to see a pale dark-haired young man, also dressed in elegant 1930's style clothing, smiling at him wickedly. His first instinct was to cry out for somebody for help, but before he could do so, the girl grabbed hold of him, clamping one hand over his mouth with amazing strength. "No, no struggling," she said, her eyes seeming to turn red with an evil glow as she spoke. He only noticed now how fang-like her teeth were. "It'll only ruin the taste." And those were the last words that he heard, as the two pale young faces bore down upon him.
* * * * *
Margot Yale came out through the double doors of City Hall, and down the steps, just in time to see two figures bent over the slumped form of her husband. With a horrified cry, she raced down the steps.
"Stop!" she cried, almost frantically. "Get away from him! Police! Help!"
Before she could get close enough to the shadowy forms to see them closely, they turned and fled, letting Brendan fall to the sidewalk. Margot rushed to his side, and bent down. He was still breathing, if slowly, but was unconscious. And there were punctures in the side of his neck, punctures almost like fang-marks. As Margot looked up, she saw that the shapes of her husband's assailants were gone, but two bat-winged forms were flitting away from the scene, skywards.
She ran to the nearest payphone, inserted the coins from her purse, and punched in a number. "Hello, 911?" she gasped. "This is Assistant District Attorney Margot Yale. I need to report an emergency!"
* * * * *
Manhattan General - An Hour Later
"Will he be all right, Dr. Sato?" Margot asked.
"I believe so, Ms. Yale," Dr. Sato replied. "Your husband hasn't lost much blood, fortunately. He'll be able to pull through."
"Thank goodness for that," said Margot, sounding relieved.
"So, how did this happen to him?" the doctor continued.
"I don't know," said Margot. "All that I know is that I saw a couple of shapes flying away from him. They looked almost like bats, and " She stopped short, as a cold, uncomfortable feeling came over her. "The gargoyles! It must have been them!"
"Gargoyles?" repeated Dr. Sato.
"It had to have been them," said Margot, her voice filled with anger. "I knew that all that talk about their being 'protectors' was just some ridiculous story from the PIT Crew! And now we've got something that proves that they're a threat! Well, it ends now!"
* * * * *
"This is Travis Marshall, for Nightwatch," Travis Marshall was saying on the television set. "This just in: the latest of a series of mysterious night-attacks has just taken place outside New York's City Hall, only two hours ago. The victim was Brendan Yale, found unconscious and partly drained of his blood by an unknown assailant. Mr. Yale has been admitted to Manhattan General for treatment."
Brooklyn stared at the photograph of Brendan Yale on display in the upper right-hand corner of the screen thoughtfully. "Say, that guy does look kind of familiar," he said, to the other gargoyles. "Very familiar, in fact."
"Yeah," said Broadway. "We can't even leave the castle on patrol without bumping into him and his wife at least once a week."
Goliath and Hudson listened to the report troubledly, as Travis Marshall continued on with his story.
"For the past week, similar attacks have taken place among Manhattan's homeless, following the same pattern. The victims have been found at night, unconscious and partly drained of blood, and each time with toothmarks in the throat. Witnesses who have come upon these victims have often reported seeing batlike shapes flying away from their bodies into the darkness. So far, the mysterious assailants have not been found or identified. Police, however, are still searching for clues that can lead them to the attackers."
Hudson scowled. "This doesn't sound good, Goliath," he said. "If these attacks only took place at night, and the humans saw what looked to them like bats flyin' away, how long is it goin' to be before they start to think -"
He did not have the opportunity to finish his sentence, however, for Travis Marshall now continued, "We take you to Manhattan General, where Nicole St. John has managed to have a few words with the victim's wife, Assistant District Attorney Margot Yale. Nicole, over to you."
"Thank you, Travis," said Nicole, as the television screen shifted to her, standing in a hospital corridor, next to Margot. "Ms. Yale," she continued, holding out her microphone before the blonde official, "we understand that you have your own theory as to who it was that attacked your husband?"
"Exactly," replied Margot sharply. "I can tell you exactly who was behind this, Ms. St. John. It's those gargoyle creatures! They were the ones who did this!"
"And you are certain of this, Ms. Yale?" Nicole continued, an eager look in her eyes.
"Very certain," Margot retorted. "It all fits together too clearly to be anything else. Those monsters only prowl around the city after dark, and they look like bats. They were the ones who attacked Brendan, and no doubt they were the ones who attacked all those other people. It's their work, all right!"
"But the recent evidence gathered by city authorities indicates that the gargoyles are harmless," offered Nicole. "How does that fit in with your claims that they are the guilty parties?"
"Oh, the Gargoyle Task Force can go around claiming that the gargoyles aren't a threat to us so that it can justify its own incompetence," the yuppie answered, "and no doubt a lot of people in high places will say whatever Mr. Xanatos tells them to say. But take a close look at those bite marks. Those aren't from human teeth. No, we have a plague of savage gargoyles threatening us. And we won't be safe until the authorities do what they should have done a long time ago, and lock every last one of those animals up! They belong in cages, not flying about this city at night, endangering the public!"
"Thank you, Ms. Yale," said Nicole St. John. She turned back towards the camera. "That was Assistant District Attorney Margot Yale, speaking about the recent spate of 'bites at night', as these attacks are already being called, and her conviction that the mysterious gargoyles of New York are responsible for this. Back to you, Travis."
The gargoyles looked at each other troubledly. Brooklyn spoke up first.
"Goliath, this is serious," he said. "If enough people start believing what that woman said, we could be in big trouble. The whole city could go after us again. It could be even worse than the Quarrymen."
"I know," said Goliath gravely. "And I do not like it."
"So what do we do?" Broadway asked.
"We go out on patrol, as usual," said Goliath. "And this time, we search for the real culprits behind these attacks. If we can discover who they are, perhaps we can stave off another citywide hunt for us."
"You don't suppose that it's the 'Unseelie halflings' again, do you?" Brooklyn suggested. "I mean, one of them bit Broadway once, remember. There could be some still at large, roaming about the city."
"I doubt it," said Goliath, frowning. "We have seen nothing of them since Madoc's death and the collapse of his followers. Most likely, those who survived have fled the city. And without the Unseelie Court to direct them, they can hardly pose any true threat."
"That wouldn't necessarily stop them from doing a little free-lancing, without a supervisor," said Brooklyn darkly.
"I know," said Goliath. "But we have no evidence for certain as yet. We must keep an open mind, for now, on our search."
* * * * *
Tepes turned the television set off, and turned towards Elizabeth. "An attack upon a prominent citizen," he said angrily. "I gave strict instructions to avoid such activity at all costs! But will those two listen to me? No, they will not!"
"I knew that we should have chaperoned the youngsters," said Elizabeth, nodding. "Something like this was bound to happen, sooner or later. They have not been converted long enough to learn about the ways of survival; they are far too reckless for their own good."
"And for ours," said Tepes, rising from his chair. "If someone correctly guesses the significance of those attacks, interprets the evidence correctly -"
There was the sound of rushing footsteps in the hallway, approaching the living room. Then the door burst open, and Imre and Mikaella burst in, their eyes glittering exuberantly. They halted as they saw Tepes standing before him, his face darkened in wrath, and turned to leave. But he held up his hand, and the door slammed shut behind them and refused to open again, although Imre struggled frantically with the knob.
"You are not going anywhere, until you answer my questions," said Tepes furiously. "Did you attack the lawyer's husband?"
"Lawyer's husband?" said Imre, looking blank. "We don't follow you, sire."
"Then let me explain my words much more clearly," Tepes said, his eyes flickering with a crimson fire as he spoke. "The news has just reported a well-to-do man partly drained of his blood outside City Hall, the husband of an Assistant District Attorney. She reports having seen bats flying away from him. This was your doing, was it not? Answer me!"
"Don't have a cow, sire!" protested Mikaella. "It was just one human!"
"A human of some social prominence!" shouted Tepes. "Did I not tell you to leave them alone? Did I not tell you to be discreet? We cannot draw attention to ourselves! That is why I told you to confine your hunger to the riffraff on the streets, the beggars and the idlers! Nobody cares enough over their fates to notice what befalls them! As long as we only prey upon them, we can go unseen! But now that a man of wealth has been attacked, how long can our activities go unnoticed? Your disobedience has endangered us all!"
"Well, what do you expect us to do?" Imre cried. "Those homeless people taste so - so bland! There's no proper life in them at all? But that man that Mikaella and I helped ourselves to - he gave us the first decent meal since we came to New York!"
"That is entirely beside the point!" Tepes thundered. "This is not some lonely village in the West Country where we can help ourselves without being seen! This is Manhattan! It has reporters, police, and above all else, prominence in the public eye! How long will we be able to keep ourselves hidden once they begin to suspect us? Do you want to be hunted down and put to death by a frightened mob? Well?"
Imre and Mikaela backed up to the corner of the room, clearly at a loss for words underneath the fury of his assault. But Tepes was not finished.
"I have not survived this long by making such foolish errors," he continued. "Yes, I have had to feed, just as you have. But I was discreet about it. I took care to cover up my tracks, to see to it that I was not discovered. That is why I have not been subjected to the same fate that too many others of our kind have undergone. But it will all be for nothing if you refuse to take the proper precautions and keep to the shadows. Do you understand me?"
A long hush followed. At last, Mikaella summoned up enough courage to speak. "Are the humans here out looking for us then, sire?"
"Fortunately, no," said Tepes grimly. "The humans believe that it is the gargoyles that are to blame. Their attention has been drawn towards those creatures of stone. But that does not lessen the danger for us. If they can mistake gargoyles for us, they can also mistake us for gargoyles." He rolled up his sleeve to reveal a scar upon his left arm, stretching between his wrist and his elbow. "I received this from one of those accursed Hunters in Vienna in 1796," he said. "The man paid for it with his life, but the lesson was learned. Those who seek the destruction of the night's children are not particular as to who they attack."
"So what are you going to do to us?" asked Mikaella, still subdued. Her face had lost its youthful defiance, as had her brother's.
"Count yourselves fortunate that I do not believe in destroying my own family," said Tepes. "But you are confined to the house until you have learned to restrain yourselves. If you so much as set one foot outside the grounds, or one wing, I will cast you out, and hold you no longer to be my kin! And do not think that I will not find out. I will find out. I always find out."
"We're grounded?" asked Imre. "But what will we do for food, then?"
"Your mother and I will bring you food on our excursions," Tepes replied. "Fortunately, there are enough of those wretched vagabonds in this city that a few disappearances will not alarm the authorities. Nobody will even care as to what happens to them. There are too many of them about, anyway. More evidence of that contemptible weakness on the part of those who profess to govern this town." He scowled. "The milk-livered fools! It is their laxness that allows those parasites to flourish! In my day, we knew how to deal with such worthless refuse! We lured them into a barn for a great feast, and then locked them inside and burnt the building to the ground! But the rulers these days are too soft-hearted to even consider such acts! Bah!" He spat in disgust.
"Now, go to your rooms, and stay there," he continued. "And I want no further trouble out of either one of you, while we are staying in this city."
"Yes, sire," said Imre and Mikaella meekly. They opened the door, and left the room, without another word.
"Hopefully that will have diminished their arrogance," said Tepes to Elizabeth. "They have become too unruly of late. Too much like human adolescents, in fact. One more reason why we should return to the countryside once we leave Manhattan. Not only are the rurals easier to prey upon in secret, but they have fewer of those decadent customs to corrupt those two further. We should keep them away from the decadence of the cities as much as we can."
"They are still young," said Elizabeth. "Give them another century, and they will have gained in wisdom and prudence."
"Assuming that they have not been put to the stake first," said Tepes, scowling. "And given their recklessness, it's likely enough."
"So how long will we be staying in New York now, Vlad?" Elizabeth asked him.
"We stay until I learn what I came here to learn," he replied. "And that is my final word on the subject."
* * * * *
"Yes, some of those victims were people from here," said Talon, nodding grimly to Brooklyn and Sata. "Or people whom they knew. We've been tending them here, whenever we were able to find them and bring them back here."
"And have you found out anything that might serve as a clue as to who did this to them?" Brooklyn asked.
The panther-like Mutate shook his head. "Nothing," he said. "Other than the rumors that gargoyles were behind this. But no, we haven't seen who was responsible for those attacks. We've searched, of course, but there's been nothing solid that can help us. Not that we've had that much help, mind. Most of the people up above didn't even pay any attention to this business until that yuppie guy got attacked." He growled at the back of his throat. "Typical. It's times like these that I almost feel grateful for what Xanatos and Sevarius did to Maggie and me. Without us, these people down here would have nobody to protect them."
"And they are very grateful to you as well, Talon-san," said Sata. "But you have found nothing that can help us in our search?"
"Not yet," said Talon. "I'll put the Labyrinth clan on it, though. These people, whoever they are, are endangering my protectorate just as much as they're endangering yours. And they will not get away with it."
* * * * *
The 23rd Precinct Station House - Captain Chavez's Office
"Fortunately, there've been no fresh cases of this sort since Mr. Yale was attacked two nights ago," said Captain Chavez to Elisa and Matt. "Or if there have been, they haven't been reported yet. Unfortunately, the media's going into a feeding frenzy over this. Every news station in town is talking about these attacks, and about the rumors that gargoyles are behind them. It's not going to be long before a lot of people will start to believe them, if they haven't already."
"That doesn't sound good," said Elisa troubledly.
"I'll say," said Matt. "At this rate, we could be risking another Quarryman movement, or maybe even something worse."
"The Police Commissioner and the City Council think so, too," said Chavez. "Ms. Yale has been at them, demanding that they do something about the gargoyles. Something like reorganizing the Gargoyle Task Force, and maybe putting somebody more zealous than Detective Bluestone in charge of it, somebody who will go all out in capturing or destroying them."
"She can't be serious!" Elisa cried. "Captain, we know now that the gargoyles aren't a menace to the city! They help people; they don't attack them. They can't be the ones behind this."
"I beg to differ with you, Detective Maza," said Margot Yale, standing in the doorway. "Those monsters that you seem to be so interested in defending are nothing more than a danger to the public. And we won't be safe from them until they're all locked up where they won't cause any further problems."
"And what are you doing here?" asked Elisa. "Don't you have a recuperating husband to visit?"
"I'm on my way to Manhattan General as it happens," said Margot sharply. "But I came here first to have a few words with the detective in charge of the Gargoyle Task Force," she continued, glaring now straight at Matt. "Or should I say, 'defective'?"
"That language is uncalled for, Ms. Yale," said Captain Chavez.
"Not when Mr. Bluestone here has never caught a single gargoyle, in spite of all the taxpayers' money that's been poured into funding his team," Margot retorted. "At least, I'm assuming that it's thanks to incompetence, and not anything worse."
"I just don't see why you can't leave the gargoyles alone," argued Elisa. "They just want to live in peace with us. They haven't hurt anybody."
"And I suppose that it was giant mosquitoes that assaulted my husband last night," said Margot bitingly. "No, it's all too clear who's been behind those attacks. They only take place at night, which is just when those monsters are flying around on the loose. And there are all those sightings of bat-like creatures flying away from the attacks. We've even recently gotten footage of them."
"Footage?" repeated Elisa.
"It's not too clear as yet," Margot said. "The technicians are still trying to improve the picture. But it's all too obvious what they're going to find when they resolve it. Positive proof at last that those gargoyles are a danger to the public. Assuming that all the damage that they've already been responsible for hasn't proven that."
"Damage?" asked Elisa. "What damage? The gargoyles haven't done any damage!"
"Not directly," said Margot. "But there's all the chaos that's they've caused just by being here. The Canmores who blew up this very building to get at them. The Quarrymen. Phoenix Rising. None of them would have ever come into existence if it hadn't been for the gargoyles. They weren't after this city, but just after those monsters. They'd never have committed any crimes if it hadn't been for those things."
"And you're seriously holding the gargoyles responsible for everything that Castaway and the rest did?" Elisa protested. "That's crazy!"
"It is the truth," said Margot. "And let me tell you something else, Detective. There's not going to be another Quarryman group this time. Not if we can help it. I've asked the City Council to replace Detective Bluestone with a proper head for the Gargoyle Task Force. Somebody who's going to take care of those night-stalkers once and for all. Once the public see that the police mean business this time around, there's going to be a lot less clamor for vigilante groups to handle the things. We're going to do to them what we should have done to them three years ago. Have them locked away where they'll never be able to disturb the peace again! No more winged shadows, no more attacks, no more monsters! Nothing but some proper quiet for this city, something that it hasn't had ever since they came along."
"The gargoyles didn't start all this trouble!" Elisa cried.
"Maybe they didn't," said Margot. "But they caused it."
"I've heard remarks like that before," said Elisa grimly. "I didn't like them before, and I didn't like them now."
"This is something that we don't have time for, anyway," said the Assistant District Attorney. "Somebody is attacking people all over this city, and it has to stop now. And I'm going to be doing everything in my power to see that it does. As, I trust, will you. Good day!" And with that, she left the office.
* * * * *
Elisa and Matt left the station house half an hour later, in a troubled mood.
"So do you think that we should swing by and tell them?" Matt asked.
Elisa nodded. "They might have found out on their own," she said. "But we really need to warn them about this, anyway. And I really thought that we were through with this sort of problem!"
"Yeah, that's what I thought," said Matt. "I suppose that we just got so caught up with that Unseelie business in the last two years that we forgot that they weren't the only enemies that the clan had."
Elisa sighed. "I'd thought that once Madoc and his followers were gone, that the worst would be over. That there'd be peace at last, and we'd all live happily ever after. I guess that it doesn't work that way in real life, though. Only in fairy tales."
Before Matt could reply, a female voice rang out, "Detective Bluestone!" And an all-too-familiar blonde woman with a microphone in her hand, and a news crew behind her, bore down upon them.
"Nicole St. John for WVRN," she said. "Detective Bluestone, you're the head of the Gargoyle Task Force. Do you have any thoughts on this recent spate of gargoyle attacks?"
"They're not gargoyle attacks, Ms. St. John," Matt said to her sharply. "We don't know what's making them as yet, but there is no solid evidence that the gargoyles are behind this."
"Well, these attacks all took place at night, and the victims all had fang-marks on them," said the reporter, not sounding the least bit daunted. "And there are all those eyewitness accounts and even camera shots of something with wings flying away from the area afterwards. I'd say that that sounds like gargoyle-work, don't you?"
"Let me ask you something, Ms. St. John," said Elisa, her eyes flashing with anger. "Has it ever occurred to you that the gargoyles could be innocent, but that you're endangering them just for the sake of making a story more sensationalistic and getting higher ratings? Doesn't it bother you that those words of yours could stir up another movement like the Quarrymen? That what you're saying could get the gargoyles hurt, or even killed?"
"I'm just telling the public what it needs to know," said Nicole, not the least bit fazed by Elisa's words. "If some people are out howling for blood over this, that's their problem, not mine." An intrigued look crept into her eyes. "Detective Maza, you do seem rather concerned about any possible danger that could befall the gargoyles. Is there any particular reason for that?" She held out her microphone expectantly.
"No comment," said Elisa curtly, and walked on her way, Matt following. They left Nicole and her camera team standing on the steps of the station house, and headed for Elisa's car.
* * * * *
As the sun set, the gargoyles awoke from their stone sleep atop the battlements of Castle Wyvern, stretching and roaring. Goliath stepped down from his perch, to see a concerned Elisa standing before him.
"Elisa," he said, smiling. "What a pleasure to see you tonight."
"I'm afraid that I'm not here on a social call, Goliath," said Elisa troubledly. "You've heard about those recent attacks on people at night?"
He nodded, the smile vanishing from his face and being replaced with a grim frown. "Indeed I have," he said. "The clan and I are searching for the ones who have committed these deeds."
"Well, I've got some worse news," she said. "Margot Yale visited the station this afternoon. She's convinced that you and the others are behind these attacks, and she's doing everything that she can to whip up a new gargoyle-hunt. And I don't think that the authorities are going to be able to hold out for very long. Too many people are starting to get worried - and the way that Nicole St. John's been reporting this isn't helping matters much, either. You and your clan could be in some serious danger, if we don't find the real perps soon."
"I know," said Goliath, nodding. "That is one reason for our search - besides the fact that whoever these people are, they are endangering innocent lives. But we have not been able to find them as yet, even though the Labyrinth Clan is aiding us in our search."
"No clues at all?" Elisa asked.
"None," Goliath replied. "Although I have the uneasy feeling that we are missing something."
* * * * *
"I've managed to identify the man, sir," said Ferguson.
"Indeed?" asked Tepes. "And who might he be?"
"He's a member of the Dracon mob," said Ferguson. "He disappeared shortly after its temporary break-up three years ago, but resurfaced earlier this year, and rejoined it."
"I see," said Tepes. "And have you learned where I might find the leader of this mob, then?"
Ferguson nodded. "He's currently residing at the Savoy Hotel. At least, that's what my most recent sources tell me."
"Then we will be paying him a little visit tonight," said Tepes, rising from his chair.
"Are you certain that this is wise, Vladimir?" asked Elizabeth cautiously. "I mean - if some accident befalls him, the investigation could risk turning eyes in our direction."
"I did not say that I was going to use drastic measures," Tepes replied in a coldly confident voice. "And even if I was, such men lead lives of considerable violence. I scarcely believe that, even if Anthony Dracon were to meet with a sudden fatal accident, the authorities would immediately begin suspecting that the cause was anything other than a disagreement between rival organizations. And in any case, the man sent his followers to invade my home. That is an act of war, and demands immediate reprisals."
He turned back to Elizabeth. "Stay at home with the younglings," he said. "And keep an eye on them. They have created enough potential danger for us through their amusements, and I will not have them risk our safety further. Remember, they are confined to the house and grounds, and are not to leave them. See to it that it stays that way."
"I will," said Elizabeth, nodding.
* * * * *
"All right, so what do we know so far?" Elisa asked, standing in the middle of the tower floor, the gargoyles grouped around her in a rough circle.
"Most of the victims were homeless humans, and in some cases, members of the Labyrinth community," said Goliath. "They were all attacked at night, and those who found them claim to have seen bat-winged shapes flying away from them afterwards."
"And also, the victims generally had bite-marks on their throats," put in Brooklyn. "Not to mention some loss of blood."
Elisa frowned troubledly. "Attacks taking place at night," she repeated. "Bat-like things seen flying away afterwards. Bite marks and blood loss. Guys, this is gonna sound crazy, but - this sounds very familiar."
"Vampires?" asked Goliath, almost as if he had read her mind.
Elisa nodded. "Five years ago, I wouldn't even have considered that notion," she said. "But after everything that I've been through with you guys lately, I'm not quite so ready to throw that possibility out the window any more."
"But is it even possible?" asked Angela. "Could there really be vampires in New York?"
"Judging from what else has come along in the last couple of years, I wouldn't rule it out," Brooklyn replied. "But what I'd like to know is, if there are vampires in New York, where do we find them?"
"According to the old tales, there are ways of recognizing the Undead," said Goliath. "They cannot survive in direct sunlight, and can only walk freely abroad at night. They cast no reflections in mirrors, and silver is as strong a weapon against them as cold iron is for Oberon's Children." He frowned. "Is there anybody in this city who could answer that description?"
"Hold it!" said Lexington. He had been silent throughout the conversation, with a thoughtful, intent expression on his face all the while, but now he spoke up. "Elisa, when did you say all these attacks started happening?"
"Just one week ago," said Elisa. "Well, a week and a day ago, to be precise."
"That's just the night after we visited that house where Mr. Tepes lives," said Lexington. "Broadway, Angela, and me. Everything began after that."
Everyone else turned to look at the little web-winged gargoyle. "Hold on there, Lex!" said Brooklyn. "You're not suggesting -"
"I know that we don't have any real proof on this one," he replied. "But think about it. Mr. Tepes and his family have never been seen out of doors in the daytime. They keep to themselves. And he's supposed to be from Romania. My geography's a bit rusty, but isn't Transylvania in Romania?"
"You're right about that," said Elisa. "And it does make sense. But it's all circumstantial evidence. That's the problem. The Tepes family might be involved in all of this, but Matt and I can't just go over to their house and arrest them, or even ask them to come down to the station for some questions. Especially since nobody's going to believe me if I even suggest that it's vampires causing this trouble. The city can accept the fact that gargoyles exist, but I think that it's going to be a while before people can take the notion that there are vampires out there seriously. My hands are tied on this one."
"Mine are not," replied Goliath, with a grim face.
* * * * *
Tony Dracon looked up from the newspaper that he was reading as the knocking sounded louder at his door. "Glasses, go see who that is," he said, in an almost absent voice.
Glasses nodded, and walked over to the door. He swung it open, to find an angry-looking Vladimir Tepes standing in the hallway outside, Ferguson just behind him. "Ah, Mr. Tepes, I presume," he said, astonished but preserving his customary calmness. "Is there anything that we can do for you?"
Tepes nodded stiffly, a wrathful look in his eyes. "Indeed there is," he said. "I have some words for your employer, Anthony Dracon."
Glasses turned back to Dracon. "Tony, it's Mr. Tepes. I think that he wants a few words with you."
"I see," said Dracon carelessly. "Well, let him in, then. I might as well get this business over with."
"Come in, Mr. Tepes," said Glasses. "Mr. Dracon's willing to talk with you."
"Thank you," said Tepes coldly. He marched over the threshold, Ferguson following, and walked straight towards the mob boss.
"Ah, Mr. Tepes," said Dracon, rising from his chair. "Pleased to meet you. So, to what do we owe the honor of this visit?"
"I am not making a social call," said Tepes, the wrathful look not leaving his face. "I have come to deliver you a warning."
"I beg your pardon?" Dracon asked, sounding elaborately uninterested and unimpressed.
"A week ago, my house was invaded," said Tepes.
"You don't say?" said Dracon. "My, my, my, what's this city coming to? Can't go for more than a few days without someone breaking and entering somewhere. Disgraceful, isn't it?"
"I have reason to believe," Tepes continued, "that you and your organization were behind this invasion."
"Indeed?" asked Dracon, sounding and looking as unconcerned as a cat who has been caught lying on his humans' bed. "You must be mistaken, Tepes. My men and I weren't anywhere near your house that night. Just ask them all. Nowhere near the area."
"That act of yours might deceive the inhabitants of this city, but it does not deceive me," said Tepes sharply. "I know. I saw the images of your men on my security system."
"Oh, really?" asked Dracon. "You obviously must not have gotten very good footage, then. If you had, you'd be over at the police station right now, instead of coming to see me over this. You're bluffing, aren't you?"
"Not at all," Tepes retorted. "I have ample evidence of your followers' involvement. But I prefer to act myself, rather than trust to outsiders for my defence. That is why I have sought you out, to deliver my warning."
"Your warning, eh?" Dracon asked, sounding amused. "Pretty big talk, isn't that? You do realize, Mr. Tepes, that my organization could arrange a little accident for you if you cause it any trouble. Oh, nothing that could be traced back to us, but something that could still be very uncomfortable for you. And I'm sure that you don't want anything like that to happen to you, right? So why don't we just shake hands, and forget the whole thing, like gentlemen? You won't regret it, I promise."
"I do not engage in compromises," said Tepes. "And certainly not with the likes of you. Mr. Dracon, I have crossed swords with more powerful men than you can ever dream of becoming. I have routed entire armies, and crushed arrogant nobles. Compared to these, you are nothing more than a minor annoyance, and one who must be reminded of just what he is." He leaned forward, his eyes glittering with cold fury.
"Okay, I believe that this conversation is over," said Dracon. "Glasses, show this guy out - and don't bother being too gentle with him."
"Right away, Tony," said Glasses. He moved towards Tepes quickly, preparing to grab him by the arm and pull him out roughly. But Tepes struck first. He grabbed Dracon's second-in-command by the throat, and lifted him up off the ground with an amazing display of strength. Then he hurled the astonished man against the wall. Glasses slumped to the floor in a semi-conscious position. Dracon stared at Tepes in disbelief.
"I would not advise a second such attack, Mr. Dracon," said Tepes. "I am choosing to be merciful tonight, largely because you and your band of outlaws are scarcely worth wasting much energy on. Consider yourselves fortunate that I do not rule here, in the place of the weakling bureaucrats who profess to govern this city. If I did, you and your following would quickly be removed from the streets of Manhattan, permanently." He emphasized the last word, to make its meaning clear. "But I am only visiting this city, and the activities of its lawbreakers are no concern of mine - unless you prey upon me."
Dracon stared at Tepes, with widening eyes. "What are you?" he asked. "Count Dracula or something?"
Vlad lifted one eyebrow slightly at the sound of the name. "You are more perceptive than I had originally believed, Mr. Dracon," he replied, with a trace of almost-amusement in his voice. "But what I am is no concern of yours. What should concern you is this. Trespass on my lands again, invade my home once more, and I shall take severe reprisals. Extremely severe. You are already familiar with the gargoyles that dwell upon this island?"
"Very," said Dracon.
"I am far more dangerous to cross than are they," said Tepes. "Keep that in mind, Mr. Dracon. Always keep that in mind."
He was about to turn away, when the door to the hallway opened, and Vince entered. "Er, boss?" he began. "This is really important. I just found out -" He broke off in sudden alarm, as he saw Tepes and Ferguson both standing in the room. The two strangers both turned around to face him.
"You!" said Tepes at once, his eyes narrowing in anger. "I know you!"
"That - that's impossible," said Vince, beginning to back out through the doorway. "We've never even met before."
"You were in the party that invaded my house," replied Tepes. "And you are clearly not like the others." He seized Vince's hat by the brim, and pulled it off, revealing the pointy-tipped ears that it was covering. "How did you come to be like this? You will answer me," he continued, thrusting his face forwards into that of the quivering "Unseelie halfling". At the same time, Ferguson seized hold of Vince from behind, grasping him so tightly that he could not flee. "And you will answer me truthfully."
"Mr. Maddox!" stammered Vince, his eyes widening in terror. "He did this to me! It's him you'd want, not me!"
"Mr. Maddox, is it?" asked Tepes. "So that is what he has been calling himself of late?" He smacked his lips, a fascinated look in his eyes, then spoke to Ferguson. "Do not let him escape. I will be wanting further words with that man. But first -" And he turned back to Dracon.
"It seems that you have had some contact with 'Mr. Maddox'," he said. "I should have known. So were you involved in the late war with him?"
"And how do you know about that?" asked Dracon, attempting to recover his defiance. "Are you an Unseelie, then?"
"Definitely not," said Tepes, in a cold, stiff voice. "But I have - connections - to them. And it's all the more clear now that you have some acquaintance with the Lord Madoc - as I believe we can safely call him now. What happened to him when he attacked New York? What do you know about him? Answer me, if you value your life!"
"I don't know!" Dracon protested, his boldness fled from him once more. "All that I know is that we won! The gargoyles might know, or that cop friend of theirs, but they haven't told me anything!"
"The gargoyles," said Tepes, thoughtfully. "I might have known that they were involved in all of this as well. I may very well have to interrogate one of them. It will not be easy, but I will find a way to manage it, if I have to. In the meantime, we are leaving. And we are taking him with us," he added, indicating Vince.
"What?" cried Vince. He tried to break free from Ferguson's grip, but the man was too strong for him. "Why? What do you want with me?"
"Let us just say that I feel that it is time for me to do some fresh recruiting," Tepes replied. "You belong with us, not with the mortals. And so you shall stay with us."
"Are you - something like me, then?" asked Vince, in a weak voice.
"Yes and no," Tepes replied. "But you shall learn for yourself. Come, now!" He turned back to face Dracon. "And I bid you good night, Mr. Dracon. Hope that we shall not meet again." And with that, he and Ferguson left the room, herding Vince out with them, and slammed the door shut behind them.
Dracon and a still-recovering-Glasses stared at the door in silence for a couple of minutes. At last Glasses spoke.
"So what do you think we should do about this, Tony? Should we tell the others about this?"
Dracon shook his head. "I think not," he said. "I've had my fill of mythical weirdos for this decade, and I'd just as soon not add anything more to it. I think that we'd better leave this Tepes guy alone in the future. Besides, from the way that he was talking, he's more likely to go after those gargoyles than after us. With a little luck, they might keep each other busy long enough to give us a break for a while. Besides," he added, slipping back into his more usual nonchalant mood, "I never did like Vince all that much. He can be their problem now."
* * * * *
"So this is our plan," said Goliath. "Broadway, Angela, Lexington, you three will come with me to Varney House. I will need you with me to guide me about this place. The rest of you will patrol the city tonight, as usual."
"I'm sorry that I can't come with you guys," said Elisa. "But Tepes isn't even a suspect yet, and so I don't have any cause to be there. Not unless we get a warrant. Besides, Matt and I have our regular shift for tonight. But you will keep me posted, won't you?"
Goliath nodded. "That we will. Good night, Elisa." They embraced, and then the gargoyles climbed up onto the battlements, and glided off on their respective errands. Elisa stood by the wall, watching them depart, her gaze lingering on Goliath in silence. Then, when he was far enough away out of sight, she turned away and climbed down the stairs.
* * * * *
"But why can't we go out?" Mikaella whined in the living-room.
Elizabeth looked up from her book. "You know perfectly well why you cannot, both of you," she said severely. "You got us all into enough trouble already. There will be no more feasting, not the way that you two do it."
"But it's not fair!" Imre put in. "All right, so if we do it again, we get a few Van Helsing wannabes after us. So what? We can handle them. And it would give us something fun to do here. What's the use of going to the Big Apple if you can't even sink your teeth into it?"
"I don't want to hear any more of this from either of you," said Elizabeth, rising to her feet. "The world has changed in the last few years. Ever since the gargoyles appeared, humans are becoming far less likely to dismiss the old legends as just that. They're starting to believe again. And it's only a matter of time before they begin to believe in vampires as well as gargoyles. Some of them already do, in fact."
"Yeah, but so what?" asked Mikaella. "Even if they come after us with torches and stakes, we can handle it. We always have."
"Your sire and I did our research on this city before we came here," said Elizabeth. "And you should have joined us in that research. Does the name 'John Castaway' ring a bell? He and his Quarrymen came close to destroying every gargoyle in New York only three years ago. Do you want the humans in this city to behave the same way towards us?"
"Huh!" said Imre. "Castaway never bagged a single gargoyle, anyway. What makes you think that the humans will do any better in hunting us?"
"Yes," put in Mikaella. "And we don't even look like bat-winged monsters, either. They'll never spot us."
"Don't underestimate the mortals," said Elizabeth. "There've been enough of them who can recognize us for what we are. And remember the gargoyles, as well. Those creatures are obsessed with protecting this place. If they even suspect our true nature -" She made a meaningful gesture, to express the most-likely lethal results.
"They don't scare me," said Imre, in a scoffing tone of voice.
"I am not inclined to fear them myself," said Elizabeth. "But you should respect them, and be wary of them. There are many of our kind who have been destroyed by those monsters. If we are not careful, we could join their numbers."
* * * * *
Goliath, Lexington, Broadway, and Angela alighted upon the roof above. "This is the place, Lexington?" Goliath asked, folding his wings.
Lexington nodded. "Yeah, this is it."
Goliath knelt down on the roof, and looked down the side of the wall below. "The windows have all been tightly shuttered," he said thoughtfully, frowning. "A strange course of action for humans to take in a house that they dwell in openly."
"Unless they had a very great need to do so," said Angela. "Such as keeping out the daylight. Vampires can't survive in direct sunlight."
"Yes," said Goliath. "I believe that we should investigate more closely."
"Um, Goliath?" asked Broadway worriedly. "What if the Tepes really aren't vampires or anything like that? What if they're just regular humans, who aren't involved in this at all?"
"Then I will deliver them a formal apology," said Goliath. And with that, he walked over to the nearest attic window, and ripped the shutters away. After that, he shattered the window. "Come!" he said to the others. "Let us enter!"
He descended into the attic. Lexington, Broadway, and Angela followed him, if a trifle hesitantly.
The gargoyles looked about them. The attic looked as it had on their last visit, dark, dusty, with a few cobwebs about, and filled with decaying furniture and disused objects. Goliath searched about until he found the trap door that led to the floors downstairs. He quickly undid it, and leaped down onto the floor below.
* * * * *
The thud from above startled Elizabeth, Imre, and Mikaella out of their conversation, such as it was. "What was that?" asked Imre.
"I do not know," said Elizabeth, frowning. "But I do not like it." She arose from her chair. "We must see what it is, and deal with it, before your sire returns home. I very much doubt that he will be pleased by this intrusion."
They followed her out of the sitting-room into the hallways of the ground floor. Above them, they could hear the sounds of something, or perhaps more than one something, treading about. Elizabeth pricked up her ears, listening carefully. "It doesn't sound like humans," she said, in a low voice. "It almost sounds like -"
"Gargoyles?" asked Mikaella helpfully. "They're here?"
"I fear so," said Elizabeth, favoring both younglings with a sharp glance. "No thanks to your rashness two nights ago. Your sire and I warned you that they might decide to investigate. And now it seems that they have."
"Well, let's deal with them, then," said Imre. "Since we can't have any fun outside, we might as well have it at home."
"Yes!" said Mikaella eagerly, her eyes sparkling. "I've never tasted gargoyle before! I want to find out what it's like!" And she raced up the staircase, followed closely by Imre. Elizabeth shook her head in disgust, before pulling down a crossbow mounted on the wall beside her, and checking to make certain that it was properly loaded.
* * * * *
Goliath halted in front of what had once been a mirror frame. The glass had been thoroughly shattered, and nearly all of the pieces were missing; only the empty frame itself remained. He frowned thoughtfully. "What do you make of this, Angela?" he asked. He still did not feel quite comfortable with her magical knowledge that she had gained from her mother, but all the same, he understood that he and the rest of the clan did stand in need of it from time to time.
"Vampires aren't supposed to have reflections in mirrors," said Angela. "If the people in this house have smashed it -"
"Yeah, but we don't know that they did it on purpose," put in Broadway, although uncertainly. "It could have been an accident."
"Maybe," said Angela. "But this alongside everything else -"
Lexington, who had been lingering behind uncertainly, gazing about in silence, suddenly let out a cry as something snatched him from behind. The other three gargoyles turned around at once, to see a dark-haired young woman holding him tightly, bending her mouth towards his neck, her eyes aglow. Her lips parted, revealing a pair of fangs for upper teeth. As Lexington struggled to escape her grasp, she bit him.
"Hey!" yelled Broadway, lunging at her, eyes blazing white. "You leave him alone!"
He rammed into her with amazing force, throwing her off Lexington. As Angela dashed to the little web-winged gargoyle's side, to see if he was all right, Goliath charged forward himself, bellowing. He was just in time to see a dark-haired young man round the corner, holding a rapier.
"Come no closer, gargoyle!" he cried, in a haughty tone. "Or else I shall -"
He never got the opportunity to finish his threat, however. Goliath seized the sword from him and twisted it into a knot, growling. The youth gasped, retreating in alarm, as the large gargoyle, having tossed the ruined blade away, now advanced upon him.
With a frantic cry, Lexington's female assailant broke free from Broadway, to join the young man. Even as she did so, however, she gave a frantic gasp, and doubled up. Her pale skin turned green, and her eyebrows vanished, replaced with a small brow-crest, while her hands reshaped themselves into four-fingered claws.
"Whoa!" cried the youth, staring at her. "What happened to you, Mikaella?"
"I bit that little winged rat and tasted some of his blood, that's what!" she retorted, staggering unsteadily. "Help me, Imre!"
The gargoyles paused, as startled by Mikaella's sudden metamorphosis as she and Imre were. Angela helped Lexington to his feet. "I'm fine," he told her quickly. "She didn't take that much of my blood. Serves you right, too," he added, looking sharply at the vampire girl.
"So that's what happens when you drink a gargoyle's blood," said Imre. "Cool." He eyed Angela, licking his lips as he spoke. "Wouldn't mind draining that one much, though."
"You stay away from her!" Broadway bellowed, rushing at Imre. Both young vampires turned and fled from him, but before the portly gargoyle could catch up with them, a crossbow bolt landed in the wall just inches away from him. Elizabeth stood at the top of the stairs, grumbling slightly.
"These things take too long to reload," she said in disgust. Then she took a closer look at Mikaella's altered appearance. "I don't even want to know," she said.
"You are the ones who have invaded our island," said Goliath, advancing upon her. "You have attacked humans under our protection, and endangered their lives."
"And why should we not?" Elizabeth retorted. "How else are we supposed to feed, gargoyle? We have to survive!"
"I see no reason for that," Goliath replied, growling. "You are the Undead, parasites upon the living, soulless abominations. You have no business in our protectorate." He rushed at her.
* * * * *
Vladimir Tepes' car halted on the driveway just outside the house, and Tepes opened the door and stepped out, while Ferguson turned off the ignition. Vince followed him out, still trembling; he had not dared say one word during the entire drive home. But now at last he dared speak. "What are you going to do with me?" he asked.
"Train you properly," Tepes replied, in a withdrawn fashion. "You are not quite the same as us. It appears that our maker has changed his methods of altering mortals to his tastes since I parted ways from him. You are closer to what he wished to make me, clearly. But you can be taught our ways, become part of us. Once you are one of us, you can never leave us, either."
"What do you mean?" asked Vince.
"Our master means -" Ferguson began. But before he could finish, there came loud roaring from inside the house, and the sound of a struggle. Tepes raised one eyebrow.
"What is going on in there?" he asked. He drew back his dark, enveloping, almost cape-like coat to reveal an old-fashioned sword sheathed in a leather scabbard at his side, and drew it at once. Then he started up the steps towards the front door, in silence.
But before he could reach it, the front door burst asunder, as Imre was flung backwards through it. The young man recovered his balance, and then turned to see Tepes standing there.
"Sire!" he gasped quickly. "You're back!"
"And just in time, I see," growled Tepes. "I leave you here, and this is what I receive? More commotion, beneath my own roof?"
Elizabeth and a still gargoyle-featured Mikaella dashed out through the shattered door, Goliath and the other gargoyles close behind them. "Vlad!" cried Elizabeth. "Those beasts - they've invaded us!"
"I might have known," said Tepes. He charged forward, his drawn sword in his hand. "You!" he cried to Goliath. "You dare attack my home, gargoyle?"
"You have attacked ours, vampire," replied Goliath. "Begone, before we see to it that you and your kind will never harm the humans under our protection again."
"Begone?" repeated Tepes. "Begone? I do not retreat, gargoyle! I have fought against the Turk and overthrown his armies, and shall I permit a handful of your kind to send me fleeing? No! You may be children of the night, but so are we, and we roam this world as we please! It is you who shall depart!"
Broadway and Angela rushed at him first. With a cool glance of contempt at them both, Tepes seized Broadway by the wrist, and hurled him into his mate. As the two gargoyles struggled up to their feet, the vampire-lord stepped towards Goliath.
"I knew that this night would have to come," he said. "And in truth, I now find myself glad that it did. It was you and your kind that destroyed the Unseelie Lord, gargoyle, was it not?"
"You know of the Unseelies?" Goliath asked, momentarily astonished.
"And why should I not?" Tepes asked. "Their ruler made me what I am now, hoping that I would serve him! But I serve neither man nor demon. I walk my own path, I and those like me. And whatever bars our path, I destroy."
He and Goliath rushed at each other, almost at once. In the first encounter, Goliath struck the vampire's sword from his hand, sending it spinning away. But Tepes met his strength with equal strength as they grappled, struggling against each other. Broadway, Angela, and Lexington watched in silent awe as Goliath and Tepes plunged off the porch onto the open space in front of the house. The other vampires crowded about by the now empty car, also as stunned spectators.
"You are strong, gargoyle," said Tepes, between gritted fangs. "The mightiest adversary that I have had in almost five centuries. But are you truly a match for me?"
He broke free from Goliath's grasp, and leaped back. And as he did so, his appearance began to alter. His hair changed from dark to grey, and became more like a furry pelt than hair. His hands turned to paws, his clothes to a thick grey pelt, and his face extended outwards into a beast's snout. In less than a minute, he had become a grey wolf of great size, which snarled at Goliath. The great gargoyle stared at him, speechless in astonishment.
Broadway, Angela, and Lexington stared at the transformation with widening eyes. "I thought that we were dealing with vampires, not werewolves," said Lexington, at last managing to speak.
"Some of my mother's books said that vampires can assume wolf-shape as well as bat-shape," said Angela, in an awed voice. "But I hadn't thought to see something like this myself." In a louder voice, she cried, "Father, watch out!"
The wolf hurled itself at Goliath, knocking him to the ground. It slavered and growled, moving its jaws closer to the great gargoyle. Goliath raised his arms with an effort, and pushed the wolf back from him before it could bite him. Then the two began to roll over and over upon the ground, roaring at each other. Goliath's eyes were blazing with white fury now.
The other vampires watched the battle, almost as spellbound as the gargoyles were. The one exception was Vince, who began to nervously slip away, but was seized by the wrist by Ferguson. "You heard the will of the master," the vampire manservant said. "You are remaining with us."
Mustering up all of his strength, Goliath at last pulled himself up to his feet. He began to push the wolf back, step by step, straight towards the nearest tree. "You will not triumph, vampire," he said.
"You have little time remaining, gargoyle," said the wolf in Vlad's voice, if with a snarling sound to it. "It is not long until dawn, and then you and your kind will turn to helpless stone. And then what harm can you do us?"
"None," Goliath replied, between gritted teeth. "But you and your kind will be no safer. If those stories about your people are true, then what the light of day will do to you is much worse. A stone gargoyle will come to life at sunset. Can a pile of dust become a vampire again then?"
A look of horror came over Vlad's face, as Goliath's words sank in; he had clearly forgotten his own kind's weakness for a moment. But now he broke away, and turned to the other vampires. "Away from here!" he cried. "Now!"
With that, he changed again, this time into a large bat, and flew off into the night. The other vampires did the same, except for the still horrified Vince. For a moment, he stood there, staring at the gargoyles in silent shock, and then fled. But two of the bats seized him, gripping the back of his shirt in their fangs, and pulled him just enough off the ground to direct his movements. They carried him away, fading into the shadows.
Goliath stood on the lawn, regaining his breath. The other gargoyles stepped off the porch to join him. "Should we go after them, Goliath?" Lexington asked.
Goliath shook his head. "It is too close to sunrise for us, just as it is for them," he said. "We must return to the castle now, to sleep. At least we have driven them off."
"Yeah, but do we know that they're going to leave New York?" Broadway asked. "What if they decide to stay?"
"We will just have to worry about that problem tomorrow night," said Goliath gravely. "Let us go."
* * * * *
"Vampires?" said Brooklyn, back at the castle. "Here in New York?"
Goliath nodded. "Lexington was correct about them," he said, looking at the little web-winged gargoyle, "and we owe him an apology. His suspicions concerning this Tepes and his family were well-founded."
"Their leader said something about Madoc having created them," said Angela. "I can't help feeling worried about that one. He's gone, and so are most of the Unseelies, but it sounds like not everything that they made came to an end with them. What if he's got other legacies, and they're still out there?"
Goliath nodded. "Perhaps we have been more than a little complacent concerning our victory," he said. "The Unseelie Lord may be dead, but it seems clear that the evil that he has worked has outlived him. We must be more vigilant about such survivals from now on."
"There's still one loose end, though," said Brooklyn. "We still don't have anything to prove that it was the vampires attacking those people and not us. How are we going to handle that problem?"
"We will just have to hope that the truth will be revealed, and that we ourselves will be vindicated," said Goliath. "But for now, we must sleep."
He mounted his perch upon the battlements, and the other gargoyles followed suit. The sun rose moments later, freezing them all into stone.
* * * * *
"Well?" asked Margot to the computer technicians sharply. They were examining the videotapes of bat-like creatures flying away from the scenes of the nocturnal attacks. Elisa, Matt, and Chavez stood on the other side of the technicians, silently watching as well.
"We're improving the picture, Ms. Yale," replied one of the technicians. "We'll soon see exactly what these things are."
"Good," said Margot. She turned to the three police officers. "And once you see what the culprits were, you'll have to take action against them! This time, there'll be no more excuses."
The pictures at last became fully resolved. "There you are," said the technician. "Those are the culprits."
Margot stared at the picture, an utterly flabbergasted expression upon her face. Elisa looked hard at it as well, and silently breathed a sigh of relief, although taking care not to let the A.D.A. see it. Instead, she said, "Who'd have thought it? Bats. Plain old bats."
"What?" gasped Margot. "But - but - bats?"
"Exactly," said Matt, chiming in. "Vampire bats, I suppose. Somebody was probably keeping a few as pets and they got loose. But it certainly isn't gargoyles."
Captain Chavez nodded. "It seems that this problem's one that needs to be solved by Animal Control rather than by the Gargoyle Task Force, Ms. Yale," she said. "Nothing to do with the gargoyles at all."
Margot made no response at all. Elisa, however, turned away for a moment towards the nearest window, facing out in the direction of the Eyrie Building and the castle that crowned it. "Thank you," she said in a soft voice, too low for anyone else to hear.
* * * * *
"Why do we have to stay here?" protested Imre, sitting on a large stone coffin. "This place is so - so - so corny!"
"Yes," put in Mikaella, standing in the corner. The effects of her draining Lexington had worn off, and she looked human once more. "Sleeping in a mausoleum? That went out with black-and-white movies!"
"Be silent, both of you!" snapped Vlad Tepes. "The gargoyles know about us now. There's no denying it. We can no longer stay at the house, as a result. This must be our new home, for now."
"Can't we go back to Europe, sire?" asked Imre. "We'll be safe from them there."
"Not until our work here is completed," said Vlad. "We know now that the Unseelie Lord altered other humans to become like us." He glanced at Vince, who had been placed under restraints by Ferguson. "We must find all the others, and bring them into our following. They will strengthen our numbers once more. And we must discover for certain what happened to Lord Madoc himself, and his followers. Until all that is achieved, we must remain in this city."
"And if the gargoyles interfere with us again?" Elizabeth asked.
"We show them no mercy," said Vlad, a set, determined look upon his face. "We have lost our first battle to those creatures, but the war is only beginning."